Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Demonspore - Review Part I

This is the first part of a review of Matt Finch's latest Swords & Wizardry product, "Demonspore," published by Mythmere Games, available in both print and PDF versions. This review is of the free review copy of the PDF.

The first part of the review is an first impressions overview of the product; the forthcoming second part will dig into the guts of this adventure.

Spoilers will About... Be Forewarned

Demonspore is a two part dungeon adventure for characters of levels 3-6.

It involves sinister fungus beings seeking the rebirth of a dead fungus god, and their manipulations of a group of toad people. An enterprising DM could easily incorporate this adventure with other campaign elements such as The Pod-Caverns of the Sinister Shroom; the cults of Tsathoggua or Zuggotomy; the Sporecery Guild; etc. It also affords great opportunity for a plot-driven "Heroic Goody-Two Shoes" campaign, "Elminster needs you, the lawful heroes, to stop this wicked plan!"

I'm a big fan of Matt Finch's line art, and would have preferred such a rendition of the cover art as opposed to the painting which is a bit too muddy for me. I do think that Matt could illustrate an excellent children's book if he continued painting.

The lurid & rugose interior art, by Jason Sholtis, is uniformly excellent. I find it evocative of the subject matter and fun.

I'm unsure who is responsible for the cartography, but it is both clear and attractive. The maps are fairly non-linear and appear to offer significant tactical options.

The adventure begins with 3 pages of Exposition and Referee Notes. Usually I HATE HATE HATE such content if it runs longer than a couple of paragraphs (see Pathfinder adventures for an example), but in this instance I don't mind.

The clean layout makes the above information (and the rest of the adventure) easy to find information and read, as opposed to the HATE HATE HATE of run-on tiny text and spidery handwritten font sidebar in Pathfinder. It is also concise, clear, and doesn't dive into unnecessary text bloat.

I'm not meaning to turn this into a Pathfinder bash fest, but usually the Referee Exposition in a Pathfinder adventure takes an entire damn page to communicate a couple of paragraphs of information ....blame it on getting paid by the word? Although Demonspore does feature extensive introductory text, it is also efficient.

The adventure seems amenable to multiple approaches by the players: kick in the door, diplomacy/guile, stealth. There are several opportunities for interaction with NPCs, some of which appear to quite worthwhile, and the possibility of in-dungeon allies and resupply. Important NPCs are provided with concise histories and motivations, making them three-dimensional without the author falling into the black hole of frustrated fantasy author syndrome.

There is an appendix with several new monsters, which I like and are appropriate for the adventure. My favorite, hands-down, has to be the Toad-Hydra, which is part of a great encounter.

I appreciate the lists of all of the monsters/encounters in the adventure, provided in order for a referee to strike off ones already slain and plan monster tactics.

At this point I very much quite like Demonspore and am planning on purchasing the print version.

The product is attractive, clear, organized, and well-laid out, and should be easy to consult while running the game.

I like the setting, players, and plot, and could easily use it in my games, in many different ways. I get the impression that it has been thoroughly playtested and gone over with quality control in mind.

Useable for Megadungeon levels? Check!
NPC-assigned Heroic Quest/Investigation? Check!
Fodder for some beer-and-pretzel hack'n'slash play? Check!

My assessment of Demonspore at this point is uniformly Excellent, being imaginative, well-crafted, and versatile. Now I need to get it printed out and thoroughly picked over for part II of this review.

Wacky Sandbox Idea

The following is an idea I came up while discussing the merits of hexcrawling using a established mileau such as Mystara as opposed to hexcrawling through Terra Incognito.

So you have a traditional old-tyme sandbox hexcrawl game. You have the city of Whiteplainrockeagle and the associated megadungeon of Castle Whiteplainrockeagle a short walk from the city.

Surrounding these environs are the howling wilderness, which is the traditional Wilderlands - Post Apocalyptic OD&D environs.

Even though the players begin in an established civilized community they don't have a map of the surrounding region. Maps aren't available.

People do travel through the wilds, and there are other communities, but the layout of the land is not common knowledge. Most people never travel more than five miles from where they were born, the wilds are full of savage dangers, and the merchants that travel from city to town to city in armed caravans jealously protect their proprietary knowledge of travel routes.

As far as the PCs go, once you travel out of line-of-site of the Free City of Whiteplainrockeagle for all intents and purposes you are in Terra Incognito.

They players map the wilds as they travel through it, and as....

a) There aren't maps of the wilderness


b) There's no commonly known body of lore about the features of the wilderness

Than it follows that the features of this wilderness are unnamed.

Which means...

The PCs would be the ones that would name the various forests, rivers, mountains, etc. that they come across.

Which would be pretty damn cool!

Also, Check Out These Awesome Lurid Eighties Tunnels & Trolls Solo Adventure Covers (color ones starting at the third row down). I would love to see OSR products with similar cover styles! One of the Goodman Games DCC adventures has a similar style.

Friday, November 25, 2011

It's Heramphalmos

Have you seen my wife? I married her a week ago. She's very pretty. She was so pretty that men would give her money to sleep with her! I gave her all my money before I went adventuring with my new friends so if I died she would be rich. I didn't die and I swept up enough treasure that I'm still rich even though I can't find my wife or my fortune. I gave her over ten gold pieces!

We went back into that spooky castle. They said the mean witch girl had used magic to find gold! There was a cleric who had a tattoo of a goat on his face. He looked like someone from under the bridge where I grew up.

There was also a mercenary. He didn't want to go but I heard that he needed a lot of money because he isn't very good at gambling.

We were attacked by big flies! One tried to bite me and I hit it with my broom and than Columbo cut it in half! He's a good friend of mine and is very short and brave.

He opened a door and a ghost attacked him and he killed it with a broken sword! There was a lot of all kinds of money!

We went in a big courtyard and the giant metal doors were open!

We found a bunch of skeletons in a pile of junk. There was an owl that was hooting in a room with a broken rotten bed. Mern, he's very old, was brave! He talked to the owl in owl talk and found some potions. He dropped one on the floor for the owl to lick up and Mern got down like a dog and licked up the potion as well. He said it didn't taste good. There was a lot of garbage on the floor.

Ballard found a sword in the garbage! It was short but very fancy. Ballard gave it to Columbo when he found another shiny sword with a longer blade. That was after the jelly things full of eyeballs and teeth came and chewed one the little mean girl before Mern put them to sleep with magic. We squished them than, it felt funny when the eyeballs squished under my feet!

We found a bunch of treasure and than Columbo found a big floating ball with a big eye and he tried to get away and the witch girl shot the eye monster and Columbo with a bolt of witch lightning. It blew up the monster but Columbo was all burned up!

We went back than and I couldn't find my wife! Mern used magic to read the writing on the swords Ballard found. I need to learn that spell because I can't read either.

The magic sword that Ballard gave to Columbo is famous! I remember hearing about it in fairy tales! It has a name, Steel-Curtain, and Mern said it was a plus-five-defender! Five is half of ten, so that's a pretty big number!

We went back to the castle, but the little witch girl stayed behind and a loud cleric came with us.

I stayed with Ballard because he is nice while others went into a big room full of horse bones. Mern, the old man with a crippled arm, was looking for a secret door and a big tall horse skeleton punched him and he fell down.

They started fighting the horse skeleton and it punched the mercenary in the head. It flew apart in pieces! The loud cleric was dragging Mern away from the fighting and the horse skeleton punched one of his arms off! He fell down like Mern but Mern was puking blood. It also looked like Mern was peeing blood and pooping blood. The cleric just had blood coming out from where his arm used to be.

My friend Columbo killed the horse skeleton and we found some silver! We went back to town and I told the dead mercenary's friends what happened to him. They were not happy!

I couldn't find my wife and we went back to the castle after Mern and the loud cleric recovered. They had to take Mern to the soldier temple because blood wouldn't stop coming out of his bum!

We climbed the rope to the murder floor again! We had to pull up Mern and the loud cleric because neither of them have two working arms! It was hard because the loud one disappeared in the magic dark on the roof and he is really strong!

At the soldier shrine Mern asked the priest to fix his arm and was told to go deep underground and get the bones of a saint from the lair of a monster called a Valpyr with snake people and headless dogs and fire drakes! Mern said he would do it later, that's very brave of him! The priest said the bones were ten levels below the castle. That's deep because ten is the biggest number!

We went through a long tunnel and down stairs to where we found a lot of bones. A skeleton attacked and more attacked and skulls were laughing and talking and we broke them all. We found a secret door and than some little pale rat man things.

The cleric with the goat face tattoo on his face started talking to the little rat men in the evil language and they used magic to make his head explode! We killed them but one of them ate the loud cleric's neck and he died and Mern got a wand that shoots magic missiles. That's what they used to kill the cleric with a goat face on his face!

We also found money! That's why I'm still rich even though I can't find my wife. I have a house now! It's called a lean-to. It had a hooka that my wife used to smoke opium but that's gone now as well. I still have my mat that I sleep on. I made it out of rags and leaves. It's colder now that I can't find my wife.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Flailsnails/Constantcon without Google+?

So I'm running this megadungeon, Fortress Eibon, in thee olde home game and Red Box Vancouver. I decided that I'll let pretty much any legitimate D&D/-ish PC run in this dungeon, so it's basically a Flailsnails game.

Which has led to the line of thought, if you're running an "open" real-life tabletop D&D game, such as what I'm attempting with Fotress Eibon, the sundry Red Box Games, Jimm Johnson's Skull Mountain, etc., AND you allow PCs from other campaigns to play in your game, does that not make the game a Flailsnails/Constantcon game?

Now that's not an especially earth-shattering thought. But follow this train of thought. So there's all these real-life tabletop D&D campaigns. BUT they are also Flailsnails games. So when Jackson from Tacoma is on a business trip to Phoenix, he can use his 7th-level Fighter in Pablo from Phoenix's game.

Or Steve has a long-running hexcrawl game and all the PCs are in the 6-8th level range. Judy is a friend of Steve's that has joined the game. She doesn't have a PC in Steve's game yet, but instead of making a 1st level PC, or an artificially leveled PC, she uses a 6th level PC from game she used to play.

Lily has a 5th level PC in Jesus' game. Lily is taking a semester of school in another country. Instead of her PC falling behind in levels in her home game while out of the country, Lily uses her 5th level PC in Flailsnails Google+ games or a game in her temporary country of residence and when she returns home her PC hasn't fallen behind in levels.

Jonah is a Constantcon addict. He is always playing new PCs. Once one of his Contantcon PCs reaches 4th level Jonah uses the PC for a real life hexcrawl game, thereby wilderness adventuring with a character not made out of tissue paper.

None of this is rocket science or a new idea. But what if using Flailsnails protocols made it easier for people to play D&D in real life games? It involves potential mangling of individuals DMs' campaign continuity, "plots," and control, but in return there's a richer pool of PCs.

Monday, November 21, 2011

What If ..... Paizo released old-tyme versions of their products?

By that I mean what if Paizo released some of their Pathfinder material, such as adventures and bestiaries, in a Swords & Wizardry or Labyrinth Lord or OSRIC version?

I think I'd buy some of their adventures to use as sandbox material, and I'd definitely get the bestiaries. I guess the layout would be an issue, the artwork to text ratio would be considerable, and I'd prefer it they had less intense graphic design and layout, although that's even more unlikely than Paizo Swords & Wizardry material.

You could probably fit all three bestiaries in one S&W book.

One issue I have with their adventures, from looking at them, is that they contain soooo muuuuuch exposition, etc. that I find it hard to find the what I consider the juicy "meat" of the adventures. What & Where. Imagine one of their adventure path installments trimmed down to a slim TSR eighties-tween module, that I would buy.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Hello, I'm Heraphalmos...

"...I clean up after the mercenaries and eat their scraps. I made sandals out of a torn wineskin that they threw away. The first time I wore them I got drunk! But now I have these nice velvet shoes with curly toes. They were expensive, more than ten gold pieces! But now I'm rich and can afford nice things. The Corsairs gave me many coins, more than ten silver coins and more than ten electrum coins. I get to eat tonight!

I was sweeping up the dung and garbage in the mercenary bazaar when I saw them approaching. There was a pretty little girl, an old man with one eye and his arm in a sling, the loud one, a really handsome man and a little man-child who had weapons and armor and everything! But what caught my eye as I was sweeping was how the mercenaries all were grumbling and looking uncomfortable as they left the bazaar. They never all leave the bazaar, that's where they play dice and gossip and drink wine. Sometimes they forget some wine and I get to get drunk. That was before I was rich, now I can get drunk and eat real food every day!

The Corsairs approached me and asked why the mercenaries were leaving, the one that talked to me was the really handsome one, he has a nice voice! I listen to the mercenaries as they gossip so I knew that they were mad that so many had died before with the Corsairs and that they also didn't like the loud one. The little girl looked mean when she heard that and they left.

They came back later and the loud one was wearing a different helmet and cloak. He was pretending that he was someone else. I like to have fun! The handsome one, his name is Ballard, that's a nice name, he asked me to come with them to pick up treasure and carry it. They said I didn't have to fight or open things and would get some of the treasure. That's why I'm rich and now and not dead!

We up to that scary fortress and I got to climb a rope onto a big grill where I climbed down a ladder. There were dead hyena men and dead giant frogs and dead giant lizards and dead people. It smelled bad. They dead people and monsters looked like scraps. I think something had been eating them!

I also saw a door that was black fog and a trap door and a long hallway that we walked down. We found some rooms and some of them got scared, but especially the old man with one eye. We found a statue with a big rag over it. The brave little man-boy lifted off the rag with a spear and it was a wood statue of a beggar. I think the man-boy is so brave because he is crazy because he started talked to the statue. I didn't see or hear the statue talking, and nobody else did. Maybe the little man was playing a game like how the loud one was pretending to be someone else? I caught the loud one because he used his invisible magic one time so I told him. I won that game!

The little man said that the statue told him that they needed to get his remains from ten feet below the ground beneath them. They argued but the little man really wanted to win his game and he went down some stairs where there was a bunch of skinny scary looking people. They were as skinny as I was but their eyes were white and they had long stringy strands of hair. Did you know that I am bald? That's why I made a hat out of rags. But also because the sun would hurt it in summer and winter is cold.

They called them Coopers. They were hissing and grunting and one of the sorcerers used magic and put them all to sleep. The little man-child is nice. He said that we should let them live, but the loud one stayed behind. I think he might have killed them because the mercenaries say that he is not a nice man.

We found a sunny room with stairs down. The little man is brave and went down with the handsome man named Ballard. They are both nice so I went down with them. It was underground and there were lots of bones. More than ten!

The little man found a big hole. It was more than ten feet deep and there were two gargoyle statues with big axes and a big stone skull with dried blood on it. Most of them were scared and stayed upstairs.

The little man made us break all of the bones. There were more than ten and it took us a long time. I used my broom to clean up the mess. My arms are too skinny for me to break bones. Than the loud one pushed the gargoyle statues down the hole. That was nice of him, they were scary.

They tied the little man to a rope and put him down the hole. It was deep. He said he was picking up coins and started talking to a lady that I could not see. I wasn't in the hole. I'm not that brave!

The little man was pulled up the rope. He was muttering "too deep, too deep!" and looked scared. I noticed that because he never looks scared even when the others were scared. The old one is scared a lot of the time.

We heard a lady in the hole. She was asking for help and the loud one pushed the big stone skull down the hole and we went back to town.

We came back later. We went in a big court-yard. The walls were high, over ten-feet tall! There was a bridge build across the top of it. It looked like the place I grew up that was built under a bridge.

They were talking about a big diamond that one of them had heard about. It was worth over ten gold pieces and the angry little girl said that she found it with her witchcraft and pointed up at a corner of the walls. It was high-up.

The loud one is strong. He threw a grappling hook all the way up to the bridge!

The handsome man, his name is Ballard, he is brave and he climbed up the rope and tied another rope to the big stone teeth at the top of a wall. We climbed up and than the loud one pulled the old man up the rope. The old man can't climb, one of his arms doesn't work.

We were on a roof-top, we were really high up, but there were walls that were even taller! There were a bunch of doors and two little buildings. The little man looked and said there was more Coopers in one and the old one got scared.

The little man opened a door on the other building but someone was inside and asked him to close it. The little man is nice and he shut the door.

The loud one and the little one opened another door and went in. They were inside and than a big wall of magic darkness appeared and all of them were inside it except for Ballard. He was watching out for the Coopers.

The old man came out and he was extra-scared. The little man came out and he was cut up really bad and was bleeding a lot. Than the little mean girl came out.

The little man is brave. He was really hurt but he went back and looked for his friend the loud one. So did the old man, he was braver than he usually is. They didn't find him and were sad. The mean little girl got angry and started talking about magic items and we went back to town. That's when they gave me all this money and now I'm rich!
Tales Told in the Itinerant camp outside the city of Yam:

From a pair of burly, hairry mercenaries in plate mail:

"The Loud One wasn't with them so we accepted a commission, but only after intense negotiation. The Mean Witch Girl wanted us to agree to open door and chests and otherwise acts as innocent sheep driven through a field to be bitten by the poisonous serpents in lieu of the Shepard. She got angry when informed that we did nothing of the sort and informed her of the brotherhood's code regarding such menial tasks. That nonsense was soundly rejected, but they also tried telling us that we were bound to attack and fight to the death regardless of the foe! She informed us that if we fled that our payment was default, a simple enough accommodation that appeased her somewhat. She looks like a pretty little girl, but do not be fooled as she has the heart of a viper my friend!

We ascended a rope to the killing floor above the western gate and the little brave man-child descended one of many iron ladders. He yelled about huge frogs and went silent, our brothers descended and there were sounds of wet flappings, snarls, clashing steel, and rending flesh.

Two shaggy grinning hyena men with notched swords and axes held in their jaws climbed the ladders and the Little Mean Girl and the Frightened Old One-Eyed Man used their sorcery to render them asleep. One fell back down a ladder shaft and the warrior with the babbling name jumped down after it, I saw his knee hit the ladder and his head hit the shaft edge as he went down and I heard a great knocking and clattering.

Three of our brothers were slain the battle, we found the remains of several frogs the size of large dogs and more hyena men. There was also an archway filled with opaque black mist, a long corridor, and a trapdoor leading down.

At that point we were ready to return to Yam, but two huge gecko like lizards dropped from the ceiling and one of them engulfed the babbling one in its jaws and started eating him; chaos ensued as they ran along the ceiling, the other one snapping at us, before we slew them, but the one with the babbling name was well chewed and dead. We made it back here without any more incidents.

Days later we heard that the Loud One had returned. We had returned with three of our fraternity dead and only some silver to show for it; it was decided that our fraternity would not work for these delvers until they return from some runs bearing worthy treasure and without any dead, missing their face, or otherwise maimed or disabled.

When we saw their party approaching the mercenary bazaar, we all had other business to attend to and made our leave. I did hear that they hired the elderly idiot that cleans up after us and eats our scraps, the one with sandals made from wineskins and the broom made out of twigs, to serve them as some sort of lackey and he has been seen with many silver and electrum coins!"

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Delver's Account of Fortress Eibon

From: 76: Enter the Eibon Fortress 


Floria, child sorceress.
Columbo the bravest halfling ever.
Yodl Serpenthelm, a hapless dwarf servitor of the Serpenthelm clan.
Sigmund Serpenthelm, justicar of Lawdor.
Etherial, cleric of Christ.
Mern the Blue, an unlucky wizard, inadequately fleet of foot.
Gagner, a mercenary warrior of lusty ways but low intelligence.


Our brave adventuring party assembles itself outside the city of Yam and proceeds to mount two expeditions into the Eibon Fortress. Numerous warriors are killed, a wizard and a halfling are (further) mutilated by insanely dangerous wolves and a bag of gold with a mouth, respectively, a psychic slug is sent to hell, and some drugs and coins are liberated. In the end, even with the discovery of a magical mace, our heroes remain unsatisfied with the risk-to-reward ratio, and are desirous of finding more and better treasure.

I. Yam is for little girls, OR, Fresh Meat!

Mern and Columbo arrive in Yam, a wonderful town that they can't get into so they stay outside in a large camp with all the other low-lifes. There they run into Floria, who Columbo knows from the old days back in Threshold. Mern gets a little jealous of the younger, prettier, more powerful mage, but keeps this to himself. Floria manages to sneak into the town of Yam by pretending she was visiting her family - one of the few benefits of being a 14 year old girl. Once inside she purchases a 1 bedroom with a den in town - she tells us it has a great view, but everyone with an apartment says that, don't they?
Later, Mern notices his old friend Gagner, who he spent time in prison together (apparently magic-users spend a lot of time in prison in the Black Peaks). Gagner is with his friend Etherial and they're invited along on the planned search of the Eibon Fortress. Moments later, Yodl Serpenthelm is seen. He is a servant of the Serpenthelms and was apparently visiting Yam at the time. He demands 300 gp to join the Corsairs, and further demands that the new recruits get that money as well. Columbo-of-the-deep-pockets pays this out. Some additional muscle is hired as well: four toughs-for-hire of the standard sort (ie: Easterners): Shalid, Jong, Marketh and Zuzalalebarsomething-or-other. Mern immediately grabs Zula as his personal hireling (not that it'll do Mern any good) and gives him platemail (that didn't help Zula either).

II. The Fort

After equipping themselves, the Corsairs head to the Eibon Fortress, a massive structure consisting of 210' high, 130' thick walls coated with a "no wall climbing" veneer (quite chic). Apparently the fort was once the abode of a dynasty of evil sorcerors, who 100 years ago were overwhelmed by their evil magical ways, as well as a horde of demons, undead and servitors. The fortress was then abandoned and the dynasty's name was erased from history. Only recently has the fortress attracted scum adventurers seeking loot XP whatever it is they seek.
Four entrances are obvious on the fortress - two massive 20' tall, 30' wide gatehouse doors on the western and eastern wall, as well as two smaller sally ports.
After spending several hours looking for secret doors on the outside, of which none were found, the group decided to enter through the large western gate.

III. Murder: The perfect prefix for murderholes AND murderhobos!

Passing through the gate, the Corsairs proceeded along a 130' tunnel. On the ceiling, over 20' above us, could be seen a wonderful example of late 14th century pre-Renaissance murderholes. A 5' panel was missing from the floor of the murderholes and it was decided that someone should climb up and see where it lead. Columbo suicidally volunteered himself, to the great relief of everyone else.
Columbo gingerly threw a rock attached to a rope up into the hole, which happily fell back down through another hole, creating the perfect rope climb. Columbo then proceeded to climb up the rope.

IV. Rope Trick

Columbo's eyes, aided by his glowing sword, made out a series of regular indentations in the walls which appeared to be blackened by old fires, suggesting they were used to heat sand in the fortress's defense: wow the DM is such a show-off truly a well built castle. Columbo could also make out four shafts that led down off the murderhole. Looking down the shafts, Columbo saw that they led into a room 10' below him.
Meanwhile the rest of the Corsairs took a peek into the courtyard at the end of the tunnel, where they could see a large, 30' tall, 20' wide double gate that was closed. Gaps could also be seen that lead into darkness (alas, Mern's near-constant fear meant that he doesn't recall where these gaps were - in the wall, in the gate, in the floor, in his head…?)
Quickly deciding that the courtyard was scary, the Corsairs all climbed the rope to head onto the murderhole grate. Columbo then proceeded down one of the shafts.

V. Shafted

Columbo's sharp eyes make out a room filled with rotting sacks. He discerned that the room was most likely an old lounge, perhaps used by the guards while they waited to man the murderholes. He also spied a set of stairs leading down into darkness. The rest of the Corsairs foolishly decided to come into the room with him. While Columbo and Mern debate the finer points of dungeoneering ("we should search this room for treasure and secret doors now!" "No, search later dummy!"), brave, brave Yodl went towards the stairs….
And it was sometime around this point that all hell broke lose…
Yodl said something along the lines of, "squirk!", as three snow white mastiff-like-hell-demon dogs gutted and half-decapitated him as they proceeded to run up the stairs!
A furious melee ensues! Columbo chops one dog and gets hit himself. Gagner is struck but carries on in spite of his wounds and almost certain death. Floria, sensing disaster, casts sleep, but it fails to affect the dogs. Mern, shouting "RUN AWAY" , resulting in general dissent, throws a dagger rather than wisely heading up the ladder. He hits a dog and probably just made it a little annoyed.
The following round our loyal hirelings strike twice! Mern, hoping for a little luck, tries his own sleep, which also fails on the dogs (M-U mental note: there is NO saving throws for sleep. Stupid Mern).
The dogs then proceed to kill Shalid. Floria makes herself scarce by turning invisible. Mern is next in their sights, and the dogs manage to bite Mern in the throat, causing him to fall over, throat crushed, unable to breathe.
Columbo is struck again in the following round, and the party fails to accomplish much on their own, but Floria, in her great kindness, drags Mern to a semblance of safety and puts pressure on his wound so he doesn't die.
The next round sees Columbo and Etherial working together and slaying one of the dogs, but Columbo is again hit.
Columbo follows up by finishing off another dog that had been on the receiving end of the hirelings. The rest of the party misses, but the final dog bites deep into Gagner's throat, killing him while simultaneously bursting an artery, which commences to spray the entire room and its inhabitants with blood, including Floria, whose invisibility temporarily cuts out with each new bloodspray!
It is at this point that Mern christians this room, "Gagner's Bloody End".
The last living dog then tops itself by killing Zulu and being utterly missed by the remaining survivors, and following that up by killing Jong with another artery bite. Columbo and Etherial manage to hit it, but it remains standing.
These attacks appears to make the beast remember Mern, who is still barely alive on the ground, his mangled throat being held together with pressure from Floria's hands. Believing this was not enough of a hint to stay out of the fortress, the demon-beast runs up to Mern (getting a hit from behind from Columbo in the process) and bites Mern. IN. THE. HEAD. Mern thus loses his eye. Floria, with the beast literally eye to eye, decides to expend a charge from her lightning wand to finish off the creature, which she does.
Mern is then tended to by the party. He discovers he also cannot move his arm, likely as a result of nerve damage from the throat bite he took. The remaining Corsairs then head back to the camp outside of Yam.

VI. Sigmund - So NOW you show up…

Once back in camp, the Corsairs rest up from the massacre. Sigmund arrives at this time and his presence has never been more gladly noted. Mern manages to recover to a one eyed, one armed flightless blue pathetic person. The Corsairs then proceed to hire five henchmen and Mern pays to clad them with platemail, to the consternation of the other Corsairs who prefer to leave their mercenaries as easy to kill as possible.

VII. Moths and mercenaries

Heading back to the fortress, the party passes again through the murder hole into the room splattered with Gagner blood and down the stairs where the demon-dogs came from. There they find the dog lair, which contained 2500 sp, a measly sum compared to the cost of recovering it.
Passing through the passageway, they come into a room containing cushions and a lot of dust, as well as 4 massive hawk moths which were very interested in Columbo's glowing sword and Mern's glowing staff. Etherial, placing curiosity before safety, proceeded to light a torch. The moths immediately drew near the torch, became ignited by the flames, AND KEPT FLYING AROUND! Not only that, they started dripping flame! At Mern's exclaimed, "Run away!", everybody except Columbo and Sigmund ran out of the room. Columbo and Sigmund, however, are able to quickly vanquish the moths.
In the adjoining room could be found a bunch of shelves and a rusted iron chest. Sigmund, carefully checking the chest, and kindly telling the magic-users to leave the room (see last adventure for the why of this) asks one of the mercenaries to open it. The mercenary proceeds to explain the finer points of retainership, which is lost on Sigmund, who demands the mercenary open the chest if he wants to see the following morning. The mercenary gave the chest a kick, which proves the chest to be open and trapless. Inside the chest is found many bricks of opium or hashish, which the hireling kindly identified for us. Sigmund places this in his bag.

VIII. You flea-bitten-good-for-nuthin so-and-so's

Returning to the room of Gagner blood, the Corsairs proceed down a hallway, which leads through several archways and empty rooms until a room filled with fleas is found - 10, dog sized fleas, to be exact. Thankfully, Floria casts a quick sleep which puts them all out, and the party proceeds to kill them all. Alas, the room they guarded was empty.

IX. Grabby grabby grabby!

Suddenly, the room is filled with a "lot" of pale, naked humanoid creatures, with bulging white eyes and stringy hair (who cloned Alice Cooper?). Mern yelled "Run away!" but no one paid him any heed as always.
These Cooper-alikes proceed to get slaughted quite handidly by the Corsairs, but not before two manage to bypass the frontline fighters and grab both of Mern's arms, and Etherial soon suffers the same fate! Thankfully, Floria's quick wits are matched by her quick spell, haste, which she casts upon the entire party. Columbo, Sigmund and various and sundry henchmen are thusly able to kill all the grabby little bastards before they can drag anyone off.

X. "Ándele! Ándele! Arriba! Arriba!"

Making full use of their new-found haste, the party quickly passes into the room the Coopers came from, a sour-smelling room filled with feces and gnawed bones. There they find a bunch of giant flea eggs. Sigmund wisely kills them all before they can suck our faces off.
The party rapidly proceeded up a set of stairs, which revealed a series of rooms with square pillars in them.
Columbo threw a rock into the nearest room and struck something metallic. Peering inside, the Corsairs uncover a horde filled with copper coins - 3600 of them.

XI. WTF kinds of monsters are these, OR, I never thought I'd miss orcs!

At about the time Columbo was pulling a Scrooge McDuck in the copper pieces, a slithering slimy like sound could be heard as something squerched and slurped its way towards us. Suddenly each of us was struck by a pounding headache, and a cylindrical leech-like thing the size of a $%^&ing horse (!!!) squilched its way into view. Did I mention it had writhing tentacles for a face? Well, it did.
The henchmen immediately start bleeding from their noses as the leech thing started fiddling with their brains magically. Mern, never the most stable of characters, felt suddenly compelled to charge up and strike the leech, missing once and hitting once (2 attacks per round FTW, thanks haste!). Meanwhile, a henchman starts pooping on the floor.
No, I'm not making that up.
Columbo's henchmen then proceeds to attack Columbo, possibly because Columbo also starts pooping on the floor at this time.
Sigmund saves the day, however, by running up and striking the beast twice, killing it on his second blow. The mental controls having stopped, the Corsairs bashfully clean themselves up. Sigmund proceeds to find the creature's lair in the next room, which consists of a bunch of mucous covered cocoons suspended 8' up on the ceiling.
Sigmund cuts the cocoons open, resulting in a bunch of mucuous falling all over the floor, as well as 1900 sp, 1200 cp, 130 pp and a magical mace held in the hand of some skeletal remains. The mace is claimed by Etherial (actually, Sigmund begrudgingly handed it over to him after some debate).
The Corsairs wisely decide to return to Yam to get their laundry done resupply.

XII. Greed is good?

As Columbo climbs down the rope into tunnel under the murder holes, he sees a small purse that was somehow missed on our 3 trips through the tunnel. Opening it up, he spies gold pieces inside it. He decided to reach inside - and the purse decided to turn into a monster with needlelike teeth that clamp onto hands!
Not only that, the purse decides to start chewing up Columbo's arm too, dealing grevious wounds (and a hell of a lot of damage too)! Columbo decides to punch the purse, which results in him punching his own hand. Oops.
Sigmund rushes over and, using his mighty Lawdor-inspired strength, he pulled the purse off of Columbo…and the purse then proceeds to attack Sigmund! Mern, sensing an opportunity to do something, casts sleep on the purse, which works! Sigmund then stabs the damn thing and kills it. Columbo's arm turns out to be terribly chewed up by the foul creature.
The Corsairs proceed to retire back at the camp outside of Yam, filled with the nightmares inspired by the Eibon Fortress.

Total Losses/Loot

Slain: Yotl Serpenthelm, Gagner, and the hirelings Shalid, Zuluzalabar, Jong, were all killed by demon dogs.
Bricks of opium or hashish, worth 600 gp.
A total of 4800 cp, 5700 sp, and 130 pp.
A mace +2 claimed by Etherial.
This line is important for posterity: All PCs received 187 xp and about 200 gp. The retainers received very little XP, but they won't work for us again so that's ok.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Two More Megadungeon Musings

- It can be worthwhile to total up an estimate of the gold piece value of the treasure on a level and compare it to how much XP a character of the appropriate level need to gain a level, that way you can figure out "This region for 6th-level character has enough treaure XP for 10 6th level characters to reach 7th level."

- When you're generating treasure hoards with multiple gems and jewelry (such a treasure type 5-30 gems and 10-60 jewelry) save yourself some hassle and make one gem or jewel of incredible worth; i.e. instead of rolling for 20 gems rolls one gem and multiply the value by 20. This way you end up with fabulously valuable treasures that may have rumors about them.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Megadungeon Centred Campaign Musings

- While stocking a level with random procedures, it can be fun to mix things up, roll two encounters, and combine them. It can be simple, like "Okay, this gang of evil Clerics has a Manticore pet/mount" or "If I combine a Disenchanter and a Flail Snail I'll have a super-awesome Fiend Folio Fiend!" This is something that Type IV got right in principle, regardless of the Affliction-shirt wearing Poochy-esque EXXXTreeme! implementation.

- Having a variety of human-types on the megadungeon monster stocking matrices works out pretty awesome; it's definitely something OD&D got right with all the Lords, Necromancers and Evil High Priests on the dungeon encounter tables. With my tables I have the AD&D standby bandits, berserkers, and NPC parties, but I also have Clerics, Fighters, Magic-Users and Thieves. You end up with wacky cults, super-villains, and Dr. Frankensteins in your dungeon.

- Jeff Rients' XP For Exploration idea is pretty awesome, and genre-appropriate, and I do try and implement with having bonus XP for compiling a caver/explorer-esque of an area, but you can also put it into effect by having extra money randomly scattered on the floor when you stock.

- When mapping it's fun to put in areas that are inaccessible, incomplete trans-level connections, etc., and put in something down the line. This can Jaquay your dungeon.

- Dark Souls, Dwarf Fortress and Nethack are all great console and computer rpgs that are full of awesome megadungeon DM inspiration, everything from layout to mercilessness.

- You can never have enough monster books. If you have enough you can stock a "kiddie pool through to shit creek without a paddle" megadungeon without doing the giant rat/kobold/centipede/goblin/orc/etc. thing. You can even be counterrevolutionary, a do the whole Raggi-sian "Only Unique Monsters According to Trve Literary Principles" by cherry picking from a pile of books and not reusing.

- It would be nice to have a set of wide and deep megadungeon monster stocking tables that has sub-matrices by level for categories such as Undead, Guardian, Ecology, Soldiers, etc. like the awesome tables that Roger from Rules, Roles and Rolls compiled and the procedures for stocking Tekumel dungeons from the Pettigrew selections.

- The AEG Ultimate Toolbox random table book would be a lot more useful if the ink-guzzling photshop margins had a header that stated WHAT the chapter was about (such as DUNGEONS or NPCs) instead of just saying "CHAPTER 5." Also if you have five d20 tables for the same thing you could have one d100 table instead.

- I wish Michael Curtis wrote a "Dungeon Encyclopedia," Zak S. wrote a Vornheim-equivalent for dungeons, that the OSR publishers were releasing MORE monster books instead of variantions of the Keep on the Borderlands and the Holmes Basic dungeon.

- This and This are really useful for stocking a megadungeon (and is why I'm always whining about Swords & Wizardry not using Treasure Type); did anyone ever make one for dungeon-by-level stocking according to OD&D and the DMG Appendix A?

- The way OD&D gave every sword and Alignment (and a 50% chance to be intelligent) makes sense when you realize how many dang magic swords piles up in a megadungeon; it's worthwhile to take some time to differentiate them.

- If the party is surprised by a monster, it's really fun to do as Raggi suggest and not even describe the monster at all, "Bradan stumbles back with a bloody gash across his torso and 13 points of damage!" leaving the players to confusedly sputter about what's going on.

- It's even more fun for the DM to take a smoke break at this exact point.

- When the party is beat up and bailing on the dungeon back to town it's fun to make the players roll the random encounter dice.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fortress Eibon Rumor Mill

Talk heard around the camel-kebab and fermented-goat's milk vendors in the itinerant camp outside of the walls of Yam.

From a mercenary equipped with plate mail and a spear:

"We found a hole in the murder floor above the western main gate entrance tunnel. The little man-child Columbo threw a rock tied to a rope through the grating of the murder floor and bravely ascended and scouted ahead by himself. We found a room full of decayed furniture and foodstores and three white devil-hounds with blazing blues eyes like that of a sabre-toothed tiger killed three of my mercenary brothers and crushed the windpipes of three of the adventurers: the old sorcerer, the dwarf-slave with the girl-like face, and Gagner the fighter. It took many many blows but we slew the demon beasts. Two of the adventurers were living but comatose after the battle, but the feminine dwarf-slave's throat had been torn out! Although the sorcerer and fighting-man recovered, Gagner was so unmanned by his battle-wound that he left their party!"

A week later from another mercenary in new plate mail with a polearm:

"We climbed a rope up into the murder floor above the western gate tunnel. We found the scene of a bloody slaughter with the scattered and gnawed remains of huge white devil-hounds and fighting-men. The delver's gathered several measures of silver from the unclean beasts feces-strewn lair. We encountered some eagle-sized moths that flew at the delver's glowing swords. The cleric was lighting a torch to burn the moths; they all flew at it, became engulfed in flames and began flying at us while dripping burning oil. The graybeard wizard, girl-child and the cleric ran away but the pygmy and loud one and my brothers but them down. We found some hashish and opium worth 600 gold coins, the loud one kept trying to attempt a deceit and keep the intoxicants for himself but we were like iron-jawed wolves my friend and did not let these itinerant tomb-robbers take our share of the bounty.

We went down a long tunnel and came upon a swarm of child-sized fleas. The old man used a sorcery to render them all asleep and they were crushed. We were flanked by a band of unclean shriveled grabbing man-things but they were cut down.

We ascended a stair and came upon a hideous slime slug-thing that attacked our heads and made some of us attack each other while others babbled and defecated like animals. The cowardly old warlock attacked it with a stick and beat it soundly before the loud one, who had been cowering using some invisibility charm, cut it down.

We found some treasure and decided to return to Yam. Reflecting upon our lucartive yet risky venture one fact was distinct in the minds of all us mercenary brothers. The loud one had tried to get us to open chests for him and set off traps in his stead. He was like an oily weasel-snake that hisses loudly and schemes to take all for himself and I would not work for his gold ever again my friend!

On our way back to the exit the little pygmy warrior found a purse of gold coins that ate part of his hand before it was sent back to the hells of greed."

Hint for using the Fiend Folio with Megadungeons

Double check whether an encounter is with Death Dogs or Devil Dogs before commencing with surprise and initiative, "Jeez... I thought these things had only two hit dice?"

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tales From Fortress Eibon...

"We had heard rumours of bejeweled skulls, occults of death, and swords that protected and aid in the slaying of an oppenent. So far two parties had died in these towers. one total party death and another where only one survived. He was our leader as we entered through the Northern sallyport, one of the three entrances, across the courtyard inhabited by distracted but none the less size of the dogs cricket like creatures.

There were five of us, three fighters, a cleric and a magic user. We made our way into the building off the East side of the courtyard encountering nought but a large empty chamber. We followed our leader to the place where he had recently fled and lost all companions. It was the farthest door on the North side of the wall. We peered inside to see bodies piled on one another. Pale and shrunken, loose skin weighing heavy on empty dehydrated tissue. There was the sound of a fountain to accompany us while we stripped these dead companions of anything useful.

After we were done we maneuvered over the fallen to fight these giant grotesque deadly fleas, with compact dark shelled bodies, their disgusting sharp proboscis finding any weakness in our armour. There were but three left and still they damaged our prepared party. It wasn’t until broadswords were drawn and injuries sustained that the fleas were finally conquered. The platinum and gold pieces were gathered from the stone floor as quickly as was able and we all came out of that room a fair bit richer but we wanted more. Exploring the South wall we came upon a hall that led off to up to five different rooms. The first held nothing and the second four mushrooms up to ones waist grew out of a floor thick with musty rotting burlap sacs. We moved on

Room with rotting sacks, one was cut open to reveal decaying bolts of cloth with nothing of worth but a gaudy tapestry of a woman in an erotic pose.

Monsters: Hags with cleavers. camouflaged as burlap sacs. Emit an odour comparable to rotting vegetables. Killed the one who led us, quickly and easily. We fled as there were eight of them but when we did return thes only sign of the hags or our fallen ally was a stain of blood on the floor. This was a room off the West side of the corridor we found on the East South entrance out of the main hall. As we exited we were assaulted by the flying heads of the three four feet high mushrooms. They came whirring at great speeds with clear intent of harming us..."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fortress Eibon Exploration Protocols

The Sunday games with Yee Olde Groupe uses Blair's houseruled OD&D & Supplements.

The Thursday games with Red Box Vancouver uses RBV's houseruled Basic/Expert D&D rules.

As this is a Flailsnails dungeon PCs from other games, campaigns, and editions are welcome, subject to an editing pass by the DM. NO CHEESE!

Thursday games are open to the public, Sunday games require an invite.

Players in the Sunday games (and Thursday games if this passes RBV approval) are entitled to a % bonus if they post a useful account or map of their delve. This bonus is determined by the highest of the character's intelligence, wisdom or charisma scores:
3-6 : +5%
7-8 : +10%
9-12 : +15%
13-14 : +20%
15-18 : +25%
For both an account and a map add an extra 5% to the above figure.

Also, a proper survey of a room, area or level, with description and map, allows the surveyer to officially name the aforementioned region.

I will also be incorporating rumor cards with xp bonuses for accomplishing goals associated with said rumor cards.

Currently this campaign involves the mapped and stocked regions of Fortress Eibon (delve to the limits of the stocked regions for an xp bonus...). In the future play may also encompass the city of Yam and the wilderness hexes of the Yam Plateau.

Don't count on many of them being familiar...

[Flailsnails] Prepare to Die - Fortress Eibon

This past Sunday saw the initial session of my Dark Souls-inspired [Flailsnails] Fortress Eibon Megadungeon, using OD&D with supplements as the rules.

The basalt towers of Fortress Eibon, located outside the archaic silk road city of Yam, was inhabited by untold generations of a clan of Sorcerer-Aristocrats until a hundred years ago when it's masters were overwhelmed by the black magic they sought to control and their names were erased from history.

The Nine Towers of Fortress Eibon thrust 210 feet into the skies, it's walls stand 130 feet tall. Tales speak of dungeons extending as far below the earth as it towers above the ground.

This past Sunday several adventurers sought fortune within it's walls. Rumors speak of ten(!) of them falling to giant fleas, and one being cut down by sour-smelling bundles, as well as as Cleric reaching the second level of experience.

I currently have 9 levels comprising 829 rooms mapped and stocked of Fortress Eibon, and my intent is to run it at my home group games and Red Box Vancouver on a regular basis.