Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Keep on Kickassistan: Adventure Background

In sorting out how to convert B2: Keep on the Borderlands  to B2: Keep on Kickassistan, certain changes to the basic logic behind the module are being made. In Kickassistan, a lot of the staples of D&D adventures get their volumes turned up to eleven and others have their tunes changed entirely. This is the first (or is it the second?) article discussing the specifics of just what B2 looks like here in Kickassistan. I've borrowed the module format used by Goodman Games for its COMPLETELY FRIGGIN' AWESOME series of adventures that really are what makes DCC such a great game.

Adventure Background

The ascent of the Dominion of Man has not been an easy thing. Though he now rules Ur-Hadad, the First City, and has for one thousand years, Man does not yet hold sway over every corner of the world. In the millennium since the fall of the Elder Races, Man has extended his grasp beyond the First City's walls, but often his progress is rebuked by other races, unaligned tribes and the forces of Chaos. These are the threats to the Keep on Kickassistan.

When the first human settlers built the Keep here in the borderlands on the very edge of Ur-Hadad's influence a mere forty-two years ago, they had no idea that, in doing so, they were awakening a power that had been hidden from the mortal world since the fall of the Elder Races. They had no idea that their mere proximity had, deep within the nearby network of caves a few miles away, brought a relic known as the Heart of Chaos once again to life.

The Heart of Chaos beat slowly at first and only the meekest agents of Chaos answered its pleas. In each passing decade, the Heart beat louder and attracted more followers who would arrive at the caves after receiving dreams and visions of plunder and pillage to be had if only these followers would heed the siren song of the Heart. Over the course of those forty-two years, beast men and other humanoid tribes have filled up the caves surrounding the Heart -- caves that are now known as the Caves of Chaos -- and gradually increased their depredations against the lands protected by the Keep. Soon, the Heart's designs will come to fruition and these tribes will assault the Keep and claim it as its own. Soon, Chaos shall reign on Mankind's borderlands.

Player Introduction

Answering the call to bring light to the darkest corners of the world, you have taken up arms in support of the Keep that stands as a sole bulwark against the forces of chaos and savagery in this part of the borderlands. The Caves of Chaos are known to be home to terrible tribes of beast men that have been ravaging the country side for decades, though rumors speak of even worse monsters and nightmarish secrets deep within the warren of passages. 

The forest that you had trekked through to get here darkened and twisted as you pressed on, the fragile path that you followed becoming overgrown seemingly before your very eyes. You had no doubt that you were on the right trail, though, as you could feel the cruel eyes of hidden watchers track your progress and found traces of the grisly remains of the beast men's raids; often, human remains. The grim trail led you through briar and thorn, as if nature itself were trying to ward you off for your own safety, and as you forced your way into the desolate valley that the Caves of Chaos circumscribe, a murder of crows took flight, as if to warn your gods to prepare seats at their tables for you.

Now, steel in hand, you face the threat that gnaws at the Dominion of Man here on the borderlands. Now, you gird yourself for your journey into these grim and forbidding caves, ready to meet either victory or death itself. Now, you prepare yourself to win gold and glory through sorcery and swordsmanship or face the grave for having dared.

Monday, October 29, 2012

B2: Keep on Kickassistan

Last week, in the session of Game of Taps described in this post, I gave you a bit of a peak inside how the world of B2: Keep on the Borderlands is a bit different when the eponymous Keep is placed in Kickassistan.  First off, we had the complete lack of kobolds. In their stead, we have the Higgabooga tribe of gila men, which, if you ask me, is a much cooler thing. The Higgabooga king and his booga brides were the session's ultimate boss fight which was really fun, really tough, and claimed the lives of many PCs and the entire Higgabooga court. This session was a blast, and got me thinking: what's going to happen next time I don't have the standard crew or have more new players without characters? And then I realized, I've got to keep the Keep on Kickassistan alive.

Module B2: Keep on the Borderlands is kind of perfect for a low-commitment role playing environment. Each set of caverns in the Caves of Chaos is (relatively) self-contained and represent a group of threats that a group of PCs can spend a night tearing through, get done with, go sell off their loot and spend the rest of the night carousing. Even failed forays (again, see this session's write up) can have their losses cut with enough time in a single session to go back in and make up for lost time. All in all, Keep is a pretty solid module for a group that changes its composition on a routine basis and isn't capable of the long-term commitment necessary to make it through many of the uber-long modules out there.

The first major change that I had to make was the change from kobolds to gila men, but many other changes are going to be necessary. Not only does Kickassistan not contain kobolds, but there also aren't any goblins, orcs, hobgoblins or ogres, so those guys are going to have to change. Furthermore, the whole backdrop of the D&D version of Chaos is a bit different than the DCC version of Chaos; the D&D version doesn't have nearly enough tentacles for my taste, so those undead and chaos priests are going to have to change a bit. I'm working on putting together some ideas of how each "node" of the Caves of Chaos are different, and as I see it, the work that I need to do right now involve figuring out how the following are different:

  • Orcs: there are two different tribes of these guys. What's up with them? Since they're not orcs in Kickassistan, what are they? What do they do? Right now, I'm thinking about playing up the "pig-nosed orc" concept and turning them into boar-headed beast men; this idea needs to ferment a bit.
  • Goblins: are small, tricky dudes. Maybe small ape men? Ape men seems appropriately DCC, but I'm not sure if they fit in the vibe of "lots of crazy beast-type guys." This one still needs life breathed into it.
  • Hobgoblins: are militaristic, organized and probably the least Chaotic of the tribes in the Caves of Chaos. Since they're not as sneaky as the other goblinoid races, I'm not worrying about making them consistently related to the other goblinoid monstermen (goblins and bugbears, being sneaky can be linked species-ically), so I think maybe I'll be going with something drastically different. Maybe goatmen? Goatmen sound like fun even if they might get too dangerously close to the beastmen of the Warhammer universe.
  • Bugbears! What the hell would make a good large, strong but sneaky group of beast men? The good news is that these guys are a bit higher up in the Caves, so I doubt the players will get to them any time soon. Hmm... what is big but sneaky? Are bears sneaky?
  • The Ogre: If there's one thing that strikes me as the most iconic monster of Keep, it's the Ogre. Back in the day, when my middle school group ran Keep (and I DM'd), the part that they always remembered the most was the Ogre whom they befriended (his name was "Hep") through bizarre circumstances that I can't quite remember. Hep survived his encounter with those PCs and periodically over the next few years of gaming, he'd show up during their adventures, usually just as comedy relief. Lots of great memories there. For the Keep on Kickassistan, I don't necessarily need to keep the potential for the comedy angle (but the "Bree-Yark!" angle is definitely still in), and so will be reinterpreting the Ogre the same way that the DCC rulebook does, as a mountain ape. MOUNTAIN APE!
  • Most of the rest of the stuff will sort itself out or require only minor flavor tweaks. 
Over the next bunch of time (who knows?) I'll throw out some of the stuff that I convert from D&D to Kickassistan. Some of it I might have to save until after it's shown up in the Game of Taps, but look for all (or most of) it here. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Role Playing as an Emergent System in DCC

Before I get started on this whole potential fool's errand, let me first apologize to physicists and philosophers and everyone who actually knows what an emergent system is. I actually *DO* understand what emergent systems are, and understand why they shouldn't be applied to social science frame works, but I think that there's really no better way to talk about what I'm about to propose. Furthermore, "emergent system" sounds cool. 

Earlier today, Wayne Snyder, possessor of the most amazing beard in my G+ circles, posted some really interesting thoughts about the actual ability of players to play the roles of four different characters at the same time (times four players, that makes sixteen characters being played) and what that can do to the speed of game play: Grind it to a halt. This doesn't just happen with online play, it can happen any time players are handling more than one character. Couple this potentiality with the fact that when showing up to play DCC, most players I've dealt with so far are looking for gold and glory, what with that being part of the game's tagline and all.

The question is not "should one introduce role playing elements into DCC" but rather "how and when should one introduce role playing elements into DCC?" This is probably just my own personal style, but in my experience, the thoughts that I'm about to share work incredibly well in DCC and could just as easily work in other games as well. Since the bulk of player expectations in DCC revolve around action and reward, I tend to spend the bulk of my time building up these aspects and not trying to force role playing opportunities and instead allow the players to motivate RP opportunities. Essentially, by creating an environment in which I'm not providing the PCs with RP, the stories that the players tell about their characters end up shaping the sort of RP that develops.

Case Study: The Legend of the Shoveler

Not this guy, but kinda like him
If you've been following my blog and the exploits of my Game of Taps crew, you might be familiar with the legend of the Shoveler. You guys can skip to the end. For the rest of you, the character who would ultimately become known as the Shoveler started his career as a grave digger. A completely average grave digger. His only good stat was Luck (15) and he suffered from a pretty low Intelligence (6); all in all, it wasn't really expected that he would live, so his ultimate survival to 1st level was kind of a shock. Along that road to 1st level, the Shoveler had some particularly amazing successes, ones that -- like his survival to 1st level -- no one ever saw coming. During his first outing, this lowly (but lucky) grave digger fought a firey ooze and won in an improbable way. This tar ooze smoldered as it slowly groped toward the PCs, and the young grave digger stepped up with his shovel to, as he put it "shovel it away from the party." A roll, a crit and one very well chopped up tar ooze later and the grave digger had saved the party from burnination; also, the legend of the Shoveler was born. While facing off against the monsters and hazards of that first adventure, the grave digger kept on using that shovel, despite the opportunity to upgrade to a sword, an axe or something else (he actually carries a mace at his belt, just in case he loses the shovel).

During the group's second outing, the newly-christened Shoveler continued to eschew different weapons for no reason other than if he started to use something other than the shovel, he would no longer be the Shoveler. The whole "Shoveler" sobriquet started to create an air of mystique around the character; now, at 1st level, he was no mere Warrior, he was the Shoveler! And with his mighty shovel, the Shoveler shoveled the motherfucking HELL out of a giant catfish and some purple oozes (more oozes shoveled to death). In between adventures, the Shoveler didn't just choose to keep his shovel, but actively pursued obtaining a magic shovel, his player (Chris L for those keeping track) knowing full well that the Shoveler will likely have to go on a long and complex series of potentially deadly quests. This is the stuff that legends are made of. This was an RP opportunity created by a player out of the story that the group of players was building about their adventurers' search for gold and glory.

The Emergent System

Right, so, let me explain an emergent system. I know most of my RPG-playing readers out there are at least passingly familiar with Chaos Theory. You know, the one that's often mis-explained by talking about butterflies and hurricanes and all that. That bad Ashton Kutcher movie stuff (wait, is there a good Ashton Kutcher movie?). So, the basic idea is that, in an incredibly complex system, like air currents, a completely different system can emerge without any apparent reason, like turbulence. Some philosophers even use this to explain the mind: because of the incredibly complex nature of events happening inside of our bodies and brains, we experience a series of emergent phenomena that we call our minds. Sometimes, you just introduce enough craziness to a system and something new and amazing that's not just bigger than the sum of its parts but that is completely different from the sum of its parts. Sometimes, new systems can emerge out of complex and chaotic ones. Can you think of a system that you deal with on a routine basis that's more complex and chaotic than your gaming table?
I have no idea what this means.

The basic philosophy that I'm getting at is to not force the issue of role playing but to let it emerge. The players will find the time for RP when they're ready for it, when their characters are ready for it and when the game is ready for it. Realistically, the RP will naturally, organically emerge from the game-y portions of the game. The sheer amount of complexity inherent in an RPG almost assures that things you won't expect will happen, players will talk about them and eventually these things will show up in the natures of the characters. Don't force this process, finesse it.

So Mr. Wayne Superbeard, here's where I stand on the issue of RP in DCC funnel games: I'd not lead with it. For my tastes, action would start a few moments after the begining of the session and RP would emerge naturally from that action, particularly once the PC count has thinned out a bit and then often to fill in a gap or a need and almost always to help the players flesh out the story that they're building about their characters.  (The thing about the Legend of the Shoveler is that the Shoveler didn't really become the Shoveler until his player had lost two other PCs.) I've found that players will seek to create their own opportunities for RP and that it's best if I keep my fingers out of the pie and allow the players' collective awesome to happen. This is how I run my DCC game and I'd expect more of this out of our G+ game.

Thoughts On DCC Funnels & Roll20

This past Thursday, I got a chance to play inside my own brain. Well, sort of. My own brain, but in someone else's head. Allow me to explain.

Edgar Johnson of Edgar's Game Blog ran a DCC 0-level funnel on Thursday night via a Google+ hangout with the Roll20 app. Now, this was my first time as a player in DCC, my first hangout game and the first time I'd been a player in five years. FIVE YEARS! Now, I have experience in virtual table top software (I used to run a few games with MapTool a few years ago and found it lacking) and lots of experience with running DCC (if you're reading this blog, you probably know that already), so as we were playing I started to think of how to run a funnel as efficiently as possible in the format. After the session, I had a little pow wow with Edgar about his experiences and our resultant conversation was, I assume, the inspiration for this post over on his blog. I think Edgar did a great job DMing the group, and his insights are pretty much required reading for what I'm about to drop on you.

Now, it needs to be understand that I think Edgar did a great job and that some of the things that could have been better are things that you're not going to realize should run a particular way until you've already run a funnel once. Couple that with new technology that none of us were terribly familiar with and you've got a recipe for ... well, I wouldn't say mistakes, more like a recipe for future opportunities. It was, to use a phrase in danger of gaining "hackneyed cliche" status, a learning experience. Over on that post I linked above, Edgar does some great analysis of our experience. From my perspective, I don't like to talk about what went wrong, rather I'd like to talk about how the next session can be even more kickass and give some tips for future DCC Judges out there planning on running something on Roll20 (including myself).

By my reckoning (as a guy who wasn't actually running the session, so my ideas could be complete bullshit), there are two key areas that a DCC Judge needs to be super-tight when running a game via G+. These broad categories are (a) time management and (b) space management. Here we go.

Time Management

This one may look like a no-brainer, but time can easily get away from you and your players. As it stands, you had your players have scheduled time away from your normal lives to get together online to work together on playing a kickass game and normally that amount of time is fairly limited. Thus, as the big boss man, it is incumbent upon you to use that time as effectively as possible. Here are some ideas that specifically apply to the DCC via G+ environment.

  • One action per round per player. Yeah, I know. Your players have four level 0s each for a reason. But, if you let every single one of them act, your baddies will be dead before they ever get a turn. Instead, consider letting each player pick one character to act with per round, thus making each round count for each player. This is how I've been running my in-person DCC games and so far, it's been a winner (yes, once the pack has thinned out, I do run "one action per character"). If you're using this concept with the "one player, one token" concept I'll talk about in a minute, consider adding the following idea: when you as the Judge attack a certain player's characters, the character you actually attack is the one who most recently acted (if none of a player's characters have acted yet, let the player pick one of his PCs as the target). This has the added (awesome) effect of the players' decisions to attack or act with a particular PC also exposing that PC to risk. Risk, I tell you! 
  • Start the session just a few minutes (two to five at most) before actual action starts. By action, I mean killing things or traps or running/jumping/climbing trees. That sort of thing. DCC is a game of action and showing up to play means you're showing up for action! Save the roleplaying for later. Save the exposition. Stow the backstory. Lock up the shopping trips. You don't have it? You don't need it. As I said before, every gamer in your hangout has set aside a limited amount of time to the game and that time needs to be spent in the most fun way possible. If need be, you can use G+ to settle backstory points, go shopping, flirt with the wenches, whatever, in between sessions.
  • You, as the Judge, should introduce the players' PCs to the other players. This may sound time-wastey, but if you do it, they won't have to. Here's how I do it: "Alright, Doug [sorry Doug, you're getting dragged in here to talk about a game you're not playing in] here is playing... a halfling haberdasher who's pretty healthy but really unlucky, a caravan guard who's agile and smart, a squire who's strong but a complete asshole..." and so on. I introduce the characters in basic terms that talk about their strengths and weaknesses, things that the other players may need to know to think strategically inside the dungeon. It saves you time by giving everyone an idea of what everyone does (so they don't have to ask later) and cutting down on the possibility of long winded speeches about what each PC's great-grandparents ate for breakfast forty years ago (not that that happened in Edgar's session; these guys are freaking awesome!). So, do the introduction yourself, keep it short and to-the-point, and get it done; once done, the only reason for them not knowing is that they weren't paying attention, and that's a different story altogether.
  • Prep. I know, session prep can be a bit of a dirty word in the OSR-osphere, but man is it important to making sure that no time gets wasted. I'll write monster stats on index cards during set up, make multiple copies of maps (some to show players, some to write on, etc.), break out extra little reference books (like Jeremy Deram's DCC RPG ref sheets or Zak S's Vornheim). But this isn't a ground-breaking idea and those Gnome Stew guys just published a whole book on the subject so there's nothing I could add to that. Well, other than spend some of your prep time just fucking around with Roll20 (or whatever software you're using) to see what everything does and if there's any tricks you can come up with. Seriously. Fuck around. If you come up with anything cool, let me know. 

Space Management

So, you may be thinking "how do I manage space in an imaginary space being discussed in a virtual space?" That, my friend, is a smartass response and needs to get shut down right there. Everything in the game uses up space in one way or another, even if that space is just visual. So, we're going to talk about how to make that space work for you, the Judge (and consequently for your players, but we're not really here to talk about those guys, are we?).
  • One player, one token. This sounds a lot like the "one action per player per round" thing above and it's useful for the same reason. Assign each player a single token that tells everyone where every single one of the players' characters are. Now far less of the visual real estate of the map is taken up by a gaggle of level 0s; this has the extra effect of everybody knowing where everything else is. If you're using a whole mess of tokens to represent every single separate level 0 character and there's sixteen of them, you'll end up losing time to searching for just the right token for each PC or trying to figure out which token is which PC. I think we lost one PC token somehow, too; that wouldn't happen if we each just had one token, we'd notice right away. "Hey, where did Bear go?" 
  • Consider messing with the scale. A lot of old modules maps were drawn in a "1 square = 10 feet" scale. Why do this? First, it saves on visual space. Consider that a 10' by 10' area takes up four 5' squares but only one 10' square (god, having typed that, I now feel stupider; so much stupider, in fact, that I wrote the word "stupider" three times now). Second, it's a little easier to explain the "one player, one token" logic if everything's 10' squares. Sure, I can fit 4 people in a 5'x5' area, but they might be a little cozy (that's a decent enough space between people at the bar, right?), but they'll probably feel better about swinging swords, pickaxes, pitchforks, shovels and trowels at the baddies if they're in a 10'x10' area. The problem with this idea is that the default square size for Roll20 is 5' and I'm not sure if it can be changed (I have not spent enough session prep time fucking around yet). 
  • I'm sure I had a third thing to add here. I'm sure of it. If I think of it, I'll let you know. 
Now, a lot of these ideas are things I've come up with as I gear up to run my first few sessions on G+, but that probably won't happen for a little while (I think Edgar has another session or two to go before it's my turn). Now that I'm realizing how easy it could be to get a group of my fellow gamers together to run roughshod over the crazy ideas in my brain, I'm full to bursting with madder and madder visions of what those games will turn into. Here's one idea of something I'm cooking up. Imagine a game in the following universe using WEG's old d6 Star Wars (2e) rules and you've got the sort of awesome I'm envisioning. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Races of Kickassistan: The Halflings

The Halflings

Perhaps no other race is as easy to underestimate as the halflings. It would seem as though every other race sees only one facet of the species, rather than a cohesive whole. Humans tend to view halflings as eternal children at worst or tiny cousins at best; either way, humans’ view is often patronizing and protective. The gruff and taciturn race of dwarves see the halflings as con men and thieves, hiding behind the pleasantries of society; consequently, dwarves always expect the worst when trading with halfling merchants. Elves who know of the misdeeds of their imperial cousins ages ago regard halflings quizzically, believing them to the result of magical experiments carried out by the now-dark elves; this view often leads to a sense of pity or remorse not unlike the protective attitudes of the humans. All of these are right, of course, and all of them are wrong. Halflings, it seems, simply love life and everything in it. They express their joy in celebrating every aspect of life, even toil, notably food and especially drink, as fully as they can. Thus, halfling society often revolves around the little rituals of life: the tilling of fields, the milking of cattle, the reaving of wheat, the brewing of ales, the singing of songs and so on.
Like this, just shorter.

Halfling Adventurers

Not all halflings are happy to live a simple life of daily rituals devoid of any larger meaning. For these halflings, celebrations of the mundane are merely a yoke to constrain and oppress the halflings, a yoke first imposed when halflings were shaped from men by the Elder Races; it is this yoke that marks the halfling as distinct from Men, that sedates most of them in the face of their own slavery to their own culture, that traps them in a vicious cycle of powerless serfdom. Halfling malcontents may spend a significant portion of their time undermining halfling society, they may associate with members of other races, or they may just focus on what few thrills they can find; in any case, a halfling malcontent is just one step away from a halfling adventurer and that step is usually found with the right push out his front door.
To other halflings, malcontents and adventurers are much the same and often described with the simple epithet, “rude.”

By now, you may be thinking, "Adam, everything you've written about Kickassistan so far has been pretty damn metal. What's this pansy ska stuff?" To that, I respond, "Have you ever met a rude boy?" Probably not, they're not around too many places anymore. Here in Ypsilanti, they're still thriving, mixing ska with oi punk. You can't have one without the other. Well, you can, but it's not as cool that way.

Game of Taps: Enter the Meatgrinder

Chris (left) & Doug (right) tally up the dead
Ladies and gents, the Game of Taps crew turned what could have been a terribly disappointing evening into one of the most fascinating evenings of gaming I've ever experienced. The Starbucks guys, Doug and Chris, were the only ones to show up, meaning that our further forays into the Goodman Games' People of the Pit would have to be delayed. Rather than face of evening of crazily delayed gaming as we waited for another player (any other player!) to show up, I had Chris & Doug roll up a fresh set of 0-levels for a fresh funnel. I then ran upstairs and grabbed one of my several copies of the good old standby Keep on the Borderlands.

It seems like, for the last year or so, the gaming community has been shoving Keep into my face and making me remember all of the awesome from years past. Whether it was the Chaos Scar semi-Adventure Path from WotC (which really wasn't much of an adventure path), the D&D Encounters season a little while back (I have no idea when the season actually happened, but I recently read through it for the first time) or the absolute schlock of a DnDNext playtest, WotC seems fascinated these days with Keep. I'm not going to say that it was WotC's fascination with Keep that pushed it to the forefront of my mind, but it was a module that I always loved and only ever ran once, way back in the mists of time, I own several copies of and reread on semi-regular basis, so it doesn't really take much to push this one back onto my radar. A few months ago, in fact, I was thinking about trying out Searchers of the Unknown with Keep on the Borderlands, but that was not to be. When looking for something fun to do as a "fallback game," Keep came to mind right away, I ran upstairs and grabbed a copy.

I aimed the newly-minted level 0s at the kobold cave, but since there are no standard humanoid races in Kickassistan, I needed to reskin those kobolds. No longer would they be traditional reptile dog men, but something different. I grabbed the table of goblin mutations from Secret Santicore 2011 and had Doug roll a d30; the result was that these guys were wartier than normal. Warty... reptile dog men. Warty reptiles. Gila monsters? Gila men? Yes indeed, gila men. Chris decided that they were called "Higgaboogas" (although later we retconned this into being their tribe name) and thus our kobolds were reskinned enough to be usable. Officially, these gila men are one of the many breeds of lesser humanoid races that populate the world if not one of the beastman races.

Finally ready to assault the dungeon, our level 0s rushed valiantly in ... and landed squarely in the pit trap at the first intersection. Well, one character did. The rest jumped across the pit and found the room filled with giant rats. Strange thing about giant rats in DCC, they're actually tougher than kobolds are. Strange thing about level 0s in DCC, they're actually pretty squishy. In the end, out of the seven characters that faced down the rats, two survived to run the hell away and find some more pals to come back into the dungeon with. After about a half hour of actual game time (if that), we had killed off six PCs, including the ones that either player thought were the ones that were most likely to survive.

Not at all like this
With plenty of time left on our hands, the guys each rolled up three more level 0s and went back in. This time, one of the 0s had some oil, so the group figured that the best way to deal with a mess of giant rats was the eternal Plan B: "kill them with fire." The big surprise is that it worked and the one PC who went off on his own to deal with the rats collected all of the stuff from the dead ex-PCs who were there. The rest of the group went off to deal with the gila men (sorry, "Higgaboogas") who ambushed the party by throwing spears. A few more casualties on the party's side and the gila guards were down; the party regrouped on the Higgabooga side of the pit (the pit's death count at this point was 3) and the party ran into another group of gila guards, this group a bit more buff than the previous patrol. When this patrol skewered two or three more PCs on the end of their spears, it was time to run again since each of the players again had only two PCs remaining.

Checking the game clock -- or the real clock -- we saw we still had plenty of gaming time, so the guys decided to give it one more go. By this time, the one PC who had survived from the first group of victims adventurers had accumulated enough xp to reach 1st level so on trip 3 back into ye olde dungeon, the players had a level 1 elf on their side. This didn't mean much in the way of melee back up, basically just a severe off chance on some spellcasting. When the group ran back into the gila man patrol that scared them off last time, the elf threw out ineffective spell after ineffective spell as the 0s picked off two of the five gila guards. It wasn't until the elf tried to cast Charm person that he met with any success and when he did, it was a crit, meaning that the party now had a Higgabooga pal who would be sticking with them for the next month or so, providing he lived that long (he would not).

After some more exploring and *gasp!* clever usage of a small handheld mirror, the party came to the door of the Higgabooga king and his Higgabooga brides (all five of them!). Given a modicum of time to prepare, the party took their new gila man pal (named, due to some uncreative naming on the part of the players "Eh-er," like the sound a windshield wiper makes)* and oiled him up with a flask of flaming oil. "Go give your king a hug," they told him, and when he got close enough, they threw a lantern at him. Hilarity -- and dead Higgaboogas -- ensued. Facing off against the king and his brides, the PCs met with more casualties but took the king down, which routed the remaining brides (the PCs couldn't allow that and mowed them down as they ran). Now faced with the prospect of looting the throne room of the Higgabooga king, the heroes found themselves in possession of crazy valuable treasures that they would soon translate to more coin than they knew what to do with.
Final death toll: 21 level 0 corpses

In the end, only three PCs survived. Two were Chris's (the aforementioned elf and an alchemist that became a cleric after the session) and one was Doug's (a fortune teller-turned-warrior), and I decided to let the surviving heroes have the opportunity to celebrate their victory. Using the sort of carousing rules that you often see in lots of OSR games, I let the guys roll 1d6 and multiply the result by 50gp to determine how much the carousing back at the eponymous Keep on the Borderlands would cost per PC taking advantage of it; the PCs would then get a number of xp equal to the die roll. Doug rolled a 5, which was more than enough to push the fortune teller and alchemist over into first level territory.

So, now we have an alternate game when folks decide to ditch DCC night. Since each segment of the Caves of Chaos could be taken as a mini-adventure, it's really well laid out for a 3 hour-or-so game. This alternate game is also pretty great for introducing new players and PCs to the Game of Taps, DCC and the Kickassistan aesthetic. All that remains is for me to give the module the full treatment and completely convert it to Kickassistan-grade awesomeness. Here's the stuff that I think needs to change:
  • The humanoid and goblinoid races need to become something else. There are no orcs, goblins or hobgoblins in Kickassistan and they won't be in this version of the module either. 
  • The Keep itself needs some work, although I don't figure that it'll fit into more than some flavor text here or there.
  • The clerics of Chaos. Hmm. Not enough tentacles for my tastes. 
  • TOO MUCH MAGIC! Most of the stuff like magic armor is going to have to be not just toned down but completely removed. I mean seriously, it seems like every other node of this dungeon includes a suit of plate +1 and if there's that much loot just laying around, what's the point in giving the PCs all of the treasure that there is in the place? I'll have to strip out a lot of the magic items to make any of the treasure meaningful at all. I don't plan on there being any magic armor at all and only a very few magic weapons, but maybe some potions and scrolls. 
Somehow, I've managed to get this Game of Taps entry in the day after it occurred, rather than just a few days before the next session. I don't plan on making a habit of it, but I had to get these details out. 21 level 0 corpses. A personal best. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Game of Taps: P-P-P-Pirate Ghosts!?!?!

Somehow, I seem to run a week behind (or so) on my play reports for the Game of Taps campaign. So here we are again, on the eve of another session of the Game of Taps (this coming Monday), and I'm only just now getting around to writing the last session up. First things first, let's see who was here for this session:
  • Doug: Starbucks guy #1 and still new to RPGs; plays 
    • Kishtu the Barber (Warrior 1, AL L), strong and smashy, Kishtu is renowed for his Sack Full of Catfish.
    • Kurosagi the Beggar (Thief 1, AL N), sneaky and lucky but dumb. Needs to learn to carry a ranged weapon.
    • Zehbeh the Apprentice (Dwarf 1, AL N; DEAD) used to be a stonemason and is now a stone statue (see below). 
  • Chris L: Starbucks guy #2, master of the improbable
    • The Shoveler (Warrior 1, AL C) would be completely unremarkable if he hadn't turned his Intelligence penalty into a career of dashing exploits that turned extraordinarily lucky dice rolls into colossal successes. Now, the Shoveler seeks to find a smith to craft him the Shovel of the Gods. 
    • Meewick the Cultist (Wizard 1, AL C) can speak the language of Horses for some reason, switches gender when he casts Comprehend languages, and is surprisingly accurate with daggers.
  • Terra: Terra's back! Hooray!
    • Beatrice the ex-Squire (Thief 1, AL N) wears armor listed as "leather, yo" and includes in her treasures "gold chainz."
  • Matt R: Is back at the gaming table, too.
    • Kothar the Locksmith (Warrior 1, AL C) gave up a profitable locksmithing job in favor of a cursed double-headed axe and lots of killing. Not named after the literary barbarian, but after the random table in the back of the DCC book.
    • Thulan the Wanderer (Elf 1, AL C) still has the lump of clay that he started with, but has long since stopped trying to turn it into anything. Instead, he as well needs to learn to carry a ranged weapon. 
Our story starts in the Soiled Dove of Mustertown, where the Shoveler and Meewick are catching up with Beatrice, Kothar and Thulan (who missed the expedition into the Sunken City) and introducing them to the new guys, Kishtu, Kurosagi & Zehbeh. Soldiers from the First City came looking for the adventurers on behalf of their patron who promptly sends them on a quest to escort a bevy of harem slaves from a remote monastery to the city where they will be sold off or presented as gifts to the various decadent nobles of Ur-Hadad. Offered a ridiculous reward, the adventurers simply cannot refuse but, when they get to the monastery, they find that it's been ravaged by cultists and tentacled horrors from the nearby Pit. Yep, it's time for the adventurers to investigate and face the People of the Pit!

[SPOILER ALERT] I'm going to put a break in this post so that, if you really want to read it and don't care about spoilers, follow after the break. If you don't want any spoilers for the People of the Pit, turn back now!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

DCC Donnerstag: The Metal Gods, Part 3b

The Magic of Making

It is easy to think of the Metal Gods just as mighty warriors and sorcerers who struck out against the Elder Races, but devotees of the Metal Gods also remember that without the dwarf-trained first smiths of Man making arms and armor for those warrior gods, Man would still live in bondage. Learning the secrets of metallurgy, these first smiths unlocked the mysteries of shaping Man's will into weapons, figuratively if not literally; the importance of this analogy is not lost on the mortal practitioners of magic who look to the Metal Gods for inspiration. By creating objects of enduring and pervasive power, beauty and utility, mages devoted to Metal Gods seek to perfect their art and, through it, their own souls; through the act of making, they make themselves. Through tempering their steel, they temper their spirits. Through honing their blades, so too do they hone their minds.

Wizards and elves who follow the Metal Gods often find themselves inspired to learn the secrets of the Magic of Making; in game terms, whenever the devotee is able to learn a new spell, he may learn a spell from the following list, provided he can cast spells of that level: (1) Runic alphabet, mortal, (2) Wizard staff, (3) Sword magic, Write magic, & (4) Transmute Earth. The devotee may learn these spells without chance of failure. Furthermore, if a devotee of the Metal Gods chooses to be inspired by the smiths of that pantheon, he is considered trained in metalsmithing, armorcrafting and weaponsmithing for the purposes of skill rolls (and thus may roll a d20 rather than a d10 when tested).

Spellburn: The Metal Gods

The Metal Gods willingly offer to lend their strength to those mortal magic users who petition them for power, but even their support can come with a price. In order to bridge the gulf in space and time between the mortal world and the celestial realm of the Metal Gods, wizards must channel immense energies. Sometimes these energies put additional strain on the caster, sapping his vitality as it ebbs out from his body. Sometimes, these energies are insufficient and require more arcane momentum and the caster supplies this with his own life force. For inspiration on Spellburn effects for wizards and elves who claim the Metal Gods of as their patron, roll 1d4 and consult the following chart.

Roll | Spellburn Result
1 - You channel the sorcerous might of the Metal Gods to fuel the flame of your arcane efforts. Though the gods are generous with their support, as their influence passes through your body, a small portion of your life essence follows it, leaving you drained and weak. Make a Fortitude save (DC 15); if you succeed, you suffer no ability score loss as part of the spellburn.
2 - The Metal Gods offer you power, but require that you pay a price. As they rend a hole in the fabric of reality, they anchor themselves to your physical body through that hole and you're nearly pulled through the rift. You brace yourself against the tension, but it takes a very real toll on your body.
3 - The blare and thunder, clang and crash of the Metal Gods' eternal war course through your ears as one of the Lost Hymns flows through your body to bolster your magic, but leaves your ears ringing, throwing you off-balance and dulling your reactions. If you fail a Fortitude save (DC 13 + spell level), you are deafened for 1d4 + spell level rounds.
4 - The Metal Gods demand a demonstration of your devotion. For every point of spellburn you invoke, roll 1d3. If you recite a number of lines of Lost Hymns equal to the total of this dice roll, you will have pleased the Metal Gods and they will supply additional arcane energy to cast this spell. From here on, whenever you cast this spell, you do so at +1. You can only gain this bonus once per spell.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Best Online Quiz Ever

Here's why:

Your results:
You are James T. Kirk (Captain)
James T. Kirk (Captain)
Mr. Scott
Will Riker
Geordi LaForge
An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
Jean-Luc Picard
Mr. Sulu
Deanna Troi
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
Beverly Crusher
You are often exaggerated and over-the-top
in your speech and expressions.
You are a romantic at heart and a natural leader.
Click here to take the Star Trek Personality Test

It's nice to know the internets can read me correctly.

A Game of Taps: Answers to Jeff's Campaign Questions, Part 4 - The Endening

Where are the rest of Adam's answers to Jeff's campaign questions, you might ask. Here they are, Adam would say. And by Adam, I of course mean me. 

How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?

Bloodsports are common enough diversions throughout all of the known realms. From small-town brawling rings to tavern basement knife fights, men and women all around the world are desperate enough to kill each other for money. The prizes, however, are rarely fabulous nor are the victories terribly glorious. In the heart of Ur-Hadad's ancient slave market, however, the Arena of Quol has seen history's most fabled contests of martial prowess. Dating from the eras before even the rise of the Elder Races, the Arena of Quol's sands have known the blood of every race known to the men of today as well as of many races man has forgotten. Here, the Grand Vizier keeps the noble class of Ur-Hadad sated and sedated on a steady diet of blood and metal that prevents them for lusting after his own power or having many ambitions of their own aside from owning the best stable of gladiators in the city. For their part, the gladiators of Ur-Hadad are showered with adulation, coin and all that those two may bring, be they free men or fighting slaves. More than one champion of the Arena of Quol has even been an adventurer in prior life; it seems that the knowledge of one career of professional violence easily translates to another.

Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?

Every god of Chaos has at least one cult and attendant secret society in his or her name. In addition to these demon-worshipers and blasphemers, there are secret societies dedicated to the re-ascent of the snakemen, to conspiracies of power-hungry nobles (usually masquerading behind some imaginary higher purpose like "civil liberties" or "animal rights"), to diabolic spawn of the Old Ones and to far more ridiculous causes and masters. The secret society largely seen as the most dangerous by the nobility of Ur-Hadad, primarily by the Grand Vizier and his cronies, is known as the Doctrine of Perfect Succession. The Successors, as they are known in the few circles that know of them (or sometimes the Bloody Successors, originally as in "those bloody Successors," but the "bloody" sticks due to some of their beliefs), advocate a return to the rule of a Pasha in the First City, considering the successive Grand Vizier regencies to be illegitimate and stymieing of a true return of a Pasha. A legitimate heir to the Pashate of Ur-Hadad has not surfaced not because one doesn't exist, the Bloody Successors postulate, but because the Grand Viziers have spent their regencies keeping the true heirs out of power. Now, the Bloody Successors claim, they have found an heir whose legitimacy cannot be questioned and they prepare themselves for the day when their forces and the forces of their allies will be strong enough to force the issue before the Grand Vizier's court. This threat to the Grand Vizier's power would be enough on its own to mark the Bloody Successors as dangerous, but their influence is far stranger than just a succession struggle. No, the Bloody Successors also claim to be the heirs to an ancient tradition as old as the Pashate that holds that the lineage of Pasha (his "blood") is truly a lineage of holy men and seers; thus, for them, the return to power of the Pashas means a return to a holy order. Whether a true heir to the Pashate actually still lives or not is unknown, nor is the truth behind the Bloody Successors' claims about the heritage if their religious order. More disturbingly unknown, however, is the truth of certain rumors tying the Bloody Successors to scenes of grisly murders and whispers of forbidden occult rites, all of which seem to emphasize the significance of blood.

What is there to eat around here?

Though the Soiled Dove of Mustertown serves what can only loosely be described as food, just within the city walls thousands of delicacies from every known land fill the inns, food stalls and specialty restaurants of Ur-Hadad's streets. From Skallish walrus jerky to delicious fruit chutneys from Valshadna and even stranger fare, nearly any appetite may be sated in the First City. Ever-willing to offer his opinion on any topic, particularly when inebriated, Master Guang-Yuan Jo even claims that there is one restauranteur in the entire city who knows the secrets of properly preparing the Semgane porcupine; although remarkably savory and known to gourmands throughout the world as being the pinnacle of the culinary arts and gustatory observances, the Semgane porcupine is, in its natural state, completely poisonous. Only the most superlative master of the culinary arts is capable of cooking the poison out while cooking the flavor in.

Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?

Treasures abound, or so rumors say, in the depths of the Sunken City. When Mankind first cast off the shackles of the Elder Races, he took up residence in those Races' cities, primarily Ur-Hadad and the city now known only as The Sunken City. Though elves, lizardmen and snakemen primarily inhabited Ur-Hadadwhile other, stranger races inhabited the Sunken City. After several centuries of life in the Sunken City, Man realized that the city was slowly sinking into the mire around it since the city no longer had the Elder Races' magic to sustain it. At first, Man did nothing to halt this decay, then used what minor magics he knew, then gave up and started to simply build upwards on top of what he had originally built. Ultimately realizing that the city's descent into the swamp was accelerating, many people began to evacuate but the evacuation somehow led to an explosive collapse in the swamp around the city before the evacuation could be completed. Thus, many treasures of the Sunken City sit precisely where they did when the City begin its descent into the swamp. Some of the greatest treasures of the realms of men now lie buried in the swamp, along with those from the Elder Races that Mankind had appropriated, including those races that modern scholars know little to nothing about. While adventurers have reclaimed a scant few of the treasures of the Sunken City, Mankind's annals record far more noteworthy baubles and objects than have ever been accounted for being liberated from the City.

Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure?

Dragons themselves are incredibly rare in the current age and years, if not decades go by without a single mortal man witnessing one. That having been said, those dragons who are known to mortals are given a wide berth and categorically avoided. The dread typhoon dragon, Birstremgron, is said to lair near Bastard's Rock, almost protecting the northern passage to the pirate haven; not only has Birstremgron recovered many treasures thought lost to the waves, but it is also said that Pirate King Malice Vull pays the dragon a stipend to not interfere with the rogue's activities. While the typhoon dragon may be the greatest known draconic threat to mortal realms, one dragon that is actually closest to most adventurers is Sorgul the Hidden. Deep in the heart of Ur-Hadad, in one of the vast undercities on top of which the First City is built, the Library Ful'Quan Beq was lost for generations before Mankind rose to overthrow his masters, but today is lair to Sorgul the Hidden, who spends the bulk of his time reading crumbling scrolls and mouldering papyruses or disguising himself to go out among the mortal races to procure more of the same. Possessing knowledge that most peoples believe lost ages ago, Sorgul may not be the most threatening dragon in the world, but he is likely the richest.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Albums as Idea Generators: Paranoid

First, I'm back, folks. I took some time off of blogging first to go on vacation to a Polish festival in Grand Rapids, Michigan, then for my sister's wedding last week. Now, though, I'm back and already sticking plenty of irons in the fire for new material.

Second, I was talking to Edgar of Edgar's Game Blog as he and I hash out details for our upcoming G+ DCC campaign and I hit upon an idea that got me really excited. I was looking for inspiration in song titles (Edgar's already doing this and seems to be making his part of the campaign based on this idea) and realized that (a) track titles are also accompanied by numbers and (b) each track could be interpreted to mean a bunch of different things. And so, the first inklings of what I'm presenting here today were born.  The document attached here is a table ideally designed to help generate on-the-fly adventure elements inspired by the titles (and contents) of songs from the Black Sabbath album, Paranoid.

Use the linked table by rolling 1d8 and 1d4 at the same time, determining adventure elements as you see fit. These are not meant to be the entirety of an adventure, merely a jumping off point for you as the DM/GM/Judge/Referee to use to fill in the gaps in between.

And so, without further ado, here's the file:

Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Game of Taps: Answers to Jeff's Campaign Questions, Part 3

As it says in the title, here's Part 3 of my answers to Jeff Rients's campaign questions.

Where can I hire mercenaries?

Though anyone with a large enough sack of gold can find villagers desperate enough to throw their lives away on behalf of any cause at all, a would-be patron looking for men expert enough to kill for him is best served by "hanging the color:" a universal signal of intent known to mercenaries and thugs from all lands consisting of making a prominent show of a red cloth, scarf or bandage about one's arm. Though the quickest and easiest method for hiring professional killers, hanging the red usually only manages to hire a handful of cutthroats or retired soldiers. For truly large numbers of mercenaries, Ur-Hadad's Spearmarket is a place not only buy weapons and armor, but also where large mercenary companies have permanent offices and contract their professional soldierly services out to the highest bidder, although some companies have attendant policies restricting their deployment contracts. The Brotherhood of the Blue Mark, for example, will not take a contract that includes violence against commoners, whereas the Hand of Redwall will lower their rates if their employer agrees to allow them pillaging rights.

Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?

Inside of Ur-Hadad, anything can be considered illegal so long as the Grand Vizier, his Lord General or any of the various heads of the different watch companies across the city decide that it is. Legal officials have been known to suddenly declare a thing illegal within their particular sphere (a ward of the city for the watch captains or the entire city for the Lord General or Grand Vizier) for a short amount of time in hopes of catching violators; assessed high fines, those who cannot pay will be arrested but, rather than being sent to prison, they are usually remanded to the custody of one of any number of penal details operating within or without the city. Nominally regulated by the government of the First City, these penal details are usually organized by merchants or nobles of Ur-Hadad to accomplish a particular task (such as building a fortification or repairing an old road) or to exploit some dangerous resource (such as the silver mines full of monstrous spiders). Often, these merchants will hire mercenary companies from the Spearmarket rather than rely on First City for protection.

Which way to the nearest tavern?

Once you're in a settlement, usually no more than one swaggering hundred paces away. Every town maintains some sort of drinking establishment which may serve as a town hall, flophouse or even temple depending on the priorities of the locals. Mustertown's famous Soiled Dove is the first tavern most adventurers see after the long trek through miles of swamp en route to Ur-Hadad, the First City. Here, Old Soily pours watered-down ale, often-sour wine and harsh liquors that border on paint thinner but provides many essential services for adventurers, including finding buyers for many of the treasures dredged out of the ruins of the Sunken City. Behind the First City's walls, tavern after tavern line the streets, but few are more storied than Swigden Bolsk's Charred Sheaf. The placard of this tavern bears no words, but instead a graven sheaf of wheat (a common enough sight on taverns' signs where most folk are illiterate), and bears the obvious signs of fire (the "charred" part of the tavern's name) from the Sinners' Inferno three generations back. Bolsk's great-grandfather saved the sign while the old tavern burned to the ground and rebuilt on the same spot, vowing that so long as Man held the First City, the Bolsk line will be there to provide drink, food, women and vice to him. Swigden has kept the Bolsk Vow and works closely with the city's thieves guilds and less-reputable merchants to keep a steady flow of diversions, digressions and toxins to the folk of the City.

What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?

Aside from the princes and captains of any number of barbaric and piratical hordes threatening the settlements of Man, many monstrous beasts threaten Man and his endeavors. Of these beasts, the most legendary is the Sargovax of Pluur. Even the greatest sages know neither what a "Sargovax" is nor where "Plurr" was (or if it's even a place), it is widely recounted how a mountain of fire and rock fell from the stars a millennium ago and crashed into the ocean near Saskoval and how, two days later, the colossal best known today as the Sargovax of Pluur heaved its way out of the bay and devoured those parts of the city that it did not crush beneath its immense weight. Resembling a titanic, gray, six-legged and many-tentacled lungfish, the Sargovax turned the ruin of Saskoval into a nesting mire that, though few of its young survived to hatch and none of those ever reached the size or might of the Sargovax, attracted great swaths of chaotic humanoids who came to worship the immense beast. It was from these first priests that history would learn the names "Sargovax" and "Pluur," though these priests will share no more information on the matter. Since the ruin of Saskoval, the Sargovax has dragged its way across the countryside, devouring everything in its path that it cannot lay waste to, leading (as it were) a column of chaotic humanoid scavengers. This scourge spares nothing and no one, despoiling the land permanently, leaving sites of unholy blasphemy in its wake. Were some brave adventurers to bring the Sargovax's reign of terror to an end, no doubt they would be the subject of legends and songs themselves for ages uncounted.

Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?

Although no major wars are currently being waged in the countryside around the First City, a truly belligerent adventurer could try to start one. Since much of the land lies unclaimed and/or unpatrolled by proper nobility and their retainers, adventurers laying claim to any wilderness will undoubtedly face opposition from other humanoids, from beastmen and man-apes to serpentmen and lizardfolk. Surely, wars are likely as the dominion of man tries to once again wrest lands from the grasp of these other races. Further, one never knows when the forces of Chaos will threaten Man's current lands.

The part about the Sargovax of Pluur is one of my favorite details of Kickassistan I've written so far, if only because "Sargovax of Pluur" is terribly fun to say and that when I admit that I have no idea what a Sargovax is or anything at all about Pluur, I feel kinda Douglas Adams-y. I don't tend to throw much humor into my games -- my players always handle that well enough -- but prefer to add it absurdity and general strangeness. The Sargovax fits my need to make things just a little stranger than they would have been otherwise. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Game of Taps: A Sack Full of Catfish

Last Monday marked the third session of the Game of Taps, and suffered a serious delay and need to reschedule. Honestly, the only session that ran smoothly was the first one, and I'm starting to think that I just need to plan for problems (really not used to having to do that). So, the second session's problem was that two players didn't (couldn't) show up, and the third session's problem was that three players didn't (couldn't) show up. Realistically, one of these players I didn't expect to show (I have no way of contacting him), but the other two were a surprise, so I had to drastically shift gears.

As readers may recall, my original plan for Session 3 was to essentially "go back in time" to where Session 1 had left the players during Sailors of the Starless Sea: they were about to get on a longship and investigate a ziggurat rising out of the waters of an underground "sea." Then, after that, we were going to jump forward in time to where Session 2 had left a slightly different group of heroes during Perils of the Sunken City: just about to descend into the depths of a dungeon beneath a forgotten gladiatorial arena.

Attendance Problem #1 made the first part of that plan impossible (The Sailors part), since Matt R. & Terra couldn't make it due to a family emergency. Well, that would have left the Shoveler and Meewick the Mage alone against the forces of Chaos in the Starless Ziggurat, so that was a no-go. Attendance Problem #2 was more surmountable: James from Session 2 didn't make it to Session 3, meaning that we had to find a stand-in to take over for him. I ended up getting a hold of Matt W. (from Session 1; the guy who lost three level 0s to a single cursed room in Sailors) to kill off take charge of James's surviving level 0s. And so we dove right back into the Perils of the Sunken City, suffering our first casualty right away.

James's (now Matt W's) gong farmer was the first casualty of the night, dying to a gaggle of skeletons pretty much right away. He could have been a thief, he could have been a wizard, but thanks to those damn skeletons, he's a smear in a dungeon. Once the party defeated the skeletons, it looked like they were about to suffer more losses as they found an underground river and its inhabitant: a giant mutant catfish. The Shoveler waded out into the river to protect the halfling haberdasher who swam across to loot a poorly-constructed shack on the far shore and formed a one-man wall blocking it from moving any further upstream. The group pelted the catfish from a bit further out ranged weapons to little effect until the Shoveler unleashed shovel-y hell on it. I have no idea how Chris is accomplishing this, but the Shoveler's entire in-combat effectiveness has been centered around dishing out critical hits. This time, his massive critical smashed the catfish's fins into uselessness and did an overwhelming amount of damage. Thanks to the Shoveler's gigantic crit, the party made short work of the catfish in just a round or two. Doug's barber and caravan guard went to town cutting up what they assumed were the edible parts of the catfish and stuffing it into sacks. One of Doug's character sheets now states "sackful of catfish meat." Mmmmm, lack of refrigeration...

Once the catfish was dead, the halfling (fearless as halflings should be), went exploring and got followed by a roomful of tiny purple slugs that just kept humming. Unnerving as this was, once the slugs had been dealt with, the purple slimes that the party found in the room that slugs had been in were even more disturbing, ultimately driving either the barber or the caravan guard (I can't remember which one) insane for a time, keeping him from participating in the rest of the night's activity (good thing Doug had two more PCs). Not having caused enough trouble, the halfling haberdasher went on to discover a room filled with large clay bottles that, when burst, contained either an electrum piece (which is the DCC equivalent of platinum) or a cloud of poison gas. Now, the halfling being a pretty lucky sort, he discovered three coins before he found a face full of death, but a face full of death he did indeed find.

I'd like to point out that, with the death of the halfling, Matt W had successfully killed off both of the 0s he'd been brought in to play. So far, he's batting 1000; of the 6 total level 0s that he's played during the Game of Taps, he's killed all of them. If he shows for next week's game, we're going to see about changing that.

Moving forward, the remaining players (Chris and Doug) faced off against a strange tree-like idol/tentacle monster thing, all to retrieve a little bit of treasure. Somehow, they survived and we ended the session there with Doug's three surviving characters making it to 1st level. Here's a few things we learned in the process:
  • No one will run through 0s like Matt W. If you have 0s you need killed, point Matt W at them.
  • Miracles do happen and you can get most of your 0 level PCs to 1st level; Doug ended up with 3.
  • I think that future editions of DCC should include a brief note about what class abilities demihumans get at 0th level. This can get just a little confusing. Do halfings get double the benefit of Luck or can they burn it to help their pals at level 0? My ruling is that no, they can't, but I'd like an official ruling somewhere that isn't on Goodman Games's forums (I hate internet forums). Something small like an asterisk could accomplish this without being too intrusive.
  • Why does Blogger think I've misspelled the word "internet?" Worse, why does Blogger think I've misspelled the word "Blogger?"
  • The funnel is a great way to introduce new players to the DCC system. First, the process of rolling up 4 characters gets folks used to the dice and the level of randomness in the game. Second, the characters tend to be pretty simple and therefore don't have tons of modifiers. I don't say "make a Fortitude save" to a funnel player, I say "roll a d20 and add your Stamina modifier." We can worry about what things are called at 1st level. Running funnel players alongside players of 1st+ level characters allows them to experience the simplicity of level 0, but see how effective a level 1 PC can be. 
  • I really enjoy Purple Sorcerer's material. I may not be able to use a lot of their stuff (Perils is a lot more usable to me than Ooze Pits of Jonas Gralk due to tone, for example), but I love a lot of their central ideas and have stolen more than a few of them. I plan on continuing to use the Sunken City, for one, as well as the demon Sender and the two teleportation stones, but they'll only function within the Sunken City. 
For our next session, I've decided that time travel is for the birds and I won't be planning on it. We will moving forward with the players who do show up and I'm casting extra players just to make sure that I have my bases covered.

Teaser for the Races of Kickassistan

Okay, if you've been following my blog, you've probably noticed all the stuff I've been writing about the Metal Gods. And by probably, I mean "that's probably the reason you're around at all." All in all, I came up with the idea of the Metal Gods because I wanted to make my Game of Taps game to have a particular feel and I wanted humans to have something that set them apart from the other races. Quite frankly, the concept of race in RPGs at all is a strange one and it feels like, all in all, each race needs something that differentiates them from the others. Some settings use mechanics to do this, but I'd rather do it through the feel of the race. For humans in Kickassistan, the concept is that they escaped from bondage at the hands of other races through the discovery, crafting and mastery of steel. In other words, I based humans off of heavy metal. Right, so now that we've got that down, what about the other races of Kickassistan? What inspires them? Here's a quick overview.




I hope you all get where I'm going with this. Stay tuned for more info (or another video dump, which may come first).