Thursday, April 22, 2010

Counter Point Campaign Ideas

In my previous post about a new campaign idea, I alluded to a historical Renaissance setting. I figured I would flesh out the idea here a little in an attempt to sort out which setting seems like the better idea.

This setting would go to a stimulationist point of view by trying to have a historical renaissance/Early Modern Period earth married with D&D, magic, and monsters. Ultimately, it would be human-centric, with demi-human and humanoid races inhabiting the corners of the world, basically, parts of the world with very low historic human populations in the 17th century.

This campaign would require a heavy amount of research to set up the right atmosphere. Essentially, I would be creating a setting and not adventures, and the having the players interact with the setting. It is probably more work up front, but then the players dictate the course of each session. The only plot work would be the loose frame of the 30 Years War. The 30YW actually works very well in this vein since it was fought sporadically through this period, rather than constantly, and did cover a good chunk of Europe's geography, albeit centered in German lands. Ultimately, the 30YW would just be a frame for the gameworld and I would not expect or nudge players into being active participants.

However, I would have the campaign start off in Bohemia just in time for the Protestant nobility and citizenry to get upset over land seizures, leading to the Defenestration of Prague and open rebellion. Provides a great setting for all kinds of fun.

This type of game appeals to me on a very high level. It gives me an excuse for some scholarly research and application to D&D to meet my love of history. However, there are a myriad of design issues and compromises to be made between D&D mechanics and realism. Obviously, magic won't be taken out, but how do people react to it? How do Clerics and divine powers correlate to the Catholic Church, the variety of Protestant and Reformed groups, Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Pagans, Animists, and even the gamut of eastern faiths?

In the end, it would be a lot of work that would probably be enjoyable in and of itself. Running the game would also be a big pay off as well. However, would it be a compelling setting for other players? Would the previous campaign idea of the doomed earth work better? Do people prefer standard, Tolkien-esque settings? Maybe any novelty is welcome and I should stick with simplicity?

We'll see what direction I end up taking...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Campaign Ideas

In the S&W group I am playing with, we are thinking about moving to a once-weekly schedule of play and then utilizing a rotational DM to switch up campaigns and game systems. This got me seriously thinking about what kind of campaign I would want to play.

Now, I had been thinking of a historical Renaissance style campaign set in 1618 or so, right at the start of the 30 Years War. However, I've started mulling around a new idea that I might end up running with instead...

The campaign starts off innocently enough. All PCs will notice that there is a new star in the horizon, quite bright and very visible to everyone. At first, it will be on everyone's mind, but very quickly will be common place. In the stead, I would run a simple site-based adventure or mini-dungeon crawl. This star would appear the next game day and be even brighter still... before the end of the day the star streaks towards the earth. Only, this is actually a planet-busting meteorite that crashes into the planet.

Now, that fact that this is a meteor will not be evident, but soon after impact, the sun will be blotted out by ash in the sky. Next, rocks and fragments of earth and flaming chunks of shit will be raining down on the ground. Obviously, pandemonium hits.

The game then becomes about survival on this doomed planet. Ultimately, life on the surface will die out and the only hope of survival will be to go underground. The underground areas of the world will not be able to support all of its usual denizens plus the surface dwellers, so the sandbox becomes a conflict about living space and scant resources and the competition between all peoples and monsters therein. This would allow the full range of character types from good to evil and back again, while shaking up old D&D conventions by making the dungeon home. Humanity will have to delve deeper and deeper in its frenzy to find resources to fuel its existence...

Not sure how it would all work out, but I just love the fact that the game starts off in a sleepy, typical fashion. However, that planned dungeon romp is quickly forgotten when it's the fucking end of the world...

So what do you think, my hypothetical, non-existent readers?

S&W game for 4-19

The game was canceled due to the fact that the hobby store we play in was closed unexpectedly. They had some weekend-long shindig to celebrate an anniversary, so they closed the store on Monday to recuperate. It looks like we will resume play next Monday.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

1e Game, DM, Session 2, September 6th 2009

Well, this write up is only 7+ months late. I'm mostly including it for the sake of completeness because I will be damned if I can remember half of the shit that happened from this adventure.

I believe we left the PCs at the Oracle's encampment. The party had received healing and a meal in exchange for exploring a dungeon in the area. Yea, pretty damn cliche. At this point, being only the 2nd session as DM, I was still feeding the PCs plot hooks to help them move along. At this point, I was done making it easy on them. They were out of food and mostly broke, so I was able to subtly convince them to trek back to Melford to buy food and supplies and try to make some coin to finance the dungeon delve.

Upon arriving back at Melford, I had a few ideas. First, a tracker would appear in town after a day or two with the location of the lair of the Goblins from the previous encounter. I wouldn't just give them this information though. The tracker would have originally been hired by one of the NPCs who was engaged to the now deceased owner of the Spider Farm. So the PCs would be able to find this link if they talked to this NPC or spotted the tracker in town. I was hoping to get them used to the idea that the world around them was a moving, living thing that they should be interacting with in the absence of plot hooks being dangled in front of them. Unfortunately, the party has a difficult time interacting with NPCs without being prodded.

In the mean time, the innkeeper of Melford was murdered; cue the material from Stuart Marshall's Melford Murders. The murder mystery is fairly straightforward, focused on role-play with the chance of a fight at the end, all with a nice little reward. I was using the "easy" version of the mystery, this was their last gift.

Essentially, in the easy version, much of the work has been done for the PCs. The town constabulary has trampled through the crime scene, so there is no forensic minutia to wade through. All of the patrons of the tavern that night have been identified and are available for questioning. Questioning all of the NPCs should lead the party to two people with the same shared alibi that is also the weakest. One is the murderer, one is an accomplice. The accomplice will sing if squeezed, and the murderer will try to flee. If she escapes, she can be tracked down and the party has to deal with her and her brother in their hideout.

The NPCs' stories focus around two events that night. There is a convoluted love triangle that was playing out within and outside of the Inn. After wading through the initial lies and cover ups from the people trying to avoid being exposed as adulterous, it is easy to see that these people were not involved in the murder. The other event occurring was the Innkeeper's sister (and co-owner) having an argument in the cellar with the accomplice. This is a sham as the accomplice continues the argument one-sided as a ruse while the murder takes place. The final clue that exposes this alibi as weak is that one of the suspects outside can testify that the cellar door was open. This all should lead to the Innkeeper's sister and accomplice as being the primary culprits.

Well, the PCs latch onto the love triangle aspect and think one of them is the murderer. However, there is literally no connection between the victim and any of the lovers in their quarrels. So how in the hell does this murder make sense? They just assumed since these people were acting fishy and ultimately covering up their amorous affairs, that somehow the Innkeeper got involved and then was murdered. Not like you would try to kill the person cheating or the cheating spouse, but instead kill some random passer-by. The sister's motivation for her murder was sole ownership of the Inn, something that completely eluded the PCs. They never really thought about motivation period; motivation alone would point to the sister.

All of this was relatively simple once you question everybody. The party dropped the ball and then started acting ridiculous. When they go to question the Innkeeper's sister, she is rightly apprehensive. They latch onto this fact, so the half-orc fighter (Justin) attacks her without any real provocation or knowledge that she is the murderer. He hits her with a chair, roles a maximum of 6 damage, so I rule it's partly "sub-dual" so she is unconscious but not dead. Great. They try to wake her and question her, but with that much damage, she has a concussion and cannot answer any questions intelligibly. The Cleric/MU in the party (Terry) has a guilty conscious and heals the women. This lands the half-orc in lockup. The party then continues to badger the suspects involved in the love triangle but are not getting anywhere.

Now, I don't want to be seen as being spiteful for having the PCs attack the murderer even if it was mostly blind chance they picked her. It's a decent ploy to make an unfounded but convincing accusation to try to get someone to let out a guilty burst of incriminating evidence, but a straightforward physical attack doesn't really qualify.

At this point, the session is drawing towards the evening. The PCs are frustrated and are now getting the testimony of the NPCs mixed up, wrong, and are incorrectly attributing statements. I call an end to the festivities. I mention that they do not have to solve the crime by any means, it's not the end of the world. Instead, they are really gung-ho about giving it another go next session. They seemed honestly enthralled in the role play even if they are bumbling through it.

Ostensibly, I agree to give it some more time next session, but that of course never occurs. As mentioned before, this was my last session with these guys, either as PC or DM, until December of 09 for a one-shot attempt at restarting a campaign as DM with a trip to the Caves of Chaos. I owe you one more writeup of that session. Here's a teaser: TPK.

S&W White Box: Session Three, 4/5/10

I missed this session due to being bumped to second shift. But here is the write up.

SESSION THREE (04.05.10)
Starday the 15th of Coldeven, CY 576

Galathos the Warrior (2nd level Fighting-Man)
Old Man Halgron the Adept of St. Cuthbert (2nd level Cleric)
“Frahnk” the hired lantern-bearer

All of a sudden, Gloin and Fen Sen remembered that they had prior engagements back in the Free City of Greyhawk. Rushing back down the corridor to the dungeon’s exit they promised to meet Galathos and Halgron later back at the Green Dragon Inn. After a brief huddle, Galathos and Old Man Halgron decided to stick it out and brave the dangers of the dungeons by themselves. Perhaps they would be lucky and be flush with coin and tales of exploits when they rejoined the dwarf and the magic-user. Halgron succeeded in convincing Frahnk the lantern-bearer to stay by providing the boy with another gold piece.

Noticing that the small black crow hopped down out of side behind the stack of furniture, Galathos and Halgron circled the furniture in an attempt to flank the crow. Trying to drive the potentially dangerous bird towards Halgron, who was waiting with an empty sack, Galathos leaped around the edge of the furniture cawing and waving his arms profusely. Instead, Galathos succeeded in bewildering an old man sitting in a rocking chair dressed in dusty robes. The old man introduced himself as Bill Harker, a magic-user of some small skill; the crow was named Ivan and was his sole companion. Bill explained that he had read of an account of a warrior finding a tunnel deep within the dungeons below Castle Greyhawk that led through the center of the Oerth down to the mythical land of Chin. Despite the criticism of his peers, Harker decided to try and find this rumored tunnel. Old Man Halgron gave the magic-user and his crow some food, and the two adventurers reluctantly accepted Bill Harker’s offer of aid. After warning the two explorers of his traps in the room to the west, Bill followed them into the next room.

A large stack of furniture leans precariously in the center of the room. Two taut wires run from the column of furniture to the doors leading out of the room to the north and to the west. After untying the wire from the western doorknob, Galathos led the way into a smaller room finding only a blanket enshrouded body lying prone on the floor and a door in the southern wall. Oddly, a dead rat had been nailed to the surface of this door. Old Man Halgron pulled the blanket off, discovering a deceased elven female with two holes in her back- likely caused by sword or dagger thrusts. Before moving on to the room to the south Halgron paused to say a few words of reverence over the slain elf.

Noting the dead rat nailed to the door, Galathos decided to push the door open with his pole-arm. Wise thinking indeed, as he discovered a dart sent flying across the door’s threshold. Stepping through the portal they discovered three locked chests in the back of the room. Being more careful after the dart trap Galathos carefully broke the padlocks off of the chests, moved the chests so that they would open away from the party, and then began to open them. Finding naught but gravel in the first chest Galathos tilted the chest towards the door and Halgron dumping the gravel out on the floor. A barely audible click was heard only moments before a fiery explosion erupted from the chest. Old Man Halgron did his best to avoid the flames but was still caught by the edge of the blast. Bill Harker had leaned his head around to see what the commotion was and singed his beard. Not seeming to notice the smoke wafting up from below his chin, Bill went back to guarding the rear after being admonished by Galathos. Now taking even greater care, the fighting-man found 100 copper pieces and 65 silver pieces in the next two chests.

Moving back to the room with the precariously stacked furniture the two adventurers continued through the northern door. In this room they found an old rickety desk. Hooking his grapnel onto the drawer of the desk, Galathos hid behind the safety of the door and tried to yank the drawer open. From behind the door Galathos and Halgron were greeted with a loud cracking and smashing noise. Peering around the edge of the door they saw that the desk had collapsed on the floor and the drawer was sitting in the middle of the room. Slowly pulling the drawer towards the door, they noted a small leather bag in the drawer. Carefully opening up the bag revealed a large handful of pumpkin seeds. A door on the western wall led out to a corridor which in turn led to a room that Galathos’ mapping indicated that they had previously passed over.

With Frahnk standing in the doorway and the befuddled Bill Harker guarding the rear, Old Man Halgron followed Galathos into the room. Worried of the strong stench of death and eyeing the six scattered corpses lying in stages of decomposition Galathos moved towards the center of the room to get a view of the entire space. Turning to the nearest corpse he used his ranseur to prod the foul smelling body. Both the adventurers and the young lantern-bearer were shocked when the speared corpse reached up and grabbed the shaft of the pole-arm. Seeing the other five corpses beginning to rise up off the ground, poor Frahnk laid the lantern down on the floor and ran past Bill Harker back the way they had come. Halgron reached for his holy symbol, called out a prayer beseeching his patron St. Cuthbert for aid, and strode confidently towards the walking corpses. The undead creatures cringed in fear from the holy power emanating from the cleric and scampered into the corners of the room. Galathos cut the corpse at his feet in twain but was unnerved to see the upper torso attempting to crawl to the back corner away from Halgron. Deciding to seize the advantage of the cowering state of the undead both Galathos and Halgron lit flasks of oil and cocked their arms back to lob the explosive devices at the undead. Galathos scored a direct hit on the cluster of four in one corner setting the undead abominations on fire. Unfortunately, the flask of oil slipped out of Old Man Halgron’s hand on the way back and exploded in the corridor behind them. Deciding to keep some oil in reserve, the fighting-man hurled his hand axes at the remaining zombie. Still not having brought the creature down, he pulled the found dart out and tried to throw that. Not judging the balance correctly, the warrior pricked his own finger on the point of the dart as he erringly tossed it away from the walking corpse. Finally taking the risk of approaching the zombie, Galathos finished him off with his melee weapons.

Noting that their lantern-bearer had not been standing in the way of Halgron’s errant flaming oil the two adventurers went off in search of their fleeing hireling. They found him hiding in the corner of the room where they had encountered Bill. Halgron calmed the boy down and convinced him that he would be safe with the two of them. Their weapons and the blessings of Cuthbert would keep the boy out of harm’s way. Following the corridor south they proceeded into a new section of the level. This corridor led to a wooden door that had been splintered at the bottom. Beginning to doubt their decision to proceed with half their usual numbers Galathos again used his ranseur to push the door open. Stepping into the room carefully prodding the floor ahead with his pole-arm the fighting-man continued into the room until he saw a silken thread floating in the air in front of him. Following the drifting thread up his eyes widened when he saw that the vaulted ceiling was coated in silken spider webs. Reflexively the fighting-man thrust his pole-arm up at the descending dark shape, but the only contact the weapon made was with the sticky webbing. Seeing cocoons and three more dark shapes scurrying around, the warrior backed out of the center of the room. Lighting another flask of oil, Halgron gripped it tighter and hurled it at the center of the mass of webs. A fiery explosion lit the room, and two more dark shapes dropped to the ground and began to scurry towards Galathos and Halgron. Trying to come to his newfound companions’ aid, Bill Harker attempted to ensorcell the arachnids but was confused when his magical powers failed. Cursing the elderly magic-user, Galathos drew his flamberge and went to work hacking at the two large spiders biting at him. The Old Man pulled his flail out and braced himself for the remaining spider crawling towards him. Trading blow for bite, Galathos eventually took first one and then the second arachnid down. Turning to help the priest out with his, the two killed off that spider in short order.

Galathos cleaned off his pole-arm and cut the cocoons down from the burning strands of web. Finding nothing but dead kobolds he moved on to the bundle in the northwest corner and discovered a cluster of eggs in place of the cocooned kobold that he was expecting. Tying a lit torch to the end of his pole-arm he lit the eggs on fire and was satisfied to hear a popping sound and faint screeches. Now that the room was safe they noticed that a section of the northern wall was coated in some sort of greenish-brownish slime. Clearly not interested in getting his hands slimy Galathos started off back down the corridor in search of the blanket to wipe the wall down with. Too old to be squeamish, the priest pushed passed the fighter and thrust his hands against the wall in the slime. Feeling around the wall Halgron noticed that one stone felt loose; he was able to pull the stone out, revealing a hidden room beyond. Galathos managed to remove a few more stones, allowing a large enough hole for an unarmored person through. Weighing their options, the adventurers asked Bill Harker to slide through the hole- telling him it might be his tunnel to Chin. After sending Ivan through to check out if it was safe, Bill slid on through. After describing the contents of the room he waited while Galathos pulled a few more stones down gradually opening up the hole large enough for the two plate-mailed explorers through.

On the far side of the hole they found a large stone tablet measuring 4 feet high by 2 ½ feet wide by 1 foot thick. The tablet had one broken edge and was etched with three forms of writing- two ancient languages and elvish. Clutching the tablet was a prone skeleton lying on the floor. Afraid to find more undead Galathos poked and prodded the skeleton with his ranseur. Deciphering the tablet for the party Bill Harker relayed that the tablet described some apocalyptical event called “the Great Unraveling”. The tablet referred to several signs of the coming doom- such things as plague, drought, famine, war, etc. Noting the immense size and weight of the tablet the party left it behind and moved on through the western door. The door led to a corridor with another door leading to a room to the north. Pushing this door open the two adventurers were greeted by a ghoulish looking creature gnawing on an extremely large thigh bone.

Confident that he had the favor of his patron; Halgron pulled his holy symbol out and moved into the room towards the undead creature. As with the zombies, the priest caused the ghoul to scamper away back into the far reaches of the room where it cowered in fear of the holy power of St. Cuthbert. With no avenue of escape and with the heavily armored and armed fighting-man approaching, the ghoul weakly fought back with its filthy claws. Trading blows with Galathos, the ghoul opened a gash in the man’s leg. Galathos managed to shake off the unnaturally cold touch of the ghoul and finally finished the creature off.

With three remaining avenues to explore, the two decided to try a door leading south that they had found in their earlier explorations. Opening the door led to a corridor heading east. Stepping past the door Galathos noticed that a second corridor lay hidden behind the open door following the first eastwards and ending in a door. Choosing the second, shorter corridor Galathos kicked the door open surprising a group of squat creatures with dull orange skin playing a game of dice. Despite their kind offer of making room around the game for the newcomers (an offer that Old Man Halgron, apparently a gambler himself, was about to take them up on) Galathos gripped his weapon and moved forward, a mean glint in his eyes. The closest three goblins quickly drew their weapons and began to eagerly close while the others were slower to arm themselves. Thinking quickly, Galathos and Halgron backed out of the room. Dodging the three goblins’ blows, the fighting-man tried to lob the final flask of oil at the five goblins towards the rear. One goblin knocked the flask out of the air, causing it to break apart at the feet of the human and the goblins. Catching some of the flaming oil himself, Galathos backed up more and tried to keep the goblins at bay on the far side of the flames with his pole-arm. After a narrow miss on the goblins, his ranseur was grabbed. Not wanting to be pulled into the fire the fighter let the pole-arm go and retreated behind the door that initially blocked the corridor. With Halgron hammering in a spike to prevent more than one goblin from attacking at a time, Galathos gripped his flamberge and laid in wait.

Once the flames had subsided the goblins rushed to the attack. Filing one by one through the narrow gap to attack the humans they were each cut down one by one. After the initial three goblins were slain and no more were coming through the gap, Galathos and Halgron moved back down the corridor to the room they had found the goblins in, stopping briefly to pick up the blackened pole-arm on the way. The room had a mysterious maze etched into the floor, the lines of the maze forming shallow grooves. Heading north the two discovered a room containing a second door, three skeletons cocooned in thick webbing, and a large puddle of water caused by slowly dripping water. The door led to a room to the west containing only a table with a glass vial and dried melted candle wax. After sniffing and tasting the liquid in the vial, Galathos pocketed the common perfume. Despite thinking that the southern wall sounded faintly hollow the two could not find any secret passages and headed back to the maze room. Finding the door leading to the east securely shut, Galathos and Halgron had to force it open. The next room was empty, with no sign of the fleeing goblins. Taking the only other door leading south a corridor headed east to a four-way intersection and south to a door with an X carved into it.

Nervous about the remaining five goblins and thinking that both the “X” door and the four-way intersection looked dangerous, our two stalwart heroes huddled up and began to deliberate on which direction to take next.

Experience: 366 each (733 total)
Treasure: 49 gp, 77 sp, 236 cp
Encounters: 4 Large Spiders, 6 Zombies, 1 Ghoul, 3 Goblins killed
Total Rooms Explored: 24
Expended: 4 ½ flasks of lamp oil, 1 torch, 1 day of rations (Halgron)