Friday, June 29, 2012

Wampus County - Play report.

Skeleton Knight by Maxarkes on Deviant Art

 Played a game in Wampus County last night - Google + worked well until the GM was apparently carried away by storms and hail.

My alter-ego was a 3D6 in order nebbish of a college twit named Chauncy.  He is an unreilavble narrator, but since he came into some gems decided to write home about his first Wampus experience.

Chauncy is a jerk, so when his overly bold 3HP self inevitably gets devoured by some terrible zombie beaver no one will feel sad.

Letter is as follows and the Heathen practices of Preacher Jones are only causally referred to for the delicacy of civilized readers.

Mr. Sandman, Send Me a Dream.

So Magic Missile is all well and good, but Sleep is the most commonly used spell in my games.  I don't think that sleep spells need to be specifically sleep, mechanically the spell simply causes  immobilization that can be broken by forcefully disturbing the target.

Anything that stuns, traps or immobilizes seems to work.  Sure Color Spray, hypnotism and hold person also do these things, but with different mechanics, and most of these sleep spell re-skinnings could apply to those spells as well.

The image on the left is Maxfield Parrish's "Sleeping Beauty"I think, and even if it looks like something that Grandmother would have loved, it's a cool painting I think.  It also suggests that sleep spells needn't be violent, NPCs might pay to have sleep cast on them if it provided nice dreams, or untroubled rest for the ill.

Here are some sleep alternatives in the spirit of the Magic Missile ones from yesterday.

The Old Brewery, Den of Thieves

 The Old Brewry - Area 2 - The Den of Thieves

 GM's Note:  As a matter of play majority of the denizen's of the first level are not evil, simply the poorest and most pathetic of a the fantasy city's residents. They are weak and sickly, and frankly using them as a lesson about XP and alignment is not a bad idea. I would give the full (paltry & maybe a bonus) XP to Lawful characters for trying to help them (ineffectual though it will be) and full XP Neutral characters for bypassing them, Chaotics of course are simply in it for the money and thrills, but I still wouldn't give them XP for slaying scabrous children, feeble beggars and drunken wastrels. I would also provide an XP penalty for any character who engages in wholesale slaughter of these people simply because they are so feeble it doesn't even comport with the diabolic evil of a worthy anti-hero to kill them – it's just sad. It's so sad there won't even be consequences from local law enforcement.  Of course there are other nasty surprises related to the halt and the lame.
Jacob Riis - 1853

2. Den of Thieves - While this room contains thieves. The chamber is crammed with the lowest sort of petty pilferers and diseased kleptomaniacs, but most of its residents are simply the desperately poor. A huge, filthy, stinking chamber with tall ceilings lost in soot and darkness. Wooden Pillars with filthy sheets and assorted rags strung between them block the view, except for a gaping doorway at the far end. Several small fires provide the only illumination while the scent of rotting garbage and smoke sting the eyes of anyone entering.

The back half of the room is shadowed by the a loft (Area 7) 14' above the floor. Thick curtains drawn tight conceal the loft, but if the room below is quiet and dark dim light and soft hypnotic music will be noticed leaking through the curtains (they magically keep sound out, not in). A ramp leading down to the cellar used to serve as a way to roll beer kegs up from below for distribution and brandy kegs down below for aging. The huge wooden doors to the cellar are now barricaded (on both sides) by the mutually distrustful inhabitants and trash is piled five feet deep against them. Opening the doors would require much work including hacking the doors off their hinges.

Character Sheets and Hopeless Losers

So I drew up a simple character sheet for use in a Google + game, my first, and thought others might want a gander at the character sheet - two semi-disposable minimalist mooks on a single page! Also the mooks in question are included as an example.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Barrage of Magic Missles

Just say No!

Thoughts on Spells, specifically Magic Missile, and a table of re-skinned Magic Missiles

In the most recently posted play report the players ran into their first real use of arcane magic by enemies.  They arguably did some things wrong, Lemon could have prevented the elven gangsters from casting magic missile or sleep by counter-spelling under my rules, but didn’t.  Maybe blazing away with his pistol was the better choice,  but he very narrowly survived a double magic missile from the gang leader (E F5/MU3).

Still that’s not the point, the question I think one faces when using the limited spell menu “Vancian” style of magic in classic fantasy RPGs is making it exciting.  There were only four  spells used in the last play report: sleep, color spray, hypnotic pattern, and magic missile. Vancian magic can easily become like magic in video games, a dull tactical exercise in husbanding resources and optimizing their use.  More specifically enemy casters become tactical challenges (can we knock out that magician before he casts fireball?) rather than powerful mystical menaces.  Likewise low level magic-users just seem like hapless technicians.
One advantage that tabletop/live RPGs have over video games is that the world is dynamic and organic.  It is generated out of play and not scripted.  Magic can likewise be unscripted in its effects, even as the mechanics are clearly defined.  In my campaign world every magic-user basically knows sleep and magic missile – even in other campaign these spells are the favorite go to magic for beginning magic-users (maybe burning hands for the daring or tough mage).  Magic Missile is a highly mechanically elegant spell: simple, well-scaled, and useful – it’s also exceedingly bland because of that.   Still that dynamic world, magic missile needn’t simply be a bolt of searing arcane light, it needn’t be a bolt at all really.  As such, below is a table of alternate magic missiles from the mundane to the absurd that are intended to give character and mystery to the simple spell and an escape from the idea that all magic practitioners learned from the same book.

Below is a D30 table of alternatives - pick, roll or extrapolate.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

SESSION IX, PART II - A Daring Rescue!

When we left the adventurers they were facing down a huge room full of starving desperate hobos while prodding a group of naked criminal sellswords in front of them. 

Pulp book Cover - Ace Books
Grimgrim – Fighting priest of the fierce God of Dooms, Monstcrom! (M) Cleric 2

Lemon Jackson – A wizard with strange yellow eyes, a Magnum tucked in his loincloth and numerous mystic tattoos. (M) Magic User 2
Huxley McTeeth (Hux) – A gaucho with a past, and scars to prove it. (M) Fighter 1

“Eyestabs” Nell – A scarily fashionable woman armed with many poison hat pins (F) Assassin 2

Drusilla – Eleven lass of surpassing beauty, disturbingly unpleasant affect and taste for human babies. (F) Elf 1

 The crowd of Denethix's ragged cast-offs grows thicker in front of the party every moment while the cacophony of shouts and curses louder and louder - until Huxley pushes one of the naked captives into the mob and Nell flings the armor and equipment taken from the door guards up over the crowd, who immediately begin scrambling for it.  The naked guardsmen are cuffed and slapped, but the crowd seems reluctant to attack them more viciously, until one of them drops to his knees in supplication and a roaring mob pours over the defenseless men kicking and clubbing them. (Yes - this made the players feel like cruel thugs - they may be nicer to prisoners in the future.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Old Brewery - Murderers' Row


Bandit's Roost - Jacob Riis - Pre 1890

3. Murderers' Row – This series of fourteen small rooms was once offices and work spaces for the brewery, but now they are private residences of the more intimidating and dangerous poor. The hallway connecting them is dingy and smeared with streaks of black greasy soot.  The entire area smells of woodsmoke and urine. For each room entered roll on the table below to see who currently resides in it. These inhabitants can change with each visit as there is much competition for these spaces.  Special areas have been given their own notations and descriptions.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Obelisk - The Hive, and concluding note

Moonlit Graveyard, William Heine, 1854


AREA 10 - The Hive

10. The Hive - Beneath the Sinkhole in Area 4, the Corpse Fleas of Jackal-Mask Bonechewer have constructed an underground hive and are slowly undermining must of the graveyard as they dig up remains to devour and seek another means of entrance into the areas of the Mausoleum held by the Cult of Furter.

The Hive consists of a central chamber directly below the graveyard's Sinkhole, and maze of low tunnels (Area 10a).  The fleas can easily enter and exit through the sinkhole, and can enter the sealed left side of the Mausoleum by climbing through the pit between Areas 9b and 7e. The hive areas have been dug from the raw earth by the labor of the Corpse Fleas, working with their pick like front limbs, and the dirt from the excavation piled into a ring around the sinkhole.  To keep the dirt walls from collapsing the fleas have plastered them with an orange spittle that hardens into a thin glossy layer.  The walls are still very rough, in places bones and bits of coffins protrude from them as the fleas have been tunneling under the graveyard.  Likewise the floor of the hive areas is carpeted with bone dust and fragments as well a bits of grave clothing, and broken coffins.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Old Brewery - The Mushroom Caverns


25. Mushroom Caverns - Beyond the door to the Pit (Area 24) is a series of natural caverns that were used in to grown beer brewing fungus in massive quantities during the Brewery's heyday. Many of the strains still predominate, providing a rich jungle-like garden of food for the hundreds of grunkies that live in the darkness. The mushrooms come in a variety of colors and shapes, but the most common are brewing mushrooms, 2' to 6' tall yellowish brown species with peaked caps and a nutty flavor. Ceilings in the caverns are from 6' to 12' tall and the walls a smooth stone, wet with condensation and slick with fungus. The air is misty with poor visibility as spores and blind cave insects are stirred up with every step. Almost all the fungus within the cave is non-toxic, though a careful and knowledgeable searcher will find both poisonous and hallucinogenic fungus within the cavern. The entire cavern smells intensely of mushrooms and damp, though not unpleasantly.

Drusilla and Huxley explore the Mushroom Cavern

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Obelisk - Level 2 Map




There are no encounter tables for Level 2, it is well inhabited and densely stocked.  If a random encounter is needed, such as if the party stops for several turns, either a patrol of Furter cultists and zombies, or a group of Corpse Fleas is an appropriate encounter. Under no situation (unless they find the door open) will Fleas or Cult Members enter area 9c.  They know about the Hungry Ghost and greatly fear it.

The Obelisk - Corpse Flea


No Enc. 2D6 (2d100)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 120' (40') Leap (30')
Armorclass: 7
Hit Dice: 1-1
Attacks: 1 (Bite)
Damage: 1d4(+special)
Save: F0
Morale: 8
Hoarde Class: none (XV – grave goods)
XP: 7

Corpse Fleas are territorial graveyard and tomb vermin that feed on corpses and bones. They look much like giant 3' long fleas, with strong back legs (indeed they can leap up to 30') and large serrated forelimbs. Corpse Fleas are pale creatures with disgusting fluids and strange organs visible through their mottled chitin. Flea heads are long and equipped with both serrated mandibles and sharp proboscis that inject those they hit with a disorienting venom.

Special Attack:  The disorienting venom of a corpse flea makes those who have been injected with it unsteady on their feet and sluggish in thought and action.  If a save vs. poison is not made, the victim will suffer a -1 to hit for 1D6 turns before the flea poison runs its course.  Multiple injections of flea poison have an additive effect, with a maximum penalty of -3 to hit.

One of the more notable traits of corpse fleas is there strange means of reproduction. Any flea may inject tiny larva into the bloodstream of a living or recently deceased (still warm) humanoid. The larva can swim about happily in a living creatures bloodstream for years causing no ill effects, but upon death, they will being to devour the body from within. In 2D6 days 1D6 corpse-fleas will burst from the chest of the corpse and begin looking for food.

The Obelisk - The Masoleum (Rear Rooms)


7d.    Altar
Behind the monumental central doors of Area 7a is this pure white marble chamber.  Amazing amounts of detailed carving and sculpting  have gone into making almost every inch of wall decorative art.  The carvings begin at the floor, showing the entire chain of being from plants and animal, rising up to depict goblins, elves, dwarves and other lesser races.  The glories of human and sasquatch civilization fill the room from about eye level to above 7' and the walls gently arch upwards into several fluted vaults where the depiction of the divine satellites, metallic servitors and finally the sky temples of the Gods are lost in gloom.  The room is lit by several discs of black marble inlaid on the floor and enchanted to emit a pale blue light (like the skulls in Area 7a).

At the center of the room is a large altar, it's outer case made of a filigree of white marble that matches the walls, carved into intertwined bone motifs.  Behind the marble is some sort of case made of polished green black protonium with decayed ancient circuit boards showing through open hatches and panels in the protonium case.  The surface of the altar, a smooth sheet of polished protonium has a simple glass chalice and a pair of copper incense holders resting on it.  All of the altar ware depicts Furter's symbol, a hexagonal machinist's bolt with a lighting shaped symbol on its top and has almost no value (3GP total).  If the back of the altar is examined, two drawers will be found.  Both open easily, the top is mostly empty, except for a simple wooden box of incense made of feasting tree resin while the bottom holds a linen altar cloth in purple, blue and yellow with images of decay embroidered on it.  The cloth is worth only a few (2GP), but the incense is quite valuable.  There is space for 26 cubes of resinous incense in the box, but only 24 remain, each worth 5GP.

The Obelisk - What now?

Francis Frith - 1896(?)
A tiny update really, for the PC's that finished the Obelisk but can't get enough petty god and Rocket Man dead madness...

Below are some suggestions on what to do after a party has fixed, or simply looted the Obelisk grounds.  Obviously a simple roll or two on the special encounter table would suffice to create a new dynamic of mayhem, but for those who want to spend a bit more time in the Obelisk Area here are some adventure seeds:

Now I would suggest that the next adventure for your ASE players who are too afraid to enter the ASE is back home in Denethix! I call it the "OLD BREWERY" and it will be July and August's Dungeon Product - an urban dungeon with drug dens, cannibal halflings, a giant lungfish, poison orchids and a grunkie baiting pit!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Crawling Death

Horrible things infest the abandoned areas, things that do not warrant a name

Aboard the HMS Apollyon the scavengers, stewards and others who enter the lost decks and abandoned companionways are faced with a wide variety of life, almost all of it hostile.  Because of the ship's presence on multiple planes of existence and the bizarre radioactive and thaumaturgic forces it has been subjected to over the eons, much of this life is odd, uncanny and possesses incredible variety.  Strange species of alien nightmares and unique sports of normal creatures changed in horrifying ways (such as the common cray dogs).  Rather than create a taxonomy of these beasts, scavengers have lumped most of them into the broad descriptive category "Crawling Death".

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Obelisk - Extras


The Hook
Dawn - Vintage Pin-Up, (by Wilson?)
While party is loitering in some den of inequity or passing through a small town, an attractive, young, rural woman approaches the least menacing member of the party and begins a casual chat about the adventuring life.  This is "Dawn" the daughter of a well-off local farmer who seeks to connive, trick or lure the adventurers into performing a daring raid on the Obelisk grounds for her.  Dawn is no simple village flirt, she is a moderately talented young witch from a long line of local practitioners.  Dawn's grandmother was the village herb-woman but died a year or so ago.  Dawn's family, finally successful in the giant beet farming business, would much rather that Dawn marry a member of the local gentry or another successful farmer, as opposed to Dawn and her Grandmother's desire for Dawn to enter the witching trade.  As such, when Dawn's grandma died, her sons pooled some money and had her buried, along with all her mystical paraphernalia at the Obelisk, partially so Dawn would have no way of learning (any more of) her Grandmother's trade.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Obelisk - The Cult Halls


The final redoubt of the cult of Furter - useful if the players wish to know how Frankensteins  get made.

8. The Cult Halls
Patriarch Chax - Is this merely tasteless or terribly offensive?
The Cult of Furter made themselves a rough home within the recesses of Torpo's Masoleum, having converted old storage and ritual chambers into a barracks, small shrine and reanimation lab to build a Franken-zombie death-squad and complete their takeover of the Obelisk grounds.  They have quite a streamline operation going and can create 1D4 zombies or skeletons a day with the parts they have in storage.  This number will be reduced by -1 if the cult has less than six acolytes available to work on reanimation, but even if only Patriarch Chax is working in the lab.  The chambers that the cult has moved into are generally tiled in rough white green marble that has been crudely smoothed with visible tool marks.  The rooms are lit by oil lamps set into alcoves in the walls and all uniformly smell of cooking grease with a sharp undertone of preservative unguents.  All rooms in area 9 are assumed to have 10' ceilings unless mentioned as being otherwise.

Been Caught Stealing

From Deities and Demigods - TSR, WOTC, 1980
One trope of D&D style fantasy that has always annoyed me is the existence of "Thieves' Guilds".  Now I always assumed that these were the result of the Grey Mouser's influence, and as much as the The Thieves' Guild in Lakhamar makes sense ... not every fantasy city is Lankhamar.  One particular element that struck me about the difference between Leiber's world and popular heroic fantasy is that Lankhamar is highly hierarchical and controlled. Additionally the Lankhamar guild is not strictly a criminal enterprise, but a religious and social one, with a basement of bejeweled undead thief liches.  Additionally Lakhamar's thieves assumed police investigative and enforcement functions. Finally the Thieves guild in the Gray Mouser books is a bunch of semi-competent thugs, an underworld power, but not a world spanning empire of crime.

Monday, June 18, 2012

SESSION IX - PART I - On the town

In which the adventurers play the wealthy flaneur, are disrespected by a Moktar kitten, hire feline muscle, give a dime to Monty, see how the other half lives and star in a violent anti-drug after school special. This session went long due to the amount of dithering about in town and given that I am running out of old adventure material I will break it into parts - Next Monday evening for the Second 1/2 I think.

Grimgrim – Fighting priest of the fierce God of Dooms, Monstcrom! (M) Cleric 2

Lemon Jackson – An underclothed wizard with strange yellow eyes and who tattoos himself with spells and enjoys the sound of the hand cannon. (M) Magic User 2

Huxley "Hux" McTeeth  – A gaucho with a past, armed with a Rocket Man's saber and possessed with in strength disproportionate to his years and small frame. (M) F1 with henchman Graymol the Moktar Shaman (M) HT 1 and Gurgur the Moktar (M) MO 1.

“Eyestabs” Nell – A murderess, clad in ancient finery,  armed with many poison hat pins and a dead dwarf's crossbow(F) A2

Drusilla – Eleven lass of surpassing beauty (for a creepy eyed, fanged, and slit-nosed monster), disturbingly unpleasant affect, garish elven taste and taste for human babies - Pole arm and scimitar (F) Elf 1

NYC's Old Brewery, the source material for this adventure


The party now has two henchmen, a pair of young Moktars who have been indentured to Huxley (the party don't yet realize that they're paying the Moktar mob to hire the henchman) and I've been having a bit of fun with the idea of Moktar magic. Moktar are slightly goofy savages, generally lacking dexterity and making it up in strength. 

Moktar cuisine leaves much to be desired (Some guy from the comics)

This is Pat from Henchman Abuse's first draft of the class, and it hits the high points. I assume that the next installment of ASE will have full details.

My own shamanistic modifications of Moktardom as well as the stats for the two Moktars hired by the party are below.

Moktar are basically barbarians: 2HD to start, High Str, Low dex, light armor (max studded leather or non-metal scale) and natural AC 6. . High-level Moktars (Say 4 and up) might be able to wear specially made metal armor, but plate will only bring the average Moktar (Dex 8) to a 4 AC and chain will do nothing for them. I've decided that Moktars get -2 to int as well, but maybe that's not necessary. Moktars are both tough brutal combatants and bumbling!

I have allowed a special class for the rare Moktars that can work savage shamanistic magic – it's arcane magic, but terribly ritualized and the spells are limited to a special hard to find list. These Moktar “Holy Toms” gain XP as Elves, rather than Dwarves, but are limited to five levels in Magic (i.e. they will get a single 3rd level spell eventually – that's it).  The class requirement is the same as Moktar 13 STR plus 13 INT (after reduction) they are also limited to wielding 'traditional' non-metal melee weapons, though they can throw clubs or stone axes. Holy Toms cast as magi-users off of a limited spell list and gain spells at the same rate. I figure that it's pretty hard for Moktar characters (or henchmen) to find new spells, because they can't cast regular magic-user spells and getting the rare Moktar shaman to teach one (they can be written in string ciphers but are usually oral tradition) is pretty difficult. The two Moktar youth's stats and three Moktar spells are below

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Meet the Adventurers - Part IV

Huxley McTeeth
Huxley "Hux" McTeeth - 'Reformed' Desperado
Fighter (Lvl 2)

STR: 18 +3 melee hit/damage
INT: 13 Can read/write, Moktar
WIS: 11 No bonuses
DEX: 14 +1 AC/+1 missile to hit
CON: 14 +1 HP/die
CHR: 9 No bonuses

HP: 15
AC: 1 (w/dex bonus)

Equip: Fancy Acid Etched Plate armor, Shield, Scimitar + 1, 2 Hand Axes, Riding Horse, Scrapple and Bacon - attack lizards (dogs).

Alignment: Neutral - Huxley is a calculating pragmatist, he's not especially quick to anger and is mainly concerned about his own welfare and wealth.  In the past he's done some pretty horrible things, and he could easily drift back into a life of theft, betrayal and murder.  Lately certain events, including his own near death, a curse that made him relive the deaths of those he's killed, and the cannibalistic depravity he's witnessed in Denethix's slums have made him more thoughtful and he might even be drifting towards the law.

Huxley "Hux" McTeeth is a shortish (5' 7") man, of a medium build, in his early 40's. He sports a fierce mustache, but otherwise he was born with rather unremarkable features.  His recent life of adventuring, more so than his many years as a gaucho and plains' tough, have marked him.  Not the least of these marks is a set of terrible burn scars on his face, arms and torso received when Hux attempted to test an ancient laser pistol and found out what a corroded high energy cell can do.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Obelisk, The Masoleum (Front Rooms)

I was aiming to have this in PDF form by the end of the month, though I guess yesterday would have been more appropriate with that 'Free RPG day" and whatnot.  What's holding it up is actually finishing the art (such as it is) and fleshing out my notes for areas that the party moved through quickly or avoided.  Still a PDF first week of July seems doable.


7. The Mausoleum – The memorial ground's main building rises 30' at it's highest peak and is made of pale green marble with darker green, black and gold streaks. It's a square building covered in mournful caryatids, and carved with skull motifs. From the roof rise carved minarets and peaked vaults of slick marble, difficult to traverse. An overhang around the whole building makes climbing onto the roof much harder than normal. (Climbing to the roof requires A D20 +25 roll under STR + DEX + Skill/class bonuses)  The only entrance to the building is up several wide steps and onto a colonnaded porch. The front doors are flanked by statutes of Delphina and Jackal-Mask, while the frieze over the heavy bronze entrance doors depicts Bezonaught surrounded by placid undead.

The cult of Furter controls most of the building, and will have undead guardians stationed in front. If they are not aware that they face anything more than corpse-fleas and ghoul attacks the cult will have six skeletons and four zombies on guard in front of the doors and whatever acolytes are in Area 7b ready to rush in and assist. If the cult knows adventurers or other powerful forces are running amok they will quickly increase the guard force to the majority of their remaining zombies and skeletons. A total of 24 undead can be crammed onto the steps and porch, and will be should the cult expect serious attack. The cultists will battle to protect this building and there are a total of  2D12+4 cult acolytes, 3D10 + 6 zombies and 4D10+8 skeletons available to the Cult of Furter, defend the building, or however many seems most reasonable to the GM. The cult will begin by trying to defend the front steps but will intelligently retreat towards the Shrine of Furter (area 8c) spiking doors and setting ambushes along the way. If left alone for long enough they may even set simple traps to protect themselves from renewed attack (where possible these traps have been noted). If the Players break down doors or otherwise destroy cult defenses the ghouls and corpse fleas will take advantage and may expand into previously held cult area.
Zombie of Furter

'Frankenstein' Zombie AC 8, HD 2, #AT 1, D 1D8, MV ('30), Save F1, ML 12. 
These are standard Zombies, but vary slightly in appearance from most having been raised by super-science, rather than necromancy.  Carefully built out of relatively fresh corpses a shambling ablife forced back into Furter's zombies with chemical injections and galvanism.  Such zombies vary wildly, from carefully stitched servitors that can pass for living under poor lighting to amalgamations of various dead, monstrous and held together by clumsy lashings and rivets. It should be noted the Furter's zombies do not smell strongly of rot and decay, but rather have an antiseptic smell due to the fluids used to preserve them and give them unlife.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Notable Criminal Organizations of Denethix

An underworld gathering or wealthy gadflies?
Of late the party has been delving into the underworld in Denethix, they've gotten tangled up with the moktar vigilance comitee, run afoul of the peacock syndicate and are in the semi-employ of both the leader of the fist's brute squad (know official as the "Unlawful Detainer, Squatter Rehabilitation & Blight Redevelopment Implementation Team") under Lt. Chang-Tsu. It seems useful to have a table of fabled Denethix underworld figures/organizations available for name dropping...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Obelisk, The Haunted Halls


9. Haunted Halls
This series of rooms make up the ossuaries beneath the Sepulcher of Torpo the Cannibal, they can be reached most easily through the pits in the crypts (Areas 7e and 7f ) but may also be accessed through the trapdoor in the bottom of Torpo's bier.

9a.  Ensorcelled Ossuary
Directly beneath the Acolyte's Quarters (Area 7 f) there is a sturdy ladder going between the two areas.  A 30' high ceiling give the room a sense of majesty.  The chamber itself is simple, carved from stone with the walls rubbed smooth and filled with hundreds of niches.  Each niche is full of bones, much of the chamber is likewise stacked with lovingly arranged bones.  Some stacks go all the way to the ceiling and others are only a few feet tall.  Neat paths, edged by rows of skulls pass through the room, with one leading to the Southern door and another off to the side.  The entire space smells of rot and dusty air.

If the side path is followed it will lead to a massive stone tablet set in the wall. This tablet contains the spell "Skeletal Coryphees" carved in raised runes.  It has been carved in reverse so it cannot be read off the wall like a scroll, but a rubbing of the carving can be flipped and the spell copied.

SESSION VIII - Extra Innings


The value of electronic communication is established, Huxley's fate revealed and the realization that the favoritism of the gods is fickle. Purchases are made.

The following decisions were made via email as the party wrapped up it's Obelisk adventure and couldn't wait to determine what happened to Huxley after he decided to play with a broken laser weapon.

The party clusters around Huxley - he's living, but badly burnt, barely conscious and even divine power wouldn't keep him from serious scars. Not much more can be done and the night will tell if Huxley survives. (Note - system shock rolls would be perfect here – but were a waste of ½ a page in the Player's handbook)
Raygun - Fabricated by Tom Banwell

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Obelisk, The Graveyard


The Graveyard
Furter, The Rememberator - Deity
Collectively Areas 4 -6 make up the graveyard portion of the Obelisk Grounds, they represent only a tiny part of a much larger graveyard that originally surrounded the Obelisk, or even the graveyard that existed during Torpo's day. Generations of neglect have allowed the thick cane choked forest to subsume the majority of the graveyard.

Visibility in the graveyard is poor with blankets of fog that rise from the ground every dawn and obscure the entire graveyard until dusk. This fog is of a magical nature, the result of the Obelisk Grounds long history of tragedy and the influence of the frustrated funeral gods. It limits visibility to about 30' and makes it quite easy to suddenly bump into a wandering encounter. Areas showing forest are difficult to move through and require a a high level of wilderness skill or a check against Dexterity to move more than 10' a turn due to the tangled brambles and thickets.  Encounters should be rolled as a 1 in 6 chance every few turns, or whenever the players make a great deal of noise.

The graves may be looted, but doing so requires tools and considerable effort, and most will contain nothing of value. Most importantly digging up graves will result in attack by corpse fleas who protect grave goods and burials. More detailed rules for plundering graves are included with the tables describing grave contents.

Smaller but extra Vicious Dog

One of the oddities of the HMS Apollyon is use of hybrid dogs for almost every purpose another domestic animal might be used for.  That there are 9' tall work breeds and saber tooth hunting dogs aboard is all the more amazing given that the original stock was almost universally lap dogs.  The technological manipulation, thaumaturgic transformation and genetic hybridization necessary to produce these animals is a testament to the ingenuity of humanity in the face of adversity. The relentless focus on scavenging and battling monstrous intruders aboard the HMS Apollyon has resulted in some very odd breeds, the most notable of these being the common Vic.

Trap Dog “Vic
No Enc. Special
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 20' (10')
Armorclass: 7
Hit Dice: ½ - 2 (attacks as 2HD)
Attacks: 1 (Bite)
Damage: 1d8 (+special)
Save: F0
Morale: 12
Hoarde Class: None
XP: 9

The ultimate "small vicious dog", employed by scavengers and other delvers as a trap mechanism, distraction, missile weapon and device to sow terror. The "Vic" is a highly hybridized dog, one that can actually be said to have been 'weaponized'.  Vics are some of the dumbest, slowest canines in existence, but they remain popular because they are tenacious, vicious, and pack the most amount of mayhem into the smallest package.  Vics are often carried by scavengers and thrown at enemies as a way to distract an enemy, facilitate escape, or thin the numbers of an attacking group.  They may also be used as traps. Most often held in sacks rigged to drop where the Vic is content to wait for up to several days if given a large bone to chew on.  There is little that will discourage pursuit more effectively than several snarling razor toothed curs dropping from above with the sole intent of sowing bloody ruin.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

HMS Apollyon - Technology

Within the world of the HMS Apollyon many ancient technologies have been lost, and exist onlyas artifacts within the abandoned portions of the hull, in the hands of hostile entities or only as rumors.  Just as many new technologies have arisen from the passengers’ desperate struggle to survive.  Many of these technologies are attempts to duplicate the effects, appearance and uses of ancient artifacts, while others are the result of modifying artifact technology to new uses, and a few are wholly new.  Most of the stern dweller’s technological prowess has gone into aquaculture, net fishing, fish processing and maintaining ancient greenhouses – but some is more defensive in nature, especially in the fields of steam technology and animal breeding.

Below are some technologies unique to the Apollyon and of use to the flotsam that finds themselves forced into a career of scavenging:

Simple Contemporary Boiler & Plate Armor
The blacksmiths and greensmiths of the stern can make most muscle powered weapons, though they cannot smelt good steel since the abandonment of the forge to feral scrap automatons fifteen years ago.  Weapons made of scavenged steel are popular, especially boarding axes (usually with picks or claws opposite the blade for double duty as pry bars) swords, especially sabers and short basket hilted broad swords.  High quality bronze weaponry is more valuable than most steel as it resists rust and corrosion far better.  Good bronze is also much harder to scavenge and brings premium prices.

Mechanical weapons such as crossbows, spearguns and hydraulic assisted hammers are rarer but still within the abilities of stern town’s better artisans.  Bows are almost unheard of, due to the lack of wood, and the difficulty of using even a compound bow in the narrow confines of the Apollyon’s companionways.
Magical or techno-magical weapons exist in the hands of a few of the highest ranking officers in the stewards, the few remaining in the order of the ‘marines’ and amongst the most successful of the scavengers and passengers.

Stern town has the ability to make a limited number of firearms, through the efforts of its most skilled engineers.  Powder is in limited supply as the chemical industry among the crew is rudimentary.  This was not the case even three generations ago, before the last retreat, when breach loading, cartridge firing weapons were common.  Today only muzzle loading muskets and rifles are regularly available, though more advanced weapons are occasionally found and cartridges can still be expensively manufactured in limited numbers.  Muzzle loading shotguns are the most popular firearm among scavengers, though the semi-aquatic nature of the Apollyon and the dangerous noise generated by firearms makes even these guns fairly rare amongst scavenger teams.

Advanced and magical guns do exist, as the Apollyon’s ancient marine contingent was armed with durable gyro-jet rifles and grav-pulse flechette guns, though the last known one of these left the hands of the crew three hundred years ago in the doomed defense of the mid-ship machine deck.   There are rumors of even stranger weapons brought aboard by the numerous alien entities that have occupied portions of the hull in the last three eons:  radiation beamers, seeker parasites, horology shells, hell-splitters, necromantic bone rifles and conversion rays.   

The Obelisk - Map, Above Ground


The first map I've done since I was about 15.  Done old style, freehand, with ink on graph paper.  The map used by the players was a lot rougher.  What I'm struck by is the paucity of space, paper mapping makes outdoor environments tiny unless one resorts to multiple maps, or distance crunching.  In the case of the Obelisk I claim fog - yeah the fog is what makes it hard to know what's going on behind the next row of trees.

Map - Outdoors

Below are the random encounter tables for the Obelisk Grounds.  Different groups and entities are more active at different times, so a day and nigh table have been provided. Note that random encounter do not occur within area 7 or 3 unless these areas have been previously cleared of their inhabitants. If an encounter is rolled with a faction that has been eliminated, simply act as if no encounter had occurred

Monday, June 11, 2012

SESSION VIII - Spacemen Zombies!


The secrets of the the obelisk are revealed, Lemon is paralyzed by the secrets of the universe while Huxley is haunted by his old life and ancient technology.  Finally great treasure is unearthed, but proves a dangerous burden rather than a boon.

Grimgrim – Fighting priest of the fierce God of Dooms, Monstcrom! (M) Cleric 1

Lemon Jackson – A wizard, who prefers to go without clothing, has strange yellow eyes and who tattoos himself with spells. (M) Magic User 1

Huxley McTeeth (Hux) – A gaucho with a past, clad in plains finery, possessed with in strength disproportionate to his years and small frame. (M) F1

“Eyestabs” Nell – A scary woman armed with many poison hat pins and a dead dwarf's crossbow(F) A1

Drusilla – Eleven lass of surpassing beauty(for a creepy eyed, fanged, and noseless monster), disturbingly unpleasant affect and taste for human babies - Pole arm and scimitar (F) Elf 1

The party again encamped in the shrine and reset their traps – expecting a counter attack by the cultists (and not realizing that the cultists were almost out of undead guards, scared and spending the night besieged by ghouls).

Grimgrim speaks to Jackal-mask when he appears and the god seems far less perturbed this time. He tells Grimgrim that his priest seems delayed, but to expect him in another day or two, though after the success of the day the party should have no problem with the remaining cultists, and if they kill them the next day his servants will reward them “beyond all imagining with riches from the ancients.” With a divine promise of wealth in mind the party gathers their equipment and quickly decamps.

Space Zombie - by Soren Bendt, 2010
In walking across the grounds the group is assailed by strange visions of ancient battle, the smell of ozone and burnt flesh are accompanied by explosions and the sounds of plasma discharges. Ghostly figures in fishbowl helmets dart through the fog just out of sight. 

The party is undeterred by these harmless phantoms and makes it to the smoke blacked steps. Bits of burnt zombie appear to have been scattered about and gnawed on in some kind of disgusting feast, but nothing moves. Inside the entry chamber things are even more messy, a strange corpse with blacked finger bones protruding from rotten hands lies on the floor surrounded by smashed skeletons and several splattered corpse fleas. The doors that the party left open are all closed and planks have been nailed across the door leading to the office.

The adventurers search carefully, and their caution is rewarded when Nell discovers that the door to the cloak room has a thin wire attached to it. After snipping the wire Hux kicks open the door and sees that the wire led to a wooden prop holding up a lit bowl of coals and that the floor has been covered in oil soaked rags. Lemon gingerly removes the coals and places the bowl in the vestibule while Nell checks the next door and finds it braced, but not apparently trapped. The band fears that Nell simply failed to detect something sinister, and even after listening at the door and hearing nothing (“well zombies waiting to jump us don't make any noise”) is afraid to press on.

Images of the Apollyon


The Vessel is over a mile long and approximately a ½ mile from the tip of the five stacks to the keel. The internal volume of the vessel is approximately 900,000,000 cubic yards split into upwards of 54 decks 30 odd of which are now below the waterline, and 12 of which are above. Stern town is a sealed off portion of just 8 decks, including the rear port greenhouse and one of the rear port towers. Yet despite its limited size the town it has operating machine shops, a bazaar, farm, algae tanks, fish processing plant and living quarters.

The rest of the vessel is sadly abandoned, no stern dweller is known to have made it past amidships in two generations, and now more salvage expeditions are lost than return laden with treasures and supplies.


The port stern radio tower, topped with a massive dish and abandoned after it ceased to receive signals from the dead and dying world.  It can only be accessed by elevator from deck the deck 24 navigation control center, now choked with (edible) fungal growth.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Ship as MegaDungeon

Note: This is a very old post and the HMS APOLLYON has grown considerably as a setting in the past three years.  Three or maybe four campaigns have actually been played and the ruleset ahs changed considerably.  The description below is still basically correct, but a new reader may wish to start with this most recent Player Starting Page or perhaps this Earlier Starting Page. Perhaps these 20 question will help.  Everything else related to the setting, including play reports and assorted rules (from a few different rule iterations) can be found here from new to older.


So, the party is still balking at ASE, despite their new Fist patron having squeezed its possible existence out of them. I figure I can get them in there anyway, but it got me thinking about alternate ideas for mega-dungeons. The best I can come up with develops from both my recent post about the Shoal of Grey Bones and having just read Leviathan, a British comic book by Ian Edginton and D'Israeli. The basic premise of Leviathan is describing life aboard a demon possessed city sized ocean liner of the 1920's cast adrift in an endless hell-sea. Instant MegaDungeon.  I have since decided I won't be running this as an ASE environment - but as its own thing (at some point).  This makes things easier actually as I can reduce the time the Vessel has been adrift.

The Liner as MegaDungeon - D'Israeli, Leviathan, 2003-2012
The HMS Apollyon
A city sized luxury liner over a mile long, built at the height of human endeavor, ages ago. At sea when the great collapse occurred, its residents decided to wait out the aftermath aboard their vessel.  The recovery of society was a long time coming, and survival at sea harder than expected, especially when the majority of the electronics failed, then the main engines, and finally the rudder itself.  

The ship has drifted ever since, perhaps cursed by the dark magics practiced by some aboard, perhaps having drawn the attention of otherworldly entities, most likely simply because the insane central computer (shielded deep in the flooded regions of the hull in a sealed control center) has decided it wishes to remain at sea.  Regardless of the cause, the Apollyon does not come within sight of land and is forever shrouded in a thick miasma. Many aboard claim that the vessel now sails between worlds, or exists within all worlds simultaneously, a myth that would go a long way to explain both the preservation of much aboard the ship and the oddity of what is encountered aboard or pulled from the sea.

Over the eons the vessel has decayed, the high tech hull plates remain intact but a lack of spare parts and the eventual lack of maintenance has resulted in a cascade of mechanical failures.  Water now fills several of the lower decks, creating an entire oceanic ecosystem, while many other areas of the ship are sealed off for decades at a time based on the mad whims of the central computer. From the original population of tens of thousands of passengers and crew a tiny diminished remnant still clings to some vestiges of civilization.  This 'village' cowers in a small section of the stern dependent on failing greenhouses and a ramshackle fishing industry for survival. Other friendly pockets of life are rumored to exist, including a mud hut frogling village clinging to the side of the starboard hull and the 3rd engine room now converted into a fortress deep within the pitch darkness of the lower hull by the militarized descendants of the black gang.

The rest of the mammoth hull and the veritable city on the deck have been overrun by feral descendants of the ship's population, the undead, and assorted aquatic and semi-aquatic monsters such as the Nyarlathotep worshiping fish men who control much of the port bow and the kraken who lairs amidships, entering and exiting through a now submerged cargo port.

The player characters (any player type of characters really - The Muir-gheilt and kelp mummies can eat a SEAL team as easily as they can eat a pack of hardened dungeon bastards, and M4A1 ammo will be easy to waste and hard to find aboard) will have be castaways or drifting wreck survivors pulled aboard by the stern village.  One could simply have the Apollyon loom out of the fog and overrun the PC's galleon, elven war galley, pirate sloop, or destroyer escort.  A quick glimpse of the rusted enormity before awaking dripping with black water in the dim recesses of the decrepit sick bay sets a nice scene.  

Stern village has little use for more mouths, but they cling rigidly to their 'civilized' morality and can't justify using anything intelligent and non-hostile as chum.  Castaways with valuable skills (hydroponic farming and fishing principally) are inducted into the crew, but the rest are sent off into the hull to return with valuables (tinned food, good steel and functional ancient technology), battle encroaching threats, or most rarely to find the locations of important resources - operating freezer rooms, functional machine shops, barnacle beds or greenhouses with good soil and to defend the outposts set up to exploit them.

Yipes! Now I want to run this as a Consta-con game. My party is going back into ASE, this combination flying Dutchman 1960's 'slowship colonization novel' needs additional thought and is too different to be an ASE add-on.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Meet The Adventurers - PART III

Lemon is the party's magician, but his skills at lobbing oil, palaver and quick thinking are what have made him most valuable so far. Polari is the language of carnies - in case you were wondering.

Lemon Jackson

Magic User (lvl 2)

STR: 10 
INT: 17  Read/Write: Elvish, Frogling, Lizard Folk, Polari 
WIS: 15 +1 to Saves
DEX: 16 – 2 AC/+2 missile to hit
CON: 15 + 1HP
CHR: 15 -1 Reaction Rolls

HP: 8
AC: 6 (w/DEX bonus)

Equip: Saffron Loincloth and shawl, Large 6 chamber revolver – 24 bullets, 6 silver bullets, Silver Dagger, Hypnotic Gem (AC -1),
Spells: Sleep, Hell's Exhalation (Magic Missile)
Spells Tattooed on Body:Sleep, Magic Missile, Hell's Exhalation,Floating Disc, Read Magic, Detect Magic, Detect Good, Darkness, Phantasmal Force and Monster Summoning II.
Spells in Spell-book: False Gold, Bone Dance

Alignment: Lawful, Lemon claims to live by an internal code, and is certainly more forgiving than many in the adventuring band.  It's unclear what rules exactly Lemon is following, and his alleged 'code' may be little more than an expression of his cheerful nature.  Still, Lemon tends to abide by social mores more than most magic-users and most adventurers.   Adventuring has taken a toll on Lemon's affability lately and he has become more withdrawn and colder.  Perhaps this is to be expected of all magicians as they grow in power, or perhaps it is the result of his dabbling with evil magics.

Lemon is a tall, well-built man of indeterminate age whose magical practice leads him to cover himself with tattoos in lieu of a traditional spell-book. Most notably he recently tattooed an evil extra-planar version of magic missile on the back of his left hand, a tattoo that persists in remaining red and angry looking, despite having fully healed.  Lemon is partial to the color yellow, which suggests that "Lemon" is an affectation and not his real name.  Lemon is a natural leader and will assume that role within any group he adventures with if possible.

Lemon's origin's are unclear, but his manner of dress and approach to spell casting suggest he is originally from the Vile Fens, where hoodoo magic is common, and practitioners quickly find themselves forcibly enlisted as zombie handlers in the Vile Woman's armies.  Prior to his abduction and joining the party Lemon spent time among traveling carnival players where he learned to throw knives and darts with dubious accuracy.  In the last few weeks he has acquired a large revolver and clearly enjoys both the ferocious aspect it lends to his appearance and the sound it makes firing.

Money appears to be of little interest to Lemon, as his needs are few.  He is searching for more spells, especially the strange and esoteric kind, but it is unclear if his ultimate goal is a Wizard's demesne, to sell his skills as a mercenary or simply to amass knowledge.

The Obelisk - Sepulcher of Torpo the Cannibal


7g. Sepulcher of Torpo the Cannibal
A Pitch black chamber with massive white marble walls and huge bronze doors. The doors have all been recently resealed from the outside with white lead and their outer faces marked with various holy and arcane symbols. A cleric or magic-user may make a D20 roll under intelligence to recognize that these symbols are meant to obstruct the passage of supernatural entities, specifically ghosts and other non-corporeal undead.

Within the chamber the walls are carved with scenes depicting an idealized version of the rise and triumph of Torpo the Cannibal. The carvings show Torpo's humble beginnings as a baby descending from orbit, his effortless struggles against man, monster and beast and finally his benevolent rule over adoring subjects. The center of the chamber contains a massive stone bier carved into a single green rectangle wrapped with carved chains. This is Torpo's Tomb and the thick stone is a relatively indestructible, though entirely normal, 10-ton block of hard green stone polished and worked with considerable skill. The lid can be shifted (not lifted) enough to push it to the floor with a resounding crash if 45 Strength is applied to it at once (three individuals can push on the bier at once – so a block and tackle might be useful). Within the tomb is Torpo's fanged 7' tall skeleton and his grave goods. The skeleton wears rotted cloth of gold robes and a rusting iron crown (robes are worth 2GP at best, the crown is worthless). The skeleton's right hand holds a bone scroll case containing a brittle scroll that details Torpo's draconian and cruel legal system. The bottom of the bier is carpeted with electrum coins. There are 3,000 EP below Torpo's brittle bones, each oval coin is new from the mint (they were specially minted for Torpo's death) and depicts the slumbering, befanged and bearded face of the tyrant on one side and three mourning robed women on the other. There's a small chance that the coins will be recognized as dating from Torpo's reign, but otherwise they are wholly unique.

SESSION VII - The Fires of Monstcrom

In which Monstcrom's striated scowl is turned into a grimace by the sounds of battle, Nel performs heroic feats of acrobatics and the thoughtful tactics of the living provide a flaming apocalypse for the dead.

Roman Oil Flask

Grimgrim – Fighting priest of the fierce God of Dooms, Monstcrom! (M) Cleric 1

Lemon Jackson – A magician sans pantalons with strange yellow eyes and who tattoos himself with spells. (M) Magic User 1

Huxley McTeeth (Hux) – A gaucho with a past, clad in plains' finery, possessed with in strength disproportionate to his years and small frame. (M) F1

“Eyestabs” Nell – A scary woman armed with many poison hat pins and a dead dwarf's crossbow (F) A1

Drusilla – Eleven lass of surpassing beauty(for a creepy eyed, fanged, and slit-nosed monster), disturbingly unpleasant affect and taste for human babies - armed with pole arm and scimitar (F) Elf 1

The PC's awake with the dawn, and after a spell memorization, sortie out of the shrine to discover a graveyard once again cloaked in mist. Grimgrim explains his promise to Jackal-Mask and the party agrees to go after the cultists rather than the fleas.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Demons of the North

Unarmored Northern Elf  - Apologies to Booth and Goddard

I have never liked elves, either as melancholic noble ancients or fey wild creatures.  Orcs are missing from ASE and ASE Elves are morphologically the next step up from goblins on the classic goblinoid tree.  As such I can't help but see elves, specifically these grim man-eating creeps as replacement for hobgoblins/orcs. Sure there are buffoonish Moktars, but they're more savage barbarian man-eaters, while these horrible elves are real monsters.

The Elves of the North are not a friend of man.  Even in a land dominated by megalomaniac Wizards and exotic lifeforms from distant stars or ancient times the Northern elves are a menace.  Of all the elven peoples in the Land of a Thousand Towers the Northern elves remain unscattered and entrenched in their traditional homelands above the great haunted lake known as the Eater of Cities.

Northern Elves are a culture out of time, their ways adapting only slowly to change and their deep cultural xenophobia preventing meaningful contact with most other peoples in the area.  Unlike the Dwarves of the deep hives they do not trade, unlike the Halflings they do not ape human civilization and unlike the Elves of the South they are not wandering hucksters, tinkers and prestidigitators.  The culture of the Eater Elves remains largely as it was when elf-kind was first created by the Hive-Minds: militaristic, arrogant, strict, and stoic.  Northern Elves believe that they are the pinnacle of evolution in the Land of 1,000 Towers and they look down upon other intelligent races.

In addition to their warlike and contrary nature Northern or Eaten Elves view humans as a domestic animal, raising debased human stock as food, labor, and slave soldiers.  Most Northern Elves have never met a human that was capable of speech or complex thought. Elven anthropophagic practices lead even greater distrust between elves and man and Northern elves are likely to attack humans on sight, except for those accompanied by elves, who may receive an offer to parley before having their human "livestock" rustled.