2014-10-13

session recap, 10/5/2014

CAST
--------
Gutboy the Cleric (6), his henchpeople Trezgar the Elf (3) and Bunny the Thief (3), and his blink dog Rufus II
Pai Mei the Wu-Jen (4), and his henchmen "The Doctor" the Time Lord (2) and Paula Abdul the Battle Dancer (2)
Kalimar the Ranger (3)

This session started right where it left off - in the dungeon!  The party looked around, and Rolf had apparently run off into the depths of Bartertown looking for the ladies.  They all had smoking craters in their leathery hides, but dwarves have peculiar tastes.

Bartertown filled a 130' wide cube with precarious structures of wood and tanned hides.  A glowing pink stone sat in the middle of the town, and next to it a tower (hides stitched to a wooden frame) reared up towards the ceiling.  They glanced around and quickly saw another structure reaching towards the ceiling in the corner - this was made from printed circuit boards, tied together with leather thongs.  An unsteady neon sign read "The Hard Drive Hotel".

The party headed to the Hard Drive and spoke with the clerk, a Dark Smoker (squat humanoids with smoking craters in their skin) - "Money?  To stay here?  What do I want with your filthy fiat currency!  Barter something interesting!"  Gutboy pulled out a goblin head in a jar he had been carting around for no good reason, and the clerk was highly impressed.  "Yes, you may all stay the night.  Bring more interesting things, and perhaps we can work out a longer stay!"

The group spent a long time roaming about Bartertown, checking out the deals.  A sampling of what they saw:

a. Golem Joe's - Joe the Dark Smoker offers to make wood and muscle golems for interesting barters.  Customers must provide their own living raw materials.
b. The Boneyard - a bar run by Fracas and his two robots, who had "THUG" and "LIFE" spelled out on their chests in diamonds.
c. The Meathouse - a 7' tall fat man named Marco the Glutton runs this restaurant, serving up whatever flesh he has on hand.  Several humans were in various states of butchery.  Marco explained that they had traded themselves, which made no sense to the party.  "Yeah, they trade themselves all the time.  They'll be back later."  After quizzing Marco about babies ("Never heard of 'em") the party developed the theory that people were somehow being cloned
d. The Dung Man - Yuri, another dark smoker, runs this establishment, trading a wide variety of dried and fresh dungs.  One especially interesting turd was studded with jewels - Yuri offered to trade it for a T-Rex turd "big enough to roll around in"
e. The Dying Way - Boris the Crawler runs this weapon store.  The entrance was only 3' high, and the party had to crawl in on their hands and knees.  Kalimar traded his electric sword for the Sword of the Hand (its hilt was a hand that would refuse to let go of its wielder until he took a life).  Gutboy bartered the inoperative remote control to the BAGGER-288 for the Mace of Folly - an assassin tried to kill the Blade of Kharg with it, as it was prophesied to never be slain by a blade, and failed.  No particular powers, but it looked quite fearsome with its skull-shaped spiked head.  Finally, Kalimar eyed a syringe that his tail could wield to inject poison, but had nothing to trade for it.
f. The party interrupted a drug deal between two men (one in a black silk suit with purple tie, another in a white silk suit but wearing a pastel t-shirt) and a Dark Smoker.  The two men left disgusted at the interruption, and the Dark Smoker tried to trade his supply of mendifex spider venom to the party ("Any side effects?"  "Oh no, no, except the spiders that erupt from boils on your face.  Perfectly safe!"), but they decided against becoming subterranean drug lords.

After much shopping and exploring, the party headed back into the dungeon.  They passed by the room where a red rubbery fellow had been working on a pressure plate - the work was complete, and the party had completely forgotten the previous encounter, and poison darts from the ceiling nearly slew Bunny and Paula.  But they didn't, so ever onwards!

They next returned to the mouth of the Conjure-Man, which had been cajoling them to visit.  They rounded the corner and beheld the eyeless, mouthless being sitting atop a throne of green stone, veined with glowing green quartz.  They paid him 200 gp apiece, and the conjure-man offered vague prophecies involving events that had already occurred.  Suspecting he was more a con-man than conjure-man, Pai Mei used the Wig of Lordship taken from the mummy of "The King" to charm the Conjure-Man.  The monster was thus convinced to join the party ("My psychic powers tell me that you've charmed me against my will, but I just can't resist you with that fancy hair!").  It picked up its mouth from the wall (and its eyes from the ceiling) and shoved them back on its hideous face, and the party decided to head down to the fifth level.

They heard disturbing chanting as they went down the stairs ("Oh Coiled God, we doth loveth the way thou eatest us, and it is thus that we ascend to become part of your glorious tentacleness"), and entered a long pillared room with an altar at the far end.  The high priest wore a gold tentacled mask, and two dozen worshippers kneeled before him.  The priest shouted "Joyous day!  Sacrifices have arrived!" and the two dozen cultists began rushing towards the party.  As they did so, the priest intoned puissant tones and a ball of fire flew from his hands towards the party.  Most of the party ducked out of the way, but it hit Gutboy and the Conjure-Man right in the face.  The Conjure-Man's eyes were completely incinerated in the blast.

The party focused their arrow fire on the tentacle priest, and Rufus blinked over to bite the sorcerer's head off.  Once the cultists saw their leader dead, their morale broke, and they ran down the stairs at the far end of the room.  Pai Mei yanked the mask from the sorcerer's severed head, revealing a tentacled face.  Bunny searched the altar, and found three holes in the back - she jammed her fingers in simultaneously and blades within severed them completely, leaving her crippled.  Kalimar began experimenting with the holes, and found that by jamming in three sticks, the blades couldn't come down cleanly, and a drawer popped open, revealing the sorcerer's spell book.

Ruthlessly enough, the party then had Bunny pack the instruments atop the altar (copper chalices, a copper bowl, and a copper knife with an obsidian blade) - the bowl was cursed, and where her hands had touched it, they began bleeding uncontrollably.  Bunny began once again bewailing her stupidity in joining with this crew of heartless mercenaries.

Back to Bartertown - the sorcerer's tentacled head was traded for a 10 night stay at the Hard Drive Hotel.  Inside the building of printed circuit boards, ladders climbed the walls of Bartertown up to 6' wide cubes cut out of the stone walls.  They stayed in the highest (and thus most secure) for several nights, licking their wounds and eating goblin jerky they had traded for at the Meathouse (using the sorcerer's body as currency).  Trezgar used his arcane identification spells and found that the golden Mask of the Coiled God provided mystical protection from harm to its wearer, but would also cause his face to erupt in squirming tentacles.  Pai Mei thought tentacles would complement his horns and shoulder spikes nicely, and claimed the Mask as his own (although not yet committing to wearing it).

Two nights later, the party was awoken by Paula's screams in the middle of the night - the cultists had snuck in for revenge!  There was a brief battle, and all but one of the cultists were sent plunging to their deaths.  The last they took captive, and he begged for the mercy of being fed to the Coiled God - the party agreed.  They headed down the ladders, and discovered the unexpected consequences of the fight - the bodies of the cultists had landed upon the clerk, crushing his skull.  A crowd of Dark Smokers gathered, and they were quickly shouts of "Lottery!  The Hard Drive is going up for the lottery!"

The Dark Smokers began bargaining with each other furiously, pledging their lottery tickets to the various power brokers in exchange for other goods and favors.  A line of Dark Smokers formed at the pink stone in the center of town, the fabled  Barter Stone - a pair of the beings would place their hands upon the stone simultaneously and recite the terms of their deal, and the stone would briefly glow as the Stone recognized their pledge.  The party was approached by emissaries of both Fracas (from the Boneyard) and another Dark Smoker named Krasky, seeking ownership of the Hard Drive should they win the lottery - eventually a bargain was struck with Krasky in exchange for providing a free room when they were in town.  Soon enough, all the deals were signed, and the drawing took place - one of Fracas's supporters won, the hotel was exchanged, and the Hard Drive had its new owner.

Krasky informed the party "Better luck next time, ey?" at which point Gutboy informed him that their deal was still in force - nothing had been said about whether the hotel was successfully acquired by Krasky.  Krasky fumed as he realized he had been lawyered - Gutboy tried to convince him it could be good for both parties, and perhaps they could do a favor for Krasky someday.  Krasky seemed unconvinced, but was unwilling to break the deal, and agreed to find lodgings for the party while they were in town.

Gains:  Sword of the Hand, Mace of Folly, Mask of the Coiled God, spellbook, 200 pp, 2 copper chalices, cursed copper bowl with tentacle carvings, copper knife with obsidian blade
Kills:  High Priest of the Coiled God, 14 cultists
Losses:  electric sword, remote control to BAGGER-288, Bunny's fingers, Conjure-Man's eyes

2014-10-04

Miniatures!

The lead rot was starting to set in, so myself, Razoe's player, and Pai Mei's player sent all our unpainted minis off to Ed at PrimEvil Studios (http://www.primevilstudios.com/) for some pro painting (none of us have the time or patience).  He did a fantastic job, and here's what just came back in the mail:

Razoe's guys:





Pai Mei's guys:





And my guys:


2014-09-15

session recap, 9/6/2014

CAST
--------
Gutboy the Cleric (6), his henchpeople Trezgar the Elf (3) and Bunny the Thief (3), and his blink dog Rufus II
Pai Mei the Wu-Jen (4), and his henchmen "The Doctor" the Time Lord (2) and Paula Abdul the Battle Dancer (2)
Rolf the Dwarf (3), and his henchman Piston Honda the Sumo (2)
Kalimar the Ranger (3)

The party awoke in Denethix with a purpose - get to Bartertown!  They didn't know what was in it, but setting goals and keeping them are important, so cheerfully they geared up and headed towards Chelmsfordshire, the first stop on the way to the dungeon.

Once they arrived in Chelmsfordshire, they noticed a fellow in adventuring gear in front of the Adventurer's Mall.  He beckoned them over, and introduced himself.

Vatta: "I am Vatta, steward of the Blessed Expeditionary Company.  You, of course, are Gutboy the Glittering, and there's the famed Rufus!  I'm so glad to meet you, and add you as a sub-charter!"
Gutboy: "Eh? What charter?"
Vatta:  "You must have heard - the Exalted and Chosen Brethren have granted the Blessed Expeditionary Company the sole charter to explore the dungeons beneath Mt. Rendon.  Of course, such an enterprise is more than any one adventuring band can handle, so we're offering sub-charters the independent companies. Most can't afford the 6,000 gp licensing fee up front, so we make loans at incredibly affordable rates, and the BEC only takes 15% of what is discovered!"
Gutboy: "WHAT?  Let me see this charter!"
Vatta:  "It's right here behind me" - he points at a literal wall of text etched into the marble sides of the Adventurer's Mall
Gutboy:  "Anyone can carve anything into stone!  Where are the original documents?  Where are the official seals?"
Vatta (confused):  "Sir, it's carved in stone..."

Gutboy rallied his fellow party members and they marched out of town in a huff, heading west towards the dungeon.  Behind them, Vatta gestured and whispered to an associate - soon a patrol of a dozen Fist chased the party down.  Threats were exchanged, but the party eventually decided that making enemies of the Fist was unwise, and they cancelled the expedition, heading towards Denethix.

MAJOR EVENT #1 - Gutboy's longstanding hatred of scuffed maces and habit of purchasing new ones after every battle landed him an endorsement deal, allowing him a limitless supply of free maces.  A large painted sign bearing Gutboy the Glittering's image fondling a mace was erected above the Bazaar Incomparable, proclaiming "IF THEY'RE GOOD ENOUGH FOR GUTBOY, THEY'RE GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU!"

MAJOR EVENT #2 - The party saw a bunch of adventurers selling off loot in the Bazaar, including the weight-lifting cod-man statue that the cod-men had extorted from them.   They were pulling it all from a foot-wide greenish metal egg with an opening its side - objects that rightfully shouldn't fit inside.  The adventurers all had the symbol of a "club" from a deck of playing cards on their tabards - they later learned these adventurers were the Black Jacks.

MAJOR EVENT #3 - Gutboy sent word to the party's sponsor, Davrik Lerdingfast.  They met with Davrik and a sleazy fellow from the Council of Proper Apportionment, infamous tax collectors of Denethix.  The CPA was quite upset at being locked out of the dungeon revenue scheme, and an agreement was reached - "Mongo's Marauders" would sneak into the dungeon and ensure that fellow adventuring parties would have unfortunate "accidents", keeping revenues down.  Additionally, Rufus the Dog would run for office against Vatta's sponsor in the Exalted and Chosen Brethren, his cousin Rostic.  With no revenues, Rostic's support would wither, his seat would be vulnerable, and the Blessed Expeditionary Company would lose its charter.  Gutboy did insist on taking Rufus along for one last expedition before the campaign trail claimed him.

So - off to the dungeon!  The party took the long way around, killed a few dozen country boys looking for the city slickers what done dishonored their sisters, and made their way up Mt. Rendon.  At the entrance, they found several members of the Fist and few civilians with crude "BEC" badges - all dead, hacked apart with swords.  Entering the dungeon, they soon ran into a contingent of the hinge-headed and their Neanderthal slaves.  They presented their pass - "Acceptable.  Not like those last fools, demanding that we pay taxes.  The Basalt Ziggurat provides no tribute to flesh-minds!" and moved on.

They made their way through the cod-man lair - all the cod-men were slain, with only tadpoles left swimming around.  Kalamar briefly made human infants and giant-brained floating infants from the tadpoles using the evolutionary chair, but reverted them back to tadpoles, unable to find a use for screaming babies.  The party also reviewed the curtain showing other locales within the dungeon (a mercury lake, a hothouse full of various trees, the deep tower on level 2, and an underwater grotto on level 3).  Deciding to keep that info for themselves, they yanked down the curtain and stuffed it in their packs.

Making their way through the dungeon, they fought off some giant vampiric piranha, ambushed a few survivors of the BEC attempt to tax the hinge-headed, capturing a civilian, and made it to the outpost of the hinge-headed.  Their papers were inspected, they were led through twisting tunnels, and then told to "go downstairs and talk to the Lasher."  The Lasher was a hideous mass of fleshy tentacles, tipped with dripping venomous barbs, clutching a hinge-headed mind crystal in a bunch of smaller cilia.

Lasher:  "PRESENT YOUR PAPERS!"
Gutboy:  "Here you are"
Lasher:  "Hmmm. This will do.  Head west, then north, and you shall reach the glorious cavern of the Basalt Ziggurat!"
Pai Mei:  "So you're the Lasher?"
Lasher: "When it suits me to wear this body.  We make many bodies."
Kalimar: "You can change bodies? How?"
Lasher:  "Yes, of course.  Your pitiful flesh-shells can be changed to suit our many needs - more legs, more arms, whatever we need.  Go east, and speak to the Architect!"

The party headed east, making their way through various tunnels, encountering a caged and semi-depressed eight-tentacled Neanderpus named Grr'nuk'nuk, and then stumbling upon the offices of the Greater Architect.  Gutboy displayed his papers, and asked him to mutate their captive BEC representative, but the Architect was unmoved - "Did the Lasher send you?  Oh, he's such a funny one, him and his jokes - GET OUT.  I have no interest in modifying your captive - his mind cannot be controlled. Why would I make him into a living weapon?  Depart! Now!"

Returning to the Lasher, the thing encouraged them to go back ("Oh, the Architect is a moody bastard - just take a right at the end of the tunnel").  They followed his directions, found a room with an iron sphere, radiating heat, a glass hatch providing a view of the steaming interior and the bloody hands pounding to get out.  They moved past that, and found another room with a great iron cylinder, hinged with a glass door, and tubes of yellow fluid running into it.  A big yellow button was set into a pedestal in front of the cylinder.

Kalimar forced the captive BEC agent into the cylinder and pressed the button.  It flooded with gas, and the BEC representative emerged with a distended pot-belly.  He opened his shirt, revealing a seam, which he peeled open - he had grown a marsupial pouch.

Kalimar then went into the cylinder himself - a few moments in the mutagenic gas, and he developed a 10' long prehensile tail.  Pai Mei entered - and emerged with a set of horns poking through his pompadour, and giant spikes protruding from his shoulders.  Both men were pleased with their new look, but the henchmen and other party members couldn't be convinced to try the chamber.

Back to the chamber with the iron sphere - the party attempted to force the marsupial BEC agent to open the sphere, but he pretended to die as he touched the handle.  A few pokes with a stick revealed he was still alive, feigning death in an attempt to escape.  He ran for the door, and was slaughtered by merciless Kalimar.

The party headed back to the Lasher's post ("Nice horns, jerk-o! Ha! Ha!"), and hurried their way to Bartertown, using a scrawled map they received from the Dark Smokers many weeks before.  They refused to stop for even a moment.  What they saw:

a. A few hinge-headed forcing their multi-legged Neanderpede steeds to wrestle for their amusement.  Papers were checked, and the party was waved on

b. A grand arcade leading to the cavern of the Basalt Ziggurat.  A large map of the cavern was mounted on the wall, naming locations such as the "Ferrovore Containment Facility / Corundum Synthesis Laboratory", the "Lunar Museum", the "Deep Tower", a tunnel to "Under-Miami", and of course the "Basalt Ziggurat".

c. Through the Basalt Ziggurat - avenues of potted palms, fields of red corn, a hoop of burning light hanging from the ceiling, a doorless tower running from floor to ceiling, various tunnels, jungle plants, Neanderthal slaves, and the 100' tall Basalt Ziggurat.  All ignored, as the party rushed through as quickly as possible

d. Through a room filled with old corpses, riddled with holes

e. Past a room where a mouth in a small mass of flesh hung on the wall implored the party to just stop for a moment and receive advice from its master, the "Conjure-Man"

f. Past a room where a red rubbery humanoid had lifted up a slab of stone from the floor and was working on the gears and mechanisms beneath - it disappeared into a puff of red mist that floated away

g. Through a room with a massive pit, full of bones

h. Past a stairway leading down (presumably to Under-Miami and the fifth level), from which chanting was heard

i. To an elevator.  "Down" button pressed - a long ride in the elevator car - and the doors opened to reveal Bartertown, a massive squared-out room filled with wooden structures and the smoke that poured from the craters in its inhabitants skin - the Dark Smokers.

Gains:  Tail, horns, shoulder-spikes
Kills:  7 hillbillies, 2 vampiric piranha, 6 Unyielding Fist, 2 Accounts Receivable Agents of the Blessed Expeditionary Company
Losses:  None

2014-09-07

review: F3 The Many Gates of the Gann

Yet another review, because I don't feel like writing up a session recap for yesterday's game right now.

This one is another Guy Fullerton module, F3 - The Many Gates of the Gann.  It's been out for a while, yeah you've probably all heard of it, but on the off chance you haven't, it's awesome.  And oh yeah, SPOILERS if you plan to play in it...


This one is straight up crazy-awesome. The dungeon itself is guarded by giant stone ape heads, that shoot disintegration beams.  The dungeon complex was built to protect some doohickeys ages ago, and is mostly automated at this point, run by what are effectively hypnotized, trained apes.  The complex was breached from below, though, and freaks have moved in.  So, you've got jerk monsters sneaking out to ravage the countryside, and a whole dungeon full of machinery designed around enslaving apes.

The mechanisms for enslaving apes provide most of the puzzles - if the players persist, they will eventually be able to figure out how to control the apes, and make more.  More likely they'll just run around causing mayhem though, because the place is full of other weirdos. The best of them are giant intelligent snakes that interact with the world by swallowing the lower halves of people and biting into their spines - the upper halves stick out of the mouths, cast spells for them, talk, etc.  Totally over-the-top, and if the party loses any characters, you get to turn them into sock puppets!

Anyhow, this module is absolutely fantastic, go buy, etc etc.

2014-09-05

review: F1 The Fane of Poisoned Prophecies

Another review!  Got a game tomorrow, so instead of prepping like I should, I'm doing this! I present to you F1 - The Fane of Poisoned Prophecies by Guy Fullerton.  Note that this review has SPOILERS, which shouldn't be a shocker since it's a review of a module, but there you go.  Don't read if you ever intend to play it.



Yes, this came out quite a while ago, but I'm reviewing it anyways.  I just picked it up a few weeks ago, and this is pretty good.  It's got a somewhat fairy tale vibe, which I don't usually go for, with some guys building a stairway to the moon, and then hiding the entrance in the temple to the sun-god.

What made it work for me was the villains - a pack of lazy werewolves, sent by the werewolf boss of the moon, to go seek a way to control their shapeshifting (you know, on the moon, it's always a full moon).  I imagine those guys being played like a biker gang, kicking back with their biker ladies and raising hell in the temple.  I can work with that, and totally trash the fairy tale vibe in the process, because that's just how I am.

It's got quite a few puzzles - they are good, but they are also tough.  They are mostly of a nature where you manipulate something from a distance, so you don't see whether you've done anything or not immediately - which means that players will probably not persist in trying to figure certain aspects of the dungeon out.  Some NPC interaction would need to be added to provide incentive for PC's to work them out.

The conceit behind this is there's a moon staircase, that nobody knows about.  And there are werewolves, who've gone and chased off the prophetess and are pretending to be the mysterious oracle of the sun temple, and give out crap prophecies in exchange for gold.  Pretty sandboxy, players show up for whatever reason they like, and then interact with a bunch of thuggish werewolves and the mechanisms of the temple.

Anyhow, easy enough to drop in to any campaign I can think of, and I can see this working out very well in play.

2014-08-16

review: Dwimmermount

I've been looking forward to Dwimmermount for a long time now, and it's released!  I wasn't actually part of the kickstarter (I almost never participate in those things), so haven't read the first draft, or been part of the drama, or any of that.  All I care about is having another big dungeon out there, because I love big dungeons.


So - conclusion first - I really like Dwimmermount.  It's really big, and it's full of pulp science-fantasy flavor.  It is NOT gonzo science-fantasy - nothing like my own ASE that way.  But you can see the shared roots, with floating space techno-gods, interstellar travel, metallized skeletons of unknown purpose, etc etc.  So, James and I apparently read all the same books and watched the same cartoons.

What Dwimmermount is, is classic D&D.  It uses tons of book monsters and book magic items.  There's custom creations in there, but the majority of it is straight out of the rulebooks.  It's also the product of play - my understanding is that James had a really brief set of notes and maps, and he made a lot of things up as he went along.  This book is the actualization of that experience.

The side effect of this, is that this book is the realization of James' and his players' play styles.  You can feel how his campaign worked and what his players were focused on as you read through it - it was an investigative, world-building campaign where the details emerged through play.  That is a strength and a weakness here - to really get the most out of the dungeon, the players have to invest themselves in figuring out the details of the world.  There are little margin notes that point out where history can be gleaned and sold off to sages - but it's a bit understated.  I think the DM will need to create & use some NPC's to showcase this in the early levels to make sure the players understand that this is worthwhile - the text as written doesn't really cover that, presumably since James' campaign went that direction all on its own.

After the first couple of levels, the factions get all up in the players' face and the historical bits should fall into place much easier.  This is very much a dungeon of factions rather than set-pieces and goofy traps - there's a lot of those, but the big deal here is interacting with the factions and playing them off each other.  The factions and their motivations are very well covered.

Other stuff:

Dungeon maps - very cool
Pulp background - very cool.  It's got astral travelers founding subterranean cities, giant robot-gods, lakes of magic gasoline, really it seems yanked from a 50's "B" sci-fi movie
Wilderness maps & overview - a bit bland, but it's not really the focus of the book, so not much of a knock on it either
New monsters - a lot of these are copies of Labyrinth Lord AEC, presumably stuck in because of concerns about being "Labyrinth Lord" compatible w/o needing the AEC.  Doesn't hurt anything, but could've been left out
New magic items - again, a lot of these are from AEC

I'm a terrible reviewer, others (Bryce Lynch, Gus L.) are much better at explaining why they like & dislike a product - but I've given it my best shot.  Overall, I like Dwimmermount quite a bit.

2014-08-13

Review queue: Dwimmermount and more

Got a bunch of stuff on the review queue now:

Dwimmermount (like it so far for pulp flavor, have read thru level 1, monster ratio is a bit lower than the one-in-three I personally like [EDIT - nah on further review it's just about perfect] - clearly requires getting players involved with the factions to get maximum utility)

Bottle City (like parts, but it's clear that Rob Kuntz ran a lot of this extemporaneously, it needs fleshing out or lots of improvisation, but haven't read thru it 100% yet)

F1 The Fane of Poisoned Prophecies

F3 Many Gates of the Gann

AA#12 The Barrow Mound of Gravemoor

AA#23 Down the Shadowvein

AA#24 The Mouth of the Shadowvein