Thursday, October 29, 2020

Chronicles of the Adventurers Guild #3

On the 25th Day of Lenzin,

Guild members Moonshadow, Kimly, Tamira and Leowe (see PC profiles here), with the bearer Lennard in employment, returned to the tombs below barrow #20.

Exploring to the east, they came upon two unsanctioned tomb-robbers, and observed them breaking into a burial chamber, where they were attacked by an undead. The undead slew one of the robbers and caused the other to flee. The guild members were able to vanquish the undead, and obtain the grave goods within its sarcophagus.

Proceeding then further to the west, and then to the sealed chamber north of the one they had earlier explored, they entered a burial chamber, whereupon the remains of those within rose. The party withdrew from the chamber, all the while assailing the undead with fire and arrows, until at last they fell, and the grave goods within the chamber were recovered.

Turning then to the east and thence south, they came upon a sealed chamber with archaic dwarven runes upon the door. Breaking into the chamber, they found the remains of a dwarven warrior upon a plinth, with a steel warhammer upon its chest. The members were able to discern that the chamber held a trap by observing certain vents upon its walls, and that a second stone door was hidden in the antechamber, poised to close down and trap those within the chamber. The party contrived to overcome the trap by occluding the vents with their clothing, and placing pieces of the broken door beneath the hidden door. As they have surmised, when the warhammer was removed from the dwarven warrior, a gas of viridian hue issued forth from the vents, and the hidden door descended from its place, but was prevented from sealing the chamber by the stone pieces placed beneath it. Our members were able to vacate the chamber, and by displacing the stone pieces, seal the chamber before the effects of the green vapours could afflict them.

The hour being late, they returned to the Guild.

Grave goods recovered assessed to be 55 Gros in value, and the warhammer was assessed to be 59 Gros in value. 40 Gros was disbursed to the members, according to the terms of the contract.


Jeras, Guild Chronicler

Prepping and Running the Game

Square joined the campaign, and we now have five players and nine characters in the campaign.

As you can see from the account above, the PCs did not cover many rooms this session. Part of the reason was because they spent a bit of time tackling the last room. Nevertheless, I was okay with that, as I think they really got into the OSR spirit in the way they tried to problem-solve their way out of the situation, instead of using brute force: a prudent decision when your characters had 5, 3, 2, and 1 hit points left respectively!

I had earlier had some vague idea of how the gas trap would work, and when the players asked for more details of the room, specifying where their characters were examining, I was forced imagine exact details and to tell them enough for them to plot a counter to the trap. I am pretty impressed by how they solved the problem... even if it meant they had to make the trek back to the Guild half-naked.

There were some gonzo moments, like when they were planning to use the dead body of the tomb robber to do an "Indiana Jones swop" for the body of the dwarf - when told that the human tomb robber weighed more than the dwarf, they contemplated amputating the dead fellow's legs...

The trope of "corpse that only animate when you take their stuff" also gave rise to the cunning plan of using the telekinesis cantrip to steal grave goods, or otherwise pour lamp oil over the corpses and then lighting them on fire with another cantrip. The problem with this plan, however, was that this put the party a Gold behind each time it was used due to the price of oil, and (I only thought of this later) would potentially damage the grave goods, lowering their value.

I still feel I am not in full OSR dungeoncrawl GM mode, as I am still too focused on making sure I got what's in each room correct, rather than to give a more immersive description of the surroundings. I will need to be conscious of that the next session.

Three of the characters managed to level up this session, which will mean they will need to take some downtime, forcing their players to use their other character. However, when they return, they will have much higher hit points, which will change the whole dynamic of the delve.

Monday, October 26, 2020

The Skavenholme Scallywags

When the news of Blood Bowl 2020 hit and my group decided to plan a new league, I had to choose whether to field one of my existing teams, or start a new one. Since FG was ordering a Dwarf team from a third party manufacturer, I decided to tag on an order for 16 not-skavens.

When my friend Steve heard about this, he offered to send me his 2nd Edition team, which he painted many years ago. The team survived the long trip from the UK, and needed only the minimum of touching up. I out them on hexagonal bases, magnetised them, did the flocking, and now they are just waiting for a varnish.

The reason why I chose a hexagonal base was because I wanted to apply some sort of label or marking to the edge of the base, and figured a flat base edge would make it easier.

I named the team "Skavenholme Scallywags", after Steve's surname, and in homage to the fact that these lads came from the UK.

I wanted a dugout for the team, but instead of a showy but not-too-practical one like for my Egyptian or Greek teams, I wanted something that doubled as storage for the figures too. I was looking at various options, but the choice came in the form of a gift box for tea leaves that a relative gave to me. I pulled out the interior, lined the bottom of the box with a thin steel sheet, glued a print-out with the three divisions on top of it, then added the partitions with some back mounting board. The team name and tracks went on the lid.

These sculpts are old school and full of character, but unfortunately the types of players don't quite match those in the upcoming edition. The differences won't prevent me from using them though, and I am really looking forward to these guys' first game.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Thaw of the Lich Lord Game 7


Game 7 of the campaign has the warbands lured into a dungeon by the Ghoul King and trapped inside. Each turn a ghoul would appear, so if the warbands do not defeat the Ghoul King and activate the levers by his throne that will open the doors to allow them to escape, the number of ghouls would become so high the warbands will all be overwhelmed... Except it didn't happen like that.

Without even discussing a plan, Adrian's barbarians moved into the line of sight of the Ghoul King, who moved towards them. Meanwhile, my skavens have moved up to near the throne (but out of line of sight), and once the Ghoul King was distracted, they sprinted to the levers and opened all the doors. At the same time, FG's humans took care of the ghouls that spawned.

Adrian's barbarians took a few casualties from the Ghoul King and a wraith that appeared to their rear, but fortunately they were the expendable soldiers.

I do feel that the challenge rating of the game is lower now that we have reduced the frequency of wandering monsters, and also because the programmed monsters are scaled to two warbands and not three. and of course, our spellcasters are not more proficient, and we all have some form of magical weapons that can affect monsters that are immune to non-magical attacks. For the next game, we will use the higher challenge wandering monster table, as well as double the number of programmed monsters, which should see a more epic battle.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Thaw of the Lich Lord Game 6

Game 6 of the campaign featured teleporting doors, so we decided to dust off the old Dungeon Command tiles and use the magical glyphs on some of them as the teleportation points, as we did when we playtested the game.

This scenario was particularly interesting, as the random nature of the portals meant that a warband could easily get separated and become vulnerable. Having read the scenario rules, I decided to go meta and instead of going for the treasures in the final chamber, focused my strength against the cultists coming to prevent us from looting the chamber. It was a decision that almost turned into disaster, as three of my Treasure Hunters were cut down by the zombie troll, the cultists, and a wild boar that wandered into the dungeon; fortunately, they all made the recovery roll and will be present for the next game.

With just four more games in the campaign, our little group is thinking about what to play next.

Blood Bowl 2020 is the next campaign we are looking forward to, but so far there has been no news of a release date. Between then and when Adrian has a team painted, we are hoping to play some boardgames.

Further on the horizon are the upcoming Frostgrave campaign The Red King, and of course Stargrave. I am not actively planning to get Stargrave at this point in time, but I suspect Northstar's plastic minis that will launch alongside the rules plus the hype around it will convince me to.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Chronicles of the Adventurers Guild #2

On the 23rd Day of Lenzin,

Guild members Moonshadow, Kimly, Tamira and Folly (see PC profiles here), with the bearer Lennard in employment, explored the following barrows:

#17 - A covered barrow which they excavated with effort; within, a single undecorated sarcophagus holding a single undead which they vanquished after a fierce fight.

Being too weary for further battle, the members then broke open the cover stone to barrow #16, and returned to the Guild.

Grave goods recovered assessed to be 48 Gros in value, of which 16 Gros was disbursed to the party according to the terms of the contract.


Jeras, Guild Chronicler


On the 24th Day of Lenzin,

Guild members Moonshadow, Kimly, Kelso and Aksinya, with the bearer Lennard in employment, explored barrow #16, which had the day before been opened.

Therein they found the remains of an ancient warrior upon a stone plinth, and upon him a sword untarnished by the ages. Against the walls of the barrow were skeletons, which animated and attacked the party when they attempted to remove the sword, felling Moonshadow, Kelso, and Aksinya, and only desisting when Kimly returned the sword. The party was able to destroyed the skeletons while they were in their inanimate form, and successfully claim the sword thereafter.

Here also they found a hidden passage to tunnels below the barrow, which exploring, they found to be connected to the tunnels which lead from barrow #20 (!)

To the southeast they found a foul pool, which they wisely did not drink of.

Following the tunnel to the east and thence north, they came upon an affray between two parties, one of which fled past them and thence to the west. Following this party, which consisted of two men and a dragon hybrid warrior, they learned that they had battled against "cultists", which they cautioned the party against.

The trio then ascended a rope suspended from an opening in the earth, which the guild members surmised to lead to barrow #12.

Exploring to the north, the party opened a sealed burial chamber, and while they were recovering grave goods from burial alcoves in the walls within, were attacked by animated skeletons, which they destroyed.

It being late, the party returned to the Guild.

The sword was assessed to be 52 Gros in value; the grave goods recovered were assessed to be 59 Gros in value. 40 Gros was disbursed to the party according to the terms of the contract.


Jeras, Guild Chronicler

Addendum: The matter of unauthorised treasure hunters and "cultists" having been reported to Guildmaster Heinz Hassel-Hoffa, due warning was issued to guild members to be on alert.

Prepping and Running the Game

The two days described above took place during a single session - the deadly nature of an old school rules/dungeon at a low level means that retiring and healing up is sometimes the wiser option.

One thing I have noticed in this game, and in my other campaigns, is that players tend to regress to the level of their characters. In exploring barrow #16, they made the rookie mistake of turning their collective backs on potential threats to face what they thought was the bigger threat, and as a result were surprised by an attack on their rear that nearly resulted in a TPK.

While this is not at all at odds with the newbie status of their characters, it does reduce their efficiency, and with each "down" having the potential in stat loss, can in the long term result in their characters being unviable, which I have tried to account for by having them each make two characters.

Nevertheless, I think I will need to actively manage this by imparting some knowledge of dungeoncraft via one or more of the NPCs back at their home base.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Thaw of the Lich Lord Game 5

We have come to the mid-point of our Frostgrave campaign.

For this scenario I broke out all my Russian cardboard buildings to fill the table, but it turned out to be a bit of an effort for not much of a return.

The scenario looked interesting on paper, but once the game started it was a typical "grab the two treasures nearest to you and get out" game. We did co-operate towards the end to kind the Wraith Knight just because, but there was little challenge or player-vs-player action otherwise, and the game ended after a little more than an hour

The next scenario promises to be more interesting as it features teleporting doors. FG and I had used Dungeon Command tiles as the magical glyphs on the floor in those tiles as teleporting circles during our play-test for the first edition of the game, and we plan to do the same this time round.

The random nature of teleportation means that two figures that pass through a teleportation point consecutively may not end up at the same place. This makes it very hard to protect a treasure-carrying character, and makes a "frigate bird" strategy more viable.

We have enjoyed the campaign so far, and now FG is eyeing the upcoming Frostgrave campaign book The Red King. The information so far seems to suggest that this will be a more co-operative campaign than previous ones. It will be fun to try a different warband with it.

Monday, October 05, 2020

Chronicles of the Adventurers Guild #1

On the 21st day of Lenzin,

Guild members Moonshadow, Francis, and Kelso (see PC profiles here), with the bearer Lennard in employment, explored the following barrows:

#12 - A large barrow, the cover stone broken, and signs of recent traffic. The party was deterred from entering due to the stench of urine and rotten food.

#18 - A small barrow, the cover stone broken and the floor inside flooded. Here the party was attacked by a giant toad, and Moonshadow was felled by the beast's venom, before it was slain.

#21 - A medium barrow, its entrance covered by earth.

#20 - A small barrow, the cover stone broken, and within it a false sarcophagus that hid stairs to a series of tunnels below! Following the tunnels eastwards and then north, the party was assailed by skeletal warriors, which they vanquished. The hour being late, the party returned to the Guild.

Treasure recovered assessed to be 32 Gros in value, of which 12 Gros was disbursed to the party according to the terms of the contract.


Jeras, Guild Chronicler

Prepping and Running the Game

Barrowmaze is a huge dungeon, with some 70 surface barrows, a few of which lead into the titular dungeon complex underground, which in turn has over 300 locations, many of which had separate sublocations! It is thus impossible to prep for the whole dungeon beforehand, or even if one did so, hold the descriptions of all the locations in one's head.

What made it even worse was the fact that while most traditional old school dungeons had a single entrance, and the difficulty/level of the encounters became higher as one descended into the lower levels, Barrowmaze had multiple entrances, and was effectively a single level once you got underground.

While I liked the basic premise of Barrowmaze and its metaplot, many of the encounters were still too high fantasy for me, and as I had devised a system to award treasures and experience points based on that given in Five Torches Deep, many of the locations became inapplicable to me. I went through the whole book, trimmed off more than half of the locations, and re-drew the map of the whole complex.

As I went through this process, I tried to recreate the history of Barrowmaze in my head. In my imagination it must have started out as burial in natural caves during the Stone Age, and then expanded by succeeding Bronze Age civilisations that moved into the region, and then by the Iron Age civilisations that came after them. I divided the dungeon into several zones, each belonging to a separate civilisation. The forms of burial for each civilisation would be different: some practised inhumation, some cremation; some urn burial, some had sarcophagi. I tried to make the monsters match the burial practices of the civilisation, so a civilisation that practised cremation may have fire-themed undead or magical guardians, while one civilisation that practised salt dessication of bodies featured undead that inflicted damage by dehydration. As the value of grave goods became progressively higher, no doubt tomb robbing became a concern, and traps and magical guardians became a feature.

In Barrowmaze, the level of the encounter became higher the further east one traveled - this can in part be explained by the fact that the source of what animated the undead lay in the east. The author had perhaps therefore deliberately place the entry point to the west of the map, but there is really nothing to prevent a novice party decide that they want to explore the overground barrows from the west, and potentially descending into the maze below and meet high level monsters early in the campaign.

For a GM, this was a real cause for concern, and despite my years of experience the idea that I did not know where the PCs will start at made me nervous.

Fortunately for me, my players decided to start in the west, although they did nearly discover the entrance to the maze below in the first barrow they visited! Thankfully, the description of recent traffic and the description of the smell of urine and rotten food convinced them that it was a plundered tomb with little to discover, and they did not even enter.

They did in fact find their way into the maze below towards the end of the session, but by then, with a combat encounter under our belt, I felt more relaxed - plus by then it was unlikely they would go much further in the maze.

This being a dungeon-crawl, there is much less role-playing involved. Fortunately, the players employed a bearer, which allowed me to insert a voice into the session.

The style of play is definitely different from our usual, and it remains to be seen if we will stick to it, but so far I am enjoying the challenge.

Friday, October 02, 2020

Return to Terrinoth: Five Torches Deep in Barrowmaze

(Image from DriveThruRPG)

Changes in my work schedule has finally allowed me to return to Monday evening sessions after a seven-month hiatus. I had wanted to go back to A Team and complete the campaign arc, but not everyone was ready to get back to gaming yet, and to be honest the players had forgotten where we left off, so I just retconned it such that the PCs just lived happily ever after in their little village...

To cope with everyone's schedule, I decided start a new campaign, and fall back on the same format I used for our Space Opera campaign: a drop-in, drop-out (what I call) 'East Marches' style.

For the rules, I decided on Five Torches Deep, which is a simpler, cut-down version of 5E, with some nice mechanics for the resource-management part of old school style D&D.

For the campaign, I decided I will finally try to run a megadungeon. I don't know how long our new campaign will last, so I wanted something that can last maybe more than a dozen sessions, and a megadungeon seemed like a good way to keep the 'plot' contained and something that's easier to prep for.

The key then was finding a megadungeon module that would fit inside my current game world of Terrinoth, and also make sense to me. Huge Underdark campaigns that involve Drows are cool, but don't really fit in Terrinoth, while those that featured more traditional dungeons are usually the products of mad wizards' minds, which was not what I was looking for.

The perfect solution came in the form of Barrowmaze, which not only made sense as an "ecosystem", but also dovetailed with our previous campaigns.

Both the A Team and the B Team campaigns started off in the Ashen Hills, a desolate region that was home to ancient standing stones and barrows of a forgotten civilisation. I decided that after their exploits, the local garrison became aware of the treasure hoards that may be buried in the barrows. Word reached the Baron, and he decided that best way to profit off these treasure hoards was to lease the rights to "explore" the region to private contractors. A charter was thus granted to an Adventurer's Guild, which had the right to remove treasures from the barrows in a specific region, with the Baron getting a cut of the proceeds.

Our PCs are thus adventurers from all across the realm of Terrinoth, who had joined up to seek their fortune... or die trying.

This being an old school campaign, PC death is a real possibility, and I asked each player to create two characters; they can choose to play either one for a given session, and if a character died the player will simply use his other character, and create another level one character as a back-up.

The characters so far are:

Aksinya, Human Zealot (Druid of Kurnos)

Erik, Dunwarr Dwarf Warrior (Barbarian)

Folly, Human Mage (Warlock)

Francis, Human Zealot (Paladin of Kellos)

Grak, Broken Plains Orc Warrior

Graves, Low-Born Elf Zealot (Druid)

Kelso, Deep Elf Mage (Warlock)

Kimly, Forge Dwarf Warrior (Fighter)

Laethan Autumnloft, Low-Born Elf Warrior (Ranger). Died on 1st Ostar at the hands of a undead in barrow #34.

Leowe Blackclaw, Stone-Dweller Orc raised by Forge Dwarves, Mage (Sorcerer)

Madian Moonridge, Human Mage (Wizard)

Moonshadow, Low-Born Elf Thief (Assassin)

Piper Willowwind, Gnome Thief

Tamira Reid, Free Cities Elf Zealot (Cleric of Kellos). Died on 18th Ostar when she sacrified her life to destroy the Heart of Nodros.

I will update the list as the campaign progress, and in the event of a PC death, also chronicle how the character met his or her end.

With a megadungeon format, chronicling the sessions in the traditional format I have used will probably be difficult, so I decided to try to write up the progress of the PCs in the form of the Guild Ledger, recording briefly which barrows they have visited (plundered) and what they found inside. This will serve the 'real-life' purpose of reminding me what happened and to update the description of each location in the module.

The records may seem dry at first, but one of the reasons why I chose to play Barrowmaze is that there is in fact a meta-plot to the whole campaign, so if you will be patient, all will be revealed in time...