Saturday, February 20, 2010

Totally miniless

Zak's last entry (which btw. is super awesome) made me realize that I've never used miniatures in D&D (or WFRP for that matter).


I dunno. I had friends who played Warhammer Fantasy Battle and they had loads of miniatures, but somehow it never occurred to us to use them in a RPG game...

I started thinking about this strange phenomenon and I came up with three reasons:

  • Minatures in Poland are expensive as fuck, especially that, until quite recently, Games Workshop was owning 90% of the market. Even today few shops sell miniatures made by other companies...
  • We were fully satisfied with hand drawn maps on which we marked our positions using pencils, dice or coins.
  • I've never met anyone using minis in their games.
And this is how I got used to playing the game. When I fist learned that in the west people use minis for RPGs - I couldn't comprehend it. Why would anyone spend money for that, when you can just use your imagination?!

All in all, I was very content with the mini-less way of playing RPGs. And never had any second thoughts...

Until I saw this. And than, this.

Perhaps I was missing something? I can't tell... All I know is I've never seen something like it and it sure does look like limitless amounts of fun!

Zak's styrofoam castle made me also think about how popular playing D&D with minis really is?

The stereotype propagated by the WotC books is: ANYBODY playing D&D should do it using minis (from WotC), dungeon maps (from WotC) and terrain models (from WotC).

This is obviously a cheap marketing trick, but still I wonder...

Logic would indicate, that old school players should have a soft spot for minis because of the game's Chainmail origins. But is it true?

Take this poll and let's see for ourselves!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The destination will remain unknown

As you might have noticed, Destination Unknown is no more... If I'm the first to break the sad news, visit The RPG Corner or The Underdark Gazette for more info.

I will miss reading Christian's blog, but I'm happy to see he's still commenting on blogs and I hope all of his plans work out.

Since Destination Unknown was swarming with a lot of good music, I've decided to honor Christian's blog with a truly old-school vid.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Session recap 2

As some of you might have gathered from my previous session recap, I've played the second session of my new S&W campaign over a weak a go. I was eager to go over that game and post a short recap, since it proved to be a great tool for ordering what happened during the session, as well as the progress of my players - both in game and on the meta-game level.

Unluckily I've been struck down by some weird illness that gives me vertigo so strong that for a few days I was barely able to walk, not to mention using a computer. I feel a bit better now, but after a weak of visiting doctors, there's still no clue what's wrong and I still can't spend too much time typing - this post took me 3 days to write!

But anyway, since I feel a bit better and can finally do something constructive - I give you the second session recap!

The next morning after the happenings of the first session, Kai and Juchi decided to leave the town of Stillwater and head south for the nearest city, where they hoped to coin some of the goods they retrieved from the caves underneath the shrine of Skaghe.

As soon as they decided to leave the tavern they met Winston - the young boy that helped them in the caves and who was eager to join them on their adventures. He lied (of which they did not know) that his father gave him permission to go.

The girls noticed that the boy was wearing a viking-like helmet, a farewell present from Thorson. The former adventurer decided that the several times he got wounded in the caves was too much for his old bones and gave away his lucky helmet.

The girls accepted the boys company, but only after they made sure that he was wise enough to prepare his own traveling rations. And so they set out into the wilderness...

That was the point where I pulled out a white sheet of hex paper... As I was preparing for the session I decided to make it a hex-crawl during which the players will draw their own map. Using the hexographer I made myself the outline of the terrain, but decided not to mark any specific locations. Instead I created some random charts that would determine what the players might encounter, thus filling the map with dungeons, encounters, villages, etc...

Here are some of the things that happened during their travel through the wilderness:

1. A day of travel from Stillwater, the girls saw a line of smoke emerging from distant ruins. The whole party managed to sneak to the ruins, despite them being located in open sight and on top of a small hill. Within the partially collapsed walls of a small keep they saw three Norse males sitting and chatting...

Kai, filled with joy of meeting her kinsmen, neglected any common sense and came out of hiding. The three men immediately attacked the warrior-woman, proving to be bandit berserkers. The fight was short and the party was cooking warm stew before the bodies got completely cold.

2. Few days later, the party came to a river. As they were following the road, hoping it will take them to a bridge or a brood, they came upon the remains of a burned village. They were examining the ruins, trying to make out what had happened, when the other river bank started swarming with goblins.

Julia and Katja decided to face them. The encounter was long, with the cowardly goblins sending deadly rain of arrows, nearly taking Winston's life... Finally, the girls decided to retreat and try to find another crossing up the river.

I noticed a drop in mood, but i hope they learned to judge their foes more carefully...

They circled the forests for a few days and found themselves returning to the village, hoping that the goblins are long gone ("It's not like they're sitting there waiting for us"). Turned out the goblins left some guards, since the bridge was the only crossing in miles. However there were few guards and the party manage to safely cross the river.

3. On the next day they came across an old burial ground, but weren't interested in jumping into the open mouth of danger again.

4. Few hexes to the south the party had to stop, as the road was cut in half by a canyon-like rift in the ground. The road seemed to continue on the other side, prompting that perhaps the hole in the ground came into existence quite recently.

Kai and Juchi decided to look for a way around the rift. They lost one day traveling west where they found this Elder construction. I was hoping that after they defeated the enemies they'd flee from the monster without barring the doors, but they proved to be more thoughtful than I suspected. Since the little dungeon wasn't a path to the other side of the rift, the party decided to head East.

5. After two days they've found the "end" of the rift and decided to get back to the road. They didn't want to loose another day for following the ledge and so they went straight through the woods, hoping their path will cut the road at some point.

This took them to a hex occupied by a goblin war camp (probably belonging to the same goblins that raised the village), but the party decided to sneak by.

6. After that they finally made it back to the road, just to enter into the middle of a fight - two merchants wagons fighting off bandits. The brigands proved to be no match for party's skill and soon our heroes were offered a lift on one of the wagons.

The merchants were quiet and didn't ask many questions, nor were they asked any by the party. Somehow no one voiced any suspicions about the place where the merchants were encountered... They were traveling south, but they were just a day away from the rift and no other trading rout was visible. Was their travel north interrupted by the appearance of a new geological formation, making them turn back? or was it the goal of their travel?

Whatever was the answer to those questions, the rest of their travel went smoothly and just three days later, after almost three weeks of traveling, they made it to the city of Adamask!

I must admit, that I didn't expect the party to get to the city during this session, not to mention exploring it! However, ever since being beaten by goblins, I sensed that girls got weary of the wilderness, so at some point I decided it's time to risk letting them reach Adamask, with me being completely unprepared. Luckily, the game took off anew once they crossed the city walls.

Once in, they were very interested in the market (here I could put something about women and shopping, but I would feel a horrible hypocrite as I 've seen male players spending hours haggling with traders). Juchi managed to get a good deal for preparing the wolf hide and both girls took some time to flirt with a tall, black southerner trading in fine silks and exotic wares.

Later they stopped at the fine artisans street and visited an old jeweler (role-played by putting a beer bottle-cap in my eye), with whom they haggled really hard and managed to make a nice profit on gems they found in the goblin caves. They also briefly stopped at a blacksmith, who directed them to a good tavern. Before they left he mentioned that he's the innkeepers friend and perhaps they'd find some work there.

The Iron Sword turned out to be a small and modest inn, run by an old mercenary called Drognar. After a short conversation he told them of his problems with rats and offered a free meal and room for the night. When asked, why he hadn't settled it himself, the man told them that he ordered his tavern boy to take care of the rats, but one of them bit him badly and now the wound was turning bad. After giving it some thought, Kai and Juchi promised him, they'd look into it first thing in the morning.

After a good meal, the girls talked a bit with the innkeeper and asked him about good brothels!!! He told them, that hearty adventurers like themselves would probably feel best in Warrior's Rest.

As they were about to leave, they noticed little Winston trying to sneak out. They told him it's dangerous to wonder the city alone at nighttime and inquired where was he heading? The boy tried to sell them a story about "leaving to get some air", but to his embarrassment they saw through his bluff and managed to pull from him his true destination. The boy was off to a brothel himself! After laughing about "itching virginity" they promised to take him with. Needles to say that only made the awkward boy more uncomfortable.

Warrior's Rest proved to be a jolly and crowded place. The bartender, who the clients call simply Bob (an anagram for his long and complicated name), turned out to look and sound like Jack Black.

The girls told him their business and the innkeeper offered Winston "a go for half a price". Kai also found some pleasure in the arms of a woman, while Juchi waited in the main room drinking the surprisingly good beer...

After the curse of Winston's virginity had been lifted and everyone met back at the bar, I asked whether the girls want to party Conan style and exchange some of their coin for experience. To my surprise they were reluctant, but after some thinking decided to take a roll on the party table, Winston included.

The next morning was a painful one, exactly as it should be! Kai woke up bruised up, with a black eye. Juchi smelled literally like a pig, vaguely remembering getting into some argument with an old woman. But the biggest surprise was yet to come. As they descended into the main tavern room, Drognar welcomed Winston with curses and shouts. As it turned out the boy got so hammered, that he peed all over the tavern's main room...

After this was settled with some coin, the party bought themselves a big breakfast, and still a bit hungover, decided to descend into the cellar. There they encountered four giant rats. The fight was short, but Kai got bit by the only infected rat. Julia almost neglected that, as the girls found a crack in the wall and wanted to explore more of the city's underground. Luckily, in the end she decided to go seek help at the temple of Skaghe.

At the temple they were offered some cure potions, but the temple pharmacist told them that three portions will take a day to prepare. The party decided to go easy on themselves and spend the day on sight seeing, until the medications are ready.

The next day they received the promised medicine and descended beyond Iron Sword's cellar, deep into the darkness underneath the city of Adamask...

Monday, February 8, 2010

Stories instead of Skills

In my last session recap I mentioned using a special table to establish characters pasts. The idea was partially inspired by Warhammer's professions table and partly by reading a similar thing here. However, unlike Akrasia, I decided not to add any specific descriptions and make the whole thing as open to interpretation as possible. The reason for this is very simple, I decided to use character past as a guideline for ruling what skills the PCs posses.

Instead of including another elaborate system of rolling for stuff, I decided that it's way better to just roll once and gain some character depth along with the information about the skills they acquired before becoming adventurers.

For example, in my game there is a cleric of Skaghe who used to be a jester on a court of some northern lord. Not only is this funny, but also grants her some knowledge and abilities other characters don't have.

Perhaps she's able to juggle extremely well, or perhaps when the need comes, she might remember something about the heraldry of northern noble families?

In other words, anytime the player of the jester cleric feels her background can aid her, she can try and play that to her advantage. I might ask for some kind of a story from the characters past (that the player will have to improvise) to justify such use of this rule, or I might just say no.

Finally, here's the aforementioned table:

Character Background Table:

1-2 Slave
3-4 Tax collector
5-6 Acolyte
7-8 Bandit
9-10 Farmer
11-12 Armorer
13-14 Whore
15-16 Circus artist
17-18 Healer
19-20 Squire
21-22 Fisherman
23-24 Gladiator
25-26 Messenger
27-28 Candle maker
29-30 Miner
31-32 Jester
33-34 Bartender
35-36 Medium
37-38 Gravedigger
39-40 Card Shark
41-42 Hunter
43-44 Bounty hunter
45-46 Artisan
47-48 Wagon Driver
49-50 Sailor
51-52 Rat catcher
53-54 Nun
55-56 Potter
57-58 Mercenary
59-60 Thief
61-62 Barbarian
63-64 Noble
65-66 Cultist
67-68 Scribe
69-70 Bodyguard
71-72 Forester
73-74 Servant
75-76 Scout
77-78 Minstrel
79-80 Guard
81-82 Grave robber
83-84 Ferry man
85-86 Tanner
87-88 Blacksmith
89-90 Beggar
91-92 Bastard
93-94 Smuggler
95-96 Torturer
97-98 Wizards apprentice
99-00 Roll twice

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Am I a Paladin or a Cultist?

Last week a D30 giveaway was held by Sniderman on his Mutant Future dedicated blog - The Savage Afterworld. Guess what! I won!Now I'm entitled to this:

If you haven't heard about The Order of D30, check this link.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Session recap 1


As you may know from my previous posts, last Friday I finally got back on the line with some D&D!

I haven't mentioned it before (or have I?), but after a long time of searching for some players, Julia (aka fishlemons) came up with an idea, that maybe her friend - Katja, would like to play with us. Katja proved to be intrigued enough to check my blog. After she read it (along with D&D with porn stars - thanks Zak) she got really amped about playing, to the point of buying her own set of dice a week early. Cool!

We decided to meet on Friday. We first made some pasta and, with our tummies full, decided to roll up characters. I had to take a small break beforehand to print all the spell lists, the dungeon map and so on. During that time girls got a bit restless at the kitchen table and I got really stressed out. My biggest fear was, that the girls will find the game boring and won't play ever again...

Luckily, seconds after we started to roll up characters, the atmosphere got joyful and we had a lot of laughs. Character creation took us quite a lot of time, since I had to explain everything and both players proved to be very inquisitive (which is obviously a good thing).

After everything got cleared up, the girls decided what race/class they want to play. Katja was very excited about my take on halflings, so that's what she decided to play. Julia, very in touch with the old school tradition, decided to play a half-elven cleric of Skaghe - a strategic choice aimed at the party's survival (apart from being an aesthetic one).

The most memorable moment of characters creation was a discussion that followed my question about the sex of their PCs.

K:"Hmmm, perhaps we should play men characters... They might have some special abilities..."
J: "What special abilities?! Peeing standing up?!"

More joy ensued, when I asked them to roll a d100 (on a special table that I made) to find out what their characters were doing before they decided to change their qualifications. And so we found out that Julia's PC used to be jester, while Katja's halfling was a candle maker (which btw. led her to quickly come up with a story that the nomadic halflings of my world make candles and lamps out of pony poo)

Here are our heroes (in order of appearance):

Juchi (Katja)
halfilng scout (thief) HP 5
STR 12 DEX 16 CON 15 INT 8 WIS 10 CHA 9

Kai (Julia)
half-elf, cleric of Skaghe HP 8
STR 17 DEX 12 CON 13 INT 8 WIS 16 CHA 10

As you can see, both characters are rather powerful. After rolling and all that stuff, girls went shopping with the S&W manual and I must say, that once again, they behaved like veterans of the game - buying ropes, rations, grappling hooks etc.

And so I played Goblin for the mood and our adventure begun.

We started out with a little prologue in order to clear up why both characters decided to travel and fight together (instead of risking crude roleplaying of good friends pretending they are complete strangers getting to know each other).

Turns out that the half-elf Kai was tired of serving as a Jester on the court of some northern Jarl and decided to hit the road in order to become someone respected - like a cleric of the powerful and feared Skaghe! After she got to one of the mountain monasteries, she had to wait outside for several nights and days, in order to prove she's strong enough to become a cleric-warrior. Of course, her motivation was strong and she got accepted into the order.

Skipping all that time, we moved on to the final day of Kai's apprenticeship, when an old monk called her and said that for the last trial, she has to travel south to a small village of Stillwater. There, there is a small shrine devoted to the Axe Wielder; where a statue holding an axe was protecting the land. Now it has been desecrated and Kai has to set things right. The old priest also informs her that on her way to Stillwater she should join arms with the first person she meets outside the monastery... Needles to say, that someone turned out to be Juchi.

After that introduction we started playing. The PC's were just a few hours away from Stillwater and slowly cold winter night was approaching. Kai and Juchi decided not to stop for the night and try rush for the village. I rolled for a random encounter and it turned out that a lone hungry wolf decided to prey on the party.

The fight was short, the wolf managed to wound the cleric, but Kai made him pay by splicing his head open with her axe (That's right. Clerics of Skaghe wield axes! DUH!). After that she decided to heal her leg with a Cure Light Wounds, while Juchi made a successful attempt at skinning the dead animal.

The adventurers finally got to the village, heading straight for the only tavern. Inside they let themselves get ripped-off; renting a very small room for 1 Gp. However they managed to get some quite good food included in the price of the room. They also decided to pay extra and take a warm bath.

As Juchi was washing Kai was approached by an old man named Thorson. He turned out to be an old adventurer and offered to take them to the old shrine of Skaghe, for a small price of course.

Next morning, while eating their breakfast (which the girls managed to haggle into the price of the room) they were approached by Winston, a boy who wants to be an adventurer, offering to aid them in their escapade. Since the boy was cute and annoying, the girls decided he could be a live shield and agreed to take him with them (little did they know that if they boy died during the adventure, his old father would turn the village against them). After that they met up with Thorson and set out.

The shrine turned out to be a small, a bit neglected building in the woods, just two hours away from the village. Juchi tied her pony and decided to enter in first. When she opened the door a huge log fell from the ceiling, speeding at her. Luckily she made her save and dodged the trap.

It turned out that the floor of the shrine collapsed, opening a huge hole in the ground, possibly swallowing the statue. As soon as the party descended into the darkness, they were ambushed by goblins.

I won't detail what exactly happened underground. I think it's enough to tell you that I took the dungeon from Chgowiz's One Page Dungeon pdf (it's called The Lost Staves of Maurath and was written by R. Lawrence Blake).

The main highlights were:
  • a giant frog, that scared the players a bit (apparently I acted it out quite well, although I think it was mostly Julia's frog-phobia) and they were afraid to kill it, leaving it for the end, setting it on fire by making it swallow a fire beetle's abdomen.

  • an Ogre, that also scared them a bit. Julia managed to roll well, beheading the beast and finishing the fight quite quickly. Old Thorson almost got killed when the huge body collapsed on him.
And that was pretty much it. Although no one died, the party got pretty roughed up and had to rest quite bit.

After clearing the dungeon and finding the aforementioned axe, everyone returned to the village. This is where some confusion set in - no one knew what to do next. To me it seemed obvious that the players are ment to rebuild the statue and place the axe on it, but I realized those were the instincts of an old player, not someone used to the railroady nature of computer games and etc.
I quickly managed to introduce an old fisherman, who noticed the party drowning their confusion in beer and suggested rebuilding the shrine.

The adventure ended after a few days of work. The party repaired the old statue (which smashed on the floor of the cave below the shrine) and replaced the axe. When they were about to leave, the old fisherman turned up and revealed himself as the same priest who sent Kai on her quest. He congratulated the party and told Kai that now she's officially a priestess of the order.

I'm not completely happy with the way I handled parts of the game. I also think some of my role playing was kinda stiff, but I hope it's all part of me warming up.

Now, if you excuse me, I have a game to prepare for tomorrow...

Monday, February 1, 2010

Stuff to do, people to roll with...

Finally, I have a moment to update!
For the past 6 days I was distributing my time among:
  • Metaphysics Of Science Workshop
  • Enjoying my winter break
  • Preparing a game
  • Playing D&D!
So yeah, it was quite a busy weekend.

As to my game, I will try to post the characters and a short recap tomorrow or the day after (since tomoro I'm going to see Lucio Fulci's Zombi II). Enough said, we're playing again this Friday!