Tuesday, 7 March 2017

The Party has been Assembled!

Now I just need to get my gaming group together!(they seem to be taking turns being out of the country)

The Party that never talks back to the DM!

Seriously though, Wychwood Brewery is clearly the best beverage for gaming night. All your basic types are covered: Fighter(as slightly fascist looking one), Magic User(which), Rogue(the pirate), Demi-Human(the Dwarf), and of course the Half-Orc(hobgoblin).

Besides that, you can always go with spiced wine, or a nice peaty whisky to set the mood...

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

ODnD Kids 3: Horse Cleaning Service

This session picked up where Session 2 left off, with the party in dire straits. Deep in the dungeon, Giant Killer Monkeys finished off Frog and Toad and the rest of the party barely escaped with their lives. The survivors decided to make a hasty exit and rest up in the forest. But first, the lineup:

  1. Princessa- Human Fighter with a bastard sword, ring mail and a shot bow. Watch out for this one!
  2. Melech Yisrael- Elf Fighter/Magic User. He carries a scimitar and longbow along with his spellbook
  3. Lavi- Dwarven Fighter/Thief with leather armor, longsword, and light crossbow

They made their way back up the stairs, avoided a Bugbear, and rappelled right back out the tower window. They then mounted up and rode deep into the forest to rest up.

In the Forest

The first afternoon of resting, the party heard voices. Lavi snuck into the brush to investigate. Two evil priests were walking along a game path towards the Palace, discussing the success of the goblinoid invasion of Gulluvia. The party ambushed them. Melech Yisrael's Charm Person spell failed, as did Lavi's backstab, but the party still managed to overwhelm the surprised clerics.

Their rest continued undisturbed a couple days longer. That said, they only have a few more days of rations before they'll need to resupply...

Map of Entryway, Explored Territory

Palace: Take 2

Upon returning to the palace, the party decided to try entering via the main entrance with it's raised portcullis. Together they managed to lift all the barriers and they chose the branch ahead and to the right. They debated whether to leave their horses outside to graze or bring them in, ultimately opting for the latter approach this time.

The party searched room by room, hoping to discover the legendary gem, My Lady's Heart. Instead they found rotting food, filthy dishes, and a carrion crawler. Their search didn't go entirely unrewarded, though, as they found 3 GP of a strange old coinage and a wand of Detect Secret Doors.

We ended the session there, but The Campaign will continue next time...

Saturday, 28 January 2017

ODnD Kids: Session 2

Well, me and the kids got together for another session of Palace of the Silver Princess. Here's the scoop:

The Party:

  1. Princessa- Human Fighter with a bastard sword, ring mail and a shot bow. Watch out for this one!
  2. Melech Yisrael- Elf Fighter/Magic User. He carries a scimitar and longbow along with his spellbook
    1. Frog- a charmed Goblin
    2. Toad- a charmed Orc
  3. Lavi- Dwarven Fighter/Thief with leather armor, longsword, and light crossbow

Last time, the party escaped from Gulluvia, a city under attack.

This time, the party headed North towards the Palace of the Silver Princess to see if they could get to the bottom of the invasion and My Lady's Heart. They hitched a ride with a tinker and his daughter, but parted with him when he headed to Dead Mule.

Mysterious Sponsors

The party met a group of Elves, out hunting Orcs. When Melech told them of their mission, they gave him a Potion of Extra Healing, before continuing on their way. When Princessa and Lavi asked for a boon, they were rebuffed as mere mortals.

The party arrived in the village of N'Sau. They bought rations at the general store and paid a farmer for board in his barn. At night they heard an owl hooting. Lavi went out to investigate. A great owl appeared to him and showed him to a tree with a bottle of powerful poison. Princessa went out to check on Lavi and saw the transaction. She asked the owl for a boon and was shown the way to a magic scroll. Not herself a wizard, she traded it with Melech for his potion.

Mount Up

Cpt. Vallaria Amazonus
The next day, the party hiked to the village of Thorold, known for it's fine horses. The party bought mules and donkeys. The local guard captain ordered the party to go to Gulluvia to help fight the invaders. Princessa told her that that is where they are headed and talked the good Captain into providing her with a fine horse from the Queen's stables. Melech and Lavi asked for horses too, but were rebuffed due to their inferior gender. The party pretended to leave in the direction of Gulluvia but then doubled back towards the mountains.

Grin and Bear It

They camped that night in a cave. While heating up their food, a huge, grumpy bear entered. Lavi fed it rations mixed with his bottle of poison. It lay down feeling sick. Lavi decided he wanted to be the bear's friend, but it died in his arms. The rest of the party celebrated the quick victory against the beast.

The Palace

The next day, the party crested the mountains and saw the valley stretching out before them, with the half-ruined palace in the middle. They descended on the desolate valley and approached the castle. Seeing the entrance blocked by a heavy portcullis, Lavi climbed up to the tower window, but was met by a smirking goblin. He stabbed it, and lowered a rope for the rest of the party, who left their animals to graze.

There was some cat and mouse with goblins and hobgoblins in the rooms of the tower, culminating in a short, but decisive fight. The party found a weapons rack with glowing weapons. Lavi picked a glowing sword while the other two took a quiver of arrows each. A voice praised the Lawful adventurers and the remaining weapons disappeared.

The party descended the stairs and fought some gigantic monkeys in a room with a checkered floor. The monkeys killed Frog and Toad and the rest of the party fled into the hall and Melech cast Hold Portal to keep the door shut. That was where we ended the session.

Friday, 13 January 2017

ODnD Kids: Session 1

Well, last weekend me and the kids kicked-off the Swords and Wizardry campaign I planned for them.

The Party

Warrior Woman, Magic Elf, and Dwarf Thief

  1. Princessa- Human Fighter with a bastard sword, ring mail and a shot bow. Watch out for this one!
  2. Melech Yisrael- Elf Fighter/Magic User. He carries a scimitar and longbow along with his spellbook
  3. Lavi- Dwarven Fighter/Thief with leather armor, longsword, and light crossbow

The Setup

The party are visitors to the city of Gulluvia during the Great Festival. They woke in the morning to screams of terror from the street outside the inn. Lavi rushed to the window and saw, on the street below, a huge Hobgoblin fighting an ill-equipped city guard as residents fled in terror.

With some well-placed bow shots, the party dispatched the Hobgoblin and saved the guard, who told them the city is being invaded. They ran with him towards the city center to defend the royal palace.

Baby Snatching

Thanks, Maurice, for all the nightmares!
"My baby!"

The party sees a terrifying sight. A group of 9 Goblins have overwhelmed a mother and snatched her baby away.

Melech Yisrael cast Charm Person on the goblin holding the baby and ordered it to "Give it back to it's Mommy!" The Goblins attack and the party dispatches them. Their Guardsman friend goes down, pierced by Goblin barbs.

They ran to the central palace but saw it was under-siege by thousands of Goblinoid troops.

The Hook

The kids wanted to heal up their characters and they don't have a Cleric so I showed them where a Temple was on the map. The avoided a large melee on the way their and convinced the priests to open the door and let them in(along with their charmed Goblin buddy).

The priest healed them up and asked the charmed Goblin why the invasion is happening. The little guy told them that it was "to obtain My Lady's Heart". The Priest explained that there is a legend of a great ruby hidden in the cursed Castle in the mountains to the North. He suggested the party might investigate since the city troops are occupied.

Escape from New Gulluvia

The party decided to depart the city. They encountered a small patrol of Orcs ransacking a neighborhood. They charmed one Orc and dispatched the rest. They escaped the city and headed West on the Queen's Road, with friendly Orc and Goblin in tow.

So that was how it ended after about 90 minutes. The kids really had fun. Even my 4-year-old was really engaged until about an hour in, at which point his attention span ended and he wandered off. My daughter had fun but was a bit disappointed. Apparently she had the impression that DnD is something you play past midnight while gorging yourself on soda and junk food! (I have no idea where she got that impression...)

Thursday, 12 January 2017

ODnD Campaign for Kids

My 8-year-old daughter's been after me for a while to run a D&D game for her(we've moved beyond Doggie Game). Her brother's got half a year of 1st grade under his belt, so I figured me might want to play too. That got me thinking how to run a pen and paper RPG for kids. The basic guidelines I came up with were as follows:

General Principles

  1. Rules-Light: the kids aren't going to read much, except their character sheets and perhaps equipment lists, so the smaller the rule-set, the better
  2. Short Sessions: due to short attention spans, sessions shouldn't last much longer than an hour
  3. Standard DnD: I want to use the game to help the kids learn DnD rules, as opposed to choosing a simpler, non-DnD based kids RPG
  4. Visual Aids: there should be lots of visual aids to orient them geographically, bring the game world to life
  5. Light Tone: game should be G-rated and occasionally scary(but not too scary!)
  6. Books
  7. Cultural Context: the kids should be able to relate to the game world. They don't have much exposure to Tolkien, so the game should draw on other more familiar media

Swords and Wizardry

I ended up ordering a copy of Swords and Wizardry, a cleaned-up clone of ODnD. It's a very lightweight version of the rules, at under 150 pages. The one thing that surprised me is that, while Labyrinth Lord uses Race as Class, S&W keeps them separate, though with many limitations.

The Party

In any case, S&W is nice and simple and the kids rolled-up characters, and I helped them fill out their sheet. I limited their their options to keep things simple. So, for instance, I only offered them the 4 basic classes and I had to walk them through picking weapons and armor. I tailored the options I gave to each kid's developmental level, so when my 4 year old insisted on also getting a character, I had him roll the dice and offered him only the most basic of options. I also opted for ascending AC since the rules support both systems and it's a bit more intuitive.

Palace of the Silver Princess

Player Prep
In searching for a module to base the game on, I remembered a B3 Palace of the Silver Princess play-by-post game I played in years ago. It had a light, fairy tale sort of vibe.

The DM modified the starting scenario in a number of ways:
  1. You start out visitors in a city for some big festival
  2. You wake up in the morning in your room in the inn. All hell has broken loose- an army of Goblinoids are invading the city. A dragon rider was seen landing at ruler's palace.
  3. The party fought their way through the streets to the palace, snuck in through the sewer
  4. The palace was the the dungeon from Silver Princess, except occupied by royalty/servants
  5. Our first encounter was a kitchen full of angry sentient furniture/silverware. Reminded me of Disney's Beauty and the Beast
I decided to adopt a lot of this for the kids' campaign, though the dungeon itself will still remain in the wilderness, 500 years abandoned. There is a connection between the invasion and the dungeon...

Game World

I had been wondering whether to set the game in the Faerun or perhaps Warren's Deep. Another great thing about Silver Princess is that it comes with a mini-sandbox in the form of a kingdom-map and descriptions of settlements, so that gives me a good basis to build on. Gulluvia will keep it's Amazonian vibe, though a more benign, sympathetic version.

Visual Aids

Maps of the Realm and the city of Gulluvia
Besides the kingdom map, I found an appropriate city map and printed it out to help the kids navigate the city during the invasion. Between S&W and DCC, I have pictures of all the Goblinoids the party is likely to encounter. The kids had fun coloring-in copies of the kingdom map and the dragon-rider illustration prior to the game.

Appendix N

Here are some influences to draw on for world building:
  1. Munchkin card game
  2. Fairy Tales
  3. Tooth Fairy
  4. Scooby Doo
  5. Ninja Turtles
  6. Superheroes
  7. Octonauts
  8. Disney Movies
  9. Where the Wild Things Are
  10. Mouseguard
  11. Martial Arts lessons
  12. Archery lessons
  13. Family camping trips
  14. Biblical stories
  15. Jewish Folklore

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Heroes of the Black Company

I've wanted to write of review of the excellent "Chronicles of the Black Company" for a while now, having recently read the book for the first time. Sometimes it takes time for a review to congeal into something cohesive.

Chronicles of the Black Company collects the first three novels in Glen Cook's Black Company series into a single volume. This initial trilogy kicks off what is so far a series of ten books.

I've always enjoyed Fantasy, but as I've grown older I've found that most of my favorite books are Science Fiction. The problem is that much of Fantasy literature consists of Tolkien imitators, many of them, lacking any original vision or message. Glen Cook adopts this pattern but looks at things from the other side of the battle lines. The Black Company concedes the Tolkienesque world, but asks the question: What if our Heroes work not for Gandalf, but for The Dark Lord himself? It then goes about the daunting Humanistic task of making those villains relatable and sympathetic anti-heroes. This trick of creating a narrative with the bad guys in the lead is a difficult balance to strike, as the recent, rather poorly received Suicide Squad movie can attest to.


The Black Company

In this first book, we see the Black Company through the eyes of Croaker, the band's Doctor and Historian. We meet them in the inauspicious time before the end of their fateful commission in Beryl. The company faces an existential threat but is offered an out, if they will betray their employer and help overthrow the city. To their credit, the Mercenary leadership does not take the decision lightly, being men of honor with a proud history of completing their commissions. Only when the Syndic's own refusal to face the dire situation leaves them no choice do they accept the emissary's proposal. But the joke is ultimately on the Black Company as it soon turns out they are now working for this Fantasy World's version of Sauron, known simply as "The Lady".

The company soon takes on a new recruit, Raven. Raven is a Byronic Hero. He contributes considerable prowess to the company, yet remains unpredictable and dangerous.

The Black Company become the Lady's most elite unit, but remain sympathetic protagonists since they are not as bad as her regular troops. They ultimately help the Lady defeat the rebels and her Taken rivals, while at the same time planting the seeds for her eventual downfall.

Shadows Linger

The second book in the trilogy mostly takes place in the city of Juniper. It is, for the most part, a detective story(I'm not surprised to find that Glen Cook's other popular series is in the Hardboiled Detective genre.) Something strange is going on in the city, but no one seems to hold all the pieces of the puzzle. Croaker teams up with a toughened detective from the City Watch named Bullock in an attempt to get to the bottom of matters. Unbeknownst to them, Raven plays a big part of this mystery. His actions unwittingly lead to the almost total destruction of the Company. In this way, Croaker and Raven are unwitting adversaries throughout the book.

In the end, Croaker cracks the case just before the shit hits the fan, but too late to prevent it. The Company earns our respect once again when they officially break with The Lady, but now there is a bit of a bait an switch. It is revealed that The Dominator threatens to rise again. At this point, the Lady herself becomes a sympathetic character as she tries to hold-together her Empire and foil his plans.

The White Rose

In the final installment of the trilogy, the Black Company teams up with the White Rose herself in her fight against the Lady and the Dominator. Cook ends his game of role-reversal by completing the redemptive arcs of The Company and The Lady, respectively. In the final showdown, Croaker and Raven find them selves in parallel situations, pitted against one another in a life-or-death struggle. Croaker emerges victorious while Raven is left with nothing.

Heroic Croaker

One of the main reasons the morally ambiguous Black Company remains relateable is that our narrator, Croaker, is a Hardboiled Hero, straight out of Chandler's "Simple Art of Murder". He is the mean product of a mean world. He kills effectively and repeatedly and overlooks his companions' worst atrocities. Nevertheless, he hangs onto a moral code, often to his own detriment. His dedication to the legacy of the company is complete. He is almost a monk in his his duty as resident scholar, updating the annals and reading them aloud to inspire the men. He is also company doctor, healing the wounded after every battle. Finally, there is his strange sentimental crush for the the ultimate Femme Fatale, The Lady. Even when faced with Evil incarnate, Croaker shows his redemptive potential.

Ultimately, Raven and Croaker's ark in the trilogy pits two types of anti-hero against one another, Croaker's Hardboiled here and Raven's Byronic Hero. The Byronic Hero is a decidedly Modern character, assured in his power, the world is his oyster and he intends to harvest the pearl. The Hardboiled Hero is Postmodern, struggling with his own faults and limitations. Both are products of a wicked age, yet while the Hardboiled Hero hangs onto his moral code, the Byronic Hero is blown chaotically between acts of kindness and cruelty by his own inscrutable whims. In the end, Chronicles of the Black Company chooses the Croakers of the world over the Ravens.

The Roots of the Hardboiled Hero

Men of David, James Tissot
The Hardboiled Hero archetype was popularized in the early 20th century pulps, but his roots run deeper.  A man of  honor in a dark world, Croaker's enigmatic personality reminds me of Y. Medan's description of David. In the book of Samuel, David is presented as brave, sensitive and pious, yet when he is insulted by an unappreciative Nabal the Carmelite, he comes dangerously close to committing mass-murder. Says Medan, this is the lot of good men who live by the sword. With the passage of time, pulling the trigger starts to become too easy. In his darkest times, being hunted by King Saul through the hills of the Judaean Desert, David is left struggling simply to maintain his virtue.

The Hardboiled Hero continues to speak to us today, as police and security forces are caught time and again using deadly force inappropriately. This timeless theme is what makes the Black Company novels work so well. In Croaker's own moral struggle in a Dark Fantasy world, we see our own struggles, and in his ultimate redemption, we see hope for ourselves in the darkest corners of our own existence.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Random Encounters IN SPAAAAAAAACE!

So, with the party jumping through Hyperspace like a Womp Rat caught in a bullseye, I needed a quick way to answer the question "who is hanging around the system you just arrived at", in addition to the fixed setting elements. Here are the three random tables I used.

The first table, answers the question of "who" these ships belong to. Note, that they are designed around the typical inhabitants of Airam Sector. If and when the party moves on to another sector, then they will probably require some adjustment.

3Roll twice
4Bounty Hunters
8Gank Killers
10--11Ugor Scavengers
12--13Squib Scavengers
14Ex Imperials
16First Order
17Nharwaak(Zygerrian type)
18Habeen(Human type)

Next, the question of scale. It this a single small ship or a flotilla of cruisers?

RollHow many
1-51 small
6-10few small
11-141 med
15-17few med
19-181 large
20few large

Finally, where are they headed?

8Will hyperspace in soon
Once I've rolled these basic questions, I take a second to flesh out the encounter more. I ask myself things like:
  1.  What are these ships doing here?
  2. Where are they from originally?
  3. What do they want?
  4. How will they react to the PC's ship appearing?