Monday, March 22, 2010

Session Recap #3

It seems like it's high time to post something about actual game play. I've been putting off the writing of this post for some time now, mostly because I still don't know how to constructively re-approach the last session.

Because of this this post will be divided into two parts - a short session recap, followed by my thoughts on my DMing. Here's the actual game bit:

Session Recap #3
The session started with the PCs descending beneath the city of Adamask. As it turned out, the passage discovered in the Iron Sword's cellar lead to the sewers/remains of a much older settlement.

Since the whole session was primarily composed of just wandering around, I'll try to provide the key events in the form of bullet points.
  • Shortly after descending into the sewers, the girls made their way into a passage filled with webs and spider eggs. Although they got ambushed by 4 giant spiders, they managed to survive (and torch the eggs) and press deeper into the spiders' lair, just to encounter a gargantuan (and I mean it in the literary sense) black widow, which proved to be a formidable foe. Though dangerous, the fight was short. The players lured the spider into the narrowest passage so that it wasn't able to turn around. There rest was simple - while Kai and Winston were facing the beast, Juchi performed numerous back stabs. In the spiders lair the players found a helmet shining a blue light and a passage leading into a forgotten gem cutters workshop.
  • Later they encountered a small group of juvenile delinquents who took them into their hideout. The thieves' lair proved to be populated by three more grown men. After some crude role playing from both my and the party's side, a fight broke out. It was short and messy, with two of the thieves decapitated while crying for mercy. The group of street youths decided to not interfere, so when the fight was over, they offered their services to the party (they tried to deceive them and get them killed, but in the end just ditched them on the surface).
  • For some reason the girls thought that their main goal is finding out where the rats are coming from. I must say that I found this quite amusing and probably will dedicate the whole post to this issue. Anyway, I did put some were rats on the map so eventually, that's where the girls got. It turned out that within the sewers a group of wererats built a shrine for worshiping some weird god. Inside there was only one rat priest with several rodents, all of which were quickly disposed of due to the extra muscle provided by the street gang.
  • After destroying the shrine the players ascended back to the inn in order to finally get some proper sleep. One of them woke up at night hearing screeching noises coming from the ground floor. Soon all three were awake and going down to inspect the main chamber. Down stairs they found two wererats (in the shrine there were signs of 3 inhabitants) dragging the unconscious tavern boy, who began changing into one of them (due to an earlier leg bite)! Needles to say, the ratmen and the half turned boy were dead in no time and the innkeeper, who got woken up by the fight, was crying over the boys body...
Also, this exchange took place:

Julia: looking quite tired from across the table "Can we go to the tavern now and get some spells and rest?"
Katja: "But we rested in the gem cutters workshop!"
Julia: Yawns, " We did? Then why am I so sleepy?", puts head on the table.

art by Lucas Hardi

It is your destiny!

I promise to keep this short. James Maliszewski claims that Episode IV is the best part of the trilogy*, because:

A friend of mine once said that Star Wars is the only one of the series that didn't take place within the Star Wars universe.

Star Wars is the only one of the series that simply tells a story rather than telling a story about Star Wars. To varying degrees, all of the sequels and prequels exist, at least in part, to tell us more about the characters, places, and events of the original film.

And I agree. However, I must note that this assessment doesn't state anything new, it simply follows from the fact that Star Wars is the first film in the series ( which btw. wasn't planned until the movie turned out to be a huge success). As such it had to be a stand alone work of art, constructed around a closed story arc and with no lose ends sticking out.

James also writes:

Certainly there were lots of details established in the first film, but most of those details existed primarily to advance the story it was telling rather than to flesh out the setting of the story. It's the only film of the series that's like that, which probably explains why, even after years of interminable "expansions" to the original through movies, TV shows, comic books, novels, and other media, it still retains a freshness and vibrancy that the others lack.
I disagree!!! While it might be argued that, indeed the other two movies are a kind of an appendix to the first one, it's still The Empire Strikes Back, which holds the lead as (in my opinion at least) the best movie.

Why? Because it's probably the episode that has the most dramatic tension, as well as plot and character development. In fact, compared to the other two movies. it could be seen as not only being numerically and chronologically in the center, but also as the true culmination of the saga.

And I'm not even mentioning the multitude of cultural tropes and motifs which make that movie (and the whole trilogy) one of the most postmodern works in history of cinema.

Blah blah blah

Here is the real reason for this post.

*to me there will always be only 3 Star Wars movies

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

11 best doom/drone albums to play while playing

I wanted to write this post for some time. A few days ago Zak reminded me of it, so here it is (in no particular order).

11 best doom/drone albums to play while playing:

Witch, Witch
This is the side project of J. Mascis from Dinosaur Jr. If you don't like his first band, don't worry Witch sounds nothing alike. This record has a very strong 70's/stoner vibe and is filled with melodic songs about seers and occult.

Sunn O))), Monoliths and Dimensions
This is the newest release from what might be the most famous doom band. Their whole discography is superb and it's difficult to choose one album. Monumental, atmospheric and mad. A must.

Electric Wizard, Dopethrone

Another classic doom band. This album is often listed as genre defining. To me it sounds like the perfect Warhammer game - witch hunters, satanism and the wizzaaaard...

Eagle Twin, The Unkindness of Crows
A recently formed duo consisting of experimental metal veterans. Features nice Tibetan/Mongolian throat singing and very clever compositions. Saw them live supporting Sunn O))) - they kicked ass.

Boris, Amplifier Worship

To me it's the best band to ever emerge from Japan. One of the last truly original bands in the world. Their discography is huge and spans over many genres, styles and moods. This album is a fine specimen of awesome dooming and droning.

Fun Fact: one of the vinyl editions had a
Green jewel box with a gummy worm in the spine; at time of release, there were rumors that said worm had hallucinogenic properties akin to those of LSD when eaten; these rumors have been denied by Southern Lord, the band, and people who actually ate their worm

Sunn O))) & Boris, Altar

A one of a kind collaboration. Just look at the fucking cover. Sounds like crawling in search of an old hag living in a labyrinth of earth, tangled roots and worms. Side note: be sure to get the B side - SatanOscillateMyMetallicSonatas.

Melvins, Bootlicker

This album is probably the calmest in their discography. Although it can be called "laid back", I feel it has a strange tension present throughout it's length. I'd recommend it for building suspense by contrast with other records from this list.

Boris, Akuma No Uta

Another album from the best power trio out there. It's a fine mixture of slow and fast riffing, full of 70's feel. In my opinion - one of the best metal albums ever. Have I mentioned they have the best female guitarist of all time?

Earth, The Bees Made Honey In Lion's Skull

This is the latest effort from the doom/drone precursors. Heavy, but delicate and laid back. For me it's a very relaxing record. Good for calmer moments and as a break from more brutal stuff.

The Sword, Gods of the Earth

Both Sword albums are really great. Their awesome riffs and tons of old school hooks make me feel like I'm 15 again. An ideal illustration to the original Conan stories (in fact, some songs are referencing Howard's works).

Eight Hands For Kali, Himalayan Necromantia

If you ever wondered how the call of Cthulhu really sounds like - this is the answer. Space, madness, a dark ritual with cries of dying people in the background. This sounds - how I felt when I first played DOOM.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Lame Entry

It's been a while since I posted anything. In fact last month wasn't exactly a flurry of posts. There are many reasons for this, one would be me being sick, the other one - me taking a break from the blogosphere.

The time away from my blogger dashboard made me realize something important. The OSR (or whatever you want to call it) really is too big for one person to grasp. I know this is no news to any of you, however, after a week of not reading blogs, I realized I can't keep up with the few I'm following. I know amongst the entries I "missed" are some really good ones, ones that will really make my creative juices flow. However there are also many, that I will dig through simply out of duty. I'm not even mentioning how much time it will take me to read all of them (including the links etc.).

Don't get me wrong! I'm not trying to be condescending or negative. I'm not very happy with how this blog looks and often have second thoughts about it's usefulness to anyone. There are many posts that now seem unnecessary and in fact even the best blogs have many posts I could live without.

After all, I started it as a kind of scrapbook, hoping it will motivate me and help me order my loose ideas, as well as improve my writing in English. But now I find myself spending more time reading other blogs than thinking about their content or writing my own entries. I became less creative and started being responsive. In fact, sometimes I want to write a post in response to someone's entry, but the pace of discussion moves so fast, that I feel my opinion becomes completely redundant.

It all comes down to the fact that I want to keep this blog and I want it to be good. Mostly for my own enjoyment. Unluckily I've fallen into the trap of ever adding one more blog to my read list and now I can't navigate through them.

That is why I decided to narrow down the amount of blogs I'm reading.

Once again, it's not because any of those blogs suck. On the contrary, some of you take so much of my attention that I stop imagining my own things.

I really hope you all understand and keep blogging.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A challange for artistically handicaped

It's good to have friends who aren't artistically retarded because, even though I draw like a 4 year old, I can always ask someone to draw something awesome.

So last week my friend Adam felt inspired by demonpig. I found his interpretation extremely amusing and asked him to make a drawing of a creepy wizard.

So here it is. I give you: Membrious the Mad!

I still can't decide which one is better... I fucking love the green light (which in my opinion is the creepiest kind of light possible) and the wooden leg is just a stroke of genius!

So.. now it's time for A CHALLENGE!!!

The only rule is: It has to be one comment long.




art by Adam Banaszek

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A dungeon from my head

It is a happy day. Why? Because today I got my medical results and I don't have brain cancer, tumors, diabetes, or any kind of neural damage! Yay! I've also felt good for the longer part of the week and there is no sign of my problems returning.

So what was it? I dunno. Truth to be told, no one knows. The most probable hypothesis claims that it was an inflammation of the Membranous Labyrinth.

Now go to this link and look at it! Isn't it awesome? We carry a nice dungeon in our heads (actually two of them. dungeons, not heads).

In honor of our labyrinths, here's a little something to celebrate my well being. Enjoy.

Membrious Parasitic Dungeon

This micro dungeon is the home of Membrious the Mad, a magician of old times who seeking solitude and peaceful environment for his mystical inquiries and strange experiments, moved to live in a pocket dimension.

Membrious arranged his artificial plane in a very peculiar manner. He formed it from usual construction materials - stone, metal and wood, but decided to fill a large portion of the dungeon with a live symbiotic organism that would filter the air and water.

Needles to say, as many powerful (and mad) magicians, Membrious was extremely paranoid about his security. That's why he decided not to anchor his solitude to any particular place in the actual world. Instead he created a magical mechanism, which allowed him to randomly connect his dimension to one of the already existing dungeons.

This means, that every time the mechanism was activated, it "moved" the dungeon entrance (which looks like a normal, iron reinforced, wooden door) into another dungeon from the list of dungeons known to Membrious at the time of creating this apparatus. Unluckily, the mechanism is now malfunctioning and changes the placement of the entrance at random.

The map and descriptions:

1. This is the entrance. After stepping in, the visitors will enter a long spiral corridor. The walls are made of old, copper colored metal, kind of like a big metal tube. The strange thing about it is that no matter which side the players move - in or out, the corridor will always seem to lead down. The DM should place some kind of a pit trap near the entrance.

At the end of the corridor, just before the door, the PC's will encounter a camp of hobgoblins... They are discussing their plans and if the players won't kill them at first sight, they will explain that they entered the unknown door from their dungeon, but now the exit leads to a different place. Moreover, their leader took 3 of their companions and went to investigate the strange place. They are confused and presume he is dead, if the players show some initiative, the hobgoblins will be willing to join forces.

2. The main door. They are made of coppery metal and have a gargoyle face on the surface. They aren't locked.

3. The mechanism. The walls of this whole room are filled with strange instruments and containers. Looks kind of like this. It is also the home of Membrious' clockwork golem.

He was created to keep maintenance of the mechanism, but now the lifeless body of armor lies on the floor covered with some king of plant growth. If the players remove the growth and menage to heat up his body, or put a electrical discharge to it, the golem will awake and demand explanations. He's perception is quite limited and so is his intellect. The players might gain his assistance at restoring the mechanism to its proper state, by (for example) claiming that one of them is Master Membrious, or came to see him. On the other hand if the players bring him back to life and don't come up with something creative, the golem will attack should they try to descend further into the complex.

4. A small corridor leads past a small bathroom and into the hall. The toilet sink restores 1d4 hp after washing hands. On the other hand, the toilet might scare the players by demand "feeding" in the hoarse whisper of an old woman.

5. This is the main hall. All the wall surface of this tall room is filled with book shelves and cupboards containing strange and bizarre objects. The only exception is east wall in the passage to area 7, where a large painting, similar to this one hangs. Some of the PC's may feel like they caught a glimpse of movement within the painting. Perhaps the girl smiled as they were passing by, or winked when one of them was turning his head away? The room is lit by an elaborate organic structure hanging from the celling, supporting several glowing globes. If the players manage to obscure the light, or turn it down in any manner, they will be able to see the true image of the girl in the picture. Should the room be completely dark, she will leave the canvas.

6. Kitchen and dinning room. The players might easily mistake it for an alchemists lab. Cooking utensils, skinning devices, strange glass containers and so on are scattered all over the place. There is a high chance, that any food the players find is poisoned or has hallucinogenic effects. Similarly, any containers with liquids have equal chances of being either heeling/boosting or narcotics/poison. There is a large hole (crawl space sized in the wall) with an acidic substance constantly flowing out and into an elaborate basin.

7. Those are the workroom (on the right) and the bedroom (left) of Membroius. They are mostly filled by many strange memorabilia, some examples:
  • a vampire's coffin
  • a jar with mind flayer's head that will try to communicate telepathically with the players
  • an enchanted lute with a spirit of a bard trapped inside - he will speak only after a skilled musician plays the instrument
In the bedroom lies a concealed entrance to a secret escape tunnel (8) which leads to the main hall (the exit is hidden behind a book shelf).

The workroom, apart from a huge desk with many secrets compartments, contains a weird chair that looks something like this. It's the place from which the mechanism is operated. To change the "location" of the dungeon, one has to place a copper pin ended with a HUGE ruby in one of the holes in the copper tablet map, that is fixed to the wall over the desk. At the moment of entering the dungeon the pin is inserted in one of those places, however until the mechanism is repaired it won't work.

The chair is occupied by the body of Membroius. The remains of the once famous mage look as if something sucked all the water out of his body... The players might notice a thin cable-like thing lying on the floor, connecting the body with a hole in the nearby wall. If they fail their spot checks, the mages carcass will attack them when they are near (for example, when they are searching the desk). He is now controlled by the symbiotic organism, that provides air, energy and water to the dungeon. This organism mutated for unknown reasons and became hostile. Treat him like a powerful construct, that has some of the abilities of the mage he used to be.

9. and 10. those are two "pipes" big enough to crawl in. Pipe number 9 looks like a polished copper pipe with constant flow of an acidic liquid. Pipe number 10 is made of stone and is covered with polyp like tissue, that moves and gives a small breeze. Both lead into space 11.

11. This is the chamber in which the dungeon's "parasite" dwells. The floor is covered with an organic tissue which serves as the organism's digestive surface. It is covered with acidic mucus that is meant to melt any organic mater before it is fully ingested. The half melted remains of the hobgoblin leader and his companions can be found on the floor (perhaps he had a fine magical axe, that is now lying in the acidic fluid). Needles to say, the players standing in the substance will suffer damage to their gear and eventually to themselves. Any contact with naked flesh will cause serious burns.

The parasite itself is somewhat similar to a roper or anything else that is tentacly and scary. I leave the details to any DM. One thing is sure, it is vulnerable to fire. Perhaps he is resistant to non magical weapons? Or maybe he is fully resistant to magic and that is why Membrious got killed? WHat will happen when the organism is dead? Will the lights go out and the vampire/monster/girl from the painting wreck havoc?

I leave this and many other matters (like treasure, stats and touch-ups) to the rest of you.