Saturday, January 30, 2016

DCCRPG - Frozen in Time - Part 3

From the Wastes to the West

I've thoroughly enjoyed running the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role-Playing Game with our young group of new role-players in the Norwin Game Knights.  When we first began with this group of Crawling Under a Broken Moon characters, I wasn't sure if we'd just be playing a one-shot, or a mini-series.  Now it looks like we've got a monthly campaign with a core of regulars and a rotating cast of characters.  

Frozen in Time, a DCCRPG adventure by Michael Curtis, was an incredible selection for our group of wastelanders.  The adventure took us three sessions, and matched perfectly with the Crawling Under a Broken Moon setting.  Every room and chamber brought new and exciting challenges, some weirder than others and all of them quite awesome!  Of course I had to throw in a few crazy additions of my own.  

The talking berries and killer dessert gelatin were both mine.  

I mentioned to several of the players that this could be our last session of a mini-series, or the end of the first chapter of a true campaign.  The choice was theirs.  Imagine my delight when, at the end of the adventure, the vote was for "more DCCRPG!"  Ending the adventure in with a minor cliffhanger didn't hurt.  I won't spoil the ending just yet, but let's just say that the next adventure will feature Black Powder, Black Magic by Stormlord Publishing…

… to be used in conjunction with Crawling Under a Broken Moon…

… because mutants and robots definitely belong in westerns!

The custom Wasteland-Van by Carrie

Meet the Wastelanders

  • Lisrayten, the Mutant amalgamation of three characters with a tortoise shell, played by Carrie
  • Fenrir, the robotic Cleric of the ancient deity Google, played by Alex
  • Mr. Handy, the Robot and multi-purpose floating tool-box, played by Craig
  • Lord Old Man Legolas of Ikea (LOMLOI), the great Elf noble and headless goat herder, played by Evan
  • Doug, the most low-key Dwarf in the wastes… also the most devastating soldier in Umerica, played by Zach
  • McCarthy, a local chief and Warrior who has been trapped in a massive pea pod for nearly fifty years.  
  • Scrooges McDucks IX, a mutated duck-thing that also doubles as the party's Thief.  A big ball of feathers with three heads, seven legs, and five wings.  

Michael's rendition of Scrooges McDucks IX

Frozen in Time, Part 3

Before the party of wastelanders took the only accessible lift tube to another level, it was time to be reunited with their old friend Scrooges McDucks IX.  The mutant duck-thing had been taking its time exploring the facility, and managed to free another poor soul: the warrior McCarthy.  When introduced to Lord Old Man Legolas and his associates, McCarthy stated that he was a noble chief, who had found himself trapped in a giant pea pod for over forty years.  


While there were three possible lifts on the main level of the facility, one was broken and another locked by a key the party had yet to acquire.  So Lift Tube B was the only option.  After a long-winded discussion about who was going to go up the tube and who was staying behind (with many reminders about what happened the last time someone split the party) Lisrayten jumped in the tube and ascended to the next level.  

Stepping out of the tube one by one the party found themselves in the middle of a hallway.  The door to the right required a gold disk key, which they had yet to find.  But the door to the left had a simple palm lock.  Lord Old Man Legolas of Ikea unlocked the door revealing a large apartment style room.  Closest to the party was a comfortable couch and chairs, and on the far side a large bed flanked by end tables and lamps.  In the center of the room, hovering near the bed, was a spherical floating "bot", covered in spines.  

A look of sheer terror covered Old Man Legolas' elven face as the bot started to float in his direction!  The rest of the party filled the room, but stood back and watched as the bot continued its advance towards the elf.  Finally, Old Man Legolas grabbed a can of oil and prepared to throw it at the bot, shouting to Lisrayten to light the construct on fire.  Old Man Legolas lobbed the can with every ounce of strength in his being…

… and missed.  

The rest of the party looked on in horror as the floating bot moved closer and closer to Old Man Legolas.  The bot reached out with a metallic tentacle, a long spine at the end, and jabbed it into Old Man Legolas' flesh, pumping a greenish liquid into the elf.  But rather than feel poisoned, Old Man Legolas felt reinvigorated.  His wounds were healed, and he was ready for action!  This floating bot wasn't a force of evil, but rather a Medical Bot!

"Hey, I got the key," announced Mr. Handy.

While everyone was paying attention to the slow moving Medical Bot, preparing for combat, Mr. Handy skipped the whole scene and went up to explore the bed.  Resting on top of the bed had been a long dead, seven foot tall humanoid.  In its hand was a gold disk key, which Mr. Handy took.  On to the next chamber!

Doug the dwarf grabbed the gold disk key and opened the door at the far end of the chamber.  Inside were ten pedestals displaying wonderful artifacts:

  • A katana
  • A suit of full flowery plate armor
  • A statuette of a humanoid face
  • A box with straps and a pair of bracers
  • A blaster rifle
  • A typewriter-looking-device
  • A large Hoplite shield
  • A star shaped badge that read "Deputy Sheriff" 
  • A painted ceramic vase
  • … and finally, and most fantastically… a petrified wooden plank!

Lisrayten in turtle mode, next to the Petrified Wooden Plank

Before the team could raid the goodies, they had to deal with the elephant in the room, and by "elephant" I mean a massive metal robot with a plexiglass head, weird antennae, and huge mechanical arms ending with a trio of pincers.  

"WARNING!  WARNING BILL ROBERTSON!" the robot announced before charging at Doug.  

What played out next resembled a very inefficient production line.  

The party backed up to the door, so that several characters could keep the robot bottlenecked.  Lisrayten, with her sturdy tortoise shell and brutal sledgehammer, would lay the smack down on the robot nearly every round.  Lisrayten was supported by both Scrooges McDucks IX and Old Man Legolas, who each used their bows to pepper the robot from a distance.  

This part of the combat was working.  The inefficient part was how the party's other melee combatants chose to face off with the robot.  

One by one, McCarthy, Doug, and Mr. Handy would step up to take a swing, then miss, then get hit, and then retreat to Fenrir.  The Cleric of Google would then attempt to heal the melee character, fail, and shrug.  Rather than get back into the action, McCarthy, Doug, and Mr. Handy chose to stand back and just watch Lis, Scrooges, and LOMLOI do all the work.


But once Scrooges McDucks IX's arrow dropped the massive robot, you better believe that everyone charged into the room to claim their prizes!  

Collecting the treasures proved to be much more difficult than expected.  Most of the prizes were protected by deadly security fields, and while some were only operating intermittently, several were operating at full capacity.  

Actually, a few of the items were on deactivated pedestals, which made for easy grabs.  Fenrir loved his new katana and Mr. Handy felt safe and secure behind that massive Hoplite shield while wearing the sheriff's badge.  

The items behind the security fields were much more complicated to grab.  First, those locked behind intermittent shields (like the blaster, armor, and vase), required the character to quickly reach in and grab the item before getting shocked.  Those behind active shields (notably the piece of petrified wood), were impossible to recover.  Since getting shocked would knock a character out for a period of ten to thirty minutes, sometimes after suffering significant burn damage, this whole process would take three hours.  

Eventually Scrooges McDucks IX got his blaster [although he had no idea how to use it], and Old Man Legolas donned his new suit of full plate armor [which I said was made out of "flowers", and thus could be worn by an elf, although with the same spellcheck penalty].  Doug wanted the vase, but knocked it over when he collapsed after getting shocked.  The dwarf would've died if not for Fenrir's healing magic of Google!

There was only one item that was worthy of McCarthy's greed… that plank of petrified wood!  The warrior would make multiple attempts to grab the plank of wood, each time getting shocked.  Fenrir felt sorry for McCarthy, so he made several attempts too, each leading to failure.  

Here's how it all played out for McCarthy's attempts over that three hour period:

Fail badly!  Fail!   Fail badly!  Watch Fenrir Fail!  Fail badly, and with a complete loss of self-respect!

It took all of those three hours for McCarthy and the rest of the party to realize that there was no grabbing that wooden plank.  The party left the room feeling like they had been defeated...  

[… seriously, you'd think they never grabbed the blaster, shield, armor, and katana.  I even made the latter two items even more awesome, as I gave the katana a bonus against slime creatures and made that armor "flower mail."]

With the gold disk key in hand, the party left the upper levels of the facility and ventured deep into the complex via the last remaining active lift tube.  The lift emptied out into a large chamber with six living creatures trapped within stasis fields.  At the far side of the room was a big, metal door.  Doug moved towards the metal door, but there was a power fluctuation causing an ant-man to get free of the stasis field.

The ant-man charged in anger!  

The party, backed up by Lisrayten's heavy hammer, finished off the ant-man with ease.  Another power flux caused an owl bear to come free, but with a wave of his hand and a whisper to Google, Fenrir paralyzed the beast.  

The wastelanders were on a roll!

Before any other creatures could find their way free of the stasis fields, the entire party fled through the northern door into a hallway.  Fearing that they could be chased by more monsters, Old Man Legolas used his Ward Portal spell to seal the door behind them.  

Scrooges McDucks IX was the first into the northernmost chamber: a large room, similar in size to the stasis room on the same level, but with a platform glowing with swirly blue mist.  Mr. Handy and Fenrir examined the platform, and believed it to be some kind of teleportation pad.  It was certainly one-way, at least in its present state (Fenrir definitely broke a few of the knobs and levers while messing with the controls.)  

Before the party could regroup and plan out their next course of action Scrooges McDucks IX jumped onto the teleportation pad.  He was gone!  

One by one, the rest of the wastelanders shrugged and jumped through as well.

[I guess everyone finally learned not to split the party… but was this the best way to express that lesson?]

Each of the characters woke up on dusty ground, with a hot sun burning high above.  They looked around and found themselves on an old road, with rickety wooden buildings lining each side.  Thirty feet away, standing in the street, a mustached man with a pair of six-guns and a ten-gallon hat readied himself for action.

"I don't reckon that ya'll came from anywhere good," the gruff man announced.  "You best be prepared to draw!"

If the characters had been more careful, they would've noticed that the teleportation pad had been designed by Hackerman… and they were all just hacked back in time to the Old West!

[Judge's Request to any artist reading this:  I'd love a picture of a handyman robot with a hoplite shield and sheriff's badge, a three-headed duck ball with seven legs and a blaster, a turtle mutant with a sledgehammer, a medieval warrior with a longsword, an old elf with flowery armor and a bow, a robot priest of Google with a katana, and a dwarf with a black-powder musket, all standing together on a dusty road getting ready for a showdown with a cowboy.]

Lord Old Man Legolas of Ikea, self portrait


"We should just call the adventure 'Doug Quest.'"  - Judge James' recommendation after commenting about how often Zach's character Doug finishes off the big bad monsters.

"Guys, maybe this is a pharmacy!" - Carrie was pretty close on her analysis of the floating medical bot in Null Eleven's Death Room.  

"Don't forget about 'LOMLOI'… or he will forget about you."  - Carrie predicts that one day, Lord Old Man Legolas of Ikea will be a deity, and there will be a reckoning.

"You guys may be leaving, but that piece of wood could be the best thing ever!" - Alex wasn't about to give up on that piece of petrified wood.  

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Cypher System Fantasy - Through the Night

Like Natalie Imbruglia...

... I'm torn!

I think I dropped the ball during last night's game, or perhaps there wasn't a ball to drop, and that was the problem.  I'm really not sure if I'm the one that messed up last night's session, or if it was just the adventure I chose to convert.  Certainly I'm not going to blame my players.  I've got a table, rather "virtual table", of seasoned Cypher System veterans in my regular Tuesday night game.  The adventure was a lot of fun the last few times I ran it, but that was nearly twenty-years ago, back when I was rocking AD&D 2nd Edition.

No, it was definitely my fault.  I'm definitely not qualified to run a mystery-themed adventure.  If you want action-adventure, over-the-top-weird, or slapstick comedy role-playing, I'm your guy.  

Let me back up.

After wrapping up Starfall in Ardeyn I started looking for our next Cypher System Fantasy adventure.  Admittedly, I became spoiled by Starfall in Ardeyn.  While other adventures for The Strange take place over multiple recursions, this particular quest was confined to the Land of the Curse.  It was really great to just have an "Ardeyn-native" adventure to play over the course of three weeks.  No conversions.  No reskinning.  All I had to do was read six pages (two of which were maps) and I was good to go.  

I considered reskinning one of the Numenera adventures from Weird Discoveries, but I couldn't decide on which one to pick.  I could tear out the Ardeyn section of The Dark Spiral, but two of my players have already been through that adventure.  So there I was, sitting on the floor in front of my bookshelf, stumped on "what next", when I started digging through my old copies of Dungeon Magazine.  If I could find an easy "Side Trek" adventure to run with minimal converting, that bought me at least a couple weeks of time until the next adventure.

I first flipped through Dungeon Magazine Issue #29 back as a twelve-year-old newcomer to AD&D 2nd Edition.  The magazine wasn't mine; it belonged to Chuck, my very first dungeon master.  A year older than me, Chuck had no problem lending me the occasional D&D supplement.  I can still remember reading through the magazine in bed way past midnight while my mom thought I was asleep.  Each of the four full-length adventures looked magnificent, but rather daunting.  Through the Night, a Side Trek by Leonard Wilson, was much easier to digest.  

The adventure was relatively simple.  An adventuring party traveling from point "a" to point "b" finds itself in search of shelter.  The nearby inn seems like safe haven from a vicious storm, but as the characters soon discover, no one is left alive in the inn.  All of the clues left behind by the dead point to vampires, but in reality the building is infested by a Slithering Tracker, an intelligent transparent ooze that drains the blood of victims.  

I vaguely remember running Through the Night for my younger brother once before Chuck came looking for the borrowed magazine.  Fortunately, I found another copy of Issue #29 at a book store called "Allied Hobbies" a few months later, and quickly snatched it up.  I'd run the adventure a few more times, most notably during a short-lived summer Ravenloft campaign.  


The adventure seemed right for my Cypher System Fantasy campaign.  The player characters were traveling from Elefar to Shalmarn along a road, and the trip would take several nights.  I could easily fit a cursed inn along the journey.  As far as an actual "conversion", all I had to do was come up with stats for the Slithering Tracker.

Slithering Tracker:  Level 4, 12 health, stealth and attacks while hidden as level 7.  On a successful attack, the victim is paralyzed.  Healing the victim requires Alleviate, a Tier 2 power for the Works Miracles focus, and costs an additional level of effort.  The paralysis lasts one hour.

I probably would've made the paralysis much easier to overcome if Frank wasn't using that particular focus, but I had to stack the deck in my favor, at least a little.  

That's it.  That's the end of the conversion.  

On to the mess... 

Living 4 Crits Presents

Cypher System Fantasy Campaign

Ardeyn: Land of the Curse


  • Sister Sariety, a Charming Speaker who Works Miracles, played by Frank
  • Shenuesh, a Rugged Adept (Combat) who Wields Two Weapons at Once, played by Jeremy
  • Yaren, a Foolish Warrior who Stands Like a Bastion, played by Craig
  • Verrenn, a Spectral*** Adept who Casts Spells, played by Marc
** Masters Foot and Fist is from Worlds Numberless and Strange by Monte Cook Games
*** Spectral is a new and original focus written by Marc Plourde and featured on his blog, Inspiration Strikes

Episode 8: Through the Night

The party of adventurers left Elefar heading for Shalmarn.  The trip through was only supposed to last a few more days, but while traveling through a mountain pass a terrible storm started covering the road with "sky moss".  This mold-filled green snow came down from the mountains, and could cause rashes, blisters, and mild dandruff to Ugallu like Zamani.  

(Zamani was nowhere to be seen for this adventure, by the way, as he had decided to travel ahead of time and meet everyone in Shalmarn.  Yes, this is the best excuse I could come up with for Andy not being able to play.  Again, sorry.)  

Hoping to get out of the storm, the characters found the Inn of the Smiling Spirit along the road.  The inn appeared abandoned, and after exploring the courtyard and the building's exterior, Shenuesh carefully slipped through a window.  The inside of the inn stunk of garlic, and there was a dead boy in the corner of the common room, all blood drained from his body.  

A local legend in Ardeyn spoke of a creature called a "Moriaggaan".  This vampiric creature was an undead qephilim that appeared much like a zombie when hungry, but looked almost normal when full of blood.  Like vampires, Moriaggaan have an allergy to garlic.  There was no sign of a qephilim in the room, but Verrenn noted a weird anomaly behind the bar.  One moment there was a liquid spilled on the floor, and the next it was gone.  

After searching the rest of the inn's first floor Verrenn went back into the common room by himself to close the main door.  Thud!  The rest of the party rushed in and saw the Adept paralyzed on the floor, his ectoplasmic body sprawled out and dissolving.  Sister Sariety was able to heal Verren of this paralysis, and the party continued their search.

On the second floor, one of the bedrooms had a large hay bed that seemed especially comfy.  Shenuesh just had to lay down in the bed, but noticed that the bed was quite damp. He quickly found himself paralyzed.  When Sister Sariety realized the paralysis, she healed the lycanthrope.  

The investigation moved to the basement, where the party saw a trail of "cleanliness" mark the floor right under the bar where Verrenn first saw the wetness.  Some kind of liquid, perhaps a Beer Golem or Demon of Bed Wetting, was moving about.  Perhaps this was the culprit?  

Determined not to split up anymore, the adventurers started searching for the wetness.  Signs of the creature were all over the common room, but not the creature itself.  While the party still hoped to find Avrah, the innkeeper, they eventually found her hastily dug grave behind the building.  The young boy must have buried her before succumbing to the wetness himself.  

When they couldn't find any signs in the stable, the team decided that they were done with the "Demon of Bed Wetting."  One of the characters had a cypher that would create a nice shelter elsewhere, so Shenuesh lit a torch and burned down the inn.

(He nuked the site from orbit.)

As the party left the scene of the arson, they noticed that several of the chickens in a nearby coop were all dead.  Perhaps the Demon of Bed Wetting survived!?!


En route to the city of Shalmarn, Shenuesh declared to the rest of the party, "I am no longer graceful, I am now rugged."  

Jim - "Andy is not playing tonight."
Marc - "Now we won't have a wizard!"

"Man, the literal quality of these GM Intrusions is getting bad... here's some pocket lint and a piece of chewed bubble gum.  Do you accept?" - Marc commenting on how the GM holds two of anything up to the camera when calling for a GM Intrusion.  

Marc - "What can knock out a dead guy?"
Jeremy - "Garlic elementals."

"Oh boy.  You know what, guys?  I think we have to check out the well.  I ain't goin' near it, I have a fear of wells." - Sister Sariety doesn't like wells.  

Parting Thoughts

My players admitted that they weren't sure which way to go at the end of the adventure, and as I mentioned earlier, I'm pretty sure this was my fault.  The scene that threw them for a loop was when I had the Slithering Tracker attack Shenuesh when he used the bed.  This was part of a GM Intrusion, and I was trying to guide the players towards the inn's liquids.  All this did was muddy the waters.  The Slithering Tracker would only attack characters left on their own, but "don't split the party" is definitely the law of our group.  

In the end, it probably was the wisest move to just light the inn on fire...

... it was the only way to be sure.  

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sea Lion Abbey - A Recursion for The Strange

A Break from the Silly

This week on Cypher Live, +Ryan Chaddock+Marc Plourde, and I focused an entire show on Worlds Numberless and Strange by +Bruce R Cordell and +Monte Cook.  This robust sourcebook for The Strange features expansions for the two core foci, Ardeyn and Ruk, as well as almost seventy new recursions.  Since part of the fun of running The Strange is coming up with new and exciting recursions, each of the Cypher Live hosts designed an entirely new world to add to this multiverse: 

In turn, I came up with Sea Lion Abbey.

I've crafted quite a few kooky recursions since the release of The Strange.  There was Frazzle Fern Forest, my contribution to the Recursion Codex.  I like to describe "Triple F" as 16-bit Mario Kart meets The Fast and the Furious.  Then you have Gobbler Road, where I mashed together Thanksgiving, killer turkeys, and Mad Max: Fury Road.  Witness me, Immortan Tom!  

Given my reputation for bizarre and unusual mash-ups, I wanted to try something more serious this time.  I decided to build a recursion that was the antithesis of my typical designs:  subtle rather than over-the-top.  As a fan of history, with a strong fascination for alternate history scenarios, I decided to go back to the darkest period of the 20th century.  

Sea Lion Abbey 

In the early months of World War Two, Hitler and his generals drafted plans for a possible invasion of England: Operation Sea Lion.  Following the defeat of France, Nazi Germany would mount an amphibious assault against southern England, with the goal of neutralizing the United Kingdom's ability to continue air and sea operations.  Thankfully for the free world, the UK won the Battle of Britain, and the Kriegsmarine was severely outmatched by the Royal Navy.  Faced with the impossible task of crossing the English Channel, Hitler decided to turn his attention towards the Soviet Union.  

But what if Nazi Germany had the means to mount a successful invasion?  In Sea Lion Abbey, Nazi Germany gained the following technological advances a few years sooner than in our world:

  • Jet technology, specifically the ME 262, is mastered by the end of the 1930's, just in time for the Battle of Britain.  
  • German U-Boat technology is advanced by five years, and the Kriegsmarine is equipped with sleek submarines capable of operating underwater almost indefinitely.  
  • Development of large troop transport U-Boats able to infiltrate English waterways with special forces.  

Sea Lion Abbey explores this "what if?" scenario, with a nod to the popular Masterpiece Theater production, Downton Abbey.  While researching the history for this recursion, I discovered that Highclere Castle, the actual 19th century estate that serves as Downton Abbey, would've been behind enemy lines if Operation Sea Lion had been successful.  In addition, the German 9th Army that would've invaded north from a beachhead at Portsmouth (due south of Highclere Castle), could've been led by General Johannes Blaskowitz.  

While he was a decorated soldier in the Wehrmacht, General Blaskowitz was also an outspoken critic of Nazi reprisals against civilians, and the actions of the Einsatzgruppen in Poland.  In our real history, General Blaskowitz was relegated to a minor governorship of northern France.  But in the Sea Lion Abbey recursion, the German general and veteran of World War One commands the forces occupying the region surrounding Griffin Estate.  

Sea Lion Abbey Attributes
  • Level:  5
  • Laws:  Standard Physics.  Germany's conquest of England is not the work of super-science but a few lucky (or unlucky, for the Allies) breaks in technology.  Sea Lion Abbey's physics are identical to 20th Century Earth.  
  • Playable Races:  Human
  • Foci:  Entertains, Excels Physically, Learns Quickly, Negotiates Matters of Life and Death, Operates Undercover, Steals
  • Skills:  Etiquette
  • Connection to Strange:  A farmhouse on the Griffin Estate, built in the 18th century, has an old well, at the bottom of which is a gate to the Strange Itself.
  • Connection to Recursions:  There is a dark and enigmatic member of General Blaskowitz's staff, Colonel Keil, who possesses the means to construct an inapposite gate to the Eleventh Reich.
  • Size:  6,000 acres.  Sea Lion Abbey is limited in size to Griffin Estate.
  • Spark:  25%
  • Traits:  Polite.  Any creature with the spark attempting to influence the reactions of another through positive social interaction may reduce the difficulty by one step.  

Operation Sea Lion, Hitler's invasion of England, began on September 15th, 1940 following the Luftwaffe's victory over the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain.  Although it took Nazi Germany nearly a month to establish a strong beachhead on England's "Southern Front", with the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy both neutralized, the Wehrmacht's eventual success was all but guaranteed.  By January, 1941, German forces had pushed as far west as Exeter and Bristol, north to Oxford, and east to Ipswich.  Faced with the significant loss of life that would come with any attempt to capture London and in turn the British Monarchy, the German High Command decided to simply encircle the city and starve it into submission.

[It should be noted, that this mirrors what happened to Leningrad during Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union.  The people of Leningrad were starved to death, and many resorted to cannibalism.  Whether or not this could've happened to England, given Hitler's view of the British compared to the Russians, is certainly subject to discussion.]  

With most of the English towns and cities suffering under Nazi boots, Griffin Estate is an unusual exception.  Here, the noble English country life goes on much as it has for the last one-hundred years, albeit with Nazi soldiers and officers as a constant reminder of what has happened to the rest of the island nation.

The Wehrmacht's 9th Army that landed in Portsmouth and conquered north to Oxford, is under the command of General Johannes Blaskowitz.  A veteran of the Great War, General Blaskowitz became intrigued when he came across Griffin Castle, and met Lord Thomas Griffin, a fellow Great War veteran.  The two struck an unusual friendship, with Lord Griffin offering (symbolically, as he would've been required if asked) nearly half of Griffin Estate to serve as the General's base of operations.  Lord Griffin even required his own serving staff to cater to the Nazi officers, giving them access to all the luxuries expected of an English nobleman.  

Despite the outward appearances, and likewise sharp rumors, that Lord Griffin is a dastardly turncoat to the Crown, the noble is resisting in his own way.  Missing an arm and leg from his time in the trenches, when Lord Griffin first learned of the invasion at Portsmouth, he knew there was little he could do directly to halt the advancing German onslaught.  But honor required that he do something, anything that could hurt the Nazis.  

Lord Griffin chose to confront brutal butchery with English etiquette.  

When a recursor translates to Sea Lion Abbey, they immediately take on the role of someone in the serving staff at Griffin Castle, the heart of Griffin Estate.  At first glance, the staff is going about it's typical day to day routine.  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served regularly.  Afternoon tea is always on schedule.  Rooms are cleaned, gardens and farms tended, and guests treated with the utmost respect.  

Some of these guests are German officers.  

Behind the scenes, however, Lord Thomas Griffin contributes to the British Resistance through stealth and subterfuge.  The entire staff of Griffin Castle, along with much of the Griffin family, serve the Monarchy as part of the resistance movement.  Information gathered from German soldiers and officers is passed via a secret network back to London.  Many of the secrets gathered this way have helped bolster British efforts against the Germans.  

Adventure Ideas

  • In December the Nazi's completed the construction of a modest aerodrome on Griffin Estate. Recently a squadron of jet-powered ME 262 interceptors made this base their home.  If the British Royal Air Force could get their hands on these craft, it could help turn the tide of the air war.

  • The Nazi high command, weary of the London offensive, has chosen Griffin Castle for a month-long retreat of rest and relaxation.  Lord Griffin and his staff have been tasked by General Blaskowitz to make all proper preparations for the new visitors.  The British Resistance operatives may have the perfect opportunity to acquire intelligence, subvert Nazi plans, and plant spies.  

  • General Blaskowitz is transferred back to France, and his replacement General Armbruster of the SS takes his place.  Griffin Castle falls under the control of the SS, who wish to base an Einsatzgruppen command center and death camp on the estate's six-thousand acres.  Lord Griffin and his staff only have a few days to thwart the Nazi plans and coordinate the flight of all British Resistance operatives.     

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Cypher System Fantasy - Starfall in Ardeyn - Part Three

Valkilmers vs. Travoltans

I think it's important that we get right into the meat and potatoes of this post, therefore I don't have much to say here in the intro.  Just know that, by the end of Starfall in Ardeyn (from +Bruce R Cordell's Strange Revelations) our group figured out that long, long ago, Ardeyn was populated by two distinct fantasy races: Valkilmers and Travoltans.  

No more spoilers.

As with previous posts, you'll see that I'm following a format where I interject my thoughts "mid-play report."  Hopefully this gives you some insight as to what was going on in my head during last night's session.

Big breath…

Here we go…

Living 4 Crits Presents

Cypher System Fantasy Campaign

Ardeyn: Land of the Curse


  • Sister Sariety, a Charming Speaker who Works Miracles, played by Frank
  • Zamani, a Spiritual (Ugallu*) Explorer (Magic) who Masters Foot and Fist**, played by Andy
  • Shenuesh, a Graceful Adept (Combat) who Wields Two Weapons at Once, played by Jeremy
  • Yaren, a Foolish Warrior who Stands Like a Bastion, played by Craig
  • Verrenn, a Spectral*** Adept who Casts Spells, played by Marc
* Ugallu is a race option from Broken Immersion by Ryan Chaddock Games
** Masters Foot and Fist is from Worlds Numberless and Strange by Monte Cook Games
*** Spectral is a new and original focus written by Marc Plourde and featured on his blog, Inspiration Strikes

Episode 7: Starfall in Ardeyn, Part Three

The journey into the depths of Ardeyn’s underworld via an old well was less than pleasant for Zamani.  Much to his surprise, the descent was slower than expected.  Strange, disembodied hands passed the monk down a long vertical passage.  Although they were not capable of damaging the Ugallu's tough hide, the hands' handling was not welcome.

[GM’s Note:  This is totally an homage to the scene in Labyrinth when Sarah is dragged down into the oubliette.  We just watched the movie again last week after learning about David Bowie’s passing.]

Rather than let himself get tossed into oblivion, Zamani activated his lightning fists and took a swipe at the grasping fingers.  The owners of the hands did not enjoy the attack, and immediately ended their hold on the Ugallu.  With nothing holding him back, Zamani fell the rest of the way into a pool at the bottom of the well.   

[GM’s Note:  While last week’s cliffhanger was a fun way to end an adventure, it left me with a challenge.  I was introducing an alternate path into the adventure’s dungeon, other than the broken seal.  Fortunately, the map found in Starfall in Ardeyn leaves many rooms, chambers, and passages undetailed.  Adding the cave at the bottom of the well was simple, and it also gave me a place to put one of the adventure keys.]

Zamani’s quick trip down the cursed well came as a bit of a shock to the rest of the adventuring party.  One moment the large Ugallu monk was standing there in front of the stone structure, and the next he was plunging head first into the dark abyss.  The entire team, save for Shenuesh who held back at the edge of the farm house fence, came to examine the well.  Yaren didn’t notice what had happened, and turned to the party with his hands outstretched in bewilderment.  

Unfortunately for poor Sister Sariety, one of Yaren’s “bewildered hands” struck the Charming Speaker, knocking her down into the well.  The Sister fell fifty feet, landing in a splash right next to Zamani, who had to swim quickly to dodge the falling nun.  Making matters worse, Zamani’s hands were still “electrified”, giving the Sister a bit of a shock.  The Ugallu tried to assist Sister Sariety out of the pool, but continued to shock her with his electric fists. 

On the bank of the small pool, in the center of the chamber, Zamani squinted but couldn’t seem to make out any details with such little light coming from above.  That’s why he didn’t see the stalagmite, which caused him to trip into a low hanging stalactite that detached from the cave ceiling, smashing into the Ugallu’s head knocking him out cold.  

[GM’s Note:  If my count is correct, Zamani’s fall into the well last week was a GM Intrusion, as was Sister Sariety’s initial shock in the water, and her shock as she was dragged out of the water.  Then Zamani got knocked out during a GM Intrusion.  So that’s four GMI’s in one locale.]

Eventually the entire party would find their way down to the bottom of the well.  Verenn used some rope and then enchanted it with some hedge magic so that it would glow.  Shenuesh reluctantly entered the cursed farm and gave several of the characters a quick scratch, infecting them with just enough lycanthropy so that they could see in the dark for a short time.  

[GM’s Note:  I’m really enjoying Shenuesh’s adept power trappings.  It’s obvious in the game that Jeremy's character is not an arcane spellcaster.  Yet he found a very unique way to explain why Shenuesh can bestow abilities and “buff” other player characters: temporary lycanthropic afflictions.  What’s even cooler is how Marc doesn’t allow his undead character Verrenn to get afflicted.  I love this group of players!] 

The cave at the bottom of the well was quite large: fifty feet in diameter, with the center of the space taken up by a twenty foot wide pool.  The pool seemed to be supplied from a trickle of crystal clear and remarkably pure water from the west.  Shenuesh took a taste of the pristine water, much to his benefit.  To the east, a stairwell ascended thirty feet into a man-made passage.  

[GM’s Note:  I gave Shenuesh the Luck Pool benefit of the “Lucky” descriptor for the rest of the day.  It takes guts to drink weird, perfectly clear well water!]

Something at the bottom of the pool sparkled in the soft glow of the enchanted rope.  Verrenn was the only one who seemed to notice, so the Spectral Adept took the plunge, retrieving a small bejeweled crown of a scepter.  Verrenn realized the artifact was magical, but could not determine its strength, so he tucked the small trinket in his pocket for later.  

The sparkling scepter crown wasn’t the only weird site in the chamber.  As the party rested and regained some of their health, Sister Sariety saw a bizarre image at the top of the stairwell.  An angelic being, obviously a qephilim, passed in front of the stairwell, laughing maniacally.  

“My scepter, oh my scepter!” she wailed.  “Stolen, never to be found… where can it be?”  

But before anyone else in the group saw the creature, it disappeared from view.  

At the end of the team’s break there was only one direction the party wanted to travel: up the stairs.  Verrenn cautiously used an arcane scanning ability to check the stone steps.  Sure enough, they were imbued with magical power, with a tinge of necromancy.  Along the walls of the stairwell were six stone doors, three on either side.  The doors were not easily visible at first, but Verrenn’s spell made them stand out as clear as day.  

Zamani placed his foot on the first stair, and all six doors opened.  Six skeletons emerged from their tombs, each armed with a buckler and a sword-gauntlet.  The skeletons made no attempt to move off of the stairs, but they certainly blocked the path of anyone who would want to ascend.  

[GM’s Note:  These skeletons shall forever be known as “Valkilmers.”  I made a comment that each skeleton had a sword gauntlet similar to the one that Madmartigan wore in the final epic battle of Willow.  I reinforced the comment by stating that each skeleton obviously had the same bone structure of the 1980’s Val Kilmer.  It should also be noted that the nation of humans known as the Valkilmers were vehemently opposed to the terrible Travoltans.  Take notes, Bruce Cordell.  This should be Ardeyn: Land of the Curse canon!] 

Verrenn hoped that his own undead nature would be an asset in this situation.  Taking a deep unnecessary breath [because he’s undead] Verrenn started up the stairs.  Immediately the skeletons attacked, slashing and stabbing at the adept.  Fortunately Verrenn was able to dodge the blades, as he made his way to the top of the stairwell.  Once there he turned and realized that he wasn’t followed.  These pitiful beings would only harm those on the steps.

One by one the rest of the party made their way to the top of the stairs.  Zamani had to attack one of the creatures, because that’s what Ugallu Monks do with their lightning fists.  

Realizing that the bucklers and swords were covered in gold and silver, Yarren took the time to approach one of the skeletons and wrestle it for its gear.  The Foolish Warrior managed to earn himself a pair of skeleton [Valkilmerian] artifacts in the process!  He was so excited that he started cheering in place, causing several of the skeletons to attack him with their remaining weapons.

At the top of the stairs the party had a choice: travel north or travel south.  Lighting a torch, the team chose “north” and Verrenn led the way, careful to use his arcane scan every few dozen feet.  

The next chamber was certainly ominous.

[GM’s Note:  One might say that it was completely infested with a high volume of “nope!”]

It was a rectangular room, the entrance in the southeast and exit in the northwest.  On the eastern side of the room, where the party entered, the ceiling was starting to collapse, with several large stones resting on the ground.  The western side of the room featured a series of stairs descending into a pool of murky red liquid.  

[GM’s Note:  I know I said the liquid was red, but I couldn’t help but hear Egg Shen yell “Black Blood of the Earth!” in my head when I described this room to the players.]

If the bloody pool wasn’t foreboding enough, there was something very disturbing in the chamber’s center.  Four ivory pillars held up the remains of the ceiling, and at their center was an ivory altar

On top of the altar there rested a large bronze urn...

In the urn there was a red, scaly hand…

… and the hand was moving!


After a very, very brief discussion the team of adventurers decided to skip the room.  



There was no need to investigate further, no need to see who owned the hand.  Perhaps the urn was an artifact, or the hand an ancient being of some importance.  [Nope!]  It didn’t matter.  Each of the characters carefully made their way along the edge of the wall, so as not to disturb the broken ceiling, until they came to the northwestern exit.

[GM’s Note:  A very wise decision!  The GM Intrusion recommendation was that the hand could drag the soul out of a character.  How friggin’ wicked is that?]

Eventually the party found their way to an intersection.  They could continue north, towards what they believed was the direction that, at least on the surface, would’ve taken them to the broken seal.  But the passage to the west seemed to have a soft eerie glow that made Shenuesh’s fur stand on end.  Then again, Sister Sariety could hear the angelic qephilim’s laughter to the east.  

After a quick vote, the party traveled west.

It was a short thirty foot trek to the next chamber, and the team’s torchlight revealed another rectangular room.  At the room’s center was a fountain full of black liquid [the REAL Black Blood of the Earth!] and on the western wall was a jagged tunnel heading up and out of the underworld.  Squinting, Shenuesh gazed up the tunnel, and saw that the light was coming from one of Ardeyn’s moons.  The passage could take the party to the broken seal for which they were originally searching.

Apparently the adventurers had taken a shortcut!  

[GM’s Note:  Finally, at the end of the adventure, we were at the expected beginning of the adventure!]

By this time the crazed laughter was getting louder, and the party realized that the angelic qephilim had come to “chat”.  

“My scepter, my scepter, have you taken my scepter?” she begged.  “Are you thieves?  You are!  You are the thieves that took my scepter!”  

The being charged forward but Yarren got in the way, repulsing the creature’s powerful, and energized grasp.  Sister Sariety hoped that her soft words could soothe the creature, and so she reached out with a calming voice.  Eventually the qephilim backed down, allowing the sister to heal her mental trauma.

The angelic qephilim’s name was Teremiel, and she was the “star” that fell to Ardeyn.  She stated that in her crashing, she broke through the seal of this chamber, and her enchanted scepter snapped.  One piece bounced away, into a room full of various liquids, while the other was stolen by shadowy beings.  Teremiel believed that she could use the scepter to repair the broken seal, but she would need both pieces.  

Verren told Teremiel that he did in fact have one piece of the scepter: the bejeweled crown.  Nearly giddy with delight, Teremiel told the party that she could take them to the room where the shaft had been lost, the room of many liquids.  

[GM’s Note:  This adventure is just chock-full of liquid!]

The chamber in question was on the far eastern side of the dungeon.  In the center was a pool of crystal clear water, with a small jug adjacent to the pool.  Each of the four corners of the room featured another pool containing a different liquid: milk, red wine, oil, and blood.  

Zamani stood watch as the rest of the party attempted to solve the “puzzle-room.”  Using his motion sensing cypher, Zamani noted that there were seven creatures over a hundred feet away to the south.  His teammates would have to work fast, or they risked an encounter with the dungeons’ dark denizens.  

[GM’s Note:  I had to steer the players away from combat at this point, something I don’t like doing.  It was 10:45pm.  On one hand Frank was expecting a hard stop at 11:05pm, but then again he was pushing for combat with the creatures to the south.  But this was the last necessary puzzle room, which would reveal the final adventure key.  Fortunately I kept the action on Verrenn and the liquid, and away from the seven creatures.  I believe they were Umber Wolves.]

It took a few minutes, but Verrenn was able to figure out the correct sequence to unlock the magic of the room’s central pool.  All he needed to do was take the pitcher and pour some of the milk, blood, oil, and wine into the clear water.  At the end, the shaft of the scepter appeared!

[Cue the Legend of Zelda treasure chest music!]

So the brave adventurers returned the scepter shaft to Teremiel, who in turn connected it to the crown.  The angelic qephilim then commanded the party to depart from the dungeon, so that she could seal the crypts.  Sure enough, the magic from the scepter worked, and the seal’s broken half reappeared.

“But what about the well?” the adventurers asked.

[GM’s Note:  Crap!  I forgot about that part!  I had to ad-lib quickly.  That’s what I get for making up a second entrance to the dungeon.]

Teremiel asked to be taken to the farm.  Once there, the qephilem took the scepter and sealed the well’s connection to the crypts below.  

“But what about the curse?”  the adventurers asked.

[Okay, this wasn’t verbatim, but someone asked a similar question.]


With a wave of the magic scepter, Teremiel removed the curse from the farm.

“But what about Verrenn?  Can she restore him to life?” 

[Seriously, I could strangle whoever brought this up.  Already this NPC fixed the seal, fixed the broken well, and removed the curse.  Now you want the party's undead player character to be restored to life?  I’ll show you, you tricksy players!]

“Of course,” Teremiel stated nervously.  The angelic qephilim had Verrenn kneel down, as she placed the scepter against the spectral adept’s disembodied skull.  

At first everything was fine.  Radiant magic flowed from the ornate shaft into the ectoplasm-covered skull.  Perhaps it was working?  But then, something backfired.  A booming voice filled the air.

“This is not the deal!” the angry unknown voice announced defiantly.

The radiant magic suddenly ceased, and necromantic energy started traveling back through the skull into the scepter’s shaft.  Teremiel started to shake and cry, as the rod burned her flesh.  Piece by piece, the angelic qephilim turned to ash, until nothing remained but a small pile of grey grit.  The magic scepter fell onto the pile of ash, causing the dusty material to puff up into the morning air.  

“Oops,” Verrenn announced, as he leaned over and picked up the scepter.  

[Oops indeed, you greedy players.  Oops indeed.]


"What's that Shenuesh?  Timmy fell into the well?" - Marc's calling Jeremy a "Lassie".

"Andy, make a speed defense roll to not get hit by a falling nun." - Jim makes the ultimate Cypher System ruling.

*THUMP* "Meow!" - Zamani's cry as he gets struck by a stalactite.

"Andy's a monk?" - Frank, and everyone else in the party, is still sure Zamani's a wizard.

"I'm thinking now that one of us needs to make a race known as the Valkilmer."  - Marc speaks truth.

"No, these are Valkilmers, not Travoltans!" - Marc continues creating new fantasy races.

Jeremy:  "Is anyone here an engineer?"
Frank:  "Andy is.  He's a wizard and engineer."