Monday, December 3, 2018

Session #47-48: Doom of the Dire Boar & Return to Harrowmoor

TL:DR: Dire Boar defeated, Ent encountered, healed of disease, communed with a strange lake creature beneath the crumbling Harrowmoor Castle.  And Lady Chantrelle seems to have taken young Jacque to the Hall of Sleep.

Image result for faerie forest dolmenwoodThe earth shaking might of the Mother of All Boar was no match for the accumulated power of the Barrowmaze veterans.  As She approached bristles scraping the high ceiling of the cavern, the cleric Clonin retrieved an illuminated scroll from his haversack and intoned the syllables of power inscribed upon it.  Instantly, the paper turned to ash, then swirled around the massive beast which seemed to shrink as it charged squealing ever more high pitched as it's stature was reduced to that of it children.  A rough battle ensued between the party and the three pony sized pigs.  Clonin knocked his head against the cavern wall and lost consciousness before the last perilous porcine protagonist was butchered.
After gathering treasure and surviving a further attack from a returning singular of boars, the group began their journey back to Harrowmoor, clutching the cure for Erik's debilitating disease, the Cave Lily.  Travel was cross country and confusing in the dark tangle of the Dolmenwood.  They got lost and spent a cold night in conversation with a friendly tree called Rootbound who told them of the Elven Princes who once ruled the wood but are now more rare, and of the sinister Cold Prince, who was banished.  The old tree was particularly unhappy with the recent ruttings of goatmen amongst his roots. 
It took three days to find once again the high cliffs of the Groaning Loch, and it cost a gold coin or so to convince the loan fisherman they spied to ferry them to the castle.
Image result for luminescent waterReturning to the somber confines of Harrowmoor, the company first visited Dr. Prunesqualor, who obligingly brewed a medicinal poultice while intimating dark suggestions that the Lady Harrowmoor had been corrupted by dark forces and was no longer an adequate protector of her daughter Violet.  "Perhaps she needs to be removed from office," he murmured. 
The evening meal with the family of the manor began uneventfully, notable for the absence of the young lad Jacque and the mysterious Lady Chantrelle.  Presently, Resper and the learned men began to tell their tales, which fascinated the otherwise bored and tedious Lady of the manor.  Tales and wine flowed and suddenly it was the witching hour, with Violet long since sent to bed.  The strange lady bid they follow her lead, and, escorted by her clowder of cats, descended by a stair behind a bookcase in the study down down to a lake side cove for below the ramparts.
"Here is the source of my family's wisdom," she purred.
The moonlight caressed the waters of the cove and Erik felt compelled to sing a strange song that came to his mind unbidden, with words he did not understand.  The lake water began to shine with a luminescent light and nebulous shape rose to the surface, more light and presence than true physicality, yet the minds of the visitors to Harrowmoor were overwhelmed, wallowing in total sensory overload. 
They came to as the false dawn emerged and stumbled up the stair heavy of foot but enlightened by visions of cosmic import, a feeling that the brooding, skeletal claws of evil in the Barrowmaze was gathering strength again, opposed not by the Church (insular as it is) but by the wild chaos that was the Nag Lord.  Their conflict will bring ruin to those caught in between.
A night in seance with the "Forroth" was a taxing affair.  Though they planned to hurry after Jacque and Lady Chantrelle, who they assumed had absconded to the Hall of Sleep, but found that Sleep came heavy to themselves, sleeping a straight 48 hours once their heads hit the pillow.


Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Perplexed Questionnaire

OSR Guide For The Perplexed Questionnaire 
I realize I've been interacting with and playing OSR style D&D for a long time but have rarely contributed directly to that community.  Here goes.

  1. One article or blog entry that exemplifies the best of the Old School Renaissance for me: I'm going to go with "What I mean when I say dungeon crawl". There are so many, but this one represents a great mix of geekery and intellectualism that I really enjoy about the OSR. Too bad the image links are all broken now.
  2. My favorite piece of OSR wisdom/advice/snark: Roll the dice in the open. Let the dice fall where they may (as long as its on the table. Floor rolls are always considered cocked). It saves you from yourself.
  3. Best OSR module/supplement: The most used module has been Barrowmaze. A solid 2+ year campaign.
  4. My favorite house rule (by someone else): Hazard System from Necropraxis. This has changed the way I run my game, especially dungeons, and now feels core to type of game I prefer to run, though I have renamed it the "Doom Die". Essentially, random encounters, time passing, depletion of resources, and dungeon dressing are folded into a simple d6 die roll. It works great for side initiative rolls as well.
  5. How I found out about the OSR: It's hard to remember exactly, so I looked back at the first few blogposts I made in 2010. I had watched the great edition wars rage across the forums, was kinda bummed when Dungeon magazine disappeared, observed the Pathfinder schism, was disheartened when Necromancer games decided they couldn't follow along, but I was a Type IV convert. I had grown tired of the fiddly, amorphous nature of 3rd, so I went all in. I was still playing and DMing 4th edition D&D (I even ran a 1-13 level campaign of it using the War of the Burning Sky modules by ENworld), but I was burnt out on how slow the combat went, and how players became so focused on their character sheets. And the type IV art direction was painfully uninspiring.
    I remember following a lot of ENworld forum chatter about streamlining/speeding up the game. Somewhere in there I found the AD&D3 pdf, a faithful reconstruction of the old AD&D players handbook down to the font, layout and art, but with streamlined 3e-ish rules. I never actually played it, but I think this was the first OSR game I ever picked up. Then I started reading Dndwithpornstars and followed that to lots of other blogs.
    The final flowering for me was Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. I had always dug the style of the DCC modules during the 3e era, and even ran one or two of their 4e mods, so when they announced this new game I dove deep into the beta rules, started running it and making up houserules on my own. I was happy enough, when 5th edition D&D was announced I wasn't that interested. In time I got tired of DCC spell charts, and my current group formed around playing the latest edition, but at this point I don't think I'll retake the reins of DMing typeV when the opportunity arises. I'll offer to run a simpler game instead.
  6. My favorite OSR online resource/toy: I use the Last Gasp generators a lot. I have a whole list of them in my bookmarks.
  7. Best place to talk to other OSR gamers: Google Plus is/was great. Reddit /osr and /rpg is ok I guess.
  8. Other places I might be found hanging out talking games: Where ever it all ends up.
  9. My awesome, pithy OSR take nobody appreciates enough: The DCCrpg dice chain was a great innovation that hasn't been expanded upon much. Variable attack bonus and mighty deeds for fighters is epic.
  10. My favorite non-OSR RPG: Back when, I loved to play Cyberpunk2020. A couple years back I had a great mini-campaign of FFG Star Wars.
  11. Why I like OSR stuff: It's an autonomous zone. It is intellectual and artistic creativity purely for it's own sake. And I've always been obsessed with D&D and at this point I like playing some version that I can basically do off the top of my head.
  12. Two other cool OSR things you should know about that I haven’t named yet: I really like the new Knave rules, and I'm gonna start using them with my students. I really dig the B/X Essentials line and Dolmenwood from Necrotic Gnome. I don't play the game straight, but I love the organization and style of the B/X E. Really dig the weirdness of the dark fairy forest Dolmenwood setting.
  13. If I could read but one other RPG blog but my own it would be: The classics: D&DwithPornStars completing the Monster Manual redraw/hack, a revived Grognardia, a regular Jeff's GameBlog, revived Middenmurk... oh just one?
  14. A game thing I made that I like quite a lot is: The heartbreaker homerules I've been running the last couple years. I even printed up some zine-style booklets. It's a kludge of all my fave OSR houserules. DCC + S&W + LOTFP etc. I've got two versions at this point, Uncommon (dungeons), and Uncommon Basic (which is maybe too basic, but is the one I've been tinkering with most recently).
  15. I'm currently running/playing: DMing a weekly game of my own Uncommon Dungeons (first in Barrowmaze, now in Dolmenwood); playing in a Type V D&D "Tomb of Annihilation" campaign.
  16. I don't care whether you use ascending or descending AC because: My only real connection to descending AC is the pop-punk song my friends recorded years ago that features the line, "My heart was protected by a low armor class". Otherwise, ascending AC is easier. I also don't like Saving Throw charts.
  17. The OSRest picture I could post on short notice: 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Session #46: In the Valley of Beasts


Image result for hot springs island dire boar
A morning row across the misty loch brought the Conquerors of the Pit of Chaos to the forests beyond Harrowmoor.  They searched for a cure, for one of their number was cursed with a wasting sickness and the physician of Harrowmoor Castle swore the essential medicine was to be found within the inverted cave mushroom called the Flower of the Dark.
Setting off into the depths of the Dolmenwood, the group wandered north until they came upon a bog.  Turning south, they descended into the Vale of Wise Beasts.  Here they encountered a pair of friendly hares who spoke to kindly words and invited the visitors into their warren where a vegetarian feast was offered and rude shelter provided.  There were no cave mushrooms in this warren but the hares wondered if perhaps what they sought was in the Den of the Dire Boar (a fearsome beast), and offered the show the way.  The hares were friendly for they sensed that these pious men might challenge the shadow of the Nag Lord on these wooded lands.
The following day found the explorers of the Barrowmaze delving into a decidedly natural cavern, though obviously trafficked by very large beasts.  Bristles the size of small sticks littered the entrance along with bits of shattered metal.  A pike was found thrust haphazardly into the high ceiling of the tunnel.  An axe made of obsidian discovered in the muck.  Echoing through the caverns a deep throated grunting was heard.
Then disaster struck, a warrior clad in heavy metal plates was suddenly drawn and stuck fast to a dark boulder even as a pair of wild young pigs burst forth, demanding in their squealing ways for justification of this intrusion, a foolish pride, for was it not obvious that all hunters meet their doom at the tusks of the Mother Pig?
The party pleaded for peace, insisting they searched only for truffles, not violence.  Unconvinced, the
pair of piglets trotted off toward the growling grunts gaining volume in the northern reaches of the cavern.
Wary adventurers fingered the hafts of their weapons with perspiring palms....

Indeed, a little Hot Springs Island in the Dolmenwood.  Two great tastes...




Thursday, September 13, 2018

Sessions 44 & 45: The Chaos Crypts of St Clewd & the Mysteries of Harrowmoor Keep

The Heroes of Barrowmaze got out of those crypts quick.  They returned to the prayer room to find the summoned wall of iron gone and the great para-dimensional worm nowhere to be seen.  But something had stirred the denizens of Clewd's crypt; not the seemingly living and conscientious Wardens of Clewd, but a shambling horde of zombified monks, seemingly starved for flesh.  The warriors thought of their responsibilities above ground and retreated from the fray, hustling back into the tunnel whence they came and to the surface.  None followed.
The rescued children were brought back to the town of Prigwort with much fanfare, despite their best efforts.  The youngest child, Bilbry, was warmly welcomed by his relieved family.  Many toasts were given and songs were sung in the Wrinkled Medlar Inn.
Image result for bruegel

The following day was blustery with rain, but the troupe left early with a horse and cart borrowed by the Heggid brothers (Mathias & Martin) from their old man.  Young Violet Harrowmoor rode in the cart with her dark companion, the boy Jacque, a surly boy who never smiled.  They arrived at he gatehouse in late afternoon, amidst a steady down poor.
The gatekeeper was named Steerpike, a surly type, but quick to raise the portcullis once he recognized the young heiress, who was brought refreshment and warm by the fire in the great hall.  Greetings from the relieved mother, Lady Harrowmoor, were strange and stilted, but that may have been the normal manner.  It was hard to tell.  The Lady was surrounded by cats, who followed her everywhere.  They cats seemed happy to see the little girl Violet.
Lady Harrowmoor rewarded the group with a large jeweled pendant, a lavish heirloom, and bade them stay the night as honored guests.  She wished to speak to them in her study on the morrow.
Upon request, Dangerous Dan was introduced to the castle apothecary, Dr. Prunesqualor, who informed the ailing warrior that the blight from which he suffered could only be cured with a tincture created with the juice of a inverted redcap, found growing in the ceilings of caves in the Valley of Wise beasts north of the Groaning Loch.  The doctor pointed across the tree tops from his tower window. "But beware.  The Court of the Naglord is not far beyond the Valley, and his beasts are vengeful of any slight."
Each of the rescuers of Violet were presented with their own room for the night, complete with fireplace and writing desk.  Dan looked out from his opened window across the courtyard.  The clouds had broken up and an early rising full moon shed its first silvery rays over the walls.  Turning, the warrior beheld a movement in the painting above his bed.  There was a large painting of a naked woman chained in a red room.  In her illustrative state she was yet gesturing, beseeching aid.  
After some deliberation, Dan discovered he could pass through and into the plane of the artwork, and he did so, making the acquaintance of the singular woman called False Chantrelle.  She begged to be set free, saying the she had been double crossed in the galleries beyond and only wanted to leave this strange treasure house behind.
Dan freed the woman, peeked into the patterned blue light of the room beyond, spying a blue skinned woman, and promptly turned and jumped back through the painting after Chantrelle, whom he then convinced to stay the night.
Image result for dolmenwood animalsLady Harrowmoor was bemused by her newly arrived houseguest, asserting that her uncle had loved the painting but that she had hardly paid it any mind.  The Lady was more interested in discussing the possible family tree of young Jacque, demonstrating his uncanny likeness to the last Lord of Ayarai, Jourdain, who disappeared along with his castle fifty years before.  She was certain that young master Jacque was actually the heir to his manse, a nearby place now known as the Hall of Sleep.
The group gathered supplies for a journey to the Valley of Wise Beasts.

Whew! Dolmenwood is very inspiring but a hassle to run.  There's a weird amount of detail and difficult to reference.  The hexes are tough to quickly grok.  I'm looking forward to getting the group back into a dungeon, but I think they are going to poke around in the forest first.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Knaves in the Moathouse

Image result for knave rpg"What's a gambeson?"
Tonight I ran my wife and a buddy through the Moathouse using the new Knave rules, written by Ben Milton of Questing Beast.  They both were eaten by the giant lizard.  She got to dramatically rip her char sheet in two.
Fun session.
They both got into rolling up their traits before even stats and the inventory game was crucial.  As they found loot they kept dropping gear and debating if it would be useful later.
I also provided three random spells.  Increase Gravity was used very cleverly to collapse the damaged roof of the main hall on top of bandits.
No automatic alt text available.The other houserules I used were a death and dismemberment table and a hazard die roll for initiative and encounters.  Worked great.
This was the first time the lil lady has had a character die in 5 years of gaming.  She fully enjoyed it.  I liked how fast and loose it was, especially compared to the slog of battles in our type V game (6th level in Tomb of Annihilation).
I'd like to use these Knave rules when I finally introduce rpgs to my after school club of 6th graders and I think I'll incorporate elements into my Uncommon rules.  I've been toying with a semi-level-less spell system...

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Session #43: Into the Crypts of St. Clewd

TL:DR Exploration of the Abbot's quarters reveals a staircase to the crypts below.  The mighty thews of Grak the Orc grind open a stone door to reveal a hidden sanctum of worship, full of ancient living worshippers, sonic fluctuations, a dimensional wormholes in the armoire, and a mysterious tale.
An uncomfortable but eventless night was spent dreaming of goats, ghosts and impotent rage.  Clonin found himself sitting on a cloven skull with gold teeth.  All woke early, eager for daylight.

Image result for dark dungeon stairsOvergrown with moss, fungus and creeping vines, the old abode of the abbot was hardly more than an enclosed set of crumbling walls, though a sodden bookshelf told of a once erudite establishment.  The scrolls and tomes were long since victims of time and weather, but some fortuitous poking around revealed the tell tale sign of a hidden passage to the veterans of the barrow campaign.

Leaving above the sons of Heggid and the three rescued children (one named Violet, no doubt the scion of Harrowmoor), the intrepid adventurers descended in single file, the light of Erik's glowing sword dimly leading the way through a narrow winding passage in the rough direction of the Chapel.  Stepping over an underground stream that crossed the corridor, they turned and found themselves at a stone-filled arch with a bronze lever.  The lever cracked the door, but there was something heavy behind and it took all the strength of Grak and Danforth the Dangerous to shove it inward.  Passing within, it seemed that a large armoire had been shifted out of the way.

The room was furnished with pews, lamp light, frescoes and shrines but the sound in this place bent, reverberated and amplified in an unholy manner, sounding nothing so much like the opening notes to a drug filled nightmare.

Image result for space worm
The mind bending cacophony reduced all but Clonin to agonized writhing so that only he was alert enough to recognize and hail the group of clerics who then entered the chamber, demanding explanations for their presence even as the sounds returned to normal.  "Whence came ye to these protected crypts of St. Clewd and how do you ye bring with ye the chaotic happenings of the eastern halls?"

Even as the party attempted to get explanations of their own for these archaic monks, the weak reality in this place sunder once again, this time the armoire doors burst open to reveal a swirling dimensional portal forthwith flew a gargantuan pink and yellow worm, all eyes and mouth.  The clerics fled in terror.  Aliontus pulled out a Scroll of Wall of Iron, quickly spoke the eldritch syllables and a gate of solid metal crashed down, sealing off half the room, and the exit as well.

In the fracas, a further concealed corridor was discovered in a fresco of heaven's gate.  A short stair lead to a hidden library, where a single half blind scholar, related a story of ancient tragedy to the wondering party, now trapped in these crypts.

"Long ago, St. Clewd returned to us, but corrupted by chaos, which came with him.  The eastern crypts, where the chaotic effects of the dimensional cataract are still prevalent.   In the western crypts, wherein the Order of Wardens dwell to this day,  guarding the sealed tomb of St Clewd, who remains demented and warped. The monks have survived underground for three and a half centuries, renewed by the waters of resurrection, searching the archives for a ritual to resolve the chaotic energies..."

Dolmenwood and the Crypts of St Clewd are found in the Wormskin zine.





Session #42: Drinking in Prigwort and a visit to the Abbey of St. Clewd

TL:DR Via Prigswort, the travelers in Dolmenwood begin to explore the ruined Abbey of St. Clewd, encountering a necromantic gloam of blackbirds in a belfry.
Dolmenwood and the Crypts of St Clewd are found in the Wormskin zine.

The Company of the Font passed a pleasant evening in the refuge of St. Keye.  Keye was an innocuous saint of chroniclers and scholars, but the monks of this spartan place had made a point to study Keye's "Chronicles of the Brewmasters" and now produced a high quality, subtle flavored farmhouse ale.  The nightly meal was hearty, though accompanied by the liturgical reads from the Book of St. Keye.  

The Company were not the only patrons at the refuge.  There were woodsmen, travelers, and a beer merchant.  Tales were told of the outlandish breweries in the nearby town of Prigswort, of the curiously resident nature of hauntings in Dolmenwood, compared to the wandering dead of the Duchy of Aerik and the Barrowmoors, and most interestingly, the reward offered by the noble lady of Harrowmoor Keep for the safe return of her missing daughter, Violet.  


Nestled in a series of clearings in the deep woods, the Company of the Font came to the the town of Prigwort at the crossing of four of the largest roads which traverse Dolmenwood. Harne the Hermit told that Prigwort was the largest settlement within the wood, renowned for its breweries and distilleries, the like of which a common man has not encountered for which the rich and decadent pay much to sip. The wooden cottages and high-gabled inns — all decorated with colourful, heraldic imagery and elaborate wood carving — welcomed the thirsty travelers in. At the Oaf and Oast, the Company drank deep of the Lord Oberon's Ambrosial and caroused the night away, making fast friendships with the sons of Heggid the Brewmaster, who promised to leave their prosaic lives behind and bear torches to the ruined Abbey of St Clewd. Father Heggid was decidedly ambivalent about this development.
Image result for dolmenwood
The following day dawned bright in the clearings of Prigwort and the Company dragged their aching heads out of the last soft bed the would experience for some days. A long dusty tramp along the Swinney Road with the Sons of Heggid (Harne the Hermit having stayed behind clutching a cask of saison) brought the party to the foot of a rocky hill, where the road split: a well-used track ran around the base of the hill to join Fort Road; and an overgrown path wound up, via a series of paved avenues and stairways, to the summit of the hill. "Up there," said the Sons, "is the Abbey of St Clewd the Righteous, but we have never been."

The way passed through the toppled frame of the old gate and into the former central courtyard of the monastic complex.  Most of the buildings were reduced to rubble, now so overgrown as to pass almost unnoticed. The main chapel, though heavily damaged, remained largely intact, as did a smaller stone building and a crumbling bell tower, which seemed to be the nesting place of a flock of black birds. The whole place had an eerily silent look and the hair stood up on the nape of every travelers' neck.
Image result for overgrown ruin graveyard ireland

The explorers first decided to visit the ruined bell tower to get the lay of the land. Entering the dank and mildewed lower chamber they discovered a narrow stair above and three dirty faces staring from a small doorway below. The three face were that of little children, aged no more than a half-dozen summers who told a strange tale of their lives collecting bones and eating worms with their good friend Mr. Rag-n-Bones, who lived in the Belfry. Leaving the Sons of Heggid below with the children, the heroes ascended the stairs, which betrayed them, sending Grack tumbling down, broken but unbowed. Above there was a chamber full of strange ornaments made of small bones lashed together in the likeness of small manlike figurines. They made a diorama across the floor of an invading force descending upon a collection of small boney homes. Calling out to Mr. Rag-n-Bones, the searchers found no answer and so settled down to wait.
Image result for dolmenwood
As dusk settled over the ruined hilltop, there was a bustling and squawking of birds which rushed into the room and coalesced into an unnerving figure of man made of beaks, claws and feathers. "Who are you who tarry so long in my chambers?"

The conversation that ensued was tense, meandering and strange. The gloaming creature claimed to have great knowledge of the wood but revealed little, claiming the small children as its friends and asserting its right to collect the bones of the dead supplicants of Clewd. Finally, its patience wore thin and it attempted to drive the interlopers from its home, but was surprised by the power of their arms and convictions, and soon a scattering of black birds was sent in retreat.