Posts Tagged With: 3.5e

Session #17 – I have no idea where Kansas is so why are you saying we’re not in it anymore?

NOTE: This is where I started diverging from the module significantly when it came to rooms and overall organization. I kept all of the monsters and treasure, I just organized it differently and fixed a couple of the puzzles that wouldn’t have worked nearly so well with such a large group.



Ok, so as the party tried to get their bearings, as well as assess what might have happened to Dhagri, Wren, & Rhys, they ever so quickly realized that they were in a Demi-Realm, a pocket dimension created by a puissant mage or some other powerful supernatural being. An admittedly excellent method to guard excess to some location, the party was discomfited as they realized that they had no idea of how to progress.

There were no visible lights, and a luminescent mist rose off the ground – deep enough to almost entirely obscure Fonkin – and far off in the distance the party thought it could see a light coming from within the mist. With a lack of anything better to do they decided to investigate – sending familiars out ahead to scout the way. After an attack by fiendish beasts that were quickly dispatched the party found the source of the glow, a set of ancient arcane runes inscribed in the ground that flickered and danced with arcane power. The party spend an unknown amount of time striding through the mists of the Demi-Realm, fighting off fiendish beasts and finally culminating in a fight with a horrifically sized giant scorpion. When this final monster was fought, a brilliant scintillating light within lights appeared, almost a free-floating lamp of some sort. Floating there it then led the party through the mist to a free-standing Leygate crackling with leyfire.

Taking a deep breath and girding their loins, the party stepped through quickly before it closed (as this was a concern of theirs). On the other side they found themselves in a somewhat featureless room with a broken-down archway or door in the far end, as they stood there and debated what to do they were attacked by a pair of the bestial goblins that they had encountered before, as well as a hobgoblin warrior. In a short but vicious battle the party came out victorious but after the seemingly endless fiendish beasts of the Demi-Realm and the ravages of the goblins the party decided that needed to take a longer rest to take care of their wounds as well as hopefully manage to recover some spells. Through the passageway the party found an area when the tomb-robbers had also clearly rested for a period, as well as a bound and gagged half-elf unconscious and on the verge of death. The party resolved barricade a door even further in, treat the wounds of the half-elf, and rest – hoping that Dhagri, Wren, and Rhys would somehow manage to join them again…

  • This was a very combat-heavy session, while there was certainly roleplaying and a sense of accomplishment because of that the sheer length (and somewhat confusing nature) of the module was starting to show. In hindsight I should have started “fixing” the dungeon earlier, I just didn’t realize how much it was going to drag on.
  • The missing characters was partially to force the party to handle encounters without their two tanks, and the other combat-oriented henchman. Dhagri’s player had a work-related emergency and ended up on the West Coast for an unexpected trip and I simply took advantage of that to force the other characters to step up a bit.
  • Converting 3.5E adventures obviously takes some work, creatures really work differently in some ways (this was even more of a factor in the next session). Plus, I am also realizing just how bland 5e creatures really are – which is kind of surprising when you look at their trait system. I think part of the problem is that many of the creature features that require saves are simply way too easy to save against – they simply don’t factor in very often.
  • That said, some things did some Constitution damage this session and the hit that players took to their maximum hits due to lowered Constitution bonus inducing some puckering on the part of the players. Looking at undead in general I do think this is an interesting way to handle “not energy drain” since so many of the new undead have that sort of effect (maximum hit point reduction) on creatures.
  • Overall, the group is still really enjoying themselves, 5e, and even the module (though the module was sinking fast) – so the plan was to wrap up the module the following session if possible and then move on to the next one (which will involve some serious tweaks).



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LOL! Yeah, there’s been another slight break here…

Apologies for that, life and work has been busy.

A sad part is that I haven’t really been gaming. There was a little bit of Dark Heresy with my son that led to the musings on the Lost Imperium project, I’m not done with that, I think it would be lots of fun to run. I’ve been talking with my spouse about running a small little Artesia game just for the two of us and at the same time revisiting the “Pulp Cthulhu” (using Call of Cthulhu) game that I was running for my son and KT.

I’ve also been doing some real pondering about what went wrong with my AD&D game. In some ways that’s not a fair statement because I know people had fun, but I think I burned out a bit faster than I was expecting. It was also more of a s=chore to pick the game up again after 15 years and start running it.

Part of that was having other old-time AD&D players in the game (KB & CB) who were used to their own house rules and who have been playing in a several edition long campaign elsewhere (now in some 3.5E version IIRC). Going back to 1E was a great blast from the past for them, but I really had some very different house rules that they weren’t used to and I was also getting used to AD&D again on top of rebuilding an old set of house rules.

Some of the new house rules don’t work as well as I’d like (and will get tweaked again), some work really well, and in some ways I’m wondering if I was/am trying to make things too neat and clean. Now part of it was trying to come up with a coherent version of some of my older tweaks to character classes (Bards, etc) and make it easier for newer players who hadn’t been playing the game for years and didn’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of old articles, character classes, spells, magic items, etc.

At the same time, my campaign world has another 15 years of non-AD&D development and that has taken it away from a straight AD&D game as even just perusing my character races would show. That said, one of the things I’ve realized is that I either need to dial down the powers of non-humans (which I’m loathe to do because I do like how they feel) or I need to figure out how to increase the appeal of humans as a player race. That’s something I’m struggling with slightly, but it may simply be a matter of increasing the XP penalties of being non-human so that humans advance significantly faster or coming up with some extra penalties that the non-humans suffer from.

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Modules I’d like to run…

So, at this point I have run the party through two “introductory modules” – Scourge of the Howling Horde and then Keep on the Borderlands and I pretty much set up a clear lead in to Shattered Gates of Slaughtergarde. But I’ve been looking at the rest of the stuff sitting on my shelf and deciding what I’d like to run as well – understanding that there is usually some extra adventure in and around linking the modules up in a reasonable manner.

No brainers:

  • The Slaver Modules (A1-A4, though A4 is never a certainty)
  • Ravenloft (I6, and possibly the sequel, House of Gryphon Hill, I10)
  • Castle Amber (X2)
  • In Search of the Unknown (B1)
  • Castle of the Silver Princess (B3)
  • The Giant Modules – though tweaked for my world (G1-G3)
  • The Secret of Bone Hill (L1) and Assassins Knot (L2)
  • Tomb of Horrors (S1) and Return to the Tomb of Horrors (the Boxed set)
  • White Plume Mountain (S2)
  • Lost Caverns of Tsojancth (S4)
  • Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun (WG4)
  • The Ruins of Undermountain(Both I & II)
  • The Ruins of Myth Drannor
  • The Ghost Tower of Inverness (C2)

If I can figure out how to:

  • The Desert of Desolation series (I3-15)
  • Isle of Dread (X1)
  • Hidden Shrine of Tomoachan (C1)
  • The Witchblade Trilogy (by Privateer Press)
  • Death’s Reach (E1 for 4E)
  • Keep on the Shadowfell (H1 for 4E)
  • Hellgate Keep
  • The Wyrmskull Throne

I also have a pile of Kenzer and Company modules that look like they’d be fun, and I keep eyeballing the Pathfinder modules as well because they look like they could be mined for a great fun also. I kind of make a habit of picking modules for the cheap if I find them at used bookstores or the like – rarely do I not findsomethinguseful in them… Similarly I have a handful of the “official” 3E and 3.5E monules that clearly look like they’d be a gas to play – even if they are balanced a bit funky at times.

Now, I might be able to pull a couple of these off via members of the group having to split off and “solo adventure” (which may in fact mean that the group actually gets to create new characters to go and help the “solo” adventurer in their quest) – Frater Gregor is a rather excellent example of this given that he’s a disgraced paladin at the moment. He’s certainly going to need to go and do something to regain his status – and something like B3 would be perfect. Similarly, the rogues and the mages might decide that plundering the Tomb of Horrors would be worth the effort while the Society of Light folks decide that this is not even worth discussing.

That is actually the major problem that is developing for the party, the group has two real power groups that have significantly different goals in life – the very good Society of Light folks and the rather mercenary Rogues. Everybody still gets along, but there has been the odd bit of tension here and there – and Frater Nikolai is certainly very, very focused on “doing good”. He’s also a noble, so the whole idea of “making money” is a bit beneath him in many ways, he doesn’t begrudge the others that desire (it’s only natural of course) but his concerns aren’t quite so tawdry…



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Reconstructionism v. Romanticism

This is how I think about part of the “Simulationist” debate that rears it’s head now-and-again through the OSR blogosphere…

On the one hand you have Reconstructionism (stolen from Neo-Pagan circles), where the goal is try to simulate and reconstruct, as closely as possible, the “real world” – on an extrapolated real world based on “real principles” and a minimum of handwavium. So, in game terms, this means that games like Harn are very high on the scale. Working your way down from there, in roughly descending adherence to the value of “real world simulation”, you have games like Traveller 2300 then Traveller, Delta Green then Call of cthulhu, Cyberpunk 2020, and Pendragon. In miniatures games this would be the catalog from Ground Zero Games (Dirtside, Star Grunt, Full Thrust). In novels, you could see Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni novels as being relatively Reconstructionist rather than Romantic, as is George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones novels. The ERB’s John Carter of Mars novels have a strong Reconstructionist tone to them whereas his Tarzan novels are a bit less so and probably swerve into Romanticism – assuming that John Carter isn’t already there.

On the other side of the spectrum, you have Romanticism, where the goal is to create or evoke a fantastic existence rather than simulate reality. In increasing Romanticism in terms of D&D, we have OD&D and 2E (2E did it very badly IMO), then BXCMI and 1E (still relatively low on the scale), then 3E and 3.5, and then 4E at the further end of the scale. But in other games, in ascending order of Romanticism, we have… GURPS or Victoriana, Runequest, Stormbringer/Elric, Rolemaster, Talislanta, and then perhaps something like Exalted. In miniatures games this is the world of Games Workshop. In novels this would be Storm Constantine’s Wreathu novels and probably anything by Ed Greenwood or David Eddings. Discworld is very Romantic…

Neither is better or worse than the other, they’re just different. It’s kind of interesting to note that most of the games I play are pretty Reconstructionist in nature. My “Pulp Cuthulhu” game swings over to Romantic nature because of the house rules – and my 1E game similarly spikes up the Romanticism because of the make-up of the multiverse. So, where a game sits is a combination of the game engine and design, but also the individual game world/campaign.


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More Session #1 Thoughts

So, one of the most salient parts of the first session was a short combat with goblins and given that it was the first real combat for AD&D that I’ve run in years and I was both amazed at how quick and easy it was. The two things that really, really stood out was that surprise was deadly.

The group was up against five goblins that had surrounded a couple of wagons. I outfitted the goblin, weapon-wise, with what I remembered from my old game. I made a mistake in giving them the AC listed in the module (AC 8), I didn’t remember until Monday or so that I had shifted things down to about AC5 or AC6 “back in the day” but I’m not sure if this would have mattered.

A free round of action by virtue of the character’s surprising the goblins essentially decimated them – the combination of melee, missile weapons, and a Sleep spell that took out two of them. I actually ended up adding another six goblins because it was so anti-climactic and the band took them out in short order as well.

Now in part, this was due to some lucky rolls on the part of the party, they pretty much won out on initiative rolls the following two rounds. I use individual initiative rolls for characters, group initiative for non-leader monsters, and this can really swing a battle one way or the other when one side starts out with an advantage.

It also did an excellent job of confirming (again) the value of superior distance weapons. Between a longbow and two darters, the party far outclassed the goblin with their shortbows, and they had already managed to get their tanks into melee combat to pin folks down and do some damage of their own. It was a quick and bloody fight, and the most damage the party took was from fumbled arrow by Jezebel that caught Tier in the back as he tried to engage the goblins in melee.

That was the other bit of the rules that was interesting – criticals and fumbles. There were a couple of criticals (one of which was minimum damage and ended up doing the least amount of damage during the combat), and a couple of fumbles. As might be reasonable against goblins, the fumbles were much more memorable. An arrow in the back of a comrade, a darter that misfired, and a darter than jammed (thus turning into a very expensive paperweight). Goblins are so little that a critical is almost a waste. At 4HP (I always run with average HP, rounded up) one good hit will kill them in any case and even a couple of light hits will probably take one out. It’s going to be interesting to see how other combat plays out as we see some bigger humanoids, or combat with creatures – this is matching up to dim memories of characters romping through the “normal stuff” and then sweating blood when the supernatural creatures or the evil spell-casters came out play…


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Barrow Downs Campaign… – Session #1

Sounds kind of like a Tolkien-esque game, but really I just think it’s a nice riff off of the first module I’m running the group through, Scourge of the Howling Horde, where the little village is named “Barrow’s Edge” and I have a handful of beginner modules that would fit in pretty well I think.

Plus, of all the things that I can do quickly and easily, whipping up random tombs and barrows to loot is pretty damn easy. My biggest problem is that I long ago determined that in a world that had actual undead, who in the hell would actually bury them? The standard cultural custom for humans is to actually burn them – though I did end up positing a couple of millennia “barring” of undead in “the Heartlands” so perhaps this custom died out at some point as being un-needed.

Kind of makes a nice adventure point if “the old ways” are now so abhorrent that it would be a horrific sin of some sort to burn your dead… Hmmm… I’ll have to keep this in mind for the eventual character death…

So the group consists of six PCs and two NPCs:

Mikis (CN Human Thief) – From “the City”, he’s here because “he needed a vacation” – fast. The reasons for his much-needed vacation have been left for future development. He’s a bit mercenary, and a bit self-centered, but he is well aware that having a group around like this is good for staying alive.

Smor Bjornssen, son of Bjorn Tharlssen, son of Tharl Svenssen, son of Sven Arekssen (LN Human Barbarian) – From the Northern Marches, he’s the son of a Jarl and he and his brothers have been sent off to learn how to lead men by following leaders! Honorable to perhaps a fault, he’s quite suspicious of anything that smacks of magic, like the Fey…

Jezebel (NG Half-Elf Ranger/Druid) – Somewhat local, Jezebel could be described a supermodel not just with hips and tits, but a winning personality as well. She’s kind of socially clueless, buts wants to be helpful, and really wants minions, errr… companions! She has never forgiven her mother for not just sleeping with a human, but then giving her to humans to be raised. She travels with her two animal companions (via an Animal Friendship spell), a pair of hawks named Muerte and Vita.

Halass’n’tiernen aka “Tier” (NG Grey Elf Fighter/Mage) – The son of the heads of the Burning Blade mercenary company, Tier has been sent out to make his way before (hopefully) returning someday to take over. Grey Elves are semi-outcasts of elvish society, living primarily in the Mortal Realms, and are reputed to have lost much of their inherent faerie magic.

Frater Nikolai (LG Human Cleric + Fighter) – A nobleman’s son who originally trained as a warrior, Frater Nikolai is a Lightbringer, one of the priests of the Society of Light, a religion based on working with and for angels to the greater good of everyone. Devout and devoted to the Society, he’s travels with two other members of the Society, though somewhat unusual ones…

Novice Illya (LG High Man Monk/Psionicist) – One of the fabled Warrior-Monks of Endorn Monastery, Illya has left the monastery on an unknown mission and has joined with this small community of the Light in order to protect them and work towards the greater good. One of the legendary scions of Ryl Shantor, Illya has been trained in the psychic arts as well as the skills and talents of a warrior-monk, making him a formidable foe indeed.

Brother Kyril (NG High Man Healer/Psionicist + Thief) – A devout pacifist and member of the Universal Brotherhood of Life, an ancient fellowship that was among the founders of the Society of Light. Brother Kyril is also a scion of Ryl Shantor and a healer of no small skill. What is surprising is that he has forgotten little of his origins in the lowest of classes and his life on the street as a pickpocket in the City.

“Astrin” (?? Grey Elf Fighter?/Mage?/Rogue) – Also known as “the Elf Bitch” by Jazabel who is quite jealous of her significantly greater beauty. Astrin is a bit of mystery, she seems to a friend of Tier’s, though they met rather recently, and Mikis and Brother Kyril have confirmed that she’s “a friend of the Family” but she also seems to have been a rather recent arrival to the City before the campagn started and she has a bit of a foreign accent. She has the bearing of a noble, and seems quite accustomed to her creature comforts, though for anyone could guess it’s an act designed merely to get under the skin of Jezabel.

The group made thier way to the small town of Barrow’s Edge, where there was word that adventurers were needed. Rescuing a gnomish merchant by the name of Stenna Silvercoin from a group of eleven goblins that had attacked her wagons, she offered them credit at her store if they would accompany her safely to the very town that they were headed towards. Upon arriving they were offered (and accepted) the princely sum of 500 “coins of the realm”(1) if they could ensure that the local goblins stopping attacking and bother the small town of 100 souls.

After wandering the town for a bit, the group has decided to leave the next morning to go back to the site of the goblin attack and try to track the goblins back to their lair…



(1) Yeah, I started this game trying to run with AD&D’s GP standard, and I’ve already decided after a short perusal of the crazy pricing of things that I’m going to go with the silver standard price list I’ve been using for years now. Since a mercenary makes 30 silver a month using that standard, 500 silver is still pretty good – better than 500 GP the original module offered… When staying at the inn for a week costs the same as a longsword (~15gp) assuming that they aren’t drinking any alcohol, you know something is wrong with the local economy…

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RPGs and TT Gaming

That’s “Role-Playing Game” and “Table Top” in case you were wondering…

I’ve been a big gamer for years, 32 or so actually, and I’ve started this blog to talk about that – but it is a bit in media res so just read along and you’ll figure things out as I do…

The Victoriana game is still going strong; everybody is enjoying themselves and I’ve kind of worked out the bugs I see in the conceptual world that the canon setting posits. So, instead of dwarves and not-elves and whatnot constantly coexisting with humanity, I’ve changed the history to say that post 30-Years War, Faerie started to colonize the largely depopulated Europe and that the supernatural races have always existed in and around the corners of the world. Makes for a slightly different feel of the game – plus I’ve restored certain events in history (such as the US Civil War) and come up with explanations for why the Crimean War still seems to be ongoing.

The really big news in RPG-land here at the homestead is that I’ve started exploring 1E again – 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.  I stopped playing (either as DM or player) AD&D some time before my son (who is now a teenager) was born.  I think I basically stopped DMing it around the time of my first marriage and stopped playing at some point in the following 3-4 years.

The thought experiment at the moment is to see how I can frame my campaign world in 1E terms without resorting to the Frankenstein’s monster of official rules and house rules my campaign had become by time I stopped playing AD&D.

There are certainly a handful of house rules to be used, and that was the beauty of 1E – the system was loose enough to allow that and Dragon magazine certainly had a plenty of extra options to allow it.

But instead of adding in extra spell-casting rules from a half-a-dozen extra systems (to my recollection, I was using Rolesmaster, CoC, Runequest, and PRPG in addition to the basic system of AD&D rulebooks), I’m looking at doing things simply with extra character classes from that era of Dragon and White Dwarf (and elsewhere, if deemed valuable). I’m rejecting the abomination that was 2E (I hate “kits”), let alone the significant change that was 3E or 3.5E.

So, there’s a chance that I’ll be using the space here to talk about some of this process as I try to piece together what worked from 15+ years ago and rebuild a new OD&D campaign still set in my long-running campaign setting. At this point, we just passed the 32-year mark for me playing RPGs, so that puts my fantasy setting at 25+ years, with several multi-year sandbox campaigns set within it.

Take care!


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