Friday, 30 December 2011

Christmas in Carcosa

I was aware of the controversy surrounding Geoffrey McKinney's Carcosa as every gaming blog and site seemed to have an opinion of it at the time, but as I've never been much of a D&D player I never read the book itself. I did get involved in a small way when Geoffrey put together a sample adventure for publication in Fight On! and I -- alongside the gloriously-named FuFu Frauenwahl -- provided some art for it.

Geoffrey later published the scenario as a self-contained booklet and the image above ended up on the cover, so I've always felt part of the extended Carcosa family, even if I never read the original book.

Now James Raggi -- publisher of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess role-playing game, Vornheim and Death Frost Doom -- has published a new version of Carcosa, and of course the controversy has shambled back into view, stinking of the grave and bawling "BRAAAINS! through the rotten hole where its mouth used to be. Geoffrey and James are being applauded in some parts of the internet while being characterised as corrupt monsters in others, and so the cycle continues.

Almost none of my work made it into the new book, but that happens with new editions, so I'm fine with it. It helps that Rich Longmore was chosen to provide the art, and I adore his scratchy, detailed style -- I'd love to have a print of his shoggoth illustration -- although I do prefer my version of the Bone Sorcerer. Sorry Rich.

All that said, one of my pieces did make it in, sort of. I drew a picture of an idol of Cthulhu, not one of my favourites, but James decided to keep it as an Easter egg of sorts as an icon on the scenario's map. It's only about five millimetres square and you'd never notice it if it wasn't pointed out, but even so it's apparently enough for James to send me a contributor copy of the book. It's a three-hundred page hardback book, a beautiful thing to behold, and I got it for more or less nothing.

I've not read it yet, but this offensive content everyone's going on about is going to have to be offensive indeed to convince me that Geoffrey McKinney and James Raggi are anything other than a couple of really nice guys.

In somewhat related news, Tatters of the King has continued, and I have continued wrestling with the poor editing and wonky structure of the campaign, although I've managed to shield the players from the worst of it, and they seem to be enjoying the more sandbox-like approach I've taken. They've missed some clues and discovered some that weren't in the original text, and everything is chugging along well, aside from the odd blip with dates and locations.

In the past couple of sessions -- there may be another one tonight -- the investigators headed up to Suffolk to look around a cult ritual site and ran into their first direct encounter with the supernatural as they battled some weird -- and deadly -- creatures. I must applaud them for not using player knowledge to ruin the mystery of what the Things That Should Not Have Been were, as I'm certain that at least a couple of them knew from previous adventures or reading of the core rules; by not attaching a name to the Things it made the encounter all the more effective, at least from my perspective.

The battle was great fun, a chaotic mess of serious wounds, fluffed rolls and Sanity loss. Bringing a battlemat to a Call of Cthulhu game strikes me as far more blasphemous as anything in Carcosa and so we did without, with no serious consequences. A couple of the investigators brought shotguns and started firing them into the mêlée, so I called for Luck rolls from the relevant comrades to see if they were hit; perhaps the statistic should be renamed, as most of the damage caused to the party was self-inflicted. A couple of characters were rendered unconscious by their wounds, and Ben's poor psychologist tried to flee on his knees across the snow while trying to hold his intestines in.

Did I mention that there were five investigators and only two of the Things? I love this game.

The players survived -- and managed to avoid any permanent damage, so I didn't get to use my serious wounds table from the big yellow BRP book -- and now have their eyes on one of the cultists who is holed up in a fortified antiques shop in London. Via a tip-off from an anonymous source they've discovered when their target is going to leave his hiding place and through the use of Sanity-draining magic they've seen what will happen when he does -- creating all sorts of narrative challenges for me -- so they're planning a trap. If we play tonight, we will see how successful they are.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

The Dandy and the Madman

Spoilers for Tatters of the King follow.

Stuart was unable to join us for last night's game, so the investigator party consisted of Ric's professor of literature, Manoj's artist and Ben's psychologist. They rattled through more of the clue-finding first phase of the campaign, before heading to Herefordshire to meet Alexander Roby, one of the key non-player-characters of the campaign. This is where we hit a problem.

The sequence in which the players meet Roby is pivotal, perhaps one of the most important scenes in the campaign, but it's also a closed scene. It's designed to give the players a lot of information about the campaign -- although it's almost all hidden behind layers of obfuscation so as not to give away everything -- but there's no room for expansion or further exploration; Roby says his piece and then shuts up.

Any player worth their salt is going to try to get more out of the character, and that is exactly what my lot did, trying all sorts of methods to get the NPC to reveal more, but the fact is that there is nothing more for the character to reveal. I spent a good twenty minutes blocking every attempt to get more information and it felt like I was pixel-bitching; this is not at all my preferred GMing style, and I felt frustrated and unsatisfied by how it was played. I didn't want to break the fourth wall and simply tell them that there were no more clue tokens to pick up in that location, so I attempted to disguise that information in psychological terms for Ben's character; even so it felt like a fudge, but I'm not sure there's a better way to resolve the problem. I'm surprised that it's not something that came up in playtesting of the scenario, as further questioning seems like an obvious thing for players to do, and I don't blame them for trying.

I've mentioned before that the campaign as a whole tends towards the railroad, but most of the problems can be solved through sensible play; indeed, a good half of the initial phase of the campaign has been played out of the designed order, and I don't think the players have noticed. It's this one important scene that is more difficult to fix, perhaps because it's so important.

Also annoying was discovering that one of the key handouts -- the transcript of the meeting with Roby -- features a signature from a non-player-character who is not present in the scene! It's not the first error we've seen in the player materials, and probably won't be the last; the editing in this book is shocking in places.

By the end of the session, all three of the investigators had had a brush with insanity, and if that's not a measure of Call of Cthulhu success, I don't know what is! Next time, they're going rambling in the wilds of Suffolk on the trail of a cult worship site, without the relatively tough Hemingway to back them up in case  things get violent.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Have You Heard of Ernest Hemingway?

My group finished the first book of the Carrion Crown campaign Adventure Path a couple of weeks ago, and in order to give Ben a bit of a rest before he runs the second book, and to give the group as a whole a change from our usual heroic fantasy fare, I volunteered to run the Call of Cthulhu Adventure Path campaign Tatters of the King. One reason for the choice was that it was one of the only campaigns for CoC that between them Stuart and Ben had not read, run or played. It also has a structure that suits our demand for something short to run between Pathfinder adventures; although it has a fair whiff of the globe-spanning epic to it, Tatters is less cohesive than -- for example -- Masks of Nyarlathotep and is structured more like a hefty adventure and its sequel, separated by a short related vignette. My plan is to run the first half over the next few weeks, and then the second half the next time Ben wants a break, perhaps after the second Carrion Crown book; one neat aspect of Tatters is that the first half can end in a classic Call of Cthulhu fashion so we could finish play there and still be satisfied.

The campaign is not perfect and as written is a bit heavy-handed in its direction, but I suspected that this would not be a problem in play and so it proved. All the necessary information is there, but laid out in an expected order that I knew wouldn't match up with how any group of players would approach it; a bit of creative reshuffling was in order, but it all worked out in the end.

The characters are for the most part not an active group, consisting of Ben's psychologist, the painter who helps him with his dream studies, as played by Manoj, and Ric's decadent Oxford don. Only Stuart's globe-trotting American author -- some bloke called Ernest Hemingway -- seems to be of much use in a more physical confrontation. The first session -- apart from the small matter of a riot breaking out at the theatre, in which Hemingway defended the meek don from a maniac wielding a broken bottle -- was less physical than cerebral, so the group's weaknesses in the latter area have not yet been exposed.

As of the end of the first session, the group had access to one Mythos tome, the professor was plagued by disturbing dreams, the painter had gone temporarily insane after reading the aforementioned tome, and the psychologist was worried about everyone's sanity. Hemingway just wanted a drink.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Crowns, Kings and Princesses

There was no Yoon-Suin game this week, alas, due to noisms' busy schedule, but all is not lost! Tomorrow my group returns to the Carrion Crown campaign Adventure Path, picking up right after the death of one of our own. I'm not sure how I feel about this campaign Adventure Path, as it seems to have some serious flaws -- I know Paizo's adventures are praised, but they've all seemed a bit choppy to me -- but it's still early days so we'll see how it goes.

I don't know if Ben -- our GM -- is himself dissatisfied with Carrion Crown, if it's a case of gamer ADD springing up, or if it's just because the nights are drawing in and Halloween approaches, but it's been suggested that I run Call of Cthulhu once again. A couple of years ago I ran a short and unsatisfying campaign for the game, an experience that deserves a post mortem on this blog one day, but this time I'm going to try to run Tatters of the King, as it seems to be the only campaign that Stuart and Ben haven't read. It's an interesting piece, with some obvious problems that I suspect won't turn out to be problems at all in play, and a clever structure that should suit our group well. So I'm preparing to run that, although I have no idea when or if I will get the chance; it may come to nothing.

I also bought a boxed role-playing game this week. Not the Pathfinder Beginner Box -- I was tempted, but in the end I didn't see any practical point in owning it -- but instead Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Role Playing. I've had the free pdfs for a while and I like James Raggi's version of D&D best of all the retroclones -- the game features ascending armour values, a non-fussy elf class and excellent encumbrance and thief skill mechanics -- so I took advantage of the current LotFP sale and some spare PayPal cash to get the boxed set for about six quid. I suspect I will never be able to get my group to play it -- the irony is that it would suit Carrion Crown very well -- but at least I have it now. Well, I don't have it yet, but it's on its way.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Double Plus Good

My gaming group has become rather splintered and scattered on occasion as real life has intruded on all the killing-things-and-taking-their-stuff; one way we've tried to deal with this is to play over the internet using Skype. This has not gone well.

Then a very clever person came up with a very clever idea.

I've been wanting to get involved in a Google+ game for a while now, in part to play something different, but my main goal has been to test it as an alternative to Skype and maybe, just maybe, bring my own group back together. Last night I played my first ConstantCon game; the setting was noism's Yoon-Suin and the rules -- although the only dice rolled all evening were by noisms for a random encounter -- were from the good old Rules Cyclopedia. The old-school being what it is, I ended up with a fighter with a single hit point and just enough money to buy a dagger, but I decided to let the dice fall where they may and take up the challenge of getting this fellow to second level.

By chance, this fighter had the highest social rank of the group, being the son of a knight; I decided that the consumptive weakling must have been sent out into the world by a disapproving and disgusted father who not-so-secretly hoped that his son would trip on a rock and die, leaving the way open for a more suitable heir. Joining poor Kirti on his travels were Pabali, the erudite but disgusting Slug-Man wizard, the bold and brash warrior Subanara -- and his dog Rotgut -- and the magic-using-son-of-a-prostitute Matrika.

I have not played basic D&D in about fifteen years, and then only a handful of times, but it was easy to get into the right mindset and the looser play style was quite refreshing after all the number-crunching of Pathfinder. As mentioned above, we didn't get to use any of the numbers on our character sheets, but even so I was surprised at how quickly we all developed characters, whether it was Pabali's arch loquaciousness or Matrika's devotion to Yoon-Suin's class system. Perhaps most surprising was how quickly we all fell into this roleplaying, even though we were all strangers to one another; I could waffle on here about putting on an act and how a false persona might make interaction with strangers easier, but I'm nowhere near pretentious enough to try.

Our group sniffed around and from a sizeable list of potential adventures chose rumours of a terrible old eunuch roaming the local villages and frightening the peasants by spouting gibberish at them and leaping about like a grasshopper. We decided that an insane old man was at just about the right power level for a bunch of first level characters to take on -- although Subanara suspected that the old geezer had to be a dragon in disguise -- and headed out from the city. Travelling from village to village collecting information -- including the possible whereabouts of one village's secret stash of copper pieces -- we found a local wise woman who told us more about the old man, suggesting that he was both immortal and cursed, and that he tended to manifest at twilight or in the early hours of the morning. Having missed the former, we decided to camp for the night and look for the wretch in the morning; the wise woman -- who was neither as old or haggard as cliché demanded -- was reluctant to let the party rest in her tent, but Matrika convinced her to at least let his "master" Kirti rest within. While Kirti was not and had never been the magician's master he kept quiet as he suspected he might not survive a night in the open air.

The game was good fun, and I look forward to another session and perhaps even rolling some dice, although I suspect any such situation will not end well for Kirti. It also answered my questions about the use of Google+ for gaming; it seems more stable and efficient than Skype, and I've recommended that my regular group gives it a try next time one of our members is unable to attend a session in person. If Google would integrate a dice roller into the package, it would be just about perfect.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Carrion Crown: first player character death!

WOW!  At the end of tonight's session of Carrion Crown, I finally managed to kill off a pc!  It's taken me a while.... but finally..... pcs at low levels are so much more susceptible to .... death....

The intrepid heroes had been investigating the ruins of Harrowstone prison....  trying to vanquish the haunts and put an end to the lingering evil there.... They had managed to destroy one of the 5 major haunts there.... amongst other minor haunts....but, without them knowing, they had managed to disturb the spirit of Fr Charlatan who had since been following them around the prison..... and whose presence was triggered when a pc is 'downed'.... so when the party decide to take on the executioner's spirit on the prison balcony, the executioner's scythe gets lucky on a natural 20, which was confirmed, causing 8d4 damage, dropping Ric's pc, the alchemist Dr Victor Pruce....when Stuart's cleric of Iomedae channelled positive energy to heal his wounds, Fr Charlatan used his corrupting powers to change his positive energy into negative, thus killing Dr Pruce with a wave of negative energy..... we left the session on that shocker....

Dr Victor Pruce, R.I.P.
In the next session Dr Pruce's shade will rise up and join in with the Father to gang up on the pcs.......can't wait!!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Carrying On Carrion Crown

Well, last night we played our second session of the Carrion Crown campaign adventure path and things seem to be slotting into place. During our time in the village of Ravengro -- and that is the silliest name for a village I've seen in a published scenario for a long time -- we uncovered evidence that an evil force was possessing villagers and making them commit acts of petty vandalism. Realising that we couldn't simply arrest everyone in town, it was decided that we should attempt to discover the source of the eerie occurrences, and hit the books for some Call of Cthulhu style Library Use; this is not what you might call a tale of high adventure.

(That said, Stuart's cleric Veneticus got into an altercation with some village children who were singing a song the staunch moralist considered inappropriate. The little perishers took little notice of the ragged holy man's orders to stop messing about, and he skirted close to alignment change as he became frustrated and started lobbing stones at them. The rest of the party stepped in to calm him down, and all of a sudden my necromancer is no longer the most distrusted member of the party. Result!)

Later, we headed to nearby Arkham Asylum Harrowstone Prison to see if it was, as suspected, the source of all the odd goings-on. We cleared the ground floor with little resistance beyond some spiders and a couple of half-hearted ghosts -- although one spooked our paladin Sir Erudil enough to have him smash right through a heavy oak door in order to escape -- before running into the shade of the former warden's wife -- pictured -- who gave us a fetch quest; in order to defeat the ghosts of The Joker, the Riddler, et al the prison's most dangerous inmates, we would have to make use of items associated with them, items which were -- of course -- hidden throughout the ruined, haunted building.

New player Alex seems to be getting the hang of things a bit better now, but he was very quiet during the game and seems unsure of how role-playing games work; on more than one occasion he asked if it was okay to do simple things like search a room or open a door. I wonder if there's some sort of paralysis going on as Alex sees the somewhat crowded Pathfinder sheet and assumes his options are constrained by and limited to the numbers appearing there?

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Rise of the Dead

Here's a new set of tokens for use in your fantasy games, and since Halloween's coming up, they're of various lesser undead. I suspect we might find use for them in our Carrion Crown game.

Lesser Undead (970kb pdf)

You can find my other tokens at this post. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Carrion (up the) Crown

Finally we have started a campaign that I have wanted to play/ run for some time.  Admittedly it is not the sandbox game we really want to play - although I intend to bring to it as much sandbox as possible.

I love my gothic horror - and with Carrion Crown, we get this in spades.

Kingmaker was great fun at lower levels - and at higher levels, the game had evolved into a different kind of game: tactical - with awesome fights - but sometimes we could play out the session with some big fights and the roleplaying had sometimes gotten pushed to the wings....

Or is this a better image of Nicodemus? ;)
Not with Carrion Crown at level 1. 

This image doesn't quite fit the scene El Kel created for us!

I have to say that El Kel's entrance as Nicodemus Eldritch, the playboy & rich Necromancer, in his big fur coat, gold chain/ medallion, and escort of 2 beautiful women, turning up like this at his mentor's (Professor Petros Lorrimor) funeral, was one of the most memorable & insane moments in my relatively long gaming experience!  Fantastic!

After the funeral, at the wake the pcs made each other's acquaintances... and they are a mixed bunch. An interesting dynamic is that between the LG Paladin of Iomedae, (the goddess of valour, justice, and honour) and the LN cleric of Abadar (god of protecting the First Vault, wherein are perfect examples of items).... at the moment they are colllaborating - with the Paladin and Cleric each having one important key, one key to the chest in which are the Prof's dangerous (and evil?) tomes, and the other key to his study and library..... much to Nicodemus' annoyance!

The adventure is following a classic Call of Cthulhu investigation/ murder mystery which of course is about to present them with some classic problems, including do they exhume the body of their dead friend to speak with his spirit?  Investigating the haunted prison on the hill over looking the village of Ravengro of course is a no-brainer.  ;)

Can't wait to the next instalment on Friday.  :)

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Once More Unto the Breach

Last week's Pathfinder session was a bit of a disaster, to be honest. We were keen to finish a campaign for once, but this clashed with the arrival of a new player, one who'd had almost no experience with role-playing games; although he gave it an honest try, it was clear that the complexities of a thirteenth-level Pathfinder game were beyond him.

So we decided to pause the Kingmaker campaign, sorry "Adventure Path", and start afresh from first level; this is annoying given our tendency to abandon campaigns, sorry "Adventure Paths", but we were in danger of losing our new player by overwhelming him with a high-level game. We chose the not-at-all-like-Ravenloft-honest Carrion Crown and it seemed to go quite well. Our new player, Alex, had a much easier time playing a half-elven ranger than the halfling thief of last time, while Stuart chose a cleric with a fondness for censorship, Manoj played a paladin and I chose a necromancer with the swaggering attitude of a rock star. We were all old friends of Rudolph van Richten Professor Petros Lorrimor and were attending his funeral in Ravenloft Ustalav when mysterious events came to light; a quick reading of the Professor's will and his private journal gave us some hints as to the source of the unusual occurrences, although we only had enough time to follow up the first of many leads. Next week, we're off to the ruins of Arkham Asylum Harrowstone Prison to investigate the suspicious deaths of Batman's rogues gallery a number of notorious and colourful inmates.

I haven't played a D&D wizard since a single session of the 1983 Red Box about fifteen years ago, and I was a bit apprehensive of the class given the complexity of everything else in Pathfinder, but it seems like wizards themselves are quite simple in terms of mechanics, with most of the fiddly bits coming from the spells. I will have to be aware that he is quite fragile -- even if wizard hit dice have increased from d4 to d6 over the years -- as a couple of bites from a centipede almost ended his career at the outset, and I'll also have to think of strategies for spell selection, as I found myself prepared for undead but not for murderous arthropods. It's almost like a whole new game!

Saturday, 24 September 2011


After a bit of a summer hiatus, my gaming group has been meeting again, and we've decided to return to Pathfinder and the KIngmaker campaign, sorry, "Adventure Path"; we've only been playing together a few years and already we've scattered many an abandoned campaign behind us, so we all agreed to try and finish at least one of them off. It's been a while since we last played Pathfinder so it's taken a while to get used to all the fiddly bits again after the blissful simplicity of WFRP. We've also welcomed a new player into the group, someone who's never played a role-playing game before, and we've started him off with a thirteenth-level character.

Oh dear.

I'd like to say that his lack of experience didn't matter, that Paizo's rules are elegant and intuitive enough that even a novice can pick them up, but if I did I'd be lying. In all fairness to the new chap, he didn't give up or switch off and he'll be back next time, but perhaps we should have given up on Kingmaker after all and started off with a new campaign, sorry, "Adventure Path". We shall see.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

More Dice

Over at The Lands of Ara, Carter and the Spawn of Endra have been showing their Pounds o' DIce off to the world. Both of them seem to have received some special funky six-siders, but neither of them got the teeny-tiny dice I had in my Pound. So, for Carter's benefit, here's a shot of said teeny-tiny six-siders alongside a standard Chessex d6 and d20 for scale:

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Borrowed Dungeons

In my other guise as a writer for the website Comics Bulletin, I wrote a review of the new Studio Ghibli film Arrietty. I mention it here because the opening twenty minutes or so consist of an exploration of the nooks and crannies of a family home, but the diminutive size of the explorers gives the sequence a sense of epic scale.

It occurred to me that if one were to put aside the fact that a ladder was made out of nails and so on, that these sequences were great inspiration for adding little bits of flavour to a dungeon crawl. Why have the characters walk down a corridor when you can instead have them slide across a narrow ledge, or have to hop across a gap here and there? I don't think it's even necessary to attach dice rolls to these moments -- unless of course there's a gang of hobgoblins chasing them -- but they'll add a bit of flavour to the explorations.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

It's All My Fort

Here's a map of a ruined hilltop fortification. I drew it for an upcoming game, but I don't think I'll be using it now, so I release it into the wild. Use it as you will, and if you do use it, let me know how it went!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

King Not Included

Mantic Games has a reputation in these parts for sticking one finger up at Games Workshop whenever the opportunity arises. Their main product line at the moment is the Warhammer-baiting tabletop wargame Kings of War, but they also have a boxed board game called Dwarf King's Hold, which is not at all like a fantasy version of Space Hulk.

Oh. Okay.

I had some spare cash lying about, so I decided to get the dwarves-versus-undead version of the game -- there's another with orcs against elves -- figuring that even if the game was rubbish I'd still get a box of decent miniatures.

The undead miniatures are very good indeed. They have lots of detail and despite being multi-part kits it is not at all difficult to assemble them, although I could imagine putting an entire army together would soon become tiresome. The dwarves are simple two-part kits but they are, by ironic contrast, a right pain in the oubliette. They look like they should clip together just like the Space Marines and Orcs in the first boxed edition of Warhammer 40,000, but the pieces don't line up together well at all, with quite a bit of chopping and filing required. Even then the resulting model will have lots of gaps, although they tend to be on the underside of the figure or behind detail, so it could be worse. It's also something of a shame that Mantic didn't include proper bases for the figures as while they are quite stable in most cases, there are a couple with unbalanced poses.

The dungeon tiles are nice and thick -- although not as chunky as the current Space Hulk board pieces -- and the art is good. It would be nice if there was a way to lock the pieces together, but untethered tiles allow for more flexible dungeon layouts and they don't move around too much in play.

The game itself is good fun, playing a little like Space Hulk. It plays quite fast, and we ran through the first two missions, swapping sides each time, in a couple of hours. The rules are simple but have plenty of room for tactical options, and the game as a whole seems much more balanced than Space Hulk ever was. My only criticism at this early stage is that the game only supports two players, although I suppose you could split the models amongst multiple people.

Even if Dwarf King's Hold: Dead Rising were no good, at least it would still be a box of qood quality dungeon tiles and miniatures that my group could use in other games. As it happens, it's a fun, lightweight game that just so happens to also be a box of useful stuff; I don't think I'll ever delve into Mantic's wargames, but if they continue to produce small, self-contained games like this, then I'll be interested.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Listen Not To Ian, For He Is Mad

One final bit from Ian Livingstone's 1982 book Dicing With Dragons, this time from his discussion of Dungeons and Dragons itself:
The Magic User may only wear leather armour or no armour at all, and is restricted to the use of staffs and daggers as weapons.

As far as I am aware, the bit about leather armour has never been the case in D&D, so where is Livingstone getting this idea from?

Monday, 15 August 2011

Musings on Ian & the use of pre-written materials.

Kelvin's neat little article on Ian Livingstone on his soapbox got me thinking this morning.... and being on my summer holidays, with a brief window of TIME, I put fingers to the keyboard and got typing!  Here are some follow up thoughts from a busy GM!

The question was - do prewritten adventures aide in the roleplaying experience or hold people back?
Me at work ;)
As someone who is normally up to their eyeballs in work/ doing stuff....... my general view has always been to laugh at the 'snobbery' of the 'purist'..... but I have never been a diceless rpg-man/ LARPer or desired to be on stage as an actor...... and whereas in the past I loved intricate plots, red/dead herrings and spending hours on a backstory etc (running Masks of Nyarlathotep every week for over 2 years).... that was WAY BACK THEN when I was obviously insane, had tons of energy.... now I am knackered most of the time and need a decent bit of killing in a session to stay conscious! But I digress.  ;)

Prewritten modules, if well chosen (afterall there are plenty of duffers out there - so I am careful), and appropriately adapted in advance (thank you paizo message boards for kingmaker!!), IMHO, can help a busy GM!!! Without using such things, I sometimes would have run nothing...for ages!  Pathfinder is a stat heavy game and thus it has been great to have that side of things handled in the Adventure Paths Paizo churn out.  Moreover their stories, NPCs, flavour etc in the APs are top-notch.

Eg: The Carrion Crown Adventure Path.

I have been slowly amassing resources to run this at some point in in the not too distant future. Each scenario has advice on music - which I have gone and bought various cds.... as well as the appropriate map tiles....minis.... The message boards, like for Kingmaker, are chock-full of advice on problems in enounter design, or on motivational issues etc...  I really liked the ideas of the path - and having read the whole thing and have a solid overview of where this thing is going helps you, as a ref, set up the game from the beginning with pc and party design... There is still tons of work to do to bring the games to life - to breathe life into npcs, to make sure there are options for pcs so they can achieve/ fail at things and there are consequences for that.... and in the case of Carrion Crown, to reflect on, with the players, the horror mechanics and sanity loss in the game and other 'touches'..... especially since Carrion Crown will be a big change from the current sandbox style of play we are liking in my current WFRP Marienburg game El Kel has flagged up on this blog, in his Tales of the Jolly Butchers.  ;)

But I am prepared to admit that pre-written adventures can get in the way of a good game.

I played in a brief game of a game that will not be mentioned by name or genre....but some of you may have fond memories! It quickly became apparent that the GM not only had no understanding of the rules system (only one player did since it was new), but that they had not read the massive 100 + page adventure!! The gang quickly got bored, started sand boxing  away from the attempts to show horn us into a fixed path, and eventually destroyed the 'set', ending the game. Classic!!  I don't to say any more since I don't want to bruise any egos :S

Having believed for ages that I didn't have the mental space to create my own stuff, with work being insane, I realise now that I have used published materials as a prop... And that I have let this prop at times ' wag the dog', do to speak.... In that by relying on them, I was limiting my roleplaying possibilities and experiences.

I have always been aware of this...but the complexity of some systems always put me off writing my own material....

Take Deadlands. Great ideas. First edition Deadlands was a nightmare system...manageable if you were a player - but an act of love and dedication to make work as a GM.... But I loved it still... But the scenarios were utter garbage!!! So we never managed to play more than a mini series of games before time to stat up and create stuff ran out!

Same for Fading Suns: I loved the setting, the writing, the art..... like Deadlands it is a fantastic game - BUT-  for me, their in-house Victory Point system sucked!! & thus was tricky to create material for

All of these games have encouraged me to run pre made stuff.......

HOWEVER....more recently running Pathfinder at 12th level.... Nightmare!!!! So much prep for the poorly designed encounters in Kingmaker (loved the idea of Kingmaker- it falls apart in books 3-5)...... plus...interestingly... we have been having this debate about how Pathfinders Kingmaker was not a real sandbox, my gang got talking about creating our own (which started and then stopped)...although we couldn't agree on a the meantime, I got worn out by the poor design of the high level scenarios in pathfinder's Kingmaker (which were not designed with the powers of pcs of that level in mind!!), as well as the general intensity of rules at that level and stuff you have to know in your head (eg all the spells of witches, mages and clerics to level 7, & what all the short hand terms in the bestiaries mean!!)...involving tons of prep every week..... I thought s#d this....I need a rest!!

& somehow, by chance, I thought let's try my bonkers "GTA meets the Sopranos" game and set it in WFRP (since I love the game, as I realised the others did - and for some reason we hadn't played any together!!) and Marienburg it play a proper sandbox, not Kingmaker's faux sandbox - thus there was to be no over-arching metaplot.... And, without any premade material, other than the Marienburg book from which I have used a rough map and some names.... It has been my own work needing minimal prep because the system is so much easier than pathfinder! Thus the stories and adventures of the Jolly Butchers was born! & born in a busy time for me... despite the madness of life, I found the energy and joy to create and run stuff for it.....

Admittedly I now need to do some more homework on the sandbox and flesh out the next possible npcs, locations of interest, and random tables and stat them. But I am loving it. But also, having said that, I look forward to running Carrion Crown in late 2011, if there are enough players in my gang, and if I can tear them away from the Mean Streets of Marienburg ;)  Especially since I intend to run a seperate sandbox in the same city, with new pcs as detectives.... possibly ones with 'the gift', as in spellcasters, rooting out deviltry, occult, and all things chaos to keep the streets and canals of Marienburg safe (or probably make them less safe after they have accidentally opened up a chaos gate and sucked the city through it!  ;)
Oh dear..... where did Marienburg go? Can I re-roll?

Sunday, 14 August 2011

More From Ian

A section of the hobby has put forward the argument that ready-made scenarios are actually harmful to "true" roleplaying. They claim that this leads to stereotyped play, with referees reading descriptions from a booklet, and relieving them of the need to think on their feet. Adventures are thus "spoon fed" to the players, and things become less exciting than watching a soap opera on TV. Proponents of the use of published adventures maintain that this is the fault of the referee: his attitude is one of relief at avoiding all that work and one of trust in the written word. A published adventure should be treated as an aid, not the divine gospel. Whether on the matter of published adventures or any other aspect of refereeing, once the referee ceases to think about the material, he is dead.

From Ian Livingstone's Dicing With Dragons.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Presented Without Comment

Three official versions or rules collections exist for D&D: the Basic Set and its companion extension, the Expert Set; the Original or Collectors Edition; and the Advanced D&D series. This makes matters rather confusing to newcomers, as the various supplements and playing aids apply to different versions of the game. In practice, however, the Original edition is obsolete, and only of interest to veteran players and collectors. Players generally familiarize themselves with the Basic Set and then progress to the Expert Set (though the Expert Set is often by-passed), eventually moving to Advanced D&D, where the full scope of the game is realized.

I'm reading Ian Livingstone's 1982 introduction to roleplaying games, Dicing With Dragons, in my lunch breaks at work and the above passage jumped out at me for some reason. The Americanised spelling and missing apostrophe are Livingstone's doing.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Three Sheet Firefight

There's a new version of Small But Vicious Dog out, and it's even better than the last. I spent the morning reading it, and it's clear that something in it inspired me, as I then went off to write a very quick and dirty skirmish wargame.

It's very basic, and it has a fair bit of Nottinghamshire DNA in it, albeit more from Blood Bowl and Epic than either of the Warhammers. It's intended for quick games with whatever figures are available, and it's more than likely full of all sorts of holes and problems; since I haven't yet played it, I can't predict what they'll be, but the turn order might be a bit wobbly. Still, if you fancy it you can download it here, and if you do, please let me know how you get on.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Two Jolly Butchers, a Necromancer and a Drunk

Englebert the cat burglar has been tasked with restoring his family's control over the Doodkanal district of Marienburg; with him he has brought two slabs of muscle, the Norse berserker Steiner Eriksen and the dwarf Hammerhead Harry, and the smuggler Gisbert Lufthansa. Together, they are the Jolly Butchers!

Accompanied by the witch hunter Kurtz and his manservant Percy, Englebert and Harry descended into the tunnels below the city, intent on catching the necromancer Heinz Gerber before he completed whatever task had led him into the damp, dark labyrinth. The Jolly Butchers had Gerber's journal, and a rough map of the tunnels, both of which gave them some confidence; the recognition of Percy's thousand-yard stare and the realisation that Kurtz was blind drunk did not.

Harry was rather in his element underground and his sense of direction helped make sense of the incomplete map, while Englebert's keen eyes kept the party safe from traps; Kurtz and Harry had blundered into a pit trap early on in the expedition, but after that, the burglar took the lead and steered them clear. Soon enough, and with a suspicious lack of interruption from the undead things they knew were lurking all around them, the party reached an open chamber lined with statues. Because this was WFRP and not D&D, the statues did not come to life and attack, and the party passed through to the bronze doors beyond. Intricate carvings -- some form of writing -- covered the doors but none in the party recognised it, although it was clear it was ancient.

Nudging the doors open, the part entered a large mausoleum, at the far end of which stood their quarry, the necromancer Gerber, engaged in some kind of ritual. As Gerber chanted and waved his hands in eldritch patterns over a stone sarcophagus, the party attempted to creep forward, only for the whole plan to be blown by Kurtz bellowing a challenge to the wizard.

It was at this point that the party was ambushed by skeletons. At first Englebert was the only one not frozen by fear, but the group made short work of the undead, only to be assaulted by a second wave almost as soon as they'd put down the first. Meanwhile Kurtz was screaming at the Jolly Butchers, ordering them to take the battle to the wizard; Harry was busy stomping about with reanimated corpses hanging off him, scratching at his armour with all the force and fury of  light drizzle, and Englebert wasn't about to go on a lone charge, so they ignored the witch hunter's ravings.

As it turned out, the fates -- or WFRP's treacherous magic system -- did the party's work for them, as Gerber's ritual backfired and he started to be thrown about by invisible sorcerous energies. Harry and Englebert smashed aside the last of the lesser undead, while Kurtz and Percy reloaded their pistols -- which up until now had been rather useless as anything other than loud and expensive clubs -- and all looked up as Gerber underwent a change, ripping, expanding and twisting into a new form. From the necromancer's desperate cries of anguish, the party guessed that the transformation was not voluntary.

Gerber had become a blasphemous, stinking thing, with multiple heads, sharp horns and a bloated belly, all surrounded by a cloud of buzzing, unnatural and mutated flies. Worst of all, his shape was still in flux and he was floating a few feet off the ground. As the thing bobbed at a leisurely pace through the air towards them, Englebert let off an arrow and retreated back to the tunnels, while Harry sidestepped into a better position and readied his warhammer. Kurtz had by this time reloaded, but Percy fumbled with his shot and powder and would not be ready in time for the creature's assault. It belched and spewed forth a stream of vile, maggot-strewn vomit at the dwarf and the burglar, but missed, the slick yellow filth hissing and bubbling as it slid down the stone wall of the tomb.

With a sound like a crack of thunder, Kurtz fired both of his pistols at the thing, spattering gore and ichor across the entire party -- an Ulric's Fury result caused twenty-two wounds on the second hit, more than making up for the ineffectual shooting earlier on-- but even this did not seem enough to slow the creature, until it started shimmering and flickering, before collapsing into a tiny point of light that disappeared with a pop as whatever sorcery tying it to this plane failed at last.

Kurtz and Percy set about purifying the tomb of Gerber's necromantic influence, and Englebert and Harry set about liberating it of any treasure, finding a bag of ancient gold in the sarcophagus, as well as what they took to be the bones of Bigby; Harry crushed these to bits, just in case. The two Jolly Butchers would have liked to have looted explored further, but ominous howls and scratchings from the tunnels behind them suggested that time was short, so they fled the tomb and returned to the surface.

Now satisfied that the barman Jorn was not also the necromancer Gerber, Kurtz released the Jolly Butchers' employee into their care, and offered to treat them all to a slap up meal; while it was clear that the man was deranged, Harry was not about to pass up a free meal and agreed on everyone's behalf. Soon after, Kurtz and Percy left Marienberg and the Jolly Butchers settled back to discuss their plans to expand their modest holdings, at which point they discovered that one of the old captains of the gang -- from before Englebert's appointment as leader -- had escaped from the prison on Rijker's Isle and was on his way to the Doodkanal.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Show Me Your DIce

We're all dice fetishists to an extent, a tendency Tim over at Gothridge Manor has identified and decided to celebrate. So without further ado:

These are the contents of the bag I take to our regular games. There are a couple of full seven-dice sets in there, a d30, a d16, a bunch of two-tone d10s, a handful of d8s, a couple of twenty-sided d10s and some twelve-sided d4s. There's also a tape measure in case of wargame-type activity, a decent rubber because the ones you get at the end of pencils always smudge the character sheet, and a plastic tengu from the D&D miniatures line; this is Wu Ya, my character in Ben's Kingmaker game. He's a monk with the potential to bust out seven attacks a round, so I have quite a few d20s in the pile; there's one for each colour of the rainbow, in case order of attack is important, and a few extra just in case.

This is everything else. It may not look much bigger than the other lot, but this is a pile that's a couple of inches high in the middle. The bulk of it is made up of a Chessex Pound o' Dice bought by a sympathetic relative one Chrimble, but you've also got a few seven-dice sets -- including one still in its case for no apparent reason -- and then a fair number of odd dice. There's a Zocchihedron, an inkless precision d20, a set of FUDGE dice, some of those funky third edition WFRP dice, a set of HeroQuest dice and a spare set of Blood Bowl blocking dice acquired from the NAF. Most of these dice go unused -- we haven't played WFRP3 yet and a Zocchihedron is to be admired, not rolled -- but I doubt I'm the only one with such a reserves pile. There's something satisfying about tipping them all out then putting them back in their box, akin to when I did the same with my Lego as a child.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Ten Jolly Butchers

Englebert the cat burglar has been tasked with restoring his family's control over the Doodkanal district of Marienburg; with him he has brought two slabs of muscle, the Norse berserker Steiner Eriksen and the dwarf Hammerhead Harry, and the smuggler Gisbert Lufthansa. Together, they are the Jolly Butchers!

The Jolly Butchers were without two of their number this time around, with Lufthansa still busy with his business at the docks, and the mighty Norseman Eriksen off wenching somewhere in town. This left Englebert and Harry to investigate the mansion they had taken from the Red Hand Gang; they found that the rooms at the back of the building -- abutting the supposedly haunted garden -- had been locked and boarded by the previous occupants, and considered asking a priest of Morr to come and investigate. They were interrupted by one of their network of street urchins, who told them that a riot had broken out at the prison on Rijker's Isle, involving some members of their gang; this news concerned Harry, as the Butchers imprisoned on the island were of the old order and were of higher rank than the current leadership, all of which could cause problems if they broke out and returned to the Doodkanal. The young guttersnipe also told them that Jorn, one of the doormen at the Moby Dick, had been arrested; since the bouncer wasn't involved in any direct criminal activity, both Harry and Englebert found his arrest to be unusual.

Jorn's arrest was deemed to be less of a headache to investigate than a full-blown prison riot, and they discovered that the doorman had been identified by a witch hunter named Kurtz as being the necromancer Heinz Gerber, and that he was to be given a trial in seven days, at which point he would be burned alive. This would not do, so the dwarf and the burglar went to the guard house in which Jorn was incarcerated in an attempt to get him freed. The guards proved unhelpful, and Kurtz more so, but Harry and Englebert nipped around the back and managed to talk to their employee through the window of his cell. Once they were happy that Jorn was not in fact a dangerous necromancer and that he was being treated well enough, the pair planned their next move.

They had a number of options: to discredit Kurtz, to break Jorn out, to present exonerating evidence at his trial, or to find the real Heinz Gerber. They considered the first two options to be very unlikely, and the latter two just implausible, and thus the choice was made. They set about assembling friends, colleagues and family members who could vouch for Jorn and also started researching Gerber. They discovered that he was indeed a notorious magician with an interest in peering beyond the veil of death, and his chief interest was in a necromancer who was reputed to have found the secret to eternal life. In a cross-setting tribute to Gary Gygax, this necromancer was named Bigby.

The Jolly Butchers decided to put the word out that they had found an artefact belonging to this Bigby and, sensing that there was something a bit off about it, were eager to sell it as soon as possible and for a low price. After a day or two, an urchin arrived on behalf of an "old man" to look at the artefact -- an ornate box stolen from the tomb in the first session -- and having done so, headed off to report his -- or her, urchins are dirty and difficult to identify with certainty -- findings; Englebert made excellent use of his stealth abilities to follow the child back to a house across from the very graveyard from which the box was stolen -- and which they'd been searching for the creature which had been bothering the rat catchers -- and right next door to Skinner's funeral parlour, one of the Jolly Butchers' front businesses.

Popping in to speak to Alf Skinner, they found him nervous and shifty and he explained that some bodies had gone missing. He seemed less bothered by the theft itself and more that the Butchers would be angry that he'd been filling the empty coffins with junk to cover the absence of the rightful contents; as it happened, neither of them cared. They told old Alf to lock and bar his storage room in the basement, and they went next door with four Jolly Butchers as backup.

The gang members were reluctant to enter the house, which was run down and exuded the sickly smell of decay, and so took up covering positions with their crossbows, leaving Harry to venture inside alone, with Englebert just behind. He was attacked by three stinking, flabby pale things with poisonous claws, but Harry proved resistant to their venom, and with the aid of supporting fire from Englebert's short bow, the dwarf smashed his opponents. They threw the bodies into the streets to be burned and sent a message to Kurtz to tell him that the necromancer was still quite active and that he should perhaps come down to the house to see for himself, but a reply came a while later suggesting that the creatures they'd killed were just remnants and that the danger had passed now that Gerber was in custody.

With a sigh, Harry and Englebert went back into the house to investigate, finding nothing of interest except steps leading down into an ominous cellar. Harry went first, to find a crude laboratory inhabited by some misshapen patchwork creature.

At first, even Harry's stout dwarven mettle wasn't enough and he was frozen in fear as the thing swung at him, but he was lucky to avoid injury and snapped out of his paralysis in time to fight back. It was a tough battle, with the creature able to absorb a great deal of damage and not even Harry's mighty hammer was enough to bring it down; two massive strikes to Harry's head put great dents in his helmet and left the dwarf unconscious on the cellar stairs.

The creature bawled "FOOD!" from a slack and ill-fitting jaw and Englebert ran for it; at the time it was unclear if he was just saving his own skin or if he was trying to distract the thing from eating Harry, but it did indeed follow the thief up the stairs. Englebert climbed the outside of the house and on to the roof, thinking the thing couldn't follow, but it proved more agile than it looked and thus ensued a rooftop chase that ended when Englebert's nimble footwork had him ducking out of the creature's overextended grasp, causing it to fall into the vat of a conveniently located tannery.

Harry rested and healed, while a search of Gerber's house went on -- with an eye to a possible future career as a physician, Harry pocketed the necromancer's surgical tools -- and the Jolly Butchers found a trapdoor leading into a warren of tunnels under the city. When he was fit to move, the dwarf ventured in and identified the passages as belonging to some old necropolis, perhaps forgotten by the people of the city. Their henchmen refused to go into the tunnels, but did continue the search of the house, turning up what seemed to be Heinz Gerber's journal. The mad ravings of the necromancer were difficult to decipher, but the Butchers did find a partial map of the tunnels below their feet, as well as a number of entries concerning Bigby's tomb, dated after Jorn was captured.

They took this clear evidence of Jorn's innocence to the witch hunter and the belligerent sod did not release the doorman, but declared that the matter was worth investigating, and so agreed to go with the Jolly Butchers as they pursued Gerber into the tunnels below the city.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Seven Jolly Butchers

Englebert the cat burglar has been tasked with restoring his family's control over the Doodkanal district of Marienburg; with him he has brought two slabs of muscle, the Norse berserker Steiner Eriksen and the dwarf Hammerhead Harry, and the smuggler Gisbert Lufthansa. Together, they are the Jolly Butchers!

This session was heavy on the old fisticuffs, and because of the unique way in which Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay handles combat, it was also quite heavy on the gore, even more so than usual.

Following the events of the previous session, the Jolly Butchers decided to stake out the headquarters of their rivals, the Red Hand Gang; setting up shop in a, um, shop across the street, the Butchers watched and waited. The mansion was fortified with a strong gate for the outer wall, and the windows on the ground floor had been converted into arrow slits, but there were only a handful of guards visible. After some time, a cart came out of the front gates, accompanied by four gang members, and the Jolly Butchers decided to see where they were going and if possible pick them off, so reducing the opposition within the mansion itself.

Harry and Steiner followed the cart, while Englebert went to send a message to the rest of the Jolly Butchers and have them meet the core group; Gisbert was still busy with some smuggling activities down on the docks. The Red Hand Gangers took the cart -- Harry noticed from the way it was moving that its cargo was heavy -- to a warehouse where they were met by two other ruffians, and together the six of them entered the building. Englebert had returned by this time, and sneaked up on to the roof of the warehouse to peek through a window; inside he saw the enemy loading crates on to a waiting barge at the back of the building, and so he returned to the rest of the Butchers.

Four other Jolly Butchers had arrived -- Kaspar, Waldred, Grimwold and Hamlyn -- and with only one way out for the gangers and their cart, an ambush was arranged. Englebert took up a sniping position on a nearby rooftop, while Harry and Steiner took two men each and hid on either side of the narrow alleyway leading off from the warehouse.

The Jolly Butchers launched their ambush, the Red Hand launched a counter-ambush, and the little street was soon awash with gore. Through strength of numbers and the uncanny bloodlust of Steiner's unusual elven blade -- pilfered from the tomb in the first session -- the Butchers prevailed with nary a scratch, and while most of the Red Hand Gangers were left dying in the muck, there were a couple of survivors. They told the Butchers that only three men, plus the halfling Steevil and his lieutenant Catspaw, remained in the mansion, but more were supposed to be on their way from out of town. Harry -- with an eye on the interrogator career -- also found out that the gang had a secret knock with which to identify themselves at the front gate, and a plan was formed.

The Butchers pulled up their hoods and took the cart and one of the survivors back to the mansion. With the rest of the gang hanging back, the survivor went up to the front gate to request entrance, while Harry -- tall for a dwarf but still just small enough to hide below the gate's viewing grille -- kept a tight grip on the survivor's, ahem, crown jewels.

The group was let in, Harry pushed the survivor to the ground and rushed into combat with the guard, with the rest of the Butchers following up. The guard managed to let out a few shouts but soon he too was dead; not soon enough though, as crossbow bolts started whistling through the air towards the Jolly Butchers. Harry rushed over to the arrow slits, while Englebert scaled the house itself, and Kaspar, Waldred, Grimwold and Hamlyn ran for the mansion's front entrance, which was in an alcove and would provide some cover from the crossbowmen.

Where was Steiner? Well, expecting a somewhat different welcome, the big Norseman was hanging off the bottom of the cart, ready to jump out and into combat, only now he found himself in cover but perhaps pinned. Nonetheless, he made a break for Harry's position, just as the dwarf chucked his favourite mining lantern in through the arrow slit; as planned a small fire started up, which only got larger as Steiner then lobbed a bottle of spirits in through the same slit. Spotting a stable door and a possible side entrance, the dwarf and the Norseman headed in that direction.

Meanwhile, Englebert was on the roof, removing tiles in an attempt to get into the space below, and Kaspar, Waldred, Grimwold and Hamlyn found the front door of the mansion locked and barred, and the alcove not as safe as they had thought, as the pernicious halfling Steevil had installed murder holes above them. Poor Kaspar was shot twice in the head -- "Now he's a ghost!" said the GM -- and the rest of the thugs ran back to the relative safety of the cart.

In the stables, Harry and Steiner did indeed find a back door, through which they heard frantic voices and "the sound of pumping", a description which provoked a long round of laughter at the table, although I can't think why as we're all sensible adults. Honest. The two meatheads took a round or two to smash down the door and into the mansion's kitchen, by which time the, um, pumpers had returned to put out the fire. Steiner went into a berserk charge, Harry tried to keep up, and the pair burst through into a large room; the two Red Hand Gangers inside then faced the difficult choice of putting out the fire or fighting the two slabs of muscle pounding towards them.

At this point, Steevil -- robbed of easy prey -- made his way downstairs, and buoyed up by his presence, the two thugs chose the latter option, which in hindsight would prove to be their last mistake. Upstairs, Englebert poked his head in through the gap in the roof and got a crossbow bolt in the face from Catspaw for his trouble; this knocked him off the roof and into a handy hay cart in the street below, where he lay unconscious for the rest of the fight.

Back inside, the fight got brutal, with even the big Norseman into critical condition, his arm numbed and his sword dropped... except the eerie elven blade would not allow itself to be dropped, so Steiner remained in the fight. The Red Hand Gang, with their fondness for crossbows and fighting from the shadows, were no match for Steiner and Harry, whose enthusiasm for toe-to-toe fighting came to the fore, and soon enough the Red Hand Gang ceased to exist as a going concern.

As a result of all of that messy business, the Jolly Butchers have taken up residence in the mansion, and have taken control of the Red Hand Gang's assets. Next up is the exploration of the mansion itself and of its gardens, which are reputed to be haunted. When that will happen I'm not sure, as Stuart has a busy calendar over the summer, and Manoj is expecting a baby very soon. It's been great fun playing a bit of WFRP though, and a pleasant change from the heaviness of Pathfiner; the big fight at the end was very smooth and quite quick, for example, even with about twelve combatants. Ben's trying to get me to run something in the same setting, and I have some ideas on that front, but I'm also really enjoying playing.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Return to Orc's Drift

Stuart was home alone over the weekend, so a couple of us went over to his place to play the second scenario in the Orc's Drift campaign. Ric had observed the last few rounds of the first battle and is a veteran Warhammer 40,000 player -- discussion turned to that after the game, and if we can scrape together some armies, we might have a battle, perhaps using the Killzone skirmish rules -- whereas I'd played the orcs last time, and Stuart once again took the role of referee. Ric gave me the choice of armies, and since the first scenario was weighted towards the orcs, I decided to play as the defenders this time, a small group of dwarven gold miners.

You'd be forgiven for not spotting the dwarves in this picture, as there are only about eleven of them, whereas the orcs brought this lot along:

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Eight Jolly Butchers

Englebert the cat burglar has been tasked with restoring his family's control over the Doodkanal district of Marienburg; with him he has brought two slabs of muscle, the Norse berserker Steiner Eriksen and the dwarf Hammerhead Harry, and the smuggler Gisbert Lufthansa. Together, they are the Jolly Butchers!

Last time, the Jolly Butchers were scouring the local graveyard for evidence of some kind of beast that had been bothering the local ratcatchers, and causing them to go on strike until it was dealt with. Although we'd done a bit of grave-robbing and earned some cash as a result, we were no closer to finding this mysterious creature, and so made the decision to put aside the ratcatchers' strike for now and focus on other issues.

We had only just arrived in town and our control over the Doodkanal was still almost non-existent, so there were a number of roaming thugs causing trouble in the area. Furthermore, a bigger and more organised gang -- the Red Hand Gang -- had taken over half of the district, although had not yet allied with the Marienburg thieves' guild, so could technically still be ousted without political repercussions.

We chose to go after the lesser thugs first, and soon ran into a group causing trouble at the fish market. As planned we roughed them up, a task which took much longer than it should due to Harry's inability to hit anything with his not-so-trusty hammer. Only one survivor remained -- covered in the blood and bone fragments of his fellows as a result of WFRP's lethal combat system -- and he was persuaded to join the Jolly Butchers, bringing the number of enforcers up to eight. Harry took the survivor off to get his gang tattoo, while Steiner and Englebert -- Lufthansa had been called to the docks on business matters -- set about displaying the corpses in public as a warning to other opportunistic ruffians.

Next up was the Red Hand Gang. They had taken up residence in an abandoned mansion in the eastern part of the Doodkanal, and were under new leadership, a halfling poisoner called Steevil. That part of the Doodkanal bordered on the Little Moot, a halfling district, so we got in touch with the halfling boss Rudolf Ingo Pickles, who was also the head of the bakers' guild of Marienburg.

We met Pickles in a lovely patisserie called The Crepe Hole where Harry enjoyed some spiced pork pasties -- Harry's human comrades declined to partake, which he put down to some kind of strange human religious practice -- and Englebert set about charming the diminutive crime boss. It seems he was none too fond of Steevil, would be quite happy for us to expel him from the Doodkanal and gave us a bit more information on the poisoner and his gang; there was some talk of owing favours at this point, but Harry was too busy munching away on a pasty to pick up the details, although he did hear something about a back way into the mansion.

The Jolly Butchers were too few and too disorganised to make a frontal assault on a dozen career criminals holed up in a fortified building, so we decided to pick off as much of the gang as we could while they were out and about on their business.

We took over an abandoned building in what the Red Hand optimistically called their turf, spruced it up a bit and opened it as a pawn shop. As expected, a group of Red Hand enforcers wandered by after a couple of days and took notice of the new shop; they entered and intimated to the shopkeeper -- Harry, in an unconvincing disguise -- that he should pay them some protection money. Harry said he didn't understand what they were getting at -- this may or may not have been a ruse -- which angered the thugs, and they grabbed him, which is when the rest of the Jolly Butchers sprang into action.

Englebert had rigged the door to spring shut behind the last of the Red Hand thugs, trapping them in the shop with an angry dwarf, a bored Norse warrior and a bloodthirsty cat burglar. Once again Harry missed with pretty much every strike of his mighty hammer -- despite a Weapon Skill of 51 and two attacks per round -- giving his foes a chance to whittle away at his stockpile of Wounds with little in the way of a retort. By the end of the fight, Harry was battered and bruised, but the Red Hand Gang members were all dead or unconscious, largely at the hands of Englebert and Steiner.

Once again, there was a lone survivor, Wolfgang:

"Tell us what you know about the Red Hand hideout!"

"I don't know anything!"

"Then you're no longer useful to us."

"I might know something!"

The Red Hand often met in a tavern not far from the mansion, called The Sea Hag, so we decided to press our advantage and attack them there before they could withdraw to their fortified headquarters. Harry was too injured to go straight into another fight however, and was forced to rest for a day or two, a delay which may yet prove disastrous for the Butchers.

We went to the tavern and attempted to pick up some gossip from the locals -- this is where Harry did shine in the session; despite not having the Gossip skill, and so defaulting to a modified Fellowship of just 11, he succeeded with each and every attempt he made -- but were unable to learn anything helpful, although they did make the acquaintance of a boat captain who went by the name of "The Captain". As Harry chatted to his new friend The -- being a dwarf, Harry either didn't understand or didn't care about the difference between a name and a title -- Steiner's sixth sense warned him that trouble of some sort was on the way.

The Butchers left the tavern, and detected they were being followed. Suspecting the Red Hand, Steiner and Englebert dropped back to set up an ambush, while Harry provided the bait; a short fight ensued between the Butchers and a pair of suspiciously skilful swordsmen -- we suspect that the GM was cheating a bit here, as he is wont to do on occasion -- which ended with Englebert once more turning on the charm and negotiating a truce. The two flashing blades wandered off into the night, and the Butchers made a quick retreat back to base to plan their next move against the Red Hand Gang.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Fight On! #12 Released in Print and PDF!

Mutants! Androids! Robots! Pure Strain Humans! Fight On! is back, with another 88 pages of gut-wrenching, laser-pulsing, fist-pounding action! Rules variants, tables, adventures large and small, science fiction and fantasy, races, classes, monsters, spells, magic items, NPCs, history, opinion, and lore can be found herein! Featuring art and articles by Mark Allen, Ian Baggley, Lee Barber, Erin "Taichara" Bisson, Daniel Boggs, David Bowman, Simon Bull, David Coleman, Fat Cotton, Michael Curtis, Liz Danforth, Ndege Diamond, Ron Edwards, Kelvin Green, Tim Kask, John Larrey, John Laviolette, Lester, Gabor Lux, Heron Prior, Jeff Rients, Chris Robert, Zak S., Alex Schroeder, Jason Sholtis, Tim "Sniderman" Snider, Jennifer Weigel, and this issue's dedicatee James M. Ward, alongside many others! If want to take your FRP experience to the next level, don't delay - buy this issue and Fight On!

The print version is available here and the PDF is available here.

If you buy by the end of the day TOMORROW (July 15), you can save even more on all of these – lulu is offering a site-wide discount of 20% off everything with the coupon BIG (BIG305AU, BIG305UK for some foreign readers), making this one of the best times to check us out for the first time or check back in if you’ve missed a few issues! While you’re at it, check out some other lulu gaming products – there is a ton of good stuff on there from all kinds of producers.

Thanks for your interest, and whether you pick up an issue or not, keep fighting on!

Table of Contents
Champions of ZED (Daniel Boggs) 3
Fast Company II – Nonhumans (Schroeder & Shieh) 11
It’s All in the Cards (Michael Curtis) 12
The Tomb of Kaman-Doh Rey’d (David Coleman) 17
The Apen (Andrew “The Venomous Pao” Trent) 20
Geologians (Tim “Sniderman” Snider) 22
The Witch Doctor (Scott Moberly) 24
Knights & Knaves (Barber, Green, Rients, & Cal) 25
Grognard’s Grimoire (Erin “Taichara” Bisson) 27
The City State of Dusal Dagodli (Gabor Lux) 28
The Darkness Beneath (Heron Prior & David Bowman) 32
Education of a Magic User (Douglas Cox) 44
Doxy, Urgent Care Cleric (J. Linneman & K. Green) 45
Sir Tendeth (Tim “Sniderman” Snider) 46
Creepies & Crawlies (T. Snider and Jeffrey P. Talanian) 60
Monstrous Ecology (Ron Edwards) 63
Random’s Assortment (Peter Jensen & Random) 64
Curses Gone Wild! (John Laviolette) 65
Artifacts, Adjuncts, & Oddments (Jason Sholtis) 67
Treasure Types (Simon Bull) 68
Dungeon Modules: The Rondo Rooms (Jeff Rients) 69
Pigdivot! (Chris Robert) 72
Where the Action Is (Zak S.) 80
Merlyn’s Mystical Mirror (Gabor Lux & Jo Kreil) 84
Notes from a Master (James M. Ward & Tim Kask) 86

(I should mention that I have some art and a comic in this issue, so this post has a hint of self-promotion to it.)