Posts Tagged With: intersession

The Thieves Guild and Gentleman Rogues

As should be clear from the last few posts, in addition to the normal game sessions, I will occasionally take folks aside in email or in person to handle “off-screen” details. It may be blue-booking like below, or it may simply be some basic solo adventuring to figure out a couple of things, but especially when I have two people Skyping in from out-of-state, I prefer to use “table-time” for actual gaming rather other stuff. This is slightly adapted text of the email that I sent out as the last intersessionary update as to what had happened:

Gryphon is able to get all of you (via a couple of trips) to the city of Snell, a smaller inland city of a few thousand inhabitants on the eastern border of the Grand Duchy of Soahc. While not as fine or grand or ultimately as exciting as Aos, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Soahc, it is as a busy trade center mostly concerned with mundane goods and services (unlike Aos, which concerns itself with the exotic and the magical as much as possible).

That is, of course, if you are interested. Pretty much all of you (except Gryphon!) went up two levels in Thief and would like some decent training in the appropriate skills and whatnot. Of course, this does require joining the Black Masks Thieves Guild (or at least, this thieves guild for the moment) – these are the folks with the knowledge and the skills (and the equipment) that most of you are seeking and they aren’t going to hand it out to just anyone. Joining is easy, it merely costs 100sp, though the dues (which are immediately assessed) are another 100sp per your current level.

The benefits are pretty obvious. You have a place to get training (though it will cost), and in this town you have the contacts to fence stolen goods of most goods, plus a place to buy rogue-specific equipment. You’ll also have some contacts for selling stolen goods through fences, and anything else that might be appropriate for the Thieves Guild. You also all get an official black silk mask that you may wear on job to obscure your identity, and you all get tattooed with a small black mask somewhere on your body (your choice). You also get access to legal advocates in the event that you get caught and need legal defense, and the Black Masks and the Black Rose Society (the Assassin’s Guild) have a mutual “hands-off” policy.

The requirements are that you give a cut of 10% of the value of all your stolen goods (or monies) to the Guild if stolen within its area of operations. This is essentially most of the GRand Duchy of Soahc as well as the surrounding area, though if there is any question it’s usually best to just hand the Guild it’s cut and be done with it. You also agree not to steal from people and businesses under guild protection, and that you will also do your best to aid other guild members in need. I suppose that I can come up with actual bylaws, but those are the high points that really get emphasized. They also mention that, at times, members may be offered “opportunities” by the leadership of the Guild. You are all left the impression that turning down these “opportunities” isn’t very optional. You are also all supposed to operate under the “guidance” of more senior members of the Black Masks when they offer “advice”.

Pretty much the folks in the Black Masks that you know at the moment are: “Black” Stillson, the Lieutenant who took your oaths; Andraa, the owner of the Boarshead Inn (a front for the guild); “Blind Lew”, a beggar who can get messages to the Guild; Rueben, a kind of beefy Guild enforcer; Paulus, a gray trader (fence); and Blackburne, the rather attractive female training master of the Guild.

What was really interesting is that KB, the guy playing Ketzl, decided that he wanted to go in another direction with his character. Ketzl is gnome, and not exactly super-interested in getting all involved in human guilds and politics – and more importantly is a noble and really doesn’t think of himself as a “thief” exactly (especially a tattoo..? How déclassé)… That said, he did recognize the need to play nice with the Thieves Guild and proposed some sort of other arrangement.

I thought about it a bit, and nodded. The Thieves Guild certainly would recognize the existence of “gentleman rogues” who while not exactly embodying the “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” of the Guild would have reason to do business with the seamier side of the common trades, and perhaps even have need of a gray trader at times. So, while there is a “gentleman-sized” fee for the privilege. Basically the “gentleman rogues” merely pay 200sp per level and will pay extra for all sorts of services. Plus they still pretty much have to obey all the guild rules and get very little in the way of guild benefits – but it keeps the peace with the adventurers that don’t want to get embroiled in local politics but also don’t want to get in trouble for doing their thing as well.

It’s been awhile since I had so many different people playing thieves all at the same time. It’s kind of fun actually, and really does rather neatly create an interesting balance against the very Lawful Good and highly religious members of the party.


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Geasa and Dust Bunnies

Here’s another Intersession, the one for Smjor the Barbarian. Yeah, I know, the Barbarian class from Unearthed Arcana that everyone hates. I have a bit of strange relationship with the Barbarian, complicated interestingly by the fact that I do not, as a general rule, care how powerful a character is. So my issues aren’t exactly with how powerful they are, but with how unplayable they are. So understanding that I have tweaked the class around pretty severely, drawn a bit from the Oriental Adventures version of the class (which is better balanced in general) one of things that I have added is that barbarians all have geasa – and gain one with each level of advancement.

As SS (Smjor’s player) likes to put it, “Barbarians, the only class that can do less with each level they go up!”

But, Barbarians basically have to find a decent level shaman or druid (or oracle I suppose) in order to get themselves their geis, and Smjor also has this mysterious bunny that climbed into his pack and seems to bring him good luck that he’s not sure what to do with or about – normally he’d eat it, but he’s superstitious enough to recognize that bunnies don’t just crawl into people’s packs….


Caedmon is a druid, and while he showed up to give a blessing to the rangers (and check out the “hot half-elf ranger/druidess” before they went out for their induction into their lodge he’s perfectly happy to provide you with a geis. He’s actually a bit surprised to find a Northman around here, but he’s perfectly happy to pull out the sticks and a bull’s skin to see what is up for you. After some fiddling around he comes up with “Never enter a cairn in the Heartlands on Imbolc.” So, no grave-robbing for the holidays!

On a short note, I use the geis tables from the Pagan Shore Ireland supplement for Pendragon – only slightly adapted becauise I’m running a game in Ireland.


=>From Smjor’s Player

1) Since I’m not up there, it was hard to find a time to sneak this info in, so I’ll just let you know a) in case it matters, b) just for color text. As I said in my letter to the group, Smjor is really considering that animal to be a gift from the gods – after all, rabbits just do NOT curl up in backpacks randomly. The better combat skills could just be psychological, the prescient nature of its paranoia could just be, well, being a rabbit. (and yes, I think Sjmor may have thought of these things)… but just the fact that it showed up how it did is evidence enough for the big guy.

2) Smjor will thus treat this rabbit accordingly. He needs to find a way to carry that little guy around with him that minimizes risk of injury, but also maximizes its comfort. Yes, this may be expensive. And yes, He’s willing to ask ppl about it (engineers/mages/etc at the keep). Smjor will NOT let those not-in-the-group know of the circumstances, He’ll just tell them that he want to keep the rabbit safe… He’ll let them think it’s some bizarre northman superstition if he needs to.

3) But what this really leads to is Caedmon. Smjor will show the druid the rabbit in a way that (hopefully) shows respect for both the man and the beast. Animal kinship is certainly a thing of “the Old Gods” – but not so much a thing of Smjor’s people (or, certainly, his father and family).


Now, when it comes to Caedmon and the bunny…

“Hmmmm…” Caedmon eyes the bunny, the Bunny eyes Caedmon.

It wriggles it’s nose.

“That’s quite a rare beastie you have there. You say it just crawled into your pack?”

*Yes, yes it did.*

“Well isn’t that interesting.” Druid and Bunny eye each other some more, Caedmon leans in quite close to look at it. The Bunny sits there and then sneezes, Caedmon jerks back. “You are quite the lucky fellow aren’t you.”

*I- Err, Yes, I …am?*

“You have a Dust Bunny. Quite a rare-” He eyes you “-and magical beast. And it appears to have chosen you.”

*Err… Ulp.* (Barbarians don’t really like magic you know)

“That is, quite frankly, a sign of excellent luck and the favor of the Old Powers. The Dust Bunny is quite devoted to its companion, never leaving their side, bringing them luck in all things. There is no way of knowing, but some of them can be quite vicious when defending a fallen companion, so be aware of that. See those great gnashy teeth there?” Caedmon points out the large incisors of the Dust Bunny.


“They’ll bloody well rip your throat out if they get the chance. Dust Bunnies can also be quite dangerous if attacked or provoked, so warn your companions not to tease it.” Caedmon eyes you ominously, “Dust Bunnies do not tolerate teasing.”

Yes, Caedmon has a cousin named Tim – he’s a mage…

This all came about because SS (and about half the gaming group) all play Godville a “Zero-Player Game, and his Hero had just lost their “pet” a “Dust Bunny” – and I thought it was funny to have a rabbit crawl into his character pack in my game to replace the lost pet in the other game. Now, as I played with it I actually liked it as a “magic item” for a character class that doesn’t normally like magic – the Dust Bunny acts like a Luckstone as long as it is within some reasonable range of Smjor (rather like a familiar).

Anyways, tomorrow I’ll post the Intersession for the Rogues.



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The Old Faith and Ranger Lodges

This was, as with the previous post, the intersessionary email for the Old Faith folks.

So, shortly after you all get back to Seraph Keep, after treasure is divided up, a trio of members of the Old Faith show up. Jezebel is happy to see Ru (short for “Kharukash”) show up, her sponser into both the Ban Draoi and the Rangers. Ru is a half-elven Ranger/Druid/Mage that she knows from her past training, and who generally serves as liaison between the Rangers and the Ban Draoi (the distaff side of the Druidic Orders) – as well as being a member of the Circle, a kind of larger, over-arching organization of rangers, druids, mages, and bards (as well as other classes, but these are the most represented).

Ru takes Jezebel back to Áine, a Druidess whose grove is deep in the mountains, and where she undergoes her initiation into the 1st Circle of the Ban Draoi Order. Imagine lots of dancing naked around fires, sleeping in caves, and meditation under the night sky wrapped in animal skins. Jezebel also spends time under the eye of Ru herself as she gets inducted into Dragonblood Lodge – this involves lots of sweatlodges, running naked in the woods hunting things with your bare hands and teeth, and being painted in woad and blood – possibly some tattoos as well. Now, this isn’t free, each of these costs you in the neighborhood of 1000sp. If you don’t have the money, or don’t have things you can offer up in place of money – so after treasure picks (and yes, you do know that this sort of thing is going to take cash, this isn’t a surprise) we’ll see where you are at. But don’t worry, you’ll get your initiations and inductions no matter what. Ru isn’t going to let a prospect of your potential slip through the cracks.

The other two who show up are the ranger Laighhean and the Caedmon the Druid. Laighhean is a pretty well-respected ranger (he’s like 8th level) and he takes Arvid and Taloth off into the mountains after they get a blessing from Caedmon where they meet up with a handful of other rangers and they get inducted into the Blackmoon Lodge. Similarly to Jezebel, this involves lots of sweatlodges, lots of hunting things with nothing more than your hands and teeth, being painted in woad and blood, possible tattoos, and meditating under the night sky wrapped in animal skins. This is going to cost each of you roughly 1000sp, let me know if you don’t think you’ll have enough cash or trade after the treasure picks. It will get figured out.

This shows the players a bit more about what they can expect from both being members of the Old Faith, but also introduces them to a couple of “movers and shakers” when I say Druid (and Druidess) I’m talking the 12th level ones – the folks that are important. Plus Ru is pretty darn spiffy as well, the Circle is one of those groups that was spawned a million years ago in my game, by a mention of a group of rangers and druids of the same name by Ed Greenwood long before he was ever talking about the Harpers. I think it was in one of his Pages from the Mages articles.

The other part is that as we discussed this all in person, it also “came out” that there had been at least a couple of days spent all together doing said ranger-y things off in some hidden valley where the rangers and the druids hang out. Not sure where exactly that will go, but it’s good to know that I have that in the wings as well if I need it. Plus, Taloth’s new broadsword let’s him Teleport once per day – and he spent some time making a point of memorizing the teleport terrace in the hidden valley. So, if all else fails, he has a spot to bamf out to for safety.


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The Society of Light and the Order Luminous

This was the intersessionary email (slightly tweaked for context) for the Society of Light folks. It’s worth noting that the Order Luminous is directly stolen from the “Luminous Order” from the Shattered Gates of Slaughtergarde module, as are the Serene Guardians (a prestige class). The description of the Order is pretty much verbatim taken from the module.

Now Frater Nikolai was off dealing with the Caves of Chaos because he was tasked with it after getting a break on his training for 3rd level, and Brother Illya has merely been accompanying him. It is worth noting that while Castle Seraph is an outpost of the Society of Light, it’s a very small one. It isn’t exactly brimming with Lightbringers and Paladins, there are a grand total of five priests on hand. The Curate, Frater Lionel, and his three acolytes, the Brothers Hugh, Tomas, and Emile – plus a Cloistered Cleric by the name of Brother Simeon who acts a scribe for the castellan. This gentleman goes by the name of Sir Lucian Sc. Valour, Guardian of Seraph Keep, and he is the only paladin at the Keep. There is also a half-elf warrior/mage by the name of Raeburn who acts as an advisor to the Sir Lucian and seems to be highly trusted. There is also a wandering Warrior-Monk by the name of Master Birinaj, not of the Endorian Monastery to the south in Albion where Brother Illya hails from, but of the much smaller and reclusive Monastery Tel Hazor from deep in Shahuda Mountains to the north (also known as the Mountains of Witness or the Mountains of Martyrs). Commonly known as the “Serene Guardians”, these Warrior-Monks are quite friendly with another obscure group, the Order Luminous. Perhaps unsurprisingly, both Frater Lionel and Sir Lucian (as well as the officers of the Keep) are members of the Order Luminous, an obscure order that dates back to Wars of Binding and has always been located here in these mountains where they are concerned with incursions of the Dearth and the machinations of the Fallen.

The actions of Frater Nikolai impressed Frater Lionel and Sir Lucian to such a degree that they are offered membership in the Order Luminous. This is, by the way, not exactly something you can refuse without giving offense – it doesn’t conflict with membership in other Orders, nor does it particularly conflict with either of your other religious directives. It’s an Order basically on the lookout for evil, especially the sorts of hidden inequity that might lead to greater woe down the road. The Order Luminous was created to stop demonic invasion, so it is particularly concerned with anything that lets evil gain a foothold such as a secret demonic cult engaging in foul rites within a forest, or an evil lycanthrope hidden within a community. It strikes at any growing evil, uprooting it before it can bear bitter fruit.

The Order Luminous places great faith in the self-reliance of its members. Once accepted within its ranks, the Order is confident that you take its mission to heart. Thus, the order demands few specific duties from you beyond those expected of other members of the Knights-Militant of the Society of Light. If evil shows its face, then the Order Luminous asks that its members to vanquish it. But the Orders leaders rarely demand that a specific agent undertake a specific mission. While its members are always welcome in the shining citadels of the Order, it is common for Luminaries to be away from order for months at a time, even if they aren’t on any specific quest or mission. Joining the Order advances one’s career as a hero, it doesn’t constrain it.

It is made perfectly clear to Gregor that once he takes his next initiation as a paladin (at 3rd level) he will be welcome to take a place in the Order Luminous as well.

Brother Illya continues to study with Master Birinaj, and the two spend a great deal of time discussing philosophy as well as honing and practice the skills and abilities of the Warrior-Monk – such that Brother Illya is relatively certain that if he continues to study with Master Birinaj he might very well be able to understand the mysteries of the Serene Guardians who seem to be especially in tune with the harmony and resonance of what they call the Divine Song.

This is how you link modules together by the way. Find something from one that works with something from another and build a bridge. It isn’t rocket-science, it isn’t even very hard nor does it insist that the players ever do anything to follow-up on the things that would take them towards the next Slaughtergarde. Heck, I’m ignoring most of the “mini-campaign setting” for that module (which doesn’t fit my world much at all) and I can scatter the bits all over the Shahuda Mountains as i desire.


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A Giant Among Elves… (4 Sessions so far)

And yes, Tier is – a seven foot tall, five inch (or so) tall Grey Elf.

There is a story behind that actually. Way back in Session #6 there was an Obelisk, and it ended up sending three characters off. Tier ended up in the Shadowlands, what somebody inventing the Shadowfell must have plundered from my brain while I slept – except mine is far, far cooler. In that session he gained a point of Constitution, but also four inches (taking him to a solid 6’6″) in the process.

In any case, Tier ended up captured by slavers, and after being run through his paces at the local ludus and earning the sobriquet “Cries for Blood” he was purchased by the master sh’dai swordsman known as Darkness at Noon, the Dueling Hawk of the mysterious lilim called Gyrmawlkyn, the Lord of Hali, Master of Carcosa, and Bearer of the Dread Sword of the Hyades. Taken back to Carcosa, he trained for a short period of time with both Darkness at Noon and the albino mage called Ice and after ten successive (and obviously successful) bouts was granted an audience with the odd creature who owned him.

Tier had been informed previously that the Lord of Hali had a habit of training gladiators and then sending them to the great Arena at Khazan where they would have the opportunity to fight for their freedom. His reasons for this are unknown, but it seems to play into his political machinations in the Halls of the Ebon Council and his rivalry with the dread Leo’trahh, Grand Maestra of Death, and Demi-Empress of Khazan and it’s environs. Upon his audience, Tier was granted the choice to stay in the service of the Lord of Hali or the opportunity to travel to the blood-stained city of Khazan and fight there for his freedom. Tier chose to travel to Khazan, and was told that in the event that he won his freedom he was welcome to return as he wished to take service or merely to guest for a time. Taking both his leave and a selection of advice from Darkness at Noon, Tier then traveled to Khazan and entered the Arena.

Now, understand that I have essentially a direct AD&D analog to the T&T module, rolling the same tables and having the same events and odd possibilities for non-combat resolution of various of the rolled encounters. It also gives the ability to purchase enchantments and spells for his weapons at a high cost – as well as needing to pay for healing. This certainly proved incredibly valuable for Tier, because his first two encounters were possibly the two worst in the game. All he has to do is win three battles and he’s free – and at that point gets the chance to sign up for seven more in order to try to win an audience with Leo’trahh.

The first battle was with the with a shoggoth. Yes, a Shoggoth. In T&T, this is a crazy gawd-awful creature – in AD&D it’s darn near as bad (I happen to have the good edition of Deities and Demigods) and when I combine some of the elements from Call of Cthulhu it’s certainly one of the nastiest things you can run into. But the module give the player a small chance to win the fight without even having to engage in combat, a successful Intelligence check and Luck check grant the player not only the knowledge that shoggoth’s enjoy piccolo music but the presence of a piccolo on hand! So there is one shoggoth dancing ponderously on the sands of the arena to the great amusement of the crowd – and Tier winds his first fight.

Needless to say, the odds were far against Tier this fight and he got a roll on the “Special Magical Weapon” table instead of getting a monetary award. It is worth saying that Arena of Khazan was kind of notorious for having some incredibly overpowered magical weapons as potential rewards off of this table – and when I say overpowered I mean that these would likely be considered very unbalanced artifacts in many settings. T&T was far more four-color than most games though, and I’ve always liked them. Heck, I recognize a couple of them from SD’s world – so I know how some people managed get ahold of them!

In any case, Tier was granted a “Great Kris” for his valor and luck – it is a +3 Elven Shortsword that grants the wielder immunity to 1st- through 3rd-level spells. Powerful, but not massively so compared to some of the things I could have rolled up…

So then we are on to round number two, and what does my son roll up?

A Balrog.

It’s kind of a toss-up if a shoggoth or a balrog is worse in T&T, but imagine a cross between a Type VI and a Fire Giant and you pretty much have it in a nutshell. Now, in the module, the Balrog is so sure of itself that it just stands there and lets the character strike first – actually challenges them to. Tier is no idiot, he takes his chance and runs up to the damn thing and lashes out with sword and dagger (being a two-weapon fighter). This thing has 90HP, and through a combination of pre-bought spells boosting his weapons and two fantastic rolls (I swear, his dice are blessed at times) he nails the thing for 66HP of damage – and then in the following round beat the things initiative and do the 24HP of damage needed to drop it.

If I had false teeth I would have dropped them in my lap, he’s a 4/4 Fighter/Mage with 32 HP and he just killed a roughly 20HD creature.

The crowd goes wild, and off he trots up to claim his reward – which is another roll on the Special Magic Item table. This is where I really had to sort of adapt something, so the “Bottle of Warrior Juice” (which doubles the characters Strength and Constitution in T&T) became the “Elixir of Ares” and there a 50/50 chance that it will give the player 1-3 levels in a Fighter class or grant them a +1 to Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution. Tier, of course, rolls the attribute bonus and given his already existing stats now has a Strength of 19, a Dexterity of 18, and a Constitution of 19.

But… I rule that this also increases his height by 1d12 inches – and he rolls a 11.

So now we have a 7’5″ tall elf.

I wish I could say that his third fight was as exciting. There was a beautiful elvish mage of some sort in a silver robe with a silvery-grey staff, after spurning the opportunity to either spare her or throw himself at her mercy – she let loose three salvos of five Magic Missiles apiece and Tier was done for (somebody forgot about his Great Kris)…

Luckily he had reserved some cash for this event and he was saved from being monster-chow, but having lost that fight, he still had to win one more before he was free.

It was a kobold.


So, with his hard-won equipment and prizes, plus a paltry 100sp tossed to him for winning his “fight” with the kobold, Tier has been released into freedom in the great city of Khazan, on the borders of the Shadowlands and Great Realm of the Dead. He’s not exactly sure how to get home, or what would happen to him when he managed to get there, but he has his freedom and a rather high level of notoriety!

We’ll see what he does next – this was kind of perfect set of crazy events for a 14-year old. Hopefully he can maintain his run of luck!


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