Sunday, February 26, 2012

Kids' Campaign: Good ole-fashioned Dungeon Crawl

Today in my kids' campaign, they explored the caverns below the goblin caves. At the direction of Larry the Dwarf Cleric, they stayed to the right as they explored, coming across numerous forking passages. 

First up, a bunch of piercers fell off the ceiling, attacking them. Most of my attack rolls missed; I was rolling d20s out on the table for each player. The wizard, my 10-year-old son, insisted on rolling a d20 for himself, without realizing I was rolling attacks for the monsters. 

He rolled a natural 20. We spent the next five minutes as we both rolled low, him trying to knock the piercer off, and the piercer failing utterly to chew through the wizard's robes. He finally knocked it off with his staff and they avoided the rest of the piercers on the ceiling, and went into the next room, where they barely managed to avoid being caught in the filament-traps of a group of three cave fishers! This combat went quickly, although it seems the only time I roll criticals for monsters is when the wizard gets too close to combat and a monster snaps at him! 

They defeated the cave fishers and continued on, keeping ever to the right. The next foe they encountered was a big nasty roper. The roper snagged three of the heroes off the start with its tentacles, and started pulling them in, but they managed to make excellent attack rolls to slice through the tentacles and break free. They had to gang up on it, and nearly lost Snagger the Dwarf, but defeated the monstrosity and found the gems and platinum pieces in the roper's belly. 

They continued on around the map, and came to a maze-like series of passages. It wasn't long before they were attacked from two sides by some big subterranean lizards! And then a few rounds into the fight, two more joined the fray, led by their minotaur master! The fight was looking kind of grim when the minotaur showed up; the wizard dropped (lizard got a crit for 12), and Farmer George wasn't far behind. The minotaur circled around and charged the halfling thief, but rolled a two; I ruled the thief tumbled between the minotaur's legs and popped up behind it, granting her a backstab attack for extra damage. The two elves hit, with the first hit being a "ghetto crit" for maximum damage and the second elf scoring a natural 20! The 6+3 HD minotaur went down quick, and its pet lizards weren't far behind. 

After taking a few minutes to heal up, they continued on their path, ever to the right passageway, circling around the map. In the next chamber they encountered an Auromvorax! Since the book states that dwarves despise them, I gave each dwarf a roll to recognize the beast. Snagger made his roll, and knew that the monster literally eats gold for dinner. They started throwing gold pieces at it, enough to distract it for long enough to get by. 

This is when they started discovering the remains of a group of adventurers who hadn't survived the dungeon. They recovered a spellbook with high-level spells and a tube of scrolls containing several sheets worth of bad poetry. 

Having gone most of the way around the dungeon, they headed back up to the goblin lair and made camp for the night to rest up. Nothing attacked them in the night (the goblins had left, most being cowardly and having no desire to be around when the group opened the passageway down into the deadly caves). 

Further exploration the next morning revealed a hidden, ancient dwarven crypt. The dwarf cleric opened the passageway and down they went, finding a 1000-year-old internment containing several generations worth of urns and an altar, with a blessed dwarven warhammer floating above it. After saying a prayer to Moradin, the dwarf cleric took the warhammer. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Saturday Night Magic in Florissant, MO

I've never really been one to do a lot of gaming at gaming stores. I played the Neverwinter season of D&D encounters at the St. Charles Fantasy Shop, but that's the extent of it. Since I've gotten back into Magic: The Gathering, I started looking at going to a Friday Night Magic event at the same shop, but it's a bit of a drive and the atmosphere at those events can be pretty hyper-competitive. 

However, about a week ago, I was getting some Magic cards at my much more local Florissant Fantasy Shop, and the clerk asked if I'd be interested in playing Magic there on Saturday nights. I was a little apprehensive, but the Florissant shop is a lot more laid-back, so I decided tonight to give it a shot. It was the first night they've organized it, and the turn-out was slim, about seven people altogether, but it was definitely pretty chill. More of a meet-n-greet, let's hang out and play a few games of Magic type of night. 

I brought my ten-year old son along. He did pretty darn well, and the other guys there were awesome about playing with him. He pulled off a very surprise victory in a rather ridiculous, drag-out game at the end of the night. 

So, if you're in the Florissant, Missouri area and like Magic, and are interested in a laid-back environment to meet some gamers and throw some cards around, I highly recommend Saturday night Magic at the Florissant Fantasy Shop. It's on North Lindergh, about a mile north of I-270, next to the Schnucks. We're in the back from six til ten! 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Hyrulian Adventures: Some Monsters

Hyrulian Monsters and other DM notes

Hyrule is not normally filled with monsters. The demons currently plaguing the countryside are not of this world. They are sorcerous creations sent to wreak havok and plunge Hyrule into chaos. The foul ritual that creates them uses some of Hyrule's essence, be it gems from the earth, other pieces of nature (Deku sticks and nuts, for example), or the strength of its peoples. Because they are not natural, when monsters are destroyed, they disappear, sometimes leaving behind rupees, a heart, or some other item. Rupees can be collected and spent later by PCs. Hearts, when found, must be used then to recover 1d4 hit points. If a PC grabs a heart while they have maximum hit points, they gain nothing. 

And some monsters: 

Bokoblins are vile little humanoid creatures, about four feet tall, with a toothy maw and green or blue skin. They typically carry crude spears or swords (1d8 damage) and are rarely encountered alone, typically marauding in a band of 3d4 of the creatures, with one Leader. They have a love of bloodshed and causing mayhem. Their weapons are shoddily made, and automatically break on a natural attack roll of 5 or less. Unarmed bokoblins attack with their clawed hands for 1d6 damage. 

Bokoblin: HD 1d8, AC 12, +1 attack, 1d8 (armed) or 1d6 (claws) damage, save 18 
2 in 6 chance of dropping either heart (1-3) or single rupee (4-6)

Bokoblin Leader: HD 1d8+2, AC 13, +1 attack, 1d8+1 damage (armed) or 1d6+1 (claws), save 17. Leaders carry better weapons (usually longsword, which only break on an attack roll of 1) and a wooden shield. Always drop either heart or a 5-rupee piece. 

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
Moblins are big and mean. Eight feet tall with a pig-like face and furry red skin, these are elite soldiers. They are usually armed with a large morningstar (1d10 damage, STR 15 to wield) and armored (Banded mail, though it is too large for a PC to wear). 

Moblin: HD 3d8, AC 16, +3 attack, 1d10 damage, save 15. They always drop 2d6 5-rupee pieces and a single heart. 

Keese are dark winged rodents that are often found in dungeons. They have a wingspan of 1 foot and are more nuisance than threat. There is a fiery version as well. 

Keese: HD 1d4, AC 18, +4 attack, 1 damage, Save 20. 1 in 6 chance of dropping either single rupee or heart. 

Flaming Keese: HD 1d4, AC 18, +4 attack, 1 fire damage and victim must make Reflex save or take 1 additional fire damage next round; Save 20. 1 in 6 chance of dropping a single rupee or heart. 

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
Deku Baba is a monstrous plant. It has a large, bulbous head that opens to reveal rows of sharp teeth. It is rooted in place by a five foot long stalk, but can attack anything that gets close enough. 

Deku Baba HD 2d8, AC 15, +3 attack, 1d6 damage, victim must make reflex save or be grabbed in Deku Baba's mouth. Deku Baba does 1d6 more damage each round until victim makes fortitude save to break out. Save 17. The Deku Baba's weak spot is its stalk, which has an AC of 18, but a blow with a bladed weapon automatically severs it from the ground, destroying it. Deku Baba grow back in 10 minutes unless root is dug out and burned. Always drops either Deku Stick or Deku Nuts. The root, when burned, leaves behind a single 10 rupee piece. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hyrulian Adventures: Character Generation

Character Generation

These rules are based on Microlite and as such are Open Game Content.

PCs are human and hail from either Kakariko Village or Hyrule Castle Town. 

Roll 3d6 in order to determine your PC's Strength, Dexterity, and Mind ability scores. You may switch one score with another. Ability modifiers are as follows: Score minus 10, divided by 2, round down. 

There are no classes, nor do PCs gain levels. PCs can use any weapon and wear any armor, as long as they meet the minimum Strength requirement. 

A PC's starting Hit Points equal their Strength score plus 1d8. 

Armor Class equals 10 + Dexterity modifier + Armor Bonus. 

There are three different attacks a PC can make: Melee, Ranged, and Magical. Add Strength modifier to Melee Attacks, Dexterity modifier to Ranged Attacks, and Mind modifier to Magical Attacks. PCs do not start with any Magical Attack they can perform, but there are items they can find in-game which will allow them to. 

There are three saving throws: Fortitude, Reflex, and Willpower. PCs begin with a +4 modifier to each saving throw, plus ability score modifiers: Strength modifier to Fortitude, Dexterity modifier to Reflex, and Mind modifier to Willpower. When a saving throw is called for, a PC must roll a d20 and add their appropriate saving throw bonus. A total of 20 or more means they saved. 

Players start with 3d6 times 3 rupees, and a backpack and small money bag. 

PCs can carry a number of items up to their Strength score, including weapons and armor. 

Now, obviously, because they have no levels or bonuses from their classes, these starting characters are not quite as strong as standard Microlite characters. That is the idea; they are basically 0-level mooks to start. If they survive their first foray into the monster-infested wilderness, it won't be long before they find items to grow stronger and more powerful. Dungeons are filled with these types of treasures; they also abound in secret, hidden places in the wilderness, and can be bestowed on a PC by an NPC. 

The PCs begin knowing very little about the world. They know the area they are from, and the locations of other human settlements and the major landmarks of Hyrule (Death Mountain, Lake Hylia, etc). They know that beastly monsters have been seen in the wilderness, that Hyrule Castle Town is overrun with monsters, and that Hyrule Castle itself has been transformed into an evil fortress. They know the world has gone dark. Visibility outside is approximately 50 feet. 

The few soldiers that escaped with the refugees from Hyrule Castle Town are tasked with the defense of Kakariko. They have begun the process of forging weapons and armor and training able-bodied men and women to defend the town. 

At the beginning of the game, heavy weapons and armor are not yet available for sale in Kakariko Village, and won't be until the town is armed for defense to the liking of the soldiers. This process will take one month, unless the PCs help by taking weapons from monsters and donating them to the town. For every five weapons the PCs donate, the town becomes one day closer to being properly armed. 

The following items for adventuring can be found at the General Store:

Lantern (holds 1 pint of oil, visibility 20 ft): 10 rupees
Oil: 5 rupees per pint (pint lasts 4 hours)
Torch (burns 1 hour, visibility 20 ft): 1 rupee
Waterskin: 3 rupees
Rope 50 ft: 5 rupees
Grappling Hook: 10 rupees
Ten-foot pole: 1 rupee
Backpack: 5 rupees
Small Money bag (holds 50 individual rupees): 5 rupees
Flint and Steel: 5 rupees
Tent: 5 rupees
(Bug-Catching) Net: 5 rupees (use DEX bonus to catch something in the Net)
Bottle: 10 rupees

Leather AC +2  10 rupees
Studded Leather AC +3  30 rupees
Wooden Shield  AC +1 (Min STR 13) 10 rupees

Hand axe 1d6  10 rupees
Hunting knife 1d4  5 rupees
Staff 1d4  5 rupees
Bow and arrows 1d6 (Min STR 13) 20 rupees
Sling 1d4 (Monster must make a saving throw or be dazed for a round if attack scores a Critical hit)

Hyrule Historia

It is apparently Zelda week here at the Pack of Gnolls. This post outlines a bit more of my design philosophy for Hyrulian Adventures. Later today I will post the promised Character Generation guidelines.

The Legend of Zelda video game series has continued on for more than 25 years. Personally, I've played most of the games, but have only actually conquered two: Wind Waker and Twilight Princess. When you get down to it, I'm just not all that great at video games. 

One thing about the Legend of Zelda series that I personally find simultaneously interesting and inane, is the long-term debate over the Zelda Timeline(s). If you thought D&D edition wars were bad, check out the debates that rage every time a new Zelda game is released and throws the various timeline theories into chaos with new information. 

In December 2011, Nintendo released a book called the Hyrule Historia, which purports to be an "official" timeline of the video game series. It was only published in Japanese, so I'm relying on this Zelda wiki article

to get the gist of it all. While there are a couple of inconsistencies, overall it makes sense, I suppose. As the publisher's "official" word on the subject, I guess we have to accept it, but I personally think it's a load of bull. Nintendo has consistently pursued gameplay first in game development, and handled storyline after the fact. Certainly, some titles reference events in other games, and some are obviously direct sequels to what came before. There was never a grand design for a timeline for the games. I wouldn't be surprised when the debate is renewed again after the next game is published, and numerous details throw the entire thing once again into question (unless of course they include, in the instruction manual, exactly when amongst all titles and branching timelines this next game falls). 

Personally, I prefer to think of the games as "but one of the legends of which people speak", as stated at the beginning of The Wind Waker. This is my design philosophy as I develop my Microlite-based Legend of Zelda RPG. 

Each individual Zelda game is but a different version of the Triforce story: evil Ganon seeks the power of the Triforce, and the Hero, Link, must undertake an adventure to defeat Ganon and save Hyrule. In this table-top game, the Hero of Legend is defeated and it is up to the people of Hyrule (the PCs) to stop Ganon. 

I will be drawing inspiration from many of the different video game titles as I develop my Hyrule for my players to explore. This rendition does not fall into any place within the canonical timelines. It is Hyrule, it is plagued by evil, and it must be saved. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hyrulian Adventures: Basic Premise

Hyrule has known an age of peace and prosperity. All this changes quickly, however. First came three days of earthquakes, which have altered the landscape dramatically. Next came sightings of monsters in the wilderness. People began talking of ancient legends, and then a young man in green appeared, the Hero of Legend. He spent a few hours in Kakariko Village and then disappeared into the wilderness. 

Three days later, the land of Hyrule was plunged into an unnatural darkness. The sun is yet to rise. Refugees from Hyrule Castle Town have arrived in Kakariko Village, telling stories of demons stalking the streets and the overnight change of the Castle itself into a terrifying fortress, and no one knows what is become of the Royal Family. 

The village sage fears the worst: Ganondorf has returned, seeking the ancient power of the Triforce, and the Hero of Legend has fallen. Legend says that if the Hero falls, the Triforce of Courage will be broken into nine pieces and scattered across the land. These pieces must be recovered before Ganon finds them! 

Hyrulian Adventures: Initial Thoughts

Translating the Legend of Zelda video games to a tabletop D&D RPG has, thus far, been an interesting thought experiment. There are numerous conventions within the video game series that strain credulity within a D&D context. Here are a couple examples I am contending with as I build "my" Hyrule. 

Artificial barriers in the maps. In the NES Legend of Zelda, bushes and rocks were often used to block Link's progress or separate parts of the map. Obviously, these types of barriers make little sense in D&D, as clever players can easily get around them. These include the common convention, ever since Link to the Past, of requiring certain items to open up new parts of the map, such as the mallet or the power bracelet. 

Bottles. Why are there only three or four bottles Link can use to carry things in, but endless supplies of ceramic jars to break? Why can't Link just buy a simple glass bottle in a store? 

Obviously, these things serve a certain purpose within the video games that are probably unnecessary in a table-top game. The trick is identifying which tropes exist purely as a limiting factor in-game, and twist them in such a way that they still serve a purpose in the table-top world and are fun and rewarding for the players to find. 

One of the coolest things about the original NES Legend of Zelda was that a clever player could get all the way to the final battle with Ganon without ever getting a sword. You weren't funnelled along from Dungeon A to B to C. You could go take on several different dungeons, right from the beginning, if you could find them. Very little was blocked off, in the sense that it required an item key of some sort to access. That alone speaks volumes about how much the original game relied on player exploration, skill and ingenuity. I don't want to force my players along a certain, predetermined path to get to the end. I want to give them a world to explore, secrets to uncover, problems to solve, and great rewards for doing so. 

Tomorrow: Character Generation

Friday: Monster theory and samples

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Zeldaspiration: Hyrulian Adventures

The Legend of Zelda video games have always served as great inspiration for me, and my wheels have really been turning lately. I've always wanted to be able to run adventures in Hyrule as a table-top RPG, but I always run into the same problem when I start working on it: the story is always focused on a single character. While this would be okay for one-on-one gaming, it's not really what I'm after. 

Instead, I want to capture the essence of what makes the gameplay fun and interesting and apply it to Microlite-type D&D. 

Puzzles, riddles, secrets: this is a huge part of what makes Zelda games fun, but obviously this aspect will be confined to adventure/dungeon/world design. I want to make this as old-school as possible. Characters won't be making any "search checks".

No levels. All growth in character power is by way of earned items. This is something I love about the games. It doesn't matter how many monsters you kill or rupees you collect, you've still got to earn the Master Sword by solving the riddles to find it. 

Sandbox. The first two Zelda titles on the NES featured big, wide-open sandboxes to explore. There were hidden secrets everywhere, it seemed. Some places were much more dangerous than others, and it was easy to get in over your head. 

I will basically be developing a sandbox setting and a set of Microlite-based rules to go hand-in-hand, specifically for running Hyrule-esque adventures with my kids. They are all in love with the Legend of Zelda video games, and table-top adventuring in this style with all of them should be tons of fun. 

This won't mean the end of our Night Below Underdark adventures on Sunday, however! That game will continue on Sundays. 

Zeldaspiration: Old School Zelda

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Very interesting article here about the Legend of Zelda series' evolution through the years.

What is really fascinating is how closely the Legend of Zelda's evolution as a video game mirrors the evolution of D&D, from the little brown books to 4E and Essentials. 
I actually had a whole post written up analyzing this, but I realized it was probably going to wind up baiting edition warriors and Zelda fanatics, and the last thing I want to deal with here is any kind of flame war. I had a lot of thoughts on it all, but I don't want to come off as demeaning any of the many editions of D&D; I own books from every edition and I find them all useful in running my Microlite games. 

Anyway, if you're interested, it's a fascinating read and I think offers some good advice for D&D game masters, especially those familiar with The Legend of Zelda. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sunday Game Day

We were short a player, so instead of playing D&D yesterday, we played a bunch of different games with my father-in-law. 

We played:

Magic: the Gathering. My nine-year-old son is getting better and better at this one. He's getting pretty good at finding synergies between cards and using them in-game, though I'd like to see him be more aggressive. He tends to build up a lot of creatures before launching any attacks. So far it's worked, but I'll have an answer for it soon. 

Munchkin. My gnome bard won it what turned out to be a nailbiter. I only won by calling in my doppleganger reinforcement. 

Poo, which is a very silly game about monkeys flinging their poo at each other. I got covered in poo very quickly and was out first. 

Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer is a deck-building game. The primary goal of the game is to collect the most "Honor", which is earned by defeating monsters and collecting certain cards. 

Quarriors is similar to deck-building games, but your "deck" is comprised of different dice that you then have to roll. 

Thunderstone is yet another deck-building game, with a very D&D type of theme to it. You can either buy stuff in town, weapons, characters, items, spells, or you can go fight one of three monsters waiting in the local dungeon. 

These deck-building games are pretty interesting. I wasn't too keen on them at first, but they've definitely grown on me the more I've played them. My oldest son has grokked them pretty well and tends to win. They don't require the massive time investment of Magic: the Gathering and deliver a fun competitive experience. I probably won't pick any up, as my father-in-law has an extensive library and we typically only play them when we go over there. We have been playing a lot of Magic at home, though, and I'm very much enjoying getting back into that whole thing. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Actual Play: Kids' Campaign: Cleaning Up Haranshire

When last we left our intrepid adventurers, they had just cleared the Bloodskull Orcs out of the caves and discovered a tunnel going down, where they met the Svirfneblin, the deep gnomes. 

They have also gained a couple of NPC party members: Snagged, a fourth level dwarf fighter, and Farmer George, a zero-level human who will eventually level up to a first level fighter. 

The Svirfneblin met them and gave them some more, though limited, information about what is happening in the Underdark. They know the dark dwarves have been taking magic-capable humanoids below, and they know that illithids are involved. 

The gnomes are not eager to trust surface dwelling adventurers. They are fearful that foolish adventurers might lead the dark dwarves or the mind flayers back to the gnomes, and wipe them out. To earn their trust, the party must help the gnomes out. Two tribes of trolls dwell nearby, who are constantly warring with each other; wiping out the trolls would greatly improve the gnomes' local security situation. 

The party recognized that large numbers of trolls may be a bit beyond their capabilities, despite their growing arsenal of magical items. The gnomes offered to lead them back to the surface to make preparations, with the caveat that they have about ten days before the dark dwarves will return and discover the slaughter of the orcs. 

The party returned topside. Snagger the Dwarf was eager to hunt down the bandits who kidnapped him. With the help of the ranger Kuiper, they tracked the bandits to the old abandoned Garlstone Mines. They made short work of the bandits there, including the evil priest leaders; they also finally got to take out Ranchefus, the escaped leader of the kidnappers from Broken Spire Keep.

This earned them a decent cache of magical weapons, items, and potions, as well as enough experience for the cleric, the magic-user, and one of the elf fighters to level up. 

With about a week left before their scheduled rendezvous with the Svirfneblin, they decided to go investigate the mystery of the New Mire. The New Mire, up until a couple years ago, wasn't called that. It was fertile, abundant farmland and forest. Something caused the area to become waterlogged, and no one knows what. "Blue Demons" have been spotted in the Mire, and the party quickly recognizes goblin tracks. 

They track the goblins to their lair, and discover they are, indeed, blue. Instead of slaying them outright (the goblins are quite cowardly, and have never harmed any local humans, though they have swiped some chickens and sheep), the cleric led negotiations, and they soon discovered the magic ring worn by the goblin shaman: a Ring of Water Elemental Control. They convinced him to give it up in a trade that was much to their advantage (the goblin was unaware of the ring's true power). 

Further interrogation of the shaman revealed that the goblin found the ring in the now sealed off caverns below their lair. The way can be opened, and the party is eager to see what else is below... 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Have a Dungeon

Whew, it's been a minute! Been busy getting life around the house straightened out. We're expecting a baby boy in June, which requires a good deal of moving the other children around in the house, painting rooms, and all sorts of other work. Work work work. Which has left me completely unable to keep up with blogging here at the ole Pack of Gnolls.

However, it seems most of the work is complete, and I have some more time now to produce some more material for this here blog. 

In the next couple of days, I'll post an update on how the Kids' Campaign is going. We've had two sessions since my last report, and they are about ready to start delving into the Underdark. However, next session will be an exploration of this cavern complex: 

If you're at all familiar with the AD&D 2E "Night Below" box set module, this cavern complex exists below the caves in which the "Goblins of the Ring" from Book 1, The Evils of Haranshire, reside. The PCs are about to explore these caverns, as this is where the goblin shaman found his malfunctioning Ring of Water Elemental Control, and they've been blocked off ever since, due to some big nasty monsters that lair down there. 

Now all I need is to figure out what goes where... 

In the upper middle part is an arrow, which is the passageway that leads up to the goblin lair. In the bottom right is a passageway that leads to further caverns below. I'm sure this cave system eventually winds up in the Underdark. The pit in area F probably goes down to a lower level as well. I probably could have ordered the letters for keying the damn thing a little better, but it's late, I've had a few beers, and I gave blood today, so I don't care. 

Feel free to use this map in your own game, or write up your own key for it. I don't care. I just put it on the internet, which means it's free for everyone. I would appreciate a comment below if you do use it, or post it somewhere else. 

PS: the baby's name will be Avery Linn Sullivan