Playing Gutshot at MDG’s Wintercon – Part II (aka “Carnage Asada”)

February 15th, 2017

After I got done playing in the Siege of Budapest game near 7:00 pm on February 11, it was time to set up the wild west minis game I was running, “Gutshot.” I laid out a sand-colored piece of felt, then placed some cardstock buildings on the felt. BTW, the Gutshot rules are from Hawgleg Publishing, some folks from down Texas way. There are many wild west style “skirmish” rules out there for using with miniature figures, but Gutshot makes for a fast playing game at gamecons. There aren’t a lot of modifiers to figure out, so with a minimum of time spent teaching the basic game, players can be blazing away at each other right away!

Game Marshall Garry at Whitewash City

Game Marshall Garry at Whitewash City

I built the buildings out of cardstock, using the Whitewash City buildings that were designed by Eric Hotz. After downloading and assembling the free Imperial Saloon, I purchased the entire “Mother Lode” of buildings  which was a PDF file with more than 40 large buildings plus a number of smaller buildings and other accessories you could print. Although the buildings are supposed to be for 30mm scale minis, the stock buildings seemed small, so I enlarged them to 125% of their original size, then they seemed better proportioned to the western minis I used. So far I have built: Bank, Cafe, Imperial Saloon, J.H. McFarland Blacksmith, Livery & Feed Stable, McSweeny Dry Goods, Medical Building (doctor & dentist), Pioneer Hotel, Sheriff’s Office & Jail, Small Building Set 1 (bath house, small log cabin, two small sheds, and two privys). I also built a few watering troughs, some corral fencing, and couple of piles of lumber and a couple of wooden crates.

Whitewash City Sheriff's Office

Close up of the Whitewash City Sheriff’s Office

While the Whitewash City buildings are meant to be printed on cardstock, then cut out, folded, and glued together, I also added balsa/bassword/poplar wood as reinforcements for the corners and bottom edges. I also added some roof supports for large roofs, like with the Livery Stable building. While the Whitewash City buildings are not meant to have removable roofs, there are floor plans you can print of the interiors, and you can lift the entire building off its floor plan. I also glued the floor plans to foam-core board to keep them from warping, plus they won’t get bumped out of position as easily as if they were plain cardstock.

I also purchased a number of western miniature (mostly 25mm & 28mm) figures online from Noble Knight Games. Before Christmas 2016, Noble Knight had a sale on a whole passel of used, already painted, western minis, so I bought more than 50 minis. Being already painted saved me some time putting everything together. I also found some horses in about the right sizes from places such as Michaels crafts and Toys-R-Us, and they filled up the corral. I also made some hay bales from the “pluck foam” I plucked out of the foam carrying trays for the miniature figures.

OK, so I only had three players show up to play, P.J., Cory, and a youngster named Bryce. The premise of the game was that four Mexican banditos came to town to rob the bank. The Banditos were controlled by Cory, and the Banditos were named Juan, Squelch, Jueves, and Eral. P.J. represented the law in town, controlling sherriff Kathleen and her deputies Hoss and P.J. Bryce only wanted to play a single character, so he controlled the bounty hunter Bat, who sported twin six-shooters.

Shootout at Whitewash City

Shootout at Whitewash City

So, the Banditos strolled right down main street of Whitewash City, heading towards the bank. As they passed the Sheriff’s Office (the building at the far left of the above picture), deputy Hoss fell in behind the banditos. Bounty Hunter Bat, who had been talking with the proprietor of the Livery Stable at the other end of town (off the right side of the above picture), recognized one of the banditos as being wanted. Bat then ran to intercept the banditos before they reached the bank. At the same time, sheriff Kathleen and deputy P.J. came out of the sheriff’s office and also followed the bad-looking hombres in the street.

Bat came right up to the man he wanted to claim the bounty on, then Bat pulled out both his pistols and demanded the man (Juan) surrender). Juan put his hands in the air, but kept saying, “Why you want me? I am just going about my business, and not bothering anybody!” But then the other banditos pulled their pistols, as did the lawmen and lawwoman, and the shootout was on! When the hot lead stopped flying, all of the “White Hats” (Bat, Hoss, Kathleen, and P.J.) lay dead in the middle of the dusty street, as did three of the banditos (Juan, Jueves, and Eral). Only Squelch survived the shootout, but he was badly wounded. (The townsfolk had no trouble capturing Squelch, then hanged him with some vigilante justice.)

Dead minis in the streets of Whitewash City

Dead minis in the streets of Whitewash City

Just when the first character was wounded, I asked the players if they wanted to play the game “gory, or non-gory.” As I had expected, they all answered “gory!” so I started placing the “blood splatter” markers (the yellow markers in the street) at locations where characters were wounded.

I hope to run Gutshot again at the next MDG con in the summer of 2017. I hope to build more buildings, and hope to get more players for the game.

Main Street at Whitewash City

Main Street at Whitewash City – Yuh have to admit, cardstock buildings look pretty durn good, don’t they?

So, why did I decide to run a wild west shoot-’em-up game? About 10 years ago, probably the last time I attended a local gamecon, some other feller was running a similar game. He had a western looking town with 20 or 30 buildings in it (I believe they were actual wooden buildings, not cardstock), and the premise of his game was that 8 different gangs (each with four outlaws) all arrived in town at the same time with the idea of robbing the bank! Needless to say, there were multiple crossfires and dead bodies everywhere. I had a hoot of a time playing in that game, and always wanted to duplicate the experience. Well, now I can run my own games.

Metro Detroit Gamers’ Wintercon 2017 Report – Part 1

February 15th, 2017

I used to go to the local “GameCons” sponsored by the Metro Detroit Gamers (MDG) all of the time, although I haven’t been to one in about 10 years. So, I decided to go back to the local MDG’s Wintercon 2017 which was held at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, on February 11, 2017. I got to see some folks there I haven’t seen in years, I played in a miniatures game, and then was the GM (Game Marshall) of a wild west style minis game, Gutshot.

I wanted to get to the con early in the morning to play in the railroading game “Empire Builder,” but after having to get up early all during the week for my day job, and then volunteering at the Redford Theatre in Detroit on Friday evening, I was too whipped to get up early on Saturday. I did finally get to the con around noon, though.

I had planned on playing in an Age of Sail minis game, “Up Yer Six, Mate!” at 2:00 pm, but I was the only player who was there to play that game, so that GM (Game Master) decided not to run that game. I then moved over one table to where GM Vic Hiris was setting up a large castle (it was about 6 feet long by about 4 feet wide). He was running a minis game called “Siege of Budapest,” referring to the Mongols besieging Budapest in the early 1400s (not the later siege of Budapest from 1945). I was one of four Mongol commanders who were trying to take the castle.

Vic Hiris' castle used for "Siege of Budapest"

Vic Hiris’ castle used for “Siege of Budapest”

I had a blast playing the game! Vic has developed his own home-brew rules that make the playing fast and furious. We had our Korean archers try to pick off as many of the defending archers on the ramparts as we could, then we moved some spearmen up with scaling ladders to try to storm the castle. We also had some foot soldiers move up a battering ram to the drawbridge, as well as move up a siege tower to get our attacking troops on top of the wall. In all, our strategy worked fairly well, as we had pretty much disposed of any archers who could have fired arrows against us.

The Mongols storm the castle!

The Mongols storm the castle!

Some of our attacking Mongols who got to the top of the wall battled for control of the tower above the drawbridge, and eventually our attackers took control and were able to lower the drawbridge and raise the inner portcullis without us having to batter them down; however, we ran out of time for the game near 7:00 pm, and so we didn’t get to see whether or not the defenders could have survived our assault.

I understand that Mr. Hiris will be running another castle siege game at an upcoming Pro or Con in Livonia, Michigan. I plan on playing in that game, as it will no doubt also be a lot of fun!

Stanley Dural, Jr., dead at age 68

October 2nd, 2016

The world of zydeco music lost another legend on September 24, 2016. Stanley Dural, Jr., better known as Buckwheat Zydeco, passed away on that day from lung cancer.

Christa at Accordion Americana has a post about his passing on her excellent blog. There are also several Buckwheat Zydeco videos at that link.

I am fortunate to have seen Mr. Dural in concert several times, although I could never get him to play “Zydeco Boogaloo” at those concerts!

This reminds me of the old joke about two Cajun musicians, although, since Mr. Dural never wanted anyone to refer to his music as “Cajun” music, we will change the joke to zydeco musicians.

There were two brothers who played zydeco music. They both wondered about the afterlife, so they made a deal. Whichever one of them passed away first would try to return to earth to let the other brother know what Heaven was like. Sure, enough, about a year later, the older brother died. The younger brother continued playing zydeco music on earth. Then, after another year, suddenly the deceased brother appears to his younger brother!

The younger brother said, “Tonnere mes chiens! Frere, tell me ’bout what Heaven is like!” The older brother replied, “Oh, cher, Heaven is great! They got great zydeco dances every night, and lots of famous musicians to play those dances! For example, last week they had dances played by Boozoo Chavis, John Delafose, and Beau Jocque. For tonight’s dance, they got Buckwheat Zydeco playin’.

The younger brother said, “Tell me more!” The older brother hesitated, then said, “Well, you are booked to play tomorrow night’s dance!”

 

The Tomb of Koban Hairfoot – Part 4

August 23rd, 2016

Day #2-29 (Fireday, 9th Dewsnap, 4333 BCCC): After battling the evil creature and then finding the Pendant of Winstone in a chamber that adjoined the evil creature’s bedchamber, Lightstep lit the two candles on the altar in that adjoining chamber, and said some prayers. Lightstep then carefully wrapped the Pendant and the chalice in cloth and placed them in his backpack. Gwenette asked him if he was going to take the candlesticks, but Lightstep said to leave them to burn down. By now, Clayton had poked his head into that room (through the 4’ high door), and hearing that exchange of words, said, “I think you should take the candles and candlesticks with us. If they will be needed for whatever ceremony is needed to use that pendant, well, we don’t want to have to come back for them!” Lightstep pondered that statement for a moment, then agreed that he should take the candlesticks also. Since Lightstep’s pack was sort of full, he gave the candlesticks to the halfling thief Falafela, to carry in her backpack.

There now ensued a lively discussion of how to leave the dungeon. Vox couldn’t stand on his feet without assistance, and especially needed help with walking. The party were also going to have to retrieve the body of Tureg, the dwarf, who had fallen in combat vs. some skeletons in the burial chamber of Reedus, and the party was also going to have to return the bones of Koban Hairfoot to his burial chamber in the level above the party’s current level. Some of the party thought of using the bed to carry Tureg’s body, but that idea went by the wayside as the bed was sort of heavy all by itself, and since it had held the body of the evil creature that had attacked them, they really didn’t want any part of the bed. They also considered breaking the doors off the wardrobe and using them as an improvised litter, but decided that the doors didn’t look sturdy enough. So finally they decided to use the table as a litter, after first breaking off its four legs. Fortunately the tabletop was not too heavy.

The party then left the bedchamber. Clayton led the way with a torch (and his sword drawn in case of any more attacks), then came Opalent and Gwenette, who were helping the energy-drained human fighter Vox the Just to walk. Then came Lightstep and Douag carrying the table with the bones of Koban Hairfoot upon it, Lightstep in the lead. Lightstep rested the table on the top of his backpack to help with carrying it, as he was only 3’1” tall (Douag was an even 4’ tall). Vandin Lakesplitter (dwarven fighter) and Falafela brought up the rear, Falafela carrying a torch. Vandin was very seriously wounded, and was doing all he could to just walk by himself.

After leaving the chamber, the party turned left after 10 feet, then turned right after another 10 feet, then passed through the shattered door to Reedus’ burial chamber. They needed to retrieve Tureg’s body from the black obsidian coffin of Reedus that they had left Tureg in, to keep his body safe from any vermin. When Clayton moved the lid off the coffin, he exclaimed, “Tureg’s arms are not in the same position that I left them! I left his arms crossed over his stomach, and now his hands are up by his head!” Clayton then checked for a pulse, and detected a faint beating of Tureg’s heart! Vandin then prodded Tureg with the butt-end of his war hammer, and shouted at Tureg to try to wake him up. Tureg gave out a slight, very quiet moan, and moved his head ever so slightly. That proved to everyone that he was indeed still alive!

The party then loaded Tureg onto the table along with Koban, and proceeded out the near door of the chamber, marching in the same order as noted above. They turned right at the main hallway, went about 40 feet, turned left, went another 90 feet or so, passing by the room on their left that they had earlier inspected that had three skeletons on the floor as well as a toppled podium and a burned book. They had no time for any more inspections now, though. After proceeding down a long hallway of 110 to 120 feet, they reached the right turn at the stairs to the upper level.

At this point, the stairs were narrower than the hallway, and in any event, the door they had to pass through at the top of the stairs was too narrow to carry anyone on the table, so the party had to shuttle people and bodies up the stairs one-by-one. Clayton led the way with the torch, then Opalent and Gwenette both helped Vox up the stairs. Then Opalent and Gwenette went back downstairs to bring up the table, turning it on end to get it through the door under the small waterfall. Then Lightstep and Douag carried up Tureg, and then Koban’s remains, and finally Vandin and Falafela ascended the stairs. The party left the door to the lower level open, to make it easier for anyone else to find the stairway down.

After leaving the “waterfall” room, the party turned right (having no choice in the decision as to which way to go), traveled about 40 feet, then made a quick left-right jog, then went another 40 feet, passing over the iron grate in the floor. They then turned left into the crypt room of Koban Hairfoot, about 30 minutes after leaving the tomb room of Reedus. They were sort of surprised to see the glass case that had covered Koban was still intact. Clayton said, “I guess Koban was able to lift the glass enough to slip himself out of the bottom to join us!” The party then reverently replaced the remains of Koban Hairfoot under his glass case, including his broken mace. Lightstep then said more prayers over Koban.

After leaving Koban, it only took another few minutes to reach the stairs to the surface. At about this time, the party’s two torches were flickering and were close to extinguishing themselves, so they lit a new torch, but only one torch (provided by Opalent). Clayton reckoned it must be getting close to midnight by now. “OK,” said Clayton, “we need to figure out how to get past that cyclops on the surface!” Nobody had a solid plan, although several ideas were tossed out to the group. Someone said, “Maybe we should see if the cyclops is still up there in the mausoleum?” They all agreed that it needed to be someone with infravision, so that left out the humans Clayton, Gwenette, or Vox (not to mention that Vox was too weak to ascend the stairs by himself). So, believing the halfling thief Falafela to have the best infravision, it was decided to have her take a peek, after others opened the lid of the tomb. The party had, of course, wisely decided to close the lid to the false coffin above when they descended into the dungeon. They had worked a lever at the bottom of the stairs to close the lid, and Opalent had wedged her dagger in the latch mechanism to keep it from possibly locking them in.

Falafela said, “Shine the torch up the stairs so I can see where Opalent’s dagger is at, then take the torch back down the hallway so no light shines up the stairs. Then have someone open the lid about a foot or so. Clayton and the others then retreated about 60 feet back up the hallway while leaving the legless tabletop with Tureg upon it close to the bottom of the stairs. When Falafela was in position with her hand upon the dagger, she whispered towards the bottom of the stairs, “OK, open the lid!” Vandin and Opalent worked the lever, and when the lid was opened about a foot, Falafela looked into the above-ground mausoleum. She saw the cyclops! He was sleeping in the far corner to the left of Falafela’s position. Falafela whispered down the stairs, “close the lid again,” and while Opalent and Vandin worked the lever to close the lid, Falafela stuck the dagger back in the latch to keep the latch from engaging. Then Falafela crept back down the stairs.

Falafela motioned Opalent and Vandin back down the hall to where the others were waiting with the torch. “Yes,” said Falafela, “the cyclops is sleeping in the mausoleum, about 40’ feet away in the left corner. He is sleeping on his left side, facing away from us. There now ensued much more discussion about how to get past the cyclops. Occasionally, someone had to remind everyone to not all try to talk at once, and to keep their voices quiet so as to not alert the cyclops to their presence.

Day #2-30 (Spiritday, 10th Dewsnap, 4333 BCCC): At some time during the discussion about how to get past the cyclops, midnight passed. One of the ideas was to lift the lid and shoot arrows at the cyclops, but that plan was nixed as the only competent bowman was Clayton, and he, being human, lacked infravision. It was also feared that shooting arrows might amount to only pinpricks to the cyclops, and might enrage him so that he would just hide behind one of the marble columns in the mausoleum or perhaps wait just outside the door to the exterior, making it impossible to ever leave. It was also suggested that someone from the party could sneak out of the dungeon and blind the cyclops by plunging a sword into the cyclops’ eye. But then a voice said, “But who will be the ‘someone’?” Nobody volunteered to be that “someone”! A dissenting voice, perhaps Opalent or Falafela, said, “Isn’t it sort of cruel to maim that cyclops? After all, he hasn’t caused any harm to any of us.” Someone quietly stated, “At least not yet!” A consensus was reached that trying to blind the cyclops also wouldn’t work, because he could just crawl out of the door and wait for the party to try to leave.

Another idea that was presented was to put together a mock skeleton from bones in the dungeon, and set them on fire after opening the lid, and try to scare the cyclops away. The plan went so far as having Falafela, Opalent, and Douag go back down the hallway (with the torch) to one of the barracks rooms off the side of the hallway and gather up a set of bones, including a rib cage and a skull. The other party members were not exactly thrilled to be left sitting in the dark during the short time the bones were being gathered. Of course, Lightstep didn’t care one way or another as to the discussion, as he had fallen asleep. But then as folks were getting ready to tie the bones to Opalent’s 10-foot pole, someone said, “You know, if this doesn’t scare away the cyclops, then he’s just going to be waiting for us!” So, this plan was discarded along with the other plans that had been discussed.

Clayton stated, “It’s too bad we didn’t think to arrange any way to signal Flenda and Jorgio, so they could arrange another diversion to draw the cyclops away from the mausoleum so we could make a break for it. Of course, how could we signal them without the cyclops knowing it? I suppose we could lift the lid a little and I could shoot a flaming arrow through the door to the outside, but what if the bowstring awoke the cyclops? Another problem we have is that we need to get the cyclops far enough away so that we can drag our wounded into the woods to our left, which will be about 150 yards away. One thing we have going for us is that it is another moonless night, so the darkness can hide us somewhat once we all get outside. I wonder how much starlight there is, and what the cloud cover is? Hmmmm….”

It didn’t take too much more discussion to decide that someone would have to sneak past the sleeping cyclops and then try to contact Flenda and Jorgio, whom, it was presumed, were still watching the mausoleum from somewhere outside. It was Flenda and Jorgio who had made an excellent diversion to draw the cyclops away from the mausoleum so that the rest of the party could find a way into the dungeon beneath the mausoleum. Falafela was selected for the hazardous duty of sneaking past the cyclops, as, after all, she was the group’s “thief” and so should be the best at sneaking about in the dark. But before she left, the party finalized the rest of their plan. The plan was for Falafela, once she found Flenda and Jorgio, to have them come down and stir up the cyclops’ goat herd. They would make coyote howls and try to get the goats to moving about and making noise. When the party inside the mausoleum heard the coyote yells, they were to try to wake up the cyclops enough so that he would go outside to investigate. Then, when one person from the party in the mausoleum noticed the cyclops was far enough away, they would hurriedly usher everyone else up the stairs, then go outside and make for the woods to their left as fast as they could go.

Finally, when all was set, Douag and Clayton worked the lever to raise the lid enough for Falafela to exit the coffin-stairs. Falafela very carefully and quietly put forth first one leg, and then the other, onto the floor of the mausoleum. She hesitated for a second to ensure the cyclops hadn’t changed position, then she hurriedly tiptoed towards the door to the outside. When she had safely made it to the outside, she briefly paused for a deep breath, relieved to be free of the stale air in the dungeon beneath the mausoleum. Opalent stayed at the head of the stairs to watch the cyclops, and to let the rest of the party know when the cyclops departed.

Falafela quickly made her way to the southwest, across the clearing that surrounded the mausoleum. She headed for the bluff upon which Flenda and Jorgio had lit their signal fire to attract the cyclops the previous late afternoon. Fortunately, although there was no moonlight, there was only about 10% cloud cover, so there was enough starlight to navigate by. When Falafela was atop the bluff, she started whispering, “Flenda! Jorgio! Where are you?” When that didn’t attract her companions, she picked up two rocks and started banging them together in a rhythmic manner. Tap tap tap! Tap tap tap! went the rocks as Falafela moved about the bluff, listening intently after each series of taps. Finally, after a couple of minutes, Jorgio spoke out from the darkness, “Stop banging those rocks together!” After a quick exchange of hellos with Falafela, Jorgio went off into the darkness to fetch Flenda.

When Jorgio and Flenda rejoined Falafela atop the bluff, Falafela explained the group’s plan. She said they needed to create a disturbance among the cyclops’ herd of goats in order to wake him up and have him leave the mausoleum to see what was molesting his goats. They would also have to draw him to the bluff, or at least far enough away from the mausoleum so that the rest of the party would be able to reach the safety of the woods on the far side of the mausoleum. Flenda said, “I can make excellent coyote calls!” Jorgio chimed in with, “I think we should also light a fire. Even if the cyclops doesn’t pursue us far enough, if he sees another fire he’ll have to come and investigate it.” Presciently, Flenda and Jorgio had gathered more wood for another fire, after the cyclops had extinguished their previous bonfire the previous afternoon.

While Jorgio was kindling the new fire, Falafela explained the party’s plan to meet along the north bank of the stream, about a hundred yards into the woods on the other, eastern side of the mausoleum. When the fire was burning strong enough, the trio descended the bluff and re-entered the clearing. They carefully stole their way towards the sleeping cyclops in the mausoleum, and when about 50 yards from there, they started prodding goats with their feet or with sticks. That served to get some goats on their feet and bleating a little. Then Flenda let out with the most wondrous and horrific imitation of a coyote howl that either Falafela or Jorgio had ever heard! Suddenly, most of the goat herd was awake and ready to flee! The three adventurers started shooing the goats towards the bluff to the west, Flenda in the rear and Falafela and Jorgio on the flanks, to keep the goats moving in the desired direction. Flenda occasionally let out with another blood-curdling howl, and spurred the goats to moving faster and to making more noise.

All this while, about 30 minutes worth, Opalent had maintained her vigil over the sleeping cyclops. Opalent could hear the commotion outside, but the cyclops was still sound asleep. Not particularly desirous of going over and kicking the cyclops in the back to wake him, Opalent used one of the bones the party had gathered for a possible decoy, and threw it at the recumbent cyclops. The cyclops merely shrugged it off and continued his slumber. Opalent went down the stairs to get another, bigger bone. She also ordered the lid be raised all the way to give her room for more arm swing for more velocity for the next throw. Although Opalent had to throw the bone to the side of the marble column that was between her and the cyclops, she made an excellent throw that firmly struck the cyclops right in the middle of his back. The cyclops brought his right arm around to scratch his back where the bone had hit him. Then the cyclops suddenly woke up! He sat up, then turned and looked right at where Opalent had thrown the bone from the pseudo coffin! But Opalent had quickly retreated down the stairs to the level below and so was not seen.

After a few seconds of trying to clear his head and trying to figure out what had touched him, the cyclops finally heard the commotion outside with his goat herd. He gathered up his huge eight-foot long club and crawled outside. Opalent heard the cyclops crawl out the door, then she arose to the top of the stairs again. Opalent then climbed out of the coffin and crossed the floor to the door to the outside. She could see the cyclops marching across the clearing towards the right, directly away from the mausoleum. When the cyclops was at least 50 yards away, Opalent hurried back to the stairs and whispered as loud as she could, “Let’s go now! The cyclops is moving away!” Gwenette then helped Vox most of the way up the stairs, and then Opalent joined in to help him climb out of the coffin-stairs. Then Gwenette went back down the stairs and helped carry the table to the surface, then went back to help with Tureg. Somebody did have the good sense to wake Lightstep, else he might have been left behind. The party left the burning torch at the bottom of the stairs, and didn’t take time to close the lid to the coffin they had just emerged from.

Then the party loaded the unconscious Tureg on the tabletop, and were able to easily carry it horizontally through the wide door of the mausoleum to the outside. The party then turned left and moved out for the woods. While they were moving as fast as they could, it was only at the pace of a brisk walk. They bunched up into a tight group, and moved so as to put the mausoleum building between them and the cyclops, should that giant creature decide to look back. Everyone could breathe a sigh of relief when they all finally reached the woods. Clayton quickly took a head count to ensure everyone was present and accounted for. Then, as they were about 50 yards north of the stream, they angled their way into the woods towards the stream. There was much stumbling about in the woods, as nobody dared light a torch where the cyclops could see it.

They finally made it to the stream, and then proceeded a few more paces to the east until Clayton reckoned they had made it about 100 yards into the woods. As could be expected, it was pitch dark in the woods with the leafy canopy blocking out all starlight from above. Clayton ordered the group to stay put while he reconnoitered back towards the clearing. A few moments later, he reappeared and said, “We are about 100 yards inside the woods. The cyclops should not be able to see us here. As long as we don’t make any loud noise we should be OK. We’ll just have to wait for the others to join us. Try to get some rest, I will watch our back trail.”

After being pursued by the cyclops across the clearing, Falafela, Jorgio, and Flenda gained the relative safety of the bluff. They moved past the bonfire and struck out into the woods. They crossed to the south bank of the stream in order to get farther into the woods, and then they moved to their left, keeping the stream to their left. They did have to find a way down the cliff to the side of the waterfall, but then they found the traveling wasn’t too bad if they stayed just inside the fringe of the woods on the opposite side of the stream from the cyclops. As they made their way through the woods, nobody spoke unless it was to ensure their companions were still with them, and that they weren’t straying too far from the stream.

After about 90 minutes of hard travel through the dark woods, the trio reached the others. After crossing the stream, and getting wet and a bit chilled in the 50-something degree air, everyone was back together. Clayton spoke and said, “We should be safe to light a couple of torches now, else it will be nearly impossible to travel through the forest at night. We will have to alternate who is carrying Tureg and who is helping Vox to walk. And Vandin, are you able to walk yourself?” Vandin grunted that he would be able to manage carrying his own weight. Opalent and Douag were the first torchbearers, Falafela supplying Opalent with a torch. Clayton reckoned it was probably about 1:30 in the morning when they set out.

After a very hard forced march of three miles, always keeping the stream within earshot on their right, they finally reached the main trail. It had taken about 6 hours to cover 3 miles. That was about twice the time it had taken them to cover that same territory the day before, except during the previous day they were in the daylight and were not encumbered with wounded members of their party. At the intersection of the stream and the trail, they all rested for 30 minutes and ate some of their jerky and hardtack. The eight conscious party members ate a total of 4 days worth of those “iron” rations, then refilled their waterskins before resuming their march around 8 am. At least they didn’t need torches any more, as enough light was filtering through from above so that they could see the trail. It did seem like it was overcast above the trees, though.

The party followed the winding trail for another three miles, leaving the stream far behind them. Finally, when some party members were just about at the limit of their endurance, they emerged from the woods. To their relief, they did see the woodcutting party from Karnack’s castle, along with the 5 cavalrymen as their escort. The woodcutters had almost given up hope of seeing the party emerge from the woods, and had just loaded their two wagons with cut firewood. The wagons were quickly unloaded, and then the party members clambered aboard, trying to use whatever they could for padding for their more seriously wounded members of Tureg, Vox, and Vandin. On the way back to Karnack’s castle, most of the party fell asleep and so didn’t feel the jolts when the unsprung wagons hit bumps in the trail.

Eventually, the party all made it back to Karnack’s castle where they were helped to their bedchambers. The wounded members Tureg, Vandin, Vox, and Douag were given excellent aid and had their wounds washed and bandaged by several women at the castle who specialized in healing wounds. Word was sent to Karnack that the party had success in finding the Pendant of Winstone, and then the party all fell fast asleep. Lightstep did make sure that the scroll he had found with a drawing of the Pendant upon it was forwarded to Karnack, so Karnack could make an early start in trying to decipher what its strange runes said.

Using Miniature Figures

July 24th, 2016

While fantasy role-playing games (FRGs) can be played merely by saying what everyone in the party is doing, most groups end up using some kind of miniature figures to mark the location of the character in certain situations. When I first started playing Dungeons & Dragons way back in 1979, players just gave verbal descriptions of where their character was located, especially in battles. Then we started using Legos and Lincoln Logs to mark the location of rooms and hallways, and used any kind of markers that were handy, such as coins, bottle caps, dice, etc, to mark where different characters and monsters were located.

Then I discovered “Zargonian Creatures,” which were 2-dimensional cardboard standup figures that slipped into plastic bases. When punched out of their cardboard frame, each (standard-sized) figure is 1.5 inches tall and 0.75 inch wide. You can find some of the Zargonian sets on eBay, but about the only place I found that still has stock on the original sets is Noble Knight Games.

Zargonian Creature Set 1-Dwarves-reduced quality

Zargonian Creatures (Dwarves).

However, when I stopped playing D&D in 1982, I loaned all of my Zargonian figures to a friend, and never asked for them back. Then, when I got back into playing D&D recently, I tried to track down that old friend, only to sadly find out he had died about 4 years before I tried to contact him. I was trying to contact him for 2 reasons, one, to try to get those Zargonian figures back, and two, to try to enlist him in the new D&D campaign, as he was a good D&D player. But neither of those was now an option.

Well, I still had several sets of plastic bases from the Zargonians, so I started using various cardstock figures that I could print on my color laser printer. These figures could be folded over and glued, and then inserted into the Zargonian bases. I found that most two-thickness cardstock was not thick enough to stay firmly stuck in the plastic bases, though, so added a few more layers of cardstock at the bottom of the figures so they would stay attached to the bases when you picked them up by the figure. There are plenty of places online to find various printable cardboard figures. Two of my favorite places to get cardboard figures are the Darios figures at Dark City Games, which are free, and the paid Cardboard Heroes from Steve Jackson Games.

Darios Adventurers

Darios Adventurers.

 

Cardboard Heroes

Steve Jackson Games Cardboard Heroes (sample).

The Darios and Steve Jackson figures also have some advantages over the old Zargonians in that they are two-sided, and you can tell a character’s front from its back. The Zargonians were just blank cardboard on their backs and so it was hard to tell which figure was which. The newer figures also have much more detail in their drawing, which is probably partly because the printing technology is better today.

There are various places you can buy plastic or wood bases for the cardboard figures online, also. The cardstock figures are good, too, for when you need a lot of some particular type of character or creature as you can print off extra sheets.

But recently I got into using some metal miniatures. I somehow or other accumulated about 5 or 6 metal (25mm or 28mm) miniatures over the years. I believe I accumulated them when helping the Metro Detroit Gamers clean up the venues at the end of their game conventions, finding them left behind on the floor. (I also own exactly one card (the Forest) for Magic: The Gathering, having also found that card on the floor while cleaning after a game con.) But I got the chance to buy about 40 or 50 old metal miniatures recently for only $10. They are mostly old Grenadier minis, but one set was from Ral Partha (although the figures were all intermixed). So then I borrowed my sister’s acrylic craft paints and started painting away. Fortunately, I am an old model builder from way back, although I haven’t painted anything for years, especially not anything as small as these figures.

I did read up on some mini painting techniques at the excellent web site at http://www.how-to-paint-miniatures.com/. I did wash the figures thoroughly, even had to remove some old paint using 91% isopropyl alcohol and a toothbrush (using an old aluminum pie pan). Of course I wore a latex examination glove to keep my skin oils off the minis. I then glued the minis to wooden bases, then painted each figure and its base with white acrylic primer, then after the primer was dry started painting. I kept using an exam glove on the hand that was holding the figure I was painting.

Painting table

Dining room table, used as a painting table.

 

Partially painted miniature figures

Partially painted miniature figures.

We then finally started using the metal minis in our D&D campaign on July 24, but only for the main characters. For NPCs and monsters we’re still using the cardstock figures. Here’s a picture taken by one of our players on their cellphone of the metal minis all bunched up. There are a couple of the cardstock figures in the background.

Metal minis (photo by PF Anderson).

Metal minis (photo by PF Anderson).

The three figures in the front are (from L-to-R), Opalent, Lightstep, and Vandin. Lightstep is not yet finished. I haven’t yet painted his eyes, nor some of the trim on his clothing and accessories.

Anyway, painting the minis is fun, although it can take a lot of time. I can only paint for about 30 minutes at a time, then my neck gets sore from being bent over. I have to use an Optivisor in order to see close enough to paint, and have to sometimes hold the figure and the brush close to my body to prevent wobbly painting. That’s what bothers my neck, as I have to lower my chin to my chest in order to focus with the Optivisor. When I was building models in my 20s, I had 20/13 vision (better than 20/20). I used to scoff, hah! who would need magnifying lenses! But when I hit my mid-40s, I suddenly noticed I had presbyopia and I needed reading glasses. I also found I needed stronger magnification in order to see fine details. I probably should buy a desktop lamp with a large magnifying lens, then I might not have to bend my neck so much.

— The Dungeon Master

The Tomb of Koban Hairfoot – Part 3

June 25th, 2016

This is a continuation of The Tomb of Koban Hairfoot – Part 1, and The Tomb of Koban Hairfoot – Part 2.

Day #2-29 (Fireday, 9th Dewsnap, 4333 BCCC): As we left our intrepid adventurers last time, they had descended to the 2nd level of the Tomb of Koban Hairfoot, and after briefly investigating a rectangular chamber with three skeletons laying about in disarray, they had then proceeded onward. They had come to another door to their left, and Vandin Lakesplitter had forced the door open with a few pushes from his shoulder….

Immediately after forcing the door open, Vandin (carrying a torch along with his shield and hammer), and Tureg, another dwarven fighter (armed with a sword and also carrying a shield) discovered there were some more skeletons in this room, but the skeletons were animated and were coming to attack! Vandin swung his hammer and shattered one skeleton into fragments, but another skeleton felled Tureg with a mighty claw. The halfling cleric Lightstep then entered the room and tried to fend off other skeletons with his small shield and with his hammer, while the halfling thief Falafela snuck into the room in Lightstep’s wake and attempted to drag Tureg out of the room. It was fortunate for the adventurers that the room just inside the door was not very wide, as it kept the skeletons superior numbers from being able to flank the party.

Vandin then swung his hammer and took off a skeleton’s arm at its shoulder, but with its other arm it struck Vandin, doing 4 hit points of damage (out of Vandin’s 6 total hit points). After Falafela dragged Tureg out of the room, Vandin and Lightstep were able to back out of the room and pull the door closed behind them, thus gaining a respite from the attacking skeletons. The party did not hear any sound coming from inside the room, so Lightstep cast a Cure Light Wounds spell on Vandin, but it only cured 1 HP of damage. Then Lightstep cast his only remaining Cure Light Wounds spell, and it fully healed Vandin.

After briefly discussing tactics, the party decided they would only open the door a little so only one skeleton at a time could approach them through the narrowed opening. While Lightstep took Vandin’s torch, Vandin opened the door just enough for a skeleton to start to come through. Whack! A mighty blow from Vandin’s hammer felled that skeleton, and also the next skeleton to come through right on the heels of the first skeleton. But while Vandin was watching that 2nd skeleton fall to the ground to make sure it wouldn’t try to strike him on the way down, another skeleton came through the door and struck Vandin for 5 HP of damage! Opalent then cast her Magic Missile spell at that skeleton. While the spell did 3 points of damage, it did not “kill” the already-undead skeleton. Douag then pushed Vandin out of the way, but before Douag could bring his battleaxe to bear, the skeleton ripped at Douag, striking twice and inflicting 5 hit points of damage. Douag was still in fair shape, though, as he had 11 hit points before being wounded. After a bit more battling, Douag finally chopped the skeleton in half with his axe, and then made sure it was not moving any more after striking it a few more times as it lay at his feet.

The party then waited for several seconds to see if any more skeletons were coming out of the room to do battle, and when none appeared, they made more plans. Lightstep stayed in the hallway with one torch to watch over the wounded Tureg, and the human ranger Clayton also stayed on guard in the hallway outside the room. The other party members cautiously looked into the room, led by human fighter Vox the Just, who kicked the skeleton bones out of the doorway. The room looked like a carbon copy of Koban Hairfoot’s crypt from the level above, as this room was also octagonal in shape, about 30 feet across from one wall to its opposite wall. But this room did not have painted murals on the walls; instead, it had what looked like burn marks and bloodstains on the walls and the floor. And instead of a glass-encased skeleton of Koban Hairfoot resting on a marble table, there was a black obsidian coffin lying on a dark obsidian table. Embossed into the top of the coffin was a symbol of an unknown deity, as well as the word “Reedus.” The party also noticed there were the bones from five skeletons on the floor, although they could only account for killing four of the foul creatures. They knew that Vandin had killed three of the skeletons, and Douag had put down another. Then Lightstep said, “I think I took out one of those infernal creatures while I was shielding Tureg.”

Falafela wanted to inspect the coffin before anyone tried to open its lid, but as she was only 2’8” tall, she had Opalent lift her up for a closer look-see. Falafela and Opalent inspected the coffin carefully, but could detect no sort of trick or trap. While Vandin then also inspected the coffin for any sort of stonework traps, the party had to light two new torches (Vox and Opalent dug into their torch supplies). That also marked they had been in the dungeon for about four hours. Finally, while holding their breath to see what might leap out of the coffin at them, the party opened the lid. They were relieved to not find a body, or a skeleton, or anything else that might have assaulted them. And while the party did not find the Pendant of Winstone, they did find an old, dusty black cloak that was trimmed in gold. It appeared to have been someone’s burial cloak. It did seem weird that it was dusty, although the rest of the room wasn’t very dusty. Opalent picked up the cloak with her 10’ pole. Opalent then searched two of the walls for any secret passages, but found none.

At this time, Clayton poked his head in the room and announced that he thought Tureg was dead, as Clayton could not detect a pulse. While the party was ready to push on and keep searching for the Pendant of Winstone, they didn’t want to just leave Tureg’s body lying about. Vandin, in particular, didn’t want any rats to eat Tureg! Other party members reminded Vandin that they had not seen any vermin (except the skeletons) in the dungeon, but Vandin was adamant. Clayton said, “We could leave Tureg’s body in this coffin until we come back to retrieve him.” A couple of folks thought that was sort of gruesome, as the coffin looked sort of evil, but Clayton then said, “Well, he’s already dead. It couldn’t hurt him any more.” So, the party lifted Tureg, along with all of his possessions (except his torches which Opalent added to her backpack), and placed him in the coffin, and then closed the lid.

The party then piled the skeleton bones around the walls of the room, and then Lightstep took off his backpack and carefully unwrapped the vial of the clear liquid he had found some time ago. He sprinkled about half of the vial on the bones, while saying a few religious words. He probably had about two fluid ounces of the clear fluid remaining in the vial after that. The party then went to the other door of the room that was down a 35’ hallway from the foot of the coffin. As the hinges were on the inside, Vox tried to pull that door open, but failed. He then whacked at the door once with his sword, but as the door was of solid wood with iron reinforcing bands (as was the other door to the room), he quickly decided that it would indeed be futile to keep striking at the door with his sword. Vox figured he would only lose the edge of his blade if he kept slashing at the door. Vandin then came forward, and even in his weakened condition, he only had to strike the door twice with his hammer before busting it open. The party wasn’t worried about making noise at this point, seeing as they had made a lot of noise while fighting the skeletons.

The party now proceeded in the order: Lightstep in front (with a torch), then Vox and Gwenette (another human fighter) in the 2nd rank, then Falafala and Vandin, then Douag and Opalent, and Clayton brought up the rear with another torch. After passing through the shattered door, they saw they had to go to either the right or the left. They went to the right. After about 30 feet, they saw another iron grating in the floor, much like the floor grating from the level above. Just beyond the grate, the hallway turned right, and they could see it led back to the other door of the room they had just exited. Down that hall towards the other door, the hall also turned off to the left, but they decided not to go that way for now. Instead, they went to the left.

After proceeding just more than 10 feet, the hall turned 90 degrees to the right. (By the way, the party were all still creeped out by the skulls that were embedded into the stonework in the floor, and by the streaks of rust and/or blood all over the walls.) About 10 feet past that right turn was an end wall with a wooden door in it. Lightstep just wanted to quickly open the door to see what was on the other side, but Gwenette held him back. Vox then opened the door, which opened easily. Vox stepped through the door, closely followed by Lightstep and Gwenette. There were only three items to be seen in this 20’ x 30’ room: a 4’ x 6’ wooden table with one chair in the center of the room, an old wooden wardrobe, with its two doors open, in the far right corner of the room, and an old dust-covered bed in the far left corner of the room.

After having only a few seconds to look around the room, suddenly a ghastly figure arose from the dusty bedcovers and attacked! It was clearly undead, and while it was partially a skeleton, it still had some fleshy parts on its body. Unfortunately for Vox, he was the closest to the thing, and Vox was quickly struck twice for a total of 7 hit points of damage. Having only 3 HP left, he fell back somewhat. Gwenette and Lightstep then tried to hit the thing, Gwenette with her short sword, and Lightstep with his hammer, but they could not connect as they were more interested in keeping the thing from hitting them. Gwenette, in particular, had to parry the foul creature’s attacks with her sword as she did not carry a shield.

Suddenly, at the back of the party out in the hall was a commotion. Clayton had forgotten to keep looking back from the way that they had come, as he, like the rest of the party, were trying to see what was transpiring inside the room. Before the rear party members could do anything about it, a skeleton clad in a gold and gem-studded robe and wearing a similar crown, pushed its way past the party members. It was the skeleton of Koban Hairfoot, come back to life! Koban rushed to confront the evil being that was battling with Gwenette and Lightstep, pushing them out of the way. Then Koban and his opponent stood toe-to-toe, raining blows upon each other! Koban was wielding his broken mace, and was inflicting terrible damage to his foe, but could not avoid receiving serious blows in return. Finally, the evil being was vanquished, breaking into several pieces as it hit the floor with a thud. Unfortunately for Koban, though, he too was finished. Koban pivoted, looking at the party with the empty eye sockets of his skull, then fell prostrate upon the stone floor. As he fell, he dropped his broken mace and reached out with his right hand and pointed to the wardrobe in the corner.

After the party paused for a moment to take in what had just transpired, Gwenette and Falafela inspected the wardrobe. They looked inside, but all that there was to see were a few tattered old garments that appeared to have no value. Falafela was wondering if the wardrobe was a teleportation device, and started to climb inside, but just to be on the safe side, she kept one foot outside the wardrobe and had Opalent hold on to her. While this was transpiring, Lightstep sprinkled the last of what he was now convinced was Holy Water on the bones of Koban and Koban’s foe, and when the little bit of water touched the bones of Koban’s opponent, some small wisps of smoke arose from those bones. Clayton was now also watching back down the hallway for anyone/anything else that might approach, and Vox was lying on the floor, feeling as if all of his energy had left him. It was also time to light two new torches, marking five hours of dungeon time for the intrepid party.

Opalent then looked around the wardrobe, and finally when she moved it a few inches away from the wall she found a hidden door behind it! The door was only about 4’ high, but Lightstep cautiously opened the door (after the wardrobe had been moved farther away from the wall) and went through, along with a torch. Douag and Gwenette then followed him in. They saw a sort of U-shaped room, about 20 feet across and 30 feet long. At the “U” end of the room, which was to their left, was a small white marble altar. Atop the altar were two gold candlesticks with unburned white candles in them, along with a gleaming gold chalice, and next to the chalice was a bit of jewelry that looked exactly as the Pendant of Winstone had been described to them when they were all back at Karnack’s castle! It was round, about 4 inches in diameter, with a sort of “tab” protruding off one side, and with a 2” diameter black gem in its center. Around its rim, were gold “bubbles.”

Lightstep approached the altar, lit both candles with his torch, and soon was immersed in prayers. After about 10 minutes of prayer, he then reached up and retrieved the Pendant of Winstone and the gold chalice, and wrapped them in cloth and placed them in his backpack. Gwenette said, “Aren’t you going to take the candlesticks?” Lightstep answered, “No. We will leave them to burn down.”

(to be continued)

The Tomb of Koban Hairfoot – Part 2

April 28th, 2016

Read The Tomb of Koban Hairfoot – Part 1 for a refresher of how the adventurers came to be where they are now.

(This adventure is one of a series of adventures of some folks playing Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, using the 1st Edition rules.) Play was suspended in this adventure just before Christmas 2015. It has taken about four months before play was resumed. It seems some of the adventurers or else the dungeon master were all variously sick over the winter and early spring. But finally everyone was healthy and available to play again! When play was suspended, the party was in the dungeon beneath the tomb of Koban Hairfoot. They are all searching for the Pendant of Winstone, a powerful, magical artifact that may be able to cure the villagers of Crystal Shores from their turning into zombies. The party has found the Necklace of Harbinge, and have retrieved it from around the neck of the long dead cleric, Koban Hairfoot. The party had found an underground library just as play was suspended last. Now, to continue….


Day #2-29 (Fireday, 9th Dewsnap, 4333 BCCC): The party spent some time searching the books in the library, more than an hour, in fact. They had Tureg, Douag, Opalent, Lightstep, Gwenette, and Falafela searching through the many books on the shelves, with Vandin holding a torch in the center of the room so folks would have some light. Vox was standing guard in the hallway outside the library with another torch, and Clayton was staying out of everyone’s way. The dwarves Douag and Tureg and the halfling Lightstep, due to their shortness in height, had to limit themselves to searching through books on the lower shelves or to books and papers that were on the floor, but the halfling Falafela stood on one of the two chairs in the room so she could reach higher shelves. The party had to be careful handling most of the books, as most of the books were quite ancient and fragile.

After about 50 minutes of searching, just after two new torches were lit to replace the others that were about to expire, Opalent chanced to find a rolled up scroll behind a couple of books she had just pulled off the shelf. Opalent gave an exclamation of joy and interest, and showed the others what she had found, as when unrolled the scroll seemed to have something to do with the Pendant of Winstone. The scroll had a drawing of what the Pendant had been described as looking like by Karnack when they were all at Karnack’s castle; however, nobody could read the language that was written on the scroll. Opalent carefully rolled up the scroll again and placed it in her backpack for safekeeping. Then the party continued searching. Clayton remarked that it would be quite useful if someday all of the books in this library could be conveyed to Karnack’s castle, although this was not the expedition to accomplish that at this time. After another 20 minutes of searching, Lightstep found an interesting book. It seemed to be a manual containing a workout regimen that could be followed to increase an individual’s strength, agility, and endurance. Although nobody could read the language the workout book was written in, there were plenty of illustrations that made it clear what it was about. Lightstep stashed that book in his backpack. At that, the party felt they had found all that they could for now, and decided to move on with their exploration of the dungeon. Their marching order was Tureg and Vandin in the front row, followed by Falafela and Lightstep, then Gwenette and Opalent, Clayton and Douag, and then Vox brought up the rear. Vandin and Vox each had a torch.

The party then retraced their steps. They took the hallway going left from the library for about 30 feet, turned left, went another 80 to 90 feet, turned right, then went straight for another 70 to 80 feet, passing one of the entrances to Koban Hairfoot’s actual tomb. When they got to the end of this passage, they would have to go either to their right or to their left. They had already come from the left, so they decided to go to the right. They also noticed that at the intersection of the hallways there was an iron grate in the floor. The iron grate seemed to be set solidly into the floor stones, so did not seem like a passage to a different level. They found a small rock to drop through the grate, but they could not hear it hit bottom. They decided to bypass the grate for now and continue on their way.

Upon starting down the right-hand passage, it only went a little more than 10 feet before it branched to the right and left. The party took the passage to the right. After a little more than 50 feet, the hallway turned left, then after 20 feet it opened into a circular chamber that was about 60 feet in diameter. Religious frescoes (somewhat faded) were painted on the walls, and there were a number of shelves that held humanoid skulls upon them. There was also what looked like a marble altar on the far side of the room. What alarmed the party, though, were six skeletal monks wearing tattered brown robes that were standing on guard holding ceremonial scythes, three on each side of the room. The party watched the skeletons carefully to see if they would attack, but they appeared quite lifeless. Finally, Falafela borrowed Vandin’s torch and approached the altar to search for traps. The other members of the party spread out to guard the skeletons in case they were to come to life and try to attack Falafela or anyone else.

After several minutes of examination at the altar, Falafela was satisfied that there were no traps around the altar. In particular, she had been looking for a trap door under the altar. Also, when she got close to the altar, she could see it was made of polished obsidian instead of marble. It had a smooth slab top, with two solid legs, one on each side. Douag then suggested that someone should lie down on the altar to see what happened, and Tureg said to Douag, “You go first, buddy!” Falafela then returned to the party and stated, “I was really scared!” Although some party members were suggesting the party should attack the skeletons before they came to life, Falafela said that the party should instead treat the dead clerics with respect. As the rest of the party had barely ventured into the chamber, Vox asked, “Should we all enter the room and check it out?” Douag said to check out the skeletal monks to see if they had anything of value.

Vandin retrieved his torch from Falafela, and he and Falafela and Opalent then approached the altar. The other six party members each watched one of the six skeletal monks. Opalent retrieved the scroll that described the Pendant of Winstone from her backpack and placed it on the altar, but nothing happened. Then Lightstep approached the altar and took the Necklace of Harbinge from around his neck and placed it on the altar. Similarly to the scroll, nothing happened. Lightstep and Opalent then took back the scroll and necklace and secured them among their possessions once again. Vandin then examined the altar, looking for any irregularities in the stone floor around the altar, but he could detect nothing out of the ordinary.

Opalent then suggested tapping the skeletons with her 10-foot pole, but Vandin suggested smashing the altar instead, and then a general argument ensued. Finally Lightstep cooled everyone down, and suggested leaving the chamber and continuing their explorations. Before leaving, though, Lightstep said some respectful words to the long-dead skeletal clerics. “Rest well, noble warriors, may you continue your eternal vigil forevermore.” The group resumed their marching order of Tureg and Vandin, Falafela and Lightstep, Gwenette and Opalent, Clayton and Douag, and Vox. Vandin and Vox still carried the torches.

The party then returned to the three-way hallway junction near the floor grate, but this time they took the other passage they had not yet explored. After taking that passage, it immediately turned right, went about 50 feet, then turned left. Another 15 feet, and it seemed to veer to the right and left. The party could hear water running, sort of like a running stream of water over rocks. Vandin searched the entrance to this new junction for floor traps, finding none, and then they all took the left-side hallway. They could see a small waterfall of sorts. There was a 6-foot wide recess in the central wall on their right, and water was coming out of a narrow slit in the 10-foot high ceiling. The water then trickled down cobblestones on the vertical wall surface, collecting in a small pool at the bottom. There must have been small drain for the water at the bottom, as it did not overflow the pool. The party also noticed several tubular iron bars across the top of the pool. At about this time the party had to light two more new torches, marking that they had been in the dungeon around three hours so far.

While Opalent was searching around the pool of water in the floor for secret passages, other party members discovered that they were in a sort of octagonal chamber that was about 40 by 50 feet, except the center of the room had a large column that effectively reduced the room to a circular hallway. They could walk around the central wall with the waterfall and return to the room’s entrance. Opalent didn’t find any secret doors, and then Vandin also failed at detecting any sliding stonework doors. By now, they had been in the dungeon about three and a half hours. The party were getting ready to leave this area when Opalent decided to check one more time for any secret doors. She tried pressing on rocks under the waterfall as high as she could reach (which was close to 8 feet high as she is 6’1” tall), when all of a sudden a rock she was pushing on depressed with an audible click. Then Vandin helped Opalent push against the wall, and a secret door was revealed! Vandin held his shield over his head to protect his torch from the waterfall, and he exclaimed, “There are stairs leading down!”

The party descended the stairs in their accustomed marching order. At the bottom of the stairs, the hallway turned 90 degrees to the left. When everyone made it to the bottom, they all felt creeped out. While the stonework of the walls was of much the same construction as the upper level, these walls (and the floor) were covered with numerous streaks of iron rust and what looked to be dried blood. In addition, there were many humanoid skulls inset with the floor stones! It was also eerily quiet, with no dust or cobwebs. Everyone could feel the hair stand up on the backs of their necks. Lightstep asked, quietly, “Does anyone else feel a chill run down their spine?” Tureg answered, “Yes!”

The party started down a long, straight hallway. After about 40 yards, the hallway turned 90 degrees to the right. It then went straight for another 30 yards, although there was a side hallway to the right about 30 feet down the hall. They could see that this side hall led into a chamber, and that the former door to that chamber had been charred to cinders. Looking into the room, it was about 20 feet deep and 30 feet wide, with three charred skeletons on the floor. One of the skeletons was pointing to a charred, broken podium that was lying on its side. There was also a broken Circle of Protection on the floor, as well as a burned book. The book appeared like the fire had started inside it and burned its way out through the cover.

Falafela carefully examined the broken Circle of Protection, and then the charred podium, but found nothing of interest. Opalent wanted to examine the burned book, but Lightstep tried to talk her out of that action. Douag said that Opalent should examine the book, but when all was said and done, Opalent decided to leave the book alone. They all then left the room and continued on down the dark hallway. They turned the 90-degree corner to their right, went another 30 feet, then the hallway widened to 20 feet wide for 30 feet. There was also a recessed door on their left. Vandin checked that door, and was able to open it with several pushes of his shoulder….

This is where play had to be suspended. What lies behind the door? What other surprises lie in wait for our intrepid party of adventurers? Stay tuned for future adventure postings!

(to be continued)

Remember: The Dungeon Master is Always Right!

February 27th, 2016

Now, to play Dungeons & Dragons, or any other fantasy role-playing game, is to lose oneself in an alternate world that was created by the “Dungeon Master” (aka “Game Master,” “Referee,” et al). Some times players forget that fact. If the DM says what you can see, you can always ask questions, but once the DM clarifies those questions, move on in the game — don’t start arguing with the DM!

I mentioned how I stopped being our group’s DM back in 1982 when I started going to college. I didn’t have the time to adequately prepare the dungeon adventures, what with having lots of homework, and working full-time, in addition. So, one of the other players became our new DM.

During an adventure with our new DM at the helm, our group was trying to sneak up on the entrance to a cave that was located in a steep hillside. As I was now a player, I asked the DM if there was any sort of cover we could hide behind in order to approach the cave without being seen from within the cave. (We didn’t know if anyone or anything was inside the cave that could possibly observe our adventuring party.) The DM flatly stated that there was knee-high grass (knee-high to a human, that is), and a few boulders maybe three-feet in diameter that we could try to use to screen our approach to the cave.

OK, all is well and good, most of us thought. But then the new DM’s sister spoke up. She asked, “Are there any trees?” The DM answered, “No, there aren’t any trees near the entrance to the cave.” Once again, that should have been good enough, but No! The DM’s sister then proceeded to argue that if there was grass, there had to be trees, too! The other party members all tried to reason with her, telling her that if the DM says there are no trees, then there aren’t any trees! (I guess she forgot that fantasy role-playing is also called “let’s pretend.”)

Anyway, she proceeded to argue with the DM for at least a half-hour as to whether or not there were trees. Some of us at first tried to reason with her, giving her plenty of examples of local real-life terrain where there was grass but no trees, but she wasn’t about to give in to her brother.

So, the rest of us sort of wandered away, taking bathroom breaks, getting snacks, then finally some of us started watching TV in another room. Eventually, we did get back to playing D&D again, but the mood was totally spoiled. I don’t think that campaign ever really recovered from that. That may have been the precipitating reason why the campaign fell apart after I stopped DMing for it.

When I was the DM, I always had a solution for overly obstinate, argumentative players — a grisly death for their character! Sometimes that is the only way to remove a disruptive player from your group. I would have dealt with such a player by either having a 10-ton block of granite fall on that character, squashing them flat, or perhaps just let some green slime fall on them and dissolve them into a puddle of green slime! Solutions such as those will allow the campaign to move forward. It also alerts the other players to not be disruptive!

I would also first try to remind players that they are playing a game, and not to take it too seriously.

— The Dungeon Master

What to do with stingy D&D characters

February 19th, 2016

OK, so I’ve mentioned I was the Dungeon Master (DM) for several groups of players back in the late 1979 to early 1982 era. Most folks had a good time playing Dungeons & Dragons; however, some few of them became excessively stingy towards the loot they had gleaned from various dungeons. Therefore, I had to find a way to cure the players of that sentiment.

A classic way to play D&D is for adventurers (i.e., the “player characters,” aka “PCs”) to go and explore underground caverns, ruined castles, and such. And if your group plays once a week, you would usually assume that the group was “resting” at a local inn/tavern in between weekly adventures. Of course, some of them needed to rest in order to restore hit points that were lost due to combat. But whatever the reason for resting instead of adventuring, they would of course have to pay for room and board. It is generally assumed that adventurer types in D&D like to live “high on the hog” in between adventures, so I would tell each character to deduct 25 gold pieces (GP) from their money to pay for living expenses between their weekly adventures. But some players would object vociferously to having to pay that much just to live! I would remind them that in today’s world it would be nice if we could get by paying only $25 per week!

So, I set a trap for those stingy characters. (Insert evil gloating laugh here! Think of Snidely Whiplash.) The next time the PCs entered the dungeon they had been exploring, they ended up going down a dead-end hallway. It didn’t matter which way they went, they were going to end up in this dead-end hallway. (insert gloating laugh again!)

So, the characters get to the end of that dead-end hallway, and BAM! An iron portcullis slams down behind them, trapping them in the end of the hallway. They all try to lift the bars, or to bend them, all to no avail. They then search the rock walls and floors for either a secret passage or for a way to release the bars. Alas (for them!), they can’t find a way out.

So then, after the players have been making all sorts of noise by banging on the bars, they hear what sounds like footsteps coming toward them in the hallway on the other side of the portcullis. They see see a humanoid carrying a lantern approaching, and when the lantern gets close enough, they can see it appears to be an old man approaching with the lantern in one hand, and a cane in the other hand. This is where I got to have some fun, as the DM gets to play the parts of all of the non-player characters (NPCs), such as the old man caretaker, in this example.

“What’s all this racket about?” I inquired, in the guise of the old caretaker. One of the members of the trapped adventurers said, “We’ve been trapped by these iron bars. Do you know how to raise the bars?” The old man answered, “Why, of course I know how to raise the bars.” “Well, then, good, raise the bars and let us out” demanded another party member. The old man answered, “Uh, not so fast, we need to discuss terms!” “Terms?” the entire party wondered.

The caretaker then looked the party over and said, “I’ll release the bars for 5 gold pieces per person.” The party was furious! “No! We’ll not pay that ransom to you!” Then the caretaker said, “OK. But do think it over. I’ll be back.” And then he started shuffling away, back down the hallway from whence he came. Someone in the party said, “Quick! Shoot him with an arrow before he gets away!” This is where I really got to stick it to the party. I, as the caretaker, stopped and slowly turned, then said, “Well, you could shoot me with an arrow, I reckon, but then, you might never get out, eh!? Like I said, think it over, I’ll be back.” And then the caretaker disappeared down the long dark hallway.

We then took a short break in the game, and when we resumed, I said it was two hours (in game time) after when the caretaker left. Then the party hears the caretaker approaching again. As the caretaker gets close enough to hear them, the party all agreed, “OK, we’ll pay you the 5 gold pieces to release us.” The caretaker paused, with a sort of puzzled grin on his face, and said, “Well, you see, the price has gone up. It’s now 25 GP per person! You know, inflation, and all that!” Now the party was even more angry! I, as the DM/caretaker, was certainly glad they were not angry bees, or they would have stung me to death! It should also be mentioned that it wasn’t just the PCs who were angry, the actual people who were role-playing their characters were actually fit to be tied, thinking they would have to give up some of their loot, just to gain their freedom from the trap they had wandered into. While the party was arguing amongst themselves, the caretaker again said, “OK, think it over some more, I’ll be back later.” And then he turned and walked away again.

So now a full 24 hours or so (in game time) has passed, the party is out of water and almost out of food, and finally the caretaker makes another appearance. This time, he is pushing a wheelbarrow with a squeaky wheel. He announces, “Well, you know, inflation has gone up again. To release you now, I must have everything you have. I must have all of your money, all of your weapons and armor, and even your clothes!” Once more the PCs were furious, and threatened to shoot the caretaker with an arrow! And, once again, the caretaker reminded them that if they killed him, they might never get out of the trap and would all starve to death instead. So the caretaker stood there for several minutes while the party talked things over. Finally, the party agreed to the caretaker’s ransom, as they had no other option. They had fruitlessly searched for secret doors or release mechanisms, they couldn’t bend or release the bars, nor could any of their magic affect the bars. They were trapped, and trapped good, and they knew it.

So then the PCs had to start throwing all of their stuff through the bars, weapons first. After the players had thrown everything except the clothes they were wearing through the bars, the caretaker ordered everyone to the farthest wall away from the bars, then he cautiously approached and gathered up the PCs’ belongings. He then loaded as much stuff as he could on the wheelbarrow, and went away back down the hall. He had to make several trips with the wheelbarrow before he got everything hauled away, each round trip taking about 20 minutes. On his last return visit, he reminded the party that he also wanted their clothes. “Off with ’em, and be quick about it!” he ordered. So, finally, and quite dejectedly, the party members all disrobed down to their underwear and threw their clothes to the caretaker through the bars. The caretaker gathered up their clothes and loaded them into the wheelbarrow.

Before leaving for the last time, the caretaker did say, “I will leave you with a single torch to find your way back out of this dungeon. It will take me about 10 minutes to reach the release mechanism and to release it. You should have 40 or 50 minutes of burning time left on the torch when the bars raise, so make haste on your way!” Then the caretaker left the torch outside the bars, and went away with the last wheelbarrow load of the PCs’ clothes.

The caretaker left and the PCs saw him nevermore. After about 10 minutes (remember, in game time, not real time), the bars slowly raised. The party didn’t wait to trigger the bars coming down again, but they all ran quickly to the torch, gathered it up, and left the dungeon as expeditiously as possible! After they left the underground dungeon, they had to still make their way back to the inn they had been staying at back in the village, all while dressed in only their underwear!

Aftermath: The players truly learned their lesson. After that treatment, after losing everything they owned (outside of a few coins they had left with the innkeeper), they were suitably humble. They finally realized that what the Dungeon Master giveth, the Dungeon Master could also taketh away. They no longer objected to paying “living expenses.” I also told the (real life) players that I had been so exasperated by their cheapness that I had been tempted to make their actual human bodies strip down to their underwear, besides just their player characters! Also, the PCs had to beg new clothes from townspeople, and had to find ways to acquire new weapons, etc. It caused them a number of problems for a while after. I reminded the group that I gave them two chances to get released rather cheaply, first at only 5 GP per person and then at 25 GP per person, but they lost everything at the third strike.

DM note: Of all of the times I have run dungeons as a DM and have played the part of NPCs, the role of the “caretaker” was my favorite. While playing the part of that character, I would get up and imitate an old man’s halting walk, with a limp, and I put on my best olde-English style accent. I hammed it up as much as possible. I tried to keep playing the NPC caretaker as much of a straight-man as I could, but inside I was laughing like a crazy man. I would also make sure to relate this story to any new groups I DMed for in the future, just so they knew not to get stingy with their swag! And, for the record, no other groups tried to hoard their money like this group had tried.

How I got into playing D&D (in the 1970s)

January 31st, 2016

I guess I’ve always been a board-gamer. I played various “kid” style board games when I was truly a kid, then in the early 1960s (when I was 10 years old) a friend of mine bought the board game “D-Day” from the Avalon Hill company. Wow. What a difference from other games. Most games (even the early cheesy Milton Bradley “war” games) had one side move one piece, then the other side moved a piece, etc, but with the D-Day game one side moved as many of their pieces as they wanted, then did all of their attacks, then the other side took a similar turn.

My friends and I then bought just about every Avalon Hill game there was. We wore out a couple copies of Blitzkrieg by playing it so much. Starting around 1970 or ’71, we went to local board game conventions (gamecons) and played all sorts of games. Then in the mid-1970s, I became aware (at the gamecons) that some folks were playing a new kind of game, a role-playing game named Dungeons & Dragons.

Original Dungeons & Dragons box cover.

Original Dungeons & Dragons box cover.

While at one of the local gamecons, I bought the original D&D rules booklets (1974 printing). There were three small booklets in the original set: Men & Magic; Monsters & Treasure; and The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures; plus a set of Reference Sheets. I also later bought the add-on booklets Greyhawk and Blackmoor (May & November 1978 printings, respectively). The booklets said “Rules for Fantastic Medieval Wargames Campaigns Playable with Paper and Pencil and Miniature Figures.” There were two problems, though, as none of my game-playing friends wanted to play D&D, not to mention the rules were sort of weird to try to figure out on your own.

I did get an introduction to playing D&D at the local gamecons, but I didn’t spend much time at all playing D&D at the cons as I was more into various board games at the time. So basically I just set aside the rule books for a few years.

Then, in August 1979, a teenager named James Dallas Egbert III mysteriously disappeared from the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. Some folks who are old enough will remember the story, but if you don’t know about it, click the link above for more information. It seems that young Mr. Egbert (who was enrolled at MSU at age 16) would sometimes play Dungeons & Dragons, and the game’s name suddenly entered popular culture as various news organizations were trying to make a link to Egbert’s disappearance while “live playing” D&D in steam tunnels beneath the MSU campus. While Mr. Egbert’s life turned out to be a tragedy in that he commited suicide in August 1980, it did put D&D into the public eye.

Suddenly, in late 1979, all of my friends who had not formerly been interested in playing D&D started asking me about the game. “You have that game, right? How about showing us how the game plays?” I told them that nobody gets to watch others play the game, but they must play the game themselves if they wanted to find out anything about it. By that time I also owned the D&D “Basic Set” of rules that were a lot easier to decipher than the original rules booklets. It also came with module B1: In Search of the Unknown.

D&D Basic Set cover, 1977

Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set box cover from 1977.

I also had just purchased the first Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books, the Monster Manual, the Players Handbook, and the Dungeon Masters Guide (which had just come out), but as I hadn’t yet had time to read through all of those AD&D books, I decided to run a dungeon for my friends using the Basic Set rules (with the “blue” rulebook).

Unfortunately, the date is lost to history, but sometime in late 1979 (I would guess it was September, shortly after James Egbert had disappeared) I got together on a Friday evening after work with several friends, and we played D&D. Naturally, I was the Dungeon Master (DM) as I was the only one who knew anything about the game. We spent a little time generating their first characters, then down they went into the dungeon!

On that first Friday evening of playing D&D, we got started around 8 pm and finished around midnight. I figured that would be the end of things, as now my friends had finally experienced D&D, and I had blooded myself as a first-time DM. But instead, at midnight, the players were raving and excited! “When can we play again!?” they all clamored. I answered, “How about next weekend?” They all shouted, “Can’t we play any sooner? Like tomorrow?” The following day was a Saturday, so I said, “OK, we can get together again in the evening.” But they wanted to play sooner, like 10 am! We finally bargained on a starting time of noon on Saturday.

So we got together again at noon on Saturday, and played until midnight. By now, it seems the initial adventurers were totally hooked on the game. At midnight on Saturday, once again they all pleaded to play again the following day, on Sunday. So we played again on Sunday, from around noon to 6 pm. After that I said we should only play once a weekend.

After that, we did play D&D often, averaging one session per week for about two years. I also found time to start some other groups of players in some other dungeons as I had added to my store-bought modules with such as The Village of Hommlet. I also quickly started making my own modules as I found the players were also buying the few available ready-made dungeon modules so they would know what to expect.

Eventually, though, I started going to college in January 1982, and with all of the homework I had (I was also working 40 hours a week) I found I didn’t have time to adequately prepare adventures for the players. I then stepped down as our group’s DM, and let one of the other experienced players take over as DM. Unfortunately, the campaign just wasn’t the same, and we all drifted away from playing.

And for more than 30 years, I never went back to playing D&D until just after Christmas 2014.

— The Dungeon Master