Friday, August 17, 2012

HMS Apollyon - Welcome Aboard

Now with three sessions of HMS Apollyon exploration over it seems appropriate to post an introductory document for the campaign. Edited 11/27/12 due to gameplay changes.  Edited last 8/30/215.
From the Comic Leviathan - inspiration for the setting
First the Practicals

Flailsnail's Player's Introduction

I am running a dungeon crawl of the HMS APOLLYON - a miles-long demon and monster haunted cruise ship that travels between worlds and frequently 'rescues' individuals from the seas it traverses. Perhaps it's a crude metaphor for Davy Jones Locker, perhaps I just like boats. The games have been played for some years now as non-static world, and currently use my own house rules based on Whitebox/0E D&D.  It's open ended and if you're on Google + and want to play look me up - while people who have dedicated HMS Apollyon characters or play regularly have precedence, there are usually a couple open spots for casual players who want to check out the setting.

Genre: It's sort of a mix of a "point of light" campaign, social climbing and horror.  Embattled and not very nice humanity is trying to claw back something from the monsters, environment and other intelligent species within the hull of an Leviathan cruise ship long gone dark, crumbling and strange.  The polyglot Sterntown is the only known civilized area and just now recovering from a disastrous war 40 years ago.  Sterntowners are allied with at least three (four really, but we keep quite about the Draugr) mundane non-human races, and their leaders, the passenger class, have dealings and share bloodlines with infernal powers.  Humanity is not the most powerful faction within the hull, and the characters are the lowest order within Sterntown.  Hence there is an element of survival horror here, or at least I hope there is.  I am aiming for an atmosphere of drippy, damp, dreary and odd - but it's not especially serious, and gonzo elements exist (like Flying Monkeys).

Level: Right now the game exploring early midlevel (3rd-5th) areas of the hull. I am using OD&D mechanics however so the power curve is rather flat and first level characters have little trouble adapting.  In the past there was an original flailsnails game that reach 7th level, a passenger class game that played around on the upperdeck at 1st level, and a second scavengers game that reached about 4th level.

Magic: The HMS Apollyon is a place of lots of weird, but fairly weak magic.  Don't expect to find a great many magical treasures, and the ones you do find are likely to do odd things.  A +1 sword is more likely to simply be made of good steel, and a magic sword is likely to only cut the shadows of enemies (effectively I might add).

Technology: Anything is fine, but it's likely I will adjust its abilities as I see fit - There are space age zap guns lost deep in the hull of the Apollyon, and bolt action rifles are standard issue to guardsmen.  Whatever your worlds trotting adventurer has picked up is unlikely to unbalance things.  Discussion of available 'new' technology is here.

Campaign Goals: The goals of the campaign are open - setting up a colony, acting as religious crusaders, plundering a pharaoh's golden sarcophagus, overthrowing Sterntown's overlords - all can be ultimate goals.  The basic premise though encourages an exploration game, and exploring is rewarded with both XP and money (in the form of mapping commissions).  As such, keeping good maps and finding one's way past obstacles is a solid strategy for wealth and fame

Treasure:  Treasure aboard the Apollyon is salvage mostly.  This includes gold and gems, but it also includes working machine tools, copper pipe and fancy canned goods.  Astute players will be rewarded for thinking beyond the standard treasure heap system of many games.

Monsters: Yup there's lots of them, from hyper-intelligent Fishmen to dogs with crayfish heads.  Lots of undead as well, and very few creatures are in the monster manuals - most do strange gross things.

Example Here

Pacing: Trying to run the game once a week, for about two hours a session.  In game pacing is not linear - that is while things are generally easier in the starting areas near the Rust Gate they're not universally so.  Running away is a good option sometimes.

Important House Rules

The basics of the current system are HERE or under the "Player's Guide" heading - they are getting finalized.

Counter Spells: Magic Users, and only magic users (not hybrid classes), can counter-spell instead of casting.  Basically if you know a spell you can counter it by holding your turn and watching the other magic-user.  If you counter successfully they end up losing the spell and it fizzles.  The other guy can do this to you as well.  Note: almost every caster aboard the Apollyon knows sleep and magic missile.

Death and Injury (NEW):At Zero HP a character is unconscious or dead.  The player may roll a save vs. death at the end of combat, to reducing merely be injured and unconscious. Injuries from near death are usually permanent and stat reducing.  In especially bad cases they may require the PC to retire.  Death saves may be re rolled when another PC spends the combat attempting to stabilize the dying character.  If the character or NPC stabilizing the injured character has skills as a Doctor the injured PC will receive a second save at +(level of doctoring) to avoid injury if the first save is made, and to survive if it is not. 

Guns: Firearms are prevalent on the Apollyon.  Muzzle loading weapons are cheap enough and manufactured widely in Sterntown.  Better gunsmiths are available for weapons up to the bolt action rifle and revolver lever. More advanced weapons used to be common and can still be recovered in the hull.  Ammunition is readily available and may be custom made for found weapons.  Guns work with simple "exploding damage" - on a roll of maximum damage another roll is made.  This works for each die if the gun has multiple dice of damage.  Heavy slower bullets tend to have larger damage dice, while small high powered guns have more smaller dice.

The Environment

Sterntown: This is the standard megadungeon starting town, the gates lead directly into the untamed, monster crawling hull.  However, the players are limited to where they can go within town due to their status as outcasts and strangers and are limited to the slums around the Rustgates (main exit into the hull) until they prove themselves friends of the town.  The important locals are generally helps and info can be found here on the page.  Details regarding the vessel at large are here, and rumors here.

Rolling Up a Member of the Crew: Rolling up a member of the crew is a reasonable option, and has certain advantages. There's a character generator here - but generally I just use 3D6 in order.

Other options include F/MU hybrids is the form of exiled members of the passenger class.

Flying Monkeys act as servants and scouts for the Apollyon's elite and are F/TH hybrids.

Froglings are a major minority aboard the Apollyon, and know elemental magic as will as having Specialist skills (light fighters or thieves).

Draugr are specially constructed and concealed undead horrors  and are fighters/magic users or specialists.

Merrowmen are awful little eel people, most are specialists but with certain stats they may be fighters or magic-users.



  1. I like the concept of this setting. Looking forward to seeing how it all works out... if I ever get a chance, maybe I'll try out a G+ game too :)

  2. I've got an intro I'm going to run my group through, starting with pirates, then a WWII U-boat, then THIS... my players are gonna kill me :)

  3. this is still my favourite D&D setting of all time.