Friday, December 20, 2013

WTF is a Multi-Platform Storytelling Experience as related to the 5e D&D TTRPG?

Saw it on Tenkar's Tavern---5e next summer.  Worst kept secret in the world.  Looking at the press release though, they say:

"Players will be immersed in rich storytelling experiences across multiple gaming platforms."

Lemme just echo Erik Tenkar's thoughts and ask---What the fuck does that mean?  They've been designing a ruleset for Muds, Mushes, Moos, MMO's, Boardgames, cardgames, and CRPG's at the same time?

Does anyone who playtested thin thing have any clue what this is all about?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Constantcon and Flailsnails January Reboot

A couple years ago, Constantcon/Flailsnails took off like a bat outta hell.  I think it was +Jeff Rients , +Calithena Gildenclaw , and +Zak Smith who came up with the concepts---Constantcon is an ongoing convention, taking place mainly on G+ hangouts, where people can play DnD nonstop.  The Flailsnails conventions were a way to let people play a character from one campaign to another within the Constantcon 'verse.

We used to have an ass-ton of games run at various times throughout the week, but to my knowledge, the only regularly run gamse left are +Shawn Sanford 's Old School ModuleCcrawls and DCC games.
From what I can tell, many games just ran out of steam, many went to closed mode once they had a lot of players who showed up every week, like my Blood Island game, and some I just lost track of. 

I'm proposing that all the folks who used to DM open Flailsnails games commit to running at least one game each month for random people, at whatever date or time you want, starting mid January.  That way we are out of the Holiday season.  This way any regular games you have aren't disrupted, and we can get new players, and hopefully new DM's, running more CCon and FS games.

The ones I used to play or know of I will list below.  +Chris H you've played more characters in more games than anyone I know.  If you can add to the list, please do so.

+Jason K used to have a form to list games, and a list of games accessible by all.  I am not sure how up to date it is, but it would be cool if we could update it maybe?

Here's who I have and what game they ran:

+Erik Jensen Wampus Country

+Jason K Dust

+Barry Blatt Griffon Mountain

+Chris Kutalik Hill Cantons

+Shawn Sanford with the DCC game and the Old School Module Crawl

+Kyrinn S. Eis Urutsk:  World of Mystery

+Zzarchov Kowolski Planet Hogswamp

+Reynaldo MadriƱan Barovania

+Trent B New Feireland

+Gus L HMS Apollyon, and a Sci Fi/Dinosaurs game too.

+Reece Carter Hexenbracken

+Zak Smith   Vornheim

+Ian Johnson Game set in Hell.

And I know there were many more I never played in.

I'll run my Blood Island game at least once a month for people not in my normal group.  What do you all say?  Can you commit to that much starting Mid-January, to reboot this fun thing we all used to do?  I miss playing with a lot of you.  It was fun.  Let's do it again.    :)

Sir the Fist awaits the next mission.

Weird Saving Throw Mechanic Found in an Old Judges Guild Module

My players were fighting a Devil-Bat from the old Judges Guild Module "Glory Hole Dwarven Mine" tonight.

The thing had a weird mechanic for saves vs. its fire attack.  It says:  "The target of the attack is allowed of the average of all abilites or lower on a 3d6+3.  A successful saving throw results in only 2-8 points of damage."

It like a throwaway cool alternative saving throw mechanic, in a monster/module that probably 19 people in dnd history even remember.  I like it.  Making saves an avg of our ability scores is so much better than basing them on class, imho.   If I were to adopt it, I would say that classes can give bonuses to types of saving throws, but nothing else. 

Also of note is the part where the 2-8 dmg if you make the save.  What's different about this is that it's not the traditional 1/2 dmg, as the full attack does 3-12.  It's a 2/3 dmg if fail. 

Cool new alternative game mechanics, sitting there in the monster description hardly anyone knows about.   Fuck yeah.

Clark Peterson's Woes

The other day +Erik Tenkar posted this on his blog referencing this newspaper article on Peterson. 

Clark and I have had our differences of opinion in years past, but I genuinely feel bad for the guy for this. Every nutjob who ever stood before him in court and lost, is now going to claim it was because Clark was on the bench slaying dragons in his mind.

Clearly someone is trying to do a hatchet job on Clark here. He either pissed someone off, screwed the wrong person over--intentionally or not, or someone just wants his job, plain and simple. That's what's really behind all this. They are using the nutjobs, from the paragraph above, to make the stink from below.

And if there is nothing that a judicial branch of government hates more than a stink on its reputation. It doesn't matter that Clark did nothing wrong, technically. The appearance of impropriety is enough to get the higher ups in judicial to put pressure on him to step down. We have enough of that here, along with the nutjobs pressuring from below, to get that pressure applied.

I hope Clark make it through this, but it will depend on how much stink and pressure are generated, and how badly the guy who ordered the hatchet job wants Clark out, and how much clout he has.

It's all politics and power plays. And that's a shame.

Edit to add: Don't read that much into his personal finances. In divorces today it is common to have to claim bankruptcy to get out of debt. You used to be able to refinance to do that, and also to get one person off of the note, but with housing values shot to hell, that's not usually possible anymore. Also, a second mortgage I would bet is part of the dividing up the household assets as part of the divorce. There may not have been enough liquidity to do so without it. Lastly, tons of people who run their own businesses owe the gvt taxes. Expecially in this economy, its hard to gauge how much to put aside, and if things take a downturn, its easier to dip into the tax money and pay the rent to keep the business going, hoping it will pick up and you can replenish what you took, rather than to close up the business. What he owes isn't a lot at all.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

5e OGL

Back in the day Green Ronin out out a module on the same day 3e was released.  That means they had to have the rules ahead of time, no?  At least a few months so they could convert their generic module over to 3e standards and get it to the printer and back again in time to have a release. 

I know the internet in 99/00 was a bit different than it is today, but I know there were places to share such a ruleset with others who were not signed on to the OGL and the NDA's and all that legal horseshit. 

Was there a leak of the rules ahead of time on the net?  If so, did the leak help or hurt 3e?  Were the rules only shared with a few companies/individuals ahead of time?  Did anyone who asked ahead of time get a copy of the rules to design modules timed with the release of 3e?

I ask these questions mainly as thinking points, because I think we can all agree that a true OGL would be great for broadening the 5e base.  The sooner it is released the better.  The sooner 3pp modules are released for 5e the better it is for 5e.  Modules released at the same time as 5e would really help 5e make a big impact on the market.

Therefore, if they are going to go that route, shouldn't they be releasing the rules to developers months ahead of the official release of 5e?  If so, there is no chance in hell that those rules will stay hidden or secret with the net's current ability to get leaked shit out there fast. 

Lastly, if that's going to be the case, to one degree or another, that the rules are on pirate boards eventually, why all the damn secrecy with the latter stages of the 5e rules development?

I mean, 5 minutes after the rules are released they will be available on pirate sites.  Tens of thousands of people will read it off of those sites and then determine if it's worth plunking down 50 bucks or whatever to buy the books.  Why not just make the whole damn thing transparent and get some goodwill ahead of time by announcing an awesome OGL? 

That being said, think about this:  if the 5e OGL is going to be as open as the 3e OGL, it wouldn't make a damn bit of difference if they were completely transparent every step of the way in their development, because they were going to give it away for free, essentially, anyhow.  The only reason to keep it so under wraps is if there was going to be a half-assed OGL, an OGL-lite, an OGL with some restrictions, making it then not really an OGL at all.

My bet is that the 5e OGL, if there is one, won't be nearly as good/open as the 3e one.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

So, I Killed a PC Last Night in Our Pathfinder Game. Plus, PFSRD? And a PF Question

This is mostly me just thinking out loud before I've had my morning coffee, nursing a mild hangover, after a game where in the final moments a PC was killed, due to (IMHO) his own dumb-ass decisions and bad dice rolling.  So I'm in a thoughtful state of mind.  When a pc dies, I usually blame myself somewhat, or mentally grill myself to determine whether the death was due to some unfair thing that I did.  I'm not against killing characters, as a dm of the older school style of gaming, but if they die I do want to make sure it wasn't due to me being unfair in some way.  All I did was tempt him, he took the bait, looking for the reward, knowing the consequences.  He had ample warning every step of the way of the potential consequences.  Then, as always, he rolled like shit.  So in this case I think my conscience is clear.  Here's what happened--

We're playing G-2, the Remorhaz igloo on level 1.  Room 28 I think it was.   I'm converting mostly on the fly to PF as I go.  The party knows there is a white dragon in the place. One pc, polymorphed into a snow white owl, flies on top of the igloo.  Hears nothing.  Goes to the entrance, sees some black scaly thing moving, feels heat, sees pulsating red.  Since that character is played by my brother, and according to him I've killed his pc's more times than I've changed my underwear, and, again according to him always unfairly (hey, I was 15, what can I say, he may have a point), he says no way in hell is the owl heading in there to investigate further.

He flies back up to the group, and almost as an afterthought, as the game is ending, I give the druid of the group, a dwarf, whose greatest claim to fame was that he screwed some nasty old diseased bitch one drunken night in a tavern, and who is played as a big pussy by my friend Pete, a chance to identify the thing based on the limited description the owl gives.  He is currently in Air Elemental form.  I make it a DC 25 knowledge nature check.  He fails.  I tell him if he goes down to look I'll give it a better DC.  He goes down to the entrance, I make it a DC 20.  He fails.  I say if he goes into the beast's lair, he will have a better chance.  Goaded on by some of the other PC's, and perhaps a bit by me chanting "Pussy! Pussy!"  he says he will go halfway down.  I tell him that whatever is inside there will have a penalized perception check to detect him.  More goading, and more pussy calling ensues, and he goes in.

Now he knows from the past that anytime he went into a place as an air elemental to scout around it never worked out right.  He knows he is the suckiest roller in the group, so bad that I've considered sending him to a priest to cast an exorcism on his dice.  He admits afterwards that he thought the thing in there was a white dragon, even though I described it as dark and it pulsated red and heat come from the 30 foot tunnel leading to the igloo.  So whats he do?

He heads in of course. Who the fuck would go into a tunnel he thinks that a dragon is at the other end of?  May as well shrink yourself and walk down the barrel of a gun, knowing a bullet is at the other end. 

Sure as shit, he rolls almost as low as he can on a stealth check.  The Remorhaz rolls almost as high as it can, and it has a high modifier.  The thing detects him.  Initiative.  And you guessed it, Pete rolls like shit for initiative.  Remorhaz rolls high.  Remorhaz gets off the bite and the burn, then gets the grapple thing he can do.  In a couple more rounds of more shit rolls, the smelly dwarven druid who fucks ugly disease-ridden chicks is dead. 

All my dice rolls are out in the open.  My conscience is somewhat clear on this one, though I feel bad for the guy.

I'm going to rule next sesion that his animal companion, a big lion or something, feeling the loss of his master, goes insane and runs away.  That wil give the group the clue they need to think that the druid might be dead.

As I was typing this one of my other players typed a poem as a eulogy to his fallen comrade--I'll post it here:

An Ode to Cilrok:

Cilrok, Cilrok, the Dwarven Drood, 
Master of Kittens, Shapechanging Dood
Always supplying us with the best of weed, (I converted mistletoe in our game to marijuana)
Implanting the whores with his dirty dorf seed.
Greatly will you be missed, oh stinky one,
For your bones cannot be saved,
From the belly of the Remorhas,
That bit you in your hairy ass,
The one time you chose to be brave. at least I know his PC's name.  I've been calling him "The Sucky Druid" all this time.

And now, a question for Pathfinder DM's:

Do you usually have the Pathfinder SRD open in front of you electronically while playing the game?

I'm torn.  On the one hand, I can't stand having electronic stuff open by anyone in my face to face games.  It's hard enough with one player under 30 who is, like everyone of her generation, used to doing everything in life with while simultaneously texting or reading something on her phone.  It took us five sessions of mockery to get her to print up her character instead of using her iphone for it, after she was never able to find what she needed in a reasonable amount of time on the phone.

I don't want to encourage any more electronic interference with our game.  But on the other hand, it does make it ridiculously easy to find shit on the fly.  I'm running the old G series for the players, and we needed a winter wolf last night.  There wasn't one listed in the Bestiary I had, so one player looked it up on his phone and pulled stats from somewhere that I ended up using.  I don't know where the hell he got it, but it was good enough and worked.  Today I re-discovered the PF SRD, and holy shit.  It's a very well done thing, and I can totally see its usefulness at the table.  Wondering though, if you guys use a laptop or ipad at the table, do your players then feel like it is ok to use similar devices and break out the iphones and all that shit?

I guess I can just man up and say "No, only I can use a laptop while playing."  But who wants to be that guy, you know?  Plus, I hate electronic shit at the game table, like I said.  But the utility, you know? All thoughts on the matter appreciated.

Lastly, a question:  There will be one white dragon in the place.  I was looking up abilities, and the one I am considering using has something called Frightful Presence, as follows:

"This special quality makes a creature’s very presence unsettling to foes. Activating this ability is a free action that is usually part of an attack or charge. Opponents within range who witness the action may become frightened or shaken. The range is usually 30 feet, and the duration is usually 5d6 rounds. This ability affects only opponents with fewer Hit Dice than the creature has. An opponent can resist the effects with a successful Will save (DC 10 + 1/2 the frightful creature’s racial HD + the frightful creature’s Cha modifier; the exact DC is given in the creature’s descriptive text). An opponent that succeeds on the saving throw is immune to that same creature’s frightful presence for 24 hours. On a failed save, the opponent is shaken, or panicked if it has 4 Hit Dice or fewer. Frightful presence is a mind-affecting fear effect."

How do I determine if the effect is Frightened or Shaken?  They are two different things, as Frightened means you run , and shaken means you just shit your pants and get some penalties.  Panicked is if you are less than 4 hd, so I get that, and it won't affect my players since they are in the level 9 range.   I just don't get when the fail means frightened or when it means shaken.  Not clear, but I am not really that great with all the PF rules yet.  Any input is appreciated.

Off to make some coffee.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Why Doesn't Someone Just Make a Rules-Light Pathfinder, BECMI-Style, Using The OGL?

Pathfinder already put out their Basic Boxed Set.  The general concensus, like, everywhere, is that Pathfinder is doing a great job, keep on the current course, people are happy, D&D Next may take a bit out of you at first, but like all things designed to cater to everyone it will likely please no one, and fizzle out, and 6e will be out in a couple years anyhow.  So all Pathfinder has to do is survive the RPG war of attrition they are in, which they are positioned to do easily.

The only complaint/wish I ever hear about the game from both people who play PF, and people who don't but might if this wish is fulfilled, is that they create a rules light version.  They already started down this road with their Basic set.  All they need to do is expand upon it with a couple more, in the same spirit of BECMI.  They refuse to do it though. 

Why doesn't someone just do this themselves using the OGL?  I think they are able to, right?  Of course, don't call it Pathfinder, but everyone will know what it is.  Seems like a no-brainer, right?  Who knows, if it's successful, you might even get an official one from Paizo. 

Seems like a huge untapped market/opportunity just waiting to be exploited, but what the fuck do I know.  I still think damn near everything +James Raggi does is nuts, yet he keeps making money at it.  Shit, what a show-stealer it would be if Paizo did it to coincide with the release of Next at Gencon in 2014.  :)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Paper RPG Zines--What Do You Want Out Of One? A FLAILSNAILS 'Zine?

I've had this urge now, growing for months, to put out a good old fashioned paper 'Zine, related to, most likely, Blood Island and/or Flailsnails stuff.  The difference between this 'zine idea and some others out there or in print already is that I will not offer it in any electronic format.  There is something about a paper 'zine, strictly in paper, that gives it a certain rarity and specialness which I find appealing.  If you missed it, you didn't get to read it.  (Not that I think any content that I put in there is exceptional in any way.)  I like the retro feel of it all too.  I was even thinking about using an old typewriter font for it, to help capture that feeling.

Anyhow, one of the classic traits of a 'zine over a traditional magazine, whether electronic or paper, or any publication with many authors, editors, contributors, artists, etc, is the sense of it being a very personal artistic/creative expression.   How this differs from places like G+ threads and message board posts or chats is that it is in a permanent form, and therefore it seems to me that more well-thought-out articles on  things of more importance to the author ought to go in it.

How it differs from a blog is something subtler to me.  Granted, a blog is here today, potentially gone tomorrow, with a few keystrokes.  But still, it acts as a permanent repository of your thoughts on matter,s just by virtue of its accessibility and search-ability, as well as its permanence at a certain URL location.  It's more permanent than posts on boards, G+ threads, newsgroups and the like, because they just stream on by and if you miss it you can't generally go back and find what was discussed on June 11, 2010 with those things.  But because it can act as a space for an expression at any time, in any place, and because whatever is going on in your head can be laid out in it, half-formed thoughts or ideas, or just random fun stuff, a blog somehow doesn't seem as serious as something you are taking the time and energy and money to write up, print out, mail out, and make a permanent part of the world we live in, like a 'zine.

I guess I'm saying that though it may seem that all these different mediums of expression can be used to say the same things, I think the things that are the truest expressions of myself and my thoughts on matters which matter most to me ought to be in the most permanent medium I can use.  To me at least, fire notwithstanding, that has always been print.  (Can you tell I'm a book lover who resents what easily accessible online info has done to the world?  But that's a topic for another post, maybe even a 'zine article. :)  )   Since I don't have a printing press, and don't want to go the whole LULU route because I want to do the printing and mailing work myself, that means a 'zine.

I don't fool myself into thinking I'll have a huge audience or make any money at it.  As long as I can cover some basic expenses and have fun doing it, I think I'll be happy. 

Other random thoughts on the matter---I've been thinking about doing a 'zine in paper format only, in the format of a pamphlet or newspaper, for the FLAILSNAILS universe.  For this one I'd solicit contributors, and all articles and submissions would be written in the voice of the Flailsnails player character, not the player.  There would be classifieds, lost and founds, news, advertisements for the FS 'verse, bounties offered, gossip, rewards posted, missions and quests listed by DM's, interviews, etc.  Anything you'd expect to see in a newspaper in the old west, circa 1860's.  Plus I'd keep a running roster of DM's and their games, game times, summary descriptions of settings, a list of players and their characters, their levels,  what system they were created under, email or G+ contact info for all of the above, a death roll for those who have fallen, obituaries, etc.  All I'd ask is that the contributors don't cross-post anything they submit to the FS 'zine, so that it keeps it's sense of being a real newspaper people look to read.

Again though, only in paper, because even though it's not personal, as I've talked about above, and has many contributors, I sort of like the idea of a paper only publication covering news and info for an online only gaming environment.  Not expecting to make any money off the thing.  I'd give any contributor a free copy.  So basically I'd likely lost my shirt with every publication.  But I think it would be fun to put one out every couple of months.  :)
Anyhow, if I get any of these things going, it would likely be around the first of the year or so.  I need to accumulate the bits and pieces of equipment, office supplies, and software I need to make this happen first.

(Random thoughts--short stories serialized over several issues of the Blood Island 'zine?  Since I have zero drawing ability, I may publish other people's artwork if they want me to in the BI 'zine. Certainly so in the FS 'zine.  It's be nice to finally get all my BI classes and setting info for players in one booklet form for any interested in it.)

Anyhow, any thoughts you all may have on the matter are appreciated.  I'm still bouncing all this around in my head.  It's all way in the early stages.  Hopefully something good, and something fun, not just for me but for you guys too, can come of it.  :)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Is RPG Game Design a Bullshit Profession?

I've been thinking about this lately.  As a lawyer I can tell you that a lot, if not most, of the profession is complete bullshit.  It's made to sound confusing in order to justify ego's and hourly billing rates.  I know +Zak Smith has said similar things surrounding the terminology and jargon thrown around in art circles.  I remember a conversation with +Rob Kuntz where he described a game, DnD I think it was, that he and a player were so into they continued it at a pizza place, sans dice, books, character sheets, paper and pencils, where Rob had the guy guess a number to determine success or failure.  It worked because there was a trusted conflict or situational resolution system that gave the appearance of stuff not being arbitrary.

At its core, isn't that what all RPG rule systems are supposed to do?

Look what we do with Flailsnails.  Isn't that sort of trust in the fairness of the dm at the heart of it?  Get 12 Flailsnails dm's together and give them a situation or conflict and likely there will be 12 different things made up on the fly to resolve that situation or conflict.  It's not complex, it's not rocket science, it doesn't even hang together as a coherent system.  But it's fair, trusted, and people have fun so it works.  

So why such complexity in RPG design?   I think it's so people can claim to be game designers and puff up the ego. Also, to justify jobs and new editions and a stream of revenue for the corporate overlords.

Read this, then come back and continue with my post:

The famous quote attributed to Gary Gygax:  "The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules." maybe ought to be expanded to gamemasters and players, and seems to be the deep dark secret of the RPG game design industry.

Did we really need a Numenara, a game which deals with common themes in RPG's that have been around for decades, and just slapped a new resolution mechanic on all of it?  Do the rules really enhance the game that much?  Do they ever?  The only time I've ever seen rules impact the game is that the more rules you have the more the game sucks ass. 

Beyond a small pamphlet-sized booklet describing some basics, which is really a hobby level publication, not the sort of thing that would support a multi-million dollar industry, what else is really needed?

Also, without new editions there wouldn't be edition wars.  New editions really aren't needed.  Therefore edition wars are basically the fault of the industry pitting groups of people against each other over shit that doesn't matter in the first place, which coincidentally lends itself as a perfect distraction to get stop them from even wondering if they needed a new edition anyhow, while game designers pick their pockets for 40 bucks for a hardcover, unnoticed.

Sounds like a microcosm of the real life plutocracy we live in, now that I think about it.

(Got an comment that says this: "Would you mind adding a credit to "Alan De Smet" to the Gygax photograph, as required by the license? Thanks!")

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Rules Cyclopedia Reprint

Many many people thought that this was the best version of D&D ever made.  Coincidentally perhaps, it's not been reprinted like some of the other older editions have.  There is a petition at to reprint it.  Go there and express your opinion:

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Jeff Rients Needs Your Help

He is forming an adventuring party.  Here is his contribution:

Here is mine, a Mage of Great Power.   What do you have to offer?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Blood Island: The Sack of Dirkenfuge Keep (a FLAILSNAILS G+ hangout event, Sun. Aug 11, 1 pm EST)

Recently the Settlan tribe, the second most powerful tribe of Vikings (some would have said they were more powerful militarily, but the current Hader kept them in check through political maneuverings) was handed a massive setback. They developed some alchemical technology which allowed them to make their longships lighter than air, and able to fly short distances. They ascended to the pyramid plateau, setting up a series of under-protected and overextended bases. These bases were overrun by Hobgoblins, wild elves, and on the plateau itself by the Delig. Sadly, the secrets of their alchemists have been lost.

This setback allowed the Hader to consolidated his power base, gathering more clans under his banner. He recently received the sanction of all three religious clans, and launched a major assault on the largest hobgoblin fortress on the eastern side of the island, named Dirkenfuge Keep. It was an expensive victory in terms of money, men, and political clout, but it paid off. Now the Hader is determined to consolidate his victory by all means possible.

He has sent out a call to all adventurers who are willing to fight, even sending word through the Tunnels of Madness and Myst for aid.

The Missions:

  • Clear out the tunnels under the Dirkenfuge Keep: Many hobgoblins fled into these tunnels as the fortress fell to the vikings. They need to be rooted out. Only for the stout of heart, all levels and classes are welcome, but those of second level and above will have the best chances of success.
  • Pursue the retreating hobgoblins into the lands around the keep. Many fled to the woods, to bolt holes or to the safety of unknown allies. Find them and destroy them. Report back on the lands surrounding the Keep. Due to the unknown dangers, this should only be undertaken by those of at least 5th level of ability.
  • A long long tunnel, of the shape and style of those made by the Hoor, has been found a mile outside of the walls of the keep. Someone needs to go into it to find where it leads. This is an extremely dangerous mission, which only those of 7th level and above should even consider taking on.

Join us, Sunday Aug. 11, 1 pm EST on G+.  Sign up for the event if interested.  What we do depends on the levels of the people who show up.  FLAILSNAILS welcome!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Numenera? Seriously?

Had a chance to glance at a friend's copy.  A sci-fi/fantasy mix, in a book 400 pages long?  Really?  It would take a full weekend to read and halfway digest this thing, when he could have just done an ODnD knockoff with extra weapons, equipment, and gear.  The Flailsnails 'verse on G+ creates, handles and otherwise deals with this shit daily, on the fly.  Do you really need 400 pages for it?

The art ain't that great either.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Attention Flailsnailers! Sir the Fist Returns!

Attention Flailsnailers!

The humble half-elf you once knew as Sir the Fist of Uther is no longer with us.  As some of you may have heard, he was on a heroic and altruistic mission in some cursed Pit of Hell, trying to do the right thing surely, when he was smote down by some foul contraption which caused him to revert to a more primitive form of his races.

Unable to take the transition, he did the only honorable thing and committed suicide.

Since then, due to a potion carried by one of his former party members, he was reincarnated as an Full-blooded Orc.  At first he tried to deny his new heritage, acting like the half-elf he was formerly.

He was wrong.

He went into deep meditation one night during the Blood Moon and his new god, Grok, came to him and sung to him a powerful orcish warchant:

It doesn't matter if you love him, or capital H-I-M
Just put your paws up
'cause you were born this way, baby

My mama told me when I was young
We are all born superstars
She rolled my hair and put my lipstick on
In the glass of her boudoir

"There's nothing wrong with loving who you are"
She said, "'Cause he made you perfect, babe"
"So hold your head up girl and you'll go far,
Listen to me when I say"

I'm beautiful in my way
'Cause God makes no mistakes
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Don't hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you're set
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born this way

Oh there ain't no other way
Baby I was born this way
Baby I was born this way
Oh there ain't no other way
Baby I was born this way
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born this way

Don't be a drag ‒ just be a queen [x3]
Don't be!

Give yourself prudence
And love your friends
Subway kid, rejoice your truth
In the religion of the insecure
I must be myself, respect my youth

A different lover is not a sin
Believe capital H-I-M (Hey hey hey)
I love my life I love this record and
Mi amore vole fe yah (Love needs faith)

[Repeat chorus + post-chorus]

Don't be a drag, just be a queen
Whether you're broke or evergreen
You're black, white, beige, chola descent
You're Lebanese, you're orient
Whether life's disabilities
Left you outcast, bullied, or teased
Rejoice and love yourself today
'cause baby you were born this way

No matter gay, straight, or bi,
Lesbian, transgendered life,
I'm on the right track baby,
I was born to survive.
No matter black, white or beige
Chola or orient made,
I'm on the right track baby,
I was born to be brave.

[Repeat chorus + post-chorus]

I was born this way hey!
I was born this way hey!
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way hey!
I was born this way hey!
I was born this way hey!
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way hey!

[Fade away:]
Same DNA, but born this way.
Same DNA, but born this way.

He now follows Grok, Orcish God of War, Battle, Chaos, Carnage and Mayhem. Tonight he makes his grand re-appearance on board the Apollyon.

Consider yourselves warned.

(which should be interesting, considering that his player started on the rum and cokes and the WhatNot a bit too early in the evening for any coherent roleplaying to take place. Which, considering he is an orc now, should be just fine, now that I think of it.  :)  )

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Stop Your Endless Bitching About Magic-Users Being More Powerful Than Every Other Class...

...because they're fucking supposed to be!

First, look at the source material.  Appendix N.  Read those books.  See where the game came from?

Second, you were warned:

OD&D:  "Top level magic-users are perhaps the most powerful characters in the game, but it is a long hard road to the top, and to begin with they are weak, so survival is often the question, unless fighters protect the low level magical types until they have worked up."

Holmes:  "Thus the magic-user starts out as an extremely weak character, but if he survives and rises in experience, he becomes increasingly powerful."

B/X:  "Though they are weak at first, magic-users can eventually become very powerful."

Basic (Mentzer):  "Magic-users start as the weakest characters, but can become the most powerful!"

Rules Cyclopedia:   "Magic-users start as the weakest characters, but can eventually become the most powerful."

AD&D 1e:  "Thus, while magic-users are not strong in combat with weapons, they are possibly the most fearsome of all character classes when high levels of ability are finally attained.  Survival to that point can be a problem, however, as low-level magic-users are quite weak."

AD&D 2e:  "Spells are the tools, weapons, and armor of the wizard.  He is weak in a toe-to-toe fight, but when prepared he can strike down his foes at a distance, vanish in an instant, become a wholly different creature, or even invade the mind of an enemy and take control of his thoughts and actions.  No secrets are safe from a wizard and no fortress is secure.  His quest for knowledge and power often leads him into realms where mortals were never meant to go."  (and they said this after gimping the shit out of a lot of MU spells!)

And then we get to 3.x and later editions, where all must be in balance and harmony, and god forbid any class/race/feat combination does more damage per round than any other.  The only thing I can think of that changed these expectations which were clearly laid out in earlier editions are shitty TSR and WOTC novels which broke with the swords and sorcery traditions, and MMO's.  Hello Everquest!

Also, I suspect that even in earlier editions, if there was grumbling and discontent, go back and ask yourself-- did you impose scribing costs?  Spell book loss chances from theft of fireball type stuff?  Chance to learn spells rules per intelligence?  Max number of spells known per intelligence?  Massive magical research costs?  Costs for traveling spellbooks?  Time away from adventuring for the wizards as he did these things while the other pc's leveled up?  Have the enemies target the magic-users as a smart tactical move?  All these things were a means of balancing out the classes by slowing down the power escalation.  Plus, the amount of xp needed to level up did the same thing.  I suspect if you did all this stuff talked about in the rules, the number of wizards in the campaigns would be far fewer and they would be far less powerful.

Shit, even when Flailsnails games started, I lost like three MU's right out of the gate.  I eventually made up Sir the Fist as a triple class F/C/MU just so the MU in him would have a higher chance of survivability.

Magic-Users are meant to be gods.  Just look at Raistlin.  Deal with it, pussies.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Social Media Sucks

I just deleted my last Facebook account.  Yup, last.  I once had three.  I had one for family, which I never went on because who wants their family to know anything about them.  I deleted that a while ago.   I had one for geek shit, but once I got onto G+ I deleted that.  My last one, the one for people I never see but used to see who can tolerate my shit and not be offended, I deleted today.  I figure they know my number if they wanna get in touch.  Getting tired of endless social media mediums and especially the lack of any really meaningful communication with them.  It's fucking with the way people communicate and deal with each other as human beings. 

And fuck texting too.  I've seen people sitting in restaurants having dinner together, and texting other people.  And somehow that's not considered rude as hell?  Speaking of rude, it's no longer bad manners to talk to someone face to face and text someone else either apparently. 

And has anyone seen our cute little zombies these days?  AKA anyone under 20 yrs old?  Ever see them without a cell phone in their hands for more than 30 seconds?  I'm telling you, it's fucking them up.  The constant distraction, they have no attention span and communicate like retards.  Plus the vanity.  All they do is post pictures of themselves.  WTF?  Selfies are taking over the internet.

I think I'll delete Tumblr next, after I post this.  It's been going downhill since Yahoo bought it.  The censorship is already beginning.  Twitter might come soon after.  I think I'll eventually just end up with G+ and Blogger for gaming related shit.

That and a plain old email address.

Anyone have any rotary phones they want to sell me?

Bah Fucking Humbug.  Off the lawn Motherfucker!!!  And to all a Good Night.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

It Seems That WOTC Needs Old School DM's

Apparently they need shitloads of people to DM DnD Next at GenCon.

I dunno if this is a sign of 5e's popularity, or lack thereof, or a LFR protest, or something else.

It makes me wonder, how can they be requesting people to play/DM a game that is not complete yet?  Granted, I haven't been following the beta of 5e, so I have no idea where they are with it, but I know I would have heard if there was a "complete enough to play, pretty much what you see here is what the game is gonna be" version out there. 

Would most DM's feel comfortable dm'ing a skeleton of a game system?  It would likely turn into a freewheeling type of game, like a flailsnails game, with lots of winging it where the rules are concerned.  But then you're not playting 5e, are ya?  Or are ya?

Then again, how many new school DM's could pull such a game off and make it fun?  In my experience, the last generation of GM's seem too tied to rules heavy games to comfortably wing such a game and make it fun. 

Maybe WOTC should recruit a shitload of old schoolers to introduce people to their new game? 

That'd be fuckin' ironic.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Two Cultures Clash--Which Will Survive? Come to Zak's Show and Find Out!

On May 2, in NYC, +Zak Smith has a new art show at his gallery.  Last time we had a decent turnout of DnD types, maybe 15 or so.  It was a good time and a great way to connect with people in the area.  But we were far outnumbered by the Hipsters.  Let's change that.

We'll hit the bar, then hit the Compleat Strategist.

Then hit the bar again.

Then hit Zak's show.  

Afterwards, I imagine we'll hit the bar again.

Just don't hit the hipsters.  No matter how much you want to.

And believe me, you'll want to hit the hipsters.

Who's in!?!?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

DnD is Evil Again! Yes!!!

If Pat Robertson is wasting his last few breaths of life saying D&D is evil, someone at Pathfinder or WOTC ought to try to leverage that shit and bring back 1983 again.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

For S&W Day: Anouncing a New G+ Hangout S&W Campaign!

So, last Saturday night playing in +Erik Tenkar 's game I was three sheets to the wind and asked him what this S&W day thing was all about.  He told me, and I promptly forgot all about volunteering to do something.  Until today when I saw 3000 posts.  Shit.

Thinking about a topic all day, I realized that while I like S&W in general, I would never run it.  Why?  Same reason I would never run any AD&D game for a campaign---thief skills.  The only thing I ever liked about 2nd edition was that they allowed thieves to adjust how their skills went up.  AD&D never did that.  S&W Complete doesn't do it.  So that makes the system a deal-breaker.

I've been using LOTFP's Grindhouse for my Blood Island old school games I dm on G+.  I like it's flexibility.  I've used it to create a lot of different things in the game.  However, as you've seen, the Blood Island games are few and far between these days.  Lack of time, laziness, and focus on writing other stuff seems to be getting in the way of me creating games to run.

And I do miss running games on G+.

So I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone.  

I changed the thief skills in S&W complete to be adjustable by the player as they level.  This applies to all classes that use thief skills, like monk, ranger, and assassin.  Also, I made some other basic houserules, as shown below.  And I've decided to run a S&W Complete game every other Saturday, from noon EST to 3 pm EST, if enough people are interested.

I'm going to run TOEE, set in the time of the Greyhawk Wars, in a non-flailsnails game.  I'm keeping BI as my flailsnails venue.  This will be an interesting exercise for me, because I'm running the same game for the old college gang using Pathfinder rules, face to face on Sunday nights.  This allows me to both compare and contrast games, playstyles, systems, and to be able to run the games without much prep work.

Houserules are below.  Anyone interested?  Looking for a pool of people who, although they may not make it every week, are enough of a pool to draw a group from every other Saturday. 

House Rules for the Swords and Wizardry Complete TOEE/Greyhawk Wars Game.

Ability Scores:

Roll 4d6, drop lowest, arrange as desired.

Fighters get the str bonus to attack and dmg for melee weapons and bare knuckles. Rangers get it for bows. Halflings for slings. All classes get the dex bonus to hit with missile weapons.

Intelligence and MU's: 17 int gives 11 spells max, 18 gives 12 max.

Clerics get the bonus first level spell for wis 15+, can can use it at first level.

At first level only you get to roll twice for hp and take the higher of the two.


Monks, rangers and thieves now get to decide how their thief-like abilities progress. See below.

Monk not allowed to hide in shadows or pick locks.

Rangers: Spells known are actually druid spells and mu spells, not cleric and mu. Rangers gain the strength bonus to att and dmg if using bows that fighters get if using melee weapons.

Druids don't have to beat the shit out of other druids as they get to higher levels.


Demi-human level limits in effect, but add 3 levels to all stated level caps.

Dwarves can play Fighter/Clerics, but only of the Dwarven God of Battle Clangedin.

Elven mu's have the ability to cast druid spells, but only if it is memorized as any other mu spell from their spellbook. Even if non-elven mu's find spellbooks or scrolls of these elven/druid spells, they are unable to learn them. Druid spells are considered to be two levels higher for these purposes—in other words, a first level druid spell counts as a 3rd level elven mu spell.

Halflings add str. att. and dmg. bonuses normally reserved for fighters in melee to any attacks made with a sling. This is in addition to dex or any other bonuses.


Single saving throws.

Alignment won't matter much unless the class demands you to specify one.

Initiative and order of battle: d6 for the group, first one from the winning side to yell out what they are doing does it. Must act fast, minimal time to debate actions in the group. Players who are casting spells must declare the spell they are casting before initiative is rolled. If you are hit before your turn in combat and take any damage, you lose the spell.

Ascending AC will be used.

Firing missile weapons into melee is dangerous for your allies. Random rolls to see who it might hit.

Natural 20 = max damage, natural 1 = you cannot take an action in the next melee round.

Unconscious at 0 hp, dead at -1

Spellbooks, Scrolls, Costs and Maintenance:

Spellbook costs 100 GP.

Spells are hard to purchase from other mages, but when available, the prices are negotiable. Roughly:

Costs to scribe spells into your spellbook: 100 gp per spell level.

Costs to buy scrolls: 1st -100 2nd -500 3rd-1000 4th -negotiable

Time to scribe spells from one thing to your book: 1 day per spell level

Thief abilities for Thieves, Monks, Assassins, and Rangers

Racial modifiers allowed. No dex bonuses. No armor penalties other than armor allowed by class/race.

Starting Scores by Class

Climb Walls
Delicate Tasks
Hear Noise
Hide in Shadows
Move Silently
Open Locks
Other Classes

Thieves and assassins get to distribute 30 percentage points per level wherever they want.
Monks and Rangers get to distribute 20 percentage points per level wherever they want.

*Rangers can only climb walls at that rate if it is outdoors, like a cliff face or something natural. Otherwise their rolls are -25% for the types of walls thieves normally climb, like man-made ones.

**Rangers get move silently and hide in shadows, but all rolls are -10% if not outside in a wilderness or natural type of area.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Way Back Machine for new people coming into the OSR

I've given up questioning +James Raggi 's crazy business tactics, because no matter how nutty his ideas are when he tells them to me with manic energy and enthusiasm on G+ chat at 3 am, the shit actually works out.  His latest idea was to use Indie-GoGo  fund something to give away on Free RPG Day.  I'll be damned if he didn't get a shit-ton of money for it.

Now what he wants to do is gather a bunch of websites and blogs for those who find his product and are interested in the OSR.  People over on G+ (which seems to be the new playground of the OSR btw) are adding sites to his list.

This thing has been going on for what, five years?  This exploration of the old ways of gaming, the original source material, the history of the hobby?  Start dates vary, but in the early days there were not only amazing webpages and blogs, there were some posts from those bloggers that stood out as exceptional.  Shit that when you read it either changed your perspective, turned you on, helped you GET IT finally, or made you say FUCK YEAH! to the whole OSR thing.

My fear is that when you list all these webpages, some of which have thousands of posts, it will be overwhelming to the new guy trying to figure it all out.

Looking back into a old bookmark folder I set up in like '08 when I was first getting into the scene, I realized I not only bookmarked sites, I also bookmarked some individual posts.  One of them I think everyone knows about, Matt Finch's Quick Primer for Old School Gaming. 

Another one was written by +James Raggi,  and it's just as good now as it was then.  I wish he would do more stuff like this sometimes, but I know growing the business takes up most of his time (and his living room)  these days.

His post I Hate Fun is here.  Read it.

Please feel free to add in the comments here or over on G+ other such individual posts that either changed your perspective, turned you on, helped you GET IT finally, or made you say FUCK YEAH! to the whole OSR thing.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Old School 'Zines

Just wondering, I know +Christian Walker  was doing the excellent 'zine Loviatar, and now +Tim Shorts is doing one called The Manor, which I intend to buy after the next paycheck, but I haven't heard of any others.

Are there any other folks in the OSR putting out 'zines?  Are there any folks who did in the last few years, whether or not there are still issues available?  Seems like there ought to be an archive of such things somewhere, at least noting their existence if nothing else.

I'm really considering doing one for Blood Island.  It sounds fun.  Plus I like the permanency of it.  The feeling that what I write isn't going to be lost as soon as Blogger or G+ breaks. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Teratic Tome: Pure Awesomeness. LOTFP's Monster Manual

Well, not technically its Monster Manual, because James doesn't want one.  But still, if there is a book that deserved to be, this is it.

This is the first rpg book ever where I bought the pdf, then liked it so much I ordered the hardcover, because I want to use the art in my games.  Normally I could give two shits about art in rpg's.  There is some art that I love, but never before has it caused me to buy a book just to use it in a game because of that art. 

I can't wait to hold up the book and say "You're fighting this!" and see the looks on their faces.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Maximize and Optimize this Ultimate Old School Mundane Equipment/Gear List

Looking for mundane useful Batman Utility Belt type shit that you can buy somewhere.  If the reason isn't immediately apparent for why you listed it, please explain its uses.  Has to be able to be carried by 1 pc along with the rest.

Mundane Equipment:
Composite Longbow, 20 arrows, 40 silver arrows, 3 flame arrows
1 week iron rations
Holy Symbol
High Hard Leather Boots
Belt pouch
4 oils
Bulls-eye Lantern
Flint and Steel
3 Torches
Hammer and 12 spikes
50' rope
Grappling hook
Chalk—big chunk
Quill pen, ink, 10 sheets parchment, scroll case (waterproof)
Collapsible 10' pole
100 feet string
2 three lb. bags of flour
Silver mirror, small
Bag of copper coins x100
Caltrops, 2 doses to cover a 10' x 10' area.
Bag of marbles (10' x 10')
3 vials Acid
3 vials Holy Water
1 pound box of Pepper
Plate Mail
Long Sword
Lg Shield
Earwax for 10 people.
10 doses hinge grease and brush
2 empty ceramic vials
2 empty steel vials
Waterproof scroll case.
Weighted net for throwing

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Apocalypse Now: Blood Island/LOTFP Style on G+

In recompense for having to cancel this evening's Blood Island game due to helping the parents out with Blizzard prep, I offer you this:

Apocalypse Now
Blood Island/LOTFP Style

Special Extended Director's Cut.
Six Hours of War, Madness, and Hell on Earth

Sunday, February 17, 11 am to 5 pm EST.

Flailsnails compatible. Join if you dare.

Details and invites this weekend on G+. Let me know if you're interested.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Oldschooling Pathfinder with TOEE

Recently my old college gaming group got back together. We all hit a stage in life where the kids are old enough to be home alone if need be, the jobs permit it, we all live close again, and there seems to be time and the desire to have fun like in the old days. My brother Mike started talking it up first, he hit up Pete and Kurt at a bar one night, and they were both into it. Only one player couldn't join back in, Steve, who had too much going on. Kurt knew a woman from work (they are both high school math teachers) who was interested, so he asked if she could play too.

There were some initial reservations---our group had never played with a woman on a regular basis before. The past GF's (now the wives) back in college checked it out and had zero interest in it. Which was fine by us---our DnD sessions were sacrosanct events of the man-cave dwellers. We play, drink, fart, tell rude crude jokes that would offend most everyone, talk about sex—who we're fucking and who we want to fuck, eat shit food, and generally have a good old fashioned male bonding neanderthal style good time.

We didn't want to lose that, nor did we want to censor ourselves and lose a lot of what made getting together fun. Basically we told her she is welcome, but warned her we weren't changing because there was a woman present.

Added to the complication is that she is about 30 and single, whereas the rest are 40-45 and married (except for me, but I have a dog, which is about the extent of a relationship I am willing to commit to). Something I've noticed, and yes I'll say it because it's my blog damnit and I can feel free to stereotype and offend on my home turf, is that people under 30 and under grew up thinking that what I call invasive political correct behavior is normal and the way to be, rather than some bunch of lawyer-driven HR pussy types telling us how to be around each other for fear of lawsuits. Fuck lawyers.

Anyhow, with all that I worried she'd run screaming from the table after 10 minutes.

I can't believe she chose to stay. We still play, drink, fart, tell rude crude jokes that would offend most everyone, talk about sex—who we're fucking and who we want to fuck, eat shit food, and generally have a good old fashioned male bonding neanderthal-style good time. And she sits there and blushes and laughs and seems to be having a good time. We've had about five sessions, she says she enjoys it, and she keeps coming back. Shockingly.

The group wanted to run through the classic old school mega modules: Hommlett and the Temple of Elemental Evil, The Slavelord A1-4 series, The Giants G1-3, and the DQ Drow series. Since I had the most recent experiences with the TOEE and with DM'ing and playing a ton, I was to be the DM. I was least rusty I guess.

They all liked 3.0 as the best as a ruleset for the game, mostly because a couple of us played a heavily modified version of it as a group for a short period of time. It was familiar. All my arguments and attempts to convince them to play an older style game or clone were to no avail. They like skills and feats, what can I say. I was at least able to convince them to play Pathfinder, as it is the best version of the 3.x game imho. Plus, I had played it with a good group for like nine months and was familiar with some of its fiddly bits. These guys didn't know what they were in for, since the 3.0 version was hacked back to look a lot like ADnD with skills and some feats. They wanted to play this thing by the book, so by the book it is.

That doesn't mean I as an old school DM couldn't throw some modifications on top of the book's rules tho, to give it an older feel. For example, for searching for secret doors and whatnot, if they failed using the die roll, I give them a chance to describe to me in detail how they are going to do a manual search. If they decide to move the thing that opens that gadget that reveals the secret door, more power to them. They really can't bitch at another bite at the apple. For anything involving a character trying to use his charisma on someone, like to intimidate or persuade someone, I have them act it out, and depending on how cool (to the DM) what they say or do is, I give them a bonus to the roll.

It's not a lot, but its little stuff like that which brings back some of the old school feel to me.

Really the only thing where Pathfinder differs in actual play are the grueling combat sessions. We bust out miniatures, arrange them all, use move 30 feet, take five foot steps, get attacks of opportunity and all that bullshit. They decided they didn't want to do gold for xp, so basically combat is the only way to level up, other than dm xp awards given for cool shit, or mission goals type stuff.

One thing that shocked them is that if the bad guys have half a brain, then I'm playing them that way. The other bigger thing that shocked them is my sandbox approach to the game. I have no fear of letting the pc's actions completely fuck up the whole module, and the way the book lays out it is to be run. We've always strived for some level of realism in that regard as players and dm's, but until now I was never able to give it to them. Lack of experience, trust in my own abilities as DM to handle it, and lack of trust from players that I wasn't just out to fuck them over. Yeah, I was the asshole DM to my brother when we were in high school. It was all I knew, how I learned the game. So playing the module as written was the thing that made them trust that they weren't getting fucked over.

I explained to them this time that we are going to play it in a sandbox way, and that all rolls were out in the open from the DM side, rather than behind a screen. There would be no fudging, if you die you die. We used to fudge a bit as DM's back in the day, to keep people alive, just to keep the game going, unless death was unavoidable due to actions of the players. No more of that pussy shit. As a result, every time I do a roll out in the open, everyone is holding their breath in anticipation of a possible pc death roll. I love it. :)

The other thing we used to do was usually have the DM have a perma-npc, a pseudo permanent party member, essentially. This was due to lack of players and need for more classes. I told them none of that this time. If no one wants to play a cleric, I'm not, so you're without healing.

And without healing they were. Pete rolled up a druid, Kurt a thief, Mike a fighter, and Michelle a Ranger. To say their initial attack on the Moathouse was difficult would be an understatement. They were jumping into combats not knowing the rules, spells, skills, feats or combat movement types very well Neither did I, but we learned as we went along.

On their first trip to the MH, they took Spugnoir, an aspiring 2nd level wizard. They cleared some rooms on the upper level, then went back to town to rest. On their second trip back, Spugnoir (Spooge More, as he has been named) decided not to go with them. That's because he was a spy for the MH. He greeted the party with a full compliment of gnolls at the front gate, ambush style. The ranger nearly bit it, and the group was in trouble. Also with him was Furnok the card cheat, who Mike's fighter caught cheating at cards, and threw out of the tavern on his ass. Spugnoir used that to his advantage to recruit some help for payback. It was a rough fight, but the pc's won, barely, and Spugnoir and Furnok got away thru the secret door.

The party healed up as well as they could and decided to go find the back door entrance thru a cave, which they heard about in town. They found it ridiculously fast due to excellent skill rolls. Now they're sneaking in the back door. Lareth and crew is not stupid though. They lowered the portcullis and dumped a gallon of oil on the side of it the pc's would be trying to lift if from, with a bugbear on the other side with a flaming torch in hand. That meant the pc's could only really come in from one side (I ruled that the secret entrance thru ghoul territory was not known to Lareth.)

So, down the long tunnel they cautiously came. There are two doors at the end, one to the N and one to the W. They quickly pop open the west one, and see a bunch of bugbears with missile weapons. The bugbears blow the horn as the pc's slam shut the door. A similar move with the door to the north shows that it is packed with over 15 mercenaries, with missile and melee weapons at the ready.

Knowing how deadly combats are now, they shy away from the direct assault and wait for the bad guys to come at them. Why the fuck would they is my answer. Give up a good secure position to fight just four men who have proven themselves capable of taking on forces larger than them? Please. The pc's waited in the hall for like 30 minutes before they realized that nope, this fight ain't gonna happen.

They decide to go back to town and make a big show of leaving town for the war to the north, telling the villagers that they are thru with the MH. It was meant to be a big show to convince whatever spies there may be in town that they are really leaving. In the meantime they hoped that the MH people would relax their guard and that they would be able to sneak in.

Now for some background on the setting and motivations of the big players in the area: I've chosen to locate this in Greyhawk, during the Greyhawk wars. That means currently Iuz' forces just cut thru the shield lands like a hot knife thru butter. They are threatening Furyondy. Verbobonc, allied with Veluny, who is allied with Furyondy, just had a troop conscription at the spring time festival which just occurred. Hommlett is relatively unprotected.

Iuz and Lloth are working together as allies, or as allied as any two demons can be. They send Lareth down to the area to raid and loot and cause some chaos down here, so as to distract some military attaention from the north to the south. Also, if he is successful enough, he ought to be able to get enough forces to then go back to the TOEE and use it as a power base in the area.

Whatg Iuz doesn't know is that Lloth is making a move to secure her own power base down there. Lareth is loyal to her. Also, she has two people in the temple on Level 3, a mage and an assassin, who have discovered the Golden Skull.

A bit about the history of the skull, including what I added to make the module make more sense, fit the bigger picture, and change shit up enough that its new to some of the players who remember bits and pieces of the original adventure:

Iuz and Zuggtmoy set up the TOEE as a way to funnel the energy of those worshiping the evil elemental gods to themselves. They did this via the Skull. Once all gems were inserted, it was able to channel the energy of prayer and devotion from one thing to another. Of course, that meant that whoever created the Skull needed to channel some of their own energy into it. As a result of this investment, whoever holds the skull cannot be harmed by either of the creators of the Skull. This makes the skull a potent weapon indeed. The other benefit of the skull is that the more you use it, the more dark charisma you attain.

Lloth wanted Lareth to use the Skull to increase his already formidable Charisma to godlike levels thru use of the skull, so he could pose a threat even to Iuz himself. While holding the Skull, Iuz would not be able to harm him. When the assassin and mage found the Skull, Lloth was able to bribe them well enough not to tell Iuz of it, even though they worked for both Lloth and Iuz.

Anyhow, tho Lloth has high hopes for Lareth, he has to prove himself worthy of it first. It's just the dog eat dog way of chaotic evil. So she sent him to the MH area to raid and grow in power.

That being said, Lareth knows the jig is up once the party leaves, and taking a lesson from all the great generals of the past, he decides to move and move fast, so he is not where his enemies expect him to be. Once the pc's leave, he abandons the MH and goes to Nulb, the evil pirate city. He approaches in force, so he is not messed with. He uses his potent charisma, along with Spugnoir's charm person and suggestion spells to convince the major players to join with him and his cause. In a relatively short time, he basically rules the place, thru force and persuasion.

Meanwhile, the pc's do a big loop around, taking a day or two, and head back to the MH. They discover it abandoned completely. They track Lareth's men, and note that he seems to be headed to Nulb. They decide to head to Verbobonc to get better weapons and gear than Hommlett can provide.

This gives Lareth enough time to consolidate his base, and do the purge. Basically he and the mage had been going about town, detecting good all over the place, noting who may be a spy, or one they needed to kill.

The pc's arrive back in Hommlett just as Otis the ranger spy is coming back to town, carrying old mother Scrang, who was actually the Cannoness Y'Day in disguise, the head cleric of the church of St. Cuthbert in Hommlett. Their cover was blown in Nulb and they tell the tale of many killed and raised as zombies, others enslaved, as Lareth solidified his hold on the town. They jumped him in his sleep, he was able to get out with the dagger he held at his side, and Y'Day. Unfortunately, in order to get the pirates in league with him, Lareth had to promise them slaves. Y'day's daughter, who was also Otis' companion and lover, was taken into slavery. (This is me setting up the party for the Slavelords adventure in advance.) Otis and Elmo gear up and head out in search of her.

Oh, by the way, did I mention that Burne and Rufus are dead? Seems the Scarlet Brotherhood decided to simultaneously attack across the Flanaess, killing any people in positions of power they could find. This is as per what happened in the the Greyhawk Wars book, modified a bit to affect Hommlett as well. Thing is, no one knows its the brotherhood who did it. Yet.

Anyhow, this is the scene the pc's coma back to. Any idea that they were going to do a neat simple adventure of kick the door down and kill the bad guys and take their stuff is really gone at this point. And they seem to love it.

They make plans to go to Nulb, to see what they can see, and try to take out Lareth. After making detailed plans for the assault, picking out likely places on the map Otis gave them as to where Lareth might be housing his forces and where he might be holed up, they arrive in Nulb to find it deserted. Lareth figures he finally has enough men to go to the TOEE and cause some real havoc.

They track they trail of over 100 men and humanoids, as well as over 100 slaves, thru the forest, until they come upon the break in the trail that leads to the TOEE. (I moved it from where it was to put it in the Gnarley bit.)

The ranger and thief sneak up to the temple, about a mile ahead of the rest of the group, for some recon. They note the layout of the upper structure, and see that Lareth has taken up residence within the walls somewhere with about 200 people and humanoids, half of which appear to be slaves who are beginning work reconstructing the walls.

They had a shot at taking Spugnoir out, or as captive, but pussied out and didn't take it.

They go back to the rest of the group, tell them the deal, and the group decides they will sneak in at night and try to get at Lareth if they can.

Thru some ridiculously great sneak rolls and good decisions and planning, the party manages to gain the walls, kill some of the guards in the area, and enter the main grounds. At this point I should note that the party felt the need for some more potent healing, so my brother rolled up a cleric. Another player, Kurt who had the thief, decided between games that he would roll up a wizard too. I was going to introduce him thru a side adventure, provided by the Spugnoir bait I dangled in front of the group. When they didn't take the bait, it flushed any ideas of how the night might go right down the shitter.

Anyhow, the party is sneaking up to the cathedral from the back side, thinking Lareth must be inside, since it's the most imposing building. They are approached by the half orc with a big fucking axe, who is on guard patrolling the place. The thief, speaking orc, steps out of the shadows while the rest of the party remains hidden to talk to the HO. The HO was mumbling something about killing Spugnoir in various painful ways, so he though he had something in common to talk about.

This was my way of introducing Kurt's new pc. He had no idea how I would do it, so wasn't sure if the HO was his guy or not. It was fucking hilarious, as I'm playing the guy in a way that may lead to a fight between the pc's and him, thus blowing a new pc, by the same guy who ostensibly runs that pc. Eventually they came to a common decision, a joint plan and temp alliance: Let's kill Spugnoir, get the HO's spell book back from him, try to kill Lareth if they can, and blow this place.

They find out from the HO, now played again by Kurt after I divulge this info, which tent is Spugnoir's and where Lareth is held. Since they were already in disguises taken from the uniforms of dead guards, they decided to just walk thru the camp. More lucky rolls, and they get to Spugnoir's tent. Two go in, get the info from him about Lareth's plans to send Spugnoir to a town far to the west of Hommlett to help a couple dozen of his best men in raids in an area far from the Temple, for distraction purposes, as Lareth builds a power base and alliances here. Leaving Spugnoir's strangled corpse, the party knows also that Lareth is in the guard tower in the top right corner. Scoping it out, they see that he has a couple guards at the door, with the camp surrounding the area, and a guard on top of the tower.

Two well placed and failed save Charm Person spells get the pc's entrance to Lareth's lair.

Now the DM decides to roll for what they are going to encounter. Random chances for: Are there guards inside? Is Lareth there? Is he alone? Is he awake? Did he hear anything? Are their traps and alarms set up? The rolls determined all these answers turns out to be in the party's favor. Amazingly. When it comes to stuff like this, I like to roll, so it doesn't look like I am railroading to the players, and so that I keep myself honest.

Anyhow, a silence spell is cast on Lareth's bedroom, as the parties burst into it with a couple continual light spells as the fighter and the thief hack the shit out of Lareth in his sleep. They kill his ass dead.

I was as shocked as they were at how it turned out, but hey, the dice determine the game. It's my job to deal with the consequences.

They got out with the treasure, the skull, and their lives, and plan to go to the town where Lareth's men are set up, far to the west of Hommlett to deal with them. Their thought is that if Lareth is dead, his army will fall apart without its charismatic leader, and then can come back to the TOEE on their own time to investigate it.

Before he left my brother had his pc draw the symbol of Iuz in Lareth's blood on the wall and floor of the place. He did it to make people think Iuz was involved in some way, to further demoralize them, as none of the common troops know this is an Iuz/Lloth joint expedition.

After, they head off to the mining town with Lareth's men in it to mop the place up.

Here's what they don’t know, and what's going to happen while they are spending a couple weeks doing that.

Know a good way to get Iuz' attention? Draw his holy symbol all over the walls with the still warm blood of his follower. His attention thus gained, he appears to see wtf is up. Yes, he appears. Surprisingly to me, in reading the TOEE it says that the big guy drops into the TOEE from time to time to shoot the shit with the leaders of the Greater Temple, give advice, and so forth. Whoulda thunk it.

His attention drawn to the area, he scries, sees whats up, appears in person, tortures (to death once he finds out the Lloth betrayal and the fact that they had the Skull) the mage and the assassin.

He decides not to tell Lloth that he knew of the Skull deception, planning to use that knowledge at a later date, letting her wonder where the skull went. In the meantime, the skull is a great weakness of his, that he thought was lost forever but is now let loose in the world. He goes to the lower area of the TOEE, the Greater Temple (who always knew of the Iuz/Zuggtmoy deception), and tells Haderach that the time is now for the Temple to inflict chaos and destruction across the land. Also, he tells him that he wants the skull found at all costs, as well as the gemstones.

The Air Temple is ordered to take over the Moathouse and rebuild it, raiding from it. The Water Temple is to take over Nulb. The fire Temple is to attack and destroy Hommlett. The Earth Temple will work with the Greater Temple forces to restore the walls and clear the land around the Temple of Elemental Evil itself.

This serves the dual purpose of causing enough chaos and destruction to the south that significant forces will have to be deployed to deal with it, that it will weaken the war effort to the north. Which suits Iuz just fine, as he is planning to assault the capital city of Furyondy in the near future. Plus, he is having his forces hunt down the Skull while they are out there.

All this is going on in the background as the party heads out to kill off the equivalent of the Cowboys from the Tombstone movie (the Val Kilmer one, not the shittier versions).

We'll be playing in two weeks. I'll let you know how it goes.