Saturday, January 31, 2015

Encounters at the Slaugthered Rose

I previously posted an inn called the Slaugthered Rose.

Fashion plate from Costume Parisien, 1823
I will be using that inn to lauch my players into my 5e version of the Isle of Dread module (released for D&D Next as part of the playtest).

Here are a couple of encounters that I'm planing to run for my players that i figured i might share with you:

Encounter one: A cryptic warning from a cloaked stranger

This encounter should run within minutes of the PC's entering the Slaugthered Rose.

A cloaked elf with shortish hair in a Small pony-tail approaches the PC's. «I need to warn you» he whispers to a random PC and then signals for all of them lean closer. «A foul wizard is in town. He is searching for you», he points a finger at a PC, «and you would do well to stay clear of him». After speaking his piece the elf moves off.

The PC's will probably try to question him further or even try to stop him. He will repeat the above information, but refuses to elaborate, tell them why he is warning them or give his name. A DC 10 Wisdom check reveals that he is clearly very determined to keep it this way.

The elf makes no aggressive moves, but reveals a shortsword beneath his cloak if he feel threatened. Should the PC's attack he will spend a round or two dodging their attacks, using a bonus action to disengage and appeal to the other patrons for help.

  • There is a 1-in-6 chance that 1d4+1 commoners will come to his aid. 
  • There is also a 1-in-6 chance that the barbarian Dhuin will become emotional and assist the elf with his best violence.
  • Finally there is 5-in-6 chance that mr. Blacksail will send for the guards.

D3+1 guards will arrive in 10 rounds after being summoned. When they do there is another 4-in-6 chance that 2d4+1 commoners will assist the guards in subduing the characters. Another 1d6+1 guards will arrive after five minutes.

As all of this goes on the elf will defend himself to the best of his ability: Elven rogue 3; Spd 35ft;  AC 15 (leather armor); hp 16, Melee attacks Shortsword +5 to hit; Hit: 4 (1d6+1) and Dagger +5 to hit; Hit: 3 (1d4+1). S 12 (+1), D 17 (+3), C 11, I 11, W 12 (+1), Ch 12 (+1). He is also quite Acrobatic (+7) and Athletic (+5) which he will use to keep is distance from the PC's.

Unless this encounter ends with the PC's in chains or somehow on the run the elf will leave and they will have to ponder his strange words to them.
Pirate Girl by flo-moshi at deviantart (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Encounter two: The pirate lady

This is a role-playing encounter and, as such, it requires the DM to tweak it's details to the setting and the campaign. It's focus is to introduce an NPC that has an interest in the PC's, but given the mistaken identity plot she may also have mistaken the PC's for someone else.

An elegant lady dressed in breeches with white long socks, a silk blouse and sporting a red bandana approaches the PC's. She introduces herself as Sorine Pavel and asks what the characters are up to or simply if she could join them for a drink.

They may become suspicious of her, in which case she will back off, but she is also very charming and will quickly hint that she has something to offer the PC's.

If they accept her company Sorine will tell them about a sea journey she has just returned from.
The captain of the Lamprey wanted to stay well clear of the isles in the Dread Sea. Some of them may be haunted you know and their inhabitants are wild men... flesh eaters.
Still we came close to one after a hard night fighting to stay alive during a vicious storm. We could hear the sounds of drums... It gave me the creeps. Then later we heard a roar. A terrible roar.
There are stories of brave adventurers exploring some these isles. A few have even returned, some with gold and some with arcane secrets.
Sorine is clearly interested in any rumors about historical expedition to these islands, or even better to hear of current plans for an expedition.

Sorine is on a secret mission to find an expedition to join or possibly to initiate one herself. Her taskmaster is the court of the Empress of Bavmoria for whom Sorine is a spy.

The DM has to decide if Sorine is mistaken about the PC's indentity or if she's not. In my campaign she is not. (Stats wise (5e) she is a Rogue 3/Figther 1 human with a +6 bonus on Charisma (Deception & Persuasion) tests. If i might a nice way to do it i might publish her full stats later)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Module publication workshop... a reflection

Yesterday i went to the first in a series of module publication workshops here in Oslo. I'll admit, i have never written a con-module in my life. I'm not sure i ever really wanted to. After this workshop i know i want to.

The workshop were organized by the organizers of JenteCon (literally: GirlCon) with the support of Arcon (the largest gaming convention in Norway) and Hyperion (a organization promoting "fantastic" leisure interests among youth). (Links to Arcon and Hyperion are in Norwegian)

The discussions were fruitful and interesting as we developed the outline of a framework for writing con-modules based on the combined experience of the participants. Their experience ranged from practically none to those veterans who have run con-modules for years.

Key components of module-writing

Some of the most important components for module-writing that i came away with are the following:
  1. Manage expectations. Tell the players and the gamemaster upfront what kind of kind module this is. Dispel any illusions, kill any doubts and attempt to bring everyone to the same page.
  2. Make it readable. I have no experience with this, but I'm told that 20 minutes of prep time might be all a gamemaster at a con gets. You can't waste their time with page flipping and obscure rulebook references. So layout is King. 
  3. Give the GM and the players what they need to get in the game. Characters need hooks and plots needs synopsis. 
  4. Be aware of timing. Con-slots are short. Help the GM manage time.
  5. Sell you module. Make it sound cool. Write a teaser to draw the crowd, an elevator pitch to get people interested. Interested player's come to the table with a different attitude. They come to the table to have fun, not to kill time before the next slot.

Getting together

There is something great about RPGers getting together like this to make something. The hobby seems very insular and a aside from cons there are few natural places to meet. (Besides, you know, the Internet)

I am sure that there is a danger when you're working on a framework for module-production that you build into it a bias towards specific ways of gaming. With an insular, at least from my perspective, hobby like RPG's there are so many ways of doing things and so little consensus on how things should be done.

However to me the somewhat anarchic do-it-yourself attitude is not a bug, it's a feature. It is also incredibly social because it forces people to talk about how they do it and exchange views about this hobby that i love.

Monday, January 19, 2015

In Cyberland...

We are gutter punk...
Cybergoth Designs by Atomik Reaktion, Death Guild, San Francisco (CC BY-SA)

We are the Ruling Angels and the Sons of Doom. The Chosen of Pain and the Bringers of Vengeance.

We were born to rebel against your luxury lifestyle, your corporate high-rise and your money bubble economy. 

We are not the elite. We are scum.

Music, drugs, ugly sex and blood like milk is the way we live. Unstoppable, like runaway trains in the night. 

Runaway in a tunnel of fright.

In a forgotten part of the metropolis a saga transpires.

Street gangs face off in a duel of life and death over drugs and turf. In the shadows a vicious corporation looms. Power-people in a megacorp high-rises has a stake in this fight.

Will someone shine a light on the shadow?

On the streets it is all about survival of course. But survival makes for strange bedfellows. When a small gang of punks are approached with a job offer that can save them they might find themselves on a path to discovering more than they wanted to know. This is their world.

The Gangs*

The Ruling Angels

The Ruling Angels are a strange all-female gang. This tiny gang of guardians are extremely well-armed for any street gang sporting power armor and heavy weapons. The Angels protect and watch over the local population, keeping down internal strife among the gangs and resisting outside influence. Their true agenda may be a hidden one or maybe they really are angels.

Power Armor by Chaosbringer at (CC BY-NC-ND)
The Rulings Angels hide their identities and are known on the streets only by their street names. Their commander is Ariel and her sisters are: Iofiel, Nanael, Rachiel, Suriel, Zophiel and Bath Kol.

The Sons of Doom

A large gang of hoodlums and punks. Their activities are loitering, rumbling and some small time theft.

The Sons of Doom is fairly loose organization with some democratic tendencies. It is led by Xiao «Chew» Xiu-Hsu, a Chinese kid with brains and social capital enough to get this army of punks to pull in the same direction.

The Bringers of Vengeance

These guys are thugs who hate the world and love profit. They are drug dealers, run loansharking operations and several robbery crews.

The Bringers of Vengeance are led by a triumvirate of senior gang members. Cash, cred and inter-gang politics are important factors in determining the gang-leaders. Triumvirate members are nominally for life, but turnovers are frequent and sometimes violent. Current leaders are; German Dewitt, Tatu «White Eye» Berrett and Isaias Kerensky.

The Chosen of Pain

A medium degenerate gang of action-jacks. The Chosen are into violence and drugs, especially drugs that are conducive to violence. Like the milk that has knives in it.

Andrian Vinosty leads the gang with an iron-fist. The rumor is that he used to be an academic, but something happened to him. Something dark. He is covered in scars from unnumbered fights now and some on streets say he can't be killed.

Red Angels
Fetish Fashion Designs by Perish Dignam - Photo by Glenn Francis (CC BY-SA)

A tiny degenerate gang of sex freaks. The Red Angels hang-out, protect their abandoned radio-tower sex-club and have sex. They are into all that extreme paraphilic sex, sadomasochism and bondage, cybersex, transhuman sex and sometimes just plain old vanilla sex for the hell of it. Some of them do drugs as well, but most of them just want to fuck.

The Red Angels' spiritual guru and leader is Heidy Croyle, a 80-year old medical doctor and anarchist artist who, thanks to a few medical enhancements still actively partakes in gang activities. Heidy's twin sons Helmut and Werner run the day-to-day activities of the gang.

The People

The people are poor. They live on a knife's edge. There is no work. No welfare except for handout's by the rich and willing. Crime pays top-dollar. The black economy is the only economy.

Not everyone is a criminal though. Some make a living selling what they find, fixing broken stuff or bringing food from up-town into the slum.

Still, everyone depends on the gangers having the money. Without the gangs, without the crime, everyone starves.

Jessia Stoyer fixes street tech and sells meat burritos to the gangers, mostly the Bringers of Vengeance outside the Bülowstraße station. She is good with the tech and never asks her supplier where the meat come from.

The Soul of Gari Nova (Public domain)

The Corporations

There are no corporations out here. Only their shadows looming from the high-rise skyline of better world.

Gari Nova looks out south from the 66th floor. The H-B suit is a perfect match. The glass of scotch in his hand feels warm. His palms are sweaty. The millions of credits he just spent is gone now, but a piece of this city belongs to the corp, and the corp belongs to him now.

The girl in the bed behind him wants him again. Wants him because he can keep her with food, speed and clothes for a lifetime.

He just needs to make two more calls. The bulldozers and the mercenaries.

*Gang names created with the gang name generator  in Interface Zero 2.0 by Gun Metal Games.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Who is Coretta Dumont?

The Shadow of the Ruby - Would you play this?

Armitage: Who is Coretta Dumont, you say?

Carter: Yes, I've hear her name around the City, but I haven't be able to put a finger on what all the ruckus is about?

A: What it's about? She a heroine, my friend. Ask those wild jungle savages in Ebon-Land*, or better yet ask her patrons at the Museum of Dangerous Art*. She was to one to recover the lost Polyhedral prism of ancient Acheron and rescue the last ageless prince of Lemuria.

C: Wow, sounds like a lot...

A: Indeed, my friend. The prince was guarded by those insectoid aliens from Pluto whoose name escapes me. They, however, did not stop Coretta Dumont. Nor did the wild warriors of the Monkey Emperor when she liberated the crew of the SS Alert from his evil grasp. She's defeated everything from Scirieli* gangsters to zombies and those phantom gassers.

C: What a spectacular dame..!
The Severeed Head of King Seuthes III by QuartierLatin1968 (Own work) (CC BY-SA)

A: Spectacular dosen't even begin to cover it. She's friends with the Severed Head of King Seuthes III. She hangs out with picure stars like Darrymore and Gish. Fellow adventuresses like Belle «Bang-Bang» Starr*. Even thaumaturgic wonders like Mrs. Hirsig are among her friends. Even those politicians from Phratropolis* can't deny her charm and intellect.

C: And now she returns to The City of the Empire* from the deep jungle's of Asciana*?

A: Indeed! The intelligentsia marvels at her astounding finds. She took an ancient artifact of unknown origin from those reptile men down there. Rumors have it that it proves the existence of the Secret city of the Ancients.

C: So will she be held up by those stuffy academics all the time?

A: Oh no, not at all. The glamourous side of society tingles with anticipation too. She's scheduled to appear at the grand reception at the Fitzharlton* for the Museum of Science and Industry* before it's off to Heliotrope* flying her own biplane across the Dustlands*. There she is attending any number of premiers and celebrity-parties.
Coretta Dumont
(actually it's Elizabeth "Bessie" Coleman. Read about her too!)

C: Oh my Doll*... Does she have a special friend?

A: Romantic rumors are in no short supply around Coretta Dumont, but few are substantiated. This girl won't kiss and tell. It seems likely though that she has plenty of offers, and it is known that she went a date with the head of Eidolon Lux-Orpheum* company, Mr. H. Stanton Yevel. It is also known that she has been playing polo with the sorcerous Sheikh Alhazred. She even visited his palace in the Alharha-desert supposedly living in that vast seraglio of his...

C: But would she marry a man like that?

A: Not likely. Not the sheikh or any other man. She has stated in several interviews that she will always remain an independent woman. She'll let them offer her a cigarette though, if it's a Djinn...

This post is inspired by Trey Causey's setting book Wierd Adventures and his awesome blog From the Sorceror's Skull. Check it out...
* denotes a character, place, deity or wierd creation taken from Mr.Causey's Wierd Adventures

Friday, January 9, 2015

Sex and gender in 5e and how to use it...

So this year saw the 40th anniversary of D&D and the launch of the D&D 5th edition to much praise and a lot of excitement.

I've played a lot a different RPG's, but D&D always remained special to me. One of my co-players at a bi-weekly Cartoon Action Hour game asked me why the other night. «Was it because that's where you started?»

And yes, i think that is part of it. The first cut is the deepest i guess.

Dungeons and Dragon, my first RPG has stayed with me for about twenty years now. However this is not a post where i reminisce about D&D. It is a post about the most beautiful set of words I've come across in a RPG. It's about this:

From the D&D Basic rules freely available here

Seeing this language about gender, sex and sexuality included in an RPG felt really important to me. Because games are about playing right?

The importance of play

Play is how we first learn about world and i think playing is how we can keep learning about the world. Playing lets us escape the bonds of reality, twist and turn it. Examine it like it wasn't world we live in every day.

It follows that playing with sex, gender and sexuality in a role playing game also allows you to twist and turn those concepts. To me this is a lot of fun. (I also happen to believe it is a useful tool for creating awareness and bringing change in a less-than-perfect world. But I'm trying to write a gaming blog here, not a gender studies blog. I have one though: Here (in Norwegian))

So since this is an gaming blog i will take that beautiful language and put it to use. What follows are some character backgrounds that incorporates questions of gender and sexual identity in ways that make them relevant for normal play.

Ragend the Hooded

Ragend is a peasant hero. In his youth he led a revolt against a evil local lord and won the day. He also won the heart of the prettiest girl in the village, Aldea.

Following the revolt some of the evil lord's allies was able to capture Ragend and he was condemned to labour as a slave. Life as a slave was nasty and brutish. Ragend is certain he would have perished were not for the love and friendship of March, another slave.

March and Ragend's relationship grew from friendship to fiery passion in ways Ragend had never belived possible with another man.

After years of living as a slave fate intervened and Ragend regained his freedom. Now, being a free man, memories of the happiness he felt with Aldea have returned. Ragend now face many choices that will affect the lives of the people he loves, but also his own sexual identity.

Gluri of the Axebite clan

Dwarf female by RobAnsenaultJr at deviantart (CC BY-NC-ND)
Gluri of the Axebite clan was raised to become the queen of a dwarf citadel. All her life was about that future marriage to a dwarf lord from one of the great clans.

But Gluri was always bored in the citadel. She longed to see the world. To get away from her overprotective mother and the fate of that dreaded marriage. It wasn't that Gluri never got along with male dwarfs, but they just didn't make her feel anything sexual.

There had only been one person who could do that. She had been an envoy from one of the elven noble houses. A lithe woman with sharp features and delicate skin. How Gluri longed to see an elf again.

So one night she left the citadel on her own. She took some iron rations, one of her father's battle axes, a crossbow and a 10-foot pole. Gluri headed into the world to find adventure and excitement with new friends, exploring both dungeons and her own sexuality in equal measure.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Slaugthered Rose

The Slaugthered Rose is a waterfront dive in the docklands of Occularum. The tavern is run by a named Mormo Blacksail, an old pirate with nerves of steel.

As the PC's enter the Slaugthered Rose there are 28 patrons in the place. There are four available table and one available room.

Map of the tavern The Slaugthered Rose
The Slaughtered Rose (made with Archivist Elements app)

At the tavern

The sailors come here to drink and play some Floating Sting and drink the innkeepers own brew known as the Angry Squall. (Which isn't very good, but cheap.) Mr.Blacksail also imports a rather good ale called the The Stag's Own Seed, which is good but also very expensive.

In addition to rowdy sailors a fair number of Occularum's thieves and rogues like to frequent the Slaugthered Rose. This is a place where it is advised to remain on guard and don't flash your gold, if you've got any...

The local storyteller and adventuress Jhes Silkbuckle (H brd 8) frequently entertains at the tavern with stories and ballads about the various deeds of Occularum rogues. To frequent patrons of the inn it is a known fact that Jhes also knows a number of ribald stories and tales. She usually waits until late at night before performing any of these.

Mr. Blacksail has some hired staff as well:

Esveele is a middle-aged widow with graying blond hair, that works the bar and is responsible for preparing the food. She is extremely interested in buckles and stitching and examines clothing closely.

Gorme is a vapid old dock-hand that helps out with maintenance, deliveries and keeps the cellars
stocked. He covers his face with a fitted metal plate to disguise horrible burn injures to his face.

Evemegan is a careless barmaid and a sex worker. She is a brunette, dresses in men's clothing and sports a fake moustache.

Tesse is a black haired barmaid and a sex worker. She is courageous and an eternal optimist.

Alwan is a server and a sex worker. He is a bit paranoid and has several gold teeth.

Patrons and rumors

Dhuin, an emotional barbarian of the northern steppes
Use Berserker stats (5e DMG: p344) but swap armor to scale mail and weapons to a pair of scimitars.

Oludael the Jinxed, a taciturn criminal known to be unsuccessful

Dayoet the Painted, an argumentative falconer covered in tattoos from head to toe.

Kendsa Silverhill, a banker with delusions of being a spy

Cleg, a criminal with a respectful demeanor

d10 rumor table

  1. A secretive woman trying to hire a group of mercenaries
  2. A merchant organizing a manhunt to find an extremely dangerous killer outside of town. They say he kills for sport and is quite powerful.
  3. A book found by a nobleman leads to a grove in the east where a rare herb grows.
  4. A harlot has been arresting for assaulting a noble 
  5. A possible spy is working within the town guard
  6. A war has broken out between the giants, trolls, ogres and cyclops in the region
  7. There is a plot to murder the local undertaker in four days
  8. There is a brawl over at the Blind Crow Inn
  9. An undead creature lurks in the crypts beneath the city
  10. A group of assassin are out to murder a foreign noblewoman in the city

Twelve sad love stories for your character

First love is always special, sometimes sad. Now for your RPG character
Your first love is always special, at least in stories. What about your player character?
Here is twelve sad love stories (easily randomized with a d12) for your next character:
  1. Your first love betrayed you for your best friend
  2. Your first love was killed in a fire set by a marauding dragon
  3. Your first love was kidnapped by vicious evil humanoids
  4. Your first love was kidnapped by vicious evil humanoids and now blames you for what happened.
  5. Your first love was seduced by an evil wizard/cleric
  6. Your first love was seduced by an evil wizard/cleric and was later sacrificed to the wizard/cleric's demonic patron
  7. Your first love was sold into slavery in a far away land
  8. Your first love sold you into slavery in a far away land
  9. Your first love was killed in an arcane experiment
  10. Your first love ate magical mushrooms and was turned into a toad.
  11. Your first love turned to evil and now torments you.
  12. Your first love turned to evil and you killed him/her
I remember back how, when i was 13-14 years old, every time one of the PC's got romantically involved with a girl (we were only straight guys playing at the time) in the game i would always, being the GM, make sure that their romantic interest was killed, maimed, kidnapped or mutilated in some horrible way.
It happened repeatedly. My players used to joke about it.
Maybe it was some wierd teen-angsty macho thing i played out. Who knows. I think i'm rather well-adjusted now. I think i was just into sad love stories.