Friday, 29 May 2009

Heaven bait

Here is a quick short story that I knocked up... I hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Summit: Robbing the ghouls

I've decided to start prepending the titles of blog posts that are write ups of our weekly Labyrinth Lord game sessions using the word Summit, which incidentally, is the name of the game world we are all adventuring in.

This week, I'm also playing around with the format, briefly mentioning the highlights rather than doing a linear report. This way, I won't get any complaints from my players if I leave something out, because I can just use the excuse that it wasn't a highlight, heh heh.

We started the session with a couple of players down, but I have so many now that it doesn't really matter any more. I'm also no longer adverse to expanding the group further for this very reason - the more players the better.

So this week there was Ben, Chris, Nick and Joe. Chris and Nick had to roll up new characters because of their untimely deaths last week and Joe decided to retire his Gnoll in order to do the same. We ended up with a new psychic, fighter and mage. The party consisted of those three, a thief and a dwarf.

The party journeyed back to the courtyard, to finish clearing it out for Baron Thorvid. Highlights of the night included the characters finding a secret door where Chris and Nick knew there was one the week before, but their previous characters couldn't find one. It was with great relief and exclamations of 'I knew it!' that the dead end in the caverns below turned out not to be...

Through the secret door, they find a dead body. The psychic uses his Bone Divining ability to find out who this body once belonged to and learns that it is Gerald Red himself! He learns he was ambushed by troglodytes and then eaten by them. He also learns that Gerald has a magic sword, still on him and a magical ring he is still wearing. Needless to say, these were both taken, one by the psychic and one by Stone Wolf the fighter.

Venturing into the cave proper, the party see a large pool of water. Edging around it, to the back of the cavern, they are ambushed by five stinking troglodytes! In this battle Stone wolf slays four with his magical sword!

Later, the party realise they have cleared the courtyard and return to Castle Thorvid for their reward, which they receive. On the way, however, there is an amusing incident where the party spies three ghouls and a wolf skeleton attempting to cross a river. One of the ghouls is carrying two little boxes, so Terder the party thief decides to try and rob it! A risky strategy!

However, a succeeded pick pocket roll later and he has them! The party ride far, far away before they are spotted and enjoy the spoils of their ill begotten gains.

The night ended with them being hired as guards for a merchant caravan that is travelling south. The gold reward for this is not high, but the distance is short and its almost all on the roads, so the risk should be low. More to come, next week.

Magic Item - The Hilt of Bastards

This appears to be an unbladed hilt of a bastard sword, that is to say, if it were bladed it could be wielded one or two handed. The pommel is jewelled and there is a runic inscription along the hilt that translates as 'Bladeless'.

Any blade that is attached to the hilt, to make a full sword, will shatter within one day and laughter will be heard.

Once per day, when the command word is spoken, a magical shimmering blade appears, turning the Hilt of Bastards into a fully fledged weapon. The blade can be of differing sizes depending on what the wielder wills it to be: either as a short sword or bastard sword. If the blade is to be short sword sized, it functions as a short sword +2. If bastard sword sized, it functions as a bastard sword +1. The blade glows faintly in the dark but not enough to be used as a light source and cannot fumble in battle.

This blade lasts until another command word is spoken which causes it to vanish, or one year passes, or it is wielded against a female opponent.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Total Party Kill!

We were down a number of players on our latest Labyrinth Lord game session, as Mike couldn't make it, and our newest player Kat and finally Ben dropped out at the last minute. On the other hand, we were rejoined by Nick and my old friend Chris. Small gamer groups like this are actually a mixed blessing; they are certainly easier to DM for but it does significantly weaken the party, as we shall see, in the following account of what happened...

The party did some trading, magical item identification and scroll copying in the elven town of Bramble and then set off for the courtyard, deciding (wisely) to stick to the roads as much as they can. They passed through Dewton, Lyorel and Veleye before finally going cross country in the Everleaf forest. Straying from the roads in Summit is dangerous - much of the country is wild and untamed whereas the roads are regularly patrolled by soldiers.

Travel is difficult. The weather has taken a turn for the worse, with high winds blowing and cutting movement rates down. Ranged attacks are harder to make on target for the wind is constantly blowing. Everywhere are leafless trees and dying flowers - not what is expected of spring. Perhaps something else is afoot...

The party come across a recent campfire, still smouldering, and see tracks that lead away from it, deeper into the forest. Thal (the Elf) discovers that the tracks are of different sizes but cannot determine what creatures have made them. The party decide not to follow them. The following day, as they set up camp, they are attacked by two torch wielding bandits!

A magical trident wielding barbarian and scimitar slashing dervish woman attack the party, given away by the light of the their torches which foil their ambush!

The bandits cause a lot of damage to the heroes but are beaten back. Afterwards, Akern (the mage) detects that the trident, which is made of bone, is magical and hands it to Thal to use in future battles. The party drink healing potions and continue.

The group reach the courtyard building and enter it. A careful search of the top floor reveals nothing amiss since they were last here - although the bookcase they placed over the trap door has fallen over. How did that happen...

Descending into the cave system below the courtyard, the party enter a large cavern with a pool of water occupying the center of it. The strange smell from earlier is a great stink here. As the party move to exit the cavern through one of the passage ways, two troglodytes, who were blending perfectly with the cave walls, step out of the shadows, snarling and attack!

Trogolodytes in the cavern!

A good fight ensues with the heroes using the terrain and their bows to good advantage. The party did not like the three attacks each trogolodyte had, though!

In a short time, the party emerges bloody, but victorious.

In another cavern, the entrance of which was blocked by a large stone, the heroes find two coffins surrounded by an array of items. These coffins are both locked with heavy padlocks on the outside. Nosing through the various stuff on the floor, they find garlic, stakes, a silver dagger, a wooden mallet, various holy symbols and some vials of holy water. A debate is held over what to do - should they break into the coffins?

Thal, as party leader, says yes, so breaks the first padlock and opens the coffin. Inside is a dead body, which he quickly stakes - and nothing else. He then proceeds to the second coffin and breaks the padlock off of it, too. Inside, is another corpse, which he quickly stakes. The party breathe a sigh of relief!

Inside another cavern with a floor full of assorted junk, the party begin to sift through it, when it begins to self assemble into a massive wood golem! Quickly, Thal pins it against the wall with his magical trident and destroys it in one hit!

The party get some good loot from this room, which Akern detects is almost all magical gear. There is a wand, a shield, a staff and a golden goblet. Thal identifies the staff as being a staff of healing - very nice. Akern uses this on Ginsese to get her back up to good fighting status and the staff runs out of charges!

The group decides that at this point, its a good idea to get Akern to the Tower of Sorcery so he can train to level up as he now has the required experience points. The courtyard is left for the second time and a journey is begun.

While passing through the Everleaf forest, the party realise that they are being tracked. They make out goblins in the trees, a wolf and giant spiders being herded by the goblins. The heroes could easily ride off, but Thal spots a couple of the goblins are carrying treasure chests and orders that the party stop and fight their hunters.

Our heroes ride out and meet the enemy they are being tracked by - a very brave decision indeed!

That is Ginsese on the camel by the way, she inherited it from a mage from the east when he died on a previous quest.

The enemy, arrayed against them, before the chaos of battle messed up their formation.

Quite a challenge, I'm sure you'll agree. I don't think we've had a battle quite like this one before. The heroes stayed mounted but did not use their mounts much and instead got pinned against the edge of the board and this was eventually their undoing.

To begin with though, things went amazingly well for them. Akern used his magic to create a vast illusionary fire engulfing the enemy. Almost all of the foe believed it was real and many of the goblins died of heart attacks, thinking the fire was killing them. Many of the spiders were injured, believing the fire was real and one did indeed die.

Ginsese was the first to fall to a spider's venom, collapsing off her camel after one of the spiders leapt at her and planted its fangs into her throat. That effectively destroyed the front line of the party, as she was the only one who had advanced on the enemy. The enemy closed in on the remaining two heroes and as Thal struggled to hold them off, Akern fled from the battlefield on horseback. Thal was overwhelmed by the remaining foes, splintering his shield in a vain attempt to stay alive, but was overcome by spider bites. He succumbed to their venom.

Akern returned to the battlefield, trying to sling the enemy from a safe distance, but a goblin sprinted over to his location and took one swing with its morning star, embedding it into the wizard's head - and creating our first true Total Party Kill.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Courtyard Clearance

I'd like to extend a hearty welcome to our newest player - and first female player in our weekly Labyrinth Lord campaign - Mike's friend Kat. On sunday we were down a mage and a gnoll but now had gained a fighter.

What follows is an account of said game session...

As the party of heroes approach the courtyard building, which they have been hired to clear out by Baron Thorvid, they see it is flanked by large pillars. A wide staircase leads up to the entrance of the building and at either side are large barred windows. From behind the pillars, two wolves emerge, slavering and howling! The heroes finish them off without too many problems.

Once up the stairs and inside the building proper, Falador the fighter triggers a trip wire which causes a portcullis to drop but luckily he avoids impalement by the skin of his teeth!

A strange odour seems to permeate the entire place, an odour that none of the character's can place. In one of the rooms, with a barred window to the south of it, an arrow thuds into Terder's (the thief) back! The party turn to see an orc outside of the window, taking aim at them with a bow. Before they can react, another arrow speeds towards the thief! Thal the Elf and Korm the Dwarf both nip into an alcove within the room while Falador rushes the Orc, intent on stabbing it with his sword, but the bowman steps back out of range of his stab and continues to rain arrows into the room. Falador resorts to throwing his short sword at the orc in desperation. Other party members, including Mirana, return fire with ranged weapons and eventually the orc is brought down.

Falador moves to leave the room to collect his short sword, opening the door to reveal five more orcs waiting in ambush! A vicious melee ensues with Korm taking most of the punishment on his platemail armour and glowing magical shield. A short while later, there are lots of dead orcs and most of them have fallen to Mirana's deadly arrows.

The heroes stumble into a study and load up their mule with stolen books on range of topics from battlefield tactics to business. There is even a spellbook - but without the read magic spell, no one can read it to tell what spells are inside. Inside a chest of drawers Falador discovers a few keys and a map of the level; Terder spots a funny symbol on the map and realises there must be a secret door in here. After a quick search they find it! Under a carpet is a hidden trap door. Lifting it up, they find stairs going down into a pitch darkness...

Thal, having infravision, can see that the stairs lead to some kind of cave system so he gingerly moves down them alone. The strange odour from earlier gets stronger. At the bottom, he sees the passage splits and decides to return to the rest of the party. A bookcase is moved on top of the trapdoor to seal it shut and the group continue to explore the courtyard building.

The group come across a door that won't open, so Falador attempts a flying kick at it. Unfortunately, the door remains shut. Miranda attempts her own flying kick - there is a crack as the door splinters open! The door had been barricaded shut by a bunch of kobolds that inhabit the room, they had wedged a bed up against it. The party draw weapons and attack the kobolds.

One of the kobolds leaps onto the bed and is knocked off by a punishing arrow shot. It pulls itself back onto the bed and is knocked off once more by another arrow! Slowly, it climbs once more onto the bed and Terder, who has climbed the wall above the door, swings down through the door way and stabs it with his daggers! It drops off the bed for its third and final time, now being dead. Next, Terder reaches down and grabs another of the kobolds. Its feet dangling in the air while it struggles with the thief's grasp, so Thal shoots an arrow into it!

In pretty short order, the kobolds are all dead.

Through a secret door that was also marked on the map that the party found earlier, they come across an old armoury. There are two weapon racks: one has been ramsacked years ago; the other contains intact weaponry. However, this rack - and the entire wall - is covered with a strange yellow mold. Thal goes to smell the mold, to see if the strange smell originates from it and gets a face full of spores that almost kill him!

The party retreat from the room while Falador rips up bed sheets and wraps them around the heads of his crossbow bolts. He lights them and fires them at the mold, putting it to the torch, but in so doing he accidentally destroys all the weapons except for a mace. Needless to say, the fighter takes the still smouldering mace.

Later, the group happen upon a kitchen containing much broken furniture. A stove sits in the corner and above it, a rusty exhaust pipe that leads to a leaky ceiling. Thal decides to look inside the stove and disturbs four stirges that are nesting within the pipe! They fly out and attack. One of them jabs its proboscis into the Elf and begins draining his blood. Thinking quickly, Thal uses his Spell Rune and passes through rock, moving out of the room and into the corridor beyond. The stirge's proboscis cannot pass through and so the stirge is left in the room. Thal lives to fight another day!

One of the stirges flies at Korm and inserts its proboscis into his neck. He stabs with his mithril tipped spear and kills it. Another dies in the chaos of melee, leaving two on Falador, who draws his two handed sword The Leveller from the baldric on his back. This is the first time he has wielded the ancient rune covered relic in battle... he powerswings it at both stirges that are attacking him, cutting each in half with the same blow! He has ended the danger to the party.

The group enters the courtyard itself from the spectator area, among seating high up above the overgrown artificial battle ground. In this courtyard are two skeletal warriors, fighting. They feint, thrust and swing yet never defeat each other. The heroes watch for a while, shout a few insults down but the skeletons continue to fight. Falador throws his short sword, smashing the ribs of one of the boney gladiators, but their strange dance continues unabated.

He hammers his rope into the seating area with an iron spike and climbs down, searching. He finds a ring with an R inscription on it amongst the weeds. Then he smashes one of the skeletons to bits and immediately the other begins bowing to the crowd, over and over and over again. Falador grasps its skull and pulls it off its neck, but still it continues to bow. So, with great effort, he pulls its legs off and finally smashes it to bits.

At this, the party realise they have explored all of the above ground level of the courtyard, leaving only the underground portion, so they set off for the elven village of Bramble to get the Elf trained for level two. En route, they see the remains of a grass fire and numerous nasties in the wilderness including a four headed hydra! These are all avoided by galloping away from them as fast as their horses can. Finally, they arrived at Bramble, the Elf is trained to level two, items are traded and our evening was wrapped up. How quickly five hours goes!

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Low ability scores

Here's an idea for dealing with players who attempt to game the system by placing low ability scores in their wisdom, charisma and intelligence attributes so they can maximise their physical ones, but then do not roleplay these below average scores...

When in a dangerous situation, have the character with the lowest wisdom in the party test against it on a d12. If he fails, he then does something very unwise. For example, if there is a vat of acid nearby, he touches it with a finger and takes damage from it.

When faced with a problem, have the character with the lowest intelligence in the party test against it on a d12. If he fails, he then does something stupid to make the problem actually worse. For example, when faced with a puzzle like a riddle that says only five guesses are aloud to solve it, he uses three of them up instantly.

When faced with an encounter with intelligent, have the character with the lowest charisma in the party test against it on a d12. If he fails, then he says something inflammatory at the worst possible moment...

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Athan and the waters

Here's a little bit of pulpy fiction for you that I wrote yesterday... Athan and the waters

Monday, 4 May 2009

The Leveller

What follows is a brief summary of the last session of Labyrinth Lord, one in which Terder Caji and his bodyguard Korm Tigertooth rejoined the party, while Thromm the Gnoll, Thal the Elf, Ginsese the Half Orc and Akern the mage left it. That's bank holidays for you! So the party consisted of Farador (a fighter), Terder (a thief) and Korm (a dwarf).

The evening began with me having a quick run down of the four phase initiative system and asking the players to write down their initiative values and then we were off adventuring once more.

The session began proper with the party exploring the rest of the cavern that they were in earlier and pretty soon they came across a treasure chest, wedged up against a small collection of stalagmites. The thief quickly found a it was trapped with a little blade that would strike at the hands of anyone who didn't know how to open the chest properly; he disarmed this, picked the lock and popped the chest open. Inside, he found a clear jade statue of a preying mantis.

Down another passage, Korm slipped on some loose gravel and sprained his little dwarven ankle. The passage turned out to be a dead end, meaning the only place left to explore was down a fifty foot drop, so the party decide to head to the nearest village - because get this - no one has a rope!

Outside, in the surrounding woodland known as the Everleaf Forest, the heroes notice that the leaves on the trees are turning brown. This is highly unusual for early spring time. Instead, its something you associate more with autumn. In addition, its freezing (sub zero) cold. Falador the fighter suspects evil wizardry is at work in the land.

On their journey to the village, they pass through an ancient crumbling ruin and decide that this could be a good place to rest. One of the ruined buildings has four of its walls mostly intact and a great oak tree going in the middle of it; the party decide this is the place and begin to barricade the walls up while the thief climbs the tree and acts as a lookout.

A gale force wind picks up and the thief holds on tight to the oak. He spies three figures moving through the trees, trying to sneak up on the dwarf and the fighter while they are barricading the walls. He whistles a signal to them and they fall back into the ruins, preparing for a fight!

The winds interfere with the ranged weaponry and not a single blow dart from the thief or arrow from the bandits strike their targets, forcing the real battle to close quarters. The bandits are summarily dispatched, proving no match for the party.

The following day, the party arrive at the village of Veleye and restock their supplies. Items are sold, the market place is explored and winter gear bought for the journey back. Also, a rope is purchased!

On the way back to the caves, the party decide to stop off at the ruin again and sleep there. They bury some gear (including a short sword) here and the thief again climbs the old oak tree. He recoils in horror part way up when he realises he has just put his hand into some green slime! He drops to the ground in shock and begins to turn green... it is wiped off him just in time, before he becomes some green slime himself! That was a close one...

The following day lanterns are lit and the cave is revisited. The drop is found once more and with the use of their new rope, the party safely descend. The party continue to explore the cave system, illuminated only by the flickering of their lights then reach a cavern with two skeletal figures at the edge of their vision. One of them carries a large sword with runes that run down the blade. Both figures are closing in on the group.

The heroes stand their ground and do battle with the undead. Strangely, the skeletal figure does not wield the runic sword against them, instead, worms jump from its skull and attempt to bury themselves in the heads of the heroes. After much smashing of bones, the skeletons are defeated. The fighter claims the two handed sword as his own.

The cavern has no other exits - the party realise they have explored the whole cave system! So, they journey back to the village of Veleye and at least now the temperature in the land is not cold, the weather is just low lying clouds and fairly mild.

Back in Veleye, the sword is identified as the Leveller and is an ancient artefact beyond the skill of many (if not all) who are left alive to forge. It carries a powerful enchantment and proves particularly deadly to a certain type of dragon. A rare find indeed!!

The party journey to Castle Thorvid, during which time it actually snows. The weather is becoming increasingly unpredictable. Once there, Falador trains with the Fighter's Guild and levels up (now he is level 3!). Also while he is there, he is given an order by the baron - clear out the courtyard of a strange wizard. Falador accepts - it is an order after all from the guildmaster himself, and he has been offered 2500gp on completion. The party set off on their journey to this courtyard.

Part way there, they are waylaid by a pack of snarling wolves!

One is instantly shot dead with a crossbow bolt in its eye before the wolves close in on the fighter, thief and dwarf.

A bloody battle is fought.

Terder gets chewed up pretty badly before the battle is finally won by the heroes!

That wrapped up our evening.

Four Phase Initiative

At last, I think we have it!

Our last Labyrinth Lord session was the testing ground for a new initiative system, designed to fulfill the following goals:

1). Cope with mounts and mounted opponents.
2). Allow lightly armoured combatants to move and attack quickly (provide the opportunity for combatants to trade defence for offence).
3) Be quick and easy to use (must not get in the way of the game).

We have tested a number of initiative variants over the past couple of game sessions, as we hit the limit to the continuious initiative system we were using when we wanted to include mounts into it.

So without further ado, here it is, the Four Phase Initiative system...

Each round is divided into four phases. The phases are Mounts, Scout, Infantry and the second Scout phase.

In the Mount phase, all mounts move and some (like the warhorse) which are trained to fight, may attack. A mounted knight can also strike with his lance in this round, although doing so means he must switch to a melee weapon to continue fighting but cannot do this til the following round.

In the Scout phase, any combatant wearing studded leather or lighter armour can act, providing he is not using a ranged weapon. Note that the scout phase occurs twice in a combat round. This allows scouts to move quickly through terrain and potentially make two melee attacks per round as they are unhindered by heavier armour. Of course; they put themselves at increase risk by not wearing heavier armour. Note that a scout may throw items in this phase, he just cannot use a bow or crossbow in it.

In the Infantry phase, anyone wearing heavier armour than studded leather OR using a ranged weapon, gets to act. The majority of characters will end up in this phase.

Within any of the phases, the combatants act in an initiative order. The combatant with the highest, gets to act first. It is calculated like so:

Base move rate (12 for most races or 9 for dwarves and halflings)
- Dexterity modifier
- Intelligence modifier
- Armour modifier (chain -0, banded -1, scale -2, splint -3, plate -4)
-1 if using a shield
-4 if dual wielding.

Example: Boris is a human. His initiative order value is 12 -1 [Dex mod] -2 [scalemail] -1 [shield] = 8

Note that there are no 'weapon speed' modifiers to any of this. This is because weapon reach would probably cancel out any benefit of a small, fast and light weapon. A man with a dagger against a man with a longsword must somehow get inside the swordsman's reach to use his dagger, elminating his speed advantage.

Ranged weapons are always used in the Infantry phase because they must be aimed before they can be fired. We do have a house ruled exception - in the very first round of combat, crossbows may be fired in the scout phase but after this may only be fired in the infantry phase. We house rule this to represent the fact that a loaded crossbow can be fired before most people can act when battle begins.