March 15, 2017

A fantasy city guide

I ran my first fantasy city adventure not long ago, featuring thieves, were-rats, and town guards. I didn't give much details of the city. It was just pretty vague: the city is walled, there's a marketplace, an alchemist, a warehouse, and a sewer system. Sometimes I wished I had something that could liven up the place a bit.

Last night, I was at a Barnes & Noble store and found The Compleat Ankh-Morpork in the clearance section. It's a guide for tourists to the fantasy city featured in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. It's 128 pages of all the stuff you're likely to find in the city and also includes a separate fold-out double-sided map that's about 3 feel square in a pocket in the cardstock dustjacket.

There are pages on exchanging money, hospitals, the laws and ordinances of the city (like mimes will be thrown into a scorpion pit), ways to move around the city (like troll taxis), taverns, inns, restaurants, post offices, and the many guilds of the city (there are 29 described). There are a couple pages on Unseen University (the college of magic), the temples of the city, and about 35 pages of "the yellow pages" of the city.  Then there are pages on sports, museums, theaters, and night clubs. Following that are 19 descriptions of various clubs like The League of Goblin Fiends, The Sunshine Sanctuary For Sick Dragons, and The Ankh-Morpork Recovering Accordion Players' Society.

And there's still more! There are three walking tours of the city. One focuses on towers, temples, and theatrical treats. Another focuses on guilds, governance, and a grand vista. The last focuses on remedies, rat markets, and river views. Finally, there are some detailed maps of "the shades"; an annotated directory of streets, alleys, roads, lanes, and yards;  and a directory of principal pumps and wells.

It's the sheer breadth of information that I love i that details so many things that go into a major city and gives many adventure ideas. That listing of the pumps and wells gives me ideas on plots to poison the city water supply. I'll definitely be mining ideas from this book for my RPG sessions.

What other non-RPG books do you use as RPG supplements?

March 13, 2017

Puzzles in Dwimmermount

There are some puzzles in Dwimmermount, such as "touch these things in a certain order" or "do or say a certain thing at this certain location". That type of thing.

My players hate them.

Obviously, I need to get rid of the frustration but how?

Should I just get rid of them entirely? Should I have wandering monsters solve the puzzle while the players spy on them?

What would you do with puzzles in an adventure with  bunch of players who hate puzzles?

August 29, 2016

New roleplayers in Dwimmermount #5

Yesterday, two of our players couldn't make it so we said their characters were staying in town while the rest explored Dwimmermount again. They were 2 clerics, a fighter, a retainer, 2 animal trainers, some ponies, some hunting and tracking dogs, some birds, and some war dogs too. They quickly found some stairs leading down to the 2nd level of Dwimmermount and encountered some hobgoblins after fighting their way past the guards.

 The hobgoblins looked at the size of this party and quickly left, leaving behind their bag of loot in order to discourage the party from hunting them down. This worked and there were some interesting moral quandaries as the party discussed if the they should hunt down the hobgoblins before the hobgoblins came back in bigger numbers. They really missed the other two players as their characters are more gung-ho about taking out any obstacles to their dreams of power and riches. Anyway, they decided to let the hobgoblins be and so some more exploring.

 They were prepared for most anything so took out some Shadows, some wood golems, and some hell hounds with only some minor wounds. Then they encountered the zombies. They took out the first batch fine but then they found the Zombie Lord and a war dog died and a character took permanent damage as he fell. He now has a messed up knee and can only carry half the weight he normally could. After grabbing the treasure, they decided to head back to town before anything else bad happened and miraculously avoided almost all random encounters.

The one random encounter they did have was a rival adventuring party, which was Typhon's Fist, the party they stole the map from at the beginning of this campaign. The thief was not with the party today so Typhon's Fist did not recognize them but I've leveled up the characters of Typhon's Fist and they will be yet another thing to deal with in Dwimmermount.

August 01, 2016

The size and weight of 10,000 gold pieces


I was reading this comic and, being an RPGer, I wondered, "Can 10,000 coins really fit in that bag? And wouldn't that weigh 1000 pounds under the old D&D rules?" So I had my daughter, the resident math genius, figure out if 10,000 coins could fit in a bag that size.

She estimated a coin would be about an inch in diameter and .25 inches thick, which would make a coin's volume be .25 x pi x (.5) squared. (Obviously, I haven't taken the time to figure out how to do math symbols in Blogger.) The volume of 10,000 coins would be 10,000 times that, which is about 1962.5 cubic inches.

The volume of a sphere is 4/3 x pi x (radius) cubed. So after plugging in the numbers and solving for the radius, we get 7.768 inches or a sphere about 15.5 inches in diameter, which happens to be about the size of the bag in the comic!

But the thousand pounds is obviously off. Doing some Googling, I found that AD&D2e changed the weight of coins so now 50 coins = 1 pound instead of 10 like before. That would make the bag in the comic weigh 200 pounds and, looking at historical weights of coins, that's pretty close to what they would weigh.

Hagar must be amazingly strong (as strong as Hercules?) to lift that 200 pound bag of 10,000 coins with one hand!

How do you handle the weight of coins in your game?


New roleplayers in Dwimmermount #4

I can't believe it was 2 and a half months since we played last! Well, we finally got together again and resumed from where we left off last time. They took out some more gnolls and then met the gnoll king and his pet giant black widow spider. They were a bit freaked out but took them both out without anyone dying. We then decided we were done with the caves and they would go back to the city to spend their loot. On the way, however, I found out I'm a softy GM. I rolled for wilderness encounters and got a unicorn. The character who get her legs rendered useless last time crawled toward the unicorn and asked if it could heal her. So I had the unicorn take her to a church in the city and the priest healed her legs. The others caught up with her and then started spending.

It's funny what they want to buy. One character has bought 6 war dogs. Another got a baby dragon. I'll find out what their final choices are when we get to play again later this month.

July 27, 2016

Appendix N Review: The King of Elfland's Daughter

This is the 78th anniversary of Gary Gygax's birth. He brought the game Dungeons & Dragons to existence and I'm so thankful for that as it's an amazing game. He passed away a little over 8 years ago, yet another reminder that time marches on for all of us. In Gygax's famous Appendix N, written for the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide, one of the books listed is The King of Elfland's Daughter, which has to do with time.

In Elfland, time doesn't exist. The shadows never grow longer, day never turns to night, and people never age. Since it doesn't exist, the inhabitants of Elfland are fascinated with our world, where time exists and people are sometimes frivolous and sometimes serious, since time presses upon them.

It's told as a prolonged fairy tale and really highlights that the timeless elves are so very alien to us caught in time (and we to them). I highly recommend reading the book and discovering it for yourself.

Today, we remember that time marches on, shadows change, day turns to night and night to day, and people live and die. But we also remember that some things are timeless, like a wonderful little game that Gary Gygax shared with us.

July 18, 2016

An Underwater Campaign

About 11 months ago, I decided I wanted to play an OSR RPG with my daughter, one on one. She was 14 then and we decided to use Basic Fantasy with some of the rules from Sine Nomine Publishing for solo roleplaying. Our campaign setting was all going to be in the ocean. We looked through the player character choices in the D&D supplement PC3: The Sea People and she liked the shark-kin. Using that and an AD&D supplement Sea of Fallen Stars, we were off!

We started out with her character being a survivor from a kraken attack and then going to the capital city of the ocean , Myth Nantar. There, she went on a mission with a young trition and they rescued from other shark-king from some pirates. My daughter then played all 3 shark-kin as they went exploring and found some sea goblins and others who were kidnapping magic-users. Investigating this, all but one of the shark-kin died so it went back to its home tribe, trying to enlist help. Instead, it found a coup had happened in the tribe. Finding some friends, the shark-kin PCs got the former king back in power but then were disappointed to find out the king was going to war with Myth Nantar! They fled the tribe and decided to warn the city of what was coming.

After warning the city, the shark-kin were then sent to find out what had happened to great magician friend of the city that had gone missing. They eventually find him, about to be sacrificed to a kraken! They rescue him and he repays their kindness with a few magical items and they go back to Myth Nantar to see what they can do.

They find the city under siege so they help fight off some invaders and find that aboleths are helping the shark-kin army. The aboleth tells them that it is trying to fight off the kraken and needs the magic-users to become powerful enough to stop it. The PC decide to fight the aboleth and defeat it but lose another PC. Also, before leaving to get help, the PCs see a bunch of deep ones summoning a kraken. The surviving shark-kin decided to raise an army of magic-users, each with magic missile so the magic items are sold and a 100 magic-users are enlisted in the quest.

They go back and find the kraken has destroyed Myth Nantar and is digging through the rubble. It tells them telepathically that it is going to open a portal to the plane of water elementals so it can drown the entire world and rule the planet. Initiative is rolled and magic missiles go flying but this kraken has magic resistance which wards off some of them. It was a great fight with 89 of the magic-users and one of the PC shark-kin dying but the kraken was finally destroyed. The PCs will now be famous if we return to the campaign.