Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tower of the Stargazer - Actual Play Report


That was an awful lot of fun.

Warning: the following Actual Play Report contains spoilers for James Edward Raggi IV's Tower of the Stargazer. Read further at your own peril. You have been warned!

The party were five in number (eventually; we got started late because people straggled in):

Horsch, a Halfling (Jesse),
Abraxis, a wild Fighter (Aaron),
Alexis, a Magic-User (Herself),
Minnick, a Specialist (Trevor), and
Max, a Cleric (Sean)

Quote of the Day goes to Max: "Wait -- did I just gamble my soul?"

Since I wanted to run Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Role Playing Game, I naturally wanted to run the included beginning adventure, Tower of the Stargazer. But I needed a world in which to set it. For a few weeks I idly wondered what to do with it, but then a solution presented itself: I already had one! I'd created a one-page wilderness, the Barony of Northmarch (which you can find in your copy of Fight On! number 7, on page 27. Or if you're really lazy, at my blog post here.)

Since hex #0304 already has an "abandoned wizard's tower", the party set off from the village of Dolders. They decided that they had met in the inn there, where Minnick was recruiting for an expedition. (Being a specialist, he was the only professional adventurer around. Also, with an 18 Charisma, he was the natural leader.)

They marched for the day without molestation, arriving near the tower by nightfall.

Observing the lightning strikes, they spent the night (again, unmolested) and finally approached the tower at dawn.

Horsch gathered the rope from the body at the base of the tower, discarding the grappling hook (he took the sword, too, but discarded it when he found it broken.)

Minnick and Abraxis took the stairs while the others waited at a "safe" distance.

Avoiding the serpent-shaped handles, they knocked with the knockers. This resulted in a very loud 'bong', but opened the doors. The whole party entered, finding the foyer and the sitting room. Horsch took three of the bottles from the cabinet and Minnick took the other. Abraxis checked out the cloakroom, but found nothing of value.

Bypassing the statue, Abraxis looked up the stairs but didn't venture up them. Instead, he tried to pry open the top box of the stack in the corner, discovering them to be a false stack covering a trap door.

Horsch and Minnick, meanwhile, investigated the status and discovered that it would move (and thus revealed the other trap door).

The party opened this second trap door and dropped a torch down it to see what was there. Horsch climbed down, with a rope tied to him so he could be retrieved, and found the portcullis. He came back up and Minnick went down, but he came back up also.

The party then checked out the other trap door and came upon the storage room. They moved boxes around (didn't want to open any...) and got to the door to the workshop, where Minnick debated removing the gold thread from the corpse but decided wisely not to touch it.

Abraxis meanwhile investigated the mirrors in the corner, and got sucked into the closest one on the right. At this point, Alexis the Magic-User cast her Identify spell on the mirror (and I admit right out here that I hadn't read it carefully enough to know that it took an entire day back at a lab -- my bad) and learned that he was screwed. (Aaron immediately started rolling a new character.)

Horsch twiddled the dial on the elevator shaft and brought the disc to the room. But then Minnick checked out the door on the south wall, leading to the cells, and they

fought the undead corpses for awhile, finally killing them all. (we rolled a lot of simultaneous initiatives -- I was using the traditional d6 for the party and d6 for the opponents). Minnick took some damage.

Horsch then got the brain parasite from the unmarked corpse, so he drank off an entire bottle of wine and got good and drunk. Then he closed his eyes and faced one of the mirrors, hoping that whatever was inside him would get a blast. It didn't, so he opened his eyes at the mirror on the end and was blasted by the light.

And then there were three.

So the party went back up the trapdoor and back down to the other part of the basement, where Minnick and Max opened the portcullis and entered the room. They were fascinated by the fissure in the floor, so they weren't even looking for an attack -- the stone spider got surprise and attacked Minnick, missing handily. The party fought valiantly, scoring 10 of 11 points of damage on it. Finally (and on another tied initiative), Alexis hit it, but not before it hit Minnick, who missed his saving throw and died.

Reading the plaques on the doors, Max chose the workshop. Inside, he moved to investigate the vials on the workbench and was trapped by the portcullis. He tried drinking the potions (and I didn't bother with potion miscibility; it was too much fun to let him go), which resulted in him:

Developing a very strong body odor,
Becoming incontinent,
Losing all his body hair,
Losing his teeth and nails, and finally
Shrinking to 2" tall, which enabled him to get back out of the room.

He and Alexis then checked the treasure room, but upon finding that the chests appeared to all contain stones carved and painted to look like copper pieces, they left that alone and went back to the elevator.

They took it up to the very top. They looked at the book, taking it with them. Then they used the control panel to open the roof, extend the telescope, unblock the lens, and ignite the coal chamber. Since the last didn't do anything, Max put a double handful of the mysterious black powder in the chamber and flipped the switch again. This caused a thin beam to come forth, but had no effect on the other end.

They didn't check out the pool.

Next they went down one level and found (and ruined) some books in the library. The found the room with the Ghost, but when Max tried his hand at the game, he lost.

Here is where the quote (above) occurred. (I didn't have a game handy, like chess or anything, but we both suck at chess anyway, so we just rolled for it.)

This is where we left it. Herself, playing Alexis, was the only survivor.

Jesse came up with an interesting suggestion: If I was to create a random creature using the Random Esoteric Creature Generator, and felt that it was acceptable to play (much like Original D&D allowed people to play Balrogs and whatnot), he'd play whatever I came up with. I'm going to try it.

Aaron meanwhile has already rolled up his character: A dwarf. Named Abraxis.

While this is a bare bones recitation of what happened, we all had a great time. The players were laughing and attentive, and nobody was really upset about dying (hey, if you play old-school, death happens. Frequently.) I'll definitely run it again.

We especially liked the encumbrance system and the convenience of the "skill" system, what with the skills represented by d6s right on the character sheet. It's probably the most convenient character sheet I've ever used.

Overall rating: Two thumbs up.

And afterward, Herself and I went to Outback Steak House, where I had steak and lobster and beer, and a really, really good creamy potato soup with cheese and
bacon. It was the perfect reward for getting up off my fat bottom and actually running something.

Now I just need to plan the next session...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Almost there...

Tomorrow (less than 24 hours, really), I'll be running LotFPWFRPG (as I've posted about in this space before).

Preparation continues; I still don't think I know the adventure well enough. Maybe reading through it a few more times will take care of that; maybe I'll need to make index cards for each individual room to remind me of what's there.

(I don't want to have my face stuck in a book the whole time; that defeats the social nature which is so essential to the gaming experience). I want to look at my players, see how they react to things, watch the little wheels turning (and wonder what the heck they're going to come up with...)

It may be awesome or I may crash and burn. But I think we'll have a pretty good time.

And that's what it's all about, really.

Plus, afterward, I get to go to Outback Steak House (it's traditional after gaming at The Source; it's right up the street). And that makes me really happy.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Time has Come...Almost

I'm nearly there! I've set a date to actually run LotFPWFRPG!

Sunday, 21 November, 12:00 noon to 4:00 pm at The Source. Open to any interested, although I reserve the right to limit attendance should I get too many (i.e., more than I think I can handle).

Remember, it's a new (-ish) system, and I haven't run a game in two and a half years. But I'm going to give it my best shot.

Wanna bone up on the rules? Get the Rules and Magic books, free, in pdf form, from the publisher here.

Need directions? Contact page for The Source.

If I could get some kind of headcount before starting, that would be great. But if people just show up, that'd be good, too. I know Kesher's already looking forward to it -- he gets to PLAY for a change!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Inspiration comes from the strangest places.

This came to me this morning after a mis-heard Van Morrison lyric:

Clockwork Gypsies

No. Appearing : 2-12
Armor Class: 3
Move in Inches: 9
Hit Dice: 2-5 (*)
% in Lair: 15
Treasure Type: F

Clockwork Gypsies have the same reputation as regular Gypsies (i.e., that they are all thieves), but in the case of the Clockwork version this is always true.

Clockwork Gypsies surprise on 1-4 on a d6.

* Hit Dice: Roll randomly (1d4+1) for the leader's hit dice, the rest are 2 HD.

When found in lair (clockwork caravans, pulled by clockwork horses), Clockwork Gypsies number an additional 3-18 in assorted states of repair.

Oil: Since Clockwork Gypsies must be in a good state of repair to be effective, they most frequently steal oil (bartering for it if they absolutely must). Once well oiled, they surprise as above; if un-oiled, they squeak horribly and surprise is impossible. Since they are oily, however, fire-based attacks deal double damage to them. (Lightning attacks do no damage, since they are not electrically operated.)

Monday, August 23, 2010

I'll be runnig LotFP WFRPG

For those of you who missed my last post, I'll be running LotFP WFRPG. All of my local Twin Cities folks are welcome to play.

You can get the free pdf version (without art) from the LotFP blog, here.

(You can get the character sheet there, too, but don't bother -- it's for A4 paper, which I have. So I'll bring them along and we can all create characters together.)

Let me know if you're interested, and what days/times work for you. I'm pretty wide open on weekends, but can be flexible about weeknights, too.

Friday, August 13, 2010


There's been a lot of talk about committment lately around the blogs I follow. This is very cool, if you like that sort of thing; they're talking about this.

It's a place people can ask questions about role playing games. The people that are doing all the committing then answer them. Pretty nifty, really.

The only thing that bothers me is the timing, and that was just coincidence.

Y'see, I was going to post here the other day about committment, myself, only of a different kind. I was going to post about my own committment.

If you read my last post, you know that I've received my copy of the LotFP Weird Fantasy RPG. Now, I've bought many games in the past couple of years, but this is the first one that I'm really, really itching to run.

I've run games in the past, but they never seem to last very long. I've come to the conclusion that it's my own lack of committment that causes that.

So I decided that the best thing would be to actually, formally commit to running the thing. And that's what I'm here for today.

I hereby do formally commit to running a campaign of the LotFP Weird Fantasy RPG lasting not less than 12 sessions.

Now, I may have trouble finding players. I'll overcome that trouble.

I may lack inspiration on occasion. I'll find some.

I may decide to chuck the whole damned thing. I won't allow myself to do that.

Committment is one of the things that separates the good referee from the hack. A committed referee will be there for his players, for his campaign, and will do his best for them both. And that's the guy I want to be.

This will not be an online game. It will be live, face to face, and sessions will happen either at one of the local game stores or in my own home (depending).

Now, any takers?

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Finally got my Lamentations of the Flame Princess rpg today.

I really wish I'd sprung for the priority shipping!

This is really good stuff, both production-wise and as a game. Sure, we've seen a lot of it before, but the stuff we haven't is really good, and the attitude that permeates it is astounding.

I honestly can't remember the last time I was this excited about a game!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Marking time...

At work right now, but I can already tell it'll be a slow day.

Then off at 6, home to grab some stuff and then it's off to CONvergence! Hope to do a bit of gaming (plus cruising through the dealer's room to see what cool stuff I can find).

I think I'll take OD&D and Risus with me. But I'm open to new experiences, I guess...

Are any of my local friends going to be there?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I've been thinking about this for a while, and I gotta say -- I'm pretty much through with ten sided dice.

I don't have any problem with dice that produce a 1-10 result, I just don't like the pointy little non-platonic bastards that keep stabbing me in the hand.

That's why I bought a set of these:

Twenty siders, numbered from 0-9 twice. Found 'em on ebay. These are the style of dice you used to get back in the day, but made of modern materials (i.e.; they won't start wearing away immediately).

They just feel better. They probably don't roll any more randomly, but I don't care. I'm happy with them and that's what matters to me.

One potential drawback for the uninitiated would be using them as percent dice. But once again, I remember from back in the day: The colored die is the tens digit and the white die is the ones digit. It's a simple as that. (The Top Secret rule book said so, in so many words.)

(I knew one guy who would call which die was the tens die while they were in the air. Sometimes even after they landed. And what he called might be the tens or it might be the ones. No consistency whatsoever, and perilously close to cheating in my book. Drove me up the wall.)

And, in other news, Fight On! number 9 is out. But you knew that already, right? Thought so.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


(I still refuse to call it Classic Traveller; the later versions are revisionist heresy in my book...)


Anyway, if you have any interest in Traveller at all, you could do worse than go to RPGNow and downloading the Starter Set for free.

I'll say that again: FREE.

Here's the link.

You'll thank me.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wow, two years already?

Fight On! Quarterly magazine number 8. Lulu print-on-demand or pdf.

Cover by the legendary Erol Otus, and an interview with him by Jeff Rients of Jeff's Gameblog.

Plus the usual great stuff from the usual crew.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Regarding failure in the game

So, we finally ran up against plain old orcs in my AD&D game the other night. I've wanted orcs for awhile now -- they crunch really nicely, aren't that hard to hit, and won't wipe out the party.

Uh, except that none of us were rolling at all well, to hit wise.

This got annoying.

Then frustrating.

And finally, it was just plain funny.

We did finally take out the orcs and move on with the rest of the game, but for a while there we thought we were going to have another TPK. One guy rolled five separate 1's, but he was playing his character and the other fighter in the group whose player couldn't be there so it's not like one character had that bad of luck.

We didn't lose any player characters, either. Nobody even got seriously wounded.

But we did have an awful lot of fun. We laugh quite a bit in this game. Obscure puns abounded, as they usually do. For example:

DM: "You hear a rustling sound."

Me: "What, like Bill Cosby's kid brother?" (Bill's brother's name is Russell.)

DM: "I knew somebody would get that!"

Nobody else on the planet might find that funny, but I laughed. I guess you had to be there.

Now, look, there are things about this game that bother me. But there are a tableful of good people hanging around, and we have a hell of a good time. And that so far outweighs my petty quibbles that they're not even worth mentioning.

So I won't.

I'm in a damn good game, the occasional failure notwithstanding, and I'm happy about that.

And happy Saint Patrick's Day to you all!

Friday, February 26, 2010

(oops, this was supposed to be a reply to my last post. Sorry.)

Thanks, everybody, for your responses.


"Question then--how did you determine who did what in which order within the group? Do you group actions according to missile/melee/spell with actions needing to be announced before initiative is rolled?"

It depended on the individual DM. We pretty much went around the table: What do you do, Bob? What do you do, Frank (and, often, would go around the other way the next time). Other guys would go: Okay, any movement? Andy missiles? Any magic? Okay, melee. (I think that was the order). So a little of both, really, but nobody felt left out or passed over. We each got to do something when it was the group's turn so it worked out.

But we all moved at the same time, so it was pretty easy for a few of us to gang up on whatever bad guy needed it most. Or whatever. I recall that a round would go pretty fast, even with a 6-10 players, each having 1-3 characters and henchmen.


"It's more simulationist..."

You say that like it's a good thing.

"Your example of play is an example of bad/incompetent play."

See, now this is an example of busting on my example without giving one of your own. And I specifically asked you not to do that. Please give an example of good play, instead of just criticizing an example I made up while waiting after work for my ride to get there so I could go home. (Which is why I asked for a counterexample in the first place.)

Initiative Rant

Can someone explain to me the appeal of individual initiative?

When I started gaming, we had just plain initiative. We'd roll a d6 and the DM would roll a d6 and the higher roll went first. If we tied, it was simultaneous.

Sometimes we'd win initiative and then lose it, so the monsters would go twice in a row. But sometimes we'd lose and then win, so we'd go twice in a row. We didn't know, from one round to the next, exactly what would happen. The tension of having to wait to find out was excruciating sometimes, but it was part of the fun.

And then, all the whiny little crybabies who had extremely high dexterities wanted to use the individual initiative modifier (which as I understand it was intended for use in one-on-one, very important or climactic duels). Usually, our DMs would tell them to sit down and shut up.

(Sure, some of you started with Holmes, who had you go in order of Dex. This doesn't work for me because:

a) The DM has to roll for (or assign) the Dex for all the monsters, which is one more thing he doesn't need on his plate, and

b) All the guys with an 11 Dex clump up and have to roll off anyway. So no real advantage there.)

I don't remeber 2e, but it seems to me it worked the same way as 1st. (Although I had at least one DM with his own weird system...)

And then, along comes 3e. And enshrined in "The Way Things Must Be Done!" is the individual initiative system. And I'll admit, when I first saw it I thought it was pretty cool. But then actual play happened.

I can't count the number of times I saw a scene like this:

The party is lined up down a 5' corridor:

DM: "Okay, Bill you go first."

Bill: "Really? I'm like fifth in line!"

Buttinski Other Player: "You can move through the others; we're not in melee." (Puts book back down, smug look on his face.)

Bill: "Um, okay, sure. But we kinda lined up like this for a reason, didn't we?" (Looks around for reassurance)

DM: "Oh, just go already, willya? We're burning game time here."

Bill: "Okay, I guess I advance up to the front."

DM: "Finally! Okay, now the monsters go. Bill, I guess you're the only target. All four of them attack..." (Rolls dice for what seems like forever) "Okay, that's 37 points to your ... first level Cleric." (Looks up) "Sorry, dude."

Bill: "Y'know, it seems to me THAT'S WHY I was lined up so far back in the party!"

DM: "Whaddya gonna do? It was your turn!"

And that's it. It's your turn, even if it doesn't make a lick of sense.

So, please, somebody, explain to me how individual initiative is a good thing.

And before you blast my example, provide one of your own. I'm not kidding here; I've lived through and/or seen that same kind of thing many many times (the last was a couple of weeks ago). Sure, I've played with a lot of groups that don't do common sense, but I kind of like to try it every once in a while...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Additional to my last post...

One thing I should have noted about the dwarf jumping into the pit the second time...never in my gaming career have I laughed so hard at a trap. The first time, when the dwarf (who, frankly, nobody liked) charged down the hall, he fell straight in the trap. We thought he was dead.

But then when he realized he'd forgotten his nifty stick, we just howled. Priceless.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Tonight's adventure was brought to you by the letters T, P and K!

My twice-monthly AD&D game? It was a bit of a fiasco. We started out in the dungeon (it's that kind of game, we pick up right where we left off). We had picked off a few hobgoblins already, but they weren't aware that we were there.

Then the elf Magic-User found a concealed door. It didn't look like the hobbo's had found it, so we went that way (we were looking for our erstwhile comrade who had come this way and hadn't come home). Downstairs, we found a couple of hobbos, who we took out, and then there was a door and behind the door was a table on its side, with two humans behind it, with crossbow. They fired upon us, so the dwarf charged them.

And fell right in the pit trap, just ahead of the table.

Well, we fought them for a while and were afraid we'd be pushed back without our comrade, when we finally put them down. We got the dwarf out and planned to evacuate the dungeon immediately, getting back to the horses.

That's when the dwarf realized he'd left his Dwarven Battle Club down the pit. (Really, it's just a mace, but from a roleplaying standpoint it's pretty important.)

So, we go back to fight more humans. (About half of the party are humans, also; these are bad-guy humans we're fighting.)

So, the dwarf jumps down the pit and the rest of us engage the rest of the humans who keep coming. Finally, when we're out of healing and down most of our hitpoints, we prevail. The dwarf has his stick, so we head out after a perfunctory poking about.

Things are getting serious down here, so we decide to go home.

But, upstairs, the hobgoblins have noticed that we killed their buddies, so they're hanging out. We can't sneak past, so we try running -- despite having two dwarves and a halfling in the group. No way we can get through that, but downstairs looks like it'll only get hairier. The elf Mage says it's our only option. So we go for it.

The results, of course, were entirely predictable. The one surprise came at the end, when I almost got out. Y'see, I'm the only guy in the game who didn't roll his own character. There was a guy playing him, but he had to drop out, so I inherited him. I've been leaning toward getting him killed for a while now. And since I was closest to the exit, and the hobbos weren't hitting me, I seriously thought for a minute I'd survive and have to keep playing this guy.

But they finally got their act together and took me out, and shortly after they dropped the halfling.

And that made it a total party kill.

Afterwards, we learn that the elf was wrong. If we kept on the way we were going, we'd have found both the treasure AND THE EXIT. But we listened to him and tried to get out.

So, next session, we get a whole new world (possibly; the DM isn't sure if he's even going to use Greyhawk next time...)

But one thing is sure: We're not going to listen to the guy who played the Magic-User any more.

- - - - - - -

But, on the plus side, Herself didn't mind me going out gaming on Valentine's Day. According to here, every day is Valentine's Day, so it's okay.

I sure did pick her well, didn't I?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Scenario from Alignment

I get a lot of thinking done on the way into work.

Today, I was thinking about alignment. (No, I'm not going to try to define it or anything else that might cause controversy. Sorry.)

Alignment in D&D came directly from Chainmail. And there's this one little line in Chainmail that says:

"Neutral figures can be diced for to determine on which side they will fight, with ties meaning they remain neutral."

Keep in mind that this was written for wargames. My assumption is it was for the referee's aid in planning scenarios ("I'll just check and see whose side the elves will fight on ... oh, tough luck, good guys!"), although one could let the players roll for themselves.

But how would that work in a roleplaying game? Instead of a die roll, you'd send a delegation -- and that's where the player character come in.

Now, you'd want to make sure that the party was mostly, if not all, of one alignment. (Some more 'immersion' type roleplayers would probably enjoy having an all-Lawful party with one guy who was secretly Chaotic ... but a lot of groups would find him out and then kill him instantly. You have to know your group.) You could have some neutrals, and it would be good to have a representative if possible (elves, for instance, are in both the Lawful and Neutral columns -- so if going for a neutral tribe of elves, it might help to have an elf in the party.)

If you have a large war, or a lot of little wars, you could build a whole campaign around this idea. And if not, you could still make an adventure out of it.

Anyway, I haven't done much with this idea, but I thought it was too good to just ignore.

Thoughts, comments, suggestions? I'm open.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

DM Practice?

We had "that discussion" again in my AD&D game last time. You know the one:

"Gandalf carried a sword!"

Le sigh.

Much has been made about whether Tolkien was a big influence on D&D or not. I think it's pretty obvious by now that Gygax included rather a lot of Tolkienisms, despite later claiming that the Professor wasn't that big of an influence. And I think I know why, or at least partly why:

Remember, we think we play a lot when we have a game every week. Sometimes it seems too much (but in a good way...) when I have two games in one day. But Gary Gygax would run his game every night of the week! (Or at least six days a week -- he had to have some time to add on to the dungeon and the world.)

Can you imagine how many times he had to put up with the whole "Gandalf carried a sword!" thing? How about level limits on Elves? That sort of thing would put me off the whole "This game is based on the Lord of the Rings" thing.

(I'm not saying that's what happened, mind you. I'm just speculating.)

But when people talk about Dungeonmasters, they usually include Gary among the greats. And part of that is the broad base of fantasy literature he had to fall back on. But another reason is that he just did it an awful lot.

Practice makes perfect, y'know. But in this case it's not "I'm practicing the piano," but rather "I'm a practicing DM." (which I'm not, currently, but it could happen...) I really never looked at the phrase like this before, so it's a bit of an enlightenment for me. I always understood it to mean "practice" as in "rehearsal". Funny how things go like that.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Star Trek! Role playing! What a combo!

Say, didja know that there was a new discussion forum, specifically about roleplaying Star Trek? Well, there is!

Warning note to any children reading this blog: When I say "Star Trek", I am of course referring to the television show titled "Star Trek". I am NOT referring to the television show titled "Star Trek: The Next Generation". If I am, I'll say so (or, more likely, as ST:TNG.) It's just a little quirk I have; I have watched and very much enjoyed ST:TNG. I mean it no disrepect. But it wasn't called Star Trek; thus I don't call it that. (end of digression.)

Anyway, if like me you like the original Star Trek and you would like to roleplay it, jump on by. It's the Old School Star Trek Roleplaying forum.

Anyway, here's my icon -- I'm posting it here so that I can link to it there.