Showing posts with label Second Campaign. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Second Campaign. Show all posts

Friday, June 12, 2020

Retrospective, Review and Refit: X6 Quagmire (BECMI)

Not just a review today, but I want to spend some time today with an adventure that fueled my imaginations...or at least I thought it did.  I also want to talk about what my plans are for it now.

So come with me to Quagmire. Its a journey of half-remembered ideas, Lizardmen characters, Dragonborn, and special guest appearances by Ulslime and Mary Pickford.

Somewhere back in Jr. High or High School before I ever saw this adventure I had watched a movie. Likely on a local channel or maybe an old tape or laserdisc (my dad loved laserdisc!).  The move was Sparrows (1926) and it starred Mary Pickford.  To me the movie was a horror film. 

Pickford played Molly and she was the protector of a bunch of orphans being exploited by this old man named Grimes.   Ah, Grimes, you evil bastard.

Not since the Baron and Baroness Bomburst of Vulgaria in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang had I seen a character eviler in his disregard of children (my mom ran a Day Care, in my mind the evilest thing was to hate or harm a child).  He left a lasting impression to be sure.

In my mind, the dichotomous battle was set. Old, evil, Grimes versus the young, pure Molly.  And so help me if I didn't like Grimes better.  I really wanted the kids to rise up and just beat the living shit out that guy and his wife.  But they never did, worse, Molly keeps looking up to the sky like she is getting some private communique. Like that is going to help.

I think about this movie fairly often, to be honest.  Many things I wrote after I watched it will bubble back up in things I write today.  I still used swamps as my ultimate hideout of evil (but that could also be in part to the Legion of Doom).

Quagmire: Retrospective

Around 1984-85 I was at my Favorite Local Game Store, which then was Waldenbooks in nearby Springfield, IL.  I was looking over the new adventures they had there.  One was CM2 Death's Ride, which is getting a full review next week, the other was X6 Quagmire.  I read the back of the module and it sounded interesting. It dealt with a city, dangerous swamp and monsters.  All great stuff. But I bought CM2 death's Ride instead. I also gathered from reading White Dwarf #70 that the reviewer liked Quagmire, so it had to be pretty good.

Somewhere along the line I also learned there was a sinking tower (really a city, but it looked like a tower) and lizard men (seemed natural).  So I added it to my own version of the Known World.   A sinking tower, in a swamp called Quagmire.  I took the evil cleric Ulslime and made him into a Death Master (from Len Lakofka) and made him master of the tower.  He looked and acted an awful lot like Grimes from Sparrows.  I must have seen at least more of the insides of the adventure because "Ulslime" became "Magnus Ulslime." I combined two characters, one from CM2 and one from X6.


For decades THAT was my Quagmire.  It fit the cover art, it tied it in with CM2 Death's Ride and a bunch of other things going on in my Known World at the time.  It worked.

Imagine my surprise when I finally got the POD version of Quagmire from DriveThruRPG.

The actual module is...well...different than my ideas of what it was.  That is neither good nor bad, but it does color how I choose to use it.

Quagmire: Review
Quagmire is a 32-page adventure module written by Merle M. Rasmussen, of Top Secret fame, for the Expert Set.  Character levels 4-10.  Color covers and some maps, black & white interiors. Art by Steve Peregrine (cover) and Jeffrey Butler (interior).
For this review, I am considering the PDF and POD versions from DriveThruRPG.

Quagmire focuses on a city that used to be by the seashore but is now sinking into the sea.  The city is actually a large spiral tower that looks like a whelk shell.  The city leaders are moving the entire populace from their city to a nearby, identical one.  The PCs have been hired to clear out the wilderness area of lizardmen and goblins and help them get to the new city.

The module expands the Known World to now include the Serpent Penisula, which is just west of the Isle of Dread.   If the Isle of Dread is Jamaica or the Bahamas then the Serpent Penisula is Florida and Cuba.  All I need to do is add a "Bermuda Triangle."

This expansion of the Known World detail is the best part of the adventure.  This area would later be expanded on in future products and The Voyage of the Princess Ark feature in Dragon magazine.
Additionally, the city design itself is very interesting. Something very appealing about it to be honest and a giant tower as a city is the sort of thing I love to see in my games.

The adventure itself sadly a little lack-luster. The ending is a little anti-climatic and the wilderness encounters seem to be strung together to provide the characters something to do.
There are a lot of great parts to this adventure and there is plenty of potential, I am not sure the adventure itself lives up to all of that.  Still, the parts are good and there is no end of ideas for other swamp-based adventures or even the spiral cities.

The adventure, like all adventures of this time period, features new monsters and some new magic items.  There are also some pre-rolled characters.

The POD (Print on Demand) version is very clean and easy to read. There is some of the "fuzziness" I associate with a POD of a scanned product, but much less than some of the others I have purchased.  In fact, this might be one of the better scans I have seen.  At the time of this review, the POD is only $4.99 for both the POD and the PDF.  That is a fantastic price really.

So while the adventure is a little lacking, the material that comes with it is great and the PDF/POD is great.

Quagmire: Refit
So Quagmire the actual module and Quagmire how I *used* it are fairly different.  That's fine really, but what can I do with it now?

Well, one thing I have been wanting to do is add Dragonborn somewhere to Mystara/The Known World.  I have not given it a ton of thought, so I posted out to some Mystara groups on social media.
Now, of course, I got the one expected response, "Dragonborn don't belong in Mystara!"
Well. They do in mine.
The next responses seemed to be evenly split between Davina and the Serpent Peninsula. Both ideas have their merits.  I was all set on doing Davina. It's far enough away to be remote, but still close enough to be accessible.  But I was thinking about my kids' current game in Mystara, the Second Campaign, they just left the Isle of Dread and are headed south. It has taken them a long time to get this far; Davina might be too far still.

It also appears that the Serpent Penisula also has a lot of Lizardmen.  This is great for two reasons.
1. Lizardmen are the ancient enemies of the Dragonborn in my games.  Their relationship is like that of orcs and humans.
2. Anyone who tells me that Dragonborn doesn't belong as a PC race in D&D I remind them that Lizardmen were once accepted as a playable race in Holmes basic.  Maybe not explicitly, but certainly in practice.  Even Gygax himself said that this was fine when comparing D&D to AD&D.

So. If Lizardmen can be there, so can Dragonborn.
Dragonborn look different, but they are not really all that different from dwarves in combat.  They have a limited breath weapon that would do 1d6 for a while or save for half.  I'll play around with it.

I could still make them from Davina, but have an outpost or a colony on the Serpent Penisula.
I would change the people of Quagmire to Dragonborn.  That would be an interesting twist really, especially if the PCs get a letter asking for help and they expect humans or elves.  I might also swap out the mermen for Kopru, just so I can give those crazy fish people some more action.

Yeah.  This sounds great, to be honest.  BUT the events of the adventure were retconned to have taken place over 500 years ago.  Ok.  That still works.  The Dragonborn are in their new city of Thanopolis/Tanakumba, the Kopru are in the underwater city, and Quagmire?  Ah.  The city never sank all the way and now my necromancer/Death Master Magnus Ulslime is the master of that city and it is full of undead and surrounded by mud-men and mongrel-men, the victims of his magical experiments.  And maybe even an army of children digging in the nearby flooded mines to recover ancient Dragonborn treasures.  Just so I can work Grimes into the mix as well.  Maybe a name change to Magnus Ulgrimes should be in order. I never liked the Ulslime name, but I had used it too long to drop it back then.

It looks like I managed to get everything I wanted into a neat package! Sweet, and tomorrow is my birthday!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The *Other* Basic

I have been doing a nearly two-year-long dive into the D&D Basic game. I have been playing with, working with and talking about D&D Basic and the various retro-clones that emulate it.

My focus has largely been on the Moldvay/Marsh-Cook versions of the Basic and Expert games (B/X) and a little bit into the Holmes Basic. I also occasionally dip into the Rule Cyclopedia.

But there is a Basic set I almost never talk about and actually have very little experience with.  That is the Mentzer BECMI sets.

In fact I don't even own much of the BECMI sets save for a Basic Set (box and imported book).



Yes, the dice are still in their plastic, the crayon is intact and that is Frank's signature.

I do own them all on PDF from DriveThruRPG, and that has been great.  It's a D&D that a lot of you all know, but is somewhat new to me.

There are obvious reasons.  I have never really got into this edition and now seems like a good time.  Also, my kids' Second Campaign is now in the Serpent Peninsula in the Known World (Mystara), so reading these books gives me a good vibe on how I want to run those games.

Mind you, I am not going into these without knowledge. I have picked through my Basic set a bit and read over the others.  I do have printouts of my DriveThru PDFs, so I am not completely in the dark here.

I am not expecting to find some deeply hidden truths here, or even anything really new.  Though a gem or two of new knowledge would be welcome. I am sure there are things in the Companions, Master and Immortal rules that would be new to me.

It's not a quest for knowledge. To quote Clark Griswold, it's a quest for fun!

Obviously not my collection

Monday, March 23, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Sand Ghoul

We are on vacation this week.  Were supposed to drive down to see my wife's sister, but instead we are holed up here.  So I am starting my mini-campaign of "The Deserts of Desolation & Death" today.

Going through my books last night I figured I needed something new.  Everyone has seen all the old monsters.  Plus I wanted to up the feeling of necromantic dread.  So this guy popped into my head.

Besides. I like undead beasties.

So here it is for 5e D&D (what I am playing today).

Sand Ghoul
The Ghoul by Les Edwards
Sand Ghouls are formed when naturally occurring mummies in the desert are possessed with demonic or necromantic power.  They are stronger and faster than normal ghouls.  The drying process also robs them of their stench.
Elves are immune to the Paralyzing touch of the Sand Ghoul.  Desert Orcs living in a combined Desert Elven / Desert Orc community are also immune.

Medium undead (Desert), chaotic evil
Armor Class 16 (natural armor)
Hit Points 31 (7d8)
Speed 30 ft., burrow 40 ft., climb 20 ft.

STR 14 (+2)
DEX 16 (+3)
CON 10 (+0)
INT 10 (+0)
WIS 9 (-1)
CHA 5 (-3)

Saving Throws Str +4, Dex +5
Skills Acrobatics +5, Perception +1, Survival +3
Damage Vulnerabilities fire, radiant
Damage Immunities poison
Condition Immunities poisoned
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 11
Languages Common
Challenge 3 (700 XP)

Undead Fortitude. If damage reduces the sand ghoul to 0 hit points, it must make a Constitution saving throw with a DC of 5 + the damage taken, unless the damage is radiant or from a critical hit. On a success, the sand ghoul drops to 1 hit point instead.

Keen Sight and Smell. The sand ghoul has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight or smell.

Actions
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 9 (2d6 + 2) piercing damage.
Claws. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (2d4 + 2) slashing damage. If the target is a creature other than an elf or undead, it must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or be paralyzed for 1 minute. The target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.


Stat block Generator: https://tetra-cube.com/dnd/dnd-statblock.html



Sunday, September 22, 2019

Deserts of Desolation & Death & More

It's a blah rainy day here in Chicagoland.  Great day to do some prep on my Desert portions of my Second Campaign.

I am currently re-reading all the desert adventures I own and working out a coherent narrative.

Right the idea is the PCs head out to the desert in search of the reptile cult that has been plaguing the land.

The adventures are:

The Desert of Desolation series:
and the Desert Nomads/Temple of Death series:
and then the two stand-alone adventures:
The adventures span several designers, worlds and even games, but all link back to the idea of ancient Egypt.  Known as Eyrpt on Oerth, Ayrpt on Mystara, and Aegypt in Gary Gygax's original Dangerous Journey Necropolis and then later Khemit in the 3rd edition version.  I combine them all into one place I call "Ærypt". The series is called "The Deserts of Desolations and Death".

But I am missing some bits.  Originally I thought that I could gloss over some of the missing ideas (at least in terms of my campaign plans) with B4 The Lost City, but there are some issues there.  One the module is too low of level to fit with what I want exactly, also I ran the kids through it years ago so likely they will remember it even with some changes.  But most of all the Elder Evil Zargon is a bad or more exactly problematic fit for the current game.  Besides if I do bring back B4 it will be as part of a game using Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea as Eric Fabiaschi often talks about.

No, I am going to need something else.  Thankfully something almost exactly like what I need dropped into my lap.

Cha'alt
Venger Satanis sent me a copy of his latest publication in exchange for a fair review, but it was on on my radar anyway.  There are a few reviews ok for it now, so I am going to gloss over some of the "reviewy" bits in favor of how I am planning on using it.

Cha'alt is 218 pages, full color, desert-themed adventure in Venger's normal gonzo style.  The rules are his O5R system which is a mix of OSR and 5e, so it works with just about any game. 
There is a "Campaign Map" of sorts with twelve areas, but only a few of them are heavily detailed.   The campaign map and the sandbox nature of this adventure gave me a few ideas for use in my own desert-themed games,  so that made the review worth it to be honest, but there is a lot more here than just that.

Like all of Venger's books there is a high-quality production value here.  He is not afraid to spend the money to get high-quality artists and layout.  Also, true to his style, there are plenty, ok LOTS, of tongue in cheek pop-culture references throughout the book. Ranging from 80s nostalgia to yesterday's internet humor. 

The adventure is gonzo as I mentioned, so there is a fair bit of science-fantasy thrown in for good measure.  Enough that is t makes me think it too is also a good fir for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  The levels are more in line with AS&SH than my current campaign, but that is fine. Though in either case, I'll need to figure out what to do about the giant sandworms, spider droids, and hunter-killer robots.

In true old-school fashion, there are plenty of random tables and charts. Advice for surviving in the desert and plenty of new monsters.

The Black Pyramid
The biggest feature of this book is the Black Pyramid. 
The obvious inspiration for this portion is the venerable Lost City, but again through a darker, slightly warped lens.  As with the rest of the book, this section is full self-referential humor and nods. So of it works, some of it doesn't. Adventure-wise the pyramid is full of eldritch weirdness.  At 111 rooms not all of them are great, but there is enough here to keep the players all busy and adventurers entertained.

There is a lot of fun to had with Cha'alt.  I have quite a lot of ideas of things to do with it, none of which are as it was designed.   Still, there is a lot of material here and plenty of ideas. For me, I am likely to remove many of the sci-fi elements if I run this as part of a campaign, or at least tone them down if I run it using AS&SH.

If you are familiar with Venger's work then you will find more of this here though this might be his best looking work to date.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

#RPGaDAY2019: Mystery

Today's topic is Mystery.

I think everyone loves a good mystery, especially in their RPGs.

Building a true sense of mystery though requires work and the subtle use of clues, hints, rumors, and innuendos.   I have found, more times than not, the best way to it is to involve the players right away.


Not in the way of getting them all to pitch in in some shared Game Mastering role.  That certainly works for some games, but not all.  No by this I mean take their speculations and let them run away with them. 

Here are some examples.

In my Come Endless Darkness 5e campaign, I am spreading te greater mystery over three different campaigns.  No one set of characters or players has the full picture.  At least not until I get them (or what's left of them) in a room once they reach 18th level or so.  The mystery right now is so vague as to not even be there. Yet.  Some of the players in the Order of the Platinum Dragon game are beginning to suspect.  Maybe some of the characters in the Second Campaign are as well.  But I know no one in the Into the Nentir Vale suspect the larger mystery.

Of course, each campaign has its own mysteries.
For the Order of the Platinum Dragon, it has been "what has happened to the Sun?" and then "who killed all the Sun Gods?"  And now it is, or soon will be, "there is no way Lolth could do this on her own!"
For the Second Campaign, the mystery has been "why are all these 'gods' of the lizard and scally folk rising up?"  A little less tangible, but it is getting them there.
And finally in Into the Nentir Vale it has been simply, "We know Orcus is rising as a power, but why?"

Clues in each one will add to the other.  Overly complicated?  Maybe.  Fun?  Definitely.

In fact, this is where my players came into it.  Originally I saw the Second Campaign's big mover and shaker to be the Mind Flayers.  THEY were going to be the ones behind the scenes.  BUT as the game went on and it became more distinct from the Order of the Platinum Dragon game and more and more lizardfolk, nagas and Yuan-ti showed up the players began to weave this huge conspiracy theory around them.   IT was so compelling and, really, so out there, that I had to reward them by altering my own plans to fit more of their elements.

I am NOT giving them everything, but I am giving them enough that their own enthusiasm is sending down a trail.  The ending will remain the same, the mystery still comes to the same conclusion, but now we go about it on a different path.

Other little tidbits that keep coming up.  On our "crazy board" above we still have listed "Where is Cynder".  Cynder was an elven elemental fire wizard that just stopped going with the group. We totally forgot about her, well at least I did.  Even though she was only one session of the Order of the Platinum Dragon, she will show up later in Into the Nentir Vale and maybe the Second Campaign.
There is something to her, I just don't know what yet!

Another hook I was going to use was the Ranger Elmo from T1.  He was going to show up in the Abyss when the Order got there (at Gen Con), but the players never really engaged with the guy.  HOWEVER they did engage a lot with this random elf woman that had been following them since the A Series.    They again decided she had to be important even if originally each of those encounters were with different elves.  My players decided she was the same person each time and figured she knew something.  A few quick jots in my notebook and Evelyn, the Princess Escalla was born!  She was an Elven Ranger/Enchanter and was key to the Elven resistance movement in the Underdark.

It has been a glorious set of mysteries and neither the characters nor the players have figured out the ultimate mystery.  That Tharizdûn, through Asmodeus, is manipulating the demons to get what he wants; his resurrection and freedom from his cage.

It's going to be great.



Thursday, April 25, 2019

Busy Day: Edits, Module Prep and oh yeah, the Day Job

I am trying to wrap up some edits now on Daughters of Darkness.  Some monsters and some spells did not make the cut.

Also, I am deep in helping launch a new graduate program in Social Work, so that has me REALLY busy.

But I also thought I'd share these.  Printed them out last night.




I like to print out my classic modules when running 5e so I can write notes on the adventure. Both in-game ones and conversion notes. 

I do have some notes from the Classic Modules Today team.


REALLY looking forward to running all of these as my huge "Deserts of Desolation and Death" campaign.  It should be epic.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

OMG: Egyptian Myths, Part 2

Wrapping up the myths of Egypt today for One Man's God.   A brief note about the objectives of these posts. I am trying to go through the various myths as presented in the AD&D 1st edition Deities and Demigods and trying to reconcile them with the implied cosmology as presented in the AD&D game and Monster Manual in particular.  Sure I can, and will, draw from many other sources from real-world mythologies and religion to other editions of D&D and even other games.

Ok back to the business at hand.
You can find Part 1 here.


Apep
Last week I talked a lot about Apep.  He has been a lot on my mind of late.  From the reviews I did of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea 2E to Serpentine - Oldskull Serpent Folk, snake gods are getting a lot of coverage on my blog of late.  This is really no surprise.  My Second Campaign is gearing up for the trek into the great desert of the world and it will have a lot of Egyptian influences as well.

Right now my plan is to take the big desert adventures of classic A/D&D and make the end of my campaign with them.

The Desert of Desolation series:
and the Desert Nomads/Temple of Death series:
and then the two stand-alone adventures:


The adventures span several designers, worlds and even games, but all link back to the idea of ancient Egypt.  Known as Eyrpt on Oerth, Ayrpt on Mystara, and Aegypt in Gary Gygax's original Dangerous Journey Necropolis and then later Khemit in the 3rd edition version.  I combine them all into one. I call my series "The Deserts of Desolations and Death".

Apep and Yig will play a big part in this.  If Apep/Yig (yes I combine them) is an Eodemon like Dagon, then also like Dagon he invests some power in Demogorgon.  Demogorgon is a Greek name, so maybe the Egypt of my adventures is similar and this represents the Ptolemaic/Greek rule era.

Aten
Not mentioned in the DDG is the god Aten, the god of the sun disc.

Already we are getting into something about the Egyptian myths that I will talk about more in detail later.  Aten is the God of the Sun. Ra/Re is the God of the Sun.  Who is the god of the sun here?
Well, both.  And for a while, it was also Osiris.   Egyptian gods were more fluid than say the Greek or Romans ones (but they still had this quality).  Gods could be subjected to Syncretism where two of more gods were fused together into one god, their beliefs fused.  We see this in Amun-Ra (the King of the gods and the sun god).

The biggest deal with Aten was his worship by the Pharaoh Akhenaten, who may have been the father of Tutankhamun, was the pharaoh that brought monotheism to Egypt in 1350 to 1330 BCE.  This predates the other big monotheistic religions including Judaism and Zoroastrianism (and obviously Christianity and Islam, thought the roots of all of these go back that far).

When working on my ideas for Sol Invictus I always wondered what it would have been like if Egypt had continued the worship of Aten.  Or if Aten instead of being wiped out of existence with the return of the original gods and Amun-Ra had been killed by Set or Apep.   Since my campaign deals with events of the Dawn War and He Who Was, maybe that is the same sort of god as Aten.

Aten is a great place to start if you want to make a monotheistic religion in D&D's otherwise polytheistic approach.

I have not looked at length but I think Kobold Press has Aten in some of their books.

Hermes Trismegistus
Now back onto the topic of syncretism. What do you get when you take Thoth the God of Knowledge and combine him with Mercury the Messanger of the Gods and a dash of Imhotep?  Let it stew for a bit in Ptolemaic Egypt?  You get Hermes Trismegistus or the Thrice Great Hermes.

From Hermes Trismegistus, we get Hermeticism; a pre-science esoteric way at looking at the nature of the world.  In many RPGs (Mage and Ars Magica are good examples, as it WitchCraft) this leads to the Hermetic Traditions.  These are magical and alchemical traditions.

Often the Hermetic Traditions are classified as "High Magic" with witchcraft and pagan practices as "Low Magic".  Disclaimer. This is a remarkably simplistic view of what would go on to be one of the largest movements in Western Esotericism. I am just going to the beginning and following one branch of this tree. 

In any case, Hermes Trismegistus is not a god you would find in the DDG.  If some he could be an Egyptian/Greek god of Alchemy and Magic eventually (as sadly these things happen) taking over the role of Magic from Isis and Hecate.  Maybe there is this God in my campaign along with Aten.

Library of Alexandria 
So from this, I am building a Ptomliac Egyptian area that is post-Aten-heresies where Hermes Trismegistus is the god of Alchemy and Magic and Apep is still a real threat.

Spoiler for when I do the Greek Myths (and I think I should do them next).
How are Heka the Egyptian God of Magic related to Hecate the "Greek" (and I'll explain that later) Goddess of Witches, Magic and the Underworld?

Next time on One Man's God.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Snakes. Why did it have to be Snakes?

A little something different today for MM.  I want to talk about snake people.


Snake people, serpent folk, Ophidians, Yuan-ti whatever you want to call them they have been a staple of fiction and D&D since ... well likely forever.

They were common enough in the pages in the Conan that even as a casual reader of the pulps I had heard about them.  They have had a prominent focus in AD&D with the Yuan-ti; so much so that there are one of the very, very few monsters that are IP and Closed to the OGL.
So yeah, they come with some history.

I think it is also that snakes seem so loathsome to humans.  There is just something "evil" about them in our collective subconscious.   That makes them a great old-school threat.

Review: Serpentine - Oldskull Serpent Folk

Serpentine - Oldskull Serpent Folk from Oldskull, aka Kent David Kelly is a nice RPG for adding and using Serpent Folk, known as Serpentine here, in any old-school like game. The book is 41 pages with cover and OGL statement. Everything is 100% open minus the usual trade dress and some names.  The book is full color, but mostly public domain black and white art.
The purpose of this book is to bring together various mythos and stories together to present a cohesive whole narrative of a primordial race of serpent people.  In this respect, it works rather well.
History and Pre-History of the Serpent Folk. Drawing on the works of Dunsany, Lovecraft, Howard, and Smith Kelley weaves a history (or Hisssstory!) that combines the Hyborian Mythos and the Cthulhu Mythos, with other myths of the world added for good measure.  While overtly for the Oldskull world it can be added and modified as any game master needs.  One of the reasons it works so well here is that Kelley draws on some primordial myths and legends.  The same that influenced the authors of the stories being used.   Quotes from those authors are found throughout this book.
Up next we get a Serpent Folk Truename Generator.  A useful tool to help you name all those NPCs (or even PCs) you plan on using.  This is followed by Description or what your serpent folk looks like.  A section on Ability Minimums, Maximums and Modifiers is next. After that are sections on Behavior, XP modifiers, and views on Alignment.
There is a list of serpent folk deities from other myths.  It is a good list, but I have a few issues with some of the gods on it; for example Brigid. But the vast majority I see why they are there.  Mostly Serpent Folk are going to worship Yig and/or Tsathogga, though Set is a close runner up.
We get into a section now on Class Options for Serpent Folk. Most are going to fall into the various fighter classes and thief-related classes.  Also presented here is the new Soul Slaver class, which combines Cleric, Shaman, and Necromancer all in one serpent-related class.  It's a good class and it adds a lot of flavor to the Serpent Folk.  I might tweak it to be less Necromancer and more Shaman myself, but that is only personal bias, not a shortcoming of the class.  Basically, the class draws on the souls of the deceased to perform magical feats. There are spell lists, mostly from the classical B/X and Advanced sources.    They advance as Magic-Users, but have their own spell progression and, in a nice old-school touch, level titles.
There is also a section on Racial Powers serpent folk get and what kinds of snakes they are likely to summon.  This also included specail attacks and special limitations.
There is a nice section on how Serpent folk get along with Dragons (spoiler, they don't) that really sealed the deal for me.  I have been using various serpent-like races (Yuan-ti, Naga) as the ancient ancestral enemies of the Dragonfolk (Dragonborn) for years.
We end with a recomended reading list.
So for just $3 and a little over 40 pages this book packs a lot in.  There are so many cool ideas it is hard to figure out where I want to start with it.  I think that since Kelley tapped into some primal myths here that all gamers have an idea of these creatures, he just put it down in writing for us.

PWWO: Serpentine in Other Old-School Games

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea has been my obsession over the last few weeks. Given the background of both AS&SH and Serpentine, it should really be no surprise then that I see the two of them working quite well together.  With the addition of Serpentine you can really "punch up" the stats for Sanke People in AS&SH. Already an interesting monster, now with this addition Snake People go from "just another monster" in the Bestiary section to potential Big Bad material.  Growing cult activity? Serpent People. More dinosaur sightings? Serpent People.  Increased slave trade? Yup. Serpent People.   Plus AS&SH and Oldskull Serpentine draw from exactly the same sources. They just rearrange things in a different order.  Both books feature Yig and owners of one book should find it to be of positive use when used with the other book.

Serpentine features the often used Clark Ashton Smith god, Tsathoggua.  Here he is considered to be a god of the Serpent People. AS&SH has the god Xathoqqua, which is the same god.  There are some differences in how they are portrayed in each book, but gods are supposed to be mutable.  Of course, the best source for Tsathogga (yet another spelling) is from the Frog Gods themselves in their Tome of Horror Complete.  Here he is presented as a demon, but that is perfect for me really. The same book (and the Tome of Horrors 4) have the Inphidians, which are their versions of the Yuan-ti, save Open for the OGL. Speaking of the Frog Gods, in their Monstrosities book feature Ophidians, a name I have also used in the past, as snake men.

The OSR games Blueholme and Adventurer Conqueror King System both have rules within their systems to allow Serpentine player characters. All you need really is the Serpentine book.


Union of the Snake: The Second Campaign

The heroes of the Second Campaign, my D&D 5e nod to old-school gaming, have already had their first encounter with the Yuan-ti.  They have encountered other snake-like creatures and reptiles worshiping snake gods, but everything is about to go into overdrive when they hit their desert-related adventures.

While the campaign is 5e based there is a lot of old-school influences in it.  I plan to take a bunch of the material above, put it in a blender then bury it in a desert for 3,000 years and see what comes up.
For me a lot of it is leading up to the ultimate confrontation with Demogorgon.
Borrowing from Advanced Labyrinth Lord I am using Demogorgon as the cult leader behind the snakes and snake men.  This fits in with my use of the blood apes as one of the three factions the worship Demogorgon; with human cultists and Ophidians/Snake Men/Serpent Folk being the other two.  The campaign will take a solid desert/Egyptian turn here soon.  I just need to figure out the Set-Apep-Yig-Demogorgon connection.

Of course, there will be creepy ass snake-men and cultists. All part of the alchemy of my past. Yes. My influeces for this are an forgotten Dirk Benedict horror movie and Duran Duran.  My game, my weird ass childhood.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Come Endless Darkness: Adventures in Coggle

The day is getting away from me. So my post for today will have to wait.   I am playing around with a new tool today at work.  Thought I might try it as a way to map out all my D&D 5 campaigns and games.



The tool is called Coggle and it used for multi-user mind-maps and flow charts.

You can click here to see the public version.

I'll add the characters then hyper-link everything to the proper resource (DriveThru, DMsGuild, D&D Beyond).  Build it up as I go.  It's a nice organizational tool and a way for me to keep track of various items, especially characters. Had a player lose his character sheet so we recreated what we knew but said he lost all of his equipment and magic items.

I can see a lot of uses for this.

Monday, January 7, 2019

First Game of 2019: The Second Campaign and Monster Monday

Got my first game of 2019 this past week.  Yes, I was still on vacation all last week but it is back to work today (Monday).

The Treasure Hunters are still exploring the Forbidden City and are about to uncover some of its secrets.  They have encountered the Yuan-ti and some degenerate Troglodytes.   They were also nearly taken out by a group of Tasloi hiding in the tree-tops.  If there was any doubt of 5e's deadliness these little Tasloi nearly took out the entire party of seven characters.

They have not run into the Blood Apes yet, so they don't have a full picture of the cult activity going on here yet.  There are also Mongrel Men to consider.




I have set my Forbidden City in the center of the Ilse of Dread.


Yeah, there are some issues with that sure. But both are by David Cook, and Tom Moldvay was involved with both (co-author on X1 and playtester on I1).  For me it is working out great.

Monstrous Monday

Whether I am ready for it or not it is Monday. That means a new monster.

I figure I might as well share another one created by my mom.
My mom?? Yes.  My dad gave me a love for bad movies, but my love for horror, sci-fi and all things weird comes from my mom.   She would tell us these horrific stories about murders, ghosts that killed, screaming monsters and more all when we were little kids. And we loved every minute of it.  We used to all jump into the car and drive as far away as Alton, IL (95 miles) to look for haunted houses or spooky cemeteries.

Here is one from her that fits with the above adventures.

Red Lizards

Living in the deepest parts of the rainforest the Red Lizard and a symbiotic life form of a giant lizard species and a moss-like fungus.  The lizard becomes red in color and the fungus appears as a green growth on the lizard's body.  They are unable to live without each other and the bonding occurs very early in life for the lizard.
The fungus on the lizard is highly voracious and will spread to anything it touches including ground, leaving a long trail of moss-like fungus behind it.  This trail usually dies in a few minutes unless it comes in contact with a living creature.
The lizard will attack any living creature for food which the reptile and fungus life-forms will share.
These creatures are often accompanied by Rust Monsters.  The rust monster is one of the very few creatures immune to the fungus and they will eat the metal left behind by fallen victims.

Special: The creature takes damage from full moonlight (or spells or items that cast moonlight).  Exposed to this light the creature takes 1d10 hit points of damage per round of exposure.

Basic-era Stats

Red Lizard
Armor Class: 2
HD: 6 (22hp)
Attacks: 2 claw (2d4), 1 bite (1d6), + fungus
THAC0: 15
Movement: 180’ (60’)
Save: Fighter 4
No. Appearing: 1d4 (1d4)
Morale: 7
Alignment Neutral
XP Value: 300

Fungus: On a successful bite attack the victim is infected with the red lizard's fungus (save vs. Poison to avoid). They take an additional 2d4 hit points of damage and a 1d4 for each hour after that until a Remove Curse spell is cast.

5th-Era Stats

Red Lizard
Large magical beast, unaligned
Armor Class 13 (natural armor)
Hit Points 33 (6d10)
Speed 40 ft., climb 40 ft.
STR 15 (+2)
DEX 12 (+1)
CON 13 (+1)
INT  2 (−4)
WIS 10 (+0)
CHA 5 (−3)
Senses darkvision 30 ft., passive Perception 10
Languages —
Challenge 2 (450 XP)

Actions

Multiattack. The red lizard makes two claw attacks and one bite attack.

Claws. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target.
Hit: 5 (1d6 + 2) piercing damage.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target.
Hit: 6 (1d8 + 2) piercing damage.  If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 14 Constitution saving throw or be affected with the red lizard's fungus.  The creature takes an additional 2d4 hit points of damage and a 1d4 for each hour after that until a Remove Curse spell is cast.


Monday, June 18, 2018

Father's Day Weekend Gaming

Had a fairly packed weekend game wise.

Friday was our local Public Library sale.  Sometimes we can find some gems, but this time all we found was this book on potions.


Saturday was Free RPG Day.  We all went and got some books.  Of course, we still ended up buying a bunch of stuff too.



Sunday, Father's Day, we went back to the Nentir Vale to finish off the Blood Reavers.  The Demon Slayers found some more clues and are headed to the Well of Demons now.



We want to add more 4e feel to this game.  Just like our Order of the Platinum Dragon 5e game is more "old school" in feel and the Second Campaign has more of a 3e feel.


I have some Encounter Cards I want to use and I'd love to work "Bloodied" into our combats.  I think that might be fun.  Using some 4e stats the monsters are much tougher and these characters are already having more issues than their other 5e counterparts.

For reasons too various to name, our gnome druid, Dimbel Timbers, has adopted this has his theme song:


Every character should have a theme song.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Weekend Games: A Tale of Bards

This weekend we got some gaming in.  The Treasure Hunters continued to explore the  Forbidden City and discovering more about the influence of the Yuan-ti.


They have not encountered the Mongrel men or the Blood Apes yet, but that will be coming up.

Everyone managed to level up to level 5 this weekend.  A lot (3) of the characters are going to take a level of bard, all of different types.  It's going to be interesting to say the least.

After this adventure the sun here will also go out.  Giving the players the first indication that their games are all linked.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Campaign Updates:2018

Work has me crazy busy, but this is a good thing.  The downside is I have not had the time to blog as much as I want or even get in the campaign prep in at night.  So I thought I would kill two birds today and see where I am in my games.



Active Games

The Dragon Slayers
A 3.x game that was briefly 5e and now fully converted to 1st Edition AD&D.  The characters were trapped in Baba Yaga's Hut for nearly a year. They freed the Old Crone and her daughter Elena the Fair.  Up next the final battle. I am using the Tom Moldvay adventure Twilight Calling for this.

Next are my three interlinked 5th edition games collectively known as Come Endless Darkness. Tharizdûn is returning to the multiverse and the PCs of the three campaigns need to stop him.

The Order of the Platinum Dragon
The Order has defeated all the giants and are now wandering the Underdark looking for the Drow. The big bads here are Lolth and Graz'zt.  Graz'zt is setting up Lolth much like he is described doing in Expedition to the Demonweb Pits (for 3.5e).  I try to focus on classic monsters in this one.

Second Campaign
The Treasure Hunters of the Second Campaign have just entered the Forbidden City. Here the big bad is Demogorgon.  Here the focus is on other creatures that might not see normal games.

Into the Netir Vale
Known by my kids as the Orcus campaign. This is my revived and converted 4e campaign brought over whole cloth. I might lessed the involvement with the Raven Queen and play up Shar since this is part of the Forgotten Realms in my house.

All three games will meet up at the Temple of Elemental Evil to battle it out with the risen Tharizdûn.  So roughly 18 characters of 18th to 20th level.  It's gonna be wild.

Inactive/On-hold Games
These games are all inactive for a number of reasons.

Star Trek: Voyages of the USS Protector
This game is will be using White Star with my own "Black Star" rules modifications.  I have the first adventures ready to go, "The Stars Are Right" and "These Are the Voyages".  I have two more nearly ready "Ghost Ship" and "Abraxas Down".  I want to do two more.  I have been scribbling notes on rule changes and feel like the rest I can do while the game is moving along. 
What is really slowing me down is the wiring of the LED lights I want to put into my USS Protector Model!

Spirit of '76
On indefinite hold.

Hero's Journey to Middle Earth
This one is requiring some significant reading on my part.  As my first REALY foray into Middle Earth as a game world I want to do it right.

Magic School 
This one is on hold till I am done with Come Endless Darkness. Since this one will use D&D Rules Cyclopedia and I really want it to feel like a separate game.   Plus things that happen in CED will change the world of the Magic School and I don't know what those are yet!

War of the Witch Queens
This is the higher level version of the Magic School kids.  What happens here will also be determined by what the PCs do in CED.  I have all the adventures for this, just not the end game.



The Incredibly Awesome (and Not At All Made-Up) Adventures of Booster Gold and Blue Beetle!
Huh...ok this one was a little bit of a joke, but I keep getting asked about it.  I do have one adventure worked out that introduces the PCs to the world. Called "Damn It Barry Allen!" it sets up Booster and Blue as the true heroes of the DC world, it's just that no one can remember them.

I still have to get my new Blue Rose campaign going.  I ran the first adventure, Kingdom of Rain, and it went great.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Weekend Gaming: On the Doorstep of the Forbidden City & Monster Monday

Worked in a couple of gaming sessions over the weekend.  Only about two hours each day, but the Treasure Hunters of the Second Campaign managed to sneak into the Forbidden City.  Here they had their first encounter with the evil Yuan-Ti.

Now for those of you that still belabor under the assumption that 5e is "easier" let me just say that Yuan-Ti under 5e are much deadlier and one Yuan-Ti Abomination and one Pure Blood nearly took out the entire party of seven. They are now hiding out and have no more potions of healing.



I have not even tricked out the Yuan-Ti at all.  These are by-the-book deadly.

This adventure will introduce a bunch of new monsters to my players.  If Order of Platinum Dragon/Come Endless Darkness game is about revisiting all the classics, this one is about the near classics.  So a lot Fiend Folio and Monster Manual II monsters.

I also considering having there be a lot more involvement by Demogorgon. To that end, I am going to re-import some of my ideas from the time I used Demogorgon for the WitchCraft RPG.

This will include the Blood Apes.

Blood Apes

One of the largest cults of Demogorgon is a cult of intelligent apes. They are often referred to as Blood Apes due to their habit of bathing in the blood of fallen enemies and comrades. These cultists actively worship Demogorgon as their god and attribute to him all spoils. The doctrines of the cult emphasize destruction and violence.  All blood apes are voracious carnivores and keep human or (where appropriate) chimpanzee slaves. It is even whispered among the human populations that some humans are kept in an attempt by Demogorgon's Hierophants to breed true a race that features the most terrible qualities of both ape and man. Others claim they have already succeeded.

Every tribe of blood apres will have a CR 5-6 tribal leader and a CR 6 blood ape, fiendish-pact warlock.
Stat block from Statblock5e.

Once they get out of the city then things will get REALLY dangerous.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Weekend Gaming: Treasure Hunters Crawl to the Forbidden City

This weekend we spent an inordinate amount of time cleaning my game room this weekend.  It needed to be done,. plus I needed to sort my minis too.

Once that was done we had a couple of hours to play.

The Treasure Hunters of the Second Campaign made it to the front door of the Forbidden City.

But before that, they had to deal with a bunch of pterodactyls.


We had quite a bit of fun fighting these and grabbed a bunch of old dinosaur toys for when they leave the  City.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Weekend Gaming: The Worlds of David "Zeb" Cook

Spent some time on the Second Campaign this weekend.
Various factors have come together and I have moved the entire campaign over to Mystara.  It just made some things fit better.

I knew I wanted to get the player to I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City, though a couple of obstacles were in the way. First, they were really not high enough level yet.  Second I have had on the mainland of a fairly generic D&D/Eurocentric area.  No jungles in sight.

That's when I had an idea.  I pulled out my tired, true and very worn copy of X1 The Isle of Dread!
This gave them an excuse to get to a tropical area AND gave them some much-needed adventuring along the way to level up.


 Of course, it was at the moment I took the above picture that I realized that both adventures had been authored by David "Zeb" Cook! The same David Cook as in the Expert Game author and the author of the next adventures in the Second Campaign.

I knew at some level the authors were the same, but I never thought about it save for mentally commenting on the similarities and how well they work with each other.  I am simpling placing the Forbidden City in the central plateau of the Isle of Dread.

It is not an original idea, nor even an uncommon one:


I wish I had given this more thought to be honest!
Right now the characters are mapping the interior of the island in a good old-fashioned hex crawl.  Two characters so far have been hit with "jungle sickness". In fact, the poor wizard was hit with sea sickness and jungle sickness for so long that she has had four (in game) days of disadvantage rolls.

After this the characters are going to go south to a dessert for both the Desert of Desolation series and the Lost Tomb of Martek series.  The Lost Tomb of Martek of course by David Cook.

I just have not figured out how I want to do them.  I will likely go in this order:


and


But have not really figured out the narrative I want for them.
In any case it is going to be fun!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Temples of Elemental Evil in the Multiverse

I have been thinking a lot about my interconnected D&D 5 campaigns.
  • There is the Mystara/Oerth combination on my wold of Mystoerth I have been running for The Order of the Platinum Dragon. Which cover all the classic "Greyhawk" modules.  Big bad is Lolth.
  • There is the one I have been calling The Second Campaign which I have started in the Forgotten Realms (2017 is my year to be introduced to the Realms).  I am running other classic 1st modules here too.  Big Bad here is Asmodeus.  I am including some elements of Dark Sun here too. 
  • There is a third campaign I have not started completely just yet. It is a resurrection of my old 4e game and deals with the rise of Orcus.  Originally I wanted this one to be the Realms but I am likely to set it in the Nentir Vale.  Have not decided yet. If I do then I need a better home for the Second Campaign.  I'd love to play a little with Krynn, to be honest. 
I still have some details to work out. But all of these fall under the larger umbrella of Come Endless Darkness. Tharizdûn is returning to the multiverse and the PCs of the three campaigns need to stop him.

But I need to know my end game. I know all three are coming together at the very end.  In the "main" Order of the Platinum Dragon game, the PCs have already been to Hommlett. They know about the Temple of Elemental Evil, so they have a pretty good idea that they are headed back there.

I know that I am planning that have the big bads, or at least their proxies, in the final battle too. But how do I get the characters of three universes together?

Then it dawned on me. There is a Temple of Elemental Evil in every game world.


Let's look at it from this point of view.  Nearly every game world (notable exception Mystara) got its genesis from First Edition AD&D.  The first level First Edition adventure was T1 The Village of Hommlett.   So if you played regularly in any game world there is a good chance that that world had a Hommlett and accordingly a Temple of Elemental Evil.

I thought at first I wanted a Tanelorn-style temple that flitted from world to world.  But that is unsatisfactory to me and I already had something like that in Halfway. I thought about having it as a place that exists on all worlds at the same time,  but I also have that in West Haven.
So instead I am thinking of something more along the lines of the Altgeld Castles here in Illinois.

On five different campuses here in Illinois there are five gothic-style castles all (except one) called Altgeld Hall. Named after Gov. Altgeld.   The rumor was that all these buildings can be combined, Voltron-style, to make one complete castle.  There is no facts to back this up, but it is much more fun than the rumors that usually surround campuses in Illinois.

So I propose the following:

Every game world has a Temple of Elemental Evil.  Some are decrepit and decayed, others are active and strong, and others still are only just starting.  The main feature of these is that all are connected.  They can be combined together across time and space to form a giant Temple and Cathedral of Elemental Evil.

For locations, I went to the experts online.
They have given me some good ideas. I didn't go to Eberron or Dark Sun since I know very little about either world other than the most basic basics.  I figure they have them as well.

For maps, it will be easy.  I can grab one from the T1-4 Supermodule for each world. I can also grab an absolute ton of material from the Princes of the Apocalypse.  Appendix C of PotA gives me plenty of ideas of different loacations and backgrounds for the Temple in various game worlds too.



Heroes of the Three Worlds will have to come together to defeat evil and face the ultimate evil in Tharizdûn.

It's gonna be epic!

Monday, August 21, 2017

D&D Beyond

I signed up for D&D Beyond this morning.



I pretty much knew I was going to sign up anyway, but gaming over the weekend convinced me.

Currently, I am running two D&D 5 games, the Come Endless Darkness game and The Second Campaign.  Eventually, I am going to get my aborted 4e game converted over to 5e and I'll get that going too, tentatively called Into the Nentir Vale.

My son is also running games. A D&D 5 game with his friends,  the same adventures (with different characters) with my youngest son and his friends (average age 14) AND the occasional one we take turns running for his cousins (aged 13 to 22).



So six D&D 5 games with about 40 characters total.
To say we have lost some sheets here and there is an understatement.  To say we need to be able to access our materials in a bunch of different places is also pretty clear.

So I pulled the trigger this morning and got a DM's Subscription and picked up the three core books.

I know there has been a lot of complaining online about the price.
For me, the price compared to what I get was worth it. I was a fan of the 4e character builder and I used it quite a lot.   When Beyond was in Beta I also used it a lot.  So far I am pleased with my purchase so far.

Are there cheaper tools? Of course.
Are there better tools? Maybe.
Are there tools that do everything that Beyond does? None that I know of.

So I'll be sharing my thoughts on this tool over the next few days.  Need to load about 3 dozen characters into it now.

Anyone else using this?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Death to the Reptile God!

The "Treasure Hunters" group of the Second Campaign defeated the vile reptile god (in reality a Naga). They also freed many of the villagers charmed by the naga.


We very nearly had three character deaths when the Naga charmed the gnome rogue ("Erky Timbers") and proceeded to attack the ranger and warlock.  The wizard (near the ring) was badly burned by the flaming sphere spell.

Everyone though managed to survive thanks to every healing potion they had on them.

Up next?
"Rumors of a magnificent city and foul, horrid rituals! Riches and wonders - or death!"
The Treasure Hunters follow some more leads to the fabled Forbidden City!
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