Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Brief History of Earth in the Planet Algol Universe

Purposely vague. I imagine Earth Men explorers as the cigarette smoking and coffee drinking engineers and scientists of 1930s-50s science fiction.
193? - Occultist and scientists, working for the third Reich, uncover the remains of prehistoric civilizations and their previously unknown technologies. This spurs an "ancient technology arms race" between the Axis and the Allies as both sides desperately search out the ruins of these civilizations and attempt to understand and replicate their works.

194? - The Third Reich is defeated as the Nazi High Command flee Earth in their flying saucers. The horrors of the war, especially those involving ancient technology, convinces the nations of the world to work together and an age of technological utopia begins. The cold war and blocs of our post-war Earth exist, but are more of a "friendly competition" in nature than a deadly serious issue. Despite their political and ideological differences, the nations of Earth avoid warfare and work together for the social and scientific advancement of humanity.

200? - The first interplanetary rockets are dispatched from Earth, many of them headed for destinations indicated by ancient star maps. These are scientific expeditions and due to the political climate of Earth they are "demilitarized."

21?? - Earth Men rockets begin arriving at Planet Algol, usually one expedition every decade or so. Many are disorientated or damaged by the space-time distortions that surround the Algol system.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Simple System for Firearms and Rayguns versus Armor Class

This is the kind of sidearm I imagine Earth Man explorers packing for Planet Algol.

Often in discussions about firearms and futuristic weaponry in Dungeons & Dragons, the "armor question" often comes up. How does armor class interact with these weapons?

The system I use is based off of the laser weapon vs. armor class values in 1st. edition Gamma World, and an inaccurate interpretation of the armor class vs. firearm rules in the sixguns and sorcery section of the 1st. edition Dungeon Masters Guide. It's a one-size-fits-all solution that I find elegant and workable.

When calculating attacks with firearms or laser weapons, the benefits of armor class are effectively halved, discounting magical protection but including dexterity modifiers (it's hard to dodge a beam of photons or a bullet, but nimble characters are probably somewhat better at not getting shot).

You can either use this as a weapon vs. armor type modifier like the system in the Players Handbook, or just use an alternate Armor Class value against these attacks, as in the below table. This can be further modified by giving exceptional weapons modifiers to attack and damage rolls similar to those of magic weapons, such as a pair of +3 sixshooters forged from the blade of Excalibur. For simple firearms such as muskets and blunderbusses I would not use these modifiers. Weapons such as death rays, lightning emitters, disintegrators, etc. I would either roll attacks vs. AC 10 or involve the target making an appropriate saving throw instead of using any attack rolls.

Armor Class
Attack Modifier or
Adjusted Armor Class value

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Earth Man Character Concepts, the Bizarre Adventures of HG Welles and upcoming content on Planet Algol

The "Earth Man" character option has proved to be a popular choice with the players in my Planet Algol campaign. Partially, I believe, due to the fact that it provides the player an easy "handle" with which to explore this bizarre planet,

Here's a couple of Earth Man character concepts some of my players have expressed a desire to explore in the future:
- A high-charisma cowgirl, "I think I should have those jewels, Yee Haw!"

- A LSD professor, "Groovy!" (I imagine him wearing a bow tie)

- And my favorite, the dreamlands-esque dream adventures of H.G. Welles! (Very appropriate considering one of the threats I'm planning to place in the Western Badlands, and it may explain why he wrote The War of The Worlds. My reaction to this idea was "Is he going to fight with a cavalry saber or a sword cane?")
Looks like I have to do some work on my "Means of Non-Rocket Arrival on Planet Algol" table.

PS I've been busy the last couple of days and will be for a few more, I'll catch up on comments and post some more content when I have some spare time.

Still in the Queue for future posts:
- The Mind Wizard class, a psychic illusionist/monk style class

- Encounter tables for the Iridium Plateau regions

- The brief, vague history of "Planet Algol Universe Earth" (the utopian rocket age future began in 1950, stimulated by Elder Race artifacts discovered by the Nazis in the course of their antarctic flying saucer research..)

- Revised Cactoid & Sage classes

- Revised Iridium Plateau Referee & Player maps

- More monsters (Mulg fungus people, Cactogres, Pallid Croakers, etc.)

- The Western Badlands

- And lastly but not least: Compiled player and referee documents to be printed out and assembled into digest-sized booklets. I just wish I had the talented Mr. Peter Mullen in my pocket...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Planet Algol Music - "Hawkwind"

When things get too hectic in Sean/Dudebird's Wilderlands game I always appreciate it when Hawkwind shows up on the playlist. Psychedelic proto-metal with Motorhead and Michael Moorcock connections, I hear their influence in anarcho-punk/crust band like Rudimentary Peni and Doom.

I had previously stated, during one of my "No Elves/No Clerics/etc" Planet Algol rants, that "there's no damn bards on Planet Algol either!" Hawkwind have made me reconsider that particular position and now I have to design a bard-analogue class based on Hawkwind....mustachioed, longhaired, british psychedelic bikers that travel space and time by means of driving psych rock.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Next Planet Algol Region "The Western Badlands"

Previously a "Weird Western" setting I used for 4th-edition D&D, the Western Badlands features more radioactive wastelands, more robots and more science fiction inspired content in general. As well as Sorcerers, Swordsmen, Demons, Treasure, Dungeons and et cetera. Influenced by Hiero's Journey, The Iron Council, The Dark Tower series and westerns in addition to the regular suspects. I have 151+ locations "roughed out" with a line or two of information, next order of business is a proper hexmap...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Great Monsters on the Swords & Wizardry Board

Stripes are exotic and being half-striped is even more exotic.

I just saw these great monsters created by darthmike on the Swords & Wizardry Project Monster Book Forum.

EDIT: Myrystyr was kind enough to inform me that the Swords & Wizardry Monster Book is available from Mythmere Games on, only $3.50 for the pdf. I also need to purchase Eldritch Weirdness, City Encounters, Knockspell magazine and the Spire of Iron and Crystal.

A Couatl actually looks like a scaly-lipped giant duck.

A Note About the Iridium Plateau Hexagon Matrix

So I have finally posted the complete Iridium Plateau Region Hexagon Matrix, and I wanted to make a couple of notes regarding the subject.

Firstly, this is only the first draft of the Hexagon Matrix. I plan to release an expanded version in the future featuring:
Better detailed monster statistics

Expanded NPC descriptions

Maps of certain locations

A handful of "One Page Dungeons"

More locations and monsters, including some Empire of the Petal Throne monsters; more Fiend Folio encounters; monsters from other contemporary old-school sources and settings; and so forth.
One thing I want to do with the next version of the Hexmap Matrix is to include content from other members of the community, hopefully including those who have inspired me to create Planet Algol.

So if you have a location, a monster, a NPC, a dungeon, an magical or technological item, what-have-you, that you think would be a good inclusion, or if you have an idea regarding an existing hex, I would love to hear about it and welcome your input, either here or at planetalgolATgmailDOTcom.

In the same spirit, please feel free to use any Planet Algol material for your own setting, campiagn, dungeon, project, whatever.

As well I would like to thank all of those who have inspired and encouraged this project, especially Gabor Lux, Geoffrey McKinney, James Mishler and Scott of the sorely missed "World of Thool."

Hexes of the Iridium Plateau Completed

Viewable here on Referees' resources, for the eyes of DMs only, is the description of the contents of the Iridium Plateau Hexmap, detailing the monsters, lairs, ruins and so forth of the region.
XXXX: The jungle is full of flowers, which swarm with bees. Closer examination reveals that the bees are actually minute insect-humanoids. Their hives are full of narcotic honey and are guarded by strange Plant-Nymphs.

XXXX: A shabby hut on tall stilts, much larger on the inside, is home to Xulgzquoqil, a 10th-level Sorcerer always clad in filthy gray hooded robes that conceal a hideous alien worm-being.

XXXX: The Holy One, a lawful good 8th-level
Agogi (Pink Man) Fighting-Man/Sorcerer with psychic abilities, has a simple camp here. He is on a quest to destroy an ancient evil in The Temple-City of Klovoyga in hex XXXX.

XXXX: A slender tower of blue metal is the abode of The Sky Masters, 2
7th-level Zhaxxi (Silver Men) Fighting-Men and their 2 Giant Pterosaur mounts (Monster Manual II).

XXXX: This foul spire is rotten throughout it's mass with massive slimy tunnels bored by uncounted legions of blotchy, albino Purple Worms that thrive on the unique sentient ores and crystals that permeate this mountain. These living minerals are an important component for constructing certain positronic thinking-engines.

XXXX: A sprawling complex of massive rusted engines is home to 32 Fighting-Men (of a mixed racial composition) with a 3rd-level Barshi (Black Man) leader, who are the psychically-enslaved servants of the 70 fossilized crystalline brains of an extinct race of insect-sorcerers located in a crypt deep beneath the ruin.

Chapter 7, Part 1: "The Curse of Gan-Ron's Sword..."

This Episode's Cast:

BULL'S EYE BUCK McGOVERN - Earth Man Fighting-Man, bears Gan-ron's magic silver needle-sword

CORPORAL RADAR O'REILEY - Teenaged Earth Man, former member of a failed Terran Exploration Mission, has a metal nose
DICKIE DEE - Bone Man Sorcerer and indulgent intoxicant enthusiast
MONSTER MONAGIN - Earth Man Fightin' Sailor
RODAN THE SCROUNGER - Green-skinned Scavenger and Fighting-Man
RYGARR - Green Man Sorcerer
THORAZ AND KALERVO - Cactoid Brothers, Fighting-Men

Part II Here.

Desperately battling gargoyles beneath the Melted City, the party finds their weapons ineffective aside from Bull's Eye's magic silver sword. Monster Monagin is brought down by the stony talons and fangs of one of the rock-demons and lies bleeding and unconscious on the floor.

Ignoring the still-unfired laser pistol holstered on his belt, Rodan the Scrounger pulls out a techno-magical artifact of the Ancients, "The Eye of Retarding Destiny", and aims it at the foes. Two of the three gargoyles begin moving slowly, at one-third their normal speed. This doesn't stop one of the monsters from disemboweling Bull's Eye Buck, an act of retaliation for the injuries inflicted by his magic needle-sword.

As Rodan scrambles through Buck's steaming entrails, scrabbling for the magic sword, another of their foes tears into Kalervo the Cactoid, leaving several sap-spurting deep wounds in his green flesh.

Rygarr the Green Man Sorcerer draws forth one of his trophies, "The Eye of Being an Unimpeachable Shield Against Foes" and turns the tables on their invulnerable foes by rendering Rodan and the two Cactoids impervious to their claws and teeth.

With three members of the party temporarily invulnerable, the companions manage a semi-orderly retreat leaving the bloody dying bodies of Monster Monagin and Bull's Eye Buck to their fates. Using the invulnerable fighting-men to hold the corridor they pull back to the stairs and rush up them into the Melted City where they desperately run through the ruins for several minutes before concealing themselves in a narrow crevice, their wounds filthy and ragged.

The party hears no sign of the gargoyle and presumes that they have escaped. However they realize that during their mad dash through the ruins the Bone Man Sorcerer Dickie Dee was separated from the party and lost. Was he caught and slain by the Gargoyles? Is he lost and wandering The Melted City or The Prismatic Wastes seeking his companions? Some opine that the intoxicant enthusiast deliberately separated his person from the party in order to find a secure location in which to consume the four packets of intoxicants that he took from Maggot Mort's corpse.

The exhausted party decides to rest for the night in their cramped, filthy hiding hole. During the night one of them hears the sound of several men traveling through the darkness outside their hideout but the party remains undiscovered.

The next morning when they drag themselves out of their miserable hole there is no sign of the Gargoyles or Dickie Dee. Returning to where they secured their Ornith bird-steeds they only find bloody feathers, splintered bones and scraps of flesh, the handiwork of the Gargoyles or some other denizen of the Prismatic Waste.

The battered and depleted companions decide to make for the safety of civilization and begin trekking westwards through the Prismatic Wastes towards the mining town of Pit.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Carcosa and "The King in Yellow"

I'm a story and a half into The King in Yellow, having already read The Yellow Sign in an anthology, and already my imagination fevered with unspeakable visions and unwholesome inspirations.

I've already been tossing around this idea of the setting presented in Supplement V: Carcosa being a post-"Call of Cthulhu"-apocalypse setting. The investigators all died or went mad, the stars were right, Nyarlathotep does his Randall Flagg routine and pre-maddens the population before Cthulhu rises and utterly destroys humanity's works and minds. The blasphemous prehuman races run wild on an utterly reshaped planet and eventually, millions of years later, Earth is now Carcosa.

While reading The Repairer of Reputations this idea emerges that Carcosa is this parallel reality, located in "The Abyss," "Outside," "The Outer Dark," what have you. And it's trying to pull Earth into it. Trying to bring about a reality-shattering apocalypse. I'm coming around to the idea of the King in Yellow being an aspect of Nyarlathotep, with the spreading madness and all (admittedly that is par for the course with pretty much any one of the sanity-blasting Mythos big-boys) and I'm never been that fond of Hastur.

Does Leng serve as a gate between our Earth and Carcosa? The High Priest Not to Be Described appears to very much resemble The King in Yellow.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I am now officially a "Ready Referee..."

Ready Ref Sheets $5 at Core Games and The King in Yellow $6.95 at "Vancouver's Source for Appendix N," the always excellent Pulpfiction Books. The sad thing is that when I saw The King in Yellow I gasped and than did a victory fist pump.

Monday, October 12, 2009

4 Mutant Hyaenodons...

Viewable on Referees' Resources, are the DM-eyes-only details of half of the hexes of the Iridium Plateau Hexmap. A couple of short excerpts:
XXXX: The hunting grounds of 4 Mutant Hyaenodons (HP:27, 15, 25, 24) with writhing worms-like tentacles (2 additional attacks for 1-4 damage) growing out of their backs.

XXXX: This foul spire is rotten throughout it's mass with massive slimy tunnels bored by uncounted legions of blotchy, albino Purple Worms that thrive on the unique sentient ores and crystals that permeate this mountain. These living minerals are an important component for constructing certain positronic thinking-engines.

The Sound of an Android-Haunted Sterile White Plastic Arcology...

Arcology, Space Art. Thanks to Dudebird/Sean for turning me on to this excellent cold seventies futuristic music, Space Art has been in heavy Planet Algol session rotation for a while.

Eighties Cartoon - Blackstar

I love the basic premise and that dragon-horse thing is awesome but seriously, fuck those trobbits! Any of my characters worth their salt would sell those disgusting magenta gnomes into slavery, preferably to the purchaser with most evil and cruel plans for them. Hopefully they'd be useful as "purple man sacrifices" on Carcosa...

Planet Algol Music - High On Fire & Sleep

Although I usually do not favor "The Headbanging Stuff" as background music while I am DMing as I usually find it a headache-inducing distraction, High On Fire, especially the "Blessed Black Wings" album, has been in heavy rotation for battle music for years.

When the party is wandering through a primeval jungle and stumbles into a Tyrannosaur AND a gigantic scorpion, both of whom attack the party seeking all the meat for themselves, High On Fire is the perfect soundtrack to fighting these giant monsters with swords. Gritty, metal, and lacking all Hammerfall/Blind Guardian "life metal weakness..."

Another album that I've been using as D&D music for the entirety of my "adult DMing career," is by a band that featured High On Fire's frontman Matt Pike. Sleep's "Jerusalem" is a single-song slab of metal-dub that's almost an hour long. Music for wandering the smokey blasted wastelands of an alien world.

When my D&D-playing ex proclaimed "What is this music? It sucks!" I know the relationship was doomed...

Chapter 6, Part 2: "The Melted City..."

Additional players in this drama:

BULL'S EYE BUCK McGOVERN - Earth Man Fighting-Man, bears Gan-ron's magic silver needle-sword
CORPORAL RADAR O'REILEY - Teenaged Earth Man, former member of a failed Terran Exploration Mission, has a metal nose
THORAZ AND KALERVO - Cactoid Brothers, Fighting-Men

Part I Here.

Dickie Dee and Monster Monagin have both taken leave of the party in Small Dust in orer to pursue their interests.

Monster Monagin meet's with Small Dust's Sheriff, Vholdhaan a portly Blue (Kerulian) Man, at the Governor's Mansion. Vholdhaan offers to sell him an heirloom Earth Man revolver for 2000 gold credits, which is beyond Monagin's finances. He than offers the weapon at a substantial discount if Monster Momagin slays a small gang of Axebeak-mounted Gnolls that have been harassing prismatic salt harvesters and Monster Monagin agrees to consider the offer and leaves to discuss it with his companions.

The still groggy and hallucinating Dickie Dee visits the local Sorcerer,
Havtti the Clicking, a Bronze (Dhazzi) Man of advanced age. He seems distracted and possibly senile, and rambles on about his research into the arthropods of the Prismatic Salt Wastes. He does have several spells that he is willing to let Dickie Dee copy into his spellbook for a suitable fee and also offers to let Dickie Dee copy two spells in exchange for the fresh slain cadaver of a Giant Prismatic Scorpion of the Prismatic Salt Wastes. Dickie Dee takes leave to consider the offer and rejoin his party.

Dickie Dee and Monster Monagin meet up in the marketplace and decide to follow the rest of the party into the Prismatic Wastes. In need of additional fighting-men to bolster their ranks they recruit a pair of Cactoid brothers and a teenaged Earth Man, Corporal Radar O'Riley, the survivor of a failed Earth Man expedition who carries a pump-action shotgun and has a metal nose (a replacement for the one that was chewed off by baboons during his initial expedition to Algol's surface). They also stumble into Bull's Eye Buck McGovern, a former companion of their's who fled with a magic sword when the rest of the party were defeated by the intoxicant vendor and wrestler Mozug. There are no hard feelings and he is also invited to join. Mounts are purchased for the newcomers and the two cactus men quickly cut off the spines on the insides of their thighs and calves so as to not injure their bird steeds.

The party sets off, east up the cliff-road to the Iridium Plateau and than north through the Purple Grasslands into the Prismatic Wastes, the nature-savvy Cactoids being able to follow the hours-old trail of the rest of the party into the wastes.

Once in the twisted colorful rock formations of the Prismatic Wastes the train leads towards a towering stone spire. As the group gets closer it's erupts with the malformed membranous-winged forms of seven mutant pterodactyls who flap and caw towards the party. Radar lets off a blast from his shotgun as the cactoids scramble up onto a rock formation with their halberds. The shotgun blast misses and the party begins a desperate melee with the deformed reptiles.

Although the monsters are imposing, soon the companions are drenched with the cold, oily black blood of the reptiles, their scaly bodies lying broken and hacked on the multi-colored ground.

The adventurer's head over to the spire that the pterodactyls were perched upon and the young Earth Man Radar clambers up the rough stone. Among the filth and bones of the nest are the bodies of four recently-slain men which Radar kicks off of the summit.

Monster and Dickie Dee examine the cadavers. One is the pale, deformed body of Dickie Dee's fellow intoxicant enthusiast, Maggot Mort. Dickie searches the body and take the four remaining packets of intoxicants. Next the bodies are searched for an invaluable artifact of the Ancients, "The Eye of Bestowing Life." The gem-like relic is aimed at Maggot Mort's body and small stud is depressed. Invisible life-giving rays bathe the body of the unhealthy mutant which responds by dissolving into foul black corruption, Maggot Mort's defective DNA responding unfavorably to the life-restoring device.

Next the device if brought to bear upon the torn and half-eaten bodies of Rodan the Scrounger and Rygar the Green Man Sorcerer. Their wounds heal in seconds and the two return from the dead, fully functional their health slightly and permanently depleted by their journey's into the afterlife.

The body of the crested Vlesh-man, "Savage" Pink Pankens is ignored after it is looted, no need to waste the eye's charges upon mercenaries known for less than a day!

After a short rest and discussion the party decides to continue Rodan and Rygar's expedition to The Melted City. A short time later the massive ruins of The Melted City are looming over the party, huge chunks of brightly colored glass that have been melted like candle wax by some terrible ancient catastrophe.

Dickie Dee opines that they should seek out any intact subterranean ruins and the remains of what appears to have been a luxurious palace are searched. Concealed by a heap of jagged glass fragments is a staircase leading down into the earth, and after their now-bloody hands dig out a passage the party descends.

The stairs lead to a passageway of ancient corroded alloy which further leads into a chamber, choked with rubble and ancient machinery. The walls of the room are lined with all sorts of grotesque idols of demons and gods in stone and metal and one of the far corners of the chamber has several metal cases stacked in it.

The two Cactoids are dispatched to investigate the metal chests. As they reach the corner three of the statues stir and approach the party...demonic stone forms with talons, fangs, horns and wings. The demon-statues prevent the cactus men from rejoining the party and a terrible fight breaks out.

Although the party fights vigorously and skillfully, their weapons, aside from Bull's Eye's needle-like silver magic bastard sword, are unable to damage the stony hide of the statue-demons and the situation appears dire as the monsters claw and tear at the party while their weapons bounce and clang off of the demon's unharmed bodies...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Planet Algol Music - Tangerine Dream

"What makes Risky Business so tense, so creepy? Tangerine Dream." - Peter

The sound of alien constellations wheeling above luminous violet wastelands...

Friday, October 9, 2009

What music should a DM play during a potential TPK?

I suggest avoiding the Braveheart-esque "slow motion sequence of an important character dying in in the midst of a battle while his companions howl and attempt to reach him," not only is that stuff played-out and hokey, but it's also bad luck in the vein of a Bride and Groom's first dance after the wedding ceremony being to Careless Whisper.

You need something epic and blood-stirring, and something that says in no uncertain terms that the chips are down and you are going to have to bring your A-game to the table if you even want a chance of your character surviving.

The Dollars/Good, Bad & Ugly trilogy had a huge influence of my campaigns, both in the Wilderlands and Planet Algol, in terms of atmosphere, the ways of men and also soundtrack-wise. There is something primal and archetypal about the music from these movies and it causes me no end of grief that those sad-sacks has-beens Metallica use this music as the entrance cue.

BTW, my friend's Kevin and Nadine used this as their wedding music in the middle of a sweltering summer, making the audience wait while the music built tension...after stealing the idea from me. 100% class in my opinion.

I would probably cry if I saw this in concert.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Chapter 6, Part 1: "A Shiny New Raygun..."

Participants in the following Entertainment:

DICKIE DEE - Bone Man Sorcerer and indulgent intoxicant enthusiast
MAGGOT MORT - Sickly Mutant Thief, shares the same habits as Dickie Dee
MONSTER MONAGIN - Earth Man Fightin' Sailor
RODAN THE SCROUNGER - Green-skinned Scavenger and Fighting-Man
RYGARR - Green Man Sorcerer
"SAVAGE" PINK PANKENS - Crested Vlesh Fighting-Man

Part II Here.

...A vast sprawl of the melted stumps of massive ancient buildings surrounded by a lumpy yet level plane of cracked glass. The city that once stood here appears to have been built once of vividly colored glass; as the melted remnants are brightly colored violet, red, indigo, dark green and other shades. However, some sages say the terrible weapons that created the Prismatic Wastes also colored the ruins of the people they destroyed. Over the eons many of the ruins have shattered, leaving jagged blades and piles of colorful fragmented glass sand lying in corners and dunes about the city. Some say that the subterranean regions of The Melted City survived the devastation that destroyed it, that there are many tunnels and chambers beneath it where Ancient relics could be salvaged...

The party returns from the failed assassination attempt upon a Prismatic Salt Harvester of the Iridescent Salt Lake to the caravan town of Small Dust. Rodan the Scrounger notices suspicious glances from some of the locals.
Dickie Dee and Maggot Mort immediately head to the marketplace and buy out an intoxicant distributor's supply of Eibon Matter and Ocher Lotus Nectar before getting a room in an inn.

Rodan the Scrounger and Monster Monagin both talk to weapons merchants seeking guns; Rodan places an order with a broker for a laser pistol of the Ancients, which will arrive the next day. Both of the fighting-men return to the Inn where the two degenerate intoxicant addicts of the party pay them a small fee to keep guard during their prolonged indulgences.

The next day Rodan the Scrounger collects his new weapon, a sleek silvery laser pistol from the Age of the Ancients. The broker explains that although its radiation crystal holds a charge he is unable to discern how many shots are left before offering a custom-crafted holster and belt for 25 gold credits. The Scrounger buys the holster and after trying out a few weapon stowing configurations with his sword, bow, new laser pistol, and knives decides to wear the raygun on the belt butt-first next to his left kidney where his cloak will conceal it.

Monster Monagin talks with the weapons broker who informs him that the local sheriff has an heirloom Earth Man revolver for sale, however the sum is beyond the Earth Man sailor's current resources; although an offer is made to meet with an agent of the Sheriff in order to see if an alternative arrangement can be made. Monster Monagin leaves the party to make the negotiation.

The party meets over a meal and discusses their next course of action. Maggot Mort and Dickie Dee are jittery and groggy from their chemical exertions of the previous night and appear to have not slept. Dickie Dee announces his intentions to purchase new sorcerous incantations and leaves in order to visit the local Sorcerer.

Over a map of the Iridium Plateau Region inquires are made to the learned members of the party regarding The Melted City (in the Prismatic Wastes upon the Iridium Plateau eastward and above Small Dust).
As tales tell of finds of treasures and artefacts of The Ancients in the The Melted City, the four decide to make an excursion to the ruins; and the party, being bereft of Dickie Dee, Monster Monagin or any other of their companions recruit a green-skinned Vlesh-Man mercenary, with a crested-head, from the bazaar before setting out on orinth-back east upon the road leading up the Iridium Escarpment to the plateau above.

Soon they are leading their bird-steeds out of the sharp Purple Grasslands of the southwestern Iridium Plateau into the brilliantly lurid and twisted topaz and violet, crimson and green rock formations of the Prismatic Wastelands where they are set upon by a flock of seven leprous mutant pterosaurs, twisted in form and bearing bloated fungoid tumors. The winged reptiles make short work of the party and drag the bodies back to their nest. There, upon a malformed spire of multicolored stone, the beasts began to peck and gnaw upon the bloody corpses, the shiny new laser pistol still in its holster, unfired.

Dungeon Music - Hellhammer

During both Dudebird's Wilderlands and my Planet Algol games Hellhammer's Demon Entrails album keeps turning up on the playlist during desperate subterranean battles against shambling horrors. All of Hellhammer's recording sound like they were recorded in actual Dungeons, which seems to be a theme with my gaming music lately (German Oak's first album was recorded in a WWII bunker).

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What I Want As A DM

I've been thinking a bit lately about Gygaxian archaeology (read the article in the link, some rock solid DMing advice from the dawn of the game) and the line of thought followed to thinking about how cool it would be to have a massive sandbox campaign like the legends of Greyhawk. A legendary, sprawling dungeon. A huge pool of players with multiple characters and parties and solo sessions. DMing for a group of 12 players on a wild expedition for deep level treasure.

And that got me thinking about "What do I want as a DM?" Sure, we want to keep the momentum of the game going and we want enthusiastic players, but it may be a worthwhile exercise to detail one wants in the experience, so here goes:
  • I want a world for weird D&D adventure. Multiple hexmaps full of crazy places, monsters and treasures. Dungeons. City maps. NPCs. Unique monsters. A world that is interesting and "cool" and has some sort of internal logic/faux-realism. I'm not interested in "World Building" at all, my campaign world is a Frankenstein's Monster of a pastiche...and I'm fine with that.
  • I want to have occasional EPIC sessions. All-nighters, drinking soda and coffee by the gallon. Twelve-hour grinds.
  • I want lots of players. They don't have to show up every game, and I don't really wanting to be DMing for 12 people at once. But I like the idea of a large pool of potential players with whomever show's up forming a party.
  • I want a system where anyone can drop in a session and play without involving a bunch of explaining and handholding, also involving installing an invisible force field to keep out "problem" players without awkwardness.
Basically, when I write it down I want to be the "Legendary Greyhawk Gary," yeeesh...maybe I should scale back my dreams!

What I did learn from this exercise is that although I have traditionally run a "cloistered" group (no guests/no watchers/nobody I don't know/that guy can't come back/etc, basically I'm Larry David), perhaps I should "throw the gates open" and allow the "curiosity tourists"/out-of-town friend of a player's/friend-of-a-friend-of-a-player's /"this guy from work" access to the game? The old-school "Whoever shows up plays" principle.

As much as that appeals to my fantasies of being some master "People's DM," there are a couple of issues:
  • The space I game at is small and it is at someone else's residence. Alternate games at a FLGS?
  • Problem players. How to handle them with this sort of "semi-open" game?

Monday, October 5, 2009

5 Miserable Pilgrims

Over on Referees' Resources is a post detailing more hexes of the Iridium Plateau Map.

"xxxx: In a dismal salt-slab hut cower 5 miserable Pilgrims. They are waiting for their master, who went on a mystic journey into the Prismatic Salt Wastes and has not returned."

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Favorite Gaming Music - German Oak

Some of my favorite music to play while gaming is the first, self-titled LP by German Psych/Krautrock band German Oak. Their subterranean, grim yet funky jams are the perfect soundtrack to a Richard Corben/Ralph Bakshi animated rendition of the stories of Clark Ashton Smith.
" underground rock band consisting of five hippies from Dusseldorf who recorded tracks in a WW2 bunker, trying to capture the chaos, terror and bewilderment of war, air-raids, invasion and occupation. Neither fascists or Nazi-sympathisers, German Oak turned their anger on their parents generation for letting the National Socialist Party get to power. With a sinister, militaristic cover and 'off-putting song' titles, their first album sold less than 10 copies..."

Kal-Mor "The White Jackal" - Hyperborean Assassin

Native to Algol and heavily prejudiced towards all Terrans, for Kal-Mor sensible extermination and senseless bigotry are both second-nature. He is the recent master of a large, strong and simple (albeit well-spoken and charming) Terran known by the ridiculously cavalier name Buzz Brazzlehach. Known for his cold and calculating demeanor, he is usually remembered for the type of stabbing that turns ones back wet - however short-lived.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Friday, October 2, 2009

Chapter 5, Part 4 "The Gate in the Cliff"

Part I Here, Part II Here, Part III Here.

The party rests for a week in Small Dust as they recover from the injuries incurred during their fight with a pack of Cliff Bandits before leaving town on their ornith bird-steeds, heading northwards in the triple-shadows of the steely Iridium Escarpment. Dickie Dee now bears a familiar beneath his red vest, a white nocturnal monkeybat named "Chips."

The Prismatic Salt Wastes is a vast flatland of vividly-coloured salts, occasionally interrupted by craggy garish rock salt formations. The high winds that travel along the vast cliff-face of the Iridium Escarpment drive fine sharp particles of brightly colored salt painfully into the adventurer's eyes and noses and into every crack and fold of their person.

Clouds of brightly coloured steam arise from an oily iridescent boiling lake ahead, it's shores indistinct due to the steam and heat waves, delicate spires of salt formations and the miniature volcanoes of geysers protruding from the heavy garish waters. As they approach the Iridescent Salt Lake they begin to sweat profusely as the heat strikes them and the shoreline emerges from the clouds of steam. It is a thick crust of condensed salt, stretching into the lake like ice on a pond.

Valuable deposits of iridescent salts, useful for diverse industries such as sorcery, medicine, manufacturing, etc., can be found on the salt crust that extends around the Iridescent Salt Lake. It is dangerous to harvest these salts as the Prismatic Salt Wastes are home to all sorts of monsters and raiders and the salt crust itself is treacherous and prone to breaking beneath the weight of a man, plunging him into the boiling oily waters of the lake beneath.

The Iridescent Salt Harvesters, a fraternity of which Kal-Mor's quarry Mohvar is a member, know all sorts of tricks for safely navigating the salt crust and recognizing hazardous crusts, as well as an eye for which sorts of salts are valuable. They are fiercely protective of their salt crust harvesting secrets.

After securing their mounts to a salt formation the party looks along the shoreline for any salt harvesters but the murky clouds of coloured steam limits their vision. Dickie Dee rouses his monkeybat familiar and instructs it to travel counterclockwise around the lake looking for any men.

A couple hours later a white flapping shape emerges from the steam and chitters to Dickie Dee who translates "Chips saw a group of men on the shore!" One of the companions inquires about the quantity of said men.

Dickie Dee chitters to Chips who replies. The Bone Man Sorcerer than disappointingly explains that the simple monkeybat doesn't know how to count, neither can it say what they were doing. But there were men further along the shore.

Around an hour later of traveling northeast along the boiling lake's shore, staying clear of the treacherous salt crust, the party spots a group of nine men shrouded in black and gray robes ahead.

One of the shrouded figures hails the party and approaches with a friendly jaunt. He removes his hood, revealing the violet skin of a Vhaashti Man and introduces himself, Bhorug, head mercenary guard for a salt harvester.

The companions inquire after Mohvar. "Is he here?" "Have you seen him?" "Do you know him?" Bhorug explains that he hasn't seen Bhorug recently as he is a wealthy salt harvester in semi-retirement but that he could be found at his manor several miles clockwise around the shore of the Iridescent Salt Lake. Where the northwestern shores of the lake get close to the Iridium Escarpment there is a green copper gate that provides access to Mohvar's abode. Bhorug also explains that Mohvar is a generous hospitable fellow and if he is not present that the party should make themselves at home and wait for his arrival.

The party thanks the Violet Man and sets off on a hurried pace westwards along the salt crust shore of the steaming lake and soon the Iridium Escarpment is looming above them. In the evening light a set of double doors in the cliff-face, green with verdigris, are visible.

The companions tie their orniths to a salt formation and cautiously approach the gate. The corroded copper doors open with a harsh screech revealing a large tiled passage extending into the cliff, formerly luxurious but now looking somewhat decrepit.

The adventurers proceed down the hallway and come to an large intersection chamber with passages branching left and right. The left hand corridor is chosen and after a couple of minutes the party hears the tinkling of water and sees hazy light ahead through what appears to be a curtain across the corridor.

Buzz sneaks off ahead and peers through a crack in the curtain. He sees another large tiled chamber lavishly furnished with ivory benches, elaborate urns, a silken sleeping platform, perfumed oil lamps and a lavish indoor garden with a running fountain in a small pond. On a raised platform in a throne of worked granite sits a shapely pale woman wearing a filmy gown and veil, she beckons at Buzz and bids him to enter. Buzz clears his throat, dusts off his clothes and enters the chamber. The rest of the party sneak up to the curtain behind him.

Buzz approaches the throne and the woman bids greetings. Buzz replies with flattery and asks about Mohvar. The woman replies that she will inform him of Mohvar's location in exchange for a kiss. Buzz asks that the veil be removed first. She replies that he should close his eyes. He refuses and she grabs a longsword that was lying against the throne and strikes at him.

The veil disintegrates revealing a gleaming ivory skull visage! Not the bones within transparent flesh of the Bone Men, but a skull for a head. A skull which is now screeching and gibbering as she slashes at Buzz, the silken wisps of her gown now a coat of mail.

As Buzz parries and thrusts with the slender, magic two-handed sword of the Shunned Ones the rest of the party tumbles through the curtain and attacks with the exception of Dickie Dee who attempts a spell, which fails to affect the skull headed warrior woman. Dumbfounded he looks about and dashes for a large chest. The greedy sorcerer forces the coffer open releasing flood of tiny black centipedes that engulf his arms which are soon aflame with the stinging venom of thousands of myriapod bites.

The fighting-men strike at her with weapons, but even when her mail coat is rent by their blades the flesh beneath is as hard as marble and unaffected by their blows. Only the magic sword of Buzz Brazelhach wounds her. He takes several wounds but manages to cut down the skull headed demoness who immediately begins dissolving into foul black corruption, the luxurious furnishing, gardens and pond of the chamber following suite as well. The centipede assailing Dickie Dee disappear and the venomous stings fade.

The party searches the room, but only finds stinking heaps of wormy black filthy. After making camp in more hygienic surroundings they rest for the night before retrieving their thirsty and hungry orniths and start riding back to Small Dust.

On the way they are ambushed by a huge metallic-gray scorpion like creature, a Gray Horror. They manage to make short work of the monstrous arthropod and harvest it's stinger and venom gland before continuing their return to Small Dust.

Part I Here, Part II Here, Part III Here.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Chapter 5, Part 3: "Slaughter of the Cliff Bandits"

Part I Here, Part II Here, Part IV Here.

On the steep, narrow cliffside trail the band of adventurer's scramble off the backs of their mounts (their ornith's being untrained as war steeds, thus being unreliable and easily panicked in battle).

The two knots of filthy rag-clad Cliff Bandits, who were hiding at points both ahead of and behind the party's position, race forward waving their tarnished and battered weaponry.

While the weaker members of the party scurry and cower, the fighting-men form two defensive lines and soon a ferocious melee is occurring on two fronts. While some of the party have moderate success against the rabid transients, Monster Monagin, the self-declared "Fightingest Man in the Party" waves his polearm to no avail and Cliff Bandits swarm about him, nicking and jabbing at him with their rusty cutlery.

As the first wave of Cliff Bandit casualties spill their lifeblood and entrails upon the trail and over the cliff's edge into the howling Iridium Escarpment winds, Maggot Mort the mutant and sickly cripple with a withereed arm is emboldened by the carnage and joins the fray with his sword-knife, severing arteries and gutting foes with unnatural strength.

Several of the flea-infested brigands are slain by Maggot Mort while the battle rages about him, Monster Monagin hacking and spearing futiley as Cliff Bandits dodge his strikes, managing to only nick one of them. Meanwhile the resourceful Rodan cuts down four of the robbers and the showboating Buzz keeps the party's weak flank secure, lashing about with his magic two-handed sword.

One of the vermin dashes in close and lays Maggot Mort scalp open with a blow, rendering the unhealthy thief unconsious and bleeding vigourously from his malformed brow.

Soon all of the Cliff Bandits are rendered deceased, and an inventory of their pathetic possessions is made. Crude vermin-infested armor made from scraps and uncured hides; a pile of axes, falchions and crude morningstars bent and dulled by rough use and neglect; a pitiful heap of tarnished copper, brass and bronze tokens; and a rich velvet bundle, stained with dried blood.

The bloody package is opened, revealing two velvet pouches and a metal document tube. One pouch holds several large valuable smokey quartz crystals and the other holds wrought-gold amulets of abstract arabesque design on iridium chains, loot worth many gold credits.

The document tube is unscrewed and a scroll of purple metal is withdrawn. Dickie Dee casts his invisble eyes across the scroll and diserns that it contains several incantations that he could cast using the scroll or attempt to scribe into his grimoire, a rich prize for a Sorcerer such as he!

The companions tend Maggot Mort's wounds and sling him across the saddle of his bird-horse. Soon they arrive at Small Dust and take lodgin at the Red Beak Inn where they eat, drink, and squabble over the division of their unexpected windfall while Maggot Mort thrashes in an feverish delirium on a cot.

Part I Here, Part II Here, Part IV Here.

The Nyiragongo Lava Lake