Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pointcrawling Sigil's Undercity

In yesterday's post about the megadungeon possibilities missed in Planescape's hub city, Sigil, Michael Moscrip asked very nice and polite like for a setting supplement. Since he's ill-advisedly talked about running a Dickensian-like Sigil adventure—even going as far as to create a portal to it from the Google Plus pocket universe's Castle Nicodemus–it's in my enlightened self-interest to help out.

I am way too swamped to do a great sweeping treatment, but here's a stab at a few things to get someone going on creating a Sigil underworld of their own.

First of all, we have to deal with John's good, tough question from yesterday:
“My trouble with the Catacombs is that, in a way, they're too big. On the one hand I like the idea of the entire torus being riddled with dungeon passages. But if I have one entrance in the Twelve Factols and another entrance in the skull library, ten miles away, how can I ever link them up in a way that matters? For all practical purposes they're two separate dungeons. Do I "cheat" with miles and miles of empty passageways? Weird dungeon spatial warping?”
Yes to both seems most appropriate given what we know, namely that most of the undercity was created as work and living space by the tinkering dabus and that as many inter-dimensional gates exist below as they do above. If this section is to be believed you have something as reality-defying as the Mythic Underworld:
“Nobody's ever dug so deep that they come to the 'other side' of Sigil's toroidal surface. Those who dig deep enough simply disappear, presumably stumbling into a random plane, and nobody's ever been able to figure out a pattern to it.”
So how do you run such a sprawling beast? I suggested trying to apply my pointcrawl system (John answers his own question with some interesting remarks about a hex-based solution in the comments).

Above is a pointcrawl map listing every site that gets a mention in canonical material. Underscoring yesterday's point all but two of the sites, the Gurincraag (a dwarven neighborhood under the Lower Ward) and the Twelve Factols Inn (mentioned yesterday), are drawn from Torment.

Large boxes indicate major sites, worthy of a single dungeon level or two. Green boxes indicate a site that has humans or other overworld living creatures living there, blue indicate wholly “monster”-inhabited levels. The smaller uncolored boxes indicate “sublevels”, special areas that would typically be 2-10 rooms in a normal dungeon.

Unbroken lines indicate the more normal walkable tunnels and other . Squiggly lines indicate places joined by a “teleporting” portal (all such portals have some kind of material key to them). Arrows indicate that the connection leads downward in that direction. Connections should be of variable length and indicated on the map (out of laziness I didn't).

What about stocking these places? Here's where I am going to punt. Since the vast majority of this space is treated in the computer game—many of these areas get a highly detailed treatment in the numerous online walkthroughs of the game. You will find a number of useful links to maps and descriptions on the various levels and sub-levels here at Sorcerers.net.

Eyeballing these maps they feel too cramped, too square and oddish in shape to be a perfect fit for tabletop maps—and you have to deal with the meta-gamey knowledge of those who have played through—I would strongly advise using them as a launching pad, expanding the maps and areas over longer dimensions.

End of backseat driving, now go and build.  

The News from the Hills

Busy as all get out today, so I have for you today two microposts.

The first—second one coming early afternoon--being news from and for the tabletop and Google Plus players in the Hill Cantons campaign. A nice pictorial account of this Sunday's slam-dunk enjoyable face-to-face session can be found here.

And now the news...

Marklankh priests pouring poppy-wine ablutions on the darkened slab altar of the City Gods Sunlorday were startled to note a loud humming from the ley line conjuncture at their feet. Sensibly running madly away they were further shocked to note seconds later a 10-50 foot (sources vary) sickly-wattled creature with a score eyes and a bulbous tongue emerge from the structure bellowing wildly.

Said creature then proceeded to stroll northward wrecking havoc among the boulevard. Tens of structures were toppled and burned and several prominent citizens consumed. Ten and a hundred riff-raff and lesser sorts were also dispatched in the rampage before the creature flew into the air toward the northern mountains.

The cantonal Rada convened an emergency session to deal with the crisis—further fueled by a mysterious skirmish in the vicinity of the Lady Szara's manse last week. The usual suspects have been rounded up and put to the question. A bounty of 2,000 suns has been set on any ruffian who can bring the council the head of the scurrilous abomination.

In other news...

Monday, January 30, 2012

Planescape's Missing Megadungeon

It struck me the other day that Planescape is another of those tabletop settings that bitter-sweetly is both well loved and little played. Well...that is except for it's popular computer alter ego, Planescape Torment. Not only was that game played widely in the years around its 1999 release, it's considered a cult hit to this day.

Why the disconnect? Why didn't the tabletop version rocket into cult status too?

Undoubtedly there are many reasons: the rising primacy of computer games over face-to-face, the runaway popularity of the Bioware games of that era, Planescape's appearance at the end of the 2e setting smorgasbord, etc. But it occurred to me that part of it is that Torment managed to hit some deep D&D elements that the tabletop material glossed over in its drive to play toward being a rival with that White Wolf hooha of the time (thanks Robert and other readers for that particular insight).

Namely it made good on the megadungeon lurking under the streets of the setting's literal hub city, Sigil. Enamored by its original bits, most gameplay in the setting revolved around adventure around the planes and less successfully around political intrigue amongst the factions.

Hints at a undercity play arena were only vaguely hinted at. The original Sigil booklet has the haziest of mentions and it's only later with In the Cage: a Guide to Sigil supplement do you even get a peak at what a massively missed opportunity there was:
"The homes of the dabus [the weirdo, rebus-speaking floating worker drones of the city] are deep underground; some Cagers [Sigil citizen] say that the entire torus is a warren of dabus, and that the part of Sigil on the surface is only the face the city shows to the Ring, to travelers. The actual city is a maze of deep tunnels, storehouses, dungeons and corridors...”
That's a hell of a tease. The booklet goes on to continue to tease about the possibility throughout the book, detailing places like the Twelve Factols, an underground tavern where drunken obnoxious diners will on occasion force the serving staff to let them traipse into the deep passages that lead into the Catacombs behind warded doors. You hear a lot about the tavern in that passage but nothing about what lies beyond.

According to the Planewalker wiki this massive underground is only called “UnderSigil” by the Clueless (outworld newbies according to that annoying PS in-game cant), it is mostly known as "down below," "the Catacombs," "the Realm Below," or "the Labyrinths" according to the locals. The mention of it immediately makes me think of the romance of the giant undercities of Tekumel, where the ritual half-millennial clearing and rubbling over of the cities create layer over layer of rich adventure.

Whatever the name it is called (and I am partial to all of them as evocative titles) Torment was the only large-scale exploration of that play area in the setting. Play down underneath in the game simply rocks. Each sub-map of down below just drips with unique flavor and seem ready made for the sub-level punctuation of the sheer mass of a megadungeon.

You have a Buried Village under the heaps of the Trash Warrens. You have an entire underworld realm of sentient skeletons, zombies, and ghouls with a unique civilization, the Dead Nations. Another subrealm, the Warren of Thought, dominated by a collective rodent brain with its cranium rat and wererat minions. An animate skull library, the Bones of the Night, lorded over by a kooky wizard. Weird tombs and catacombs a plenty with talking carved heads and unique critters.

Great stuff in other words.

Play in D&D doesn't have revolve around the eponymous dungeon, but it's often at it's best as a game when the agoraphobia is kept under wraps by the comfort of a tight mortared ceiling. It's a shame that UnderSigil wasn't explored further, but I suppose that's what makes Gygax's famous parting words from OD&D ring so true yet again: “why have us do any more imaging for you?”

Indeed. Go forth and build your own undercity.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Factoids of the Hill Cantons: Unique Gear

Continuing in my series of posts from the Rough Guide to the Hill Cantons, I present today a piece of the unusual items that a visitor might find in a remote stall in the more exotic markets and trade fairs of the Hill Cantons. 

Rare Weapons
Poignard of the Overworld
Cost: 100 suns
Damage: d4+1
A  long, lightweight thrusting knife with a tapering, acutely pointed blade and crossguard forged from a luminescent green ore from the “falling overworld”. Because of it's properties it can strike otherworldy beings. Usable by Magic Users.

Ostrovan Luft-Pike
Cost: 40 suns
Damage: d6+1
Weight: 15
A 24-foot hollow steel pike crafted by the weaponsmiths of Ostrovo and employed in the tight phalanxes of the HC townbands. The pike breaks down into four sections and carried in a leather tube on the march. Always strikes first in first round of melee. The weapon can be used from third rank, but only with sufficient head room (i.e. a terrible weapon in the dungeon). Double damage when receiving a charge.

Cost: 300 suns
Damage: 3d6*
Weight: 20
Small conical leather and chain bounded bomb filled with the “Seed of the Sun Lord” (an explosive material whose secrets are tightly controlled and regulated by the temple hierarchy). Typically employed to force a gate or breach a wall in a siege. The device uses a 1-minute fuse. There is a 1 in 6 chance of a dud fuse, necessitating a change out.

If an “18” is rolled, the damage dice explodes, roll another 3d6 and continue rolling if further 18s are scored.

Nettled Club
Damage: 2-5*
Cost: 60 suns
Weight: 5
This imported club is made from a woody cactus. Small thorns adorn the head of the club and can easily be broken off. A roll of a natural “20” with this weapon will inject a poison that paralyzes an opponent that fails to save vs. poison for 1-6 rounds.

Bone Dagger
Cost: 15 suns
Damage: 1-4
Weight: .5
A lightweight dagger made from a single bone claw of a great beast of the south. The hollow edge beneath the claw-point makes it an ideal poison delivery device and as such is a favorite weapon of the Hashasian societies of the Scarlet Sultanate.

Greek Fire
Cost: 5 suns/ceramic jug
Damage: 2d8
Made of naptha and other materials known only to the Society of the Sanguinolent Alchemists. Substitutes for the standard vegetable-based lamp oil of D&D.

Tears of the Atramentous Lady
Cost: 100 suns/drop
Small, rounded opaque white crystals said to be formed from the embittered tears of the Celestial Lady herself.

When consumed roll d10 (add WIS modifier):
1-3 Hoax. No effect.
4-6 Heal 3 hit points.
7-9 Heal 5 hp.
10 Heal 7 hp. +1 to AC for day.

Radegast's Dark
Cost: 20 suns/stein
The Dark is a special dark-as-night ale drawn only at select feastdays in honor of Radegast, the Old God of Hosts, Fermented Drinks, and Magister Ludis. Reportedly has supernatural powers, such as the ability to pass into the “spirit realm”, when enough is drunk to become inebriated.  

Cost: 140 suns
Weight: 27
AC: 5
Fluted breastplate, groin protection and upper arm guards. Because of advances in metal-working in the HC, cheaper and lighter than full chainmail. The gilded version costs 520 suns.

Cost: 10 suns
Weight: 3
The burgonet is a steel helmet characterized by a high combed skull, brow peak, hinged ear pieces and blackened sections.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Quid Pro Quo: A Modest Proposal on Restructuring RPG Campaigns

I have been intending to do a dramatic restructuring of all of my current campaigns since the dawn of this new year. Swayed by the allure of for-profit gaming models--with all their savvy ways of injecting the almighty invisible hand and multi-level marketing back into our shoddily amateur hobby--I am instituting by February 1 the following tiered pay-to-play system for players in my games:

Member Level
What You Get
Nothing, except my scorn...well, that and half your current hit points!
Re-roll three attributes of your choice—with nine dice! Rename a monster.
Two levels in a class of your choice and you get to cheat on all dice in one session—and get away with it!
Three free random rolls on the Misc magic items chart, gain three levels, and kill an important, setting-pivotal NPC of your choice!
The Hand of Vecna (pick its powers), gain five levels, and receive a free T-shirt bearing the motto “Feminist Chicks Dig Me!”

Membership payment will be accepted in Paypal, Mastercard, cowrie shells, or human chattel form. The lines are open, act now.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

When Murder-Hobos Attack

There comes a time in every self-respecting sandbox GM's career when the players have to find just how far the boundaries are in the game. They have to walk over to the abyss and jump—or at least make the motions. The darkest abyss isn't the edge of the map, but the one that tests our everyday moral conventions.

I don't begrudge them this. I have had my own share of psycho-tunes behavior as a player, happily carving things in poor critters forehead's Inglorius Basterds-style, running grifts, and generally causing mayhem (almost always “in-town”). Kicking up the amoral-o-meter is part of the terrain that comes with player agency.

Truth be told, there is also a part of me—the same dark space in the soul that savors a right bastard protagonist like Cugel or Flashman—that digs the resulting chaos. I enjoy being surprised as a GM and these moments tend to provide them in spades.

Take last night.

To the sounds of lightening cracking down around my house and great rocking peals of thunder, I ran my weekly Hill Cantons game on Google Plus. The party--a right motley crew made up of two mountebanks, a pearl-cursed thief, a landsknecht-garbed elf, and a drunken Catholic friar—have been investigating rumors of a ostensibly-dead rogue named Kugel who has taken up residence in one of the swankiest of manses in town. They have been plugging away at plans for a home invasion for almost two weeks, last night was the delivery.

Now come the twist(s).

Kugel isn't your garden variety NPC, but the fallen PC of one of the longtime players of the home group. Seeking information about that poor sod, the G+ party reached out to the tabletop players. One player-character, Mandamus, a benign sort (if pedantic) run by the Desert Scribe wrote up a funny and inspired in-character tale.

Another of the home group players, who runs a race and class of “indeterminate origin” (one of them starts with an “a”, ahem), took a decidedly less benign approach to the overtures of the online crowd. He decided—and after grilling him there is a rock solid in-game excuse...err...reason—that he would methodically hunt them down as a GM-run NPC in the G+ sessions. It was one of those moments when your tough internal question rolls down the ethical slippery slope from “should I allow this?” to “how can I make this evil bit of player mischief work in-game?”

And when I say methodically I am not exaggerating, we had a few longish exchanges about his plan and he gave me a fairly-detailed set of written instructions about its execution (no pun intended). There were contingency plans for any number of occasions.

Disguising himself as a potential henchman fighter-type named “Patch”, he ingratiated himself into the party by promising to undercut the Guild of Condotierre's premium rates. Though they saw—said so at the time even—me waving a big ole red flag in their face, the G+ players incredibly hired him on.

Now the real fun begins.

They tromp down to the back alley behind the manse looking for ingress. In proper old school D&D party manner they order their hireling, Patch, to open the shiny, creepy brass backdoor. He refuses citing an old war wound (part of my instructions). They fire him on the spot.

To compound matters, moments later they narrowly avoid a two-headed giant dog behind said door. Courageously they suddenly decide to my utter surprise (and secret delight) “to hell with the manse, let's go kill Patch and take his dosh.”

Tromping back down the pitch-black alley without a light source--seriously, I couldn't script something this rich—they run smack dab into Patch's ambush. Perched on a wall deep in the shadows with a bow (and his strange ability to see in the dark) he starts trying to pick them off.

In the space of a surprise round he has one of the mountebanks—his erstwhile boss--rolling on the Death and Dismemberment table, narrowly avoiding an untimely death. Between the chaos and the avalanche of crappy rolls the Googlers only scratch Patch and he makes an easy retreat over the rooftops.

Off the rails? Yep. Something that may have me stepping in and stopping the probable cycle of escalation that will erupt-- the G+ party, of course, was swearing revenge last night—with a meta-game intervention? Could be.

But good, clean treacherous fun all the same? Oh, hell yes.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Planescape Look

My Johnny-come-lately exploration of 2e Planescape has gone gangbusters this week. Thanks to hot tips from you fine, but enabling folks, little brown packages from the mail order gods have been rolling in each day.

Contact has left me appreciating much of that old line with only a few tugs of dislike (nothing about that today I am in “jaunty cap” mood). One of the things that really caught me is the conscious attempt to put together a real, unified aesthetic to the products—a shocker for me really since the vast majority of D&D art became so exponentially awful and commercial year after year following the early 80s.

My interest piqued, I went out looking for why TSR had put out such a markedly different feeling and looking line at the time. Fortunately White Wolf magazine (a painfully pretentious and vapid publication that I feel dirty for having bought legally) had some interesting skinny on its development in issue 43.

Of particular interest was an article by the designer himself, Dave “Zeb” Cook, called “Mutating the Planes”. In the piece he talks about the inspiration that went into the month of figuring out what he wanted to do with the new:
“I put on my headphones and cued up Pere Ubu, Philip Glass and Alexander Nevsky. For inspiration, I read books: The Dictionary of the Khazars, Einstein’s Dreams and The Narrow Road to the Deep North. For fun, there was always...Naked Lunch to Wolf Devil Woman [on] the VCR. For some reason, all this started affecting my brain.”
How could that go wrong? Reading that I can't help but think about all my peers (and really myself too) lists of strange disparate influences in Zak's GM questionnaire meme. A right-brained approach to worldbuilding that I can really appreciate.

Now back to the actual look Cook envisioned:
“I could think and write about these things, but the setting needed a look. I already had some images in mind--the gloomy prisons of Piranesi’s Le Carceri etchings, Brian Froud’s illustrations and surrealist art. Foolishly, people believed in me, and Dana Knutson was assigned to draw anything I wanted. I babbled, and he drew--buildings, streets, characters and landscapes. Before any of us knew it, he drew the Lady of Pain.”
Aha, that's what makes it click.

Giovanni Battista Piranesi's 18th-century flights of fantasy (and note how Carceri becomes a prison plane in the setting) has been a longtime favorite from his multilevel crampedness of the prison sketches to the gloomy ruins of Rome to the grand, weird cityscapes. Look at these fine examples and you can see the inspiration points for the work above.

Brian Froud provoked the same reaction, the “Dark Crystal dude”. Just take a gander at some of the concept art for that dark muppetish fantasy flick.

Great stuff.

I like the idea of thinking hard about all your points of internal visualization and pulling them together into a more coherent whole. It beats the pants off thinking about the art as a secondary thing, at best a pretty bow-tied package to wrap up the real meat of the prose.

It seems remarkable to me given the "published setting as schlock factory” that was the bread and butter of 2e-era TSR—a departure I have only really encountered again (successfully at least) in the DIY sections of our hobby in the last few years. Bully for that. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Factoids of the Hill Cantons: Fashion

Readers will note the recent appearance of my “Factoids” series. The posts are random bits taken from the upcoming Rough Guide to the Hill Cantons, an assortment of details various and sundry for players in the campaign—some of it even gameable.

Though a rough and tumble borderlands, the Hill Cantons doesn't lack for a love of haute fashion (albeit provincial and strange by the jaded standards of the Overkingdom core domains.)

Beyond the Weird, the clothes still make the man. Whilst in the HC, players will be awarded 1 exp for every 2 suns--that's gp to you otherworld barbarians--spent on his or her apparel. This bonus is above and beyond that of the exp value of that gold when acquired as treasure.


Jaunty Cap 3 suns
Foppish Hat, unbrimmed 5 suns
Foppish Hat, long-brimmed 6 suns
Foppish Hat, ostentatious 20 suns
Burgonet, gilded 50 suns


Boots, ghost minotaur 100 suns
Boots, frog-demon 200 suns
Sandals, penitent 2 sags
Sandals, hypocrite 2 suns
Shoes, pointy 1 sun


Cod piece, adequate 3 suns
Cod piece, pronounced 5 suns
Cod piece, ostentatious 10 suns
Bodice, bonelace 10 suns
Bodice, bejeweled 100 suns
Thong, chainmail 10 suns


Landsknecht get-up, serviceable 8 suns
Landsknecht get-up, elaborate 15 suns
Doublet, velvet 5 suns
Doublet, poncy 30 suns
Gown, ball 30 suns
Hairshirt 3 sags
Pantaloons 2 suns
Robe, deo-fox 150 suns
Robe, pelgrane 300 suns
Robe, giant sable 180 suns
Robe, sackcloth 5 sags
Skirt, hooped 5 suns
Chiton, Amazon 2 suns
Toga, black 5 suns

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Factoids of the Hill Cantons: Numismatics

Coins Common to the Hill Cantons:

Kolo (slang “Wheel”): large white gold piece stamped with the Sun Lord's Chariot (2-wheeled) equals 10 Suns.

Ur-Kolo: rare coin only circulated by ultra-orthodox sects, same as above but Chariot with 4 wheels, slightly larger worth 12 suns and a lady.

Apricity Crown (slang “Sun”): D&D gp but 1/10th weight, stamped one side with the Sun Lord dining with the Hyperboreans during his winter repose, the other with the most recent Overking.

Celestial Velkin (slang “Lady”): D&D sp but 1/10th weight, stamped one side with the Celestial Lady chained to a brick oven (goddess worshipers file the chains off), the other with both moons as crescents. 

Sanguinolent Orb (slang “Sag”): cp (made of a dark red bronze), blank except for a tiny symbolic drop of blood. 

1 wheel =10 suns
1 sun = 10 ladies
1 lady = 10 sags
2 ladies = a two-fer or frowned-upon fun  

Friday, January 20, 2012

Random Starting Equipment for Conan/ZeFRS

It's been a while since posting about Conan/ZeFRS. I'm still plugging away at the second leg of the one-shots. I ran the first one, Mogg's Mountain, four times, even squeezing in a face-to-face game and am still very much in like with the action-packed system.

And of course that like means that I continue to tinker away with variants. (For more discussion on this game boogie over to the ZeFRS discussion board.)

Building off my random character generation system for the game, I put together a random equipment generator to supplement the simple menu choice from the original game.

What do I Own?
All characters are assumed to start with 1d10 bronze coins, plain clothing, sandals, and a large sack. Players can opt to make three picks on any chart below they are eligible to.

Missile Weapon: Any ranged or throwable weapon of your choice.

Melee Weapon: Any melee weapon of your choice.

Wealth (Merchant or Noble only)
Roll d10
1-5 3 gold coins
6-7 Ornamental gem worth 5 gold coins
8 Ornamental Cloak
9 Silk Shirt
10 Fancy Robe

Roll d10
1-3 5 torches (flint/tinder box) and backpack
4-6 100' rope & grapple
7-10 Riding horse

Light Armor
Roll d10
1-7 Jack
8-10 Brigandine

Medium Armor (Warrior or Freebooter only)
Roll d10
1-5 Breastplate
6-7 Hauberk
8-10 Shirt, ring or scale

Roll d10
1-6 Barbutte
7-9 Basinet
10 Armet

Roll d10
1-4 Buckler
5 Spiked shield
6-9 Standard shield
10 Great shield

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Jumping on Zak's Q&A Wagon

Twist my arm. Here's my entry in this meme-thon.

I've actually enjoyed reading through others' entries, interesting windows into how and why people run their games.

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?

I invented false modesty—and it worked! I also rather like the pointcrawl thing I stole and adapted from brighter lights.

2. When was the last time you Gmed?

Tuesday evening I ran a HC session on Google Plus...well...sort of, it was a case of ludus interreptus.

3. When was the last time you played?

Last Thursday night with my dwarf Xhomar the Contumelious in “Keep on the Carcosan Borderlands” run by Roger Burgess.

4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to.

The players are in charge of a train of humongous land-barges (big giant-wheeled wagons with sails and the whole business), a caravan or group of refugees, and must cross this vast piece of virtually unknown land akin to Vance's Planet of Adventure. It's all about picaresque travel but with an edge of raw survival to it. Explore foolishly or without enough rigor and the group perishes bit by bit.

Either that or a Black Ziggarut. Dunno. 

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?

Make up just-in-time details or bliss out. 

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?

Face-to-face: sweet and salty things. G+: eat nothing, but sweet, sweet wine.

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?

Actually the total opposite, I almost always get an adrenaline buzz after I get over the pre-game stage fright thing.

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?

Trying to sell his party-mates into slavery in order to get access to the Keep. Or maybe it was convincing the local peasants that rubbing a dwarf's head was good luck—and that they should pay good money to do so.

9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?

My campaigns run the seriousness gamut with the Domain Game being perhaps the most serious—but they all have big, heaping platefuls of the seriously unserious. The players tend to amp up both ends of that spectrum.

10. What do you do with goblins?

Re-skin them into something wholly else. I guess I don't do standard monsters other than giant animals and the undead anymore, nothing doctrinal about it just part of my creation fun.

11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?

I do a crazy amount of reskinning of non-fictional sources below all the gonzo. Just read a dry-as-toast but useful-as-all-hell monograph on the logistics of Alexander's army for figuring out the real nitty gritty on how an army would actually move and what it would look and feel like for the Domain Game.

12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now?
This incident of player vs. player violence under the streets of Jakalla. But only afterwards.

13. What was the last game book you looked at--aside from things you referenced in a game--why were you looking at it?

Microscope by Ben Robbins (the West Marches guy). I've been trying to wrap my head around a mini-game in which players (or outsiders from the Internet ether) help co-create world-building parts of your campaign and was picking through it for inspiration.

14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?

Tough one, probably a dead Russian like Ivan Bilibin or Nicholas Roerich or in other moods Frazzeta and Jeffrey Jones (see above). But of those actually living and breathing maybe Justin Sweet or Jon Hodgson.

15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid?

No, come on. Suspense and a few chills maybe, but who has real fear in a make-believe game?

16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? (If ever)

Castle Amber back in the day. We didn't know Clark Ashton Smith from shinola, but damn did that ambiance click for us. A nice long mini-campaign with the Averoigne sandbox part too.

17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?

It would be like on the Hindenberg, yet without all the burn-up-in-a-fiery-explosion hydrogen and the Nazis. And like The Sword would be playing there, but all quiet so the group could hear me.

18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?

TSR's Conan and Pendragon (perhaps the Gloranthan variant Pendragon Pass really). One makes me want to see players wrestling giant serpents with their mighty-thews and pissing their riches away before the next entirely non-chronological order; the other makes me want the steady and deep “long game”. One day I will reconcile these distant urges.

19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be?

The Hussite wars in Bohemia plus Vance, CAS and Leiber. With a touch or two of the Darklands rpg, Wodehouse, and Jonathan Swift. Lathered on with the big sweep of those grand old campaigns of miniature wargaming like Tony Bath's Hyboria and the Castles & Crusades Society.

20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?

Clever, imaginative, easy with the laugh, who doesn't get hung up on gaming probabilities rather than just enjoying themselves explore. And must like long walks on the beaches. And dogs.

21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms?

My years living in northern Slovakia as a direct inspiration for parts of the Hill Cantons.

22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't?

A big-ass thick hardbound volume of never-published (or rarely seen) letters and behind-the-scene notes and other primary documents from all the OG pioneers: Arneson, Barker, Gygax, etc. That and the Jakallan Underworld for Petal Throne.

23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go?

I am generally in the closet, except with those I know who read speculative fiction. Game of Thrones was a good opening for those conversations.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mandamus the Erudite Tells All

It's been amusing to watch the new FLAILSNAILS players react to the newly-constituted rumor mill in the HC campaign. Particularly funny, in an inside-baseball way, has been how they have picked up on the presumed undead rising of one of the deceased PCs from the home game.

Before we had an abrupt case of ludus interreptus last night, they were duly casing the supposed townhouse stomping grounds of the risen Kugel (formerly played by Brad of Crushing Skulls notoriety).

An interesting twist was them trying to track down and get information from the PCs of the home group. Their attempt to bribe the low-down from Mandamus (aka the Desert Scribe) produced this “too rich not to post” response:

Mandamus is not a common Adventurer interested in anything as crass as Filthy Lucre; instead, he is a scholar seeking Knowledge.  Therefore, after boring these out-of-town treasure-seekers with a 20-minute lecture on how trade imbalances caused by an excessive gold supply led to the collapse of the Fourth Dynasty, Mandamus agrees to share his knowledge of Kugel the Lucky in exchange for any scrolls or books they might find in the townhome of the Lady Szara:

“The Lady was very knowledgeable about History and Culture, subjects unappreciated by the common folk of Marlanhk.  We had long, enjoyable conversations regarding Philosophy and the proper place of the lower classes.  Her home was elegantly furnished, and she had a solemn old manservant who greeted us when we would enter.  Unfortunately, after she engaged my consulting services regarding recovery of a certain Antique, she failed to acknowledge the exclusivity of our contract and sent out various Rabble on similar missions.  We ultimately ended our relationship after my underlings and I had an unfortunate Incident with said Rabble.  Rumors abound that the Lady is what is known as a Stirgoi--a sort of living dead similar to a vampire--but learned folk such as myself have no truck with such superstition.

“Kugel was a lucky man, and Lady Tyche blessed him with her favor.  Kugel was a wonderful traveling companion who always seemed to obtain the best deals when it came to transportation or lodging.  Kugel was a quite snappy dresser, clad in the latest styles from the South.  Kugel was a trustworthy fellow, and other folk would often lend him horses and a wagon or a bag of gold as if he didn't even ask for it.  

The Dreaded Ghost Minotaur of the HC
Kugel was a nimble lad, evading ancient Mechanisms with ease in the various ruins we explored.  Kugel was a brave fellow, charging into battle and dispatching foes with alacrity.  Kugel was a lucky man--he spun the Black and Red Wheel in the Hall of the Mountain King without a second thought and lived.  Kugel was a deliberate man, who carefully considered all his choices before taking action.  Kugel was a learned man; we would often discuss Metaphysics and the Theology of the Sun God.

"All too soon, however, Lady Tyche has need of Kugel's luck herself.  One day as I directed our expedition beneath the Hall of the Mountain King, Kugel found a Magnificent Helm which he knew belonged on his head.  Kugel loved that helmet so much he would wear it all the time--he even slept in it.  This wonderful headgear enhanced Kugel's qualities even more, and he became my most trusted subordinate as we explored the ancient halls of the Hyperboreans.  On the day Lady Tyche called him to her side, we were far beneath the ruins of the Hall.  As we entered a room in search of artifacts to ship back to the University, an incredibly large specimen of Albus Tauri rared up and threatened the group.  

Heedless of the danger, Kugel lowered his helmet-clad head and charged the beast.  Milk-white blood sprayed everywhere as Kugel eviscerated the ghostly white man-bull, saving my underlings from harm and saving me from having to step in and save them.  Unfortunately, the albino minotaur was able to get in a killing blow of its own, and fair Kugel shuffled off this Mortal Coil.  Although he was lucky, Tyche herself had need of Kugel's good fortune, and she summoned him to her House.

"We brought back the body and paid for him to be buried according to the rites of the Sun Lord (reformed).  Since then, I've heard those in the streets of Marlanhk invoke Kugel's name--usually in somewhat disreputable situations such as games of Chance, when trying to evade Authorities, or regarding settlement of a Debt.  The cries of 'Kugel, you cheat!' or 'Come back here, Kugel!' or 'Kugel, you owe me!' never fail to bring a smile to my face."

Gotta love this game.  

The Wikipedia Scab Line is Open

Will someone please stand-up for the poor entertainment industry? Corporations are people too. As a well-coiffed man recently opined, just because you were born in a lawyer's office and are incorporeal doesn't mean you don't have rights.

Ya basta.

Today's vicious assault on Freedom should not go unchecked. The Wikipedia barons have decided that you shouldn't have access to vital information today in pursuit of their anti-SOPA agenda. How can one check up on the details of the Sepoy Mutiny, wombat mating rituals, Liz Taylor's second husband, and other necessary facts in the next 24 hours?

Friends, I learned one thing from my years as a union man: the awesome power of scabbing. So today I offer this vital service: ask me any question you'd normally turn to Wikipedia for it and I will answer it--110 percent accuracy guaranteed!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hill Cantons Campaign Tidings

The last few weeks have seen 15 new players introduced to my eponymous home campaign. It's been rollicking good fun and I find myself shaking off some of the inertia around the campaign and stretching my creativity more in that setting.

One of the most interesting bits about the new play is watching players start to want to dig into the layers of mysteries I am so inordinately fond of. That kind of out-of-session info-sharing and questioning is one of the most welcome development of open world campaigning.

To help facilitate that I've set up two new fronts: 1. a Google Plus page (you can find it and encircle it on G+ by searching for “Hill Cantons”) to help serve as a clearinghouse for player chatter and wheelings and dealings; and 2. a weekly feature that will appear both here and there giving the a list of fresh rumors, obfuscations, tall tales, and news from the Cantons (below being the first installment).

Month of the Black Goat, Year 42,412

The Horned Oracle has revealed that the otherworldly, mightily-armored zealot who carried off the famed bugslayer, Terminaxe, has fallen in battle in a distant bog in the Elsewhere Planes. The Order of the Brothers of the Other Mother have offered a copious bounty for a brave soul to return it back to this world—and the local Ur-Abbey of course.

Bonelace-makers, Garlmongers, and Nagsmen from all around the Cantons have converged on the town of Ostrovo for a three-day market fair. It is said that the unlikely confab of crafts is a front for a meeting of the heretical Evening Star Society. But you didn't hear that from me.

The Waldgraf vin Scadenfreude, that contumelious hothead, is this week at the Dome of Supernal Dealings reportedly hiring on at triple pay Guild rates for an expedition to hunt the dreaded Voormis beyond the Weird.

Kugel the Lucky--a foppish thief famous for his expeditions into the Hall of the Hyperboreans and his inadequate survival sense--has taken up residence at the old vacated townhouse of the Lady Szara. Strangely his death was commemorated by his one-time friend and expedition member, Mandamus the Erudite, in a one-hit wonder ballad (made famous by Thorrgrim the Skald) a year ago. It is said that he only leaves the manse after sundown.

Frantisek, also known as the Striped Mage, has raised his reward for the acquisition of the bejeweled Cod Piece of Radegast (the Old God of fermented drinks, hosts, and magister ludi) to 1500 gp. It is rumored to lie “somewhere in the Slumbering Ursine Dunes.”

Monday, January 16, 2012

Planescape oh the Torment

Whipping up a batch of fresh New Year's resolutions early this month, I treated myself to breaking last year's most successful one: thou shalt not play computer games. For an entire year—with the notable lapse with obsessing about uniting the wild Orlanthi clans of Dragon Pass over my Iphone screen—it was a resolution that I not only accomplished, but thrived under.

Computer games—especially the ultra-layered and complex strategy games like Europa Universalis and its love-children—and I have a long history of love/hate. Predictably, I will load one up, getting increasingly drawn in, having great fun at first and then minutely and gradually it turns to something isolating and chore-like.

Stopping cold turkey, a relatively easy thing to do given the tendency of cprgs to become lifeless, cut-scene-dominated railroads these days, freed up more time for an activity that energizes me: face-to-face gaming (and it's close-enough equivalent on Google Plus).

What kind of gaming crack could send my packing back to a computer screen?

Planescape Torment, a game I avoided for years despite my longstanding love for the Baldur's Gates and Icewind Dales—my only real connection to D&D for decades. Never a big fan of the hokey AD&D extra-planar hooha, the setting sounded as appealing as that famous trainwreck Dragonlance to my ears.

I was wrong. Not only is it a great, mostly non-linear game with relatively deep rich layers, but I found it actually inspiring my campaign neurons rather than just glazing them over. A number of ideas intrigued me about the game enough that I want to find a home for them back in my face-to-face gaming:

Scrodinger's Character. In Torment your PC's attributes emerges during actual play than in pre-game chargen--a game concept that Zzarchov employs in Neo-Geek Revival. While not being a big fan of D&D's alignment, I did dig the idea of starting as Neutral through your own choices developing into another. It gives alignment a dynamism, more like a vector, that seems more satisfying and resonant with human character then just picking one at the beginning and staying within its confines unless you make a major transgression.

Likewise the idea of picking class during play, you start as a fighter and can move into other classes as you interact with NPCs and make choices, appealed to me. Granted both ideas I explored somewhat with my zero-level rules, but possibly something to be toyed with in later level play.

Extra-planar Hub City. With the growing energy around open world play with FLAILSNAILS and Google+ gaming, this idea has more appeal to me. I still am not a big fan of the AD&D idea of a multiverse but a cherry-picking of some of the more interesting planes coupled with gates into other campaign worlds on the prime sound like something I'd like to develop.

Spells and Gear with Flavor. This was a big one for me as it's one of the areas I feel like I have to stretch my creativity more. I want a world were magic is steeped more in the specific feel of the setting, where spell names and effects frame around a character's doctrine. Where even a re-skinned Magic Missile, Reign of Anger, drips flavor.

I also want more items like charms made from hardened blood clots and parasitic flies that melt on your tongue and weapons that hold strange backstories and an array of unusual powers and curses.

(If folks are interested I have compiled and edited two documents totaling over a 100 pages all the descriptions and AD&D tabletop mechanics of the magic items, weird gear and unique spells. Bestiary coming next. Drop me an email if you are interested.)

Curious to hear if others have been inspired by the game or another of its cousins. If you have ported back a piece or large section for your own tabletop game.

Now back to Baator.

The Mountain Top

Dr. King's last speech, the next day he was gunned down as he prepared to march in support of the striking Memphis sanitation workers. Holiday gaming content to resume in a bit.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Death-Defying Feats of Wonder

I am a day late. It's unclear whether I am a dollar short.

At the end of yesterday's post on GM improv, I promised an absurdly silly stunt-challenge. Here it is, I will be defying Thantos himself in a feat of derring-do. Naw, I am not going to jump Snake River Canyon, at least not today.

Here's the pitch:
I will need four volunteers from the (virtual) audience. Preferably four stalwart souls with FLAILSNAILS characters. You there, sir, with the foppish hat and black toga, you will do nicely.

Wednesday or Thursday of next week at 8:30 Central US time I will meet you in the Google Plus game arena. I will prepare no map, no encounter, no plot line, nothing. I will be meeting this challenge armed only with my home setting, the HC.

Two hours before said time—nay, a mere 20 minutes before—each volunteer will send me my clues for running the game, in order:
  1. An adventure hook.
  2. A second adventure hook.
  3. Three locales (building, cave, ship, what have you) where said hooks can play out.
  4. A mac-guffin.
Further, each will also provide me one flavor detail of high weirdness that I must incorporate into the game.

A show of hands from the volunteers.  

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Fickle Art of GM Improv

“Let's make it perfect, then cut it.”

That's a quip Stephen Colbert often makes to his writing staff. It shows, the program stays more funny than not.

While in blogging I settle for the merely good--the enemy of the perfect--the process feels much of the same. Often I will sit down, intending to write about one subject, get halfway through, revise it a few times and then just spike it. This started as a “GM lessons learned” rundown gleaned from running and playing on Google Plus. The problem is that the Constantcon boom is an embarrassment of riches, the lessons are too thick and many to deal with in one post.

Last night's half-assing it as an improbable dwarf, Xhomar the Contumelious, in Roger B's “Keep on the Carcosan Borderlands” game marked my 30th session. That's about twice as many games as I seem to marshal per year face-to-face—in half the time. I've run about two dozen games in four settings with as many players revolving in and out and had the fortune to play in eight other worlds.

Since I set out with the explicit goal of learning more about the art of running a game from the experience, it's a lot to wrap my head around. This post is the beginning of that process; it laser focuses on one set of lessons from the perilous art of GM improv.

I would hazard a guess that every GM worth their salt recognizes the need for improvisation. My observation is that not everyone raises from it though from a necessary evil or a stop-gap measure to an art. I don't claim to be an expert, but here are some points I feel like I am starting to grok about that art:

Explore Improv Theater. One of my legs-up as a GM is that I did improv in my late teen and early adult years. While there are a number of techniques that are not at all useful to being a GM—and some that are wholly unique to a game (see points below)—it doesn't hurt to at the least check out a few online sources. The goal is to increase your comfort level with it as a conscious exercise.

Yes and... Stop worrying and embrace player co-creation of your world. Take a small detail offered by a player and embroider the hell out of it.

Last night my huckster of a dwarf decided that since dwarves were rare in Roger's world that rubbing the forehead of a dwarf would be a luck-producing superstition that little folk would pay good coin to do. Instead of nixing such a self-serving detail, he went with it and then added his own details as the hustle played out. This is the art of “yes and...” that you will see repeated over and over in theater improv lists.

If something rubs you the wrong way, try not to veto it outright. Try to run with it or at least twist it during the “and...” part to be a further interesting contingency—or challenge.

Often if you find yourself stumped for an improv detail, try pushing the question back on the player--and then fall back on “yes and...” embroidering. “What do you think the Sun Lord priests would say in such a situation?”

No But... Later when you have mastered “Yes and...” start using a variant called “no but...”. Here again you aren't flat out saying no full stop, but are still riffing off their suggestion. I would use this sparingly, experience has taught me the more you embrace “yes and” the more your players will feel free to turn on the tap at the table with those details. 

Hone in on Detail. For every NPC, setting description, magic item, etc. you pull out of your rear, try and attach 2-3 concrete, free-associated details about it from the get go. Don't just think a “sword”, think “a sword that is umm...bent badly at the tip...and a hilt wrapped in some kind of skin.” Let the players explore those details, use that exploration as a stall and start to fill in the blanks of how and why such and such thing is that way. Usually their questions will lead you to the answers even if they are very different from their assumptions.

Bag of Tricks. The first thing out of many GMs mouths when it comes to improving is random charts. It's a good point, but I take it one step further. I keep a spiral notebook with stock lists. Whenever the mood hits me out of session, I will make a number of rolls using those charts. I then free associate quick details to spice it up or give it a likely set of game contexts. Keep it sketchy, the point is to have little pieces to jog your memory for the point above when that wandering monster roll tells you something terse like “Newhonian Ghouls 1-6”.

Visualize It. I have made this point before in talking about the places we “see” when using our settings. Flip through relevant images before the game. It can be ones you have collected for your campaign,  or it could simply be favorite inspiring ones in print or on online. Don't spend a lot of time fixating on it (this defeats the purpose) but just soak through it for 10-20 minutes.

Make it Perfect, Then...There is one big pitfall for GMs that value player agency in regards to making things up at the table: the need for meaningful, informed choice. If you want a game to be truly off the rails, don't get hung up on pushing that brilliant thing you just came up with right then and there. Even if those three details of that wicked letch of a priest sound awesome to you, don't be afraid to let it go if the players have zero interest in interacting with him. Similarily always provide at least a few routes or solutions to relevant things you improv. 

If you become good enough to shake one thing out well in the moment, chances are you will be just as good making up more. Let it go. 

Write it Down. I have learned this one the hard way, if you make up a detail on the table, damn well make sure to write it down. Consistency is all important and if situations become by default arbitrary it undermines both the quality of your campaign and the point above about player choice. 

 Don't break the flow of play, but write down a line or two about it right then or close to then (player bathroom or snack break is always a good time). After the session fill it out if necessary—and above all  build off it between sessions.

Practice. Don't just pull out when the players wander off the reservation, try to work in some practice at the table. Nothing teaches something quicker than experience, so when you feel comfortable with it start with a handful of likely situations that you can try out your mad new skills. Say you know they are going to be exploring a vine-choked dark forest for the first time. Don't fill out all the encounter sites, leave two or three blank. Maybe have a sketchy idea of what's there, or none at all.

Use your techniques and see what you learn from it. Do I need to bone up in this area or that? Ask your players for constructive criticism even.

There are points and lessons I am quite sure I have omitted or never picked up on. Drop a comment if there is something you feel like you have picked up on about the art yourself.

And if you are still around the Hill Cantons later today, wait for the set-up for my related (and likely absurdly silly) stunt-challenge.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Again with the Dunes

For the third time in as many weeks, the Google Plus wormhole has dumped a motley crew of scalawags, rogues, and hucksters into the Hill Cantons. Local savants opine that the fell land that spawns this carnival of mischief lies inside the Bizarro world borne on the shell of the Anti-World Turtle, but more worldly men care only for the mountains of swag and strange, rousing tales flowing back into these hilly borderlands.

Here you now of last night's tale from the journal of Ba Chim of the New Hampshire elves (as translated by the scholar of matters litigious Allandros):

Three days ago, as my wreckers and I prepared to wrest open the Third Sanctum of Riix, I mistook my footing and tumbled through a strange portal within the temple. Though I beheld it for but a second, it was glowing a pale azure and encrusted in runes of a particularly irritating magic.

Particularly irritating, in that I missed out on all the success that we would inevitably have enjoyed, for this portal stranded me in a dusty town Marlankh. I know not where Marlankh lies, for the sun shining down upon me is not that of my homelands.

Marlankh is a sprawling and decadent town. I arrived, along with a few others (victims of Riix as well?) in the center of town as their grand festival reached its apex. Grand chariot races, the losers to be hanged, the usual. After enjoying the ambiance of the festival for some time, I encountered a group of like-minded comrades, friendly in demeanor yet poor of purse.

We numbered five:
  • Father Jack, a priest of some outlandish deity. Garbed in black and perpetually drunk.
  • Manzafrain the Mirthful, a rotund trickster. Quick of mind and a terrible shot with a crossbow.
  • The Slip, a young street thief who knew the land well. He bore a green pearl emerging from the flesh of his hand, claiming that it whispered to him.
  • Taurus, a warrior who wore some strange ghastly pale makeup and stringy hair dyed red.

After brief consultation, we elected to band together and investigate a barge that The Slip told us of – bedecked in gold, abandoned and run aground, with its cargo ripe for taking. He had visited the barge before, but poor planning forced his group to withdraw without much success. We vowed to do better.

We made a brief stop to the Guild of Condotierre, Linkboys, Roustabouts and Stevedores to secure two assistants–a man at arms by the unlikely name of Ool, and a feckless linkboy whose name I cannot be bothered to recall. Having accomplished this, we journeyed onwards. After spending the night at the house of a rambling and foolish old man, we journeyed to a vast desert, which Manzafrain informed us was the Slumbering Ursine Dunes. The fabled golden barge lay beyond these dunes, only a few hours travel.

After an arduous journey, we reached the sea, encountering a majestic barge. Two wyvern-shaped prows flanked a vast ramp, which lay amidst the sands. The barge itself shimmered with a translucent gold material, and a series of onion-topped towers peeked above the barge’s deck.

Casting caution to the winds, we boarded the barge and opened one of the twin doors directly in front of us, leading to the first tower. These, and several other doors aboard the barge, were wrought in an ornate manner, with a wheel in the center of the door, serving as both lock and handle.
As we entered the tower, we found a tarry black substance coating the floor....

[Editor's Note: sadly dear reader, the following pages seem smeared with what looks to be tears, rendering portions unreadable.]

...this door led to a horrendous scene–a series of cadavers arranged as meat stood there, along with a large wok to prepare the flesh. Apparently the creature we had slain had chosen to “liberate” its victims in such a manner. Shuddering, Father Jack administered the rites of his strange deity (something called “Final Unction”) and we proceeded onwards...

...we entered another room nearby, housing a large pool of water in the center. Above the water, a long pipe was suspended, with a large claw housing a strange pearl at the end of the pipe, above the center of the pool. On the far side of the pipe, a brass lever lay at the level of the pipe.

The Slip compared the pearl above to the one embedded in his hand. Noting a distinct similarity, he concluded that he needed to acquire the gem. Climbing the pipe, he grasped the pearl and claw in one hand, while cutting away at the claw with his blade. Severing the claw, he climbed down. As the Slip had been doing this, we had noticed movement in the water below–a vicious beast of some sort. We tossed items into the water to attract its attention away from the Slip, and distracted it while he returned to the ground.

Yet we had not investigated what function the lever played. I urged my compatriots to trigger it, and they acquiesced. Glory to the swirling Entropy! All such opportunities must be seized. Throwing my grappling hook up, I pulled the switch down, and heard a vast commotion, as though a mechanical contrivance had begun to wreak its havoc.

The water in the center of the room began to rise rapidly, and I exited in a similarly alacritous fashion. After sealing the door to the room, we daubed it with pitch. Our man-at-arms then inscribed a message in ancient Hyperborean instructing others to leave the door shut. O, fortunate that we did these things!

After this successful enterprise, we explored further onwards, finding a room with an ornately carved wooden floor. Disquieted by the floor and its intricate depiction of worms writhing beneath our feet, we nonetheless rejoiced in the comfortable pillows present there. Taurus shot one.

At this point my head began to swim–perhaps a result of the strenuous climb we had made earlier in the day. I cannot tell exactly what transpired next, but when I came to, I was quickly informed that four other gel-covered skeletons had approached, and that silver-tongued Manzafrain had lured them towards the now completely flooded chamber, promising them that beyond lay great quantities of flesh to be liberated.

After speaking glibly and quickly, the mountebank convinced the creatures to open the door. The resulting flood into the corridor allowed the strange vicious beast to devour half the abominations before the remaining two forced the door closed and resealed the hatch. During this time, the mountebank had fled, seeking to avoid the wrath of the remaining creatures while they were distracted.

Angered by the death of their fellows, the abominations charged towards us. I held the line with Taurus and our man-at-arms, while the Slip quietly emerged behind the charging foes and eviscerated one of them while it was distracted. Meanwhile, Father Jack, in a drunken stupor, threw pillows, hoping to entangle the creatures’ feet.

After a brief melee, the remaining creature was dispatched. As the sun was setting, we merely explored a single further room, discovering a chest of ancient silver. Buoyed by our success and noting the waning hours of the day, we withdrew from the barge, but vowed to return and secure its wealth for our own.

And then we had to climb those dunes again.