Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Fiction in Airhde

On a whim this weekend, I picked up some fiction off the TLG store. A Houseless God & Other Tales and The Mirrored Soul & Other Tales, both by the Troll Lord Stephen Chenault. They contain a total of eight short stories that follow the adventures of the knight Eurich Gunshoff and a group of companions that grows as the stories progress.

Mr. Chenault is a very engaging writer. I read a lot of old Appendix N literature and Eurich's adventures would fit in well with that tradition. The action is frequent and varied, seeing Eurich trade blows with a nice variety of interesting fantasy monsters. He definitely has a code of honor befitting a knight, but he is equally driven by a wanderlust that Conan or Elric would find relatable.

The thing that most impressed me about the stories though is how well he develops the Airhde setting while rarely indulging in overblown exposition. There is talk of the gods and philosophies on the end of the world and the afterlife are important to the characters, but the world feels like it has a rich history. As Eurich travels through the Darkenfold and later into the realm of Kayomar and further north into the Gottland, these places feel alive and storied and full of possibility.

I look forward to reading more of Steven Chenault's writing, and I'm definitely inspired to explore Airhde further. While I've read the Codex and the Player's Guide and about half of the A series, running A0 and a bit of A1 is my only experience running the setting.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Gary Con XI

Another Gary Con is in the books.  Sticking to tradition, I roomed with the same guys as last year (Judge Jeff of Spellburn and Appendix N, weird illustrator David Hoskins), and this time we were joined by David's friend Harry, who was attending Gary Con for the first time.  This year I decided to run games as well and signed up for three games.  A bit naively I chose to run three different systems, so I lugging way too many books into the Con.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

DCC: Doom of the Savage Kings

Here we go.  The band continues with an adventure that is second only to the ultimate funnel and quintessential DCC adventure Sailors on the Starless SeaDCC #66.5 - Doom of the Savage Kings is the perfect follow-up to whatever funnel produced your adventurers.  In an desolate land, a mythical beast torments the people and the local jarl has taken to human sacrifices to placate its awesome appetite.  The adventure is a heavy metal infused sandbox mystery with a supernatural threat looming over every nightfall.  Spoilers after the break!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

DCC: The Queen of Elfland's Son

The band continued their adventures with DCC #97 - The Queen of Elfland's Son.  After surviving the horrors of Brandolyn Red, the peasant adventurers leveled up to proper DCC classes and sought further opportunities for glory.  My usual spoilery review/play impressions follow the break.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

DCC: They Served Brandolyn Red

Kicked off a new DCC campaign on Roll20 this week with the Goodman Games' 2015 Halloween module - They Served Brandolyn Red.  This is the second time I've ran this module, the first being at a game store in Kansas City.  I've had a great time with it both times, so my spoilery review and some play notes after the break.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Two-Headed Serpent for Pulp Cthulhu

The Two-Headed Serpent is a campaign for Call of Cthulhu and its supplement Pulp Cthulhu, written by Paul Fricker, Scott Dorward, and Matthew Sanderson, the trio best known as the Good Friends of Jackson Elias.  From the back cover:
The world needs heroes, now more than ever.
The Two-Headed Serpent is an action-packed, globe-spanning, and high-octane campaign set in the 1930s for Pulp Cthulhu.  The heroes face the sinister conspiracies of an ancient race of monsters hell-bent on taking back a world that was once theirs.
We began play in early July and ran weekly 3-hour sessions up to mid December.  Accounting for a few cancellations, I believe it took us 18 sessions in all to complete the campaign.  We lost one player after the first game, another after chapter 5, and picked up a player just after chapter 4, and we had three players that were there from start to finish.  Four investigators usually felt like an appropriate size to me.  Having completed the game, here are my thoughts on the individual adventures and the campaign as a whole.  Spoilers after the break.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Don't Go Down the Well

Last week during our AS&SH game, my players were setting off into the deep deserts outside of Xambaala in search of a cannibal cult that had been tormenting the citizens of the city.  Before long they passed by a depression in the dunes: a small pool, surrounded by foliage.  An oasis in the barren wasteland.  I asked if they would like to explore it.
One of my players responded
"Oases are just wells in the sand."
And they gave it a wide berth and got the hell out of there.
So where did my players develop this fear of wells that transcends locale and form?

Well, it actually goes back to this thing:
From the Dungeon Alphabet
This image made me want to create a particularly gruesome monster to devour any adventurers who got overly nosy about deep, dark places.  I statted up my first DCC monster based on this horrific thing.
The battle with this monstrosity is one of the most memorable moments in our years of gaming together. With its multiple limbs it lashed out at most of the party at once, and its poisonous mandibles tore into their leader, sapping him of strength.  Despite its ferocity, the adventurers were getting the better of it, and it failed its morale and fled deeper into the well.  To my surprise, the warrior was not willing to let it get away.  He leaped into the well after it.

This was a pivotal moment for our group.  We ended the session with that leap and I set to work on figuring out what the hell was down that well.  This monster was the more fearsome thing they'd encountered and in an occupied dungeon with multiple factions I'd described the room as covered in dust and cobwebs, so surely the residents of the dungeon had learned to avoid it.  The possibilities at the bottom of this well became tantalizingly ancient and dangerous and powerful.  And our brave warrior was plummeting toward them.

The chain of events that this encounter led to culminated some six months later with a total party kill due to an encounter with a vengeful dragon mother who smelled the scent of her son on the scales of the armor our well diving warrior was wearing.  It was a story of hubris and justice and righteous anger.  Of all my years of play, it was the most memorable and enjoyable and satisfying arc I've experienced.

All because an idiot jumped into a well.

I don't think I've had a better game since, despite whatever great ruleset or module I've bought or what advice I've read in blogs.  Those few months of gaming made me sure this is a hobby I would keep for years.

It also made my players eternally cautious of wells and anything that might possibly be construed as a well.  From Rappan Athuk to The Ring to the Mines of Moria, wells have a significant impact on our psyche.  They represent the unknown, the hidden depths, all the potential for glory or despair obstructed by an open portal of darkness.

What could go wrong?