Sunday, August 23, 2015

North Kingdoms: the Search for Shotey

After the death of Shotey, the companions gathered his body in Nymeria's raven cloak and set forth to find the Witch of Oakrest who had sent them to kill the ancient spider, Goliant. Perhaps they reasoned, they could ask her to bring back his spirit from across the Veil.

After they departed the spiders lair, gathering the previous gemstones they found there, they met the Old Man of the Wood sitting atop his evacuated horse. He demanded gifts for the affront of not paying him homage when the companions entered the forest, and he lecherously looked upon Nymeria. The companions agreed but asked if he could use his powers to bring back Shotey. He warned them of the dangers of piercing the veil between life and death, but agreed.

The companions set out south through the forest to the Sarneth Marshes for a Moon Lily blossom needed for the Old Mans ritual. They stopped at Broadheath to buy supplies but quickly discovered the tale of how they slew the lord of Oakrest had spread through the lands on the lips of the bard they encountered in Oakrest at the feast hall. The companions fled Broadheath and plunged into the swamp.

Evading the will o the wisps through clever use of magic spells, the companions returned in time with the moon lily and Shotey was reborn, though with visions of an Balrog's smoke-breathing face before his eyes.

the Witch of Oakrest's House

After the resurrection the companions left the Bleakwood and headed back to Oakrest, which they found burned to ashes.  They searched for the Witch, but she was gone from her house and her animal familiar suspected captured. The companions returned to Oakrest to search for scraps of metal to constitute some armor for the dwarf king, they fell upon a band of drunken Variags in the night. The companions moved into to attack...

a variag veteran

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Death of King Shotey, Long Live the King

During the battle against the ancient and terrible spider Goliant, dwarf King Shotey valiantly faced off against the spider in single combat, hacking at it from below. In a serious of critical blows from the beasts terrible fangs, dripping with the most potent venom in the north, however, Shotey was slain and Goliant's mandibles rended him into pieces. The other companions tricked Goliant into staying emerged from his lair with clever spell use, and then slew the ancient foe in vengeance. Much experience and valuable gemstones were gained, but at the loss of the mightiest dwarf in all the north.

The companions vowed to see the witch of Oakrest about a resurrection, or at least give Shotey a proper burial. 

Companions present:
King Shotey the Second of his name
Davon Thornwood the Drunk Druid
Pru (briefly at the end, someone remembered to play her)
Mayvis the catman 
Sir Bloodaxe Magistus (and his squire and squires horse)
Bowie Glitterboots
Hazad the merciless
Ellazon the wise

1600-1700 xp each
4 diamonds from Goliant's eyes
4 emeralds
8 precious sapphires
A horn, banded in gold, known to deafen and frighten the weak willed
A old sword, carved with cirith runes

Thursday, August 6, 2015

blog update

The problem I've noticed with my hands off style and seat of my pants DMing is that the players lose track of all the campaign details and plotlines I put out there. Players normally can't even track the 1-3 major NPCs they interact with, but they do remember their enemies or random friends (some street urchin, Dr. Sir Bubblesworth, the Squirrel, Esq.).

So I've resurrected this blog so I have somewhere to put the session recaps for my offline, ongoing basic d&d campaign. There's a ton of PCs (like 8) and plot hook stuff has also been getting lost, so I'm going to try and post on the regular. It's the same campaign that started with a modified Caves of Chaos and half-brewed ruleset from 2013, and by far the longest running d&d I've ever done.

A blog seems like it'd be also convenient for posting house rules and other resources (I'm planning some spell list posts), probably some setting description resources so the players can actually remember things. I've got an ambition of putting up a review of some rpg stuff I buy too. I'd like to do some rule theorizing as well, but we'll see.

Expect a flurry of background resources and setting info, hopefully with regularly updated session recaps (to keep me honest) to follow and keep the blog alive.

Into the Bleakwood: Session Recap 3

The companions entered the Bleakwood to hunt the ancient spider, abandoning for the time being their broader quest to kill the Khan of the Variags for their ally King Robert.

Entering the wood, they learned of an oppressive spirit that had been spotted: the Old Man of the Bleakwood. He had been sighted with bear companions, riding an emaciated horse, and palpable gloom came with him, according to all who had seen him.

After many days journey, the companions scouted out the lair of the ancient spider: a giant woodfall with many bewebbed trunks, dark and foreboding.

nothing should be implied from this picture, vaguely representing the woodfall tunnel of the spider
They then attacked with fire and tangles against the spider, entrapping it with entangling spells. The ancient spider's hunting spider-companion also beset the heroes. Battle was joined, stabbing and webbing!


After emerging from their encounter with the spider's of the forest, the companions entered the town of Oakrest.

At first their way was barred by a guardsman, who was killed for asking for a bribe. (Right, I think so? He may have just been bribed...). The companions tried to buy provisions but the wary townsfolk would not sell without the lord's permission.

So they entered the hall and were greeted with a feast. Among the men of the lord's hall, were several Variag barbarian horsemen who shared their fermented horse drink with Davin the Drunk, a druidic type.

The companions talked with the Variags and the minstril and told tales of their bravery and dragon-slaying in the past. They also meet with the witch of Oakrest, who offered a task for Nymeria and the companions: slay the ancient spider, broodmother of the spider's they encountered in the past, and she would reward them. She gave some poison antidotes to them and a healing balm.

The lord then offered them a place to sleep at night. He then betrayed them in the room where they slept, but the companions made short work of him and his guards, killing several. They then departed into the Bleakwood.

Session Recap (7/12/15): Giant spider ambush

 (debating whether obsidian portal or a simple blog is better)

Prudence Noaks the Dragonslayer (Hobbit)
Hazad (Man Ranger/Specialist)

After freeing the hobbit village of Reedhollow from the harsh and exploitative rule of Lord Brythnoth, the companions set out to cross the Blue River (River Lunnuin) to travel west towards their target: killing the Khan of Variags for their ally Prince Robert.

Before leaving, Pru was bestowed with the title of “Protector of Reedhollow” by the new Mayor, former resistance leader, Mr. Butterbottom. Many young hobbits look up to Prue the Dragonslayer now, and oaths of friendship were sent all around.

The former lord’s son and wife were sent packing to seek refuge from Prince Tancred Tancred the Wise, but Hazad the merciless sent an arrow through the Lady Lord’s chest, killing her as she, her son, and her handmaidens departed.

Hazad before slaying the lady

Upon crossing the river, a River Maiden appeared and as the companions covered their ears, the river began rushing southward, almost capsizing the boats.

The companions stablized the boats but were washed roughly ashore in a spider’s den. An ancient behemoth of a spider and its broodspawn set upon the companions, but they drove it back with fire and swords.

The companions have now emerged from the spiderswood to find themselves on the outskirts of the town of Oakrest, a stop along the Kingsroad through this part of the Bleakwood.

the companions journey

Friday, June 13, 2014

Ideas for New Pendragon Campaign

Although I love the Dark Ages, especially the 10th to 11th centuries, after several attempts the Grand Pendragon Campaign just doesn't work for me with new players of Pendragon during the "Dark Ages" Uther era. Everyone is excited about chivalry, jousting, and King Arthur, and they're confused and bored with the long series of wars. There's also just less personality in the early years: everyone's a mailed petty warlord who hates Saxons. I've tried to get intrigue and rivalry with neighbors, raids, etc. going, but it always ended up pretty unfocused. They haven't established enough of a relationship with the world/mythos and moral quandries are rare; it's all feasting and so on. It's probably my fault for not having more creative ideas for adventures. There's so much potential in Pendragon, but finding the sweet spot where players get real choices is hard so far.

So, I think next time we play, it'll be the Boy King era: still chaimail, still lots of battle. But much more variety and the knights get some real Arthuriana: Arthur, Morgan, Merlin, fighting against Lot and Saxons, discussions of chivalry, weird shit like Balin's saga. I also want to have the knights be knights errant, so they may start with different statuses and get to make choices like "how loyal to Arthur," should I raid enemies and get selfish traits, or forgo material advancement and focus on Chivalry. They can follow Arthur on his campaigns to become High King, meet Guinevere. There's also Tournaments. With all this, knights can come from almost any background and work together or become questing friends. It also may allow new/rotating players more easily, since all you need is a connection to Arthur. All that said, we probably won't break from D&D, which I enjoy immensely and has the advantage of having a really casual playstyle compared to Pendragon.

I've also been reading The Norman Conquest, and there's great examples of the kinds of random things followers of conquerors (like Arthur) can get into, and the basic theme that could work for knights is: loot, gain treasure, but mistreat the common folk or try to maintain chivalry despite rebellions, forgoing material gain. Reinforcing that knights need land to get a noble lady with some glory and money in her dowry, so they'll need to get the eye of Arthur or a Duke.

Campaign setup:

  • Start: Grand Pendragon Campaign 510 The Sword and Stone. Start as knights errant going to first Tournament in London (starting adventure to try combat, getting eyes of ladies) immediately after their knighting, witness sword in the stone, can choose whether to pledge to Arthur. 
  • Pendragon 5.1 for prices, equipment. Remember that all but masterless knights will be able to repair/replace their starting equipment based on the network of obligations they have. Landed knights who lose a horse can have their farrier check stewardship to have a new one ready (+5 bonus for a rouncey) each year, giving bonuses over time, household knights can ask their lord for a replacement charger. Better than starting equipment, in-town luxuries like inn visits or jewelry, etc. must be paid for out of pocket. Goods (like captured armor) and prisoners can be sold/ransomed in appropriate places (London, rich estates, etc.), but roleplay.
  • Use Book of the Estate for any landed knights. Increased wealth generally results in larger number of followers, so falls into a military theme I like. Won't start with managing lands, because I may have some of the fathers alive.
  • Battles: Use my own 'narrative' system for battles: narrate general goings on in the battle, roll off high commanders based on modifiers listed in GPC to determine whether round of battle is going well, modified by prior rounds general results (battle going well or poorly, someone just died, etc.), unit decides where they want to try to fight based on situation (avoid getting swarmed when going badly, choose where to charge, etc)., unit commanders make opposed roll to accomplish the tactic just chosen, critical successes can results in golden opportunity like attacking famous enemy. Hopefully, this keeps it simple, gives some tactical choices, and makes the Battle skill worthwhile.
  • Focus on having lots of random adventures in addition to the battles, because they will be "Arthur's knights," in one way or another, they'll have reason to go to court and meet the famous people. But no one (except maybe Arthur) will have plot immunity, and most plots will be changed to the knights can intervene. Also they'll have their own choices about whether they want to go on adventure. I won't be having them "patrol lands" that much (that was a real drag I thought would lead to things, but never did). More adventures.
  • Focus for the first few years will be the fight against Lot, with various random adventures thrown in, with an eye towards Arthur awarding the knights lands in the North. Then later in time, the North will become the focus: dangerous picts and witches, cold mists, Irish raiders, intrigue against other Northern families.