Friday, 29 April 2016

A Tale of Herbs and Heroism

Mick Vayne Lvl 2 Bard
Rachael Ottsa level 1 Mystic
   Arthur, 0-level manservant and Ottsa's           sworn man
Kat Rowena lvl1 Mage
Brian Roc lvl1 fighter (recently level drained)

It being dark and smoky in the House if Mercenaries, Sellspears and Blades for Hire our heroes elected to participate in the smuggling of an illegal shipment of herbs (sage, oregano, that sort of thing) into the city. Taking into account the extremely adverse growing conditions that exist for all crops the price of condiments is high and very heavily taxed. The herb cartel smuggle large quantities of the stuff into the city avoiding the duty and therefore making a mint (ha) in the process. However recent retirements within the Day Watch mean that their usual corrupt contacts on the city gars have been replaced with actual honest watchmen. What is the world coming to!?

On the way to rendez vous with their contact they encountered a strangely dirty day flying owl. Vayne attempted to bag it with a small sack and, rolling a natural 20, instead found himself with a friend for life, who he named Peawhislte.

The PCs met with Lunk the agent of the cartel in the Scorned Woman public house, in the Canal District. He explained the situation vis a vis bribes and that they had a wagon load of herb stashed at a farm outside the city. They would cut the PCs a share of it they could get it into the city.

Ottsa kitted Arthur out in some mail and bought him a sword. Vayne upgraded his armour to mail as well.

They set off, outside city for the first time, for the farm. On the way they chatted to some peasants who were especially interested in Peawhistle. They it turns out had previously also had a pet Owl, named Dave, who they were forced by starvation to bake into a pie and eat. 

Encountering the smoke of campfires they investigated only to nearly get robbed by a large group of bandits. Rowena's sleep spell took most of them out and the PCs heroically robbed the bandits of all their silver after the remainder surrendered.

The farm was occupied only by a slightly strange old woman who they began to suspect had murdered her husband at some point through her inconsistent ramblings. However it turned out that the herb shipment was not there. It had been stolen by bandits a few nights previously.

Cursing their luck and swearing that if these bandits turned out to be the same ones they encountered earlier then they were going to go berserk. Vayne had to go out and sit on the doorstep to calm down.

Rowena bought a pig, named Ralph.

Using Peawhistle's uncanny ability to track herbs (!) they found themselves approaching a cave used by bandits as a hideout. Posing as lost swineherds Vayne and Roc investigated before heroically attacking the bandits by surprise. Slaying them but not before the alarm was raised. A big fight was joined by all until the final bandit surrendered. They heroically forced him into the cave to kill the bandits' vicious guard dogs. That did not work out too well for el bandito. Finishing the dogs off themselves they recovered the herbs and went back to the farm. Much planning took place as they decided how to smuggle the shipment into the city. They decided on fashioning a false bottom for the cart from spare wood and then heaping pig dung on top to deter careful searching. They had while leaving he city observed the Watch performing cart inspections and levying taxes on various goods. 

Returning to the city they shared camp with some Rekkar barbarians. They traded news, the barbarians telling of some ruins in the Grimwood that seemed to have been recently re-occupied.

The entry into the city was pretty nervy but Vayne used his power of suggestion to convince the Watch captain that they did in fact have a license for Ralph the pig.

Upon returning to the yard of the Scorned Woman it appeared Lunk was having a bit of difficulty with some sort of magician and his armoured bodyguard. Negotiations did not go well and the PCs heroically attacked while the newcomers were off guard. Rowena put them to sleep and then they heroically cut their throats. Lunk protested that these were his contacts within the Herb Cartel and now they couldn't sell the herbs. 

So, heroically, they beat him unconscious bad left him in the alley while taking the herb wagon for themselves, resolving to sell the produce at a later date.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Warriors Of the Black Planet [Actual Play]

It's all a bit grim actually

The Black Planet of Acheron, where the only God is Death...

The player characters were Bronze kin, natives of the Acherontic city of Charron, on a mission to locate an abandoned atmosphere station somewhere in the wilderness outside their city. Their flier was forced to crash land after the anti-grav tanks were pierced by a sniper's bullet. 

The crash site was attacked by a group of the Unliving; a shambling, moaning affront to Death Herself. They were returned to the embrace of the goddess by accurate fire from the PCs' radium rifles followed by lethal sword work up close.

Reasoning that as atmosphere stations they knew existed were concealed to protect them from the destructive impulses of the Jade Kin, the place they sought would be most likely hidden somewhere in the mountains to the North of the crash site. 

As best they could determine, the sniper's bullet had originated from the strange forest of thorns to the West so they avoided that and headed toward the mountains. They ignored a ruined city to the South and an open plain to the East.

They discovered some copper tablets engraved with strange hieroglyphs that they identified as the written language of the Golden Kin, who claim to be beloved of Death and hold themselves above all others. They could not however read the ancient, pictorial script.

Upon discovering the partially buried towers of a ruined structure, the threat of a storm drove the party underground. They explored a subterranean complex, uncovering devices of weird science, before tampering with the control panel of some shaft based mechanism that seemingly activated a destructive process. Now. trying to escape from the facility, they entered a room that contained two pods. One of these housed a male Silver Kin in apparent suspended animation.

This planet is similar but redder

They got themselves safely on the other side of a set of blast doors, the party's warrior rescuing the Silver Kin from his pod, should the place be about to explode. Now in a cave they discovered a strange statue, believing it to be a blasphemous image they destroyed the idol. This however drew the attention of an eyeless, white horror with sinuous limbs and a mouthful of needle like teeth. They closed in it and cut it to pieces in short order despite the warrior's shield being smashed into a thousand fragments.

They looted equipment from the bodies of the creature's Jade Kin victims and made their way back to the surface. 

There they encountered a large group of Jade Kin apparently arguing amongst themselves at the base of the towers. Deciding discretion was the better part of valour, they skirted around them and made their way to the foot of the mountains of black glass. 

They chose to explore a canyon that led them to some form of temple entrance carved into the very rock itself. It was guarded by two large stainless steel statues. Inside they discovered an arena of sorts, their Silver Kin companion explained the altar they found there was where the losers of duels sacrificed themselves to the Goddess....

Run using, not powered by, The Black Hack

And there we ran out of time. I'm planning to discuss the mechanics of running the game in a second post but given it was my first time out with The Black Hack, and was for many of the players, it all ran very smoothly indeed.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Children are Like People but Smaller: White Box hangouts 10

Mole men. Dem claws.

Brian; Roc the Literate/Butcher, lvl 1 fighter
Paul; Alvis of the Blessed Horn, lvl1 mystic

A session in which there was discussion of hunting the mythical white alligator or returning to the abandoned mansion from session 1, the return of the Old Woman, her hut being located in the stilt district, reckless children had entered the sewers to hint mole men for the bounty on their ears, cheese magic was performed once more and a sense of a malevolent, pulsing force detected beneath the streets. Reinforcements were hired from the House, Asha the Greatswordswoman and Orric of the Deer Horn Knives stepped up.

Entry to the tunnels was found via a well, Orric's stories were long winded and painfully detailed. Tunnels connected to sewers connected to caverns, a one armed toy bear was rescued, Alvis explored a strange crack in the wall and came face to face with the carved stone likeness of some three eyed, shark toothed entity, a choice of three tunnels presented itself, one marked by the carving of a stone elephants head, a child was found, she had curly hair, the mole men struck from ambush and were in turn ambushed by the vicious and scarily competent children, ears were taken, Orric bored a mole man to death on a natural 20, players rolled well, the GM did not, three strange pillars from a bygone age were investigated. 

A further mole man dressed in a blue robe was discovered speaking in hushed tones with a patrician male, a further battle ensued as more mole men burst from their burrows, a demon mole mask was employed to breathe poison gas onto Alvis who was rendered unconscious but survived with a permanent loss of constitution, Roc slew many mole men and they were were defeated but the blue robed one and the patrician escaped. Alvis used his pack of playing cards depicting political figures from ten years ago to identify the patrician as bearing a family resemblance to the Von Valians. 

On the return to the surface the Old woman was nowhere to be found so all returned to the House of Mercenaries, Sellspears and Blades for Hire to divvy up the bounty on mole man ears, including the children taking their share, and receive a pouch of silver and a strange gourd each containing a bizarre liquid that smelled ever so faintly of cheese.

Enough XP was earned that both Roc and Alvis finally achieved the lofty heights of level 2 and much rejoicing took place.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

The Mausoleum Break In

Played over 2 sessions

Brian, Roc level 1 Fighter
Mick, Vayne level 2 Bard (1st session only)
David, Pithe level 1 Thief
Chris, Cormac level 1 Magic User

In a break from my usual format I'm quoting from Brian Wille's posts to the G+ Grim North community  about both sessions and tacking on some GM commentary at the end. 

Mausoleums. Creepy.

Session 1

"Some good quotes from the night:

"Those dead people don't pose themselves. Quite the opposite actually!"

>PowerrrVaxx, Lesser Demon, Least of His Kind, tugging on the robe of Cormack, the Mighty Sorcerer:  ...I'm going now.
>Cormack: Good.

It was snowing heavily in the Grim North, it pretty much always is. In the House of Mercenaries, Sellspears and Blades for Hire it was dark and smoky. The place is run by Dek, an ex pit fighter and mercenary, so when we showed up looking for work he offered us a few jobs. We took:

Investigation of a mausoleum that had been broken into.

We also learned there had been an increase in trouble from the Mole Men, and there is currently a 2p/per ear bounty on them!

Informed by our patron for the job, a rich merchant from a good family named Envolio, that he'd seen the door to the mausoleum broken in. He wanted us to find out who had broken in, and why.

We traveled from the Docks District, to the White Weasel Tavern in the Merchant District. Then through the Bridge District, to the Dead City. Every trip took about 45 minutes, and we had to pay a toll to cross the bridge.

We passed a circular stone table in the cemetery with odd, ancient runes on it. Our hardcore investigation of the mausoleum revealed a secret door in the back, but we couldn't figure out how to get it open.

On the way back to report to Envolio, we passed some mangy wild dogs chewing on a corpse. We foolishly irritated them and had a big fight on our hands. Finally killing them, we found a good-quality map of the entire region, in a nice wooden box.

We only got partial payment, so we're resting and gearing up for another assault on the House of the Dead."

Pithe: "We ignore them"
Session 2

"A  Surfeit of Lampreys!

Words of Wisdom from our Thief:  "Better ridiculous than dead."

We got right down to business and arranged to meet the Dockside Boys in a nearby bar to hire some muscle. Some muscle for to knock down the secret door that we, with all our advanced degrees in rpgs and accumulated years of experience, could not figure out how to open.

The Grotesque Caw was a dive but you could volunteer to grapple & box for beer and bets. So I volunteered and it was fun, exciting, and cracked me the hell up! Also, I won, but it was a close thing. I think the rules were thus:

1)  Roll initiative
2)  If punching, roll to hit vs AC 12, for 1hp subdual dmg
3)   If grappling, roll UNDER your STR, but as high as possible w/out going over
4)  If successful grapple, roll again OVER your STR (a saving throw) to keep your hold. State your cool wrestling move!
5)  Grapple successfully next round, and you win! State your cool finishing move!

In practice there was a lot of back-and-forth, and your friends (and his) can throw beer to influence the fight. A lot of beer got thrown, I was soaked the rest of the night.

It turns out the City of Nox Eterna has no Thieves Guild, but it does have gangs. Kind of like in the movie "Warriors" but the outfits not so extreme. Supposedly, because we met the Dockside Boys, and they were dressed in children's versions of seaman's uniforms, like Little Lord Fauntleroy.

They looked insane but they were pro, and we soon had our wrecking crew hired. Before long we had them smashing at the secret door in the mausoleum, and lo a stairwell was revealed. The crew was irate from working hard so our Thief gave them a rest and they broke out some biscuits.

Down below was horror and writhing lampreys and dark ichor and infected living and embalmed corpses and the temple of a hideous entity. It was bad. After some investigation and experimentation by our mad-scientist Sorcerer, we decided to burn it with fire, all of it. The memories remain though.

It was enough to get us paid up in full, although the fat merchant Envolio gave us a hard time about not tracking down the cultists and burning down his family's mausoleum, with all his ancestors inside. We we did the right thing though. Oh yes we did."

My notes on both sessions:

The Secret Door

This was frustrating for the players. They found the door but couldn't find the mechanism by which it opened. There were a number of ways they could've solved this issue and they chose to hire some big, strong lads with pick axes to break through it. This would be more of an issue in a dungeon environment when it would involve trekking back to the nearest town or whatever but in the city it meant finding some local disreputable types with access to breaking gear.

The Dogs

Despite the attempt of the party's thief to walk past the four feral dogs chewing on the corpse in the alleyway, curiosity got the better of one of his companions and it turned into a scrap. Inventive use of flaming oil to try and ward off the attacking dogs left me having to make a ruling: How effective was it? I got the player to pick a die of his choice and roll, the higher the roll the better the result. Brian rolled a one on his d12. Dave's thief ended up getting bitten and also failing a saving throw, leaving everyone believing that he has contracted rabies although as yet he exhibits no symptoms. They did loot a sweet map of the area outside the city in a nice scroll case from the corpse though.

Like this but with beer throwing

The Wrestling

Wrestling and grappling rules are often a huge pain in the arse. I think this is because either no one really cares how they work so they seem unrealistic; or they care too much how they work, having some real life experience in the field, and they become too complicated. As this was a sporting contest rather than a fight to the death it seemed appropriate that the rules reflect this i.e. To win you must knock down your opponent. 

Then the mechanics.:

Punching resolved as a hit roll against AC 12 to reflect the duelling nature of the bout. Damage is 1 hit point per punch, and is sub dual rather than lethal. Reducing your opponent to zero knocks them out and wins you the bout. If you win initiate and strike your opponent before they attempt to grapple, they roll to hit at -1 that round. You may not strike once grappled.

Wrestling resolved as a hit roll again against AC 12 but then decided by contested Strength rolls in a roll high under fashion. So if you have Str 12 you need to roll on or under that, closer to 12 the better. Both wrestlers roll, if both succeed the highest roll wins. The initiator of wresting gets a one round +1 to Str for this roll. 

The winner gains an advantage in grip or whatever (which they can name with whatever ridiculous label they wish, Namibian Reverse Nelson, Peruvian Leg Tie etc.) 

This contest is repeated. Two consecutive wins means you throw your opponent and win the bout. If you have the advantage but lose the second contest, you lose the advantage.

Audience participation: Your friends and supporters may legally interfere by throwing beer either on you or your opponent. They must purchase the beers before the bout begins. They roll to hit against AC 12 and a success indicates they may allow either +1 to you, -1 to your opponent (in an opposed roll this applies to you Str rather than the die roll), or a saving throw to break your opponent's grip if grappled.

Hook Worms. Nasty.

The Shrine

When the main focus of the secret shrine you discover underneath someone's family mausoleum is a statue of a man who has a long, winding hookworm instead of a head then immediately judgements are made. When you add in a huge brass bowl full of worm infested black slime, moaning catatonic people locked in a room, another side room where weird grape like objects are hung from racks then the general response was that something bad was going on. This is not to mention the rows of pews that feature the embalmed corpses of the poor, now fixed into place as a silent congregation.

Rather than make this a set piece encounter with whoever populated this place I randomised their chances of being there prior to the PCs, arriving while they were snooping around etc. The dice were rolled repeatedly, and the shrine remained deserted.

After some rather cautious investigation, it was decided that some sort of nefarious evil was taking place. The PCs concluded it was better to live to collect their fee rather than disturb something awful and die in the pursuit of phat loots. So the expensive silk wall hangings were used as fuel for the fire that gutted the shrine and the mausoleum above.

I strive to stage my games so this balance between risk and reward is an actual thing. If you spend hours turning the chaotic shrine upside down in the pursuit of silver then chances are you will find it but it won't be the only thing you find. Playing it safe might yield less treasure, and therefore less XP, but also you increase your chances of living to spend it and maybe even level up. There are other considerations too. When a slightly different group encountered Otter cultists in the sewers they attacked immediately and ultimately gained a decent haul out of it. However it cost one character death and perhaps earned the survivors the eternal enmity of the remainder of the cult.  

What is the Salt Hulk? [Actual Play]

"Being adrift after a shipwreck, my companions and I found ourselves washed up on this strange, alien vessel. Tired, emotional and starving we made our way below deck.

It would seem that the ship was crafted entirely of a peculiar, unnaturally coloured stone. The thing was run by some form of artificial intelligence, known as Ironchild. I say was..

There are fixers on board. They're weird things with gruff, northern accents. They have rat like faces and sprout multiple mechanical arms from their backs. There are big ones and little ones. I didn't like either.

A picture that I stole from Chris McDowall

One of my companions, Will, drank a phase tonic that allowed him to reset his personal timeline after a few seconds of activity.

I myself bore a brace of pistols, steel wire, a grappling hook and a fetch pearl.

We found a sailor who had been immolated  on a pair of steel spikes. Another companion, Darius, performed strange and possibly forbidden surgery to remove his dead brain and place it in a steel jar. Somehow through his arcane knowledge he could then speak with the brain, a traveller from a strange place named Hellion.

The Salt Hulk seemed keen to host us as guests but there was no food. As we explored we encountered the disembodied head of a fixer being taunted by its fellows. We bargained with it; a new body for answers.

The sailor's body now hosted the rogue fixers head. We learned there were two groups of fixers, those at odds with Ironchild and those that wished to restore it to control of the ship.

We travelled deeper into the body of the hulk. There were pools that seemed to lead down to a raucous underwater party. I used my fetch pearl to bring something up from the depths. It seemed I had caught a giant eel being and it appeared neither tasty nor friendly. I was able to return it to whence it came but not before it struck our tame fixer with its pale staff and blasted from his mind the knowledge we needed most: the location of the food..."

The game was run by the Oddfather himself, Chris McDowall, using his Into the Odd rules. Into the Odd is cool right now, lots of people running it on Hangouts and I can see why. The simplicity of the system and weirdness of the setting appeals to me. There was no combat, no traps, no treasure. It was just good old fashioned exploration and weirdness. This frequently happens in games I run so I was reassured that I enjoyed the session a lot.  It was good to give ItO a run as a player, plus it tied in nicely to my gaming resolution of running or playing all the games I own (in print) in 2016.

If the big fixers carry on the way they have been, there's going to be some shooting next time out.