Sunday, April 26, 2020

OSR: New Knave Campaign

Rietikon, the Pfaff Lake, the Biber Hills, and region

I started a new campaign with 2 players who've never touched a TTRPG before. Old friends of mine. We have played boardgames, videogames, and consumed plenty of adjacent media together over the years, but never made the jump. Why? Who knows... The prompt came from one of them, so I proposed a game of Knave to test the waters (5e was being pushed, but I gently turned that down, arguing that there are better ways to get started in the hobby).

Blatantly ignoring the common advice of starting directly at the dungeon, I picked a short mystery and provided seeds and rumors, to give them a sandbox in the form of a tiny hexcrawl they could explore in future session. An excuse for me to spend 30 minutes playing with Hexkit to create the map above. They were immediately hooked and really got into the game. Asking clever questions, investigating and getting invested in the fiction. We will be picking things up again with future sessions.


A recent natural catastrophe in the Biber hills, South of the hamlet of Rietikon, has provoked brutal landslides. Incessant rain and floods. With it, Beastmen have spilled like vermin, causing turmoil in the region. Adventurers want to be first to the site, under the rumor that ancient ruins and dungeon mounds have been resurfacing from beneath the hills after the change in landscape. The promise of treasure and ancient relics, if they are cunning enough to avoid the Beastmen

A day of travel away from Walfalkon, Rietikon sits by the Pfaff Lake. The body of water borders with the neighboring Kingdom, and has fog and constant lightning at its center, a phenomena that for decades has been plaguing the body of water in a mysterious way.

To the South-West, there are deadly marshes and other settlements (and adventures) to be had. Same with the road traveling to the North along the lake.

What I plan to do

  • The PCs have arrived at Rietikon, a hamlet with ~50 inhabitants and a few moving pieces. A starting town that can be expanded and fleshed out, under the jurisdiction of Walfalkon. Not enough to overwhelm them.
  • Each hex in the map is 1 mile, so the starting area is fairly small and tractable.
  • Have created hex events and population tables for the (h)exploration. Sprinkled a bit of faction play and sites to bring it together.
  • Picked up several starting dungeons and modules, as well as a dungeon I just created for the occasion. Depending on what players end up doing, we could continue with:

Sunday, April 12, 2020

OSR: Walfalkon

Walfalcon from the OSR Discord server gets as part of the Jackalope 2020:
A town for a medieval/renaissance/tokuwaga/3000 years of ancient egyptian history simultaneously/kitchen sink fantasy setting, in however much detail you want. Feel free to include or exclude whatever cultural inspirations you want.

History of Walfalkon

The First walked across continents with ease. For they were Giants. With every generation their size dwindled. Those who kept their lineage closer to those titans, are still regarded and seen as giants among humans today. Jotun are the most obvious example, that one can see atop the mountain peaks, guarding civilization. The few Giant clans of solitary children remain as well.

The history of Walfalkon got kickstarted with the first Giants. Will Tropp, great-grandchild of the First One, famously lost a boot after a slumbering nap that lasted 9 years, 3 months, and 2 hours. Barkane, husband, father, and later called the Humble, settled in the building-sized leather unit, moving his whole family with him. This, with time, was the foundation of what today is known as the town of Walfalkon.

Located at the edge of the Kingdom, Walfalkon survives in symbiosis with the Sihlwald forest to the North. A looming threat with many dangers, both places need each other more than they'd like to admit.

Walfalkon thrives on cobblers, and exports boots, and other finely crafted leather goods around the Kingdom. Recently, a mercenary company called the Golden Griffon Curio Corporation settled in town to assist with raids and other dangers from the Sihlwald (and also to plunder old relics scattered therein).

Population: 839
Demographics: 50% Humans, 10% Halflings, 10% Fauns, 10% Spiderlings, 20% Other (Deerlings, Froglings, Goblins, Dwarves, etc.)
Ruling: Graf Macsen Deliz, under the Kingdom
Industry: Cobblers (export), Pig Farming (for self-subsistence), Wood-working

Laws, Festivities, and Customs

  • [Law] Anyone entering town has their name taken, and must deposit their weapons (save daggers), which will be returned upon exiting.
  • [Summer] Every year, the graduating apprentices take over the Botin Tavern to drink and feast, wearing their best creations. They then have to sleep in their cups outside the locale, and leave a boot as a mark of future fortune and wealth in their new profession as cobblers. The boots are then put in a pile and set ablaze on the next morning.
  • [Customs] Cats are feared and despised, as everyone knows they are demons in disguise. Cursed. Dogs are ok.
  • [Customs] Anyone local who passed away will be buried at the Cemetery of Dead Masks by priests of St. Barkane.


1. Botin Tavern
Botin Tavern is the heart of Walfalkon. Historical, dated, and full of life, booze, and activity at all times. The building is an actual gargantuan leather boot, reinforced with wooden panels and copious amounts of grease throughout the decades. There are 8 private rooms for rent on the upper floors, as well as a common room in an adjacent building.

The common room has a huge fireplace warming the space, and the taxidermy of an owl the size of a horse, with emerald gems for eyes. A hunt of St. Barkane from the Sihlwald, as the story goes.

Pello Barkane and his family run the establishment with hectic efficiency, beloved by the locals. They work at the counter and kitchen, overseeing the room occupancy. Sirizio and a good number of servants tend to the busy tables. Locals, foreigners, and guards off-duty mingle here at most times.

If the PCs spend a considerable amount of time at the Botin, or if they carouse here, the Referee can introduce the following:
  • Recently, a group of 4 hired killers called the Ivory Centipedes have established themselves at the tavern. Masters of poisons and slow killings, each has a tattoo of a centipede on their chest. They lack an agenda due to the recent (accidental) demise of their leader.
  • An ensemble of sculptor artists, masters at woodworking, are more political than they might seem. Disgusted by the exploitation of the Sihlwald's resources, they aim to defend the forest's traditions from the recent influx of treasure hunters and other adventurers. The Monastery to St. Barkane, the Humble as well as Macsen Deliz have to go. If only these woodcarvers had more ressources...
Also, d66 Random Inn NPCs can be introduced.

2. Graf's Manor
The austere mansion, belonging to the ruling Graf Macsen Deliz and his family, is the first thing anyone will see when entering Walfalkon. Made of stone, completely utilitarian. Visiting nobility and wealthy merchants take residence as guests in the three story building.

3. Justus' Monastery to St. Barkane, the Humble
Justus, a former monk with no experience in architecture or construction, erected this building out of donations and discarded materials about two centuries ago. Wanting to capture the essence and devotion to St. Barkane, many have cloistered themselves in the monastery. Anyone is welcome, and upon entering and joining the monastery, they have to stop wearing shoes and shaving or trimming their hairs. Father Igor is in charge and oversees the day to day. There are 6 additional monks in the monastery (Level 1-2 Clerics).

4. Labiano's Tower
This bricked construction has 3 levels, and contrasts with the rest of wooden buildings in town. There is only one wooden door entrance. Olga Labiano made climbing to sneak through one of the upper windows impossible by use of permanent Grease spells on the outer walls.

When first visited, will only communicate through a crystal ball in her foyer, which has couches with fluffy pillows, and little else for furniture. Two cats lure there, which drives the locals away (demons! blasphemy! cursed!). Only trusted acquaintances will be allowed to her upper study for a meeting in person (for instance if PCs bring her gifts like jewels or magic items for her to purchase).

Olga never sells secrets, scrolls, or magic items, but will happily buy them off from the PCs (at a -25% price reduction of their market value). Jewels are only taken as gifts. Strange items can be identified with a week's work and a flat 75gp fee.

5. Outpost of the Golden Griffon Curio Corporation (GGCC)
The Griffons have a building in town, where men-at-arms and other hirelings can be recruited. Elvin Lagadic oversees the day-to-day operations, but Merlin Copperpot, the accountant and lawyer, will have to agree to any transaction. They will point to lucrative jobs (for a fee of 20% of any profit). Mercenaries of the guild hired follow their contract to the letter, and won't hesitate to take a higher paying clients to switch sides at the most inconvenient time.

6. Flailing Turret
As tall as Labiano's Tower, the Flailing Turret serves as the guard's barracks, and the edifice of law. Executions of the most capital crimes (murder, harming a noble, stealing something north of 1000gp) are carried out at the turret. Offenders will be hung by a rope for 3 days, hence the gruesome name of the place. For less serious crimes, the prison cells in the basement serve as penitence.

There are 60 guards protecting Walfalkon, led by Valter Three-Fingers. However, some will be off-duty or patrolling the roads, and farms and huts near the Sihlwald. In times of dire need, any male of 16 or above can be mobilized as improvised militia.

7. The Barren Flag
A sole flag, but not of the Kingdom's sigil, or even Walfalkon's. The blue cloth has sewed the contour of a mockingbird. A tribute to Victoire and the rangers that protect the town from dangers from the forest. A reminder that despite that, Walfalkon needs the Sihlwald, and vice-versa. The elder in town assure the blue flag bares protective powers, shielding the town from the darkest creatures of the forest. Tales repeated over and over to scare the children, and foreigners.

Macsen has been trying to replace it with a more modern incarnation including Walfalkon's heraldry, as well as the Kingdom's. But every time the subject arises, it's meant with fierce opposition of the folk. So it remains.

8. Cobbler's Guild
Cobblers fuel the economy of Walfalkon. At any given day, the place is bursting with members and apprentices immersed in their craft. The smell of leather is as intoxicating as the incessant activity. Guildmaster Lexie has run the organization for two decades with economic precision.

Adventurers seeking leather armor and boots will find excellent products here, and at (regulated) market prices. Boots crafted by Lexie herself will cost 10 times more, but have a 10% chance (plus an extra 10% for every 100gp spent on top) of being magical.

9. Cemetery of Dead Masks
A dozen logs as lumbering pillars on the field, each covered by wooden masks from top to bottom. See, when a  local resident of Walfalkon dies, the monks of St. Barkane's Monastery officiate the funerals. After, the body is burned, ashes dispersed on the southern fields, by the pillars. Fields that barely grow any grass. After, a wooden mask is carved, it gets hung from one of the pillars.

This blend of St. Barkane's new officiating rituals and the Old Ways of the Sihlwald are the common accepted common in Walfalkon. Father Igor or another priest will officiate a funeral for a 20 gp donation to Justus' Monastery.

10. The Sihlwald
The thick forest North of town, the Sihlwald is roughly 70 by 25 miles. Semi-official measurements, traversing it is both dangerous and reckless. Horses are useless and can't be mounted, the brush and vegetation too dense for them. The closer to the core, the more time and space distort. Beasts, hags, demons, centaurs, and fae coexist within. Abandoned buildings and natural mazes are rumored to be filled with treasures of past.

Despite the dangers, the edge of the reputed forest is common walking ground for the inhabitants of Walfalkon. Wood-cutting, foraging, and hunting being usual activities.

Victoire and the rangers, nicknamed the Mockingbirds, protect the balance between forest and civilization. They are heavily understaffed, and partially opposed to the ruling Graf, hence their weak position. A Mockingbird can guide PCs into several sites within the Sihlwald in exchange of a considerable favor, if they believe it will move forward their agenda, or for 300gp per day.

11. Road to the Kingdom
The road sees frequent transit, and is the main travel point to the heart of the Kingdom. The next town is one day away by foot, half day by swift horse. Most imported goods (food, leather for the Cobbler's Guild, weapons, etc.) do come from this direction.

12. Road to Pfaff Lake
Takes about a full day of march to reach this sizeable lake by foot. At the end of the road rests the moot hamlet of Rietikon, really not much more than some scattered huts. Their livelihood is ensured by fishing and trade with their bigger counterpart, and there's an understanding respect for Walfalkon. In times of need, their jurisdiction and protection directly falls under Walfalkon.

Notable Personalities

  • Macsen Deliz (Human, Level 4 Fighter) / Ruler of Walfalkon
    • Graf Macsen Deliz is reserved and cautious of foreigners, and treats the people of Walfalkon as his pack.
    • Commanding presence, and piercing different colored eyes.
    • His biggest virtue is also his biggest flaw: he will protect his people and everyone from Walfalkon first. Including incompetent family members like Willm. Foreigners will be blamed first.
    • Happily married to Susana.
  • Susana Deliz (Human, Commoner with 14 Intelligence) / Noble
    • Susana is torn between the status quo and helping the poor and common of birth.
    • A philanthropist at heart, she uses her position to foster the Cobbler's Guild.
    • She's a book worm. Would love to open and sponsor a library (preferably with her name at the entrance), but that is an expensive dream.
    • Married to Macsen.
  • Willm Deliz (Human, Level 1 Thief) / Disenchanted Noble
    • The Graf's young brother, Willm has cut corners his entire life. Privileged position allowed that, including Macsen's compassion.
    • Tall and big, has an obnoxiously short attention span. Picks a new hobby every other week, to drop it for the next thing interesting him.
    • Like a curious cat, Willm has developed a few eccentricities with the years, and is interested in obscure trinkets.
  • Valter Three-Fingers (Dwarf, Level 5 Fighter); Lawful-Neutral 
    • Bald, missing half his left hand (hence the name), grey beard, battle-scarred.
    • Local Law Enforcer, and right hand of the Graf. Over-protective.
    • He'd like to see more Dwarves thriving in the region, whilst still supporting the Graf's sovereignty.
  • Olga Labiano (Human, Level 5 Magic-User) / Local Sage
    • 83, looks as if in her 20s. Stays young with a mix of elixirs and magic items.
    • Dislikes visitors. Will dismissively nickname "Worm", "Speck", "Pinky", "Snot", and similar derogatory terms to Magic-User PCs.
    • Makes an excellent impression (witty, firm), and will always tease with taking apprentices (promise that never materializes).
  • Uttam IV (Faun, Level 4 Magic-User) / Visiting Nobleman 
    • Slender, graceful, skin as pale as milk.
    • Permanent visiting resident at the Graf's Manor. Everyone questions the regal status, but are too afraid to act on it (lest it cause a diplomatic dissonance).
    • Knowledgeable, trustworthy, can secure valuables for the PCs for a 5% fee at withdrawal.
    • Meticulously studying religion and St. Barkane from an academic standpoint. Secretly working on a manuscript to discredit the local Saint-hero.
  • Clothilde (Spiderling, Level 3 Magic-User) / Fortuneteller 
    • Old, scarred, bizarre.
    • Extremely superstitious: everything's an omen!
    • Knitting as a way of life. That's also how they read fortunes, by seeing the implemented patterns on the knitted webs.
    • Famous in Walfalkon and the region for the readings. Can do one for 100gp.
    • 1:2 of potion of healing, 1:4 of other potions. Restocked weekly.
    • Knows a way into the heart of the Sihlwald. Will only trade it for another capital secret.
  • Pello Barkane (Human, Level 3 Fighter) / Owner of the Botin Tavern, Inn-keeper
    • Distant heir of Barkane, the local Saint of Walfalkon.
    • Wrinkled, with his best years behind him. Pello adventured the Sihlwald extensively, wanting to prove himself worth the last name. Will ramble on an on about it.
    • 1:2 chance of providing a rumor, if listened for long enough (at least 1 hour).
  • Sirizio (Human, Level 2 Thief) / Master Bartender
    • Stoic, auburn hair, deep voice, with ale-stained clothes.
    • Master Bartender at the Botin Tavern.
    • Doppelganger in disguise, feeding information to Zitta Zwykle, the Hag of Sihlwald.
  • Lexie (Deerling, Level 1 Thief) / Guildmaster of the Cobbler's Guild
    • For all her wealth, she wears tasteless clothes. Stubborn as an ox.
    • Goes on a first-name basis with everyone, regardless of position.
    • Holds the real power in town, and she knows it.
  • Father Igor (Frogling, Level 5 Cleric) / Monk of St. Barkane, the Humble
    • Hair like an unruly mop. The aura of a leader, with a know-it-all attitude.
    • Runs the Justus' Monastery to St. Barkane, the Humble, and will admit pious or lawful PCs for recovery, at an encouraged donation to the monastery.
    • Confidant to the Graf Macsen Deliz.
  • Amatza Lagadic (Human, Level 5 Fighter) / Mercenary Guildmaster
    • Bronze-skinned, with the neck of a bull. Your stereotype loud Bro.
    • Breeds dogs as a hobby. Some for scouting, some for selling. Has d6 war dogs to sell every month.
    • First in command from the Golden Griffon Curio Corporation.
    • She's a secret agent sent by the Royal Crown to keep an eye on the Graf, the Mockingbirds, and insurgence. As a faraway town, Walfalkon needs an eye out. More cerebral than she'd like to admit.
  • Merlin Copperpot (Halfling, Level 2 Magic-User) / Lawyer
    • Craggy, and with oiled brushed hair.
    • From the Golden Griffon Curio Corporation mercenaries, second in command. Oversees any signed contracts and transactions. 
    • Bookish, knows loopholes to contracts, etc. Revels in anecdotes.
  • Qutt (Goblin, Level 3 Thief) / Surgeon
    • Grizzled and with acid scars on his hands.
    • Despised by the townsfolk for his mannerisms and brutality. And because of Goblinoid stereotypes, of course. Still seeked in desperate times, by the non-religious, and women trying to rid a child.
    • Barber shop, repairs limbs, can add a wooden prosthetic to severed limbs for enough gold.
  • Victoire (Spiderling, Level 4 Fighter) / Ranger
    • Bitter, an with a square jaw.
    • Has a reputation. Will save your life, and gut a deer as they talk about the rain to come.
    • Leader of the rangers known as the Mockingbirds, that keep balance between Walfalkon (civilization) and the Sihlwald (wilderness).
    • Her goal is to protect and save as many as possible.
    • Runs a side business smuggling honey liquor from a few folks she knows deep in the Sihlwald forest.

    d20 Rumors in Walfalkon

    T: True; F: False; P: Partially true
    1. Willm Deliz is rumored to cater two eccentric interests. Exotic (but useless) sabers and frogs. His basement (at the Graf's Manor) hosts a collection of 100 stuffed frogs, carefully arranged in everyday scenes (barber shop, feasting, gambling). The taxidermy scenes are priced and valuable to exotic collectors (up to 15gp each; easy to damage) [T]
    2. New altars in the Sihlwald are dedicated to the dark Goddess Viera, Master of Cursebones. [F]
    3. There's an ancient and gnarled oak tree, centered in a glade in the Sihlwald. It's the entrance to a mysterious place full of treasure. You'll recognize it when you see it. [T] Connects with "Hole in the Oak" from Nectrotic Gnome.
    4. Beware! Brigands plague the roads during Spring and Summer, overwhelming caravans and travelers on the Road to the Kingdom. [T]
    5. Sirizio from the Botin Tavern had his memory wiped clean by a bargain with a demon. [F]
    6. Cannibalistic Centaurs have been raiding the pig farms near Walfalkon, wreaking havoc and killing everyone in their way. [T]
    7. Olga Labiano had her Tower magically built 10 years ago, overnight, to the discomfort of everyone local. Nobody knows how that happened. A Giant's bean? The favor of a Hag? [P] Somebody in fact knows how that happened. The details are left to the Referee to figure out.
    8. Olga Labiano and Graf Macsen have a secret, torrid affair. Producing proof would be rewarded greatly by Susana. Or serve as blackmail... [F]
    9. The massive owl hanging in the Botin Tavern's common room was an oracle from the Sihlwald. Set it ablaze, and ask any two questions. You'll get the true answers. [T]
    10. The rangers known as the Mockingbirds allied a sorcerer, in aims to overthrow the Graf Macsen. They will make their move in 3 days. [F]
    11. Victoire is stealing from all of Walfalkon. Brings curses down to every single one of us, killing our pigs. The Mockingbirds are evil. [F]
    12. In the guts of the Pfaff Lake, quiet and tiny in size, has an island in its center. Two dozen crimson dolmens stand in a circle. Different keys to a realm of the Elves. [P]
    13. A Green Knight got wrongfully imprisoned after a wild night at the Botin Tavern, where he killed two pick-pockets. He will be hanged with the break of dawn. Stop it. [T]
    14. The dryads are being hunted by the troll tribes, deep in the Sihlwald. Find out what caused this. [P]
    15. The Scorpion has the magical bastard sword Curseweaver. Anyone who bests him in one-to-one duel can claim the item and title from him. Find him by the endless bonfire in the Sihlwald. [T]
    16. An abandoned inn stands at the center of the Sihlwald, called the Swan's Pipe. Five magnificent floors. Said to be haunted for more than 100 years, past its prime. It'd be top property to flip, or have some valuables I reckon. [T]
    17. The trolls in this region are afraid of fire and acid, as it tampers their regeneration. [F] Make trolls more interesting.
    18. Careful with the strawberries you pick from the forest. They will restore your vigor and health, but will blind you for a day in return! [F]
    19. Father Igor and his monks plundered ancient sites from the region for their treasures. Under the bowels of their Monastery lies a crypt with powerful curios and artifacts. [P]
    20. Every full moon the Pfaff Lake gets swarmed by locusts for the night. People hide in their huts, and pray for it to end. In the morning, all unprotected food and leather are gone. [F]

    Notes from a different Dimension

    • Restaurante Botin in Madrid, Spain, is the oldest running restaurant in the world. "Botín" means "small boot" in Spanish.
    • Many towns in the German-speaking part of Switzerland do end with the suffix *kon.
    • The Sihlwald is actually a small forest in Switzerland.
    • Atlas Obscura was used as inspiration for several prompts and ideas.
    • I tend to prefer using Fauns instead of Elves, leaving the latter for the truly alien and unknown. Also adding other races (Deerling, Frogling, Goblin, etc.) Replace as needed.

    Saturday, April 11, 2020

    OSR: Barrowmaze AP 2

    It is the day 28. I can count myself successful in the Barrows, thank the Lady Ongmata. And today we DO have the numbers.
    Adrik Goldtooth, a new Dwarf in town, leaves a quick signature on Guildmaster Olson's ledger. Welcome to the Guild!
    Seasoned treasure hunters join us: Scamdalf the Wizard, Sgt Rumpus, Rocco Kyndman Jr III (another priest, yet with clouded Faith tenents).
    Henx, Frena, Wennick, Mormyr, and Malg the Dwarf are our hired helping hands for this expedition.
    After a round of brief introductions, we grab Scamdalf's horses an leave town, all 10 of us.

    There is much debate on where to next. Personally, the Barrows are a must, to cleanse the site of the undead abominations.
    But Bogtown, to the North-East, seems like an interesting town to explore in the future.
    Finally, we decide to approach the Barrows from the North-West, hoping the blessing of good weather avoids unwanted surprises.

    Unfortunately, the hilly terrain is ripe for ambushes, and a swarm of animated skeletons jump out of nowhere.
    Frena dies on the spot, dragged to the ground with a mixture of claws, screams, and guts. A short expedition for her.
    Malg is harmed, but able to deflect the worst of it with his shield.
    I call for aid of the Lady Ongmata, but this time around she does not answer. Have I sinned?
    Sir Rocco's willpower seems more thorough, and gets those foul undead to flee.
    Malg, Sgt Rumpus and others retaliate as the bones retire in their macabre march.

    We inspect our first site, a collapsed dome, the pit descending about 40 feet.
    It's risky to leave the horses unattended, and try a descent with rope.
    Adrik and the Sgt notice huge birds circling this site. Will they attack us at our weakest?
    We decide it's best not to find out, and instead move East.

    Ten minutes later, we find a sealed crypt. Fortunately, we have the tools and numbers for breaking it open.
    Wennick and Adrik break the stone cover with sledgehammers and might on their side.

    Inside, 20 feet of stairs lead to a circular space with the statue of a boastful youth warrior in its center. A shiny sword on its hands.
    In my last expedition I remember warnings from Quag and Kalis of plundering such relics. I warn my companions.
    Inscriptions under the statue: "Be forthright and rejoice under the sun"
    We try to reflect the sun with an assortment of mirrors, thinking it the clue from the plaque, without any effect.
    Scamdalf opens his sense to wizard magic, confirming that the sword has great power.
    I call on you, Lady, and detect the door to the East protects us from a great Evil.
    Going into more direct measures, we start hammering the statue.
    I'm blessed to have the deciding blow on my hands, sword dropping with a metallic sound as iron meets stone.
    Henx tries the closed door to the East, as a smoke figure emerges through its cracks. My skin feels the worthless cold.
    Many wrongfully think that Hell and Death are an endless fire. Wrong fouls. It's cold and emptiness. This is Death.
    Henx drops dead on the spot, consumed by the evil essence, that's eyeing our recent transgression.

    As the one who disturbed the site, it moves towards me as everyone else (save the Sgt?) is fleeing away.
    Lady, you shield me!
    I grab the sword, and run, but the Sgt seems determined to solve the riddle on the plaque. In a time like this?
    The shadows catch to him, killing the warrior.

    At the corridor the shadow still catches up to me and embraces me, clogging me in bitter cold shadows.
    I loose memories, faith, and my clear vision of the Lady. As if Death, of which I've seen so much of recently, was just greeting me with its cold embrace.
    In desperation, and flinching at the ethical implications, I swing the sword in a wide arc. I vow to the Lady to get the shrine built after this!
    Lady, redeem this fool's deeds! The shadow retreats in pain, smoky shadows cut in half.
    Scamdalf sends a magic projectile destroying the Evil, as I see the light of the sun washing my face.
    I drop to my knees, cast my hands to the skies, and claim your name: Lady Ongmata, Riddler. Why this pain? Not today!

    Without danger, we return to the site, to continue the exploration. A clue to the inscription on the statue: Bareus?
    We have the sword, so it matters not now.
    Adrik takes courage and opens the door to the East. In there, a sarcophagus in a 40 by 40 feet space.
    Scamdalf, Adrik and Wennick investigate the room, finding a hidden compartment within! Their hands seem guided today.
    In there, a historical relic in the form of an amphora. There are also carvings depicting Bareus defeating Trolls in valiant battle.
    How could such a wholesome soul end up cursed into such evilness? Something is off.
    Not the first time I discover the remnants of past battles on this site.

    We run back to Helix, afraid of the fog catching up to us.
    In our return to town, we get followed by 3 giant scorpions, the size of mastiffs. One of them with a Troll's leg pierced on its tail.
    We leave one of Scamdalf's horses behind, sentencing the poor beast to a certain peril, but allowing us to flee.

    Back in town, Olson is able to sell the amphora for 5300 gold pieces.
    The local smith identifies the sword as Dwimmerdeath, an ancient weapon efficient at slaying Wizards.
    We decide to keep it in store for the Adventurer's Guild and future expeditions, to be better prepared.
    As for me, I will scout for properties in Helix to start the place of worship.

    Monday, April 6, 2020

    OSR: Magical Murder Mansion Sessions 1, 2

    Covid-19-isolated, it was time to launch a game to keep my mind off the current situation around me. These are dire times. I have family members infected. Stay safe.

    This will be a play report of Magical Murder Mansion by Skerples. If we end up covering a significant part of this fun-house dungeon I will write a short review and my opinions on it (because, what might seem brilliant when reading could blatantly fail at the table, and vice-versa). We use play online, with Roll20 and Discord as the tools of choice.

    The rules are based on Knave, with a few light additions and modifications (including Ancestries, but no Knacks this time). We start at PCs at Level 4, as the module recommends seasoned murderhobos. 400 gp each at start to boot, to allow some purchases and hirelings. Let's revise the characters first.

    Wendell - a Human fighter type, former butcher. Carries a Battleaxe, Bow and arrows. Likes to boss his underlings around.
    Gelda Cleanwater - curious Halfling Wizard dabbling in the arcane arts. Also carries a staff. 
    Grem - a Spiderling Fighter with two spears and a shield.
    Starting Hirelings - 3 Man-at-arms (Billy, Lois, Olaf) and a Laborer (Farmer).
    New Hirelings - man-at-arms (Soupy)

    Session 1

    • Rooms covered: 1: Cloakroom, 2: Prismatic Wall, 45: Lever Alcove, 46: Pit Trap, 48: Trophy Room, 49: Coffin Storage, 51: Zombie Kiln
    • Exploration Time: 50'
    • Session Length: 2h10' (we took some time to go over character creation before the start)
    • Fatalities: Billy, Lois, Olaf

    Group takes the quest by Hubert Nibsley's nephew Heinrich P'flem, to go to his uncle's abandoned mansion 1 hour outside of town, and try to recover an old secret journal by the (in)famed magician. Anything else you find in there "you can find and keep for yourselves". With the promise of riches, the group gathers some hired hands and sets off to the old Mansion.

    Heinrich P'flem

    •  Group has a peek from the outside, and refuses to make a perimeter check, instead deciding to go attempt their luck at the obvious main entrance.
    • The entrance has 8 iron hooks for the coats. Greeted by the ghost butler Albert "Your coats, Sirs". They fall to the ground, Albert retreats frustrated and sad. The cloths lie on the floor, so.... they try to us the iron hooks. Several garments get scorched in the process of the party trying to connect the colored columns with the hooks (since they are the same number!).
    • Frustrated at the lack of effect, they decide to go left "Always going left is known as the best strategy, right?", Wendell suggests.
    • The Lever Alcove's description makes it too enticing for the players, who know something bad's about to come but WANT to pull at the lever.
    • Wendell instructs his hireling Olaf to pull the lever, whilst everybody else cautiously awaits  in the entrance room. He does so... and the octarine light fills the entrance room! Lois and Billy get ignited immediately. Billy dies paifully, the smell of cooking bacon in everyone's nostrils.
    • Next, the group decides to go left. There's the red carpet in front, and as is common for now, Olaf takes the front. Wendell is very convincing (even passing a Charisma save), so the hired muscle peaks around the corner. Without further precautions, he walks over the red carpet, springing the pit trap. Quick enough to grab the end of the pit, his leg takes a toll. They quickly pull him up.
    • Moving forward (and jumping across the pit), the group moves towards the Trophy Room. There's also a purple-lighted portal in sight. After noticing that the heads on display aren't taxidermy, but just paper replicas, they start smashing some of them to see if they contain any hidden treasure.
    • After getting the unicorn's horn, and ignoring the glass eyes, the decide to give the portal a try (after much experimentation, throwing some of the taxidermy heads, poking at it with a spear, etc.).
    • We get a random encounter with a Giant Spider, that surprises Olaf and reduces the hireling "Mama? Milk? Food?" and swiftly kills the charred Lois to boot. An exchange after, Grem finally kills the arachnid (the irony? he's a Spiderling).
    • Now with time to take in the area behind the "portal", the realization kicks in that this is a coffin storage room, with mist. The group quickly loots the coffins, with sacks of gold and small trinkets in them (20 of them).
    • They then take the door to the West, to the Kiln room. It's hotter here (the oven is on), and there's an operational table with servo-mechanical arms. Quickly, the group decides to experiment by putting the corpse of poor Olaf, the man-at-arms, on the operating table. Servos activate, and start operating and injecting at incredible speed. Modified body is tossed into the kiln, and there's some interaction with the temperature (danger is avoided though... after the kiln started shaking).

    Session 2

    • Rooms covered: 51: Zombie Kiln, 47: Record Room, 50: Spiral Staircase, 54: Art Gallery, 55: Statue Alcove, 56: Lounge, 57: Magic Elevator
    • Exploration Time: 1h50 (excluding their visit back in town)
    • Session Length: 1h45'
    • Fatalities: Soupy
    • Group decides to go back to town, cash in their recovered treasure, and resupply.
      • Wendell hires a new man-at-arms, Soupy.
      • They also get some new gear: lockpicks, rations, 10ft pole, etc.
    • Back at the mansion, they let Soupy open the door, just in case, and then he's washed by the octarine magical light from the entrance/lowered metallic column. Having a strong mind, he's unaffected by it.
    • Moving directly to unlock and diligently explore the Record Room, the lights inside the mansion suddenly turn off, so the Laborer has to light the lantern.
    • The group spends 1 hour investigating the numerous coded papers in the records. Find out their names, and those who entered the dungeon before them, as well as their character sheets. They ask clever questions, to which neither I nor the module have the answer. Disappointing results.
    • Wanting to ascend to the tower via the spiral staircase, Wendell in front notices the "TURN BACK" sign in front of it. They cleverly decide to use a non-literal interpretation of the message, and ascend walking backwards. To avoid mishaps or surprises, Wendell uses two helmets as improvised rear mirrors. Improvised solution, doesn't help him seeing the glyphs on the last steps of the stairs! Fortunately he makes his save, and warns the others.
    • Once above, the group finds itself in an Art Gallery with 8 big (and expensive looking) paintings. Having a cursory look at them, a nude of Hubert Nibsley himself, and one of a young woman wearing a far-off-the-shoulder red dress, catch the group's attention.
    • Gilda goes too close to Nibsley's naked painting.
    • Grem, keen on exploring this level of the tower a bit more, decides to check the next area. An alcove with 3 statues of Nibsley, covering different parts of his face. A small metal box on a pedestal, and a brass plaque reading "BE NICE". 
    This, but with Mr. Nibsley
    • Too tempted, Grem decides to go for the box. The statues, as somewhat expected, animate and protect the box as best they can, smashing left and right at Grem. He does avoid the first blunt of the attacks.
    • At the same time, Gilda notices what she needs to do to be able to move again: she has to compliment Hubert! A cocky magical effect of sorts. After that, the statues stop their offense, but are still "awake".
    • Fearing another pummeling by the stone statues, the group circles around the tower to see what else is here. They discover a lounge area with 3 couches, a zombie with sunglasses and a floral shirt snoring on one of them. They also find an elevator, with buttons going "UP" and "DOWN".
    • Too fearful to touch anything and potentially activate new hazards and traps, the adventurers are queasy on what their next action should be. Finally, they decide to circle back to the paintings, focusing on The Fallen Madonna.
    • Gilda explores the painting, together with Wendell and Soupy. "Hands off!", the lady on the painting protests. "I'm warning you!", as Wendell tries to pry it from where it's hanging. Gilda tries to cover it with a coat (they got new ones in town after having the old ones burnt at the entrance). "You asked for it...". The lady on the painting pulls out a magical wand, quickly produces a lightning that fills the room.
    • Soupy turns to ash on the spot. Gilda manages to duck away and avoids the blunt of it, and Wendell is hurt but still walking.

    Referee Commentary / Things I Learned

    • It is capital to remember rolling for random encounters every turn of exploration. It keeps things moving and players on their toes, especially when exploring rather "static" rooms. And there are a fair share of those in here. Our rolls showed only one of them, and at some point I forgot to throw an encounter (for example after they spent the hour in the Record Room).
    • The best traps are the ones that are obvious, and the players facepalm themselves "How did we fall into that one?!"
    • Criticism on 47: Record Room
      • This room seems like a pun or gimmick, but a bad thought out one. After finding their character sheets my players tried to do all sorts of clever things, but aren't rewarded by them "I try to write 100 on my HP".
      • Or also asking clever questions, like "Who was the last person who entered here", "When is the last time Hubert entered here"
      • It is very loose, extremely powerful, and a gimmick, that I think didn't see a lot of playtest. It left a sour taste on my mouth, and I think my players were quite disappointed by the room.
    • Criticism on 54: Art Gallery
      • There is a LOT to describe here. 8 paintings, where the players are not really sure what is relevant and what not.
      • The lack of doors between rooms 54 and 55, and 54 and 57, made the players believe that the whole floor-plan was a complicated puzzle, including the statues. And frankly there's no way to discourage them of that suspicion.


    Find out what happened in session 3 HERE

    OSR: Barrowmaze AP

    This is a session report of Idle Doodler's open table Barrowmaze campaign. I play Father Kask, a Level 1 Cleric.

    It is the day 26. A good one for my first venture to the Barrows. The sites there need holy cleansing.
    Guildmaster Olson has a reasonable proposition for my time in Helix, for a mere 20% of recovered goods and treasures.
    He's not a local, like me, but I decide to trust him based on his reputation in town.

    Introductions are done, Kalis and Quag will be my companions in this expedition.
    Grizzled and experienced, the pair has survived the dreadful Barrows before. Comfort, seems the Gods bestowed me capable hands.
    We still lack the numbers, so I convince Malg, a Dwarf bringing excellent equipment for battling, to 2 weeks of mercenary work.
    With remorse and a sense of filth, we check the local brothel for lost but capable souls.
    Belchwic, an out of shape young lad, stands out of the crowd. He still could be corrected, with the right fatherly guidance.
    Quag brings horses and Ram, who will later be proven invaluable.
    Kalis decided to hire Fardash, a wizard of sorts with a tad of a cocky attitude.

    On the 27th day we leave for the swamp lands with the break of dawn.
    Quag and Kalis have a set route in mind, wanting to revisit a known Barrow filled with water and deadly statues.
    We make our way to our goal without encountering any dangers on our path! Feeling blessed, I throw my hands to the skies.

    At the site, we leave our horses and Quag sends Ram (with a bribe, no less!) to drive the deadly statues out.
    An ambush of sorts, it seems. After 10 minutes of wait, the hired helper returns with an unsuccessful result.
    I question Ram's integrity, but leave my reservations to myself. Fear and lies in this unholy place seem almost natural.

    Ultimately, the 7 of us descend to the bowels, torches and weapons in hand. Water fills the space, wetting my boots and pants.
    An unexplored door to the right is deemed appropriate by Quag. Swollen and sturdy, the Ranger still manages to open it.
    In there, a mysterious tablet and an amphora sit at the end of the room.
    Mysterious treasure, with the promise of history and power!
    Unfortunately, the promise of riches clogs Quag's usual care, and he falls to a pit concealed by the dark, cold water.
    The splashing brings forward two vicious bats like I've never seen before, as big as eagles!
    A fight ensues, where I try to bolster Malg's efforts and move forward in the busy corridor.
    We dispose of the bats before the problem escalates.
    Fardash shows that he won more than one knife-throwing competition at the local taverns.
    Perhaps he should be more focused in his studies instead? Who am I to judge...
    Quag's hurt. But he pockets the valuable amphora and the mysterious tablet.
    I inspect the carved stonework in the room. Depictions of an ancient battle, with Giants of some sort taking part.

    Finally, we move to the room with the statues, on the Western side of the complex.
    4 remain, including one of an Elven Warrior that used to have a sword, already plundered on a previous expedition.
    Kalis is weary of the statues attacking, so decides to chisel away the head of one of them with Malg's expert dwarven advice.
    It's true what they say about a Dwarf. Stone and drink and battle. Those are his known nouns. Stereotypes be damned.
    In anger, the other 2 lizard-like statues animate. If they could show any emotion, I'm sure it would be anger and fury.
    Kalis shows courage, and charges forward to meet them, followed by Malg.
    I notice my bowels turn upside down. My heart wants to rip out of my chest, drumming uncontrollably. But I move forward.
    At this point, I see an arrow shot by Ram, ripping the head off of one of the statues.
    Divine intervention? Is this one touched by the Gods? He will be celebrated back in town, and I won't forget this feat.
    Overwhelming the last standing statue with blows, magical darts, and arrows, we dispose of it.
    Kalis has taken a beating, but as a group we are surprisingly hardy.
    Our last step is an exploration of a secret door in the Northern side of this room.
    In there, an ominous sarcophagus resembling the Elven Warrior stands against the wall.
    The fear of an undead abomination in the sarcophagus has us all in our nerves. I question my role in all of this.
    Quag, once again, shows determination, opening the contents with a mix of wits, rope, and a pole-arm.
    The consumed corpse floats on the water. I store the salvageable boots of Elven fabric it was wearing.
    Outside, I give the Warrior of old a proper burial, let his soul rest in peace.
    Unsure this complies with Elven tradition, I comfort myself with the fact that this is better than floating on filthy water.

    Our way back to Helix on horse is hasty and uneventful. We avoid the fog and perils, yet again.
    In town, we seek audience with Mazzahs to try and understand or sell the recovered tablet.
    The Wizard's interest is evident, so I negotiate a finders' fee for its retrieval of 650gp for Quag, Kalis, and myself.
    We will also learn its secrets, in case Mazzahs research on it turns out to be fruitful.

    The last day has taught me many things, including that good and capable hands reside in this town.

    A shrine to mourn our efforts in less blessed days will be my next endeavor, as I await the next expedition to cleanse the Barrows of their evil.

    Thursday, April 2, 2020

    OSR: Pywawa

    A lone Farmer on arid lands buries their sole goat, dead on the drought. Out of fear of catching the disease that killed it, or new ones attracted by the carcass, a quick hole on the ground suffices. Foolery, as the Pywawa grow and thrive in hot and dry climates, and fresh meat underground is just the ideal breeding pot. The next morning, the Farmer will find their field filled with half-planted pineapple weeds...

    Our poor farmer is in for a treat, and should run away, pronto.

    Rather quickly, this field will prove to be the birth of full Pywawas. They'll come out of the earth, flying on their bat-like wings, shouting "WAWA WAWA WAWA" in unison. Their upper body resembles the shape and form of a pineapple (yet much sturdier), a proper description of the half above their lone eye. Their teeth are hard, will tear through leather, flesh, and tendons, yet stop at iron and stone. These flying fuckers seek hot flesh, as the unison cry continues. They eat, eat, and eat some more, and never know when to stop.

    Pywawas are ferocious, carnivorous, and have the cunning and intellect of a dog. Which means they will remember individual faces and locations, have great senses (keen vision), and are able to open door handles with their teeth (although more complex mechanisms will fly by them).

    Heat and light are an attraction to them, so they will go after bonfires, torches, and candles first. They hunt and are always encountered in packs (or flocks, rather), and should be dreaded by all treasure hunters and adventurers.

    To sum up:
    • They fly, have the intellect of a dog, and always shout "WAWA WAWA WAWA".
    • Pywawas attack at first sight, and always come in flocks.
    • Can't be really tamed, but easily diverted by a) putting a huge fire or b) leaving fresh meat behind.


    HD: 2
    Omen: distant shouts in unison of "WAWA WAWA WAWA".
    Appearance: one eye, size of a pineapple. Bat-wings flap.
    Number Appearing: 2d6
    Wants: fresh and warm meat. Anything that's been dead for longer that 1 hour is of no interest to a Pywawa.
    Armour: as Leather + Helmet.
    Movement: fly at Normal speed.
    Morale: 9
    Save As: Fighter 1
    Attacks: Bite d8
    • Heat Attraction: Pywawas will attack torchbearers and move towards victims carrying heat sources.
    • WAWA WAWA WAWA: anyone hit by a Bite, has to shout "WAWA WAWA WAWA". This prevents them to cast spells, or command hirelings (they can still spend their action to do gestures and signs). Also, Save vs Poison or has to attack with their Bite for d4 rounds the nearest creature (ignoring their weapons or other abilities), as the hunger for flesh consumes their will.