Saturday, 18 February 2017

Fanjyr Way-Station - TLOD S07E04

The funeral pyre did it's best to consume the bodies of the unfortunate traders and the fallen Aarakocra, but eventually succumbed to the snow which had begun to fall heavily overnight.  The heroes took turns to stand 3 hour watches and slept through the long cold night.

In the morning they patched up their horses and themselves as best they could, hitched up the functioning wagon and headed on up the pass.  Just after noon Laurel spotted a rider approaching through the snow accompanied by a dog.  Cautiously Sir Tarigoz engaged the figure in polite conversation as is the custom when travellers meet together on a single track road.
"Lode Burwell is my name, and I am headed to Lurneslye with a consignment of furs for Frederick's General Store.  This is my companion and friend Bob"
he said pointing at the large dog which loped alongside him.  

Lode Burwell - Fur Trader
Lode told the heroes that a day ago he had passed through the gates of Fanjyr Way-Station, a fortified respite for weary travellers, further back along this mountain pass.  The place was abandoned and it looked like it had been attacked.  No stranger to war, as he was a travelling mercenary in his younger days, he reckoned that a sizeable force had laid waste to the shrine, inn and stables.  The gatehouses were undamaged and abandoned by the small militia garrisoned there.  The southern gates had been left wide open.

Tarigoz warned the trader that they had encountered an ambushed trader caravan earlier in their journey from Lurneslye from where they had acquired the wagon.  Lode explained that he knew the owner of the wagon and his family as they had left the town of Melmond some two days before him.  Had Tarigoz not been a Knight of the 5th Legion Lode said he would have immediately taken him for a bandit and a murderer and they would be having this conversation at sworpoint.  He added that should the party make it to Melmond they should return the wagon to the remaining members of the Feinholtz family.  As the trader and heroes parted company the Lode muttered that
"There is something foul and disturbing in the dark clouds which have descended on these mountains this winter."

They spent the remainder of the daylight slogging through ever deepening snow until they stopped at at a passing place cut into the mountainside and spent a frigid night huddled together for warmth in the back of the wagon.

In the morning they pressed on against the wind and driving snow.  After two hours they caught their first glimpse of Fanjyr Way-Station through the low coud which hugged the mountainside.  Another two hours later as they wound their way along the pass, the imposing structure of the Southern Gatehouse hove into view.

The Southern Gatehouse of Fanjyr Way-Sattion
The acrid smell of burnt timber hung in the air and it was obvious to all from the firmly barred gate that this way-station was now very much occupied.  The question was by who or what?

Leaving the horses and wagon containing Tcho'he the Aarakocra on the pass behind them, the heroes split into two groups.

Nyx, Styx, Laurel and Jan chose to scale the jagged rocks of the mountain side and cross over the wall.  Tarigoz, Ssinkar and Wulf chose to make their way to the great wooden doors.

With rogueish nimbleness Styx darted swiftly up the cliff face and crept up to the battlements.  Her heightened sense of smell immediately picked out the distinct odour of four different species of creatures in the vicinity; the musky aroma of Bugbear, the wet dog smell of Gnoll, the reek of Ogre and the stench of Troll.  Using her Thieves Cant, she signalled her sister Nyx a message to warn the other group.  Nix quickly relayed this as best she could to the Cantless Jan by waving her hands wildly.  The young mercenary got the gist of the message ran over to relay it to Tarigoz who was already half way to the gatehouse doors.

Accompanied by her sister and Laurel, the trio stealthily made their way across the wall and down the flight of stairs leading into a great courtyard.  Twisted spires of black smoke still rose from the ruins of three buildings that they could see in the courtyard. 

Jan the Sell Sword shinned up the mountain slope and like a ghost silently crossed over the wall.  Just as he was about to descend the stairs he noticed the door to the middle floor of the tower open and a Gnoll casually walked out and over to the ramparts directly above the gate.  He stopped and fiddling with his leather armour then began to urinate over the edge.

Ssinkar narrowly avoided the stream of fresh nicturate from above and he hunkered against the huge wooden doors. Tarigoz and Wulf followed suit.  They three heard the Gnoll finish his ablutions with a sigh and return to the tower closing the door noisily.

With their catlike poise and grace the two rogues stealthily padded into the tunnel and despite their lithe frames, proceeded to lift the 10 foot long heavy wooden bar which secured the 15 foot tall wooden doors from the inside.  Nyx searched through her trinket bag and found a squat shiny small metal jar containing some lavender scented greasy cream, which she had purloined some time ago from some nameless merchant's mistress, and greased the doors hinges.  Ssinkar gingerly pushed the door open just enugh for each of them to slip through and joined the fousome in the tunnel.

Inside the tunnel was a pair of double doors which led to the ground floor of the tower, one of which was slightly ajar.  Through this could be heard the unmistakeable grunts of a Troll and the suffling of at least 3 Bugbears.  

Hill TrollBugbear

Despite his years of training in skirmish tactics, Sir Tarigoz could see only one way to deal with this.
Bursting through the doors he caught the four creatures by surprise and immediately engaged with the huge troll swinging wildly and missing.  The Barbarian Wulf Brundson followed suit and hurled himself into the battle against the strongest looking Bugbear.  Laurel darted through and a furious flurry of her scimitars sliced at the Troll drawing blood.  Jan also engaged hacking at the second Bugbear with his sword.

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Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Where have all the Cat People Gone?

The new group of characters going through the mill that is my campaign world The Lands of Dual contain two female Phylus, aka "Nyx and Styx the chicks from Xix."

I would love to find some miniatures to help the other players to visualise this loveable pair of rogues  but it seems like cat people are out of vogue.

Inspirational Images


Wilykit & Wilykat
from Thundercats
AniPuma and UniPuma
from Dominion Tank Police
All Purpose Cultural
Cat Girl Nuku Nuku
Aisha ClanClan the Ctarl-Ctarl
 from Outlaw-Star


The Miniature Possibilities

D&D/Pathfinder Minis


Dungeons & Dragons Miniature:
Archfiends 11-60 Catfolk

Darksword Miniatures Critter Kingdoms

More anthropomorpic than I would prefer and better suited to a game like Mouseguard.
Ella Cat Rogue Black Cat Avenging Thief

Reaper Miniatures

Cheetah Girl Cleo, Weretigress
Kyoko Silvers Cat Girl Tawny Firehair, Cat Girl

Alkemy (Alchemist) Miniatures

Beautiful sculpts and purrfect for the Al-Quadim inspired setting of Sankahar in my campaign world The Lands of Dual.

Dahlia ibn Malikh IĆ«cha bint Sorhna

Crocodile Games - War Gods of Aegyptus (Basti)


I have to mention the Crocodile Games Basti miniatures, unfortunately the vast majority of the femle characters are a bit too NSFW for my tastes, but this pair of Basti skirmishers would work... just

Basti Skirmisher WGE-013d Basti Skirmisher WGE-013e

Call to Action

If anyone out there knows of any fantasy catgirl miniature makers please leave details in the comments below.  I don't want to have to unleash Edna, the Crazy Cat Lady on my players!!

Monday, 13 February 2017

DGT Cube - A Solution for Slow Play?

I'm intrigued by this device from Digital Game Technology.  It's a chess clock for boardgames.



I'm thinking it would be useful to speed up play in board games which have a lot of decision making like Blood Bowl Team Manager or as a replacement for the egg timer in RoboRally

If anyone out there has any real world experience please let me know how it's working for you.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Into the Mountains - TLOD S07 E03

In Asdos' hovel, the party huddled around the tiny stove for warmth and pondered the plight of Tcho'eh and his species.  Those who were not stone hearted had already made up their minds, the creature was clearly not a deamon.  After he offered to pay them even Jan was swayed.

Asdos' Hovel in the Wood


The journey into the mountains to the Aarakocra nest of Tikka-Ti-Jarra would be arduous this time of year and so Ssikar and Sir Tarigoz agreed to return to Lurneslye to get provisions.

This Town is Coming Like a Ghost Town


They found the small village deserted and boarded up.  The villagers having taken Bernhardt the Chosen's orders to heart and returned to their farms to protect themselves and their families from the ravaging deamon who could strike at any time.

Their first stop was at the Ostlery, run by Olli Schmidt and his rotund and imposing wife, Grunhilde.  The timid man capitualated when Tarigoz ordered him to open up in the name of the King and they soon collected his charger, Rupert, and requisitioned 2 extra horses, a mule and tack.  As he signed the paperwork, Tarigoz knew that the canny ostler would inflate the animals worth, but time was against them.  The rampaging cloud giant could arrive at Tikka-Ti-Jarra any day now. 

Nyx and Styx also chose to return to the village in order to collect their meagre belongings hidden beneath the village stage.  In amongst their nest of straw and the two great fur coats which they brought with them were a motley collection of shiny jewgaws that they had liberated from the folk of Lurnesyle over the past few months. Given the disturbing scenes they witnessed at this morning's public examination, they surmised that this place had become a decidedly riskier place to live and it was only a matter of time before the cleric Bernhardt mistook them for deamons. 

At the General Store Tarigoz and Ssinkar found a kindred spirit.  The owner, Friedrich, had no love for Bernhardt and his temple and had enjoyed seeing the zealous cleric knocked down a peg or two.  However, he knew that with the Knight of Wulfschlossen gone Bernhardt would be emboldened in his control of the village folk.  He unquestioningly accepted Sir Tarigoz's orders and provided thick fur-lined cloaks and enough provisions for the team and animals for 14 days.

Once reunited at Asdos hovel, the party mounted up set off along the mountain pass.  Asdos' parting gift to each of the brave adventurers is a healing draft.

Dire Wolves and an Ambushed Caravan


Some 4 hours and 10 miles of travelling later, they found themselves traversing a winding and climbing pass road with steep snow spotted cliffs on both sides.  Up ahead lay the gruesome sight of an ambushed traders caravan.  The twisted and broken bodies of the traders had become an opportunistic meal for a snarling pack of 11 dire wolves who nervously encircled the grisly scene.

Dire Wolves Attack

An uneasy stand off ensued, finally broken by Tarigoz's mount Rupert, a trained war horse used to fighting men not wolves, panicking and throwing the Knight to the ground.  The mule follows suit and Ssinkar tries in vain to restrain it and with a whinny it bolts back down the pass towards Lurneslye carrying the bulk of their provisions in its saddlebags.

As the wolves seize their moment to strike, Laurel deftly turns her horse with her desert riding skills and unleashes a salvo of arrows from her bow.  Nyx and Styx unleash a flurry of furry fury attacking  in unison by throwing their daggers into the same wolf.

The wolves attack both horse and hero alike and a fluid combat develops in which 7 of the wolves are slain and the rest flee licking their wounds.  The skirmish comes at no small cost to the heroes either as Jan, Nyx and Tarigoz are left bruised and Wulf Brunson bloodied.

Examining the unfortunate corpses they discover 3 incongruous Aarakocra bodies literally dropped amidst the corpses.  The heroes determine that the attack occurred about 2 days ago and yet the aarakocra bodies show signs of dying at least a week before that.

In the wreckage of the caravan, they find more bodies, provisions and furs and a small chest containing 50gps worth of mixed coinage.

Tcho'eh explains that although the bodies are those of his species they are from a different nest.  Their wounds were made by tooth and claw like those of the traders.  He also asks that the heroes help him to build a pyre and join him in prayers to the uncaring Sky Gods so they may once again hear the plight of his people and respond to their suffering.
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Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Teaching D&D to Ten Year Olds

Out of the blue a work colleague (and former D&D player) told me that they had bought the 5e Basic Set for their 10 year old daughter and asked me for advice on how to run their first game.  The problem is twofold being as much about teaching dad to be the DM and daughter how to play.



Breaking it Down

All RPGs have the same basic elements:

  • Character Generation -  Where players get to "roll up" their characterss and use their imagination and creative writing skills to put some background flesh on their barebones stats.
  • Mechanics - The rules of the game which are there not to constrain creativity or storytelling but to add a little consistency to the experience.  In this way a fireball or a sword strike do a consistent amount of damage every time.
  • Storytelling - The art of story writing, dungeon mastery and how to be a player.  This is not really contained in any rulebook and is a skill which you develop over time and exposure to roleplaying.

Character Generation

I remember my own experiences as a young roleplayer some 35 years ago when I unwrapped my christmas gift of a 2nd Edition Players Handbook and Dungeon Masters Guide.  Hundreds of hours were spend pouring through the pages and generating character after character who would never see a moment of play.  However, I know now that this was probably the wrong way of going about things.

Looking at the Lost Mine of Phandelver there are no pre-generated characters designed specifically for the adventure but there are some starter characters in the box set which is a good place to start. 
There are also a couple of great web resources if this is too limited a selection.
  • 1,000 Basic Pregens - has a huge array of different characters presented as short form stat blocks.  These take a bit of deciphering for the beginner but there is a key on page one to help you.

  • Digital Dungeonmaster Pregens - 1060 different pregens by class and level but strangely not by race so you have to go hunting round to find the right combination of race and class.
Once your players have played a few sessions they will understand how the game works and will be able to use something like the ORCPUB D&D 5e Character Builder to generate their own.

Mechanics

Every D&D game involves a mix of combat (melee / missile) magic and skill or attribute checks.

Melee and Missile combat boils down to finding the AC (Armour class of the target) and the player trying to beat it on a d20.  There are lots of modifiers (numbers which are added to the dice roll or subtracted from the AC) which as you grow as a DM and player you will learn to remember.  Once a successful hit is determined then the appropriate weapon damage is rolled and applied to the target.

Spells in D&D when any type of magic is cast, it always works unless the spell says that a target gets a Save.  This usually negates or reduces the spells damage and can be cumbersome and tedious to implement, so for first games I would always leave this sort of thing out.  Mages are low powered at low level and the important thing is that the ten year old magic user gets to do a bit of damage now and then so make sure that they have magic missile in their arsenal of spells.

Skill and Attribute Checks are used whenever a PC tries to do something which is not combat or magic related.  Searching for things, disabling or setting traps, scaling a cliff, these are all skill and attribute checks.  The D&D skills and attributes give bonuses to doing specific tasks, but they all require a roll (once again using the d20) to beat a target number.  For example climbing needs a dexterity check, so any DEX modifiers need to be added to the dice roll, but if a character has climb skill they will get additional modifiers.  The target number which needs to be beaten represents the difficulty of the task and starts at 15, a particularly easy task would be 10 and a difficult task 20.  

Storytelling

Visualisation is one of the toughest challenges when trying to get a group of people sitting round the table to all imagine the same thing.  A key tool is the Battle Map which represents a top down view of a location and has been a standard for decades.  This can be as simple as a sheet of paper on which you draw what the characters can see and interact with.

Key Text / Player Descriptions are contained in most pre-written modules and highlight a piece of text to be read out to the players when they enter a new location describing what they first see.  Supplementary text will describe to the DM only what the room may contain (for example monsters, hidden doors, treasure etc).

Feed the Players Excitement by putting them on the spot, adding tension when they are being cautious, make it theatrical, do voices, encourage them to do voices, make grandiose gestures and gory descriptions of monster death.  I always like to make my players to stand on the precipice throughout my games, they should never feel cosy and comfortable.

Let Players Explore - The joy of roleplaying is about being able to explore.  In some cases it might be a dungeon, in others it might be your options, but whenever you play, you are always exploring your character.  There is no right or wrong thing to do, if a player chooses a path which will bring about conflict or adversity, warn them, but let them do it anyway.  When the situation turns bad they will have to deal with the consequences.

Don't Be Scared to Fudge it, the rules are there to be ignore and modified as you see fit.  If a rule might prevent something heroic or cinematic happening just ignore it.  If a monster's die roll might inadvertently kill a PC then change it.  Need a new rule to get you out of a situation then make it up but always try to consistently apply the new rule when the situation reappears.

Keep it Simple, Stupid is a good mantra and the The KISS Principle should always be in the forefront of your mind when DMing for a young group.  They will want to be at the heart of the action quickly and they won't be too concerned with deep complex storylines.  Define the Good and the Bad monsters early on as clearly black and white and they be able to quickly react to any challenges they face.

Start Small by choosing a simple combat encounter for your first session.  Ambush your heroes in the woods with a small band of kobolds or goblins.  If the PCs kill half of them, the monsters will run away.  This immediately presents the players a plethora of choices, do they run after them? Do they run to town alert the authorities?  Do they loot the bodies? Do they track the fleeing monsters back to their hideout?  All have possibilities for the next installment.

Guage your Success as a DM


If all goes well your players should look like this:

Stranger Things - D&D Success!!