Thursday, March 16, 2017

Sailing to Saltmarsh

The end of the previous session saw Tuckras, Jinso, and Vyph marooned on an island with a bunch of vegepygmies. This session, we met Anton, a young human cleric of Pelor, and Sakara, an elf rogue from the Lendore Isles. They were on a ship headed to Monmurg for reasons of their own when a storm blew them off course.

The ship crashed on -- you guessed it -- the island where the other three were. After rescuing everyone who didn't drown or get eaten by the giant eel, they got to know each other a bit. Vyph noticed that a large lifeboat thingie had survived the crash in pretty good condition, but didn't say anything until they started talking about building a ship of their own to get back.

The sailors knew where Saltmarsh was, but advised them to head for Monmurg first because it was much closer and they would already be rowing for a week in the crowded boat. Luckily, Anton and Sakara had managed to hang on to their provisions and were willing to share. And Vyph spent a lot of the time swimming on his own. They all made it back to Monmurg, where the sailors went their own way and the others headed for a nearby inn.

Everyone decided to stick together and buy passage to Saltmarsh, a smallish town on the edge of Keoland's border, between Dreadwood and the Hool Marshes. At Nick's Tavern, Tuckras spoke with a half-elf adventurer named Koral while Vyph terrorized Yuri the trapper for sporting a lizard skin (lizardfolk skin?) jacket and boots.

After steering the naive young Anton into a dockside brothel for giggles, they visited an apothecary and an abandoned shop on Crest Street where someone who might have been Ferok (the alchemist they were looking for) probably worked. They found a really moldy book and a note that led them to believe Ferok had relocated to the creepy old mansion five hours down the road to the east.

They picked up Anton and headed off to the seaside mansion, finding it overgrown and dilapidated. Inside, Sakara picked up some footprints, which they followed down the hall, investigating side rooms along the way. While poking around the living room, they were confronted by a ghostly voice which proclaimed their doom and laughed maniacally.

We stopped there for the night.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Lizard Walks Into a Bar

(Two of our gang had to cancel at the last minute, so this was a quickie intro adventure. The character backgrounds for this session and some recent events are at the bottom.) After an awkward meeting in Monmurg involving Tuckras's spirit guides, Jinso had a few drinks and expressed his interest in finding more of his kind. Vyph, fascinated by the prospect of more "tiny meats," was willing to help, and Tuckras, after a brief argument with no one, also agreed.

Asking around, they discovered that a colony of halflings with "a bit of the same look about 'em" had been established on an island out past Fairwind back before the wars. They poked around a bit more, then hired some sailors to drop them off there. They found an overgrown jungle island where, after a bit of exploring, they noticed that small creatures were stalking them in the canopy.

This led to a fight with a bunch of fungus midgets, which they eventually won. Later they found a compound with several sheds and an abandoned laboratory. In the notes, the author wrote about having run out of subjects to "convert" so further research would have to be conducted elsewhere. The prospect of contacting the alchemist, Ferok, in Saltmarsh was mentioned.

They decided to go to Saltmarsh... once they figured out how to get off the island.

Recent Events

In CY 579, the devil-worshipping Overking of Aerdy declared war on several of his kingdom's former vassal states in an attempt to reunify this Empire. This, combined with Rary's betrayal of the Circle of Eight, marked the beginning of the Darkfang Wars, a period which saw the destruction of Geoff by invading giants, the invasion of the Sea Princes, Idee, Onwal, and other territories by the Scarlet Brotherhood, and uprisings from the Pomarj, The Horned Society, and Iuz. The name of the war comes from the curved, obsidian-like knives that proliferated during the period, but utterly vanished afterwards.

The Great Kingdom is gone, its former capitol a fiend-haunted wasteland, but its successors are relatively stable. The Horned Society is no longer a nation, although the order remains a widespread cult. The Scarlet Brotherhood has not been heard from in years. Their former vassals are reforming, with the exception of the Sea Princes, which remains only a tenuous alliance of city-states. Geoff is still mostly wild land, even though the organized invasion of giants was driven off. It's CY 591 now,

Players So Far

Jinso Kuna - Halfling Monk
Jinsokuna Ashi Gosutodoragon was raised at a remote overseas monastery.  According to his masters, he was stranded at the monastery as an infant when he was the sole survivor of a shipwreck.  He was raised and trained -but not respected- by his masters because of his diminutive size.  Hence, his extreme dislike of being called small or tiny.  He left the monastery answering the call of wanderlust and in search of his own people to learn more about himself.  He struggles between his inherited chaotic Kender nature and the structured training of his masters.  He will often speak of the teachings of Master Furui.

Tuckras Grigorrin - Human Cleric/Warlock
An orphan in Ket, Tuckras was raised by priests of Istus, wandered for a while, then settled in the Bramblewood Forest to hang out with the spirit voices that constantly plague him. Then he wandered off again. He is very tall and lanky with fair, almost pale skin. His long, black hair is disheveled as is his long beard. His eyes are a piercing blue. The overall effect is one of wisdom beyond his years, but with, perhaps, a touch of madness. His presence, though, is compelling. He carries a staff that looks suspiciously like a tall bedpost. The globe at the top of the bedpost staff is intricately carved to represent Oerth, and it appears to have some bird's foot and tail feather tied to it.

Vyph - Lizardfolk Druid
Yep, he's a big ole lizard.

Monday, March 13, 2017


Even though I never had many people at my local Keep on the Borderlands sessions, I was really getting into the module and the World of Greyhawk development I was doing around it. A couple of weeks ago, I was looking for geeky things to put on the wall of my new study, and I came across this old map. It's far too fragile to fold and unfold on a regular basis, but it's a great poster. 
Once it was up, I just sat there and stared at it for, like, two hours. Possibly the absinthe had something to do with that. Anyway, I kept revisiting all the places we'd been on that map, and I finally decided that, with the in-store game getting less appealing and my Icons campaign on hiatus, I might as well go for it.
I went with Hangouts because there were people I was hoping to play with who live a long ways away, and ended up with a significant portion of my old D&D group from way back. Started them out on the coast in Sea Princes territory for a quickie intro adventure. Next time we start Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Events Submitted for Gen Con

Title: Fane of the Froghemoth
Short Description: To raid the lost temple in the swamp and steal the riches of the faceless priests, you have to sneak past their god, a gigantic, tentacled frog creature. Then your troubles really begin.
Event Type: RPG
Game System: Dungeons & Dragons
Rules Edition: 5th (Basic)
Minimum Players: 3
Maximum Players: 6
Age Requirement: Teen
Experience Required: Some
Material Provided: Yes
Preferred date/time: Thursday 1pm
Event Duration: 4 hours

Title: The Nightmare Tree
Short Description: Nobody stays long on the Stillman property outside El Dorado, Arkansas. Some disappear. Others are tormented by ghosts, aliens, or the image of a sinister tree that haunts their dreams.
Event Type: RPG
Game System: Vortex System
Rules Edition: 1st
Minimum Players: 3
Maximum Players: 6
Age Requirement: Teen
Experience Required: None
Material Provided: Yes
Preferred date/time: Thursday 7pm
Event Duration: 4 hours

Title: Archer: Something Something Danger Zone
Short Description: Nobody’s sure what year it is, but the Cold War is still a thing, Ray is a cyborg, and Mallory Archer is in charge of a spy agency called… Well, they’re still working on that.
Event Type: RPG
Game System: Vortex System
Rules Edition: 1st
Minimum Players: 4
Maximum Players: 8
Age Requirement: Mature
Experience Required: None
Material Provided: Yes
Preferred date/time: Friday 1pm
Event Duration: 4 hours

Title: Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Roleplaying Game for Tables
Short Description: Take the roles of animated fast food products or one of their neighbors in this off-the-rails RPG based on the late night cartoon.
Event Type: RPG
Game System: Bean RPG
Rules Edition: Modified 2nd
Minimum Players: 4
Maximum Players: 8
Age Requirement: Mature
Experience Required: None
Material Provided: Yes
Preferred date/time: Friday 8pm
Event Duration: 2 hours

Monday, January 16, 2017

Demogorgon Girl

Apart from a few comments about how it's important to me, I don't really talk much about writing. Gaming and traveling always seem like much more interesting things to blog about. On top of that, I don't really like to talk about writing. The really interesting stuff is all in the inner workings of whatever I'm writing. It's stuff I don't feel comfortable putting out there. I'm probably too tight with that stuff, but I can't help it. And the superficial stuff is boring and pretentious. But this time, before I go on with the gaming talk, I've got some writing stuff to talk about. If it's still boring and pretentious, oh well; I tried.

This year, I decided that progress on the novel, while steady, was much slower than it should be. To accelerate, I committed to working at least an hour on Throne of Gorgudai every day (with exceptions for some weekends and stuff like conventions). At least five days a week, in any case. I'm only two weeks in, but I'm happy to say that it's working so far. I even kept up while I was smashed flat by the flu last week. The great thing is, if I worked on it even a little bit the day before, I'm already tuned in when I start working on it again. I don't have to take a lot of "where was I?" time to get started.

And where am I? The main characters, mostly allies of convenience so far, have started to come together more in this chapter. With sections from Seisha's perspective and the current one from Shao Tsang's, I've finally given everybody at least one chance to "talk." They've explored a new town, developed some new tricks, and detected an impostor. They even got to fight a giant shapeshifting eel. And, if you're paying attention, you might find out who killed Kasmordo. Of course, you're not paying attention because you can't, since I haven't let you read it, but anyway.

Elvismas 2017 was one of those not-writing weekends. Even though it was in Cleveland and we did all the gaming at Weird Realms, we still got rooms in a hotel alongside the out-of-towners for after-game hangouts.

Beckett ran the first event, Blaspheming Trials of the Goetic Dawn. We played novice magicians applying to become the next apprentice of a wizard. Beckett used his own rules and had lots of neat tricks with language cues and picture cards to let us experiment with spells. We caused all kinds of mayhem and destruction, and even ended up summoning an Old One at one point. Maybe two. I think it actually was two. And that went about as well as you'd expect. I think everybody survived, though. Sort of. Not many of us got out without being turned into demon goats or talking axes or something.

Saturday afternoon (and evening), I ran Demogorgon Girl. Tom had dubbed this "Satanic Saturday" and originally asked me to run something with Orcus. Because I answered, "I've always been more of a Demorgorgon girl," I was given that title to work with. It was his birthday, so I did my best to go along.

The game started abruptly in the middle of a fight with some perytons on the slopes of Mount Ngranek. The heroes only slowly discovered that they were in the Dreamlands and that they were really modern psychics trying to resolve a difficult possession by leading the demon into this sub-reality where it would only be one mad god among many. They were pursued by Demogorgonish monsters (and, at one point, the demon itself) to the Enchanted Wood, where they hoped to take the steps back to reality. They also got to negotiate with cats and zoogs and stuff. The forest had been webbed over by baby-headed giant spiders but they fought (and crept) their way through.

The steps didn't return them to the reality they expected, but they did find themselves back in their real world roles, without special powers and with only a few hit points. They did, however, have moon rubies, little tokens I had been giving out as rewards for good play during the rest of the adventure. Each ruby allowed them to use one special ability from their fantasy selves for one round. They needed these because the girl's sleeping spirit was guarded by her corrupted alter ego. The actual demon had been trapped in the Dreamlands, but they still had to free her from the part of herself that had been tempted. This being D&D, they did that by fighting it.

One of the characters was killed in the fight. Another, particularly enamored of her druidic powers, refused to finish climbing the steps and returned to live in the fantasy world. The rest woke up. Tom was going to GM a game too, but mine had run a little long and he was ready for the after-party, so that was...

Monday, December 19, 2016

2016: An Extremely Volatile Year

I guess let's start with the bad.

Everybody talks about all the celebrities who died this year, which... yeah, whatever. I was a little bummed by David Bowie's death, but the others were just names. I mean, I don't want anybody to suffer or die, but they do, all the time. If it's not somebody I interact with, I'm not going to give a famous person's death any more time than any other stranger's, even if I admire their work. Usually. I'm not sure why Bowie was an exception, so I'll just leave it there.

I don't even wanna talk about the political clown show. In day-job news, the company I work for -- that I liked working for -- was bought out by one of the most enthusiastic consumers of those inspirational slogan posters. Yay, mergers, right? Maybe it's for the best; I was probably getting too comfortable with this job. 2017 promises all sorts of messed-up authority figures to keep me... I need a word with positive connotations... let's say "energized." 2016 wasn't all bad, though. It actually had a pretty generous share of awesome, too. I just wanted to get this stuff out of the way first.

For one thing, I went to Hawaii. That was pretty cool. I was surprised that they didn't have seagulls, but they do have feral chickens. Seriously, chickens everywhere, like they own the place.

On the way back from Carnage this year, Tom and I stopped at Niagara Falls, which I had never seen before. There was more to it than I expected. It's a really nice park.

I skipped Gen Con this year for a variety of reasons which aren't really worth going into, but it was still a good year for gaming. The Scrap Pile campaign will probably end up slowing down a bit. I don't think it's dead -- I hope it's not dead -- but, even if it is, it was a great ride. Curtis's Dungeons & Dragons campaign has been fun, too.

I had something of a gamemastering crisis early in the year through the summer. I just didn't feel comfortable with the convention games, somehow. After a successful Carnage, though, I'm pretty sure I'm back in the groove. I've had the opportunity to run some D&D and I rediscovered the joy of the Vortex System. It's my current favorite for scenarios that aren't D&D or four-color super-heroes. I always liked it, but worried about turning everything into Doctor Who. It turns out that making some generic character sheets went a long way toward fixing that problem. We'll see if it holds.

A friend opened up his own store, Weird Realms. I'd probably support it just to help Beckett anyway, but, the truth is, I've got some selfish reasons for wanting it to succeed. I've been really enjoying gaming there and I've picked up some cool stuff that I might not have found otherwise.

I'm not sure I'd ever have gotten around to running Keep on the Borderlands again, if not for Beckett's multi-system B2 theme. It looks like a stable core of regular players is forming, so this could turn into a whole World of Greyhawk campaign. That's something I've often daydreamed about, but never had much hope of actually bringing to life.

And, hey, remember that Qalidar supplement I was working on, then said don't hold your breath for? I finished it! It felt really good to finally get that done. You can check it out on the network of tubes at Amazon or DriveThruRPG, and it should be in brick-and-mortar stores sometime in January. Next up is a "monster manual" type book to consolidate all the Qalidar qritters and publish the ones that still live only in my project files.

Throne of Gorgudai, or whatever I end up calling it, is still moving along. I'm up to their "little shopping trip." That could be somewhat misleading, though, because I moved a few of the early adventures around to fit the story I used to tie everything together. Yes, there is a story. I've fleshed out quite a bit of the plot, and I'm really happy with how it has evolved.

More to the point, though, I've not been a terribly diligent worker. I can't even blame the gaming, because there's plenty of time that just kind of evaporates without any of that. I do keep poking at the book and have made quite a bit of progress that way but, if I had been hired to write this book by someone else, she probably would have fired me by now. I'm thinking I need to do the schedule thing and come up with some time of day that's sacrosanct as writing time. It wouldn't take much. Even an hour every day would make a difference... which probably tells you more than I should admit to about how hard I've been working.

So yeah, the plan for 2017: Like I said, I need to schedule a daily routine for working on the novel. Wouldn't even have to be a tough routine. Just something. And I'll most likely spend a weekend at some point banging out that monster book for the Qalidar game. I should probably commission a cover, first. Ooh! I wonder what I'll do for the Gorgudai cover! No, no, NO -- write first; think about pictures later! I guess I also need to put together a bug-out bag in case the Twitter King and his Cabinet of Horrors keep on the way they're going.

Happy (almost) New Year! Here's some seagulls. Seagulls are cool.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Realms and Borderlands

I mentioned a while back I was going to be running Keep on the Borderlands at Weird Realms using 5th Edition D&D. It was supposed to be part of a theme, but I think everybody else who ran games ended up just doing their own thing. It did happen, though. I had a lot of fun and have put a second and third session on the calendar.

Only two people showed up for the first session, a guy roughly my age and a teenager. I don't know if they want their names bloggified, so I'll call them Don and Dale. Don had played AD&D back in the day, but not much if any since. Dale was new to the game, but owned the 5e books, was familiar with the rules, and had already made a character.

Because I wanted it to work as a one-shot as well as a potential campaign opener, I started them out as prisoners of the hobgoblins in the Caves of Chaos, rather than in or near the Keep. Incarcerated along with them was a gnoll who I figured would be fun as the unreliable ally. The two humans freed themselves from the manacles first and then Dale's warlock murdered the helpless gnoll for temporary hit points and XP. I mean, sure, it was a gnoll, but holy crap.

Don's fighter did his best to reign in the impulsively amoral warlock and they proceeded to look for their stuff and escape. They had made a lot of noise with screaming gnolls and such, so the hobgoblins had not only organized, but even sent someone to get help from a nearby ogre. Because of this, they didn't get to do much exploring (more running and hiding), but they did find their gear and escape alive. After the appalling opening move, they both played it pretty smart.
Afterwards, it struck me how... I don't know... concrete, the whole thing felt. I had a really strong sense of the tunnels and the noises and the hiding and fighting. I suppose part of it was that those things were more important than usual to the characters. I think I also got really into it because I've never played this module as a grown-up before. Well, I haven't played it straight, anyway. I did a few sessions a while  back where universe-hopping sci-fi characters went to the caves for... reasons, but that's not really the same thing.

So anyway, yeah, I'm gonna run with it. Hopefully the two guys from last time will be back and we can pick up a few more, but whatever.