Monday, December 28, 2009

Dragon Army 11 A Time of Dwarves

After their hasty retreat to Candololian the party decided to explore the cards and mirrors more. Using the card from the dragon they land in the back alley of a strange and mysterious City travelling out of the alley they arrive at a street selling various strange arcane items. Asking about the dragon they are pointed towards a palace at the center. Asking about where they can sell magical wares they are pointed towards several shops. A bit further conversation leads to a dwarf capable of reforging the dwarf's heirloom axe into a +2 weapon (remind me never to pass out heirloom weapons again). It was a masterwork weapon which was pretty good for first level.Unfortunately by 6th it was significantly underpowered, but there was no way my dwarf was giving it up. After all as the dwarf said "It's an heirloom, all I have left of the Hold I was born in before the evil army burned it to the ground. The evil army army will pay dearly for that!!! Wrooo!!! Wroo!! Booyaah!!" It takes about 10 minutes to get him to stop frothing at the mouth after that (perhaps I will pass an heirloom weapon again, so much role playing for so little). They then decided that they would explore the underground passage reachable from "The Mountain Man". The dwarf voted for underground passages and no one was going to argue with him.

P.S. They spent alot less time shopping in the City (It's Brigadoon but don't tell the players that the'll run away screaming) than I thought they would perhaps running the campaign cash poor has its advantages
P.P.S No map for Brigadoon yet. She-Who-Must-be-Obeyed suggested a maze of streets that rearrange themselves every time they visit. I just may go with that.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Boxing Day

Well I didn't get the merry Christmas or Happy Festivus messages up so will have to go with Happy Boxing day. Spent the holidays in J.Rients country. Unfortunately the only decent Internet connection is back at the Hotel, so didn't spend much time surfing the blogs. Bought the game stores out of modules I should of put on my Christmas list but didn't. Most of my relatives couldn't find a game store with GPS. However I am still working on corrupting my nephew. Went to see Avatar with my nephew, and one of his other uncles (My Brother-in-laws brother, no clue what the official designation for such a relative is). Sappy plot but "Last Shadow" is definitely showing up in my campaign. "Unobtainium" is real my colleagues use all the time in their conceptual designs, it is very useful for solar sails, space elevators, hydrogen storage and perpetual motion machines. I, myself, prefer the much stronger "phoneybaloneyium". Did get a copy of "Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara" (my relatives are pretty good at bookstores). Maps, Cities, and Dinosaurs; what else could anyone ask for? Yes I am a Dinoholic. Many new beasts will be showing up in the Valley of Ferns. Picked up "Imaginary Realism" by the Dinoptopia author. Unfortunately he very old school which resulted in a lot of that's the way we did it art class from She-Who-Must-be-Obeyed. I don't have time for art which involves practice and hard work. Well back to my quest for "The Lazy Artist's Guide to Creating Masterpieces Without Effort or Hand-to-Eye Coordination." Later Alligator!

P.S. A more campaign oriented post next time.
P.P.S. Any suggestions for sucking a reluctant nephew into the blogosphere?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dragon Armies 10 Tomb of the Dragon Lords part 2

Well after two diversionary posts I am back to the main story. When last we left our intrepid adventurers they were standing on a rock bridge in a subterranean cavern. I originally had some ideas about an encounter involving giant bats and people getting knocked off, but we were running late so it got deleted. On either side the cavern drops a 100' to a shallow subterranean pool with no apparent exits. However the hole in the center of the bridge leads to a hidden ledge with a passage leading back under the stone bridge. A 100' along this passage ended in a double iron door of dwarven smithwork covered in runes with a Celtic knotwork dragon on each leaf of the door. The door leaves swing open easily to a light touch. They enter a round chamber with a single door leading off to the side (Battle mat for both this cave and the next shown above, artwork by She-Who-Must-be-Obeyed [unfortunately it was a rush job and not as nice as the previous battle mat]). Again the door is iron with a knotwork dragon, but this dragon wears a crown. This door leads to a large cavern with two stone pillars and a raised stone platform on the far side. On the floor lining the walls of the chamber are six black cauldrons worked with knotwork motifs and handles in the shape of dragon heads. A the iron door is opened a shower of sparks shoot out from the dragons crown lighting a fire in each of the cauldrons. On the stone platform is a two step wooden platform. On the wooden platform sits a wooden throne decorated in (you guessed it) Celtic knotwork dragons. On the throne sits a skeletal form of a robed figure with a golden crown on its head, a golden scepter in his right hand, a golden orb in his left hand, and two gold rings on his fingers. To the left of the throne sits another skeleton on a wooden camp stool dressed in brown wool robes with a dagger made of a 24" long tooth thrust in his belt. A small pouch hangs off his belt as well. To right of the throne sitting on the steps is a skeleton dressed in motley (jester's clothes) with a fools cap on his head, in his right hand is a jester's stick, in his left hand a rubber ball, on his fingers are tied two pieces of string. Further to the right is a large free standing floor mirror covered in black cloth. The party uncovers the mirror at which point the iron double doors in the first chamber slam shut. The party finds the Harrow card The Beating tucked in the mirrors frame. The they hold the card to the mirror and it begins to glow a sickly greenish blue. A bolt of greenish blue energy shoots of the mirror zigzags off every single party member and flies through the single door with the crowned dragon into the antechamber, at which point the single door slams shut. The monk runs over, reopens the door and is confronted by nine adventurers looking identical to the party except for the green glowing eyes, and the gnome who has been replaced by a lizardman. It's roll for initiative time! After soundly trashing their unfriendly counterparts (The party's elven wizard managed to roll high on initiative and get the opening fireball off first), the party investigates the three skeletal figures further and discovers in addition to the merchants belt pouch filled with gold coins, the crowned skeleton has a belt pouch full of gems, and the jester a belt pouch full of rocks and pine cones. Being uncertain what to take they take everything off the three skeletons (Of course nobody bothers to check the cauldrons. If they had wiped the tarnish off of the cauldrons they would have discovered they were pure silver). They retrace their steps to the entrance to the tomb. When they exit the tomb through the rows of pillars in the lake a bolt lighting flashes from the pillars striking the monk who is carrying loot from the jester and the hobbit who is carrying loot from the crowned skeleton. The loot from the king is transformed into a black sword, a black crown, a black orb, a pouch of rocks and pine cones and two pieces of string. The loot from the jester transforms into a golden sword, a golden crown. a golden orb, a pouch of gems, and two golden rings. The old man waits on the far shore to greet them. When they step out from the lake, he asks them for the dagger make from the tooth and they give to him. He then tells them the tale of the six dragon lords, one for each color dragon. He explains when the other five decided to seize control of the world from the elder races (dwarves and elves) how he argued against that course of action. However, the other dragon lords knocked his tooth out and used a magic spell they linked to it to prevent him from interfering with their plans. He points out that now he has the tooth he will be able to unravel this spell. When asked about the other items from the tomb, he explains they will help the party with its struggle against the other dragon lords. When asked about the black sword and crown he suggest caution since they are aligned with evil (they are now stone shaped into the rock in an undisclosed location in the cliffs south of Candololian). He suggests if they have need of him again to contact him to visit him in his city using the Harrow card they just acquired, when the look at the card they notice it has changed into The Keep. He then changes back into his yellow dragon (i. e. gold dragon) form and flies away, mentioning in an oh by the way fashion that the other dragon lords surely have wards around this place and will be on their way to investigate. A brief sound of leathery wings flapping in the distance is more than enough to send the party scrambling back to the obsidian cliffs and through the portal back to Candololian.

Dave and Gary

I have been reading the debate on Dragons Foot about who wrote which parts of the Original D&D Blackmoor supplement. Although I find the debate mostly trivial and still consider Blackmoor one of the worst supplements written, in my discussion with She-Who-Must-be-Obeyed she highlighted an interesting statement which I made. She suggested posting it on my blog for posterity before I forgot. I of course said "your wish is my command" hence this post. I dearly love Dave Arnesons work (As I have stated First Fantasy Campaign is one of my favorite supplements). However, on reviewing his work over the years (Blackmoor, First Fantasy Campaign, Adventures in High Fantasy that strange and unplayable role playing game written for lawsuit purposes) I think it took the organizational skills of a Gary Gygax to make the game a success. Not Gygax's writing style (thesaurus shotgun, as I like to call it), but his ability to put things in charts and tables and organize those charts and tables into a coherent flow so that one has a game instead of just random noise. Personally I think the current editions could do with a lot less purple prose and lot more charts and tables (unfortunately as long as game companies pay writers by the word there will be lots of purple prose). There, I have said my piece, please respond and comment.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

In too deep on Cadwallon

OK short post tonight, because I am just back from DMing the shop gamers through Waterdeep 1-5 Lost in the Fog (one of the better living forgotten realms). I was thinking about last night which I stayed up way too late searching the french language blogs for an English translation of Secrets of Cadwallon Two, when I didn't even like Cadwallon and Secrets of Cadwallon that much to begin with (As usual for Rackham the artwork in is glorious, however the rules are obtuse, pretentous and overly artifical; I mean who wants to have to pick what kind of mood the are in just to figure out if you hit the monster or not). There is an english Rackham board with a Cadwallon section here and a link to the artist who drew the Rackham City Tiles here (Warning this site is in French). If you look at the pictures labelled "plateux de jeu" you can see some of the tiles, but not the cavern ones I was talking about in yesterdays post. Well it's past my bedtime again, so see you next time.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dragon Army 9 Tomb of the Dragon Lords

OK so back to our story. The party having rescued Candololian from the Mists and picking up a new toy to teleport them across the world, are accosted by a strange old man. After assembling the entire party in the brown hills (and several checks to make yes the portals do work both ways), they inquire what the old man has in mind. He explains that not far from here is the ancient tomb of the Dragon Lords which contains an ancient dragon tooth which he is need of. Unfortunately the magic wards surrounding the tomb prevent him from retrieving it himself, but it should not affect a party of unknown adventurers. He will grant them whatever else they can find in the tomb as long as they return the tooth to him. Smelling an obvious plot hook (I try to make them obvious so the players don't miss them). He also warns them in an oh by way fashion that much of whats in the tomb is not as it appears. Arriving at large tumulus in the center of a shallow lake (illustrated once again with a picture from Mysteries of the Himalayas) they spot a path lined with columns leading to the side of the tumulus. The old man whispers a secret word (open turmeric perhaps) and an archway appears in the side of the tumulus. At this point the old man informs them he can go no further, wishes them well, and reminds them of their promise to bring him the tooth. They enter through the archway into a set of stairs leading down. The stairs end in a landing with a hall leading to the right down the hall in the alcove is a giant statue with the palms of its hands upraised (I used Cartophile #7 from Skeleton Key for this level). Continuing down the passage they enter a large chamber near an oval pool. Half oval risers lead up from the pool to a giant statue identical to the first but with a large stone sword laying on the upraised palms. Quickly figuring things out they transfer the stone sword to the statue in the alcove (they may have had to fight some undead as well my notes don't show it though). A loud click is heard and the bottom of the oval pool falls away to reveal a shaft leading down. Dropping down on a rope they descend into a subterranean cavern of flow stone. This portion of the dungeon was drawn by She-Who-Must-be-Obeyed after staring lovingly at the underground caverns in the Rackham Reversible Gaming Tiles (another out-of-print item for you to lust after). Here is the battle mat. More next time!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Empire of the Petal Throne

Rather than writing a new blog I am afraid I got sucked down the rabbit hole of a thread on the Dragonsfoot forum. However I'll republish my post on Empire of The Petal Throne here:

Empire of the Petal Throne is one of my favorite "Old School" games. Couldn't swing the $25 for the boxed set in 1975 so I bought $10 rules alone. It's very close to Original D&D but the skills are a definite difference. I liked that the rules are more clearly written than Original D&D with fewer holes. Unfortunately the successor incarnations of the rules have been less successful (or well written). Swords and Glory volume 2 is worth picking up. Unfortunately the most recent incarnation Tekumal was a pale shadow of the original. Tita's House of Games has most of the rules sets and supplements available still. In addition to throwing both the Hlyss and Ssu into my D&D games, I have run several short term campaigns in Tekumal. For a culture as strange and complex as Tekumal the barbarian fresh of the boat start seems to be the best way to go. As always I run the world as my own and don't worry about the canonical setting as given in the supplements. Due to an interesting quirk in the encounter tables most parties started the game wandering the wilderness and only entered the dungeons when they where higher level (the exact opposite of the way we played Original D&D). Little play hint: Don't tell the priests of Thumis you worship no gods, they will know you for the Ksarul worshiping bastard you are.

P.S. I liked the Man of Gold[Novel by M.A.R. Barker EPT author] once I got through the linguistic fluff in the first chapter

Arduin, Bloody Arduin

I really wanted to like Arduin having invested 80 bucks and firmly believing that people learn from their mistakes. However Arduin is a baroque, complex, half complete edifice. Its sits like some ruined catherdral to an unknown saint. If you have a fondness for the orginal Arduin Grimoire rules, it is better organized than the orginal nine volume set. However be warned it contains no monsters, no magic items and little campaign setting (buy the World of Khaas for campaign setting). Buy this book if you want to be inspired by strange spells of wonder. Buy this book to raid for unique and novel concepts you would have not come up with on your own. Do not buy this book for clear consice game mechanics, or simple games that are easy to understand

And now to the contents

It’s not bad explanation of the book contents. I like the little inset legends (but then you can tell from all the parenthesis in my blog I am just an aside kind of guy [She-Who-Must-be-Obeyed says when I reach the second tier I am over the limit]). I skipped the long winded history of the World of Arduin, it’s a good read but I’ve seen it before. The character creation section is clear and makes it look easy
Chapter 1 Character stats
Arduin has eleven rolled stats:
What to roll is different for each race which is given in chapter three
Arduin has eight calculated stats
Count Factor
Mental Acuity
Hit points

There is also Dodge, Movement, Saves, Defenses, Resists, a Recovery rate and a Healing rate. Whew that’s a lot of math! Considering the stats are randomly rolled I think that averaging them to calculate the values you’ll be using in play is a good idea, but eleven stats is kind of a lot.

Chapter 2 Races
More races than you can shake a stick at including my favorites Deodanth, Praint and Throon (just perfect for wielding my infamous three handed swords). I have yet to determine the difference between Hobbits and Kobbits but I am sure a sharp blow to the knee cap in some dark alleyway will begin my instruction in the finer points. Every race gets to select from a Chinese menu of optional bonuses. If that’s not enough there’s a hundred (just right for rolling a d100 to decide) general bonuses in the back.

Chapter 3 Cultures
Various regions of the world of Khass with various options I’ll try to pursue this in depth later but it’s a lot like other campaign guides

Chapter 4 Professions & Paths
Character classes new ones include Courtesan, Medicine Man, Rune Weaver, Sage, Techno, Trader, Rune Singer, and Star Powered Mage

Chapter 5 Skills
Skills are checked on a d100 and range from 0 to 150. Races learn skills at an average rate of about 7 skill points per experience point 1. However some races are as low as 1 skill point per experience point, so if you want to be a skill monkey choose your race wisely. Most skills are the same old same old, although many have special tricks available as you advance. Skills a little less ordinary include Beast ken, Business, Ceremony, Channel, Entreaty, Gnosis, Lorica, Noetics, and Underworld. One bit of interest are the several martial and caster skills which although similar are based on different stats.

Chapter 6 is missing. Perhaps it contains some deep secrets only revealed in full moonlight. Perhaps it is bad editing.

Chapter 7 Equipment
Stuff to buy. Except for some weird race weapons and armor nothing much to see.

Chapter 8 Faith and Religion
Faith points are apparently accumulated like experience and expended to cast spells. Dogma is a big stick to make you roll on the transgressing table as well as the crisis of faith table. A list of Gods of the Arduin World each with their own dogmas and spell lists. Nobody is spectacularly different from the standard fare.

Chapter 9 Combat
Wow nine chapters in and finally a combat system. Initiave is determined by CF. Those with high CF get extra actions up to 6 for the highest. Note to players pump your CF up or you’ll be dead before you can do anything. If your CF drops to zero all you can do is try and boost it back up. Every one gets one quick action (I’m not sure when because that is not explained. Hopefully it interrupts the attack you’re trying to dodge, block, or parry). Combat is resolved by a d100 roll. Roll the dice add your bonuses, check it against the opponents defense; if it’s higher you hit. Roll your damage dice (usually based on weapon type with stat adds). Subtract your opponent’s damage resist (usually from armor) and voila he loses that many hit points. Grappling is a d100 athletics against defense and can pin, restrain, or slam. Many other combat maneuvers mostly the same old same old, but wield creature as a weapon is kind of cute.

Chapter 10 AdventuringThis chapter is a giant hodgepodge of stuff; including wealth checks, experience, lifting and throwing, overland travel and lighting. This is followed by a collection of martial arts feats which is the longest part of the chapter (perhaps this is the lost chapter 6 it sure as heck didn’t belong here and one had more than enough martial arts in both the professions and skills chapters).

Chapter 12 Social Dimensions
Ah hah the weird martial arts stuff is actually chapter 11 (it’s just not labeled that). Here we get lifestyle, social motifs, contacts and connections. The contacts and connections actually look interesting sort of like a long term diplomacy check

Chapter 13 design and manufactureMaking stuff. Way too short and badly explained

Chapter 14 Schematics
The stuff to make. Laid out like some giant spell book, but probably too techno to make into my fantasy campaign setting

Chapter 15 herbs
Magical herbs! what else!?

Chapter 16 Alchemy recipes
For those who prefer brewing their gizmos rather than manufacturing them

Chapter 17 Spirits and Animate powers
For calling on the forces of nature. Short and confusing

Chapter 18 fetishes
For those who prefer spirit powering their gizmos rather than brewing them

Chapter 19 magik and pychic
Well the fighters got their bonus background chapter in 11 so here’s a pile of extra magic feats and backgrounds for mages.

Chapter 20 RunesPerhaps it isn’t really just for magicing gizmos instead of spirit powering them. The things runes do seem slight different. I’ll have to pursue this chapter more to know for sure

Chapter 21 Rituals
For those who like their magic slow.

Chapter 22 Spells
The list up to level 20. Each with its own little paragraph of obtuse text arranged neither by level or alphabetically for maximum game slowness and rules lawyering (brings back memories of the old days especially the house rule banning rules discussions after midnight).

Chapter 23 Mental Powers
Like the spells only it’s mental

Chapter 24 Prayers
Spells for Clerics

Chapter 25 GM Assistance
Here’s the place for the stuff they forgot to mention earlier like moving, climbing, swimming, starting age, language, knowledge, handling time between adventures, generating NPC (perhaps the one thing that belonged in this chapter rather than something earlier) and critical hit tables. Not content with critical hits for combat they have added them for skill checks, power checks, as well as fumble tables as well

Bottom Line:Some great ideas However: Too many stats. Information too dispersed around the book. Too many different ways of doing about the same thing

Imagination 5 stars
Organization 2 stars
Art work 3 stars (4 if you are an affectionato of black and white ink work)
Playability 3 stars (some sections seem quite useable)

Overall 3 stars

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Older blog posts updated

Being new to blogging I am not sure about the proper morays and protocols for updating older posts. However, since this blog also documents my campaign I feel the need to keep the campaign posts accurate and have figured how to post the campaign maps to the blog (also blogger makes re-editing pages easy). Therefore, I have revised Dragon Army 1 and Dragon Army 3 with new campaign maps, and fixed up the rumor list in Dragon Army 2 to be more flashy and easier to read. I have made several other tweaks throughout the posts to satisfy the whims and dictates of She-Who-Must-be-Obeyed, but if you understood what I said the first time (never mind the spelling and grammar) I wouldn't bother going back to read it again.

Dragon Army 8 Rough Night in Candololian

Most of the party is asleep while the Monk keeps watch by using the throne of Candololian to scrye. Observing the room with the two portals the Monk sees a strange grey four foot long dragon (its a portal drake from the forgotten realms underdark setting) emerge from the lower portal. It sniffs the air as if looking for something winks an eye and disappears. The Monk searches frantically for where it went. A blood curling scream from the bedchamber soon reveals its location. After a desperate melee which wakes the entire party up to rush to the aid of a frantic Magic User, the fell beast is put down. But how did it get in? The sole clue is that the cover has come off the mirror in the antechamber. Whats this wedged in the frame of the mirror? Four cards from a Harrow desk (pazio 2nd adventure path prop) The Big Sky, The Tangled Briar, The Mountain Man, and the Devils Lantern. Touching the mirror reveals the surface to soft and liquid. After sticking the hand and pulling it out a few times one brave soul sticks his head through and notices he is in a pitch black cavern. He hears the sound of dripping water far off, and picks the dang musty smell of wet rock. He looks around his head and notices it is sticking out of a glowing portal similar to the two down in the dungeon. Perhaps the portals are worth investigating further. The party descents to the portal chamber and are promptly jumped by White Spawn who spring from the upper portal, The 12 hordlings go down quickly, the 6 hunters last only a little bit longer, but the chain wielding berserker gives then a decent fight. After the "funny looking lizardmen" are defeated one of the adventures pokes his head through the lower portal and sees rolling hills of reddish clay (Illustrated with a picture from Mysteries of the Himalayas which I had picked up for 5 bucks at Half Price Books) he looks around and sees his head sticking out of the side of a small cliff of obsidian glass. Another adventurer sticks his head through the upper portal and sees a gravel streambed at his feet and above his head Aquamarine light filtering through a ceiling of ice. He notices his head is sticking out from a floor mirror similar to the one in the elven tree house. After the magic user complains about not having enough sleep to get spells back yet. The party returns to the tree house for some more shuteye. Morning finally comes after another tense moment while the ranger uses the throne to scrye another White Swarm patrol which searches the forest in vain (not noticing the secret doors in the trees) and returns back through the portal to their glacial layer. Being severely warned he more sense than to wake the spellcasters yet again. OK time to see what the cards do. Perhaps something to do with the mirror? Holding the Tangled Briar to the mirror switches its destination to a steaming tangled jungle swamp. Holding the Mountain Man to the mirror returns in to the dark cavern it was at originally, risking a light reveals this to be a 30' wide tunnel of natural stone, a rangers practiced eye on the floor reveals a trail worn smooth by the passage of many generations of feet. Holding the Big Sky to the mirror reveals the same red clay hills as the lower portal in the dungeon, in fact there is a small obsidian cliff with a stream of water flowing out from it ab out 100' away. No one feels like using The Demons Lantern. Feeling bold with the mirror tuned to the Big Sky the ranger steps through. He is just about to push back through a liquidy feeling portion of the obsidian cliff when he hears a shrill whistle and a shout of "Hey you". Looking behind he sees a small wizened old man in a sheepskin cloak clutching a gnarled staff. The man beckons the ranger to come towards him and says "Come, Come your already terribly late".

DM Tips
  • If your DM imagination ranges from sweltering jungles to glacial tundras its good to have magical transport available
  • Props are cool even if you don't use for what they were originally designed for
  • Bargain books of photos of strange and exotic locale are a good for inspiring the imagination
  • Little old men wandering the wilderness are seldom as vulnerable as the they appear

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dragon Army 7 Candololian Part 3

After pangs of conscience successfully dampen the lusts of greed, players decide to explore the visible door in the library. They open it and discover it leads to a tree limb, not very interesting until the keen eyed ranger spots a well worn train of elven leading out on to the limb. Traveling down the limb they discover the limb of an adjacent tree butting up against the current limb. Traveling up that limb to the trunk they find a secret door to the interior of the new tree. The door leads to an octagonal chamber with a table on one side and a mirror draped with a black cloth on the other side, One side of the octagon is an arch which leads to a circular balcony with two more arches. One arch leads to a bed room. The final arch leads to an alchemists lab. There is also a door on the balcony which leads to a 5' square chamber. Lowering a rope down the central shaft (players of the Elder Scrolls; Morrowwind will be quite familiar with the central shaft style of elven tree architecture) the party thief descends to a 30' by 30' chamber with a large throne carved out of the living wood sitting on a raised dais and two stair cases leading down. Following one of the staircases down the thief discovers that both staircases lead to a 30' x40' muster hall, A quick for secret doors reveals one that leads to the exterior of one of the 50' diameter trees at ground level. Once the thief returns the magic user uses a quick fly spell on the ranger and sends him up the shaft. 20' up is another balcony with three doors. One door leads to a bedchamber, another to a second library, and the third door to a small armoury with a gleaming set of golden chainmail, a golden shield and several masterwork weapons. 40' up the shaft ends in a 30' flat to flat octagonal chamber with a large double bed, two chests and another bookcase. Round portals of stained glass are set in the corners of the room. After the ranger returns he ferries the rest of the party down to inspect the throne. Sitting on the throne the sorcerer discovers something interesting: By focusing his thoughts he can use the throne to scrye areas within a 1/4 mile radius of the throne room. At point the party realizes that they have discovered enough bedchambers that the whole party can get some shut-eye. They promptly assign sentry duty to those nimble enough to use the rope to get up and down to the throne room, show the sentries how to use the throne to keep an eye out, and go to sleep. However, their rest does not go undisturbed. More next time.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mysteries of Old

A little break from Candololian. She-Who-Must-be-Obayed has been surveying the blog with her stern eye and correcting my shortcommings. We have added a map of the coast from Reme to Winterhaven to the Dragon Armies 3 post. We'll be posting more soon. Pursuing reviews of Stonehell dungeon (the new "old school" megadungeon from three headed monster), led me to older reviews of the dissappointment that was Castle Zagzyg. It also remined me of one of my favorite supplements of a all time Judge Guild's First Fantasy Campaign by Dave Arneson(rest in peace). Dave had the sense not to try and rework an item from the times of myths and legends into something for modern tastes, but just presented it warts and all the way he wrote and used it. For a look under-the-hood kind of guy like me it suited me just fine. No I can't run it the way he wrote it, but I never run modules the way they are written anyhow. Another thing, the heart and sole he put into it were not edited away in to bland soleless pap with fancy artwork (see Expedition to Undermountain for that kind of trainwreck, although they did finally publish at least a bit of map for all the levels [20 good pages out of 220 total]). I am afraid given the high rate of mortality amongst the old stalwards First Fantasy Campaign may be one of the few glimpess of how the game was played when D&D first began ever to see print. Just get the stuff out there and it will live forever, sit back trying to catch the evermoving target of perfection and take it with you to the grave.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Dragon Army 6 Cadololian Part 2

After starting blankly at the giant trees and mumbling about "where's the city?" The lightbulb starts to come on. Elven City? Giant Trees? Hey! Maybe the trees ARE the city? A quick thump on the trunk of a 30' diameter tree reveals it to be hollow. A quick search for secret doors finds one in the trunk. Opening the secret door reveals a 15' x20' chamber whoose walls are lined with a wooden stair case leading upwards. After about three complete turns around the staircase (taking them 90' above the floor) they arrive at a chamber with a roll-top desk sitting in the corner. A short 10' flight of stairs takes them to a 20'x25' with three sides lined with bookshelves and a doorway on the fourth. A quick check for secret doors (after all it's my dungeon right?) reveals a pivoting bookcase behind which lie another set of stairs. Up these stairs another 10' is a bedchamber with a chest at the foot of a bed and another bookcase. Jimmying open the desk reveals three small journals. Persuing the book cases of the library reveal many books on practical arts in many languges. The bookcase in the bedroom holds a set of wizards spellbooks with spells up to 5th level. Openning the chest reveals wizards robes of finest silk. Reading the the jorunals (written in elven of course) reveal that this is indeed the redisence of the loremaster of Candololian as well as the history of the long struggle against the green and white dragon armies as well as the fall of two other elven cities. There is also indirect references to a fourth secret journal which may contain the location of the Valley of Ferns. A search for secret panels reveal one on the back of the scroll top desk and a false bottom in the chest. A detect magic reveals something rod shaped in the false bottom and a couple slips of paper with magic writing gluing both the false bottom and compartment shut. At this point the party's ranger launches into a long soliquiy about whether or not this is really the parties stuff to take in the first place and convinces the party not to open either panel. As a consequence both the fourth journal and a nifty magic item go undiscovered. 500 miles of wanton smash and grab but time to grow consience when a 1/4" of oak separates you from your goal it's enough to make a DM cry or tear his hair out (perhaps it is because small slips of magical paper tend to say " By the time you have finished reading this I will already have expl...."). More of Candololian next time

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dragon Army 5 Candololian

***WARNING RUINS OF CANDOLOLIAN SPOILER***(Aw, Who am I kidding? If you don't read this you won't know anything about Candololian anyhow. Maybe the warning is for later)

So gentle read bear with us as our tale continues. Having avoided certain doom in the Battle of the blue mist (there is a way to escape but its not going to be easy), the party rests in the secret elven watch post. The next day an elven ranger takes them to the graveyard of Candololian which is still outside the mist and shows them the right button to push on the right crypt to reveal a hidden stairway which leads to an underground passageway. After travelling north along the passageway about a mile ( a distance which they reckon puts them well within the mists) the passage turns 45 degrees to the east. Lying on the left side of the passage is an elven skeleton carrying a longbow. Nimbly avoiding the poison spike trap marked by the skeleton they fail to notice the portcullis until it comes slamming down behind them. They continue around a few turns and arrive at a set of double doors. On opening the set of double doors they enter a 30'x30' chamber with a large throne and no obvious exits other than the double doors. Seated on the throne is a skeletal form in black robes with glowing red eyes (old school DMs should recognize this monster immediately). The skeletal form informs them that he can take them further, but once he does there is no turning back, they must conquer all or be doomed to fight for ever. The party, bold adventurers that they are, inform him no thank you and immediately begin to comb the corridor they came down for secret passages. The do find a secret door which leads to a chamber with the windlass to raise the portcullis. They raise the portcullis and "high tail it" back to the watch post. There they consult with the elven princess. She thanks them for returning the skeleton of one her rangers, but informs them she can provide little more assistance than she already has. She has already lost too many rangers trying to reach the center of Candololian, and will not jeopardize the mission to watch Candololian while her liege the elf king still lives. How does she know he still lives, she has an amulet which glows as long as he is alive (this will prove of interest to the party later). She hands them some healing potions, tells them chin up and try again tomorrow. They head back the next day and after hearing the crypt thing's speech again inform them "Yes, yes they are are ready to hazard all". Some get cold feet after the first few disappear in a puff of black smoke, but decide that keeping party together is more important than chickening out, so eventually everyone accepts the crypt thing's offer. They are teleported to several 10' wide 70' corridors each party member to his own individual 10' separated from the next nearest party member by 10'. They establish by shouting that all the corridors are connected. However when they attempt to move back together they discover the true sinister nature of their location the empty 10' squares are all pit traps each with its own spear wielding skeleton warrior (No big shakes for the elven ranger, but it was touch and go for the sorcerer). After dealing with the pits they are able to establish there are four corridors which form a closed loop. In middle of the north most corridor there is a set of double doors which lead to 30'x30' chamber just like the crypt things except here the throne is empty. After various machinations and some grumblings about how long it might take to starve to death, they finally decide to search for secret doors in the pits themselves. Yes there are secret doors in the pits. Where do these secret doors lead? Why 10'x10' chambers with no visible exits. Ignoring one of my newer players stentorian pronouncements "Dave would never put a secret door behind another secret door" the more experienced players ignore him and proceed to navigate the secret door maze (which requires finding FOUR secret doors behind secret doors to get through, sometimes it is very hard to DM with a straight face but such is the cross DMs must bear) and arrive at a landing with a staircase leading down. As usual they cleverly avoid finding the secret chamber filled with treasure so they can continue complaining about what a stingy DM I am. They do however find a magic longbow as well as an additional elven skeleton to return for burial. They descent to a 30' wide by 40' deep chamber with alcoves along the walls. There is a double door on the north, but it is locked. As the party thief fiddles with lock, white spawn ambushers emerge from the alcoves and attack (first indications that perhaps the dragon army is involved with the fall of Candololian). After defeating the ambushers (surprise was not as effective as I had hoped), the party opens the doors to reveal an octagonal chamber containing two glowing portals and a strange device. The device resembles one of those Japanese bamboo fountains where a tube on a pivot gradually fills with water. At a certain point when there is enough water the tube pivots downwards spilling its contents into a pool below (usually with a loud clonking sound as well). Relieved of its load of water the tube swings upwards again to refill and repeat the cycle. The tube in the dungeon is made of iron 6' long and 1' diameter and has a small steel spike in the back from which blue mist drifts upwards through a hole in the ceiling. Water trickles into the tube from a glowing portal 5' above the floor and runs out through another portal behind the device at floor level. Every time the tube dumps its water a big puff of blue mist is generated. The party opens a set of double doors on the far side to reveal a staircase leading up into the blue mist. After some thought the party flips the tube over causing it to be enveloped in its own blue mist at which point it promptly vanishes (not quite the solution I had planned but quite acceptable). They then wait for the mist to clear. Once the mist clears they head up the staircase and find themselves not in a city, but instead a grove of giant trees with tree trunks 30-50' in diameter. More next time.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Still searching for the notes to Candololian, but I promised myself to try and write something as often as possible. Unfortunately the way I ref is not conducive to good note taking. Years ago my wife the artist in the family drew up some miniature scale nice flagstone motif 8x11 sheets with crosses every 5/6" to mark the 5' squares. Frequently while the group is gathering, eating pizza, and discussing world affairs, I am drawing up the dungeon on these sheets with colored pencil. It makes for a nice vicarious experience but sometimes means the dungeon is not well documented for posterity. I am of course able to find the random monster pit I drew when I was 17 and the 3+ worlds whose wilderness maps I drew but never ran. I also ran across the much reviled wizards library (one step on the evolutionary scale from the random monster pit). It was the first dungeon I DMed my wife through and one of my few total party kills. The players were too cheap to stay in the Inn (wife claims they were broke due to rotten rolls on my inheritance starting gold chart, but hey that pig was worth big money she just never tried to sell it), so they camped out in the ruined tower atop the dungeon. Unfortunately they were unable to handle the mountain lion I rolled up as the random encounter for the night. I'll post some scans of these marvels later.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dragon Army 4

The players board a boat and head North for Winterhaven. After chasing off a Sea monster and fighting Orc pirates of the coast of Long Island near Cantoon, the party arrives at Winterhaven (I'll post a map sometime soon). Again they collect a page of rumors [Which I seem to to have mislaid for the moment]. The important rumor is about an endless battle which wanders the North woods being demarcated by a blue mist. After carefully avoiding the dwarven mining camp (the sound of blasting was apparently too scary), They encounter Snow Barbarians. They resolve the diplomatic impasse and lack of common language skills by slaughtering all of the barbarians. They then encounter the barbarian encampment and decide, rather than listen to the rangers suggestion of slaughtering the women and child to spare them the agonizing death of starving to death because the are not enough menfolk to provide for them (see prior encounter for what happened to the menfolk), to just sneak past. They then encounter an area of the forest filled with blue mist (see I told that rumor was important). After circling south around the zone of mist (unfortunately the zone seems to be located precisely where they think the ruins of Candololian are) they decide what the heck they'll head in. At which point a stately elf maiden backed by a dozen elven longbow men emerges from the trees and tells them "I wouldn't do that if I were you". She informs them that she is the elf princess left to watch Candololian after the elves fled the coming of the blue mist. She also informs them that the blue mist which normally wanders the forest at random, has remained fixed over the location of Candololian for the last three years. She also informs them that these is a secret underground tunnel, who's entrance is outside the blue mist, that leads to the center of Candololian. Although the ranger elves she has sent to explore this passage have never returned she is certain a party of brave and powerful adventures could succeed in getting into Candololian and breaking the spell which holds the blue mist in place without getting sucked into the eternal battle which occurs in the blue mist above ground.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dragon Army Part 3

Tonight more rumors. These are from the port town of Reme. The players boarded a ship and headed North for Winterhaven to search for Candololion.

From Town guards:
I got this nice plus two weapon at the price the town asks for a plus one from a man in a wizard hat who came to the town gate from the Tradeway alone at night.
The reason for the truce with the pirates is so they will not need to fight a battle on two fronts when the northern Army arrives.

Folks at The sorcerer’s guild:I know of a wizard in Cantoon skilled at counter magic. He makes charms to counter various
types of magic. One of his that has been seen at the guild was against illusory terrain. Brave ship captains have acquired some of those charms.
We have an outpost on Long Island where Lord Bruce is now. The Sorcerers at outpost were offered a book written in ancient Elven by some pirates. They report it appeared to be someone’s diary and contained no usable spells so they refused it.
I am is considering buying the information that Gheed is selling about the next appearance of Brigadoon
Lord Bruce of the Sorcerer’s guild was directed by the king to go to Cantoon last month.
Lord Bruce is negotiating a truce with the pirates of Long Island. He has not yet returned.

When you ask about Candolion and the Elves that live near there the St. Cuthbert Cleric introduces you to a smith who is a parishioner: “A former apprentice of mine works now in Wahoon and has these last five years. When I was up there last year he told me some well respected Elves live in Wahoon, the merchants there would never side with the snow barbarians against the Elves, it is the Winter Haven folks that like the snow Barbarians.”

From one or more Elves in Reme:
When the Elves of Candolion were over run by the snow Barbarians they fled on foot
to Winter Haven. When they had all reached the port they hired three ships to take them to Reme. Most of the court, including the lore keeper went on one ship. Only two of the three ships reached Reme. The one missing had the king on it. For the past three years we have been seeking
information about the missing ship. We have not seen it since the storm that hit shortly before we reached Reme.
When we lived in Candolion the lore keeper had many books written in ancient Elvish. He was only able to take a few books with him.
There is lore of an old Elven city named Rivendel.
There is a city named Rivendel south of Wahoon but that city is human.
There is lore of a pass through the coastal mountains protected by magical wards and guards somewhere south of the one we used to get to Winter Haven.
Candolion used to trade with Winter Haven for supplies and weapons. The pass between Candolion and Winter Haven is wide and low and easy to find. It can be traveled even in winter as long as you do not get caught in a storm.
Now that we are not up there I expect the next winter the snow barbarians need food they will attack Winter Haven.

From talking to sailors in taverns or on the docks:
Cantoon on Long Island is a known stronghold of the sea Pirates.
Fierce sea creatures guard Cantoon and the chaotic winds thereabout make the shoals near that town tricky to navigate.
Captain Hedric has a charm against running aground that he got off a pirate captain. He had it identified by the sorcerer’s guild.
The lessening in pirate activity is due to the negotiations Lord Bruce is having with them.

Heard in Taverns in Reme:Some of the merchants of Wahoon sold weapons to the snow barbarians to use against the Elves.
Some of the merchants of Winter Haven sold weapons to the snow barbarians to use against the Elves. Candolion was the city of the Elves that got sacked by snow barbarians three years ago.
A ship must carry a secret charm to enable it to make port in Cantoon.
The Sorcerer’s guild has a secret proving ground somewhere on Long Island.
Gheed , a man in a pointed hat has been seen traveling the Tradeway at night with a single wagon.
Wahoon is a small port north of Reme and south of Winter Haven. There is a cleft in the mountains near the city that would seem to be a useful pass but when one goes up the cleft you find it is blocked by a fast ,deep and turbulent river. The river comes out of the northern mountain itself and flows south across the valley before turning east down to Wahoon.
Up in the mountains near Rivendale a friend of a friend uncovered an old spell shaped rock with something he thought was written in Elven on it.

Here is a map they bought off an old sailor (courtesty of She-Who-Must-be-Obayed)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dragon Army Part 2

Well now it was decision time. Rather than write a dungeon and railroad the party down it. I generated a list of rumors and presented it to the players. We could have role played collecting them from Bards gate, but for my players is usually speedier to hand them a list. I make the rumors sufficiently obscure so no direct information is given away. Here is the list:

Rumors of lost cities:

The Elves speak of the “City of Ferns” believed to be somewhere in the Northern forests. This City is said to be the home of several giant creatures including badgers, frogs, turtles wasps and beetles. The local is said to be a deep valley set within towering crags. In some versions of the story the streams of the valley ran into a lake with a whirlpool, which was its only outlet. In other versions a river ran into the valley and disappeared into a mountain. The last travelers known to have come from the valley died about nine centuries ago. A copy of the diary of these travelers is known to have existed in two of the Elven strongholds that were overrun by the northern army, the fleeing Elves did not bring either copy with them so they now are passing the tale on in oral story.

Another book now lost to the Elves because they had to flee spoke of a city of Mind Flayers in
the Underdark. Many centuries past a horde of Dark Elves succeeded in so damaging parts of the city that the Mind Flayers withdrew to another plane. At that time the Drow came into possession
of several artifacts which even they did not fully comprehend. One of those called a “Plane Cube” is said to be capable of moving a large number of creatures from one plane to another all at the same time.

“The Golden Plateau” was once home of the ancient religious shrine to Corellon Larethian. Only a century ago it was over run by red dragons. The dragons are still using the area for
nesting. It is located far away, beyond the route the Gypsies take. It is
rumored in the Human taverns of Bard’s Gate that a few of the Elves now living
in the city visited the plateau before it was overrun.

“Brigadoon” a city located somewhere in the hills South of Bard’s Gate. Rumored to appear only when celestial objects are in the correct alignment. It is said to be the home of powerful sorcerers who posses lost artifacts. There is a book belonging to a wizard in Bard’s Gate which is reputed to have come from there.

Rumors about known Cities and the routes to reach them:
The trade route over the pass: The gypsies are quoted as saying: ” We are willing to take you the one way but you must make your own way back. There are things up in the pass, which have power over us, we do as they say or we will not be allowed to travel there. We can travel the pass only as long as we can keep the passengers blindfolded through certain parts. If the secrets of the pass are ever revealed to those outside our blood we will not be allowed to go that way again. “ Humans in Bard’s gate agree that those who have gone without the Gypsies have never returned to Bard’s Gate. A few who have gone with the gypsies have come back by way of Port Saskatoon. The merchant Rupert is the best known of these few.

Port Saskatoon lies to the south of Bard’s Gate. It is commonly reached by caravan through hills that harbor bandits. Caravans go both ways and they are usually looking for guards but do not pay very well. It is rumored that if you must take a ship out of the port you should make arrangements to pay off the organization of pirates known as the “ Skull Society “ also known in more polite company as the “Secret Society” or simply as “SS.” The rumor continues that this group can be reached by consulting with the thieves’ guild.

Speculation from the Guards about the Northern Army:
The king’s griffins have made over flights of the northern army that is besieging the Dwarves. They say they have sited a few large probably ancient red dragons in proximity to the army, They speculate that one of them maybe in control of that army.

One of the items carried by the King’s man detected the aura of an artifact in the midst of the northern army. The guards think it was in the possession of one of the Gnoll leaders. The guards
speculate this maybe the artifact known as the Crown of Command or the Scepter of Ruling either artifact could allow its owner to command a very large following. The artifact that made this determination is rumored to be the “Sword of the Rites of St. Cuthbert.”

A massive avalanche was witnessed by the over flight. The avalanche buried many of the army.
The Army was spotted digging in the avalanche, a greater number of undead are now believed to
be in that army. There is speculation that avalanche was the work of the Dwarven high priest Thorwin the Grumbler. Dwarves who have witnessed guards raising a toast to the Grumbler have welcomed the action. One dwarf went so far as to buy a round for the table of guards who drank to the high priest.

News or rumors from the alchemist who works at the Abby:

The Gnome enclave in Reme is working on a clockwork dog to substitute for a riding dog. They are hoping to make one capable of caring a load as large as a Dwarf.

Reakle one of the gnomes who live in Bard’s Gate was given a large pendulum operated clock by his father, Samess before that gnome left with the Gypsies. The use of the clock is that as long as the father is healthy the clock will keep perfect time, if it falters it means he is unwell, if it stops abruptly it indicates he has died. The clock is still keeping perfect time and it has been six months now since the father left. The son is making preparations to follow.

Many Gnomes are worried that the King will not be able to protect the human towns once the northern army turns it’s attention to them. A number of the Gnomes in Bard’s Gate are considering
traveling across the pass to found a new community. Some want to wait for word back trough Port Saskatoon that the trip was a success before going. The gnome Reakle Samesson has promised to
send them a message.

The party caucused and decided to head for the port town of Reme book a boat for the Northern Wilderness and gather more information on the City of Ferns. Not the obvious pick to my way of thinking, but that's why I let the players decide. I think the fact that the party had three elves and only one gnome may help explain.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Dragon Army Campaign

Way back in 2005 I dragged my players kicking and screaming into the modern area by starting this 3rd edition campaign. In honor of DM lack-0f-time and unfamilarity with the rules I started with some modules. Necromancer games 3e rules 1e feel sounded good and the Wizards amulet is free so I ran that one first. I followed it up with the Crucible of Freya and then the Tomb of Abysthor. Orginal party constisted of 3 players each two playing pregenerated characters from the wizards amulet. I placed it all on a homebrew wilderness map which included most of the key features of the Grand Duchy of bards gate but with some tweeks. It also contains the infamous Rappan Attuk, but the players have not stumbled on it yet (I am not pushing it either cause the traps and the entrance are just brutal). The Tomb of Abysthor is a sprawling multi level dungeon just shy of megadugeon status. So several trips were neccesary just to penetrate to second level. In between they paid several vists to the wilderness encounters included as a download supplement for Crucible of Freya. They also battled priests of orcus and gnolls rumored to be scouts for the massive evil army which had driven the Dwarves out of their moutain strongholds years ago (DM riff on a player backstory for the dwarven fighter). They assisted a band dwarves bring supplies into the last remaining Dwarven stronghold. The Surface route is blocked and swarming with gnolls and worse. The dwarves used a secret passage through the underdark which they refuse to show to the players. However they asked the players to lay a false trail through the underdark to through the hobgoblin trackers off the scent. The players did explore the underdark for a little while but decided after seening the trail lead to a rickey rope bridge with lots of stalagmites for cover on the other side to turn back. They did however solve the gnoll tracking problem by slaughtering hobgoblin rangers and their hynea tracking hounds on the way back out. They also found an abandoned gnomish workshop at the base of the mountain with the underdark which was actually a secret entrance to the lost gnomish city of Jzadirune (from the Pazio Shackled City book). Here they freed three elves from the underdark slave pits beneath Jzadirune (two more players joining in, one with sense enough to run only one character). The illustrious city of Bards gate had finally been published so a trip there was in order. There they hooked up with the temple of Thyr whose ruined temple they had run across previously in the valley in front of the Tomb of Abysthor. The high priest of Thyr hooked them up with a palidin of Muir to return to the tomb and recover some sacred relics which had been lost there. At the end of the mission I decided I had run enough "canned stuff" that I could start writing my own stuff again. More next time.

Lessons learned:

  • My players play very slow. Mostly because we all work for a living and have many other social obligations. On game nights we usually don't get started until 8 and have to quit at 11

  • Tailoring modules to your homebrew world is a lot of fun

  • Necromancer Games is "Old school" the modules actually feel like C. Petersons and B. Webbs campaign. If you look for the downloads you can actually find some of their campaign notes

  • Most canned modules are not geared for short term play

  • Players like it better when the game is tailored to their hopes and wants canned modules have a rough time with this

  • If you listen to your players the world writes itself

Welcome to the Jungle

Well here goes! After reading reading numerous blogs and forums I have decided to start my own blog. This blog is dedicated to role playing games, their mechanics, ideas for DMs, and whatever else I decide to post. Current role playing games I am playing include Dungeons and Dragons (both 3.5 and 4e) as well torchlight, Ultima Underworld and Ultima Online on the computer. I have been playing Dungeons and Dragons since my Senior year in high school. I have been DMing Dungeons and Dragons since the little white box in the plain brown wrapper came in the mail from Lake Geneva. Strangely enough I was first introduced to Dungeons and Dragons by a computer game (not the one you think, it was called pedit5 [google that for a blast from the past]). Over the coming weeks I'll try and post some of my wisdom from my years of DMing; Notes and Strategies from the games I am running currently (An ongoing intermittent campaign with folk I have been DMing since 1985, and a monthly rotation running Living Forgotten Realms at the local game store) and games I am playing (Living Forgotten Realms and two different post apocalyptic 4e edition games of grim futures [what is it with kids these days? I don't remember being that gloomy]), I'll also be reviewing games and modules from my extensive collection (Including both Palace of the Vampire Queen and a first edition pre TSR Pharaoh). I'd continue to ramble further but she-who-must-be-obeyed reminds me it is time to do the imbuing (Ultima Online skill leveling work is never done). I'll be back soon
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