Saturday, May 19, 2018


Well, I have been conned into trying out podcasting, so here you go, a quick little podcast (I like mine under 30 minutes, this clocks in at just over 10) where I discuss a few things and my sort of  plan for the podcast. I do not know what will become of this but it was not hard to do and I always have something to say, so...

Take a listen, and if you feel so inclined, comment here or on Anchor.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Prolge Parlayers, session two

For a record of our previous adventures:

Will Arnold - Ilmarin (dwarf thiefy type)
Bryan Meadows - Breki (fighter)
Tim Shorts - Aetius (magic-user)

With night setting in and Aetis in need of recovery, the groups decides it best to camp for the night. The grove they have discovered appears to be some sort of safe-zone. As the light began to fade (see DM Note 1 below) the jungle came alive with sound, including that of things moving the in the nearby bush (DM Note 3), Aetius spotted something moving behind Breki and warned him (see DM Note 2). Breki turned to see a six foot long salamander (the players made a point of mentioning these were more like newts than the traditional D&D fire-breathing salamanders).
Breki tossed food to it, which it appeared to enjoy but the creature did not enter the clearing inside the grove of trees. Ilmarin told Breki he was a fool to feed it, fearing that "What will it do when you run out of food?" Two more were spotted moving through the jungle underbrush and while they seemed interested in the group, they ignored the party and began to move along. Suddenly loud thumping foot steps were heard from the south, along with a curious humming sound (DM Note 4), at this, the salamanders turned and scurried away to the northeast. The party was quiet and observed a large stone-like creature apparently on a stroll, heading from the south to the north, turning along the path. They opted to merely observe and it passed by without incident.

Morning came, the night uneventful beyond strange sounds and the group woke refreshed. After a discussion it was decided to follow the road north, hoping it would lead them closer to the Weirwood trees they sought. As they travelled, Breki proved to be a curious fellow and found a path heading off to the west and immediately began to head that way to check it out. He discovered what appeared to be a relaxing park, a couple of columns with long lost writing faded across their surface, two broken stone benches, an elaborately carver but also weather worn statue, and stairs leading down into the dark.

Aetius studied some writing on the wall next to the stairs and could only see two symbols clearly, he found the symbols below. But he could not understand what they represented, he cast "Detect Magic" but was foiled again and could learn nothing more from the symbols:

Ilmarin blasted Breki, saying the mission was northeast, not west, but Aetius was curious as well and headed down the path to investigate. This set up a little tussle between the party members and who 'was the leader' (quote entertaining). Aetius began to have second thoughts and as he turned to return to the main path again, something emerged from the jungle. The very grass seemed to come alive, slithering over a cliff like a waterfall and moving to the path. Long vines began to reach out toward Aetius, who wisely turned and went back to the idea of exploring the dungeon below (I like how dungeons are becoming less dangerous than the jungle in the mind of the players).

Ilmarin noticed the salamanders had returned, moving slowly and stalking the grass creature (DM Note 5). Ilmarin lit a torch and tossed it at the grassy thing, rolling very well for placement of the torch. The torch landed and caused the creature to being squirming, vines swatting out like crazy. The salamanders took the opportunity to bite off a few of the vines and ran off to enjoy their snacks. Ilmarin sprinted past the creature to rejoin his friends and they descended the stairs.

Down clearly old, but at one time quite fancy steps, and the party came to a large room with ceilings at least 60 feet high. In the center of the room was a massive, fifty foot tall angelic statue. She had been beaten and bashed, with chunks missing, scratches and scars marring her surface. Huge wings appeared to at one time spread wide to stretch from wall to wall. Long beaten and bashed mosaics filled all four of the walls.

His detect magic spells still active, Aetius detected some strong magical force in the rubble and discover a fist sized blue gem, magic pouring out of it. Always a keen eye on valuables, Breki searched the rubble near him and discovered a matching gem and flipping it over discovered that it was carved on one side to resemble an eye. Not heeding Ilmarin's suggestion, he raised it to his eyes and looked through the gem...

The place came alive and he could see the room as it appeared eons ago. Gleaming white walls covered with colorful mosaics surrounded a beautiful and impressive statue, wings spread and arms out, holding a huge key in one hand and brandishing a glowing torch in the other. Then ghostly people began streaming into the room, bowing before the statue, studying the mosaics, and proceeding through now closed brilliant bronze doors at the back of the room. This sneak peek at the room as once stood was impressive...

[We hit our time for the night and ended here]

If you are a player of mine, you might not want to read below, could contain some spoilerish type things as I give people a peek behind the curtain.

With this session I have upgraded my Roll20 subscription from the "Free Backer" status I received as a result of backing the Kickstarter way, way back to a "Pro" account. This allowed me access to the Pro forum section, with all sorts of tricks and tips. Another bit with this session, last session one of the players figured out from some artwork I showed that I was using The Dark of Hot Springs Island so with this session, I let it be know that I am using it, but meshing it with aspect of Kalmatta as well as the classic module The Isle of Dread. So there are certainly aspects of each that will show up in various parts of the campaign. I am stealing pieces that I like from each and tossing them into the mix. Hopefully it all works out and the players enjoy it.

DM Note 1: One thing I discovered was that you could apply an aura to a token out of sight of the players to simulate the fading light. I dropped a random token down, put a black aura on it and it made everything sort of gloomy. Merely duplicating this token made it get darker, giving the feel of the fading light as the night set in. Worked ok, but not perfectly, but I felt this added a little to the atmosphere.

DM Note 2: With this session I decided to up the ante a little and I applied an angle to the character tokens, effectively mimicking how we as people really see, about 160 degrees to the front of us. I think the players felt this was a little annoying because now there were many comments such as "Something is moving over by you" and "Where????" as they spun tokens around to try to see the map around them. I however, liked it. Monster can now sneak up behind characters with ease and the players really have to stay on their toes. Once we get in the dungeons I see this as being particularly harrowing for them and fun for me.
DM Note 3: One thing I have tried to emphasize is that this place is crawling with life. Every session so far the players have ran into two new creatures, at random, that call this place home. While these encounters have not all ended in combat or the players being attacked, they have put the players on edge. They are nervous. They are worried about their characters' lives. One player mentioned pre-game how dangerous this place was turning out to be, and that is exactly what I wanted.

DM Note 4: As noted in DMn3 above, I want this jungle to be alive. So I rarely let an opportunity slide without having a random encounter. One thing I really like about Hot Springs is the random encounter tables. Each hex has tables specifically designed for it, so each table is unique to it's location. Now, this is not anything revolutionary but one thing I really like is it adds a second and third roll to the encounter table (to the right). So you roll encounter type - what is encountered - what they are doing to give a matrix of possibilities. So you may get Beast - Bear [d4] - Wounded, or Intelligent - Vyderac [d6+1] - Fighting and then you as a GM interpret this and apply it to the situation in their game. This is a fantastic idea and perfectly implemented. Rather than having to come up with a complete encounter on the fly, you are spoon fed a few bits of information, which for any good DM will cause your gears to start spinning with ideas.

So in the heat of the adventure, I get fuzzled up and stuck for something to happen in the game, I roll on the table and immediately get a short statement (Four giant rats are fighting) that helps spur imagination and causes me to create for the game. So far, it has worked brilliantly. ALL of the encounters thus far in the jungle have been determined in this fashion. 

DM Note 5: Here is a picture of the creature, you might recognize it from a certain very large book. I played it up as if the ground came alive, sprouted vine-like tentacles, started moving, and appeared hungry. They players seemed only somewhat afraid of it, merely cautious, until it rose up and showed it's toothy maw on the underside. Aetius immediately turned around and was all "nope nope nope!" Face that thing or enter a completely unknown and scary dungeon??? Yep! And off they went.

With this session I have gone farther down the tunnel of leaving White Box and going to B/X (in it's B/X Essentials incarnation) for the game. While some people, including myself and one of the players, deride the race as class stylizing of B/X, I am starting to think that this is not enough of a dampener on my liking of the system. I recently got my hard copy of James V. West's Black Pudding #4 zine and with it Peter Regan sent along a copy of his FOSSIL  (Fantasy Old School System Index Lite) booklet. This little booklet sums up the B/X rules quite nicely, though I did not notice a few discrepancies between it and the B/XE books, and is pushing me ever so closer to scrapping White Box in favor of B/X.

This is not because I no longer like WB but more that B/X offers more adventures and supplements and has imo just as streamlined rules as Mason's version of WB. Gavin's B/XE is cleaned up, easy to read, has a little bit more crunch for the players (yeah, I did not think I would want that either) all while still being fast, easy, and something are all familiar with.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Prolge Parlayers, session one

Inspired by some recent play reports on another blog I have decided to begin recording the adventures I am running for my regular Thursday group. The group is partially the same group I have been DMing with for over a decade now and three newer players to join us. I am calling this session one but in reality this group has been together since November and probably at around 15 sessions played over the months.

Recap of our previous adventures.
(a super fast and short overview of our adventures thus far)

The group originally came to the frontier village of Prolge in search of fame and fortune, they rescued some children from a cult of fishmen in a largely unexplored dungeon to the north. They got caught up in a 'civil war' between fishman tribes. They then heard of an ancient elven ruin to the east called The Citadel of Sorrow where they discovered a obelisk with teleportation capabilities, on this was marked a symbol of a tree. Later they encountered a seriously dangerous demon called Demodrix who was partially trapped in a demiplane with powerful chains.
Shortly afterword they rescued a local lord from the clutches of a strangely powerful goblin tribe called the Bludfingers and captured two black spears from them. With some help from a librarian and a bit of facetiming, they uncovered that they black spears were the corrupted White Spears that trapped Demodrix in his prison, the corrupted spears could set him free. The party determined that they should 'uncorrupt' the spears to ensure he is not freed from his prison. To do this, they need to locate a Weirwood tree and stab the spear into the heart of the tree (thus removing the curse that made it a black spear). Unfortunately Weirwood trees are rare and the only known remaining location is an ancient elven homeland. Curiously the teleportation portal in the Citadel of Sorrow had the symbol of the Weirwood tree, deducing this was a portal to the elven homeland, the party is determined to travel through the portal and locate the remaining Weirwood trees...

Jason Hobbs - Brother Menno Walther (cleric of Hermod)
Tim Shorts - Aetius (magic-user)

After resting up for a few days and allowing Aetius the mage to create his wizard staff, the crew reassembles in Prolge with Lord Groften (the aforementioned local lord). Lord Groften informs the group that he has assembled twenty of his men to help escort the party to the Citadel of Sorrow safely. The decide to head out the following morning.
the village of Prolge

The party stops in and visits with a local vendor named Maelken, a proprietor of potions, salves, elixirs and whatever oddities he happens to have at the time. They procure a handful of potions that give a person more vigor and vitality as well as some salves that can stave off the effects of poisons. Next the meet up with Lord Groften and his men and head out to the Citadel, just as the Bludfingers show up and begin causing troubles. Groften ushers the party onward, saying "We shall handle these fools, you take care of the spears!" The party enters the dungeon below the Citadel and proceeds to the portals.

They step through the portal and immediately notice that this is not a calm, elven temperate forest. Instead they have exited the portal and stepped in a vibrant jungle.
the exit from the portal

(At this point we were joined by a third player, Bryan Meadows who plays Breki the warrior).
The jungle was full of noise and movement, immediately casting the party into a state of worry regarding their safety. To add to this, they noticed a larger-than-human body on the path before them, his internals ripped out upon the ground. Upon closer inspection, they realized his body was still moving...something was inside the body, moving about. Quickly, Aetius opened himself to the magic that lies within the world and could feel what he deemed to be the presence of the weirwood trees to the north-north east. Thoughts of leaving the trail and moving through the thick, almost barrier like, jungle were discussed but quickly dismissed in favor of the trail.

Suddenly two bushes to their right, uprooted themselves and moved from their shady spot and into the sun. This place was becoming quite unsettling for the party and they had thoughts of retreating back through the portal.

A large centipede appeared out of they jungle to the north, moving towards the body and was immediately set upon by the rival centipede that had been hiding inside the body. The two began a vicious battle for the remains. A third centipede appeared and began moving towards the fray. The party wisely chose to skirt the battle and dash down the trail, hoping to put the violence behind them.

multiple centipede via for the nourishment of a corpse

Moving quickly down the path, dodging another sun-bathing centipede on a sunbaked log, the party discovered two monoliths to the north through the thick forest and deemed they needed to explore, in case this might be the magical presence that Aetius had felt. Moving through the dense jungle proved difficult and visibility was limited to about four or five feet. Out of the foliage, Aetius was suddenly attack and struck by a giant rat, easily ten feet long, thirteen feet long to the tail. It was huge, vicious, and possibly rabid, striking quickly and without warning. The blow was cruel and nearly killed poor Aetius. Menno and Breki quickly stepped in to shield him and likely saved him from certain death.
Aetius discovers the dangers of the thick jungle

Quick work by all three resulted in the creature being slain and the party drug the remains into the clearing just ahead. Aetius took care of his wounds, Breki stood guard and Menno did some meditating. He could feel the 'Horned God' atop his dark tower to the northeast and was physically slammed by force when the god turned to face him. Breki noted that during Menno's meditation, glowing symbols appeared on each of the stone monoliths but he was unable to read or understand the symbols.

With this session I have officially adopted our Mage Staff rules (I will post this rule another time) and Tim immediately gravitated to the rule. The rule certainly provides his magic user with a bit more depth and he loaded his staff with utility spells and kept the offensive spells to his memory.

Also with this adventure I am switching from all home-made adventures to a 3rd party adventure (or possibly setting depending upon who you speak to), though I am highly modifying it so that certain aspects of the adventure fall in line with my established statements on the 'ancient elven homeland' and the needs of our party.

I really like WB because of it's lack of depth and detailed rules allows for more 'rulings not rules' philosophy, I can decide things on the fly without spending a few moments looking up a rule. And even if we do need to look up a rule, the slim book makes this very easy. For initiative I had each side roll once, and we simply used that for the remainder of the encounter. This caused a speeding up of events as we no longer needed everyone to roll, determine who went when, etc.

One aspect of WB I really enjoy is ability to generate details on the fly. This is not really a function of the system but more of a side effect. The party dodged the centipede encounter, a 'planned' random encounter (I randomly rolled prior to the game session so I had this first encounter planed out and ready for them). This caused the group to move along a little faster than I had expected and I had to think on my feet, my map was not that large and had no other encounters planned. I knew the right side of the map had a clearing that could prove interesting so I let them wander ahead, hoping they would catch sight of it through the trees (see below).

I quickly used a random encounter table to determine that a single giant rat was hunting nearby and I took the opportunity to have it spring a surprise attack on the party. One of the players even remarked that the jungle is full of noise and we do not have to worry about being quiet. Cue DM random attack. I did not have giant rats stats on hand (I had not planned for this) but I tossed up ideas and quickly wrote down AC 12 and HP 22, 3 attacks of bite/claw/claw all d6. Easy peasey and I was ready to go.

One thing I discovered that I really enjoy using is the dynamic lighting for forests. Here is a close up of the players will see. Here I have taken the time to add numerous small squares to stand in for tree trunks and to mimic the idea of a thick forest. Below is the players' view.

Next is the same view, but farther out. If you look closely at clock directions of 10, 4, and 5 from the party you can barely make out that something is surrounding the party, hidden by the trees. Observant players will keep an eye out for this sort of thing and I think helps add a little to the immersion of being in a living, wild forest.

Here you can see how I accomplish this. An assload of squares of a variety of sizes. The effect is really cool as the players move through the forest, with pockets of clear view presented here and there through the forest. As they moved through the jungle this allowed them to know something was in the woods to the north, but they were not sure until they moved there. As a GM I love watching the players wonder among themselves as to what lies just beyond their view. Is it safe or dangerous? Oftentimes they cannot tell until they get there.

Another tool of Roll20 I found effective was the Jukebox. I found some ambient jungle sounds I had playing and then every once in a while I added a distant roar the players could hear. One player mentioned the roar every time I did it. What is roaring in the distance? We don't know, but it sounds BIG.