Gaming in a time of plague

I work in a major New York hospital, and things are pretty horrible for a lot of people. My family was very lucky with our brush with this thing, generally very light cases, although my wife and eldest had worse versions of it than I did. I used my time in quarantine to finish writing up a game, and my return to work has humbled me in the face of the monumental task that nurses have caring for these critically ill patients. I am grateful for my health, for even breathing.

The game I wrote is an Odysseys and Overlords version of an adventureI have mentioned previously, set in my home campaign, in the city of Northport.

I have been working on this setting for about 18 years in different versions of GURPS, and because I am not Douglas Cole, and do not have a license for GURPS material, I am releasing it in a system with an OGL. One of the primary conceits, as mentioned previously came from one of my favorite Dragon Magazines, number 138. This had to do with a campaign set in a post plague world, which for me gave a twist on the borderlands idea; it is not the colonial border of human lands and an inhabited land to be conquered, but the edge of the remnant of a semi-collapsed civilization, adjacent to places depopulated by fatal sickness, and chock full of under maintained ruins, still full of treasure, where the remaining inhabitants are beset by banditry and an unchecked level of monstrous incursions.

When I wrote a lot of Northport, I designed a dungeon under a city that was full of mass graves of plague victims that had become undead due to improper burial, I had not conceived of the reality of the same thing (minus the undead) happening now, to patients I knew and had worked with. The concept hits me a lot harder, and fills me with sadness.

The idea of a rat borne plague has featured in the other gaming products I have written; in both Beneath the Fallen Tower, and in Northport, it spread because available adventurers were doing mercenary work in local wars, and no one was left to chase the rats out of an innkeeper’s cellar.

Meanwhile, as the need to engage social distancing to save our lives prohibits actual tabletop play, my preferred method of gaming, play by post, works as well as it ever has, although there is a hell of a lot less downtime at work to post.

It fells awkward having the pretend issues of my game suddenly become relevant in real life; gaming is supposed to be an escape.

Be safe out there people.

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Recent Commissions

I have been tied up lately with a number of art commissions.

These are for the next issue of Gabor Lux’ Echoes from Fomalhaut  and Diogo Noguera’s Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells, which just finished successful crowdfunding. I have also been working on a few peices of Egyptian themed art for Tim Shorts of Gothridge Manor , and a little something for John Stater, that appeared in the latest issue of Nod

Naturally my gaming rate of posting has suffered, and I lost an entire group of players. They were an exceedingly efficient group of killers, and included a halfling Alchemist, another halfling assassin, an air infused elven Swashbuckler armed with long knives, a dwarven crossbowman built on the musketeer template, a leprechaun demonologist, and his polearm weilding soldier of hell, Khozapukt.

They were quite good, but could not tolerate my hideously slow posting, or the brevity of some comments that they had waited days for. It might have been easier for me to keep up if I hadn’t been running ten separate games, or had downtime at work.

Let’s see, the Juniors rescued the curiously friendly elder thing they had encounterd previously, from giant spiders, as original depicted in James Garrison’s free module Clatterdelve (currently under revision), and Clarence Montague, originally a 62pt lantern bearer hireling from DF15, became a 125pt PC spellcaster (light based magic and ignite fire) and adopted a smol spoder (giant spider as per DF5, buying pet status first, and working toward familiar status a few points at a time).

Another group, hunting bandits for bounty, have scattered some beggars.

A travelling demonology shop has opened up variously as needed, and is staffed by a demologist with some illusion skill and a few demonic allies of PC’s- if you are summonable and aren’t constantly present, you must be someplace else…

Another group, previously tasked with resolving the problem of a band of ogres that had moved into the formerly troll occupied winecellars, have been tasked by the Hadereum with escorting a demon hunting celestial being. She is a descendant of an avatar of Kali, and while her opinions on undead and demons (kill them all and send them back to the underworld) conform to those of the plutocracy, the rest of her religious views do not, and the party is escorting her on her demon hunt so as to keep her from proselytizing.

The crew at the abbey has been heaving wights into the sunlight, and they finally have started using a sack of silver plates to pulverize the undead.

The lich killing treasure hunters in Shevnia are almost home, but ran into patrols of Bouda hunting one of their enemies, the were lion Monorith, a holdover from my first Northport game from 2002, and a group of orcs now in the military. The bouda were only interested in the werelion, the group still has to conceal the several pounds of silver they have with them.

The wuxia crew has been joined by a ronin, and are preparing for a final assault by their Omo’s enemy, having robbed his casino and slain dragonmen, Ashigaru, and a Dodomeki, as previosly discussed.

Broderick has returned to play, and his team of fortune hunters are somewhere on the second level of the undercity.

The Hadereum sponsored team has uncovered cult murders and has discovered slorn breeding pens under temple hill.

Original Edition RPG Appreciation Day Sale

Beneath the Fallen Tower Tower is on sale for $0.99! Check it out here

This is an introductory adventure written for Swords & Wizardry Continual Light and generally compatible with older editions of the rpg that started it all.

A merchant’s son decided to save time by taking a long abandoned route through the forrest, and is missing. Somewhere along that overgrown road are the ruins of a long vanquished necromancer’s tower. Adventure awaits!

Get this now GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Setting: Caverntown

Only $10 at warehouse 23 get it here

This comes very close to the way I run Northport.

What you get: 49 pages of how to run a slightly abstracted city that is built within bowshot of a collection of dungeons. There is significant interplay between guilds and a number of powerful (325-500pt) delvers who run the show, with agood feel for how they and your characters interact. No dungeons are presented, but plenty are suggested. It is a nifty and unique setting and a great way to base a campaign.

A New Year and a Round Number

One BookShelf isn’t showing it right now, but I have 50 titles that contain my work.

The problem has to do with the most recent product featuring my stock art, the RPG Pundit’s Lion & Dragon

Despite not currently having an artist’s listing due to OBS `accidentally ` deleting the listing for this entry and then reinstating it incompletely, you can see that the book has quite a bit of my art.

There is some other lovely stock art as well, some by Jack Badashi, and several nice pieces by Henry Justice Ford. Production quality is as good as found in Dark Albion and Chaos Cults.

The system itself is very OSR, although the magic system is supposed to conform to magical traditions of the fourteenth century. There is a serious nod to DCC in the startup at 0 level with extra characters.

I was approached last year to do some work on this project, but either my rates were too high or my politics too far to the left for the Pundit’s taste, and he settled on buying a few stock bundles instead.

My family set me up with some excellent gaming and drawing things for Yule, from a light board and steel ruler, and a microphone for Discord, to a stack of gaming books for 5E, GURPS and SWCL. I love my Family!

I am looking to run a tabletop game at a minicon this month, using SWCL and Beneath the Fallen Tower. I have to get writing it…

And I have some commissions for John Stater’s monster book 2 for Blood & Treasure.

The Deep Guard

One of my players brought along a magnificently munchkinized character, a heavily armored ogre who was a weapon master of the dueling halberd, with the Hero Advantage from DF 11. His equipment included ornate heavy plate he referred to as Deep Guard Armor. So who are the Deep Guard? I have had NPC’s immediately recognize him as the Hero he is, but gave little thought to what that actually meant.

The Deep Guard is a royally chartered mercenary group whose primary duty is to escort wagons of ore out of the royal silver mines and to the Imperial mint. The mines are in hobgoblin infested mountains, and the deep guard, accompanied by the Nethermost Flight, perform the escort.

The average member of the Deep Guard is a Brute from DF15 with Weapon Mastery: Dueling halberd and all other discretionary points spent on wealth sufficient to be outfitted with ornate plate armor.  The average member of the Nethermost Flight is an archer (also from DF15) using a heavy crossbow and carrying a mace.  They have the Teamwork perk and wear heavy scale.

Gorgath was able to save his unit and shipment during a ferocious attack by a shock force of heavily armored hobgoblins and gladiator apes that was led by a stratigically minded hobgoblin knight.

What really separates Gorgath the ogre from the rest of the Deep Guard is  that his armor is enchanted and a really fabulous piece of named signature gear known as the DoomRazor, a fine, balanced, , Dwarven, Silver coated, ornate Orichalcum  Dueling Halberd.  It is probably one of the sweetest weapons I have seen designed that wasn’t ludicrously enchanted.

The addition of Gorgath, whose player is actually subtle and funny, to the group has had me to re-calibrate threat and challenge evaluation, but I am still surprised at how quickly he can dice through DR17  opponents.

After the next time his group surfaces, I am going to have some of his mates ride into town.  Sadly, not all of them are heroic…

Gadgeteering for fun and profit

One of my players, who started the game early last year with a goblin priest of the hunt named Zeelzeel Shadowspear, has decided to play an Artificer.  Zeelzeel was a lot of fun, and when the player went on hiatus, he served as an NPC in a vouple of groups, and introduced his cousin Razakeel Shadowcloak, a necromantic apprentice. Zeelzeel also brought the kobolds of the guild back to the faith of their ancestors, reintroducing them to the worship of the Erl King, and wooing them away from the gentler faith they had bothered from a local human church. Father Robard, a goblin priest of the same, despite his pacifism, was quite wroth with Zeelzeel, who had impressed the kobolds by rescuing one of their young from a Triger that had escaped it’s charmed enslavement by wandering across a no-manna zone.

The introduction of the Artificer came soon after I had some of the other PC’s wander into some artificer trolls. As it is a point of courage an honor to work with fire for the highly flammable trolls, all of the males that are tested by fire and lose the vulnerability (usually bought down by lowering their appearance from ugly to hideous from the scarring from being burnt) usually become troll smiths.  So what kind of gadgets do trolls like to build?

Traps. Trolls like to build traps. Yes, being fireproof makes it easy to work the forge, but with ancestors like Grimtooth, there is a lot of pressure plate and dart work, to say the least.  What else do they make? My first priority as a member of a species prone to combustion would be a fire extinguisher. So using the example of the crude flamethrower, they combine a barrel and a bellows to make a backpack water jet cannon. Not proof against stone missiles, however.

Second order of business is fireproofing, in the form of spiked archer’s blinds, covered with waterlogged leather from the primary source available. By Crom, my trolls wear a lot of leather armor, and they live deep underground, so whence the hide? Some of it comes from Slorn, which are used for meat, mounts and tool making, but more of it comes from the larger and ridiculously regenerative Andersonian trolls, as found in DF Monsters and are kept in chains by the trolls found in The Next Level, who are more or less what Aethelbert the sage refers to as “Common Least Trolls.” He calls the big guys from Monsters “Common Greater Trolls” which gives me space in the campaign world to incorporate things like Giant Two Headed Trolls.

One of the PC’s is an elementalist and a bit of a pyromaniac, and usually wanders around with a cluster of Fire Elementals, so traps like buckets of sand over doorways and baited traps, like alchemical fire tossed under an iron cauldron propped up by a stick like the classic rabbit box trap, are employed when she is around with her flaming friends.

During the challenges the other group had to pass when negotiating with the other tribe of trolls, the party wizards had to figure a way of disposing of a flaming skull that had similarly been trapped, and the trollsmith had rigged a weight driven clockwork timer to raise the cauldron from the imprisoned skull spirit. Naturally, one of the wizards, a spell archer, thought that destroying the mechanism would count as a win, and one disintegrate spell later, he got to learn a few choice words of trollish.

At the moment, the new Artificer is designing some spiked slorn proof doors to be installed in a part of the dungeon that the guild is expanding into, but I am going to have to be on my toes to allow for maximum fun through inventing .

The People of the Pit

People of the Pit

People of the Pit

While working on the history of the Trollfolk of Northport, I had the good fortune to acquire Brave Halfling’s adaptation of the A.Merrit classic, The People of the Pit through an OSR Humble Bundle. It can also be found here. At about the same time, I picked up the Alternate Dungeons edition of pyramid . Which described Unknowable Things, very closely resembling the people of the pit. If you were to take that template and add ST+10, DR+1,  SM+2 and either of mentalist/wizard or mentalist/cleric lenses, and you have my people of the pit. The image above was presented as a carving in a stone table where my PC’s were feasting with the trolls, after completing their challenges. The carving depicts the valiant triumph of the people of the Eastern depths over the child stealing People of the Pit. This caused much consternation amongst the party, but isn’t that what elder things do?

The City of Northport: history in broad strokes

The setting for my game is a pseudo-medieval France, if Rome had never become Christian, the Moors never left Spain, and the Netherlands were Slavonic. Otherwise, most standard fantasy tropes are at play. A major cataclysm occurred just over four hundred years ago, and about forty years ago was a massive outbreak of plague, that dramatically reduced the population and left villages, castle and other structures uninhabited. Perfect adventurer bait.

Northport, formerly the Roman colony of Antillarus, and earlier than that Yagratz of the Goblins, has been continuously inhabited by a variety of peoples for something like four thousand years, and most of it underground due to a persistent firedrake problem. Persistent, at least until a Dwarven Sorcerer named Federjung took it into his head to weave a spell to displace a nation of trolls from their mountain in order to access the gold the trolls were mining.

Needless  to say, the spell backfired stupendously, and while the trolls were teleported leagues away and beneath Northport, the dragons near that city were whisked to Trellheim.  At the same time, there were earthquakes, tidal waves and a hail of meteorites accross the land.

At the time of this thaumaturgical disaster, a wizard named Abarax, who had ascended to a potent state of undeath through necromantic research, was stricken by a near direct hit by an anti-magical meteor deep in his steading beneath the city. Deprived of contact with the magical emmenations that preserved his form, Abarax drifted into a centuries long state of torpor, until reawakened in the present day by a powerful stone troll named Leopold.

At the time of the Federjungian incident, Abarax had an apprentice, a wizard named Flax, who managed to survive past the apocalyptic occurrence for some time. He became rather learned, and maintained active correspondence with other survivors who were magically talented.

Enter a wealthy Sage to modern Northport, obsessed with the incident and following a lead to track down the lost library of Flax the Necromancer, and direction is found for the most active players in the game. Other groups are fighting trolls below the winecellars of an ancient manse, helping a fight organizing ogre rebuild his gambling empire, or pursuing a diabolical cult into the ruins below the city streets.

Dungeon Fantasy: Northport

For several years I have run various iterations of an online dungeon crawl on pbp sites using GURPS. Over ten years ago I ran a game on playbyweb using GURPS third edition, and some fan rules called Advanced Goblins & Grottoes. Just two years ago, I started up the same setting, this time on rpol.net, and using GURPS 4e Dungeon Fantasy rules. I have been greatly inspired by Peter V. Dell’Orto’s blog, on the same topic, called Dungeon Fantastic.