Friday, March 19, 2021

OSR: Stonehell OSE Open Table 1-10

Have been running an open table of Stonehell by means of OSE.
Players come and go, we do 1 delve = 1 session, and they have to return to town before we finish the game.

What follows are my highlights on how it's going after 10 x 3h sessions into this megadungeon.
No detailed notes this time. I lifted myself of that burden by giving the players an XP incentive for writing those, and posting them on our discord. So far they've proved a great resource (?).

Mild Stonehell spoilers ahead, be warned!

Some Highlights

  • Party scared to hell and back to enter a soot-filled room.
  • Wulfa the fighter wrestling with the orcs, with members of the party betting behind.
  • Getting treasure from the Keeper of Secrets by using their wits.
  • Sheperd the zombies from the crypts to attack the giant fire beetles.
  • Methodically hiring a small army to (magically) blind and hunt the dragon.
  • Pools of hot water? Future saunas?
  • The group getting peppered by arrows coming from the invisibility trees when leaving from the dungeon.
  • Mylo the halfling dying due to peer pressure to spin the wheel of Lady Chance. The group quickly pulled funds together to make the Mylo memorial wing at the healing house back in town.
  • Portcullises posing the biggest threat in the dungeon.

Stonehell Referee Notes

  • Dungeon is vast and dense. We have explored bits of the canyon and about half of level 1. Price to gaming ratio is just ridiculous. Stonehell should easily be 50$, the team who put this together is being robbed.
  • Awesome ideas abound! Probably Stonehell as written gets you 80% there, and filling in the remaining 20% with your own material is the way to go. Some new monsters were really good to read (e.g. doom lure), can't wait for them to appear.
  • That said, I have my gripes and terseness comes at a cost.
    •  ... factions are outlined, but are missing some strong motivation and extra oomph and flavor.
    •  ... some traps are just a "T" on the dungeon map, or secret doors a simple "S". Expanding this aspect is a must for the referee.
  • Treasure is scarce. Feast or famine. It's a design decision by Mr. Curtis, and I can see the reasoning behind and what it's trying to reinforce. But my players have complained about it, and it can get frustrating.
    •  ... have been giving extra XP for number of rooms explored in a session.
    • ... and for session reports. These are crucial given the open nature of our table to bring new players up to speed.
  • Stonehell could benefit from more loops and connections. Jaquays and Melan would wince at some of the sections.
  • Downtime is the big left-out in the OSR. There are a gazillion dungeons in the space. But common questions on how to pace and structure the game between delves is often neglected. Products and advice for this are missing. Although I get this is very personal from table to table: some people skip it, some allow magic items/potion purchase others not, etc. I don't blame Stonehell here, but it's just an observation.

Monday, March 15, 2021

OSR: Why is damage left as a die?

Going through recent adventures in the OSR space, it is very common to see an attempt at generic or system neutral statistics. This is done a lot, with armor as chain, saves as Fighter 1, etc. This is very useful if say, you are running your game for B/X but then change for Swords&Wizardy (different saves), or LotFP (different AC baseline).

An exhibit from the Dust Elemental in the remastered Stygian Library

BUT very often monster descriptions use original die size. D8 in the picture above. Why? Why not take instead an equivalent damage as sword, or damage as polearm? Main reason I can think for this vestigial limb to persist is that some monsters inflict greater (or different) damage than what standard weaponry allows, surpassing damage dice.

*End rant*

My solution would be to have extended weaponry values in the equipment section (grenades, bombs, pistols, muskets), or use damage from spells (which are meant to surpass mundane weapons).

Don't have a solution to this trend. Just my observation. What do you think?

Sunday, March 7, 2021

d10 Bulky Treasures

1. Rugs of exquisite quality, very bulky, each 10 x 10 feet if unfolded. Red background, with floral patterns in gold and purple.

2. Barrels filled with deliciously aged wine. Hanging from over a net, on the warehouse's ceiling (20' high). Be quick, or the smugglers will return!

3. Tablets with engraved religious scriptures, valuable for a sage, historian or church.

4. A golden bell, the size of a stocky dwarf. When carried, sudden movement, the slightest drop or altercation makes it ring, echoing through the dungeon. And attracting monsters!

5. Accurate sized portraits that almost come to life out of the canvas. A ghoul is disposing of them by throwing these pieces of art into the fireplace. Too many memories of past lovers.

6. Dragon carcass. Recently slain beast, still fresh. Has to be transported swiftly back to town to salvage as many parts as possible. The smell attracts other vermin in the dungeon.

7. Blue lotus flower: have to bring back absurd quantities! Sacks and sacks! Then, the petals are dried and treated by the local alchemist into a single vial of concocted poison.

8. There's a map of the stars carved on the cathedral's dome, details never before revealed elsewhere. Incredibly detailed, hard to read, and byzantine. You can spend time copying it (hard to see details from down here), or get up there, hire a mason, and chip the stone out. Or with enough paper and charcoal trace the whole thing out.

9. 2d6 delicate, crumbling scrolls. Have to be packaged individually in linens, and in a scroll case (light but obnoxiously bulky!)

10. An immovable ladder made of solid platinum. Fixed to the white marble ground.
Where does it lead?