Monday, November 30, 2015

Speedy Tree Maze

That was me in the beak
So this 11-year old wrote a dungeon that almost killed me.

Basically Hill Cantons Chris' dug up a dungeon he'd done when he was a wee lad, re-keyed it and set us loose in it. I only survived due to a lucky roll on the Death & Dismemberment table. Fucking roc.

It wasn't much different than a regular day in a Chris dungeon, though it was a hell of a lot of fun. Wherein lies some kind of lesson.

The adventure has a few Dragon Magazine-style jokes in it (magic pecans, Sheryl Tiegs) but then, so do all Chris' grown-up modules. Anyway, it was fun and, on paper, is flexible enough to run as creepy Original Wicker Man style thorns-and-darkness freakout or as a gonzo Nicolas Cage Wicker Man goofball beer & pretzels job.

And here's a one-page version I made for reference, feel free to use it after you've downloaded the details.
It also has a lot of room over on the west and south to throw in more stuff.

Also, speaking of druids:
If you're following the porn news, D&D With Porn Stars stands with our druid, Stoya, 100%:

Thursday, November 26, 2015

He Chose Poorly and Rolled Worse. He Will Be Missed.

In the words of that guy from The Usual Suspects--We did more jobs, and I saw more money, than you can ever count.


My most vivid memory of the late Malice is very mundane:

Years ago, he and my own thief, Blixa, were scouting ahead of our party in the Vats of Mazarin moving toward a corner around which was what we'd find out was a lich.
And Blixa said "Walls."
and Malice said "Walls."

And they began to climb forward on the walls.

It was just that workaday tactical-thief thing we had. We were good at it.

He was proud, strong-willed, aggressive, devious, and more often in the front line than was strictly healthy for an AD&D assassin. A team player but mostly in the sense that he reliably kept the enemy busy, like Custer or JEB Stuart. And, like them, arrogant, too brave and dead.

As a player, there is possibly no-one who more often had my back and I his. Certainly no man.


Moreover, he died at an extremely inconvenient moment--in another GM's game, we were smack in the middle of one of the most desperate battles of our lives--near the final room in Jennell Jacquays' fiendish and utterly balance-blind classic Dark Tower, where last session we got through exactly 3 rounds of combat during which all I managed to do was run away 3 times and get punched by a demigod.

Normally I'd want revenge--problem is it was me who killed him.


I was GMing and they were deep in the goblin palace of Gaxen Kane, just past the Goblin Cubes, they'd killed the purple worm--noisily, and summoned a nuisance patrol.

Step One

The nuisance patrol were red goblins, though, which means they go up in a spell when they die. The party was pretty tasty about keeping them from actually dying via Hold Person and knocking them into a well of damned souls.

But then Malice tried to knock one over with a 2-handed sword and did it too well--the one-hit-die monster popped off in a cloud of Blind.

Step Two

When the saves clear we have two blind party members and enough party juice to clear up one case. A coin is tossed. The toss goes to False Patrick's martyrdom-hungry roachman Fiddlin Joe. Fiddlin' Joe of course elects to remain blind and give the cleric the potion. The cleric takes it.

Step Three

Malice cleverly uses a fixture of dangled iron to capture a rust monster. Then forgets they did that. Alcohol may be to blame.

Step Four

There is a mystery door and, behind, a glimmer of what looks to be--in the Predator-esque light of infravision glimpsed between door and jamb--one unmoving thing, goblin sized.

Malice and Fiddlin Joe hide above the door jamb. Pete Loudly, the party wizard hovers above the jamb. The party cleric, Joe Dunneman, hides in the room beyond, on the far side of a green slime pool.

A trap is rigged up--a bucket or jar of green slime on a rope. Malice opens the door without looking through, the bucket swings, the door is closed.

The cleric (of the god of cleanliness) counsels against this untidiness.

The GM rolls a die for this blind and unquiet trap. The slime, unseen by any living PC, hits no-one and forms a puddle on the far side of the door.

Step Five

The players wait a long time for someone to open the door so they can ambush them.

Meanwhile the comprehensively alerted high-level goblin cleric on the other side of the door summons some guards. As, even in goblin land, you do.

Whether they know it or not, the party's in a Mexican stand-off.

Step Six

Malice flips upside-down and peaks through the door, failing his stealth roll.

From the goblin palace-guard's point of view what we have here is a lone elven aristocrat hanging upside down in the door to the vestry of their bishop's inner sanctum after vandalizing it with sacred slime.

With their overwatch actions, they throw their harpoons. Malice resists their attempts to yank him through the door. The goblin bishop lashes out with his five finger-tentacles--a gift of the Carrion-Crawler God, paralyses Malice. Malice is yanked off the doorjamb and toward the assailants, toward the untidy puddle of green slime he himself created.

But whatever--due to an incident earlier this year, Malice regenerates at a constant rate. Everything will be fine.

Step Seven

Now we talked about Fiddlin Joe the cockroach-man's martyr complex.

This extends to, for example, putting on his cloak of darkness and charging down a hallway toward the sound of his friend being attacked by four foes at once despite being completely blind.

Step Eight

Many dice are rolled. Fiddlin Joe runs into a wall. Under cover of the very darkness Fiddlin Joe is emitting, paralyzed Malice is dragged around a corner no-one can see. The goblin bishop backs up at another angle and prepares to kill whoever comes through the darkness cloud.

Step Nine

The subsequent rounds of combat are a hairy hell: Fiddlin Joe lashes out hitting mostly nothing in his own personal darkness, a goblin nets and grapples the party wizard on the far side of the obscuring dark-cloud, the bishop silences him, and the PC's cleric spends most of his time moving up from how far away he was when the whole fracas began what seems like years ago.

Meanwhile the paralyzed Malice is being unresurrectably changed into green slime over the requisite d4 rounds and armor-being-eaten-away period.

Step Ten

Fiddlin' Joe finally gets ahold of Malice.

The mighty Malice, slaughter of thousands, dissolves into green slime.

Step Eleven

Resurrection being out of the question, there's always the Time Giant Spit.

That is: the bottled drool of a sleeping Time Giant from a tower defeated in the summer. Carefully titrated by a trained alchemist, it can be used to turn back the clock on a character's condition.

Fumbled out of a bottle by a blind cockroach-man while elite goblins are trying to hit him in the dark, it can be a little more dangerous....

Step Twelve

Fiddlin Joe rolls a 65.

The proud pale elf is devolved far past primal grey elf, far past half-fae, back into the primordial lineages constituents from which elves emerged--some barely coherent pre-faerie eddy in the natural order and a desperate tiny curled amphibious something that would eons hence turn into a primate.

Thus passed white-haired Malice--djinn-slayer, gambler, exploiter-of-loopholes, leaving only tears and stuff.

A very specific way of playing D&D has passed forever from this world. We may again see its like, but not soon.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Because Bad Wizards Are Annoying

These things are true in D&D:

-Evil wizards come up a lot.

-Writing out which spells of which level they have is a pain in the ass, especially because they might die in a round.

-Always giving all of them infinite spells of the appropriate level removes an important tactical limit that makes wizard fights interesting.

So GMs might be interested to giving NPC wizards a limit on what they can cast, but one that's easier to work with than the one PC wizards have.

Here's one False Patrick and me are using in the upcoming (really upcoming: it's in layout) Maze of the Blue Medusa book. It's based on the following additional observations:

-You're going to be keeping track of the wizard's hit points.

-Even if the spell selection is written out for you like in a published module, you still are always going to have the player's handbook and/or its spell list and descriptions immediately to hand just in order to run the game normally.

A most excellent Librarian, 12' tall. Guards the SEEPING CHIMES from interference and knows what they are for.

AC: 17
HD: 8
Atk d12 bite or by spell
Can be harmed only by magical weapons--except fire, which does doubles damage.

Spells: Gruel can cast any magic-user spell of levels 1-4 at a hit point cost to herself equal to thrice the spell's level--so Magic Missile would cost her 3 hit points. The cost of healing spells is deducted after the spell takes effect.

800 gp in ancient bracelets.


Notes on this:

-Obviously you can adjust the hit point cost for different kinds of wizards to like 2/level or 10/level or whatever and for different editions. This particular version of this monster was designed for Basic-style monsters, who have way less hp than 3, 4, and 5 edition monsters.

-Again, this presumes you've got the PHB and its spell list by level right there anyway, so it's no biggie to look down the list and decide what spell you'll use.

-If you're tempted to use this for PCs, there are hitches that take hold: outside combat, it gives them them infinite healing (if they have any healing spells) which in turn gives them infinite spells, which in turn means infinite growth, shrinking etc etc. It's good for combat only.

-Players playing hardcore system-mastery-as-tactic will be frustrated by this, but, really, let them be. It violates the system's rules but not the genre's.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

James Went Into His Attic And You Won't Believe What Happened Next...

...he found 50 copies of Red & Pleasant Land that aren't out in stores. So if you're no up for hunting around, you can order these straight from the publisher.

Only 32 left now, so hurry.