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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Demons and Patrons in Basic Era Games

I am working on converting both my adventure Beneath the Fallen Tower and the Redoubt of Hades from GURPS (because I don’t have a license) to BFRPG (in particul;ar my publisher’s variant Odysseys and Overlords) and OSE.  BFRPG is very easy to pick up; it was designed as a quick and cheap starter game that anyone could immediately pick up and play. Old School Essentials is an elegant and accurate re-framing of B/X D&D. A circumstance I have discovered is that while my games feature a lot of summonable creatures, infernal, celestial, and elder entities, BX has no such thing.

Literally, in addition to the menagerie a couple of the druids are porting in, the Necromancers accompanied by the spirits of their ancestors, and the earth priest with his pet elemental, there is a character with elder thing power investiture from an otherworldly sorcerer that keeps rolling insanely good reaction rolls, a wildly talented bureaucrat who summoned a celestial demonslayer, and another player who has a hellhound, demonic servant,  and ‘Spirtitual adviser’. It is a lot.

Neither old school game system has any spells for summoning,  which makes things less of a headache for the DM, and generally kept these editions from triggering Satanic Panic responses, but they do have devices for summoning elementals and both djinn and efreet. Therefore, I propose items for summoning other extradimensional entities, perhaps graded for the HD of what they summon, 1d12 HD, with lemures, larvae, or manes at the low end, and a demon lordling at the high end, and an extra chance for getting something higher level.

   Brazier of Extraplanar Summoning

brazier

This iron or bronze brazier, incised with runes and chased with enamels or silver inlay , is inscribed with the name of a being from a nearby dimension. Any item of this type is good for summoning that singular being, for a period of up to one hour, and can be used no more than 6 times per owner.  For any given brazier, roll 1d12, and on a roll of 12, roll an additional d8. The total number rolled is the HD of the creature that can be  summoned by performing a ritual with the brazier as the central feature, involving candles and diagrams on the floor. The creature summoned may be of any alignment, and this can be determined by random die roll.  The summonee must perform a service for the summoner, but may make a save vs spells (minus the summoner’s wisdom bonus, if any) to resist. Braziers are worth 1000 GP per HD summonable.

Now, you can find game stats for any sort of extradimensional being in most advanced rulebooks, and in a variety of blogs ( such as Hereticwerks  where I got the Ymid from), but if you want to keep B/X formatting, I can recommend New Big Dragon’s Fifty Fiends (available on Drivethrurpg for only a buck!)

And for that matter, you can get a bunch of neat pictures of demons from me too!

(Or from Jeremy Hart )

And now that demons are in play, what about patrons? DCC did this excellently, but here I have

20 answers to the question: What does your warlock’s patron want in exchange for power?

1 to spread chaos! Go out there and blow shit up!

2 to be entertained.  They are bored, and find your actions interesting…until they don’t.

3 to be amused. They find the supplicant ridiculous, even pathetic. 

4 to annoy a rival, by showing them up with their own fancy minions.

5 to annoy a rival, by encouraging the destruction of their (equally) nefarious plan.

6 to spread their own influence; use of their powers tags an area with their signature,  the entity with the most tags wins something, as if our world was a boardgame to them.

7 to manifest themselves in our world; the more their power is used, the greater their ability to enter our plane.

8 to void excess energy that is causing them etheric indigestion. 

9 to silence your yapping. You are annoying, but not yet worth the bother of destroying.

10 to alleviate the irritation of the sense of debt; the entity cannot tolerate supplication without response; it itches.

11 to appease their sense of vanity. They desire worship.

12 to appease their curiosity. Whatever will the minion do with a little power.

13 to appease their hunger. Blood and Souls!

14 to appease their hunger. Only creatures empowered by and flavored like them can fulfill their hideous appetites

15 to appease their unnatural lust. Only creatures empowered and flavored like them can fulfill their hideous appetites.

16 to better observe our plane. Buying a pair of eyes is cheaper than actually manifesting.

17 to relieve their aching loneliness. Being immortal makes it hard to keep friends.

18 to pay a gambling debt. The being is making the pact because of an unfortunate forfeiture on a wager.

19 to pay back a favor. The summoning and binding spells are vestiges of an ancient promise made to someone who liberated the being from imprisonment, and then forgot that they were still active.

20 to be left alone. Power is cast out to deflect contact.

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Session Play Report for Manhattan Minicon Beneath the Fallen Tower using 75pt GURPS Dungeon Fantasy

I cut down on startup time by assembling a stack of illustrated pregens using my stock art. We had seven players, one of whom was in the InfiWorlds game I participated in earlier this summer. He built an elf using my template (I will be eventually attaching a pdf of the pregens and his character) and there were a couple of people with prior DF experience.

Noah Green, who had played a cleric of Nodens for the prior playtest using Swords and Wizardry Continual Light, did so again, using a custom character; igave him the off-template characteristics of Weirdness Magnet and the perk Weird Dreams from DF14, and Dreaming Skill as his patron deity is the god of the Dreamlands. I outfitted him with an Errol Otus grade horned helmet, a shield emblazoned with a Nightgaunt, and an Elder sign as a holy symbol. The others played a brigandine clad halberdier, who was excellent in the few combats we had, an apprentice wizard who served as a powerhouse with both Mass Sleep and Diplomacy. Our oversize barbarian woman managed to avoid going berserk, and employed her size enhanced intimidation more than her gigantic greataxe. We rounded out with a knife weilding thief, who did a fair amount of climbing, an adventurer character who used her double dose of luck to shoot up goblins with her crossbow, and sadly, the low strength of the elf made some of his attacks less than effective.

Their primary opponents, wolves and SM-2 goblins were largely cut down by the halberdier (who took out the wolves and a giant centipede) and by the use of Mass Sleep boosted in frequency of use by paut and Lend Strength from the cleric.

Along the way, they encountered the tinker, and glommed some information about the woods from him. they met the patrol, and directed them towards a purported campsite of the bandits, met the Death Vision addled bandit who had run afoul of the necromantrix, and hastened him on toward his envisioned death at the hands of Mama ogre. They actively sought her out after finding her lost son, and reunited the family, much as the first group had, although they did that before getting to the ruins, instead of taking him along to bash wolves with. They ran into the elves, had a neutral engagement with them, and almost headed to the lost shrine in search of pilgrims, but were working on rescuing Wyatt for the reward money.

After knocking out goblins and slaying wolves, they negotiated for the release of Wyatt and the other prisoners, offering a trade of the only treasure they had found, magic arrows and a silver knife.

Like the previous group, they frequently showed people the wanted poster, while covering up the part about the reward.

They also found the bugbear’s well entrance, but instead of coming in the back way, they used Magelock on it and went in the front door. (Someone must have played Rappan Athuk). They saw the skeletons, and like the goblins, did not engage them.

Lost of scrounging, search, some cartography, diplomacy and intimidation used.

Spells used: detect magic, detect illusion, mass sleep, magelock, lend energy, and lend health.

Not a bad run for four hours. If we had had six, they might have gotten to the south end of the map.

The alchemy room has a no mana area, as demonstrated by the “broken” continual light object, and can be used to open the magelocked chest.

The lab has an assortment if potions, and books (primers) typically worth $50 on Alchemy, Thaumatology, and Thanatology. The actual spellbooks are worth several times that amount.

The skeletons are programmed to ignore those wearing amulets, which all have Melchiir’s mystic mark.

 

Get Beneath the Fallen Tower Here for 2.99

Get the DF lite templates

Get the conversion notes, and the actual pregens Used and prepared here

Like any of this? Support my Patreon!

I had originally intended to run a second session, using leveled up 125 pt versions of the pregens – get that here

 

 

Crypts of Doom and recent play of low level GURPS DF

I just got these (minus the paint, and the Crypt of the Sorcerer box. These Heritage Dungeon Dwellers Paint ‘n’Play sets were where I started back in 1979, although I only had the Crypt of tne Sorcerer and the Level 2 Monsters and Treasures assortment. Due to lead content and small children in my house, and a fifteen year hiatus from D&D, and a lack of ability to keep up my storage unit, all of my minis and 1e books went to a friend, and I fear they were all lost forever when he and his wife divorced. Things happen, and my midlife gaming is nostalgic driven for the abe of wonder when I was reading Lieber and Moorcock and painting minis without an actual gaming group. These were my grail to acquire, and I will be paying for it for some time to come (Nostalgic ain’t cheap). Some unboxing/ painting pists should be forthcoming in the months ahead.

I also got to run Beneath the Fallen Tower using 75pt GURPS Dungeon Fantasy characters as originally intended. No casualties, lots of scrounging, search, diplomacy, and lore rolls! Slaughter of centipedes and wolves, some goblins, and effective double teaming of Mass Sleep and lend energy. More to follow!

Disasters with Lidocaine and an upcoming Con

So, earlier this spring, I developed a pinched nerve in my shoulder, which caused me to have shooting pains and numbness in my left arm. I had about six weeks of physical therapy, and was pretty well cured… until last Saturday evening, when a sudden Spasm in my shoulder set it off again, only worse. This led to an urgicare visit, where they shot me full of Toradol and sent me home with a hit of Valium, and a script for lidocaine cream.  I was working on something for one of my patrons, Tim Shorts of Gothridge Manor. (join my patreon too and I might do the same for you!). So I was preparing to scan it, and went to erase some pencil lines.  Who knew that the lidocaine I had just applied to my arm would make the gel pen run like that?  I was able to scan the image in, but got it a little canted,  which I did not realize until I was halfway through my usual Photoshop and MS paint cleaning combo,so I rescanned it. I then went to do this again, and accidentally opened up the tilted image, and worked on it for about an hour before I caught on.  After a good long break, I went in and did the same edits on the non tilted image.  My methods for drawing are particular; Pencil, followed by G2 0.38 and 1.0 gels, usually on copy paper. I will try to avoid making contact  to my art with analgesics from this point.

Coming up this August 25, at the Same Con where I ran my adventure for SWCL, I will be running my adventure Beneath the Fallen Tower using my  Low Level Dungeon Fantasy rules, which I am going to build some pregens from.  I discuss the development of this adventure on a number of posts, just click on the tags below.

My art strives to be inclusive in representation, and as I had planned on including my character art on the pregen characters, I realized I needed to step it up, so I am working on more. This will probably be in a bundle soon…

Beneath the Fallen Tower now in print

product_thumbnail

Because I don’t know how to embed fonts, this is built out of screenshots. Here’s hoping it does well! I may have to drop the price a bit, but there is a limit as to how low they will let me sell it for. Grab it here.

You can get the pdf on Drivethru

Since I can’t bundle accross platforms, I can get my publisher to send you a coupon for the pdf if you buy the print version. I will have to work out a deal for those who already bought it.

 

I am planning to run this adventure using my rules for GURPS Dungeon Fantasy level 0  (using 75pt pregens, and maybe following up with a 125pt adventure after) at an upcoming gaming con, provided I can clear it at work.

If you like my work, and want to get my art earlier than my publishing schedule, check out my Patreon!

My first review

Ten foot pole just reviewed Beneath the Fallen Tower on their blog.

There are some harsh criticisms, but not unmerited. I am an amateur and my product shows it. I can read my handwritten notes, but it doesn’t mean anyone else can.  I will very likely upgrade the maps and bump up some of the room descriptions  There is also the problem of my placement of the entrances, and their lack of labeling in the pertinent text.

I had planned another entrance, and then forgot to remove the reference to it. Sorry to create confusion. Hopefully, I will be a little clearer and better developed with any further releases.

Session Recap of Beneath the Fallen Tower Playtest at Manhattan Minicon 3

The Swords & Wizardry Continual Light game I just released, Beneath the Fallen Tower had a warm reception when I ran it two weeks ago at the Manhattan Gamer’s Guild event. Players included Erik Tenkar and his wife Rachel, Noah Green, Miguel and Patrick. Miguel rolled a spectacularly average halfling thief, even though we were playing with all three suggested house rules (max hp at first level, bonus clerical spell for high wisdom, and humans swap their lowest stat for 15). Because there aren’t really ability checks, or ability based skills like GURPS, and no penalties for low stats, the character, a ratcatcher working for Keela at the Wayside Inn, was very successful.

Patrick played a swashbuckler. Swashbucklers are usually a prestige class, with an extra cost for experience, but are no different in ability from thieves at first level, as everyone has the same basic hit bonus of 0 when starting. Nevertheless, his play style made the Dashing Swordsman very effective. We opted in a quick ruling from SW Complete for dual weapon use of giving the attack +1, and he made full use of it.

Rachel played an elf ranger with 15 Strength, and stacked her anti goblin bonuses effectively.  Her character was our tank, but unfortunately was cut down by the goblin chief.  I allowed a save vs death, and her character lived but was out of commission until magically healed on the way out of the dungeon.

Noah, having read the blurb about a necromancer, played a cleric of Nodens. The route they took did not end up giving him an opportunity to use his turn undead ability. A few more hours of play certainly would have done so, and his one cure wounds spell gained from a high wisdom score was very important.

Erik played a magic user, armed with the “Death spell”, sleep. He also rolled the highest stats, and being human snared an additional 15, which left him a combat monster with 15 Strength, 15 Dexterity, and 14 Intelligence. pretty much everyone took Charisma as a dump stat. When I used to play AD&D, I used Len Lakofka’s 5% tables from The Dragon, that disadvantaged sedentary types at low levels, and made fighters more effective, and the DF lite stats I worked up pretty much echoed that frame of mind. Erik’s character would not be a 75 pointer, but something closer to 150 points, and far more effective in combat because of the flatly even attack rolls everyone had.

I was calling the group the Champion Wiffle Ball Team because of the sheer amount of low die rolls going on. Erik disarmed himself at least twice during the game, and the only advantage was that their opponents were largely in the same boat.

Due to low charisma, very few rumors of use surfaced, and the group was focused on rescuing Wyatt.Wyatt0001.png Wyatt Ferris is a gamer who left us far too soon, and in this game, he was a merchant and 1st level bard, who attempted to take his four retainers and 3 mules laden with goods through the long abandoned north road through the forest, instead of taking the long way around. The group had a lot of fun flashing his wanted poster while holding their hands over the part that spelled out a reward.

Their trip up the road led them to encounter the Duke’s men, who were only satisfied that they weren’t bandits when they partially displayed the poster. They ran into the deer being chased by the wolves, and lost a mule to them. Then they encountered the pilgrims, who were going to “hasten the arrival of the god who comes” but avoided hostilities with them, even though they suspected them of being evil cultists, partly because they also ran into the fleeing peasants and some elves who gave them elven rations. both groups had suspicions about the shrine, and a little interaction between Noah’s character and the pilgrims confirmed the bias.

One thing about SWCL that I really liked, is that there is no alignment. While this certainly promotes conflict free murder hobo behavior, it also promotes a lot more parlaying, and makes things like wholesale slaughter more morally ambiguous.

They also encountered the young ogre, who they fed and added to their party.  He proved himself useful punching out wolves in the dungeon, and successfully returned him to mama on the way back.

The route by which they entered the dungeon proved very fortuitous; out of the three possible entrances, they took the covered well used by the bugbears. Now there were multiple ways in and out, but I had them all drawn fairly close to each other, so I cannot say that the dungeon was well Jacquaysed. Janelle Jacquays does a lot in her designs to avoid railroading and creating quantum ogres, and my dungeon pretty much led directly to the goblins no matter which way you entered, but there was a certain advantage to sneaking in the back way; it put them two doors away from the prisoners and let them achieve their objective with minimal combat.  On the other hand, they used their one sleep spell to get rid of the Bugbears who were attacking them in the secret tunnels and their one healing spell immediately afterward, and had to rely on their wits from that point.

Naturally, there was an immediate plan to use a keg of oil to attack the goblins, but they used it to block their pursuers instead of risking catching the ogre in the flames.

They suspected Wyatt of having colluded with the goblins, until they realized he had just charmed the jailor in order to hold out until the ransom was paid.  I had included other prisoners Keep of the Borderlands style as potential replacement characters, but with only one near fatality, and a short time to play, they weren’t needed.

On the way back, they met with Mama ogre, the tinker, and a bunch of bandits wearing the soldier’s gear, who they promptly Slept, and took back to town as prisoners for a reward. All totaled their main loot came from the reward money, with only a few coins pocketed along the way; a good thing I wasn’t calculating out experience based on GP.

This adventure was set up with 4 different boss level fights, but the group only dealt with one, the bugbears, and avoided conflict with the ogress by returning her son safely. As to Aurelia and Melchior, they never met them.

As an added note, I really have to thank Mike Badolato for helping me with the vast amount of editing that had to be done after my initial passes through spellcheck. the late stages of the manuscript for the adventure had oodles of GURPS references in them ( like 1d-1 instead of 1d6-1) and all kinds of formatting issues that came about because I had used google docs on phone, tablet, chromebook and Word on PC to edit. I don’t recommend that to anyone. There were some issues I could not repair, like the unfortunate placement of a 2d6 table in location 12, that made location 13 conform to the formatting from that section… Word whatever are we going to do with you?

Grab the game, and enjoy it!

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.

A quick Review and a progress update

&I snatched up this issue of Pyramid not because my game is looking to be undead heavy, but because I am a big fan of one of the concepts, the partially resurrected, or half undead.

Ever since I had first cracked open my copy of GURPS UNDEAD back in the early nineties, I have toyed with using the templates within as means of representing sentient undead.

bub Like this guy .

Back in ’02 when I was first running Northport, I was also playing in an RPOL.net GURPS game called Necropolis. I always wondered if it was the testing ground for Abydos. I played a character who was the result of a critical success in casting Create Zombie, fully aware and “living” in secret as a servant in a Vampire lord’s house, handling little things like going to market and tipping his food/paid companionship. The game folded around when the action was getting interesting, but I set up a character in Northport who was in the same situation, Cavil the Wayfallen, an Adventurer who was killed and sold to the guild necromancer to pay the rest of his party’s healing bills. He led a revolt of the local dead (The guild keeps zeds around for target practice and to do work the kobolds refuse to touch), and one of the first players in Northport had to deal with him and arrange for him to become an indentured servant instead of property.

Now there is a template for people like him, the products of a cheap-ass resurrection spell. Not a bad way to create a character, and different from the complexities of becoming one of the Half Living from Dead Reign.

Now, what has been killing me is the dual game character sheets I have been working on for Beneath the Fallen Tower. Here is the first one:

CHAR SHEET  Jelaine

IMG_20160802_165204

 

It is still a work in progress.