Friday, August 17, 2012

HMS Apollyon - Welcome Aboard

Now with three sessions of HMS Apollyon exploration over it seems appropriate to post an introductory document for the campaign. Edited 11/27/12 due to gameplay changes
From the Comic Leviathan - inspiration for the setting
First the Practicals

Flailsnail's Player's Introduction

I am running a dungeon crawl of the HMS APOLLYON - a miles-long demon and monster haunted cruise ship that travels between worlds and frequently 'rescues' individuals from the seas it traverses. Perhaps it's a crude metaphor for Davy Jones Locker, perhaps I just like boats. The games are being played as non-static world, with mixed parties of adventurers (both local and from other game worlds) using Flailsnails conventions.  It's open ended and if you're on Google + and want to play look me up - while people who have dedicated HMS Apollyon characters or play regularly have precedence, there are usually a couple open spots for casual players who want to check out the setting.

Genre: It's sort of a mix of a "point of light" campaign, social climbing and horror.  Embattled and not very nice humanity is trying to claw back something from the monsters, environment and other intelligent species within the hull of an Leviathan cruise ship long gone dark, crumbling and strange.  The polyglot Sterntown is the only known civilized area and just now recovering from a disastrous war 40 years ago.  Sterntowners are allied with at least two mundane non-human races, and their leaders, the passenger class, have dealings and share bloodlines with infernal powers.  Humanity is not the most powerful faction within the hull, and the characters are the lowest order within Sterntown.  Hence there is an element of survival horror here, or at least I hope there is.  I am aiming for an atmosphere of drippy, damp, dreary and odd - but it's not especially serious, and gonzo elements exist (like Flying Monkeys).

Level: Right now the majority of the party first party to play is sixth or seventh level and their is content for all levels up to 10th.  Another group is playing passenger class PCs and is still 1st level, while a third group reach 3rd - 4th level.  Per Flailsnails rules I let folks use the rule-set they are familiar with, though I am using Labyrinth Lord and will pare down PC's appropriately.  Now, AD&D is about as overpowered as I can honestly let your PCs get - my own house rules (see below) create characters that are slightly tougher than normal LL rules.  However, I have no experience playing anything after AD&D 1st edition and then mostly as a simplistic hack, so I don't known anything about mage hands, healing surges and bull-rushes. Not that I object to later games I just can't run one.

Magic: The HMS Apollyon is a place of lots of weird, but fairly weak magic.  Don't expect to find a great many magical treasures, and the ones you do find are likely to do odd things.  A +1 sword is more likely to simply be made of good steel, and a magic sword is likely to only cut the shadows of enemies (effectively I might add).

Technology: Anything is fine, but it's likely I will adjust its abilities as I see fit - There are space age zap guns lost deep in the hull of the Apollyon, and bolt action rifles are standard issue to guardsmen.  Whatever your worlds trotting adventurer has picked up is unlikely to unbalance things.  Discussion of available 'new' technology is here.

Campaign Goals: The goals of the campaign are open - setting up a colony, acting as religious crusaders, plundering a pharaoh's golden sarcophagus, overthrowing Sterntown's overlords - all can be ultimate goals.  The basic premise though encourages an exploration game, and exploring is rewarded with both XP and money (in the form of mapping commissions).  As such, keeping good maps and finding one's way past obstacles is a solid strategy for wealth and fame.  Currently there will be a PbP game defending the first area of the hull retaken by adventurers from a legion of undead.

Treasure:  Treasure aboard the Apollyon is salvage mostly.  This includes gold and gems, but it also includes working machine tools, copper pipe and fancy canned goods.  Astute players will be rewarded for thinking beyond the standard treasure heap system of many games.

Monsters: Yup there's lots of them, from hyper-intelligent Fishmen to dogs with crayfish heads.  Lots of undead as well, and very few creatures are in the monster manuals - most do strange gross things.

Example Here

Pacing: Trying to run the game once a week, for about two hours a session.  In game pacing is not linear - that is while things are generally easier in the starting areas near the Rust Gate they're not universally so.  Running away is a good option sometimes.

Important House Rules


Counter Spells: Magic Users, and only magic users (not hybrid classes), can counter-spell instead of casting.  Basically if you know a spell you can counter it by holding your turn and watching the other magic-user.  If you counter successfully they end up losing the spell and it fizzles.  The other guy can do this to you as well.  Note: almost every caster aboard the Apollyon knows sleep and magic missile.

Details are here

Death and Injury (NEW):At Zero HP a character is unconscious or dead.  The player may roll a save vs. death at the end of combat, to reducing merely be injured and unconscious. Injuries from near death are usually permanent and stat reducing.  In especially bad cases they may require the PC to retire.  Death saves may be re rolled when another PC spends the combat attempting to stabilize the dying character.  If the character or NPC stabilizing the injured character has skills as a Doctor the injured PC will receive a second save at +(level of doctoring) to avoid injury if the first save is made, and to survive if it is not. 

Healing with Bandages and Booze: HP of course represent intangibles as well as physical damage.  Therefore taking care of ones shattered nerves and minor cuts helps some.  A character can take an action in battle to pump themselves up (A warcry, a shot of whiskey, prayer - etc.) and regain 1D4 HP.  Likewise, post battle rituals and wound binding can heal 1D4 HP.  The only limitation is this can only be done once a session and you have to tell me what you do

Guns: Firearms are prevalent on the Apollyon.  Muzzle loading weapons are cheap enough and manufactured widely in Sterntown.  Better gunsmiths are available for weapons up to the bolt action rifle and revolver lever. More advanced weapons used to be common and can still be recovered in the hull.  Ammunition is readily available and may be custom made for found weapons.  Guns work with simple "exploding damage" - on a roll of maximum damage another roll is made.  This works for each die if the gun has multiple dice of damage.  Heavy slower bullets tend to have larger damage dice, while small high powered guns have more smaller dice.

Strength/Skill Requirements: I was trying to use strength and skill requirements - this did not work especially well. Skill or great Strength is still required for some weapons, such as steam powered, boiler plate armor, but for most weapons the standard D&D class restrictions apply.

The Environment

Sterntown: This is the standard megadungeon starting town, the gates lead directly into the untamed, monster crawling hull.  However, the players are limited to where they can go within town due to their status as outcasts and strangers and are limited to the slums around the Rustgates (main exit into the hull) until they prove themselves friends of the town.  The important locals are generally helps and info can be found here on the page.  Details regarding the vessel at large are here, and rumors here.

Rolling Up a Member of the Crew: Rolling up a member of the crew is a reasonable option, and has certain advantages.  All standard classes are available per Labryinth Lord (F,MU,TH,C) but the racial classes are different.  I am using a bolt on skill system that provides for specialization so please see the following pages for details.  Note that I am using 4D6 drop lowest die as the system for stat generation.  Feel free to be more punitive than that if you want bragging rights.

Fighters Skills

Magic-User Skills

Specialist/Thief Skills

Cleric Skills

Other options include F/MU hybrids is the form of exiled members of the passenger class, details here 

Flying Monkeys act as servants and scouts for the Apollyon's elite and are F/TH hybrids

Froglings are a major minority aboard the Apollyon, and know elemental magic as will as having Specialist skills (light fighters or thieves).



  1. I like the concept of this setting. Looking forward to seeing how it all works out... if I ever get a chance, maybe I'll try out a G+ game too :)

  2. I've got an intro I'm going to run my group through, starting with pirates, then a WWII U-boat, then THIS... my players are gonna kill me :)