Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Paper Heroes for One and All -or- How I Made Custom Minis for Next to Nothing

Thanks to the brilliant HeroMachine, I spent a little of my downtime tonight crafting customized paper minis for my players.  I started out trying HeroMachine v3, but it had way too many bells and whistles so I just retreated back to the more familiar v 2.5.

The cut-and-fold-able mini template is just a Word table set to the right dimensions.  Detail gets a little lost at that size, unless you have a better printer than my old, over-used Epson.

I already posted these to our group's private Facebook page and they got rave reviews.

Ambiorix the Fighter
(complete with a cursed shield he thinks is AWESOME)

Bob the Cleric

Elazti the Magic-User

Filibert Fairbarn the Halfling

Indis the Elf
(Complete with crowbar. Not pictured: grizzly bear bones sharpened into spikes.
She's pretty metal for an elf.)

Xanna the Thief and Rapida the Cheetah

Foldable minis!

Addendum: Xanna sans cat and with a
more tactical bendt.

All Hail the Slime Spider! *ribbit* *ribbit* (part 2)

Nearly stabbed to death by frog monsters? That aggression will not stand, man.

With only a little deliberation, the party stuck poor Fil under a bush (I prefer to think it was a Fil-odendron, nyuk nyuk) and formulated a fantastic plan to return to the Frog Room of Doom to seek their revenge (for... um... breaking into the monsters' home in the first place).

Indis the elf (my wife, Cori) would animate four long-dead dwarven skeletons from the mine to lead the charge, supplemented by a Phantasmal Force spell depicting several more skeletons.  Next, Elazti (Aisha's magic user) would hide, invisibly, and wait to see if the frog creatures bunched up enough to be taken out by a Fireball spell.  Finally, Ambiorix (Sam), Fil (Ben), the dwarves (NPCs) and Bob the cleric (Andrew) would swoop in to deliver the killing blow if necessary.  (The frog beasts seemed to have a pretty significant number of hit points in addition to three deadly attacks per round.)

To make a rather involved combat story shorter, the party's strategy worked. The monsters rushed to attack the skeleton "army" invading their temple and, after a couple of rounds, were close enough together for Elazti to loose a fireball.  They weren't killed outright, but they were severely wounded enough that the dwarves, Bob, and Ambiorix made short work of them.

Hiya, fellas!
But then the huge stone sarcophagus on the north end of the chamber began to rattle a bit.  And then the lid came off.  And out popped... a big-ass miasmic mess of oily black slime that formed itself into a 20' tall octopus-spider shape.  It shot pseudopods out of its writhing bulk, snapped up the remaining skeletons, and absorbed them into itself. The party members still in the room got the hell out of Dodge pretty quickly as Elazti tossed another fireball at the monster that, it seems, was the "god" of the chamber and the thing the frog creatures were trying to protect.  Fortunately, Aisha rolled really well for damage and the creature exploded into a million little oozy bits.

Cue massive XP award and much leveling by the PCs.

The Breaking of the Fellowship -- Goblins, Gnolls, Bandits, and the long road to Ravensport.

Monday, June 29, 2015

All Hail the Slime Spider! *ribbit* *ribbit* (part 1)

The party stood before the massive iron door and its ominous epitaph. Just as Xanna the thief began to pry it open, they heard footsteps on the spiral stairs above.  Descending to meet them was a cloaked-and-hooded human in fine-wrought plate mail and armed with a mace. He, in turn, was being trailed by... a cheetah?  Yes, a cheetah.

Bob* the cleric and the Rapida the cat**, had independently followed the party's trail of bludgeoned bugs and eviscerated ettins looking for adventure. They were also the characters of our two new players: Andrew, a longtime friend and recording client of mine, and Adeline, Amanda (Xanna)'s super-smart-but-still-kinda-scared-of-the-DM's-monster-voices seven year-old daughter.

Armed with fresh hit points and new allies, the party pried the door open and stared into the blackness beyond. An acrid stench stung their nostrils like acid and the slow, steady drip of liquid echoed along the quiet, finely-chiselled hallways beyond.  At this point, Arda the dwarf drew forth an ancient map that she'd kept hidden up to now. Unlabeled though it was, it provided a decent overview of the main living and working level of the mine:

The entrance is on the bottom of the map.
Click to enlarge. It's a big damn dungeon.
The strongest smells (identifiable thanks to Rapida's keen nose) emanated from the western passages. Never ones to pass up trouble, that's where the party decided to head first.

Winding their way through the labyrinthine hallways, the characters' first encounter was with a handful of deadly Black Puddings blocking their path.  Some oil, fire, and magic quickly cleared the way (once Ambiorix and Fil discovered that smashing the puddings with swords only created more puddings).

And then the party had a tasty snack.

Moving on, the group next found a huge, high-ceilinged chamber lined with intricately-carved pillars and various frescoes and relief carvings. At the far end of the chamber was a massive stone sarcophagus (think the big stone box that covered the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark).  As our heroes moved closer to investigate, two 5' humanoid frog creatures carrying spears and wearing crude loin cloths*** emerged from each of the northeast and northwest passages.  Angry and stabby, they proceeded to spear, claw, bite, and poison the party.  The battle did not go well for our heroes, and this adventure's second TPK almost occurred. In the end, both Fil and Aesopos the NPC cleric (aka "The Intern") were killed while almost everyone else was either knocked unconscious or severely injured. Someone managed to grab Fil's lifeless body and drag it along during the retreat but the remains of the poor "intern" had to be left behind. Thankfully the frog-monsters were more interested in protecting their territory than chasing the characters.

The PCs retreated back outside the mine to hide in the forest and heal. Fortunately, Indis the elf had found a Raise Dead scroll on a previous adventure and it was used to bring poor Fil back to life. That said, being frog-filleted to death takes a lot out of a guy and he would be in no shape to travel or fight for at least two weeks.

Thus, a choice had to be made: hang out in the woods with Fil and risk random encounters and maybe more frog-monsters coming from the mine to hunt everyone down, or go back in with a strategic plan and try again?  I'll give you one guess as to which one they chose.

* I have a theory. At some point, nearly every D&D campaign will have at least one quickly-rolled-up character named Bob. That's been my experience over the last 30 years of gaming, anyway.

** Kudos to Aisha (Elazti the magic-user) for the kitty's badass name.

*** Are there fancy loincloths?

Silver, Centipedes, and Sticky Doom

Fee Fie Foe Fum... squared.
In the last installment of our campaign journal, our heroes were offered a chance to help a pair of ettin-mauled dwarves, Arda and Delath, reclaim an ancient silver mine in the mountains southeast of Frostwyk. The prize? An even share of any treasure found within AND a split of the future mineral rights.

Knowing a good thing when they saw it, they readily accepted the offer and soon discovered that the same ettins (brutish and smelly two-headed giants, if'n you don't know what those are) who had attacked the dwarves were also holed up in the "abandoned" mine... along with a nasty array of centipedes, fire beetles, and other vermin. There was a lot of "ewww"ing and "yuck"ing at the table that night.

On the bright side, a particularly hairy encounter also led to the formation of my group's new Old School D&D-themed metal band and our soon-to-be-released debut single:
Props to +Sam Ferguson for the cover design and the name of the group.
In good time, the ettins were dispatched, the bugs got squashed, and everybody gained a fair amount of treasure and XP. Yay!

Spit, stick, fling, repeat.
In the course of clearing the top level of the mine, the party found an ultra-heavy-duty dwarven secret door leading down to what was once the main living and working area of the complex. A steep spiral stair descending into darkness, it was also the lair of a family of cave fishers who had turned the center of the stairwell into a tangled mass of amazingly-sticky webs.  While clinging to the walls, the fishers proceeded to snatch up the characters one-by-one and fling them down into the webs where they had to make very difficult Strength checks to break free. At this point, thanks to the element of surprise and some not-so-great die rolls on the part of the PCs, there was nearly a Total Party Kill. In the end, it came down to severly-injured halfling Fil Fairbarn and one cave fisher. At the very last second, Fil managed to stab his short sword deep into the creature's belly and then slowly cut the rest of his (largely unconscious) party free.

At the bottom of the Stairwell of Sticky Doom was another massive door, this time made of iron. The party gave it a cursory look and, upon discovering the words below etched into its surface, decided that a couple days of vigilant dungeon camping (i.e. healing up) would be a good idea before going any further.

Here entombed is Mjothvitnir
228 - 453
Lord of silver
Master of mithral
Mighty in battle
Wise in craft

Taken With his kin

By walking darkness roused 
from deepest depth below
the very bones of earth 

Let forever 
these doors be sealed
leave the dead to their slumbers
and the ichorous dark  to itself

Yeah, I'd sleep on it, too.

NEXT TIME: Frog-Men, Oozy Spider Gods, and a Cleric Named Bob.

Monday, June 15, 2015

New Character Class: Ravenfolk

From the tops of the misty Evenoran trees hail the shy-but-curious Ravenfolk. Feel free to add these feathered friends to your Labyrinth Lord, BECMI, or B/X game.  PDF version here.

(Note: I couldn't find a definitive source for the drawing... I would love to credit the artist if you can tell me who it is!)