Saving Throws, Pulp Heroes and D&D

Every once in awhile, you’ll hear the complaint that lower level D&D characters don’t feel like the heroic characters from pulp adventures on account of how fragile they are. The low HP means that a couple of good hits will kill those lower level characters, whether in fights or to traps or even something as ignominious as falling down a flight of stairs.

One of my counters to this is that most pulp heroes would be at the lower end of mid-level, contra to what is suggested in many of those old articles where Gary and friends would stat up Cugel or Eric John Stark as being well into double digits with massive pools of HP to prevent low-level PCs from being able to meet and kill these characters just because they were there and they could (though I’m sure they did).

Another bug-bear of oldschool games is the saving throw, particularly in save or die situations. Why should a character with all of that HP be insta-killed?! It’s just not fair! A character who can take 8 full-on sword wounds shouldn’t be able to die just because he was bitten by a snake or had a rock fall on his head!  Besides, that’s entirely unpulpy, right?!

Well, take this from Tarzan at the Earth’s Core, at a point in his career where he’s probably level 27 and has a gorillion hit points:

Tarzan remained very quiet. He did not wish to frighten it away for he realized that one of them must be the prey of the carnivore sneaking upon them, but if he expected the thag to be frightened he soon realized his error in judgment for, uttering low grumblings, the great bull pawed the earth with a front foot, and then, lowering his massive horns, gored it angrily, and the ape-man knew that he was working his short temper up to charging pitch; nor did it seem that this was to take long for already he was advancing menacingly to the accompaniment of thunderous bellowing. His tail was up and his head down as he broke into the trot that precluded the charge.

The ape-man realized that if he was ever struck by those massive horns or that heavy head, his skull would be crushed like an eggshell.

The dizzy spinning that had been caused by the first stretching of the rawhide to his weight had lessened to a gentle turning motion; so that sometimes he faced the thag and sometimes in the opposite direction. The utter helplessness of his position galled the ape-man and gave him more concern than any consideration of impending death. From childhood he had walked hand in hand with the Grim Reaper and he had looked upon death in so many forms that it held no terror for him. He knew that it was the final experience of all created things, that it must as inevitably come to him as to others and while he loved life and did not wish to die, its mere approach induced within him no futile hysteria. But to die without a chance to fight for life was not such an end as Tarzan of the Apes would have chosen. And now, as his body slowly revolved and his eyes were turned away from the charging thag, his heart sank at the thought that he was not even to be vouchsafed the meager satisfaction of meeting death face to face.

Tarzan, with all of his HP was forced to make save-vs-death against some kind of charging inner-earth dire oryx. His saving throw numbers are probably really low at this point, and he probably could’ve made it with anything but a nat 1, but it was still going to be a case of instant-death regardless of how many hit points he has.

This ties back into the game theory that HP doesn’t represent actual wounds but exhaustion and the character’s ability to fight on under pressure in extreme circumstance. Of course, you also might say that it would not be very pulpy to fail your saving throw and be instantly killed, but D&D is a game, and without a genuine sense of risk, your game can end up in a boring slump where everyone knows that everyone is going to live no matter what, so why bother faking the suspense? And in those cases where your life is on the line AND YOU MAKE IT, how much more awesome is it? It makes those times when you could’ve lost your character but didn’t all the more special.

Review: Assault on the Review of Nations

Assault on the Review of Nations is a 1st level adventure for the OSR system Shitlord: the Triggering. It is the first 3rd party product for the system and is available for free here from the Mixed GM.

Assault on the Review of Nations has the appearance of a fairly straight-forward dungeon crawl, though does have a few interesting opportunities for roleplay and negotiations which leave the module open ended.

The map, created by Gozzy’s “Random Dungeon Map Creator” is fairly generic, and comes more from the Holmes school of dungeon design than the Gygaxian. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself, however it would’ve been cool to see something that captured the flavor of the Review of Nations, maybe something that looked like an eagle or somesuch. Still, it’s serviceable and, as this is a 1st level adventure, will not be too difficult for a neophyte mapper to get a handle on.

Judging by the wandering monster encounters, this would probably be best for a smaller group; with the exception of the giant beetles, whose 2d6 numbers could easily end up as a TPK at first level, most random encounters would be a pushover for a standard 6-man B/X party. I’d recommend adjusting the number of monsters by an additional die or die size for each additional Player beyond the 3rd.

Though showing the page number where the monsters may be found in the Shit:T core book is helpful, including a simple statblock would be nice.

One interesting direction taken with the Cheese Puff Golem and Lou Richly are the bonus hit points. Typically, with monsters that are X HD + Y, the Y will most often be 1 and almost never greater than X. The plus generally functions as a way to prevent 1HP monsters, make monsters just a touch more powerful, and negate an obscure Fighter bonus. The Cheese Puff Golem and Lou Richly are 2HD + 10 and 3HD + 9 respectively. That’s something you almost never see, but has a few interesting mechanical implications. Monster attacks in B/X are primarily based on their hit dice – the more hit dice they have, the better the chance they have to hit. With these bonuses, you have monsters with roughly 5 Hit Dice worth of HP only attacking with +2 and +3. This makes encountering them much more survivable by 1st level characters with decent armor while allowing them to take a bit of a walloping.

Overall, this is an amusing little adventure that will help you bring the joke to your table if that’s something you really want to do. Perfect for a one-off gag. Not meaty enough if you’re wanting to run a ‘serious’ adventure, but there’s only so much seriousness to begin with if you’re playing Shitlord. Let’s face it, while someone COULD put together something of the scope of Death & Taxes for S:tT, at that point it’s almost missing the joke.

The Wise Red Fellow

AC: 0
HD: 12****
Move: 90’ (30’)*
Attacks: Gaze / 2 claws + 1 bite
Damage: Special / 2d6 each + Special/
No Appearing: 1
Save As: F12
Morale: 12
Alignment: Chaotic

The Wise Red Fellow stands well over 9 feet tall, even though his body appears to be that of a frail and stooped old man. His body is hunched over to support his enormous triangular head.

The head of this creature appears to always face the person observing it, even if directly behind it. Any individual caught in the Wise Red Fellow’s gaze must save vs. paralysis or be transfixed. If the victim succeeds on their saving throw, they must again make a saving throw against spells at -4 or be affected as per the spell Fear. Dwarves need not make the first saving throw and suffer no penalty on the second. Elves need not make either saving throw.

The Wise Red Fellow will move towards a paralyzed target, taking two rounds to reach them regardless of distance. Upon reaching the victim, the Wise Red Fellow will swallow them whole. Characters killed in this manner cannot be restored outside of a Wish spell.

If forced to fight, the Wise Red Fellow will attack with its two long-clawed hands. If both claw attacks hit, the Wise Red Fellow does no damage but will attempt a bite attack; if the bit attack succeeds, it does no damage, but the Wise Red Fellow will swallow its victim whole.

The Wise Red Fellow is immune to spells cast by Elves. Damage dealt to the Wise Red Fellow by magical weapons is halved.

The Wise Red Fellow is thought to be either a demon or a creature of fey, perhaps even a forgotten god. Legend holds that its head is filled and weighted with polished stones and its heart is an uncut ruby that oozes blood on the solstices. Supposedly, it possesses the knowledge of all beings it has consumed; some witches claim it can be summoned and petitioned for aid on an equinox by pouring sacrificial blood onto uncut rubies.

They Did the Mash: Revelry at Pickett Castle

After all these years, I finally ran Revelry at Pickett Castle.  I used a combination of B/X (for stats & bonuses) and Blueholme (OD&D’s spellbook rules) with ascending AC. While I didn’t take the dice out of my players hands, I rolled saves for them so they had one less thing to worry about on their character sheets.

To make the most of our time for the evening, I created a handful of pre-gen characters, each with alliterative names and duplicate DM copies so I could better keep track of everyone.

From our pool of 9 characters, we ended up having a party of Elmuth the Elf, Harry the Halfling, Margot the Mage, Paul the Priest (Cleric), Mack the (Magic User) Knife, and Nicole the Nun (cleric). Unused were Thisban the Thief, Dirk the Dwarf, and Alice the Archer.

I’m glad that someone picked Mack the Knife; in the constraints of the B/X class system, I’d made a mage of mediocre stats an effective bard type character, giving him a bundle of throwing knives and a banjo of magic missiles to compensate for his smaller 13 INT spellbook. More about him later.

Each character had some random junk in addition to basic class equipment: a bag of rice, some fancy cheeses and liquors, cooking oil, a cold potato, etc.. Mostly just weird items to see what players might end up trying to do with stuff. They did not disappoint.

Since Pickett’s Castle is meant to be dropped off in a wilderness while the party is on the way to some place, I needed to come up with a decent excuse for them to have to check it out. So, a local constable of a village in the forest had charged them with investigating the causes of mysterious fogs and sightings of undead in the woods. Naturally, the party wanted to set out in the morning.

Obscuring fog hampered travel a bit, and the party meandered through the woods and stumbled on an old graveyard while following various wolf-trails.  The old graveyard had all sorts of holes in it; some seemingly freshly dug by hand, some where things had seemed to burst forth from the ground, and others where wolves seemed to have dug up shallow graves. Seeing a pack of wolves in one corner of the graveyard, the party skirted around the edge and headed to a small hovel opposite from where the wolves were. Inside, they found a scared-witless grave-keeper who told them that over the past several days, dead had been rising from their graves, and a strange pack of wolves had been keeping him from leaving the graveyard. The bizarre occurrences began happening shortly after he had received a mysterious note, written in what looked like blood—an invitation to a party at Pickett Castle on the night of the full moon.

The party dealt with the wolves and freed the gravekeeper to flee back to the relative safety of the village. They continued in the general direction of the rumored castle, and while the fog still had not lifted by midday, they managed to find the ruins of a road leading northward. As they headed north, the scouting Halfling heard some grumbling voices while others in the rear of the party heard the sound of hooves and wheels upon the ruined road. The party scattered, clearing the road; a carriage pulled by four black stallions raced by at unnatural speed, a strange dog-thing’s head out the window, its tongue hanging out. It appeared to be wearing shades. “Aawoooo!” it shouted as it rode by.

(Since the party had set out for the castle early, they crossed paths with the DJ who was on his way with his gear.)

The zombies were still ahead down the road after the carriage had passed. The party made fairly short work of them, noting that they were nicely dressed, as zombies go. They decided to try to disguise themselves as zombies to sneak into the party; they did, after all, have the zombies’ invitations.

Eventually, everyone reached the castle; some zombies and ghouls were milling about on the far side of the bridge, so the party decided to wait a bit. Some of those milling about went inside, and the party crossed the bridge. One of the zombies at the door counted out on his remaining fingers… “I thought there were supposed to be five of you.” With Mack the Knife in the lead, with his banjo of magic missiles, the party had been mistaken for the band.

Folks looked around and saw that the party was still in the process of being setup, though some refreshments were being served. The first thing the party figured was that there were probably too many undead to take in a straight fight, and the Vampires hadn’t even shown up yet.

Boris waved the party into his laboratory, and explained that he had thought the castle was abandoned and was conducting important experiments, but apparently a powerful vampire lord had a timeshare on the Castle and was planning something big. His experiment required the power of the full moon and the aid of his assistant, who’d been chained up outside. He needed the monsters out before it was too late to use his machine, and he would pay the party handsomely. (The ‘party getting out of hand’ angle wouldn’t work, since the players arrived before the party actually started).

They managed to find Igor chained up outside, and rather than search for the key, they stuck one of the clerics’ mace in between the chain links and cast enlarge on it, snapping the dope free. They got the fool back to Boris without much trouble, but began to worry what would happen if the real band arrived. They left and told the zombie bouncers they were going to get their instruments and would be back to setup soon.

The sun was almost down, and a large bat could be seen flying toward the castle as the party headed south, where they ran into the Crypt Kicker Five. Mack the Knife took initiative and said “We’re the band, now!” The Crypt Kicker Five challenged them to a jam-off, one which they’d surely win, since only the only instruments the party had were Mack’s banjo and harmonica and Nicole’s mouth-harp. Instead, Mack opened with a chord that zapped the Crypt Kicker’s vocalist with a magic missile, downing him from the go. The remaining members of the band, the bassist, drummer, guitarist, and saxophonist, charged the party, instruments swinging. Paul the Priest mangled his leg in the fight, but the gang returned to the party with (some rather banged up) instruments to keep the charade running a bit longer.

They found Drac, who seemed to be in charge and had very big plans for the evening. He was thrilled that band had shown up, but had promised wolfman that he’d be allowed to do his DJ set for a few more hours because he a friend of brother-in-law, Geoffrey.

The magic users in the party made use of the Read Thoughts spell on both Drac and Boris. Boris’s plan involved harnessing the light of the full moon to power a device that let him contact an intelligence beyond the stars. Drac’s plan seemed to involve a cake. This presented a conundrum, as Boris’s plan sounded like a disaster for humanity, but Dracula hadn’t offered them 8000 gold.

Harry the Halfling managed to wheedle out of Drac that he was throwing a birthday party for his son and had a surprise for him. Somehow, the party managed to convince Dracula that it would be great to play their set outside, since they could work pyrotechnics (courtesy of Margot the Mage) into their set and it would be awesome. Plus, it would give Wolfman a bit more time to do his thing while they set up a bon-fire.

They took some time to explore the rest of the tiny castle. Mack the Knife smoked the bad zombie weed, died and came back as a Thriller zombie. They didn’t stick around to piss off the ghoul couple who was making out. In the master bedroom, they found not only the key to Igor’s chains, but a six-foot layered red cake. Mack the Knife tried to take a taste of the icing, rolled a 1, fell into the cake and right into Drac’s surprise for his son – Alucard’s girlfriend Nancy, who was going to burst out of the cake and sing him happy birthday. Nancy ripped off Mack’s arm and was in position to do some serious damage, but Elmuth the elf threw out a handful of rice and Harry the Halfling managed to stake her with his half-spear while she was compelled to count it. With the cake smashed, Drac’s future daughter-in-law dead, and the Crypt-Kicker Five buried out in the woods, the party was pretty ruined, but that didn’t take care of Boris’ need for the monsters to be cleared out before morning.

At this point, panic in set in, and the party floated several really interest and bad ideas for what to do next. Even though they chucked Nancy and the cake out the window, there really wasn’t any way to clean up the huge mess they’d made. So, they went for an all-or-nothing gambit to kill Dracula (which still wouldn’t have ended the party). What they settled on was papering the window with pages from Paul the Priest’s prayer book, holding portal on door and then trying to kill him while he was trapped counting rice.

While this went on, Harry the Halfling tried to assure Drac that everything was still fine, they knew about the surprise cake, and they’d help with moving it to where they were going to put on the show.

Wolfman has switched to playing doo-wop; Dracula goes into the master bedroom, his jaw drops – first thing he sees is the cake is gone, then he notices the bloodbath, then the rice on the floor as the door slams behind him. The party hoped they could take him while he was counting rice, but Drac had made pretty quick work of his counting (“I taught myself to count by tens for just such occasions!”). Still, he was cornered and outnumbered; he threw the bedtable through the window, knocking away the pages from the prayer book and managed to make his escape after suffering a few wounds. He did manage to rip of Mack the Knife’s legs before he misted out the window, though!

The party went back down to Boris’s lab, cast Charm on him and convinced him they needed to move the gold from his vault to a safer location. After the gold was loaded up into a sack which Igor would carry, the party threw Boris down the ravine, thwarting his plans to speak to shadows beyond the stars, and fled the region with the cash, never to return. Dracula, Alucard and Geoff would descend upon the region, seeking vengeance and making the populace suffer for generations for what had been, but the chars escaped with their lives (except Mack who was now a stumpy zombie body with one arm) and a ton of wealth.

 

So, a couple things: a few players weren’t really familiar with the concept of one-offs and it took them a bit of adjusting. One of the cleric players asked what deities there were to choose from in this setting; “God & Jesus” I told them. At least one player had some issues with the consistency of the setting “Why does the Wolfman have Victrolas? I thought this was a medieval setting.” “He also has sunglasses, too,” I reminded her.

Once the players grasped that there was not going to be a ‘next session’, they realized that no ideas were bad ideas, just fun ideas. One of the many plans which was eventually discarded, was that they’d cast Darkness on the Cold Potato and use it… somehow. But a throwable sphere of darkness could’ve been interesting if they’d tossed it onto the dance floor. Another idea, which would’ve actually worked really well, was to spike one of the drinks with wolfsbane and give it to Wolfman; he’d’ve died, music would’ve stopped, Frankenstein’s monster would’ve run amuck, and they could’ve cleared out the place. Some folks asked me if any of the items I’d given them were for specific things or ways to finish the module; nope, I just gave them weird stuff and wanted to see what they’d do with them. I’d almost forgotten the part about how vampires are OCD and compelled to count things when the player used the bag of rice I’d given him to distract the vamps.

The one older guy in our group was the only one who really “got” a lot of the references and understood the gag of the module, while another seemed under the mistaken impression at first that this was going to be a serious affair. Once it actually clicked with one player that the module was based on a song, he started looking up the lyrics in hopes that it would give them ideas for how to complete it. Normally, I’d frown on that sort of thing, but it wasn’t going to help him that much, and hey, a kid who’d never heard the Monster Mash was looking it up, so that’s cool.

Everybody had a good time, and I had a lot of fun, because it let me do a lot of weird character interaction improv that I just wasn’t able to do with Lost City. Yeah, I didn’t run my own module as written, but it worked well as a flexible template to do a lot of weird, fun things with.

Why Lengthy Character Creation is Detrimental to Gaming

Inspired in part by this post at Word of Stelios.

darkdungeonparody

Just one reason not to play 3e or Pathfinder.

I’ve made no bones about my preference for B/X and lighter systems. I’ll admit, I used to enjoy 3e, but nowadays, it’s something I would only play if I did not really have a choice.

While I understand that there are people who genuinely enjoy all of the twinking and min-maxing and character engineering involved in 3e and its clones, I now strongly feel that it is potentially ruinous to the game, the DM, and players.

In games like B/X or DCC, you’re typically looking at a range of 2-5 minute character creation for experienced players to 15-20 minute character creation for someone’s first ever time playing D&D. Not everyone wants pre-gens, and people are more likely to feel a connection with a character they themselves rolled up, but in that case, Char-gen only eats up a few minutes of gaming time. On the other hand, even software assisted, character creation for games in the 3e family can take a VERY long time.

One constraint this puts on the group is a barrier to new players; unless you have spare characters lying around, it’s harder to bring a new person, especially one new to gaming, into the group simply because of the time it would take to create a character of their very own.

People who have invested a ton of time into a perfectly crafted twinked out character are going to be more likely to be attached to it in a bad way. You’ve spent possibly hours on this special vampiric-angel-werekitty snowflake, and you’ll be damned if anything happens to xir! The character-build centric aspect of the game means you’re more likely to have players who are focused on their character rather than the party or the game or, in some cases, even having fun. It also creates additional burdens on the DM.

DMs will feel the need to tailor their game around these lovingly hand-crafted characters, nerf things and pull punches for a couple of reasons. While one, of course, is avoiding hurting the feelings of someone who spent so much time on their character, another is a simple matter of time – do you really want to have to either pause the game or have a player drop out for an hour or more while they optimize their feat trees, allocate skill points, and note all of the class and race advantages of having paws, three tails, horns, elf-ears and bird feet? No, of course not!

And at that point, you’re not really playing a game. You’re having people roll dice until you arbitrarily decide to move the story forward, either slowing or speeding up the narrative pace to suit what the players are doing. If a DM isn’t nerfing things, though, lengthy char gen makes rage-quitting after losing a character almost understandable, because who wants to go through all of that again before rejoining play?

Another problem with super-complex character builds a game that’s death-free? It doesn’t give players a chance to really explore new things in the system and in the game’s world.

Killing characters will make your game better and can make it more fun for everyone. But it only works if making a new character isn’t an arduous chore.

The first character death is always the hardest; “Damn!” they’ll think, “I just lost the game, I suck, this sucks!” That’s why it should happen early on; treat it as a normal ‘fact-of-life’ part of the game and an opportunity to try something new. Once players see character death as a chance to experiment with both class and roleplaying, they’ll not only be less likely to hold character death personally against a DM, they might even look forward to it! It’ll mean more cool and risky heroics, more big-damn heroic sacrifices, and more awesome ‘round-the-campfire’ stories of ‘that awesome guy who died in a crazy way’.

 

Danmaku Girls – Bullet Hell Bossfights for B/X

touhou - Izayoi Sakuya5

“You see an exasperated girl wearing a dress and an apron using a mop to clear cobwebs from around the wizard’s door. You’ve caught her eye; she stops sweeping and throws 10 million knives at you. The next thing you know, the entire room is filled with dancing fire and glowing blades. Roll initiative.”

You’d only think I was kidding when I said that the toughest video game boss fights are little girls if you haven’t played any of the Touhou games.

I haven’t playtested this yet, but I decided to try statting out a Danmaku Girl. Recommended for occasional boss use only and for higher level parties.

Armor Class: 7 (12)
Hit Dice: 10-20HD*** (S-M)
Move: 30′ (60′ flying)
Attacks: Special (See Barrage below)
Damage: 10d4 – 20d4
No. Appearing: 1d4
Save As: F5-10
ML: *
Treasure Type: H
Intelligence: 14
Alignment: Chaotic
Monster Type: Humanoid (enchanted)

Very powerful trickster spirits sometimes manifest themselves in the form of petulant young girls who are often wont to cause chaos in the human world when they are able to enter it.  They are more akin to fey than demons, though less powerful spirits may be bound into the service of demons to either guard shrines or perform menial labor. They hold favorable anyone who is able to defeat them.  At times, very powerful human priestesses and wizards have mastered similar feats of mystic combat that they employ to subdue the more aggressive spirits.

Barrage – A Danmaku Girl will surround herself with complex patterns of magical fire, ice shards, missiles, knives, and swords, some in seemingly random arrays, some in patterns and some targeting opponents.  A Danmaku Girl’s barrage will constantly be in effect during combat and extends for a 150′ radius. At the end of each round, all combatants take 1d4 damage for each of the Danmaku Girl’s Hit Dice (roll separate for each combatant). Individuals may save vs. breath to negate all damage. Individuals who have moved during the round and are not in melee with the Danmaku Girl may add INT, WIS and DEX bonus to their saving throw.

Roll to determine damage type before the saving throw is made:
1. Fire
2. Cold
3. Electric
4. Magic
5. Divine
6. Physical
7. Negative
8. Acid

Individuals may apply specific bonuses to their saving throws if they are relevant to the type of damage. Only a shield bonus may be applied to physical damage.

Spell Cards – In addition to their normal barrage, Danmaku Girls have powerful spell-like effects used by playing spell cards (similar to scrolls); each Danmaku Girl will have 1d6+1 spell cards that will increase the complexity and change nature of their attack patterns. Each Spell Card lasts 1d4+1 rounds. Each Spell Card attack has two of the following effects:

1. Shielding Patterns: AC Bonus – Danmaku Girl’s AC will be 0 (19) for duration of the Spell Card
2. Intensified Patterns: All individuals in the area must make 2 saving throws per round against the Barrage for the duration of the spell card.
3. Confusing Patterns: Individuals may not add stat bonus to saving throw (1-2 Dex, 3-4 Int, 5-6 Wis) for the duration of the spell card.
4. Targeted Patterns: One target per round gets no saving throw bonus for the duration of the spell card.
5. Radiating Patterns: Individuals in melee range with the Danmaku Girl get no saving throws for the duration of the spell card.
6. Obscuring Patterns: Individuals moving more than half their movement rate may not add stat bonuses to their saving throw.

The Danmaku Girl’s Barrage may not be dispelled or countered. A spell card may be ended early by a Dispel Magic or similar spell; Dispel Magic will not affect unused spell cards.

A Danmaku Girl will always surrender if she has no Spell Cards left or if she is below 1/4 of her starting HP. She will reward victors with a portion of her treasure and give one of the following scrolls for each spell card duration completed that she was not the target of 3rd level or higher spells or effects:

1. Prismatic Spray
2. Maze
3. Prismatic Sphere
4. Prismatic Wall
5. Delayed Blast Fireball
6. Hallucinatory Terrain
7. Meteor Swarm
8. Pyrotechnics
9. Magic Missile
10. Hypnotic Pattern

(These Youtubers make it look way easier than it is)

(The little rabbit girl here isn’t even the final boss, but is probably the hardest boss fight of any game I’ve ever played.)

 

 

B4: The Lost City – Pt 9 (Conclusion)

I managed to finish off B4 last friday, which is good, because I was beginning to feel at the end of my DM rope. I don’t really know if my players enjoyed it or not, but the various issues I was having with the module’s design had turned running it into a chore. Even if they were having fun, there were plenty of times I wasn’t. I’d say that any and all of the stuff I ran as part of my Shadow Over Alfheim game (particularly Maze of Nuromen) was easier and more enjoyable to DM overall than the Lost City.

They party headed to the gambling den to clear out the rest of the take. The “weird” cynidicean encounters are a bit frustrating, because so many of them are just weird for weirdness sake, have little bearing on things, and often just create distractions. Ones like the room of people staring off into space and screaming randomly but not reacting to the players and the room where people are having a party and dancing with themselves may provide a pittance of XP bonus for murderhobos, but very little actual roleplaying opportunities; in fact, I generally gave the Cynidiceans a bit more cognizance of their surroundings and the actions of the players to make them more interactive than how they were written. At this point, though, I was glad they didn’t insist on finding out the mysteries of these two rooms and, after stabbing a guy in the leg to see what would happen (nothing) and talking to a fiddler in the party room who wanted to know why they stole the masks off the guys who were high on drugs in the foyer, they went to the gambling den and took the part of the loot that Darius had left behind.

And they took the 30′ x 30′ wall to wall flying carpet I’d placed there as a means to leave Cynidicea.

The factions loaded them up with some previsions and off they flew. I had kinda half-ass tried to throw a cool set-piece encounter at them as a “final boss fight”, but I don’t really know how well it went off. Part of the idea was to give them a chance to be set-up for a future game if we ever wanted to run Isle of Dread, but it didn’t quite work out. The flying carpet took them about a mile off the coast of the Isle on the way to wherever the hell it was they were going when they were attacked by three Pteranodons. The idea was that the Pteranodons would knock them off the carpet and they’d have to swim to shore. The problem was that they immediately tried to avoid them by flying higher, so by the time they encountered them, they were 500 feet above the water to where a fall would mean certain death.

I divided the Carpet up into 5 sections – 4 corners and the center. As the Pteranodons made their approach, I let them get a couple missile attacks in before they hit. From then out, the Pteranodons would randomly hit one area of the carpet, forcing dex saves and saves vs. paralysis to see if they got knocked back or off the carpet completely. Each Pteranodon would remain for 2 initiative segments (so melee characters could get swings in) before flying off to make another pass. In a few cases, folks got knocked off, but things like rolling ridiculously well to grab thrown ropes or use floating disc saved lives. The cleric proved his salt blinding the largest of the three and then, when it was able to find them by sound, by casting silence on the carpet.

It was a fairly kinetic, rough and tumble fight, but party killed two and drove off the blinded one, surviving the fight. I was a bit aggravated that one player seemed genuinely mad that I wasn’t rolling for the werefoxes, who’d gone with them; thank god no one pointed out to him that technically all of the characters whose players hadn’t made it were with them too and I wasn’t rolling for them either. By the time it was all over, I was glad to be done with it and proud that I hadn’t rage quit my own game (last week was a really lousy week, and while I wasn’t going to take it out on my players, I really didn’t have the patience for being nitpicked). They got back to whatever the hell city they were from/had been going to before they got separated, got the hero’s welcome, etc. etc., the end.

My game wrapped pretty early in the evening, so we spent another three and a half hours playing Index Card D&D, and I think most of us had more fun with that. I know I did.

Starting this friday, my friend will be resuming his regular DMing duties trying out a homebrew system built off Warhammer Fantasy RPG (don’t ask me which edition, I’m liable to say a random number and shrug) to implement in his urban adventure setting.