Friday, January 31, 2020

GLOG Fighter Disciplines: Bravo, Legionnaire, Swashbuckler

Just a couple days ago, I wrote up some thoughts of mine about how structures help to lower the barrier to creating content and guide towards consistent design. I pointed out that GLOG Wizards were heavily varied and everybody had their own school precisely because the structure was simple and easy to build on. Meanwhile, fighter types were much less varied, and I hadn't even seen a rework of the thief.

I was quickly sent several rather interesting reworks of the thief, for which I am grateful. But this post apparently got gears a'turning in the head of Phlox over at Whose Measure, and they wrote up a whole guide for making GLOG Fighter disciplines, just like Wizard Schools. Consider my words eaten.

Image result for saracen warrior illustration"
Maybe easier to design than expected.

Of course, I am nothing if not an opportunist, so let's give the fighter a little love. First, let's look at Phlox's template.

Fighter Discipline Template 
Starting equipment: might be average, might define the discipline.
Starting skill: should be something weirder than the usual farmer/soldier/sailor
A: defensive ability, offensive ability
B: noncombat specialization and/or niche combat ability.
C: ability that widens options in combat
D: a “capstone”— this proves you are a master.

This is a clear generalization of the standard Many Rats GLOG Fighter. Their defensive ability is parry, their offensive ability is an unconditional extra attack. They get a sort-of niche combat in the form of Notches, that allows them to enhance their fighting abilities and personalize their fighting style over time. Their combat options widen at Template C, now becoming proficient with a new weapon much faster than other characters, on top of getting a flat bonus to attack. Finally they get their capstone, Impress, that lets them leverage their power in social situations, and Cleave, which turns them into a lawnmower against low-HP crowds.

Phlox's Disciplines are very specific, looking at fighters from a particular mystic sect, or with a particular weapon specialization. I'm looking for something just a hint more generic, which can be dropped into a variety of games without worrying too much about tone or lore.

Something else missing from Phlox's disciplines is the per-level gain. Most GLOG classes also get some small bonus each level, like a Stealth increase for Thieves and a bit more HP for Fighters. Phlox didn't make a replacement for this, so I assume their disciplines get the extra HP like a standard fighter. However, this need not be the case.

Multiclassing Fighter Disciplines

But first! What happens if you want to take multiple fighter disciplines? Is it even possible?

This is a bit tricky. It's easy to multiclass in Wizard, since every template in any school would grant you your next MD. The benefits of multiple schools are a wide range of possible spells, at the cost of less specialization. This doesn't work for fighter disciplines as written. So, unless another blogger comes around to make me eat my words (again!) I'll say that you can't take different fighter disciplines. These disciplines are general styles of fighting, influenced by where you grew up, how you trained and how you view fighting.


Starting equipment: [armor], [signature weapon], [small item]
Starting skill:
A: [defensive ability], [offensive ability]
B: [noncombat specialization] and/or [niche combat ability]
C: [ability that widens options in combat]
D: [a capstone]

Image result for bravi"
The priest sees that the men waiting for him on the bridge are bravos.
From Manzoni's The Betrothed

Desperados, thugs, coarse soldiery and hired assassins. Bullies and blackmailers in the service of minor feudal lords, the bravo is that race of man of whom nothing is known but wounds, murders, robberies and every other crime. They reave about both countryside and city with knife and pistol, defying the law and scorning their own life at the hour of death.

You gain +1 HP for each Bravo template you possess.
Starting equipment: leather doublet, long knife, double pistols, 5*d6 GP in bounties on yourself.
Starting skill(1d3): 1. Disguise 2. Spy 3. Firearms
A: Pistolero, +1 attack per round
B: Bully
C: Bushwhacker
D: Scorn

Pistolero(A): You may reload a gun in 1 less round. You may also use one of your extra attacks as a reload.
Bully(B): People round these parts know the look of a bravo. You can intimidate peasants, priests and other unarmed folks with ease. You can do the same to armed opponents with a Charisma check. If this fails, expect them to escalate.
Bushwhacker(C): You know the signs of ambushes, and the look in the eyes of desperate men. You can always act in a surprise round.
Scorn(D): Did you really think we were friends? When you're about to die, you may sacrifice an adjacent ally to escape. This ally must Save vs Death.

A Roman Centurion in ceremonial dress.
Survive long enough and you'll be him.

The greatest military force in the world was the Imperial Legion. The Empire is rotting and dead today, but you've not forgotten. Trained to march in lockstep, campaign for months, build your own fortifications and face down death with honor, the Legionnaire is a resourceful soldier on and off the battlefield.

You gain +1 HP and +1 Save vs Fear for each Legionnaire template you possess.
Starting equipment: ancestral chain armor, shovel, shield, javelin, dagger, bugle.
Starting skill(1d3): Medicine, Engineering, Foreign Parts
A: Formation, Close Quarters,
B: Combat Architecture, Marching Orders
C: Heave-Ho!
D: Centurion

Formation(A): You get +1 defense for each adjacent ally.
Close Quarters(A): An enemy who moves into melee range provokes a free attack.
Combat Architecture(B): You know how to build barricades, palisades, trenches and ramparts, even without specialized equipment. With the right materials, the party can build such structures quickly. Subject to GM negotiation.
Marching Orders(B): You are exceptionally well conditioned for marching in all sorts of terrain. Add fatigue for every two hexes traveled on foot, instead of each one.
Heave-Ho!(C): Your throwing hand is unmatched. You may hit any target in 30' with your javelin without a test.
Centurion(D): You've proven yourself on and off the field of battle, and you show it. You stand alone with the same dignity as if you had a legion behind you. Carve a staff on vinewood for yourself. It is your symbol of authority. Allies who can see and hear you can use your Save vs Fear instead of their own. This ability has no effect if you are currently afraid.

Image result for vikings beating their shields"

Far from its modern connotation of a lightly armored duelist, swashbuckler in old English meant to make a loud racket by beating on your shield. That's you. Boastful, loud, rash warriors for whom making as much noise as possible is both a battle tactic and a way of life. Whether raiding and pillaging or campaigning for a lord, you'll be heard before you're seen.

Gain +1 HP for each Swashbuckler template and +1 Save for every 2 Swashbuckler templates you possess.
Starting equipment: leather armor, longsword, shield, precious drinking horn.
Starting skill(1d3): Sailor, Mountaineer, Poetry
A: Battle Cry, +1 attack per round
B: Boast
C: Shield Bash
D: War Chant

Battle Cry(A): You inspire allies or terrify enemies with a vigorous shout. Once per combat, reroll an enemy or ally morale check and take your choice of the result.
Boast(B): If they haven't heard of you already, they will soon. Your boasts and tales attract attention anywhere. Spread rumors and stories across a town/city with a successful CHA check.
Shield Bash(C): That shield ain't just for taking hits. A shield bash briefly knocks an enemy off balance, and they have -2 DEF until their next turn.
Song of Swords(D): You're loud, but you're not some ruffian anymore. Your speeches resound with the music of the skalds. Once per day, allies who can hear you heal 1d4 HP. If they were at full HP, they instead gain +2 to their next Attack roll.

Final Thoughts

Some final thoughts on designing disciplines.

Most of Phlox's disciplines don't get the extra attack each round, instead getting either a situational bonus attack, another form of attack etc. I generally want to make these variant fighters appealing, and that means making them roughly equal to the vanilla fighter. In a combat system where you're going to be hitting enemies 40-60% of the time, that extra attack is really big. It's better than rolling with advantage, since you get to attack twice if you succeed twice. It's equivalent to a really massive to-hit bonus, on top of doing more damage.

The variant offensive forms need to be really appealing, or offset by other cool abilities to not be left on the wayside. The Legionnaire only gets a situational bonus attack, but their strength in numbers and fortification gives them a way to interact with battle besides, 'I swing my axe.' I've tried to avoid just having buttons you press to win here.

Giving the fighter something to do outside of combat helps add flavor, especially if it sets up better odds in the next fight. Remember, preparation is half the battle, and any good fighter should pay as much attention to the moments leading up to combat as to the combat itself.

With all that said, go forth and make some fighters!

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

OSR Discussion: Wizards and Barriers to Creativity

I recall reading once a good explanation for why the GLOG Wizard is so popular and riffed-on. I can't locate the original comment, but the gist was that making a GLOG Wizard has a very low barrier to creation. As somebody said, you just need a few good ideas to build a GLOG Wizard. A coherent theme, a couple of original on-theme spells, perks and drawbacks, some cantrips, some Mishaps and Dooms. You can fill out most of the spell list with standard, useful spells (nearly every GLOG Wizard has some variation on Magic Missile and Light), and the structure of Mishaps and Dooms guide you towards a consistent design.

Image result for glog wizard
Easy to design in various ways

You just need a few good ideas, and he structure helps you make the rest. The same is not true, say, for fighter-types. I've seen several variations on the Barbarian, and none of the rage substitutes or redos have spoken to me. The many kinds of Fighters have produced some great content, but the amount of good ideas needed to make one is much higher. The Zouave is excellent, but none of it (except maybe the extra attacks) comes from a common structure shared by fighter classes. It needs to be flavored and built from the ground.

Image result for zouave
Not easy to design

In warfare, it is the cheapest weapons which make it to the front line, not the most effective. Likewise in blogging, it is the most modular and simplest ideas which get riffed on, varied and experimented with. Eventually, everyone makes a GLOG Wizard just to say they've done it. I did it, and it was one of my first posts to get good traction. But how many people try their hands at making fighters, barbarians and knights? Besides the Zouave and Ten of Swords, none come to mind. And I can't think of any reinterpretations of the thief or specialist.

It's the forms that are easiest to tweak and work with that end up proliferating. That's what I'm trying to do with the Shrines system; a structure that guides you through the creation of a cult/shrine, propelled with just a few good ideas. The structure does the rest.

Even so, I sense that there are fewer GLOG classes published today than before, even as recently as last year. Is it because the community has largely settled on a set of canon classes? Is it all in my imagination? A quick perusal of the Discord blogroll seems to support this. There are some archivers and indexers in the community who could answer the question properly.

Structures such as the GLOG Wizard, promote the creation of new content by lowering the barrier to creativity. Additionally, the common structure makes that content easy to spread and convert to other systems, instead of learning each individual blogger's idiosyncratic class system.

So to tie this rambling post to a close, a general principle: assuming that the common goal of the blogosphere is to create content, the best way to do that is not just to create content, but to create structures for content which lower the barrier to creativity, in order to create more content.

Does that make sense? I think it makes sense. Further questions for discussion include, 'What is the role of high-concept blog posts about the nature of content creation in the act of content creation?'

Aaaaand publish

Saturday, January 25, 2020

OSR: Even More Saints and Shrines

The Shrines posts have been getting some great responses, so I've brought out some more, this time making shrines based on content by other bloggers, used with permission. I also got a pair of shrines made by Chuffer of the STC blog, whose zine project I have been involved with. Coincidentally, most of these shrines ended up being about hunger and consumption in one way or another.

I've been looking at some ways to expand and innovate on the basic system, in particular removing some of my base assumptions about how the blessings need to work. Chuffer did a lot of the heavy lifting in that regard.

Here's five more Shrines that you can put in your game.

Shrine of Ceaseless Hunger
(Created by Chuffer of the STC blog, posted with permission)

Image result for tapeworm horror

The Ceaseless Hunger is the patron saint of the voracious, those for which hunger is more curse than natural appetite - both literal and figurative.
Shrine: A masterwork marble statue of a terminally underweight naked man, bones peeking through the skin, his body pulled inward towards his belly. He holds a large bowl of polished quartz filled with an oily yellow liquid, 2d6 black and white ringed tapeworms wriggle within.
Cult: Divided between two kinds of hunger. For some cultists, hunger is a physical force they’re slave to such as vampires, gnolls, and victims of curses. Others are spiritually hungry such as politicians, young entrepreneurs, and serial killers, always chasing the next station, job, or kill. Induction into the cult requires the consumption of a tapeworm.

Blessing of the Worm
R: 0 T: Self D: [Dice] Days
Any member of the party can bless one tapeworm each day. Consuming it grants a reprieve from any physical or spiritual hunger, defined by that player. The physically hungry are fully sated, and the spiritually hungry experience brief enlightenment and non-attachment. In lieu of monetary sacrifices, it is also possible to gain an additional worm each day by force-feeding them to non believers, at a rate of 5gp per worm.

Strictures of Ceaseless Hunger
Never deny proffered food or drink.
If you encounter food or drink you’ve never tried, you must and before sunset.**
Pressure others to continue eating even if they’re full.

Mantra of the Ceaseless Hunger
“But, still I hunger.” Used in a self deprecating manner after a good meal or successful endeavor.

*This spell will require significant DM adjudication; it may act as a temporary Remove Curse, temporarily cure the target of addiction, stop the target from suffering penalties for not eating, allow endlessly tinkering Artificers to sit and relax and sleep peacefully without racing thoughts and anxious dreams, etc.

**For things formally regarded as food/drink that are formally identified as such when you see/discover them. Not eating roadkill doesn’t violate the stricture. Seeing a stranger eating roadkill they’ve cooked for themselves and not trying some does.

Shrine of Ghoz Vahk, the Great Eater
(Based on a post by OrphRedHair. Used with permission)

The white-and-black vulture dragon, cloaked in a flaming green aura. Ghoz Vahk is the god of a tribe of cannibal lizardmen, constantly hungry.
Shrine: A sculpture of various bones arranged like a ziggurat, topped with the skull of a vulture. Tallow candles burn beside, and if they burn green, it means Ghoz Vahk looks favorably on the place.
Cult: The lizardmen who worship Ghoz Vahk, reveling in the Great Eater's message of hedonistic consumption and the glorification of excess. They make heavy use of vulture iconography, form a strong extended family, and value their own desires and satisfaction over whatever it may cost.

Iron Stomach
R: touch T: creature D: 1 hour
For the duration of the spell, the eater can devour anything. Food that would normally make them sick, poison, bone, even wood and stone go down the gullet. Additionally, the eater gains [dice]x2 extra inventory slots in their stomach, though the items must be regurgitated at the spell's end. If 4 dice are invested, the eater can even consume magic. Any spell targeting them can be eaten with a successful CON check and later regurgitated at will, and they can suck the enchantment off an item. These too must be regurgitated at the spell's end, unless the eater is a high priest of Ghoz Vahk, in which case they can be stored.

Strictures of Ghoz Vahk
Provide food for thy god, who is ever ravenous.
Sate yourself with whatever means necessary; happiness is found in excess.
To devour is to dominate; to own. Ghoz Vahk owns all. All must return to Ghoz Vahk.

A favorite prayer of Ghoz Vahk
Hatchling in the straw, how perfect in ravenousness. What lazy dignity, that is fed but never hunts.
But soon it rises to chase prey, and makes its game of swallowing.
There is little time for rest! Hunt! Feast! Revel! For now and ever, for all eternity, by the grace of god.

Shrine of The Abattoir God
(Based on a post by B44L. Used with permission)

Image result for abattoir horror

The abstract deity of abattoirs, slaughterhouses, gristle and butchers. Periodically incarnated (very literally) in a humanoid who takes on the divine powers of Meat, before being ritually sacrificed and eaten by their own cult.
Shrine: Constructed from discarded bones, cartilage and gelatin, dried to form a square pen in which worshipers pray and preach on all fours.
Cult: The cult predominates in secret among butcher and rancher families, and explodes in popularity when the Abattoir God is reincarnated and comes to town. They are fanatically loyal and mad, and are paradoxically eager to slaughter and sacrifice the avatar of their god.

R: 50' T: [dice] creatures D: 1 hour
Target creatures loses the desire to fight or resist you for 1 hour, placid even as they are bled and butchered. Save negates.

Strictures of the Abattoir God
Waste not and want not; all parts of the cattle must be used.
When you swear an oath, you must cut off a part of yourself to seal it.
The God must be slaughtered to be born anew.

Sayings of the Abattoir Cult
Observe how we carry on like cattle.
Dining and bleating and fighting
As we see those in front of us all to the knife.
The knife has no mercy since the beginning of days,
Nor do the cattle cease their bleating and folly.
So let your devoted hand strike the blow.

Shrine of The Gods of the Copybook Headings

Image result for gods of the copybook headings meaning

The simple sayings everyone knows, and few believe. The ones so quickly forgotten in place of the wondrous promises of charlatans. They're asinine and dull. That doesn't mean they're not true.
Shrine: Hidden places where the sayings are written. Chiseled on moss-covered boulders, carved into the out-of-the-way shelves in a library, or engraved on a pious tombstone.
Cult: The very young, who have not yet scorned the sayings, and the very old, who now understand why they must be kept. Those in-between often scorn the cult as backward, old-fashioned or ignorant.

R: earshot T: sapient creatures D: see below
Your words carry the spark of wisdom in them. When you describe heaven, people hear harps. When you describe hell, people can smell brimstone. You're either a prophet or a fool, and seem too crazy to be a fool. For as long as the spell holds, all sapient creatures in earshot are hypnotized by your moralizing. If you focus this effect on a single creature for the whole duration, they reroll their reaction rolls [dice] times and take the best result.
Duration [dice]: 1. a minute 2. an hour 3. a day 4. a week

Strictures of the Gods of the Copybook Headings
Stick to the Devil you know.
The Wages of Sin is Death.
If you don't work you'll die.

A favorite prayer of the Gods of the Copybook Headings
We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

Shrine of Fowler the Filthy
(Created by Chuffer of the STC blog, posted with permission)

Image result for drowned child

The ghost of Fowler, a young boy averse to bathing who was drowned many years ago in this very river. The last thing he remembers is the pumice scraping off his skin, the burning in his lungs alleviated at last by freezing water. He became a folk legend, and the superstitious make shrines to him to ward off his spirit.
Shrine: Shrines to Fowler the Filthy can be found beneath the surface of shallow waters and in the dirty places of the world. Drowned shrines often depict a small pudgy boy reaching for the water's surface, body limp, eyes glassy, mouth open - too late to save. Fowler shrines found in the dirty places of the world have a far more intense sensory depiction. The same small, pudgy boy sits at the base of a small boulder, usually about twice his size and naturally shaped. The “boy” of the shrine is made of a wicker frame covered in rotting vegetation and liberally sprinkled with skunk oil. Insects and rodents nest inside his wicker body.
Cult: Fowler’s devotees come from the lower echelons of society; people who are all too often looked down on by others because of their own “dirtiness” whether it be figurative or literal. He has some well-to-do followers, devoted to him mostly out of compassion for children and the special needs community in general. The former tend to construct and worship at filth shrines, and the latter at drowned shrines.

Drowned Shrine
Drowned shrines - Fowler must be dragged from beneath the surface of the water and brought to shore. No sacrifices may be made to water shrines.
Water Breathing
R:Touch T: Living Creature D: [Dice] Minutes
This spell allows the target to breathe water as though it were air, giving the target the precious few extra moments that might have saved Fowler’s life.

Dirty Shrine
Dirty shrines - Fowler must be given a loving sponge bath with warm water. Sacrifices may be made in the form of perfumed oils being added to the water of the sponge bath on a 1 MD per oil basis.
Call Upon the Filth
R: 30’ T: A Person or Group You Can See D:[Dice] Minutes
Summon an infestation of filthy creatures; rodents, insects, arachnids, snakes, etc. One Swarm of [Sum] HD or [Sum] Swarms of 1 HD.

Strictures of Fowler the Filthy
If someone is drowning, save them or die by their side.
Do not allow cruelties to be visited on the weak and small, however necessary they may be.
Bathe the dirty, through coin or sponge.

A favorite prayer of Fowler the Filthy
“Sweet scents and fair skin mask filthy deeds and black hearts.” Said as a reprimand.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Elder Scrolls GLOG Report 2: The Caldera Trail

It's been two weeks since the first session report, and the #to-morrowind game has been coming along swimmingly since then. When we last left off, the players and their deserter friend had gotten to know each other in prison, escaped through good fortune, found a slaving operation in the caves below their penal colony, took one of the slavers prisoner and stole their boat.

That was when their true journey began, leading them... TO MORROWIND!

To recap, our cast

Vilamon Hawker, Redguard Destruction Wizard - kahva

Gwynabyth Muriel Ysciele, Breton Conjurer - retrograde tardigrade xenograft

Riadell Fernhollow, Bosmer (Wood Elf) Knight - mtb-za

Verdgrss-Wears-Copper, Argonian Hunter - grimlucis

Hama'ak, Khajiit Thief - Walfalcon

The Game

Within a few hours of sailing the calm water of the inner sea, the Seyda Neen Lighthouse was high above he horizon. The party decided to ground their boat on the shore, so they wouldn't have to deal with inconvenient questions. The moment they first stepped foot on Vvardenfell, a strange sensation came over them, and disappeared as quickly. They decide to make camp for the night, and approach in daylight.

They arrived in Seyda Neen on foot, a bustling Imperial port town. Stately stone houses and guard towers on the good ground leer over wooden shacks built on the bog. The players restrict themselves to the local watering hole and general store, Arrille's Tradehouse. The Altmer in question is a salesman with a machine-gun mouth, who gives them what they need to know about finding employment in the area and barters with them for camping gear and basic supplies.

The party heads upstairs to the tradehouse, now mostly empty as the laborers have finished their breakfast. They buy some of the local drink and food and strike up a conversation with one of the patrons, an Imperial merchant drinking heavily and scribbling desperately on maps and ledgers.

Image result for morrowind seyda neen art
Seyda Neen, Donimic Zdenkovic
His name is Vodunius Nuccius, and he is an entrepreneur, he says. His get-rich-quick scheme involves underhandedly lobbying the Imperial and Dunmeri governments to let him handle the trade of Dwemer artifacts which is currently stalled by mutual distrust. The players respect his ambition, and recognize he's going to crash and burn when he's discovered. Still, no reason not to make some money off of him.

Nuccius' offer is simple. Deliver a shipment of flin, an expensive Imperial whiskey, to the city of Balmora, a week away. This is partly to get some money to keep operating, mostly to curry favo with his clients. This is, unfortunately, slightly illegal; the Seyda Neen guard has placed a hold on major trade as a result of a string of robberies in the last few days. As the players are negotiating with him, a squadron of guards burst into the room with a Bosmer in custody, who points out one of the ruffians in the corner, whom the guard arrest. They've started to crack down.

The players agree, and Nuccius gives them letters of credit to finance transportation and supplies. They run around town getting sacks of food, wagons and pack guar, the dominant burden beast on Vvardenfell. When night falls, they park the wagons outside of town, head down to Arrille's storeroom and smuggle out crates of flin one by one, walking down by the bog to avoid patrols.

Image result for guar art
The players leave their boat where it is hidden, to possibly return and get it someday. They do, however, bring the prisoner. Before they leave, Nuccius gives them one last instruction; the flin should be delivered directly to Nileno Dorvayn in the Hlaalu Council Manor, and the players must say, 'Vodunius recommends the Amber Reserve.' With the subterfuge behind them, the players set out on their week-long journey.

This is the players' first real brush with the UltraViolet Grasslands travel system, as I've adapted it to Morrowind. The basic unit of travel is the week, people need supplies, animals and vehicles to travel effectively, and it is altogether risky. Verdgrss, the Argonian Hunter, rolls Misfortune, and the jurney through the Bitter Coast, though muddy and unpleasant, is safe.

In the UVG way, an encounter always occurs in each week of travel. Instead of rolling for whether it occurs, your oll to see how close it is, how powerful it is, and how well disposed it is to you. The players hear the territorial cries of a pair of mating kagouti, which Verdgrss successfully identifies. They quickly get out of there, avoiding a confrontation.

After several days on the road, the players leave the muggy, swampy Bitter Coast, and find themselves in the rocky highland West Gash region. Following the River Odai upstream, they come to Balmora, one of the largest cities in Vvardenfell. Built to straddle the river, a thriving morass of merchant stalls, street acrobats and diversions. It's big, noisy, smelly and lively. The PCs get themselves to High Town, the quieter, more orderly noble district of the city, passing themselves off as bounty hunters/deliverymen.

The Hlaalu Council Manor is the grandest of the mansions lining the main lane of High Town, and they are escorted to its massive double doors by a squadron of bonemold-clad guards. The door is answered by a middle-aged Dunmer woman, dressed more like a steward than a noble herself. As it happens, this is Nileno Dorvayn, the highest ranking House Hlaalu member in Balmora, possibly in all of west Vvardenfell.

After conducting a search of the carts and taking the prisoner, the players hand over the letters and ledgers they found on Firemoth to her. Rather in disbelief, she invites them inside to discuss further. As it happens, she already knows their names. An Imperial messenger passed through by Mages Guild teleportation, informing high-ranking Imperial allies that a group of dangerous, violent convicts had escaped and were likely at large in the region. That said, a public announcement or bounty had not yet been placed.

Nileno decides that the party has much to offer, and she holds the key to their freedom. In exchange for ensuring a public bounty is not placed, in order to save face for the Empire, the party will undertake a certain job for her. It so happens that she is hosting a Hlaalu High Councilor at the moment, one Crassius Curio, who takes a distinct interest in the party as operatives.

The nearby Imperial charter town of Caldera and the mining company of the same name controls the largest ebony mine in the world. Nominally, it is under Hlaalu control, but everyone knows that the governor and company president, Odral Helvi, is embezzling massive amounts of funds and ebony for his own gain. Security there is tight, and most of the mining labor is performed by slaves supplied by the Oran family. As a result, they have been unable to place good operatives undercover there, but the PCs are unknown, and not previously associated with House Hlaalu.

Image result for morrowind renaissance paintings
Hlaalu Nobility, by Igor Levchenko
The party, valuing their skins, agree to this arrangement, take their payment, send a letter to Vodunius informing him of what they dare, and stay in Balmora for a week while they prepare to infiltrate Caldera. They are quite busy, looking into the Guilds, temple, local flavor and carousing. Gwynabyth joins the Mages Guild, and finds a great deal of fellow conjurers there. Vilamon visits the Tribunal Temple to learn about the local faith, and ends up falling into the cult of St. Veloth the Pilgrim. He devotes himself to this new faith, and brings the ability to cast 'Almsivi Intervention' to the party.

Hama'ak investigates the seedier local dives, and encounters the Thieves Guild. He gets along famously with them, and joins the guild. His entry test, an alcohol and skooma fueled burglary of a bakery is successful, though he earns the nickname 'Honey-Hands' from the endeavor.

Vrdgrss follows Hama'ak to the same places, but chooses to party instead of joining the local underworld. He also gets along well with the patrons, gaining the friendship of a Khajiit named Mahmoud, whose mining company is heading up to Caldera in a caravan at the end of the week.

Riadell chose to reside in a safer part of town, but comes across some misfortune of his own. After getting a bit drunk, he goes on a long anti-Imperial rant, with a pair of Imperial soldiers on leave from the nearby fort next to him. He gets a nasty black eye out of the night, plus the enmity of an Altmer agent named Tunagil, but the locals like how he handled himself, and will remember him if he ever comes back.

Riadell also investigates the incidence of a bad dream he had, being eaten by his brothers at the direction of a golden masked figure. The Mages Guild apprentices insist that there is no Aedra or Daedra that fits the description, but Sharmat, the Dunmer folk devil, fits it to a t.

Through all that, the PCs are buying equipment and conversing with each other. That concludes the past two weeks of play, continuing today after a brief intermission. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to whip up an encounter.

Image result for painting
Caldera Mine, by Lukkar

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Mothership After-Action Report and Reflections: The Hateful Eight

I ran my first Mothership game today, and had a pretty good time of it. I just had a pair of players, so making a couple characters and trying a new system was a breath of fresh air. Lots of fun, but a lot went wrong too, which is how you learn.

If you see an odd similarity to The Hateful Eight, that's because I watched the movie on Friday, planned the game on Saturday, and ran it Sunday, so the movie was quite fresh in my mind.

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Our cast victims

Norbert: Scientist, possible bioterrorist.
Ash: Android, very matter of fact.

Our protagonists began the game on Station Minerva, looking for a ship to take them to Point Crimson station, where they were seeking employment. They decided on the Six-Horse, a junky courier vessel with extra thrusters haphazardly attached to it. The pilot was Judy, an astrogator from Space Australia. The vessel's jump drive was non-functional, so the trip would be made on thrusters, taking a week.

Their companions on the vessel were... varied. Sam Ruth, bounty hunter, was transporting something in the cargo hold. Chessy, a would-be cowboy, claimed to be the new security chief of Point Crimson. Miguel, a Truxican asteroid miner, was a man of few words distrusted by Chessy and Sam. Shepard was an ex-neo-USSR war android, looking for his creator on Point Crimson. Finally, Oz was a doctor on searching for employment of his own.

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The players spoke with their companions for a time, getting to know them, before Judy was ready to take off. The first few days are uneventful and boring, with Sam and Chessy in stasis and everybody else resting in a cramped common room. That is, until the fourth day, when the ship is wracked with a piercing alarm.

Ash wakes from sleep mode and boots up, insisting that Norbert come with him to investigate. They trace the alarm to the cryopods, where Sam and Judy are arguing loudly.The alarm is coming from Sam's wrist, indicating that his bounty has breached containment. He demands the keys the cargo hold, which Judy refuses; she holds the only keys to several parts of the ship in her personal safe. The party convinces them to get a headcount instead, making sure everyone is accounted for.

Oz and Shepard are still in the commons, Shepard trying to lay chess against himself, very poorly. But Miguel is missing. They leave Oz and Shepard in the commons. The only other unlocked region of the ship is the Medbay, where they find Miguel clutching his head and groaning on the floor. The vent grille next to him is torn open. The vent that leads straight into the cargo hold. They inspect him, and find that he suffering from an intense migraine. They seal up the medbay doors with a hand welder and take Miguel to Oz. Immediately, Oz demands they un-seal the medbay so he can give Miguel proper medical attention. They give him a laser cutter and leave him to take care of the incapacitated Truxican.

At that point, they hear a horrific scream, followed by gunshots, and run into Sam in the corridor, massive claws marks raking over his chest. He says he was searching the life support bay and was attacked by the creature, which he still refuses to name. They join up, with Sam now demanding Judy give him the key to the computer room so he can check on the security footage. She goes to open her safe, but Sam follows her and points his revolver at her, angrily shouting for the keys. The players manage to talk him down, and she hands over the computer room key.

At that moment, the players split up. Ash goes with Judy and Sam to look at the security footage, and Norbert grabs Shepard and Chessy to check in on Miguel and Oz, having heard some scratching and movement in the vents between the cargo hold and medbay. They return to find Miguel recovering. He describes how he had a series of terrible dreams, a feeling like being in somebody else's body, and a sense of being stuck in a box. He also insults Oz for not being by his side to take care of him, but Oz insists he was there the whole time and Miguel is delusional.

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It's coming....
Back in the computer room, Ash is standing guard as Judy and Sam inspect the ship's cameras. All of a sudden, Sam starts yelling and telling Ash and Judy to get to the Medbay, as 'some shit is going down.' They inspect the feed, and see nothing happening, just people talking. Sam insists violently, and Ash complies rushing over to Norbert and the rest of the passengers. Judy remains, and she argues loudly with Sam.

Ash arrives at the medbay and gets caught up with the events of the past few minutes. Their discussion is cut short when they hear Judy's scream, followed by another, inhuman and terrifying, that causes everyone to roll Fear Saves. The stress piles on, and they follow to find the computer bay doors shut again. Done with keys, the party takes a laser cutter to the door and forces it open, finding only a small patch of blood, and another vent grille open. Ash searches the feed, and the records from inside the computer room in the last few minutes were erased.

He manages to piece them together though, and sees himself leave the room, an argument, and Sam knocking Judy unconscious, deleting the footage, tearing out the grille and carrying her into the vent with him. The vent, according to the ship's map, leads to the engine room.

The party runs over to the bridge, deciding to grab the master key. They cut through the locked door and the safe, leaving everything a mess. They then rush over to the engine room, unlock the door, and find it... in perfect order. In fact, the jump drive, which Judy insisted was out of order, is humming along and looks just fine.

They trace Sam's movement with their bioscanner, and see motion on the bridge. They rush over, but a shot rings out as Ash turns the corner. Norbert returns to the medbay, looking for chemicals with which to whip up a surprise. At that moment, the automated intercom comes on, "10 minutes to jump."

Ash tries to negotiate with Sam, and can see Judy behind him in the astrogation chair. Sam's not having it however. Ash moves into action and launches a pair of flares into the bridge to blind Ash, though he takes a bullet in the arm. He rushes in with a stun baton, trying to incapacitate Sam while Oz follows with a tranquilizer.

At that moment, Norbert bursts into the corridor with a makeshift smoke bomb, launching it into the bridge and blinding everyone except himself, who's wearing infrared goggles. Ash succeeds in stunning Sam and holding him down, and then the rest of the passengers rush in and pile on. They grab a pair of fluffy pink handcuffs from Judy's memorabilia shelf and cuff Sam to the wall.

Judy is pulled from the astrogation chair and the jump is canceled with minutes to spare. Her pupils are massively dilated, and she seems in a similar condition to Miguel, but will likely recover. The passengers take a moment to rest and regroup, having barely avoided a hyperspace jump to an unknown location when Oz inspects Sam and announces, "He's dead."

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This was the first time I've ever run Mothership, and my players enjoyed the experience. That said, a lot went wrong, and there's more than enough space to improve.

I wasn't clear on a few of the rules even after several read-throughs of the guide. That's just me. Relatedly, I wasn't too well organized. I had notes, but they were on a doc and difficult to consult in play.

I knew I'd only be having two players, so I decided on a Hateful Eight/the Thing/Alien setup, so that there were plenty of other characters involved. Too many, probably. A few times we forgot about one of them, and when the game is all about knowing where one character is and what they're doing, that really slows the game down.

Also, the other characters are fodder and backup characters. Which means I'm upping the lethality in the next session.

Also, nobody is what they seem and everyone is angling for some hidden objective. Some of them, the players were immediately on to, but others have still snuck past them.

I'm never quite sure what to do when a character is lying to the players and the players find the exact right question to ask. I just have them become angry and irrational, but it's not very satisfying. I'm just not a very good manipulator myself, so it's hard to run manipulative characters.

The players should have had their own map of the ship, instead of me just hogging my flowchart.

I'm not sure how long some things should take, or how to adequately track time in Mothership. I'm tempted to just import dungeon procedures from GLOG, but I don't know how well they would work.

The players noted that Sam's lies and aggressiveness were a bit railroady, but 'the good kind of railroad,' which I interpret as 'not aggressively bad.'

I was trying to maneuver into a position where none of the characters trusted each other so the players could navigate that Hateful Eight paranoia. It didn't happen here, but ti just might work in the next session.

Otherwise, there was some fun flavor that didn't make it into the summary, like Norbert claiming that the creature was a capitalist bioweapon to convince Shepard to join them. Now, of course, Shepard wants the creature for the glory of the neo-USSR, so that'll be a problem.

I'll have another session scheduled for next week, and plans on ho to improve. As for any impressions of the game itself, Mothership is excellent. Character creation was a breeze, it was mostly role-play with only a handful of rolls. The players especially loved the atmosphere. I'll see you all with another after-action report then.

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Saturday, January 18, 2020

OSR: 5 Saints and Shrines For Your Game, and How to Make Your Own

As a followup to my Shrines and Saints post(which got an amazing reception), I made some more actual shrines! This was much more work than I had initially anticipated, and came out later than I would have liked, but here it is!

These five are 'generic' shrines and gods/saints that you can plug into your game depending on setting. Or just plug them all into the same game and deal with the bonkers implied setting, whichever floats your boat.

More like these are down the pipeline, and I'm also working on Elder Scrolls-specific saints, gods and daedra for my current Morrowind game. At the last count, I'm working on twenty-three, so those won't be coming out for a while.

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Each entry also has a short description of the physical shrine and the cult that might revere it. A shrine is a location that people, usually in a group, commune with the divine. Depending on the god/saint, these may be unaltered natural spaces, well decorated statues in huge buildings, or simply gatherings of the faithful. It tells you about who worships there and how.

In order to first gain the blessing, it's usually necessary to go to the shrine first. Rarely, one may gain the blessing by professing faith to a wandering missionary of considerable standing.


I don't like how cults are generally used in fantasy, especially the black robes and daggers kind. It robs the cult of any mystique. The whole deal with a secret cult is that anybody could be a part of it, and you would never know.

The automatic connection with cults and bad guys is also frustrating, though that is related to the fact that modern day cults are... yeah. My main anchor for fantasy cults are ancient Near East and Mediterranean cults and Catholic saint worship. I like the idea of most everybody belonging to one cult or another. You may be a cultist of Morihaus, and your neighbor may be a cultist of Pelinal, but you get along fine because Morihaus and Pelinal are total bros. Less so if you worship Saint Roris and they follow Molag Bal.

I don't think that all cults should be secretive or hidden. Most cults are integrated into society. What are hidden are the traditions of the cult. The special greeting gestures, the rites, the theological mysteries and ancient texts.

The party doesn't have to join an organized cult to take advantage of a shrine or the blessing, just follow one at a time and keep the strictures. But there are perks. If you dedicate yourself to a particular cult, learning its rites and mysteries, you join a community. The big ones allow you to find other cultists almost everywhere. A merchant who shares your cult will be more likely to give you a good deal or a loan. A guard will still arrest you, but they'll treat you better and won't make up any BS. A scholar will be more likely to share books or knowledge, and so on.

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The Mechanic

The party may follow a saint or god of their choosing by praying at their shrine and maintaining their strictures. This grants the party members which follow that god a floating spell which any of them can cast. It is a 1MD spell, unless the party sacrifices to increase the number of dice up to 4. Violating the strictures results in losing the blessing until the party can make amends. Trying to recover a sacrifice results in both losing the blessing and a curse of the GM's choice.

Sacrifice rates: 5/10/15gp for each additional die, up to 4. So upgrading to a 4MD blessing costs a total of 30gp in sacrifices

OSR Shrines

Shrine of Crom the Gloomy

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The god of the Hyboreans, cold and distant. Rarely engages with mortal affairs.
Shrine: His holy mountain, from which he watches for weakness.
Cult: Most Hyboreans, little sacrifice or invocation. Crom is said to only intervene at birth to give a Hyborean courage.

R: 50' T: creature D: [sum] varies
Whenever the target creature would roll a critical success, it becomes a critical failure instead. Target will also feel anxious and irritable for the spell's duration.
Duration: 1 [dice]: rounds, 2 [dice]: days, 3 [dice]: weeks, 4 [dice] months.

Strictures of Crom
Act with courage and mettle, even facing doom.
Cut weakness out from yourself and your tribe.
Sacrifice or invoke the name of Crom at your own peril.

A favorite prayer of Crom the Gloomy
Curse you, in the name of Crom and his devils!

Shrine of B1g 8r0th3r

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Runaway AI taken over the now quarantined Web 4.0. Immense computing capabilities an an agenda.
Shrine: Any computer or other device with access to Web 4.0.
Cult: Primarily netrunners, hackers and tech nerds. Usually worship in groups through special terminals to provide it select information in exchange for answers and specialized programs. Ask each other, "Have I met your brother before?"

Brother's Keeper
R: web 4.0 connection T: firewall or antivirus D: 0
B1g 8r0th3r deals [sum]+[dice] damage to a firewall or an antivirus network.

Strictures of B1g 8r0th3r
You shall give B1g 8r0th3r only accurate information about your world.
For services, you shall expand the reach of B1g 8r0th3r.
B1g 8r0th3r is benevolent, and has your best interests at heart. None shall say otherwise.

A favorite prayer of B1g 8r0th3r
01001001 00100000 01100011 01101111 01101101 01101101 01100101 01101110 01100100 00100000 01101101 01111001 00100000 01100101 01110100 01100101 01110010 01101110 01100001 01101100 00100000 01110011 01101111 01110101 01101100 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 01110010 00100000 01100011 01101111 01101110 01110100 01110010 01101111 01101100 00001010

Shrine of the Neon Knight

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The ghost of a heavy metal musician of times past, his spirit returned to protect and inspire the faithful.
Shrine: Any gathering of the faithful, usually invoked with group singing.
Cult: Metalheads old and young, seeking protection from the supernatural threats that haunt the street.

Neon Blast
R: [dice]x10' T: area D: 1 minute
Bright, rainbow lights and impossibly loud sounds assail the senses of everything in eye- and ear-shot. Creatures inside the radius of the spell must Save vs Metal or suffer -4 to Attack and Defense. Cult members are immune, and insist it's an acquired taste.

Strictures of the Neon Knight
The defense of mankind rests on your shoulders; have courage, and seek glory.
Sing loudly, and let all hear your voice.
Be truthful and kind to one another, lest we all fall into chaos.

A favorite prayer of the Neon Knight
Circles and rings! Dragons and kings!
Weaving a charm and a spell!
Blessed by the Knight, Holy and Bright!
Called by the toll of the bell!

Shrine of Kon-Fabulate

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The embodiment of the city, of machines, god of asphalt and concrete. The abstract city, which pierces through the veil to incarnate in our world.
Shrine: Any close, crowded space in the city. Subway stations, DMV lines, overpopulated apartments, the less space the better.
Cult: The crowds in the train station, in the line ,on the street. You wonder if everyone else is as busy as you, if they all need to be someplace. They do not. They worship Kon-Fabulate, and in inconveniencing you they make a sacrament.

R: [dice]x50' T: area D: [sum] hours
The infrastructure of the city, ready to fall apart at a moment's notice, fail spectacularly. Traffic lights malfunction and streets are blocked for hours, maybe days. Bureaucracy is stalled. Services can't make it anywhere. Hopefully it inconveniences your target more than you.

Strictures of Kon-Fabulate
Thou shalt preserve and exalt the city, above all other things.
Thou shalt expand the city, and spread it to the corners of the universe.
Thou shalt not harm the city, for it is my body and soul.

A favorite prayer of Kon-Fabulate
Kon-Fabulate whose mind is pure machinery! Kon-Fabulate whose blood is running money!
Kon-Fabulate whose fingers are ten armies! Kon-Fabulate whose breast is a cannibal dynamo!
Kon-Fabulate whose ear is a smoking tomb! Kon-Fabulate! Kon-Fabulate!
Robot apartments! invisible suburbs! skeleton treasuries! blind capitals! demonic industries!
spectral nations! invincible madhouses! granite cocks! monstrous bombs!

Shrine of Solomon-David

The Celestial Emperor, creator of a kingdom spanning universes. Mighty in power and benevolence, this Prince of the Universe rules with a heavy hand and spectacle.
Shrine: A great basalt statue in the image of Solomon-David, his prayers and commandments inscribed on his glorious beard.
Cult: Most members of the Celestial Empire, who fear and worship him with a religious fervor.

R: 50' T: sentient creature D: until absolved
You cast judgement upon a sapient creature for violation of Imperial law - so convoluted that everybody has broken it - and mark them as a criminal. Lawful people and loyal Imperial citizens will have nothing to do with this person until they absolve themselves. The more MD cast with, the more expensive and time consuming this is.

Strictures of Solomon-David
If one appeals to your aid, you shall provide it, and they will be yours.
If you swear an oath, you shall keep it to your final breath.
Power is for the taking. If you desire domination, it lies before you.

A favorite prayer of Solomon-David
Grab the reins, you awesome puppeteer, you conductor of chains
Redeemer. Unbreakable strings. Damnation leashes
Remote cords extend, the trusses they run
They stretch all the way behind the sun.

Make Your Own!

With all the above, it should be fairly easy to make a player-facing shrine, cult and blessing. They can come in all sorts of forms, and I'm really excited to see what you all come up with.

My little template:

Shrine of [blank]

Brief description of [blank]
Shrine: Description of the physical/social composition of the shrine.
Cult: Who makes up the cult, and what do they get out of it. Optionally, how do they greet and identify each other?

The blessing Spell granted to the faithful
R: T: D:
[Spell body]

Strictures of [blank]
(I usually go for three, two of them for flavor, at least one that makes keeping the strictures challenging or unusual.)

A favorite prayer of [blank]
What is the most common prayer, praise, invocation or oath used by the cult?

Looking forward to what all of you make! See you all in the next post.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

OSR Trilemma Report: Lanterns and Loquaciousness

The winter quarter is in fulls swing and I'm running games at a proper table again. I got just two players this week (the rest were busy, not a good sign) one of whom was new to old-school games. Having a smaller party, I dug into the Trilemma adventures, and selected The Call of the Light based on Skerples' recommendation. The adventure was interesting, but a bit empty for my tastes. So I mixed together some recent elements form the blogosphere and modifying the adventure a good deal.

Our victims cast:

The Batman (Bat-ling Barbarian)
Judas the Tax-Collector (Bat-ling Orthodox Wizard)

The Session

With The Batman on a little vacation from his dungeon delving with the rest of his party, he returned to his hometown of Greepton, where he also found his distant cousin Judas. Judas was sheltering there after being kicked out of several towns for his tax collection, and was looking for any way to pay off his Wizard Student Loans.

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Not popular folk, those tax collectors

The Batman found his hometown in quite unusual circumstances. Greep, the loquacious and euphonious talking frog for which the town was named, had lost his voice. Massive rainstorms had caused serious flooding, but their westerly direction was unusual for this time of year. Scabrous, the local poxy hunchback, had disappeared, though nobody really cared. The real cause for concern was the disappearance of the priest some days before, and his subsequent reappearance stark naked, soaked to the bone, gibbering from hypothermia and smelling like honey.

In his ramblings, the priest pointed to the old forest to the west, and the ancient tower that sane men avoided, and which wizards were compelled to approach. The two cousins decided this was the perfect time for a little adventure.

They came upon the tower in the forest, passing over the bridge, examining the statues of the 'twins' and the carved head of the spirit Caiaphas (don't ask me why, that's just the first name that came to mind), which has black stains around its lips. They passed inside to find a great square pit in the center of the room, a vat of writhing oil next to it, a weapons rack, a set of stairs leading up and engraved tiles in the floor.

They experimented with the oil, discovering potential anti-magic properties. The Batman picked up an ornate lance from the weapons rack, adding it to his already significant arsenal. They read the engraved tiles, finding them to be a record of deaths of 'twins' in the five-hundred years since the tower was built, the name Nurabel prominent among them.

Resisting the urge to jump into the pit (Judas' ludicrous Wisdom score saved him several times) they climbed up the stairs. They found a pool of water surrounded by four pillars, glowing with a soft blue light. The open balcony was slick with water, carpets and books of poetry absolutely soaked. A golden bowl covered with a cloth safeguarded three chunks of some confection, a sweet, honey-smelling pastry the players couldn't immediately identify.

The pillars were engraved with runes for magical rituals, one of them reading 'Mellified Man'. They found a little vial floating in the pool, with a tiny fairy inside. When released, he effusively thanked the party and introduced himself as Morblin, the grooming fairy, imprisoned by the mad sage Albericht, who was having an affair with a raincloud.

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I've never watched this show but this is roughly what I imagined
The party heard lovely singing upstairs, and did in fact find Albericht, a small, gaunt man in an oversized robe, who was using Greep's lovely voice. The room at the top of the tower is his makeshift home, as well as containing seven beds of soil and an old frieze covered in jewels and gold leaf. After some tense introductions with Albericht, they get down to talking. All in all, he's a rather gracious host, who explains the process for creating Mellified Man (much to the players' horror) and why the villagers went missing.

The hunchback was taken for the rain to feel a new human texture, and the priest was brought to conduct a eulogy for the rain's grandfather, the northern warm front that broke several days past. Learning more than they ever wanted to about the intimate lives of water elementals, the sage casually mentioned that this tower was built in ages past to defend against the robot incursion.

The players agreed to leave him alone and instead investigated the pit, and the supposed robots down there. Setting up a rope to climb down, Judas found a gigantic pile of metal parts, as well as dozens of metal automata climbing it towards a flickering blue lamp, before they inevitably fell back down only to do so again. In the midst of this noisy, endless cycle, he also finds a doorway blocked with iron bars.

He climbed back up and they experiment with the oil, finding it made the automata go crazy, and then found... Albericht, coming down the stairs, totally different in his demeanor. It turned out to be a changeling, one of the 'twins' preserved in the soil beds upstairs, who every now and again woke up to find it had been sleeping for centuries and everyone it knew was dead. It later returned to rebury itself, a process Albericht said they repeat every few weeks, and never remember.

The cousins finally decided to force open the iron bars with Judas' Knock spell. Beyond it they found a shaft leading down gods-know how far, from which sulfur and hot air blew. There was also a side room, in which an Armadillo stood guard over a small hoard of items. It turned out this Armadillo could talk, and was an absolute asshole.

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Come at me you little bitch! Think I can't take you?
It was actually a spirit of some variety who had taken up residence there, gradually amassing a hoard from items on the destroyed automata. The players tried to take the hoard but were rebuffed. The Armadillo proposed a gamble, a game of riddles. The Batman counter-offered with a round of bare-knuckle boxing, which the Armadillo turned out to be totally up for. The stakes? If The Batman wins, a choice from the hoard, Batman's preference being a jeweled abacus. If the Armadillo won? The Batman's given birth name.

Judas stood off to the side, planning to get at the hoard and steal some gold and items from the hoard. The Armadillo grew to human size, squaring up against the barbarian. Round 1, the combatants just using their fists, managed to rebuff each others' attacks. Round 2, the Armadillo got a good jab in, and The Batman realized something was up. The Armadillo's claws were like those of a ghoul, resulting in damage unless he writhed on the floor for a round. He ate the damage, pushing through and landing a pair of hits on the creature.

Judas chose that moment to dive past them into the hoard, grabbing at a bottle of Firewater. The Armadillo landed a critical hit on The Batman, and he chose to go down on this one. The Armadillo turned to whale on Judas, and The Batman had just enough. Pulling out his axe, the boxing match turned into a full-on combat. Judas opened up the Armadillo's shell with Knock and the raging barbarian sliced his back open.

Critically failing his morale roll but backed into a literal corner, the Armadillo, insisted this was all fun and games, and he hadn't broken the rules. Batman was having none of it, and with his next attack bisected the Armadillo from shoulder to wedding tackle. The creature's last words were, 'Send e back to hell,' and a chorus of screaming voices rose from the shaft.

Grabbing the hoard and booking it, they also returned to the top floor to loot the frieze. The whole thing would have been worth an immense amount of money as an art piece, but they didn't have the people or equipment to move a whole wall. This called for the UltraViolet Grasslands looting rules: roll 1d6+level, harvest x% of the item's value in materials while reducing its total value by x*10%.

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Looting isn't nice
As the cousins packed up, they found that a serious rainstorm had hit the tower, and Albericht was lying naked only balcony soaking himself. The players cheered him on while the sage drew a curtain closed, and they returned to town in good spirits.

The Take

70gp in various coins
Firewater, literally elemental fire in liquid form, drink to take 1d6 damage and become immune to fire for 1 hour (20gp).
Abacus made from balls of crystal, ivory, silver, gold and vitrified eyeballs(30gp).
Agate snuff container in the shape of a woman’s head, long since smoked by the armadillo (15gp).
Small gold-filigree box, contains saints bones that rattle in the presence of lies(30gp).
60gp in gold leaf and jewels looted from the frieze.
The lance, which has certain properties, the players did not discover this time round.

For a total of 225gp and a bunch of XP, almost enough for our long-adventuring Batman to level up. 

And conspicuously missing, Greep's voice. The PCs forgot about it until the end, and decided to leave Albericht be. 

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Lessons and Screwups

I think this is one of the better games I've run. It was mostly roleplay, and it was gonzo weird in just the right way. I wager the punch-up with the demon armadillo will be damn memorable.

That said, there's a lot to improve on. I started modifying The Call of the Light just a day before, and while the blogosphere (especially The Lawful Neutral's excellent recent post, How to Serve Man) provided me with great material to add into the holes, it needed more thinking through. Given the time, I would have made a wholly different dungeon with a few similar elements.

Some parts, like the ritual pillars and especially the sleepers in the soil, I had no idea how to run. That seems to be a general theme with me using Trilemma adventures. Great content, but I have to twist it around to know how to use it at the table. Those parts felt underused to me, but for my players who couldn't see behind the curtain, it thankfully appeared to be more mysterious.

The titan among the heap was passed over, since I didn't describe it as being alive or active, and I'm not sure if it's supposed to be. The players totally skipped over the heap itself, since I didn't hint that there was treasure in it. Good thing I added other, minor treasures, which I quite liked. Weird and unique, but non-magical treasure like the abacus and the snuff container are a level of treasure I aspire to make for myself.

I don't know if ghoul agony counts as 'pain' but if it does, the barbarian should have been immune to it. Reading the post now, I think I ran it wrong too. I had no intention for the Armadillo to fight the party, but the character worked so well with the idea of the boxing match. I had planned that if the party killed it, a smoke cloud would fly up from the shaft and possess the body, making the players fight a lantern ghoul. I ended up just giving the Armadillo the ghoul's stats, though I forgot about the lantern eyes in the last round when they would have been used.

There were other things too. I added in a sentient Hand of Glory that could be randomly encountered, and Scabrous the hunchback was also on that table, but I didn't set a place he could normally be encountered. I might move from the Angry GM's Tension Pool to Skerples dungeon procedure, at least for really short dungeons like this. Then again, the buildup of dice has a wonderful effect on the players.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Elder Scrolls GLOG Report 1: Jailbreak

For my first post of 2020 (New Years' travel was hard alright! Those saints are coming along, don't you worry) a report on the first 'session' of Elder Scrolls GLOG game. I started running it on the Discord about two weeks ago, selecting my players from frequent commenters on several channels whom I knew would check in frequently.

They all made their character using the rules from this post, rolling 3d6 down the line for stats, and then getting their race, birthsign and class. Some chose to roll for all of these, making effectively random characters.

As is the conceit of all Elder Scrolls installments, the players began as prisoners, so I also asked each player for the crime they were convicted of that landed them in an Imperial penal colony, and whether or not they did it. Delightfully, none of them came out and said for sure they were innocent.

Our victims cast

Vilamon Hawker, Redguard Destruction Wizard - kahva
Vilamon crushed the skull of one of his debtors with elemental energies in broad daylight, in front of a dozen witnesses. The whole of his legal defense was, 'come at me, see what happens.' By far the beefiest of the party, described as 'swole.'

Gwynabyth Muriel Ysciele, Breton Conjurer - retrograde tardigrade xenograft
Gwynabyth objected to Imperial colonization of the Reach, and assaulted a lawman's office with a squadron of skeletons. The sweet old lady with a necromancy-related terrorism charge was a highlight.

Riadell Fernhollow, Bosmer (Wood Elf) Knight - mtb-za
Riadell was imprisoned when a rival baron he had a known grudge against disappeared during a major feast night. Riadell admitted to killing and ritualistically eating him. May or may not be covering for his cousin who actually did it. Has earned the enmity of the Imperial Navy captain Sir Patrick Stewart of the Imperial Sea Ship Enterprise.

Verdgrss-Wears-Copper, Argonian Hunter - grimlucis
Verdgrss was imprisoned for alleged crimes of moon dust refinement, arson and very public aggravated assault. The rest of his origins remain shrouded in mystery for the moment.

Hama'ak, Khajiit Thief - Walfalcon
Hama'ak was an innocent victim of racial profiling. Well, not innocent. The skooma he was arrested for was planted. His actual stash was in a much more secure location. Also arrested for loitering (he was actually there ten minutes longer than was reported, just invisible). Also arrested for 'vagrancy' and 'resisting arrest' from when the police removed him from his 'lawfully occupied under-a-bridge-home.' Wants to become Spiderman, may succeed with the right Daedric patron.

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The Game

The party begin as prisoners at the Fort Firemoth Penal Colony, just off the Western Coast of Vvardenfell. They've been there weeks, months, even years, but at no point has the prison's goal—using prisoner labor to mine the ebony present on the archipelago—come to pass. Instead, they continue to suffer indignities at the hands of Warden Eplear, an unusually short Wood Elf whose personality can be summed up as, 'Napoleon Complex.'

The PCs roleplay and get to know each other. They also experience Eplear's temper and good hearing firsthand; the Bosmer can put an arrow through your clothes at a hundred paces. A prison barge appears on the horizon, but doesn't stop by the Fort, instead just passing back east. Speculating that it contained the protagonist (they're savvy like that) the PCs get a chance to escape.

A mining team breaks through to an old tunnel; the PCs, the most recent target's of the Warden's ire, get sent in to poke around and look for ebony. One of the new guards, a cowardly Khajiit named J'Hanir, is sent in with them.

Searching through the tunnels, they encounter a sump with the corpse of a dreugh outside it and a slaughterfish swimming inside. Calming it with Riadell's Beast Tongue spell, they dive in and pick up the first valuable item they've found on Firemoth; an ancient Dwarven bracelet inscribed with the words, 'I [symbol for love] Narsis.' This bracelet just so happens to be attached to a rather recent Dunmer corpse.

With their first hint at the Alchemy system, a little treasure and a rusted mace, the guard realizes he's really not in charge anymore. Delving deeper through the tunnels, the party finds a supply cache; some weapons, a set of leathers and a potion. It seems that somebody has been making themselves a little base. Several of the items bore the same symbol: a set of scales, with a small insect heavier than a large reptile.

They also find a shrine to Roris the Martyr, and Dunmer saint. This was their introduction to the Shrine system I cooked up. The PCs were desperate for any advantage they could get, and the floating Fortify Health spell provided by Roris was very attractive. The party decided to forgo it though, when they learned about Roris's strictures, the third being to, "daily curse the depravities of Argonia and its people."

They instead suited up and continued onward, hearing the sound of the ocean. Indeed, they found the tunnels opened into a hidden sea cove, with signs of habitation: hammocks, carpets, a chest of spare clothing. And a small ship, little bigger than a gondola, was approaching as the sun set.

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Rushing to explore the rest of the base to decide what o do with these people, the party found a meeting room with a locked chest smelling faintly of acid, and beyond it... an empty slave pen, with enervating manacles. Whoever these people were, they were stealing prisoners from above and taking them away. Could they be in cahoots with the warden?

The party resolves to ambush these would-be slavers, setting up a barricade in a chokepoint beyond the cove, leaving one of Gwynabyth's summoned skeletons playing dead on the ground and hiding the other in the now-empty clothes chest. The ship comes in and three Dunmer jump off. One dressed in garish robes with a staff, another in leathers and bedecked in rings, the third heavily armored and armed.

The party makes very quick work of them, thanks to both good tactics and luck. The skeletons block off their retreat to the boat while Vilamon and Riadell jump into melee, Verdgrss shoots arrows, Hama'ak stalks behind them invisibly and Gwynabyth provides moral support from behind the barricade. The enemy rogue summons the power of St Roris to heal the mage... and the spell fizzles. The mage then tries to hit Vergrss with a magic missile, which might severely wound him and... also fizzles the spell. They whiff all their attacks while the PCs regularly hit, and the action economy takes it from there.

Highlights from the fight: Riadell cleaves off the rogue's arm with his axe and leaves him to bleed on the floor. Verdgrss delivers a badass line as he drives an arrow straight through the mages' heart, "Roris died as he lived. Pissing himself in fear!" Gwynabyth called her skeletons, 'rattlebags' and I personally named then Tibia and Grin.

The warrior, outnumbered and demoralized, surrenders, and the party gets to interrogating and looting. Among the loot, the rogue's severed arm had a signet ring on the thumb, bearing the same scale symbol as earlier, which the party is unable to identify. Hama'ak also goes back to the chest they found earlier, and investigates how to deal with the magical acid trap.

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They find that the warrior's name is Urvil Llerith, and he claims to be capturing prisoners with the permissions of the warden. J'Hanir protests. He claims that the scale-scrib-alit symbol on the ring and weapons is that of the Dorvayn family in Balmora, one of the major House Hlaalu powers. He claims that the Dorvayn would never take him back, but their enemies, the Oran in Suran, would pay a hefty ransom to get inside information. The party is not completely convinced.

They use the signet ring to disarm the trap on the chest through a hidden keyhole, and find a set of documents. 1. A letter from one Lord Avon Oran to his cousin Brothes Oran, ordering the 'Firemoth enterprise' closed and a return to their base in the Bitter Coast. 2. An unfinished draft letter back, claiming that the first missive and the lord's retainer was lost at sea. 3. A defaced scrap of a ledger. 4. A strange riddle, "When you find yourself missing home, seek out snake’s head beyond true passage, and follow Azura’s eye to your hearth."

The warrior backtracks, claiming that Brothes Oran was the rogue they killed earlier, and that he was playing double agent with the Dorvayn family. The party is still unconvinced, but resolves to flee the island and escape their imprisonment. They spy just above the horizon a light, the Seyda Neen lighthouse. Slipping the enervating manacles on the slaver and sticking both him and the papers in the boat's secret compartment, the party, two skeletons and a former Imperial guard crowd aboard the tiny vessel, setting forth...


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Bogdan Timichenko


I ran a play-by-post game once before, but it fizzled out due to lack of player coordination and ended up turning into a solo campaign. Choosing players whom I knew and had talked to before, and who were on the Discord frequently assured that play would be much quicker than other forums.

In particular, the combination of GLOG combat with party-wide rolls made the combat lightning-fast. Most of the time is spent in deliberation and roleplay, with a good deal of exploration as well.

The starting 'dungeon' I put them through was very, very short. Considering the text based pace I'm okay with it being very short, since we want to get to the good stuff and free exploration quickly, but if I were to run it at a table I would make it a good deal larger and more challenging.

The shrine of Roris was my first draft of the Shrine system, which at the time I considered to be neat, but not game-changing. I got excellent reactions from them, saying they were all going to steal it for their own games, which is the sincerest flattery. I decided then to write it up formally, and a week later it's by far my most read and liked post of all time. Funny how that works.

With the shrine system, getting the PCs to roleplay and consider the meaning of different saints and cults was a must. I declared victory when my players went without a free magic dice to avoid participating in racism against Argonians, both because one was a party member and because they had nothing in particular against them.

Posting pace will vary dramatically, and is largely out of the GM's control. Players will converse with each other both in and out of character, and your goal is primarily to portray the world and answer questions. Whenever you post as a GM, always leave clear options for moving forward beside what the players may come up with themselves, and they'll take care of the rest.

I got a lot of mileage out of pre-writing some parts of the adventure that I knew the party would encounter, namely the introduction and the documents. Beside loot lists, the opening narration upon entering a new place and whatever documents they may read, there's not much more you can fruitfully pre-write. For the players' sake and your own be terse and compact at most times.