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Posted by Jeff Rients

Howdy, all!  I'm spending this week on the shore of Lake Namakagon in northern Wisconsin.  Today the family and I went out for lunch to the Bierstube, a little bar and grill attached to Garmisch, a small lakeside resort with a kitschy Bavarian romantic aesthetic not uncommon in parts of the midwest of the U.S.  True fact: the fanciest restaurant I knew about as a kid was a German place in Peoria, Illinois with great sausages and a suit of plate armor on display in the dining room.  

The Bierstube itself was remodeled a decade or two back, to go with a more contemporary hunting lodge look, but it is still kitschy as hell.  Exhibit A:

That's two bear cubs stuffed and displayed hanging from the rafters and holding lanterns.  A little grotesque, perhaps, but also inspirational:

Lantern Bear
AC: 7
HD: 2
Mv: 120', climb 90'
Attacks: 1 claw and 1 bite
Dmg: d4/d4
# App: d6
Save: Elf 2
Morale: 7
Treasure: C
Alignment: Chaos

Lantern Bears appear as three to four foot tall upright ursinoids, but they are actually members of the goblinoid family of beings.  Each Lantern Bear carries a hooded lantern that glows with an unearthly pale light.  At a distance these lights are easily mistaken for will-o-wisps.

No undead will come within 30' of the light of a Lantern Bear.  Because of this effect, Lantern Bears often serve as messengers, couriers, and escorts to other monsters who wish to communicate or travel through dungeon areas infested by undead.  With a favorable reaction roll and an appropriate bribe (fresh meat, high quality liquor, and/or gold), they can be hired by adventurers for up to 12 turns of activity.  If the party is rude or cheapskates, the Lantern Bears may accept the offer of employment but lead the adventurers to their doom.

Although normally fighting with a claw and a bite attack, a desperate or cornered Lantern Bear will smash its lantern against a foe.  If the lantern hits, it does 2d6 burning damage followed by another 2d6 damage the following round.  The victim (or its corpse) will glow with a faerie fire effect in the dark for the next 1-6 days.

Lantern Bears speak their own tongue, a bit of the guttural patois used by nearly all goblinoids (gobbocommon), and, typically, one other tongue such as goblish, bugbear, or common.

When killed, the lanterns of these monsters burn for d6 additional turns--retaining their special properties for that period--after which they lose their magical properties.  After that, they can still be used as normal lanterns.  Note that Lantern Bears do not normally use any oil in their lanterns.  Rather, the light is a function of the monster's inherent magical nature.  Thus, the fuel of multiple lanterns cannot be pooled to extend the magical light of a single burning lantern.
Jun. 23rd, 2017 02:57 pm

Vaults of Vyzor, session #5

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Posted by Jeff Rients

Yareh Falsong before visiting the Verdant Vault.


Sneakerly Trull, half-orc thief - Zak Smith
Mozzarella, mangy cur purchased by Sneakerly - NPC
Yareh Falsong, one-armed thief - Sam Mameli
Barnabus Sleet, muscle wizard (think Flex Mentallo) - Maxime Goluchik
Otto One-Eye, 0-level mercenary hired by Barnabus - NPC (first use of the new hireling rules)
Man Rider, hideously mutated goblin paladin of chaos - Jez Gordon

This motley crew opted to explore the first level of the Vaults below the Verdant Scriptorium, an area previously unexplored by any PC.  Much of the expedition was spent carefully mapping a series of corridors and doors, looking for secret doors, and examining a strange 'water wall' room.  Various party members in various states of intoxication try to explain at various times what exactly they saw, but it is not entirely clear whether the room is full of water or the walls are made of water or what.

Anyway, let's talk about the wolves.  Apparently a pack of intelligent and creepy wolves guards the entrance to the dungeon and will bargain with adventurers, trading food for passage further into the level.  It is suggested that you avoid their gaze, but no details are offered as to what happens if you don't.

Somewhere just beyond the wolves is a room with a pull rope near a door.  Pulling it sounds an unseen gong, summoning orc guards.  Apparently the Orcs of the Red Hand control at least part of this level as well.  The party was able to trick the orcs so that they only had to fight two orcs warriors instead of a whole band of them.  Where the rest of them went is not known.

While searching for secret doors around a suspicious 'hole' in the map, a pair of wandering ghouls showed up.  One of them fumbled its first attack and Flair flopped onto the floor in front of the party.  Yarseh put her crossbow to the back of its head and killed it gangland execution style.  Meanwhile, hero of the beach Barnabus Sleet went all Fist of the North Star on the other and upper cut its head clean off.  Not bad for a couple of first level chumps.  But they couldn't finish them off before one of them took a big ol' bite out of Otto One-Eye.  

Fortunately, Man Rider had some magic healing on him.  I don't know where he got this stuff, but he had these monster eyeballs that one could eat for something like d6+3 healing each.  Did I mention that Man Rider is a damn weirdo?  He started life as a relatively normal goblin, but thanks to his devotion to a Games Workshop style god of chaos, he now looks like this:

Don't worry, he's on our side! (I think.)
This will come in handy later when Sneakerly convinces the orc bosses of the level that Man Rider is an emissary from the demon lord Orcagorgon, but I am getting ahead of myself.  So Otto is an ordinary light infantry spear dude.  He's in a dark and dangerous dungeon.  He is not that smart and is easily confused.  The poor guy doesn't have a left eye and he pawned his eye-patch months ago for beer money.  Now he narrowly escapes death at the jaws of a ghoul.  He's lost a lot of blood and is maybe a little faint, when the blue tentacled menace of the team hands him an eyeball.  Otto does the obvious thing with it and pops it into his eye socket.

That's not using the medicine as recommended, but I rule that it will heal him.  Zak pulls out his copy of Realms of Chaos and Jez rolls on the mutation chart to see what else happens.  I say either the result has to be made to work with the situation or else there is no further side effect.  The roll is "gain prehensile tail."  After some back-and-forth I decide that the mercenary will henceforth be known as Otto of the Prehensile Eye.  Not only can he see out of it, but his new monster eye works like a tentacle, he can see around corners with it, etc.

Not long after the party is approaching a set of stairs down, presumably to level 2, when they are attacked by archers in the darkness.  And these archers are using buzzsaw arrows.

One of the buzzsaw arrows shears a buttock clean off Man Rider.  Thanks, Arduin critical hit charts.  Barnabus the Muscle Wizard charges the orc archers and lays into one of them with his mighty fist.  Only after punching this orc in the gut does he see that this guy is the orcish equivalent of Bolo Yeung in full Bloodsport badass mode.

Barnubus ducks some vicious chops and strikes, activating his hero halo to cast sleep on the orc archers.  They are then slain.  For a single round, Orco Yeung versus Flex Mentallo looked like it was going to be the most epic first level encounter I have ever seen.  But then it was all over.

There's a lever here, which Man Rider immediately pulls.  It drops a pair of portcullises that the orcs should have used to trap the party, but they got excited about the prospect of shooting them and forgot about it.  I tend to assume that orcs have stooge level intelligence, merely because it amuses me.  Anyway, Man Rider lowering and raising the portcullis creates enough noise to draw the attention of the orc boss in the next room, as well as his cronies.
It's an orc bard, with his pals an orc magic-user and an orc... elf?  Okay, here's the first thing.  I'm adapting some oldy moldy dungeon levels for this campaign, right?  And the basis for this level has an evil human bard, and evil wizard type, and an evil elf as the bosses of the orcs here.  In the context of my larger dungeon, this is one of the levels controlled by the Orcs of the Red Hand.  There's no reason why 3 non-orcs would be in charge here.  So I made them into orcs.  This obviously creates the problem of why an orc archer is dressing like Peter Pan, but since when have any of my dungeons made total sense anyway?

So here's the second thing.  I know for a fact that Zak hates bards.  You would not believe how delighted I was when the party opted to explore the level with an evil orcish bard in it.  And then they actually made over to the section of the dungeon the evil bard occupies!  So of course there's a big tornado of violence that starts when Sneakerly convinces the locals to pay obeisance to Man Rider, herald of Orcagorgon.  The three anomalous orcs are slain.  For good measure, Zak smashes the bard's mandolin.  Does that make up a tiny bit for the time I killed his PC's dog?  I hope so.

Somewhere along the way Man Rider and Yareh put their heads together and decide to transplant Bolo's arm on her body.  Man Rider calls upon dark forces and Realms of Chaos is consulted a second time.  A few dice throws later Yareh has a beefy orc-arm and a boosted strength score, but her legs have mutated into those of a crow.

The party then loots the treasury of the orc bard and crew, carting off some nice things and four iron trunks full of coins.  They also rescue Dale, a human fighter that was a member of Dundermachen's doomed expedition.  Dale was being tortured by the bard for information, which was unfortunate for Dale, seeing as how he knows two things: jack and shit.

The party carries their loot and Dale back to the surface, throwing the Bargain Wolves a bag of orc limbs to assure their safe passage back up to the Verdant Scriptorium.  It's Miller time.


Limpy the Naileteer (Jeff Call)
Engsal the Enchanter (Alex Joneth)
Elfbraham Lincoln (Jeff Call)
Littlens (0-level NPC)
Biggens (0-level NPC)
Stimpy (0-level NPC)
Ren (0-level NPC)

After one expedition to the Verdant Vault.
Jun. 22nd, 2017 04:37 pm

Ruin All the Places

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Posted by Jeff Rients

When I sketch out some ruins from scratch, they don't always feel ruin-y enough for me.  We're talking about proper ruins here: wrecked castles, burn-out ghost towns, Scooby Doo haunted mansions, etc.  So I thought I'd try thinking about a better procedure than treating the ruins as an above ground dungeon.  Here's what I've got so far.

I - Begin with Theft
Dig through free online adventures and/or your personal pile of game crap and find one of those bright shiny home base areas.  The titular Keep on the Borderlands or Village of Hommlet, to give a couple examples.  To build your ruins, you're going to assume that these places as written exist in your campaign's past.

II - Figure Out Who or What To Blame
You need to figure out why the original locals moved out.  Look over the notes for your campaign history.  Any really good catastrophes or epic wars you can tie your ruins to?  Did this place succumb to the Rain of Colorless Fire?  Did the Wind Dukes of Aaqa make their final stand here three ages back?  You've got that lovely campaign history, you might as well use it.  Alternatively, you can use this ruin to unveil a heretofore unknown chapter in the history of your milieu.  Sure, you could just chalk the whole ruin up to a local war of no import or a forest fire or something, but why not take the opportunity to make it a little more epic?

III - Snuff Out That Point of Light
So how wrecked does your location become?  And it what ways?  Redraw the map with some intact areas, some reduced to rubble and some structures completely scrubbed from the face of the earth.  Look over the key for the original version and look for little details that pop out.  Like, say, the mention of a blue velvet couch in the parlor of a rich merchant.  Maybe that couch is still there, but it is dusty or mildewy, tattered or stained.  Make sure your ruins are peppered with these small tokens of past lives.  Also, add lots of cobwebs.

IV - Leverage Your Wandering Monster Charts
If the people move out, what moves in?  Your local wilderness encounter charts should be helpful here.  Obviously you want some sort of main monster to eat the PCs faces off, but don't forget to add some ordinary snakes or bats or things like that.  And maybe some hostile mold or fungus.

V - Think About What Remains
What memories of this place still echo in the mortal world?  Does the noble family that once ruled here linger on as the poor relation to some more powerful dynasty?  Do the locals tell the story of how the place was destroyed, or why?  Do you need to go back and add a weeping ghost or wailing poltergeist to the key?  If so, the original adventure provides you with a bunch of possible people to haunt the place, as well as some leads as to what might be anchoring their soul to the spot.

VI - No Building Inspectors Here
Finally, consider adding some environmental hazards.  No maintenance has been done to this place in decades, perhaps centuries.  Walls may be ready to crumble, floors or ceilings can collapse.  If you like the disease rules in your system, maybe the local water supply has gone off or perhaps there are rusty nails unwary adventurers can get tetanus from.

Obviously, this is a bit of a slog to do for every little rubble pile in your game.  But if you need an upper level to your dungeon or a place to serve as the X spot on a treasure map, it ought to do some good work.
Jun. 21st, 2017 05:14 am

Meet the locals: Vyzor hirelings

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Posted by Jeff Rients

A large number of semi-active adventurers have become permanent fixtures in and around Castle Vyzor.  Most of the time, these individuals are happy to sponge off the generosity of the Sorcerer of the Blue Mask.  Occasionally--often due to gambling debts or unpaid bar tabs--they get desperate enough to actually venture into the dungeons for a small fee and possibly a share of the loot.  This is where your PC comes in.  For just a few gold pieces, you can hire one of these poor fools and probably lead them to their doom.

Since these are unique (hopefully-)recurring characters, you can only recruit and control one hireling at a time.  These folks generally work on a per-session basis.  If they survive an adventure, they go back into the hiring pool.  If a single session of game play involves more than one expedition (i.e. you exit the dungeon and go back in) then you must make a morale role (modified by the DM if the previous expedition was particularly harrowing or enriching) to cajole your hireling back into the Vaults.

To recruit one of these folks, spend 10gp, 25gp, or 100gp.  Consult the Charisma chart to find out what die you may roll on the roster below.  If you don’t like the result, you can choose not to hire anyone but you’re out the gold and don’t get to try again; whoever you rolled is your best prospect given the time and money available.


you get Willy

Note that one of the reasons why you want the largest die possible is because the chart is basically ordered by competence.  Hireling #10 and #18 may both be first level Fighters, but #10 will require more oversight than #18.  Not that #18 is without his own issues.  That guy thinks he’s the hero in a sword-and-sorcery novel.

Ability scores are generally irrelevant for these people.  For simplicity’s sake, they all range from 9 to 12.  You can assume fighters have a 12 Str and an 9 Int, for instance.

Hit points are rolled anew for each expedition.  Fighters and dwarves get d8.  Clerics, elves, and halflings get d6.  Everyone else gets d4.

Most characters start with no equipment save the weapon and armor listed below, with the following exceptions: Thieves generally have a crummy lockpick or two.  Clerics possess a shoddy wooden holy symbol.  And magic-users own a poorly organized spellbook incomprehensible to anyone else.  Other specialists probably have the basics to practice their profession.  Any equipment purchased for hirelings stay with them after the expedition is over, though these folks have a tendency to misplace, break, or otherwise lose equipment.

Spellcasters get random BX spells.  Reroll between expeditions.  These characters are generally too incompetent to learn or teach new spells.

Anyone with a standard class (not a zero level weenie) earns half experience and is entitled to a half a share of moneys earned.  All hirelings will automatically carouse if they can afford to do so, earning half XP.

Should something unfortunate happen to one of these poor wretches, a replacement will appear on the chart that may or may not be of the same class.  Should a hireling experience a windfall, they may retire at the DM’s discretion.

These rules generally replace normal henchmen and hireling rules, but you can bring in henchmen from other FLAILSNAILS campaigns.  Also, if there is a shortage of PCs, the DM may still fill out the party with some of boring spearmen.

Die Roll
Willy Whats-his-name
0-Level (Loser)
absolutely non-descript
Otto One-Eye
0-Level (Mercenary)
no left eye; nasty gaping hole
Young John
0-Level (Likely Lad)
eager to please
Little Liam Linkboy
0-Level (Misc)
torchbearer, won't fight
0-Level (Mercenary)
shortbow, empty quiver
shifty little mofo
John Lackwit
0-Level (Loser)
had a club, but lost it
needs constant supervision
Richard Half-beard
bad burn on side of face
Wicked Juliana
battle axe
Sly Henry
calls himself Sly, actually a fool
Adam o' the Dung Heap
oh God, the stench
Poor Brother Rupert
raggedy robe
sold his holy symbol to feed the poorer
kid sister of Fromage and Escargot
Balphazad the Befuddled
tattered robe
would forget his beard if it wasn't glued on
0-Level (Mercenary)
rusty polearm
not from around here, speaks very little Common
Emma Bright-Eyes
0-Level (Likely Lass)
sling, 2d6 stones
patchwork dress
an innocent; if she gets killed you might actually cry
Walter the Physick
0-Level (Misc)
threadbare robe
physician (quack?), non-combatant
Slightly Creepy Kerra
the way she smiles when she draws her dagger...
Hugo the Slayer
sword & dagger
can't actually dual wield, alternates attacks
shortbow, d8 arrows
middle brother of Baguette and Escargot
Gwalin Rustbritches
leather & shield
hated by other dwarves, no one knows why
Runaway Tom
0-Level (Likely Lad)
something about that boy ain't quite right
Sister Hilda
smites evil with joy
Alice Talks to Crows
certain all animals speak Common but choose not to
Ralf the Pathetic
shield, helmet
woe-is-me disgraced knight
Fat Roger
armor costs 150% for size adjustments
Gilbert the Heretic
won't shut up about angels
Morwena the Hedgewitch
you can't stop staring at the wart on her nose
eldest brother of Baguette and Fromage
Oombur Axebutt
composes songs, not bad at it but his singing is terrible
Mellifor of the Brazen Hand
right hand made of brass (semi-functional)

Mercenaries are capable of holding their own with human-like foes such as orcs and goblins.  They are less stalwart against weird monsters and undead.

Losers are generally incompetent.  They are nonetheless useful because once per expedition they can be used as cannon fodder to absorb some doom that would otherwise befall their employer.  E.g. that orc axe that would have split you in twain actually kills Willy instead.

Likely Lads and Lasses are the most competent and daring of zero-level characters.  At the end of each expedition, there is a 1 in 6 chance they ‘graduate’ to an actual adventuring class.  Their new class will be identical to that of their recent employer, if possible.  (E.g. a Likely Lass who worked for a Dwarf will probably become a Fighter.)
Jun. 20th, 2017 12:25 pm

Asteroid 1618

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Posted by Jeff Rients

Hey all, I just got a query about how to get a copy of my old Encounter Critical adventure thingy Asteroid 1618.  Here's a link to a PDF version.  Fair warning: it was hastily written, barely edited, poorly laid out, and it uses an intentionally eye-gouging font.  The art pieces not by me are nice.  That's the primary virtue of it, really.

Anyway... enjoy?
Jun. 18th, 2017 05:12 am

Sunshine in a Bag, part 2

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Posted by Jeff Rients

So thanks for all the great feedback (both here and on Google Plus) to my idea about drawing beads from a bag to power spells.  I'd like to pitch an alternate angle on the whole thing, where there's one bag of beads at the table that all spellcasters can access.  The normal spellcasting rules in your favorite edition still apply.  The beads represent drawing on additional magical power past the safe limits.  It's effectively giving in to the dark side of the Force, cutting corners for more raw power.

Conceptually, this idea springs from the dungeon as not just a series of monster-infested tunnels, but a metaphysical entity, a locus of maximum chaos and magic.  The reason so many evil wizards end up haunting dungeons is because that's where they are more powerful.  The players can draw on that same reservoir of chaotic energy, but it has its risks.

So start your bag of beads with 3d6 good beads, 1d6 blanks, and 1-3 bad beads.  Bad beads are seeded this way, roll d6 each session:

1-3 add one yellow bead
4-5 add one yellow and one orange bead
6 add one yellow, one orange bead and one red bead

I'll get to the three color of bad beads in a bit.  The basic deal is that a good bead is one spell level.  If you get one or more blanks you have to choose immediately: the spell is delayed at least one round or you can cancel the spell right now.  However, if you've already fumbled (drawn the yellow, orange or red bead), that still takes effect.  If you go ahead, what you have to do is draw replacement beads on your go the next round, unless the whole spell is cancelled because you take damage in between.  If you get blanks again, you are in the same boat as on the first round.

Now here's where it gets interesting.  You've got some spells memorized, right?  Draw from the bag and you don't forget the spell.  Or you can pay a premium to cast something else:

Spell memorized, but you already burned it today: Spell level +1 bead
You know the spell and can cast it, but didn't memorize it today: Spell level +2 beads
The spell is appropriate to your class and level, but not in your spellbook: Spell level +3 beads
The spell is appropriate to your class, but you are not high enough level to use it: Spell level +4 beads
The spell is not for your class: Spell level +5 beads.

That's right, under this system any caster can attempt to cast any spell in the rulebook.  The real question is whether or not they are willing to chance a disaster.  Disasters come in three flavors, mild (yellow), medium (orange), and extra spicy (red).  And since a mishap represents the strange essences of the dungeon biting you back, sometimes they change the environment.

Sample Yellow Mishaps

  1. The spell gets away from the caster.  No effect and caster cannot use that same spell for 1d6 days.
  2. Smoke comes out of the caster's ears.  Take d6 damage, save versus magic negates, and -2 on all die rolls until you get a good night's rest in a proper bed.  No save on the die penalty.
  3. Spell goes off as planned but caster gains some minor mutation of the DM's choice that signals their taint.  Eg. red glowy eyes, a forked tongue, scaly skin, that sort of thing.
  4. The dungeon fights back with more darkness.  As long as the party remains on this level non-magical light sources wink out at the most inconvenient times, never lasting more than 50% of the expected duration.
  5. Dungeon denizens become more attuned to your presence in some unconscious way.  Double wandering monster chances as long as the party remains on this level and the caster remains alive.
  6. All spikes pounded in by the party, ropes left behind, marks left for navigation, etc., disappear, swallowed up by the dungeon itself.

Sample Orange Mishaps

  1. The spell gets away from the caster.  Randomly determine target among all present and caster cannot use that same spell for 1d6 weeks.
  2. Electric energies coruscate up and down the caster's body.  Take 2d6 damage, save for half, and any activity but walking at half pace is impossible until you get a week's proper rest.  
  3. Spell goes off as planned but caster falls to the ground in agony for d6 rounds.  When they recover, the caster has gained a random mutation.  (No.  I'm not going to give you a mutation chart.  If you're a DM you should already have one or at least know how to google that kind of shit.)
  4. The walls on the dungeon start dripping blood.  Climbing walls and getting purchase with a thrown grappling hook become impossible.  Fumble chances are doubled.  The monsters are unaffected.  
  5. 1d6 extraplanar entities appropriate to the level (level 1 = manes, level 2 = lemures, etc.) appear in a random room or chamber within 40' to 240' of the party's current location.
  6. 1d6 dungeon features (doors, stairways, statutes, whole rooms) on this level or other levels visited by the party this session permanently shift to somewhere else on the same level. 

Sample Red Mishaps

  1. The spell gets away from the caster completely and materializes as a hostile Spell Elemental.  Use Fire Elemental stats (randomly determine size) and it can use its own spell effect to its advantage (e.g. a Magic Missile Elemental would be shooting missiles like a champ).  Also, caster cannot use that spell ever again.
  2. Unknown energies burst out of every orifice of the casters body.  Take 3d6 damage and everyone within 30' also takes 3d6, but they can save for half.  Caster and everyone who fails to save is comatose for 1d6 weeks.
  3. Spell goes off as planned but caster falls to the ground in agony for d6 rounds.  When they recover, the caster has gained a random mutation.  Roll twice on whatever table you use and give the caster the more inconvenient, weirder, and/or crappier of the two.
  4. Cracks open in the walls.  Giant clawed hands reach out and grab 1d4 random party members, dragging them into the body of the dungeon itself.  The caster and any NPCs get no save against this effect, but other PCs may save versus paralyzation to avoid.  The cracks close up and the lost party members reappear d6 weeks later, horribly changed.  They are now monsters and implacably hostile to their old comrades.  They will positively chase down the caster if they are not among the altered.
  5. Any being in the dungeon capable of scrying or other extradimensional insight immediately latches onto the party and will be able to monitor their activity any time any of them they are in the dungeon.
  6. The whole level dissolves into nothingness.  All present on the level save versus spells.  Failure indicates disintegration.  Success indicates you are dumped in a random location above or below the level.  Over the next d6 days the dungeon heals itself by forming new connections to reroute around the now non-existent level.

One final note: as you descend deeper into the underworld, more chaos energy becomes available to spellcasters.  Add 1d6 additional good beads and one more blank every time the party goes down a level.  Also replace the yellow or orange bead if it has already been drawn.  One red bead showing up in a session is quite enough, I think.

So here's my question:  You are a magic-user deep in the dungeon and nearly out of spells.  The present encounter is going badly.  The bag appears to have about a dozen beads in it.  That could be 11 good beads, one blank, and no bad beads.  Or it could be three good beads, six blanks, and all three bad beads.  How desperate do you need to be to find out?
Jun. 17th, 2017 11:28 am

My Free RPG Day adventure

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Posted by Jeff Rients

So this morning I ventured out of my lair to Red Raccoon Games of Bloomington, IL, my friendly local games store.  (RIP Armored Gopher Games of Urbana, IL)  Red Raccoon doesn't offer a large variety of products in an old school vein, so I don't spend a lot of time or money over there.  But I dropped by today to attempt to score a copy of Vaginas Are Magic!, this year's Free RPG Day offering from that rascal James Raggi of Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

There's some sort of festival going on downtown and some streets are closed to motor traffic, so I end up parking a couple three blocks away and walking to the store.  Here's what I see as I approach:

I think it's great that they've put out a special sign for the event.

Though maybe specifying the year was unnecessary.

I arrived 15 minutes before the open time as posted on the internets, assuming I was going to be standing outside the joint like a dork for a while.  But I was willing to do that to score my copy of VAM!  Apparently, they opened early today because when I get there the place is hopping.  People are setting up a half-dozen demo games of various sorts (I saw 5e and Savage Worlds for sure) and the large basement play area has been take over by the Pathfinder Society.  After searching the store I finally find a spinner rack with the Free RPG Day stuff on display.

Sorry the image is so blurry but the store was so crowded I couldn't snap a pic without someone bumping into me.  Anyway, I see something that looks like the RuneQuest and DCC RPG offerings of recent years and a maybe new sci-fi thing from Paizo called Starfinder.  At the top is a little sign that looks like the VAM! cover art telling me to ask for it at the counter.  So I go over there.

I don't really know the owner.  My sister Jenn tells me he's a good guy.  (She spends way more time at the store because her thing is collecting and playing eurotrash games and such.)  But he's already having a bit of a day.  People are getting a little rowdy, his point-of-sale stuff is not behaving, and his employees unpacked and placed a bunch of new 40K releases on the shelf without putting them into the inventory system.  In my experience game store employees tend to be nice people but they also tend to be game nerds first, dependable workers second.

So I eventually get to the head of the queue at check-out and ask for the new Lamentations offering.  He looks around confused and finds a single copy with a post-it note on it, declaring that copy to be reserved for Tim So-and-so.  I didn't know reserving copies for Free RPG Day was a thing, or I would have called ahead.  The owner guy says he knows he received five copies of VAM! and calls over one of his henchmen.  Dude says he put one on "the table."

I don't know what table he means, so I end up wandering around the store trying to find it as the owner continues his interrogation of the employee.  He ends up admitting that he scarfed up one of the copies for his own personal use (not exactly the point of Free RPG Day promotions, I think) and that he took another copy for a prize for one of the demo games.  That second part catches me off guard a bit, as this is a family friendly place with lots of kids.  Why give a book away as a prize which you deem too unseemly to put on public display?  That just makes no sense.

(This is, of course, setting aside the whole problem that apparently the word "vagina" is dangerous, but vast product lines devoted to murdering people for experience points are harmless family fun.  But that's a bigger argument for another day.)

Anyway, the employee eventually retrieves the copy he was going to use as a prize and hands it to me.  He mentions that I am the first customer to ask for it.  That leaves the location of two other copies an unsolved mystery for the ages.

So I get back in the check-out line and end up behind a guy who is buying one of every new thing for 40K.  You know, the stuff not in the inventory system.  Honestly, that took time to resolve but a lot less long than I thought it would.  Since VAM! is free, I only went through check-out because I bought a copy of World Wide Wrestling: The Roleplaying Game, partially because I'm a mark and partially because I'm not going to get a freebie and not buy some merch.

James asked everyone getting VAM! to take a selfie with it.  I've never really done a selfie with a phone before, so I go back to my car and spend a few minutes trying to figure out how to do so.

Jun. 16th, 2017 04:41 pm

Vaults of Vyzor, session #4

[syndicated profile] jrients_gameblog_feed

Posted by Jeff Rients

Today's party consisted of Belisarius Grouse (fighter played by August Aronsson), Limpy the Naileteer (kobold eunuch played by Jeff Call), Engsal the Enchanter (precocious magic-user played by Alex Joneth) and Engsal's 0-level henchweenie Kilitch.  At least that was the party composition at the start of the adventure.  Engsal was rolled up under some strange house rules elsewhere and is only 10 years old, so I joke that we're adding "endangering a minor" to the list of crimes committed by PCs in the campaign.  Prophetic.

Let me tell you my all-time favorite D&D mechanic: the open doors roll.  Player characters can melee gods and demons, bend reality with magic, and save whole universes from utter doom.  But apparently these same people can't always open a really stuck jar of pickles.  As a DM, few things amuse me more than a band of badass mofos who can't reach part of a dungeon because everyone blew their open doors roll.  The only thing funnier is something like this:  The fighter can't open the door.  The henchman can't open the door.  The kobold can't open the door.  But the 10-year-old Harry Potter wannabe gets it open.  Of course, by that time the monster on the other side is waiting eagerly and murders the wee lad on the spot.  Did I mention this was the very first door to enter the dungeon?

RIP Engsal
The monster in question was a Gelatinous Cube, which the orcs had lured into room #1 with a trail of food and then shut the door behind it.  Fortunately, the rest of the party slew the monster.  Kilitch the 0-level spearman was promoted to a full 1st level fighting man and Alex played him for the rest of the session.  It wouldn't be the only roster change in the party today.

The party then proceeded to the orcish armory.  Limpy the Kobold lured the guards away by pretended he still worked as a guard in the orcish brothel and advertising a two-for-one sale.  The three guards rushed out the door and down the corridor, leaving the armory to be pillaged for spare equipment for the third time.  

A listen at the south door out of the armory revealed too many orcish voices for everyone's taste, so they proceeded to the now-abandoned Temple of Orcagorgon and regions beyond.  They find the orc rec room unoccupied save for a lone goblish janitor mopping the floor.  They get him drunk and take advantage of him steal his mop and bucket.  Limpy puts on the janitors apron, intending to pose as a staff member while scouting out nearby rooms ahead of the party.  Unfortunately, the next chamber they explore is the temporary hidey-hole of a lost dwarf adventurer named Dundermachen.  All he sees is a kobold approaching, so he throws his warhammer and hits him in the face to the tune of 8 points of damage.  Limpy is no more.  I'd like to think that whatever koboldish afterlife he went to, Limpy was reunited with the ghost of his lost genitals.
awesome Limpy illo by Jeff Call.
The rest of the party shows up and the whole misunderstanding is sorted out, not that it does Limpy a whole lot of good.  So here's the thing.  The dungeon key says Dundermachen has 6 levels and a magic hammer.  But we are down a PC deep in the level, so I demote him to first level and up his strength to 16 so that he could still do 8 points with a d6 warhammer (I know the BX rules say d4, but that sucks).  This allows Jeff to continue play by assuming the role of Dundermachen.  In other words, this dwarf kills Jeff's PC and Jeff responds by almost immediately switching to playing his own murderer.  That sort of nonsense makes my whole day.

The party eventually finds a back way into the heart of the orc-occupied section of the dungeon, via a secret door to their larder.  They end up murdering two burly orc-wives working in the kitchen, then carefully rearranging the scene to make it look like they killed each other.  But they avoid the banquet hall, which seems to be occupied by 3 dozen or so orc warriors.  They double back a bit and discover a secret door, behind which they find stairs going down.  That's the first party to make it to level two.

I thought I was going to get them all with an ambushing carrion crawler lurking above a doorway, but Dundermachen's first attack roll was a 20.  The Arduin crit result was a blow to head that stunned the monster for the time necessary to turn it into green bug-goo.  The noise they make is sufficient to draw the attention of some nearby guards, but the party ducks behind a secret door.  They don't know what sort of being the guards were, but there was at least six of them and they spoke Common in gruff, shouty voices.

That's enough of the second level for the party and they return to the orcish rec room, where the goblin is still out cold from drinking too much orc grog.  It was at this time that my only wandering monster roll comes up, indicating a REDACTED from the REDACTED was on the other side of the north door.  I thought I was going to see a party member get his REDACTED torn right off, but they never open that door.  Maybe next time.

Instead, they decide to steal the orc's pinball machine.  Did I mention there was a pinball machine in the rec room?  Anyway, they have a pretty straight shot out of the dungeon but this thing is heavy, so it's all a matter of movement rate versus wandering monster rolls.  Sadly, the dice go the PCs way and no monsters show up to object to this blatant act of arcade-based larceny.  They make it back to the surface.

So now my problem is that I have no idea what a pinball machine is worth.  IMPORTANT DM TIP: Always know how much a pinball machine is worth if you put a pinball machine in your dungeon!  I think that's a direct quote from the DMG.  (The sad thing is, this is at least the second time I've put a pinball machine in a dungeon and I still didn't have my act together on this point.)  I decide that the only logical course of action is to look up the asking price of the first full size pinball machine I could find on ebay and multiply it by a d% roll to account for orcish wear-and-tear.  The first pinball machine I find is going for $5,750.  August roll 70%.  The Sorcerer of the Blue Mask himself buys the pinball machine off the PCs for 4,000gp.  That's the first big money score of the campaign, proceeds from the sale of a pinball machine.  Man, I love D&D.

All three surviving PCs then go carousing and two of them fail their saves.  Dundermachen loses a bunch of gold gambling and Belisarius finds himself deeply, earnestly in love with someone else's wife.  Guess I'll have to work up some NPCs around the castle so we can roll dice to find out who that is.


Limpy the Naileteer (Jeff Call)
Engsal the Enchanter (Alex Joneth)
Elfbraham Lincoln (Jeff Call)
Littlens (0-level NPC)
Biggens (0-level NPC)
Stimpy (0-level NPC)
Ren (0-level NPC)


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Mark Smith

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