Saturday, December 26, 2015

Hemming and Hawing

Even though it has been forever and a day since I last posted, I have continued to play and the game (story) has moved along quite a bit since my last post. No spoilers, but a lot has happened to our brave band of adventurers in their quest to recover the stolen Cloud Gem from the cultists of Nag-Roop. They've followed the cultists deep into the Azure Pits and (ok, minor spoiler) not all in the party will return to the surface…

But the purpose of this post is to try and articulate the continuing difficulties I've had with writing up the session summaries. When I first started exploring the idea of solo play, I did a bit of research on various blogs covering the subject. On one blog (unfortunately I cannot recall which) I read that session summaries were an integral part of solo play. BUT, that they should be kept short - max a paragraph or so. I agree with this (although I find a paragraph is TOO short), and I have thought about ways to 'shorten' but haven't had any luck…
Artist unknown

Then I realized that the whole reason I play this game is for the story that develops organically from the rolls of the dice, use of random tables and my interpretation of them, etc. I have my notebook with my scribbling and various rolls and whatnot, but I also want to take a stab at putting in the extra effort to convey the images going on in my head as I play. This isn't an exercise in creative writing (Lord knows that's a stretch with me), but I do want to try and tell the story. Who knows, my kids might find it interesting one day when they get old enough.

So, I will move ahead and try and 'catch-up' with the current story. I'll try and focus on presenting scenes that I find most interesting, including commentary of how choices were made, which randomizers I used, etc. Then I will use a very abbreviated, 'fast-forward' format to connect to the next important scene.

Hopefully this format will work and writing session summaries will no longer be the bottleneck it currently is!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Order of the Blue Dark

So what does the party do next?

I must admit that I am getting antsy for the party to explore more of the Southern Isles so I can found out what else is out there. While I think the city exploration of Enharza is working out just nicely, I would like to flesh out more of the sandbox. But even though I, as DM/Player, am getting a little bored of the party's exploration of the same dungeon, I want the story to emerge organically. Therefore I won't decide what the party does but rather create a table of likely actions and let the dice guide the way.

Despite my feelings I figured given their recent haul, a return to Stonehell was a likely option for the party. They know the location and are amassing some knowledge of what is where in the dungeon. And very importantly, they know there is treasure to be plundered.

Certainly I want to have the option for the discovery of new leads as well. This is really how the sandbox will be fleshed out. And Durik and Balork have each already come up with possible story lines during their exploration of the city. Maybe Durik would convince the group to aid the Order of Laex. Or maybe Balork's thief would be the one to pop up…

So in the end, I came up with the below d8 table to roll on:

1-3 Continue exploring Stonehell
4-5 Look for new leads
6-7 Decide to help out Durik's church
8 Visit from Balork's thief (or his partners)

And……..I rolled a 7. So Durik is able to convince the rest of the party to aid Laex. So what all did the cleric learn from his visit to the temple?

The Southern Isles hex map
Durik's order, The Temple of Laex, has asked for help in their struggle against the Order of the Blue Dark, a group of cultists who worship Nag-Roop, minor demigod of the Underdark. The cultists of Nag-Roop have stolen the Cloud Gem from the Temple of Laex, and now plan to destroy the minor artifact in service to Nag-Roop.

Durik's brothers and sisters have learned that the dark ritual will take place in the Azure Pits, an entrance to the Underdark in the Dwarven Hills to the west (Hex 00.04).

The Temple of Laex will send three clerics to aid the party. They know the way to the Azure Pits, having 'coaxed' the information out of a captured Blue Dark cult member. The Order of the Blue Dark has a full day head start so time is of the essence.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Thoughts on solo-play city exploration

Before play resumes I wanted to reflect a bit on how I think the game is going. I'm definitely still figuring things out as I go along, but overall I am happy with the method that is emerging for the party's exploration of Enharza. I think using the Mythic oracle for question resolution coupled with Rory's Story Cubes and my own d4/d6 tables of potential outcomes is helping to take the play into unforeseen directions, which is great as this is my ultimate goal. But I will continue to look for ways to improve. Some additional reflections…

Tables, tables, and more tables! I've always been a big believer in random tables and I'm now finding that they are an integral part fleshing out the sandbox. I have quite a few stashed away but I am ever on the lookout for more that I can use and tweak.

With seven in the party now (including retainers), each potentially heading in his own direction, there is the danger that the time spent on city exploration can get out of hand. I need to find out how to achieve the goal of allowing the sandbox to develop via random events triggered by character exploration while avoiding the potential trap of developing too many threads and bogging down the overall game.

I am not sure how I will do this, but I am contemplating something like rolling a d4 each visit to determine the max number of character threads for further development that visit. These could be already existing threads or new scenarios based on fresh encounters.

In any event, some of the leads/hooks may never pan out, e.g. the thief that threatened Balork in the Mage's Guild may never be heard from again. Maybe he's rotting in a cell or soon to be executed. Or maybe he's already escaped and is trying to track down Balork….

I'll update the current tables I have developed for city encounters with the possibilities for 'unresolved' threads popping up. But I don't want them hanging unresolved for too long, so I will likely put a (game) time limit on them, before they disappear from the radar screen.

And of course, character attrition may take care of some as well. As much as I am becoming attached to the party, I know most of them won't be around for too long!

Now it's time to figure out which lead the group decides to follow…..

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Retainer Carousing Rules

With many thanks to Jeff Rients who paved the way….

Retainer Carousing Table
1 Alcohol Poisoning (see subtable for effects)
2 Way too friendly with the tavern wench --> banned from tavern for good
3 Signed up for weekend's Arena Games (see subtable for opponent)
4 Mugged and robbed of all valuables
5 Signed up with Cap'n Quint --> ship out in two days
6 Wake up naked and in jail (d6 x 10gp to get out)
7 Bar Fight (d4 x 20gp in damages)
8 New tattoo (1-3 it's kinda cool, 4 it's lame, 5 it would be cool if not for the mistake, 6 it actually says something crude/stupid/insulting in an unknown language)
9 Buy/lift/find a treasure map!

Artist unknown
10 Hungover - no ill effects
11 You won the oiled pig race - you've made a name for yourself!
12 Wake up hungover and engaged to the local tavern wench!
13 Pissed off somebody (see subtable for who and what)
14 Bar Fight --> lose teeth and break nose (-d3 hp and -1 on all rolls for a day)
15 Fell for a lady of the night
16 Discover that you have latent magical abilities (hedge wizard); start at -250xp and d3 cantrips
17 Hungover - no ill effects
18 Joined a cult….uh-oh (Use d30 Sandbox Companion to generate)
19 Hooked up with the wrong crowd and ended up in a black lotus den (roll on subtable from Raggi's Death Frost Doom for effects!)
20 Alcohol poisoning (see subtable for effects)

Alcohol Poisoning (roll on both sub tables)
Pick your poison
1 Dragon Ale
2 Dwarven Spirits
3 Demon's Brew
4 Ork Milk
5 Elven Wine
6 Death Grog

1 -2 on all rolls for d3 days
2 Blindness for d3 days
3 Addicted!!
4 Bedridden for d3 days
5 Bedridden for a day and lose all hair…permanently
6 Oracular visions….

Art by Raph04art
Arena opponent
1 Brutus, current hero (2nd level fighter)
2 One-armed white ape
3 Giant scorpion
4 Two-headed hyena
5 Axe-wielding barbarian princess
6 The Thing in the cage…..

Who did the retainer piss off? (roll on both sub tables)
1 Thieves Guild
2 Mages Guild
3 City Watch
4 Cult/Church/Sect

1 Cash only….
2 Perhaps a service could be performed….
3 Not a chance - bad blood!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Sects in the City

Thowin Four Fingers, a fighter, and his torchbearer, Boarface
Imorfin the elf
Durik the cleric
Fretta the Dark, a thief
Balork the Medium, a magic-user and Bursus, his man-at-arms
Sunday, 23 Harvester

We rejoin the party as they sit around a table at the Bone House, the tavern/inn that they call home for the time being. It is their first time together after a couple days of individual exploration of the city. They recount their experiences of the previous two days and discuss the next course of action….

For the remaining characters I will limit the story-telling and focus on the 'behind-the-scenes' action.

Fretta the Dark and Boarface, a torchbearer
After determining that Fretta and Boarface were carousing together I had to figure out what amount of gold they blew in their carousing. The normal house rule is to roll d6 x 100 to determine how much gold is spent (whether they have that much or not). This is what I did for Fretta and rolled a 1. So the thief spent 100 gold and earned as much in experience.

Boarface, being a torchbearer, had much less gold on him. During the treasure division, Thowin did give him a 15 gold bonus on top of his daily rate, but still it wasn't much. So I ruled that he would spend all his remaining gold while carousing, boozing it up with the cheap stuff!

Art by Steve Zieser
So now time for the saving throws versus Poison! I roll a 17 for Fretta which is a success but poor Boarface fails his roll with a 12. I have different Carousing Mishap tables for PCs and retainers, so I roll another d20 and consult the appropriate table….

Boarface enters an oiled pig catching contest  sponsored by the Rose and Skull Tavern in the Redlight District of Enharza….and takes first place! The torchbearer wins 10 gold and a trained, pet rat! Fretta and Boarface celebrate the victory, whooping it up in the taverns along Tavern Alley.

Question: Does romance occur between Fretta and Boarface? (50/50)
Mythic: 73, No
Nothing happens on this night, but I think the two outcasts have formed a special bond as a result of the joint carousing, and I will role play it accordingly going forward.

Durik the faithful servant to Laex, goddess of wind decided to visit the temple in Enharza. New to the city he hadn't yet met the brothers and sisters of the local order. When he arrived he found a small shrine, clean and orderly, but definitely in need of repairs.

Using an ad hoc table I determine that the order is small (2d12), and come up with 14 current members. I decide that Durik will contribute at least half of his gold and then developed the below possible additional actions:

What happens at the temple?
1 - Durik makes a very large donation (80% of his gold) and is warmly received by the rest of the order
2 - He learns of a crisis facing the Order of Laex
3 - He is invited to join the Order in a formal position, after a test
4 - He is asked to help the Order in some regard

I roll a 2 and then use the below table to figure out more about the crisis.

1 - There is a conflict with another temple
2 - A brother/sister is very sick
3 - The Order is in dire straits financially
4 - There are undead in the sewers below the temple!
5 - Strife within the temple (factions)!
6 - There is a conflict with another temple (same as 1)

I roll a 1.

The Order of Laex warmly received their brother, Durik. And his generous donation would go a long way towards much needed repairs to their modest temple and to filling the larder. But he also learned of a crisis facing the temple. Their most treasured possession, a minor artifact of Laex known as the Cloud Gem had been stolen by a group of cultists worshipping Nag-Roop, a minor demi-God of the Underdark.

After discussing the matter in more detail, Durik left the temple with a heavy heart. As he walked back to the Bone House, he began to think how he could convince his new comrades to aid his church in their hour of need.

Balork the Medium
During the party's last visit to the city Balork had made his way to the Mages' Guild and was informed that all magic-users in Enharza were required to seek membership. The fee was 200 gold. At the time the Mage didn't have that amount of coin, but thanks to the sack of platinum found in Stonehell, he now had more than enough to cover his membership dues. In fact he had so much more that he also wanted to research a new spell.

What spell does Balork seek?

1 - Charm
2 - Spider Climb
3 - Detect Magic
4 - Random 1st level

I roll a 3, Detect Magic.
Q: Does he find the spell? (Near Sure Thing)
Mythic: 48, Yes

How much will it cost in materials? (170 gold)

Q: Does he pay? (Very likely)
Mythic: 02, Exceptional Yes

Since the result comes back as an exceptional yes, I decide to use some Story Cubes (4) to see what additional happens. I come up with Reading/Books, Fighting, Stealing/Thief, and Surprise/Fear.

Art by Tsabo6
As Balork poured over a table full of books in the middle of his spell research, something out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. Looking up he spied a man wearing a dark cloak, hovering by a nearby bookshelf. The man surreptitiously pocketed a small book, unaware that he was being observed. The thief began to leave, walking towards a still unobserved Balork. The mage took it upon himself to intervene. "Thief! Stop!"
A scuffle broke out between the two and the thief was able to escape Balork's grasp. As the man ran for the exit, Balork cast a Sleep spell. The thief made his save (17)!

Q: Does the thief escape? (50-50)
Mythic: 55, No and a Random Event occurs as a result of the doubles.
Random Event: NPC Negative (I then roll 'Disrupt Wishes')

As the thief tried to make his escape, he tripped and fell. Before he could even rise several guardsmen were atop him.

So what happens?
1 - Balork is brought before the Guild's Council Members
2 - The thief vows revenge against Balork
3 - Balork makes a key contact in the Guild as a result
4 - Balork picks up something of note/value dropped by the thief

I roll a 2…

As the thief was being dragged away, he looked up at Balork with rage in his eyes. "You! I'll find you! I'll find you and make you pay for this!" A flustered Balork went back to his books but was unable to concentrate on his work.

(To be continued...)

Monday, August 3, 2015

Armor and Ice

Thowin Four Fingers, a fighter, and his torchbearer, Boarface
Imorfin the elf
Durik the cleric
Fretta the Dark, a thief
Balork the Medium, a magic-user and Bursus, his man-at-arms

Sunday, 23 Harvester

We rejoin the party as they sit around a table at the Bone House, the tavern/inn that they call home for the time being. It is their first time together after a couple days of individual exploration of the city. They recount their experiences of the previous two days and discuss the next course of action….

Thowin Four Fingers and Bursus
The fighter and man-at-arms made their way down to the Arena District in search of an armorer whose price list fit the budget of the adventurers. They had heard the best armor and weapons were to be found in the Merchant District, but one paid handsomely for that quality.
The streets of the Arena District were filled with all manner of men. They saw slaves, slave owners, fat merchants with their entourages, robed and perfumed and no doubt looking to trade in human flesh, and of course the fighting men of the Arena. The latter trained on small swaths of grass in between the streets, swinging wooden swords and engaging in various forms of strength training. The massive Arena loomed behind them.

Art by Angie Gomez

Thowin yanked Bursus by the collar to pull him to safety as a horse-drawn cart rumbled by. On the back of the cart was a cage covered by a tarp. Loud and strange noises could be heard from underneath - a combination of roaring and croaking. Whatever manner of beast was in the cage, it was no doubt on its way to the Arena.

Eventually the pair found an armorer and after some discussions about price, they were fitted for new armor, plate for Thowin and banded for Bursus.

(The City Encounter roll for Thowin and Bursus' jaunt came up empty and the only other roll needed was for the time needed for the armor to be ready. The result showed it would be ready the following day.)

(For Imorfin the elf's visit to the Bazaar District, I made use of some random tables I have yoinked from various blogs to find out what he came across during his day out. I flesh out the 'finds' below. The City Encounter roll also came back with a hit…)

The Bazaar was a maze of narrow streets and alleys connecting larger squares where stalls and shops of all sorts could be found. Imorfin smiled as he walked along, taking in all the strange sights and exotic smells.

He stopped to watch as a robed man created strange, smoky shapes out of thin air, weird colors swirling about. Onlookers clapped and tossed a few coppers in a hat at his feet. The man bowed and moved on to new tricks.

Imorfin also saw a bearded man wearing a strange, purple hat selling frozen water in small wooden cups. The elf had never seen 'ice' before and he readily paid the gold coin for a small portion. As he enjoyed the cold treat he watched as islanders, the native folk of the many smaller islands that made up the Southern Isles, tried to sell all manner of exotic fruits and vegetables to passersby. He also kept a sharp eye out for pickpockets, urchins, and other denizens of the Bazaar who were up to no good.

Art by jbcasacop
After a bit of 'window shopping' Imorfin was actually close to making a purchase, a set of writing elements made from the bones of some beast, when he was approached by three members of the City Watch. The elf was informed that he had been 'randomly selected' to donate to Enharza City Tax #9, Contributions to Help Enharza's Poor . A 'contribution' of 12 gold was in due. Not wanting to cause trouble, especially since he was outnumbered three to one, Imorfin reached into his pouch and handed over the coins. The guards smiled slyly and moved on. The elf did his best to forget the experience.

The rest of the day was uneventful, but once he returned to the Bone House, he did pick up one piece of information over ale in the Common Room…

Here is the process I used to determine Imorfin's search for leads. First I asked Mythic if he picked up the rumor at the Bazaar, but despite a high likelihood, the answer came back a big No. So it must have been at the tavern. Then I made use of the below table which I have written about before.

Try and discover new leads
Base chance of success is 25% per day; increases by 25% per day up to max 75%; cost is d12gp per day in drinks, food, and general schmoozing. If successful, roll on d00 table below:

1-30: Regarding known adventure locale (determine randomly)
31-60: Regarding unknown adventure locale (create one!)
61-80: Make a connection (see subtable)
81-00: Potential patron looking to hire party (create a lead using TOAD)

So Imorfin ended up spending 18 gold (over two days) and the roll on the above subtable (28) meant the info was about Stonehell. I then made the below ad hoc tables to figure out exactly what he learned:

Is the lead about Level 1 (60%), Level 2 (30%), or Level 3 (10%)? 69, so the second level.

I then looked over Level 2 and came up with the three possibilities:

1 - Treasure can be found at the bottom of a well…
2 - Lizardmen infest the level beneath the Quiet Halls
3 - An elevator room with access to the depths of Stonehell can be found on the second level where the lizard folk live

I roll a 3, so Imorfin learns of the elevator room and its general location.

To be continued with the rest of the party's actions…

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Three Day Pass

Thowin Four Fingers, a fighter, and his torchbearer, Boarface
Imorfin the elf
Durik the cleric
Fretta the Dark, a thief
Balork the Medium, a magic-user and Bursus, his man-at-arms

Once the party returns to the city after their successful foray into Stonehell (no casualties and 400 platinum pieces!), I switch to 'Enharza mode' and make use of the rules and various tables and randomizers I have to play out their time back in town. A d3 roll reveals that they will be in the city for 3 days, assuming no complications arising from their actions.

In the next couple posts I will detail the "behind the scene" process, including the questions I ask and the resolution methods I employ as I play things out.

Now that I have determined they will be in town for a few days, I decide on the following PC actions:

With his share of the loot, Thowin Four Fingers will head to the Arena District to price some plate mail. That AC can never be low enough…

Balork wants to return to the Mages Guild to pay his required dues and to dabble in a little spell research.

Durik will visit the shrine of Laex, goddess of the wind, to pay his respects to his patron deity and the rest of the order in Enharza. He also plans to make a rather large donation with his share of the treasure from Stonehell.

I'm still trying to figure out exactly what type of person Fretta is (beyond her obvious skittishness). But she is a thief, so I flipped a coin between carousing and gambling. She's going drinking!

Imorfin will pay a visit to the Bazaar District just to look around and explore. He will also try and chase down new leads for the party. I want them (and me) to uncover some new adventure pathways so the party has an alternative to Stonehell.

And as for Bursus the man-at-arms and Boarface the torchbearer, I employed my newly created table. The roll for Bursus came up as resting for the next adventure. So I decided he would go with Thowin to investigate an armor upgrade and then likely blow the rest of his loot on ale and good food back at the tavern.

The roll for Boarface resulted in a night of carousing! Given that Fretta was hitting the town as well, I asked Mythic if they were going together (Near Sure Thing). The answer came back….Yes. Awesome!

I also have some encounter tables which are specific for each of Enharza's Districts. Each time a PC visits a city district I roll to check if an encounter occurs, and if so, what the encounter is. The likelihood is higher at night.

So, now that we know what everyone is going to do during, let's find out what happens!

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Key Districts of Enharza

Tavern Alley and the Red Light District (upper right corner of city map)
Map by Santiago Luis Oriá
"The Alley" is actually a large winding street which is home to most of Enharza's taverns, inns, and eating establishments for the commoners. Street vendors also sell various exotic food items and tavern keepers try and convince folks in off the street. Occasional City Watch patrols. Located just to the NE of Tavern Alley, the Red Light District provides Enharza with ample gambling parlors, houses of ill repute and other dens of iniquity. Pickpockets abound, and after dark the chance of being accosted by street thugs is real. Street urchins infest this area.

Temple District (middle right of city map, below Tavern Alley and the Red Light District)
Enharza is a diverse city, and nowhere is that more evident than in the Temple Quarter. Various temples, shrines, and churches to all manner of minor deities and lesser-known demi-gods are packed into this section of Enharza. Healing and other clerical services can be obtained here for a donation or other service rendered to the providing sect. 

The Arena (middle right of city map, below the Temple District)
Slaves, prisoners and free men foolhardy enough to risk their lives for gold and a modicum of fame fight each other as well as captured or conjured monsters in the Arena. Large crowds come to see the fights and gambling on the outcome is popular. Weapons  handlers, armorers, and other services for the 'common man' can be found here.

The Bazaar (upper left of city map)
All manner of strange and exotic items can be found for sale in the colorful booths and tents of the Bazaar. Open from sun-up to late in the evening, the Bazaar is always filled with the sights, sounds and smells of a dozen lands. 

The Docks (middle left of city map)
Another rough part of town, the docks see ships coming in from all over the Imperium. Small, private sailing vessels can be hired here, but the price can be steep. And beware, tentacled monsters and other slimy beasts from the deeps have been spotted in the dirty waters of Enharza's harbor and canals!

The Merchant District (middle left of city map, below the Docks)
Shops of all sorts, catering to many needs. Most types of gear and provisions can be found here, including Enharza's best Armorer and Weaponsmith. The Merchant Quarter is continually patrolled by the City Watch. 

The Slums (top left of city map, outside the city walls)
Those too poor to reside within Enharza live in this shantytown outside the city walls. Aglana the Witch-Oracle lives here and many come and visit hoping to gain answers to questions. On the right day, and for the right price, valuable information can be obtained.

The Noble District (lower third of city map)
The Noble District is home to Archon Fezaar's palace, the barracks of the Black Guard, as well as the Mages Guild. The finer shops of Enharza can be found here and the homes of the wealthy and privileged. Adventurers wandering these streets should be prepared to be stopped by the City Watch.

The Sewers
A maze of dark and dirty passages lie beneath Enharza. The sewers can be accessed from numerous locations across the city. Foul creatures, living and undead, roam these tunnels. But that doesn't prevent those on the run from using the sewers as a hideout. The Thieves Guild  and its many splinter factions are also known to use the Sewers to move through the city unseen and to gain secret access to numerous buildings. The sewer system runs through the ruins of the Old City at numerous points.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

What are the Meatshields up to?

Art by Toren Atkinson
I have posted before about how I handle PC actions when the party is back in town. I made a basic list of activities and just select from the list what I think makes most sense for the character at the time. In short I play them individually as if each were my own character in a 'normal' game. So far this has worked out well, but I also wanted something for the retainers. Meatshields are people too, right?

But whereas I 'play' the PCs and determine their actions myself, for the retainers I wanted to ensure the element of randomness which would potentially take the emergent story into unforeseen directions. And of course to help with this, I needed some tables!

The table below represents the base percentages for each activity, but I will likely adjust  the various weights based in the NPC in question. Some may be more inclined to go drinking and gambling while others may be more demure and unlikely to get wild.

%       Activity
30      Resting up for the next mission
20      Dealing with personal stuff (I will play off any personality quirks or traits)
20      Gambling (use PC gambling table)
20      Carousing (use Retainer Carousing subtable)
10      Disappears for d6 days (see subtable)

I'll post some of the sub tables later on.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Quiet Halls

Thowin Four Fingers, a fighter, and his torchbearer, Boarface
Imorfin the elf
Durik the cleric
Fretta the Dark, a thief
Balork the Medium, a magic-user and Bursus, his man-at-arms

We rejoin our brave adventurers making their way towards the Quiet Halls, having just left the kobold party…

Boarface lit a torch and passed it to Balork before lighting his lantern. With an apprehensive Fretta bringing up the rear, the party retraced their steps towards the entrance.

(After a couple fruitless random encounter rolls…) The party soon reached the entry chamber. This time they took the north exit and soon entered the refuse chamber. All were on guard for any sign of the snakes from before, and Thowin gave the order that none of the trash was to be disturbed.  With Fretta practically pushing the party along, they passed quickly through and entered another chamber.

The new chamber was empty of contents but the walls were covered with sooty, man-shaped silhouettes. In addition they saw a number of old inscriptions carved into the stone walls. Balork handed his torch to Bursus and then turned his attention to the carvings.

Art by Ed Heil

Q: Can Balork decipher the ancient inscriptions? (Unlikely)
Mythic: (90); Big Failure which I interpreted as leaving no chance for anyone in the party to understand the meaning behind the inscriptions.

Balork eventually gave up, claiming the inscriptions to be indecipherable and the party moved on. They headed down a passage to the east and through another empty chamber before finally reaching the entrance to the Quiet Halls, exactly as the kobolds had described.

They encountered a large, stone double-door with etchings of the dead, dancing and cavorting. After steeling themselves Thowin and Imorfin put shoulders to the door, and after a bit of a struggle, it opened with a deep groan.

The adventurers moved through the open doors and into the chamber beyond. A cold chill was in the air and the place smelled of old death. The light from Bursus' lantern revealed a large, rectangular hall. Two rows of columns stretched from the floor to the ceiling above. The place was dusty and fallen masonry covered with lichen littered the floor.

Something moved at the edge of the light and a reddish glow appeared. A number of large beetles could be seen munching on the lichen. They turned their attention to the intruders and hissed menacingly. (Reaction roll: Territorial, hostile)

Q: Does the party fight? (Unlikely)
Mythic: 75, No

Not wanting to tussle with the angry beetles, the party looked about for exits from the chamber. Open passages left the chamber in all directions, but the party headed north to the closest.

They followed the passage until it turned to the east. There they found a closed door on the west wall and to the north, a man-sized hole in the wall. Numerous pieces of stone and brick were scattered about the floor as if someone or something had broken through from the other side. At Thowin's direction, Bursus poked the lantern into the opening, his arm shaking all the while. The light revealed a small space where the smell of death and decay was strong, but otherwise appeared empty. The thought of something breaking out from the inside was unsettling.

The door nearby was opened and beyond lay another, larger chamber. Therein they found rotted wooden tables and names and dates etched on the walls, obviously from a time long forgotten. Thowin led them to another empty room down the hall and after a fruitless check for hidden doors, they turned back to the entry chamber and the beetles.

Q: Are the beetles still there? (Very Likely)
Mythic: 51, Yes

What does the party do? D4: 1-3 try and pass cautiously by, 4 attack
Result: 4, attack

(I decide that Balork will use his Nuke Sleep spell while the others will be ready with ranged weapons to try and pick off any survivors. All but two of the beetles fall asleep, and the remaining pair are dispatched without ever having a chance to attack.)

Satisfied at having handled the beetles so efficiently Thowin and Imorfin waved the party on, heading out of the room via the eastern passage. The passage soon reached an intersection and Thowin chose the way to the north. The light from the torch and lantern revealed a dusty, cobweb-filled passage. The entered cautiously. After a short distance the hall turned to the east and the party saw a long hall running east as far as the light shone. They saw at least four doors, two on each side of the passage until the hall disappeared into darkness.

Q: Does party try one of the first doors? (Likely)
Mythic: 89, No……hmmm, I guess something wasn't quite right about the first doors

After a short, whispered conversation Thowin and Imorfin signal for the party to move on past the first set of doors. Just as they reach the next set, the second door on the south wall explodes into a mass of wooden splinters and the door fragments begin to swirl violently about, picking up small stones and bone fragments from the passage floor. A roughly human-shaped figure forms from the swirling mass of wood, stone, bone and dust.

The party is not surprised. Given the confines of the passage I rule that only Thowin and Imorfin in the front rank can attack this round. The party loses initiative and the swirling mass strikes Thowin and the fighter is pierced by numerous wooden shards and splinters. He takes 8 points of damage, leaving him with just  1 hp!

Art by Dave Kendall
Imorfin swung his battle-axe at the shade and was relieved to feel his weapon bite into….something. Bone and wood splinters exited the swirling mass and the form diminished. The heavily wounded Thowin raised his great sword and brought the blade slicing down through the mass. Suddenly the shade dissipated, the wind stopped and a low wail trailed off until all was silent.

Durik stepped up and placed a healing hand on Thowin (3 hp). "I cannot heal you further today and I'm afraid your wounds are still quite serious."

Q: Does the party  investigate the crypt? (Near sure thing)
Mythic: 20, Yes

While the cleric tended to the fighter, Fretta and Balork peered into the room beyond the shattered door. They found piles of dusty bones in the small chamber along with a small, rotting sack. The albino thief sliced open the rotting burlap and platinum coins spilled out. Her eyes lit up at the princely sum and she hurriedly picked them up. After she was done transferring the coins to her pouch, she had counted 400 - a fortune!

Q: Does the party consider leaving Stonehell? (I rule 'Very Likely' given Thowin's injury, the fact that the Sleep and CLW spells had been used, and the recent find of 400 pp)
Mythic: 30, Yes

So after two failed random encounter checks the party exits Stonehell and heads back to Enharza.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Back to Stonehell

Thowin Four Fingers, a fighter, and his torchbearer, Boarface
Imorfin the elf
Durik the cleric
Fretta the Dark, a thief
Balork the Medium, a magic-user, and Bursus, his man-at-arms

We rejoin the party on their way back to the dungeons of Stonehell after a couple days in Enharza...

Earthday, 20 Harvester

After an uneventful night camping on the trail, the party covered the remaining distance to Stonehell at a brisk pace. Along the path they discussed which way to take once they reached the dungeon.

"There is NO way I'm going back to the room with those snakes," Fretta disclaimed. The rest of the party knew there was little chance of convincing the albino thief otherwise. They were also hesitant to head back towards the orc chambers so soon after the fight. In the end the party decided against heading north past the iron sign or south past the orc territory, and choose to return to the chamber with the portcullis and brave the swirling winds and the booming, disembodied voice. They reached the bottom of the long stairwell and entered the first level of the dungeon.

(I checked on the table in the Stonehell book to see if anything had moved into the first chamber since the party was last here and came up with a 1 on a d6 - yes! Rolling on the d20 table showed it to be dwarves. I then asked were they coming or going; they were leaving the dungeon. Given the party's recent encounter with Snorri and co, I thought maybe there was a chance, albeit low, this was Snorri…)

Q: Is it Snorri's group? (No Way)
Mythic: 06 (Yes!)

Art by Don Avery
Snorri's group was returning from another archeological expedition but this time appeared to have all party members intact.

"Well met," said the leader of the dwarves, extending a hand to Thowin. A frown crossed his brow as he scanned the group. "Where is young Loro?" The party explained that the dwarf had fallen valiantly in battle with orcs nearby where they had met Snorri's group before.

The dwarves removed their helmets and nodded stoically. "Where did you lay his body to rest," asked Snorri. "We would like to pay our respects."

There was some general shuffling of feet and nervous swallows as Thowin and Imorfin had to explain that Loro's body wasn't taken out of Stonehell. Snorri bristled at the disrespect shown to his fallen kinsmen, but said nothing, simply donning his helmet again. Thowin apologized as the dwarves turned to leave. "We saw no orcs today," said Snorri as he departed,"but if you run across any, remember poor Loro and give them hell."

Thowin turned sheepishly to the rest of the party and got them to form up before leading the way to the room with the portcullis.

This time, the wind and voice didn't seem quite as ominous although the bones and stained floor didn't instill a lot of confidence. They looked through the lowered portcullis at the passage beyond.

Q: Does they party try and raise the lowered portcullis? (Very Likely)
Mythic: 96, No. Hmmmm…another unexpected result…gotta love the curveballs Mythic throws…

There was a bit of second-guessing and the party decided maybe the portcullis was lowered for a good reason. Since Snorri mentioned that they hadn't  encountered any orcs, Imorfin and Thowin decided to head back to the south.

They snuck past the chamber where the fight took place and continued to the south, eventually reaching a 4-way intersection. On the wall to the east they saw some words etched in crude Common.  "Open Sore Tribe - Keep Out!"

Thinking this must be the stronghold of the orcs, the party opted to head to the west, following the corridor into a small, natural cave and ran into a large group of kobolds.

Q: Do they kobolds recognize the party, maybe one or more are from the previous encounter? (50-50)
Mythic: 46, Yes. Reaction roll shows they are extremely helpful

I decided that a couple of the kobolds were from the previous group encountered. The party used the opportunity to ask some questions and glean some information. I created a small table of other 'leads' the party might get from the kobolds and made a couple rolls…

They learned that the Open Sore tribe (orcs) were at war with the Wolf Gang tribe (goblins) for control of the chambers in this part of the dungeon. The kobolds also told the party about the bazaar run by Trustee Sniv, the kobold leader which lay to the southeast, where all sorts of strange items could be found. More interestingly though they learned of the Quiet Halls (as the kobolds called them), which were supposedly filled with ancient treasures, and a lot of undead…

The party declined the invitation to follow the kobolds to the bazaar and instead decided to head towards the Quiet Halls after getting instructions from the kobolds. It would take them past the snake chamber….  After being promised the first pick of the treasure, Fretta agree to go along. But at the first sign of a snake, the thief swore she was out of there!

(To be continued…)

Saturday, March 28, 2015


If you haven't already seen it, check this out.

Tentacles snaking out from underneath the surface of some underground lake are pretty scary, but what if the thing could launch itself out of the water! Awesome....definitely will be tweaking my underground tentacled denizens!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Themed Random Dungeon Creation

Man, it has been forever since I've posted anything here! And to think that way back in December I went into the Christmas and New Year's break convinced I would have a lot of time to work on the EES. Well, that never materialized and before I knew it, work started up again full throttle in January and hasn't let up for a minute. Oh well…

But since I last posted I did get the chance to do a little solo gaming. Our brave party made another foray into Stonehell which I will post about soon. But what I wanted to write about now was some work I did trying to use the concept in Schweig's Themed Dungeon Generator to create my own engine for themed adventure design.

As I've posted before, the Ever Expanding Sandbox will contain adventure locales of differing types. There is Stonehell, which, while arguably out of place given the tone I'm really looking for for the Southern Isles, serves well as the local 'tentpole' dungeon. I have also created two (and a half) adventures which will be dropped into the sandbox someplace, somehow. And of course the Southern Isles have several 'themed' regions for which I have quite a few adventure ideas to flesh out over time.

But I see much of the development of the sandbox  and the adventure ideas/locales to come organically, by way of randomly generated ideas from a combination of sources including random tables, The Tome of Adventure Design, Dungeon/Wilder Words, and numerous others.

My goal is to give each dungeon a clear theme or concept to avoid literal 'random generation', but at the same time I want to keep as much suspense as possible in the game so that I can explore alongside the characters.

So anyway, back to the point of the post - themed dungeon creation. I followed the adventure title design concept I mentioned in a previous post and came up with the title The Walled Shrine of the Skeletal Harpies,  which I thought sounded pretty cool.

Following the Schweig method I came up with a list of potential encounters which would fit with the theme of the dungeon that I had conjured up and put them in a d30 table. But what I wanted to add to this was a further dimension of randomness - something that would add an element of the unknown to my exploration of the themed dungeon.

So in addition to the d30 encounters table I decided to roll either a couple story cubes or use the dungeon/wilder words tables as each encounter turned up. Depending on what I rolled, this would add a spin to the original encounter that I hadn't envisoned initially. The goal is to enhance the solo exploration as I will never be completely sure what is behind the door, despite having specific entries on the room encounter table. I did the same with a random encounter (wandering monster) table and in the end I was quite pleased.

I autogenerated a party at Mithral and Mages and a couple hirelings using Meatshields and dove straight into the exploration.

I may post a play report later along with some ideas for further refinement. It was definitely fun and I think the approach works.