Friday, May 23, 2014

Treasure - The Basyn Spell or the Thieves Dance

     Magic users come in three varieties - (1) new, poor and feeble, (2) dead or (3) rich and powerful.  All of them start in the first category and hope to avoid the second while advancing to the third.  Those who make it to the third category are also very intelligent and, having pursued the same path to wealth and comfort, understand that their fortune is a magnet to the first category and other undesirable types.

     With this in mind they put in a great deal of thought and effort into designing traps and safeguards to protect the treasures that they have accumulated (stolen) at great personal risk.  Those of a more humorous frame of mind enjoy using the following spell to identify and capture less successful miscreants.

The Basyn Spell
Arcane 4
Range: Touch
Duration: Special

This spell is cast on a single non-magical object no larger than a footstool.  The spell is completed when the object is placed in it's intended location.  Once placed, anyone who picks up or grasps the object can not let go of it until the spell is dispelled. Furthermore, once someone has been grasped the object, anyone else who grasps or touches the object or a creature touching the object (ad inifinitum) is also unable to let go.  This secondary effect extends to tools used to touch the object or creature.  For instance, attempting to smash the object with a hammer would cause the hammer to stick to the object, while the wielder of the hammer could not let go of it in turn. Any number of creatures may be effected.

The caster sets the requirements for dispelling the magic as part of the spell.  It may be a word or phrase; or it may be the object being used in a particular manner or by a named individual.  For instance, they can't let go until the magic user had put his feet up on the footstool.

The nickname of the spell comes from the actions of a group of thieves trying to tug it out of each other's grasp resembles them dancing around it.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Stories we share

Charles over at Dyvers was musing on the manners of deaths of various characters and generally commenting on the meaning(less) of life in an RPG.  You can hear the unspoken story behind every one of his characters and it leaves you wanting to know more, like what was in the wagon, why was it a bad thing to hit it?  Shoot, his character deaths sound like plot hooks, not the end of the adventure.

And that I think is the best part of the hobby, the stories we tell with friends go on and on.  And we get to share them with new friends.  In the last session, we gained a player, who I played Chivalry & Sorcery with twenty five years ago.  Jim and I shared the story of the squire whose tagline was "I'm not worthy" with the group and the group shared writing "Vald is a doofus" on the vampire's forehead with Jim.

What are the stories you share?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Paranoia - more of a rant than a gaming post

Swords and Stitchery linked to a free comic 'Atomic War #1' from 1952 as a resource for post-apocalyptic RPGs.  Now, I'm not a big fan of the genre, although I've played Morrow Project, nor am I into comics at all.  But I leafed through it online, and it followed the classic good, smart, American vs bad, stupid, Communist story lines I remembered from a stash of old post-Korean War comic books I had found as a kid.  I mean you're not talking high brow complex plots or incredible art here.

But what struck me in the article was a a quote from Scott Shaw at Oddball Comics: “This is one of many comics that reflected our national paranoia during the Cold War of the 1950s and early 1960s."

Why is 1950's America always described as paranoid [about Communists]? It has occurred to me for quite a few years now that that description shows a remarkably anachronistic - and patronizing - view of history.  Anachronistic in that in order to understand why a decision was made you need to evaluate the information available to the decision maker at the time.   And the information at the time was pretty grim, The UN (not just the US, the USSR had boycotted a Security Council meeting and so was unable to veto the resolution that brought whole organization onboard in resisting the North Korean aggression) was at war against communist North Korea, armed with modern Russian jets.  The Republic of China had been toppled by an internal Communist insurgency in '49.In '48, the Berlin Airlift had kept West Berlin free after the Russians had cut all road and rail links between the Western Occupation Zones and the city.  Word was slowly filtering out about the effects of forced collectivization and the Gulag. All of Eastern Europe was being set up with their own one party Communist states.  In Greece, Communists had fought a civil war against the government from '46 - '49; everywhere you looked communism was advancing and the modus operendi was perceived to be internal subversion.

Now I'm not defending Senator McCarthy's inquisition here; that was an exercise in group think and suppression of dissenting opinion - which we see enough of today.  What I am saying is that childish characterizations of an entire era are as shallow and vapid as the comic book was.

BTW it occurs to me that a pre-apocalyptic RPG, where the characters have to run around in a milieu of fear, uncertainty and doubt, to stop the nukes from dropping might be a blast with the right group.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Proud Mary

Apologies to CCR fans everywhere.

I anticipate that the next adventure will be taking my players on a trip down the river.  Which naturally made me wonder what mishaps and misadventures could I enliven their evening with.  They (unless they throw a curve at me) will be travelling with the current at a rate of 25 miles a day, this will necessitate that they make two (1 in 6) encounter checks each day.  If they chose to push their movement (equivalent to a forced march) they will need to make a third check, but will go an extra 10 miles that day.  When and encounter occurs roll d20

Encounter Description
1 – 4
Flight of d6 arrows from unseen attackers. Roll to hit random targets +2 to hit 1d6 damage
Trade boat being poled up river
Raft of logs being floated down river by lumberjacks. Profession – Sailor DC 12 to avoid collision. If collision occurs the boat begins to leak. Craft – Carpentry DC 8 to repair. Add a day to travel time
Attack by beastmen, coming alongside in canoes to board
Attack by orcs shooting arrows from the bank
Run aground Profession – Sailor DC14 to avoid taking damage to the boat. If damaged, the boat begins to leak. Craft – Carpentry DC 8 to repair. Add a day to travel time in either case. (Series of shallows that require unloading and portaging the contents of the boat)
Sawyer – A floating tree that has snagged on the bottom, the current makes it bob up and down like a saw. Profession – Sailor DC18 to avoid capsizing the boat. If capsized, loose two days travel time and every one loses 1d3-1 random items other than clothing and armor being worn. Note that if the character states they are wearing armor they must make three successful Swim checks to reach shore. (Unarmored characters can float)
Strike a rock. The boat takes 1d6 structural damage, which may be repaired with carpentry skill at the rate of one point per day on a successful skill check DC12.
Natural dam. Choose a course of action, steer to shore and portage around, Profession – Sailor DC 10 to see the dam in time. Loose one day. Alternative – or if they fail the first check. Go for broke, Profession – Sailor DC 20 to go over the dam. Failure capsizes the boat. If capsized, loose two days travel time and every one loses 1d3-1 random items other than clothing and armor being worn. Note that if the character states they are wearing armor they must make three successful Swim checks to reach shore. (Unarmored characters can float)
As always, suggestions for more mishaps are welcome.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Game Report - May We Go Back to the Tombs?

2nd Expedition in Red
Based on a map by Dyson Logos
After a long hiatus caused by tax season, travels and unrelated writing activities, we return to our Pathfinder heroes in a Warhammer world.

After the battle in March, the party decided rather than going back into the tombs they had discovered, instead they would try their hands at a nearby wizard tower they had heard of.  The elvish wizard/thief having hired one of the men at arms he had led in battle and a local guide having been rented, they proceeded to The Gibbering Tower, where they completely failed to die; although the elvish wizard /thief did spend a night in a tree after failing to save vs Fear.

Finding out some clues about the afore mentioned tombs perhaps being the burying place of another magus; the dwarf convinced the party that they should return in hopes of his obtaining a Black Blade.

Before they departed Smalplotz, they spied a dusty figure trudging up the road from Hovelhof, with a scythe over their shoulder.  A young peasant from the Border Princes, now a candidate paladin for the Order of the Fiery Heart, had been sent out on a quest to kill a manticore (how convenient).  [We added a new/old player to our regular group.  New that he hasn't gamed with us before.  Old, that he gamed with me almost thirty years ago and  his college RPG group included players who had played with Dave Arneson's group.]

Having given much thought to the issue of how a party on foot can track an airborne predator, I had prepared NPCs with visions and cryptic clues.  Even going so far as to find a rhyming resource webpage for some close at hand divinations.  Of course they rolled the manticore for their very first random encounter, as it was flying dawn patrol.  It came in and started noshing on the sentries, but they at least managed to wake the camp.  I say at least because they weren't doing any damage.  After a brief discussion where I laid down the law that it doesn't matter if how many people are helping you get your armor on, when you're doing it in a crowded lean-to it takes twice the book time, the party got into gear, rolled out and took the manticore down before it could finish off the sentry or escape.  All that rhythmic prep work gone to waste - I'm sure somebody will say it's poetic justice.

They healed up and pushed on to the tomb, where they noticed that the body of Rumpus, the NPC killed in the bugbear drive by at the end of their first trip, was gone and so were the markings they had placed around the trap they weren't able to disable.  Deciding to deal with the bugbears first, they headed down the stairs and out the back of the tomb.  They easily found the passage dug out of the back into the caverns.  They also noticed a lack of any rubble or large pieces of debris from the digging.  I think they were getting jumpy about encountering any of the slimes or jellies that normally clean dungeons.

Staying to the right in the caverns, they found the shaft back up with a rope hanging out of it.  Despite the rope breaking after the third character to fail their climb check, they managed to get up to the next level.  There they turned right into a large hall and started checking the doors.  This brought the elven thief to the front finally, where he immediately noticed he'd picked the lock before.  They were back at the door to the rock thrower's hall.  Even better at this point they hadn't been discovered.  Of course, as soon as they started buffing, the monsters heard and sent off for reinforcements.

A couple of rocks sailed out of the darkness and through the opened door without hurting anyone.  They entered to find a hill giant and two goblins doing shoot and scoot across the great hall as they advanced, not making a stand until they reached the far door.  Zolda's player figured out where all the rubble from the mining had gone.  He attacked one goblin while the paladin and the wizard/thief attacked the other goblin, none other than the chieftain in the silk shirt.  The fighter (unwisely) decided to engage the hill giant alone in melee, while the dwarven magus cast Flaming Sphere.  The hill giant surprisingly made his save, and stuck it's great club into the flames to get a little extra fire damage going. . A couple of good whacks later the fighter was out of combat, while the giant drank a potion.  The chieftain being dead by now, the paladin (also unwisely) moved into unsupported melee with the giant, just as the first of the bugbears entered in.  It was nip and tuck for the party, the paladin went sailing when the hill giant scored a critical, but the magus? managed to put the giant down with a final burst of magic missiles.  The eleven wizard/thief evened the odds with a well placed color spray, enabling the party to whittle down the ten meatshield bugbears in front of the bugbear leader and the goblin messenger who had fetched them.  The magus ended up going into combat with the leader, who whacked him for a critical with a long sword.  The magus was concerned and surprised when he felt how happy it made  the sword  to hit him.  The elven bard managed to get the paladin back on his feet and the last few bugbears, led by their boss, tried to cut and run.  That didn't last.  The magus, thinking that the bugbear might have been using his destined Black Blade, pursued and killed the boss and the goblin in the next room.  Sadly, the sword, being +1/+2 vs Magic Users and not a Black Blade, rejected him.  Although he did find the boss had a strange triangular shield that weighed practically nothing.  Even odder that shield wasn't magical and no one could identify the metal. [Spoiler - it's a duralloy hull patch from the Starship Warden]

The party decided barricade the entrances and rest; usually this is a recipe for disaster, but in this case they've cleaned out the organized monsters and just need to clean up the loot, kill the odd monster left (if they can) and solve a riddle that hasn't been asked yet.   A fun night.