Tuesday, May 16, 2023

So Lamentations of the Flame Princess had a PDF Sale

 I cannot think of a single PDF item related to gaming that I have ever paid money for. I have a small collection of items I found online that cost me nothing. I think over the years most were from The Trove website (does it still exist?) which I suppose can be considered piracy, matey. But most are very old. And mostly Judges Guild items from back in the day that I actually owned at some point in my youth, but are gone for whatever reason. Wilderlands sourcebook, Modron, etc. 

I always preferred to have a physical book on hand, and mostly still do. But in this day of the iPads, I can read a PDF without sitting at a computer. That's big. 

So, I don't have much experience with LOTFP products. Or James Raggi himself. Early in the OSR I remember seeing him post on his website a flyer he was hanging around his town looking for players. It had the image of a female thief at a treasure chest. I thought I saw it recently, but can't find it. But since at the time I was looking for players around 2008 I contacted him to ask about the flyer and if he had luck with it. He gave a friendly reply, and that was the only interaction I had with him. Lately I considered reaching out to ask about the expat experience, since I was considering getting the hell out of this fucked up country. 

It was not long before he had a business, mired in a certain amount of controversy. "Weird Fantasy" products. Cover images of female adventurers losing limbs to ochre jellies and such. But hey, to me all D&D was weird, so I never really looked into his stuff. A lot of the scuttlebutt was about shit monsters and character penis's getting turned into eels, etc. Stuff that was not exactly the call to adventure for me. But I will admit I always had some curiosity. 

I promised myself to spend no more than 15 bucks. Not because I'm broke. That's like 20 minutes pay for me. But because I did not want to get saddled with a bunch of PDF's I mostly won't use. Again, this was about curiosity, though I hope there are things I can use throughout. I went over a bit, and here is what my 16.50 got me.

Veins of the Earth: I found Deep Carbon to be interesting (though I had to change a lot to make it usable for me. For a Star Wars session no less). So I wanted to check this out. I'll do anything to make the stale old underdark more interesting.
Curse of the Daughterbrides: Sound like a father marrying his daughters. Curiosity killed me on this one. 
Terror in the Streets: sounds like an urban adventure, so what the heck. Hopefully mine it for bits. 
Frostbitten & Mutilated : like other Zak things I got, pure curiosity. 
Fish Fuckers: Sounds like humans raping Deep Ones for a change. Pure curiosity. Maybe useful for Cthulhu games?
No Rest for the Wicked: heard somewhere it sucks. So spent a buck fitty to find out why.
A Red & Pleasant Land: I doubt I will get much use out of a setting about Dracula and Alice in Wonderland, but I just gotta find out what the hype is about. Erik Tenkar calls it Zak's masterpiece. 
World of the Lost: the cover sold me. 
Vornheim: Again, gotta see the hype. 
The God that Crawls: Heard it was good.
Tower of the Stargazer: can always use a wizards tower.
Isle of the Unknown: heard good things. Heard bad things. But maybe has a lot of things to mine. 
Death Frost Doom: The Lichway from White Dwarf is a fave I have used several times over the decades, and I heard this ripped it off. So gotta have a look. 

OK, so there were some I knew well of but just decided not to get. There is Carcosa, which seems more or less a complete setting. I could tell over the years that I could not probably mine much ideas from it. But now that I think of it I should have just got it for a read. I think it is still on sale. 

I may go in and see if there was an item or two I missed and want to add to my new collection. 

I'll say this. I don't mind supporting Raggi. He does not seem like a bad guy. Not long ago on the Tenkar Discord I made fun of his comments about "why bother cleaning the toilet?"and got a chorus of Tenkars apparently high attendance of mentally ill people piping up about picking on those with mental issues. I just thought he might be a slob, not necessarily bonkers. But really, I can respect what he is doing...in gaming, not bathroom hygiene.  


Saturday, May 13, 2023

Clerical Healing is the Best Healing


So the party is heading to a dungeon (taking several sessions to do so), and they leave Shire's End, the last settlement of the southern portion of the kingdom and head into the Grass Wilderlands of the South. 

NPC (non-precious) teen healing god cleric Evador is down in the dumps a bit, having gotten a bit wine tipsy the night before in Montigar Silverglen's tower, and unsuccessfully trying to seduce the almost 300 year old elvish legend. 

Evador grew up a rich girl in Tanmoor (her last name is "Del Tanmoor," and if you have "Tanmoor" in your last name you are from old money), had a year or so at the university studying literature, but discovered the religion of Billick the Healing god and joined the order not long ago. She has chosen to be on the "Blue Heart on the Red Path," which essentially means she is on an adventure quest where she might need to spill blood, maybe her own, to get quick higher status at Billicks great cathedral. Her chosen quest is to investigate the old "Meadowlands Dungeon" south of the kingdom. She is a lovely, tall, but physically awkward (DX 8) 19-year-old (in the last game she missed several attacks in a row on a giant ant).

Evador's troubles are very much compounded while on the road to the mining town near the dungeon area, when a Peryton attacks from the blue. It hits her hard, and she is down for the count and immediately going into Death Save mode. 

The party wins the day and destroys the beast, but Evador is badly hurt. She is one failed save away from death, but Ruvan the young sorcerer from the Riverlands, happens to have healing. I decide Evador is still going to be out for a while, but she is at least saved. 

My first little Roll20 campaign about 3 years ago involved T's elvish bard Xanthia, and she remembered the 20-something Billick cleric "Afina of Mercy" who was encountered on her own Red Path to the same mining town near the dungeon to set up a mini-temple to Billick. So, they haul her into the town and to the small temple that is now a wood building among a lot of tent cabins. 

Afina is encountered locking the building and heading out to dinner. When not clericing in the little temple, she likes to dress in the height of current upper class young person Tanmoor fashion (Billick seems to attract young city girls of wealth to the religion), even though the city is almost 200 miles away. 

Blue is the color of healing in my world

Afina has been successful in the few months since she last saw Xanthia the Bard. Though there is a small tent cabin temple of the fighter god "Diamonnis", the cleric there will only heal those injured in conflict, so Afina has seen a lot of donations from injured mine workers and town maintenance people. Her Red Path has been completed. She is officially high priestess of her own recognized temple (though she is only like 5th level).

So Afina inspects Evadors terrible claw/impact wounds. And there is the focus of this post. 

I don't know where it came from, but on the spot I got hit by a bolt from the blue. In my decades of running games, I never differentiated between styles of healing. Healing was healing. But for some reason I improvised some dialogue from the somewhat serious young cleric Afina. 

"These wounds. Who healed them (Ruvan the sorcerer had healed Evador for 9 points)? Certainly not a cleric much less a Billick cleric. So jagged and sloppy." She eyed Ruvan...

"Was this you?" Afina said. "Are you a sorcerer? 

"What of it?" replied the young caster.

"Well, I suppose you saved her life. We can be grateful for that. But she could be left with terrible scarring. But she still needs more healing, and I think with the blessing of merciful Billick I can help the scars be a minimum."

That was it. Out of the blue after a lifetime of the game I decided that there is different types of healing skill. Billick is one of the first gods I created for the setting as a kid, and over the years I often let Billick clerics have anywhere from a +1 to +1-4 to their heals. But now it is part of my world that you can tell by the leftover wounds and scars if somebody focused on heals did the deed. A sorcerer's heal would be just about saving the life. But a Billick cleric, or most clerics, would be about overall healing which would include a reduction of scarring. 

A very minor thing to be sure, but it's kind of fascinating to me that a DM can just add and alter his world with a whim based on a certain situation long after the world is established. Instant creativity that is unique to rpg's. Man, I love winging it. Even if it's for my own fun.

And at the same time I decided that a cleric of a war god won't heal a non-combat violence wound. 

Of course, clerics of different deities having different affects is nothing new. But for my setting I will be keeping an eye on clerics to seek out little ways to add flavor to them. To differentiate them with the Rule of Cool.  


Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Overdoing the DM NPC


I had first heard of the term a DM NPC in some forum or another around 11 or 12 years ago. A DM NPC was one of the campaigns NPC's, but usually had a more negative connotation. Not just meek shopkeeps and street sweepers/walkers. But the terms "precious" and "favored" NPC's were thrown about. 

There seemed to be a real thing about this. Many folk clearly had a bad experience with DM's about NPC usage. And I guess I can see that. I remember about 12 years ago going to a Star Wars Saga session at this guys dad's apartment, me and 3 or 4 other full grown adults sitting on the floor playing in the guys Saga game (I only went because I was to run the system and wanted to experience it). I don't remember a lot other than the black dude in his 20's running a game while me and a handful of others in our 40's sitting there on the floor smoking pot. But one thing I remember is his main NPC, a well painted jedi miniature, being all over the little model buildings set up on the floor, doing almost everything while the rest of us kind of just waited our turns. But this kid loved his NPC clearly, and just wanted his favored guy doing most of the work while we watched. An extreme case to be sure. 

I also remember back in the day in my early teens going to the local Jewish community center in Santa Monica a friend invited me to because there was an older (probably around 30) guy running D&D for anybody who wanted to play. The main thing I remember was towards the end our characters were in trouble and were going to get killed by a local gang or something. And older DM dude having our characters having heard of this NPC, clearly his own character from some other campaign, and seeking his help. I remember the NPC confidently walking down the street with us, casting haste on himself and twirling a pair of swords around as we walked. I think that NPC mostly took care of the final fight. 

So yeah, I get it. Both of those are probably extreme examples, but if anybody was in the hobby long enough they probably had similar experiences. But how guilty am I? I suppose its subjective. 

From early on in my DMing my "precious" NPC's would be present. And more often than not they started as my early characters, and I incorporated them in my fledgling game world because, well, I wanted NPC's to be around other than shopkeeps and wenches. So here are two examples of my earliest D&D characters/NPC's (started in the latter 70's).

Arcturus Grimm - A ranger. He was probably among my first couple of characters ever created. I think from the original Greyhawk supplement where ranger was introduced (or maybe an issue of Dragon). There was no 1st ed Players Handbook yet.  He was exceptional and though we used 3d6 in order, I rolled nothing lower than 14, and the stats included 3 of them 16 or higher. As I was practically a kid I probably didn't realize how rare that would be. I made him a ranger, a strong 6'5" man (maybe based on one of my older brothers who was that big, and an all city athlete in school). His name was taken from a couple of my fave comic book characters. He was raised by bears in the northern Darkwold Forest. I had Arcturus Grimm be the elvish words for "Archer Bear." He was raised in the deep woods, and was fairly naive. 

When I soon started my own world, and began rarely sitting down as a player, I just injected Arcturus into the new setting (mostly just a tavern and a dungeon.). Over those early years Arcturus was there as the world grew. I expanded his background as being the adopted son of The Woodking Armis, the leader of an ancient order or rangers in the Darkwold known as The Woodlords, which I also added to the world. An early teenage sweetheart playing the game eventually would have a character marry Arcturus (making things awkward setting-wise when we broke up). But as characters, players, and campaigns came and went over the years through the 80's and into the 90's, Arcturus was here and there.

 Not hogging glory or fighting the fights for characters, but he would be around. Cameos as PC's adventured or playing a bigger role as wars and other major world events went down. At one point in my early 20's a girlfriend ran a daughter of Arcturus. New ranger characters might have heard of the Woodlords, and maybe aspired to join at higher levels. And Arcturus would be there. I have him pop up rarely to this day, still mortal but somebody of very high level who dallied with gods and other major spiritual beings. His adopted sister, Sheenara (or Sheen) rose to a minor woods deity status. Over 120 years of game time has gone by in my games, but Arcturus is actually 3rd elf so is not all decrepit yet, but far more mature than the young man I started him as when I was very young. Of all my characters/NPC's I probably had the closest affinity for Arcturus. I lived his ups and downs in the game world along with him.  

Over the decades I used various miniatures for him. Ones older gamers like me would recognize. 

One of the few minis I still have since the early 80's. Of any mini I used for Arcturus, this one looked the least like him. I suppose it is relative from a distance, but this does not convey the sense of a 6'5" dude. Just a basic ranger figure. Like most of my minis I got it at Aero Hobbies where I played a lot (but not as Arcturus) in my early teens. Owner Gary Switzer offered to paint it, and despite my descriptions proceeded to paint him how he wanted. I already did not like that the mini had a mustache, at a time Arcturus was clean shaven. And he gave him light hair instead of dark brown. But what the hell, it was a mini.  Early on as a character Arcturus had a Pseudo Dragon familiar (we levelled up fast when we were kids), so he used epoxy to put it on his shoulder, which was a nice touch. 

But more recently for brief cameos in Roll20 games I used this image:

Also his sister Sheen has made and appearance or two in the matters of druids:

These appearances are more for me than anything else. A brief touch of nostalgia. In most cases the players have no idea of the greater history I have with them. But I have had children of his (he left many of them throughout the lands after the Woodlords disbanded) appear in more recent games, specifically the twins Frend and Frenda, who are rangers encountered working for local caravans and what not. They appeared in the last couple of campaigns but nobody knew their parentage. So another insider bit for myself. 

Montigar Silverglen - he was an elvish fighter/thief I did up to play maybe a year or so after I created Arcturus. He was a high elf raised among wood elves and was an adventurous spirit who dallied with player characters here and there. He fought primary with two swords, and yeah when he became an NPC in my world I pumped him up a bit. 

Through the 80's and 90's he popped up here and there, usually meeting new characters in new campaigns. Every time he was encountered he was into something else. He was a dualist, a privateer, a Bon Vivante, a highwayman,a monster hunter, and a hero of two kingdoms, human and elf. I somehow ran him very charismatically; no less than 3 women in my games over the years had characters romantically involved with him. A romantic triangle between him and two other player characters (neither of them were girlfriends of mine, though "T" who I often mention is still one of my players) ended in death for one of them (his former girlfriend character, a fighter, killed a mind-controlled character of T's thief (the players were actually roommates then) who was his current girlfriend. Rather than restrain her, the fighter killed her. It was wild. No ending of friendship with the players, but this was a memorable moment that just became another part of his storied history bards would eventually sing of (which actually happened in recent games. Keep reading).  

One interesting aspect of Monitigar is his father was Whirligar, a high elf illusionist who was looked upon as a deity by gnome illusionists. Just one of those weird facts you come up with as a kid. 

I had a teenage sweetheart who ran a wood elf thief named Noradama. She identified with this character the same way I did with Arcturus. She and Montigar hooked up and were a famous power couple in the mostly city games I tended to run in my later teens and early 20's. This was the first time (but not the last) I would experience personal relationship role-playing, and my GF and I spent late nights acting out these characters as if they were in an inn room. Sometimes it can be extra good being the DM. I imagine other people must have experienced this. 

Much later, after the 90's, I had Montigar be a bit of a tragic figure when he appeared, someone who had bards across the lands sing of his many adventures and misadventures. Triumphs and failures. But I thought of him as somebody who was tired of the death and violence and doomed romances. He was a lone soul who never lost a fight but always lost in love. 

The first of many times I used the old Apple Lane setting for D&D in the early 2000's, I had characters encounter him living out the song Margaritaville there, working for the weapon trainers and drinking day and night, pestered by various would-be legend killers coming to make a name by taking his life.  

As a kid I got my hands on some Ralph Bakshi LOTR minis, including Legolas. I would eventually use the Legolas mini for Montigar, adding two longswords to the mini. Though Legolas was fairly effeminate looking in the film, the mini was a bit more butch.

Yep, after many decades I still had this fucker, though with an arm missing. One of my first ever paint jobs, and it shows. But really, now much better was Gary's paint job for the Arcturus mini.

Prior to the most recent games I think characters in a couple of campaigns the last two decades ran into him living the more or less quiet life. Probably several years since the last. But recently he appeared in my current Roll20 thing. 

The characters were on their way to the dungeon just beyond the southern border of the kingdom (taking several games to do so), and when they came to Shire's End, a remote village at the southern frontier of the Halfing Shire, I was brainstorming encounters there. Three families control the place, mining families who have concerns in the mining town a couple hours south near the dungeon out in the Grass Wilderlands. As the place had not much in the way of kingdom security (army outposts), the place had its own force of volunteer halfling frontiersmen, but also I decided this would be Montigars latest hang out place, being a Regulator for the families in return for a nice tower to live in and a modest stipend.

 The characters show up to the area and are chased by a hill giant but make it into the walled village. There they eventually meet Montigar, who is happy to see other than mining material and lumber merchants and invites them up for a party in his well-appointed tower in the merchant family inner compound. Here is the image I used for later in life Montigar, with scars and all.
Montigar spent a lot of the time manning his
minibar. "One for you, one for me, one for you..."

There is an issue with a hill giant, wandered up from the grasslands, menacing folk and stealing sheep. Long and short of it Montigar will deal with it, though he does not want to kill it because he is tired of killing things in his long life. The next day the characters go out to help him (he says maybe with their help he can subdue it over killing it), and it turns out there is a female one as well that was hidden in the copses of trees. With help from the characters Montigar got the giants to submit, and he offered the big dummies the opportunity to stick around to help protect the area and be helpful to the inhabitants in return for regular offerings of sheep, pigs, and bags of potatoes. Montigar asked the characters to stick around for another night of partying. 

I added the minibar to this map!

Despite my hopes that the wood elf bard Xanthia of "T" and the wood elf ranger Myrnigan of "L" would hook up at some point, given his history I thought it would be just right for Montigar to get the Xanthia hookup. I mean, she is super-hot. Tall, built like a female volleyball player, platinum locks, and a high charisma bard. Who would not want to experience that?

Or maybe I just have a thing for a cartoons

Ultimately, she wasn't having it. That is until Montigar asked her to do a duet of a famous old love ballad from their hometown of New Denaria. Luckily there was something nice in elvish in the jukebox to play and set the mood.

It won her over, though there was no nookie for ol' Montigar. Not yet, but it was on her mind. We'll see if that hookup comes down the road. The dungeon is only two or three hours away, so...

BTW, Evador the young cleric was taken with him, and snuck up later the last night to be with him. Xanthia the bard actually followed her up to the den to see what happened, and was glad to see Montigar nicely turned the Tanmoorian teen down, said she was too drunk and so was he, and sent her back to bed. Xanthia seeing that put her in the "I like Montigar" camp even more. 

So yeah, that DM NPC appearance was fairly self-indulgent. But what the heck, "T" enjoyed seeing an NPC from the past she knew of, and B and L thought he was cool. "Like a character from a fantasy romance novel" one said. 

But this is a rare case. I'm coming up with NPC's for games all the time, some regular, some more interesting. But jeez, I've had this game world a long time. It's nice to drag out old NPC's that have been around since my youth out of mothballs now and again. Not all of them are still alive. But why not use them?

Above: any Dragonsfoot Grognard who 
might read this post


Tuesday, May 2, 2023

"Relics of The Dungeon Age"

Note: I'm not going to do session reports on the current ongoing dungeon jobber, though some of this post will seem kind of like its going that direction. As if. But I do want to get into what its about a bit, more or less, to point out some thoughts and ideas in relation to such a campaign. It seems every campaign these days has me getting the privilege of touching upon beloved old school notions, while also exploring new things with the latest edition. Yes, I do believe these things can live together.


One of my "things" as a DM of old school persuasion who is doing a dungeon-as- tentpole campaign is to delay the actual dungeon crawling for several games (at least). There are a lot of reasons for that. Sometimes it's to let the characters settle into the campaign, and maybe go up a level or two. An extreme example would be my Night Below campaign for the old ongoing group back in my home city of Los Angeles almost 10 years ago. It was maybe a 30-session campaign of almost a year, with the characters, when all was said and done, were in the neighborhood of 8th or 9th level (traditionally high levels in my post-teenage years). And the first three or four of those were just bumping around the surface towns and villages getting to the point of being strong enough to go into the Night Below (which I believe counts as a dungeon as much as the old Descent into the Depths was). 

So, a little Roll20 campaign with a handful of my besties. A journey to one of the last remnants of the time of dungeons, or the Dungeon Age as I like to call a time period now mostly past (in my setting and in D&D in general). And I love the title "Relics of The Dungeon Age" because I can kind of see it having multiple meanings. The dungeon itself a relic of a time past. Old relics you actually find in the dungeon. And perhaps the players themselves, wanting to delve into a dungeon, are themselves relics of that age in an analogical sense. 

As a nice change from dealing with often oddball strangers of the Roll20 forums, this is an intimate little campaign with my very closest friends. 

 Best friends. Almost family. There is no more comfortable gaming than with people you have known for a long time, or feel close to for whatever reason. Not "D&D" people, but just some people who sometimes play D&D. That was always my sweet spot, especially in the 90's. Private groups filled with people you already know who want to play. 

So yeah, several games of just travelling south to get to the dungeon. So the deal with the delay is: B &L are new to Roll20, so I thought a series of basic overland and town encounters would kill some time till they were up and running with it. But I also wanted them to be a little higher in level than 1st when they entered the dungeon for reals. Why? I mean, a classic dungeon is just made for, you know, 1st level dudes on the first level. 2nd level on the 2nd level. Rinse and repeat. 

But c'mon. Does it have to be that ginned up for fairness in leveling. Was it ever? Back in the day in the Caves of Chaos you would) fight kobolds and goblins at 1st level?  2) orcs and gnolls at 2nd? 3) ogre and Medusa at 3rd-4th?

OK, CoC really isn't a levelled thing classically. But you know what I mean. 

Naw. I mean, when trying to go full classic every few years with a self-designed magical dungeon, it was fun to go "ok, rats and kobolds on 1st level, the orcish clan on the 2nd, a 3rd level with minor undead, blah blah blah." That is fine for the oldest of old school. But with this edition I think I can stray from the formula. You know, what they consider classic dungeoneering gold on old grognard sites such as Dragonsfoot.


So these guys would eventually enter the dungeon, probably through the entrance that goes to the 1st level, and they shall be around 3rd level when they do. 

So we started the campaign in a rural hillside town in the human shire south of the kingdom proper. Overtown in the shire of Overton. 

A location I have used for decades. I love rustic shires as a break from city games or deep wilderness slogs. Out in nature but still in civilization. 

And just to the south the halfling shire of Bundtland. But Overtown was the furthest south human dominated town. The last before things get all hobbity. With B's young sorcerer Ruvan, and L's wood elf ranger Myrnigan (a gal running a male character...grrrr) a team was forming. 

Ruvan the sorcerer. 

Myrnigan the wood elf

Ruvan is from the sparsely populated Riverlands just east of the shire, and Myringan from the nearby Blackwood Forest; a far cry from the metropolitan wood elf community/city of New Denaria a few days east of the city Tanmoor. These are areas I wanted to develop for a long time. My setting has been built in large part from character backgrounds and birthplaces, and these are two new towns/villages I can put on the map. 

T was not present for the first session. I wanted to do a little work on getting B and L up and running with characters with the nifty Charactermancer, and some character set up. They were knew to Roll20.

With an eventual party of 3, I need a 4th. So in comes the DM NPC, Evador, who is a young cleric of the healing god Billick. She is "a Blue Heart on the Red Path," a cleric of Billick who wished to be an active field cleric for the faith. So she chooses a dangerous mission of a personal nature to complete as sort of a thesis to impress the leadership at the Billick cathedral. She hooks up with Ruvan and Myrnigan during a barfight at the tavern they get swept up in. Evador explains her mission, to go and enter one of the worlds last true mythic dungeons. She asks them to accompany her. 

I have fun with this NPC. She is a former rich party girl from the city, who had a year or two of college then discovered the religion of the healing god Billick. Despite her rich kid rearing, she is taking the religion seriously, but I also have her dealing with physical stats that are not optimal for fighting monsters. I portray her as a tall girl who is a little awkward physically (in the most recent encounter she missed with her mace five times in a row). 

T's (wood elf) character Xanthia, playing tunes as a bard at the tavern, would be there to meet the other characters in the second game. Evador was seeking her out, because Xanthia had been to the dungeon before.


..and looked fabulous doing it.

Yeah, my very first little Roll20 campaign where T first ran Xanthia about 3 years ago was to this very dungeon. They got to the second level, and got to mess with its magical pool room, a staple of my mythic dungeons going back to In Search of The Unknown. I thought it would be fun for her to go to The Meadowlands Dungeon again as the sort of mentor about it to the other characters. In the first game she was still 3rd level while the others were 1st. It was a fun dynamic. Both T and I played with the notion of her coming off as the seasoned vet and Defacto leader. 

Off they went, heading south into the halfling shire of Bundtland. I already posted about their encounter with the halfling witch Emerelda, and their starring in a dating game show at her festival.

Fun in the chill halfling shire. Xanthia knew Governess Cymbaline Garlandheels from the previous campaign and ran into her and her entourage at the festival. This time there was to be a party at the estate. After helping out with some giant spider problems in the area, they boogied down (more or less) with local personages and interesting locals. A halfling high society deep dive. Good contacts. And a good way to gain a quick 5 lbs. 

I'd had Cymbaline as the governess of the shire forever. Tall and more slender, I always referred to her as a "Manling," a rare half hobbit half human mix. Be when all is said and done probably just a "Tallfellow."

So the party was swell. Xanthia playing tunes with the band. Myrnigan dancing with the young halfling gals with a crush on him. 

It was cool, but there would be more parties before the dungeon was delved. 

Next: Overdoing it with a DM NPC


Sunday, April 16, 2023

Getting that dungeon crawl going


Around the time I posted last, I started a new job in healthcare. Previously my later-in-life health care career transition from a couple of decades of entertainment business management back in LA included a major regional hospital during the height of the pandemic, but the most recent gig is for a healthcare insurance plan company, and it includes some new perks. More money than I ever made since leaving my home city, and the biggest change of all was working from my home office most of the week. 

But despite this being a somewhat demanding position, I have managed to do a lot of gaming. OK, most of that gaming is video games on the weekend. I play Elder Scrolls Online a lot less, as it started to feel too unchallenging. I will pop in for an hour or two with my old pal T, who is still enchanted by the game and plays a lot of it. But I need variety in my games. I still have a Mad Max game and GTA 5 I dabble in on XBOX, plus I recently downloaded an old favorite side scroller, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild remains a favorite, and I also like to play a little Cuphead here and there on Nintendo Switch in handheld mode while taking a little break in the workday. Man, what a hard game!

My Roll20? Well, I have mentioned my besties "B&L" (currently on the other side of the country helping L's mom run her bar...I will see them in fall and Winter when they come back to town for a while) and also my Los Angeles homegirl "T" who has played in my games on and off since the early 90's. The three of them make up my current little group, playing every couple of weeks. A classic dungeon crawl campaign. 

This is for sure giving me experience in online dungeon creation. I do have a couple of purchased modular dungeon packs from Roll20 (about 5 bucks a pack). I built the first few levels of a dungeon for me very first little Roll20 campaign that went for about 15 sessions. So pretty much reusing that same dungeon, but will be always tweaking. I built the first 4 levels back then, though the party only got to level 2 back then (just like the current things I had about 7 or 8 session working towards the delve...little adventures on the road).  

As it's not exactly a huge labyrinth, I hope for us to more or less get to level 5 at some point, maybe by late summer? But historically I have always ended up getting fed up with a crawl and found a way for the characters to do other things. So it may not make it that far. 

But this little dungeon has a bit of history in my setting, going back decades. So I think I will talk it up a little more next post. 


Sunday, January 8, 2023

Big Fun with Dynamic Lighting in Roll20


I had been doing stuff on Roll20 for a couple of years now, but only now getting around to using dynamic lighting. I have always had an advanced account (that you need to us DL), but that was mostly so my players would not be pestered by ads. 

In my last campaign I refrained from experimenting with it because I was running for mostly masters of the platform, and I did not want to take time to learn as I went with them. I just used Fog of War, which I found functional enough, and pretty nifty. But now that that campaign is done, for the foreseeable future I am going to be doing a campaign with friends I already had. This is a great time to experiment, as the games will be much easier going. I can fuck around without alienating "experts."

The gang is more or less noobish, and when I announced that we would be trying DL out, they were jazzed. We got down to it, and when the time came to go in a cave I did the set up.

I was starting small, just a three or so room complex. As DM your first move is to have the cave walls outlined so vision does not pass through them. You hit all the right buttons in page set up to prepare. 

Then when the characters enter you must go into each characters setting and do up how and what they can see. For those with night vision you enter the distance, along with how much of that distance starts to dim after a certain point. Then you do up torch or lantern users (or light spells) depending on those items capabilities. I like to give firelight a nice yellow glow. 

this is all me looking from a player's POV, but
I also get to see outlines of the complex

This small-scale experiment was good, as I need to work up to the larger dungeon the campaign is heading for. Everybody loved it, but I guess my goal should be for it to eventually become old hat. Second nature. But it really adds a cool element you would be hard pressed to get on a face-to-face tabletop (without thousands of dollars of equipment).

More experiments to come. But so far so good. 


Saturday, December 31, 2022

A GM's interpretation of Grateful Dead's Terrapin Station

People find their fantasy world gaming inspiration in lots of places. Obvious choices (fantasy movies and books) of course. 

Some can be odd. Some years ago I remember some inhabitant of the Dragonfoot forums in a discussion about a warehouse hallway fight in the Daredevil TV show excitedly going on about how that scene was "so D&D." Yeah, most dungeons have hallways. But I could not see how a superhero punching thugs in a hallway was a big D&D inspiration. But what the heck. I remember as a teen visiting my oldest brother, a sort of biker tough guy type,  in his big house in the mountains and on a lark running a D&D session for him and his wife. They had zero expeirence. It did not last more than a couple hours. Big bro had a fighter in the city who was not long in the tavern before starting fights. He ended up killing a summoned city guardsman and ended up in jail. It was all good laughs. Later we were listening to the Desperado album by The Eagles, and he was like "hey, this is like a game!"

Sure, the album told a story. A western themed one for sure. But the only resemblance to D&D was his character getting in trouble with the law in the session. 

But I should not judge. For many years I got a lot of Inspiration from a Grateful Dead album.

In the 90's I was mostly into hip hop and rap. But I went out with a girl from Ren Faire a few months. Heidi was only around 20, but she loved The Grateful Dead, a band that was not on my radar. But on long trips she would jam out to them, and I sort of got into it. I remember going with her and a gal pal of hers to a concert in Oakland, CA. The highlight was them saying we would all take shrooms, but after I took a dose they decided they did not want to so we could drive there. I was flying while they goofed on me. 

My favorite song they did was from Terrapin Station. 

A great concept story album about a kind of mystical train station full of characters, it would eventually tickle my fancy for gaming inspiration. It's not just about characters interacting, but it's equally (or more so) about the teller of the story. The "DM" if you will. 

Here's my breakdown in game terms:

The Lady with a Fan. She has
a challenge for you, good sir...

Let my inspiration flow in token rhyme, suggesting rhythm,
That will not forsake you, till my tale is told and done.
While the firelight's aglow, strange shadows from the flames will grow,
Till things we've never seen will seem familiar.

Characters in front of a fire, or a fireplace. Clearly, they have travelled, and are in unfamiliar surroundings. Kind of adventurous, right?
Shadows of a sailor, forming winds both foul and fair all swarm.
Down in Carlisle, he loved a lady many years ago.
Here beside him stands a man, a soldier from the looks of him,
Who came through many fights, but lost at love.

Tells you a bit about the characters backgrounds. In old school style, its brief. They will be more defined by their experiences than their past. The sailor once loved a woman. It's important, because its mentioned. The soldier also has had his romantic entanglements, but clearly, they did not work out well. One sympathizes. 
While the story teller speaks, a door within the fire creaks;
Suddenly flies open, and a girl is standing there.
Eyes alight, with glowing hair, all that fancy paints as fair,
She takes her fan and throws it, in the lion's den.

GM introduces an NPC. Or is it a monster? A spirit? Or just a magic user. I mean, she comes out of the fire. She's hot, and she wants to give herself to a man. She is among men, and her tossing the fan to them is an invitation. 
Which of you to gain me, tell, will risk uncertain pains of hell?
I will not forgive you if you will not take the chance.
The sailor gave at least a try, the soldier being much too wise,
Strategy was his strength, and not disaster.

The soldier is wary of women. Of love? He is a badass, but has been hurt on an emotional level. He is not into the test. The sailor, maybe remembering that love of the past, wants to gain it again. Whatever the test is, he passes it. I like to think its a D&D style puzzle. 
The sailor, coming out again, the lady fairly leapt at him.
That's how it stands today. You decide if he was wise.
The story teller makes no choice. Soon you will not hear his voice.
His job is to shed light, and not to master.

Sailor gets the enthusiastic lady. Happy ending? You make the call. The story teller makes no choice. he's running the game, man. He must be impartial. Is the game coming to an end though?
Since the end is never told, we pay the teller off in gold,
In hopes he will return, but he cannot be bought or sold.

This story has no end. It's D&D. it goes on an on. Even if the campaign ends, unless somebody dies you never get to the end of their tale. And this DM cannot be bribed with Beer or Doritos. 
Inspiration, move me brightly. Light the song with sense and color;
Hold away despair, more than this I will not ask.
Faced with mysteries dark and vast, statements just seem vain at last.
Some rise, some fall, some climb, to get to Terrapin.
Counting stars by candlelight, all are dim but one is bright;
The spiral light of Venus, rising first and shining best,
On, from the northwest corner, of a brand new crescent moon,
While crickets and cicadas sing, a rare and different tune,
Terrapin Station.

And there's some good metaphysical stuff for yah. 
Like I said, inspiration comes from different places. Don't judge, and maybe one day I will tell you about how a Michael Jackson song greatly influenced a few games of mine in the 90's. 
YMMV. Happy New Year!