Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Play Report: Blood In the Chocolate

There are times when being proven wrong is a wonderful and welcome thing. This was one of them.

After a long while of warming up to the idea, I decided to run +Kiel Chenier 's Blood in the Chocolate in the Distant Lands of DIY (with a healthy amount of FLAILSNAILS character options) and it resulted in one of the best nights of gaming I've ever hosted. There was a point towards the end where I was curled up on the floor, laughing hysterically.

The first-level party, gathered under the employ of a Scarabae-Umberwell chocolatiers' guild, consisted of:
(Most of the characters went without names during the session itself, so I provided fill-ins for this report.)

A note of appreciation is in order for Robin's player, who supplied everyone with turkey and mashed potatoes before we got to playing.


The Arrival



They steps off the boat in the early morning, amidst the bustle of unloaded cargo. Martell Company sailors and Lucia's dockworkers scramble about with carts and crates, unloading raw goods from the Swordfish Isles and loading chocolates ready for market in Vornheim, Corpathium, and elsewhere. It is frigidly cold, of the sort where the sky is completely clear and the sun uncomfortably bright.

The party quickly introduce themselves to Karl Weiss, who tells them that tourists are always welcome to observe the factory from the loading area, but they are to come no closer. Dark figures can be seen in the guard towers. The factory itself was described as "huge and brutalist, like the inside of a Vogon spaceship but on the outside."

A plan is swiftly hatched to gain access to the dock office. Simmons, being a skeleton and thus immune to drowning, bumps into one of the sailors and throws himself in the water as if pushed. Robin raises the alarm, and Karl starts shouting for a rope. In the resulting commotion, Augustine slips into the dock office building. They steal the lockbox, the pistol shot, and a glimpse of the guards' timesheets before making an exit.

With the help of some sailors, Simmons is pulled from the freezing water. Being a skeleton, he is at no danger of hypothermia. Augustine and Octon make a convincing cover that he is some eccentric northerner, and so his swiftly-freezing clothing is of no concern. The frazzled Karl agrees that this makes sense and tries to recover his stalling work-shift. He's so distracted that he doesn't notice Simmons swiping the elaborate golden key hanging from his pocket.

The party convenes behind the office. 108 breaks open the lockbox with his big, meaty claw. Augustine gives the notice that the guard shift will be changing soon, and soon enough there are two whistle blasts.

Octon takes the opening to lead the group in a flat-out sprint up the path to the main doors. The mad dash is miraculously successful, if completely ridiculous.

"Shit! Shit! Shit!" Octon shoves the key in the door and hurries everyone inside. The doors swing back closed behind them, and lock with a solid kla-chunk.


The Smash and Grab



Upon entering the factory, the party swiftly sheds their heavy coats and gets geared up. The smash and grab begins: Xeno steals the mink coat in the foyer, pocket-fulls of chocolates are swiped but not eaten, several bottles of alcohol were picked up by Mel, Xeno, and Octon (108 decided to drink much of the rest), and Augustine raided the guest bedroom. Octon was able to identify the opal broach by its twin-headed raven insignia, marking it as belonging to the Von Vorg family of Vornheim.

With nowhere left to check, the party  attempt to open the locked door in the east hallway.

The locked door in the hallway gives way to Robin's shoulder, and the paladin manages to resist the poison gas. The group enters the main river-room, to the horrifying sounds of "Primus in the Chocolate Factory" (courtesy Augustine's player).

More looting follows. Mel and Xeno pour out their rum and fill up bottles of chocolate.  Simmons and Octon fill up their backpacks with whatever plant life they can find (much of it clearly imported from the Swordfish Isles).

There is some debate as to where to go next, but the group decides to pass on taking the paddleboat or crossing the bridges and instead exits by the southwest door into the west hallway. From there, they enter the stairwell and storage room, and happen across a mummified corpse.

"Everyone stand back! I'm a doctor!"

Augustine, of course goes to investigate the thief's corpse, which collapses into a cloud of sugar-dust. The beaked mask and goggles do nothing, and the good doctor is infected with Bubblegum Gasbags (A re-flavored Terrible Swells, appearing as clusters of neon-pink tumors that swiftly inflate) Robin takes the map from the dust, revealing that the bottom floor has two rooms: one marked with a skull and crossbones, the other with the phrase "what the fuck?"
 

The Descent



The now-buoyant Augustine is tied to 108 with a length of rope, and the crew descend the stairs into the darkened hell of the boiler room.

The pygmies working the boilers are a horrific lot; shrivelled, macrocephalic things colored like jellybeans. They attack the intruders immediately, but manage to do little. One fumbles his attack roll, and stumbles into a grinding gear. Augustine manages to drop a knife on one, 108 gurbles a crab-man war-cry, a dead pygmy in each claw.

But the violence, though intense, is short-lived: Octon shoots a Blob of Bioluminescence at the ceiling, and the flash of psychedelic ooze-light (plus the deaths of about a third of the pygmies present) breaks their morale and sends them scurrying back into their hidey-holes, beady glowing eyes peering from the darkness and evil chitterings heard under the noise of the boilers.

The experimentation room is next and contains in the far corner an elephant-sized blob of marshmallow goo. This is ignored to deal with what is brewing in the cauldrons. The party grabs whatever beakers and flasks they can find and gets to grabbing:
  • 11 pints of chocolate liquor, which is then used to overencumber Augustine so he's only bobbing a few feet off the ground, instead of up by the ceiling.
  • 2 pints of normal milk chocolate (stolen by Octon)
  • 3 pints of hazelnut chocolate (stolen by Simmons)
  • The last cauldron explodes all over the floor, and is lapped up by the blob.
The some of the hazelnut chocolate is fed to Augustine, in hopes that it might cure him. It gives him Brittle Throat Disease instead.

The prison is broken into, and they find a blue-skinned man there, body covered in scars and tattoos. No one can understand his babbling, but the pleads of an imprisoned man are universal. Robin, being sworn to liberate the oppressed, frees him from his shackles and leads him into the light of the laboratory...


The Ojou-sama Laugh



Enter stage right, Lucia de Castillo. There are four guards with muskets in the lab's two doorways, all aimed at the party.

"Hello hello hello," she says. "What have we here? Mice in my walls, nibbling at my pantry?" 

[Aside] The timing here was perfect, and completely not my doing: by the time the party was down in the lab, Lucia had just finished her tour of the factory floor and had descended there herself, with prior warning from Karl

Also, this moment is why you buy this module, guys and gals. You get to do the laugh. You could do the laugh normally without buying the module, and the module is really good on its own, but Lucia is designed specifically for this moment and it is wonderful. [/Aside]

There is a moment of knife-edge tension, and then Simmons throws his spear at her, which successfully wounds.

"Oh fucking hell..."

(Augustine's player comes in again with the music)

Lucia draws a pistol and puts a bullet through Simmons' skull; the skeleton collapses to the floor with a clatter and clang. The factory guards open fire to cover her strategic retreat back upstairs, but it appears that Lucia hires fresh graduates from the Stormtrooper Academy, as their shots (which could have easily killed several of the party right off) miss.

All is chaos. Octon hides himself by jumping inside the marshmallow blob. Mel rushes a guard pair and successfully knocks them down, pushing on to the boiler room. Blue takes cover behind a table. 108 and Augustine charge the other pair and together fail to injure them.

Octon notices now that the blob is purring, and he starts receiving psychic visions: scenes of gothic towers choked in snow and rust. Vornheim.

The two standing guards retreat to the stairwell, to block off Mel's path out. Robin gravely wounds one of the downed guards, who is left crying and bleeding on the floor: the other manages to right himself and retreats into the boiler room, just in time for Xeno to dash into the boiler room, stab him in the side, and nearly topple him into one of the furnaces.  (Like, she has got him hanging over the edge, it's super-metal). The pygmies cheer from the darkness, howling for more blood.

Octon continues to get visions from the blob; the two-headed crow of the von Vorgs on a tapestry, hanging across a long, knife-angular hallway.

Simmons reforms, picks up a dropped musket, and runs to the boiler room, just in time to see Augustine toss a vial of acid at the base of the stairs: an act that breaks the guards' defenses and forces further retreat, while simultaneously melting through most of 108's carapace and killing Mel in the friendly fire (his player immediately takes up the role of Blue, arming himself with the machete of the fallen Guild Dog). Augustine, being a balloon of healing, is able to aid 108. Xeno stabs the grappled guard in the chest and dumps him into the furnace. Blue and Robin take to the stairs. Tiny, technicolor hands pull the wounded guard into the machinery.

A third and final vision is delivered unto Octon: a table with a box of chocolates marked "Complimentary", and an invitation addressed "My dear Cordelia..."

What I'm getting at is that the squid-wizard successfully seduced a giant blob of marshmallow. 

Cordelia, now carrying Octon aloft, cascades out of the lab and up the stairs, the remainder of the party right behind.

The two surviving guards have planted themselves right at Lucia's door, and manage to avoid getting killed by Robin and Blue, but they ended up failing their saves vs. gigantic marshmallow ooze and are splattered all over the doors in a pulp (Robin and Blue manage to survive by pressing themselves against the walls)

"My dear Cordelia," Octon says in his best Lucia impersonation. "The rest of these traitors are in the next room. Open the door."

The ooze extends a pseudopod and taps out the musical key-code. The doors swing open.

Lucia stands before the party, bloody bandages wrapped around her shoulder and a pistol in each hand.

"Cordelia. Put him down. Now." Her command is like a hammer dropping down.

"No, Cordelia! I'm the real Lucia! You know me! I don't bleed, I never lose!" Octon counters.

The ooze, terribly confused by two of its mistress, cannot withstand the voice. It deposits Octon before Lucia.

GUN VS INK, LET'S GO

GUESS WHAT TIME IT IS
GO ON, GUESS.

The squid-wizard's Ink-Splash is faster than Lucia's trigger finger, and just barely. Blinded, Lucia's shot goes a hair's-width wide. Simmons takes this opportunity to commando-roll out from behind the ooze and take a shot with his new musket. He rolls minimum damage, which in this case is sillier than missing entirely.

Robin, being the paladin and thoroughly fed up with this sort of tyranny, walks up past the deafened calimarimancer and the aimless skeleton and stabs Lucia right through the stomach with her greatsword.

Final Words: "Hurk, blugh"

Now dead, Lucia's corpse gains all the years and pounds it had hidden away, which was pretty gross. Robin takes the silver necklace, which upon closer inspection is a fat elf lady getting a bit handy with herself. The vial in Lucia's pocket is given to Augustine, thinking that it is a cure.

It was marshmallow serum. The poor doctor is now a marshmallow blob, help aloft by bubblegum gasbags.

[Aside] The table (and Augustine's player in particular) just loses it in the best way here. I end up doubled-up on the floor with laughter.[/Aside]

When the laughter subsides, the safe is opened with Lucia's key. The recipe book is lost to the acid trap, but the silver bars are there for the taking, as well as shipping contracts with the Martel Company, details of their Swordfish Island expeditions, and receipts for Carcosan slave-traders.

The group decides then it is best to take over the factory themselves, which they do.  With the recipe book lost, the factory is sure to hit some hard times, even with Octon and Cordelia acting as the pygmies' new god-king. But the Old Growth remains, and the jungles and ruins of the Swordfish Isles offer greater mysteries to unfold. So to does the frozen waste of Carcosa, and the palace intrigues of Vornheim.

But mostly Hot Springs Island because dammit, I want to run Hot Springs Island.

Final Notes

 

Man, I love this adventure. I know that I said I didn't before, but past me is an idiot and a notorious liar besides.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Holy Man's Anger

by Flibbertyjibbeth

You are defined by your convictions. The vows are your strength and solace in the world. They are the millstone at your shoulder. They are the fire burning in your heart. The vows are as integral a part of your as your own blood and the air in your lungs. In your deepest self, those words are inscribed.

You knew what would be asked when you prostrated yourself on the cold marble floor and swore that oath. You could have chosen anything else - your father's trade, the girl down the road with a face full of freckles, an ordinary life of ordinary pains and ordinary joys - but you believed, you knew, that this was your place, that the sword and the millstone was your life.

But no conviction goes without testing.

You have seen good men die and evil men walk free, and too many men in-between do nothing.

You have watched the law twisted out of shape to shield the wicked and trample the innocent.

You have killed men and buried them in the frozen earth.

You have delivered boys back to their mothers in pinewood boxes.

You have comforted more battered wives and heard more desperate confessions and said more prayers over shoebox coffins than a human being should ever have to.

You have seen the absolute black depths of humanity. 

You have cried out to heaven, and have heard no answer.

You continue.

You do not despair. To despair is to die. You must not stop.

If you are to be the last voice raging against the dying of the light, so shall it be. You shall rage to shake the pillars of the earth itself.
 

Paladin Class 

 

  • XP, HP, armor and weapons as fighter.
  • Saves as cleric.
  • AB begins at +1, then increases as fighter.
  • Can cast 1st level sacraments and use relics.
  • Begin with 1 spell die.
  • Minimum stat requirements: 13 STR, 13 WIS 
    • CHA can be used instead of WIS, as one prefers.
  • Begin play with additional convictions: these are the vows of your order.

by einsbern

Clash of Convictions


When your convictions collide with an impediment that you cannot overcome (that is, you have been handed a sound and significant defeat), roll against your WIS.
  • If you roll above your WIS, you manage to cope with the failure and carry on. Better sense prevails over the will. 
  • If you roll below WIS, the conflict between reality and your ideals puts more strain on you than you can easily shake off. You take 1d6 points of damage to your convictions.
(Conviction damage can be healed by re-affirming your vows. 1 point can be returned through a pilgrimage, meditative retreat, acts of penance, the counsel of a spiritual advisor, or by otherwise fulfilling your vows.)

When your conviction damage is equal to your WIS score, you have reached the point where unstoppable force has reached immovable object. There are two paths now. (The choice can be made by the player directly, or left up to the dice in a final WIS check, as desired. Option 1 is roll over, Option 2 is roll under.)

Option 1: You recant of your vows. The millstone is too much to bear. You lose your spellcasting abilities, the support of your order, and all convictions linked to your vows. You will not be permitted to return.

Option 2: You gain a new conviction. This one will be unique to the circumstances at hand, but will share the following traits.
  • It is directly focused on eliminating the obstacle that has thwarted you.
  • It does not have moral qualms on how the obstacle is eliminated or otherwise stopped
 When acting according to this new conviction, you gain the following:
  • +2 damage to all attacks
  • - 4 AC
  • Half damage received
  • -2 morale to all applicable enemies
(It's a targeted rage, nothing ground-breaking here)

Additionally:
  • Your spell die's burn range increases by one each time you act on your rage.  (ie: after the first rage it will burn after casting on a 5-6, then 4-6 on the time after that. At 1-6 it will burn out after every spell, and at the step beyond [6 steps from the beginning] all casting ability will be lost). 
  • You gain +1 to hit / + 1 bonus damage on alternating pips, max of +3 for each.
  • -2 to reaction rolls for people aware of your actions. This penalty is increased by 1 for every other burnt pip on your spell die for your targets or their allies.
This conviction and all the effects it grants will remain with you until it is either fulfilled, or you die.

The damage to your casting ability and reaction rolls made towards you are permanent.

I think FromSoft has a thing for this archetype.

Redemption Arcs


By the time you have fulfilled your conviction, you may be more monster than man. You can no longer gain levels as a paladin in this burnt and exhausted state (You can gain levels in other classes). But if there is still a glimmer of goodness within you, you might redeem yourself.

To redeem yourself, you must do the following:
  • A recover all of your conviction damage, through the methods listed above, until you reach your cap.
  • Gain a level - All XP must be gained through donations to your order.
  • Public penance and renewal of your oaths
A redeemed paladin has:
  • Additional spell die equal to their WIS modifier. (If WIS modifier is +1, gain 1)
  • Protection from all further conviction damage caused by defeat of their vows.
  • -1 / +1 to reaction rolls for those aware of your actions. A reformed sinner rarely finds themselves in the good graces they once enjoyed, alas, but there are many who are less judgemental.

Nah, probably my imagination.

Addendum


I wrote a post on knightly orders a few months ago that provides four paladin orders with pre-made vows. The Order of the Sable Maid is a good choice if you want a standard paladin, but I am certainly eyeing the potential that can be had with less-traditional oaths.









Thursday, December 7, 2017

1d20 Answers to an Important Question...

The world may never know!
  1. Noblemen's sex party; featuring a vat of honey, silken whips, and a live rhinoceros.
  2. Accountant-wizard breaks math, is devoured by the equations of his own ledger, regurgitated, and devoured again in terrible recursion.
  3. A fuzzy white void containing an old man with a mangled nose and gigantic eyebrows, angrily staring back at you.
  4. Clowns meditating upon mountaintops. "Ohmmmmmhahahaha..."
  5. Crucified woman wearing tiger pelt discusses astronomy with passing merchants.
  6. Sturgeons in sedan chairs, carried aloft by sunburnt slaves.
  7. Schoolchildren calmly and competently performing open brain surgery on a placid teacher.
  8. A grainy scrydeo feed of a dirty, darkened room, empty. Minutes later, a filthy man with a mantis-shrimp head stumbles into view.
  9. Chinchillas dance, are startled by something unseen, and explode in a puff of fluff.
  10. A tree falling in the jungle, utterly silent amidst the blind cacophonous birds.
  11. A glacier bleeding in the pains of birth. Leopard-seals keep midwife's vigil.
  12. Sunflowers stretch out to the horizon, intermittently broken by crooked, oily smokestacks.
  13. Migratory march of the landsquids to Big Head Pimple Mountain.
  14. A parliament of talking swords discussing trade embargoes, powdered wigs dangling from their pommels.
  15. Horrific fused mass of livestock goes about its daily business; grocery shopping, stopping by the bank, returning a sweater that was too small.
  16. Singing miners connected by golden chains, digging out a mountain of mouse bones.
  17. A gaudy game-show; the players, host, and audience are all long-dead corpses. The music, commercials, and camera switches are still working as normal.
  18. Soldiers drink coffee from tin cups atop the stooped shoulders of a gargantuan vampire.
  19. Eight temple prostitutes attempt to order takeout, can't decide on how many orders of Admiral Tung's Cockatrice they want.
  20. Headless giraffe gives newlyweds a ride around town.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Clerical Relics


Fun fact: St. Anthony's chapel in Pittsburgh contains
the second largest collection of Catholic relics in the world.

The D&D cleric spell list is, as +Skerples  has pointed out, rooted in Sunday School miracles and Hammer horror movies. This is fine and good if you want to play as Peter Cushing (and let us be fair, that is hardly ever a bad thing), but it perhaps does not get you the most bang for your buck in the field of religious fun-times in your games.

Now, there won't be any new mechanics here, just a method to provide some extra flavor. As such, it should be compatible with whatever cleric variant you are using. (For alternate clerics, see  +Lungfungus' hierophant, +Skerples  generic cleric, or Logan Knight's mystic.) 

Sacraments


First level spells are sacraments. These are the rites and outward signs sacred to your god and the basic building block of the religion. DMs, this is the easy way to change the ground-level flavor of your clerics. Swap out spells, give them some kind of spiritual / symbolic purpose, backronym till your heart is content.  (A single sentence will get you by. Dark Souls away!)

Relics


Mechanically, relics are just scrolls and wands. (But don't tell the wizards that, they'll have a fit. There are three categories of relics, courtesy of the Catholic Church (providing quality gameable material since AD 325.)

First-Class Relics are the physical remains of a saint. Items of direct divine influence or origin would also fall under this category. 

Second-Class Relics are possessions and other objects notable within the saint's life or work. If they belonged to a central figure of the religion, they may classify as first-class.


Third-Class Relics are items touched to a first-class relic, and so have inherited some of the mojo through the commutative property of holiness. Game Usage: treat these as scrolls - a single cast, then it's all used. Note: the wording here might indicate that you could make thousands of third class relics with a single first-class. For game purposes I would say limit it to 1d4, unless you want the big mess.

Based on this, what is to follow is geared towards a pretty standard not-Catholic fantasy church, for the sake of making a baseline example. It's also what I'm more familiar with, so don't be beholden to it on my account - relic classes can easily be swapped out for whatever hierarchy or lack thereof you wish, they all cast the same.

Die-Drop Relic Generator


d4: What Kind of Relic Is it? 
  1. First Class (see d12)
  2. Second Class (see d10)
  3. Third Class (see d8)
  4. Fake (roll 2d6)
d6+1: What Level Spell Does it Hold?
  • Roll on whatever spell table you happen to use for the spell in question.
  • Optional: for second-class relics, only count 1-4. For first-class relics, only count 4-6.
d12: First-Class Relics
  1. Blood
  2. Bone
  3. Skin
  4. Flesh
  5. Hair
  6. Head
  7. Limb
  8. Organ 
  9. Tongue
  10. Eye
  11. Other bodily fluids
  12. Entire body
d10: Second-Class Relics
  1. Walking stick
  2. Book of psalms
  3. Prayer beads
  4. Sandals
  5. Item associated with their trade
  6. The means of their execution
  7. Original manuscript of a theological treatise
  8. Piece of artwork
  9. Holy symbol
  10. Mark of office
d8: Third-Class Relics
  1. Piece of cloth
  2. Jar of oil
  3. Medallion
  4. Holy symbol
  5. Prayer card
  6. Icon
  7. Vial of holy water
  8. Incense
d20: Who is This Relic From?
  1. Minor, obscure saint
  2. Companion to a martyr
  3. Popular local saint
  4. Warrior saint
  5. National patron
  6. Martyr
  7. Foreign convert
  8. Amalgamation of several historical individuals and local folklore
  9. Noted scientist or artist
  10. Developer of important doctrine
  11. Spearheaded reform movement
  12. Founder of notable religious order
  13. Origin and deeds hidden by time
  14. Famous debater of heterodox factions
  15. Doctor of the church
  16. Figure of legend
  17. World-traveling missionary
  18. Potent hierarch
  19. Prophet
  20. Angel or equivalent celestial being
d20 alternate version: Who is This Relic From?
  1. Argrabahd, who would preach until he turned purple and passed out.
  2. Lox, who could read a man's heart like a book.
  3. Shejen, who was almost entirely unmartyable (not for lack of trying, mind).
  4. Brother Coal, who ministered to the Russet Country miners for forty years.
  5. Altook, who was cooked up in a stew and eaten by yetis.
  6. Quen-Liu the Pirate Queen, who bought her canonization alongside amnesty from the government.
  7. Elia, who decided that being a virgin martyr wasn't all it was cracked up to be and escaped her captors. Died at 104 after the birth of her fifth great-great-grandchild.
  8. Percival Tuckett, who survived thirteen nights of goblin pranks in a failed attempt to convert the warren on Puckawanakee Hill.
  9. Anne of Redrosen; gambler, cheat, patroness of the out-of luck. Had her fingers cut off for trying to con the House of Silver Dreaming.
  10. Henry Parson, the first priest to come to Tin Jacobstown; chartered the first agreement with the Black Amazons.
  11. [Redacted], who has been stripped from the record for posthumously-revealed crimes.
  12. The Sable Maid of Orlei, who led the campaign against the Dukes of Hell, and challenged Darvatius himself before the walls of Dis.
  13. Orichus Alm, tender of the Angelic Engine and wise teacher of technical theology.
  14. Stossisan, who oversaw the building of the  Obsidian Cathedral on the slopes of Mt. Kathualo.
  15. Hauteliwika, who lived on nothing but the morning mist and a single acorn a day.
  16. Bogab the Ogre, who held the gates of Dunson shut against the invaders with one hand and blessed the soldiers' weapons with the other.
  17. Iridalus, one of the rare wizard-converts and author of a masterful catalog of spirits.
  18. Grey, who forsook his name and tended to the ghoul-lepers of Janashkut.
  19. Kaeltophe, who is said to have fought off ten thousand demons with his enchanted spear, and ridden a gigantic bristleback boar.
  20. Navima, who crossed a sea a neophyte, and returned from unknown lands wise beyond all telling.
I am an Idiot and Bought a Fake Relic, What Happens? (2d6)
  1. Your knowing and unrepentent blasphemy has called down doom upon you. 
  2. Horrific spell backfire! Gain 1d4 mutations.
  3. Normal spell backfire. Gain a mutation.
  4. You are blocked from intoning the gods for 24 hours
  5. You are blocked from intoning the gods for 1d6 days.
  6. Nothing happens. Save vs fear, as your faith has failed in time of need.
  7. Nothing happens. A spell die is burnt / a spell slot is lost until tomorrow.
  8. Nothing happens. There is a sense of relief.
  9. Take 1d4 damage from the relic melting in your hands.
  10. It works, but the spell's effects (duration, range, damage, etc) are halved.
  11. It works, but casts a different spell of 1d4 levels lower.
  12. Well what do you know? It was actually real.

Monday, December 4, 2017

DCO with Randos: Session 2

Picking up from where we previously left off, the party departs up the river from Carrowmore, leaving the ruined town behind them. A fourth member of the party was introduced, leaving us with a fellowship of four.
  • Eren, human ranger
  • Alteriel, human monk
  • Durlan, wood elf life cleric
  • Ganel, fallen aasimar paladin
Since we were playing over Discord, I took advantage to throw in some musical cues, which shall be scattered about in link form. For normal boat travel, it was the wonderful sounds of Sunless Sea.

Into the silent, elegiac, greyness they went.

The Sarcophagus of Ambatoharanana

The party attempts to throw a rope to the two survivors clinging to the sarcophagus, to no avail. Pulling up alongside the coffin reveals that one is already dead, and the other is barely alive and non-vocal. He is taken onto the skiff and cared for by Durlan.

After a bit of equipment scrambling, Eren produces a crowbar and with Ganel's help opens the sarcophagus, revealing the mummified king inside. Ganel goes for the treasure.

King Ambatoharanana lives! The mummy springs up, laying about with his sword. Several solid hits are made by Alteriel and Ganel, but Ganel is struck by the king's attack and is overwhelmed with the sure and certain knowledge imparted in his animal hindbrain - that he shall be pursued to the ends of the earth for his transgression against a god-king.

Ganel  panics and runs to the back of the boat with Durlan. Alteriel is the next hit and is dropped in one shot. He passes his save on death's door, Durlan pulls him out of harms way and heals him.

At this point Eren tackles the mummy and both plunge into the water. A shaken Ganel pulls him up, and Durlan heals Arteriel. The king dissolves in the deep water, and soon that remains is a muddy smear on the water, and some limp silken bandages floating downstream. His treasure is lost to the muddy river bottom.

Fool's Duel

Grey silence again envelops the expedition, until they come to the dueling wizards, Rem and Ruskin.

The party attempts to learn what is happening by making authoritative demands, but the wizards are immune to such things as befitting their ego. Conversation goes nowhere, Ruskin is hit with a magic missile and demands their aid. But to no avail for the scrawny wizard, as the group leaves the two to their squabbling.

As they paddle away, they are able to watch the blue eggshell of Ruskin's shield disperse, and the wizard is knocked into the water by a second magic missile. A sleek, black, spied fin rises from the water, and the frantic splashing swiftly ceases.

The group was understandably enthusiastic to reach the dry land ahead.

Church of Selminimum Tem 

The party reached the overturned church without much incident. Ganel uses his hand axes to carve out footholds in the soft and water-damaged foot, so that he can climb up to the doors and gain entry. The party follows, and make a quick investigation. Ganel opens the shrine and finds the wafers and vials, Eren harvests some dry pew-wood for a fire. With evening approaching (and several players in need of retiring for the night), a watch is set, with one outside the church to keep watch over the boat and make sure that the giant pike has not been following them.

END OF DAY 1

The string of good, if short, sessions and good luck continues. Thanks are to be give to +Daniel Davis, whose notes on DCO really helped smooth things along.

Also, it appears that I really, really like to run pointcrawls!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Some thoughts on the Tome of Beasts

 
Had some leftover Amazon giftcardbucks, picked up the Tome of Beasts. Here are some thoughts on it.

This is a Fifth-Edition product

If you're the kind of person that rolls their eyes at challenge ratings and HP in the hundreds, it's still certainly usable, but you'll have to put more work into making it work for you. If you're a 5e fan, that's not going to be much of an issue.

The art is great

Exceptions exist, but even then the entries that are just mediocre in comparison to the rest of the art outnumber the properly bad ones, and the good stuff outnumbers both. It's solid, nicely evocative stuff, and "monsters that I want to use just because I think they look cool" is my baseline for judging a bestiary.

The words are poor

The quality of text in Tome of Beasts is, frankly, unacceptable. I have not read a single entry that is not stricken with redundancy, fluff, chaff, dead weight, bloat, stating the obvious, or filler - they're all generally as evocative as a brick. They're tiny little entries and they paradoxically manage to still waste space.

Ignore it. Stick a post-it note in there and write your own, the names and pictures will provide all you need.

"The hulking bearfolk are intimidating creatures", says the text near the picture of a bipedal grizzly bear with an axe.

It reminds me of the 3.5 Monster Manuals

In both good and bad ways. It's filled with obscure "why did you think of this?" variants of common monsters,  strange "how am I ever supposed to use this" monsters, "this is cool, why is it designed as a combat encounter" entires and "what is even going on with this page?" entries.

For my own part, I find a sort of charm in it - the odd sort of weird that doesn't want to let go of "palatable to a wide audience" and dive headfirst into the "OSR-land of cannibal mutant snake cultists" just yet.


Many of the monsters have a shared theme or origin

This is something I found quite nice and helpful - an easy way of populating dungeons with encounters that mesh well together, and you can build up factions and their interactions with each other or within themselves easily enough.

There's a setting behind the book

From time to time there are side notes and boxes detailing Kobold Press' published setting, which is often reflected in the creatures themselves: there's the Norse-themed monsters, the Egyptian-themed monsters, and an underground empire of ghouls.

It's not particularly intrusive, and overlaps with the point above, and so can be handy for the same reasons.

Please be more creative with your usage of breasts

I'm not going to harp on you for featuring lady-monsters in diaphanous states of undress, Kobold Press. But I will absolutely harp on you re-printing the same monster four times. Five times? They blur together

"Watery tart who lures men to their doom with sex appeal" applies to the eleinomae (swamp-nymphs), the lorelei, and the rusalka. Then you've got the abominable beauty (who isn't aquatic, but picks up the slack on diaphanous undress from the rusalka, who remembered to get dressed this morning), two very visually boring dryads, and the drowned maiden, who is just the rusalka again, except just angry and sad about being dead instead of seductive. She's cool.

Vary it up, guys.

Please start using templates instead of repeating statblocks

Like the 5E Monster Manual, Tome of Beasts provides a separate stat block for every stage of life for all six variants of dragon, all seven varieties of giant, and every other creature that could easily be summarized with "as [creature], with [special features]".

Please, for the love of all gods above and below, please stop referring to everything in the plural. It's okay to have unique monsters

The difference between a monster and the monster is a valuable one to make, and can have a  dramatic effect on how a monster is viewed and the impact it has on the players.

_Tome of Beasts_ does not make this distinction, which I find to devalue of cool or goofy monsters. Granted, if one ignores the text that the book provides, as I already recommended, this is far less of an issue. I'm still annoyed by it.

There are some fantastic monsters in here that I absolutely want to use 

Including but not limited to:
  • Horrible little guard-homunculi with huge underbites that PCs can grow inside their own bodies.
  • Dark cloaks filled with dozens of arms that can unbalance a player's humours.
  • Fat little dragons who live in pubs and love gossip.
  • Demons that set up brothels, restaurants, casinos and so on to lure people and then devour their hopes and dreams.
  • Kobold techpriests.
  • Evil pixie barbers.
  • An oasis that is actually a giant ooze.
  • Men of Leng, who will definitely find a home collectively being the _Resident Evil 4_ merchant.
I like the elemental dragons

They're pretty neat.

There are at least two instances of the text describing the creature with a beard and then the art showing no beard at all.

There are standards a man must hold himself to.

They gave the sphinx a table of riddles 

That's a gold star on the Good Noodle board for you, Kobold Press. 

Final Thoughts

The book doesn't set out to break any boundaries or break up any statuses quo, it falls short in places but succeeds quite well in others. Definitely geared towards people very much wanting more 5e for their 5e. I wouldn't put it on my recommendations list, and would recommend that anyone interested in it buys it on sale.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Mother Stole Fire

 
Ama Adimatha, Mother of Multitudes


The gods of man number in the countless thousands, but Ama Adimatha stands honored above all of them. Go anywhere in the world, even to the top of Sky-Eater Mountain or the deepest pits of Hell, and you will find her.

She is the soft voice you heard in the womb, the gentle arms that held you close, the guiding hand of your first tottering steps. She is the shield against evil, the keeper of woman's secret wisdom, the source of love and bountiful life. She is strong as the pillars of the earth. She's a joker, a japester, a right-up prankster. Vast is her compassion, unbreakable is her spirit, clever is her tongue, and most terrible is her wrath.

She is our mother.

Here is a story of how she stole fire.

*****

Long ago, in the green and timeless days before the coming of the ice, there was a goddess of the ape-men named Clever Lu. She was always getting into trouble: playing pranks on the tribe chiefs, gossiping with songbirds, stealing fruit from the highest trees, racing the gazelles, dancing with the Folk come the rains. And she she got it in her head that she ought to steal the crown of fire from Hō-ō, King of the Heavens and Highest of the Dragon Lords.

Clever as she was, Lu could not match the guile and power of the king. Not just yet. She went forth into the world to find her greatest trick and had a great many adventures, some of which were even true.

She escaped the clutches of Pan-Pongo, savage god-chief of the ape-men, by getting him drunk on palm-wine and leaving him lost in the woods. She ventured into the halls of the star-nosed Mountain King and feasted there with the dwarves. She wrestled the great catfish Tija Gnood for four days and four nights, and then cooked him up for breakfast. She stole the words out of the mouth of Fantool the River Serpent and sold them back to him. She made friends of the Old Ones, made enemies of the Álfar, and started a war in the process. She belched out a song to  She beat Aran Stone-Brow in a game of riddles, and walked all the way to the edge of the world. She moved a mountain from Here to There Over the Horizon by chaining it to the sun with a braid of her hair, and so won a cloak of feathers from Raven.

When finally she came to climb the Crown of the World, she was no longer the nut-brown girl who had left the forest domain of Pan-Pongo; She was now a goddess grown, taught well by time and trial. By the magics of Raven's black cloak, she disguised herself as a saurian priestess come from the distant deserts to give homage to the Mesozoic King, and so gained entry to his milk white palace on the mountain peak.

She was brought before Hō-ō, who was as glorious as the setting sun. Clever Lu bowed before him, and presented her most honeyed words. The king was taken by her tribute and by the comeliness of her disguise, and so agreed when she offered to dance for him. This was her trap, for she wove a spell into her dance so that the king and all his court would fall into a deep and dreamless sleep, and so it was.

Grinning to herself, Clever Lu shed her disguise, shimmied up the throne, and stole the crown of fire right from Hō-ō's head. The great dragon snuffled in his sleep. She departed the throne room by tiptoe.

But dragons have potent magic of their own, and her spell of sleep quickly faded. Hō-ō awoke, and realizing that he had been tricked, roared up to the night sky:

"THIEF! THIEEEEEEEEEEEEF!"

He tore through the his chambers, following the scent of ape. The milk-white palace collapsed around him in his rage. Claws glistening, teeth alight with dragonsfire, thunderous wings outstretched, he bore down on the escaping Lu, chasing her to the very edge of the mountain peak.

She stood there upon the cliff, knee-deep in the snow, the burning crown in her hands, and realized that she had made a terrible mistake.

She offered to return the crown, to leave and never return, but Hō-ō, blinded by rage, ignored her pleas and tears. The King of the Heavens vowed to her that he and his kind, their children and all their children's children, would hunt the ape-men to the ends of the world, to slaughter them to the last. None would be spared. Their forests would be put to the torch, their plains made barren, their gods broken and cast aside. To the last mewling child Hō-ō would see them devoured. With a terrible howl he summoned the ranks of his dragons, and Lu watched in horror as they flew out from the Crown of the World.

There was a moment, where Lu thought of throwing herself from the mountain there, but despair melted in the blast furnace of newborn anger. They had threatened her people, her children... 

Her fury a-burning about her, Lu reached up a hand to the sky and grasped a star in her fist. With all her rage and love and hate and hope, she tore that iron star out of the sky, screaming...


"FUCK YOU!"

 ...and brought it down upon Hō-ō, his castle, his mountain, and all the world: the fist of an angry goddess.

Thus the world was broken and remade, and passed from dragons to man. The green and timeless days gave way to a white and frozen age. Continents and seas were shaped and re-shaped. The dragons and their children died. Mankind was born of the ape-men. The Folk warred among themselves.

Standing over the corpse of Hō-ō, Mother placed the crown of fire upon her head, and led her children into winter.

*****

This is it, then, the proper opening to this setting I've been working on. There will be more to come, of course, most of it far more gamable than this. Next up should be the famous 40 questions.

But to prevent this post from being totally ungamable, I present the following table for other stories about Mother:

How true is it? (1d12)
  1. Bullshit
  2. Double bullshit
  3. Absolutely true
  4. Embellished
  5. Not entirely false
  6. Jury is still out
  7. Way more truth than you wanted
  8. Given value of true
  9. Have to squint at it
  10. The truth you needed
  11. All of the above
  12. Roll twice