Zombicide Episode 08

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This last couple of weekends,  I needed a break from running RPG’s.  I love running RPG’s, but sometimes, my brain isn’t up to speed.  So I fall back to Zombicide.

I should also mix in some other games for the Saturday group.  A few fun games for larger groups could include Galaxy Trucker, Power Grid, and Talisman.  Most games are designed for 3 or 4 players.  Some have the ability to play with 5 or 6, if you buy the expansion.  There aren’t many games which work well with any number of players, 2 to 8.

But Zombicide is fun, easygoing and pretty much a crowd pleaser

I have also been working on painting more minis for the game.  The group wants me to paint more heroes.  I want to get the zombies done.  More variety in the game.  Variety is the spice of life, right?

So here are some works in progress.

First up, zombie dogs.  These little nasties (beauties?) are especially bad.  They have three activation per turn.  As in:

  • move move move
  • move move bite
  • move bite bite
  • bite bite bite
  • bite move move

you get the idea.

In case any of the players think that this is particularly a bad idea, Shari and Collin bought the box of these little cuties for me.  I can only assume that they thought it was a good idea.

The next shots are all works in progress of two boxes that I bought, called “Very Infected People” (VIP).  Each box has four copies of five minis.  They have special activation cards, which have a blue background.  This is why they mostly have the teal base.  The first two pictures were taken before I painted the first coat of the teal base.

The mechanic of this is that they spawn when their particular spawn card goes down.  They are all walkers.  When a hero kills a VIP, the VIP goes to their board.  When the hero has killed five different VIP’s, they can trade them in for a cool weapon.  However, if the players hoard the VIP’s, and  a VIP card is turned over without any minis to place, all the VIP’s get an extra activation.

Pimps.  Yes, you need zombie pimps.

I was thinking of Tony P of the Disco Boys from Mystery Men when I painted these guys.

Tony_P

Some punk rockers.

I am not sure what these guys are.    I thought of goths, but then I decided to paint them as more colorful than goths.  All black doesn’t show up well for 28 mm minis.

Zombie nurses.  These are not the type of people that you want giving you a shot.

Zombie construction workers

Zombie cops.  I patterned the uniform from what I remember from the City of Seattle Police, from the 1970’s.  They had an Officer Friendly program, where the police would come to the grade schools and talk with the kids, and let them see the police cars.

Zombie sailors.  Are these any worse than sailors on shore leave?

Zombie cooks.

Some zombie Santas.  It is pretty normal that I don’g see much of the detail until I start painting the mini.  The depth of detail seems to work itself into my vision when I start looking closely at the mini to start painting.  For some reason, I don’t see the details when the mini is just out of the box, or when it is primed.  I need to pick it up with a paintbrush in hand and start considering colors before I really see the details.  It is kind of hard to explain, but until I start putting color on the mini, the details don’t pop at me.

In this case, as I started painting the Santas, I realized that the beard looked like tentacles.  So I am painting two as “traditional” zombie Santas and two as SanCthuhlu’s

So yesterday, we met once again to play Zombicide.  The party got together at the beginning of the map. The goals were simple.

  • Open all of the doors
  • Everyone must survive
  • Each party member must have at least one of the following:
    • Can of food
    • Bottle of water
    • Sack of rice
    • Plenty of ammo card
  • Make it to the exit

Simple, right?  Well, maybe not.

Bill starts out helping us from the start.  He goes first, and opens up two doors.  this spawns one fatty and two walkers behind door #1, and one toxic fatty and two toxic walkers behind door #2.

Evidently, Bill never watched the Price is Right when he was home sick from school.

price

We survived, and entered the first building that Bill opened up, and checked out stuff.  The board populated with zombies.  I hesitate to call the zombies “bad guys”, since they are really not “bad guys”  They are not driven from any internal internal conflict, and have not conscience.  They are simply interested in eating us.

Some explanation may be in order.  The photo shows several different colors of base.  This blog previously discussed the teal base for the VIP zombies.

The red based zombies are raging zombies.  They have armor plating as part of their mutations.  They can only be killed using melee combat.

The green based zombies are toxic zombies.  They have another type of mutation, and they explode with toxic goo if you kill them in the same square.

The different gray based zombies are from the base box.  They are normal zombies.  Well, hungry zombies.  They have two different shades of grey because I painted half, then the other half, and didn’t keep the same grey for the base color.  My bad.

The little wooden blocks (yellow fish, orange carrots, red bricks etc) are markers that each player places when they have searched a room.  In Zombicide, each player can only search a room once.  This can get confusing.  So I purchased a marker set with about 10 different markers, and each player keeps one set of markers.  They place it when they have searched the room.  Presto, one less thing to try to remember.

Toxic Fatty in your space?  Meh, I got this.

Well, Bill almost didn’t get this.  He tried, and tried, and tried to kill things, but his dice rolled poorly.  He even switched out dice.

Toward the end of the game, things got bad for Shari and Bill.  Everyone else beat feat out, but Shari and Bill were having problems.  They were surrounded.

Here is another shot.  of the conflagration of zombies.

Things were getting really bad.  Most of the party had escaped.  Except… Eric, who killed Wanda.  You see, Eric forgot the victory conditions of the scenario.

  • Open all of the doors
  • Everyone must survive
  • Each party member must have at least one of the following:
    • Can of food
    • Bottle of water
    • Sack of rice
    • Plenty of ammo card
  • Make it to the exit

And another shot of the mass of zombies following Shari out.

And one adjusted for more visual interest.

In the end, everyone had a good time, even Eric, who is not pictured here, since he killed Wanda.

Call of Cthulhu – Terror From The Skies Episode 07

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I am leading off this blog post with a sad, but heartfelt thank you to the life of Adam West.  He died this morning at the age of 88.

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I grew up watching reruns of Batman.  Adam West has always been my favorite Batman.  Thank you for the memories.

The party continued on from last week.  They were battered, bruised and in general, not in great shape.  They realized that their only lead was to continue on to talk to Professor Benjamin Graham at Durham University.

This is where the adventure shows itself.  The Shan are on a timeline.  The party needs to keep up.  If they don’t follow closely, the Shan get farther ahead, and more powerful.  The party needs to simultaneously keep up… and have a couple of weeks to heal.  They are battered.  Their sanity is significantly affected.  Their bodies have been messed with.

The Doctor has a healing spell, but using that spell uses 12 magic points, which is pretty much all that he has… more importantly, he loses one sanity every time that he uses the spell.  He is down to less than 30 sanity… which means that he is more likely to lose it in a big way.  The Doctor also has a permanent malady, where he loses it completely and must fight any flying monsters.  That is not a great thing for the party.

The Romani has burned all his luck, or almost all of it.  He can restore some luck each session, however, the Romani player is very able to roll 1’s on his d8 to restore luck.

The Skientist in pants is doing well, for now… more on that later.

The actor has been attacked by star vampires, and is severely weakened in strength.  The blood loss by star vampire bleeding the strength is brutal.

The nurse started out with the highest sanity, but got hammered with an unsuccessful try at the healing spell.  She is still going strong, but she found another spell, Voorish Sign, which she likes… a lot…, but that is slowly sapping her sanity.

The Irish rogue is doing quite well.  But that is because the player missed a few sessions.  Matt came back this week, and his relatively balanced, normal character now is a super power compared to the other players who are battered and beaten.

The dilettante is doing well.  She has kept out of the fray for the most part.  Flashing her boobs and drinking is doing well for her.  ** Dear reader, that is what Jason does with the character, not my input here **

The “art dealer” is doing well… for now.  But lust will affect him in a big way soon, as in this adventure.

So the party takes another bus from the horrific crash near Ugthorpe to Durham University.  Thankfully, the bus ride is uneventful.  Nobody has any nightmares, nobody tries to stab the passengers, and best of all, the bus driver does not get up and leap out of the bus while it is moving.

That does not mean that the bus ride is comfortable or restive.

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While this bus looks quaint and pretty, buses from this era have truck suspensions, and hard seats.  Likely something like this:

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A long bus trip on semi-primitive roads… Oh, my aching back, hips, knees, feet, elbows, and sciatic nerves.

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And you thought that modern airline seats were uncomfortable?

So the party arrives in Durham, and in short order, they find Durham University.  It isn’t much of an effort really.  The Doctor went to Cambridge, and this is a lesser university after all, so navigation to this lower place of learning is easy from the Doctor’s perspective.

They find the Bursar’s office.  The Bursar is full of himself.  He attempts to put the others into their place, after all, they are not even students of Durham.  Little does he know, the doctor is from Cambridge, and is unaffected by the slights that the Bursar leaves for the rest of the party.  The Bursar is very offended by the Skientist.  She is an educated woman, in science… and she wears pants.  This takes about all of the the little reserve that the Bursar has, to not throw her out.

In the end, the Bursar does make himself feel better, after all, the Doctor did graduate from Cambridge, but the doctor only has an MD and two PhD’s (in science).  The Bursar is a man of letters in the arts.  Having advanced studies in the arts, of course is much more interesting and noteworthy than any silly “advanced” studies in medicine or science.

And, let’s not forget that the party looks pretty scraggly at this point.  They are bruised, battered, and their clothes are worse for the wear.  No self respecting Durham man would show up in this condition asking for help.  Let’s not forget that all the Doctor wanted was to know where he could find Professor Graham.  It is a minor thing, but the Cambridge man did need assistance from the Durham man.  Scandalous.  Third university, indeed.

The party goes to Professor Graham’s office.  They knock on the door, and he calls out from inside “come”.  They party enters the small, cramped office.  the office has stacks of books, notes and papers.  It is a jumbled mess.  Professor Graham is stuffy and a little full of himself.  He is disturbed when the party tells him the story so far.  It is disturbing that all of these things are happening to good people.

Professor Graham doesn’t know anything about the Shan, or any of the other mispronunciations of the other things that the party asks about.

Professor Graham is a historian of British Pagan Worship. He comes across as trustworthy but stuffy and introverted. This makes him fairly isolated, and he is used to people being bored with him,

He knows something of the cult of Azathoth but assures them, as he did with both Elliot and Seth, that it died out a long time ago. It was a cult of great antiquity, pre-roman, and it was replaced by a series of other pre-Christian faiths. He believes that it was concentrated in the South-East of the country, but the only specific place name he knows is associated with it is Lilla Howe, which he also gave to Seth. He tries to convince them that anyone practicing the cult’s rituals now or in the recent past (by this he means the past couple of centuries) has invented them, not unlike the modern druids at Stonehenge; all very silly and sad. He knows nothing of any real revival of the cult, except the things Elliot told him, and he didn’t really believe them.

He is saddened by the news of Elliot’s death but it won’t change his mind.

When the skientist mentions the name Azazel, however, he is startled, as it is also the name of a student group in Durham. He points them in the direction of the Student Representative Council, where they can make enquiries. He believes it is some sort of history society, but isn’t sure as he doesn’t associate with students outside of lectures and tutorials

The Durham Colleges Students’ Representative Council, on the Palace Green, is the best place to find out about student societies. Professor Graham gives them directions.

In the entryway is a notice board giving various society activities. The party notices information on the board about two society meetings. The first is the Music Society, for eight o’clock tonight in the Church across the road from the Cathedral.  A closer look reveals that it is a local, rather than student, society.

The “arts dealer” is reminded of the musicians at Bloody Beck.  He is not sure what the connection is, but he feels that there must be a connection.

The second meeting is for the Azazel, tomorrow night at seven, in the nearby Buffalo’s Head Pub on Saddler Street. Both notices say all are welcome.

The skientist notices something odd also.  It is summer.  It seems odd that there are things going on at the university during summer.  Most of the students should be gone.

There are about 20 people at the meeting. The party recognize two cultists from the Bloody Beck.  They are a flautist and a drummer, and they are not interested in singing.

The music goes on for a while.  It is poorly played baroque music.  The Romani and Irishman go to find liquor at a pub.  The rest of the party stick around.  After the end of the music recital, The flautist, Jasmine, invites the party back to her room. Jasmine’s is in the castle keep,   As soon as the Doctor, Nurse and arts dealer are in the room, Jasmine starts undressing.  Naked, then Jasmine invites the rest for casual sex.  At this point, Summer, the real wife of Daron, (Summer is the Nurse character, Daron is the Doctor), well, Summer disappeared.  Not sure if she was getting a soda, or what.  The Doctor decided not to partake, but while Jasmine and the art dealer were getting it on, in full view of the Doctor, the Doctor decided to check out the room.

To the dismay, or maybe delight of the arts dealer, the sex was completely mechanical and full of lust.  There was no passion.  It was something that was animalistic, more like pigs rutting than passionate lovemaking.

The doctor realizes that Jasmine’s room is not typical student rooms either. They are too sterile and clinically well-organized; While the grunting, sweating and moaning was going on in the background, the Doctor realizes that the room is arranged more in the fashion of an office than a living space. He sees a calendar note for a midnight choir practice in the Cathedral in two days’ time.

About the time that the art dealer and Jasmine is done rutting, Summer comes back to the table and asks “what happened?”  To which Daron said… “I will tell you later on the car ride home”.

 

This Azazel student group caters for those interested in the history of Durham in general, and its cathedral in particular. They are especially keen on the more esoteric aspects, such as the “square built” pillars and geometrical relationships.

The Buffalo’s Head Pub is quite full when they arrive. The barman tells them that the meeting is taking place in an upstairs room. There are a couple of dozen people present.

When the socializing is over and everyone is sitting down, Amelia Carter stands up and welcomes everyone, including nonmembers. She introduces a guest speaker, Professor Mark Hooke. He is an expert on the geometry of English cathedrals and is quite genuine. He talks for some time, then asks for questions. All in all, the meeting takes about two hours. Once again, the Irishman and the Romani leave and find a pub.  The arts dealer sits down next to his new squeeze, Jasmine.  She is a little cold and distant, but doesn’t move away.

At the end of the lecture, Professor Hooke offers a tour of the Cathedral, giving access to areas not normally open to the public. The tour will continue after this meeting.

 

Amelia approaches each of the female characters, and talks with them individually.  Eric, the Romani notices that only the female characters are being talked to individually by Amelia, but I point out to him that he is in the bar / pub, and nowhere near.

 

Somehow, magically, the Romani and Irishman come back in time for the tour.  Not sure how that happened, but it was fortuitous.  Maybe.

 

 

The tour happens right after the Azazel Society meeting. Quite a crowd has gathered at least twenty people, not all from the society. A Cathedral official meets them at the main door, under the famous knocker. The tour takes them around the upper levels, up spiral staircases, through doors to walkways high above the ground, under the stained glass and finally down into a part of the undercroft. They are repeatedly warned to be careful, as some of the walkways are narrow and have no safety barriers. Potential cover and places to hide can be seen by anyone making a special Idea roll. Part of the way through, Amelia suddenly leaves the group.  Only the dilettante sees Amelia disappear.  She appears to walk into a pillar.  Pretty much like Harry Potter, and Platform 9 3/4.

harry-potter-trolley

The Dilettante isn’t sure if she actually observed Amelia disappear, or what.  She doesn’t bring it to the attention of the rest of the party.

This is where things get bad.  When the party is on one of the overhead walkways, you know, the ones without any handrails, that the party was told to be careful on… well, she pushes the arts dealer off.  He falls 30-ft, to the hard stone floor.  Luckilly for him, he only takes minimal damage because he was fleet footed.  The arts dealer sees the look on Jasmine’s face, which is one of complete uninterest, almost vapid in appearance as she watches the arts dealer fall to the ground.

Then things get bad.  Well, not yet, but pretty soon.

The tour goes bonkers.  Four people are missing, Amelia, the Flautist (Jasmine), the drummer (an un-named character), and another person.  Also, one person has fallen thirty feet to the ground.

The nurse decides to make the voorish sign.  Another sanity point lost!  She is hoping that this will result in her being able to see someone who is invisible.  Now, technically, no one is invisible, but I don’t want to make her lose sanity (her choice to use the spell) without any benefit.  So tell her that she sees a glowing palm sized area about head height on a column nearby.  The nurse goes forward and touches it.  She expects something exciting to happen.  Nothing does.  She feels a breeze blowing out of the column.  This is odd, since the column is solid stone.  She puts her hand at where the breeze is coming out, and her hand passes through the stone, while her hand is on the blowing part of the stone.  Luckily for her, she doesn’t take her right hand off the glowing part of the stone while she puts her left hand into the stone column.

She points out to the other party members that this appears to be a hidden passage.  The Irishman goes forward, and smacks solidly into the stone face of the pillar.  This appears to be some sort of sick nursing joke on Irishmen.

The party figures out that the person touching the invisibly glowing spot needs to be the one going through.  They can’t have one person touching the spot with others going through.

The party leaves via the stone “door”, and finds themselves on a rough cut stairway.  The stairway is completely dark, and each tread has different lengths of steps and different heights of steps.  The geometry doesn’t work either.  They walked through a 4-ft X 4-ft stone pillar and they are now at the top of a stairwell with an apparently unlimited room in size and height.

The party slowly goes down the stairs. It is dark, and the stairs are very hard to navigate.  As they get to the bottom of the stairs, they are attacked by four shans. The party can see them, as they glow slightly.

Things go bad here.  I won’t get into all of the details, but, the general thinking in Call of Cthulhu is that if you see a monster, you need to run.

This simple flow chart tells you everything you need to know about how to deal with monsters in Call of Cthulhu.

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Note that any situation where you interact with the monster results in “You Poor Bastard”.

But in this case, the party decided to engage, and eventually split the party.

The party figured out pretty quick that even when they hit the shan, the shan had nasty amounts of damage reduction, so they didn’t even scratch it unless they did at least 10 damage with a single attack.  This meant that it was time to bravely run away.

In the long run, the Romani crawled away and found the exit, tumbling down stairs taking more damage, and falling through another weird door, falling out into a grassy area where cultists were dancing and singing while circling a glowing pyramid.

Soon thereafter, the Irishman followed.  They were beaten, bedraggled, and pretty much done for the day.

Next the art dealer, the skientist and the dilettante decided to split the party and go back up the stairway, hoping that they would be able to get back to where they started.  The Shan’s attacked and knocked out the skientist.  The art dealer was trying to carry the skientist up the stairs.  The dilettante was busy trying to get back through the door they came through, but couldn’t figure it out.

The doctor and the nurse were left out in the open.  The doctor was being attacked by flying monsters.  This meant that he lost his shit and started attacking.  His shotgun skills were not holding up to his crappy rolls.  The nurse pulled him along, and the shan mercilessly attacked.  Eventually, the nurse dragged the doctor along and fell down the stairs.  They landed in a lump on top of the Irishman and the Romani, knocked out.

Now the problems started.

The skientist (in pants) was given a single hit point back, as she received some first aid.  The skientist, the dilettante and the art dealer decide to make it for the exit rest of the party went out.

Now, I don’t want to pick on any specific players.  When a monster attacks a group, I base the attacks on one of several possibilities:

  • Has one player become a major threat to the monster(s) over the last few combat rounds?
  • Did one particular player just do some major damage to the monster(s) gaining the monster(s) attention?
  • Is one player doing something that gains the attention of the monster(s)?
    • The only one holding a lantern in the dark
    • The only one yelling
    • The only one running away
    • You get the idea
  • Is the monster(s) currently engaged with one specific individual
  • If not, then roll randomly as to which monster will attack

In this case, the four flying shan’s were looking for anything juicy.  They randomly attacked the skientist.  One shan did 28 damage on her, while she had only one hit point left.  She was cut to pieces.  It was bad.

The dilettante was attacked and the art dealer dragged the body of the dilettnante to the stairway out, and landed outside on the grass, knocked out.

Things were bad.  Things got worse.

  • One party member is dead.
  • Four party members are knocked out
  • Two party members are extremely weakened, and they are right in front of the cultists dancing naked around a glowing pyramid at night.

What could possibly go wrong?

Zombicide Episode 06

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So last Saturday, we played Zombicide.  I was pretty excited, since Zombicide Green Horde was Kickstarting.   I mean, who could say no to zombie orcs?

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And there is a new trebuchet!  And  giant zombie dragon!  And a ballista!

And this…

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I also needed a short break from running RPG’s.  I love running RPG’s, but sometimes, I need a break.  Running RPG’s is fun.  But depending on the game, it can take a lot of time to prep for.  I find that Call of Cthulhu usually requires that I read the adventure at least twice before running it.  CoC adventures can be written well, but there is a lot of undercurrent and subterfuge, let alone understanding the nature of what is going on.  Generally I need to spend about 1 1/2 to 2 times the session tome for CoC just prepping for the session.  The sessions are very nuanced, and the lore needs some review.  The particular adventure I am running on Thursdays, Terror From the Skies is a Chaosium publication, which should make it easy to run, but it isn’t.  The stats, and other information don’t fit into either the CoC 6 or CoC 7 rules.  There are missing elements, such as all of the magic spells that are described in the adventure don’t appear in any of the CoC books that I own, which include versions 5.6, 6 and 7.  The adventure is missing enough information that it requries some time looking up info on the Interwebs to fill in the gaps, or finding something that is close enough that I can keep the game running.

CoC also tends to have an intertwined plot which requires a lot of understanding of the entire adventure.  You can run a standard dungeon crawl by simply keeping a paragraph in front of where the party is.   Oh, they are going down the hallway that goes to rooms 45 and 46.  I better read those two room’s descriptions pretty quick before they get there.  Hmm… This looks complicated.  Let me throw some stirges or maybe a few ghouls at them in the hallway while I read the adventure text.

CoC requires that you study the adventure.  CoC adventures are amazing cool, but also are quite often amazingly poorly written.  The information is not linear, requires a lot of reading back and forth, and cross referencing with other chapters in the same book, possibly in other books.

D&D is more straight forward to run.  Same with DCC.  Sometimes, I need a change.  I love playing Zombicide, since we all get to try to live.

Speaking of Zombicide, I got a coupon for $5 off any Prime eligible package.  So I went onto Amazon and looked online Friday night.  I found Zombicide Angry Neighbors for something like $36.  By the time I applied the coupon paid for tax and ordered it, the game supplement cost me just about $36 for a game supplement that would normally cost me at least $60 at my FLGS.

Now, I am big into supporting FLGS.  I typically don’t buy things through Amazon, unless I can’t get them at my FLGS.  Amazon is nice, but every time I spend money at Amazon, I don’t get to support the game stores where I play the games.

The elements of the equation is simple for me.

No FLGS means:

  • I need to clean the house to have people over to play at my house
  • Same for the bathroom
  • Same for the kitchen
  • I probably need to do some yardwork

Oh yeah, where am I going to see new things, and be able to talk with people about games if I don’t have an FLGS nearby?  I get it, there is the tubes of the Interwebs.  I could go onto chat rooms, search sites, etc.  But, if I know a person who has similar interests, and I can bounce ideas off him or her, then I can decide if I want to try something new.  Maybe, I can look at the game components in real life before I invest a cool C note into the game.

Molly, my wife loves shopping online.  I wanted to purchase some slacks last weekend.  I wear slacks for work.  I have specific feel that I am going for in the slacks that I wear.  I like the material to be a very specific way.  Molly just wants to order things from Kohl.com or JCPenney.com.   I know that the stores won’t have the same selection as the online version of the same store has, but I want to touch the fabric, I want to look at the pockets…  I don’t get that from online purchases.

Where was I?  Oh yeah, So I usually only buy games from the FLGS.  Sometimes, I will order stuff on Amazon, or NobleKnight games.  I am a sucker for Kickstarter, which does not help my FLGS at all.

Kickstarter is probably the nail in the coffin for the FLGS.  There are a limited type of things on Kickstarter.

There is the Cool Mini or Not, where they generate millions of dollars for a new board game.  The problem with this is that while they get thousands of people to back the project, which essentially funds the entire project with no risk to the company.  This is genius.  They take a game that they would sell at $100, and add some extra sculpts which cost them pennies to produce, maybe less.  Then they charge us shipping on top.  So we feel awesome that we are getting some cool stuff for $100 plus shipping.  All of the funds go to the manufacturer.  Now the same game will sell for $100 at the FLGS.  The FLGS will pay around $50 for the game to the warehouse.  The warehouse buys the game for $25 or $30 from the manufacturer.  QED, the manufacturer gets three to four times their normal payout for each box… and they charge for shipping… for just giving us some extra plastic pieces that are “unique”.  This means that CMON or whatever company is able to bankroll the entire production of the game at no risk to themselves, along with likely using the Kickstarter funding to bankroll the extra shipping containers that they are having made to sell on Amazon, Target, Barnes and Noble, Walmart, and the FLGS.

It is a brilliant business strategy.

The second type is the Call of Cthulhu, non Paizo Pathfinder, non WOTC D&D (Green Ronin Games, Frog God Games and Goodman Games) style Kickstarter projects.  They follow closely to the CMON style, but there is a big difference.  These games have limited appeal.  This means that most of the people who want the “Primeval Thule” D&D 5E book will probably buy it on the Kickstarter.  There is very little desire beyond the small number of people buying it via a Kickstarter pledge.

Troll Lord Games (Amazing Adventures, Castles and Crusades) are the worst of these.  The Troll Lord Games stuff is amazing.  The problem with them is that they Kickstart a lot of stuff, then apparently have a glut of product on their shelves.  Instead of pushing it out to try to get the FLGS running their games, they send out emails and Facebook posts saying “We are having a huge stale… buy our stuff at 33% off, or in some cases 50% off).  This undercuts the FLGS entirely.    Troll Lord takes the Kickstarter to the next level.  When they decide to create their next print run of books, they kickstart it again, where they talk about how their 7th edition players handbook will have a new cover, and a few of the errata are incorporated into the book…  It is also a brilliant business strategy where they undercut the FLGS, and get the crowdsource system to pay all of their bills up front.

Troll Lord is not unique.  Frog God does it.  To an extent Modiphius does it.  So does Pinnacle Entertainment Group.  Modiphius and PEGinc don’t do the massive discounts that you see with Frog God and Troll Lord.  But PEGinc does do it by offering the free PDF for the book if you purchase the book at full price online, or if you Kickstart the product.

I prefer the Bits and Mortar approach

http://www.bits-and-mortar.com/

If you buy the game at a FLGS, you can get the PDF for free.

Anyhow, the third type of Kickstarter is the type where you have a person or group who put out something small and interesting.  They are making a small run of a product, and maybe it will end up on something like DrivethruRPG with a POD option.  These likely would not be able to be published in any other way.

Kickstarter will be the death of FLGS, most likely because in many cases, the entire interest will be fed by the campaign, and everyone who wants the product will not want it from the FLGS, or they will buy it on POD from RPGnow or DrivethruRPG.

Does that mean that I won’t back Kickstarter?  Nope.  I am a sucker.

I do buy everything I can from Roy, the owner of the FLGS.  If Roy can’t get it, then I will look at Amazon, Miniature Market,  or maybe even Ebay.

So what started this diatribe?  Oh yeah, me feeling slightly guilty at buying a Zombicide expansion from Amazon.  I checked, Roy did not have it in stock.  I also checked at a couple of other game stores in the area.  Nobody had it in stock, so I wasn’t taking a direct sale from an FLGS.  I know that I could have ordered it through my FLGS, but I had a coupon.

I hope that won’t count against me in the Karma thing.

Anyhow, we got together last Saturday to play some Zombicide.  I wanted a break from running RPG’s.  We are still playing Zombicide game scenarios from the base book. We haven’t gotten into the compendium books yet.

Things started out easily enough.  We need to uncover each of the red X objective tokens and get out.  That shouldn’t be too hard, right?

Here are some of the minis ready to play.

At this point, there are three types of minis on the board.  There are always the walkers, runners, fatties and abominations.

The bases mean something.  There are grey bases.  They are from the base Zombicide box.

The green bases are the spurty type of zombies, where they need to be killed via ranged weapons, since they will spew goo and cause damage.  They are from the Prison Outbreak game.  I don’t have the Prison Outbreak game, but I got a box of the zombies to go with.

The red bases are for the armored zombies which must be killed via melee.

I haven’t painted them yet, but there are also zombie dogs, VIP zombies (will have blue bases), and seekers (will have black bases).

The best part of all of this is that the game gets really complicated.  Instead of just killing everything, the party needs to make some tough choices.  What needs to happen in what order to keep people from dying?

The door is opened, and some fetching zombie horde pops up.  This creates a bit of a problem.

Josh is not getting the best end of this deal.

Things are getting bad.

Some spares ready to help out with the action

We are hoping for a few Molotov cocktails.

Herding them into a single space to help destroy as many as possible.

AAAND, Collin gets out, alive.  He has a special message for everyone.

Now, I am off to paint more minis…

Call of Cthulhu – Terror From The Skies Episode 06

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We played Call of Cthulhu last Thursday.  Continuing on with the previous session and storyline.

I am going to try to make this a quick and short post, since I want to spend time today painting minis.  I am in the middle of painting minis for FFG’s DOOM base box.

Here are the Possessed Soldiers.  I am not really happy with the minis.  They are very detailed, but they are overly busy.

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They have been based, ink washed and then some detail applied.  I am completely ambivalent about them.  They just don’t speak to me.  I can’t explain why, just that they are not moving me.  I get the idea that they are possessed soldiers, but I don’t really like the sculpts.  I will work on them some more.

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Some Imps in progress.  They have been based, inked and drybrushed.  Need a lot more work.

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Another view of the Imps.  Quarter for size comparison.

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I like the Cacodemon’s a lot.  These guys aren’t flying, like I remember in Doom.  I don’t remember them having legs, much less being quadrupedal, but I like them.  These guys are works in progress.  I have base painted them, and done an ink wash.  They need a lot more TLC.

As per usual, the quarter is in front for some scale of mini.

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One of my favorites, the Revenant.  I like these guys.  They make me happy.  Well, keep in mind that my position is based on the fact that I will likely be running the game.

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Some Pinky’s.  These guys have been base coated and inkwashed.  I need to do a lot more work on them,.

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Another view of the Pinky’s.

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I am hoping for a series of expansions to the game.  After all, there are a lot of potential scultps to add.  Hopefully, the expansions will include some more player options, as in more than 5 player mode.

Maybe, just maybe, there will be some nods to Quake, or Duke Nukem?

HERC_UP

I have not started painting the heroes, Cyberdemon, Mancubus or the Baron from Hell yet.  There are only so many hours in the day.  And some of them involve making coffee.  Before any of the players get too excited, I have a lot of other minis to pain, and my ADHD does not allow me to paint one set to completion.  I need to go and paint other stuff also.  This is why I am only partially through my Descent 2nd Edition minis (actually, I am mostly through the monsters, but I have yet to start painting any of the heroes).  Same deal with Mansions of Madness 1st Edition.  I am much farther along with my Zombicide minis.  I have to paint a bunch of the survivors, and the VIP’s.

So where was I?  Oh yeah, I have to write this blog post about last Thursday’s adventure in Call of Cthulhu, then post something about yesterday’s Zombicide game.

The party got together last Thursday, and continued on their adventure.  They arrived back at Hob Lea, and found that Seth was in a different mood.  Seth dismissed all of the things that the party said happened.  This seemed odd, since the last time they met with Seth, he was an active participant in the conspiracy theories.  Now, he said things like:

  • It’s all just superstition and a waste of time.
  • The information he gave them was just a hoax;  Hah, fooled you!
  • The ceremony they saw was some re-enactment society, performed in the woods at night to avoid embarrassment.
  • Disappearing dancers, emerging insects indeed. Hadn’t they just spent all night at the pub?
  • He is thinking of selling up and moving, perhaps abroad, for the sake of his health.
  • He is giving up this fallacious research anyway and will burn all his books and papers.

This all seems odd to the party, since they are convinced that Seth was a believer, and now he has completely changed his mind.  They try psychology rolls, and don’t do well.

This is where the role play in Call of Cthulhu is a little hard.  Seth was supposed to persuade (via a persuade roll) that he was right.  I have never been comfortable with this part of the CoC game play.  The party knows what they saw.  They were involved in it.  They took psychic and real damage.  And somehow, they could be persuaded that all the wounds they took along with what they saw would be tossed aside by a simple persuade roll?  I can get that he could make a persuade roll against a psychology roll to convince the other player that he is on the level.  But to try to persuade the other player that all the things that he experienced didn’t occur, without some form of electroshock therapy?  It doesn’t work for me.

Finally, Seth storms off to his bedroom.  The nurse and the Romani follow.  They follow Seth into his bedroom, and he demand that they leave.  The nurse says that she is worried about Seth, since he seems so different.  He laughs, and says, you should worry about this..  and he pulls a vial out of his pocket and smashes it on the floor, to which a swirling vortex opens up, and a Star Vampire comes out.

It gets pretty ugly.  Before someone thinks to shoot Seth, he ends up pulling out two more vials, and two more star vampires come out.  Things get ugly.  The party arrives, and fights.  The star vampires end up doing some heavy damage, knocking three of the party members completely out…  The doctor, gets drilled to less than 0 hit points, and loses 5 strength points.  The Romani gets knocked out, and loses a bunch of strength.  The actor gets the worst of it.  He gets knocked to less than 0 HP, and goes to 0 strength.  The loss of strength is due to blood drain.

Eventually, the party kills the three star vampires, and Seth is immobilized by being shot.

The party needs time to heal.  With the Doctor out, the nurse tries to read the Heal spell.  It doesn’t go well.  She fails miserably, and ends up screaming in terror, running from the Hob Lea house.  She comes to 5 hours later, robbed of everything she had.  Magic is not something that you want to mess with.  She also took 10 sanity damage from misreading (or maybe it was reading?) the spell.

After several days of rest, the party decides to go back to London.  They get on the bus, and leave Ugthorpe.  Now the party failed their spot hidden rolls, so they were not warned about the steep road.  The road that was so steep that the bus barely could make it up the road…

Well the road going out is still steep, only it is steep down instead.  As the bus starts down the steep downhill section of the road, the bus driver stands straight up, opens the door and jumps out.

Everyone is shocked, to say the least.  The bus is freewheeling down the lane and no one is driving.  The bus starts to bounce, and careen around the road.  Unperturbed,  Jeremy goes up and tries to drive the bus.  He makes his first drive  roll, and doesn’t flip the bus.  But then things get bad.

Two of the bus riders (not of the party) start stabbing the party members with knives.  One stabby stabby guy hits the actor.  Luckily for the actor, he only does one damage.  It is only a flesh wound.  Things get bad then.  Jeremy fails the drive roll, and the brakes fail.  The brake pedal goes all the way to the floor without anything else happening.  Jeremy bravely jumps off the bus, taking limited damage.

The nurse knows what to do  She tries to drive the bus.  Well, she tries to get to the driver seat.  The dilettante gets to the area right by the driver seat, near the door.  This is where our true expert in all things Britain prevails, and tells me that I have drawn the bus as though it was in the US, not the UK.  The door is on the wrong side of the bus.  Damn.  I quickly redraw the door to make Daron happy.

The nurse fails her dex roll, and is unable to make it to the front of the bus.  The two stabby stabby guys are killed outright by gunfire.  The nurse finally makes it to the front of the bus.  Just about this time, some of the party members realize that they are moving at a very high rate of speed towards a swing bridge which is open.  The nurse fails her drive roll, and the steering wheel comes off in her hands, where she realizes that she is headed for a crash with a long steel spiky pointy thing right in front of her.  Only the wheel comes off, the shaft is still there.

Several party members bail off the bus.  They take pretty significant damage.  The actor and the romani are not able to get off the bus, but they improvise crash cushions.  The actor takes the corpse of the stabby stabby person and places it in front of him, hoping that will reduce the damage to him.  The Irishman uses the near dead body of Seth.

The dilettante times her jump off the bus just as it goes off the road into the water.  She skips several times on the water, then sinks in.  The bus goes front end into the water, leaving the two remaining party members with their corpse-cushions out of the water.

That was the entire session.  They had some epic battle time, and a difficult issue to resolve.. how to survive a bus crash.

More next week.

Tales from the Yawning Portal Episode 05

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So we had no game on last Thursday.  Most of the normal group went off camping for the long weekend, and two members went extra early to set up camp. They have asked me several times if I wanted to go.  They finally gave up, when they realized that I did not like camping.

You see, I loved camping when I was a kid.  My family went all over the place, and camped.  We had tents, camp stoves, sleeping bags…  We went out to beautiful places and sat in the woods.  It was…. boring.  I couldn’t bring my bicycle (which I loved).  I couldn’t watch TV.  You see, the programs I wanted to watch were on Saturday.  The Saturday afternoon lineup was like this:

  • Noon to 2 PM – monster movie of the week
  • 2 PM – In Search Of, with Leonard Nemoy
  • 3 PM – Twilight Zone
  • 3:30 PM – Twilight Zone
  • 4 PM – Space 1999
  • 5 PM – Star Trek

I mean who wants to go and look at a lake, or a stream, or maybe a few trees, when you have this type of lineup of amazing entertainment?  I could give up the Bugs Bunny / Road Runner show on Saturday morning, but camping got in the way of watching that amazing set of shows.

Now don’t tell me that they were all in reruns, so I could have caught them another time.  Pish Posh.  You just don’t understand.

My parents liked motorcycle camping.  You know, put everything on a motorcycle, not a car or van.  So we were camping minimalists.  My parents also had the amazing ability to select the worst weather to camp in.  I remember lots of rain, and occasional a windstorm.

Flash forward to middle and high school.  My parents graduated to a camper shell mounted on the back of a truck.  That wasn’t so bad.  They got to sleep in a queen sized bed over the truck cabin.  My brother and I traded off sleeping on the floor and on a very short couch that doubled as the eating area.  This was better, sleeping on the floor had problems.  If anyone wanted to go out at night to water the trees, then you were stepped on.  It doesn’t matter how careful the person was, they were always able to step on the person sleeping on the floor.  My parents graduated to driving to hot places for their camping also.  Bleh.  I don’t care for hot places.  The water invariably tastes bad, and there are things like snakes and big spiders.

Also during middle and high school, I was in the boy scouts.  That meant that one weekend a month we had to go camping.  Now boy scout camping has some sort of Norman Rockwell sort of charm to it, or at least it is supposed to.  We would pack everything we needed into a large rucksack, and tromp into the woods.  Eventually, we would find a place to set up camp and sit and look at the trees.  OK, we would learn important things like how to make nettle soup, how to tie knots, what parts of the cedar tree can be eaten (yes, the bark can be eaten).  But ultimately, we younger scouts would wait until the older scouts would become bored, and then the inevitable “throw the kid in the lake” would occur.  Usually, the adults would go off to their own campsite, and do whatever adults do (except for watch the kids).  Then the clique of older scouts, who also happened to be the clique at the high school of the football varsity players and the same clique at the high school of the wrestling varsity players (same people), and they would get drunk off their asses with moonshine, and then hilarity would ensue.

I have a vivid memory of one particular scout bringing out moonshine that his dad made.  You see, they also brought out garbage bags of aluminum cans.  They created a huge bonfire, and melted the aluminum cans down to ingots.   It can be done.  It was one mother freaking hot fire.  So while the older scouts were melting down aluminum, they were getting shitfaced.  Then the fun started.  One newly minted Eagle Scout started explaining his prowess in pleasuring women, in graphic terms.  Now I was 12, and didn’t know anything about sex.  I had seen a woman’s boobs in a movie, and that was about it.  But he had explicit detail, which seemed oddly out of character, as he was probably the dumbest, ugliest, dirtiest (as in dirt) dipshit that I had ever seen.  Now, as an adult, I believe that he got most of his carnal “knowledge” from reading letters to the editor from Hustler magazine, and watching a bad porn video cassette, but when I was 12, it was godly information.  I am pretty sure that if I ever actually tried anything he said to do, I would have been laughed out of the bedroom.

Then another older scout had a real problem.  He was trying to show off his prowess with his penis.  He found a board with a knothole in it, and proceeded to stick his junk through the knothole and then pretended to fuck it… in front of everyone.  This was disturbing to say the least, but in the end, he got a bunch of splinters and slivers in his junk, and he needed to go to the hospital later that week because it got infected.  Life lesson at 12.  When you get drunk on moonshine, you might want to have some really good friends who will stop you from hurting yourself, not egg you on.

Then the scout that brought the moonshine decided to do the circus thing, where he blows liquor into the fire.  He didn’t realize that this was an art.  And the people who spray a mouthful of highly flammable liquid onto a torch are (1) trained, (2) in complete control of themselves, (3) have practice at it (4) the list goes on and on.  They are definitely not drunk spitting moonshine into a fire hot enough to melt aluminum cans into ingots from 3 feet away.

So the scout spits the moonshine into the fire… The fireball envelops him.  He pulls back, and he has a serious sunburn over his entire face, his eyebrows are scorched, the front of his mullet is completely burned.  His eyelashes are gone.  Thankfully, he isn’t on fire.  His clothes are smoldering.  In a perfect Jeff Spiccoli impersonation he says “Awesome!” and goes for some more liquor to spit on the fire.

Then they older scouts decide to play “smear the queer”  I am not sure what that game was supposed to be.  It didn’t involve any dice, pencils, paper, nor any known rules. The rules appeared to be a half dozen drunken 17 and 18 year old men exposing themselves randomly to the younger scouts, followed by them trying to catch the younger scouts and pretending to dry hump them.  Evidently, this also involved lots of rebel yells, hooting and hollering.

And things went down hill from there.

So after my first campout, my parents asked me how it went.  I looked at my dad, confused, not sure what I should say, and said “Dad, I don’t want to stay in the Boy Scouts”.  His response was perfect Dadish.  He says “What?  You need to stay in the Boy Scouts!” and then he went on about all of the leadership potential, the opportunities, just like the brochure said.

Now in all fairness to my mom and dad, I was not a motivated kid in school.  I didn’t care.  I scared the hell out of my parents.  My life goal was to be a bicycle mechanic.  Literally,  I wanted to be a bicycle mechanic. Not own a bike store.  I just wanted to work on bicycles.  I had potential, but I didn’t care.  They were desperate for any way to get me to realize my potential, not to be a bicycle mechanic.  So they insisted in me continuing in scouts.

I didn’t know how to explain to my dad that my desire to leave the scouts had nothing to do with not being an achiever, rather, it had to do with being shocked and scared by the lord of the flies experience that I had endured that weekend.  I couldn’t tell him what I had seen.  As an adult, looking back, I am sure that if I had told my dad, he would have taken my story up with the adults who were there, and found a way to change the situation.  He is a good and moral man.  He would never stand for that type of thing.  That being said, I couldn’t bring myself to tell him what I had seen.  So I asked him to come with me on the next campout.  He declined, saying he had other things to do, after all, this was an experience for me to have.

Now in all fairness to the scouts, being in the boy scouts did help me define who I wanted to be.  I saw the ridiculous antics of the older scouts, and decided right then and there, that I was not going to be like that.  Their behavior offended me at a very basic level.  I was not one of the in-crowd in the troop.  I didn’t agree with their antics, and didn’t like them.  That made me an outcast.  As time went on, the antics of the 17 and 18 year olds transferred on to the next group of 17 year olds, as some of the older scouts kept on after they turned 18 and the traditions continued.

I was not a conformer.  I still am not.  I didn’t like the type of behavior that was on full drunken display that weekend.  It offended me.  I am a big guy.  I was a big kid.  I have presence.  So I started shepherding kids away from the stupid behavior that was at the weekend campouts.

This created problems for me to earn my Eagle Scout badge.  First, in order to become an Eagle Scout, you need to have a “leadership” position for a year. This could be assistant scoutmaster, patrol leader, etc.  Because I didn’t play ball, and I had a group of kids that I kept away from the debauchery, I was persona non gratta.  That meant that none of the older scouts would let me into a leadership position.  So the scoutmaster had to create a leadership position for me, which was… wait for it… “Troop Scribe”.  Whoop defucking doo.

I found the entire thing ridiculous.  I had to take a spiral bound notebook and write down what happened at each troop meeting.  This was not “leadership”, this was what happens when kids are in control, and there is no leadership from the adults who are supposed to be in charge.

Another thing that is required is that prospective eagle scouts are supposed to have a project that is supposed to show their leadership, and give something back to the community.  I selected a project to plant 5,000 evergreen sapling trees around Judy Reservoir, near my hometown.  You see, the hillsides around the reservoir had deciduous trees.  The local PUD cut down the deciduous trees, because the leaves would fall off the trees in the fall, and they would go into the reservoir and the drinking water would be stained.  It was a real problem with clean drinking water.  The PUD cut down the trees with leaves, and needed someone to plant trees without leaves.  That was my Eagle Scout project.  Because I wasn’t one of the “crew”, I got no support from the other older scouts, even though I had helped on their Eagle Scout project.  It ended up that I spent a weekend with some good gaming friends in high school and the other scout outcasts, and we planted the trees.

Am I bitter?  No.  I just don’t value the scouting experience the way that other people do.  My experience was a lesson in perseverance.  It involved me learning that I can continue doing the right thing, even if the management around me is not aligned with what I think are the proper things to d.

Later, as an adult, I ran into the parents of some of the kids that I took under my wing, and the parents thanked me for what I did for their kids.  I stood up to the bullyish behavior of the older kids, and stopped the “Smear the Queer” games.  They went to “Snipe Hunt” instead, which wasn’t much different…

I am sure that the scout troop I was in was an anomaly.  It was not normal.  However, I spent a lot of time in my adulthood, not mentioning the fact that I was an Eagle Scout because I was embarrassed about being a member of a society that openly discriminated against gay people.

The Scout’s Oath was:

On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

What defines “morally straight”?  Who defines it.

I am not gay.  When I was in high school, I don’t think that I ever met anyone who was openly gay.  Being “gay” was an insult.  If anyone was gay, they kept it buried, deep in side themselves.  I lived in a small town, it was the 1980’s.  The concept of Boy George and his ambiguous sexuality was new, and simultaneously scary and intriguing.

When I went to college, I met openly gay people.  The trite thing to say would be “All I knew about gay people was what the simple minded folk in the small town I grew up in talked about”.  But that isn’t true.  We weren’t simple minded folk.  I just don’t remember it coming up.  OK, when I saw “Deathtrap” in the College Place Triplex theater in 1982, and Christopher Reeve kissed Michael Caine, someone yelled out “Superman is a Fag!” in the theater.

michael-caine-gay-kiss-christopher-reeve

As I said, I am sure that there were gay people in my hometown, but I never observed anything that gave me any hints.  Of course, I was young, and probably wouldn’t have understood it even if I saw it at 14 or 17 years old.  When I got to college, I found people who weren’t like me.  There was a huge variety of people.  I met the first openly gay people, and guess what, they were interesting and I liked being around them as much as I liked being around other people.

But getting back to the Scout’s Oath.  Who defines what morally straight is?  Does a 17 year old scout (who was an eagle scout) fucking a knothole in a board in full view of 15 other scouts constitute morally straight?  How about older scouts exposing themselves to the younger scouts, and chasing them around then pretending to dry hump them?

You would ask “Where were the adults?”  Well, several of the older kids who were part of the clique had parents who were the adults.  Many of them were former Eagle Scouts.  They had a “Boys will be boys” attitude.

So what does any of this have to do with gaming.  Nothing really.  I started talking about camping, and then soon enough, it became blather about other things, like why I dislike camping.  Now, I didn’t get into my experiences in the Army with camping…  But that is for another rant.

So I spent Thursday night home, instead of gaming.  This was followed by a long weekend.  I pulled out the rule books for a game that I have called “Splinter”.  I will probably never play Splinter.  It is a pretty awesome game concept, along the lines of Palladium Rifts.

From the End Transmission Games website:

The infinite megadungeon-cum-arena of the Splinter has no rhyme nor reason – characters exploring the Splinter are just as likely to come upon a Medieval sword, a fantastical clockwork raygun, or a fully automatic shotgun. The Splinter itself is a puzzle, constantly shifting, sometimes before the characters’ very eyes.

OK, it isn’t Rifts.  Nothing is Rifts, except Rifts.  but the idea that anything goes is a pretty cool idea.  The game system is too twitchy for me, but the ideas in the games are really cool.

For example, from the random treasures book, there is Mr. Wubbles.

Mr. Wubbles

One-Use. Thrown “weapon.” Any sentient being within 10 yards of the creature must succeed a Conviction (ST4) Test or stand still and take no actions. Hypnotized characters who take any kind of damage receive another Conviction (ST1) Test to recover from the effect. Characters who fail their saves if not damaged or somehow pulled away will just stare in awe at the wonderful little critter for a week or so until it drops dead.

OK, the stats don’t make much sense unless you know the game system.  But imagine how you could twist this into something good for the game system you are in.  For instance, the party finds this critter in a cage in a magic shop.  The wizard figures out that he can buy it, and float it around using Mage Hand or some such thing, to cause a distraction while the party gets ready to fight, or possibly to occupy the bad guys until they can move around them…

The book “Sometimes Ugly Things” which is kind of a monster manual has a lot of really cool things, like these:

Feral Moss can grow anywhere and, if you don’t burn it off the walls, it grows everywhere. If you don’t get too close to it, it might leave you well enough alone. But get it on your skin… well, there the problems start. It begins by latching on to you, then it begins to suck your blood, drawing it up from your veins and through your pores. That hurts. But, unless you get rid of it soon, Feral Moss is just going to carry on growing. And it is going to do so quickly. As the Moss grows, it draws blood from its host faster and faster and in ever greater quantities, spreading across every inch of flesh until the entire surface of the victim’s body is the colour of tarnished bronze. Once the body of their host is spent, the Feral Moss breaks away, gradually, from the wasted skin and chalky, flaking bone. It scatters itself as widely as possible, clinging on to any suitable surface where it waits, dormant, for the next unsuspecting amateur botanist to give it a new home.

and the Byrozoan Mongrel

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who has the following description:

The Byrozoan Mongrel looks utterly horrifying, but really, it’s just an animal. Created by some master creator – perhaps a Silver Sculptor, perhaps not – the Byrozoan Mongrel behaves much like a stray dog. Unlike a dog, however, its muzzle opens into numerous thrashing tentacles, though its body looks like some kind of brown, spotted mutt. It will attack if it feels threatened, but with a successful Animal Handling Test, the Byrozoan Mongrel becomes quite friendly and docile. If a PC spends a long enough time winning its trust, the Byrozoan Mongrel can even be a valuable and loyal companion both in and out of combat. That tentacle mouth might take some getting used to, though.

For some reason, I feel like Mike needs a pet Byrozoan Mongrel…

Then there is whatever the heck this thing is…

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Long story short, I have lots of books that are sitting around solely as inspiration for other games.  I doubt that I will be playing Splinter, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t take ideas from this game and drop it into whatever game I am playing.

I love the ideas in Lamentations of the Flame Princess.  It is an OSR clone that is very clean and simple, but vicious to play.  The game doesn’t have the depth of character development that many players want.  It focuses on the obscure,obscene and horrific dungeon crawl.  But the ideas are amazing.  Take the following for instance, from their Free RPG Day game Slugs, from last year

The Doctor Slug:

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The stats are amazingly awesome!

The creature’s touch heals any and all injury instantly, but not cosmetically. All hit point and other “rules terminology” damage is recovered, but the appearance of the character before injury becomes the new norm. A character with a compound fracture will heal, but the bone will not reset and the formerly “broken” bone is now the new non-painful skin-penetrating norm, for instance. Cuts, gouges, and other such injuries become set in place and do not mend (although bleeding does stop), bruised areas will remain forever black and blue, and crushed anatomy remains flattened. A sufficiently injured person healed by the Doctor Slüg will resemble the undead with all the unmended, yet healed, catastrophic failure of anatomy.

All within 100’ of the Slüg not suffering from a disease must make a saving throw or contract a random disease (mechanical effects assume a player character patient):

  1. Alzheimer’s: When left alone the character must make a saving throw. Failing this save means the character will simply not do whatever it is she was supposed to do (50%) or wander off in a random direction, believing she is on some long-ago adventure.
  2. Congenital Analgesia: The patient can feel no pain whatsoever. Hit points are kept track of secretly by the Referee, and the amount of any damage taken (or healed!) by the character is never specified.
  3. Diabetes: The character’s diet must be carefully controlled; rations cost three times normal, and any day the character does not have access to these special rations, she must make a saving throw or suffer 1d4 damage.
  4. Epilepsy: Once per session during a stressful situation, the Referee can call for a saving throw; failing means the character suffers a seizure lasting 1d6 rounds and inflicting 1d4 damage.  Seizures may also happen whenever the character sees a magical effect with a visual manifestation of magical energy.
  5. Osteoporosis: All crushing or impact damage uses an additional damage die (so a mace hit would do 2d8 instead of 1d8 damage, a 20’ fall would do 3d6 instead of 2d6 damage). A character encumbered at all is considered encumbered one extra category.
  6. Proteus Syndrome: The character’s body distorts and explodes in strange growths which alter the fundamental profile and proportions of the body. The character will be considered hideous, have her movement rate cut by half, and be unable to wear standard clothing or armor. 50% chance per hand that the hand is useless for grasping.

These diseases (or damage caused by their effects) can only be cured by the Slüg at one specified future time (typically 1d1000+24 hours), which will be understood by the patient. The afflicted must leave the Slüg’s presence and return to the Slüg at the appointed time, within the allotted hour. Arrive early or late, and there will be no healing, and another appointment must be made. Arriving too early or late (over a week in either direction) results in no curing and no further appointment being allowed! Of course the Slüg keeps no regular abode and constantly travels; finding the Slüg for one’s appointment is the problem of the patient.

So, once again, you ask… What does all of this have to do with the game last Saturday?  Nothing.

Saturday started out as it should.  Nice weather, dogs in the back yard.  A good book to read… OK, it wasn’t that good of a book.  It was the novelization of the Van Helsing movie.  The movie is camp.  The book was…  well, it has as many letters as “camp”, three are in common, the c, a and p, but there is another letter in there instead of the m and a few of the letters are rearranged.  Needless to say, the book was nowhere near as fun as the movie.  I should have known, going into it, the movie was pretty limited in its story, but it was fun.  The book, not so much.

But at least there was coffee.  Tasty, coffee.  MMMMMMMMMMM coffee.

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After spending the morning with dogs, coffee, and finishing the Van Helsing book, I went to Dice Age to play D&D.  Mike had a birthday earlier that week.  I won’t say how old Mike is, nor what his birthdate is.  I know both, but I don’t want to give out personal information on the web.

As a joke, I thought it would be fun to give Mike a gift.  A gag gift.  I went to Safeway and got Mike a bran muffin, a bag of prunes, and a six pack of prune juice.  I thought it would be funny.  Everyone but Mike thought it was funny.  It turns out, he loves bran muffins, prunes and prune juice.

Mike decided that Collin’s character needed some fun.  He found the postcard of the fetching, lovely ladies and wrote a special message on the back.  He asked me to find an opportune time during the game play to have it come in magically and be delivered to Collin’s character.

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The message was highly personal, and even though it probably isn’t good for normal consumption, here it is.

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It took a while, but we got Collin to read the message.

So after all this blather, what happened on Saturday?

The party ended the previous week with six tied up goblins.  They decided that they would use them as trap finders.  The monk was lawful good, and would not appreciate the party killing them off needlessly.

The goblins were not too happy about their new status.  They had their bows taken away.  The six goblins were named, and given responsibilities.  They were:

  • Amok – the leader (he had the 7 silver pieces)
  • Bedlam – the HR specialist
  • Gibberish – the IT / web developer
  • Havoc – the chief of production
  • Mayhem – intern / trainee / gopher
  • Racket – communications

So the party decided that they were going to use the goblins as they saw fit.  The problem was that the DM wanted to use the goblins as he saw fit also.  The DM decided that the goblins would essentially be played as genies, but completely useless.  The goblins would do exactly what the humans said, to the letter.  Any colloquialisms would be taken literally.  As in literally.  That caused some issues for the party.

Long story short, Mayhem was pissed.  He had been the flunky in the goblin world, and he was tired of being the flunky.  He was really pissed about being put back into the role of needing to apply for the job he always had.  He wanted to be a full party member.  So the party moved him up to full party status.

There was lots of doublespeak by the party members to the goblins…  Things like:

  • We want to help you redefine the very nature of what’s possible
  • You can bring about positive, permanent shifts in the quality of your life.
  • We can offer you a practical methodology for producing breakthroughs—achievements that are extraordinary, outside of what’s predictable
  • We can help you find a way of learning that gives people an awareness of the basic structures in which they know, think, and act
  • With our help, you will develop awareness comes a fundamental shift that leaves people more fully in accord with their own possibilities and those of others
  • We can help you find a way to be able to think and act beyond existing views and limits—in their personal and professional lives, relationships, and wider communities of interest

The party offered this opportunity to the goblins for a deposit of only 200 gold pieces, and a full payment of 695 gold pieces.

The training will take place over three consecutive days and an evening session (generally Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday evening). Each full day begins at 9:00 a.m. and ends at approximately 10:00 p.m. Breaks are approximately every 2-3 hours, with a 90-minute dinner break. The evening session generally runs from 7:00 p.m. to 10:15 p.m. (in certain locations, from 7:30 p.m. to 10:45 p.m.).

Training topics include:

The Vicious Circle:

In the Vicious Circle segment, we suggest that it is a monster tendency to collapse what happened; with the story you tell about what happened. This collapsing happens so fast it becomes hard to separate the two, and you think of them as one and the same. Almost immediately, and certainly over time, the story we tell ourselves becomes the way it is—the reality we know. It limits what is possible in our lives, robbing us of much of our joy and effectiveness.

When you are able to separate what happened from our story or interpretation, we discover that much of what we considered already determined, given and fixed, may in fact not be that way. Situations that may have been challenging or difficult become fluid and open to change. We find ourselves no longer limited by a finite set of options, and able to achieve what we want with new ease and enjoyment.

Rackets – The Payoff and the Cost

In the Rackets segment, we discuss the idea of a racket as an unproductive way of being or acting that includes a complaint that something shouldn’t be the way it is. Often, you don’t notice that while our complaints may seem justified, even legitimate, there is a certain payoff—some advantage or benefit we are receiving that reinforces the cycle of behavior. At the same time, this way of being has steep costs, whether in our vitality, affinity, self-expression, or sense of fulfillment.

By recognizing this pattern, its costs, and how we have been keeping the pattern in place, you have the choice to interrupt the cycle and discover new ways of interacting that lead to new levels of happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment in areas that are most important to us.

Freedom from Anxiety

Consider that one of the primary obstacles to effectiveness is fear. No matter how accomplished, successful, or courageous you are, fear and anxiety seem to play a role at some point in all of our lives. Often, you allow our fears and anxieties to stop you – to determine how much you’ll risk, and to limit the range in which you live – assigning them an unwarranted power and magnitude in your life.

When you see that your relationship to our anxieties and fears inadvertently gives them a life of its own, something else becomes possible. You find yourself being powerful in the face of what has stopped us before, and are free to rediscover and pursue your passions in life.

The Nature of Choice

The power to choose is uniquely monster. You have a high interest in shaping the course of your life – making the right choices and pursuing what is important to you. One commonly held view regards choice as merely reacting to, or selecting among, the existing options. Here we take another view.

In this section, we explore choice as a profoundly monster ability to create. When choice is understood and known in this way, what had previously seemed simply part of “the way things are” – inevitable or impervious to change – appears in a new light. You will find yourself able to choose – to have a say – about who you are and who you will be, as the author of your life in any and all situations.

Now the problem with all of this is that the goblins have no idea of what all of this means.  Their idea of self actualization, choice, freedom from anxiety and so forth is meaningless to the goblins.  So are the astronomical costs that the party wants to charge for the personal training.

So the goblins decide to come along.  Because, so far, nobody has tried to kill them.  They can continue to be minions, except for Mayhem who is happily a full party member who has been promised a full share.  Whatever that means.

Now Mayhem is a manager in the making.  He figures out right away that since he has been promoted to management, he doesn’t need to do any work.  He bosses the other goblins around to do his will, instead of doing the work himself.

The monk gets tired of all of the jibber jabber, and decides to ask the goblins what is on the other side of the door on the north side of the room.  The goblin apes at him.  See, the monk speaks draconic, not goblin.  The goblins mimic the funny sounds coming out of the monk’s pie hole.  It is kind of petty, but then they are goblins, and they haven’t been to the trademarked Watermark Ebberon Wide training yet.  This means that the goblins don’t understand that when they make “blah mwuah skitr eoyrmr” sounds back at the monk, they are actually developing the vicious circle, which causes undue stress for the monk, making him question his choice to remain lawful neutral.

So the monk pantomimes to the goblins opening the door – to which the goblins pantomime the monk doing questionable things to door knobs, and finally, the warlock asks the goblins what is on the other side of the door.  The goblins reply “a hallway”  The monk checks for traps on the door.  Finding none, he opens the door, and orders the goblin trapfinders through.  The warlock tells the trapfinders to go out into the hallway.  The goblins each step into the door, and then leap onto the other side of the hallway.  They turn around and look at the monk.  The monk wants to know what they are doing.  The goblins proceed to make flying motions with their arms and hands, while standing on the other side of the hall.  They are being very careful to stick to the wall, never standing in the middle of the hallway.  The monk says “Ah”, and realizes that there must be a trap here.  So he jumps across the hallway width, to which all of the goblins laugh uproariously at the poor monk, who didn’t realize that the goblins were messing with him.  They continue to hang on the very edges of the hallway, and the monk starts tromping around the middle of the hallway, evidently unimpressed with the goblin’s prank.

Truth be told, I think the monk was getting tired of the goblins, and was regretting not killing them in combat.  Mayhem appears to be the only serious goblin now.  I think he realized that his new position in the party meant that he couldn’t be friends anymore with his old goblin buddies, since he might have to discipline them, or possibly slit their throats as they slept.  As I said, Mayhem knows a lot about management, and he is working hard to live up to the general principals of management.

The goblins open up the door on the north side of the hall.  It is a long hallway, and this is on the long side of the hall.  There is another door on the far end of the hallway.  Inside the room are several cots, rotting meat, a firepit and all of the rest of the things that the goblins would need to survive in goblin comfort.  The goblins indicate that this is home. Several party members attempt to search for loot.  Unfortunately for them, there is no loot here.  The goblins have bits of string, a few rat skeletons, some rancid jerky, some stained blankets, flea infested bedding, and best of all, some wine skins with vinegary wine.

The monk goes down the hall, and ignores the goblins who are still pantomiming hanging near the edges of the hallway.  Luckily for the monk, he rolled well on his perception roll, and noticed a pit trap in the middle of the floor near the door at the far end of the hallway.  It seems that the goblins are not completely useless, but rather their intel may need some verification.

On the other side of the door is a dragon wyrmling.  A white dragon wyrmling.  Now I looked online for a scan of the wyrmiling in the adventure.  I didn’t find any, but I did find some owlbear pictures.  I like owlbears.  I often thought that if I was going to have a rock band, I would name it “Crispy Owlbear”  Owlbears are not understood by non gamers.

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There is something about owlbears that just screams at me.  I can’t explain it.  I was hoping that at some point 5E would have a book that would allow for owlbear PC’s.

But that is for another blog post.  I may need to work up a Player Class for owlbears… what would be the proper classes… bard?  monk?  maybe a druid?  I don’t know offhand.

But where was I?  Oh yeah, white dragon wyrmiling.

The monk wants to know what is on the other side of the door.  He doesn’t bother asking the goblins, because his tired of their shit.  They are not particularly useful, as their information is technically accurate, but not particularly useful.  So the barbarian, the monk and the warlock all end up in the room.  Then the white dragon wyrmling pops out and frosts them.  The characters all failed their perception rolls, but they did notice the frost breath weapon that hit them.  The barbarian and warlock went down.  The cleric ask Meepo how to get the dragon to calm down.  Meepo responds “pet it on its nose”.  The monk runs away.  The party asks for more information about how to pet the dragon on its nose, and Meepo pantomimes hitting it on its snout.  Like really hard.

The party goes in and takes more damage, but knocks the dragon wyrmling out, and then tries to figure out what to do.  They tie up the dragon, so it can’t attack, and they tie up the dragon’s mouth.

When the dragon wakes up, they start asking it questions in draconic.  The problem is that the dragon has its mouth tied shut.  The party weighs in on whether or not to  loosen the mouth straps so the dragon can talk, but the monk points out that if it can talk, it can use its breath weapon.

In a fit of clarity, the party decides that the monk is onto something, and the mouth should not be untied.  The dragon simply responds with stink eye looks at the party and a lot of “mumph” and “mrrrrmmff” sounds.

The party has the great idea of taking the dragon to the kobold king.  That should help with whatever the party is trying to do.  I guess?  I don’t know.  Some of the party members are taking notes, but I think that the sheet of notes has been lost several times so far in this adventure, and they are having a problem rectifying the storyline.  They seem to be thinking “Yes, we will kill shit until we figure this out”.  But then that is what happens in most D&D games that I am involved in.  “We are supposed to save the princess – But wait… there is shit to kill”

As the party continues to discuss what to do with the dragon, they are approached by three more goblins who have heard about the amazing opportunities that the party has for smelt accusations, or maybe it is shelf visualizations.  Something always gets lost in the translation to goblin.

The party decides that they don’t want an army of goblins, since six are unmanageable, imagine what 9 or 200 would be like.  They decide to take the eight goblins who are not party members and put them in a room, and allow them to decide what two goblins should be allowed to join the party.

Eight goblins go in.  One came out.  This goblin is bigger than the rest.  He is tough.  He ripped the other seven goblins to shreds.  Now the party is initially concerned, since they told the goblins that they wanted two goblins to add to the party.

The goblin who came out of the room was told that they wanted two goblins.  He points at Mayhem and says “One”, and points at himself and says “Two”.  The party then says, “no, we wanted two new goblins in the party”, to which the goblin with no name raises up one fist and says “One”, then the second fist and says “Two”.

The party decides that they can’t argue with this type of logic.  The goblin with no name appears to be tougher, meaner and nastier than the other goblins they have met so far.

The party then backtracks, and goes into another room.  This room is 20-ft wide and 80-ft long.  It has sputtering torches along the hall’s walls, and  there are eight columns of carved stone that are carved to look like long skinny dragons climbing the columns.

The monk searches the room, finding nothing, he asks what is on the other side of the door.  I tell him that he needs to open it if he wants to know.

So the monk checks for traps, opens the door, and sees 40 or so goblins on the other side of the door.  The monk carefully closes the door, and tells the rest of the party.

Non Name and Mayhem open the door while this is going on, and proceed to go and kill all of the goblin warriors in the room.  Most of the goblins in the room are infirm, elderly or children.  The party enters, and No Name pantomimes that it is the Monk’s duty to go and kill the monster in the next room.

The party figures out that the goblin king is in the next room, and No Name and Mayhem have decided that the monk is going to be the next goblin king, assuming he can kill the current goblin king.

Taking a deep breath, the monk opens the door to the goblin king’s roost.  He finds a hobgoblin with partial plate armor and a really big sword.  Beside him is another hobgoblin with bones twisted in her hair.  The party decides that she is a goblin witch.

Now, I won’t go into a great amount of detail about this combat.  It was pretty sad and hopeless.  It should have been epic.  IT wasn’t.  It was really sad.

The monk and the barbarian massacred the two hobgoblins.  There was no BS about overpowered characters.  No whining about undue advantage of multiple strikes from characters.  None of that.

I rolled really crappily.  In four rounds of combat, the monk, warlock and barbarian rolled well.  Not spectacularly, but well.  They consistently did pretty good amounts of damage.

I rolled piss poor on every attack roll for the two monsters.  The monsters swished.  The monsters missed,  The monstres pissed.  It was bad.  The monsters did not get to use the skills that they learned in the trademark patented Watermark Ebberon Wide training

In the end, the monk is now the goblin king.  We will see what he does with that…

Tales from the Yawning Portal Episode 04

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I am sitting here in front of the computer, contemplating my last few days.  I took several days of vacation from work, and enjoyed a long weekend.  A five day weekend is a nice thing.  That being said, today is Sunday, the last day of the vacation.

The weather was nice.  It was cool and rainy on the first day, cool and cloudy on Thursday morning, but ended up being in the low to mid 70’s for the rest of the days.  Mostly sunny.  I spent a bunch of time outside in the back yard with the dogs.  They enjoyed being outside.  All three dogs weigh in a total of under 30 pounds.  They don’t have the body mass to stay outside for long.  Well, Ferdinand and Frida probably could, but Rocky gets cold.  He is a chihuahua mix, probably with Pomeranian.  Ferdinand is a mutt, who is likely mostly terrier.  Frida is another mutt, likely corgi and something else.  I mean, who would want to keep these dogs outside all day?

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Yes, I know, they look perfectly happy outside.  But that is with me.  They don’t want to just hang outside on their own.  They are much happier in their natural element, lounging on a couch.

Here Ferd and Rocky are in their natural element, keeping the couch safe, and me safe for that matter, as I am reading Call of Cthulhu adventures.

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Here Frida and Ferd are helping out, making sure that there aren’t too many treats left in the house.  They do a good job of making sure that when we buy treats, none go bad before they are consumed.

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Yes, there is a shipping box in the background, behind Rocky and Ferd.  We have a cat, Tora, who likes lounging in boxes.  So we keep a few strategically placed around the house for her to nap in.  It isn’t particularly classy, but then neither is our dining room, which is full of shelves of games, miniatures and painting equipment.

We have a three bedroom ranch house, with four people, three dogs and a cat.  Right now, with two teenagers each with their own room, I have not hobby room.  When one of the kids gets their own apartment, I will probably take over their old bedroom as a hobby room.  Now, I love having my kids around.  They are 16 and 18.  Both are interesting people and I love talking with them.  I enjoy having them around.  They are welcome to stay at home as long as they want.  This is especially important, since they are getting ready to go to college, and we have several good colleges within driving distance of the house.  My wife and I would love to have them stay at home, to reduce the cost of college… tuition, books and lab fees are killer enough, add room and board on top of that and it will be very expensive.  But, they will go to the college that suits them.

That being said, at some point, they will finish college, and want to have their own place.  So I figure that in 6 to 10 years, I will have a hobby room.  It all depends on whether the kids go just for a Bachelor’s or go on to a masters degree when they are at college.  I am a long range planning kind of guy.  At work, I always have a bunch of things in the hopper to keep things rolling along for the next 5 to 10 years.  At work, we are applying for grants right now that won’t be able to be worked on until 2021.  That means that I need to keep an eye on the current work load for my group, plus project out four years in the future, and make sure that we have stuff to do in the interim.

So what does all of this have to do with taking time off work?  Nothing.  My short vacation / long weekend ended up being a relaxing time of reading RPG books in the sun, catching up on a couple of movies that I wanted to watch, reading novels, taking dogs on walks, taking dogs to the dog park, driving to Guardian Games and looking around…

So on Wednesday, I took the dogs for a walk, and drove down to Guardian Games in Portland.  I love Guardian.  They have lots of neat stuff.  I can go down there and lose myself for several hours, just looking.

As I went through the boxes and bookshelves of RPG books… yes, there are amazing things to find there… I found a copy of the core book for TORG.  It was only the core book, not the cards, no adventures, just the core book.  TORG was my favorite RPG in college.  TORG stands for “The Other Roleplaying Game”.  TORG was awesome.  I won’t get into all of the details, but along with GURPS, Runequest, Call of Cthulhu, Rifts, Traveller, Harn… OK, TORG was one of my favorite games in college.

I won’t go into a lot of info about TORG, other than it is AWESOME

Wikipedia link to TORG

Ulisses Spiele is getting ready to Kickstart TORG Eternity at the end of this month (May 2017).

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I played a demo version of TORG Eternity at Gamestorm last March.  It was pretty much the same as I remember from college.  Now, that sounds bland and boring, but it wasn’t.  It was amazing.  They made it better.  Not that I am excited or anything…

So at Guardian, I bought the core book.  It was $10.  Now, if it had the cards, I would have paid a lot more.  But then, I can get PDF’s of the cards from the tubes of the Interwebs.

Now, if any of you are unfamilliar with why I say “tubes” when I talk about the Interwebs, here is Ted Stevens, US Senator from Alaska, describing how the Internet works, while vehemently opposing net neutrality.

So, not getting into great details of political discussion, but if the geezers in Senate and Congress know this little about what they are talking about with the tubes of the Internet, which are not trucks… how can they possibly understand what they are voting on for other items?  Especially when they openly admit that they haven’t read the bill in entirety?

But, don’t get me started.  This isn’t a partisan issue.  We could poke at the D’s and R’s, but the fact of the matter is that our Congress and Senate are passing massive bills, including some omnibus bills that they don’t even know what is in the text of the bill.

But back to the mini staycation.

I drank lots of coffee.  I blogged.  I went to the Post Office and became frustrated with Mr. Raider and the Blue Door.  I went and saw Guardians of the Galaxy 2 with my wife.

Now… GoG2 was OK.  I have to say that I really enjoyed the first GoG.  The second one was pretty OK.  Nothing in the movie shocked me.  Nothing was unexpected.  The Easter eggs were pretty easy to spot the first time through.  The problem that I am having with Marvel movies is that they are formulaic.  When they started, the formula was fresh.  non-stop action.  The party members bicker amongst themselves for the first half hour of the movie.  Something happens that is bad for the group of heroes.  55 minutes into the movie, there is a 20 minute nonstop high energy action scene where the heroes are unsuccessful.  They regroup, have some introspection, Stan Lee has a cameo.  Then have the final massive battle scene where they lay out the next movie in the franchise.  There may be minor fluctuations and variances in this formula, but each movie since Blade II pretty much follows this pattern.

The first dozen Marvel movies were fun.  The formula was interesting.  Now it is tired.  Stan Lee’s cameos are getting annoying.  I like Stan Lee.  He is a great showman.  But I don’t care about his cameos anymore.  In case you missed most of them, here are all of them in a row.

So, other than Stan Lee having some fun in the universe that he made, these don’t really add anything to the movie.  Stan deserves to be in the movies, even as a cameo.  I get that.  He brought almost all of these characters to life that we are watching in the Marvel movies.  But, at some point, it gets old.

GoG2 suffered from the same problem that almost all modern action movies suffer from.  overdoing it.  I don’t want to sound like an old fart, but over the last 30 years, action movies just keep pushing harder, to give you the full 120 minutes of action action action action action.  The storyline gets lost in the action.  After an extended non-stop action sequence, I lose interest.  I start thinking things like “how the hell does **insert hero here ** manage to be hit in the face 20 times, and not even have a bruise?  Now, I love Kung Fu movies.  Especially the ridiculous ones from China filmed in the 1970’s.  The action is comedic, slapstick.  You can appreciate that the people who are doing the stunts and fights are really doing the action sequences.  But when the action has 10 to 40 frames between cuts, and the CGI overpowers the movie, you know that it isn’t real.  I mean, I knew that the Kung Fu movies weren’t real.  But they were still real people doing extended scenes where they had to actually choreograph the scene without green screens and steel wires, and they actually do the stunts.

Now in all fairness to the actors in the Marvel movies, along with most Hollywood action movies,  they are actors first, and had to learn the craft of fighting.  The jump cuts, the short shots, CGI, green screens etc are there to make them look good.  Unfortunately, it has been done so much, that after the first few minutes of the extended 15 minute fight scene, car chase, etc, it just gets dull.  At least to me anyway.

Dredd was a pretty much non stop action scene.  But that was different for me.  First it was Judge Dredd.  Second, it was Carl Urban.  Third, it was Judge Dredd.  Dredd also mixed it up with some plot, and the movie wasn’t a non-stop action sequence.  OK, the crew served weapons shooting up the entire floor of the building was pretty much non-stop action, but that only lasted about 5 minutes.

Mad Max, Fury Road was a pretty much non stop action scene.  But that was also different for me.  I love the Mad Max story line.  I even watch the third one with Tina Turner.  Post apocalypse with car chases and brutal guns…  Even cray-cray Mel Gibson can’t turn me off to that.

GoG2 started off pretty cool.  I liked the opening fight scene with the credits.  I liked the way that it was all about young Groot.  But then, it got all creepy, with the CGI young Kurt Russel.  **shudder**.  I mean, was it necessary to do this?

Then it got worse, by bringing in Sylvester Stalone.  OK, I get it, each of the Ravager captains was an old action hero.  But why stop at Stalone?  Why not bring in the entire cast and crew of the Expendables 1, 2 and 3 to be the various captains of the Ravager ships?  They kind of did…

In the end, GoG2 was fun.  But it was too much for me.  I lost interest in the end.  When Yondu died, I didn’t care.  When the Ravagers came back and all fired off their fireworks for Yondu, I didn’t care.  I didn’t care that all of the Ravagers found out that Yondu didn’t break their code.  I didn’t care that Yondu killed off almost all of his crew.  I didn’t care that…  well, anything.  I did care that they had an extended 20 plus minute fight scene with old Kurt Russel, and thinking… and… well, I don’t care.  That was the problem.  I didn’t care about the movie, or the characters in the movie.  I was numb from all of the in your face action.

What was nice, was that I got to go to a movie and spend time with my wife.  That is always a good thing.  We had a nice time together.

So what else did I do on my staycation?  I read.  I drank coffee.  I ran a Call of Cthulhu game on Thursday night.  I took Rocky and Ferd to the vet on Friday to get nails trimmed, but Rocky needed to also have his annual exam and some shots.  Rocky was not pleased.  Ferd was happy, go lucky, Ferd.  Nothing gets that little guy down.  I left Frida at home.  She didn’t need anything at the vet, so I figured there was no reason to freak her out.  She doesn’t like the vet.

Saturday was D&D.  And that is why you are probably reading this blog, not to read my prattling on about how things go in our family.

The group met at Dice Age Games on Saturday.  Well, they met late.  The Hazel Dell Parade was going on, which meant that a bunch of streets were closed to allow people to have their annual parade.  This meant that some of the party members were late.  There is nothing wrong with parades, but when they get in the way of gaming, that could be cause for problems.  But, luckily, the parade only made Shari, Collin and Bill late, and did not make them miss the game.

The party kicked off from where they left off last week.  They were slightly bruised and damaged due to the interaction with the goblins and ogres.  The party didn’t think through the long rest thing.  They:

  • Killed off a bunch of skeletons and goblins
  • Left the bodies in the room
  • Took a long rest in a room with only one exit, the same one that the entered
  • Failed every perception check to hear the monsters outside

And the DM rolled twice for wandering monsters during the eight hour rest, and found that they got two sets of wandering monsters.  Now, who is to say that wandering monsters will just wander in, as opposed to setting up an ambush?  Monsters aren’t stupid.  They own the dungeon, and there is no reason to believe that they should be stupid, suicidal, or just rush in.  Why wouldn’t goblins set up an ambush?  Why wouldn’t goblins and ogres work together to protect their dungeon home?  The only reason why, according to the players is that it makes life challenging for the players.

The wandering monsters also didn’t fight to the death.  Now some of the players had an issue with that.  But, why would monsters fight to the death, especially goblins?  Who is to say that goblins would fight to the death, if they could scurry and scamper away to fight another day?

So the monsters aren’t stupid.  That isn’t what the party expects.  The monsters also start using strategy and tactics against the party.  That is also something that the party doesn’t expect.

The first thing that they party does is that they realize that they got pretty harshed after the last session, and they just finished their long rest.  That causes some problems.  Each of the players read the section on long rests and short rests several times, and determined that this was not good.  They couldn’t just take another long rest.  They had to do some adventuring in the meantime.  Damn that game balance.

Now, my form of DM’ing is pretty straight forward.  I like it when players have to make decisions.  Tough decisions.  Kind of the “Should I stay or should I go?” type of decisions.

One of the best songs.  EVER.

Anhow, this song pretty much describes how the party should be thinking.  “If I pop off my big spell on this bad guy… will there be another bad guy before I have a long rest?”

So I like to soften up the party with a couple of minor encounters that make them use up some boons, benefits, healing spells, Ki points, and maybe some of their big hard hitting things.  That way, they need to make some tough decisions when they get to a difficult spot.  The boss monster fight is always more interesting when the players realize that they are in trouble.

So the party heads out, and starts up the pathway.  They find themselves in a room, where the hallway continues to the north, but there is a door to the west.  The rogue checks the door for traps.  Finding none, the rogue thinks a long time, and the monk opens the door.  The room through the door is about 30-ft X 30-ft, empty except for a closed door to the north.

The rogue checks for traps, and finds a bell at the top of the door.  Anyone opening the door will trigger the bell.  This is kind of like the bells above the doors on any shop, where a person entering or exiting would make a dinging sound to alert the proprietor of the shop.  The rogue disarms the bell.  The monk opens the door, and is rewarded with several arrows thunking into the door next to him.  A glimpse in the room on the other side of the door shows the room’s floor has about 200 caltrops spread out on the floor, and there is a pony wall, about three feet tall with crenelations, at about 30-ft into the room.  On the other side of the pony wall the monk hears several gibbering voices.  Likely goblins.

The party thinks this could be a problem.  This is a kill box.  Something where the party will need to use strategy and tactics, otherwise, they will be killed.  Kill Box.  Klillbox. They don’t know it, but it is a kill box.  The monk figures out that this could be bad.  The rest of the party agrees.

What to do?  What to do?  Given that they have another area which is unexplored, they can go that way to see if that gets them around the killbox.  So they close the door, keeping the trap disabled and backtrack.  They go up the hallway, and pass several cells. The rogue and bard decide to go into the cells, after seeing something slightly shiny inside. The rogue and bard are attacked by giant rats.  Things are bad.  The rats are vanquished, but the rogue missed her constitution saving roll.  She now has a rat type disease… I need to determine what that is at a later date.

The party continues forward, finding another room.  I ask the monk, who is leading the party down the hall to make a perception check.  He misses miserably.  But it doesn’t matter, since the hinged pit trap at the entrance to the room is spiked closed.  The rogue sees it, and determines that neither trap in the room is going to be a bad thing, since both hinged pit traps are spiked and disabled.  Inside the large room is a fountain on the north wall, the entrance on the south wall, and a closed door on the west wall.  The fountain includes language in draconic.

The warlock checks for magic in the room.  The magic check returns “yes”, where the fountain, specifically the dragon’s mouth area returns a faint return of evocation magic.  Now this is where the warlock shows his true self.  He distrusts evocation magic.  So far, he has distrusted every type of magic he has found to date.  Not sure what a warlock is going to trust, but everything is bad to him.

The monk translates the draconic words, and decides it would be a bad thing to say out loud.  So he takes his finger and “draws” the meaning in common in the dust on the floor.  Unfortunately the monk spent way too much time practicing fighting, and not enough time writing with his finger on dusty floors.  The draconic saying was “Let there be death”.  Unfortunately, Brian rolled  3 when I asked him for a wisdom saving throw, and he actually wrote “Let’s their dearth be” in common.  The party is confused.  Brian, flustered, decided that he would say the words in draconic, just to show the party that he really understood the meaning of the words in draconic.  That is bad.

The fountain includes a dragon’s head, with tubes coming out of the fountain to the dragon’s mouth.  The barbarian and the rogue are investigating it when the monk says (in draconic) “Let There Be Death”.  And the fountain spews green gas out of the dragon’s mouth.  This poisons the rogue and the barbarian.  The gnome warrior made his saving roll, so he wasn’t poisoned.  As near as I can tell, the barbarian, gnome and rogue were hoping that they would be able to bottle some of the good stuff, given what they learned from the last dragon fountain.  It didn’t work out in their favor this time either.

The green gas partially fills the room.  It really is more of a nuisance than anything else, and causes them to not have easy access to the door on the west wall.  The door on the west wall also includes a hinged floor trap that has been spiked to disable the trap.  The party opens the door, revealing several giant rats and a ginormous momma rat.  Things don’t go well for the party, as the rats do some nasty damage to them, but eventually, they kill the rats.

The party goes in and checks out what is in the room.  The cleric finds some useful stuff.  There is a corpse of a ranger, with a ring that has “Karakas” etched on the inside.  There is also a good longbow, with six arrows, some leather armor, and some other odds and ends.  The monk takes the longbow with six arrows.

They also find a bottle.  The warlock tries to determine what sort of magic is in this bottle, but he can’t.  So the bard and cleric decide to give it a try.  Now the cleric doesn’t have any ability to find arcane magic.  Neither does the bard.  But the bard is willing to take a swig of one of the bottles.  He drinks half of the bottle, and feels really good.  It has a minty, alcohol type taste.  Unfortunately, since he drank half the healing potion, nothing happens, other than he feels good.  He also left the other half useless.  Since you need to drink the entire potion, and drinking half effectively only makes it half useless.

At this point, the party decides now would be a good time to rest.  They need a long rest.  They have popped off their spells, taken damage, etc.  So they formulate a plan.  They decide that since the poison gas has dissipated, they can unspike the traps, resetting them, and they can rest in this room.  It still is pretty much a dead end, but the traps will make it deadly for anyone entering.

I clarify… “both traps?”, “yes, both traps.”

Now this is the type of DM that I am.  If a player throws a dagger in combat, and they don’t say that they are going to retrieve it, they lose it.  Same with arrows.  Same with other things.

The players reset the traps, and when the long rest was over, they didn’t spike them to unset them.

So the  warlock has an idea.  He wants to know if he can go into the momma rats room, and blast his way through the rock walls using the Eldritch Blast cantrip.  First, he wants to know how thick the wall is between the south wall of the momma rats room, and the north wall of the room with the goblin archers.

Now this is where it is important to recap.  The party unset all of the floor traps when they took a long rest.  This was to make it harder for someone to enter during the long rest.  The party reset none of the floor traps before the warlock walked over one in an attempt to check out the momma rat room.  The warlock fails his perception roll, steps on the trap, and falls 20-ft into a shaft that has water at the bottom, but mercifully no iron spikes.  He takes some damage, and is now covered in vile stinky water, with something else in it.  Where is that Prestidigitation spell when you need it?  The monk pulls out a rope, and tries to help the warlock out.  The warlock bones his climbing roll, and after falling back into the stinky water, ends up getting out.

I am not sure how, but the barbarian made it into the trap also.  I don’t remember, I think that she tried to jump across the pit, and failed her saving throw.  The party got everyone out, and respiked the pit traps, to make them “safe” again.

The warlock used his stone tugging skills, maybe it was his shaft wiping skills to determine what the distance is between the rooms, and rolls a 2.  He is convinced it is something like 50-ft of solid stone.  Well, it is actually only 5-ft, but he rolled really poorly.  Now this is a pretty good idea.  The party talked about tunneling through, to get around the caltrops, or possibly causing a distraction, to keep the goblin archers busy while the rest of the party attacked through the caltrop room.

They knew that they had to do something interesting, because a frontal assault through the caltrop room would be deadly.

Imagine walking through a room with over 200 of these strewn on the floor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Being goblin caltrops, they probably have lots of nasty goo and poop spread on them also.  Mike, remembered caltrops from Car Wars, and asked if he could get by them without being damaged, if he rolled a 5 or 6 on the d6…

Nope.  This is D&D, not Car Wars,.

So the warlock eldritch blasts the wall.  I ask him some questions… head on, at an angle, how close is he…  He places his figure right at the wall, and rolls the dice.  Now, I thought of hitting him with the ricochet, and other material.  But he was only peppered with rocks after getting a good 6-inch cavity in the rock wall, but the most problematic thing was that the ceiling was starting to look like it would cave in.  His rock skills also told him that if the wall was 50-ft thick, then he would fill the momma rat room before he got through.  He decided that this might not be a good way to get through.

So the party backtracks, back to where the caltrop room was.  They hide in the door, hoping that they can get the goblins to pop out.  Unfortunately, the makeup of the door is such that only two of them can get in per round.  The goblins shoot, the party shoots, the goblins shoot, the party shoots.  The monk took the longbow with six arrows from the room with the ranger corpse.  He used three of the six arrows shooting at the goblins behind the pony wall.

Spells are cast. then the gnome warrior has an amazing idea.  He is going to take the shield of the cleric, and use it as a plow, to clear out a path in the caltrops.  It takes him two rounds to get across the room.  The barbarian and the warlock come in right behind.  Shots are exchanged, and as soon as the gnome D4 bulldozer gets to the pony wall, the barbarian hops up and over to kill the goblins, only goblins are gone.  They have retreated to another door on the south side of the room.  They went down a long hall and around a corner.

The rest of the party catches up.  No one bothers to take any of the caltrops.  They do look for treasure.  The cleric finds rancid jerked meat, spoiled wine in skins and useless material.  The rogue figures that she is a better investigator than the cleric, so Sue looks at me, rolls the d20 and says “I check for treasure”.  She finds rancid jerked meat, spoiled wine in skins and useless material.  I didn’t get a finger wag, but it was close.  The finger was twitching, almost ready to pop out and shake at me.   I could see that Sue was considering her options.

Nobody recovered arrows.  that is going to be a bad thing I suppose.

The party went down the hall, and turned the corner, and saw a long room…  On the south side of the room were three straw filled human sized mannequins.  These appeared to be used for arrow practice.  To the north side of the room, they saw another pony wall with crenelations.  At the far north end of the room was a door.  The monk said “I got this”, or actually decided that this was not a good thing to get into right off the bat.  The problem was this was another kill box.  The monk also heard a bunch of snickering giggles that sounded like goblin talk.  The monk didn’t know how many goblin archers were on the other side of the pony wall, but he knew that goblin archers hurt… a lot.

The players spend about five minutes talking among themselves about how to take this group of goblins out.   The problem is that the original six goblins behind the wall sent one of the goblins for help, and after a few minutes arrived with another six goblins.  Now the party had to deal with two sets of six goblin archers, with a wall to protect them.

The barbarian says “I got this”, or maybe it was “Bubba, hold my beer”.  Shari walks out into the room, picks out one of the straw targets and begins walking forward, using the straw target as a shield.  The goblins pop out and pepper the barbarian with arrows, knocking her down to less than 0 hit points.

The bard decides that it is time to see if there is a good way to defuse this situation.  He calls out in goblin “We slaves are here to surrender”.  Half the goblins are having none of it.  The other half move forward to the barbariancorpse to see what is going on.  The monk moves in and tries to create modern art out of the goblins.  He kills one, but the other five are not affected by his puny attacks (Brian rolled poorly).  The rest of the party rolls into the kill box and starts killing the remaining goblin archers that are in the kill zone.  Then the bard has a moment of inspiration.

On his action, the bard pulls out a handful of silver coins, and throws them back in the corner behind the pony wall.  The six goblin archers drop their bows and arrows and proceed to start fighting among themselves to pick up the thrown coins.  As the party kills off the remaining goblins that came up to take the slave prisoners, the other goblins are beating each other senseless trying to get the coins.

In the end, the party took six goblin archers prisoner.  At this point, the goblins are knocked out, but they may be useful in some way.

So as my short staycation ends, I am thinking about what needs to happen in the next week.  I have been subpoenaed to testify as an expert witness in one court case on Thursday afternoon.  I also was contacted by another attorney who told me that he may call me as a witness on Monday or Tuesday of next week, but no subpoena yet.  Part of the job.  I also will have about a gajillion emails to work through on Monday morning.  What fun!

Call of Cthulhu – Terror From The Skies Episode 05

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Last night, the intrepid party started back on the trail to figure out exactly what they needed to do to survive, and or succeed at the Call of Cthulhu adventure.  The party realizes that the best thing that they can do is follow the lead to the Moors, to visit Seth Gray at Hob Lea House near Ugthorpe.  Now according to Wikipedia:

In the 1930s, Ugthorpe had two cobblers, a watchmaker, a joiner and a bacon factory with its own slaughterhouse.

The Wiki article goes on to talk about how slaughtering of animals occurred on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  All useful information, but not terribly good for adventuring.  It is good to know that there was a bacon factory there.  That means that no matter how bad things get, there will always be the good possibility of some bacon.

So the party gets onto the bus, and rides from Whitby to Ugthorpe.  The bus to Ugthorpe has some difficulty making it up the steep hill leading out of Whitby and the nurse is concerned that the bus might also have difficulty stopping on the way back down.

The bus does not go into the village of Ugthorpe itself. The stop is on the moor road; they
must walk from there, which should take them about half an hour.

The party must find Hob  Lea house. Most of the party goes into the pub.  The people who went into the pub immediately become consumed by the local beer, which is watered down, the wine is from Slovenia and the liquor tastes like it wasn’t aged more than a few minutes.

The doctor and nurse go to the post office and ask how to get to the Hob Lea House.  The postmaster gives good directions.  Note that the 1929 British postal service has good customer service, as opposed to the shite that exists at the Vancouver Washington post office on Caples Rd, especially with Mr. Raiders near the blue door.  Yes, I am talking about you, you horrible excuse for a stereotypical government worker.

The party needs to walk a couple of miles to get to the Hob Lea House.  Everything in Britain seems to be a two mile walk.  The walk is easy, and nothing happens untoward the party, at least that is what they decide happens, regardless of what the adventure says.

On arrival, there is a considerable delay after ringing the bell while Seth hobbles to the door. He is highly suspicious of the people at his door initially, but once the doctor introduces the them group as friends of Frederick’s and show Seth the journal, he is reassured and lets them in.  The house is in surprisingly good order for one so obviously infirm.

Seth offers them tea and cake and insists on serving it in the well appointed parlor before discussing anything.

He was disturbed, but not surprised, by his friend’s death. (The papers are delivered every day.  This all began for him about seven years ago when he met Jake Pearson at a spiritualist meeting.  Neither of them was impressed with the medium or the séance, but Jake had some interesting things to say and Seth liked him. They became friends and went to a number of supposedly paranormal events, all of which turned out to be rather
obviously faked. In frustration they tried to debunk them, usually unsuccessfully, until one night when they were helped out by another member of the audience, Elliot Elder. He really seemed to know what he was doing and they teamed up for a while. Elliot then introduced them to three like-minded individuals, Alex Hunt, Michael Green and Steven Mason.

They all got on well and when Elliot suggested forming an investigative group they readily agreed. Fortunately, as he was only slightly less infirm then, it didn’t involve too much travel on his part. What travel there was involved libraries or book shops of one kind or another. It was fascinating researching and resolving mysteries in the real world. As his group spent most of their time proving that there were no real supernatural agents involved, it seemed they were at least doing no harm, and perhaps occasionally even some good. Besides, he had recently retired (he was a bookseller and librarian before that) and needed something worthwhile to do.

After the first couple of years, however, the group witnessed certain events that convinced them that some of these things were real. After that they began to investigate in earnest and it all became very serious. About a year ago, they got a hint of something really big. Elliot and the rest of the Seth Gray group went all around the country following leads and they became quite obsessed. Seth even tried to put them off once or twice, but they were always able to come up with evidence that he was unable to dismiss. He doesn’t remember any details. The investigators should be given the impression that his general infirmity has sidelined him.

With his more disinterested perspective, and perhaps a little hindsight, he thinks that the things they had been investigating noticed them in turn, and he is now sure that they are after them.

He thinks his group is being eliminated because whatever was being planned is about to come to fruition. About six weeks ago, he and Elliot had the impression that something new was happening, leading to the opposition being much more watchful and aggressive. For the last month especially, Seth’s group had all become more concerned
with their security than investigation. He suspects that someone trailed them to Whitby; but can’t be sure who, and now probably never will be. He has avoided the place himself for the last fortnight.

Worse, they never found out exactly what the opposition was up to, although he’s fairly certain that whatever they are doing—or invoking—needs people to help, and this, according to Seth, “allows you to stay ahead of them if you keep moving.”  He tells them that although he doesn’t know what the prime movers in this plot actually are, he is sure they are not human.

He believes he has been too isolated for the opposition to find him so far, but it’s only a matter of time before they do. Elliot’s last visit was a risk, but they were both sure Eliot’s turn was next, and he couldn’t refuse to help his friend. As Seth is the expert on magic—yes it really exists—they spent the day trying to decide what they were facing and which defense would be best. He’d gathered the spell components here and Elliot took them back with him. He’s eager to know if Elliot made up the Baneful Dust of Hermes Trismegistus.  Seth is ecstatic that the party was able to concoct the dust from the spell components, and he explains the use of the dust and says that he has other spells and weapons that might come in useful. The nurse rolls well on psychology, and determines that he is genuinely scared despite his placid appearance.

Before doing anything else, he tells the party as much of the background as he can.

The link between the church at Shelborough and what is happening now seems to be an old, pre-Celtic cult, worshipping a deity named Azathoth. Most of his references suggest it is archaic, centered in the south west, but now moribund there.

Elsewhere, however, things are different. Old cult centers have been revived and others have appeared in entirely new locations. They must have been established relatively recently, a few decades ago at most; some only a few years ago. He has uncovered hints of ceremonies being conducted in the most isolated places on the North York Moors, and
he suggests this as their best line of investigation. He only knows of one specific location, Lilla Howe, which is on the other side of Whitby and some distance from Ugthorpe, a fact for which he is very glad. He doesn’t remember anything else useful, offhand. For more information they have to look in the library.

The library is the largest room in the house but, in contrast to the other rooms, is completely disorganized.  There are books and papers packed onto shelves from floor to ceiling and piled on the carpet, the desk, the tables and chairs. Seth apologizes for the mess, “it isn’t usually quite this bad.” He re-emphasizes that most of his recent research has been defensive and increasingly desperate, so tidiness and order have gone out of the window.

Unfortunately, Seth has no catalog or guide to his library or research; it is like Elliot’s journal. He just remembers where everything was, and now that it is all out of order he can’t find anything. The players make library rolls, hoping that this means something good.  Not in this case, those that are successful are disappointed; they realize that the task is far too great for one day’s effort.

Seth tells the party that the Baneful Dust should work on shantaks, Xiclotlan, and star vampires, and the sort of effects it has on them.  Unfortunately Seth can’t tell them much more about these creatures than their names, other than that star vampires can become invisible, shantaks can probably fly and Xiclotlan may be some kind of plant.

As there is no practical way of returning to Whitby today, the Party will have to spend the night. The house is very large and has enough bedrooms for the whole party.  The rooms are well furnished and decorated, and in the same immaculate condition as the rest of the house. Seth insists on having a bite of supper first; it is beautifully prepared and presented, even though he doesn’t enter the kitchen during their stay.

The party is convinced that something bad will happen.  I am not sure of where this type of concern comes from.  They set up watches, or at least a few of the characters do.  During the night, several characters miss their Spot Hidden rolls, so even though they are “watching”, they don’t hear anything.  Matthew does hear something.  It sounds like the scraping of a chair on the floor.  He decides to go investigate.

Matthew isn’t sneaky enough, and he comes face to face with a small golem like creature that looks like this:

Capture

This is where the different players show their true selves.  I show the picture to Matthew, but other players insist on seeing the critter, even though they are really sleeping.  Most players say “wow, that is ugly”.  Jason says “Wow, he is even anatomically correct”  Now Jason only got a short look at the picture.  What does that say about Jason?  I don’t know.  But he tends to play debutante characters who try to use their feminine wiles on any male character that he can benefit from… in the event that doesn’t work, then he flashes his boobs.  The critters are cleaning up the house.

In the morning, as with every morning the investigators spend here, the whole house, including the library, is spick and span, with breakfast laid out.  In the library, the things they need for that day, including Mythos items and tomes, are laid out on the desk for them by the Hob, with the appropriate spells already written down. This allows the investigators to circumvent the requirement of reading a lot of books, for which they simply do not have time.

The  items consist of a map showing Lilla Howe and an old reference to sites of Azathoth worship that mentions it. When he sees this, Seth remembers that he got this, along with quite a lot of old Celtic Gods material, from a professor at Durham University; one of the few places he has traveled to in the last couple of years. The professor’s name was Benjamin Graham, (a name they have from Elliot’s journal). There is a bus timetable with the Ugthorpe and Flask Inn stops circled.

Two spells have been copied out; these are Voorish Sign and the Healing spell which have been prepared for them by the Hob. The doctor grabs the spells, and reads them taking some sanity damage.  He is able to cast either at will, assuming he has the requisite magic points.

Now this is where I get frustrated with Call of Cthulhu, as a game.  The game is full of anachronisms.  You have to accept that the game adventures have plot holes.  But in this case, the two spells are not in either the CoC 5.6 book, the CoC 6.0 book, nor the newest CoC 7.0 book.  On top of that, the spells are not listed in this adventure book.  This makes it kind of hard to apply the spells in the role playing environment, if the attributes are not listed.

At least it is not as frustrating as being ignored by Mr. Raider by the Blue Door of the Caples Avenue Post Office in Vancouver Washington.  Yes, I am talking about you, you sorry excuse for a federal worker.  It is people like you and your “Stand Down” comments that give all government workers bad names.  People like you create frustration to the unwashed masses who must deal with your ineptitude.

Where was I?  Oh yeah, I was going on and on about Mr. Raider at the Blue Door.  Before that, I was whining about having to actually use my imagination while running an RPG.

The party catches the Scarborough bus at the same stop on the moor road they used yesterday. They have to wave down the bus; this is a request stop only, as is their destination. They have to ask the driver to let them off at the Flask Inn, as he doesn’t recognize Lilla Howe.

Seth does not accompany them due to the state of his health. The trip obviously requires a long walk over the moors and besides, he is in no fit state to defend himself if there are fisticuffs, and he doesn’t want to be a burden to them.

The bus stop is right outside the Flask Inn, a 16th century coaching inn, which provides accommodation as well as beer and food. The landlord has enough rooms for the party, including the two other guests currently staying at the inn.

The adventure states “A successful Navigate roll finds the appropriate path behind the inn.”Now nobody in the group has tried to take any great navigation.  Eric’s Traveler has taken 30 points, but fails to make his navigation skill check.  The rest of the party all has 10% in navigation… which isn’t easy to roll.  Nobody makes the navigation skill check.

Now, for a long time, I have disagreed with the Gumshoe type of game.  The Gumshoe game exists because people thought that Call of Cthulhu would come to a bad pause, or the adventure would not be workable if the party failed their rolls.  I like a lot of what Kenneth Hite writes.  He is brilliant.  but in the beginning section of Trail of Cthulhu, the author writes:

Another part of what makes Call of Cthulhu so great is its emphasis on investigation, on gathering clues instead of treasure. We designed GUMSHOE to make that easier, clearer, and more direct. GUMSHOE exists to solve a problem that many people found with running Call of Cthulhu – one bad die roll can derail an adventure. You didn’t find the diary, so you didn’t get the spell, so either Arkham is destroyed or the Keeper has to scuttle ‘round and plant the diary somewhere else.  In Trail of Cthulhu, the GUMSHOE rules guarantee that you will find that diary. (We don’t promise not to destroy Arkham.) This is not the entirety of what GUMSHOE offers, but it was the starting point for GUMSHOE’s laser-like focus on investigation.

For the most part, I disagree with this statement.  However, sometimes, it is true.  The party didn’t find the path.  Was this because the character builds were unbalanced?  Probably.  Several of the characters are built with the intent of being awesome at one thing.  The doctor is awesome at doctoring.  The nurse is awesome at nursing.  The private investigator is awesome at fighting, shooting and dodging.  Jason’s Dilettante is good at showing her boobs at NPC’s.  All good stuff.  But in the more mundane stuff, if you don’t take any points, and only one character is minorly good at mundane tasks, then this can be a problem for the adventure.

The basic idea behind Call of Cthulhu is that all of the party members are average, or maybe a little above average.  When a character is built to start out with 23 hit points, and have skills that are automatic success, there is no risk to the player.  If the player has a high dodge, and has an excellent chance to make their dodge, let along burn some luck points to make the dodge repeatedly, then there is no challenge for combat.  Wade in with the Deep Ones and duke it out.  Building a character to have 90 sanity doesn’t make that character have to make any challenging decisions because they know that they will almost always be completely unfased by seeing something bad.

When the player takes a high shooting skill, then there is no problem with shooting the shit out every monster they see.  Now, you will see in a little while that the party struggles with the fact that they have great shooting, dodge, brawling skills, but few players can throw well.   The constant success of normal combat causes the players some consternation because I hold them to some of the rules such as needing to “throw” the baneful dust.

The challenge with introducing players to Call of Cthulhu is that most players come from Pathfinder or D&D, where the game is balanced and centered around the idea that you are doing everything possible to become a super hero or god (hopefully not a God).  The entire play structure is centered around you level up, you get tougher, you get more better faster and cause more damage with more powerful weapons and magic… and the monsters get more, better, faster, and tougher also.  The entire play of Pathfinder and D&D, along with a long list of other RPG’s are based on the idea that the balance comes from the fact that you get tougher as you go along.

In Call of Cthulhu, you never get tougher.  You get better at skills.  You get better at skills by using the skills.  You learn from failure.  It doesn’t make sense that a player would start out the game with a 90% chance to make a medicine roll.  It doesn’t make sense that the player would start out with a 90 sanity.  Nor does it make sense that a player would have a 70% chance to shoot and hit, along with a 60% chance to dodge.

This is complicated by the fact that instead of a normal 4-person game session, there are 8 or 9 super hero players in the game.  The game isn’t balanced for that.  So I improvise, first for the number of players, second for the overpowered players in the group.  The problem with this is that it is remarkably easy to kill player characters off.  If the player has 10 hit points, and the monster does 2d6 normal damage + 2d6 bonus damage, one mediocre hit can kill a player character.  That isn’t fun for the party.  So how to balance the game?  That is a good question.  I have doubled up on the monsters, but that only makes it more deadly, not necessarily more challenging.

Lilla Howe is a roughly two mile walk from the road, up a mild incline and across open moorland. Investigators that are used to the bustle of the city are struck by the barren wilderness and isolation. The mound itself is huge and unmistakable, dominating its surroundings. The party sees that the mound is artificial, likely a burial mound or barrow. Circling the its base is a ring of stunted Hawthorns, leaning over from the strong winds that blow unimpeded across the otherwise bare hillside.

The path becomes increasingly overgrown as they approach the mound, suggesting several decades of disuse.

As they make their way through the ring of trees and climb to the top, the view is spectacular; open moorland falling away on all sides. The Flask Inn can be clearly seen, as can rain clouds scudding up the moors. They can see and be seen for miles around; The party believes that it is unlikely that anything could happen up here without someone seeing it. There is a simple stone cross on the summit; looking to be a couple of hundred years old.

Coming back down through the trees, the party sees a standing stone. It is roughly conical, lichen covered, and very worn.  It appears to be very ancient, many centuries older than the cross on the summit. The party sees a small carving on it, weathered almost to illegibility.  It appears to be a carving of an insect of some kind, perhaps a wasp. The party realizes that there is something not right about it, without being sure of exactly what.

There are other standing stones on either side, about five meters away.  The party realizes there is a full ring of stones surrounding the barrow, partially hidden in the low, thick undergrowth.  They are all the same roughly-pyramidal shape. Neither the shape, nor the position of the stones in a circle round the bottom of the barrow, is typical of stone circles; if they research it later, they discover that it is unique.

While the Party is still in the ring of trees. Loren is convinced that the trees on either side of the overgrown path do not look quite the same as they did on the way in, as though one of them had moved.  A larger version of the tree like creatures from the first adventure attacks skientist, the doctor and the nurse.

The combat is brief and brutal.  The skientist (in pants) is dropped to one hit point,  The doctor is knocked out.  The nurse is grappled and takes damage.

Now this is where the question of balancing the player attributes goes.  The nurse is convinced that she can take a container of the Baneful Dust and pour it on the tree that has grappled her.  The adventure clearly says that the player needs to use their throw skill.  The problem is that only Matthew has a decent throw skill.

Summer is not happy, since she is in a bad situation.  She wants an easy out, to kill the tree like monster with the Baneful Dust.  So I ask her… “The monster has grappled one of your arms and is shaking you around and you are off the ground.  How do you, in one combat turn take one free hand, pull a screw top metal canister out of a closed pouch, then unscrew the lid, and pour it onto the monster, while you are being shaken like a rag doll?”  Summer doesn’t like this.  She tells me that she has good combat skills, just not good throwing skills.  I am open to some explanation of how this could occur, but it seems like this is a problem that can’t be solved with only one free hand.

Eventually, the party kills off the two tree like creatures.  The players shoot guns at them. They throw Baneful Dust at them, and eventually kill the two creatures off.

The party goes back to the Flask Inn.  It is raining on the way back, and several of the players lose some temporary constitution points due to being soaked to the bone.

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After a good meal served in the lounge, the party find the Inn’s other customers highly amenable and they join the investigators’ table to chat at the slightest inducement. They
are all locals except for one holidaymaker. As they are in an isolated inn on the moors, the conversation inevitably turns to the supernatural, even if the investigators don’t bring it up; more enthusiastically if they do.

If the investigators ask about local cults they are told that there are old tales of  weird ceremonies up on the moors but nobody goes there now.

  • A local farmer mentions more recent odd happenings, complaining that when his sheep wander in the direction of Bloody Beck and the wood near there they tend to disappear.
  • Another says there is a good reason for it being called Bloody Beck and that nobody goes there at night, as it has a reputation for being haunted.
  • A third man says that those that go come back with no memory of it except for being scared, and never go there again.  If the investigators ask, they are told that this has only been going on for a couple of years or so.

As soon as Bloody Beck is mentioned, a young man with an obviously non-local accent joins them. Everyone around their table except the holidaymaker knows it, though, and will happily tell the investigators if they ask, as will the landlord. the man is a student up at Durham University and is often seen around here, doing some sort of research, they’re not sure what.

The man derides all the tales as foolish superstition.  Abandoning such outdated ideas and using science is the only way to understand the world, and that the sooner everyone thinks this way the better.

A farmer says that there is more in heaven and earth than is known in the realms of science. The man replies that science’s remit is in all realms. The holiday maker says that such superstitions are part of the richness of the history and culture of the island.

The man eventually leaves the table, saying: “I leave you to your olden tales.” He doesn’t leave the inn, but goes to bed in an upstairs room; he and the holidaymaker are the two other guests.

During the night, the skientist awakens to the sound of the door to one of the other rooms opening. She hears footsteps going along the corridor and down the stairs, both of which are old and creaky.  The skientist decides that she knows who this is, her kindered spirit, the scientist.  The scientist is trying to be quiet.  The skientist in pants goes and knocks on the doors of the other party members to tell them what is going on.  Now, this is another location where the Gumshoe mentality would work.  Nobody wants to go out tonight.  They are all snug in their beds.  The doctor is complaining about being hurt.  You would think that being a hero of the Great War, he would be up for adventure, even if he got his butt kicked.  But no.  He needs to be convinced.  He looks out the window, and sees that the scientist (not the skientist in pants) is walking away from the inn, in the direction of the earlier massacree on the barrow.  Once the doctor sees that this is a replay, he decides that it is best not to go. The party convinces him that he needs to go.

The Scientist is a long way ahead, apparently distracted by thoughts of something and deafened by the strong wind that is tearing over the moors (the rain has stopped). He is oblivious to the following party.  Maybe he is a bad guy, and thinks that the monsters in the wood will automatically attack any non-cultists they see.  Maybe not.  Maybe he is just trying to get out of town before the encyclopedia salesmen arrive.

The party follows the scientist back to Lilla Howe.  The sight that meets their eyes is a
large pyramid, made of some unidentifiable material, set in a clearing, surrounded by people. About a dozen of them are wearing ordinary clothes, but are getting undressed. Three others stand out from the crowd: they recognize the scientist (oh, be still, the beating heart of the skientist in pants… or the heavy thump thump of your heart will give you away!) , the other two are musicians; a naked drummer and a female flautist wearing only a cat mask. As they watch, the scientist dons a white cloak decorated with an unknown symbol on its front and a mask, making him the only one to remain clothed.

The ceremony begins with the scientist speaking to the assembled company, saying; “Welcome my Azazel, welcome all, welcome to Bloody Beck, welcome to your moment of perfection. Join hands in a ring, Azazel. [They do]. Listen to the music, Azazel [The drummer and flautist begin to play] and dance, dance around the ship.

[They start to dance around the pyramid in the center].  Now chant, Azazel, chant!”
(The private investigator knows that Azazel is a biblical reference. It is the name of a fallen angel to whom the scapegoat was sent to be sacrificed.)

They begin chanting “Azazel, Azazel, Xada-Hygla, Xada-Hygla, ’round the world, ’round the world” over and over, holding hands in a ring and dancing around the pyramid. The dancers and the central pyramid start to glow, gradually getting brighter and brighter until the dancers dissipate, just as dawn breaks,

Oh yeah, just at the dawn breaks, Matthew takes a single stick of dynamite, lights it and throws it at the pyramid.  Now, I asked him several times if he was throwing one stick of dynamite, or 10.  I also asked him a couple of times if he was throwing it at the pyramid, or at the crowd of dancers.  He repeated that he was throwing one stick at the pyramid.  Now, I did this for a reason.  If he had stopped the dancers from finishing the spell (presumably by throwing a stick of dynamite at one or more of the dancers), then he would have stopped the ceremony, which would have stopped the spell, which would have yielded good things.  For instance all of the investigators would have recovered up to 1d6 sanity.  If he had thrown six or more sticks of lit dynamite at the pyramid, he would have damaged the pyramid to the point where the spell would have stopped, yielding the same result,  1d6 sanity regained by the players.

Had he saved the day, it would have been like this:

But, he didn’t.  So they didn’t.  As dawn broke, and several winged devil looking creatures flew over the party, killing all of the naked dancers.  It was probably closer to this, than Cat Stevens.

When the flying creatures finished killing all of the people, they flew into the pyramid, and with a great flash, the pyramid disappeared.

Now the doctor took a total of 15 sanity points damage during this specific adventure.  He has a permanent ailment, as he is now permanently scared of flying monsters, and if he sees any flying monsters, he will immediately attack, nothing will stop him.  The skientist also is affected.  She is afraid of women.  heh heh heh.

The doctor realizes that only the scientist, and the two musicians are still around.  Everyone else is gone.  The private investigator realizes that after watching all of the dancers be gutted, and cut to pieces, there are no bodily remains on the grass.  They are all gone. The private investigator goes “gurk”, or some such thing as his sanity is lowered.  Then he informs everyone else that the bodies are completely gone.  No gore, no guts, nothing.  The party also has to make sanity checks.

The doctor loses it.  He punches out two of the cultists, then walks up to the scientist and shoots the scientist in the knee.  Now, I figure that this is understandable, since he lost 15 sanity points this adventure.  Things are not going well for the doctor.  He now has some decent Cthulhu mythos, but is quickly slipping away.

The adventure is not over yet.  They have some more to do in the next session.

 

 

The United States Post Office Is Doomed To Fail.

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The USPS is not capable of customer service.  I get it.  But, they are doomed to fail.  Email, DHL, Fed Ex and others are going to get rid of this dinosaur because the other methods of moving media are more efficient.

That being said, the USPS isn’t helping themselves.

Last year, I backed a Kickstarter campaign for the 20th anniversary edition of Deadlands.  I was stoked.  Most of my Deadlands stuff is printed out from PDF’s that I bought.  I printed the books out at Office Despot, and had them put clear plastic sheets on the front and back, and spiral bind the materials.  I have been able to purchase some of the physical books, mostly from used game / used book stores.

But the possibility of getting a printed book in color!  What a great thing!

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So I pledged.  After the short Kickstarter campaign was over,  two of my friends who also are huge Deadlands fans found out about it, and were unhappy, since they were not able to get in on the short campaign.  OK, the campaign was plenty long, I assumed that they knew about the campaign, they didn’t.  So it was obviously too short for them, right?  Anyhow, I figured out that I could purchase extra books as part of the backer kit.

Pinnacle Entertainment Group also ran a simultaneous campaign for a fourth book in the Savage Worlds campaign.  Good Intentions.

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So I patiently wait.  OK, maybe not patiently.  I am pretty stoked about this.  I wasn’t playing games when Deadlands came out.  I had a 15 year gap or so in when I stopped playing games, then restarted.  I stopped playing games when I graduated from college, because I was an adult, and adults don’t do that type of stuff.  Well, yes they do.  About 10 years ago or so, I started playing games again, and have been playing catch up on all of the great RPG’s that I missed out on.  Some people go out and buy a Porsche as their midlife crisis.  I am a big guy.  I am tall, and not height-weight proportionate.  I don’t fit in a Porsche.  So I guess I went back to what I loved in my childhood, games.

So I was stoked.  A chance to get a limited edition book that includes full color artwork.  I also had two friends who wanted the book.  So they gave me money, and I ordered extra books on the Backerkit for them.

Then, out of the blue, I get an email on May 5, 2017 from Peginc saying that the package is coming!  Woot!  Every day, I click on the tracking number, watching the package on its journey across the nation, coming to my door, or at least I hoped it was coming to my door.

Now, I should say that this is the only package I have had this problem with from the USPS.  In other cases, the USPS has delivered packages to other houses.  In some cases, the USPS signs all of the packages as being delivered the first thing in the morning, followed by the package actually showing up on my doorstep after 6 PM.  This seems to happen more often during Christmastime.  We had one package delivered with a Christmas present for my daughter which the USPS signed as delivered at noon, but they delivered it to a house that was several miles away.  Thankfully for us, the people who got the package were honest, and they brought it to us themselves.

Anyhow, none of this is as bad as what I saw with the delivery of a traffic signal cabinet for work a few years ago from a major trucking service.  The shipper forged my signature as accepting the traffic signal cabinet and pallet of materials to go in the cabinet.  This was about $40,000 worth of equipment.  In the end, we spent four days working with the delivery company, and they found that it was damaged at the dock of their Portland sorting sight, and some people at the company didn’t want to be on the hook for damaging the freight, so they “lost it” behind a dumpster and forged the delivery signature.  The two pallets were very large.  The pallet with the traffic signal cabinet was the full size of a shipping pallet, but the box itself was over 6-ft tall.  The other pallet of all of the ancillary equipment was a full shipping pallet, with equipment boxes that stood about 4-ft high.  This was not something that could be “lost” easily.

Anyhow, it took four days for the shipper to find the package on their own site.  We never heard what happened.  In the end, it all worked out.  The shipper had to send it back to the manufacturer.  The manufacturer had to rebuild the damaged cabinet and resupply the damaged equipment.  I am sure that it all was paid for by the shipper’s insurance company.

Anyhow, back to the saga of the Peginc shipment.

So I wait.

and I wait.

And I wait.

Normally, being a person who has ADHD, having up to the minute data on the shipping isn’t really that good of an idea.  I have some level of OCD.  Hell, everyone has some level of OCD.  But knowing that I can check on the location of the shipment on my phone means that I don’t need a fidget spinner.  I can simply open up my email on my phone, then click on the link to get me to the current shipment info.  I can do this twenty times or more an hour if I need to.  It isn’t exactly instant gratification, but it is close.

So on May 9, 2017, the alerts stopped happening.  The shipment information stopped with the following:

Capture

On May 9, I was ecstatic.  The package was coming!  It wasn’t too different than Nathan in the Jerk, when the new phone book arrived and his name was in the book.

So I wait.

and I wait.

and I wait.

Finally, on May 15, I decide to ask the USPS what is going on.  After all, they said that the package left Portland Oregon on May 9, 2017 at 2:30 PM, and was en-route.

I get a cryptic email from the supervisor of customer service that the package actually never left Federal Way, it actually never got to Portland, even though the records on the USPS Internet site said it came in, and was scanned out.

Yes, you read that right.

The email included the name of the customer service supervisor, and the phone number to call if I had any questions.

Mind you, no information about how they were going to try to find the parcel.  Just that it was lost.

So I Called the number to the post office.  The phone rang through to a voicemail / robocall type of situation explaining that this was the number for the customer service and the passport service at the Vancouver Post Office, then it said to leave a message.  Then it rang a few times, and hung up.  No message taken.

I rang again, listened to the overly long information about what the number was for, then the post office phone went to a busy signal.  I tried again, and figured out that if I pressed a “O”, I could bypass the message.  I ended up calling the number about 6 times, and got a variety of ringing with hang ups, and busy signals.  I was never able to get to the point where I could leave a message.

Over the next few days, I called several times.  All with the same experience.  I looked on Google for reviews of the Caples Av post office in Vancouver, and find that other people complain about the same experience with the phone system.

Frustrated, I decided to go directly to the post office and talk with this supervisor of customer service.  So off I go to the Caples Av post office in Vancouver.  I show up, and go to the regular line.  After waiting in the regular line, you know the one where you ship packages from, buy stamps etc, I finally get to the front of the front of the line, and explain to the postal clerk that I am looking for information about a lost package.  She politely informs me that the line I was in was for transactions that included money, I needed to go to the other room, and go to the blue door.  No problem.  So far, everything is acceptable.  This postal clerk is very pleasant, and helpful.

So I go find the blue door.  I end up at the blue door just as another postal clerk is finishing up helping another customer.  I am standing five feet back from the door, with the intention of allowing privacy with whatever transaction needed to take place between the customer in front of me and the postal clerk.

They finish their transaction, and the postal clerk turns around and goes back to his desk, not 10 feet from the blue door.

A little explanation is in order.  The blue door is a door with a bottom half that can be closed, while the top half is open to allow people to talk through the open portion of the door, while keeping the people on either side of the door.  Kind of like the picture below, only it was a blue door, and the person on the other side was a postal employee, not a smiling kid.

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The postal clerk (at least I think he was a postal clerk) completely ignored me.  He didn’t make eye contact.  He didn’t greet me.  He didn’t bother saying something like “Someone will be right with you”.  He just turned around and went back to his desk.

So I rang the miniature cowbell at the door.  He ignored me.

Now I assume that this guy was a postal employee.  He didn’t wear any postal employee gear.  He was on the correct side of the door to likely be a postal employee.  He was wearing knee high white sports socks, sandals, black basketball shorts and a Raiders tee shirt.  While I know know that this person was a postal emplolyee, since he didn’t seem to have any clothing on that would indicate such, he was on the correct side of the blue door (the door said employees only beyond this point), and other postal employees (people who were wearing clothing that indicated that they were postal employees) would walk up and interact with Mr. Raider as though they knew him.

None of the other employees acknowledged that there was a customer at the blue door.  I observed a digital clock on the roof beam in the middle of the work bay area, and could watch the minutes tick by.  After about 5 minutes, Mr. Raider finally looked at me and said “someone will be with you in a while”.  Nice.  I was finally acknowledged.

About two minutes later, Mr. Raider was sitting at his desk, dutifully ignoring the people at the blue door.  I say people, since a woman entered the line after I was acknowledged, and rang the bell about two minutes later.

Mr. Raider didn’t see who rang the bell, but he jumped up and said “You need to Stand Down sir.”

Stand Down.

It was said in a military tone, as an order.

I know what Stand Down means.  It is an order given to someone who is out of control and needs to back off.  This is not a friendly way to interact.  This is not a good way for people to get trust, or to show any form of empathy or customer service.

I explained to Mr. Raider that while he was speaking to me, I did not ring the bell.  He said “Well, you need to Stand Down.”

Now Mr. Raider went back to his desk.  After watching a dozen or so other USPS employees dutifully ignore the now growing line at the blue door, finally, the first person I interacted with came over and asked “Has no one come up to help you yet?”  I politely said “no”.  Now, she apologized for the wait, and asked me what I needed.  She ended up finding the person I needed to interact with.

It was a breath of fresh air to get to someone who actually knew how to be good at customer service.  The lady who helped me, and the customer service representative were as helpful as they could be.

The package indeed had been checked into the Federal Way postal facility on May 8, but evidently never left it.  The Internet information that the package had gotten to Portland, and was dispatched is incorrect.  Evidently, the USPS bases some of the information that is on the Internet on the shipping manifest, not the actual scanned package arriving.  The bin that was headed from Federal Way to Portland made it to Portland, and somehow the system automatically registered the package out to delivery even though it never left Federal Way.

At this point, the package is lost.  While it is lost for over a week, there is nothing that the USPS can do about it until it has been lost for over a month.  I need to wait to see if it is delivered in the next few weeks.  If not, then I can start the process of filing a claim to see if the USPS can look harder to find the box, or maybe see if they will replace the lost box.

Needless to say, I have had packages go missing before.  This is particularly frustrating as I have been waiting a long time, and am now waiting even longer, and I accepted money from friends to pay for this.  I am not the only one out money at this point.  Two friends are out also.

The USPS has shown that they are capable of making mistakes.  Everyone is capable of making mistakes.  I am hoping that the USPS finds this package, and it is in good shape when it arrives.

I have sent a complaint to the USPS regarding Mr. Raider and his inaction at the customer service counter.  I truly have never had such poor customer service from any person that I can remember.  I remember being in the reception center of Fort Jackson, getting ready to go into army basic training.  The civilian workers there were handing out underwear.  They asked the inductees in the line if they wanted boxers or briefs.  After the inductee told them they wanted A, the civilian handed them B.  It was like since the Drill Sergeants were playing mind games, the civilian workers wanted in on the games too.  But at least those workers were interacting with the customer.

I did explain to the customer service supervisor the frustration that I had with the phone calls.  He explained that the phone mail system only held 20 messages.  In the event that more than 20 messages were on the system, every additional caller would be dropped.  He told me that they were trying to keep up on the messages, routing them as appropriate, to keep the total number of messages under 20, however the passport calls were all going to the same number.  If someone was on break or lunch, then the messages were not being routed, causing people to be dropped.  I explained that I had called during the day, not lunch, at times like 10 AM and 2 PM.

Long story short, I have no control over this situation.  I feel frustrated because I have spent quite a bit of money on a package that is lost.  I have not only spent my money, but I have spent the money of two good friends.  There seems to be no recourse, other than to wait an hope that things will work out.  The USPS has shown that their own systems appear to not accurately track their shipments.  This leaves me with little faith that it will be resolved.

 

 

Tales from the Yawning Portal Episode 03

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Mike showed up sporting his newest gear supporting the Bard.  This was pretty awesome.  Mike was showing his level of support and commitment to the game.

The session started similar to other sessions.  We spent an hour talking about things which had nothing to do with the game.  We talked about local politics, local food, national politics, international food, jobs, retirement, told stories and a lot more.  You know, what friends do when they get together.

After about an hour, we started the game.  Gaming to me is a reason to get together with friends and have a good time.  If the people want to derail the game and chat, that is just fine with me.  I like the people I game with, and the game is a good reason to get together, but the primary reason is to be with the people I like.  Some people do this with football parties, some people do this with alcohol.  I do it with a game.

When the game started, the party were with Meepo, the kobald dragon keeper.  Meepo wasn’t much of a help.  After all, he knew the password to get through the kobald guards. or at least he hoped he still knew the password, since he had been abandoned by the other kobalds for losing the dragon wyrmling to the goblins.  The party hasn’t given that much thought.  I think that the party thinks of Meepo as a mascot.

So the party leaves the dragon hold and starts down a long hall that turns right, then left.  The monk is in the lead.  Now the monk has no trapfinding abilities.  That is ok.  The rogue is right behind.  The rogue and the monk find no traps.  The problem is that there is a trap.  So traps are not really well defined in D&D.  It is kind of an open ended possibility.

Some adventures have some information.  For example this adventure in the Yawning Portal does include some information about “traps”, where they are mostly an annoyance.  IF you don’t see the tripwire as you enter the room, a bucket of kobald poop and pee drops from above the doorway onto the unsuspecting party member.  Wooo… scary.  In another trap in this adventure, if the rogue opens up the trapped door without checking first, they are pricked by a spike, which does only one HP damage.  I get it, this is a learning adventure.  The intent of the adventure is to let the brand new player who has never played a rogue before learn how to survive some trapped thing.

Most fantasy adventures don’t have a lot of information about traps.  It doesn’t matter if it is Pathfinder, D&D, DCC, or other game system.  The traps tend to be pretty unexplained.  So how to make a rogue’s life interesting (miserable?), much less the rest of the party.

Well, my fall back has always been a toned down version of Grimtooth’s traps.  I bought the first book way back when in 1981 or 1982.  I don’t remember for sure.  I used the heck out of it. These traps are stupidly overkill.  However, they can be modified to be a major annoyance, or at least a real challenge to the party.

Here is a favorite of mine.  The corridor has a trapped section of floor.  Where the X’s are are tripwires.  If the party discovers the really obvious tripwire, they will probably try to step over it.  The tripwire is actually there specifically to be triggered.  If you trigger the tripwire, then the latch locks, securing the trap.  Now, I usually put a few of these in the dungeon when I use it.  The tripwires are set up to do one of the following:

  • tripping one wire will secure that side of the trap
  • tripping one wire will secure both sides of the trap
  • tripping one wire will secure the other side of the trap
  • tripping one wire will unsecure that side of the trap
  • tripping one wire will unsecure both sides of the trap
  • tripping one wire will unsecure the other side of the trap
  • releasing tension on one wire will secure that side of the trap
  • releasing tension on one wire will secure both sides of the trap…
  • and so on
  • and so on

Capture

The best type is where you give them two in short succession.  The first one trap includes a greased section of floor (as in the magic spell grease … bwooohahahahaah), followed by one tripwire that secures the near side of the trap, and the tripwire must be tripped on the other side of the trap to secure the other side of the trap.  Also, include a shear pin, on the trap, so that the rogue can get over it, but the armored fighter or paladin can not without breaking the shear pin.

Put a mild annoyance, such as they figure out the first side, slip and fall into the second side, but the tripwire and catch are obvious, so they learn.  The pit is full of something mildly bad, like a short drop doing some damage or maybe some rusty iron spikes.  You know, something which will cause the cleric to use up some healing.  Soften them up a bit.

Do a few of these in a row.  Program the party to start thinking that they have figured out the trap system.  Make sure that the trap mechanism is obvious.  The party sees the broken shear pins, the party gets the idea of what to do.

Then put in the same trap type, where the first tripwire sets BOTH pins.  The second tripwire unsets BOTH pins, and both sides have a shear pin.  In this one, place something nasty for the party to fall into.

The books are full of all sorts of awesome over the top traps.  Some of them are downright funny.

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But enough about inspiration.  I regularly ask the rogue if they are looking for traps before they enter a room, as they walk down a hallway, or go to open a door.  In this adventure, the player playing the rogue has been role playing for a while, but she does not always look for traps.  I figure that I will keep her on her toes, but asking her to roll, to see if she finds something.

Now going down the hall, the monk is going first.  He decides that he should go before the character that can actually find traps.  I am not sure why this is the case, but if a monk wants to be a trapfinder, why would I suggest to the rogue that this is a bad idea?  In business acumen, this is called initiative.

The monk finds a trap.  Well, he doesn’t “find” the trap as much as actuates the trap.  All of his uber dexterity doesn’t help too much.

So, here is the problem that isn’t well defined in D&D, much less any other system that I have seen.  The trap goes off.  But who does it affect?  Will all traps blow up or go off at the tripwire?  Maybe, maybe not.  So here is how I deal with traps in hallways.  Fair warning, this can be fatal.

I roll a d20.  Depending on the roll, of the die, it affects the people in the following order:

  • 1 – the trapfinder
  • 2-3, the person behind the trapfinder
  • 4-8, the third person in the row
  • 9-16,the fourth person in the row
  • 17-20, the fifth person in the row

Odds are in the favor of the trapfinder, that someone else will be hurt by the missed trap, or the crappy roll to disarm the trap.  Now Brian / monk didn’t know that this is how I decide who gets the trap sprung on them.  But I based this loosely off what we were told in the army about running point man on the field exercise.  Being point is pretty scary.  You are convinced that every leaf moving, shadow, or whatever is something nasty about to jump out on you and ruin your day.  The sergeants and officers tell the point man “Don’t worry, since the enemy wants to draw the entire platoon into the ambush, they always let the point person lead the platoon into the ambush before they start shooting”.  Now that is supposed to make the point guy feel better.  It never did for me.  And I only needed to worry about the “OPFOR”, since I never went to a real war, we only pretended to have wars against the other units in the same army.

But I figure that this type of distribution makes the rogue a little happier, but then pisses off the rest of the party a little more.  Now when the monk wants to do the rogue’s work, and that results in the warlock getting an arrow in their side, that is ok by me.

In other words, the monk triggered the trap, and I rolled a 12, which focused the arrow attack on the monk who was fourth in line.  Not good for the warlock, as he is not immune to arrows.  Lucky for him, the arrows were not poisoned.

So the monk, bolstered by his success at not being hit by the trap that he missed, ends up at a single door at the end of the hallway.  On the hasp of the door is a slimy substance.  The monk, unperturbed, decides not to grab the wooden latch with the slimy substance on it.  The monk pulls out his dagger, and touches the dagger to the hasp, to raise it up and open the door.  Nobody listens at the door, nobody checks for traps, the monk is on a roll.  The door opens, the limy stuff moves on its own onto the dagger and starts consuming the dagger, getting bigger as it eats the dagger.  The monk drops the dagger.  He is pretty sure that the slimy stuff that is consuming his dagger is bad.

Beyond the door is a relatively large room  On the east side of the room is a fountain, with a dragon’s head.  A little looking at the fountain shows that the dragon’s mouth has a finger sized hole, and the finger sized hole goes out to the long dragon’s tongue that appears to drip into the fountain.  There is nothing coming out of the dragon mouth.  The fountain is empty, except for some pond scum.  Above the fountain, chiseled in the stone is a message in draconic “Let there be fire”  The fountain radiates abjuration magic.

The other side of the room includes a stonework door which continues the dragon motif.  Above the door also chiseled in stone is another message in draconic “Rebuke the dead, open the way”.  The area around the western door is noticeably colder than the rest of the room.  The door also radiates abjuration magic

To the north is a hallway passage, with no door.

The warlock is concerned about this abjuration magic.  He is convinced that it is bad.  Now if a warlock is concerned about how bad magic can be, maybe someone should listen?  Nope.

Everyone wants Meepo to tell them what to do.  Meepo says that he does not know much about this area of the dungeon.  He knows that this way should go to the kobald king, but he always goes the other way.  He suggested at the beginning of the adventure that they go the other way, but the party wanted to go this way.  Meepo is not a lot of help… which is consistent with other adventures that I run where the NPC’s don’t fight, don’t really help much, but likely have something really important, which means that the party shouldn’t let the NPC die.  hint. hint. hint.  Maybe it is a red herring?  After all, Meepo is a red skinned kobald…

Now Mike liked Meepo enough that he created a Meepo mini, where Meepo was wearing a yellow sun dress.

So the party asks Meepo a bunch of times about the door and the fountain.  He knows nothing.  However, the monk saves the day, sort of.  He reads out the words on the fountain, and the fountain spills out a viscous red liquid out of the dragon mouth.  No one bothers to catch it.  It goes into the nasty pond scum basin of the fountain.  Everyone is worried.  The warlock tries to figure out what it is.  He determines that it is full of abjuration magic.  Nobody wants to touch it.  The party asks Meepo what it is, and he walks up, scoops it up in a paw, swallows it, then belches out an enormous fireball.  Meepo thinks this is great fun, but the magic is gone.  Completely gone.  The warlock finds no more abjuration magic near the fountain.

The cleric is working on the issue of the door, and how to rebuke the dead.  He finally decides to use his turn undead ability.  That was a good idea, but the skeletons inside the room, on the other side of the magically locked door roll a natural 20 on their save, so it doesn’t go so well.  The party also made enough noise in the room, that they gathered the attention of some wandering monsters, a goblin patrol.

So when the cleric turned undead, the magic door opened.  The adventure was very clear.  There were three ways to get into the room.  First was to use a Knock spell, the second was to beat it down, the third was to try to turn the undead.  Well, the cleric tried to turn the undead, instead the undead came out swinging, as the door glowed blue and opened.

The party found themselves in the middle of combat.  From the front were seven skeletons in armor.  From the rear were four goblins on patrol.

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The room was cramped.

Long story, short, the party vanquished the monsters, but in the process got seriously hurt, and used up too many spell slots.

They go into the room that held the skeletons and find several sarcophaguses, one for each skeleton.  Also, they find a candle which can not be put out and a vial with liquid in it.  Nobody knows what the liquid is.

Based on the fact that they have blown their wad, the party decides to take a long rest.  We have some discussions about whether or not they want to secure the door.  They don’t.  The party makes up the roster of who is going to stand guard, and sacks out.  I ask both people who are standing guard to make perception rolls, nobody makes it better than what I rolled for the stealth of the wandering monsters…

I have some discussions with the monk.  You see, monks are usually a discretionary class, to be allowed, or not by the DM.  Monks tend to be OP.  This monk has a 20 dex, has a very high AC, gets at least two attacks per round at a +7 to attack, and regularly does 20 or more hitpoints damage with each attack.  This is at 2nd level.  Now not getting into discussions about how a character has a 20 dex, Brian says he rolled an 18, then added a +2 bonus for class, this character is OP.  I understand having multiple attacks, or significant pluses to hit, or super high armor class when you are all in the middle to high level range.  But at 2nd level, this unbalances the party.  Most other characters only have one attack.  Most other characters only have a +4 to +6 on a primary skill, such as lockpicking, or some such thing.

I explained to Brian that once the monsters figure out that he is the one who is doing the most damage, he is going to be the target that needs to be taken down.  Monsters are not dumb.  Brian disagreed, and thought that his character isn’t overpowered, as the barbarian can also do two attacks.  I explained to Brian that the barbarian can do two attacks while raging, which can be done twice per session, between long rests.  The monk always has the option of two unarmed attacks, plus they can do three attacks using their Ki, twice per session between long rests at 2nd level.

In addition to the monsters figuring out that he is a killing machine and needs to be taken out quickly in combat, the monsters may communicate to the other monsters in the dungeon that the monk needs to be taken out right away.

Brian disagreed that his monk is overpowered compared to the other players.  This is part of the challenge of mixing groups of players.  Brian is of the player type where he wants to create a superhero for every game.  He engineers his character.  The rest of the players in the party are more interested in the role play.  There is nothing wrong with either method of play.  However, mixing a player who is interested in engineering the best character possible with people who have taken more mundane characters creates some issues for the DM trying to run a balanced game.  Please note that I also have run superhero characters, also known as Min / Max characters.  This is a perfectly fun and valid way to play.  It is the mix of Min / Max and mundane characters which cause the challenge.  Note that I am not referring to this as a “problem”, or “issue” or any such negative thing.  it is just a fact.

I chose to balance this by allowing the monsters to not blindly decide who to attack.  The monsters have some level of intelligence, and they also want to survive the encounter.  It is reasonable to assume that the monsters will figure out pretty quickly who the badass is in the party, and decide to focus on that person.  It is also reasonable to assume that monsters in a dungeon, especially when that dungeon is “owned” by a group of monsters, that the monsters would try to gain intelligence on who the heck is invading their territory.

So the party takes their long rest in the side room of the main set of rooms that created the passage, and didn’t bother to remove the corpses of the goblins or skeletons that they killed.  The guards didn’t make their perception checks compared to the wandering monster sneak…

Eight hours later, the party opens up the door from their room, and finds a dozen goblin archers and two ogres swinging pots of flaming stuff .  The goblins fire arrows into the room, causing some pretty nasty pain.  The ogres toss the pots of flaming material into the room, causing fires in their enclosed space.

Things got pretty nasty pretty quick.  The monk ran out of the room towards all of the baddies, and tried to get so he was in the open hallway.  He found two more ogres in the hallway, waiting as backup.  He attacked one ogre, doing some damage.

The barbarian strolled up to the doorway and decided to be a meat shield.  The warlock eldritch blasted one of the pots of fire that the ogres were still swinging around, causing some firey chaos.  The cleric used his word of command to tell the other ogre to drop his pot, which he did.  On the next round, the warlock eldritch blasted the dropped pot and caused more firey damage.

The rogue fired an arrow through the door, under the legs of the warlock and barbarian and hit one of the ogres.  In retrospect, the rogue should have used their bonus action to hide, so the rogue would have gotten some extra d6 sneak attack damage.

Now it was the goblin’s turn.  They moved around and only saw two targets.  The monk in the hallway, and the barbarian in the doorway.  I rolled evens / odds to determine where each goblin would attack.  By the dice, most of the goblins shot at the monk.  Now even if you have a ridiculous AC, eight goblins shooting arrows at you will get some through, eating up your hit points fast.  The goblins dropped the monk the first round of combat.  They pincushioned the barbarian also.

The fight was over pretty quick.  Eric’s gnome fighter bravely moved behind a wall to “attack anything that came in”.  The party harshed the goblins pretty badly, and they lost their morale check, and ran away.

Some of the players were upset at this concept that the monsters would not fight to the death.  In reality, why would a monster, who was not cornered fight to the death?  What possible reason would there be.  I mean what monster is suicidal?  what monster wouldn’t want to find a way to even the odds and come back for more later?  If it is a fiend, demon or devil, depending on the trope or universe rules, dying on this plane of existence could result in being banished back to their own plane of existence for 100 years or more.

Previous versions of D&D included morale values, to allow for determining when the opposing side would route because they were being crushed.

Here is the basic rule that I use for morale checks:

If any of the following are true:

  • Half the monsters of a given type are killed:
  • Leader monster is killed

then the monsters make a will save.  Monsters don’t have a “will” save per the monster manual, but the will save is based on the wisdom modifier.  The CR for the will save is used to determine what that save is.

  • CR 1 or less – DC 10 will save
  • CR 2 – DC 11 will save
  • CR 3 – DC 12 will save
  • CR 4 – DC 13 will save
  • etc

So on a goblin, the CR is 1/4.  The base will save is 10 plus their wisdom modifier (10 + (-1)) equals 9.  So when half the monsters are killed, or the goblin leader is killed, I roll each round against the will save of 9 on a d20 to see if they remain in combat.

Now, if you were fighting two pit fiends, the CR is 20.  The base will save is 19 plus their wisdom modifier (+4).  So when one pit fiend is killed, I roll each round against a will save of 23 to see if the other remains in combat.  All the normal will save modifiers apply, so based on spells, bardic inspiration, curses, etc, that number could be achievable, even though you can’t roll a natural 23 on a d20.

This seems to work for me.  I don’t force the players to do the same, but it might be reasonable.

So the party kills one ogre, badly damages another ogre, kills a bunch of goblins and they all run away.

Long story short, if you take a long rest, do it in a defensible room that has more than one exit.

Later on, Brian said “when my monk gets to the third level, I can deflect missiles”.

Here is what the Player’s handbook says about the monk deflecting missiles.

Deflect Missiles

Starting at 3rd level, you can use your reaction to deflect or catch the missile when you are hit by a ranged weapon attack. When you do so, the damage you take from the attack is reduced by 1d10 + your Dexterity modifier + your monk level.

If you reduce the damage to 0, you can catch the missile if it is small enough for you to hold in one hand and you have at least one hand free. If you catch a missile in this way, you can spend 1 ki point to make a ranged attack with the weapon or piece of ammunition you just caught, as part of the same reaction. You make this attack with proficiency, regardless of your weapon proficiencies, and the missile counts as a monk weapon for the attack.

The Player’s handbook says the following about reactions:

Reactions

Certain special abilities, spells, and situations allow you to take a special action called a reaction. A reaction is an instant response to a trigger of some kind, which can occur on your turn or on someone else’s. The opportunity attack, described later in this chapter, is the most common type of reaction.

When you take a reaction, you can’t take another one until the start of your next turn. If the reaction interrupts another creature’s turn, that creature can continue its turn right after the reaction.

More mayhem next week.

Call of Cthulhu – Terror From The Skies Episode 04

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Last Thursday, the party continued on.  Brian and Jeremy were not here.  The rest of the gang showed up.

 

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They were looking to find out who was Old Man Jenkins.  You know, I watched Scooby Doo as a kid, and found that even as an adult, it was pretty good, as long as you were watching the episodes filmed before 1972.  Something happened after 1972.  Hanna Barberra screwed up the format.  Shaggy became a vegetarian.  Scrappy Doo was introduced.  After they had the Harlem Globetrotters on for the first time, it was like the producers lost all of their collective minds.

Now, if you listen carefully, you can hear Scatman Crothers doing the voice of George Meadowlark Lemon, one of the Globetrotters.  Why they couldn’t use Meadowlark?  I don’t know.  I happen to like Scatman a lot.  He was one of those actors who showed up in a lot of different shows and movies that peppered my childhood.  The Shining, Twilight Zone, Hong Kong Phooey…  His voice was amazing.  And he sang.

Anyhow, enough about Scooby Doo.  The party were doing their best to be like Fred, Velma, Daphne, Shaggy and Scooby.  Thankfully, they left Scrappy Doo at home.  They started off where they left off the previous week.

Robert found himself lying on a beach, barely alive, soaked and wet… with a note pinned to him.  The note said something like “5han no fly” or maybe it was something else.  Needless to say, the party had no idea who or what a shann was, maybe it was 5 han, maybe it was saying that Han shot first.

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I mean if George Lucas wears a tee shirt saying Han Shot First, it must be right, right? Who are we to question the revisionist twonkings of an evil genius like Lucas, after all, he made 1 and a half good movies, and forced us to watch four and a half other craptastic shit piles.  He is truly the Sith lord.  After all, he made one good movie, episode IV, to get us hooked.  Then he made us sit through Episode V, which seemed to consist mostly of Luke Skywalker whining about being a little pussy to Yoda.  Then he gave us a half of a good movie in Episode VI.  I mean, Ewoks, really?  Gnub Gnub!  Fuck that shit.

Meanwhile, he talked his good buddy into helping him film two good Indiana Jones movies, and two crappy shit filled cannolis (the one in India and the one with the crystal skull).  Then he makes us wait over a decade, almost two after Episode VI, then gives us Episode 1, properly titled “You will feel no empathy for the poorly written main characters, and you will hate Jar Jar.”  Then he gave us Episode 2, properly titled “More pap and crap from the weak mind of a former almost genius”.  Then he gave us Episode 3, which is more properly titled “Oh you fools, you really are as stupid as I thought you were… gimmie money”  Then he sold the franchise to Disney.

This really shows how hard up science fiction fans are for a story line.  Good or not.  I mean, we are stupid enough to flock to the theaters for this crap.   It really isn’t that different than being a fantasy fan.  Think of all of the half assed pieces of crap that you watch in the theaters, hoping that it will be worth it.  The Hobbit is a good example…  Peter Jackson takes a single book and turns it into a franchise of three movies.  How the fuck do we fall for that type of bullshit?  And, it wasn’t that good either.  I mean the first movie was pretty good.  But the rabbits pulling a sled around besting worgs being ridden by orcs?  Really?  Was that necessary?  Was any of the interaction with Radagast important tot he story?

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So you ask, if I am that critical of these movies, what do I like?  Hmmm.

The most recent Dredd movie was pretty all right.  I just watched The Last Witch Hunter with Vin Diesel.. That was pretty all right also.

I kind of like Vin Diesel.  He plays in a bunch of movies that I have enjoyed.  Saving Private Ryan, the Riddick movies, Babylon AD… He was the voice of Groot.

I am looking forward to Blade Runner II.

I really liked Prometheus.  That was pretty all right too.

Molly and I are going to see Guardians of the Galaxy II tonight.  I liked the first one a lot.  I am hoping that the second will be good also.

But enough about my prattling on about what I don’t like, and what I like.  On to some adventuring stuff.

So Robert woke up on the beach, and found a note pinned to his lapel that said something.

The police let Jason and Jeremy go.  They found out that the people who were actually on the wanted poster were captured.  It was a case of mistaken identity.

The party goes to Gabriel Ward’s house.  As they approach, they meet Tom Jenkins.  For some reason, the party is wary of Tom.  He keeps on telling them that he is a reporter in a small town, and he is looking to write about things for the paper. For some reason, the party doesn’t trust him.

Jenkins wants to know what the party is doing.  They reply that they are going to Gabriel Ward’s house.  He tells them that Gabriel was drowned, not murdered like the rest of the people in town were.  Jenkins takes his leave.  His explanation of the death is simple:
the man set out in his fishing boat alone at night, it sank and he drowned. Tragic, but it happens; this is a fishing town and such deaths are all too common. Just take a look at the gravestones in the churchyard (there are plenty for fishermen “lost at sea” if they look). Bodies are rarely washed ashore in their home port, that’s why there are so many fishermen round here with one gold earring (to pay for their funeral if they are washed ashore in a port where their body is not recognized).

Henrietta Street reaches out from the rest of Whitby, along and above the beach, nearly reaching the pier, where it is a single row of houses looking out to sea. Situated directly under East Cliff, the land here is highly unstable, and the houses at the end of the row are askew due to the ground settling. They look as though they might slip into the sea at any time. The end house is by far the worst, and this was Ward’s.

The footprints directly outside the house have mostly been obliterated but the party picks them up on the other side of the road and they can be followed down to the beach. Something has been dragged along with them.

Getting into the house itself was simple, as the door has been pulled off its hinges and only roughly fitted back into place. All other entry points are closed but in poor state of repair. Inside there is little furniture, no personal effects and the kitchen range hasn’t
been used in a long time. The bed is dirty and disheveled; it strongly (and the rest of the house generally) has a fishy, seaweedy smell. Very little has been disturbed. As there was no body, the police only took a cursory look round. The footprints are still easily visible indoors, Summer and Loren realize that they are bipedal, but not human. Summer is not affected by this knowledge, but Loren is, taking some sanity loss for realizing this.  I gave Loren the chance to share the joy of sanity loss, and explain to the rest of the party, but she declined.

The party finds the broken out window from the night before.  They find blood and clothing scraps mixed in with the shards of glass.  The clothing craps match Robert’s clothing, and the glass shards match what Daron found with Robert’s wounds.

After a bit, the next door neighbor, Andrew Foster, comes by, wanting to know what is going on.  Andrew is a fisherman, as are most of this row’s residents. He wears one small gold earring. He tells them that Gabriel was a fisherman, but always worked alone and generally kept to himself. Andrew knew him from when he was a child, but not well. He always seemed a little odd and distant; increasingly so recently. He tells them that Gabriel was always a bit unkempt, but became more so in the last few months. He seemed to be changing physically.  The party wants to know what that means…  Unfortunately, there was nothing written into the adventure to explain this.

Andrew is of the opinion that there was something wrong with him, some kind of encroaching deformity. On the night in question, he heard a crash and an odd, tittering sort of sound but saw nothing. He was afraid that the house was finally succumbing to the sea and hid under the bed. Some time later that night, after he had finally got into bed, he was awakened by another crash; it sounded like Gabriel’s front door coming off. There were sounds of movement in the house, and finally retreating footsteps outside.  They didn’t pass in front of his house, so they must have been going the other way, towards the beach. No, he didn’t look outside then, either. It’s wise not to, he says; funny things go on at this end of Whitby. He won’t expand on this. If they ask his opinion he doesn’t think Gabriel’s boat sank, as he was an experienced sailor and it was a flat calm night, with not a cloud in the sky.

The party then went on to Elliot’s house.  Thinking that they may have missed something.  All they were able to do was see the body and steal the journal.  They find the journal that was hidden in the previous session.

Looking around the house, they find several interesting things.  In the bedroom, the bedroom door is open and the latch damaged, although the door was not locked. The key is still in the lock on the inside. The bed has been slept in, but there is broken glass all over it and the floor. The window—not just the glass, but the frame as well—has been smashed from the outside. The party knows that this is not an easy climb, as they have already tried it themselves. The bedside table is next to it, in pieces. Closer inspection revealed that the damage to it is different than simply being flung against the wall. It looks as though it has been pulled apart, an act that would take more than normal human strength.  Aside from the wardrobe which contains a fairly standard set of clothes the only other furniture is a cupboard next to the bed that is tall, shallow and
empty. An Idea roll reveals this to be a gun cupboard, to which the shotgun that they found yesterday next to the body matches perfectly into the cabinet

In the landing outside the bedroom, the wall here is damaged; as though it was hit by a shotgun sell. The party finds some remains of whatever was being shot at.  The party determined that whatever remains are still there are not human.  The meat is white like chicken, the skin has a green color to it.

The hall reveals two more spent shotgun cartridges on the floor at the bottom of the stairs, and more biological mess on both walls next to the staircase. It seems to be the same substance as on the landing. There is also flour on the floor between the kitchen and the living room doors. The party finds one set of footprints in it from the kitchen to the living room. These tracks are also in the living room, and are from no known animal.

In the study, the party finds a bunch of common chemicals.  Equal parts of powdered sulfur, powdered carbon, Borax, powdered acetic acid, and several other powders.  There are also 48 small empty two ounce tins with lids on the wall.

The party also finds a handwritten sheet that says:

Cast out Shan
Contact Deep One? No!
Call for spirit of the air? Definitely not 
Powder of Ibn-Ghazi—later 
Voorish Sign Can “make visible the invisible” ???????
Healing
Banishment of Yde Etad—too long, too many people
The Baneful Dust (Of Hermes Trismegistus)  Equal parts of Borax, powdered sulfur, powdered carbon, powdered acetic acid…

and the party realizes that this appears to be the entire contents of the powders that they found.  Not knowing what any of this is, but seeing Shan, which is pretty close to 5han, or Han Shot First, or whatever the note said that was pinned to Robert’s collar was, this probably means something.  What is a Shan?  Who is Shan?  Why would someone want to cast her out?

Now the Skientist (I am purposefully misspelling the word, since our Skientist wears pants, and is too scardey pants to mix the chemicals, yes, you, Loren…) decides that this recipe is too scary for her pants wearing skientist to mix.  After all, what if it is volume based, not mass based in the recipe?  What if it blows up and kills everyone.  What if I get some of the Borax on my fancy pants?

So Eric steps up to the plate.  The Party has one chance to get this right.  One single solitary chance.  Eric has 1% rating in chemistry.  Eric rolls the dice.  And it is awesome.  He rolls a 01.  Not only does he make the roll (of  1%), he crits the roll.

I searched Google for pictures of 01 on a percentile die roll.  I found none.  that is how freaking rare this type of roll is.  Eric knocked it out of the park. Given a 1% chance of getting it right, and giving the party a fighting chance to actually finish this chapter alive, Eric did it.  The “skientist” in pants wussied out, and left it up to the Romani to save the day.

It was a good thing that Eric did this.  Because without it, the boss monster at the end would have kicked everyone’s ass.  Loren, who is perfectly happy to fly invisibly above the battlefield and fireball the witch, was perfectly happy to keep her pants free of Borax at the expense of the party…  Good thing that Eric also wears pants (or at least I think he does), and he was willing to roll those dice…

Anyhow, Loren cowered and cringed, and held up her arms to cover her face while Eric mixed the chemicals… and nothing happened.  No flash, no bang, no borax spilled on pants.

The party puts the powder into the 48 metal canisters, each holding about two ounces of material.  Then they try to figure out what the heck this stuff is.  They throw it on the wall.  Nothing.  They try to light it on fire.  It is stinky but it doesn’t burn well.  They lick it, and it tastes like Borax, only worse.

Unsure of what this stuff is, but sure that it must mean something (after all it is rather elaborate for a red herring) they pass the canisters around to the different party members hoping that it will help at some point.

Now, as the DM, I thought of changing this up.  What if I gave them 48 canisters, but only enough for 16 doses…  Then they would have to figure out if the canisters were too large, or if there was another reagent, or if they were only supposed to only fill 16 of the 48…  It might have been fun… If they had equally filled all 48 canisters with 1/3 the dose… that might have been devastating.  But since Eric rolled a 01, a critical success, I figured that they deserved the whole enchilada.

They also found several photographs.  One is cut from the society pages of a newspaper,
and gives the name Amanda Freeman-Danby, which has been underlined. The picture also includes a man, whose face has been circled.

The photos also include pictures of buildings.  Everyone recognizes the photos to be of airship sheds (Zeppelin type airships).  Daron, the Doctor recognizes these particular airship shes as the ones at Cardington.  An early 20th century house. The house number
is clearly visible. There are also several photos taken at night of houses, several of which are blurry.  I asked for a photography roll, which was failed be several players, so there was no additional information available from that.

There were also photos of a close up of footprints on a beach, taken at night
by flash. The party realizes that these are neither human, nor made by any other natural creature.

The journal includes several other pieces of information, including a list of names.

Jake Pearson, Church Street
Alex Hunt, Sandgate
Michael Green, Wellington Terrace
Steven Mason, Cleveland Terrace
Seth Gray (The address has been torn out)
Gabriel Ward ?????????.

Fisherman says probably seals, often gather at night and on the beach.
Gabriel Ward. Henrietta Street. Unknown. Same creature? Footsteps. And Staithes. Keep away from the sea.

Sam Miller Definitely Careful
Prof. Benjamin Graham, Durham. Knows more than he thinks he does Give him more information 

Seth Gray, Hob Lea House, Ugthorpe. 

So of course, the party wants to know all about the people on this list.  Sam Miller, Professor Graham and Seth Gray are not in this part of the adventure.  They have no knowledge.

Matthew bemoans the lack of detail and I explain that this might be “foreshadowing”, or helping to stitch the story together at a later date.  He is having none of this.  He wants immediate gratification.

The party decides to spend the night in Elliot’s house.  After all, what possibly could go wrong with staying in the house of a recent murder, which has gone unsolved?

The party takes elaborate precautions.  They nail in place a table over the broken 2nd floor window.  They spread flour all around on the floor, hoping to see footprints.  They set up watches.

In the end, no one gets a good night sleep.  On the upside, no one has nightmares of being gutted alive by tree like creatures.  The flour that they carefully placed on the floor to either create an elaborate gravy mix, or possibly see tracks made by attackers resulted in mice and rats coming and feasting on this.  The night passes, nothing bad happens.

In the morning, the party decides to go check out Tom Jenkins’ flat.  They find that he lives right across the road from Elliot.  He has taken a 1st floor apartment (yes, England is funny that way, the 1st floor is the 2nd floor for the rest of the world.  In England, the ground floor is the floor on the ground, and then they count up from that.)

This seems odd.  After all, wouldn’t a newspaper reporter have a more established presence in the town?  After talking to the landlady, a nice widower who rents out rooms to supplement her meager pension, they find out that Tom just arrived last month, just before the murders started happening.  Now only the party finds this coincidental.  The rest of the world appears to be oblivious to any connection like this.

They sweet talk the old widow and are allowed to search Tom’s room, which contains only a bed and wardrobe, inside which is one change of clothes.

The kitchen cupboards are empty, and the living area has only the furnishings that came with it. There are no photographs or personal effects. There is a sideboard with drawers, the topmost of which holds Tom’s only possessions.

The first item is an investigative journal, not unlike Elliot’s. It contains surveillance notes on various individuals, some the investigators never have heard of, with X’s put next to their names in black. Thereafter follows a list of the victims in date order, with red pencil through each of them.

Two party members, Loren and Matthew are outside, guarding the entrance to the house, in case Jenkins comes back.  Robert is having tea with the widow.  The rest of the party is up searching in the flat.  All of a sudden, two nasties come up and say ‘hi”, well, maybe they don’t say “hi”, maybe they say something closer to “Rowr”  They look like:

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This causes problems for several of the players who do not make their sanity roll.  I roll a d6 for the san loss, and find that everyone takes some san damage, but no one gets off too bad.  Later, I realize that I should have rolled a d10, not a d6 for san loss, but that is OK.

The combat is brutal, nasty and short.  Lucky for the party, Eric correctly made the Baneful Dust.  Unluckily for the party, they have to make a successful throw roll to apply the dust on the nasty critter.

This causes some concertation by the players.  They want to know why they can’t walk up and simply pour it on the beastie.  I keep pointing out that they have to make a “throw” roll.  the reason for this is likely that the beast is terrifying, and even if it has grappled a player and is sucking the life out of the player, it is still writhing and it isn’t interested in having the Baneful Dust just sprinkled on it.

Long story short, the combat was over in less than three rounds.  The beasties attacked Eric, Matthew and Loren, doing massive damage.  They also permanently lost 5 strength points as part of the attack.  The beasties were bested by the baneful dust.  The party was very disappointed that when after they died, all traces of them disappeared.

After the attack, the party subdued Tom Jenkins,

myob-07-unmasked

Yes, the picture above is of Fred pulling the mask off “Old Man Jenkins”

He is obviously off his rocker.  The party deduces that he is in league with something bigger than they thought.  He keeps talking about how the Shan will win, he has done his part.  He has accomplished the mission that the Shan gave him, and so on.  They try to get something useful out of Old Man Jenkins, to no avail.

As with all Call of Cthulhu adventures, you survive, but you still don’t know what the heck you are supposed to do.