Three Important Things

First off, go out now and get your hands on Diogo Noguiera’s Old Skull publishing’s Sharp Swords and Sinister Spells. It is a nifty rules light version of a swords and sorcery game, currently  pay what you want, with many of the sensibilities of Dungeon Crawl Classics and a very pulpy tone, such as one might find in Cirsova.

Secondly I just got my grubby little hands on a bunch of dragon magazines, including issue#138. One of the articles was called The End of The World, which I know a lot of my friendsand family feel last week launched us toward. The particular flavor of apocalypse presented in the magazine was a reboot of the campaign after the black plague hit.  It was about renewing the world after changes out of your control had occurred. This was the basis of my Northport campaign, set forty years after the plague had struck. Much of the territory of the campaign has been left in the form of explorable ruins, and property is fairly easy to acquire, as at least a third of Northport is still vacant. It is an ideal circumstance for adventurers, as so much remains to be explored, and there are plenty of folk in need of champions.

I look toward the new political landscape much the same way. It isn’t what I wanted, it threatens some of those I love, and I am not going to sit down and complain about it, I am going to act on behalf of those who need defending.

Third item has to do with some art I originally released to my patrons, and should be releasing soon: Dungeon Scenes 2.

Denis Mccarthy Cirsova Advert.png

Meanwhile back in my game, The juniors crew has invested in real estate, acquiring the property directly above the Bone Gate so that they can maintain access to it, at least as long as it is there.  I had casually mentioned that they could acquire it, and I am handling that as individual purchases of the Base perk, which amounts to a room each within a couple of row houses. This could lead to them becoming landlords, which I would handle as Independent Income.

Meanwhile, I have had a sudden influx in players wanting to start with guild rank, and they have already become rivals. The guild has its hands in a lot of pies (as evidenced by the number of ranking members who have points in independent income) including a push toward gaining access to set up shops in the undercity. This was kind of a feature in video games, where right before a boss fight you would run into a kind of dungeon merchant, and I have seen it in Stonehell  as well.  My PC’s are not quite heading toward the Papers & Paychecks route, but how manyadventurers have started as caravan guards, or in this case, taking care of the inkeeper’s rat problem, only with worse…

Reviews and Mail

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This great batch of  25 mm plastic figures come to me from Mike Monaco, of the Swords & Dorkery blog. Last summer I correctly guessed how deep into a mammoth cave system Mike was able to descend, and he sent me these. He had them packed up to go on a shelf in his garage, and just stumbled upon them. They are really great and appropriate to my current game. The dude with the blue shield looks like Haskell the Crafty, and the uge ensemble of naginata wielders resemble both one of my player’s Wuxia character, Chye Isuel (Translates to mean “Mountain Dew”) as well as a crew of guards with sacrificial parry and teamwork I had put in place to specifically block the attacks of the 17 ST, Tetsubo wielding Yakuza enforcer Jin.

Naturally, their planned deployment in x-parrying his tetsubo failed miserably; The players had just defeated a crowd of ninjas attacking from murderholes in the ceiling of their lair; a mixture of gas grenades and explosive fireballs striking ninjas festooned with bandoliers of nagtatapos smoked out the ninjas… and injured party members who had climbed up into the rafters with the ninjas as the attacks were made by the rest of the party.  We are pbp, and hours had gone by between posts, but they still dove into the areas as they were being firebombed.  Nearby they found a door without any metal fittings, and labeled in Sahudese with an advisement that fire was not welcome.  The players quickly figured out that this might be the armory where the black powder for preparing nagtapos were stored, and wisely decided to fire an explosive fireball at the room…

Had the spellcaster not been talked out of this plan, the adventure would have ended abruptly as the tunnels collapsed.  Entry into the ninja’s lair had been difficult enough. I had one character, who had some area knowledge and urban survival swearing that good rolls to those skills would let him find a handy manhole cover that would lead directly to the target location.  He was displeased to learn that good rolls would advise him that A) Tunnels existed in this part of the city, and B) where the locked buildings with official access for the Department of Sewers and Aqueducts were, but would not create a door by searching, as it might in Dungeonworld.

The actual entrance was inside a guarded warehouse with a basement, but not accessible through the basement, only through a trap door under a crated marriage bed surrounded by barrels full of salted corpses being shipped back to Sahud for burial. Definitely not a casual find…

So, with the squire/adept still holding a fireball he had burned HP to raise, the crack troop of coordinated Naginata wielders rounded the corner, ready to nerf the Yak, and got roasted instead, although not before Shima made an appearance…

Shima is a minor villain, who had organized a diversion of brawling laborers, that the party slaughtered, who is basically an honorbound sumotori brute with power blow, and one of the few npcs I had handy who could have ended the yak early. he had his hand smashed by Jin’s tetsubo, although it was since restored by another character currently in another thread.

The other groups are converging; Hitomi (now npc’d after the player bailed), travelling with a telekenetic mentalist, a Chye Isuel the errant knight/minstrel and the overbuilt nymph bard (run by the same player who has Gorgath, and is equally weaponized) are now linking up with the Juniors group, along with the last remnants of the team trying to rescue the goblin kwik and orc cheerer, mostly so I can render the groups npc free, as I am forever losing players but trying to keep the story going.

Deep underground, the group negotiating with the trolls had launched an assault on the city of the People of the Pit, defeating a giant berserker pit person, and discovering the mental abilities of an Unknowable thing which was whisked away by a giant tentacle from beyond when I rolled an 18 on a mental blast attack. Everyone gets colorful crits.

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Meanwhile in other mail  related news, I now have the two core books of John M. Stater’s Blood & Treasure 2e, and cannot wait to get a physical copy of Nod 30!

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All three of these items are thick with my illustrations, and this issue is so full of clever gonzo old school references, from Robot monsters to excellent rules for character race generation. Plus, it is worth the 3.99 just to get the backstory on how these three races from the Undiscovered Country relate:

trio

John Stater isn’t just prolific, he is very imaginative and funny. I was paid for this work already, I make nothing from his future sales, save that they make him flush enough to continue to buy work from me, but there is a lot of good art of mine in his publications.

Another set of publications I advocate for are the wonderfully pulpy issues of Cirsova Zine. I grew upo reading my way through my Dad’s collection of Sword and Sorcery books; when I got my DM’s Guide, I didn’t have to search for too many items from Appendix N, he had most of them.  The collected authors of Cirsova 1 and 2 do an awesome job of bringing back the feel of adventure fiction penned around the future ruins of earth. Great stuff, all of it, and check out the blog – I am tempted to drop an ad for my work into issue 4.

 

 

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You All Meet in a Tavern…

This most recent  commission, for Erik  Tenkar’s  blog, is the most complicated  piece of inkwork I  have created to date. It is also the last piece I will sell at the rates I was working with. This went through 5 drafts and took over six hours.

The characters are not new, as almost all of them come from my stock art

(Available here) The characters come from Wizards, Characters, Dungeon Scenes, and Rise of the Lich.

Whle I have had characters meet up in a tavern (The Rusty Marlinspike, The Leather Mask, and The Wastrel’s  Hope) and produced a 125pt barkeep (watered down Inkeeper) that I should post at some point, the primary meetup for my game is at the Adventurer’s Guild. Guilds have some rules already in DF, although I add a perk of membership, that functions  as a benevolent society, allowing  free lodging at status -1 conditions, and counts as proof of “employment” to keep you out of indentured  servitude (the local penalty for vagrancy). Most of my players tick it off as a License.

 

 

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Lovecraftian Art Show

So from my last post making it to instagram, I   was asked to drop 3 pieces of my art into a show at a Lovecraft  themed bar, this Saturday August 20th at 6pm.

Naturally  I went to my go to Lovecraft  story, Dreamquest of Unknown  Kadath,  (Discussed  further here ),and painted the scene where Randolph Carter and the Ghouls   he borrowed  from Pickman  first encounter Ghasts and a Gug.IMG_20160816_172748

My next piece was a Ymid entering the undercity  of Northport  from the Vale of Pnath. For more about Ymid check here, and for my treatment  of them, here.

The third piece is this:

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This is Walter Richard  Sickert, an English  Impressionist painter who was Whistler’s student and probably was Jack the Ripper. I think he makes a good Pickman.

 

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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

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It is still a work in progress.

 

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Divination Driven Plotting and a lesser Divinity

In the warped Wuxia based mini campaign set within my GURPS Dungeon Fantasy game Northport, I had introduced a Wu-Jen Character named Yoshimura Furawa, who had just arrived by boat to replace a recently murdered sage and oracle in the court of Sakemoko. Sakemoko is a past master of the Adventurer’s Guild, known primarily for instituting a system of moveable shoji-like walls to allow the basements of the guild to be reconfigured as different mazes and mock dungeons for proficiency runs. These events were heavily bet upon, as there were usually three areas set up simultaneously, with random teams being assembled out of the characters of whatever players I had at the time, and made the guild quite flush during his tenure.  The current guild also garners a significant amount of its income from gambling, which is why the current unrest amongst the Jugga teams and the raid on Vilgar’s pit fighting den have hurt them. This led to mini adventures where adventurers scouted out and secured a new venue for Vilgar, and just managed to steal a jugga trophy from the orcish Televodnica (Gym or dojo) to barter with Pallido, a hobgoblin  Qwik who is on the spectrum (Single minded, Stubborn, Shy, Eidetic memory, hard to kill, hard to subdue), but is the only person who knows where the missing Goblin Qwik and Orcish Cheerer are hiding out.

Part of an earlier story arc dealt with Chaos cultists of Saturnos killing all of the oracles in town,and stealing their divination tools in order to conceal their larger plans (still a mystery to players, although they know that there is a lot of demon summoning going on).  Theis led to the death of Sakemoko’s sage, and the theft of his copy of the Classic of Changes.

I have used Tarot to plot the motivations of some npc’s in a few previous games, although by no means as well as Pantheon Press does it with Fortune’s Fool, so it was tone appropriate to use the I Ching to richen the flavor of my cultural appropriation. After fighting off Ninja and one petty demon, the characters, consisting of Jin, a ridiculously strong Yakuza (built as a Veteran  Brute);  Ales Konstantin, a spellsword (Squire Adept); Airis Moonshadow (a Catfolk Ninja); Chou-Zen Mou (an elder thing infused, wildly talented  wizard), Iskander the mundane martial artist (Skirmisher plus knight lens and bits of magery zero and extra skills but no Chi Abilities) managed to escort Furawa from his ship to Sakemoko, but not before the ninjas had stolen a magical Sake set from his cabin.

The Sahudese employ weather wizards like Fuwara (Who is built like a wizard Priest (druid)) to navigate and assist in regulating the weather in their trans oceanic voyages.  He holds a divine office as a lesser functionary in the Celestial Bureaucracy (Power investiture/ social regard, rank, duty) and part of his job is to oversee the imprisonment of a particular Oni. (Known to the players as a Terrible, Fire Breathing Ogre From Hell), who currently resides inside of a silver and jade sake service, serving as the heating element.

One thing I have learned from looking over wikipedia and game systems other than AD&D that attempt treatments of Eastern mythologies, is that all of the monsters have jobs and responsibilities within the hierarchy of spirits; Oni have responsibilities and duties, and are not mere random encounters.  So this Oni had a job, and was punished for being overzealous in its execution, which I think might have been to light Joss sticks and instead he burned all of the furniture.  Sakemoko’s enemies include the Horde ninjas of the Kusarimashita clan, who are aligned with Akira No Aku, a magically endowed gangster whose organization was loosely based on that of Lo Pan, with servitors of all manner of multi-lens abilites, including someone who is a demonologist. I rule that conjuring a demon or other entity from an area of entrapment can bypass the safeguards that hold them in place. In this case, it is with a magical jade amulet that Furawa may lend them, if the Oni is in fact released, a violation of his sentence.

I have had a lot of fun using Google translate to put words in the mouths of my NPC’s and otherwise make those who spend points on languages feel like they got their money’s worth. (For example, my trolls speak in Estonian, partly because it has the right frequency of j’s and i’s together) In this case, it lead to a ruling that demons can always speak the language of their summoner, along with that of any previous summoners, and they can speak it backward as well.  This resulted to some recent activity for the cult busting 125 point characters being applauded for spilling so much blood in inverted Armenian (If Google Translate would do it with Aramaic I would have used that), and the petty demon that the Wuxia crew ran into saying “You’re not the boss of me” in arabic before turning to spirit form.

So they asked Furawa to divine how their mission to retrieve the Sake service would go, and I electronically tossed some coins using the link above, and got Hexagram 11, Tai, or peace, which in the abbreviated version I read, implied a peaceful and prosperous marriage of heaven and hell.  Well then. I had Hell, in the form of the Oni, but what to do for heaven?

I immediately had Furawa cast Detect Life(Celestial) and he got two results; One was the Celestial Cleric of Helios, Melchizidek, currently on an expedition deep underground to fight the elder thingy People of the Pit on behalf of the trolls, and the other about a mile off in the temple district.  Northport was originally a downward built goblin settlement (and then some) and was recolonized by the Romans, and most of the temples date back to them, so there are a few miles of overgrown, marbleized concrete domed and pillared shrines. Some are very active, like the Hadereum, where the bureaucratic plutocrats, priests and acolytes of Dis Pater collect taxes, and others are abandoned and some, while still popular, are minimally populated.

One of these was the temple of Priapus, managed by a faun Initiate, Harro, who was in distress, partly at being laughed at by the plutocrats for allowing his temple to be defiled, as he said, by a four armed invisible blue woman.As the plutocrats left, the party, or most of it arrived.  Chou-Zen Mou was delayed, having chosen to spend some CP on new spells. [My method for learning involves paying the guild magic shop owner, Speilgud, to cast the spell, and he has to make a teaching roll, and the student has to learn  by making a Thaumatology roll. Spielgud critically failed a teaching roll, causing Chou-zen to learn a version of counterspell that was +2 vs the spell he was trying to learn and -1 vs other spells.]

Harro the Faun was lying, saying that his temple had been desecrated, and then suddenly, as he was touched by the invisible being, he was forced to tell only truth; the sanctity in his shrine had actually increased, and he was jealous of her interaction with the marble statue.

Now, no one in my group is under thirty, most closer to fifty, (Really, we use a text only BBS system on RPOL.net), but make one dick joke and it was like they were all in middle school again.

In any case, the divine being Furawa had detected manifested herself.

Kho Khilana
Descendent of Divine Servitor of Fertility [460]
ST 13 [20] DX 13 [40] IQ 13 [40] HT 15 [40]
HP 13 Will 14 Per 13 FP 16
Basic Speed 7.5, Move 7, Dodge 7 
Advantages:
Celestial [75] (ST+1, dx+1,iq+1, ht+1, will+1, fp+1, bs +.5, 
           attractive , fit, spirit empathy, celestal nimbus,divine gifts,
            Divine curse (preferred enemy of demons) weakness to evil areas)
 2 extra arms [20]
 extra eye, blue skin 
invisible (switchable) [50], Immune to met hazards [30] 
beautiful [5], power Investiture 2 [20] Temp tol 10 [10]
DR vs fire 10 [30] unaging [15]
Languages: Hindi [native/native] [0]
           Sahudese [Accented/Accented] [4]
           Aralaise [accented/Accented] [4]
 Charms:[7]
 Aura
 See secrets
 Magesight
 Essential Food (creates small octogonal cakes with random flavors)
 Fertility (Reverse of strike barren)
 Truthsayer
 Relieve sickness

Disadvantages:
impulsive[-10], truthfulness[-5], Lecherousness[-15] gigantism [0]
oph:nudist [-5],cannot harm innocents [-10], Oblivious[-5]
unnatural features:Blue skin, third eye, extra arms, 7 feet tall [-5]

Aura, Magesight and see secrets are functions of the third eye,
 Each hand can perform one of the other effects. 
4 in languages St 13 DX 13 IQ 13 HT 15 
Spell skills are all 15 [4pts each], Dancing[2] 13, sex appeal [1] 17
 Sexual Art [4] 13 stealth [2] 12, Wrestling [2] 13(+4), karate [8] 14, 
judo[8] 14, singing [1]15, Breath control [8]15, Theology! [8] 13 

Kho Kilana is the descendant of a servitor of a fertility god, 
and has some of her father's aspects. She has a good working knowledge of divine
genealogies, so as to avoid having relations with the high percentage of the 
nine million gods who are blood relatives. She visits the shrines of other
fertility gods with regularity but has no interest in revisiting the temple
of Priapus on the southern Isle of Telemankas, as the statue of the god there
 is made of Sandstone.

Speaking only the truth, she answered some basic questions about herself, and upon hearing that they were referring to the being trapped in the Sake Service as an Efreet, she demanded to be brought to Furawa to have it explained to her how the Celestial Bureaucracy would have dominion over such a foreign entity. It will be up to the diplomacy of Sakemoko to determine if she agrees to assist, and up to a bunch of die rolls as to how.

 

The material presented here is my original creation, intended for use with the GURPS system from Steve Jackson Games. This material is not official and is not endorsed by Steve Jackson Games.

As an unrelated note, I won a copy of the Borderland Provinces as part of Swords and Wizardry Appreciation Day. and it is amazingly dense. I intend to post a full review of that once I finish reading it. It was also laid out by Chuck Wright, who is currently in need of help. I donated to that, and also put up a set of my stock art pdf’s as incentive for others to give over in Tenkar’s Tavern. My patreon support of Erik Tenkar has brought me a lot of traffic so I am thankful of that.I originally made an offer of just the three pdf’s I had at the time, Characters, Wizards and Dungeon Scenes, but since I have added a new one, I am adding that too. This work may seem familiar, I originally agreed to do some free art for exposure, and I am wise enough now to cash in. It’s only $1.49.cover.png

 

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Meditations on Recent Mail, S&W Appreciation Day goodies and critical failure expectations

Yesterday I got a bundle of booklets I had privately  printed from Lulu.com. All of these, as with all of my print projects there, are PDF’s I have rightfully purchased, and have kept private, and have only printed for personal use. Lately, Lulu has gotten kind of sketchy about what it will print, based on page size and image quality and what not.  I tried to have Zak Sabbath’s free PDF of DIY Palace of the Silver Princess in this bundle, because the coupon was good, and I really liked the tone of it, but it was rejected due to sizing issues.

I know, it is kinda crappy for an artist to use generic covers for these things, but the majority of my GURPS Dungeon Fantasy printed books were originally ordered to be printed from my kindle, and I had trouble uploading images, and just wanted to hold the damn books. If I ever do a hardcover compilation, I will surely do something about that. As you can see I was amateurish about printing out Labyrinth Lords , the logo of a camera on the back covers because I didn’t bother to add a picture is regrettable, But I actually printed out the game so that I can play Kabuki Kaiser‘s Ruins of the Undercity with its preferred ruleset.IMG_20160316_072104[1]

(A couple of other recent Lulu purchases)

Meanwhile, I have been looking over some of the goodies I acquired over this weekend’s Swords and Wizardry Appreciation Day. As a patron of OSQ, I got a sneak peek at an article for a WhiteStar character class, the Untrained Initiate, a variant Star Knight that emulates A masterless Jedi finding their way to the Force.

I also paid a little for some PWYW items. As someone who feels it when folks download the sample and don’t buy the product from drivethru, I make a point of paying more than the average buyer.  One item was the nice collection of adventures for  level 4-6 adventurers, the Dungeons of Fel’Valashar, which has a really nice feel to it, containing four separate one page dungeon lairs containing some non standard denizens and have generally a fresh and well thought out feel to them.  The other Item I picked up was the LotR themed offering from Barrel Rider Games, The Hero’s Journey Fantasy Roleplaying. One thing that impressed me about this little book, that I have only just skimmed, is the relative low power of the characters.  Anyone, at any level, could die under a volley of arrows or after two or three bad rounds of combat. This makes the character durability roughly like  GURPS characters in their general lack of ridiculous hit points. I like the feel of this very much. I recommend picking up both of these, they are really quite good at the price.

 

Now, back to Northport.  I really, really wish some of that game could be played face to face; some  confusion could be settled, and the time it takes to get simple things accomplished could be greatly speeded up. Seriously, the game has gone on for almost three years, and effectively three weeks game time have elapsed.

It took the better part of a week for one of the thieves to perform a break in ( They were stealing a Jugga trophy from the Orcish Televodnica (Dojo) to use as a bribe to get access to the missing young lovers who were being watched over by a retired Hobgoblin Qwik who who is high on the spectrum.  Pallido has Single Minded, Eidetic memory and Shyness, along with Obsession:Jugga), and almost three weeks to plan the break in. Actual tabletop time would have been about twenty minutes to roll through.

My treasure hunters, meanwhile, defeated a supercolossal Earth Elemental (DR 7, ST 78 or so, from the Forum’s Bestiary)by softening its feet and slaying (easily with trick archery , a -10 to hit just doesn’t hold up against even the 125pt Archer build from DF 15) it’s master (an apprentice elementalist with a magica item)and then using the Artifact level earth elemental control rod (Forces contests of will to be resolved with will and not ST of elemental ) to force it into submission. This became a serious point of contention, as use of such a device was blasphemy to the party’s modified cleric, who worships Grom.  In the end, they decided to release the elemental after healing it, and sending it off holding a set of magical tracking coins.

The coins were important plot items, as one of their hirelings, a Seasoned Guard named Snorri Roslovich (named for James Rosloff) was revealed as a traitor when he (along with the party’s mule were crushed by the stumbling elemental.  He turned a new leaf after being healed, and revealed that he had been leaving coins marked with Mystic Mark on them for their rivals to use Seeker on.  So far they have determined that their rivals consist of at least Kalvo Tvasi, the Veteran Agent that they had stolen the treasure map from,], and Monorith, a katana wielding Were lion who was one of the original characters playing in Northport back in 2002, and whoever has been casting seeker…

Along their journey they have met bandits and scared them off with tales of a lich and his army, that turned out to be at least partly true. They also fought Gnolls, but lately have seen signs of the gnolls being fought and possibly killed by Monorith, but also having fought the lion, and not left bodies behind.  Without their Mule, getting back with the treasure they hope to find may be a bit difficult, likewise fleeing from all of these enemies.

They finally arrived at the X on their map, and found a well amidst the ruins of some earthworks and a centuries gone wizards tower.  The priest of Grom decided to use his ridiculously high skill at Shape Earth to dig a tunnel to the base of the well, but the low sanctity in the area, along with the penalty for shaping worked stone, led to a failure that got his foot stuck in a hole. He tried to fix it, and blew a critical failure.

Previous catastrophes he has been involved in, such as trying to create food out of shrubbery, have lead to the spontaneous creation of hostile plant creatures, so when he critted the Earth to Stone roll, he assumed that he had some kind of enemy to fight.  I had the entire area around the well collapsed into a sinkhole, revealing the terrain to be full of gravel, loose shale, and bone fragments.  The last time I played an earthshaping character, in a supers game on rpol.net, I had to make architecture or engineering rolls to carve tunnels that would not fall. Engineering for non Artificers in DF is kinda scant, but precisely the skill that is needed for modifying ancient earthworks without falling into pits, so IQ-6 until he next spends some points after visiting a sage.

Myh other (wuxia) group has finally gotten through a crowd of Horde Ninjas while escorting a Wu-jen through the undercity to deliver him to their Omo. The progressive lethality of the ninja’s tactics only was matched by their sheer fragility in the face of the party’s 17 ST yakuza’s Tetsubo and the ferocity of their catfolk Ninja, along with the assorted spellcasters and the mixed martial arts enthusiast (he is built up from the skirmisher template but has no real chi abilities, and a little magic.) They are a pretty effective group, but I would like to see how they fare against a few worthies.