Friday, June 30, 2023

Get Out of My Courtyard!

As my daughter likes to remind me, I'm old. I'm not like 'how does this phone thingy work" (generally), but more like "meh. Music used to sound better". So I'm a bit removed. However, I teach 8th grade, so I spend a lot of time around teenagers. I realize that there's a secret underbelly of the youth cultural experience circa 2023 that I am blissfully unaware of, but I also have a sense of the general shape of thinking of the modern adolescent mind.

All of that said, I'm reflecting on how gaming differs between me and other people posting things on social media for game use. There are people who seem to be nice enough and talented enough and sincere enough and all of that over on the FB group I've just joined, but the art and discussions center around friends and relationships and gender identity. And I get that these are big conversations and huge concerns for a large number of my students, so it's not shocking or strange that it would make its way into gaming.

What is odd to me is that in some ways, it's become the point of the game. Your primary stat is gender identity. That's something I can't quite fathom. Sure, I know what gender my characters are, and sometimes that implies a relationship, but that's always in the background. Like, if I decide his tunic is blue, it's blue. Whatever. It could have been red, and I'd still play the character the same way.

I mean, I made Arath, and he's a heterosexual male, because I just assumed he's that. I didn't think about it. He's a lone dude on a quest. His sexuality, or lack thereof, never really enters into my thinking. At one point I checked to see if a character he was spending time with had a crush on him (the dice said no), but I never checked to see if he had a crush on her. He's kind of busy doing stuff to think about relationships at all. To me, the game is about killing monsters and taking their stuff. He could be a Ken doll under the belt and it doesn't really change the game for me. As a result, my art is about characters going into, preparing for, or in the midst of conflict with the forces of darkness/chaos/not-nice-ness/whatever. 

A lot of art I see is of characters hanging out in town or on a boat or somewhere. They may be on the way to an adventure, or recovering after an adventure, but they're just spending time together and smiling and building their relationship.

I guess I don't get it.

All of that is a LONG way of circling back to my game in this way - I am thinking about adventuring as a level 1 female mystic in a moon elf city of mystery and intrigue. So, XP could be awarded for killing monsters and taking their stuff... or it could be awarded for navigating an encounter. She has high mind, no armor, and only a few hits. Killing monsters is going to be harder. I got curious about how I defined this in the core rules, because that matters, and found this in section 3.0: "Every time a PC overcomes a challenge, they earn experience points (xp)... Grant XP as above based on the level of the foe(s)." and then, later, I suggest "PCs may also earn level x1 to level x5 XP for overcoming challenges requiring roleplaying and skill". "Overcome" is vague enough that it could include combat, or not include combat. You get the same XP if the monster dies or runs away or decides to let you walk through its lair after picking it clean.

As far as that roleplaying piece, this nests easily over the existing framework for likelihoods... how likely was the character to overcome this 'challenge' at the beginning?

Very likely = level x1 XP
Likely = level x2 XP
Possible = level x3 XP
Unlikely = level x4 XP
Very unlikely = level x5 XP

You had to convince the barkeep you've known for a decade to let you pay him tomorrow? Seems pretty likely he'd roll with that. Enjoy your 1 XP with your beverage. You were trying to negotiate peace between two warring factions of bugbears and you managed to broker a truce without bloodshed? Um, guess you earned that level x5 XP. I don't think that a solo game works in this way at all - I am playing alone, and the dice only take me so far in emulating real, human interaction. It's a 'roll' more than 'role' system when I play solo.

It's not a perfect system by any stretch, but that I put it in the rules at all makes me feel better. I was worried for a second I had equated XP entirely with hacking and slashing (which maybe the title of the game conceivably suggests), but the social piece is there, at least in an implied state.

All that is to say that if you spend your time between adventures building relationships and smiling at others, you could conceivably get to level 6 and never draw your sword.

That game seems boring AF to me.

But I'm old.

Hello, City (Hey)

With apologies to the Barenaked Ladies...

I showed my daughter a drawing of my elfin mystic yesterday, and she said "She's kind of like Raven". Grace reads Beastboy/Raven romantic graphic novels, which I am all in favor of, because A) Reading and B) Comics, but that got into my head a little bit. Because what if she's not just an elf, but a moon elf? And what if she's not just an apprentice, but the apprentice of someone that she just realized is one of the bad guys, and now she's gone rogue? And what if he's not just a solo bad guy, but he's part of a cult? And what if that cult is in the moon elf city? No. It's in THE moon elf city - the City of Vesper at the edge of the Shadow's Rift. And what if the Temple of the Shadowed Queen is in crisis, because a heretical order that claims their leader has seen a vision of her face, which is forbidden - but this priestess seems pretty confident- has sundered the church and brought chaos to the city? Like, at this point it's so bad that the thieve's guild is the only one you can trust? 

Honestly, that kind of sounds like a nifty novel. Or a campaign. Or both. Or just another idea I'll throw out to the universe and let wither on the vine.

You never really know with me.

Anyway, I'll probably pick up some dice today and find out a little more.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Spellcasters Are People Too (Sometimes)

I've been looking at giving spellcasters a little more juice. In thinking about some of the encounters that Arath is going to have in the Temple of Aluh Tehar, it seemed like some low-level casters were due to make an appearance. I figure that signature spells are a great place to infuse some variety into casters - each caster you encounter could have a unique spell that doesn't necessarily just smack you and deal damage, but which annoys or weakens or slows you down in some way. I also realized that casters and female characters are under-represented in my art so far, so here's a female caster to improve my statistical representation of both. My apologies to the ladies and the casters. I've added some cool little low-level signature spells to the living Hack'D & Slash'D Companion. One of the spells I'll be using soon follows:
Dust Storm (1).Use 1 action and check level to animate a small (10’ wide) area of dust that buffets a foe at range for 1 minute, following that foe as they move. The foe must check might at the beginning of every round or suffer -1 edge to all checks during that round.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Salamanders ROAR

For the next leg of Arath's journey, I'm being a bit more intentional about stocking the dungeon he'll be exploring. I'm going to have some random encounter tables to give the place a little more structure. I want him to fight a dragon, but he's only level 2. I've always used salamanders as a 'poor man's dragon', and this is no exception. I always liked these guys - ever since I first saw fire and ice salamanders in the 1983 blue box expert rules, they've been a staple in my adventures. 

I decided to show you my drawing process. This took me a total of a bit more than half an hour. I work entirely in Paint. I use the pencil tool (thickest setting) to do the original sketch in the ugly bright lime green (my eye sees that best against the black), and then to draw over in black. I go back to the black with the curve line tool (thickest setting) to give weight to the lines. I always admired how other inkers could get such even line weights, and I rarely could - this tool solves the problem for me. I get rid of the green (Paint only has one layer, so I have to fill with green, then fill with white, then fill with green, then fill with white, until I clean out all of the green). Then I start adding shadows, going from dark to light - I do a layer of solid blacks, then dark grey, then medium grey, then light gray. Finally I go back with the pencil tool and add some noodling to give the whole thing a little more texture.


Sunday, June 25, 2023

Abolethic Fiend

I was thinking about that Aboleth that nearly ate poor Arath in session 12, and then decided to stat it up properly... and then decided to draw a picture... and then realized that I need to get an open document going with game updates and expansions. Okay, here's the drawing at least for now. This guy came out way more nightmare-fueled than I expected he would. I don't know why there is so much synchronicity right now between my drawing and my game design, but I'll take it.


Saturday, June 24, 2023

Arath Session 13

I got an idea, and the dice agreed with a natural 1. As he sits atop his skiff and thinks about his next move, Arath finds that the ghost of the high priest has put a prayer book among his things. Arath pages through this book, and decides to say some prayers to Ubek, following the ancient text’s guidance for prayer and supplication.
That night, he has his first dream. He sees the desert pass by, and finds himself at the foot of the ruined Temple of Aluh Tehar. He knows that Ubek wants him to go there. He has a task to accomplish, but knows nothing more than that.
Adventure awaits! I will roll 1d12 but with advantage to see how fast the skiff is able to travel with the wind it has available; the edge is from the prayers and the intervention of Ubek. I roll a pair of 11s. Wow. Ubek is strong. Okay, he’s able to travel 110’ per round, or almost double his normal move. Again, 5-6 miles an hour is not unreasonable, and he could probably cover 12 hexes a day. He needs to travel 20 hexes to get to the edge of the foothills, where he can follow a trail through the hills to the temple.   
Day one passes relatively uneventfully as Arath heads southwest to the line of the mountains. He is going to travel where the desert meets the base of these mountains south. He passes north of the Ruins of Vas Anok, about 3 miles out, and can see the city on the horizon. I have no idea what is there, but it cannot be good. I check the dice. It is a city that has fallen into the hands of undead. A cabal of dark sorcerers keep legions of undead there. Yeah. Let’s skip that place.
In retrospect, three miles was probably a little too close.
The night is relatively uneventful; shadelings do not linger this far west as much, but few things come down from the mountains into the desert.
Day two is not quite as good. A medium-strength sandstorm hits in mid afternoon, and lasts for 7 hours. He could try to drive through it, but travel would be slowed significantly, and he would risk getting blown off course. Better to hunker down. He does. Since it is almost night when the storm stops, he just camps here for the night. I figure he’s in hex L5 by this point.
In the morning he sets off again, and the wind is still very favorable. He could be passing sinkholes and such, but the skiff would glide right over those, so I’m not worried about it. He sees something that looks like a huge dragon flying over the mountains quite a few miles to the west, but it seems to take no note of him. Thankfully.
He makes great time, getting to hex R6 before he has to stop again. The day passes with no encounters.
He has a dream. A gargoyle has a group of imps and they attack him, clawing him to death. He sees his sword, again and again, failing to harm to creature as it rips him apart.
He wakes up. He’s going to need a better weapon, or at least a backup with some silver. He makes a natural 12 on his mind check. He decides to start a fire and melt down some of his silver coins to put a silver edge on his blade. He’s able to figure out how to do this with some success, and works the blade several times until he feels like the silver is embedded in the metal. He uses all of his silver coins; this is not a permanently silvered weapon, but will serve him for this adventure; after this, the silver coating will have faded and no longer be effective. He used 40 sp to do this, so is down 4 gp in total wealth. 
Basically, it’s a bit of silvery dust that he can fill his scabbard with, and this will last for the whole adventure.
During day 3, he gets to hex T6, which marks the end of the trail leading through the hills and to the Temple. As he is setting up camp for the night, he has an encounter; it’s a huge falcon that comes down from the mountains. It watches him. He makes the mind check with a 12, and I roll a 1 to see if it is an omen from Ubek. He recognizes this, and consults his prayer book. He says something in Old Gallan, but fumbles it a bit. He uses luck, and manages to fix it in the last moment. The falcon bows its head once, drops a scroll it had been carrying and flies off. He knows that he has one opportunity to summon the falcon for help. It requires a task to read the scroll.
Okay then. He has a scroll of falcon summoning. Nice.
During the night, there is another encounter. It is a group of shadelings that howl at him in rage from the edge of the torchlight. It unnerves him a bit, but they do not attack. Weird.
In the morning, he hides the skiff (as much as he is able), and sets off along the path. The hills are dry and winding, and the path is somewhat rough. He has about 12 miles to travel, which he can do easily enough in about 4 hours. There is an encounter in the third hour of his journey, as he approaches the temple. He comes over a ridge to find a muddy pool with a lyndwyrm basking in it. He makes his sneak check (barely) to avoid being seen. I kinda want to fight it… but it’s level 3. Aw, heck it. What’s the point of the game if I’m not going to kill monsters and take their treasure, right?
He already made the sneak check, so I’ll rule that he can get to an outcropping over the wyrm, and leap on it with a surprise attack. Good thing for that extra +1 edge, because he ends up with an 11, dealing 7 damage as he leaps on it. The wyrm fails its armor check, and is down to 26. Initiative. Arath wins.
Round 1. Arath attacks, missing badly. He uses luck … and still misses badly. Dang. The wyrm spits at him. Arath fails his reflex check, and is slowed. Well… getting away is not going to be possible here. I guess it’s a fight to the death (or summon a falcon to help if needed).
Round 2. Arath hits for 6. The wyrm fails its armor check, so is down to 20. It bites at Arath but misses, which is a good thing. That bite deals 8 damage!
Round 3. Arath hits for 6. Failed armor, so it is at 14. It misses with its bite again!
Round 4: Arath hits for 8. Another failed armor check, so he’s got it down to 6. Dang. He’s doing well (knock on wood). The wyrm bites for 8, but Arath makes his armor check. He’s at 22.
Round 5. Arath hits for 6. The wyrm fails its armor check, and is at 0. That was quick work. I did not expect that to be quite so easy.
Arath checks through its lair, seeing something shining in the murky pool. I roll 2 instances of mundane treasure (with the free one from the lyndwyrm), but there is no magical treasure.
That’s becoming a thing.
In total, the valuables he gathers are worth 54 gp. Now we’re talking. Arath is starting to build a nice little bank account.
He has earned another 15 XP as well as some cash. He’s already nearly a quarter of the way to level 3. That would suggest he’ll hit level 3 some time around session 22. We’ll see.
This session ends with Arath as the foot of stairs leading up to the temple in the hills that looms before him. Time to go searching Dyson's archives for a map…
Arath - Pensive Fighting Man 2 (XP 142)
Armor 5; Hits 26; Move 60’; Greatsword (6); Sling (1)
Might 4 (5); Mind 2; Reflex 1
Fortitude; Luck; Two-handed (+1 edge); Warrior (+1 to hit)
Greatsword 6; Scale Mail 4+1 (Armor of the High Centurion; grants +1 edge with Gallans; no penalty to sneak); Sling 1; Adventurer’s Pack; 7 days rations; Gauntlets of Might +1; Boots of Traveling; Everburning Torch; Decanter of Sustenance (4 people of water per day, healing potion 2x per day); 20’ Levitating Desert Skiff; 120 gp in wealth (coins and jewels); scroll of falcon summoning.

Some New Tag Ideas

In thinking about Arath's next step in his adventure, and some of the things he might encounter, I've been thinking that some of the more sophisticated monsters are going to have spellcasting capabilities and/or two weapon fighting. I was specifically thinking about two weapons and how it limits you to a small-ish weapon in your off hand; this was set up to keep you from basically doubling your attacks every round, which makes sense. However, I think that there may be a more flexible way to solve this. In my limited time playing casters, I've also seen that at lower levels, your spells fail quite often; this is part of the drawback of being a caster (you win big and you lose big), but I think that it unbalances things a little bit away from pure casters. Therefore, I'm going to test a new tag that gives casters a little bump. 

A tag is a big investment of resources; if you are a support healer and you do other stuff, you may not have the tag to use; if you are a pure caster, you will almost definitely take this. It bccomes something concrete that separates primary from secondary casters that is based on player decisions rather than external game rules imposed on choice. I like that better. Dual wield also gives you the chance to go all Drizz't. With Might 3, you can wield a pair of longswords 4. That's pretty solid for a blademaster or gladiator type. You are giving up the +1 edge of two handed to have an extra chance to hit for less damage; I feel like that's a good trade. I don't see either as clearly superior. I also don't see this replacing two weapons; some characters will fight with a huge weapon and a smaller side weapon, and others will fight with two equally-balanced weapons. Either choice is viable, so no reason this has to replace anything in the current rules.

Dual Wield. You fight with two melee weapons, receiving one free action each round with your secondary weapon. Neither weapon may be rated batter than your might +1.

Spellcraft. Receive +1 edge whenever you cast a spell from one field of magic (i.e. arcane or light) and with all of your signature spells. You cannot have spellcraft with common spells.

This makes me want to make a pure caster to try it out... maybe my NEXT campaign :) 

Arath Session 12: Exploring Dyson's Map

Arath gets to the bridge that crosses the water. I check the dice, and they decide that the water is a thick sulfurou slop. It is drinkable, but it’s not pleasant. There is something living in the water… yeah. It’s a demonic aboleth sort of thing that the goblins pay tribute to. They keep feeding it scratchers, and giving it pretty rocks they find, so it allows them to survive. It has charmed the leader of the goblins, and they are now worshipping it.
Arath sees a tentacle rise and drop in the water. He continues across the bridge with a little bit of hitch in his step. The dice decide that it doesn’t try to charm him or attack him right now; it is interested in him, and it watches from below the surface. Yeah. I want NO part of that right now.
Something definitely lives the southern cave (area 7). Arath attempts to sneak again, and fails with a 1. I’m going to use the luck here, because I don’t like the idea of bumbling into something that might be quite powerful. He nails the re-check, and sneaks up the stairs to see what’s in the cavern beyond.
This is a tall, narrow cave with a 60’ ceiling that is open, and sunlight shines in. The walls are lined with sleeping vampire bats. There are dozens of them here. In my imagination, Arath awakens the bats, they chase him into the goblin hall where they gorge themselves on goblins as Arath watches in hiding, then he goes around and picks up all of the treasure and pockets the XP. Then he does the same thing to the Aboleth - it is killed by a hundred vampire bat bites.
That is not going to happen. The odds would be SO high that a piece of that would fail. Like, incredibly high odds of catastrophic failure.
Let sleeping bats lie. He does.
The lower area (6) abridges the water, and Arath wants to avoid that entirely. That looks like the kind of place you stand if you want a bunch of tentacles to grab you and put you into the water. Yeah. In fact, that’s its purpose – this is a place where sacrifices were offered in the past to this aboleth.
On to area 8. I don’t know what this is… it was a complex of some kind at some point, although the odds of it still being inhabited are pretty low. Is it clearly a temple of some kind? Heck no. It was a humanoid barracks at one point, but it’s in ruins. It’s now inhabited by undead. It’s going to be a small pack of ghouls that call this place home. That’s nice. They hate the aboleth, and it hates them, so they just hang out here, occasionally going out in search of some bats or scratchers to eat. They are hungry a lot.
Arath opens the door into C. A ghoul is here, and it attacks him immediately.
Round 1. Arath wins initiative and misses. The ghoul hits with one claw for 5 and Arath fails his armor check. He’s at 21.
Round 2. Arath hits with a 12 for 8 damage. The ghoul fails its armor check, down to 4. It hits with both claws, dealing the +3 for a bite as a free action. Arath makes both armor checks, so he suffers 7 total damage; he’s at 14.
Round 3. Arath misses. The ghoul misses with both claws.
Round 4. Arath hits for 6. A failed armor check later, and the ghoul is destroyed.
It has treasure! It has 4 instances of mundane wealth (I rolled a 1), but no magic. This is kept in a small chest with a broken lock. The ghoul is aware of it, but doesn’t really care about treasure.
The first instance is 14gp in gems.
The second instance is 4 gp in silver (so 40 sp).
The third instance is 22 gp in gold coins.
The fourth instance is 10gp in copper (so 1000 cp).
All told, this treasure is worth 50 gp. That’s quite the good haul. He also earned 5 XP for killing a ghoul, so that’s nice as well.
He tries to rest, but two more ghouls break in on him while he’s trying to recover (coming from A). He fails his mind check, so gets surprised. The first ghoul hits with a natural 12 for 5 damage, but the second misses. Arath soaks half of that, so suffers 3, and is at 11 hits. This could be bad… Arath also loses initiative, so it’s all bad, actually.
Round 1. The first ghoul immediately hits with two claws and gets the free bite, dealing 3 and 3 damage, with 3 Arath cannot soak. He makes one of his armor checks, so suffers 8 hits, and is down to 3. YIKES. The second ghoul hits once for 3, and after a successful armor check Arath is at 6. On his action, Arath drinks a double draft of potion, recoving 10 hits to put him at 16, then attacks having lost his edge. He still manages to hit for 6, and is lucky that the ghoul fails to soak. It is at 6.
Round 2. The first ghoul hits twice with the free bite, while the second gets a natural 12 with one claw for 5. Arath fails all three armor checks. DAAANG. That is 14 points of damage, putting him at 2. Arath flees.
Round 3. Wow. Lots of stuff could happen here. Arath could have about 60’ on them (since he used his action to run). He is partway down the stairs by the time they emerge from the door. Problem: they have a move of 90. They will gain 30’ per round on him. He fails a mind check, but I use luck to re-roll, and get a success; he calls out loudly in goblin “help me friends!” as he runs. He is going to cross the bridge and head for the exit.
Round 4. It is likely that the goblins hear this and respond. BARELY. I rolled a 9. Dang. Okay…
By the end of the round, Arath is about to cross the bridge (still calling this out) and the ghouls are halfway down the stairs. The goblins are starting to mobilize in their cave.
Round 5. Arath crosses the bridge and is almost to the number 3 on the map. He sees a tentacle flop in the water a bit north of the bridge, but keeps booking. The ghouls are about 20’ behind him (maybe less) when the goblins emerge from the cave and start firing arrows. It is very likely that they focus on the ghouls; they know about the ghouls and fear them, and have been ready to fight them for a bit. Someone called out in help in goblin, and is running from them, so poses no real threat at the moment. The dice agree, and the goblin commander issues an order to kill the ghouls. However, it is likely that the Aboleth starts whispering in his ear… No. The aboleth is waiting.
Round 6. Arath is halfway up the tunnel in area 1. Ten goblins fire arrows; the first ghoul is hit once, and the second ghoul is hit twice (once for 4 damage). Since Arath is now on the edge of sunlight and the goblins are attacking, it is likely that the ghouls turn and attack them instead. The dice agree.
Arath keeps running until he gets to his skiff. It is now near nightfall. He climbs aboard the skiff and tries to rest. It is likely that the shadelings would avoid the skiff entirely; I presume its magic (along with the everburning torch prominently displayed) would repel them. The dice completely and totally concur (rolled a natural 1). That’s great news. Arath is able to rest for the night as dozens of shadelings howl nearby, but none actually approaches the skiff.
Well. The dice are very kind to me. When Arath returns the next morning (he brings the skiff all the way to the cave entrance this time), he enters to find a relatively quiet cave. He sneaks in with a natural 12 to find a single ghoul standing, picking apart one of the goblins and eating it. The goblins are all dead (including the leader), and the one ghoul is peppered with arrows and lays having been vanquished. The remaining ghoul has several gaping wounds, but remains standing (at 2 hits). Arath calls to it, and it charges him. He wins initiative, but he misses his first attack. The ghoul misses twice. In round 2, Arath hits it for 6, and slays it despite a successful armor check.
Arath ‘defeated’ all of these creatures, but it’s hard to argue he gets the full XP. I will award him 10 for the two ghouls, +5 for successfully getting the goblins involved.
The dice tell me there is one more encounter ahead, and it is in area D. Both the goblins and ghouls might still have treasure.\
Goblins first. I am going to rule that they have at least one instance of monetary treasure, but will roll beyond that. They have only that one instance, which is a bag filled with 600 cp.
This time when Arath crosses the bridge, the Aboleth attempts to speak to him. Uh oh. He makes his mind check with an 11 (whew) to fight off the charm. It tells him that it sees his aura, sees the mark of Ubek upon him, and wants to be his friend. It wants to help on his journey. The successful mind check tells him to scream ‘f-off scumbag’ and keep heading east. He does. My guess is that the Aboleth is going to be ready to strike the next time he crosses the bridge…
Checking area D, Arath finds the entire room is filled with a strange mold. He fails his mind check badly, and goes to investigate it; the mold of maddening releases spores into the air. Again, Arath makes his mind check (lucky guy!) and leaves the room, which was once a barracks of some kind. I’m going to say this was once a bandit hideout a long time ago, and it has since fallen into ruin. That seems reasonable. The dice agree with conviction.
Back to the main building.  The ghouls have 1 instance of level 2 mundane treasure, and no magic. Arath uses a luck point to reroll this (because he can), but still finds no magic. He only recovers a necklace worth 8 gp.
He waits a minute to reset his luck before trying the next thing… or, he could use his potion of levitation here to cross the bridge out of range of the attacks. That seems wise. This is a high level monster that will definitely try to drag him into the water, and if that happens he is almost assuredly dead. Potion it is.
For reference, tunning across the bridge, he would have been attacked by 4 tentacles that try to grab him and pull him underwater. That’s not nice. Let’s see… a successful attack with a tentacle (level 4 attack) deals 2 damage (not a big deal) but also forces a might check to break free and keep from being pulled into the water. Each additional successful attack beyond the first, impose -1 edge to the might check. In my simulation, 2 would have hit (one for 12), and Arath would have failed the might check; he would have used luck to re-roll and make it, barely getting away from the aboleth. But that didn’t happen, because he drank the levitation potion, pushed off the wall near the number 7, and landed far on the other side.
He loads up his winnings and sets sail on his skiff. In reviewing the map and my ideas for this area, I decide that area 3 is full of non-magical mushrooms of various sizes, and that the air in this entire cave is hazy, humid, and heavy with sulfur that makes a foggy mist everywhere. The water in which the aboleth resides would be strangely warm… soupy bath water sort of thing.
I update Arath’s character record… he’s earned 25 total XP and I convert all of the various wealth into ‘wealth’ and give it a total. I figure it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day the form it is in…
Arath - Pensive Fighting Man 2 (XP 127)
Armor 5; Hits 26; Move 60’; Greatsword (6); Sling (1)
Might 4 (5); Mind 2; Reflex 1
Fortitude; Luck; Two-handed (+1 edge); Warrior (+1 to hit)
Greatsword 6; Scale Mail 4+1 (Armor of the High Centurion; grants +1 edge with Gallans; no penalty to sneak); Sling 1; Adventurer’s Pack; 7 days rations; Gauntlets of Might +1; Boots of Traveling; Everburning Torch; Decanter of Sustenance (4 people of water per day, healing potion 2x per day); 20’ Levitating Desert Skiff; 70 gp in wealth (coins and jewels)

Friday, June 23, 2023

Arath Session 11 and Proof of Life!

My books have arrived! They look snazzy. Right away, Grace said they need more color, but this book looks and feels exactly how I want it to be. This is an anti-modern RPG. It's streamlined and concise, but it's got a no-frills vibe that I really like. This is absolutely and totally the game I have been trying to design for the last twenty years. 

Okay. On to session 11...

It took 10 sessions (although some were ‘interludes and a few had little XP gaining happening), but that’s the standard for progression. I expect that number of XP to increase, but not enough to keep pace with the difference in XP requirements; he needs 300 for level 3, and a level 2 foe is worth 5, so he needs to defeat 40 foes of that level to advance. On one hand, that’s not a LOT, but on the other hand, that is a lot for a solo character. We’ll find out soon enough.

I haven’t worked out movement rules for the skiff, but we’ll say that I roll 1d12-3 for movement rate at that moment; a lot depends on wind. If I roll below 60, I may as well have Arath walk and pull the skiff along. I roll and get a 5, so I use luck and end up with a 12. The skiff gets a good wind behind it, and is able to travel at 90’. Awesome. I’m also going to assume that Arath was able to set a section of deck apart and spread a piece of leather across it so that he has something of a shelter to stay under to keep out of the sun as much. He won’t do that right now, but it’s an option. Reviewing my notes, I see that the cave was in hex E15, which is about 36 miles away. However, with the speed of the skiff and its efficiency traveling over desert, 6 miles per hour is not an unreasonable rate of travel, which means that could get there by early afternoon if he sets off at dawn. There is no random encounter on the way, and the weather does not change significantly. He maintains a favorable wind the whole time.

He makes his mind check to find the cave (hard to do when everything looks like desert, but he had been intentional about marking this place in his mind around several landmarks on the horizon). He ‘hides’ the skiff among some rocks about a half mile from the cave, and walks the rest of the way. The cave is as he left it. Nothing is out front.
Now I get to stock this the rest of the way – presuming Arath doesn’t die or flee again. It is unlikely that Arath’s armor also removes the sneak penalty for higher armor, but I’ll check. Magic armor in D+D always did that when I played (not sure if that’s in current iterations of the rules or not). Yes! I got a 3; the armor imposes no sneak penalties. Arath attempts to sneak into the cave, and gets 8+2=10. Being level 2 is already paying off.
The cave is going to have attracted some life to it, since there is a river (which I haven’t decided anything about) cutting across the cave. I doubt that this water is crystal clear spring water… odds are good something is up with it. However, even strange or magical waters would draw creatures, and I am going to say that there are packs of strange little prairie dogs that scamper all over these caves. They would eat the small insects growing all around the water, and then these would provide the basic food source for whatever lives in these caves. It has to have some kind of ecosystem, and this stands in well enough for one.
I’m going to retro-design a piece of the desert. These prairie dogs, which the denizens of the desert call ‘scratchers’ for the scratching sounds they are always making, are sort of all over the place. They are able to chew at the bases of the infrequent cacti to get water, and they feed on all sorts of small lizards and insects. They are always scampering about, but know enough to find a hole and climb in once nightfall comes. They are not aggressive, and do not attack larger creatures. Okay. Back to exploring. 
Area 2. Arath finds only one of the spiders here. I’m going to rule that every round once combat starts, it is possible that the other spider returns from its hunting expedition to get a snack of scratchers. He attempts to sneak into the cave again, but he fails. He saves his luck. It’s initiative.
Arath wins handily, and swings his sword, hitting for 6. The spider fails its armor check and is at 10. The spider bites, hitting with a 12. Arath makes his first armor check with his new suit of awesome scale mail, suffering 4 (he’s at 22). He fails his might check, so suffers 2 more from poison, now at 20.
In round 2, the other spider returns, responding to the shrieks from its buddy. Arath hits the first spider for 6, and it again fails armor. It’s down to 4. The first spiders hits with an 11 for 4 damage, but Arath soaks half, so is at 18. The poison deals 2 more, leaving Arath at 16. The poison has run its course. The second spider will be in position to attack next round.
Round 3. Arath hits with a 12, killing the first spider (even if it makes its armor check, 4 points is enough to kill it). The second spider bites, but misses.
Round 4. Arath misses this time, but uses his luck to re-roll… and promptly misses again. Drat. The spider hits with a 10 for 3 damage, but Arath soaks, suffering 2 and is down to 14. Arath rocks his might check, so fights off the poison.
Round 5. Arath hits this time (barely), dealing 6. The spider fails its armor check, so is at 10. The spider bites with a 1. That’s a hard no.
Round 6. Arath hits it, dealing 6. The spider makes its armor eheck, suffering 3 and down to 7. The spider hits for 4. Arath soaks half and is down to 12. He makes his might check against the poison.
Round 7. Arath hits for 6. The spider soaks some of it again, and is down to 4. It hits again for 3. A successful armor check later, and Arath is at 10 hits remaining. He BARELY makes his might check.
Round 8. Arath misses. Poop. The spider hits with a 12. Double poop. Arath makes his armor check (by THIS much) and suffers 3, down to 7. He makes his might check.
Round 9. Arath deals 6; the spider makes its armor check, leaving it at 1. Stupid spider! The spider hits for 3, but after an armor check Arath is down to 5. Uh oh. Getting close. Arath makes his might check again vs. the poison.
Round 10. Arath rolls a pair of 1s. Ugh. The spider also misses with a 3, so misery loves company.
I have a combat that has gone into a second minute! First time that has happened.
Round 11. With his luck renewed, Arath feels a little better about finishing this fight strong. He has to use it (he whiffs on the first try), but hits for 7 on the re-do from luck. He deals 7. I check armor for fun, and the spider fails. It would be dead either way, but it is now extra dead.
Well. That was a fight against two level 2 foes, and he barely won. He had the option to chug some healing potion, so that’s 10 points of healing he left in the tank that he could have used. That healing already feels a bit puny. If I’m a healer type, I’m definitely picking up some signature spells that restore more hits at higher levels.
Arath has earned 10 XP. Let’s see if he gets some treasure… this is a level 2 lair. There is no mundane treasure (needed a 5 or lower, and got a 6)… there is also no magical treasure (needed a 2 or lower, and got a 5). Drat.
I roll for how many hours before he gets a random encounter, and I roll a 12; he’s able to recover to full health by resting here and eating some food. It is night when he emerges from the spider cave (in hour 11) at full health.
Area 3 is a wide cave complex with a high ceiling (peaking at 80’). There are several holes in the roof where sunlight streams through. The scratchers run all around this area, and there are dozens of scratcher holes where small packs of these things dwell. There is no other monster encounter here; there is no trap, and there is nothing else of interest. It looks like at one time things may have dwelt here on the raised stone to the south, but that has long since been abandoned.
Area 4, on the other hand, is definitely inhabited. Arath makes his sneak check to get to the southern edge of this area and peer inside. It is a camp of goblins. There are ten of them. Yikes. They seem to be something of a war band. They arrived a week ago on a skiff from the north, coming down the river. Their skiff got stuck here, and they set up a bit of a colony in 4. They are able to hunt scratchers, get water from the stream, and sneak out into the desert once in a while, but they are not really motivated to do that. I’d think they know what’s on the other side of the stream, but they are not friendly with it, whatever it is.
Ten goblins might be a bit much. I mean, only four at a time can attack him, but at best he’s killing one a round; he’s going to need 10 rounds to kill them if he hits every time and they never make an armor check. He’s going to be staving off 4 attacks per round, which if only 1 hits, he’s suffering an average of 2 points per round. He could last 13 rounds (15 or 16 with healing). I don’t like his chances… If he could create a choke point, he might have a chance (taking on only 2-3 at a time), but only the cave mouth really gives him this option with a viable escape plan. Everything else backs him into a corner somehow. He decides to skip the goblins for the moment (they’re just milling about) and investigate the bridge.
We’ll call that the end of this session.
-        It is fun having the desert and campaign setting grow organically as I go. I feel like once this campaign is done, I will have enough material to publish a campaign setting sourcebook for the desert, just based on what I’ve worked out. I like how this ‘model’ is working to develop the game. I’m already thinking about a mountain/tunnels campaign… or a frozen wasteland campaign… or maybe finally the great mega-dungeon that I want to make but never get very far on.
-        I like that I got rid of the earlier rule I had around scaled armor and variations in how it soaks. The temptation to have a natural 12 fully soak an attack is strong, but that was making fights go on longer than they should; I like how armor works. It’s clean, it feels intuitive, and it keeps things moving.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Arath Session 10: Another Interlude

 Arath spends a week with the Faun, helping them (he does have some military training, and has been involved in at least one failed siege, so he knows what doesn’t work – and maybe how a successful defense looks from the other side). He consults the Faun on building a wall and strengthening their standing.

Bika, who will not be joining Arath going forward, suggests that they try to ally with some of the tribes of weren. They are simple, but not necessarily evil, and they were afraid of the bugbear and his minions. If they could see the value in working with the Faun instead of against them, they’d be stronger, the area would be safer, and they’d be able to focus on the danger posed by the serpent cult, which is the bigger deal to them.
My gut instinct is to have them work on that in the background for a bit while Arath goes back to the cave in the nearby desert - now that he’s more powerful and has his super skiff - to see what he can do.
I also ask the dice, and they tell me he is allowed to roll the fate bones once per level. Now that he’s level 2, he is allowed another shot at it… not sure if he wants to, but I am down with tempting fate…. And he has luck, so there’s a built-in redo. He has helped tip the scales in one place for life and hope, and this could either win him favor with forces of good, or draw even more enmity from those that would destroy the last vestiges of hope in the desert.

Decisions, decisions…

Heck it to heck. I give the dice a shot. 11 and 7. That’s bad. Luck. Pair of 6s. Quite auspicious!

Interpretation: the forces of law and chaos are striving over Arath’s fate, the for the moment order has dominance. This isn’t wish spell level good (that would a pair of 12s), but I’ll take it. Hmmm. Bonus tag? Dice say no. Special weapon? Nope. A ring? No. A special, unique tag? No. Mmf. Bonus to a trait? No. Bonus to armor? Yes. Is it a suit of armor? Yes.

Arath has a vision. He is to go beyond the door, and meet with the ghost on the other side. He will be given a suit of armor to help him on his journeys.

The dice liked that the best.

Okay. Arath returns to the keep from last time, and (with time) gets the door open. Turns out that this whole southern part was a secret, hidden temple dedicated to Ubek the Wanderer, and when the Gallan Empire was falling and the lush valley was turning to ash, the high priest died here. His ghost remains. Normally, a reaction check would be required, but Ubek has already given Arath his seal of approval. After a bit of a conversation and history lesson (reflected in Arath’s increased mind score already), the ghost bequeaths upon Arath the High Centurion’s Armor. It is probably a suit of enchanted scale mail; yep, the dice say it is. Nice. It is unlikely that it has a special ability beyond being a very good suit of armor; nope. Rolled a 7. That’s it. I will have it give +1 edge when interacting with Gallan armies, but since they have all been dead for a thousand years, that’s not likely to be a very valuable ability. Maybe against the shadelings? I guess I’ll find out. He could go all Aragorn and conscript the souls of the dead for one last fight. I guess the armor opens up a possibility like that…

Arath - Pensive Fighting Man 2 (XP 102)

    Armor 5; Hits 26; Move 60’; Greatsword (6); Sling (1)

    Might 4 (5); Mind 2; Reflex 1

    Fortitude; Luck; Two-handed (+1 edge); Warrior (+1 to hit)

Greatsword 6; Scale Mail 4+1 (Armor of the High Centurion; grants +1 edge with Gallans); Sling 1; Adventurer’s Pack; 7 days rations; Gauntlets of Might +1; Boots of Traveling; Everburning Torch; Decanter of Sustenance (4 people of water per day, healing potion 2x per day); Potion of Levitation; 20’ Levitating Desert Skiff; 240 sp

Okay. Finally, the ghost gives him a commission – a holy cup of Ubek is lost in the desert somewhere, and if Arath can find it and restore it to its place on the altar of Ubek (also lost in the desert), he can restore the desert to its former glory as a lush, fertile valley.

That sounds like the thing that ends the campaign, if I can get there.

Arath also recovers a tattered Old Gallan flag from the temple area storehouse. The Faun are able to treat it with oils to preserve it, and he flies this from the back of his levitating skiff, which he has named the Falconer, since in Old Gallan myth the falcon was the symbol of Ubek.

In the meantime, a cave with spiders and maybe some treasure awaits!

Side note: I am enjoying Arath’s character growth. I love the idea of playing paladins, and I almost made him one at character creation, but then decided to just make him a mercenary who cared only about making some cash… and slowly he is evolving into a paladin. I went back and changed his adjective to pensive. He’s starting to change. I really like that, and I like that the use of adjectives could change over time, which is not an option I had considered, but which works fantastically.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Arath Session 9

Let’s go dungeon delving!
They are in area 1, so they’re going to follow the eastern wall southward, and they end up searching that alcove into area 2. This is the lair of a tomb spider that the goblins know to avoid. It attempts to sneak up on the two heroes, and fails. It wins initiative anyway, and springs on Arath, who would be taking the lead.
Round 1: It misses with its bite. Arath hits it for 6, and it fails its armor check. It is down to 10. Bika hits for 3, but its armor check reduces this to 2. It’s at 8.
Round 2: It misses again. Everyone whiffs.
Round 3: It misses. Arath hits for 6, and Bika misses. It fails its armor check, so is down to 2.
Round 4: It finally lands a bite on Arath, dealing 5. Arath makes both his armor and might checks, so he only suffers 3, which is amazing all things considered. He’s at 10. He and Bika both his for normal damage; this is enough to kill it. They search around the room to see if there’s anything of value. There’s a magical item! They find a potion of levitation on the dried husk of something that has been in its webs for a long time.
That’s another 5 XP, for a total of 24 on this adventure so far.
They head east through the door (that has been left open) and then south. The door to area 3 is not trapped, but it is locked. Arath is able to force the door, and they explore the south. They find a collapsed room, and decide (correctly) that there is nothing of value here. They realize that the door was barred so that no one came this way, since the roof looks on the verge of even more collapse.
Area 4 has a monster. They did not notice it above, but a large bee hive has formed in the middle of the broken threshing floor. The weren know to avoid this, and they largely leave the bees alone (and give them a wide berth). Here, the bottom of the hive breaks through the ceiling, and honey drips from the bottom of the hive. There is a bowl set up to collect honey as it drops, and the bugbear made a habit of stopping in here regularly to lick the honey that had collected from the bowl. Could they stab the bottom of the hive to get a bunch of honey to drop through? Yes. Would they also get a bunch of angry bees swarming on them? Yes. They use one of the empty potion bottles (from either the sneak or heroism potions) to collect honey while they are down here, and they will take whatever they gather with them when they leave.
That’s worth 2 XP. 26 so far.
They get to the crossroads, and while I want them to turn north, their logic so far would dictate that they go south. That ends in a door that is barred and obviously trapped, with warnings written in goblin not to proceed. The door is barred and heavily barricaded, and it requires a might check at -1 edge to open. I’ve already decided that the area behind is a shrine to an Old Gallan god, and that a ghost of his high priest remains on the other side. The goblins and bugbear wanted NOTHING to do with any of that. Arath fails to force the door open. Bika makes her mind check and suggests that the warnings seem authentic – the goblins were deeply afraid of something on the other side. Best maybe to let it be. This is a hook that I can come back to later, if so inclined… I have a few lingering threads. I think after I hit level 2, I’ll go back and make a list of possible threads to start pulling at. This is one, as is the cave in the desert with the two spiders… and the original temple of eunuchs. And the temple of snakes. Lots to do.
Anyhow, moving forward, they continue to hug the wall to the far eastern passage. This appears to be something of a storage room. The goblins appear to have put a lot of supplies that they have plundered in here. There is a passage to the south just before this room, but I’m deciding that they intentionally collapsed this (to cut off the ghost). The passage to the east out of here was once a tunnel that has long since collapsed. Bika makes her mind check to find the secret door! I have an idea for what’s in here, and my dice fervently agree (I roll a 1 followed by a 1). Okay. It’s an Old Gallen levitation skiff. This is straight out of Return of the Jedi. It is a short (20’ long) wooden skiff with a sail. It levitates about 3’ over the sand, and relies on windpower. It requires some skill to operate, and has some storage capacity as well as a mounted ballista that deals 10 damage, but which requires a full round to re-load. The skiff has Armor 5, and can sustain 30 hits before being destroyed.
Dang. That’s pretty awesome, to be honest. I think that Arath just became something of a desert pirate or something. They leave it here for the moment, but have plans to return for it.
I kind of like my dice sometimes.
Only one room remains – the ‘throne room’ of the Bugbear. He’s got a makeshift wooden throne here. It is unlikely that there still some goblins here – the dice agree. No goblins. In fact, there are no monsters at all. There’s a chest that is locked and Bika sees that it is trapped. Arath suggests that they put it on the skiff, push the skiff up the stairs, and present the head to the jackal weren warning them to flee, or they will visit slaughter upon them! They can get the Faun to use magic to open the chest when they get back to the community.
It's a good gamble. Arath makes his mind check to intimidate the weren. While most of them step aside, four decide to make a run at them. Bika immediately downs one with an arrow, and Arath cuts another down with his sword. In short order, the others flee. Hey, that’s two more XP! 28 on the adventure thus far.
On the way back, I roll for a random encounter. Figures. 9 jackal weren had decided to go ahead and prepare to ambush them on the road as they were passing by. So, it’s 9 jackal weren against my two intrepid heroes… I’m using stats for kobolds for these guys.
The weren fail to surprise them, but still win initative, and charge in. Bika is sitting on the skiff with the chest, her bow out, while Arath is pulling it (it weighs nothing with the levitation, so besides being a little awkward, it’s nothing to pull it along with a rope). They can throw javelins or run in and bite.
Four throw javelins at Bika and four move in with javelins to stab at Arath. Two hits Bika, one with a 12, so she suffers 4 and 2 damage. She makes her second armor check, so suffers 5 hits. She’s at 1. Welp! The exact same things happens to Arath (12 and 10), but he fails both armor checks, so is at 7 hits. That’s in one round! Arath hits one and kills it, and so does Bika. That helps.
In round two, three hit Bika. NO! She suffers 4, 3, and 2 hits. She makes her first armor check, and fails the other 2. She is down to -6 hits and is in bad shape. Two hit Arath, one with an 11. He makes his first armor check, so suffers 4 hits, down to 3. He drinks his potion of healing, getting back to 8, and then attacks without his edge; he hits with an 11, and kills another. Three are down. I’d have them check morale, but they are actually winning the fight…
In round three, only four can attack at a time (thankfully) and only 1 hits. Arath makes his armor check, so is down to 7. He kills another. That means 5 remain.
In round four, one hits him for 3 damage; he fails his armor check, so is down to 4. He kills another. Four remain, so I’ll have them check morale. They fail, and run.
Whew. He uses the potion on Bika to stabilize her, and then he drags the skiff the rest of the way back to the Faun compound. They minister to Bika and help her to recover.
The treasure chest is a bust. I rule that it has at least one instance of mundane treasure before I roll, which is good… because that’s all there is. It is full of silver coins – 240 of them (or 24 gp worth). That is… not good. The skiff was a huge win, but the rest of the treasure was middling at best. Oh, and they managed to only get two drops of the honey from the hive. So that stinks, too.
However, the Faun decide to establish a second colony at the hillside fort that they just cleared. They are going to fix the walls with nearby stone, put up a wooden gate, and use the fort as a watchpost and keep as necessary.
Arath gets to keep the skiff – he’s going to be exploring the desert.
Okay. XP time. They earned a total of 34 XP, and Arath gets a 10% bonus because Bika (barely) survived. Hey, it still counts! He would earn 38 XP then…
How much of a cut should she get? Um. I’m not giving her any, because this has been a lot of exploring and fighting, and it will be just enough to get him across the line to level 2. He’s definitely earned another level, and he needs it if he’s going to explore further. Since he won a new fort for the Faun in the bargain, he gets to keep the 240 silver pieces and the skiff… which does make up for everything else.
He gets a character point. I actually think I’m going to put it in mind. Mind checks have been more useful to this point than reflex checks – and he’s done enough ‘thinking’ to justify this from a roleplaying perspective. He’s actually learned a lot.
Here is the updated Arath. The biggest deal here is the increased hits to 26. I am starting to feel like fortitude might be over-powered. By level 6, it amounts to an additional 18 hits. If it was +5 hits at level 1, it would help early survivability, but would be 13 fewer bonus hits by the end of a career. I might house rule that (since the books are printed – LOL), but for now I’ll keep it as is. It is only a 1-point difference right now (he’d have 25 hits otherwise). The only places I see for improvement are in armor rating (some magical scale or plate would be awesome) and in weapon (a magical heavy sword would help). Other than that, he’s pretty solid.
Arath - Brooding Fighting Man 2 (XP 102)
Armor 3; Hits 26; Move 60’; Greatsword (6); Sling (1)
Might 4 (5); Mind 2; Reflex 1
Fortitude; Luck; Two-handed (+1 edge); Warrior (+1 to hit)
Greatsword 6; Chainmail 3; Sling 1; Adventurer’s Pack; 10 days rations; 7 days water; Gauntlets of Might +1; Boots of Traveling; Everburning Torch; Decanter of Sustenance (4 people of water per day, healing potion 2x per day); Potion of Levitation; 20’ Levitating Desert Skiff; 240 sp

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Arath Session 8

I’ve had a little time to digest ideas for this raid, and I also went back to Dyson’s site and found a map that would work. It is fantastic. 

The process of stocking a map I have made vs. one I’ve found is quite different. I am designing with specific things/factions/creatures in mind as I draw a map, but when I work with someone else’s, I have to figure out how things have used the space as it exists. It’s fun. I have a few ideas, but ultimately the dice will make the decisions.
The big idea (dice agree) is that this was a granary during the height of the Old Gallan Empire, some thousand years ago. At the time, the area of the nearby desert boasted fields of wheat. Now, all is ruin and dust, so the granary fell into ruin over time. The basement, which had largely been used for storage, has since been infiltrated by groundwater that has caused some of the foundation to crack and give over time, leading to significant collapse and instability. While the Jackal Weren prefer to stay above the surface, their leader and his band of goblins prefer life underground. Therefore, the bugbear leader Ragat and a small group of goblins populate the dungeons.
It is likely that the Faun offer some potions to Arath to help him on his way. They do. I roll two potions. A potion of sneaking is one (because they want to get by the various weren that populate the surface with minimal conflict). The other is a potion of heroism that will help when he finally does confront Ragat. That should do the trick.
Do Bika and Arath have an encounter on the way to the old granary? The dice say no. Okay then. They climb to the plateau on which the old granary sits. As they approach, Arath takes off an wraps up his armor (so it doesn’t clink) and Bika starts sneaking like she does. They have a minute once he drinks the potion to get to the entrance. Arath waits at the edge of the foliage as Bika does a recon pass using sneak. She is successful. She reports that there are about thirty jackal weren milling about (it is midday). They tend to avoid the stairs (in the middle of the granary), and the two should be able to sneak to the stairs following the line of the wall, which is falling into the shadow of the bright sun. They will enter through the gap in the southwest wall, hug the wall around and quickly descend the stairs. Arath makes his sneak check (having to use a luck point), but Bika does not – drat. They run to the stairs as a jackal weren starts calling out that there are intruders.
Shoot. That changes things pretty dramatically.
They get to the bottom of the stairs into the dungeons. The stairs are not trapped (whew), because they had no time to check for traps. Then end up knee-deep in water that has seeped into what was once a winery. Arath doesn’t pull out his torch (some sunlight is still coming in), but it is impossible to say which way they should go. I randomly determine they turn to the north and book it that way. They would get to the end of the end of the hall (and out of light for the most part – although sunlight glittering off of the water would illumine the chamber a little bit) and end up hiding behind the northernmost pillar. A handful of weren come down the stairs, sniffing around for them. It is likely that the weren would turn south, since 1) that is the direction to the boss, and 2) they aren’t very smart, so they would assume nobody would turn north. It also might be that there’s something in the north passage that is quite unpleasant that they avoid.
The good news is that the weren do turn south (there are three of them), to go and warn the boss that intruders are about. The bad news is that something wicked this way lingers. A ghoul has been chained to the wall here, and it normally spends its time floating in the water hoping something will be dumb enough to come up the hall. Something just did. Arath is trying to don his armor, and Bika is watching to the south with her bow out, so they are not watching around for a ghoul in chains to rise from the water and start attacking. The ghoul easily makes its sneak check, and will attack Arath first. He has not donned his armor yet. The ghoul hits with one claw for 4, and Arath fails his armor check (would have made it if he had, you know, armor on). He’s at 9 hits remaining. The ghoul wins initiative, and goes scratchy scratch at Arath. One claw hits for 3, and Arath again fails his armor check. He’s at 6 hits remaining. The good guys get to go. Arath misses, but uses luck and barely hits for 6. The ghoul makes its armor check, suffering 3 hits and is at 9. Bika misses with an arrow.
In round 2, everyone misses. Arath would hit (got a 12), but the curse he is under negates it. That’s one.
In round 3, the ghoul misses - but Arath hits for 6, and because it fails its armor check, the ghoul is down to 3. Bika hits for 2, and after a failed check this leaves the ghoul at 1.
In round 4, the ghoul hits with one claw, but a successful armor check leaves Arath down 2 more, now at 4. Arath hits for 6, and even though the ghoul makes its armor check, this is enough to kill it.
The commotion of this fight was not enough to alert the weren. Nobody heard, which is great news. Arath uses one of his two draughts of healing potion from his decanter, and is at 9. The ghoul has no treasure (darn).
This actually works out quite well for the heroes. They can wait out some time here if needed, and rattling the chains might be enough to scare off weren (or even goblins). The bugbear might be inclined to investigate despite rattling chains, but it is likely to scare off weren and possibly scares off goblins.
They rest here for an hour. They see the weren leave the passage without investigating this way. Arath is at 10 hits.
Another hour passes. Some goblins check around the southern parts of these halls, but never venture past the stairs. Arath is at 11.
In the third hour, they hear more sound, and can see at a distance that it is the bugbear himself with 4 goblins in tow. He carries a torch, and is looking about for the invaders. He’s calling out in a guttural form of the trade tongue that he will be cutting them up and cooking them on a spit. He’s a bit of a jerk, if you must know.
The good news is that they have gotten him to come to them. The bad news is that they have no escape plan if things go south. Things tend to go south…
The heroes prepare. Bika readies a faerie glow spell, while Arath drinks the potion of heroism and gets ready to jump into the fray.
It’s initiative, because the bad guys are on watch for the ghoul, that they expect will leap up at any moment. They remain at the distance of its chains, which is helpful. The good guys win initiative.
Arath charges 30’ to attack (losing 1 edge) while Bika throws the faerie glow. She fails her mind check, and the spell fails. Poop. She tries again (it took only one task), but fails again. Snap.
Arath has +1 edge still (the potion cancels the edge he lost for running 30’), and he hits for 6. The bugbear fails his armor check, and is down to 18 (!) … that’s a lot of hits. Bika fires her bow, but the loss in edges from trying the spell means that she misses. The bugbear misses. Whew. All four goblins also miss Arath, since they are so confused by what’s happening right now. I’ll take it.
Bika misses again. That suuuuucks. Arath would land a natural 12 for 8 damage, but the curse turns this to a 1. Two of the curses are burned. Everyone else misses (whew).
Arath hits with a 11 and the bugbear fails another armor check! It’s down to 12. The bugbear finally gets his bearings and lands a hit for 6. Arath rocks his armor check with a 12, but the curse neutralizes that, and he loses 6 hits, now at 5 hits. Two goblins are on Arath now (one hits), while the other two have switched to bows and are trying to take out Bika. They both miss. Arath fails his armor check against a goblin blade, and is down to 2. At least the curse is used up!
Arath drinks his final draught of healing potion, putting him at 7. He attacks and gets another 12, which finally counts! The bugbear fails its armor check, and is down to 4. Ermugurd. Bika misses again.. DARN IT, BIKA! A goblin stabs Arath for 4, but his successful armor check puts him at 0. Poop. Both goblins miss Bika, which helps a little… the Bugbear starts running towards her.
She lines up an arrow, and tees up the bugbear – and lands an 11! She pings him for 3 hits, and he falls after failing his armor check - the goblins immediately fail their morale check and flee.
Suh. Weet. Good thing Bika was here 😊
There is a small chance that the Bugbear is carrying all of his wealth with him. It doesn’t make sense that he would, but it also makes sense that he wouldn’t trust anyone, and wouldn’t want to leave any valuables where those skeevy little goblins could find it and steal it. Nope. It’s hidden somewhere else. They search his body and find nothing. They are going to keep exploring… after Arath heals. They can rest for 12 hours without interruption, and Arath is able to recover his full hits. They chop off and wrap the head of the bugbear in a satchel to present to the Faun, but they push his body into the muck near the ghoul. Between them, those two monsters were worth 15 xp. Not bad work so far. They ‘defeated’ the goblins, so that’s 4 XP more. Progress!
Their plan is eventually to emerge to the surface holding the head of the bugbear high as a warning (recreating the cover for my game, but substituting a bugbear for a medusa). Have to recreate those iconic images when you can.
In the mean time, they are going to explore these dungeons. There has to be some cool stuff down here… right?

Monday, June 19, 2023

Arath Session 7: An Interlude

Arath has entered Ubek’s Oasis at hex C11. I need to make some decisions about how this Oasis is populated. I think it’s very likely that one species sort of dominates the place. My dice strongly disagree. In fact, my dice don’t even like two factions; they prefer that there are three factions warring over this place. And I thought I’d find some peace here. Okay, time to figure out who’s who in the Oasis. My dice lead me to these conclusions…
·       One group is humans. Unfortunately, they are a snake-worshipping cult that resides in a fortress in hex A8. They control that hex, and they have a sort of jungle step pyramid there. That’s fun. The dice absolutely agree (natural 1) that these humans are worshipping a Naga of Darkness. Lots of snakes here.
·       Another group is fauns. They have a small community on the eastern bank of the lake that dominates the southern part of the oasis. It’s a wooden-walled fort.
·       The final group is a group of werejackals that were once humans, but over several generations have devolved into jackal weren creatures. They hide in a series of caves on the western edge of hex D7. They often try to raid the faun community, poaching creatures in the oasis and especially fish that populate the lake. They and the faun continually skirmish with one another. A bugbear has recently taken over one of their packs, and is using it to stage increasingly aggressive attacks. This sounds like a good hook to pursue first.

It is quite likely that the fauns send patrols into the eastern parts of the oasis to control their territory. Oh yeah. It’s also possible that their seer has had a dream about Arath, because Ubek did sort of send him. I roll no, but decide to use Arath’s luck here. That would help him a great deal to be the chosen one. Like, a lot. The luck barely puts me over the line on that. Whew.
Within an hour of waking and starting westward, Arath is approached by six fauns on patrol. He greets them (he got a natural 12 on his mind lore check to see if the dwarves had told him about this), and tells them that he has met Ubek, showing them the gifts he has been given and the mark on his forehead. They are believers. I mean, the seer sent them to find him. So, yeah.
They take him into their compound. There are only 40 faun here, but they maintain a healthy little community here. There’s not a lot of opportunity to barter here. They have some simple weapons, but they generally would be druid sorts. I’m going to say that the wise faun druid in the core rules is typical of their people, but they are led by a level 3 faun of the same type. They have leather and wooden goods, but do not work metal at all. They also don’t care much for money, and have no real need of it. They have a barter economy, and trade with one another to meet their needs. Fifteen of the faun are males, fifteen are female, and ten are children. It’s a small keep with maybe ten buildings. They welcome Arath and will give him food and shelter.
I’m going to give them a minor magic item – Bones of Telling. This is a pair of awkward dice (that happened to be twelve-sided – fancy that) which act as a minor form of Deck of Many Things. I’m not going to work out all 144 possible options, but I’ll say this – if you end up with two even numbers, that’s very good – higher the better. Ending up with two odd numbers is very bad – lower the worse. On a mixed result, the more extreme number is dominant. On a balanced roll (a 8 and a 5, for instance), there is some force at battle within the character and things have yet to be determined. The higher the good, the better the permanent effect. The lower the bad, the worse the permanent effect.
I will allow him to have one re-roll (if needed) from luck. I’ll use the rules for likelihood to determine the effect I get.
Do I really want to do this? Sure. Why not.
First roll is 11 and 3. That is really bad. My luck re-roll is 5 and 4. That is slightly bad. Is it that fate will fail me at the worst possible moment for a limited time? Natural 1. Okay. Every time I roll a 12, I am likely to turn it into a 1. Once this happens three times, the effect has run its course.    
That sucks. It doesn’t suck as much as permanently reducing armor to 0, or losing half my hits, or always having -1 edge on combat checks. Those would all be a lot worse. The faun seer suggests that some dark force has it out for me, and it will be following me all of my days. It has been sending the shadelings against me in the desert. It is watching from the Shadowed Obelisk.
It’s Sauron! Except it’s not. The Faun (we’ll call him Harn, because that’s an old school gaming word you might have heard) suggests that fate has selected Arath for some purpose, and the various forces are aware of this. In this case, dark forces stepped in and nudged the dice – and opposing forces stepped in to nudge the numbers back and minimize the damage.
I’m giving him 5 xp for this encounter. This counts as character growth.
Arath asks how he can be of assistance to the Faun. While they know that the jackal weren they continually fight are too populous to overcome, their new bugbear leader Ragat has been increasing their aggression. If he could be defeated, it would greatly decrease the threat these weren pose.
A Faun scout named Bika agrees to travel with Arath, and lead him to the lair. I checked, and she definitely does not have a crush on him. In fact, she finds humans kind of gross. She’s not wrong. Bika is the daughter of the Seer Harn, so bringing her back alive is kind of a big deal. It will affect how the Faun interact with him going forward. I’m also thinking he gets a total XP bonus of +10% if he brings her back alive, and -10% if she dies. If he dies, he just loses everything, so I don’t need to work out the logistics of that. The campaign will just be over. I’m using the stats for a Faun Druid, but giving her a shortbow 2 in addition to the Cudgel.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Arath Session 6

Arath enters the cave he has encountered in hex E15. How’s this for random? I rolled a 7. I’m going to go to Dyson’s site, search ‘cave’, and use the seventh map I find (or the first map after the 7th that is available for commercial use in case this ends up being a supplement I want to actually publish). Here’s what I end up with…
Well THAT worked out really well. I didn’t read too much about his story for this, because I didn’t want to use his ideas for stocking this… just wanted a cave. I got a fantastic one. I had to go through and add numbers so I had a key. Arath enters from the northwest, and he descends into the dark. He’s got his torch out (since he cannot see otherwise). There is no chance of him sneaking here, so he’s not even going to try. He’s going to hug the right wall so he can find his way back out again.
1.     He peeks around the corner into the far western cave, and sees something. It’s spiders. Two tomb spiders stop pulling apart the corpse of a lizard they caught long enough to come and catch dessert. This is two level 2 monsters against a level 1 character. I don’t like his chances, but he has lots of resources… we’ll see. It’s initiative. Arath fails mightily. Both spiders miss, and Arath hits for 6. The spider makes its armor check, and is now at 13. Yeah. This is going to be a while.
Round 2: Spider 2 hits with a natural 12 for 7 damage. Arath fails to soak, but saves his luck for now. He’s at 6 hits remaining. He makes his might check (that might of 5 is nifty in spots like this). He attacks, missing.
Round 3: Both spiders hit. Yeah. It’s going to be time to run. Arath makes his armor checks (thanks to the luck he has to burn), so suffers 6 hits, which puts him at zero. He drinks the potion on his action, which restores 5 hits before he falls. He also runs – as fast as he can. He fails his check to resist the poison, so will be at 1 hit soon enough. He drinks the second draft of potion, which puts him at 6 after the poison runs is course. He keeps running until the cave is out of sight.  
I did not love that. I’m going to presume that the rest of the cave is level 2-ish, and that he’ll be much better equipped to manage it when he earns level 2. I put this on my to do list. He heard running water deeper in the cave, so he assumes that there is an underground river here. He makes a mental note of where this is (presuming he can find it again), and continues across the desert. Getting to the Oasis is his best medium-term chance.
However, there is another encounter in this hex, not more than two miles from the cave entrance. It’s a dread scorpion, like the one he encountered in the mountains when he first arrived. It’s initative. Arath loses, and the scorpion comes clattering in his direction. It hits with both claws and misses with its tail. Arath is down to 4 hits. You know… Arath hits for 6 damage, and the scorpion fails is armor check. It is down to 6 hits remaining. It makes its morale check with a 12.
Round 2: The scorpion misses with all three attacks (whew); Arath hits with a natural 12 for 8 damage. Sadly, the scorpion makes its armor check, so he only deals 4. It’s down to 2.
Round 3: That stupid tail hits with a stupid 10. Arath fails his armor check… the tail only deals 3, so that leaves Arath at 1. I’m going to save my luck in case he fails his might check. He doesn’t.
Round 4: Arath’s attack. He hits for 6, which is enough to kill it even if it makes its armor check. At 1 hit, Arath is victorious. Hey, at least he got 5 more xp. He’s almost halfway to level 2. That’s kind of depressing. He’s worked really hard.
Furthermore, his goal of crossing the rest of the desert today has failed. He just wants to survive at this point. I’m going to rule that each hour has a 1 in 12 chance of a wandering monster. Each hour he recovers 1 hit. He goes a full 12 hours without an encounter (rolled 2 twice!). He’s at full health. Arath lights his everburning torch, and also puts four torches in the sand around him at 10’ distance. He really wants a night off of shadelings. This reduces the chances to 1 in 12 every two hours, so only 4 chances. It doesn’t matter. Around 3 am, 6 shadelings cross the line of torches and attack. They have -1 edge. Arath is going to go with his big swings approach, trying to take out a bunch at once. He wins initiative.
Round 1: He misses. Even with the -1 edge, 2 claws hit him. I don’t bother rolling armor, since 1 point cut in half rounds up to 1. He’s at 11 hits.
Round 2: The mighty swing hits and kills 1. All claws miss.
Round 3: Mighty swing misses. Luck is used. Mighty swing hits with a natural 12! That wipes out 3 of them. 2 remain. They both miss.
Round 4: Arath misses. They both miss. Everyone misses. No hits. Nothing. This is the most wasted round in the history of rounds. Okay, it’s the most wasted round 4 in the history of round 4s. I’m sure there are some rounds that were bigger wastes. But those were not round 4s.
Round 5. Arath destroys 1. The 1 remaining misses.
Round 6: Arath misses. So does the shadeling. See description for round 4.
Round 7: Arath literally rolls two 1s. That is. I can’t. There is only a 1 in 144 chance of rolling that bad. He found a way. I am grateful that I didn’t put in rules for things like your sword breaking on bad botches. Because his sword would totally be broken right now. The shadeling is attacking at -1 edge, so it misses too. Fortunately, there have been some historically bad Round 7s in gaming history, so this (despite the double botch) doesn’t even crack the top ten. If this had been a Round 3… well, enough said.
Round 8: I’m waiting for Arath to redeem himself, but it’s just not happening. I’m starting to root for the shadeling, to be honest. Kind of want the lord of shadelings to roll in and tell Arath what’s up. This shadeling hits with an 11 (despite that -1 edge), dealing 2 hits. Arath fails to soak, and is at 9 hits.
Round 9: Mercifully, Arath finishes this thing off. This combat seriously almost went into a second minute. Hey, he earned 6 more xp. I wish I had a rule that a shadeling drops a black gemstone worth 1,000,000 gp, because Arath would have a lot of cash. As is, these monsters are low on XP and even lower on cash.
Morning comes, and Arath recovers 2 hits, putting him at 11. NOW he’s going to try to finish this journey across the desert. Maybe? Possibly? Not bloody likely.
He crosses the rest of hex E15 without anything happening, so that’s something akin to progress.
D14. He’s an hour in when another flipping sandstorm comes in. This one is BRUTALLY intense (on a scale of 1 to 12, it is a 12), and it lasts for 3 hours. He has to actually make a might check to keep from being overwhelmed by it. Good thing he has high might… and luck. He barely makes the might check without luck, so I’ll take it. Three hours later, he tries to shake the sand out of everything, but he realizes that Anakin Skywalker was right. No WONDER that guy turned to evil. Sand will do that to you. He manages to complete the rest of the hex, but it’s now late afternoon. He’s got 12 miles left… and six hours to nightfall. I rule that hunkering under his cloak during a brutal sandstorm is close enough to ‘rest’ that he gets his full hits back.
D13. He crosses an entire hex without conflict! He’s almost giddy.
C12. Ermugurd. He crosses another hex without conflict. He’s totally and completely giddy.
C11 – he enters Ubek’s Oasis as the moon rises. He finds some bushes to hide under, drinks a hearty drink of water (2 days’ worth! – he’s ready to party), eats a whole bunch of his rations (because he can) and gets the best sleep he’s had in weeks. His lore of the desert tells him that the shadelings will not enter the oasis. I award him 10 XP for finishing his journey across the desert… which still only puts him 2/3 of the way to level 2. 
By the way, I spent a decent chunk of my Father's Day wandering across a desert and rolling dice. I also went to church, went out to lunch, played mini-golf with my family, went out for ice cream, and walked the dogs. So it's been a great day. 
Here's my dude:
Arath - Brooding Fighting Man 1 (XP 64)
Armor 3; Hits 13; Move 60’; Greatsword (6); Sling (1)
Might 4 (5); Mind 1; Reflex 1
Fortitude; Luck; Two-handed (+1 edge); Warrior (+1 to hit)
Greatsword 6; Chainmail 3; Sling 1; Adventurer’s Pack; 10 days rations; 7 days water; Gauntlets of Might +1; Boots of Traveling; Everburning Torch; Decanter of Sustenance (4 people of water per day, healing potion 2x per day)