Thursday, 12 December 2019

Fantasy Thursday #3

Wow! My last Fantasy Thursday post (and that was only the second) was back in March 2016!  Nethertheless, given that it's my main hobby focus at the moment, I've decided to revive the series


The FLGS Group

As regular readers will know, our main campaign is the Barrowmaze using Old School Essentials. 

Sunday's session was a busy one: we had two and a half very well-paying delves (the half was a quick journey to pick up cached loot).  We had some classic encounters: a spectre, giant centipedes; an ochre jelly (which involved us setting fire to each other), giant crab spiders, a lich (arrghh!), and ghouls.  We play an Open Table, and were able to welcome a new player to the table (I think he may come back!).

And only three PC deaths!  Surprisingly my character survived.  Again, regular readers will know that I'm notorious for having my PCs killed at Level 1.  This character (a Cleric of Solis named Leofric) is my 15th for the campaign.  Much to everyone's amusement he jumped from Level 1 to Level 3 in an afternoon!

Next Sunday's session will be me DM'ing, running The Hole in the Oak.  The following session (22 Dec) will be back to Barrowmaze with our extra-long Christmas session in which we will be raising money for charity by having a jar which will allow us to re-roll on payment of a fine.  This is a week-long fundraising system across the store in aid of MIND.

The Home Group

The Home Group has had two sessions down The Hole in the Oak, which I touched on last week

They're far from being Murder Hobos, and by savvy use of the Charm Person spell have got involved in gnome politics and picked up a lot of useful intel about the dungeon.  I've no idea what they'll do next (but I hope they go on a mushroom hunt for a crone I've introduced them to!).

We play on a Thurday night, however tonight's session has been cancelled due to illness and stuff, so I'm dabbling in...

...Online Gaming

More about that later.

Sunday, 8 December 2019

More Shiny!

On the whole I behaved myself during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday nonsense.  I bought a few things on  But I also took advantage of the sale at Hasslefree Minis to pick up some extra figures.

Nothing exciting, a couple more female figures, a dwarf and an elf (he didn't come with a label - he's HFE007 - Ceril "Brooding Elf Lord").  I'm not keen on metal figures that require assembly, but that's down to my own inadequacy rather than anything else!

I think the pictures speak for themselves.  All nice sculpts as you'd expect from Hasslefree: Henn of Gar is by Tre Manor, the rest by Kev White.

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Paint Table Saturday - 7 Dec 2019

I haven't done any painting since before the summer, but the prospect of hosting my own RPG sessions requires me to get some minis ready for the table.  The group often says nice things about the minis I put on the table, so I thought I'd let that be a prompt to get the brushes out (we all need some encouragement!).  In addition, we're having a bumper session at the end of December, so I thought it'd be nice to have some new options.

So what have I been working on?  Grouped here by manufacturer for ease of identification;

Shield Maiden and Lanterns from Bad Squiddo Games

Hirelings and Not-Bullwugs from Lucid Eye

Frostgrave Cultists

Gnomes from Krakon Games

Those photos are from last week as I did the prep.  I didn't get as far as I intended, but have made some progress...

Seconds after taking the second photo, I snapped the 10-foot pole the hireling is carrying.  Sharp-eyed readers may also spot that one of the gnomes has lost his axe-head.

Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge X

Also, it's that time of the year again.  The AHPC starts towards on 21 December.

I won't be taking part this year: for the past few seasons I've felt like dead wood and that I've been clogging up the limited roster of participants.  I know no-one would begrudge me, but that does take some of the fun out of it for me.  If you are interested though, I would recomend it.  Its not a competition: it's a group of painters working in parallel, having fun and being supportive of each other.

You can follow the Challenge here.

Friday, 6 December 2019

The Other Side of the Screen

Well, I'm now a Dungeon Master!

As I mentioned on my post about Old School Essentials the arrival of Kickstarter loot has prompted me to run The Hole in the Oak.

Hole in the Oak is a sweet module to run for a novice DM.  It's very well laid out and everything ties in neatly.  I can't put it better than this review here.

Due to scheduling problems (and electrical problems at our favoured venue), I've not yet had a session with my regular gaming group.  But the ad hoc group I put together 'to practice on' (henceforth The Home Group) have had two.  And they claim to be enjoying it!  I certainly am.

I'm not going to give any spoilers, but suffice to say that they went in a completely different direction than I expected (both literarily and figurately).  The interaction have been great, and the way they are taking up 'clues' and plot hooks a pleasure.  Not being one to waste effort, I place the location near a version of the setting of Heybrook that I drew up for my solo games, and the party have been merrily interacting with the inhabitants.  And as the indications are that we're going to continue playing as a group, I've been planting the seeds for further adventures...

So, without question a positive experience!

Finally, two of the players are doodlers...

Tuesday, 26 November 2019


I got a couple of parcels today!  Kay-Karoo!

First up was the fruit of another Kickstarter, this one The Baron's War by Paul Hicks and Andy Hobday (and Footsore Miniatures), which was to produce minis of C13th knights and men-at-arms.  I only signed up in a minor way.

And I'm very pleased with the results.  Everything was on time and communication throughout the KS was exemplary.  There's a fair bit of flash on the minis (oh, how we are spoiled these days!), but they are lovely sculpts and worth seeking out.

I think one of the aims of the KS was to test the market for a range of C13th figures.  It was a big success, and there should be more coming (and, I understand, a rule-set).

And, secondly...

The other parcel was a care packet from one of my sisters.  Bless!

Friday, 22 November 2019

Fruit of the Kickstarter: Old School Essentials

Regular readers may realise that my regular RPG group's system of choice is Old School Essentials (formerly B/X Essentials) by Necrotic Gnome.  OSE is a retro-clone and restatement of the 1981 Basic/Expert rules for D&D.  People who know better than I do have said that it's the best expression of B/X.

Our group were involved in the play-testing of various new bits of the rules-set (readers of my Butcher's Bill posts will appreciate I've had the chance to try out several of the Advanced Classes!) for an edition that went to Kickstarter back in April to great sucess: it funded withing two hours, and finally was over 1000% subscribed.  So this is more than just an unboxing review:  I'm fairly familiar with the contents, and am enthusiastic in my recommendation of them!

Well fulfilment is underway on schedule and my rewards arrived today.  In fact they would have arrived on Wednesday: instead I received the Red Card of Frustration.  The OSE group on Facebook has been full of tantalising photos from across the world while I've been twiddling my thumbs!

Up to now OSE has been published in module form: a series of softback books of 40-60 pages.   This is quite handy as it allows people to buy which bits they need, but not the others.  So for example, as we've been playing over the last year and a half, as a rule only the GM has have the booklets covering monster stats and allocation of treasures but there might have been three copies of the core rules and the character classes volumes at the table.  Another advantage is that the intention is to bring out additional modules covering additional genre rules or other specialisations (word on the street is that Post-Apoc is being planned).

In putting together the new issue, Gavin Norman has continued with this modular system (but now in hardback with new-and-better illustrations).  These are available in a Black Box version, with the five core volumes.

Having said all that, I chose to go for the Rules Tome option, in which these five core volumes are presented in one 296pp hardback volume.  As you'll see from the photos below, the volume has very high production values and great artwork.  From the cover options I chose the Peter Mullen varient, an image I love (and is expanded on the new GM's screen).

The front- and end-papers of all the volumes have quick reference table relevant to the contents.  The Rules Tome has a couple of ribbon markers, a nice touch.

Layout is a module of clarity and well thought-out artwork.  Where possible, Gavin has worked hard to have all the relevant info on a single double-spread - as can be seen with the decriptions of character classes.

And the art-work can speak for itself...  Over two-dozen artists are represented in the Rules Tome.

There were two modules in the Kickstarter aditional to the Core Set or Rules Tome:  Advance Fantasy Genre Rules and a list of Druid and Illusionist Spells.  The major part of the Advance Rules is that addition of another 15 character clases and the option of character races (because this is B/X of course, and the default is race-as-class).  Druid and Illusionist are two of the new classes, so they needed a spell list.   I've played from both these volumes in various drafts, and they work well.  

The small volumes have the same production values as the Tome (without the special colour spreads) and will work well on the table - we all know the problem of POD or other volumes that lose pages after very little use.

Finally, one of the stretch goals for the Kickstarter was the inclusing of an introductionary adventure: The Hole In the Oak.  This was described as "a classic (and quirky!) old-school adventure for 1st level characters, set in the Mythic Underworld that lies beyond the hole in an old oak tree. This odd realm will be mapped by the mycologically inclined Karl Stjernberg and illustrated by the phantasmagoric James West".

Unlike the other volumes in the Kickstarter, this is a softback (staple bound of 32 pages), but the same care has gone into the layout and choice of illustrations.

I'll be immersing myself in this module over the next week, as in an excess of enthusiasm I've offered to GM the module.  My first experience of GM-ing!  I'm going to do a dry run on some close friends and then break it out for the more discerning RPG group.

Necrotic Gnome's next project is a Kickstarter in 2020 for the production of a Campaign Book for the weird and wonderful Dolmonwood setting.  I've played in that setting, and I hope to be be able to sign up for that one too!

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Barrowmaze #13: More of the Butcher's Bill

I don't have the heart to write up the notes of all the sessions since I last reported on Barrowmaze back in July (and in any case some of my notes are a bit sketchy).  However, since the casualty rate with my characters is now so legendary that it's forming part of a charity fundraising special, I think I will update on them.

The fates of my first seven characters (including the legendary B'Loxi) can be read here and the next here.

Decimus Stonehythe (Gnome) - Number 10

When I last reported this gnome and his fierce friend Dachs the badger were still alive and on their seventh delve into Barrowmaze.

The journey out for their ninth was an eventful one.  After being attacked by a crocodile in the swamp, the party was surprised by ghasts, which left Decimus down and unconscious.  Dachs bravely stood over his friend's body and fought fiercely.  However, he himself was taken down and killed as the party retreated taking the wounded Decimus with them.

Death of a trusted companion
For months afterwards there were stories of badgers roaming the moors on moonlit nights having their revenge on the undead.

The grief-stricken Decimus didn't out-live his friend for very long.  On the next delve the party explored a flooded barrow.  Decimus promptly put on his Ring of Walking on Water and was swanning around when his coleagues triggered a pit-trap.  Water rushed into the hole, Decimus surfing the wave only to be impaled on the spikes below.

Grandinfel (Druid) - Number 11

Grandinfel made two delves.  The highlight was his first, when he recovered a part of Elven boots (of silent movement).  On the second he was killed by a giant scorpion.  I don't recall what happened to the boots.

D'zen (Elf) - Number 12

D'zen fell victim to a pit-trap on (I think) his third delve.

Falnarkin (?) - Number 13

Falnarkin (who's class I can't remember) was killed in a rather epic battle with fire beetles in which our wizard famously levitated and dropped Molotov Cocktails onto them.

Edit:  I am reminded that Falnarkin was a Half-Elf.

Silgar (Gnome) - Number 14

Silgar took part in a fight where the party was trapped in a burning room by a group of necromancers, who then sent in their zombies.  One escape route was into a room full of giant flies, the other required a wall breaking down.  Sadly Silnar didn't live long enough to find out which choice was made.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Recent Gaming

After a summer during which the only gaming I've been doing has been the solo campaign that I've been posting about, in October I got back into visiting my FLGS, The Games Table.  Indeed (because I'm now avoiding pubs), I'm now going a little more often that I did before.

Norwich being a small place, it turned out that there was some social overlap between my work colleagues and my gaming chums.

Board Card Games

I've had a couple of sessions in which I've been playing board/card games with work colleagues.  We've taken advantage of Board Game Night at The Games Table, with opening until 11pm.  Nothing exciting to report I suppose.

We tried a couple of new things...

First up was Endangered Orphans of Condyle Cove.  Phew!  We just couldn't get our heads around this one.  The rules/instructions just didn't make sense to us (probably made worse because an expansion had been inserted into the store's copy).  After 10 minutes of fafffing around we gave up and moved on.  Frankly, I'm surprised that it's got such a high rating on Board Game Geek.

The second new game was forgetable, and I promptly forgot it's name.  It was basically a version of "draw what's on the card" charades.  The "twist" being just how obscure some of the phases were.  Is was daft fun to end the evening, but I wouldn't want to play too often.  The production values were quite low, for one thing.

Much more fun was had with old favourites:  Battle Sheep, Exploding Kittens, Unstable Unicorns (with the Dragons Expansion pack) and Catan.  Catan is, of course, brilliant; that and Unicorns are my favourites of what we've played.

If we carry on going as a group (which remains to be seen), we're going to make an effort to try more new stuff and more 'big box' games.


Blagging our way onto the villan's

I've posted separately about the games-test of the Not-Bond game The Spy Hack that I went to at the end of October.  Read more about it here.

How Dachs the Badger met his doom

Our on-going open table Old School Essentials (B/X) campaign is still in full-swing.  Our default is to go down the Barrowmaze, but if our regular GM can't make it (or if so many players turn up that we have to split into two games!) another GM jumps in and we take our characters on a little trek to explore the Lost City Under a Pyramid (I'm not sure of the title of the module).  So, Barrowmaze twice and Pyramid once.  Mortality remains high, particularly for my characters (I gave up counting when my fifteenth died).  Tomorrow I'll be rolling a new one.   I have a backlog of notes on our Barrowmaze delves: I don't know whether to continue my old practice of posting write-ups.

And as a bonus, last week there was a Dungeon Crawl Classic session, in which we played the Shadow Under Devil's Reef module.  This was released in 2017 as a Halloween special, and I think that it's fair to say that there was more than one unsubtle nod to the Lovecraft Mythos.

Monday, 28 October 2019

Something New: The Spy Hack

Yesterday I tried something new: literally.

A couple of weeks ago our usual GM sent a message out that he was looking to play-test rules and scenarios that a friend and he had been putting together.  These were inspired by the 1980s Avalon Hill James Bond 007 roleplaying game, but aimed to be streamlined in the style of The Black Hack, to:
  • be rules light enough to play without rules to hand
  • create new, interesting agents to play in minutes
  • prioritise roleplay, discourage solving problems with dice
  • be playable with only two twenty-sided dice

Accordingly, I and two other rookie agents received our mission briefing: to attend a party hosted by a dodgy billionaire on his luxury yacht in Monte Carlo; to make contact with our inside man (who has failed to make his scheduled reports and may need to be extracted); and to exfiltrate with any intel gathered.

Despite my concerns that the genre wasn't really my thing, I had a very enjoyable time.  

Our mission was a success despite partially blowing our cover (we'd been advised to keep a low profile and lay the groud for further missions), leaving a pile of bodies behind and tearing off in a couple of Zodiacs half-way through the party.  We've alreay been put on notice that this may affect our chances in the next mission: to infiltrate another party being given by the same host, this time in Las Vegas.  

The system met all the goals - it was intutative and very easy, and there was no looking up of rules involved.  Before long we didn't need to be told what characteristic check we needed to roll (a simple d20 check, occasionaly with Advantage or Disadvantage).  A few needs for further developments were noted (such as how noticable a gun-fight in the next room might be).  

The only drawback was a lack of background fluff: how much did a cup of coffee cost in 1970s Monte Carlo?  Does anyone know of a good 1960s/70s sourcebook that might help?

There seems to be good scope for character and story development.  Character-building was quick and we started out with some back-story ("quirks"), but we were encouraged to build on that in-game: one of our PCs has now established himself as an expert on 1970s haute couture (particularly Spanish fashion-houses for some reason!) by dint of role-play.

Next stop Las Vegas!

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Coming Soon: More Barrowmaze... (I Hope)

Today I was lucky enough to be able to go to our RPG group at the FLGS for the first time in about 10 or 12 weeks.  We spent about five hours in the Barrowmaze.

I may do a write-up of this session (sadly I didn't take my camera), but in thinking about that I realised that I've got notes of two or three sessions that I still haven't committed to the blog.  This might be coming soon.

A lot has changed since I last went.  In the last session I took part in (which isn't on the blog) we found a new entrance to the Barrowmaze, so a lot of new territory has been explored: I knew about that as I've continued drawing up the maps (pleasingly, some of the disparate areas have been joined up by new exploration).

Another thing is that there have been leveling-up.  There are now several Level-3 and -4 players now (which is quite a big thing in B/X).  I was playing a new character who, true to form, was killed.  It's a bit of a running joke.  We're now at the end of Year 3 (game time) and I've gone through 14 characters, all Level 1 (13 dead, one MIA).  The difference in game-play is noticeable: the delve was much longer as there was no need to go back and heal up.

I'm lucky in that this weekend is one of those rare ones where we'll play both on Saturday and Sunday (though tomorrow's is in a different setting).  Tomorrow we may have a couple of my other friends who I've invited along.

Monday, 30 September 2019

Solo Dungeon Crawl #6: Fighting and More Fighting


On the day of Beorwald's and Dewan's funeral the weekly caravan came into Heybrook.   In the next couple of days two of the new adventurers in town presented themselves at the Warreners' bunkhouse explaining that the Factor had advised them that they were recruiting.

Kirgil was a half-elf.  He gave the impression of a strong, well-built human, but with particularly fine features and strikingly bright green eyes.  He was equipped with plate armour and weapons, but no adventuring equipment.  Aldrin was a gnome, short with a long nose.  He had decided to fight against stereotype by being clean-shaven but (perhaps surprisingly given this) still wore a pointed felt hat.  He wore leather armour and around his neck a chain with a large gem attached.

Both were accepted.  They signed the articles of agreement and each paid 5gp into group funds.

By the time Kinfalnar and Egi had healed it was only two days before the weekly caravan was due.  As the healing potions the party had ordered three week's previously were due to be on it, it was decided to wait.  As it happened, Aldwyne's plate armour also arrived.  Each member of the group took a vial of the potion (in the case of the new recruits, the cost of these were put against future earnings) .

The Delve

As we left the Warren last time

As no-one was healing, there were two new members, the party's treasure was under lock-and-key with the Factor and (above all) following the disaster last delve, it was determined that the whole party should set out.

  • Aldrin (Gnome)
  • Aldwyne Wolfbane (Dwarf)
  • Egi Snorrison  (Dwarf)
  • Eril (Thief, Level 2)
  • Kinfalgar (Elf)
  • Kirgil (Half-Elf)

They had hired one of Robern's mules and employed his son, Alhert, to look after it.  As previously agreed, Alhert wasn't expected to enter the Warren, but to guard the mule.  He was kitted out in leather armour and given a sling and dagger from the bunkhouse store.  Kirgil also picked out some basic adventurer's gear from the store.

During the journey through the Tearmoss Forest the party was shadowed by a group of Blink Dogs.  These kept their distance however and allowed them to pass once they proved not to be a threat.  In discussion afterwards, Egi and Kirgil disagreed on how many there were; the majority decided there had been at least four.

On arrival at the entrance to the Warren the party found that the lock they had placed on the door had been broken and entry forced.  There was no sign of who might have done this.  Alhert was left with the mule and given instructions to keep a careful watch.  He was told that if attacked he might consider barricading himself into the Anteroom and shouting for help.

The party planned to try the exits from the room to the east of the Anteroom.  They started by checking the north door.

A flurry of bats flapped through the doorway, their screeching barely audible as they careened past the party's heads. They flapped by harmlessly into the rooms and halls beyond.  At first glance, the room from which they came seemed empty.  As Aldwyne stepped into the room there was a 'Clunk!' as he stood on a pressure-plate and he was struck by a dart, fortunately, any poison that was on the dart must have perished, and had no effect.

Credit: Walter Simon
Eril moved to dismantle the trap while the other members of the party checked the rest of the room.  This search came up with a hidden sack containing 30gp and 300sp.

The door out of this room lead to a short corridor, at the end of which a flight of stairs descended.  Not yet ready to go in the lower sections of the Warren, the party returned to the room west of the Anteroom.  Exiting this room into another corridor Aldwyne, who given his recent experience had been checking the ground before him with his crowbar, triggered a pit-trap.  This was negotiated safely and the party continued on to a t-junction.

Turning southwards, they came to a door.  Eril checked for traps while Kinfalnar listened for anything behind the door.  Neither found any to report.  However on opening the door, there were three hobgoblins in the room.


Three of 'em
The party piled through the door in order to achieve the benefit of numbers.  Arrows from Kirgil and Eril slammed into one of the hobgoblins, killing it.  The remaining two came forward and both attacked Kinfalnar, fortunately without harming him.  In the ensuing melee Eril was wounded, but the hobgoblins were killed by final blows from Aldwyne and Kinfalnar.

Surround 'em and bash 'em

A search of the hobgoblins bodies and kit resulted in a quantity of silver, a bag of gems and a selection of jewelry.

With over 3,000 coins the party were now at the limits of what they could carry.  They decided to return to the Anteroom and check on Alhert and the mule.

However, while doing this they encountered a group of eight Orcs, obviously coming up from the lower levels.

Fortunately, the party were able to seize the initiative and take position in the room before the orcs had entered.  They started combat by focusing on the orc's leader, who was hit by arrows from Egi and Aldrin, and a Magic Missile from Kinfalnar.  Despite all this however, he remained standing,  Each party soon took up battle lines with their heavy hitters to the fore and bowmen behind.

At one stage Egi was knocked unconscious but Aldrin dragged him out of immediate contact with the enemy, enabling Eril to administer a healing potion.  The two partys were evenly matched and the encounter was a hard slog, but eventually the Warreners' advantage in armour and use of four of their six healing potions won through.  When five of the orcs (including the leader) lay dead the remaining three fled.  A search of the bodies came up with a quantity of gold coins and jewelry.

Fortunately for the heavily-laden group, they were next to the Anteroom, so were able to reconnect with Alhert and transfer all the loot to the mule without any difficulty.  At the last minute, Aldwyne grabbed two of the orcs' short swords and two bows - Alhert's weaponry was upgraded for the return journey.

The return the Heybrook was uneventful.


The haul was counted and appraised.

The one from Hobgoblin combat was
  • 2,873sp
  • A pouch with four gems: Sardonyx (250gp), Tiger Eye Agate (25gp), Obsidian (50gp), Chrysoprase (100gp). Total Value: 425gp.
  • Jewelry: Pendant (10 gp), Locket (1,800gp), Clasp (40gp), Bracelet (30gp). Total Value: 1,880gp.
and from the Orcs

  • 1,817gp
  • Jewelry: Pendant 40gp, small jewelled box, 1,700 gp, Clasp, 200gp. Total Value: 1,940 gp.
  • 2 short swords, two bows (and two quivers of arrows).  These added to the bunkhouse store.
The jewelry was traded to the Factor.  Aldrin took the gems as part of his share.

Aldwyne needed three day's healing, Kinfalnar two and Egi one.  Eril, Egi, Kinfalnar and Aldwyne ordered new Healing Potions through the Factor (60gp and a wait of three weeks).

Today's route

XP and Loot

XP: 6,524 divided between 6 survivors (ie, 1,087/1,196/1,141)
  • Hobgoblins (x3) - 45
  • Orcs (x8) - 80
  • Loot to the value of 6,399gp - 6,399
Aldwyne, Egi and Eril leveled up.  Eril is now a Level 3 Thief; the Dwarfs are Level 2.

  • 1,847gp
  • 3073sp
  • Gems (425gp)
  • Jewelry (3,820p)

For the Wilderness encounter I used the OSE tables for the first time.  My determining roll meant I used the 'Unusual' column of of the designated table.  Hence the blink-dog.  On the Monster Reaction table I rolled 'Neutral, uncertain', hence the chance to avoid them.

In the combat with the orcs I assumed that taking a healing potion was a movement action, ie, one could take the potion but not move, and yet still attack.
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