Friday, October 24, 2014

Old School Isn't Just Fun and Games

Spotted on the web -

The Old-School Cassette Player That's Connected to Spotify

Now I don't stream music, (I will admit to cruising with a Walkman in college, but hey, you're stupid then, that's why you go to school), and the Sailor, the Marine and their brother will snort beer out their noses if anyone calls me a hipster.

But hats off to Matt Brailsford for a cool case mod re-purposing a piece of kit that was new with D&D.  My only question is where does he get the cassettes to record his playlists?

Epic Safety Video & Viral Marketing Campaign

The Troll Dens has the Air New Zealand safety video.  Go watch now.  Then see if you can afford to book a ticket.

Not So Virgin Lands

The Wandering Gamist has a thoughtful post on Why It's Unexplored, looking at reasons why the PCs are the first (known) explorers in a hex crawl campaign.

I' have comments on a couple of the scenarios and one of my own that could be a playable campaign.
  • Cataclysm
    • A catastrophe has torn the land asunder.  It's scary out there, and all our maps are wrong.
    • Unfortunately, this sounds like something a competent army would put scouts on immediately.  Unless the army were busy suppressing riots in the capital, I suppose.  But in that case, there is an urban game to be had.  The other case is "the land has been torn asunder and we're right in the middle of it, and have no idea if the next town over is even still there.  There is no army, besides the garrison in the tower, and they'll be staying here thanks."  Problem: where do new and replacement PCs come from?

There is a false premise here, that fantasy/medieval armies operate like modern armies.  During the Napoleonic Wars, just over two hundred years ago, the Austrian Army noted that it's maps and knowledge of the south German states was so poor that it could be compared to their knowledge of America.  The recruits of the time were the dregs of society, even in Prussia the more economically valuable trades were exempted from conscription.  So any skilled work like scouting had to be performed by the officers.  At least up through the American Civil War, West Point's curriculum emphasized drawing and surveying for that reason.  Which made it's graduates very attractive to all the little railroad companies starting up at the time. And let's not forget that the European officers of the time were the privileged sons of nobility or at least those whose families were wealthy enough to purchase commissions - not exactly the best and the brightest.

  • Hadrian's Wall
    • The natural response of a decaying empire to Hostile Natives - throw a wall up, they can do whatever they please on that side.
    • Provides a very tangible boundary between civilization and wilderness.
    • Unfortunately very in vogue at the moment, what with the Game of Thrones.
You can add natural features such as rivers to this entry.  The Rhine/Danube boundary was the long term frontier for the Roman Empire.  Long before it began to decay, the rivers served as the boundaries of it's armies.  But it would be incorrect to assume that an empire has forted up behind such a feature; conquest is a matter of logistics.  Caesar's account of the Gallic War has several episodes where he is concerned about getting enough supplies to feed his legions.  Navigable rivers such as the Rhine, Danube and Mississippi are the most efficient means of transporting commodities in pre-steam civilizations   Even looking at what most people consider the exception to the Rhine Danube boundary, the province of Dacia in modern Romania, note that Dacia, along with Germania Inferior and Superior, was limited to the watershed of the east banks of the river.

Here's another scenario

   - You won

         - Your grandfathers sacked Rome/Byzantium/New York, now you are pushing back out through the fallen empire looking for over looked scraps

       - Provides a reason for all those ruins

       - New tribes are coming into the vacuum left behind, but haven't established themselves yet.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Soloplay - CotMa IV - Now Hiring

Myrphines - scion of the Heraclidae
Midymnoios Moncheri - Paladin of Athena, called One Hand after losing his left to a carnivorous fly
Thekitor - dwarven delver
Segestes One-Eye - Barbarian warrior of the Harii.  Came south along the Amber Road.  Lost an eye fighting kobolds.

The Egyptian - Landlord of the 'Old Fish', cheapest lodgings in Scodra

Ikexanlas - The town physician

Scene:  Hiring extra muscle while the barbarian recuperates and another descent into the dungeon.  Chaos 4, rolled a 6.  Scene goes as planned.

After settling into rooms at the Unhappy Banker, they sent out for the town physician, Ikexanlas, a middle aged man with thin black hair and a large mole on his left cheek.   He appeared wearing a costly tunic, disfigured with blood, wine and other impolite stains from his rounds.  He examined and cleaned Segestes' wounds, and told them he would return daily to check on him.

The other three met to discuss their next move. Midymnoios and Thekitor pushed to hire more fighting men and attack the kobolds.  It turned out Midymnoios's oath to Athena required him to hunt down and wipe out kobolds and their ilk [Goblin Slayer Proficiency].  Thekitor considered them racial enemies, no better than the other vermin occasionally found in mines.  Myrphines was undecided, but had not yet shared his vision of a restored Corinth and a humbled barbarian Rome with his new companions.  He decided to say nothing of his own goals until he knew they wouldn't betray him and acquiesced to their plan.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Lizard Volk!

JB over at B/X Blackrazor had some thoughts on lizards (he doesn't like them) and Lizardmen (which he likes).  But he was musing on the change in terminology from Lizardmen to Lizardfolk and gave his opinion that Lizardflok evoked them as a culture rather than a race.  Softening the edges you could say.  But then the thought popped into my head the Lizard Volk!  As in 'ein volk, ein reich, ein fuerher!'

Think about it, great big lizard man stormtroopers kicking your door down.   I wonder if  Achtung Cthulhu! has them in it?  The concept also reminded me of this art work for the Venusian Lizardmen Schutztruppen from Space 1889


From Lynn Carter's The Warrior of World's End

"His sizzling tubular  blade flew past her ward to strike at her head.  Even in the last extremity of effort she glided to one side, avoiding the full force of the stroke.  But the energy sword left her a glancing blow on the temple.
     The numbing electric shock wrung the strength from her. Stunned and reeling, she let her longsword fall from nerveless fingers.  She crumpled to her knees, fighting against the impalpable darkness that surged up to drown her consciousness.  Then a sword point struck her unguarded brow.  The shock of it drove splinters of incandescence through her brain and she fell to one side and knew no more."

The electro-sword has a tubular 'blade' with a conventionally shaped ceramic hilt.  Despite having two blunt points or prongs on the tip, it is a bludgeoning weapon that does 1d4-1 damage on a hit.  It's power lies in the disabling electrical shock it delivers with each successful attack.  If you're system has a Hit Location mechanic use it, or use the following chart to determine hit location and effect,

Roll d20LocationEffect
19-20HeadSave vs Blast /Fortitude DC 18 or fall unconscious for 2d6 minutes and staggered for an additional 4d6 minutes
16-18Left ArmSave vs Blast /Fortitude DC 16 or arm becomes numb for 3d6 rounds.  Anything in the hand is dropped.  A shield on the left arm only protect against attacks from the left.
13-15Right ArmSave vs Blast /Fortitude DC 16 or arm becomes numb for 3d6 rounds.  Anything in the hand is dropped.  A shield on the right arm only protect against attacks from the right.
11-12ChestSave vs Blast  /Fortitude DC 14 or Die as ventricular fibrillation sets in.  Add four to your die roll when saving vs Blast.
9-10AbdomenSave vs Blast /Fortitude DC 16 or your diaphragm convulses forcing the air out of your lungs.Lose all attack actions for the next 3d4 rounds.  Plus you are flatfooted for the first three rounds as you gasp for air.
5-8Left LegSave vs Blast /Fortitude DC 16 or your leg becomes numb for 3d6 rounds.  Make a balance check DC 16 or fall.  No combat maneuvers or tumbling may be done while your leg is numb.   Lose half your Dexterity adjustment to AC and -1 to melee damage as you concentrate on staying upright.
1-4Right LegSave vs Blast /Fortitude DC 16 or your leg becomes numb for 3d6 rounds.  Make a balance check DC 16 or fall.  No combat maneuvers or tumbling may be done while your leg is numb.   Lose half your Dexterity adjustment to AC and -1 to melee damage as you concentrate on staying upright.

Critical Hit - save as for a Chest hit.  If the origial hit was to the Chest, save again.

These weapons are especially sensitive to sundering.  A successful Sunder will cause 3d6 damage to everyone within 5 feet.

Metal armor makes it easier to receive a shock, for every two points of protection provided to the defender by metal armor, attacks with the electro-sword receive a +1 attack bonus. No modification to damage.  For example in ACKS, Plate Armor is AC 6, Electro-swords attacking someone wearing Plate Armor receive a +3 Attack Bonus.

Electro-swords hold up to twenty charges.  Recharging them is the stuff of legend, some say they can only be recharged by slaying a blue dragon, others say they require new 'batteries' a strange power device from across time and space, another says they need to be planted in the sunlight like flowers and Petocles the Mad claims you just rub them with cats.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Oddest Places

I was searching for information on Zverts - my search term was 'monster zvert' - and Mr Google threw up this a link to this document.

What's odd about it is that it's from USAF SAMSO TR 78-57 on GPS Navigation Algorithms from May of 1977.   I don't remember seeing the Navy including footnoted myths in technical documentation, but then I was a ship driver, not a wing wiper.

Book Report - The Warrior of World's End

Lin Carter was the last of the great? pulp sci-fi/fantasy writers.  At least the last one I read with any consistency.I started picking up odd volumes of his when I was in high school, these aren't great literature, but they are (usually) fun reads.

This is the first volume of his World's End series, following the career of one Ganelon Silvermane.  Despite it being a series, the books are essentially standalone volumes. I picked up the third or fourth book in the series first and didn't find any of the others until sometime in the last five years.

Ganelon isn't a human, rather he is a construct of the mysterious Time Lords (no I don't know if Carter had been to England and caught the first Doctor on the telly, but the timeline would be right).  Released from his vault fully grown but with the mind of a new born, he is found and adopted by Phelsco the Godmaker and his wife during the Eon of the Falling Moon.

In quick order (the book is only 151 pages) he almost singlehandedly defeats a horde of 60,000 rampaging Indigons, is apprenticed to the Illusionist of Nerelon to escape being sent to serve the The Queen of Red Magic, is captured sold in slavery, escapes while rescuing the nubile Sirix Xarda, girl-knight of Jemmerdy and saves the Tigermen from the Airmasters of Sky Island and their Death Machine (all capitalized terms from the book).  It's a quick romp through a gonzo future and Ganelon's adventures are just starting.

I give it three skulls for the writing and the fourth because it consciously and conspicuously  lacks all seriousness.

Let the Players Tell the Story

Gnome Stew has a post Don't Describe Combat that somewhat tangentially makes this point.  Encourage the player to describe the final blow, it immerses them into your narrative and develops the character.  Obviously, the first time you ask some players may look at you funny and say "I stick it with my sword/Blast it with my ray gun", a follow on question about macabre details should prompt them to be more creative the next time.  It's really good advice to add more places where the players can add to the narrative and I'm hoping to remember this piece for my next session.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Alternative Means of Interring Vampires

Here's a brief survey of some folk remedies for keeping the dead quiet.

Bulgaria - iron stake through the left side of the chest PLUS removal of the lower left leg.  Apparently it makes them tip over when they try to hop after you.

Bulgaria - bind the hands of the dead

Romania - remove the heart of the corpse

Italy - put a brick in the corpse's mouth so they can't feed

Poland  - cut off the head and bury it between the legs.

Colonial America - bury the head in skull & crossbones position (not sure how you do that without complete dismemberment)

The source of these is a Daily Beast article, which is fitting as we're talking fantasy.  [Trigger warning: Do not read the article if you are easily offended by incoherent grammar, fifth grade level factual mistakes (Thracian is the name for the historical inhabitants of Bulgaria, not the name of a city) and/or use of the word ancestors to describe descendants of people previously alive.]

Another Take on Stymphalian Birds

Follow Me and Die has posted his version of Stymphalian Birds for Ad&D.  I really like the shooting bronze feathers as arrows.  But I thought they were encountered in mountains rather than swamps and forests.  Well, variety is the spice of life.  My take on the little beasties is here.  You can find all of Hercules labors on Tuft's Perseus site

Monday, October 13, 2014

Soloplay CotMA III - Of Ghosts and Vision

Myrphines - scion of the Heraclidae
Midymnoios Moncheri - Paladin of Athena, called One Hand after losing his left to a carnivorous fly
Thekitor - dwarven delver
Segestes - Barbarian warrior of the Harii.  Came south along the Amber Road.

The Egyptian - Landlord of the 'Old Fish', cheapest lodgings in Scodra

They remained in the noisome inn while the paladin recovered from his maiming and while they considered their options.  Myrphines decided to sell the ring they had discovered in the dungeon in order to finance a move to more salubrious quarters and to purchase a weapon Midmymnoios could wield one handed.  Afterwards they would enter the dungeon following Myrphine's map.

Chaos 5.  Rolled a 1 Altered scene - the party goes to sell the ring and re-equip as originally planned but they encounter a pickpocket along the way.  the first level thief rolled an 18 on the pickpocket check and the target was randomly determined to be Segestes the barbarian.  He never felt it as the Silver Wrist band was slipped from his arm.

 Thekitor took them to a jeweler in Fire Beetle Lane, who he said his cousin had recommended.  Selling the ring put 67 gold in Myrphine's purse (Thekitor lost his Bargain roll resulting in a 10% loss in value).  Then they went to the smithies by Bridgegate to purchase a spear and shield for the paladin.  When they returned Segestes gave an oath - one of the silver bracelets he had won on his journey had been stolen from his arm.  Perhaps it had been the Epriot barmaid while they were listening to the Scordisci tell the tale of the Grand Druid in Gaul whose daughter is a tree, or man who had tripped and bumped into him outside the jewelers.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Navy Commissions First Death Cultist Chaplain

The Sailor,  my eldest,  sent me this link from Duffel Blog this morning.  Fortunately,  I didn't receive the text until after I had finished speaking at my own local chapter of the Esoteric Order of Dagon; otherwise I don't think I'd have been able to deliver my talk without laughing.

Friday, October 10, 2014

How Big is that Town?

Urban Population Density in Antiquity
I like the world building aspect of gaming. That's probably the biggest attraction for me to being a DM is to be able to create campaigns and settings. But one of the unanswered questions in all of the RPG materials I have picked up over the years is how big is the town? Not in terms of population size, that goes back at least to AD&D, but in terms of area. Not surprisingly, this is dependent on the type of civilization you are modeling. As Scheidel says concerning urbanization rates in his paper Roman population size: the logic of the debate "we must allow for the possibility that direct analogies between urbanization levels in antiquity and in later periods may simply be irrelevant because they seek to equate conditions in two very different environments: Greek and Roman societies, with their poleis and civitates that fused cities with their respective hinterlands, [than] post-Roman Europe, with its much more pronounced boundaries between city and countryside" Given that caveat, I did some research based on the area figures of classical cities mostly from Ancient Town Planning by Francis Haverfield, generate a correlation between population and area that can then be used as a guideline when constructing urban areas.

For those of you who would prefer not to wade through the numbers below the jump, heres the outcome.
Cities - 326 persons per hectare or 330 ft2 per person
Towns - 233 persons per hectare or 462 ft2 per person

Note that this includes roads, alleys, public buildings and spaces, so the actual size of living quarters will be much smaller.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Game Report - Dangerous Statues

  The party having been half wiped out last time in a massacre that I couldn't face putting down in pixels, safely arrived in Altdorf where they were rejoined by the dwarven magus left behind in Smalplotz and joined by a dwarven monk they had encountered on the road from Nuln.

They were referred to one Conrad Vraßlin, a wealthy art lover. He showed them his collection of statutes, demonstrating the difference between human art and the realism of petrification by basilisk and cockatrice. Having heard of a petrified bear near the village of Rettindorf, he offered the party 2000 gold apiece, 10% up front,  to retrieve it for him.

[I realized that with composition of the party having become elf, dwarf, dwarf, human and one more dwarf who couldn't make it Saturday, that my hopes of running a converted Enemy Within Campaign were gone.  The remaining human has clearly identified himself as Tilean; which makes using the character as the object of the mistaken identity central to Enemy Within, simply too much of a stretch. Such is the fate of all DM's plans.]

After a bit of a false start where the party expected the patron to provide logistical support beyond the earnest money, they split up to equip themselves for the expedition.  The dwarven magus set out to the College of Noble Sorcery, where he encountered a rather bent apprentice, who agreed to sell two salves of Stone to Flesh, the apprentice even agreed to allow the dwarf to purchase them at a 25% discount - of course the dwarf did agree to pay 50% interest on the remainder.  After all the apprentice has assumed the entire risk that his master will discover the shenanigans, he also offered to buy parts and especially any eggs.   The elf went off and purchased a wagon and team and hired a driver.  The dwarven monk, after inquiring on the cost of a wand of Cure Moderate Wounds, decided it would be cheaper to hire a henchman - or in this case - hench-woman, as the die roll determined.  So a yet to be christened Cleric of Myrmidia was added to the troupe.

Arriving in the thorpe of Rettindorf, a half a dozen sturdy houses on the Steinwasser, I proceeded to punish the players for not taking note of the name of the local nobleman they erroneously thought they needed to find by having Old Lanzo the drunken swineherd creatively misunderstand every question the elf and monk asked.  In the midst of that confusion, the village herbalist approached the magus and the fighter from the other end of the 'town' to welcome them.  Which set Old Lanzo off accusing the herbalist of being in league with the 'Swamp Witch', while the herbalist explained that he had driven off a force of bugbears with some 'special knowledge' (keeping in mind that unlicensed magic is a terminal illness in the Empire.)  The elf's player rolled a Sense Motive check and announced that he believed the herbalist, the other players rolled their's and I refused to tell them what the rolls meant - because this is role playing damnit, the players need to decide what their characters believe and do.  Having gotten the players in the right state of uncertainty, I relented and gave them the gist of what the characters had learned.  Most of the adult men in the area had been summoned away to fight with their lord, Freiherr Harderer.  Stone creatures had been reported by some local hunters (who seemed to have gone missing since), but no one was sure if they had been seen at The Table or at Crows Hill.  No one had seen this Swamp Witch, who the herbalist urbanely explained was a figment of the villagers uneducated imaginations.  While the swineherd insisted the herbalist was in league with her.  The party did a little local exploring and then retired to the herbalist's house for the night, despite the warnings from the swineherd that it was a trap.  They were cautious and set watches - the dwarf magus in particular watched the herbalist walk out during the last watch, with the muttered explanation that some of the plants had to be gathered with the dawn.

   A couple of hours after dawn the herbalist returned and after an argument at one of the houses, dragged a sullen lad of some 13 summers by the name of Rupecht, who he announced would guide them to The Table and Crows Hill.  The party having decided not to look into the reports of the Swamp Witch.  As they went along they explained to the lad what sort of creatures could turn animals into stone.  Rupecht suggested that perhaps they should go back instead of hunting them.  But they jollied him into continuing to accompany them with the assurance that they would tell him when to run.  The Table turned out to be a stone slab covered in a blood red lichen, except for an off center patch the size of a hand that was covered with weathered chips and scratches.  Completely non-magical, but searching did turn up a petrified mouse in the rock pile below the slab.

Afterwards they set off for Crows Hill, which turned out to be a barren mound in the next valley.  They did find a number of very lifelike statues, including one of a rather ticked off bear, when the dwarf magus noticed something moving in the grass.  Rupecht willingly took off for home at their suggestion and the dwarf monk tried to sneak around whatever was making the noise so that he could avoid it's gaze.  Unfortunately, he found himself staring into the eyes of the cockatrice; which of course have no effect, the petrifaction being linked to the bite attack.  After a brief combat where in no one was turned to stone, the party had a discussion on how to transport the bear and several petrified deer, as the paths they had come in on were impassible to the wagon while the dwarf magus gutted the cockatrice.  Various schemes to use levitation and Tenser's Floating Disk were discussed, but the party didn't have the spells prepared to essay the task.

The party decided to scout around and see if there were more of the foul creatures they could harvest and of course hope to find a nest.  Which they did in the tangle of roots of a fallen tree at the top of the hill.  A henatrice was sitting in a nest of petrified twigs on a stone shelf.  Again they dispatched it without much danger and even manged to avoid smashing her egg.  The dwarves noticed that the stone shelf had been worked by tools and that there was an opening they could crawl through into the top of the hill.  Crawling through, they found a large domed chamber with a hole in the floor, the elf quickly made it a two-holer, when part of the floor gave way underneath him.  He didn't fall through, but they did hear a scuttling sound from the chamber below.  The dwarves decided that floor collapsed because he was an elf, but weren't sure about who built it.  With choice of really rotten dwarven workmanship or very good human work using imitate dwarven techniques, they opted for 'Pretty good work for amateurs'.

With two humans in the dome, the cleric cast her light spell which revealed the walls are painted with scenes of a man interacting with a horned, bearded man and a woman next to a tree.  First greeting then taking his leave of them.  The party figured out that the horned man and the woman were the Old Gods, Taal and Rhea, their cupidity was piqued by the jeweled torque and bracers the man wore.  About this time, the cleric got fed up with the elf's unsubtle innuendos and the human fighter's suggestion she cast two light spells on her breastplate and have headlights - and left the party in the dark.  The players were a little taken aback, as we've always been somewhat crude, but I pointed out they were treating the henchman as a piece of paper, rather than an NPC they had to deal with.  The fighter finally remembered that he had a sword that shed light, so they didn't need her spell.

Looking down the hole, they found that there were three cave scorpions in the chamber below, the elf considered casting acid fog off a scroll they had found, but decided that the spell level was too high to be worth the risk.  In the end the dwarf magus used the flaming sphere spell he had used to blow up the airship to kill the scorpions.  Descending to the large circular chamber below, they found it had a large exit to the east and a small closed door to the north west.  This chamber too, was decorated with scenes of the same hero, accompanied by a large snake and several companions.

The large exit opened into an odd triangular room, with stone walls and a packed earth roof, which sloped down to the floor thirty feet away.  The walls were painted with scenes of the hero as a young man forging a spear.  There was a glint of gold in the jumble of bones down at the narrow end, the room had an aura of necromatic magic.  The elf cautiously went in to investigate the gold, which turned out to be a pair of gilded ox horns, intact, not hollowed out.  He showed them to the party then thrust them into his pouch, claiming them.  This of course triggered the skeleton of the thief cursed to lust for these baubles, to reform with a rapid clicking and attack.  The elf quickly put it down and backed up, watching the bones, which reformed and attacked and were defeated again.  And then the dwarf magus did something I never expected, he announced he was taking the leg bones out of the room.  I had written in that the skeleton wouldn't pursue out of the triangular room as the limit of the curse - my players probably doubt it, but I really enjoy it when they do something unforeseen.  Temporarily stumped, I decided that the skeleton would reform, but if defeated outside of the room, it would be permanently slain.  Of course, this meant the skeleton reformed on the leg bones the dwarf was holding up in his hands, and since the dwarf was holding it, the dwarf was flat footed.  Alas, it availed the hapless skeleton not, and the dwarf quickly dashed it on the floor.

Deciding to continue their foray into the dungeon, the monk decided at this point he should go and make amends with his henchman, as they didn't have anything but a partially charged wand of Cure Light Wounds which they could occasionally make work.  Afterwards they investigated the door and entered into a chamber containing a sarcophagus on an elaborately carved bier.  The walls in this room were painted with scenes similar to those in the dome, but here the man was only shown as an outline.  Leading to speculation that the painter was attempting to show the being becoming invisible ala Space Ghost. [Damn, we're old. We were talking about the original Space Ghost cartoon series, not the Robot Chicken Space Ghost.]  With trepidation, the party opened the sarcophagus to discover it contained a skeleton wearing a jeweled torque and bracers, with a rusty spear head on a rotting shaft.The party picked up on the disconnect between the scene of the spear being forged and the contents of the sarcophagus, doing a quick appraisal of the jewelry, they determined it was gold foil on lead with paste gems.  [They never checked the skeleton, otherwise they would have figured out it was female.]   This lead the dwarf magus to start searching the bier for secret compartments, what he found was a carved spear that moved, pulling the head out caused the bier to grind out of the way revealing a hitherto hidden staircase.

Fighting the zombie boa constrictor
The door at the bottom of the stairway opened into a round rotunda having open arches to the right and left and a door on the other side.  The dwarves determined that they were probably back under the main chamber and dome at this time.  The left hand arch opened into a room that contained sections of trees wedged between the floor and ceiling, their branches interlocking about five feet above the floor.  Miraculously, the leaves on the branches were just beginning to droop.  The whole room had an aura of necromatic magic.  The right hand arch opened into a room with several coffins and scenes painted on the walls.  The party left the elf to watch the tree room, while they went in and made short work of some zombies.  The paintings showed the hero ad individual companions doing significant deeds and the manner of the companion's demise.  Usually at the tentacles and maw of a strange creature with an ape like body with foxy head and huge ears.  Deciding that the apelike being must be in the room with the trees, the dwarf magus cautiously advanced into it and was surprised when the zombie boa constrictor dropped out of the trees onto him instead. Dispatching it, the party turned to the door, unsuccessful in opening it the old fashioned way, they resorted to spending a charge on their Chime of Opening.  Inside they found an octagonal room, floored in red granite containing a locked trap door in the floor.  At this point they decided they should return to Rettindorf for the night.

It was late and they didn't catch up to Rupecht until moon-rise.  Sadly, what they caught up to was the remains of his tortured body.  They quickly deduced from the herbalist's story of driving off a party of bugbears and bugbears' known proclivity for torture, that bugbears working for the Swamp Witch had done it - and that the herbalist had probably told them where to go!  Hot for revenge, they decided to track the nefarious goblinoids.  What followed was the second most surprising series of die rolls I've ever seen.  The party has no (surviving) rangers, but the monk had a few points in Survival skill.  His player made at least 10 rolls, only one of which was under an adjusted 20.  And that one was a 16.  He successfully tracked the bugbears when the changed paths and when they left the path and cut through the woods to intersect another path at a deserted cabin.

From the spoiled pelts and general lack of cleanliness of the cabin, the party deduced that it belonged to the missing hunters from the area.  Figuring that the path they had intersected went back to the village in one direction, they followed it in the other direction.  Soon, the came upon a stand of pines and spotted two figures with crossbows hiding in the shadows.  The dwarf monk attempted to sneak up and in karmatic justice for his tracking rolls - rolled a one, snapping a dry branch like a gunshot.  The figures didn't react, and they soon realized that they were statues of two hunters that had been smeared with mud to disguise the stone.  Fearing that the Swamp Witch is a medusa they advanced cautiously up the trail to a point where a smaller trail intersected it.  A quick track check by the bloodhound dwarf monk found signs of recent passage on the smaller trail.  Changing direction, they went twenty feet up it until it turned around a dense bush and they saw it came to an end  - or rather the rest of the party saw the monk disappear into the pit trap.

Retracing their steps, they proceeded up the main trail to a group of squalid huts surrounding a large fire ring with prominent roasting spit.  The party immediately decided it was big enough to roast humans, with out my describing it that way - interesting.  At this point the ambushing bugbears launched a salvo of pretty ineffective javelins, then charged into melee.  The elf took out two on the end with color spray, leaving them blinded and staggered.  The rest of the party began trading hacks with the bugbears.  The bugbear sergeant having hung back, immediately charged the elf who had revealed himself as a magic user.  The dwarf monk and his clerical sidekick double teamed one, while two others double teamed the human fighter.  The fighter quickly polished his off, while the cleric fell to her foe.  The monk at this point was completely ineffective, having blown all of his luck for the night on the tracking rolls.  After a few rounds of ineffectively hacking at the elf and being unable to disrupt his casting, the sergeant ducked behind the now no longer stunned bugbears and commenced a fighting retreat with his remaining forces, one of whom was quickly cut down, while the elf kept poking the other with a rapier; several rounds later it died - death from a thousand holes.  When the sergeant fled, the dwarf magus, being without a foe at the time, nailed him in the back with magic missile.  The bugbear stumbled out of sight and was heard crashing in the bushes.  The dwarf magus pursued and fell over the body, resulting in bruised dignity and one point of damage to his beard from skidding along the forest floor.

Out of spells and dinged up, they decided to retreat to the village ad rest - when they realized they hadn't recovered the boy's body.  They had to return to the village and go back out on the trail they had used the day before rather than risk getting lost in the woods.  So about mid-morning they returned to the village with their sad burden.  And proceeded to tell a cock and bull story about having been fighting the bugbears when the boy was killed.  Old Lanzo invited them over for a private chat while they dug the grave and pointing out that the boy's wounds were from knives, not swords or morningstars, asked them to tell the truth.  They admitted they had been fighting cockatrices when the boy ran, but omitted to say that they had told him to, nor did they discuss what they had been doing between the fight and going to look for him.  Still it was close enough to satisfy the old drunk, but he did make a suggestion that they be generous towards the lad's mother as she was a widow, now deprived of her child.

We broke at that point.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Friday - Oh Beer Thirty coming up

Flying Dog Barrel Aged Gonzo Imperial Porter

Went to North Dakota last weekend to return the former Marine his laundry, see his new place and the campus and had a close encounter of the beer kind.  Dark, rich and just a bit chocolaty,  an excellent accompaniment to a burger and fries it will stand up well to smoked meats.  But probably be over powering for most chicken and fish.

Flying Dog Brewery is out of Frederick MD, this is one of their limited distribution beers which made it out to Grand Forks, ND.  Kind of blows your mind when you think about the logistics involved. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Balcony in the Campo, St. Benedetto, Venice

Another drawing from John Ruskin's The Seven Lamps of Architecture .

Who will emerge onto this balcony, a maiden needing help to escape her family or Saruman?