Monday, July 28, 2014

#GetOutAndGame - Numenera at Romano's - Sleeping Giants

We are a Hungry Group that Demands Pizza!

About a week ago I put up a post on our local area Facebook group, All About the Norwin Area, looking for places to play in public.  So far we've had a game at Five Guys Burgers and Fries and another at Panera, but when Sharon from Romano's Pizza and Cafe offered to let our little troupe of gamers run a session of Numenera at her restaurant, it was clear that Italian was on the menu!  We strolled into the restaurant on an evening when we were told it wouldn't be too crowded, and found that there was a table reserved for our group… but also that the restaurant was PACKED!  By far it was the most crowded public location that I've ever played at, which was awesome to experience but also quite nerve-wracking for me!   I've become accustomed to playing in public, but usually in a space where no non-gamers can here me nerding out as a game-master.  But tonight I'd be on display for everyone sitting around us.  

We had a blast!  The food was fantastic, as was the service.  Sharon and the rest of the staff made sure we were comfortable and that we had everything we needed.  We ordered an extra-large cheese pizza with and some fried mac-n-cheese bites, which fed all five of us with pizza to spare.  

Our table was "Reserved" for awesomeness!

A Special Playtest

What made this night even more special was that we were playtesting +Andreas Walters's Non-Player Cards, a system neutral RPG accessory that, as of this post, is nearing the end of it's Kickstarter funding project!  Andreas was kind enough to give us some sample cards to try, and the adventure I was running needed a couple of NPC hooks, so it was a perfect fit.  This was a lot of fun!  As the party met the NPC's I picked three cards for each of the strangers at random and used a chart to roll up names.  

I'm proud to be a backer on this Kickstarter project, and suggest you do the same.  The cards could be useful for all sorts of games, but for my "game-on-a-fly"/sandbox style of game-mastering they are truly empowering.  I'll be honest, when I first heard of the cards I thought "well I can already design NPC's pretty easily, do I really need these?"  But in play the cards didn't detract at all from my own creativity, in fact (as you will see) they gave us more depth in role-playing the scenes with the NPC's.  I can't beg you enough to get behind this phenomenal project!  

For our adventure we also featured a product from a terrific third-party publisher, +Ryan Chaddock, as Sleeping Giants is a short adventure featured in Echoes of the Prior Worlds, a collection of very rich and innovative scenarios that showcase Numenera's emphasis on exploration and discovery.  I ran Cryo Jack's Lair earlier this year at a Norwin Game Knights event and +andrew lyon ran Anamorphosis at another, but Sleeping Giants may end up being my favorite from the book.  

Me and Jeremy admire the crowded nature of Romano's

Our Characters

  • Vectoria, a Vengeful Glaive who Bears a Halo of Fire, played by Carrie W.
  • Elmy, a Mystical Nano who Siphons Power, played by Emily B. 
  • Ezmerelda, a Clever Nano who Controls Gravity, played by Evie W.
  • Remy, a Swift Jack who Works the Back Alleys, played by Jeremy D. 

Adventure Summary

Upon freeing Boregal from the wicked contraption that contained his preserved brain, our intrepid band of inquisitive Numenera Hunters took the disembodied organ back to Remy and Ezmerelda's hometown of Cylion Basin.  Rygax still wanted to take his team west across the Black Riage to Qi in order to research the visitants who may have left behind the Druissi vessel, but didn't have the funds to continue their quest.  Knowing that his new party needed shins, Remy started to set up some games of chance in the less reputable parts of town.  During one of the games, Remy won quite a bit of money from Elboeb-Ail, a rather compulsive gambler who was hoping to one day become famous with his winnings [generated with Non-Player Cards].  

But when Elboeb-Ail couldn't pay up, Remy had Vectoria intimidate the poor sod into promising something bigger… much bigger.  So Elboeb-Ail coughed up a story about a nearby glowing hole in the foothills of the Black Riage where unimaginable treasures await the brave and daring.  Legend told of a giant, mile-high guardian automaton that protected the area surrounding the blue light millennia ago, but that it had not been seen in recorded time.  Remy took the information as payment, but also wanted Elboeb-Ail's fine hat, an oddity in that it could be stowed in an extra dimensional space when not worn.  One look from Vectoria and the hat was hastily handed over to the party.  Elboeb-Ail was a truly a broken and defeated man.  

I show the party where they are on the map

The path to the glowing blue light was fairly straightforward, just a dozen miles to the west and the four Numenera Hunters found the site of the buried treasure.  The party scaled a loosely packed hill of gravel and dirt until they came upon the hole in the ground, out of which glowed a faint blue light.  Vectoria thought she could see a passage beneath the hole, but passing through the forcefield that created the glow wasn't something that she wanted to do without a bit more information.  Ezmerelda used her sharp nano-trained eyes to scan the forcefield and figured that the polarity was as such that the characters could pass through the shielding but could not exit unless it was manipulated in some way.  This was of no concern to Remy, as he had a cypher that could allow the entire team to pass through a surface as though it wasn't there.  The swift jack also had some rope, so that the party could lower themselves down into the chambers below.  

Vectoria was the first to drop down the hole, using the rope to slow her descent.  Once she was at the bottom of the vertical passage the vengeful glaive found herself in a large, sterile corridor full of metal and synth.  There was a faint glow all around her, but she had little time to get her bearings before a pair of floating spheres attacked her.  Struck once by a sphere but managing to dodge the other, Vectoria called for the rest of her party.  Remy dropped down next, followed by Elmy and then Ezmerelda.  Remy's arrow damaged one of the devices, but it seemed to have a nasty ability to sling projectiles back at the shooter.  Elmy's ability to siphon power sapped the energy from one of the spheres, while Vectoria slashed at another with her sword-staff.  Ultimately Ezmerelda's gravity-onslaughts would crush the two floating orbs before they could cause the party serious injury.  

While they dusted themselves off, the party began to hear a soft voice calling from further down the corridor.  While Remy didn't seem too interested in investigating, Vectoria darted ahead to see who else could be in the structure.  The party found Ajnenyph [generated with Non-Player Cards] an explorer who was lucky to have survived an encounter with at the same floating, spike wielding spheres that attacked the party.  Vectoria recognized Ajnenyph from town, and the man admitted that he had spent significant time in Cylion Basin before hearing the tall tale of a mile-high walking automaton and the treasure it was guarding.  He admitted that he was secretly an Aeon Priest on a mission to discover the truth behind the glowing blue light but should not have come alone.  Ajnenyph was severely wounded (with a really bad hernia apparently), so Remy gloved up and with his first aid kit performed the proper procedure to get the man mobile.

Emily lost it at the description of Remy's healing roll

The party continued down the unnatural corridor until they came to a section that Elmy swore was some kind of control room for a vehicle of the ancients.  There was one chair, the mystical nano noticed, that seemed to psychically call out to her, and she felt compelled to sit down.  But once this happened the room started to move!  Quickly the rest of the party braced themselves so as not to fall down the long corridor that was now below their feet.  Each Numenera Hunter was then almost magnetically sucked into an individual seat as a massive view-screen appeared before them all.  They were not in a structure guarded by a giant automaton.  Rather, they were in the giant automaton itself: a four-hundred foot tall glowing female form that was giving off a golden light.  Elmy's mind was hacked by the machine's own intelligence, which commanded the nano to pilot the monstrous creation towards it's target: Cylion Basin, where it would rain fire and destruction upon a long dead entity, which was most likely no longer there.  

… to be continued… 

Carrie's illustrations of the adventure


"I was cheating." - Jeremy's explanation as to how his character was such an excellent card player.

"I also want that hat." - Remy wanted it ALL.

"We want to text Rygax!" - Emily felt that the party should be able to "phone-a-friend" Andy's character, since he couldn't play that night.

Jim the GM: "Are you guys splitting up?"
Carrie (the GM's daughter): "That's never a good idea!"
- *sniff*… she's learning.

Make sure you place your order ASAP!!!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

OD&D Dragonlance: Dunkin & Dragons

Ready to roll/role!

Gaming is the Breakfast of Champions

My parents live in Delaware and they wanted to get on the road early today, but not before we gave our little mini-campaign a second try.  Initially we were going to play last night but the kids were getting tired, and we felt it best to play when everyone was well rested.  But we'd have to play early, which meant "breakfast gaming!"  So my daughter Evie and I got in the car this morning and drove on over to Dunkin Donuts for a dozen of the evil little circles and a box of munchkins.  We got home, found the gaming books, made some coffee, and prepared for another epic series of encounters.  

Getting ready for an adventure!

Just as with the last game, Carrie and I were going to Co-DM.  I gave the backstory for the adventure and Carrie took the driver's seat for the encounters themselves.  We set the adventure in the area surrounding Haven again, but were using a map from the The Chaotic Caves, a Basic Fantasy RPG adventure that you can get from here for free!  

We learned some interesting things in this second quest:

1)  Dragons have all kinds of interesting gear with them at all times
2)  If you make my wife's character angry, she will burn your house down
3)  There may be consequences to killing off your parents' characters

If you missed the session report from our last Dragonlance game, which just happened to be the first game for both my dad and my son, feel free to give it a look right here!

Mommy, Evie, Carrie, Nini, and Pop Pop

As a refresher, here are our groups'  characters:
  • Lulu, a Kender Thief played by my mom
  • Fred, a Minotaur Fighter played by my dad
  • The Killer, a Hatchling Brass Dragon played by my son Cooper
  • Eric, a Human Cleric played by my wife Jen
  • Emeralda, an Elf Fighter/Magic-User played by my daughter Evie

The Caves Below Gribbnock

In our last adventure the party took on the job of clearing the dwarven village of Gribbnock of a vicious harpy and some of her creatures.  Well even though the dwarven mayor paid for the work that was completed, he expected the adventurers to delve into the hole from whence the harpy came… just in case there were more monsters waiting to take on the village once the adventurers left.  Our brave band of adventurers agreed to this request, figuring that maybe there would be some cool gear stored by the horrific monstrosities below, and set out for Gribbnock village for round two.  

The first challenge to the party was the hole in the ground.  Fred brought along some rope, and held the one end while the rest of his team climbed down.  The first one down was The Killer, the party's hatchling brass dragon with a fierce temper and bad attitude.  The Killer (keep in mind, played by a 4 year old) reached the bottom and pulled out flashlight.  Although we couldn't find it on his sheet, the player confirmed that he indeed had a flashlight in his backpack.  Because dragons have backpacks too.  

Cooper plays by his own rules

The Killer waited for Lulu to climb down next, followed by Emeralda, Eric, and Fred (who fell and lost nearly half his hit-points.)  The dragon carefully moved down a passageway, with flashlight in hand, until he came across a horrific smell.  Ahead of the party was an ogre's lair, and the deadly beast was clutching the carcass of a bear.  The Killer looked back at the party, telling them to hold up, and then drew his sword.

Because all dragons have swords.

Emeralda found a secret door to the right, however, giving the party the opportunity to flank the difficult monster.  Since The Killer was the de facto party leader (to be fair it was Cooper's birthday, so why not?) he commanded his crew to use the secret door and enter the tight confines of a winding maze of caverns.  The party moved through the maze, The Killer in front, and Lulu right behind him looking for traps.  This process worked fine for a little while until the party's kender thief didn't find a collapsing ceiling trap!  Rocks rained down upon the two party members in front, but The Killer escaped injury mainly because he was wearing a helmet.

Because all dragons wear helmets.  

The cave-in definitely made forward progress difficult.  The passages behind them were long and still perilous, so the party didn't seem interested in backtracking.  But it was no problem whatsoever, as The Killer was quick to pull out the shovel he carried around (in his mouth, apparently) and command Fred to start digging.  

Because all dragons carry shovels.  

In the cavern adjacent to the cave-in there was a great deal of moss, slime, and fungus all over the ground and covering the walls.  The Killer, flashlight and sword in hand, entered the room without any attempt to conceal himself.  The rest of the team entered, looking to see if any loot was on the ground or tucked away somewhere.  But they didn't see the giant locusts!  Infesting this particular cavern, these horrific beasties were just waiting for another meal, and six of them sprang out spitting horrible acid at the party.  With the exception of The Killer, everyone was covered in burning acid spit, eating through armor, gear, and clothing.  The Killer felt that his sleep gas was necessary, and breathed a huge blast of the halitosis-laded spray upon the insects, putting all but one to sleep.  Fred wasn't going to let his dragon team member get all the credit though.  Wiping the nasty slime from his snout the minotaur fighter charged forward and gored the last remaining locust.

Carrie demonstrates Fred's charge attack

With the locusts gone the party entered the chamber directly behind the fungus room.  All of the moisture keeping the molds and slimes alive must've been coming from the pool at the center of the room.  On the other side of the small pool was a muddy shore, with a bone scroll case sticking out of the ground and a small raggedy sack resting at its side.  The Killer flew over to the other side, saw that a venomous sea snake was coiled around the pouch, and returned to the rest of the party.  

The Killer the told everyone it was safe.

So Fred swam across the pool and also saw the snake, but the minotaur wasn't about to let a small little serpent scare him.  In fact, Fred tried to eat the snake by biting the creature.  Unfortunately for Fred, the sea snake was horribly poisonous.  It bit the minotaur's head and killed him instantly.  Eric and Lulu killed the snake with stones and arrows and then grabbed the poor dead minotaur, dragging him back to the entrance to the room.  Eric read the scroll, saw that it was for Cure Light Wounds spell, and cast it on himself.  In the sack was five-hundred silver.  With one party member dead, it was time to get the heck out of the caves and see if there was a way to bring Fred back to life.  

Pop Pop shows Cooper his sad face

Returning to the start of the cave network the party needed to climb back out of the hole.  It was only 20 feet up, which would've been an easy climb for Lulu, who was going to take the rope to the top and tie it to something.  Well Lulu fell and died.  She didn't die instantly, but Eric had used all of his healing magic and the only scroll, so Lulu was a goner.  That was two bodies that needed to be returned to Haven.  The Killer grabbed the rope and flew up the hole, helping Emeralda and Eric back to the top.  Working together the three remaining characters pulled Fred and Lulu's bodies back to the surface, but didn't have a means of carrying them back to Haven.  That's when The Killer reminded the party that he brought his wagon along, you know, the one he pulls around all the time but had to leave outside the hole.

Because all dragons have wagons.  

Back in Haven Eric found a Temple of Paladine and begged his boss, Derrick, to resurrect his two friends.  Derrick told Eric that this could not be done without a significant donation to the Church.  Eric didn't have enough cash, and asked for a favor, which Derrick also denied.  Eric then tried to intimidate Derrick, pointing to The Killer and suggesting all the terrible things that could occur should Derrick not back down.  This didn't faze Derrick, nor did the blast of heat from The Killer, which the high-level cleric was able to withstand.  So Eric went outside and burned the building down.  This of course got the attention of a passerby: an evil cleric of Tahkisis.  The evil cleric gave Eric one look and said "I like the way you move."  

So the evil cleric offered to use a spell called "Reincarnate" on Eric's friends but he'd owe a big favor.  Eric agreed to this, because that sounded just like Resurrection, and what's the difference, right?  The Killer, Eric, and Emeralda waited around until the spells were cast and were reintroduced to their party members:  Fred the Half-Elf and Lulu the Hobgoblin.    

Friday, July 25, 2014

What I Loved Most About D&D 4th Edition

Yes, I said 4th Edition, as in 4E.  Wait, I need to get this out of the way first… 


Let me start off by saying that I am in no way trying to go down the path of the dreaded "Edition Wars".  Personally, I share the feelings of Bill Cavalier (aka the Dungeon Bastard) in that I support people playing any edition of D&D, and have found value in each game system that I've played myself.  Just wanted to put that out there!

My table
Okay we're back...

With the 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons hitting the shelves in the form of the Starter Set, and more announcements pending in a few weeks at Gen Con, I've seen the internet blow up with news and reviews of Wizards of the Coast's new system.  This is fantastic!  There is nothing better for our hobby than to see social media, forums, news outlets, and other websites focusing on this big release and shine a little light on role-playing games.  

But I'm not here to talk about the new edition of the game for two reasons: 

1)  Far better writers than I are already reviewing the materials
2)  I have not looked at the Starter Set and have only given the free basic rules a casual examination

I think I'm somewhat qualified to chat with you a little about 4th Edition however, since I've run multiple campaigns using the system, including Ravenscape (Ravenloft/Planescape Mashup), which lasted 100+ sessions and went from 1st to 30th level.  

But if you have read my other blog posts you'll see that I don't play 4th Edition D&D anymore.  I've moved on to the Cypher System (Numenera and The Strange), Savage Worlds, and OSR games like Basic Fantasy RPG.  But back when I played 4th Edition I was in a much different place in my life.  I was trying to balance a growing family (2 kids, with a 3rd added on later), a full-time career in operations management, and grad-school (I was going for my MBA).  This left little time for gaming, and most importantly game-prep.  But I still wanted to play regularly, both as a creative outlet for my own storytelling as well as a way to stay connected to the "reality" of a fantasy world. 

That's when 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons came to the rescue!

Come at me bro!

I was able to write and run adventures completely on the fly with 4E.  Many of the books, like Open Grave (one of my favorites), came with short scenarios, usually with three encounters.  Since I was completely strapped for time, my typical adventure prep session would go as follows:

  • Step One:  Find level appropriate series of encounters in a book like Dungeon Delve
  • Step Two:  Create a reason for the players to be near the series of encounters
  • Step Three:  Create a "reward" at the end of the series of encounters
  • Step Four:  PLAY!  

Now technically there was a step before Step One, where in the session prior I'd get an idea of what the players wanted to do next.  Also to be completely fair, most often Step One could be a very involved step, where I came up with lots of backstory to an adventure, all scrawled out on notecards while on a lunch break or during an especially slow class.  This was the case for many of my adventures, such as when the players role-played a legal battle in the City of Doors (I called that one Law and Order: Sigil Edition).  But I can promise you that Special Delivery, Parts 1 through 3, where our heroes had to deliver infernal sausages to some demons in the Abyss was just a bunch of encounters strung together battle after battle... after battle.  

And literally, that was three sessions and three encounters… because 4th Edition.

At the start of a 4 hour encounter… ugh!

But despite the challenges that the system presented, and the arguments from some of the players that the game was so different from previous versions, 4E kept us playing during a period of my life when I'd typically have no time to prep adventures.  Granted we had a very special cast of players, including two friends from my middle-school days and my brother, so when the rules broke down we just ad-libbed and talked through the encounter.  Maybe if I had a crew of rules-lawyers this would've been different, but I was quite lucky.  We continued with 4th Edition for a couple years after I finished my MBA, but when the Ravenscape Campaign ended the group disbanded.  With more time on my hands I gravitated to different systems, and even started taking a closer look at OD&D and OSR games, since by then my eldest daughter was ready to start rolling dice in earnest.  

Ravenscape's last encounter with Orcus, who was one of the PC's father

My 4E collection is barebones now.  I sold and traded many of my books last fall in order to help fund my new Kickstarter habit, so there is no going back.  

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition was far too balanced, had encounters designed to railroad players, and destroyed theater of the mind style combat by requiring battlemats for even the simplest scuffles.  But for a Dungeon Master desperate to play D&D while having absolutely no free time, it was the perfect.

That's what I loved most about D&D 4th Edition.  

My Ravenscape players signed the bottom of Orcus after our last battle, and one of them gave me this amazing "golden" 20-sider, which I still keep on my desk.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

OD&D Dragonlance: My Son and Dad Role-Play for the First Time

OSR stands for Family Values in our house

A Very Special Evening

I've had a lot of gaming sessions in my life, far too many to count.  Like most of you, while many are enjoyable and very memorable, those games that are truly legendary are few and far between.  I'll always remember the 48 hour one-on-one gaming marathon at my friend Andy's house.  The Ravenloft game where we broke out the incense, candles, and red silk scarfs for the first time... just amazing.  Most recently the Numenera game held in a local park!  

But all of these gaming sessions may pale in comparison to the epic evening where my daughter Carrie and I ran an OD&D/Basic Fantasy RPG session of Dragonlance for three generations of the Walls Family!  This event was especially special for three incredible reasons:  it was Carrie's first time GMing, and the first game for both my son and my dad.

Evie and her new camera ready to shoot while Carrie perched next to the screen

Game Master in Training

Carrie's had a copy of the Basic Fantasy RPG rules for about a year now, and while she can make characters on her own, all of her time spent has been on the other side of the GM's Screen.  Recently, however, Carrie asked if I would help her gamemaster a session of BFRPG, so I started showing her the parts of the book where she needed to focus.  Encounter rules, creature descriptions, a published adventure, Carrie poured through these materials and seemed ready for the serious responsibility of running a gaming session.  To help her develop her skills, we came up with the plan to split responsibilities.  I would tell the backstory and help guide the characters through the session while Carrie would deploy the monsters and run the encounters on her own.  Much to my surprise and delight, my daughter had no problem taking command of most of the adventure, coming up with NPC names, detailing areas on the map, and describing scenes to the players.  

In fact, the only reason I was necessary at all behind the screen was to tell the amazing backstory behind the Dragonlance Campaign Setting.  Maybe I need to lend her the Dragonlance Chronicles to read… 

First Time Players

My two daughters, Carrie and Evie, have been role-playing for quite some time.  Typically I start my kids at RPG's by age 5 for limited sessions, but since my wife and mom were playing (both having played an RPG before), Cooper would've been alone in the living room while the rest of us had fun at the table.  Unacceptable!  Little Cooper will be four-years-old in just a week, so why not give him a chance to explore Krynn.  We asked him what he wanted to be, giving him a choice of an amazing warrior or a powerful wizard.  We even asked him if he wanted to be a "really silly dwarf."  

He pointed at the D&D Rules Cyclopedia, said that there were dragons in the game and boldly declared that he was going be a dragon. A dragon named "The Killer".  So I dug through my stash, whipped out my copy of Council of Wyrms, and built Cooper's Brass Dragon hatchling.  

Now it was destiny that Cooper would play in one of my role-playing game sessions… when you are born into a family of geeks and nerds your future is pretty much predetermined.  But there is one other person in my family who had never played D&D (or any other RPG for that matter).  My dad, aka Pop Pop!  Whether he knows it or not, this has always been a dream of mine, to get my dad to play a role-playing game with me.  He's done Zombie Dice with us, and other typical board games, but the closest he's ever come to playing an RPG was when he took part in a How to Host a Murder in 1990.  

But to make up a character like Fred the Minotaur Fighter, this was a first!  

Actually Carrie built his character, and when my dad asked what a "minotaur" was, we had to sadly break it to him that it wasn't the same as a centaur.  In fact, we told him to think of the Chick-Fil-A cow, but clad in chainmail with a giant warhammer and some spears.  But no matter, he seemed content with that answer, and thought the name "Fred" was perfect.  

Our Adventuring Party

So besides our Hatchling Brass Dragon named The Killer and Fred the Minotaur Fighter, we had three other PC's in this session.  My wife Jen broke out her famous (at least in our family) character from previous sessions, Eric the Cleric.  Evie loves all things cute and pretty, and when she saw an Elf Fighter/Magic-User ready to go she named her Emeralda.  Finally my mom (aka Nini) is really short (like 4'11") so I told her she was going to play a Kender Thief who she named Lulu.  I'm a terrible son.  

Adventure Summary

Our brave band of adventures were assembled at the Tavern of Guinness located within the city of Haven:  Lulu, Fred, Eric, Emeralda, and their hatchling dragon who loudly proclaimed just after hatching that his name was "The Killer."  While enjoying their flavorful beverages a disheveled dwarven elder crashed through the tavern door gasping for breath.  He was bald and had a grey beard but strangely enough sported bright red eyebrows.  Seeing that an obvious adventuring party was in the establishment, the dwarf introduced himself as Coomoronth of Gribbnock, and his hill village of Gribbnock was in trouble!  Coomoronth explained that a horrible chicken woman (most likely a harpy) had came out of a giant hole that suddenly appeared in the center of the village and enchanted the entire town.  She also brought with her a horde of ill-tempered animals, such as giant toads, that infested the small enclave.  The elder offered the party 100 gold pieces, but Lulu and Eric balked at this deal.  Lulu wanted more money and Eric wanted to be proclaimed as the new high priest of Gribbnock if the party was successful.  Coomoronth agreed to these terms, and wished the adventuring party good luck.

The Killer had a wall of Transformers stationed around his character sheet

When the party reached Gribbnock they were immediately attacked by stirges!  After The Killer sprayed these beasties with a blast of hot breath, Fred charged full speed ahead but missed with his horns (and the stirge screamed olĂ©!)  Eric, Lulu, and Emeralda waded into the floating bat-bird-mosquito hybrids swinging maces, slinging stones, and firing arrows, but despite finishing off five of the six creatures, there was one pesky bug that just wouldn't die.  The awful creature sucked blood off of both Eric and Fred, but with a well-timed claw attack from The Killer, the flying bloodsucker was finally slain.

The party chose to enter the largest of the village's houses, hoping that the Harpy and her minions were located therein.  Unfortunately the door was locked, and Lulu was a rather terrible thief (like most at 1st level actually).  When the kender failed in picking the lock the party again turned to The Killer who blasted the door with hotness allowing Fred to bash through.  The house was dark, so the minotaur put his maul away and whipped out a torch and spear.  

Breath Weapon!!!

There were two passages to the left and ahead, but three doors on the right.  The first two doors led to nothing but the third door had a clucking chicken-woman (Harpy) that was ready to charm the party into doing her bidding.  She also had three giant toads ready to leap.  After taking a blast of hot breath from the party's resident brass dragon, and getting missed by the minotaur (who missed a LOT), the Harpy was successful in charming Fred, Lulu, and Eric.  Emeralda was pretty good with her bow, however, and between her arrows and The Killer's killer claws of death, the Harpy croaked leaving her giant toads behind.  This of course freed the three charmed heroes, allowing them to battle the remaining toads and surge ahead to victory!  Returning to Haven the party received their rewards and prepared themselves for future glory.  

In Closing

It was a great night of firsts… Carrie behind the screen, Cooper's dragon, and my dad as a cow-headed knight.  I've invested a lot of time these last few months trying to enlist new RPG'ers, showcase our hobby to the masses, and engage lapsed-gamers into regaining their passion.  This of course has allowed me to meet new gamers and get more involved with the gaming community as a whole.  

But for a "kid" who's been waiting to play Dungeons & Dragons with his dad ever since 1990, last night was truly a one-of-a-kind experience.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

#TBT Campaign - 2009 D&D 3.5 Ravenloft - Session 3

Ravenloft: Luminaire

This is a continuation of my Throwback Thursday feature covering the Ravenloft campaign that I ran online in 2009 using Skype and a few amazing friends from High School.  

The Second Test, Part Two


  • Rahotep, Human Cleric played by Tom
  • Garrett Jax, Gnome Rogue/Wizard played by Cone
  • Nathaniel, Half-Elf Ranger played by Joe-Pat
  • Barth, Caliban (Half-Orc) Barbarian played by Randy
Journal Date:  5th - 6th Days of Twelfth-Month, the year 754

The commotion of three fearless adventurers struggling against an advancing swarm of rats stirred poor Garrett Jax, from his paranoid catatonic state.  Before the little man could begin to panic, being trapped inside a coffin and all, the fuse on the small explosive inside the coffin’s lock blew.  Carefully, the gnomish burglar snuck out of the pine box, and gazed at the contents in the small cabin’s living room.  Although the still burning embers in the fireplace bathed the room with a warm orange glow, there were two coldly lit objects at the windows that caught the gnome’s low-light vision.  The spectral visages of two children, clawed by small talons and gnawed by jagged teeth.  They mouthed “take us home!” over and over before the skin fell apart, like fettucini noodles spilling from a hot pan.  

When the newly outfitted Rahotep (Studded Leather, Steak Knife, Shovel), Barth (Scimitar, Buckler, Soup Pot Helm), and Nathaniel (Cleaver and Blunderbuss full of nails and rock salt) returned to the living room to check on Garrett’s coffin, they found the poor little man hidden in the corner, convinced that they too were ethereal figures, either ghosts or figments of the imagination.  Eventually the party came together as one, and was able to convince the paranoid Garrett that all was well.  It was time to continue searching the home.  Unfortunately, it seemed that something was still alive and lurking in the attic above their heads.  First the gnome heard it, and then Nate began to hear a second creature bouncing around up there.  The party needed to decide another plan of action.  Moving into the main hallway of the cabin, the group armed Garrett with a small quarterstaff, not knowing the visceral horrors that the gnome would perform with said wooden device.  

While in the hallway, it appeared that a small previously unseen trap to the attic was being prodded and pushed by creatures above.  Before the characters could assess such a situation completely, a second door, this time the one to the east entrance of the home (just behind the characters) began to quake, as a large swarm of rats appeared ready for blood.  The characters planned to enter into the basement, and try to make a stand there against whatever came from above and to the east.  Unfortunately for the team, as soon as the paranoid Garrett passed the trap on his way towards the basement, it blew open and two dire rats appeared.  Snarling and vicious the two beasts were, however they were no match for the gnome’s stealth.  He hid against the wall quickly out of view, leaving the creatures a clear line of sight to the shovel wielding Rahotep.  Garrett was able to slay one of the rats with one sneak attack from his staff not a moment later, about the same time that Nathaniel decided to let the swarm face the power of his blunderbuss.  Now the kitchen door began to shake as well.  The half-elf ranger opened the door to the east quickly, leveling his big handcannon, only to be engulfed in a huge pile o’ writhing rodents.  He blew half of them apart with the shot, nails, and salt from his boomstick.  While Barth and Garrett dealt with the remaining dire rat, Rahotep “doom spelled” the swarm, which luckily caused enough fear in them that they decided to retreat after taking a few more hits from the party.  

Using his language skills with burrowing mammals, Garrett tried to understand what the dire rats were thinking in the kitchen.  All he could figure was that these creature wanted to come and eat “before the rest of ‘them’ come”... Barth was pissed.  He had had it with these rats.  Quickly, while Nathaniel was still trying to load his blunderbuss, Barth charged the kitchen door to the north.  Unfortunately, the attack was too strong, and Barth went with the door, clear into the room like riding a sled.  The door hit the counter, flipped the caliban over onto his back, with the door on top of him.  Oh, there were also four rats in the room who were getting ready to chew on the barbarian.  Garrett was the first on the scene, lashing out and striking one of the bastards with his killer staff.  And then Rahotep appeared, shovel in hand.  Seeing that there was no room to sneak any shots in himself, Nathaniel was not about to let the rest of the group get all the glory.  The half-elf tried to torpedo himself in a vault over the heads of both Rahotep and Garrett.  He failed, and ended up bull rushing Rahotep into the room, where he too hit the kitchen counter, and fell on top of the door wielding Barth.  Amazingly, Barth was still able to continue to slash and stab at the beasties, and in no time these rats were removed from their mortal coils.  

The party sent Garrett into the attic next, where he uncovered quite a few useful items, as well as a small passageway that led through the roof to the stable that was attached to the home.  The party next decided to try the basement, but unfortunately that area was full of horrific mold spore, and none of the remaining characters could go any further into that area.  So it was time to raid the stable.  Garrett and Rahotep would squeeze through the attic passage, while Nathaniel and Barth went outside and entered from the side door.  During their passage through the attic, however, both Garrett and Rahotep saw the apparitions of the two children again.  To Garrett, they cried out again to take them home.  To Rahotep, however, the little girl tried to make conversation.  Sweetly the little girl looked up at the dark skinned, freshly shorn priest and asked “do you like horses?”  

Rahotep said “NO!”

And with that, Rahotep was horrifically affected by the powerful emotions of a screaming ghost!  He became enfeebled, weak, and sick to his stomach.  It would nearly ruin his day.  

The team investigated the stable, only to find a desiccated horse full of rats.  The party lit that up quickly, killing all within.  Across the way was another building, a smaller home.  The party took off for that building next and did some exploring, uncovering a still with some bottles of moonshine (which they turned into molotov cocktails) and a masterwork bow with silver arrows.  

Next they were off to the graveyard.  Things were a bit trickier hear.  At first the ghosts appeared again, and this time they terrified tough Barth, who ran off to hide under one of the beds at the smaller home.  From the tombstones, the characters were able to make out that there had been a mother and father in this home, as well as a son with a young wife, and two younger children.  Everyone but the young children had been buried, and the young son and wife were apparently buried by the two that eventually turned to ghosts.  Putting two and two together, the characters figured that remains of the children must be somewhere... most likely the still unexplored barn.  Resolved to do right by these innocents, the characters headed off to the barn.

Inside the barn, the team attacked special forces style.  Faced with four dire rats, a rat swarm, and a wererat leader, the team first had to face the utter gore that covered the room from top to bottom.  Luckily the team made all of their saving throws against Horror, and were able to start their plan.  Garrett snuck in and intercepted the first dire rat, taking it out with a quick blow.  Nathaniel used his blunderbuss to blow apart a second, while Barth lit the rat swarm on fire with a molotov cocktail (only to get covered in flaming rats himself not a moment later).  Rahotep went into spell casting mode, and managed to summon a very effective poisonous giant centipede, that infected the wererat with a debilitating poison.  Once the smaller creatures were dispatched, it was down to the wererat and Nathaniel’s bow.  Unfortunately for the wererat, Nasty Nate’s a pretty good shot.  The team found the bones of the two children covered by dead deer, raccoons, and badgers.  With his trusty shovel, Rahotep helped bury them in the cemetery.  

Done with their mission, and with the sun starting to rise, the characters headed back to Pont-a-Museau.  Brandt congratulated each of them, and gave them a small stipend to spend on equipment for their next mission.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

#GetOutAndGame - Numenera at Panera - The Meal of Boregal Part Two

The Meal of Boregal translates to the wonderful Recursion of Panera

Okay, I know that The Strange isn't out just yet, but if you say "Numenera at Panera" ten times fast you get a free cypher… true story.
Last month Andy, Carrie, Emily, and I all sat down at the local North Huntingdon Five Guys Burgers and Fries for an exciting game of Numenera!  Even though I have been playing in the Ninth World since the fall, none of my groups ever had the opportunity to play through the Beale of Boregal, an adventure featured in the back of the Numenera Corebook.  Since Emily was a first time roleplayer it seemed like the perfect opportunity to let her try her hand at our favorite hobby.  Well the event was a great success!  Not only did we have an incredible time playing in public, we also discovered another wonderful place to play our games in the community.  Turns out that Five Guys was really excited to have us play, and we were invited to return. 

This month we wanted to try something a little different.  Part of my #GetOutAndGame scheme is to showcase tabletop gaming in as many places as possible.  So... new month, new restaurant.  Our local gaming club, the Norwin Game Knights, had an exciting time playing The Resistance at Panera, so we figured that if management didn't mind us shouting "spy" over and over again, they'd be cool with a little dice slinging!  As always I had Andy and Carrie with me, and Emily was up for another trip (she even updated her character, since the last one was a pre-gen).  We even grabbed newcomer Jeremy, who joined the Game Knights back in April and is an avid tabletop board gamer.  Finally, my middle daughter Evie  begged to join in the fun, so we made her a character as well.  I know she's only eight, and still needs a bit of help to play, but how can a geek dad say no?

If you happened to miss our last episode of #GetOutAndGame, feel free to check out our last post.

Our Characters

  • Vectoria, a Vengeful Glaive who Bears a Halo of Fire, played by Carrie W.
  • Rygax, a Mlox Jack who Separates Mind from Body, played by Andy L.
  • Elmy, a Mystical Nano who Siphons Power, played by Emily B. 
  • Ezmerelda, a Clever Nano who Controls Gravity, played by Evie W.
  • Remy, a Swift Jack who Works the Back Alleys, played by Jeremy D. 

Adventure Summary

Our trio of brave adventurers, Rygax, Vectoria, and Elmy were quite pleased with Seria's progress under Darvin's care, and the young girl was able to share some of the details of the psychic force that was engaging her mind and most likely causing such trouble amongst the local wildlife.  Now with an inhibitor attached to her head, Seria heard the sounds in her mind with more clarity, and said that the entity's power originated in the town of Embered Peaks, to the north of Cylion Basin.  Not knowing what kind of "thing" they would be encountering, the party asked Darvin if she knew of any local adventurers who would be willing to accompany the numenera hunters into the unknown.  Ezmerelda was an associate of Darvin, a skilled nano with powers over gravity who was known in the community as a brave defender of those in need.  Remy was a local crook, who had just recently escaped a cypher-related disaster in which he stole a pair of devices, only to have them interact with his existing pieces of numenera.  When Rygax and his team met their two new recruits they just shrugged and showed them to their aneen.  Darvin fashioned inhibitors similar to those she had given Seria to be work by the beasts of burden, which helped the party make good time as they traveled north.   

Entering the town of Embered Peaks it was clear that things were not okay.  The buildings were all showing signs of damage, small fires burned in the alleys, and the local population  had turned upon each other.  The party chose to enter a local shop owned by a man named Petris to see what was going on.  Petris, a dry goods merchant, told the characters very little.  He just kept asking if the numenera hunters were the "crazy ones."   When it seemed like little could be gained from this poor soul, four of the characters left the store while Remy went through the man's cash register and departed ten shins the richer.  Outside of Petris' establishment there was a young girl.  Hoping to gain her trust, Vectoria knelt down next to the girl and asked her to share the woes of the town.  Possibly due to overhearing others speaking in the village, the young girl told Vectoria the following words:  "the dead lie here."  The way the girl said these words was troubling to Vectoria however; her inflection of the word "lie" had nothing to do with rest but with dishonesty.  

Without Seria to help pick up on the psychic impressions in the town, the party needed to create a makeshift telepath.  When Remy had robbed that Cylion Basin man, taking some of his cyphers and creating a nasty pool of acid in the ground as the result of a negative reaction, one of the items acquired was an implant that could make the user telepathic for an hour.  Remy offered to use the cypher on himself, but Rygax was unsure if the swift jack could remain in control of his own mind with the implant engaged.  So the party tied the jack up with rope and cord and installed the cypher.  At first Remy had a hard time overpowering the incredible force of the local psychic background noise, but Vectoria had a particularly cruel plan.  Using her skills at torture, Vectoria worked at tearing out Remy's fingernails to help "ground" him in reality during this process.  

Yes… my ten year old daughter's glaive used her torture skill on another player.

Remy could now determine that the source of the psychic impressions was inside the Forum of the Dead.  Gaining access to this building was relatively easy.  After Rygax sent his "eye" through the door, he saw a young man looking for "something" on the floor, oblivious to everything around him.  Vectoria knocked, and the party was allowed in.  It didn't take a lot of questioning for the young attendant to direct the party downstairs to Yieran, a man who would be able to give them more information.  It was clear that the attendant was also troubled, and there was a glimmer of hope in his eye that the party could do something to heal the town's woes.  

The stairwell to the lower levels of the Forum of the Dead was unusually cold, and after traveling down a tunnel, the party finally met Yieran.  The man was talking to a dead man on a table, and the dead man was talking back!  Yieran explained that he needed the answer, but it had to be the correct answer.  This confused the party, who disclosed that they knew something already about the dead being less than truthful.  Yieran confirmed that there was a device that he was using, a Resurrection Device, which allowed him to communicate with the dead.  Unfortunately the answers to questions asked were always lies.  It was the hope of Yieran and the rest of the town elders that they could use this machine as money-making tool, to bring the dead back to life completely.  But all their tinkering did was make the machine slowly destroy the minds of all fauna in the region.  Yieran begged the party to help turn the machine off, but he was still interested in keeping it intact.  He admitted that he didn't know how to do this, and that was the question that he kept asking the dead elders… whom he killed.  

The party entered the next room and found a giant mass of gelatinous bubbles surrounding… something.  When Remy tried to connect with the device telepathically his brain ached.  It was clear that any communication was going to be done at a great cost, but Elmy hatched an interesting plan.  Using her power to siphon energy, the mystical nano reached out and sapped some of the energy from the Resurrection Machine.  This allowed the party to communicate with the device through Remy for a few moments without risk of taking injury.  The device left the impression on Remy that it wanted to be destroyed, and directed the swift jack towards a switch in the wall that would lead to it's demise.  When Remy suggested that the party take this course of action Yieran darted into the room.  The man wanted the machine turned off, not destroyed.  Raising a sword in his hand to stop the party, Yieran was a moment away from striking a member of the party before Remy used his other cypher to create a box of force around the elder.  Now trapped there was nothing he could do while the party flipped the switch.

The giant mass of bubbles slowly dissolved into a pool of liquid, leaving behind a petrified brain that was countless years old.  Leaving Yieran in the box (the cypher would work for an hour) the party took a rod from the wall that could act as an artifact and went outside.  Not sure where to go next, Remy looked at the petrified brain he was carrying and asked it where "it" wanted to go.  

"Anywhere you're going!"  


Jeremy: "What happens if this fails?" (new player referring to a die roll)
Jim:  "You'll see…" (Game Master, smiling)

"Telepathetic!" - Emily came up with a new, useless esotery.  

"I can torture him… that's effective!" - Carrie found a new use for her skills in order to help the party. 

"Do we want to help it?  Is't the goal done if we destroy it?" - Jeremy was really struggling with helping Boregal.

"Petri-fried is when you're stoned and fried at the same time." - Jim came up with a new term as well.  


I'll be honest, we didn't ask the North Huntingdon Panera if we could play here before we started rolling, but this location is fantastic!  By picking a Sunday evening, not exactly their busy time of the week, we were not in the way, and there was a really huge table in the center of the restaurant that was just perfect.  So if there is a Panera in your neck of the woods, it's definitely worth checking out.