session recap, 2/13/2013

Mongo the Fighter (4), his henchpersons "Bunny" the Thief (2) and William the Sentinel (2), and his soil-bearers Malazar and someone who's name I have forgotten
Gutboy the Cleric (5), his henchman Trezgar the Elf (1) and his blink dog Rufus II

Mongo. Gutboy. The power-duo glanced sidelong at each other, and nodded seriously. "Dungeon" they said simultaneously. Yes, a time to return underground, seeking gold, glory, and Bunny's lost face.  Well, that's what they said to reassure Bunny...

They made their way through the back country around Denethix, avoiding Chelmsfordshire and the tax-men they feared were lurking within. Approaching the formerly-moktar-infested entrance to the 3rd level of the dungeon, they heard noises - a pair of civil engineers had set up surveying equipoment, under the supervision of a patrol of the Unyielding Fist and a robed official from the Zoning Board.

Official: "What? Who are you? Identify yourselves!"
Gutboy: "I am Gutboy, this is Mongo, and this is Rufus. We are citizens of Denethix."
Fist: "Oh, right, the orange guy and the talking dog. Yeah, I heard about that, they're citizens. Man, they'll let anything become a citizen these dyas."
Official: "And what are you doing here? Oh, don't tell me, trying to sneak into the dungeon without paying dues to the Council of Proper Apportionment. Well, your tax-evading days are coming to an end!"
Mongo: "What does that mean?"
Official: "Never you mind! Now begone, scoundrels!"

Nonplussed, the duo entered into the dungeon, looking for adventure.  They were decidedly not looking for Bunny's face, as they took a hard left into a (so they thought) previously unexplored portion of the subterranean labyrinth.  They fought a pair of the horned, flat dungeon sharks that cruised the flooded tunnels of the dungeon - alas, their guts contained nothing but New York license plates.

The exploration continued, and they re-entered a room they had previously been in, containing a vibrating iron rod protruding from a pedestal. Mongo grabbed it with his hand, and the dim flicker of intelligence behind his eyes grew even dimmer, as his muscles bulged out - the vibration had transferred what pitiful intellect he possessed into increased strength and vitality.

Pleased with his bulging muscles, the slack-jawed Mongo and Gutboy came across a stair way heading up. Across from the stairs was a triangular screen, and an image appeared - a man in green gloves proclaiming the dungeon as the property of the Church of Starry Wisdom - an obscure church on the Street of Temples, notable only in that the god it worshipped never appeared in the God's Eyes.

The crew headed up the stairs, and discovered themselves back on the second level - the scorched stain on the floor in the shape of long-dead Netal the Elf confirmed it.  They hurriedly went through their map collection, suddenly finding everything they had seen very familiar, and managed to connect a few of the incomprehensible scribbles together.  Newly oriented to their location in the dungeon, they headed to a room they had previously fled from in terror - the tomb of the Bone Lord.

A great stone door of black basalt with a winged skull carved into it marked the entrance to the Bone Lord's tomb.  Peeking inside, they saw the door opened onto a balcony, with skeletons in veiled black dresses mourning over a stone sarcophagus.  On the level below the balcony, more skeletons wearing tuxedos and holding bottles of wine stood around a long table with fine silverware.  The room was paneled with mahogany, had elegantly carved coffered ceilings, and had fine tapestries, rugs and divans scattered about.

A skeleton near the door gestured towards the table, and the skeletons below poured wine into goblets.  The party headed down into the lower section, and Mongo directed his soil-bearers to drink the wine.  They eagerly did so, and collapsed onto the floor retching - poison!  As they collapsed, the lid of the sarcophagus was flung off, and a withered corpse in a powder-blue tuxedo and top-hat emerged. The skeletons pulled swords from under their long tail-coats and dresses, and attacked.

Gutboy presented his symbol of Nisus and repelled the skeletons with his faith. This shocked the corpse in the powder-blue tuxedo, who began shouting "What the hell?" and then "Not my tuxedo!" as he was peppered with arrows. Mongo moved to engage the corpse, but while his sword mangled the beautiful tuxedo quite easily, the corpse's flesh remained undamaged.

The finely dressed monster grabbed Mongo by the shoulders and inhaled, sucking away Mongo's vitality - the poor dimwitted fighter lost a level. Mongo responded with napalm - he pulled out his flamethrower and doused the breath-stealing fiend with fire. It was crisped instantly, and collapsed into a burning mess.  The remaining skeletons were driven off by Gutboy, and the looting began.

Beneath the velvet lining of the sarcophagus, Mongo felt the outline of a sword. The weapon's guard was sculpted into the shape of a winged skull, and on the blade the following words were etched: "Even death may die."  Some jewelry was also recovered from the burnt remains of the corpse, although an ivory ring had been charred into worthlessness.  The dirt-bearers recovered from their vomiting fits, and were cajoled into hauling the chandelier out of the dungeon.

On the way out of the dungeon, they passed a group of mournful goblins, screeching about how they could no longer feel Grolikus in their minds. Gutboy's assurances that he was "probably taking a nap" didn't ease their torment, and the heroes moved on.  A second group of goblins was met on the way down the mountainside, with similar complaints - the goblins weren't hostile, so the pair ignored the humanoids and went on their way.  The only disturbing moment were the nightmares that plagued Mongo - dreams of chasing his friends and family around, trying to suck their life-breath from them. Also, disappointingly for Mongo, his intelligence increased and his muscle-mass decreased, as the vibrating rod's effects were only temporary.

The party eventually made it back to the city. An expensive consultation with the elven sage Frondgar revealed that this was the Sword of Unlife.  It was a potent weapon, so eager to slay that it helped its wielder hit its victims, and capable of commanding the lesser undead - but should the wielder ever be slain, he will instantly arise as a wight.  Mongo was OK with this liability, despite Gutboy's objections.

Gains: Sword of Unlife, some jewelry
Kills: 2 dungeon sharks, 17 skeletons (turned), 1 wight
Losses: 1 level


review: Gygax #1

I was totally stoked when I heard about Gygax magazine, and then when I saw the pictures on the web site at the unveiling, hey - it was the old Dragon trade dress!  Nostalgia demanded I purchase this immediately.

It showed up today, and I read it, and here's what I think.

First off - when I opened the envelope, the magazine was so very thin. In another product I wouldn't have noticed, 60 pages is still a good count, but with the trade dress, it invites comparison to Dragon.  No 90+ pages here.  So, sort of a sad reminder of the decline of our hobby.

They are not targeting old school, or if they are, they didn't do it very well with this issue. They replicate the old-school Dragon trade dress, which is kind of annoying, because there wasn't a lot of old-school content in there.  So it's a nostalgia play, but I think the publisher wants to market to everyone with a big-tent magazine. Let me be clear: I hate big tents, because there's so little in those tents that interests me. I like focus.

The magazine has lots of authors with old-school cred - two Gygaxes, a Kask, a Ward, a Lakofka. Most of that was fluff though (except the Lakofka article which went into some crunch on AD&D bonuses) - a lot of talking about the good old days.  The other articles were also  fluff, or crunchy articles for newer games that I don't care about.  The exception is Gnatdamp, a swamp town by Michael Curtis, which was good.  It was statless and thus system-neutral, but clearly D&D.

Writing this, I'm feeling this post isn't much of a review - but that's because there was very little I could judge on its usefulness.  It was mostly fluff, and several articles on stuff I don't play.

I am tepid on the magazine right now.  I understand why there are fluff articles, everyone wants to reminisce, but there were so many... I think a better approach would have been to spread them out across more issues, and have a lot more focused content.  A higher page count would also have been nice too, as it stands it's like staring at terminally ill patient when sitting side-by-side with the early 80's Dragon magazines I've got on my shelf.

Overall impressions - love the trade dress, too much fluff, wish it was more focused on early edition D&D - something more like the soon-to-be-departed Fight On! magazine.  Presumably there's not enough of us in the OSR to support Gygax magazine as a business entity though, and they'll keep their big-tent approach.


Level 4 in CC2

This one was done iteratively, I'd draw on graph paper, scan & put it on the computer, print it and draw by hand, and so on.  So there's no good original to scan and show.

I haven't numbered the level yet, and I'll probably monkey with it a bit more.

There's two stairways heading up to the 3rd level, a "regular" stairway and a spiral staircase heading down, a well heading down (in that 30' wide corridor up at the top of the map), and a wide hole in a cavern heading down.  I like my players to have to rig up contraptions, so I've always got a few level interconnects where you need climbing gear.

The Basalt Ziggurat of the Hinge-Headed occupies the central cavern.  Vast hordes of Hinge-Headed and their Neanderthal slaves are constantly milling about.  In the surrounding dungeon, there will be plenty of things that players can utilize to mess with the Hinge-Headed should they choose to do an all-out assault on the Ziggurat.

There's a couple of bricked-up walls that didn't really survive the loss of resolution when I uploaded them to Photobucket (an idea I liked from Barrowmaze, although I've gone all sci-fi and they'll require special solvent to dissolve the epoxy mortaring the carbon-fibre bricks together), and a cave-wall just about excavated through by a team of Neanderthal slaves.  So no, I didn't forget to add doors in those places :)

Here's the whole level (click this link to embiggen):

Here's the map turned on inside, and split into two images (click this link and this link to embiggen):