Sunday 31 January 2010

The Training Dungeon - the Final Chapter

A Token Victory

This morning, JG took the initiative. He told me to clear the dining table and get Team Adventure ready to roll. I needed no further bidding and things were soon in place. I remembered (but the last session was a while ago) that they were hunkered down in room 22, busily getting their spells back and curing each other. JG, after a bit of prompting thought to cast Read Magic on the spell book and duly noted down what spells it had in it. He didn't actually do anything with said spells, however.

The party then set off up the corridor, heading back towards the ogre room where they had identified several passageways as worthy of attention. They had intended to look up the corridor past the zombie room but as they were about to turn up that corridor, they heard the door opening and the chant of "Brains! Brains!" getting louder. TA decided to skeddadle very quickly across the ogre room and down to the area that abuts onto the water area. They had remembered that there was a passageway leading off it, ending up in room 17. As they approached, they spotted a large winding wheel on the wall and a bony arm sticking through a heavy portcullis.

Alurax and Hruthnor decided to turn the wheel and sure enough, the gateway raised a bit. They tried this several times, each time retreating as the portcullis lifted. Eventually, their bravery cut in and they got it all the way up. Everyone else was up at the bend in the passageway while our heroes tried to see what was inside and debated the wisdom of going in.

Suddenly, there was the sound of bowstrings and Akurath took an arrow from an unseen shooter. Another missed Elise. The rest of the party scrambled down to the entrance to 17, and Alurax and Hruthnor stepped in. They started to look around the room; I watched carefully and when they moved across the centre of the room, I deemed that the portcullis had slammed down again. Fortunately, the rest of the party swiftly raised it and got them out, just as a leathery flapping in the ceiling cavity got louder and louder.

The arrow had come from one of the three remaining kobolds who now jumped out from their hiding place at the corner of the passageway and fired again. Garazor took an arrow this time. The members of the party who were facing the right way fired back and one kobold crashed to the floor. The other two legged it.

Finally, the party decided to give the passageway to room 21 a try. They got halfway down the passage before a querying glance from the DM gave them cause for pause. I described what they saw, both thieves having failed their find traps rolls. I had to carefully guide them from conclusion to conclusion before they eventually realised that a section of the wall about six feet off the ground was marked with grubby and large fingerprints. As if someone had been pushing at that bit quite often. They cottoned on that it was some sort of switch to activate the traps and pushed it. Then pushed it again. This switched the trap back on. Lannius edged forward, using his 10' pole and set off two sets of spears that flew out of the wall, then drew back in again. Needless to say, if the entire party had moved down the passageway to the door, at least two members would have taken a possible 3d6 of damage (I'd have allowed a save vs DEX to halve that).

Finally, switching off and switching on again, using a real light switch as a prop, they worked it out and moved forward in relative safety. Both thieves failed their locks roll for the door and most of the strongest characters also failed their Open Doors rolls.

Surprise, surprise, Zhastar the hobbit got it open eventually. Inside, they could see bundles and bundles of stuff, but being very cautious (I wonder why that could be so?) they sent Lannius in, having just about made his Hide in Shadows roll (okay he missed it by one but I was in a generous mood). He made several runs, bringing all the bundles out and eventually the last stone token as well.

JG was delighted to have found the last token and they set off back to the 3rd level and the treasure chamber. But as they were heading along the passageway towards the area of 25 and the shaft, guess who they should see, coming the other way? Yes, eight lean and hungry figures. JG scented the odour of corruption and the chance for revenge. Elise and Zhastar were put to the front and in came the ghouls - holy symbols were displayed and though Elise failed her roll, Zhastar made his and rolled an 11 on the d12. An oil bomb came sailing over the heads of the party and I rolled to see where in the ghoul pack it would land. JG rolled his 2d6 per ghoul caught in the splash and three went down. (yes, I know that in the rules, a direct hit gets the 2d6 and splash damage gets 1-3 but as the oil bomb fell amongst four of them, I ruled that each was susceptible to the full damage. Hey - they could have rolled a 2, or I could have rolled and found only two ghouls were hit) A fourth was on fire but this was only a temporary setback as Alurax and Hruthnor gunned it down with arrow and crossbow bolt. The surviving ghouls shambled off up the corridor and JG and party descended to level 3. I was rolling to see if they met anyone else on their journey to the treasure room but no-one else came up.

JG took each of the tokens and slotted them into place. The pillar started to rise into the ceiling, leaving an empty space behind. JG thought that this was it, and that there was no pay-off. Then the bottom of the pillar, now flush with the ceiling, opened up and gold pieces cascaded out.
"How many?" asked JG
"Oh, hundreds" I said
"What, a thousand?"
"Yeah, about that"
Lottery factor strikes again. He was somewhat disconsolate to find that there were no magical goodies in the haul until I pointed out that they had found plenty of magic goodies elsewhere in the dungeon.

There remained only the task of dragging all this loot back to the surface. When they reached the shaft, I pointed out that the rope would not take the weight of characters loaded with stuff and so Lannius climbed up and hauled each bundle up one at a time. He was halfway through when the sound of shuffling and the words "Brains! Brains!" came down the corridor. He at once descended on the rope and waited until the zombies had gone. No-one seemed particularly interested in bundles by a shaft (the cleric's priorty is new recruits, after all) and once the area was safe, the rest of the loot and the party ascended. Pausing only to collect the bones of the friendly ghost, they left the dungeon.

I concluded it there. As a wee giftie to the party, and to equip them a little better for the nasty world outside, I've decided to list out all the magic items that they've found and either let JG pick one for each member or let the dice decide. There will be no xp for these items - just a little something to give them a chance in the big bad world.

The Hex Factor

I had come to the conclusion that eight is too strong a party to be taking on first level dungeons. I had decided quite a while ago that JG would have to reduce the character roster by two and now had come the time to do so.

He decided that Garazor and Alia would be leaving the party at this stage. JG's rationale was that the party he picked (Akurath, Hruthnor, Alurax, Zhastar, Elise and Lannius) filled the slots that he reckoned were necessary for a party. Two fighters, a F/Mu, a Cl/Mu, a cleric and a Thief. In retrospect, Alia had sleep but sleep is in the spellbook that they picked up, and Garazor, whilst very handy, was always seen, I think, as a guest character. Never mind - he may well reappear - it's a big sandbox out there!

Next time, the party starts in the real world, no soft corners. Experience points are there for the taking, but so is death in all its cold and heartless glory.

Saturday 30 January 2010

Saturday Night Fight Club - Stone Giant v Treant

Okay, so it's very unlikely that these two guys would ever face up in their natural surroundings. But this is Saturday Night Fight Club and we can do anything!

In the grey corner, face like granite and body to match, a slab hewn of the hardest elements, it's...

Rocky the Stone Giant

Ignore the bear, he's just there for moral support (and he's brought the Doritos)

AC 0
Move 12”
HD 9 + 1-3 which makes an average of 42
No of atts 1
Dam per attack 3-18
Special attacks Rock Hurling for 3-30 hit points
90% chance of catching a rock hurled against them.
THAC0 12

In the green corner, with more branches than Wal-Mart, his bark is definitely worse than his bite, it's...

Woody the Treant

Just look what he did to the last person who tried to take him on.

AC 0
Move 12”
HD 7-12 average of 41 hp
No of attacks 2
Dam per attack depends on hit dice
7-8HD 2-16
9-10HD 3-18
11-12HD 4-24

Never surprised

Woody weighs in at a hefty nine hit dice, which means that he'll have a THAC0 of 12.

Pretty evenly matched? Well, that's what we're here to find out.

Ding ding, Round 1

We’ll let Rocky have a round of rock throwing at Woody as he comes in to attack

Rolls 12, which means it’s a hit, if only just. Does damage of 12.

Okay, both contenders close for action. Let's see what they roll on their reactions.

Woody rolls a 2, Rocky rolls a 1

Woody gets 18 and 14 to hit, doing 3d6 of damage with each - 9 with the left hook, 16 with the right.

Rocky whams Woody with a 19 – good hit. 10 damage

End of round 1 and as the two contenders retire to their corners, let's see how their hit points stack up.

Woody 19hp
Rocky 17hp

Round 2

Out come the contenders, d6 in hand, ready to roll those reactions. Woody gets a 5, Rocky rolls a 1. Woody is fast as lightning this round. Will he make it count?

He lets fly with those fists again, check those to hit rolls out, 18 and 15.

Damage of 12 and 11. Damn – that’s 23 in total – Rocky is down for the count.

Hell, that was a short one. Those fists are just too lethal at close quarters.

Let’s see if it runs a little differently second time around.

Round 1

Rocky hurls his boulder. Rolls a 12 to hit, again. Check the damage - 17 this time.

Rocky and Woody roll their d6s and both attack at the same time.

Rocky rolls a 4 – missed and no damage to Woody

Woody rolls 13 and 16 – bang, both fists make contact. 13 and 9 damage. That’s 22! Talk about a double whammy!

End of round 1 - back into their corners for a sponge and a pep-talk from their trainers.

Rocky 20hp
Woody 24hp

Round 2

Rocky rolls a 5 and with a 2, Woody goes second.

Rocky swings into action but with a 9, he misses.

Woody replies with 4 and 10 – he’s punching air this round.

Round 3 - let's hope that there's a bit more accuracy this time.

Reaction rolls first, and Woody gets a 2 to Rocky's 1. Stone doesn't exactly move quickly and Rocky is no exception.

Woody lets fly with a 15 and a 7. One fist hits Rocky for 12 damage. Rocky returns the favour but with a 3, Woody dodges it easily and avoids the blow.

End of round 3 and the combatants are down to

Rocky 8hp
Woody 24hp

Round 4 – this fight is going on a lot longer than the first one. Looks like the fans are getting their money's worth tonight.

Out with the d6s again, a roll and Woody beats Rocky by 4 to 3.

Woody swings those fists but Rocky is a bit too quick for him (for once). 7 and 6 don’t make contact.

Rocky replies – 5 – trees move in the wind and Woody is getting plenty of that from the stony one.

Seconds away, Round 5

The lucky d6 has not deserted Woody; 5 to Rocky's 4

Woody rolls to hit, aiming to get the killer blow. One good hit could finish this fight. His left gets a 3, misses completely but with his right, it’s a 15 and the wood thumps home. Let’s see what the damage is.

Exactly 8 damage. Rocky is on 0 hp. As he’s tottering on the brink of unconsciousness, let’s see if he hits.

3 – no, he’s well and truly seeing stars.

Round 6

Well, the referee is not coming in to break this up. Reaction rolls show that Woody and Rocky both get their blows in at the same time. Surely this is the end for our stony friend?

With a 5, he just can’t land that blow. Woody comes in, both fists bunched, 15 and 5 – the left hand inflicts a terrible 12 points of damage and that finishes off Rocky. He hits the canvas rock hitting canvas.

But what a contender! Let's hear it for the Fall of the Mountain King! When it came down to it, although they were evenly matched on armour class and hit dice, Woody had two hits to Rocky's one and with some terrible rolls, Rocky just wasn't able to land the blows when it counted, even with the concession of a boulder throw to get things going. This just goes to show how tough those walking trees really are - if you go down to the woods today, you're in for more than just a surprise, I can tell you.

Join us next week when the tough guys of the humanoid gang - trolls and ogres - take on the oldest of Old School monsters - Tyrannosaurus Rex!

Friday 29 January 2010

Elesalia - The Rose Blades

The Rose Blades are an order of female paladins, or paladines, who operate from a settlement near the Lake of Light. They have a close connection with the holy community on the Isle of Aleandar. They are named for the distinct pinkish hue to the metal of their swords.

Recruits for the order comes from all over Elesalia, from Helfgel in the west to the elven human protectorates in the eastern forests, from the Sultanates to the northern barbarians. It is said that the warrior goddess of the paladines, Siranis sends visions to those whom she has chosen when they reach sixteen. Those who have sufficient courage and determination to follow their visions make the journey, which can be hundreds of miles in some cases, to the Lake of Light, where they are received by the order. Worthy candidates for the visions of the goddess are few and many turn back or fall by the wayside into slavery or death at the hands of men or monsters.

Siranis is the Yirovian goddess of guardianship, faithfulness, dignity and duty. She requires no less in those who worship her. She is said to be stern but kindly, forgiving of all save infidelity in whatever shape or form she finds it.


In the year 640BP, there arose a great evil in the Yirovian valley. Some say Dusanbakh, a sorcerer discovered the power that had driven the Empire of the Snake and sought to recreate that evil again. He raised the undead from their graves and flung them against the forces of law and goodness.

Under the influence of Gal Haktal, the green avatar of Tiamat, whose realms included choking, decay, disease, fungus, poison, envy and malice, Dusanbakh and his hordes attacked the isle of Aleandar, a shrine to Clerestris, goddess of healing and mercy. It was captured and defiled.

The sorcerer was only defeated through much effort, battle and sacrifice. The wizard Crusios, a former adventurer and native of the city of Jemorria, who had helped the forces of good retake the valley, was later asked to join the Mages of Power.

Amongst the many brave warriors who fought for Yirovian and to liberate the Isle of Aleandar were four paladines, two senior and two apprentices. Peranta, Maskis, Romavel and Jehatia.

They did not begin as a group, but each pair was drawn to the conflict by a determination to fight evil and drive back darkness. Romavel was killed during the fighting and her body laid to rest on the Isle of Aleandar, in what is now known as the Chamber of the Broken Heart.

The remaining paladines had little time to rest, since the scattered undead, still infesting the valley, were a long time clearing. When eventually they returned to the sanctuary of the Isle, they found a new task waiting for them.

Following the liberation and reconsecration of the Isle of Aleandar, it was decided that the sanctuary required guardians. It could clearly no longer rely on its benevolence and neutrality to protect it and so the three surviving paladines formed the order of the Rose Blades, to fight for law and goodness and to protect the sanctuary. They obtained weaponry and training from the Khereseth and over the years built up a powerful force of paladines with the new recruits that Siranis sent them year by year.

In the year 442BP, a bond-pair of Rose Blades, Nelessia and Trema together with Chamis, a silvering and Delanda, a cleric of Clerestris joined with others in an attack on the Shadow Hands, who had struck a foul blow at the heart of the human settlements in the Ghafan region. Both Nelessia and Delanda were killed. Chamis, though badly wounded was granted full Rose Blade status by Siranis herself.

The Rose Blades are still in existence, pledged to defend the Isle of Aleandar and to seek out threats to law and goodness all over Elesalia. There is no saying where they will be encountered; they voyage at the whim of the goddess and consider it an honour to fight and die in her service.


There is no formal hierarchy within the order, but older paladines who have retired are consulted on matters of importance. Direction and leadership come through the influence of Siranis and the holy women who live on hermitages on the islands of the Lake of Light.

New arrivals come at the rate of perhaps two a year to join the order, which tends to cover the natural wastage of death from old age and combat.

The paladine receives her rose blade at the discretion of the goddess Siranis, if the girl’s performance, devotion and piety have pleased her. Most, if not all of the paladines become Rose Blades by the time they reach 20. It is possible that a girl will not be awarded the rose blade, in which case she is destined always to be the junior partner in a bond-pair or what is known as a silvering - a sort of associate Rose Blade, obliged to play the supporting role whenever another sword is needed.

Bond-pairs are formed by mutual agreement between paladine and apprentice; it is by no means unusual for a paladine to remain a solo operator.

When the senior paladine of a bond-pair reaches an age where she deems it too much to be adventuring or wielding arms any more, she hangs up her sword and goes through a ceremony where she officially hands over seniority to her pair partner, who then has the right either to become a lone paladine or to take a junior partner.

If this happens to a bond-pair and the junior partner is a silvering, then she must apply to another lone paladine to take her on as a partner. It may be that the 'junior' partner turns out to be older than her 'senior' partner.

When on a mission, a bond-pair often takes with it auxiliaries, being clerics (from the Isle of Aleandar) and women-at-arms. In the early days, male fighters were hired as supporting swords but it was found that although generally they behaved themselves, there were incidents that led to deaths and it was decided that a woman-only rule should be enforced. It also led to fewer casualties on missions since men were more likely to try foolhardy rescues.

The age range of paladines is, at any one time,
Teens 8
20s 20
30s 20
40s 20
50s 20
60s 20
70s 20
80s 2

The numbers in each age range may vary by one or two, depending on whether more have been killed in combat but the total number in the order will never exceed 130.

88 of these will be in their 50s or below, and therefore of reasonable military age. Of the 88, perhaps 30 will be lone paladines, 58 being in 29 bond-pairs. From 4-6 of the 88 paladines will be silverings.

It will be noted that those over 50 would tend not to be peregrinatory and may well have moved into mentoring or become clerics at the behest of the goddess. At most, a quarter of the paladines get a peregrinatory calling and of those, perhaps 10% die on adventures. They have the right to be buried on one of the islands of the Lake of Light, although only truly exemplary paladines or those who died in extraordinary circumstances can be laid to rest on the Isle of Aleandar.

Occasionally, Siranis informs a paladine through dreams and omens that she has been chosen for motherhood. This often happens when the soul of a dead paladine is required to be reincarnated - the goddess might have in mind a specific destiny for which she is needed. To ensure that the prospective mother is worthy of the honour, the goddess will send her visions of her future mate and it becomes a holy quest for her to seek him out. Once found, she must then woo and mate with him. This quest she must undertake on her own, and it is for this reason that the choosing of a paladine by the goddess often falls upon a lone paladine, rather than one in a bond-pair, because if it is the latter, the bond-pair is almost always broken by this event.

If a bond-pair suffers a casualty, then depending on the grief with which the survivor takes the loss, she sometimes retires from paladinhood and becomes a holy woman, setting up a hermitage on one of the smaller islands of the Lake of Light. Sometimes, she may become a cleric, sometimes a mentor for the new arrivals each year.

A bond-pair will live in a small complex of two houses, joined at communal chambers. Each complex has a training yard, stables and an armoury. Most have a garden where the paladines tend fruit trees, vegetable patches and herbs for various culinary, medicinal and magic purposes. Older bond-pairs may well have acquired servants who will be housed in rooms adjoining the complex. Amongst the complexes are small shrines where retired paladines live and tend to effigies of Siranis, or of Clerestris, the goddess of mercy and healing.

A Rose Blade is a very serious character, much like Siranis herself. She will be faithful unto death itself if she has given her word. Though the joys of the world have not become strange to her, a paladine of the Rose Blades can sometimes allow her determination and duty to make her appear somewhat humourless. Rose Blades will take a very dim view of oath-breakers and will associate with them only in extremis and then only for a very short while.

As has been noted, the establishment of the Rose Blades was accompanied by an influx of training, weaponry and armour from the Khereseth. Over the next 222 years, the master weaponsmiths continued to supply the paladines with the fruits of their forges so that it can now be honestly said that the Rose Blades hold one of the largest hoards of Khereseth armour and swords anywhere in Elesalia.

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Newcomers, are ye hungry?

Mr Gone, Jaerdaph, Tim Shorts at Gothridge Manor - your perspicacity and good taste shall be rewarded!

And ancientvaults - feast on this. I hear that other blogs don't offer such hearty fare.

Sunday 24 January 2010

The Skeleton King wants YOU...

for his Undead Army!

(photo courtesy of Junior Grognard)

Facio the Paladin gets a makeover

This is for Eli at I See Lead People. I knew I'd got it somewhere and here it is. As you can see, the horse is different but it's the same Facio

and see, here he is without his horse. As I remember, they used to be sold in sets of mounted and dismounted positions.

Saturday 23 January 2010

Saturday Night Fight Club - Manticore v Wyvern

At the suggestion of Biopunk, it’s another aerial combat.


AC 4
Move 12”/18”
Hit dice 6+3 (average hit points of 30)
No of attacks 3
Damage per attack 1-3/1-3/1-8
Special attack Tail spikes – can fire four volleys of six spikes each, one per round from its tail , 1-6 damage per hit. It doesn’t say whether that is per spike or per volley. I’ll assume it’s per spike, since 1-6 damage for six iron spikes doesn’t seem that much. However, it means that each spike launched has to make its own to hit roll. Seems fair.
Special defences – nil
Size L
THAC0 13 and therefore needs a 10 to hit the wyvern
The manticore will save vs. poison on a 10 or better.
Aerial manoeuvrability class E – “Manticores are clumsy fliers, but they will not hesitate to fling their tail spikes at opponents who get too close”


HD 7+7 (average hp 38.5)
Move 24”
Manoeuvrability class E
2 atts
2-16 and 1-6 + poison sting.
THAC0 12, therefore needs an 8 to hit the manticore.

Round 1

As both the manticore and wyvern have the same manoeuvrability class, I’ll rule, as I did before, that they both attack at the same time.

I’ll also rule that since they are taken to be in combat, yet moving around and getting their attacks in when they can, they can use all their various attacks at the same time. Remember that a round is quite a long time and I can’t see why claw/claw/bite and tail can’t all be deployed during that time.

Manny the Manticore swoops in, firing off a volley of spikes as he closes and then has a go with his claw/claw/bite routine.

Let’s see how many of his iron spikes hit.

Rolls a 12, 2, 12, 15, 6, 6 - therefore 3 spikes hit, and their damage is a total of 9

His claw/claw/bite scores are 10, 12 and 19 – all three hit and the total damage is 2,1 and 1 – that bite just didn’t bite.

Let’s see what Wylie the Wyvern can whistle up in response. Oops – his bite went a little astray with a hit roll of 3. What of his sting?

5 – well, dragonkind must be hiding their collective faces behind their collective paws at this point. What a shlemiel!

End of round 1 and Manny has taken no hits. He’s down to 3 volleys of his iron spikes (I wonder if that’s where the best iron spikes are harvested?).

Wylie the Wyvern on the other hand is down to 26 hp and if ever a wyvern’s face was red, his is now.

Round 2

We’ll let Wylie have the first strike – he dives in for his attacks and rolls

7 for the bite and 14 for his tail sting. Maybe the tail can make up for the inadequacies of the mouth. Damage of 1 – hmm, maybe not. Let’s see if Manny makes his save vs. poison.

17 – things are just getting worse for Wylie.

Ah well, let’s see what damage Manny can do to Wylie’s body. He’s already done heaps to his ego.

First the tail spikes. 4,3,18,10, 7,9 – only 2 hit, for total damage of 7

Now the claw/claw/bite – 10, 5 and 4. A total of 1 damage from the claw that managed to hit. I wonder what’s happened to my D20? It seems to be rolling low.

End of round, and Manny is down to 29hp and 2 volleys of iron spikes, Wylie to 18. It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.

Round 3 and I’ll let Manny have first crack.

4,7,4,1, 15 and 5 – man, what rubbish rolls. Still, what goes around comes around. So that’s just 1 iron spike hit (not sure what happened to the other five; perhaps they landed on a hobbit – we can only hope!) for damage of 1

Claw/claw/bite to hits of 12,7 and 9 – one claw hit for damage of 3!

Okay, here comes Wylie – he rolls to hit – he gets a 4

Facepalm for the Wyverns.

What about his tail stinger? At last, a 14. Damage of 4 and let’s see if Manny makes his save. Which d20 shall I use? What about that low roller?

20! Is there such a thing as a critical save?

End of round 3 – Manny is on 25hp and has 1 volley of iron spikes left, Wylie has 14hp left. It could all change on the next round.

Round 4 – Wylie gets first go.

Wahoo! He actually hits with that bite of his. It’s been so long since he actually hit, I’ll just check what the damage is.

2d8 – he rolls 9 in total (well, he can’t roll a 1)

And his stinger? 9 – so it’s a hit – just. Damage of 4 and Manny has to save vs. poison again. He looks confident but should he be?

Alas, a 5. Well, that’s my fault, using that low roller. But as both monsters are attacking simultaneously, Manny still gets his attacks in. How will he do?

Tail spikes – the final volley – 11,17,15,15,12,4 – ha! Where were those rolls when he needed them for his save, eh? Ah well, that’s the way the luck goes.

Still, damage for five spikes – let’s make those rolls. 6,3,2,2,2 for a grand total of 15. Wylie is looking damn punctured.

Claw/claw/bite 1,12,10 – a claw and a bite hit home. Manny rolls a total of 8 on his bite (max-I-mum!) and 2 for the claw – ten in total.

That means that in round 4, Wylie has taken a total of 25 damage, and as he only had 14 left, he’ll be hitting the ground in several pieces.

Well, that’s about all we have time for, so…

Wait, wait! I’ve just taken a call from Wylie’s therapist. She says he should re-run that combat; apparently it’s good therapy for his inadequacy issues and problems with self-esteem.

Oh well, I’m up for it.

Round 1

Wylie swoops in, eager for revenge. He rolls a 15 for his bite and chomps home with a total of 9 damage.

Let’s see what his stinger can do. He rolls a 12 to hit. 4 damage and Manny needs to save vs. poison (he’s getting a bit tired of this) . He rolls a 13.

Manny swings that dangerous tail of his, picks up his d20 and rolls

18,16,17,3,8,7 – not bad. Three spikes hit home for a total of 16 damage.

Now for those claws and teeth.

8,16,7 – only one claw rips into Wylie’s scale for a measly 1 damage. Just a scratch.

At the end of that round, Wylie is on 22hp, Manny on 17. If Wylie can score maximum damage with both his attacks, he might knock Manny out of the sky, or at the very least wipe that smirk off the manticore’s bearded face.

Round 2
Wylie closes for combat, mouth open wide, teeth glinting.

Snap! He rolls a 14 for his bite, 9 damage.

Unfortunately, his tail hit roll is a less than perfect 6. Still, he’s brought Manny down to 8hp – what can the lion of the skies pull out of the bag?

It’s spike time. Manny picks a d20 at random (you can’t rely on anything this week) and rolls

18,3,16,15,15,17 – bullseye! Five out of the six spikes hit. He rolls his damage. 19!

This must surely spell doom for Wylie. And just to make sure, Manny gives it the claw/claw/bite to finish things off – or does he?

14,16,14 – good rolls! 2,1,1 – 4 damage.

And on –1, Wylie goes sailing earthward again.

Well, that’s the last time Wylie will be listening to that therapist.

In retrospect, the fact that Manny managed to save vs. poison on the second fight made the difference between them that bit more interesting. I may have made the manticore that little bit more powerful with my iron spike damage rule; that and the fact that Manny did have some splendid dice luck in the second fight. There is only 2 difference between them on the THAC0s and if they made all their hits, Manny would inflict 48 damage whilst Wylie would only do 22. If I’d ruled that Manny could only do a maximum of 6 damage with his tail spikes per round, then he’d do 18 damage maximum, which just doesn’t sound right.

Also, we have to bear in mind that Manny can only fire four volleys with his tail spikes, so if an opponent can keep the battle going longer than four rounds, the manticore’s maximum damage at once drops to 12.

That's it for this week. Join us next time for Stone Giant v Treant.

Friday 22 January 2010

Brains! Brains!

Previously on this adventure, our brave heroes - and their hobbit - were in room 16, having just slaughtered the ogre and his kobold hordes. They had a quick hunt-around but I completely forgot about the oubliette (where the ogre had been storing his prisoners for later devouring), so I decided to put it in where the hatch is on the passage to room 18, down which no-one had gone yet.

The party eventually headed down towards the water feature, a huge area of flooded dungeon. Regular readers will remember that the party had discovered that one of the missing stone tokens had the symbol of water on it. The discovery of such a large area of water at once set the alarm bells ringing.

Lannius was standing on the edge, tapping the bottom with a ten foot pole, and by chance happened to be standing directly over the grille. Had they approached it from the other end, finding it would not have been quite so simple. It was not an easy job for JG to work out exactly what it was that was being tapped; clink of metal, nothing at all, clink of metal, nothing at all. I even ended up sketching a diagram of the clink and non-clink sectors so that it soon became apparent that there was a pattern. What that pattern was, however…

The conclusion was eventually reached that the only way to work out what was down there was to send someone down. As Akurath had the highest constitution (and I went through the definitions of all the attributes until JG decided that CON was the best for the job) he was stripped of his armour and a length of rope tied around his waist (JG's idea, no prompting). Down he went into the murk and soon found the grille but was unable to lift it on his own. JG - again with no prompting - sussed that two characters were needed but first the lock had to be picked. A quick scan of the character sheets and it was revealed that Garazor had the highest chance. So down went the half-orc and JG rolled 11 on the percentile dice. The lock popped open and Alurax joined the dwarf under the water. As they lifted the grille and dragged out the necklace with the stone token, Alurax failed a CON roll and was dragged, choking and spluttering to the surface.

As they dried off and donned their armour again, Hruthnor, who had been on sentry duty, reported that he had heard a strange whispering and shuffling from the other end of room 16. The party headed off to investigate. They found a slithering trail of smeared blood and no ogre body. JG concluded (wrongly) that the surviving kobolds (all four of them!) had claimed the body of their leader. The party followed the trail and found it leading up the passageway towards 23 and 24. The door to 23 was locked, but Lannius made his roll this time and they pushed the door open to reveal a room full of zombies and an evil cleric busy reanimating the ogre.

With cries of "Brains! Brains!" the zombies lurched towards the door (all 16 of them) led by their newly-raised ogre friend. The party sensibly beat a hasty retreat, probably a good job when the stats of the zombie ogre are considered (MM2 if anyone’s interested). I thought we were looking at some dwarf on zombie action but apparently not. They were so spooked by this that the party legged it to the shaftway back up to the 1st level. For some unknown reason, JG wanted to head back to the slime room - from later discussion, it transpired that he thought the gems that had fallen into the slime would still be there, at the bottom of the pool. Anyway, he indicated his chosen route on the map of 1st level that I had helped them make and they set off down the long corridor that runs 'south' from 14.

Unfortunately, a roll on the very depleted wandering monster table resulted in the 8 ghouls coming in the opposite direction. They met at the crossroads by the wind tunnel. JG put Elise and Zhastar at the front, because they had blunt weapons. He didn't instruct them to try and turn.

It is a sad tale and briefly told. Elise went down, rent to pieces. Zhastar cast Protection from Evil on himself. Garazor (failing his turn effort, which JG eventually agreed to do) and Lannius were reduced to minus, Hruthnor was paralysed as was Akurath. The ghouls swept on; JG was overwhelmed by the tragedy that was unfolding, horrified by his party's inability to stop the ghouls. Realising in the end that he was looking at a TPK unless he did something, Alia and Alurax fled the scene. Zhastar was keeping the ghouls nearest him at bay with the Protection from Evil, but that only had a limited duration. As he was now surrounded and pinned against the wall by the ghouls, moving was no option as the ravening beasts would have moved with him, just outside his circle. The ghouls just waited....

Finally, his spell ran out and a horrible sound echoed in the ears of Alurax and Alia as they fled.

JG, not quite as blasé as he might have appeared in previous weeks, was in tears at this point. He picked himself up and, at a bit of a loss (as one often is after something like that) Alia and Alurax headed for one of the rooms that he had missed on his first session - the spider room (room 1 on level 1). He holed up there until the rest of the party reappeared, and then the two strongest lifted the grille.

Out came the spiders, one for each member of the party. Spider THAC0s are notoriously bad but nevertheless, some hits were bound to make it past the team’s defences and even with +2 on their saves, the party were whittled down - Alurax, Elise, Akurath, Hruthnor and Lannius all dying of poison bites. Alia and Zhastar, despite making some cracking to hits and damage rolls, were reduced to 0hp, and only Garazor was left standing. He performed manfully and despatched the final three spiders single-handed.

Again back up to full strength and with a couple of nice gems (the spider treasure) in their pouches, the party set off again, back down to level 2, where JG decided to check out some of the unexplored passageways on the map. He knew that there was one more token to find but had no idea where it was. The party found themselves going down the passageway to room 19, the water trap. Alurax and Lannius went in on their own. I diced to see if they set off the trap but no joy. Well, not for me, anyway. They found the holes and spotted the grille hung from the ceiling. Being half-elven and elven respectively, I tipped them the wink about some areas of floor looking a bit iffy (the equivalent of secret door location, for which they did get the roll) and JG warned the rest of the party not to come in. There was nothing else in there apart from the trap, and after a brief scout around, the party left again. They decided to rest up in room 22, an empty store room put there by a kindly dungeon designer in ages past.

Anyone counting will have worked out that the total death toll was eleven. A very high casualty rate, proving that ghouls are best attacked in a planned assault and spiders’ poison bites are not to be underestimated.

The wandering monster table is now getting very depleted, with a lot of the location-keyed monsters by now being dealt with. I am of the opinion that the Training Dungeon needs more wandering monsters, even if they are not tied to a particular location, because otherwise the players could get bored of wandering round empty corridors for hours on end. That is something that will be remedied in the second edition, plus more insights from the play-testing of Old 4 Eyes and his merry band.

Whilst on the subject of play-testing, if there is anyone out there who would like to run the Training Dungeon for their Junior Grognards, do please let me know and we'll see what we can arrange.

Thursday 21 January 2010

Poll Results - cause for concern?

So the poll results are in - hmm.

I asked how you joined the OSR, and this is how the votes went

Played newer editions, became disenchanted and moved to retro-clones 9%

Never moved on from the original games 42%

Went straight to the retro-clones 4%

Other 42%

I thought that I'd covered the various routes by which I could imagine people getting into the OSR but this is clearly not the case because a large number of you chose "Other". I'd be interested to hear a little bit more about "Other" so feel free to share with Daddy G

What I think this poll shows, and things might change if "Other" proves interesting, is that the majority of those who class themselves as belonging to the OSR are still playing the games they've always played. The level of new blood entering the Old School Renaissance/Revival seems to be minimal. This concerns me - as I have often said, it's vital that we bring new people into the OSR or we will become a dwindling band.

So to those of you (Carl Nash being a good example) who are going out and recruiting new players, either those who have never played or who have never played Old School, I salute you (and I may well steal your tactics)

Wednesday 20 January 2010

Elesalia - the Khereseth

The Khereseth were a force of warriors and weaponsmiths whose martial prowess was unrivalled in the history of Elesalia. Even today, a Khereseth sword – if it can be found - is a prize worthy of only the best fighters. It was said that their blades could cut the air in two and their armour could turn back lightning.


No-one is quite sure of the origins of the Khereseth. They first appear in Elesalian history in the years immediately following the eruptions of Mount Terarnis and the Dragonspine Mountains in the year 1129BP. These eruptions destroyed the city state and civilisation of Prelnax and plunged the area into the chaos of a huge humanoid attack from the mountains, spearheaded by a phalanx of fire giants. Out of this chaos came the Khereseth, their valour and martial prowess a key factor in the defeat of the humanoids.

It is speculated that they may have been refugees from an as yet unknown city, survivors of the city watch; there is rumour of the elves covertly directing them in their rise to become warrior knights. Their name itself comes from an ancient root “Q’RES” meaning “to watch” and their society was organised into wards and precincts. It is also possible that they may have been a force of fighter adventurers roaming the land in search of opportunities for glory and battle.

The next time history called on the Khereseth, they were established on the shores of Lake Gharzish, at the south-eastern end of the Aman Hexu. Here, they were steadily building up their strength, honing their skills of fortification and weaponsmithing and making their expertise invaluable.

In 1050BP, the expanding Empire of the Snake moved out of the Yirovian region and towards Lake Gharzish, intending to add the southern lands to its black, bloodstained orbit. It fell to the Khereseth to stop them, and stop them they did. It is said that the plains that day were dotted with piles of skulls, expertly separated from their surprised owners by the sharpest blades the world had ever seen. The Empire drew a line and did not cross it again.

When, over two centuries later, the Empire began to collapse in on itself with an inevitability matched only by the utter cruelty and mayhem of the process, the Khereseth joined a coalition made up of exiled Yirovians, resistance fighters and the newly-arrived Sea Raiders who had landed on the shores of the Aman Hexu. This force swept into the Yirovian valley and cleansed the land of the Empire’s evil in a campaign of slaughter so complete that the ravens were too fat to fly thereafter.

Over the next eighty years or so, the Khereseth continued to provide the Ghafan Kingdom with cadre troops to bolster its own army, as they had done since the Kingdom’s founding in 1049BP. However, by about 755BP, decadence and corruption had started to seep into the Kingdom, tainting it like mould; this alienated the Ghafan traditionalists and the principled Khereseth, who withdrew their involvement with Ghafan’s military.
Deprived of a military cadre, and seeking to protect themselves, the cities within Ghafan started to establish their own forces, orders of knights, each headed by a cleric. This was one more step towards the eventual collapse of Ghafan.

At the surreptitious behest of elven agents, the Khereseth were also involved in the establishment, training and armouring of the Rose Blades, an order of female paladines who became settled near the Lake of Light after the defeat of an evil sorcerer who had risen in the Yirovian valley and desecrated the Isle of Aleandar, a shrine of peace and healing.

The evil that lurked in the Dragonspine Mountains still had plans for the human nations of the Ghafan area and in 445BP, they enlisted the aid of the Shadow Hands, a sinister and secretive band of assassins to attack and destroy two key elements of the human resistance – the priestesses of Sultimaris and the central temple of Kallia, goddess of fire, whose network of shrines gave protection to the scattered human towns and cities of the Ghafan plain.
In a counter-strike, a band of human and elven adventurers, including a squad of Khereseth fighters struck back against the Shadow Hands, destroying their base and killing a large number of their operatives.

In 435 the Great Desiccation began, as the forces of evil below the mountains cut off the source of the rivers that irrigated the Ghafan plain. Then began the humanoid attacks, small to begin with but getting larger and larger by the year as drought bit harder, like a pack of hungry jackals, into the human lands.

The campaign came to a head in 418BP, when a huge assault on the weakened humans was launched. Wave upon wave of humanoids – a snarling, howling sea of hate - poured out of the mountain caves, headed by fire giants, eager to repeat their destruction of Prelnax, over seven centuries earlier. The scattered human forces and their elven allies answered the call to arms but they could not gather their forces in time. All looked lost until the Khereseth army rode to meet the enemy. In a ferocious battle, they were all but wiped out; their enemies were halted in disarray and by the time they had resumed the offensive, human and elven fighters had managed to mass and won a hard-fought and bloody victory.

With that sacrifice, the Khereseth passed from history. Rumours of survivors endured for a long time – or perhaps it was a forlorn hope - but no revival of the Khereseth has ever been seen.

Although the Khereseth are long gone, rumour remains of their hidden fastness where the master weaponsmiths hid their secrets and – it is rumoured – weapons of ultimate workmanship. This place is said to be guarded by mechanical contraptions such as iron golems and gorgons – the metal-plated bulls of legend.


The Khereseth based their military organisation around the number five. Each group of five was known as a hand (khurota) whilst at peace, and during combat was known as a fist (khushoth).

A fighting unit was twenty-five strong, divided down into five squads, each of four soldiers and an NCO. This 25-strong unit was led by a quarter-captain. The next one up was one hundred and twenty-five, led by a more senior officer.

The unit would form the shape of a pentagon in combat. The points of the pentagons would face outwards like bastions in lined formation. At each point of the pentagon, two soldiers' shields would link together at an angle (they were also constructed so that they could hook together to make a jointed shield wall) - the linked point was called the beruta.

The Khereseth were not only great weapon makers but superb armourers, always looking for ways to improve their armour. Khereseth armour is often up to 30% lighter than conventional armour and, like their weapons, confers a +1 to +4 depending on the maker.
Khereseth preferred melee rather than missile combat; anything further than hurled axe or spear range was too far for most. There was, however a forge that lent itself to working on crossbows, which satisfied them since they were partly-mechanical. Longbows on the other hand were regarded as elvish, being mostly wood or bone.

Units of the Khereseth were used frequently to train and bolster local forces as needed and before the fall of the Ghafan Kingdom, they were utilised as cadre troops. There were two separate classes of trainer within the Khereseth, the first (known as Khith) who trained only Khereseth soldiers, and the second (known as Tathish) who left the Forge Lands and went to train foreign troops as required by the Forge Masters (Rokhuseth).

The Khereseth were slave-owners. It was part of the culture in that part of the world and they had no qualms about using slaves to provide the food, cook and do municipal duties. The Rikheth were household officers who oversaw the running of households and the domestic side of forge life.
Only those fathered by a Khereseth warrior, known as forge-born (bokhtar) were eligible to belong to the Khereseth. Slaves (ashrath) taken or outsiders wanting to join the ranks were treated as second-class (tethshath), never quite being trusted.

Khereseth also had herds of livestock (oshir) the care of which they contracted out to bondsmen (oshireth), freed slaves who were nevertheless under the control of the forges. A department of the Khereseth known as the herd masters (Shikoroth) appointed overseers (karath) of the bondsmen and controlled the logistics of the herd, including slaughter, flaying, preparation of the meat, etc.

The reason for the Khereseth mistrust of elves is not known but mistrust them they did. It meant that in their approaches to the Khereseth, the elves had to work in secret, using either agents or elves in disguise. The Khereseth, without realising it, gave valuable service to the elven cause over the centuries.


Some Khereseth words.

Ashioth - a precinct, sub-division of the Khereseth.
Shathat - officer in command of an Ashioth.
Beruta - two linked shields at the apex of a pentagon formation.
Barathot - shield wall.
Berathor - shield maker, one of a twinned pair of armourers who lived at each forge.
Bokhath - the forge.
Bukhath - forge staff, stokers, bellows-men, fuellers, quenchers.
Rabuthat - member of the horse corps, who provided messengers, mounts for officers. The Khereseth had no real cavalry, preferring to fight on foot.
Rabut – horse.
Rikheth - household controllers, those who oversaw the running of households gathered around the forge.
Rokhuseth - the Forge Masters.
Rushat - swordcraft, its study and practice.
Teth - outside the forge.
Sath - the verb to come, to arrive from somewhere else.
Khurota - hand, the unit of five in peace time.
Sariath - the 125-strong unit.
Sharath - senior captain, commanding a Sariath.
Shethara - armour, its study and practice.
Khith - tutor or trainer of Khereseth warriors only.
Shakhoth - the forge that specialised in crossbows.
Thakhir - the 25-strong unit.
Takhrat - a quarter-captain.
Thesharut - literally 'small blades' the study of daggers and the shorter swords.
Shethorat - armourer, one of a twinned pair who lived at each forge. Along with his berathor, he would work on all aspects of armour and shield.
Rashithor - sword maker.
Shuth - a ward, sub-division of the Ashioth.
Eshothat - officer in charge of a Shuth.
Tathish - trainer of foreign troops.
Oshir – livestock.
Oshireth - bondsmen who looked after the Khereseth livestock.
Shakha - the study and science of mechanical weapons.
Khushoth - fist, the unit of five at war.
Shikoroth - the herd masters.
Karath - an overseer. This word was used not only for the overseers of herd bondsmen but also for those who organised the acquisition, processing and care of slaves.

Friends and Food (edit)

Okay, everybody - three new arrivals, Timrod,Cinderella Man and Dungeonmum. I'm just rummaging in the cupboard to see what we can serve up for them and....

Oh, and by the way...those aren't just normal Doritos. They're Mountain Dew flavoured Doritos. Two RPG essentials for the price of one!

New Elesalia post coming later today, but I wanted to make sure my new followers get the standard Daddy Grognard welcome

Saturday 16 January 2010

Saturday Night Fight Club - Frost Giant v Remorhaz

Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but that doesn't stop the fighting. Tonight, we welcome back the Frost Giant from last time's bout and pit him against another denizen of the frozen wastes, the Remorhaz.

Without further ado, let's pour ourselves a hot one and take a look at the contenders.

Frost Giant

AC 4
HD 10 + 1-4 average hit points 48 (well, 47.5 but I’ll round up)
No of atts 1
Dam per att 4-24
Hurling rocks for 2-20 damage

Can catch rock hurled 40% of the time

THAC0 10 - to hit the remorhaz overall the Frost giant needs a 10, to hit its head, he needs an 8, to hit its underside, he needs a 6


AC Overall 0, head 2, underside 4 (it rears up when it’s angry, so an attacker may well get a hit in on its underside)

I’m ruling that if the remorhaz gets its initiative in before Frosty, then it lunges forward and Frosty’s attack lands on either its back (80%) or its head (20%) and we all know what happens if you hit a remorhaz’s back. Similarly, if Frosty gets first strike, he will hit either the underside (80%) or the head (20%). That should sort the multiple AC out.

Move 12”
HD 7-14

Okay, the hit dice and average hit points are as follows:

7 31.5 average hp
8 36 average hp
9 40.5 average hp
10 45 average hp
11 49.5 average hp
12 54 average hp
13 58.5 average hp
14 63 average hp

7 THAC0 13. To hit a frost giant, it needs 9
8 THAC0 12. To hit a frost giant, it needs 8
9 THAC0 12. To hit a frost giant, it needs 8
10 THAC0 10. To hit a frost giant, it needs 6
11 THAC0 10. To hit a frost giant, it needs 6
12 THAC0 9. To hit a frost giant, it needs 5
13 THAC0 9. To hit a frost giant, it needs 5
14 THAC0 8 to hit a frost giant, it needs 4

No of atts 1
Damage per att 6-36

Prey swallowed whole on a score of 20 – although trying to swallow a Frost Giant whole might give it indigestion.

When it gets aroused, its back protrusions glow cherry red and any non-magical weapon striking its back will melt, and anyone touching the back will take 10-100 pts of damage. Yes, that’s 10 d10

Get this – magic resistance 75% - spells are going to bounce off it. It’s got the same magic resistance as a type 6 demon.

Okay, first things first – I’ll be pitting Frosty against both a 10HD remorhaz and its big brother, the 14HD one – just for fun, you understand before the FGCLU gets on the phone.

To recall, the 10HD remorhaz has variable AC, to hit Frosty it needs a 6 and its HP are 45.

Frosty has 48hp, AC 4 and to hit the remorhaz, it depends. To be fair to Frosty, I’m giving him both an axe and a big sword. He’ll need them.

Okay, round 1

To be really nice to Frosty, I’m giving him the chance to get a couple of boulders in as the Remorhaz closes for action.

Roll de boulders!

19! Yay! Damage roll of 10. The remorhaz is not in the least bit perturbed by this, however, and all the less so when Frosty’s second boulder attack gets a 1 for its hit roll. Did he drop it on his foot? We can watch the video on YouTube later.

First round of combat –

Roll for initiative, Frosty gets a 1, the remorhaz gets a four. I see Frosty’s bad dice luck has followed him from the previous fight.

The remorhaz lunges forward for its strike and hits with a 13. Hang on while I just get six D6 together.

20 damage. Whew! That’s some bite. Frosty reels, and swings his axe. Let’s see where his blow lands. 62 – it’s the back. I’ll be more than generous and say that the heat from the remorhaz’s insides hasn’t glowed cherry-red yet. Frosty hits with a 16 and does 11 damage.

Round 2 of combat – Frosty starts on 28hp, the remorhaz on 24. Let’s see who goes first. (oh, and by now the remorhaz back is glowing nicely. Get your oven mitts out.)

Frosty rolls a 3, the remorhaz a 6. Man, that thing is fast.

It rolls a 16. Damage of 22 – Frosty is not liking that at all. He’s down to six hit points. He swings his axe again – let’s hope he hits the head.


No – it thuds home with a 14. Just before it totally melts, it does 10 damage.

Round 3 – the time for initiative is upon us again. It’s come round a little too fast for Frosty, who by all reasonable standards of behaviour should have turned tail and run home crying like a girl, but no, he stands his ground. He’s stubborn, I’ll give him that.

Whatever he is, he won’t be so for long. The remorhaz has just beaten him in the initiative roll again. 4 to 3. Up he rears and forward he snaps. With an 11, those fearsome teeth bite home – damage of 12. Frosty is down to –6. Game over.

Okay, so I said we’d be pitting an 10HD and a 14HD remorhaz against our Frosty Giant. But I think we all know what’s going to happen with Mr 14, don’t we?

Who’d like to see that anyway?

Okay, so here we go. We’ll do the rock-flinging and then close to combat.

Frosty rolls to pitch and putt his boulders. 19 and 11 – both hit. The first does damage of 17, the second does damage of 12. That’s a hefty 29 to come off the Remorhaz’s…

63. Oh, it doesn’t seem to have worried it much. It’s now down to 34.

Roll for initiative. Frosty rolls a 1, the remorhaz rolls a 6. I’d change that d6 if I were you, Frosty.

The remorhaz rolls a 10, hits and does 25 damage. Kerpow!

Frosty rolls to see where his blow would land. 71 – it’s the back. We’ll give him the same chance we did last time regarding the back getting up to heat.

Dang! He rolls a 2 to hit. Which is a crying shame because I’d rolled the damage and he got 6,6,6 and 5 – 23. Ah well, the snow takes the pain.

Round 2 – Frosty actually wins his initiative roll – new dice, new luck? We’ll see. He rolls 32, which gives him a strike at the underside.

18! Yay! 10 damage, reduces the remorhaz to 24. Frosty is really regretting not having hit last time.

With an 11, the remorhaz snaps down on Frosty, doing 25 damage.

Game over again, although to be fair to Frosty, he did put up somewhat more of a fight that time. If he’d made his hit on the remorhaz, it’d be down to 1hp. Frosty would still be dead, but the remorhaz, if it survived the long slither home, would treat Frost Giants a bit more carefully next time.

I suppose you want to see Frosty beat up the little guy now?

Okay, rock throwing first.

Frosty rolls 5 (a miss) and 11 – hit! 12 damage. The remorhaz is down to 20hp before a blow has been struck.
Frosty’s lucky d6 strikes again as he gets a 5 to the remorhaz’s 1. Dice to see where the blow falls – 50 means the underside has taken the full force of Frosty’s blade. A hit roll of 12 sees the blade slicing into polar worm flesh. Unfortunately, it’s only damage of 8

It’s a flesh wound!

The remorhaz bites back – he hits with a 19! Damage of 23.

Next round – The remorhaz is on 12hp, Frosty is on 25. Time to roll those d6 – hey, guess what? Both 1s! Hmm – this may affect where Frosty lands his blow – in fact, I’m going to rule that the odds are reversed and there’s an 80% chance of the head being hit.

The remorhaz makes his to hit roll – just. He inflicts 24 damage. Frosty rolls 61 which means his axe lands on the head – that makes his THAC0 8.

He rolls a 12 – and with 17 damage, he shatters the remorhaz’s skull, sending lumps of slimy brain all over the tundra.

Staggering, blood pouring from his hideous wounds, one single hit point left, Frosty howls a bellow of triumph in that strange language that only Frost Giants can understand. He picked on the smallest remorhaz he could find and he won – just.

Well, I hope that this has shown just how fearsome an opponent the remorhaz can be for the unsuspecting party. May Gygax preserve you if you meet the 14HD one.

Next week, we line up a fixture suggestion from Biopunk, the manticore, Lion of the Skies, verus Old Stinger himself, the Wyvern. Till then, wrap up warm and....

Did that snowdrift just move?

Friday 15 January 2010

Elesalia - History 101

I might as well say it now – I’m a top-downer. In fact, I’ve said it before. I know that there are those that disagree with me, but I need a framework. So here is the way that I worked out the campaign history.

There is, as far as I can see, no contradiction between being a top-downer designer and creating a bottom-up sandbox for your players. It all depends on how much the players know. The DM can have the world worked out to the nth degree, with a history going back a thousand years, but as far as the players know, the world has no name and does not exist further than the six hexes that surround their base. They’re going to find out otherwise, but in the fullness of time.

Where I think that top-down designers have got a bad name is that, having put all that work into their world, they seem determined that the players should know all about it, so that their efforts are appreciated. Few people design worlds for their own sake (am I in a minority of one here?) and everyone likes a little recognition. Where the line has to be drawn is the point at which the DM hands out a thirty-page campaign history for the players to read before gaming even starts.

If the DM wants to share the experience of the players, exploring the world as it unfolds, letting the unknown carve out its own shape, then that’s their call. Each to their own. If the top-down aspect of world design turns you off, skip the rest of this post.

I’m just a junkie for campaign histories. I appreciate that a lot of mine will mean absolutely nothing to anyone outside the rather limited Elesalia fan club but further posts on the features of Elesalia will make reference to the history, so I thought I’d better get it on now.

As I’ve mentioned in the introductory Elesalia post, I had a list of things that I knew I wanted in the campaign. I wanted a recent war or two – in this case, two; the Kaldak Forest war which in my world is the equivalent of the battle against the Temple of Elemental Evil – which I’ve resprayed and will be using, and the Ice Wars, in which a horde of frost giants, white dragons, cold-using creatures of all sorts swarmed down from their mountain fastnesses and cast half the Veriel valley into a permanent winter. This was only defeated by concerted action from the forces of good who had, until then, been bickering and squabbling in the way that puts the petty into Petty Duchies. Result – desolate but slowly recovering northern lands, masses of refugees and social stress on the lands who took them in.
So in the past forty years, there have been two big wars. This, for me justifies the presence of many experienced soldiers and warriors who are now thinking about retiring. There is therefore a vacuum for new and upcoming adventurers.

Having taken care of recent history, I started to work back. I knew that the Veriel Valley duchies were the result of a recolonisation of land lost following the collapse of a previous civilisation. I worked out the history of the duchies and their origin in the fortress city of Stonegarth Hold.

At the mouth of the great river, I wanted to have two cities – Old Palintor, a ruin on one bank and New Palintor on the other, bustling, sprawling and a crossroads for the campaign, a city to which all would come, through which all would flow and where, it is said, one can get anything – for a price. The ruins would be the lair of monsters, the haunt of villains, the location of sewers and catacombs, lost temples, hidden vaults. So the city needed to have been sacked or ruined. And the new city needed to have time to grow up. Start calculating, perhaps sixty years here, eighty there, what might have done the damage? Where did they come from? Lightning campaign or slow advance?

Before Palintor grew – and how long did that take? - who founded the old city in the first place? I had the name “The Sea Raiders” in my mind, possibly a borrowing from the Sea Peoples of Bronze Age Mediterranean history, a vigorous and aggressive incomer culture who found a land riven by chaos, overgrown by dark forests and overrun by monsters. But why was it like that? Answer – the Empire of the Snake, an evil and decadent power that had crushed half the continent in its bid to dominate. It too needed its own timeline but because evil is inherently unstable, its duration was shorter but packed with more vents.
Who did the Empire overthrow? I knew that I wanted a halcyon stage of history that would make its overthrow all the more tragic so I came up with Guirioch, a hippy druidic Celtic land, all happy and in tune with nature. Admittedly, it didn’t have that name to begin with – for a good while, it was just known as The Nice Kingdom. It would have no answer to the all-conquering Empire of the Snake and would go down in blood and fire.
And tracing the history of Guirioch back, I posited that in the early years, it had been nurtured by the elves, seeing the emerging humans (possibly at the early Bronze Age or even more primitive) as worth protecting after the chaos of the Kin Wars in which the dark and light elves were forever sundered.

It was there that I decided to put a halt to the rise and fall of empires and kingdoms. For sure, I could have gone on and on, but in the end, the amount of work involved compared to the amount which would actually be encountered by the players made it impractical. Besides, I now had over a thousand years of history to flesh out. What’s not to like?

I tend to think in fits and starts and sustained invention often peters out. I would sometimes leave the history file open on my computer and dip into it as I got more ideas. I also had concepts and subjects that I knew I wanted to use, and just had to work out where on the history they would fit, and how long they would need to happen. In some areas, events in different parts of Elesalia overlapped – were they connected? It was a question worth asking. New plots and ideas may well result from the answers to those questions.

Now, when I am describing ruins, I can say “The Empire of the Snake, that fell into turmoil over eight hundred years ago…” rather than just say “These ruins look really old…” I don’t have to go into detail on the Empire, just like someone might say today “This coin comes from the time of the Romans, nearly two thousand years ago…” without having to give a three-hour lecture on the rule of Vespasian. If the characters want to find out about the Empire of the Snake, that’s their option. It is a sandbox, after all – not just physically but historically as well. And I know that when I give these little bits of information out, it’s internally consistent and I’m not going to have to retcon a few months down the line.

So we arrive at the inclusive timeline for Elesalia. I am aware that a lot of the detail will mean nothing to readers at present. You can skip this if you want, or keep it handy for later reference, since much of what I’ll be posting in weeks to come is going to refer back to it. It is best read in conjunction with the main map and the larger scale maps that I’ll be including with future posts.

Also, whilst I have nailed my colours firmly to the mast as regards top-downing, in most cases, the entries are all that there is at present about the events. I have a vague idea about things like the Great kin-war, the sinister Shadow Hands, the Iron Legion and such like, but until it becomes necessary, mere mentions is all that they will stay. There is, I suppose, room for DM-player interaction to flesh them out but the timeline ensures that such expansion will not be contradictory.

Nevertheless, I like to pepper my sandbox with little titbits and this is where most of them will come from.

All dates are BP (before present)

The Age of Ice
The Age of Water
The Age of Fire

1368 The Great Kin-war, elves and dwarves vs. drow and duergar
1360 The start of the Age of Earth. The first flourishings of Guirioch, which eventually occupied the area from Seknir, up the Veriel to Gelnaris and Stonegarth Hold.
1129 Start of the rise of the Empire of the Snake in the mountains at the northern end of the Yirovian valley. Large-scale volcanic activity around Mount Terarnis and the Blackstone Mountains. Destruction of the city of Prelnax.
1050 Thurgoland and Helfgel invaded by the Empire of the Snake
1050 The Khereseth stop the advance of the Empire of the Snake.
1049-1045 The war that establishes Ghafan (where the large desert is now) as a major power
1045 Empire of the Snake invades Guirioch in a three-pronged attack
1043 Sack of Khlossoth, the Guirioch capital. Start of the supremacy of the Empire of the Snake.
Beginning of the years of Ash and Blood for the peoples between the sea and Stonegarth Hold
990-992 The Red Fox rebellion against the Empire of the Snake
953-956 Rebellion of the Emerald Brotherhood against the Empire of the Snake
950-930 refugees from the Empire of the Snake arrive in what will become Helmer.
862 Outbreak of feuding and civil strife in the Empire of the Snake
840-830 Arrival of the Sea Raiders.
830 Downfall of the Empire of the Snake. Big battle near the marshes north of the Wolfgard
818 Successor regime to the Empire of the Snake sets up in Seknir
805 A band of adventurers raid a temple to the god of decay in the Great Marshes.
782 Grazakar dwarves launch an attack on the regime in Seknir, toppling it.
775 Seknir as it is known now is established
771 Demerus, one of the Mages of Power, flees to carry on his lich process. Three of his fellow mages are killed. One died trying to stop Demerus and the other two were killed in the attack on his mountain fastness, after which he disappears from history.
765 Foundations of proto-Palintor
760 Start of the settlement of Gelnaris
740 Start of the colonisation of the South Marches
735 Start of the settlement of Artumnald
708 A slave revolt overthrows the decadent Ghafan Kingdom.
707 Start of the war that leads to the break-up of the Ghafan Kingdom
700 Gelnaris settled. Start of the settlement of the area now known as Danorin
699 The war concludes with the establishment of a balkanised area where Ghafan once was.
698-690 Elves establish the Immortal Priestess cult, in a bid to keep human unity in the Ghafan area alive.
695-671 Battles between humans and elf alliance in the eastern forests.
680 South Marches settled
675 Artumnald settled
665 Humanoids attack the eastern forest elves
664-655 Elves and sympathetic humans fight wars of liberation to drive back the humanoids.
649 Two members of the Mages of Power killed.
640 The area now known as Danorin settled. An evil wizard arises in the Yirovian valley and causes much mayhem and suffering.
628-625 Dwarves of the Grazakar clan attack and overrun Artumnald, defeat the Gelnaris forces and
drive them back beyond the Arimas river.
602 The Galakmur clan of dwarves are forced out of their mountains by giants and humanoids.
580 The great swamp begins to expand under the influence of the god of decay. The halflings are forced into exile.
575 The Fall of Galassos, the successor city state to Prelnax, to fire giants, humanoids, etc.
535 Final destruction of the Mages of Power by forces unknown. The only survivor is the mage Apsiokt.
523 Apsiokt founds the Keil
510 Rise of the Shadow Hands
492 Gelnaris with the help of Palintor (that’s old Palintor) drives out the Grazakar from occupied Artumnald
466 The fall of Selstone – a shock runs through the whole region as this city had been in existence since before the 1129 eruptions.
445 The Shadow Hands destroy the heart of the Immortal Priestess temple network and the temple of Kallia.
444-442 Adventurers and warriors attack and destroy (or so they think) the Shadow Hands in retaliation.
435 Start of the Great Desiccation
427 Humanoids start their attacks
418 Battles in the war against the humanoids, where the Khereseth are virtually wiped out to buy time for the humans to mount a counter-attack which routs the humanoids.
417 Exodus from the desiccated areas begins
361 Sultanates achieve trade dominance of the Aman Hexu
348 Old Palintor destroyed
343 Fleet of the Sultanate destroyed in the Aman Hexu
341 End of the civil war that led to the establishment of the three modern
Sultanates – Kilgish, Amiantur and Nariaz.
330 Siege of Stonegarth Hold by the Vengansar/Khrast forces and the breaking of said siege – humanoids routed and destroyed.
310 Start of the baron-strife in the Danorin territories
307 The end of the Iron Legion
300 The newly-established state of Danorin begins to expand
290 Arkil is added to Danorin’s control
275 A band of adventurers leads an effort to end the Wolf Wars
267 First towns in Narli founded
245 Danorin completes its settlement of the South Marches
227 The start of the humanoid attacks on the Wolfgard dwarves and elves
167 Humanoids achieve dominance in the Wolfgard mountains
142 Destruction of the towns of Narli
141 Start of the years of skirmishing between the Jhoriz and the humanoids
97.5 Danorin gives the northern barbarians a good thrashing
80 The beginning of Danorin decline. Tremantor throws off the Danorin yoke
78 The South March secedes
77 Humanoids driven back to the Wolfgard mountains by the Jhoriz nomads
41 Danorin starts operations into Valgor to try and seize mineral resources
37 Danorin’s operations in Valgor are broken off by the impending ice war
36.5 Ice War begins
33 End of the Ice War
32 Kaldak Forest campaign war begins
27.5 Kaldak Forest campaign war ends
The present

Having looked at all this, I reckon I need to pay a visit to Obsidian Portal and start me a wiki.

Monday 11 January 2010

Travelling to games

Well, the results are in. I asked how far people would want to travel to a game and the majority (55%) voted for up to an hour, with 38% not wanting to go further than half an hour.

I put myself in the hour category; I would consider an hour to get to work reasonable so why not an hour to get to a game. That would, however, have to be the outside limit.

(Of course, voters might have thought that the times were overall travel, there and back, in which case the whole thing shifts meaning)

For we Brits, another consideration is cost; we currently pay $1.76 per litre for fuel and so an hour's travel is not just time spent but a lot of money too.

When I was a lad, with no responsibilities, I could walk to the venue for our games. When members of our group got married and move further away, the drive to games was a half hour or so. Now, a game session might be an hour away and in terms of both money and time, that has to be accounted for. I wouldn't want to sign up to a campaign where I couldn't guarantee, for whatever reason, that I would be available each week/fortnight/whatever.

I think that the older we get, the more it seems that our hobby is not just a hobby any more, that we can indulge on a whim because we have no other demands on our time; lucky is he who has a group on his doorstep and a partner who is also a gamer. That, for me, would have been a most excellent Christmas present.

Saturday 9 January 2010


Due to pressure of work, I've not had the chance to do the number-crunching and such like for Saturday Night Fight Club. Rather than post something half-baked, I'd rather it took a week off and came back bright and bouncy next Saturday.

I know that some of you do look forward to it, so again, apologies for its absence.

Thursday 7 January 2010

Four more friends

A snowy welcome to Will, Sniderman, Biopunk and Joe G Kushner. Glad that you found this little corner of the OSR and hope that you keep popping back to see what's going on.

Biopunk - anyone who follows Jack of Kent and Ben Goldacre is all right by me. Good luck with the degree.

Yeesh - it's snowing again. Doesn't this stuff ever stop?

Wednesday 6 January 2010

Robert Holdstock 1948-2009

I've just found out that Robert Holdstock, the author of the Mythago Wood series of fantasy novels died at the end of November last year, ironically enough just as I was reading his new work, Avilion. He was 61, which is no age at all for a writer.

I remember when I first read Mythago Wood, must have been 1986; already marinated in fantasy via Tolkien, Le Guin and the various recommendations of Dave Langford in White Dwarf, I dipped into something so quintessentially English and yet a potent container of universal mythological themes. It was the beginning of my love of woodlands, of the strange feeling that I got when I saw trees black against a sunset skyline. I loved the notion that a tiny piece of English woodland could contain, Tardis-like, thousands of years of history.

Although Holdstock followed up his original work with numerous other books, for me it is Mythago Wood and Lavondyss that remain closest to the idea that took hold of my mind and shaped it for years to come. Having lost my original copies long ago, I reacquired them last year and enjoyed their stories once again.

Read other obituaries about him here and here.

One by one, the great lights of our youth are going out.

Tuesday 5 January 2010

Ogre and Out - Training Dungeon session report

So, we arrived at the long hallway area on Level 2 between rooms 25 and 24 (see attached map). I'd decided not to make it a room in itself, and so there was nothing to detain the party there any longer than necessary. Off they went, around the loop until they eventually came to the door to room 25.

At this point, it’s best if I depart from the usual format and list in detail what was in room 25, for it plays an important part in what happened to the party therein.

Room 25

As the party enter this room, they will see, against the far wall, two huge statues flanking a stone sarcophagus. Above the sarcophagus is a large mirror with the frame in the shape of a snarling demon, horned head and bat-like wings.

The two statues stand on plinths and their arms are held rigidly as if clasping spears, but there are none to see.

The party, on examining the statues, may notice that there seem to be slight join lines where the body and arm meet. A character of average strength will be able to move the arm up or down. The combinations of arms up and down will produce the following effects (left hand statue arms 1 & 2, right hand statue arms 3&4)

Outcome 1
The mirror activates and shows a landscape withered and barren, the sky grey and threatening. In the distance, there appears to be some sort of cloud approaching. As the cloud gets nearer, it can be seen that it is made up of thousands of tiny flying things. The flying things are in fact a horrible swarm of insects who are the airborne equivalent of the 7th level druid spell, Creeping Doom. The party can try to smash the mirror (it will save vs. Normal Blow, a 15 or better means it does not break) or move the arms again but unless they get the second mirror outcome, the vision will still persist. 1d8 turns from the vision appearing, the insect plague will swarm into the room, attacking every living thing there. With the obvious results, unless the party does something.

Outcome 2
The sarcophagus slides back into the wall and below it is a skeleton (not undead) wearing what appears to be plate armour. If a detect magic is cast on it, it radiates magic, if an identify is cast on it, it is revealed to be +1 plate.

Outcome 3
Trap doors open at all three sides of the sarcophagus and whoever is standing on them is plunged via a chute into a pit below the ground, where a giant poisonous snake is waiting for them

HD 4+2
1 att
1-3 damage and poison

Outcome 4
The statues animate, step down off their plinths and start to walk around the room. They will do no deliberate damage to the party, although anyone standing in front of them may be trodden on. The plinths open to reveal some very nice magical treasures. The party have until the statues return to their plinths to get the treasures out.

Outcome 5
There is a hissing and from the statues’ mouths comes a gas that causes the same effect as a ray of enfeeblement to all who breathe it in. It will fill the chamber in 1d4 rounds, affecting those closest in 1 round, those next in line on round 2, those near the door on round 3 and those at the door on round 4. The effects wear off in an hour.

Outcome 6
A ray is projected from the eyes of the statues, hitting the party. Whoever fails to save vs. magic is shrunk to 1’ tall (only the person, not their belongings). This effect will wear off in a day.

Outcome 7
The sarcophagus opens and out climbs a skeleton warrior, armed with a bastard sword +1 and chain mail (AC5). The skeleton has 12 HP and a THAC0 of 17.

Outcome 8
The mirror animates and will show the party at some point in their future exploration of the dungeon. They will be shown getting the worse of the encounter in question, but sufficient detail will be available that they will be able to recognise the room when they come to it. This will hopefully enable them to spot a danger and avoid it in time. So for example, they could see one of their party being sucked into the green slime, or being dragged off by the zombies, or lying dead with wounds in their backs while bugbears laugh, or the carrion crawler dragging off the dead.

Outcome 9
The character with the highest charisma in the party becomes endowed with the ability to Charm Person or Monster for 1d4 encounters. He/she will of course not know the number of encounters to which this applies, nor when it will wear off.

Outcome 10
The eyes of the statues glow and emit a ray that turns every piece of metal in the possession of the party – monetary, armour and weapons to lead. This effect lasts for one hour, although the party will not know that.

Outcome 11
A randomly selected character’s hands glow a violent orange and will continue to do so for 1d3 hours. During this time, anything inanimate that the character touches with their hands will swell, bifurcate and become two identical items.

Outcome 12
A glow rises up from the floor and envelops the characters; for an hour afterwards, their every move is accompanied by a loud clanking and clanging noise that will make it impossible to move silently or hide anywhere. Wandering monsters will of course want to find out what’s making the noise.

Outcome 13
The weapon of every character in the party begins to glow with the same intensity as if it were under a Continual Light spell. This effect will last for six hours.

In they went, Garazor and Lannius failing their pick locks rolls and the door finally giving way to a shoulder from Alurax. Inside, they saw the sarcophagus, the mirror, the two statues. I thought I described the statues quite well, with mention of the join line between the arm and body but JG still decided to give them a good whamming with hammers and anything blunt. No effect. Finally, he grasped the notion that the arms could move up or down, and, with my encouragement, began to think about the possible combinations. Then they started to experiment. The first result was the one where the statues got off their plinths and walked around the room before returning again. JG and co were very quick about scooping the treasures out and had the plinth interiors cleared by the time the statues got back.
The next option they got was the one that released the skeleton swordsman, who leapt out and aimed a blow at one of the three nearest characters - this, decided by a d6 roll turned out to be Zhastar the hobbit.

Excellent! A skeleton swordsman with his priorities right - attack the hobbit first!

Blow me if he didn't miss by one (yes, even with the bonus). Up stepped Elise, rolled to hit and did so. JG chose this moment to claim the session's roll of the D30 - mainly out of novelty, methinks, but he was delighted when he rolled 16, the lucerne hammer smashing the skeleton to bits.
No-one thought to check that the sword was a +1 bastard sword, but they had little time to worry about that because the next option they got was the one that showed a possible future for the party, and the one I showed them was the party being overwhelmed by kobolds with an ogre taunting them with the stone token in his hand.
While they were still pondering that one, there came the sound of shuffling footsteps, followed by a banging on the door. Then more banging. And growling. JG and co spiked the door shut and prepared for battle. The door shook. The door shivered. The door splintered and in poured the ghouls. Garazor and Elise (I think Zhastar was skulking at the back - what a hero!) stepped forward with their holy symbols and did the turning speech. I paraphrased it for JG, in a bid to increase the role-playing aspect of the Training Dungeon thus

"Back, shambling corruption, grave-spawned minions of darkness, I banish you and command you return there at once, in the name of [insert your deity's name here]" And yes, I did that last bit in brackets as well.

Well, blow me if they didn't roll 17 and 19 respectively. The ghouls retreated. I rolled to see how many rounds they were gone for and decided that for that many, it would be more likely that they would return to the wandering monster table.
JG did one more try with the arms and managed to get the sarcophagus to slide back to reveal the skeleton in its suit of plate. He had no idea what it was, but deduced that it could be magic armour and put it onto Alurax, bravely so since I could have given it any number of curses. But no, Alurax was now AC1, although he didn't know it since I didn't give any details, just informed JG if any attacks hit or missed.
The party decided that they had chanced their luck enough now with the figures and set off down the long passageway towards room 16. At the far end, they saw a shadowy figure at the entrance to a big room, and Hruthnor got his crossbow out and shot the figure dead with no questions asked. Good job it wasn't friendly, just a kobold sentry. His dying rattle gave his colleagues time to grab weapons and head for the doorway just as Team Adventure came charging down the passageway.

I had visions of it being another meat-grinder like the battle at the crossroads, but JG had Alurax and Hruthnor at the front and the kobolds were falling like ninepins. They did manage to get some blows in and the thing about kobolds is that they don't do much damage with their hits but slowly and surely, those hits wear you down. Such happened to Hruthnor in the end, but before that, Lannius had lit and lobbed an oil bomb in and Elise had cast Affect Normal Fires. I ruled that this did double damage on the first round, and the impact managed to wipe out four kobolds. Team Adventure sent some arrows in to the waiting kobolds (JG getting a double 20 with an arrow, which probably meant the kobold got it straight in the eye or something) then - once the oil had burned down - they charged in.

By now of course, the ogre had come in to see what was going on and pushed his way to the front. He launched his attack on Alurax who, despite having AC1, got hit and badly so (8 damage), which took him down to -6. He was dragged out of the melee by Lannius who decided that he wanted to try the armour. Akurath stepped into the breach.
Now yes, Lannius is a thief and so I decided that he could wear the plate (albeit taking three rounds to get it off Alurax and onto him) but could do no thiefly activities in it. Because of the AC of the plate, and his DEX bonus, he was at AC -3, which mean virtually unhittable. But JG decided to send him in against the kobolds, rather than the ogre. Hmm.. anyway, the ogre made some truly crap rolls, three rounds without getting over 10 on a d20 (!) Bit by bit the ogre was whittled down, until at last he fell (he had 20 hp to begin with and Akurath got some good damage rolls - 7, 5, 3 and 8 if I read my notes correctly).

At that, the remaining kobolds fled. I can't remember which of JG's characters decided to fire at them as they went, but Garazor and his sling and bullets took down a couple.

I decided to end it there, as we had gone over time because I wanted to get the melee over. JG had a very good session, the party had turned undead, magical treasure had been found and he had his first ogre kill.

I'm beginning to think that Team Adventure in the 'real dungeons' might have to be limited to six characters, for two reasons - firstly that eight might be a little overpowered for 1st level dungeons, and secondly that, as I've already said, JG has trouble sorting out the paperwork for eight. With the lack of other young players, this situation seems likely to continue but what other option is there? He's getting a lot more familiar with his character sheets and the ways in which they can be used (so score one to the Training Dungeon) but sometimes the disarray is obvious and it's not fair on him to expect him to keep track of 8 lots of information. Still, we'll have to see what comes of it.