Saturday, July 30, 2016

Recent Acquisitions

I got some new - and not so new - gaming goods recently, thought I'd take a post to show off a little and talk about what I got.

First off, I bought three out of the four new Carcosa modules written by Geoffrey McKinney.  These aren't so much adventures as open sandbox hex crawls - each booklet details a quadrant of a larger map that player characters are free to roam as they please.  Each quadrant is dominated by a single terrain type - Swamps, Barrens and Jungles.

Unlike the 2008 Carcosa release, which was done as a supplement to 1974 OD&D, or the 2011 re-release which was geared towards Lamentations of the Flame Princess, these modules are written with AD&D rules in mind, and as such reference spells and classes that don't previously appear in Carcosa, such as Clerics and Magic-Users (as opposed to Carcosa Sorcerers) as well as monsters not previously seen, such as traditional Lizard-Men.

The books are printed by Lulu, and are well put together, and for what it's worth, this is the first order I've gotten from Lulu that wasn't damaged or otherwise contained an "oops." One time I got somebody else's order combined into mine - so I got my Swords & Wizardry books *and* someone else's apocalyptic new translations of the Old Testament which described God as an extraterrestrial!

Other than the covers, the books are devoid of art, which is a bit of a shame; likewise, page numbers are missing which makes it a bit harder to track down information.  The maps on the back cover are nice, but the hex-numbers are often hard to read.

Of the three, I think I enjoyed my read-through of The Yuthlugathap Swamps the most and felt like it was the most immediately useable, with its assortment of Lizardman strongholds and the internecine warfare that marks their relationship with each other.

Overall, I'm kind of so-so on these books, and I don't really feel like they got me fired up and excited for running a Carcosa game, which is something I have been considering lately.  I don't regret the purchase, and I'm sure I'll pull some useful material out of them for use in future games, but I'm just not excited to run them for people.

On the flip side...

My FLGS, Just Games Rochester, has two collections of old Dragon magazines; on the wall rack, above the endless plethora of Pathfinder releases, are the "new" issues - copies that are still in great condition, nothing's been cut or torn out, while in a compartment under a display table is a stack of "used" issues.  I grabbed two from the "new" rack; issue #137 because I've always liked that Larry Elmore snow lizard painting, and #138 because it was the next one consecutively and it had a bunch of undead in it.

I gave both issues a read-through today while waiting for some paint to dry on a row of figures, I was really impressed by the sheer quantity of content here, with #137 being especially full of material I would absolutely 100% use in a game - the ecology of carnivorous plants, the weather system, the Pleistocene mammals, and the article on animal skins, tusks, etc., as treasure are all good, with three of the four being deep in my wheelhouse.

#138 was useful on two fronts - a great article detailing a new grimoire for Call of Cthulhu and a related monster I've never seen referenced before, and a listing of new and fun undead for AD&D.  Both of these seem like things I'll get some use out of in the future.

Paint Table Saturday: Aboleth finished

Finished my Reaper "Goroloth" (aka a D&D Aboleth) today; I sculpted a coral base to glue him to a couple days ago and painted that in a dark purple, added the basing grit, glued the big guy down and added a bit of foliage trimmed from an aquarium plant and given a heavy drybrush of citron green, to match to Deep Sea Divers I did during the  Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge at the end of last year/beginning of this year.  So now, in addition to a D&D monster, I've got a big fish to menace those two unlucky fellows!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Time to Harvest Session 7: New Beginnings

We had a smaller group this week, and a little bit of trouble with set-up - a folding chair broke under me when I sat down in it and we ended up a bit squeezed in next to an X-Wing game, but overall it was a good session.  Let's have a run down.

Dramatis Personae:

  • Darren Gray (played by Mike), engineering major and member of the fencing team 
  • Perry Webster (played by Dan), journalism major, on assignment for the Miskatonic Crier
  • Nathanlie Wingate Peaslee (played by Kai), folklore major, daughter of psychology professor Wingate Peaslee, granddaughter of economics professor Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee 
  • Nick Jackson (played by Greg), private investigator

A week or so passed since the events in Orne Library and the deal made with the agents of the "Outer Ones." The Investigators were awakened one day by the sound of police sirens heading to campus.  Following the sound of the sirens brought them to Orne Library, where the bodies of those same agents - the tops of their heads neatly removed and their brains missing - were stacked up like cordwood in front of the library.  While observing the scene, Darren noticed a black Cadillac parked nearby, a bearded man visible in the driver's seat.

Since Daphne Devine/"Roger Harrold" was not among them, they swiftly paid a visit to "his" office; not finding "him" there, Nick trashed the office and then they headed to Harrold's residence.  Finding "him" at home, they escorted the ersatz professor to a nearby cafe for interrogation.  They quickly ascertained that "Harrold" had nothing directly to do with the destruction of the agents, but suggested that the "Outer Ones" don't take kindly to failure and don't feel particularly bound to honor bargains made with what they perceive as an inferior species.

Lunging, Harrold concluded the interrogation by drawing a metal ovoid, not much larger than a hen's egg, from a pocket and electrocuting Perry with it, badly burning the journalist and leaving him paralyzed and unconscious for a few minutes.  As Harrold turned to run, Nick pulled out his pistol and shot the professor in the head.  After explaining the situation to the satisfaction of the police, the investigators left the cafe - and saw the black Cadillac.  Deciding to introduce themselves, they struck up a conversation with first the driver, a large Scotsman, and then the passenger - a beautiful blonde woman who introduced herself as Selena.

Michael Abelard
Selena explained that her employer had a job offer for them, a job relating to "our mutual friends in the mountains." Her employer, she explained, was Michael Abelard, the owner of Federated Oil and Chemical - the financiers behind their college field trip to Cobb's Corners, Vermont.

Driving to the harbor, they boarded an amphibious plane and flew to Detroit, where they were met by Abelard, who laid all the cards on the table - his son had been killed by the Outer Ones while mountain climbing in Tibet, in an accident that had also cost Abelard the use of his legs.  Since then, he'd devoted his life and fortune to hunting these creatures and learning everything he could about them in order to destroy them.

He asked the investigators to lead a team of scientists and soldiers into Cobb's Corners in search of a suspected hidden base belonging to the creatures.  His team had the scientific background, but no practical experience with the region or the creatures, which is where the investigators would come in.  Their concerns about being used as "bait" Abelard allayed with a blank check and an assurance that their grades for the semester would be taken care of at Miskatonic.

They were given a week's rest and recuperation at the Detroit facility, allowing Perry to recover from his electrical burns and the investigators to train with firearms.  They were introduced to some of the other individuals who would be going on this expedition - Dr. David Drake, a psychologist, historian and occultist; Dr. Sarah Matherson, a forensic pathologist; Captain Sam Morrison, chief of security; and Larry Nekler, engineer and radio technician.

Dr. Matherson was especially interested to hear about Perry's experience with one of the Outer Ones, and shared her research with him.  She even took the investigators down into the lab for a brief tour, where they glimpsed an autopsy of a desiccated, humanoid form - albeit one with stumpy, pillar-like legs, long arms, no neck and a wide, lipless mouth.  Dr. Matherson explained that a number of these natural mummies had been found at an abandoned base in Peru, and that they were believed to be a new form of the creatures, possibly an attempt to mimic human form instead of having to rely on brain transplants.

Finally, she played them an audio recording, of an interrogation conducted the one time they captured one of these creatures.  The recording was horrifying, the entity begging for food - unable to digest earthly matter - while Matherson demanded it answer her questions, delivering painful electric shocks to the creature when it hesitated. The creature - identified as a "metch kangmi" in Nepalese on the recording, a name Nathanlie recognized as referring to the "abominable snowman" of the Himalayas - was forced to admit to coming from a ninth planet, Yuggoth, at the far end of the solar system, but was able to say little more before Matherson inadvertently killed the creature with electricity.

Friday, July 22, 2016

A Time to Harvest Session 6: The Hallowed Halls of Miskatonic

I don't know if I'm even technically running "A Time to Harvest" any more.  That's how far afield from the anticipated campaign we've gone.  We were down two of our regular players this week, but had a guest player (my friend Greg, in town for work for the next month or so), so it balanced out.

Dramatis Personae:
  • Darren Gray (played by Mike), engineering major and member of the fencing team 
  •  Perry Webster (played by Dan), journalism major, on assignment for the Miskatonic Crier 
  •  Oliver Goss (played by Dave), anthropology major 
  • Nathanlie Wingate Peaslee (played by Kai), folklore major, daughter of psychology professor Wingate Peaslee, granddaughter of economics professor Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee 
  • Nick Jackson (played by Greg), private investigator

Nick was employed to investigate the apparent suicide of Robert Blaine, found dead in his room with a pistol in his hand, surrounded by empty whiskey bottles.  His investigation quickly led him to Orne Library, where he soon met Nathanlie, Oliver, Darren and Perry.  While initially skeptical of their story, he found himself uneasily convinced once they began to talk to the other students who had been on the Cobb's Corners trip, and heard one of them say that Blaine had been a "weak link in the plan," and that he "had to be eliminated."

A great deal of discussion followed, and the investigators managed, astonishingly, to convince the agents to divulge what they knew and why they were in Miskatonic, inhabiting student bodies.  They learned that the agents were sent to find and destroy any books that might allow others to discover the outpost of the "Outer Ones" in the Vermont hills, as well as to discourage further investigation of a unique mineral sample found in those hills on a previous expedition.

Playing on the unhappiness of agents Keith Clark (his family having been killed by the Outer Ones after he'd bargained for their safe release) and the man, Wesley, whose brain had been placed in Clarissa's body, the investigators managed to successfully argue the majority of the agents into abandoning their mission and going off and living new lives in fresh, young, healthy bodies.

That's when Nick noticed a heavy book rising into the air, seemingly unaided.  Recalling having heard about the invisible assassin inhabiting Terry Laslow's body, he threw Nathanlie's sack of flour at where he thought the assassin was (managing instead to cover himself in flour), then lunged, successfully tackling Laslow to the floor and smearing enough flour on him to render him visible.

Having seen what Laslow was capable of, Perry jumped forward, placing the barrel of the gun he'd previously taken from Laslow against the assassin's forehead and pulled the trigger.  Nathanlie raced, arms full of books, to begin dropping them on the stairs leading up from the library basement to disguise the sound.

Oliver went a little mad at the sight of this, blocking out all memory of who these people he'd just witnessed commit murder were.  He tried to flee, but was stopped by Darren and Nathanlie, the latter of whom ordered him to just sit down and stay quiet.

When campus police showed up, Nick calmly showed them his PI license, explaining that he'd been tracking this man on suspicion of murder and he was shot while resisting a citizen's arrest.  The student investigators escaped into the Arkham tunnels, old smuggler's passages excavated under the city - as an engineering student, Darren knew the tunnels under Miskatonic fairly well, having assisted in the construction of an engineering students-only subterranean lounge in them.

From here, the students considered their options, finally settling on writing a letter to the "Outer Ones" and leaving it for them to find in an abandoned farmhouse that the agents had told them was to be their rendezvous after the library was on fire.  In the letter, they outlined a compromise - in exchange for letting the library stand, Outer One-approved guardians would be appointed to watch over the library and control access to certain books (most of which were already locked away in the restricted section).  The letter drafted and placed, the investigators settled in to await response.

The response came two days later in the form of a letter wrapped around a brick thrown through Nathanlie's bedroom window.  "Your terms are acceptable," was all that was written, in exceedingly neat block capitals.  That same day, it was learned that a fire had swept through the Geology department, with the sole casualty being Professor Learmonth, who had been involved in financing the Cobb's Corners expedition.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

General Life and Hobby Updates

Gina, my better half, had a total of three job interviews last week, and should be hearing back soon regarding employment - the nice thing is, if she gets this job, we'll be working in the same building, simplifying our morning commute substantially and cutting down on the amount of gas I'm burning and the number of miles I'm putting on my odometer.

Additionally, this morning she took her RHIT (Registered Health Information Technology) exam, which is what she's been going to school for for two years - she got a degree in Health Information Technology as a prerequisite for sitting for this exam.  And graduated in the top 5% of her class, I should note.  She was terrified going into the exam and halfway through convinced herself she'd already failed it, and rage-finished the exam, absolutely convinced she'd have to shell out another $250 and wait a penalty period of 45 days before taking it again.  The test is graded right there and then, and the results presented - AND SHE PASSED! She's now certified to work any number of medical coding and billing careers.

While she was in her test, I sat in the car outside with a couple RPG books and got some reading done.  I've been reading my PDFs of the game Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea lately, and have my eye on ordering physical copies through my Friendly Local Gaming Store, Just Games in the near future.  Today, however, the Imp of the Perverse drove me to revisit the 2011 Lamentations of the Flame Princess edition of Carcosa.

Carcosa is a very dark fantasy supplement, detailing a world 153 light-years from Earth, infested with Cthulhu-monsters, mutant dinosaurs and giant insects.  13 Crayola-colored races of Men (including three colors outside the normal human visible spectrum) fight over scavenged alien technology and to defend their crapsack settlements from the depredations of monsters and cruel sorcerers alike.  The magic-system is ritual based, instead of D&D's usual "fire-and-forget" method of spellcasting, and the rituals almost all require varying degrees of human sacrifice - magic is supposed to be inhuman, alien, uncomfortable in Carcosa, and gamers are still throwing fits about this book in certain corners of the Internet.

I had been thinking that I need to have a back-up game prepared for situations where less than four players show up for my biweekly Cthulhu campaign - I normally have six players, so four is the quorum - below that, we don't run the campaign.  And it occurred to me that a session of Carcosa - with the more usual LotFP spellcasting system in place, since we do play in public - might be a nice change of pace and would be something good to have handy.  So in the two hours Gina was in her exam, I had the Carcosa book open in my lap and the Notes app open in my phone, typing out notes for a quick one-shot with a little bit of overland travel and a small dungeon-crawl (with the above-ground sections of the Moat House from the Village of Hommlet repurposed into an alien stronghold).

Getting home, I retyped it into Word as a document I can actually run a session from.  Tomorrow I'll make a stack of pre-generated characters.

Keep in mind this is all "back up" work on the off-chance I only have three players show up.  Oh well, I'll run it as a stand-alone one-shot at some point later on.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Short Notice Sanity Loss: "Dead Light"

Wednesday I got word that a friend of mine was going to be in town for a month on a job, and was looking to play some Cthulhu at Just Games.  I quickly got something set up, deciding on the survival horror scenario "Dead Light," the first release for 7th edition Call of Cthulhu, as a prep-light adventure that could generate a lot of fun.  I'd run it previously at Running GAGG a while back, and recalled it working well.

The group I ran it for at Running GAGG, having been given the opportunity to roll up their own characters, made a group of bootleggers moving product down the Aylesbury Pike.  For this time around, I decided that a set of gangsters, members of Danny O'Bannion's Irish mob out of Arkham, would be an entertaining change of pace.  I decided they'd gone north to Bolton to shut down the operations of a bootlegger unwilling to join the O'Bannion Gang and confiscate his product and sales ledgers.

So I rolled up two drivers (with six players, I decided to space them between two vehicles - a Ford Model T and a Model AA pickup truck), a crooked accountant, a hitman, an undercover Treasury Agent collecting evidence against the O'Bannion Gang, and a trigger-happy girlfriend of O'Bannion's, a blonde sociopath who enjoyed killing as much as she enjoyed the fineries O'Bannion's attention allowed her lifestyle.

So they accidentally hit Emilia Webb with the Model T while driving in a horrible thunderstorm and the scenario begins - and begins to unravel.  I had failed to consider that the gangsters would be much less scrupulous in their deals with NPCs than another group of investigators might be, as their initial plan was to splash some liquor on the poor girl and dump her at the nearest gas station and be on their way.  They learn when she comes to that burglars broke into her grandfather's cottage, and there was a strange, silvery light.  A drunken hog farmer at the cafe attached to the gas station also swears he saw a strange, silvery light, and as his truck, sunk in the mud, is blocking the road, the PCs are forced to go with Emilia to her grandfather's cottage, as it's on a detour they can take.

They find the cottage dark, the door wide open.  The two drivers get the generator in the basement going, and a quick glance turns up the grandfather, dead, seemingly from blood loss, having been shot in the shoulder.  On the ground was the partially-incinerated body of a burglar, and an empty iron cask, like a big jewelry box, on the floor between them.

Outside, the Boss' Girlfriend waited in the car, reapplying her lipstick, when a crazed young man came running out of the woods, screaming about a strange, silvery light.  The Hitman quickly took the young man aside and executed him with a single shot to the back of the head.

Shortly thereafter, the Hitman is attacked by the Light - a slithering, flowing thing, like mercury pouring through the air, flickering like moonlight in the storm.  He's unable to move, enraptured by the sight of the thing, until he flicks a tendril across his chest, almost killing him with a single touch.  He began to spray bullets from his Thompson at the thing, and the rest of the party comes running, guns blazing, to which the thing barely reacts.  A chance flash of lightning sent the thing skittering off, and the gangsters said, "Screw this, this is someone else's problem!"

Shooting Emilia Webb (she was a witness) and looting the house (carrying off $600 cash and a bank account book for $19,000), they pile back into the cars and take off back to Arkham.

So clearly, this scenario didn't go quite as I intended.  Everyone had fun, which was what was important.  But I think next time I'll create a group of investigators with a much stronger drive to investigate and a greater sense of empathy for NPCs - or at least less of a reason to shoot them and drive away.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Monthly Madness: "The Derelict"

There is a ton of demand for Call of Cthulhu at my FLGS.  So much so that, since my biweekly game is a campaign, I decided to add a monthly one-shot to my schedule, set for the first Saturday of every month.  Last night was the first of these events, and I decided I wanted to run the adventure put out by Chaosium for Free RPG Day, "The Derelict." I had been fortunate enough to score one at my store before they ran out, plus I got the PDF version for being a member of the Cult of Chaos - which had appended six pregenerated characters that were, frankly, better integrated with each other and with the adventure than the ones I'd come up with, so thanks to Ron McClung for providing those to Chaosium.

Despite a few people being forced to change their plans at the last minute (life happens, I get it), I still had four players at the table for this session, which worked out very well for me - I'd been afraid that I'd get two people showing up and be forced to try and adapt the adventure on the fly.  Two of the players last night, if I recall correctly, had never played Call of Cthulhu before, and one hadn't played in 20 years, so I got the honor of being the introduction and re-introduction to the game for three-quarters of the table last night; the fourth player had played once before, in the Parsonsville Horror one-shot I ran in February.

Our Dramatis Personae for this adventure:

  • Charles "Mac" McQuinlan (played by Chris), a Navy sailor-turned-author fallen on hard times, driven to sell his beloved yacht the Delilah.  Information passed to him by his mother, an agent of a shadowy Naval Intelligence group, has him on the lookout for a missing cargo ship and specifically, the safe in the captain's quarters.  
  • Daniel van Hollisander (played by Matt), an ex-cop-turned-lawyer who handles many of Mac's business interests.  Along to facilitate the sale of the Delilah.  
  • Matthew "Dodge" Grantham (played by Brandon), an athlete, diver, party animal and friend of Mac's, along on this voyage to meet a contact in Liverpool to learn some secrets from his past.  
  • Dennis McCrane (played by Nick), a former bodyguard and general "fixer" for Mac, he is escorting Liz Hill home to her parents in the UK.

  • Ashley May Bethell, an actress and ex-girlfriend of Mac's, he's trying to rekindle the romance without success.
  • Elizabeth "Liz" Hill, a dancer and model living on borrowed funds, being escorted home to her family by Dennis.
  • Captain Carson Brentwood, captain of the Delilah.
  • First Mate Ray Folke, first mate on the Delilah.  
Around mid-afternoon, several days into their voyage from Boston, Massachusetts to Liverpool, UK to sell the yacht Delilah, Mac spotted something red and white on the horizon - the red-painted refrigerated cargo ship the Groenland Tropisch, beached on an iceberg.  Informing Captain Brentwood, they changed course to investigate, in keeping with Maritime Law.  

Asking the ladies to stay aboard the Delilah, the men went aboard to investigate, finding the ship silent, without power, and covered in a thin layer of ice.  "Dodge" swiftly found a severed hand frozen to the deck, which appeared to have been chewed off the arm it had once been attached to.  

Mac wanted to focus on finding the captain's quarters and the safe therein, while Van Hollisander and Dodge also wanted to try to restore power to the ship.  They soon found that the wiring had been torn apart and the paneling beaten to pieces.  They also found a six foot long "harpoon" of some sort of glass or crystal, radiating an unearthly cold, embedded in a steel bulkhead.  "Dodge" pulled it loose and, after suffering some minor frostbite from handling it, zip-tied a towel around the haft to give himself a safer grip, carrying it with him.  

The captain's quarters contained no safe, but they did find the captain's log (the adventure lists the log as being in both the captain's quarters and the captain's office; I chose to have it here), and managed to translate a bit of the Norwegian text with the help of their iPhones, learning that the radio operator had gone insane, destroyed the radio room with an axe, and been confined to his cabin.  Investigating revealed the radio operator dead by his own hand, a silver-handled straightrazor having been used to slash his throat.  The radio room and wheelhouse had both been destroyed, though "Dodge" and Van Hollisander soon noticed that while there was blood in the radio room, there was none in the wheelhouse.  

Hearing a scream of horror and a loud splash coming from the Delilah, they raced back to discover the captain and first mate in pieces, scattered across the cabin in a morass of blood.  Ashley May was pinned to one of the beds by another crystalline harpoon, driven completely through her, the mattress and into the floor below, her limbs having been badly mangled by what appeared to be large teeth.  And only Liz's severed legs were found, floating in the bloody hot tub.  

Pulling on his SCUBA gear, "Dodge" went over the side to investigate the loud splashing, and after being missed by two crystalline harpoons that seemed to come from nowhere, he took his own and made a swimming charge in the direction he thought they came from.  He felt two enormous, unseen webbed hands close over his upper body and was then torn in half.  

Discovering the controls and radio on the Delilah destroyed, Mac, McCrane and Van Hollisander decided they had to make a final stand against whatever was picking off humans in the North Atlantic.  Using bedsheets for wicks, they drew fuel from the yacht's tanks, smearing it across the floors and staircases, and rolling out the propane tanks to serve as makeshift bombs (Brandon actually works for a company that provides equipment for restaurant use, so he was able to offer some insight on what the galley on the Delilah would have), they huddled together atop the sun deck, ready to release the dinghy and ignite the fuel with a flaregun should whatever was out there show its face.  

Hearing a splash and feeling the ship lurch hard - as if something large and heavy was pulling itself up out of the water onto the deck - and hearing the sound of something heavy dragging itself across the deck, Mac and McCrane released the dinghy into the water and jumped in, and Van Hollisander shot the fuel-trail with a flare gun before diving over the side, landing safely in the dinghy.  

As they sped away from the burning ship, Mac lamented his lost opportunity to regain financial solvency.  Van Hollisander, glancing back, saw something large and on fire hurl itself off the deck into the sea.  


had the use of the store's back room, and its eight-foot table,
for a change yesterday.  Here's my set-up.  
All in all, it was a great session - I would rank this as one of the top five sessions of Call of Cthulhu I have ever run, and I have to give a lot of credit to Sandy Petersen and Mike Mason for their top-notch adventure for that.  Other than the issue of the captain's log being in two places and it not being real clear how the Investigators are supposed to get from the Delilah to the Groenland Tropisch, (we ended up having the gangway of the Tropisch being almost level with the top of the sun deck of the Delilah) I think this is a near-flawless adventure.  

Noteworthy is that, except for Dodge, the Investigators never actually encountered the monster, just its traces - drag-marks where it had pulled itself through the ice on the cargo ship, smeared blood (they missed a bloody, three-fingered, webbed handprint on the wall in the Delilah's cabin), scattered human remains and the crystalline harpoons.  From these, the players built up a mental image of what they were facing that was perhaps far scarier than the actual monster would have been.  The invisibility of the creature definitely amped up the fear factor - and interestingly, from my perspective, seemed to do so better than the invisibility of the Star Vampire.  

I think what I'm proudest of was the way the ship lurched when the creature pulled itself on deck; no physical dimensions are given for the creature, but I gauged from the illustration that it was probably close to ten feet tall, and I pegged it's weight at three quarters of a ton.  So having the boat shift as it pulled itself on board...I think that, more than anything else, was what triggered the players to say "screw it, let's set the boat on fire.  No, I don't need to see what we're up against."

It was kind of a short session - we got a little bit of a late start, and then around the time Dodge got torn apart I got the head's up from Matt, the store owner, that the store would be closing in 15 minutes.  Not having time to run a full-fledged last stand, and deeming it cheap to have the creature swim under their dinghy and sink it, I decided the best ending would be a THE THING-style pyrrhic victory; they have escaped with their lives, but are stranded in the freezing North Atlantic - and the thing may still be out there.

The best part of this session was hearing Brandon voice an interest in running Cthulhu - he's been a Shadowrun GM for years, and is one of the big wargaming voices at the store, but Call of Cthulhu has really captured him.  I gave him my physical copy of the 7e Quick Start Rules, and he'll be buying the actual rulebooks when they arrive in store, hopefully in time for "Gen-Can't," an event being put on in-store for people who can't make it to GenCon.  So far 14 people have RSVP'd that they would like to play Cthulhu at Gen-Can't, so I'm going to need all the help I can get.  

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Planning Ahead; a D&D Campaign for the Future

I've been running Call of Cthulhu exclusively for months now, and love it.  I really feel good about the campaign I'm running and the additional single-shot games I'm running both at the store and at conventions.  But I also know that sooner or later I'm going to want a palate-cleanser from the unspeakable cosmic horror I'm hip-deep in.  And to tell the truth, because right now I'm not writing scenarios but running published ones, I'm not exercising my creativity *that* much on the gaming front right now.  So I've begun thinking about a D&D campaign for once "A Time to Harvest" wraps, probably mid-autumn.

Here's what I know I want:

  • More "traditional" D&D than my last campaign; fewer rayguns, more Western European fantasy tropes and Arthuriana.  I'm likely to replace some of the D&D humanoids with critters like Sciapods, Blemmyes and the like from medieval manuscripts.  How is it Blemmyes never made it into any of the Monster Manuals?
  • Sandbox adventuring.  "A Time to Harvest" is very plot-centric, and I'd like a break from leading the players from clue to clue and let them decide where they want to go and what they're going to break when they get there.  
  • Rules-lighter mechanics.  Swords & Wizardry, B/X retroclones, and 5e are all possibilities here.  3.x/Pathfinder are not.  
  • A sense that the world does not exist for the PCs, that there are constantly things going on in the setting that they aren't interacting with.  
Here's what I'm pretty sure I want:

  • Early Modern tech levels; gunpowder and early firearms exist, though will not always be easy to get, with a matchlock musket being as "high tech" in this campaign as the X-Ray Pulse Rifle was in Devil's Canyon.  This has me somewhat leaning towards using the Lamentations of the Flame Princess rules.  Longbows, crossbows, and armored warriors will be much more common.  
  • Strongly humanocentric setting.
  • A solid mix of exploration/dungeoneering adventures and castle intrigue/stuff going on in town adventures.  A number of castles within the sandbox controlled by various wizards and warriors who feel very different from one another, so visiting Castle B isn't a cookie-cutter of having visited Castle A.  Likewise, different towns have different problems.  
  • No reusing monsters; if there are orcs besieging Castle Blackstone, those are the only orcs in the sandbox.  There may be Chaotic-aligned, 1HD humanoids elsewhere in the sandbox, but they'll be, as mentioned above, Sciapods or something like that.  Mixed in with the Ogres, Harpies and Dragons will be the occasional weirder critter drawn from the Random Esoteric Creature Generator.
  • A tracker akin to Chris Kutalik's Chaos Index tracking the ebb and flow and Magic and Mundanity in the sandbox.  
And here are some of the resources I intend to be using: