Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Son of the Return of the Lost Raiders of the Temple of Elemental Evil Part II: Elemental Boogaloo

Lately we've had a little trouble getting a full table. The usual reasons, jobs, school, everybody's in different bands, some folks are off at war. So I did what I do every few years, which is put out a random cattle call for gamers on the various Meetups, local game store forums, and so on. This is always a hoot - you're pretty much just dipping from the well, here, so you get all types of folks (ALL TYPES) showing up.

Now, historically speaking, I've generally gotten 1, maybe 2 long- to semi-long-term recruits, a handful of people who are cool but just not into our thing (or who aren't as inured to the constant criminal schemes, in-game frat pranks, and dick jokes - lately our table is kind of a fantasy version of the Trailer Park Boys), and 1 or two total neckbeards (who usually don't have the thickest of skin, and don't really last long). Some people dread this kind of thing, but I have fun with it - always a blast seeing somebody new getting a taste of our style of gaming.

This time I've got a double handful of responses - so I'm setting up a once-a-month weekend AD&D game, taking all comers, and we're gonna tackle the fucking Temple of Elemental Evil for real this time if it kills me. I've got 3 or 4 regulars, and as many or more randoms, so we've got a sizable group if half of everybody shows up (and it's a little easier to get attendance in a non-weekly game, in my experience at least).

I've dashed a couple parties against the rocky shores of T1, and couple against B1 in would-be preparation for Hommlett, so I've got a good bit of design work on the area done already, although it's not quite as detailed as other stuff (T1-4 was the very beginning of my experiments in hexcrawl, and I kinda didn't have a grasp on it, yet). So now I'm just pulling all my notes together and attempting to forge them into one cohesive campaign doc (the better to update, my pretty).

I'm looking forward to this - I think this time we're gonna kick that mother over and take its stuff.


P.S.: The image, if you didn't know, is the cover art of Burzum's "Det Som Engang Var", which of course was directly inspired by the cover art from T1-4. Entirely appropriate mood music for the campaign, in my humble opinion (YMMV on that one).

Monday, August 8, 2011

"The little dog bites! The sewer rat bites! The little dog bites!"

Randomly got the overwhelming urge to run Warhammer FRP this weekend. Without ever having run it before, or having read through the combat rules more than once like two years ago, or having played it more than 5 times (like about two years ago). Ran up the flag, ended up with 3 players for the evening. Luckily one of my guys has run it a couple times (and was amply capable of co-GMing), and it's actually pretty fucking light, rules-wise, so we pulled it off. Here's the quick and dirty:


Date: Current date is 2512 (10 years after the coronation of Karl Franz, 10 years before Storm of Chaos happens (or doesn’t))
Otto – grave robber from Hochland
Gustav – rat catcher from Ostland
Bigtooth – dwarf tradesman from the Zhufbar (World’s Edge Mountains)
First session: PCs wake up, hung over, in a locked wagon, on their way to Middenheim, having been shanghaied into service as rat catchers after getting drunk at the Festival of St. Iverson in the village of Arenburg. They are held along with two thugs (Strigo and Piggy, brothers in arms if not in fact), and Hans (a bewildered young boatman, far from any river). Bigtooth starts a fight with Strigo, which quickly draws in Otto and Gustav (as well as Piggy), and the combatants pound each other until they are all exhausted (and soaked with foul stew by the guards). Finally they arrive at the great viaducts of Middenheim.
They are taken to a barracks, and from there (their promise of service obtained by Serjeant Fogelmann), to a sewer grate. They are put down in the shit, literally, and locked in, while an angry mob of rat catchers and dung sweepers advances on the watchmen above.
Bigtooth and Strigo immediately resume their earlier feud, only this time they are armed. A messy combat (again, literally) ensues, and both Strigo and Piggy are killed. (Strigo's leg was "demolished", and his skull then neatly bisected just above the mustache by the enraged dwarf's axe. Piggy, seeing this, slipped a gear, went berserk, and was cut down.) Meanwhile Hans and Otto look on with bewildered dismay. Eventually the remaining prisoners make their way down the sewer, bearing left at an intersection before the rat catcher’s small (but vicious) dog takes off after some prey. The party catches up, only to find more (and larger) rats than they’d bargained for. Bigtooth is nearly brought down by his wounds, everyone gets soaked in sewage, and only 1 rat is killed before the rest run off. So far, so good. [end session]

I'm psyched to run this, I've been curious about it since just about forever (WFRP was big at the FLGS I got started at as a lad), and the system seems like it just oozes awesome. Picking through the available material to determine what from the 2e run is worthwhile, and what is just rules bloat. *

Next time, I'll pick at their backgrounds a bit, dangle guild membership in front of the dwarf, and fuck with them a little bit more. Assuming they make it out of the sewer (it's not looking too good, even the small but vicious dog has broken ribs, haha).


* It should go without saying that I'm running WFRP 2e, not the Descent-with-Skaven board game that FFG's hawking under the WFRP name, nowadays. Fuck that shit.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Dragons of Summer Boredom

Haha, sooooooo, I went and bought myself a Dragonlance module? *ducks tomatoes*

Alright alright alright, lemme back up and justify, here.

Even back in the distant, primordial days of the early 90s, the setting wars were already in full swing. I got turned on to the Forgotten Realms grey box, and therefore was held in sneering contempt by the Dragonlance partisans at the local gaming store. (Meanwhile the Greyhawk holdouts looked on, shaking their heads knowingly and writing angry Usenet posts about Carl Sargent.) And, for my money, DL quickly became the clear harbinger of all that was wrong with 90s (A)D&D. (Never mind that the 2e Realms supplements would soon establish their own list of crimes, more concerned with OCD-inspired meticulous setting detail (read baggage) than the railroady plotwagon excesses of Dragonlance.)

Well, it's a lot of years later, and thanks to the internet I'm all too familiar with the atrocities of Lorraine and the Blumes in the 80s, and while I can see where it's tempting to find a scapegoat for the fall of the golden age, the Realms still don't fit. (See THIS blogpost for a good list of reasons why. ) But the meme still persists, no matter how ill-placed and uninformed the arguments.

So if the 'Hawk diehards are (passionately, heart-breakingly) wrong about FR, it follows that I may have judged Dragonlance a bit harshly as well. I've always enjoyed the fiction (the stuff by Weiss & Hickman, at least - let's ignore Sturm & Kit's moon trip and all that crazy shit), although I'll still maintain that good fiction is often anathema to good gaming. The glut of 2e-style setting supplements and later modules always turned me off, but reading through the 1e Dragonlance Adventures hardcover describes an intriguing (finely-tuned for the desired effect) AD&D setting. So when I had the chance to pick up a used (near-mint) copy of DL1 Dragons of Despair at the friendly local, I went for it. (They have the whole original run, from what I can tell, but I'm not THAT invested quite yet.) The question is: Can this series be run as a "real" campaign, with players who may or may not have read the fiction (probably not), and who don't have any special pre-formed attachment to the setting? And without the rails on? I don't know, yet.

So far, I can at least vouch that DL1 contains a wilderness hexmap (high marks for usefulness), and some interesting encounters. Seems like you could have a good time with the material as presented, and if you were willing to spin some BS should the PCs employ "lateral thinking" (i.e., having the attention span of a cross between a housecat and a superball, like all PCs), things should work out. (I do have the hardcover and a map, I flatter myself that I've got the DM chops to make something interesting out of an aborted run at the "plot", should it come to it.) The question is, does this play out once you're a module or two "deep", and the PCs have had more chances to "rewrite the script"? (Guess I'm gonna have to pick up the next one and see.)

At the very least it's something to read.


P.S.: And apparently the cover art above is actually by Clyde Caldwell, not Larry Elmore? I never knew. Suppose I should've guessed, what with the distinct lack of almond eyes and boobies.