Thursday, July 19, 2018

Terrnoth #6 - Downtime in Tamalir

Campaign Diary

Having returned to Tamalir, our party took accommodations in the outer city and tried to find a buyer for the treasures they have taken from the burial caves.

(Click here for PC profiles)

At "Lakemane's Luxuries", our heroes were offered an initial price of 90 gps, which they were able to bargain up to 120 gps, with the map to the obelisks. Therion Lakemane, the proprietor, also expressed interest on the bronze sword Strigoi was carrying, and promised to find a buyer for the orc.

While still unsure if he would sell his find, Strigoi visited Trystan the weapon-smith. Trystan was so taken by the beauty of the sword he accepted the job of crafting a scabbard worthy of it.

The haul from their first two adventures had not been as rich in treasures or magical artefacts as they had hoped for, but has whet the party's appetite, and they are planning their next expedition before winter arrives.


Prepping and Running the Game

For this campaign I am using the optional rule for requiring the PCs to spend downtime and money to level up. This to me makes more sense narratively, and with the use of a game calendar prevents what to me would be an unrealistically fast advancement for the characters.

The character of Therion Lakemane is actually created together with a B Team player. He had wanted to play a charismatic character, and I had wanted an NPC contact for the A Team to fence their loot for them. After an exchange of messages, Therion Lakemane and his store was created. When I asked the player how much he would offer the A Team for their loot based on the retail price, he suggested that he would offer a higher price if they sold him the location of their discovery. I jumped on this idea, and once the A Team agreed, it gave me an entirely new hook for my B Team games: these could be treasure-hunting expeditions funded by Therion Lakemane!

The first of the B Team games will likely be played in September, so stay tuned!

Terrinoth #1.5 - The Party

At the suggestion of a fellow GM, I have added this post to introduce readers to the PCs in the campaign.

The A Team

  • Entana Venier, Human Wizard

Entana Vernier's father expected him to take over the family's lucrative textile business, but instead he chose to enter the University of Greyhaven to study magic. Having completed his Bachelor degree, he must now travel through the lands to gain practical knowledge in the application of magic before he can complete his Masters.

  • Orglath'Kul, Dragon Hybrid Barbarian

As a dragon hybrid, Orglath spent most of his life on the edges of society, but he dreams of the day when he and his kind can be accepted by the other races. Until recently he was a pit-fighter in Tamalir, but for yet undisclosed reasons he has formed a bond with Entana, and is now the former's adventuring companion.

  •  Gio Gerbo, Gnome Rogue

An entertainer with his family troupe of Wandering Gnomes, Gio's dreams of becoming a famous performer known throughout Terrinoth was cut short when his brother killed the son of a nobleman in a botched throwing-knife stunt. Unable to pay the wergild of 15,000 gps, Gio's family went into indentured servitude.

Desperate to make enough money to ransom his family, Gio turned to crime and joined a gang in the city of Tamalir. He was caught red-handed by Strigoi while trying to pick the pocket of Entana, and in return for them not turning him to the city authorities, Gio agreed to join Entana on his adventures.

  • Strigoi, Orc Fighter

A Stone-Dweller Orc, Strigoi used to lead a mercenary band that found regular employment "pacifying" dragon hybrid settlements in Terrinoth. But after an attack on a dragon hybrid village got out of hand and women and children were killed, Strigoi fell out with his band and went into the bodyguard business.

Hired by Entana's father to secretly follow and protect him, Strigoi blew his cover when he intervened when he saw Gio picking the young wizard's pocket.

The B Team

  • Therion Lakemane, Human Bard

Former advocate and the disowned son of a nobleman, Therion Lakemane was exiled from Lorimor for malpractice.

Leaving behind his family wealth but not his love for a lavish lifestyle, fine food, silken beds and voluptuous maidens, he soon became deep in debt. But with typical Lakemane resourcefulness, he has decided to turn his experiences of the high life into a business opportunity, and opened "Lakemane's Luxuries, Purveyor of Fine Goods for Discerning Ladies and Gentlemen" in Tamalir.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Terrinoth #5 - Death in the Wood

Campaign Diary

After a fitful night in the caves, our party emerged the next day and made their way back to Fort Rodric. There, they recounted their tale to the fort's sergeant, who decided that perhaps more regular patrols of the hills were necessary.

(Click here for PC profiles)

Over dinner, the party regaled the soldiers with exaggerated tales of their valour, and even Orglath found himself welcomed at their tables.

The next day the party started their journey to the Gardens of Tarn, an ancient woodlands from where the people of the Barony of Otrin gather rare medicinal herbs, and where the felling of a tree is punishable by death. On the third day of their journey they sought shelter from the autumn rain at the village of Woodside. They enter the only inn in the village to find that the vogt (reeve) of the village is holding a meeting there. Our heroes were given a table in a corner of the common room as the meeting went on.

It soon became clear that the reason for the meeting was called over a series of deaths and disappearances: a week before, the girl Lenora failed to return after she had gone gathering herbs in the woods. Three days afterwards, a swineherd was found dead inside the woods, with several large gashes across his body. The next day, a forester sent to investigate these events was also found dead, and he bore the same type of wounds on his body too. When yet another forester failed to return from his patrol in the woods, Manfrie, the captain of the foresters, petitioned that no one be allowed into the woods until further instructions could be sought from the Baron. The swineherds protested - pannage season had just begun, and if the pigs were not allowed to be fattened on acorns and beechnut before winter arrived, the whole village could face starvation later in the season.

As the argument got heated, Entana volunteered the party's help in solving the mystery. This sudden interruption was not welcomed by the villagers, some of whom started accusing Orglath the dragon hybrid as a potential suspect. Before the situation could get out of hand, Sir Heisen, the vogt, ordered the foresters to take Orglath into custody, ruled in favour of Manfrie, and dismissed the villagers.

As the foresters and villagers left the inn, Sir Heisen invited the remaining three members of the party to his table by the fireplace. The party once again pitched their services to him, and this time, without the interference of the villagers, he accepted.

Our party then decided to do some investigation around the village. As they stepped out of the inn, they were approached by a Wilhem, who was betrothed to Lenora. Young Wilhem begged them to help find his love, and when Strigor the Orc asked what he would offer in return for their help, presented to them his life savings of 50 silver pieces. Even as Strigor reached out to take the coins, Gio the Gnome stepped in and declared that they would not take his money if he would sing songs of their heroic deeds instead. A grateful Wilhem agreed, and acted as their guide around the village.

The  party then went to the foresters' barracks to gather more information, but was given the cold shoulder by Manfrie and his men. With not much else to be done for the night, they visited Mama Clay, the local wise woman, and purchased some home-made healing potions from her.

The next day, a villager led the party to the forest trail under the cover of the pre-dawn darkness. They followed the winding path until they reached the place off the track where the dead swineherd's body had been found. As daylight grew, they saw that the trees and undergrowth around the place had taken on a sickly appearance. They trekked further deeper into the blighted woods, until they came upon two wolves scavenging a body on the forest floor. The hair and skin of the animals had fallen off in places, revealing their raw flesh and even bones underneath. The rabid wolves attacked the party, and after a short fight were cut down.

The body on the forest ground turned out to be that of the missing forester, but the wounds he bore on his body did not match those that could be caused by wolves. After a brief rest, our party decided to venture deeper into the forest to see if they could find the cause of the strange state of the forest and wolves.

After some time, they crested a ridge to find a solitary green tree standing amidst the withered trees in the vale below. At the base of the tree was a shape... The party moved closer to the tree, and saw that it was the body of a young woman. Unlike the others, she bore only a single wound on her body - her throat was slit by a sharp blade. As Strigor moved to retrieve her, three of the withered trees uprooted themselves from the ground and started to attack the party with their branches. Strigor ran towards the green tree; vines erupted from the ground and entwined around his ankles, but he pulled free. As he grabbed the body of the woman, the green tree swung one of its branches at him. Strigor ducked the blow, turned around, and yelled "Run!".

Then followed a running battle, as our heroes tried to keep the distance between themselves and the pursuing plants while Entana loosed Fire Bolt after Fire Bolt at them - alas! the recent rain meant that his spell had little effect on the soaked trunks of the trees. But eventually they cut down the withered tree, and it looked that they would at last flee the green tree, when from before them an arrow struck Strigor.

A solitary figure stood before them. It was Manfrie.

"I told you to leave this well alone, but you would not. Now you will all die here!", he spat as he nocked another arrow.

Strigor launched himself at the forester, while Entana struggled with the walking tree. Gio? Gio cowered behind a tree as melee raged.

But our hero soon gained the upper hand. Entana's spells wore the walking tree down, and it at last stopped moving, its trunk now smoking, and Manfrie was down on his knees, bleeding out. With the last ounces of his strength, the forester dragged himself to Leonra's body, and with his dying breath said: Sorry, my love. I had not meant for things to turn out this way... but if I can't have you, no one will."

With the excitement of battle over, our party realised the gravity of the situation: they had killed an agent of the Baron, and had no witness in their favour. The option of running away and become outlaws was briefly discussed, but eventually the decided to return to Woodside to face the music.

The trio emerged from the woods bearing Lenora's body, and soon the whole village had gather round them. They told their story to Sir Heisen, who at first found their tale of sickened wolves, walking trees, and accusations against Manfrie difficult to believe. But as the villagers and foresters corroborated on their story with their accounts of Manfrie's failed courting of Lenora, and Mama Clay told her lore about the legend of evil trees that awakened when fed with the blood of innocents, he was convinced.

Orglath was returned to the party, and the four were given a reward for their help. The party spent another night at Woodside, and in the morning started their journey back to Tamalir.


Prepping and Running the Game

The basis of this scenario was "Death in the Wood", available on Dungeon Master Guild (spoilers ahead!).

When the players chose to explore the Gardens of Tarn, I looked for a forest-based adventure module to use. Now forest-based adventures can be rather typical, featuring either elves, the fey, hags, or other woodland creatures from the Monster Manual.

"Death in the Wood" was a little different from the usual forest-based adventure as, at its heart, it is more of a murder mystery. The original story had a jealous logger kill another logger, and the NPC who sought the PCs' help was a woman.

Mama Clay was an improvised NPC - I should have known that mention of herbs would prompt the players to seek out healing potions. Her name and persona were based on that of an NPC in a Dragon Warriors scenario I ran for my family earlier this year. I think I will use her again in my other campaigns.

I liked how Gio's player gallantly refused his money, but instead asked that he sing their tales instead. I imagine that after this, heartbroken Wilhem will leave Woodside and become a traveling minstrel, and perhaps become an NPC that the A Team and B team will meet again.

Anyway, as logging was forbidden in the Gardens of Tarn, I had to change that part of the story. This lead to some reading on the use of medieval forests, and in particular about pannage and its importance to the livelihood of villages. Use of the medieval forest was strictly regulated, and in many cases the rights were leased to certain vassals, who would police this. This led to me creating a conflict between the foresters and the swineherds, and of course adding Manfrie's personal motivations for keeping people out of the woods into the mix.

This was again a very linear 2-encounter "dungeon". The fight with the blights turned out to be more difficult for the party than I had expected, but once they opened up the distance between themselves and the Vine Blight it was game over for the bad guy. Fortunately I had taken a tip from Jim Murphy to attack PCs between battles before they had a chance to rest, and planned for Manfrie to trail and attack the PCs when it became obvious that they had found his secret. Wounded, pursued on one side by walking tree and facing a fresh opponent on the other, the players feared a TPK.

My favourite moment of the session was when the players paused after the battle to discuss what they were going to do now that they had murdered a "federal agent". Medieval fantasy RPGs can oftentimes have a rather blase attitude towards the killing of humans, and this was something I wanted to avoid for this campaign.

I had planned for the scenario to be short as I wanted to play the "downtime" activities after the party returned to Tamalir. I used one of the B Team characters as an NPC whom they interacted with, with the result that their (the A Team's) adventures now form the seed for the B Team. I will write more about this in the next report. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Terrinoth #4 - The Road of the Dead

Campaign Diary

Our motley crew, comprising of Entana the Wizard, his bodyguard Strigoi the Orc Fighter, Gio the Gnomish Rogue, and Orglath the Dragon hybrid Barbarian set out from the great city of Tamalir on the 13th day of the month of Witu; their destination: the Ashen Hills, where Entana hoped to study the rune-marked obelisks found there.

(click here for PC profiles)

Their journey took them across the barony of Otrin, between the Gardens of Tarn and the rock formation known as Menara's Teeth, and into the barony of Frest. After a week traveling, they arrived at the foot of the Ashen Hills. Here, our party was intercepted by soldiers from Fort Rodric, a stronghold guarding the passage between the Ashen Hills and the Mountains of Marshan to the south. Upon learning their quest, the sergeant of the undermanned fort requested that they reported their findings to him, and the party agreed.

The following day the party trekked into the hills, following the directions given by one of the soldiers who had seen one of the obelisk formations. At a little before noon they arrived at the destination: a cluster of six standing stones, set in two rows of three. Each of the standing stones was covered in runes from an unknown language. After several hours of study, Entana determined that that some of the runic symbols described the solar alignment that was consistent with the autumn solstice, which as luck would have it, was that very day!

As the sun dipped to the horizon, the last rays of light from it streamed between the standing stones, and lit a cluster of boulders atop an adjoining hill. Making their way there as dusk falls, our party found a cave opening that has been deliberately covered by a stone slab. They pushed aside the stone slab, entered the opening, and found themselves on a ledge in a natural cavern, overlooking a body of water some 50 feet below. The party descended to the pool below using a combination of rope and the Feather Fall spell, where they were attacked by a strange being made entirely of water. After dispatching the being, our adventurers exited the only tunnel out of the cavern, following the outflow of the pool until they reached the edge of a waterfall within another cavern, one larger than the one they had just left.

The party made their way down the waterfall to the ground below to find themselves on the banks of an underground river some 20 feet wide, and deeper than the length of a quarterstaff. A statue of a kneeling figure stood on the near bank, and across the river from it they could see the opening of a tunnel that led deeper into the cave complex. On the near bank, they found dozens of large, covered urns lined up against the walls of the cavern. They eventually gathered up the courage to open one, and found within it the skeletal remains of a person, with an earthen jug, mug, and bowl.

While the rest of the party tried to figure out a way to cross the river, Gio the Gnome systematically opened the other urns, to find that they all contained the same thing: a set of skeletons, a jug, a mug, and a bowl. The party now realised that they were in the burial grounds of an ancient people, and wondered if they should leave the dead undisturbed. But eventually curiosity won, and they decided to proceed on. Unable to figure out how the statue might aid them in crossing the river, the two strong men of the party proposed that they tossed Gio across with a rope tied around his waist. Having performed in a traveling circus before, Gio agreed to the plan, and executed a perfect landing on the far bank.

The whole party made their way across the river. The tunnel wound further into the bowels of the earth, and soon the rushing sound of the river was left behind. Eventually they entered a cavern, where they saw half a dozen urns lined up against one side. Before they had the chance to inspect the urns more closely, the sound of pottery breaking rang out, and from the darkness on the other side of the cavern five skeletal figures, each one wielding a corroded bronze sword, lurched out. It was fighting at close quarters, and the party won the day. They searched the cavern thoroughly, and found five (by now) empty urns on the other side of the cavern. Inside the original six urns they found six sets of skeletons, interred with bronze jewellery, including a necklace with an amber set into it. They noted that urns themselves were also of a higher craftsmanship, and were adorned with geometric patterns, unlike the undecorated ones found across the river. All previous misgivings about desecrating tombs vanished as our four adventurers divided up jewellery among themselves.

The tunnel continued on the far side of the cavern, and although all wounded by now, the party decided to carry on their exploration. A little further on they found their way blocked by a stone slab, upon which were carved runes similar to the ones found on the obelisks on the hill. Strigoi and Orglath pushed the slab aside, and the party entered into the small chamber beyond it. A single urn, a little larger than the ones they have seen so far, sat on the ground at the end of the chamber. As they approached it, its lid was pushed aside from within, and a skeletal figure, clad in corroded bronze armour and wearing a bronze helmet of an unfamiliar design, vaulted out of the urn. In its hand it held a bronze sword which gleamed in the light of their lantern. After a brutal melee which saw Entana nearly losing his life, our party defeated the skeletal figure. Within its urn they found a cloak pin made of gold and encrusted with gems. Strigoi claimed the curiously untarnished sword as his prize.

Too exhausted to make their way back to the surface, the party decided to rest right there and then in the chamber.


Prepping and Running the Game

As I mentioned in my earlier posts in this series, I planned to run the first part of this campaign as a sandbox. At session zero, I showed the Runebound map to my players, and gave a short description of what rumours were associated with each of the sites of interest, and asked them where they wanted to go explore.

They picked up on the "rune-marked obelisks" on Ashen Hills, and I had a little less than a week from that point to come up with an adventure. The "Realms of Terrinoth" book did not elaborate on the nature or origin of the obelisks, so I had to find a scenario or module that featured obelisks. After some time on rpgnow, I found what I needed in Raging Swan Press' "Road of the Dead" (spoilers ahead!).

The adventure features an exploration of a cave complex that is a physical representation of the spiritual beliefs of an ancient race. The author based the mythology of the race on that of the Mesoamerican civilisations, but I thought it would be more appropriate to base my dungeon on that of a bronze age European culture.

A little googling later I found out about the Urnfield Culture, and from then on it was easy to imagine a similar pre-historic culture in Terrinoth, existing perhaps before the days of the Penacor kings. I took the idea of urn burials, and of the presence of different classes in these people and how that was apparent by their burial goods, and put that in my dungeon. I also came across the theory about the concept of a river that separated the realms of the living from the dead that existed in the common proto-Indo-European culture, and incorporated that too. And in case you are wondering, the 'solution' to the puzzle of crossing the river was to pay the guardian statue two silver coins (by placing them onto its eyes), which would have raised a stone causeway for the PCs to cross.

For much of the environmental challenges I copied from the original module, but for the 'monsters' I decided to go with the more level-appropriate undead. For loot I rolled up the worth on a random loot table, and then decided that the jewellery they looted would bring roughly that amount on the market. For magical loot I initially contemplated getting something that would fit one of the party members specifically, but in the end I decided to again go with the theme of the dungeon and leave them with something that a bronze age warrior king would reasonable have as part of his burial goods - perhaps Strigoi can make it his signature weapon in the future.

The dungeon I eventually used is linear: there is just one path with no branches or junctions. This was partly because I wanted to keep things simple as most of us are not familiar with the D&D 5E rules, and partly because that was how I envisioned a burial cave complex would be. The environmental obstacles placed in the PCs' way was a way to make the linear path more interesting, providing options in how they would proceed as opposed to where they would proceed. However, I found that at low level play this meant many skill checks, which in turn meant many chances of failures, which meant attrition of Hit Points, which, at low level, can lead to a dead spiral.

My unfamiliarity with the rules meant that I missed many minor rule details when running combat. Hopefully I will get better with practice.

Still, I consider this session a minor success as I think I managed to convey the sense of exploration a mysterious location. The players' realisation that they were in the burial grounds of an ancient people, and their (albeit brief) misgivings about grave-robbing made the work of prepping and running this session worthwhile.

Next week the party will explore the mysterious Gardens of Tarn, so now I need to go find a forest-based module. See you next week.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Terrinoth #3 - The B Team

As mentioned in the first post in this series, one of the things I am trying out for this campaign is the "B Team". The idea is that on the days that not all four of my core "A Team" players can make a session, we play a "B Team" game with those who can, using their "B Team" characters, plus the characters of other non-regular players who can make that session.

As the B Team games will occur on an irregular basis, their adventures will all be concluded in a single session (of about 3 hours). The composition of the party for each session will also not be fixed, and will depend on who can attend that particular session.

What will make this different from a series of one-shot games is that the PCs will adventure in the same world and timeline as the A Team, and they will gain experience and level up. At the same time, there will be a continuous metaplot occurring in the game world. One way of describing this is that this is a closed Adventurers' League table, although the adventures I run will not be AL-legal.

If you are directed to this page from our WhatsApp group or Meetup, here are some information and guidelines:

The Rules

The rules we will be using are the D&D 5E rules. I will go more into character creation below.

The Setting

The setting is Terrinoth, the fantasy setting created by Fantasy Flight Game. You can find out more about the setting at this wikia, but do be aware that the information may not coincide 100% with my game world.

The Premise

To maximise playing time, we will start with the premise that the PCs are all adventurers responding to the call of a local lord to undertake a mission.

This will be primarily be for a cash reward, but if your character has other motivations for going on adventures, it will be even better. As I get to know your character better, I may work their motivations and back stories into the story line if possible. I want this campaign to have more continuity in terms of your character's story arc than in the typical AL game.

Creating Your Character

We will use only options from the Players Handbook. We will use the Standard Array for stats. The Race and Classes allowed are discussed below. We will use the standard Background rules.

Characters start at level 2. Advancement will be by Experience Points Award. I expect PCs to gain a level every two to five sessions.

Do also come up with a short-term goal and a long-term goal for your character, as well as an enemy from his/her past and also an ally from his/her past.

Character Race

The following races are open (Terrinoth race/D&D race equivalent: brief description):
  • Human/Human: You may choose to be either of Terrinoth (generic fantasy medieval European, specifically German) origin, urban or rural, or from Isheim (fantasy Viking), Lorimor (fantasy medieval France), Torue Albes (fantasy England, with a maritime emphasis), or Al-Kalim (fantasy Arabian).
  • Forge Dwarf/Hill Dwarf: Dwarves who live in the mixed human-dwarf city of Forge in Terrinoth.
  • Dunwarr Dwarf/Mountain Dwarf: Dwarves who live in the dwarven kingdom of Dunwarr to the north of Terrinoth.
  • Lowborn Elf/Wood Elf: Elves who are descended from the first generation (Highborn) elves who came to Terrinoth, and hail from the Aymhelim Forest to the south of Terrinoth.
  • Free Cities Elf/Half-Elf: Elves who have taken up living in human cities, mostly in Dawnsmoor, near the Aymhelim Forest.
  • Deep Elf/Drow: Once part of the Daewyl, a tribe of Elves that became corrupted by the Ynfernael powers, the Deep Elves seek to atone for their sins by destroying the remnants of the Darwyl and demons.
  • Burrow Gnome/Lightfoot Halfling, Stout Halfling, Forest Gnome: Burrow Gnomes live in large matriarchal bands and have mostly abandoned interaction with the other races, but occasionally, some will still succumb to the lure of adventure.
  • Wanderer Gnome/Rock Gnome: Wanderer Gnomes roam all over the world in communal caravans, making a living as traders, performers, and occasionally even as labourers or craftsmen in human communities.
  • Broken Plains Orc, Stone-Dweller Orc/Half-Orc: Once viewed as enemies of Man, orcs have become accepted as one of the 'civilised' races since they switch sides and allied with Terrinoth during the Dragon Wars 800 years ago. Broken Plains Orcs live a nomadic lifestyle on the Broken Plains east of Terrinoth, while the Stone-Dweller Orcs have abandoned their traditional ways and live among humans in their cities.
  • Dragon Hybrid/Dragonborn: Created by the dragons as foot soldiers during the Dragon Wars 800 years ago, these humanoid hybrids were left behind after the war ended abruptly. Once hunted mercilessly by the humans, they have in recent times become more tolerated. (NB: Red Dragon ancestry only; gain +1 CON instead of +1 CHA)

Character Classes

All Character Classes appropriate to your character's background can be taken, with the following caveats:
  • Sorcerers, Warlocks: Open use of magic may be viewed as a sign of Ynfernael influence and result in persecution.
  • Wizards: Wizards in the setting learn new spells by finding and studying Runebound crystal shards instead of copying them into their spellbooks. This makes it a very challenging class to play in the game.

Optional Rules in Play

I generally try not to kill PCs, but I want danger to be real, so the following rules are in play: 
  • Slow Natural Healing: PCs do not regain hit points at the end of a long rest.
  • Experience Award: PCs who 'drop' during an encounter do not gain Experience Points for that encounter
  • Character "Death": If a PC "dies" from failing death saves (i.e. not sudden death or in a manner where the body cannot reasonably be recovered), he loses one level of Experience Points.


The games will be played on Mondays, from 7pm to 10pm or so, at my place in Bukit Batok. We typically meet at West Mall for dinner at 6pm, and then make our way to my place afterwards. You can meet the group at my place if you do not join us for dinner.

I will announce the session date on our WhatsApp chat, and players who can make that session can respond on the chat. I will try to post as early as I can so you can plan your schedules.

Generally, places will be given on a first-come, first-serve basis, but if a player has played in the last two consecutive sessions, I may give the spot to another player who has not.

I want to respect everybody's time and confirm the player list for each session as early as I can, so please only sign up for a session if you can make it.

Dice and stationery are provided. You may bring your own dice but if I think they are not balanced I will ask that you use mine instead.

Combat will be played on battle-maps with figurines. You may bring your own figurine if you wish to.

Bottled water and snacks are provided - we only allow plain water at the table for... historical reasons (don't ask).

That's all for now. Do feel free to post any question you may have on our WhatsApp group or in the comments. Hope to see you in Terrinoth soon!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Terrinoth #2 - Setting up a Sandbox

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am planning to run part of this new campaign as a sandbox.

Specifically, I am using the Runebound map as the "sandbox". There are some differences between the Runebound map and the map of Terrinoth in the Realms of Terrinoth supplement, but for my purpose it will suffice. The Runebound map is also divided into hexes, each of which I estimate to be around 24 miles across, which is conveniently the distance a party travels in one day in D&D (and most fantasy rules).

Populating the sandbox was an easy task of marrying the strengths of the map and the supplement: I put a scanned copy of the map onto a cork board, and put red pins onto those hexes containing the landmarks and features described in the book.

I made a table of all these pinned sites with the description from the book, and then I went through my library of RPG modules to find suitable adventures for each of the sites.

For example, the text on Smokeblue Hills mentioned sorcerous cults, so it was a simple matter of finding a module that features cultists as the main antagonist, and then adapting it to fit the world, and then siting the adventure at the location. If the players decide to explore the Smokeblue Hills in the next session, I just pull out the module, revise myself on the story, prepare the required monster cards and miniatures, and we are good to go.

This somewhat duplicates the first phase of play for the Runebound game, where the player charactes wander around the board visiting quest sites and drawing quest cards from a deck.

The second phase of a Runebound game, which I also wish to duplicate, has a more "directed" quest, where there is a boss villain who is putting his plans into action, which will in time come to fruition if the players do not stop him before a certain number of turns have elapsed. This "main quest" also generates a number of related "side quests", which give the players a chance to throw a spanner in the works of the villain's plans - or not, if they choose to ignore the plot hooks presented to them.

This is the basic plan for the mixed sandbox-directed play.

There is of course another option, which is to let the sandbox proceed at a more "organic" fashion. I described this approach thus on a thread on rpgnet forum discussing sandbox play:

"So let's say there is this "Swamps of Fear" somewhere on the map. You then have to decide what challenge to put there. How about a hag? That's pretty standard, right? Then you think about what a hag might be up to, or just go to rpgnow or adventurelookup and search for a module that features a hag. You don't need a full-length module, just a mini-dungeon as others have suggested will do. Remember, you want the session to be self-contained. Once you have found a mini-module you like and read, you plonk the adventure there and then think about the rumours. Usually the modules come with a table for rumours - if so, when the players ask you what's at the Swamps of Fear you just make a roll and give them the rumour, and they then decide whether to go there.
For the second stage I like to introduce the overarching metaplot of the setting. This can be something you plan from the outset, or something that evolves organically. Say the hag that your PCs fought was particularly memorable and they looted something neat from her. You can then play on this and either have her return as an undead, or have her sisters in the coven find her looted lair and decide to take revenge on the PCs (and take back the looted item!). You can further expand it by deciding that these sisters were part of a collective of covens which are planning to bring about some Bad Event, and the item was part of the plan (maybe each hag was supposed to bring their item to the meeting place on such and such a date to participate in a ritual to bring about the Bad Event).Over the next few sessions the PCs continue to explore interesting spots on the map, but find themselves attacked again and again by the hags or their agents, until eventually they learn about their plans and the importance of the item, and must decide what to do."

It is of course still too early to say which approach I will eventually take with this campaign, but I am excited by the possibilities.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Terrinoth #1 - A new RPG Campaign

I generally don't post details of my RPG sessions on this blog, but I am planning to do so for the new campaign I am starting next week. The plan is to write a post after each session, with the first part of the post summarising the play, and the second part (out of bounds to my players!) being a documentation of my thought processes in preparing for the session and during the running of the game.

One of the reasons why I plan to do this is that I am experimenting with a new system of running the game, which I call the B-Team system.

Now one of the problems many gaming groups face is that of scheduling. I am fortunate enough to have a rather regular group, but even then once in a while a couple of fellows just happen to have something else on for a couple of weeks consecutively, and we end up not playing for several weeks in a row. I developed the "East Marches" system to deal with this in my Space Opera campaign, and that was rather successful. However, that system restricted us to adventures which must end in a single session.

For the upcoming campaign, I want a more traditional tempo to it, which means we may end a session in the middle of a dungeon, and pick up the next session, so I want the make-up of the party to be the same from session to session.

To cope with the problem of not having everyone at the table on a game night, I proposed the formation of a B-Team. What this entails is each player having a secondary character, which they will play on the evenings when not everyone (from the A-Team, as it were) can make it. To make a full party, I will offer the places at my table to other players. The B-Team then will play like the "East Marches" style, with the make-up of the party being different from session to session, but with each player playing his same character, and gaining experience and leveling up. And what is more, the A-Team and the B-Team will exist in the same timeline. To the players who are only on the B-Team, this will be like a closed Adventurer's League.

Another new thing I hope to be trying out this campaign is a sandbox style of play.

This all came about two months ago when my brother introduced me to the board game Runebound. I was struck by how the whole game is basically a sandbox game in the first half, and a directed campaign in the second. I was excited to learn that FFG would be releasing an RPG supplement for the setting soon, and started planning to set my campaign in the realm of Terrinoth.

For rules I decided on D&D 5E. I like the relatively simple core mechanics of the system, and the number of spells and customisation options offered by the rules even without the new books. My players are all rather easy-going, and we have built up enough trust over the past couple of years to be able to house-rules bits we don't like.

Probably the biggest rules change we have made is to the wizards' spells. One of the chief features of the Terrinoth setting is that much of magic in the realm is bound up in thousands of shards of crystals. This gave me the idea that instead of learning spells from spellbooks and scrolls, wizards instead require these crystal shards to cast spells. This means that learning new spells is now no longer just a matter of copying them into your spellbook, but finding and gaining new crystal shards. This puts a huge handicap on wizard players, but fortunately two of my players have stepped up to the challenge.

We did Session Zero after last night's game, and created three characters (one of the strengths of D&D is how quickly one can create a character), their backstories, a together came up with how they ended up together. I required each player to come up with a short-term goal, a long-term goal, an enemy from the past, and an ally from the past for their characters, and I am very happy with what they came up with - I am already making plans to include their past into the campaign.

After all that, I showed them the map from Runebound, and asked them where they would like to go next. They picked the one hook I haven't really got a module ready for, but I did manage to find one later that night. The module in turn led me to read up on pre-Celtic civilisations on Europe... There's still a bit of work to be done before I am prepped for next week, but I am an excited if sleepy GM now.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Gamma World

One of the first RPGs I played, literally a third of a century ago, was Gamma World. I cannot be certain if it was the second edition of the game I played or the third. Or that I played it at all, come to think of it. But I learned about Gamma World at a very young age, and had always been fascinated by the premise of the setting.

Somewhere along the line, I acquired a copy of the Third Edition boxed set (the circumstances of which are also forgotten), but I never actually played it.

Then this year, with my foray into classic D&D modules, I came across Expeditions to the Barrier Peaks, and it occurred to me that here was a chance to kill two birds with one stone: I would run Expeditions using Gamma World rules!

The module itself is a dungeon-crawl with no real clear aim, so taking a leaf from Seth Skorkowsky, I decided to add an active opposition to our party.

So I decided that our party are mutants from a village of, well, mutants, who are persecuted by Pure Strain Humans in this post-apocalyptic world. The mutants have only medieval level technology, while the humans have modern technology. They learn that the humans are planning to launch an attack on their village, and to even the odds, they are sent on a quest to the magical dungeon in the mountain to find magical weapons. When they arrive at the door to the dungeon, they see that the humans have the same idea, and have just entered it before them. It will be a race against time and mutant-hating humans to find the most powerful weapons, and make it out and back the village in time before the attack comes!

I gave my players the choice of any type of mutant: a mutated humanoid, mutated animal, or mutated plant. I got a mutated gorilla, a mutated rabbit, a mutated bat, and a mutated cactus. Since they decided on their characters before they knew what the module would be about, it meant that only the mutated rabbit would reasonably be able to use any of the weapons they will find inside the dungeon. Well, maybe some other mutants back at the village have human-like hands...

The gorilla figure is a D&D prepainted, the bat a giant bat from Games Workshop, the rabbit a conversion made from the head and torso of a skaven (with bunny ears sculpted on), the arms of a Frostgrave soldier, and the legs of a Warhammer Fantasy ungor, and the cactus from Pegasus Hobbies.

While googling around for more information on the module, I learned that the 'boss' monster is an iconic creature called the Froghemoth. There is actually an official version of the miniature, but it is expensive for a one-use miniature, and it would be so much more fun to made one of my own.

So two packs of rubber toy animals, some stiff wires, putty, and spray paints later, I got this:

The most difficult part of this build was actually the teeth, but without them the model just looks like a large toy frog.