Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Lampreys the Nightmare Continues

Some more about the sea lampreys that infect Lake Michigan and make life near the lakeshore in Chicago a dangerous proposition for all concerned.  Know your lamprey.

This type is especially dangerous to small water craft, children and pets.  Artist: Uknown

Thankfully they only get this big in the deep waters of the lake or tidal areas near the museums.  Artist: Patsy McDowell

This is an accurate depiction of a 17th century lamprey as depicted in the historical novel "Lamentations of the Flame Princess."  Artist: Ian Maclean

OK that's all for lampreys today, let's be careful out there and remember that the only good lamprey is a dead lamprey. Part of why we became the U.S.A. is because they used to eat them in England and that is revolting.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Into the Odd Twice, Labyrinth Lord Generates Worst Vacation Ever

Many have been the games played in the last couple of months; at least, many by my standards. My Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign at Games Plus in Mount Prospect, IL, restarted, only to be placed immediately back into hiatus for the holidays.  I finished with the customized D&D 4th Edition game held at Chicagoland Games in Chicago, IL.  The D&D 5th Edition game, customized for Clark Ashton Smith's world of Hyperborea, is still going strong.  I enjoy the setting and the system, and I get to play with my wife and good friends while drinking beer or cocktails. Like all of my In Real Life games, it is rated M for Mature.

To look at this requires Maturity.

It is over Google Hangouts where my gaming has increased a great deal. I've gotten very comfortable with the format; I will always prefer to meet in person for a game, but when that's impossible, Hangouts is the way to go. I prefer it when the GM uses a tool of some kind (such as Roll20 or Paint) to show graphics, handouts, or maps but it no longer detracts from my enjoyment overmuch if those tools aren't used.

I'm playing in two long-running campaigns over over the wire: Fantasy Flight's Star Wars and classic, Game Designer's Workshop Traveller. I've also had the chance to play a great DCC module, Prince Charming: Reanimator and for the first time played a (very enjoyable) session of Labyrinth Lord.

I loved that we started the LL game "on vacation", which I don't think has ever been a start for an adventure I've been in. One of the characters had to pound around in the bucolic summer heat wearing plate armor as we investigated clues, explored a tomb, and sought information, leading to his oft-muttered "Worst Vacation Ever!"

I've been excited about Into the Odd for a while now, and finally had the chance to try it out with a couple of great GMs.  In the first case there were three players total and we ran through a dungeon-type scenario pulled from the game designer's blog. We had characters whipped up in a jiffy and they soon developed their own unique personalities, helped along by the weirdness of the environment, a shared near-death experience early in the adventure, and our general sense of paranoia and impending doom.  We ran through the whole dungeon in the time we had allotted and I was able to go through the process of "leveling up" with four quick rolls.

An interesting and diverse assortment of arcana.

The second game of Into the Odd was of a more free-form nature, and I will borrow generously from the report of our GM, Noah Stevens:

We were hired by Mr. Smythewick-on-Smythe, Comptroller of the Adventurers' and Post-persons' guild, to deliver 1 pound of fine green tea - likely magical.  "Viridian Tea of the Jade Brewmancers".  In addition, we have distributed amongst ourselves 100 chocolate bonbons, meant for consumption by Serpent Men (AND ONLY by Serpent Men! as we have since learned).
Both are to be delivered whilst Arcturus hangs in the Southern sky above Bastion, if we are to be paid.

Before leaving we purchased a purple Crocatoo from Mr. Oubilette, at his Fantastic Fowl Emporium.  Also released Odiet Thindo from gravest indenture via bayonet to Mr. Oubilette's abdomen.  Maybe.

A brief moment of air travel by Daemon Zeppelin, and the party docked at the Aerodrome of Bastion, on the Sky Level.  We landed, poisoned the customs agent (accidentally!) and dodged the tax-man.  After nearly getting pick-pocketed, we pressed into service a Deep One hybrid urchin boy named Bertie (possibly the son of a watchman).

Hugo's airship: How Does It Work

We hired Hugo the Aero-captain, and contributed to his untimely death by Crabbird, after destroying a lovely and aggressive mated pair with rocket and blade.

Between the Crabbird attack and the unwanted attention of the Guard, now approaching via airship and firing at us, we temporarily lost one member of the party. As well as permanently losing the previously mentioned Hugo the Aero-captain.

An arcanum, the Dust Mephit Engine, was recovered (still unknown exactly what it does, but it was the engine for Hugo's dirigible.  Odiet damaged the rune-markings in removal from the tiller).

We broke into a private dwelling on a rim-side balcony, and entered into the temple district to avoid the Guard and their Auto-Arquebuses.  Hid in and dealt with the temple of Doubloonus, and the High Priest, for several days but declined his offer of theological and economical intercessions.
Then we got all henna'ed up with currency symbols and dressed in robes (even the parrot) so as to stand out less, and struck out to find the Serpent Men and deliver our packages.

We entered into the Aviary of the Contemptuous Saint, where everything is a bit too tidy and neat.  A nameless Faepog came sidling by with Mr. Fiddler's (probably cursed) fiddle. Nobody came sidling by with my expended rocket, however.  
That's where we left off, until the next time...

One more thing--I played Metamorphosis Alpha today for the first time since I was in junior high school! It was a great time with a good crew; lots of action, investigation, and humor. I'll talk details about it in a future post.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Warlords of the Air

Airships, for A Contest Full of Hot Air

Let's talk about the big ones, the battleships, perhaps not seen since the Last Great War, perhaps yet to be built.

"With the cloud came a great thrumming sound, like many deep-voiced gongs being beaten rapidly in unison. The sound grew louder as the cloud began to fill the whole sky, casing a dark and ominous shadow over the Valley of the Morning.  It was the allied air fleet of five nations.

Each ship was a thousand feet long. Each had a hull as strong as steel. Each bristled with artillery and great grenades which could be dropped upon their enemies. Each ship moved implacably through the sky, keeping pace with its mighty fellows.

Ships with Imperial crimson suns emblazoned on their white and gleaming hulls.
Ships with great black double-headed eagles glaring from the hulls of deepest scarlet, claws spread as if to strike.
Ships with massive three-color flags spread on backgrounds of blue.
Ships with cannon and bombs and crews, their booming engines like triumphant anticipatory laughter."
--Michael Moorcock, The Warlord of the Air

Good times, bad times, you know I've had my share.

There are blimps and balloons and sometimes those are enough, but when you want to move huge cargoes or large contingents of men or mount cannons, then you need a rigid airship, a dirigible. And it has to be filled with helium or a helium-like gas, because otherwise you are floating through the sky in a huge bomb: Oh The Humanity.

They can of course also be used for luxurious passage from one city to another for those that have the guilders and gold to spend that way.  But imagine huge airships, bigger than the Hindenburg, and engineered far beyond that disaster-in-waiting. Rotors to compensate for the explosion of cannon; broadsides of guns and huge grenades to be dropped directly on opposing ships and forces.  And such a quiet way to deliver great masses of troops.

Moorcock suggested the evolution of recoilless guns "that can stand in the air and shoot much longer and more accurately than cannon."

Imagine what even one of these Airships of the line could do, if it was suddenly, through powers scientific and arcane, thrust into a world that was not as advanced, or had simply never seen something like it. The men on a ship like that would have to decide what they wanted to do with all that firepower and speed. Decisions: yes...

Friday, October 10, 2014

Review of the Well of Souls for Dungeon Crawl Classics

I was running Dungeon Crawl Classics for the first half of this year pretty regularly, about once a month. Sometimes twice, if I was lucky with scheduling.  DCC is more adult-oriented, at least the way I play it, and the guys in my group really ran with it--embracing the weird magic (and it's side-effects) and using their decades of game experience to keep their players alive.  I created a sandbox for them, full of places and things designed by fans of the game as well as some of the published Goodman Games scenarios.

When the chance to run Well of Souls came up, I was excited. It was a chance to create new characters from scratch (the existing characters had been auto-generated) and place the characters far to the south of the cold misty forest-lands they were familiar with.

I let the players go nuts as far as race was concerned, and they indulged their love of humanoids with dwarves, elves, and halflings. There were some humans, sure, but with one player going with an entire party of dwarves the humans were in the minority for a change.

Spoilers beyond this point...

The Well of Souls is funnel, designed for 12-16 zero-level characters. It takes place deep in a rocky desert, and the players are led there by their guide, Farid. He has a lot of theories and stories about the Well, some of which are true, and some of which are false. The rumors are well done and it was fun reading them to the players as they peppered Farid with questions.

The other thing the party has to help them are the Tablets of Fate; big clay tablets with pictures drawn on them that hint at dangers and solutions within the Well. I drew them out using the pictures in the scenario book, and it was great listening to the players try to figure out what the hell they meant.

Maps in the booklet are great; I only wish they were darker, or printed on lighter paper. My reason for that is that I generally trace over the maps as players progress, because my freehand drawing skill is worse than a child's. In this case, it was tough to see the maps through the paper, but that's certainly not a big deal.

Having said that, the paper that the adventure is printed on is beautiful and easy on the eyes. There was some unfortunate transfer of ink on some of the pages, but that may have just been my copy.*

The adventure is pretty deadly.  I really enjoyed that it was so different from what the players had come to expect from me that they were surprised on several occasions--despite their always-on SuperCaution(tm).  Characters fell in pits, were attacked by clouds of bats, and were fried in a group at one point. I will say that their caution saved them on several occasions from nasty traps or surprise by creatures.

The players enjoyed themselves, and I enjoyed running the Well of Souls. The one thing I would change is the the door at Area 7. Page 14 explains how it connects to Area 6, but it took me several readings to understand that they connect, creating a loop.

The Well of Souls was the last game of DCC we played for the summer. I hope to get the game running again, and maybe find out what the funnel survivors decide to do in the hot, dry south of my game world. Ideally, I would like to continue with Stormlord's "Treasure Vaults of Zadabad," which is coming out in November. Excellent timing, really...

*I was provided a copy of the Well of Souls for purposes of review by Stormlord Publishing.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures

My normal game of Dungeon Crawl Classics fell through because one player had Adult Real Life Stuff come up. I still had 2 of my regular players as well as the teenage son of our host interested in a game, so I decided to run Beyond the Wall.

I chose Beyond the Wall for a few different reasons. The tone of the game is more appropriate for a younger player than DCC is, character creation is fun, and the base mechanics are familiar to anyone who's played Basic Dungeons and Dragons.

Character creation in this game is a group activity. You pick a character playbook and roll your way through your childhood and early teens: some of the rolls you make will affect other characters in the party, and others will connect your character to Non-Player Characters in your village.

Normally, the players would also be involved in mapping out the home-village itself, but in this case I used a map drawn by Sarah Richardson and assigned homes and locations to the players and NPCs. The map looked great, in stark contrast to the later scribbles I made to show areas outside the village.

The game is designed to start with a bang, so the characters found themselves in the woods outside of town fighting a mutated, diseased bear. They took it down, grabbed an ear as proof, and were heading back into the village when they ran into a couple goblins on the path. About the same time they saw an orange glow and smelled smoke coming from the direction of the village.

Look at the teeth on that guy.

Quickly dispatching the goblins with a combination of archery and magic, the party ran home. They arrived to find the Bountiful Banshee Inn on fire and a group of armed citizens around the home of a retired mercenary soldier. The Sheriff informed them that goblins had set fire to the inn and barricaded themselves in the house. Bashing in the door, the players were hit by goblin arrows but quickly overcame their foes, with most of the damage to the characters from friendly fire.

The goblins had tunneled up from underneath the house, collapsing the tunnel on their way back and leaving a few of their number stranded topside.

Tunneling goblins speak with a pirate accent.

The players went on to save the village from a plague that the Hobgoblin Chief had inflicted through the use of hex bags, fleece an unsuspecting carriage on the King's Road, kill a great many more goblins using fire, magic, bows and swords, and ultimately come face to face with the head Hobgoblin and his Orc lieutenants in a dark, goblin-modified mine. All in all, it was fun and epic.

Hobgoblin chieftain, uninterested in parlay.

Some observations:

A) Bows were deadly, both to the enemy and to other characters when shots fired into melee missed their target.

B) Magic was very effective. The Elf-Ranger used Entanglement on three occasions, and it wrought havoc every time.

C) The static initiative worked great.

D) It was fun having one character that was neutral-capitalist and pushed for rewards and bounties, while looking for opportunities to rob the rich. And the poor. And the middle class.

So what would I do differently, the next time I run the game?

1) Better time management on my part. I was supposed to be rolling on the random charts for the adventure I had chosen while the players were making their characters, but I really wanted to be a part of that experience. Next time, I'll roll up the scenario ahead of time.

2) More maps. Good maps add to the fun and beauty of the game, while my child-like scribbles detract.

3) Have the To-Hit, Saving Throw, and Skill Check roll types memorized. I kept forgetting which were supposed to be high, and which was low. Because Mad-Cow. Embarrassing and wastes time.

4) Make a reference sheet. The rules are a breeze to read, but in the game I found myself paging back and forth and flipping between documents a lot. There's no reason for that, when I can put all the important stuff on a page or two and have it in front of me.

I recommend this game and hope I get a chance to play it again soon.

Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Town of Cracklinborughford and Drinking With Style

I struggle with the creation of small villages and towns; I don't want them to be generic, but it's tough to make them memorable and realistic. So I decided to give Logan Knight's process a try:

Logan's Interactive Village Creation Process

He based it on Zzarchov Kowalski's Scenic Dunnsmouth, but addressed what he felt was a lack of inter-NPC relationships.

Following the instructions, I generated this map of the town. The arrows indicate houses that have relationships, good or bad, with certain other houses:

The Village of Cracklinborughford, which I thought sounded peppy and industrious.

This is how the village breaks down, by house group number.
6's:  Have a surprisingly large assortment of goods to trade or sell.
5's:  Dress like demons and prance around burning pyres when the moon is full!
4:    Fervent devotee of a known religion.
3's:  Organic body-horror replacements from a fallen star in the hills. They smell of thyme and their flesh is all-too-pliable!
2s:  Members of the same bloodline AND ALSO--are In Charge Around Here. They rule through a council with a representative from each of the Number 2 houses.

The Most Interesting Feature of the town is a monolith of carven white soapstone in the center of town. The village is arranged to form rough curving lines radiating out from the monolith. Most of the townspeople seem entirely unaware of this pattern, but once you mention it to them will descend into obsession over it, eventually seeking to unlock the monolith and what lies beneath.

Other Features of Interest include a mystically placed pattern of stones and a hanging tree. Apparently they don't take kindly to law breakers in Cracklinborughford.

Now that working map is fine, but you can't use that in a game--your players would flip the table in disgust. So here's what the village really looks like; many thanks to Sarah Richardson for reaching into my mind and creating this awesome map:

Here's who's actually in those houses, and how they relate to each other:
6A:  a widower who is firm friends with 3D.
6B:  a bachelorette with political connections to 6A.
5A:  five friends and lovers. They do business with 3D.
5B:  a couple and their five kids. They have vast respect for 3A.
5C:  a bachelor with political connections to 5E.
5D:  a couple and their child. They owe a debt to 5A.
5E:  a woman and her three kids. They have an irrational dislike for 3B.
4A:  a bachelor who knows varied secrets about 6B.
3A:  an extended family with distrust for 2A.
3B:  a widow who frequently mocks 2B.
3C:  a cleric, single parent of 4 kids. Blackmailing 3A.
3D:  an extended family with a long family history connecting them to 6B.
2A:  five associates involved in betraying 2B.
2B:  2 friends and lovers; they have a rivalry with 5A.
2C:  a couple and their three kids. They harbor a terrible suspicion about the widower in house 6A.

While I was looking around Logan's excellent blog I found his recipes for tea-infused liquor and his suggestion to make your own labels for the concoctions you make.  So I made earl gray infused Bombay gin one night, jasmine tea infused Absolut vodka after that (the "Princess Jasmine"), and chai infused Belvedere vodka last. They were all good, but the chai-vodka was excellent!

I can't draw, but I found this drawing on the internet, printed it, cut it out and taped it to an old bottle of Viking's Blood mead using double-sided tape. I pretty much feel like a master mixologist who is super crafty now.

I'm crafty! So crafty!

Monday, August 25, 2014

On Lampreys

I haven't actually said much about lampreys on this blog, despite claiming that it was partially a blog about them. So today I'm going to fix that.

Here is a drawing of the hideous things, by the extremely talented artist Don Kenn:

These things infest Lake Michigan.

And here is a newspaper story from 2012 that will strike fear and desperation into your heart.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Hey What's in this Escape Pod and Did it Belong to a Hideous Creature From Another World?

I took part in David Brawley's Random Table Contest and the luck of the die made me a winner. Soon as I post this, I'm off to the casino to play roulette and craps!

Here's a link to the first 4 of 12 tables that David will be posting. This first group helps you decide what kind of tail that one thing has, what the mage uses for magical protection, how that magic missile manifests, and which minor meddling immortal your players will encounter:
Tower of the Archmage Random Tables

I created my table with the escape pod at the end of my adventure, Gold From the Ceiling, in mind. But sometimes you want to do more than just rip out the shiny stuff from the metal hut and sell it to the nearest merchant. Sometimes you want to find and master technology so advanced, it might as well be magic.

An Escape Pod could look like this.


                ROLL 1d6 AND LOOK TO THE STARS!

1.            A big pile of shiny silver material, never before seen. It is covered in strange designs and patches, with a large metal ring on one end. Looking inside the metal ring reveals a mass of green goo inside.  The silver material will not burn and requires high technology or magic to cut. If laid out, it is spherical in shape with multiple long thin “sleeves” emanating from the center.

2.            A large white metallic box. Inside are healing elixirs, pressure injectors, strangely-shaped bottles with pills, medical diagnostic device (looks like a Discman™), and holographic-projected medical assistant (projector looks like a metal drink coaster, assistant looks like a hideous creature). Colorful cards graphically show how a spherical, multi-tentacle green monster with a large bulbous head could use the contents of the box.

3.            Universal Translator. Looks like a 1940s style microphone and stand.

4.            Astrogation Display. Upon approach, the terminal lights up and a holographic image of the galaxy appears. It zooms to the planet the escape pod is on and shows the solar system. Moving your hand around or thinking questioning thoughts makes the display move to different planets in the solar system and then to different galaxies.

5.            Communications Display. Upon approach, the terminal lights up and a holographic, black and white image appears of a planet. The image is staticky and breaks up from time to time, but zooms in to show a bleak, desolate landscape of blasted cities and gray deserts.

6.            Personal Shield Generator. This device is an irregularly shaped, shiny silver clump of metal with a long shallow button on one side of it. Depressing the button generates a form-fitting protective shield around the user, visible in darkness but hard to see in the light. It prevents fast-moving objects from penetrating but does allow slower objects to pass through. Thus it increases AC against projectiles and normally-used melee weapons (a slower-used blade or rolled explosive device will penetrate the shield). The shield reacts violently if struck by rays of energy, be they magic or technological in nature, resulting in a massive explosion that will level a small city and leave deadly radiation in its wake for decades to come.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Gold the Dark and the Cause

I've updated and improved the two adventures that I wrote this summer. Take a look if you like and please tell me if you get any use out of them, they are both untested:

Gold From the Ceiling, an adventure for Murderhobos 2nd Edition
Fancy Border Version for viewing electronically

Borderless EZ Print Version for conserving toner.

A Shortcut Dank and Dark, an adventure for Dungeon Crawl Classics

I wrote A Shortcut Dank and Dark in response to a map that Matt Jackson created on July 18th of this year. Consider making a contribution to Matt Jackson’s WoundedWarrior Project fundraiser. 
Thank you to all the veterans for your service to our country.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Shortcut Dank and Dark

Matt Jackson posted a cool little map on Google+ and suggested we have some fun stocking it. I enjoy fun, so I gave it a shot.

This is an adventure for Dungeon Crawl Classics, but it's easily transferred to other systems. You can download the pdf here.

A Shortcut Dank and Dark
A short cave adventure for Dungeon Crawl Classics

Written by Brian Wille
Map by Matt Jackson

Overview:  A Haunt of Hobgoblins and Orcs live here! They are at home when the party arrives, and they are not used to visitors. They react depending on their mood, how much blood they have shed recently and the attitude of the intruders. They are generally ready for battle, but are also unobservant and disorganized.

Creatures, Monsters, and Map:
Many thanks to Rafael Chandler for the Shadhavar in the Lusus Naturae preview, and to John Carr for the Night Children Hobgoblins and Orcs.
Map by Matt Jackson 2014

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Song of Hammer and Forge

After years of reading miniatures rules and trying to play them, only to find that the rules were too fiddly or vague and the games too long, I finally discovered it didn't have to be that way. Miniatures games could be fun and fast, and played with any miniatures of the same scale that I had handy.

I was briefly part of a miniatures wargame club and greatly enjoyed the people and the games. But I never did learn how to paint figures very well, and eventually the games were held in homes instead of game stores. Distant homes, and often with cats (allergic) so attending was no longer an option.

Luckily, the club keeps a fantastic blog with great pictures of their work and battles, so my experiences are not lost like tears in the rain, and you can see what I'm talking about.


Here is a recent entry, a playtest of a new supplement for Song of Blades and Heroes called Song of Hammer and Forge. It introduces new rules for dwarves, flintlocks and cannons. Which frankly are three of my favorite things.


As a kid I played hellishly complicated miniatures wargames like Tractics or Engage and Destroy. I tried Chainmail a few times but there were holes and contradictions in the rules. The only Warhammer miniatures I ever played were demos at Games Workshop stores, and my dreams of playing Mordheim never materialized. Battlelore  is fun but set-up and take-down are lengthy.

When the guys at the club told me I could bring my old Grenadier miniatures or HeroQuest figures, my Ral Partha creatures or Warhammer troops, I was excited. They showed me how to stat them up, explained the easy and fun rules, and the games began. We could get two games finished in one night, easy. We used terrain from the stores at first, but the guys in the club are genius and soon had their own terrain created and painted.

The best of the sci-fi miniatures rule sets that I tried.

I was lucky enough to play a few other rulesets with them, a couple sci-fi battles on distant colony worlds (Tomorrow's War and 5150 Star Army) and a fantastic post-apocalyptic game (Wastelands). There was also an epic Halloween zombie battle with multi-story buildings and vehicles, using customized All Things Zombie rules.

A great pic from Chicago Skirmish blog. Killing zombies on Halloween.

Some day I hope to get some use out of all my old 40k figures (a game I played three times) using the rules to In the Emperor's Name: http://iten-game.org/

If you're at all interested in enjoying a fast miniatures game with a maximum of fun, I strongly suggest the Song of Blades and Heroes series and Wastelands. Put those old figures to use!


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Rat Queens Dungeon World

Dungeon World was the game of choice at the most recent Monday Night Game Lab, and it was the first time playing it for everyone involved. We'd all played Monster of the Week though, and three of us had played Apocalypse World, so none of us were strangers to the basic mechanics.

The key differences were the types of Basic and Special Moves, the magic system, and the use of hit points. I think we solidly understood everything by the half-way point of the game, except for the concept of Bonds. Normally, you establish Bonds when you create your character: how are they connected, bonded, to the rest of the characters?  In this case we were using pre-generated characters and they had been filled in for us.

On a few occasions we felt the rules were implying an actual modification to the die roll based on Bonds, but we could not find what that would be. Bonds are actually quite important; in addition to helping you decide how you would act in a situation, and how your character would interact with another, there IS a die mechanic involved:  "When a move has you roll+bonds, you’ll count the number of bonds you have with the character in question and add that to the roll."

Dungeon World is a very fun, fast and enjoyable system. If I was going to introduce someone to role-playing games for the first time, this is the system that I would use if we were playing in a fantasy setting.

For more information on Dungeon World:

We were Rat Queens in the game we played. Rat Queens is a fantastic comic about a company of adventuring women. They are rowdy, sarcastic, hard-partying and violent. They are sexy and they are hilarious. If you don't know the Rat Queens, you should check them out immediately!

[Major Spoilers if you are playing this at 2014 Nexus Game Fair]
The Rat Queens were in trouble for leading an angry murder of goblins into the city of Palisade while fleeing.  Sawyer Silver of the City Watch offered them a chance to get out of prison by finding and rescuing the missing children of a small farm community. Saying No meant staying in prison, so...

The girls had to leave immediately, or right after they took a bath, because they reeked of goblin and it was making people ill.

Upon arriving to the village one woman remarked, "This is who's going to save our children? They look more like prostitutes than heroes!" That set the tone for their helpfulness.

Dee was able to commune with the dead, getting details on the last time something like this happened from Edna Smith, the dead grandmother of the village headman. The dead are sometimes more useful than the living.

Striking out towards the low hills, Betty got them a little lost and soon they had to make camp. After getting a fire built and eating some rations, Betty broke out her bag of magic mushrooms and indulged. 

Violet and Dee decided that would be fun too and also dipped into Betty's little bag. Soon Hannah was the only one with her wits about her, and keeping watch. Halfway through the night she heard whispers and sensed she was being watched. Getting Betty's attention she told her they had company and to quietly tell the others. Betty thought she was being quiet but had no sense of her own volume, using a loud stage whisper to say "Grab your stuff girls we got company!"

Battle ensued. Hannah cast Light on a rock and threw it over to where she heard the noises, illuminating several humanoid shapes dressed like ninjas. Dee raised a Zombie Servant from the very ground!

Similar dress, but in tatters, filthy, and more flesh hanging on the bones.

Violet went to chase a fleeing assailant but went off-course and ended up throwing her shield, to no avail. Betty stabbed one of them in the back. Hannah clobbered one with her staff. Soon the Rat Queens had a prisoner, whom they began to question.

The assailants were Underelfs, who had been kidnapping children. Eventually they give details about where the kids were being held, and why--the Elf Queen was going to sacrifice them in a hideous magic ritual that would destroy the surface of the world.

The Rat Queens found the entrance and Dee used Dispel Magic to destroy the magic barrier. Walking in they ran into an annoying, smelly little albino goblin. They eventually decided to walk in the direction opposite of "where heroes go" (as the goblin said) and take his chamber pot, making it into a helm for Happy the Zombie Servant, as Dee had named him. Dee cast Light on the chamber pot and embedded Hannah's Light Rock into Happy's chest, a la' Iron Man. The girls sent him forward to light the way and scare the hell out of Underelfs.

They ran into several guards, some with very well-defined pectoral muscles and the open shirts to prove it. They killed or ran them all off.  Happy the Zombie Servant got the chance to eat Elf brains, and moaned for more. A fancy if dirty cape was found, and affixed to Happy the Zombie Servant. With the chamber pot on his head, he looked a lot like Mysterio.

They found a room with an altar, and Violet discovered it was hollow! Opening it revealed a trove of diamonds. Dee left a note on the altar for the Elf Queen: "Thanks for the diamonds." Dee also took the time to draw a happy face on Happy's brightly-illuminating chamber pot.

Hannah cast a spell that allowed her to see a tiny purple pony with wings when she closed her eyes, and that led the way to where the children were. Unfortunately it didn't care about walls, so Violet and Betty spent some quality time knocking through a stone wall to reach the children. Probably there was an easier way.

Kind of like this I guess. Never imagined such an image would be on my blog.

The kids were scared out of their minds by Happy the Zombie Servant but Dee calmed them down and Betty gave them candy. Just regular candy. Everyone trooped out the way they came, but there were a bunch of angry Underelfs waiting for them in the altar room, including the super-creepy necromantic Elf Queen. She demanded the children, Violet told her they peed on the altar, and battle was joined.

Like this, but against Underelves

The kids saw a chance to run out the front and took it. The Rat Queens covered their escape until the Elves were worried more about protecting their Queen, and the girls followed the kids--only to find that the annoying albino goblin was preventing their escape. Betty launched a dagger at him and hits him in the eye! He fell down dead and everyone escaped, with the kids and the diamonds.

The Rat Queens deserved an epic fiesta after that, I'm sure...

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Gold From the Ceiling, an Adventure for Murderhobos

I was lucky enough to come across the 2nd Edition of a role-playing game called Murderhobos, by Brent P. Newhall. I was impressed with the humor, the mechanics, the art and the price. While I was trying to craft my pitch to the Monday Night Game Lab suggesting that we give it a try, Brent posted a contest for best Murderhobos adventure.

I'd never written an adventure before, most of the time I write notes and keep the rest in my head. But I gave it a try, and to my pleasant surprise, I won. Probably it helped there were only two other submissions, but still. 

Check out the game, it's a fun read (rated M for Mature) and download the adventures, they are about a third of the way down the page.


This cover is awesome.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Single Small Cut: Lamentations of the Flame Princess

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mesdames et Messieurs, Damen und Herren, from what was once an inarticulate mass of lifeless tissues, may I present a cultured, sophisticated, Man About Town.  WAIT WHAT IN THE SEVEN WOUNDS IS THAT...ABOMINATION

Horrifying and disgusting, but much worse when combined with Sarah's detailed descriptions.

I finally had the chance to play Lamentations of the Flame Princess.  It's more like D&D than Dungeon Crawl Classics is really, like Basic D&D but with black-powder firearms and a horror element. The world is a fantasy-horror version of the 30 Years War. They burn pointed eared magic-using people at the stake in this world, so we had to convince them that our elf was just a weird albino guy with a strange accent.

A Single, Small Cut is designed to be a short adventure, played as a one-shot or right after your party has emerged from some hideous dungeon or grasping wilderness.

That didn't stop us from making it into an all-night affair, but we had a larger group than usual and we rolled up our own characters.

Our party consisted of a Sorcerer, two Specialists, a Fighter and an Elf. I got a huge kick out of blasting at things with my brace of flintlock pistols, and the Elf was crucial to our success: by reversing his Enlarge spell, he shrunk our huge and disgusting opponent and gave us the fighting chance to kill it. Here, I took pictures of that.

A huge hideous mass of flesh and sphincters and fluids

Still hideous but 60% smaller thanks to arcane Elf magic

I enjoyed the system and the scenario very much and hope to run something myself at some point soon.

You can pick up "A Single, Small Cut" here:

Free rules with no art for Lamentations of the Flame Princess here!

But if you like grisly, sexy art then you'll want to buy it.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

HOLLOWPOINT: Those Angels and Rebels and Aliens Aren't Going to Kill Themselves

Many thanks to Sarah for this awesome drawing.

I volunteered to run a roleplaying game called Hollowpoint for our Monday Night Game Lab. I'd never run anything for the group, but this game sounded like a low-prep, fun one-shot and that was exactly what I was looking for.

"No one in this game is innocent.
You're an Agent. No one ever messes with you, because you are that far above the common herd of men that sleepwalk through their lives. You get things done, and that usually means blood. Or pain. Or, when you are feeling generous, death."

Character creation is fast and easy, which is good because you are expected to die or "move on" in some way at least once during the session.  The game is set up as a series of Conflicts that become progressively harder for the characters to beat.  The conflicts themselves are resolved by rolling big handfuls of dice and using the sets that appear--pairs or more--to narrate the action.  I'm told by a reliable source that the mechanics have similarities to The Pool and InSpectres. At any rate, you'll need a lot of d6 dice for this game. I used every d6 I had in the house, and only had enough because another player brought a bunch of her own.

I got a test-run in with someone who is only an occasional player of roleplaying games and it was very successful. In that game my partner played three characters and I ran a modified version of an example scenario provided in the rule book.

In the test-run, the Agents were highly trained and skilled humans that worked for Heaven, doing a lot of dirty work for the angels who were few and far between on Earth. There were rogue angels and demons roaming our planet and they needed to be kept in check. The Mission this time was to find and destroy a Construct, a kind of Frankenstein's monster that had been created by rogues or demons for some hideous purpose.

The Objectives in this case were clear-cut, as they should always be in a game of Hollowpoint: find out where the creature was being kept, and destroy it. Don't talk to it, don't think about it, just kill it.

The action was fast as the player described their interactions and investigations in Las Vegas, which led to a raid on a warehouse in the desert guarded by a rogue angel and his human minions.  One Agent moved on. The game is not made to be played by one player and a Narrator, but I have to say, we both enjoyed our test game a great deal.

Two days later I ran a scenario of my own design for three veteran RPG players.  Walking around the south wing of my palatial mansion, I noticed one of my favorite books: Altered Carbon, by Richard Morgan. That was my inspiration. I quickly sketched out the nature of the player's Agency, the location of the story (Mars in this case), the Enemy, and the two Objectives. Each Objective has at least two conflicts. Then I decided on two Principals, important NPCs who would generate retaliations when messed with.

The players seemed to enjoy character generation, and we ended up with a hard-core group of Protectorate Agents who would be arriving at the end of a planetary rebellion to find and secure an alien artifact, a ship in this case.

I feel like I was less-clear than I should have been when I explained the first Objective to the players: were the Agents primarily concerned with finding the location of the rebel base that housed the alien artifact, or were they to focus on killing the Generalisimo who led the colonial rebellion and was still alive?  It's important to be clear about the difference between Objectives and Conflicts, and I muddily combined the two. 

Example character from the book

We also ran into a problem at one point that wasn't covered in the rules, or that I perhaps missed: is this a Story Game, where the players are creating their own reality and dictating the environment, or is it a More Regular Game, where the Narrator prepares the world and the players react to it? The particular situation came up in the last act, as the players approached a large white tent with an airlock, with researchers and rebel guards around it. I had envisioned this scene as leading to a deep shaft, which would in turn lead to the alien ship once the players were underground.  One of the players, however, declared that the ship was in the tent. So which one is true? We decided in this case to play it out the way I had planned it, but I'm still wondering if that was correct. On the plus side, the Epic Final Battle was epic.

Hollowpoint is written by Brad Murray and C.W. Marshall, published by VCSA Publishing:  http://www.vsca.ca/Hollowpoint/

Monday, April 7, 2014


So we played DROP as a kind of warm-up game the other night. I think it took us an hour max.

"DROP is a high-level story-telling, roleplaying game of survival horror that plays in about 2 hours. While you will control your character's individual actions, DROP plays more like a group of writers weaving a movie plot around a table.

This is a game about building a story, one that will go very badly, all in a couple of hours. It's Fiasco crossed with...a heavy dose of Alien.

In DROP, the players are all crewmembers on a starship that arrives at a planet in trouble, and must drop to the surface, explore some large structure, then run like hell. The rules provide a simple framework for defining the characters and coming up with challenges for them to face."

I probably should have read these Session Logs before playing the game, but it was fun all the same:



The Preparation: Crew
1. Tycho.  Navigator and experienced veteran, but oddly afraid of the dark.
2. Tynd.  Brave xeno-biologist, beautiful to behold, but extremely clumsy.
3. Liam.  Self-confident engineer who thinks he can fix anything but is mad at the world.
4. Mia.  Happy-go-lucky Imperial assassin but also a skilled geologist.

Risk Factor: Our destination, the planet Crucis Q-8. The planet has a breathable atmosphere but is subject to destructive acid rain storms.

The Arrival: Here We Go
1. Tycho arms himself from the ship’s locker but forgets to check the oxygen valve on his environmental suit.
2. Tynd picks up sampling gear but forgets to bring his morphine.
3. Liam equips his ablative armor like the professional he is.
4. Mia always has her knives and fixes her hair before a drop, but her hair product is highly flammable when combined with acid rain.

The drop will be accomplished using personal flight suits in order to arrive on planet quickly. Ship will descend slowly through the atmosphere on auto-pilot, arriving in time for crew departure.

Risk Factors: Environmental hazards and the presence of other humans—our enemies, the Carcossans.

The Drop: SNAFU
1. Tycho lands perfectly and rolls up with his sidearm drawn, like the professional he is.
2. Tynd lands face-first in a mushroom, breaking his fall but damaging the fungus and sending spores into the air!
3. Liam lands in a large, soft mud pit but still manages to break his arm!
4. Mia lands with knives in hand but accidentally slices into her environmental suit!

Risk Factors: Intelligent, indigenous enemies and continuing environmental hazards.

Exploration: What’s In Here
1. Tycho will explore the well-lit Central Archives.
2. Tynd will explore the Chapel of Mushroom Worship but when she sits down on a stone bench to contemplate the grandeur, realizes it’s not a chair at all—but a sacrificial altar…
3. Liam begins examining the glyphs that cover the walls.
4. Mia encounters a tribe of Mushroom Worshipers in the temple annex and slaughters them all but is pierced by a poison dart through the hole in her suit.

Risk Factors: Who will cause problems for the crew during their escape? The Carcossans!

1. Tycho runs very fast and shoots at pursuing Carcossans!
2. Tynd jumps up and flees very gracefully!
3. Liam realizes the glyphs point to dripping blood on the altar and discovers that a secret door will open once blood covers the plate. He cuts his own hand to produce blood but in his anger he cuts off his entire hand!
4. Mia is already on the run after assassinating the tribe and flees using an athletic system of sprinting and jumping.