Friday, June 28, 2013

Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad: Adventures in the Undercity, part... I can't even remember anymore

Well, boys and girls, last night's DCC session was a barn-burner. We finally hit that sweet spot between (mostly) survivable and "brudl" (a.k.a. "BRUTAL"). For background on that, see this: Make it Brudl. Here's what went down.

As you may remember, Vane Barbute (2nd level--again--fighter) had been fitted by the Gray Man leader with some fine new bling (an exploding collar). The Gray Men promised to remove it if the PCs would kill the Toothman chief and his "ju-ju man." Vane's owner was not able to make it to our session last night, having been brought low by a killer klown (bad McD's is a bitch, yo). It was just as well, he might finally have died, had he made the session.

When we started, the PCs were standing on an elevated platform, above the flooded room where they'd entered. Last session had seen them take out about 8 Toothmen with bows, slaughtering them to the last (tooth)man. Now, they were faced with a door designed in the style of a modern naval bulkhead door, vault-style with a spinning when in the center. This group being what it is, they opened the door pretty quickly. Luckily, no traps were affixed to it.

Upon entering, they encountered 6 Toothman warriors with bows. I've been trying out missile weapons this adventure, because I got kind of sick of the guys cutting up my pretty monsters in melee. Unfortunately for them, they pretty much got slaughtered without inflicting significant damage. Bows just don't do that much harm, and these guys are tough--humanoids about 7 feet tall, broad across the chest, with heads like a cross between an alligator and a T-Rex with bigger teeth. Scary bastards. Their bites are vicious, though, as the PCs would soon discover. Also, Clave was wielding the Spear of the Lizard King, and managed to chain together about three or four consecutive strikes on these guys, helping to wear them down considerably, and then the rest of the party got in on the action. Result? Six dead bad guys.

Having dispensed with the Toothmen, they searched the bedding in the chamber and found a variety of uncut gems. Nice. These could probably fetch a pretty decent price, and maybe more if they're willing to find a jeweler to cut them. They also found another door, like the first, but smaller. This one also had an attached keypad. Careful inspection suggested that the Toothmen are not particularly adept at choosing secure keycodes. Only the "6" button seemed to have been used, as it was marked with claw scratches. A short while later, "6-6-6" was entered and the door emitted a "thunk" as the lock disengaged. They entered the room only to discover it was actually more like an airlock. There was another keypad on the other side of this door, and another door about 20 feet on. It also had a keypad. Again, 6-6-6 was the number of the code. I'd thought briefly about making it 6-6-8 (the neighbor of the beast), just because it was right next door to the first keypad, but it was getting late. It was time for brutality. And brutality there would be.

The PCs opened this door as well, and were confronted by the Toothmen's chief, a ju-ju man (shaman), and four warriors with bows. I called for initiative. They rolled well, and I rolled very poorly. This would prove to be fortuitous for them. I'm not sure they would have survived, otherwise.

Absalom the Elf cast Choking Cloud to good effect, centered on the ju-ju man. Formerly Ian the Wizard cast Sleep. Several of the enemy were put down, but others, including the ju-ju man and his chief remained standing. The others could be roused by normal means (i.e., a swift kick in the head). The ju-ju man cast Emirikol's Entropic Maelstrom. I rolled pretty high, but the effect was less impressive than I'd hoped. Should have cast Fireball instead, or Invisibility, or Monster Summoning... oh, well. The chief also charged in with his axe, dealing decent damage. At this point, things started to get pretty chaotic, and I don't remember the blow-by-blow, but here are some highlights.

The party's wizards had some pretty bad spell rolls. The misfires on Sleep were particularly bad, as (twice!) a misfired Sleep put down all but one member of the party. Luckily, they could be awakened, but this constituted a movement action, and there were five of them. Also twice, Morfans the Dwarf used his Mighty Deed in an interesting manner--for increased movement. He used it to wake all of his companions. Did he roll well? Yes, ridiculously so, and narrowly averted what seemed like a sure TPK for the group.

That's when things got really, really ugly. Another Sleep was cast. Same. Fucking. Result. This time, everyone but Formerly Ian the Wizard was whacked with the misfire. Then the ju-ju man cast Fireball, and rolled something like 27, resulting in a 6d6 blast that killed just about everyone.

Luckily, Aram the cleric was on the job. If he hadn't been there to reverse the momentum of the fight by reviving his compatriots, the day surely would have ended poorly for one and all. Even so, the party almost got TPK'd twice in this combat. Alas, the brutality would not happen for me. My players were rollin' and my NPCs were hatin'. I don't think I've ever seen a DCC cleric this effective. He only blew a single roll, and the rest of his rolls basically saved everybody else.

Morfans the Dwarf also was magnificent. He kept using his Mighty Deed to knock the Toothman chief prone. On one such round, he hit with his blade and with his shield bash, busting the chief in the chops and cutting his legs out from underneath him.

Eventually, though there were many near deaths, the party survived the fight, took the heads of their enemies, and saved Vane Barbute's neck (literally).

The final tally ran about like this:

  • Formerly Ian the Wizard got reduced to zero hit points THREE TIMES (!!!) and survived to tell the tale.
  • Other party members got reduced to zero hit points and revived several times.
  • Two Sleep spells misfired, sending a total of 10 PCs into Slumber Land.
  • Two times, the party managed to rouse its sleeping members before The End could come.
  • Aram the Cleric earned several rounds of drinks with his mad healing skillz. He literally saved the party from certain death.
  • Aram was forced, in the end, to choose who would live and who would die. Wayne (the owner of Clave and Jerkal) gave the nod to Formerly Ian the Wizard, stating simply, "He's a better wizard than I ever was." Formerly Ian, despite three near-death experiences, will live to fight another day.
  • Clave and Jerkal the Blazin' will not.
About Clave and Jerkal, in memorium.  

Clave was one of the characters from the inaugural Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad session. He won the Spear of the Lizard King. He killed many an ape man at the Battle of Fort Simian. He was a good dude, and now he's dead. Pour out a drank for him.

Jerkal the Blazin' started life as a gambler. He looked like Kenny Rogers. He cast Flaming Hands like a champion, except when it misfired. When that happened, he inevitably--by dice roll, each time it happened--shot fire from his cock (a.k.a. his "flaming glans"). He also saved the party (along with with Formerly Ian) during the great battle with a Serpent Man Lich and his minions, in the caverns under the Temple of the Serpent God. His work, there, helped to save the world. Literally. Without his contribution, the Serpent Men would have reemerged as a force to be reckoned with in the World of Ore. Now he is dead. Pour out another drank.

The players have discussed maybe bronzing Clave and Jerkal's skulls and beginning a Wall of Heroes, back at the chapter house, but no firm plans have been made.

All in all, a very tense, very satisfying session. It was just about everything DCC can be. Hell yeah!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Reading About Gaming: Gary Alan Fine's Shared Fantasy

Just a quick post today about something I've been reading: Shared Fantasy: Role-Playing Games as Social Worlds, by Gary Alan Fine.

Gary Alan Fine (GAF) is a sociologist of some small fame. I met him, briefly, in 1993 at the American Sociological Association conference in LA, but I've really had no more truck with him outside of reading an odd article of his, here and there. He's from the Interactionist area of sociological inquiry, riffing off of the work of Blumer, Goffman, and others of that ilk. Before my own switch from sociology to rhetorical studies, that's pretty much where I was positioned as well, and I still am interested in that sort of thing.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that GAF had published a book about tabletop RPGs, D&D, Empire of the Petal Throne, and other elements of his particular gaming community. The book itself was published in 1983, but the research occurred in the late-1970s. He wrote this stuff before E. Gary Gygax left TSR. He played EPT with M.A.R. Barker. The community of which he was part interacted either face-to-face, or in the pages of the letters sections of various gaming publications, both local and national.

Here's the thing, though. A lot of what he writes about seems like same shit, different time. For example, in talking about disagreements in the community, and how they play out in publications, he observed:
Feuds regularly appear in these journals... The gaming world is not made up of individuals who love and respect each other. Gamers have their own styles of playing and their own moral standards; those who cross these boundaries may be attacked in the gaming press. (p. 154)
Ain't a damned thing changed, has it?

Here's another bit that I found humorous. In his discussion of the old-school miniature wargamers, and their reaction to the tabletop RPG players:
A similar situation occurred at the University of Minnesota gaming club, where FRP games were also prohibited for a time. Within a few years after the games were marketed people recognized the group playing them was significantly different from war gamers.
As often happens when stereotyping is present, members of the subsociety respond to the views of others. In this case the response is partly defensive: distinguishing serious fantasy gamers from children who have only a temporary interest... A second means of dealing with external criticism is to attack war gamers for their militarism, their misguided belief that they are engaging in "realistic" battles, and to suggest that their personal peculiarities label them as "misfits." The hardcore miniature gamers are termed grognards by fantasy gamers, a French term meaning the conservative old guard, or literally "old sweats." (p. 38, emphasis mine)
Reading this book through the lens of our current media is simply fascinating, especially since I spend so much time reading about this kind of thing on the blogs and on G+.

Anyway, like I said, just a short post today. Lots of work to do.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

New DCC Spell: D'Gale's Avenging Domicile

As promised, a new 3rd Level spell for Dungeon Crawl Classics. This one is based on the "drop a house on someone" thing from Wizard of Oz.

Please do this to someone. Please, do.

D'Gale's Avenging Domicile

Level: 3 Range: Variable Duration: 1 to 10 seconds Casting time: 1 round

Save: Reflex vs. spell check number to save for half damage.

General Description: The caster points his finger at a target and shouts a demonic phrase that means, "Can't somebody drop a fucking house on this motherfucker?" A building (ranging from an outhouse to a small castle) falls from the sky and lands on the target point. All affected creatures take full damage unless they succeed in a Reflex save against the spell check DC, in which case they take half damage. Note: Best used outside. The spell will still work within an enclosed space, but ALL effects will accrue to that enclosed space.

Manifestation: A house (or other structure) literally drops from the sky. Add flourishes as desired.

Corruption Roll (1d8): (1) caster’s hands and arms develop a woodgrain pattern; (2) caster’s skin sprouts carpenter's nails; (3) caster's presence makes more likely that small objects will fall without warning from high places; (4) random bits of finished building material (e.g., boards, cut stones, etc.) fall from out of nowhere and land within a 30' radius from the caster; (5) minor; (6-7) major; (8) greater.

Misfire Roll (1d4): (1) caster falls through a portal that opens beneath his feet and emerges from another one 10' above his head, then falls to the ground, causing him to take 1d6 falling damage; (2) a nearby structure (including all contents) is flung 20 feet into the air, and lands 1d20 feet away from its starting point (roll d8 for direction); (3) caster's immediate possessions, including any armor and weapons, explode away from him causing 2d6 damage to anyone within 15 feet (save versus DC 10 for half damage); (4) caster causes all wooden objects (living or dead) within 20 feet to become strongly attracted to him for 1d6 rounds. Material will cause 4d3! damage.

What Happens

Lost, failure, and worse! Roll 1d6 modified by Luck: (0 or less) corruption + patron taint + misfire; (1-3) corruption; (4) patron taint (or corruption if no patron); (5+) misfire.
Lost. Failure.
Failure, but spell is not lost.
The caster drops a rickety wooden shack on a the target within 50 feet doing 3d6 damage.
The caster drops a brick shithouse on the target within 80 feet, doing 4d6 damage.
The caster drops several sections of mudbrick wall in a 30' radius of a target within 100 feet, doing 6d6 damage within 10', 5d6 within 20', and 4d6 within 30'.
The caster drops a moderately sized wooden structure on a target within 150 feet, doing 8d6 damage.
The caster drops several small to moderately sized brick and wood/stone structures in a 50' radius around a target within 150 feet, doing 10d6 damage within 10', 7d6 within 25', and 4d6 within 50'.
The caster rains brick structures on a target up to 200’ away. The caster can choose an area of effect ranging from a single human-sized target up to a 50' radius. Single target will take 10d6 damage. Radial target will take 10d6 damage, minus 1d6 per 10' away from center.
The caster drops a stone tower from the clouds, targeting a point up to 500’ away. The tower explodes on impact, doing 16d6 damage in a 100' radius from the target (minus 1d6 per 10' from center).
The caster drops a small castle on a target within 1000 yards, doing 25d6 damage in a 250' radius from the target. He need not be able to see the target but will still be able to sense it. If he has a token of the target (e.g., soil or a piece of stone, if a place; hair, blood, etc., if a creature) the target gets no saving throw.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

MGoU-H: Adventures in the Undercity, Session I don't even know anymore

Our valiant(ish) heroes ended last session with chaotic fighter Vane Barbute equipped with an exploding collar about his neck, and a charge to keep: Kill the Toothmen! Both of these were foist upon them by the leader of the Gray Men, which is kinda funny... Vane already killed that guy, right? How'd he get here? Again? Yet another groovy mystery for the gang to solve, but it will have to wait until later. In the meantime, it's off to Toothman Central.

A group of the Gray Men escort the party, consisting of:

Aram (2nd lev. Cleric)
Absalom (1st lev. Elf)
Vane (2nd lev. Warrior)
Abel (1st lev. Wizard)
Formerly Ian (2nd lev. Wizard)
Rolf (1st lev. Thief)
(All levels are my best guesses, but everyone is either 1st or 2nd level at this point.)

On the way over to their desitination, they are told to beware the boss Toothman's "Juju Man," who apparently is bad news. After a short journey, the Gray Men left them at a crossroads in a wide passage. To the east was a set of stairs, ascending, now in the form of a waterfall due to the water draining down them. In fact, the whole passage is sort of a shallow river. The Gray Men said to go south, so they do, following the current.

Rolf took point, and was justifiably suspicious. He searched every nook and cranny for traps, especially the passage floor, but found none. Eventually, though, he found something very odd (and I quote):
A 12' tall statue of a man with small horns on his head, wearing a cap and an ancient schoolboy uniform, stands here gripping a stone guitar. If examined closely, the face can be seen to have a seam-with some effort, the face may be spun counterclockwise to unscrew it from the statue, leaving only a threaded hole.
The bridge of the guitar also has a seam-and pulling up on it will reveal a folded piece of paper, upon which is written the tablature for the song Back in Black.
I did a little free-stylin' at this point, and said that the guitar's body and neck were inset with colorful stones. The players hadn't discovered the tablature yet, but they soon would, after some good rolls by Rolf the Thief. [GM Note: These guys rolled extremely well, all session long. It was ridiculous]

After discovering the tablature, someone asked if it could be performed on the guitar, using the colored stones (like Guitar Hero, I guess). I hadn't even imagined such a thing at that point. The stones on the guitar were just a little descriptive flourish I'd included. But you know... why the fuck not? So... "Yes," I said, "I think that could work. You'll have to coordinate. It's a big guitar."

So three of them did it. One read the tab, one played the neck, and one played the body. They discovered that touching the stones made them light up. So, I quick-fixed a game mechanic. Everybody had to roll a d20, modified by their Agility and Intelligence. Eventually, they were successful, and heard a loud click. A compartment had opened in the back of the pedestal, revealing... I not a fucking clue. At this point I was just making shit up. I didn't want it to suck, though, so I delayed. It was, I told them, a small box made out of black stone. It was clearly meant to be opened, as it had hinges, but there were no corresponding seams, no lock, and no apparent means for manipulating it in such a way as to open it. This was me, scrambling to move on to the next thing, and not have to figure out what the hell was in the box. Hell, I still don't know, but I'm sure I'll figure something out... something... appropriate to the Metal Gods.

Oh, and by the way, thanks, Patrick Wetmore, for including (even if unknowingly) appropriate content for the Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad campaign. Oh, and for those of you playing at home, the statue is of the Metal God known as Yangu. He is the Metal God of... hmm... youth and rebellion, let's say. Maybe that will give me something fun to put in the box.

So, then the party turned to the east again, and descended another waterfall/staircase. There were a few missteps, but no damage, and no one got swept away. Eventually, after working way down a long corridor, the emerged in a room with four huge columns running in a row down the center. The water here was a bit deeper (and slower) and emptied through a grate under a raised platform on the room's west side. And, atop this fifteen foot platform... Toothmen! With bows! Roll initiatives!

The fight was on. Once again, these guys were KILLING ME with the high rolls. The spell rolls, in particular, were ridiculous. A veritable storm of magic missiles struck the opposition, turning one of into a rapidly expanding cloud of meat and vapor. Then, a whole bunch of them got Slept. During all of this, the Toothmen were raining arrows down on the party, and a few of them got lucky as well, striking party members, despite their use of cover (some of them) and the presence of a Choking Cloud which provide a 2 point penalty to all Toothman actions. But, like I said, the party was rolling like winners tonight. There was much healing, and they pushed on.

Eventually, Vane (who else?) charged toward the ladder on the east side of the platform and began climbing. He as hit (again) but eventually made it to the top. He fought the remaining Toothmen, alone, before one of them got a successful d10 bite on him. Vane died (again, again). Luckily, the wizards were able to Sleep most of the rest of them. And Aram the cleric healed Vane with a roll of something like 26 or 28 (Seriously, the rolls were ridiculous this session).

However, the stamina cost of death is starting to take a toll on Vane. After a bit of discussion, we decided to create a new house rule. Clerics, by tapping into their own essences, can heal attribute damage. The way it worked this time was to treat it like a laying on of hands roll. The cleric names the attribute (Strength or Stamina, only), and how many points he's going to give up to the other character. Then the roll is compared to the chart. For every die of healing the person would have gotten on the laying on hands chart, one point of attribute damage is healed permanently. Aram rolled ridiculously high (again), giving Vane 3 points (if I remember correctly).

Now, we're going to have to examine this house rule a bit more. It seems like an insanely powerful effect, and the risks are somewhat limited (temporary attribute damage). It may well be that we need to make that attribute damage permanent on a botched roll. I think that, then, the risk/reward ratio is a bit more balanced. I'll take it up with the fellas, later on.

All in all, a good session.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad: Adventures in the Undercity (combined synopses)

It's been some time since I posted a play recap for the Metal Gods campaign. Honestly, it's mostly because of all the work-related writing I've been doing lately. I'm reading, editing/revising, and formatting a variety of policies and accreditation documents for most of the day, so writing on the blog has been a bit less frequent than I would like. Also, I find that writing recaps is harder for me when the adventure was not one of my own writing. Modules are great, sure, but they don't get my creative juices flowing in the same way as the stuff I put together myself. In any case, let's talk about what's been happening in the Undercity of Ur-Hadad.

We've transitioned, as I may have mentioned, from The Pod Caverns of the Sinister Shroom to Anomalous Subsurface Environment, Level 3. It's been a pretty refreshing change of pace. The Pod Caverns are a decent module, I suppose, but nobody in the party found them particularly compelling. We've gotten used to a certain level of gonzo in our campaign, and that setting just seemed way too tame for this group of scaliwags. So, here's how it went down the last few sessions.

The PCs came ASE's 3rd level via deus ex machina. "Where," one of the players asked, "is the door we came through?" There was none, as I'd simply ported them into a large, relatively safe cavern. We decided it was in the ceiling. Problem solved. I've already told you of the death of Klaus the Thief (a promising lad, now dead, eaten by giant frog-thing). He represented the first character death in the entire campaign, outside of some zero-level guys. Frog-things attacked from ambush and critted him with a natural 20. He took immense damage and was swallowed. By the time anyone could free him from the belly of the creature, he was toast. After that death, the characters became a lot more cautious, though that caution led to tragic consequences for Vane Barbute, chaotic warrior, as you shall see.

The characters worked their ways through the chain of natural caverns in which they found themselves, managing to avoid several fights by not mucking about with things that seemed sketchy, eventually finding a cache of supplies. After resting there, they pressed on to find the Tomb of the Bone Lord. They entered the tomb, ready for battle, but all they found initially was a large, well-lit room, furnished like a bordello. "The room is furnished... with red velvet divans, oriental rugs, tapestries depicting elegantly dressed monsters... attending parties, and exquisitely carved mahogany coffee tables" (ASE 2&3, p. 86). The room also contained a plain stone sarcophagus and a large dining table, set for a party of 12. Several skeletons dressed in tuxedos stood ready to serve, and gestured that they should sit and partake.

As I mentioned, Vane Barbute was having none of it. Knowing as he should that this soon would become yet another way to try to kill him, he refused to sit at the table. Instead, he stood ready at the sarcophagus, aiming to cause harm to whatever inhabited it. This proved to be a poor choice, as it placed him right next to a wight (the Bone Lord), and he soon learned what "level drain" means. Also, is a sad bit of irony, Vane was the first of our DCC crew to make it to 3rd level. He literally hadn't even had a chance to roll his brand new deed die (now a d5) before a successful hit by the Bone Lord reduced him to 2nd level. I don't think that Vane's player had ever dealt with level drain before, and was a bit taken aback by it. Since I'd not yet had a chance to stat up a DCC version of the wight, we worked out the following house rule. When level drained, you make a Fort Save. If you don't save, you lose half your experience points. If you do save, you lose a quarter of your experience points and one point of Strength (permanently). It was pretty brutal. In the end, though, the party was victorious. Aram the Cleric killed the Bone Lord with the Frosthammer of Graki Deathstalker.

The rest of the creatures were dispatched, and they looted the place completely, transferring their newfound wealth to the surface, and using the proceeds to finally build their Barbie Dream House in Ur-Hadad. They built a nice one, kept the Bone Lord's furnishings (to make it classy, don't you know), and turned the main floor into a tavern. The tavern has helped to fulfill the dreams of Crag Beerbeard, James' character, whose name should tell you what those dreams were. They also added an armory/forge, a stable, and some other basic, but useful, additions. All in all, they spent a lot of their loot, but ended up with a decent pad to live in. Also, they got to move out from beneath the bridge where they had been living previously. After a brief respite, they returned to the dungeon. This time, though, it was one character per player. We've decided that this is going to be the standard from now on, in recognition of our renewed commitment to...

Nathan Explosion approves of this New Way.

We returned to the Tomb of the Bonelord, and the decided, based on a crude map they'd recovered, to head north. This was where it got fun. There was a magical trap. It made those failing the save see a vision of the Grim Reaper, following behind. Crag and Vane both failed their saves. So, Reaper Entourage. They quickly ascertained, though, that it was probably an illusion, and pretty much ignored it after that. Vane also triggered another of these traps, one that made him see the living as undead. Again, they pretty quickly figured out it was illusion, and nothing untoward followed. Also during this sequence, they party seemed a lot more cautious than usual. It's funny how not having a thief in the party and only having one character per player helps to focus the mind, isn't it?

They eventually found their way to a room with rusty metal folding chairs and a rotten podium, an assembly hall of some kind. There they found the bodies of two grey men and two weird, fish-like creatures, dead in the water between the rows of chairs, being eaten by crabs and worms. Finding no other items of interest, they pushed on to the west. The exit from the assembly hall led into a large (30 feet wide) passage, with a door directly opposite the one from which they came. Carefully (again, no thief available), they opened the door. Inside was a large, metal pedestal with a hexagonal opening in the top. A brief examination revealed a blue crystal skull resting at the bottom of the opening. They were not suckered into reaching for it, and a test with the butt of a spear showed them that it was trapped with scything blades. Vane used the handle of his maul (the Whore Whammer), a black metal monstrosity of a weapon, to stop the blades from resetting and they were able to break them and remove the skull. 

To the south were two other doors. One led into a closet. Inside, on a bronze bar, were hung a bunch of space suits with bubble-like helmets. In each of them was a dead Toothman (humanoids with 3 inch, razor sharp fangs too big for their mouths). The next door revealed a very wet room, without about two feet of water on the floor. The areas they'd explored so far had had anywhere from an inch to about two feet of water in them. In this room there was a large, stainless steel tank with several nozzles pointing down toward the floor. They entered the room, and someone approached it, tripping a trap. The tank discharged liquid nitrogen, instantly freezing the water. Two of them (including Vane and the wizard formerly known as Ian) were stuck in the ice. This also served to trigger an alarm summoning the Goblin (Gray Man) Emissary and eight of his troops. 

The party tried to fight, but soon were zapped with ray guns (set to stun) and rendered unconscious. At this point, I began ad-libbing madly. They awoke to find themselves taken prisoner, and being interrogated by the leader of this group. "Who," he wanted to know, "do you serve?" They had no fucking clue what to tell him. Vane (of course) began to threaten them with grievous bodily harm. The Emissary, Grolikus, was not impressed. Vane tried to break his bonds and got zapped with electricity for his troubles. Eventually, he calmed down, and Grolikus proposed a plan. If the party would do him a favor, they would be rewarded. He wanted them to destroy the Toothmen, he told them, and kill their leader.

This is where I kind of screwed up. I'd read about the factions on this level of the dungeon, but made the mistake of assuming that the Toothmen were a major faction. They weren't. Well, they are now. I'm going to have to figure out how to make that work, as it departs from the adventure as-written, but I think it'll be pretty easy to do. However, Grolikus was not finished. "I do not," he told the party, while pointing at Vane, "trust this one." So, he had one of his minions affix a tight collar of silvery metal to the chaotic warrior. Yes, of course it's an exploding collar. How could it not be? He promised to take it off later, should they fulfill his instructions to visit death upon his enemies. We shall see.

And that's about where we ended our last session.

UPDATE: I stand corrected. Bear (Vane's player) said, "Vane didn't get caught in the trap, but managed to kill the leader of our attackers. Also, Whore-Whammer the warhammer killed the Bone Lord with Banvha's luck donation."

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Playing at the World

Just received the copy of Playing at the World I order with some of my birthday money. Good heavens, this thing is monstrous. It must weigh like three pounds and the cover is 7 by 10 inches. Also in this haul, Shared Fantasy: Role Playing Games as Social Worlds by Gary Alan Fine, an interactionist sociologist of some renown.

I'm gearing up to write my conference paper for the National Communication Association meeting in D.C., this November. I may need a little input from my readers, very soon.

DCC Spell Idea: D'Gale's Avenging Domicile

As I lay in bed last night, attempting to go to sleep, I was thinking about magic and spells, and then the Wizard of Oz came into my head. That was when it all came together. Everybody thought the whole "dropping a house on somebody" thing was a spell, so they thought Dorothy was a witch. That makes perfect sense. 

So, I'm going to create a DCC version of this spell, and I will call it "D'Gale's Avenging Domicile" (for Dorothy Gale, you see). It might take me a little while to finish, but this will happen. 

So, readers, a question: What level DCC spell would this be? I'm thinking it should be around 3rd level, maybe as low as 2nd. However, at the highest results, you could literally be raining houses (or a whole freaking castle) on someone's head. For that reason, it could do a fuckton of damage if you get a ridiculous result. That might push it up to 4th or even 5th level, I think, but I don't want to put it out of reach for mid-range characters. 

Also, is there anything else I should take into account in writing this spell?

Monday, June 3, 2013


Recently, I took part in a little contest, over at +Erik Tenkar's place. The contest asked for the best character death. I wrote the piece not expecting much to come of it. Somehow, I was one of the winners and got a copy of +Rafael Chandler's Spite: The Second Book of Pandemonium. Spite is something new to me. I didn't even know it was a thing. I'm very sorry about that, because the game looks like a LOT of fun. Also, Rafael also says he's going to re-do the game with all of it parts together in one book, probably later this year. That's probably gonna end up on my bookshelf.


I started reading it last week, and pretty much have read (not skimmed) the whole thing already. I never do that. Seriously. Never. Well, at least don't before I try to play it. This book, though, was very enjoyable to read. It's got great layout and illustrations. Some very, very good artists were used to create some really fucked up stuff. The monsters (angels, in fact) are really scary critters. Apparently there's a really thin line between angelic and demonic in this game. The real takeaway from it, to me, and as expressed by the author is that we should not anthropomorphize angels in this game, and that their character is inhuman, by nature. They have their agenda and donotfuckingcareaboutyou. All of this is expressed in a mix of nice, personal prose and well explained rules and examples (though I'd like to see some better, more extended examples of gameplay for some of the mechanics). There are even a few random tables provided in the appendix.

The quickstart concept for this game is a good one (run a session that's expected to end in death, just to get started learning the rules, and play it for real). I could see doing that with just about any system, pushing it to its nuttiest to see how fun it is. Even better, I could see running that as a default "funnel," a la DCC.

The book's organization is somewhat odd to me, because the quickstart is several chapters in, beyond character generation and most of the rule system. Logically, I guess it makes sense. You need a little background first. Also, Rafael is an author who is very, very good at pacing explanations. He's kind of got a teacher vibe, but a good one. Take it from a teacher (me).

Anyway, more about the game.

The game runs on a d12 system, for those not familiar with it. Each roll conists of some number of d12, based on character (or NPC) skills, attributes, etc. This is where it gets interesting (to me), because instead of totaling the dice you roll for high numbers. Highest number wins. If it's a roll against a target number, then you have to get over that target (like DC for d20 rolls in 3rd ed.). If it's an opposed roll, like a offense/defense combat roll, the difference between the rolls, modified, tells you who won and by how much. This rolling system is pretty consistent across all subsystems, with a fiddly bit or two here and there. The mechanic is sufficiently different that I want to try it out, and simple enough that my dumb ass can figure it out. Win/Win.

Subject matter is strangely... familiar. The first place I go when reading it is Dark Heresy. Grimdarkness. Lots and lots of grimdark. Yay! And this time it's about Heaven's War, and you (your characters) are Zealots in the fight. They are humans made... different, changed and enhanced in weird ways, half-breeds, part divine and part mortal. Chargen breaks down to character classes and types. Those are pretty tightly-defined. However, there are also ways to differentiate your character, based on background. It's also from a limited, but very evocative, array of choices. Again, very like Dark Heresy.

Skills are limited and generic. That's probably a strength, and an advantage over Dark Heresy in my mind. Magic consists of a decent array of spells of different types, some very powerful effects, some buffs, and a nice range of potential uses. There really are a ton of them and they're really, really, fucking metal. Yes, the stuff is plucked whole from horror films and heavy metal, but FUCK, YEAH, IT IS!

Now, Spite is somewhat limited in its approach to the game world. What's there is very good, but you can tell you're missing a lot of the story (e.g., what happened in Dread: The First Book of Pandemonium, which the author now calls "Scorn," instead). Now, I've looked for that one online, but neither book seems to be available right now. I got my copy from the author, of course, and he's got them both up later this year, along with other material included, if I don't misremember what he told me.

I'll be happy to pick up the who shebang because I see a lot of potential in the system to provide me with a good many things I like. There's grimdark, naturally, and the desperate nature of the conflict. There's the rule that says if you describe what you're doing in a bitchin' way you get an extra die (hell, yeah). More importantly, it looks like something I could continue to unpack for a while to come. It has the potential to get into a lot of uncharted territory, becoming about something other than the whole Heaven vs. Hell thing.

I'm not saying that's not a cool thing, mind you. It's simply a fact that part of what made me want to step away from the Dark Heresy stuff for a while was feeling sort of trapped in the 40K universe. It's well written, interesting, and all that, yes... But after a while I'd sort of burnt out on it. Probably how are gaming group kind of imploded didn't help either.

Anyway, this game, Spite (and its associated Pandemonium universe) looks like I could do a lot of other stuff with it instead of just what the wrapper suggests I can. Aliens, serial killers, zombies, whatever. Probably not ponies, though. Probably. Well, maybe that would make a horrible sort of sense. Perhaps carnivorous ponies...

But I digress... If you get a chance to pick it up, it's worth a look, especially if you like horror, combat, tense drama, and an appetite to fuck some shit up.  Or die horribly (but awesomely).