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!