I can’t find the thread anymore. But over at the SJG Forums, someone was talking about starting perhaps an Old West style game. But then, there would be Zombies. But the players wouldn’t know ahead of time.

This brought up the concept of the Bait and Switch, where the players are ready for one style of campaign, but the GM drops another layer, or changes it up completely.

Why is this annoying?

It sets up a pretty spectacular clash of expectations. If the GM were to hand out a campaign prospectus (or a set of them), and everyone likes Old West but no one likes Horror, then to layer your Old West with Horror doesn’t necessarily invoke the Peanut Butter Cup effect. It may just piss your players off.

It may also result in characters that are entirely useless. Not just “gee, my combat skills are mostly in ranged firearms, but I have some brawling and jujitsu as well, so I better go find me a crossbow.” But potentially “I designed an expert forensic accountant for a game involving corporate espionage, and this frackin’ GM Banestormed me into a world where this kind of bookkeeping doesn’t even exist.” Way more so even than being short on one or more of Kromm’s List of Skills Every Adventurer Should Have. This is serious “my character is 200 points of useless” stuff, and sets up for potentially very angry players.

Ultimately, it’s about assumptions clash, and purposefully misleading the group as to your intentions sets up that clash purposefully, and demands the group find it fun.

And yet . . .

Why can this be fun?

Some really great gaming can occur when things are very, very different than one expects. I went into The Matrix more or less blind. I totally didn’t see the major twist coming, and was floored when it did.
What works in cinema can also work in RPGing.

It can also be fun when it’s done by plunking the characters into a slightly different genre than is expected, but one that is also enjoyable. If the group settled on Old West, but would have played an explicit Horror campaign . . . well, maybe that Old West Zombie Horror campaign isn’t so far wrong after all. Or a criminal escape that doesn’t turn out as expected.

It also, of course, provides for great roleplaying opportunities – and if it’s arranged such that characters are unprepared or out of place, but can rapidly adapt and rise to the challenge, maybe that’s not so bad after all. The accountant suddenly finds he’s got Magery 8 and spontaneous spellcasting. This only works if . . .

Parting Shot

. . . the players enjoy the new campaign premise and feel like they can have an interesting and fun time with the character they’ve brought to the table in that game.

This can, of course, be entirely above board, in which case the character is being switched, but not the players.

I did this once – above board, mostly – in an old game I called Lords of Light and Shadow. I had the
players all be part of a town’s special emergencies teams. Volunteers with medical or crisis skills, including combat skills, that would respond to trouble. So the players were forewarned that odd things would probably happen, and I’d prepped them by saying that I wanted to have a campaign kinda like the clash between the Vorlons and Shadows from Babylon 5 . . . but on Earth and much nastier. Sterile order and raw chaos, rather than the more altruistic-ish versions displayed in that show.

It didn’t last long, but the first campaign sessions were pretty good.

It’s all how you set it up, I think. And the more buy-in you have, the better.

We picked up in media res again. 
GM: +Nathan Joy 
Players: +Mark Langsdorf , +Theodore Briggs , +Kevin Smyth , Bruno, and +Douglas Cole .

This is the Jade Regent Adventure Path done in GURPS, and I’m quoting liberally from descriptions that the GM almost certainly pasted verbatim into the chat windows of the adventure. So: Spoiler Alerts!

Many mooks were having some
real issues, Thumvar was “looking a bit glazed,” and Warm the Troll had just
tackled one of the monks from behind. The action opened with Staver, our
resident Arrowsmith, trying to put two arrows into the eyeballs of the monk in front
of her. She’s a DF heroic archer; this is fairly routine.
Staver burns a Scout point to make the first one hit. The
Monk dodges, but the second is a critical anyway,
so he eats that one for 9 imp
to the eye.  Normal damage and target
drops items, but takes 36 injury to the brain. As expected (but not
guaranteed), he drops.

The monk in front of Cadmus does what seems to be a
trademark move: a strike with a kama to the torso and an unarmed strike to his
weapon arm, both Deceptive Attacks at -2 to defend. Cadmus, whose actions from
last round left foes to his back, retreats, parries the first blow with his axe
and dodges the unarmed strike.

Monk 7 (yes, seven) trademarks at Staver, hitting both
times. Staver critically fails an acrobatic dodge by rolling an 18, gets hit by
the first attack, falls prone, and thus rolls at -4 to defend
against the second. His dodge succeeds even with the penalty, as he rolls out of
the way, and despite all of that, the unarmed strike does 6 cr to the weapon
arm, which DR reduces to but a single point of injury. Here we go . . .

GM: Roll HT.(Staver loses the contest of HT)
Staver: Of course. Pressure point, neh?
GM: So desu. Your arm goes numb for 19 seconds.

Yow. Stupid ninja monks.

Thumvar is still stunned, and Cadmus tries to Judo Throw
(which defaults from Axe, thanks to a handy perk) Monk2 into Monk1. His -3 Deceptive Attack is met with
his foe still rolling a fine parry. He has, not once, succeeded in this,
despite a Righteous Fury-enhanced Judo skill of 22. Despite writing an entire book on grappling I’ve found it very frustrating that I can never actually grapple anyone. Alas.

Yeah, pretty much just like this
Without warning (well, to the characters. The players saw
this coming), a new figure silently and nearly invisibly drops from the rafters
behind the monk that Cadmus just tried to throw. The new arrival drops from the
rafters silently, sword coming down in an arc as she lands in a crouch. Blood
sprays everywhere – because ninja do that – except on her dark gray outfit, and
she straightens as the Shadow Monk’s corpse falls to the side.

 “Please to
pardon my interference. It looked like you could use the help.”

The newcomer is dressed like a Tianese peasant in dark gray
clothing, rather than a ninja, but she’s definitely carrying a ninja’s sword.
Her hair is white, and her face has a number of ritual scars and tattoos that
may not be clear from the token image and do nothing to take away from the
standard Nymph’s Universal Transcendent Appearance. (Hooray for ‘exotic’ rather
than ‘disfiguring’.)

Note that much hilarity was had offline while Kevin was making Dawn in a previous session. He kept making suggestions, adding tweaks, OK, she’s a Nymph, I like that combo. OK, add this, add that. “HOLY CRAP! I’ve made a stripperninja! How the heck did that happen?” 

Warm the Troll starts burying his teeth into his grappled
foe’s neck, doing a total of 7 cut to the monk’s neck, ripping his throat to
pieces. Lunchtime.

Staver would dearly like to shoot a monk, but with a
crippled arm settles for getting to his knees to avoid further -4 defensive
penalties.

Monk7 does the traditional kama strike-pressure point
strike, and Michel responds with the Command “PROSTRATE YOURSELF!” in the voice
of Gozreh. No attack for him, and he prostrateth himself.

Monk1 tries to attack Cadmus, but only potentially hits with
his kama; the blow glances harmlessly off of Cadmus’ shield. In return, Cadmus launches
a Setup Attack against his foe’s left leg. He will try and inflict a -4 setup
penalty on his foe next round; the setup missed (though if it’d hit, it would
have done 15(2) cut!) when the ninja narrowly retreats (roll of 15 vs a
Dodge-16).

The whole point of this was that next turn, I’d have launched a similar attack, probably Committed, at the neck (I have Targeted Attack there). With TA(Axe/Neck)-20 or so, I could stack a -3 Deceptive Attack with my -4 Setup from before, for -7 to defend. Even with Dodge-13 and a retreat for +3, he’d only be rolling vs. Dodge-9, and suffer about 3d cut to the neck if it worked. Sound like an interesting tactic?

Michel shifts to a Reach 1 grip, and critically succeeds in
his attempt to remove his opponent’s liver. He does maximum normal damage for
11 cut, which pushes through his armor, though the Evil Pesky Ninja fails to be
stunned by the Major Wound.

Dawn, our unknown newcomer (Kevin’s backup character, since
Brody’s decided he’s had enough disembowelment for one career) steps up. Dawn
turns and slips her hand into her vest, coming out with a wide throwing blade
with lightning bolts engraved in green jade. Her wrist flicks, and suddenly 10
spinning blades dripping with poison are flying through the air towards Monk
1’s flank. Her Throwing Art result critically succeeds, giving one critical hit
and six other regular hits. The critical does double shock, and 6 cut; it’s
coated with Monster Drool, but the monk resists.

Dawn: Oh, that’s not very nice at all.

The monk gets to dodge or parry the other six, but not dodge
and drop, having already used his retreat to not get made a pegleg by Cadmus. (Only
the first hit is a critical). The darts are slow enough to parry, so he tries
to parry the one and dodge the other five. No defenses are successful. Three
penetrate his armor, and the poison starts to take effect. He is slammed back
into the wall by the barrage of throwing knives, turns slightly green, and then
falls to the floor.

Dawn: “Hmh. Some men just can’t hold their
arsenic.”

Cadmus’ chance to use the Setup rules I wrote having been
foiled, the combat ends with all foes but the nasty invisible disappeared bomb-throwing one down. I give myself points for the assist in burning Monk1’s Dodge and Drop.

Aftermath: Lots of dead ninjas and a Troll with no table manners
Dawn wipes her sword carefully on a fallen monk and sheathes
it, then stands and bows slightly.

“Illustrious greetings, honored
warriors. Again, please forgiving the intrusion. These…” 

She glances
down.

“. . . needed to be dispatched, and I was worried they might instead
prevail.”

Dawn walks up to Thumvar and performs a vaguely mystical gesture
before giving him a good slap to rouse him.

Cadmus: “Well, that’s hardly mysterious at all. My
father used to get the attention of my second-eldest brother the same
way.”

Dawn: “The honor is mine of fighting alongside you.
Tales of your deeds were sadly understating your skill and abilities.”

Thumvar: “What? Ninjas for pretty girl, good
trade.”
Staver: “Tales? Wait, what tales?”
Thumvar: “Er, where is the leader?”
Michel:”Well, I’m glad that’s all working out then –
wait, what tales?”
Cadmus: “Thumvar, I might suggest you be polite to Lady
Cuisinart here, until we can better grasp her potential sense of humor.”

Dawn ignores the question and gets to the important task of rifling the bodies and making sure they’re quite dead. Michel helps with the looting because, well, money. He avoids the knives because, well, poison. Warm is eating one of the bodies. He seems quite distracted. Cadmus suggests we keep at least an eye out for our disappeared ninja leader.

Dawn: “Wise master says, ‘caution is a foe only to
one’s enemies’.”

Wise Master indeed. The ninjas are wearing DR3 Ninja Gear.

Doug: And for the record, Skill-18, Parry-13? Hypnotic
Hands-16, and Pressure Points? Not a mook.

Mark: Doomchildren (DF2 monsters) are
pretty much canonically mooks, and they have skill-18.

Kevin: They also explode.

In Dungeon Fantasy, apparently these guys are mooks.

Dawn: “In the tongue of the barbarians my name would be ‘Pale Blossom Opening to the Majesty of the Dawn’. It is best perhaps to be shortened to ‘Dawn’. It has been my honor to observe and to follow you and the Heir for some time.” She looks up. “Please accepting my apologies, Wise Master says you prefer to not be called ‘barbarians’.”

Staver looks himself over. “I’m not sure I’m not a barbarian.”

Cadmus: “Actually, we’re pretty sure you are. Dawn, if you wish to keep calling Staver barbarian, no one will mind.”

This austere room contains a simple pallet and clay drinking
bowl. Its only nod to ostentation is a beautifully painted lacquered screen
bearing the images of clouds and mountains rendered in a fanciful style. There
is a small leather trunk behind the screen.

Michel, being that sort of priest, goes over to patch up
some of our two dying but not dead foes. Staver checks out the chest, which is
not locked, but we speculate that there might be poison dust on the ground.

Staver: “So, like, don’t sneeze.”

Overall, the monks have their weapons, their suits, and each
has some sort of magic amulet, which detects as magic to Michel’s senses. There
is also a nice screen, tough to get back to town, The top of the chest has some
plain peasant clothes for the region. Very nondescript. Under that is a compact
disquise kit, an ornate blowgun fashioned from jade and lapis lazuli, 150 SP
worth of assorted Tian coins, and a piece of parchment written in Nord (or
whatever the language of the norse-types is called, I forget) with some sort of
intricate seal in way on it. Nothing detects as magical.

We then turn to interrogate the monks, while Cadmus and
Thumvar more or less continue to keep watch over everyone to prevent the nearly
inevitable return of the ninja leader. Or the freakin’ raven from two sessions
ago. We seem to have a bad tendency to leave foes alive, given the genre.

Our new companion, Dawn, sets down to interrogate her “fellow”
ninja. And by “fellow” I mean “not from her clan, and thus horrific things
follow.”

Dawn crouches down in front of the two captives, and gently
taps the conscious one’s cheek to get his attention. Her right hand flashes,
and blood sprays the conscious one as she cuts the throat of the other. She
speaks rapid-fire Tien. “He did not tell me what I wanted to know. You
should, or your end will be much more painful.”

Aw, crap. Really? Maybe not.

Meanwhile, Staver takes a crack at the document with the Nordish
seal on it. He doesn’t speak Nord very well. “Bears can tell houses of Linnorms
what to do near Karlsgard.”

Given the were-critter activity around here, that might be the
literal truth after all.

Dawn continues to grill the fallen ninja; this may or may
not be the literal truth as well. She continues in Tien. “Why are you here
in the Northlands? Which clan has debased themselves to serving these
barbarians?”

GM: “We were brought here by -” He’s suddenly
doubled over as if by a blow.

How predictable. Dawn tried to bludgeon stuff, Thumvar tries
to block, and Michel and Cadmus both get their Exorcism on. Our little bit of
Divine Intervention fails due to time constraints: we’re still midway through
the ritual when the last welt appears and the body of the monk slumps to the
ground.

Michel: “Huh. We need to remember that stuff happens
and exorcise first, interrogate second.” Makes a big sigh. “I’m
exhausted. Can we rest here for a bit? Half an hour or so?” Remember. Must
buy MUCH more Paut.

We rest for a bit, then check out the not-very-well-hidden
secret door. Dawn just steps up and pushes the trigger stone, counting on ninja
reflexes to save her if it’s a trap. We fail to tempt fate to the point where
the GM squashes us with a falling ceiling, exploding fireball, or some such, and
then follow the roughly-hewn passageway south.

A brazier in the corner of this room glows faintly with red
coals, its smoke reminiscent of the stench of scorched flesh. A short bed with
a headboard carved with the image of an open-mouthed demon stands against one
wall, and a small table cluttered with books, scrolls, and a stuffed and
mounted stirge sits across from it. A magic circle has been scribed in center
of the floor with chalk. Torn papers, bits of old food, and other debris are
scattered about the room, collecting in corners and under the bed and table.

Thumvar: “Charming, diabolist art deco theme!”

Michel can identify the marks on the floor as a partially
completed Pentagram, and on one of the desks he finds a scroll that looks like
it’s about halfway through the magical theory of summoning something from
another (very nasty) plane.

Michel: “A mad taxidermist has been here.”
Carefully scruffs the pentagram a bit more. “I don’t think he safely
summoned anything, though. We should loot the place, but Thumvar and Cadmus
should keep an eye on the hall. Or Dawn could, whatever she prefers.”

The warrior types keep a look out for anything about to jump
out at us, while Michel tries, probably unsuccessfully, to keep a look out for
Staver and Dawn pocketing anything. He’s fussy that way.

Dawn takes another step, and then she bolts out of the room,
looking ill. (Weakness to Unholy stuff).

Cadmus notices that The demon on the wall seems to have a
wooden plate just inside it’s mouth that is a good 4 inches from the actual
back of the mounting backing; Staver fiddles with it and triggers the trigger.

It slides open, and three scrolls wrapped around a vial full
of some heavy silvery powder fall out into his  hand. Still no sword. We suspect that the
half-pound of slivery materials might be powdered silver.

We search on, and find stairs going down. Having bypassed a
door swollen shut with moisture, we return to it to clear the level.

Thumvar and Cadmus pry it open. The door opens into a
natural cavern thirty feet across and fifteen feet high. A waterfall pours in
through a small aperture high on the south wall, filling a turbulent pool in
the floor and sending a cold spray throughout the room. A smoothed ledge
extends outward from the door, and two large barrels have been set to the right
of it. Another ledge sits on the far side of the pool. A smaller cask sits on
this ledge, next to a heavy wooden door.

And the sword?

The water is ice-cold and crystal clear. You don’t see the
sword resting on the rock bottom that’s roughly 5 feet below the surface of the
water.

Drat.

Water seems to be draining to the north, you’re guessing
this is part of the water that supplies the stream flowing across the corridor
where the trolls camp. There is another heavy wooden door set into a worked
stone face on the other side of the pool. There’s a small barrel on that side
as well, roughly a quarter the size of the large water barrels on your side.

Michel: “Anyone want to go check the door?”

Talk about a Fellowship of the Ring flashback: “Do not
disturb the water?”

Dawn begins muttering to herself in Tien. “Leave the
Inflatable Tabi, Blossom. You are going to the northlands where the water is
all frozen anyway, Blossom. You will not need to swim.” She unsheathes her
sword and unties the scabbard, making a breathing tube. “Wise Master has
never /been/ to the northlands, where the water is /not/ all frozen and the
Inflatable Tabi would have been /very/ /useful/ /indeed/.” She switches to
Trade Pidgin. “I am hoping that perhaps one of you honorable warriors has
brought a towel.” She steps into the water, flinching at the cold.”

Cadmus: Under no circumstances will I give a towel to the
hot Nymph who has voluntarily created a wet T-shirt contest with freezing cold
water. I’m Holy, not dead.

Michel: What he said.

Thumvar: Uncouth swine! I’d offer to let her share my nice
warm cloak, plenty of room for two under it… 

Thumvar seeks to grab Staver and fly across (Gargoyle,
remember): “Come on, a little flying will be good for you
runty!”

Staver: “I’m going to end up in the drink. There’s no
way those gawping big wings of yours aren’t going to bash off something! I’m
going to end up in the drink, with a gargoyle on my head.”

Thumvar: “Bah, it’s plenty wide! Quit whining.”
Thumvar grabs Staver, flys up and over the water, just in case there are unseen
beasties that will try and attack if I’m too low.

He successfully flies over the pool, finds a pretty cool aspergillum
sitting on one of the barrels, the small one contains a faintly alcoholic clear
liquid. The others seem to be ice melt. Michel, who will drink anything once,
first stirs, and then takes a sip of the water we’ve been taking pains to
avoid. The clerics then have a pray-off:

Cadmus: “Holy Pharasma, we know we push our luck. We
figure you like it. Amen.”

Michel gurgles contemplatively, then swallows, and goes back
to watching Thumvar and Staver. “Gozreh, thank you for creating this
wonderful pure water and the world around it.”


At this point, we prod ourselves into action, check the door
for traps (nope) and locks (yep), and Michel offers to help Dawn cross the pool
via magic. He does not offer to help Cadmus.

Brother Michel watches her technique closely

Dawn, naturally, pulls out a set
of climbing claws out of her, um, no one really knows. She Lizard Climbs across
like the damn ninja she is. Michel “watches her technique” closely. Uh-huh.

The door is opened, and the room beyond is small and musty,
hewn from solid rock. Near the far wall stands a low well, its opening only a
foot in diameter. A winch and chain with a rusty steel bucket hang from the
wall above it. In the far corner sits a pile of old wooden buckets and other
debris, rotten and broken, with several different kinds of fungus growing on
their remnants.


Staver: “… that well seems a bit un-needed, don’t you think?”As soon as Thumvar sets foot across the threshold a golden red fiery light erupts from the well.
Staver: Sigh. “Called it.”

Dawn disappears using her mongo stealth, Thumvar activates
his magic resistance on his shield . . . and we decide to call it for the
night.

We picked up with the same server errors we ended with, and 45 minutes after game start, we finally fixed them and got to it.

Are you smarter than a SM+1 Troll?
We faced two nine-foot-tall Trolls (not the end-of-pencil kind), and Brother Michel engaged them in conversation.

Michel: “Hello there. Listen, can we go through? We’re in a hurry.”
GM:  The lead one cocks his head. “Go…. through?” 

His oversize nose twitches as he draws in a lungful of air.

Michel: “Great! Step aside, would you?” (Brody! Help!)
Brody: “My friend is a great and powerful wizard. If you step aside for him, he will bless you with great prowess in battle and virility in all your years. If you don’t, he’ll probably do something unspeakably horrible that I won’t want to watch. It’s really best if you step aside – or better yet, join us! We can pay you.”

The trolls look confused. The entire notion of “pay” has gone right by them. And yet . . . 


GM:  “Pay…. what?”

Michel eyes Brody suspiciously.

Brody: “We’ve got piles of valuable fur upstaiirs. You can have them! Warm, comfortable, just the thing to attract a fine troll woman, eh?”

The lead troll seems to consider this thoughtfully.

GM: “Warm.” He nods. “WARM!”

Brody:  “Very warm!”

They step back out of the way.

Kevin asked why aren’t we simply killing these guys again? I mean, trolls. We note that Michel won’t let us. (in fact, Michel notes that he just doesn’t want to fight these guys). Cadmus won’t interfere with critters unless they are trying to interfere with Fate. Or him, but that counts, since he’s on a holy quest.

So we give up 300-odd pounds of furs that we really weren’t looking to carry home to avoid murderizing two trolls. It’s a tangled web we weave. I’m certain this will come back to haunt us. Everything else does.

Or maybe not. The troll behind the one who made the deal makes a questioning noise, and the lead troll casually backhands him with his club, sending him flying back into the room beyond. The second troll picks himself up, and Michel sees a forearm that is bent nearly in half from the blow straighten itself with a series of sickening cracks. There’s a fight worth avoiding. Looks like troll fights are destined to be “long, and ultimately indecisive.” ( +Theodore Briggs )

The trolls look at us like we owe them something. Which, of course we do.

Brody: “Well, that was easy then. Your furs are upstairs, but our business is in here – follow us, we’ll bring you to them. You got a name, chum?”

GM: “WARM!”

Brody moves to the nearby iron door and nails it, picking the lock with a critical success. Meanwhile, those of us (Cadmus, Thumvar) not carefully eyeing the trolls in case they suddenly display their true nature are watching Brody work the lock.

Warm stares at us with flat, dull eyes. The door clicks open, and Brody decides that he never goes through a door whose lock he’s just picked first. Solid survival skills, that one.

The ceiling of this grand chamber rises twenty feet overhead, its heavy beams serving as both rafters and supports for the great hall above. Teak paneling covers the walls, and the floor is of polished wood. Along the walls, wooden columns rise to the ceiling above, bearing banners emblazoned with pictograms from far-off Tian Xia. Above these hang small oil lamps that give off a dim glow. A small porcelain bowl rests before the center column to the south, and four reed mats are arranged before it.

Naturally, as we enter, the wood paneling squeaks loudly. Per rolls are called for. Sigh.

GM:  Brody recognizes the Tian pictographs as being representative of various martial philosophies from that land.
Staver: I actually can read Broken Tian

+Douglas Cole : ((We’re in the freakin’ dojo of the Cobra Kai, aren’t we?))
+Nathan Joy : ((Just a lil))

All the PCs but Cadmus notice that the sides of the pillars are very rough, nearly unfinished. We suspect “Eye of the Tiger” or “Fight for your Honor” is about to start playing, and the ever-watchful Brody is looking out for the ninjas that keep trying to disembowel him. We also suspect that these are support beams for the hall upstairs. Wooden support beams. Ick – wish they were stone.

Warm the Pet Troll is following Brody around like a rabid puppy. 

Brody asks him “What’s in here.”
The troll ominously replies “Quiet.” 

A. Freakin’. Troll. Wants us to be quiet. Crap.

There are a ton of doors in this room; the first unlocked door swings open silently to Brody’s subtle nudge. It is a shrine to the Yama King – the same deity the bird-ninja’s of Alcatraz were worshipping earlier.

Brody:  “Right, Ninja bedroom. Check the others, see if there’s anything interesting.”
Michel: “Shouldn’t you stab the bed and the space and everything? Just in case?”
Brody: “If I was going to get stabbed, it would have happened by now.”
Thumvar: “Riiight, now you’ve done it”
Michel: “I suppose, but they’re sneaky.”

Brody’s probably not wrong. As a hedge, Thumvar and Brody open all doors that are openable, and they all have the same double-mats and shrine to the Yama King, patron deity of assassins. Yay. We find 10 small jade raven statues, one per mat. Only ornamental; they become loot.

Michel:  I may be honest, but I’m greedy, and I think statues belonging to devotees of the god of murder are clearly the former property of outlaws. 

Michel scored +1 Rationalization point.

Epic Ninja Battle
We continue to search the area, and Michel opens up the door that Cadmus refrained from opening, due to its being different.

GM: Hokay, Cadmus is gazing curiously into the empty cell.
Michel: Taps the walls of the empty, smaller cell with the blunt end of his glaive.
GM: Michel starts to walk towards him, when a bunch of small gray objects come flying down from the rafters.

And here we go . . . Staver has received initiative.

Cadmus: I hate to say it, but “Shields UP”
Michel: “Gozreh’s wings!”
Staver: Oh boy.
GM: They impact the ground near you all. Two near Brody, four near Staver, Cadmus, and Michel, and two near Warm and Thumvar. As the small objects impact the floor, they detonate.
Cadmus: And everyone heard me say “this door’s different,” right?

Yeesh. Four HT-3 rolls called for. Cadmus fails three of the four. Warm makes his. Michel fails two of four, Thumvar fails one, Staver fails a few, and we’re all Stunned. Yeesh. Thumvar burns a destiny point to not be stunned, because he only failed the one roll. The rest of us have to make a single HT-3 roll to recover. With a 37% chance to succeed with effective HT 9, I should wake up in 2-3 rounds on the average.

Plenty of time for us to get murderized. Well, perhaps it was Cadmus’ fate.

Eight figures roll out of the rafters up above, and all of them throw spears at Thumvar. Now, granted, Thumvar has DR 14 or so between his tough gargoyle hide and a bunch of plate armor. But that’s a lot of spears, and all potentially hit (thrown with Skill-16!). The four un-defendable hits for 8, 11, 6, and 7 impaling – but all “ping” off his torso armor. Thumvar reflexively blocks the flanking spears (one successfully) and dodges one of the others. The final two hit for 10 and 11, but again go “ping.”

That’s a lot of bouncing spears. Thumvar’s hard to hurt.

+Mark Langsdorf : Good job drawing aggro, Ted. I approve!
+Theodore Briggs : Woot! ninjas need to work out more. New armor? Totally worth every penny.

Thumvar makes up for the spear barrage by flying up and doing a Heroic Flying Axe Cut to one of these guys’ left legs, and he fails to parry. 17 cutting damage and he plummets to the floor, leaving a trail of arterial red. Booyah.

Cadmus rolls to recover from stun, and critically succeeds. Nate +Nathan Joy

lets me act this turn as a result; Cadmus’ nearest foe is one yard over . . . and seven up. He prays to Pharasma to drive evil from him. This is Enhanced Protection from Evil, which will force malign evil stuff away from me based on my margin of success. I hope to make some of these guys fall down off their perches. We’ll see.

Michel unstuns himself; Brody does not.

Cadmus’ nearest oppressor flings three objects at him, which burst into flame when they hit him. No cut damage, but 9 burn, 8 of which fails to get through his torso armor, but 1 burn does, so I’m on fire. Yay. -2 DX and 1d-4 damage per turn, with a ready maneuver and a DX roll required to put it out.

Staver is, alas, still stunned.

Two monks scurry along handholds and grab at Thumvar with two hands each. He blocks and dodges the first monk successfully, succeeds and then Critically Succeeds an Axe Parry with the second, who is not wounded thanks to some sort of arm protection. Guess this monster saw the recommendations in Technical Grappling. Meanwhile, Cadmus completes his prayer, and will push away evil within a 9-yard radius. We’ll see if they’re evil. He also burns for 1 HP. Being on fire isn’t much fun.

Michel steps and concentrates, casting a Concussion spell, trusting Thumvar to withstand the blast.

Thumvar drops down and chops at his stunned foe (results of the critical parry) with a massive deceptive attack, which his foe fails to dodge. This results in an atypically low 9 cut damage, just shy of his minimum. Alas. Thumvar sad; he makes himself happy by spending a Knight! point for a re-roll, and it mysteriously becomes 18 cut (which is his MAX roll, so booyah). Major wound, yep: prone, stunned, bleeding heavily. But not dead, so yow, because unarmored that’s 27 injury – so he’s got some protection under them robes.

Brody is still stunned. Warm actually tees off on a ninja with a deceptive attack from the flank. The nimble little minx dives forward and dodges. The figure that has been flinging firebombs at Cadmus rolls around the side of a beam and disappears. No telling if this is because of Cadmus’ prayer. None of the monks flee, but many reposition themselves around our party, “breathtakingly fast,” so says the GM.

Thumvar is up, and goes and lands to conserve fatigue. Cadmus chops at the neck of a nearby foe, who parries. Michel steps up next to Cadmus and lobs his stunball and rereadies his glaive. Five monks and Warm all have to make HT-3 rolls. Two monks fail, as does Warm. Alas. Still, two stunned, three still in the fight. And our troll is going to be pissed at us.

Staver, having recovered from stun, and launches two arrows, one each at the vitals of two foes. The first ducks under the arrow, the second is stunned and flanked and takes 8 imp to the vitals; the Major Wound check at -5 goes in our favor, and he’s down and out of the fight.

That was Team Ameiko; Team Shadow Monk is now up. Both of those stunned but not out recover from their stun and will act again next turn. Sadness. They fail to gang up on us, and one goes after Cadmus, one on Michel, and the last (likely soon to be departed) vs. Thumvar. They all swing their kamas at us (which I mistake for kusari, and block rather than parry), and all are successfully defended against. Go Team Ameiko. . . but Cadmus needs a breather to get his Righteous Fury on.

Thumvar swoops over his foe for a flying flank attack, doing his trademark Dual-Weapon Attack with his shield and axe. That’s total of -7 on the defense rolls (-2 flank, -2 above, -1 DWA, -2 DA). Flippy ninja monk dodges the shield, eats the axe for 14 cut. He does not suffer stun/knockdown from his major wound. He’s hurting but not out.

Cadmus steps back and gets his Righteous Fury on. Next turn he’ll roll 1d6 three times, and (GM house rule) assign the rolls as he likes. I almost always go DX, ST, HT.

Michel steps back, shifts his glaive to Reach 2, and stabs from a distance, keeping to Cadmus’ far flank (always hide behind the meat shield). Monk does a dodging retreat, and makes it easily.

Brody still fails to recover from stun. I offer to burn an unspent character point for him, just so Kevin can do something – handwave it as praying, but anything to get him back in the game.

A dart flies out of the darkness at Thumvar’s back . . . but misses. Stupid monk leader person.

Staver fires two arrows at two targets, and the one with the shock penalty gets hit – it barely penetrates his side. They must have DR 4-6. Cadmus should do pretty well with Shrivener’s (2) armor divisor, if he can ever lay a blade on these guys. If he can rock out with a good boost to DX, he can start Rapid Striking at full skill and/or major Deceptive bonus.

One of the monks starts waving his hands in a Hypnotic pattern at Thumvar, who loses the contest by 11 thanks to a really good roll by the Monk. Stunned for 11 turns. Yow. There goes our most effective combatant.

Cadmus’ foe tries to knock Shrivener away and also chops at his torso; Cadmus parries and dodges. He takes a whack at his nearest foe, then a long step (Committed Atack) at hypnotic hands guy. The first attack strikes home, though it’s a graze. But a graze with a named penetrating axe is still ugly. The second is dodged with a critical success. Cadmus can block or dodge at -2, but not parry.

Cadmus’ Righteous Fury takes effect, but only rolls 3,3,2. I use my Holy Warrior! point to reroll, for 4, 2, 2. Meh to both. But Cadmus is now DX 17, ST 16 (Striking ST 17), and HT 14. Not the best roll ever, but +4 to DX doesn’t ever hurt.

Brother Michel tries to chop at his nearest foe, that Cadmus hit and bypassed; despite his wounds, he dodges.

Brody still doesn’t recover from stun. Warm, on the other hand, must have recovered when we didn’t look, because he runs up and tackles one of the monks, slamming him into a wooden column. 


We call it a night.

Some out of character talk after the fight:

I note that I would really like to see what this sort of combat would have been lke with Action Points. Some of those “stunned for 10 rounds” might be better to take with people actually pausing for a few seconds to recover

Nate suggests that his next DF game would be “All clerical magic uses divine power, all arcane magic uses threshold based realm magic, and action points for everyone.”

We poll the audience for three house rules:  1) all afflictions get +1 per round to resist, 2) shock penalties effect defenses, and 3) shock penalties are halved (round down) each turn.

Pretty sure we’re definitely going to do #1, but probably pass on 2 and 3. We’ll see when we pick up the fight next week.

GM: +Jeromy French
Players: +Douglas Cole +Matt Sutton +kung fu hillbilly +Joshua Taylor

We pretty much leaped directly into combat, crashing our ship into two others that were grappling together, a “fellow” pirate and their quarry.

We were able to pilot our ship unnoticed towards the two vessels, and slammed our ship into the smaller of the two, and the only one that was armed.

Pel started off the combat, quaffing an invisibility potion provided by Gimble ( +Joshua Taylor‘s character), who is our resident far-too-helpful alchemist (remember, this ability is the one that makes my inner destroyer of munchkin’s cry). Still, poof, I was gone and then I shot two arrows at the bad guys, Sneak Attack, and nailed him.

Malgrim ( +Matt Sutton)  I think cleaved two foes, Gimble set someone (or several someone’s) on fire, and then we saw that there were spellcasters involved on the other team. Alejandro ( +kung fu hillbilly ) rapiers him successfully and nails him with a dagger as well for about 12 points. Definitely got his attemtion.

Atori the magic watersnake misses; these guys have decent AC.

Gimble flings another firebomb at the guy who threw a ball of fire at him (not a fireball, but a ball of fire; definite difference). He hits, but some of the flame seems to actually absorb into his skin. Five other neighboring marines also are splashed with this flaming mix (alchemy bomb) and have to make DC 15 Reflex saves. At the end of the round, five foes are on fire, and no PCs were accidentally lit up. For Gimble, that’s a notable improvement.

Malgrim, who’s drunk a potion of bull strength, and usually operates under Enlarge Person, makes another good use of Reach and enlarge, does Great Cleave and kills two.

Pel looses two arrows at two targets, nearly gets a crit on one, but solid shots on both. He scores 14 points of Sneak Attack damage on each, killing both.

Malgrim draws fire from two marines, both of whom hit and land a total of 17 HP of damage. Two more run over to Alejandro, and another closes on Pel.

Bad guys’ attack. Atori the Wonder Worm gets slashed for 6 HP by a flaming marine. Marine8 attacks Pel for 5 HP. The twe marines facing Alejandro get all fancy against AC 19 and hit him for something like 16 HP.

Alejandro strikes back at one of his foes, hitting for 6 HP. Those on fire continue to burn for 7 HP each. Gimble himself casts Invisibility on Alejandro, and seeks the high ground (hey, it worked for Obi-Wan). Malgrim does his cuisinart impression, and misses both of his potential foes.

Pel tries to bluff his way into invisibility, rolls a 1 (still good for a 10), which means he is left to leap overboard (Pel swims like a fish), but takes 5 HP due to extreme bellyflopping, since Pel rolled 2 1’s in a row, this time for Acrobatics.

The two marines swing at the now-invisible (Concealed) Alejandro and miss. Two marines gang up on Atori the Wonder Worm and while the potential flanker misses (punk), the other hits for 6 HP.

Alejandro breaks his invisibility to hit a marine from the flank for 7 HP; Atori back-slithers and nails the marine-on-fire with 13 HP, killing him. Gimble casts Targeted Bomb Admixture on his stuff, which prevents them from getting all explody, and moves behind his quarry. Malgrim, however, Cleaves and kills two in a row again.

Pel climbs up the side of the ship with his Rope Master ability, and since he also has Fast Stealth, he rolls 31 for Stealth and becomes one with the background. This was basically the plan for leaping overboard. Turns out I do not swim like a fish; I misremembered something from Character Generation. Still, this is what I wanted. I’m all sneaky behind the captain, who seems pretty much like a badass.

Alejandro’s marine tries to slash at him, but drops his sword. (oops). Gimble’s foe chops at him, misses.

Alejandro swings and misses; Atori does another 13 HP of damage to his foe and flings the corpse overboard. Gimble drinks a potion of shield and runs through his foe’s space, and the attack of opportunity swings idly by. He throws a bomb directly on the captain, nailing her for 13 HP (and this will continue to burn for full damage rolls for three turns).

Pel sneaks over and fires two sneak attack arrows into the captain, both hit, and scores 34 HP. That’s all she wrote for the Captain, and the single most effective attack Pel’s ever thrown.

Someone comes up behind Alejandro and guts him for 10 HP, reducing him to -2 HP. The disarmed guy punches at Gimble (AC 25 now), provoking a decisively feeble return strike.

Atori eats the disarmed marine, while Gimble heals Alejandro with Cure Light Wounds, bringing him back to 9 HP and now suddenly hale and robust; Pel gives Alejandro another potion for another 8 HP.

The marine swings at Pel; he misses. Alejandro steps and casts Hold Person at the last man standing, which holds him successfully. We lash that marine to the (unburning) mast.

Most of the other ship’s cargo has already been transferred to the unburning ship by the pirates we just killed. So there are about 7-8 of the original sailors surived our attack, and another 14 from those we saved, plus about 25 on our own ship. Time to split crews. Pel and Alejandro crew the newly acquired vessel with the 14 we

The minimum crew for each ship to navigate is 20 people. So we’ve got 47 crew for the two ships, and can sail them to port. We find many barrels of liquor, rum, and sailing logs. Pel looks around and digs out a secret compartment in the Captain’s quarters, with some personal effects, one of which is a marriage licence, plus a few bars of gold and a bag of gems. The spellcasters have tatoos on them; magical glyphs of dragons and waves – so no real plunder there other than spell components.

We dig into the marriage licence a bit, out of curiousity. There’s something that’s a marriage of convenience where you contract as a legal marriage for a certain number of time; this was a method to create alliances between pirates. The captain’s log also mentioned replenishing supplies at Tidewater Rock; there was a rumor that it was impenetrable, but they thought there was a way to assail it.

We broke there, having determined to sail back to a “friendly,” or at least “not so hostile” port and use Gimble’s black market contacts to offload the ship. We’re also going to nab some of the ballistae from our new-found acquisition and make some firing ports in our cargo hold. Anachronistic is trumped by Awesome any day of the week.

A few days ago I posted this sketch of the local area that will become the Krail’s Folly stomping grounds.

I think it’s a relatively compelling little map. But powerpoint just sucks as a graphics tool.

Fortunately, I have two other tools at my disposal. ProFantasy’s Campaign Cartographer 3, and Fractal Mapper 8.

Unfortunately, I suck at both of them, and need to crawl up the learning curve for both.

So, I will. But I’m also inviting anyone who likes maps to try their hand at it as well, as a fun challenge. I’ll post all responses, and ones that particular suit my ideas of the setting can expand on what they did, how they did it, and why in a guest-post. Woo hoo, exciting, eh?

Edit: Luka Rejec dropped by on Google+ and dropped off a link to his work. It’s spectacularly good. I was thinking to aspire only to “better than powerpoint,” which is a low bar. But if something that cool shows up, well . . . ain’t gonna complain now, is I?

Here’s a submission by +Jeromy French, who annotates his map as follows:

 My idea of a place called Frostharrow should be a more northern area where it can be legitimately cold. Thinking an area enclosed by mountains with a frozen forest sounded cool. I agreed and copied your marsh idea. When I immediately read the word Granite Halls I thought of an abandoned city carved out of stone. 

This one has the key geographic features all in a line, instead of demarcating a box within which the adventurers will bounce around. It labels the Granite Halls as a key landmark, and he had the same thought I did about the Gray Marshes: big-ass river flowing through it. This probably means from a crop-growing standpoint that if the PCs at least start from the Marshes and north, they’ll have coastline, a breadbasket, and a constant threat from the mountains and hills in the west, assuming that the Granite Halls are still occupied.

That being said, having the Granite Halls be a place instead of a region is really interesting, and bears serious consideration!

Zuke Prime over on Google+ just sent in a new entry, and it’s a doozy. He used Campaign Cartographer 3 in black and white mode. It’s a very, very pretty map.

I’m brand new to CC3 and mapmaking in general, so this is my official “first attempt.” The key to CC3 is working in a logical, layered approach. You always start with the landmass/coastline, then add your significant terrain features, then rivers/lakes. After that you “populate” it with towns and features.The biggest difficulty for me is editing out mistakes and trying to get the right sheet effects to kick in. What I love about CC3 is it allows noobs like me to produce cools maps in minimal time.

However! I’d probably change it a bit in certain ways. I think there’s too much forbidding terrain and not enough inherently desirable about the area that adventurers would want to carve out land there. But maybe not. There are a few places on the map that would make great landholdings, and the scale of the place – that bar is 100 miles – means you can get 10,000 square miles of freehold in three different places that aren’t swamp or mountains. So perhaps this is just fine. As always, I’ll invite him to comment on why he made his map, and in this case, how! That may well be a post of its own, since lessons in CC3 are independently valuable!

Of course, we can’t leave out the actual author of the campaign, +Jason Packer . He has been working on his own map, of course! His campaign will be called The Taming of the Eastlands, and you can follow his progress in campaign design over at RPGSnob. Maybe I’ll sign up to play!

In a previous post, I linked to +Jason Packer‘s concept for a Dungeon Fantasy sandbox campaign. In it, he posits a royal command, given by someone named King Krail, to reclaim an area bordered by some pretty distinct geography.

In short, he sketches out a sandbox, evocatively enough that it begs many questions, some of which are always relevant to any game, some of which may be a bit too rich for a stereotypical Dungeon Fantasy campaign. That being said, my experience is that while it is possible to run some sort of mindless hack and slash game, DF supports quite a bit more.

In any case, let’s start with the geography:

Describing the Sandbox of Krail’s Folly

I picture a large land area. The geographic features that Jason describes don’t always or necessarily coexist. So I want something that would take quite a while to travel across, perhaps weeks to months. So if I give people a walking pace of 2mph, and assume travel of 8 hours per day, taking two to four weeks to journey across this land gives something like 250-500 miles. That could be something roughly as large as the state of Montana, which might be a bit big. Maybe Maine would be a better example. A very large area (coincidentally, about the same land area as Portugal) that can be geographically distinct and diverse.

That makes it theoretically possible to cross on foot in about two weeks or so if you’re really focused on getting from A to B.
What else can we tell from the writeup? Let’s recap what that is:

“By decree of King Krail II, all lands east of Frostharrow, from the Gray Marshes in the south to the Granite Halls in the north, and as far east as the Broken Coast are to be reclaimed and purged of bandits, brigands and any fell creatures of The Blight. Any person who can carve out a portion of this land for him or herself and hold it against the forces of chaos and predation for a period of one year shall be granted possession of that land, for him or herself and any future heirs, in perpetuity, with appropriate title bestowed by the will of the king, with all rights and responsibilities attached thereto.”

So, to the North we have the Granite Halls. That sounds mountainous and forbidding to me; a natural geographic barrier. If you have Dwarves in your campaign, they’re going to live here, if they are sterotypical miners and dwellers. For some reason, though, they don’t live in this region. Or maybe they do.

To the south we have the Gray Marshes. OK, cool. Lots of standing water, maybe an extensive river delta. This makes some sense to me, since to the east we have the “Broken Coast.” So this monster land area borders a large body of water, probably an ocean or large sea. Maybe something like the Mediterranean. Warm (thus swamp) and fertile, and thus valuable. That it’s not under “civilized” governance means there’s something actively preventing it, likely.

Mwa ha ha.

We also have something called Frostharrow. Well, that sounds cold, and it’s the west, or maybe northwest, presumably. Maybe it’s another mountain range, or a glacier coming off of a range. Yeah, I like that. Maybe a glacier that extends south from the Granite halls. So maybe we have something like this:

Who’s this Krail guy, and why do we care?
OK, so we also have someone named King Krail, who is offering up this territory. What’s his deal? Well, if this land is so valuable, why isn’t Krail going after it himself?
Perhaps he tried and failed. So he’d like to do it himself, in an organized way, but he’s failed. So he’d rather go to volunteers, in the form of PCs, to do what he and his army can’t.
Perhaps he would like to try, but he’s unable. His army is small, untrained, or unwilling. Even more interesting, he would do this in a cold second, but some rival is holding his attention and power elsewhere in his realm. So his most experienced troops, the hardiest fighters, the mages most deeply steeped in arcane lore are all otherwise occupied to the southwest. The PCs are needed because no one else in the King’s direct employ is available – though if the PCs become troublesome, part of the problem (they turn bandit themselves), there is recourse for the King to deal with them.
Another point to consider is why Krail wants this area cleared out. 
  • He is trying to create dutiful nobles because of factional politics
  • His great-great-great-great grandparents were rulers or nobles in the area, and it’s a family legacy thing
  • The monsters and bandits are disrupting his ability to rule his current area
  • There is a legend or reality of great power or riches in the area – but he personally won’t be getting them, it’ll be the PCs. 
  • +Peter V. Dell’Orto makes a great comment below, so I’ll edit: Maybe Krail just wants to conquer this stuff, because he likes to conquer things, and this area is available. Hell, it may be fully inhabited by a functioning civilization, but one that’s just other enough to look like ‘creatures from the blight.’
  • Another variant that comes from the more scheming version of Krail is that he’s giving those most likely to give him trouble an excuse to trouble someone else.
What did this region used to be like?

One thing that makes this all kinds of fun is if this area used to contain some mighty civilization. Rome at its height or something. So there are tons of ruined fortresses, mines, dungeons, and ruined (or partially inhabited) cities. This gives all kinds of excuses for small “dungeons” occupied by all sorts of critters.
What’s this Blight thing?
Ooo. A source of nastiness. Maybe it’s a particular locale, like the Blight in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. Maybe “the Blight” is delocalized. It’s a connection between this world and some other realm, plane, or dimension from which foul creatures spring. That’s your Wandering Monster right there.
Net/net
This simple one-paragraph description that +Jason Packer provided leads rapidly to all sorts of plot-rich thoughts. 
Really fun stuff.

Thursday is GURPS-day, and +Jason Packer just threw down the gauntlet. In one paragraph, plus some short supporting details, he sketched out enough of a compelling sandbox game intro to make me want to start running this exact setting in a game of my own.

I love it. I love it so much that I will repost the first paragraph (with Jason’s permission) and make adulatory comments.

“By decree of King Krail II, all lands east of Frostharrow, from the Gray Marshes in the south to the Granite Halls in the north, and as far east as the Broken Coast are to be reclaimed and purged of bandits, brigands and any fell creatures of The Blight. Any person who can carve out a portion of this land for him or herself and hold it against the forces of chaos and predation for a period of one year shall be granted possession of that land, for him or herself and any future heirs, in perpetuity, with appropriate title bestowed by the will of the king, with all rights and responsibilities attached thereto.”

OK, why is this awesome?

  • It immediately sets the boundaries, geographically, of the campaign. The GM has just said “I’m going to give you a map of the area, and if you want to explore beyond it, you’re dumb.” The King has offered estates and title to anyone who can take and hold land in this area, but no other. There’s simply no reason to leave the sandbox. 
  • Part of the genre convention of DF is a very Munchkin-like “kill the bad guys and take their stuff.” This Royal Dispensation tells you that all brigands and foul creatures in this area are “Other” by law, and it’s not just genre convention but your Solemn Duty as a Subject of the Realm to kick ass and take names
  • It sets up that “Fell Creatures of the Blight” are involved. So, look, monsters exist, no surprise.
  • There’s built-in continuity. Once you take land, you have to hold it. 
Seriously: I want to run this.

GM: +Nathan Joy
Players: +Douglas Cole , +Mark Langsdorf , +Kevin Smyth , +Theodore Briggs , +Emily Smirle
Reference for this game 

We start in media res. There’s no Ravenscraeg 3 because I didn’t write up last Thursday’s game. We’d gone upstairs in the tower, and been jumped by a bunch of demon ninja or something. Then a few air elementals showed up, and then Thumvar, the Knight, went up some stairs and found a bloodraven, who threatened him in plain language.

Two air elementals, called Stormy2 and Stormy3 are in the local area. Cadmus had just done Protection from Evil (Enhanced), causing all of the pesky Ninjas – some sort of demonic bird-thing with supernatural durability  – to jump out of far-too-convenient windows. Thumvar, our Knight, had wandered upstairs, and managed to likely walk into the Big Boss encounter with a really big “bloodraven.”

Who immediately cast a spell at him. Unknown effect. Stormy2 throws air back at Brother Michel – a cone attack. Stormy3 fires off a lightning spell at Brody’s flank. It hits for a graze, and the graze, at half damage is still 3d6 (2) burn surge, roll of 16. He’s on the ground, stunned, suffering a major wound.

Yow. Things are not starting off well for Team Ameiko.

Staver does an acrobatic flippy thing over or through Cadmus to get into the room, off the stairs. Lucky him. In the Out-of-Character chat window, we all start fretting about our inability to damage or injury translucent air elementals. Time to seriously think about how we effectively deal with various DF-style threats that don’t respond well to bifurcation via axes.

Thumvar activates the Magic Resistance on his own Named Possession, Svalinn the Axe. Cadmus steps and prays for generic intervention from Pharasma against air elementals. Michel casts a 2d explosive fireball, which will do stuff next turn.

Thumvar gets pecked at by a “black shape,” presumably some sort of construct or spell. Thumvar blocks, which triggers the spell. Some discussion ensues about resisted spells and the general complexity and poor integration of GURPS Magic. There’s an initial roll to cast the spell, and then resisted spells get a second roll. OK, good, important safety tip.

We debate what Thumvar’s about to get nailed with after he fails his roll. The effects bear repeating in full:

You suddenly feel unpleasantly warm. You are Nauseated: you have -2 to all attrib-ute and skill rolls, and -1 to active defenses. As well, roll vs. HT after you eat, are exposed to a foul odor, fail a Fright Check, or are stunned, and every hour in free fall or in any situa-tion where you might suffer motion sickness. A rich meal in the past hour gives -2; anti-nausea remedies give +2. On a failure, you vomit for (25 – HT) seconds – treat as Retching, below. More fun will occur on your turn.

Um. Yow.

Stormy2 drifts closer to Michel and hits him with a horizontal cyclone, which knocks him back a hex. No real impact otherwise, so that’s at least not too bad. Stormy3 chucks an unwelcome lightning bolt at Cadmus, who manages to dodge out of the way.

Brody recovers from his stun, but pretends to still be stunned with an Acting roll. Staver charges up the stairs to shoot arrows at the bloodraven. Thumvar charges up the stairs as well, looking to smite some bloodraven butt.

Cadmus’ turn comes along, and we see what Pharasma has to say in response to his prayer. The entire group feels a tremendous pressure, as with the gaze of, well, a God. Staver, our Infernal, feels like he’s covered in bees. Yucky. Figuring Gods help those who help themselves, he also swings at the elementals torso. And the axe hits the elemental like hitting a tree. The elemental disappears into mist. Yay, Holy Pharasma.

Michel tosses his explosive fireball at the other elemental, and hits it in the face. Vaporized. Fire and Divine Assistance for the win. That’s good: 6d lightning bolts are No Fun.

That leaves the bloodraven and some missing demon ninjas.

…and a bloodthirsty swarm of ravens. Sigh. Why does it always have to be birds. Fortunately, when they swarm around Staver, she’s covered in enough DR to ignore their pecking, at least this turn. Brody chucks a ninja flashbomb, which blinds the swarm, but not the rest of us, and the swarm flaps around confused. Staver leaps backwards, draws a 3d explosive fireball arrow found in a previous adventure, and hits for 10 points, x3 for internal. Kaboom, burning feathers are all that remain.

Staver: “I need more of those.”

Indeed.

Thumvar continues to fight off nausea, and looks around, since our bloodraven quarry seems to have gone missing. Crap. Invisible birds? Teleport? He passes, more or less, and Cadmus starts to head up the stairs. Michel fast-draws a healing potion, and Brody likewise tries (and fails) to Fast-Draw a Healing Stone.

Brody then notices the formerly missing bird-ninja, popping up conveniently (for them) behind various PCs on the lower floor. Staver gets stabbed for 8 imp, while Michel, who is perceptive enough to get a defense, but not agile enough to dodge, gets nailed for 14 injury. Naturally, the weapons are poisoned; Staver gets hit for 4 toxic damage, while Michel, who made his HT roll to resist poison, takes the minimum 1 point of damage. Dwarven constitution for the win.

Guess Cadmus shoulda stayed downstairs. These are demon ninjas, so his Smite (auto-hit 2d burn to all malign supernatural creatures in 4 yard radius) might come in handy.

Thumvar is still rolling HT each turn for nausea from the bloodraven spell, and goes 3-for-3 in making is roll. Cadmus fails to notice anything upstairs, hears the pained screams from downstairs, and books back down. Getting his exorcise. Get it? Exorcise?

Well, Staver’s an infernal, so I can’t Smite near him. So I Heroic Charge, and wind up right behind the guy who just stabbed Brother Michel. I do a Deceptive Attack to the torso, because sneaky ninja, and am glad when he makes a Blindfighting roll and gets to defend anyway. He fails, and I deliver 9 (2) cut to his back; he takes probably 10-12 injury, and falls forward, maybe dead.

Michel does not go unconscious, and drinks his healing potion that was meant for Brody. Heals 12 injury, which is pretty sweet.

Brody too moves away from the ninja and crushes the healing stone to himself, but Brody’s player was pulled away to a tech support call, so we moved on without noting the results publicly.

Staver turns around, draws a demonsbane arrow – his only one, but clearly no time like the present – and shoots the guy with it. 9 imp for the arrow itself, plus 4d more for demonsbane. The demon explodes with a splortch into purple-green ichor. We like results like that.

The last ninja runs out of the window. Again.

Thumvar (again! 4-for-4!) makes his HT roll to resist the effects of the bloodraven’s spell, and jumps back down to the first floor.

We have a break for a moment. Michel figures out that Thumvar’s inflicted with Burning Death, and Cadmus heals Brody from 6/12 to 12/12, taking the injury on himself. Six minutes to recover that. Hope we don’t get attacked in that time.

We then beat feet down to the basement of the tower, hoping to find and slay the bloodraven. Assuming the raven was real. Maybe a construct. Anyway, through a couple of doors, but MapTool is lagging so badly in movement and graphics updates that it’s painful to explore manually.

We decide to head through a passage that branches off north, but is interrupted by running water. There’s a bell and clapper in the wall on the near side of the stream. Cadmus suspects hinkiness, but the successful Holy Warrior roll goes unnoticed, or unimportant, or both. In retrospect, the GM thought my Holy Warrior roll for “detect hinkiness” was jumping the stream. Ah ha.

There’s a five-yard plank that’s nearly a yard wide, and we do something to it, but for the life of me, I can’t parse what it was, or what we did. The lag is bad enough we decide to call it for the night.

Edit: OK, all but Michel jump across the three-yard stream of running water. Michel asks Cadmus to hand him the 3′ wide by 15′ long plank, which thanks to a well-made ST roll (I hate ST rolls) he does. Two trolls come shambling down the hall; Michel plans on negotiating with them. We’ll see how that goes.

Peter posted a note on who’s doing play reports on Dungeon Fantasy games. In the comments section, +Mark Langsdorf notes that my play reports for +Nathan Joy‘s Jade Regent game were sporadic. +Peter V. Dell’Orto noted that he mostly saw me posting on Pathfinder, which I play with +Jeromy French and others.

I thought about that, and came to a conclusion on why:

The Pathfinder game uses Google Hangouts, webcams, and Roll20. This means most of my actions are verbal. “Pel notes that he’s going down the hall.” “I attack the bug-eyed fish monster.” Whatever.

This means that my fingers are mostly not occupied except while I am typing in roll commands into the die roller. I can transcribe, almost blow-for-blow, what’s going on in the background and still uphold my obligations to the group by being an active participant in the fun.

On the GURPS game, we play on MapTool with Skype, all chat, all the time. In order to keep up with what’s going on, I have to keep close tabs on two different chat windows. I therefore have a harder time doing real-time transcription, and thus often don’t get around to going back to it retroactively. Time is precious, etc. Everything I do is text, so when I’m interacting in the OOC window or the game window, I’m not transcribing.

I honestly much prefer the video feed. I find it more social, more fun, and more like the gaming experience I wish to have. I do prefer MapTool to Roll20 for GURPS, by far – actually, I like the MT abilities a lot, and the provided critical hit stuff and the way it does rolls works well for GURPS.

But anyway, that’s the skinny. I’m sure I could scour the game chatlogs and turn it into a play report. No interest in that. I like my free-form commentary. So the Jade Regent reports will continue to be sporadic.

Alas.

Last time in +Jeromy French ‘s Skull and Shackles campaign was a pretty epic fight with a mummy that had killed a lot of Pathfinders, and that had a amulet that allowed it to convert good energy (which really should kill it) into healing dark energy. Oops. We killed it, but it was a close thing.

***

Today’s adventure starts with us becoming aware of a huge ship that moored itself at the river mouth that our vessel had sailed up, blocking our exit. It’s a large warship with actual cannon on it.

+Matt Sutton dispatches his flying (swimming?) minion with telepathy-o-vision. It’s a huge ship, with many dozens of people on it. They’ll be getting water in the morning.

Our resident alchemist, +Joshua Taylor notes he has potions of Alter Self, and comes up with a ruse to make people try and leave, so we can slip by. Naturally, there are dinosaurs on the island. Important safety tip. Oh, and the potions only last 10 minutes. Hrm.

Next idea: sail by quietly, but cause as much havoc as possible as we try and slip by. We contemplate cutting the pulley system connecting the wheel to the rudder. Gotta involve fire somehow too, and an actual powder magazine is going to be hard to pass up.

We decide to send Pel (me) aboard with some potions of Alter Self, making me look more like a Chilaxian. I get on board late at night, make a quick trip to the wheel pulley mechanism, then out.

At least, that’s the plan. I am given a few Alter Self potions, a Wand of Nature’s Ally, three vials of Alchemist’s Fire, and a two-part epoxy called alchemical glue. Also a climbing aid. And a vial of brewed rot. Really foul smelling stuff.

I roll a natural 20 on my stealth roll, for a 33, and a 19 with the climbing aid gives me a 36. I spot an easy way into the wheelhouse room.

I climb into the wheelhouse, and do not make the two people sitting there aware of my presence. These pirate hunters are a nuisance, but they’re not so numerous or powerful that it’s worth uniting the shackles to counter them.

I elect to split a Rapid Shot sneak attack on each one, which crits on the first shot, and nearly kills – but not all the way – the second guy.

The officer turns and nails me with an axe for mild damage. I split shots again, and kill the second guy. The officer and I trade a couple shots, and I eventually kill him, but until he lets out a shout.

I saw at the rope until marines open the door, and then I chuck the bottle of nauseating rot at them. Next round I chuck the alchemists fire at the wheelhouse pulleys; the marine swings at me ineffectually.

Now Pel is faced with three angry marines, and the need to hit the rope one more time. I loose two arrows at my assailants, one miss, one hit.

One marine slips on the vomit of the other’s sickness and falls down, the second and third both swing cutlasses at me. One miss, one hit, minimal damage. I draw my rapier and cut through the remaining rope. One nicks me, and I dive through the window. Alas, my plans to fire the powder magazine will never come to fruition. I drink a Potion of the Sea and then climb back onto my own ship as it sails by.

The larger warship fires a few ballista bolts at us, but no real impact. I’m down to less than half of my HP, having been hit for 23 HP in the battle; the other ship rapidly finds they can’t steer.

I give Alejandro ( +kung fu hillbilly)   his wand back; he’d despaired of it’s return when I started fighting five other guys. I get some healing (back up to 26/36).

We replenish our water stores, and sail around for a while. We notice a fishing trawler with loose sails, and a fishing net that’s not fishing. No occupants, and it’s clearly taking on water. Malgrim sends his water serpent, Atori, to check it out, and finds a coral “underwater magical carpet” just hovering there, that scraped out the bottom (Pel guesses). There are some sea creatures (Sahuagin) gnawing on human remains as well.

But hmmm, the coral thing is magical. Naturally we decide to check it out and try and kick some fish ass. There look to be five of these guys.

Malgrim steps on board the fishing trawler, and they jump up through hatches on the deck; naturally Malgrim uses Cleave to hack at both, the first for 3d6+10 damage, nailing him with 20 HP in one blow. Second guy gets the same treatment. A good start.

Atori the water snake bites and misses.

Alejandro’s up, and also pierces his foe decisively. Only minimal damage. Pel’s turn, attacks a different sahuaguin twice for 8 HP.

Our foes attack Alejandro, to no good purpose. Gimble ( +Joshua Taylor) chucks a firebomb at one, forcing Alejandro to dodge, making a DC 15 reflex save, as well as the other two fishmen. Alejandro burns for 6 HP.

Malgrim steps up and rolls another killing blow, but misses the cleave; the snake successfully chomps the remainder, killing the last one.

Gimble uses a magic weapon to push Alejandro into the water with a hydropump to extinguish him. The bard is not amused. He also grabs the magical coral raft while he’s at it.

For loot, the coral raft/carpet/thing there’s some small amount of treasure. Some jewelry and whatnot. A bunch of wet dried fish (huh?). The magic underwater carpet responds to Aquan, so Alejandro can command the thing. Can fit 5 people on it. Woo hoo.

We then, a few days later, come across another pirate vessel grappled to another ship, which is currently on fire. There’s active combat going on here. A confused situation that we can exploit.

Perhaps next time.