Saturday, 29 February 2020

Gaming in Feb 2020

After the drought, then the flood!


At the FLGS

On 9 Feb we got one of our occasional games of Dungeon Crawl Classics in.  I've written about that elsewhere.

Sunday 16 Feb reverted back to our more usual Barrowmaze.  For some reason after encoutering five Giant Centipedes attacking a Giant Toad we rescued it and decided to take it back to our stronghold where we're nursing it back to health.  We haven't gone so far as to name it yet...

On 29 Feb we had our last trip to the Barrowmaze before the (in-game) six month break for the rainy season.  This marks the end of our fourth in-game year of the campaign! 

For the first time in several sessions we actually entered the Barrowmaze rather that exploring the mounds on the Barrowmoors.  Much fun was had, loot was found, and new stuff added to the map.

No, we didn't go through this doorway!

The Home Team

For one reason and another we hadn't met to to play our Hole in the Oak mini-campaign since before Christmas.  However, on 21 Feb we met up at The Games Table to play a few boardgames (the main game was Ticket To Ride, with Battle Sheep as our warm-up and Exploding Kittens as the wrap-up).  I asked whether we wanted to carry on with The Hole in the Oak and possibly take it a little further: everyone seemed up for this.  I think I'm going to suggest we alternate between RPG and Boardgame nights (it'd be nice if we could do it weekly, but I suspect the diaries won't align).

Sadly, the RPG session we had planned for the last week of the month was again cancelled due to Real Life.  So I haven't yet had a chance to test the Dolmenwood Players' Guide.


The Black Hack

I wrote about the games we played in the first half of the month here following the death of my long-term character (5th Level thief) Bil Lee.  After discussions with the GM, I was all prepared to introduce Bil's hapless cousin, taken from his cushy job in the Monkey Cabaret to serve at the pointy-end of Tong business as he was the last surviving male relative able to uphold family honour.

Bolton the Mage
However, our next session wasn't in Mudharbour, but another town of the setting.  So, I thought, I'll play with my reserve character.  And I've fallen for him!

I think the moment Bolton the Mage came to life was when were were required to stop and take rations (one of the results on the encounter table).  Bolton hadn't got any of his own, so a fellow offered one of his (and asked me to roll the Usage Die).  In one fell swoop, the rations were gone.  Suddenly, he became this louche Caspar Gutman/Nero Wolfe figure.  The Fat Mage of Purbury was born!

Google helped by coming up with this fantastic image (which is apparently concept art for Assassin's Creed).  And Dave has created some house-rules for cigar smoking.

The session itself was fun.  After the experiment in the Hive, we returned to more tried and tested ground, pulling of a heist (using more of Dave's house-rules).  We were employed by Lady Elvira Bund, a local femme fatale, to regain an artifact that the local theives' guild have stolen from her father (she didn't realise that we'd pulled of that heist too and indirectly killed her father).

Lady Elvira Bund
It all went very well, mainly due to the groundwork that the heist rules allow us to do in advance (ret-conned, it true heist movie style).  After minor tusssles with the thieves and gnolls, we recovered the artifact and much other loot.  Some of us gained a new patron: though one party member who was on a quest for redemption revealed that he had been involved in the death of Lady Elvira's father and was immediately killed by her.  This worked out well in the end - part of his quest was 'to be given a second chance' and he was revived by his goddess.

We also had another session in another part of the world, where we had anold-fashioned dungeon-crawl under the ruins of a Temple (complete with portal to Another Place and encounters with alligators and kobolds).

Call of Cthulhu

Our second session of the Forget-Me-Not scenario took place on 9 Feb.  It moved on from the slow start of the first session (slow as in 'building-up tension' rather than 'boring').  The party now know who they are, that one of their number is missing and have several leads to follow up.  In addition we had a major outbreak of temporary insanity (a bit of mud-wrestling and pistol-whipping) and coughing up of wriggling things.

Andy had recorded the play 'for training purposes'.  He since (with our acquiescence) decided to broadcast it on his Podcast. 

Episode 1: The Cornfields of Your Mind
Episode 2:

I'm playing Charlie (the one who doesn't speak in the first episode!).

The Legendary 9 Febuary 2020

The observant will have noticed that 9 Feb was a busy day for me!  I played DCC at The Games Table from Noon until 4pm, Call of Cthulhu on-line from 6-8pm, and then the Black Hack from 8-11pm.  I don't anticipate being able to carry off such feats often, though I think the stars will aleign about every six to eight weeks.

Saturday, 22 February 2020

An Unboxing (In which I coin the term 'Dolmenesque')

I got a couple of parcels today, which is always fun.

First up was The Second Book of Lanhmar.  I really shouldn't be buying new books at the moment as I'm supposed to be in the process of downsizing in advance of a house move.  But someone recommended Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories and I've really enjoyed the ones I've read so far.  Their light tone and understated humour mixes well with the darkness of some of the story matter.

More excitingly perhaps was a draft of the new Dolmenwood Player's Book by Necrotic Gnome., creators of Old-School Essentials.  I've mentioned it before, but Dolmenwood is their weird, fairy-tale  campaign setting.

I've signed up to provide playtesting and feedback, so received the pdf last week.  I sent it to be printed off and spiral-bound by doxdirect.  This was a bit of an experiment for me, and I'm pleased with the results.  It was reasonably priced and only took two days to get to me from placement of the order.  It's certainly better that I could have produced at home.  The spiral binding will allow for some flexible use at the table.  I must say that I always prefer hard-copies over pdfs, which I find almost impossible to concentrate on.

I would say that I'll give you my impressions when I've read it, but as this is a pre-publication version, I'm not supposed to!  Let's just leave it with the overwhelming impression of clear lines and good lay-out (which is something of a trademark of Necrotic Gnome's).  This is more than cosmetic:  having recently had a very frustrating session with some other rulebooks, I do appreciate the utility of having a reference that can be used at the table.

Some of you may remember that before Christmas I ran a couple of sessions of the Hole in the Oak module for what I called 'The Home Group' (I also ran a less successful session for my regular RPG group).  Anyway, Christmas, New Year and diaries intervened and we haven't played since: I was a little surprised when at our last meeting (for board-games) people were keen to pick up where we left off and even to carry on after the module.  Hole in the Oak isn't set in Dolmenwood, but it's as near as damn!  It will only take little tweeking to insert Dolmenesque elements.  I will digest the Player's Book and then decide how many to put into our game and whether we will go whole-hog into the 'Wood.

As a final aside, all of doxdirect's packing material was recyclable.  Very good to see.

Monday, 17 February 2020

Recent Black-Hackery

The Black Hack game continues to be fun.  As I write the Kickstarter for the spin-off zine is in it's final hours.  It exceeded all funding expectations and is something that I'm eagerly looking forward to seeing later this year.

Dave is managing his amazing feat of running two games most weeks, though I've missed a few of the Sunday sessions because of the Call of Cthulhu I'm now involved in.  One of the beauties of the Westmarches style of play however is that this doesn't matter.  Whichever players turn up on the night play, and the other can sit it out without too much damage to continuity.

Bil Lee
The character I've been playing is Bil Lee, a thief in the Mudharbour Brotherhood who has been rising up the ranks of the Greeen Dragon Tong under the watchful eye of 'Uncle' Wang Lee.

Bil wasn't there when the party battled Crabzilla, but he took part in some of the mopping-up afterwards in which Uncle tasked him to recover the legendary weapon the Flying Guillotine.

His success in this mission marked him out for advancement within the Tong

The Guillotine proved its worth in the next session when Bil was able to decapitate a Boss Witch (by scoring a hit and then rolling above her HD on a d12).  Nevertheless, Rusty, a party member died.

Rusty - by Claire Aldridge
This is where it gets a little involved.  Rusty was an automaton - a Reliable Rickshaw Runner - and it was determined that if we recovered his familiar, Travis Bickle - who had been snatched by giant bees - and procured a new body for him, we might be able to resurrect him.

In the following session a crack trio of thieves determined to try to do the first part of this, entering the giant hive.  Disaster struck though.   Overcome by venom and terror Bil suffered a fatal heart-attack and only one of his companions managed to escape to safety, empty-handed.

We were doing something different in the Bee Hive Delve.  Although still using the Black Hack rules, we were following the Hex Flower engine devised by Goblin's Henchmen.  More specifically, we were following the procedural methods applied to the exploration of a maze-like giant insect colony in his adventure 'Carapace'.  The proceedure uses Hex Flowers to generate a labyrinth so alien as to surpass human understanding and mapping.

Frankly, I didn't take to it.  I can see why the Hex Flower appeals to some, but using it as part of the game (as opposed to behind-the-scenes world-building) doesn't suit my playing style.  Wandering about in nominal directions chosen on a dice-roll, and then deciding whether to spend points to alter the roll felt a little board-gamey to me.  There's nothing wrong with board-games of course, but for me it brought in too much meta-gaming and broke the role-play.  I suppose I prefer my magic behind the screen!  However, it looks as if we're going back in on Wednesday, so I'll give it a go.

Sunday, 9 February 2020

At Moonricket Bridge: A DCC Game

Today our face-to-face group had one of our (fairly) occasional games of Dungeon Crawl Classics at The Games Table.

The previous games I'd played had been Level 0 Funnels, where you start with four Level 0 characters of no particular merit and they are eventually picked off.  The survivors have gained enough experience to proceed to Level 1... 

One of the things I quickly found out today is that Level 1 characters are only slightly less squishy than Level 0s!  Sadly we had a TPK on our first time out.

I like DCC, there's a lot of interesting stuff involved in it.  But the size of the rules and the amount of scrambling about trying to find what one wants (to say nothing of the number of bookmarks needed for simple play) makes me appreciate how well-thought-out the lay-out and simple lines of Old-School Essentials is.   The scenario we played, Moonricket Bridge, is a short one (but no less lethal for that!).  This was just as well, as I think we spent as much time discussing and trying to interpretate the rules as we did in actual play.  Obviously there's something wrong there. 

This might improve as we play more often.  Our GM promises that this is the first of a number of loosly-linked modules (the Shudder Mountains setting) that we'll be exploring.  As she has volunteered to run a DCC module she's written at the UK Games Expo, she's got every incentive to get some practice in!

In summary, today was enjoyable (and any chance to get a face-to-face game in shouldn't be sneezed at), but the rules-scrambling was a little frustrating.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Kickstarter Watch: Mudharbour

Recently I've been able to play in Dave Aldridge's on-line RPG sessions which he runs using the Black Hack.  Dave has created Melcher's Vale, a very enjoyable low- to mid-fantasy setting, which will suit many game systems.

The largest settlement (we've found so far) in the Vale is Mudharbour and this is the focus of Dave's Kickstarter.  He has decided to take part in Zine Quest, a co-ordinated effort by creators to publish RPG Zines funded by Kickstarters.
A hand-stitched 32 page [now 36, stretchgoals having been met] zine detailing a Kung Fu fantasy setting influenced by Shaw Brothers movies and martial arts videogames. Mudharbour is a cosmopolitan island city dominated by mystic temples and featuring warring gangsters, scheming bureaucrats, elemental automata and marauding pirates. 
I'm quite fond of Mudharbour as my character was introduced there and, as one of the first players there, I've contributed to its development.  The character, a thief was originally concieved as Billy the Dip; he quickly and seemlessly morphed into Bil Lee, a junior member of the Green Dragon Tong (as led by 'Uncle' Wang).  He's since met giant crabs, hungry ghosts, psychic jellyfish and exceptionally well-shod assassins.  Great fun!

The Kickstarter is now (on it's 4th of 14 days), 350% funded.  You can see details here.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Gaming in Jan 2020

A little later than I anticipated, due to computer problems.


At the FLGS

Our GM claims that January is problematic for scheduling.  Netherless he managed to put together two sessions of Barrowmaze.  I should have taken some photos for the blog, but of course didn't.

Knowing that I've run it at home and had one session at the FLGS, one of the other players suggested that I run the OSE Hole in the Oak module.  However, he was the only one who signed up for it, so we cancelled.  Although the home sessions went well, I completely fluffed the session in the shop, so I don't know if the word went round!

I didn't make it to any board game nights this month.

In other news from the FLGS (The Games Table), last month they announced that they were planning to move to larger premises.  This week they told us where.  It's a very good spot, slap-bang in the centre of Norwich in the wonderfully named Lower Goat Lane (for those who know the city, it's just off the Market Place).

I'm a big supporter of The Games Table.  In less than two years, Kieran has built a good business, but more importantly a great community.  It's done wonders for my social life and, as a result, my mental health.

The Home Team

We didn't meet this month. After two sessions playing Hole in the Oak, there's probably only one session of play left.  If the guys want to continue (which I'm not certain of), I've been thinking of various plot hooks that would lead on to other adventures.


Having heard a lot about the Discord Audio Dungeon on various podcasts, in December I took the plunge and signed up.  Like all social media it's necessary to filter which areas one engages in or be swamped, but that's OK.  It's a welcoming group and very easy to find games to join.

The Black Hack

I've been taking part in a Black Hack game run by Dave Aldridge of the dpercentile podcast.  We've been lucky enough to be able to fit in a couple of games a week!

I've played a little Black Hack before, and am really getting into it here - it is a lovely, simple system that I heartily recomend.  Dave's setting - Melcher's Vale - is very nice.  In Feburary he's going to Kickstart a Zine which will detail a section of it, a city with a Fantasy Ku Fu vibe influenced by Shaw Brothers movies and martial arts videogames.  I shall be posting more about it when it launches.

Call of Cthulhu

I've been wanting to try CoC for quite a while, but never found anyone to play with.  Last weekend I took part in the first session of the Forget Me Not module.  An introductory module set in modern-day USA.  We all woke up in a crashed van in the middle of a corn field, and by the end of the two-hour session had discovered that we were the crew of a TV show 'The Supernatural Files' investigating spooky goings-on in Michigan.  The plot will thicken in a fortnight...

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