session recap, 10/11/2012

Mongo the Fighter (4), his henchpersons "Bunny" the Thief (1) and William the Sentinel (1), and his soil-bearers Malazar and Benarto
Gutboy the Cleric (4), his henchman Trezgar the Elf (1) and his dog Rufus II
George P. Burdell the Cleric (3) and his henchmen, Slick Eddie the Thief (2) and Seegar the Elf (1), and his dog
Razoe the Fantra Paladin (3) and his henchman Skwisgar the Elf(1)

The party had holed up in their 3-bedroom apartment, with all their henchmen, and their captive, Mr. Roper. They took the entirety of the party's rope inventory, some 300+ feet of it, and tied Mr. Roper into a coccoon. A coccoon that soon smelled like sewage, as Mr. Roper still had certain active biological functions that needed to be taken care of.  Mr. Roper issued threats for a while - eventually the party tired of it, and gagged the cyborg. With nothing to do but wait for the harvest festival in a week's time, they set up watches and hit the hay.

The night passed uneventfully, until it was suddenly eventful.  One of the windows was smashed open, and a cyborg child was tossed through. And another. And another.  Someone shouted the alarm, and everyone ran around frantically, killing the cyborgs as fast as they were thrown through the windows. The cyborgs grew older and more powerful as the assault continued, but the party managed to keep them down.  The adults snarled angrily at the sight of the dead children - "You have killed Cindy and Bobby! And Janet! And Peter! You shall pay!" - but their rage was short-lived, as the concerted efforts of the group took the cyborgs down.

The last cyborg through the window was Chrissie's corpse - the useless dead flesh was dragged along by the still-active cybernetics. Behind Chrissie, Janet marched through the window on four metallic tentacles protruding from her back. The evil and wicked Book was strapped to her as well, with wires running from Janet's body into its spine.  She hosed Mongo, Bunny and William with napalm, while flailing away with her metal tentacles - but she, too, eventually succumbed to the combined might of the party.  Gutboy and George poured their divine healing magic into Mongo and his henchmen as the napalm continued to burn them - finally the flames died out, and Mongo's dirt-bearers placed his charred body into a sack and filled it with nourishing soil. His henchmen received further healing magic, and their resulting scars were only slightly horribly disfiguring.

Mongo proceeded to remove the Book from Janet's body and methodically slash it to pieces. As he reached the spine, he encountered something unusual - a pencil-sized cylinder of metal, with wires protruding from magnetic end-caps. He pulled the end-caps off, and handed it to Razoe and Gutboy, who then escorted the metal to the Temple of Science.

At the Temple, the head scientist Gregory was roused and asked to identify the cylinder. "A demon!" he shouted. "A horrible fiend from a prior age!  We are lucky that it is damaged, and cannot fly.  See the charred vents here?"  Gutboy asked if he could destroy it, and Gregory consented - a highly Scientific laser was brought from the inner temple and Gregory used it to melt the demon to slag.

Razoe and Mongo informed Gregory of the many cyborg corpses. "It is good that you have destroyed these heretics. I shall send a recovery team to your apartment to remove the bodies! Many thanks are owed to you!"

They returned to the apartment with the Scientists, who dragged off the cyborg carcasses. Then, the long wait for the Harvest Festival continued, with Mr. Roper as the designated sacrifice.

Gutboy remembered his commission from Nisus - to place insects within the robot's body, so that all would be amazed at the vermin flowing forth when the robot's carapace was opened.  He purchased a crate of crickets used to feed baby grunkies at the Bazaar Incomparable, and brought it back to the apartment.  During his watch, while everyone was asleep, he cast hold person upon Mr. Roper, untied him, and shoved crickets underneath his cyber-parts as best he could. All in all, it was not very impressive, and most of the bugs were squished as Roper's limbs were moved around during the re-tying process.

Finally, the day of the ceremony arrived.  Gutboy, George, and Razoe carted Mr. Roper's well-bundled corpse to the temple. The other priests began whispering to each other in shock, and finally the high priestess Lunexia, naked except for her gold lobster helmet and lobster gauntlets, approached.  "Oh no, this isn't good. You don't understand. They'll try to one up each other! We can't have a human sacrifice! They're all going to want them now!"  George assured her that the god Kiod had ordered this sacrifice and she walked away in deep consternation.

Their turn at the altar came soon enough - and George decided, for safety's sake, to use the spell Kiod had granted him, Robot Swarm, to examine Mr. Roper and ensure it was ready for sacrifice. Scintillating flakes of metal appeared out of the air and self-assembled into tiny robot insects.  As soon as Gutboy saw this, he used the spell Nisus had granted him, Dispel Magic, and the tiny robots crumbled to dust.  Enraged, George decided that Gutboy should be sacrificed instead, and cast hold person upon him - but the other priests in the temple were outraged and George gave up on his murderous plan.

George dragged Mr. Roper up to the altar, bound in his 300+ feet of rope, and stabbed his former landlord with the sacrificial knife. No god appeared in the God's Eye above - this sacrifice was decidedly unimpressive.  He had been asked to provide a glorious robot, and had presented only a cybernetic stooge.  A pair of crickets hobbled away from the body as the ropes fell away.  The entrails presented no information either - truly the gods were disappointed by this performance.  Hecklers in the congregation began to shout "Lame!" and "You suck!", and George was hustled off the sacrifical platform.

The party regrouped at the apartment. For the first time in many months, they were free of demonic threats and divine obligations. There was only one thing to do - head to the moktar lair and look for gold.

They once again took a back route to the dungeon, encountering only four moktars heading away from the lair.  The party briefly tried to communicate with the lion-men, but all the moktars could do was make roaring noises.  Eventually the moktars shrugged and walked away.

Once inside the tunnels the moktars had occupied, they explored for a bit, finding the following:

a. A platform above a water-filled room, with four whirlpools swirling. A boat hook and some rope were resting on the platform

b. A room with a stainless steel sphere. When touched, it asked "What would you like to retrieve from the sphere?"  Repeated demands of "information" and "gold" provided no results

c. A room stairs leading to a watery tunnel full of giant killer frogs, easily slain. A chewed-up body of a furry man with blue crystals embedded in his skin floated in the water - the crystals were cut free from his flesh, to be later sold

d. A door with a yellow lightning bolt sign on it. Touching it zapped Razoe for a few points of damage

After the electrical shock, which it was agreed was predictable, the party packed it in, heading back to Denethix to sell what meager loot they had acquired.

Gains: blue crystals worth 500 gp
Kills: the entire cyborg Brady family plus Alice, dead cyborg Chrissie, cyber-octo-Janet, the demon in the Book, 8 frogs
Losses: none


Check out Pilgrim's Guide to Zeitgeist

Innumerable followers!  Well, perhaps you are numerable - blogspot is telling me I've got 101 followers - regardless of your specific numbers, check out Pilgrims Guide To Zeitgeist

ApisFurioso has started describing his Stars Without Numbers campaign, where he has flung his unwitting players towards ASE.  He's begun putting together an orbital, and it looks to have quite a few interesting features - golden fiddles in the music museum, and haunted luggage!

review: Death Love Doom, Monolith From Beyond Space And Time

It's review time!  I ordered Death Love Doom and Monolith From Beyond Space and Time from Noble Knight, read them, digested the contents for a week or so, and now I shall spew forth what I think.

I am a Raggi fan - I like the sense of nihilism in his modules. So naturally I like these. There is one thing I absolutely do not like about his products though - tiny little books with tiny little type. There's a concrete reason why - presbyopia.  Do you know who gets it? EVERYBODY OVER 40.  If it hasn't happened to you yet, it's going to. Dammitall, your audience is getting bad eyes, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM, and the tiny typeface in the tiny books really sucks, because you can't read up close, and you can't read it held farther away when the letters are so small.

So I hate the physical presentation.  On to the modules.  Spoilers abound, so skip if you're planning to play these.

So I ordered Death Love Doom despite Jim's warnings about the controversial content. It's really not all that grotesque, although why all the tormented people decided to rip their clothes off for the art I don't know. I'm not sure I can run this for my players, because a lot of the tension here involves being drawn in to care about what's happened to this innocent family. My players epitomize murder-hobodom, and I expect it would be endless looting and ignoring anything not immediately hostile, possibly followed by arson.  Which is a fun way to play, but treating this adventure that way just makes it a grotesque home invasion.

I have no concerns about their ability to follow the clues to the necklace that I've seen in other reviews - mutilated people are running around shouting about it, it seems kind of hard to miss.  If you just flee out of the house in horror, yeah, you'll never know what happened.

The only part of the module I'd change is the bit where they get to decide the value of the necklace if they go to destroy it, they'd go for millions.  Of course the chance that they actually try to destroy it instead of pawn it off on unsuspecting yokels is zero.

The set up for the module is a house where the family hasn't been heard from in days, and some thieves want to break in.  So it's pretty easy to dump wherever you want - no involved hooks or geographical issues to worry about integrating into an existing campaign.  I might try running it for my players if less than a full group shows up - that way the tension will rack up due to concern for their own physical safety, if not for the NPC's.

The other module I purchased was The Monolith From Beyond Space and Time.  The cover art looks interesting to me, but my family disagreed - there were many, many comments about "radioactive doodies".  Eventually I had to stick the book on a shelf where they wouldn't notice the cover, because the long involved stories about the how's and why's of radioactive doodies became overwhelming.

The adventure itself is pretty cool. I don't see the problem with railroady bits that other people have mentioned - my players would be completely stoked to have the ability to fall asleep near someone they don't like, and presto, you wake up and problem is solved. I have no respect for characters' integrity and back-stories though - I regularly inflict weird bodily changes upon PC's.  This is just upping the stakes a bit.

The only part I really didn't like was the owls. First, the shrubs were stopping players from leaving - the only way to leave was when the DM felt that enough dramatic tension had occurred.  What the?  Story-game balogna that makes no sense, and really is the opposite of old-school.  The other thing about the owls that stank was the slow degradation of spellcasters. Your magic-user saw some owl statues, and now you're screwed, and there is explicitly nothing you can ever do about it, nor was there any way to avoid it.  It's "weird", but it doesn't really sit right, it isn't a result of any player actions, it doesn't make playing the character more interesting, just gimps him...  This is apparently some fellow name Kenneth Hite's work, but James had editorial control here, so boo hiss to this part.

The rest seems like it'll work pretty well.  The monolith requires a "sacrifice" to leave, but presumably the "sacrifice" character will become one with space and time.  Or perhaps a henchman will want to become one with space and time.  Or the monolith can just be left open, which is how I expect my players would deal with it - because having light-surfers murder their well-guarded opponents would be very tempting. Or they exit onto another world and try to find their way back home the "back way". Players are creative, and there's a lot of them, I don't see a little thing like an extra-dimensional monolith keeping them from their murder-hobo ways.

This is pretty creative, James had mentioned it being his interpretation of a D&D "artifact" level magic item - which it performs wonderfully as.


Megadungeon Boredom

We just got together to play last night, and I have a few thoughts to share on megadungeon boredom, which is apparently the "in" topic.  Or more likely WAS the "in" topic, and I'm a day late and a dollar short...

The first few hours of the session were epic.  A massive battle occurred at the players' apartment, where Janet, enhanced with Dr. Octopus tentacles and having the Evil Book strapped to her back, began tossing the cyborg-ified Brady Bunch family through the windows. It was a delightful battle, and wrapped up the whole Janet plotline nicely.

Then they hauled Mr. Roper off, and sacrified in such a half-assed way that they have no reason to expect that an Orbital God will ever ask anything of them again.  So the sacrifice-a-robot, Nisus-vs-Kiod plotline also wrapped up.

After all that epicness, anything that came after was bound to be anticlimactic.  And it was - they headed back into the dungeon, met the last few moktars fleeing the place, and walked around a few deserted rooms. There were puzzles, but they didn't engage, a fight with frogs that probably felt a lot like a bunch of giant rats, some treasure, some traps. But nobody was feeling it.

What does all this mean?  Not much.  There was no way that things were going to get more exciting after the events in Denethix, so I probably should have just called it a night.  What does this say about the recent Dwimmermount kerfuffle? Well, mood is a big part of things, so if the mood isn't right, there's no way things are going to play well.  I'm sure that's why the 2000 cp was a big deal, the players were bored early on and found something to get irritated about.  If things had gone better, nobody would have cared about whether it was 2000 cp or 1998 cp.

And finally, a warning to potential buyers - I use round numbers of coins most of the time. Makes addition simpler, and nobody really cares.  If you do care, I caution you against buying ASE, the inhabitants are mad for coin-rolls.

Seriously, I just popped my favorite module S2: White Plume Mountain open at random, here's the treasure: "1000 ep, 200 pp, 4 pieces of jewelry worth a total of 11000 gp, blah blah magic items".  Round numbers!


session recap, 9/26/2012

Mongo the Fighter (4), his henchpersons "Bunny" the Thief (1) and William the Sentinel (1), and his soil-bearers Malazar and Benarto
Gutboy the Cleric (4), his henchman Trezgar the Elf (1) and his dog Rufus II
George P. Burdell the Cleric (3) and his henchmen, Slick Eddie the Thief (1) and Seegar the Elf (1), and his dog

The group gathered in the Wretched, the stinking hole of a tavern in Tarryfield, and planned their next move.

George: So, did you find that robot we needed for the sacrifice?
Mongo: Robot? Oh yeah. No. Not my problem.
Gutboy: What do you think? Head to the cat house and clear it out?
George: I don't think we're going to find robots there.
Gutboy: There was that level full of robots in the dungeon. Let's go there.

Whatever delights the cat-infested house had to offer, they were not tempting this night - robots were what was needed. Faded memories of robots in the gatehouse level drew the adventurers back to the great dungeon beneath Mt. Rendon - not that robots, or anything else, had been seen in the upper levels for many a week.  The trip was mostly uneventful - a few goblins tried attacking them as they crossed a cornfield, but they were easily driven off.

Regardless, they began sneaking through the well-lit gatehouse level. The walls were covered with the graffiti left by other adventuring parties - Slezgar's triple-E logo, now mostly painted over by other tags: "17B" written in an atom-symbol, a club symbol from a deck of playing cards, an empty bottle, a red square, a green circle, and four eyes in a diamond-pattern.

Other than graffiti, the topmost level was empty - until they heard a noise. Voices. Human voices, in a room up ahead. The party walked in on a fellow group of adventurers - 4 humans and some kind of giant praying mantis with a halberd and a squirming sack.

Gutboy: Hi there!
Herman: What? Huh? Oh, hi. Who the devil are you?
Gutboy: We're the Mongos
Herman: Ahh, I'm Herman, and this is my crew.
Gutboy (to giant bug): What are you?
P'lik'nik: I am P'lik'nik, from the Lanthanide Wastes. Click.
Mongo: An Insect-Man?
P'lik'nik: Yes. Come to the dungeon for gold, and babies. Stupid human laws, have to eat grunkie babies
Gutboy: You're eating babies?
P'lik'nik (shaking sack): Just baby grunkies
Herman: So, what are you doing down here?
Gutboy: Looking for robots. Have you seen any?
Herman: Haven't seen anything, just arrived. We're looking for gold. You seen any?
Gutboy (presumably unaware that Mongo and Razoe had already looted this): There's a stream of it downstairs
Herman: Really? Where? You've got to show us how to get there
Mongo: No!  No.  Robots first, then gold.
Herman: Plllllllleeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaassssssssssssseeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
Gutboy: No, we need robots
Herman: I can't believe this. Nobody ever tells us where the gold is.  This is really lame.  Why won't you take us? C'mon, show us the gold

As the conversation continued along these lines, one of the other human adventurers face began to twitch uncontrollably. Finally, with a cry of rage, he pulled his heavy flail from his back and charged at the party. Herman sighed a loud "Not this again" and he and his crew drew weapons.

The fight was short and one-sided - Seegar's sleep spell sent most of them into a deep slumber, and the one man unaffected was quickly slain. Their armor and weapons were stripped, and the baby grunkies were released into the dungeon.

Not wanting to be burdened while searching for robots, the party headed back out of the dungeon and then buried the gear they had looted from Herman's crew.  Another debate ensued, and the merits of lurking in the upper levels preying on adventuring parties were weighed against the risks of searching for robots down below.  Eventually, a third choice was made - several weeks back they had found a tunnel further down the mountain, supposedly inhabited by moktars.  That was to be the new target.

The group made their way to the tunnel, and Mongo's flashlight picked out the flabby buttocks of a moktar gesticulating in the distance. He quickly shut off the light, and then the party fired their bows at the cat-man. He went down with a yelp, and a half dozen further moktars got up from where they had been reclining and ran off.  Advancing into this room, they found scaled, fishy-smelling arms and legs roasting on a fire, dozens of crates of iron rations labeled "PRODUCT OF DENETHIX", and three barrels of water.  Then the sound of metal on stone was heard from further ahead.

The party moved onwards, and entered a room with eight moktars - one enormous individual, two extremely large, and five normal individuals, standing behind a tipped-over table.  Another sleep spell took out four of the normal-sized moktars, and a ferocious battle began.  The enormous moktar chief swung a huge iron maul, occasionally hitting his comrades with the back-swing, and "Bunny" was knocked unconscious by one of the chief's bodyguards.  Divine prayers from George healed her wounds, and the moktar leaders were soon dead - and then the sleepers were slaughtered.

Investigating this new room, they found drag marks leading to a tunnel heading north, as if something heavy had been pulled away. They also saw that the moktar chief had been trying to build a throne-of-skulls.  Sadly, he only had enough of the smelly fish-man skulls to make a seat about 1' high, with a board on top for extra support. The chief also had a pouch on a leather thong around his neck, containing a key and a pink diamond.

As the party argued about whether to proceed further, the sound of metal-on-stone echoed through the tunnels again, and soon another eight moktars charged into the room.  Gutboy's hold person spell immobilized most, and the slaughter was quick.  Mongo was somewhat wounded by the multiple fights, so he crawled into his sleeping bag - the dirt-bearers Malazar and Benarto (dressed in tuxedos after having been sent to butler school in Denethix) efficiently and politely filled the bag with dirt. Mongo's carrot-skin absorbed precious nutrients from the dirt, and he was soon fully healed.

Emboldened, the party followed the drag-marks north, and found a portcullis blocking the tunnel. The two moktars beyond made rude gestures - a poor decision on their part, as one of the moktars fell to bow-fire.  The second fled for his life down the hall.

Mongo then extended his 20' pole, and was able to just reach a red button just about 20' down the hall. Pressing it caused the portcullis to raise, and they headed north. The next room had a half dozen badly wounded moktars surrounding an iron strong-box. Bravely, the moktars tried to fight off the party, but it was to no avail - all were slain.

Flush with victory, the party used the chief's key to pop open the strongbox.  Inside were 750 gp, a crude silver sculpture of a fish-man, an ancient staple remover in excellent condition, four grease-stained plastic baby dolls, a scroll tube containing an arcane scroll, and a yellow cylinder 1' long and 4" wide, with a crystal at one end and fins and a propeller on the other.

The party decided to call the expedition a success and head back towards the city.  They dug up the buried loot from Herman's crew, and then traveled back the long way to avoid Chelmsfordshire and potential tax collectors, and then headed back through Tarryfield, Lugosi, and eventually to Denethix.

George first stopped at the Grand Temple and prayed to Kiod for further guidance. Kiod must have felt that George had enough help, for the God's Eye remained blank.

The next stop was at the temple of Science. The attendants quickly called for the head Scientist, Gregory, who stood 12' tall as he marched out on his stilts and wearing his long lab-coat.

Gregory: Have you come to abandon your foolish gods and worship their master, Science?
Gutboy: Well, no, we just wanted this identified (showing him the yellow cylinder)
Gregory: Let me see that.  Hmmm.  Yes, these fins here are for stabilizing the device, and this crystal is a light-emitter. See this black nodule on the side?  Pressing that will activate the light. Ahh, it is a submersible light, that will remain in place when released.
Gutboy: Not a missile?
Gregory: No, no. The fins and propellers keep it motionless while underwater.
George: Do you have any robots we could borrow?
Gregory: Borrow? No, no. Our robots are dedicated to the service of Science
Gutboy: I guess we'll have to go after cyborg Mr. Roper
Gregory: What's this? A cyborg?
Gutboy: Yes, he's our landlord
Gregory: A Scientist?
Mongo: No, an evil book made him a robot. And Janet
Gregory: A heretic! This is not permitted! The unlawful use of Science must be punished! Do you know where this heretic is?
Mongo: At the Regal Beagle. We can take you
Gregory (to his assistants): Quickly! Assemble a strike team! This heresy must be punished!
George: We're going to sacrifice him to Kiod
Gregory: A fitting end. We will assist you in capturing this Roper.

The strike team was composed of three Scientists, their names tattooed on their heads: Thomas, Ferris, and Lois. Two robots accompanied them.  The party led them through the streets of Denethix towards the Regal Beagle.  As they went, Mongo, Gutboy, and George had a quiet discussion about whether they should jump the strike team and seize the robots for the sacrifice - the cult of Science had been useful to them, though, and they did not want to alienate them. A cyborg would have to do.

As the heavily-armed crew stormed into the Regal Beagle, the customers and bartender dove for cover.  They marched into the backroom, where the cyborg Mr. Roper looked up from his newspaper in surprise. Gutboy cast hold person upon him, and the cybernetically-enhanced landlord was paralyzed.

Thomas walked up to Roper and began whispering in his ear as he prodded at his head-electronics with a screwdriver. It appeared Thomas was uttering nonsense - "The sky behind the clouds is green. Green is the sky behind the clouds." Eventually, he stopped, and stood up from his work.

Thomas: I cannot subvert this one to our control. His mind has too many organics.
Gutboy: Can you deactivate all the robot parts?
Thomas: Yes, good idea

Thomas sliced through wires and tubes as Gutboy, Mongo, and George bound Mr. Roper tight.  Satisfied, they decided to haul the incapacitated landlord back to their apartment and hold him there until the sacrifice at the Harvest Festival the following week.

Gains: Lots of adventuring gear, 1000 gp pink diamond, 750 gp, 300 gp silver fish-man statue, 10 gp staple remover, worthless greasy baby dolls, tube with arcane scroll, submersible flashlight, Mr. Roper
Kills: Herman's crew, many moktars
Losses: None


Some ASE2-3 art

A teaser - here's some of the interior art that Brian "Glad" Thomas did for ASE2-3: