Thursday, February 28, 2013

HMS APPOLLYON - Rules and System Changes for future games

Now, HMS Apollyon has generally been played as a hodgepodge of Labyrinth Lord, house rules and whatever else came to the table under the "Flailsnails" conventions.  I think I need to change 
some of that in order for the game play to live up to the level of danger that the setting implies, as such I'm considering the following basic rule changes.

Why is most decent steampunk imagery fashion or pinups?
Generally I'm moving towards Original D&D (Little Brown Book) rules.  Not completely using the LBB rules, but I think there are many things worth stealing from the older, simpler and much deadlier rule set.  I've been playing in The Vaults of Pahvelorn campaign for a while using modded LBB rules and think they work quite well for encouraging exploration over combat and fostering a sense of danger - I am mercilessly stealing from Untimately's Pahvelorn, as it is the best campaign I have played in - ever.  I'm not interested in completely replacing the rules with the older ones, I am still a fan of statistics bonuses, but some items are changing.  Below I'm discussing the changes.

While these changes are specifically for Pahvelorn, I think they're changes that will make for a faster paced game with less focus on combat and more focus on exploration and treasure finding.  Most monsters become deadlier and therefore gimmicks/tricks are no longer as needed to make them so.  PCs will likewise become much more dangerous as they gain power, but they won't become that much more resilient.  I've thought about these things before and much of what's below has been Pahvelorn tested very successfully.  Suffice to say I think the changes will make for a game both truer to my setting and better for play online due to the simplicity of the resolution techniques.  My only concern will be adapting PCs from other hangout's games/rulesets to these rules, but I think it's fairly straight forward. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

HMS APOLLYON - Planning a 2nd Campaign

While my Megadungeon project - HMS APOLLYON is currently still on hiatus, I am thinking of starting up a second campaign in a few months.  There will be rule changes and some design changes seeking to create a more dangerous dungeon where the setting's "life is cheap" ethos will actually have some effect on the PC's.  Perhaps this can be viewed as moving the game into higher level play, or simply adjusting the denizens of the hull a bit to increase the challenge to a party equipped with firearms. Below is a list of some potential plot hooks I've been tossing around for one shots.  Prior to renewing the campaign I may run a series of "Big Score" one shots - with very high risk and rewards for undertaking special missions on behalf of the Vessel's denizens.

Lost Technology Awaits (by zeo-x of deviant art)
HMS APOLLYON - Updated Rumors and Possible Expeditions.

1) An anonymous group (presumably a family of social climbers amongst the Factor class) has been offering a flat reward of 10,000 Gold Coins to anyone who can clear out the Haldvar Mansion in uptown.  They'll get your group a temporary pass to uptown (if the reward is reduced to 8,000 GP), and then it's a simple break in and clear the place of automatons and servitors for the presumably extinct family.

Proving that there are no Halvar heirs, or other proper occupants and making the location safe is the commission, but it's also likely that the mansion is stuffed with art objects and other valuables.  The Haldvars are known to have been a vengeful and nasty family that employed malign pacts with powerful outsiders and didn't trust human servants, so the danger involved is considered high. 

A group of Flying Monkey guards from the neighboring families tried to clear the place after no one was seen leaving for a few months, but they did not return.  Since the place is not an active menace the Stewards won't act. Any squatters discovered within may be killed. 

2) The Church of the Ship Spirits has been having a considerable amount of success in keeping the recently reclaimed mushroom farm, cathedral hall and auxiliary power protected against the undead massed in the buried vault beyond, but are always looking for scouts, or an assassination squad, to take the fight to the dead beyond the new frontier.

It is claimed that besides the Salt Haints and some more functional revenants a mysterious figure in a leather mask and surgeon's coat has been seen directing the fortification of the buried vault and probing attacks against Ship Spirit positions.  More information about or the destruction of the War Dead leader(s) would be well compensated.

3) The Marines are looking for a group to enter their defensive works, "the Sigil Maze" and find out whats been disturbing and destroying the protective Sigils.  They believe it's some kind of extra planar beast.  As always they don't have much to offer in cash, but will give gifts from their artifact stores.  Additionally the Maze is full of the remains of those who have been trapped or destroyed by it: undead, stewards, outsiders, fishmen and whatever else thought sneaking into the back door of Sterntown was a wise idea.  The expedition might also be a good cover to meet with the Baron of Hell - Malchris, who says he always has work for able bodied adventurers and who controls (at least partially) the vessel's spinal railway.

4) The Factors are getting desperate, because recent expeditions have proven that the hull can be entered without serious attack on Sterntown, yet no effort has been made to properly discover and exploit new resources for their benefit. They have offered a standing 35,000 Gold Coin reward to anyone who can chart/clear a safe way to the machine shops on Deck 5 (to the fore and port of the Rust Gates).  The way must be open to at least one hundred soldiers with some heavy weapons and cannot be submerged or blocked by entrenched enemies/entities. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Slezgar the Elf - ASE NPC MVP -

 Slezgar the Elf is a stalwart of the Anomalous Subsurface Environment Thursday Night G+ Game.  He appears as a random henchman in ASE I notable only as "Elf, Male. Enthusiastic about hanging out with those short-lived humans."  In Pat's ongoing and original ASE campaign Slezgar became the party's first henchman in February 2009 and then their nemesis - captain of an anti-human Elven NPC party, ultimately ambushed and slaughtered in late 2012...

Well my players rolled on the same chart and they got Slezgar straight off.  My Slezgar has yet to show propensity for betrayal, and rather ingratiated himself with the party - as the only regular delver that can cast sleep and surprisingly lucky.  He's reilable enough that his being a hedonist and a bit of a creep, hasn't put the party off yet.  It has also been established that he makes frequent bemused quips about the frailty of humans and has a rather licentious way of searching for secret doors - the players don't ask much about it because it seems to work (again Slezgar always seems to pull a roll out when it matters).  So far Slezgar's only act of sinister elven gamesmanship has been to demand a 25GP per delve fee, and to encourage the other henchmen to do the same.  Slezgar is considering demanding a share of treasure instead, but hasn't gotten quite high enough a dried blue lotus grubs to vocalize it.
Slezgar the Elven Flaneur

Slezgar the Elf
Elf 1

STR 14 (+1 Hit/Dam)
INT 12
DEX 15 (+1 AC/Hit Ranged)
CON 10
CHR 13+1

HP: 4
XP: 1099
Spell: Sleep - 25% to cast it on everyone in area out of laziness.

Equipment: gaudy and somewhat risque partial splint armor, elven yatagan (1D8), Spell Book (several fragments of slate bundled together in old newspaper - sleep, magic missile, dancing lights), 20' rope, 35 GP

Elves Generally....

Friday, February 22, 2013

Thoughts on "Gonzo" Games

Running the ASE and Gonzo Without it Getting too Stupid.

Gonzo - B. McNally
I run an ongoing game of Anomalous Subsurface Environment on G+ Hangouts using slightly modified Basic D&D.  It's going pretty well some ten sessions in and several people keep returning to delve into the bizarre and confusing depths of Mt. Rendon, or to interact with the cutthroat capitalism, cronyism and debasement that is the city of Denethix.  ASE is notoriously "gonzo" and disliked by some for this reason.  There's definitely a danger in running a silly adventure, but after last night's session I think I figured out a few ways to avoid the worst aspects of silliness.

Last night was an especially good session - a couple of key rooms were discovered on ASE's first level - neat set pieces, and the first "faction" of the dungeon encountered. Secret doors popped open due to extraordinary rolls and traps/trick encounters were intelligently bypassed or smashed.  Yet, the traps were funny, and the faction is roving hunting packs of a pop-culture reference.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Strange Armor Alternatives

I am profoundly bored by the classic D&D armor categories.  Given the importance that games place on armor, and the fact that every PC wishes to have cool armor I've decided that in my games AC value is going to be largely divorced from armor type allowing for strange materials and a much wider variety than leather, chain or plate" or even the additions of studded leather, ring, scale, splint, and banded armors.  Below are some tables or menus of armor based around broad class: light, medium, heavy and plate armors that one can substitute.  They're written with gonzo science fantasy in mind, so they may be a bit odd for a high fantasy orcs vs. elves Tolkien off.  The plate armor gets especially bizarre as it's priced at 400GP in my game, making it feel like a major achievement

 Meat Suit - AC 8 or AC 4?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Servants of the Elder Gods - Spell List

Below is an alternative spell list for clerics of animal and other primal deities.  I figure it'd work for cultists and shaman as well.  It's sort of an alternative for the Druid class, and dispenses with the Druid's focus on nature as a whole in favor of a focus on the power of some sort of totemic spirit - usually of an animal nature. I suppose a tribal priest that drew their power from ancestors would work well, only the creatures summoned and evoked through the spells would be totems, spirits and homunculi empowered by revered shaman.

Originally this was intended as an alternative for animal spirit clerics in Pahvelorn, but it sounds like there's another much cooler plan in the works for that.  The spell list is based on the presumption that these casters are less armored crusaders and more likely to be light combatants like the tribal or cult warriors they support.

Oh Rats!
Spell List for the Servant’s of the Elder Gods (lvls 1-3)

1. Detect Magic – Blessing of the Auras
Servant may detect magic for 1 turn per level.  This magic detection is not as effective as that of an arcane practitioner, based instead an ability to see that things, people and creatures are tainted with something unnatural.  The ability to see magical auras lasts 1 Turn per level of the caster.

2. Calm Beast – Peace of the Ancients 
Allows the caster to calm up to 8HD of enraged natural creatures with a single word spoken in the elder tongue.  These creatures will remain calm and uninterested in the caster or those accompanying her for 1d6+4 turns unless considerably disturbed or attacked.

3. Detect Hidden – Sight into the Hidden Worlds
By calling on the Spirits of place and time the caster may have a flash of vision that will reveal everything hidden or concealed within a 30’ radius circle indoors.  This includes hidden objects, traps and secret doors and areas blocked by walls or doors. The spell does not provide meaning to the items it shows, such as where the trigger to a secret door is located, or how to disarm a trap, but it can reveal their presence. Outdoors this spell, in addition to detecting nearby hidden items can be used to find trails and paths if the Servant is lost.  An unfortunate the after effect of this spell is that the caster will suffer from blindness to all but ethereal things for 2D10 turns after the spell is cast.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fetid Pit - The Pit and it's History

Inaugural Post in my effort to produce an HMS APOLLYON location.  The Pit has been play-tested by Bumphrey the Mole Man's birthday expedition, and successfully navigated, despite some close calls (closer than the players know).  In writing it up (as evident from the Title Page posted concurrently with this Introduction), I intend to partially eschew the traditional keyed locations technique of dungeon design and use a Monster list, and random table system to generate encounters, treasures and interesting rooms (or tableaux) for descent into the pit as a whole, while keying areas such as the Agricultural Station, Bastion and Angler Fish Holes.


The Fetid Pit is a great air shaft leading from the weather deck of the Apollyon, deep into the vessel's holds. Air shafts are common on the upper decks, but only a few great shafts reach as deep as the Pit. Philosophers and architectural augers suspect that the Fetid Pit is in fact one of only eight such deep shafts, arranged in pairs along the entire length of the worldship.  Indeed the Pit is over three hundred feet across and thousands of feet deep, running at least to Deck 14, a region known to be flooded before halting at what is presumed to be a a sealed hatch. The Pit makes a poor access shaft to the upper reaches of the ship, as for the first several hundred feet it is frequently blocked by gigantic ventilation blades that slowly rotate turning what little light reaches right hundred feet into the shaft gray and dappled.  Additionally the upper shaft is known to be home to colonies of giant predatory pigeons, Merrow Men, wind elementals, automatons and at least one outsider noble and its entourage.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Megadungeon IV - Nodal Dungeon Tourist Map

Every Megadungeon needs a novelty tourist map.  Here's an attempt at one for Keith's "Nodal Megadungeon" which I've spoken about recently.  I'm not sure the map is helpful, but it took a while to doodle and while it lacks useful information it gives some feel and a sense of location at least - not that Keith's flowcharts didn't do an equally good or better job, but this has a doodles involved.  It's the least I can do to support Keith's great project.

Ultimately it ended up a tourist map like the ones you get for major cities which at best give a vague idea of where neighborhoods are located. I'm tempted to do one for the Apollyon and ASE...

Pahvelorn - Tragedy and Plunder

“If it lives underground in an undead infested catacomb and can see in the dark – doesn’t matter how human it looks, it’s evil, and it’s going to try to eat you.”  - The Wisdom of Beni Profane

Ginny Bo - maniac torchbearer
Beni Profane, the rat catcher, archer, killer and would be smuggler from Zorphath has grown in skill and power since his first tentative steps down the path of delving into ancient a haunted ruins.  He's grown in wealth to but it just doesn't stick to his fingers.

After having departed Zorphath and the Pits of Pahvelorn due to a string of companion deaths, close calls and returning bruised and shaken without plunder, he and his band, the self-styled "Order of Gavin" headed North to the white fortress city of Illum Zugot, home of the purportedly wise and undoubtedly arrogant "Priest King".  It's unclear how effective the Priest King is as a ruler, his hatred of the Necromancer lord to the South and his piety apparently overwhelming his common sense at either clearing the undead filled barrows which pock his domain or the addressing the battalion of demonic infantry now infesting the tombs of the patriarchs he holds dear.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Wampus County - Bumming about Frogport

Wampus County Expedition to Frogport - Week 1

"I am a voice in this wilderness, I must shout the good news, even if I have long known to whisper, because the world is always listening.  Someone needs to help people, and that's my calling, that is why death has overlooked me, so that I will not overlook death ..." - Millicent Cobweb, preaching in Frogport's central market.

With companions Abel Killejoy, journalist/bar promoter/rainbow magician, and the sycophantic dabbling mesmerizer that had been lurking about the Rat House running for beer, cleaning floors and begging coins in a most unseemly manner, Millicent Cobweb, and her new protegee Rebbecca (recently rescued from the tomb of a wagering mummy) decided to depart from the dusty street of Thistlemarch for the bustling river town of Frogport.  Cobweb's saddle bags were packed with a bundle of newly printed religious tracks (along with a letter of credit written to Chauncy) and her heart with a desire to share the mysteries of her Necronaut based splinter religion.  Yes, the plan, at least as far as the party's main combatant was concerned, was to sink the roots of another irksome death cult, one specializing in assassinations hire and laying to rest the ghost of a certain ex-boyfriend (literally, Cobweb used to "date" a ghostly cult leader - it was awkward) into the muddy soil of Frogport.
Cartoonish Doodle of Cobweb Preaching

Friday, February 8, 2013

Dirge of Man

"Here, organic towers, tall shapeless masses of tissue cultured from the plasm of ancient mammals, trumpeted and moaned across the abandoned wastes of another continent, their huge cynical voices modulating on the wind, now immensely distant, now close at hand. Natural philosophy, they maintained (holding him to be in heresy), is a betrayal of invention. It is an edifice of clay. It was always night there. . . ."

Harrison, M. John (2007-12-18). Viriconium

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Treasure Table - Sample - Hobo Treasures


Partially in response to my previous post, below is a random treasure list useful for generating "Hobo Treasures" for a gonzo hobo themed dungeon node.  It's not as detailed as I would like for a large node as it's not split between large and small packets or magical and mundane treasure.  I'd use this one as an adjunct to personal treasure of the hobogoblins, or whatever denizens of the node carried around in their bindles.  The table might also be useful determining rewards or boons granted to PC's for service to the Hobo King of the Great Northern Jungle.  So feel free to use it in your gonzo D&D, Wampus County or Weird Adventures games.  It's stated up for B/X D&D but pretty system agnostic.

"Hobo and Dog" - 1924
Also includes so wondrous "Deck of Several Things" to torment your players.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Streamling the Node based Megadungeon

I was having a conversation the other night with Keith of "In my Campaign" about mega-dungeons and publication. Keith is the author and sometime GM of his "Node based Megadungeon" which is a great little project he did streamlining a megadungeon and constructing it via general areas and interrelation rather than classic module style room by room description.  This is a novel approach to a megadungeon, and one that while it may ask a bit more from someone running a megadungeon it has the advantage of allowing a much larger dungeon, a complete mega-dungeon to be produced in far fewer pages, and likely with a greater sense of continuity because the nodes focus on interrelationship between the areas and factions of the dungeon rather than cataloging every empty room. 

There is problem with this approach as it relies on the GM for everything: maps, encounters, traps, tricks and atmosphere without giving anything more than vague clues.  It seems that a useful megadungeon overview would contain that following for each area of "level".  Below are more specific thoughts on how to handle each major component of a dungeon Node.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Ogre Replacement - Enfant Terribles

Brutes steeped in madness and violence
(Large Monster)

No. App. 1-2 (2-12)
HD: 4
AC: 2
ATK: 1(Armored Fists) 1D8 or by Weapon
Move: 30'
Save: F2
Morale: 10

The Enfant Terribles, also known as a Suckling Homunculus, is neither a child nor a homunculus.  Their origin is unclear, but their appearance suggests they are either the product of outsider entities from one of the less pleasant spheres (Pandemonium most likely) or the result of ancient science perverted by sorcerers.

An Enfant Terribles appears as a bulky suit of encasing plate armor, most often of crude iron, speckled with rust, grim with ichor, old blood, and spittle.  The armor stands seven to nine feet tall and is proportioned to a bulky warrior, except for the helmet (when it is not lacking entirely) which is tiny, often reset between the shoulders or pushed upwards like a thin stalk above the mass of reeking metal.

Friday, February 1, 2013

ASE - Thursday Night Campaign round up

My drop in G+ game of ASE has been going well.

The party (a diverse lot with a few stalwarts) has lost two PCs, several henchman and a pack of pit bulls.  They've also fully entered the Anomalous Subsurface Complex and are beginning to wonder why it exists.

Here's a short recap of what's happened since my last play report.

Elves - they're creepy.