December 28, 2012

THE BLACKWYRM BARONY

Click to enlarge

The Blackwyrm Barony is located in a narrow vale surrounded by bare woods and steep mountains: a grim, medieval borderland where civilization grasps to survive against those savage beings who dwell in the wilderness, and other nameless horrors which seldom crawls out of the forest to unleash dead and bane upon the helpless mortals. The region is especially famous for the Putrescent Vaults of Yoth (hex 0803), a vast and mostly unexplored mega-complex of underground halls and twisted corridors, supposedly the burial place of a mysterious, otherworldly race that left the planet eons ago. The House Blackwyrm rule over the Barony for thirteen generations, maintaining the status quo by means of brutal acts of repression. They rose to power when their ancestor, Eric Blackwyrm, slayed the dragon Smorg who had settled in the vale several years before, tyrannizing the inhabitants with incessant requests of sacrifices not to burn the whole place down to ashes. The words on their coat of arms say Debes Mihi Unum, "you owe me one", and none in the Barony ever questioned it.

Main Campaign Areas and Motives
  • The Putrescent Vaults of Yoth are kind of a lovecraftian mega-dungeon, constructed by the Serpent-kin to hide from the upper world and populated by all kind of unspeakable horrors.
  • Struggle against the tyranny of the House Blackwyrm by unearthing their terrible secret: the pact between Eric and the dragon Smorg, who faked his death in change of quiet and secret sacrifices and still lurks in his cave beneath the Devil's Pit (hex 0903). (Yes, the dragon's lair and the vaults may be loosely connected).
  • The tomb of Eric Blackwyrm (hex 0905), possible location for The Tomb of Horrors.
Rules
  • Most likely Labyrinth Lord
  • Realms of Crawling Chaos
  • Carcosa and Realm of Chaos mutation tables

December 27, 2012

KEEP ON THE BORDERLANDS FINAL RUSH

Yesterday (and the day before yesterday) I met up with some friends to play in our mini BX campaign using module B2 The Keep On The Borderlands. We don't get to play often, like once every few months, and I'm running this game for a year and a half now. It's very satisfying to see people who never ever played rpgs going all mad about D&D, and I think I did everything to provide them with the best old school fantasy experience possible: loads of monsters, unreliable NPCs, and a good dose of Dungeon Master's sadism. (Laughing at their 1's and exulting at monsters' 20's do more than half the trick, you know.) During the session we played on the 25th they killed the Owlbear, fucked around with some Grey Oozes, and finally entered the Temple of Chaos. They were very clever (and lucky) in pointing directly to the chamber with the acolytes, Sleep-ing every one of them but one, who they Charm-ed to get information on the lair of the Evil High Priest (they called The Greater Evil). By the time the session ended they had a good plan, a good amount of information, and I was pretty sure that the next game would have marked the end of this mini-campaign with a great final climax.

But then, you know, players always have to surprise you and so they did.

Instead of heading directly to the Temple, they stopped in room 56 to fuck around with the evil cultists. Once again, they very cleverly made use of the Sleep spell, and had every four of them in one round, with the advantage of surprise. If you know something about B2, you know how important is to be sneaky at this point of the game. So, instead of moving on to the final confrontation, they eventually decided they'd slay three of the cultists, save one for some interrogation. (The kind that involves cutters, pliers and hot iron.) Needles to say, the cultist woke up screaming like a pig. I rolled for wandering monsters once, twice, three times and finally someone in the temple heard the noise and ring the massive bell. Loads of undead was approaching the room from north and south. If you ask me, that's a situation in which you run as hell, making room among the undead by turning them to reach the exit as fast as your short halfling legs allow you. If you ask my players, they're more like "WHOA TONS OF MONSTERS! COME AND GET IT YOU WANDERING PILES OF XPs!", and thus they entrenched in the room, cast Hold Portal on the northern door and decided to fight till death. With AC 2 Dwarves in the front line, polearms in the second, and AC5/3hp skeletons approaching two at a time from the southern door they were doing pretty good, until some cultist started to launch molotov cocktails inside the room to set everything on fire (save vs. poison or suffer 1d6 damage from carbon monoxide EVERY round). So out they went to retire, and some other cultist cast Darkness on them. And you know, skeletons don't need no light to beat the shit out of your stinking adventurer's ass. They eventually lost one fellow in the darkness (his fate unknown, as of now), and managed to flee.

Note: The only Lawful character in the party, a Cleric (also, the one who suggested they'd torture the cultist fucking up every effort of sneaking inside the Temple), decided not to destroy the evil scripts found in room 56. Instead, he would keep them for study. Ironically enough, destroying them would have granted him no less than 600 XPs, not to divide with anyone else. His comment after the game was: "I promise not to torture evil cultists for the sake of it ever again. Nor to collect satanic memorabilia instead of setting them on fire, for fuck's sake!"

So, wounded and sad they returned to the Keep. They told the lord about their last foray into the Caves of Chaos, and he was all "You fools! You unleashed the doom above us!" and "Let the women and children go! Fortify the Keep! THEY'RE COMING FOR OUR SOULS!" and around midnight of the same day, the Army of Darkness was slowly crawling out of the woods to raze the Keep.

So yes, the next session is most likely going to be some kind of small scale war, in which the party will finally confront with the undead servants of Chaos. (And possibly die in the attempt.) What a brilliant mess they made! Nonetheless, every last one of them was so amazed, so happy about it, and a little sad this game is about to end. It was fun as hell to play it, and doubtless the best campaign I've ever ran.

December 23, 2012

YESTERDAY I WAS IN THE MOOD TO DRAW STUFF

And so I did. You'll notice that there are some errors here and there, but remember that I never studied art, and that each of these took about an hour to make. (Also, sorry for the low-res scans).

Chaos Warrior
First is a Chaos Warrior from WFRP, featuring some of my favorite mutations from Realms of Chaos. I messed up a little with the scar, but I'm quite satisfied with this one. Otty (aka my girlfriend) said that the sword's scabbard really looks like a massive cock. I'd call that a feature more than a issue, tough. The reverse face was really fun to draw.

How to kill a goblin with a massive sword
Second one is a fighter killing a goblin. I messed up a little with the axe (which is very small, and supposed to be behind the sword, until Otty suggested that it should be in front of that). I'm not very good at drawing blood, but I think I made a good work with perspective. I also experimented a bit with shadows, and I can tell it didn't go very well. But I also think the brain slashing detail is really cool.

December 19, 2012

SWORDS & WIZARDRY WHITEBOX HACK I

Here's a to do list of stuff I'd like to modify, add and rewrite to make the Swords & Wizardry Whitebox rules more suitable for my own use:
  • Getting Started
    • Modify the text to make the optional Universal Attribute Modifiers rule the official one.
  • Character Classes
    • Rewrite the introduction to include a streamlined advancement table similar to the one found in 3.X edition. (Possibly included lately as an optional rule).
    • Add a section for simple Multi-classing (again, in the spirit of 3.X edition). (Possibly included lately as an optional rule).
    • Modify the BHB advancement according to the 3LBBs
    • Make up a Thieves class that integrates with the below-mentioned skill system.
    • Rewrite races description to integrate my simple Skill system.
    • Eliminate the Elf Variant paragraph.
  • Items and Equipment
    • Eliminate the AAC paragraph
  • Playing the Game
    • Import the LotFP Grindhouse Edition encumbrance rules.
    • Make the Statement of Intentions rule the default one.
    • Rewrite the combat section to include the Target 20 mechanic.
    • Modify the rules for character death to include the Glimpse on the other side table.
    • Tweak the Turning Undead paragraph to make it the same as it was in the 3LBBs.
    • Add Old School Saving Throws from the 3LBBs.
  • Spells
    • Include guidelines for magic research and magic item creation based on cathegories (scrolls, rings, armor, weapon, etc.), possibly inspired by this post at Untimately and LotFP Grindhouse Edition.
  • Running the Game
    • Modify or rewrite the paragraph to include the random room content table from the 3LBBs (possibly modifying it so that you don't need multiple dice rolling to determine the content of a single room - Monster Only, Monster with Treasure, Treasure Only, Empty).
    • Experience Points based on monsters HDE (100xp per each HDE point).
  • Monsters
    • Include the Random Monsters Determination by HDE tables and the Wilderness Monsters tables from 3rd printing (or the 3LBBs, or a combination of both).
  • Revise the text for typos and make it consistent with changes. Possibly hire someone to proofread it.
  • Possibly draw a new B/W cover based on Holmes Basic.
  • Print it, fold it, and play the hell out of it.
  • Make it available for anyone to download.
Now that's a lot of stuff to do, so I will stick on the 1st printing until I have everything done. Now, if only I had some paper to print it.

TALES OF THE WANDERING PRINCESS

This Saturday I'm going to run a one-on-one game with my girlfriend, who is totally new to roleplaying games. I have some of notes on a village (Camponebbioso, which loosely translates as Misty Fields in English), a bunch of rumors, and a couple of NPCs she can interact with. While playing with newbies is nothing new to me (most of the people I played with since I returned to D&D were completely new to the game), solo games are something I rarely dealt with. But I really want her to enjoy this session, so that it can possibly turn into some kind of irregular game.

As for the rules, I decided to run Swrods & Wizardry Whitebox, 1st edition, with some minor modifications (streamlined advancement, Thieves, skills, the Target 20 mechanic, multiple saving throws, the Save or Die rule, experience for killing monsters) and no miniatures. One of the things I want to make sure is not to threat S&W as a clone of D&D, but as a game in itself. I hope this will lower down the frustration of not having a perfectly adjusted clone, you know. Yes, I do suffer of some kind of mild compulsive disorder. Go figure.

December 14, 2012

FLAY AND RESKIN: GNOLLS BE BEASTMAN

Now that's badass
Gnolls are stupid. Like kobold-stupid. On the other hand, I am lazy. Like, Italian-lazy. So instead of coming up with a new monster, I will just use the Gnolls stats to represent Beastman in my games from here on. I like to call this process flay and reskin: same old stats, new exciting flavor.

Now, for your edification and enjoyment, I would like to point you to this Wikipedia entry for the Broo, the monsters that inspired the Warhammer Fantasy Beastman:
"Broo or Goatkin are creatures with the body of a man and the head of a goat, or some other animal. Broos are filthy creatures, always carriers of disease. They worship Malia, the Mother of Disease, in addition to their patroness, Thed, the goddess of rape and mother of Chaos. Broo have the ability to mate with any other species, with the child eating its way out of the host at full gestation. The newborn would distribute traits of parent and host. Within Dragon Pass (where most players set their adventures), goats are generally considered ritually unclean animals (perhaps because of their association with Broo) and are rarely herded."
Now that's fucking badass.

SKILLS

I often wonder why D&D always failed in putting together a nice and elegant skill system, especially since the seeds for such system where present in the game since 1974. So I decided to extrapolate the skill system from the LBBs, and merge it to the BX edition (or Labyrinth Lord). You may find this simple little system to work perfectly with Swords & Wizardry, if the universal attribute modifiers house rule is used (see Ability Modifiers moreover).

Categories
There are six categories for skills:
  • Breaking doors
  • Listening at doors
  • Locating mechanical traps
  • Locating secret doors
  • Hiding
  • Surprise
As a general rule, characters succeed at a skill check with a 2 in 6 chance. Since the basic assumption of D&D when it comes to dice is that you better roll high, characters succeed in a skill check if they roll 5 or more on a six-sided die. (From here on, 5+.)

Racial Modifiers
The skill check is modified according to the character race:
  • Elves get a +1 at Locating secret doors
  • Dwarves get a +1 at Locating mechanical traps
  • Halflings get a +1 at Hiding
  • Humans get a -1 at Listening at doors

Armor Modifiers
The skill check is modified according the character's armor:
  • Chain mail: -1 at Hiding and Surprise, +1 at Breaking Doors
  • Plate mail: -2 at Hiding and Surprise, +2 at Breaking Doors

(Optional) Ability Modifiers
Every skill refers to a particular Ability and is modified accordingly:
  • Breaking Doors: Strength
  • Listening at doors: Wisdom
  • Locating mechanical traps: Wisdom
  • Locating secret doors: Intelligence
  • Hiding: Wisdom
  • Surprise: Dexterity