Sunday, February 12, 2017

Stonehell 4 February

Last weekend, I met with most of my regular group for a Stonehell session. They began by using one of the magic books they discovered in the Hunter's Hall to identify the key they recovered from the jack-in-a-box on level 2. They determined that the key opened a pharmacy on level 2. They determined that they wanted to use their first trip into the dungeon to complete their exploration of the southwest quadrant of level 1.

They started their trip by making their way to the repaired, and newly disturbing, stone head. The stone head gave them several answers that were either repeats or impossible to make sense of. On the final answer, there was a weird effect where the whole world seemed to stutter as the stone head answered. They decided to not push their luck and headed south to explore.

They determined that there were three areas they needed to explore and started with some rooms in the south east first. While most were empty, they discovered the few remaining warriors of the Wolf Pack goblin tribe huddled in a room. After some negotiation, they decided to let them go on the promise that they would not return. They then headed to the center of the area where they has been led to a room full of cannibals by a creepy ghost girl on a prior excursion. They caught the cannibals unaware and made quick work of them. Finally, the headed to the north east portion of the quadrant to open the one room they had left unexplored. They found the room full of goblin women and children and decided to leave them alone. Having completed the exploration of this quadrant, the characters each received a 500 XP bonus. They headed back to town to rest.

They decided to continue their exploration of the Conquistador's Tomb for their second trip. On their way, they stopped by the stone head, but got another glitchy answer they could not decipher. The party entered the Conquistador's Tomb through the cistern entrance, this put them down near the west end of the tomb, next to the door marked with a great ship. They made their way to the middle of the room and touched the water in the fountain to make the large gems in the ceiling light up. They saw that the topiary were still there, though they suspected that they were not quite where they last saw them. The opened the door marked with a ship and headed in.

The large chamber on the other side consisted only of a bit of stone floor that lead to a dock extending into an underground river. Tied up to the dock was a giant ship, named The Golden Dawn, that bore three masts and 70 cannons. They made their way on board and headed for the captain's cabin.

Inside the cabin they found goods totaling about 500 GP in a chest as well as several books. Most were ledgers detailing trade in gold, silk, and tobacco. One was a diary. A quick look at the final entry revealed that it recounted the captain's final voyage back from a land to the west, returning with the ziggurat and mummified corpse of a savage king he had conquered there.

They found that the hold was still full of silk, gold, and tobacco. They estimated the value of the treasure at 700,000 GP. A detect magic spell revealed that both the masts and the wheel were enchanted. Determined to get out with as much of the treasure as possible, they filled their sacks with gold and headed back to the main chamber.

As soon as they stepped through the large double doors, the topiary sprung to life and attached. They fell back through the doorway and fled towards the ship. at the foot of the ramp, they used Rope Trick to conceal themselves and make a new plan.

After a few hours, they peered out and saw that the topiary were still stalking them below the rope, but had not ventured onto the ramp itself. They slid down and made a beeline for the boat, the topiary did not follow them up the ramp.

After waiting a while longer, they began to experiment with the cannon. After a few mishaps, they accidentally hit the fountain in the main room and destroyed it. The earth began to shake and the ceiling rained down in large chunks. Seeing no other way to escape, they cut the boat free and the assassin grabbed the wheel. As soon as she touched it, a wind picked up out of nowhere and the sails unfurled. The boat began to accelerate down the dark, underground river.

As the boat picked up speed, they heard the sound of water falling ahead. Fearful, they grabbed on for dear life as the ship plunged over a fall. Slethard, the mysterious, lizardwoman monk was swept overboard and lost. The ship did not break up and they were able to guide it down river where it entered the bay near town. They dropped anchor and rowed ashore to collect their 700,000 XP reward (I only allow one level and XP up to one away from the next level to be gained in one trip).

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Nautical Rules Progress

Thanks to +Carlo Bottiglieri and +Richard G for the links to their work on nautical battles. I have completed my research and started my actual work. Besides their work I looked at:

Pirates of the Sea of Fallen Stars
BECMI Expert Set
Pathfinder: Skull and Shackles
AD&D 1st ed DMG

I feel like I will wind up taking at least something from most of them. I want to use hex maps and I want wind direction and momentum to really matter. I have also decided that I don't want to use a hit point-type system, instead I will rely on a critical hit chart and sinking/breaking up rules. There still will be a bit of hit point-type activity when it comes to breaking up, but I want it to have a different feel than man-to-man combat. 

You can watch my progress over the next week or so here

Friday, October 14, 2016

TridentCon 2016

Last weekend, I went to TridentCon and had a blast. +Erik Jensen really knows how to put on a great local con. This was my second year attending and I can't wait for next year's con.

I started my Saturday by running Savage Rifts. I was a bit nervous about this game as I have never run it before (it just came out). I have run Savage Worlds (although it has been several years) and I have run Rifts (at least twice as long ago for this one) but never the new version. It turns out that I had no reason to be concerned. I stuck with Savage Rifts standard conceit, the players are members of the tomorrow legion. I brought the pre-gens that came with the Kickstarter and the players picked the glitter boy, the cyber knight, and the burster. The combination worked well.

The setup of my adventure was that the Tomorrow Legion has detected that a rift has pulled a chunk of pre-Rifts earth into the world and sends the party, the closest unit, to investigate and help any people that may have been drawn through. The party arrived to find a valley filled with rapidly draining water, with a cruise ship and a private island in the center. They immediately assessed that the biggest danger was the cruise ship, which was filled with people and in danger of tipping as the valley drained.

The cyber knight and the burster rushed to help the crew evacuate the ship, while the glitter boy waded through the rushing water to the side of the cruise ship. Once there he placed his back firmly against the hull and began firing his rail gun to keep the ship upright. He continued to move to undamaged hull sections as the others improvised a bridge out of the life rafts. Before they could complete the evacuation, two coalition fighter jets streaked by, drawn by the islands tsunami warning system radios. As the jets circled back to engage, they transformed into giant robots.

The battle that followed heavily featured the glitter boy, as expected. It worked well. It moved fast and was a close call. If I run this again, I will add some smaller, fast moving, enemies for the other characters. They just couldn't dent the robots.

After the encounter, they got all of the radios turned off and the boat evacuated. The glitter boy had detected a large cylindrical object under the water while rescuing the cruise ship, as the water drained they could see it was a submarine. They decided to investigate the submarine. Everyone aboard seemed to be dead and the ship was filled with poisonous, radioactive, gas. As they were investigating the alarm system went off again, and a wizard riding a dragon attacked.

This encounter also went well and allowed for much broader involvement. The glitter boy focused on the dragon while the others went after the wizard.

After that threat was dealt with, they discovered that the alarm had been set off by one of the "tourists". They interrogated him and learned that he was actually from Rifts earth and had been sent back to bring the submarine and its armaments forward in time. They learned he worked for some kind of advanced AI.

Sadly we had to call the game short before the final planned encounter with a bunch skelebots and SAMAS. When I designed the encounters it was with the idea that the final would have the broadest appeal, but we didn't get started till more than an hour late and had to skip it.

Overall, I am happy with how the game went, and it showed that the system does work well when one person is playing a glitter boy and the others are playing something less immediately powerful. I do need to be careful with the first encounter, if someone had not picked the glitter boy (unlikely) or the cyborg, it could have been a slaughter. Perhaps I will trade one robot for a softer target.

I also ran Stonehell, which I recapped earlier. I played in +Charley Phipps AD&D 1e game. He ran Dwellers in the Forbidden City, and out large table had a great time. Many of the folks from my Stonehell game were also in this game. I also met +Zach H at this game.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Nautical Combat Rules

I am going to need some good nautical combat rules for one of the features I am adding to the Conquistador's Tomb. I am not interested in rules that are really only intended for one-on-one battles. I am looking for rules that will allow me to run naval battles that involve several ships, sea monsters, and possibly forts on the shore. The ships involved will be armed with black powder weapons.

I have pulled some resources together. Right now I am looking at:

OD&D Naval Combat
BECMI Expert Set
Pathfinder SRD Ship Combat Rules
AD&D 1st edition DMG

Ship combat is strangely absent from the 3.x core books. It is apparently in the Arms and Equipment Guide, which I have misplaced or lost over the years. The rules in Stormwrack , an excellent book, will not work due to their narrative nature. The .pdf for A&EG is fairly cheap if those rules are any good.

Can anyone think of something I am missing? I thought LotFP had extensive rules, but there wasn't much in my Rules and Magic book.

Monday, October 10, 2016

TridentCon: Murder in Stonehell Dungeon

Cleric Tibbers
Fighter Frank the Enforcer
Monk Rex Ruthor
Paladin Unknown
Wizard Unknown
Barbarian Gorge
Rogue Sir Bacon

My Stonehell session at TridentCon this weekend was wild and a great deal of fun to CK. I ran Stonehell, using Castles & Crusades, for a table of seven, very fun, active players. Little did I know that this would be the most unusual session of Stonehell I have ever run. While it started as a standard dungeon delve, it took a turn for the dark and became a tale of madness under the earth. Madness and murder.

The party began by heading north from the staircase room. As they approached the intersection where the “Da’ Dragon” sign traditionally stands, they saw a severed red dragon head on a stake in the middle of the hallway. A trail of blood led from the head into the natural caverns to the west. They decided to explore to the east and encountered the endless battle between the ghosts of Aeorn, the dwarf, and the cobra that killed him. The paladin decided to search the pile of rubble on which they fought, and drew the ire of both ghosts. The party quickly dispatched them, but found nothing of interest in the trash.

The sign is the most commonly altered item in the Stonehell games I run. The dragon head was not placed there by player characters. The dwarf was the first character to die in one of my Stonehell games.

They decided to head back to the natural caverns to see if any of the dragon’s treasure remained to be plundered. As they made their way through the natural caverns they came across a well with wind whistling through it. They investigated, and while their torches could not reveal what lay at the bottom of the well, they did hear laughter and what sounded like bells rising from below.

They lowered the Gorge, the barbarian, into the well on a rope. Once he had descended 50’, he could see that the well opened into the ceiling of a hallway below. On the floor below, was a child’s rocking horse. Gorge lowered himself to the floor and the rest of the party followed in short order. The rocking horse was finely crafted, but garishly painted. The laughing and the bell sounds were clearly coming from the corridor to the west.

Deciding to investigate the sound, the party headed west. As they drew nearer to the sounds, they could tell that the bells were ringing the tune, “Pop Goes the Weasel”. They entered a room with garishly clad corpses on the floor; the music and laughter was clearly coming from a door in the far wall. After kicking down the door, they found a young boy huddled over a jack-in-a-box, turning the crank. The Frank, the fighter, and Rex, the monk, sprung into action and took swings at the boy, but both missed. The paladin rushed in and ran the boy through with his sword. Shortly after dispatching this threat, the paladin decided to detect evil. The box showed as evil, but the boy did not. The party smashed the box and found several thousand gold pieces inside. They briefly reflected on the fact that they had murdered a child and decided to continue looking for more treasure.

The dead bodies were from a previous expedition by my regular group. They also smashed the jack-in-a-box, but the jack-in-a-box cannot be destroyed permanently.

The group moved north and managed to avoid a spear trap triggered by a plate in the floor. Looping around to the east, they discovered a hobby horse on the ground at the intersection of two corridors. After some experimentation, Frank was able to determine that the hobby horse was capable of a limited form of levitation. They continued to the east and discovered a room with the corpse of a naked elf in a hot tub. When Frank pulled the body out of the hot tub, the water flashed to a boil and burned him. They discovered a bag with 700 silver pieces in the tub and pulled it out with a sword.

Who is leaving these children’s toys all over this level? Who keeps putting this naked elf back in the tub with treasure?

The party continued east and, after an amusing incident involving Gorge and a spider web, discovered stairs going down behind a secret door. After some debate, the party decided to risk exploring the third level in hopes of finding greater treasure and headed down the stairs. The stairs landed in an empty storeroom. Frustrated that there was no treasure, Gorge kicked an empty barrel around the room. Sir Bacon, the thief, knelt by the only door to listen and could hear a voice on the other side, “Do you hear any more noise?” someone was asking. Sir Bacon relayed this information to the rest of the party and Gorge kicked the door open into a NPC thief crouched outside.

After tense few pause, both parties decided that the other was not a threat and they began talking. The NPC party had been exploring the dungeon and was cut off from their route back after an encounter with “giant white monkeys”. The PCs offered to lead them back to the exit. As they headed back up the stairs, the paladin and Rex hung back, whispering furtively.

The group made its way back to the bottom of the well and Rex, Frank, and themage climbed the rope up to the first level. The paladin, Gorge, Tibbers and Sir Bacon waited below while the NPC party began climbing the rope. As the lead NPC fighter pulled himself out of the well, the NPC mage, cleric, and thief were climbing the rope while a second NPC fighter waited at the bottom to begin his ascent. Rex helped the NPC fighter out of the well and showed him a ruby, “Look at these rubies we found here. They could be worth a lot.” As the fighter leaned in, Rex reached around and cut the rope and tried to push the fighter into the well.

The NPC thief hit the ground first, landing on top of the second fighter. Shortly afterwards, the cleric, in full plate, crashed down on top of them. Both the fighter and the thief were killed by the impact, the cleric was badly injured and was further wounded when the mage fell almost 100 feet to land on top of him. The mage was killed instantly.

At the top of the well, the struggle was going poorly for Rex. He was unable to push the stronger NPC fighter into the well. The PC mage, shocked at his companion’s actions, cast sleep hoping to end the madness. The spell affected only Rex, leaving the NPC fighter standing. Frank, who was not in the area of effect for the sleep spell, ran towards the fight hoping to break it up. The NPC fighter backhanded the protesting mage, knocking him senseless. Seeing his friend attacked, Frank took a swing at the fighter, but missed. The fighter ran him through and left him for dead. Outraged at the betrayal, the fighter cried out and beheaded the Rex. He then fled the dungeon.

Frank, still conscious, but gravely wounded pulled himself over to check on the mage and found him still breathing. He could hear someone calling up from below, but unsure who was killing who, decided not to respond. At the bottom of the well, the Tibber cast Cure Light Wounds on the NPC cleric. The paladin attempted to use Lay on Hands, but his power failed him. The party promised the NPC cleric that they would give her friends proper burials and she told them to take what equipment they needed in order to make it out of the dungeon together.  

After about 20 minutes had passed, Frank began responding to the calls from below. He told the others that the NPC fighter had gone crazy, cut the rope, and attacked. The NPC cleric was shocked, unable to believe that her long-time friend had turned to murder. Frank and the mage did not have enough rope between them to reach the bottom of the well, so Frank threw down his levitating hobby horse. Gorge used it to get to the top of the well with enough rope for the others to climb up to the first floor.

When the NPC cleric got to the top, Frank confided in him that it had actually been the Rex who murdered the others and that no one else had been involved. The cleric told them that she never wanted to see any of them again and made her own way out of the dungeon. As the party returned to town, the paladin came to the realization that he had been cut off from his god.   

This was the largest XP haul I have ever seen in a Stonehell con game. The NPC party had a decent amount of magical gear, as they were 5th level.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

September's Stonehell Session

The party decided not to risk its luck with the Hunter’s Lodge again this time and instead decided to explore a sublevel they discovered last year, but never explored. They knew of two entrances to the sublevel, one in area 1A28, and another in area 1A31. They had determined that there was a dome underneath this section of Stonehell with a radius of about 100 feet. The entrance under the Altar of the Laughing Skull was a shaft that opened into the center of the dome. A grate in a cistern led to a tunnel that opened into the side of the dome for the other entrance.

While on their way to the new area, they passed a large statue of a lizard person that they had encountered in the past. There was a bucket full of silver coins at its feet. Previously, they had attempted to take the silver coins and the ceiling collapsed on them. There was still some rubble on the floor from the last collapse. This time they threw a coin into the bucket. The stony skin of the lizard person began to flake off, revealing the scaly skin below. After a few minutes a living, breathing lizardwoman monk named Slethard stood before them. After talking with her, they learned that she was the last of her kind. The rest of her race had been exterminated by a foul archmage a thousand years ago. She decided to adventure with the party until she could determine her new purpose in the world.  

They made their first foray into the Conquistador’s Tomb through the cistern. Feldor, the dwarf fighter, crawled through the tunnel and rappelled down to the floor of the tomb. He found himself in a large, circular room with arched gates at each of the cardinal directions. There was a large fountain in the center of the room and hundreds of animal shaped topiary. After ascertaining that there was no immediate danger, Feldor brought the rest of the group down.

The party decided to investigate the fountain in the center of the room. They discovered it was full of huge koi. When they touched the water, brilliant lights flared to life from four large gems mounted in the dome. The topiary began to blossom, bringing realistic color to all of the animals. The archway to the north had an engraving of an armored man with several men in loincloths and intricate headdresses kneeling before him. The archway to the west had an engraving of a ship, to the south a ziggurat, and to the east a naval battle.

After some discussion, and poking at the topiary, they headed south. They discovered a large room with a scaled down, three level ziggurat in it. The climbed the ziggurat and descended the staircase found in the floor of the top layer. Inside they found that the rooms were similarly scaled down, with low ceilings and small doors. Fortunately, the dwarves were able to explore unhindered. The top level was filled with jars. They were surprised to realize that both the design of the ziggurat, and the jars, were identical to those from their own continent’s ancient past (note: Stonehell is placed on a newly discovered continent in my game). They determined that the jars were likely full of organs and decided to leave them unmolested… for now.

They headed one level deeper into the ziggurat and found two rooms full of jars and another with ten plain coffins. The dwarves returned to the top of the ziggurat to consult with the wizard who postulated that these were the final resting places of the king’s servants. The lowest level held the king’s sarcophagus and four pedestals with treasures on them: a suit of armor, a knife, a pair of boots, and a staff.

Intuiting that the pedestals were trapped they carefully removed the treasures. While several traps were set off, and large parts of the ceiling (and floor of the level above) collapsed, they avoided major damage. The party decided to return to town and have the items identified before hazarding the sarcophagus.

In town, they learned that the knife had a heart-seeking power that allows it to automatically find the heart of a creature that has one on a natural 20. The armor was magical, the boots increased movement, and the staff allowed the wielder to control snakes. The wizard decided to take the staff for a spin, and soon found himself confronted with more snakes than he could control. As he struggled with the snakes, more snakes continued to appear. After getting to safety, he determined that the staff was also cursed with a snake attraction and paid the local sage to have the curse removed. Snake staff in hand, the party set off to open the sarcophagus.

They decided to re-enter the tomb from the center of the dome. They found that the gem lights had gone off and that the flowers had retreated from the topiary. Touching the fountain once again lit the tomb and the blossoming began anew. They noticed that the topiary did not seem to be in exactly the same places as when they left.

The party carefully positioned themselves inside the ziggurat for the opening of the sarcophagus. They also placed heavy stones on the lids of the servants’ coffins. As expected, a mummy emerged and they could hear the occupants of the coffins struggling to get out. After a few rounds of battling, and failing to turn, the mummy, the party found itself facing the zombies as well after they broke free of their coffins. The party turned their efforts to reducing the number of easier-to-hit zombies as they continued to struggle with the tough mummy. The mummy took advantage of this distraction and summoned 25 poisonous snakes to aid him. Luckily, the wizard was able to control some and pitted the snakes against each other. After mopping up the zombies, they were finally able to overcome the mummy after realizing that only magic weapons could hit it. They plundered its sarcophagus and headed home.  

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Tridentcon Prep Update

My prep for Tridentcon continues, I expect to be done by the end of the weekend. I have an outline for my Star Wars game, and I might just keep it at that. So far, no one is signed up for it, so I might just come armed with the outline and pre-gens to run it in case I need it. I don't see any reason to sink too much time into it at this point. 
  1. Refresh my Savage Worlds rules knowledge
  2. Refresh my Star Wars rules knowledge
  3. Make pregens for Savage Rifts
  4. Make pregens for Star Wars
  5. Write Savage Rifts adventure
  6. Write Star Wars adventure
  7. Play test?
  8.  Find Savage Rifts minis
  9. Check Stonehell pregens
I plan to use TokenTool for the Savage Rifts minis. I was planning on bringing my Star Wars minis, but I may just go theater of the mind for that to reduce prep work. 

I have been fooling around with Dungeonographer in order to make the maps for my final version of the Conquistador's Tomb. It has way more features than I need, and they kind of get in the way of just throwing something together. I spent a lot of time using AutoCAD and SolidWorks when I was an engineer, and even with that experience, the interface here is not that intuitive. 

I finished Cixin Liu's The Three Body Problem, and it was excellent. I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys hard science fiction.