Saturday, July 25, 2015

Time waits for no DM

Jeez, again I let things slide so terribly! A few shakeups in life and it all just goes pear-shaped. Well, I have once again dusted off this Arthurian / Realms of Crawling Chaos game and I'm thinking of new ways to improve it. There is still a fundamental, gaping difference in core assumptions between two settings that I'm endeavoring to mash together. I feel like something will suffer greatly in the translation, yet I persist because it's all the stuff I like, and if I can't have ice cream on my pizza then I'm not hungry.

Still toying with the idea of taking out Clerics. They are essential in some ways, but it would add to the mystique of all the weird cults of the Ancient Ones if you had to nervously go in to their creepy church and listen to a lecture about Yog-Sothoth before any healing could happen. Also, God doesn't really care about you. On the flip side, religion is a huge deal in Arthur's world - but even there the priests just stay in church, they don't go around kicking ass and doing quests. How about relations between the religions? This goes to the political climate and all those decisions and possibilities, but how about the Elder Gods? How are they viewed, by whoever actually knows about them?

And what about that damn political climate? Do I set the game during Arthur's rise to power, before the Round Table is established? It's easier for adventurers to distinguish themselves, or change the world in some way, or get into and out of trouble, because it's still complete chaos after the Roman withdrawal. On the other hand, why bother calling it 'Arthurian' if Camelot isn't even built? Although the rule of law during Arthur's time doesn't leave much room for standard PC behavior - and it might be tough to say "fuck those city guards anyway" when you know your character lives under the rule of a perfect king.
More bloody details to obsess over. Some of these things I "decided" already, and have now second-guessed. Maybe better to focus back on the small things, like the dungeon where most of the game happens!

Well, this is the last iteration of my one-page newbie chargen sheet, just for laughs. Subject to change as always, but this is what the players saw the last time I ran the game. It's great because everyone knows what's up without rulebooks or explanations or edition-fights. Easy, takes no time and we can move on to playing the damn game.

*Note: ideas relentlessly cribbed from everyone and everywhere - you will probably see something familiar*


Stats: Roll 3d6 straight down the line. 8 and below or 13 and up gets you modifiers.
You can get bonus XP for *low* prime requisites in your class (3-5 +10%, 6-8 +5%).

Fighters: STR, 1d8 HP, any armor/shield, only class to use Magic Swords.
Clerics: WIS, 1d6 HP, any armor/shield, turn undead, follow your god’s dictates.
Magic-Users: INT, 1d4 HP, no armor, spellbook has 1d3 1st-levels, 1 2nd-level.
Dwarves: STR, 1d8 HP, infravision 60 ft, stonecunning 2/6, any armor/shield. Germanic. Pale, corpse-like skin with black eyes and hair. Their voices sound like the buzzing of bees, and they are almost as tall as humans but constantly stoop & hunch over.
Goblins (aka Boggarts, Brownies, Gnomes, Bogies, etc): CON/DEX, 1d6 HP, no shields, hide (wilderness 90%, underground 2/6), +1 on missile attacks. Short tough fucks who live outdoors, in dungeons and in remote areas. Native to Britain. Gnarled dark rumpelstiltskin lookalikes, crazy shit-disturbers who love danger and treasure.
Elves: STR/INT, 1d6 HP, infravision 60ft, secret doors 2/6, no shields, 1d2 1st-level spells. Fae-folk with no consistent appearance, varies by CHA and random tables are involved. Between sessions, elves reside in their native regions of Annwn, otherwise inaccessible.
Subhumans: STR, 1d8 HP, any armor/shield, secret doors 2/6, +2 save vs. poison. With large brow ridges and pronounced primate canines, they can pass as ugly or degenerate humans, but if their true heritage were ever discovered...?
Sea Bloods: STR/WIS, 1d6 HP, any armor/shield, secret doors 2/6. From the lineage of the Deep Ones. They might not know their true origins. Gradually develop a distinctive “fishy” appearance over time. Fighters with innate clerical magic.

Alignment: Lawful, Neutral or Chaotic. Affects religion and interaction with some NPCs.

You Hail From: roll and tell me your number: Humans/Subhumans roll 1d50; Dwarves roll 1d8; Goblins roll 1d40; Sea Bloods roll 1d12; Elves aren’t from Earth - pick or roll anyway you like. Consult the table here.

Languages: Everyone gets 2 languages - their native, and one of their choice (Brythonic, Irish, French, Anglish, Saxon) Only magic-users get extras for high INT, they pick from a special list.

Christianity: (Jesus, Satan, Catharism, Anti-Nicene Heresy)
Germanic Paganism: (Thor, Odin, Tyr, Loki, Balder, Heimdall, etc)
British Paganism: (Lugh, Brighid, Morrigan, Arawn, etc)
Outer Gods/Old Ones: (Esoteric Order of Dagon, Church of Starry Wisdom, Cthulhu Cult, etc)

Spells: roll 1d12 for each spell you know, tell me each result.

Social Class: Roll 3d6 for your Social Class - 11 or higher you’re a knight, 18 you are a Prince or Princess! Don’t expect many freebies though. Multiply this number by 10 for your starting cash.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Pitch

Ok guys, so here is my opening blurb for the Arthurian/Weird/Fairytale game. I'll refer players to this as I go along for a very quick primer.


"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn"

Long before men raised themselves above their ape cousins, the Ancient Ones held sway over the Earth. Serpent-men, Deep Ones and other nameless things subjugated all life and dedicated it to the adoration of those blasted names - Cthulhu, Tsathoggua, Dagon, Yog-Sothoth. They are forgotten today, but not gone. The sorcerous serpent-men thrive in Scotland, north of the Antonine Wall. The Deep Ones still swim through the bones of ships, salvaging gold to tempt fishermen into hideous pacts. The hidden cults of Cthulhu struggle to destroy society from within. The gods of men have power but it is weak and temporary; the Outer Darkness is eternally strong.

“Rex quon dam, Rex que futurus”

One hope exists. High King Arthur, only eighteen, has just defeated the last of the rebel British warlords and their Saxon allies at the battle of Mount Badon. He travels the country recruiting the strongest knights for his Round Table and has begun his new castle at Camelot. His soldiers patrol the highways, making safe travel and trade possible in the some parts of the kingdom. Humans, demihumans, and subhumans of all religions and creeds live together (sometimes uneasily) under the fragile Pax Arthuriana.

"Hir yw'r dydd a hir yw'r nos, a hir yw aros Arawn"

Britain is still wild. Giants, trolls, dragons and more roam the woods and hills. Beneath the kingdom lies the mythical otherworld called Annwn (an’oon), ruled by the death god Arawn. Existing in mythical, not physical space, it conforms to no rules of geography or distance. A pit, a well, a mineshaft, a crypt, a cave, even your root cellar - all of these and more lead to the underworld. Faeries, talking animals, madmen, the living dead and demons alike make Annwn their home, and death is quick for the unprepared - but one might find anything in those endless tunnels - even treasures and magic said to outshine the High King’s hoard...

The round table is busy, the High King has better things to do. Your characters are mercenaries, adventurers, freebooters and landless gentry looking to get money, see some action and make a name for themselves. What are you waiting for? Get in the dungeon!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

infrequent blogs

Well, shit - I got a new job last year and picked up my guitar again - where has the time gone? Apologies are due to Jez, Erik, Stefan and the other dudes who I was in the middle of a conversation with when I up and vanished. Next time I'll let you know what's going on - and hopefully not disappear for a year.

I haven't played much of my home game since last spring, but I still toss ideas for games around in my head all the time. I ran a one-shot of my proposed Arthurian Labyrinth Lord game almost a year back, and it was... OK.

After some reflection, the setting needed some changes - it's back on the drawing board. One of the big improvements was adding Realms of Crawling Chaos to the mix. Now I have a setting that's still familiar enough to be easily communicated, but is gaining much-needed variety. I'm going to scrap the one-shot dungeon I wrote, and use a few parts in building a MEGADUNGEON beneath the Isle of Wight.

Actually, the megadungeon will extend underneath all of Britain.

Right now the setting is less "Arthurian high fantasy" and more like:

You might say those first two are pretty similar. The Arthurian heroic fantasy milieu is closely related to Welsh and Irish folktales, but actually the concept of Arawn's 'otherworld' or a fairyland will be stretched to include not only classic D&D stuff like rust monsters and gelatinous cubes, but also the kind of gonzo shit I love to see on MMSFP. So while the Arthurian influence will govern the cities and wilderness of primeval mythic Britain, the folktale/fairyland stuff will take over underground - while the Cthulhian, Weird Tales shit will be stuck in all the hard-to-reach corners.

I have been crawling my favorite blogs (and some really cool ones that are new to me) for monsters and other ideas that fit the bill. Some of my older Arthurian posts are now inaccurate; the speed hireling table and the "Where do you hail from?" table specifically. I will update them in a while, if I am ever done my endless fiddling with the fucking things.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

my "Appendix N"...

since young times
(the one you can't see because of glare is Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain)
I don't know why I never thought of putting all these together before.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ganlant of Escavalon's big adventure + pictures

So I jumped into the Constantcon ring a few days ago when I got a chance to play in Jeff Rients' Wessex game. I used a sample cleric that I had rolled up a few weeks ago for my prospective Arthurian LL game. I equipped him from Jeff's chargen equipment list, hooked up my webcam and we were ready to go, as Ganlant was whisked away by the power of FLAILSNAILS from the time of Arthur to a different Cornwall, hundreds of years in his future.

I had a gas. We explored, we laughed, we cried, we fell victim to traps, and we *almost* got some good loot. Ganlant just about fell down a pit to Hell (narrowly saved when one of his friends grabbed his backpack and pulled him back), and later one of the party was killed drinking from a fountain which made him melt "like a Nazi from Raiders of the Lost Ark." I scooped up some of this deadly water in a bucket for later use.

While trying to wedge the lid of a wizard's sarcophagus open using iron spikes, we attracted the wrath of a giant golden spider. I threw my bucket of deadly fountain water at it, while the rest of the party threw flaming oil. We managed to hurt it some but it seemed to laugh at normal weapons, so it was time to beat a retreat. In the process of escaping, Ganlant was hit by the spider and I heard Jeff say: "Can you survive 4 damage? I'm just looking for my Arduin grimoire."

Oh crap... He had four fingers on his right hand sliced off in a single critical hit from the golden spider's scythe-leg! Ganlant made it out with just 1 hit point, climbing a 60' ladder to safety with his mangled hand. Yeah, this is D&D all right.

After the adventure, I made sure to add some extra equipment, not least of all a crowbar for the next sarcophagus we happen to find. Life's going to be pretty tough for an adventurer with only 6 digits, but I'll figure something out... probably strap a torch or holy symbol to the stump so it's always ready, and fight with the left hand.

Also, inspired by some posts around the interwebs, I thought I'd post up some artwork and images that I enjoy for gaming inspiration. I'm not very well versed in visual art, and my tastes are simple, and these pictures aren't quite as good as the ones that happen in my imagination. Which probably means I need to spend more time checking out new art.

(A lot of these are really big/detailed, click to expand)

In thirty years they reduced the civilized nations to carrion and ash...

How do you like stone golems now? - The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973)

"Of course I go adventuring for the chicks!"

Some more Terrible Sorcery.

Best skeletons ever - Jason & The Argonauts (1963).

Hydras are in my Pathfinder wilderness game. Somewhere.
Is this what "creature type: Outsider" means? A thousand times yes.
In terms of "total playtime hours inspired," this is easily #1.
But many men say that there is written upon his tomb this verse: Hic iacet Arthurus, Rex quondam, Rexque futurus

Not pictured: my young mind, completely blown - King's Quest 6.

More play reports soon!

Friday, February 3, 2012


so this thing...

One of my players reads this blog, and he was explaining this post to me the other day. There are some things to like about it: "Treat The Environment As Another Enemy" is a great way to make things interesting and might be rule #2 of good encounter design.

But "Make Sure Each Player Will Have Something To Do and Give Each Player A Unique Role"? Come on. The only example given is for D&D, so since we're not playing GURPS (where we spend several hours doing math so that each character is different), we'll talk about that. Cross-posted from my comment:

"There’s a reason the classic D&D party is a Fighter, a Mage, a Cleric, and a Thief."

Try playing Original D&D with only one fighter. I dare you. See what happens.

This kind of thing is a direct result of the edition power creep that we've had over the last 25 years. In 3.x D&D we have 2000+ feats to choose from for "infinite customization," but every fighter just chooses Power Attack because it's the best. If you have two fighters in your D&D party, of course one will be better than another, because they'll both prioritize Strength, then CON or DEX, etc. And they won't roll exactly the same stats. One will likely have a higher strength and since so much emphasis is placed on stat bonuses to create a "viable" character, the guy who rolled low is left in the dust. This is the "my precious character" sort of thinking which characterizes the current state of the hobby.

This is, by the way, in direct opposition to your other stipulations: to not say "this monster's invulnerable to swords!," "avoid the roll-fest" and "treat the environment as another enemy." In these contexts, whether your fighter has a +1 to damage rolls or a +6 won't affect the solution you, as a creative player, come up with.

And if you *can't* come up with anything to deal with a monster that's invulnerable to all your plusses, well... I don't know how to help you.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Influences on Land's End and Jeff's 20 Questions

This is an old file of musings that I've cleaned up for posting. These are some of the things I reference and ponder when I'm writing up material for my Land's End game, and which provided the initial seeds of its creation.

The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall
This is the only Elder Scrolls game I ever played extensively until my roommate bought Skyrim. An unbelievably big wilderness; a completely optional main quest; huge randomly generated dungeons; a gonzo character-generator and a creepy soundtrack. I reinstalled this game a few weeks ago so that I could get some screen-captures for a forthcoming post about how much better it is than all subsequent Elder Scrolls games (with diagrams).
Surrounded by lava, fighting a demon... Classic.

Exile: Escape From The Pit
This game provided the seed of inspiration for the campaign. For various reasons, the characters have been exiled from the rigorous, oppressive, strictly Lawful empire where no variety is allowed. They arrive in the land of Exile, an underground cave kingdom and have all kinds of adventures against the Sliths, the cat-people called Nephilim and the demon overlord Grah-Hoth. Classic turn-based CRPG from 1995, this is almost as retro as it gets and you can find it here.

Arx Fatalis
This game was fun as hell, back in 2004 or so. You're just dropped bare-ass naked into a big underground world (megadungeon), annnnd go! It's got a cowardly goblin king, dumb trolls, all kinds of stuff. The vibe of this game was just inspiring. I wonder if my shitty laptop could run it?

Myth: The Fallen Lords
My previous thoughts on this game here. The soundtrack of this game slays, and the monsters are great. I think the undead are the best ever. This game exudes vibe from every pore, it's tough and unforgiving. Time to man up and charge them zombies!

All those blogs listed on the side of this page!

originally outlined here.

1 - What is the deal with my cleric's religion?
You're a priest of the 137 gods of the Empire, although you can just pick one if you want (and make it up, since I will never detail them all). It's state-mandated! Later it may be possible to convert to a different god.

2 - Where can we go to buy standard equipment?
The general stores in Land's End have a general selection of weapons/armor/gear, and a few more rare things can be bought from the travelling merchants that come through town.

3 - Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?
You'd have to travel to the interior of the empire to get custom armor. The local blacksmith, if he's even good enough to do it, would charge an arm and a leg.

4 - Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?
There aren't any wizards in Land's End (it's a shit town). The mightiest one beyond The Barrier... who knows?

5 - Who is the greatest warrior in the land?
In Land's End, it's likely the Guard Captain of the town, who is perhaps a Level 2 Fighter. In the wastes, the greatest human warrior that anyone's heard of is Mullerigern, a bandit king with a 1500 GP bounty on his head.

6 - Who is the richest person in the land?
The richest person in Land's End is the Innkeeper, Kiros.

7 - Where can we go to get some magical healing?
Father Harkwood at the church of the 137 gods in Land's End will heal you - for a small fee.

8 - Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, death, undeath?
Father Harkwood of the 137 gods will cure: disease, curses, small ability drains. It'll cost you though. A druid (maybe living out in the wilderness) could cure poison. Death, Undeath, polymorph, stoning, permanent level drain and other tough ailments might just be incurable.

9 - Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?
Nope. Magic is rare and wizards don't congregate or share their secrets, unless they're working for the man (which you ain't).

10- Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?
The church of land's end has an alchemist/sage living in the tower who can do a bit of research for the party, and sell them non-magical 'alchemical' potions at high prices.

11- Where can I hire mercenaries?
To go over the cliffs? You gotta be kidding!

12- Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?
Anywhere further inside the Empire, people start to frown on carrying weapons openly (what could you possibly need THAT for?), and magic-users are either ostracized or are co-opted by the state.

13- Which way to the nearest tavern?
The Crown and Thistle sits right in the centre of Land's End, across from the church.

14- What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?
There aren't any that 'terrorize' the countryside, but if you kill a monster of legend (werewolf, dragon, hydra, giant ant, etc) and bring its pelt/head back to town, that could make you famous. Occasionally there are wolves on the plateau, but it's rare.

15- Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?
Not yet.

16- How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?
Maybe in another civilization distantly across the wastelands, that's never met the Empire.

17- Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?
There are some nameless monster cults in the wilderness, if you're into frog-cannibalism.

18- What is there to eat around here?
Regular inland medieval stuff: Bread, stew, cows, root vegetables, boiled things, oatmeal, beer, etc.

19- Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?
For one, there's the lost idol of the 137 gods that Father Harkwood will pay 250 GP for (there is a sign on the town notice board to this effect).

20- Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure?
Somewhere in the wilderness. You'll know it when you see it, unless it sees you first.

PS: Hey new Blogger interface?

Up yours new Blogger interface.