Friday, May 24, 2019

My Game of Thrones Season 8 Hot Take

Sure, it was a poorly-written conclusion for Game of Thrones.

But on the bright side, it was a pretty damn good adaptation of Drakengard.

Giant Cosmic Horror Babies would have been preferable to what actually happened in the second half of the last episode.
P.S. THIS is as far back as I could trace this picture.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

We've Got No Class v2.5 - PDF Download

Behold: the newest version of my "classless" character creation and advancement system for Lamentations of the Flame Princess!
CLICK HERE (or on the picture below) to view or download the PDF.

This is mostly a combination/reorganization of versions 2.0, 2.1, and 2.2 into one document. I did scribble in some extra notes; I wanted it to have a very DIY look, like something idly scribbled on during class. My wife Jessica was kind enough to illustrate the project. I'm very pleased with the end result.

I've been continually playtesting these rules in my current campaign, which I run more-or-less weekly. Feedback has been positive so far. I think the highest total level of any PC at this point is 5. There have been at least five PC deaths, so even if these rules make characters more powerful at low levels, they sure don't make them invincible.

A quick note on NPCs: I still use the default Saving Throw tables from Rules & Magic for NPCs, and I generally treat NPCs with class levels as only having their normal abilities, rather than those granted to characters created with these house rules. (Two exceptions: NPCs also use the new magic system from Vaginas Are Magic, and they use the skill list from my house rules.) I prefer to keep things simple, so I don't see the point of reworking every NPC in my game. I consider this to be a PC-only supplement, more-or-less. Naturally, you can do as you wish in your own campaign. I myself can't promise that I'll never make exceptions.

I wonder what my players will see
in the final days.

Monday, April 29, 2019

XP Limits > Level Limits

When it comes to D&D and OSR games, it seems like a lot of referees like to put level limits on the PCs in their campaigns. Many rulebooks might provide for theoretically infinite character leveling, but beyond a certain point the game may begin to change in ways undesirable to the referee or other players. It could be an issue of challenge, of game balance, of changing mood, of world-building, or whatever. And of course, some games already have level limits by default.

Okay, hold that thought.

One aspect of old-school D&D/OSR game design which took a while to grow on me was the deliberate lack of a unified experience table for all classes. It still hasn't entirely grown on me, in all honesty, but I've come to appreciate it as a method of creating class balance, even if it isn't my preferred method. Cavegirl talks about this in more depth, and with more eloquence, over at her blog HERE and HERE, using LotFP as her example. This, in turn, was based on an excellent project at Breeyark! using Original and Basic D&D.

Sure, Class A might not be as tough/well-rounded/capable as Class B when they're both at, say, Level 3. But they don't level up at the same rate, so in all likelihood, they won't be at Level 3 at the same time. Given the same amount of experience points, Class A might be at Level 4 or 5 when Class B is at Level 3, so it doesn't entirely make sense to compare them at the "same level." One of the advantages of Class A is that it levels up faster, so one could argue that, insofar as the different classes are "competing" to be attractive options for players, Classes A and B should be compared at the same experience point total, not the same experience level.*

Returning to that thought from earlier, doesn't it make more sense to put an Experience Point Limit on one's campaign, rather than a Level Limit? That way, the rate of advancement for each class continues to matter into the endgame, and "weaker" classes with faster advancement rates are not disproportionately weakened when the limit is reached.

Let's look at Lamentations of the Flame Princess, for example. Here are six possible XP limits that I find rather sensible, and the corresponding level limit for each class in Rules & Magic.

288,000 XP
Cleric 9, Fighter 9, Magic-User 9, Specialist 10, Dwarf 9, Elf 8, Halfling 9
(This is the minimum needed to get all but the Elf to "name level," although that doesn't really exist in LotFP.)

480,000 XP
Cleric 11, Fighter 10, Magic-User 10, Specialist 12, Dwarf 10, Elf 9, Halfling 10
(This is my second-favorite choice. I don't personally prefer to set the limit any lower than this.)

784,000 XP
Cleric 14, Fighter 13, Magic-User 12, Specialist 15, Dwarf 12, Elf 11, Halfling 13
(This is my #1 pick right now. I guess you could call this my "comfort zone.")

1,056,000 XP
Cleric 16, Fighter 15, Magic-User 14, Specialist 18, Dwarf 14, Elf 12, Halfling 15
(In LotFP, this is the closest I could get to both the limits in the Dave Cook D&D Expert Set and the minimum XP needed for a level 14 Magic-User in the Rules Cyclopedia.)

1,152,000 XP
Cleric 17, Fighter 16, Magic-User 15, Specialist 19, Dwarf 15, Elf 13, Halfling 16
(This is the minimum needed for the Magic-User to get an eighth-level spell slot, and for the Elf to get 6 points in Search.)

1,296,000 XP
Cleric 18, Fighter 17, Magic-User 16, Specialist 20, Dwarf 16, Elf 13, Halfling 17
(This is my third-favorite choice. As far as I'm concerned, if you put the limit any higher than this in LotFP, you might as well have no limit at all.)

In LotFP, I would say this gives a bit of extra edge to the cleric and specialist, and helps the magic-user get out from under the elf's shadow. It also helps each class gain access to many of their major milestone features (better saving throws, new spell levels, skill increases) even when they come at different levels, without discarding level limits altogether. If you're not going to have a unified experience table, you might as well get the most from that choice, right?

What do you think? Any disadvantages to this method I've overlooked? Or any other advantages to point out, for that matter?

*This is also relevant if you're joining a campaign in progress and creating a character above first level to match the party's experience. Or if you're creating a group of pre-gens that are intended to be roughly equivalent in power or ability. After all, old D&D modules seems to be teeming with examples of "balanced" parties in which the characters are all at different levels. Instead of going by the average level of a party, it might be fairer to look at the average number of experience points.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

B1: In Search of the Unknown - Overclocked Remix

A friend ran this classic adventure for me quite a while ago, and while we had a great time, my fellow players and I had one major complaint: it didn't seem like there was anywhere near enough treasure to justify the danger and difficulty of this dungeon for a bunch of desperate first-level folks. The DM admitted that he had placed more than the recommended amount of treasure, but whether through bad luck, poor decisions, or the adventure just being stingy, we didn't see much of it. And that's generally okay; failure is often incredibly fun in D&D. But I asked the DM if he thought we were actually doing anything wrong or foolish, on a tactical or decision-making level, and in his opinion we were mostly playing intelligently.

I would just chalk our experience up to bad luck, but I seem to remember seeing others complain online about B1 being stingy as well, and when I later saw for myself just how little experience was available in a dungeon that felt like a meat grinder, I felt pretty justified in thinking Quasqueton isn't actually worth the time and risk for your average low-level PC.

I've looked up a bunch of advice, and I've asked a bunch of people about the best methods for stocking a dungeon with a fair and appropriate amount of treasure, and mostly what I got was along the lines of "eh, just wing it," "it's an art and not a science," "I'll tell you as soon as I can figure it out," "nobody knows, kid," or "have you tried just grabbing a fistful of dice and chucking them at your map?" Old-school D&D texts themselves, including the advice given in B1, all seem to gravitate toward exercising restraint.

Restraint is overrated. Let's pack in the monsters, and go full "Monty Haul" with the treasure.

Treasures in italics replace those that were included directly in the room descriptions, rather than those intended for placement by the DM.

Room 1: Alcoves
Monster - None.
Treasure - 25 gp in belt pouch of Body #1, 10 gp in purse on Body #2.

Room 2: Kitchen
Monster - 4 Orcs tossing the room over in the hope of finding food or treasure.
Treasure - None.

Room 3: Dining Room
Monster - None.
Treasure - None.

Room 4: Lounge
Monster - 5 Kobolds enjoying a "show." They seem to be under the impression that the statue is a real person, singing and dancing on stage, and that their empty mugs are actually full of potent ale. Their "drunken" rowdiness does not impair them in combat, and they will not take kindly to the lovely performer being "interrupted."
Treasure - The statue is worth 25,000 gp. Stuck to the bottom of the eastern bench with anachronistic chewing gum are 20 gp.

Room 5: Wizard's Chamber
Monster -  None.
Treasure - The baseboard and sideboards are worth 500 gp each, and the headboard is worth 2,500 gp. The pitcher is worth 75 gp. The mugs are worth 25 gp each. The locked nightstand drawer contains a crystal goblet worth 75 gp.

Room 6: Closet
Monster - 6 Skeletons poised to attack as soon as the door opens. That's all they do, really.
Treasure - One garment is worth 75 gp. Book #3 is worth 250 gp. Among the stack of papers is a scroll of 2 Cure Light Wounds spells.

Room 7: Wizard's Annex
Monster - None.
Treasure - None.

Room 8: Wizard's Workroom
Monster - There is a 50/50 chance that 2 Zombies are either milling about this room or in Room 9.
Treasure - Between the overturned table and the wall, a dagger lies on the floor. It has a jeweled handle, bearing 2 onyxes worth 250 gp each.

Room 9: Wizard's Laboratory
Monster - There is a 50/50 chance that 2 Zombies are either milling about this room or in Room 8.
Treasure - Affixed to the inside of the coffin lid is a silver mirror worth 450 gp.

Room 10: Storeroom
Monster - 7 Giant Rats are gnawing on the barrels, trying to reach their contents.
Treasure - At the north end of the room is a locked treasure chest containing 462 gp and 4 sp.

Room 11: Supply Room
Monster - 2 Ghouls quietly gnawing on a dead Dwarf.
Treasure - Between the row of doors and the wall, a Wand of Mending (10 charges) lies forgotten on the floor.

Room 12: Library
Monster - 4 Gnolls building a strange shrine out of torn paper on an oak table.
Treasure - The rack on the east wall contains a scroll of 1 Sleep spell.

Room 13: Implement Room
Monster - None.
Treasure - Under the coil of heavy chain is a locked wooden box containing 175 gp.

Room 14: Auxiliary Room
Monster - None.
Treasure - Buried in the rubble is an intact potion of Invisibility (2 doses, 2 hours duration each).

Room 15: Teleportation Room
Monster - None.
Treasure - None.

Room 16: Teleportation Room
Monster - None.
Treasure - None.

Room 17: Char Storage Cellar
Monster - None.
Treasure - Buried in the fuel pile is a silver-and-gold bracelet worth 80 gp.

Room 18: Smithy
Monster - 4 Giant Centipedes lurk in the northeast end of the room. The door to Room 19 is open, as the Centipedes came here from the lower level.
Treasure - Hanging on the wall near the blacksmith's tools is a set of Chainmail +1. Anyone approaching it without first looking into the northeast end of the room has a chance of being surprised by the Centipedes.

Room 19: Access Room
Monster - None.
Treasure - None.

Room 20: Dead End Room
Monster - 6 Goblins are lost in the winding corridor. If they hear the Shriekers in Room 22, this will help them get their bearings, and they will immediately head to Room 22.
Treasure - None.

Room 21: Meeting Room
Monster - 8 Goblins are holding a silent auction in this room, bidding with bags of teeth for unusual lumps. If they hear the Shriekers in Room 22, they will drop everything to go investigate as a group.
Treasure - The Goblin running the auction from the stage wears a gold ring worth 50 gp.

Room 22: Garden Room
Monster - 4 Shriekers. If you sit quietly in the dark without startling them, you can just barely hear them "breathing" or "whistling." The first two are on the semicircular stone formation at the west end of the room. The third waits on a similar formation at the north end. The fourth is at the bottom of the southern pit. If a source of light comes within 30' of a Shrieker (or 10' of the one in the pit, horizontally speaking), it will shriek for d3 rounds. Touching one also makes it shriek. After shrieking, a Shrieker must inhale for the same number of rounds it spent shrieking before it can do so again. The sound will definitely bring the Goblins running from Rooms 20 and 21, and each round of shrieking also triggers a 50% chance of a random encounter.
Treasure - At the bottom of the northern pit, a Ring of Protection +1 lies nestled among the fruiting bodies.

Room 23: Storage Room
Monster - None.
Treasure - A pouch containing 25 gp lies on the woodworking table.

Room 24: Misstress' Chamber
Monster - None.
Treasure - The comb is worth 25 gp. The dish contains 5 gp and 6 sp. The tapestry is worth 200 gp. Coins are sewn into the green canopy in the shapes of the zodiac, totaling 245 gp.

Room 25: Rogahn's Chamber
Monster - None.
Treasure - The tapestries are worth 500 gp each. The cabinet is topped with a display case containing a Mace +1. The case is locked, but it is made of glass that can be shattered easily enough, albeit with enough noise to trigger a random encounter check.

Room 26: Trophy Room
Monster - 7 Orcs, temporarily split off from the group in Room 27.
Treasure - Above the pair of crossed swords is a Shield +1.

Room 27: Throne Room
Monster - 7 Orcs, cautiously exploring the dungeon.
Treasure - The Orcs carry 140 gp among them, most of which they have collected while exploring the dungeon.

Room 28: Worship Area
Monster - Animated Idol: AC as Plate, HD 4, HP 18, Move 60'/20', ML 12, 1 attack for 1d10 damage.
Removing any of the coins from the pit (see below) triggers the Idol to animate, break free from the wall, and attack the thief. Returning all of the same exact coins to the pit will cause the Idol to return to its original spot and fuse seamlessly with the wall again - otherwise, only the thief's death will sate its wrath, after which it will try to return the coins to the pit. The Idol will also attack others in self-defense, provided it has been animated by the theft of a coin first. The Idol will not leave the dungeon under its own power, but it can sense the location of all coins stolen from the pit at all times.
Treasure - At the bottom of the sacrificial pit are 820 gp, scattered among the ashes.

Room 29: Captain's Chamber
Monster - 4 Bandits, hiding from the Orcs.
Treasure - The stoneware crock contains 25 gp. The plaque is worth 125 gp.

Room 30: Access Room
Monster - None.
Treasure - None.

Room 31: Room of Pools
Monster - None.
Treasure - The key in Pool B unlocks the glass display case in Room 25.

Room 32: Advisor's Chamber
Monster - None.
Treasure - The painting is worth 1,500 gp. Result #3 on the "contents of the drawer" table becomes 50-500 gp, Result #4 is worth 250 gp, and Result #5 is worth 100 gp.

Room 33: Barracks
Monster - None.
Treasure - Thrust through a table in the southwest end of the room is a Spear +2.

Room 34: Armory
Monster - 5 Hobgoblins holding an elaborate forced wedding ceremony between a captured Dwarf and one of the chests in the southwest corner, which they refer to as "Sally." They seem to think the whistling wind is the music of a pipe organ.
Treasure - None.

Room 35: Guest Chamber
Monster - 5 Dwarfs in the southernmost room, arguing in low voices about whether they should go home empty-handed or keep looking for treasure. They lost one companion to the Ghouls in Room 11, and another was captured by the Hobgoblins in Room 34.
Treasure - In the northernmost room, a silver-and-onyx medallion worth 500 gp is tucked into the pillowcase on the bed.

Room 36: Utility Room
Monster - None.
Treasure - None.

Room 37: Recreation Room
Monster - 9 Kobolds working out with Rogahn's gym equipment.
Treasure - Among the iron bars is a gold bar worth 75 gp.

Room 38: Access Room
Monster - None.
Treasure - None.

Room 39: Museum
Monster - Carrion Crawler "licking" at a fresco on the north wall.
Treasure - Set into the hilt of the curved sword is a pearl worth 500 gp.

Room 40: Secret Cavern
Monster - None.
Treasure - The skeleton of a one-eyed humanoid rests against the south wall. Its eye socket holds a peridot worth 2,500 gp.

Room 41: Cavern
Monster - None.
Treasure - None.

Room 42: Webbed Cavern
Monster - A Giant Black Widow Spider hides in the web near the ceiling.
Treasure - Caught in a nest of webbing in the southwest part of the cavern are 4 gold rods, each worth 150 gp.

Room 43: Cavern
Monster - None.
Treasure - Dropped long ago, a statuette worth 575 gp lies half-buried in the mud.

Room 44: Cavern
Monster - Giant Crab Spider waiting in ambush.
Treasure - None.

Room 45: Cavern of the Mystical Stone
Monster - None.
Treasure - Result #14 on the "chip's magical properties" table becomes a pearl worth 2,500 gp.

Room 46: Sunken Cavern
Monster - None.
Treasure - Strewn on the floor are the chewed bones of several people and 600 gp.

Room 47: Cavern
Monster - None.
Treasure - Beneath a pile of bones is a potion of Haste (2 doses, 10 rounds duration each) in a filthy-but-intact bottle.

Room 48: Arena Cavern
Monster - Ochre Jelly absorbing a dead Troglodyte near the middle of the arena.
Treasure - An onyx statue worth 1,000 gp squats on a short pillar in the middle of the arena.

Room 49: Phosphorescent Cave
Monster - 2 Giant Crab Spiders eating dead bats they caught in Room 53.
Treasure - None.

Room 50: Water Pit
Monster - 2 Troglodytes guarding a clutch of eggs in the water. Very aggressive and overprotective, like a mama bear.
Treasure - None.

Room 51: Side Cavern
Monster - 2 Troglodytes carefully butchering the carcass of a carrion crawler. 50% chance one of them wields a tentacle like a paralyzing whip - rolling a 5 or less on an attack roll means the Troglodyte must make a saving throw or paralyze itself.
Treasure - Sticking out of the eastern wall are 8 agates worth 50 gp each.

Room 52: Raised Cavern
Monster - None.
Treasure - Sticking out of the eastern wall are 4 garnets worth 500 gp each.

Room 53: Grand Cavern of the Bats
Monster - None.
Treasure - None.

Room 54: Treasure Cave
Monster - None.
Treasure - Scattered on the floor are 5d20+50 gp. One of the locked chests contains 3,100 gp.

Room 55: Exit Cave
Monster - Sickly, Wounded Green Dragon: AC as Plate +2, HD 8, HP 30, Move 90'/30', ML 7, 3 attacks (2 Claws for 1d6 damage each, plus 1 Bite for 3d8 damage) or Breath Weapon (50'x40' cloud of toxic gas doing damage equal to the Dragon's current HP).
The Dragon is currently too weak to fly, and there is a 50% chance of catching it sleeping while it hunkers down in this cave to heal. It does not speak any current human languages and does not have any spells memorized at the moment, although it could theoretically talk and memorize spells.
The Dragon's presence should hopefully serve as a clue that there is another entrance to the dungeon nearby. Forget that stuff about the secret exit being one-way; once it is discovered, the players should be able to use it to enter the dungeon in the future, albeit with difficulty due to thicker vegetation and harsher terrain on this side of the complex. Don't let the players use this entrance until they discover it, though!
Treasure - The Dragon sleeps on a small pile of 5,000 gp. Next to this pile is the corpse of a would-be dragon slayer, still bearing a set of Plate Armor +1, a Battle Axe +1, and a Dagger +1.

Room 56: Cavern of the Statue
Monster - 5 Stirges nesting on the ceiling above the statue. They have a chance to surprise anyone not looking at the ceiling.
Treasure - None.

Note on Random Encounters - If any party members are above Level 1 in experience, or if the party includes more than 6 characters above Level 0, I think it would be in the proper spirit of this project to include the maximum number of opponents possible in each random encounter.

Note on Fixed Encounters - I did not list any monsters that were "pre-placed" in the module, so as to avoid spoilers for those who have not read or played it yet. You can safely assume they are still there.

Pre-placed treasures I altered: Between 8,445 and 11,540 gp, plus 6 sp
Treasures I placed: 19,892 gp and 4 sp
Grand Total: Between 28,338 and 31,433 gp
*Not counting magic items. Also not counting the statue in Room 4, because it is unlikely to be taken.

In Search of the Unknown seems to be ideally suited for a party of 6 PCs, based on the "Availability of Non-Player Characters" table near the end of the module. If things go really well, a party of 6 could theoretically make it to Level 3 and well on their way to Level 4 if they clear this thing out thoroughly, assuming my math isn't too far off. But, you know...the best laid plans of giant rats and fighting men, and all that...

I might actually try running this soon. If I do, I imagine I'll post a follow-up. In the meantime, I'd love to hear some advice, opinions, etc. about the best ways to stock and run B1. Do you think the adventure was too stingy as written? Are the potential rewards commensurate to the challenge? Does that even matter? (I can hear the classic OSR chant of "screw balance!" echoing in the distance.) Did I fundamentally misunderstand something about the module and make myself look stupid in front of the internet? Are crab spiders cooler than giant ticks? G+ is dead, so you might as well talk about D&D here, right?

P.S. THIS would make for an excellent alternative to the encounter I put in Room 55.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

R.I.P. Google+

"Not one of the Host of Despair managed to land a killing blow on Anti-Lord Ekrish. Triumphant even in defeat, Ekrish raised his index and pinkie fingers to the heavens, calling down a lightning bolt that turned him instantly to stone at the peak of Humanity Cliff. The sight awed the surviving Host so greatly that they swore off evil forever. On quiet nights, one can still hear the Anti-Lord's statue-corpse reverberating with the echoes of his epic ballads."
-The Codex of Righteous and Infinite Defiance

Life goes on. Heck, I just picked up all this sweet loot the other day.

Call an ambulance, 'cause my Appendix N just burst.

It'll take more than that to kill us, you bastards.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

On Zak Smith

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. Vivka Grey has also published a post regarding similar abusive behavior.

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.

Please see the end of this post for an update regarding the next paragraph.
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, Hannah, and Vivka: I believe you.

UPDATE, 02/23/2019
Lamentations of the Flame Princess has released a statement regarding Zak Smith. If you have access to Facebook, you can read it at the following link:

To summarize, LotFP is parting ways with Zak Smith.

Overall, I am satisfied by this response. I believe that James Raggi and LotFP are taking the right actions by cutting ties with Zak Smith in this manner. Earlier, I said that doing the ethical thing in this situation would do a great deal in the way of earning back my trust, and I meant it. Thus, I once again feel fairly comfortable with the prospect of buying and writing about products from LotFP, should I choose to do so.

My LotFP "boycott," if you want to call it that, is over for the time being. I do think I should both play and write about a wider variety of games, for the sake of my own enjoyment and for the sake of adding more variety to the blog. This could be "other stuff in addition to LotFP" or it could be "other stuff instead of LotFP," depending on my interests going forward. But I hold no ill will toward Lamentations of the Flame Princess regarding the actions of Zak Smith. I hold the latter responsible for his own actions. I will, of course, continue to avoid buying or promoting the work of Zak Smith.

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.