Sunday, November 21, 2021

This is How We Grow

   Got a call Thursday, asking if I could run the second half of my Traveller adventure on Saturday.  I said, probably, but it would be short as there wasn't much left for the party to do and I wouldn't have time to prep anything as I was writing reviews for work and had plans Friday night - oh. and I was driving an hour to help the youngest work on his house Saturday morning - so timing was iffy.  I was told no problem, one of the regular players (the bartender) was interested in running something.

    Well running a cable around the outside of his house to feed it through an existing hole took an hour longer than expected, so I was running late when I got there with my kit.  No problem, they had started rolling characters.  He'd had Dark Heresy on his shelf for ten years, had never played it and never run a game before.

    I've never played it either, but I do have Warhammer FRP 1e on my bookshelf for the last thirty odd years, unplayed.   So I had some familiarity with the underlying system. But he got everyone through character generation and equipment, taking his time and looking things up as he needed to find them.  Nobody showed impatience, we were all learning the system and gave him suggestions like - instead of doing weapons one player at a time go through the table and everyone who has that weapon can write down the specs together.

   He wanted to ise an introductory scenario, as much so he'd get familiar with the different types of checks as we would, and he reassured us that combat would only be a minor concern as we were weak and crunchy anyway.  The scenario was set up to introduce social interaction checks, like Inquiry first, then physical skill checks, then combat.  Now, we were skeptical, because the group tends to shoot first and question the souls of the dead afterwards, but OK.

I immediately short-circuited the social interaction checks by doing a 'take me to your leader' routine as soon as we touched down.  So no following up on people mysteriously coming up and talking to us.  Although one character did intimidate a quartermaster out of his own suit of armor and got us some frag grenades to boot.

We manage to short-circuit the physical skill checks to.  Instead of jumping across a chasm, we go back and retrieve a door we'd taken off the hinges earlier and make a bridge.  So we very quickly got into combat with groups of abominable mutants.  Where we all felt comfortable and we got to work out the mechanics of Warhammer Critical Hit System.  Lots, I mean LOTS of gore in the descriptions.  I've always enjoyed them.

  The whole time,  we were offering suggestions and discussing rule interpretations with our new DM - three of us have run games before.  Ranging from - don't show fear to "OK, he made the absurd skill check, but here's a suggestion on how to handle it so it doesn't derail the scenario.

At the end an enjoyable evening and a new DM for the group.  This is how we build our hobby, one player and one DM at a time, playing together rather than competitively.

3rd Reich - Spring 1940


BRP Calculations

    Germany - ended 1939 with 50 BRP, grew it's base to 175 BRP and gained 20 BRP for Poland.  195 BRP total

    Britain - ended 1939 with 50 BRP, grew it's base to 145 BRP total

    USSR - ended 1939 with 50BRP, grew it's base to 105 BRP and gained 20 BRP for Eastern Europe.  130 BRP Total

    France - ended 1939 with 10 BRP, grew it's base to 88 BRP and gained 5 BRP for Luxembourg.  93 BRP total

     Italy - ended 1939 with 15 BRP, grew it's base to 78 BRP and gained 10 BRP for Greece.  88 BRP total.

    I was discussing this with my friend Jim, and he pointed out that 3rd Reich is an economic game, rather than a war game and you need to build you economies so you can build the units to conduct the war.  He agreed with my assessment of the previous turn that while taking advantage of my lapse in the Maginot line was probably what Hitler would have done.  In the meta game terms, Germany may have been better off to take Belgium and Holland in 1939, providing as many BRP as they would have spent in conquest and broadening the front against France, deferring the growth of the BRP base for one year.

Strategic Warfare

    Both Germany and Britain put about 5% of their BRP in SW, both favored building defensive units.  No SW Warfare resolution until 1941

    Resolution comes before building, so I'll be six turns in before I work out how Strategic Warfare functions.  Yes, I know it's an exchange system, followed by BRP adjustments, but haven't looked at strategies for maximizing/ minimizing effects.  I created a quick random table for the first year distribution of BRPs, to imitate NO ONE knowing how it was going to work out.

2 - 10% to defensive SW

3 - 2% Offensive SW, 8% Defensive SW

- 1% Offensive SW, 4% Defensive SW

5 - 2% Offensive SW, 3% Defensive SW

6 - 5% Offensive SW, 5% Defensive SW

7 - 2.5% Offensive SW, 2.5% Defensive SW

8 - 5% Offensive SW, 5% Defensive SW

9 - 3% Offensive SW, 2% Defensive SW

10 - 4% Offensive SW, 1% Defensive SW

11 - 8% Offensive SW, 2% Defensive SW

12 - 10% Offensive SW


Germany - Took another hex of the Maginot line, retook Luxembourg and Sedan, Metz is no longer out of supply.  In the process they destroyed 2/3rds of the French armor and half of the Armee de l'Air.

Italy - Minor victories in the Alps and in Libya.  Redeployed infantry to Tripoli and armored units to Milan

France and Britain - redeployed units from Belgian border to the south.  Massive attack re-retakes Sedan and shortens the lines.

     Home Fleet transports reinforcements (12th Inf) to Calais, prompting sortie by Kreigsmarine from Kiel.  RAF suffers significant losses attacking German ships, but Royal Navy wins again in the Battle of the Norfolk Banks.

     Reinforcements sent to Egypt

     France recalls 7th and 18th Infantry from Tunisia to the Alps to cover for losses and troops moved to the Moselle front.

USSR - Stalin begins slow build up of units.  Creating an armor reserve and bolstering the defenses of the Baltics and Leningrad.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

S.S Ethics 4 Once

  So, I got a call last week from an old Navy buddy and gamer, asking if I'd be interested in starting a Traveller campaign with his group.  After unearthing - and repairing - the old GDW Deluxe Edition boxed set with the Spinward Marches and tracking down my "Classic Games" reprint with Snapshot, Azhanti High Lightning and Striker etc (it was down at the eldest's farm); I agreed and whipped up a quick salvage and bug hunt scenario.  By quick, I mean two pages of notes - half of which is a drawing of how the pods on a dispersed structure starship connect, and lot of good intentions and half-way remembrances of how the system works.   

  I picked up two additional resources to add to my Books 1-6.  Book 7, Merchant Prince and, on a recommendation from Eric at Swords and Stitchery, the game Hulks and Horrors for adventure ideas.  The eldest, after I helped him clear brush and get the snowblower attachment on his tractor; joined in and contributed Supplement 7 Citizens of the Imperium along with his presence at the table.

    We had a chaotic time trying to get five people to generate characters at once.  Personally, I'm a fan of having the players generate their characters themselves, not at the table waiting for me to tell them what their die rolls mean.  What should have taken each of them twenty minutes working in parallel took better than three hours in sequence.  Since four of them were complete newbies to Traveller, but experienced in computer RPGs and D&D we ended up with a set of characters both too over powered (all of them had done five terms to max out their skill rolls) and not balanced at all.  They had two scouts with ships; two retired Navy officers (one a Duke and one a Marquis), a retired enlisted Merchant and a retired Diplomat.  No one had better than Computer-1 and only one had any combat skills, no Electronics skills either as I recall.  I'll admit I screwed up on some of the character generation; missed the paragraph on Merchant enlisted advancement, so that character is owed five skills.  Oh well, blew the rust off at least.

    Because of the imbalance I made some quick changes, declared that while they were officially retired, they were actually on a clandestine Imperial diplomatic mission in District 268 and had been issued a Free Trader to use as cover and transportation.  This of course made them want to find some cargo to ship so they could make extra money.  As they were first jumping to Tarsus, an Agricultural, Non-Industrial world they found a broker who could line up a few tons of that specific cargo, along with a number of other cargo loads to carry.  Ignoring that the group has two or three characters with Admin-2 or Liaison-2 and trying to shave the fee; they offered the broker full time employment in exchange for 5 tons of cargo space.  He wasn't interested, but he had a cousin just breaking onto the business who would be.  She negotiated not only the 5 tons cargo, but also retained the 5% fee she would have charged for her Broker -1.  Essentially, they've agreed to carry her around while she hones her skills and make contacts, while paying her full fee and allowing her to trade for herself.

   At this point the Diplomat, who's player tends to run excessively Chaotic characters, got worried that some of the cargo they only carrying in sealed containers might *gasp* be illegal to ship.  This lead to the naming of the ship 'Ethics for Once'.

   With the ship straight from a maintenance availability and refined fuel, there was no chance for a misjump - but they didn't know that.  Coming back into N-space, they found themselves surprised to be close enough to something that they had a radar contact.  (They asked me what it looked like.  Drawing on a dozen years of watching radar screens on ships , I deadpanned "A blip".)  They now realized it would be nice if someone had some sort of skill with shipboard sensors; but eventually one of the Naval officers figured them out and was able to tell it was a ship massing about 800t, built as a Type 7 Dispersed Structure in a series of linked oval pods.  It was also tumbling through space, giving them a pretty broad hint it was in trouble.  The duty pilot rolled box cars and chose not only to match course and speed, but also frequency of rotation to simplify going across in vacc suits.  Another discussion occurred when they determined they had no characters to act a muscle in a potentially hostile situation.

     After one failed attempt, one of the scouts reached a pod they thought might contain small craft, connected a tether between the ships and found an emergency airlock.  They found writing on the hull near the airlock, in form of eight armed asterisks.

   As each arm has three possible value, not present, normal length, double length - this gave up to 512 different meanings for each symbol.  Sending imagery back, they again struggled to figure out how to connect feed the visual input into the ship's computer to identify it.  Someone with say Computer skill would have been useful at this point.

Succeeding eventually, the computer could only tell them that it matched the script used by a minor race near the Solemani Rim - the Ahoggya, who are 1.5 meters tall and broad, with trilaterally symmetrical bodies and a grumpy disposition.  Further information wasn't available.  The Merchant's player did some research and found a nice picture of them (not this one from the original publication).  I reminded them that while every race from from a future with space faring I never said they would all be from Traveller.

Because I have a soft spot for Tekumel

   My inspiration for the Ahoggya star script is the remembrance knots I recall them being described as using in lieu of a written record.

    Entering through the emergency lock, they found a passage painted in muddy greens and loud hooting, screeching and rhythmic stomping coming from the every speaker in the ship.  WHen they asked the compueter what it might mean, it threw up the guess an alien version of WAP by Cardi B.  (I'm given to understand this is a song currently considered to be uplifting music using sexually explicit lyrics to shock old grognards like me.  Never listened to it, haven't listened to much of the music recorded since Reagan.)   They found a couple of small craft, with seats that lookedlike they would be for a trilaterally symmetrical lifeform.  A maintenance bay with all of the tools welded into a sculpture of a double helix and the crushed bones and carapace of a lifeform they assume to be an Ahoggya.

    Moving on they figured out how the ship's door access controls worked, moved to another pod full of cargo and then found a passage into the control section.  They managed to figure out how the controls worked, and even though they were built for three hands the scout managed to stop the tumbling using thrusters, but also determined the main drive was offline.  Another skeleton was present along with a snub pistol (snapped up by the Diplomat; pity he didn't ask if it was loaded.)  All attempts to get information out of the Ahoggya's ship's computer were stymied by their inability to translate the language, even after they found the main menu.  Of course, no one checked if the Ahoggya had a translation program loaded.  They also noticed a floor level vent was lying on the deck and the console around it seemed to have been shot at by the snub pistol.  One of the characters/players figured out at this point they were in a bug hunt scenario, with something in the air system.  (Another place I screwed up, I'd brought Gamma World to use the Artifact Charts for understanding alien technology and forgot to break them out).

    Continuing to the next pod, they found crew quarters, deserted but for a couple more skeletons and they heard a ventilation cover being pushed out behind them.  The character who figured it was a bug hunt, also happened to be the only one with gun combat skills - and had brought his rifle over.  Even though nothing could be seen by the vent cover moving - but not in a direct line from the vent itself - he opened fire and was rewarded with a loud screech, a spurt of purple blood and the sound of something large going back into the vent.

   We broke here, they're discussing venting the Ahoggya ship to space to kill the thing (a wingless Blight from Gamma World) - although they haven't searched half the ship for survivors.


Thursday, November 11, 2021

3rd Reich - Winter 1939


Germany - Abwehr agents determined that the northern flank of the Maginot line was only weakly held by disaffected reservists  [I had used a reinforcement counter just to hold the line during initial set up and forgot to reinforce it during the French Fall 1939 turn.] and as the RAF was operating out of southern England, they would be unable to intervene at the chosen point of assault.  Planning for Fall Gelb  changed to orient the attack through Luxembourg and to the south to take advantage of this opportunity. Preparations were accelerated and the attack was launched in November, with  the Luftwaffe engaging the Armee del'Air  suppressing the Gallic squadrons.  The panzers succeeding in overrunning the Maginot line and taking Metz.  The tanks wheeled north and took the regular French infantry in the flank at Sedan.  Despite being surprised the regular French troops destroyed a Panzer division before they fell.   Hitler has moved new panzer divisions to the Rhine along the Belgian border.

Italy - Athens fell after a bloody siege, where British and Greek the defenders traded their lives for an equal number of Italian troops.  In a bold move, Mussolini ordered the execution of Operazione C3, sending the entire Italian fleet as an escort for the troops invading Malta.  The French, having previously reinforced their Mediterranean Fleet and forward deploying it to Corsica and Tunis, forced the Strait of Messina and engaged the Italians off Cape Peloro.  The Regia Marina defeated their French Fleet, but Admiral Cunningham  had also committed the entire British Mediterranean Fleet to the effort to stop the invasion.  With the ships from Alexandria carefully routed along the coast of Cyernaica, they slipped past the patrols of the Regia Aeronautica operating from their bases in Rhodes and rendezvoused with the entirety of Force H from Gibraltar off of Cape Passero, where they inflicted a crushing defeat on the Regina Marina in a pitched battle.  All the combatants retired to make repairs.

France - after the first Battle of Sedan, the French moved their troops south from the Belgian border and north from the Alps to counter attack, even pulling their armor reserve out of Paris.  The RAF redeployed to fly Ground Support missions against the Germans in conjunction with the French counter attacks.  Sedan has been regained and Luxembourg liberated; two panzer divisions remain surrounded in Metz.  Marshall Gamelin loudly assures the press that the Boche will swiftly be expelled from French soil come the new year.  They hurriedly reconstituted their battle losses, ordering aircraft from the United States as Dewoitine is retooling their aircraft factories to produce the new D.520.  In North Africa, the French Army has crossed the border into Libya, but rumor has it they will be ordered back to metropolitan France with the New Year.

Britain - the BEF was redeployed to cover more of the Belgian frontier when the French Army moved south, along with the RAF send a Group to Dieppe to support the French.  The Royal Navy is flush with it's victory over the Italians, they lost ships of their own but the government sees them as successful and not needing a major reinforcement at this time.  Units in Egypt have moved into Italian Cyrenaica and are reported at the gates of Bengasi.

Russia - Stalin broods in the east, awaiting the new year and the new decade.  The Decade of the New Soviet Man who is destined to crush the fascists and destroy the capitalists in the West.  The only question is how he will accomplish it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

More RQ Classic Creature Generator Updates

As I convert adventures to Runequest, I'm creating templates for creatures from other systems, from lowly kobolds to demonic remenatns. In doing so I decided that it would be a good idea to be able to filter the "Races" by the game system in case anyone other than me is looking for something. So, there is a new control "Source" that toggle between the systems I've been converting from and seven new monsters - Manes Demons, Giant Rats and Centipedes and the lowly Kobold from Dungeons and Dragons along with a Demonic Revenant (should be Remnant, I'll fix it another day), Cannibal Molemen and Cursed Humans from Frog God Games, Swords and Wizardry adventure Grimmsgate.

Conversion of creatures from other systems is for my own use and enjoyment and has not been authorized by the various copyright holders.

Sunday, November 7, 2021

3rd Reich - Fall 1939

     Solo-gaming for the first time in over twenty years, I can leave the board up and play as and when I can.

Germany executes Fall Weiss, her panzers over run Polish defenses and are in Warsaw before the Britain and France can react.  The campaign is over in less than a month.  Hitler orders more infantry divisions raised and another Luftflotte; the panzers are redeployed to the West. 

Italy launches Operazione Mummius invading Greece from southern Albania.  Dedicating the best units of her army, she punches through the Greek defenses at the battle of Ioannina and her fast tanks race to the gates of Athens cutting off the bulk of the Greek army still deployed in the Pindus mountains.  Mussolini mobilizes army reserves, expecting Britain or France to come to Greece's aid.  He reinforces the Piedmont and garrisons potential invasion sites.

Greece - her army destroys itself in a fruitless counter offensive into Albania.  All that's left is a division of infantry under siege in Athens.

Britain - the War Cabinet and General Staff view the Greek position as hopeless, with insufficient resources in theater to intervene.  Churchill overrules them, demanding the nation be seen to take action after being unable to come to the aid of Poland.  They agree to send the Palestinian garrison to Greece.  Force H in Gibraltar is tasked to intercept the Italian Fleet in the Gulf of Taranto to prevent them from intervening; but the Regia Marina sailed early collecting the detachments from Brindisi and Durazzo enroute to the Myrtoan Sea to stop the British reinforcements.  Admiral Cunningham, however had directed the fleet sail through the Cyclades, chancing navigational hazards over an encounter with the numerically superior Italians.  With both intercepts failing, the British landed in Athens.   At home, the BEF holds Calais and the left flank of the French, covered by the RAF operating out of England.  Regiments are being raised and redeployed as fast as possible, with priority being given to the Mediterranean given France's great military strength.  Infantry has been sent to garrison Gibraltar and troops and tanks have been sent to Alexandria.

France unwilling to await the Germans, but also reluctant to move out of the Maginot Line or invade an even more  reluctant Belgium, ordered the Armee de l'Air to conduct bombing raids on the Luftwaffe bases around Bonn.  These were extremely successful, almost destroying an entire Luftflotte.  The Daladier government called the nation to arms.  Marshal Gamelin, impressed by the Italian armor's ability to penetrate the mountains of Greece, built a centralized armor reserve capable (he believes) of stopping attempts by the German panzers to flank the Maginot line through the Ardennes and positioned to cover Paris.  He remains indecisive on how to respond to a projected German invasion of Belgium in the face of Belgian refusal to plan cooperatively.

Russia invades Eastern Europe bloodlessly taking over the Baltic States, a share of Poland and Bessarabia.  Stalin announces a modification to the Third Five Year Plan limiting military expenditures to focus on building the Soviet economy.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

RQ Classic Character Generator Updates

   I've been working on the code behind the scenes to get the Runequest Classic Character Generator to handle Encumbrance calculations and the effects on movement and defense correctly.  I've also added in a text armor description to the stat block so the characters know what they're looking.

Additionally, I'm being to convert some monsters from other systems to RQ, you'll see a few in the drop down now.


STR 11 CON 13 01-04 R LEG 3/5
SIZ 11 INT 11 05-08 L LEG 3/5
POW 8 DEX 9 09-11 ABDOM 5/5
CHA 16 HP 13 12 CHEST 4/6
Move 8 ENC 4 13-15 R ARM 0/4
Def 0 TF 4 16-18 L ARM 0/4
19-20 HEAD 3/5

Skills: Fast Talk 45, Dancing 25
Move Quietly 20

Basic Magic: Dispel Magic 3, Healing 2
Lightwall 4, Strength 2

Armor Description: inner: Leather Greaves, Thin Leather Byrnie
Composite Helm
Outer: Thick Leather Trews, Linen Hauberk

Base Attack 0  Base Parry 0;Base Manipulation 0  Base Stealth 0  
Base Knowledge 0  Base Perception 0  Base Oratory 5 Base Move 8  
Max Encumbrance  11  Base Defense 0

Strike Rank (SIZ) 2  Strike rank (DEX) 3

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Under Pressure: The Unfinished Domain of the Scarlet Prince - Part 7

After a busy summer and early fall, getting back into the swing and continuing the dungeon I started earlier this year.
"Under Pressure"  David Bowie and Queen


Under Pressure 
Area 1, Room 4
Area 1 Room 4

Quick Look
The room is a 10x20 hallway, it appears empty.

Detailed Examination
Any player specifically stating they are examining the ceiling may notice that there appears to be a gap between the ceiling and the wall, all the way around.  Dwarves have their normal chances of detecting a trap involving stonework. 
If the trap is triggered, the only way anyone survives after the fourth round is if they are in gaseous form.

To The Theater of the Crimson Mime, a plain wooden door, opening inwards.  A curtain of moth-eaten linen, undyed, but painted with red swirls is revealed when the door is opened.  A pressure plate on the Theater side of the door will cause the ceiling to grind down over the next four rounds.  Two characters can clear through the doorway each round, but if the character ahead of you has a lower dexterity bonus than your character, you must delay clearing the doorway until the start of the next round - and everyone backs up behind you.  

To Room 7, a plain wooden door, opening inwards.  A pressure plate on the Room 7 side of the door will cause the ceiling to grind down over the next four rounds.  Two characters can clear through the doorway each round, but if the character ahead of you has a lower dexterity bonus than your character, you must delay clearing the doorway until the start of the next round - and everyone backs up behind you.  

The Unfinished Domain of Scarlet Prince

Part I - The Entry

Part 2 - The Grating Chasm

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Big, Round and Down: The Unfinished Domain of the Scarlet Prince - Part 6

Big, Round and Down 
Area 1 Room 3 

Quick Look - the walls extend away, curving inward. Your torch light doesn't find the far wall. Your footsteps echo slightly in the large gloomy chamber. You see a wooden well cover lying on the floor. 

Detailed Examination - the room is an 80 foot diameter circle, slightly truncated where other rooms have been built. Under the well cover is a 5 foot shaft leading down. The only other object in the room is a bundle of leather. Examining it determines that it is a crumpled, small leather pouch containing flower bulbs. Lily bulbs if they check. 

By F. A. Waugh - F. A. Waugh:A Conspectus of the Genus Lilium (Concluded), May 1899, in: Botanical Gazette, Vol. 27, No. 5, p. 343, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2073789

To Room 1 - Normal Door, although it has an unusual disk carved (standing out from the surface of the door) under the latch.. To open and disarm the trap: Slide the disk down while the door to Room 2 is closed. The door from Room 1 to Room 2 must be closed to open this door. If the disk is lowered, while the door to Room 2 is open, the trap triggers. The trap sprays a slimy gel on the hands of the door opener, making it impossible to grasp objects. Clean off with wine or vinegar. 

To Room 2 - the door posts are carved with flowers. Lilies, if anyone checks. The door itself is a normal door, it shows no unusual damage on this side. There is no trap. 

Shaft - a five foot diameter shaft leading down. There are rungs bolted to the side of it

5 foot squares
Adding details as I generate the rooms

Room size and presence of the shaft created with the DMG tables.  

 Decided that doorway decorations should usually repeat on the other side of the door.

Tome of Adventure Design, Tables 3-27 through 3-29 for the door and latch/trap trigger to Room 1, which only became apparent when I laid the room out on the map.   The trap itself was generated using Tables 3-126 Basic Traps and 3-129 Trap Liquids.  They gave me the inspiration for the effect and remedy.

The pouch and contents were generated from Table 3-144 Dungeon Dressing and 3-159 Herbs.

Monday, May 10, 2021

The Unfinished Domain of Scarlet Prince - Part 5

   Doorway behind stage - when I looked at my drawing, I changed it to the rear left corner of the stage - a player's entrance.    ToAD Tables 3-27 through 3-29 - archway is painted in a repeating pattern. The theme of the dungeon gave me the inspiration for the pattern,  Doorway is painted with red and white tragedy/comedy masks.  Door itself is plain.  Room 2 is a 30x40 Rectangle.  I used ToAD Table 3-39, think I'll just use the DMG in the future for room sizes, more variety.  Contains monster only. DMG Table V-F. Undead, incorporeal, semi-intelligent, does not create more monsters.  ToAD Tables 2-1 Monster Type and 2-64 Undead.  I then went through the incorporeal undead from the Monster Manual and settled on Shadow.  This differs from the the ToAD result as Shadows can reproduce by creating other Shadows. 

Area 1 Room 2 

Shadow of the Prop Master  

Room 2 is accessed by the doorway off of the rear left corner of the stage.  The door posts are painted with a pattern crimson masks of comedy and tragedy running down them, the door itself is unadorned. Try as you might you discover no indication of a trap.  The door is not locked, nor is it stuck.

Quick Look - shadows predominate in this room.  Your light striking tables and chairs, rolls of canvas stacked haphazardly and racks of clothing decaying into gossamer spider webs, casts them on the far walls and between piles. The room is about 30 feet across and extends to the right into the gloom past what your light illuminates

Detailed Examination - the room is 30x40 and piled with theater props. Bards will recognize this immediately, as will anyone with any skill or experience in acting. For the others, the clothing looks expensive, but the cloth is cheap. Armor is knitted chain mail and tin plate. The rolls of canvas, if unrolled, are painted scenery. Of more interest, to the pecuniary minded adventurers, are the unlocked chests on the far wall. They will prove to contain wood discs painted gold, obviously fake, and costume jewelry. If the party has determined this is a prop room, give them a +4 on any appraisal check to determine the gems and jewelry are fake. Otherwise they can carry them out and pay to learn they are fake. Under a jumble of canvas rolls is a skeleton.

Monster - the room is haunted by the Shadow of the Property Master. This being will use the shadows to hide and reach out to steal life from random characters. The only way to avoid the shadows would be to push all the props up against the walls. To banish the Prop Master, the skull from the skeleton must be taken on stage and a play performed with the skull playing the lead role.

Shadow (14 HP), AC 7, 3+3 HD, One attack for 1d4+1 Damage + Strength Drain (1 pt/hit). Shadows are 90% undetectable and require a +1 weapon or better to hit. Strength loss returns in 2d4 turns. Characters reduced to 0 Hit Points or Strength are turned into Shadows themselves.

5 foot squares
Updating the layout as I generate the rooms

Getting a sense of how to combine Tome of Adventure Design with the DMG.

The Unfinished Domain of Scarlet Prince

Part I - The Entry

Part 2 - The Grating Chasm

Part 3 - Area 1 Layout

Part 4 - Theater of the Crimson Mime

Sunday, May 9, 2021

The Unfinished Domain of Scarlet Prince - Part 4

    In which I determine what the Tome of Adventure Design isn't and start detailing the rooms in Area 1.

   ToAD is not a dungeon generation system, which isn't obvious at first look, although I had my suspicions by the third look.  Great tables for coming up with creative features, but no guidance on how often such features should crop up.  This isn't an issue for anyone with access to the DMG, it's really a matter of choosing when to move between the two.

   I really like ToAD's area design, so starting with that, as I said in the previous post, I know  Area 1 Room 1 will be of unusual size.  Table 3-40 gives me a room nominally 50x80, with far end a ziggurat like stepped triangle with a 20' point. 

   OK, what about the door into the room from the chasm?  Have to jump around, but Tables 3-27 and 3-28 treat Archways.  ToAD defines an Archway as where ever a tunnel or corridor leads out of the room.  Leading into one is the same thing, so I have a Trap!   We'll leave that for a minute while I get more information.   Table 3-29 Normal Doors; Basic Description of - comes to the rescue saying the door while otherwise normal is painted an unusual color.  Table 3-30 tells me it's painted a red and white checkerboard.

   Traps, there's a whole chapter in ToAD with tables for randomly generating a trap.   And none of my random rolls gave me anything I liked.  Finally I started reading the table entries and after eight pages came across a magical trap effect "Floating image of person, monster or animal."  That, with the door pattern, gave me an idea.

   Other than that, ToAD has lots of random room content tables, but as I said no room content distribution table, so back to the DMG Table V-F Chamber or Room Contents.  If I roll a Special I'll jump back to ToAD.  And I roll an eleven, it's empty.

Area 1 Room 1

Theater of the Crimson Mime.

     Crossing the grating, the ledge on the other side is differs only in minor details.  The wall on the far side contains a gaily painted door in a red and white harlequin pattern.  Successfully detecting traps will find a spring compressed at the top of the door.  The trap may be disabled.  Detect Magic will detect a a strong illusion dweomer.

     Opening the Door- if the trap has been disabled, nothing happens.  If it was not disabled, the crimson figure of human wearing a jesters cap and bells appears to have opened the door, it mimes pulling a stout rope (seemingly connected to the party) towards itself, bows and vanishes.  Behind it, there is darkness as your feeble light doesn't illuminate the far wall.

    Quick Search -  the room is 80 feet long and 50 feet wide, the final fifteen feet decrease to a twenty foot width as shown.  The last twenty feet of the room, including the reduced width, are raised approximately five feet higher than the floor, forming a stage.  There are three doors in the other walls (to be subsequently placed and detailed when I create the rooms.)  

    Detailed Examination - nothing new.

Area 1 Room 1 
5 foot square

(Edit) Exits
The Prop Room is accessed by the doorway off of the rear left corner of the stage. The door posts are painted with a pattern crimson masks of comedy and tragedy running down them, the door itself is unadorned. Try as you might you discover no indication of a trap. The door is not locked, nor is it stuck.

To Room 4   A curtain of moth-eaten linen, undyed, but painted with red swirls is reveals a plain wooden door, opening outwards. when the curtain is moved.  A pressure plate on the Theater side of the door will cause the ceiling to grind down over the next four rounds.  Two characters can clear through the doorway each round, but if the character ahead of you has a lower dexterity bonus than your character, you must delay clearing the doorway until the start of the next round - and everyone backs up behind you.  

And now I know more about the Scarlet Prince, it's the title given to  the Guildmaster of the Community of the Crimson Clowns, a guild of Bards and Jesters.

The Unfinished Domain of Scarlet Prince

Part I - The Entry

Part 2 - The Grating Chasm

Part 3 - Area 1 Layout

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Feudal Wilderlands Part IX - Population Distribution

    So a recent conversation with my gaming group is leading to the possibility of my running a campaign, which - if I do - will be set in my version of the Feudal Wilderlands.

   On a related note, since 19 - frikkin' -78!, I have been entranced by a line in the old Chivalry & Sorcery Redbook - "In the designers own wargaming group, an elaborate set of tables was designed by a member which can locate a character literally within miles of a particular town in France..."  Never gotten to that level of detail, never played in a campaign with that level of detail, but... I realized how close last years efforts put me to that goal.  

   I'd already pulled the urban (town and village) population from Rob Conley's Wilderlands version into a spreadsheet.  I'd worked out, using Chivalry & Sorcery, the highest nobles and their immediate vassals.  All I needed to do was some quick population subtotals in Excel and roll up the holdings of all of the sub-vassals, which would give me the rural population.  I excluded all non-human settlements, and the totals only include the 'civilized' residents on the fiefs, so bandits, exiles and barbarians are extra.

For census purposes - there are only 413,020 humans in the City State of the Invincible Overlord and his vassals; 67,660 are urban (for a very low bar) and 345.360 live on the various fiefs.
Region    Rural      Urban       Total      Pct  
Altanian Marches 24.520 4,166 28,686 6.95%
Brythange 11,800 650 12,450 3.01%
CSIO 16,970 21,185 38,1559.24%
Difiros 19.980 6894 26,8746.51%
East Romilia 14,890 2,610 17,500 4.24%
Gwalion 34,280 762 35,042 8.48%
Gwarenne 30,080 12,190 42,270 10.23%
Losthaine 12,560 1,239 13,799 3.34%
Rorystone 18,770 2,956 21,726 5.26%
Saule 18,1102,055 20,165 4.88%
Severnais 40,240 1,417 41,837 10.13%
Skandry 47,780 7,95855,738 13.5%
Tungraine 12,6101,499 14,109 3.42%
Vinnior 17,850 722 18,572 4.5%
Zothiem 24.740 1,357 26,097 6.32%

Previous Posts in this Series

Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Unfinished Domain of Scarlet Prince - Part 3

     Continuing with my dungeon creation using the Tome of Adventure Design, I hit Table 1-1A to generate a name for the dungeon.  Not much less unwieldy than the earlier post names, but certainly more evocative.  

    So who is/was Scarlet Prince or is it THE Scarlet Prince or A Scarlet Prince?  I don't know yet, I expect the backstory to emerge from the dungeon creation process.  To date I know one important element in the story is a duel on a bridge and that they were in possession of the Moon Shield when the dungeon was being constructed.  Nor do I know why the dungeon was left Unfinished, but I know either Area 2 or Area 3 will have roughly excavated walls and floors providing trip hazards in combat.

   With this post I get to begin designing and roughly laying out Area 1, which I know has 14 rooms, three of Unusual Size.   Table 3-37 tells me this area of the dungeon was excavated and then faced with stone blocks, walls and ceiling and paved with flagstones.  Typical dungeon construction.

    As I mentioned in the first post, one of the things I liked immediately about the ToAD, is that it provides suggestions for laying out areas with some intention and design, as opposed to the DMG's more random method.  A quick roll on Table 3-41 gives me all rooms connect to a central room, like a star pattern.

Nice idea, but with 14 rooms and a chasm to one side, it gets crowded in a hurry.  So I'll modify it so that I'll have a central room, with the other rooms tumbling out of it into each other.  Something like this, but as I generate the individual rooms, I'll create the actual layout and doorways.

The Unfinished Domain of Scarlet Prince
Area 1 Rough Layout

     Things to keep in mind, I need another way down to level two, as I have the concealed handholds in the chasm, I want a obvious pathway down too.  It's always a good design practice to have most areas, as well as clues, have multiple ways for the party to find them.  I also want a secret or concealed door to the smaller area on this level.  If they don't show up in room generation I'll add them afterwards.

The Unfinished Domain of Scarlet Prince

Part I - The Entry

Part 2 - The Grating Chasm

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Creating a Dungeon with the Tome of Adventure Design - Part 2

 Or when to know when to quit rolling dice.

    Having created the entry in Part 1, I decided there should be a transition between there and the first dungeon area.  ToAD has a table for that, which has many possibilities branching from it.

Transitions Between Dungeon Areas (Table 3-23) gave me 'A bridge over a river or chasm' and on the second column of the table a Hazard Trick.

Hazard Tricks (Table 3-92) gave me 'Venting steam, bad air or dangerous gases.  Reasonable hazards for a chasm, so no  river we have a bridge over a pit.  And that gives me the idea that one of the other levels connects back in at the bottom of the chasm.

Wait a minute, I need a description of the actual area where the chasm is bridged.  Back to Corridor, Basic Description of (Table 3-24) which gives me a 10' wide, 10'high natural cavern...with two unusual features!

Corridor, Unusual Features of (Table 3-25) gives me 'Large grates in floor' - must be in the bridge deck.  And a Trap.  Basic Mechanical Traps (Table 3-126) gives me 'Magentism'.  As long as I'm here, I'll roll up the gas from the Hazard Trick on Gases (Table 3-128) which provides the information, 'Removes Oxygen' and 'Lies near floor, lingers'.

    At this point I realized the process had gone off the rails, there were too many features being crammed into a minor corridor - and I hadn't even rolled up a description of the Bridge yet.  But it had given me a number of inspirations to put together.

I decided to strip it down to the basics, a cavern crossed by a loose grating.  Which immediately put in mind of driving over the old Jamestown Bridge to Newport, Rhode Island the first few times I went there for schools in the Navy.  Let me tell you an open metal grating 135 feet over Narragansett Bay, if not terrifying, at least gives the driver an immense sense of relief to have gotten over it.


     Leaving the entry through the opening under the frieze of the bridge, the party steps out onto a narrow ledge 5'wide and 10' long.  A grating bridges a chasm.

Quick Search

     The chasm is about 15 feet wide and it's roof is about 10' over the bridge.  Based on what your torch illuminates, it's more than 30 feet deep.  You get the impression that the chasm narrows in both directions, but the light doesn't illuminate the ends. The grating itself isn't fastened to the ledge but rests about halfway across the ledge.  It's made of joined wood, with 2 inch members and 10 inch holes. Any characters moving at greater than half speed need to make a Dexterity (Balance) check or fall.  Potential consequences of the fall range from dropping anything in hand to plummeting into the dark below.

Detailed Examination

    Better illumination will show the chasm is approximately 45 feet deep.  If they drop the light off of the left hand side of the grating, there is a 50% chance they will spot a doorway at the bottom (Perception check).  If they state that they are doing the detailed examination while on or across the grating, they will notice likely handholds in the chasm wall nearest the Entry that can be used to reach the bottom.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Creating a Dungeon with the Tome of Adventure Design - Part I

      I've come across references to the Tome of Adventure Design a few times in reading various blogs and MeWe posts.  It arrived on my doorstep on Monday, 300+ pages of random tables covering more aspects of campaign and adventure design than I have had a chance to digest.  Definitely a five skull product.

    As I'm at a bit of a block with  my current Call of Cthulhu adventure, I decided to amuse myself by using the Tome to design a moderately sized dungeon.  Rather as the Castle Triskelion site is doing for a megadungeon since the G+ days (he's been on a short break since December 2018).   I'll generate the rooms individually, then go back and edit them as further rooms give me more ideas and to fit whatever area configuration I put them in.   (I'm in IT, iterative design provides better results than waterfall.)

     One of the excellent suggestions in the Tome is to design dungeons by areas - connected blocks of rooms with transition connections between them.  They also provide random configuration suggestions for linking corridors, rather than random corridor generation which has been a jarring note to me since the AD&D DMG.  There's no natural way for the dungeon to be complete with those.  I decided on a modest three area dungeon, which I quickly determined to be Area 1 - 14 rooms, Area 2 - 3 rooms and Area 3 - 14 rooms (Table 3-38).  When I went to consider where to start, well I haven't found a table for dungeon entries, so I decided to start with an What Comes Next (Table 3-78).


      Entering the dungeon, the party enters a 50 by 50 foot room, in a stepped triangle shape, a ten foot opening on the far side can be seen to lead into another large area.  The body of a gigantic snake, obviously dead, lies on the floor.

     What Comes Next - Room with Dramatic Architecture (3-57) and two items of Dungeon Dressing (3-144).  Decided that it should be a Room of Unusual Size (Table 3-40), which gave me the hourglass and it's size.

Quick search.

          The far side of the room is a mirror image of the first, making the whole room a 50x100 foot stepped hourglass.  A carved frieze adorns the far wall around the exit.

Detailed Examination

          The snake was killed by edged weapons, most of the wounds have been stitched up for some reason.  One wound is only partially sewn with the needle and thread hanging off the corpse.

    Dungeon Dressing Table (3-144) - I screwed up handling this one and rolled once on 3-144 and once on Unusual Corpses (3-145).  But I like what I came up with and kept it. 

     The frieze on the far wall is of two figures meeting on a bridge to duel.  The right hand figure is a female human in chain mail with lifelike features, she carries a spear and shield.  The left hand warrior appears not to have been finished, as it's only a rough humanoid shape.

    Dramatic Architecture (Table 3-57) gave me "Walls" and how it is dramatic is "Effect on Viewer".  I decided a frieze would be an appropriate, durable dramatic element on a wall, went to the Statues table (3-75 and generated Battle scene ("Bridge"). 

     The first character to state they are examining the frieze must make a save vs Magic (Will).  If they save nothing happens, if they fail their companions see them appear to get sucked bodily into the frieze, like a genie back into it's bottle, and the left hand figure takes on their detailed features.

     The right hand figure will advance to attack the character, the character has one round before they are in melee.  (The party will see the carven characters moving as they duel.) The character cannot leave the bridge, they must conquer or die.  The only way for the party to intervene is to attempt to destroy the right hand carving as it moves across the frieze.  It's stone and can only be affected as such.  Not that damaging the frieze, by say hammering it, has a 50% chance of damaging the carving of the character too.

    If the character loses, their carving is reset to the left hand side of the frieze.  The right hand carving is reset to a rough humanoid shape, while the party sees the figure pour out of the frieze as her body re-materializes.  The only ways to get the character out is with a Flesh to Stone spell or a Limited Wish.

    Didn't find a table to elaborate on the "Effect on Viewer", but had the idea that a viewer could be drawn in to the scene, like into a Mirror of Life Trapping.  It's a battle scene, so the fight was an obvious consequence.  But I wanted a reward for victory, so I poked around until I found the Benefits and Curses Table (3-121) and gave it a roll that suggested an immunity effect.  

     If the character wins, their body pours out as the carvings reset.  They now bear a round, mirrored shield, covered with a multitude of circular dents.

    Moon Shield (+1 magic shield).  The Moon Shield provides compete  reflective defense against gaze attacks and 50% defense against rays.  Any such reflected attack has a 20% chance of being reflected against the attacker, and a 30% chance of being reflected against some one or something in front of the shield bearer.  Lycanthropes will appear as their natural form if reflected in the mirror.  The Moon Shield disappears after one Lunar year (354 days) real world or campaign year, which ever comes first.

    Don't remember how I got the idea for becoming immune to gaze attacks, but decided a reflective shield as the reward.   Once I had it, allowing it some effectiveness against the smaller rays seemed like a good idea.  And then the idea of having the reflections go in semi-random direction made me think of a shield with lots of small dents, like craters on the moon.  When I got to the name, Moon Shield, I KNEW it had to have something of an effect on lycanthropes.  And finally, it gave me the idea of tying it's use to a Lunar time period, figured a year was better than just a month or the next phase of the moon.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Denouement - Ghastly Goings-on in Galena

     We resumed the narrative at the mine where close questioning by Mr Hayes, who seemed more appropriately dressed for State Street in Chicago than a lead mine, questioned them with drawn gun about the deceased prohibition agent, his knowledge of their bootlegging and their involvement. After satisfying him that they weren't involved and wouldn't say anything, they discussed what they suspected of the church nearby and it's involvement with Lucy Allen's kidnapping. Hayes insisted that they needed to help find the girl as the family was his neighbor and they were all good Christians, if not Catholics. The investigators were shown the mine where there was a still being constructed and one storage chamber where they noticed a case of dynamite.

     Mr Hayes promised the bootleggers would support them.if they could confirm where Lucy Allen was, he had Melnik drive them back up to French's car. They pushed it out of the woods and the graduate student and bartender drove down to the Allen's to find out who was the boy they had encountered asking about her whereabouts before she disappeared. Sir Isaac, the hunter, and Herbert, the farmer, went back with Melnik to the mine. They're intention was to sneak up on the church, as they had used the doll to confirm that Mrs Igman was in or near the church.

     Peter, the post graduate, and the bartender, who's name I forget, drove French's car down to the Allen's farm, where they were informed 'half the county' was out looking for Lucy and that the boy was most likely Nick Lindsey (I gave a different name until they checked that the had written down the original). She gave them directions across the footbridge over Fever Creek and up the road to the Lindsey farm. Leaving the car, they proceeded to follow the path until they heard noises coming from the dig site.

     Meanwhile, the big game hunter (whose player had made a point of taking the Navigation skill) got lost and wandered straight to the dig site. Observing the 32 odd antler tips sticking out of the ground, they decided to take a side quest and excavate the rest of the rack. Seizing the tools the diggers had left behind, they shoveled with gusto unearthing a impressively large deer skull - with five eye holes. Herbert the farmer was so enchanted by it that he put it on his head. At this point the rest of the party showed up, and being somewhat upset about the damage done to an archaeological site by clumsy farmers, read them the riot act. Especially as Peter the post-grad, drawing upon his family stories from the Ojibwe people, determined that the mutant buck was a manifestation of an evil spirit that had been buried under the petroglyphs to contain it. Regrouping, Peter and the bartender resumed their journey to the Lindsey farm. Sir Isaac and Herbert determined that following the ravine upstream along Fever Creek would most likely take them to the church.

     Arriving at the Lindsey farm, they found Mr Lindsey outside. Peter approached him aggressively demanding to see his son Nick as Nick knew what happened to Lucy Allen. (A bit of a stretch of imagination as all Nick had done was ask if they knew where she was. He'd also decided that the family was in possession of a book related to the cult.). Mr Lindsey, asked them to wait while he fetched Nick and returned from the house with a shotgun, shouting for Nick to come with the rope. Peter did a quick draw and they exchanged shots. The investigators getting peppered with the first blast, but Lindsey going down in a pool of blood from Peter's return fire. Checking that Lindsey was still alive. They called into the house for Mrs Lindsey to send Nick out to be questioned. She replied that she had a gun and would shoot them if they came, they should go away right now. The bartender went around to the back of the house, where he found the kitchen door unlocked. Entering noisily, Mrs Lindsey heard the entry and stepped to the door from the front room firing at him, while his return fire missed. Hearing the gunfire, Peter broke in the front door and blew Mrs Lindsey's head off with one well placed shot. Providing first aid to the bartender, they then heard the sobbing of multiple children upstairs. They found Nick and his two younger sisters hiding under a bed. Questioning Nick they determined his Pa had taken Lucy tonteh church and the book in question was in the church. After the smallest girl asked where Mommy was and the bartender replied she was 'around', as in her blood and brains were painted all around the downstairs walls, I drew a merciful curtain over the sad scene and went back to the pair sneaking up on the church.

     Meanwhile, Sir Isaac and Herbert followed Fever Creek upstream, hearing the occasional rumble of thunder in the distance. Eventually they reached the head of the ravine, to find it mostly blocked by a stone wall that turned out to be the foundation of the church built over the very end of the ravine. Unable to see inside due to the church on top and trees blocking sunlight, but hearing a faint sobbing coming from the building above, they decided to climb up the wall of the ravine to look in the windows of the church. Eventually, they made it, but the sounds of their sliding back down had come to the ears of someone at the top. They were greeted by a rough looking man holding a shotgun, saying, “I oughter shoot you right now”, then calling out to Mrs Igman that he had caught them. The hunter immediately drew his pistol and fired, rolling a critical and doing so much damage I ruled he’d shot the man’s neck off and the head had tumbled into the ravine. Unfortunately, they’d caught a short range shotgun blast in return and were bleeding profusely. Deciding running away was appropriate, Herbert the farmer used is Nature’s Wisdom ? skill to find some plants to staunch the bleeding. He then applied the skill to figuring out that Old Tom might well refer to a tom or male rattlesnake. They stumbled into the bootleggers mine about the same time the murderous pair returned from the Lindsey farm.

     Gathering in the mine, they brought Mr Hayes and his gangsters up to speed and were discussing how to mount a rescue when the hunter noticed a spark the size of his hand floating into the mine. As soon as he brought it to their attention, the barkeeper who was holding the doll of Mrs Igman pulled it out to burn it (ironically that’s what the fire vampire had been sent to do). After torching the doll and the barkeeper, it began floating out as the other investigators shot futilely through it. Peter tried a knife attack and was badly burned for his efforts. The plan of attack was determined to try entering from the ravine, grabbing flashlights and stuffing their pockets with dynamite in case there was something too big for bullets. Sir Isaac gave Peter his shotgun, while he pulled out his elephant gun. The barkeeper decided he was so wounded that it was a do or die effort and grabbed the whole box of dynamite.

     Once under the church they discovered that the basement contained a stairway up, an entrance to some old mine or cavern that forked a couple of dozen feet in. They also discovered some sort of ceremony involving chanting and ecstatic dancing (the players were insistent that the dancing be ecstatic) was going on in the church making the floor above them resound like a drum. They decided the best plan was for the gangsters Joey and Melnik to climb back up and make a diversion by shooting through the windows, while Herbert, Sir Isaac and Peter ascended the stairs. Mr Hayes and the bartender were to stay below the church with the dynamite on the lookout for Swithin’s monster, expecting it to be a giant snake. (At this point I decided that it had taken a bit longer and was later a night, for a more dramatic final scene)

     The thunderstorm broke and a cold spring deluge started falling as they heard the gangsters open fire. Simultaneously, the door at the top of the stairs opened and Aggie the cook from Igman’s appeared leading Lucy! Herbert fired at her and missed, Sir Isaac blew Aggie apart with his elephant gun, while Peter raced up the stairs with a drawn pistol in one hand. Grabbing Lucy, who was being tugged back into the church by the ophidian Mrs Igman, he managed to pull the fainting girl to freedom while putting three bullets into the evil old boardinghouse mistress and cult leader. Sir Isaac pointed was reloading the elephant gun.

     Now the bartender and Herbert saw Old Tom coming out of the mine, a rattlesnake the size of a hippopotamus! Herbert broke and ran screaming down the ravine into the rapidly rising waters of Fever Creek. Sir Isaac put both barrels of the elephant gun into the giant rattler without stopping it, while the bartender and Mr Hayes lit the fuse on the dynamite yelling for Peter to go back up stairs (even after I pointed out he’d be directly above the explosion). Peter emptied the last three shots of his .45 into Old Tom while the snake lunged forward and sank it’s huge fangs into Mr Hayes. The three bullets struck home killing the monster. Not staying to find out, the survivors charged up the stairs where they found a dozen bodies, apparently not including the gangsters and more than that number of live cultists. With great presence of mind, Sir Isaac who had drawn his revolver shot a cultist to create confusion before shooting out a stained glass window depicting Moses and the Nehushtan. The dynamite going off as the bartenders heels cleared the window sill, dropping the church and cultists into the ravine.

Grabbing the Liberty truck from the bootleggers mine, they drove Lucy to her happy parents - who were puzzled about why they suggested they leave with them. Leaving the by then drowning Herbert (he'd lost over one third of his sanity and was running randomly down the ravine.  He wasn't lucky enough to run up out of the ravine and failed three swim checks in a row), they drove out Galena and the adventure, happy to be alive and reasonably sane.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Aggie's Dolls

Mandrake Doll
Prohibition Agent

Aggie’s Dolls - in the Kitchen at Igman’s, investigators may notice small (6”) dolls made of cloth sewn around a mandrake root, decorated and dressed to look like specific people. Letty’s is one of the more prominent.

When a doll is picked up, the holder will have a sense of where the individual it represents is located. The better the holder knows the area, the more accurate the knowledge. For example, Aggie picks up Letty’s doll, Letty is cleaning Professor Bernard’s room at the time. Aggie knows it’s the Professor’s room. An investigator will only sense that Letty is close by and inside.

Expending a Magic Point will allow the holder to use one of the doll’s senses. For example looking into the eyes of the doll to see what the person is currently looking at.

Similarly, putting the doll’s lips next to your ear allows you to hear what, if anything, they are saying. If the doll has ears, you can whisper a message to the individual via the doll. Each sense used requires one Magic Point to activate it and works for ten minutes.

Dolls: Letty, Mrs Igman, several members of Church of Nature’s Bounty, Donald French (no ears). After BLANK days, they will find Aggie has made one of Professor Bernard.


I created these for my recent Call of Cthulhu adventure, note that I never quite completed the write up.  The investigators found them, right before they burned the boardinghouse down.  The description is generic enough you can adapt these to any system.  The sketch is my rendition of the earless doll used for Donald French, the Prohibition Agent masquerading as a tractor salesman, who was murdered by the cult.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Ghastly Going-ons in Galena

     I started writing this Call of Cthulhu adventure up back in October and already posted a few items from it, I finally ran it last night and went perfectly!  Good role-playing, plot immersion, rarely needed to roll the dice.  When the players went in unexpected directions they actually we're productive shortcuts to information the characters needed.

     The adventure is set in Galena Illinois between April 27th and May 1st 1920.  I wrote two hooks into the adventure, one is a spring turkey hunt with Ed Hopkins, a Chicago stock broker, who's parents own a farm in the area and the other was an invitation to a dig at a reported Sac and Fox (Meskwaki) Indian site with Professor Stanley Bernard of the Anthropology Department at Northwestern University.  I figured this way I had reasons for both toughs and brainiacs to be in the area and observe mysterious sights.

    The first hurdle was that my CoC book is 3rd Edition.  This proved to be trivial as the biggest difference is that the Characteristics are pre-multiplied by 5 in the subsequent editions, so where I had written test against Int * 2, it was you need a hard success.  Swapping skills around on the fly was easy and the additional skill points were diluted by the all the skills the players wanted to have.

    A bigger difficulty was the new professions or backgrounds available to the players included some that simply didn't fit.  Drifters wouldn't have been invited to tag along to the scenes of action; a cowboy I might have been able to make work in the hunting party, but why would they be there.  Also, all the player made tough guys at first, until I pointed out that they really needed someone with an academic background, so a quick trip to the computer generated a grad student mentored by Professor Bernard.  The players used The Dhole's House to generate their characters, we ended up with the grad student, who had interrupted his studies and joined the Lafayette Escadrille during the Great War and a Irish Chicago bartender with an amateur interest anthropology as a member of the Chicago American Anthropological Association, and a former US Marine who had seen action at Belleau Wood; and the hunters were another farmer and an English big game hunter who had been knighted during the war for services with the King's African Rifles in German East Africa.

     As their rooms at the Desoto House were unavailable due to an electrical fire, they had been set up with rooms at Igman's Boarding House.  There Letty, the serving girl, informed them that the Professor, the soldier (Captain Graham, USA Corps of Engineers), the Polack (a plumber named Melnik from Chicago) and the Sneak (a man named Donald French, representing himself as a tractor salesman for Minneapolis Moline) were also in residence.Walking through the conservatory, Herbert, the farmer, spotted the mandragora being grown; he didn't have great success so he only knew it was a variety he didn't recognize.  He (the player) did remember the toxicity of the plant and that caused the first consternation at the table.  Repairing to a nearby diner for coffee and a plate of soup, the Englishman began to feel the place might be civilized when the waitress said they had tea and asked him if he wanted sugar and lemon.  He rethought that a bit when she brought out the the big glass of sweet tea, instead of a nice cuppa.  But in the end decided he liked it.  After a long discussion on the possibility of being poisoned by eating at the boarding house, they returned, met the afore mentioned NPCs and the proprietress, Mrs Igman.   Afer the brainiacs discussed the digging with the professor, the bartender and the farmer played poker with Melnik and his flask of rather raw whisky; the grad student sat down and shared his flask with Captain Graham and offered to help him organize the papers he'd brought up from Jefferson Barracks.  The Captain being in the process of writing a monograph on the Army administration of Mining Leases in the the first half of the 19th Century.  While organizing the papers by date for the Captain, the grad student found a Clue!  The last sheet of an undated army report describing the sealing of a man named Swithin with his creature in a hole by rolling three barrels of gunpowder into it and blowing them up.  [A great first day from my point of view, they had discovered two clues, drawn one badly mistaken conclusion and were quite baffled by the other.]

      The second day was more scene setting, after breakfast they split into their respective groups, seeing French driving away in a car and Captain Graham riding off on a horse.  The hunters getting picked up by Ed Hopkins and taken to his parents farm.  They walked the field trying to flush some turkeys, got off one shot but no bird.  At the end the field, they had an encounter with Melnik and a guy named Joey, who had heard the shot and been sent to see what was happening by Mr Hayes.  They found out that there was an old lead mine across the road where Melnik was working.  Joey asked them to settle a bet about crocodiles in the Mississippi, based on his knowledge of bible stories and having seen "the guy at the Baptist church pick up the snake and use itas a cane, like Moses" [The players completely missed that clue.]   The diggers met Mr Allen and his family who owned the land the dig site was on.  They walked up the ravine to it, saw the exposed petroglyph and set out marking off the dig site.  After lunch, the hunters moved to a nearby wooded creek, where the Englishman scored an extreme luck roll and blasted a turkey at less than ten yards, plucking and dressing it and making it completely immune to radiation in one leaden blast.  The bartender at the dig site wasn't so lucky, while clearing underbrush he failed a Luck and a Listen roll, getting bit by a rattlesnake for his misfortune.  They got him back to the farm and shipped into the local doctor, so he ended up being treated in time.  The grad student continued at the dig site and uncovered the second petroglyhs before wrapping up for the day.  [he also made a geology roll when I told him the rock wasn't local stone.  That made me scramble to the internet and look up 'rare Illinois minerals'.  Turns out it's a porous quartz called tripoli, found only in extreme southern Illinois.  I didn't know that until he asked.] After supper, they took a walk and discussed the day's findings.  Snakes were definitely involved as the hunters had tracked a couple of snakes moving in parallel through the brush and into an adjoining field.  The first petroglyph translated as 'bad' the second was a rather demonic looking horned head with spiral eyes.  It's meaning was obscure, although it looked similar to buffalo head petroglyphs in other locations.  Much of the discussion revolved around why a plumber would be employed at a mine.  Earlier questioning of Ed Hopkins had revealed that Mr Hayes had bought the mine only a few months before and the locals all thought he was crazy, as the mines had been closed for at least a dozen years in the area.   [Another good day, they players knew they were obtaining clues and the speculation on how they fit together was free wheeling.  They were very concerned about the petroglyphs and coming up with ways to tie them into the mine and old Army report that I had never considered when writing the adventure.  They didn't take note when I remarked that the French, the tractor salesman, hadn't been at supper.  I should also mention that I was giving them daily headlines, baseball scores and snippets of stories that would have been in the papers, ranging from "Polish President Pilsudski signs alliance with Ukrainian rebels' (a real happening that I think would have been noted in Chicago papers.) and 'Twenty women's heads found in home of Cairo [IL] blackbeard'. (A real headline of the day from a local newspaper.)  I like dropping in background news to raise the immersion level.]

     The third day, the hunters got up early, to get back to their blinds in the creek bed before dawn.  Both of them bagged turkeys, but the Englishman heard a metallic rattle, which when they investigated turned out to be a car driven off the road and into the bushes by the creek.  Tracking determined that it had been driven in, not skidded off the road and one person had walked away back up to the road.  They couldn't remember the license plate, but it looked like French's car so they assumed it was.  Searching found a surplus pair of binoculars, a box of pistol ammunition and a traced map with the area from the hamlet of West Diggings to the mine circled in red.  The farmer decided to start (read steal) the car, but couldn't get it to start.  The Englishman thought French might still be in the area and that it was his tracks walking away.  They didn't bother to search for him, but having bagged their birds, decided to call of the hunt for the day and head back to town.  The morning dig started later, but uncovered another set of petroplyphs, thunderbirds flanking a triangle over a downward pointing arrow,  The afternoon dig was interrupted by a visit from a local boy looking for Miss Lucy, Mr Allen's (the owner of the dig site) daughter.  A brief, and frustrating conversation where they learned he wasn't in school because “Pa says, there’s only one book with the truth of the world.  School marm’s a wastin’ time talkin’.”  He disappeared through the brush with a parting admonishment not to dig too deep and disturb Old Tom.   They uncovered the final petroglyph, a headless human figure wrapped by a couple of lines that terminated in a wavy ball of lines[All the petroglyphs I used are based on or direct copies of real North American petroglyphs.  Some are from the Great Lakes region, some just show up in different charts of native American pictograms on the internet.  Meanings are ambiguous at best.]  The hunters inspected the fuse box at the Desoto House and determined that 'electrical fire' seemed to have outside help from the symmetrical burn marks below and to the sides of the box.  The Englishman also managed (surprisingly considering his low Library skill) to find an early land claim for a Edward Swithland that encompassed the area circled in red on the traced map.  When they all ended up back at the boarding house, they found a cold supper laid for them and a note that the staff would be out late at a church meeting.  [The pace really picked up at this point.]  Captain Graham showed up with French's body over his saddle.  French had a gunshot to the chest, the barkeeper volunteered to show Graham where the doctor's office was, although they ended up being directed to the local mortuary as there was no need for the doctor to interrupt his supper for an obviously dead man.  While carrying the body in, the bar keeper noticed puncture wounds on French's hands, his recent experience allowed him to identify them as snake bite wounds.   They searched French's room, found that he did have a well used sample case with a pristine model Minneapolis Moline tractor in it as well as a book of sample plates and tractor specification - oddly it's spine wasn't even cracked.  Searching the rest of the house, they found Mrs Igman's room was locked, but in the kitchen they found a number of dolls, one of Letty, one of Mrs Igman, one of French (with no ears), one of the Professor (also with no ears, although I don't think I mentioned that) and a number of others they didn't recognize.  Picking up Letty's doll, the grad student knew that she was located a distance to west and a bit north, and inferred that she was at the 'Baptist' Church.  All the other dolls where in the same location, except for French's (no feeling) and the Professor's (in the parlor).  Ripping open French's they found the it was built around a mandragora root.  Ms Igman's felt different, as the bottom was a single long root, rather than bifurcated into legs like the rest.  Showing the Professor his doll, he announced it certainly was similar to a Caribbean voodoo doll and that he was going upstairs to pack and catch the 11 pm Chicago & Northwestern - and they should too.  His grad student followed him upstairs and was given a brief expurgated discussion of the Professor's occult knowledge and again urged to leave dealing with it to the locals who losses would be unfortunate, but who wouldn't make the connections to the obscene knowledge of reality.  Bringing Captain Graham and Melnik into the discussion as the Professor departed, Graham declared them mad until they convinced him to hold Mrs Igman's doll which left him stunned to know where she was.  Melnik was more concerned about what they had found in French's car.  He stormed upstairs and trashed French's room, including the display case which contained notes on Prohibition violations in Jo Davies county.  He immediately announced that these had to be shown to Mr Hayes, the mine owner.  When questioned why he informed them that the mine contained a distillery and was also used as a transshipment point (in shorter words) to move bootleg and locally distilled spirits out of Chicago, upstream to St Paul and downstream to St Louis using the barge traffic on the Mississippi.  The whole operation was under the control of the North Side Gang - coincidentally the suppliers of the 'special drinks' to the barkeeper in the party.  Deciding to search Mrs Igman's room, they found a nasty odor of snakes, more a nest than a bed and an extra large shed snake skin.  At this point they realized they had never seen her other than when she was sitting at the dining table.  A concealed door into the adjoining dining room explained how she moved between the two.  Checking Mrs Igman's doll, they determined that she was moving in their direction, probably about twenty minutes away.  The only discussion at this point was whether to burn the whole town (the framer's position) or just the boarding house.  What passed for sanity prevailed, Captain Graham recommended they start the fire in the kitchen, but asked them to wait ten minutes while he collected his papers.  Graham rode off on his horse with his papers, They set fires in both the kitchen and Mrs Igman's room.  Melnik led them to a nearby warehouse to wait for the 2 am truck from the mine.  They heard the fire department come and go, when they departed on the truck there was no sign of Mrs Igman or the rest of the staff.  Right now they are hiding in the mine and just checked the doll, finding out that Mrs Igman is in the church on the next property.....

[They've essentially solved the mystery with 36 hours to spare, in a way I hadn't anticipated.  We broke at this point, as I had an hour long drive in ten below weather to get home.  I have to say this may be the best gaming session I've ever run.  Now I have to time to incorporate some of their speculations into the final scenes and determine what happens then.]