Lamentations, Summation of Summa, & Kicked out of CalEx

In lieu of of my B/X game this weekend, one of the members of our group wanted to test out Lamentations of the Flame Princess, which is cool because I’d been wanting to give the system a spin at some point but sure as hell wasn’t going to be buying the books myself.

And yeah, there’s some really gross art in there. One of the players was kind of apprehensive of the system, but we were promised that it would be weird, but not gross fantasy. Part of the purpose was to test out a random dungeon/content generator he’d come across and we’d been dropped into a setting supposedly influenced by Gormenghast. I haven’t read the books, and my girlfriend stopped watching the show just a little ways in (she’s super grossed out by breast-feeding), so I’m not really familiar with Gormenghast, so I was reminded more of Kowloon Walled City, given its narrow streets, improbably tall buildings with cramped and crowded rooms & halls. But anyway, the basic premise is a huge germanic fortified city with a river running through it, and on the east side of the river, a huge section of town has been abandoned for about 100 years because of some disaster that was magical and almost certainly necromantic in nature.

One of the snags we hit with his random generator was an impossibly crowded room. I don’t remember what it was (some sort of antlered monster), but we opened a door and were told that there was pile of sleeping humanoid monsters in a corner of the room.

Me: How many are there?
DM: Let me check… ::starts rolling::
Me: :: notices it’s a d10:: Oh god, there are 37 of them, aren’t there?
DM: Holy crap… ::still rolling:: No, just 31.
Me: I close the door as quietly as I can and suggest that perhaps there’s honest work to be found on the west side of the river.

Joking aside, we didn’t give up, and instead checked out another building. In true OSR fashion, we proceeded to take everything not broken or nailed down to fence on the other side of the river. Our magic user got Floating Disc as his level 1 spell, which meant it only took us 3 nights to haul out half a dozen decorative statues from the parlor one of the buildings.

We ended up not fighting anything, but I did have to perform an emergency tracheotomy on the cleric who got hit with a poison dart; I’ve never been in a game where having a signal whistle was NOT useful!

In other news, J’Rhazha died this weekend, so maybe I won’t write up that piece on the 15 minute workday after all. But damn! We killed a black dragon, a giant python, and some kind of treant from the Fiend Folio only to be TPKed by a pack of hatchet wielding grimlocks. ­čśŽ

I also finished Summa Elvetica by Satan┬áTheodore Beale. I wouldn’t call it a classic, but it was a fun little story. I could kind of see some of the grander designs that Beale may have had from the outset, perhaps like a high-fantasy Canterbury Tales where each of the characters get to tell stories of their encounters with Elves and how it’s shaped their views of the elves and how those views are shaped by their own beliefs and convictions, but as it stands, we get a brief look at Christian pseudo-Rome, a couple stories on the road to the Elven Court and some swashbuckling at the climax. Summa Elvetica’s few twists and turn are rather predictable, but feel more as though they reward the reader’s foresight rather than treat them like idiots. Other than a few incredibly gruesome deaths, Summa Elvetica is ends up being a story that leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy and wanting to loan it to your mom’s Sunday School class.

Finally, the stuff that went down at CalEx (registrants with a booth were kicked out and banned for wrongthink) was super disgusting, but rather than try to articulate how disgusted I am, I’ll just share a few links:

Sage Gerard – Go Home, Gamer Girl: Press Release on Unjust Banishment from Calgary Expo

Jenn of Hardwire – “Equality for Me, But Not for Thee” #calgaryexpo & Honey Badger Brigade Fiasco

Lucien Maverick – Free Speech Doesn’t Mean Much

James Desborough – #Gamergate ÔÇô Conventions, Calumny and Badgers

Suitably Bored – The Mary Sue: Fear Mongering Journalism at its Best


Update: Just a couple days, the Honey Badgers have raised over $13,000 for a legal fund in seeking action against Calgary Expo.

Narrow Survival of J’Rhazha

“When J’Rhazha came to this city, he was told that there was much treasure below its streets; indeed, we have found fascinating culture in Anguinon, and it is said that culture is the most valuable of treasures… unfortunately, the orc lady at the Dragonfoot inn does not accept culture as payment for a roof over J’Rhazha’s head.” – J’Rhazha applies for a part-time teaching job at the mage guild.

The megadungeon in the AD&D game I’m in is a death-trap, and there were times on Saturday that I thought for sure I would have to crumple up J’Rhazha and roll up a new character. Our party was short on Saturday, yet for some reason we managed to survive some pretty heavy combat, taking out probably a dozen elves. Some of those kills were made when it was just the elf-fighter (he has high HP, but low armor so isn’t really a tank), the half-orc druid and my Rakasta illusionist.

J’Rhazha’s crowning momement of awesome came when we found one of those so-obvious-it-hurts traps; stairs that clearly turn into a ramp with a treasure chest at the bottom. Since a catman illusionist was the closest we had to a thief at the moment, it was decided that I’d go down to investigate. They tied a rope to J’Rhazha and he very slowly made his way down. He unscrewed the hinges of the chest, and it was clear that opening it would set off the trap. In retrospect, I probably should’ve just left well enough alone and said it wasn’t worth it (because it wasn’t), but I got behind the chest and opened it from behind.

Glub! A Gelatinous Cube drops from the ceiling and starts sliding down towards me. I’m given one action before it slams into me. There’s just enough room between it and the ceiling for me to jump over it. I make the ridiculously hard strength check, rolling below my 7 on two combined d20s.

Looking back now and looking up the GC’s stats, I realize that I might have survived if my companions pulled me through it on the rope, but to escape from that unscathed was quite a feat.

Anyway, J’Rhazha has survived to level 3 and luckily maxed out his puny hit dice every time. ┬áHe and his 12 hit points and 3 spells will be ready for anything!

(everybody laughed when J’Rhazha bought a 6 pound bag of borax from the apothecary; nobody laughed when he one-shotted a giant scorpion with it)

Illusionists: Thieves who can cast Summon

So, I’ve decided to play my illusionist as a conjurer or summoner. Any interesting individual that J’Rhazha comes across is committed to memory and effectively added as a “summon”, currently via Phantasmal Force (though eventually through some more powerful illusions). As of yet, he’s not particularly useful, but in a pinch, he can do some pretty awesome stuff.

I’ve gone ahead, in a bid to make him slightly less useless in combat, and given him more than one dagger. And all of them got eaten by a rust monster, but better daggers than people, right?

Our party (which was inconveniently down one paladin and one magic user) found a kobold village on the far south end of level 1. I’m not sure how things didn’t end in a TPK, but not only did we get into the village, we managed a pretty daring prison break that shouldn’t have worked.

The goblins on the watch-towers outside the kobold village heckled us and tried to warn us off with sling bullets. While the half-orc druid tried to convince them to open the gate, the thief-priest scaled the wall of one of the towers.

Now, earlier, we’d been at a weapon shop ran by an orc whose noble grandfather was a great warrior;┬áluckily for J’Rhazha, this orc had a very nice portrait of his grandfather armed to the teeth and ready for a fight. So imagine the goblins’ surprise when a giant orc warlord appears behind them and starts swinging an ax around and their buddies are being backstabbed by a thief. While the rest of the party scrambled up the rope ladder the thief tossed down, honorable orc-father leaps 50 feet from one tower to the next, axes swinging, causing the other guard to die of fright.

From one of the towers, we could see the whole village, teeming with kobolds. The tower we were in overlooked a prison area with staggered patrols. Luckily, we’d been quick and quiet in taking the towers, as we weren’t instantly overrun. While the rest of the party pulled some Metal Gear Solid on the kobold patrols, J’Rhazha kept an eye out from the tower to make sure no one was headed for that corner of the village. Unfortunately, by the time trouble showed up, the others were fighting a giant weasel inside the prison and couldn’t hear my signal whistle, so I had to buy time when a kobold caravan arrived.

“We are closed, go away!”
“We’ve brought trade goods.”
“We don’t need any right now!”
“Do we need to tell(big bad greenskin lord or maybe dragon whose name I forget) about this?”
“Yes, you should probably go tell him!”

Luckily, there was a teleporter shrine in the prison’s court yard, and luckily two of the other three players had used them before so could take the rest of us to one of the other shrines in Level 1, getting out just before the villagers figured out what was going on.

So far, I’ve found that Illusionists make for great thieves, just minus the boring thief skills table. With his high Dex, J’Rhazha has a fondness for playing dice with rubes, slow-playing, swapping in his loaded dice, hypnotizing his mark into going all in, then giving back part of the winnings to show that there are no hard feelings. I have the feeling that I’ll soon draw the ire of the thieves guild master on me. To make matters worse, he worships the Rat God (as a Rakasta, J’Rhazha cannot bring himself to pay tribute to a rat, so will never be welcome in the guild). Still, it’s been the only way J’Rhazha has been able to afford a roof over his head, since we haven’t found any treasure since I’ve started.

J’Rhazha’s managed to cower his way through two fairly combat heavy sessions without taking a single hit (though he did hurt his paw trying to punch the rust monster) and he’s managed to be useful enough and quick talking enough in non-combat situations that the party doesn’t mind keeping him around.

One more session and he’s level 3. Sweet sweet level 2 spells will soon be mine.

J’Rhazha is a Useless Coward (and Incredibly Fun to Play)

So, once I finally got my Rakasta rolled up, my previous speculations about his cowardice found their justification.

Str 7 (-1 damage and +1 to Thac0; this is important)
Dex 17
Int 16
Wis 15
Con 11
Cha 7 (He is not the most likable fellow)

Though he lucked out maxing his HP, he’s beyond useless in combat, but he’s okay with that! Fighting means he might die, and that’s no good for him!

Sometimes, when it’s clear the day is won, he might charge in with his gladius (which he can’t actually attack with) waving about wildly. He managed to do 2 points of damage the whole session; one was knicking an elf a thrown dagger (thank goodness for minimum 1 damage rule!) and one was punching a skeleton who was on its last HP (“J’Rhazha has defeated the bone man!).

The coolest thing he managed was to use a Phantasmal Force to create a likeness of the statue of an elf queen we’d seen earlier; we played the whole ‘we’re with her’ card while exploring an illusory* elven village, but it ended up all being for nothing since we had to fight our way back out once we got the key from the skeletons*.

He cowered and hid, occassionally firing off a nearly useless cantrip or two, during the climactic fight of the session, though, as one of the last men standing, he was able to help patch up the wounded. Victorious, without taking a single hit!

The DM is using a rule that I’ve not seen about 3 dart attacks per round, which makes darts suck a lot less than I imagined, so the gnomish magic user is a lot better in combat than my cat-man. If I wanted to power-game, I guess I could ask if I could switch my weapon proficiency from dagger to dart, but really I’m pretty okay with sucking and being useless in combat and I don’t want to knick the gnome’s dart bit. I’ll only change if it becomes a problem with the other party members.

Meanwhile, I’m coming up with various ways to find my way into the mage’s guild. The first test to join is to find the entrance. I’ve chosen to interpret this as ANY entrance. I think first I’ll try changing my shape to the apprentice who told me about the test and throwing rocks at the windows. If I get caught, I’ve got my answer planned out “J’Rhazha was merely taking a test, involving powerful wizard magic and mystic forces. Perhaps he answered the first question wrong. Perhaps he did not. Now go away, while I work to serve the guild.” ::continues throwing rocks at window::

Also, I know what the elf queen and elf king look like now, so I can work them into illusions in the future. Yay!

*:The megadungeon under the city is, I’ve gathered, the work of a mad mage who modelled portions of it based on set pieces from his memories of the past. The village was, therefore, a rather complex illusion representing the final days before it was destroyed by war. On one side of a tower, we’d see elven generals discussing battle plans during the day; on the other side of the tower, it was night and the place was littered with skeletons and charred grass. As an experiment, J’Rhazha left the tower to see if he could see his companions fighting skeletons; nope, on that side of the tower, the generals were still discussing battle plans.

Why J’Rhazha Will Carry a Short-Sword (Even Though the Rules Say He Isn’t Allowed to Use It)

“Like many things about J’Rhazha, his sword is an illusion. Perception is sometimes more important than function.”

I’ve never been a fan of the idea that wizards not only are bad at using swords, they cannot use them at all. It’s even stranger to me that they’re allowed to be proficient with daggers and staffs, which strike me as much harder weapons to master. You can give someone a shield and a sword who doesn’t have much fighting experience and they’ll be able to bang away with the sword and block a few blows with a bare level of competence. I’m not saying that they won’t be killed by someone who knows what they’re doing, but actual proficiency with a staff as a combat weapon (beyond just trying to hit someone with a long stick) or┬áknife-fighting or┬áknife THROWING is a completely different animal. It strikes me as easier for a wizard to awkwardly flail at a foe with a medium length piece of relatively light-weight and purpose-balanced metal than knowing how to lithely move in for a killing blow with a dagger.

The other point I bring up in my argument in favor of wizards using swords is the number of magical swords showing up places. I can see a wizard making a magical weapon for their own use and protection. I can’t see wizards making a surfeit of powerful magic items that are of no practical use to them. Sure, you can argue that maybe they wanted their lieutenants to have magical weapons, but I’d think wizards would want to keep their edge and not make stuff that could be turned against them, especially not in the bulk you see in typical fantasy settings.

I would also point out that the difference between a Fighter’s combat ability with weapons and a mage’s ability is reflected mainly in THACO: the level 6 Magic user flails his weapon about with the same competence (THAC0 19) as a level 2 Fighter. Surely this should be enough to fairly represent the differences in ability without having to say that all wizards would either turn their nose up at wielding a sword or, holding one in their hand, would stand there and say “I just can’t use this. I mean, if I had to get significantly close to my opponent to attack with a short blade, maybe, but I – Oh, god, you’ve stabbed me while I was holding this sword and not using it!”

But this is AD&D and I’m not going to press the DM on the issue. Instead, I’m going to adapt it to the character.

As a Rakasta, J’Rhazha comes from a warrior background; it would not be unexpected to see a Rakasta wielding a blade, and a Rakasta wielding a blade is not someone with whom you would want to fuck. But this Rakasta is an illusionist and trickster (maybe even a coward), not a fighter. But he likes to maintain the illusion that he is.

J’Rhazha – Defining a Trickster Through His Attitudes Regarding Magic

So, the character I’m wanting to play is a Rakasta Illusionist. I’m trying to get a feel for the sort of character he’ll be by thinking of how he sees his craft.

In this setting, Rakastas are generally non-magical, though have a tradition of mysticism. The character, therefore, may see himself as an aspect of the Trickster, whatever it is for his culture (probably a kitten).

Though he gained his powers (or thinks he did) by protecting his people (he killed and drank the blood of a wizard who attacked his tribe), he is an outcast from his people for what he has become.

Anyway, i wanted to get a feel for the character by trying to come up with what he thinks about his powers and how he uses them. This will likely change as he becomes more powerful and taps into the realm of shadows, but for now, he’ll be content being a mischievous mage-blood drinking cat.

Audible Glamour – “Always with the tinkling. It bothers J’Rhazha, maybe it will bother them?”
Change Self – “Everyone should be capable of change.”
Color Spray – “Look at the bright lights! See how distracting they are?”
Darkness – “J’Rhazha thinks sometimes it is better not to see than to be seen.”
Detect Illusion – “J’Rhazha thinks this is not what Jo’Rhazha thinks this is.”
Detect Invisibility – “J’Rhazha can see you!”
Gaze Reflection – “J’Rhazha hears that when one stares into darkness, sometimes darkness stares back. But when darkness stares back, darkness does not see J’Rhazha!”
Hypnotism – “You will do what J’Rhazha wants you to do.”
Light – “Sometimes seeing is better than not being seen.”
Phantasmal Force -“J’Rhazha has many ways to bother and confuse you.”
Wall of Fog – “Where has J’Rhazha gone? Where has anything gone?”

Yeah, I know, he’s just a Khajiit knockoff (though Khajitt are knockoffs of Rakastas are knockoffs of other earlier sci-fi/fantasy cat-men), but I think he’ll be fun to play.