Friday, June 3, 2016

My Online LL Group is a Treasure

Members of my "home" Labyrinth Lord group in fall 2010. 

I recently wrote about experiencing DM burnout and consequently placing both my Labryinth Lord groups on hiatus. In that post I noted that
gaming over the internet, for me, is a pale shadow of gaming live, in person, at a table. No matter how good the technology gets there is, for me, a disconnect or a missing piece that rears its head in various ways online: less spontaneous fun chatter and humor takes place, some details get missed or talked over or need to be repeated, to somewhat lessened effect. The whole thing feels like a giant, three-dimensional, full-sensory experience being strained through a small, thin, partial, two-dimensional medium.
In that same post I claimed that gaming over Skype has been a "disappointment" to me. That is indeed how I felt at the time. Yet my DM burnout was particularly intense then. I was feeling grumpy about the slow winding down of my local public game, which dwindled to two regular players late last year, then an unsustainable one this spring.

No, that earlier statement should be read more as venting than as analysis or plan. It reflected my emotional state and was not meant to condemn the concept of RPG'ing via Skype in general. Most importantly, it was never intended to impugn the members of my "home" gaming group or to devalue the wonderful gaming experiences I have shared with them in the years since this campaign began in 2010.

I am quite lucky to have such a wonderful group of gamers and if Skype is the means by which we must reach each other, so be it. We are lucky to be able to keep this thing going in such a relatively simple and straightforward way.

Our particular group is especially fortunate to include players with a wide array of real-world RPG'ing experience. We have one neophyte player, a couple three with some limited prior D&D experience, and three of us who have been playing RPGs (with varying degrees of consistency) since the 1980s.*

Furthermore, the members of this group are gaming associates and also friends. I went to graduate school with most of them, played in a band with another, have edited essay collections with one guy, co-authored scholarly articles with another, and am generally invested in all or their lives outside of RPG'ing.

Given that, it is remarkable and exciting that everybody in this unique assortment of folks is willing to make time to play Labyrinth Lord once every four to six weeks or so, despite being of adult age with families, busy careers, etc.

Most importantly, we all generally get along, in-game and out. There is a supportive, light-hearted, laughter-inducing atmosphere during our sessions. This harmonious vibe shines through, for example, in Yor's player's supportive, appreciative comment on my last session report post: "Thanks for putting these together Carter." It is, of course, my pleasure.

I still have a few minor qualms with the gaming-via-Skype format, but those aren't likely to disappear, barring major, Star Trekkian advances in technology. Probably not even then. Live at the table will always be best. But I have a good thing going here. Maybe I can re-tap into some of the feelings I had earlier on, when I wrote this celebratory post about keeping our campaign group together over Skype: "Skype is our friend!"

In any case, my "home" Labyrinth Lord group is something very special that I will be sure to nurture, appreciate, and treasure. Thanks friends!

Some of the same folks one year later, fall 2011. 

* One of our experienced participants is Carl Nash, who introduced me to the OSR via Mutant Future and who is still quite active in the OSR blogosphere. Check out Carl's blog and be sure to purchase his amazing adventure locale, The Fungus Forest, available for "pay what you want" here on RPGNow.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Arandish Campaign Sessions 75-79 Log

This post continues my tradition of documenting the shenanigans of my "home" group of PCs, a party that includes:

Innominus, human cleric of Endra
Dak, dwarven warrior and Field Marshal in Charge of Demon Eradication
Yor, dwarven warrior and Baron of Rogaland
Uncle Junkal, rodian bard
Vivuli, human assassin / magic-user and initiate of the Kaladarian Murder-Heads
Hazel, human fighter / magic-user

Session 75 "The Sewers of Kaladar"
Date: 8/25/2013
PCs: Innominus (Clr 7), Yor (Dwf 7), Dak (Dwf 7), Uncle Junkal (rodian bard 6) [shows up late]
NPCs: Bo Jangles (Ftr 5) and Flipwayter (Dwf 4) (both follow Dak)

Dawn of Day 200 six levels below East Lookout Hill in the sewers of the Free City of Kaladar. Light to moderate snowfall above ground.
The PCs close the stone cap / plug behind them and ascend five additional levels to the surface.
Dak then checks in at each of three sites -- the Hotel Kaladarian, the Green Dragon Shanty, and Arkus House -- to see if anyone came looking for them in the nighttime. Neither inn reported anything unusual but guards at Arkus House noticed a cloaked watcher across the street in the wee hours but could not apprehend said watcher.
After some healing and tomfuckery, mid-morning the PCs head back down into the sewers. There they meet and fight several sewage shamblers. [Uncle Junkal shows up somewhere in here.] They make it down to level six only to breathe in some deadly poisonous gas. Most of the PCs and their followers resist the vile effects of the gas, but hireling Gary the dwarf's liquefied organs ooze out his nose and mouth. He collapses, dead, sporting a HUGE death-boner.
Uncle Junkal and the dwarves notice ancient Telengardian architecture on this level, and everyone notices the pervasive fish-smell. There are obscene etchings on the walls in orcish. Beastarr tracks a deathlike scent. PCs reach a 4-way intersection, following Beastarr's lead. Find secret trapdoor, descend into vast cavern filled with bones, corpses, skeletons, offal -- stench is overpowering. At far end of cavern are two iron doors -- the left one depicting a skull, the right a spider with a human face.
A ghost attacks! The PCs flee back to above the huge stone cap.

Session 76 "Mucking Around in the Nethers" 
Date: 9/15/2013
PCs: Innominus (Clr 7), Yor (Dwf 7), Dak (Dwf 7), Vivuli (assassin 5 / Mu 5), Uncle Junkal (rodian bard 6)
NPCs: Bo Jangles (Ftr 5) and Flipwayter (Dwf 4) (both follow Dak)

Mid-afternoon of Day 200. Very light snowfall on surface. Temperature rising slightly.
PCs start in the nethers of the Free City of Kaladar, above the huge stone cap in the vertical shaft beneath East Lookout Hill. They head immediately to the surface, seeking maps of the Kaladarian sewers. Apparently, none exist.
Dak sends a message to Zardoz requesting a ghost-dispeller scroll. He asks him to remain quiet about their lead on Morag the Arch-Summoner.
Uncle Junkal and Innominus leave Claude the Ranger at the Temple of Endra to be raised from death. He will remain there two weeks.
Later that afternoon they go see Zardoz at the White Council Guildhall. They tell him they were confronted by a ghost in wizard's robes in the sewers.
Uncle Junkal charms Zardoz. Zardoz becomes more helpful, dispatching Leonard, his scribe, to obtain a ghost-dispeller scroll within the hour.
The party rests from late afternoon 'till around midnight, the witching hour, when the demons rule. Dak stays at the garrison with his troops rather than at Arkus House.
The party sends a message to the Lady Mayor, telling her that an evil sorcerer, a vampire, or both -- who may even be Morag -- is in the catacombs beneath the city. They also advise her to be circumspect ion her dealings with the White Council, since there may be an informant there.
Then they go back down beneath the stone cap in the catacombs, taking three of Dak's anti-demon squad dwarven warriors, Barfo, Jerry, and Muckley, with them for added security. Dak and Yor take the vanguard. They return to the corpse-chamber and the dwarves begin digging at a place where they're convinced there's a hollow space under the floor. They reveal an 80' diameter domed chamber whose floor is 30' beneath them. Etched into the center of the lower chamber floor is a 20' diameter, nine-segment circle. The two dwarves rappel down and start searching the chamber.
Innominus and Muckley come down next -- then the rest of the party. Dak finds a secret door concealing a second, smaller chamber to the north.
Searching the northwest part of the larger chamber, Dak and Barfo find a stone archway framing a glass-like pane of clear material, through which they see a scene of a windswept hill surrounded by what appears to be a lava swamp.
Meanwhile Vivuli finds a poison needle trap in the secret door, but no one in the party can disarm it. Yor volunteers to open the door anyway, rolls a "1" on his poison save, and dies. Innominus immediately casts neutralize poison (from a scroll) on Yor. Endra must especially favor Innominus -- for the spell miraculously revives the fallen dwarf!
The party goes through the secret door and begins searching the smaller chamber. It's an abandoned study, dust everywhere, moldy remains of a comfy chair, a bookshelf of moldy books, an old cot . . .
Innominus checks out the books while the remaining PCs search other parts of the study. Beastarr the bobcat sniffs out the whole place.
Overturning the cot, Dak disturbs a mold-lich, who instantly attacks the party. Flipwayter flees the room in abject terror, but the rest of the gang eventually defeats the lich.
Dak finds a secret trapdoor in the floor under the lich's resting place -- in a niche in the floor he finds an ornate case containing a longsword bearing Old Noffellian runes. Uncle Junkal recognizes the runes as part of a family crest. The sword, whose name, Mellion, is also inscribed on the hilt, must have belonged to an ancient Noffellian family.
Among the moldy and rotten books, Innominus finds one intact title, a dictionary of the Demonic language. In his searching of the room, Yor finds (under some semen found in a mold-pile) another Morag's Gate Key: a small bone chit depicting a Grey Flame symbol.
Searching the east wall of the moldy study, Dak sees a gold-tinted holographic scene of a rocky, windswept precipice jutting out over a tumultuous sea at night. Leaning in closer, the dwarf decides that the "water" in the image may actually be red-hot lava. Beastarr smells a sulfurous odor. Dak's face feels sunburned gazing at the image for just a short while.
Meanwhile, searching the west wall, Flipwayter sees a similar holographic image of some barren dunes and, in the distance, a wicked-looking temple featuring a spider-like symbol visible above its sharply peaked roof. Beastarr smells a sulfurous odor near this image too. Uncle Junkal examines the second image and identifies the temple in the background as a Fane of Lolth.
Dak continues looking at the image of the magma-sea precipice. A shape or creature moves slowly from the background into the foreground of the image. As it heads Dak's way. grwoing more visually distinct, the dwarf sees that it basically resembles a magma otyugh. It gnashes its maw menacingly in Dak's direction but does not come too close.

Session 77 "Finding Needbo's Crypt" 
Date: 9/29/2013
PCs: Innominus (Clr 7), Yor (Dwf 7), Dak (Dwf 7), Uncle Junkal (rodian bard 6)
NPCs: Bo Jangles (Ftr 5) and Flipwayter (Dwf 4) (both follow Dak) plus dwarven conscripts Barfo (Dwf 5), Jerry (Dwf 5), and Muckley (Dwf 5)

It's a couple hours after midnight on Day 200, thus technically the morning of Day 201. Down in the nethers of Kaladar, a magma otyugh has just stink-eyed the party through a transparent, gold-tinted holographic portal in a mold-coated study.
Innominus continues rummaging the musty bookshelf, finding a partially intact book of evil spells. He can't read the spellbook's runic language but just looking at the book bothers the reverent priest.
Yor boosts Dak up so he can push his head "into" the hologram of the dunes and the Lolth Temple. Dak gets his head through, then turns to look behind him -- he finds he cannot see the underground chamber from whence he came and appears to be hanging in midair just above a dune. He surmises that the portal may be one-way from the Arandish side. Yor pulls him back.
Suddenly five saurian balrogs gate into the study chamber and viciously attack the party with black metal flaming swords! A fight ensues, during which Yor throws Innominus at a balrog, Innominus grabs the balrog and casts Cure Light Wounds, rolls his nightly d30 for damage, gets a "25." Yor also gets a happy feeling from the sword Mellion as it kills demons. The PCs vanquish four of the balrogs and one escapes via a gate.
Then the party goes back to the first chamber to investigate Barfo's mysterious arch-portal. Uncle Junkal senses the presence of the magma-dragon thing he met back in northern Minoch on Day 173. Yor sticks a handaxe through the arch -- it comes back blackened, charred.
Yor notes: "Someone on our world opened the portal!" And wonders: "What the hell killed all the dessicated bodies in the large vaulted chamber above?"
Dak and Yor convince the party to return back to said dessication chamber to the open the left-side "skull" door [found in session 75] and explore what lies beyond. Uncle Junkal investigates the area around the door and finds Old Noffellian runes stating "Here dwells Needbo -- hates all life." The bard takes a rubbing of these runes.
With his immense strength, Yor pulls the door open, revealing an 8' tall, 20' wide cobblestoned passageway. The place smells like a grave into which lots of dead people have been shitting.
Dak stays on a 5' wide, blood-colored cobblestone "path" that winds down the length of the passageway. 30' along his journey he pauses to inspect the walls. They are painted with grotesque mosiacs -- close inspection reveals that the pigment used to render these images is made from vomit, blood, rat urine, and various liquids squeezed from vital organs.
After making this unsavory discovery, Dak continues down the grotesque hallway. A trapdoor drops open and he falls into a 10' deep pit. Yor pulls him out, then hucks him across the pit with a rope. The remaining PCs use the rope to vault across.
They all continue down the foul passage. Near the end At the terminus of the passage (about 170' along) is a large statue of a cloaked man and, to the left, a mysterious mist-filled archway. The PCs search the areas surrounding the statue and archway. Beastarr smells poison gas in the archway. Uncle Junkal inspects the statue itself, deducing that it is a likeness of a six- to seven-generations old member of the aristocratic Achelonian family Needbo.
During the searching period, Dak steps off the blood-colored cobblestone path, fails a save vs. death, and is drained of one life level (to Dwf level 6).

We set something off when we sold 
the Death Frost Doom mirror

Session 78 "Deeper into the Crypt"
Date: 11/10/2013
PCs: Innominus (Clr 7), Yor (Dwf 7), Dak (Dwf 6)
NPCs: Flipwayter (Dwf 4) (follows Dak) plus dwarven conscripts Barfo (Dwf 5), Jerry (Dwf 5), and Muckley (Dwf 5)

It's Day 201 at 3am and the party is 170' down the entry passage of Needbo's Crypt, in front of a large (7' tall) statue of a cloaked man. To the left is a mysterious misty archway. The PCs begin to retrace their steps back the way they came, searching the walls, floor, and ceiling as they go.
About 20' back, 150' from the entrance, someone finds some loose stones on the left wall, removes them, and finds a concealed handle that apparently turns either right or left. Yor or Dak turns the handle left, which springs open a concealed door opening on a 5' x 5' crawlspace. Leaving Flipwayter in the main hallway, the PCs enter the crawlspace: Dak, Yor, Innominus, then Beastarr. They crawl in a ways, go around a couple bends, then the crawlway dead-ends. The PCs reverse course, searching as they go.
Their search reveals two different compartments concealed behind loose stones in the walls of the crawlspace. Dak finds one containing a human-looking skull. Yor finds a scroll case, which he passes to Innominus -- the priest opens the case to find a parchment written upon in blood, warning the reader to avoid green in the second great hall.
Suddenly Flipwayter hollers the alarm as slate-gray, hard-to-see gargoyle-things armed with whips attack him in the entry hall, screeching sadistically. The PCs fight them, killing all but one, which flees in terror at the sight of Yor's recently found sword Mellion (see session 76). The last gargoyle-demon leaps "into" a wall, vanishing as if into a gate, once Yor brandishes the ancient Noffellian weapon.
Post-combat, Innominus casts detect magic in the main corridor -- the statue of the cloaked figure glows quite intensely, and the two base stones and one capstone of the archway glow. Yor's sword Mellion glows incredibly intensely. Neither the skull nor the scroll case glow.
Then Innominus casts tale of death on the skull. The priest sees a vision of the skull owner's death: a handsome-looking cloaked vampire (bearing a striking resemblance to the figure depicted in the nearby statue in the real world) grabs him or her by the head, bites, and exsanguinates him or her.
Yor pickaxes through the wall at the point where the last gargoyle-thing vanished. He breaks through to a chamber full of grotesque statues, including some of the gargoyle-things. The statues start coming to life, a big battle ensues.

Session 79 "Emerging from the Crypt"
Date: 12/10/2013
PCs: Innominus (Clr 7), Dak (Dwf 6) [restored to Dwf 7], Vivuli (assassin 5 / Mu 5), Uncle Junkal (rodian bard 6)
NPCs: Flipwayter (Dwf 4) (follows Dak) plus dwarven conscripts Barfo, Jerry, and Muckley (all three Dwf 5)

Dawn of Day 201, in the "statue room" of the crypt several levels beneath the streets of the Free City of Kaladar.
After killing a bunch of hostile statue-things, the PCs search around in the statue room for awhile and find two sturdy wooden chests, and a silver box. As soon as a PC touches the latter, three lobster-clawed shamblers attack!
After the PCs kill said shamblers, Uncle Junkal studies the silver box and recognizes that the rune etched in its lid represents an aristocratic Achelonian family whose name begins with the letter "N."
[Yor joins the session around here.]
Viv disarms two poison needle traps then the PCs open the chests. One is full of a filth-shambler, which attacks. They kill it.
The other contains human bones.
The PCs return to the surface. By the time they emerge from the catacombs, it is mid-afternoon on Day 201. Moderate to heavy snowfall in Kaladar. The PCs retreat to their suite at the Hotel Kaladarian (and Innominus retires to the Temple of Endra) to rest until late evening.
An hour after dusk, Innominus has a dream-vision of the young, handsome vampire (seen in last session's Tale of Death vision) saying: "I curse thee, dishonorable mortal."
Later, Dak, Viv, and Uncle Junkal join Innominus at the Temple of Endra. High Priestess Majesticonica restores Dak's lost life level. The PCs spend the late evening discussing demon problems and how to open the seemingly impenetrable silver box, which radiates strong evil. Majesticonica advises that they not attempt to open the box inside Kaladar's city walls.
They call upon Kaladar's Lady Mayor Annabelle to obtain them a late-night audience with Sawith the Scribe . . .

More to come!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Arandish Campaign Sessions 70-74 Log

This post continues the work begun in this previous log, chronicling the ongoing exploits of my "home" campaign group. That group's PCs include:

Yor, dwarven warrior and Baron of Rogaland
Dak the Younger, dwarven warrior
Innominus, Cleric of Endra
Uncle Junkal, rodian bard and member of the Kaladarian Central Bard's College
Vivuli, a vile and mysterious assassin
Hazel, a fighter / magic user with a valiant pet kestrel

As before, these updates will take a more brief "capsule" form -- feel free to ask for elaborations in the comments.

Session 70 "Wizards' Council"
Date: 5/12/2013
PCs: Innominus (Clr 7), Dak (Dwf 7), Uncle Junkal (Rodian Bard 6), Vivuli (Assassin 5 / Mu 5)
NPCs: Flipwayter (Dwf 3, follows Dak), Rodrick (Thf 5, follows Viv), Claude (Rgr 4, follows Uncle Junkal)

Starts late afternoon of Day 194 at the Arkus Residence in the Lookout Hill District of the Free City of Kaladar. Heavy snowfall. Most of the party rests and relaxes at the Minochian Prince's modest but well appointed town manor.
Morning of Day 195 -- extremely heavy snowfall.
Tonight at midnight a Grand Council of Wizards is scheduled at the White Council Guildhall, to discuss recent demonic incursions into Ara and Kaladar.
Uncle Junkal, accompanied by Innominus, visits his old campus, the Central Bard's College of Kaladar, and consults with on old grey haired rodian bard there. Asks about the cryptic note he got at the Orc's Balls Inn in Session 61, learns next to nothing. UJ also asks about Morag's Gates and possible folkloric locales for Morag's Workshop. His source says the workshop is either in the eastern mountains of the southern trollish territories, north of Gannar in Novellan, or possibly on the Komar Peninsula (though this last surmise could be the result of a mis-translation).
As for the chits and the gates, Ben the Librarian asks UJ and Innominus if they've seen a Gate or used a chit in one, and Innominus tells him they buried a Gate under Kaminster's Manor in Rogaland, South Minoch. Upon further questioning, during which the Endran priest mentions encountering a "lobster woman," Ben tells of ancient battles between her slimy legions and Fort Hragdor -- maybe Kaladar Island is a holy place for Blibdoolpoolp?
Viv seeks an assassins' guild to join, hopes to be tapped to join The Red Hand. He instead meets some representatives of the Kaladarian Murder-Heads.
Day 195 at midnight: Grand Wizards' Council, Zardoz presides.* Opens by mentioning the 800-year ban on wizards getting involved in Arandish political or military affairs. Dak and Innominus insist that the whole continent is being undermined by demons and balrogs. They state that they have both seen pits to hell appear in Fortinbras and Farn Junction. They outline a plan in which the Kaladarian White Council wizards will assist in finding and sealing the hellpits.

Session 71 "War Council"
Date: 5/26/2013
PCs: Innominus (Clr 7), Yor (Dwf 7), Dak (Dwf 7), Vivuli (Assassin 5 / Mu 5)
NPCs: Flipwayter (Dwf 3, follows Dak), Rodrick (Thf 5, follows Viv)

In the wee morning hours of Day 196, Viv gets a mission from the Kaladarian Murder-Heads at the Three Fingers Inn. By the end of the night, he succeeds at his mission and is awarded a Murder-Heads medallion from Franco, his contact in the guild.
Dawn of Day 196 -- more heavy snowfall. Once Yor takes residence, the House of Arkus stands as a kind of informal Minochian Consulate in Kaladar.
Around midday on Day 196, Claude the Ranger comes back to Kaladar from a scouting trip and tells Yor that he saw balrog forces amassing near Farn Junction.
That afternoon, a Kaladarian Special Council is held at the headquarters of the Lady Mayor.** Yor speaks on behalf of the Prince of Minoch, telling the council that "the nature of this [balrog] attack requires magic to respond." The Free City of Kaladar, Delzar, Rogaland, and the White Council of Kaladar mutually endorse a Resolution to End the Hellpits.
Dak asks for and gets a special appointment to the Kaladarian Guard, "Field Marshal in Charge of Hellpit Closure," reporting directly to General Izod. Dak takes military command of a special demon-fighting unit, to be trained in Kaladar starting immediately. He requests and is granted New Steel weapons and fire resistance potions for all his personnel.
The evening of Day 196, Yor visits local pubs including the Green Dragon Inn to recruit dwarves for Dak's anti-demon task force.
After consulting over dinner with General Izod, Dak orders Noffellian troops to Fortinbras. Innominus sends out a call for any priests with demon-fighting abilities or experience to converge on Kaladar.
Day 197-198 -- Dak makes preparations, UJ asks Alara at the Bard College about cat creatures that live in the east, and she confirms their existence. Innominus asks around about demon-hunters, finds out the Church of Achelon is a good bet and that there's also a guy names Father Wickley of the Church of Telengard known for such skills.
Day 199 -- tryouts begin for Dak's anti-demon squadron . . . and four green dragons attack!

Session 72 "Balrog Attack!"
Date: 6/9/2013
PCs: Innominus (Clr 7), Yor (Dwf 7), Dak (Dwf 7), Uncle Junkal (rodian bard 6), Vivuli (Assassin 5 / Mu 5)
Plus Hazel (Ftr 4 / Mu 4)
NPCs: Flipwayter (Dwf 3, follows Dak), Claude (Rgr 4, follows Uncle Junkal), Rodrick (Thf 5, follows Viv) plus Hazel's follower Fuzz (Ftr 3)

Midday of Day 199, very light to no snowfall.
The party just survived an extremely rare green dragon attack within Kaladar's city walls. (Green dragons are known to inhabit the woods to the north and east of the Free City and many Kaladarian landmarks are named for the creatures.) Then, all of a sudden, Innominus, Hazel, and Yor hear distant screams and explosions from the west and Hazel sends her kestrel aloft to seek out the disturbance. The kestrel sees balrogs flying round the West Gate of Kaladar, attacking the Royal Guards posted there by dropping fire gems and whipping them.***
Four saurian balrogs swoop over the city and attack Dak, Dak's task force inductees, Uncle Junkal, Viv, and Hazel. The PC team kicks their asses and heads for the West Gate. They converge there with Yor and Innominus. The party helps the Kaladarian Royal Guard fend off a vile balrog assault on the Free City of Kaladar. Collectively, counting the ones vanquished at the recruitment training field, they kill eleven balrogs. One balrog flees.

Session 73 "Investigating the West Gate Attack"
Date: 6/23/2013
PCs: Innominus (Clr 7), Yor (Dwf 7), Dak (Dwf 7), Hazel (Ftr 4 / Mu 4)
NPCs: Bo Jangles (Ftr 5, follows Dak), Flipwayter (Dwf 4, follows Dak), Fuzz (Ftr 3, follows Hazel)

Day 199, just before midday. Heavy snowfall. The West Gate of the Free City of Kaladar. Kaladarian Royal Guard troops line the rooftops and Outer Wall. The PCs loot 7 balrog corpses, recover a total of 6 fire gems. They also find one of Morag's Keys, a bone-like chit etched with an image of a lobster-headed and -clawed woman.
Beastarr the Bobcat sniffs out whence the sole retreating balrog fled, leading the PCs to a place just inside the Free City's fortified Outer Wall. Innominus detects residual magic traces in the air and along the interior of the wall. Beastarr smells a pungent fishy smell.
Dak goes to Lady Mayor Annabelle and warns her he thinks there's a double agent in Kaladar. He tells her that the party will be staying at rooms in the Hotel Kaladarian. He then tells General Izod they'll be at the Green Dragon Inn.
The party catches late night pub dinner at The Seedy Snake, a somewhat vile southside bar. Some party members espy a ghoulish figure who exits the pub via a private exit behind the bar. With his great strength, Yor throws Innominus at the departing ghoul, and the cleric first tackles then turns it.†
The PCs surround the ghoul in the Seedy Snake's kitchen and Hazel uses ESP to discover that it is spying on them on behalf of its master, a sinister, dark-cloaked figure. The PCs take the subdued ghoul to an inn on the next block, The Smelly Skunk, where they get a room and prepare to torture the ghoul spy . . .

Prince Arkus was targeted -- am I also being targeted?

Session 74 "What the Rat Saw"
Date: 7/14/2013
PCs: Innominus (Clr 7), Yor (Dwf 7), Dak (Dwf 7), Vivuli (Assassin 5 / Mu 5)
NPCs: Bo Jangles (Ftr 5, follows Dak), Flipwayter (Dwf 4, follows Dak), Rodrick (Thf 5, follows Viv)

Just before dawn of Day 200. Very light snowfall. A rented room in The Smelly Skunk, a filthy inn in the South Gate District of the Free City of Kaladar. The PCs -- mainly Vivuli and Dak -- are torturing a ghoul to find out who it works for and why it was watching them.
Dak sticks a bunch of fishhooks into the ghoul, then threatens to bring back a high priest to destroy it. The PCs then exit the room, leaving the ghoul tied somewhat half-assedly to a chair.
Once the PCs are outside and across the street, Vivuli sends an invisible rat back into the room at the Smelly Skunk. Vivuli sees what it sees: a Peter Lorre-ish looking guy comes in, liberates the ghoul, covers it with a cloak, and walks it south 4 blocks then east 18 blocks into the Green Dragon District. The scrawny guy and the ghoul sneak into a cellar via a cramped alleyway. The rat follows. It sees the two meet a third figure, a black-cloaked wizard-y looking individual. All three vanish.

Where are the fishhooks I stuck in that thing? 

[casts locate object]
Teleported to a spot under the city, beneath Lookout Hill. 

The PCs go six levels beneath the Free City, into the sewers, and Dak and Yor lift a huge rock cap to access an even deeper level. It is dank and rotten-smelling. Beastarr smells a doggish scent. They are attacked by 7 slime-hounds, who they eventually vanquish.

Rodrick the Thief:
He slimed me!

* Notable arcanists in attendance include Zardoz the White of Kaladar, Zklek of Kaladar, Arel, Dicktoad the Inscrutable, Thorv, Arthurius, Threk, and Savlene.
** Main attendees include Lady Mayor Annabelle of Kaladar, Sir Draco of the Kaladarian Royal Guard, Delzarian General Aron, Achelonian Colonel Zorn, Noffellian Captain Conkle, Claude the Ranger, and Zimroth the Mysterious (a Delzarian Ranger).
*** A favorite weapon of the saurian balrogs, fire gems have been used recently by the party in Session 63 and by balrogs in Session 59.
† Yor is naturally quite strong and he also purchased a girdle of giant strength early in the campaign. What he doesn't know is that that the girdle is powerfully cursed, has already sterilized him, and will inflict even more terrifying calamities upon him if he does not get rid of it soon. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

DM Burnout

I have supposedly been running two simultaneous Labyrinth Lord campaigns for several years now. I say "supposedly" because my "home" game (played over Skype) has really been on hiatus for a year or more at this point -- the last two sessions (numbers 87 and 88) took place in June 2015 (on 6/8 and 6/15) and those came after a break lasting since September 2014. I love that group but I cite two factors that led to me losing steam and enforcing, mainly through inaction, a hiatus:

(1) I must admit that gaming over the internet, for me, is a pale shadow of gaming live, in person, at a table. No matter how good the technology gets there is, for me, a disconnect or a missing piece that rears its head in various ways online: less spontaneous fun chatter and humor takes place, some details get missed or talked over or need to be repeated, to somewhat lessened effect. The whole thing feels like a giant, three-dimensional, full-sensory experience being strained through a small, thin, partial, two-dimensional medium. It will do in a pinch but sadly I must report that online RPG'ing has ultimately been a disappointment to me. There are, of course, high points and much fun to be had, but also a lot of tiring pragmatics that drag the experience down for me.

(2) I am experiencing general DM burnout. As evidence of this, just this past weekend I also made official a hiatus for my public Labyrinth Lord game at Lift Bridge Book Shop. The group hadn't met for about a month anyway and "the group" in this case is really down to one guy. Or maybe almost two guys: one player who could show up on time, and another who came for the last hour of each session, unable to come earlier due to his work schedule. Then recently, even guy #1 started missing sessions due to the demands of a new job, so between my feelings of DM burnout and critically low attendance, it was time to give that campaign a rest, at least until summer but maybe indefinitely.

Meanwhile, somebody else I met through the bookstore -- who also happens to be a bookstore employee -- has started running an after-hours 5e game, which I have joined as a player. I am playing Ur, a dwarven barbarian, and having a grand old time fighting undead and the like. I think it is really crucial (at least for me) to take time to see both sides of the referee's screen. Playing in someone else's campaign is really freeing, fun, and rejuvenating. So thanks Christine for running such a great game!

That 5e game has been running a couple of months so far and last weekend we had our first session in which only two players showed up. Prior to that, we were averaging at least three players (in addition to the DM) each time. But never fear, the DM was ready -- she had prepared a short one-off scenario using the old TSR Marvel Super Heroes RPG -- the one that uses the brilliant FASERIP system. (If you love that game as much as I do, check out this site.) I had a great time playing -- who else?  -- Ben Grimm, while my comrade chose Spidey. So fun! It's clobberin' time!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Scrying in LL?

My blogging activities and my "home" Labyrinth Lord Campaign (which plays online over Skype) have both been on hiatus for some time. The last time that particular group played was last September. There are several reasons for the break, chief among them the arrival of two babies -- two of our players have recently become fathers -- and my own mad scramble to get my academic ducks in a row for a major review I'll be subjected to this coming fall (it's not my actual tenure review but it will heavily inform that tenure decision, which lies one additional year in my future). So it has been a busy time full of changes in our non-gaming lives.

Additionally, as I told my group of players via email a few weeks back, I was beginning to experience some DM's fatigue last year. Some of that fatigue may be attributable to a personality quirk of my own: I have this funny thing (in all things I do) where when I reach the "nearly finished" point -- about the 80% complete mark -- and I start to lose interest in a project or undertaking. I have been feeling a bit of that type fatigue with the "home" campaign before the hiatus. As I wrote to the players:
It is not that I "know" our campaign is about 80% done. I do not. There is no way to predict that and I do not have one, set endgame in mind -- I just know who's out there doing what to whom, so I will judge how those personas respond to your party's inevitable meddling . . . 

That said, I tend to think that old-school D&D characters should retire from adventuring around 9th or 10th level -- so around then I would expect your characters to be running things (probably not all of Ara -- the Noffellians would secede if you guys took over -- but surely Rogaland, a temple of Endra, a bard's college. etc.) and then we might think about next steps. I could run another campaign in Ara, or . . . . Satan knows. 
However, what I didn't tell the players (because I didn't realize it yet) is that part of the issue also lies with the medium through which we play: Skype. I do not mean to single Skype out here, what I mean to refer to is the general difference between playing long-distance vs. playing live, in person, at a table in the same room. For me, there is simply no substitute for that latter experience. I know this because as I have reported before, I am having a grand old time running my public game at the local bookshop. There is a certain magic that can occur when folks are in the room together, and I think certain aspects of character interactions and subtle plot nuances are more easily conducted and conveyed live.

All that said, my online group played again last night and had a thrilling, awesome session (the 87th session of our campaign). It was so fun that we are meeting again in a week. The group teleported their way into a crypt buried beneath the Free City of Kaladar in order to do battle with a vampire and to seek an interdimensional gate they strongly suspect lies somewhere in or near that crypt.

In preparing to go after that vampire, the PCs enlisted the services of a wizard who briefly visited the vampire's lair, allowing himself to be transported there via a magical archway that appears to transmit living beings only, depositing them naked at the destination with none of their gear. This wizard, Tim, was instantly attacked and life-drained by the waiting vampire, and then he teleported himself back out of the vampire's lair to rejoin the party. They all retreated back to the above-ground city to scry the location Tim had seen via a crystal ball, so everybody could be teleported back in to do battle with the vampire.

This raised a question for me and my players: how, besides a crystal ball, does one scry in Labyrinth Lord?

None of us could find any direct reference to scrying except in the spell description for teleport (LL p. 40, AEC p. 80). Any thoughts?

P.S. I checked out my DMG this morning and found that EGG says this about scrying and anti-scrying:

Monday, September 22, 2014

Arandish Campaign Sessions 60-69 Log

It has been quite awhile since I reported in detail about the adventures of the ongoing "home" Lands of Ara Campaign I conduct over Skype. This group has been playing together since January 2010 and includes players in Oregon, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, New York, and (occasionally) Wisconsin. Just over a year ago, I inexplicably stopped recounting their exploits via regular session reports. Now I'm getting started again.

Borrowing from Cyclopeatron, I am adopting a briefer "Session Log" format to document sessions 60-69, bridging the gap between the last session report I posted and a forthcoming series of posts about the most recent developments in the campaign.

Primary PCs:
Innominus – human cleric
Dak – dwarf
Yor – dwarf
Uncle Junkal – rodian bard
Vivuli – human Assassin/MU

Occasional PC:
Hazel - human fighter/MU

Session 60
Date: 9/23/2012
PCs: Innominus (Clr. 7), Dak (Dwf. 6), Yor (Dwf. 6), Uncle Junkal (Rodian Bard 5)
NPCs: Nic Cage (Ftr. 4, follows Yor), Claude (Ranger 4, follows Uncle Junkal), and Flipwayter (Dwf 2, follows Dak)

Starts evening of Day 192 at the West Gate of the Free City of Kaladar.
Innominus takes the charred remains of Brother Lawrence to the Temple of Carcoon, learns from the Carcoonian Priests that the Western Lands were invaded by demons roughly seven days ago.
Day 193: Meet with Kaladar's Lady Mayor Annabelle and Sir Draco, the Captain of the Kaladarian Royal Guard.
Uncle Junkal charms the Lady Mayor and encourages her to think fondly of Yor, Baron of Rogaland.
The party decides to ask around Kaladar about Morag the Arch-Summoner.

Session 61
Date: 10/14/2012
PCs: Dak, Yor, Uncle Junkal
NPCs: Claude, Nic Cage, Flipwayter

Start mid-afternoon of Day 193 in Kaladar -- light snowfall.
Party stays at Orc's Balls Inn, East District -- Uncle Junkal receives anonymous note sealed with wax, consisting of four pictographic symbols: a mer-lion, a saurian balrog, a wedge-shaped symbol, and a date one or two days hence.
Party visits Kaladarian White Council Magic-User's Guildhall -- meets Zardoz the White, gives him Dak's summoning circle rubbing. Zardoz says he will hand this stuff over to Z'klek, a summoning and demonology specialist.
Party decides to visit Stonehell that night since an unusual energy signature there matches wedge image on Uncle Junkal's cryptic note; the magic-users guild will teleport the party there with Threk and Savlene, a couple wizards, to assist.
That afternoon Uncle Junkal visits the Kaladarian Central Bard's College and asks about northern grave-desecration incidents; hears the name "Needbo."
Yor buys a cloak of protection +2 for 18,000gp.

Session 62
Date: 10/28/2012
PCs: Innominus, Dak, Yor, Vivuli
NPCs: Nic Cage [dies], Flipwayter, Rodrick (Thf. 4, follows Viv), Threk, Saulene, Bo & Brian Jangles (both Ftr. 5, mercs in Lady Mayor Annabelle's employ), 4 [soon 3] Rogalandish archers

Start early evening of Day 193 in Kaladar -- moderate-to-light snowfall
White Council wizards teleport party to Stonehell -- Nic Cage and one of the original four Rogalandish archers never arrive, buried in stone. Two Kaladarian wizards, Threk (MU 6, male human, Zardoz's apprentice) and Savlene (MU 5, female half-elf, studied with Sodomozius the Great) are sent along.
Stonehell is very hot, entry chamber at base of spiral stairs features huge burn pile of corpses with four saurian balrogs tending the pile.
Party uses fire resistance scrolls to withstand heat and defeat balrogs in battle.
Items recovered: a golden necklace of dwarven make worth 80gp.

Session 63
Date: 11/11/2012
PCs: Innominus, Dak, Yor, Vivuli, Uncle Junkal
NPCs: Claude, Flipwayter, Rodrick, Threk, Saulene, Bo & Brian Jangles, 3 Rogalandish archers

Starts late evening of Day 193. in Level 1 entry chamber of Stonehell.
Press on into Stonehell -- fight Dark Balrogs. Viv and Bo each take a black balrog sword.
Go down well shaft. Encounter metallic bobcats, Beastarr tracks them to double doors. Viv x-rays thru doors and sees ten metallic bobcats with leader in pillared room. Dak opens doors and Beastarr and Innominus enter, Beastarr attempts diplomacy, bobcats attack, Inn. and Beastarr retreat, Viv and Dak huck fire gems inside. Huge explosion which disintegrates double-doors.

What if the metal bobcats were our allies? We've now made them our enemies.

Hey, it was a misunderstanding -- and we killed all the witnesses!

Session 64
Date: 12/16/2012
PCs: Innominus, Dak, Yor, Vivuli, Uncle Junkal
NPCs: Claude, Flipwayter, Rodrick, Threk, Saulene, Bo & Brian Jangles, 3 Rogalandish archers

Starts around midnight on Day 193, in pillared chamber on Level 2 of Stonehell.
Pillars have mushroom-like runes at the top which UJ identifies as the sign of the Aldorian (Elven) House of Pyske.
Party descends to Level 3 and finds shape of a bobcat head burned into a wall. Beastarr picks up unique scent (implanted directly into his mind, along with a name: Keak the Fierce) and leads party into prison cell block.
Party breaks into cell, meets sulfurous demon bobcat (with scars on both sides of neck) chained to the wall. UJ charms it then Viv speaks to it in the Dark Tongue* and learns that the huge sulfurous thing claims to be imprisoned by "the Ukuku." When questioned about the metal cats, it calls them the Ukuku and claims they are "trying to take the vessel from us." When asked about Keak the Fierce, it calls him a "traitor," saying that "he'll sell us out to the otherworlders."

Session 65
Date: 01/27/2013
PCs: Innominus, Dak, Yor, Vivuli, Uncle Junkal
NPCs: Claude, Flipwayter, Rodrick, Threk, Saulene, Bo & Brian Jangles, 3 Rogalandish archers

Starts after midnight on Day 193 (so technically the wee hours of morning on Day 194), in hallway outside holding cells on Level 3 of Stonehell.
Party dungeoneers through several rooms, descends one level, encounters and vanquishes four magma bobcats. One magma bobcat explodes after being killed. Viv finds a silver cock ring (worth 200gp) in remaining ash pile.
Party dungeoneers further, encounters three Bobcat Balrogs, UJ crits and kills a gated-in glebrazu in one blow.
Items recovered: a silver cock ring (worth 200gp) and a hobbit- or rodian-sized buckler +1.

Session 66
Date: 02/10/2013
PCs: Innominus, Dak, Yor, Vivuli
NPCs: Flipwayter, Rodrick, Threk, Saulene, Bo & Brian Jangles, 3 Rogalandish archers

Starts in the wee hours just before dawn on Day 194 in a chamber on Level 4 of Stonehell.
Stalactite cave. Dak curls up and Yor "bowls" him toward advancing phalanx of Piercers.
Cave Bear den, Vivuli x-rays and finds titanium broach.
Four-way intersection where Beastarr smells all three types of bobcat demon (magma, balrog, and metallic).
Chamber with the blue gate. Viv x-rays the gate, sees jack shit void. Viv then everyone goes through.
In metal-walled area. Walk under titanium arch -- Viv's titanium medallion tingles. Innominus casts detect magic and discovers that both the arch and the medallion radiate arcane energy.

Session 67
Date: 03/10/2013
PCs: Innominus, Dak, Yor, Vivuli, Uncle Junkal
NPCs: Flipwayter, Rodrick, Claude, Threk, Saulene, Bo & Brian Jangles, 3 Rogalandish archers

Starts just before dawn on Day 194 in a metal-enclosed chamber on Level 4 of Stonehell.
Beastarr smells FAINT metallic bobcat, STRONG balrog bobcat, and a wholly new smell.
Viv discovers his x-ray does not penetrate the metallic material of which this structure is made.
Dungeoneer a ways, find some clues hinting at bobcat type culture in far Eastern Mountains of Ara.
Find large metal chamber with four thrones facing blue-glowing mural. Four tall, robed, catlike humanoids -- lion, tiger, panther, bobcat -- standing around big, bright column of light in center of room. Beastarr correlates these figures to new smell. None is Keak.
Viv bungles assassination of the panther-thing, Dak chucks fire gem, kills all four, melts their amulets, damages a couple of the big thrones. Column of light winks out.
Yor levels to Dwf. 7 at end of this session.

We're here for Keak -- we're gonna get him one way or the other.

Session 68
Date: 04/07/2013
PCs: Innominus, Yor, Vivuli, Uncle Junkal
NPCs: Claude, Rodrick, Threk, Saulene, Bo & Brian Jangles, 3 Rogalandish archers

Starts at dawn on Day 194 in a metal-enclosed chamber with bright blue mural and thrones, etc. on Level 4 of Stonehell.
Search big chamber, find ideographs on throne armrests, Uncle Junkal and Viv note them down. Turns out ideographs are on buttons, UJ pushes some of them, various things happen.
Pure white disc 6' diameter set into center of floor.
Wheeled thing attacks, shooting electricity.
6 Bobcat ninjas attack! UJ charms one, party negotiates.
Ninjas lead the party to private chamber nearby to meet the liaison to the hukuku, a big cat-humanoid like the robed ones in the previous chamber.
The liaison confirms that the balrog bobcats are his enemies. "Keak is imprisoned for negotiating with them." Also reveals that the metal section they're all standing in is a vessel for traveling between worlds, stuck here after a crash.
Party speaks with Keak, who confirms that the balrogs caused the interference that crashed their ship. Party successfully negotiates his release.

There's no shortage of things that need saving!

Session 69
Date: 04/28/2013
PCs: Innominus, Dak, Yor, Vivuli, Uncle Junkal
NPCs: Flipwayter, Rodrick, Claude, Threk, Saulene, Bo & Brian Jangles, 3 Rogalandish archers

Starts midday on Day 194 outside Keak's cell in a metal-enclosed section of Level 4 of Stonehell.
Party and Keak leave ship area to venture back up through Stonehell to surface.
Keak wants to reach another rumored, much older ship crash site in Eastern Mountains. Innominus suggests to the party that it makes the most sense to take Keak back to the Free City of Kaladar.
Threk and Saulene teleport the party plus Keak back to White Council Guildhall in Kaladar.

The session continues with an interesting briefing with Zardoz, High Councilman of the Kaladarian White Council -- in an upcoming post!

Sorry I've been so slow with these reports, but I'm working on one of these.

* The Arandish chaotic alignment language, discussed here.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Lift Bridge Game Updates

While most of the players have turned over since this picture was taken in Nov. 2012, this accurately depicts the space in which we play Labyrinth Lord at Lift Bridge Books in Brockport, NY.  

Much as I reported last March, I have been away from blogging (and may remain so) for awhile but am very busy gaming! Today I want to post a couple updates about my open-to-the-public Labyrinth Lord game that meets twice a month at Lift Bridge Book Shop.

Repurposing Classic Modules
The Lift Bridge-based group has been adventuring in central and eastern Ara, having found a dwarven artifact weapon called Whelm in the treasure horde of a green dragon they slew a few days east of Kaladar. A few sessions ago, that magical dwarven warhammer communicated to one of the party members -- an elven thief named Rux Joopy -- and offered him a chance to become dwarven champion and hero. Rux accepted, and instantly transmogrified into a dwarf. The party then marched north to Gannar and received the blessing of King Robert V, who charged them to seek out another missing dwarven artifact, the sword Skeenkarbulo, rumored to be held by the vile fire giant king Snurre in the heart of the mountains.

As those in the know will have deciphered by now, I have been having a grand old time using some classic TSR adventure modules as the basis for this group's recent exploits. I am not slavishly following all the directives in these modules -- turning the resting place of Whelm into a dragon's horde rather than (primarily) the haunt of a crazy wizard, for example -- but rather modifying them to fit our own ongoing pursuits. Fun!

They've been fighting a lot of these . . . 

. . . and today they fought one of these . . . 

. . . and saw a couple of these things mating!

Starting New PCs
When PCs die, or when new players join the group, I have been starting off the new characters that replace them at a higher level than 1st, since the bulk of the party is now up at 5th and 6th level on average (Voltage the Druid, the longest-lived and most powerful character in the party, hit 7th level at the end of last session). The rough guideline I used is:

Average Party Level                Starting XP
         4th - 5th                                    4,400
         5th - 6th                                   10,001

Not much else to report, just that we're having lots of fun.

UPDATE 9/22/14: Glancing over an old set of House Rules from my "home" campaign, I was reminded today that the Lift Bridge Campaign adopted a new ongoing ruling yesterday: During chargen, attribute scores are generated by rolling 4d6, discarding the lowest die roll, and assigning the result to each attribute in order: STR, DEX, CON, INT, WIS, and CHA.