Thursday, August 31, 2017

Happy St. Cuthbert Day

I missed St. Cuthbert's beer-drenched festivities back in March but, thanks to the Episcopal Church in the States, we get to celebrate his saintliness on August 31st as well (and again on Sept 4 in Wales). So here we are doffing our chapeaus to the Cudgelly One as summer slips into its inevitable tailspin.

In searching for a graphic to spice up the ol' post, I found this cool image from a t-shirt produced by Teepublic (go by one). What makes it extra-cool is that they've superimposed over a pair of iron-clad cudgels--in deference to Greyhawk Cuddy's well-known affinity--the stylized cross ascribed to real-world St. Cuthbert.

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.