Saturday, June 30, 2012

Against the Spectre Queen

Yesterday we played Dungeon World again. The party arrived in Svarturvigi and the story developed from their. I begin to see this as a series of modules:

BDQ1: In the Barrow of the Dwarven Queen (played last time)
BDQ2: Against the Spectre Queen (played yesterday)
BDQ3: In the Service of the Black King (probably happening in two weeks)

Okay, since this is an actual play report based on the 2.3 beta version, I am again breaking this down into sections:

1. Prep

This time I did a bit more prep than last time. I designed the steadings Svarturvigi and Friarsbridge, came up with a small map and wrote an adventure front. Except for the front, the prep work can ve found in this blog. Also, I added an index card to my collection, expanding on the defy danger moves as suggested by iserith on the Dungeon World forum. (Thanks, by the way! This card came in very handy and made the game flow more smoothly.)

Also, I found one additional player to join Grimdrig and Durgar.

2. Character Creation

We did a short character creation session, helping the new player to create a character and explaining the moves of the cleric to the player of Durgar (we are bridging a language gap here, so we want to make certain that she understands everything). Character creation again went very fast. It definitely helped that the player is a D&D veteran.

The party now consists of:
  • Durgar, the good dwarven cleric of Gurun, the secretive dwarven god of medicine.
  • Grimdrig, the good dwarven fighter with his serrated heirloom axe.
  • Lucius, the good paladin of Cróachan, god of the primal power of the earthborn.
After character creation the players selected bonds for their characters, erasing the bonds to Leena and Celion.

3. Actual Play

The trade caravan arrived at Svarturvigi, passing through the narrow and imposing streets of the town surrounding the black fortress. After reaching the cobblestoned marketplace, Sorrenson, the caravan master, paid the agreed upon wages: 10 coins for Grimdrig and 5 coins each for Durgar and Lucius. He also told them that the caravan would continue in a week to Friarsbridge and that he'd be willing to hire them again as guards. The adventurers gave their farewells and took a look around the marketplace and environs.

First Grimdrig sold his scale mail, choosing instead to wear the ornate plate mail he had taken from the barrow. He suspects the plate armor is magical, but doesn't have a clue to its properties. Lucius spent his coins on adventuring gear, and Durgar purchased two healing potions.

Afterwards, the group decided to go with Durgar to visit the small Gurun temple. The temple was located in a backalley behind the market. Lucius waited outside, while Grimdrig and Durgar went inside. Grimdrig was looking curiously at the furnishings of the temple, kind of like a tourist. Durgar went to the altar to pray and sacrifice some coin. There he discovered an old, snorting priest. While Durgar knelt down to pray when suddenly and unnoticed by him, the spectre of the ancient derro dwarven queen left his body. She went straight towards Grimdrig, froze his heart and then disappeared into the temple.

Guided by premontions (and a Discern Realities move), Lucius rushed inside. Durgar woke the sleeping priest who introduced himself as Sturla, guardian priest of Gurun. The adventurers asked to see the high priest and tell him about the spectre of the dwarven queen. Sturla left and came back, dressed in splendid robes and asked the group to tell him what is going on. Durgar told him of their adventures in the Skogurhörmulegur. The ancient priest grew concerned and told them about the Tome of the Forgotten, hidden within the crypts of the temples. He suspected that the spectre was trying to reach the tome. The heroes agreed to follow the spectre and prevent her from taking the Tome. Sturla went back to dress as a simple priest again, and the fighter, cleric and paladin went down into the cellars of the temple.

After Grimdrig triggered a trap, Durgar asked Gurun for guidance. The deity pointed them into the direction of the crypts. There, they were attacked by skeletons of former dwarven priests. Apparently, the spectre queen had animated them in her wake. One skeleton was destroyed by Grimdrig, the others were put to rest again by Durgar.

On a flight of stairs, they discovered a secret door, but instead chose to follow the stairs as Lucius lost his footing and tumbled down. There they encountered the dwarven spectre. Grimdrig took a swing at her that seemed to connect, but she raised her hands, summoned two shadows. Durgar turned the shadows away. But the spectre cast a spell to bring down the ceiling. Lucius was burried under the falling rocks and Grimdrig was separated from the group on the other side of the rockfall. He saw the spectre moving through and decided to follow by also going right through the wall (pure awesome use of Bend Bars/Lift Gates move). Meanwhile Durgar helped Lucius to dig himself out of the rubble.

After smashing through the wall, Grimdrig just took a step into the darkness on the other side. Without hesitation and without even taking a look. He fell 10 feet down to floor, but hardly noticed. When Durgar and Lucius caught up, Durgar's light spell illuminated the vault below. In the middle, a lectern held the Tome of the Forgotten. The spectre was on her way to claiming it. Durgar noticed that the tome was warded. No living dwarf could touch it.

The spectre summoned another two shadows to distract Grimdrig. But he still lunged for her. Lucius and Durgar jumped down into the room. Durgar cast a magic weapon spell on Grimdrig's axe to help him battle the spectre queen. Lucius was severly injured by the shadows. Durgar tried to turn the shadows, but managed only to keep them at bay. He tossed a healing potion to Grimdrig who had been severly injured by the shadows and the spectre, then ran to Lucius to protect him. Both approached the lectern, but then a shadow snuffed out all light in the room (which at that time wasn't much anyway: the light spell on Durgar's staff and the weak blue flickering of his holy symbol that kept the shadows at bay).

The spectre queen reached the book, Grimdrig was cornered by the shadows and Durgar fell to the floor. Lucius was stunned by the spectre queen. Then she wrapped her essence around the book and sank through the floor. Durgar searched for a torch, lit it, and was attacked by the shadows while trying to find his holy symbol. He was instantly slain...

Durgar's Last Breath: The player rolled a 12. Durgar briefly saw a young girl, in a white dress with red hair and smudged bare feet sitting on a rock in front of a swirling black gate. She told him "It's not yet your time." Then he woke up. (The player went all "Cool!" when I described the image to her).

After defeating the shadows, they returned to the chapel. Sturla was sleeping again in front of the altar. The group decided to split up for a short time and meet at the Temple Inn in the same street later on.

Durgar communed with his god and asked cast a healing spell in front of the altar. But something went wrong and he really got the attention of his deity. Gurun animated his stone statue and gave Durgar a dire warning. The Tome of the Forgotten contained a dangerous ritual called the "Black Marriage". A dwarven sorceress like the spectre queen Adalfridjur could use it to transform herself into a demon queen. All she has to do is tearing out and eating the heart of her husband. According to Gurun, Adalfridjur was planning to marry Rafnar the Blackened Warlord of Svarturvigi in this fashion.

Grimdrig went straight to the Temple Inn, drank two beers and reflected on his recent experiences (time for the Level Up move).

Lucius meanwhile meditated beneath the ancient oaktree in front of the inn. He dedicated himself to the quest to slay Adalfridjur, a great blight on the land. He gained an unwavering sense of direction to Adalfridjur (but as he later found out not an unwavering sense of distance...) and invulnerability to inorporeal touch attacks. In turn he may not lie and must give comfort to those in need, no matter who they are.

Then they met at the Temple Inn. There, Durgar used the time to also gain insight on his recent failures and successes (time for another Level Up). Then they decided to stay at the inn for a week. Lucius was granted free food and lodging because he is the paladin of Cróachan. Durgar and Grimdrig had to pay.

Then it was time for some decision making on the characters part. What to do with their newly found knowledge? Go back to barrow, resurrect the queen and kill her? Or warn Rafnar of his impending doom? They decided to do the latter and went to the black fortress itself after resting for two days.

Arriving at the black fortress and asking for an audience they practically invite the Savarturvigi custom move: "Avoid harassment by the guards". They all have to pay bribes to be let through the gate and into the fortress. Durgar pays for Lucius who is practically broke.

Inside the foreboding fortress, they walk alone into the dark until the meet another group of dwarves. Those try to arrest the group, but Grimdrig downs one of them, and Lucius and Durgar intimidate the others into taking them to the throne room.

There they find themselves surrounded by carousing and grizzled dwarves, drinking ale and wearing necklaces of elven ears. Grimdrig just slips to the table and starts making "friends" with the other dwarves. Durgar and Lucius go the the throne of Rafnar and tell him about the danger he is in. He laughs, but Durgar quickly convinces him that he requires bodyguards - non other than our three adventures. Rafnar agrees, but wants to see a show of force. He asks the group to fight his best three champions.

The dwarves quickly form a ring, shouting: "Six go in, three go out!" banging their tankards on the stone tables. The fight is over rather quickly. Grimdrig cleaves one of the dwarven champions in half. Lucius downs the other while defending Durgar, and then the last one falls to Grimdrig.

Having proven themselves, the group is now "In the Service of the Black King".

4. Feedback

Again, I am giving some feedback on the game session.

GM Feedback

  • I should have preped a small dungeon to represent the Crypts of Gurun.
  • Handing out experience for misses went far smoother and less disruptive than I had thought. On the average, the players gained 7-9 XP during the whole evening. Enough to level up once. At this rate things will probably slow down a bit around level 5-7 to a level up once every other session. Still, not speaking from experience, but statistical averages.
  • With iserith's advice on Defy Danger, play went much more smoothly.
  • I am concerned about the amount of damage the fighter deals currently. He has taken "Merciless" as a move and still has a "magic weapon" spell on his axe cast by Durgar. The cleric chose not to revoke the spell. So I assume it is still active. So damage now is: 1d10 + 2 (for his axe) + 1d4 (Merciless) +1d4 (Magic Weapon) + 1d6 (because he almost always chooses "opening up for damage" on a 10+).
  • I have to read up on "ongoing" spells. Can they really be kept up indefinitely?

Players' Feedback

  • Grimdrig's player is still having trouble with the rules system. He enjoyed the game, but somehow doesn't get along with the odds the rules represent. In his opinion they are not distributed evenly.
  • He also felt that I am preparing more for this game than for some others I have run in the recent months. He thinks, it shows that I am spending time on the game.
  • Lucius' player doesn't like that he can't do certain things, because he simply lacks the "right move" (like Bend Bars/Lift Gates).
  • Durgar's player found things running more smoothly as I get more familiar with the rules.
  • All in all, they want to continue playing as a group of three. Durgar's player thinks that's better in terms of getting to take a turn. Even though she is aware that the party is lacking some fundamental roles like the thief.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Friarsbridge

Friarsbridge is a village upriver from Svarturvigi. I imagine a small rural community centered on a monastery. It was built at an easy river crossing and later on, a bridge was built across the river. The tolls collected at the bridge go to the monastery. In return, the friars are responsible for the upkeep of the bridge.  Trade from Solacebury across the river forms the majority of the revenue.

In terms of Dungeon World:

Prosperity: Dirt
Population: Shrinking
Defenses: Militia
Other Tags: Divine, History (miracle), Oath (Solacebury), Resource (wheat)

Notes: Obviously, I have chosen the option "The village was built on the site of religious significance". Technically, I don't know yet, if Friarsbridge is part of a kingdom or empire. But the option simply fits. As a problem, the most obvious choice would have been "dedicated to a deity". But that would make for a rather one-dimensional village, so I selected: "has recently fought a battle". That gives a more interesting situation to deal with and conjures images. The village fought until the bitter end, but they repelled the attackers.

Impressions:
  • Breached barricades
  • Smokings ruins of outlying houses
  • Empty buildings, their inhabitants killed
  • A huge mass grave dug by friars
  • Most people are injured
  • Friars attending the wounded and leading the rebuilding effort
  • Crippled soldiers begging for money

Custom Moves:
When you give money to the crippled soldiers, take +1 forward on your next Recruit move.
When you make a Supply move, take -1 because of the dire situation.

Okay, I have an idea about the battle: elves from the nearby Aelfrick Forest attacked the village as retaliation to the raids of the dwarves of Svarturvigi. They either never realized or didn't care that Friarsbridge owes allegiance to Solacebury and not Svarturvigi. Now the humans of Solacebury may become involved in the dwarven-elven feud going on here.

Looking at the description, some obvious questions pop into my mind:
  • Who is worshipped by the friars of the monastery?
  • What miracle happened in town?
  • When did the miracle happen?
For those questions, I don't have a clear answer yet. So maybe I am going to ask the players when they get to Friarsbridge. Or the fiction will reveal the answers.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Svarturvigi, the Black Fortress

Svarturvigi is the town were the trade caravan from Solacebury (see "The Barrow of Dwarven Queen" adventure) is travelling to. As preparation for the game session next Friday, I've decided to flesh out the town of Svarturvigi.

Prosperity: Moderate
Population: Steady
Defenses: Guard
Other Tags: Dwarven, Personage (Rafnar, the Blackened Warlord - notorious for terrorizing elven steadings in the Aelfrick Forest) Trade (Solacebury, Friarsbridge).

Notes: The Black Fortress is listed as trade by Solacebury, therefore I've chosen the option "the town is build around a military post". It's in the name really. As Problem I picked "notorious outlaw lives in town". Since I picture the Black Fortess to be a dwarven steading, I added the tag "Dwarven".

Impressions:
  • Huge granite walls
  • Narrow streets
  • A big fortress in the middle of town
  • Bustling with dwarves
  • Dwarven stone galleys moored in the harbor
  • Busy docks
  • Dwarven guards in black armor marching through the streets
  • Elven prisoners displayed in iron cages hanging from the wall
  • A small shrine devoted to the secretive cult of Gurun, the dwarven god of medicine (Gurun is worshipped by Durgar the Cleric).
Custom move: Avoid harassment by the guards of Svaturvigi
When you are accosted by the guards, roll +STR. On a 10+ they respect your strength and leave you alone, on a 7-9 chose one:
  • They let you go after you pay them Charisma coins
  • They confiscate your most valuable item
  • They arrest one of your hirelings
Monsters
Rafnar, the Blackened Warlord (Solitary, Organized, Intelligent, Hoarder, Terrifying)
Attack: d10+2*b damage (two-handed axe)
HP: 12
Armor: 3 (plate armor)
Special Qualities: Close, Messy, +1 Piercing, half-melted face and radiates vengeance and cruelty)
Rafnar, the warlord of Svarturvigi, is a grizzled dwarf with a salt-and-pepper beard, his face half-burned by an elven arcanist. He wears an eye-patch over his left eye. A huge two-handed axe is always within easy reach. Rafner is renown for his hatred of elves. He uses every opportunity to harrass and hassle them.
Instinct: To pillage and plunder elven steadings
  • Mutilate and torment elves
  • Call for dwarven reinforcements
Dwarven steading guards (Group, Organized, Intelligent, Cautious)
Attack: d8 damage (axe)
HP: 6
Armor: 3
Special Qualities: Close,
Rafnar employs vicious dwarven guards that strut around town like they own the place. They are ruffians spoiling for a fight. They are armed with axes, shields and chain mail.
Instinct: Pick a fight
  • Arrest anyone who disturbs the peace
  • Call for dwarven reinforcements

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Updated map of the Skogurhörmulegur and environs

In the process of preparing the next session of Dungeon World, I have update the map of the Dismal Forest and immediate surroundings. Next, I create Svarturvigi, because I already have a picture in my mind. But first, the map:


Return to Dungeon World

It is finally decided. Next Friday will see our return to Dungeon World. But there will be a change of players. Basically, two players will continue and one to three new players will join. Now, the interesting question will be: do I continue the story of the two remaining players and simply add in the new players, or do we start over with a new first session? Both options have their appeal and I will probably prepare for both.

Option 1: Returning characters.
The characters of the returning players conveniently are Grimdrig the dwarven fighter and Durgar the dwarven cleric. Durgar is possessed by the spirit of an ancient (Derro) dwarven queen. So I have a hook right there. Probably I will prepare a front and some information about the town the dwarves are travelling to. Today, I already found a name for the town: Svarturvigi, the Black Fortress. I imagine this to be an ancient dwarven port town.

Option 1 will be viable, if nobody else wants to be the fighter or the cleric.

Option 2: New first session.
This would be a good solution to give everyone a fresh start. Unfortunately, it will also mean that I am never going to find out about the fate of Durgar. For a fresh start I am going to prepare some impressions and questions up front. Currently, I am in the mood for some sort of "gateway to the desert". Maybe I've just spend too much time in Act II of Diablo 3 in the city of Caldeum... Let's see what I'll come up with.

Option 2 will be a completely new game, but I have some ideas for an interesting setting in mind.

In the next days I am going to post more about my preparations.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Experience for Old School RPGs

As I've posted earlier, I don't really like how Lotfp is dependent on gaining treasure for getting experience points. Also, I would like to emphasize gaining experience for defeating monster. Yet, I also don't want to clutter my game with monster encounters. I've so far suggested to hand out more experience for monsters, but that didn't seem right either.

Now, I've read Dungeon Crawl Classics, and really like its approach to handing out XP. But DCC revamps the whole XP system. I want something more compatible with all Old School and Old School+ games. That's what I came up with:

Experience depends entirely on the subjective difficulty level of the encounter. The GM hands out experience depending on the amount of resources expended and the damage incurred by the characters. Each surviving character gets the listed award.

500 XP - The group face overwhelming danger, one or several characters died, and in the end the survivors had to flee. The survivors gain a lot of experience from their defeat.

250 XP - The group faced considerable danger, possibly one of them died, but in the end, the characters were victorious.

125 XP - The group faced difficult danger, they had to expend considerable resources, but defeated their enemies in the end.

60 XP - The group faced danger, but handily defeated them, suffering some injuries.

0 XP - The group defeated the enemies easily and barely got a scratch.

Additionally, the GM may award the following experience bonuses:

150 XP - For each trap dealt with successfully. Each character gets the listed award.

100 XP - For each trap encountered and set-off. Each surviving character gets the listed award.

100 XP - The character was role-played well and entertainingly.

100 XP - For each hex travelled.

100 XP - For each small dungeon or dungeon level explored.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Moveable parts and fiddly bits: customization in Lotfp

Something that has gone around in my head for sometime: players like to customize, they like to play with options. In Lotfp, this is a bit lacking. Sure, clerics and wizards have options regarding their spell choice and how to expand that choice. Specialists get to distribute points on common activities. Elves are spell-casters and share in the wizard's game of spell choices. But what about fighters, dwarves and halflings? They notably lack any way to customize their characters beyond chosing armor and weapons. Those are fairly standardized in Lotfp.

That is the issue I have most with Lotfp. Fighters, dwarves and halflings lack moveable parts and fiddly bits. I feel the need to address that further than with profession. Everyone is getting those.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Map of the Skogurhörmulegur

I've drawn a small map of the area explored in the Dungeon World actual play "The Barrow of the Dwarven Queen." For simplicities sake, the scale equals 1 ration per hex. As of yet, the town the heroes were travelling does not have a name. It's a port town nothing else is known.



The stats for Solacebury (a slightly renamed Solaceburg) in Dungeon World would be:

Solacebury
Prosperity: moderate
Population: growing
Defenses: watch
Other: lawless, trade (the namless port town, and one other) 
Problem: Solacebury is a popular meeting place.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Burning down the house... ah... lodge

This post continues the WFRP3 actual play reports. The last time, we left our heroes as Finubaryel had broken the illusion keeping them trapped. The characters found themselves on the rooftop of the Grunwald Lodge, facing a fire demon that was slowly materializing and the cultist summoning it.

Athelas, elven war dancer took the hammer she had found in the shrine of Sigmar and attacked the demon. The warhammer broke apart bathing the rooftop briefly in white light. The weapons of the heroes were charged and able to hurt the demon. Finubaryel attacked the demon together with Athelas. Volcifar used an illusion spell to subtly change the summoning spell that the traitorous cultist Gregor Pierceson was reading. While Lutz attacked the cultist and rammed a bottle of sleeping potion into the mouth that had replaced an eye of the cultist. The demon stuttered and his connection to the world weakened. Volcifar rammed his staff into the remaining eye of the cultist and send him sprawling to the roof. Then he methodically smashed the skull of the cultist. The fire demon was banished from the world.

The group noticed that the house beneath their feet was on fire. Athelas used a tree to escape to the ground. Lutz, Finubaryel and Volcifar went down into the third floor. Finubaryel and Volcifar in order to save their belongings, Lutz in order to save the injured people in the hospital. But the floor was already burning and the entrances to the rooms blocked. Out of the smoke came Doctor Sieger, who was a former wizard of the Bright Order. He controlled the flames and allowed Finubaryel and Volcifar to save their belongings. Volcifar discovered to his horror that the chaos tome about the beastmen was gone. Then everyone was fleeing to safety.

Outside the lodge, the survivors gathered in the woods. Not everyone had made it. But Lord Aschaffenberg was save. The heroes rested and recuperated.

The next day, the four of them went back to search the ruins of Grunwald Lodge. In the smoking ruins of the Sigmar shrine they found a secret door beneath the altar leading down into the depth of the earth. The group explored a big tunnel apparently used by Skavens. When they found the entrance to some sort of lair, they decided to turn back. The entrance was hidden behind a moving rock wall. Inside was a deep and utterly dark tunnel. Athelas became afraid of entering. Volcifar went inside to look for a mechanism to seal the entrance again. Well, he sort of found it. He stepped on a tile in the floor and the door began to close. He tried to dive out of the tunnel, but wasn't fast enough. The tunnel entrance closed and he was left in the dark with the guttering flame of his mage light.

While he was waiting for the others to free him, he found a mechanism that could operate the tunnel entrance. But it was built around a warpstone, so he didn't dare to touch it. Luckily, the others found a way to open the tunnel again. Here, Volcifar turned out to be foolish again by shouting into the tunnel: "Somebody there?" Indeed, someone was. The group heard things moving toward them. Finubaryel shot an arrow into the dark. The arrow hit something soft. In a daring move, she fired another arrow at the tile that closed the entrance. She hit it hard enough to close the door.

Then, our four heroes fled back the way they had come. Back on the surface, Finubaryel convinced Lord Aschaffenberg to travel to Bogenhaven. The group travelled by coach and arrive in the evening at the Green Glade Inn. They were greeted by a halfling innkeeper and spent a quite and restful evening at the inn. Volcifar insisted on getting his own private room, because he had some murky intentions.

After he had killed the cult leader at the Grunwald Lodge, he had taken the tome "De Naturis Daemone". This night he dared to open the tome and read a few passages in its corrupted pages.  But first he was greeted by a vision of Tzeentch offering him to be the general of his armies attacking Middenheim. He gave him two months to decide on the offer. Volcifar was a bit worried, but nevertheless delved into the forbidden knowledge of the tome. He discovered a ritual for summoning a great demon that used profane artifacts of all four chaos gods. Due to earlier adventures, there is the strong possibility that the ritual had already been completed.

Then a shaken Volcifar went to bed. Later that night, he woke up when a cloaked and hooded stranger opened the shutters. Though he hurt his head, he cast a blade in the dark at the assailant. With a squeak and in a puff of green smoke the Skaven disappeared.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Barrow of the Dwarven Queen

As promised, this is the actual play report for Dungeon World Beta 2.3. I got together with four of my regular players, and we did a playtest. The play test report is structured in four parts: prep, character creation, actual play and feedback.

1. Prep

To prepare for the playtest, I read the complete beta version of the rulebook. Then I printed out the character booklets, which was not really fun without a duplex-capable printer. Additionally, I wrote index cards containing Always Say, Agenda, Principles, Moves, Dungeon Moves and First Session Goals. Writing those down did help me to focus on them. Also, I generated some ideas in my head:
  • The characters guard a caravan moving through an ancient wood.
  • They are attacked by gnolls.
  • The daughter of the caravan leader is abducted.
  • A gnoll emissary seeks to revive an ancient dwarven queen in her barrow.
  • The daughter is supposed to be the sacrifice.
Last but not least, I took the book "Names, the Story Game Name Project" with me and decided to use the Norse tables, because there are some cool sounding locations in there.

2. Character Creation

Character creation was rather fast. I think we required less than an hour to distribute the booklets, explain the moves and make decisions about the characters, including their bonds. The group consisted of:
  • Leena, a neutral female human bard with a lute gifted to her by Lord Sigurd (wants to write a ballad about Grimdrig, was trusted with a secret by Celion, and already had adventures with Durgar)
  • Celion, a neutral male elven ranger with a huge black worg (has guided Grimdrig before, wants to teach Leena about the wilderness)
  • Durgar, a good male dwarven cleric (wants to keep Grimdrig save)
  • Grimdrig, a good male dwarven fighter with an ancient heirloom axe (worries about Leena's ability to survive)

3. Actual Play

The group guarded a caravan travelling from Solaceburg to another town (not yet determined). The journey started five days ago and leads through the ancient and malevolent Dismal Forest (Skogurhörmulegur). The road was marked by dwarven waystones and overgrown barrows could be found here. With some questions we established that the caravan leader Sorensen was paying 10 coins to Grimdrig to act as his bodyguard, and 5 coins each to the other heroes. The caravan consisted of ten wagons and 20 other guards. The players insisted that the caravan also includes a small baggage train with whores. Their madame is a dwarf named Roshildur.

The caravan was attacked by gnolls. The adventurers beat them back, but Ingdis, the daughter of the caravan leader was abducted. During the combat Leena and Durgar ended up hiding under a wagon, and Celion and Grimdrig dispatched the enemies. Celion scattered his arrows when he tried to dodge an arrow. But oddly, he didn't care.

After the combat, Grimdrig followed a false lead into the forest followed by Durgar and Leena. Meanwhile, Celion discovered a trail left by the abductors of Ingdis. Apparently, a group of gnolls had managed to escape into the forest. Durgar talked to a stone that Leena had found on a dead gnoll. The stone was apparently taken from a barrow to the west. Later, they found that the trail was leading there as well.

Thanks to Leena remembering that dwarven barrows were marked by cobblestone alley running widdershins to the barrow, they weren't lost when the ranger lost track of the abductors. They went straight to the barrow. There, they were attacked by the guards, a gnoll tracker and a gnoll alpha. After defeating them, they examined the barrow.

The barrow was apparently build by the First Dwarves, an evil race banished deep underground by the modern dwarves eons ago. There, they degenerated into the race known as the derro or deep dwarves. The tomb belonged to a warrior queen. The ancient queens believed that they would be reborn as slime demons. Usually they were burried together with their still living goblin slaves.

The adventurers decided to enter the barrow. Grimdrig bashed down the door, and they entered into the first chamber. There, they were attacked by goblin skeletons. At the end of the battle, Durgar broke through the weakened ceiling. Leena tried to help him, but he simply vanished into the earth.

Durgar had fallen into the burial chamber of the dwarven queen. Outside he heard banging on the big iron doors sealing the chamber. While searching for an escape route, he was possessed by the restless spirit of the ancient queen.

Celion went outside the barrow, because he had to take care of some bodily functions (and the player had to leave early). But still that was a very good fit with his secret. Known only to Leena, Celion is not quite what "he" seems.

Leena found another weak spot in the entrance chamber, but when Grimdrig used his weight to break through, they found themselves outside the burial chamber, in the ante chamber where six gnolls were busy ramming the iron door with a large wooden log. The gnolls were supervised by a gnoll emissary. Flanking the door were two funeral biers with plate mail clad dwarves on them.

Leena tried to scare the gnolls, and it worked on half of them. The rest attacked. Grimdrig found himself face to face with the emissary. It was a tough fight. Grimdrig was seriously injured. As Leena healed him, she tumbled against a funeral bier and disturbed the resting dwarf. He and his comrade animated as draugr. He touched Leena, chilling her to the bone. Desperately, the bard was charming and open with them and told them that Grimdrig and she just wanted to leave the tomb. The draugr let them go. Leena took a book with her that belonged to the now dead emissary.

Outside, she again healed Grimdrig and felt her magic reverbrating into the tomb. Positive healing magic meeting negative undead energies. Then, Grimdrig and Leena tried to make sense out of the situation and dredged up their memories about the First Dwarves. They remembered that the good dwarves placed warding circles around the barrows, sealed the dead queens with cold iron doors and some even let themselves be burried inside the barrows to act as eternal guardians. Cold iron hurts demons.

Meanwhile, Durgar had regained his senses and searched the tomb for valuables. He deciphered the runes around the sarcophagus of the queen, extolling the warrior queen Tlanextli, wife to priest king Chimalpopoca. Rightly he guessed that the dire warning against opening the sarcophagus were meant to scare but didn't hold any real danger. But, alas, he wasn't able to open the sarcophagus.

Grimdrig went back inside the tomb, while Leena was reading the book. The book turned out to be the Fiasco Codex (the player of Leena is a huge fan of Fiasco). Inside the tomb, Grimdrig discovered that the draugr were apparently gone, their empty plate armor resting on the biers. When he examined the iron doors, he discovered a cleverly hidden mechanism allowing the doors to be unlocked. He unlocked the doors, went inside and said: "I am going closing the doors right behind me." This was the most shocking turn of events of the whole evening. The player was afraid that some sort of demon would get out. Everyone else at the table was surprised and shocked (including the GM). Now both Durgar and Grimdrig were locked inside the burial chamber.

Leena finished reading the Fiasco Codex and asked her question: "What is my greatest opportunity, right now?" I answered honestly: "Take the dwarven plate mail and leave." The plate armor was worth around 1000 coins. And I knew what had happened inside the tomb. Leena was neutral, so she followed the advice. Unfortunately, she could only take one suite. She was very surprised that the draugr were gone, but figured out that her healing magic had most likely ended the guardians.

Inside the tomb, Durgar asked Grimdrig to open the sarcophagus. Inside they found 160 coins, a silver short sword, canoptic jars and the mummified remains of the dead queen clad in a priceless suite of plate armor. When the sarcophagus was opened, Durgar was hit by green spores weakening him. In the end, they managed to dig themselves out of the hole that Durgar first broke through. But first they tried to open the doors from the inside. When Durgar wanted to help, his finger tips blackened and smoked as they touched the door.

Returning to the camp, Grimdrig was surrounded by the other caravan guards who admired the dwarven plate mail he brought back from the tomb (the armor of the second draugr). Durgar confronted Leena, figuring that she had left them to rot. Leena convincingly explained that she tried to get help, but everyone refused to go.

At that point we wrapped up the game and did the end of session move. No bonds were resolved, but Leena added a new bond with Durgar: "He doesn't trust me and for good reason." It just felt right to do that. Especially since Leena suspects that Durgar might be possessed.

4. Feedback

The feedback is very raw, very fresh and relatively unfiltered. I still hope it is useful.

GM Feedback:

  • The rules are an easy read and the advice is solid.
  • Some things in the rules are not explained. Notably, how to arrive at the dungeons from the fronts. This rather implicitly assumes that readers are familiar with D&D-type games. Also the b and w notations in the monster stat blocks are nowhere explained. I assume they mean "keep best" and "keep worst" - even though I haven't found a rule that says "keep worst".
  • The experience rule on page 15: "when you roll a miss (6-) and when you make the End of Session move." seems like a left over from earlier revisions. Because I think, you'll level up far too quickly if you use that rule.
  • The moves played surprisingly well. Sometimes I still needed help from the players to figure out hard bargains, ugly choices and worst outcomes.
  • I am positively surprised how much ground we covered in about 4 hours of game time.
  • I am also positively surprised about the way the action in the game developed. I am certain that using LotFP, ACKS or DCC would have yielded a very different gaming experience. Honestly, I think it would have been less exciting.
  • The Bend Bars/Lift Gates move really lets the fighter shine outside of combat.
  • The playbooks should have some sort of boxes in the gear section to mark off uses.

Player Feedback:

  • Leena asked me, why didn't use any of my moves. She knows Apocalypse World. I just went over my list of moves and pointed out were I used them. Turned out, I nearly used every one of them.
  • The Defy Danger move is way too harsh. It feels unbalanced with other moves in the 7-9 range. The worst outcomes, hard bargains and ugly choices feel far more punishing than simply failing. The players were kind of unanimous about that. Maybe consequences that are more clearly cut would help here. A sentiment which I share.
  • The Discern Realities move is too limiting in the 10+ range. The players felt that the listed questions are good ideas for the first question, but would prefer to be able to build on the information gained with the first question by asking free-form questions as 2nd and 3rd question.
  • Grimdrig felt that the Discern Realities and Spout Lore moves slow down the game. A feeling not shared by everyone.
  • Grimdrig was left with a very conflicting impression of the game. On the one hand, he liked that ideas about a fighter were working very good, but on the other hand he felt dissatisfied with the outcome and found the game very exhausting. Also, the storylines that are beginning to show don't hold any interest for him.
  • Again, Grimdrig thought that the descriptions of his actions don't really matter for the rules. But he kept comparing the game to Warhammer 3rd edition (he is GMing the Grunwald Lodge adventure).
  • Leena pointed out that the playbooks are missing a place to put your level!


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Dungeon World

I discovered Dungeon World a couple of days ago, when their Kickstarter went live and exceeded their modest initial goal of $4.000 by a almost 350% within the seven hours of being live. (Again supports my theory that starting of with a modest goal yields more money in the end. I am looking at you, White Wolf!)

Anyways, I expect Dungeon World to do what LotFP, ACKS and DCC so far failed to do: getting my regular players interested in playing classic fantasy. So I joined the Adventurer's Guild of Dungeon World (essentially the Beta Testers) and will run my very first Dungeon World session tonight.

I am curious how that will play out, especially as for the first session you are asked not to prepare too much. Except something that gets you in the action right away. Sounds like a lot of improvisation (which I like).

The report of the actual play will be posted this weekend. As a rough backdrop, I will use Lands beyond the Drowning Woods, but remain open for what the players want.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Professions for Lamentations of the Flame Princess

This is just a quick post with the professions I came up with (heavily inspired by ACKS). My idea is, each character gains one profession at 1st level, and every 4 levels afterwards (5th, 9th, 13th, 17th). Acquiring a new profession takes 1d4 months of actually working in that profession. High intelligence grants bonus professions (Intelligence 13+ grants one bonus profession at 1st level, Intelligence 16+ grants another one at 5th level, and Intelligence 18 another one at 9th level).

This is the list each character can pick from:


Profession Bonus
Acrobat Increase dexterity bonus by +1.
Alchemist Increase intelligence bonus by +1.
Archer Gain a +1 bonus to ranged attacks.
Assassin Gain a +1 bonus to the sneak attack skill.
Astrologer Increase wisdom bonus by +1.
Battle mage Gain +1 initiative when casting spells; reduce spell
immunity of opponents by 10%.
Berserker Gain +2 to attack rolls, immune to fear, -2 to AC. Lasts
until end of combat.
Blacksmith Gain a +1 bonus to the tinker skill.
Captain Retainers check morale with a -2 bonus to the roll.
Cat burglar Gain a +1 bonus to the climb skill.
Cavalryman Reduce penalties for missile attacks while mounted to -2.
Conjurer When caster takes damage while casting, he can still attach
normally.
Diplomat Receive a -2 bonus on NPC Reactions.
Enchanter Cast charm person or sleep on person of preferred gender. Lasts 
as long as character keeps playing her instrument.
Engineer Gain a +1 bonus to the architecture skill.
Fletcher Missile attacks gain a +1 bonus to damage.
Forester Gain a +1 bonus to the bushcraft skill.
Gambler Earn 1d6x10 sp per month.
Guard Melee attacks gain a +1 bonus to damage.
Guide Gain a +1 bonus to the search skill.
Healer (1+INT mod) patients recover additional 1d3 hp per day.
Hermit Gain a +1 bonus to saves vs. non-magic effects.
Hunter Character can make ranged sneak attacks at short distance.
Knight Gain +2 bonus determining retainers loyalty/morale.
Laborer Increase constitution bonus by +1.
Mercenary Increase strength bonus by +1.
Merchant Increase charisma bonus by +1.
Minstrel Gain a +1 bonus to the busking skill.
Monk/Nun Gain a +1 bonus to saves vs. magic effects.
Musketeer Gain a +1 bonus to armor class, when wearing leather armor or
less.
Mystic Caster does not have to speak to cast spells.
Necromancer Character can cast animate dead once per week.
Peddler Buy items for 10% less, sell items for 10% more.
Pick pocket Gain a +1 bonus to the sleight of hands skill.
Prophet Lawful character can cast the commune spell once per week.
Scholar Gain a +1 bonus to the legend lore skill.
Scout Character needs only 4 hours of sleep to be completely rested.
Scribe Gain a +1 bonus to the languages skill.
Sharpshooter May target opponents engaged in melee.
Soldier Gain a +1 bonus to melee attacks.
Soothsayer Chaotic character can cast the contact outer sphere spell once 
per week.
Spy Gain a +1 bonus to the stealth skill.
Thug Gain a +1 bonus to the open doors skill.
Witch Character can cast bestow curse once per week.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Proficiencies in LotFP

When I look at LotFP, I see a game that I really like and that reminds me of older versions of the popular fantasy role-playing game. But that is the referee perspective. There is also the player perspective. From their point, LotFP is missing the "fiddly bits". The bits a player can use to fine-tune his character and develop a vision of that character.

Clerics, magic-users, specialists and elves each have something to decide when adding a new level. They get new toys to play with (either spells or dots in common activities). Also, clerics, magic-users and elves have the mini-game of spells to keep them occuppied during play. Whereas the fighter, the dwarf and the halfling don't really have any decisions to make beyond buying equipment.

That is not enough. I want them to have something to decide as well. Here, I like what ACKS is doing with the proficiencies. Every couple of levels, you get a new proficieny. Something that differentiates your character and supports a concept beyond "fighter" by using evocative names. That's something I'd like to see in LotFP. ACKS even gives abstract rules when to gain a new proficiency:

"All characters may choose one additional proficiency from the general list at levels 5, 9, and ... 13. Characters may choose one additional proficiency chosen from their class list each time they complete a full (2-point) saving throw progression." (ACKS, page 56)

Using these rules, it would be easy to add something similar to LotFP. The only things I would make different:
  • Proficiencies are listed in a simple table offering quick options.
  • Proficiencies are not divided into general and class-based tables. Instead, if you are able to use a certain feature, you could use the proficiency.
  • No front-loading. Bonus proficiencies for a high ability score would be spread out over the advancement table (like INT 13+ gains one additional proficiency at first level, INT 16+ gains one additional proficiency at a later level, INT 18+ gains another additional proficiency at an even later level).
  • Optionally: They would not be called proficiencies.
I am going to see what I can come up with in the next couple of weeks based on the lists in ACKS.

Death Frost Doom meets Dungeon Crawl Classics

Today I finally had the chance to run Death Frost Doom. Without spoiling anyone, it was a predicatable disaster. Of course the PCs decided to do the one thing they shouldn't have...

We played using the Dungeon Crawl Classics ruleset. I gave them the option to start at level 0 to 3.  The group decided to pick 3rd level. Had they decided to start with level 0 to 2, I would have run Sailors on the Starless Sea for them. With level 3 I went for Death Frost Doom.

The group rolled up their stats completely in order. Then they rolled occupations and luck modifier. The group consisted of:

  • Liva the Cutthroat, 3rd level chaotic thief
  • Gelis the Exile, 3rd level chaotic dwarf
  • Gromph the Exile, 3rd level chaotic dwarf
  • Rasmus the Chronicler, 3rd level neutral cleric of the White Worm.

Gromph was the unlucky one. His initial luck score meant that he resisted poison with -1 penalty.

Without going into too much detail, the highlights of the adventure were:

  • Liva feeling totally spooked in the graveyard and around the cabin, but being her most competent self down in the crypts.
  • Gelis playing first harpsichord and then pipe-organ. She was not very talented at the first one, and very deadly for the group at the second one.
  • Rasmus deciding his mission to be de-secrating the temple of an apparent rival of his god. Which led him to cast a blessing at a fountain of unholy water - and it actually turned the water back to real unspoiled water (result from the spell check).
  • Gromph using his shield to sled down the mountain ahead of the pursuers.

All in all, what I think of DCC:

  • My players didn't like the Luck burn (one of them being down zero at the end of the adventure), but personally, I like it. It reminds me of Fighting Fantasy.
  • As I suspected, I don't like all the tables and constant need to look things up. Even though the results were pretty amazing.
  • I don't care for the strange dice (d5, d7, d14, d16 and d24) at all.
  • The neat mechanics for deeds and luck didn't play such a big role. Something I didn't expect.
  • Rolling d20 plus a modifier feels strange... I know it is part of OGL, but in 3E it was always like: skill rating + attribute modifier. Now it is only a rating (thief skills) plus d20. Feels flat.
  • The spell check mechanic and spell failure mechanic of the cleric were as much fun as I expected. Especially since the cleric went for a divine intervention in the end. Purely fantastic. The game really shines here. Side note: Again, the awesome seems to be with spellcasters. So not really an improvement over similar games.
  • I really like the way experience is handled. It frees the referee from handing out too much treasure, and also from too much balancing efforts. With DCC, if I made the encounter too difficult, the player characters just need to flee successfully and I'll be handing out 4 XP.
 What will I do with my limited edition of DCC now? Not really sure. The book is absolutely gorgeous. Style and illustrations transport the intended game style very clearly and very beautifully. On the other hand, it is quite complex with all the tables needed for play. Also, I prefer digest-sized books at the gaming table. LotFP is more elegant in this regard, but DCC has all the rules necessary to turn the LotFP fluff into crunch. What I would really need is a love child of LotFP and DCC. Or I'll take LotFP as the basis, and add DCC bits and pieces I like. Which is probably what is going to happen.

Stay tuned.