Sunday, April 30, 2017

We're Buff Here - Deadlands on Tabletop Day

In a Weird Mood

I'm neck deep in a Weird West mood right now.  Want proof?

  • My wife and I spent the last two weeks watching Westworld on HBO.
  • During that same time I've pumped about 20-30 hours into Red Dead Redemption on my XBOX 360. 
  • I sent my Numenera campaign back to 1879 last week.  
  • I'm planning to run a playtest of +David Baity's Dark Trails, a Dungeon Crawl Classics spin on the Weird Western for my May contribution to the DCCRPG World Tour 2017.  I had a chance to play Dark Trails at Gary Con, and it was a blast!
  • I purchased The Cackler, so that I can get a little Weird West comic action going.  
  • For family movie night last night we watched that Harrison Ford classic: Cowboys & Aliens.  

What started all my binging?  I gotta blame the original:  Deadlands!  

I'm really excited to get my hands on the Deadlands 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition, that will hopefully be showing up in the near future, clad in a foreboding, black wooden whiskey box!  A few weeks back I was going through some of my old, Deadlands books, while I was working on my DCC Shudder Mountain campaign.  That planted a seed!  

So for International Tabletop Day 2017 I wanted to pay some respects to the original trails o' terror, and run some Deadlands Reloaded for the Norwin Game Knights.  

I just needed to concoct a quest.  I wanted to create a quick, two to three hour introductory adventure that let our group use the new Hero's o' Gloom pre-gen characters from Deadlands: Good Intentions.  These characters are perfect for an adventure set in the City o' Gloom, Salt Lake City.  But to commemorate the sixth anniversary of our family almost moving to Kansas, I was interested in basing the adventure in Dodge City.  

I also wanted to feature a new threat to the Weird West: the Werebuffalo!

Now I could just go and write down what happened in the adventure, but for this blog post I'm going to post my adventure outline.  What, you thought you were going to get a full adventure?  Wrong blog!  

Feel free to use it in your own game, or hack it up and make it more your own.  The plot is campy and the NPC names are terrible, but maybe you can do something with...

We're Buff Here

Adventure Summary:

The PC's are customer relations personnel for the Smith & Robards mail order catalog out of the City o' Gloom. They've traveled by train all the way to Dodge City, to find out why their regular clients at "Gutter Camp" to the north have ceased to use their products. They only know two things at the start:

  1. The buffalo hunters and tanners of Gutter Camp used to purchase a lot of specialty tonics and elixers that would help make the long, 16 hours easier.
  2. When they arrive in Dodge City, they get a message back via a dead messenger that just says "we're buff here." 

After some investigation the party finds out the following:

When the PC's get to Dodge City, break out a map (out of the Deadlands 20th Anniversary Edition) and let the players have fun in the city.  Make this as much of a sandbox as possible.  For our game, five of the seven players were brand new to Deadlands so I threw as many weird western cliches as possible at them.  Wyatt Earp showed up for their guns, they found themselves in the Alhambra Saloon, etc...

Somehow, someway, get this information to the PC's:
  • Gutter Camp has been struggling to keep staff recently. Many of the hunters have been leaving, and the company hunt leader, Grant Granston, can't seem to keep people for longer than a few weeks.
  • Grant Granston was running low on cash, and while he needed to keep his staff hard at work, he may have made some dealings with a less-than-honest snake oil salesman named "Best Buy Bill."  
  • Recently Grant sent a note back to Dodge City, saying "We're Buff Here." The messenger who was delivering the note died soon after, from a blunt impact to the head (a Werebuffalo headbutt).  
  • Gutter Camp is located twenty miles north of Dodge City.

If the PC's want to do any more exploring in town, feel free to toss in some more encounters.  For instance, in our game the PC's wanted to dig up the body of the dead messenger.  So I let them!  Ernesto the Steampunk PC used his massive metal arm to drag the coffin out of the ground, and the posse threw it on the back of their wagon and headed north.  I placed a bill of sale for a product called "Big & Buff" in the pocket of the dead messenger.

What actually went down

Here are some of the details to the adventure backstory.  It's up to the GM to divulge the info when it seems appropriate:

  • The buffalo hunters recently stopped buying their products from Smith & Robards, and instead started investing money in a local snake oil salesman named "Best Buy Bill." Best Buy Bill promised all kinds of tinctures and elixers, but at a much cheaper cost than Smith & Robards.
  • The one product being given to the buffalo hunters was something called "Big & Buff."  On one hand, it makes folks super strong for a full day, without needing sleep.  But Big & Buff had a nasty side effect: it turns folks into werebuffalo. 
  • Best Buy Bill would shackle the sick hunters to his wagon before they turned, using silver tethers, and then once they transformed they could do nothing to escape.  
  • Best Buy Bill is taking the werebuffalo, and selling them to a twisted Confederate army officer named "Colonel Krieg". The Colonel is trying to create a strike force of werebuffalo that he can use as muscle in raids in Kansas. 
  • Best Buy Bill was successful in chaining up eight of the twelve turned werebuffalo. 
  • Grant Granston never drank any of the Big & Buff, nor did his messenger.  While all this buffalo turning, and escaping was going on, Grant gave his messenger a note, and sent him to Dodge City for help.  It was supposed to read "were-buff here", but some dirt got on the message, and a spec made it look like the "were" was a "we're".  Oh, and Grant forgot the hyphen.  

Wait... are you telling me this is a weak plot?  Just an excuse to do a play on the words "we're buff?"  Well... you're right.  Sorry.  But this is the adventure you signed on to read.  

The Camp

  • When the PC's arrive at the camp it is in deplorable condition.
  • There are four parts of the camp:
    • The tents
    • A stream that runs through the camp, where the buffalo hunters did most of their butchering near.  
    • A wooden fence.
    • An area where horses were tied up.
  • Barely anything survived. Grant Granston is missing.  Or he's not.  Up to you, the GM. In my game, I left him out, and just assumed he was dead.  But that's because my PC's spent a lot of time playing around with the messenger's corpse.  In your game, maybe he's alive and can leave clues, or help with fighting Best Buy Bill.  
  • The PC's can come across a surviving human undergoing a change into being a werebuffalo at night. He will lash out, while transforming, but shouldn't make it the whole way.  
  • At some point the PC's will face four werebuffalo.  I had them come out of the stream.  To make it seem like they were more "were-like", I said that they were all wearing torn up clothing, like the Hulk.  


You want stats for that werebuffalo?  Well it should come as no surprise that I just did a quick reskin of the Werewolf found in the Savage Worlds Deluxe rulebook on page 142.  Just increase their Vigor to a D12, and give them a Tough Hide that boosts their Toughness by 3.  Ultimately, their Toughness will be an 11, which is pretty damn hard to beat, but hey... why not?  

Also, werebuffalo just headbutt instead of bite.  But it does the same damage as a werewolf bite.  

Tracking Down Best Buy Bill

Best Buy Bill can easily be tracked down, as he left the camp not too long ago.  If the PC's follow a trail to the east, they eventually find his mechanical horse driven cart.  

Best Buy Bill isn't a threat at all.  I used the "Scientist" archetype from the Savage Worlds Deluxe rulebook and pumped up his Toughness to a 7 to reflect a couple points of armor from his semi-mechanical body.  

His wagon comes in three pieces:
  • A mechanical horse in the front.  Functions just like a regular horse, but can never needs to rest or sleep.  Runs on ghost rock.
  • A middle, "crew" section.  Best Buy Bill has a pair of goons that have d6's in all their stats, and fire a pair of Lightning Blasters at the PC's if they get too close and mean harm.  Each one functions as the "Bolt" power from the Savage Worlds Deluxe rulebook, and has 20 power points.  The crew roll D8's to shoot the Lightning Blasters.
  • The rear section is a chain gang of the eight remaining Werebuffalo. 

How this all shakes out is up to you.  The werebuffalo know what they are and enraged.  But they shouldn't need to be foes!  If an especially charismatic PC (like Father Houston in our game) can persuade them to fight back, let them do so.  Make it epic!  

Ending the Adventure

This part is totally up to you.  In our game, the PC's got one of the werebuffalo to fight on their side, and they freed it.  Then they freed the rest of the werebuffalo and sent them back to Smith & Robards.  They also killed Best Buy Bill.  But again, make this adventure your own.

*     *     *

I wrote this adventure on the fly, and threw things together pretty quickly for International Tabletop Day.  I knew that I'd have mostly new players for Deadlands Reloaded, so I wasn't that concerned about making things too challenging.  But I'm half-tempted to go back and rework this into more of a functional "One-Sheet" style adventure.  Perhaps I will.

In the meantime, if you have any suggestions, let me know!  

Happy gaming!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Numenera - The Devil's Spine - Session 8

Once Upon a Time in the Ninth World

Welcome to our group's campaign log for The Devil's Spine, a mega-adventure by +Monte Cook for the Numenera campaign setting.  

Originally this was going to be a pure and simple campaign log.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Just a record for me and my friends to keep track of what was going on in the game.  But I've decided that, as we progress through the adventure, I'd do some commentary and/or reviews on different parts of the adventure.  So... SPOILERS!


  • Belmodan, a Resourceful Seeker who Wields a Whip, played by +andrew lyon 
    • New Focus: Fights Dirty
  • Keane, a Rebellious Glaive who Likes to Break Things, played by +Craig McCullough 
  • Nero, a Mad Nano who Travels Through Time, played by +David Howard 
    • New Focus: Would Rather Be Reading
  • PL4T0, an Artificially Intelligent Jack who Resides in Silicon, played by +Marc Plourde
    • New Focus: No Change
  • Ruun, an Exiled Glaive who Gazes into the Abyss, played by +William Keller 
    • New Focus:  Wears Spurs

Previously on The Devil's Spine

Session 8:  West of Weird

What do you do when you're in the mood to run a Weird Western like Deadlands, but you're in the middle of another campaign?  Thanks to some tips from Expanded Worlds, the new Cypher System rulebook that showed up at my house last week, I decided to mash some of that western goodness into The Devil's Spine.  All it took was a little reworking of The Mechanized Tomb, the second "adventure" within The Devil's Spine that covers a quest for an artifact known as the Impossible Blade...

... I wonder if its related to the Zephyr Blade?  

To do this I inserted a numenera discovery called "Doctor Kell's Kairological Tether Translator"... a bit of a nod back to my old Savage Worlds: Clockwork campaign from 2012-2014.  With a few dashes of The Strange, and an emphasis on the concept of "translation," I came up with a way to allow my players to change foci when moving backwards in time as well.  

Damn, time travel feels good!

Okay, let's get into the meat of this story.   

When we jumped back into the game last night, we started with some light shopping.  The PC's needed gear for their trip across the Cloudcrystal Skyfields.  All the players needed to do was purchase or steal a few riding animals, or at least buy enough gear to last them five or six days of walking.  That's it.  Make a purchase and move on.  But not my players.  This whole "ordeal" took about thirty minutes of discussion.

"What are the Cloudcrystal Skyfields like?"

"Will we have access to game animals?"

"Will I get saddle-rash riding an Aneen?"

Dammit, guys, just buy your gear and get moving, we only have three hours to play!

The only thing I really told the crew was that walking through the Cloudcrystal Skyfields could be dangerous, especially if they were riding up high on weasel-giraffe hybrids.  Weasraffes.  

What, you want stats for Weasraffes?  Fine.

Weaseraffe: Level 4, 12 health, Damage 6 (bite), Intellect based perception rolls made by riders are at -1 difficulty because these bastards are super tall.  Level 2 when trying to navigate flying shards of killer glass in the Cloudcrystal Skyfields.

Fortunately, for the sake of time, I was able to get everyone moving.  The PC's were "aneen-less", and hoofing it on foot.  During the way, I chose to use GM Intrusions as the mechanics for setting up particularly interesting random encounters.  I also fell back to my Madlib format.  

For instance, I asked Andy three questions:

  1. Pick a color.
  2. What's something you like about plants?
  3. Tell me something bad about Marc Plourde. 
From Andy's answers, I came up with the first encounter: a green colour parasite.  Essentially a frisbee sized, floating shard of crystal passed in front of the moon, causing a green light to wash over Andy's character Belmodan.  This green colour burned and didn't go away.  The colour itself was an organism (that's why I keep putting a "u" in the word... gotta make it proper) and Belmodan used a cypher to stun it, removing the parasite.  I got the idea out of H.P. Lovecraft's "Colour Out of Space", and had used something similar back in Clockwork.  Felt right.

When it was time to hit Will's character Ruun, I asked him the following questions:

  1. Crawl or fly?
  2. Insect or lizard?
  3. Crunch or squishy?
  4. Metallica or Megadeth?

From Will's answers, his character came across a harmless, lizard-apede while hunting.  This "Dleifteh" (Level 2 creature), was filled with liquid metal, so after Ruun cut it open with his sword staff, the goopy metal-blood ruined his weapon.  At least the legs were tasty.  But this was Ruun's second weapon now ruined by a GM Intrusion.  Poor dude.  

In hindsight, I really like this method of generating GM Intrusions.  I'll be using it again.  

Eventually the PC's found their way to Eenosh's hut, but discovered that the Navajin (Eenosh is a humanoid creature, go look up Navajin in the Numenera corebook) was being held hostage by a small troupe of Chirogs - dangerous, savage abhumans who enjoyed eating and wearing human flesh.  PL4T0 would be the first to make contact with Eenosh, as the floating bot was of little threat to the abhumans.  PL4T0 made a deal with Eenosh: take care of the Chirogs, and they would be given access to the busted Impossible Blade.

Apparantly Eenosh had already aquired the Impossible Blade, but it had been turned to dust after it was removed from a temporal stasis pod.  It's kind of like that Mel Gibson movie, Forever Young, when Mel Gibson's character goes to the future but time catches up with him.  

Same deal.

I really though the fight with the Chirogs was going to take a lot longer.  All six of the creatures had 15 Health and 3 Armor.  But I didn't count on Belmodan's Electric Bolt Artifact and Ruun's teeth.  Seriously, Ruun just ran up and started chewing on the creatures, doing over 10 damage per round!  True, he had been spending a lot of effort on damage, but dang!

Once the Chirogs were dealt with, the party got a look at the dusty Impossible Blade.  

After all that fighting the party did some raiding of the Chirog yurts, and found some cool gear.  Eenosh gave them a few cyphers as well, and a kickass gravity nullifying artifact.  He also gave them a stone thuman doorstop with organic, working eyes.  Marc called it a "Living Dorbz".  

It was about this time that Eenosh told the tale of the busted Impossible Blade and the amazing Dr. Kell.  

Apparently the blade had been discovered in the ancient and decrepit ruins of Queen Starloscet's tomb to the west.  The ruins were once a great source of the numenera, and even with temporal stasis shielding had aged over millions upon millions of years.  Unfortunately, the Impossible Blade, having been left somewhere in the ruins, was no longer of any use.  

But perhaps if it could be acquired in the past, it could be used again!

Eenosh spoke of a Dr. Kell, a strange and rakish time traveler who studied "Kairological Tethers".  Unlike Chronological time travel, that allowed travelers to go to any point in time, Kairology was the study of two points in time moving at the same speed, and connected through a temporal tether.  Kind of like a time-wormhole.  

For instance, if you have two points connected between 1955 and 1985, five years later you have two points connected between 1960 and 1990.  

This whole thing was another nod to my old Savage Worlds: Clockwork campaign, Dr. Kell being a major NPC.  Perhaps this is all the same universe!  

Dr. Kell was an explorer of the Ninth World, believed by some to be a Gaian, and wanted by the Order of Truth.  He first visited Eenosh a couple years prior, and had been in the Cloudcrystal Skyfields just a few weeks ago.  Apparently there was a tether-point by an old creek nearby.  According to Eenosh, Dr. Kell came from a time where the tomb of Queen Starloscet was more contemporary.  When Dr. Kell went back to his original time a few weeks earlier, he took with him a man named Burris, who was of the Ninth World.  Fortunately for the PC's, Dr. Kell had left behind one of his Kairological Tether Translators.

When Nero examined the Kairological Tether Translator with his time-esotery he learned the following:

  • It had clearly been built and designed by a strange looking man in an odd hat and dandy clothing from another time and place (not the Steadfast.)
  • At some point in the future, the device would be near Belmodan, and Belmodan would be clutching an intact Impossible Blade

So the party dragged the device out to the creek bed, bid Eenosh goodbye, and turned the machine on.

The characters were immediately struck by some kind of temporal distortion, and were then teleported back in time. When they awoke, they were all in some kind of stream, full of rushing water.  As each climbed out, they came across four bearded humans, panning for material at the edge of the stream.  Ruun scared the humans away, but when he returned to the party, they all started to feel as if time was returning to them.

This Kairological Tether Translator not only brought individuals from one point in time to another, but it bestowed upon them surface memories of their new time and place.  The PC's were no longer in the Ninth World, but in the year 1879... in the state of Colorado.  Nero, Ruun, and Belmodan all had different skills and abilities, but PL4T0, being that he was a floating bot, didn't change at all.  

If you think I went and leveraged the shifting focus aspect of The Strange you're absolutely right.  I love that mechanic!  

The Kairological Tether Translator was nowhere to be found, and Belmodan was starting get upset.  Actually it was Andy who was getting upset, not his character, as all of his skills were based on Numenera and not the Weird West.  That's when I told the players about the prospectors.  Those rugged folks weren't panning for gold...

... they were panning for bits and pieces of numenera!

There goes the canonical story line of The Devil's Spine!


"It's an aneen with bowel problems..." - Will describing the Impossible Blade.

"Didn't we already do a razor sharp plain of glass?  We have high heels for that." - Will describing the Cloudcrystal Skyfields.

"I've got 75 shins from selling a little dude!" - Andy reminiscing about past sales.

"You think it's a good deal until you find out your arms are cleaning out some fat guy's fold mucus." - I can't even remember why Marc said this.

"You know there's a saying: you never buy an Aneen without looking at its butt." - Marc knows how to find the best deals.

Will - "I'm gonna show this guy the right way to tear someone's guts out with your teeth!"
Jim - "You work him like an ear of corn!"

"I like the heels on that one barbarian." - Eenosh to PL4T0.

"I should've made the freakin' Impossible Blade a Slap Chop." - Jim's regrets.  

"In this case, the Devil wears Chirog?" - David about the new headpiece for Will

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Numenera - The Devil's Spine - Session 7

The Devil's Spine Campaign Log

Welcome to our group's campaign log for The Devil's Spine, a mega-adventure by +Monte Cook for the Numenera campaign setting.  

Originally this was going to be a pure and simple campaign log.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Just a record for me and my friends to keep track of what was going on in the game.  But I've decided that, as we progress through the adventure, I'd do some commentary and/or reviews on different parts of the adventure.  So... SPOILERS!


  • Belmodan, a Resourceful Seeker who Wields a Whip, played by +andrew lyon 
  • Keane, a Rebellious Glaive who Likes to Break Things, played by +Craig McCullough 
  • Nero, a Mad Nano who Travels Through Time, played by +David Howard 
  • PL4T0, an Artificially Intelligent Jack who Resides in Silicon, played by +Marc Plourde
  • Ruun, an Exiled Glaive who Gazes into the Abyss, played by +William Keller 

Previously on The Devil's Spine

Session 7:  Unjumping the Shark

I don't know where to begin.

Last night's game was intended to be a bridge between the first and second act of The Devil's Spine.  I advanced the story two weeks, and opened up the city of Uxphon to the players, with the intent of allowing them to do any shopping and exploration as they prepared themselves to continue on their quest to free Belmoan, Keane, and Nero of their parasites.  

It was also my intent to "un-jump the shark." 

Over the last two sessions, our games have gotten progressively more outlandish.  "Weird" is certainly expected in any Numenera adventure, as the entire concept of the setting is that a world one billion years in the future should certainly be a bizarre place.  But I use the word "outlandish," because I've gone and jumped the shark with the campaign.  In session five, our hovering bot PL4T0 crafted mutated cragworm Manolo Blahniks for the PC's to wear.  In session six I leveraged Nero's time traveling focus in a GM Intrusion that sent  Belmodan back to a prior world, where Nero owned a popular and very successful chain of fried flish restaurants.  As we moved into The Devil's Spine's second act, I fully intended to bring things back to a weird sort of normal.

I soon realized that this was impossible for this Numenera campaign.  

Our party of brave numenera hunters, afflicted with the parasitic nagaina defenders on three of their backs, had returned to the Nagaina Matron Devola for information on their next task.  They were informed that three townsfolk of Uxphon could potentially have information as to where to find The Impossible Blade, a surgical tool that could cut away the parasites.  There was Om the trinket salesperson, Derris the weaponsmith, and Sabazia the fortune teller.

So far, so good.

I should note that none of these NPC's have that much detail written about them or their place of business in The Devil's Spine.  About a paragraph each, is all you really get.  If you just want to use them for quick sources of info, that's fine, but if you want to get heavy into their backstory you'll need to add some of your own tidbits.  Personally, I like to delve into Injecting the Weird if I'm going to spice things up for my game.  Just reading through some of the bizarre entries helps me come up with stuff on the fly.  

For Om, I placed the trinket salesperson's store beneath one of Uxphon's great pipes.  The entire place of business just hung, suspended by cables, dangling in the whipping winds of the Black Riage.  Om himself was an interesting man, who had much to sell.  One oddity he was very interested in parting with was a deck of thirty cards.  According to Om, each card possessed the living consciousness of a gambler who lost playing a game with the deck.  Fifty shins was the asking price.  I really thought someone would make purchase, but no one seemed interested.

A second oddity was a small wooden box with palm trees on the outside.  Belmodan picked up the box, and felt a sea breeze wafting out from the pitch black interior.  The seeker placed his hand into the box, and then the rest of his arm, as if it were a bag of holding from another kind of role-playing game.  When Belmodan's hand touched water, he felt immense pain, and could not retract the appendage.  Listening to the box, it became clear: some kind of Iscobalian whaling ship had grabbed his arm on the other side!  

The box somehow teleported Belmodan's arm into the waters off of Iscobal, but also enlarged it to be fifty feet long.  When the seeker did finally yank his arm out, aided by the rest of the party, there were two tiny sailors attached to it: Bjorn and Matilda.  PL4T0 flicked Matilda's head, killing her, and then Belmodan sold Bjorn to Om for seventy-five shins.  Om hinted at using the tiny sailor as a slave, to be tasked with caring for his aneen's lower intestinal health.  

During this exchange, Om told the party that Eenosh, a bizarre creature that lived in the Cloudcrystal Skyfields, had come to town with some interest in the Impossible Blade.  

The interaction with Derris was entertaining to say the least.  To make the blacksmith even more weird, I stated that all of his weapons were bizarre and unusual.  He only sold the weapons out of the equipment list that were Numenera native.  Things like buzzers or razor rings, but no swords.  Derris did have a fine collection of fruit-themed weapons though, such as a mace with a bronze strawberry head, or a flail that had bananas instead of spiked balls on the end.  The blacksmith himself lacked biceps, and just had floating forearms connected via energy to electrical sockets jutting out from his shoulders.

Derris told the party that his arms were gifts from Eenosh, and that he traded his real arms for these weird arms.  Again, not in the original adventure by Mr. Cook, but what the hell.  PL4T0 then made a big deal about Derris' real arms, and where they could've been, and what they could be doing at this very minute.  Who they could be touching and how they could be touching that who were emphasized.  I ruled that Derris went catatonic.  So Derris decided to lay down.

Nero, whose player David stated was "crazy", laid down right next to Derris and continued to interrogate the man.  It was the most disturbing interrogation scene I've ever witnessed in a role-playing game.  Nothing really happened, just the idea of Nero (a crazy man) laying down next to a cyber-blacksmith, whispering questions into his ear.  Freaky.

Derris revealed that he was unable to recreate the Impossible Blade for Eenosh, but knew where to find the entity.  This information was passed on to the party, and they moved on to Sabazia the fortune teller.

The scene with Sabazia was a bit of a letdown compared to what we had just witnessed.  The fortune teller charged ten shins a piece, and Belmodan and Nero paid up.  I tried using Rory's Story Cubes to create interesting tales about the characters' futures, but the results were lukewarm.  

As a GM Intrusion, again leaning on Nero's time travelling backstory, I revealed that his character would die in a field of crimson wheat, drowning in tiny red globules that would force their way down his throat after first melting off his appendages.  

For Belmodan's fortune, I just told him that "the key to your questions is in the telephone of knowledge."

What the hell is that supposed to mean?


"PL4T0 doesn't have a backbone." - Will praising Marc's character.

"What's in the box!" - Marc.  This quote never gets old though.

"Alright, so we've sold Bjorn the sailor for 75 shins.  Things you never thought you'd say out loud." - David was right.

"For all you know, your arms could be touching someone's butt right now." - Marc commenting on Derris' hovering arms.

"I came prepared to unjump the shark, but you all cried out 'no!'" - Jim to the group.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Family Game Knights - Moonricket Bridge

An Easter Celebration

We don't do regular holidays in the Walls Household.  

To celebrate the Easter holiday this weekend, we decided to a "Dunkin & Dragons" morning.  This little Walls-Family tradition began way back in the summer of 2014, when we would play Basic Fantasy RPG while consuming copious amounts of fried donut goodness.  Although the game has changed a bit since then (now we're playing Dungeon Crawl Classics) the concept remains the same.

Originally we were intending on running Moonricket Bridge with our gang of Family Game Knights friends, but Carrie was sick last night and we didn't feel it was fair to have guests over.  Since the adventure is so short, though, I thought we'd run it as a family game.  When we next meet as a full group I'll pick up with Doom of the Savage Kings.

The Adventuring Party

  • Jen
    • Wize Wizard McBride - Cleric
  • Evie
    • Jefff - Warrior
  • Carie
    • Mullet - Warrior
    • P. Specs - Thief
  • Cooper
    • Sun - Elven Musician
    • Night - Halfling Guard

Quick Report

After removing the curse at Sour Spring Hollow, our brave band of adventurers set out to find the town of Hirot, said to be one of the few larger communities in the Shudder Mountains.  Sour Spring Hollow was out of the way, and the only road to Hirot would require a crossing of the haunted Moonricket Bridge.  The evening before reaching the bridge, the characters shared a meal at a small cabin with a trapper named Robert Duvall.  

Robert Duvall shared the tale of the bridge's ghost, and how he had been slain by robbers just before his wedding.  A great reward awaited those who could free the bridge of its curse, and send the ghost on to an eternal peace.

The next morning the party reached the bridge and encountered the ghost.  Wize Wizard McBride was terrified of the spectral entity, however the brave Jefff (yes, with three "f's") was without fear.  Jefff approached the ghost and saw that it was motioning downriver, first pointing and then with an open hand.  

P. Specs led the party downriver where they found a small, debris filled cove that led to a cave.  The group found the remains of a deceased questing knight, and took his weapons and armor.  Everything was going great until Sun, the Elven Musician, started cutting up the guts of a dead deer carcass.  

The smell of the decaying meat attracted a trio of Giant Hellbender Salamanders.  Unfortunately, the team was not outfitted correctly for the battle.  Their farming implements and poor armor were of little match for the three terrible beasts.  Sun fell during the battle, and Wize Wizard McBride was knocking on death's door.  P. Specs successfully backstabbed the smallest of the creatures, and eventually, Jefff was able to land a few killing blows on the last two.

[Judge's Note:  This was a BRUTAL battle.  I think we went about seven or eight rounds, with the average attack roll being less than a six.  In addition, Jen's character kept racking up disapproval, and the team had several fumbles.  I'll admit that I fudged a die-roll once just so that Cooper (my six year old) wouldn't lose his second PC in the same game.]

Inside the cave the party found the remains of the ghost's body, including a tiny, plain wedding ring.  The party retreated to the ghost and returned the ring.  The ghost bowed in thanks, and then walked several miles to a small abandoned cemetery where it was reunited with the ghost of an old woman.  The two specters embraced in love, and faded out of existence with the ring dropping to the ground.

So moved was the Wize Wizard McBride, that he acted against his alignment and agreed to bury the ring in the cemetery rather than remove it in greed.  Unfortunately his chaotic god of death and disease cared not for this moment of beauty and respect.  Wize Wizard McBride changed alignment, was stripped of all his cleric powers, and found himself "without deity."  

Campaign Crematorium

  • Sun - Eaten by a Giant Hellbender Salamander 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Lamentations of the Flame Princess - A Not-So-Quick Review

First off I'm going to be honest:  I don't know if I like the title to this mini-review series.  I've said it before -  I suck at reviews.  Despite having the slang term "crits" in my blog's name, it doesn't mean I'm any good at being critical when it comes to the books and gaming products I read, especially when I enjoy them...

... and hot damn, I really enjoyed reading Lamentations of the Flame Princess by +James Raggi!

I guess it comes to down to the fact that I won't finish reading something I don't like.

Anyway, I really wanted to write something about LotFP after reading it, as I felt inspired.  This "Not-So-Quick Review" is sort of a spiritual successor to my incredibly short lived Why You Should Play series of posts.  I'm going share and showcase my five favorite parts of Lamentations of the Flame Princess and if you agree or disagree or feel the need to scream crazy obscenities into the internet, you can do so in the comment section below.

Originally I intended this to be a rather short post, but then I just kept writing... and writing.  That's why it's "Not-So-Quick".  If you have a better idea for a blog series title let me know in the comments.  

Lamentations of the Flame Princess

I first across this game during the spring of 2015.  I had been playing several OSR games at the time, including Dungeon Crawl Classics, Adventures in the East Mark, and Basic Fantasy RPG, and I kept hearing folks in the community talk about "LotFP".  What the heck was that?  So a little Googling and I came across the free, no-art version of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Rules & Magic PDF.  I gave the book a quick glance, and found that the rules seemed pretty similar to some of the other games I was playing, with some entertaining tweaks and tidbits that I'll get to later in this post.  

A few weeks later I set out to get my own copy of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Rules & Magic in print.  Interestingly enough, one of my Google+ contacts saw my interest and made me an offer.  If I paid for shipping they would send me their copy of the book.  While they had no issues with the game, the art was too over the top.  

Hold up... any game that has artwork that can cause that kind of reaction with another gamer needs to be in my hands!  I had to check it out.  So I made the deal, and also managed to wrangle a copy of A Red and Pleasant Land by +Zak Sabbath because I thought "Alice in Wonderland" and "hey I like Disney movies." 

When the book finally came, I opened it up and saw just what my friend was talking about.  There is some very intense, mature artwork in this book, depicting some wild scenes.  If you are wondering if you would enjoy the artwork, you need to ask yourself two questions:

  1. Would you like to know what getting devoured by an ooze or slime looks like?
  2. Did you enjoy the movie Slither?

If you answered yes to either of these, then you'll probably enjoy the art.  I should note that the book is very clearly listed as "18+" for "Explicit Content".  

Sadly, the book ended up going on my shelf for about a year before I opened it up again.  I have a terrible backlog of gaming products that I need to read!  It would be my wife +Jennifer Walls who'd play first, taking part in a demo of No Salvation for Witches that our friend +Shannon Slakinski ran as prep for Gen Con.  I was wrangling the kiddos that night so that she could play, so I was only able to hear a few tidbits of the game.  I knew I would play eventually, I just needed to find a little time.

Well I finally found the time!

In a little over two weeks I will be running Lamentations of the Flame Princess online on behalf of Lawful Good Gaming

To fully prepare for this game, I decided to read both the Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Rules & Magic as well as the Lamentations of the Flame Princess Referee Book (Grindhouse Edition) cover to cover.  For the purposes of this Just the Crits review, I'll be referring to both of these books.  

The Crits

Crit #1:  The Specialist Class

At it's core, Lamentations of the Flame Princess appears to have seven classes:  Fighter, Specialist, Magic-User, Cleric, Elf, Halfling, and Dwarf.  At first glance, the Specialist was just another name for a thief or a rogue, and this is what I thought when I first read the free PDF in 2015.  But upon fully reading through Lamentations of the Flame Princess, I realized that the Specialist allows for a great deal of flexibility for creating characters that aren't necessarily the front line fighter, yet lack magic.  

Specialists have access to nine skills, from Architecture and Bushcraft to Stealth and Sneak Attack.  As PC's progress, players can put points towards any of these skills in any fashion that they desire.  Couple this with the fact that there are no alignment or weapon restrictions in Lamentations of the Flame Princess and the Specialist can fill at least a dozen individual niches.

Here's just a few I came up with on the fly:

  • Ranger: a high dexterity specialist that wields a bow and has skill points devoted to Bushcraft and Stealth.
  • Thief:  a specialist that wields a dagger and short sword and has skill points devoted to sleight of hand, stealth, and tinker.
  • Assassin:  a specialist that wields a blowgun and garrote, and has skill points devoted to climb, sneak attack, and stealth.
  • Tinker (from the Ultima computer game series):  a specialist that wields a warhammer, and has skill points devoted to architecture, search, and tinker.  

If it weren't for one single spell (that I'll discuss momentarily) I think I'd always want to play some kind of Specialist variant myself.  

Crit #2:  Boats, Retainers, Property, & Finance

Sometimes I want to put my players on a boat.  Sometimes I want to put them in their own castle.  Sometimes I want to create altercations with my players' hirelings requiring Human Resource Management skills.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess has rules for all of that.  

For all my years playing AD&D 2nd Edition, with all of its rules for land owning, and castle creation, and bringing on hirelings, it wasn't until I started dipping into the OSR that I had players who actually wanted to manage some kind of property.  It was in my monthly Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign, after the party evicted a dastardly river bandit-king from his keep.  Unfortunately, the DCC rules didn't have enough on the topic, so I dipped back int my old Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia for some details.  

Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Rules & Magic has some very clear and concise rules governing all of these topics, from adventuring on the high seas to paying taxes for owning a keep or castle in another lord's land.  I really got a feeling that LotFP shines in sandbox style gaming.  What better sandbox than to let players create their own kingdom, and then have them role-play how they deal with the ramifications?  

Crit #3:  Summon

Imagine a game where a first level spell can destroy an entire campaign.  Lamentations of the Flame Princess is that game.

Summon is a first level Magic-User spell that, on the surface, allows the player character to summon a beast to fight on their behalf.  Perhaps they can summon a boa constrictor to strangle their arch nemesis.  Or maybe they roll really well and summon a living shadow to do battle with a mass of orc raiders.  Or maybe, just maybe, they summon an "Imaginary Equation, Incorrect yet True" and all of mathematics breaks down and the universe implodes.  

This can totally happen in LotFP.

I'll wait...

... are you done reading?  Good, I'll continue.

Summon is proof that magic in LotFP is terribly dangerous, and can alter the world in some serious ways, often by accident.  Sure, Dungeon Crawl Classics has some spells that can cause total carnage if a player character spellburns and blows all of their luck, but chances are that they won't submerge the entire world in fifty feet of water if they blow the spell.  Each and every casting of that kind of magic can lead to adventure plots created by player character actions.  

Crit #4:  On the Topic of Railroading

On page 11 of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess Referee Book +James Raggi starts to cover adventure design.  He lays out the process of creating your own adventures as well as the types of weird adventures that can be had in with this Weird Fantasy Role Playing Game.  Even though I've been reading, writing, and running RPG adventures since the early 1990's, I always find it eye-opening to read someone else's take on the process.  

It was the discussion of "Railroading" (forcing players down a particular adventure path) on page 20 that I found to be of particular interest.  Mr. Raggi asks the reader to repeat and say aloud the following (twice):

"My adventures and campaigns will have no pre-set endings.  Characters are not required to act as I wish them to act during the course of the game.  It is natural player behavior to trash scenarios and take the game to places unforeseen."  

Great advice, and not just for new GM's, but for any and all who lurk behind the screen.  Crap, I need to catch myself, especially when I'm running games for younger players and I want to ensure that we get done on time.  Perhaps I'm doing a disservice when I shoot for bringing our game in for a nice and tidy landing at the end.  Just based on reading the LotFP adventure design setting, great adventures should lay out what a problem is, and then give the players the full ability to create thoughtful and creative solutions.  

Of course, these creative solutions may be fatal to the player characters, but without risk, there is no reward!

Crit #5:  Other Topics

There's a complete section in the Lamentations of the Flame Princess Referee Book that's titled "Other Topics" that really should be called "Role-Playing Organizational Management 101."  The topics include but are in no way limited to player recruitment, setting player expectations, replacing deceased characters, and examining and being critical of your play style as a referee.  

In short, pages 62-68 of this absolutely free PDF should be required reading for any new starting out on their path to create a campaign.  Heck, if it weren't for the art depicting eyeballs getting stabbed by knives, I'd print this thing and give it to all of the teen GM's who run games at our local game club.  While I'm perfectly comfortable letting my own kids see a little harmless gore, I can't speak for all parents.  What I'd love to do is print this out, go back in time, and give it to the thirteen year old version of me.

+James Raggi hits home on page 62:

"Ask your friends to join your game.  ALL of them.  Even people you don't know all that well. Co-workers.  Classmates.  One of the worst things people can do is only game with close friends.  This often cripples one's ability to find a game, as if these certain other people don't want to game, that's it."  

Guilty.  Until just the past few years (2012+) I fell into this trap repeatedly.  I'd limit myself to asking just a close selection of friends to join my game, and then when I'd lose a player, or a group would collapse, I'd lament that none of my other friends were gamers.  Thankfully, between frequenting an amazing FLGS and the advent of the internet, gaming with strangers is easier than ever.  I've created dozens of friendships in the process, and with every event and convention seem to create a few more.  

But if you want to be a referee, judge, or game master, you need to put yourself out there and market your game. 

LotFP at Your Table

These are my critical hits from Lamentations of the Flame Princess, and I'd be interested to hear how some feel about the game.  Have you played LotFP, and if so, what were your impressions?  How did you enjoy it compared to other OSR games?  If I was looking to pick up some more LotFP products, where should I start?  

Feel free to comment below!