Thursday, September 26, 2013

Passenger Class Equipment List

The Passenger Class of the Apollyon, even it's cadet family third sons, parvenu bounders and black sheep, is wealthy enough that normal monetary concerns don't apply.  For PCs of the Passenger Class (except destitute exiles), the issues related to equipment aren't so much money, but temperament and preparation.  It's not that an adventuring passenger can't afford a proper kit, or even often find very good equipment laying about the family estate, it's that a Passenger has little or no idea what sort of equipment might be needed to delve into the wretched and forgotten parts of the hull.  Furthermore, most passengers have trouble adapting to the life of an adventurer and are loathe to replace their initial equipment.  Rather than admit idiocy, a passenger joining an adventuring party will refuse to purchase new equipment, insisting on retaining whatever meager or absurd combination of equipment they first brought adventuring out of pride and misplaced fear of looking gauche.  A passenger may not purchase normal adventuring equipment until 3rd level, and as always purchasing directly from lower deck purveyors or craftsmen will cost reputation (1 point), while sending underlings to do it will mean the requested items do not arrive for an extra session.  This does not mean that passengers cannot augment their equipment in other ways.  Items recovered during adventuring if they are of better than average quality (would normally qualify as treasure) may be used as "trophies" and even objects taken from other dead adventurers can be adopted (as mementos).

Monday, September 23, 2013

Play Report - Warlock Moon

Nick of Paper & Pencils ran an inaugural session of his Warlock Moon setting with the Pahvelorn core group.  We set off to explore the moons bleak grey wastes in a lively and fast paced session. Now this was a pretty well schooled group of tactically minded players who all have a fair amount of experience, but Nick managed to make it an interesting, challenging, and strangely almost combat free (We avoided beasts, got lucky and ran), session despite our caution and experience.

The Party
A Chimney Sweep (Thief) - Played by Ram at Save vs. Party Kill
A Warlock (Elf) - Played by Brendan of Necropraxis
A Paladin of Null (Fighter) - Played by Gus L. of Dungeon of signs.

Makepeace NoHells - LOTFP Fighter (Level 1)
A full character sheet - rather Science Fantasy I think.
The Town doesn't really have a name, well it has one: Stumberg or Stovell or something with an 'S', but even those who've lived in it their whole lives don't really remember it as there aren't any other towns.  The traders in their flowing orange robes who appear and disappear by their own whims say there are other towns, and Belina the town elder came from somewhere else.  It's an intellectual fact that there are other towns, but for the residents of The Town there is only the one - a circle of square stone buildings, flat roofed, mostly empty except for dust, and surrounded by a ring of ancient protective sigils.  The catch basins are usually filled with rain water, and the food continues to appear twice a day in the huge metal bowl at the center of 'town'.  There is enough food, the warlock saw to that before he left the townsfolk's grandparent's here.  Perhaps there is even too much food, as the town once held many more dwellers then it does now, but there is nothing else.  No craft, as there is no need and only stored materials. No business, except for the visits by the traders.  Nothing for the townsfolk beyond the petty betrayals, endless gossip, pointless vendettas and mindless lusts that come when a people have no future.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Pirate Interlude

Last weekend Erik over at Wampus County put out a call for a "Pirate Adventure" to run at a public event. In a fit of optimism I offered to draft up a one page adventure.  I still owe the man an adventure form a bet on last year's Superbowl, so it was the least I could do.  While not raven themed, I'm happy with the way this silly little piece turned out.

I also want to thank Brendan of Necropraxis for the best idea in the whole adventure (the ooze pool), as well as Nick at Paper's and Pencils and Logan of Last Gasp for taking a quick perusal of the thing before I tossed it out to the world.

An Treasure Map!
Anyhow - what was interesting about writing a "Pirate Adventure" for a vanilla fantasy one shot is that I felt free and unencumbered by setting details.  I could embrace genre cliches and use monsters straight from the manual - though ultimately I reskinned a minotaur, orcs/bullwugs, elves and a gargoyle (you don't have to fight most of the mean ones).  I am pleased with the result, though I don't think it's my best stuff, I think it will be good for a game of piratical fun.  It even has a running sea sodomy joke in the form of the ship's name, which seems juvenile, but I think is part of the pirate genre and easily removed.

Anyhow, I do think that accepting some genre cliches is not a bad thing, it certainly makes writing an adventure easy, and I don't feel like it automatically produces a less creative product. The issue is not taking the easy way out with the genre cliches.  Yes I have mutiny, a treasure map, an island, dangerous natives and a shrine full of lost civilization gold, but for me the thing with pastiche is keeping it high level (or trying - you be the judge).  The mutiny is a dull and meaningless act of petty cruelty amongst low lifes even if I steal the plot of Treasure Island and the ancient civilization is a Greek/Nordic hybrid dropped into a Polynesian setting. Hopefully this will be enough not to make the adventure a dull slog through predictable junk. (Link to PDF after break)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Common Traps aboard the HMS Apollyon

Traps are always hard for me to use.  They get worse once you have a cleric with "Find Traps".  For me the difficulty in traps lies in making them vaguely mechanically plausible, and a puzzle that can be figured out.  I don't like remove traps as an automatic skill.  Yes a thief will know how to jam up a spring trap, fix a tripwire or even disarm a bomb - but a simple roll isn't how I want to do it.  Like a lot of things in OD&D I think "Find & Remove Traps" exists at a level of abstraction higher than most people currently play the game at.  Rather than asking the classic "I search the room for traps" players tend to say things like "Is there anything odd in the keyhole" or "Is the stone discolored like from fire or acid?".  This makes traps hard.  Rather then "You failed a roll and spring a fire trap", one has to explain how a glass globe was balanced on the door jam and fell, its volatile contents instantly bursting into flame. Yet knowing what a trap is makes the disarming and detection more fun.  In the glass globe example, perhaps close examination of the door would reveal it was slightly ajar and something seemed to be balanced on the top of it.  To disarm it - maybe holding a cloak to catch the falling object, or most simple setting the trap off from a distance.  A thief is not needed for these things, though I would give a thief setting the trap off a chance to dodge it. 

Below are a list of common traps and trap like hazards I have used or might use aboard the Apollyon.  Each also includes the sort of advice about how to avoid them that old scavengers with acid scars and missing fingers like to give out.

Looks Safe!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How to Handle Clerics (and other troubling shortcuts).

So as I GM higher and higher level games I discover certain things about how disappointing certain
Iconic Pathfinder Cleric - not bad.
abilities can be.  Specifically there are certain spells and abilities that ruin some of the best things in D&D: traps, tricks, doublecrosses and undead monsters.  Many of these abilities are lodged in the cleric, this isn't the cleric's fault - it seems reasonable that clerics have these abilities, but they still tend to make things less fun. Player's sometimes don't realize it's not fun to not have to think, or realize that spotting and avoiding traps is more rewarding if it's a product of actual player skill - but it's true.  Ok that's not fair, players want to survive without too much trouble and many support spells allow this, it's the GM's job to deal with these spells in a way that's interesting. Below are several ways I propose dealing with certain abilities that players have.  I don't think these are improper GM behavior, railroading or GM fiat and I don't suggest removing player abilities, only means of limiting or interpreting them it to keep challenge in place.  It's also worth keeping in mind that powerful opponents and dangerous places in worlds where miraculous spells exist may have their own divine protectors or other means of dealing with the interventions a Cleric or mage can call up.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Known Factions of the Hull - HMS APOLLYON

Below is a list of the current factions known to be active within the hull of the Apollyon, some (such as Malchris, the Krab brothers and Madam Bibi) my players have regular dealings with. Others are clear enemies, and many are still more rumors and mysteries then active campaign powers.  This list should help players keep track of this growing cast of horrible people.  Of course this is just factions within the hull, the sort one might run across in a random encounter or who's domain a party might end up invading.


1) The Marines
Mysterious and smothered beneath a mountain of ritual, shame and disdain, the Marines were once the preeminent human force of the Apollyon.  They have grown strange strange in defeat, mystical but completely atheistic, devoted to Sterntown's protection, but merciless and unreasonable. More and more their patrols are spotted by scavenger bands, but their motives remain incomprehensible.  Heavy Boilerplate wearing officer armingers with only a hereditary trooper waiting in empty gangways, and bands of savvy scouts in marine white have both been reported, while veiled figures in brown have been whispered of both in Uptown and within the hull.

2) The Krab Brothers
Old and well thought of, the mafiya dons Clavidius and Jerry Krab claim to be retired.  Their organization is still among the strongest in the Rustgates andit is said that Jerry's interests at least extend into the hull.  Clavidius is a rotund man of his middle years, with the look of a prosperous factor who spouts the ideology of revolution and freedom for the downtrodden of Sterntown.  Yet Clavidius is feared for a reason, he hold staunchly to the criminal's code, an upright man among upright men and his favor is sought by most other mafiya families in the settling of scores and negotiation of deals.  Jerry is a different sort, a former pit fighter standing 7' tall and covered in shamanistic tattoos of rare power.  He seems to have a fatherly affection for the urchins of the Rustgate and most of the street children of Sterntown are in some way loyal to him.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Space Zombies (Tomb of the Rocketmen)

In ancient times humankind (and it was only humankind then, the elves, dwarves, goblins, & moktar are younger races) traveled to the stars.  As the Temple of Science recites, the Orbital Gods hint and the University moguls know,  each star is a sun, and each sun surrounded by plentiful worlds.  Amongst the worlds around distant stars the Rocketmen discovered: wonder, wealth, and power, but mostly they discovered strange death.

'Space Zombies', and the entire infestation of the slough with alien fungus, are the product of deadly spores, buried with one of the long dead Rocketmen.  The spores predictably broke free of the corpse they hibernated within, animating it as shambling corpse, grew into huge colonies in the sealed and abandoned environment of the Tombs and then faded and died due to lack of fresh air and water, only to be revitalized again from spore when Feh Ling invaded the tomb and reactivated it's power and water systems.  The fungal colonies have infested most of the larger tomb chambers and reanimated a large number of mummified Rocketman within.  The alien fungus will aggressively try to infest biological organisms, but has ignored Feh Ling and his offspring because they are not living creatures susceptible to fungal spores. The zombies and the fungus colonies that create them represent four different types of monsters: Fruiting Bodies, Mobile Fungal Growths, Space Zombies, and Floating Spores.