Monday 13 November 2017

Gear and loot in the hell jungle

My players - voluntarily - chose to be crashlanded in the middle of Xen'drik, continent of wonders and adventure. Also murderous Drow. Giants. Giant-sized temples covered in gems and gold. Giant-sized traps. But I digress.

The setup

The privately-owned airship Peryton just crashed on a mountainside during its epic adventure to discover the mythic southern coast of Xen'drik. While pondering exactly how the fire elemental got loose from the propulsion ring, a couple of survivors are scavenging the wreck.

You are...X here. Good luck.

The survivors

  • Indiana Gnoll - male Gnoll ranger. Whip. Deranged laugh. [player: Robert]
  • Woody the Warforged Wizard - fucking guess [player: Bas]
  • Drake - male human healer [NPC]
  • Eorie - female human rogue [NPC]
  • Santash - male kalashtar psion who fell off the Peryton but managed to shove his mind into his psicrystal [NPC]
  • Emalyse Hargo - female crewgnome who fled the Peryton before the crash on an unknown elemental-powered contraption

The dead

  • Captain Orsken Maine - male Half-Orc professor at Morgrave University
  • Enzo Biscotti d'Sivis - male Gnome communications expert, House Sivis
  • ...and 22 other NPCs to be detailed later

You just crashed your airship on a volcano slope in Xen'drik, a year away by foot from your civilisation's nearest outpost, and this is what you could scavenge from the wreck*

* In my day job, I decode academic papers into press releases. This title would be considered overly short and on the nose for a science paper. More on that whenever I get my other blog on nuclear propulsion off the ground.

Available for free
(Although it will add to your inventory and encumbrance)
  • Ring of petrification (turns wearer into statue until removed)
  • Sending stone, cracked (for long range communication) - 1/2 inventory slot
  • House Sivis sending log, encoded - 1/2 inventory slot
  • Navigator's kit & logbook (sextant, rough maps, points of interest) - 1 inventory slot
  • Ship's compass - 1 inventory slot
Equipment you can salvage
NPC henchmen: 400 gp worth of gear (includes weapons, armor)
PCs: 9400 gp worth of gear (again, includes weapons and armor)

You can of course pool resources. No single item with a cost over 8000 gp though. Note that any spare coinage will probably be worth jack in the jungle. Best invest in some trade goods. (Post with horrible stuff to lug around to follow!)

Just so you guys don't have to look it up:
Masterwork armor +150 gp (armor check penalty 1 lower, can be enchanted)
Masterwork weapon +300 gp (attack roll 1 higher, can be enchanted)

In case you want to loot the ship mage's book
Spellbook: 15gp
Adding spells to spellbook:
  • cantrip 10 gp
  • 1st level 20 gp
  • 2nd level 80 gp
  • 3rd level 180 gp (max. 2 spells)
  • 4th level 320 gp (max. 1 spell)

This stuff might be useful, or not - feel free to buy
  • Bedroll 1 sp - 1 inventory slot
  • Rations/day 5 sp - see Usage dice (d4-d6-d8 1 slot; d10-d12-d20 2 slots)
  • Waterskin 1 gp - see Usage dice (d4-d6-d8 1 slot; d10-d12-d20 2 slots)
  • Flint & steel 1 gp - small item (5/inventory slot)
  • Rope (50ft) 1 or 10 gp (hemp/silk) (d4-d6 1 slot; d8-d10 2 slots; d12-d20 3 slots)
  • Tent 10 gp - 1 inventory slot
  • Hammock 3 gp - 1 inventory slot
  • Everburning torch 110 gp - small item (5/inventory slot)
  • Antitoxin 50 gp - small item (5/inventory slot)
  • Healer's kit 50 gp - 1 inventory slot
  • Wand of Cure Light Wounds (1d8+1, 50 charges) 750 gp - small item (5/inventory slot)

Sunday 12 November 2017

The long haul - encumbrance and inventory

Last session saw a slight case of total party wipe-out. We're now setting up a completely new campaign: a jungle adventure on Eberron's continent of Xen'drik. And when I say "jungle adventure", feel free to read "exhausting slog through vicious wet murder-forest with increasingly deranged inhabitants". Sort of like Dark Sun with more plants. For this campaign, I want to track carrying capacity, inventory management and foraging in a bit more detail than usual.

The system of choice for this campaign will be Pathfinder, because of its many options and fiddly bits for players. I'm drawing the line at using the standard D&D/Pathfinder per-gram inventory system. There's much sleeker stuff to be found in the OSR-blogs.

Sources: Raging Owlbear, Goblin Punch, Games with Others, the Black Hack (usage die).

What you can carry

  • You have an amount of inventory slots equal to your strength. Most items (shields, one-handed weapons, a crowbar or lantern) take up 1 slot. This is more a function of unwieldiness than basic weight.
  • Two-handed weapons and medium armor take up two slots, heavy armors take up four.
  • Sets of up to 5 smaller items (pitons, potions, arrows, coinage) can be bundled in packs that take up 1 inventory slot. See below under Usage die.
  • Of your [strength] inventory slots, dexterity/2 (round down) are quick-access slots. Use these for items you need to find at a moment's notice, such as weapons or potions. These are easy to access (free as part of a move or standard action) but are also vulnerable.
  • All other items are assumed to be in containers, bundles or your backpack. They are stored more safely but take d6 x 10 movement to dig out (half if you just spill everything on the ground).

Light encumbrance.

Bundles of small items

  • Jewelry and other ultra-light materials don't need to be tracked via inventory slots.
  • Coins and gems run to 300 per inventory slot. 250 gold pieces + 300 copper pieces = 2 inventory slots. And if you find gems big enough to break this rule, rejoice. Also, run from the inevitable horde of cultists whose temple you just robbed.
  • Some items are small and light enough that it takes 5 of them to fill up an inventory slot: for example, daggers, vials and flasks, scroll cases, pens and signal whistles.


  • Not encumbered: carrying up to [strength] inventory slots worth of items. Use only the armor check penalty from your armor or shield.
  • Encumbered: carrying up to 5 more items. Movement speed -10. Dex and strength based skills take a -5 penalty. Maximum dex bonus to AC is 3. (Use this or your armor check penalty, whichever is worse).
  • Heavily encumbered: carrying up to 10 more items than your strength. Movement speed becomes 5. Maximum dex bonus to AC is 0. Penalty to dex and strength skills becomes -10. (Use this or your armor check penalty, whichever is worse).


Consumable items

Many small items are perishables or consumeables. Examples: ammunition, rations, ink, oil, paper, parchment, pitons, rope (50ft), wax, soap (for gods sake stock up on soap), torches.

Rather than track each arrow and drop of ink, or foot of rope, we'll borrow the usage die from the Black Hack. This goes from d20-d12-d10-d8-d6-d4-gone. After intensive use (for instance writing for ink; exploring with torches; rope climbing; shooting arrows; eating), roll the usage die and on a result of 1-2, decrease the die to the next lower step. A roll of 1-2 on 1d4 means your resource is gone. Usage dice d4, and d8 take up 1 slot. Usage dice d10 and d12; d20 takes up 3 slots.
Cost per die size: d4 - regular price; every step thereafter: price x2.
Quiver of arrows / case of crossbow bolts: regular price buys you usage die d12.

Gruesomely expensive items such as magic potions or magic arrows are tracked per item. What, keeping track of how many +5 godbothering arrows you have is too much work? 

Extra inventory slots

  • A traveling backpack adds 2 inventory slots without triggering encumbrance (below). A fancy bandolier or belt with pouches and straps adds 1 quick-access slot. Does not add to the total inventory slots. You can use either a backpack or a bandolier/belt, not both.
  • A Bag of Holding takes up 1-4 inventory slots and has internal space for 5/10/20/30 slots. And it will cost you a fortune to get one. Put a Bag of Holding in a quick access slot to have all its contents available as quick access items.


Damaging stuff

(You can thank Goblin Punch.)
If you fail a save and get crushed by rocks, torched by a dragon, sprayed with acid or other unconventional forms of greeting in Xen'drik, the DM rolls 2d8:
  • doubles: count this number upwards from the bottom of the backpack (and continue into quick access slots). This item gets damaged (a multiple-slot items such as a medium armor counts as one).
    Roll 2,2: damage the second-lowest item in the backpack.
  • different numbers: take the lowest of the two, count down this many slots from your topmost quick access slot (continuing into the backpack) and this item gets damaged.
    Roll 5,7: damage the 5th item down on your list.

Thursday 9 November 2017

That's a first: total party kill

Just when they have me resigned to the fact that even over-challenge-rating monsters cannot bring down even one of them, a couple of lowly Ettercaps bring down my entire group of regular players. May actually be the first time I wiped out the entire party - and I had to fight my instinct to have the monsters spare a couple of players all the way. New game: still Eberron, different continent.

From. Also I need this on a shirt.

No but seriously tell us about the party kill

First the group decides to go into a ready-to-collapse underground medical horror show (courtesy some wayward Halfling healers). They already know there's a rapidly regenerating troll down there. Rogue sneaks off and finds the troll at half hit point maximum and raiding the kitchen to restock calories after regenerating from a cubic inch of meat. Of course, he tries to one-shot the thing with three flaming arrows.

He's going to hunt down
their next characters.
Source: Caio Monteiro / DeviantArt

This, to put it mildly, does not go according to plan. The pretty wounded troll ducks into cover (darting out to grab a tasty chicken leg) and waits for regeneration to kick in. The rogue decides to walk up and stab him with a flaming arrow. The troll, not being stupid (actually a kidnapped envoy from very nice people would not say a bad thing about them lovely folks the three of them), is holding a readied action to clawclawbite the fuck out of anything that shows its face. And it shows its face and said face is ripped off and that's pretty much it for the rogue. Rest of the party rolls up and using judicious amounts of magic, mauls and firewood to kill the troll. Rogue miraculously does not die but is save via divine intervention, Blood of Vol style. Party cleric/wizard feels pretty good about those 1d4+2 hit points he tosses around the room into his body. Entire dungeon collapsed via explosive runes-based safety system. Suspicions of troll quietly regenerating below.

Travel actually was the safest part of the adventure

Players then decide to take a trip cross country to the Whisper Woods, where someone named the Seven dispenses prophecy. Run into a nice random encounter during a storm with a messed up Dwarf building a tower which is so unstable it will float up to heaven. Dwarf hireling is staring wide-eyed at the mad masonry while making "let's take our chances with the lightning storm" sounds.

No violence erupted. Was saving up for more violence later.

Hex map: Whisper Forest

Players roll up to Whisper Forest, which I've remade from the standard book, dumped pretty much everything already written about it, and turned it into "three evil fairy sisters inhabit these woods with their minions". Crazy coincidence: I've only taken the concept of "dangerous forest with prophetic witch" from the Eberron book, haven't looked at the map for months but somehow generated a forest pretty much the same shape as in the official map. Scaled to 1/4 size because  Huh.

Source: layout mine, ideas all over the place, map Hexographer

Party unwinds in local inn, where their necromancer picks up a nice countryman hireling who is totally not Ein Member of ze Emerald Claw, ach mein Herrgot nein! But secretly is.

Then into the woods it is, with first careful exploration of a densely webbed forest edge, then a run to a vacated shack where they get ambushed by 3 Ettercaps. They chose a pretty easy approach - there were wereboars and basilisks and Dryads and a shitload of Mephits and dark fairy-themed hexes in there. Somehow I get the idea the party did not see this encounter as easy, with them getting eated and all.

I should mention that one Ettercap is listed as a level 2 monster, the party consists of 2 PCs at level 4 and 2 hirelings at level 2. They get surprised, stuck to the walls of the shack with webs, then poisoned and clawed and poisoned so more. They never regain the initiative, some pop up after getting healed again and are then taken down hard, and in couple of rounds the party is dead - long live the party.

Ettercaps: these fuckers. (bilingual bonus:
in Dutch, "etter"means both "pus" and "dipshit")
Found at Ettercap Evolution /

Want to go back?

We break for dinner (goooood peanut soup) and a short scene where the players think they wake up in the desolate afterlife...only to discover they're back in a creepy Ravenlofty demiplane (like this but with a train station on the side of an ever-growing pit and a city hanging off of chains above it) and if they just make this tiny deal with the realm's Dark Lord...

New adventures forthcoming. Follow the hapless survivors of the Peryton Expedition!

In the end we decide to stick with Eberron, ditch 5th Edition for Pathfinder (more options for the players, more headache for the DM ;) and roll up new characters who are the only survivors of an airship crash in mysterious jungle/dark elf/giant-filled Xen'Drik.

Jungle trip! C'mon, it'll be fun.
Source: Igor Chakal / DeviantArt.

Where to find the new characters? Their airship The Peryton went down - possibly sabotaged - "right below the D", as the players spout out before checking the scale of the map. That's fine by me. Now they have to walk 2500 miles of hell-jungle to the outpost of Stormreach. Their posessions: a cracked sending stone which can maybe pass messages, a psion sage who fell of the airship but managed to cram part of his mind into his psicrystal, and a ring that turns the wearer into stone until it is removed somehow.

Happy camping.

So a Warforged Wizard, Indiana Gnoll and two hirelings
are stranded right below the D and have to make their
way back to civilisation. Or any kind of safety, really.

Wednesday 8 November 2017

Intro game: after action report

Over the summer I agreed to run an intro session to roleplaying games for friends of long-time gaming buddy R. Last Wednesday we finally rolled dice: a nice little session with lots of roleplaying, headscratching and cries of "what the hell is wrong with this swamp?" Good times!

I went into this game thinking I would be introducing Warhammer players to their first game of Dungeons & Dragons, so I planned to do a post mortem and see what worked and what didn't. As surprise number one, it turned out all the guys had played D&D in one form or another before, two even showed up with 5th edition D&D at the ready. No problem, this meant I could run through my "so imagine a world" speech and dive right into character creation and the game itself.

My resolutions and what came out of them

Have a starting situation ask for immediate in-character choices. 
I think this worked. The players started out as veterans owning a barge (inspiration) financed by a loan from vicious Gnome maffia. In other words, a great reason to find a job and pay off their debts. The hook came in the form of a sailor who wanted to send a package up river to the town of Angelspit (stolen wholesale from Goblin Punch's Frogstar Peninsula) Immediately, haggling broke out, especially when a mute monk showed up carrying a vow of silence and the wish to go to Angelspit. In the end the group took the job. Turns out the sailor's package is medical stuff to fight the plague ("the what now?") and the monk is a secret cultist shipping the skull of a demonologist to Angelspit (apparently there is a cult, which is cool and awesome - they had plans and personality and a backstory and everything so The Wicked City can suck it)

The DM sets the stage, the players decide what their goal is.
I had planned to skip the first few days of travel, but the party was hell-bent on investigating forests and not-so abandoned towers on the river bank. This led to an encounter with war refugees, who were harrassed by bandits - themselves quickly dispatched by the PCs.

Players need to hear that they can try do much more than what it says on the character sheet; if they can imagine the character doing it, it has a chance of working.
I'm not sure this came across. Interaction with NPCs went fine, but there was little improv going on. Mostly it was questions on how to gain cover or flanking or the like. I think the best event was when the barge - damaged after an ambush in a trio of huge locks - was saved by the cleric who declared water to be anathema so it couldn't flood the boat. Or perhaps when he used that spell to drive a magical disease from a fellow player (but had to haggle with the spell not to blast said unbeliever from the face of the earth entirely.)

I will need simplified game rules and character sheets. For buy-in, I'll let players make their own characters.
Character generation with a pared down version of AD&D/5th ed/Goblin Punch spellcasting was done in under an hour, but afterwards the players said they'd have prefered to dive right in with pre-generated characters. This makes sense in hindsight - they'd played D&D before, so character generation was not unknown to them. I think one of them sneaked a fake roll of 18 on strength past me (he had come up with the same stat in a rolled-at-home character), but hey - it was only a oneshot. His character ended up with a magical plague which gave him a frog's tongue, so that felt fair and balanced.

I want to avoid long-winded shopping for inventory and starting spells, so I'll prep starting packs of gear and spells. Include stuff that needs a bit of creativity to use properly.
Skipped this, used basic equipment packs from D&D 5th edition with the option to buy stuff in the store. Like roleplayers everywhere, they loved the chance to go shopping. I'm happy that I calculated their starting funds to be too low to get the really optimal armors and weapons and other gear. This meant they had to compromise right away and were happy to loot gear off some bandits. I did not hand out OSR-style items like unbreakable knots, because I just plain forgot.

While the basic rules need to be simple, there need to be enough weird, moving parts to characters and the environment to encourage out of the box thinking.
So-so. The spells were intentionally weird and required a bit of creativity to use. The spirits behind the spells could also be consulted to answer questions on topics in their field, which was used nicely. I did try to avoid skill checks and just go by characters' backgrounds, but the question "roll for it - we'll see" is pretty standard to me. Could've fleshed out proficiency system some more to see what happens when you don't have a proficiency and want to give something a go anyway.

Other things I tried out

Normally I prep a starting scene and plant leads to follow-up scenes. In addition, I flesh out NPCs who are driving their own plans forward and have it all run wild and free. The effect is sort of like Zak's Hunter/Hunted, but less formalised. (In other words, I decide on the spot what would be a good reaction by The Enemy when the PCs are stalling out.)

This time I went with a proper hex map, random encounters, a whole bunch of NPCs with secrets and desires, and - to be honest - no clear idea up until game day who of them was behind the whole Magical Plague thing. The hex map only really started to work when the players wandered into the swamp around cursed Angelspit, looking for witches or bog folk or anything that was causing the plague.

Take something from them to get insta-hatred.
The big beef the players had at the end of the session? Not the cult behind the magical plague. Or the apothecary with her magic potions who had caused a religious schism and bloodbath by letting a love potion get in the wrong hands. No, it was the initial sailor who hired them to deliver a package (to a plague-infested town, as they discovered on arrival) - and pocketed half the sum he was supposed to give them. Currently declared abomination and arch-heretic, I think I could spin a campaign out of the PCs trying to hunt down this guy for 100 pieces of silver.

In summary

A nice day of gaming; I wouldn't mind rolling dice with this group again. Story didn't really get closure - or could be spun out into a larger campaign pretty easily.