Monday Moodsetter 75

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


Spammed--Word Verification Becomes a Necessity

So after watching my blog get spammed in the Comment section (I lost count at 15 today), I had to turn on the Word Verification. Bummer.


Mail Call

It seems like ages since I have purchased gaming stuff. I did get the 3 core rule books to D&D 5e, but nothing since then. My hard copy of Pits & Perils arrived on Wednesday, just in time for me to run a Pits & Perils game on Wednesday night. I actually didn't the rules for last Wednesday's session, but I will need them now. Having participated now in 4 sessions of Pits & Perils (3 as a player, one as a referee), I can say that I love the game. It is also working very well for our round robin GMing pilot program.

Hard on the heels of this purchase, I will be ordering a print version of Bloody Basic. I think I have settled on Bloody Basic as my rule set for my next Montporte Dungeon campaign.


Pits & Perils Session 4: Murder at Crossing Church

We had Session 4 of our Pits & Perils Round Robin on Wednesday night (Sep 23, 2015), with me running the game as referee (my first session as ref in our round robin). +Tim Shorts posted an excellent summary, so no sense in being redundant.

I wanted to run a short mystery adventure. Mysteries can be tricky to run, particular when the focus of the rule set is combat and spells. I ran The Melford Murder several years ago, a Dragonsfoot adventure module written by Stuart Marshall that I used in a Castles & Crusades campaign. Not we have blast playing it, I also gained some valuable experience in running a mystery adventure. Playing The Esoterrorists, a GUMSHOE-based game, was also a huge help.

It is actually easier to run a mystery adventure with a simple non-mystery rule set, like Pits & Perils, than it is with a more complex game, like D&D 5e. The characters have few abilities to provide an unwanted shortcut, so the players are forced to strategize and discover solutions.

I will post more once we have finished with this part of our round robin. I can't really say much about how I am doing it without tipping my hand about the mystery itself.


Monday Moodsetter 74

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


Pits & Perils Prep 2

I finished my overview map of the area. I haven't figured out the exact scale, but I am thinking that each hex is like a half of a mile. It is a small area. At first glance, it appears densely settled, but there is only one village, Twiggleton, with a population of about 150 (the solid circle). The other settlements on the map are very small agricultural hamlets of 10-40 people. Few people live outside of these settlements, as the area is surrounded by danger on all sides.

The road leading south from Darkness Bottom, the Ravensburg Pike, connects this area with the area that was the setting for our first three Pits & Perils sessions (run by +Chris C.).

Visual Tour
Here are some pictures that capture how I envision the area on the map (complimentary tour by Google):
Hill top ruins (ignore the fence, etc)
Imperial fortress ruins
The valley
A hamlet
Another hamlet
St. Amber Parish church at Crossing Church (ignore the modern stuff)


Pits & Perils Prep 1

I started preparation for running Pits & Perils with +Tim Shorts and +Chris C., now that it is my turn to run a few sessions. I decided that it would be too difficult to run a 3-4 session campaign with the Montporte Dungeon, so I am opting to create a small setting that I can also use if my wife and I decide to follow-through on our recent gaming discussion.

I have a rough draft of my map (above) but I will use a small area with Tim and Chris, so I will only detail a few areas. I also have my hooks ready...just need to add detail there as well.


Five for Friday 37: Another World War 2 Reading List

Not that long ago, my history reading was focused on WW2 memoirs. The latest batch of books, however, are more eclectic. Here is my latest WW2 reading, in alphabetical order:

  • Attack & Sink: The Battle for SC42 by Bernard Edwards: While it is not a memoir, this is one of those small, up close kind of books that I love. Edwards tells the story of SC42 (Slow Convoy), a large convoy of slow rickety ships traveling from North America to Great Britain. He also ably tells the story of the U-Boats hunting SC42.
  • The Battle of the Atlantic by Andrew Williams: A companion book to the History Channel's series of the same name. A short and simple summary of the Battle of the Atlantic, seasoned with some first person stories.
  • Islands of Destiny: The Solomons Campaign and the Eclipse of the Rising Sun by John Prados: A detailed book that provides lots of background, context, and strategic analysis. Prados balances this by artfully including plenty of first-person narrative that conveys the horror and heroism of the campaign.
  • Stalin's Folly: The Tragic First Ten Days of World War 2 on the Eastern Front by Constantine Pleshakov: An analysis of Stalin's failures in 1941 at the start of the war on the Eastern Front.
  • Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45 by Barbara Tuchman: Tuchman is one of my favorite historians and this book, a Pulitzer Prize winner, is one of her best. Tuchman builds her history of Sino-American relations, particularly during the WW2 era, around Stilwell's biography. No one comes off looking heroic in the Chinese Theater. The U.S., China, Great Britain, and Japan all come off looking bad.

Additional World War 2 Book posts:
My Favorite World War 2 Books
My Latest World War 2 Reads
More World War 2 Books
Even More World War 2 Books
Yet More World War 2 Books
A Stack of World War 2 Books
World War 2 Memoirs


In-House Campaign: Anglo-Saxon England, Merrily Watkins, and Pits & Perils

Several years ago we had a Castles & Crusades campaign that involved my wife, my then-teen daughter (the family's most serious gamer), a friend, and the friend's two then-teen sons. It was a blast but came to end when the kids went off to college. Since then, my wife and I have occasionally talked about getting back to gaming as a couple. Nothing came of those conversations... we could not decide if it would just be the two of us or if we would invite others. We also were not sure what we want to play, although we had lots of ideas. One of those ideas was to base something on Anglo-Saxon England. We never did do anything with it. Until now.

Tonight, we were out for dinner and we talked again about gaming. We decided that Pits & Perils would be the ideal rule set for us. We both agreed that a setting based on Anglo-Saxon England would work well. The conversation drifted to other topics and my wife told me that one of her favorite authors, Phil Rickman, is going to have his Merrily Watkins novels made into a British television mini-series (actually, the series has been recorded already and will be released soon).

Phil Rickman describes Merrily Watkins in this way: Merrily Watkins has what is very much a night job. She’s Deliverance Consultant or Advisor on the Paranormal for the Diocese of Hereford. Or Exorcist, as it used to be known. It’s a real job; there’s at least one in every diocese in the UK. They work with psychiatrists, social workers… and also the police. Inevitably, in this series, this is the aspect of the job that predominates. The Merrily Watkins series is set in modern Great Britain and we wouldn't try to duplicate the setting or the characters, just the focus and style of play.

Our game would look something like this:
  • Rules: Pits & Perils, plus an infusion of GUMSHOE (maybe just a simple allocation of investigation points to used)
  • Inspiration From History: Anglo-Saxon England
  • Inspiration From Literature: Phil Rickman's Merrily Watkins novels
  • Focal Points: Mystery, folklore, religion, and the supernatural


The OSR and My Horrifying Lack of Products

"The OSR is less about the rules and more about the products you use those rules with."--Tenkar's Tavern post, ENWorld Article - Is the OSR Dead?

Given the empty space on my single gaming shelf and my almost complete lack of use of purchased gaming products when I am GMing, it appears that I am somehow aberrant. Does this lack on my part exclude me from the OSR? If one takes Tenkar's ad hoc definition of the OSR to an illogical extreme, then yes. It is a good thing that stuff like this causes no loss of sleep on my part.

I am not going to quibble with Tenkar's definition because I think it is captures where the OSR is today. It is interesting that the focus of the self-identified OSR has shifted not-so-subtly from "process" to "product." It seems we have gone from rulings, not rules to products, not rules. Certainly there has been a desire from the beginning by many to create OGL-based rule sets that would, in turn, serve as platforms for other published products. 

I have good friends who are avid producers and consumers of gaming products. I am happy for them and excited to watch them benefit from their creativity and hard work. Technology has provided marketing and distribution solutions for both producers and consumers. Oddly enough, instead of jumping in myself, I find myself becoming almost Amish in my approach to gaming. No fancy cars or electricity for me.The more there is out there, the less I want it. I have purchased only those items (mainly rule sets) that I knew I would have to use for gaming sessions. But that has been it during this past year. No Kickstarters. No Patreon. No adventures or supplements. 

The funny thing is that I buy far too many books. I have thousands of them. Despite this, I am always buying more of them (mostly cheap used ones through Amazon). With music, I am both a consumer and a producer. I make money playing music but it just results in more musical instruments in our house. But when it comes to gaming, I just need my dice and a pencil. 


Khoshu'utohtl (Aberration)--Montporte Dungeon Campaign Critter

Artist: Little Larry the Kobold
Armor Class: 7 [12]
Hit Dice: 10
Attacks: 6 Eye Stalks (1d4 each)
Saving Throw: 5
Special: Modified Wizard Eye; Insanity
Move: 3
Challenge Level/XP: 11/1,700

The Khoshu'utohtl are aberrations from Ioucura, the plane of madness. The Khoshu'utohtl are of low intelligence. Like other aberrations from Ioucura, the Khoshu'utohtl possesses a demented logic and worldview that defies comprehensive by intelligent non-Ioucurans.

The Khoshu'utohtl have round bodies that are about 4' in diameter. They have six eye stalks that extend upward from their bodies. Their skin is mottled gray that slowly moves in swirling patterns.

COMBAT: The Khoshu'utohtl avoid combat when possible, for they are slow moving and vulnerable to physical attacks. When cornered or otherwise forced to defend themselves, the Khoshu'utohtl attack their opponents by bludgeoning their opponents with their eye stalks.

MODIFIED WIZARD EYE: Wizards have long prized having a Khoshu'utohtl in their possession for any intelligent humanoid creature can place both hands on the body of a Khoshu'utohtl and see through all six of the creature's eyes at once. More impressively, up to 4 eyes can be removed from the Khoshu'utohtl's eye stalks at one time and be place in locations up to one mile distant from the Khoshu'utohtl. An person placing both hands on the Khoshu'utohtl can see through these distant eyes. Khoshu'utohtl eyes can be placed in water or in the air, where it will remain floating at the level in which it was placed until retrieved.

INSANITY: Any creature using the modified wizard eye ability of the Khoshu'utohtl runs the risk of insanity. For every hour spent using the modified wizard eye ability, the user must make a saving throw. Each saving throw becomes more difficult. The first saving throw has a modifier of -1, the second a modifier of -2, and so on. When a creature fails to make this save, she or he can no longer detach themselves from the Khoshu'utohtl due to an obsession with the Khoshu'utohtl. They cannot be pulled away by others. Only a Remove Curse will separate the insane creature from the Khoshu'utohtl. The insanity, however, remains and must be cured by a Cure Disease spell.


Unicorn Tortoise--Montporte Dungeon Campaign Critter

Armor Class: 1 [18]
Hit Dice: 2
Attacks: 1 Horn (1d6)
Saving Throw: 16
Special: Charge
Move: 16
Challenge Level/XP: 2/30

Unicorn tortoises are magical creatures that make their homes in deep temperate forests, caves, and the upper levels of abandoned ruins. They are about 2' tall, 3 1/2' long and weigh 180-300 pounds. They are gray in color with two narrow purple strips down the top of the shell.

Unicorn tortoises graze upon all manner of plants and fungi. They are prized as a source of food and their shell has many uses. Unicorn tortoises are surprisingly challenging prey as their magical nature gives them an unnaturally high movement rate.

COMBAT: Unicorn tortoises are not aggressive, preferring to use their speed to escape predators. If cornered or otherwise forced to defend itself, they will seek to charge their opponents where possible, using their speed and mass. While of animal intelligence, they attempt to fight as a herd, by singling out opponents for mass attacks.

CHARGE: Unicorn tortoises can charge, where time and space allow, gaining a +2 bonus to attack and damage, due to their magically-enhanced speed and agility. A bipedal opponent weighing the same or less than than the unicorn tortoise, must make a successful saving throw when struck by a charge or else they will be knocked down.

Note: This creature was originally created by James Raggi's Random Esoteric Creature Generator for Classic Fantasy Role-Playing Games and their Modern Simulacra, although it has gone through several iterations since.


Session 2: A Weekend at Fenric's (Pits & Perils)

In Our Previous Session (Session 1)
The summary of our first session of Pits & Perils:
  • We entered the little hamlet of Inwood. Our group consists of two player characters, Chevor (fighter) and Phrandohr (magician). We also have four henchpeople with us: William, Juliet, Elizabeth, and Hogarth.
  • We discovered several things: (a) a young woman named Rose was missing; (b) a young troublemaker named Fenric, Rose's suitor, had also disappeared and was the prime suspect in Rose's disappearance; (c) the well in Inwood had gone bad; (d) Fenric's mother offered to pay us 10 gold pieces to find Fenric.
  • We talked with some villagers, which gave us the lay of the land. In addition to Rose, Fenric, and the well, the village was troubled by a pack of wolves of the area.
  • Fenric's mother told us that Fenric might be hiding out in a nearby abandoned abbey so that is where we went. Underneath the ruins we found a small complex of tunnels and ruins. As we explored, we discovered a trail of blood that led us to a dead human and a dead wolf. Based on the evidence, we decided the dead guy was Fenric.
In Tonight's Session (Session 2)
Session 2 went like this:
  • We continued to explore the underground tunnels beneath the abbey. We were attacked by a wolf, which after many whiffs, a few of us finally connected with our weapons and felled the animal.
  • We explored the rest of the complex and found one more dead wolf surrounded by rats. We left this wolf corpse alone, but removed the heads from other two. The bounty on a wolf? 5 gold pieces for each head. 10 gold pieces would give us one more night at the inn (we are that broke).
  • We returned to Inwood with the corpse that we believed to be Fenric. Sadly, his mother confirmed this for us. We returned her down payment of a finders' fee of 5 gold pieces.
  • We discovered that the mysterious problem with the well had been solved. There was a small amulet fashioned in the form of a wolf's head found in the well. Phrandohr (me) examined the item and determined to be cursed and representing the wolf demon, Lycaon. Some townsfolk had seen Fenric with a similar item. However, a stranger traveling from Ravenswood was also seen with a like item right around the time the well went bad.
  • We decided that we needed to find the wolves' lair in order to find Rose and get to bottom of the problems plaguing Inwood. Session 2 ended with us approaching the lair.
Impressions of Pits & Perils
I am really liking this very simple rule set. It offers a different take on an early D&D style game, using 1d2 and 2d6 for resolving actions. First level characters are more powerful than their early D&D equivalents, but the Pits & Perils' power curve is not as steep. Characters grow in might as they gain levels, but to a much lesser degree than D&D


Undead Earth Elemental (Undead, Elemental)--Montporte Dungeon Campaign Critter

Armor Class: 2 [17]
Hit Dice: 10
Attacks: 2 Slams (2d6 each)
Saving Throw: 5
Special: Level Drain (1 level); Move Through Stone & Earth
Move: 5
Challenge Level/XP: 12/2,000

Undead earth elementals whose life energy has been replaced by negative energy, so that they are a combination of pure elemental earth plus negative energy (see On the Elements and On the Energies).

Undead earth elementals resemble their non-undead relatives, but are looser in form, being made up of gravel, sand, and silt.

COMBAT: Undead earth elementals are unintelligent and will attack any living creature within 30'. It will continue to attack until it is destroyed, its opponents are destroyed, or its opponents retreat 100' in distance from the undead earth elemental.

LEVEL DRAIN: When an undead earth elemental strikes its opponent, it drains one level from its victim. The victim does get a saving throw and a successful save indicates no level drain. The attempted level drain is limited to once per round, so even if an undead earth elemental successfully strikes an opponent twice, only one level drain attempt is made.

MOVE THROUGH STONE & EARTH: An undead earth elemental may pass through solid stone or earth at the rate of 1. The undead earth elemental may not attack when it is fully or partially passing through stone or earth.


Monday Moodsetter 73

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


First Session: Pits & Perils

We played our first session of Pits & Perils, run by +Chris C. (The Clash of Spear on Shield). My character, Phrandohr, is a magician. Most of our session was spend exploring the local, which included a small village. We concluded the session by exploring underneath the ruins of a monastery.

I am intrigued by the Pits & Perils rules. It feels like my earliest days of D&D (Holmes) but it is not a d20 system. Character generation was a snap as I only rolled dice twice. The first roll was to determine which attribute of the six attributes my character has (you only get one of the six attributes). It turns out that I have constitution, which gives me a bonus on poison and disease saves.

The second roll was for my starting treasure. I rolled a "1," which gave me 10 gold pieces to start. Fortunately, I did not need armor and I my weapons were inexpensive. My three spells are bolt, heal, and know.

We did not have the opportunity to test the resolution rules but I am sure we will in short order, as we are following a trail of blood. I certainly like what I have experienced so far.


Concluding Episode: The Esoterrorists

The Prize in the Mail for Saving the Universe
So, first of all, I get a prize in the mail from +Tim Shorts after +Chris C. and I save the universe in our Esoterrorists' campaign, run by Tim. How cool is that? Thanks, Tim! Much of the campaign was centered on several Ouija Boards carved in the floor of the Beckett house.

Secondly, I have to say that Tim deserved the title master in Game Master. We were on our toes and off balance the whole campaign. Tim does a great job of putting you on "the clock," so you have to be quick with your strategy and tactics. No time for hand-wringing or babbling. In the end, you have to make your decisions based on imperfect knowledge. The longer you poke around looking for information, the more the situation deteriorates.

Thirdly, I thought the GUMSHOE system was a blast. It supports a very fast and intuitive style of play, with the focus on clues, evidence, and interactions with NPCs and locations. Not having played it before, I found that it worked best if (a) I didn't challenge the game system and just went with it; and (b) I focused on telling Tim what I wanted to do to letting him figure out the resolution. I did not find that to be a struggle, but I think others might find it a bit difficult to wrap their minds around it if they are coming from a system that has a lot of rules governing tactical options and actions. It is much better to think of The Esoterrorists as a strategy game, not a tactics game.

Finally, the goal is to stop whatever evil is plaguing our little corner of the world. It is less about character building and advancement. By time we started the last session, my character was completely mentally unstable, almost dead physically, and had few other skill resources left. I had to make decisions throughout the last session, not knowing what was real and what was simply a product of my fried brain. The two player characters ended up getting separated temporarily, or so it seemed to my unstable mind.  It was trippy, frantic, and fun. In the end, we barely managed to complete our mission, but it was at a high personal cost. My character was alive but a mere shadow of his former self.