Friday, March 15, 2019

First Session of B4 The Lost City

Well, had an interesting game last night. The players dutifully set about exploring the lost city. Although I gave them the pep talk about how not everything wants to kill them, they quickly settled on a policy of attack first, talk when you have prisoners.

They chased a group of Cynidiceans down to the second tier, completely bypassing any of the Brotherhood of Gorm, their first real encounter being with some hobgoblins and then a party of Warrior Maidens of Madarua. They settled on killing most of them, taking one alive, and considering what to do. It was eventually agreed that they would go meet Pandora and convince them of their resolve to aid them in overthrowing Zargon.

This was tough for me as GM. On the one hand, the party had killed four of the warrior maidens, but, then again, I figured Pandora could use the extra muscle in the fights against everyone else. To move the game along and give some opportunity to the players to engage, I decided that Pandora would give them a mission before they could become 'friends' of the warrior maidens. A quick scan of the map, and I decided to send them to kill the Draco in room 13. That's going to be for next session, but, provided the players pull it off, I think Pandora is going to manipulate them into weakening the other factions as her deniable shock troops, then sick them on Zargon.

The game went well, I had prepared by making some 1PDs of each tier, and reading through some play reports. I think I should have had some more thought put into the random encounters, so I was ready to play it out when they turned up, and some more thought into each of the factions (though I hadn't presumed the players would get this far...). I've got some more work to do before the next fortnight, but it should be good.

The players definitely seemed to appreciate the openness of B/X, and the simplicity with which it ran. For the sake of survival, I gave each player a henchman. The first was killed by friendly fire, the other by a warrior maiden, leaving only the three party members and one surviving henchman. The 'shields shall be splintered' rule has definitely demonstrated to them just how deadly this game can be at first level...

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Lost City

Well, after far too long, I've finally remembered I had a blog... Turns out I've missed much drama, some good ideas, and interesting developments in the old OSR space.

For my part, I've had intermittent gaming, got bored with a project of converting 1/72 miniatures into my own sci fi setting for wargaming with FAD, and now wondering whether I can afford Star Wars Legion.

But, the most pressing part, is that I am finally starting a new campaign this week: B4 the Lost City, except I've taken a leaf from that one blog whose name I forget, so now everyone are Vikings looting the city.

I've done my prep of converting the levels into 1PD, and reading Philotomy's old play reports to consider what I can change and what may happen in the game. Decided that the basic premise will be that the players are doing their summer raiding and looting. The thane decided a great idea would be to serve as mercenaries in a war brewing in the desert kingdoms (that may or may not be the Emirates of Ylaurum, or else my own setting. For now, vague enough...). Unfortunately, said war has cooled down, leaving a bunch of Vikings in their own temporary settlement looking for cash. The players, being enterprising fellows, have hired a guide who claims to know the location of a lost city and, after being stuck in a sandstorm and deserted by said guide, who took their food and water to boot, have finally arrived. Cue manipulating weird factions, freaking out drugged Cynidiceans, and running off to civilisation.

The basic rules are B/X. I'm open to players' wants, but will probably end up throwing in skills and weapon mastery from the RC, giving everyone max hp at 1st level, and definitely using the classic shields shall be splintered rule. I haven't decided yet, but I'm highly tempted to use this wonderful death and dismemberment table. Mostly out of hope that the players will roll something in the 20s...

Everyone also starts with a buddy, a normal man retainer. I rolled up all their equipment, traits, &c using Kellri's wonderful Encounters reference. Plus, for my own entertainment, using this gem of a 1PD in the hopes I get a TPK.

In general, though, I must say I'm impressed with the design of B4, having only bought it last week thanks to RPGNow's sale. It's simple, maybe not logical, but well designed in slowly introducing new players into the factions, non-deadly traps at the start, the dead hobgoblin to get them thinking about traps, and so on. I'm modifying as I go (i.e. no more random stirges in a sealed room...), but I'm looking forward to it. Nothing sounds more entertaining than three slightly odd factions, coupled with the varied possibilities from encountering the Cynidiceans. I'm ruling that it's a five-day journey back to the viking settlement, so players can get more supplies and do other things if they get bored of a dungeon. I'll also adopt the burial rules from here. Someone modified it by saying a new character starts with 25% of their predecessor's xp; 50% if they get a proper burial (sadly I forget the blog). This seems appropriately viking to me, so will be gleefully chucked into my hodge-podge D&D game.

Oddly enough, for most of the players, this is their first introduction to D&D. One has played 5e, so this will be a bit of a shock... Anyway, I'm hoping for some good old, OSR, sword and sorcery manipulating, chopping, running away, and negotiating with strange people. Let's see if I keep up with the blog!

Monday, October 6, 2014


I don't whether many of you have heard of the game Maelstrom. It's a wonderful gem of British roleplaying from the eighties, but has now been republished by Arion Games. Some might groan at the reprint of a thirty or so year old roleplaying game, but I must say that this is a reason for celebration, not tears.

Maelstrom, or so I read somewhere or other, was even an influence on the Warhammer roleplaying game, and it shows. The game plays like some wonderful Warhammer Light, but more in the spirit of OD&D than anything else. Skills? Well, each class basically says "well, you're good at this and this and this", with the exception of a few special abilities for mercenaries, wizards, and priests, etc.

Now, I'll be the first to admit, this game does have some flaws and lacks some information. For example, it has numerous different types of swords listed with both their price and their damage. Yet it fails to say what swords they are; the period it is set in was rife with guns, yet no mention is ever made of them. The Maelstrom Companion does fix this up, not that I own it, but so I have been informed. Despite these little flaws here and there, this is nothing one cannot fix with some fairly logical rulings, or maybe even a dip into wfrp, if you're already so inclined to that game.

In short, this is definitely one of my favourite games, right up there with Dungeons & Dragons, Tunnels & Trolls, and Traveller. After all, what other game ends a quick fight with a zombie biting off a character's finger, while the wizard attempts to crush the skull of another villain?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Catching Up

If you saw the date between yesterday's post and the one before that, you would quickly realise that I've been out of the loop for rather a long time. So I have some questions that need answering:

(i) shocked about Grognardia. Totally did not see that coming. Does anyone know what happened to Maliszewski?

(ii) is Fight On! still a thing?

(iii) did that Fight On! random tables book ever get published?

Gilgamesh and the End-Game

Much has been said elsewhere, and more times than I can count, about the end game of Dungeons & Dragons. Yet, not much is said of how the characters are to be, well... still characters even as they run around destroying countless kingdoms with their hordes of level 0 pawns, minions, or whatever you want to call them.

This seems a bit bizarre, and I should probably elaborate; after all, no one likes a writer who keeps the reader in the dark through lack of explanation. As part of my uni work, I've been rereading The Epic of Gilgamesh. If you don't know it, essentially an Assyrian poem about a king who kills some demons, loses his best friend, and then attempts to achieve immortality. All fairy standard fare for an ancient heroic poem. Yet here is something which seems to stand out when you think of Gilgamesh in the roleplaying paradigm (if I may be excused for being a hip person, but I can't seem to find any other word): Gilgamesh isn't just a character who was a mighty warrior or what-have-you when he was young, who then became king and retired to a life of city-burning with hordes of soldiers. Rather, with the epic, this is where Gilgamesh's story begins.

The poem opens with the people of Uruk (the city over which Gilgamesh rules) lamenting to the gods, because Gilgamesh spends his time being a Bad King, picking fights with the men and sleeping with all the women: rather standard behaviour for any adventurer, I'm sure we'll all agree. Isn't this exactly the kingdom of a player character? A mighty warrior, for sure, and one who has probably had much success and performed many great and heroic deeds in past years, which is why he is now king. But just because one is a hero does not mean one is a Good King. And so the gods create a man to be his rival, to distract him from oppressing the poor people of Uruk, and the pair become firm friends and decide to kill a mighty demon, as any normal person does when confronted with the thoughts of their meagre mortality.

From here, the epic really gets going: they slay the demon, Humbaba, and so Ishtar (goddess of love, sex, and war. They are vaguely related in the ancient Mesopotamian mind) attempts to seduce Gilgamesh, who spurns her (again, what player wouldn't spurn a goddess for a laugh, or at the very least attempt to manipulate her into giving them stuff?), and so she summons down the Bull of Heaven (i.e. the star constellation), which Gilgamesh and his friend kill. The gods being rather unfair, they decide this was a Bad Thing, and so they kill Enkidu, Gilgamesh's friend. Awkward.

Gilgamesh, being rather upset when confronted with the fact that all of his mighty deeds will simply end in his being a rotting corpse, runs away from the city to try and find immortality, and almost gets it, but not quite. If you really want to know all the details, go and read it for yourself; if a German poet can appreciate it, so can anyone!

This is what got me thinking. Too much emphasis is placed on how the players get to be kings in the grand end game, and then from there on how the players run around feeling rather awkward, because it seems as there is not too much to do when you're a level twenty something with +10 vorpal blade of absolute death, who also happens to be ruler over the Empire of Generic Yet Foreboding Fantasy Name. In short, they end up as Gilgamesh: great heroes, far above the common, mortal men, who just do not know how to rule. Where do they go from here?

This is the main trouble I have always had with the end game. How do you keep the players interested in playing their mighty demi-gods without being bored out of their minds? Personally, I plan on taking a leaf out of the four thousand or so year old Mesopotamian's book, and shoving the mortality of their characters into the players' faces. The gods don't care that you've destroyed Zot the Archwarlock, you're still going to die, and your subjects? They'll remember you as the violent hero who just couldn't cut it as a king. Threaten the kingdom with more than just invaders, challenge them to do something great for their kingdom, for all humanity even. Tempt them with the immortality, either true immortality or the immortality of being a Good King.

At least, that's all I can think of the subject. Has anyone else an inkling on how else to run these end games?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Roleplaying and History

Someone just commented on my post on arms and armour in Mesopotamia, saying how they had used it for extra research for a school project, which made me realise how much role playing has influenced my life, and, I think I would be justified in saying, all of our lives.

Role playing really started my love for history, researching into various periods to add an extra level of detail to my role playing, before it became an interest of its own. Before long, I had taken to history just because I loved it, and started to learn both Akkaddian and Koine Greek as extensions of my interest.

Because of this little bit of research I once did for Dungeons & Dragons, I studied several units of history, and am looking to get a B. A., probably majoring in history. Because of this one thing, I got far more involved in literature, reading the ancient epics. I am not ashamed to say that I only read Spenser's The Fairie Queene because of Scott's blog (the current one's name escapes me at this moment), and his mention of it as canon for his campaign setting.

It was, quite simply, mainly from the Fairie Queene that I took to reading more poetry, above the little I was forced to read for schoolwork, and actually found myself loving the literature.

In short, role playing games formed me. They shaped me into the man I am today. Where will they lead me? I don't know, but that is life. This, I believe, could be said of all of us.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Apology and Note of Interest

First off, I must apologise for the lack of posts, and also mention that they are highly unlikely to pick up anytime soon, due to uni work and other stuff happening in my life, so sorry about that. I'll try to post something, but it probably won't happen...

Also: James Hutchings. Don't know if you remember him, but he's the guy behind Age of FableTeleleli, as well as the author of The New Death and Other Stories. Well, he's writing an online serial, which is pulp superhero detective. It's called 'The Case of the Syphiliptic Sister', and you can read the first chapter online here.

It seems quite interesting, as well as fairy amusing, and I am definitely looking forward to the other chapters of his novel!