26 August 2022

Fictional worlds and the RPGs that I would use for them

Below I list some of my favourite settings from fantasy fiction that I think could serve as viable RPG settings and the rules that I would use if I were to run adventures in them. 



Fictional setting: Middle-earth (as described by JRR Tolkien in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and so forth).

 

System: Adventures in Middle-Earth (a 5th edition D&D variant, heavily revised with ideas from The One Ring RPG) for the Third Age (I had a very positive experience using the system).

Possible alternative: Against the Darkmaster (VsD)—for earlier eras or if I'm drawing a lot on my old Middle-earth Roleplaying (MERP) collection, since it’s easy to convert MERP stats into VsD.

(Why not MERP? In my view, VsD keeps everything that is great about MERP and makes some helpful improvements.)

 

A further thought on Middle-earth: I'd like to try The One Ring (2nd edition) system sometime—I have the book and box set, and they’re gorgeous. I played a couple of games of 1st edition TOR years ago and didn’t care for it—something about it just didn’t “click” for me. But that may have been because I didn't really understand the system (or I was just too tired or something). AiME imports a lot of ideas from TOR, so there must be something there.



Fictional setting: The Elder Isles of Jack Vance’s Lyonesse trilogy.

 

System: The Lyonesse RPG (a version of Mythras).

One of my favourite FRPGs (Mythras) adapted specifically for one of my favourite fantasy settings—what more could I ask for?

(I think that this system also could be used for a “Cugel-level” Dying Earth campaign.)

 


Fictional setting: The Eternal Champion multiverse, including especially the worlds described in Michael Moorcock’s Elric (the “Young Kingdoms”) and Corum stories.


System: Mythras, especially with the (now out-of-print) RuneQuest II (MRQII) Elric supplements. Since Mythras is a direct descendant of MRQII, conversion would be a non-issue. (I played in an excellent Young Kingdoms campaign using MRQII a decade ago.)

 


Fictional settings: The Hyborian Age (as described in Robert E Howard’s Conan stories) and the Atlantean Age (as described in REH’s Kull tales).

 

System: Crypts and Things if I want something fast and furious; Mythras for detailed bone-crunching action.

 


Fictional settings: Clark Ashton Smith’s “Averoigne,” “Hyperborea,” and “Zothique.

 

Systems: Again, either Crypts and Things or Mythras, depending on what style of game I want to run.

 


Fictional setting: The “First Law” world, as described in Joe Abercrombie’s original trilogy, and the post-trilogy stand-alone books (I think that the regions covered in Red Country and Best Served Cold would make excellent campaign settings). (Note: I haven’t read the “Age of Madness” trilogy yet.)


System: Either Mythras or Against the Darkmaster.  

 


Fictional setting: The “Cthulhu Mythos” universe (as described by HP Lovecraft and others).

 

System: Call of Cthulhu (naturally)—or possibly a modified version of Mythras (I'm playing in an excellent Mythras “Return to the Mountains of Madness” campaign now).

 

 

25 August 2022

Greyhawk Classics Campaign Index

As I’ve done for some of my other campaigns, I’ll be maintaining a master page with links to all posts concerning my World of Greyhawk campaign. This is that page, and henceforth it’ll be listed on the upper right side of the blog (under “Akratic RPG stuff: campaigns”). I will update it whenever I have a new post related to the campaign.
 

The party: The Quixotic Quartet (3rd level version) 

 

Althaea: High Elf Wizard (abjurer). 

Erik: Mountain Dwarf Fighter (battle-master).  


Cedric: Human Cleric (war) of St. Cuthbert.

Godric: Human Rogue (arcane trickster). (Cedric and Godric are brothers.)


Adventure summaries:

 

Part 1: Fort Endurance and the Dim Forest Adventures (Coldeven 578)

Part 2: From Fort Endurance to Hommlet (Coldeven – Flocktime 578 CY)

Part 3: Arriving in Hommlet (Flocktime 578 CY)

Part 4: First Foray into the Moathouse (Flocktime 578 CY)

Part 5: Recovering and planning in Hommlet

Part 6: Return to the Moathouse

Part 7: …

Part 8: …


Miscellaneous posts:

 

·       No new Greyhawk setting book? Phew!

·       The Two Gords of Greyhawk

·       Some Thoughts on Greyhawk and the Golden Age of Gygax

·       Ghosts of Saltmarsh: some initial impressions

 

 

Credits: The original cover of The Village of Hommlet module (top) by Dave Trampier. The pictures of the characters are taken from the D&D Beyond website.


 

 

21 August 2022

From the Shroud #3: A Crypts and Things Fanzine

 

Want some new material for Crypts & Things?

 

Well, you’re in luck! Newt Newport of D101 Games is at work on the third issue of the From the Shroud fanzine for C&T. I’ve backed the kickstarter for it and encourage anyone fond of C&T to do the same. More information available here.

 

By Crom!


20 August 2022

Into the Moathouse (Greyhawk campaign)

 

PART 4: INTO THE MOATHOUSE (Flocktime 578 CY)

 

4.1 First Foray into the Moathouse (Flocktime 7th – 8th)

 

The seemingly inebriated yet strangely competent Elmo leads the intrepid adventurers — Erik (the mountain dwarf fighter from the Lortmils), Althaea (the high elf wizard from the city of Tringlee), and the brothers Godric (the human rogue from the Barony of Shiboleth) and Cedric (the human cleric of St. Cuthbert) — from the village of Hommlet to the ruined moathouse. The journey takes several hours along the “High Road” before branching off on a rough trail to the ruins. After setting up camp about 300 yards from the moathouse (on a small hill that overlooks the trail), the adventurers decide to explore the place a bit before sundown. Elmo remains at the camp to guard the party’s supplies.

 

The party approaches the rotting drawbridge into the fort. As they do so, from the fetid marshy water of the moat leap six giant frogs. The amphibious horrors attack the party. One frog’s tongue attaches itself to Althaea before the mage blasts it with some magic missiles. Cedric destroys another frog with a guiding bolt. Erik is hit with another frog’s tongue, but he immediately smashes the sticky appendage with his warhammer. Althaea hits two more frogs with her magic missiles, killing one. The surviving two frogs flee in terror. Althaea casts “alarm” on the drawbridge. Slightly battered from the encounter, the party returns to their campsite to rest for the night.

 

The party breaks camp early the next morning (the 8th day of Flocktime). They approach the moathouse with caution. Althaea casts “invisibility” on Godric. The rogue then proceeds ahead of his companions and investigates the grounds of the ruined fort. Entering the old great hall, Godric discovers a number of crossbowmen waiting in ambush in the hallways off of the chamber. He communicates this information to Althaea in response to the wizard’s “message” cantrip. The elf then informs Cedric and Erik.

 

Proceeding cautiously so as not to alert the bandits that they are aware of them, the party waits for Godric to strike first and distract their enemies. The rogue casts “colour spray” on a few, blinding them. Cendric then enters the fray, casting guiding bolt; Althaea follows, and uses up her magic missiles. However, there are more bandits than the party anticipated, as a handful are hidden behind arrowslits that look upon the entrance to the great hall. Erik blocks an arrowslit with hit shield and relies on his trusty Warhammer to smash other opponents. After an exhausting battle, all the bandits lie dead save two: a scruffy fellow named “Vick” who surrenders to the party begging piteously for his life, and the leader of the band who disappeared behind a reinforced door.

 

The party interrogates Vick. They learn from him that the bandit leader’s name is “Rex” and that the bandits have a secret exit from the moathouse in the back chamber. Vick also reveals that the leader of the moathouse is a mysterious “Master” who dwells in the tunnels beneath the fort, with his bodyguards and forces of gnolls and bugbears. Vick also mentions some creatures in the upper ruins that the bandits avoid: a giant insect, a massive spider, and a large lizard. The party also learns that Vick is originally from Safeton and is not especially loyal to his fellow brigands.

 

The party then discovers a stairway off the great hall that delves into the underground. Althaea casts “alarm” on it. Leaving the fort and circling around to the northeast, Vick shows the party the bandits’ secret exit from their safehouse. Althaea casts another “alarm” spell on the exit.

 

The party then returns to their campsite. They find Elmo sipping some gnomish whiskey. The party ties up Vick and leaves him in the care of Elmo. Althaea casts (yet another) “alarm” spell, this time on the rotting drawbridge. The party then proceeds to the secret exit where they rest for an hour.

 

Althaea casts “invisibility” on Godric. The rogue then enters the fort via the secret exit. Inside the bandits’ lair, despite the powerful stench of unwashed men, Godric sees no sign of Rex or anyone else. However, he does spot a chest under some rubble. The rest of the party joins Godric. Althaea spies a secret door. Erik clears away the rubble around the door, while Cedric and Godric begin to clear off the debris over the chest. The secret door is opened, revealing hidden stairway going down. Still invisible, Godric descends and finds himself in a small, clear chamber with secret doors on the eastern and western walls. The rogue returns to the bandit hideout and reports his finding. Althaea then goes down the stairs and begins to cast (yes, yet another!) “alarm” at its base when the western secret door opens. Confronting the startled eld is a hideous ogre!

 

Frightened and out of spells, Althaea flees up the stairs. Fortunately, the ogre to does not pursue her but instead runs through the eastern secret door, shouting incoherently. The party returns to their campsite.

 

4.2 Fighting the Moathouse pursuers (Flocktime 8th)

 

Back at the campsite they tell Elmo what happened. Surprising the adventurers, Elmo heals the wounds of Cedric and Godric—there would seem to be more to this village bumpkin than the party realizes! After chatting with Cedric, Vick is converted wholeheartedly to the worship of St. Cuthbert. Vick also explains that the pebble (with the eye symbol) is used by the bandits to recognize one another when in civilized lands—apparently there are a number of bands operating in the area, not simply the ones based in the moathouse.

 

As the party deliberates about what to do, Althaea hears a mental “ping” from one of her many alarms. She infers that the forces of the moathouse are in pursuit of the party! Deciding that they are unlikely to be able to flee all the way back to Hommlet, the adventurers elect to make a stand, using their high ground and terrain to their advantage. Erik and Althaea distribute some caltrops and a hunter’s trap around the perimeter of the campsite, while Godric hides nearby. Cedric, Emo, and Vick ready their ranged weapons.

 

After a dozen minutes or so the denizens of the moathouse are spotted. There are two groups: six gnolls with Rex arrive in the area on the trail that connects the moathouse to the high road, to the west of the campsite; nine bugbears skulk towards the campsite from the north.

 

A mighty combat ensues! Elmo reveals himself to be an effective warrior. But despite causing the band of bugbears considerable grief, one of the heinous humanoids strikes a lucky blow as slices off the villager’s head! Vick is skewered by a gnoll’s spear after helping to kill his former leader, Rex. Cedric prays that St. Cuthbert will accept the former brigand’s soul into the god’s celestial cathedral.

 

Eventually all the gnolls are slain, but four of the bugbears manage to flee. The party loots the bodies, finding another pebble on Rex, and minimal treasure on the others (some silver, gold, and platinum coins, a lump of blue quarts, and gold and silver necklaces). Also on Rex’s body is a crude map of the area around the moathouse. It seems to indicate a secret entrance to the lower level of the moathouse about 120-150 feet to the east of the ruins. Most of the armour and weapons of the humanoids are dumped into a nearby pond so that they cannot be used again.

 

With heavy hearts, the party carries Elmo’s body back to Hommlet. Sore and exhausted, they arrive at the village around midnight.

 

[Regional map from Goodman Games' version of The Temple of Elemental Evil. The red dot indicates where the party was ambushed en route to Hommlet. The pink square indicates the location of the Moathouse.]

[The picture of the Moathouse at the top of this post is by David Trampier and appears in both T1 and T1-4.] 

[The previous log entry can be found here.]

19 August 2022

One Dungeons and Dragons: the 2024 version (edition 5.5)

I guess it was inevitable. A new “version” (the word “edition” seems to be verboten at Wizards of the Coast these days) of Dungeons and Dragons is coming in 2024. It’s currently being called “One D&D,” I suppose to emphasize the compatibility of the 2024 version with the 2014 5th edition rules.

 

WotC is at pains to stress that everything that has been published for fifth edition will be usable/compatible with the 2024 rules. Of course, this doesn’t prevent it from being a new “edition” in any sense—1st edition AD&D modules can be used easily with 2nd edition and vice versa. But given the ways that the 3rd, 4th, and 5th editions were all incompatible with each other (and with earlier editions)—they were essentially different games altogether—and the divisions that these shifts caused among players, I can understand why WotC would want to do what they can to highlight that no equally dramatic change is coming up in two years.

 

Anyhow, I think that 5th edition is … fine. I enjoyed using the Adventures in Middle-earth version of the rules for my Mirkwood campaign, and I am enjoying using the core rules for my current Greyhawk campaign. As I’ve mentioned before here, I'm using Gygax's version of the setting (1983 box set) as my base, modifying a few things, and filling in some details here and there. I’m only permitting character options that make sense for the setting (so no tieflings, dragonborn, warlocks, etc.). I don't use the “inspiration” rules or “feats.” Does it feel exactly like 1e AD&D? No, certainly not. But it's not that far off in terms of the actual player experience, I think. We’re having fun with it in any case.

 

After taking a quick look at the current play test document for One D&D, I already have a couple of concerns. 

 

I don't like feats at all and (as I just mentioned) I don't use them in my campaign. Making them optional was one of the best things about 5th edition. So I'm disappointed that they now seem to be no longer optional in the play test document. Likewise, I don't like inspiration and don't use it in my game. Not using inspiration keeps the game a bit more “gritty” and dangerous. But inspiration now seems to be required (for humans at least).

My current take is this: I use some modest tweaks to maintain a somewhat “old school” feel to my 5e game. This has been easy to do, and I'm a little concerned that this may be harder to do in 5.5e. But perhaps my worries will prove unfounded. Or perhaps I’ll just stick with “my version” of 5th edition (I certainly will do so for my current campaign). And after I finish the Greyhawk campaign—which very well may not be for a couple of years—I expect I’ll be in the mood to run something different in any case. (Perhaps Against the Darkmaster or Lyonesse...)

18 August 2022

Planescape coming in 2023

Here’s the lineup of 2023 releases for Dungeons and Dragons (5th edition):

 

-       Keys from the Golden Vault

-       Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants

-       Phandelver Campaign

-       The Book of Many Things

-       Planescape

 

The last item is the only one of real interest to me (although I likely will at least look at the other books).  

 

I didn’t pay much attention to Advanced Dungeons and Dragons during the second edition era (I played briefly in one campaign, which was fine). An exception was the Planescape setting. My interest was prompted by the Planescape: Torment computer role-playing game (which I didn’t play until 2000, after the setting’s print run had finished up). Upon finishing the CRPG, I tracked down the box set. Even though I never did anything with the setting, I was—and remain—a fan of it.

 

Perhaps I’ll finally run a Planescape campaign once this book becomes available. At the very least, I'm keen to read about it.


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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who lives primarily in Toronto but teaches in Milwaukee (sometimes in person, sometimes online).