Monthly Archives: March 2016

5th Edition Spelljammer – Favors of the Arcane, Session 5

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Boccob’s Barge approached the dwarven citadel. While light could be seen through windows, no other signs of life were evident. The hammership flew an orbit around the citadel and saw only one docking cavern open. They entered the citadel and securing Boccob’s Barge to the dock.

Half-eaten, dead dwarves lay on the pier, their weapons broken and bloody. The lights the dwarves used to illuminate their corridors still shone. Straxius, Veya, Zinniana, Flint, and Sumner ducked into the first room they encountered. It appeared to be some sort of bathing pool adjacent to a sweat room.

More dead dwarves lay in the hallways leading toward a cluster of defense towers. The crew found some weapons scattered on the floor near a weapons rack, and a few unused suits of chain mail, but no life.

After the first set of defense towers, they continued down the corridor that ran along the remaining docks. More dead dwarves lined the halls, fallen by an unknown foe who seemed to fight tooth and nail, ripping and tearing… and eating their way through the dwarven defenses.

In the final docking bay, there were two small longboats. They quickly piled the gear they’d found so far into one of the boats, and then continued their exploration of the citadel. The crew passed through some crew quarters. Dead dwarves lay eaten in their bunks, others on the ground with broken weapons. Scattered among the defenders were others, tall humanoids with talons and jagged teeth: ghouls.

From the half-eaten state of the defenders, Straxius surmised the ghouls were being controlled by someone more powerful than themselves; otherwise, there would be nothing left but bloody bones. They continued into a great tiered room, lined with cold forges. The tiers led to a room in the center: the bridge of the citadel within the Great Forge.

Inside the bridge was a dwarf in fine clothes, torn to shreds, surrounded by his defenders and ghouls alike. The captain’s rutter lay open on the table, several pages torn out. Straxius grabbed it and they continued their search.

After exploring a few more sections of living quarters, they came across a market. Food stalls were overturned, their wares scattered across the floor, rotting. They group made their way to the stair leading down to the cargo hold.

Barricades made from cargo crates blocked the path through the cargo hold. Dwarves and ghouls alike lay strewn across the barricades. The clusters of bodies were a trail telling of a running battle leading from the upper level through the cargo hold to yet an even lower level.

2016-03-25 22.36.52Stairs from the cargo level opened into a cavern in the deep recess from which the citadel was built. The cavern was covered with ice and when they entered the first chamber, they saw why: a churning, bubbling fountain of ice. After a brief examination, Straxius realized it was most likely a portal of some sort leading to the para-elemental plane of ice.

Sounds from an adjacent cavern drew their attention. They entered to see ghouls gnawing on hanging slabs of meat. More interested in fresh blood than frozen entrees, the ghouls turned and attacked. The battle was over swiftly, but the crew moved to watch if their fight drew any other attention. One of the ghouls grasped a small sack with a few gems inside taken from its dwarven meals.

As they advanced through the caverns, they found another ghoul corpse, trapped beneath fallen rocks and ice. Something was clutched in its outstretched hand.

A black pearl.

It radiated almost overwhelming magic and after Sumner and Straxius examined it closely, they determined it was a piece of something bigger, a pommel stone, perhaps. They moved deeper into the caverns.

They entered a large cavern containing a small pond and a clusters of ghouls digging at a stone door. The crew attempted to sneak into an attack position, but Flint’s clanking gave them away, drawing the ghouls to them. Two of the ghouls exuded a horrible stench and seemed to lead the rest of the pack, splitting up to come at the crew from both sides of the pond.

2016-03-25 23.09.01The battle was short, ghoul were no match for the experienced crew of Boccob’s Barge. After the battle, they opened the stone door to reveal half-a-dozen emaciated, starving dwarves: the lone survivors of the citadel.

None of them were craftmen or casters; they couldn’t get the forges running so the citadel would move again. Straxius offered to take them to a safe port. They left the caverns behind and took the small longboats around to Boccob’s Barge. They agreed to give one to the dwarves and decided to keep one for themselves for use with their ship.

As they pulled out of the dock, they saw another ship approaching. The dwarves identified the ship as the one carrying the ghouls. The crew decided to return to their original course as the ghoul ship returned to the citadel. Straxius and the others surmised they returned for the black pearl they left behind.

Boccob’s Barge cruised through the phlogiston on their way back to Realmspace. Straxius and Sumner examined the pearl. After a few simple experiments Straxius realized what it was: the pommel stone to the Wand of Orcus. He told the others how Orcus would sometimes let his wand loose among mortals to wreak havoc. It was obvious that’s what the ghouls were after. Whoever was controlling them was using intent on reassembling the wand.

To what end, they did not know. They knew only that whoever was searching could not be up to anything good. The crew doubted they could peddle the pommel stone and throwing it into the void would accomplish nothing; some creature, some evil would be drawn to it.

Straxius turned to the book of charts and began to research the missing pages….

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5th Edition Spelljammer – Favors of the Arcane, Session 4

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Two weeks into their two months journey to Patria, where they expected to find the discworld of Eorôe, the crew of Boccob’s Barge discovered a lonely chest floating in the Phlogiston. After hauling it in, Zinniana checked it for traps, but failed to unlock it. A couple of whacks with weapons from Veya and Sumner did the trick.

Inside the chest, was another chest. It was neither trapped, nor locked, so they opened it.

Another chest.

And another.

Straxius snatched up the smallest chest and shook it to see if there was anything loose within. A pseudopod extended from the chest and attacked, as did the other two chests. Mimics!

The chesty impersonators were a small challenge to the crew of Boccob’s Barge and after searching through the remains to find some gold and diamond dust; they tossed them back into the flow and went on their way.

EorôeThe remainder of the voyage to Patria passed uneventfully. The wildspace within was sparsely populated. A quick fly-by of the Eorôe revealed a vast ocean separating continents from a snowy landmass encircling the world. They set down in the water and sailed into one of the seaside villages. The natives were crow-like avians, Black Ones, curious and friendly. They told Straxius of the giants with whom they had a tepid relationship. Thought they weren’t friends exactly, the giants traded with the White Ones.

The White Ones had an encampment at the edge of the village. They were much like the Black One, save for the color of their feathers. They offered to let the crew of Boccob’s Barge travel with them to across the tundra to the Edge, where they could trade with the giants. The three week journey to the Edge didn’t appeal to the crew of Boccob’s Barge, however, so they offered the use of their ship to speed the caravan’s way.

After loading the sleds onto the ship, they flew across the tundra.  As the natives described, the giants were indeed at the Edge; the literal edge of the world. They lined up as far as the eye could see in either direction and appeared to be guarding Eorôe from an unseen threat.

Straxius ordered Boccob’s Barge to hover at eye level with the giants. They were wary at first, but when they saw the natives on board, they relaxed enough to approach the ship and hold onto to it for parley. They needed nothing from the crew of the ship and offered up one of the man-sized ice crystals in exchange for a promise: the crew of Boccob’s Barge would aid them when they needed to defend the world.kenku

The giant’s terms were agreed to, and after the natives exchanged their furs with the giants, they headed back to the village. Before leaving, they traded knowledge of brewing beer and ale, and money for furs and scrimshaw carvings. Then, Boccob’s Barge headed back to Wildspace, their cargo for the arcane well insulated in the hold.

Halfway back to the rock of Bral, they spotted a monolithic shape in their path. A Dwarven Citadel loomed ahead. Seeing no signs of activity, Boccob’s Barge approached…

I had a great subplot all ready where the PCs would travel with the caravan to the edge of the world and get involved in a missing persons case and all that with a cool Dwarven Forge set-up… then they flew their ship to the edge of the world.

That’s what I get for planning a session hastily while suffering from post-con fatigue. In retrospect, of course they’d fly the ship and hover at the edge. Why wouldn’t they? Stupid GM!

Oh well, these things happen. I can always re-use the Dwarven Forge set-up!

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Gary Con VIII Report!

Gary Con: a four-day celebration of the life and games of Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons. Held in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, I have been attending since Gary Con II.

Day 0 – We arrived on Wednesday, got checked into the Grand Geneva Resort and Spa and immediately saw some old friends. There were a few things I needed to run to the Piggly Wiggly for, so I did that, we had dinner at one of the on-site restaurants, and socialized a bit before bed.

A pretty low-key start, but that’s typical and appropriate.

Day 1 – I started the con out with a DM’s Guild Workshop run by some of the folks who came out to Gary Con from Wizards of the Coast (Mike Mearls, Trevor Kidd, and Chris Perkins among them). It was about building backgrounds for your game, or more specifically gothic horror backgrounds since their current thing is Curse of Strahd. I found it more helpful than I expected and was sad that was the only workshop I could fit into my schedule. I hope they come back next year!

Next was my Paranoia game, “Bugs in the System.” I run 2nd edition Paranoia because it’s my favorite version and I’ve never seen the need to add more different complex systems to it for any reason, particuarly a convention scenario. There were several familiar faces at the table and a few new players. They all failed to kill the team leader multiple times, though. I failed, as well, as he didn’t die once. I must be losing my touch. Still, the game was a success and everyone seemed to have fun. The session ended with them aiding, however inadvertantly, the giant mutant cockroaches in lauching the Starship Warden.

After Paranoia, I managed to hit the Dealer Hall for a bit. It was bigger than in previous years, more spacious, and with more vendors. I managed to avoid spending ANY money. Most excellent.

That evening’s game was run by James Carpio of the new TSR Games. It was a playtest for their new espionage RPG written by The Admistrator himself, Merle Rasmussen (who you may remember from such RPGs as Top Secret). It was a fun game and since I wasn’t rolling a d20, I did fairly well, though I did whip out an Australian accent while undercover in the U.K…. I have no idea WHY I defaulted to that instead of a generic British accent. Or Irish. Or Scottish. No, I had to go to the other side of the planet. Still, we succeeded in our mission and I got to fly a drone into the back of a sniper’s head… causing him to fall off the building and set off a car alarm. Oops.

Day 2 – I started the day with an Adventurer’s League game. The one I signed up for was cancelled since I was the only person who signed up, but fortunately, there was another table with an open slot. Players were still working through the earlier adventures in the series, I was a non-conformist who signed up for the third adventure in the series.

I swore off Organized Play after two years straight of bad experiences at Gen Con. I tried Pathfinder Society for a while, but the GMs were hit-and-miss and generally, I found not playing to be preferable. So, I didn’t have really high hopes.

The adventure, which took place in Barovia (I also swore off Ravenloft after an incident in the early ’90s), was enjoyable, and though my tiefling paladin died, we defeated the villian. Or rather, the other two players did while I provided a convienient distraction for the attacking werewolf.

You see, all weekend, my d20s rolled like warmed over shit. Seriously, I could not succeed on a roll to save my life, whether it was D&D or Dungeon Crawl Classics. I was so digusted after the D&D game, I went out and bought a whole new set of dice. Naturally, that didn’t work. Must have been user error, an 1d10T error, if you will.

I followed the D&D game up with wandering, Dealer Hallering, and general socialization until my afternoon game: Women Only – Tomb of Horrors, played with the original AD&D, as it was meant to be experienced. The group played cautiously, and it took an hour before the first death. Well, the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth deaths. Can you guess? Look in the first comment for the answer (a few people who read this blog will be spoiled by the answer).

Also, kudos to the 9-year-old girl, whose name I cannot remember, who had the best comments of the game. To the Petrie sisters & mother: I finally met someone worse than my mother! And, her HORROR when she realized what she said: “Stop sticking your poles in holes!”

As a 9-year-old, I doubt I would ever have realized the implications of that phrase. There were also jokes made (not by me!) about the Tomb of Whores. Apparently, I don’t enunciate as clearly as Paul Harvey.

The evening was pretty much free. I think I planned to find a pick-up game, but ended up socializing instead.

Day 3 – Day three was Numenera day. I ran two events set in Monte Cook Games’s Cypher System Numenera setting and was grateful to have one player in both games who was familiar with the system. Not that I was completely inexperienced, but it had been a few months since I tested the adventures and when you bounce back and forth between wildly different systems, it can be difficult to keep things straight. Both games went well. “The Wailing Sore” got high marks for being really weird, but I think “Locks of the World” was better paced, even though I missed giving out the key clue to unraveling the mystery. I’m not sure how that happened; I must’ve given my play-test group a bit of information I didn’t have written down in my notes.

Still, the games went well, despite both being the games for which I had no-shows. There were plenty of walk-ons (or as one gamer described himself, squatters) for the first game, so I ran a full table. The second game had two empty seats when we started, but Numenera is a flexible enough system that being short two players didn’t matter.

I’m fairly certain I planned to run a pick-up game in the evening, but instead we had dinner with some friends, then called it a night.

Day 4 – I hit the Dealer Hall once last time before they closed, because someone at Goodman Games came up with these scratch-off Adventures and if you “won” 1000 GP of treasure, they’d give you a $10 gift certificate at their booth and I won! Well, I bought enough cards to earn enough loot (really, it was $5 of cards for $10 off, so I still came out ahead). Whoever designed these crack card is a freakin’ GENIUS. If they have them at Gen Con, BEWARE. Your wallet will cry DOOM. DOOOOOOM. They’re fun though!

I only had one game: a Dungeon Crawl Classics play-test. My dice, once again, decided rolling well was not as fun as being horrible to me. My first three rolls were (in order, 3, 1, and 1. I did roll a 20… at the worst possible time when I wanted a low result. So yay.

Still, the game was fun and during the short break, I ran into the Geekpreacher (who is a good friend). Running into him isn’t all that unusual, but he told me how he got into a bidding war with Tim Kask over my fantasy novels at the Gary Con auction. Mr. Kask was interested in them, but Geekpreacher knew his birthday was coming up, so he out-bid him, then after encountering me in the hallway, had me present them to Mr. Kask during his video panel. It was quite a thrill to be introduced as the author of books one of the Old Guard was interested in and be able to present them to him as a birthday gift. I hope Mr. Kask enjoys my books.

There was one other game on Day 4, but it was an invitation-only off-grid game. Bob Brinkman ran a continuation of his Mountain Monsters-inspired Call of Cthulhu game. For those of you not in the know, Mountain Monsters is a “reality” TV show on Destination America. It’s basically Finding Bigfoot (or insert crytid of your choice here) when a team of West Virginia hillbilly hunters. The show is just as over-dramatic and silly as you’d expect, but is surprisingly good fodder for Call of Cthulhu. We closed out the con with this 8pm – midnight game and it was suitably epic. The sad part is I hear our friends from the UK, Simon Todd, his daughter Bernie, and his business partner Andy will not be able to attend next year. Part 3 won’t be the same without them!

Whether or not it’s related, I saw a spike in sales that day, as well. I put all my books on sale during Gary Con, but I didn’t mention it during my brief appearance in that panel (I did mentioned at other times, especially if the topic came up).

The on-site restaurants were excellent. Of course, it is rated a 4-Diamond Resort by AAA, so quality is to be expected. Not only did I not gain weight, despite feeling like I overindulged (particularly in gelato), I actually lost a pound or two, I think. Tableside service was also excellent. I actually felt like I had options other than fried fat with a side of fried carbs in a fried basket of fried (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I ceased to be able to eat that for a meal many years ago).

Gary Con was bigger than ever, yet seemed less crowded. Mostly because the venue was much, much larger than previous years’. All the GMs and players I gamed with were excellent, and even the Organized Play, which I poo-poo at Gen Con, was good. It was the best organized and most fun OP I’ve ever experienced at a convention. So, kudos to the organizers for that.

There were a few things to complain about, no con is perfect, but I provided feedback I hope the organizers will find helpful.

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