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Sunday, January 28, 2018

Norton & Goodman together again…

One of my regular players could not make last weeks regularly scheduled game. Going on over two years of online play he has never missed a session so he is involved in like everything which has happened to date. During the previous session when the good Dr. Thomas Norton last played he ended up getting separated from the party so being absent didn't force any hand-waving to explain his absence. Still, with vacation coming up here at the end of the week another regularly scheduled session was going to be scratched leaving the next live session not until February 18. Damn, just too darn long for my tastes. What to do, what to do…

I decided on an off week bonus game session. It would focus on the activities of the Dr. until he was able to rejoin the party proper. This would also give me a chance to let a previous regular player jump in for a session since, no fault of his own, he had to change his schedule like last year and could no longer make the live sessions.

Without going into a detailed session report, okay, a mildly detailed session report, I have to say I really like splitting the party and having action happen “off-screen” to the rest of the party. Time commitments are the only thing holding me back from doing this ongoing, but getting in another session covering mushrooming campaign action was a blast. First, I get a bigger game world with multiple courses of action occurring. Second, it gives me practice towards accomplishing my ultimate role-playing goal. I'm sure this has been done before, but I would like to have different campaigns with different players meet up in special cross-over sessions much like Elric would run into manifestations of himself in the multiverse. This means I would have tangential relations to the major world changing effects/enemies in each of the different campaign worlds and players who previously didn't know anything about the other game would find themselves face to face with PC's they've never encountered before, even possibly playing a completely different game system then the other party. Something uniquely doable with online play.

But on this night of January 19, 1646 in Great Yarmouth the gasping, spent Dr. is urged on by his old Puritan soldiering grognard companion Saul Goodman coming out of the gloom. Recently returned from a secret mission on Zeal's behalf he immediately searched for Dr. Thomas Norton when finished debriefing. Norton had split from his badly wounded companions in the hopes of keeping the escaping Xaxus/Martyn, the current villainous threat, and his loaded wagon in sight.

Random rolls established how long before the pair located the now abandoned wagon and we got underway. This is where I hoped to channel some of those great city pursuit adventures. A bit of Carlito's Way, The Matrix Reloaded, Collateral, Bourne Identity, etc. was what I had in mind for the session, but this is 1646. What kind of sexy, neo-noir, dangerous urban challenges does a cold night in the golden age of dysentery have to offer our ruthless duo? What would actually be interesting to encounter but not seem like utter rubbish? Going to the historical record has been really useful for my game prep. One, I know “bollocks” about this period of time, and two, +James Raggi has built his successful line of game adventures on this time period so this tells me there are plenty of real horrible tales to be told from such a record. Still the question stands, what is their to do in a town like Great Yarmouth when street lights haven't even been invented yet?

The abandoned wagon provided a rather staid opening for session start. I spiced it up with some hanger-ons drinking and fornicating among the ransacked goods. This gave the PC's their first chance to pick up the trail. Their target left with one of the locals and they got a direction. The next possible encounter was a Puritan mass for some of the destitute locals. While there target was not here I provided another clue from a parishioner. What made it interesting? I poached descriptions from the beginning of Moby Dick. Ishmael's night wanderings in Nantucket can provide great sights, sounds and smells of an active fishing town. Sexy? In the eye of the beholder. But its Melville, the guy can write. You would have to be one of Dr. Norton's patients not to respond somehow to what he is laying down. So this encounter gets the PC's some more concrete location information and they make their move. I couldn't find any “historical” record of my next location, I made it up, but it was time to put out my 1646 disco ball! An illicit “tea” shop serving up the new rage from the New World; coffee and cocaine! Complete with a tuned-up accordion player and upscale clientele. I'm a big fan of random encounters and I rolled a Doctor, a Dr. Howy Brass, as the random NPC the villain would encounter here. I rolled this ahead of time during my session prep. This gives me time to ask myself the usual questions; "Why would Xaxus find this person interesting/useful?", "What would such an encounter lead to?". This would be my plot hook to hang my alien god on so I wanted it to be satisfying, make sense and offer opportunities to kill PC's. Back to historical research. What fucked up things could your average Paracelsan physician get up into? I came away from google with Distillation Furnaces and Boyle's Law. Click, click, click. So we have coked out monied gentleman, one experimenting with purifying the mind of ill-humors and a desperate alien entity looking to convert as many people as possible to his cause as willing slaves, hmm….

I won't bore you with any more details. Suffice to say this provided plenty of activity and action for the PC's to engage with and let the bloody chips fall where they may. And it left me feeling, split the party? Hell yeah!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Assassin's Guild Random Name Generator

Scott Malthouse posted a quick table which will give you one hundred random names for your Assassin's Guild. Here is the text thrown together for your very own one-click generator;

How To Create a Gangbusters Gathox Character

Starting work on my Gathox Vertical Slum campaign world with Gangbusters rules for a hope to be face to face game. Here are my initial character creation rules outlined for use at the first session. 

Players create their PC's by rolling dice to find the characters' four starting ability scores. These are the standard attributes listed in the Gangbusters core rules; Muscle, Agility, Presence and Observation. Feel free to roll these scores in any order you wish. But unlike in the regular Gangbusters rules, do not automatically add the ABILITY MODIFIERS for each ability. Whether or not a particular ability receives the modifier is determined by choice of character class. A player may choose any one of the following classes for their new PC. Read the description for each character class from Gathox Vertical Slum. When you find one you like apply the ability modifiers listed below for that class to the single starting attribute named.

Street Tough - Presence
Soldier - Muscle
Martial Master - Agility
Spiritualist - Luck
Faith Healer - Presence
Cosmic Doctor - Observation

Hit Points and Punching Score are determined normally. Following are additional changes a particular Character Class will make to the regular Gangbusters character creation process.

Street Tough: While this militant receives an ability modifier only for Presence, their Punching Score is determined as if they had received an ability modifier to Muscle. For example; a Street Tough with a Muscle of 50 would have a Punching score of 4 instead of 3.

Soldier: Starts the game with the skill Public Speaking. Starting skill level is determined per standard Gangbusters rules. Public Speaking in Gangs of Gathox is referred to as Discipline and the skill's general use and effects are detailed in the Gathox Vertical Slum setting book.

Martial Master: Starts the game with the skill Martial Arts. Starting skill level is determined per standard Gangbusters rules. The effects of Martial Arts in combat are detailed in Part 11: Optional Expert Rules of the Gangbusters rules.

Spiritualist: Their roll for starting Luck attribute is done by applying an Ability Modifier to the percentile roll before the score is divided in half. Their power of Psychometry can be used as described.

Faith Healer: Their power of Lay on Hands can be used as described.

Cosmic Doctor: Their power of Echoes of the Future can be used as described.

The three Mentalists classes are still subject to random wild magic effects as described in the Gathox Vertical Slum setting book.

Mutants are created per normal Gangbusters rules. This means unlike the militants and mentalists listed above, mutants do receive Ability Modifiers. After attributes are figured then roll for their mutations per Gathox Vertical Slum setting book.

Write your character's name at the top of the page. This name should give yourself and others a flavor for the Player Character (PC) attitude and image in the world of Gathox.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

LotFP off the Shelf, again!

Today's game session had the PC's leaving the city proper hot on the heels of an adversary. I was prepared for the PC's to get bogged down in more street to street action but the random encounter I rolled gave them a slight advantage and they were able to allude the major confrontation which threatened them at session start. With increased freedom of movement the action quickly outstripped any prep I had done. Going on vacation soon so truth is I really did no prep for today's game.

We are playing Renaissance but I include many LotFP adventure modules in which to build my fantasy English Civil War world on. I'm not too worried about spoilers here because I chop up all the published materials I use to obfuscate what will come next. These are all seasoned gamers and have tons of time in CoC adventures so I know I have to work to keep things interesting. Including making encounters mysterious even if the players have read the material.

Saying I did no prep is not actually correct either. Because I like to purchase quality stuff that meant I had just what I needed on my shelf. Scenic Dunnsmouth was about to see its first game in live fire!

Now this adventure module by +Zzarchov Kowolski  is not one to use unread. But I had read through the module when I initially bought it and even used the built-in prep sequence to see what I had. Therefore I had some idea how I was going to use the content. I just didn't remember it all. What I did know was the module was filled with detailed NPC's and locations and should give me enough hooks and seeds to keep the hunt lively. The trick is what to cut away. Not every NPC can be a psychotic nut-job devil worshiping cannibal. Not every location can be fraught with danger, otherwise “suspension of disbelief” gets eroded and the campaign's uniqueness is diluted. This just makes the module the center of attention, not the PC's. The other trick is to deftly incorporate the ongoing game events the players are concerned with seamlessly with the written material in front of me. So the events don't seem forced or the PC's feel shoehorned into situations and their agency has been stripped away.

Scenic Dunnsmouth performed admirably. I was able to scan locations quickly and decide what would be encountered first. Followed by the laundry list of NPC's I could populate encounters with vivid personalities. This gave the PC's buttons and levers to push, get some environmental feedback as they figure out what to do. This also gives me time to make picks. Who is false, what are the dead ends, and where would the big bad go in this situation. I'm not saying walls of text and endless detail are what is found inside. No, just that Kowolski provides people and places which are interesting. With my random name generator I made earlier I was able to use the tried and true technique of changing names. But not always. Because in the rush of gaming I sometimes forget which name was assigned to which NPC. Peoples & Places and Miscellania were the two sections of Scenic Dunnsmouth I relied on the most. PC's got folks to interact with, their suspicious of everything which moves, I got only forty more minutes of game time to fill…

I don't want to make it sound like my whole game is one random table after another, but random tables are an essential tool to keep me from bogging down. Consistently LotFP adventures have given me these essential ingredients; 1. Interesting stuff for PC's to engage, and 2. Interesting stuff for me, the Game Master, to mull over and what it could mean for the PC's future fortunes.

I also don't want to make it sound that whatever comes off the LotFP press is useful to me. If adventure material does not fit my vision I'm not going to use it in the game. My players deserve more than just filler. But as I run more games not in the dungeon, without those reliable thick walls to contain a session's activities, I find this companies output gives me stuff to use immediately which interests me at the table as well as my players. This is also the easy part. Now things are set in motion. Now I need to drill down into my ideas and my originality to tie what was started by the PC's together into horrible climaxes where all hangs in the balance!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Some Dolmenwood Tavern Adventure Hooks

All who pass through Castle Brackenwold stop for a drink at the Four Captains whether they are searching for work, information or adventure.

The following adventure hooks can be found out at the dirty, meager tavern:
  • The lord of Castle Brackenwold is offering 500 gold(or silver) for the head of an insurgent peasant leader at the Shanty Wood woodcutter's camp. Those interested should report to the sergeant at the barracks. This is being advertised on a flier tacked on the wall.
  • A disinherited noble seeks brave men of honor to help him restore his estate which lies to the south east on the open plains. He is buying rounds of drinks in attempt to sway the disinterested local riffraff.
  • An exhibition to find a route through the unexplored Machswold is looking for stout explores to join their team. Those who help with the success of the exhibition will earn shares in the King's Trading Company. The troop of twelve explores is about to leave for Prigwort. There they will camp for several days as they prepare rafts to cross the Groaning Loch.
  • Two old sisters, one of them armed with an aged long sword, the other robed leaning on a walking stick, know of a ruined monastery. They believes there is a hidden tomb beneath, undisturbed, because it is protected by an unusual lock. There should be enough wealth in such a place to make everyone fabulously wealthy. She has an odd lodestone she claims is showing the tomb is not far north of the castle in the Brackenwold.
Here are the stats for the two old "sisters":

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Dolmenwood Gypsy Encounter

For those who want to add a cliche forest road encounter for their Dolmenwood Campaign I present to you the Gypsy Wagon

Encounter Results

Gypsy Wagons: Either encountered making their way, or pulled up in camp the Gypsy Wagon is a hodgepodge of useful and baneful encounters. If the PC's ignore the Gypsy Wagon they will be unmolested. If the PC's stop to talk with the Gypsies they will be shown to the Matriarch of the caravan. She will offer any assistance her meager train may offer; provisions, information, first aid for the injured. All she asks is to pick a card from her deck of fortunes. This request will be made after assistance has been rendered and much feasting and dancing has been had in the camp. Grab a deck of normal playing cards and pull one. While only one card is being pulled the set up should be of an elaborate fortune telling reading within a heavily curtained wagon. Lighted candles and cheesy effects will give the Matriarch the appearance of a typical entertainer, but her readings do have power. Have one of the PC's pull a card while you hold the deck and snicker. Regardless of suit read the description for the matching numbered card. After much shuffling of books and papers, state;

Ace: “Happiness and joy are for those who sleep. Your journey will leave you dead and alone.” The PC's are encouraged to spend the night with the Gypsy caravan. If they do each character will be visited by strange dreams while slumbering. These will leave the characters uneasy with feelings of dread in the morning which are hard to shake. From now on the Matriarch will have a sense of the character's well being while in Dolmenwood. When out in the wilderness and the party is in distress she will dispatch woodland animals once which would be appropriate to provide some form of immediate aid.
Deuce: “Beware treachery, especially from those you trust.” Moving forward in the campaign every time the party gets a favorable reaction roll from NPC's there is a 15% chance the NPC is actually playing the Party false and will attempt to deceive, rob, capture or kill members of the Party. Once they are betrayed the curse is broken.
Three: “The future is pregnant with disaster.” For the next three days the Party will have a daily encounter which will go poorly or poses some kind of threat.
Four: “Act swiftly or all is lost.” Upon hearing this fortune if the PC's immediately press on they will encounter someone who will be able to provide aid and/or useful information on their current adventure. If not, if the Party actually stays the night with the gypsies they will awaken with the camp having moved on. Besides not waking to the departing camp the party as a whole is light 50% of their hard currency or foodstuffs.
Five: “Unify, even with your enemy, or all is lost.” The next encounter which requires a reaction roll if the one who drew this card is present than the reaction will at least be favorable.
Six: “You cannot afford the luxury of trust.” The next time the PC's ask someone an important question (not a gypsy) and are told the truth the one who drew this card is sure they are lying.
Seven: “Reckless abandon and chaos are your only friends.” The next time the PC's flee an encounter the one who drew this card will not be caught.
Eight: “Search deep beyond the meaning of oaths, even if it means torn hearts pulsating in your blood stained hands.” The first time the PC's are lied to the one who drew this card will know it.
Nine: “If you wish it, it will come. If not now, then you must take it by force.” When the PC's first encounter treasure or receive a reward for deeds done they will receive an additional 100 pieces of gold.
Ten: “War! You will witness the devastation of armed conflict.” The next time the PC's are in a walled settlement it will fall under siege by whatever appropriate force makes sense to you.
Jack: “Do not temper lust, lay waste.” The next time the PC who drew the card is in a tavern they get wildly drunk and must roll on the “Carousing Mishap” table of your choice.
Queen: “For the future be clouded, trust that blood will flow.” For several nights hence a werewolf will stalk the party. While the first two nights are black with dark clouds on the third night the sky will clear pregnant with a heavy, full moon. Then the night beast will attack. If the PC's are not alone than who the werewolf attacks needs to be rolled randomly. If the PC's are indoors or underground they should be able to avoid the beast's rampage. The darkened two nights prior will give the PC's an opportunity to notice they are being stalked if they are keeping a sharp watch.
King: “Faith in the old gods is misplaced. Ruthlessly stamp out heresy.” The next time anyone of the Party present at the reading encounters a Cleric they will be accused of being dangerous blasphemers of the one true faith and will be driven from the holy person's sight.
Joker: “Disguise yourself from you kin, they seek to pull you down.” One time a PC will not be recognized by an enemy seeking them out. The PC will have to be present at the card reading to have a chance of being unrecognized in the future. This will apply to all PC's present but a PC can only benefit from this effect once.
Advertisement: Random roll (1D10) from the 1e DMG random encounter chart page 174.
1 is a Dungeon Encounter,
2 is a Underwater Encounter,
3 is an Astral & Ethereal Encounter,
4 is Psionic Encounter,
5-10 is an Outdoor Encounter.
Yeah, I know, how the fuck do I do an Underwater Encounter on a woodland road? I leave you to your imagination. Besides this table entry is useless without the DMG so you might have to just make it up anyways.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Western USR review sort of...

I actually took down my various PDF's for USR as I thought they all needed some heavy editing and didn't want someone to pay for a set of rules which didn't work.

But Western USR does work. Sure it need some polish. +Andrew Domino has recently discovered the awesomeness of USR and has delivered many useful blog posts on how to create different characters and campaigns with this universal system. He commented on my interpretation of Westerns with my Western USR rules set. Seems he liked my addition of a Speed attribute to the standard attributes listed in the game.

Besides the fact he interpreted the rules wrong in comparison to the speed of a knife versus gun, I am immensely pleased with more looks and critiques on how I use +Scott Malthouse 's lovely set of minimel rules mechanics.

I created Western USR with TSR's Boot Hill 1st edition in my hands. Speed was about the only thing out of the TSR rules I took away which needed to be captured. When mere humans meet hot lead who shoots first is all that matters. I'm finding more and more detailed tactical scenarios do not add to the game. As long as I can answer the question of how far away the target is I think players fill in the rest of the details on the combat environment. Players like to try and control the combat turn to their favor obviously. I like to try and rush combat events so as to make players feel out of control what happens next when the guns and blades come out. With Western USR I tried to construct the combat rules so instant death happens when cool heads do not prevail.

Try the game out and let me know what you think.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Gathox Vertical Slum Gang Generator

Once again I am playing around with Logan Knight's Choose Your Own Generator  java tool and fashioned the random tables in Gathox Vertical Slum to provide an instant Gathox Gang Generator!

Here is a link to the text documents I used so you can create your own bookmark link that will spit out your own instantly random Gathox gang: