Friday, August 29, 2014

The Farthingholme Mystery: Late For Dinner


New to the Farthingholme Mystery? Read this first. Previous episodes can be found by following this tag.

Jessica shows to Jeanne to a room at the end of the hallway, then leaves her to her own devices. The room is small, but neatly appointed. The furnishings consist of a wardrobe, a bed, and a small vanity with mirror. Jeanne notes that someone, undoubtedly a servant employed at Farthingholme, has already unpacked her belongings.

Wait! Headmistress Crowley told Jessica to take Jeanne down to dinner once she had been shown her to her room, but the rude little snob has already fled the presence of a girl she feels is beneath her. It wouldn't do to miss dinner on her first night here; Jeanne does not want to be seen as an unruly girl who breaks the rules. At least, not yet.

Picking her way back down the dark hallway and down the stairs, Jeanne finds herself wondering where to go in the silent, brooding heaviness of the house. She could go down a hallway toward the back of the house, pursue another hallway to the house's left wing, or attempt the right wing of the building.

Which way should Jeanne go? free polls

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Blighter's Manse, a town on Blaustein

(Click to enlarge)

As far as I know, the Ravenloft island of Blaustein canonically only has one village at the foot of Bluebeard's castle. Since I prefer a "bigger," more populated setting, I'm adding several pirate harbors and shanty-towns to the domain. This one is called Blighter's Manse. The way I'm looking at it right now is that everyone in a position of power on Blaustein answers to Bluebeard. The Lord-Governor of Blighter's Manse is loyal to the mad pirate and maintains power solely on the threat of involving Bluebeard in response to any insurrection. The "army" stationed in the fortress of Hellholt is little more than thugs in uniform who keep the harbor safe from anyone wishing to impose any law and order that doesn't come from Bluebeard himself.

Also, these seem appropriate:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Charting Ravenloft's Seas

In the early years of the "Age of Piracy," one of the first items a pirate crew would loot from a captured vessel was the navigator's nautical charts. Nautical charts were rare, so that had value as commodities. Nautical charts were also often faulty, so the chance to score better charts could represent a major improvement in a pirate crew's ability to ply their wicked trade on the high seas. Knowing where you are, where you're going, and where things are is a huge tactical advantage--especially when you had information that mapped to seaborne trade routes.

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Navigating Ravenloft's seas is supposed to be next to impossible. Even the most generous of maps portrays the core lands as being surrounded by confusing, impenetrable mist that makes sea-travel unfeasible:

(sweet map by Jester)

While the idea of a mist-locked continent does add to the setting's feeling of Gothic claustrophobia, I think it takes away more than it adds. It denies the possibility of larger-scale sea-trade and exploration, for starters.

Here's a remix idea for Ravenloft's seas that draws on what I've read about the importance of good nautical charts in the Age of Sail: there are permanent routes and passages through the mists; they've been discovered by trial and error; a captain or navigator who knows a "channel" through the mists (perhaps to some lucrative trade destination) would guard that knowledge above all else because it effectively gives them a monopoly.

This makes Ravenloft a larger, potentially "more connected" setting. All those island domains you are supposed to find only by accident when you're lost in the mist? Now they're all navigable, but few know how to reach them. Stealing a merchant fleet's map at the behest of a pirate lord is now a viable adventure. Hell, stealing away with enough charts to map all of the Ravenloft's many domains could be a campaign in itself.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Can We Talk About Board Games for a Second?

Question for the audience: do you ever use board games to supplement your rpg game sessions?

Modern board games are pretty cool: they're thematic, and a lot of work has gone into thinking about what makes for fun mechanics. The last group I played with regularly used them as a way to "warm up" or "cool down" from the main event of the gaming session. 

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Also, it occurs to me that board game maps are pretty evocative these days; anyone ever use one for an rpg session?

Check these out:

Fury of Dracula

 A Touch of Evil

 Letters from Whitechapel

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Also, check out this card from a game called A Duel Betwixt Us:

I need to get that!

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Honestly? Descent seems like a way more fun dungeoncrawl than D&D ever does.

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If you use minis in your rpgs, board games can be a good way to get a solid assortment of figures...with dual use in their game of origin as well. Score!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ultimate Ulverland Unleashed!

This seems a like a week of humble achievements here at Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque: I've hit a subscriber milestone, 666 posts, etc. 

To celebrate, I'm releasing the latest (and best, in my opinion) version of my Gothic Fantasy setting Ulverland. It's available in print as a sweet little trade-sized book here, and as always, the proceeds will be given to charity. Nice black cover with cream interior, nice fonts used throughout--it's easily the best-looking book I've made yet. It's also available as a free pdf here.

This collects a lot of material I've published here on the blog (such as details on Lowedon, the Northlands, Ulverland's colonies in the Discovered Countries, etc.), as well as stuff I haven't shared before (lots of little details on daily life in Ulverland, technological levels and why they're all over the place in the setting, an explanation of why everyone speaks Common, an admittedly crude map of Lowedon, etc.) I've also expanded my overview of Ulverland and the greater world that it resides in.

The book is systemless; you could use it with whatever set of rules appeals to you. If you saw the draft of this on G+ a few days back, this is a new, edited version.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dungeons and Dragons V: A "Black Knight" Wizard

As the third child of an aristocratic family, it was always expected that Maynard Hardy would join the clergy. Although he had an aptitude for memorizing scripture from the Book of the Lady, his heart never truly belonged to the Church. Perhaps it was the lack of a "calling" that opened the way for Maynard's wayward curiosity to change the shape of his life. Attending the seminary gave him access to forbidden and blasphemous grimoires; where the Book of the Lady could not hold his interest, these commanded his attention. Using these tomes, Maynard was able to become adept at the black arts. Of course, when his arcane pursuits were discovered Maynard was expelled from the seminary in disgrace.

His expulsion was to be the first of two blows that altered the course of his life. The second was the mysterious assassination of his father. After the death of his father, Maynard pledged to use his newfound magical prowess to hunt down and destroy whoever killed his sire. He has donned black mourning attire in respect for his father and views his somber garb as a constant reminder to the world that he is sworn to bring death to the hand responsible for his father's murder.

Race – Human
Level – 1
Class – Wizard
Background – Acolyte

Strength – 9 (-1), Dexterity – 14 (+2), Constitution – 11 (+0)
Intelligence – 18 (+4), Wisdom – 16 (+3), Charisma – 12 (+1)

Hit Points – 6
Armor Class – 12
Proficiency Bonus – +2

Proficiencies – Daggers, darts, slings, quarterstaffs, light crossbows,
Saving Throws – Intelligence, Wisdom
Skills – Arcana, Investigation, Insight, Religion

Equipment – Quarterstaff, arcane focus, scholar's pack, spellbook, holy book, holy symbol, 5 sticks of incense, vestments, belt pouch with 15 gp

Special Abilities – Spellcasting, Arcane Recovery

Personality Trait – Rough living grates on me
Ideal – Aspiration
Bond – I want to preserve heretical texts from destruction
Flaw – Once I pick a goal I become obsessed with it

Monday, August 18, 2014

Dungeons and Dragons V: A Mourning Blade

Hey look, another 5e character! I'm going to do one of each of the four classes in the Basic pdf. 

What do you do if you want to observe the tradition of a viewing for your deceased loved one, but there is a chance that they will rise again due to the curse of undeath? Why, you hire a mourning blade, of course. A mourning blade is a man or woman hired to sit and grieve by the remains of a deceased person; if the body should happen to stir into unlife, a mourning blade is trained to spring into action and give the deceased the comfort of a second death before they have a chance to wreak havoc. Since their profession requires a certain level of keeping up appearances, mourning blades prefer to wield weapons that are easily concealed; men favor swordcanes, while women prefer blades that can be secreted in parasols.

Orphaned at an early age, Catrin Steinmann was apprenticed to a mourning blade, and by all outward appearances she is a typical member of that sadly necessary profession. However, Catrin uses the cover of her profession to spy on the aristocratic families who hire her; her real employer is the Crown--she collects information on any families engaged in acts of dissidence or treason.

Race – Human
Level – 1
Class – Fighter
Background – Criminal (Spy)

Strength – 16 (+3), Dexterity – 14 (+2), Constitution – 15 (+2)
Intelligence – 13 (+1), Wisdom – 15 (+2), Charisma – 10 (+0)

Hit Points – 12
Armor Class – 15
Proficiency Bonus – +2

Proficiencies – All armor, Shields, Simple weapons, Martial weapons, Playing cards, Thieves' tools
Saving Throws – Strength, Constitution
Skills – Acrobatics, Perception, Deception, Stealth

Equipment – Leather armor, Longbow with 20 arrows, Longsword (hidden in parasol), Shield, Two hand axes (kukri), Dungeoneer's pack, Crowbar, Belt pouch with 15 gp

Special Abilities – Fighting Style (Dueling), Second Wind

Personality Trait – I always have a plan for when things go wrong
Ideal – Freedom
Bond – Something was taken from me, I aim to take it back
Flaw – When faced with a decision between friends and money, I usually take the money

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I timed this one as well--I'm starting to feel like a trainspotter--and it only took ten minutes. That's a perfectly acceptable range, so this edition is already miles ahead of 3e and 4e for me.