Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Let's Build a Dungeon! The Start and The First Level

I've previously moaned about the difficulty of finishing projects, even of getting real material out. Well, I've decided, no longer! At the very least, I'm going to put out something. So I started making a dungeon with Swords and Wizardry. Here's the first level. It's just 15 rooms, good for a couple sessions of play, with some decent jaquaying, a mix of traps, combat, and lots of custom, detailed treasure.

Also, this is totally not playtested. This is the work of about four days, during which time I have certainly not run it, and very likely won't have the chance to do so in the near future. I'm publishing this as soon as I finish writing it and check for errors.

You can also download this as a much better looking PDF.

The Beginning

I started this project by doodling a Melan diagram with a few loops. Afterwards, I started filling it in on a simple mapping tool, and ended up with these fifteen rooms.



Alright, not a bad start. Now, to populate it. I use the method described by JB at B/X Blackrazor here. Running the random rolls through a Discord bot, we end up with this:

1. Empty, Treasure
2. Special
3. Trap
4. Empty
5. Empty, Treasure
6. Monster
7. Special
8. Monster, Treasure
9. Monster
10. Trap
11. Monster, Treasure
12. Empty
13. Trap, Treasure
14. Trap, Treasure
15. Monster, Treasure

That's 4 empty rooms, 2 special rooms, 4 traps and 5 monsters, with 7 treasures between them.

Now, let's put in some treasure. I decided the first level is meant for a second level party (why second and not first? No idea. Just go with me), so assuming 5 members, we want them to get halfway to level 3 if they find every scrap of treasure. Is that good design? No idea. But I'm doing it anyway.

Taking an average between the MU's and Thief's XP requirements, times 5, and....

7500/2*5=18750/2=9375gp, to be distributed among 7 areas.

Let's distribute it the way JB describes, taking half aside, then half again, then again, until we end up with two small parcels of equal size.

9375

4687.5
2343.75
1171.875
585.9375
292.96875
146.484375
146.484375

Adjust the values around to be cleaner and easier to work with....

4600
2400
1150
650
295
150
130

Aaaand these are our treasure parcels, to be distributed in 7 of the first level's fifteen rooms.

Now, we come to the hard part, the actual creativity. I can't guide you through this part of my process, just show you the results. If it's schlocky and a bit gonzo, that's what I'm here for.

Ahem.

DEPRAVITIES OF THE DINOSORCERER!
(working title)

INTRO

In the southern reaches, where the dark jungles loom large and the locals dare not venture far from their paths, something strange stirs. Dinosaurs! Velociraptors have been spotted filching from the town of Dewhill, carrying off livestock, eggs, and even valuables! Oh, they also took priest Bartleby, but nobody minds.

With these strange thefts, stories have resurfaced that elders had though they had forgotten. In the jungles beyond, a sorcerer used to make his home, and was said to have resurrected long-dead creatures! He disappeared seventy years ago, and the town quietly forgot him. Hot on the heels of these stories, a party of adventurers came to town last month: three men and a halfling trailing a long entourage. They attended a local wedding, wrecked the place and left to find the source of the attacks, and were never seen again.

An overgrown stone complex juts out from the jungle, hidden under a thick canopy. The door stands wide open, inviting the daring and foolish to enter...

THE DUNGEON

On the roof: Climbing up to the roof of the structure, 20' in the air, the party can quickly find three entrances: a fragile section of roofing leading to 12 Empty Vault, which can be widened with two turn's work, soot-blacked windows leading to 5 Parlor, which can simply be shattered, and the open-air 7 Amber Grove, which can simply be rappelled into or descended by climbing down a tree.

1. Entrance. (40'x30') A larger-than-life stone bust of a narrow-faced, goateed man sits on a pedestal. Dusty tapestries depicting impossible creatures hang on the walls. The western door hangs ajar, a faint trail of straw leading to it. The eastern door is spiked open. 
  • An inscription on the bust reads: To enter my chambers, speak the name of magic. Speaking any 'magic' word, like Abracadabra, or Hocus-Pocus will cause the eastern door to groan, trying to open further.
  • On an end table by the eastern door sits a rotten, dried up pineapple in an ornate silver pineapple holder (130gp).

2. Guest Hall. (30'x30') A greeting hall, dozens of colored glass spheres hang from the ceiling. Each contains a gigantic torchfly, curled up and dead. A book lies open on a stand.
  • The book is labeled: Guests. A great variety of names are listed, with dates between eighty and seventy years ago. At the bottom, an entry with last month's date reads, in a flourish: The Groomsmen.

3. Fountain. (40'x30') The flagstones give way to soft soil. In the center of the room, an ornate fountain contains piles of gold coins in murky water. 
  • The fountain is, in reality, a giant plant, and the water is a digestive fluid which strips everything except gold. Touching the fountain or reaching into the water causes the fountain to snap up the offending character. The fluids deal 2d6 damage per round, and the character may escape by succeeding a Save at -2, cumulative. It can be dispatched from the outside with relative ease, and contains 295 gold pieces.

4. Mage's Rest. The corpse of a Magic-User wearing a full armor helm lies on the ground, decomposing. The left side of his torso is gone, as if taken out in a single, giant bite. There are numerous humanoid tracks crossing the room. A blood trail leads to the western door and into the grove.
  • A journal remains on the corpse. The name within is 'The Omniscient' with 'Most' inserted between the words. It details a long journey through a castle of the mad dead in the far north, and rumors of ancient creatures in the south. A note in the margins of an early page reads: What does irresistible rondeau do?
  • A skilled tracker could decipher four sets of tracks coming through from the north, then one set coming back from the west, ending with the body.

5. Parlor. (50'x20') An abandoned parlor, long tables, lounge chairs and an overflowing fountain. Windows are set in the roof, long since blackened by thick soot. An end table hosts a gilded birdcage, silver hairbrush and a jeweled cosmetics kit (the cosmetics within have decayed). In the cage is Merrytwinkle, a foul-mouthed pixie who has been trapped for seventy years. 
  • The cage itself is worth 20gp. The hairbrush is worth 30gp, and the cosmetics kit, set with pink diamonds, is worth 100gp.
  • Merrytwinkle's term of servitude is long since over, but if freed quickly and without ultimatum, will be reasonably well disposed. He may be hired on as a barber-surgeon for an appropriate wage and supplies. He is skilled in first aid, amputation, hair styling and fashion (though his ideas are seventy years out of date), and can easily hide in a character's clothes or hair. If the players attempt to haggle or make demands before releasing him, he will escape at the first opportunity with a jewel or other small piece of treasure. 

6. Storeroom. (30'x'20') A messy storeroom, filled with crates of fossil remains. On the north wall, a scorched frieze depicting three disfigured men in contorted positions. These are Fossil Vampires, stirring on approach and awakening fully with a single drop of blood. They are ravenous, and utterly insane.

Fossil Vampire: HD 3; AC 3 [16]; Atk 2*claw 1d6 or grapple and bite 1d10 and level drain; Sav 16; Spec climb at full speed, 1d6 Hp/round in sunlight; ML 9; AL C; CL 3.

7. Amber Grove. (100'x70') An overgrown jungle grove, shaded by the canopy. Searching the jungle will reveal wild nutmeg and cinnamon, mango and toxic calabash trees in full fruit. In the north, a tree dripping resin is fenced off. A greenhouse stands in the center of the grove, windows fogged. Six tall blocks of amber sit along the walls, displaying preserved prehistoric creatures. The fourth from the east swings open with difficulty, hiding a secret passage.
  • The tree drips resin into overflown buckets. Given a few million years, it would crystallize into amber. Valued by alchemists and enchanters, a total of 150gp.
  • A trail of dried blood leads to the door of the greenhouse. A broken sign by the door reads: Beware of...
  • The amber blocks each contain the preserved body of prehistoric megafauna. From east to west, a saber-toothed rat, a giant wasp, a scaled ape, a short-faced bear, a juvenile proto-dragon, and a giant myconid.

8. Foggy Greenhouse. (20'x30') The greenhouse's windows are totally fogged from the inside, and visibility within is limited to 10'. Dozens of unusual plant specimens grow here, healthy and full. This is the domain of the Fogling, an aggressive bound spirit that cares for the plants. A locked cabinet opposite the door contains alchemical reagents and potions made from the plants
  • The plants within are all previously extinct specimens, including a giant flytrap (large enough to eat rats), various prehistoric fruiting trees, and a cactus with wrinkles resembling an angry face. Worth 200gp to curious botanists. 
  • The Fogling is invisible in fog, and prefers to open its attack by separating an intruder from the group. It can knock over items and faithfully imitate voices it has heard in the last hour. It will not chase intruders outside the greenhouse unless they steal an item.
  • The cabinet contains a thick, gelatinous potion of plant control, and a cool, alcoholic frozen concoction. In addition, there are piles of alchemical ingredients, including ruby dust, dragon eyeballs, and a live golem beetle, worth a total of 800gp to an alchemist.
Fogling: HD 5; AC 4 [15]; Atk chomp 3d4; Sav 10; Spec invisible in fog, mimicry; ML 12; AL N; CL 6.
Hp    23

9. Cattle Pens. (50'x30') The dingy, dirty smell of livestock fills the air. A pair of barred pens hold malnourished, terrified, moaning cattle. The carcass of another lies, half-butchered on the ground opposite. Three velociraptors hide inside the carcass, interrupted in eating the entrails. 
  • One will pop out, and warn off intruders. If not heeded, the other two will pop out in ambush. If they suffer a casualty, they will dash under the southern door and join the raptors in 11 Were-raptor Lair.
Raptors (3): HD 1; AC 6 [13]; Atk 2*talon 1d4; Sav 18; Spec surprise 1 in 2; ML 7; AL N; CL 1.
Hp    5    7    3

10. Geysers. (30'x50') The floor here is littered with the mouths of geysers, which erupt scalding air constantly. Metal hooks are driven into the roof, leading to the western door. A Thief could swing across them quickly with a Climb check, as could others if they took a turn to do it carefully. The secret eastern door lies wide open, though if closed it would be flush with the wall and difficult to locate.
  • Being hit by a geyser deals 2d8 heat damage, Save for half. Running across the room yields a 1:2 chance of being hit for everyone. Taking a turn to examine the pattern and move slowly yields a 1:3 chance for a random party member. The hooks are safe, but slow and characters caught up there by an encounter are vulnerable. 
  • The western door leads to 11. Were-raptor Lair, and is decorated with cattle blood and raptor feathers. It is locked, but there is a pit in the stone at knee level, and a thin, pointed object, such as a claw or lockpick can be used to turn the hidden lock.

11. Were-raptor Lair. (30'x80') Maxim the were-raptor dwells here with his velociraptor pack. The lair is part nest, part treasure room. A makeshift cell holds Bartleby the Scripturist.
  • Regardless of his reaction, he demands intruders lay down their weapons. He wants to continue living a comfortable life of banditry, and given a chance, he will propose an alliance with the party. If his pack is killed, he will beg for his life, offering knowledge of the secret passage in 7 Amber Grove and the riches in 15 Amber Tomb, without mentioning the dangers within.
  • Hidden in the nesting material is a clutch of six raptor eggs. Properly cared for, they will hatch in a week, and make for energetic companions.
  • Treasure includes a chest of assorted coins totaling 170gp, a fizzing blue potion of gaseous form, a jade necklace worth 120gp, gold armbands worth 200gp, and a carnelian cameo of a woman looking over the sea, worth 160gp.
  • Bartleby is not cared for by the town, and attempts at ransoming him have been unsuccessful. Maxim has not decided what to do with the priest, besides gagging him to stop the preaching.
Raptors (5): HD 1; AC 6 [13]; Atk 2*talon 1d4; Sav 18; Spec surprise 1 in 2; ML 7; AL N; CL 1.
Hp    2    5    8    7    4

Maxim the Were-raptor: HD 4; AC 4 [15]; Atk talon 1d6, dagger 1d6+1; Sav 12; Spec controls raptors, only hit by silver or magic weapons, lycanthropy; ML 9; AL C; crystal dagger; CL 5.
Hp    19

Crystal Dagger: A dagger +1 with a blade of cloudy crystal. Within is a dose of deadly venom. On a natural 20, the tip breaks and the venom is injected (save vs poison or 2d6 damage). 

12. Empty Vault. (40'x50') Formerly a treasure vault, filled by moldering coin sacks and empty chests. A single sapphire ring gleams on a pedestal, illuminated by sunlight coming through the cracked roof. As soon as the party notices it, a Microraptor jumps up to the pedestal, picks it up in its beak and dashes down the spiral staircase to the lower level. 
  • The Microraptor makes its nest in one of the lower levels, where it has accumulated a great deal of valuables. Ideally, your party will want to strangle the little thing by the time they reach its lair.
Microraptor: HD A; AC 8 [11]; Atk none; Sav 20; Spec runs very fast, flight; ML 4; AL N; CL A.
Hp    1

13. False Tomb. (20'x50') A cramped sepulcher, friezes on the walls depicting crude, gory tableaus of death and torture. A standing sarcophagus shaped like a roaring demon occupies the southeast corner. The door to the south is a trap: the handle pops out when pulled, letting in the poison gas from the next chamber, dealing 2d6 damage per round, Save for half, filling the entire room in two rounds. It settles and the room is navigable in three turns.
  • The sarcophagus bears a message: Go no further, or join me in death. If a character crawls inside and shuts the lid, the back falls out, opening into the corridor to 15 Amber Tomb.

14. Boiling Pit. (40'x30') A 10' diameter pit descends 20' into the earth, reinforced by smooth metal walls, surrounded by a drain grille. A key hangs from a rope over the pit. A treasure chest, weighing 30 pounds, sits at the bottom. A parchment stuck to the front reads: Don't get wet
  • The key is on a hook, and an athletic character could easily jump to it and swing on the rope to the other side. Unfortunately, the rope is part of a pulley system in the ceiling, and will come loose with a character's full weight. Their trajectory will take them directly into the wall, and from there to the bottom of the pit, Save or 1d6 damage.
  • Inside the chest are a dozen tablets carved from moonstone, each weighing 20 pounds. They contain arcane secrets, old stories, and three of them are spell scrolls for clairvoyance, lightning bolt, and water breathing. The chest sits on a pressure plate, and if the weight falls below 200 pounds, boiling water rushes into the pit, filling 5' per round, dealing 2d8 heat damage/round to anyone caught within. Each tablet is worth 200gp. 
  • Filling the pit to the brim reduces the danger of 10 Geysers, to 1:3 when running across and to 1:6 when moving carefully.

15. Amber Tomb. (50'x30') This tomb is covered in a thick layer of dust. In the walls on either side are figures preserved in amber: A young wizard, a scantily dressed concubine, a small dog, all expressing shock. A fourth lies against the far wall, an elderly wizard inside, peaceful. An inscription reads: Here lie I, Khorbus the Mighty, eternal in strength. Disturbing any of the amber tombs rouses the amber sarcophagus at the far wall, which is actually an Amber Golem.
  • Each of the preserved figures wear various treasures. Opening an amber sarcophagus requires an exploration turn and appropriate tools, such as hammers and pickaxes. Without those tools, the time for each is six turns. When released from containment, the bodies fall to the ground and begin the normal process of decay.
  • The concubine wears a mountain of jewelry, including an emerald toe ring (320gp), a necklace of jade and agate beads (540gp), stained glass earrings depicting two ancient gods in miniature (220gp), a loose gold-chain shirt (180gp), a diamond-studded diadem (300gp) and holds a pouch of 10 platinum coins (100gp).
  • The young wizard wears a wrought iron ring of protection +1, and holds a wand of cold carved from reindeer horn, with 10 charges remaining. He also carries a metal tube on his back. Inside is an original landscape painting by one of the ancient masters, long thought destroyed, worth 800gp to a knowledgeable and discreet buyer.
  • The dog wears a jeweled collar worth 140gp inscribed with the name: Sparky. Additionally, it guards a hoard of 200 platinum coins (2000gp).
  • Khorbus wears elaborate wizardly robes, but no treasure. The wizard's body is actually a wooden mannequin, expertly painted and dressed to appear real. In the folds of his robes is a gear-toothed key and a note: Well done! Now if you're ready for real riches, not the peasant's sum before you, follow me below. The key fits into a slot where the amber golem previously sat, opening a stairway down to the next level.

Amber Golem: HD 8; AC 7 [12]; Atk 2*fist 2d8; Sav 6; Spec hit only by magic weapons, slowed by fire and cold spells, immune to most spells, redirect lightning; ML 12; AL N; CL 12.
Hp    40





And that's the first floor. I'll be right at work on the second, and then the third, probably as many as five 'levels' or distinct areas in total.

If you like what you're reading and want to rip off something you find here, please do! If you end up runnign it, please let me know! I'd love to hear what you think in the comments below. Until the next post, I wish you all well!

Friday, July 24, 2020

Castle Xyntillan Session 13: The Knight, the Goat and the Wine Cellar

In the last sessions, the party made their way back to town with a gigantic haul, made it back to the castle just in time for the wedding, tangled with a succubus, outwitted Maltricia, and drunkenly celebrated their victory. What challenges will present themselves moving forward? How will Maltricia strike back against them? Find out in this week's session of Castle Xyntillan!

The Party

Longo Lightfoot, Halfling Thief, wears a sky-blue headscarf. Played by CaptainSabatini.
Corby the Joyful, Human Cleric of Sucellus, wears a short, conical hat. Played by diregrizzlybear.
Idred the Most Omniscient, Human MU, wears a full-visored greathelm. Played by David Perry.
Boroth Swinney the Joyous, Human Fighter, wears a masked helm depicting a happy human face. Played by Justin Hamilton.
Francois, Light Footman, noticeably dogless. 
Rodolfo, Heavy Footman, running from a warrant in town.
Hubert, Heavy Footman.
Gwynefa, Arbalist.
Herman, Arbalist, escaped convict and former boar.
Emil, Lightbearer, strange obsession with some Malevols.
Karo, Arbalist.
Allan, Arbalist, claims to know a great secret, pursues a Malevol for past crimes.
Bruno, Light Footman, a talented sharpshooter.
LaBeouf, Camp Cook.
Raymond, Mule.

Casualties
None

Loot
Valuable barrel of wine (not recovered)
The Wishbone
Means of Turning

The Game
  • After the wedding, the party made their way back to Tours-en-Savoy. For the first time in weeks, they were both flush with cash, and had the time to use it. Obviously, they got down to carousing. 
  • Longo got down to his usual routine of gambling and drinking, with Idred by his side offerign advice and jumping in when the pot grew big. They predictably lost, but it hardly made a dent in their fortunes.
  • Boroth went back to the Cathouse to play Kriegspiel (no, really) and, despite paying an arm and a leg for a coach, lost big.
  • Corby had the tamest time out of all of them, barley even doing any drinking. He claimed that, as a cleric of the god of wine, he couldn't let his tolerance get too high, and needed a week to come down.
  • At the end of that week, the hung over party woke up to a knock at their door.
Longo: Boroth! Go get it you're the door guy.
  •  Outside was Giacomo, looking much healthier. After a brief panic that he might have been turned into a vampire, the party let him in and settled down to business. He was looking for an escort to Xyntillan's gates, where he had some business. The party had already planned to return there; not exactly much to do in Tours-en-Savoy besides kill your liver.
  • They ran some errands and picked up hirelings to replace the secret agents. Then, seeing they still had a mountain of coin left over, they all bought horses, and Longo sprung for a camp cook, LaBeouf, to improve the experience of traveling to and from Xyntillan.
  • On the way to Xyntillan for their latest adventure, the party was split on what to pursue there. They had more than enough loose ends calling their attention.
Idred: Maybe we could go hunting for dicks.
Longo: Wait, what?!
Idred: Sorry, that sounds so weird out context.
  • In the end, they decided to explore the dungeon level, down the staircase they discovered several sessions back. Down the stairs from the butler's room, the party discovered a wine cellar, barrels piled to the low roof. They tapped a few barrels, and found both a vat of green slime, and a fragile oak barrel filled with an old, valuable vintage.
File:'The Wine Cellar' ('An Allegory of Winter') by Gerard Dou.jpg ...
The Wine Cellar, Gerard Dou
  • In order to get a better look at the room, Idred uncovered his sunstone. The light revealed the extent of the cellar, as well as several slits in a nearby wall. Immediately, a bell began to ring from behind them, and the party heard footsteps from the east. They hid, covered the sunstone and waited in ambush.
  • Then, the footsteps came closer; this time from the northwest. The stumbling of skeletons, and a set of heavy footsteps, like a man in armor. The party strategized quickly and moved in a pincer.
  • Half the party faced the incoming encounter with a torch head on. They saw three of the partly-fleshy skeletons which they had encountered before, with collars around their necks and chains held by a tall, armored figure behind them. On closer inspection, the armor was visibly damaged, but had been repaired with human flesh and bone, and had a pauldron made from the skull of a dog. This was the same animated armor which had destroyed half the party two expeditions ago!
  • The armored figure pushed them forward, and the skeletons attacked. They were slow and the party got in their first volley and turning. Strangely, the armor didn't charge to attack, and grew confused when the skeletons ran. A cry came from the northwest door, telling the armor to retreat. In the dim light, the party saw a hunchback, which quickly ran off in the opposite direction.
  • Then the other half of the party came around from the other side; Idred launched a Web spell, trapping the armor and skeletons. They proceeded to dispatch the enemies at range. The armor, now dispatched, had a well worked blade on it; a bone-hilted damascened longsword. The bone crossguard bore the name: The Wishbone. They gave it to Boroth, his collection of magic weapons starting to take form, and asked him to query Scrupulous if it knew anything about the blade.
Boroth: Are you implying all blades know each other.
  • A little mystery intrigued them. The enemy had come from the northwest, but when the alarm had sounded, they had heard footsteps from the east, and there was no passage in that direction. They searched the barrels, looking for a secret door or a hidden passage. They found nothing, but banging on the barrels one by one to see if they were all full, the party found an empty one; it covered a hole in the floor, which led even further down, and the whole thing smelled distincly of goat.
Longo: I'm the smallest, so I have to go down the goat-hole don't I?
Party: Yup.
Idred: Shall we see how deep the goat-hole goes?
  • Longo rappeled down the narrow chimney. It turned out to not be very deep at all, and a short passage led to a partly-lit cave. Mossy and stinking of goat, he found... a satyr, dressed in robes and cowering in a corner.
  • After a brief exchange of threats, they mutually determined neither was a servant of the Malevols, and the satyr introduced itself as Bumble. Longo called the party in, repeatedly shutting down the satyr's attempts to play the pipes. When it became clear that the party didn't altogether know what the cave was, Bumble grinned and led them to the source of the light: a cave opening. 
The Forest of Bere, J.M.W. Turner
  • Outside was a forest in the throes of autumn, the sun hanging at high noon. The party knew that outside, it was late spring, and it wasn't noon yet. This was the Indoornesse, a neverending, self-repeating realm underneath Castle Xyntillan; the domain of Runcius Malevol, the anti-druid, who could only be killed at a stone circle in the heart of the woods where he performs foul rituals.
  • The party learned all of this by getting Bumble drunk on bottle of wine from town. He also informed them of the identity of the hunchback they encountered before, a venomous little man named Mandrake Malevol. 
  • Climbing up the chimney and returning to the castle, they followed the trail of the escaped hunchback. They were led though a room filled with giant, anthropomorphic beets, which were loudly snoring at the moment. The room also hosted a large number of growing tubers, and a marble statue of a woman in a revealing shawl.
Longo: Is there a pedestal?
GM: Yes.
Longo: That's the one thing I remember from art class. They need pedestals or else their ankles break.
  • The next room over, they heard shouting, and the sound of excavation. Inside, several dozen animated tools worked to dig out the floor of the room. The shouting was coming from a coffin, partly buried. It wasn't screaming, but oratory, a speech exhorting the tools to throw off their chains. The party conversed with the voice inside for a time, until the spirit within simply phased though the lid and stood before them. This was Charles Malevol, philosopher. The party played along with him, and he joyfully offered them the contents of his coffin: three volumes of unreadable gibberish and a paired hammer and sickle, which allowed the turning of animated objects by non-clerics.
  • With some interesting new items in their arsenal, a possible piece of treasure marked for later retrieval, and a new enemy stalking their steps, the session ended.

Takeaways

The fight with the animated armor (I called it the Gristle Knight) was one I expected to be tactical and climactic, facing down a dangerous old enemy, learning its secret weakess, using the obscure item in their arsenal which would be very useful. Instead, they used a single spell to turn the fight to their advantage and ended it quickly and decisively. The S&W rules for Web are pretty sparse, but I looked at the AD&D spell list which had more detail. It went into detail about how webbing could be used and destroyed, but not if a trapped enemy could be hit with ranged attacks while inside. I keep worrying I adjudicated it wrong.

Anyway, here's the statblock.

Gristle Knight: Fighter 4+4; AC 2 [17]; Sav 11; Atk, sword 1d8+1; Spec distribute attacks among 4HD of opponents, immune to fire, attacks at +9; ML 11; AL C; The Wishbone
Hp     26 
Blind, but can sense heat in 10’, hotter objects hide cooler ones. 

The Wishbone: Bone-hilted damascened longsword +1. An exiled animated armor, cursed to wander Xyntillan’s halls. Recently released from containment by the Groomsmen, whose hirelings it decimated. It has repaired itself using bone and gristle from the dead hirelings, including making a pauldron from the skull of Fideaux the hunting dog.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Why the Blog is Dry: State of the Blog 1.5.1

[This is some more blog cleanup for regular readers. I've addressed a little bit of this in the 1-and-a-halfth anniversary post of the blog, but I've decided you all deserve something less vague. As an apology, please enjoy J. M. W. Turner's Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbor's Mouth]

Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour's Mouth - Wikipedia

So, most of the way through the month of July, and only four blog posts so far (including this one). Not my finest moment. I don't expect to publish more than seven this month. Two of those will likely be Castle Xyntillan session reports, one of last week's session and the other of the upcoming session which is approaching much faster than expected. The third is a gameable post detailing Earthsea-inspired True Names and incorporating them into your campaign. Count that one as my monthly 'please notice me Ben!' post.

As to why my blogging rate has dropped so precipitously, it's for two reasons.

First, it's because for the last several weeks I've been knee-deep in an investigation of Vajrayana Buddhism, psychedelics, artificial intelligence, the history of classical North Africa, post-structuralist philosophy, meta-rationality and classic guitar. I've been ping-ponging unreliably from one subject to another, which results in an intellectually exhausting and not wholly productive practice which leaves little room for RPG blogging. My main source for much of this investigation is the former MIT AI reseracher/former pagan warlock/tantric Buddhist/metaphysics blogger/satirical vampire romance writer David Chapman. I recommend most everything he writes, it's a trip.

The second reason is that my plans for the next year have been up in the air for a little while, albeit in a good way all things considered. A few weeks ago it seemed certain, then it was uncertain, and now it seems somewhat certain again with some bureaucratic nonsense yet to be dealt with. 

As a result of that latter reason, this dry spell is likely to last through the month of August. Thankfully, my time zone won't be changing.

All this is a belated apology to my regular readers. I won't be advertising this post elsewhere, partly due to the odd aversion to self-promotion I described in my last SOTB post, but also as a lead up to some de-anonymization on my part, which I feel overdue, inspired in large part by this post by Jacob Falkovich. My blogger handle as 'The Byzantine' stems from my start on the platform, when I wasn't at all sure if it would stick or how much I wanted to reveal about myself. I already go under a compression of my real name on the Discord and other platforms, and have contributed to some group projects under my real name, so coy anonymity doesn't cut it anymore, and ought to be replaced by slightly vague pseudonymity.

My name is Nicolas Roman. I am a European-American of rather cyclopean heritage, currently residing in Europe. I am a student in a top-ten ranked US university, where I just completed my freshman year and expect to take a leave of absence over the next year for rather obvious reasons. I am an atheist, and am distinctly not spiritual, though I hold a considerable interest in world mystic traditions, including tantric Buddhism and Kabbalah. I hold some radical political views, probably not the ones you're imagining at the moment, and am fnord strongly committed to the virtues of open conversation, tolerance and mutual understanding. My major intellectual influences are Yudkowsky-style rationality and Taleb-style rationality, which often come into fruitful contradiction. I am a metalhead, and especially enjoy the work of Dio, Judas Priest and Accept. My marketable skills include above-average skill in technical writing and mathematics, experience wresting with lateral thinking and meta-rationality, the ability to appear highly cultured and/or bohemian at the drop of a hat, a decent intuitive sense of contemporary macreconomics, fluency in English and Spanish, passable knowledge of Hebrew, pretensions to speaking Italian and Swedish, ready recall of a wide range of facts and anecdotes of dubious import, and the ability to write self-aggrandizing resum├ęs. 

This has all been wonderful to get off my chest. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

Joesky Tax

I was going to include this one on the next session report, but since my players already faced this down, there's hardly any harm in moving it up. Enjoy.

Gristle Knight: Fighter 4+4; AC 2 [17]; Sav 11; Atk, sword 1d8+1; Spec distribute attacks among 4HD of opponents, immune to fire, attacks at +9; ML 11; AL C; The Wishbone 
Hp 26 
Blind, but can sense heat in 10’, hotter objects hide cooler ones. 

The Wishbone: Bone-hilted damascened longsword +1, capable of touching ghosts. 

An exiled animated armor, cursed to wander Xyntillan’s halls. Recently released from containment by the Groomsmen, whose hirelings it decimated. It has repaired itself using bone and gristle from the dead hirelings, including making a pauldron from the skull of Fideaux the hunting dog.

(Note: This was originally just the damaged animated armor from room J12 in the book, which the party encountered and fought almost by accident. I completely misinterpreted Fighter 4+4 to indicate it fought at a +8 to hit. Oops. If not for that, the party might have beaten it instead of running away screaming. So I reworked it, and made it into something a bit more special. The heat vision came out of its unusual behavior in their first encounter. I sent it against the party in the last session, hoping to give them a good challenge, but judicious spell use and tactics cut it to shreds. Time to up my game.)

Friday, July 17, 2020

Castle Xyntillan Sessions 11 and 12: Weddings and Witticisms

In the last session, the party discovered the dungeon level Castle Xyntillan, temporarily lost a hireling to a polymorph and found one of their biggest hauls yet! The wedding is almost upon them! This report sticks together the eleventh and twelfth session, the former of which capped off the long expedition and the latter of which contained the wedding itself.

The Party

Longo Lightfoot, Halfling Thief, wears a sky-blue headscarf. Played by CaptainSabatini.
Corby the Joyful, Human Cleric of Sucellus, wears a short, conical hat. Played by diregrizzlybear.
Idred the Most Omniscient, Human MU, wears a full-visored greathelm. Played by David Perry.
Boroth Swinney the Joyous, Human Fighter, wears a masked helm depicting a happy human face. Played by Justin Hamilton.
Francois, Light Footman, noticeably dogless. 
Hilda, Heavy Footman, an ex-miner.
Rodolfo, Heavy Footman, running from a warrant in town.
Hubert, Heavy Footman.
Gwynefa, Arbalist.
Herman, former hireling, transformed into a boar.
Farida, Arbalist, apparent accounting fanatic.
Eckhart, Lightbearer.
Bruno, Light Footman, a talented sharpshooter.
Raymond, Mule.
Claude Malevol, a friendly face at the wedding.

Casualties
None

Loot
Dagger +1
Gold tooth, 1gp
Sacks of gold, 2500gp
Swanky new clothes
A man on the inside
Maltricia's burning enmity

Identified
Scroll of Protection from Metal
Amber Brooch, casts ESP 1/day

The Game
  • The game started where it left off, opposite an underground cavern lake. The party examined the area and fished around nearby, and pulling a chain out of the water scored them the corpse of a dead sailor, with a single gold tooth in its mouth and a slim, ornate dagger in its back. 
Longo: Idred, can you turn a corpse into a boat? 
Boroth: I think that’s a higher level spell.
Idred: Maybe if I studied the Libram longer, though I don’t think it had a section on necronautics. Magic works best when not thoroughly examined. 
Longo: Don’t you study books of magic, thoroughly? 
Boroth: Not enough to get the Body to Boat spell. 
Idred: The main practice is in not thinking about it. 
Corby: Cadaver to Catamaran! Remains to Raft!
  • Calling their exploration of the lake to a close, they advanced down a nearby tunnel, and soon located a strange room. The statue of a lady stood surrounded by three goatrices, all turned to stone.
  • Experimenting with the statue, they found that turning it opened and closed the ways in and out of the room, and revealed a secret door! Passing into it, they found another room piled high with documents, file cabinets and several masked men in black digging through the papers and burning them.
Corby: Little did she know, the auditors had ninjas.
  • After a brief standoff, during which the masked men did not speak, the party decided to leave them be, despite Farida's pleas otherwise.
  • Not far away, they found themselves in a bar. A handful of headless manservants carried trays about the taproom, while a ghost wiped down the bar. This was Blobert, the proprietor. Taken in by the ghost's good demeanor, the party took a seat and ordered a drink; a nice Chateau Xyntillan to cap off the long expedition. They pumped him for information as to the upcoming wedding, its catering, and gossip about the family.
  • They resolved then to check out the 'dressing room' next to Guy's chamber. Not giving the jester's portrait the time of day, they found a chamber containing two misty doorways. Choosing at random, Idred and Corby walked through one, and promptly walked out the other wearing fabulous robes. Boroth took the other one, and walked out in stinking rags. Quickly following Idred and Corby's example, he went through the other door, and walked back in a loincloth and a dunce cap. 
  • After this break, they returned to the hidden tax room, and found that the masked men were gone, despite the total lack of an exit for them. Searching through the stacks turned up only the most orderly and clean tax documents, bereft of any incriminating evidence. Oh, and several sacks of gold coins, which they promptly pilfered.
Modhail's Meanderings: Freaky Fantasy Funds
Don't mind if I do
  • Weighed down by an immense amount of coinage, the party called the expedition there, making their way safely out of the dungeon level and out of the castle well before sunset. Hooray!
  • On their journey back, Boroth had a strange dream, in which his new magic sword spoke to him. It introduced itself as Scrupulous, and charged Boroth with being righteous and stalwart and upholding Law while wielding it.
Boroth: Being righteous and stalwart? How convenient, two of my yearly goals!
  • By the time they arrived back in Tours-en-Savoy, they scarcely had a day before they needed to set out for the wedding. They made some quick arrangements, especially banking their hard-earned plunder, got appropriate clothes, picked up Giacomo and joined Claude for the journey back.
  • They camped near the castle and went in a couple hours before sundown. The first order of business was to return to Blobert's taproom and get roaring drunk. Along with Claude, the party went down the list of drinks from the most expensive on down. They saved the biggest item, a Liche Liqueur with unknown magical properties, for later. 
  • With Claude's help, they made it to the chapel quickly and easily. The garden outside was empty of goatrices. Before going in, they drank the liqueur. Its effect is to grant the drinker a random spell. The party got extra castings of Detect Magic, Read Magic, and Invisibility, 10' radius. Claude also drank, and got Lightning Bolt. The bad news was that they would need to use those spells in a few hours, lest their heads burst open.
  • Newly empowered, they stepped inside the chapel. It was a flurry of activity, headless manservants rushing about putting last minute touches on the decorations, while Beatrice Malevol stood at the altar and shouted at them. Her head was attached to her shoulders by a circle of stitches. A giant constrictor snake, Meandering Malevol, had taken over the holy water font. Taking notice of the party, Beatrice made some veiled threats and introduced her new servants.
  • Ysabeau, their former hireling, and Ranucci, their former party member, were sitting in the pews. Ysabeau was clearly under a charm, and interacted with the party like a butler. Ranucci was his ordinary, crazy self. 
  • Also in Beatrice's service was the party's former lightbearer, Lisette, sweeping the floor and dressed like a maid. Beatrice commanded her to take the groom and his men to see the honeymoon suite. She took them up the stairs and into the room which was boarded up in their last visit. A lavish suite, canopied four poster bed and all, decorated in macabre reds and blacks, with disturbing paintings staring down from the walls.
Francisco Goya: Saturn Devouring His Son (1819-1823)
  • Lisette broke down in the room, and Corby gave her a confession at her request while the rest of the party strategized outside. During their talk, Ranucci piped up.
Ranucci: So, Idred... I hear you got lots new spells.
Idred: I have.
Ranucci: Oh, that's great. Funny thing is, I only ever got much use out of the one.
  • And then  he began to cast Sleep.
  • The party jumped into action, pinning him before he could get the spell off, and contemplated what exactly to do with the rogue wizard. 
Boroth: Stick a rag in his mouth!
Longo: Is a knife a rag? 
Boroth: To the best of my knowledge, no. 
Longo: I used that defense in court once.
  • After hog-tying him, Boroth used his new ESP brooch to reach into the wizard's mind. He saw weeks in the castle dungeons, a Suggestion spell... and the fact that the wizard's charmer was in the next room.
  • As Corby finished giving Lisette her confession, the rest of the party burst into the suite and shouted at Corby to get away from her. In that moment, Lisette's form melted and swirled, two great bat wings extended out of her back, and before them stood Serpentina Malevol, succubus.
CCP3 | Ignacio Pelaez
Not far off, actually
  • She laughed in the party's faces, and revealed that, during the confession, she had slipped a Suggestion on Corby. Unless he could resist, the cleric would be forced to conduct a Chaotic marriage instead of a Lawful one. She glided out of the room, unopposed.
  • Reeling from the events of the past minute, the party began to plan. How to work around the spell? How to undo it? What to do if they couldn't do either. In the course of their argument, three of their hirelings stepped forward.
  • Farida the arbalist, Hilda he heavy footsoldier, and Eckhart the lightbearer took badges out from under their clothes, identifying them as members of the King's Secret Police and the Royal Tax Authority. They had infiltrated the party to investigate the Malevols' tax evasion, and now was the time to strike.
  • After yet more discussion, the plan was set. If Corby couldn't overcome the Suggestion, the secret police would intervene, carry off the lawyer, and so hopefully interrupt the ceremony, in the resulting confusion, Corby would perform a Lawful wedding stealthily while under the guise of doing paperwork.
  • They return downstairs, and endured the lead-up to the ceremony. Ysabeau presented them with hors d'oeuvres, from mellified man to boar snout, while the early guests mingled and snuck the party wicked looks.
  • Then sunset fell, and the procession began. The Beast made his appearance, a gigantic mass of fur and muscle crowned with a halo of hellfire, riding atop a walking throne. Serpentina and Beatrice entered as bridesmaids, one a hellish beauty and the other a horror. 
  • Countess Maltricia Malevol, the vampiress at the head of this whole event, strode in as the maid of honor, perfectly elegant and confident in her victory. She was followed by Hortensia and Longo as the flower girl and ring bearer. 
  • Finally, Adelaide walked down the aisle, led by Maltricia's husband, the Count Giscard DeVourey-Malevol, her long bridal train held up by a swarm of black cats.
  • The Beast set his throne next to the great stone seat reserved for Aristide, the lich, who was absent, and inaugurated the ceremony with a short speech.
  • This was Corby's time to shine. He held the stage with a speech, recounting how the two lovers first met, and how the Groomsmen came to be involved. As Longo delivered the ring, the moment of truth came. Struggling against the spell, the odds were against him. He needed to roll a 12 or better, or else.
  • He
  • rolled
  • a
Uncertain rewards are the answer to enhancing loyalty schemes ...
Quit it with the anticipation!
  • 12.
  • The table roared. In the game, Corby's face twisted as he walked a tightrope, but in the end, his will won out. Pushing through the enchantment, he finished the ceremony and said the fateful words, "You may now kiss the bride."
  • Giacomo and Adelaide kissed. And then Adelaide's mouth steamed and burned, as the magic of the wedding made her husband's very touch harmful to her. The chapel went quiet, as Serpentina went pale and Maltricia's face screwed up in rage. Then The Beast stood, adjudged the wedding sound, and ordered the ceremony finished. The Malevols left one by one, as if in a shock. The last to leave was The Beast, who congratulated the party on their gambits, and left.
  • With a hard-won victory under their belt and a man on the inside of the castle, the party took to celebrating. They met back up with Claude, heard the tax authority arresting Vincent, the lawyer, and wound their way back to Blobert's for more drinking. They burned the spells that the liqueur gave them along the way, and at the party's urging, a drunk Claude vaporized a passing zombie with a his Lightning Bolt. For the first time in a while, all was well.
  • Ad thus ended the first 'arc' of sorts of this Castle Xyntillan campaign. What will future expeditions hold for the party? How will they deal with making a new tier of enemies? All that and more, next time.

Takeaways

Holy crap, this post was delayed. Well, not delayed. Procrastinated. I have no excuse for it, besides the fact that I took very poor notes on the eleventh session and delayed the wedding session for 4th of July celebrations. Uhhh, yeah. My bad. 

A mainly social/roleplaying session like this is new ground for me, and I wasn't sure if it would land. The small number of rolls, the heavy emphasis on dialogue, as well as the extensive planning stage in the middle of the session worried me, but the barely-lucky roll and the twist reveal of Serpentina seemed to resonate with the players. It was also a nice change of pace, and tied up the plot the party had been working through for so long. 

I expect the next session will be heavy on carousing, will feature the hiring of some new retainers, and another expedition. I have a few tricks up my sleeve to destabilize the party in their new position that I can't wait to bring out.

Joesky Tax
Since this report was so horribly delayed, accept as my penance this ridiculous spell, found within the pages of the Libram of Heinous Damnation.

Remains to Raft
Spell Level: Magic-User, 3rd Level
Range: Touch, humanoid corpse
Duration: 1 hour/level

The caster transforms a humanoid corpse into a seaworthy raft, as much as 200 square feet, dimensions determined by the caster. When the spell's duration ends, the corpse snaps back to its former shape, and any creature on the raft falls into the water.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Charnel Ground

There was a famine in the vicinity. People were continually dying. Sometimes half-dead bodies were brought to the charnel ground, because people were so exhausted with the constant play of death and sickness. There were flies, worms, maggots and snakes. Padmasambhava, this young prince you had recently been turned out of a jewel-laden palace, made a home out of this; seeing no difference at all between this charnel ground and a palace, he took delight in it.

- Crazy Wisdom, Chogyam Trungpa

The 8 Great Charnel Grounds Are In Your Mind | Blau Stern Schwarz ...

At the bend of the river lies the charnel ground. A delightful feast for the carrion-eaters, vultures and jackals, tigers and bears. The bodies of the dead and dying are left here during the day, splayed out naked under the burning sun. 

No sane, good person attends to these places. The beasts make little distinction between a dead offering and a living visitor. Ghosts and zombies rise here. Demons frequent these places and steal the freshest bodies for their pleasures. Who would come here on their own two legs?

The charnel ground is an isolated meeting place for the dregs of society; for spies, traitors, bandits, witches and sorcerers. It is dangerous and chaotic, but if you fear being followed, passing through a charnel ground will lose a less resolute pursuer. 

If you seek out necromancers and cannibals and their ilk, who are hidden elsewhere, you will find them in the open here, dancing among the bodies. 

Hooks

1. A scandalous rumor engulfs the city; a shepherd saw the young prince returning from the charnel ground, coated in blood! The prince has not been seen in days, and the shepherd is locked at home.
2. Newly arrived and lacking any social status, the party is assigned a task for the lowest of the low; pulling a wagon of fresh bodies to the charnel ground; not all of them are dead yet.
3. The party is close to uncovering a long-sought secret, or may finally meet their anonymous benefactor; but the meeting may only occur at midnight, at the ruined temple in the charnel ground.

The benefactor is:
1. A cannibal
2. A witch
3. A cannibal witch
4. A sorcerer
5. A demon
6. A sentient giant scorpion


Mindfulness of Death Series : Part 3 : Contemplations Regarding ...


The Charnel World

In Tantra Buddhism, the charnel ground is a metaphor for the world itself. Underneath any illusory glamour or self-deception, the universe is an infinite charnel ground, extending in all directions. You are surrounded at all times by death, by sickness, by the woes and tribulations on the dying whose entrails are slurped out of their bellies by carrion-eaters. There is no hope. There is no salvation.

This would, at first, appear a nihilistic proposal. Or, perhaps, you think, this is another test. One must only give up all hope, embrace hopelessness, and then salvation will paradoxically arrive!

It will not. It is exactly what it says on the tin.

What can one do in a world with no hope of escape? No breaking of the cycle? 

The obvious answer is to cower in a corner and wait for death.

But another, much better answer, is to adventure. To understand your position in a charnel world, and yet make the best of it. Drink from rivers of poison and revel in the taste, explore and document the horrors which unfold in all directions. Seek out the most wondrous and dangerous of all things in the world, and slay them, or learn from them, or bang them. 

Just do something interesting, for crying out loud.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

State of the Blog Year 1.5: Starting New Adventures

Starting a new adventure is hard. I already knew this to be true, but AAAAGH STARTING A NEW ADVENTURE IS HARD!

Original art girl landscapes mood travel adventure roads wallpaper ...

I do mean this in the sense of making an RPG adventure, though its other meanings also apply.

Having a reasonably prosperous blog and an outstanding ego, it's easy to forget I'm still quite new to RPGs compared to the average reader. I first got an idea of what an RPG was about two years ago, and ran my first game shortly after. I first posted on this blog well before I had any clue about what I was doing. No wonder most of my early posts are fluff, rather than anything gameable; I wasn't in a state to be playtesting anything. I've written many more blog entries than I have run games. 

I've rarely homebrewed a decent adventure from scratch; I've mostly relied on modules, or pulled from preexisting properties, such as with my Elder Scrolls GLOG game. Until the Castle Xyntillan campaign I'm running now, I've never had anything resembling a consistent campaign. A few months ago I had to whip up a one-one-one one-shot for a totally new player in four hours because I had the time management skills of a lame duck, and ended up rereading a Conan short story and just winging it. Not my finest moment, but that player ended up being a regular in someone else's 5e campaign.

I'm not salty.

Oh, and I've only been a player at a table once. I've been in an online and text game or two, that's it. I once joined a West Marches 5e server in a desperate bid to play something, but because of backlog wound up volunteering to DM instead, just to do something, and very quickly found:

1. When you're an eager young thing with abundant free time DMing on an online server, you're going to be vetting character sheets. The people who join online RPG servers don't read instructions. Not all of them, but enough to totally clog up your time. Also, the people who are polite and read instructions are the ones you will have no administrative contact with. Trolls and people who can't READ BASIC INSTRUCTIONS will monopolize your time.
2. Making a nice-looking roll20 map from scratch takes a lot of time; doing it for an entire dungeon, which you are adapting from a module, which you are doing simultaneously, is an exercise in frustration and lost effort.
3. 5e isn't my system of choice on a good day, and online randoms aren't my audience of choice; the two do not mix.

I stopped being a DM on that server after a couple weeks. Not worth the headache.

On the other hand, David Perry and the other players in the CX campaign have been naught but perfect angels whom I don't deserve. S&W was also a good choice of system, much more suited to my GMing skill level than the GLOG. Enamored though I am with that absurd constellation of hacks, an apprentice GM needs something a little more tangible. 

Right, adventures and the starting thereof.

Last year, my big RPG project was a ruleset for underwater play. I was only really familiar with GLOG at the time (maybe I'll one day talk about the first system I ever GMed, but that's another story) so I used GLOG. I figured I'd actually need to playtest the damn thing, and that would require making an adventure, or at least a bare-bones adventuring environment. Believe it or not, I actually did that, but playtesting never got off the ground. Trying to run a playtest for a revolutionary new ruleset online in the early stages of a global pandemic is not a good idea. That project has been shelved. 

Before that, I was doing Elder Scrolls GLOG, which I actually did playtesting for. That discord text game lasted for a few months. Trust me, text games, even relatively fast-paced ones on Discord, are not good for playtesting. 

After the underwater rules sputtered out, I went for a while without a 'big project'. Just ran my game and focused on schoolwork. Then I got back into blogging and decided to write an adventure. Something simple and classic. A tomb adventure. A small dungeon. Well, maybe not that small. With totally hombrewed monsters. And thematic areas, and a Sumerian flavor. And a CX-style wanderers table. And lots of thematic areas. And lots of levels. And blackjack, and hookers!

Yeah, that got out of control fast, though I put the kibosh on it and shelved it before I put in too much effort for something out of my reach. I started from a fresh document, planning to create a simple, short adventure. Two or three sessions long. A mystery. A dragon at the end. And for flavor, I should set it in Roman Cyrenaica circa 50BCE. And, of course, I should effort into making the setting historically accurate before I put dragons and magic in. So of course it's worthwhile to read extensive site reports and pore over maps of ancient city layouts for the Libyan Pentapolis. 

The intended adventure length shot up to about 8 sessions. Hell, I can't get a party together for 8 sessions of online playtesting, let alone for both a 5e and OSR version, And one set of playtests surely wouldn't be enough.

So I dropped that one too. All that work is still in documents, waiting to be used. There's good, evocative stuff there, but no good structure. Lots of ideas, none of it in playable form.

Hi, my name is Nicolas Roman, and I have a problem. I get addicted to the rush of new projects and then drop them once their scope balloons out of control.

Just afterwards, I forced myself to write something short and quick. A one-shot adventure, a few pages, simple to the point of being yawn-worthy, but still evocative. I spent an evening doing that, got some good ideas an a basic map out of it, then dropped off the map and took a break from blogging for a couple weeks. 

I didn't intend to do that, mind you. I decided to read a book for inspiration, and digested the entire audiobook for Ursula K. LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea in an evening. I then digested both books of  Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicles in a little over a week, and just finished A Wise Man's Fear a few hours ago.

I now have lots of great ideas about gameable true names and the fae. But none of that is a published, gameable material. None of that's even a blog post yet. 

The odd thing is that, even after writing a post, I feel hesitant to advertise it overmuch. The amount of effort to put it on Reddit or Twitter is small, but I feel some aversion to it, a sense that I'm spamming. I didn't think I'd get tired of promoting myself, let alone with it taking so little effort.

Part of it is a dissatisfaction with chasing views. Throughout the months of May and June I put my nose to the grindstone and put out lots of blogposts. They were both my biggest months on the blog by a great margin. A big part of that success was a mention in Ben Milton's monthly roundups. I've also gotten more followers and lots of new comments in a short time, and I've been blessedly bot-free for weeks.

Yet it doesn't quite satisfy. Seeing those numbers count up is addicting, but it's not what I desire. So what do I desire?

To paraphrase Bredon, I want to run a beautiful game. At the end of the day, I love running games. That's why I keep staying up until four in the morning running CX for players on the other side of the pond. I love creating. I love the process of designing an adventure. It just seems I love the process more than creating a finished product.

I currently have another adventure fermenting in my head. Something a little gonzo, with dinosaurs and evil archaeologists. Maybe the fifth time's the charm. Or maybe I'll just learn better habits. At this stage, getting a reliable group for playtesting content is a requirement before I can really produce anything, and at the moment that means online play, which isn't quite ideal for anyone.

Still, I'm young, in real terms and as a GM/creator. It's not like I'm way behind the curve for not having published my own material yet. If I get a decent product out in the next year I should still be able to hold on to my identity as a wunderkind. 

And for those of you who took the time to read this stumbling rant, you have my thanks. Have an excellent week, and stay safe.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

A Stone's Tale

The clang of metal on stone disturbed the pebble. A steady, shrill noise piercing the earth and interrupting the pebble's ordinary and dull life. The sound drew closer, unbearably loud, before the pebble was blinded by daylight. Shards of stone were gathered up in sacks, and the pebble, still snug in a chunk of motherly rock, was whisked away from the cool earth.

In short order, those stones were put to use; strong hands chiseled and fitted them together with tremendous precision. The pebble, set on the inside of a structure, saw little of the construction, but was glad to once again be surrounded by hard rock, sheltered from the wind, rain and sun.

The day followed certain rhythms; the stones grew hot at the same time as innumerable feet stepped above, crossing back and forth, then fell quiet as the stones cooled again. The rhythm repeated itself day after day without rest, intensifying and diminishing with the seasons.

One night the pebble was wrenched from the ground once more, this time by rougher hands. The motherly chunk of stone was chiseled down to size, joined to other stones by mortar, and planted in soft earth. It was allowed a clear view of the road that neatly severed the dry plain, set off to the side where it would not be tread on.

The cycle of day and night, season on season continued its inexorable march, as the road sped passing travelers and armies on their way. The milestone was rubbed endlessly for luck, and with the wind and odd rains grew a hair shorter each year. 

In time the road was less trafficked, and one day abandoned entirely. Predictably and tediously, the milestone crumbled, and the pebble was left alone, baking on the roadside.

Then, for the first time in many years, the road was traveled again. A host came down the old road, and a careless boot tossed the pebble aside and into a ditch, where it rested until it slipped into the sleeping earth. The pebble knew (as it always had) that the woman who wore the boot was destined for greatness, and considered itself blessed. 

Joesky Tax: The Olive Gem

A thumbnail-sized emerald, set in a silver belt clasp. From a frontal angle, a flaw within the jewel appears like a laurel wreath. If planted in depleted soil, renders the land within a thousand paces lush and dark. In its place will grow a succulent olive tree. 3000gp.

Ancient Gold Emerald Green Pegasus Intaglio Roman Ring | #28808897