Sunday, 26 April 2009

Cave delving

Another sunday, another Labyrinth Lord session and another evening well spent. We were still down a Ben, as he's on holiday, but he should be returning very soon. In the mean time, the rest of the players were there (Mike, Chris, Joe and Nick) and a good time was had by all. During this session, we experimented with different initiative systems and also applied the Strain Point spell variant system to the Elf from an early Dragon magazine.

The players started by getting a consensus to leave the tomb they were currently exploring, believing that it must be too challenging for them after the initial carrion crawler battle. Instead, they headed for a nearby cave where previously they had dug a pit and killed some kind of zombie kobold with it. This was a long time ago now, probably five months of real time, but they remembered the location and finally had decided to explore it. After a little travel, this time through the day, they arrive at the correct location and venture inside. They descend about forty foot, the initial passage leading down at a sharp thirty degrees, into the bowels of the earth.

A short battle against some giant rot grubs and a giant fly occurs a inside, during which the elf fumbled. After this, the party discover that they are in a fairly large cave complex. The first thing of note they see is that the cave is both dripping wet and the interconnecting passages are narrow and winding. They often drop to only five feet in height too, not a problem for most of the characters but definitely a problem for the Gnoll.

The second thing of note that the party came across was a series of handholds, in a large vaulted cavern, that led fifteen feet up to a ledge. They ignored this and carried on down the passage way instead, noticing a number of cracks in the walls of the passages. Much searching is done for secret doors by the elf at each of these, but alas for him, none are found.

The party pass an area with broken weapons and arrows scattered around. A battle must have been fought in that place, a long time ago. Beyond this, they stumble into a vast cavern that extends well beyond their lantern light. Venturing forwards, they see much of the cavern is flooded and the flooded area is so large they cannot see where it extends to. As they are circling it, shambling figures stumble into their torchlight, advancing towards them. The party backs up quickly, into the passage way. There is a splash as one of the figures enters the water. Moments later, the figures are spotted again and the party readies itself for battle.

The slow moving figures turn out to be a hardy form of zombie - but not hardy enough as their slow movement translated to them being peppered with arrows and sling bullets until their battered rotting bodies fell to the ground in bits, twitching. During this battle, the elf fumbled.

The party ignored the water pool and pushed forwards, finding a corridor whose roof dropped to only two and a half feet above floor level. They diligently crawled through it, passing equipment to each other as they went. However, the passage way led only to a dead end, which the elf searched for secret passages and found none. Down another passage was a small grotto containing a chest; opening this, the gnoll discovered some jewelled chainmail and a pouch containing four dried frogs.

This left the party with a choice: wade through the pool and see where it goes, or climb the ledge from earlier. The party choose the latter.

They found themselves in another cave. Following one of the passages out of it took them to a mysterious room. A strange mystical symbol is painted on a wall, below which lies a large stone slab with metal hooks in each corner of it. Around this are arranged a number of stone 'seats' - for want of a better description. There is dried blood on the central stone. The wizard took a sketch of the painting, presumably to have it checked out later.

Backtracking a little, the party discover that the corridor suddenly takes a very steep decline and the gravel and loose stones scatter down into the darkness in front of them. A rope would be required to take this route safely - but alas - the party does not have one! I'm going to have to get the players onto a basic adventuring course over this oversight!!

The party turned back and decide to explore the pool of water instead. Relighting their lanterns on the way, they decided to wade into the smelly liquid, discovering that the cavern walls narrow and then widen again, effectively taking them into a new cavern. Out of the underground lake, they spied a boot with a leg bone inside it. Near that, was a helmet with a skull and near both was a breastplate, still worn by only a rib cage. Bits of flesh stick to each. Whatever did this, was something nasty...

Warily, the group continued.

They came accross a number of dead rats that had been spiked into the ground and tiny little footprints in a jumbled, confused mess. Whatever had put these rodents here had left its dinner in a hurry...

Still, the brave heroes continued.

They make out figures at the edge of their torch light and instantly went into battle. They were up against a zombie (like before), the skeleton of a wolf, a skeleton with worms that move around its skull and two giant bats. An epic fight began. The party's real muscle is Ginsese, a half orc woman they hired a while back who fights with no fear of her own death. Which suddenly, she came almost face to face with, as her brain was ripped out of her head by the zombie. She sank to the floor and begins reciting tavern songs. She was promptly dragged away by the wizard who force feds her a healing potion - her head healed up and she jumpped back in to the fray! During the fight, the elf fumbled.

The enemy were finally defeated and that wrapped up our game session. We tried out two different intiative systems (a modification of our continuous initiative system and the default labyrinth lord one) and while both work, we weren't really happy with either. So more experimentation is to come, methinks.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Hitting the limits of continuous initiative

You might recall my continuous initiative (CI) system that I blogged about here and here . If not, here's a quick recap. It's a system designed to simulate how lightly armoured characters with quick weaponry can get more strikes in than a heavily armed and armoured one, in the same space of time.

It has served us well, giving the players interesting tactical choices and allowed them to experiment with some of the lower protective armours (effectively trading defensive for offensive under this system). However, we've hit the limits of it what it can do now.

The system works really well for attacks, but where it falls down is in movement. I would often put fast moving creatures into the gold initiative band, to reflect the fact they could cover lots of ground quickly. This, of course, meant that they attacked frequently too, but this is generally ok as many fast monsters have multiple attacks on their listings anyway to reflect this under the normal D&D rules. So I would simply tweak the number of attacks down when using CI. You can see the start of the problem occurring at this point.

Dwarves and halflings can't move as quickly as humans so we just downed how many hexes they could move per action, in line with their reduced movement rate. This worked fine, but gave us two different ways of handling movement - one in hexes per action and one in the initiative band. Despite this, it worked very well.

If you read the reports from our sessions, you'll see we have quite a few travels across the land and wilderness encounters. Mounts therefore get used to speed up travel. Some mounts could be used in a battle, such as a warhorse, but we don't, because if everyone has a mount then how does it fit into our CI system? If they move a character to the gold band, then he gets additional attacks all of a sudden; and if we put the mounts on the list then we have just doubled up everything we need to track. Also, if mounts are in gold, they are going to be deadlier than the heroes most of the time when they attack. Neither option really works.

I don't want to deny the party the use of mounts in outdoor combats, in fact, I'd rather encourage it. It opens up new options and new tactics for the players. So I've been thinking about ways to allow for this. One idea was to split a round up and have a movement phase, and an attack phase. Mounts and characters would move in the first phase, while fighting would occur in the second. While discussing this briefly with my brother he mentioned that two attack phases might be good, to simulate how you can swing a sword quicker than using a bow.

I've been playing around with how all that might work but now I'm thinking about something completely different. I did enjoy dicing for who goes first ala Labyrinth Lord's default initiative rules. So I'm also considering folding the whole thing up into that because its simple and fast.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Raising an eyebrow at the Silk Runners

I would like to say a hearty welcome to Nick, who joined our Labyrinth Lord session on sunday - another new player! Later in the game session, he saved the whole party, but I'm getting way ahead of myself!

We were actually down a player as Ben is on holiday for a couple of weeks, depriving the party of its assassin and his dwarven bodyguard. That knocks quite a lot of power from the group in one fell swoop.

Nick decided to roll up a mage, a good choice because party is generally quite low on magical abilities (there is only the elf with his nature magic). You may recall that the party had hired a mage last week but that he had inhaled some poison gas - this gas was slowly killing him.

The Gnoll and the Elf both rejoined the party, having visited their homes. Thromm had been back to his tribe for training, returning to the group on elephant-back (the only animal strong enough to carry a 450 pound, 8 foot tall tower of muscle that he could find!), while the elf had been shopping for a few more elven bows.

The party decide to travel through the night, desperately attempting to take their hired sorceror back to the nearest village before he died. However, within a few hours he begins coughing up blood then finally gives up the ghost. Falador seems disappointed, Khamsin had proved himself in battle and now he is dead. The party take his camel, which Ginsese now rides and Falador takes his curved eastern dagger. Such is the way of chaotic parties!

They continue their travel through the night, but change their destination to their original one: an old tomb they had stumbled across a long time ago. During their travels, they are ambushed by three Silt Runners, little orc like creatures that come screaming out of the night at the party from different directions, no doubt to scare the heroes to death and than loot their bodies. The party is made of much stronger stuff though and fights back!

Farador, the party's fighter, took a beating from one of the Silt Runners, which is then cut to pieces. Another is beheaded by an elven arrow through the neck! The third and final enemy, who seems to be hanging back waiting for an opportunity, is brought down by the Gnoll's bow. The arrow removed its hand at the wrist and it collapsed into unconsciousness out of shock. At both these events, Thal the elf raises his eyebrow.

Searching around, the party find that the Silt Runners had a chest. The chest is locked, but between them, the group managed to bust it open. Inside are some expensive silks. This gives us all a laugh - they're not Silt runners - they are Silk Runners!

At length, the party rests, sleeping through the day and again travelling at night. They are close to the tomb now, but in a small ruin they spy a couple of Gnolls and another Silk Runner. Both groups are surprised to see the other. The Gnolls each carry a chest over their shoulder, but when they put them down and draw weapons, the party prepare for a fight. The elf in particular wants whatever is in the chests...

The Silk Runner is brought down instantly in a hail of arrows and sling bullets!

Ginsese, the party's hench-woman, charges the two Gnolls while the rest of the party hides on a nearby island in the flooded grasslands, but with no support it proves to be her undoing and she is battered back. She beats a hasty retreat to safety and the Gnolls are brought down by missile fire, but she did do a lot of damage with her mace before she was overwhelmed. Brave Ginsese ended up with a broken voice box for her troubles.

Both of the chests are locked and the elf detected that one has poison in it. Both chests were taken and placed in saddle bags but not opened at this point. Instead, the party continue their search for the tomb in the dark. Using the thief's maps, they find it.

Inside the tomb, the rooms are remarkably clean. A stone sarcophagus, shaped like a knight or kingly figure, is discovered. Falador keeps watch while Thromm heaves and with great effort, slides the lid off. Inside it is a skeleton, slowly crumbling away due to the ravages of time (which promptly gets two crossbow bolts in its skull), a bottle with some liquid inside it and a scroll case. The skeleton also wears a ring, which is quickly swiped. The Gnoll decides to drink the liquid, but on opening the seal, smells that the liquid is a healing potion and decides to give it to Ginsese instead as she is badly hurt. The mage opens the scrollcase and carefully pulls out a piece of parchment - it is covered in elven runes and so must be an elf spell. Thal takes the scroll, but he has not got the read magic spell and so will have to wait to find out what spell it contains.

Confidently the party venture further into the tomb. They happen across a room with odd holes in the side walls. Suspecting a trap, Falador throws some items into the room, and when nothing happens, he throws his short sword in too. Thal attempts to push Thromm into the room but is unsuccessful. Falador moves into the room, retreives his shortsword, then he freezes, hearing a scuttling noise all around him. Suddenly, emerging from the holes, are multilegged worm like creatures, pulling themselves into the room, intent on eating him!

Carrion Crawlers close in on our heroes after Falador the fighter beats a hasty retreat - but in a brilliantly creative move by the party mage - the crawlers are foiled by illusionary pits!

This saves the party from almost certain death and pretty much makes it a massacre for the carrion crawlers as they are shot (and polearmed) to pieces from the safety of the other side of the pit.

That wrapped up our game session - I'm not sure if the party will be brave enough to venture any further!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

At last - a map of Summit!

At last, I've done it - I've made a map of Summit for our homebrew Labyrinth Lord campaign in photoshop!

White lines represent roads, while black lines outlined in blue are rivers.

Hills, mountains, forests, swamps, lakes, the sea and grasslands are all represented in the hexes and should be fairly easy to discern.

Places of interest:

Apolis: A large, well defended and well populated city.

Blackport: A den of villainy, they say the Black Hand can be found here, operating with the full consent of the tyrant who rules.

Bramble: An elven village ruled by a reformed dark elf who happens to be an amazing swordsman.

Castle Thorvid: Lord Thorvid trains fighters from his imposing castle, while prize fighters duel for his entertainment in the arenas within.

Cavestone: A dwarven mine that was recently plagued by attacks by gnomes.

Dagger Forest: A dangerous place of wolves and who knows what else.

Dewton: A small farming village with good trade links.

Everleaf Forest: Teeming with elves, unicorns and fairy folk, but be wary, the Everleaf conceals other secrets and not all of them are nice...

Lyorel: A small fishing village built around a lake that some say is falling under the spell of a mysterious cult.

Meister's Mansion: They say the Meister is a great songsmith and teacher of bards.

Mongrelmen Tribe: A tribe of gnolls who trade frequently with the men of Summit - but also eat them!

Monrag Swamp: The home of witches and other foul things; few would travel through here willingly.

Mount Red: A red tipped mountain that some say is the entrance to the realm of Fire.

Shadow Wood: A place of fell sorcery where the dead walk. There are rumours of a vast underground complex beneath it.

Splinter Hills: A range of hills peopled by wandering nomads and bandits.

Temple of the Western Angels: The seat of power for the Druids, who loosely rule the land.

The Great Northern Hills: A vast expanse of hills that surround the craggy mountains.

The Haunted Lands: Said to be ruled over by the mysterious Yellow King, a man not known for his curtesy to strangers...

The Labyrinth: They say it contains great treasure... and the odd monster or two ;-)

Tower of sorcery: Only mages can ever enter the tower, seeking its powerful secrets to bolster their own knowledge.

Twisted Tower: Said to be in need of assistance as danger bubbles up from below...

Undermound: A sleepy halfling town built into the hillside.

Veleye: A religous town they say is home to a dark cult.

Getting around
In a day, 12 movement points are available for travel...

Movement costs by terrain and mode of transport:

TerrainOn footHorsebackBy boatBy Air
(1/2 hex
per day)
(1/2 hex
per day)
Road1/2 cost1/2 cost
ImpassableNo effect
River +2+4
No effect
(Swimming, 1/2 a
hex per day)
(Swimming, 1/3 of
a hex per day)
3 (high winds)

Monday, 13 April 2009

Never try and rob a thief!

Our weekly game session kicked off last night with two of the party members leaving to find the Mongelmen Gnoll Tribe for get some training for Thromm; if they stay on schedule they should rendezvous with the rest of the the group next week. In the mean time, the rest of the party had an eventful evening!

Arriving back in the small town of Dewton, the character's witness something falling from the heavens leaving a trail of firey smoke in its wake. It strikes the ground accompanied by a crash of thunder. Going to investigate, they discover an upside down metal pyramid, wedged into the soft earth. With a low humming sound, an opening appears in one of the sides and a man wearing some form of platemail steps out. He is Falamor, a space marine, who has crashed landed on Summit. None of his high tech gear functions except for his heads up display which plots trajectories of projectiles, predator style, giving him a good chance of dodging incoming attacks. He joins the party as Tarantio leaves it, setting off for his chapel in Lyorel on foot.

With their strange companion in tow, who has to abandon his wrecked armour for a suit of chainmail (ouch!) the group hire Khamsin, a sorceror from the east who's camel is stabled in the White Horse inn. After much discussion, they decide that further adventuring into the giant insect caves may prove too dangerous without their other companions (an elf, a gnoll and their hench-lady) and instead that they should head for a tomb that they discovered by chance on their travels some weeks earlier. They buy a horse and a mule, then take the road to Lyorel. They plan on passing through there, then turning north, then leaving the road to head cross country til they reach the tomb.

Half a days travel down the road and they begin to smell smoke. As they crest a rise, they see a great pillar of black reaching to the sky. The grasslands are burning - and they are downwind! The fire moves at an incredible rate towards them, so they kick their horses into a gallop and at length, outrun the grass fire.

They arrive in the small fishing village of Lyorel as the sun is going down, but rather than head for an inn, our chaotic heroes look for a darkened street and a house with no lights on. They divide up, most of them being used as lookouts, while the thief gets to work on the lock of a small cottage. With a slight click, he unlocks the door and creeps inside. The floorboards creak and he is joined by the marine, who when he realises is making more noise, retreats back to the doorway. The thief makes his way through the dark, quiet house. The ground floor is dark and still. The upper floor has two bedrooms, neither occupied. He searches the place quickly, finding two pearls and very little else of interest. The whole party leaves the house as quickly as they came.

Spending the night in the local inn, the a local pickpocket gets into some trouble when he picks the wrong target. Korm Tigertooth is not amused when he realises a local has his hand in one of his pockets and breaks the man's nose. 'A ready smile...' He says to him, '...and a ready fist!' He kicks him out of the common room and into the gutter, where he belongs.

The following day, the party decide to speak to Tarantio but he has not arrived yet, for he was on foot, so they decide to wait for him. They have cooked up a plan where the cleric will give a sermon, distracting the town watch, while they break into every house in the town and rummage through their belongings. In the mean time, they explore the local shops and market place. They take particular interest in a man selling coal in the market place, asking where he buys it from, considering that they could perhaps sell it up at Cavestone to the Dwarves for a profit. They settle on arranging a meeting with this trader in a few weeks to see what sort of deal they can make.

At length, the cleric Tarantio arrives and they run their plan past him. He refuses because it is opposing his own agenda - he wishes to corrupt the locals to join his religion and there won't be any locals if no one wants to live here. He will have no part in it. The party see he has a point and abandon their plan and instead, continue their journey northwards.

They reach the north part of the road and leave it behind, moving cross country now with grassland all around them. They approach a mysterious pile of bodies that reeks; these bodies are rotting under the heat of the sun and have been there for some time. They do not stop to investigate them but continue on their way. They spy a group of skeletons on undead steeds, with bats circling above them, up ahead, moving to intercept them. The party decide to avoid this undead group and take a path that will push take them away; the undead lose interest and the party continues on.

At night, after they have set up camp, the marine is on watch when suddenly he comes face to face with a mounted skeleton not ten feet away. The skeleton stops his horse, which is ghostly, and the two just stare at each other. There is an eery silence. The skeleton of a wolf runs out of the darkness and stops at the skeleton's side. Then, the skeleton turns his mount away and the undead move off into the night.

The following day, the party are almost at the edge of the Everleaf Forest when they spy three figures moving outside of it. There is a dwarf, a man and some kind of forest nymph. Both sides have seen each other and this unusual group changes its path to intercept the party. There is some parlying when the groups come within ear shot: The human demands that the party surrender all their gold, or they will die. The party say they have no gold, at which point the human bandit demands all of their armour, weapons and gear instead.

The marine snorts in derision and makes motions to ride off; at which point the dwarf launches a crossbow bolt at his steed but it whizzes past harmlessly. The party fights back... we have a combat! Between the marine's own crossbow and the wizard's magical rays that fly out of his fingers they kill the woodland creature almost instantly!

The bandit falls to a single shuriken from the thief, which is thrown with such force it removed his arm at the elbow!

The dwarf is shocked by magical rays from the wizard, twice before Korm Tigertooth closes him down and rams his mithril tipped spear into his neck, then operates it like a saw, cutting his head off!

Searching around, the party find a treasure chest. The wizard opens it - there is the sound of a glass vial smashing and poison gas escapes from the chest! There is much coughing and spluttering but only the wizard himself is affected; he begins to feel weak...

Inside the chest is nothing but a hat. The marine and the thief try it on and find that their appearance alters based on what they are thinking about - a magical hat!

And that was the end of the session.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

For gold and glory!

What follows is a brief report on our last Labyrinth Lord game session, which was quite action (and humour) packed...

The party were approached in a tavern by a dwarf wearing an animal skull for helmet who demanded to know if the thief was Terder Caji. A little evasion was made by the thief but when he learned that the dwarf was from Cavestone and had come to pledge his mithril-tipped spear to the thief's service (as the only one in the land who had a higher kill count than himself!) and the thief accepted, getting himself a pretty cool bodyguard in the process.

The elf scanned the tavern patrons to see if he could spot anyone else worthy of being hired and spotted a half orc woman who was playing dice with some of the regulars. The elf and gnoll joined in, while the thief went round the back of her to prevent cheating. A few games were played; small money was won sometimes by party members and sometimes by the regulars. The stakes were increased, then further by the gnoll. Then, when the regulars had all dropped out of the game, the elf put a proposition to the half orc. He said, if they win, she must adventure with them, but if she wins, she gets their stake. She agreed and won the dice game. That was quite funny!

After this, the elf asked how much to hire her and she replied with the cost of three hundred gold pieces. They declined and she left the tavern, but with a little discussion amongst the party they decided they could afford that after all and went looking for her. Asking around town, they learned she had gone to another tavern, so they entered that and hired her on the spot.

Finally, everything in town was taken care of. The party set off back to the caves, for gold and glory.

They travel for a while and then set up camp, when they see Odin and his host of wolves and ravens running at breakneck speed across the sky, surrounded by flashing lightning and leaving a trail of fire. The god is travelling south; the barbarians must have called to him for aid - Thorgrim's war must be driving the Great Hoard out of their swamplands and into the deserts, the dwarf informs them. The party is astonished at what they are seeing. Soon, he disappears over the horizon, they set up camp. The night is otherwise uneventful and they continue their journey the following day.

As the party crosses a bridge over a wide, fast flowing river, a manticore appears at one side and a chitine at the other! A furious fight breaks out; the chitine falls to the thief's backstab in one swift attack and the manticore is eventually brought down by a barrage of blows from basically everyone. It heavily injured the half orc and the undead ant, though.

The cleric releases the undead ant from his service (which instantly crumbles to dust) and attempts to raise the manticore from the dead. It twitches momentarily, but stays dead. The cleric is not yet powerful enough!

He rests and raises the chitine from the dead. The party set off, reach the gold mine, light a torch and a lantern and head inside.

Two giant ants are attacked by the party in a large cavern; the cleric and dwarf engage at point blank and are backed up by the elf, gnoll and thief with ranged attacks. Amusingly, later in this fight, the elf snapped his own bow and had to pull out a sword and charge in! Also, the thief had climbed a stalagmite and attempted to throw a shuriken from his lofty height, slipped and fell off!

After defeating the giant ants, the party came across a pool of mysterious water with a strange fog hanging over it... which the cleric then cast 'destroy water' on and that was the end of the mysterious water! Nothing was revealed under the water, no was there anything unusual about the cavern. This left the party with only one way to go; back tracking to an ant thoroughfare

Here, by attaching the arm from a zombie onto the end of a rope the party were able to attract four giant ants down a narrow corridor, so they could face them one on one. Using the cleric as a shield, they successfully fended the ants off, even though two of them scaled the walls and came at them two at a time, but some credit for this also must go to the half orc who took some heat off the party too. The gnoll scored some good hits with his polearm, although he did manage to break one of them! Luckily for him though, he had another one strapped to his back. The thief also fell off the stalagmite in this cavern!

Another amusing thing happened in this combat. The gnoll had lent his bow to the elf and said if you break it, you will die ... and the elf managed to damage the weapon by fumbling with it! At least it wasn't broken but it was a hilarious moment!

Within a dead end cavern, the characters spot a strand of gold in one of the walls. Using a hammer and chisel, they carve it out, then smash it into four bits and distribute it amongst themselves. Quite a nice find that!

The bravest fight of the night; with the gnoll as party leader three of the heroes dared to go one on one with an equal number of giant ants that were tunnelling; literally chewing their way through the cave walls. This would have been very risky - or impossible - were it not for the henchmen who each took a lot of damage. The dwarf even downed his magical shield to fend off a second critical hit from the ant the party faced.

Those were the events on the night. The gnoll is now ready to be trained to second level, and Mike has expressed an interest in swapping his cleric out for another character in his roster (likely to be either the psychic or the prize fighter), but we'll wait and see what happens...