Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Adventure So Far

So we got together on Saturday at around noon.
I had prepared what my friend called, "a cornucopia of meat" on the grill. Steaks, chicken breast, lamb and sausage along with mushrooms & onions which I fried up in a skillet with garlic salt & butter.
We fortified ourselves & with our bellies full, we made our way to the basement and continued the adventure in The Killing Keep.
The Killing Keep is a small, ruined castle built ages ago against a steep cliffside with a double wall and offset gatehouses which are also crumbling and falling into ruin.
Many of the outbuildings including the smithy, stables and barracks have all collapsed and are choked with rubble.
The main keep is still intact and is loaded with all manner of deadly stinging creatures called "lock lurkers", spiders, stirges and a few undead.
Adventurers also find it is riddled with a large variety of insidious booby traps from mundane trap doors in the upper floor to exotic, exploding candles.
Most of the traps in the Killing Keep were not designed to kill out right but to whittle away adventurers 2-3 hp at a time.
I have run this adventure several times & there is usually one fatality or crippling injury every time I run it.
However, the adventurers did very well and didn't lose a single character this time!
The adventure had begun on the first day of Hammer in the year 1356 DR.
It was at the Keep that two separate adventuring parties met and began the Fellowship of Blood.
As they entered the keep, the weather outside turned nasty and they found themselves trapped within by a raging blizzard.
A blizzard with the taint of sorcery about it.
With nothing to do but explore the keep, the adventurers found some treasure and thwarted or avoided most of the traps.
They had set out for The Killing Keep to try and find some lost records of the magical "gates" that are rumored to be within the Haunted Halls but if they do indeed exist, no such records were found.
Having finished their exploration, the party gathered in the main hall while two of the characters made their way back to the third floor for some privacy.
Sasheer, a thief and escaped slave from Calimishan and the barbarian from The Ride, Harlequinn "Harley" Davidson.
After some time alone and having shared some of the wealth that was found on the keep (a bottle of rare Cormyrean wine that was valued at 250 gp), the two romantics decided to check on the horses which had been stabled in the ruined smithy.
Outside the blizzard suudenly stopped and the party heard a booming voice, demanding they surrender a book which they had found in the keep.
In front of the keep, the adventures could see 3 levitating mages who claimed the book in the name of Manshoon, an evil mage from the grim city of Zhentil Keep.
Sasheer impetuously threw a magical dagger at one of the mages and caught their attention.
Both thief and barbarian were caught in a spell and held up while the mages again demanded the surrender of the tome.
Adrix, the wise yet befuddled old magic-user and sage, stepped boldly outside and told the levitating figures that the book was not theirs to claim and that Manshoon should come & take it for himself if he wanted it so badly.
The barbarian came crashing down among the adventurers as the bluffed mages flew off in the direction of the Haunted Halls.
With Sasheer as their captive!
The adventurers gathered their things and pursued after the mages and their companion.
Meanwhile, many leagues away in Silverymoon, a secret meeting was being held with some other adventurers who were asked to seek out the Fellowship & offer any aid and counsel to their leader, Branwen of Shadowdale.
To stress the urgency of their task, Lady Alustriel had them magically transported to the wilderness not far from The Haunted Halls.
They arrived at the front door to the fabled dungeon at almost the same time as the Fellowship.
The adventurers saw two possible entrances and chose the southern cave where they encountered two hungry owlbears!
It was here that the Fellowship lost their first comrade in arms.
Ryel of Daggerdale fought bravely but had the life crushed out of his by one of the beasts!
But there was still a chance for Sasheer who was still in the clutches of evil men!
Let me explain one thing.
This is a MASSIVE adventuring band! I have two players running multiple characters and I run several NPCs which equals out to be around 20 adventurers!
As I have said, I try to be a liberal DM when it comes to good character ideas and my friends always seem to have decent ideas for characters!
So the party splits up and rather than hiring henchmen, one group stays back at camp where they can rest, heal, study spell and share 250 gp bottles of wine while the rest of the horde explores the dungeon.
So 10 brave adventurers made their way inside and the fun really began!
This brings me back to the barabrian, Harley Davidson.
Yeah. It is the cheesiest in cheesy names and I equate it to my rolling a fighter that specialized in using a crossbow and naming him Koch Heckler or Springfield.
But this guy is a BADASS!
For those geeks out there that like stats, he has high ability scores across the board including an 18/percentile strength.
He is also double proficient with a bastard sword.
His bastard sword he calls, "Bloodwing".
He is a large, bearded, brute of a man who seems to know his business!
When my friend roleplays him, he uses a deep, booming voice that rings from the walls of my basement and would sound so cool in a damp dungeon somewhere!
So you just figure that Harley is not a man to be trifled with!
Which brings me to the really funny bit.
The explorers had several encounters with everything from giant rats to wandering ogres, a band of gnolls and even a few skeletons.
Harley consistently FAILED to hit ANYTHING!
He fumbled one time and nearly killed another of my other friend's characters, but really, when he missed, he just missed and nothing spectacular at all ever happened!
I think his average roll on the 20 sided die was a 3 or 4.
But Harley took it all in stride.
When combat ensued, my friend would start Harley with the declaration, "I draw Bloodwing."
He then described acrobatic maneuvers that would lead to his thrusting or hacking into his foe with his gloriously named blade.
And then he rolled his brushed stainless 20 sided die.
And it roll ALWAYS missed.
The combat would end with nearly everyone else having vanquished at least one foe and my friend, roleplaying Harley would stand up and proudly sheath Bloodwing as he gave nods of approval to the rest of the party.
My friends let me tell you, I laughed until I was CRYING!
I haven't laughed like that in months!
And it continued because this KEPT HAPPENING!
I nearly threw up I was laughing so hard!
I got up from the table and paced the room while I was double over in laughter!
You ever work with one of those people that always LOOKS busy but isn't really doing a damn thing?
That's Harley.
Eventually, his incredible no hit streak finally ended close to the time we wrapped things up.
The adventurers found a few riche, including an enchanted Myth Drannan painting and most importantly, they rescued their companion from the clutches of the Zhentarim!
But unfortunately, they had taken a magical bag of holding that was in her possession and the bag held all their treasure which they found in the Killing Keep along with the magical tome!
So the adventure continues.
Perhaps this Friday on my day off!
I will let you know more.
Oh! We still need more players so more people can share this experience!
I'm not lying when I say it's fun!
And I promise many, many laughs!


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Resurrection of The Old Campaign

Many, many years ago, when my friends & I were still in High School, I ran an Old School AD&D campaign that was loads of fun! Granted, by my standards today, some of it was a bit cliche'.
But it was FUN!
Let me tell all of you something.
Before there was a Drizzt Do'urden, one of my players and best friends asked me, "Can I play a Drow Elf?"
Up to that point, no one I had known or played with had ever suggested such a thing.
At the time, I had to do a little thinking because despite the fact there were rules for Drow PC's in Unearthed Arcana, NO ONE had EVER played a Drow!
Especially a Chaotic/Good Drow!
Drow are evil! Everyone knows that!
But he had a really cool idea & I have always tried to be a fairly liberal Dungeonmaster. Especially when it comes to GOOD character ideas.
So after the clatter of some dice and another talented sketch, Denerite Evafair was born!
This is not her story.
Another friend of mine had a pretty nifty idea of running a different sort of character.
I was an avid reader of Dragon magazine back in the day. (Before it started to suck.)
One of the magazines I bought had an awesome cover of a scantily clad woman kneeling atop the horned head of a ruined statue, praying in the moonlight. (Anybody remember THAT cover?)
Inside was an article for the Witch NPC class.
Witches, much like Drow, are basically evil. Yes, they allowed for good & neutral witches but the article strongly suggested that most witches encountered should be evil and they should strictly remain a NPC class.
But, after being inspired by the impressive Elmore sketches used in the article, my friend approached me with a GOOD idea.
So after fiddling with the class just a bit, (I dropped the N and made it PC....not much effort really.), and the clattering of some dice, Branwen was born.
This isn't her story either.
Since most often there were only 3 of us playing and I was the DM, my players ran several characters at once, while I played several NPCs to help them in the tougher fights.
So along with Branwen & Denerite, I got to meet the dimwitted barbarians, Groo (Inspired by Sergio Leon's hilarious comic.) and Ernie Gung-Ho (Inspired by my friend's brother.) There were also the Paladins, Braddock and Andared Truesword, the ranger Arocken (a pre-rolled character from The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth) and the befuddled magic-user Adrix.
These, along with many other characters became the adventuring companies, The Fellowship of Blood and eventually, a group that broke off to become The Fist of Tyr.
These characters have adventured through everything from a modified Keep on the Borderlands, White Plume Mountain, the classic Ravenloft and the deadly Tomb of Horrors. They have even made it part way through Demonqueen of Spiders not to mention dungeons of my own creation. For months now, we have been trying to recapture the moments when we would hold our breath as the dice were rolled at a critical moment and the many times we laughed ourselves to tears when things didn't go quite the way they were planned.
Quite frankly, many of the recent few sessions I have run as Dungeonmaster have been a bit stiff and uninspired.
My players simply didn't seem to be getting into their characters.
I blame myself for much of that because of my love for the things I have done with Undermountain and my overwhelming desire to have them see what I've done with the place.
(See my earlier blog to read about the largest mass grave in all Faerun.)
But during our last session with their Elven band of adventurers, both my friends started telling me about their decision to bring back The Fellowship. (Most of it anyway.)
It's so hard for me as a Dungeonmaster to stifle creativity and let's face it, FUN!
I was feeding off their energy and by the time they finished telling me about their idea, we found a good place for the elves to stop in Undermountain and I got out the character sheets.
Soon, most of the old characters were rolled and we were nearly ready to play.
So on January 19th, 2010, in my basement, around my large gaming table and over cups of coffee, glasses of tea and bowls of stew, we set out with some of our oldest & most beloved characters and NPCs we have ever played!
Denerite has seen a few different incarnations as has Branwen. Denerite has returned as a Drow elf but Branwen is now a half-drow cleric/fighter/magic-user.
(Groo and Ernie-Gung Ho will probably never walk the Realms again, but we will remember them fondly. To be honest, they were almost always the cause of of our 15-20 minute interruptions in playing while we laughed ourselves sick but they are a handful for any DM!)
I started the adventurers as basically 2 separate 1st level parties and had to sort of wing it to bring them both together. This was a bit ham-fisted at times but it worked.
We started in the trap infested halls of The Killing Keep.
I know it sounds crazy, but including the NPCs, there are roughly 16-17 adventurers exploring the keep.
The players have decided to try a tactic where half of the party explores, while the other half rests, recuperates and recovers spells. So far, it has worked BRILLIANTLY!
I don't think we have had this much fun playing since we started playing again!
Thanks guys!
See ya Saturday!


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Adventures in Undermountain

I know I need to start posting more often.

What's the point of having a blog if you don't post?

Let me tell you of our last gaming session!

As observed by none other than the Mad Mage himself, Halaster Blackcloak!

"Undermountain is my abode! I shaped her with my Art, my wit and my will! I am very fond of her and love her as I would a lass!
She calls to bands of young, restless adventurers who would seek their fortunes in my halls! Most make their way to Undermountain through the deep, dry well at the Yawning Portal. I can hear the beating of their hearts as they are lowered down the rope to the small chamber with the sandy floor.
I watch them as they struggle through the monster and trap infested halls, daring to match their might, their wits and their skill against my creation!
Against me!
Few make it far.
Just yestereve, eight of the Fair Folk dared to test themselves in my home!
They proceeded oh so cautiously, thinking themselves clever but oblivious to the real danger!
They found a secret room where three orcs were gambling over a blade and a coat of mail.
I watched, excited as they slew the orcs mercilessly and took the treasures for themselves.
But soon learning that not all glowing blades are prizes!
I had found that cursed blade ages ago and in truth, forgotten al about it until it was discovered again.
They fought a servant of mine, a Helmed Horror, that had given them a rare and wondrous gift! There was no need to fight the Horror for it had completed its task.
But the elves thought they were clever.
The Fair Folk have always been an arrogant and haughty race, given to frivolity.
But they do suffer sweetly.
I watched as they blundered about my halls, never knowing that certain doom is always upon them despite their efforts!
They stumbled upon four ghouls that were still gnawing at the remains of some nameless fool and feeling they had no choice, they attacked!
As they fought the undead, they were attacked from the rear by four orcs and slew three of these along with the ghouls, taking a lone orc prisoner.
One of the elves left his companions for some reason, perhaps simply elvish impetuousness, but he found a dozen of the Everlasting Ones had found their scent!
They prepared for battle with their meager Art and a few flasks of oil and watched, amused as they struggled to survive the onslaught.
When three of their party had fallen, a hungry but wounded Deathkiss came at them from the rear!
They fought on while the Deathkiss attacked both elf and troll, ravenous for blood!
The battle soon came to an end with the Fair Folk victorious but grievously wounded!
They made their way back to the chamber where they found the armor and sword and encountered three rat men eating cheese.
There was no battle for the rat men are clever and do not throw their lives away needlessly.
Perhaps the elves will soon learn this.
Perhaps they will also learn that they amuse me so far.
And that is why they yet live!"


Monday, August 17, 2009

The Tradition Carries On...

Just when I thought the old, Gygax version of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was more or less a relic from my past that only a few of us still enjoyed, I found a glimmer of hope.

My friends have kids that recently expressed an interest in learning and playing Dungeons & Dragons. (Three boys specifically ages 12, 11 and 8.) Not only that, my best friend's wife and a girl I am seeing have also expressed an interest in the game.

So after a crash course in the rules etc. I ran my date, her son and my best friend's two sons through a six room dungeon.

It was very basic and I only threw four goblins, three large spiders, a skeleton and a 3rd level magic-user at them.

I was amazed at how fast the boys caught on to the game!

In this day of Playstation and XBox, these boys took to the game like ducks to water!
During our game, the 8 year old announced that we should play all night long and just eat a bunch of junk food and drink coffee so we can stay up.

The secret of Dungeons & Dragons is revealed!

(This is the same kid that has an obsessive/compulsive thing about poking everything they find with a 10 foot pole.)

This game was simply a learning thing and didn't count.

Plans were made to start a new campaign in Shadowdale of the Forgotten Realms.

All the boys wanted to know was when we would play again!

So a week later, I rounded everybody up including my two veteran friends and we sequestered ourselves in the basement, seated around my gaming table.

These are the games I have dreamed about as a Dungeonmaster!

Eight players, one character each and each person with different goals, perspectives and styles!


The band of adventurers had gathered outside to Old Skull Inn to watch the festivities of Midsummer Night. There was singing, drinking and feasting as well as the tradtional "hunting" of maidens through the woods by their would-be suitors.
The festivities were interrupted when one of the hunters stumbled into the village after being grievously wounded by a Goblin arrow! Not only that, one of the maidens was missing!

Search parties were organized, including the adventurers. Of course the adventurers were sent to the crumbling ruins of Castle Krag and of course this was the source of a great evil encroachment upon the quaint, little farming village.

Due to the youngsters getting tired and punchy, the game had to be halted as the party was exploring a strange room with six ghostly, floating harps that played a haunting tune. They had learned earlier that Castle Krag was once the abode of Lord Sargin Krag who went mad and stalked through the castle and murdered his entire family, servants and all his guests with a battleaxe!

Of course I ended the game on a cliffhanger because as the party was examining the glowing, ghostly harps, six goblins marched into the room!

I can't wait to play again!

We have made plans to take a road trip to the Guardtower in Columbus Ohio so my new players can pick out their own dice and maybe some miniatures for their characters!

I never thought I'd have so much fun!

We're supposed to play when we get back so I hope I'm not too tired!

Now that I think about this....

None of this would have happened if I was still married!

I get happier about my divorce everyday!


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Return to What Was....

Having shared with the entire world the sad news of my recent divorce and other depressing events that have taken place in my life in the year 2009, I feel it's only right that I also share with the world the bright moments that I have experienced. At least the ones that concern my adventures with my oldest and truest friends and my old adventuring band.

First, let me tell you about my characters.

Now one must understand that I was young when I started these guys out and at the time, I didn't have much of an imagination when it came to naming my characters.

The leader of my merry band of four, (I'm not robbing Ed Greenwood here, it's just that I had these four characters which I played with for years.)is a fighting man named Prometheus. I had always liked the name but the character had little to do with the Greek God. While he is now a shadow of his AD&D self, he is still the leader of the adventuring company and still has a pretty high opinion of himself. He often introduces himself as an explorer, adventurer and leader of men. He is physically powerful and while not a learned man, he is not witless and tries to use good tactical sense in battle.

He is followed by the magic-user Gandalf. Again, a name we all know well and which I shamelessly robbed from Tolkien but he hardly resembles the wise and courageous wizard portrayed so well by Ian McKellen. He is more like Walter Brennan in Rio Bravo, befuddled, crazed and courageous only because he doesn't know any better.

The third member of the band is a Northman Pagan Priest named Iarwain Ben-Adar. Another name shamelessly taken from Tolkien lore, (The elven name for Tom Bombadil for any who might not know.) He is physically powerful like Prometheus and he is a worshiper of the Norse gods Odin and Thor. He is your typical Viking with long blond hair, blue eyes and a full beard.

The last is a mysterious man from the East named Takamatsu. For any who don't know, Takamatsu was a real guy. He was a Japanese martial arts instructor and is perhaps best known for his teaching of Ninjutsu. (I was a HUGE ninja fan like most guys my age in the early 80's and I just loved the name.) Incidentally, he was also the only AD&D monk character I every rolled up that made it to Grandmaster of Flowers. I must have rolled up at least 15 or 20 monks and like most people that played monks, they all pretty much died horrible and useless deaths.

Now I had retired The Four many years ago but with some encouragement from my friends including the DM, I rolled them up under the OD&D rules and started playing them.

To all of you out there who are not playing with us, may I just say that you have no idea what you are missing! My friend is running one of the most spectacular campaigns I have ever played in my entire life! I am not merely saying that, hoping he will read this blog so I get brownie points either! We have fought through countless zombies and other undead, orcs, goblins and other easily recognized D&D monsters. We have also fought beasts of his own creation including some form of bone golem, a floating undead thing that is somewhere between a ghost and a ghoul and I kid you not, a mechanical beast that looks and acts almost exactly like a Dalek from Dr. Who!

I have been having a BLAST!

While the names may not be all that imaginative, the fun I've been having with these old characters, despite the fact they do not measure up to the PCs I retired long ago and stuck in a crumbling folder, gathering mildew in my basement, I am enjoying playing them again.

There are those that say you can never go back and I have to say they couldn't be more wrong!


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Back From a LONG Hiatus!

Greetings Fellow Gamers, Nerds, Geeks and All Other Cool People!

I haven't blogged in months but as my close friends can tell you, I've had a ton on my plate and NONE of it's been good to eat!

Just an update about what a shitstorm my life has been since February.....

My wife left me. I stopped at the house while I was working and she basically didn't want to be married anymore. Found out later that she's had a boyfriend for at least several months but possibly (and likely) several years.

Both my stepfather and my uncle died shortly after.

I've been working many, many hours and of course it's been chaotic even when I only work a normal 8 hour day.

To add to all this, I have been gaming with my close friends. GAMING not just blogging about it! It has been some of the brightest spots in my current life!

My thanks to JM and His Girthiness! May we continue to try and put dents in my magnificent gaming table with our new metal dice! (Well....when yours finally come in Oh Mighty Girth!)

It's been nothing short of a blast hearkening back to the days we spent in another basement gaming for hours on end, discussing gaming, planning on gaming, eating crap food, and even more gaming. The food has gotten somewhat better but not much. It's not home cooked like it often was in the past, but we make do.

My good friend has been running an AMAZING OD&D campaign. It has been brutal, overwhelming and completely entertaining! I love it! His knack for describing monsters is simply amazing. He makes the simplest skeleton seem like a lich and I would run away in terror if he ever attacked me with a flumph!

The AD&D campaign which I've been running seems a little weak to me. I know I'll probably get all kinds of dispute over this but it's high time I made some changes. Nuff said.

I have had other pursuits recently. Maybe not quite "romantic" ones, but I do my best to get laid once in awhile. I'm working out, hitting my heavy bag quite a bit.

But nothing is as distracting as ordering some pizza or getting stuff for sandwiches, maybe some chips and sitting down with a giant glass of tea and adventuring in places I hope I'll get to see after I die. It's my idea of heaven.

I encourage all of you out there to call up your old pals and get everyone together even if it's for a one time/one night session, and play some old school AD&D, D&D, OD&D or whatever and dice up some characters! They don't need to be perfect, and you can start adventuring right away. Who cares if they get killed? We all have pretty good imaginations and we can come up with new ideas almost as soon as we roll for our first stat.

You soon realize what you've been missing out on!

I also want to take this opportunity to offer an open invitation to anybody that wants to come over to my place, meet up with my friends and I, and roll up a character and do some gaming in my basement. You won't have to rub the lotion on your skin, you'll get food and drink (no alcohol...sorry) and you'll have a damn good time!

I know most of you live many miles away, but that's what they invented the combustion engine for. And you're not doing anything right now are you?

I've been hit pretty hard over the last few months but it gets better everyday. I have many friends and family that have helped see me through. I owe them a debt of gratitude I'll never be able to repay.

And I have gaming. Life ain't bad. Not bad at all.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Capaign Momentum

Here's something to think about.

My buddy and I have started playing AD&D again in the Forgotten Realms. He is running an entire adventuring party which he used to run a few years ago until they were tragically and mysteriously lost. (Not in the game mind you, the actual character sheets, his notebooks and all his dice just simply disappeared!)

So we re-rolled everybody and started fresh with everybody at first level.

Growing up playing AD&D in our small community, we typically had to run more than one character at a time and many times, since there was only one DM and one player, we would run an entire adventuring party.

Most of my friends are pretty good about role playing the different personalities of their characters and so forth, but essentially, it's pretty tough to do that consistently since all the characters are created from the mind of a single person.

This adds an additional problem which I recently pointed out to my friend during his last foray into the Haunted Halls. (Using Greenwood's stuff but having been fleshed out, with an upper and lower level by your's truly.)

I could see him making the same mistakes over & over because he only had his perspective of things to rely upon. Yes, he's playing 6 different characters at once, but they all SEE things the way HE sees them.

This is really working against him and I have to say, I don't think it ever dawned on me all these years just how bad this could be for a player and his characters.

It's also frustrating for me as the Dungeonmaster.

Ideally, AD&D and other RPGs are designed to be played with a group of people, one of them acting as the DM, referee or gamemaster and everyone else running a single character. I'm not telling you anything new here but I'm just making sure everyone knows that I fully understand the concept.

But living in BFE where many of the locals rarely even read a book without pictures and AD&D still has that lingering reputation for being an indoctrination into a suicidal, satanic cult, it's VERY tough to find mature players. You might get lucky and fing some fringe or a dabbler or two, but nobody that wants to play seriously or with any amount of dedication. Ones that you do manage to find have never heard of AD&D as we know it and they only want to play this pitiful shadow of the game that exists today.

If you manage to find enough people to play AD&D the way it was meant to be played with a diverse group of people with varying opinions and perceptions, then you are very fortunate. You run into problems keeping the momentum going and it's much easier to synchronzie schedules when the group is only two or three people that live within 10 minutes of each other.

In the case with my one buddy, we are able to play almost weekly and that way, keep the game flowing without significant gaps in playing time.

One thing for sure, despite all the limitations and frustrations that come with running a single player in a dungeon, I am having a pretty good time.

(I think my player might be too.)

And that's the most important part.