Monday, March 26, 2012

Dim Carcosa, or darn that Shub-Niggurath... dim Carcosa.
About 10 days ago I managed to run a G+ session of Geoffrey McKinney's Supplement V: Carcosa, now available in a gorgeous edition bound in human, some sort of extremely tactile substance. Sadly, my own copy is a printed-out version of the original edition, as it were, but as soon as I become independently wealthy, I'll spring for the Finlandian volume.

I've wanted to game in Carcosa ever since it first came out, but seeing as how at the time my oldest son was usually playing in our sessions, I needed to bide my time. G+ sessions are by there temporal nature (for me at least) kid-unfriendly, so I finally got my wish. I grabbed the Carcosan Grimoire (extremely helpful, and I believe its contents are included in the current edition), hunted down my copy of Fight On! #4, containing Geoffrey's Carcosan intro adventure (also now included in the revised edition), and was ready to go. Will and Shane joined me online, having already created basic characters (both Fighting Men--no Sorcerers this time out). I decided on the ODD rules, but with the stat bonuses from Labyrinth Lord, just 'cause. I also started them both out at second level, since there were only two of them. We Carcosa'd them by choosing color and, from the Grimoire, by adding names and a specific item of clothing for each, which gave us:

  • He of Mercy, Neutral Green Warrior, wearing Translucent Chains. (Will)
  • The Unanswerable Wind, Lawful Ulfire Warrior, wearing Precious Chains. (Shane)
I started them right on the southern edge of the desert, spending the night in burnt-out ruins while in search of treasure. They swiftly encountered a gigantic flying edifice shaped like a kneeling woman clutching at her veiled face, which loomed out of the black night and settled next to their campsite. A being inside sent them on a dream flight across the desert and into caves on the far side, where they viewed a disturbing statuette of greenish-black stone, somewhat reminiscent of a Great Old One whose name rhymes with "Hulu". The entity suggested they retrieve the statue, and waking to find the edifice gone, they decided to comply.

Thence followed the gathering of dried Black Lotus leaves from an enigmatic statue; a quick and brutal fight with some yellow cannibals; more antagonism involving White Lotus zombies and the death of The Unanswerable Wind; the discovery of a heretofore unnoticed captive of the zombies, a Chaotic Blue Warrior named Uttermost Grace of War; the drinking of a potion in an alchemist's lab which promptly turned UGoW into a green man (much to the delight of He of Mercy); an avoidance of a group of Deep Ones; and the final death of both Warriors in battle with a foul Spawn of Shub-Niggurath in the form of a bone-white arachnid creature with burning yellow eyes and plethora of small fanged mouths as they back-tracked through a storage room. Thus the adventure ended, though not before rolling up two new characters:

  • The Uttermost Ravishment, Orange Warrior, wearing a Leather Robe
  • Shining Life of the Eyes, Orange Warrior, wearing Tight Weapons (?)
Immediate synopsis: We had a blast! It's such a weird setting, I don't think any of us really knew what to expect from encounter to encounter. The wacky dice-rolling turned out to be a lot of fun. In fact, I'm pretty sure I'll use this type of dicing whatever version of ODD I'm running. It's great because it really makes combat uncertain and actually exciting, and you're throwing all the dice all the time, which is always fun.

I'm excited to run it again, and in the quest to find some character sheets, I was tipped off to a limited-edition Carcosan game-aid, which I'll share more about as soon as it arrives in the mail...

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Pe Choi. Tekumelyani race. Elegant philosophers and most friendly with humans.
As many of you have no doubt already heard, Professor M.A.R. Barker died peacefully yesterday in his Minneapolis home, in the presence of loved ones. He will be sorely missed, and the work of The Tekumel Foundation is even more important.

I never got to meet the Professor (though I live in Minneapolis), though I came close once. Nevertheless, his creations have enriched and inspired me for almost 25 years. Tekumel products, including the newly published facsimile copy of the pre-published, playtest rules for The Empire of the Petal Throne can be found here and here.

I was privileged to fulfill a longtime dream of mine and publish three Tekumel-related illustrations in the pages of Fight On! Magazine, issues 5-7, as well a couple of others scattered about. In the best memorial I can think of, I've posted them here.

Thank you, Professor, for everything you gave us. Long Live the Petal Throne!

Pygmy Folk. Tekumelyani race. Will steal you blind. And then steal your eyes.
Ahoggya. Tekumelyani race. Will pretty much eat anything. Including you, if you look like you're dead...
Grandpa Aqqa. Shall we say, a devoted worshiper of the Lord of Worms.

Hra. A terrible undead creature found far too often in the Underworlds.

Shunned One. A mysterious race living in gas-filled dome cities.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Target 20: Me likey...

This post at the Aspiring Lich led me to this document: Target 20. I feel pretty sure I've read it before, but must not have been in the right mindset to appreciate it. I really like it--it pretty much solves all my statistical and neurotic hesitations about ditching to-hit charts and not liking ascending AC (and getting my kid to practice adding on the fly!)

The only weak spot seems to be thief skills. I can see how it works for almost all of the skills as they stand except for Climb Walls, which starts out much higher to begin with. Maybe give that particular skill a +3 modifier to the roll?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Dungeon Crawl #1 & some awesome paper minis...

Wayne Rossi, over at Semper Initiativus Unum has published his own modest 'zine, Dungeon Crawl. I laid down my $2.50, and promptly received said 'zine. This is something that seems like it might be a burgeoning phenomenon: content that could easily have been provided as a download (free or otherwise) being printed and mailed. I'll admit, I was strangely pleased to get this in the mail, in an envelope. Here it is:

Six pages of content:

  1. Introduction 
  2. Random trap charts
  3. Magic items and monsters
  4. Monsters
  5. New Magic User spells
  6. One-page dungeon
I like the intro 'cause I'm always interested to hear about the process. Some might be slightly annoyed that an entire sixth of the document was devoted to an intro, but I'm not one of them. The traps are fairly generic, except for the death ray results, which were pretty awesome. Six magic items, each with an elemental focus, as per the intro, all of which I could see myself using. The five monsters are quirky, one of which (the Ypotryll) I'm immediately going to use as a riding beast in my campaign. I coulda done without the Shocker Lizards. Five new Magic User spells, four of which were 1st level, one of which was 4th level. I don't usually use spells from outside sources (I'm not sure why that is), but it'd be fun for characters to find the aftermath of a Sand Storm spell clogging a room in the dungeon...

Last but not least, the first level of an apparently ongoing Dungeons of Tsalonia. This is presented in the One Page Dungeon Template, of which I'm a big fan. This of course means that descriptions, etc., are left to be fleshed out by the individual DM, which some might dislike.

My favorite room description:

32 - In the center of this room is a pit trap (trapdoor type). In the pit is a bear (HD 4, AC 6). The bear is quite hungry.

This is very much an oldschool dungeon, in that there's no attempt at Gygaxian Naturalism. Insert into campaign map, and away you go. :)

Overall: I felt it was worth $2.50. Will I by another? Most likely.

On another tack entirely, check out this excellent bunch of free paper minis, with basing instructions. Just click on the pictures themselves to download your legions. I can relate to this line:

So, if you prefer wargaming to painting models, and if you want to finish projects and play before hell freezes, paper can be a solution for you.

Amen, brother.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Tomb of the Elephant

Our last-minute game of Chainmail-as-RPG last Friday went swimmingly, for a number of reasons:

  1. G+ Hangouts rock! We lost Will towards the end, but he gamely hung on with through IM.
  2. I finally got to freaking test some of the dynamics of Fantasy Supplement combat. Lots of good info!
So it was me, Will and Kris playing, with my Tom literally just hanging out for a bit. We whipped up characters in a matter of minutes. I gave each of them the option of up to 3HD of followers, so Will made Eric the Hero and his henchmen, um, now I'm forgetting (and I don't have my notes in front of me...)... Charles, Frederick, and Rupert? I'm sure of Rupert... Each one was a 1HD Veteran. Kris made a Wizard (which as Will pointed out, is worth 100 army building pts as compared to 20 for his Hero...) named Biwulf (?) with a 3HD pet giant spider named Fuzzy. We decided on the spot that Fuzzy would attack as a Lycanthrope.

When Biwulf had a scroll slipped into his pocket by a mumbling, disturbingly large-eared man in the back streets of Mad Dog's Defeat, it turned out to have a map to a dungeon referred to as The Elephant's Tomb, they headed out to try their luck. Finding it obscured by undergrowth (see picture above), they headed through the door, and soon had reason to try out the combat rules.

In a large room smeared and cluttered with the blood and cracked bones of dead adventurers, they ran afoul of the terrible Minoderm (Pachytaur?)! This was one for the Fantasy Combat table, so Eric's henchmen were out of the running. Eric, Biwulf, and Fuzzy engaged in combat, with the Minoderm throwing a spear and lodging it in Eric's shield. Eric tried to crack it over the head with the haft of it's own spear, but was thrown across the room for his troubles. Then ensued an entirely-too-long-and-drawn-out-combat, since I had decided NOT to make the FCT instant death when hit. I gave the Minoderm 6HD, and that turned it into a hit/missmissmissmiss/hit kinda thing. That was Lesson #1.

After defeating the Minoderm, they headed into another room filled with swirling darkness and sparkling, swooping lights. Biwulf sensed something magic in the center of the room, headed forward, and was instantly swallowed up in darkness. Eric, alarmed headed in after him with Rupert, but their torches gave off very little light, and seemed to attract swarms of the glittering lights. As Biwulf approached what became clear as an elephant statue in the middle of the room, which was belching forth the swirling dark, Eric and company were attacked by swiftly-moving, small, shadowy beings who zipped in and out of the tiny radius of their torchlight.

As Biwulf engaged in a contest of wills with the statue, Eric and Rupert battled desperately for their lives. I treated the shadowy attackers as goblins, and we used the Combat Table, meant for mass battles, for individual combat (Lesson #2). Rupert was taken out almost immediately, and Eric managed to hold his own while taking damage. Biwulf kept rolling all four of his HD, trying to score a single six. It took awhile, but as soon as he made it, the darkness all sucked back into the statue, and the shadowy beings disappeared. As did Rupert. Eric was alive, if somewhat tattered. Biwulf gathered up the stature, and everyone hightailed it back to town.

Lesson #1: I like using the FCT, but for next time it's going to be one-hit death. Eric's henchmen can help him, with each one aiding lowering his foe's roll by one. However, everytime the foe hits, it comes at the expense of a henchman. The idea is that while they can't help the Hero actually harm the Fantastic Creature, they can distract it for awhile. The same would be true for Biwulf and Fuzzy, except we decided that Fuzzy, being a giant spider (big enough for Biwulf to ride on), could also attack on the FCT as a lycnanthrope.

Lesson #2: I don't know why, but I've been obsessed for awhile with using the Combat Table for Man-to-Man combat. In the end, even though the Hero is getting four rolls at a time, it doesn't generate enough hits in comparison to his Heroic designation. I imagine it has something to do with the fact that when you use the CT in actual mass combat, you're rolling 20 six-siders for each figure (1:20 scale), and for the Hero, on the battlefield, he rolls as four figures, so you do the math. Next time, we'll give the good ol' Man-to-Man table a try. 

Oh, and I used a combination of Dave's Mapper and Zak S.'s Instadungeon to whip up the Tomb of the Elephant in about 15 minutes. For my money, these are two of the most useful dungeon creation tools I've ever seen. Zak also just whipped up Instaregion, the outdoors version of the Instadungeon; just add Vornheim, and you're set for life.