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Topics - Kyle Aaron

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I've talked a bit about the design of this at my blog in these posts. In this video Bill and I have him make a character and get into a brawl. I'll use this thread to toss the ideas out to you guys.

The idea of the rules is to encourage teamwork. This is because in actual military and police special action teams, what makes them effective is less the individual abilities of a particular soldier, and more how well they all work together. The wounding rules are part of this. In the real world, if you get bashed, stabbed, shot or blown up, you're going to need some help.

For a realistic feel, people only have 5 possible states, essentially those of triage - the categories people are put into when the number of patients exceeds the medical facilities available.

  • Morgue - dead, or nearly so. Sometimes called "Expectant" if they're on the edge.
  • Immediate - (treat within minutes) severely injured and will die soon without treatment
  • Delayed - (treat within hours) serious injuries which won't kill the person in the next hour or so
  • Minor - (treat within days) they can walk themselves out
  • Unharmed - go away, stop bothering me

Medical treatment in a mass casualty situation ignores the Unharmed and Minor, gives a huge dose of morphine to the Morgue category, looks after the Immediate and when they have time get to the Delayed. Eventually someone will look after the Minor ones.

Conflict has named Immediate as KIA, Delayed as INC (since any wound that serious you are usually incapacitated), and Minor as WIA.

I am wondering about these terms. The KIA may confuse since it's not actually instant death (2-15 minutes if untreated), and INC isn't always incapacitated (can roll dice to ignore it for a bit). But the triage terms may be a bit abstract for most.

Most of the time game terms focus on what the character feels. They're treating the character as a lone individual. Using terms focusing on what must be done may - may - encourage teamwork a bit more. KIA etc focus on what the character experiences, Immediate etc focus on what must be done.

But as I said it's also a bit abstract; medical types want it to be abstract so they don't get overwhelmed by all the drama, but as gamers using our imaginations it's all abstract for us, maybe we want more evocative.


Other Games / Outward
« on: February 26, 2021, 07:00:49 AM »
I've been playing this computer game Outward, it's medieval fantasy but you are not a Chosen One so you start off sucking - and you have to eat, sleep and drink. Gritty.

I am absolutely bollocks at combat, but that's okay. In many cases you can run in, find the loot chest, kite the monster away from it, loot the chest, and run out.

As the AD&D1e Player's Handbook said: "Avoid unnecessary encounters."

It'd be fun doing that tabletop.

It has nice music, too, almost oriental.

So far it looks good, and I can recommend it. Anyone else had a go?

News and Adverts / Crazy Gibberish Live
« on: November 18, 2020, 07:57:25 PM »
Our own Dungeondelver does a regular livestream talking about old school gaming, it may interest some people. Today he had me as a guest, you guys can put a face to the nonsense posted here. It's on FB, but we use the tools we have. See here.

Here is a thread for the campaign ideas you've nurtured for a little, but never been willing or able to run.

The other crazy idea I had for a campaign was, using AD&D1e - though you could do it with RuneQuest or similar games, too. Lion & Dragon would be good for it, I think.

You start you character at 0 level, 10 years old. Roll 2d6 for each attribute in order. You have no class at all.

You do a nice little adventure in your home town's neighbourhood, nothing bloody or nasty. Find the lost dog. Tell your parents about the orc tracks you saw. Go searching for treasure in an old henge, and get chased off by a wolf. After this you age a year and add 1d6 to one of your attributes.

At 16yo you find a mentor in that town and choose a class. Age your character another 6 years, do a training montage, and now you begin play.

This would be good for a long-term campaign. Depth rather than breadth. Perhaps a bit thespy, though. You definitely cry when Blackleaf dies.

From 20th century Britain, Polari, the language of homosexual men.

   "One of the things that makes Polari so powerful is that it is simultaneously about disguise and identification," the artist Jez Dolan tells BBC Culture. "You would be hiding what you were talking about from people who didn't know it, but also if you were in a bar and you liked the look of somebody, you'd pop it into conversation and they'd either go 'ah' or they'd look blank and you'd be on your way."

[...] Baker believes Polari is a form of 'anti-language' – a term coined by the linguist Michael Halliday in 1978 that Baker defines as "a language used by people who are on the 'outside' of mainstream society". "It has its own vocabulary for elements that mainstream society is not interested in," he says. "Words relating to gay sex or evaluating male bodies – but it also demonstrates an alternative value system."

This "hiding in plain sight" and variations on the local language aspect would, I think, be key to how an alignment language would work. I don't see how it'd work separate from a system of deities, though. The church of Christ teaches Latin, or Greek; the Temple of Grolka the Mad would teach Chaotic Evil's cant. So you'd need 3 dieties in B/X, and 9 in AD&D1e.

The article's pretty interesting. Thoughts?

First up I encourage everyone to watch the original Predator, and this fan film, Predator: Dark Ages.

Both these films are a good example of what would be a good adventure design. Too often we see discussions of power levels of characters, and doing 4.32 points of damage a round on average vs a 32.6% chance of being held and... all this supposes that a fight happens by appointment in a featureless wasteland with two opponents who simply slog at each-other like ironclads pouring shot upon one another's armour until one of them sinks. This leads inevitably to players and DMs forgetting to use their imaginations, and instead just looking at the numbers on the sheet. Worse, it's boring.

Instead consider tactics, which involve setting up traps, dodging behind trees and around corridors, striking and running, or bringing overwhelming force to bear at one point, and using all the resources at your disposal to win - or at least win long enough to be able to get away with the treasure.

Most of us, including me, are not imaginative enough to come up with all this by ourselves. So use the dice, and steal freely from books and movies, and take what the dice offered and adjust it a bit. For example, one time the random dungeon map turned up a maze in one part. The labyrinth part had a few orcs or something, I can't remember what I'd rolled up - but shouldn't a labyrinth have a minotaur? And then I rolled up his treasure, and among this were a ring of invisibility and a ring of spider climb. Why not have NPCs and monsters use their own magical treasure, rather than just sitting on it like a particularly stupid Tolkienish dragon? So he wore these rings, and stalked the party like a predator. Climb the ceiling invisibly, drop on character at rear of party and drag him off, leave most of his body somewhere the party will find it.

Obviously you can tie all that into the local NPCs, whoever is giving the party their quest. Flesh them out as interesting - note, I didn't say "real", I said "interesting" - people, and their own wacky motivations and so on, as I described here.

In this way, a simple dungeon crawl becomes more interesting. In this way, fighting even a single monster becomes a great game session people talk about for years afterwards. In this way, "oh look, wandering monster, an ogre, yeah we fought him and killed him" becomes Beowulf.

Some observations on (still) playing the way I've always played, and a stupid story, the sort you don't get just from optimising your character.

Stats shmats

I'm playing 2e because that's what the DM wanted, so we had some ridiculous system where we chose class and then rolled, I chose fighter and so had to roll 7d6 drop lowest for strength, 6d6 for con, 4d6 for charisma, that sort of thing.

I ended up with
Str 12, Dex 16, Con 13, Int 6, Wis 17, Cha 18

The DM suggested I swap some numbers around. I'm old school - you play what you roll. So we have Fabio, the Most Beautiful Fighter in the Cosmos.

more muscular than he really is, but
if you were having a portrait done, how would you have it drawn?

He's charismatic with common sense but no academic knowledge, not that strong (the party's gnome illusionist with str 13 can beat him in an arm wrestle) but deft.

If you're really strong and tough then you're the warrior out there hewing and slaying, if you're cunning and charismatic then you're a leader. Fabio started with 4 men-at-arms, "Fabio and his Fingers, together we make fist!" Along the way 3 men-at-arms have died, one was slain early on, another was eaten by a bullette so we couldn't do anything, another was slain by trolls and Fabio paid for her to be resurrected so she became a henchman. Another man-at-arms became a henchman early on. Fabio's now level 5 and the henchman are level 3. Another 2 are still level 0, including Boche who was an original man-at-arms, he's never been knocked to 0HP and never failed a saving throw, bit of a lucky bastard but there you go. All are clad in plate mail with tower shields.

In combat if we're at range we open up with shortbows, so that's 10 attacks in the first round. On the approach of the enemy we drop bows and take up shields and form a shield wall (house rule, +1 to AC for each one on your side, so +2 in the middle and +1 on the flanks, lose your Dex bonus though - so great for men-at-arms, less great for high-Dex fighters). Each of the Fingers carries 2 holy water and 4 flasks of oil. A common tactic in dungeons is putting oil in a line in front of us, forming a shield wall across the 10ft corridor with 3 guys, the enemy approaches, they're about to enter melee and we light 'em up. If a warrior in the front rank falls, one of the 2 behind step up.

Rest of the party stands behind and supports as appropriate.

With 10 attacks in the first round, plate mail and tower shield (AC 1) and a shield wall (AC -1 for guys in the middle, AC 0 for guys on the flanks), most foes are dealt with fairly quickly, and we're not hurt too badly. It's different if we're surprised, but we try not to be surprised too often.

We came across a room with 7 sleeping trolls. Quietly rolled open flasks of oil in there. "Wake up!" Web spell. Light 'em up. Shield wall in entrance, survivors stagger out burning and screaming and are cut down. Tough fight, but result was 7 dead trolls, no dead party members.

In a game I DMed, the players came to a room with sarcophagi and mummies in them. One came out and they slew it after much trouble. The others they pinned the lids down by sitting on them, and the wizard got a rock drill to put a couple of holes in the lid, poured oil in and lit it up. What were his stats? His level? It didn't matter - this was something they could have done at first level.

Use your wits, work as a team and have a plan, and then your stats don't matter too much. People focus on stats because they think of their character as an individual, rather than as a member of a team with a plan.

Now, this stuff doesn't help you if you meet a wizard with charm person or the like. But that's another story.

Trollhead tavern

We came to a room of trolls drinking and fighting, two were just heads nailed to walls, their mates taunting them. We slew them, took the still-alive heads and cauterised the neck stumps to stop them regenerating. The DM wasn't sure if that would work, I said if not we'd just make iron boxes with spikes inside so that the troll grows back, is stabbed to death, grows back, is stabbed, etc, eternally. Since that was horrible the DM agreed the cauterising would work.

We went into Greyhawk and talked to a tavern-keeper, it's now the Troll's Head Tavern. Young men come there and have a few drinks, then make bets. You know that game where you put your hand on the table and stab the blade between each of the fingers increasingly fast? Or even better, your mate does it to your hand? Well, they do the same but with the troll heads, trying not to get bitten. And the trolls are always angry and snarling being taunted by all and sundry.

Trollhead Tavern, down through Viscera Lane past the corner where Big Rosie always hangs out. It's not the sort of tavern you'd take a fair maiden while courting her. But the ale is cheap and every night has a brawl, and the umberhulk pie is excellent.

Now all should go well, provided nobody ever has the bright idea of taking the heads down from the wall...

You don't get this kind of tactics, silliness and fun with systems that insist on optimal character builds. Roll 'em up, take what you get, use your wits to make the best of it. Don't take it too seriously. Bring snacks.

What are your thoughts on this?

   Weapon vs Armor Tables for B/X D&D
I never used the Weapon vs Armor tables in the AD&D Player's Handbook. Mostly because I find the chart really overwhelming with all 44 rows of weapons and 9 columns of armor. I also didn't know what to do when characters were fighting monsters that didn't have "weapons" and "armor" per se.

However, if we limit the number of weapons to the 19 in B/X D&D, and only include 4 columns for armor (Plate, Chain, Leather and Unarmored) it becomes a bit more manageable. And if instead of being a chart of modifiers we apply them to the numbers from the attack matrixes... we end up with a chart showing what you need to roll to hit the different types of armor using the different weapons.

* Tooth & Claw use Dagger

Raise target number by 1 if target has a shield
Add Character's adjustment for Dexterity to target number

Bonuses to Attack Rolls
Add Monster's Hit Dice (without bonuses) to attack roll
Add Character's adjustment for Strength to melee attacks and Dexterity to ranged attacks

Fighters and Demi-Humans get +2 at 4th, +5 at 7th, +7 at 10th and +8 at 13th level
Clerics and Thieves get +2 at 5th, +5 at 9th, +7 at 13th and +8 at 17th level
Magic-Users get +2 at 6th, +5 at 11th, +7 at 16th and +8 at 21st level

Note: 20 is always a hit, 1 is always a miss

These are all the same numbers from AD&D and B/X - I've just presented them differently.

It's a bit more detail than I've been using lately... but I have to admit I do like the choices in weapons making more of a difference and Plate armor generally offering better protecting than the 16+ to hit number it has without any of these modifiers being used.

It now makes sense to use a Warhammer if you're going up against an armored opponent (this would have been true in the middle ages) and there's even a reason you might decide to punch, kick or headbutt an unarmored enemy rather than use your weapon.

What do you think? Would you use the Weapon vs AC numbers now?

Pen and Paper Roleplaying Games (RPGs) Discussion / Meeting McCracken
« on: February 15, 2013, 06:12:53 AM »
Emerging briefly from self-imposed exile to report that last week I went to Seattle for a fitness seminar, and while there met up with Raven S McCracken, authour of the famous World of Synnibar.

I had coffee and then lunch with him. When we arranged the meetup I said, "To recognise me, I'll be wearing blue jeans and a black jacket and cap, I'm 41, white and have short dark hair"
He replied, "I have a mohawk."
And you know what, he did.

We made a pair of characters for Synnibar 2, Gonzo and Mort, and duelled it out. After I realised that each hit did 20 points of damage and we each had 200 points and there are no critical hits, I could see it was going to take a while, and we started talking about other stuff.

If even half the things he told me are true, he's had an entertaining life to say the least. Gamed with Gary Gygax, worked for Boeing and after he stopped working snuck in there to use their computers to write his game, had his house burn down and reduced to nothing but his underpants, does martial arts, plays a mix of Beatles and Tool in his band at the Twilight Bar where last Friday a guy came in to punish his girlfriend, shot the bouncer in the leg, killed the girl and was in turn shot dead by the police, and so on.

We had coffee at the Westlake Starbucks, he gave me a copy of his game and signed it, plus some other stuff. Then he took me down to the Pike St Markets, there was a store just for cherries, and the fishmongers have lots and lots of salmon. We had lunch, I had salmon/potato patties with an avocado sauce which was all very nice.

When we met he asked me if I was here for an interiew with Microsoft. "No, I'm a personal trainer," he looked me up and down appraisingly, "and I'm here for a barbell seminar. Then Bill Silvey of pointed out your kickstarter, and I saw you were in Seattle, so..."
"Man, this is an amazing world that we can meet. It's so big, it's like 9,700 trillatons. I found that out when I was researching Synnibar."
"Yeah, there are lots of ways to express it. Tera, whatever. I have a smattering of 40 different languages." He said something, "That was Kalahari Bushman."
"So what do you think of other generic systems like GURPS and Rifts?"
"Watered-down versions of Synnibar. Rifts is cool, though. You gotta keep it gonzo. Steve lost his passion, his biggest mistake was making Munchkin, a game separate from GURPS. This took the life and fun out of GURPS, since he was saying, here's roleplaying, and here's power-gaming, as if they're different things. Kevin's a great guy."
"Well, GURPS' latest edition was written by a particle physicist, after all. And this new edition of Synnibar?"
He pulled it out, and said as it thumped on and shook the table, "This is the SIMPLEST EVER." I flicked to a random page, you can be a bat-man and fly with your little bat-wings. There were diseases, under Ebola was Zombie Radiotropia. Radiation turns you into a zombie, excellent.

He has something he calls Constitution, you spend it in combat to hit harder or more often and the like. "Originally I had it as calories, but then one of my playtesters said, Raven, no."
One of his other playtesters goes the other way. "Dude, you don't have any rules for surprise when someone's sleeping."
"Okay I'll put a rule in."
"But it's different if a person's in light sleep compared to deep REM sleep, or third stage. So you need three different sleep surprise rules."
"Three level sleeping surprise?" Even Raven thought that was too much.

He says that he originally made his Synnibar rules on cards as an aid to memory, and you'd play your combat moves by playing cards.
"My buddy told me, that's how you should sell the rules! I said no, that's stupid, this is the pardigm," he gestured to his printout of the Synnibar 2 playtest rules. "Man, I had Magic cards on my hands 15 years early and didn't know it!"

He goes on to say that Peter Somethingorother came to Seattle broke and lived with him, came up with Magic cards, as his company expanded didn't hire his buddies, that as he climbed the ladder of success he kicked it away so nobody else could follow him. "Man, when Wizards took over Gencon, I'd paid $60,000 to have a stand there, he sold it out from under me! I only found out when I was already there. A guy tried to get me a room, the manager came back and told me, Peter has insisted you are not to have a stand anywhere within 7 blocks of Gencon. I hate that guy, he is my nemesis, I've let everyone know, next I see him he gets a broken nose. I never see him though."
"Perhaps that's why you find it difficult to meet up with him now. You wouldn't get a broken nose?"
"No, he's all of 5'5" and scrawny."

Gaming with Gygax, he says, happened down in Florida in the late 1970s when Raven was at university. "I made a wizard, and wanted to have a sword, Gary wouldn't let me. I said, but Gandalf had a sword! And isn't all this based on Tolkien anyway? He didn't like that. Then I saw his magic system and said, hey, Jack Vance Dying Earth, and quoted some of the book to him, he didn't like that either. He was maybe in his 40s then, greying and turning fat, he really wanted to control everything."
"Didn't he used to have groups of like 18 people? You have to stamp down hard with that many players."
"No there were only maybe 10 of us."
When his house burned down he lost all his old artwork and original handwritten manuscript for Synnibar. "Also my cash."
"Your cash? Not in the bank?"
"Naw man you can't trust banks, I had it in my walls."
"So how have you supported yourself since then?"
"Game writing, and also some other stuff. I worked for Microsoft for a while, velvet sweatshop."
Since Washington state has legalised it, I thought to ask, "Did cannabis play any part in the making of Synnibar?"
"Of course. But also it was fatigue. I used to work for Boeing, after I stopped I snuck in to use their computers, I couldn't afford one. My old boss winked at it, one day he found me there in the morning slumped over a computer and woke me up. Were you here all night? he asked, I said yeah man random tables!"

Down at the market we met Yakov (I think was his name), a guy of 50 or more wearing a beret and kilt, he called us into the Fedex where he was using the computer, they're making a medieval fantasy film in the woods around Seattle which he was very enthusiastic about, they don't give them the script until the day, he suspects they're writing it as they go. He also uses kettlebells for his workouts and has leaned out a lot, apparently. He was bearded and looked very kingly in the shots he showed us.

Raven also pointed out a guy playing a small piano organ in the street with some political stuff on the side about rewriting the constitution to say that only people can be legal persons, not those evil corporations. And then he took me to a game store in Pike Market. They had comics, old Star Wars figurines, board games, miniatures, and of course rpgs.

Raven then told me about how Eugene Roddenberry, son of the Star Trek creator, was playing Crypt, playing for like six hours and the Cryptmaster had had enough, "but he's Eugene Roddenberry, I can't turn him away!" so "I got one of my girls to unzip her cardigan and show some cleavage to entice him away so I could talk to him."
"Your girls?"
"Yeah at conventions I hire girls in bikinis and stuff, it attracts the gamers."
"Hell yeah. Anyway Eugene wanted me to do a CCG for Star Trek. So I wrote it up and contacted him, he said, sorry dude I don't have the rights, call these guys at Viacom. I did, they wanted $250,000 for the rights, too rich. Now it's a few years on, I figure for the rights plus enough printing to make the price reasonable, I mean $50 is too much for a deck of cards, I need $532,000. I'll do that as my next Kickstarter project."
"Well there are millions of Trekkies."
"Sure, lots will buy it just to have it, I don't care, as long as some play it."

He agreed with my ordering of priorities, of what makes a game session fun,
  • people
  • snacks
  • setting
  • system
He was crazy, but not irrational. That is to say, his gaming enthusiasm like his dress sense is not restrained by shame or common sense. If he wants to wander around with a mohawk at 50 years old, he'll fucking well wander around with a mohawk, even if it means he can't get a job - because he'll make a job out of his hobbies of drinking, smoking weed and gaming. Owns a bar and a game company.

His wife's father is a fireman and she does taekwondo, so she's been trained all her life to deal with crisis situations, when the shooter came in she pushed Raven to the ground and shielded him with her body. He said, "She's a woman, and my wife! I must protect her!" so her wrestled to be on top, they were rolling around on the ground as the shooter shot his girlfriend to death. She said, "this is ridiculous!" and got up and started getting everyone out of the building until the cops came to blow the guy away.

The police write about the shootings here and here. At first I thought the woman had been killed, but apparently not. It was unclear from Raven's... er, explanation. He said, "the villain is a victim, and the victim is a villain." He said something about the woman being a gold-digger, and the guy an innocent pawn who'd tried to distance himself from her. But... the guy had had a baby with her, which, you know, suggests some degree of involvement. It's also unclear how bringing a firearm to confront her was expected to end well. Essentially they sounded like a bunch of depressingly loser lowlifes so I didn't want to hear the details and changed the topic.

I guess Raven is excited because like his house burning down this is the closest thing he's had to an actual adventurer's typical day :) He's writing a novel about his experience of the shooting, and will do a kickstarter for that, too.

That's all I remember for the moment, I wish I'd recorded it.

In our last adventure
several stalwart and sneaky adventurers
were hired by the new Count Pfaff von Pfaffenberg
to rid Castle Hightop of its orcish inhabitants
that was done with much bloodshed and winning of treasure
and having no further concerns, the group sought adventure in the West
now the Count's scouts have located the source of orcish raids
and has called once more for adventurous volunteers
to butcher them horribly.

This thread shall be for the preparation and description of the adventure Pfaffenberg's Folly, promo poster below. I have not gamed much since I started my new career, and I hope to have a longer-term campaign, so I am putting a bit of thought into this one.

Let's begin with some house rules, freely stolen from around online.

Character generation
Attributes will be determined by rolling 3d6 in order.
Class: players may choose any class, regardless of attribute rolls, but shall receive a -10% XP modifier if the character does not meet the minimum requirements for the class.
Level: all characters will begin at 1st level.

Characters once created must be played until they die, at which point the player may roll another, which will be brought into play as soon as possible. Characters may not die by their own hand, but foolhardy bravery is in no way discouraged.

Helms: If no suit of armor is worn, a helmet gives a AC+1. If a suit of armor is worn, then a helmet is also required or else a 1 point penalty to AC is applied. Helms may provide a malus to surprise rolls, perception and the like.
Shield: +1 to AC.
Shields Shall Be Splintered: a character may opt to sacrifice their shield instead of being struck as strongly, saving them 1d6 damage.
One-handed weapon with no shield and a free hand: +1 to hit
Two-weapon Fighting: +1 to hit, +1 AC, roll both damage dice and take the higher of the two. Off-handed weapons must deal d6 damage or lower. A shield (damage 1d4) may be part of a weapon pair if it has been selected as one of the weapon proficiencies; the AC bonus is not then cumulative with the normal shield bonus.
Lances and spears: May be set against a charge. If a charging enemy has shorter reach roll to hit before they do. If their reach is equal or better roll simultaneously. A successful hit inflicts double damage.
Any Great Weapon: Maximum damage on a 19-20 if a successful hit is scored.
Bare-chested characters surprise other parties 1 in 6 times more often, but this benefit accrues to the bare-chested character only; there is no rules benefit for being pantsless or skirtless.  

Hit points: a character, NPC or monster reaching 0HP is unconscious. If made unconscious by anything other than a blunt instrument, they will then lose 1HP per turn until they reach the negative of their experience level or hit dice, and then die. If a blunt instrument, they will simply remain at their current HP unless further injured.

Media and Inspiration / Browncoats: Redemption
« on: June 20, 2011, 06:52:28 AM »
Those pining away for Firefly should know they are not alone, a bunch of fans got together and made a movie, all proceeds to charity. I've just received the DVD today.

Browncoats: Redemption

Game observation: on the DVD there's a little clip introducing the crew. It could be interesting and fun to have a game group watch this clip, create characters based on it, have a short campaign which I'd rip off from the movie, and then afterwards we could watch the movie to see how different it all is :)

Design, Development, and Gameplay / Assault on the Azure Keep
« on: March 13, 2011, 07:36:29 AM »
What with my new career and baby on the way, I have been too focused on mundanities of late, with not enough dice and cheetos. I decided to remedy this on this long weekend, and sent out invitations to gamers for a good old dungeon-bash. The call was answered by Emil, Aron, Damo and Jules. We played from noon to 10pm, and the dungeon was completed. Honour and fear were heaped upon their names, and in time they became kings by their own hands - but that is another story.

The players arrived at noon sharp, or in Emil's case, noon blunt, or an hour after. Moments later pizza arrived, and thus Emil declared his timing perfect. Damo explained that he had bid for some AD&D1e books on ebay intending to pick them up on the way to the game session, but alas he had not won the auction. Jules brought his dusty old books, and as well a box of figurines from 1980, unpainted. I felt ashamed of my laptop, it just didn't fit in, I used it only for music. Everyone brought copious amounts of snacks. Damo expressed surprise at the brutality of the rules system, especially since his first two characters were stillborn: he rolled Constitution 5 for them, and since at CON5 or lower the character can only be an illusionist, but he had of course not rolled INT15+ and DEX16+, he could be no character at all.

As DM, I explained to Damo in a patronising voice, "This is rollplaying, not roleplaying." And so the right mood was set for the Assault on the Azure Keep.

Assault on the Azure Keep

Part the first - "You look like a worthy adventurer, why don't you join us?"

The party came together in a tavern in the Barony of Pfaffenberg. four adventurers had heard that the Baron was seeking stout hearts to clear an old keep of the Barony.

These four worthies once at the tavern introduced themselves. They were Jeffrey the Prestidigitator [Emil], a good young man in robes who introduced himself as "the High Adventurer!" with an eagle called Barney upon his shoulder, and who kept saying "You look like a worthy adventurer, why don't you join us?" As well, a somewhat anarchist half-elf Veteran known as Yo-Yo [Aron], so-called because he had tried to introduce bungee jumping to Fighter Academy, and had unfortunately landed on his head, reducing his once-great intelligence and sturdy constitution; it looked as though he was so sickly he could now be carried off by a large housecat.

Not to be forgotten were Guildor the elven rogue [Damo] of impartial disposition, and Ricard Bitchslap the dwarven acolyte [Jules] worshipping unknown but baleful gods "somewhere between the diabolic and the demonic."

Trying to live up to the repute of his people, Bitchslap the dwarf knocked back no less than two short a score of pints of mead, and was violently sick upon his scale mail several times, each time declaring that only another pint could clear the bad taste from his mouth. Passing the evening in this wise, the four eventually staggered to their straw beds.

In the morn the four went to see the Baron, who was behind a mere wooden stockade, with a run-down old keep and manor house within. Seeing the single guard on duty, the four wondered if the keep they had to clear was as lightly-held as this one, or indeed if this one had any treasure worth the taking. Shortly they were invited in to join Pfaffenberg at his breakfast of porridge.

Pfaffenberg proved to be younger than they imagined for a Baron.

   "A short time ago my father - may the gods keep him in his grave - passed away, leaving the Barony close on penniless. He was forever remitting taxes and tithes and at the same time increasing spending on alms for the poor, who naturally wasted it all on gambling and drink. I intend to rebuild the Barony. One part neglected were our defences - a dozen years ago, the Azure Keep to the north of here, not properly manned, was overrun by orcs, who have since taken up residence there and accost passing merchants and travellers. This cannot stand, their crimson flag must fall. Get thee to the Azure Keep, you four, and clear the orcs from it. There must be much treasure from a dozen years of banditry, if you drive off the orcs, half will be yours."

"Why don't you go and lay siege to the keep?"
"I have but four men-at-arms. I could levy more men from among the peasantry, but a siege would be long and expensive in money and lives. I have not money, and wish not to lose lives. What open force cannot, bold stealth may achieve."

The adventurers did not recoil from this honour, but certainly attempted to bargain a greater share, while openly talking among themselves about cheating the Baron and simply not giving an accurate account of the treasures found. In the end they accepted his offer.

Each hired a bearer. Jeffrey the Prestidigator took Frank the Bearer for his assistant, Yo-Yo the Veteran took Eckle with his mule, Guilder the rogue found Arthur "he'll grow up into somebody someday, mark my words," and finally Bitchslap took Thomas.

The eight and their mule gathered in the town common the following day and were wished well by the Baron and many townsmen. They set off along the road and into the forest, and mid-morn came upon an old trail heading to the northwest. While on the road, Jeffrey's eagle Barney was revealed to be a fying monkey "he can look like an eagle when he wants to."

Moving along the trail, before noon they saw ahead a crimson flag flying, dark brown-red, as though stained with real blood. Guildor the rogue was sent to scout ahead.

Guildor snuck up and saw two orcs by an ramshackle pile of timber they probably called their home, or perhaps a guardhouse. This watched the trail out of the forest, and up the road towards the stony hill upon which sat Azure Keep, also defiled with the crimson flag. Determining that the other seven and their mule could not catch these two orcs unawares as could he, Guildor strung his bow, and quickly put two shafts into the neck of one orc. The second looked up, startled, and turned to flee. Guildor let fly another six arrows, and three struck the fleeing orc in the back, but he ran on. Drawing his blade Guildor pursued the orc at speed, when the orc tripped on a rock and fell he thrust at him, struck stone with his blade, and the orc's countering blow with spear ran Guildor through.

Back down the trail, the party sat eating lunch unawares. After the pass of a glass they made their way up the trail, finding the slain orc and their friend Guildor, stripped naked and with his throat cut. Arthur stepped forward to bury his master of a brief period, and revealed himself as Arthur the rogue, though human, a man of close nature to Guildor [ie Damo's second character].

Expecting that the alarm would be up, the party approached the keep from the rockier side of the hills, making their way slowly through the stones. The dwarf Ricard assured them that orcs could see but poorly in the daytime, and thus open daylight were the best time to catch them sleepy and unawares. They moved about quietly and examined the stones beneath the keep, hoping to find another entrance - and so they did, a natural crevice in the rocks.

An orc upon the battlements seemed to spot them, squinting in their general direction. They waited a time until he lost interest, and then made their way to the crevice. They left Yo-Yo's man Eckle with his mule behind among the rocks, reasoning that taking a mule into a dungeon, while appealing, seemed impractical.

The crevice was indeed a passageway into the rocks, the natural erosion of the stone allowing a narrow squeeze for the broader party members. At the fore strode Arthur the rogue, torch in one hand and blade in the other. Before him he found dense cobwebs blocking the way, which he burned, delighting especially when he found a nest of eggs to snap, crackle and pop. Above him a large hairy leg crept from the roof, and several dark eyes glinted in the light of the burning web. Great mandibles dripping with black ichor snapped at him, but he ducked at the last moment.

Yo-yo stepped forth with his blade, slashing at the foul beast, knocking off a leg - and with a single snap of its mandibles, the spider snapped off his head, which bounced on the stone floor as his stumpy body spurted blood, stumbled about for a moment, then collapsed. Arthur too slashed madly at it, stunning it with a blow to its head, but a swipe from the spider turned his face black with poison, and he too fell.

Jeffrey flung his darts at the creature, and one penetrated one of its eyes, and it fell heavily to the floor, twisting and curling up its legs.

As the party fell to weeping at the fall of their comrades Yo-Yo and Arthur - but not for too long - they heard a cry from above, and looking up, saw that the spider had had its own lunch ready, a half-orc veteran named Rosh [ie Damo's THIRD character] was coccooned in a web. From behind them the party heard a voice, "I'll cut him down." It was Eckles the muler, who was it emerged a rogue in his spare time [ie Aron's second character], and who thought it unwise to sit around in the rocky hills waiting for an orc patrol to come and get him.

"Who are you?" Ricard asked of Rosh.
"I am an adventurer, come to loot the keep of these orcs."
"But you are an orc."
"Only half. Well, one-tenth on my mother's side."
"Who was the man who slept with a woman orc?"
"This is all very interesting," said Jeffrey, "but really, Rosh, you look like a worthy adventurer, why don't you join us?"
"I will," he said, and it was done.

With the dead properly honoured and looted, the party ventured further into the Azure Keep.

*** End Part I ***

Pen and Paper Roleplaying Games (RPGs) Discussion / Warrior societies
« on: January 19, 2011, 04:18:33 AM »
A re-enactor and amateur historian rants about "warrior societies" here. He makes the point that in a "warrior society" most warriors will never have killed anyone at all, and if even if some have, they might be physically or mentally maimed.

Has anyone considered these things for their campaigns or characters?

Media and Inspiration / Vampire flying frogs are real
« on: January 06, 2011, 07:36:23 PM »
   Vampire flying frog found in Vietnam

The vampire flying frog uses its webbed toes to glide between treetops.

But it earned its nickname because the frogs' tadpoles have strange black fangs.

Australian Museum scientist Dr Jodi Rowley, who found the frog, says it is the first time fangs have been discovered in a tadpole.

"We don't know of anything quite like this that's for sure, so we're taking a lot of time to work out why on Earth they have these fangs," Dr Rowley said.

"Maybe it's got something to do with what they eat.

"They breed in very small pools of water that are found in the holes in the trunks of trees, so maybe they eat something particularly strange up there."

It doesn't look that nasty, but perhaps it's just being sneaky. Okay, it's not actually a blood-drinking vampire but... they don't know what it eats.

They don't mention the creature's size. Naturally it must be a giant, because giant vampire flying frogs would be much much better.

This reminds me of the bizarre creatures we find living in the depths of the ocean and things like that. So while the real world doesn't have hippogriffs and owlbears, we do have some pretty strange stuff. Who here has used real world strange and obscure creatures as monsters in their campaigns?

Media and Inspiration / d4 are superior!
« on: May 05, 2010, 02:38:16 AM »
You can fit the most dice in one space if they're d4s. It's been proven by science.
   Tetrahedral dice, which have four triangular sides, pack more densely than any other shape yet tested, according to research performed by a collaboration of New York University and Virginia Tech physicists.

The revelation is the result of a series of experiments that involved pouring tetrahedral dice into containers, shaking them, and adding more dice until the containers were completely filled. After adding water to measure the open space between the dice, the researchers confirmed that the tetrahedrons fill roughly 76% of the available space in a large container. Similar experiments with spheres typically only fill containers to about 64% of the total volume.

The researchers were able to get an inside view of the packed tetrahedral dice by imaging the containers with an MRI machine. The images are vital in helping them check and refine their die packing models.

The experiment, which is reported in the May 3 issue of Physical Review Letters, confirms recent calculations predicting efficient packing. Such packing problems are related to understanding many other problems including liquids seeping through soils, the flow of granular materials like sand and gravel, dense storage of information in digital memory, and even determining the best shapes for packaging consumer products like medicine tablets and candies.

Daan Frankel of the University of Cambridge discusses the tetrahedral packing experiment and related research in a Viewpoint article appearing in the current edition of APS Physics.

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