Posts Tagged ‘preview’

fortress-viewThe group was slightly smaller than usual, which meant it was normal sized, with me,and six participants gathered round table: Doc the barb, Reya the wiz, Gnome the dwarf cler, The fightress Zubizu and the Monk Evil Sheva. Oh and lets not forget the ferret small business owner, Jambunathon ranger-wizard. On the menu was fan favorite and last minute substitutin: three full bags of dollar menu items from nearest fast food restaurant. Game set, play.

The party was back in town, reaping the rewards of their scesful delve. They had hundreds of gold, an went on a spending spree. Their first encounter was an obsequious fellow who introduced himself as the aid to Al Swaggerty, proprietor of the infaous Gemstone Dance Hall. The hall offered special “welcome back heroes” parties for the cost of 50 gold. For 100 gold, they offered drinks on the house for everyone. The party was not interested in a party, but were eventually convinced to pay 9 gold for a round on the house, which included a cheer in their honor. It was at this point Al Sawggerty asked what he should call them, suggesting “The Special Bunch.”



No one in the band of adventurers liked this name, and instead came up with “The Flaming Ferrets” to which Al Swaggerty responded “The flamings WHATS?” and they were like yes thats it.

Other town hijinx ensued, including a visit to the town wizard Llywellyn, who offered them a reward of 500 gold and two scrolls of their choice, if they would return a spellbook of his. It was stolen by a runaway apprentice believed to have gone into the Frotress of the Evil Overlord with the book on a quest for adventure and plunder. He was not expected to have made it very far.

Al Swaggerty tried to sell them property, mentionind that only property owneres were considered citizens (and therefore above the law) but all others were considered outsiders and potential law-breakers.

The dwarf cleric performed a message of prayer in the streets, with aid from both the ranger-wizard and the very succesful wiz. Together they raked in 20 gold and also twenty devout followers. The cleric then sold these to the local “Church of All Folk” who offered ten gold a head for “new converts.” They were quickly chained up by a burly guard with a whip and four bugbear helpers.

The fightress was outraged and bought the converts freedom, habing to spend 300 gold to set them free. The slaver made 100 gold and the people, including a few orphan children who spent their lives “hiding from priest of the all-folk” all scattered back into the muddy streets of Deadrock without even a thanks to Zubizu. Later when the wiz found out about the slavery attempt, she tried to boot the dwarf from the party. Both the monk and dwarf cleric aqre both lawful evil, and were able to remain in the party.

The next day they started on an uneventful three-day journey to the fortress. Upon arrival at the fortresss, they took a moment to inspect. A mile long stair led up to a large central plaza, with halls to left and right, and a small black pyramid in the center. Behind the pyramid was a mountain of rubble from the ancient ruins, and the actual mountains beyond. The right side was mostly explored, and above it towered the ruins of the Fell Tower, which they had also partially explored after being captured by the blue kobolds. The left side was so far unexplored and was below the also mysterious Dwarf Tower, a squat, square construction with a half-destroyed tower, exposed and leaning overhead.

First they approached the black pyramid. Legend spoke of the tomb of the original evil overlord, known only as War Duke, haunted still by his ghost. The journey into his tomb could lead to riches or death. The ferret went into the narrow door, down the confined stairds and into the constrictive hallway, which led to an arched opening, beyond which was misty and unclear. The monk was first to enter, and found herself in a sandy chamber filled with large gold disks half buried in the sand.


Suddenly the ghostly image of Warduke materialized, provoking a roll for surprise, then initiative, both of which the monk won. She struck just as the orc was preparing to swing his migthy great axe, and connected, the orc instantly vanished and she was able to take a single disk fromt he chamber. It was worth 1,000 gold. Everyone in turn fought and defeated the warduke until Zubizu, who lost initiaive and was struck for one hit point of PERMANENT damage, and knocked out of the chamber after being laughed at by the orc ghost boss. Luckily she was able to return and defeat the orc and won a thousand gold piece disk, The dwarf cleric was not so luckily and lost a total of four hit points before giving up without a disk. She was very angry.

Next they went to the left side of the first level. Right off the main hallway was a set of double doors which led to a huge chamber with pillars and a vaulted ceiling. The northern section was colapsed. They searched the pillars, sheped like womens bodies with animal heads, to no avail, but found a door hidden by the rubble. This led to a hallway, which the ferret explored. The hallway turned sharpely, with a small square window, and three doors around a corner. When the ferret leapt into the window,a goblin shouted “Breeyark!” and the party hastily retreated back into the pillared hall. They fought the six goblins as they emereged from the door, with the monk taking out the first wave, and the wizard frying most of the rest with a flaming hand.

The Flaming Whats made short work of the goblins and then searched the room with the window, finding it to be a now abandoned guard room, empty except for a table and six stools. The table held some gaming dice and 54 gold, or 9 apiece, and we ended there. (Were the gaming dice for a fantasy goblin version of dungeons and dragons? Perhaps…)

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tpk3There were friends, there was pizza, there was cherry vodka with sierra mist free (surprisingly good, perhaps even surpassing strawberry crush – and diet even!) and a good night of gaming. Lets see where did it start…

The party was standing in a hall somewhere, having just slain a procession of orcs. They entered the Flag chamber from the double doors at the end of the long hall. While discovering ancient and expensive flags and banners, they also disturbed a nest of two volts, flying creatures with big mouths at one end and a whip-like electrified tail at the other. Known as ‘electric eels of the air’ the creatures wreaked havoc before being slain. They found a magic banner which radiates a resistance to fear.

Needing to rest, the party camped out in the flag chamber, and spent a tense but quiet night. Moving out the next morning, they chose to return to the chamber with the lightning bolt trap. They miscalculated, believing the trap to be mechanical in nature, and once again the kobolds behind the door unleashed a lightning bolt. This time the entire party was in the room (I presumed) and all but two characters were dropped below zero. The kobolds burst into the room while the elf ranger and cleric tried to save as many fallen comrades as possible. (tpk: total party kill.)

Every tpk is different, and often some of the party survives. The most typical case is when a player is absent, or the character escapes, but in this case, saving for half damage allowed these two members, both of whom had healing spells, to survive. The ensuing battle however, with more lightning bolts, and six kobolds would have been unendurable, so I ruled the party captured. Only one character, the rogue, was permanently killed, and only because at the beginning of the night I vowed that the next character to die must play a monk, and she became interested.

Hours later the characters awoke in a cell room, two per cell. There were bars looking out into the mountain valley hundreds of feet below. Captured again, all their stuff taken, they were back to square one. Estimating the distance to the ground, they at least discovered they finally made it up to the next level. After a lot of work, they managed to escape their cells.

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The Ruined Fortress of the Evil Overlord

The Ruined Fortress of the Evil Overlord

This has been my project since the beginning of the new year and it is finally starting to spread its wings and fly. The concept is simple: a huge dungeon complex (of up to 99 levels) that can be plopped anywhere or used as a stand-alone campaign. The booklets contain one or more levels apiece, and can be used in conjunction, with plot hooks and other links between levels, or they can be used alone and placed practically anywhere.

The goal with these adventure modules is to create a lovingly hand-crafted printed product with usefulness at the gaming table being the paramount concern. To that end, the booklets are crafted using the finest paper with a thick detachable cover that contains the main maps (other maps will be included as a middle spread) and designed with a “generic d&d” ruleset intended to easily translate into most fantasy game systems. All dungeoneers should be able to find use for the Ruined Fortress of the Evil Overlord series, regardless of which edition or game system they use.

Just look at that hand drawn map!

Just look at that hand drawn map!

I hope to offer these booklets for sale once I perfect the printing and publishing, and get a few more levels done. Pricing is still up in the air but with the time, effort, and high cost of quality paper, it is settling into the 5-8 dollar range, printed and shipped. I do not foresee making these available as pdf, since my main goal is to produce a hand crafted booklet for table use. (I also need to learn how to set up a storefront on worpress which might be the biggest hurdle.)

Check out the snazzy interior design, with custom artwork, text boxes, and all the extras.

Snazzy interior design, with custom artwork, text boxes, and all the extras.

The first booklet weighs in at 28 pages, and is designed to be an introductory level for new or inexperienced characters. The booklet features new monsters and new magic items, wandering monster tables, and a complete dungeon with plot and story hooks, bosses both mini and mega, traps, hazards, and tons of opportunity for exploration, discovery, interaction, and epic battles in iconic locations. My philosophy is to remove the boring, and keep the awesome. The dungeons follow what some call Gygaxian naturalism, and are an attempt to make a funhouse gonzo dungeon that makes sense and could exist in a fantasy realm.

I am looking for volunteers who would like to playtest and review the product on their blog, message board, or website. If anyone is interested in doing that, I will be happy to send a complimentary copy for your perusal. Please drop me a line or make a comment. The next couple of weeks will be spent turning the prototype into a final draft, organizing the next three modules: level 0, level 1a, and 1b, and playtesting.

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An important aspect of fantasy spelunking is the unexpected danger of random encounters. Whenever a party is actively exploring, a wandering monster check should be made every 10 minutes, or in the event of an attention drawing spectacle. If the party is doing everything they can to elude detection, including using stealth to hide with little movement, muffling all sounds and dousing extraneous light, then wandering monster checks should be made every hour.

To check for wandering monsters, roll 1d8. If the result is an 8, roll again on the wandering monster table. This will direct you to the correct subtable for the encounter. Finally check for surprise by rolling 1d6, surprise on 1-2. Distance between sides should be based on the natural fit of the dungeon, with opposing sides being closer depending on the level of surprise; i.e. If both parties are surprised, the enemy should appear around the nearest corner or at the edge of the light source. in other cases, the monsters might tumble out of the very walls upon which the pc’s are leaning.

Wandering Monster Table Level 1
1-2 – Vermin
3-4 – Creature
5-6 – Humanoid
7 – Undead/fiends
8 – Special

Vermin Table (d8)
1 – Giant/dire rats (2-5)
2 – Rat Swarm (6-24)
3 – Giant/vampire Bats (3-18)
4 – Stirges (2-8)
5 – Carrion crawler
6 – Giant Spider
7 – Fire Beetles (2-7)
8 – Giant Centipedes (1-6)

Creature Table (d8)
1 – Giant Badger
2 – Rust monster
3 – Great Cat – Snow Tiger (1-2)
4 – Hell Hounds (1-4)
5 – Cave Bear
6 – Gelatinous Cube
7 – Ankheg
8 – Owlbear

Humanoid Table (d8)
1-2 – Orcs (3-12)
3-4 – Goblins (4-16)
5 – Kobolds (2-12)
6 – Gnolls (2-12)
7 – Human bandits (2-12)
8 – Adventuring party (2-5)

Undead/fiend table (d8)
1-2 – Skeletons (1-20)
3-4 – Zombies (1-12)
5 – Ghouls (1-8)
6 – Ghost
7 – Wight
8 – Devil: Imp

This is an excerpt from the dungeon complex The Ruined Fortress of the Evil Overlord Level 1: The Main Storey

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A famous work of art by artist Leonard Elmore graces the Basic d&D rulebook. Decades later, another person uses it as inspiration, or even blatant copy, of the art, in a far inferior style. Is it the finest form of flattery, or copyright infringement? You decide:

(I am making a booklet that I will give away or maybe even sell, and want to include art, but lack funds or means to produce actual art, thus these insane scribblings, which I am hoping produces a feeling of a well-meaning, nostalgic nod to past eforts in place of anything actually good.)

surprise 1

This is pretty much the same image just using my inferior skills. Too close to the original?

surprise 2

surprise 2

In an effort to really differentiate, I totally changed it up, losing the monster and just leaving the trap, and also he is a dwarf losing his helmet which cracked me up. Still too close? My judgmental daughter the artist looks at my futile attempts and sighs despairingly…

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Just a quick post to show off the level 10 pregenerated characters for tonight’s session of the playtest, featuring a remake of a remake of a classic Dungeon adventure, The Mud Sorcerer’s Tomb. All comments (and checking for accuracy) are welcome. Enjoy!









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It seems like every 297 years it is the same thing: the closer it gets to the holidays, the end of the year, the end of the baktun, and hence the possible end of the world, it becomes more and more difficult to arrange a game night. So between halloween and January we are lucky to get in a few game nights, and this one was fated to be the last of the year. on the menu, in honor of the mayans, was a mexican fare, with at least 100 soft and hard, white, wheat and corn shells, four or more pounds of beef, vegetables red green and yellow, chips, beans, salsas of many hues, and more. It was a feast of feasts. our fridge is overflowing with plastic covered bowls and plates, even though a dozen or more people gorged on the succulent dishes.

the game was the november playtest release of d&d 5th edition, the characters were 3rd level, and the mission was to break up a tribe of cannibals threatening their good friends, the savages of the villages oogachaka and tanaroa.

Many years ago, a villager of oogachaka went mad and began stealing chickens. when his depravity led to him stealing another man’s cock, the man, called Randolphus, was exiled. he went across the bay from the secluded village to a rocky island which jutted from the sea. Into its steep cliff-face was carved a cathedral in bas relief, and a hundred foot tall statue of a warrior graced its entrance. On this island, the mad man attracted a group of canabalistic followers, and every full moon they would raid surrounding villages for babies to eat. forty years passed, and Randolphus became ever more depraved. He marked his body with tattoos and scars, and recreated the markings on the giant statue in the blood and dung of his victims. until last week.

A great storm swept up out of the sea, and at its height, it tore the centuries old statue from its foundation. ever since, their have been terrible sounds of violence and lamentation coming from the island. tomorrow night marks the first full moon since the storm, and it just so happens that Oogachaka is currently blessed with a surfeit of fat, babbling babes. needless to say, the cheiftaness is worried, and would the heroes care to bust up a cannibal party?

They were interested. I didnt even have to bribe them with vast rewards, or hint at heaps of loot waiting to be bagged up. apparently the holiday spirit was in full force: everyone wanted to bust cannibal skull. (This is coming from a party who once used burning babies as a DISTRACTION in a fight – it wasnt even the main event)

But I digress, tonight it was all about saving the babies (for later?) And so after some plans involving sneaking in, pretending to be cannibals, or possibly baby merchants, to yet another trojan horse, but after hearing the entrance was largely unguarded, they decided on the direct approach. They would row over the next morning, and start exacting some righteous justice.

They found the deserted entrance to be empty. a hundred foot section of the cliff face had been carved into an old cathedral inset into the wall. Two great feet, broken of at the ankle, stood within the enclave, with a doorway between them. a few marble pylons jutted from the water, to which bamboo and vine docks had been attached. a stairway carved into the rock of the cliff led up to the doorway between the feet.

The rogues crawled down the hallway, and found it to be partially blocked by a wall of rubble. they cold get past though, and heard heavy breathing from the other side. Three spear wielding guards were surprised and backstabbed by the rogues, as the dwarves worked furiously to smash through the rubble. the battle was short, but poppy the wood elf rogue was stabbed and deeply wounded by a spear before it was over.

after resting they heard grunting and groaning coming from the other side of a skin curtain (edged in tassels made of nipples) at the end of the hall. beyond it was a group of a dozen cannibals in various attitudes of rest. most were asleep, one was whittling a spear head and had stabbed his thumb – thus the majority of the grunting and groaning. the party tricked the cannibals into running down the hall, finding the slain compatriots, and taking off in their canoes to find them. only after they were out of sight did the wizard note to the others that the cannibals set out in the direction of oogachaka. whoops!

Some more hijinks ensued, and the night ended in the middle of a battle with Randolphus the werewolf summoning a Vrock demon, the outcome uncertain.

One amazing thing that happened tonight: usually on the last game session of the year, i hand out x-mas presents to the players, a thank you for putting up with me for the year. character folios, extendable forks, and dragon miniatures are a few of the gifts, but this year, I had nothing. it was for a host of reasons, all to drab to recount here, but my good friend Shannon, and the evilest one of the bunch, came through with TEEFURY shirts for all of us. it was an amazing thoughful gift, and every one of us got a sweet shirt based on the nerdy things we love. mine was an incredible Battlestar Galactica shirt “so say we all” to go with my faded FRAK OFF shirt. thanks to shannon, we all got a present this year, and they were the best presents imaginable.

Note: TEEFURY is agreat, addictive site that offers up a new original tee-shirt every day. buy it now or regret it later.

and so the evening came to a close with hopeful thoughts of the future. The new year will see a change of game focus, and we finished the evening with a short discussion of our options. one of the problems with playtesting the new edition before it is released is that continuity of campaign is difficult. many of the players lack the time to remake their character before each play session, and some classes come and go between revisions, to the point where a campaign becomes unworkable. The fifth edition option would entail having non-linear sets of adventures using pregenerated characters that I supplied. this would work but is not optimal.

Aside — I have more to write on the subject of playtesting in general, and this particular playtest, but a summery would be that I am happy to report that my hopes for the new edition align with many of the most vocal of playtesters, and tend to align with most of the trends in the polls. in that way I am happy that the input is going mostly my way. I am less confident however, that these particular playtests reflect that growing trend. in fact it sometimes seems that many elements are purposefully contrary to polls and player input, as if to either tweak the nose of the playtesters, or more likely, to test out how favorables alternatives are to the conservative base. in any case it makes for sometimes painful campaign play.

We discussed the other options for playing D&D, 1st, 3rd, 4th editions, and pathfinder. A couple people voted for 4th, but most everyone else voted for 3rd edition, even those who have never played it! No one voted for 1st edition, though my wife said she would be willing, but some of the arcane rules (hello THAC0) daunted her. one person voted pathfinder, but i assured the wizard (or future summoner probably — shudder) that pathfinder integrated seamlessly with 3rd edition.

Then i threw out the idea of Walking Dead. Modern times, we play ourselves, or a regular person living in our home town, getting together on a friday night to play games, when the zombie apocalypse occurs. we would use google street view and local knowledge, and an unknown game system to play out a zombie apocalypse campaign. I would probably use a hybrid d&d-like system using hit points, armor class, and the six ability scores, without classes, but having skills, background and equipment be the three main areas of character growth. of course, one bite from a zombie would kill, and the game would attempt to be as gritty and realistic as possible. everyone immediately voted for this idea.

Not sure how long it will last, but we are going to give the modern zombie rpg a shot. Following that, it looks like 3rd edition will be our game of choice for the forseeable future. oh what a long, strange trip it’s been.


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