The B4 Delve continues tonight!
Hugo Nominee NK Jemisin wants Chuck Tingle gone.
Chuck Tingle stands up to the bullying because LOVE IS REAL!
See, here is the thing: even if you think it is inappropriate or ridiculous that Tingle got a nomination, how freaking inappropriate is it for one nominee for an award (even if in a different category) to tell another that they should withdraw? Frankly, I find it disgusting.
Another thing about Tingle; I had my doubts, but honestly, Tingle’s stuff is HILARIOUS! Most folks who aren’t immediately creeped out and turned off by the gay can’t help but find the guy and his stuff a riot. Yesterday I saw someone say “did you ever think we put Tingle on there because he’s awesome?”, and yeah, I gotta say, especially what I’ve seen the last two days from him on twitter and in his interviews, that I agree.
Yesterday I even found a reading of his nominated story on youtube. It’s like a less preachy Left Hand of Darkness. (warning: VERY NSFW!)
On a tangentially related note, it’s strange seeing the folks wailing about My Little Pony getting a nod, considering short form is almost always full of comic book shows and Dr. Who. Because god knows that a cartoon is going to taint the prestige of something frequently given to a reboot of a crusty old children show from 50 years ago.
Back at the end of February, Zach Glazar quite generously sent me a PDF version of Lesser Gnome’s new module, Death & Taxes, as a try before you buy. The timing was rather unfortunate as that was right when I was about ready to start sending out copies of Cirsova #1 followed by the two month reading period for issues 2-4. I was worried that I wouldn’t have time to get to it!
Well, I still may not have time to get to it in any deep or meaningful way (that is, actually playing/running it), but the other day my friend snatched up a copy with Tenkar’s promo-code for me as an early birthday present! I’m just now getting to run B4, which he got me last year, so it could very well be a year before I get to Death & Taxes, but I at least wanted to comment on what I’ve had a chance to thumb through so far.
Components & Feelies
I love the sealed letter. The minis that come with it are great, and if I ever get some money to blow on a ton of minis, I still might get the version that has the boatload of them someday. All of the books and maps are high quality, and I’m thankful that they include the maps as separate sheets as well as being included in the booklets.
Layout & Looks
The books look very nice and have some stunning artwork to accompany many of the entries. I can see why, however, DMs are turning to tablets and PCs to run stuff off PDFs on the screen; as nice as these books are, the floppy saddle-stitches of the days of yore are much more table friendly than the (admittedly lovely) perfect bound books.
I don’t want to dig too deeply into this, because a part of me desperately hopes I can get someone else to run this and I can experience this on the player side of the table, but I couldn’t resist taking a few peeks. Death & Taxes looks dense; this is a module that looks like it would take some pretty intense study to run; certainly not a pick-up-and-play, at any rate. I feel like it would take weeks of going through the books, inside and out, over and over, to do justice to the vision that Lesser Gnome has put forward with this. Also, I’ll need a dictionary to look up a lot of words and pronunciations; I feel like I have a decent vocabulary, but I’ll admit, there are a lot of words I’m either unfamiliar with or at least have never had need to say aloud. I can see this as a potential stumbling block for both myself and players, should I need to look up or be asked to explain the meaning of this or that thing. It’s bad enough having to pronounce names like Usamigaras and Madarua.
I hope that at some point I’ll be able to give this a real review, either as a DM or a Player, but right now, I’ll say that this looks like a beautiful but incredibly challenging module to run. It’s not quite into the territory of Die, Vecna, Die! as a module to be read rather than run, but I think it comes a bit closer than I’d be comfortable attempting to run. What I want to know is what the hell the +1 Petticoat gives its +1 to!
So a few of my picks made it!
Huge congrats to Jeffro Johnson, Douglas Ernst, and Kukuruyo.
Also, to the Castalia House family which I’m honored to be a part of.
A bunch of my picks were underdogs, so I didn’t expect them to get it, but hey, some of the names I’d floated even before SP4/RP2 made it. The only real shame is that TIE Fighter didn’t make Dramatic Short Form.
I am, as has been pointed out, more “puppy-adjacent” than I am a Puppy, but I really can’t help but rub my hands together in glee over a few of these, particularly Kukuruyo, whom I DID vote for, and Chuck Tingle.
I wasn’t sure if I’d spring for a voting membership this year, but I think I just might… Also, yay for the Leigh Brackett in the Retros!
Fletcher Vredenburgh at Black Gate has a positively glowing review of the inaugural issue of Cirsova Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine.
Cirsova has built a stage for writers to tell stories with narrative force, audacious adventure, and outlandishly magnificent settings. If this is what the first issue looks like, I expect future ones will blow me away.
And just a reminder – since I’ll be cutting the last round of checks to fill out the rest of this year’s issues over the next two weeks, now would be a great time to buy a copy of issue #1!
Things proceeded a bit more smoothly in our second session of the Lost City. I had time to better flesh out the factions and even come up with some mini-quests that each side would possibly offer.
The Brotherhood of Gorm are followers of a god of justice and law, so despite their chauvinism and inability to get on smashingly with Usamigaras and Madarua, I’ve set them up to be a sort of facilitator faction; this plays well into the fact that these are the first guys the party met and with whom they are staying.
Usamigaras’ followers, as magic users, I’ve decided are a bit more capricious as a faction; they think that both Gorm and Madarua’s followers are too stodgy and serious.
Madarua’s followers are similar to Gorm’s in many respects, though their misandry leads them to disliking both Gorm and Usamigaras as male-led factions. They dislike Usamigaras’ faction a bit more, as they have to share a tier together, and would like to see Gorm and Usamigaras’ followers at each other’s throats so that the women can get down to business.
Brother Kanadius of the Brotherhood of Gorm has decided that it’s time for a council of war to discuss dealing with the Priests of Zargon. He has therefore tasked one of their PC initiates with delivering letters to the other factions inviting them to parley. This gave the PCs a reason to find and meet the other factions.
I did give Usamigaras and Madarua faction specific quest options in which they would attempt to foment discord between the other two groups, but neither of these have really come up yet. They still may eventually. Part of Kanadius’ task for the party was make sure that the other factions aren’t trying to kill each other, so the PCs are awkwardly trying to mediate between the factions. So far, I believe one player has a character who has joined Gorm and a character who has joined Madarua, while two players have one character each who has joined Usamigaras.
I’ve also gone ahead and determined what each faction sees as a goal that the players can help them with in the dungeon to aid them in their long-term plans; the faction leaders will discuss these during their council of war and, of course, fail to agree on which MacGuffins are more important. This council will, however, give the PCs a reason to plunge into the undead hell of Tier 4 to find some sweet swag which they will be tasked with finding.
Much of the session was spent clearing out Tier 3 and meeting the factions. The rotating room puzzle at the heart of Tier 3 provided the best possible use of a Read Languages spell. Tada! Suddenly the wonky runes are Cardinal and Ordinal directions!
The party evaded a small swarm of Cave Locusts by spinning the room to a new direction. They impressively made the correct choice when rotating the wand-arm of the statue of Usamigaras and found the back way to the faction’s area. There was a rough fight with a bunch of oil beetles, but the party managed to just survive it without losses. The magi were grateful that their food supply was saved. The followers of Madarua proved surly and taciturn, but welcomed one party member into their ranks. Note on Madarua’s faction area – those ladies must all sleep on the ground or something; they don’t have any quarters!
The party did a spectacular job of taking care of the Draco Lizard in the NW corner of the pyramid; they lured it into an oil-trap they’d set, and it burned up real good (2 8s on 2 d8s + two successful ranged attacks!); it didn’t even matter that the part of the plan where they’d cast sleep on it was doomed to fail (Draco lizards are just barely too powerful to be sleeped).
On the way to find the trap door to level 3, the party was ambushed by a pack of giant weasels which, if I hadn’t been employing shield-break rules, would’ve killed at LEAST two PC, if not more. The yellow mold room was wisely avoided, and the party tried stealing the vases from the Jester’s Tomb. I think they’re going to try to floating disc his sarcophagus, move it to a more remote part of the dungeon, and use the trick-jars to stash loot. I approve of this and will probably let them run with it.
So, a few things I’ve noticed – non-individual initiative is taking a bit for people to get used to, not because it’s significantly different, but everyone wants it to be their turn and roll their attacks right away; instead I’m making everyone take turns, going around the table. It makes me feel vaguely parental in an unpleasant way, but I still think it’s preferable to the countdown method.
I am also begrudgingly beginning to admit that maybe ascending AC is a good thing. I hate that feeling when players are looking at me like I’m stupid when I ask what AC they hit. “I rolled a 14!” “What AC did you hit?” “I… rolled… a 14?” I feel like it’s too late to switch now, but I think the next time I run a game for people, I’ll go ahead and convert everything to ascending…
There’s also some—I don’t really know what to call it; it’s not exactly griping—comments/feelings about XP and leveling up among the players, especially those relatively new to RPGs. Someone pointed out that we averaged about 36 XP per hour that we played (it was actually 288 XP per hour split 8 ways), and at that rate it would take forever to reach level 2. Once upon a time, I would’ve felt the same way, and even told someone once that if characters were still level 1 after the first few sessions, something was wrong. I know now that I was wrong then, but I don’t know how to show this to my players. There’s definitely a focus on leveling (at least one player admits to being a recovering MMORPGer) in newschool gaming, that makes it hard for folks to kick back and enjoy the adventure and perils that 1st level adventuring has to offer. I mean, they killed a bunch of giant bugs, a pack of weasels and a Draco Lizard without losing a single party member! It was a near run thing with the weasels, but no one died.
Hopefully the grumbling is more observational than actual complaint; we didn’t level particularly fast in DCC, where after months of playing, the highest level character is my 4th level Thief (who still only has 10 HP). Still, DCC is a higher HP system, where you get half a hit die at level 0 and it uses a base d8 rather than a base d6. Its ‘XP for encountering something’ system rewards Scooby-Doo-esque running through halls, opening doors, seeing monsters, slamming doors, then running to another door behavior, though if we weren’t being allowed to buy XP with gold, we would almost certainly be hovering around 2nd level still. I’ve run the numbers on B4, and the first 5 tiers, monster XP excluded, has enough treasure to get a huge party to level 3 (Thieves and Clerics may hit level 4, even), and if it takes two-to-three weeks to clear Tier 4 and three-to-four weeks to clear Tier 5, everyone could easily be level 3 in about a month to a month and a half. I’m not old enough to be all “Back in my day, we only had three levels, and we liked it!”, but seriously! I’m hoping folks will be come to appreciate low-level B/X for what it is. Despite this, everyone seems to be having a good time, and as long as they are, I’ll be happy.
And man! Players are always concerned about details that never specified in modules and are usually overlooked in dungeon design, especially pertaining to doors: “What do the hinges on this door look like?” “Does the door open inward, outwards or swing freely?” “Are the hinges on the right or the left?” You’ll save yourself a headache if you go in beforehand and mark this sort of stuff up. I at least had sense to figure that the doors coming off of the rotating room all open away from the moving part so that they wouldn’t snap or get jammed when the corridor spins.
“Hey, Tom Moldvay – would it have killed you to make the names in this module easier to pronounce?”
Important Update: We are pretty full up – at this point, we are already looking at options to keep too many good stories from bumping one another out of our available slots. We have decided that it would be better to close submissions a week early rather than be forced to send out more rejection letters to authors competing in an already crowded pool of submissions.
We’ve received nearly 100 stories, many of which were the sort of excellent and exciting pulpy yarn we’re looking for. We are already juggling and weighing which stories can go into issue 4 and whether or not we can squeeze one or two more into issues 2 & 3, but it’s reached the point where we are going to have to say “no” to stories that we really like. That’s already pretty awful without having to add to that list.
Again, a reminder, if you have not heard from us already, your story is still under consideration, and you should be hearing from us soon. We will begin making offers in the next couple of weeks.
Our submission period will reopen in the fall to purchase content for 2017.
A little follow up to last week’s music post…
If the Zombies in Thief were scary, the Hammer Haunts were absolutely terrifying. The second that one of them knew where you were, many of the rest of them would know soon as well. From well over 100 feet away, a Haunt that saw you would not only know where you were but know how to get there by the shortest means. Even if you could get away, they would keep looking for you, and unless you found a really good hiding spot, there was a good chance they would still find you. If a Haunt saw you and there was nothing between him and you, you were pretty much done for – unlike many of the human guards or the rather weak Monkey Men, Haunts are far better swordsmen than Garrett; even if they don’t block your first or even second attack, they will quickly slice you pieces in a matter of seconds. There’s little worse than in Return to the Haunted Cathedral when all three of the patrolling Haunts in the main Cathedral floor are alerted to your presence and make a beeline for you, even cutting through boarded up doors to do so.
Fortunately, once you were out of the Cathedral and into the second half of the mission, you could set up a kill zone in the quad between St. Tennor’s and St. Jenel’s; after killing the first one or two with backstabs, you’d have multiple zombies, multiple haunts and a ghost all looking for you, and you’d have to carefully toss out mines and bide your time lest one of these grim dudes gets within 50 feet of you. It took about 10 minutes of patience and planning, but if you were lucky, the undead carnage on the quad would account for most of the remaining enemies in that oh-so-dreadful mission.
HD 4+2 (15HP)
Damage: 1-6 or weapon
No. Appearing: 1-4
Save As: F4
Treasure Type: Nil
Haunts are vicious and incredibly dangerous undead warriors whose fanaticism in life has carried over and beyond the grave into their unlife. Haunts are surprisingly human in their apparent behavior and may well be mistaken for the living until approached or seen head-on. As with all undead, haunts are unaffected by Sleep or Charm and are unaffected by mind control. Unlike many lesser undead, Haunts are clever hunters and can easily (4 in 6 chance when within 50’ or less) locate nearby living trespassers, including those hiding in shadows. A Haunt will pursue its prey until one or the other is vanquished. Haunts may only be turned by clerics of the gods they served in life. If taken by surprise (1 in 6 change), a Haunt may be dispatched single successful backstab.
One of the problems that D&D has, I feel, is that low level undead just aren’t all that scary. Ghouls are frightening because they have paralysis and aetherial undead are terrifying because of their level drain, but Zombies and Skeletons tend to be kind of boring mooks who are usually less threatening than encountering a group of 1st level human bandits. Besides, they can be turned! The only real ‘scary’ part is that they don’t have to make morale checks, so you have to kill all of them. As such, the only way that skeletons or zombies are a real threat is if you throw a ton of them at the party.
Thief: the Dark Project is one of the few places where small numbers of undead are truly scary – they’re very different from how your living (even monstrous living) opponents behave. While Ghosts are creepy and hard to kill, and Hammer Haunts cut you to pieces in seconds once they find you (and they WILL find you), I think that how Thief treats Zombies is particularly special. They’re always in the way, they’re always groaning loudly, and, unless you’ve got things planned just so, you can’t kill them. One zombie can be an annoyance, but two zombies can be downright deadly. Once you have 4 or more zombies on you, it’s time to hit the quickload button.
So here’s a reimagining of the B/X zombie based on those found in Thief: The Dark Project.
HD 2 + 3* (15HP)
Attacks: 1 weapon
Damage: 1-8 or weapon
No. Appearing: 2-8 (4-24)
Save As: F1
Treasure Type: Nil
Zombies are undead humans or demi-humans animated by powerful curses and evil magics that stone and steel alone cannot unmake. As all undead, they may be “Turned” by a cleric but are not affected by sleep or charm spells or any form of mind reading. They typically resemble normal rotting and bloated corpses, and when still may be indistinguishable from a normal corpse. If approached by a living creature foolish enough to linger about (3 rounds), the Zombie will rise and attack. Treat prone Zombies as having 3 HP; upon rising, a Zombie will have its full 15 HP. After receiving 12 HP of damage, a risen Zombie will fall prone and remain so until a living creature remains nearby for 3 rounds, at which time the Zombie will rise with full health. Zombies will always attack last regardless of initiative.
Zombies can only be killed with fire or Holy Water. Holy Water will do 3d6 damage to Zombies. Zombies that are turned do not run away but will fall prone.
I’ll probably be stating out some more monsters from Thief over the next few days, including Burricks, Hammer Haunts, Insect Beasts, Fire Spirits, Crab Men and Crab Beasts, and Monkey Men. I’ll be working on a few base assumptions, including d6 hit dice and Garrett as a d4 thief of around 4th level; I may even stat him.