Saturday, December 14, 2013

Leveling Up, Surprise Pregnant Lady

So, we play again tonight, but I forgot to update on what happened in our Hackmaster campaign last week, given the frentic orgy that is finals week.

A good portion of the party was ready for a level, either 2nd or 3rd, so we sat down and worked through that. Since most of the group is not familiar with the system, that took a while to raise attributes, refigure things, and spend BP. For his part, Sevlen picked up the basics of blacksmithing (I figure he's been making a living as a tinker since he left home; blacksmithing is part and parcel of his General Repair), plus some more languages, religions, and the Local History proficiency for the Earldom of Reyifor. Since I'm familiar with the module, I've purposely built Sevlen so he can metagame about the setting a bit without cheating. I'm usually dropping a BP each level to learn about churches we encounter... I've got the party's religions covered (due to some fortuitous penetration, I now know the Bear's religion better than my own), and plan to pick up the Caregiver, as we interact with him a bit.

After that, we debated what we should do to get into the keep, but it seems our adventures against the vampire earned us a friend; we got a note saying that looking into Vespin Tower might result in enough favor to get let into the keep. So, with Evlyn and Fredi having sold our stuff, we started up the mountain, just the seven of us (Grimwulf, Fredi, Ava, Sevlen, Evlyn, Tedi and Grimwulf's cook, who we don't trust being left alone in a town full of rough men). We set out towards the tower, but late on the first day, we encountered a woman.

She was bloody and beaten and very pregnant. She raved that the child inside her was a beast and, as we calmed her, we learned that she and her family merchant caravan had been taken by orcs late last fall. Her family had been killed, but she'd been kept and raped. She'd escaped in a harrowing climb to freedom when a cloaked man had come for her (for reasons she did not know). We decided we couldn't leave her there, nor let her walk back alone, so we started towards town, and dropped her with a Brandobian cleric of the Caregiver... and learned that the keep had opened in our absence, as they'd found someone to blame the assassination attempts on. We decided to enter the keep, and got ourselves registered as an adventuring company, the Bleeding Hearts, because most of our other name ideas were stupid. ;-)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Fudge Fudge Fudge Fudge Vampire: Hackmaster Campaign Log

"Only I didn't say 'fudge.' I said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the 'F-dash-dash-dash' word!"

So, we reconvened for Hackmaster, and it was an abbreviated group; Ted the Wizard and Elwyn the Thief were both absent, so we began to explore Quarrytown on our own. I went looking for lodging, finding a hostelry with a talkative hostess and a pretty reasonable price per evening (nine copper per evening, which is pretty reasonable when you've got seven people and get two beds and a meal for each of them out of it). Fredykia told stories in the marketplace (Oratory, Monster Lore, and Ancient History), and we picked up some rumors, including the theft of a bronze statue from the Lynx Gate, and that the Pallisade stockyards had been suffering some depredations. We opted to put off the trek to the nearby tower (where a rumor said an evil totem had been found), and instead investigate the Pallisade.

I (Mark) worked REALLY hard to not metagame, since I know the normal adventure involves a pack of leech-men. But scouting around, we found a set of human-sized tracks leading straight up to the wall, and all the dead animals have two puncture wounds in the neck. We decided to stake out the place, sleeping through the day at our hostel and constructing a blind in the field for the evening. We waited a number of nights for it, and then we saw a lone person stumbling drunkenly along the same track we'd followed before.

I was all for confronting him outside, but Fredi and Ava decided to see what would happen. He walked to the wall and smoothly climbed up it, so Ava tried to tangle him with a spell; he broke free without seeming to notice it. He then ensorcelled the guard, and as we fired our weapons, turned into a giant spider and disappeared into the Pallisade.

We, as brave fools, gave chase. I boosted everyone up the relatively short wall (only 10'; really easy), then scrambled up myself. A horse was down, and we gave chase through the Pallisade; the spider disappeared and was replaced by a rat, which ran to the smithy; a bird then exited the roof of the smithy and flew away... getting a massively overpumped Magical Projectile slammed into it, which it shrugged off as it flew away.

Before that, we were kind of hoping that we were dealing with something else. However, after some discussion (and a lot of cursing), we decided we were gonna start buying a metric fudge-ton of garlic.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Talky Talky, Walky, Walky. Lizard?

Oh, boy, it's been a long time since we played, and some developments in my life have curtailed a few of my other gaming pursuits. However, we got together on Saturday to play a bit of Hackmaster.

When last we played, we'd just freed a young woman from her pirate captors. Cutting her gag and bonds, we find that she's the daughter of the mayor/innkeeper/store owner back in Salt Haven/View/Flat/whatever (we sort of lost track of what town it actually was). She wasn't so much "kidnapped" as "ran away from home with her now-dead pirate boyfriend". Deciding that it's impractical to boat down to town, we trek back through the dungeon to bring her home to her father. As we're leaving the dungeon, we're stopped by at least a dozen goblins who, in pigin Merchant (and, eventually, some dwarven, which is close to goblin), they demand we leave their home and never come back. We bring girly back to dad, and they promptly throw a screaming hissy fit at each other, which we somewhat manage to cool, or at least get them on shouting terms. Grimwulf offers her hire as his cook, if she doesn't want to stay with dad.

Then begins a very long discussion about bringing tribute to the goblins that I never quite got the reason for. We felt unable to fight the lot of them, I get that, but someone wanted to negotiate with them for some damn fool reason, and decided to give them a chunk of our treasure. The goblins, however, decided that they didn't want our treasure, they just wanted us to leave them alone. Fair enough. Deciding that there wasn't much we could do there, we headed towards the county seat, known as Frandor's Keep, after purchasing a mule from our friendly innkeeper.

Long trip; many days. We mostly walked, encountering pilgrims who told us how horrible the goblin problem was, and encountering nothing ourselves save a derelict gate to nothing, some anomalous tracks of a giant lizard coming from the river (in what amounts to Idaho in March), and miles and miles of miles and miles. We stopped at Kar Mandri, failing to marry off the tag-along village girl to any of the innkeeper's sons, and then headed towards the keep. We were denied entrance, however, as someone had tried to kill the Count, and they were requiring papers to enter the keep proper. We spent some time talking with folks outside the stockade, and adjourned for the evening, our eyes turned towards Quarrytown. described by the guards as "A den of thieves, if you ask me."

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Skeletons, Spiders, Pirates and Rescue!

So, we pushed on tonight in Hackmaster. Due to a Florida vacation, Fredikya's player wasn't with us, but we soldiered on. We began in the room of the sarcophagi, where we'd encountered the flying dagger, before. We explored the next, and a skeleton arose, trashing our remaining mage while the rest of the party gathered around and beat it with sticks (except the thief, who kept trying to kill it with a short sword... not so effective, though she hit more often than we did with our staves and maces). The mage was so banged up that we retreated to town, curing him of his wounds and taking a break.

Returning to the sarcophagi, we discovered more skeletons, but with no animation, just treasure. A well-made broadsword (which no one can use, but I intend to use as a rich gift), and a suit of chainmail that fit our fighter. He felt a lot more confident in the better armor. We also found a necklace (which the priest of the Bear refused to test for choking properties on her pet rat), two rings, and a coronet (which we determined was a crown, not a small trumpet). Now well swimming in rich stuff, we pressed on. We fought a massive spider, and my priest of the Traveler got his first initiative under 10! But the fighter took a single point of damage early in the fight, and managed to pull off two strikes in short order, both of which massively penetrated, dropping the brute to the ground. Searching the spider, we found a nice dagger (that I'll probably learn how to use, just because).

We soldiered on, finding the equipment of our mage (who had been kidnapped and tied up sessions ago), then an underground river (that we declined to cross) and a way back to the room whose doors are controlled by a statue. Exploring further, we found our way to a grotto where four pirates argued. A daring plan had Elwyn and Sevlen lead the pirates back to our fighter, shooting slings and arrows (literally) to draw them back. Three of the four were game; the fourth tried to get away, but was TOPped by a shot from Elwyn. I swam out towards the boat... but got caught by the octopus of the grotto. As he pulled me closer, I managed to cast a Safe Haven and wriggle free, swimming back to the pirate's boat.

In the boat was a TOPd pirate and a tied-up girl, so I rowed back to the shore, where we found some of the pirate's booty, including a scad of silver and copper, some gems and jewelry, and a few bits of sundry treasure. We will start the next adventure sans Elwyn and Ted, but with Fredikya back, freeing a fair maiden and planning our return with loot.

(Sorry for the poor story-telling; I am getting this on screen before I collapse. SO TIRED)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Love Songs about Dwarves

So, one of the on-going arguments in fantasy gaming is "Do dwarven women have beards?" To which the answer is, of course, "The pretty ones do." I like for dwarven women to have beards because I think it emphasizes that they're an alien species, with a different conception of beauty than is common in human society. Elves are the little waif-fu human fantasies... dwarves are something else entirely, eschewing human notions of beauty for their own.

As the song says... Hairy face makes for Dwarven Beauty.

A few years ago (thinking about it, the first goes back more than a decade, to when I was in school), I did a number of filks based around fantasy gaming, including some songs about dwarven women. Here they are, for the modern reader:

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Scary Spider, Levels, Flying Dagger

So, we reconvened on Saturday to play a bit more Hackmaster. When last we left our heroes, there were a group of goblins that we were failing to sneak up on, and we'd just rolled some initiatives (in my case, truly horrible initiatives). I was bit annoyed at my GM, because I figured she'd screwed me on the initative die... but that's before the spider exploded into the room and started trying to eat me. Grimwulf charged forward to distract the spider, taking a slight wound in the process, but we then retreated, leaving the goblins (who came out to attack the spider) to play with our new friend.

At this point, we concede that most of us are out of spells, lowish on HP, and kinda tired of the dark, so we head back to Salt Haven to spend a couple weeks licking our wounds and learning a few things (all except Ted, who didn't quite have the XP). While there, Fredykai acquired a crossbow, and we got a request from the mayor/innkeeper/sheriff to deal with the river pirates once the days warmed up and they started preying again. This is right in line with the Traveler's ethos, so I'm certainly looking forward to it.

Rested and leveled, we returned to the Tower Basement. This time, however, we chose not to tread well-worn paths, and continued into the other parts of the basement. We came to realize that the ruins were far older than the tower had been (bolstering our observation from last session about the age of the astrological charts), and stumbled across a room of sarcophagi. Being cheery tomb robbers (see my article Corpses and Caches to understand the theological underpinnings of "It's ok to loot dead people if no one knows their name"), we levered one of the sarcophagi open, with Grimwulf standing ready to smash the skeleton inside if it objected to our stealing the pretty dagger on its chest. Instead, the dagger objected, chasing us around the room for a moment. We smacked it down, and it got back up in a moment. We bound it in a sheath, it popped out and started chasing us again. Finally, we sealed it back in the sarcophagus, and had to call it a night. Five sarcophagi and many rooms await us, with a need to smash pirates ahead.

EDIT: A bit about the post name. Over on the KenzerCo Forums, Jolly started a "Describe your last session in five words". It's a little bit silly, but it does help to summarize what happened.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Adventures in Trapfinding: Continuing with Hackmaster

Sevlen and (insert elf wizard name here) were travelling west along the river when they reached Salt Haven, a tiny town at the confluence of two rivers. Not quite the last navigable point, but certainly working on it. We arrived just in time for the funeral of a dwarf, and spent some time in the local tavern, the Green Gizzard, learning that the dwarf had been killed in the ruins* of a wizard's tower (actually, the ancient basement beneath the tower). Choosing to confront the evil and maybe find some useful gadgets, Sevlen and (Iewnh) joined with the adventurers to explore the basement complex.

Meanwhile, Ted the wizard woke up in a dark cell, stripped of most of his possessions, with no idea how long he had been there. With ghouls approaching his cell, he used magic to break out, then ran lost for several days through a maze of twisty passages, all alike.

After some rest and healing, the party returned to the complex. They explored the rooms from before, aided by Sevlen's ability to map and keep his sense of direction. They searched the room where Flint died, finding an expensive ornamental dagger, then continued on. Unsatisfied with their cautious speed, (Iewnh) decided we could leave off searching for traps. He promptly fell into a 15' pit trap, pulling Grimwulf down on top of him, injuring himself severely. Sevlen climbed down, and nursed the worst of their wounds, and they were briefly sealed in while Elwyn sought a way to open the trap. Soon after she did, Ted burst into the corridor. A brief and tense standoff was interrupted by the ghouls that had chased Ted, but our Elwyn had learned how to work the pit trap... the ghouls were dropped, roasted, then smashed with Sevlen's sling stones (my argument being "Arrows cost money. I'm throwing rocks."), while the rest of the party fought some largish spiders sneaking up from behind. Examination proved that one of the ghouls was the elf thief's brother, lost 20 years ago. Further examination proved that the spiders were edible, and so we had a bit of a spider-meal at a driftwood campfire near the entrance.

Fortified with cooked spider, we advanced, disturbing some giant rats, who also fell to the pit trap and ranged weapons (with most of the rats being sealed inside the pit trap; with two dead ghouls and their own injured to feed on, they had time.) Our priest of the bear, Ava Cado, opted to befriend one of the remaining rats, and we turned up a few silver in copper in the trash they'd abandoned.

Continuing on, we found astrological calculations that predate the tower on the floor of a long-abandoned bedroom, Ted's old cell (which seemed to be converted storage), and a room with a statue that controlled the doors. Heading out from the statue room, we found a ginormous storage room. Cooking smells wafted across the room, so the thief and Sevlen (who picked up a little stealth) snuck forward. Sevlen had some terrible misfortune, and failed to avoid detection (I rolled 01 more than is statistically probable last night) and the goblins are closing in...

Grimwulf, our fighter, didn't have much to do last night, as most of our combat involved "Let them fall into the pit and kill them from afar." However, with two people exposed and goblins advancing... and pretty much EVERYONE out of spells ((Iewnh) has enough for 1, he said)... Grimwulf is soon going to find himself very valuable.

*RIP Flint Goldheart, of whom Elwyn, our elven thief, said "His smell wasn't that bad and his sense of humor was acceptable." A fitting eulogy.

EDIT: The player of (Iewnh) informs me that the character is named Fredikya.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Hackmaster Alive!

In discussing Hackmaster with some of my face to face friends, the recurrent complaint I hear is about the 3d6, straight down, and other random aspects of character generation. If you cherry-pick your flaws instead of rolling randomly, they're worth only half. You don't get X% in a skill for an expenditure of Y BP, you get to roll a die based on your current skill level for Y BP.... you may get 1 point for your 10 BP spent on Divine Lore, or you may roll your initial d12p*, get a 36, and be an eerily competent miner from your dwarven freebie (seen it happen).

However, one thing I very much like about this is how it helps you flesh out your character. The previous character? He started out as a Dejy (human phenotype, similar in appearance to Asians or Native Americans, with all the variety that entails), perhaps from the large city of Shyta-on-Dobyo. But then I started rolling. And I wound up with a priest of the Traveler whose brothers and sisters were mostly angry with him, and who knew the Eternal Lantern better than his own faith. It completely changed who the character was, and helped to make him real. His background, cribbed from Merle Haggard, wrote itself in the action of random dice rolls indicating where he came from... a man of who was pretty unsuited to the life he was trained for.

This happens all the time with Hackmaster's random tables. Like the 4 Intelligence halfling thief with SCARY Fire-building skills and pocking (Hey, look who likes to play with fire and got burned). Or the almost-shopkeeper** gnome rogue. His only good stats were Looks, Charisma, and a slightly acceptable Intelligence (once I reorganized them)... his Needy flaw told me immediately who he was... someone whose physical weakness and low Wisdom lead them to rely on others far more than they really needy to... but who had the ability to make others do what he wanted.

It's a refrain among Hackmaster players... play the game. Don't obsess about how little fighters get, sit down and play the game. Don't worry because your stats are lower than you're used to... sit down and play the game. Because once you do, you find how these things work to make a great game.

*Hackmaster uses "penetrating" dice, similar to exploding dice. However, on any subsequent roll, you subtract 1 from what shows on the die; on a d12p, if you roll a 12 and then a 1, your total is 12 + (1-1); if you rolled a 10 on the second, your total would be 12 + (10-1). Roll the maximum again, and you keep going, but you still subtract 1 from each die after the first. d20p penetrates to a d6p, however, and d100p penetrates to a d20p.
**While stats are 3d6 in order for best results, there's one bit of leeway... if your stats utterly suck, you can declare the character a shopkeeper and roll again with no penalty. These stats have to be either nothing of 13 or higher, or 2 or more stats of 5 or less.

Momma Tried: Character Intro for Hackmaster

I turned 21 in Cosdol, beginning my life upon the road. Despite my family's best attempts to raise me into a priest of the Eternal Lantern, the first thing I remember is an urge to see over the next hill. I'm the only one of my family so afflicted; my sister and brothers all turned out properly for the faith, in one way or another.

Perhaps I should begin again.

My family is the Lanterns of Bleslelna in Crandolen; our family has served the Eternal Lantern for generations. Brothers and sisters marry acolytes of the Lord of Luminosity, and it is rare that someone not related to us is not High Lantern of Cosdol. Everyone in the family serves in some way, from questing against undead and walking the Dark Watch to making lanterns and oil. We are raised to it. So, a young man of strong enough arm and quick enough mind was fully expected to be walking the Dark Watch alert for danger, not studying the stars, not slipping off to walk the roads late at night or all through the day. My sister, Avil, and my older brother, Blesden, hated the freedom my parents gave me... I think they saw more clearly where my road was taking me, and that the road was not one fully lit by the Eternal Lantern. Their animosity rubbed off on Nurband, the youngest of the family, though Senden stayed close to me (perhaps because we're P'Baran twins, born less than a year apart). My mother and father gave me everything I needed, but even they had to turn their backs once I swore orders to the Bright Eyes. They placed a pack at the door and locked it against me.

So I set east; east or south were my options, and I had no desire to see Brandobia. East over the Elenons, and into P'Baran lands, never to see Cosdol again. I worked as a muleteer on caravans over the mountains, wintered in P'Bapar where I helped mend leather and raise houses, and now head north from the city, to walk until autumn turns again.

Description: Sevlen is what might be called "pleasantly ugly"; he's not so ugly that you call people over to look at him, but the tanning of his skin combined with pockmarks (from an early brush with cowpox) leaves him somewhat resembling an oil-spotted leather bag. His hair is brown at the start of the travelling season, but, should he lose his comfortable slouch hat (which is pretty likely), it will sun-bleach by the time the leaves turn. When funds allow, he makes it a point to buy new shoes or boots when he settles for the winter, break them in, and give away his old boots to those in need.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

And Then There Were Three: Hackmaster Campaign

When last we left our heroes, Flint Goldheart and Grimwulf were in a dungeon, with Flint severely injured (a 10pt, an 11pt, and a 5pt wound, with 3 HP to his name). Ava and Elwyn came up from Vew a few hours behind us, and they start looking around Salt Haven for where we went. They reach the graveyard just as Flint and Grimwulf limp out of the dungeon, no sign of the ghouls. Whew. After a bit of banter between Flint and Elwyn, they head back to the inn for a few days of healing, aided by magic and some Honey Brew. Flint made it back to 20 HP, and decided that was good enough to head back down.

We retraced Flint and Grimwulf's steps, and met with the ghouls where we did before. Flint took a couple scratches, but avoided being paralyzed, then waded in and DESTROYED one of the ghouls with a single axe-blow... 46 points with a hand axe, due to a massive critical. (Grimwulf's player asked where this dwarf was last time). The second did manage to TOP me, but our party brought it down. Once Flint recovered (with some critical care from Ava Cado), we headed through one of the doors, encountering a room full of mouldering carpets and the like. Flint realized he had a spear (found on a corpse last time), so he offered to poke it.

"I've got a spear, I'll poke it" is going on his tombstone.

Two giant ticks exploded from under the carpets and attacked him. Flint, with his massive 8 HP, took 31 points... 2 more than his maximum HP. Despite burning all his Luck Points to avoid this, he's dead. He's not pining for the fjords, he's an ex-parrot. The party fought the ticks to smashy, and then retreated, having looted the only thing of value (Flint's corpse).

I started work on a new character; leaning towards one of my favorites: A halfling cleric of the Traveler.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Savage Worlds Mass Effect

I wrote this about a year ago, and initially posted it on my old blog and the Giant in the Playground boards. Since I like it, I thought I would port it over here.


These are designed to take place between Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2, and are pretty preliminary. They're also designed to be pretty plug-n-play with SW, focusing more on mechanical representation than making sure that prices are accurate and all.

Please, feel free to feedback.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

ODE: The One Deck Engine

So, a while back, I was thinking about Josh Hilden's Shores of the Dead, and half thinking about doing a game based on it. Now, I had a few ideas, but I also wanted to do an honest-to-goodness playing-card based RPG. I thought of the old Dragonlance SAGA system, which was based on a unique set of cards with nine suits and some pretty horrible problems... but, wrapped around it, it's a not-bad system for human-scale conflicts. I tossed it around, and got some downtime while at GenCon to write a bit, and came up with the following.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

GenCon Day 4 and 5

Oi.... so, my netbook is pretty horrible, so I waited to do this until I got home. My laundry is in progress, and I'm trying to decide if I've got enough ConCrud to take off the two days I actually have to work this week. Probably not, but I'm seriously considering it.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

GenCon 2013, Day 3

I made it a point today to do some actual playing. Next year, I want to have a shirt that says "Impress Me With Your Demo" and wear it to the various days. Because I had the most fun with demos.

Friday, August 16, 2013

GenCon 2013, day 2

So, day 2 of GenCon. Friday. I feel I should preface this a bit, though.

Houston, where I live, is not a terribly walkable city. It is, for most of the year, more or less a boiling toilet.. hot, humid, and with a funk in the air. So, when I come to something like GenCon, and have to walk 3-4 blocks several times a day, my feet are KILLING me. Blistered, with ankles screaming in agony. Thus, I tend to wake up, take some acetaminophen, and be ok until about lunch... then I sleep away the afternoon, and maybe do something in the evening. This means I'm missing a lot of the Con, but am having a fan-freakin-tastic vacation. So, yeah.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

GenCon 2013, Days 0 and 1

I could probably Storify most of my tweets over the past couple days and call it good, but, well, writing things out helps to gel them in my head.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

After Action on a Rules Change

So, tonight I bought some poker chips (and a deck of cards for an unrelated game I'm designing) for use in the Star Wars game. Every person got 2 blue chips and 1 red chip, representing their Force points for the session. The red chip, however, represented giving in to the Dark Side... using a red chip increased your Dark Side score by 1, in addition to the benefits of a force point.

Overall, it went very well. People used a lot more Force Points (I found in previous games that they tended to sit unused), and tended to suggest novel uses for them, some of which I allowed.

In addition to the standard "Add 1d6 to a given roll", I allow:
1) Add 1d6 to a given defense for a single attack.
2) Subtract 1d6 from the damage of a single attack. If the damage is to be halved (for example, folks were free with grenades this evening), this applies to the raw total, not the final damage; so if the bad guy rolls 14 damage with a grenade, and you roll a 4, you take (14-4)/2 damage, not (14/2)-4 damage.
3) A red chip may be spent for a single use of a dark side power. This will result in an increase of 2 to Dark Side score... 1 for calling on the Dark Side, 1 for a Dark Side power.

I also wound up PLAYING with the red chips a lot. Holding them up at appropriate moments. Turning them over in my hands. Because even when players spent them, I let them keep them. You can pour as much Dark Side as you like into an action if you REALLY want to succeed.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Classless SAGA, and other alterations

A few months ago, we played the Star Wars SAGA, and while I generally liked the system, I found myself very frustrated with parts of it related to character creation. It seemed to me that there wasn't much need for classes, and so I created a variation that allows one to play Star Wars SAGA without them... the only classes are "Heroic" and "Non-heroic".

The Continuing Adventures of our Hackmaster Group

Grimwulf and Flint head to Salt Haven, where they find that there's reports of grave robbing from the cemetery near the old wizard's tower. This, of course, gives Grimwulf a religiously motivated war-boner. We go halfsies on a lantern (neither of us being able to afford 20sp for a lantern and a ~50 hours of oil), and get to work.

After interrogating several colorful hicks, they head up to the old wizard's tower labyrinth and begin to explore. After a few tense minutes (using the ancient dwarven technique of "always follow the right hand wall" and "watch where you step, you clod"), they encounter two ghouls. After landing a mighty blow, Grimwulf is paralyzed. Flint continues to fight for a couple more exchanges, but is ToPped. At that point, a pixie-faerie (who had passed out after using Bar Portal to keep the ghouls at bay) bolts past, leading the ghouls (fortunately) towards the exit, where she escapes after some fancy flying. She begins to look for blueberries, the ghouls being unwilling to venture into sunlight.

Flint comes to, and bars the door, protecting the downed Grimwulf until he unfreezes, and they loot the corpses and coffins, getting a tidy sum of coins and a few gems. However, Flint has 3 wounds, two of them ten or higher, and a grand total of 3 HP to his name. Grimwulf, who got paralyzed early from a small scratch, is in better shape... but both a kinda feeling exposed, and don't know where the ghouls got off to, or what happened to the pixie-faerie.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Corpses and Caches

Another reblog from my old Cranky Gamer

Corpses and Caches:

The Afterlife and Burial Traditions in Dungeons and Dragons

One thing that has recently annoyed me about D&D cosmology is “Why on Faerun would you bury whole corpses?” That only the spirit survives into the afterworld is a provable fact, provided you have a high enough level wizard or cleric. Upper level clerics can even directly question their deities about life after death, to say nothing of visiting the souls of the dead in the Outer Planes, or interrogating them via Speak with Dead. The advantages to keeping bodies around is small; burials take up space, and, more importantly in D&D, corpses attract and become undead with disturbing frequency. A graveyard is likely to attract ghouls. Necromancers can use the various bodies for anything from simple skeletons and zombies to horrific flesh-born nightmares. This says nothing of the vast wealth that is regularly entombed with the dead... magic items, piles of gold, and tomes of eldritch spells are all regular found even in non-undead haunted graves. So why throw away useful magic items, usually only for the use of undead, necromancers, adventurers and similar reprobates?

To examine this, some assumptions remain the same from the D&D Standard Cosmology. Most notably, when someone dies, their soul travels through the Astral Plane to the home of their deity, or to the plane of their appropriate alignment (frequently, but not always, the same). Raise Dead and Resurrection call the soul back from this journey (or the destination), into a body repaired to receive it; reincarnate creates a body to receive them. I work from the assumption that preserving a corpse and grave goods of value serve some function; that leaving a body mostly intact and burying it with such riches as can be afforded is, in some way, useful to a person in their afterlife, and that purposefully eschewed the preservation of the corpse (such as through cremation) serves a purpose in the afterlife, as well.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Mind Over Matter: A Short Story

A short story that was written for the Chi-Town anthology; it got left out, so I'm reprinting it here.

Mind Over Matter

Whatever an enemy might do to an enemy, or a foe to a foe, the ill-directed mind can do to you even worse.
Gautama Buddha, Cittavagga The Mind

Rifts: Houstown

(this is ported from my Livejournal)

So, about five or six years ago, I wrote up a bit about the city of Houstown in Rifts. Since I live here, I figured I'd give a whirl at fleshing out the very bare-bones description in Rifts: Lone Star. Now, in doing the research, I realized that the Coalition had a major base (like, "military population bigger than Houstown total population") not far away... at Beaumont. I live on the west side of Houston and Beaumont is only about a hundred miles away. You can shoot Rifts-tech missiles from downtown Beaumont and hit my house.

But, as is often the case with Palladium, I did my best with what I had, and turned out Rifts: Houstown, a short (only 17,000 words) description of the city, its post-apocalyptic history, and some of the major players.

Cranky Gamer, Redux

I've decided to try and use this over my old Livejournal for my gaming posts; it's gotten to where signing into the Livejournal is a bit of a pain, and, since it's been a bit of a hiatus, I might as well start fresh. I may port over some of the better or more important posts, so they're easier to find, but I've also got some fairly dire stuff over there that I'm not keen to carry over.

So, welcome to the Cranky Gamer, Redux. My name is Mark Hall, and I've been an avid gamer for a bit more than twenty years as of 2013. I cut my teeth on 2nd edition AD&D, and I'm still a bit old-school in my D&D, but like a variety of games. I've done some freelance game writing, mostly for Palladium Books, but also for Third Eye Games, and I'm hoping to get some things published with Kenzerco, at least in the Hackjournal. I'm open to questions, but don't be surprised if I take forever to answer, or get a bit cagey with my answers, especially regarding future projects (which may or may not ever happen) or my relationship with publishers.

Back to the Keep

So, we gathered yesterday for an inaugural Hackmaster session; we're likely to be monthly, what with the pressures of being grown-ups and all (sitters, work schedules, etc). I was hoping to make a mage or fighter/mage, but the best stats (under a house rule) I rolled had a 10 Intelligence... could've fiddled around, but went with a dwarf fighter/thief, bolstering a very lackluster Wisdom and Looks so I kept my 16 strength, 15 Con, and even managed a 12 Charisma despite my (modified) 6 Looks. Overall, he's got great stats, but I wound up spending a number of points on rerolls for his quirk/flaw... I didn't want to play Compulsive Liar, Colorblind, Missing Ear, or... one other that I forget. I stuck with a Superstition about birds being unlucky.

The party is:
Elwyn - Elven thief with some OCD
Ava Cado - Human priestess of the Bear
Grimwulf - Fhokki javelin who wants to be a paladin
Flint Goldheart - a dwarf fighter/thief with a rather pronounced dislike of birds.. much more a fighter who knows about traps (and backstabbing) than a sneaky fighter. Was very nearly named "Flintheart Glumgold", but the thought of laughing every time I said his name talked me out of it. This is srz bznz.

So, it's late winter in Vew, and a group of travelers is stuck in a blizzard. Flint has lived in the area for years, mostly as a caravan or claim guard, but also happy to chip in with general labor and the like when necessary. Since he's had a lean season, he's leaning on the friendship of Marotti, the innkeeper for the last five years, doing odd jobs in exchange for food and a place by the fire. Just before the storm hit, Ava and Elwyn came in (separately); Ava looking into some reports of ravaged nature, and Elwyn searching for the place her brother died, years ago. Also staying is a minor lord, a very old friend of Marotti, who is very ill.

One evening, the lordling won't get up for his dinner; Ava, a priestess, is called in to examine him, and finds that he's some sort of malignancy in his belly, but she lacks the ability to cure it. She does her best to make him comfortable, and is charged with delivering a letter to someone the next morning... and then the lordling slips into a coma. She faithfully delivers the letter, then returns to keep watch on him... partially because this ensures Marotti will let her stay, rent free, for a while longer. (We is po')

A few weeks pass. There's not much we can do during this time... the road to Frandor's is washed out and snowed in, no one is going anywhere that needs a guard, and it's not a good time for exploring, so we spend time around the inn, with me trying to convince Marotti to let me expand his root cellar this winter. He keeps putting me off, but we play a lot of cards and dice and not much happens. Soon, however, just in front of another blizzard, the Red Priest arrives. He's a follower of the Eternal Lantern, and has a "bodyguard" in young Grimwulf. The Red Priest (who has a name, but I have forgotten it) goes to visit the lordling, an old friend of his, though Marotti requests that they disarm before visiting his sick friend.

Then, no , ninjas attack. Five priests in brown robes and studded leather come into the inn and begin to attack the Red Priest, also trying to sap the curious Elwyn (who was attacted to the Red Priest's fancy golden holy symbol). I, being the industrious individual I am, go up and backstab one of the Brown priests, then bash his head in with my axe. The immediate threat to her ended, Elwyn retreats to clean her sword. Ava defends the unconscious lordling, Grimwulf gets ToPed, and I wade into melee, protecting Grimwulf and making another kill myself. The Red Priest takes down two, but the final brown priest... the one with the long sword, who seems to be the leader... runs. I miss hitting him as he runs, but tag him with a throwing axe on the way out.... but he gets away.

The Red Priest clears us from the room, insisting that he will sit vigil over his friend. He blocks the door with an armoire, releases Grimwulf from his service, and begins a three day pray-a-thon, complete with spare voices in the room and the occasional muffled explosion. We let him pray, though I get a little paranoid and start making a club, and figuring out how to put silver pieces as studs to make it a viable anti-undead weapon. The blizzard rages outside, but, on the third day, it stops. Silence comes from the room where the Red Priest kept his vigil. Grimwulf, concerned for his former master, forces open the door, to find the corpse of the lordling looking weeks dead, the Red Priest still kneeling... and, in another room, Moratti lies with his throat cut.

Cue a flurry of investigation, where we find out that Moratti killed the previous owner and buried him in the root cellar, was, himself, the murderer of the lordling, using some exotic plant-based poison that our Bear-priestess couldn't identify, and had summoned the brown priests. We learn that Elwyn's brother was at some place named Salt Haven, which also seems to be the source of trouble that the druid was interested in. I want more insight into Moratti (I was his friend for five years), and Grimwulf is at somewhat loose ends, but the potential to confront undead seems to cheer him.

We've got a good dynamic going. The elf and I have a snarky relationship, with me having made several cracks about her impatience ("What, are you afraid you're gonna grow old waiting for it?"), and her tending to make fun of my smell and beard. Not outright violent... I recognize her as generally "good people", even if we don't get along. With two humans, we tend to be a bit more aloof, but we're settling into a relationship with them, as well.