Tuesday, October 20, 2020

OSR: The Calaveras Campaign 8

This is an ongoing Knave campaign, a smallish sandbox of sorts with new players to the hobby. Read what happened before here.
Before this session 8 there was a coup d'état orchestrated by my players. They wanted to change systems from Knave to something new, claiming they were moving past its simplicity and ad-hock rulings. Granted, I could have pushed for Knave++, or concocting a set of satisfying house rules to achieve the same effect.
But in the end decided to offer them Old School Essentials and Macchiato Monsters to pick from. To my surprise, they chose the latter. We re-rolled the characters, but keeping their experiences and place in the world, and we put them at level 2.

The cast of characters:
Zemalayou (iagson) - carrying a crossbow and knows some spells. Ranger-like. Face heavily scarred and mutated. Speaks through some tattoos.
Nerisse (Mo) - redhead bow-woman, who wakes up in the first visited dungeon without any memory of how she ended up there. Has some newly discovered Fae-powers.
Angan Enge (Copernico) - beastman of the Biber Hills, assigned by Rhys to accompany the adventurers.
Hirelings/Animals - Ber (a goat that can carry some of their stuff)

Session 8

We open with the group entrenched in the nearest possible building, the barracks, after the fierce attack perpetrated by the flock of crows. Thankfully, Zemalayou had a fair douse of sense in tossing silver coins to distract the creatures for their escape. Even if previously explored, they decide to give the barracks another swipe for treasure and clues, taking in the fact that the space hasn't been sacked before. Unfortunately, no treasure, clues or riches around.
Angan takes note of the overflooded latrines to the north, connecting with the barracks. The stench of mud and feces  in the floor is hard to overcome, but peeking inside the space the beastman takes note of a closed wardrobe. He decides the promise of the unknown is worth the effort, and enters the area, disturbing the fecal mud... and getting his boots stuck in the process! Whilst trying to escape, he notices a tiny child-sized hand filled with pustules coming out of one of the over-flooded latrines. An evil grin cast in his direction, a fungal goblin has seen some tasty prey. Another stinky foe is emerging too, making them two. Nerisse sends one to sleep with her (newly acquired powerful) fairy dust, whilst the other is assaulted by Angan and Zemalayou's crossbow. For now, safety, but the group now knows that it is not alone here.

Fungus goblins, illustration taken from the Gourmet Street zine

Leaving the barracks, they go see the Grime guards they left outside with the delobia. Turns out, all but one left to explore the Quastermaster's building to the East. The guard was left behind to check for his drugged companions (the ones from the basement) and the delobia barrel. Angan asks for directions, and gets a menacing response from the guard. They already got things under control. Best check either the tower or the Sergeant's offices South of the camp. Group decides the latter.
In the Sergeant's building: broken windows, place has been sacked. Only intact is the taxidermy of a huge dog (a mastiff) in the room, with a strange purple coloration in the tongue. They decide it sure is cursed, enchanted, trapped or worse, so they transport it out of the house and want nothing to do with it. Further exploration of the edifice, they find a bedroom in the second floor (sacked), and a studio/office. Nerisse finds a missive from Lastleaf, king of Grime, named the Eternal, explaining why these hills have been abandoned after the catastrophe, and what the regent's plans are for the neighboring kingdoms. What the players decide to do with it, is unknown yet.
The kitchen on the first floor has no food, but some hidden wine with some magical properties that Angan experiments with. But so far it's unclear to the beastman what it's purpose is, other than it colors his ears in flashing rainbow colors for as long as the kick of the alcohol is in his mouth.
While Angan and Nerisse are busing looting the premises, Zem is keeping watch through the broken windows, loaded crossbow in hand. It is then that Zem sees the tower lurker, an adult manticore butchering what's remaining of the drugged guards, taking the barrel of delobia back to the tower.

Night falls, group takes Ber the goat into the sergeant's bedroom to rest for the night. Watches are assigned. Angan goes first. Soon after hearing the first snores of his companions, stench and mad laughter catch the beastman. Peeking through the window he sees... 6 fungus goblins, who start to explore and raid the building they are in! Combat ensues, but the party has the high ground and missile weapons. They take a beating, and Ber the goat almost perishes in the process. But this time the group has the upper hand, and dispose of the goblinoids.

Referee Commentary

Transitioning to Macchiato Monsters took a full session creating characters (between games 7 and 8), but this is likely due to the inability of my players to do their homework and read what I send them. There is, however, more involvement in the Machiatto Monsters process, with the traits as well as the free-form spell words requiring (my) referee input.

During play the characters seem rich, more complex and resilient than standard Knave or B/X scoundrels. But we did struggle with the free-form spells (even though it only appeared once/twice in play), and how to adjudicate them. My gut tells me that it's something one has to get experience and comfortable with, and we will warm up to it.