Thursday, August 3, 2017

Dice Chucking in Hommlet: A campaign gone awry

[This essay was written ages ago but deemed unworthy of publication by the DiceChucker editorial Board. Given the lack of content lately, they've relaxed their standards significantly. It's essentially a summary of the Hommlet campaign that has inspired much of the fodder for this blog in the years since. -- D. Chuck] 

That's me lurking in the tree behind the party.
Back in the winter of 2012, I was hard at work on a semi-home re-brewed T1-4 which I christened TR 1-5 Against the Cult of Superlative Evil (I don't remember why it was "TR" instead of just "T", just roll with it) wherein I was using existing--though heavily re-worked--Gygax penned modules to complete the T series.  Using as starting point a relatively intact V. of H., it was going to diverge into a wholly different experience from there.  A quick synopsis of how I planned out the campaign:
  • TR1 V. of H.: Logistically pretty similar to the original T1 except Lareth and his storm troopers are in the late stages of preparations to launch an attack on Hommlet.  Thematic changes involve the old timers of Hommlet expressing their irksomeness about the recent influx of Cuthbertians which they see as the Velunafication of Hommlet.  Also, the Temple of Elemental Evil has, as yet, never risen its head--the moathouse is an ancient frontier fortress from the Great Kingdom days--and Emridy Meadows is actually a big ol' swamp and not the locale of a recent battle.  Also Lareth=Y'dey, but everyone knows that now. Intelligence gathered here would unearth the first kernels of a malevolent Cult acting in the region.
  • TR2 Monastery of Cuthbert: The PCs head over to Nulb which, in my altered G-hawk is not a particularly evil place, where they hear of a ruined monastery--a fleshed out DMG Sample Dungeon--that may be harboring a particularly valuable Fire Opal. Evidence gathered here begins to indicate that the Cult of St. Cuthbert is not what it seems. 
  • TR3 Citadel on the Borderland: The players find themselves in a citadel of oozing malignancy-the KEEP from B2 Keep on the Borderlands, except heavily influenced by my recent reading of Franz Kafka's The Castle--giving them the chance to experience everyone's fantasy of clearing out the KEEP.  Unless the players are dunderheads, they will realize that the Cult runs pretty deep in these parts.
  • TR4 Caves of the Unknown: On the run from the Cult, the players head for the hills, where they meet a motley assortment of rebels holed-up in a cavern-riddled ravine not far from the ol' keep.  Of course, the evil empire finds them out, and a hard fought battle ensues.
  • TR5 Prelate of Elemental Evil: The conspiracy goes all the way to the top as the players discover that the See of Veluna has become a mockery of all that is beneficent in this world.
I never sourced an existing module to rip off for TR5, but it didn't matter because what actually happened was this:
  • Session 1: Players loiter in Hommlet recruiting a party.
  • Session 2: Players get their butts kicked by frogs, bandits, and skeletons before they even set foot in the moathouse proper.  Return to Hommlet toting the corpses of half the party.
  • Session 3: Players loiter in Hommlet recruiting a new party.
  • Sessions 4-6: Players finally head back to the moathouse but decide to bypass it and follow the track through the swamp instead.  Since TR 2 was nowhere near ready for them, I started rolling furiously on the random encounter tables--resulting in the sudden appearance of an abandoned shell keep.  What followed were several sessions of semi-random dungeoneering. My players and I come to understand that the swamp is actually some sort of portal of chaos where things don't function like normal. As an example, we used the DCC RPG magic rules in the swamp.   
  • Session 7: Cancelled when half of my players moved to Australia.
None of my backstory machinations really came into play--at least not the way that I had originally planned.  Every time I had a cool explanation for something that would lead the gang into the clutches of my malevolent plot, the players ignored them and went somewhere else.  Every time I left a clue, the PCs passed it over--or even willfully destroyed it--without ever noticing it's significance.  And it was pretty sweet.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Dungeon Rats: Dice Chucker sells out

The good folks over at The Dungeon Rats asked me (and probably you as well, no?) to write up a piece on their DnD playin' podcast.* They record their gaming sessions as their posse of PCs quest through the Endless Dungeon. Highjinks, one hopes, ensue.

The Dungeon Rats are not your typical gang of sweaty, Dorito-snarfing gamers. They've got a background in improv--which one suspects will come in handy for this type of endeavor--and some pretty slick production values. They incorporate listener input into their game--oh cripes, read the press release for yourself, it's right over there on the other side of the page. Hopefully it's something along the lines of Harmonquest minus the animation.

Those of you who pay [too much] attention to my stuff are probably thinking, "Hey D-Chucker, this sounds like an adventure log in podcast form. Don't you hate adventure logs?"  And the answer is yes, it is pretty much an adventure log in podcast form and, indeed, it's not really my thing. But hey, plenty of people do like that kind of thing, so if you're one of 'em, you should go check out The Fungeon Rats.**

*I usually ignore these sort of requests--I say as if they happen all the time--because I assume that someone better equipped to do them has also been solicited for the job. But it just so happens that Reader Rick was pestering me to get off my ass and do something on the same day that these folks contacted me and so, lacking any other material at hand, voila!
** That "Fungeon" bit was a typo but maybe the Dungeon Rats will ask me permission to trademark it.


Friday, May 5, 2017

Iron Rangers of Stonefist: Hockey in Oerth

I'm just sayin'...

Coat of Arms of the Iron Rangers, a semi-professional hockey team based in the upper Midwest during the 1970s
Coat of Arms of the Hold of Stonefist, a nation of the World of Greyhawk, created in the upper midwest during the 1970s .


Thursday, March 16, 2017

What I want from a DMG

This is a few years overdue but, inspired by nothing in particular, I've finally decided to ponder a few different reference tomes written specifically for the guidance of Dungeon Masters, referees, Game masters, and their ilk.  In addition to the original 1979 Dungeon Masters Guide, I've reviewed the Hackmaster Game Masters Guide, C&C's Castle Keepers Guide, as well as some non-DM specific works such as the DCC RPG rulebook and S&W Complete because they purport to include DMly--as well as playerly and monsterly--information all in one comprehensive tome.
Listen up Trollords.

Without further ado, here are a few things that I think make for a good DMG:

Tables, lists, charts and graphs.
I want easily digestible visual data.  Information must be presented in the most visually consumable method possible.  Text should be limited to a sentence or two whose purpose is to support a nearby table, graph, diagram, or illustration.  Perhaps a paragraph or two here and there to introduce concepts and such, but the make the paragraphs short and keep them to a minimum. Anything more than ~5 or 6 sentences and you've lost me.

A few essential Types of tables to include:
  • Random dungeon generation
  • NPC generation -- including personality traits
  • magic item generation -- as in creating magic items not listing pre-fab items
  • spell generation -- ditto
  • monster generation -- a la DCC RPG.
Though of course potential DMG authors should not limit their table-generating activities to this small sample.


Adventure narratives.
Every now and then you're going to want to write up an example of your game in action. The best way of doing this is a cool adventure narrative written up in easily digestible screenplay format, not as paragraphs of undifferentiated text.  And they must be entertaining. Throw in a little table chatter among the sample PCs for good measure. 

DM: As you round the corner your torchlight reveals a generic dungeon corridor, 10' wide and high, with a poorly mortared flagstone floor continuing off into the darkness. Same marching order?
Gamer 1: Yes, Guthouse Barrelboy and Buttout the were-elf are in front with Blotto the monk and Bluetooth the wizard taking up the rear.
Gamer 2: [sotto voce] Just the way they like it.
DM: None of that, now. How do you proceed?
Guthouse Barrelboy: I tap the floor with my 10' pole.
Gamer 2: More like 10 inches.
DM: If that's a dick joke you might want to reconsider it. Gutboy, you tap around the floor, nothing happens.What next?
Buttout: I walk down the hall.
DM: You make it about 20 feet before you step on a flagstone that sinks slightly into the floor.
Buttout: Oops. Sorry gang.
DM: A fusillade of arrows comes whizzing at the party from behind. Everyone in the back row save vs. traps.
Bluetooth: Buttout you asshole, if you kill my character I'm gonna' -- 17! Nice!
Blotto:  Fuck. I rolled a 2.
DM: Well done Bluetooth, you take no damage but Blotto, [Rolling dice] two arrows rip into your hindquarters--shut up Gamer 2--for... Oh dear, 11 points of damage.
Blotto: Cocksuckitall. I only had 8 hit points.
DM: Roll a save vs. rolling-up-a-new-character at -3.
Blotto: grumble grumble. I got a ... 20! Sweet Nelly, I'm alive!
DM: [Sighing] Blotto the monk is not quite dead, but he is incapacitated. Do the rest of you want to waste your healing on him so soon in the dungeon or would you rather go on without him?
Blotto: C'mon DM, what the hell did I ever do to you?
DM: You rolled up a monk, that's what you did. What kind of A-hole plays a friggin' monk?

and so forth.


Sample Dungeons
As with tables, the more of these the merrier. Preferably they're short and sweet with, say, 20 encounters or so, maybe 4 or 5 pages of text and a map taking up ~half a page. Also awesome if you can drop just enough background info--name a nearby tavern or town for PC use, an intriguing NPC or two--to allow the DM to use it as the basis for creating his own setting. Or, if you're feeling particularly crafty, surreptitiously link it to a module you're publishing concurrently.



And some things that doesn't make for a good DMG:

Essays, treatises and manifestos
Let's face it, longwinded essays in RPG rulebooks are the equivalent of a comb-over for game designers futilely attempting to hide their lack of table-creation skills. Sure Gygax included some verbose essays in the original DMG but he gets a pass for a few reasons:
  1. back in '79 DMing was a fairly new occupation, one which he'd been doing for longer than anyone... who wasn't Dave Arneson.
  2. there was no internet, and therefore new gamers could not fall back on the accumulated wisdom of 721,846 bloggers to figure out how to run a campaign. 
  3. he's Gary Gygax.  
Nowadays, game designer folk need to stop pretending that their off-brand RPG is going to be anyone's first entree into the genre.  Even if, by some tragedy of fate, your tome does wind up providing the medium for some poor slob's induction into advanced geekdom everyone who can buy a book can navigate the internet; direct those interested in your bizarre take on world creation (Rivers flow toward the equator(?) because of gravity(??)) to your freakin' blog and make with the tables already.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Quag Keep Addendum

Commentor Mark pointed out that I failed to mention items regarding Loice in the good ol' Quag Keep Companion, which inspired me to have another sift through Norton's tome in search of other goodies that I failed to mention. I'll add these to the actual Companion, but thought I'd draw attention to them here for those Quag Heep completists out there. Without further yada...


Brethern A band of mercenary-adventurers responsible for armed incursion into some of the most notorious regions of LoG in search of legendary treasure hoards.

Standard of King Everon Banner of the aforementioned monarch, last king of Troilan. Under this banner, Everon led his people against an invasion but was overwhelmed and met his end on the field of battle. At his death, the land of Troilan sank into a mire into which his banner was lost. Just as the meadows of Troilan sank into a dismal swamp, its people morphed into a lizardlike breed which holds drylanders with contempt. This item was captured by a group known as the "Brethern" [sic].

Loice, Mirror of This artifact of the great queen Loice is a flat stone of a shimmery, reflective rock that is said to have mystical properties. As with the Standard of King Everon, it is said to be lost in Troilan Swamp, though a group of mercenary adventurers known as the Brethern claimed to have acquired it in recent years.

Loice, Spectre of The ghostly embodiment of Loice, legendary queen of Troilan who reigned over the land before it sunk into a swamp, is said to rise from the mire and command its denizens in defence of her soggy domain should it be threatened by outsiders. (#)

Wild Coast Stretch of shoreline noted for its wildness above which Lichis the Golden and Ironnose fought for a time before plummeting into the sea. See Harrowing of Ironnose. (#)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

d12 Underwhelming Magic Items

  1. Hobnailed Boots of Hiking
  2. Multiple Medallions of Machismo
  3. Deck of Several Things
  4. Libram of Illegible Instructions
  5. Lyre of Dissonant Jamming
  6. Manual of OSHA Dungeon Safety Standards
  7. Maul of America
  8. Ice Skates of Single Lutzing
  9. Mirror of Withering Judgment
  10. Incense of Hemp Concealing
  11. Neosporin's Ointment of Antibioticness

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas from the Borderlands!

Ho Ho Ho!
Back in Christmas '82, my artsy aunt gave me a big ol' box of colored pencils which I promptly put to use attempting to recreate the famous image above.  I won't say I did a very good job of it--I'm a tepid draftsman on my best day, but adding color to the mix exacerbates my illustrative shortcomings twelvefold--but ever since then I've associated Erol Otus's famous drawing of the KEEP with the Yuletide season. Besides the experiential reasoning, that party of adventurers on the road elicit a feeling of homecoming for me. Perhaps they live in Tennessee and they are headin' for Pennsylvania and some homemade pumpkin pie.