Friday, February 27, 2015

Session LXXI: Dragon +1

Current Player Characters:
Torion Fulvousmith (Dwarf)
Minimus (Cleric)
Su (Cleric)
Thenus (Ranger)
Wang Du (Monk)
Centari (Elf) 

Hirelings and Henchmen
Larton - Man-at-Arms
Biggs - Mercenary
Kray Rouis - Magic-user 
Puma - Mountain Lion

 With the dead body of Edan the Atleantean slain by spider poison, the party loots his body and continues exploring the rooms and tunnels beneath Xlarthen's tower ruins. 

It wasn't long, however, until they ran into a small band of hobgoblins dragging around a prisoner.  A quick battle ensued and the hobgoblins fell to the blades of the party. The rescued prisoner turned out to be a dwarf named Torion who had been traveling with the infamous Skwanky Furrytoe (last seen in session 59)!  Skwanky had hired Torion as a body guard and descended into the Underworld when things on the surface had become too hot due to the halfling's involvement with Baron Blackmoor's death.  Exploring the dungeons, the two were attacked and got separated.  Torion was captured by Hobgoblins and does not know the fate of the "Little White King".

With a new companion in the dwarf, the party continued exploring and very quickly ran into more hobgoblins.  After a quick fight, the monsters were dispatched but not until loyal Larton had fallen.

Feeling like that had explored as much of this level as they could and with many stairs descending down, the party chose one set of stairs and delved yet deeper into the dungeons!

They came out into a diamond shaped room with black stonework and four sarcophagi leaning against the wall.  This reminded them of a chamber they had seen two days ago when they had descended a ladder to some unknown level.

After some debate it was decided it was wiser to leave the sarcophagi unmolested and explore further where they came upon a room where one corner was the ceiling was covered with thousands of tiny spiders again, similar to something they came across two days ago.  They began to believe that they they may have entered the same level they had discovered earlier. 

Another room proved to be haunted by a weeping woman and soon more exploration did indeed connect their older maps.  They had been on this level before but from a different entrance. 

Winding their way back to where they had seen the tiny spiders on the ceiling the previous days, they cautiously made their way past them and into an unexplored part of the dungeon.  Here, at a door, they heard gruff arguments coming from the other side. With the aid of a silent spell, the dwarf Torion was able to peek into the chamber and see three Minotaurs arguing in front of a chest.  The fearful dwarf easily persuaded his companions to quietly leave the area and avoid the Minotaurs.

Exploring some empty rooms they soon found themselves in a dead end.  Behind them, however, were the three Minotaurs.  The spell-casters stepped up and put one to sleep and held the second.  The third was slain by the warriors in the party. 

With the Minotaurs dispatched the party backtracked back to the monster's treasure chest and grabbed quite a bit of loot!

With plenty of more gold in their pockets, they continued down some more deserted halls and eventually came upon a large hall at the end of which were a pair of tall iron doors. 

These the dwarf Torion swung open and before them was an immense sunk-in pillared chamber with pools of water in the corners and in the center of which was a pile of treasure the likes of which were only talked about in fairy-tales.  Unfortunately, sitting atop this glittering hoard was, not one, but two red dragons not at all surprised by the party's presence!

Centari, speaking in the tongue of the dragons attempted to dismiss their fear of attack.  The dragons, however, once discovering that the party was from the surface, asked them if they had heard any news about their mother Medora.  The party had indeed heard about the fate of that fierce dragon and it's death at the hand of Sir Fumark (session 16) who may very well be somewhere in this very dungeon searching for the dragon's 'unguarded' gold.

The dragons, upon hearing of this news, thank the party and offer to let them live if they can find this Sir Fumark and bring him to meet the vengeful brood of Medora!  The party agrees and slowly backs out of the dragon lair in search of Fumark!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Campaign Stats

The other day I was reflecting a bit on our ongoing sandbox campaign (it has no grand name) and in that process looked at and gathered some of the various 'stats' of our few years rolling dice.

As a GM it's important to take notes and keep records of extended campaigns.  Not only for keeping track of treasures, events, shenanigans, plot threads, NPC interactions, who's alive and who's missing but also to be able to look back and see the goings on and how far off the rails everything ended up getting - and I mean that in a good way.  I've used a number of tools for this including the Warlock's patented Dungeon Time Tracker, I've kept a campaign recap journal on this blog here of all 70+ sessions as well as having created another blog, Arvin's Avengers, for general notes and session backgrounds so that the players and I can jump right into the action.  With long gaps between sessions at times, I would never be able to keep track of what's happening.  Call it "getting on in years" if you like but that's just a fact.  But I'm glad I've kept all these notes because I can reflect on everything that's gone on - the history of these foolhardy adventurers and one bleary-eyed GM.

Total number of players that have experienced this grand campaign:  9

Real World Time: 5 1/2 years

Game Time: Just around 3 years

Important NPC's "inadvertently" killed:  Almost all of them!

Cities, town and villages explored: 7

Dungeons explored: 12+

Monsters Overcome: 2,098

Riches uncovered:  Unmeasurable!

Highest PC level obtained:  7

Longest surviving PC: Wolfheir at 59 sessions but he's only trapped in the Soul Gem so who knows...?  Gnarly was in second with 58 sessions.

The shortest life of a PC: 1/2 session with the second shortest with Arvin at 5

Average number of sessions survived: 22

PC's killed or missing:  13

The horrible PC fates:
  1. Arvin Ardmore (first PC death at the hands of Morak - session 5)
  2. Gedlessssmote Hammersend (died by lava when Clay forgot to check his hit points - session 20)
  3. Adara (killed by wights in Zenopus' dungeons - session 27)
  4. Tibag Backstabber (Died in ice lava, came back and is now in hell - session 33 and again in 63)
  5. Maudlin (my wife's first character that I killed with a Gelatinous Cube - session 35)
  6. Radius Longshadow (racist who lasted one session, killed by same Gelatinous Cube - session 35)
  7. Slick Vinny (a Vampire? Zenopus' bride?  His fate is truly unknown but it's sure not to be good - session 35) 
  8. Wolfheir (stuck in the Soul Gem - session 59)
  9. Thovin Brightsmith (stuck in the Soul Gem - session 59)
  10. Arg (stuck in the Soul Gem - session 59)
  11. Gnarly Blunderbrush (stuck in hell - session 63)
  12. Maximus the Giant Slayer (stuck in hell - session 63)
  13. Edan the Atlantean (Poison spider bite - session 70) 
Some of the Major Magical Artifacts found:
  • The Crimson Skull of Yam-Gregak
  • The Soul Gem
  • The Earth Stone
  • Blackrazor (yes, THE Blackrazor - don't worry, it's not in the player's possession)
  • The Crown of the Black Sun
  • Mace of the Dark Church
  • and all manner of magic sword, dagger, potion scroll, amulet, ring, shield, arrow, staff and gauntlet

Some more notes from a previous post about the first 26 sessions.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Campaign Reflections

I've been running our Swords & Wizardry campaign for a while now.  It's been going on 5 1/2 years over a course of 70 sessions. Our group has taken plenty of time off to play other games, some role-playing and some card and some board but we've always come back to the fun simplicity of this classic style fantasy RPG.  I thought that it would be good to reflect a bit upon what's gone on and what I've learned during these seventy sessions.

Like many of you players, I started with the hobby back in the late 70's with Holmes' basic rules.  I've written a bit about how we interrupted the rules to this very abstract game - which was pretty off base but still fun.  By the early 80's I moved away from RPGs and soon gaming as well.  Every once in a while throughout the years, I would try to run the game again but nothing ever really stuck.  Whether it was life, or 'growing up' or many other distractions (like having to make a living!), the games just didn't click.

Fast forward to the late 2000's....

Over the years I found myself always heading back to this fantasy RPG world where I could immerse myself in some other world or character. I found some enjoyment in playing MMORPGs such as Neverwinter Nights and was inspired by the abundance of fan created adventures based on some of the original TSR modules.  But I found those online games lacking the fun and intimacy of face to face table top gaming.

So like a Geas spell cast upon me, I began, once again, seeking out a way to get back into fantasy RPGing.

But the game had changed so much over the years....

I played with a group that ran a 3.5 game.  Man, this was not the game I remember.  Two hour long combats and railroaded story lines just didn't capture me.  I'm not trying to start an edition war here, I'm just saying that that version of the game didn't work for me.

Then I discovered what would later become the OSR - Old School Renaissance.

When I first started thinking about getting back into running a fantasy RPG again, I wanted something simple to run and rules-lite, much like the games that I grew up with.  I contemplated running Holmes basic or Moldvey basic but worried about getting copies of those rules to anyone interested not to mention many people seemed to be into playing more modern versions of D&D (3.5, Pathfinder) - see Why A Retro-Clone. I wasn't into those at all and wanted something that I was already familiar with.  I  looked into the new retro-clone rules of Labyrinth Lord and Basic FantasyRPG but eventually settled on Swords & Wizardry, which, for me, was the closest thing to what I remember running and playing.  These seemed simple enough to run with the modern life of making a living.

Next was to find players.  I thought I might get two maybe three players interested in playing an "old-school" classic style game.  I didn't think the interest was really there.  So I asked two of my comic book illustrator friends here in town and one guy I met through a RPG meet-up.  These guys turned out to be very enthusiastic about playing and even brought in more players.

Surprising to me, our first session ended up with 5 players which increased to 6 two sessions later and then 7 and then 8.  In fact, it was hard to fit all of us around the table at times.  I thought we'd be lucky to play through three sessions but the sessions just kept going and going.  We all really enjoyed ourselves and had lots of laughs face to face around the table.

I have to say that all the players, whom all work and have families and other obligations have always made time to attend out bi-weekly sessions.  All of us have had to cancel or miss sessions for those obligations, after all we're all adults with complicated lives, but if there is one thing that this game is about it's flexibility!

Some of the players were more use to the modern rules, others, like me, missed the lite game of imagination, others never played any RPGs before, but everyone embraced the fast-paced fun and loose style of Swords & Wizardry.

We began with the first printed edition of the S&W rules and our first session was October of 2009.  We moved to S&W Core and are now playing S&W Complete.

I had house-ruled the heck out of the the first edition rules, with many things I was picking up in the community online - new classes, rules for spells, combat.  Since then, the house rules have been trimmed back until now there's just a few very minor tweaks to what is in the Complete rule book.

My goal was to sandbox the campaign, to let the players create the world just as much as I did.  But I felt that to be comfortable in the role of GM I had to flesh the world out quite a bit.  I used a ton of material created by OSR folks on the internet along with original TSR published material.  I cut all that up and pieced it together into my campaign as needed - sometimes only using descriptions or just the maps or even just an idea.  The sandbox has worked out very well and it has kept me on my toes at the table.

One of the biggest things that I learned was to not plan too far or to much in advance.  In the sandbox setting, the players took things off the rails so often and so far that I found that those "unplanned" sessions were the best sessions.  Where I, as the GM, began to participate with the players more than just being a reactionary force behind a screen.  In fact, the screen was put away very early on and now I just use a small folded page of notes used mostly for critical hits and failures.

My other goal was to never ever fudge the dice.  I wanted to game to be pure and as random and undetermined as I could make it.  I've stuck to that with one exception which I rolled back into the campaign in quite a thrilling way.  You can read a bit about that here.

But I've learned to let the campaign be what it needed to be.  Sure, there was some gentle guiding along on my part, sometimes to keep things moving but the players determine the events in this world just as much as I do.  They've killed some NPCs that were, what I thought, important to the setting, but there is no character more important than the player's character and that is what this world is about.  These dead NPCs have made the game much more exciting for me as a GM.  These players have an effect on the events of the game world, sometimes small sometimes a bit bigger than small.  I think that's what I learned the game should be.  It's not my game, it's our game and it's been a great experience to have delved into this game once again.  I think even more rewarding than when I first discovered the excitement of the first fantasy RPG. 

Next:  Some Campaign Stats

Monday, February 2, 2015

Session LXX: Delving Deeper

Current Player Characters:
Edan (Atlantean)
Minimus (Cleric)
Su (Cleric)
Thenus (Ranger)
Wang Du (Monk)
Centari (Elf) 

Hirelings and Henchmen
Larton Man-at-Arms
Biggs - Mercenary
Kray Rouis - Magic-user 
Puma - Mountain Lion
Gygash Graves - torchbearer
Turwick - Man-at-arms

Locking themselves into a room where they found the remains of a former explorer long dead and a more recent corpse of a mule (they really thought this was a good idea), they prepared to take a long rest. But moments later there was  a knock at the door.  Cautiously opening the door they saw one of the Molocks that they had befriended earlier.  The Morlock would not set foot into the room and tried to get the party to leave.  Taking the hint, they packed their belongings and followed the Morlock to the hidden Morlock lair.

The party spent their rest with the Underworld dwelling Morlocks who were munching on the rats that they had collected earlier.

Once rested they bid farewell to their Underworld companions and headed back to the surface to check on their camp finding it still in disarray but with no sign of the Chimera that had killed and eaten their horses.  Larton placed Gygash's body in the cart and looked forward to finally getting to use his sword-arm!

Delving again into the dungeons beneath Xlarthen's ruins they sought passage to the next level.  Retracing their steps they re-entered the room that was guarded by the Ogre and found that his body was removed and there were now two Hobgoblins along with another Ogre asking them questions in Hobgoblin (which nobody could speak).  Failing to communicate, weapons were drawn and monsters slain.

Opening the door to the now unguarded stairs the party descended down to a lower level.  Following a long passage they ended up in a large chamber with a few more giant weasels to contend with.

Exploring more passages and avoiding some purple slime they found a number of empty rooms.  When searching one of these rooms a Mountain Lion came through an opening and threatened the party.  Wang Du stepped up and conversed with the feline and befriended it.  It's name was Puma and use to be a pet of the Hobgoblins the next level below.  His patrol was killed and he's been wandering the empty halls ever since.  With a promise to bring lead Puma out and some standard rations, the Mountain Lion joined the party.

More exploration turned up a room with a magician's circle and mysterious buzzing was heard from within the hallway walls.  The party was hopeful that they had found the heirloom shield of Veshir Boomish but, alas, it was only a rusted relic.

Treasure was found in an urn and a slacking patrol of gambling Hobgoblins were slain with the help of Puma the Mountain Lion.

With an obsession to map the entire level, the party's explorations lead them to hallways filled with cobwebs and a sticky webbing.  Burning their way through they were attacked by fearsome giant spiders.  It was here that Edan the Atlantean fell to poison.