Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Two Tales: North to Greenbough and Back Into Skull Mountain

Over Father's Day weekend the wife and I were sick, so gaming was limited. But not zero!

North to Greenbough
The Company of the Dark Moon was contacted by 'mutual friends' and a group set out for Greenbough, capitol of the county of the same name.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Seaward Travelogue: Clothing and Food

  Adding details in the background is important, so in addition to the high level overview of Seaward here is more of a travelogue.

Typical clothing is very straightforward;
Rural and Town Men: loose trousers, a tunic that falls to about mid-thigh, soft leather shoes, and a belt. In cold weather a hat and cloak (usually wool) are added.
Rural and Town Women: A long skirt, a tunic that come to just below the waist, soft leather shoes, a belt and a simple bonnet. In cold weather a hat and cloak (usually wool) are added.
Farm/field work, colliers, and other intense or dirty activities: A long overtunic that falls to midcalf is worn. In the Briars it is often of canvas to protect the wearer.
Cooking, Cleaning, and other Domestic activities: Women add a long apron.
Traveling Men and Women: In warm weather a straw hat is usually worn, in cold weather a woolen cap that covers the ears and ties under the chin.
Wealthy or Prestigious Men: Trousers are tighter, shoes are replaced with boots, and colorful vests are worn over the tunic. Merchants and tradesmen often wear flat caps (wool, leather, or felt) and nobles often wear a hat similar to a tyrolean but of soft material.
Wealthy or Prestigious Women: A decorative apron is added, hair is often in a snood.
Priests, Monks, and other Religious Men: Monks, acolytes, and such wear long, simple robes with rope belts, the colors of which identify their membership in various orders; most are barefoot or in simple sandals in all but the coldest weather. Priests wear cassocks with a roman collar and are always shod but wear a monk's robe when engaged is strenuous activity. In cold weather a long, hooded cloak is added.
Religious Women: Long dresses and aprons are worn, the colors of which identify their particular order. Their hair is always completely covered.
Festival or Feast Day clothing: Very similar to clothing worn by the wealthy for all, but non-nobles have added embroidery and bright colors while nobles will add rare fabrics. Typically only festival clothing is brightly colored, while typical/daily wear is brown, beige, darker yellow, etc.

Staples: Rye and wheat are the most common grains in the north, central, and east while oats are more common in the south and west. Cheese (firm and sharp from cow's milk or soft and mild from goat's milk are the two most common), pickles (cucumbers, cabbage [sauerkraut], radishes, turnips, carrots, asparagus, beets, and pears), and potatoes (including sweet potatoes) are ubiquitous. Along the major rivers beef is common while mutton dominates the west and south with pork and goat common throughout the area. Chickens are primarily kept for eggs so poultry is hard to find and expensive. Fish is also common along the rivers and dominates the coast. Game (venison) is popular and usually served fresh while farmed meat is usually preserved (smoked, cured, corned, or pickled). Eggs are popular with all meals.
Tea, ale, and wine are the primary beverages. Ale is only mildly alcoholic and is closer to 'short beer'.

Meals of the Day
The people of Seaward typically eat much less per meal but eat more often than a modern Westerner is used to.

Early Breakfast- Traditionally eaten before dawn immediately on awakening by farmers, soldiers, and such this is a light, cold meal of cheese, pickles, and ale.

Breakfast- Eaten before terce (about 9 am) this is usually unleavened oatcakes (rural) or rye bread (town) with butter, a mug of tea with honey, a bit of cheese, and cold meat.

Second Breakfast/Elevenses/Morning Tea- The name varies by region, but it is always a light snack eaten before midday. In Ekull and the south (Second Breakfast) it is traditionally a mug of ale, a sausage (much like a bratwurst), and a piece of rye bread with spicy mustard. From the Stone Hills through Timberlake and the central valley (Elevenses) it is usually a mug of gruel (usually ground malted barley with a bit of wheat flour cooked by simmering with milk) served hot in Winter, cold in Summer. Along the coast and the eastern areas (Morning Tea) it is typically a mug of tea with honey, either an oatcake with sweet butter or a scone with clotted cream, and not much else

Lunch- Usually served shortly after Noon, Lunch is almost universally a mug of ale, oatcakes or bread, local meat, cheese, and pickles.

Afternoon Tea- Served immediately after None (3 pm) Afternoon Tea (or just Tea) is tea, cheese, pickles, and cold meat with some sort of simple treat (bread with honey or gingerbread). It is traditionally a very informal light meal where courtesy, deference, and rank are respected but at the same time soldiers mix with commanders, servants eat at the same time as their employers, and nobles speak directly to farmers.

Dinner- The main meal of the day, usually 2-3 mugs of ale, meat, bread, cheese, pickles, fresh vegetables (when possible) and potatoes served at or shortly after sunset.

Supper- Far from universal, this is seen as a "soldier's meal" and is usually a bit of cheese or pickles with a bit of cold meat and a mug of ale served right after Compline (9 pm). Priests, monks, and nuns often have a small supper, as well.

Religious Considerations
Members of the Church do not eat meat (fish and shellfish are allowed) on Fivedays, nor on certain Threedays in Spring and Fall nor during any of the penitential days of Advent and Lent making fish the staple of about 120 days a year. As a result many farmers keep fish ponds and the people of Seaward have a fondness for pickled eel, smoked fish, and fish chowders.
At the other end on certain Solemnities (major religious holidays) it is traditional to dress up and eat special dishes!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Play Report: Tournaments in Seaward

Spring in Seaward is cause for nobles to leap out of bed with a smile - the tourneys have begun! As soon as the blooms begin there is a tourney in Ekull, then at Wyvern Keep, then Timberlake, then at the Shining Keep, and then the Royal Tourney at the capitol.

The noblemen Ludwig and Lenard assumed they could not attend this year when an agent of the king met them and asked them to solve a series of murders....

Note: Adventure added, needs more edit.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

High Level: My Seaward Campaign

  In 1979, as I recall right after the 4th of July, I showed my players a map that had a pirate's cove, a wizard's tower, and a town named Seaward.
  I am still running that campaign.

  When you play the setting comes out in notes and during play. When you read about it on the blog you miss a lot of context. So I will give a high-level summary.

Mild edits (more needed) and some expansion.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Overview: DM's Report on the Briars Mapping Expedition and the Seaward Campaign and Pathfinder

  It has been a lot of gaming recently, and my new 45 hour a week contract plus launching my own company (that does stuff other than sell service contracts, see earlier) and my oldest son (who is working for my start-up) landing a sale and being the process of 2 more sales, all in one week....
  Exhilarating, and exhausting, and no time to blog.


Sam, the 17 year old, fired up a Pathfinder campaign. I play a Diviner, Jack is playing a cleric of Friendship (we call him the CareBear Cleric), and Nick is playing a murdermachi..., uh, fighter.
Great scenario (take the recipe for a cure for a disease from a sage to an alchemist/cleric wife/husband team to make enough for the village being afflicted); good reason for the characters to meet, and dealing with goblins is a great first fight.
I'd never played Pathfinder before; reminded me of Runequest for some unguessable reason, but play was snappy and fun. We're putting it into what we call the 'rainy day rotation'.

Back to the Briars
Team Thief returned to the Briars. After Ol' One Fang, Ol' Knobby, meeting Grandmother, the goblin tribes, the troll tribe, and about 100 spider encounters, they thought it would calm down.
They found the Tower and the Pool, a walled compound with a tower, ornamental garden with reflecting pool, and topiaries. At first appearing new and well-tended they eventually saw through the illusion to the ruined, decrepit facility. They could not enter do to some magical effect but sent a fox - who was teleported to what they recognized as the Garden in Skull Mountain! Seeker flew high over the place a dropped a tortoise into the pool, only to see it teleported to the lake on the third moon! That night a strange sight met them - an odd device, about 5' long and 1' wide with a saddle in the middle, and a light in the front, rose out of the pool with a man riding it like a horse or broom of flying. He used the light to search the grounds of the walled compound before flying back into the pool.

Days later the party encountered a group of druids and learned that the grove for the local Druid was hidden within a massive spinney. The party spoke with the lower-ranking druids at length and learned that they were opposed by the Wizard of the Tower. The party had already heard of him and that he lives in the western lower Briars and that it is a title held by many over the years. The Druids believe that the WotT works with the cultists and fear he maintains some sort of curse that keeps the Briars overgrown with thorns.

Later they went to the cottage where the very first adventure they had in Seaward rests on the edge of the Briars - and met an ogre. The ogre was a servant of the WotT and was receiving slaves from cultists in return for support from the Wizard. Notes indicate that the cultists work with/for the WotT, or something, and the WotT was working with the Eldar to get support to Ol' Knobby and the Goblins.

At this point Nick announced,
"My character is now officially a conspiracy theorist. It's all connected, man!"

The party killed the ogre and sent the captive to safety. Confirming the druids' beliefs the party kept on.

The ravens and the observers from the mountain warned them that someone was following them just in time; a strangely dressed man and his three servants entered an ambush. The servants were Sons of Kyuss! Byron turned the Sons and the man easily survived the arrows of the scouts. A fierce battle was angaged but, in the end, the party defeated Musr al-Sahaab, the necromancer brother of the Jann Alchemist they had killed in the Counties 2 (game) years prior. Captured, they were unsure what to do, so they asked Clarence to send his messenger genie to the Caliph of the Jenha (overlord of all good genies on this plane) for his advice. 3 days later a Djinn arrived and took Musr to face justice for his evil ways and betrayal of his sheik.

Later they encountered a platoon of brigands. Being Team Thief they worked hard to eliminate the watch and infiltrate silently only to have the commanding lieutenant charge out of his tent in full panoply for war! Brigid went berserk and the fight was on. The lieutenant was winning (!) handily (!!) when Byron succeeded with a Hold Person. Since the rest of the party was fighting the other 40 brigands Seeker gave him a coup de grace. The henchmen really shone in the large pitched battle.

A later ambush on the party by a band of ogres led by a half-ogre cleric was defeated, then tracked back and the party spent two days whittling down a full ogre tribe. In the end they were able to kill all 31 ogres (that includes women and children, who all fought to the bitter end, refusing quarter). The Party eventually made it all the way back to the Gate (the beginning of the Old Road through the Briars) then went to Skull Mountain to rest, resupply, and catch up.

Along the way they encountered a merchant trying to take 4 pony carts to Skull Mountain. The henchmen were doing their best to follow orders to stay out of sight, but an earlier merchant had been able to trade with some of the hirelings who slipped out to purchase tobacco, ale, and taffy. The party bought his gear and such and sent him back with his 4 surviving guards. They learned that 7 or 8 other merchants had already tried to get to Skull Mountain but only 1 had returned. It seems that the Company spending gold, topazes, and rubies to ship hundreds of pounds of food to Skull Mountain was never very secret....

Seeker spent his time searching the perimeter of Skull Mountain's plateau;
The plateau is about a mile across, is paved with stone where native rock is not the norm, and is surrounded by a stone-lined ditch.
He found a concealed chimney akin to the one from the Kitchen in Skull Mountain's Guardrooms of level 1. A stout metal grate prevented him from entering, but smoke and the smell of distant cooking was very evident.

Other Information
Going through their notes from past discussions, legends, folktales, the books they found at the Ogre's Cottage, notes from the Library of level 3 of Skull Mountain, etc. and asking some questions of the Druids,  the party reached some tentative conclusions:

1) The space battles seen previously appear to be between unknown forces and the navy of the Duke of the Moon.
2) The Duke of the Moon is probably human and good-aligned.
3) The Grand Druid may live on one of the moons.
4) The Eldar cannot lie about any topic but themselves.
5) The Eldar seem to work for/be servants to some other person or group who seems to be evil.
6) Elves are from space.
7) No one is sure why (at least) PC elves don't know elves are from space.
8) A space-faring elven empire meets with the king of the local elves at least once a year.
9) Prophecy says that the High King of Eiru will come from one of the moons
10) The combination of the Control Room, Remote Station #1, Remote Station #2, the Sleeping Princess, and the Montanic Lances seem to be a weapon system capable of firing at spelljammers, perhaps even at the moons.
11) More underground caverns, almost certainly connected to the Cavern of Herds, stretch at least another 1.5 miles east from Skull Mountain.
12) There are caverns/tunnels/levels about a mile to a mile and a half west of Skull Mountain

More to come!

Monday, May 7, 2018

A Response to a Lousy Review.

  The tagline of this blog mentions that I rant.
  Buckle up.

  Ever know that guy that bad-mouths a movie, or a book, or something and then you learn he hasn't seen/read it? Or the guy that starts disparaging something and the more he talks the more he reveals that the problem is the guy talking made an error?
  You know what I am talking about.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

DM Report: Back to the Briars All Over Again

  After a long break to "catch up the timelines" the party returned to the Briars. Still in the High Briars (more rugged, more remote, much more dangerous) they are hoping to map the eastern half of thsi High Briars before Winter arrives in earnest.
  They probably won't make it.