Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Hot Ghost Pirate on Ghost Pirate Action

Over the weekend I went down to Alexandria to play games as part of the D&D Weekend my friends get together for every year. This is how the game I played in went down:

Characters. Filifrost (elf rogue), Sterling (human fighter), Zowie (eladrin warlock), Gunther (gnome barbarian), Wolfric (half-elf paladin), Ivy (aasimar cleric).

Events. After attending the funeral of a character we met last time--and did not murder ourselves, we asked--we were approached by a cleric who told us about a series of villages that had been raided down the coast...apparently by a ship full of ghost pirates. Of course we agreed to investigate.

We talked to a madman that claimed to have seen red eyes during one of the attacks. We also talked to a ludicrously named gnome healer named Filistrum Wundercundoodle who had some "toe bones" from the "ghost pirates."

"Filtrum Wundercumdoodle, your shop has a wonderful aroma. Now, let's talk about bones." - Ivy Valerio

The fact that the bones had some sort of adhesive glue on them led us to believe that a Scooby Doo situation was afoot.

And then, side quests. A talking squirrel directed Zowie to a woodland glade where he was told that something was messing with the weather patterns. Sterling and Gunther were given a silver axe in the cemetery by a half-orc who warned them of demonic cult activity. Ivy was invited to a late-night dinner and was asked to keep an eye out for a delayed merchant.

Encounters on the way! We found the delayed merchant, fixed his broken axle, and ate his stew. We got caught between a dire wolf and her cubs, but Gunther managed to talk her out of eating us.

We met up with a ferryman who told us that there was nothing interesting about the island village he lived in, so of course we wanted to go there. It was a suspicious shit hole. A little orphan girl asked us to take her with us when we left. A bunch of old women threatened to poison us. The guy we were hoping to get information from told us that a dracolich was responsible for the attacks, but he was clearly lying and wouldn't admit it even after we escalated from good cop/bad cop to bad cop/worse cop.

The villagers told us that no one comes back from the forest, so we explored it and found their demon cult cave, complete with sacrificial altar, evil dagger, and books that indicated that the villagers had sold their souls to Tiamat. Since the village was full of hovels, it looked like they got ripped off. On the way back we fought a demon made of sagging skin.

Back in the village, a storm had hit. We checked out the smokehouse, where dubious meat was hanging. We took refuge in the barn, where Gunther talked to the goats--who were unhelpful. Of course, a miscreant with a crowbar and his "skeleton pirate" pals showed up to fuck with us, but we killed them handily. (And probably blew too many resources doing so.) The ghost pirate was actually just a kobold in a costume.

Then, we saw the fake ghost ship...rammed by a real ghost ship. Our Scooby Doo situation had gone meta. We commandeered a boat and rowed out to the melee. Our plan was to fight the real ghost pirates first, then clear out the kobolds.  Things looked good for us at first, but then we had at least three solid turns of bad rolls on our side. Things were looking dire. Gunther was knocked out, Filifrost's player fell asleep, the fake pirates' cleric leader tried to make off with our boat, all of us were low on hit points and we were out of spells. 

We retreated to the boat and let the ghost pirates take their revenge on the villagers.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Nine Hex-Marked Houses

Although the noble classes were relieved of the burden of political power many generations ago by a populist uprising, nine hex-marked houses of aristocratic tiefling witches and warlocks cling to feuds that stretch back through the ages; these hostilities often erupt in street violence between gangs of partisan cavaliers or duels to the death between courtiers. The magical melees between House Stockwither and House Bao are particularly brutal. The members of each house bear the black sigil of their family magically branded onto their left hands.


  • The House of Bao. The tieflings of House Bao are gifted with powers of conflagration and darkness. 
  • The House of Demian. The tieflings of House Demian are gifted with powers that bend their victims’ will. 
  • The House of Kortigo. The tieflings of House Kortigo are gifted with powers of illusion. 
  • The House of Malrouge. The tieflings of House Malrouge are gifted with powers of force and entrapment. 
  • The House of Moriah. The tieflings of House Moriah are gifted with powers of madness and disease. 
  • The House of Renash. The tieflings of House Renash are gifted with powers of stealth and deceit. 
  • The House of Stockwither. The tieflings of House Stockwither are gifted with powers of ice and frost. 
  • The House of Underhill. The tieflings of House Underhill are gifted with powers of control and manipulation. 
  • The House of Vexenvolk. The tieflings of House Vexenvolk are gifted with fiery, violent powers.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Don't Hate the Flayer, Hate the Game: The Rules

House Rules
99% of terrible house rules are born from wanting to add "realism" or "logic" to necessary abstractions.

"I didn't design this with balance in mind" is most often said by people who either don't want to do the work to make something balanced or don't have to design chops to even try.

Tweeting at Game Designers, Demanding Answers
People who tweet increasingly aggressive questions to game designers--or worse, people who demand new content or rule changes under the guise of asking a question--are actively trying to tell you that they aren't well suited to a game that is essentially based on the premise "make up fun stuff."

The Bait and Switch
If you tell people that you're going to run an "old-school 5e game" but what you really mean is that you added the advantage/disadvantage mechanic to Swords & Wizardry, it kinda feels like you couldn't get any players for the game you really want to run and maybe you should think about why that's the case.

If you suspect that someone is cheating on their dice rolls, keep a tally of what they claim they're rolling. If the only roll they ever blow is for initiative, they're probably fudging and you can safely stop inviting them to your games.

The funny thing about cheating at D&D is that the stakes are so low. I get being attached to your character, but it's not like money is riding on how the roll goes--which makes me think that people who lie about their rolls are playing in your game for reasons unconnected from having fun with other people in a pro-social way.

I've never encountered anyone who lies about their rolls that isn't also bringing some other problems to the table.

Speaking of cheating, this Twitter post by Bluejay sums up why I never fudge rolls as a DM (unless I think I screwed up and added wrong, rolled too many dice in the heat of the moment, etc.):

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Let's Read Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes: Complete

Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes? Yeah, read it, talked about it. Here's an index of my read through:

The Blood War and Devils!
Drow and Eladrin!
Shadar-Kai and the Raven Queen!
Halflings and Gnomes!

But what about the Bestiary section? Look, it's full of monsters. It's got berbalang in it, but it doesn't have penanggalan. That's all I can tell you, really.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Necrophagous Fever

Umberwell is a city of contagion...

Umberwell is plagued by outbreaks of disease; some areas of the city are perpetually quarantined. Necrophagous Fever, for example, causes an elevated temperature, rasping cough, cadaverous appearance, and skin discoloration, until the progress of the disease leads to eventual transformation into a mindless zombie that hungers to kill the living and devour their flesh. Patent medicines of varying efficacy, such as Korokov's Blood Tonic and Paolo's Venerable Elixir, are sold throughout Umberwell to treat the Fever and a multitude of other complaints. The superstitious wear scrimshaw charms in hopes of staving off infection.

  • Necrophagous Fever originated on the wild continent of Hygaea. It was brought to Umberwell accidentally by intrepid explorers.
  • The plague is man-made; there is a government conspiracy that aims to thin the population of Umberwell's underclass through biological warfare.
  • The Fever has an unknown connection to a number of neighborhoods that have been consumed by demonic fungus.
  • Doctor Althena Roxandra, lead physician at the Aspmoore Sanitarium in Cirqus, has discovered a cure for the Fever, but is holding her serum for ransom until an exorbitant price is met.
  • The contagion is an act of sabotage perpetrated by agents of the Azrakhan Emirates to keep Umberwell from joining the War of Blue Orchids in support of Duvaria.
* * *

Shout outs to Paolo Greco of Lost Pages; Paolo's Venerable Elixir is so named in tribute.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Ass Goblins of Auschwitz

Mini-Episode 11: Ass Goblins of Auschwitz
Cameron Pierce's 2009 novella Ass Goblins of Auschwitz has a stand-out title even in the outrageous world of bizarro fiction, a subgenre of fantasy that uses that uses elements of absurdism, pop-cultural references, grotesquery, and over-the-top scatological imagery--often for the purpose of surreal satire. In this month's episode, Jack and Kate crack the covers of this notorious story and see if it delivers on its promise.

Will a book with a title this wild be able to live up to the hype? Are there any artistic and literary precedents for this sort of thing, with its "toilet toad" and "shit slaughter" madness? And how do Neil Gaiman and Jerry Lewis figure into all of this? Find out the answers to all these questions and more on this month's mini episode of Bad Books for Bad People.
BBfBP theme song by True Creature 
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