Sunday, December 29, 2013


I've been absent for a bit, as I was floating aboard this ship:

Yes, I am now a Tool of the Mouse.

It's difficult to conceive, without being aboard, how huge a cruise ship is. This thing is about 1115 meters long, and has a gross tonnage of 130,000. There are 14 decks of various sizes, and 1250 staterooms. Inside, the decor is Art-Deco, and beautiful as can be. I love the style of that period, and lament that we no longer really make things of the quality evinced during that period. Disney, of course, being gigantic, rich, and all-powerful, can afford to do this stuff right, and the craftsmanship of the vessel is amazing. I can only imagine how impressive such a ship could be if it was ten (or a hundred) times as large.

Oh, and I also managed to buy some six-sided dice while aboard. The pips are little mouse heads. 

So, mini-review: The cruise was a 7-day, Western Carribean trip, with stops at Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, Cozumel, and Castaway Cay. We did some dancing and drinking, rode in dune buggies, did some swimming and snorkling, and ate way, way too much. 

The staff of the ship ("cast members") were the best I've ever seen in any customer-service situation. It's amazing how good they are. The ship is clean and well-maintained. I don't think I ever saw any real mess, and the bathrooms were impeccable. As soon as we left the ship, you could see the difference. We had a seven hour drive back to the house, and the bathroom breaks along the way were... frightening.

The food is good (if way richer than I usually eat--I think I gained like 10 pounds). The drinks are not too terribly expensive, and poured in sufficient strength to get the job done. The wife and I even went to their fancy restaurant (Remy) on the first night. I've never done such a thing before, but decided to go whole hog. We sprang for the "wine experience" and, in the end, I dropped 500 bucks on a single meal. It was worth it. I know that's insane, but it really was worth it. Every course (9 in all) had its own wine. Each was delivered with great ceremony, by at least 3 cast members, and our server (a cute Polish girl) and wine steward (a frightfully elegant French woman) were amazingly good at their jobs. In the end, we were replete with food and drink, and our asses had been thoroughly kissed. I've never in my life been lavished with such attention. I can see how that sort of treatment, every day, could tend to corrupt one's expectations and sense of place in the world. I, of course, don't have the option to have that sort of life, and will (sadly) avoid such an outcome. For me, it's back to being on the other end of the stick, dealing with bratty students and idiots of all stripes, and living from paycheck to paycheck (and, of course, paying off the now-bloated credit card balance). Lifestyles of the not-so-rich-and-famous, if you will.

I guess the only thing that I wish there had been fewer of would be the other passengers. The Great Wad of Humanity was something to see (and sometimes not in a good way). If I never see another 50 year old guy with a shaved chest, wearing gold chains and a "banana hammock," chatting up the female staff, it will be too soon. I'm not that great with crowds to begin with, so that part of it was... challenging, at times.

Okay, so I did that thing. It was fun. I might even do it again, some day. Now, here's the gaming part of it. 

I spent a lot of time, while on the ship, just wandering around and admiring the scenery and architecture. At one point, I tried to imagine the ship devoid of people. It was pretty creepy. An empty cruise ship of that size (let alone something bigger), even with sufficient lighting and in good upkeep, would be a weird place, with all kinds of places for traps, creatures, and whatnot. With 1250 staterooms to clear, all of the various bars, restaurants, and public spaces, you have a pretty respectable megadungeon to deal with. 

If you want to go with a nautical theme, then you've got not only the usual sorts of monsters to stock it with, you also have the ocean itself, and its denizens. On the other hand, if you wish to do it up as a space-based adventure, or perhaps a post-apocalyptic one, then the ship could be adrift in space or buried in the silted plain of a ancient seabed. This would, of course, change things you might encounter, there.

Most importantly, you have a variety of pre-existing maps to choose from. Here are a few to start with:

You would, of course, have to key the maps to do whatever you wanted them to do (creatures, traps, features, etc.), but you would be working from real plans, of real, working ships. This would limit the need to invent from whole cloth, the various things one might find.

Give the various plans available, it would also be relatively easy to mix and match different ships' plans to achieve your ideal form. Or (and this seems like a fun idea), you could use multiple ships at once--Maybe they are in a harbor somewhere, or at a space station, or whatever.

The important thing, though, would be to use them as the background for whatever you wish to accomplish. I like the idea of treating them as dead places, forgotten crypts, ancient constructs, and such things as that. You could just as easily use them as fully-functional and operating ships, with crew and passengers, for some other sort of game (not involving any dungeon crawling, or such activities).

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The World is Safe Once Again

On this, the final day of Zappadan, the world is safe again. You may Freak Out now.

Hungry Freaks, Daddy!

Nifty piece about FZ's skills as a conductor.

This looks very difficult.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Influences: Edgard Varèse

Edgard Varèse was, reputedly, one of Zappa's early influences. Listening to this performance, I can totally see it. I know that a lot of people don't much care for music that doesn't soothe their ear-holes, and I get that. I do. I like a challenge, though. I like that music can do more than make you feel good. You notice it in musical scores for films (or maybe you don't, if it's especially well integrated), and, in fact, take discordance, atonality, ironic placement of dissimilar elements, and so forth, for granted.

Me, I like this sort of thing. It's weird and wonderful. I don't listen to it a lot. You don't need to, any more than you need to take a shot of strong drink. It's bracing. It's good. But too much, too soon, and it just stops working the same way. Anyway... here is Intégrales by Varèse.

Wrap your brain around this.

And here is a similar composition by Zappa.

The Adventures of Greggery Peccary!

Who was Edgard Varèse? Here's a snippet from the Wikipedia page, so you don't have to figure it out for yourselves.

Varèse's emphasis on timbre, rhythm, and new technologies inspired a generation of musicians who came of age during the 1960s and 1970s. One of Varèse's biggest fans was the American guitarist and composer Frank Zappa, who, upon hearing a copy of The Complete Works of Edgard Varèse, Vol. 1, which included IntégralesDensity 21.5Ionisation, and Octandre, became obsessed with the composer's music.[20] On his 15th birthday, December 21, 1955, Zappa's mother, Rosemarie, allowed him a call to Varèse as a present. At the time Varèse was in Brussels,Belgium, so Zappa spoke to Varèse's wife Louise instead. Eventually Zappa and Varèse spoke on the phone, and they discussed the possibility of meeting each other. Although this meeting never took place, Zappa did receive a letter from Varèse. Varèse's spirit of experimentation with which he redefined the bounds of what was possible in music lived on in Zappa's long and prolific career.[21] Zappa's final project was The Rage and the Fury, a recording of the works of Varèse. In the linernotes of his early albums, he quoted the ICG manifesto, "The present day composer refuses to die." In 1981, Zappa produced and hosted "A Tribute to Edgard Varèse" at the Palladium in New York City, an event at which Louise was an honored guest.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Cosmik Debris

One of my favorite versions of one of my favorite Zappa songs. And it has wizardry in it. Can't beat that. The first case of wizardry is lyrical (like it's about a con-man/magician type). I'm getting a Cugel the Clever vibe from that part. The other case of wizardry is that guitar solo that starts at about 5:15. Damn.

Look here, brother, who you jivin' with that cosmik debris?

The Last Dance of the Disco Lord

What follows is my Metal Gods-themed adaptation of +Michael Curtis's recently published holiday-themed adventure for Dungeon Crawl Classics. All distortions, misspellings, and other misappropriations are my fault, not his.

Because +Doug Kovacs was playing with us last night, and had done the maps for the adventure, I was challenged to do something unexpected. I hate having to pretend I don't know what's going to happen when someone runs something I've already experienced. It's still fun, but it's not particularly great fun. So, I didn't want him to have to do that. I also wanted to make sure I delivered The Goods (It's fucking Doug Kovacs, ya know? His work never disappoints. I'd get a tattoo of the DCC RPG "wizard cover" if I had the cash).

Anyway, here it is. It's so substantially changed from the original, you could run both and your players would have a hard time telling they are the same module. My Christmas (or Festivus, or Chanuka, or Kwanzaa, or whatever) present to you.

Last Dance of the Disco Lord

On what is probably the coldest day in the history of Ur-Hadad—There's snow on the ziggurats and spires! Unbelieveable!-- the PCs receive a missive from Kormaki Lemmisson. He brings news that there is a hole in the world, and a long-dead god seeks to return to the Avenue of a Thousand Gods. The Primarch of the Iron Cathedral asks their help in putting the old god in his grave for good.

Player Start

p. 4: You stand on the Avenue of A Thousand Gods. You have come at the behest of Kormaki Lemmisson, cultist of the Metal Gods and chaplain of the Divine Order of the Purple Tentacle. He has asked you to meet him and Wendylita, Primarch of the Iron Cathedral (the main temple of the Metal Gods), and offers you a rich reward for your assistance

When you arrive, it is quite clear that something weird is afoot. For the first time in known history, snow has come to Ur-Hadad. There's snow on the ziggurats and spires! Unbelieveable! On the Avenue, temples and ziggurats are bedecked in Winter's mantle. Its palms and apricot trees are frosted in odd and varied hues. The effect seems to be centered on the decrepit Temple of the hated enemies of the Metal Gods, the Dance Lords. If rumors you hear spoken are to be believed, there is a hole in the world, and the cold, dead hand of Gibbandy the Disco Lord, himself, has reached through it to work mischief from beyond the veil of time.

As you approach the square in front of that accursed temple, a miraculous site greets you. There is an uncanny hole in the center of the square, just outside of the Dancers' Temple. It is about 50 yards across, and, though Ur-Hadad typically is pleasant and warm, bitter winds howl forth from the void in a blizzard of rainbow-colored snow and sleet. From below, varicolored lights shine forth, and a pulsing, pounding beat can be heard.

A horde of street people— beggars, urchins, trollops, and other scalawags of the city—have gathered around the hole. Some of them dance, grinding against each other. Some two score of them lie insensate on the ground. Some scrabble for portions of the snow coming from the void, which, you now see, is also of various and shifting colors, and seems to burn with an inner light. They frantically snort it up their noses and shove it into their maws. Priests of the Gibbandy the Dance Lord look on avidly at these doings, smiling and chattering animatedly amongst themselves, and fluffing their feathered and permed tresses.

Suddenly, the merriment gives way to screams as several weird creatures emerge from the wintry abyss, and into the gathered crowd. They look like octopi, but their bodies gleam like mirrors under the rainbow lights. Their arms end in sharp spikes and pincers. Those who can do so, scatter with screams of terror. The square erupts in chaos as these alien menaces fall upon the rabble, stabbing them with their claws, and dragging some of them back through the portal. As the crowd flees in terror, several of the creatures give chase. Roll for initiative.

Mirror Squids (6) Init +1; Atk claw +2 melee (1d3+2) or frigid touch +2 melee (life drain); AC 14; HD 1d8; HP 6 each; MV 30'; Act 1d20; SP frigid touch siphons heat and vitality from victim (DC 8 Fort save or 1 point temporary Stamina damage), immune to cold/double damage from fire; SV Fort +6, Ref +2, Will +4; AL C.

After the Battle with the Mirror Squids

p. 5 The battle done, you notice that Kormaki has arrived. He approaches you, accompanied by a regal lady clad in black leather and spikes, her hair cascading down her back like a marvelous cloak of flowing silver. The lady studies the hole in the firmament, carefully, and then nods to Kormaki. "So, it is true," she says. "The Disco Lord seeks once again to spread his blight upon our world." Then, grimly, "Oh, fuck, no. Not again. Not ever again." She looks you over, and then gestures for all to follow her. She approaches the void, and gazes into it. A blackened aura protects her and the rest of you from the swirling winds, and she seems unaffected by either the cold or the mad, discordant music.

Below, you see a wide staircase of rainbow-hued stone. Even now, you can see the octopodal creatures in the distance, leaping nimbly down until they disappear into the welter of light and sound.

Into the Boogie Wonderland

p. 6 Turning away from the void, the Primarch examines one of the bodies lying in the rainbow snow. "No soul," she mutters, and examines the rest. "None of them have souls," she tells Kormaki. And then, "We cannot allow the Disco Lord to keep them. Should he be endowed with sufficient soul power, it will be difficult to keep him from manifesting in this world, maybe impossible." She makes the sign of the horns to ward off such an evil prospect, and turns her gaze to you. "Are they fit for this? Will they serve?"

Kormaki nods, and turns to the party. "I have a task for you," he says. "It's too important to leave to outsiders." He continues, "You must enter that place, and retrieve the souls of the damned."

"But first," says the Primarch, "I will mark you with the sigil of the Metal Gods, and imbue you with the power of metal and fire." She touches each of your foreheads with the Metal Hand at the end of her holy scepter. It leaves a mark that burns brightly, like flames, but does not cause pain or injury. "You hold, now, some of Their power, and you may access the Lost Hymns to unlock that power."

"Be warned, though," Kormaki interjects. "You can only use so much of the power before it is exhausted. Thereafter, the Lost Hymns will be beyond your capabilities." He makes the sign of the horns, in blessing. "Go now," he says, "And show our foes that the people of Ur-Hadad still believe in the Power of Metal!"

The Primarch regards you one last time, and says, "One last thing, before you go. I'd like you to deliver a message to the Dance Lord." She shows her teeth, but you don't mistake it for a true smile. "Just tell him, 'Disco still sucks.' Better yet, leave it as graffiti or carved in His flesh. Go now, and stick some metal up his ass."

Then she turns to Kormaki with a smile. "C'mon," she says. "The world might be ending. Let's go get wasted, and then we'll see what happens." Without another word, they walk away, leaving the fate of the world in your hands.

The Sigil of the Metal Gods is imbued with limited power to manifest several of the Lost Hymns. Each of the Hymns requires some of this power to manifest. Each time it is invoked, the flames of the sigil dim a little bit. If all the power is used, the mark fades completely, and you may no longer access the Lost Hymns. You start with 10 points of Power.

The Lost Hymns

Links provided for additional flavor. They are YouTube videos from obscure metal bands (hence, the Lost Hymns)

Shield of the Metal Gods
Lost Hymns (roll d4):
1.      Steel Assassin "Heavy Metal Soldiers from Hell"
2.      Armour "Heavy Metal Drinkers"
3.      Majesty "Defender of the Brave"
4.      Cloven Hoof "Heavy Metal Men of Steel"
Effect: a bonus on a single save, or a bonus to AC for 2 rounds. Each point adds +1.
Cost: 1 to 3

Metal Wizard, Metal Priest
Lost Hymns (roll d3):
1.      Blade of the Ripper "Black Wizard Spell"
2.      Grave Digger "Sacred Fire"
3.      Axe Master "The Power"
Effect: Functions as spellburning. This works for either Wizards or Clerics, but can be used in conjunction with spellburning by wizards only.
Cost: 1 per +1. No limit.

Song of Steel
Lost Hymns (roll d5):
1.      Axehammer "Sword and Shield"
2.      Thunder Lord "Steel in Battle"
3.      Metalforce "Freedom Warriors"
4.      King Leoric "Warrior's Tune"
5.      Medieval Steel "Medieval Steel"
Effect: up to +3 to-hit and damage for one round.
Cost: 1 to 3

Heavy Metal Fire
Lost Hymns (roll d3):
1.      Storm Warrior "Heavy Metal Fire"  or (live version)
2.      Metalforce "Melt Thy Steel"
3.      Steel Seal "Burn the Sky"
Effects: Heals cold based damage 1HD per 1 point used, or causes fire damage (1d6+ClassLevel+ #  points expended); alternately can be used to melt up to 6 inches of ice or 1 foot of snow.
Range: 30 feet
Cost: 1 point for healing, 1 to 3 points for causing damage

Metal Storm
Lost Hymns (roll d4):
1.      Shadow Alliance "Firestorm"
2.      Goatmoon "Finnish Steel Storm"
3.      Arcano "Heavy Metal Storm"
4.      Rocka Rollas "Riding the Metal Storm"
Effect: PC assumes the form of tornadic fire. 60' of flight per round, for two rounds; immune to fire damage; takes double damage from cold-based attacks.
Damage: As "Heavy Metal Fire"
Cost: 5
The Lost Hymns
(Brief, no links version)

Shield of the Metal Gods
Effect: a bonus on a single save, or a bonus to AC for 2 rounds. Each point adds +1.
Cost: 1 to 3

Metal Wizard, Metal Priest
Effect: Works as spellburning, and can be used in conjunction with spellburning, by wizards This works for either Wizards or Clerics.
Cost: 1 per +1. No limit.

Song of Steel
Effect: up to +3 to-hit and damage for one round.
Cost: 1 to 3

Heavy Metal Fire
Effects: Heals cold based damage 1HD per 1 point used, or causes fire damage (1d6+ClassLevel+ #  points expended); alternately can be used to melt up to 6 inches of ice or 1 foot of snow.
Range: 30 feet
Cost: 1 point for healing, 1 to 3 points for causing damage

Metal Storm
Effect: PC assumes the form of tornadic fire. 60' of flight per round, for two rounds; immune to fire damage; takes double damage from cold-based attacks.
Damage: As "Heavy Metal Fire"
Cost: 5

Read Aloud (roughly equivalent to p. 8 in original text)
The freezing winds and frozen fog swirl around you as you climb down, and jump from platform to platform following the weird, octopodal creatures (DC 3 vs. Agility). Soon, you spot high formations of rainbow-hued sandstone, atop a mesa covered in luminous snow and ice and dotted with gigantic cacti. You have descended into the realm of the Disco Lord, a bitterly cold landscape of rainbow snow in shifting hues and gigantic saguaro cacti with auroral coronas. This is the legendary Mesa of Boogie (the very name of which is blasphemy to the Faithful).

In the distance, you see searchlights piercing the skies and hear the thumping beat of music, its tepid funkiness drilling into your eardrums.

p. 8
Area 1-1: The Velvet Rope
The Mesa's single feature is a doorway, before which is a trio of large, goat-legged figures, sky-clad except for mirrored devices of glass and metal over their eyes and heavy gold chains around their necks, standing behind a rope of crimson velvet.

Each character must make an easy (DC 5) Fort save or be disoriented by the colorful, dancing lights of the landscape and its features (Effect: -2 to all rolls for 2 turns)

Goat-man Bouncers (3): Init +1; Atk spear +1 melee (1d8), heavy cologne reek (special); AC 12; HD 1d8; hp 7, 7, 4; MV 30’; Act 1d20; SP Heavy Cologne Reek--Anyone who closes to melee range must make DC 10 Fort save or be nauseated until the end of combat (-1 to all rolls); SV Fort +1, Ref +1, Will -1; AL C.

Chains have a prominent "male" symbol of circle with arrow, because these guys are the embodiment of 1970s masculinity. They are work 50 sp each.

p. 9
Area 1-2: Beyond the velvet rope is a small chamber. Strangely, the area is full of numerous, giant, rainbow, agave cacti. Color-shifting snow and frost cover every surface. An opening in the floor leads to a frost-rimed stairway, leading down.

p. 12
Area 2-1: The Grove of Broken Dreams At the bottom of the stairs is a larger room. It's colder even than before, but clear of the weird snow. Slowly swaying, emaciated humanoids occupy the room. Each is attached to one of the weird octopoids, which seems to be integrated into their flesh. They wear the rags of festive clothing, and creep along the edges of the room, their long, funnel-shaped noses affixed to the walls and floors, sucking up over trace of frost or snow. They murmur lowly, their words faint.

What they say:
Hey, baby… let's go back to my place and do some blow.
This party is out of sight.
I love this song.
It's the sooooooouuuullll traaaaiiiiinnn.
Yeah, baby, I'm your dancing queen.

These guys won't attack the party. They just want to get high. If attacked, they will defend themselves ineffectually. The mirror squids are not able to fight, as their bodies are just shells now. They are breeding. If these folks are killed, their bodies spill out tiny mirror squids, which flee rapidly.

Slaves to the Rhythm (8) Init -2; Atk fist -2 melee (1d3); AC 9; HD 1d4; HP 2 each; MV 20'; Act 1d20; SV Fort -1, Ref -2, Will -2; AL C.

Two doors at opposite ends of the south wall exit the room.

p. 13
Area 2-2—Lounge Lizard's Lair: Broken columns and upheaved flagstones lay half-buried in rainbow-hued snow and ice in this high-ceilinged chamber. Almost as soon as you enter, a large mound of snow at the end of the room quakes and falls away, as a gigantic lizard with an upright stance arises. Its back, limbs and tail are snowy white, and its breast and belly are deep black, and, incongruously, covered with thick hair. Around its neck is a heavy gold chain. The creature shrieks in rage, waving its tiny arms impotently and dancing in place. "Hey babes!" it calls in barely-understandable common tongue. "Let's dance!"

This thing looks like a small T-Rex, dressed like Travolta. Gold medallion necklace is worth 100 sp.

Lounge Lizard: Init +2; Atk tongue/bite/gnaw +2 melee (1d6+1, and then must make DC 12 Strength roll to escape or take 1d3 damage per round thereafter) or frost breath +3 missile (1d4+1) 40' cone; AC 16; HD 3d8, HP 20; MV 30'; Act 1d20; SP filthy bite (DC 6 Fort save or additional 1d6 damage); SV Fort +3, Ref +1, Will -1; AL C.

Also lurking on the ceiling of the room are 5 mirror squids. They will attack as soon at the party engages the Lounge Lizard.

Mirror Squids (5): Init +1; Atk claw +2 melee (1d3+2) or frigid touch +2 melee (life drain); AC 14; HD 1d8; HP 6 each; MV 30'; Act 1d20; SP frigid touch siphons heat and vitality from victim (DC 8 Fort save or 1 point temporary Stamina damage), immune to cold/double damage from fire; SV Fort +6, Ref +2, Will +4; AL C.

Area 3-1—Bar : This room is in better condition than those you've passed through previously. With the exception of the western end of the room, the walls and floor stand straight and even. Palm trees sprout from the floor, in small groves surrounding tables. A circular enclosure stands in the center. It is a bar, and a blank-eyed bartender stands still behind it. Patrons lean despondently against it, or sit on stools around it. None of them reacts to your entrance, but the bartender comes to life, grinning brightly, his mouth and teeth much wider and whiter than they should be. "Hey, folks!" he calls, his voice carrying amazingly well, despite the loud beat of the music. "How 'bout a drink? Can I set you up?"

He points to a row bottles, one in every color of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. Next to them is a clear glass vase, labeled "Tip the Bartender!" It's empty of coin.

He then snorts copiously from a drift of rainbow snow atop the bar.

If they accept a drink, it will cost 1 sp. "Inflation, amirite?" <GRIN>

Female characters, of course, may drink for free.

The PC must make a saving throw (DC 10). What type depends on what bottle they drink from. The effects can only work once per PC. Assume that there are 10 "doses" in each bottle:

·         Red Bottle: Fort Save. If you make the save, gain 1 point of Stamina. If you fail, become despondent until you make a Will Save. The initial save is DC 12, but increases by 2 each time it's made.
·         Orange Bottle: Fort Save. If you make the save, gain 1 point of Strength. If you fail, become despondent until you make a Will Save. The initial save is DC 12, but increases by 2 each time it's made.
·         Yellow Bottle: Fort Save. If you make the save, gain 1 point of Agility. If you fail, become despondent until you make a Will Save. The initial save is DC 12, but increases by 2 each time it's made.
·         Green Bottle: Will Save. If you make the save, gain 1 point of Intelligence. If you fail, become despondent until you make a Will Save. The initial save is DC 12, but increases by 2 each time it's made.
·         Blue Bottle: Will Save. If you make the save, gain 1 point of Personality. If you fail, become despondent until you make a Will Save. The initial save is DC 12, but increases by 2 each time it's made.
·         Violet Bottle: Luck Roll. If you make the save, gain 1 point of Luck. If you fail, become despondent until you make a Will Save. The initial save is DC 12, but increases by 2 each time it's made.

Tip Jar: If they drink and fail to tip, the bartender's grin rapidly becomes a frown. His teeth begin to distend from his jaws, and claws emerge from his fingers. His body begins to stretch and grow. He will attack them. If the characters attempt to leave without drinking (and, thus, tipping) he will also attack.

Gus, Demonic Bar Tender: Init +2; Atk claws +2 melee (1d6+1) or bite +1 melee (poison; DC 10 or frozen for 5 turns +/- Stamina mod); AC 15; HD 4d8, HP 20; MV 30'; Act 1d20; SP cold-based creature, immune to cold-based attacks, suffers from half damage from non-magical weapons (weapons alight from Lost Hymns are considered magical vs. this entity), takes double damage from fire-based attacks, as a free action may snort the rainbow frost sands once per combat to heal 1d8 HP; SV Fort +5, Ref +3, Will +3; AL C.

NOTE: There is no Area 3-3 in my version of this module. Treat Area 3-2 and Area 3-3 as the same area, here labeled Area 3-2—VIP Room.

Area 3-2—The VIP Room: The music is much louder here, and seems to be coming from the north, where you spy a door. This room is filled with dancers who move in perfect sync to the pounding beat. At their feet is more of the rainbow snow, along with chunks of ice, and what appears to be crushed, grayish-white stone. Other figures lean against the walls, their bodies swaying to the beat. All of them are beautiful creatures, seemingly human, but their features too exquisitely perfect to be natural. The room is very crowded, and several of the dancers beckon to you to join them.

This is, essentially the Sapping Sap room from the module, but these are "Party Dolls." The PCs each must make a Will Save (DC 8) not to become entranced by the beautiful beings, and join them on the dance floor, forever. The "crushed stone" is actually bone chips, fragments of folk who have fallen into this trap, eventually starving, and their remains crushed underfoot in the fullness of time.

To reach the northern door, the PCs must bypass the Party Dolls without touching them (DC 8 Ref Save). Failure indicates physical contact, and requires a DC 12 Fort save. If unsuccessful, the victim must spend the next round breaking free of the Party Doll (DC 10 Strength roll), who will attempt to kiss the victim. Any PC reduced to 0 hit points by the Kiss will become a Party Doll.

Party Dolls (a whole bunch of them): Init +0; Atk kiss +2 melee (special); AC 12; HD 1d8; HP 6 each; MV 20'; Act 1d20; SP kiss drains 1d3 HP per round, immune to cold/double damage from fire; SV Fort +4, Ref +2, Will +4; AL C.

Area 3-4—The Lair of the Disco Lord: The doors open into a large chamber littered with bones. The music pounds here, making it very difficult to hear each other. In the center of the room is a square platform, made up of flashing, tiles. Above it hangs a huge, mirrored ball, about 3 feet in diameter. It spins and flashes, illuminated by sourceless light.

Corrupt Beat Mortals hearing the unfiltered music must make a DC 10 Will save or be stunned for 1 round.

Those looking closely (DC 10 Intelligence roll) will notice screaming, ghostly figures inside it.

At this point, have Gibbandy the Disco Lord call out something insulting but insipid to the adventurers, promising either power or vengeance. Use your imagination, but be sure to make it very, very cheesy.

Disco Ball of Gibbandy: Init +2; Atk pseudopod +3 melee (1d4+3) or frigid touch +2 melee (heat drain); AC 16; HD 4d10; HP 30; MV 30'; Act 1d20; SP cold-based creature, immune to cold-based attacks, suffers from half damage from non-magical weapons (weapons alight from Lost Hymns are considered magical vs. this entity), takes double damage from fire-based attacks, aura of majesty (mortals glimpsing the Disco Ball of Gibbandy must make a DC 10 Will save or be stunned for 1 round), spell-like powers: color spray (cast as 4th level wizard; +8 to spell check) and freezing blast (as flaming hands but inflicts cold damage; +5 to spell check, countered in spell duel by flaming hands); SV Fort +2, Ref +1, Will -1; AL C.

The Escape

Once the Disco Ball of Gibbandy is shattered, the Mesa of Boogie begins to quake. Each PC must make a DC 8 Refl save or take 2d4 damage from falling debris. This gets them back to the entrance.

Once at the entrance, the following occurs:

The portal is closing. It will be closed for good at the end of 8 rounds. Any PCs left on the other side will die. When they die, they will be listening to disco. As the PCs begin their ascent start the clock.

Unimpeded, a character could ascend the stairs in just 4 rounds (dwarves and Halflings will take 6 to do this, due to speed 20').

Unfortunately for the party, the Mesa of Boogie has begun to break up, and spiral down into oblivion. The PCs must climb the Rainbow Stairs to escape, but the stairs are beginning to crack and break.


The PC with the best Luck must make Luck checks each round. If the check fails, the section of the stairs being navigated is unstable or broken.

Then, each PC must then make a DC 8 Refl save to continue climbing.

Failure means that the affected PC must make another Refl save (DC 8) or a Luck check (player's choice). Failing this second roll means you fell. Goodbye. You're dead. Succeeding means you scramble onto the stairs again, but lose a round in doing so, and make no progress toward the portal. A PC whose failures on the climb are too numerous will be trapped on the wrong side when the portal closes. The character will die.

Also, every round after the initial failed Refl save, any PC that failed to keep up with the rest of the party will have to make another Refl save (DC 8) to continue climbing, regardless of the Luck check made by unaffected party members. Remember to keep track of the portal clock, as continued delay could trap the PC on the wrong side of the portal, killing him or her. If a PC is delayed more than two rounds while climbing up, he or she will end up on the wrong side of the portal when it closes.

The Aftermath

Once the PCs have escaped, reward them as follows, reading the following flavor text.
You have escaped the realm of the Disco Lord. You catch your breath for a moment in the Square of Gibbandy, passing around a flask of strong drink. The priests of the Disco Lord stare at you in horror, some of them weeping openly, but they make no hostile move toward the party.

Gain 1 point of Luck. Characters under 9 Luck gain 2 points.

You make your way to the Iron Cathedral to find the Primarch and receive your reward. The drunken Primarch lurches free of Kormaki's embrace (earning you a glare from him) and thrusts a bag of coin in your direction, sketching a drunken blessing in the general direction of the party.

Then Primarch Wendylita calls for a feast, more drink, and possibly some other things best not described here. The news of your triumphant return spreads quickly, and this impromptu celebration quickly becomes a full-blown rager of a party.

Get some treasure: 200 sp– 2d100 sp* (per PC). The amount lost will spent on various "party supplies" during the night.

*The Metal God of Ur-Hadad campaign uses a silver standard.

You don't remember in the morning what you did (or who you did it with), but your hangovers and state of dress suggest that your debauchery was legendary.

Roll (d10) on the following table, modified by your Luck bonus.

·         0 or less: Beaten and robbed. Lose all your personal effects and reduced to half hit points.
·         1: You couldn’t really see the rash in the candlelight. Roll Fort save (DC 12) to avoid venereal disease.
·         2: Major misunderstanding with local authorities. Imprisoned until fines and bribes totaling d6 x 100 sp paid. All weapons, armor, and magic items confiscated.
·         3: When in a drunken stupor you asked your god(s) to get you out of some stupid mess. Turns out they heard you! Now as repayment for saving your sorry ass, you’re under the effects of a geas. You must fulfill some harebrained quest or suffer their wrath.
·         4: Gambling losses. Lose all your gold, gems, jewelry. Roll Will save (DC 10) for each magic item in your possession. Failure indicates it’s gone.
·         5: Minor misunderstanding with local authorities. Roll Personality check. Success indicates a fine of 2d6 x 10 sp. Failure or (inability to pay fine) indicates d6 days in the pokey.
·         6: Wake up stark naked in a random local temple. 1-3 the clerics are majorly pissed off 4-6 they smile and thank you for stopping by.
·         7: New tattoo. 1-3 it’s actually pretty cool 4 it’s lame 5 it could have been badass, but something is goofed up or misspelled 6 it says something insulting, crude or stupid in an unknown language.
·         8: Gambling winnings: Earn d100 sp.
·         9: There is a mithril sword with a lovely scabbard in your possession. It's wrapped in a note thanking you for a lovely time, and an address in one of Ur-Hadad's elven spires.
·         10: You are wearing someone's very fine clothing (50 sp value, if sold) and some jewelry work 50+d100 sp. 50% chance it matches your gender identity.
·         11: Hey, that's not your armor. It's better! You have acquired armor of superior craftsmanship: Roll 1d6: (1) It's equivalent to your old armor, but lighter. Reduce fumble die by one step; (2) It's covered with runes of protection. +1 protection versus evil; (3) It's just very well made for its type. Add 1d2 to the normal AC for your current armor type.
·         12+: You special item in your posession. You're not sure what it does, but somehow you know it's magical. Roll 1d14:
1.      It's a scroll of some kind.
2.      It's a ring.
3.      It's an amulet.
4.      It's a bottle of some sort of liquid.
5.      It's a brass bottle with an elaborately sealed stopper.
6.      It's a pair of gloves or gauntlets.
7.      It's a musical instrument.
8.      It's a wooden rod, covered in runes.
9.      It's a puzzle box of some kind.
10.  It's a belt
11.  It's a hat or helm
12.  It's a small weapon (e.g. a dagger) with a minor magical talent
13.  It's a map or tapestry.
14.  It's an intelligent weapon with one minor magical talent, one major magical talent, and one weird side effect.

Note: Some entries thanks to the carousing mishaps table on Jeff's Gameblog:

Musical Inspiration
·         Blood Bath (Suicidal Angels)
·         Have No Fear (Wisdom)
·         Ordeal by Fire (English Dogs)
·         Metal (Wizard)
·         Devil's Victim (Dark Wizard)
·         Heavy Metal Fire (Stormwarrior) 
·         I Am the Sword (Motorhead
·         By the Sword of My Father (Folkearth)  Destroyer (Hellish War)
·         Infernal Satanic Verses (Mystic Circle)
·         Black Metal (Venom)
·         Goblin's Song (Spell Blast)
·         Iron Eagle (Holy Dragons)
·         Burning Savior (Pentagram)
·         Tome of Broken Souls (Anthelion)
·         Kill for Metal (Iron Fire)
·         Guardian of the Ice Void (Chainsaw)
·         Ride with Death (Speedwolf)
·         Speedway (Warhead)
·         Street Fighter (Breaker)
·         Absolution (Tormentor)
·         Supreme Evil (Ranger)
·         War Without End (Warbringer)
·         The Crimson King (Demons and Wizards)
·         Beyond the Blackest Tears (Kingdom of Sorrow)
·         Various Songs (Arch Enemy)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Punky's Whips

This very silly song features Terry Bozzio, one of the many great drummers to play with Zappa. While guitars are the heart of rock and roll, drums form its soul. Terry's a very busy drummer, and apparently generates a ton of body heat (which must be shed by any means necessary).

Speedo! Not just for European beaches!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Frank Zappa's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction

Here's a nifty little piece of video prior to the induction address. I presume it was used as filler for the ceremony. Oddly enough, the presenter was Lou Reed, who died earlier this year.

Goodbye, Lou. Rest in peace.

Bonus Track: Peaches en Regalia

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Does Humor Belong in Music

This was the tour on which I saw my first and only Zappa concert, 1984. I was 15, and I still have the ticket stub. The show was at the Arlene Schnitzer concert hall in Portland, Oregon. Beautiful venue, and we had pretty decent seats. It was an amazing show.

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Very Metal Holiday Session

On Thursday, I'll be a version running +Michael Curtis's special holiday module, The Old God's Return. I made sure to order it early, so I'd have it for a session before everybody scattered to the winds for the holidays. There's just one problem: +Doug Kovacs. He'll be joining us, and he did the maps for this thing. He knows the adventure. Or at least he did. I've made a few... alterations. Pray I do not alter it further.

This version of the adventure has been "metalized," to accord with the Metal Gods campaign's aesthetic, and its particular idiom. I've been scouring YouTube for obscure heavy metal bands and appropriately themed songs. Inspired by these heavy carols, the Lost Hymns, I have completely fucked up most of Michael's hard work.

As I meditated upon these Lost Hymns, something was revealed to me. For every one of the Metal Gods, there is its opposite: A Disco Lord--a demon prince of overpriced vodka, cheap cologne, and shitty dance music. Gibbandy the Dance Lord is their patriarch. He is not Heavy. He is not Metal. He was cast out of Ore long ago, but his fiendish cult still persists. They have opened a portal to the Land of Rainbow Snow, and Gibbandy's return is nigh. Can the adventurers avert this terrible fate, return Gibbandy and his minions to the remainder bin of history, and escape?

You'll have to wait for the session recap to find out.

Brown Lipstick

This is a good interview. I think it gets at a lot of things about Zappa's personality and work ethic. Letterman refuses to rise to the bait at the beginning, which is probably part of the reason he's had such a long career.

For some reason, YouTube refuses to let Blogger embed the video, but here's the link.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Day with Frank Zappa

Short documentary by some guys from the Netherlands (1971). This is a combo of interviews, music, and other footage. Frank tells some cool stories in this one.

Never thought I'd miss the 1970s, but... yeah.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Skills with Central Tendency and Sliding Scale

A friend of mine dropped by earlier today and we were talking about skill-based experience in RPGs. The example talked about involved the "use-it-to-improve-it" model of skill improvement in computer-based RPGs like Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim (some of those more than others). How might we go about creating a skill-system like that for tabletop RPGs? I spitballed an idea right off the bat. I'm not sure why I went in this direction, but I'm pretty its partly +Adam Muszkiewicz's fault. Mostly, even.

Rolling a 2d6 gives you 2 to 12 with a relatively strong central tendency around 10.5. Extra points may added to base skill in a particular domain during character creation, as a result of experience, or both. You more or less advance at intervals, based on general experience in the game. But how do you get the dice to respect the time you put into a particular skill? I think I've hit upon a solution that not only accomplishes this, but also separates skill advancement from other kinds of advancement based on general experience.

Some games use the 2d6 skill roll and might grant bonuses based on skill in particular domains (e.g., tech use, knowledge skills, athletics, etc.). Stars Without Number is a good example, as it already has great skill system. In that game, players can add up to 4 additional points based on their skill levels, with 4 bonus points being the absolute top, but attribute modifiers apply, based on the particular skill. Targets for skill checks in that game go up to 13. Given that attribute mods in that game only go up to +2/-2, then our sliding 2d6 and slightly higher attribute modifiers (up or down to +3/-3) will allow that 13 to go higher. We also can build in a way to increase skill over time, but only if the skill is used.

What if we add to the 2d6 roll a sliding scale to emulate advancement, and just forget about taking points in the skill during character creation, or after leveling up? Instead, we could use a mechanism to determine when a skill is improved. For now, let's assume that it's a 20-point sliding scale.

Take the 2 to 12 range created by 2d6, and lay that atop the 1 to 20 range of our 20-point scale, like this:

I think you could use this for all kinds of things, from thieves' skills, to riding and piloting, or whatever else. I'm not saying I've tested this. I'm just sort of noodling around these ideas, but I think this is a start on something.

So a quick summary.

  • Skill check = 2d6 roll + relevant attribute modifier
  • Target number = 1 to 20. This roughly translates to DC check in the d20 system, and the levels of challenge for that system are what I'm assuming here. 
  • Possible maximum results for 1st level characters range from 9 to 15, depending on the characters attribute modifier, making any number above 15 is unachievable by a first level character. 
  • Players advance in skill when the number on the 2d6 skill check and a d20 roll match up. Then, the 2d6 scale slides one place up the d20 scale, indicating an increase of 1 in that skill, and raising the highest possible challenge that can be overcome. Example: A player with no attribute modifier rolls a 12 on the 2d6. This would allow the character to accomplish a DC 11 skill check. If the character advances his or her skill level, then the 2d6 scale advances one. The same roll can now accomplish a DC threshold one point higher, a 12.

It would be important to avoid extremely challenging skill checks for low-level characters, unless you want to make those checks impossible from the outset. But why would you want that?

What's nifty about it, to me, is that it accomplishes the main goal: To make skill advancement dependent on skill use. It also seems, on the surface, to be able to use existing d20 scaling for task difficulty.