Archive for April 2014

Dungeon World: Who Hunts the Huntsman

Cast
  • Augustine (level 2 human paladin)
  • Jaya (level 2 human bard)
  • Mouse (level 2 gnome thief)

The great spider scuttled down to stand before them. It was the size of a small house, and looked like a spider in every way except one: its "face" was less lots of eyes and fangs and more a pale, emotionless, human-like mask. Jaya was not sure if it was an improvement.

White-Hair stood and addressed her as Madra, the Queen of Spiders, before motioning to the duskies carrying the child to bring it forward and present it to her. Madra loomed over it and inhaled deeply. Her body shuddered and she remarked in a pleasant tone that its fey blood would "create many new eggs"; Mouse found another reason to be glad that he had kept out of sight.

At this Jaya interjected, stammering out an introduction before offering the ring and circlet. Madra declined. From his hiding place Mouse could spot the glimmer of gold beyond even the dense sheets of the funnel web, and he was not surprised that she would refuse their comparatively paltry offering. While he tested the webs and weighed the risks of trying to rob a giant spider, Jaya tried a different approach, asking her why she wanted that specific baby in the hopes that they could offer something that would better appeal to her.

Madra explained that she specifically needed fey blood to produce eggs. In exchange for delivering regular...tributes to her, Madra not only agreed to not harm the duskies, but also provide them with spiders to use as mounts. Jaya also learned that the duskies had contacts among the mortal world, and had made a deal with one Baron Hargrave—yes, the one Jaya had written a defamatory song about—to make sure that the child "disappeared for good".

This explained why White-Hair had not just killed it herself: Madra would do that for her, fulfilling her part of the bargain, and Madra would get the blood she needed. Two birds, one stone. It also explained why she was so keen on preventing Jay and company from getting their hands on it: who knew what Hargrave had given them in exchange for it, or what he would do to them if he found out they had not upheld their end of the bargain.

Jaya was at a loss: Madra had obviously known the duskies for quite some time, and they were giving her something more immediately valuable than gold. Mouse had fey blood, but she had no idea where he was, how much Madra would want, and given the past few days if he even had any to spare. Plus, if she really wanted fey blood there was no reason why she would not just take Mouse and the child. On the other hand chances were that he was in a good position to plant a knife in someone's skull, so she considered her odds of success in snatching the child, and hacking her way back into the bowels of the Marble Halls in one piece.

They were not good.

She knew Augustine would not back down—especially since he had recently made a vow that would protect him from poison and enchantments—but while she tried to think of some way to covertly signal an attack Madra again sniffed the air. Mouse froze, fearing that she had smelled him, but his breath slowly returned when he heard her inquire as to whether the hammer Augustine carried in fact belonged to the Mardral the Black-Handed. Jaya explained that they had "liberated" it from a family of troglodytes, and Madra replied, voice dripping with enough malice that no expressions were needed to convey it, that they had long since kept it from her grasp.

Of course to Augustine the life of a child vastly outweighed the value of a hammer, magical or no; he asked if she would exchange the child for it. Madra leaned close and extended a pair of arms, and asked if she could hold it. Augustine wondered if she would just take it, or if she would also order the duskies to execute them. He considered making the first move but quickly dismissed it: yeah, he might be able to smash her head in, but there were plenty of other spiders about and the duskies were at this point looking for any reason to attack.

He could have to chance it and hope for the best. He handed the hammer to her, and she took it in her...legs? Forelegs? Augustine was not well-versed in spider anatomy, but she took it with the smaller, front-most pair of leg-like appendages and held it up to the light, turning it over and inspecting every inch of it closely. She then handed it back.

This stunned Augustine, but not nearly as much as when she not only declined the hammer, but stated that she would trade the child if he would but wield it on her behalf. White-Hair started to protest, but Madra dismissed her with a raised front-most-leg-like-appendage, and again stated her terms. Augustine and Jaya exchanged anxious, confused looks before he turned back to Madra and—wisely—asking for clarification as to what capacity they would wield it.

She wanted Jarl, the Lord of the Hunt.

Mouse and Jaya had heard of Jarl in stories. He was a powerful fey creature that inhabited the Great Forest south of Pine's Draw. He had been a sometimes literal thorn in Baron Hargrave's side, who wanted to exploit the forest for personal gain. Fey creatures were fueled by the territory they inhabited, so the Baron had been gradually chipping away at the forest's borders for years in an effort to weaken him enough so that they could finally destroy him.

They agreed.

White-Hair's eyes widened with anger. She glared at Jaya, holding her in a venomous gaze for several long moments before curtly nodding to Madra and turning to leave, followed by her dusky entourage. Jaya and Augustine assumed that the truce was off, meaning that in addition to having to find their way out of the labyrinthine halls they would have to fend them off, too. She looked about, considering asking Madra if there was some way she could stop the duskies from attacking them, or maybe have some spiders escort them out, when she again noticed shafts of sunlight lancing from the ceiling.

She asked if Madra could have her spiders lift them directly out, both to expedite their task and to help ensure that they even got to the surface. She agreed, and as she began instructing her spiders to carry them out Mouse had no choice but to reveal himself: even if he somehow managed to get out of the room, he was certain that White-Hair would make sure he never made it to the surface for the "crime" of merely being associated with Jaya. So, he did his best to look casual as he strolled out of his hiding place, waved a greeting to Madra, and stated that he was with Jaya.

He could not be exactly sure thanks to her immutable face, but Mouse was pretty sure she was surprised. She mentioned something about his blood—specifically that there was so much of it—and wanting to speak with him when they returned—probably about the aforementioned blood—but did not stop him. They emerged within the Troll's Maze, but thanks to the markings they left on their way in they managed to easily find the exit, where they met up with Jacob, Whitestar, and...a woman that Jaya had never seen before.

Just as she was about to ask who she was Mouse and Augustine interrupted her, referring to her respectively as "you" and more accurately Fiona. Fiona spared a brief, uneasy glance to Augustine before going to Mouse, frantically asking where her baby was. Mouse calmly responded that the duskies had delivered it to the Queen of Spiders, but it was fine because they made a deal with her and she promised to not harm it so long as they brought back the Lord of the Hunt.

While this understandably did not exactly make her happy, she took it better than expected: she had had her share of fey experiences, and knew that as a fey entity Madra would be compelled to uphold her end of the bargain. Still, it was probably better to wrap up their end sooner than later. Jaya asked how she got involved with the duskies, and she explained that she had been fleeing from the Baron and looking for Jarl. She became lost, and the duskies ambushed her and stole the child.

On that note they assumed that the duskies would try to attack them as soon as night fell, so rather than try to make it back to Pine's Draw decided to make camp and hope that a big fire would at least give them some sort of edge. Sure enough they spared no delay, attacking almost immediately after Mouse and Jaya had settled in to sleep. Thankfully Augustine spotted their glowing green eyes in time to rouse them for battle.

There were over a half-dozen scattered among the trees. They remained at the edge of the light, but he could still see that they carried bows and rode on dog-sized spiders. He was considering his course of action when he heard a faint noise behind him, and turned in time to see another handful launch a volley of arrows at him. Most clattered harmlessly off of his armor, but a few bit into his skin. He could feel a strange tingling sensation, similar to before, but his vow shielded him from the magic bound to them.

Mouse rolled out from his hiding place under the wagon, snatching up a burning brand from the fire and lobbing it at one of the groups. It struck a dusky full in the face, knocking it off its spider. Jaya focused her will, unleashing it as a high-pitched note at one of the spiders. It staggered about for a bit before shaking its rider from its back, and then turning upon it, savagely tearing into its face.

Augustine waded into a group by himself, girded by his armor and vow. By themselves the arrows were virtually inconsequential, leaving him little to fear. As Mouse went for another log a group of duskies fired a volley at him. A few of the arrows struck him in his arm, causing him to stumble back and drop the log in the wagon. The blanket Fiona was using caught fire, but while she was able to escape the flames she found herself confronted by a small band of duskies. Jaya rushed to her aid, dodging arrows and slinging songs to confound the senses of the spiders, causing them to turn on their riders and then, ultimately, each other.

The enchanted arrows did not affect Mouse much, what with his fey blood and all, and as plucked them out saw a couple of the spiders descend upon Jacob. As they tried to wrap him up in webbing Mouse threw a knife at one, killing it instantly, before getting close and personal with his sword. He ran it through, but it managed to get in a few good bites before finally dying. All things considered they did pretty well; the only casualties being the cart and blanket.

The next day they made it back to Pine's Draw without further incident. Fortunately enough merchants were heading through the mountains to the west, that they were able to eventually exchange the circlet and ring into something most would accept as payment for goods and services. Jacob's father was upset about the cart despite the fact that they had paid cart-and-donkey prices for the mere privilege of renting, but given their considerable windfall decided to pay him full price again and upgrade to a wagon, which they would at least need to haul all their cash.

Given that they would be heading into the Great Forest the following day—and had the scratch—they resolved to try and be better prepared this time around: they filled up their bags with various tools and supplies, loaded up on food and bandages, snagged a few healing potions, and Mouse was even able to swap poisons with an equally objectionable individual. One of the merchants had a keg of dwarven stout, so once they were confident that they had everything they would need, bought it and rolled it into the Tipsy Gnome.

The life of an adventurer is dangerous and rough, but it is not all bad.

Behind the Scenes
And the plot thickens!

I so wanted to try and cut my way through the funnel web and snag some loot, but was not sure how I would pull it off or how Madra would react to that. We considered trying to have me offer up some blood, but were also not sure how much she would want. She did mention wanting to talk to him later, so maybe on the way back I'll just hang out in the Troll Maze.

Ben's armor and immunity to enchantments and poison made him virtually invincible during the dusky fight. Each group volley would deal like, 1-2 damage. Not sure if you are allowed to double down on immunity boons, but there ya go.

Having watched Melissa play a bard for several sessions, I am not much of a fan of it. Mechanically it is fine: she can heal and deal some damage, but some of the fictional elements rub me the wrong way. I get that it is based on Dungeons & Dragons, but aside from 4th Edition I have never been a fan of the bard (also mostly for mechanical reasons). I am thinking it is time to write up my own bard playbook.

Would anyone be interested in getting all this stuff—steadings, monsters, magic items, dungeons, etc—as a kind of adventure write-up?
April 28, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Dungeon World: The Mummy (And Other Stuff)

First up, the mummy playbook is now available on Drivethrurpg.

This was something Melissa was really keen on doing once we wrapped up our skeleton playbook, and after several bouts of playtesting and some excellent feedback we are pretty happy with the results: virtually unkillable, flexible curses, can vomit forth clouds of sand or vermin, etc.

Unlike previous playbooks we are including a "digest-sized" pdf along with the character sheet that explains the new tags (like Agonizing and Rotting) and some of the moves, and there is also some new gear, several magic items, and advanced moves that did not make the final cut.

Our next playbook is going to be the ghoul, after which we will bundle them all up for a discounted bulk sale.

Next, you can get Something Stirs in the Blackscale Brakes in print (as well as of course a print/pdf bundle). It has actually been available for some time, I just forgot to mention it here. It is a meager $6, most of which goes to Drivethrurpg to pay for the printing expense. Boo.

Finally, it has been awhile since I talked about Sundered World: I have been busy with 10+ Treasures, the mummy, and so forth. It is nearly at 200-pages as Google Drive tells it, though once it goes into InDesign it tends to increase by quite a bit. In the very near future I am going to be looking for people that are interesting in proofreading and offering feedback—particularly on the playbooks—in exchange for credit and—even better—a free copy once it is all said and done.

If that is you, hit me up in the comments or use those nifty social buttons in the corner and bug me there.

Legends & Lore: Double Down

I agree that simpler rules make for easier preparation and improvisation, which is why I love monster design in 4th Edition: it is incredibly easy to make monsters/NPCs of any level and scope (even on the fly), all the formulas can fit on a card, and unlike 3rd Edition it is actually reliable. This also extends to building encounters: I feel much more confident that I can quickly and easily design an encounter, while still making it precisely as difficult as I want.

So why is it that—besides, you know, 3rd Edition did it—they see the need to provide a second method that allows you to stat up NPCs as if they were player characters? It is nice and all that they do not "have" to have an assumed amount of treasure, but given that more mechanics do not make for a more realistic or engaging character, I do not see what the actual benefit of this method is. Mike provides no actual rationale for this, but if I were to bet money on it I would say it gets a pass for exactly the same "reasons" that pseudo-Vancian magic and Hit Dice do.

He claims that the "core magic system makes running high-level spellcasters easier", using his own games as an example, where spellcasters "usually only have two or three scaling spells prepared". He reasons that this way you can just note their effects and use them multiple times, which is all well and good...except that you could have done the exact same thing in 3rd Edition, too.

In my experience the problem with 3rd Edition spellcasters had more to do with prefabbed monsters/NPCs that had spells and/or spell-like abilities, as they would usually have a hefty list of options—many that were often useless—to pore through, and if you did not know what a spell did you had to pause the fight to look it up in another book. If it did what you wanted, good, if it did not, then you went to another spell, and the process started all over again (maybe even in yet another book).

It got so bad that when I was running Age of Worms I started making blocks of bonuses that a NPC spellcaster would get if it was aware that the characters were showing up, as well as how long each would last (if it had a duration of over a few minutes I would just say "entire fight"). Otherwise I would just start from the top of the list and slam the characters with the highest level spell on tap, because it usually made the most sense.

The "method" Mike describes is how I generally approached it when I would design a spellcasting NPC: rather than go through the trouble of listing every single spell she had, I would just pick what was needed (ie, attack spells and self-buffs) and say that she prepped a bunch of them. There was still the problem of going through all of the available spells, since most supplements made sure to add heaps of (often situational) spells. The only exception was if said NPC was a wizard (or other class that had a spellbook); then I had to go through the trouble of filling out a spellbook because the characters might snag it when the dust settled.

Then 4th Edition came along and changed everything. Rather than mull through a Player's Handbook, Arcane Splatbook X, or Dragon magazine for spells (which would have been much, much easier with something like DDI), I can just make up whatever the hell I think the NPC should be doing, and thanks to the aforementioned easy and reliable monster math I can crank out an evocative, competent spellcaster in a fraction of the time, and I do not even have to ignore all of the excessive details.

So, wait, why are they also including the option of taking a long time to make a NPC, again? I am legitimately curious as Mike does not back up this "design" decision, he is just states that it exists, as if being able to take longer to do the same thing is some kind of feature.

My knee-jerk reaction to any mention of Challenge Rating is "Whyohgodwhy?!" If you are fortunate enough to be familiar with how 4th Edition handles creating monsters and were never exposed to 3rd Edition's Challenge Rating "system", allow me to elaborate on the omitted flaws.

Imagine if 4th Edition's monster math often did not work (and truth be told it often did not in the beginning), and in the rare instance it did it was mostly due to luck as opposed to anything approaching actual design. Imagine that you go through the motions of creating a monster, but there were a lot more steps since they were essentially full-blown characters in their own right. Then, when you finally got it done rather than get an accurate bead of what sort of party you should throw it against, you ultimately end up having to "eyeball" it, by which I mean find the closest monster possible and probably have to tweak the stats or Hit Dice, or come up with bullshit "racial bonuses" to whatever in order to make it "officially" work.

As you might expect, this led to monsters that were much stronger or weaker than their Challenge Rating would suggest. Sometimes this meant saving throw DC's that were almost impossible to overcome/almost impossible to fail, or monsters would take a long time to kill/die with little effort. It makes me think of the infamous ghoul TPK incident from the designer's own playtest, the one time we fought a tendriculos in 3rd Edition and got our butts handed to us despite being a party of six and a couple levels higher than its Challenge Rating, as well as one of my 5th Edition playtest sessions in which the characters had to beat on zombies forever in order to take them down.

Fortunately they are also going to (kind of?) include 4th Edition's method, which has you pick a Challenge Rating and use the "boilerplate" stats it provides as a mathematical foundation. Granted he provides no actual examples or mechanics for us to look at, and while I doubt it will be as elegant and reliable as 4th Edition I cannot imagine that it would be worse than 3rd Edition (especially if they stick to that whole flat-math thing). But, as with NPCs-as-characters, this begs the question why? Why include both methods when they are intended to achieve the same result, but only one actually works (and works faster)?

Also, why call it Challenge Rating instead of just using levels? I have heard of people playing at level 0 in 4th Edition and previous editions; are we to believe that level 0 is okay, but fractions are somehow bad? The only "problem" with fractional levels is that level would become a cohesive indicator of power.

Frankly this just sounds like more traditionalist-pandering: yeah, they are going to include 4th Edition's methods, but do not worry, you will also be able to spend more time building NPCs and maybe get a monster that performs as envisioned. This is not design, this is just lazily chucking in rules from previous editions to try and appeal to fans of those editions. The thing is that if all 5th Edition does is let me kind-of-sort-of emulate an existing good game, then I do not need it: I already have that game.

Why not look at both methods, figure out what works, discard what does not, and actually, you know, design some rules? Really the only part of the article that I am tentatively interested are the various dungeon tables, but given the lack of design, direction, and innovation we have seen in everything else, I am not expecting anything particularly amazing, or really even noteworthy.
April 23, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Dungeon World: In the Spiders' Webs

Cast
  • Augustine (level 2 human paladin)
  • Jaya (level 2 human bard)
  • Mouse (level 2 gnome thief)

It was Jaya's turn on watch. They were near the exit, and the water cascading in the distance drowned out the snores of Augustine and Mouse, which was nice, but would also likely prevent her hearing approaching monsters; she sat there, staring at the door, nerves primed for some horrible creature to suddenly spring into view.

After what at least felt like hours had passed and nothing happened she calmed, boredom set it, and her gaze drifted to idly scan her surroundings. As far as she had seen the entire place seemed to be made out of featureless black marble: the floors, walls, pillars, really everything except the furniture, and most of that had rotted away long ago.

Suddenly it hit her: she had heard of this place before. Maybe it was the whole crawling through a confined tunnel, falling down a waterfall in the darkness, being trapped underground, and almost getting "initiated" into a family of troglodytes, but now that she had time to sit and think there was no mistaking it: they had fallen into the Marble Halls of Mardral the Black-Handed.

Mardral was a legendary warrior that had defended a dwarf clan from marauding tribes of orcs, and they had made him a powerful hammer to help crush them, literally. However these dwarves were greedy even by dwarf standards; despite all of his help they wanted to be paid in cold, hard coin for their efforts. Mardral refused, understandably figuring that saving them from certain doom was payment enough, and in retribution they burned his hands in their forge, but in the end he got the last laugh when he used the hammer to sunder their mountain.

Her revelation was cut short by the sound of enraged howls, faintly echoing down the halls: it sounded like another group of troglodytes had discovered Mouse's "handiwork". She woke Augustine and Mouse, told them what she had heard, and they decided that not knowing how many there were it was probably best to put as much distance between them as possible. Unfortunately there was only one way they had not gone that would not just lead them back up stairs. Hopefully it would lead to an exit.

It did not.

The hallway lead to an intersection that did not extend far in either direction, with four doors lining one of the walls. Well, three to be accurate: one looked to have been smashed in, though they could not tell how long ago or by what, though the hammer was a good candidate. Going with the path of least resistance they checked it first, and were dismayed to find that it contained rotten furnishings instead of valuables and/or feasible places to hide.

The doors to the right were different in that they were both intact and trapped. The trap was classic but effective: try to open the door and you got stuck you with a poisoned needle. Well, maybe: after countless years and exposure to moisture Mouse was not sure whether they would even work, and if they did who could say if the poison was still potent. Still, this far removed from civilization he did not want to take any risks.

He had Augustine smash the door in.

It took Augustine several very noisy tries, but he was able to get the job done. Unlike the previous room this one was quite spacious, so much that it was oddly connected to the other door (which was nice because it meant one less trapped door to deal with), and its contents—a large dresser and bed—were still in good enough condition to be recognizable, possibly even functional.

Augustine stood guard while Jaya rifled through the drawers and found some expensive finery, albeit several sizes too large for her. Mouse went for a trunk at the foot of the bed. It was locked, which was to be expected, but he did not want to have Augustine "open" it for fear that it would damage whatever was inside. It was also protected with a needle trap, which Mouse found out the hard way still worked. He assumed that it had been poisoned at some point, and waited for a few minutes to see if it would kick in: it was possible that after all this time it was no longer good.

It was...kind of.

His face turned blue. This was new to him insofar as poisons go; normally they hurt more than the thief's pride by paralyzing them, knocking them out, or even killing them. He continued to wait, but when nothing else happened he simply shrugged it off and started rifling through the trunk's contents. At first it looked like it contained nothing more than clothes, but when he got to the bottom discovered that it had a hidden compartment, inside which was a much more valuable-looking jewel-encrusted circlet.

First some (hopefully) inert poison, now some actually valuable treasure: things were looking up for Mouse.

Then the troglodytes arrived.

They rushed into the room and made a beeline for Jaya, who was still sorting through clothes and trying to decide what to take. Luckily Augustine was nearby, managing to close the distance and keep them at bay with the hammer. As he pushed them back Jaya tried blasting them with her particular brand of magic...which unfortunately in her panic reverberated back onto her, both deafening and slamming her against a wall.

Mouse pressed against the far wall. They were understandably focused on Augustine and Jaya; if he could get close without them noticing he would be able to stick one in the back with his short sword and hopefully take it out before Jaya could do more damage to herself. He kept to the wall, slowly creeping towards them, but just as he was about to strike more troglodytes arrived.

Trapped between two troglodytes and, well two other troglodytes, it was all Mouse could do to not get pulverized, though he did suffer several bruises and a cracked rib. Jaya focused her efforts on helping him, which gave his blade the edge it needed to pierce their thick hides and whittle them down. One of the troglodytes managed to snatch Augustine's weapon away, but with a sound-enhanced throw Mouse was able to kill it before it took more than a few steps.

The remaining troglodytes went after Mouse, but Augustine drew his halberd and again held the line. This gave Mouse a much-needed opening to dart in, easily slice open one of their bellies—again with Jaya's help—and slink away without fear of retaliation. With the advantage of numbers and a better balanced weapon, Augustine was able to easily finish the last one off. Despite being thoroughly bruised and battered Mouse still had the sense to check the trogs for any valuables, and was surprised that one of them was wearing a jewel-encrusted ring that perfectly matched the circlet he had just found.

Once they were certain no more trogs were waiting in the wings Augustine tried his hand at healing Mouse, which was when things got weird: he found himself unable to in any capacity. This would have been bad enough, except that it was followed with the revelation that at some point Mouse had dosed him with something. He was not sure exactly what it was, likely the stuff he had been using on the troglodytes, he just knew when. However rather than reveal this to Mouse, he merely told him that something was wrong and that Jaya would have to give it a shot.

Jaya did not want to risk inadvertently harming anyone (or possibly bringing a dead trog back to life), mentioning something about the acoustics of the room, so despite only being awake for some 15 or so minutes they hunkered down in an awkward silence to sleep off their wounds. What they could only assume was hours passed, and though Mouse still felt pretty beat up was at least no longer hovering at the verge of death. They explored what little remained of the ground floor before ascending the stairs to the second one.

Though they heard no more shouting (or really noises at all), they still crept about carefully as they methodically checked and mapped each hall and room. After countless fruitless discoveries they found a short passage that lead into a vast, open cavern. Strange crystals hung from a web-shrouded ceiling, which seemed to channel light all the way from the surface. The chamber was only dimly lit, and as they continued to examine the ceiling noticed pits where it looked like crystals had been removed or fallen out.

The center of the room was dominated by a stone pillar that extended from the floor all the way to the ceiling. Numerous stone paths connected it to openings at various heights in the cavern wall, much like the one they were standing on: apparently all the halls and rooms they had explored were but a tiny fraction of the Marble Halls. They assumed that the pillar would take them back to the surface, but wondered what treasures and secrets the rest of the Halls held. Plus, there was the matter of that baby: it would take a lot of luck to find it before the duskies did...whatever it is they were going to do with it.

Something was whispering below them.

They peeked over the edge of their path and saw a procession of duskies and spiders. In addition to archers there were...knights, they guessed, clad in actual armor and carrying tiny shields and lances. They were being lead by a dusky with white hair and robes, riding atop a white spider. Near the back several more were carrying a large purple pillow...atop which rested a quietly mewling baby.

Well then.

Incensed, Augustine wanted to crush them, but Jaya and Mouse were not too sure if they could handle them all: the archers would probably have poisoned arrows, and there were a lot of them this time and they had the advantage of distance. The average dusky seemed perfectly capable of crafting illusions, but what of their knights? Who knew what they, or more importantly the white-haired one was capable of?

They quickly decided that Augustine and Jaya would confront and threaten them, offer the circlet and ring, then actually try fighting them if negotiations failed. Mouse was both still wounded and a better shot from a distance, so would hang back and try to pick them off.  It was not much of a plan, but it was all they could come up with on short-notice. Mouse darted into the tower and found an alcove to hide in, while Jaya and Augustine went down to meet them.

The opening bid failed.

Jaya did her best to sound intimidating, while Augustine hefted his hammer and tried to look the part, but none of them seemed impressed. Jaya even tried pointing out the hammer, and when White-Hair asked about Augustine's unscathed hands she tried to spin it to at least imply that he had personally killed Mardral and taken it from his cold, dead, blackened hands. This also garnered no reaction, which was a bad sign because it meant that either all of the duskies were good at concealing their emotions (a good possibility), or they were very confident that they could take them both (an even better possibility).

She then went to Plan B, offering the ring and circlet. White-Hair declined, explaining that the baby was necessary to maintain a bargain with their patron. Jaya tried getting more information out of her, but the fey are notorious for twisting words, omitting key details, and arbitrarily cleaving to the spirit or letter of their word as best benefits them. In the end she learned nothing, but though they would not relinquish the child they agreed to allow Jaya and Augustine to follow and try to barter with their patron in exchange for it, even going so far as to promise that no dusky would harm them.

Jaya knew of the fey and Mouse had had many dealings with them before: White-Hair was being very selective with her words. She specified dusky, and though she was bound by her words it still meant that not only could their spiders still attack them, but unless their patron was also a dusky it would likewise suffer no restrictions. Of course they had expected treachery, but their odds of surviving against a squad of archers, knights, and probably a wizard of sorts were grim.

But, maybe their patron would be more...understanding and lenient. Maybe it really wanted some ancient, matching jewelry. Maybe it would just take their hard-earned treasure, and torture them for the rest of their natural lives. Yeah, the life of an adventurer certainly has its ups and downs.

They climbed the tower, with Mouse following quietly behind, until they came to another open chamber that was similar to the previous one, just much larger and choked with more webs. Oh, and spiders. Lots of spiders. They chittered to each other, some scuttled across the webs, while others were suspended at varying heights.

Jaya and Augustine were both terror-stricken and confused. The former because there was no way they could fight their way out of this (and that was their Plan C), they had no idea how to barter with a spider, and oh, spiders. The latter was because they were not sure which of the spiders was their patron. Maybe they were all considered to be their patron, in which case they were going to need a lot more rings.

Their confusion was short-lived—though their fear spiked considerably—when a massive spider emerged from the webs at the center of the ceiling. It dwarfed the other spiders by a wide margin, all of which quickly retreated from it, and the duskies—White-Hair included—bowed deeply before it.

Ah, that would be the patron.

Behind the Scenes
Aaand it looks like something I pitched as a kind of throwaway flavor behind a bond came back to bite me in the ass. There was initially a bit of confusion at the table as to what exactly Augustine learned from his vision, and it almost came to blows, but in the end Ben decided to just not tell Mouse what he learned I think as a way for his character to determine if Mouse is really a good person to be around.

I think of Mouse as something between Malcolm Reynolds and post-Ariel Jayne: he will not steal from either Augustine or Jaya, nor would he deliberately hurt them. He is not big on elaborate plans, and likes to take some pretty crazy risks, because after all he is Chaotic, not Evil.

Anyway, fun session and a great cliffhanger. Something else we learned is that the child might be the son of the baron (yep, the one that Jaya wrote an insulting song about) and some other fey entity, which means that at some point we will probably have to deal with him (and maybe that mystery woman). I wonder if Mouse has any outstanding warrants? I guess I will have to worry about that if we survive.

Oh, here are the stats for Mardral's hammer (we were not given them until this session):

Mardral's Hammer close, +3 damage, forceful, two-handed, clumsy, 3 weight
April 19, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Dungeon World: 10+ Treasures

My newest Dungeon World supplement, 10+ Treasures, is up for sale on Drivethrurpg.

I wrote this after helping some people over at the Dungeon World Tavern G+ community spruce up their magic item pitches. Apparently they liked what I did and asked if I was going to make a compilation, and here it is.

There are 32 magic items, but a lot of them have tweaks to make them better, modify what they can do, or even add drawbacks. Some also have notes, and ideas for using them or miss effects.

As an added bonus I also describe the process that I go through when creating and modifying magic items, as well as the kind of hoops I would make my own players go through in order to make their own.

Something Stirs in the Blackscale Brakes Now in Print
As a side note Something Stirs in the Blackscale Brakes is now also available in both print and a print/pdf bundle, so if you prefer books to pdfs (or like both), there ya go.

Here are some tantalizing pictures so that you might bask in its glory:



Super Dungeon Explore: Wipe in the Kobold Warrens

I am running a Super Dungeon Explore hangout game this Tuesday, but since Melissa wanted to get in a practice game we decided to run a small Dungeon Crawl using our newly-painted kobolds. Yeah, I know that they are one of the default group of minions, but we quickly got our hands on the Rocktop Gang and Fireflow Denizens, so they kind of fell by the wayside. For awhile. A long while.

Anyway, a Dungeon Crawl is the shortest game you can run: there are only two tiles, two spawning points, and you just have to kill a mini-boss to win. For Heroes she opted for the Deeproot Druid and Star Guild Sapper, a fairly durable dwarven duo.


She went first, as the Heroes are wont to do (given that they go first on a tie), but failed to hurt anything with the Deeproot Druid's Stranglethorn, which set the tone for the first part of the game.


She popped a treasure chest and drew a +1G Armor mithril rune, but gave it to the Deeproot Druid, and over the next few rounds I was able to gang up on the Star Guild Sapper and take him down with Mob bonuses and focused Flinger fire.


Eventually the mini-boss spawned, and this is where things took a turn. See, one of the Deeproot Druid's powers is called Briar Armor. Despite the name it gives you no actual Armor bonus, but does give you Backlash, which makes it so that any time you succeed on a defense roll whatever attacked you takes a wound.

Normally this would not be a problem, as the Deeproot Druid only has 1B 1R for armor. Good, but beatable, especially if pretty much everything at your disposable has Mob, which lets you stack on more Blue dice.

Except she also has a Green die, which will almost always roll stars.


I tried to play it very cheap, having Knuckleheads stand next the Deeproot Druid just so Rex could grab some more Blue dice to hopefully pound him into dwarf-debris, but on subsequent turns Melissa would have it roll out Stranglethorn, which thanks to some lucky loot drops gave her a bunch of Will bonuses.

This rapidly whittle away the bonuses, and ultimately it came down to one dwarf, and one kobold ogre.


And in the end Angry Bear won the day by one wound. This was a very close, very tense game, especially considering that Melissa had failed to destroy any spawning points and was drastically outnumbered by pretty much every kobold at my disposal when the mini-boss spawned.


The Forgotten King Kickstarter
One last thing I wanted to mention is that Soda Pop Miniatures is doing a Kickstarter for The Forgotten King. I playtested it back when I guess it was going to just be an expansion, but it is now going to be a fully stand-alone-yet-backwards-compatible-game that provides a fully cooperative mode of play (and thankfully cards that update every other model to the new stuff).

The Always Super pledge level is pretty steep at $100, but it comes with a bunch of extra heroes (nine in total before you count mini-bosses, but if it gets to $900k then there will be a tenth one added), some extra warbands, and other neat perks like physical heart and potion markers and cards that let you use mini-bosses as heroes.

If you have the extra cash to burn, you can also pick up more heroes, warbands, creeps, and tiles.

Anywho, I got in the game back when the core box was $90, so I figured that if anyone was looking to get in on it I would consider this: you will get a lot more for your money.

Dungeon World: Dinner with the Folks

Cast
  • Augustine (level 1 human paladin)
  • Jaya (level 1 human bard)
  • Mouse (level 1 gnome thief)

The dusky knocked another needle-like arrow in its tiny bow. If it were not for the fact that it had a very keen eye, the arrows were poisoned, and it was trying to kill them all Jaya would have probably proclaimed that it looked absolutely adorable.

Augustine was less distracted by its appearance, which was understandable given that it had almost blinded him, and the spider bites were not doing much to improve his mood. Enraged, he scooped it up and pointed it at the oncoming horde of spiders, demanding that it order them to stop or he would bash its head into the wall.

A sharp pain in his hand caused him to drop it: somehow it had managed to draw a dagger and stab him. In the brief moment it took him to check his wound, the dusky dashed into a nearby tunnel that Augustine was positive had not been there a moment ago. He watched it flee in frustration before remembering the more immediate threat of a big-ass swarm of spiders, but when he looked up all he saw was a...wall?

Well that was something to note, thought Mouse: apparently these wee bastards were both smaller and more devious than himself. No matter, if things got too hairy he could always...ah, the exit had also been replaced with a wall. This left them with two newly revealed, shrouded, equally unappealing passages. On the bright side at least there was nothing immediately (or obviously) trying to kill them. Uncertain where to go, and certain that the duskies would continue to befuddle them with shadows and illusions they left their decision to a coin toss, and left it was.

They crawled until their knees and backs were sore, and then crawled some more until they eventually came across a swiftly flowing underwater stream. They could not see the bottom, and their torch light did not extend far in either direction. Mouse "tested" the depth by tying a section of rope around himself, handing one end to Augustine, and jumping in. It took him a bit to reach the bottom, and they judged the water to be about a dozen or so feet deep.

They would not be able to stand, and none of them would be able to swim against the current for long, which meant that they would be entirely at the mercy of the water. Even so it sounded marginally better than getting gradually picked off in narrow tunnels, so they tied themselves together and hopped in. With no light they had no idea where they were going, how fast they traveled, or what dangers they might be speeding towards.

Like a waterfall.

They fell for just a moment before their rope caught on something. The cascading water prevented them from lighting a torch to get their bearings, so they had no idea how far they had fallen, how far they had to go, or if there were, say, sharp jagged rocks waiting for them. Left with no other choice than to leave his fate to chance, Mouse sliced his rope. Actually, since he was serving as a kind of counterweight for Augustine and Jaya, it was more accurate to say he was leaving all of their fates to chance.

Their fall was broken by a pool of water that fortunately lacked jagged rocks. Unfortunately Augustine sank like a paladin clad in metal armor, dragging down Jaya as he went. She struggled against his weight, which actually gave him the boost he needed to make it back to the surface just before she lost consciousness. He looked around and spotted a flickering light in the distance, and swam towards it: apparently Mouse had found land.

As he swam closer he realized that it was a platform made of black marble that had been eroded by the water over countless years. There were no noteworthy markings, just a square hallway that extended into darkness. While Jaya recovered Mouse carefully examined the door for any hazards. He found none, but could have sworn that he heard something...roaring. On one hand it sounded far away, but on the other hand it came from inside the structure, which was the only way to go.

Immediately inside they found a closed door. The wood had rotted and the metal rusted from the moisture, which at least meant that even if it were locked or jammed it would be a simple matter to break it down. Mouse wanted to see what was inside, but Augustine recommended exploring the rest of the hall to see what else they could find before they started branching off. Mouse had them wait while he scouted ahead, figuring that by himself it would be easier to avoid being detected by monsters, and harder for his companions to detect any treasure he might stumble upon.

He found the former.

He had pressed himself against one of the walls and slowly slid down its length, hoping to better conceal his silhouette from whatever might be lurking in the darkness. As his eyes better adjusted he saw that he was entering a large room with pillars, perfect for hiding, which was probably precisely what had crossed the mind of whatever was already there. He could not see it, but could both hear and feel its fetid breath. He froze, and it likewise remained still and continued to breath. After a few tense minutes, he learned several things.

The first was that it was quite tall, likely taller than Augustine. It also was fairly sure it could not see him, though Mouse was not sure if this was because it could not see in the dark or it was too careless to look down. Of course it might just be waiting for Mouse to flee before giving chase: you know, dinner and a show. The last was that it was not alone, because he could hear more things moving.

Towards Augustine and Jaya.

As they started down the hall their silhouettes revealed that they were much, much larger than Augustine. Not only several feet taller, but also much broader. They were also hefting makeshift clubs that were probably made out of bits of debris they had managed to tie together. Crude, but still perfectly capable of caving a skull in.

Augustine and Jaya did not seem to notice their approach, probably due to a—fortunately for Mouse—woefully underdeveloped sense of paranoia. Not wanting to give away his position, Mouse tossed a coin into the back corner of the room. The two creatures stopped, and in their own way crept towards the source of the noise. He figured that once they started fumbling about he would make a break, warn his companions, and...well, he was not sure what then. The first step was surviving long enough to get to that point.

Mouse heard a faint grunt, followed by another grunt, and the all to familiar sound of a coin clattering to the ground. It seemed that they had found the coin, much, much faster than anticipated, which meant they could see in the dark. Right, new "plan".

Mouse stabbed the one next to him in what he assumed was its foot.

It howled in pain and fell back, and Mouse used this opportunity to make a break for it. It swung wildly, clipping him with its club, but he quickly recovered and was easily able to outpace them. Augustine and Jaya saw him bolting towards them, followed by the creatures. Before they could say anything he blurted out that there were four of them, but he had just killed one, wounded another, and they were after him.

Augustine checked the door. It was not locked, not that it would have mattered much in its current state, and they dashed inside...and found themselves in a small room. At one point it might have been a guard room or perhaps used for storage, but all that remained was rotting furnishings. Thinking quickly Mouse doused some of his food in goldenroot poison. When he could hear the creatures outside the door he opened it, tossed the food out, and closed it.

He waited a few moments before opening it again, and was dismayed for two reasons. The first was their appearance: now that they were in the light and he was not running from them he could see that they look like men, just bulkier, much hairier, and degenerate, as if their faces had been smashed ten too many times and jumbled about before healing. The other was that only one was noisily chewing. The other two turned to glare at Mouse, made all the worse due to their gruesome appearance, and at the same time tried to force their through the opening.

Mouse hopped back and Augustine stepped in, viciously slashing at one and severing its head almost completely. The other one howled with rage, surging into the room and attempting to crush Augustine with its club. While Mouse tried to find an opening, Jaya noticed that though the third had finished eating it continued to stand there, staring at her with a...strange expression. That would be Mouse's poison kicking in. She cried out for help, pointing at the other creature before pretending to faint.

At this it picked up its club and struck the other one in the back of the head, killing it instantly. It then glowered at Mouse and Augustine, who waited for it to make a move. However rather than attack them it seized Jaya roughly by the arm and dragged her off. Mouse looked to Augustine, then to Jaya, then back at Augustine, making a kind of half-shrug, half-stabbing motion, as if to say, "Well, do you want me to stop it or what?"

Jaya and Augustine both talked Mouse down, rationalizing that it might be able to lead them somewhere. Mouse could not think of a single thing that it could lead them to that would actually be of any use, and his assumptions were confirmed when it took Jaya up a flight of stairs, into a room packed with more of them, slamming and barring the door behind it: apparently he was taking Jaya to meet the "family", and look into maybe adding a much-needed branch to their tree.

It started whatever amounted to its courtship ritual by introducing her to its confused kin, and offering Jaya a bowl of fetid fish soup. The odors that saturated the room were thick enough for her to taste, yet somehow the fish managed to stand out among them all, and it was all she could do to choke back both the soup and vomiting whatever she had eaten earlier that day (which might have been an improvement).

Just when she thought things could not get any worse, a much larger creature rose from a pile of animal hides. It lurched towards her, dragging a massive hammer behind it. Judging by its size and the fact that the hammer looked like a hammer, she pegged it as their leader. She also assumed the hammer was for her, being an outsider and all, but it just smacked the bowl out of her hand, roughly jabbed her abductor in the face with the hammer, and then effortlessly hauled her towards the pile of skins it had just emerged from.

Meanwhile Augustine and Mouse stood outside the door, arguing intensely about what they should be doing. In a bizarre shift of personalities, Mouse actually wanted to go in blades-blazing while Augustine wanted to just wait and see what happened. It was not until they heard Jaya urgently state that one of them was starting to "get a bit too friendly" that they decided to act.

Mouse used his last dose of poison, hoping that the whole poisoned food bit would again work and better stack the odds. The big guy answered the door, but did not seem interested in his offer. As he tried to close the door Mouse resorted to "plan B", which was basically "throw the dark sphere he had lifted from Killian into the room without discussing with Augustine". He had no idea what it would do when it broke, but desperate times called for mysterious, dangerous magical grenades.

It shattered against the lip of the cauldron, instantly choking the entire room with webbing and entangling everything inside. Mouse watched them as they struggled against their bindings, and when he was confident that they were held fast carefully made his way through the room and slit their throats one by one before freeing Jaya. He then rummaged through the room, finding a cache of arguably edible food and several hundred coins. He also hauled out the hammer, since it still looked to be in remarkably good condition, which meant that there was a fair chance it was magical.

They went back downstairs to the storeroom, cleared out the bodies, and tried to get some sleep. Being trapped in a damp, noisy, dangerous underground ruin had a way of tiring you out.

Behind the Scenes
This campaign really took a turn. We went from dealing with duskies to trolling troglodytes (we learned later that the creatures were troglodytes, which are not much like Dungeons & Dragons troglodytes, which is not a bad thing). I also learned that goldenroot poison has to be ingested. Whoops. Oh well, I still got to use it creatively, though I am now fresh out. At least we will always have Killian.

Speaking of Killian and lessons learned, we also learned what the dark sphere that I found in the first session did: spider-web bomb. Better for Jaya than, say, an...acid bomb. That would have sucked. For her, anyway.

We finally leveled up, in no small part to our misses, making this the second non-playtest campaign where I managed to hit 2nd-level. I suppose I could have taken Brewer to make some more poison, but given we are deep underground and it has to be ingested, Shoot First seemed like it would be more useful. I also got to establish a bond with Melissa's character: Jaya could learn a thing or two from Mouse.

Ben took Setup Strike, which will give one of us bonus damage, and Melissa snagged Metal Hurlant, which will give her more damage-dealing capabilities.

Fright Night Playtest: Widow's Bluff

For about a month now Ben, Melissa, and I have been working on our own role-playing game that for now we are referring to as Fright Night. In a nutshell it is intended to let you play through most if not all horror movie experiences, and it has finally gotten to a point where we actually want to talk about it.

The core mechanic is pretty simple: you have stats like Brawn, Brains, and Looks, each rated from 1-3. When you need to make a check you roll six-siders equal to your stat, with each 5-6 counting as a success. If circumstances are favorable or you have some asset then you succeed on a 4-6, but if they are not then you need a 6, and we have been tinkering with a simple skill system to make it even more likely that characters will be able to do the kind of stuff that they are supposed to.

The game is broken up into scenes. The Director gives each Actor some screen time in turn, combining them when necessary (because sometimes the characters do stick together). The general outcome of each is determined by rolling on a couple of tables, which means that even the Director will not be fully aware of what is going to happen next (which we felt added to the tension): you might discover a recently butchered body, hear a scream, discover a strange object, get startled by a jump scare, or, if you are really unlucky, get ambushed by whatever monster the Director has cooked up.

After each player has a scene, the Director makes a "climax" roll to see if the monster finally goes all out in an effort to do whatever it is that it is trying to do.

To me the game feels like a blending of FiascoApocalypse World, Arkham Horror, and Mansions of Madness: there was a lot of collaboration between the Director and Actors to make sure a scene played out well (even if it meant willfully adhering to a horror flick trope, like investigating sounds in the dark), things got pretty lethal when a monster popped up, there is a sense of an uncertain time limit, and things are pretty random, but in a good way.

To give you a better idea of how the game plays, Ben whipped up a play report of our most recent game sessions, complete with the rolls he made for each scene. If this sounds like a game that interests you, let us know; we would love to have other people look over the rules once we get a working draft and give it a playtest.

Cast
  • Woody Harrelson (me!)
  • Joanne (Melissa)

Joanne (Object/NPC Attack)
Fade in on an overhead shot of a large house on the side of a cliff. The waves crash up against the rocks far below the estate known to the locals as Widow’s Bluff. A moving van pulls up, followed by a car from which a woman emerges. This is JOANNE, a single mother who is moving her family into the west wing. The door to the main house opens to reveal WOODY, the rich eccentric who owns the estate. Dressed in a bathrobe, he greets the new arrivals as the family dog RUSTY bounds out of the car followed by ten-year-old ZANE. Joanne pays her first month’s rent before collecting GRANDMA and four-year-old SUZIE and headed into her new home.

While putting away clothes in her walk-in closet, Joanne spots something up on a shelf. She strains to reach it, but the shelf tips up, spilling her onto the floor followed by a jewelry box. Her children come to investigate the noise. Suzie runs off with the box, but not before Joanne looks inside and extracts an old ring with a “To my love” inscription. Finished with unpacking for the day, Joanne starts work on dinner. Her son rushes in, asking if she’s seen Rusty. She tells him that after they eat they’ll go have a look.

Woody (Environment/Jump Scare)
Joanne decides to start their search by checking in with Woody. She walks in to find a trail of ominous red footprints. She follows them to find her host sipping a drink, covered in what looks to be blood and holding a long thin blade. She is startled, until she learns that her host practices what he calls Katanart (painting with his sword). He has not seen the dog, but suggests looking in the woods behind the property.

After quite a while of tramping through the thicket and calling for their pet, it begins to get dark and they reluctantly turn back. As they round a tree a hulking figure steps out and barks a gruff “Hey!” It’s JOB, the hermit who lives in a cabin in these woods. He introduces himself and tells the unhappy boy that he’ll keep a lookout for the animal.

Upon returning, in the dim light Woody senses something amiss at the cliff’s edge. He investigates and discovers that a section of his rather sturdy railing has broken off and fallen to the rocks below. He finds this odd, but merely files it away as something to tell JOSE, his gardener, to fix.

Climax Roll: 5

Joanne (Information/Actor Attack)
After tucking in the children, Joanne settles in on the couch with a book while Grandma knits in her favorite chair. As the night wears on, the clacking of needles slows, then stops as the old lady falls off to sleep. Joanne realizes then how quiet the place is at night.

No sooner has she had the thought than a creaking begins to emanate from the dining room. She gets up to investigate and finds that the chandelier is swinging back and forth. She stops it with a broom, but as she turns the light off the fixture begins swinging again, faster this time. She stops it once more and turns to leave as the crystal chandelier drops to the floor on the spot she had been standing just seconds before!

Shaken up, she cleans up the remains of the fixture before going around to check on everyone who was woken by the crash. She then decides that she is too on edge to concentrate on her book and heads off to bed. On the way she notices that the corridor upstairs is lined with old photos, and stops in front of a yellowed photograph of a man in captain’s uniform smiling next to a woman in a simple dress. They are standing before the very railing that is now in pieces…

Woody (Body/Actor Attack)
The next morning, Woody wakes and heads out back to where he has left a bowl of drugged chow to see if the dog is back. There’s no sign the food has been touched, but when he returns to his painting room, he finds the animal lying in the middle of the floor, his fur stained with red. He runs out and returns with his renter, and they examine the body. Unfortunately, this time the stain is not paint. Joanne takes the body out to bury it and Woody sets about cleaning the mess left behind.

As he works, behind him the handle on his large sink slowly turns, releasing a stream of water into the basin. He turns and shuts the stream off. This sets off a rattling of pipes, and as he throws himself backwards a guyser of scalding hot water launches from the drain, filling the room with steam and drenching his artwork. As he finishes cleaning, he realizes that no one checked the dog’s body for clues.

Climax Roll: 7

Joanne (Information/Jump Scare)
Woody rushes outside to where Joanne is packing down the last of the dirt, grabs the shovel and starts to dig. The surprised woman begins to protest, then to yell, then to accuse her host of foul play. As he digs, Woody appeals to her sense of logic. Why would he kill her pet in his own home, then bring her back to show it off? He pulls the dog from the ground and they examine it. There are no wounds!

They decide they need more information before making any wild conclusions. Woody sets off to question the hermit Job while Joanne seeks out Jose, who has arrived to work the grounds. The gardener tells her that he has indeed noticed strange things on the property, and his tools disappear, only to show up in the strangest places. He also mentions that people who move into this house don’t stay very long. He leaves, and when he returns, they too have disappeared. This is too much for Joanne, who decides to run some errands. And while she’s out, she might just swing by city hall to see if she can’t ferret out some of the strange estate’s history. She goes to collect the children.

As she opens the door, there is a blood-curdling scream from the living room. She rushes in to find Grandma glued to the television set, lamenting that her soap stars long-lost evil twin has returned. Joanne composes herself, shakes her head, and leaves.

Woody (Object/Monster Presence)
Woody, after getting thoroughly lost in the woods, finally stumbles on the hermit’s cabin. He knocks on the door and is ushered in, where he questions Job about the property. The large man confirms that there is definitely a presence in that house, and it’s most likely supernatural. Woody concludes that they may be dealing with a ghost, and Job reveals that the only way to get rid of a ghost is to destroy that which represents what the person most desired. Slightly puzzled, Woody thanks him and leaves.

As he approaches the house, Woody spots a rustling curtain and what appears to be a figure in one of the second story windows. He hurries to the front of the house, where he discovers Jose’s hatchet buried in the wood of the front door. He wrenches it free and heads in to investigate.

Climax Roll: 15

Joanne (Omen/Jump Scare)
Joanne enters city hall and approaches the young man at the desk. She asks for any information he might have about the property she recently moved into.

“Oh, the old Prattle place?” he queries.

He reveals that the house was built by Jeremiah Prattle for his young wife Melinda. This piques Joanne’s interest, and she is directed to the town’s newspaper archives. She scans her way through many months’ worth of microfilm before she finds mention of the couple in question. She reads of the wealthy man’s crew breaking ground, of the town coming out for the estate’s unveiling. And when the reader jolts to a halt, she finds herself staring at the very same picture that hangs in her hallway.

As she reads on, happy times turn to tragedy as she finds a death announcement for Jeremiah Prattle. It tells of a terrible crash on the rocks on his return voyage home, and laments that he is survived by his only living relative, his lovely wife Melinda. Then, a few weeks later, Melinda’s own obituary. The woman, distraught over her loss, threw herself from the bluff into the icy waters below.

Remembering her original mission, Joanne fast-forwards to more recent times, as a budding journalist questions what is going on at this estate. People go up to the house but don’t come back down. An elderly couple, a trio of young roommates, a businessman come to remodel and turn it for a profit. All inhabit Widow’s Bluff and are never seen again.

As a shiver runs down her spine, a hand clamps down on Joanne’s shoulder. She whirls to find the desk clerk, come to check on her progress. She shakily thanks him, gathers the children and runs to the car. She must uncover the secrets of their new home.

Woody (Body Found/Actor Attack)
Back at the house, Woody pinpoints the room where he may have seen a ghost. Inside he instead finds the body of poor Jose, covered in blood just like the dog. This body is cleaner than the first, however, so upon closer examination Woody discovers that this body too is wound-free, and that the blood instead appears to have seeped from the man’s eyes and mouth. Before he died, the gardener pulled down the ladder to the house’s attic. Woody climbs up for a look.

The attic is filled with old, old junk the man had never had the time nor the inclination to clear out. A wardrobe here, a crib there, a headless dress dummy, several dusty boxes… Clutching his hatchet for comfort, Woody calls out for the ghost to show itself. He is met with only silence. Until he hears his tenant calling for him as she crests the stairs. He directs her to the ladder, and she joins him in the attic. Together they start pouring through the boxes until Woody opens one and finds an old journal inscribed with the initials M.P. This sparks Joanne’s memory, and she fills him in on all that she’s learned. He does the same as she begins to read.

Early entries confirm what she’s already uncovered. Flowing paragraphs of young love, of building a new home. Joanne flips through the pages until she finds an entry about Jeremiah leaving on another voyage. Melinda records her heartache as her husband sails off, and her expectation for his return so they can finally begin a family together. Then tear-stained pages as she speaks of his death. And finally, one last entry.

“I cannot bear this any longer. I hope that, since he cannot give me any more in life, my Jeremiah will offer me comfort in death.”

As she closes the book, Woody mentions destroying the symbol of the ghost’s desire. Her mind races to the ring she discovered. The widow awaited her husband’s return, the wedding ring must be what’s fueling her malevolent presence. They start toward the ladder, but without warning the dummy lunges out at Woody. Startled, he loses his balance and pitches through the hole and lands roughly onto the floor below. Joanne climbs down and picks him up and they race for the west wing.

As the pair rushes in, little Suzie thanks her mother for the jewelry box, wondering sweetly if it might belong to the woman she saw in Mommy’s room. She did seem nice. The adults look at each other, and double their pace for the bedroom. The ring is luckily still on Joanne’s nightstand, and they take it outside to the cliff. As they approach they spy something down on the rocks, lying on the remains of the railing. It is the battered body of Job. Without a second thought, Woody hurls the ring into the ocean. It arcs down, twisting and turning as it falls, and as it strikes the water the waves are momentarily still. Panting in relief, the two walk back to the house and cross the threshold of Woody’s home.

Joanne & Woody (Object/NPC Attack)
 …And the door slams shut behind them! Woody grabs his hatchet and begins to hack at the wood, but it seems impervious to blows. As do the windows, the two discover as they try any and all exits from the house. As Joanne tries a window on the side of the house, she gasps in horror. She watches as Suzie turns, holds her arms out as if reaching for something, or someone, and begins to slowly toddle toward the railing. 

She runs to Woody, and they head back to the attic as they realize that they might have missed something. Maybe the ring wasn’t the answer after all. Try as they might, though, they’re coming up with nothing. They tear the boxes apart again, looking for any clues, until Woody hacks the dummy apart in frustration. As he calms down, however, he begins to recall bits and pieces of what they had learned.

 “…survived only by his lovely wife…”
“…can’t wait to start our family…”
“…destroy that which represents what the ghost most desires…”

He looks around the room. His eyes settle on the one thing that doesn’t belong, and he pieces together why the widow Prattle is leading a little girl to her certain doom.

“The crib!” he shouts, and readies the hatchet. As the blade swings down and splinters the first bit of wood, an unearthly howl surrounds the pair and the bare light bulb shatters in a shower of sparks. But gallant Woody pays no heed, and soon the crib is nothing but splinters. The howl dies down, and once again all is silent.

Joanne nearly jumps down the hole and races down the stairs before throwing the front door open. She has never run as fast as she does this day, and scoops up her daughter just as she reaches the gap in the railing. 

The little girl smiles up at her. “I was following the nice lady, but she’s gone now.”

Mother showers daughter with kisses, and hoists her up to her chest as they begin the short walk back to what might turn out to be a very nice home after all.

FADE TO BLACK
April 11, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Requiem: Chords of Terra - Music of the Universe



This is the basic fluff for a campaign I am making. It is based on some texts I am reading on Musica Universalis which is an ancient philosophical concept that regards proportions in the movements of celestial bodies—the Sun, Moon, and planets—as a form of music. This setting draws inspiration from numerous sources, one of them being Innistrad which is one of my favorite planes in the Magic: The Gathering multiverse.
I wanted to create a dark fantasy setting with an unique flavor, or at least interesting enough to want other people to use the setting for their own games. I am currently writing a wiki for my closets friends to read and comment as I develop the setting, but I wanted to share some of what I have written down so far.

No system selected yet for the setting. Let me know what you guys think.

Music of the Universe

The Music of the Universe (sometimes referred to as the Harmony of the Cosmos) is defined as the totality of existence. Within itself is contained the foundation of everything that is known; the sun, the moon, stars, planets, spirits, and every other aspect of life. Everything within the Music produces a melody that must always remain in harmony with the universe, otherwise everything would collapse leading to the extinction of the cosmos.


Within the Music resides Harmonia (often referred as The Harmony or just Harmony), an invisible entity responsible of incorporating, regulating, and balancing all aspects of the Music of the Universe.

The Struggle for Balance

Soon after the Music was in perfect harmony a strange force appeared which caused discord. Harmonia felt a change in the composition of the Music as this unknown, cacophonous being known as The Discordia, the raw representation of entropy, began to compose his own music.

The Creation of Spirits

The struggle between Harmonia and The Discordia distorted the very composition of reality and from their clash the world of Terra was created. Harmonia composed intangible beings who are known in the world of Terra as spirits. Their sole purpose was to weave the new elements into the Music while she continued to confront The Discordia.

Angels, Demons, and Men

Many beings came into existence since the struggle began, among them came the humans. Humans were beings composed of both law and entropy, order and chaos, light and darkness. They were the physical manifestation of choice and possibility, they could fully embrace or slowly become agents of order or of chaos.

A new conflict began as each force wanted to sway humans into either side; Harmonia to keep the balance, and The Discordia to decompose the Music and write it to its own accord. In response to this conflict spirits of light which could assume physical form came into existence, they were known as angels. Angels would embody the core virtues that would keep the world in order.

In return, The Discordia corrupted eight of the most powerful spirits which kept the music of the universe in perfect balance and descended to the world to oppose the angels. Those spirits became the first demons of the world, beings composed of pure entropy.

The Endless War

War raged in Terra between both angels and demons. During the war, angels were able to sway and inspire most humans to join their cause. Demons tried to do the same, however, they chose to corrupt humans to do their bidding or turn them into hideous creatures to aid them in battle. The battle continued for centuries as neither side yielded any ground and while those who fought were wounded, they would soon recover and rejoin the fight.

The archdemons saw no end to this war and together schemed to compose a composed a new theme that would end this war. Somnus, the archdemon of sloth, convoked a truce to distract the archangels while the other 6 archdemons weaved their new theme directly into the Music. By the time the archangels saw through the archdemons’ ploy, it was too late. The concept of death had been introduced into the Music. Humans were the first to experience the consequences of this new theme as they became completely mortal. While angels and demons were immortal they could still be slayed and upon their death their essence would return briefly to the Music before reappearing again into the world a few decades later.

Spirits of Death

Soon after the concept of death had been incorporated the first spirits of death appeared to integrate and regulate this new theme into the Music. To prevent The Discordia from corrupting these newborn spirits a powerful spirit came into existence to embody death and the concept of neutrality. This spirit was later known as Occasus, the angel of death. By the time Occasus claimed his dominion over death, The Discordia had already corrupted a powerful spirit of death. This spirit of death became the demon known as Murmuur.


The End of the War

Eventually the war ended and the angels won but  they did not know what to do with the captured archdemons. The angels knew that if they slayed them, the demons would eventually return and so they had no choice but to cast them down into the bowels of Terra and imprison them there.To make sure the demons would not be able to escape Terra and corrupt the Music again, the angels created the heavens high above the sky. The heavens engulfed all of Terra so that in the event that the demons managed to find a way to escape their underground prisons, they would never make it out of the world.


The angels ascended to the heavens and the demons remained deep underneath the earth, trapped in their hellish prisons. During this period of peace human kingdoms flourished and prosperity seemed like it would last forever, until the demon Miseria appeared. During the centuries of imprisonment, the wailing of the archdemon Guttur began to crack the foundations of its own prison and mass earthquakes plagued the human lands. From the cracks sipped Guttur’s essence along with its cries and from them, a new demon appeared. Guttur recognized her as his daughter and named her Miseria, the archdemon of sorrow, first of her kind.


Hell

Instructed by Guttur, Miseria tried to free the archdemons but only managed to weaken their prisons. Though still imprisoned, the archdemons were able to spawn lesser demons which spent decades carving lairs and tunnels before finding their way to the surface. Hell became a very literal thing: there are now actual cracks in the ground where demons dwell and from them they spring forward to menace mankind once again.


Decay of Balance

The increase of demonic presence in Terra tipped the balance towards The Discordia — something the archangels noticed too late and had no choice but to abandon tending to the needs of mankind and focus all their attention towards Harmonia.


The Silence of the Heavens

The archangels held an angelic conclave to explain to the other angels the dire situation in which they suddenly found themselves in. The archangels along other powerful angels - but of lesser rank - began to sing in order to provide strength to Harmonia and prevent the Music from collapsing. Seeing this, the remaining angels couldn’t help but wonder what had become of mankind now that the archangels were unable to brake song and descend to Terra to aid them.


Humans were fighting the demons as best as they could but without the help of the angels they would eventually succumb to the corruptive force of chaos. Angels could not descend to help them since the seven gates which led down to Terra had been permanently shut by the archangels.Metatron, an angel who served the archangelSanctus on The Fields of Caritas was the first to do what many angels believed would be sacrilege; He became a mortal by renouncing to his Immortality and giving back most of his angelic essence to the archangels. This sacrifice allowed Metatron to forcefully descend into Terra. Metatron’s actions inspired six  other angels who followed his steps and descended. Those who remained returned to their heavenly duties.


From Terra, those on ground saw what they believed were shooting stars. Mankind soon found out these ‘shooting stars’ were actually angels who had descended from the heavens in human form (from that point onward whenever humans saw a shooting star they would make a wish in the hopes that it was a descending angel and it would grant them their wish.)


The Mattara

Metatron called himself - and the host of fallen angels that came with him - Mattara, ‘Keepers of the Watch’. For centuries, the mattara helped mankind in their struggle against the demons. Though they were long lived, Metatron knew they would one day perish just like humans did, thus he established the Keepers of the Watch. The order would be led by the descendants of the Mattara until the demonic hordes were repelled back into the abyss.


Legacy of Metatron

By the time the first generation of mattaras perished only Metatron was still alive but had not been seen for decades. Sensing a shift in the Music, Metatron left the Keepers of the Watch to seek a way to ascend back to heaven and open the seven gates. After his century long absence, Metatron returned to reveal that although he failed on his mission, he had a vision in which he received a song composed by the archangels for mankind (mankind dubbed the song Musica Universalis).  Metatron instructed his people to spread this song to all the corners of Terra before balance was lost forever. After issuing his orders, Metatron resumed his quest to find a way to open the seven gates and disappeared once again.


In addition of delivering the song, Metatron also left a set of instructions for mankind to follow. Some of the most notorious mandates were:

Perform the songs thought by the Mattara each dawn.Be compassionate among one another. Be merciless against evil.Bury the dead at least 7 feet underneath the earth so may the earth spirits protect the soul before Occasus comes.Once buried, perform the Canticle of Peaceful Rest.Oppose slavery.Do not bargain with demons or mischievous spirits.Avoid the arcane arts for they are they tools of evil.

The Song

The song mentioned the strife between Harmonia and The Discordia and the current decay of balance. But not all was without hope, the song spoke of promises that earthly beings would be able to ascend to Heaven in the afterlife as long as they lived a harmonious life and/or fighting the evils that plagued Terra. Occasus and his servant spirits would come and take the souls of those worthy up to heaven. Those who ascended would patiently wait near the seven gates until the archangel themselves would open the gates for them.


Glimmer of Hope

The heroic deeds of Metatron and his Mattara inspired mankind to strive for survival and to oppose chaos at all costs. Now it is up to each man to provide balance to the Music or be accomplices of its destruction.
---------------------------------------
What do you guys think?
April 06, 2014
Posted by Victor Julio Hurtado

Realm Works Review

Shyeah, I'll be the judge of that.
In my 20 years or so of gaming in addition to foregoing organization entirely I have also tried using tools like good old-fashion Word documents, even olderer-fashioned paper and pencil, Google Docs, personal wiki software like WikidPad, and Obsidian Portal (since the necessary features were free up to a point).

So how does Realm Works, a program that actually costs money, stack up against all the of free—or free enough—options out there?

Pretty well, actually.

When I first fired it up I was initially turned off by the loading time and kind of intimidated by, well, everything: it throws a lot of buttons, tabs, categories, sections, etc at you right away.


Once I stopped to actually read all of those handy tooltip windows that thankfully kept popping up and learned what it could do, the more I started to like it (alternatively I could have just watched some tutorials).

Everything you create is meticulously organized in categories, which are in turn sorted into the families on the left-hand side, and can also be tagged to boot. In other words, a village is not just a Place, it is a Community within Places, and if you want to find everything associated with a race or place as long as you tagged them then you are good to go. 

I felt that the categories and tags were pretty comprehensive (there is a category for Planet and Region: Celestial, as well as Genre tags), but if you think some are missing (like, say, Planar or Wereshark Erotica) you can just add them in.

There are a lot of pre-defined aspects that you can fill out for your content: obviously you have the name, but there is also a section for its Overview, Description, Profile, Story, Points of Interest, and so on. The only required part is the name, and you can add in more snippets in each section, so if you really wanted to you could feasibly just keep adding in text, tag and statblocks into the Overview section and call it good.

A feature that I really liked was the ability to toggle what players can and cannot see with a click, on a field-by-field basis, even within the same section. So, in Story you could put a text snippet about rumors that the characters know about, and then other rumors and quests in their own text snippets, and keep them hidden until the players discover them. I get that any GM can keep player secrets on another file, and pages on Obsidian Portal have a GM-only section, but this makes it a lot easier to reference and toggle with a click.

On a similar note is how it can handle maps. You can add a map to anything using a snippet (including a character), but you can also hide sections of the map (including the entire map with a click) and very easily reveal them as the characters explore using either a marquee select (for large areas) or a brush:


You can also place pins with information (like hidden passage, skeletons be here, etc), which of course can be hidden from the characters.

Some other stuff that I noticed but did not play around with too much was being able to have multiple tabs open, the Storyboard (which can have paths and points hidden from the players), User Notes, a Mechanics Reference (which is organized into Characters, Equipment, Abilities, etc), optional cloud storage, and integration with Hero Labs (which I have heard of but never used; I am sure people that do use it will like this feature).

I do not normally storyboard my games, but User Notes and Mechanics Reference would be something useful to have in say, our Dresden Files game, so we could put in a concise explanation of Thaumaturgy with an example or two and not have to mull through the entire section to probably still use it incorrectly. Again, as with GM-only information, I get that this is something that you can just do in a Google Doc, but it is nice to have everything in one spot.

In a lot of ways it feels similar to Obsidian Portal, it just makes it easier to create, organize, edit, and navigate though all of the content, it has some more robust features (love the maps), and can also be used offline (not really an issue for me or anyone I know, but I know people were upset when Wizards of the Coast made Character Builder and Adventure Tools online-only).

The only drawbacks are that the loading times are occasionally slow, it definitely has a higher learning curve (which I strongly feel pays off in the long run), and will likely seem intimidating until you get comfortable with it. I played with it for a few hours, and though I feel like there are features that I have not seen or fully explored, I already think it does enough better to make it worthwhile.

Yeah, yeah, you were right.
Posted by David Guyll

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