Wednesday 20 December 2023

(Warlock!) The Sleep of the Sword, part 3

Having rescued the ranger from the white faced Unmen, the PCs returned to Beck’s Ford with him and to consult the witch. She used her herbal brews to heal everyone a bit and discussed with the Ranger that the re-manifestation of Varrock’s spirit at the Tower of Memory was probably the catalyst for the increase in Unman activity in the area. The PCs surmised that the spirit had been taken there by the twisted, one-eyed figure seen clutching a brass urn by the village idiot. The urn obviously contained the remains of the former general and the weird giant was taking him home. 

 So armed with the knowledge that the Great Bowl where the Tower was located was guarded by the Wyvern of the Wood, they set off into the forest once more. Planning this time to stop whatever was happening with the spirit of the Warlock’s former general. A ritual of some sort was the consensus. Entering the woods, they encountered a small, wizened being who had set out a stall in the bole of a lighting split tree. He claimed to be a word trader and some PCs parted with silver for the knowledge of particularly interesting words. Pushing further on they came to the Great Bowl. A desolate depression, where nothing grew opened out before them. In the centre was a rising spire of rock upon which a ruined fortress was situated. A rope bridge stretched from a great horse chestnut tree out to the fortress. Around the base of the tree is a huge, scarred, impossibly old serpent; the Wyvern of the Wood. 

 A long debate with the Wyvern (including freshly purchased words from the word trader) resulted in the PCs pledging to bring to justice thieves that had stolen past it and looted items from the Tower. So have negotiated their way past the huge serpent they crossed the rope bridge and entered the ruins. Rain poured, and thunder rumbled. By a stroke of luck a flash of lightning silhouetted a twisted being stood on a bridge of fallen masonry about to hurl a rock at the PCs. They joined battle with this creature and mortally wounded it. It revealed the urn containing Varrock’s ashes had been stolen by a townsman who smelled of ale and bitterness. Identifying this as the tavern keeper the PCs rushed back to Becks Ford, believing he was about to perform Some sort of ritual to summon the dead general’s spirit. 

 At the village it seemed all of the villagers had been invited to the innkeeper’s daughter’s birthday party at the inn. Everyone in the village was making their way there, lured by the promise of free ale. In the time honoured tradition of PCs everywhere they decided to sneak in the back. Passing Yestin, the village idiot, who proudly showed them the finished security precautions he had added to the inn. Locks to the shutters and bars on the outside of the doors, it looked like they were designed to keep people in rather than out! Inside they observed the taproom chairs had been arrayed in a circle and the inn-keep and his daughter were making some sort of celebratory speech. Believing something horrible was about to take place the PCs sprung into action upon the revelation that the inn-keep was carrying a concealed yet ornate dagger. Exposed, he plunged the dagger into the nearest villager causing smoke to spill from the urn as Varrock’s spirit began to manifest. A cloudy, dark mass of talons and eyes like burning coals. A big fight then ensued as the PCs simultaneously battled the evil spirit and tried to keep the innkeep and his daughter from sacrificing more villagers to it. Eventually though they killed the inkeep, vanquished the spirit and subdued tue daughter. There was no celebration. Instead it rained. Soaked and miserable, the villagers hung the daughter in grim silence. The PCs slipped away without ceremony, after all the Church Knights were on there trail and it was probably for the best if no one saw them leave.

Tuesday 10 October 2023

(Warlock!) The Sleep of the Sword, part 2

The bloody Unmen

Alphonse, human noble

Jonas, human militiaman

Ogden, human bodyguard

Having captured the Miller they intimidated him in to revealing that he was indeed trading weapons for unusual silver but he didn’t know who the buyers were. He met them in the forest at night and they were cloaked and hooded. The characters arranged to hold him until his next trade and then follow him into the woods to observe it. 

Sure enough in a moonlit the Miller trade his boxes of weapons and bags of arrows with figures in voluminous, brown, hooded robes. The characters elected to follow these guys and discovered they were in fact the foul Unmen. Sorcerous hybrids of animal and man, cast off by whatever treacherous magician had engineered their creation. 

The Unmen had seemingly camped around a huge standing stone that they had defaced with obscene writings and abhorrent illustrations. The characters elected to try and pick off the Unmen sentries with missile fire but were unsuccessful. With the entire camp now roused to search for them a curious thing occurred. Another group of Unmen, white of face and daubed with red paints broke cover from a nearby hiding place and also began to flee. 

The PCs cleverly pitted these against a group of their pursuers and then followed the victorious White Faced Unmen back to their camp. All signs of pursuit had died away as the characters observed the White Faced Unmen feasting on roasted meats and drinking sloppily from horns of mead and wine. Also they had captured a weather-beaten looking man and strung him up from a tree in a cage made of wooden branches. Ogden was spotted by a revelling Unman but promptly shot him with his crossbow and luckily it seemed as if he had collapsed in a drunken stupor. This gave the characters an idea and they waited until the Unmen had revelled themselves to exhaustion before attempting to rescue the prisoner. 

They still engaged in a brief fight with the soberest of the white faced Unmen, whilst the others lay stultified with drink. Alphonse the disgraced nobleman was cut several times but the characters triumphed. They liberated the man who identified himself as Kaelin, the missing ranger from Back’s Ford, and the character’s made their way back to the village just as the Sun rose red in the east. An omen perhaps, the times of blood were upon them. 

Monday 2 October 2023

(Warlock!) The Sleep of the Sword, part 1

Arts by yuriperkowski666

Samy, halfling bodyguard

Morben, elf agitator

Alphonse, human noble

Jonas, human militiaman

Ogden, human bodyguard

Whilst on the run from the Church Authorities, wanted for a crime they didn’t commit, this disparate group of itinerant undesirables came to the village of Beck’s Ford. Fleeing from the inflammatory so-called justice of the Church Knights they sought comfort from the dismal rain in the local inn. 

On the way to the village they encountered an abandoned cart. It came replete with bloodstains, damaged trade goods and a trail leading off into the nearby woods. A strange trail with multiple types of unusual footprints. Either it was Unmen , blasphemous hybrids of animal and man, or as the PCs surmised they had found a giant chicken. 

Passing this by to hopefully gain more information at the village, they headed straight to the inn. The packed tap room fell silent as they entered until they stated they meant no harm and did in fact have money. The inns occupants matched what they had seen outside. This was a downtrodden place. 

A quick chat with the mayor revealed that there had always been Unmen in this area as one of the Warlocks generals was from around here. His old fortress was located in the woods nearby, although he had been slain at the battle at Herne Hill. Lately though the numbers of Unmen had grown and with it their bravery. Soon no one would be safe. Apparently this had all escalated following the sighting of a twisted, hunchbacked, one eyed giant heading into the nearby woods. 

Alas the only eye witness to this was Yestin, the village idiot. Slightly on the paranoid side Yestin was located in the inn’s rear yard, where he had been working on adding additional security precautions. While Ogden and Jonas questioned Yestin the others remained in the bar and Owen the Miller bought them round after round of beers, regaling them with tales of his advanced milling techniques in exhaustive detail. 

Yestin stated he had in fact seen the twisted, hunchback and that he was clutching a brass urn. Also he noted that he was heading into the woods in the direction of the Great Bowl, a depression in the earth where nothing would grow. It became apparent that Yestin was a little paranoid believing that most inhabitants of the village would “stab you in the back as soon as look at you.” However he cast aspersions over the Miller’s apparent wealth and suggested the PCs also visit the witch, although not to trust her obviously. 

It was apparent that the dilapidated state of the actual windmill was incongruent with the Miller’s affluence so the PCs resolved to check him out further. After exhorting the mayor to put them up, he generously offered up the inn’s common room at no cost. Berthold the inn keeper was less enthusiastic, muttering about being under appreciated and that when he was successful everyone would rue treating with such casual disdain. 

Despite being quick drunk at the Miller’s expense the PCs agreed to stand watch and Samy the halfling heard and observed some suspicious activity around the windmill. Someone loading a cart in the middle of the night and driving it into the woods. 

Resolved to see the Miller and the witch despite their hang overs Alphonse and Ogden approached the front of the windmill to distract the miller while Jonas and Samy sneaked in the back for a look around. Morben the elf was mostly sick in the bushes, the fortified rosé proving too much for his delicate constitution. Despite making a racket while they broke in, Alphonse covered everyone’s tracks by leveraging the crippling social anxiety the Miller felt at being spoken to by an actual noble, even a disgraced one. Samy and Jonas rooted around inside the mill. Much of the workings appeared in a state of disrepair. It was unlikely the windmill would actually work as such despite the Miller’s claims to advanced  flour grinding techniques. What was definitely of interest was crates aid weapons and bags of arrows. Meanwhile the Miller was stating he believed the Unmen threat to be overstated and that it was the fear of the beastmen that was causing more problems than the creatures themselves. 

So armed with the knowledge that the Miller was definitely not on the straight and narrow they went to see the witch. The witch cast the bones and consulted the spirits of many small things. She concluded a darkness had returned to the forest and if was not held in check could spread over the whole kingdom. She prophecies plagues of Unmen and rivers of blood. They asked if she could see the Warlock but she refused “That way lies madness and death.” To which Samy the halfling responded “Our business is madness and death.” 

They resolved to expose the miller’s dodgy dealings. Theories ranged from him selling weapons to the Unmen to simply being some sort of arms dealer. However when ex millitiaman Jonas gave his best “cop knock” on the front door of the mill, the miller fled out the back. Samy and Morben were waiting for him and Samy punched him square in the ankle with her knuckle duster while Morben tries to intimidate him into submission by passive aggressively flinging flower petals at him or some other elf nonsense. Anyway, it failed but he was incapacitated by the halfling’s super low blow. 

Next session they’re going to haul him off to the inn and expose his nefarious non-milling activities.

Friday 29 September 2023

Clearing the Shelves

One way to solve the problem of too many RPG books

In a flash my old RPG projects are dead and new one has arisen Jesus-like from the ashes. 

Indeed I have resolved to play all my unplayed games. At least the ones I have paid actual money for. I seem to have a surprisingly large collection of RPG related books and PDFs I have picked up for nothing but I’m not counting them for now. Just the ones I’ve bought. 

At present that is a count of 19 different RPGS. Some of which I am more excited about running than others, it has to be said but the proof will be in the playing. 

The List 

  • Runequest 2e
  • D6 Star Wars
  • Marvel Superheroes (FASERIP)
  • Through Sunken Lands
  • Call of Cthulhu, world war cthulhu/ dark ages/legend 
  • Runequest Glorantha
  • The One Ring 1e
  • Crypts and Things Remastered 
  • GOZR 
  • Blood of Pangea pdf
  • WFRP 2e
  • Black Hack 2e
  • Troika
  • Empire of the Petal Throne
  • Warlock!
  • Electric Bastionland
  • Macchiato Monsters
  • White Star
  • Advanced Fighting Fantasy

In order to make this achievable I plan to run one adventure in each system until they’re all done. This flies in the face of my usual methodology of running longer form games. Also some of these are big asks. I have no idea how to actually play The One Ring or Runequest for instance and they’re complicated. Or at least they look complicated. Some are much easier, Blood of Pangea is rules light and the OSR style games are right in my usual wheel house. Through Sunken Lands doesn’t even really need prep being a sword & sorcery version of Beyond the Wall. 

In order to determine what to do first I rolled a d19 and the result was Warlock! A modern take on old school British gaming Warlock! is like a mix of WFRP and Fighting Fantasy and it seems like it’s going to be a lot of fun. 

Wednesday 27 September 2023

The Temple of the Toad Oracle, pt 2

The Grim North is no country for old amphibians

Calypso Seth, M1
Dögrenn, R1

Having entered the Temple of the Toad Oracle the PCs were faced with a large pool filled with sludgy freezing cold water and millions of thumb sized tadpoles. Attempting to cross it without disturbing the pool seemed unlikely and the failure of anyone to bring a grappling hook was keenly felt. Wading through the pool left them soaked with icy water and about an hour of activity before some form of hyperthermia set in. 

Not so lucky was NPC bodyguard Steve who was snatched and carried away by something under the surface of the pool. A hasty exit onto dry land was performed. On the far side of the pool now the PCs were faced with toad statues and stairs leading up to a slime covered door. Thorough inspection of the area revealed one of the stairs featured a pressure plate and also there was a lever artfully carved into one of the statues. So, to pull the lever or not to pull the lever? 

 They pulled it. A concealed door opened up across the pool and they were able to reach it using a handy coracle. In the chamber beyond they encountered an impossibly old being. Either a huge frog so old it looked like a man or a man so old he looked like a frog. Claiming to be the Brewer, he had four crucibles laid out in front of him. He stated that they were toad brews that bestowed the powers of the amphibian gods on the Champion of the Toad Oracle. A being the PCs would have to fight if they intended to consult the oracle. 

 Calypso decided to quaff all four brews and mutated hideously as a result. She began to manifest powerful frog-like legs, froggy eyes on the side of her head, a bulbous neck sack containing a powerful croak and a slimy paralytic secretion exuding from her very skin.

They took the coracle through a semi submerged cave rather than return to the stairs of found themselves in the arena of the Toad Dome. Calypso faced the Champion of the Toad Oracle within the Toad Dome but although two entered she did not leave, having been brained by a warty mace. 

 However the sacrifice to the amphibian gods was complete and so they progressed to see the Toad Oracle itself. After solving a frog related riddle, in record time, they were granted an audience with the tiny oracular toad. His cryptic croaks were not much use to their patron who may have discovered the location of the Well of Ophid or may not have. It depends on how many croaks means yes and was that one croak with a pause or two croaks. You can’t put your faith in oracles it would seem.

Thursday 21 September 2023

Solo Dragon Warriors: Creating My Character

That downbeat survivor look is about right for a Dragon Warriors character

With setting and tools squared away; and mechanics being kept simple and non-intrusive; next port of call is character generation: 3d6 down the line, as Gary intended.

Strength 15

Reflexes 11 

Intelligence 9

Psychic Talent 9

Looks 11

So this guy is a knight. His above average strength means he’ll have encumbrance (12 items instead of 10) and attack score bonuses. Dragon Warriors rules make knights inherently defensive fighters, using better armour and defence scores than the more offensive barbarian profession with its ability to go berserk. So he’ll be skilled with his shield and in tracking, as per the rule book. I figure since he’s travelling alone he is independent and probably come off worse in a few fights. I couldn’t think of a satisfactory name or back story so I’m leaving this blank for now, to be filled in later. Expressing all this in a more FKR style looks like:

Nameless Knight







Armour: Coat of Plates, mail-shirt 

Gear (12 items plus Backpack) 

  1. Bedroll
  2. Lantern (plus Flint and Tinder)
  3. Oil
  4. Sword
  5. Dagger
  6. Shield
  7. Rations (7days)
  8. Wineskin

Ok, then. Ready for adventure….


Tuesday 19 September 2023

Solo Dragon Warriors

This random encounter lacks balance

Currently I have time for one campaign. Prep time and play time enough for one session a week which is on a Sunday evening. As many of us would I would like to have more gaming time. My friend Alex is an advocate of playing solo RPG. I have been aware of this. For example The One Ring RPG has Strider Mode which is a supplement for you to play alone. 

Playing this way, as both player and GM, flies in the face of my preferred play style. I’m a traditional sort of gamer, I like the GM to provide the setting and the PCs to explore it. Having control of both sides of the equation is to have total authorial control of the game and we’re into the territory of the types of story games that are not to my taste. However I’m firmly of the opinion that unless you try something, your opinion on the matter is fairly inconsequential. For example when I was trying to get a game of BECMI D&D going at an RPG club in the city almost about ten years ago, I struggled for players. So instead I ended up joining a table playing FATE Accelerated every week for fourteen weeks. So I can unequivocally state: I despise FATE. 

So how does this solo thing work? I always want a Legend based game on the go. Dragon Warriors is in my blood after all. I mean for so many reasons, not just because it was my first RPG but the pull of nostalgia is strong. Also this is a setting that lives large in my brain, so imagining myself into it is less of a stretch than something more esoteric like Tékumel. 

In order to get started I took a lot of inspiration from Ironsworn, which is good and free; and conveniently also depicts a downbeat, pseudo Dark Age, low fantasy setting. For solo play Ironsworn uses Oracles, or random tables as I prefer to call to them, to provide prompts from

which to construct the scenario which your character is going to experience. I have conveniently created my own Spark Tables which will come into play here  Also as the themes on Ironsworn are somewhat similar to Dragon Warriors the tables therein don’t require much adaptation for Legend. Random Encounter tables and B/X D&D style reaction rolls are going to be extremely useful as well. 

For mechanics I’m intending on taking a fairly FKR approach to resolutions. There will already be potentially quite a lot of dice rolling involved in consulting tables for scenario construction and developing the environment. I don’t want to get bogged down with mechanics. Ironsworn uses a PBTA approach but fortunately the tables are system agnostic so I can divest myself of those rules and use my own. 

Basically I’ll keep everything to a 2d6 (with bonuses) roll as much as possible and add relevant rules as they come up. 

I’m going to journal the adventure as it transpires. It won’t be literature, or even a play report just recording what happens in whatever format suits at the time. The whole point of this is to be flexible, having short spells of gaming in random slots of free time and seeing where it goes. There is definitely space in my psyche for a game that doesn’t require too much thought or worry. I’m excited to see what happens.