Sunday, September 19, 2021
Tuesday, June 22, 2021
It's finally out!
Footprints Magazine from Dragonsfoot. Packed with almost 200 pages of Completely Free old school gaming scene goodness.
Get it HERE.
I bring this up because this issue has a 20-page adventure for Labyrinth Lord written and lovingly illustrated by ME. For characters of levels 3-6 with about 50 keyed areas.
It's called Gilded Dream of the Incandescent Queen. Originally it was for a random dungeon design contest and then took on a life of its own after that. I wrote it so that it could be dropped in to anybody's campaign, and I hope you, gentle reader, give it a chance and try playing it in your own game.
Venture into a floating sanctum built to transcend mortality itself! Weigh your soul on the great scales before Zarmuun, Eater of Hearts! Battle the sadistic Witch-Queen, plunder her vast treasure hoard, sail her ocean-going barge, or climb the celestial staircase up to a mysterious fate...?
Friday, April 2, 2021
On Downtime & Demesnes (Basic D&D version)
by Courtney Campbell
Hack & Slash publishing
print and PDF here
Once in a rare while, an RPG supplement comes out that doesn't need doctoring around with, adaptation or fiddle-fucking - it just works. OD&D (hahaha I see what you did there) is one such product.
I used this book in my home game the week I bought it. Vuk Thuul the oracle sacrificed an animal to his mysterious "divine patron" (a demon lord, hahaha). I had no idea what would happen, and then I cracked open OD&D and noticed there are rules for exactly that!
In addition to rules, guidelines and tables, great ready-to-use content is sprinkled throughout. Whenever Courtney gets specific, his imagination blasts off the page. Sections include "Example Mercenaries & Companies" (5 pages of juicy, weird NPCs I would run any day), "Strange Funeral Rites," "Dungeon Doors," "Strange Inheritances" (could easily kick off your next campaign), "Random Items for Sale at a Bazaar," "Strange Pet Stores" (OK, not sure when I'll use that) and several quirky, memorable sample villages.
One other complaint I'd level at OD&D is that it covers such a tremendously wide range of material, sometimes it doesn't do so with the depth I'd like. The Influence rules could have been delved into more deeply, or maybe explained better. And the "carousing mishaps" table has 10 entries of familiar stuff - compare them to Ben's vivid table here. Ultimately this is a minor complaint, this book was clearly written so it can be used in anybody's game, and a DM who wants to expand these tables to suit his own setting obviously can.
I bought this in pdf and after paging through it once, I immediately ordered a hard copy. It's going right in between Realms of Crawling Chaos and Labyrinth Lord on my old-school gaming shelf, it is that good. If you want to run a sandbox game (and if you don't... what's the deal?) you will definitely make use of this. If you play just about any old-school game or retroclone, there is now one less reason to bring your 1st edition DMG along to game night anymore, just to reference the rules on sages for the twentieth time. Just as well, since mine is crumbling before my very eyes!
Don't waste your RPG lunch money. The marketplace is crammed with unimaginative dreck, impossible-to-run adventure path railroads, retro trade dress porn, kickstarter money grabs and pretentious glossy award-baiting. Buy something you can actually use at the table for once. Who the fuck says the OSR is dead? This is as OSR as it gets.
 - Jeff's "Party like it's 999" post is not the first time carousing is mentioned (Dragon magazine covered this in the old days), but it is the benchmark for the rules that OSRmen play with today.
Saturday, March 13, 2021
Thursday, December 10, 2020
I have been writing these play reports for my online Labyrinth Lord group, set around the City-State of the World Emperor. Since I spend so much time on them, I thought I'd share them here for everyone to peruse. This session actually took place last year, before we switched to online play a few months ago. This weekend we're also returning to Land's End - the fun never stops.
As one of my players said the other day: "your world has more shit to do than the real one right now!"
2nd-12th Meadowlark, 4433
Aladar IX, M-U 1
"Sir Karavon" aka Tullius Jr, fighter 1
Lothos the Undesirable, elf 1
Eric Withakay, cleric 1
Meep, dwarf 1
Veigar Thricescarred, fighter 1
(see last session)
After their torchlight exhumation, the gang re-interred the corpse of James Blake with a mocking note, taunting whoever might come searching afterwards for his journal and The Great Devourer.
"Meet on the 10th of Blackmoon in Viridistan. Under the Grand Red Statue, look for the man with twelve lit candles."
After recollecting their previous adventures, they decided to follow up a lead at the port of Targnol a few days travel away:
"The rich merchant Philotheos Sten hasn't been around lately. His large estate lies on the edge of town, and nobody has been seen coming or going for several days. Some fear the worst while others remark on the man's riches, accumulated through a lifetime of trading. A few thugs are going to case his place soon. You might be able to beat them to it and see what kind of loot is lying around!"
The port of Targnol was a sprawling mess of crumbling wooden buildings packed with Imperial sailors on leave, dockworkers, merchants, thieves and cutthroats. Notable buildings included a grand temple to Thoth and a mysterious black pyramid containing a sleeping sorceress within a glass coffin. The town offers a standing reward for anyone who can reawaken this mysterious ebony-skinned woman.
Not having an interest in that, the gang met with a local contact of Two-Faced Humphrey's (he had business back in Viridisan, and couldn't accompany them). The man was a sullen and scarred Viridian named Komang. He gave them some basics, and a few trips around town asking questions filled in the blanks:
- Philotheos and his family hadn't been seen in two weeks, but there had been no surge of activity suggesting they were moving house or taking an extended vacation. The current theory was sudden illness or foul play of some kind.
- Old Graham's Gang, a strange and mysterious crew of all-child thieves from the capital about whom rumours have swirled for years, were casing the place. They planned to raid it for valuables the next night. Komang offered to put the party in touch with them, but this offer was declined.
- Philotheos kept no personal guards, for he lived on the edge of town in a rich area patrolled by (notoriously lazy) Imperial troops.
The party pooled their money and bought a wagon and two horses. On the way up to Philotheos' mansion, Eric and "Sir Karavon" drove while the rest hid under some straw in the back, hoping the "knight" and priest would discourage prying eyes or nosy guardsmen.
As night drew down they pulled into the driveway and approached the great mansion. Disdaining to explore the large grounds, "Sir Karavon" knocked on the door and getting no response, opened it. A distant weeping could be heard, but no foes presented themselves.
The party entered the lightless home and progressed through a set of double-doors into a large parlor and dining-room. The place was trashed. Plates and vessels broken, splashes of blood everywhere, and the source of the weeping: a young Viridian girl strung up to the chandelier, her innards hanging out in a bloody mess!
In terrible shape as she was, the girl regained some lucidity after being released from the chandelier. She told them her name was Ariel, and related a strange story:
“One night after dinner, Father told everyone that he had a very special present for Mother. It was a very pretty necklace! But then a big monster and two smaller monsters came out of the necklace! And the big monster told the smaller monsters to get the lovers, and they jumped on Father and Nanny Alba! Then Mother and Grandma started yelling at Father, and everyone ran away! Then Grandma came to get me... and now I’m here.”
The child's injuries were quite severe and the party wasn't sure if they could help her. In the meantime, they explored the dining room and parlour, spotting an oil painting of a newlywed couple with a copper nameplate that read:
Philotheos Sten and Domitilla Sten. Married Sunstrong 17, 4423
Mounted on the wall above the painting were two fine-looking crossed falcatas that looked functional enough. The group took all these items and left Ariel for the moment to continue exploring.
The two other rooms on the main floor turned out to be Philotheos' office and a conservatory. The centrepiece in the conservatory was a grand harp, and three statuettes of dark blue & yellow marble rested on the mantelpiece: a dragon, eagle and nymph. The group took all of these and loaded them into their cart.
In Philotheos' office, Lothos rifled the great oak desk and found stacks of business papers - deeds, shipping manifests, etc. He pocketed a stack to peruse later, along with a fine stiletto in one of the drawers. The group was drawn to the large, shining silvery cube in the back corner which turned out to be an advanced combination safe! Three number-wheels ranged from 1 to 20. After giving it some thought, they fetched the painting of the Stens' wedding-day from their wagon. Guessing that 17 and 8 were important (Sunstrong is the 8th month of the year), they tried a few combinations until hitting upon 17 - 8 - 1. The shining door swung open and revealed Philotheos' hidden fortune!
It was at this time that Lothos thought to consult the mysterious ancient tome in Eric's possession. Pricking his finger, he wrote on the pages in blood, describing the party's situation and what they knew. Oddly, the book had a ready answer! This disaster was likely caused by the gift Philotheos gave his wife. The book identified it as The Necklace of the Sleepless Queen. It was created long ago by someone called the Dead King, to destroy all love in the world.
Perturbed by this news and not wanting to meet Ariel's sadistic grandmother or the "monsters" spawned by the necklace, the party elected to start the mansion ablaze and retreat safely with their wealth. Aladar IX used his Unseen Servant to carry a torch around inside the house while the others barred the door to prevent any aberrations from escaping. They waited until flames were visible from outside, then rode out of Targnol full-tilt, their wagon full of loot.
Return To the Immortal City
On the road home, Lothos consulted the strange blood-drinking tome again, learning its name: Pheldrazash. It claimed to know many other secrets, and was willing to teach him and Aladar IX a spell that would expand their knowledge for free: Call to Familiar Spirit.
Two days' travel from Viridistan, the party approached the Great Wall: a colossal structure a quarter-mile high and 200 feet thick, built by the ancients in the dawning days of the world for reasons unknown to men. Approaching the eastern entrance, called the Moon Gate, they met a farmer on the road who told them a strange tale:
After hearing that rumour, the gang pressed on towards the City of Spices, glad to be home after their bizarre and harrowing journeys. To move their ill-gotten loot, Lothos travelled to the Otherside district where many of his elven kinfolk live in ghettos, segregated from the larger city. His cousin Darius said he "knew a guy," and a meeting could be arranged at the Plaza of Dark Delights that night. The sullen, cloaked Viridian who met Darius & the party was eager to buy most of their loot - his eyes lit up with greed at the sight of the gold trade bars. He wasn't especially interested in the painting, but kicked in a bit of silver for it as part of the whole deal.
Thousands of silver richer than they had ever been before, the party cast about for something to spend their money on. Someone had heard of a pleasure palace for the rich in the exclusive Cliffside district, called The Sign of Olive & Lotus. Anything could be had there for the right price: fine liquor, exotic foods, high-stakes games of chance, tantalizing companions and strange drugs.
Once again installing "Sir Karavon" in the front of their humble wagon, the group rode up the gates of Cliffside, waving their stolen deeds in the guards' faces. Suitably cowed by the presence of a knight who owned such property, they opened the gates. Following the main Cliffsedge Road, the party espied a beacon in the night. A lone tout, signalling late-night revellers down to his place of business, which turned out to be the very establishment they sought!
The Sign of Olive & Lotus was built right into the side of the cliffs, accessible only by narrow, ancient stair carved into the living rock. The view of Trident Gulf during the day is said to be unparalleled. Checking in cost a princely sum of 200 silvers per person per night, for the cheapest suites and a berth for the horses and wagon! The group was led through sparkling marble hallways by a mute eunuch wearing only a sash of gold lamé. Over carpets made from the skins of striped tigers and snow-white northern wolves, past doorways trimmed in gold leaf with smiling silk-clad houris the party reached their rooms.
With a bit of privacy for the first time in a while, Lothos and Aladar IX ignited the special incenses and herbs they had previously brought and each cast the spell that would summon a spiritual helper to their side: Call to Familiar Spirit.
This done, the gang prepared to party as only those in the Immortal City can...
1900 copper coins
Ornate grand harp (planned to sell later)
fine stiletto (Lothos)
2 decorative falcatas (Lothos and Meep)
stack of Philotheos' documents, deeds, etc (Lothos)
Sunday, October 18, 2020
Once a staging-point for Imperial military ventures in the region, the town has since shrunk to a fraction of its former population, only farmers and fishermen. Almost all current residents live north of the river in newer adobe buildings, leaving the decaying army barracks-blocks on the south side alone. These decaying buildings can be had for cheap by outlaws, adventurers, eccentrics, and others with a few coins who make it to the last station before the edge of the world.
The guys have been based out of this town for the entire campaign. After scouring the internet for a small farming village with a river going through the middle (seemed like it would be an easy thing to find...) with no luck, I decided to draw one myself. Came out half-decently I think, thanks to some internet tutorials - enough to fool my players into thinking I downloaded it from somewhere.
You'll notice there is no 7 on the map for "Home." That's because my players haven't picked out which house is theirs yet. Gotta make em do that before we play next, but I'm still working on the next ultra nasty dungeon, which will be a bit complicated and is taking me a long while. In the mean time, enjoy my hand-cramping digital artwork.
Wednesday, September 9, 2020
The kickoff to my (currently online) Labyrinth Lord game based around the City-State of the World Emperor was last Halloween, when I ran an ostensible one-shot for my regulars and some of their friends who had never gamed before.
I wrote this report up for all of them to read, and may as well share it with you folks here. Now that we're making progress in this campaign, you can expect other fun material forthwith.
I also included what I thought would be a fun campaign kickoff, combined with NSFW - the adventure idea at the back of Kelvin Green's Forgive Us, called "Death And Taxes." Mixing these adventures together went pretty well, and of course I had to add in some of my own ideas as well. Later play reports will show that the PCs, in classic fashion, have not pursued ANY of the leads discovered in this session.
NO SALVATION FOR WITCHES
1st Meadowlark, 4433
A neighbouring farmer was the only other attendee. He was confused that Bishop Gray hadn't sent at least a junior priest to officiate and worried about Blake's missing 11-year old daughter Deotina. He also mentioned a group of tax collectors had been asking questions, and asked the group to find out anything they could. A search of Blake's home turned up little except his old Legion gear and a scrap of paper torn from his diary about the taxmen. There were signs someone had packed and left in a hurry.
At the caravanserai, the party found human bodies everywhere killed and mutilated in the most horrible ways. The only two people left alive were a terrified, useless traveler named Arrerand and the concussed woman Naniela, who was beyond his power to help. She mumbled and raved about "red lights in the sky... the dancing woman with skin of diamonds" and clutched her bleeding head wound. Eric healed her injury and she became more lucid. The two helpless travelers were interrogated about the tax collectors and recent events but didn't know much. The party sent them on their way.
Thinking quickly, Eric stepped in and engaged the man in a discussion about witches and their verification. As a man of the cloth his words carried weight on these matters and he convinced the crowd to disperse. Without his mob, Kynnakon was less confident. He released the "witch" Mertysa to the party's care and told them a strange story: six women had passed through towards the priory a few days ago armed and armoured, dressed in strange clothes. Since then all their livestock had died and they blamed witchcraft.
Lothos circled around the village to investigate the red glow. A small red sphere floated at head height, softly glowing. While the townsfolk were distracted he took it in his cloak and rejoined the group, who departed before the crowd's temper could change again. Returning to the priory, the small red sphere crumbled into dust, sympathetically bringing down the giant glowing dome and allowing entry. Unluckily for the elf, the sphere destroyed a few of his possessions as it vanished from the world - including his spellbook!
Inside The Priory
The party entered the grounds, avoiding the church for now. Searching the outbuildings revealed a succession of horrors - women giving birth to mutated children, a man and woman fused together while still alive and a puddle of fast-moving scarlet bile.
Outside the baths, they were greeted by an imposing figure - Sir Karavon, a knight in gleaming white plate mail. He demanded to know their business and claimed to serve the cause of Mistress Orelia. After all his tough talk, battle was inevitable. Lothos sustained a terrible blow from Karavon's greatsword but the group felled him together and stripped the body.
Inside the church was a whirl of activity: dozens of peasant women dancing in a mad frenzy guarded by five heavily armed foreign women, overseen by two robed & hooded men and an ice-pale Avalonian sorceress in a red sash. Orelia called out to "Sir Karavon," asking the knight for a report. Tullius Jr indicated the angry mob outside and mobilized the warrior-women to battle, remaining indoors at Orelia's side in case of emergency.
Battle was joined in front of the church! The Five Bishops (as they called themselves) guarded the door in a wedge formation, bravely meeting the mob's charge. What they weren't prepared for was the party's vicious ambush: Humphrey ran up behind one for a backstab while Aladar and Lothos peppered them from a safe distance. The Bishops couldn't withstand this assault for long and began a fighting retreat into the church. This turned out to be a mistake, as the mob charged in and held the door open! Things began to happen very quickly. Tullius Jr showed his true colours when he struck Orelia by surprise with his greatsword, nearly killing her in one strike. Retaliation with her magic wand did not have its intended effect. Two-Faced Humphrey ran around to the back and climbed up to a window for a surprise attack. Eric began smashing windows which allowed Lothos, Aladar and Avala to take up firing positions.
In a deft use of magic, Aladar used his Unseen Servant to snatch Orelia's magic wand right from her hand before she could use it again. Tullius' greatsword finished her off after that. With magical support from Avala's earth elementine, a diving attack by Humphrey and a magical grasping fist from Aladar, the two robed figures were destroyed and revealed to be only the flayed skins of men animated by Orelia's witchcraft.
With all opponents defeated, the mob began dragging the dancers off the platform and the party felt the beginnings of a tremor run through the building. Thinking quickly they fled the scene just in time for the church to come crashing down in a blaze of light and magic, killing or wounding all inside! The rubble began to burn, but Eric and Humphrey dragged over a tub of water from the baths, buying everyone time to sift the wreckage, rescue a few townsfolk and recover some valuables and the mysterious book they originally sought.
The smoky priory grounds were visited by a new group - the much-talked-about tax collectors! Their leader was a turbaned Viridian named Irmugar, sent by the Padishah to investigate rumours that Blake had stolen or unreported wealth. They seemed not to know he was dead. The party convinced the taxmen to take the peasant survivors back to Drydale - Irmugar indicated Tullius Jr and agreed the situation was well in hand with a "Knight of the Cockatrice" present. But something else he said got the group thinking...
Eric meanwhile was perusing the blackened tome he had found in the rubble and touched its faded pages with his bloodstained hands. They blossomed into fresh crimson runes and symbols, while words formed in Imperial: "Greetings. Whom do I have the pleasure of addressing?"
Charles & Gwendolin
the scarlet bile
"The Five Bishops"
2 animated skin guardians