Thursday, May 31, 2012

Session V - Drunken Loutishness in Denethix and Beyond

The Adventurers drown their sorrows, interview with dusty travelers, and Grimgrim makes a demanding friend.


Grimgrim – Fighting priest of the fierce God of Dooms, Monstcrom! (M) Cleric 1

Lemon Jackson – An loin cloth wearing wizard with strange yellow eyes and who tattoos himself with spells. (M) Magic User 1

Huxley McTeeth (Hux) – A gaucho with a past, clad in plains finery (M) Fighter 1

“Eyestabs” Nell – A tall scary woman armed with many poison hat pins (F) Assassin 1

Drusilla – Eleven lass of surpassing beauty, disturbingly unpleasant affect and taste for human babies (F) Elf 1

The diminished party has been lurking in their apartment looking at their dwindling stack of Gold for a week after their disastrous foray into the ASE gatehouse.

The party has reached the following conclusions:
  1. They aren't going back into the gatehouse for a while. (They don't realize they've already killed the meanest thing in there)
  2. They need to beef up their ability to not die – oil is going to get more popular I think, but there's talk of buying dogs or slaves and of hiring henchman. Of course they lack money for these things.
  3. They need to get rich quick. (I really like ASE's treasure progression/cost of living, while advancement feels a little slow the party is so far cash strapped and a bit desperate, just as unestablished treasure seekers should be.)

Towards the Obelisk of Forgotten Memory

Below is the history and present state of the "Obelisk of Forgotten Memory", a 30 "room" adventure location that my players ran through a month or two ago.  If there's interest I will cobble my notes, maps, tables and art together into a PDF.  The Obelisk grounds contain a Ghoul Gang, Cult Frankensteins, a Cannibal Ghost, Fighting Funerary Deities and a Crypt of the Rocketmen. I will post more bits and piece under the header "Obelisk" in the coming weeks. 
From the Pennsylvania Review website - Unaccredited
The Table of Contents, updated with links as they appear for the location can be found on this page:
Obelisk of Forgotten Memories

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

For Gavrilo Princip


Assassins, an often despised as either virtually useless or game ruining class.  Well now I have one in my party and frankly I don't like the old rules at all.  This here is my completely new rules hack of the Assassin.  They are specialist thieves who focus on poison, murder and fast one-on-one melee combat.  Yes, they are like ninjas.  So far the assassin being played in my campaign under these rules has not created imbalance, or more specifically, any imbalance she creates is caused by some amazing stat rolls (See previous post re: Nell) and the core AD&D/LLC rules on statistics bonuses. 

Gravrilo Princip, Assassin - Photographer unknown

Keeping Adventurer's Poor & Happy Pt. I

Exotic Weapons – Players love weapons, especially magic weapons, but rarely do they deserve something magical, and certainly they don't get to buy magic weapons in town. Here's a table to help make them feel special without giving them an edge, well some are rust proof.

Meet the Adventurers PT I - A Replacement for Mukuls the Fighter

Nell Hazenphaffler (Murderess)
Nell Hazenphaffler
aka “Stabby Nell/Eyestabber Nelly”
Assassin (Lvl 1)

STR: 17 +2 melee hit/damage
INT: 12 No extra langs, can read/write
WIS: 12 No bonuses
DEX: 18 – 3 AC/+3 missile to hit
CON: 15 +1 HP/die
CHR: 15 -1 Reaction Rolls

HP: 4 (per level)
AC: 4 (w/dex bonus)

Equip: Steel ribbed corset (armor as studded leather), Poisoned scimitar 1D8 + (1D6/per lvl on 1st hit), 8 poisoned hairpin darts 1D4+(1D6 per/lvl). Dried and liquid Scorp-man venom. 24GP.

Alignment: Chaotic – quick to anger, vengeful and
callous, a practiced murderess. Thinking of becoming a better person, but not trying very hard.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Death in the Gatehouse - Campaign Rules Regarding Death

Death in the Gatehouse:

Session IV was a disaster for the party, a near Total Party Kill prevent only by some lucky interaction rolls, and by Lemon's timely use of oil.  The encounter was just bad luck frankly, the wandering encounter roll indicated that the adventurers were going to run up against the nastiest (and arguably toughest monster) in the Gatehouse without understanding the nature of the place.  I have no desire to kill characters, but they live in a nasty world, with pretty unforgiving rules, and so this was bound to happen.  I am glad it wasn't a TPK, because the party keeps taking on character and everyone dying might have driven my new players off despite my warnings. Death is pretty permanent in Denethix, divine healing is extraordinarily expensive and it's doubtful there's any cleric above 5th level anywhere nearby the city. I suppose untrustworthy super-science also exists, but it's hard to guess where they'd find it, except by accident.  The characters lost a couple of friends, worse for them perhaps, they also got nothing for their troubles.

Treasures: Grimgrim has an ancient coffee mug, but no one can tell it's ancient. It's worth 1 sp to a motivated buyer. It was not a good night for the party. 

Player Reactions: Both P and B had become attached to Mukuls and Hump – B even having worked out that elaborate history described at the start of the prior Session-log and repeated in Grimgrim's eulogy. (supposedly written in Dwarven in a small book recovered from his corpse). P was the more upset, this being her first character and disturbed at how quickly the well armored 8hp fighter had gone down to a lucky roll. She wanted him to come back and briefly toyed with playing his brother 'Beg Mukuls' come south to find Mukuls.

Both replacement characters rolled very well, this 4D6 this is too generous I think. P rolled and 18, 17 and two 13's while B rolled an 18, two 14's and a 13 (which is still pretty spectacular, even for best 3 out of 4D6). Neither of them rolled any stats with penalties attached. I let them pick what sort of characters they wanted to play and arrange stats accordingly, again being too nice. 

Session IV - Disaster in the Gatehouse

Mt. Rendon gives up its secret, an ancient horror is cleansed with fire, robots are deceived and the smell of deep fried dwarf is recorded for posterity.


A CHILLING NOTE: The players cavalier attitude towards combat with the denizens of the dungeon and wilderness finally ended in some predictable deaths. Only a very lucky role, Lemon's high charisma and the disturbing imperatives of the Gatehouse's automatons saved the PC's.

Grimgrim – Fighting priest of the fierce God of Dooms, Monstcrom! (M) Cleric 1

Lemon Jackson – An underclothed wizard with strange yellow eyes and who tattoos himself with spells. (M) Magic User 1

Hump – Dwarf with a fake beard, red splint armor festooned with axes & heavy crossbow. (M) Dwarf 1

Mukuls – Barbarian with stereotypically savage strength and a fondness for axes large and small. (M) Fighter 1

Drusilla – Eleven lass of a disturbingly unpleasant affect and taste for human babies. (F) Elf 1

Monday, May 28, 2012

Drinking in Denethix

 What good is carousing without Fantastic Booze? -1D4, 1D6, 1D10 or 1D20 - A dive bar is likely to have a D4 or D6 selection (roll once per patron and don't ignore repeats). Better bars will use a D8, D10 or even a D20. It's also useful as treasure, many creatures are more likely to have some hooch than a gemstone. Heck, a case of cheap beetle whiskey is worth 12GP.

Meditations on the Bugbear

Bugbears – I have always loved the name bugbear, ever since one of them pretended to be friendly to my trusting 9yr old D&D player self and under the guise of offering me some kebab shoved a red hot skewer into my 2nd level fighter's face. This was my first real experience with betrayal (and they say D&D doesn't teach kids anything). Much fun was had in the Cave of Chaos that day – my only regrets at the time were that the crazy fighter in the basement turned evils, and that I there weren't any baby bugbears to slay! Still, it's amazing, my initial impression of bugbear as potentially friendly cute creatures - something like a cheerful Chewbacca with a bee head - was destroyed almost as soon as it was formed.

The point of that touching tale, is that I have never known what a bugbear might look like (well as noted below there's that proto-soviet revolutionary kind I learned about in undergrad....) but the name was just so evocative! I think the image used in the 1st Monster Manual is excellent (look it up), is pretty good, it also appears to have been cribbed from a revolutionary Russian zine of the 1905 – 1914 era. There's history in the monster, excellent history. Yet, despite it's storied nature, all I know about the damn things is as follows: Bugbears are betraying murderous bastards, bugbears have a lot of hp, bugbears are what goblins use to collect gambling debts, bugbear are hairy and likely smell, bugbears are dumb but make up for it in evil cunning, and Bugbears are fond of polearms.

The Bugbear, magazine mascot - Ivan Biliban, 1905
 Of course around Denethix the idea of a hairy giant goblin is not adequately bizarre. Plus I've always thought that a 'bugbear' should be at least one of those things – bug or bear. For a giant hairy goblin, it's possible that the hive minds have been breeding Sasquatches with their root servitor stock (are goblins purebred hive-mind stock, or are they the 'hiveminder' equivilent of Morlocks?), but I don't like that for bugbear. A bugbear is what a hivesquatch is not. I see a hivesquatch as having 6-10hd, AC 4 and being 12' tall – like a goblin hill giant. A terror that can't be made outside a lab and needs a whole sasquatch tribe's worth of pineal glads to grow in it's tube. Hivesquatches are what the oldest hive minds, backed by steam-powered reconstructed alien tech, pull out when they descend on human lands and need something to smash a few steel leviathans – hivesquatches may also be immune to magic and certainly only show up with 1d6 hundred goblins in support.
Bugbears though – this is a bugbear....

Evil & Consequences

Messing with Alien Evil Permanent effects – 1D20

When you play with fire you sometimes get burned, when you decide to mess around with arcane evils from the realms beyond space and time you break out in boils ... except the boils are eyes ... that scream. GM can roll 1D20 on this table when it seems like a character has trespassed into evil realms beyond what's proper for mortal man. Subtract 5 or 10 if it's only a little evil (like a naughty spell tattoo).

I made Lemon roll (with a minus 10 modifier) for tattooing the formulas of Damnation's touch or whatever it's called on his arm. He doesn't know, it but he will be receiving dream visits from the Skull-face's tormented soul and ultimately the thing that ate it. They will tell him terrible things – alas this will increase his WIS since he saved when I told him to roll a D20 – that magician is lucky. I will be emailing him after this session about the dreams, but I bet he will act the part to keep the new WIS point, and cause BB's good like that.

Session III - Sick Rock Express

Lodgings are procured, high-born scofflaws flummoxed with low elven sorcery and a terrible beast is dispatched.


Back again, two weeks later and I am impressed that no one has dropped out. In fact it's been mentioned that some other folk may be interested in joining.

Our protagonists are:

Grimgrim – Fighting priest of the fierce God of Dooms, Monstcrom! (M) Cleric 1

Lemon Jackson – An underclothed wizard with strange yellow eyes and who tattoos himself with spells. (M) Magic User 1

Hump – Dwarf with a fake beard, red splint armor festooned with axes & heavy crossbow. (M) Dwarf 1

Mukuls – Barbarian with stereotypically savage strength and a fondness for axes large and small. (M) Fighter 1

Drusilla – Eleven lass of disturbingly unpleasant affect and taste for human babies. (F) Elf 1

The party has just returned to Denethix with 857GP in loot and 18GP left over from prior adventures. They decided over email last week to buy a suit of plate armor for the party (at 450 gp it's an investment) and maybe get a second man-sized set when they get their reward from the scientists for determining the deceased Doctor's fate. I like flavor and so the armor they bought isn't strictly plate mail, it's a blackened steel half suit of heavy plate with a closed helm. If worn over mail (splint, chain or scale) it grants a -2 to AC (though never a better AC than 3). I've decided to describe it as a bulbous clamshell back and breast piece with semi attached pouldrons and topped with a morian (a conquistador helmet) that has a silvered steel face plate attached via a hinge. The mask is of a fiercely toothed pig faced demon. The PC's seem to think their investment armor is damn cool and I'm okay with that - as 450GP is a serious investment for 1st level PC's and looking cool has no effect on game play (unless they refuse to swap it for something better).

The remaining 400 GP (they're keeping 26GP in traveling money) they split equally. That's 80 GP each, not enough to buy anything major (Lemon wants a hand cannon), but good enough for night of carousing, a new weapon or to hire and equip a henchman (they haven't figured that one out yet). Grimgrim reminds the party about Phil and they all chip in 10GP to keep him from bad mouthing them to the scientists, but he still sulks off grumbling.

Inagural Rule Hack

COUNTER MAGIC RULES – Mages, wizards, sorceresses, warlocks and thaumaturges all kind of suck compared to elves. To offset them and to make magic feel more special I've invented the following rule applicable to practitioners of academic magic (I may add counterspell as a spell for elves/clerics etc, perhaps at around 3rd level).

Since mages study the formula of magic in a rigorous more or less academic fashion and aim to understand the root of thaumaturgic power or some such they can often figure out subtle and seemingly trivial ways to undermine each other while casting. A mage who chooses not to actively cast a spell may counter the magic of another magical practitioner if they know the spell being cast.

What this means mechanically is that a mage who sees a spell that they have recorded in their spell-book being cast may attempt to counter that spell if they have not already acted that round (and they may elect to counter spells that round if they have initiative and want to wait out any opposing wizards). In countering a spell the mage must roll a d20 to hit (with a hit bonus based on INT as if it was DEX or STR) as if attacking AC 10 opponent ( with -1 one AC for each level the caster is above the counterspeller).

Mukals - Axe Lover. Totally Unrelated to the Above.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Session II - The Wages of Science

In which the adventurers seek adventure, battle halfiing intolerance, beard the lion(men) in their lair and find what lurks beneath the pyramid.


I am posting through my backlog of play reports to get this started well. 

A week passed, I was expecting it'd be two before we played again, but my players are resoundingly eager. They all returned. The cast of villains is:

Grimgrim – Fighting priest of the fierce God of Dooms, Monstcrom! (M) Cleric 1

Lemon Jackson – An under-clothed wizard with strange yellow eyes and who tattoos himself with spells. (M) Magic-User 1

Hump – Dwarf with a fake beard, red splint armor festooned with axes & heavy crossbow. (M) Dwarf 1

Mukuls – Barbarian with stereotypically savage strength and a fondness for axes. (M) Fighter 1

Drusilla – Pretty elfin lass, of disturbingly unpleasant affect and with a taste for human babies (F) Elf 1

The party awoke in Mung's House of Ale and set out to find the temple of science and see both what it was and what work they might need. They arrived at the black pyramid at 10 AM and the Scientists were open for the day. Lemon and Hump did the talking while the rest of the party lurked in the background.

The Scientists thought they could find something for such a band of adventurers to work at, something besides a long stint in the temple's boron mines, because “Science is always in need of willing bodies”. The adventurers learned that a visiting Scientist and retainers had been expected by the South road, but were a week late. The Scientists would pay 50gp per party member for the party to escort the visitors back to the Temple of Science. When Hump asked where the visitors had come from they were told that the missing Scientist had been prospecting for artifacts in the Molybdenum Tombs, a place of ancient technology. Also the Scientists insisted that they didn't work with the Steel Leviathans, as those were powered by the “crude engineering” of the Academy these days.

The party walked back to the bazaar and spent more of their quickly dwindling cash reserves on camping gear and rations. They refused Drusilla's suggestion that they go to the Street of Tormented flesh and buy her a human baby in lieu of her1/5 of the rations.

On the way South through the soot stained streets and among the clanking factories the adventurers observed a fist fight amongst local toughs, unemployed machine workers and drunken rowdies. The party skirted around the fracas and refused even to bet on a winner with a cancerous factory foreman who was sure that his 'boys' would smash the opposition.

The party looked a bit ridiculous as they walked, bristling with weapons through the bucolic, peaceful countryside. Five hours later there was still no sign of the wayward science caravan and the group passed through the town of Lugosi, where the road split. No one the characters asked had seen any scientists, but they were told to take the right, less traveled road if they were heading towards the tombs. An elderly yokel was heard to remark “Ha them youths is all gonna die in the tombs. That pretty armor's gonna be soft cheese to the teeth of a crystal jaguar.” Mukul's player P voices concerns to the rest of the party and briefly advocates some sort of meta-game theory that the DM is trying to warn them away from the tombs and they were supposed to stay in “starting area” of Denethix (I sorta despise MMO's for encouraging this kind of thinking). The other players ignore P's theory and Grimgrim wonders aloud if Monstcrom would protect him from crystal jaguars, if a crystal jaguar skin cape would would be pleasing to Monstcrom and if Monstcrom would prefer his followers to befriend or sacrifice a crystal jaguar? Grimgrim instinctively feels that a cape would be pleasing to Monstcrom, but not as pleasing as a crystal jaguar fur loin cloth and furry wrist bracers, also that Monstcrom wants sacrifice, not to be worshiped by cat-hoarders.

I proclaimed that Grimgrim had earned 20xp for his priestly mediation on his deity's desires regarding crystal felines, and pointed out that was as much xp as he'd get for killing four goblins. I want to reward in-game thinking and character building here. Drusilla will be getting xp if she gets her teeth into a human-type baby for example (though I don't think Hump, Mukuls or Lemon will like that much and there may be terrible lynch-mob style consequences).

Five miles out of Lugosi on the Tarryfield road the party was set upon by a gang of violently drunken halfling hillbilly toughs who failed to achieve complete suprise only because their leader (a young halfling with a shaved head and gruesome facial scars) decided to shout “Stand aside dwarf, and we'll let you run while we murderate these beanpoles.” The other halflings giggled while Hump appeared to momentarily dither. Hump didn't wait long to send a quarrel towards the halfling leader. Hump missed. Four of the Halflings charged, wielding nail studded clubs and pitchforks, the remaining bow-ling put an arrow into Grimgrim's shoulder guard). Lemon tossed a sleep spell at the charging halflings, but his lack of battle training left his pussiance wanting and the incantation only put down the archer and two pitchfork wielders. Mukul's thrown hachet caught a club-ling in the chest and left him coughing blood but stumbling forward with drunken determination. Grimgrim missed, as did the attacker's leader, but the wounded halfling rapped Grimgrim on the shin and draws blood. Attacking last, from the second rank, Drusilla's crescent headed polearm neatly decapitated the halfling leader and sent his screaming head whirling off into the bushes. (I stole the flying screaming decapitated head from a Roman epic poem – it's a classical allusion, respect it!). Hope drains from the remaining halfling's eyes as he wheezes with blood filled lungs and his brave, but feeble club swing is deflected by Grimgrim's shield. A flurry of counterblows end the last halfling's determined stand and reduce him to ground chuck.

Grimgrim decides that they must let one sleeping halfling live “To tell his children Monstcrom's might and in honor of his friend's bravery in the face of death.” G is fishing for xp methinks, but it's a once per game session bonus.

Lemon agreed to let the sleeping halflings live, and declared they were “his kills” so it was his right to decide. The party then buried the 'brave' halfling (the last to die) in a shallow grave, nailing a gp (they now have 39) to his club as a grave marker and left the groggy tied halflings with the decapitated leader's corpse in the ditch. They looted some 64sp, a copper chased drinking horn, and lucky protonium disc, engraved with pictures of a bull head/tail (10 gp gem replacements) from the defeated.

Grimgrim's wound was minor (2hp – leaving him with 4hp) and he bandaged it. He clamed his frayed nerves by draining the captured drinking horn. I am using the “MetalEarth” “bad-ass healing rules” so Grimgrim was back to full hp (1d4 healing for taking appropriate efforts – especially a stiff drink).  Mukuls suggested Drusilla enjoy a “Halfling haunch” cause they looked like babies, but Drusilla replied with the jaunty elven rhyme “If it's gray let it lay, if it's not in the Pot!”. Laughter and XP bonus followed.

Leaving the site of the yokel slaughter (which could have gone very badly I think), the party walked on, with Lemon flipping his new 'lucky' token in the spring sun. They arrived at Tarryfield at 11PM and stumbled into “The Wretched” for a quick drink. They ate their own rations, in preference to the rat on a stick or “mold fries” while telling the local drunks about their encounter with the halflings, asking about Scientists and generally being tough guys. The adventurers rented the loft for 5gp and retired after a couple rounds paid for with the Halflings' silver.

Shortly after 4am the party, and the barkeep (sleeping in a pile of greasy straw by the smokey fireplace) were awakened by a pounding on the door. Two wild-eyed men in ragged splint mail and dirty Temple of Science tabards burst into The Wretched shouting for help. The party tries to calm them and starts suiting up. Terry and Phil are the intruders names and they are armsmen for the temple of science, most recently exploring the Molybdenum Tombs with a Dr. Spivey from the South. This Dr. is clearly the man the players have been sent to find.

The armsmen relate their predictable story of being robbed by Moktars … hostages, treasure caravan etc. The party decides to head out, in the dark, as this is exactly the clear cut adventure they want. Hump catches Terry and Phil exchanging avaricious glances.

A slightly exhausted 2 hr later, just as dawn is breaking, the party finds themselves at the caravan site. They're tired and a bit dazed (I'm giving them all -1 on damage rolls until they rest), but quickly search the burnt caravan, finding three dead guards and a dead “postoc”, as the servants/slaves of Scientists are known. Almost as quickly as the party realizes that the caravan is looted, they discover large cat-like footprints in the mud. Terry and Phil report that Dr. Spivey is not among the dead, and that another guard, Kolem, is also missing. Following the footprints the party arrives at the Moktar lair, visible ½ way up a low hill as a perfectly square hole in a roughly excavated rock wall.

In an heretoforth uncharacteristic fit of tactical sense the characters array themselves around the opening, with the Melee armed Mukuls and Drusilla at the doors edge, and the rest of the party hefting their missile weapons (crossbow, darts and a sling) crouched above the door's lip. Terry and Phil stand behind Drusilla on the left side of the door. After nothing happens for a few minutes, Mukuls shouts “Surrender in the name of the law and come out with yer hands on yer heads”. After several seconds they hear a distant clang, a viscous howl and shortly afterwards the sound of a breaking branch and a sustained pained yipping. The guard wolf has fallen into the pit. I rolled the moktar's morale and he decided to check out the disturbance before running for help. As 'healthy' moktar sticks his head out of the doorway he is subject to a flurry of blows. He avoids the heavy melee attacks of Drusilla and Mukuls, as well as a bolt and stone. Lemon's dart catches the moktar in the back of the arm and draws blood. The Moktar leaps back into the cave entrance and starts to retreat towards the sprung pit trap and his wolf. He is followed shortly by Mukuls and Drusilla, then Phil and Terry, and finally the rest of the party, with Lemon in the 4th rank.

Eager to press on even with darkness closing in as the outdoor light dims the party backs the wary Moktar up against the pit. The first round is a flurry of missing missles and blocked blows, but in the second Mukuls lands an overhead battleaxe blow and his strength carries his blade through the moktar's guard and deep into it's shoulder. The dying moktar falls into the pit with a splash and the trapped wolf's yelps grow louder.

Drusilla kills the wolf with her polearm by leaning over the side of the pit with Mukuls and Grimgrim each holding one of her legs. Even in this awkward position the trapped beast is silenced in only a few rounds. The sick guards down the hall have followed the commotion, but their sickness induced lassitude keeps them from acting aggressively until they see the party's lamps as they emerge around the corner from the pit and begin to assemble.

The party had trouble crossing the pit, with only 20' of rope and one grappling hook, they were all forced to descend (Phil offered to 'stand guard' even if it meant he had to stay on the doorway side of the pit, but his offer was declined) and then remove the grapple and ascend up the other side. Hump takes charge as they assemble, organizing the party for melee efficiency. He and Mukuls form a first line, with the polearm wielding Drusilla thrusting over Hump's short shoulders while Grimgrim and Lemon provide missile support. Terry and Phil gladly slink to the rear. The two moktars are worried that they are out numbered but they figure they're only be facing Hump and Mukul's axes in the narrow corridor so they advance with warning roars. The attacking Moktars run straight into Drusilla's braced braced crescent pike, but the injury it inflicts fails to bring down the first moktar. Grimgrim's slingstone cracks the same moktar's skull, but the tough brute still refuses to go down. Both moktar's miss their tentative swings at the well shielded fighters of the front line. Mukul's great strength is again telling as he lays out the unwounded Moktar with a single mighty blow. The wounded Moktar turns to flee, and is cut down just as the rest of the enraged moktar band emerges from the end of the hall.

The fight in the corridor is long and exhausting with Grimgrim moving forward when a second pair of moktars tear into Mukuls and force his retreat. The moktars fight to the end though, despite their disadvantage in armor and the flurry of missiles and pike thrusts from the parties back row. By the fight's end Mukuls has exhausted his throwing axes, and is still bleeding from a pair of serious wounds, even after a bandaging. Grimgrim is forced to call on Monstcrom for healing, and the party presses forward to find the empty guardroom and then the mess of the common room. Dr. Spivey is trussed in the corner and the players heed rush to free him. He curses Terry and Phil as worthless cowards, but Terry and Phil aren't cowed. The party takes the obviously ill Dr. back down the hall to the Guard room and lay him on the table. Drusilla tells Grimgrim to heal him, but Grimgrim states he isn't a Dr. and that Monstcrom is a stingy God who will grant no more boons today.

Lemon, as the party's most educated tries to conduct first aid, but before he can do much Spivey expires. A search of his body reveals a rolled map and nothing else.

The party rushes back into the common room to search for any more moktars, and this time Hump notices the telltale mad radiation of the sick rock in the corner. He tells the party to hurry into the next room, and they burst into the Chief's chamber in total disarray. The chief is surprised, the noise of the battle in the outer hall having only begun to wake him from a sick rock tormented stupor. The party is equally surprised and barely sorts itself out before the groggy chief charges them. The chief's first blow smashes Hump back into the hall, reeling with 1 hp remaining. No blows land for several rounds until a recovered Hump puts a bolt into the Chief's thigh and the shock leaves the chief open to blows from Mukuls and Terry. The chief dies, roaring his outrage, while Terry attempts to claim the chief's necklace by right of having landed the final blow. The party threatens Terry; Terry relents as his cowardice defeats his greed.

The party stops for a while, trying to mend Hump's serious injury. Hump has at least one cracked rib but he is better off after a tight bandaging and a brief rest. The adventurers are in amazingly good shape for having rapidly done in 19 HD of monsters without a rest. Grimgrim and Hump still have painful minor wounds, but all the other adventurers are unscratched.

The party finds a lever at the entrance to a tunnel, and Mukuls promptly pulls it. A loud clanf follows and the party then nonchalantly begins walking South towards the source of the noise. Hump is thrown to the ceiling by an unseen force, when he fails to heed a magnetic pull on his armor. Mukuls leaps back in time, but his beloved battleaxe is torn from his grasp. From Hump's anguished shouts the party is able to determine that the trap is magnetic in nature, and Lemon goes down the hall to toss Hump a rope. Hump has nothing to tie the rope to so Mukuls, Grimgrim and Drusilla all remove their armor and stand beneath Hump with a blanket stretched out to catch him while Phil put the lever into down position. The plan works as the blanket barely holds 200lbs of plummeting armored dwarf. Hump is again soothed, this time with a vigorous back rub from Mukuls for his badly wrenched shoulders. The party pledges to remember to bring whiskey on their next delve, as Hump is still sore and his busted ribs feel worse again. The adventurers works their way to the end of the corridor and cannot shift the steel trapdoor the find there. They surmise correctly that the lever will lift it and leave Lemon by the trap door with instructions to yell about what happens. Sure enough the trap opens when the massive steel pyramid, it's base the “trapdoor”, slams into the ceiling. The party debates how to get their armored selves down the trapdoor, but cannot figure out a good way, especially one that will allow them to retain their armor and keep the trap pinned to the ceiling. Finally Grimgrim decides on a possible plan and the party drags the guardroom table to the trapdoor and activates the magnet. While the door is up, they lay the table over the hole (it barely spans the pit). When the pyramid again falls to the hole the table succeeds in partially deflecting (several rolls were made – they went well) the pyramid so that using rope and the remaining table chunks as levers the party's combined strength can shift the pyramid to the side.

The party lowers Mukuls into the hole with a harness under his arms, his axe in one hand and lantern in the other. Hump and Lemon stand ready to pelt anything that emerges with missiles. It's anti-climactic as Mukuls finds only a damp hole with stairs heading down. The party follows and arranges themselves in their tested battle formation before proceeding into a vault. They don't know what to expect, but it's not the purplish corpse of a caravan guard and a large chest. There are cheers about the chest, and the party rushes forward as two spiders leap from the ceiling, the first pounces on Terry as he emerges from the stairs and the second launches itself at Lemon. Both Terry and Lemon are bitten, lemon takes a bloodly but mostly superficial scratch to the face, leaping back so quickly that the dose of spider poison meant for him spurts harmlessly onto the floor. Terry is less lucky, and the viscous bite of the fangs drops him to his knees where the spider leisurely pumps venom into him. As Terry expires gasping and purple, Phil's short sword takes the spider above a knee joint, but the beast barely seems to notice the shortened leg as it turns towards Drusilla and Grimgrim. Lemon has darted to cower behind the cleric and elf while clawing at his bloody face. Grimgrim braces himself but his wild swing fails to connect. Mukuls and Hump dart forward completing a crescent formation around the two spiders, Phil and the deceased Terry. As this shuffling takes place Drusilla has dropped her crescent pike and begun to mouth the mystical words of her sleep spell. The spiders prepare for leap, almost sure to carry off at least one party member with their virulent poisons, when the winds of slumber (Drusilla's spell apparently creates a bluish mist that smells of coconut, ginger and key limes) hit them and luckily send both monster arachnids into a deep sleep filled with lovely dreams - this is apparently a side effect of Drusilla's sleep spell, though it begs the question as to what 'lovely dreams' mean to a giant cave spider). There is no talk of mercy and Drusilla uses her crescent to lop off the head of each spider while Hump and Mukuls each drive axe blows into the eyes. This bit of butchery kills the spiders quickly and the party returns to the chest after searching the room for more monsters. Lemon staunches the his bleeding face with a fist full of giant spider web (the party may remember to look up when they enter strange treasure tombs from now on, but it's unlikely) and on close examination the wound is superficial despite a stinging from trace amounts of venom.

Turning to the chest the party finds 800gp within as they note the chest's unwieldy lead construction. Phil suggests that the coins (750 of which are rolled in 30 Bank Inviolable coin sleeves) represent pay for the Scientist's caravan guards – meaning himself. Grimgrim mutters something about 'blood for Monstcrom'. As Phil takes in the scratched but hardy adventurers and he can only meekly suggest that “Not for me you see, something for Terry's three babies, and maybe you know a bit for me to ummmm - put aside.” The party ignores him and scoops the gold into their packs.

The weary trudge back to Tarryfield is uneventful, but they spend only enough time in the Wretched's loft to achieve the minimum of rest and for the casters to pick through their spell books and commune with their gods. The next night is spent in one of Lugosi's inns, a comfortable spot called The Sinking Fang. On their fourth day after leaving Denethix the party walks back into the city up the same sooty street they left. Phil trudges dejectedly behind the party, somehow having lost his Science tabard and almost silently whining about “a fair share for the Philster”.


Treasure and XP – It was a good haul, 857 gp in coin, 20 gp in nicknacks and a mysterious treasure map. This is less than last time, but that was basically a hand-wave to give the PC's starting cash. This timed they earned their loot like good adventurers, through bloodthirsty slaughter and smart tactics.  

Victims -5 halfling hillfolk (3 released), a wolf, a healthy moktar, 8 poisoned moktars, 1 dying moktar chief, 2 crab spiders. The total is something like 1120 XP total, or 224 each.

Losses - Terry the Incompetent Armsman.

Treasures of Note: A Strange MapIt's a map to some kind of cave near the top of Mt. Rendon, a massive lone mountain about 35 miles from Denethix. The Mountain is known to be dangerous and topped by peryton inhabited and/or haunted ancient ruins. Some say it was “the last redoubt of the ancient wizards” but people say that about every ancient ruin. The map is clearly very old, printed on crumbling plastic and showing topography in the ancient manner. The dead scientist, Dr. Spivey, has written in his neat block letters “sick rock imperative to ingress” in some kind of grease pencil with an arrow towards the cave.

Inagural Table

In the first game session the Player found themselves in the empty home of a failed evil Wizard without any starting money or equipment.  I made the table below to give them some items they could sell to outfit themselves in the style off adventurers. It turned out rather long.

TABLE OF SEMI-VALUABLE WIZARD JUNK – The PC's might not think to take some of this stuff, but it's all worth something.  Can be used to decorate the homes of evil sorcerers and break up the monotony of hordes of gold and silver.

Session I - Inaugural Play Report

In which the party meets under dreary circumstances, pride goes before a fall, and plunder is gathered and wasted.


Grimgrim – Fighting priest of the fierce God of Dooms, Monstcrom! (M) Cleric 1

Lemon Jackson – An under-clothed wizard with strange yellow eyes and who tattoos himself with spells. (M) Magic-User 1

Hump – Dwarf with a fake beard, and other obvious mental issues. (M) Dwarf 1

Mukuls – Barbarian with stereotypically savage strength and a fondness for axes. (M) Fighter 1

Drusilla – Pretty elfin lass, of disturbingly unpleasant affect and with a taste for human babies (F) Elf 1

The party met chained in the basement of an evil wizard, they didn't remember much beyond being plucked from the road near their homes by short robed figures. The party's Wizard captor, a stereotypically lanky fellow in a tattered black robe wearing cracked white face makeup in the design of a skull, soon had his gang of armored hunchbacks drag them up from the cellar of what appeared to be a small blockhouse. The robed Wizard wasn't very competent, as attested to by the furniture pushed into the corners of his makeshift summoning chamber, but he called himself Skull-face and was determined to summon a “beassssst of the nether” and “fill him-ssssself with its dread power”. After sacrificing four unnamed NPC prisoners and just before sticking a knife into Grimgrim an alien entity appeared. Skull-face's incompetence proved itself fatal as the thing turned on him for mispronouncing it's name due to affected sinister hissing speech. The horror's name was Zarrzaks, not Zars-sstackssss, and without being bound by proper magical name calling it decided to eat Skull-face's soul. After a light repast the immense purple form of Zarrzaks disappeared in a tower of purple smoke that smelled like the taste of pennies, and also happened to vaporize all the metal in the room.

With their bonds reduced to sparkling purple motes, the party set upon the four remaining hunchback servitors of Skull-face who hadn't fled. It was over pretty quick with the party grabbing the chairs and a heavy bed frame (in Hump's case) and bashing the confused and despondent hunchbacks into paste (The hunchbacks were stated as unarmed – 1d2 damage - goblins).

After the hunchback massacre they searched the blockhouse and found a bunch of wizard junk, (specifically a kraken shell concertina and a glass egg with a ghost in it, worth about 200gp – see wizard junk table below), a stolen elvish spell-book (Drusilla's), Skull-face's spell-book, 600 gp sewn into a Skull-face's skull emblazoned cape (in the closet) and four mysterious brown bottles.

Drusilla tried a sip from a bottle, which was brandy, and actually really excellent brandy. The party got drunk, amidst the detritus of their massacre, and pledged loyalty to each other. They pledged that the money they had taken would buy equipment (minus the 200 gp worth of brandy they had just unknowingly drunk).

Lemon and Drusilla both tried to make sense of the spell book, but only Lemon rolled well enough to determine what one of the ten spells within was. It was sleep – an anticlimactic discovery. They are saving the book for later, and perhaps will think to cast read magic on it at some point or I'll let them try again if they consult some sage, spend time in a library or gain a level.

After walking the several miles to Denethix my players went on a shopping spree. They equipped themselves in standard adventurer fashion, though short on things like rope, spikes, oil and poles. The spree ended with about 150 gold left, but all the adventurers were well armed. The party ended the session looking dangerous in matching splint mail of various colored lacquer and loaded down with hand axes. It should be noted that they didn't bother to buy anything odd, they breezed past the oddities shop (after questioning the proprietor if he sold magic) and lingered only when Lemon wanted to look at handguns and Drusilla wanted to buy a human baby, but couldn't find them in the bazaar. They were ready for adventure and wouldn't stop till they found some.

The party went to Mung's House of Ale up the street from the bazaar to find rumors that would lead to adventure. The rumors were limited, but the adventurers now fears the wrath of the were-grunkie, don't want to investigate any wrinkled children, and know about the Temple of Science. They decided all three were adventure leads (linear thinking is a bit rooted here) but none wanted to tangle with a were-anything and only Drusilla is interested in babies, and then only as a snack. Next time they're off to the Temple of Science to find adventure.

One of the stranger denizens of Denethix, a Steel Leviathan

Welcome to the Dungeon of Signs

I* started running an old school game of the Dungeons and Dragons type** table top role playing variety.  My players consist of various late 20's and 30's professionals** some of whom have played before, and some of whom are new to this.

The campaign world is one I found on this very Internet***, strongly flavored with gonzo science fantasy.  The game world has been a great success for me because it lack the ridiculous seriousness of a more in depth campaign setting, focuses on the basic "murder hobo" logic of red box D&D, escapes from abject Tolkienism, and instead feels playful and fresh.  All my player are familiar with the hobbit and LOTR, they know what elves and dwarves are in all the modern fantasy cliches.  I am attempting to subvert these cliches just enough to recreate the wonder that made 1E D&D the focus of my youthful free time.  This blog is a place for me to dump the play reports, art (I draw art for my players as I have underutilized skills), and random tables.  If you are a player in my game these tables may be elucidating, but may ruin your play experience - your choice.

There are four basic things I will post here:
1) Play reports - They will be roughly bimonthly as we play every second Sunday, and already produce recap emails I send out post-game to provide updates and chronicle the hijinx.
2) Random tables or ideas about how I run my campaign.  These are house rules - feel free to use them for whatever.
3) Adventure Locales - More or less detail of the places my players plunder and reave.
4) Art - All uncredited art is crudely drawn by me with pen and ink and then colored in an even cruder manner to match the terrible colors favored by this blog's template. This art is sometimes intentionally in the style of the art of early D&D products, but I am only an indifferent cartoonist and worse illustrator so it likely fails to live up to even these amateurish standards.

* I'm a mid 30's professional living in a major metropolitan area of the US.
** Labyrinth Lord for tables and basic rules. Tougher characters using AD&D stats rules because I still have them basically memorized and  wanted to grant increased survivability.  This has returned to haunt me a few times - these characters can survive mistake better than I'd like.
***ASE over at the Henchman Abuse blog- It's magnificently gonzo, strangely compelling and oddly upbeat.