Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Savage Cyphers and Sorcery - My RPG Year in Review

I was in heaven at Gen Con 2014


A Year in Review

2014.  What a phenomenal year to be a part of the tabletop gaming hobby!  Ever since starting this blog in January, my experience as a gamer has exploded into a bright ball of awesomeness!  I was involved in multiple campaigns, I got my family gaming regularly, I was a guest on a couple podcasts with LexStarwalker, and I went to Gen Con after years of thinking the trip was never going to happen.  Most importantly, in 2014 I met so many extraordinary people - both in person and online – and I’ve had a wonderful time sharing, learning, and laughing about our hobby.  It is very easy to get caught up bickering over system minutiae, edition wars, and controversial debates, and sometimes this is healthy… in moderation of course.  But make sure that you take a few moments throughout the year, to reflect on the true joy of tabletop gaming, and how it has influenced your life in a positive way. 
This is why I started this blog, as a place to capture these moments, remember them, and share them with those interested in tagging along.  At the end of the play-session, when the dice is settled, our hobby is all about sharing memories and having fun…

… and wow, did I have a lot of fun this year!

From our #GetOutAndGame Numenera event at Romano's Pizza

Maybe Too Much Fun

I love numbers.  Actually that’s not entirely accurate.  I love what Microsoft Excel does with numbers!  Yesterday evening I spent some time tallying up the number of gaming sessions I experienced in 2014 and I’m not sure if I should be ecstatic or appalled by the tally.  In total, I was in 125 RPG sessions in 2014.  Of these, I was a game-master for 102 and a player for 23.  At first I was taken aback at how much time I spent behind the GM screen, and felt a little guilty, but then I counted the number of sessions I played with my kids:  44.    My wife Jennifer took part in an additional 9 “grown-up” sessions this year, which brings my family gaming total up to 53.  I’m quite proud of that number, and I think it speaks to one of the principle points I try to make with this blog:

If you want to game more, get your family involved! 

Disney Con 2014!  Playing in public at Disney's Art of Animation Resort

I also did a breakdown of the games I GM’d and played throughout the year, although I didn’t need to even look at Excel to tell you that Numenera was by far the big winner for me in 2014.  While I love and enjoy almost all of the books on my shelf, there really is no system that reflects my style of game-mastering like MonteCook Games’ Cypher System.  I’m not sure if you can tell by the way I write my game summaries and play reports, but I’m a “seat of my pants” improvisational game-master.  My home-brewed adventures are a series of bullet points, and I love any tool that can help me run the game on the fly (like +Andreas WaltersNon Player Cards!)  I like sharp action, fast combat, and great story.  If a game can’t provide those for me, I have no interest in playing any further.    

So here’s where I spent my time at the table in 2014:

1.      Numenera – GM: 47 sessions; Player: 8 sessions

2.      The Strange – GM: 16 sessions; Player: 12 sessions

3.      Savage Worlds – GM: 21 sessions; Player: 1 Session

4.      Basic Fantasy RPG – GM: 7 sessions

5.      Cypher System (Space Hack) – GM: 6 sessions

6.      Adventures in the East Mark – GM: 3 sessions

7.      Mouse Guard RPG – Player: 2 sessions

8.      AD&D 2nd Ed. – GM: 1 session

9.      Dungeon Crawl Classics – GM: 1 session

Most of my blog is about game-mastering however there were quite a few standout moments, as a player, that are definitely worth noting. 

·    After five years of experiencing RPG’s solely as a game-master, I returned to the player’s side of the GM screen in one of Brian Takle’s truly wonderful Mouse Guard RPG sessions.  I’d love to spend more time with my character, Avarick the cook and apiarist, in 2015!

·    +Jeremy Land ran a 12-session playtest of The Dark Spiral, +Bruce R Cordell's epic adventure for TheStrange.  My character, Conrad Merrick (Sharp-Eyed Paradox who Conducts Weird Science on Earth, Abides in Stone on Ardeyn, and Adapts to Any Environment on Ruk), was a fun-to-play and impulsive combination of Will Hunting and Cave Johnson. 

·    My long-time gaming buddy Craig McCullough ran a one-shot of Savage Worlds Fantasy at a local Norwin Game Knights function a few months ago, in which I played a Half-Orc Assassin.  After years of owning and enjoying Savage Worlds as a GM, this was the first time I got to play the game. 

·    +Lex Starwalker ran a 5-session Numenera mini-campaign using Robert Schwalb's adventure Beyond All Worlds.  Serbrus Ton’bur, my Doomed Glaive who Consorts with the Dead, had a sick and twisted encounter with his wife’s cannibalistic killer, leaving both the player and the player-character emotionally scarred… in a good way! 

Dunkin & Dragons with my Mom, Evie, and Carrie

What to Expect in 2015!

There’s a lot of great gaming coming up in the New Year that I already have planned!  It looks like I’m going to have our regular monthly game of The Strange continuing, and our next adventure series is going to mix three themes that go so well together:  Sherlock Holmes, Dark Sun, and Star Wars.  Our weird 4-in-1 Quattro con Carnage campaign begins its Dungeon Crawl Classics phase next Tuesday, and will progress into Savage Worlds and the Cypher System in the following weeks.  You’ll also see a slight change in our regular Numenera campaign, as our characters from Tales of the Broken Mask travel to the great city of Qi for What Lurks Above.   

There are other games I’d like to try as well.  Even with nearly two-dozen sessions, I still want to play more Savage Worlds in 2015.  I played a lot of Weird Wars Rome and Accursed, but crave more of The Last Parsec after last week's #SantaGaming session.  I’m itching for a lot more Dungeon Crawl Classics goodness!  Despite reading and re-reading the rules several times, we only managed one game in 2014.  I'm happy that there are at least 4 sessions planned in the next two months! 
I may get a chance to play Fiasco in the next few weeks, as well as the DragonAge RPG, both of which will be completely new experiences.  My family game, featuring my wife and kids, just wrapped up our trio of #SantaGaming spectaculars, but we haven’t settled on our next ongoing campaign.  We may return to one of our previous campaigns, or try something completely new.  I’ll probably be giving them a chance to decide very soon.

I’m certainly open to any and all feedback, so if there is something you’d like to see us try, please let me know! 
Getting all spacey for Savage Worlds The Last Parsec
As I close out my final blog entry for 2014 I just wanted to thank you all for reading, commenting, and contributing to this little site.  Writing up play-reports for my games is not something I just started doing in the last twelve-months.  In fact, I am sitting on literally hundreds of pages of play reports for previous campaigns, which were shared with the players once and then filed away on my hard drive or in binders.  But sharing the sessions with all of you on social media, reading the feedback, and having conversations about my games has truly made a positive impact on how I game master.   I sincerely appreciate all of you out there, and hope to continue collaborating on more exciting playtests, reviews, and special projects to come!

Happy New Year! 

Monday, December 29, 2014

#SantaGaming - Numenera - Ninth World Christmas Special

When I said "Six" Santa Sessions I really meant "Three"

Okay, that's not entirely true, but the week before Christmas my daughter and I came down with the flu.  Then my wife came down with the flu.  Then I got bronchitis.  Nearly two weeks later, I'm just finally starting to feel like myself.  The fact that I managed to run two Santa-themed Savage Worlds games is a fracking Christmas miracle!   By this point I was supposed to have run an AD&D 2nd Edition Council of Wyrms game, and Carrie was going to run Basic Fantasy RPG.  That would've left one final game, a North Pole Recursion inspired game of The Strange, for New Years Eve. 

Get ready to be disappointed! 

So this Ninth World Christmas Special is going to be the third and final installment of our six Santa sessions.  This is probably a good thing, because the first session, when we played Accursed and made Santa a wereboar, is still being discussed by all three of my kids.  I'm expecting a call from the school counselor about how the girls killed "Santa" and saved the wereindeer.  That's not to say we may not run another session of "something" this week, it just won't involve Santa Claus.

I guess you really can have too much of a good thing.

But I can promise, with absolute sincerity, that this Numenera version of the Santa Claus story is probably the most weird, twisted, and possibly grotesque of all my #SantaGaming creations.  What made this game even more fantastic was that it reunited the same cast of characters from my Disney World Numenera Adventure I ran almost a year ago!  My wife and daughters were obviously regular players in my Disenchanted Tales campaign that I ran during the first half of 2014, but my mom (the kids call her Nini) was just a guest star when we played in public at Disney's Art of Animation Resort.  She knew that she would get roped into some kind of game while staying with us this week, but I don't think she expected a creepy take on Santa. 

Sorry Mom, but I've learned a lot about GM'ing Numenera in a year. 

The Three Princesses of Nihliesh… and friends

  • Merida, a Rugged Glaive who Carries a Quiver, played by Mommy (Jen)
  • Elsa, a Graceful Nano who Wears a Sheen of Ice, played by Carrie
  • Anna, a Swift Jack who Entertains, played by Evie
  • Poppins, a Strong-Willed Nano who Controls Gravity, played by Nini (my mom!)

Ninth World Christmas Special

Several months since adventuring with their friends Kronk and Vanellope, the Three Princesses of Nihliesh - Elsa, Anna, and Merida - were visiting the city of Qi when they received a guest at the inn.  Poppins, their former adventuring companion from the Fields of Frozen Flowers, had recently made a home in the village of Cybernion, along the Wyr River.  But disaster had struck her new home!  She was out adventuring, righting wrongs and performing deeds of courage and tidiness, and had to leave home for several weeks.  But when the Strong-Willed Nano returned to Cybernion, all of the citizens appeared to be gone.  The houses surrounding the walled village were hastily abandoned, and there was a low hum coming from within the walls.  Even stranger, the sound of muffled wailing, crying, and moaning could be heard.  Knowing that this was too dangerous to face alone, Poppins traveled to Qi to find help.

The three princesses wasted no time, and packed their weapons and gear quickly before departing for Poppins' village.  Cybernion was just a few days walk east of Qi.  When the adventuring party arrived, everything was just as Poppins described: the hum, the wailing, and the abandoned homes.  Merida thought that maybe something could be bubbling up from the earth below, and looked for a well on the northern side of town.  But when she came to the well, Merida found that the group was not alone.  A travelling man, who introduced himself as Allayt Iotr (Ah-late Yoder) was filling up his ceramic jugs at the well, and loading them onto a heavily laden Aneen.  Allayt told the party that he arrived the  previous evening, and was hoping to do some trade with the villagers of Cybernion, but became fearful when no one came out to greet him.  He spent the night on the northern end of the village, and swore that he saw a spectral image in the night atop the sturdy walls.  A superstitious man, Allayt believed this to be a ghost for sure!

By this point in the story, Anna, Elsa, and Poppins were listening.  Elsa shook her head as Allayt concluded his story.

"Ghosts aren't real!" the little graceful nano proclaimed. 

The princess's determination bolstered Allayt's nerve somewhat, and he agreed to enter the village walls with the rest of the party, should that be their plan.  The travelling sage carried a short blade, and seemed somewhat sure of how to use the weapon.  Anna drew her trusty crossbow and told the rest of the party that it was time to uncover the mysteries of Cybernion. 

Sure enough, as the party approached the gate into town there was a noticeable hum, and the ground was slightly vibrating.  Both Elsa and Merida could hear the sound of the wailing and moaning, which was certainly unsettling.  They also noticed upon passing into the village, that all of their cyphers started to activate, but quickly shut down.  It was as if some kind of signal was reaching out to each piece of numenera carried by the party. 

Entering into the courtyard, it appeared that whatever occurred happened quickly.  The stables were empty, but feed was rotting in the troughs.  The nearby market had wares and foodstuffs on display, but no staff was seen.  Merida decided to investigate the market, hoping that the food could give some kind of clue as to how long it had been since the strange events occurred.  The nog booth gave the party a sense of perspective.  In Cybernion there were no milk-producing domesticated animals, but several egg-laying lizards.  So rather than drinking "milk", Cybernion-folk drank "nogs" - egg drinks.  Merida gave each jar of nog a sniff and figured that they had been sitting out in the hot sun for at least two days. 

Poppins was upset that her fellow townsfolk were still nowhere to be found.  She heard some of the wailing in a tent near the market, and decided to go investigate.  Almost as soon as Poppins entered the tent she ran back out and grabbed a hold of Anna's shoulders. 

"Don't go in there... it's just too terrible!" Poppins cried. 

Merida drew her sword, and with one hand pulled the tent down revealing its contents.  But even the rugged glaive had a hard time keeping her breakfast down after seeing the condition of the former "villagers."  On the ground were two strange sights.  The first was a ball, made out of flesh and hair, with an eyeball here, some lips there, maybe an ear.  Next to the ball was a pile of building blocks, but instead of being fashioned from wood or clay, they too were made out flesh, with bits of bone and some finger nails sticking out.  Both the ball and the pile of blocks were emitting muffled cries. 

Rather than figuring out exactly what to call the weird creations, Anna and Elsa started arguing over what to name them.  They spent so much time fighting, actually, that when Allayt started to cry out "ghost" they ignored the shaking man.  Poppins and Merida eventually heard the travelling sage's whimper, and asked where he saw the specter.  Allayt pointed to a house across the plaza, and Merida told him to lead the way.  Allayt, sword in hand, brought the team to front of a small building and bravely entered. 

As soon as Allayt stepped through the doorway a loud voice boomed from within the building.  "Ho, ho, ho!" the voice shouted.  There was a blood-curdling, and juicy scream, and then silence. 

"Aww crap!" muttered Merida, who pulled her flash detonation cypher from it's pouch. 

The rugged glaive tossed the small sphere into the room before entering with Anna at her side.  On the floor was a box made out of flesh, and a coiled spring of ligament extending out, connected to Allayt's severed, but living, head.  Behind the pitiful sage was an image of a red-robed man, with leather boots and belt, and a red elfin hat.  Its visage sported a bright white beard and two rosy red cheeks.  The "ghost" had a spectral appearance, allowing Merida and Anna to look right through its body and see the opposing wall.  But the image seemed to be glitching, shimmering in weird ways, moving a few inches and then resetting.  Elsa begged her friends to leave the house while the image was still stunned by Merida's flash detonation. 

Elsa led the team towards the local Aeon Priest's home while giving an explanation to her teammates.  The nano believed that the image was native to the datasphere, which meant that some kind of nearby device was allowing the entity to bleed through to the Ninth World.  Since the hum got louder as the party moved further into the village, it made sense that maybe the Aeon Priest had uncovered the source of the ghost.  Once at the Aeon Priest's home, the party was briefly stopped by a locked door.  Poppins knocked and a glowing inverted pyramid appeared. 

"Hi!  I'm Valma!  What can I do for you visitors today?" the pyramid asked.

The strong-willed nano remembered this annoying entity well.  Discovered by the Dalrik, the local Aeon Priest, the creation had followed the man around just about everywhere.  Not wanting to engage the Valma in conversation, Poppins spun up a quick esotery and hovered up to the second floor window, where she entered the home.  Elsa and Anna didn't mind chatting briefly with Valma, and traded a few of their own secrets for some of the entity's.  It seemed that Dalrik was inside the home, but couldn't come to the door because he now resembled a pogo-stick. 

The Valma was still chatting with the three-princesses when Merida turned around only to see a terrifying image.  The ghost was approaching!  Merida drew her bow and let loose an arrow, but it had no effect.  The red-robed ghost then threw a ball of energy at Merida, which the rugged glaive dodged.  Merida fired another arrow, but still no effect.  The second ball of energy wasn't directly on target, but as it splashed against the wall near Merida, its effects became known.  Merida screamed as her left arm withered down to the size and shape of a wooden doll's arm, complete with puppet strings made of thick black hairs.  Elsa knew that time was running out, and the Valma was no closer to letting the three princesses into the home, so she gave the door a blast of ice, freezing its hinges.  Anna then broke the door down, bashing through with her crossbow, and tumbling into the room. 

Anna and Elsa found themselves face to face with Poppins, who was also in the chamber.  All three were staring at a large, red orb in the center of the room.  The device was one meter in diameter, and had four antenna sticking out of its glowing red shell.  An ominous lettering marked the side of the discovery:  RUD-01P#. 

Poppins scanned the discovery, and told Elsa that it was possible to interact with the numenera device.  Anna had her own way of "interaction", and she started bashing the antennae with her quarterstaff.  Merida had one good arm left, and used it to yank another antennae loose.  Once a third antennae was gone, the ghost disappeared, fading back into the datasphere. 

"Ho, ho, bye!" the ghost cried out. 

Although damaged, the device was still active and Elsa hoped that she could mitigate some of the ghost's effects.  Grabbing the last remaining antennae, Elsa's realized that she couldn't reverse the transformations, but she could "end" them.  Her only other option would be to leave the device running, allowing the poor, wailing, toy-villagers to continue a horrible existence.

"These choices are crap!" Merida balked, after Elsa gave the party their options. 

Elsa decided to end the signal that was keeping the toys alive, causing them all to wither and die.  The party all let out a collective "eww" as Merida's puppet arm fell away from her body.  The rugged glaive was not pleased. 

But Elsa and Poppins believed that, working together, they could possibly hack the discovery and come up with another way to replace Merida's lost limb.  Gaining access to the datasphere, Elsa transmitted pure information in the form of an arm straight to Merida's body.  The sleeve of Merida's jacket filled up, as if her original arm had returned.  But when the glaive pulled back the sleeve, she saw that her new "arm" was made entirely of energy: an endless stream of information. 

The party came to terms with the fact that there was little else they could do for the small village of Cybernion, but they still had to warn the people of Qi about the dangers of RUD-01P#.  They could only hope that enough people had fled the red-robed ghost's terrible wrath, and that the community of Cybernion would once again grow and prosper. 

Happy holidays from the Ninth World of Numenera!


Initially my son Cooper (who is 4) was going to sit at the table and roll dice with us.  He wanted to play Mickey Mouse, so I tried to work a way around making his character fit better in the Ninth World.  Here is our exchange:

Jim - "Cooper, is Mickey a robot?"

Cooper - "No!"
Jim - "Cooper, is Mickey a mutant?"
Cooper - "No!"
Jim - "What's Mickey then?"
Cooper - "He's a bear!"

Nini - "I rolled a 1… what does that mean?" 
Carrie & Evie [screaming] - "GM Intrusion!"
Jim - "That means, whenever a 1 is rolled, something terrible happens."
Nini - "Aww shit." 

Jim - "It looks like a ball… a fleshy ball made out of hair and eyes."
Evie - "Can I name it?" 

"You hear a 'ho ho ho', and a very juicy scream." - Jim made everyone cringe with this description.

"I don't know if I want to go in there if the 'ho-ing' one is in there." - Jen was still cringing. 

"I'm a fleshy jack in a box.. *snap snap*… I'm a fleshy jack in a box… *snap snap*…" - Evie's new song.

"I'm a real boy!" - Carrie thought Merida's new arm was hysterical.

"This is starting to feel a little like 'Star Trek', and V-Ger, looking at those letters!" - Nini figured out her son's inspiration for RUD-01P#.  

"Here's the thing, if we join with it, do we become one?" - Nini almost gave her GM son a neat idea.  But the game was weird enough at that point. 

Previous #SantaGaming Spectacles

If this is your first chance to take a look at how our family did the Holiday Season 2014, you may have missed one of the first two sessions:

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Quattro con Carnage - Session 2 - Basic Fantasy RPG

Slight Change of Format

I decided to merge my additional thoughts "Behind the Schemes" into the regular summary blog post because I'm being lazy this week.  Maybe its the holiday, or the fact that I've had the flu and it has turned into bronchitis.  Either or.  So skip past the next few segments if you'd like to just read that part.  

Dramatis Personae con Carnage

  • Umbrin, a guard-for-hire from Tannryth once in the employee of a wealthy Archon, played by Jeremy
  • Lomman Senan, a devout crusader of Ogmios looking to enforce some "justice healing", played by Marc
  • Rydian Ornitiar, an elven relic-hunter who longs to recover a lost family artifact, played by Andy
  • Jorin Everlast, a pilfering halfling initiate to the Embrace who just "made bones", played by Craig

The Fountain of Health, Part 2

Adventure by Ann Dupuis, first featured in Dungeon Magazine Issue #39

Rhadaro the dwarven armorer brought his two draft pony cart to a stop just outside of the ruined walls surrounding the legendary Fountain of Health.  His daughter was dying from goblin poison, so the small team of adventurers accompanying Rhadaro was the little girl’s last hope.  Umbrin the guard-for-hire immediately walked the perimeter of the one-hundred foot by one-hundred-and-fifty food old temple, looking for entrances.  Rydian Ornitiar the elf reviewed his spellbook one last time before placing it in his satchel and drawing his bow.  Lomman Senan the crusading priest spent his last few minutes before entering the ruin in deep prayer to Ogmios, piously kneeling next to the cart, palms raised and eyes shut tightly.  Jorin Everlast the thieving Halfling was eating a sandwich.  Chances are that it wasn't his.

The four adventurers and their mercenary hireling, Serathos the bowman, entered the old ruin from the west.  The Fountain of Health was located somewhere inside this temple to an old god and while the dilapidated structure didn’t appear to be cursed, it was obvious that few souls had visited this place in recent years.  Passing through the entrance, the party was somewhat relieved to find that most of the structure was open to the sky above, which meant that the natural sunlight would illuminate much of their quest.  Almost all of the old columns in the structure had also collapsed, blocking some of the engineered paths, while creating unexpected portals where they smashed through walls.  At the center of the structure’s great entrance was a stone statue of a minotaur.  Rydian murmured a few divining words, and cast detect magic on the structure, revealing both the minotaur, and the axe it was holding, to be magical.  Climbing on top of a fallen column, Rydian squinted to make out any more details.  The axe had fresh blood on its blade, and a dead villager lay at the minotaur’s feet with a gaping wound in his chest.  The elf wasn’t sure if the statue was a trap or a golem, so the party chose to stay as far away as possible and conserve the few resources they possessed.

There were several exits from the room, including a portal to the northwest, as well as a few places where one could use the fallen columns to climb into adjacent hallways.  Umbrin tossed a rock through the portal in the northwest and heard a hiss as five giant centipedes fought over the stone, hoping it was food.  Rydian climbed up a column in the northern section of the room and saw more signs of dire insect droppings in the adjacent hallway and chambers, but also was able to make out a small nest of giant rats behind the minotaur statue.  The nest was full of gold and trinkets, so the elf made a note to come back to that area once the mission was completed.

The party chose to take on the giant centipedes first, and all five adventurers lined up behind one of the fallen columns to launch their missiles at the insects.  Five shots (including a thrown rock from Lomman), felled three of the centipedes, but two quickly turned and darted across the floor towards the party.  When Serathos was bitten he was poisoned instantly and died, so the party stood their distance and finished off the two remaining bugs.  At least with all the hirelings gone, the split on the treasure was becoming more favorable for the team.  The room that the centipedes were using for a next contained a few broken old beds and some stray coins but little else of interest.

The northern hallway was covered in filth, so Umbrin again threw a rock hoping to flush out whatever was waiting for the party.  This time it was a pair of giant tiger beetles! The monstrous bugs were the size of barrels, and they bolted down the hallway towards the party.  This battle was much more challenging for the team.  Both Lomman and Umbrin sustained serious wounds from the beetles, as their mandibles could crush with the strength of two short swords.  But their insects’ carapace was nearly impervious to the party’s weapons, and only one blow out of four was landing.  When the skirmish was over, Umbrin was badly hurt forcing Lomman to expend much of his healing ability.

The chambers attached to the northern hallway revealed some interesting finds.  One notable trinket was a dead skeleton clutching a golden gargoyle pendant.  Lomman examined the pendant first, and believed the creature on the necklace to be an ancient god.  Umbrin decided to don the pendant, hoping that the sleeping gods in the temple would look favorably on the fighter, or possibly just not look at him at all.  Following the hallway as it led east, the party was about to turn south and cut across the length of the temple when Rydian’s elven eyes noticed something peculiar.  There was a secret door nearby, that led to another chamber in the north.  Jorin gave the door a quick look and noticed that while it was not trapped on purpose, there were timbers precariously held in place by the door, and jostling it free could cause them to collapse.  The Halfling disarmed the "trap" and led the team into the adjacent chambers.

The next chamber was another long hallway, but on the southern end of the wall were two large, polished stone doors with golden hinges and handles.  On the floor of the chamber was a dead woman, killed recently, with claw marks covering much of her body.  The ornate doors to the south led the group to believe that this was the entrance to the Fountain of Health itself, so the team prepared itself emotionally before opening the stone doors. Inside was a dark room, as the roof of the interior temple was still intact.  Jorin lit a torch and moved into one of the corners while Umbrin and Lomman approached a small pool of water at the center of the room.  Rydian had a bad feeling about the room, and stayed just outside, but with a full view of the chamber.  The pool of water was at the bottom of a series of circular steps, carved into the center of the room.  Adjacent to the pool was a black stone gargoyle statue.  Umbrin was still wearing the pendant from earlier, and noticed that there was a similarity.  Nonchalantly, Lomman pulled out his waterskin, and began to fill it with waters from the pool.

The gargoyle immediately attacked!

The horrific construct lashed out with two claws, a bite, and its horns, completely taking the cleric by surprise.  The rest of the party immediately started attacking the gargoyle, but their arrows seemed to have no effect.  Umbrin noticed that the creature actually didn’t pay him any attention whatsoever, and so the fighter instead finished filling up a waterskin before turning to aid the crusading cleric.  Lomman was having a very rough time defending himself from the brutality of the gargoyle.  His own protection from evil prayer was giving him some added vitality, and his armor was bolstered by Rydian’s barkskin spell, but after a few more strikes by the gargoyle, Lomman’s vision went black.  Umbrin quickly started dragging the cleric out of the room, but noticed that the gargoyle wouldn’t stop slashing at the priest.  The fighter put himself directly between the two and was slashed and gored horribly, but still, Umbrin’s brave actions saved the party’s cleric.  Once outside of the chamber the entire team started to catch their breath while Umbrin poured healing waters down Lomman’s throat.  The crusading priest awoke just in time to notice three blood-sucking stirges appear at the edge of the northern wall.

It was some kind of random encounter!

Figuring that more healing waters would be needed, and knowing that the gargoyle wouldn’t attack anyone with the pendant, Umbrin charged back into the Fountain temple to get more water.  Of the three stirges attacking, arrows and bolts felled one, while the other two flew down and attacked Jorin and Rydian.  Rydian ended up with one of the creatures attached to his chest, sucking the juices from the poor spellcaster.  Lomman whipped out his mace and charged forward, hoping to kill the stirge with one blow.  Unfortunately the cleric missed, hit Rydian, and caused the elf to start bleeding out from a skull fracture.  Umbrin took another order for healing waters.

When the party finished off the stirges, Lomman declared loudly that the quest was completed.  The team had one wineskin full of healing waters still, and brought it to Rhadaro for his daughter.  They would come back to the temple later the next day to take care of the gold left in the rats’ nest, but Rydian and Lomman were both low on spells.  The healing waters successfully cured little Oarei, and true to his word, her father gave the party the Shield of the New Mountains as payment.

Despite their success at the Fountain of Health, there was now a cold snap in the air as the cursed winds from Happenstance were starting to blow east towards Zerlina’s Rest.
 The team of adventurers took note of the unnatural change in weather while drinking hot cider at the Silver Reed. Jorin Everlast seemed particularly unsettled at dinner, but it was not the weather that disturbed him.  A member of the Embrace was seeking the Halfling thief, and Jorin had the feeling that maybe he should’ve pushed harder for the milk run the day before.

Most Notable Quotations

Jim - "There's blood on the axe." 
Marc - "That's not paint?" 

"Hey guys… I'm thinkin' that that statue is a magically petrified actual minotaur!" - Andy knows just how the GM thinks.  

"Statues can't move, so there must be something else here." - Jeremy would never find out.  

Jeremy - "Can I spend an XP and let him re-roll?"
Jim - "No." 
Marc - "Can I spend $0.99 and let him re-roll?"
[Earlier in the evening I had a discussion on G+ about incorporating in-game purchases, pay-to-play features, and downloadable content into my tabletop RPGs.  I may be on to something!]

"I'm all for taking the handles and hinges off and getting out of here." - Jorin took one look at the ornate doors, and decided he was finished for the evening.

"Friends we have found the damned fountain, we are surely at the end of our quest." - Lomman was almost at the END of his quest.

"I'm going to stand back." - Andy had the best idea all night.

"I feel like my character in his Numenera incarnation is going to feel like an ultra powerful superstar, in comparison to this game!" - Marc when the GM asked for a "reaction" quote.

Behind the Schemes

Seeing how the party took on the challenges of last night's game, I think that the team was fully prepared to handle all of the crazy dangers that stalk a typical low-level adventure module.  "Fountain of Health" is designed for five to six 1st level characters, and I ran the adventure straight off of the pages of Dungeon Magazine, holding nothing back.  Our team consisted of four 3rd level characters and a 1st level NPC (RIP Serathos).  If the dice fell a bit differently last night, Lomman could've been dead, and possibly Umbrin and Rydian as well.  Actually, if I hand''t ruled that negative hit points were tracked to -10, and just kept with the old-school "death at 0-hp", we'd be down half the party by adventure's end. 

I thought it was interesting the way the party completely skipped the first encounter with the minotaur statue.  In the adventure as written, the statue is a low-powered stone golem that only has eight hit points left, but is carrying a +1 battle-axe that yields +2 versus stone creatures.  In the last battle with the gargoyle this weapon would have been required if the party decided to stay and try to kill the creature.  But these guys weren’t greedy.  They realized that encountering the statue, as either a trap or creature, would’ve taken resources they didn’t have to spend.  If this were an ongoing campaign, in any system, I would’ve assigned an experience point award for playing their characters well and staying on task.  Granted, in a long-term campaign they could also have spent the night outside in a tent and then gone back in to further raid, clearing the dungeon.  That’s why I let them have the treasure of the rat’s nest.

Moving into Dungeon Crawl Classics I’m excited to see how the players are forced to evolve based on the unique character class abilities, crazy critical hit tables, and potential negative impacts of spellburn, wizard corruption, and cleric disapproval.  The team is entering DCC still very much intact as your typical low-leveled adventuring party, but there’s something about all those random effects that completely changes a character and potentially how they are played.  Also interesting to note is that our buddy Matt will be joining in next session, but instead of playing one character, he’s going to have four.  Everyone else is going to be transitioning from a 3rd level BFRPG character to a 2nd level DCC character, since there are only 10 levels in the latter.  But Matt’s going to be entering with a troupe of four 0-level non-adventuring characters… similar to what you’d see in a DCC "funnel."  Whoever survives that first evening gets to be Matt’s character going forward. 

It should be a blast!

Miss a Quattro con Carnage Post?  

All of the fun so far:

Sunday, December 21, 2014

#SantaGaming - Savage Worlds Last Parsec - Sleigh Bells Ring No More

Continuing our "Six Short Seasonal Santa Session Spectacular"

Happy Holidays again from the Walls Residence!  Last week we had our Accursed game where the players had to take down a twisted and terrifying Santa Claus and free the enslaved wereindeer children.  Now in hindsight, it may have been a bit of a twisted take on such a Christmas tradition, but hey… this special season only comes around once a year.  For this next game though, the players had to save Santa from lacerauns (dinosaurs).  Maybe the idea of "saving Santa" rather than killing him will help keep the kiddos out of therapy later.    

The Last Parsec is a brand new sci-fi adventure setting published by Pinnacle Entertainment Group, the folks behind Deadlands, Weird Wars Rome, and a whole bunch of other phenomenal settings that I love.  The Last Parsec consists of a trio of setting-PDF's that have just been released: Eris Beta-V, Leviathan, and Scientorium.  Sleigh Bells Ring No More takes place on Leviathan, a world-sized game preserve that holds some of the deadliest creatures in the known universe.  Think "Jurassic Planet" instead of "Jurassic Park."  

… And yes, I know the next movie is "Jurassic World", which is why I had to write "planet" to make my point.  Nevermind.  

Just like with our previous adventures in Another Sun Rises and the first Last Parsec excursion, some of our images and maps came from 0-hr art & technology, an incredible game design website that features awesome deck plans and artwork available for download.  If you'd like to pick something up for your space game, and like what you see here, make sure you check them out!  The S.P. Mk. 747 is based on 0-hr's "Midnight Rose."  

Midnight Rose, image by 0-hr art & technology

The Crew of the S.P. Mk. 747

  • Ari Gato, Construct Quartermaster, played by Jen (Mommy)
  • Wilma Hops, Hareraiser Pilot, played by Evie
  • Raymond, Insectoid Engineer, played by Carrie
  • The Man with No Name, That Guy that Flies, played by Cooper (4 years old)

Sleigh Bells Ring No More

You may remember some of the crew of the S.P. Mk 747 from their previous adventure in "Chow Time".  Recently they hired a new pilot to work alongside Wilma, but strangely never managed to get his name.  That's okay, the Man with No Name was a really great pilot, so he got to keep his job anyway.   The S.P. Mk 747 and its crew came to the world of Leviathan to drop off some passengers: big game hunters looking to spend a few weeks in-country.  But as the JumpCorp chartered vessel was about to blast off and depart Leviathan, a strange distress signal came across the comm.  Wilma, the small rabbit-like pilot and acting-commander tried boosting the signal from the command seat, but all she picked up was the sound of jingling bells, and then a poor, sad cry.

"Ho… ho… hooooooooo," the old man wailed on the other end of the comm.

Immediately Wilma alerted the rest of her team, and commanded the Man with No Name to head for the jingle-jangle-beacon while she prepared for an away mission.  Cold and mechanical Ari Gato was already pulling up the world-map of Leviathan when Wilma arrived at the science station.  The distressed vessel was a single small cargo craft, which had been towed by eight smaller drones before breaking up in orbit.  The cargo craft crashed on the continent of Borea, in an area known as the Amymonian Delta.  Unfortunately this part of the world was so saturated with rain and mud that landing a massive craft like the S.P. Mk 747 would be nearly impossible.  But insectoid engineer Raymond had an alternative plan: paragliding!  

When the away team landed on the soft, mushy ground near the crash site, they were immediately on their guard.  The cold and numbing rain drenched them immediately, and though the sound of the storm silenced a lot of the other native fauna in the area, the roars of nearby Kroks could still be heard.  Some of the lacerauns were a few dozen feet high… some ten times larger!  Wilma, Raymond, and Ari would have to act fast!

The cargo craft appeared to be some kind of transport shuttle.  There was a large storage compartment in the rear, and a long command and engineering section in the center.  Two very old ion drives were located on nacelles, but from the looks of it, they hadn't functioned properly in decades.  Raymond had seen similar ships, but it had been quite some time.  Perhaps that was why the captain of the vessel needed the eight smaller drones to "tow" this "sleigh."  Unfortunately, the remnants of the eight drones were scattered all about in front of the sleigh ship, still burning and releasing an acrid smoke that filled the air.  While Raymond and Ari Gato tried to open one of the cargo-bay doors, Wilma moved to the front of the craft and peeked inside.  There was a massive man, at least eight feet tall and about half as wide, slumped over the control panel. Behind him, a dormant droid resembling a clockwork deer was resting against a wall.  

"He's unconscious," Wilma told her crew mates.  "We gotta save him!"  

Once inside the ship, the trio was stunned by their findings.  The cargo hold was full of candy!  All kinds of snacks and treats, from an entire galaxy of worlds.  Even Raymond recognized a few.

"The famous Green Galaxy Goop!" Raymond texted excitedly across his comm, since insectoids can't talk.  "It's from my home planet, we like green things!"

Wilma moved into the command section of the ship, and motioned to Raymond to come forward and give the robot a look while she attempted to administer first aid to the large pilot.  It only took a few moments for the insectoid to sync his commlink to the construct, and after a simple reboot procedure, "Misti the Reindroid" was operational.  

"Boing… buh… buh… boing boing… hello!  Happy Holidays!" Misti shouted as he came to life.  But the robot's exuberance faded when he noticed that his boss was critically wounded.  "You gotta save Sanda Qlouz!" he pleaded.  "Please hurry!"  

Wilma was already giving the man first aid and CPR, and after a few more moments the jolly alien sprang to life.  When he awoke, there was a bright light coming from his cybernetic eyes, that filled the room with a soft glow.

"Oh, what's going on here?  Has everyone been good?" Sanda asked.  The man claimed to be a Kringilian, an alien species that travelled from world to world sharing holiday traditions from many peoples, many cultures.  

Knowing that time was limited, Ari Gato answered tersely.  "We've been awesome, but your ship here has crashed."  The construct quartermaster starting spinning up the ship's control panel while she spoke, but was rattled when a loud thumping came from outside. 

Since it was her job to scout, Wilma carefully crept up to the front window and got a look at a fifteen foot tall Krok standing nearby, eyeing up the sleigh-craft.  Knowing that she and the rest of her party were armed with advanced weaponry, including laser submachine guns and Ari's powerful flak launcher, Wilma felt safe for the moment…

… and then a much louder booming was heard.

A much, much larger Giant Krok appeared, and it was looking for a meal.  The smaller Krok was "talking" back to the massive beast in a series of barking roars.  It was getting pretty crowded outside, so Ari, Ray, and Wilma hatched a quick escape plan.  Ari called up to the Man with No Name and instructed him to bring the S.P. Mk 747 down to the crash site, but to hover just a few hundred feet above.  

The Man with No Name had nothing better to do, so he agreed to bring the ship down for his part of the rescue mission.  Since the sleigh-craft was stuck in the mud little Wilma crawled under the craft and attached her hover-board to one of the nacelles, which worked to shimmy the ship free of the sludge.  Inside, Raymond continued to repair the ancient craft while listening to all of Sanda's excuses for not maintaining the vessel properly.  The plan was going very well until the "barking" outside stopped abruptly.  

The Giant Krok was now eating the smaller Krok, but after only a few chomps, the massive beast decided it wanted something bigger… and possibly sweeter.  

"Hey 'Man with No Name' you better get the move on!" Ari called over the commlink.  She then grabbed her flak gun and moved to the rear doorway.  There was a massive beetle-spider "colemata" (bug-like creature) behind the Giant Krok, full of guts, goop, and blood.  Ari wanted to pop the fleshy creature quietly, hoping that it's innards would gain the laceraun's attention.  To muffle her shot, the construct quartermaster shoved handfuls of cotton candy down the barrel of her flak gun.  With a quick pull of the trigger, the colemata beetle-spider popped like a zit, and the smell certainly gained the Giant Krok's attention.  

Raymond didn't want to wait for the Giant Krok to return, so he pushed Sanda out of the way and grabbed the controls.  The insectoid got the craft's thrusters running again, and with a pull of a lever the sleigh lifted up off the ground.  This was quite the surprise to Wilma, who found herself hanging precariously on the bottom of the sleigh-craft's starboard nacelle.  Meanwhile Ari had climbed to the top of the craft and was getting ready to catch the tether that the Man with No Name was going to lower from the S.P. Mk 747.  The large vessel was close now, just a few hundred feet away.  

Wilma decided that she had spent enough time on the bottom of the vessel, and hand over hand she climbed towards the open portal.  Unfortunately the Giant Krok was back, and it wanted dessert… rabbit flavored dessert.  With a quick snap the beast had Wilma Hops in his mouth!   

Wilma wasn't about to become dinner, however.  Pulling her laser submachine gun from her satchel, she pointed it into the Giant Krok's mouth and let loose a spray of auto fire.  When the beastie released its bite, Wilma used her leaping ability to spring free and dive straight into the open doorway of the sleigh-craft.  By the time the monster regained its senses, turning around for another snap, Ari Gato was waiting - flak gun in hand.  The construct stunned the Giant Krok with a massive blast right to the eye, causing it to stumble backwards.  Injured but not dead, somehow the Giant Krok needed to be stopped… 

… that's when the Man with No Name arrived!

The S.P. Mk 747 flew down and slammed into the Giant Krok, breaking its bones, forcing it to the ground.  The Man with No Name then positioned the starship over the sleigh-craft, allowing Ari Gato to connect the tether.  From there, the JumpCorp team towed Sanda Qlouz's vessel back to the star port at Ralston, where true repairs could begin.  Sanda thanked the JumpCorp team for their help, and since they were such good little bunnies, bugs, and robots, he gave them each a special candy treat from his cargo hold.  

Happy holidays from Leviathan!

Kids' Reactions

I asked each of my three kids for a comment about tonight's game.  This was what I got:

Carrie:  "I think it was fun, and I liked how you used my character 'Misti'!"  

Evie:  "It was awesome and cute!"

Cooper:  "I liked killing him and slicing him down and killing him in the butt!  Daddy, guess what?  I punched him in the butt!"  


My daughter Evie's character species is a custom build using the Savage Worlds Science Fiction Companion.  Hareraisers are daring and adventurous aliens who managed to survive and evolve on a world full of terrible predators.  Despite not being the biggest, strongest, or toughest creatures on their world, Hareraisers are quick, agile, and very capable of thinking on their paws.  In the Last Parsec universe, Hareraisers make incredible pilots, and are naturally suited for being behind the flight-yoke.  

Species Abilities:

  • Attribute Increase - Agility (starts play at 1d6)
  • Skill - Piloting (starts play at 1d6)
  • Leaper
  • Small
  • Cautious (they may be adventurous, but let's be honest… they're still bunnies at heart!)

Happy Holidays!

Previous #SantaGaming Spectacles

If this is your first chance to take a look at how our family did the Holiday Season 2014, you may have missed last week's session:

Upcoming Games!

We did have a slight change in line-up due to the flu hitting our house pretty hard!  Right now we've moved Carrie's special Rudolph themed BFRPG game to tomorrow.  Here's what's coming soon:

  • (Date subject to change due to flu) - Basic Fantasy RPG - Santa's Slay with special guest GM Carrie Walls!
  • Thursday, December 25th - Numenera - Ninth World Christmas Special, featuring the Three Princesses of Nihliesh
  • Sunday, December 28th - AD&D 2E Council of Wyrms - Santa's Elves Must Burn
  • Wednesday, December 31st - The Strange - Naughty AND Nice, featuring Agents Dingo and the Cosmos

I call this "Dressed for Leviathan"