April 30, 2019

The Hounds of Mirkwood

GM Note: The Hounds of Mirkwood is my first The One Ring adventure which did not come out of a published book. While not a published adventure, it is heavily inspired by the early event of the Darkening of Mirkwood and Ruins of the North books. Below is what unfolded at the table, with commentary about process or intentions noted just like this in italics.

The Adventuring Company

  • Ash - Woodmen of Wilderland
  • Bell - Hobbit of the Shire
  • Mozart - Ash's hound of Mirkwood
  • Toefur - Dwarf of the Lonely Mountain
GM Note: These characters were pregenerated characters that I had previously used in a convention game run at AcadeCon. These are experienced characters with approximately 120 advancement points and 25 XP each. Each of these characters had special "power" cards which summarized character abilities. Since some of the players were new to this game, I found these cards very helpful in ensuring players did not stall out hunting their character sheet for things to do.

Part I

While in the House of Beorn, the company met with Gandalf the Grey and was ask to deliver a letter to Radagast the Brown in Rhosgobel, a settlement on the edge of Mirkwood. When the company arrived at Rhosgobel, they found the normally open and welcoming gates mostly shut. Once inside the walls of the settlement, they found the Woodmen around were uneasy or anxious. They discussed this with Radagast in his dwelling and learned that currently that the Men of Tyrant's Hill have sent an envoy here to discuss an alliance and that the envoy's arrival coincided with the disappearances of a number of the Woodmen and their hounds. The people of Rhosgobel are currently distrustful of the envoy, and blame them for the disappearances. 

GM Note: When the discussion with Radagast occurred, the subject leaned heavily on the hounds. The players did not know people were also missing until about 3/4 of the way through this discussion. This was intentional, as I've found that most of the players will have an emotional response to saving an animal over people. 

The letter the company delivered from Gandalf to Radagast recommended that the company could help solve any issues that may currently be plaguing Rhosgobel. With that, Radagast recommends the company act as a third party scout to search for clues about the missings' whereabouts, as any run-ins between the Woodmen and the Men of Tyrant's Hill could boil over with the current tensions. Level heads must prevail. 

Investigation around the town uncovered that three Woodmen and six hounds had gone missing over the course of three weeks. The Ash decided to visit the residence of the most recent person to have gone missing, Brennan, and try to find a scent to track. Brennan's home was currently occupied by his 16 year old daughter, Morrow, who obliged the Bell's request allow them to sniff around the house for a trail to follow. During this time, Toefur met with the Tyrant's Hill envoy, Torrel. Torrel explained their presence and position regarding the proposed alliance stating that, as a force from the South grows stronger, his people can not keep up the fight and protection they've been providing without support. 

GM Note: The plot of this adventure will be to investigate the disappearances of the men and hounds while also trying to discern the motives of the Men of Tyrant's Hill. 

The next day the company set out with Mozart tracking the scent of Brennan and his two hounds, Rose and Thorn. On day 10 they discovered a spot in the woods where a struggle seemed to appear and trace amounts of blood was discovered. They followed this for a further 3 days and discovered a small camp. Believed to be made by the Men of Tyrant's Hill, the camp was in disarray as if a fight had taken place there. Items of note discovered included symbols or tools that matched those of the Tyrant's Hill envoy, a set of leads tied to a tree which had been snapped or torn apart, and a note in a locked box presuemably written by someone named Mogdred. The note found instructed the reader to continue their duties to stop any orc they find moving North, but if negotiations turn sour, that protecting the Woodmen should no longer be a priority. Also discovered was what appeared to be drag marks heading out of the ruined campsite. 

Part II

The company followed the drag marks for a few hours. As they did, the forest around them began to become filled with spider webs. This continued until they came upon a large spider's web with several wrapped bundles clinging to it, one of which was moving. If Toefur's less than graceful trek through the previous spider webs didn't draw any unwanted attention, the Ash's attempt to climb the web certainly did. Soon a series of spiders descended upon the company. The battle was short and sweet, until the great spider arrived with her horrible shrieking and corrupting bites. Though, she too was soon dispatched. 

GM Note: I wanted this fight to be more difficult than it was, especially since the characters are fairly experienced. I originally chose spiders from the Heart of the Wild book, but completely forgot that I wanted to use them until after the fight. 

After the fight, the company took the time to lower the bundles from the spider web and discovered that the wiggling bundle was one of the missing hounds, Thorn. While Thorn was being treated for being malnourished and poisoned, Ash also discovered that she had bandaged wound along with the spider bite. The other bundles contained the bodies of the three Woodmen, four of their hounds, four Men of Tyrant's Hill, and three other hounds (later identified by Radagast as hounds of Tyrant's Hill). As Toefur attempted to relocate the bodies to a better place, he noticed that the three Woodmen all had stab wounds in their backs along with the spider bites. Ash noted that the weapons used to cause this damage were probably crude and of orc make. 

With Thorn in poor but improving shape, the company traveled back to Rhosgobel to inform Radagast of their findings. While he seemed concerned about the note found at the campsite, the concern wasn't what everyone else was thinking about. He informed the group that the letter they received was a powerful thing before saying goodbye. 

Afterwards, the company returned to Morrow to inform her of their findings and return Thorn home. After being offered a place to stay from her, Toefur decided to visit Torrel again and discuss their findings. When informed of the fate of his kinsmen, Torrel formed a hypothesis of what happened, indicating that his people were waylaid by spiders, which caused orcs to slip through, who murdered the Woodmen and their hounds who were subsequently found by the same spiders. When presented with the note, he made no attempt to deny its contents. He confided in Toefur that the Men of Tyrant's Hill cannot keep what evil grows in the South at bay if they cannot find support from those whom they protect. He reminded Toefur that the letter he holds is a powerful item.

From there, the party decided that they should have a word with the Woodmen and discuss what else may be happening behind the scenes.

GM Note: This is where the first adventure ended and we proceeded to a short fellowship phase. 

May 15, 2018

History of the Cru’stea Sept

The Tau’s first encountered Petrollix during the Third Sphere Expansion. When the Cru’stea sept’s water caste landed to start diplomatic processes with the natives, they discovered Petrollix already contained a healthy settlement from the Imperium of Man. 

The Imperium had found that Petrollix’s sprawling dried oceans contained a large source of fuel and energy resources. Imperial mining and refinery colonies tasked with satisfying Imperium’s thirsty consumption were set up in these dried ocean beds which began the process of pumping the world dry of its abundant resource. They soon set up the Master Refractor, an enormous energy generator which harnessed the energy from the planets core. 

Over the next few years after the start of the water caste’s diplomatic  conquest, the men of the Imperium on Petrollix became convinced that they have been abused and forgotten. The ethereal leading the water caste, Aun’qi, and his message struck to the heart of many of the men. The Tau’s mission of the Greater Good saw many men pledge their support to the Tau, but those who did not subscribe these ideals soon presented an armed resistance. The Cru’stea’s fire caste deployed to the surface and quickly squashed the resistance. With the resistance quelled, Aun’qi claimed Petrollix for the Tau Empire, renaming it Path’tal. 

Now the Cru’stea sept has a firm grasp on Path’tal and set up a stronghold here. The Earth caste with the assimilated humans, known as gue’vesa, began utilizing the existing extraction and refinery facilities for the Greater Good of the Tau Empire. The rich resources were a boon to the upstart Empire, and the Imperium of Man could not stand for it. 

The Imperium soon returned in force to attempt to take Path’tal back from the xenos. The Cru’stea’s air caste intercepted the Imperium’s retaliation force before they could reach the planet’s surface and won major victories which cause a heavy amount of debris to fall to the planet. Those soldier lucky enough to get there boots on the ground were met with fierce resistance led by commander O’tria. A Tau victory was immanent. 

In a final desperate act, the Imperium turned their focus towards the Master Refractor. Their hopes were to destroy it and destabilize the planets core. If it didn’t out right destroy Path’tal, it would knock the planet out of alignment and the resulting radiation would make it uninhabitable. The Imperium made a fierce attempt at the Master Refractor, combining all of its forces into a single pointed force to spear through the Cru’stea defenses. O’tria split her forces into 3 units, one taking the head of the spear while the others flanked in a pincer maneuver and crushed the Imperium’s last hopes and driving them off Path’tal for the time being. 

March 8, 2018

The Pagoda of Pao Long (Part 1)

This is a quick journal and recap of the Pagoda of Pao Long mini campaign. The campaign is being run in D&D 4th Edition with 3rd level characters. Three of the four players in the game have no experience with D&D 4E. Any DM commentary on the game will be made in italics.

Cast of Characters
  • Arizona the Wood Elf rogue (Brian)
  • Lucky the Deva panther shaman (Bronte) 
  • Norga the Half Orc warden (Jackie)
  • Zohrramacus the Human Wizard (Curtis)
Cast of NPCs
  •  Edith Goldhart - Previous adventuring companion of the party who fell in love, got pregnant, and is currently holding her wedding.
  • Edward McGowan - Tender poet and soon to be husband of Edith.
The session started with a quick narrative recap/montage of their first adventure together a year and a half ago. Zohrramacus the Great had supposedly secured an entertainment gig for a royal child's birthday which was supposedly good paying. The party were crossing through a jungle when they encountered a valley of thick black vines. In this valley they found a cave inhabited by a pygmy race. Trouble was caused by Lucky's spirit companion Ducky, a giant ghost duck, and the party had to dispatch of the little cave people. Shortly after doing so, they learned that this kingdom of pygmy people was actually the location of the gig Zohrramacus had acquired. They looted what miniature treasure they could before leaving but, before they were able to spend any of it, Arizona was held up in an alley and robbed for all they had earned.

I first learned about this "montage" device from the 13th Age GM Resource Book included with the 13th Age GM screen. I've found that it's an easy way to add background and bonds to the party in a way that keeps everyone entertained still. I've used it at the start of games and also when the party is traveling between far locations. It lets character come through a bit more than traditional "roll and role" gaming in my opinion. 

Of Brides and Poets
The adventure opened up in a cathedral on a very rainy day in the town of Pendelmore. Edith Goldhart is standing eight months pregnant at the altar in a wondrous white wedding gown. The party, who previously adventured with Edith in the past year and a half, sit in the pews as guests waiting. When the groom never shows up, Edith starts to get angry, moves too the party and starts venting. Norga and Arizona don't remember much about Edith's soon to be husband. Zohrramacus on the other hand, who may have tried to court Edith, has studied the groom and knows a thing or two about Edward, a poet.

It is suggested that maybe Edward had gotten cold feet or nervous about the wedding. Angry, Edith offers the company extra wedding cake if they can bring him back to her (in one piece so she could wring his neck herself). After accepting Edith's offer, Lucky suggests visiting the local poet's cafe to see if they could find Edward or anyone knowing his whereabouts.

The group was initially refused entrance for not having the proper attire (beret and sunglasses) and suspicion of plagiarism. Arizona gave the cafe owner a made up tip about future fashion trends in exchange for being allowed in. They learned that Edward had performed there the night before and wrote a poem about how his bride-to-be would look brilliant when adorn with Silver Flurnas, a rare silver tulip-like flower. Norga recalled that the Silver Flurnas are very rare and nearby only found in the courtyard of the Pao Long Pagoda.

The party traveled through the heavy rain to the west side of Pendelmore where the Pao Long Pagoda stood. Zohrramacus recalled that the Pagoda was built 700 years ago to seal a crack in the material plane to the Shadowfell. The structure now stands sealed and abandoned, surrounded by a 30ft high wall with a large locked gate. The rogue made short work of this lock, pocketing it as a reward. While investigating the muddy courtyard, Lucky found a disturbed patch of Silver Flurnas, muddy footprints with traces of green slime, and a busted umbrella which once belonged to Edward. Norga noted that the green slime was probably from the local sewers and the company went to investigate.

Arizona noted a manhole with fresh mud not far away from the Pagoda. When they lifted the manhole, they noticed that the sewers below had a light in them. After climbing down the ladder they were confronted by a enclave of goblins with a campfire going. Between them and the goblins, the heavy rain waters were causing the sewers to move with great strength and planks of wood were placed across this torrent. The goblins sprang to attack after the party failed to give the password they demanded. The small horde of goblins consisted of 7 goblin grunts (lvl 1 Minions), 3 goblin archers (lvl 2 Sharpshooters), and 1 goblin hex caster (lvl 3 Controller), while a large sleepy crocodile waited for anything unfortunate to slip into the sewer torrent to come its way. The party had a difficult time overcoming these baddies, with most of the pain being caused by the 3 isolated archers. The warden was peppered many times with arrows and got knocked unconscious twice. The rogue also took his fair share of arrows, leaving him badly injured and weak. After most of the goblins were dispatched, Zohrramacus parleyed with the final goblin archer who let them know they were hired to make sure nobody who didn't have the proper password could go by. They also learned that earlier that day, the man who hired them came through with a group of people, one of who matched the description of Edward, and gave the hexer a small payment (which turned out to be a gold ring missing a gemstone). 

January 31, 2018

Genesys Pirate Game Info

List of Races

  • Human
  • Cat Folk
  • Horrors (Revenant) 
  • Mongrel

    List of Weapons

    • Flintlock Pistol (Ranged Light) - $300 | DMG 7 | Short | CRIT 3 | Limited Ammo 1
    • Blunderbuss (Ranged Heavy) - $400 | DMG 6 | Short | CRIT 3 | Limited Ammo 1, Blast 4, Inaccurate 1
    • Musket (Ranged Heavy) - $1100 | DMG 11 | Med | CRIT 3 | Limited Ammo

    • Dagger (Melee) - $25 | DMG +1 | Eng | CRIT 3 |
    • Cutlass (Melee) - $200 | DMG +3 | Eng | CRIT 2 | Defensive 1
    • Axe (Melee) - $150 | DMG +3 | Eng | CRIT 3 | Vicious 1
    • Harpoon (Melee) - $400 | DMG +3 | Eng/Short | CRIT 3 | Cumbersome 3, Pierce 3

    • Cannon/ball 24 lb (Gunnery) - $NA | DMG 6 | Long | CRIT 3 | Limited Ammo 1, Prepare 1 (Ship Scale)
    • Cannon/ball 12 lb (Gunnery) - $NA | DMG 4 | Long | CRIT 5 | Limited Ammo 1, Prepare 1 (Ship Scale)
    • Cannon/canister (Gunnery) - $NA | DMG 12 | Med | CRIT 4 | Limited Anmo 1, Blast 8, Inaccurate 2

     List of Ships

    • Row Boat $3,000/4 | SIL 2 | SPD 1 | HND 0 | ARM 0 | HT 6 | ST 4 | human powered
    • Long Boat $10,000/5 | SIL 3 | SPD 2 | HND -1 | ARM 1 | HT 15 | ST 10 | 1 forward/starboard/port 12lb cannon
    • Sloop $150,000/6 | SIL 4 | SPD 4 | HND -2 | ARM 3 | HT 40 | ST 30 | 10 starboard, 10 port 12lb cannons
    • Frigate $300,000/8 | SIL 5 | SPD 3 | HND -3 | ARM 3 | HT 60 | ST 45 | 15 starboard, 15 port 24lb cannons
    • Galleon $500,000/8 | SIL 6 | SPD 2 | HND -4 | ARM 6 | HT 120 | ST 90 | 30 starboard, 30 port 24lb cannons, 2 deck mounted swivel canister cannon.

    List of Notable Locations

    • The One Man Island - Very small island. Home to a "Sail-Thru" bar up on stilts.
    • The Emerald Falls - Home to the Cat Folk. Cat Folk are very protective of their environment.
    • Atoll of the Elders - Mystical moving atoll home to a council of Elders known for giving Nostradamus-esque advice.
    • Bay of Tears - Treacherous waters known for the famous wreck of the No Crash.
    • Trading Coves - Large sailable caves housing a large bazaar like market which one can occasionally find Mermaids for sale.
    • Bermuda Parallelogram -  A area of mysterious waters known for ships entering and never returning. The famous Samual Bashus disappeared here. 

    The Unsinkable Onyx

    •  Led by Captain Horatio Pierce
      • One Glass Eye (Not allowed to respond "Aye Aye" in his presence).
      • Gaudy and Ostentatious.
      • Kind but stern.
      • Short Beard, Short Kilt.
    • 3 main sails have embroidery on them.
      • Bow Sail - Picture of the Captain.
      •  Mizzenmast - Rainbow Colored Sail.
      • Stern Sail - The Ships Name
    • Dark wood construction with a dark stain making it difficult to see at night.
    • The Ship has a very quick turn over rate.
    • Master Gunner One-Eyed-Snake who has lots of pet snakes (Smiley the Anaconda being a favorite).

    October 26, 2017

    Mackinaw: A Lumberjack Role Playing Game

    For the past two years, I have created a tabletop role playing game as sort of a creative exercise. These pamphlet sized games allow me explore many different creative items at the same time, such as rules design, writing, graphic design, and illustrating. Starting with Umami Chef in 2015 and followed by Dicey Heists in 2016, I figured it was time to stretch my creative legs once again by creating a 2017 RPG. After deciding that this was something I wanted to do, I set about looking for inspiration on what to base this game on. It took me a little while to find inspiration, but I finally found it.

    Earlier this year, a I started podcasting with a couple of friends with whom I play tabletop role playing games with. Our natural after session discussions were now directed towards the internet for all to see, and it's pretty fun. Out of this podcast, Split The Party, a joke sprang up regarding our favorite trees and spurned into a joking "Split The Tree" segment of regular episodes, and this is what inspired the 2017 RPG.

    Mackinaw is another one of my pamphlet RPGs which puts the players in control of a group of lumberjacks, trying to survive on the New Year's Eve of 1900. Named after Stewart Holbrook's Holy Old Mackinaw, the RPG's lumberjacks and lumberjills need to weather some force of evil and surrounds their logging camp as they prepare to ring in the new year. Lumberjacks in Mackinaw are composed of 4 skills (Logic, Moxie, Brawn, and Rapport) reflecting the typical core attributes of other RPGs. The highlight of the system is the Skill Tree, which is intended to help spread the spotlight around the gaming table without the game master having to keep tabs on players. As the players make rolls, they spend dice out of their "skill tree". These skill tree dice will then slowly replenish and grow back as other players make rolls.

    While the rules are ready for play testing, the pamphlet itself still needs a little work. There is some temporary art, and the layout will probably change a bit as well. But right now, you can download and print out your copies of Mackinaw and get a taste of the logger's life luxuries while surviving an apocalypse with your trusty axe.

    Download Mackinaw here and if you like it, hate it, or have any suggestions for the game, leave a comment below or send me a message on Twitter at @The_M01e.

    September 14, 2017

    Dorksgiving Stuffing Recipe

    The family stuffing recipe that I use to make the stuffing for Dorksgiving. This is not a stuffing used to fill the turkey, but I don't see why it couldn't be!

    • Celery
    • Onion
    • Water Chestnuts
    • Mushrooms
    • Bag of Bread Crumbs (cubed)
    • 1/2 Stick of Butter
    • 1 Tbsp Poultry Seasoning
    • 1 box of Chicken Broth
    1. Chop and saute celery, onion, water chestnuts, mushrooms. After 5 minutes add butter in pan to melt. 
    2. Add breadcrumbs and poultry seasoning to large bowl and mix. Mix in cooked vegetables. Pour in chicken broth and mix. Add water as necessary until it looks like stuffing. 
    3. Bake in oven if desired.

    September 13, 2017

    Crafting My Perfect Game Room

    Over the past 3 years, board gaming and tabletop role playing has grown from being a hobby to being a way of life. With two regular RPG groups for both me and my wife and random board game nights, it was becoming such a hassle to find a place in my house to play games. If the dining table in my kitchen wasn't covered in stuff, my kitchen in shambles from dinner, or the card table and chairs not left out from the last time, it was a hassle to put together. On top of that, the environment didn't feel conducive to playing. The kitchen or office/living room would feel cramped.

    It got even worse when you needed to add the card table in the kitchen!
    So I set out on a mission. I was going to craft my perfect game room using what I had and or could get relatively cheaply. But to create a game room you need to start with the hardest part, the room. With all the rooms on my 1st and 2nd floor being either an office or bedroom, I turned my sights to my basement. Luckily, my wife and I had done some cleaning down there semi-recently. A group of friends had wanted to start podcasting and a room in my basement was turned into a studio. But the basement wouldn't have been my first choice of rooms with it's CMU blocks, band-aid colored paint, low ceilings, and dark light fixtures.

    Would you want to play games down here?
    The table is, in my opinion, the most important part of any game room/setting. It will make or break your comfort and experience of playing. At first, I played around with the idea of turning the unused pool table into an imitation Geek Chic table (RIP). I was going to pull the metal feet of the pool table to lower it to a more acceptable/comfortable height and clean/refurbish the felt. But the more I played around with it, the more I decided that it wasn't what I wanted. While the lips of the those fancy gaming tables look nice and keep all your bits from flying off, I don't feel they are that comfortable for the 3 hour gaming session. I wanted a regular wooded dining table, but I didn't want to spend the money on such. But then there was a ray of hope. I was lucky to learn that with my parents moving, they had our old dining room table that they wanted to get rid of, and I swooped on it. Even though it was VERY beat up, it would be perfect for gaming. The table had two ends that would slide into the table when not being used. It could expand to give everyone space during an RPG or big game, and could collapse to play those smaller board games. The table itself was in rough shape though. A decade and a half of abuse in a 3 children house with animals, friends, and parties had not done it well. I attempted to refinish the table surface when I finally got it home, but my lack of wood working knowledge showed. I attempted to sand it down by hand with too fine of a sand paper, then applied a deck stain to it. Needless to say, the results were not great. The table looked splotchy and felt rubbery. But what ever. I needed a table to open the game room, and this would have to do.

    Not great.

    But it would have to do.
    So then the game room officially opened, even though work was still to be done. The larger space and table really did the trick. It felt less cramped and there was space on the table for drinks. I spent time tracking down some affordable banquet style padded stacking chairs that really help make sitting in one place for 3 hours more doable. The game room was working.

    Dice & Drinks

    Perfect chairs for long time gaming.
    Over the next few months I continued to work on fitting out the room. I happened to win some beautiful RPG themed wooden drink coasters at AcadeCon 2017. I decked out the walls with some nerdy and dorky artwork. For my 26th birthday I commissioned a piece of art from a friend to fit my game room. Other than being a little cold in the winter, it felt nice to be down there. But one thing kept nagging me. One thing that kept this game room from feeling perfect.

    AcadeCoasters provided by https://www.rpgcoasters.com/
    Custom art by Bex (https://www.girlilly.com/)

    Lookin' good!
    That damn table. Oh how it annoyed me. Like a scratch on your new car. Most people might not notice it, but you see it every damn time you step in or out of it. So in June of this year (2017) I decided tackle this table, correctly. I spent a good month before hand reading articles and talking to people about wood workings, learning as much as I could before I started. It seems simple. Sand, sand again, stain, sand, finish, sand, finish, sand. I borrowed an orbital sander from my grandfather, picked out some General Finishes stain and finish (Antique Cherry and a satin polyurethane), and went to town. A week later of shirtless sanding and staining, a mistake or two, and a lot of patience, I was the happiest man in the world. The table it ultra smooth with an amazing color. Your skin no longer stuck to it like the old rubbery stain that was on it before. Dice bounce of it with an incredibly satisfying knock. It is a dream.

    Some of the pits from bubble from the deck stain.

    Goodbye deck stain!

    Oh, hello there Antique Cherry.

    Oh, you so shine!

      While there is still more to be done to make it the ultimate game room, it is still pretty damn great at the moment. I would like to replace the door to the studio with a more modern looking white one (the current one has a hole in it on the studio side) and hide the entry to the nearby laundry room a bit better. A mini-fridge to keep companions drinks out of my kitchen fridge would be a luxury item and a cleaned up work bench would probably help as well. I would also like to stain the gas meter box that you can see in the first few pictures to something a little nicer. But until then, it's pretty damn great.

    Relax! It's game night!