Tuesday, February 12, 2019

On Zak Smith and LotFP

Mandy Morbid published a post on Facebook describing abusive behavior committed by Zak Smith. You can read the testimony of Mandy and two other brave individuals, Jennifer and Hannah, HERE. If you do not have access to Facebook, the post has also been reproduced in full at Dungeons & Donuts HERE.

There have already been many responses to Mandy's post which have been written far better than anything I can come up with at the moment. I endorse the following posts, among others:
I am sorry for promoting Zak's work in the past. In the future, I will do my best to avoid writing anything on this blog which I believe would promote his work. I no longer encourage anyone to buy or use anything he produces. Zak does not deserve to be a part of any RPG community.

Likewise, until Lamentations of the Flame Princess stops selling and promoting Zak's work, I do not intend to write any more posts about LotFP, buy any more of their products, or otherwise promote the brand. Even if LotFP does completely drop Zak, I am not sure that I could continue to call myself a fan of the game in good conscience due to James Raggi's promotion of Jordan Peterson, as well as the way he has treated at least one of my friends in private. But if you're reading this, James, I'm sure that doing the right thing by Mandy and Jennifer and Hannah would do a great deal in earning back the trust of myself and many others.

There are many great OSR games and publishers and writers and artists out there, and many great RPGs in general. I think it is time for me to try and be more selective about those I endorse.

I am sorry for any harm I have caused through anything I have written or said, on this blog or elsewhere, involving Zak Smith. Abuse should not be tolerated.

Mandy, Jennifer, and Hannah: I believe you.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Second Note from Sumnergrave

(This is for my Mansions & Mindfucks campaign, currently in progress.)

Second Note from Sumnergrave - Given to Shelbe Black by a witch near Deathfrost Mountain in southern Germany.

Dear adventurers (especially you, Shelbe Black),

As of late, I have come to indulge in - one might say wallow in - a most peculiar emotional vice, thanks to you. I would call it pure schadenfreude, were it not directed at none other than myself, in a detached, ironic sort of way. An enjoyment of my own suffering, as if the I who were suffering were a different being from the I who were observing and deriving great amusement from that selfsame pain. You have split me, for the moment, with a sharp and agonizing mirth, as surely as you have split so many bodies with your weapons.

This is all to say that, quite by accident, you have thwarted one of my most costly, most time-consuming, best-laid, most vital plans, at least for the time being...and I'm not even mad. You have been as entertaining as I'd hoped. You really got me this time.*

Please allow me to eat my slice of humble pie in the following manner: my associate here (the shockingly honest witch you see before you) has brought you an enchanted snow globe which you may use to access your home, in a fashion, and the research facilities therein. I'm sure you're eager to have that parasite out of you, dear Shelbe. Besides, I would imagine you have some baggage to drop off. Just gather everyone around you and give this device a good shake.

That debt being paid, I propose we return to the business of your book. About two hundred miles north of your current location is the city of Würzburg, and just beyond that lies the town of Karlstadt. There is an item I need fetched from this area and delivered to a Miss Orelia Woolcott, whom you should be able to find in the vicinity of Caversdale, England. Both the process and the results of obtaining and delivering this item will undoubtedly give you a wealth of new material for the Memoirs.

I will be in touch with further details the next time you dream. Might I suggest you wait until you get back to Germany before you sleep, though.

Yours in the agony and ecstasy of life's wretchedness,
Ambrose Clark Sumnergrave

*Of course, one could endlessly debate how much one should attribute this achievement to skill and cleverness, and how much to luck, and how much to my own foolishness and overconfidence and divided attention - it's not easy, playing god - but that's just splitting the hairs of Samson's holy beard, isn't it? You deserve recognition. I'm sure Joop will paint you a medal if you ask nicely.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Castlevania III + LotFP (+ Ravenloft?)

I'm a big fan of both Castlevania III on the NES and the recent Castlevania series on Netflix. I thought it might be fun to make a party of pregenerated characters based on the heroes of the game and show, plus a few appropriate magic items. Here's what I came up with.

Everything is statted for Lamentations of the Flame Princess because that's what I'm used to, and because it seemed appropriate for some gothic fantasy-horror dungeon crawling. I initially used Tabletop Smash to make the characters, and then tweaked them from there.

I made Alucard an "Elf" for now, as a stand-in for a half-vampire; I figured I could tweak the class later if need be, but an Elf with the right spells could probably work in a pinch.

You might notice that Sypha and Alucard are at level 9 even though they only have enough experience to be level 8 according to the rulebook. I put them at level 9 so that the whole party would be the same level, but I did not want to completely ignore the advantages of some classes (especially the specialist) leveling up faster than others. My compromise is to start everyone at 256,000 experience (meaning Grant is already partway to level 10), and to consider Sypha and Alucard "in debt," meaning that they are treated as Level 9, but their lower amount of experience points means that they will take longer than usual to go from level 9 to level 10.

I didn't list ages for the characters, but you can probably assume they are all about 30 years old, with the exception of Alucard, who I think is about 17 or 18 in the first two seasons of the Castlevania TV show.

Someday, I'd like to run this party through the original Ravenloft adventure, or even a campaign in the 2E Ravenloft setting that started with Realm of Terror. After all, I did happen to randomly pick up a copy of Castles Forlorn a while ago...

Trevor C. Belmont, Level 9 Lawful Fighter
Has 256,000 XP, Needs 384,000 XP for Level 10
CHA 18 (+3) CON 16 (+2) DEX 16 (+2)
INT 12 (+0) STR 17 (+2) WIS 12 (+0)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 10, Poison 8, Breath 9, Device 9, Magic 12
HP 72, BAB +10, Melee AB +12, Ranged AB +12
Melee AC 17, Ranged AC 18, Without Shield AC 16, Surprised AC 12
Open Doors 3
Has Fighter Combat Options.
Lightly Encumbered (2 points)
Equipment: The Morning Star (see below), Holy Cross Boomerang (see below), Short Sword (Small Weapon), Sack w/ 20 Silver Sling Bullets, Waterskin, 50' Rope, Holy Water x10, Torch x10, Tinderbox, ShieldLeather Armor, Cestus, GarroteSling, Backpack, Empty Sack x4, Air Bladder, Candle, Chalk, Garlic, Silver Holy Symbol, Wooden Holy Symbol, Ink, Kingdom Map, Local Map, Silver Mirror, Nails, Paper, Pipe, Soap, Iron Spike x10, Wooden Spike x10, Bottle x4, Whistle, Wolvesbane

Grant DaNasty, Level 9 Neutral Specialist
Has 256,000 XP, Needs 288,000 XP for Level 10
CHA 16 (+2) CON 15 (+1) DEX 17 (+2)
INT 14 (+1) STR 16 (+2) WIS 14 (+1)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 9, Poison 10, Breath 12, Device 11, Magic 10
(+1 Bonus for Magic Saves and +1 Bonus for Non-Magic Saves)
HP 53, BAB +1, Melee AB +3, Ranged AB +3
Melee AC 17, Ranged AC 17, Without Shield AC 17, Surprised AC 12
Climbing 6, Languages 2, Open Doors 3, Search 6, Sneak Attack 6, Stealth 6
Lightly Encumbered (2 points) - But see Boots of Striding & Springing below.
Equipment: Magic Stopwatch (see below), Battle Axe (Medium Weapon), Dagger (Minor Weapon), Light Crossbow, Quiver w/ 20 Bolts, Waterskin, Tinderbox, Torch x10, 50' Rope, Crampons, Crowbar, Boots of Striding & Springing (see below)Leather ArmorCestus, GarroteSlingBackpackSack x5Air BladderCandleChalkGarlicWooden Holy SymbolInkKingdom MapLocal MapSilver MirrorNailsPaperPipeSoapIron Spike x10Wooden Spike x10Bottle x4WhistleWolvesbane

Sypha Belnades, Level 9 Chaotic Magic-User
Has 256,000 XP, Needs 432,000 XP for Level 10
CHA 16 (+2) CON 16 (+2) DEX 14 (+1)
INT 18 (+3) STR 12 (+0) WIS 14 (+1)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 11, Poison 11, Breath 14, Device 11, Magic 12
(+3 Bonus for Magic Saves and +1 Bonus for Non-Magic Saves)
HP 48, BAB +1, Melee AB +1, Ranged AB +2
Melee AC 15, Ranged AC 15, Without Shield AC 15, Surprised AC 12
Languages 4
Spells Known: Read Magic, Comprehend Languages, Detect Magic, Identify, Magic Missile, Mending, Unseen Servant, Continual Light, Knock, Phantasmal Force, Dispel Magic, Explosive Runes, Water Breathing, Wall of Fire, Wall of Ice, Cloudkill, Major Creation
Unencumbered (1 point)
Equipment: Spellbook, Staff, Sack w/ 20 Silver Sling Bullets, Waterskin, Tinderbox, Lantern, Flask of Lamp Oil x10, Leather Armor, CestusSlingBackpackEmpty Sack x4Air BladderCandleChalkGarlicWooden Holy SymbolInkKingdom MapLocal MapSilver MirrorNailsPaperPipeSoapIron Spike x10Wooden Spike x10Bottle x4WhistleWolvesbane

Alucard (Adrian F. Tepes), Level 9 Chaotic Elf
Has 256,000 XP, Needs 576,000 XP for Level 10
CHA 15 (+1) CON 17 (+2) DEX 15 (+1)
INT 18 (+3) STR 16 (+2) WIS 10 (+0)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 9, Poison 8, Breath 9, Device 9, Magic 11
(+3 Bonus for Magic Saves)
HP 60, BAB +1, Melee AB +3, Ranged AB +2
Melee AC 16, Ranged AC 17, Without Shield AC 15, Surprised AC 12
Languages 4, Open Doors 3, Search 4
Has Fighter Combat Options. Only surprised on a roll of 1.
Spells Known: Read Magic, Charm Person, Sleep, Spider Climb, Detect Invisible, Invisibility, Levitate, Fly, Gaseous Form, Haste, Improved Invisibility, Polymorph Self, Telekinesis, Teleport
Lightly Encumbered (2 points)
Equipment: Spellbook, Longsword (Medium Weapon), Short Bow, Quiver w/ 20 Arrows, Waterskin, Tinderbox, Torch x10, ShieldLeather ArmorCestus, GarroteSlingBackpackSack x5Air BladderCandleChalkInkKingdom MapLocal MapSteel MirrorNailsPaperPipeSoapIron Spike x10Wooden Spike x10Bottle x4Whistle

The Morning Star, or the Vampire Killer
  • Base damage 1d6, Allows melee attacks on opponents up to 10' away
  • +1 to hit and damage, +2 against undead and demons/devils, +4 against vampires and lycanthropes
  • On a natural 19 or 20 to-hit roll, does double damage to vampires. On a natural 20 to-hit roll, does double damage to other undead, demons/devils, and lycanthropes.
  • Can hit and damage opponents that can normally only be hit or damaged by magic or silver. Can kill vampires and lycanthropes just as effectively as their "normal" weaknesses.
  • Once per day, the wielder can call upon God to light the Morning Star with holy flame for 1d6 turns. The flame is blue, and gives off as much light as a torch. It will not harm or burn the wielder or anyone of Lawful alignment. A (non-Lawful) opponent struck by the flaming weapon takes an extra 1d6 damage. On a natural roll of 6, the target must save vs. device or be engulfed in flames (as per the rules for flaming oil).
  • Chaotic characters cannot use the supernatural powers of this weapon when wielding it. A Neutral character who kills a demon/devil, a lycanthrope, a vampire, or any other type of undead being with this weapon automatically changes their alignment to Lawful.
Holy Cross Boomerang
  • Base damage 1d4, Short Range 20', Medium Range 40', Long Range 60'
  • +1 to hit and damage against undead and demons/devils, +2 against vampires and lycanthropes
  • On command, returns to the hand of the last person to throw it. If thrown and retrieved in this manner in the same combat round, there is not enough time to also move that same round.
  • Can hit and damage opponents that can normally only be hit or damaged by magic or silver. Can kill vampires and lycanthropes just as effectively as their "normal" weaknesses.
  • Once per day, if brandished while calling upon God, it can be used to cast Turn Undead as a Cleric of the wielder's level. Count 0-level characters as level 1.
  • Chaotic characters cannot use the supernatural powers of this weapon when wielding it. A Neutral character who kills a demon/devil, a lycanthrope, a vampire, or any other type of undead being with this weapon automatically changes their alignment to Lawful.
Magic Stopwatch
  • Can be used to cast Haste or Slow 1d4 times per day (roll each Midnight) as a Magic-User of the wielder's level. Count 0-level characters as level 1.
  • Can be used to cast Time Stop once per day as a Magic-User of the wielder's level. Count 0-level characters as level 1.
  • Haste and Slow can be cast additional times per day at the cost of 1d4 damage to the wielder and 1d4-1 years worth of magical aging per use. Time Stop can be cast additional times per day at the cost of 1d12 damage and 1d10-1 years of magical aging per use.
Boots of Striding & Springing (Borrowed from the AD&D 1979 Dungeon Master's Guide, tweaked by me)
  • Unencumbering item when worn.
  • +1 AC when the wearer is not surprised.
  • The wearer's movement speed is 120'/40' when Unencumbered, Lightly Encumbered, or Heavily Encumbered. This is reduced to 60'/20' when Severely Encumbered. The wearer is still immobilized when Over Encumbered.
  • The wearer can jump up to 15' vertically and 30' horizontally. Jumping a supernatural distance in combat requires a save vs. paralysis; failure means that upon landing the wearer stumbles and is unable to move on the next round.
  • Negates up to 40' of falling damage (or 4d6). If this occurs in combat, the wearer must make a save vs. paralysis as above.
  • The wearer suffers no damage from a Forced March as long as the powers of the boots are still active at the end of the march (see below). The wearer must still rest after marching as usual.
  • After 12 hours of use, the powers of the boots will become inactive for 12 hours as they "recharge."
Potions for the Party
  • Cure Light Wounds x3
  • Cure Serious Wounds x2
  • Cure Critical Wounds x1
  • Cure Disease x2
  • Remove Curse x1
  • Neutralize Poison x3
Shared Items
  • Wagon
  • Riding Horse x2
  • Riding Gear x2
  • Saddlebag x4
  • Animal Feed x14
  • Winter Travel Clothing x4
  • Regular Tent x2
  • Bedroll x4
  • Iron Ration x28
  • Cooking Pots x2
  • Fishing Gear
  • Shovel
  • Miner's Pick
  • Drill
  • Mallet
  • Manacles
  • 10' Pole x4
  • 50' Rope x4
  • Grappling Hook
  • Spyglass
  • Specialist's Tools
  • 2,520 silver pieces (630 each)

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Derceto Manor - Dunwich, Suffolk, England

These notes are for a Lamentations of the Flame Princess campaign I'm running for some friends online, which I'm calling Mansions & Mindfucks. It takes place on Earth in 16XX, in an alternate history where the city of Dunwich avoided any major storm damage in the 13th and 14th Centuries and remained a major port and population center even into the Early Modern period.

Things haven't quite gone in this direction, but my original idea was for the campaign to focus on supernatural investigations and haunted houses, with the PCs being members of a club which exists at roughly the halfway point between occult detectives and traditional D&D adventurers. Think of it like a hoity-toity thieves' guild whose members are all amateur occultists and ghost hunters on the weekends - a heavily-armed Scooby Gang with sticky fingers and loose morals.

The campaign began with the PCs all receiving notice that they have jointly inherited Derceto Manor in Dunwich; a puzzling message considering that none of them knew the previous owner who left it to them in his will. Since the players have arrived in Dunwich, I figure I should actually make some notes about their inheritance. For reference, I'm using a wonderful map designed and drawn by Dyson Logos called "Metivier Manor" (with some small modifications).

Derceto Manor
  • Location: Outskirts of Dunwich, Suffolk, England
  • Land: 7 Acres
  • Total Estate Value: 2,000,000 silver pieces
  • Yearly Maintenance Costs: 20,000 to 137,280 silver pieces.
  • Yearly Taxes: 80,000 to 154,000 silver pieces
  • Upkeep Costs: 50 silver pieces per resident per month
  • Annual costs are due on April 1. Monthly costs are due on the first of each month.
Structures on Property
  1. Derceto Manor itself
  2. Small House for Servants (Pregzt, Boleskine, Marsh, and Whateley)
  3. Combined Garage/Stable
  4. Tool/Gardening Shed
  5. Crypt Entrance (locked)
  6. Pavilion
  7. Well
  8. Cesspit
  9. Abandoned, Overgrown Garden (with various broken statues, crumbling walls, and other assorted masonry)
  10. Foundation of a structure that might have once been a tiny Chapel
People of Interest
Ambrose Clark Sumnergrave - Former owner of Derceto and mysterious benefactor from beyond the grave. Disappeared about six months ago after changing his will to state that he should be presumed dead in the event of such a lengthy absence. Said to have often spent months at a time away from home, leaving it to the expert care of his servants. When he was home, he often threw lavish but intimate parties for the intelligentsia of Dunwich. Said to be a skilled writer in many fields, whose poetry and fiction are especially affecting, if morbid and almost unintelligibly abstract. Dabbled in painting, but was certainly no master. Many people's memories of him are unusually vague or contradictory.

Reginald Timsh - The lawyer handling the will. He doesn't actually know much about Sumnergrave or understand the purpose of this unusual distribution of the Derceto estate, but he received a great deal of money from some mysterious source to handle this case, and he believes in giving his clients what they pay for. See Alfred Cunningham, People of Pembrooktonshire p. 13.

Bartholomew James - Sumnergrave's former accountant. See Percival St. John, People of Pembrooktonshire p. 38.

Kelvin Pregzt - Handyman for Derceto (craftsman). See Thomas Grayson, People of Pembrooktonshire p. 18.

Geoffrey Boleskine - Groundskeeper for Derceto (laborer). See Eugene Madget, People of Pembrooktonshire p. 26.

Zadok Marsh - Sumnergrave's former personal coachman. See Gordon Balladeer, People of Pembrooktonshire p. 8.

Thaddeus Whateley - Teamster for Derceto's stables. See Henry Waxman,  People of Pembrooktonshire p. 41.

Hubert Hartwood (butler) - Butler, husband of Susan. See Thurston Butcher, People of Pembrooktonshire p. 10.

Susan Hartwood - Household servant, wife of Hubert. See Jaime Bohmer, People of Pembrooktonshire p. 10.

June Carnby - Household servant, wife of Ezekiel. See Theodosa Birkbeck, People of Pembrooktonshire p. 9.

Ezekiel Carnby - Household servant, husband of June. See Samuel Pfaff, People of Pembrooktonshire p. 32.

"Curtis Poe" - Household servant. Real name Lorelei Vaughan. See Lancelot Dashwood, People of Pembrooktonshire p. 13, and Margaret van Mook, People of Pembrooktonshire p. 41.

Notes on Rooms
General Details about the House - Each square on the grid is 5 feet by 5 feet. I was originally going to make them 10 by 10, but that seemed excessive. I am fairly certain I used 5 foot squares when I determined the cost of the house and the value of the arcane library and laboratory, but I'm not totally sure. If things aren't completely accurate to the rules, so be it.

The house is clean and in good repair, despite the untidiness of the estate's grounds. The building's exterior is mostly stone. The windows are glass, and very modern for the time. Fireplaces can be assumed to be present in all major rooms above ground, even if not depicted on the map. Ceilings range in height from 7.5 feet in smaller rooms to 10 feet in larger rooms.

NOTE: As of 01/26/2019, most rooms currently lack descriptions. I plan to edit this post and fill in more details as they come up in the game.

Ground Floor:
Porch - 

Hall - Alabaster bust of James I.

Parlor - Mahogany table. China cabinet with black plates and bowls. Fireplace.

Ball Room - 

Conservatory - Well-tended (unlike the garden), but with space for far more plants than it currently contains.

Closet - 

Music Room - 

Gallery - Nude Self-Portrait, holding sextant, posed near globe. Painting of a black cat with green eyes. Painting of a woman named Lisa with green eyes.

Dining Room - Ridiculously tall table, way too many chairs. Bar. Potted plants in corners.

Cloak Room - 

Sitting Area - 

Pantry - 

Kitchen - 

Servant Area - 

Top Floor:
Landing/Hallway - 

Game Room - 

Study - 

Closet - 

West Guest Bedroom - 

Library - 

Lounge - 

East Guest Bedroom - 

Dressing Room - 

Master Bedroom - 

Secret Study - Contains Ambrose Clark Sumnergrave's collection of notes, journals, memoirs, research materials, scribblings, fragments of dozens of texts, and assorted pieces of evidence, which he supposedly intended to compile into a book entitled Memoirs to Prove the Existence of the Devil. Also contains the Note from Sumnergrave (see below).

Servant Hallway - 

North Servant Bedroom - Hubert and Susan sleep here.

East Servant Bedroom - Curtis sleeps here.

South Servant Bedroom - June and Ezekiel sleep here.

Food Cellar - 

Storage - 

Wine Cellar - Very few bottles are left (probably enough for one big party or 1d4+1 small social engagements).

Treasury - 

Arcane Library - 3,000 silver pieces in value.

Tunnels and Cells - A "bloodroot" is in one of the cells, preserved in a plasmic bubble of arcane chronostasis. (Magic item by Wayne Renaud. Borrowed from the LotFP Magic Item Contest.)

Laboratory - 5,000 silver pieces in value.

Crypts - The basement's gate to the crypts is locked, as is the gate in the above-ground entrance. Is there a dungeon down here, waiting to be explored?

Note from Sumnergrave - Found among the notes for his Memoirs:

Dear adventurers,

The contents of this room are why you are here. These documents form the basis for my unfinished manuscript, entitled Memoirs to Prove the Existence of the Devil. I want you to finish my book. I want you to take what I've given you and use it as you see fit, provided you complete and publish my work. Once the Memoirs are out in the world, your obligation to me is complete.

I selected each of you because I see potential in you: The drive to uncover secrets. The lust for adventure. The willingness to do what others dare not. Contempt for the ordinary. Fascination with the uncanny. Curiosity about the unknown. Bravery mixed with caution. Quick wits. The ability to think laterally. Careful attention to detail. Iconoclasm. Ambition. Intimate (one might say casual) familiarity with violence and horror. A keen sense of self-interest and considerable greed for profit and the pleasures it brings.

You could become the premiere explorers of your age, which is to say both its premiere scholars and its premiere conquerors. It's funny how those things fall hand-in-hand for your civilization, and perhaps your species.

I will appear to you in dreams and portents. I would tell you to "be not afraid," but alas, I am no angel. I can assure you, however, that as long as you try in earnest to achieve my goals, I will remain your staunch (if distant) ally. And at the very least, any potential wrath on my part will be tempered if you merely remain interesting. Your personalities and experiences will undoubtedly flavor anything you write.

You may have noticed that the gift of my mansion is also a burden of sorts. Taxes and upkeep are quite costly. You are not the type of people to slave away at common sorts of work, and besides, a more usual form of employment would certainly distract you from the task at hand. The solution I would suggest is one that would undoubtedly occur to you eventually, but for the sake of immediate clarity I will put it plainly. Your investigations into the leads I have provided will grant you countless opportunities to simultaneously turn a profit. Extract value as you extract knowledge. Old tombs tend to contain treasure; Take the coins from the eyes of corpses if you must. The right information can be lucrative, as well. Do what comes naturally as you plumb the depths of the supernatural.

I have faith that our authorial partnership will be fruitful. Fret not about how I would want the book to turn out. Make it your own, satisfying to your tastes and needs, and I am sure to be pleased as well. But make sure it is finished and published. Other than that, "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law."

Your patron,
Ambrose Clark Sumnergrave

P.S. Things will probably go better for you if we all maintain the fiction that I am gone.