Monday, May 14, 2018

Barrowmaze #38: At the Mercy of the Yellow King, and Escape

TL;DR  The viking ship king teleported the party to another part of the dungeon from which they escaped.  What will they do next?  Finally assault the Pit of Chaos?  Attempt to plunder the ship of the Yellow King?  Explore some random barrows?
...
The yellow king spoke of his origin;  "Once I lived in the Devoured Land,  a distant, unfathomed place. They say the cleft peaks are the uneaten half left torn when the first Cannibal God bit the world. Things there are as things were in the day before all days, when all that is now knew a common tongue and a young, smoother moon hung pearl-like in a black bed gestating the unborn stars. The ice is clearer, the wind sharper, every sound echoes, and all time unravels with a clear and open order.  The shadow falls across the rock, and the rock despises that. The oldest witch is here, the proudest stag, the most vicious wolf, the fattest hog and most lustful goat, the most avid crow, the most resentful of rats.  There are trees that grew in first rain, and horses that have never known a rider, stones cut by the hand of the first women and recut by thousands after, there are fortresses buried since the first battle. It’s said time started and will end in this place."*
"Why are you here?" asked the trembling intruders.

"I was exiled by the Black Amazons of the Frozen North.  I was sent forth on my ship long before the founding of the kingdoms of men.  Now I rest here with the plunder of my lifetime.  But of late I rest no more, awakened by the persistent pulse of Chaos."

"What should we do?" asked the grizzled tomb robbers.

"I will send you forth."  

With that the small group was instantly transported to a place of stone, in fact a dungeon chamber with a treasure chest flanked by gargoyles.  The warriors approached the chest and were suddenly covered in green slime expelled from the static statues.  A suit of platemail and a magical hauberk of chain were destroyed before the slime could be burned away.  Moments later another walking dead approached but was summarily dispatched.  The chest itself was wizardly locked, but the torchbearer was happy to carry the heavy load.  

Low on spells, vigor and courage, the group searched for an exit to the foul place.  Finally they discovered a goatman cowering in a side chamber.  He spoke of blackmail against his Lord Malbleat in the Western Dolmenwood.  He also intimated the close proximity of the Pit of Chaos.  In exchange for a dram of wine and a bit of food the goatman, Billy, offered friendship and lead the group to an exit from the Maze, stopping along the way to swiftly Web a floating ball of eyeballs to the wall.  
Relieved and weary, the Company of the Raven collapsed in their beds, happy to have survived another foray, but concerned the light of the Fount of Law continues to dim.
*Words courtesy of Frostbitten and Mutilated by Zak S.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Barrowmaze #37: Death Ship of the Yellow King

As we began this session I was reminded that we had decided to play out the adventures of the lost party members.  I think the best way to describe this one is from the DM's perspective.
Grack the half-orc warrior had fallen into a magical pit along with a Blood Pudding.  They were teleported to another location in the dungeon.  Investigating, Erik the Red dangled a torch from a rope into the pit.  He and the rope all faded away. 

Discounting minor time discrepancies, Grack fought a round against the Pudding, stumbling into a corridor, his stone hammer ineffective against the pursuing blob.  Then Erik dropped out of the ceiling.  He attacked the thing with a magic sword while Grack ran away.  Erik followed and the bolted through a door and slammed it behind them.  They were in a large pillared chamber that had been previously explored, though not necessarily by these characters, and certainly the previous game year, so they did not recognize the place.  But they did choose the southwest door (although I wasn't giving them coordinates).  This decision more or less put them on a direct route to the original entrance in Room 1! 

The pair scraped around, looking and doors and resisting the urge to peek into side doors (except for one incident with a spring loaded crossbow) until they came to an intersection full of graffiti and markings.  Slowly it dawned on them.  They were near the entrance.  Scuttling west, the two warriors considered backtracking with their map and trying to find their friends.  Instead they climbed the rope and fell in with a party of tomb robbers heading home for the day from a day poking about the Barrow Mounds.

Just like this but without the windows.
Meanwhile, back in the dungeon... The remaining Company were facing a tomb full of Ravenous Dead.  Clonin the Cleric of Light held the zombies at bay with his holiness and the group retreated, using a Web spell to hold the door shut.  Further explorations revealed a massive tomb at the end of the hall.  After a desperate battle on two fronts against the Ravenous and a trio of Ghouls who slew a dwarven torchbearer, the group was able to investigate the grand tomb.

Within the vaulted many pillared chamber rested nothing less than a viking longship of blackened timber and tattered sail, it's deck piled high with mounds of glittering gold and silver.  As the Company clambered aboard the treasure ship they saw the Captain, a still silent form slouched in a lordly chair on the sternward deck of the vessel.


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Barrowmaze #36: Of Pits, Perils and Blood Pudding

TL;DR Still thrashing around in the Haunted Tombs of Barrowmaze, searching for the Pit of Chaos and missing friends.

Our 36th session saw the adventuring pick up at the edge of a mysterious pit revealed when the reformed orcish band Grak fell through a trap door while battling a bloody slime creature and disappeared.  A dropped torch winked out before falling far.  A torch lowered on a rope faded out of present existence, along with the rope and the warrior Erik as well!  Now to two brave warriors were  missing.  Careful inspection of the perimeter of the pit revealed runes of transposition and dimensional doors.
The pair had fallen through some sort of teleport trap!
"Perhaps they are yet alive and nearby," speculated the zealot Aliontus. "But where?"
So the surviving band explored, first through hidden doors to the east, down elder halls until they came to a room of statues and chicken guano.
Spooked, the retreated, exploring west now, avoiding 10 holes in the floor, gathering gold from burial alcoves until discovered by Coffer Corpses, hungry dead who defied the lightning bolt of the Wizard Resper to nearly choke the life out of cleric and wizard.
Shaken, but desperate to find their friends and close the Pit of Chaos, the tomb raiders were stymied by a northern door, then chased south by a (returned?) Blood Pudding.  A Hold Portal spell covered the retreat.  Treasures were found, bronzed skulls and a golden bust of Nergal the Death God.  And a secret door concealing stairs down to the west.
Descending the stair, Danger Dan was very careful, measuring each step and studying the stonework of the floor.  And so he did not fall into the pit at the foot of the stairs and instead poured boiling oil on the Ravenous Dead below until the corridor was thick with smoke and the evil hunger quenched.
Beyond, octagonal crypts were explored, a sea-faring tomb depicting long boats rowed by horn helmed warriors, the frescos were of an ancient barbaric style.
Another crypt opened beneath the grinning deaths head visage of Nergal.  A richly preserved cloak tempted Dan within, but 7 Ravenous Corpses rose from their deathless slumber, eager to consume the living!
Image result for blood pudding

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Play Report: Operation Unfathomable

I ran Operation Unfathomable and it fell a bit flat.

The other night our regular DM was out of town so we had some friends over to play my homebrew game instead of type VI D&D.  I decided to run Operation Unfathomable.  I backed the kickstarter and have the preview pdf (I actually went in for the combo OU and Odious Uplands which I think is going to take awhile).  I did an hour or so of prep, making bullet points of some of the early descriptions, printing out the intro, the map and Oothu the henchman's stats.  Giving them the list of items to choose.  It all started well.  Having the illustrations to show was great.  But the play itself devolved into a routine of, "Well, we just go forward again."  They ignored side-passages, slew the Mind Bats, and encountered a segmented giant who confiscated the Battle Axe of Spell Cleaving.   Finally they spoke to a Null Priest about the party being held for the Worm Sultan.
I certainly didn't have the whole thing in my head as well as I would have liked and working from a PDF didn't help, but I think there was also a bit a situation where the gonzo-ness was layered on so thick the players weren't sure how to react.  I meant to run a dungeon crawl, but it ended up feeling a bit like the Tomb of Annihilation jungle crawl we've been playing, where it's hard to feel like you are making a meaningful decision because each one leads you so far astray.
I can see Operation Unfathomable working as a really fun romp with the right group of people, it has amazing potential, but I think I would have done better in this case to offer a more traditional style dungeon like Barrowmaze or some such.
I wonder what other peoples' experiences have been like with Operation Unfathomable.  Has anyone else besides the creator DM'd it yet?

Friday, March 30, 2018

Barrowmaze #33-35: Doom of a Death Knight, to Rescue a Barmaid, and the Search for the Pit of Chaos

Nearly lost in the mists of time, a bleary-eyed hobbit recounts the Raven Company's recent weeks of adventure.

#33:  Doom of a Death Knight
A second foray into the flooded tunnel beneath the mysterious black pool behind the bronze door of Nergal in the northern edge of the Barrowmounds saw the wet and bedraggled group exploring the crypts and burial alcoves of the Deserted Dormitory.
The light of the Fount of Law seemed to be dimmed somewhat, but focused more than ever, it's light turning always to the north and east, so they explored that direction, ransacking the bones and treasures as they went.
They were haunted by the echo of booted footsteps.  Whispers of the dead told of the Death Knight Dhekeon the Betrayer searched the halls to return the Fount of Law to it's hidden place.  After some hide and seek the company engaged the Death Knight and his skeletal minions in battle.  In desperation they fled through the chamber of the Water Weird, hoping to turn the two upon each other.  It worked!  Combined with an inspiring potion of heroism, Dhekeon the Betrayer was defeated!

#34: Rescue the Barmaid!
Back in the village of Helix, there was much activity.  Word had gone far and wide that the dead were walking beyond the mounds, leaving treasures unguarded within.  The Duke's son and marshall at arms were organizing the construction of a wooden palisade around the village.  Loggers struggled to pull felled trees from the fringes of the Dolmenwood.
The barmaid Merde had in recent weeks confessed to her involvement in the Cult of Orcus, due to the secret machinations of the false priest Gamdar.  Gamdar had some sort of hold over her soul and compelled her to travel to a glade within the Dolmenwood each month to participate in a ritual of bloodletting.  The Company resolved to accompany her on her journey.  There they laid in ambush, assaulting the Acolyte of Orcus and his goatheaded minions, rescuing the barmaid and taking Gamdar prisoner.
Gamdar told tales of the Acolytes of Orcus searching the Barrowmaze for the lost spark of Nergal, challenging the competing interests of the Necromancers of Set, who he suspected of having their own secret entrance into the maze.
Further, it was rumored that a great and powerful evil lurked in the eastern reaches of the maze, far beyond what had so far been explored.  An evil said to guard the Tablets of Chaos, the hidden word of Nergal Himself.


#35: Search for the Pit of Chaos
Returning to the dungeon, driven by the fading light of the Fount of Law, the Company chose to enter via the mound of the Forgotten King.  Below they encountered a Necromancer of Set with his retinue, who spoke of the power of his superiors but warily backed away from conflict. 
Surging north, the Company edged around a few previously discovered pits, battled blood thirsty spiders and carnivorous flies, and discovered a secret door into a long hall going north.  Torchlight revealed a red blob quivering and smelling of a butcher shop.  Grack ran forward to attack and fell into a bottomless pit... or is it?

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Barrowmaze #32: In Search of the Pit of Chaos

Deep in the warrens of the Barrowmaze the pure light of the Fount of Law flickered in the hands of Clonin the Just.  He looked closely and beheld the voice of Sir Guy de O’Veargne: "The righeous might of Ygg fades as the betrayer himself has roused himself and now stalks these halls again.  Sir Dekeon sleeps no more!  Quickly!  The Fount must do its duty soon!  While there is still time!"  The light of the white orb focused somewhat in a northerly direction.  

The Company of the Raven paid last respects to their fallen dwarf companion and began exploring a northerly hall.  Tapping at the floor revealed another hidden trap door, now easily avoided.  In a chamber of burial alcoves a secret passage was discovered, leading to a soot covered room guarded by the living dead who literally burned with hatred for the living.  In the desperate battle that followed another dwarven henchman met his end, as nearly did the elf cleric Helga.  

Further investigation lead to the discovery of a damp chamber, featuring at ancient subterranean pool.  Evidence of desperate battle was strewn about, twisted bodies law dead and unmoving, with no visible marks of violence.  Sneaking forward to loot the bodies attracted the attention of the guardian of the pool, a weird serpent formed out of the living water of the pool, writing and swaying, jealously keeping for itself any revenues provided by foolhardy heroes. 

Through careful machinations and judicious bravery a magic sword, shield and armor were retrieved and the group bolted beyond, leaving the weird of water empty handed.  

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Conversion of Red & Pleasant Land's "Alice" for Type VI D&D

Play an entirely accidental adventurer who makes their way through the weirdness of dungeons with nothing but exasperation and unshakeable self-belief.

I made this a while back and found recently found it again.  It's entirely derivative of work by others like David Brawley and of course based on the super inspiring (though in my experience underused) Red & Pleasant Land book of vampires in wonderland by Zak Smith.
Anyways, here's my tweak on it.

The Alice (or Allardyce):  
A Carrollian Character Class of Wit and Whimsy

Hit Die: d6
Saves: Dex, Cha
Weapon: Simple weapons
Armor: None
Skills: Pick any three
Tools: All gaming sets and musical instruments.
Language: Common and one other

Equipment:
  • One simple weapon
  • Three trinkets
  • A game set or instrument
  • A purse

Level 1 - Exasperation (d4)
Level 2 - Class Feature
Level 4 - Ability Score Bonus, OR Class Feature
Level 5 - Exasperation (d6)
Level 6 - Class Feature
Level 8 - Ability Score Bonus, OR Class Feature
Level 9 - Exasperation (d8)
Level 10 - Class Feature (roll twice)
Level 12 - Ability Score Bonus, OR Class Feature
Level 13 - Exasperation (d12)
Level 14 - Class Feature
Level 16 - Ability Score Bonus, OR Class Feature
Level 17 - Doubly Exasperated
Level 18 - Class Feature
Level 19 - Ability Score Bonus, OR Class Feature
Level 20 - Class Feature (roll twice)

Exasperation: Once per real-time hour, Alice may become exasperated with the situation and roll a d4 against the chart (in the RPL book) for the result.  The die type increases at 5th, 9th, and 13th level.

Doubly Exasperated: Once per session, you may roll twice on the Exasperation table and choose which result you'd like.

Class Feature:
Roll 1d100.   Most class feature can only be chosen once.  If one is rolled, select the next.  The Exception is the “Red Knight” ability.
At 10th and 20th level, roll twice and gain both features.

1-5 Alice was then reminded of something she’d noticed before...
Gain proficiency in one Save you are not proficient in.
6-7 “I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.”
Gain the Keen Mind feat
8-9 “Speak English!” said the Eglet. ”I don’t know the meaning of half those words and what’s more I don’t think you do either!”
Gain the Linguist feat
10-11  Falling down wells really improves the hand-eye coordination:
Gain the Athlete Feat
12-13 Again she heard a little pattering of footsteps in the distance.
Gain the Alert feat
14-15 Alice was not a bit hurt, and jumped up in a moment.
Gain the Dungeon Delver feat
16-17 Soon her eye fell on a very small glass box
Gain the Observant feat
18-19 “That was a narrow escape!” said Alice
Gain the Mobile feat
20 “Well, now that we have seen each other," said the unicorn, "if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you.”
Gain the Lucky feat
21-25 She noticed the Red Knight always feinted to his left— she was a very perceptive girl.
Gain 1 use of Inspiration after each use of Exasperation.
26-30 Alice liked pies, although sometimes people did not want her to have them.
Alice can cast Goodberry once per day.  The goodberries look like tiny pies.  
30-35 She closed her eyes and said the words just as she’d been taught...
Gain the Magic Initiate feat, only acquired once.
36-39 Oh, I do so apologize...
Once per foe, you may use a bonus action to "accidentally" trip.  This check is made at advantage.  Only acquired once.
40 Her sister had mentioned they were dreadful people...
Gain the Favored Enemy feature, but it applies to one organization instead of a type of creature.
41-42 All that hiding in the dumbwaiter has finally paid off.
The Alice knows a secret.  Once per session, she may make an Intelligence check (DC 15) to replicate the effects of a Legend Lore spell.  
43-44 It seemed nearly everything was dangerous if handled improperly.
Gain the Tavern Brawler feat.
45-46 It was very shiny and stuck out like a soup spoon...
On a successful mêlée hit, the Alice may use a bonus action to make a Sleight of Hand check to grab an item (other than the target’s weapon) off a target. This won’t work twice on anyone above zombie-intelligence who sees it.  
46-50 She was not such a mouse as she used to be.
+1 Dexterity to racial max, excess goes to Strength or Constitution.
51-52 Alice then did something quite astonishing...
Alice may add her Charisma bonus to her Armor Class.
53 The blue one certainly did make the Alice taller, of that Alice was certain...
Become proficient in the poisoner and herbalist kits.
54 She could be very charming when she needed to be.  
Gain the Actor feat.  Social rolls against nobility are made at advantage.  
55-60 “I do hope it will make me become large again!”
Alice may Use all Magic Devices.
61-62 “It really was curious,” she thought— “How many times could this kind of thing happen?”
The Alice may escape death or another equally awful fate exactly once. The Alice must spend at least a round playing possum to build tension but...surprise, the Alice jumped out of the way just in time!
63 She knew to curtsey at times like this, and so she did.
Gain the Uncanny Dodge Ability
64-67 It was so lovely, and— according to the book— it was right there.
Whatever the thing that the Alice always wanted is, it’s there. 4 sessions worth of adventure away or less. (there are some more rules, just read the RPL book)
68-71 She had not known her mother’s cousin very well, and decided that it was a bad thing that she had died...
The Alice has been willed 5,000 gp in assets: art, libraries, lands, or other eldritch strangeness.
72-73 They kept talking as though Alice was a rhododendron in a pot.
Gain the Skulker feat.
74 She knew from school what the word meant, but did not know if it was rude or not.
Alice may attempt to speak to any creature with a successful Intelligence 10 roll.
75 Alice quite liked drawing, and had an impressive box of crayons at home.
Become proficient in the forgery kit and painter's tools.
76-78 She thought it might be a saltcellar, or at least that seemed like a good word.
The Alice can accurately appraise treasure to a nontrivial and nonboring degree:
The value of nonmagical things can be estimated flawlessly.  With a successful Arcana check, Alice knows if a magical item has something off about it.
79 She did seem to offend people (and animals) wherever she went.
Gain proficiency with any one weapon.
82-85 They all listened attentively as Alice told her tale.
+1 Charisma to racial max, excess goes to Wisdom or Intelligence.
86-88 They began to throw stones, and Alice began to avoid them.
Gain Evasion  Only acquired once.
89-93 She began to feel somewhat neglected.
If the Alice is attacked in a round that she spends doing nothing but dodging and her attacker misses, the attacker will not only miss but fumble and lose his or her next turn (if s/he or it has multiple attacks, s/he will lose a number of attacks equal to the Alice’s level). This only works once per foe on anything of better than zombie intelligence that sees it happen.
94 She tried to remember what she knew about stoats.
Become proficient in Handle Animal checks. And may Speak with Animals
95-00 Alice had seen so many unusual things lately, it had become usual.

Immune to Fear, Insanity and Confusion effects.