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.

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It’s October 1st, Time to Shill!

I’m very very slowly getting these out of my spare room.  At this rate, I will have gotten rid of all of them by the time I’m 50.

dracul

Yes, that is art by Christopher Hastings of Dr. McNinja fame!

Featuring 12 tracks of weird, wild and woolly Halloween tracks!

Peek-a-boo Magazine says “If this is the worst music Dracula ever heard I would certainly like to own his record collection.

All Music says it has “a surprising amount of credibility.”

Still available on Amazon!

All money I make off this will go towards buying content for issue 1 of the Cirsova zine.

Halloween in Picher, OK

Even though I spent a big chunk of my long-weekend vacation sick, I did get to check out Picher, Oklahoma*, one of the biggest superfund sites in North America.

Out on the sprawling plains, out of nowhere, huge mounds of chat rise up, towering like great dunes of toxic gravel. An abandoned blue building proclaiming to be the “Picher Mining Museum” tells part of the story of this doomed town. Most of Picher is simply gone, so what is there is even more disturbing. One of the best-preserve/newer neighborhoods is a small block of what looks like they were once apartment style duplex bungalos. While they’re structurally sound, having brick frames, all of the windows and doors and a decent amount of the drywall is all torn out. I’ll admit that when I first saw these houses, my first thought was the Door Thief.

A handful of other homes are still semi-standing in dilapidated states, but many of Picher’s houses are long gone, leaving only their concrete foundations to be overgrown by weeds and tall grass, obscure among the several completely empty blocks of narrow, unmarked streets spreading in a grid through the land between the highway and the giant mountains of toxic gravel. On the more overgrown west side of town, the remains of the highschool and athletic facilities still stand with several Quapaw Nation security vehicles parked out front, though these were empty as the rest of the town. The highschool mascot, a gorilla, still proudly beats its chest in defiance of the fate that has met his team, while but a few blocks away the little white church stands with its facade crumbled and blocking the entrance as though to say ‘God’s blessing has left this place’.

Highway 69, which serves as the town’s main street, gives some of the only indication that this cursed patch of earth was once a thriving town. A few storefronts are on a corner stand, smashed and ruined, all but their concrete frames, but all is not dead. Gary still runs the Old Miners Pharmacy, serving the surrounding area. Many of his customers are those who were bought out and moved into neighboring communities like Baxter. Once you’re in his shop, you’d never imagine that you’re in the middle of nowhere surrounded by bombed out buildings and toxic waste. Other than the niche corner where he’s posted a collection of newspaper articles and laminated photos of the good ol’ days, there’s nothing to distinguish Gary’s pharmacy from any other bare-bones (no point in being overstocked when you’re store is in a ghost town) country pharmacy. No gimmicks. Nothing for tourists. But since it was halloween, there was a bevy of candy which I bought. The only souvenirs to be had in Picher were one of Gary’s business cards, a complimentary fridge magnet calendar, and mason jar of toxic gravel I scooped up (and, no, dude from Quapaw Nation who posted all the signs everywhere, I did not get it from one of the piles on the other side of the no trespassing signs and fences).

Unfortunately, I spent most of the weekend sick and holed up. But it did give me the opportunity to rewatch Do the Right Thing what with USA making a big to do out of its 25th anniversary. I was wondering how I’d feel about it some 15 years after having first seen it in a highschool civics class. To this day, it remains one of the most confusing movie experiences I’ve had. Short version: 15 years later, I still feel bad for Sal, Buggin’ Out is the real villain of the movie and Radio Raheem is his Dragon, the neighborhood maybe proves Pino right, and Spike Lee is a shitty dude for doxxing those old people when he thought that George Zimmerman lived there. It’s still a powerful movie, but damn, it’s got a wonky moral message that leaves you thinking “this is why the inner city can’t have nice things.”

On a final note, all I’ve got for gamergate for now – gamers are finally seeing what conservatives have known for a decade: Stephen Colbert is a media apparatchik. While I haven’t gone viral or anything, I’ve noticed that my thoughts on Gamergate’s politics tend to be frequently shared and cited in various discussions on the political leanings of gamergate. Don’t know if I’m all that helpful a source for your arguments, but thanks for all the clicks!

Edit: I’d like to share one of the referring threads, because it’s actually a pretty great discussion.

*: Picher doesn’t look half as nice as those wikipedia pics from 7 years ago make it look.  In that first picture, those first few buildings are gone and there is nothing on the left side of the street.  The Mining Office/Museum no longer has that blue warehouse looking thing behind it,