Session recap, 11/29/2011

Netal the Elf (2)
Mongo the Fighter (2)
Gutboy the Cleric (3)

... and Dr. Giggles began slicing wildly into Gutboy's body with a filth-encrusted scalpel, calling to his troglodyte nurse for clamps, staples, and sutures.  The operation was done quickly, and he waved a vial of smelling salts under Gutboy's nose.  The clown-doctor cried "Success!" as Gutboy groggily awoke.  Gutboy said a quick prayer, and the sutured wounds healed without a scar, the stitches falling out of his flesh.

Dr. Giggles:  "Hmm, this went even better than usual.  I am truly a master of medical science."
Gutboy:  "Science?  Do you know those guys who shout 'Science!' all the time?"
Dr. Giggles:  "No, I'm afraid I'm the only one down here who cares for science.  I had to abandon my brutal brethren, for all they desired was butchery."
Gutboy:  "Where did you learn medicine?"
Dr. Giggles:  "I learned at the feet of the hologram of Dr. Quartermaine, in the Learnatorium"
Gutboy:  "Where's that?"
Dr. Giggles:  "Back with my brethren, the Painted Men, far to the southwest of here."
Mongo:  "Well, we've got to be going, I've got an appointment"
Dr. Giggles:  "Really?  I didn't realize you were in the calendar!  Please, disrobe..."
Mongo:  "No!  Not with you!  We've got to go!"
Dr. Giggles:  "Well, Nurse Ratched will take your co-pay.  Please escort them back to reception, nurse"

The players followed the troglodyte nurse back to reception.

Nurse:  "What insurance do you have?"
Gutboy:  "Nisus Underwriting"
Nurse:  "I'm sorry, we only take Miami Mutual..."
Gutboy:  "Ahh!  Nisus Underwriting was just acquired by Miami Mutual"
Nurse:  "Oh, then that will just be the co-pay, 20 gp please"
Gutboy:  "With the merger, the co-pay was reduced to 5 sp"
Nurse:  "Not until I get some paperwork from Miami it isn't.  20 gp."

Gutboy searched his pockets, but came up empty.  Mongo was likewise broke.  Finally, Netal coughed up the cash, and the players headed west, deeper into the dungeon, looking for a way out.

The first room they came to was a large circular chamber.  The walls were lined with transparent cylinders, stacked four high, with scaffolding to reach the higher cylinders.  Each cylinder had a seam in the front, and it looked like most were empty but for pieces of foam with body-shaped indentations.  They saw that a few in the distance were occupied.  Grim fantasies of zombies or worse lurching out of the cylinders filled the party's thoughts, and they decided to try a different route.

They headed back to the offices of Dr. Giggles, and tried a side corridor - this lead to a room filled with ordure and bone fragments.  They inspected the filth for movement carefully, suspecting danger, and then Gutboy looked up at the ceiling - a horrendous monstrosity was making its way towards them from above!  The creature's central body was 10' wide, with a large snail-like foot, a monstrous fish head, and dozens of 20' long tentacles.

The tentacles reached down and wrapped around Mongo, yanking him up to be bitten by the fish-mouth.  Other tentacles flailed at Gutboy and Netal, but they danced out of the way.  Netal recited his sleep spell, and the snail-fish-tentacle-freak was put into an arcane slumber, still clinging to the ceiling.  Its tentacles slowly unrolled, lowering Mongo gently to the floor.

Netal, completely enraged, ran into the room with his bow out, planning on shooting the sleeping monster in the face and killing it.  Gutboy and Mongo convinced him to leave instead - they were deeply afraid that a single arrow wouldn't be able to kill it, and the thing would awaken again and slaughter them all.

The party returned to the circular room with the cylinders.  Looking around, they saw three bodies in cylinders at ground level, and a another way up on the fourth level.  They also saw that the room extended farther north than their torchlight revealed, and a control panel to the north as well.  They briefly examined the floor-level cylinders, which contained:

1. an unmoving painted man, apparently frozen in time while struggling to escape
2. a beige humanoid whose head was mostly occupied by a mouth full of 2" long fangs
3. a human male, with no skin

They decided the cylinders were absolutely horrible and best ignored for the time being, and probably not some sort of "magic healing cylinder" as they had hoped.

Following a tunnel southwest from the cylinder-room, they came to an empty stone chamber.  They began searching the walls - and Gutboy was startled to see a pair of stone eyes watching him from the wall.  The eyes quickly receded back into the stone, but that was enough to spook the trio - they headed through another exit out of this room.  Joyously, they found that they had reached the stairs up to the first level.

The trip out and back to Chelmsfordshire was uneventful - the few wandering monsters they met ignored the party entirely.

Back at Chelmsfordshire, they found that an entrepeneurial merchant named Fitzy had set up shop selling adventuring gear.  They quizzed Fitzy for a bit, and discovered that their former henchman Slezgar, leader of the Excellent Elven Edventurers, had been flashing gold around, and more adventurers were heading towards Mt. Rendon, going through the forest and easily avoiding the Fist patrols.  Gutboy told Fitzy to let him know if he saw Slezgar, and Fitzy quickly agreed.

At the sole Chelmsfordshire tavern, the Muddy Cup, they saw a few of the Unyielding Fist drinking away their salaries, and a pair of scruffy looking adventurer-types.  The adventurer-types barely spoke to the even-scruffier looking trio, but after a round of drinks was purchased, the Fist got chatty.  Gutboy asked for employment, and heard that a lieutenant in nearby Louisburgh was offering a 250 gp reward for information on a missing relative of a city councilmen.

Gutboy's lack of cash was beginning to cramp his style - so he began sizing up the barkeeper, wondering what kind of coin he might be hiding.  Mongo and Netal talked him down, however, as the village was clearly no great source of wealth.  They marched to Louisburgh instead, dreaming of the sweet reward they'd earn.

As they approached Louisburgh, the stench of rotting meat filled the air.  Gagging, they went to the Pig's Bride Inn, and talked to Hulk, the proprietor, and learned the stench was caused by the nearby spinefruit orchards, and that the lieutenant they were looking for was named Armidon, stationed a few hovels down from the inn.  They quickly dropped by for a visit, but failed to impress the lieutenant and his two men.

Armidon:  "Well, look at this.  As if this town doesn't smell bad enough already."
Gutboy:  "Hi, we're here about the reward"
Armidon:  "Oh, that's fantastic.  Looks like we can all just pack up and head home now, a couple of hobos are going to do our job for us"
Gutboy:  "So who's missing..."
Armidon:  "Helmut Gargon. Some councilor's wife's cousin.  Supposed to be coming up to check on the spinefruit.  I could be down at the mountain where the action is, but no, some idiot has to get himself lost and now I'm stuck in this stinking hole."
Gutboy:  "How much is the reward?"
Armidon:  "Ha!  Like you'll find him!  I've been looking for three weeks, and you'll just march in and find this idiot.  Get out of here already."

The party headed back to the Pig's Bride Inn, and began chatting up a well-to-do looking gentleman at the bar.

Fred:  "Name's Fred Mebs.  I grow spinefruits."
Gutboy:  "Do you know Helmut Gargon?"
Fred:  "No, can't say that I do."
Gutboy:  "Does he own an orchard up here?"
Fred:  "No, of course not!  If he did, I'd know him.  I already told you, never heard of the guy."
Gutboy:  "So you've never seen him?"
Fred:  "Like I said, no.  Never seen him.  What's this all about?"
Gutboy:  "There's a reward for him.  Say, do you have any work you need done?"
Fred (motioning them to a more private table):  "It just so happens I do, quiet-like.  See, what I need is bodies.  I'll give you 10 gp per body."
Gutboy:  "Well, how fresh?"
Fred:  "Well, they just need to be a little juicy, that's all"
Gutboy:  "So no mummies?"
Fred:  "No!  No!  They need some juice in 'em.  Don't want to know the details either.  And don't bother heading to the cemetery, that's all emptied out."
Gutboy:  "OK.  20 gp a body"
Fred: "No.  I said 10, and I meant 10"
Gutboy:  "How about goblins or morlocks?"
Fred:  "Don't know what a morlock is, and there aren't any goblins round here, so I can't say how well they'd work.  Tell you what, I'll give you 5 gp per goblin."

Gutboy chewed this over, and agreed on behalf of the party.  They then quizzed the bartender a bit on who the local spinefruit farmers were, and got four names:  Mebs, Ungol, "Sleazy" Phil Turner, and Darinius.

There was brief talk about stalking the nearby farms and killing peasants for their valuable corpses, but eventually they decided to follow up a few leads on Helmut's disappearance instead.  The party headed out of town, and followed their noses towards the manor-houses in the orchards.  They stopped first at the Ungol house, and asked Gar Ungol if he knew anything about Helmut - but Gar denied knowing him.  They then headed towards the Turner house and knocked on the door.

"Sleazy" Phil:  "Yeah?"
Gutboy:  "Do you know anything about what happened to Helmut Gargon?"
Phil:  "Who?"
Gutboy:  "He went missing, he was coming up to check on the spinefruit harvest"
Phil:  "Well, I can't say I know anything.. but... you might want to check out that Fred Mebs."
Gutboy:  "Why?"
Phil:  "Just a word to the wise.  Mebs.  and Ungol.  Check out their orchards."

Gutboy thanked Phil, and the party headed to the last household - the Darinius manor.  They knocked on the door, and were answered by a gruff man gripping a shotgun.  Netal's eyes grewed wide as he stared at the shotgun.  A fit of greed overtook him, and he began casting a sleep spell.  Mr. Darinius, shocked, raised the shotgun and fired with both barrels, but missed and only took out chunks of his door.  Netal completed his spell, and Darinius fell to the floor asleep.  The party could hear running footsteps from somewhere in the house, so Netal grabbed the precious shotgun and the trio fled down the road.

They decided that it was too dangerous to stick around in Louisburgh, and headed back towards Denethix.  Once they reached town, they had a few nasty surprises.

Netal headed back to the Tattered Heel, where he had a deal with the innkeeper for free lodging.  When he got there, he found that the door was sealed with yellow crime scene tape, and a soldier of the Fist was standing guard outside.  Written in blood on the front door were the words "WHERE'S KROGO?" - Krogo being a slave owned by Netal, who had died several sessions earlier.

Gutboy and Mongo headed back towards their apartment, and Mongo was shocked to see that his evil book, which he had left sitting in his chair, had mysteriously changed shape - it was now much smaller and had vile looking arcane symbols upon its cover.  Gutboy, due to his basic literacy, recognized the horrifying symbols as being normal letters of the English alphabet, reading "Diary of Janet".  He quickly paged through the diary - most of it was occupied with their neighbor Janet's unrequited love of her roommate Chrissie, but at the tail end it described going to the party at Mongo & Gutboy's, where she was very upset at Chrissie for running off with Gutboy, and she was fascinated by a strange comic book that Mongo had.  After the party, it apparently occupied all her thoughts, until the last entry, where she wrote that she was going break into their apartment and take the book.  After this entry, scrawled in a different hand, was a message:  "MONGO, YOU ILLITERATE BUFFOON!  I WARNED YOU, AND NOW YOU'RE GOING TO DIE!"

Mongo quickly figured out that the book had gotten sick of him not obeying the book's evil instructions, and had decided to target Janet instead.  Mongo & Gutboy headed down to the landlord's apartment to discuss the break-in - but no one answered the door.  Mongo smashed the door down, and they rushed inside, and found that the Ropers weren't there.  Gutboy, broke and sensing opportunity, grabbed 140 gp in costume jewelry and ugly vases.

They then headed over to Jack, Janet, and Chrissie's apartment, and knocked on the door.  Jack answered, but he hadn't seen the girls in two or three days - he couldn't remember exactly how long because he'd been on a bender.

They later hooked up with Netal, and shared their stories.  Mongo headed down to speak to the Fist soldier at the Tattered Heel and ask what had happened.

Mongo:  "So what happened here?"
Soldier:  "Oh, wow, that was really gross.  So get this, we hear about all this blood, and we're called down, you got this bloody message on the door, I go in, and there's blood everywhere.  No body though.  But!  But!  There's a brain sitting on the bar.  Just a brain!  We've seen it before, see, sometimes the Society of the Luminous Spark kidnaps a slaver, usually they just disappear, but sometimes the brain gets left behind.  Weird.  Don't know why they'd go to all that trouble, cutting out a brain and leaving it.  This guy wasn't a slaver though.  You know anything about this?"
Mongo:  "Me?  No, no, not me..."

And so our session ended, with new opportunities, new enemies, and a double-barreled shotgun.


The Little People

Source: http://www.bookdwarf.com/?p=1108

Cyber Tuesday Sale

Apparently the executives at Lulu didn't sell enough to pay for another solid gold jet airplane yesterday, so Cyber Monday has been extended into Cyber Tuesday.  Enter CYBERTUESDAY305 at checkout for 30% off today!


Cyber Monday sale

Lulu is having their Cyber Monday sale - 30% off!  Which is the best sale I've seen out of Lulu since I've published with them.  Today (Nov 28th) only.  Enter this coupon code at checkout:  CYBERMONDAY305

If that's not enticing enough, check out these reviews of the Anomalous Subsurface Environment:



Medical Mistake

Medical Mistake
No. Enc: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 90' (30')
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 4
Attacks: 6 tentacles
Damage: Restrain, plus single 1d8 bite
Save: F4
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: VII
XP: 190

The medical mistake is one of Dr. Giggles’ surgeries gone more wrong than usual.  The doctor attempted to graft a cave squid, a snail, and a juvenile gill-man together.  The resulting chimera survived, but quickly escaped from the absent-minded physician.  The thing has grown enormously since its escape, feeding on patients while the doctor isn’t looking.

The mistake is a mass of tentacles surrounding a giant toothy fish-head, all sprouting from a snail foot.  The body itself is 8’ in diameter, and its tentacles can stretch to 20’.

In combat, the mistake may lash out with up to six tentacles.  Anyone hit by a tentacle will be captured unless they save vs. petrification.  A new save may be made each round to escape.  Opponents so restrained may not perform any actions other than attempting to break free.

Once each round, it will drag a captured opponent to its mouth and bite for 1d8 damage (automatically hitting).  This bite may be performed on a newly-captured opponent.

Each tentacle has AC 7 and takes 6 points of damage to sever.  The mistake has a total of 20 tentacles, although it may only use six at once (more than that is beyond its limited mental capacity).

The medical mistake’s treasure is found in its stomach, and consists of the non-digestible valuables its victims carried.


Insect-Men of the Lanthanide Wastes

And here's a first draft of my other new Labyrinth Lord class, the Insect-Men. Their big shtick is being immune to most undead effects. Their downsides are a ridiculously bad reaction modifier, guaranteeing most civilized people will attack them on sight, a lack of magic armor, and a somewhat slower rate of advancement than fighters. In an undead-heavy campaign this thing would be pretty unbalanced, but I'm not real big on the undead, so the advantages aren't really that much in the ASE.

Insect-Men of the Lanthanide Wastes

Requirements: DEX 13
Prime Requisite: DEX
Hit Dice: 1d8
Maximum Level: 10

The insect-men are a nomadic people who roam the Lanthanide Wastes, riding upon giant gila monsters and hunting the human and dwarven fortune-seekers who trespass upon the desert landscape.  Occasionally, an insect-man will become curious about the pale fleshy grub people and make its way to Denethix, where its inability to distinguish human children from tasty livestock inevitably leads to a brutal end for the adventurous bug.

Player character insect-men are of that rare breed that has managed to integrate themselves into the most despicable outcasts of human society: an adventuring party.

Physically, insect-men most resemble wingless praying mantises, and have six legs.  They normally walk on the bottom four, and wield weapons and/or shields with their topmost legs.  They can lift themselves upon just the bottom two legs, extending their height to 8’ tall, but the middle legs are not particularly dexterous and the creatures become prone to toppling over, so four-armed fighting is not practiced among the insect-men.

Insect-man mouthparts are quite capable of the extreme contortions necessary to reproduce human speech, and all insect man PC’s know the prevailing human language, in addition to their native language of clicks and chirps. Speaking the language does nothing for relations with the locals, however: insect-men suffer a reaction penalty of +3 when dealing with humans and demi-humans.

The insect-man does have certain advantages over more traditional classes.  Their chitin exoskeleton means that their AC is never worse than 5, regardless of armor worn (if any).  This is good, because human armor does not fit them, and finding an armorer willing to custom-manufacture a suit is difficult.

They are also immune to most undead effects other than physical damage – to the insect-man, a ghoul or wight is simply carrion on the move, and a ghost or wraith is entirely a human concern.  The one exception is the mummy – mummy-rot is especially virulent in insect-men, and they lose an additional 1d4 hit points per day when under the effects of that disease.

All insect-men are immune to the effects (both beneficial and harmful) of lanthanides and hafnium.  Other intoxicants behave normally upon the insect-man physiology.

Insect-men never exceed the tenth level of experience.

Insect-Man Level Progression
ExperienceLevelHit Dice (1d8)
480,00010+2 hp only *
* Hit point modifiers from constitution are ignored

Insect-Man Saving Throws
LevelBreath AttacksPoison or DeathPetrify or ParalyzeWandsSpells or Spell-like Devices

Insect-Man Attack Table
Attack Value for Armor Class


This is the first draft of my Moktar class, designed to mesh in with Labyrinth Lord rules. Completely un-playtested of course. The idea here is to capture the buffoonish sidekick-ness of the moktar, while still allowing it to be strong in combat. So, it has a really low cap on dexterity, high strength, and an excellent "to hit table". Hit dice are crazy high for first level, 2d10. Saving throws are abysmal, except against poison. This ensures they can give out, and take, a solid beatdown, but are constantly getting themselves into trouble against wizards and the like.

I'm contemplating adding a "knockback" ability, which would allow a moktar to toss opponents away in a fit of rage if under attack by more than one. I think they might be tough enough already though.


Requirements: STR 13
Prime Requisite: STR
Hit Dice: 1d10
Maximum Level: 8

Player character moktars are disturbed individuals who have decided to leave the comfort of the war-band to live among humankind.

All moktar PC’s understand the prevailing human tongue – but their jaw structure prevents them from speaking it.  They can only communicate in the native moktar tongue, a language of roars.  Likewise, while humans (and demi-humans) can speak moktarish, they are simply unable to enunciate the subtle differences in roaring that are essential to the moktar language.

Fellow player characters should be assumed to understand a moktar PC’s roars and wild gesticulations, but few NPC’s will have any grasp of the moktar’s intent.  Moktar PC’s thus have a penalty of +2 on reaction rolls with non-moktars.  The language barrier additionally means that moktars are unable to hire henchmen.

Moktars are not particularly agile to begin, and PC moktars (accustomed to living in comparatively cushy human cities) are even less so.  Moktar characters thus have a maximum Dexterity of 8.  Half of any discarded Dexterity points (round up) may be added to the character’s Strength score (up to a maximum of 18).  These additional Strength points may be counted towards the minimum requirement of 13.

Due to their size and strength, moktar characters start with two hit dice (1d10) at level 1.  Their thick hides ensure that their armor class is always at least 6, regardless of the type of armor worn (if any) or dexterity penalties.

Moktar Level Progression
ExperienceLevelHit Dice (1d10)

Moktar Saving Throws
LevelBreath AttacksPoison or DeathPetrify or ParalyzeWandsSpells or Spell-like Devices

Moktar Attack Table
 Attack Value for Armor Class


Happy Thanksgiving!

Among the many blessings I have to be thankful for this past year are all of you who've read this blog, left comments, purchased my module, and in other ways have made this funky little hobby a joy.  Thank you so much.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Shaking up the Classes

The campaign has been in progress for a year, and I feel like shaking things up a bit.  P.W./Dick Dock's player needs to roll up a character, and Gutboy has a good chance of dying, so I'm making some changes to the house rules.

a. Any Basic or AD&D class is fair game, from any source.  Unearthed Arcana, Oriental Adventures, the goofy ones from Dragon Magazine - it's all good.  Death Masters, Anti-Paladins, Geisha, Duelists, it's all good.  Only caveat here is I will rework the XP tables for any class so it's more in line with Labyrinth Lord.  Stats will still be 3d6 in order, but players will be allowed to move points from stat to stat to make the minimums for a desired race or class.

b. I like variable weapon damage vs. size from AD&D, so I'm going to start using that too.

c. Not sure if I'm going to go for AD&D style hit dice (e.g. d10's for fighters) or reduce the dice used for the other classes

d. All spells are fair game for choosing wizard & cleric spells, from Unearthed Arcana or wherever.

e. I'm going to add Moktars and Insect People of the Lanthanide Wastes as playable races/classes.  Now I need to stat those up.

The net effect, I hope, is to both up the gonzo factor, and to make character death more palatable.  I am giving no consideration for balance - this isn't a video game.  If somebody gets overpowered, great, enjoy it until you're dead.  Then do something different.


PDFs are back on sale

The PDF of ASE1 is back on sale!  So all you hordes of disappointed shoppers may now indulge in your wildest capitalist urges and buy, buy, buy!

It's down to just the one definitely-licensed-correctly font.  I got hung up trying to find out why MS Word + Ghostscript kept jamming Helvetica and Symbol into the file - it turns out that bulleted lists cause that problem.  That's several hours of my life I'll never get back...  but it's all good now.

If anyone has problems with the new PDF drop me an email and I'll get it sorted out for you, but my test downloads were flawless so I don't expect any issues.


PDF sales temporarily disabled

Hi everyone,

I've temporarily disabled PDF sales (and map pack downloads), until I verify that the font usage is properly licensed.  They'll be re-enabled in the next week or two while I make sure everything is on the up-and-up.

See the K&KA thread that prompted my withdrawal here: Digital Millenium Act of 1998; watch 'yer rears publishers

Hardcopies are still for sale via Lulu.  There's a sale on currently, too, enter coupon code SECRET305 thru Friday and you'll get 50% off a second book.


Nearly a TPK...

Nearly a TPK last night.  Things that went wrong for the players:

a. The fight was lost before they entered the room.  Because they walked into a room where they'd be surrounded by stuffed monkey-fish.  How can they NOT be animated monsters?  I think I know what went on - the players were completely focused on what to do with that 5' long gold T-Rex tongue and ignored my descriptions.

b. And yes, the tongue is also a trap.  Come on!  It's a gold tongue inside a T-Rex skull!  How can it NOT bite you?  Well they haven't triggered it yet, probably next session someone'll get chomped...

c. Once combat began, it went poorly from the first round, but the players refused to retreat until round 4, with almost everyone dead.  How things were suddenly going to turn around after the henchmen started dropping, I don't know.  The clerics (Leroy the henchman and Gutboy) went down with almost no use of their heal spells - Gutboy spent the entire combat fooling around with his pet dog, healing it and removing its muzzle, and then watching helplessly as it was gutted by Feejee mermaids.

They managed to pull out of it alive, but are in a really bad spot, though, as any wandering monster will probably take the lot of them out, unless Dr. Giggles saves Gutboy.  That's a big "if", I've got a table of surgical results to write up now, most of them unpleasant.  I didn't want to do it on the fly, and I hadn't written up the Dr. Giggles part of the dungeon yet, and it was late, so I ended the session on a cliffhanger.

I hope they get a bit more cautious in the next session... I want them to succeed, but I will slaughter their characters as the dice demand.


Session recap, 11/8/2011

Netal the Elf (2), and his slave Roger the Fighter
Mongo the Fighter (2), and his henchmen Leroy Brown the Cleric and Lorgar the Elf
Gutboy the Cleric (3), his henchman Serlo the Elf, and his dog Rufus

We left the party in the viewing chamber for the Bee Bearded Lady - who was reduced to a skeleton wearing an aluminum hexagonal mesh beard, on the opposite side of a thick wall of glass.

The party headed out and traveled further into the freak show, find a chamber with four doors - one of which appeared to lead into the other half of the Bee Bearded Lady's chamber.  The door was locked, though, so the party investigated the other doors.  A door to the northeast read "Feed the Geek", while a door to the southeast read "Observe the Geek."  The party decided unanimously that feeding the geek would be a bad idea, and opted to observe.  They sent Roger the slave through the door first - he found a room split in two by a wall of bars.  On the opposite side of the bars, a horrible painted man with the tail and claws of a scorpion gnashed his teeth, trying to reach his stinger between the bars.  Roger stayed well away, and was safe from the monster's attack.

The rest of the party entered, and proceeded through another door out into a hallway.  They opened a door at the north end of the hall, and entered an oddly-shaped room with a stack of rusty iron cages along the south wall.  Each cage held a subterranean locust, 3' long.  Mongo surmised they were food for the Geek.

They had Roger open a door to the southeast - briefly, a room with a half dozen monitors was revealed, the monitors showing views of various rooms in the dungeon, some of which the party had just walked through.  Six Painted Men were observing the monitors.  One of them ran at the door, shouting "EMPLOYEES ONLY!" and slammed it shut in Roger's face.

There was a brief argument about whether to kill the Painted Men - Gutboy was afraid that the other Painted Men would kill them in retribution, while Netal and Mongo were irate about being observed by the clowns and wanted them dead.  Gutboy's argument won out, and the party moved further into the freak show.

The next room they entered held the skull of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.  Inside the skull was a 5' long tongue, sculpted from solid gold.  To the south of it was a large tapestry, depicting dinosaurs wallowing in a swamp - rather than a sky above the swamp, a stalactite-covered cavern ceiling was woven instead.  There was another tapestry to the west, but apparently they were looking at the back side of it, as it was a featureless muddled gray.

Another argument ensued, about whether the party could successfully smuggle the tongue past the clowns.  They feared the clowns exacting retribution for its theft, and decided to leave it alone for the time being, and scout around for a back way out of the dungeon.  So they sent Roger to investigate behind the curtain - he saw another door to the west, and walls covered with shelves, on which rested eleven withered figures - the upper halves of chimps sewn onto the lower halves of fish.  The party then had Roger check behind the dinosaur tapestry, and found a door heading south.

They decided that heading west was a better bet, and went back to the room with the eleven Feejee Mermaids.  As they reached the center of the room, the mermaids came to life and flopped down onto the ground, advancing on the party with bared fangs.  The party got in a few hits, but went down one by one under the onslaught of the mermaids.  A few were killed, crushed into dried skin and sawdust stuffing, but eventually only Netal and Mongo were left standing.

Netal and Mongo ran out of the room - Mongo moving slowly, letting the slow-moving mermaids stay within sight of him, and Netal running as fast as he could, trying to find a back entrance into the mermaid room so he could rescue his unconscious companions.  Eventually he did, rushing through a hexagonally-shaped room with a stone giant laid out upon a tall table, and bandaged Gutboy's wounds as best he could.  Sadly, he was too late for the rest of the party - they were dead.

Mongo eventually caught up, slamming doors behind as he ran, and apparently losing the pursuing mermaids.  They recovered a few weapons from their slain henchmen, and retreated to the room with the stone giant as the tapestry began to show movement - the mermaids must certainly have been returning from their failed pursuit.  Mongo spiked the door shut, and the two returned to the giant chamber with the carnival midway, hoping to sneak out.

The party walked around the big top, taking the most direct route to the entrance possible, walking past several Painted Men who pointed and laughed at them - but were stopped at the dais by the carnival barker. 

Carnival Barker: Leaving so soon?  After all this trouble we've been to, it would be a shame to miss the show
Netal:  I think we need to be going, our friend's in trouble.
Carnival Barker:  Nothing like the trouble there's going to be if you don't attend the show.  I suggest you enjoy some of the attractions on the midway.  Looks like you've been enjoying them quite a bit already.
Netal:  Do you know a doctor?
Carnival Barker:  Oh, there's Dr. Giggles... but that's going to have to wait until after the show.

Sensing the undercurrent of menace, the pair retrated back around the midway.  They checked out a few of the tents as they went - a shell game didn't interest them, but a shoot-the-skull-with-the-crossbow game attracted Netal's attention.  He paid 10 gp, and fired three shots from the crossbow the Painted Man behind the counter handed him.  All three shots hit, and the Painted Man handed Netal a bloodstained kewpie doll.

Painted Man:  Three shots!  Big winner!
Netal:  Does it have any special powers?
Painted Man:  Yes, it's cute!  Very cute!

The duo gave the "Ring the Bell" game a pass, avoiding the snarling beefcake Painted Man and his big rubber mallet, and passed a door with a sign reading "Emergency Exit", nestled between the tent and the entrance to the freak show.  The two casually slipped through the door, finding themselves in a room with yet another tapestry, this one showing smiling children enjoying a circus.  They ignored the tapestry and followed a corridor west, eventually reaching a bronze portcullis guarded by two Painted Men.  The guards were delighted to see visitors.

Painted Man:  Strangers!  Welcome!  You see show?
Netal:  Yes, we're just going to step out for a bit.
Painted Man:  You come back and see show!

The painted men happily wheeled up the winch and wished the two well, and they headed deeper into the dungeon, dragging the unconscious Gutboy behind them.  They followed twisting corridors and chose random directions at intersection, and eventually ended up at a sign reading "Dr. Giggles - Welcome to Our New Office."  Following the arrow on the sign, they came to another door marked "Receptionist."  They entered within, and found a doctor's waiting room.  There were chairs arranged around the room, with a coffee table holding an assortment of magazines.  A troglodyte in a white nurse's uniform sat behind a desk.

Nurse:  Do you have an appointment? hisss
Mongo:  No, we're walk-ins
Nurse:  Any insurance?  hisss
Mongo:  Uhhh... no.... blue shield?
Nurse:  No blue shield.  hiss... We take Miami Mutual.  hiss.
Mongo:  No, do you take cash?
Nurse:  Always take cash.  hiss.... Better anyways, avoid co-pays. hiss.  Wait here for doctor.

The nurse then hummed tunelessly for a few minutes, and then got up and opened the door behind it, announcing "Patients, Dr. Giggle!"  A painted man in a white doctor's coat entered the room, a surgical mask dangling around his throat.  The doctor spoke in an incredibly well-educated voice.

Dr. Giggles (rushing over to examine Gutboy):  Goodness!  That man needs immediate medical attention!  It's a good thing you brought him here!
Netal:  How much is this going to cost?
Dr. Giggles:  Money? How can you think of money when a man is dying?  How mercenary!  Nurse, help me get him into the O.R.!

The troglodyte grabbed Gutboy's feet while Dr. Giggles lifted Gutboy by his armpits, and they quickly hauled him through a door into the O.R.  The nurse stepped back through and told the two to "wait here, he in good hands now, hisss...."  Realizing that they had just let strange monsters take their bosom comrade, Mongo and Gutboy insisted on seeing the operation.  The nurse agreed, and admitted them to the O.R., advising them to stand in a corner out of the way.  Dr. Giggles stood over Gutboy's unconscious body, scalpel in hand, with two Painted Men in nurse's uniforms assisting him.

And here we halted - you'll have to wait til next session to find out the results of the operation.


Hitler Must Die

I don't have enough stupid in the dungeon yet.

a. Subsurface Circus
b. Miami
c. Dracula

So... here's something for the ninth level.  Near the 9th level entrance, past the cave kraken that's been chewing on all those poor soldiers of the Unyielding Fist, there's a hangar, containing a single Avro Lancaster bomber.  Everything is in perfect condition - all the rubber parts are pliable, the fuel is fresh, etc.  There is also a manila envelope marked TOP SECRET, containing orders for the missing crew - to destroy the Nazi Time Ray before it can be used to modify history.  Location:  Hitler's Bunker.

If the plane is wheeled out of the dungeon and the airstrip outside the 9th level entrance cleared, it can be flown off - where it will instantly pass through a time portal back to 1943, over Berlin, and presumably be shot down.  The Nazis will be unsure of the effects of their Time Ray since the plane only disappeared for a moment, and will send a bunch of SS thugs to capture and interrogate the crew.  From there, the players must fight their way back to the Time Ray and defeat Hitler to return home.  Or whatever else they want to do.  Maybe find Glenn Miller and join the band?  Who knows...

The circus is going over very well - I was wondering if the players would rebel at the sheer ridiculousness of an underground carnival.  They're actually quite enthusiastic, and paranoid about the massive numbers of Painted Men turning on them unexpectedly, so it's working out exactly as I had hoped.  Given that success, it's full steam ahead on my other stupid ideas.


Another Christianity and D&D post

This is another Christianity and D&D post.  There were a bunch last week, and I thought about posting something, didn't because my thoughts were muddled, and then bam! power outage.  So it's coming in a bit late for that discussion.  If you're not interested, no worries, I'll be back to gonzo D&D adventure in the next post - this is a content-based blog after all, non-content bits like this are almost nonexistent, so please forgive me this exception.

Nevertheless, in my recent "my players are evil!" post, I described some of the characters' interesting "developments".  As I've been DM'ing the world, I've been trying to be a purely neutral arbiter, letting the players determine the story and simply presenting a sandbox.  Those of you who've read ASE1 know it's a really bleak environment, but with a spark of hope.  The city of Denethix is ushering in a human renaissance in the midst of sorcerous tyranny.  My basically cynical world-view is that we are all brutal savages, and you don't have to look beyond the mirror to find the most horrifying monsters imaginable - and it is only through our seeking of God that we rise above our animal nature.  The campaign setting is a reflection of this world-view, tempered with humor, as the human situation can be ridiculous in so many ways.

From a PC's point of view, there's not a lot of immediate consequence for bad behavior.  I let things slide, because the players' actions are the same as the populace at large - self-serving and manipulative.  Of course, I don't intend this to be a condemnation of my players - they view the NPC's in the game as pawns on a chessboard, and there's no moral consequence to sacrificing pawns.  So Roger the Slave is the door opener, Chrissie & Janet are fair game if it means leveling up...

But I worry that I'm creating a moral cesspool out of the game.  I do not want to codify bad behavior.  There's no huge moral consequence - none of my players are going to murder anybody, for instance.  It's all make believe, and a really fun Vancian story is emerging.  On the other hand, playing out behaviors like this is, I believe, morally corrosive.  It conditions a person to be a bit more callous (just a bit!), and from there it's a bit easier to be just a bit more callous than that...  So it's a lot of little moral consequences instead of a great big one.

So how do I reconcile Vancian fun with creeping moral corrosion?

I believe that I have failed my players here in not having consequences for bad behavior.  The real world permits evil men to continue in their evil ways, but make-believe-land doesn't have to operate that way.  The villains are villainous only so far as I permit them, and likewise there's no reason I have to create an environment where immoral actions are implicitly encouraged through lack of consequence.  So, a few of my dilemmas and how I plan to address them:

a. The Evil Book.  I introduced a magic book on a lark, rolled some dice, and decided it was an Evil Book.  So I had it trying to tempt Mongo into doing evil things.  It's led to a few laughs, but in the end I'm not interested in actually tempting Mongo.  So I've changed the book slightly so that it is demanding socially unacceptable behaviors - there's no way Mongo is going to be killing his fellow players.  I've also made it more threatening, so there's no mistaking Evil Book for a potential asset.

b. Purchasing Slaves.  There's a whole Society of the Luminous Spark dedicated to violently murdering slave-owners, a la John Brown.  When I put the setting together, I wanted some opportunity for interesting moral dilemmas between law-abiding slavers and cruel, violent abolitionist terrorists.  No non-violent resistance here, only two very nasty groups of people going at it.  When Netal gets out of the dungeon, he's going to find that the Society has taken an interest, and there's going to be consequences for the slaving going on.

As for encouraging good behavior, there would have to be some good behavior to reward first...  this would easier to play out in city adventures, but I'm all about the dungeon, so unless the players are going out of their way I try to get the city bits done as fast as possible.  The dungeon, of course, is not an opportunity for rampant good deeds- it's an opportunity to try to figure out all my death traps and get the gold.  Maybe when the players reach Under-Miami there will be some opportunity for do-goodery.
So that's where I'm at.  I'm fairly sure this post has been rambling and semi-incoherent, but I am trying to work through the moral repercussions of my DM'ing style, and if anyone has any advice I'd love to hear it.  It's possibly also useful for the non-Christians in the audience to understand at least one Christian's perspective (and please do not take it as even a correct perspective - I have many failings and I am likely blowing it big time here, theologically).

God bless you all!

Session recap, 10/27/2011

Netal the Elf (2), and his slave Roger the Fighter
Mongo the Fighter (2), and his henchmen Leroy Brown the Cleric and Lorgar the Elf
Gutboy the Cleric (3), his henchman Serlo the Elf, and his dog Rufus

The morning started off, as it typically does, with Mongo consulting his evil book.  The cartoons within were arranged in a flowchart - the first panel depicted Mongo reading the evil book, with a cartoon that had Mongo killing Netal, Gutboy, Janet, and Chrissie.  Arrows leading off in one direction showed further panels where Mongo killed his friends and neighbors, and was rewarded with piles of gold and a bevy of beautiful naked women.  Arrows leading off in the other direction showed panels where Mongo gave his friends and neighbors big hugs, went to bed, and then was found in the morning chopped into little pieces, with the evil book sitting in a big pool of his blood.

Mongo thought about a bit, and decided he'd split the difference by not hugging Netal or Gutboy.  Hoping that not-hugging was enough to satisfy the evil book, he headed off to buy some replacement plate mail at the Bazaar Incomparable.

After shopping was complete, the party gathered up their henchmen and headed off to the border village of Chelmsfordshire.  Once there, Gutboy checked out the shrine to Nisus - it had been trampled into the dirt by pigs.  Enraged, he sought out the dirt farmers he had brought around to the worship of Nisus, and found them getting drunk at the Pig's Bride.

Gutboy:  "Have you seen the shrine?  It's in horrible condition!  Who was supposed to be watching it?"
Drunks:  "Uhhh.... aren't you the priest?"
Gutboy (remembering he is, in fact, the official priest of Chelmsfordshire):  "I left you in charge!  Get out there and clean up that shrine!  Now!"

Grumbling, the farmers went off to restore the shrine to its former wormy glory.  After they left, a soldier of the Unyielding Fist approached Gutboy.

Soldier:  "Father, can you bless us?  We need all the help we can get in that horrible pit under the mountain!"
Gutboy:  "What's going on?  Have you been inside?"
Soldier:  "We don't go in there anymore!  But things keep coming out to kill us, so we're walling the hole up"
Gutboy:  "Really?  What's coming out?"
Soldier:  "Tentacles, all we see are tentacles, they're dragging us into the darkness."
Gutboy:  "So nobody's going down there?"
Soldier:  "No, we're going to deny the place to any wizards who go poking around.  It's all getting walled up.  But you remember the lights that were shining?  There was one, higher up the mountain, by a collapsed tunnel, and some idiot's digging it up.  Must be related to somebody on the Council, we're ordered not to interfere.  You know how it is."
Gutboy:  "Yes, of course."
Soldier:  "So can we have a blessing?"
Gutboy:  "Yes, tomorrow morning we'll have a village-wide service."

Gutboy decided he was in dire need of funds, and figured passing the hat was an excellent way to raise some much-needed cash.  At the service the next day, he gave a rousing sermon about the necessity of obeying the gods, particularly Nisus, and how she would protect farmers and soldiers alike.  This done, he passed a bucket around, urging people to give - but this only incensed the crowd, who began taunting Gutboy as a worthless money-grubber.  The bucket came back with only a measly 4 gp.

The party decided it was high time to head to Mount Rendon and the dungeon, so they quickly purchased five pigs, and headed into the wilderness.  On the way there, they were surprised by a dozen musclebound doberman-headed men, wearing only loincloths and sandals, and wielding wicked scimitars.  The dog-headed men growled, and demanded that the party empty their bags and give them all their money, and told them that "Canus would hear of it!" if they didn't comply.

Gutboy tried to convince the dog-headed men to join them in an adventure underground and gain great treasure, but the men only laughed, explaining that they'd just take whatever treasure he found when he came back out.  Negotiations quickly broke down, sleep spells were cast, and battle ensued - the party came out victorious, and kept one of the dog-headed-men alive, slitting the throats of the other sleepers.

The party headed into the dungeon, and went straight to the morlock's lair.  Mongo argued for slaughtering the morlocks and taking their stuff, but Gutboy was opposed, finding them to be valuable allies.  Inertia won the day, and the party decided to just hand the pigs and the dog-headed-man over to the morlocks as a gesture of goodwill.

Knocking on the door to the lair, a lone morlock answered, and his jaw dropped in delight as he surveyed the pigs and dog-man.  "Pigs!  And people!  Delicious!" he exclaimed, taking a quick bite out of the whimpering humanoid.  He quickly called for help, and a half dozen more morlocks appeared to help drag the meaty bounty into their lair.  There were squeals and whimpers of pain as the morlocks nibbled at their prizes while dragging them into the darkness.

The party decided to see what the morlocks were up to, and followed them inside the lair - the fiends were too excited to notice the party was behind them.  They came into a large chamber, with a massive demonic idol in the corner, with several rotting hearts impaled on its forehead-horn, and holding a great gold bowl in its lap.  Stacked next to a stew-pot were several human-looking arms and legs.

As the party entered, Chief Gribnel, leader of the morlocks, emerged from a room to the south.  He had a silver circlet on his forehead, and an ivory brooch pinned through his bare chest, and wore two keys on a leather thong tied around his neck.  He saw the many pigs, the dog-faced-man, and the party, and his face broke out in a wide smile.

Gribnel:  "Mongos bring much food!  We feast!  Mongos must stay and eat with us!"
Gutboy:  "Could we stay overnight?  We could use some rest"
Gribnel:  "Yes!  I give you one of my women tonight!  You take her, she the ugliest, I don't miss her!"
Gutboy:  "So what are those arms?"
Gribnel:  "They make sign, how you say?  Eeeee's?"
Mongo:  "Excellent Elven Edventurers?"
Gribnel:  "Yes.  No problem?"
Gutboy:  "No, no problem!"

Gribnel walked over to the dog-faced man.  "You want piece of him?  He looks delicious!"  The party mumbled a bit and said they'd prefer the pigs, and the chief merely shrugged as he pulled out a knife and decapitated the whining dog-man.  "More for me!"

The party had an excellent meal of boiled pork, and bedded down among the moldy rags the morlocks used for sleeping.  Gutboy made use of his complimentary morlock woman as a pillow, but declined to take things any farther.  When they awoke, the cook fires had burned low, and the elves in the felt their minds refreshed and ready to re-learn their sleep spells.

They bid the morlocks farewell, and headed to the stairs they had discovered during the last foray into the dungeon, leading down to the second level.  They returned to the room where the gray slime had attacked and destroyed Mongo's armor, and found a humanoid poking around in the puddle in the center of the room.  The creature had rainbow-colored matted hair, and was dressed in a motley of dyed skins.  Gutboy shouted "Hello!", and the thing turned - its skin was ghost-white, and its mouth had massive red lips and was filled with pointed fangs.  Clearly, they had stumbled upon one of the Painted Men the morlocks had warned them about.

Painted Man:  "Strangers!  Customers!  You must come with me!  Come!"
Gutboy:  "Come where?"
Painted Man:  "So exciting!  Exciting!  So long since new people come!  You must come to our circus!"
All:  "Wha????"

The party argued a bit among themselves, and decided to chance following this freakish clown-monster and see what it was talking about.  The monster led them to a room with a large tapestry, with the words "Anomalous Subsurface Cirus Ahead!  Family Fun for All Ages!" embroidered onto it.  Large arrows on the tapestry pointed towards a slit in its middle, and in front of the tapestry stood a wooden lectern.  The lectern had no visible shelves in its solid square body, so the party followed the clown through the slit.

Beyond the tapestry was a room with a second Painted Man.  This clown was a sleep, til the first kicked him awake.  He looked surprised to see the party, and began jumping up and down excitedly.  "Ticket!  Ticket!" he shouted, as the first clown ran past and out of the room shouting "Visitors!  Customers!"  Gutboy explained they had no tickets, and the clown switched to shouting "Gold!  One gold!"

The party dutifully handed over 1 gp per member, and walked past the ticket-taker into an enormous room, nearly 200' across.  Occuping most of the room was a geodesic dome made of multi-colored acrylic triangles.  Surrounding the dome were booths with various midway games and concession stands, and nearby was a stone dais, atop which stood a "normal" human.  The man wore a straw boater's hat, a red tailcoat, and a pinstripe suit made from dyed face-skins, and carried a cane in one hand.  The man approached the party, and began to talk rapidly.

Carnival barker:  "What amazing wisdom you've shown in choosing to visit the greatest circus under the ground!  Step right up for the amazing acts..."
Gutboy:  "Is there cotton candy ?!?"
Barker:  "Why yes, there is, at the concession stand..."
Gutboy:  "Where? Where?"
Barker:  "Just on the other side of the dome, right over there!  Visit all the exciting games of the midway, and don't forget the show, starting in only ONE HOUR!  See the Amazing Bundini Twins DEFY GRAVITY!  Watch the lion wrestlers tame the savage beasts with their BARE HANDS!"
Gutboy:  "To the concession stand!"

In the background, dozens of Painted Men hurried about, opening the tents and stands along the midway and rushing into and out of the great geodesic dome.  The party quickly made their way to the promised concession stand, where they found a painted man just finishing the set-up of his booth.

Gutboy:  "What have you got?"
Painted Man:  "Fire beetle glands!  On stick!"  (holding out a skewer of freshly-fried still-glowing glands)
Gutboy:  "I need cotton candy!"

The Painted Man handed Gutboy a stick covered with tightly-wound gray strands of what might be some sort of subterranean candy.  He took a small strand and tasted it, finding that it stuck to his fingers and lips tightly - in fact, he could no longer open his mouth at all.

Gutboy:  "Mmmmph!"
Painted Man:  "Sticky! Yes!  From spiders!"

Gutboy borrowed a knife from his fellows to cut away the spider-silk that masqueraded as delicious cotton candy, badly slicing his lips up in the process.  The painted man offered up other goodies - "Baked people feet!  Bucket o' entrails!" - but there were no takers.  They bid farewall to the greasy, grotesque foods of the stand and picked another tent at random.

Inside this second tent they found an unattended fortune-telling machine.  The machine was a wooden box, on top of which sat the carved and painted upper torso of gypsy woman.  The box had a coin slot, and small plaque reading "10 gp".  Netal ordered his slave Roger to deposit 10 gp, and Roger dutifully obeyed.  A mechanical voice sounded from within the box:  "Ask your question"

Netal quickly asked, "Are the clowns going to try to kill us?".  The mechanical voice replied "Probably eventually, but in the meantime, enjoy the show."  As it finished its answer, the "10 gp" plaque withdrew and was replaced with a "100 gp" plaque.  The party made mental note of this divination machine, and vowed to leave before the show finished.

As there was still time to kill before the circus began, they picked a door at random, and found it bore a sign reading "The Amazing Subsurface Freak Show."  They had Roger open the door - the room beyond was empty, with nothing but empty shelves and two more doors.  One door had "Bee Bearded Lady" written upon it, and the other was marked "More Exhibits This Way!"

The party decided to view the Bee Bearded Lady, and had Roger once again open the door.  Behind the door was an irregularly shaped room, divided in the middle by a wall of thick glass.  On the other side of the glass, the party saw another door, and a skeleton sprawled on the ground.  The skeleton had a "beard" of aluminum hexagon-shaped mesh loosely hanging from its skull.

And here we ran out of time - further exploration of the Subsurface Freak Show will have to wait til the next session.