Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Towers Two play report


Ran the player characters through this Towers Two adventure written by Oderus (Dave brockie) of GWAR. It was most GWAR and set us up for some fun future campaigning (players created level 5 characters for it). We've been playing it for many weeks, so not all details are there. What happened:

PCs are two thief/specialists and a fighter. Being 5th level, they ride into town on horses. Immediately, like 2 real minutes into the game, the giant dragonfly back breaker flew up and killed two of the three PCs (second one jumped on to kill it when it grabbed first PC). So good and deadly random encounter charts. 

Substantially same PCs (new ability scores, but same characters because they just got created) go into town. They go to Slippery Spot tavern hall run by a gangster lord type named Ferd. PCs accept his bounty to kill dragon fly, set out to do so. Get ambushed by pigmen, led by pigman chief, PCs kill him. Somehow (I forget) PCs lead more pigmen to near the dragonfly cave. In resulting fight, dragonfly kills pigmen while PCs attack. Everyone eventually runs away from the dragonfly, but PCs killed several pigmen.

Returning to village of Mlag, tavern keeper gangster dude Ferd and gang dudes try to kill PCs in their beds. PCs survive surprise, Oderus smashes his face in with his warhammer. They kill several of his guards. PCs find dude's sex dungeon in the basement, free the Old Lady who heals them. PCs fail to discover that Ferd was in league with the pigmen. They move to the other side of town and take up with Jack Dangle's much less creepy gan of skull heads (symbol no actual skulls). 

They meet Dangle's homicidal demeanor end lieutenant Looper, who has scouted the Towers Two above town. After discussing things with Dangle, PCs decide to check out the towers run by the decadent noble brothers, Zal and Razak. After all the PCs were here because the king had promulgated an edict that the two Hane scions had gone too far and were now legally kill-able and could have their shit stolen. Razak and Zal have let their lands go to shit and have tumors of me romantic rituals and pigmen marauding, so it was pretty inevitable. Dangle secretly asks the PCs to make sure Looper disappears, and they kill him after he leads them to secret tunnel entrance in the woods. 

Now underneath the towers, PCs find Zal's easterner jailor molesting some pigmen prisoners. They kill him, then try to set up a trap (setting fire to straw and sneak attacks) to kill some of Zal's gilded armored guards manning the entrances beneath Zal's tower. Plan fails although they kill a few guards. The Nameless, an assassin PC, and another thief PC are killed, while Oderus barely survives and is dragged as prisoner to Zal's throne room.

2 PCs roll up new characters; one is a cleric of deity of evil darkness and another is noble-born sorcerer Malort, second son. In the throne room of Zal, Malort and his companion, the darkness cleric, have an audience with Zal, able to get an introduction as Malort's family is of similar station to Zal. Oderus, wounded PC fighter, is dragged in by Zal's counsellor and father's old lieutenant, Cromwell (adventure says Cornwell but Cromwell was easier to say). Oderus is accused of being a spy for Razak, but Malort convinces them to spare Oderus and takes him into his service. PCs agree to undertake semi-suicide mission to blow up barrels of blasting powder beneath Razaks tower, Cromwell agrees to send a few guards with him. After being brought to his drug den behind the throne room, Malort feigns doing drugs with Zal and steals part of his stash and some gold and other stuff (reminder to self: check his character sheet). Oderus healed a bit.

Beneath the tower, PCs have Zal's handsome, cabana-boy-esque guards carry the blasting barrels. The PCs and guards get into a big fight with the pigmen at barricade in the tunnels beneath the two towers. The pigmen are overcome after Malort summons a demon into one of the corpses, a glass-demon in the shape of a giant salamander that distorts reality. They then advance to beneath Razaks tower (they may have pulled back and rested), where there are more pigmen by the door entrance. They blow a barrel and more mayhem ensues. While fighting the pigmen, Malort summons another demon, a pink shambling thing with claws and a sucker mouth, but this one fails to obey him. The pigmen behead Oderus and then the dark cleric tries to take them out with the other blasting powder, killing himself and a pigmen. Malort grabs Oderus's head and runs away as the remaining pigmen chase them.

After these two failed attempts, Malort decides to regroup at his house's castle. First, he hires a bodyguard and mercenary Rungus (new PC) who was drinking in Mlag at Ringler's joint. He travels home and has an audience with his father, Malort the Elder, and convinced him to risk sending 12 house soldiers and knights to take the towers for the family. Mallory (the other replacement PC), Malort's older knightly handsome brother (of middling intelligence and toughness, but strong), is convinced by Malort to accompany him to slay Razak and take his stuff. They also hire an experienced woodsman and tracking guide, Justin (new PC).

Next time, the taking of Razak...

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Red & Pleasant Land Play Reports #1


So I started running Red and Pleasant Land (get it from Lamentations of the Flame Princess http://www.lotfp.com/store/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=190)  for my in-person friends group, with maybe 6-8 players. Enough stuff is already starting to go on that I'm realizing I need to write some of the session happenings down or it's going to get confusing, even after my weekly introduction "Last Time on D&D" that I give. 

As a precursor about RPL, I have to say I was initially intimidated and thought I did not know how to run RPL when I got the book. It took me awhile to realize how much I just needed to read and reread the Bestiary entries and just play with some of the adventure generation tables at the back. We have yet to get into much time-twisting or Escher geography though. Also, I thought the Alice references and nonsensical talk of the RPL inhabitants may be too silly or weird- but it turns out my players took them like fish to water! Turns out the Adventure Time and Rick & Morty (and Monty Python) vibe and RPL goes together like peanut butter and jelly. Also, RPL really is great for improve DMing, which is my preferred style (sorry megadungeons!) once you get the swing of the major factions and say fuck it to remembering every detail of how shits supposed to be according to the RPL book verbatim. Use it more as a resource/idea generator to pluck ideas from (though trying to have internal consistency about how the vampires work is good). 

Anyway, stuff that's happened so far in the Place of Unreason:



Party teleported to an interior from a magic circle they found in a pyramid after wizard stepped into said circle. The party found the wizard unconscious near a fountain beneath a translucent skinned knight calling himself Sir Baldrick. Baldrick challenged warrior Brotef to a duel to prove the party's professed  loyalty to the Queen of Nephidilia. Brotef lost, so Baldrick sent them on a quest to find the Cat, a servant of the HeartQueen  he spotted nearby. Party emerges into a forest by finding trap door atop steps near Baldrick's fountain. They find the cat with some rhyming, fight some Toves with some rhyming and later wolves (no rhyming), and start bringing Baldrick to a tower in the forest where they say they have the Cat (cat actually gone but party thought was just invisible). [quest and Baldrick created based on sample adventure locations in book plus some random adventure rolls from that section of the book, though I regret making Baldrick more like an honorable Pale Knight than the fishy-nephidlians].

Meanwhile the Cat has found a troupe of Huszars/Clubs, the Knights of the Heart Queen. Party betrays Baldrick, cutting him down in the road as the 6 Huszars ride up, and he is captured in mist form in a prepared jar by party sorceress Sassafras. The party claims loyalty to the Heart Queen. Patrical, the party trickster-magician (no spells only tricks), gives sexual favor to the lead Huszar ("eat me") after Anora the warrior loses a duel to one. These actions convince the Huszars to bring the party to the Queen's croquet game.


At the croquet game, Salacia, the Huszar won over by Patrical, introduces the party. After Salacia is permitted to whisper in her ear, the Queen asks the party to retrieve a wicket lost in the far forest near a tower of hers. The towers commander is also suspected of disloyalty, so she must be checked too. Then some Hearts, the Queens children, ride up on their ponies. Seeing a nearby lobster being walked by a Diamond courtier, Brotef grabbed the lobster, challenging a Heart child to duel, and flung it at the Heart, knocking him from the pony. The courtiers clapped and laughed, enraging the Child who began charging at Brotef, when he seized a second lobster being proffered and again knocked the Child to the ground. Delighted, to the shame of the Child, the Queen awarded a vorpal, lobster-handled sword to Brotef. [notes: two natural 20s rolled on these lobster attacks and I thought suitably silly to go for it, and the Roll on random objects chart in RPL came up vorpal sword when I wanted a Gift from the Queen.] 

Party sets out for Tower in the Terrible Goblin Wood, and ingratiate themselves to the Huszar commander, Vespesia, Salacia's arch rival. Anora makes a gift of a golden Minotaur nose ring, impressing her and putting the party in her good graces (she puts it on as a bracelet). They hear of Vespesia's search for a hidden human village, cryptically referring to being low on fresh food. And they see a giant Gelatinous Dome in the distance, apparently the result of a magical catastrophe from the gnomish sorcerer Trigon. Many magic items are rumored inside. But the party is focused on the wicket, which is in the hands of a band of frost goblins in a nearby cave.

On the way to the frost goblin cave, the party is ambushed first by 6 giant spider-riders (green forest goblins!). They defeat them, primarily through use of two sorcerers' spells, a fire blast from one and a giant subterranean gullet-hole opening by the other. The last goblin tries to escape on his spider, but the Elementalist chased him down on a chariot of wind. [note we use the Wonders & Wickedness spells and spell system]. On threat of death, the goblin Glimpfbop agrees to teach Poe the Thief how to ride the spider. Then the party is attacked by a band of frost goblin warriors outside the cave, which are quickly dispatched and their woolly Rams eaten. 

The party now approaches the cave, with its rumored giant frost gem inside... 

[the wicket quest just made sense, and I found some awesome One Page Dungeon 2016 dungeons I placed around. The factions are being pretty friendly to the party so far, which I think is fine when they're so low level, but we'll see what happens- Brotef has probably made an enemy of that Heart Child, I'll need a name for him...]

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Encounters in the Delta and near the Great River

(Roll reactions! Even for the animals)
1 hippopotamus
2 crocodile
3 lizardfolk
4 wild gazelle
5 pharaonic war galley with soldiers
6 peasant traders, village nearby 
7 peasant fishermen
8 flock of waterfowl
9 trade barge
10 vegetation choking the channel, rot, roll again- likely useful to someone
11 ruins: fallen colossus statue or monument, flooded temple or abandoned village
12 school of carp
13 mud-flats/shallows as far as the eye can see
14 river pirates or bandits 
15 pleasure barge
16 peasants watering cattle
17 travellers or slavers from foreign land (1 Argossi, 2 Abaddoni, 3 northern barbarians 4 southern barbarians)
18 nomads hunting, unfamiliar with so much water
19 spirits of the dead, angry for their neglected welfare; or corpses, floating
20 baboons or water snakes

Bubastis & Environs

Bubastis and the Great Delta, not-to-scale local region thematic map
  • map in the style of Dungeon of Signs, not to scale. Bubastis is that settlement on the left side, north of the necropolis at the edge of the Delta (swamp). In the far distance is the Argossi city of Kyros, and to the south, the Oasis of Birds. To the east (southeast) lies the rest of Khem. 
  • city of cats, city of canals, second biggest in Khem
  • prominent features: lighthouse, temple precinct of Bastet, temple precinct of Khnum-Ptah, temple-precinct of Thoth, tower of the astrologers (some priest of Ra), bazaar of the paper-makers, great abattoir
  • factions: Merchants Guild, Paper-makers Guild, priests of Bastet (Animist Sorcerer-Priest), priests of Thoth (led by Numenist Sorcerer-Priest), priest of Ptah (Elementalist Sorcerer Priest), Royal garrison (Commander Aseb, barbarian bodyguards), beggars (thieves) guild
  • nominally under Pharaohs control, but merchants really control
  • sits on edge of the Delta, near best channel; trade with desert nomads from Oasis of Birds, northern kingdoms for slaves, timber and iron, trades gold, spices, grain, etc.; lizardmen to the east, serpent-men to far east 
  • random inns like world of lost; inns levels like lost too: 5 sp, will get robbed, common room, filthy; 10 sp comes with food, safe, boring; 50 sp raucous, has tumors and and carousing 
  • common rumors in Bubastis
    1. Cult of the All Devouring Serpent has attracted potentates within the city. Some say that serpent-men dwell within the city.
    2. The royal Commander suspects some ofthe merchants guild of disloyalty. Evidence may be rewarded with royal commission. 
    3. Strange sighting and rumors of the risen dead in the Old Necropolis. It is rumored the Temple of Ra-Atum and Ptah may offer rewards to discover the happenings. Unfortunately, the old necropolis is in a sunken valley and afflicted with vapors and mists.
    4. Serpentmen were said to dwell in the ruins on the other side of the delta, some would pay dearly for artifacts of their strange primeval sorcery.
  • Cult of Bastet (like any cult, ritual cleansing and sacrifice of vermin, donation 500 sp or background as acolyte with debt to temple); bans 1 never harm cats or allow harm in presence, 2 prideful- witnesses to any humiliation earn your vengeance, 3 must play with victims who are captured rather than killing them outright; gifts - appealing aspect: as charm person, can teach Totem spell as cat/mouse to sorcerers, cat eyes: see in shadows (none-pitch black), cats tongue (lick to remove disease), grace (reroll failed save or damage related to falling or acrobatics).

Temple Precinct of Bastet at edge of city
DM note: I'd like to beef this up into a true Middenheim- or Vornheim-style city resource, main NPCs with secrets and rivalries, plot/job generator, random encounters in Bubastis. As it is, this is enough for me to run the city (probably add some names from my go-to random generator.






Gods of Khem

The Gods of the South are numerous with aspects of beast and bird. They demand purity and guardianship from their priests, and sacrifices and celebration from their followers. 

The greatest of them are the Twelve.
Ra-Atum (or Amun-Ra) the Creator, the One Who Stands Behind All Things, Guardian of the Sun, Apophis-Bane.
Usaru the Reborn King, the Green Man, Restorer of the Earth, King of the Dead in the lands of the Duat.
Asarte the Mother, the Protector, possessor of great magic.
Herekh-Montu the Hawk-Warrior, the spirit of the Pharaoh with Ra.
Hathor the Fertile One, consort of Herekh, Merciful, Pleasant-Cow-Eyed.
Ptah-Khnum the Craftsman, the White Bull. 
Sekhmet the Wroth, Lion Avenger of Ra.
Sutekh of the Storm, the Usurper, Giver of Rage, Spearman of Sokar-Solar Barge.
Nephthys of the Shadows, the Mysterious One.
Thoth the Wise, Giver of Writing.
Bastet the Beautiful. 
Anubis, Opener of the Ways, Finder of the Dead.

Local gods of the nearby temple-precinct or the village must be appeased and their prohibitions respected, or great misfortune can fall upon them, so slaying a crocodile in a town of Sobek will bring his mighty retribution.

No clerics. All can earn the blessings of the god (become priests) they worship of ritually purified and having entered into the mysteries of their God. The supplicant must perform services for the temple, and obey its High Priests (and any dreams or visions), attend festivals. Allows the supplicant to earn a spell or a specific blessing, similar to many cleric spells (DM determined, from the Lamentations rules). Many, perhaps most, high priests are sorcerers, but the majority of priests and are simply functionaries: paid readers of prayers for the dead, scribes, teachers, embalmers, physicians. Sorcerer-priests, generally, are more ethical, including following the Pharaohs laws (he is, after all, the living God intermediary with the other deities), about disrupting the world than a 'free' sorcerer.

All can ask temples for an augury or services, including the learning of spells (Usaru knows necromancy, Ptah and Ra Elementalism). Requires sacrifice and payment, and not be on the temples bad side. Sacrificial bulls or oxen cost roughly 50 sp, while clean sacrificial other animals, like rams, cost 10-15 sp. Auguries cost roughly 50 to 100 sp to perform (the stars must be aligned!). Spell teaching costs roughly 50 sp in sacrifices per day of study, good favor with the temple, and takes 2d6 days. Besides animals, sacrifices to the temples take the form of incense (frankensense and myrrh), linen, good beer, alabaster vessels, and the like.

Visiting temples: only the purified are allowed inside the temple, so the general person must beseech outside. Some temples have guards, but the sorcerer-priests also dissuade many from tempting entry.

The Pharaoh is the greatest priest, son of Ra, the living aspect of the Reborn King, the Warrior Montu-Herekh. His many functionaries may not be priests, but his word is law and he enforces many laws on the use of sorcery, the necropolises, and the temples, in addition to mundane laws.

Demons come from the lands beyond, where the souls of the dead go, they are the guardians of the separation and must be appeased before one can travel to the kingdom of Usaru and the Fields of the Aaru. They also have their own inscrutable purposes and rivalries, and like other entities, can be dominated by knowing their True Names. 

The Gods of the North are stern and demanding, aspects of wroth and sacrifice, names like the Horned King, Crom, the Crone, the Raven Queen, the Wanderer. They demand deeds and tests, not mere sacrifices. (That's right, Brom correctly captures their aspects.)




















Karolans, followers of Karolus the Conquerer beyond the Mountains of Flame and hills of Koth, worship the One God, died on a tree and reborn in the son;the One God jealous of other gods, though Khemeshi priests explain this is merely the politics of King Karolus who united the barbarians years ago.

Dragons of Khem

Normally, dragons are more part of the high fantasy genre than what I'm going for with Khem. But I like them, and so thought I'd introduce them as part of the metal economy of the setting. Viola, dragons are the source of all good metals in Khem.

Dragons are always associated with metal, and therefore mining in Khem. Dragons, like the gods, have bones and scales of metal, with chemical compounds and elements mixed with their musculature. Dragon hunters seek not merely access to the lairs of dragons for the quantities of metal the dragon guards, or many scholars believe, are born from, but also to plunder their corpses for strong iron, pure gold and silver, or brass or copper. A rich deposit of ore generally contains many wyrmlings, or deeper in the depths, an adult dragon. Dragons are commonly found in the Mountains of Flame, and the Tanian Mountains east of the Karnak. Dragons are highly territorial, and focus more on fighting other dragons than worrying about mammals. Dragons are known not only to spring from the depths near deposits of ore, but also take over those not the territory of a dragon. The Pharaoh and kings often attempt to guard metal mines from the beasts, but oft unsuccessfully. Dragons seek most highly lairs around the ore they are born from (gold mines for gold dragons), but also hunt metals associated with them, especially if in large quantities. They like all metal, though, and will hunt or seek an alternative lair filled with any metal if that's the best they can do. Dragons eat sheep, goats, and men, but legends speak of their immortality in their metal-filled lairs. The exact ecology of the dragons is highly disputed by scholars, even the elementalists cannot quite fathom it.


The most common dragons in Khem are those of bronze, brass or copper, and these often reside in desert outcroppings with small deposits. These dragons are smaller, on average, than their precious-metal or iron cousins. Though variously called bronze or brass, they're almost invariably alloyed bodied and only their hue and coloring suggest one metal over another, though alchemists and mettalurgists can refine the component metals.
Next most common are the dragons of iron, often called red or rust dragons. In the north, these are more common than in the south, but many dwell in the Mountains of Flame near Khem. (Sometimes the barbarian northern lands are called the Ironlands for this reason). Iron dragons can generally breath fire or noxious fumes, but fewer are winged than among the southern dragons.


Rarer are gold and silver dragons, though these seem less aggressive than their fire-breathing cousins.

The most valued finds are dragon corpses found fallen in the desert or mountains. As so territorial, other dragons are normally the reason for these carcasses. The meat is fairly useless, but men will fight fiercely for these rich, relatively safe sources of metal. These free corpses lead to gold rushes with much violence, especially if found far from a local king or the Pharaoh's law.

Unless their lair is sought out, most dragon sightings will be younger wyrms that survived the cannibalistic fighting with their fellow young and have begun wandering in search of ore deposits unguarded by more powerful dragons.

Juvenile Brass Dragon: (based on the Adventurer Conqueror King dragon rules, which are the nastiest I've found for basic d&d games plus Lamentations assumptions) typical younger brass dragon, around 40 years old, roughly 2000 lbs, 16' long. HD 8 (d12), AC 18, claws d6/d6/2d8 bite, saves as F8, XP 1600, MR 7, MV 30'/fly 80'. Breath: scorching heat from its furnace-like 'breath' glands, 90' x 30' cone, 8d6 damage (save for half if in cone), 3x/day.

Young brass dragons like to ride the thermal desert winds searching for metals to add to their lairs. More rarely, they grow hungry and will eat a gazelle or sheep. They are cunning enough to be wary of organized men, but small groups of armed and armored soldiers are attractive for their equipment. They are also oft found sunning themselves on rocky outcroppings (1-2 in 6 if randomly encountered), but can 'smell' metal and are generally only surprised on 1 in 6 chance. In fights, the brass juvenile will try to scorch his prey to death from above, and tests morale after anytime it takes 10 hp or more; if guarding lair with its copper and bronze collection, it will only flee if failing morale and down to 10% of hp or less.

A juvenile's body is worth about 5,000 silver in value, if sold and transported (deduct costs of carrying heavy metal). Butchering the corpses to get metal bones requires skilled work, heat, and the carcass takes 1d4 weeks of labor per 5 laborers to mine. Keep in mind water sources are rare near their favored habitats. In it's lair, these young have generally gathered 2d6 x 1000 copper pieces (1/10 a silver's value), a fourth of which is in the form of statuary, armor, and weapons.

Lands of Khem: Gazeteer

Themes: river encounters with hippos; raids on caravans, chariots, festivals with garlanded bulls and jumping dancing girls, beggars, pickpockets, nobles on palanquin with honeycombs in their hair, sorcerer-priests, brawny barbarian mercenaries, snakemen, jackalmen. More pictures: http://pin.it/a9UIhN3

Thematic Map (i.e. inaccurate)
Below is a thematic map based on Hyboria, many city names and locations are wrong, as are the names of some regions (no Stygia! Shem and Khem are interchangeable).

Civilized
  • Khem, ruled by the Pharaoh, though many Nomarchs and High Priests exercise de facto sovereignty in there various dominions. Pa-Nekhen is the seat of the Pharaoh, the Living God, he who shall never die but continuously reborn. Pa-Nekhen is oft referred to by His temple-palace, Karnak. Khem is famed for necromancers and sorcerer-priests, beer, bread, the inundations of the Great River providing great bounty, the scholars of its thousand temples. Bubastsis, city of cats, sits on the clearest channel in the Great Delta and is the main trade city of Khem. Twelve great gods, but each village and district has their own netjer; ennead; gods have skins of gold, bones of silver
  • Argos, a land of rivalrous free-cities, though they have been known to ally against outsiders. The Argossi are famed craftsmen and sailors, but not for their sorcerers. The Argossi cities have many different political forms. The nearest Argossi city to Khem is Kyros, a smaller trading hub.
  • In the Mountains of Flame (or Fire), is Abaddon, city of the diabolists, graven into the skill-shaped side of a mountain. These slavers prey upon both civilized and barbaric peoples.

Barbarians
  • beyond the Mountains of Flame and Plains of Thessalia, dwell the northern barbarians; they fashion iron from the bodies of red dragons, wearing mail and sailing longships, small hill-forts and long halls in river valleys of mountains, vast dark forests
  • in the far south, past the Great Desert, lie the kingdoms of the southern barbarians. They are famed bowmen and mighty warriors, hunters of lions. 
  • seen in civilized lands because offered gold to serve the Pharaoh or Nomarchs, viewed as primitives, but stronger, braver, and less craven than 'civilized' men. 
  • Northern kingdom names: Koth, Karolan, Middenheim, Nemedia, Brythuin. 
  • Southern kigndom names: Kush, Darfar, Tombalki.
  • the barbarian king Karolus the Great united many petty kingdoms generations ago, instituted worship of the strange One God, now his worshippers war against all who do not worship him. Karolans more likely than most barbarians to fight from horse, screaming as they charge with spears.

Nomads

  • travel the desert routes between oases and the Far Roads to the south and east. Many worship Anubis, the Opener of Ways, but consider necromancers apostate.
  • excellent at survival in the heat, horse archery, raiding or escorting caravans


Nonmen
- Ophidius, black cyclopean blocks rising from edge of the swampcity state of the serpent-king, ancient sorcerer views mammals as food and experimentation, seek to return to the chaos of Nun, 
- lizard folk dwell in the Great Delta, reed rafts, lizard-headed but also crocodilians, newtish skinks, use stone and scavanged weapons; lizardmen keep secret their Sacred Pool where the god Sobek is said to dwell.
- The Favored, animal-headed  some say created by sorcerer-priests that bred them, most live in temple precincts, embody attributes of their gods, ignorant folk ascribe semi-divine status to them
- Isles of the Naga, off the coast of Khem, strange sorcerous kings of otherwise arcadian islands
- Desert of Glass (obsidian) rumored in the deep desert