8/28/13

Montporte Dungeon Campaign Session 14 Notes

The Cast
Adzeer Mattiu, Hunter of the First Circle (Half Orc, 3 Lvl Hunter): Tim (Gothridge Manor)
Duncan Kern (Gnome, 3 Lvl Wizard/Thief): Dan
Dante Rathburn (Human, 3 Lvl Warlock): Chris (The Clash of Spear on Shield)
Luven Lightfinger (Human, 3 Lvl Thief): Rob (Bat in the Attic)
Larramore “Little Larry” (Kobold, 2 Lvl Marksman): NPC
Ansarkhan ("Mushroom Man", 2 Lvl Fighter): NPC
Diana (Human, Torch Bearer, Goat Driver): NPC
Innerkhan ("Mini-Mushroom Man"): NPC
5 cave goats
Map A (1 square = 5 feet)
The Session
The session started with the intrepid adventurers in Room 1 (Map A above). They had been teleported into this area during the last session, leaving them clueless as to their location.

As the party was about to leave Room 1, Luven heard a small voice whisper, "Ansarkhan?" (Luven has a magic earring that improves his hearing). Luven traced the voice to a 4' tall mushroom in the room, where there was a row of cultivated mushrooms.

"Yes," Luven responded, as he approached the row of mushrooms. He was surprised when one of the mushrooms opened a pair of eyes. He spoke in broken Common tongue to Luven, and then in Elvish to Ansarkhan (the 7' mushroom man fighter in the party, an NPC). Ansarkhan recognized him as Immerkhan, a fellow mushroom man and friend of Allindrihl, the mushroom farmer elf. Allindrihl lives on the second level of the dungeon (the party had a long talk with him in Session 10).

Innerkhan, speaking Common, then explained to the party that he was spying for Allindrihl. Allindrihl had sent Innerkhan to hide in the mushroom farms of the "Breeders" as a spy. Innerkhan hid in a mushroom farm on the second level of the dungeon, near Allindrihl's lair. From there he could pick up important tidbits of information about the Breeders. Things were going well until he was boxed up and transported to his current location, as part of a colonization effort. Much like the adventurers, he had no idea as to his own location.

He also let the party know that (a) there had been some attack nearby and the leader of the Breeder colony, Temmrick, had gone off to investigate and (b) there was a lot of concern amongst the Breeders about a rebellion. Having told his story, Innerkhan asked to join the party.

While this was happening, Luven wandered away to the south, followed by Duncan. The party eventually caught up. They found Room 2, with a spiral staircase leading down. Luven told the party that there is always more treasure down below, so the party decided to descend. After a 100' vertical descent, they found themselves in Room 3 (Map B below).
Map B (1 square = 5 feet)
From Room 3, the party moved east into Room 4, which contained some bunks, made out of pressed mushroom fiber, and about a dozen gray cloaks and two black ones. Room 5 also contained bunks and, unlike Room 4, they were occupied. There were six humans in the room, three sleeping and three that were sitting around a small table. The humans were completely caught by surprise and, more importantly, had no arms or armor. The party tied them up and questioned them.

The humans said that they (a) Served Elias the One; (b) Were only "acolytes," not "novices;" (c) Did not have magic rings, unlike the novices; (d) Manufactured "gaunts" [simple weapon-wielding humans]; (e) Ate "meats" [herd-like humans]; and (f) Were assuming that the adventurers were acting on behalf of the rebellion. Hearing that these "acolytes" ate other human beings were reason enough for the party to kill them, which they did. In searching the bodies, Duncan found a small vial that was warm to the touch. He was able to determine that contained Chi, the life energy, and that it was incredibly powerful. The party carefully stored it in the chest of holding.

The party also learned that the gaunts respond to simple instructions by anyone, at least initially. However, once they are commanded by someone wearing a novice ring, they will only listening to those wearing novice rings.

Room 6 (Map B above) contained tables and benches, also made out of pressed mushroom fiber. The room was not occupied but there were platters that had bits of stringy meat on them.

The party moved west and then north to Area 7 (Map B above). It was a huge room, illuminated by harsh magic lighting from globes near the ceiling. There were heavy strips of golden metal running in parallel across the floor [like rails]. The party had seen the same type of thing during Session 12. There were also two gaunts, armed with halberds in the western half of the room (Area 8). They did not respond or even appear to notice the presence of the party.

Adzeer decided the party needed to huddle up. The group was lost and wandering around. They should talk about a plan of action. Before they could really get into a conversation, two acolytes peeked around the corner from Room 10. The party waved them over and they warily approached.

The acolytes, wearing gray robes, wanted to know why the party didn't have robes on. The party tried to convince the acolytes that they represented the acolytes' leader, Elias the One. The acolytes were not convinced and ran back to the west. The party quickly cut them down before the acolytes could turn the corner into Room 10 (Map B above).

Figure 1: Metal cask, only much bigger than this.
Having moved to the west to chase down the acolytes, the party then moved into Room 10 themselves. They were startled by what they found. Room 10 was a large room with a 30' x 40' hole in the floor. Coming up through the middle of the floor was a shiny metal round thing, like a cask or barrel, only much bigger (see Figure 1). It had a metal walkway out to the top of it, with some gadget thingies at the end of the walkway. There was also a metal ladder that led from the metal walkway down into the hole.

Like the big room they were leaving, Room 10 was harshly illuminated by light sources close to the ceiling. In the stark glare, the party could see a novice, some acolytes and a couple of gaunts, all staring in their direction with alarm.

Here is where the session ended.

The Dungeon So Far
Scale: 1 square = 5 feet
Level 1
Level 2 West
Level 2 East
Mystery Level
Another Mystery Level

8/25/13

And Then There Are My Other Lives...

I have busy this summer, way too busy. Work has been really hectic, which is not good (except in the sense that I have a job, for which I am thankful). Lots of gaming and music, both good, have been on the docket.

Here is me at work, being quoted in the local paper: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/886575_S--June-Smith-Center--Excentia-merge-organizations.html

Here is me, at work on the bass, funkifizing on Saturday night (the sound quality is not good, but you get the idea): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YQ5L63AHVs (by the way, what you can't see in the video are the four Amish guys that walked into the bar in the middle of the song...such is life in my part of Pennsylvania).

And it is almost Monday...time to grab the virtual dice and game.

8/21/13

Montporte Dungeon Campaign Session 13 Notes

Cast of Characters
Adzeer Mattiu, Hunter of the First Circle (Half Orc, 3 Lvl Hunter): Tim (Gothridge Manor)
Duncan Kern (Gnome, 2 Lvl Wizard/Thief): Dan
Dante Rathburn (Human, 3 Lvl Warlock): Chris (The Clash of Spear on Shield)
Luven Lightfinger (Human, 2 Lvl Thief): Rob (Bat in the Attic)
Larramore “Little Larry” (Kobold, 2 Lvl Marksman): NPC
Ansarkhan ("Mushroom Man", 2 Lvl Fighter): NPC
Diana (Human, Torch Bearer, Goat Driver): NPC
3 cave goats
Map A (1 square = 5 feet)
The Session
Session 13 began where Session 12 left off, with the brave adventurers on Level 2 of the Montporte Dungeon.They were confronted with a number of choices in Room 1 (Map 1 above), 4 unexplored doors plus a spiral stairway leading up.

The matter was put on hold as Luven heard footsteps coming through the northern door on the east wall. He started to open the door and had some help from the other side of the door. Coming into the room were three of the armored guys (they had met one in Session 12). Behind them was a figure in a black cloak and hood, similar to the ones they had seen in Session 7 and Session 12. In this case, however, the figure was much smaller and obviously feminine [I used a token with a woman's face on it in Roll20...which was an immediate giveaway].

Melee ensued with Luven hitting the cloaked figure with one of his special magical throwing knives (Knives of Melvin Spellpudding). Dante took down one of the armored guys in the front row and then melee ensued. Before the battle had progressed very far, there was a flash and a puff of smoke and the hooded woman vanished, leaving a pile of cloak behind.

The party took a bit of damage during the battle, but with the woman vanishing and armored guy sleeping, the odds were in their favor. The party were able to defeat the two remaining foes rather handily.

A quick search of the bodies turned up nothing but standard weapons. A careful search of the abandoned cloak and clothing was more fruitful...a ring and two scrolls. The ring turned out to be similar to the previous two that were found on the slain cloaked guys. It had an evil aura and it gives the ability create a burning hands effect inside the body of a victim touched by the ring wearer.

One of the scrolls turned out to be a delivery confirmation, a receipt for delivered alchemy powders. The second scroll was a set of patrol orders, given to the cloaked woman (who is called Alleena in the scroll). The scroll provided a lot of useful background information for the player characters. It also indicated that the alchemy powders had been delivered to a newly colonized area of the dungeon. The path to this colony was just south of "the Room with Five Doors." The patrol orders also mentioned a spider that was being used to guard the stairs leading up from "the Room with Five Doors."

The brave adventurers looked around them and decided they were in the Room with Five Doors. The first order of business was to kill the spider above them in the stairwell. With flaming oil, an ray of enfeeblement, and some good old stabbing and jabbing, they managed to kill the really nasty spider without harm to themselves. They searched the web and found the encased body of the naked slaves, who they now knew were called "meat" (as mentioned in the patrol orders).

The party was undecided as to which way to go so part of the party went west into Area 4 (Map A above) while another part of the group went south into Room 3. Area 4 didn't look promising so they continued to go south. Rooms 3, 5, 6, 7, and 8 all contained rows of mushrooms in a thin layer of soil. They were big mushrooms, some over 4' tall.

They came to a steel door and prepared their weapons. The patrol orders indicated that there was a room (with potential treasure) that was part of "the path." It would contain two gaunts (7' tall guys with halberds) and one novice named Prog (the guys with the cloaks, hoods, and evil rings).

The party burst into Room 9. In it was one novice, two gaunts, and two cave goats. Duncan hit them with a color spray, knocking the gaunts unconscious and blinding Prog. Prog and his companions were quickly overcome and the party set to opening the chests they found in the room. There was plenty of gold and silver, as well a number of healing potions and healing draughts. There was also some black cloth and bags of stringy dried meat. Intriguingly, there was also a glowing green circle on the floor with a brighter glowing spot in the center.

The party threw the three bodies of their most recent victims into the circle and each disappeared. Luven rigged one of the chests with vial of gas (removed from the chest when he found and removed a trap). He threw the chest into the circle and it disappeared. Luven then decided to relieve himself into the circle [what is a GM supposed to do in a case like this?]. Luven disappeared from the room, apparently following the three bodies and the chest of recently released poison gas.

Dante fastened a rope around himself, gave one end to Adzeer, and jumped into the green circle. He found himself being sucked into another space or room but being held back by the rope, which ended up causing him considerable injury. At this point, the party all entered the green circle and disappeared (Diana brought along the two additional cave goats)...
Map B (1 square = 5 feet)
...and reappeared in Room 10 (Map B above). The rest of the party found that Luven had suffered a bit of damage from the released gas, but was otherwise okay.

The party moved into Room 11 (Map B above). There were four meats in the room, chained together and tending a few rows of smaller mushrooms.To the south, they could see a statue in the corridor. To the east, they see two gaunts, standing still in Room 13. The party kept an eye on the gaunts while Duncan explored Room 12, which was filled with more mushrooms.

The party then used flaming oil to burn the gaunts. The flames killed one gaunt and seriously burned the other, but still it did not move. The party was able to kill the remaining gaunt. Despite being armed with a halberd, it did not fight back.

The group moved into Room 14, which was furnished with a simple table, bed, and three chairs. They appeared to be new and made of pressed mushroom material. There was a black cloak under the bed but nothing else in the room.

The group then moved into Room 15 (Map B above). This small room featured a device on a pedestal. The device had a dial on the side, with the numbers I-V (Roman numerals) arranged around the dial. Dante moved the dial to "I" and the party was able to get a birdseye view of the entrance room of the dungeon. "II" provided a view of a room with a pool. The party had visited this room in Session 8, where Duncan famously dove into the pool and triggered an attack by water elementals.

Moving the dial to the three remaining positions revealed three other rooms, none of which had been visited by the party. View III featured a room with a "pool" of stones. View IV displayed a room with a "pool" of low flames. Room V revealed an empty "pool." These are all displayed in the diagram below.
Crystal Ball-Dial Settings and Views
This is where the session ended for the evening.

The Dungeon So Far
Scale: 1 square = 5 feet
Level 1
Level 2--The Western Part


Level 2--The Eastern Part
"Mystery Level"

8/20/13

My Favorite Works of Fiction

Not much gaming content in this post, just so you know.

I read a lot...a little more than a book a week...and I tend to read non-fiction more than fiction. But I do like a good story. Here is a list of my favorite fiction. I haven't necessarily excluded fantasy and science fiction, but not many of them made the cut. My wife and I read a of books together--what we call our House Book Club--and some of my favorite books were originally one of her selections for us to read (Birdsong, Out Stealing Horses and The Road are good examples of books she picked for our little book club). Every gamer should read The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop by Robert Coover.

Some of my favorite fiction (I marked my Top Ten with an *):

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Any Human Heart by William Boyd
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein*
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
Bones of the Moon by Jonathan Carroll
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak*
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursala Le Guin
Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco
The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov*
The Glass Room by Simon Mawer
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salmon Rushdie
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova*
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
The Land of Laughs by Jonathan Carroll*
The Last of the Mohicans by James Fennimore Cooper
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Little Big Man by Thomas Berger
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien*
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco*
The Otori Trilogy by Lian Hearn
Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger*
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
The Quiet American by Graham Greene
A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee *
A Very Private Gentleman by Martin Booth
The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop by Robert Coover*
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Wonderful Fool by Shusaku Endo

8/19/13

Monday Moodsetter 24

"After the Rains" by Stephen Hickman
RPG Rorschach: What is the first gaming thought that pops into your head?

8/18/13

Get Your Short Stories Submitted! Pulp Mill Press Deadline Is Approaching

The deadline for short story submissions for Pulp Mill Press's first publication, Libram Mysterium, is fast approaching (it is August 30, 2013). We have had some excellent submissions and you, our future readers, are going to love it.

However, we do have some room for a few more good stories. If you have a story almost completed, be sure to finish it up and send it in. If you have something already completed, blow the dust off of it and send it our way. Just follow the handy dandy submission guidelines.

8/17/13

Montporte Cosmological Notes: On the Elements

In the classic D&D universe, there is a plane of existence associated with each of the four classical elements. Air, Earth, Fire and Water each have a elemental plane associated with them. This is not the case with the world of the Montporte Dungeon Campaign. In the universe of Montporte, the four elements are merely the building blocks of the physical universe, in much the same way our own universe is made of atoms of unique elements. The four elements are a key component of the overall cosmology of Montporte.

The Four Elements
The physical universe of Montporte is made up four elements in various combinations. The presence of these elements also confer their properties to the objects and substance of the material world as well, as indicated by the written descriptions and by the diagram below:
  • Air is primarily wet and secondarily hot. 
  • Fire is primarily hot and secondarily dry. 
  • Earth is primarily dry and secondarily cold. 
  • Water is primarily cold and secondarily wet.
Note: The above description and diagram come from Classical Elements (Wikipedia). I am borrowing heavily from Aristotle (you can see my Source Bibliography for some of my other sources).

The Elements and Magic
The relationship between the elements and magic is a complex one. It is complicated by the involvement of the three energies (Positive, Negative and Chi), as the intervention of the divine. Sages, mages and scholars have found bits of evidence that points to ancient mages having great insight into and control over the four elements. Sometimes called "elementalists," the knowledge they must have possessed has been lost to the current world of Montporte. Some scholars have dismissed these elementalists has inventions of dreamy and wishful mages.

The Elements and the Types of Magic
Here are the main types of magic and how they interact or manipulate the four elements:

Alchemy: Alchemy is the form of magic most closely associated with the four elements. Alchemists use their knowledge of the elements and their resultant substances to concoct magic potions, dusts, oils, and even devices. The the practice of alchemy is considered part of the arcane arts, but alchemy relies on the use of formulae and recipes rather than Ars Memoriae to create its magical results.

Arcane: Magic-users and sorcerers have different approaches to arcane magic but both use mental powers to manipulate the three energies and the four elements.

Divine: Divine magic, typically used by clerics and paladins, uses transcendent divine power communicated through the caster via faith to manipulate the four elements and the three energies in whatever manner is necessary to produce the desire result.

Druidic: Druidic magic relies on Chi, the life energy, to manipulate the four elements and the other two energies (Positive and Negative). Druids use both their own Chi, as well as the Chi is found coursing through all living things, to power their spells.

Monastic: Monks use their own Chi to in order to create their superhuman skills. This is mainly done through the manipulation of the four elements present within their own bodies.

Elementals
Elementals are magical creatures that exist on the plane of Aarde (the plane in which Montporte is located), being a combination of one element in its pure form and Chi, the life energy. Elementals can be created via spells as well as through alchemical mechanics. They also can come into being when pools of pure element is in the presence of Chi or magical activity.

There are rumors among mages of the existence of other elementals created by elemental combination with Positive energy or, more ominously, Negative energy.

Beyond the Elements
Scholars have debated whether or not the four elements can be subdivided further into smaller constituent components, similar to our own universe's subatomic particles. What materials lie beyond the four elements is unknown as current magic is unable to split apart or breakdown the material world beyond the basic elements of Air, Earth, Fire, and Water.

8/16/13

Why I Blog

First off, I am really not sure why I blog. So feel free to stop reading at this point. However, lack of content has never held back before and it shall not do so now.

I mainly blog for the social aspect of it. My initial connection with our Monday Night Gaming Group came to me via blogging; in the person of +Tim Shorts (Gothridge Manor). Yet, despite the social focus, I am content with blogging to a small audience (this usually includes my wife, one or more of our cats, and my Mom...she is so proud to see where my two graduate degrees have led me).

I don't have products to sell, a soapbox from which to preach, nor an axe to grind. For me, it is mostly about  the joy of gaming, the social connections, the laughing with friends while at the gametable, the creativity, and the stress relief. Blogging is merely an extension of those things.

More recently, I have found it useful to use my blog to post campaign information as I GM. Our Monday Night Gaming Group connects via Skype and some sort of virtual gametable (either Fantasy Grounds II or Roll20). It can be difficult to keep track of campaign information, so the blog comes in handy as I can send them links during gaming sessions rather than files.

This is my second go around with RPG blogging. I don't know that this second attempt is a whole lot different than the first, except that I am taking it less seriously. At heart, I am a casual gamer. I don't lose sleep over D&D Next, ascending versus descending armor classes, Kickstarters, a cinematic versus realistic approach to GURPS, or whose posted what on the various RPG boards. I just like to roll dice on occasion, laugh with friends, and blog about it.

8/15/13

Montporte Dungeon Campaign Session 12 Notes

The Cast
Adzeer Mattiu, Hunter of the First Circle (Half Orc, 3 Lvl Hunter): Tim (Gothridge Manor)
Dante Rathburn (Human, 3 Lvl Warlock): Chris (The Clash of Spear on Shield)
Luven Lightfinger (Human, 2 Lvl Thief): Rob (Bat in the Attic)
Larramore “Little Larry” (Kobold, 2 Lvl Marksman): NPC
Ansarkhan ("Mushroom Man", 2 Lvl Fighter): NPC
Diana (Human, Torch Bearer, Goat Driver): NPC
3 cave goats
Map A: Level 1 (1 square = 5 feet)
The Session
At the end of the last session (Session 11), the brave adventurers had decided to bed down for the night in Room 1 (Map A above). They were exploring an abandoned mining area and had moved into Room 1 from the south.

During the second watch of the night, Luven heard muffled voices coming from the corridor in the northwest corner of Room 1. Initially, he tried to hide in the shadows but Dante then heard the same voices and quietly woke the rest of the party.

Luven decided to scout ahead and moved north in the corridor between Areas 2 & 3. The voices were a bit louder but were echoing from a source further north. Luven used the faint glow of a magic dagger as a light source and discovered four skulls on the floor. Two (an orc skull and a kobold skull) had been placed on the floor in Area 2, facing east. Two more kobold skulls were placed on the floor in Area 3, facing west. Curious, and a bit dim, Luven lost track of the voices and began poking his fingers into the empty eye sockets of the skulls.

He heard more voices, but still nothing more than low mumbles, coming from both east and west. The voices from the west were a bit louder, so Luven moved past Area 2 and met up with some tall gaunt bug-eyed humanoids wielding halberds in Room 4 (Map A above). Each humanoid was about 7' tall, with one in plate mail and the rest unarmored, except for shields. One of the unarmored guys blocked Luven's path into Room 4 and attacked.

Luven attempted to enter the room and found himself fending off his initial attacker and the guy in plate mail, which turned out to be a really bad thing for Luven. In the meantime, Dante moved up the corridor past Area 2 and Adzeer and Little Larry moved towards Area 3, but never quite made it there. His path was cut off by a human-sized guy in a black cloak and hood. He was unarmed. Behind him were two more of the 7' tall halberd guys. Adzeer was familiar with their type from an previous encounter (Session 7).

The battle turned into a two front war and it was not going well for the brave adventurers. Luven went down, mortally wounded. Dante, Adzeer, and Little Larry were unable to strike their respective foes.

Ansarkhan, trapped behind everyone because of the narrow corridors, worked his way over to Dante and the tide began to turn. Adzeer and Little Larry were engaged in a bit of stalemate due to the narrow passage, but Dante and Ansarkhan took out two 7' gaunt guys. They were just in time, too, as the plate mail guy had scooped up the limp body of Luven and was scurrying off to the north, towards Area 5 (Map A above). Dante unleashed a sleep spell and rescued Luven--or at least Luven's body--just before the armored guy made his getaway.

In the meantime, Little Larry and Adzeer killed the hooded guy without being touched by him (the hooded guy was trying to touch Adzeer with his bare hand). Adzeer and Little Larry also killed one of the gaunt guys, forcing the second one to flee to the northeast. Adzeer followed him into Room 6 (Map A above) and dispatched him.

Dante forced a healing potion down Luven's throat and the magic had a mighty effect, restoring him to consciousness. Luven wasted no time cutting the throat of the plate mail guy and the battle was over.

The characters thoroughly searched the bodies and the room, turning up a bit of treasure and two more skulls (facing west) in Area 7. They then descended down the staircase they had found in Area 5.
Map B: Level 2?? (1 square = 5 feet)
The adventurers descended the long staircase from Area 5 (Map A above) to Area 8 (Map B above). The vertical drop was about 100', similar in vertical distance to their descent down a different staircase in Session 9.

The characters found themselves in large irregular empty room, with plenty of rock dust on the floor, much like the abandoned mining area they had just left behind on Level 1. There was a corridor heading north and one heading south. The most curious feature of the room were the two parallel bands of golden metal running east to west out of narrow tunnels and across the southern half of the room (Area 9 on Map B above). Each band was thick, almost like a construction beam, and they were supported from underneath by a series of similar but shorter pieces of golden metal running perpendicular to the longer pieces of metal. Luven poked and prodded at the metal, but was unable to identify it beyond determining that it was not gold.

The party opened the door into Room 10 and discovered another "restroom," much like they had found on Level 1. Luven made use of the facilities before Dante had a chance to search the bowls under the seats for treasure. No subsequent search was conducted and the party quickly left the area via the southern corridor.

Luven failed to find a crude spear trap securing the door into Room 11, but was able to dodge out of the way, letting the spear clatter to the ground before it skewered anyone. Room 11 was empty.

The party then moved to Room 12 (Map B above) and discovered a 7' tall guy with a halberd guarding four hunched-over naked humanoids. The naked humanoids were chained together tending to a 4' tall mushrooms, planted in uneven rows in the room. Luven, using his magic throwing knives, killed the tall gaunt guy before he had a chance to defend himself. The naked humanoids cowered in the corners as the party search the corpse and the room. The party noticed that the chained humanoids were similar to the ones they encountered in Session 7. Allindrihl, the elf, had given them more information about these various humanoids during Session 10.

The party then moved into Room 13 (Map B above) and found it empty, save for another mushroom garden. Room 14 proved to be similarly planted with mushrooms, but otherwise empty.

The party moved south into Room 15 (Map B above). This room had a total of 5 steel doors leading out of it, including the door used by the party to enter the room. It also had a spiral staircase that headed up. Looking up the staircase, the party could see that it was blocked with webs. Unlike the previous few rooms, Room 15 had a finished floor and walls. There was also less rock dust on the floor.

This is where the session ended for the night.

The Dungeon Explored So Far
Level 1
Part of Level 2?
Another part of Level 2?

8/14/13

GURPS Newbie Post: Our Next GURPS Campaign

It looks like our Monday Night Gaming Group will so be starting another GURPS campaign. We recently finished an awesome GURPS campaign in Rob Conley's (Bat in the Attic) Majestic Wildlerlands setting (with Rob as GM). Dan, who is currently appearing in my Montporte Dungeon Campaign as Duncan Kern (the Benny Hill of the gnome world), will be GM. According to Dan, his GURPS campaign with be high fantasy, using 150 point characters. I am not sure what my character will be, maybe a mage or maybe an archer or maybe a mage archer or maybe viking cleric (similar to  Belafore, the cleric I played in a recent GURPS one shot). Or maybe something completely different (but not an elf).

Until we begin Dan's campaign, my Montporte Dungeon Campaign has moved from second string to starter in our Monday Night Gaming Group. While I am enjoying GMing every week, I am anxious to start Dan's campaign and move the Montporte Dungeon back to the bench.

8/13/13

Megadungeon Hall of Fame Post: "Minimal Dungeon"

I like the posts that give me a lot to think about without trying to tell me what to think. Rob Conley (Bat in the Attic) has an excellent dungeon think-piece in his post, Minimal Dungeons. In this post, he describes an approach to dungeon preparation that focuses on play rather than on the time consuming process of create detailed notes and descriptions.

Nice job, Rob, and welcome to the Megadungeon Hall of Fame. Why do more preparation when you can do less? 

8/12/13

Monday Moodsetter 23

RPG Rorschach: What is the first gaming thought that pops into your head?

8/10/13

Montporte Cosmology: Source Bibliography (The Appendix N)

I am not sure that the cosmology of the Montporte Dungeon campaign is particularly creative or unique. However, my sources of inspiration and influences might strike you as being a bit off the beaten path.

The Montporte Cosmological Appendix N
Baker, Keith, et. al.: Eberron Campaign Setting (Dungeons & Dragons 3.5)--I am not too proud to put this on the list. I do like the treatment of the planes in the Eberron setting, at least for 3.5e.

Butcher, Jim: "The Dresden Files"--I lifted my approach to the Fey from Butcher. Anyone can plainly see that fact. Demons, too, for that matter.

Copleston, Frederick: A History of Philosophy, Volume 1: Greece and Rome From the Pre-Socratics to Plotinus--I borrowed a bit from either end of the time frame represented in this book, the Pre-Socratics and Plotinus. 

de Lint, Charles: "Newford Series"--A loosely connected series of urban fantasy novels and short stories that rely heavily on Celtic and Native American myths. De Lint is one of my favorite authors.

Dent, Greg: Oathbound: Domains of the Forge (D20)--This detailed setting for D&D 3.5e gave me all sorts of ideas.

Elert, Werner: The Structure of Lutheranism--I know this is a strange edition to the list, but Elert was a deep thinker and his reflection on the nature of the Creator, the creation, time and eternity is very profound and thought-provoking, even if one has a different view or belief. This is not for the faint of heart, however.

Greene, Brian:  The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality and The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory--I am a big fan of Brian Greene. Check out his TED Talks: "Making Sense of String Theory" and "Is Our Universe the Only Universe?" He makes physics almost comprehensible. 

Grossman, Lev: The Magicians and The Magician King--Sort of a Narnia for slackers and hipsters. I like his travel between worlds and I have borrowed some specific things from him. The players in the Montporte Campaign should disregard this entry on the list and pretend they didn't read this.

Jung, Karl: The Red Book (plus other works)--Just in case anyone wonders where the funky metal trees originated.

Koyre, Alexandre: From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe--This book is even more fun than the title might hint at. I read most of it in one sitting while eating meatloaf at a diner on Amsterdam Avenue in NYC. That seems about right.

Le Guin, Ursula: "Earthsea"--Ursusa Le Guin's Earthea books have probably had a greater impact than any other books over the course of my gaming life. 

Moorcock, Michael: "Elric of Melniboné," "The Swords Trilogy"--Like the gamers before and after me, Moorcock is a major inspiration. However, as much as I love the Elric series, I have an even bigger crush on the "The Swords Trilogy," featuring Corum Jhaelen Irsei.

Pratchett, Terry: Small Gods and the rest of the "Discworld" novels--Small Gods is my favorite Discworld novel and its approach to the gods have crept into my cosmology.

Rahner, Karl: Foundations of Christian Faith--This is heavy lifting. Rahner had a major theological impact on the Council of Vatican II and this book gives a hint as to the power of his intellect.

Suzuki, Shunryu: Zen Mind, Beginners Mind--I am not sure if I can explain how this book impacted my approach to gaming, but it has in some surprisingly profound ways.

Zelazny, Roger: "The Chronicles of Amber"--An awesome fantasy series with a cool approach to the universe and its multiple worlds. Thanks to Tim Shorts (Gothridge Manor) for recommending Zelanzy to me.

8/9/13

Montporte Cosmological Notes: On The Planes

I recently posted a short description of the cosmology of Montporte Dungeon Campaign. In today's post, I’ll give a bit more detail about the Five Planes. I may also do some posts on the individual planes at a later date, but don’t hold me to that.

The average inhabitant of Montporte would have very little knowledge of the planes. Even this scant knowledge is corrupted by ignorance, superstitions, and just plain inaccurate information. Humans, in particular, display very little knowledge of or interest in the planes. Elves and dwarves, being the Elder Races of Aarde, know the most. Gnomes and halflings fall somewhere in the middle.

The Five Planes
The known universe, in which the Montporte Dungeon exists, contains five planes. They are:
  • Aarde: The plane where humans and their ilk dwell.
  • Ioucura: The plane of madness.
  • Syvyys: The plane of demons.
  • Umírající: The plane of the fey.
  • Zaj: The plane of dragons.
The spatial relationship of the planes has been speculated on by many scholars and mages over the years, but the reality is that no one really understands where one plane is in regards to any of the other four. No one even knows if there is space or matter or even existence in between the planes. Despite this lack of knowledge, scholars do generally agree that Aarde lies in the middle of the other four planes.

The planes do appear to “move” in some way, at least in relationship to each other. There are times when each plane seems somehow to be "closer" to Aarde and other times when each plane seems "further away." Syvvys is the one exception to this, as it always appears at the same “distance” from Aarde. Umírající and Zaj “move” in a regularly cyclical pattern in relationship to Aarde. Umírající is typically the “closest” to Aarde, except when Ioucura pops up right nearby Aarde.  Ioucura’s “movement” is completely random. The “proximity” of one plane to another greatly influences the ease or difficulty of travel between them.

The Plane of Aarde
The plane of Aarde lies at the heart of the known universe. In Aarde is the home of human cities, the elven dales, and the dwarven mountain strongholds. Montporte and its environs are part of Aarde. For the player characters, Aarde is home.

Aarde features a wider diversity of life and lifeforms than the other four planes combined. All manner of creature, mundane and magical, can be found here. Among the humanoid races, the elves and dwarves, hold a special place as the Elder races. Humans, gnomes, and halflings have been around for less time. Love them or hate them, humans are the dominate race. They bring a dynamism that is unique to them, because or in spite of their shorter life span.

Travel from Aarde to the other planes is impossible without the use of rare and powerful magic. Despite the challenge, denizens from the other planes do find their way to Aarde on occasion. Summoning spells, magical gateways, and dreams (in the case of Ioucura) are all ways that “outsiders,” as non-Aardian creatures all called, end up in Aarde.

There are areas in Aarde where the fabric of existence has been stretched thin. In these areas, travel to and from Aarde happens more frequently—sometimes on purpose and sometimes not. Mountain building (orogeny), the persistent presence of powerful magic, the close proximity to large bodies of waters, and even lightning can stretch the fabric that is Aarde.

The Montporte Dungeon lies in the foothills of the Dragonfang Mountains, the largest, highest and oldest mountain range of Aarde. Historically, the Montporte area has been the site of countless acts of magic, great and small. While travel between planes is always next to impossible, few areas of Aarde offer easier access from other planes as does the Montporte area.

The Plane of Ioucura
Ioucura is the plane of nightmares and madness. It is the plane of chaos, entropy and unmaking. The distance between Aarde and Ioucura is occasionally bridged when mortals of Aarde are sleeping, through bizarre dreams and nightmares. Insanity also creates a path from Ioucura.

Unspeakable horrors of the worst sort do, on occasion, cross over into Aarde and are made manifest in the flesh in the form of magical aberrations.

The Plane of Syvyys
Demons dwell on the plane of Syvyys but seek every occasion to make their way to Aarde, as they feed off of the life energies of mortals. Elves are immune to this demon feeding and have earned the special enmity of demonkind.

Demons fall into one of three groups: Lesser, greater, and lords. Each demon is unique and even the lesser demons are incredibly powerful, violent, and cruel. Any semblance of order that exists in Syvyss is there only through the threat and use of violence.

Each demon has a true name, known only to itself. Knowing a demon's name gives one power over that demon, although the demon will seek every opportunity to kill any being that knows its name.

The Plane of Umírající
Umírající is the plane of fey creatures and it is a plane filled with natural beauty. Yet, just below that beauty lies danger and death. The creatures of Umírající are divided into three camps: The Summer Court, the Winter Court, and the Wild Ones.

The Summer and Winter Courts are made up of nobility, with each noble being unique and extremely powerful. Each Court also has a vast array of folk and creatures who live under the rule of the respective Courts and are there to serve and obey the nobility.

The Wild Ones do not owe loyalty to either Court. They include:
  • The Hunters--A few very powerful and unique beings that seek to hunt and owe no allegiance to anyone but the Hunt. 
  • The Pack--The minions of the hunt who join in on larger hunts, but otherwise go their own way. 
  • The Beasts--Unintelligent magical and mundane creatures that live in the forests, mountains, lakes, and rivers of Umírající. 
  • The Loners--Powerful and unique creatures who live on their own, without regard to Courts or the Hunt.
Umírající is the most hospitable plane for those from Aarde, but it is still treacherous, even for the powerful and wary. Likewise, Aarde is visited more by the fey than any other outsiders.

The Plane of Zaj
Zaj is a mysterious place and nothing is known of the plane itself. It is inhabited by dragons, perhaps the most powerful of all creatures in the five planes. Each dragon is said to have the power of 10 wizards and can breath fire enough to melt the very roots of the mountains.

Dragons are not cruel and do not delight in the suffering of other creatures. Yet, at the same time, they have very little regard for anyone other than themselves. They are known to visit Aarde on occasion. Sometimes it is to seek knowledge, for they have an unquenchable thirst to study and know every aspect of the universe. They also are notorious hoarders and will travel about, accumulating great piles of treasure.  

Other Planes and Universes
Scholars and sages have speculated about the existence of other planes and even universes beyond the Five Planes. If there is any concrete evidence or information regarding such things, however, it has not been recorded.

8/8/13

Free Stuff: "The Ancient Academy"

I like free stuff for cheap. I also like one-page dungeons. So when there is a one-page dungeon for free, I am a happy little doggie. I just downloaded The Ancient Academy, a free one-page dungeon PDF from Robertson Games, after seeing it mentioned in a post on Dark Corners of Role Playing.

What I like about The Ancient Academy is that it presents a nice challenge to low-level characters--combat, exploration, and role-playing--yet the dungeon is generic enough that you can drop it almost anywhere in almost any campaign setting. Here is the back story and location information: 4 Leagues from the village of Thorn, the ruins of a monastery sit atop a rocky hill. Inside the last intact building is a staircase to the dark dungeon below. Very short and sweet. Just add water and heat for 10 minutes.

It is also system neutral, so you can use it with any early D&D edition or retroclone. You could also use it for GURPS DF or Pathfinder without modification (although you would have to add some ruleset specific information).

8/7/13

Montporte Dungeon Campaign Session 11 Notes

The Cast
Adzeer Mattiu, Hunter of the First Circle (Half Orc, 2 Lvl Hunter): Tim (Gothridge Manor)
Duncan Kern (Gnome, 2 Lvl Wizard/Thief): Dan
Dante Rathburn (Human, 2 Lvl Warlock): Chris (The Clash of Spear on Shield)
Luven Lightfinger (Human, 1 Lvl Thief): Rob (Bat in the Attic)
Larramore “Little Larry” (Kobold, 2 Lvl Marksman): NPC
Ansarkhan ("Mushroom Man"): NPC
Diana (Human, Torch Bearer, Goat Driver): NPC
3 cave goats
Map A (1 square = 5 feet)
The Session
The last session ended with the party exploring the eastern end of the first level. Allindrihil the elf had told them of a treasure hidden in a secret room beyond the dwarven temple. They would find it to the east on Level 1 of the dungeon.

The characters started off the session in Room 1 (Map A above), which appeared to be a dwarven bunk room. The door on the northernmost section of the east wall was a highly polished and well-preserved oak door. It had dwarven writing on it, which Duncan was able to translate: Let us lift pure hearts to the gods of our fathers. Duncan also discovered a magic trap in the door and disarmed it...the door was set to discourage exploration beyond it by shooting out flames (Burning Hands).

The party moved into a narrow room, lined with elegantly polished marble (Room 2 on Map A). They checked for secret doors and finding none, moved into Room 3. Room 3 was also lined with polished marble on the floor, walls and ceiling. Every member of the adventuring party felt a deep overwhelming sadness upon entering the room. At the southern end of the room there was a small font on a pedestal. There were also two sconces on the wall for torches; one on either side of the marble basin. The room was littered with bones, mostly piled along the edges of the room. Upon further investigation, they proved to be dwarf and gnome bones. They had been disturbed and moved around the room, but even the passage of time and the movement of the remains by subsequent visitors could not hide the violence suffered by the bones' original owners.

The party examined the basin and sconces, seeking secret compartments, a trigger for a secret door, or some other hidden feature that might give them access to the treasure they were seeking. Duncan decided to check out the walls. Using the finder's glass, he was able to locate a secret door in the southeast corner of Room 3 that allowed access to Room 4 via a narrow corridor.

The adventurers were thrilled to see an unguarded chest lying in the middle of the floor in Room 4. Their excitement waned upon discovering their way to the chest blocked by a shimmering transparent barrier at the entrance of the room. The shimmering was barely visible, but it did have a blue hue. This barrier defied all manner of pushing, poking, probing and even a few hurled weapons. While all of this was going on, Luven was still in Room 3 and he decided to pour water into the marble basin. As he did so, the barrier took on a bit of a reddish tint. Thus encouraged, Luven placed a torch in each of the two sconces and lit them. The barrier turned blood red.

Luven took the color change as a hint to drip some blood into the water-filled basin. The barrier dissipated as soon as the first drop of Luven's blood fell into the water. With the barrier gone, Adzeer and Duncan charged forward into Room 4. Their path to the chest was blocked by a dwarf made of stone, who suddenly appeared.

Adzeer was forced to engage the stone dwarf in melee combat while Duncan, Little Larry, and Luven made some wild attempts to use ranged weapons over, under, and around Adzeer. Duncan did a diving roll past Adzeer and the stone dwarf. The stone dwarf, heavy and slow of foot, was unable to impede Duncan as the gnome tumbled past him. The next round, Duncan attacked from behind with Ommar's Dancing Dagger. Duncan was struck by an errant arrow from Little Larry and he decided to hunker down and open the chest while the dancing dagger did the attacking on its own.

Despite accidentally tossing his magic mace to the other end of the corridor, Adzeer was able to destroy the stone dwarf. A few lucky tossed daggers from Luven, who removed both of the dwarf's ears, helped the process. As the battle was winding down, Duncan opened the chest.He paid for his success by taking a magic missile in the chest. So there was a trap in the chest after all.

The chest was bigger on the inside than on the outside. It turned out to be a chest of holding. It contained gold bars, silver bars, gems, a magic battle axe, magic armor, a magic shield, a magic cloak, a bandolier of magic throwing knives, and a magic lantern. It also contained two small spellbooks and a scroll. The party had a party, as they gleefully divided up their booty.

The scroll was written in the dwarven tongue. Duncan was able to translate and it turned out to be a letter requesting help. A civil war had erupted between the humans living in the dungeon complex. The dwarves and gnomes living with them were caught in the crossfire and feared for their safety. The gnomes and dwarves who could fight prepared to make their last stand. The rest of the dwarves--the very young and very old--hid to the north, among the land of the dwarven dead. They took with them the most precious heirlooms of the dwarves. The non-combatant gnomes fled to the east, into their subterranean gardens and maybe beyond.

Armed with new weapons and new information, the adventurers decided to go north, spurred on by the thought of more dwarven treasure.

The party moved back to Room 5 (Map A above) then through Room 6 to Room 7. As they went, they noticed that the corridors had more rock dust and there were wheel ruts worn into the thick dust. Room 7 contained a narrow spiral staircase heading down. Luven looked down the steps and, at the edge of his vision, saw the stairwell blocked by a thick mass of webs. The party opted to move north through door rather than down via the stairs.

Duncan checked for traps at the door leading north out of Room 7. No traps, at least none he could find. When he listened at the door, he hear the light pattering of feet running away.

The party cautiously moved into Room 8 (Map A above). Adzeer could see fresh kobold footprints in the thick rock dust, heading due north out of the room. The party moved cautiously and started to explore the narrow corridors beyond Room 8. As they began to look around, it was clear to the party that this area had been a mine. It was not clear as to what was being mined, however.

They continued to move north and the mine opened up into a large irregular space. Two small black kobold arrows whizzed past them, just as they were moving through Area 9 (Map A above). They quickly moved towards Area 10, but saw nothing and decided to retreat, lest they get ambushed.

They continued north until they arrived in Room 11 (Map A above). They decided to set up camp, rest, and recover. This is where our session ended.

Level 1 So Far
Map B (1 square = 5 feet)

8/6/13

Treasures in the Mailbox

So I have not been buying much in the way of gaming stuff. Oddly enough, I don't buy much while I am in the middle of GMing a campaign. I also bought a bass guitar a few months ago and that seriously deleted my fun money account. However, I did get Tim's (Gothridge Manor) latest volume of The Manor. The Manor #4 is the best one yet, although I admit to being biased as I have a few critters published within. The monster cards are a nice touch.

I also ordered GURPS Mysteries (4th Edition) and it arrived today. I haven't had a chance to look through it yet, as we had our Monday Night Gaming Group session tonight, but I plan on starting my reading during my morning smoothie. I have heard good things about this book but it is out of print (still available in PDF). I have been keeping an eye out for a used copy on Amazon, but the price had been hovering around $50. I managed to score a copy for $17.00. Happy I am. There are still some copies available on Amazon for the same price. I am not sure why the price bounces around so much..maybe a group of speculators creating havoc in the market?

I also received some gaming goodness from my wife for Father's Day back in June. I finally have the hardcopy of The Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies. My wife and I talked about playing but we have not made any definite plans yet. I have not tried out the PDQ system (or, in this case, PDQ Sharp), but I am intrigued by it. Plus, the setting is awesome...it easily lands in my top 3 settings of all time. Thanks, Deb!!

8/4/13

Montporte Maps--After 10 Sessions

Back in April, I posted the Montporte Dungeon player map after five sessions of play. Our sessions are typically 2-3 hours, so exploration can be a rather slow process. In today's post, I am posting the Montporte Dungeon player maps after ten sessions of play. Here is the key to the maps in today's post:
  • A = Ladder from Level 1 to a sub-level
  • B = Ladder from Level 1 to a sub-level
  • C = Unexplored corridors and rooms
  • D = Unopened doors with unexplored area beyond
  • E = Exit to surface
  • P = Current location of the Player Characters

Level 1 (1 square = 5 feet)
Level 1 Sub-Level
Level 2?? (1 square = 5 feet)