Monday 23 December 2019

Rules for Zombie Dreidel

So here's a little Hannuka themed game, born while sitting around a table at a Hannuka-themed Bat-Mitzva party with members of my gaming group. It's inspired from Steve Jackson's Zombie Dice. It makes for a light holiday-themed party game.


The Original d4
You are Macabees, resisting the Greek(Seleucid) conquerors. Each time you roll the dice, you go to battle!


You will need a pile of 8-10 dreidels, and a writing implement/smartphone to track everyone's score.


Whoever gets to 8 points first wins!

Your Turn

Turns go around the table. On your turn, roll 3 dreidels like dice, representing the next 3 Greek warriors facing you!

  • Gimel- you defeated your opponent, get 1 point
  • Hey- you scored a hit on your opponent, get 1/2 point
  • Nun- you and your opponent are still facing off
  • Shin(or Pey)- your opponent scored a hit on you
Put your points on one side, and the hits against you on the other. The Nuns go back in your hand. If your opponents score 2 hits on you, your turn ends and you lose any points you gained this turn!

If you survived your first turn, you must choose to either
  1. Tactical Retreat- write down the points you gained this turn, and pass to the next player
  2. Continue Fighting- leave the Gimels, Heys, Shins you rolled on the table. Pick up the Nuns you rolled and more dreidels from the pile for a total of 3 and roll again!
The real Hannuka battle is one of willpower!

You can choose to keep pressing your luck and Continue Fighting until you win with 8 total points or you get two hits against you, in which case you lose any points scored this turn. My personal advice- quit while you're ahead! Remember, the real Maccabees won with Guerilla tactics!

Have a happy holiday and don't eat too many Sufganiot!

Monday 9 December 2019

Call of Cthulhu 7: Front Page News

January 18th, following up on last session, the party decided to give a second look at the artifacts they got from the cultists.

Party Members:
  • Dr. Gretta Von Flue- Parapsychologist and occult enthusiast
  • Allen Challenger- Antiquarian and dealer in forged artifacts
  • Michael Hunt- 45 year old dilettante in search of diversions
  • Artie Gumshoe- streetsmart private eye
  • Dr. Warren Bedford- Professor of European History
  • Rachel Hemingway- Journalist and Writer

 Mike was brave and decided to try on the High Priest's garments. Upon putting on the Wooden Mask, his pupils grew and he fell down with a sort of seizure. He had a vision of Yog-Sogothoth which left him shaken with horrible knowledge. The only thing that saved his sanity was Dr. Von Flue's immediate ministrations. He was left with psychosomatic limb loss effecting his trigger fingers for the next couple months.

Besides that, they figured out that the copper bowl is used for a Send Dreams ritual, and the sceptre is a sort of magic-enhancing wand.

On the 19th the investigators took a couple taxicabs to Evergreens Cemetery in Brooklyn for Elias' funeral. All of New York's upper crust had turned out to see off the best-selling author.

Lietenant Poole met them and told them to keep a look out and perhaps go out of town for a while. Some nasty people are looking for them, perhaps in connection to something belonging to the cultists.

A blonde reporter asked Mike to meet later in a local Tea Room and he assented.

The party noticed some cultists spying on them. They shot up their car, making a big scene at the funeral, but the cultists got away.

Allen Challenger & Gretta tried intimidating Erica Carlyle but her bodyguard intervened.

Dr. Bedford tried shooting a gravedigger so he could reanimate Elias' corpse but ended up getting murdered by a cultist.

The party recouped and drove to the Tea Room to await the rendezvous with the blonde reporter. She ended up sweet-talking Mike and getting all the juicy gossip about the Elias murder.
On the 20th, the party found Mike and Gretta's photos on the front page of the New York Times. A rather embellished account of the party's misadventures was included. Now the cultists know who they are!

They visited Jonah Kensington, publisher of the late Jackson Elias. Jonah shared a note from Elias as well as some of his notes:


The party spend the rest of the day preparing for their voyage to Southampton tomorrow

Monday 11 November 2019

Call of Cthulhu Session 6: Party Crashers

We pick up on a Wintry morning, January 17th on the old docks in New York City. Gretta is shipping Denato's remains back to Brazil. In one hand, she holds the telegram from the Federal Police, requesting the return of his body. In her other hand, she holds a note from Jonas Kensington informing her that Jackson Elias' funeral will be held the morning of January 19th in Evergreens Cemetery in Brooklyn. She said a few words about the brave Detective and watched the steamer pull away.

  • Dr. Gretta Von Flue- Parapsychologist and occult enthusiast
  • Allen Challenger- Antiquarian and dealer in forged artifacts
  • Artie Gumshoe- streetsmart private eye

The investigators started the session with some some phone calls:

They called Erica Carlyle's associate Bradley Grey, wanting to reschedule Denato's missed meeting. They were less successful than Denato at convincing him that they had embarrassing information about Erica's brother, so he demurred from arranging a new meeting. He did let slip that Erica is due to attend a charity banquet tonight at the Excelsior Dance Hall.

They called Detective Poole about the car found idling at the scene of Jackson's murder. He asked the investigators to come in and talk with him. They were followed by suspicious characters on the subway, but lost them at the Police Station.

The investigators told Detective Poole about Denato's murder in Harlem. The quick Lieutenant connected it with the shooting yesterday, but was not aware of the scene under the curio store. He asked the party to take him to the scene of the crime. Regarding the car found at the scene of Jackson's murder, it was a stolen car owned by a Thomas Witherspoon, stolen while it was parked on Lenox Ave.

The drove with the Lieutenant and a couple constables back to the Curio store. They found the place boarded up so the Police broke-in. Downstairs they observed the blood-stains and fire damage, but the place had been cleaned out, including the pit-monster. Allen stole a bulky wood Masai Shield that he found upstairs. Lt. Poole went to question the neighbors about the Curio Store while the party agreed to check in with him later.

The party decided to crash tonight's banquet in an attempt to meet Erica. They quickly headed out to shop for clothes to wear. Artie managed to find a really great outfit(credit check +10).

They arrived at the Excelsior to see guests arriving in their Limousines, being greeted by a priest with slicked-back hair. The sign said "Fundraiser for the Children of Africa". They eventually snuck in through the back entrance, convincing the maitre d they were delivering an African Shield to be auctioned to charity.

Gretta danced with an elderly financier. She used her reputation to get him to introduce them to Erica. Erica was also familiar with Gretta's work. They discussed the Children of Africa and Dr. Huston. When the conversation shifted to Erica's brother and his expedition, she got uncomfortable.

They also spoke to the priest, Reverend Pat Stephens. His mission had actually hosted the Carlyle expedition for a night. He described some of the expedition principals. He described them as a strange group. Carlyle and M'Weru were clearly together and he seemed quite infatuated by the beautiful Kenyan native. Dr. Huston seemed to be in a daze much of the time. Patty Masters was as beautiful as her reputation said, but seemed sick.

Next morning, they called Harvard Librarian Miriam Atright. She is a big Jackson Elias fangirl and wanted to help. She reported that Elias had sought a book called Africa's Dark Sects(which the party now have in their possession). The book had been in the Library's collection, but had disappeared a few months back. An unspeakable odor had lingered for several days after the book's disappearance.

The players bought fare on a steamer to Southampton leaving the morning of January 21st, planning to follow their leads in London. It's a 4 day trip, assuming fair weather...

Sunday 20 October 2019

Call of Cthulhu Session 5: Terror in Harlem

Picking up we left off last time, the party met up in the lobby of the Waldorf the morning of January 16, 1925 to plan their next step.

  • Detective Donato dos Reis- hardboiled Brasilian police detective
  • Dr. Gretta Von Flue- Parapsychologist and occult enthusiast
  • Dr. Warren Bedford- Professor of European History
  • Michael Hunt- 45 year old dilettante in search of diversions
  • Dr. Milka- medical doctor with a shotgun
  • Dr. Thomas Thompson- surgeon and occult enthusiast
  • Ms. Carmella Bates- jazz musician with gangland ties
  • Brad Johnson- Golfer/Businessman

They are waiting to hear back from the police and to meet up with one of Erica Carlyle's associates. For now they decided to follow up on the Emerson Imports lead.

This brought them to a subway to Harlem. Carmella ended up finding them a guide. At this point the party split with half of then following the guide and the others continuing on to 137th street in search of Silas. (Except for Dr. Milka who got lost in the subway and wandered off).

Carmella et al ended up eating Good Voodoo soup in a Hatian restaurant and hearing local street musicians on their way to 137th. Meanwhile, Donato, Michael, and Warren had a run in with the Bloody Tongue.

The three couldn't find the store, but noticed some shady-looking locals watching them. Michael, ever the murder-hobo, blasted a guy with his shotgun. Fortunately, the guy turned out to be a cultist. Unfortunately, he had a lot of friends. The three ended up surrounded by knife-wielding cultists and were soon tied up in Silas' basement...

When Carmella and the others arrived, the neighborhood was in an uproar over the shooting. They ditched their guide, Brad knocked out the cultist guard with a golf club, and they entered Silas' shop. They found the secret trap door, descended the stairs, and heard voices behind a heavy wooden door...

A Face of the Chakota
Jumping back to the scene of the first group's capture: Silas sent a couple messengers out(to call the priest of the cult). He began interrogating Michael, then showed him the creature in the pit when he refused to answer. Michael managed to hang on to his sanity. When he dragged Denato to the pit, the cop broke his bonds and attempted to grapple the cult leader. The heroic detective went down under a flurry of cultist knives!

Jumping back ahead to the rescuers' arrival: they busted open the door and came out guns blazing. Only Silas and the priest were there and they were easily dispatched. The party then opened the screen at the back of the room where they were met by the dead eyes of their friend Denato and several other zombies. After ineffectively shooting them, they lit them on fire and fled. Brad and Dr. Thompson lost some sanity from the experience.

The investigators discovered the cult's private stash of artifacts:
  • High priest's robes
  • Lion's Claw Gloves
  • Africa's Dark Sects book- from which several party members learned the Create Zombie spell
  • African Devil Mask
  • Burnished Copper Bowl
  • Wood Scepter
  • Metal Headband

The investigators left the horrors of the Ju Ju House, having saved two of their friends and having dealt the Cult of the Bloody Tongue a serious blow. On the other hand, the creature in the pit was left unmolested and no cult members were interrogated to find out why they had murdered Jackson Elias...

Sunday 6 October 2019

Heart of Cthulhu

A quick note about the first three sessions of our Call of Cthulhu campaign:

This last adventure was based on Don Coatar's adventure The God of Mitnal. It's a high-quality adventure for a fan-published work, but I found it a bit bland, with all the occult setup coming to nothing and explicit advice to go easy on the investigators. I was thinking how to spice it up and I thought of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. 

I always enjoyed Heart of Darkness, but found the climax to be, well, anti-climactic. After this descent into the semi-mythic underworld in the dark heart of Africa, our narrator finds... Kurtz dying of Malaria and the natives really bummed out about it. I'm sure there's some deep postmodern message in that. No quest object or beloved Eurydice awaits our Hero's at the end of his quest. It was all for naught as there is only a great void at the Heart of Things. That's a powerful theme but makes for a dull plot point. What was rally lacking there is for our narrator to find Kurtz at his prime just as he's about to perform the great ritual to awaken Cthulhu from his eons-long slumber! The ritual goes wrong, Kurtz is left shattered, he is loaded onto the river boat. Denouement continues from there. 

So in that spirit I made Kimbel the Kurtz character. Our slippery gun-runner has met his match in the form of the crystal skull of Au-Puch. He has spent too many hours staring into it's owlish eyes and with the loss of his sanity, it has persuaded him to perform the ancient ritual to break the seal and release Au-Puch, an ancient Cthonian deep under the ground. Unfortunately, Donato's Judo skills foiled that plan before things could really get interesting.

Call of Cthulhu Session 4: The Bloody Tongue

The investigators took a long rest after wrapping up their 1923 adventure in the Yucatan in Session 3.

We return to them in late 1924, when they receive a telegram from Elias:

The Investigators:
  • Detective Donato dos Reis- hardboiled Brasilian police detective
  • Dr. Gretta Von Flue- Parapsychologist and occult enthusiast
  • Dr. Warren Bedford- Professor of European History

The investigators agreed to meet-up on the morning of January 15 in the Lobby of the Waldorf Astoria. Until then, their researches turned up a number of clues regarding the Carlyle Expedition:

They were suspicious about the rapid apprehension and execution of the suspects. They managed to contact and receive a telegram from one Lt. Montgomery of the Africa Rifles who confirmed the gory details of the expedition and praised the speedy justice that was had.

New York, 1925

The party met up successfully at the planned time. Denato managed to contact Mr. Bradley Grey, close friend and confidante of Erica Carlyle, who suggested that they meet for drinks the following day at the Hotel Crowley.

That evening, the investigators converged on the Chelsea Hotel to meet Elias. After failing to rouse him, they found a maid to open the door. The unfortunate lady immediately had her throat slashed by one of the cultists ransacking the place, after having murdered Jackson Elias. The investigators managed to kill two of the assailants and capture a third. Before he passed out he warned them "The Bloody Tongue will get you!"

They collected a number of clues at the scene:

The party were interviewed briefly by police Lt. Poole and gave him their contact info in case he wishes to further question them. They also found a car idling nearby and recorded the license plate number. After leaving the scene they followed up on the NYU lecture handbill, but found out that it took place about a month in the past.

At that point they called it a night.

Sunday 1 September 2019

Call of Cthulhu Session 3: the Subterranean Pyramid

After Session 2, Dr. Milka and Mike Hunt woke up in the morning in their jungle camp to the sound of a passing train. Rising to investigate, they found their friend Daniel Sephenson had arrived, and with backup!

The Investigators:

  • Dr. Milka- medical doctor with a shotgun
  • Michael Hunt- 45 year old dilettante in search of diversions
  • Daniel Stephenson- Boston Dilettante looking to use his education and skills from hunts in Africa to make his way in the world
  • Miss Lily Walker- private eye
  • Dr. Jack Pearson- professor of Anthropology
  • Detective Donato dos Reis- hardboiled Brasilian police detective
  • Dr. Gretta Von Flue- Parapsychologist
The party began going over the campsite again in the daylight, as well as the Mayan monolith from last session. Dr. Gretta recieved a vision of a Mayan ritual atop a pyramid. With the last bloody Human sacrifice, a wave of energy pulsed through the Jungle and with a sigh she knew "the Gate is Sealed!" This vision cost her some sanity points, but gained her some points in Cthulhu Mythos.

Following the instructions of the crony they had captured the night before, our investigators headed down the narrow path through the jungle, towards "Senor Esteban".

Cresting a ridge, they were met with a vista into a wide valley, thick with growth. They espied a small pyramid about 5km away, half collapsed into the tall vegetation. 

Continuing along the path they ran into a gory sight: an eight-limbed figure dried out and strung up on a tree. It took the party's collective skills to cut down, investigate, and dissect the figure. They determined that it was made from Human parts sown together to form some sort of mystic ward. They attempted to replace the ward, but without much luck. As they continued on the trail, they felt mild tremors from deep below the ground.

Reaching the pyramid, the party quickly encountered a pair of local-yokel guards. They fast talked them into thinking that they were gun-running partners. They were brought around to the East side of the pyramid where Senor Esteban's men are encamped. There are signs that they have been excavating the ruin.

Arturo Lopes, Esteban's Number Two, treated our investigators with suspicion, but they reached a sort of standoff with him. Donato would come to meet Esteban while the rest of the party were left to drink Tequila under the watchful eyes of his well-armed men.

Donato was led past the guards by Arturo into the pyramid, winding deeper and deeper into a reverse-pyramid underneath the ground! Reaching what must be the apex of the inverted subterranean pyramid, he found a small room, most of which was occupied by a roughly circular pit bored deep into the ground.  Crouching with his ear to the pit was a man, dressed as an experienced explorer, but with a crazed, disheveled look to him. After Arturo called to him, Senor Esteban a.k.a. Walter Kimbel arose. "Every day I can understand them a little more" he mumbled excitedly. "Soon we will be able to complete the ritual!"

Arturo tried talking to Kimbel about our investigators' guns, but the man was too far gone, preferring to crouch at the pit and listen.

As Arturo prepared to lead him out, a pistol held to his back, Donato managed to grapple him, avoid the point-blank shot(DM's shoddy diceroll) and throw the man into the pit. This woke Kimbel from his trance. He drew a knife and attempted to stab Donato, but he too was sent flying into the pit, a look of mixed terror and ecstasy in his eyes.

Meanwhile, the sound of the gunshot upset the guards outside. They disarmed the rest of the party and led them to a cell in the pyramid where they met Jackson Elias and two local boys. Jackson told them that Kimbel is insane, having gazed too many times into the Crystal Skull of Ah-Puch.

As word spread that "Senor Esteban" and Arturo are dead, their remaining men quickly began looting the site and fleeing into the jungle.

Donato eventually managed to find his comrades and Lily picked the lock to the cell. Jackson Elias quickly led them back to the room with the pit and recovered the relic, a beautiful but ancient crystal Owl Skull. He had Lily take lots of photos with the pyramid, the skull, and the smuggled guns for his next book.

Dr. Gretta stared into the eyes of the skull. She found herself communing with "Ah-Puch" telling her to perform the ritual to free him and break the seal. Her sanity suffered some more and she found that she had learned a new spell "Summon Burrower from Below".

The party left the place with their lives and a few crates of contraband rifles to boot. Back in Campeche the next morning, they found that Jackson had disappeared but left them a letter.

Monday 19 August 2019

Call of Cthulhu Session 2: Jungle Training

For Session 2, two of our investigators had other business, leaving Milka on her own. Fortunately, she met another American who is staying in Campeche, a bored Dilettante looking for amusement. They made plans to take a train out to Jackson Elias' camp.

The Roster:

  • Dr. Milka- 26 year old medical doctor. She has trouble finding steady employment and so is willing to look outside the standard hospital jobs
  • Maria's story
  • Michael Hunt- 45 year old dilettante in search of diversions. French/Spanish speaker with good drafting/modeling/library skills. Carries a double-barrel shotgun out in the bush

The two began preparations for an expedition into the jungle. They collected their crates of guns, booze, and cigarettes. They bought supplies including backpacks, water, rope, rations. They got a donkey to carry the supplies. With that, the two boarded the slow steam engine out of the city and into the jungle.

After many bumpy hours, with numerous stops and delays, the party reached milepost 126. Maria, a middle-aged woman the party had interacted with on the way, tried to persuade them to return. They bravely continued unloading their gear and the train headed off, leaving them in the dark jungle.

They stumbled around in the dark for a while until finding the path by the river. Once on the path, they found a large Aztec monolith with carvings and hieroglyphs. The carvings showed a demonic entity reaching up from under a pyramid to the people above. The party took a rubbing of the hieroglyphs.

The investigators discovered Jackson's camp. It was destroyed and had been looted. After scavenging some materials, they constructed a tent and bedded down for the night.

The party were soon disturbed by chimes and otherworldly fluting. A gory figure appeared in the Jungle, lit by red lights and holding a skull. He spoke Spanish claiming to be Au Puch and demanding the party leave their goods and flee this jungle. His two skeletal minions lurked in the shadows.

Doctor Milka and Mike replied with some ill-aimed shotgun blasts. Two of the otherworldly intruders fled, while the other fell and was captured by the investigators. He is a drunk villager who works for a gringo named Esteban. Michael paid him to return to his village. He thanked them but warned him to stay away from Esteban. He is violent and mad and will do terrible things if he catches them!

Saturday 3 August 2019

Call of Cthulhu Session 1: Off to Yucatan

Saturday night, we kicked-off our first session of Call of Cthulhu. I've never played call of Cthulhu before, but fortunately one of our players has, so he was able to provide some quick rules Guidance when things got sticky. The adventure I decided to go with is Don Coatar's "The God of Mitnal", but with my own twist to it. It's a short, straightforward romp into Central America which seemed like a good opportunity to start learning the game rules. It also can transition into a full Masks campaign if things go well.

The Roster:
  • Mac Johnson- 29 year old journalist and photographer. He has done quite well for himself already and is looking for adventures to truly make his name great
  • Daniel Stephenson- 49 year old Boston Dilettante from an uber-rich family. They have disowned him and now he is looking to use his education and skills from hunts in Africa to make his way in the world
  • Dr. Milka- 26 year old medical doctor. She has trouble finding steady employment and so is willing to look outside the standard hospital jobs
Jackson on past adventures
The year is 1923. Mac's friend and mentor is famed explorer and writer Jackson Elias. Jackson made arrangements with him that, if he should need assistance on one of his adventures, Mac will gather a team and come as quickly as possible for $100 a week hazard pay. Today, Mac received a telegram calling in that favor:

The party gathered in Mac's NYC flat and made plans. They collected info on wanted gun-runner Walter F. Kimble. They researched the cult of Ah Puch. They negotiated expenses with Elias' editor Jonas Kensington. They bought supplies. Finally they headed-off to Yucatan.

In Yucatan they had a number of close calls, with a strange, murderous Owl and with a thief trying to steal their rifles. They also heard creepy rumors about Ah Puch's reawakening, thanks to Daniel's translating.

Finally they contacted Guillermo and heard that he hasn't seen Elias in almost a month, but he knows he is investigating a pyramid out in the Jungle. He gave them a note from Elias with directions where to get off the train and how to find his encampment.

Thursday 25 July 2019

Buck Goes Adventuring

So recently I created my first Call of Cthulhu character, disgraced baseballer Buck Pickman. Now, in the interest of learning the game system, let's put him through an encounter:

It's late at night and Buck is at the old Crenshaw residence on the outskirts of Salem. More specifically, he is in the process of breaking into the Crenshaw's abandoned farmhouse. He's investigating the reports he has heard of strange lights and drumming coming from the place.

After climbing in a ground-floor window, and setting his lantern on the counter, he has begun rummaging around. Suddenly he hears steps on the front porch. He uses his Listen skill to see what he can find. He rolls a 44, success! He hears three barefooted people at the front door. He gets a check next to the skill for a chance to improve it at the end of the session.

He draws his revolver and steps into the shadows. A key turns and the door opens. A cultist with tribal headdress and a long bush knife steps into the room, followed by similarly outfitted characters. Buck attempts a Hide skill check but rolls 20. One of the cultists rounds a corner and the two make eye contact.

Round 1

Buck has a missile weapon so he goes first. He aims from point blank range(70% becomes 140%) and shoots. He rolls a 25, not only a hit but an impale. He rolls 2d10 for damage and gets a 17. The cultist only had 15 HP so he falls down dead. He gets a check next to the Handgun skill for a chance to improve it at the end of the session.

Seeing their ally fall, the other two cultists rush towards the sound of the shot, spotting Buck in the corner.

Round 2

Buck sees he is outnumbered and decides to flee towards the window, using his remarkable Jump skill to make a quick egress. The cultists have higher DEX scores so they go first.

The second cultist is faster. He takes a swipe at Buck with his weapon. He rolls a 2, scoring an impale. 11 damage. Since Buck has only 2HP left, he falls unconscious. Fade to black.

He wakes up bound and in pain, his wound throbbing to the sound of drumming. Masked bodies undulate around him. Strange lights appear in the sky. He is about to find out what the rumors were all about. In fact, he is about to play a central role in a most inhuman ritual...


The game system is pretty easy to learn. It reminds me of Cyberpunk 2020, which is a system I've used quite a bit. It's percentage-based. Direct combat is quick and deadly and therefore probably best avoided. I like it.

Saturday 29 June 2019

Planescape Session 5: the Maze of the Melancholy Minotaur

I missed session 4, so this summary follows Session 3.

In previous sessions, the party met a group of Thri-Kreen from the planet Athas. They were in search of a particular botanically-skilled Sensate in the hope that she might help them replenish their magic-ravaged desert planet.

The search for the sensate led them to the gallery of wizards, an art gallery specializing in portraits of powerful mages. The party's visit follows a theft of several paintings in which painting-portals malfunctioned, a sensate disappeared, and a painting of an imprisoned god was vandalized.

This led them into a painting containing a magic labyrinth with a magic healing fountain.

In session 5, we continued to search the maze by the guidance of our four-hoofed colleague. The dwarf barbarian took a piss into what turned out to be a Land Shark's lair(IMHO the DM missed a perfect opportunity to roll on the limb-loss table). The party defeated a Land Shark with the help of a firebolt and Cardinal Sardinius' net, and found the art-thief he had devoured, along with the stolen Wizard portraits.

Ultimately we came upon a strange scene: a sensuously dressed woman, rooted to the ground, staring-down an immobilized Minotaur.

After charming the beast and watering the lady(this time with water- what did you think, you perverts?) she awoke and accepted the mission to revitalize Athas. We left the maze escorted by the Minotaur, returned the paintings to the gallery owner(for a humble 1000GP reward) and headed out to meet our Thri-Kreen sponsors.

Thursday 25 April 2019

Lycanthropy for Fun and Profit!

Due to the Passover holiday, we had 13 gamers turn up for game night, including 8 kids(my daughter included). We decided to "split the party" and run an adults game and a kids game. Avi ran the adults game. I got the kids. It was not dull. Rarely has so much ADHD sat around a single table. We continued our long-running Swords and Wizardry Palace of the Silver Princess campaign. Here is the summary:


  • Princessa- Human Fighter with a bastard sword, ring mail and a shot bow. Watch out for this one!
  • Minionoid- son Minion. A chaotic Elven thief with a two handed sword who has joined the party for obscure reasons
  • Ragnar- Chaotic Dark-Elf Assasin who backstabs people with his two-handed sword
  • Yoland- Elf Wizard with a staff and a Javelin
  • Blitzen- Tough Dwarven Fighter lady
  • Aragon- Elf Wizard who aspires to fireballing everything
  • Firestorm- Elf Druidess who loves animals


The party started off in N'Sau, a village full of war-refugees. First everyone got excited about fishing and made skill rolls. Minionoid then decided it was time to avenge his father, so the party started their journey to the Palace. Blitzen decided to stay and fish and was eventually eaten by Bears(I think her player realized she was ~5 years older than any of the other players, so she quickly lost interest)

They encountered a lone Wolf Warrior on horseback. They tried to kill him but he fled. Firestorm befriended his horse, so he was forced to flee on foot and she kept his horse.

At night, they encountered a Bugbear and two Orcs. Yoland charmed the Bugbear, and the Orcs were killed, with much excitement over the division of treasure. Minion was knocked unconscious and bandaged by Firestorm and the party took a few days for him to heal.

Updated map of ground level
(A quick DM note: I quickly realized that with 6 hyperactive kids shouting , having everyone roll for initiative to determine combat order, as I usually do, was simply not going to work. I chose to just go clockwise around the table, with the Monsters going last, which worked much better, especially with kids getting up and changing seats.)

Upon reaching the Palace the next day, the party saw two Wolf Warriors riding in the front gate. They climbed in through the tower window.

They did some exploring, encountered killer bubbles, and purple moss. They found a statue of mother and daughter with a hidden compartment revealing a riddle about My Lady's Heart. At this point, they have explored most of the ground-level of the dungeon, except for the Northwestern and Southeastern quadrants.

Ragnar discovered a treasure, including gold and a silver Wolf Warrior ring, but was discovered by the rest of the party. Princessa and Minionoid beat him up, divvied up the stuff, with Firestorm healing him and taking the ring.

They party then encountered a red-headed amazon. They chased her and when she turned to face them Princessa and Firestorm began to parlay with her. Her name is Aliegha and she is here because of her master. She was happy to hear that the party had killed some Wolf Warriors, since they have been hunting her.

At this point, Minionoid and Ragnar got bored and wanted to just kill Aliegha. This really upset the two girls, who were trying to befriend her. (Was a really funny pre-teen boys/girls dynamic for me to observe.) Finally, Minionoid declared he was shooting an arrow at her, while Ragnar snuck up behind her for the backstab.

Aliegha was injured, but suddenly shape-changed into a bear, knocked Minionoid unconscious and chased away Ragnar. Then she told the girls her story.

She is a Werebear, cursed with lycanthropy and hunted by the Wolf Warriors, notorious lycanthrope hunters. She is here because she works for her master, a powerful Cleric, Catharandamus. He made a deal with the Goblin king: he will help the Goblins take-over Gulluvia, and the Goblins will then help him find My Lady's Heart.

Princessa and Firestorm tried to convince Aliegha to revoke her support for this evil plan, but she sadly told them there was nothing she could do. She urged the party to flee this place and go on with their lives elsewhere.

Princessa convinced Aliegha to bite her, thus giving her lycanthropy too! With that, Aliegha bade them farewell and left.

We ended there, and everyone got 500XP, which just pushed Princessa to 2nd Level!

On Running Games for Kids

This was my first time running a game for kids who were mostly not my own. It was fun but hard! The kids' energy was high, but they also occasionally got distracted and wandered off. My daughter, for example, went and made herself an omelette at one point, but was also very engaged at other points and overall told me she had a great time and couldn't wait to play again. Another kid was very engaged for most of the game, but disappeared about 1/2 an hour before the end.

Character creation was a bit hectic with all the new players. Some ported over an existing character from another game to 1st Level Swords and Wizardry, others created characters from scratch. All but one of the kids had played some form of DnD before, either joining for one of our adult games or going to a paid, after-school DnD activity, run by a guy in the neighborhood.

Two brothers who were there were constantly fighting with each other. I didn't manage to separate them, but if I run another game in this series I definitely would. Their dad told me they had an amazing time though, so apparently the fighting didn't hurt their experience, even if it distracted me.

One thing for sure is that, if I run a game like this again, I will implement a "No Screens" rule during play(to be fair, I've had this with adult players, which is infinitely more annoying). One of the players was on his phone the entire time and we had to keep calling him over to the table and explaining him what was happening now. At some point I just stopped calling him over.

Finally, I think that I would cap the number of players at the end. Seven is just too much, and anyway, three of them dropped-off leaving us with four highly engaged characters at the end.

Thursday 11 April 2019

The Western Terror

S. Craig Zahler's Bone Tomahawk is a film that plays out like a DnD One-Shot. A kidnapped woman, a group volunteers to go after her, a journey into the wilderness to the Troglodytes' base, and the resolution by combat with no quarter asked and none given. Here are a few things from the movie I'd like to bring into my next game session.

The Hook

There's a lot to love about the scene of the Native American guide who helps the party locate the Troglodytes' base. There's a weird power-dynamic between the Indian Expert and the White Settlers. Behind that tension, all his passive-aggressive answers build-up the mystery and danger of the mission:
  • What kind of tribe doesn't have a name? One that doesn't have a language
  • You'll take us to them? I won't. Cause you're an Indian? Cause I don't want to get killed
  • Well what are they? Troglodytes
  • What do they look like? A man like you would not distinguish them from Indians, even though they're something else entirely
  • You'll show us where they're at? You'll be killed if you enter their territory
  • How many do you think there are? It doesn't matter. You don't have a chance against any number of them

The Journey

One of my favorite recurring western themes is the journey through the wilderness. The party must travel over long barren wilderness to reach their destination. As DM I usually drag this out a bit, with random encounter rolls, and lots of questions about the party's camp preparations. I especially enjoy playing out the tension, will they get attacked at night. What I'd like to add is the effect of the journey/weather. Some constitution checks for men and their mounts to leave the party not at their best when they arrive.

The Terror of the Bow

The ambush by the Troglodytes is great. The party is sneaking around, trying to scout out the enemy base, when out of nowhere, arrows. The attack is so silent and understated, it takes the audience a couple seconds to process what just happened.


DM's who provide real dangerous challenges for the PCs must occasionally deal with Total Party Kills, when the entire adventuring party gets wiped out in one combat. One option is to roll up a new party of characters who are friends or relatives of the old one. Bone Tomahawk uses the classic trope of "Knocked Unconscious then Wake Up in a Cage". This works if you are using a system which distinguishes between death and unconscious characters.

Thursday 4 April 2019

My First Call of Cthulhu Character

For a few years now I've had a dream of running a Call of Cthulhu campaign. In particular, I want to run that legendary campaign Masks of Nyarlathotep. It's a sprawling, globe-trotting mystery, full of weird horror, and it's been heavily hacked and expanded by fans over the years, such that the setting has taken on a life of it's own. The only thing stopping me is that I have to learn the CoC system...

As a first step towards learning the system, I created a character. He's a disgraced baseball player who has moved back to his hometown of Salem. He has too much money, energy, and time on his hands, and people like that have a way of stumbling into cultists and cosmic horrors. He has a mean fastball, is good with a bat, and has taken up shooting cans and bottles with a .38 revolver on his estate, now that he so much time on his hands.

Buck Pickman

The rule set I managed to get my hands on was 1999's Edition 5.6. I'm not sure how this edition compares with earlier ones in terms of complexity, but it took a fair amount of time to make all the rolls, allocations, and background for this character. I want to see if earlier editions are simpler since I generally prefer lighter rule-sets.

Saturday 9 March 2019

Same Old Princess

What do you do when your group plans a gaming night, but you have nothing to play? Pull out an old campaign that doesn't require much DM prep. So here is yet another session in our Palace of the Silver Princess campaign which ended over a year ago on a cliff-hanger.

Kingdom of Gulluvia
Cast of Characters:
  1. Ragnar- a bastard of a Ranger with a bastard sword
  2. Minion- a chaotic Elven thief with a two handed sword who has joined the party for obscure reasons
  3. Bob the Barbarian- a Human fighter who has been around the block
  4. Entrapta-chaotic Fighter/Mage skilled with both sword and spellbook

Bob and Entrapta arrive in village of N'Sau, which has become a refugee camp for those displaced by the Goblinoid invasion of Gulluvia. They met Ragnar and Minion, who told them of their mission to the Palace of the Silver Princess and their hope of bringing peace to the land.

The party bravely embarked on yet another expedition to the palace. They succeeded in hunting meat(Deer and Wild Dog) and preparing dried rations for their journey.
the updated map

Upon reaching the valley, they spotted a group of goblins entering the main gate with a large bear. Ragnar found the tracks of a large Female Bear which strangely were replaced, at some point, with those of a barefoot Human!

The party tried to use their traditional entrance through the tower window, but were met by two dwarves, Boron and Xyzon. The Dwarves tried to convince the party to leave, saying that The Boss would not want them there. They told them there were many Goblins there too who would no doubt kill them. When the party was not discouraged, they turned a blind eye and let them pass.

The party ended up killing a party of Orcs and exploring more of the North East section of the Dungeon. They expertly cleared out a room of Yellow Mold and found a suit of magic chainmail, only for it to turn out to be cursed with making it's wearer(Ragnar) flee combat! They did find a valuable necklace, however.

After a night of resting, the party were discovered by a lone Goblin. It went to fetch it's Hobgoblin buddies and the party was trapped and forced to face a goblin and 5 Bugbears!

Bugbears are SOOO Metal!

Ragnar started shooting arrows into their enemies but was then forced to flee in his cursed armor. Entrapta cast a shield spell which kept the creatures busy trying to hit her but missing. Minion, used the poison he had previously collected to poison his sword and five of Bob's darts. The poison saved the day, with 4 dead bugbears and one fleeing the combat, but poor Minion was killed in the process! Bob picked up his two-handed sword and helped finish-off the Bugbears.

The party left the dungeon with a hard-earned victory and 2000 XP to split between them!