Posts Tagged With: X2

A Pair of Different Banquet… (Module X2 – Castle Amber)

I realized that there was the chance that the party would return to the banquet, especially if there were new characters around. So I decided to make up a couple of new banquets so that they could be sure what might occur if they ate the food – though with a couple of identical items.

1st Course:

—Seafood Bisque: Save vs. Spells: If failed; the character gains permanent Water Breathing. If succeed then there is no effect.

—Amber Wine: Duplicates the effects from the module.

2nd Course:

—Watercress Salad: Save vs. Spells: If fail, the character will needs only a tenth the normal nourishment. If succeed there is no effect.

3rd Course:

—Wild Rice and Cranberries: There is no effect.

—Roast Duck: Save vs Spells: If fail, the character floats on water and cannot sink. If succeed then there is no effect.

—Fingerling Carrots: Save vs. Polymorph, if failed males are transformed into women, if female gain +1d4 Comeliness (and a much more sevelt figure with a larger bust). If succeed then there is no effect.

—Dark Red Wine: This wine causes magical drunkeness for 2-12 turns. Save vs. Poison, if succeed there is no further effect. If failed, the character is -2/-10% to all actions due to a permenant hangover.

4th Course:

—Rasberry-Chocolate Torte: Save vs. Polymorph, if the save is failed, the character triples in weight bursting out of the seams of the clothes and armour (damage as lycanthropic transformation). If the save is made nothing happens.

—Brandy: Duplicates the effects from the module.

———————————————————————————————————————–

1st Course:

—Gazpacho : Save vs. Poison: If fail; gains the ability to remain conscious at negative Hit Points. If succeed then there is no effect.

—Amber Wine: Duplicates the effects from the module.

2nd Course:

—Cucumber and Dill Salad: This course has no effect, though it is delicious.

3rd Course:

—Garlic Bread: Save vs. Spells, if failed the character will always be treated as they are brandishing garlic, the if the save is made there is no effect.

—Roast Boar: Save vs. Spells, if failed the character’s Charisma is halved, if the save is made there is no effect.

—Brocoli: Save vs. Spells, if failed then the character may use X-Ray Vision once per week,  if the save is made then there is no effect.

—Red Wine: Duplicates the effects from the module.

4th Course:

—Vanilla Ice Cream with Cherries Jubilee: Save vs. Spells: If fail, the character is affected by a permanent Endure Heat/Cold spell. If succeed then there is no effect.

—Brandy: Duplicates the effects from the module.

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Status Update

Yeah…

Life has been, well, really crazy for the last couple of months. Gaming-wise, I’m behind on game logs, behind on rules updates, and I’ve made some interesting and major changes in the campaign.

The short version is that the group finished up with Castle Amber – which in and of itself let me implement a couple of changes to correct things that we “out of whack” with my current campaign. I realized that I reached a point where it was impossible for the players to keep up with the DM (me) on just sort of simple “world knowlegde” because I’d been running essentially the same setting for such a long time.

So I took the wierdness of Castle Amber as an excuse to jump the group forward in time and space when things ended.

So they are roughly 1000 years in the future and in a brand-new part of my world – I have somewhat steadfastly decided to not worry about where it is in relation to where things were. Given the somewhat mallable nature of the Mortal Realms I’m not sure I ever have to determine that. I’m having a great deal of fun worldbuilding again and the entire group gets to participate in the process. I think that this is an undermentioned aspect of world-building – the role of player participation.

Sometimes this is really explicit – my spouse invented a whole culture once because she wanted something new to play – and other times it is more accidental – Gnomish culture is pretty much the result of two different players in my old game.

But currently, the characters are investigating what could be done about a group of rampaging slavers…

TTFN

D.

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Session #21 – “You killed Hymie!”

So this session, for the first time, the party doesn’t wake up in the foyer – they wake up in what seems to be the center of some sort of indoor conservatory or utterly massive greenhouse. There is a large fountain with gargoyle statues and pool nearby, and paths leading to the south and to the north – and the party can see the lid of chest that is buried in the ground at the base of the fountain.

With something like fifteen feet of water (to all inspection and detection) separating them from it.

The party is also, yet again, containing a new (but old) character. This time it is someone who both Kyril and Katalyn know, a lusty and busty sh’dai female who is known called Karin – who seems to be both a duelist of some sort and a Tantric. Concerned about the welfare of her henchmen, Kyril assures her that they are “probably fine” and the party quickly fills her in on what has been going on – equally disappointed that she has no better clue what is going on than they. Sadly, Karin seems to have taken the place of Frater Nikolai, so that leaves Sorer Isabella as the ranking Society of Light cleric, with Frater Gregor and Brother Illya undoubtedly concerned with what was happen without the primary healer and leader of the party present.

In any case, Ketzl decides to strip down and wade out across the water (up to his armpits!) to check out the chest…

…and is promptly attacked by the giant amoeba that inhabits the entire bottom of the tank.

Now, luckily, they had tied a rope around his chest and Tier yanked him out almost immediately, as other folks are reaching in trying to grab him (and getting attacked in turn), but there was a scene of mass confusion and a riot of action as spells were cast (including an incredibly useful Faerie Fire by Karin) and short work was made of the monster (give Taloth shots at point-blank range and he is positively nasty…).

Fast-forward a few minutes and now Ketzl, Gregor, and Tier are all wading towards the fountain, everybody is waiting for the gargoyles to animate or start spitting acid or something absolutely vile and they are startled to realize that someone is walking down the path from the north. The woman, who is dressed in rather fine but plain clothing, stops as she sees the group, gazes at them with a mixture of horror and anger, cries, “You killed Hymie!” and then shouts “Attack!” which results in the entire forest flinging pine comes, twigs, branches, etc at the party.

(“Hymie” was the generic name for all sorts of generic bad guys in SD’s campaign, actually the name for all sorts of generic folks period – it was long before Kenny…)

This attack was the result of me trying to make sense of an absolutely worthless spell list on a wandering NPC member of the Amber family. Perhaps the most useless one of the entire family actually – which also had me realizing that evidently the spell progression charts were significantly different in Expert D&D because none of these people have enough spells for their level. But in any case I had to decided what you could do when you essentially had the ability to Charm Plants an infinite number of times on the entire forest and this made the most sense – it essentially became a 1d4+11 (the NPC’s level) AOE attack, save for half (and the people in the water saved for half or none since they could duck under the water).

The problem was that it also nailed the familiars…

Unfortunately I can’t remember the exact series of events (and my spouse is gone for the weekend, she keeps an amazing game log) but though some quick action on the various healers part, and really pissed of Kyril (who subsequently Arcane Blasted the lady), and some unfortunately ineffective action on the part of Brother Illya and Taloth the lady had been taken down, familiars were saved, and the forest stopped going berserk… The party also made it to the buried chest and was almost disappointed to discover it wasn’t trapped or anything bizarre and found a great deal of silver and another of the strange silver keys.

It has also prompted me to come up with an interesting solution for how to explain all of the wandering mages who seem to have no spellbooks (as well as no bedrooms) and provide a funky mechanic for the mages to possibly get what they all want – more spells!

After gathering themselves up, and peering down both paths (actually the Valdamir the Bard investigated a bit down both, to shouts that if got himself killed wandering off it was his own damn fault), they decided to head north and see where the lady came from. Ignoring the squirrels that were evidently storing transformed-into-gold acorns in an old tree, they came to a large set of doors that actually looked like they led to a Church of the Lords of Light chapel, complete with Argentos, etc. This was obviously something that the Society of Light folks couldn’t pass up, and really, I think most everyone wanted to get out of the forest at that point.

So in they go, to find a large chapel of the Church of the Lords of Light, though with some subtly disturbing mosaics and frescos (a bit too erotic – it was decided that they must be more Kistathian influenced), lined with not-very-saintly statues of what seems to be members of the Amber family. As the party spread out to investigate, two of the statues animated – one touching Kyril and the other pressing an ornate golden ring into Mika’s hand.

And then the Amber Light rose about everyone again!

TTFN!

D.

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Session #20 – Blinded by the light!

So in this session nothing much happened, nobody died, though there was a fair amount of fear at times. Basically, the group woke up out of the “Amber Light” and found out that things were different again – though they were starting in the foyer again, the same place that they had woken up before. Taloth, Tier, Vesna, and Gryphon were gone while Frater Nikolai, Brother Illya, and old party member Astrin were there, plus a new person unknown to everyone by the name of Katalyn. After a short bit of discussion (including testing Katalyn with holy water, silver, and cold iron to make sure she wasn’t a demon or something else vile) the group decided to move forward and investigate the mansion further.

With some leveling up and the new people involved, they also put together a bit more information about the castle. They managed to recal that there was some sort of curse that somebody was trying to get lifted somehow. They really didn’t have any more information, but at least had another thing to investigate.

Peeking inside the room where the boxing match took place, they saw it deserted save for a number of goblins in amber livery tidying up the place who all froze in place and loudly declared that there was “Nothing to see here, not a problem, just move along… We’re just cleaning up!” The party shrugged, and left them alone, moving down the hallway to the huge room with mirrors in the walls – which they decided was either a ballroom or some sort of audience chamber.

As a quick aside, that was always the problem with AD&D modules, they also never made any sort of sense when it came to either scale or any actual sort of reasonable layout when it comes to living space. X2 is no exception to this rule.

In any case, this is room the party gets blinded and then has to figure out what to do next. Things were going relatively well, until I rolled a random encounter of Shadows (1-8), and rolled a one. The single shadow I rolled targeted poor Isabella who immediately  decided to try and turn the formless thing that seemed to be attacking her and causing her to feel weaker and weaker…

Turing that shadow was easy, and then with all of the commotion that occurred with that combat I rolled a second encounter – which was shadows again, and this time I rolled shadows again! This time eight! So I ruled that it was the balance of the “one to eight” that might potentially show up. So seven showed up and started targeting the the little core of folks there – Sorer Isabella, Frater Nikolai, and Frater Gregor. The majority of the group had managed to almost make it to the doors at the end of the hall while Astrin and Kyril were off to one side.

One sidelight was Frater Kyril trying to use Dispel Magic on the blindness to no effect – save dropping the spells on characters and ruining all of the potions and dusts that the party was carrying. Not that any character knows this yet…

There was a round or two of increased confusion and fear as the shadows started attacking, Frater Gregor once again disrupted a spell being cast by Sorer Isabella – he has a history of doing this to her – by grabbing her arm and trying to (literally) blindly rush her off into some direction away from the things attacking them. I thought CB the player was going to kill MS the player with that one!

It also raised the question of if you need to see something in order to cast a spell on it when Frater Nikolai wanted to know if he could at least try to castHold Person on these things (whatever they were). On the fly, after glancing at a couple of rulebooks, I said that no, you didn’t but that you did need to make a save vs. Spell in order to do so (so that spellcasters would get better at it as they go up in level). More research reveals that there seems to be nothing in the rules that says you need to see the target as a general rule (as opposed to some specific spell description). My general thought is that either you can target an area if the spell would allow such a thing, or that you have to somehow perceive the target – normally via sight, but sound or touch or taste even would be reasonable as well, though possibly with increased chance of some sort of mistake.

Kyril had had enough and dropped a Fireball at his feet. He wasn’t sure what was going on but something was attacking all of the clerics, he could see anything, and he was damn sure not going to get attacked himself if he could help it. Everybody made their save (or Magic Resistance) save Frater Gregor (of course, his dice hate him) and he managed to lose his armour and a handful of other items. It did, however, seem to take care of the shadows. And then, in the short aftermath,  something else appeared and started roaring (literally) about how people were destroying his property (sending Mika and Frater Gregor into a panic, with Gregor running into a wall and knocking himself out) and Kyril kicked off a couple of Arcane Blasts at him or it and the noise stopped.

And the amber light rose up again…

D.

Categories: Campaign, Game Design, Game Play, Magic Spell | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Session #19 – The soft amber light rose about them…

There are number of lessons to be learned from last Sunday’s adventure:

  1. Don’t mess with drunken dwarves, they are belligerent and will take you out…
  2. Be careful what you eat.
  3. Cats think they are better than you, even when tied up.
  4. Modules are crazy-stupid at times, but fun.

So, as the party made their way back to civilization in the aftermath of the Slaughter of Seraph Keep,  they went to sleep and woke up – to find themselves in a world gone mad…

Yeah, I’m running them through Castle Amber (X2). Since my spouse was out of town on business this meant that Frater Nikolai and Brother Illya were gone – while my son had decided to bring Taloth back in to play. I also took the opportunity to bring both Gryphon and Kyril back – so the mix of the party was not what they thought it would be and they had no clue where the “missing people” had gone (which will be funny, because my son spends the next session with his mother which means Frater Nikolai and Brother Illya will be back but Tier and Taloth will be gone!)

They made it though the boxing match, the Tabaxi (*cough* rakasta), and into the banquet room before we had to call it. The party was already freaked out because of the magical transport, the grey mist, and the changed people – but the series of events that unfolded was hilarious and I think everyone had a great deal of fun.

Tier stood up for the boxing match (while Gryphon, Vesna, and Mika made some side bets) and the fight was over not-so-amazingly quickly, he far, far, far outclassed the demos magen boxer. But the Amber in question settled his debts, and then started fussing with his broken magen (which worked more like a Victorian-era Rock-Em, Sock-Em Robot). The party then moved into the next room to find the cat-people and slew eight of the twelve and captured the rest – but not until after they had damn near killed the Valdamir Gwion (the Bard) and the Frater Gregor (the not-Paladin) – Frater Gregor had gone charging into combat and ended up nailed by Ketzl’s second Color Spray – and then had his throat ripped out by one of the Tabaxi.

Which then resulted in a hilarious one sided game of charades after Vesna cast Comprehend Languages on one of them and attempted to communicate with them. The Tabaxi (who had all been knocked unconscious by a Color Spray), were none to impressed by this (the usual feline disdain) but in a rather surprise development “swore fealty” to Vesna in exchange for their freedom and a promise not to attack the rest of the party (they were then taken back to horses, where they got eat the dead one that had wandered into the mist). This whole process was the majority of the middle part of the session.

Then they went to the next room, which was the banquet room and everybody but Sorer Isabella and Frater Gregor sat down to eat…

Modules can be amazingly unbalanced and crazy.

Things went “fine” (that is, a mixture of positive, negative, and neutral effects spread scross the feasters) until the mushroom’s and people started dropping (and everyone was drunk from the red wine), at which point Frater Gregor tried to rush in and drag people away from the table while loudly insisting that everyone leave, etc. Gryphon, the very drunk dwarf, then punched him in the face for interrupting while trying to feed the Apple Strudel to Ketzl (or Mika, I can’t remember which now)…

Frater Gregor only had 2HP (the major healer of the party is gone…) and he dropped like a sack of potatoes. Then the brandy was served, and Mika and Vesna both blew their saves…

Now, the “amber light” descended because it was exactly the point at which I was going to have to call it anyways – and I get to decide if that was enough to save the two of them from joining the ghostly feast. I pretty much have decided that it was, though there is no promise that they will ever get the timing that right ever again. But it is a great way to warn them that the rules here in “Castle Amber” are very, very different then the way the rest of the world works…

But I am so looking forward to the rest of this module…

TTFN!

D.

Categories: Campaign, Game Play | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Adventure Ideas

My son is playing trumpet in the band for his school play, Beauty and the Beast, which is based on the Disney movie. I went to go watch it Wednesday night and was struck that it wouldn’t make for that bad of a backdrop for an adventure. It would be in the same tradition as some of the old fun house modules like Dungeonland or Beyond the Crystal Cave – but even like modules like Castle Amber and Ravenloft.

That is one of the things that I don’t get – there are folks in the OSR that will decry Ravenloft in one breath as the beginning of the end of TSR module design because there is a plot that isn’t player-centric and “railroady” and then hold upCastle Amber up as this paragon of classic fun house module design.

It sort of has me wondering if they’ve read either of them recently.

In Ravenloft there is the quaint conceit of the “Gypsy Fortune Reading” that determines a selection of things within the module, it is based on the story Dracula, an incredibly basic victory condition (kill the Strahd), a series of serious and humorous encounters in the town and castle, a clear back story to the events of the module, and the inability to leave the environs because of magical choking fog.

While in Castle Amber the module is based on the works of Clark Ashton Smith, the party has a very specific and convoluted victory condition, the same sort of mixture when it comes to serious and comical encounters, a very clear back story to the module, …and the inability to leave the environs at all because of magical choking fog.

In Ravenloft there are a mixture of deadly and not-so-deadly encounters, and the main villain is anything but a pushover. There are very few, if any, “snap, you’re dead” traps or encounters and the rewards in treasure and magic are basically reasonable when it comes to the risks involved. There are, however, no freebies – characters that are dead, are dead and they are pretty much stuck in Barovia until they succeed or die.

In Castle Amber there are plenty of deadly encounters, especially of the simple “you are just screwed variety”. The rewards in magic and treasure are relatively high as compared to Ravenloft, and the characters get magical healing, spell recovery, and level advancement in between sessions – plus there are opportunities for significant permanent character bonuses/gains and up to four characters will be resurrected at the end of the module if the characters succeed.

This is what I find so annoying by some of the talk that comes out of the OSR – many of the complaints don’t really seem to be reasonable when examined with even a bit of critical analysis. It’s more like they are simply looking for easy reasons to justify a dislike of TSR at a certain point in its history. Now, the OSR complaints about things like Dragonlance and how it sidelines the players is pretty reasonable (though you might be able to make similar, though not nearly so strong, arguments about the Desert of Desolation trilogy)  – but again, this seems like a generalized hate “Hickman-hate” rather than a reasonable critique of his pre-Dragonlance modules while the status given to Castle Amber seems comparatively like a Moldvay-bromance based on his role with the revision of D&D.

To be clear, I really like both modules and plan on running them both if I can manage it.
D.
Categories: Campaign Development, Game Design, OSR | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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