Saturday, May 19, 2018

Podcast: Starting Characters in a Campaign

I just released my latest episode, Starting Characters in a Campaign. I'm planning on starting a B/X Essentials campaign soon. I go over a few of the things I like to do to introduce players and their characters into my campaign world, disseminating information without (hopefully) overwhelming them, but enough information that characters can confidently act within the world.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Podcast: Weather in Game

Weather. How it can become an NPC in your game. How it can take on cultural aspects. And of course, how it can affect combat. Check out my Gothridge Manor podcast.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Building a Village Example

A little while ago I did a podcast about Random Encounters for a Village. I spoke about how I tend to do it. This is one of my methods. I like the twp page spread, easy to reference, if I put them into a binder there is no page flipping. Here is the link to the PDF on Google Drive for Thurber Village. I made the village on a map not made for a village, I just added the black squares as houses and it served the purpose well.

If your interested in listening to the podcast, here is the link.

Creating Village Random Encounters

Monday, April 30, 2018

Requiem for a Hag - My OPDC Entry

Whew, I didn't think I would get it done. It's been a few years since I participated in this contest, but felt it was time to throw my dice into the ring. Requiem of a Hag is a nasty little place. She makes Hell her home. With ways to get to Avernus and Dis, this place is bound to get attention from all the wrong people. Glad I was able to finish it. I kept wanting to add stats! Like I have the room for that. I hope you like it. Enjoy.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Lunch Time Podcast About Disorganization

I like Anchor because when I'm on lunch I can grab my phone flap my lips for a short time and make a quick podcast. However, I lost all my back episodes somehow on the app. It still has a lot of fixes needed. 

Despite all that I talk about a number of things. Which makes sense because it's about disorganization. I gained an achievement this weekend. Had lots of time and failed to get much done. 

Check out my podcast. Call in and participate if you like. I will publish phone calls...if I can figure it out. Please check out the Gothridge Manor Podcast if you have a few minutes.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Small Details: Stairs

Stairs are a simple form of transportation. In dungeons, stairs often mean a transition. In many dungeons  the deeper you go the more terrifying and deadly the adventure. Along with the promise of great treasure. Many heated discussions were held around the gaming table whether to to take the stairs. Was it too soon? How healthy was the party. Resource considerations. A transition of geography and philosophy.

Steps are a common feature in dungeons. While most of the time they are denoted by a series of shortening parallel lines, I like to slip in a detail of two to tell the story of that location. Or throw in a simple trap to keep the party on their toes even when encountering a simple feature.

1. One of the steps is missing. In fact, doesn’t look like one ever existed. Rushing up or down the stairs could cause an injury.

2. The steps in this set of stairs are slanted slightly down, as if running water had worn them down. Because of this the stairs are very smooth.

3. The stairs are covered in a white limestone. Each step has a coat-of-arms engraved into the limestone. The handrail on the right side is polished wood held in place by brass brackets secured to the wall.

4. The stairs are made of brittle wood. The stairs tremble and make loud cracking noises when stepped upon. If the steps collapse, a skeleton is found, a hammer in its hand, nails scattered on the floor around him.

5. The stairs are covered with an oily substance. There bottom step is a false step. Anyone who steps on it the step falls, there is flint attached to the step, there is a 3 in 6 chance that it sparks and ignites the oil on the stairs.

6. The stairs have large handrails running up both sides. The wood is scarred and discolored. From the fourth to the tenth stairs is a black scorch mark. At the bottom are decorative posts, if the right one is twisted the middle section of the stairs (4th to the 10th stair) rise to reveal a hidden area.

7. At the top of the stairs there is a simple illusion of more steps. The lead person falls into a pit. At the bottom of the pit are planks with iron spikes driven through to cause further damage.

8. Lit candles sit on the right side of every step. Wax pools at the base of each candle. They extinguish if someone steps on the step they are on. In one day they relight. If removed, they are normal candles. 

9. A horrific scene, the stairs are made of a mix of bone, flesh and sinew. Sections of the stairs move, and as it does it creates a wet, sliding slime slurping noise.

10. A very narrow set of stairs, a person will need to climb sideways, spirals. Anyone in heavy armor cannot pass through. They’ll need to remove their armor to pass. At the top of the stairs foot stone with “Eleanor” engraved into the stone. If the stone is removed there is a urn filled with ashes. Within the ashes is a simple gold necklace with a ruby pendent. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Small Details: 10 Strange Bottles

This is the first time I've posted using my phone. Hoping it works. Here are 10 strange bottles that might be found while adventuring.

1. A simple a clay bottle that has unseen cracks around the outside. When liquid is poured into it within a day all the contents will have leaked out.

2. Thick glass tinted blue makes up this fat bottomed bottle. The cork is attached by a wire. There is a trace of liquid at the bottom. A left over potion of flying. It'll cause the imbiber to shoot up in the air 10' then fall. GM should determine if damage should be rewarded.

3. A broken bottle lays on the ground. If a magic-user puts his hand near it the bottle will reform. It looks to have been carved from a single piece of crystal. If the mage becomes separated from the bottle, it'll shatter at nightfall.

4. A bottle hovers in mid air. It looks to be made of crude glass with something inside. The bottle isn't magic but it is a trap. The bottle sits on a wood pole with dozens of spikes and rusted blades waiting to render flesh. This pole was turned invisible. Anyone who tries to grab the bottle will be impaled. At that time, the pole appears. The bottle has rain water inside.

5. A wine bottle looks intact. It sits in a small basket. The seal is broken but the cork is in place. The seal is of a local winery. It is half full. Oh, and it's laced with centipede poison.

6. A two tiered bottle. It is tinted green glass. There is a light colored liquid in the top and a dark liquid in the bottom. In the middle is a button. If the button is pushed, the liquids mix and a bright light shines in all directions. It remains cool to the touch. This lasts for one hour then goes dark. The bottle is valuable on it's own.

7. The bottle appears to sweat blood. Red droplets form on the surface, trickle down the sides and pool around the bottom.

8. A crude clay bottle with a moon seal on the front is nestled into a crevice. This bottle comes from the fey. If the gift is excepted, the PC gets a visit from the fey while he sleeps demanding a favor.

9. A bone bottle, yellowed with age. It has an inscription running in a single line at the base.

10. Rare red glass bottle. It's stopper is a cut ruby. An alchemy tool used to create enhanced potions.

Hope you find use for these bottles.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Adventures! Micro and Not So Micro

The other day I decided to do a video. Why not? I got a cool video editing program, but no video to edit. So I made one. And thanks to +Shane Ward I've got some kick ass music.

I'd tell you more, but that's why I made the video.

Friday, March 2, 2018

ML#22 Simon's Wheel

I'm going to pitch something that might be a frightening prospect. Something that might go against your grain as a GM. I'm talking about a place where good things happen.


I know. Right?

Game worlds are built around the bad places. The bad people. The bad things that happened. I get it. Makes for a better game. If everything were cupcakes and cotton candy, who would give two chucks to muck?

Here's my proposal. How about a good place mixed in. A little balancing. A good place that does good things for good people who are doing good. I'll even throw in my reoccurring woman who makes food for folks, gratis. Wonder where I came up with that one.

There are a couple of reasons to include a location like this. First, it's a pallet cleanser. A lot of game worlds are filled with darkness and evil, they need rests, or pauses, within the fighting and misery. A place to tell stories, to reflect, to sturdy oneself for the next leg of the journey. The contrast makes the darkness darker and provides a cost and loss to consider. It makes the fight real.

Well, as real as it gets when rolling dice.

My inspiration for the location is a blatant rip off from an episode of Robin of Sherwood. I make no apologies. I love that show and I steal from it all the damn time.

I hope you can find a place for it in your game. Have fun with it.

Oh, you probably wanted to know what the second reason was for a such a will total mess with the players' minds! Think of it, the GM provides a place to correct wrongs without negative consequences. They'll stay up all night waiting for something bad to happen and provide you mounds of horrible ideas that could happen you hadn't thought of.

Yeah, you're welcome. You can grab a PDF copy of Simon's Wheel at my Patreon page. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Kickstarters I'm Backing

I go hot and cold with Kickstarters and right now I've back three recently. Low investment ones. Nothing over $20, but some cool items and one has already been delivered. And no I did not back the bike balls. But it is a little funny.

3D Dice Coins, d20 version. So Matt Jackson was asking a group of us what is a good kickstarter to back. I went on the site, searched dice, and these guys popped up. Within a few minutes I was a backer...I was doing it for a joke, but these guys look great. J.M. Ward has done other coin Kickstarters and all look to have been fulfilled. And I can easily say, coin dice are so much better than pencil dice.

This is the second Kickstarter for Off the Beaten Path by +Thom Wilson. He and I share the same passion for short adventures. I was a backer for his fist Kickstarter which featured forests, this one focuses on desert terrain. Last Kickstarter Thom completed it on time, early I think, and I have it within arms reach. Consider grabbing a copy.

The last one, but actually the first of the three I backed is For Coin & Blood. When I backed it the writing was done and I received my PDF soon after I pledged. This one is about anti-heroes in game. A subject I'm all about. There is a PoD version coming out soon and I'll grab a copy of the print version also.

That's it for now. Just thought I'd share my Kickstarter backings of late. I am excited about all of them so check them out and see what you think.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Small Details: 10 Door Details to Distract the Party

Sometimes the small details are what attracts the party's attention. Often distracting them from the adventure you had planned for the evening. The first details are what one might find on dungeon doors, inn doors, maybe even trap doors. These ten details could mean something, or not a damn thing. Only the first one has any details, but they could just be hinges with fancy designs. 

1.  The brass hinges of the door are tarnished so they take on the same coloring as the wood door. On closer inspection they have intricate designs. A magic-user has a chance of identifying the patterns. These hinges work as spell storage. So as a magic-user can enchant the door. In most instances it is a trap, so when the next person opens the door the spell is discharged. These hinges hold one spell at a time. They can be removed, but for them to work all three of them have to placed on the same door. 
2.  There is a small door in the door, that mimics the bigger door perfectly. 
3.  There are small holes at the base of the door, they are stained darker than the rest of the door. There is an oily substance in and around the holes.
4.  Hanging on a small iron ring is a goat's foot. It looks to be fashioned as a door knocker.
5.  The door is painted a bright blue in color except for a small hand print in the center.
6.  Two, rusted iron spikes are stuck between the door and the wall. An obvious attempt to keep the door closes. The door has large cracks in it, exposing the interior of the door, but it did not give as something powerful smashed into it.
7.  Words are carved into the door. It is difficult to decipher. The carving looks fairly new. And at the bottom of the words is the number 4.
8.  The door contains  inset, black iron detailing. It curves around onto itself and then spirals out and around. The detailing is quite good.
9.  There is a spiderweb detailing around the door frame. 
10.  The handle of the door is fashioned out of a keg tap.  

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Adventure Trailer? That's a thing?

If it isn't, it is now. So I bought this film editing program, Filmora, for Whisk. But I have commandeered it lately and have been enjoying creating videos. It is time intensive, this one is only 46 seconds long and it took my about 5 hours to complete. But I enjoyed it.

What is Spoke Top Hill? I've posted a pair of short fiction pieces here on my blog. I write fiction sometimes when I am trying to flesh out an area. I discover a lot about it I wouldn't have known if I had just gone straight into writing it as an adventure setting.

This trailer gives you flashes of what to expect. Hill people, more primitive than the surrounding areas. They've got their own distinct culture and beliefs. And their magic seems to come from some primordial source that puzzles even the master mages in the guild.

Why go to Spoke Top Hill? There are no good reasons to risk the climb. Usually its because someone has no other choice and for whatever reason they believe Spoke Top Hill has the answer. And its never the one they expect.

...if they survive.

I'm lining up a couple playtest groups to develop and put this area through its paces. My patrons will get first shot and then I'll go public with the dates and times.

Hope you enjoyed the video and maybe we'll get to throw some dice together.

Oh, and one warning. When I GM, you know all those 1s I throw as a player, I roll much differently. I have a vast graveyard full of PCs fertilizing the ground with their dead dreams and rotted hopes.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Skulls of Spoke Top Hill, Part 2

This is part 2 of Don't Go Past the Skulls post.

Gavin and his companion, Douglas, climbed the south side of Spoke Top Hill, Janon suggested they go that way. That's the side the Corron use when they make their rare trips into the villages.

"There's no goddamn path." Gavin erupted after searching the hillside for the better half of the morning. "We keep climbing up, but there's no trail and none of their damn skulls."

"All of which suits me fine," Douglas added.

A friend and traveling companion from when both were boys. Douglas wore a lion medallion he'd gotten when he'd joined the holy order of Delaquain. He left after a few months. But it was a longer stay than his time in the Guild of Arcane Lore. Disipline had never been a strength of his. He wore the studded leather of a guard from Eastgate, he'd walked the wall for less than a year, and held a spear he stole from a sleeping mercenary in the Seahawk Tavern.

"I've no idea why you want to risk your neck, our necks, to speak to some savage augur." He frowned when he saw a pile of rocks stacked with purpose. He stepped around it, not wanting to disturb them. "We've got perfectly good liars in Eastgate. Cost you a bit more I imagine, but the result still the same. Ohhh you have a dark future. Ohhh you have a might battle ahead. Ohhh you'll be a great leader one day. Ohhh, you have the most charming traveling companion. Nonsense like that. In Eastgate we could hear the nonsense and then hit the tavern, a real tavern where the air doesn't taste like dirt and shit."

Gavin shook his head searching the ground. His eyes saw the same pile of rocks, but it meant nothing. "I can't go to any of the temples in Eastgate. They'd know and it'd be used against me. The oracle would tell me what I wanted to hear. I can't have that. Not this time." His foot brushed against the pile of rocks and a few fell away.

From the canopy of trees, birds burst into the sky. Both Gavin and Douglas flinched from the sudden noise as dozens of large black birds took flight. They stood motionless, searching the trees. The angry cawing of the birds faded. Douglas held his spear in both hands, Gavin braced his shield and held his sword close to his body. Both men did not speak, but moved so their backs were to one another.

After a few minutes of quiet both men relaxed enough to speak. Gavin said something about birds and how he hated them. Douglas looked around, it was different. He searched the details. The trees were closer, the branches thicker, lower, tangled with vines. The stone pile was now scattered skulls, cracked and broken with a layer of lichen.

"What the..." Douglas saw Gavin standing over the skulls. "Gavin, get the hell out there."

Gavin looked to his friend, saw he pointed at his feet and looked down. He saw the skulls scattered on the forest floor and knelt to look at them closer. "Mountain magic." He picked up one of the skulls, looked it over then tossed it to the ground again.

Douglas flinched when the skull hit the ground and rolled down hill. "Damn Gavin, have some respect. These Corron have primal magic that make the guilds of Eastgate nervous."

"I'll not be frightened by skulls or stories of their magics."

"Your bravery is noted, but it boarders on a fool's sense." Douglas saw Gavin was standing on a worn path that wound through the trees. "You've found a the trail you were looking for. Your clumsy footwork has finally served you. Well done." He pointed toward the opening in the tangled trees. "Shall we?"

Gavin took the lead. He kept his sword close and moved through the trees slowly. The vines and branches brushed across his shoulders and back. The trees crowded together blocking out much of the sunlight. Gavin saw his breath escape from his mouth.

Up ahead he saw movement. "Do you bring the torches?" he asked Douglas without looking back. He kept his eyes locked on the anomaly ahead of them.

Douglas lit the torch and held it over Gavin's head. His hand became tangled in the vines. When he moved his hand away the vines tightened around his wrist, but he kept hold of the torch as he dropped his spear to grab for his dagger.

"If the skull's eyes watch you, you're safe." Gavin repeated to himself as the torchlight bathed the ground in front of them.

Skulls were stacked together in a makeshift barrier. Gavin saw a basket hanging in a tree. We walked past the skulls making sure to keep the eyes upon him. He reached into his pack and retrieved the dead bird Janon had given him and placed it in the basket.

With some effort Douglas cut through the vine that wrapped around his wrist. His face covered in sweat and the panic on his face was obvious. He moved to stand by Gavin, more skulls, basket with a dead bird, he was very far from the comforts and luxury of Eastgate. He shivered from the cold.

"Now what?" Douglas asked. "Dead bird in a basket. Nice touch."

"I don't know. Janon said to put the bird in the basket. I didn't think to ask what to do next." Gavin sheathed his sword and grabbed the torch from Douglas. He tried to see beyond the skulls, but there more trees. The path ended here.

"I'm cold. I'm building a fire and I'm going to use the damn vines." Douglas said and then went about cutting off the hanging vines. Before too long he had a small fire going. It did little fight off the chill. "You never told me what you needed to ask the augur."

"I know." Gavin planted the torch in the ground near the basket to free his hand for his sword. He kept searching for the dark treeline for movement. Damned if he was about to become someone's stew without a fight.

A shock of pain struck his arm. He lost strength in his hand and his sword fell to the forest floor. He struggled against the pain. He threw down his shield to grab his arm just above is elbow.

"What's wrong?" Douglas quickly stood and checked on his friend. He expected to find an arrow sticking out of Gavin's arm. Nothing. It was then he smelled the faint scent of magic. A sickly sour scent of decay. The manipulation of entropy. He brought his spear to bear and sensed someone, something by the basket.

The torch flickered. The flame decreased slowly until it vanished. The campfire had also gone out. Darkness. Gavin on the ground fighting off the pain in his arm. Douglas kneeling next to his friend waiting.

The faintest glow of light came from the forest behind the skulls. It grew bright enough to blend shadows into the dark places. Sitting on the ground behind the skulls was a cowled form. Douglas caught himself, the urge to run was strong.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Coshing, It Is All the Rage

I was reading through an adventure module from the olden days, The Mines of Keridav written by Kerry Lloyd for Phoenix Games back in 1979. I had hair back then. A lot of it.

While I was reading this relic I found a section on coshing.

Nope, wrong cosh. That's Kosh.

Ah no, that may be a cosh, but not correct one.

There we go, that beauty above was used by press gangs for the Royal Navy back in the day. That look vicious.

So coshing is basically bopping someone in the head and knocking them out. A non-lethal way to subdue someone without a lot of noise.

Umm, not the same thing. Close. Just put the metal baton in Spock's hand and have him club the guy over the head. That would be more accurate. But thank you Spock for the demonstration.

In the Mines of Keridav there is a small section about the mechanics of coshing someone. The adventure is written for Runequest I believe so it may reflect that, but the mechanics could be used universally. Instead of quoting from the adventure I scanned the section.

Click it to make it big. I find the mechanic good for back then, but today I am sure GMs would add a opposing contest of skills. Stealth vs. Perception kind of thing. And then the component for knocking someone out has a lot to do with the hear gear worn.

I like the idea of a non-lethal form of combat. In 1970s shows there was always a lot of coshing going on. Whap someone in the back of the head, they would catch them for some reason, probably to reduce the noise, lay them on the ground or stash them out of sight and then continue on.

Here's the problem I have with it, in my game, if the players can do it, so can the NPCs. Can you imagine a 5th level fight standing guard gets knocked out with one blow. The outrage. The cries of injustice. The throw of dice and tantrums. And that's just me. I would need to change it up if I planned to use coshing in my game.

Here's what I would do. The base of success would not be determined by the helmet, but by the character's saving throw. I think this is a mechanic that fits well with the use of a saving throw. I mainly play games were there is single save, but if you play a game with more than one type of save you can just pick the best fit. Then I would give bonuses to the save based on the helmet. Say +1 for a coif, +2 for leather helm, +3 for a metal helm. Keeping it simple. And if the head protection has magical bonus I would add that in also. So wearing a +1 coif would provide +2 to your save vs. coshing.

Let me know what you thing and if you know of any other 'knock out' mechanics in games, please let me know.