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.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Magic Item of the Week: Hammer of the Thunderbolt's Wrath

For Rolemaster FRP or RMSS

Hammer of the Thunderbolt's Wrath: +20 war hammer with thrown ranges of 1'-60' (-20) 61'-75' (-40) and 76'-100' (-60). When thrown it returns to its user from up to 300' away. In melee it uses the war hammer table but when thrown it uses the war mattock table for damage. Against all giants it does slaying criticals. When thrown it emits the sound of a thunderclap and does an unbalance critical of the same severity as any other critical done (30th level weapon).
These hammers are heavy and require great stamina to use;the user must be at least 6' 0” tall (a creature shorter than this has a -15 OB and cannot throw it), weigh at least 195 lbs (a creature lighter than this has a -20 OB penalty and cannot throw it), and have a total Strength bonus of +10 or more (natural or with magical aid) (-5 OB penalty per point of St bonus under 10 and cannot throw it). All penalties are cumulative, so a 5'10”, 170 lbs creature with an St bonus of 0 would be unable to throw it and suffer a total -85 OB. In melee using a Hammer of the Thunderbolt's Wrath is twice as tiring as normal (1 exhaustion point per round) and throwing it requires prodigious stamina (5 exhaustion points per throw).

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Play Report: First Session in Whiteford

  The world building was summed up or linked.

Jack played Flavius, a 3rd level Cleric from a mariner culture.
Sam played Harald, a 3rd level Warrior Monk from the Patchwork Lands.
Nick played Butters, a 3rd level Dabbler from the Patchwork Lands.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Worldbuilding: More Details of Whiteford

Continuing from here.

Patchwork Lands: Whiteford Town

Population: Humans: ~1,100 (about 185 households)
Dwarves: ~120 (about 30 households)
Halflings: ~60 (about 10 households)
Elves: ~20 (about 7 households)

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Worldbuilding: Whiteford town in the Patchwork Lands

I have been slowly building up a Rolemaster campaign setting for some time. The players are making characters, so I am drilling down to a specific starting point.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Fall of the Temple of Gruumsh

Yes The Background
In my 1e campaign the Orcish City-States of the West spend a lot of time fighting each other, more than they do fighting Men or Dwarves. But every few generations the shamans prophecy that the time for an Overking has come and orc begin questing in the Stone Hills for the Regalia of the Orcish Overking. Any one item is said to be enough to make an orc the unrivaled leader of a city-state. All items? Every orc in the region will obey you. This has occurred 5 times in the past, and each time the lands of Men and their allies have trembled on the verge of destruction.

A little of Orc society in Seaward
The Orcs are in 5 great tribes, the Dripping Blade (with the devil-lord Ilneval as their 'patron'), the Broken Bone (under Baghtru), the Blood Moon (under Shargaas), the Pale Hand (under Yurtrus), and the Black Cave (under Luthic). The sixth 'tribe' is the Vile Rune, the shamans and witch-doctors, whose ultimate allegiance is to Gruumsh. The bearers of the vile rune travel freely among the Orcs.

Orcs brook no hereditary nepotism; the sons of a chief are just orcs. All are born level at the foot of Gruumsh's hellish throne and all positions must be won via effort. When an Overking dies his body is taken by shamans to the long-hidden temple of Gruumsh hidden deep in the Stone Hills and buried, his regalia scattered and hidden. Then those shamans are murdered to hide the locations.

But after the Fifth Overking the prophecy changed; all of the regalia was kept in Gruumsh's temple and the next Overking could find them at once.

The Baron of Wyvern Keep warned that orcs were crawling the Stone Hills during the Winter 7 years gone. Patrols and adventurers soon found that the vile tune had announced it was time for a new Overking. The players confirmed this...
...and promptly spent years assaulting Skull Mountain, dealing with the bandits of the borderlands, venturing to Banath, and wiping out foul demon cults!

But finally things were getting very bad, with organized orcish warbands cooperating between tribes to drive back patrols! The call went out the the Company of the Dark Moon sent a team.

Players and Characters
Nick played Owen (5th level magic-user human)
Sam played Konrad (4/5 fighter/cleric dwarf)
Jen played Ingrid (6th level fighter human)
Jack played Seamus (5th level druid human)
Alex played Starfalcon (6th level ranger half-elf)
Henchmen - ten total, including Octavius, the 5th level half-ogre fighter

Adventure Overview
With divination, help from a genie (long story), sage research, notes from a book found in Skull Mountain, ranger work, and some luck the party was able to get a rough location of the entrance to the temple complex. Getting there involved fighting two orcish warbands, one with a leveled half-orc commander, the other with a brace of tough ogres. A third warband, much larger than the first two, began pursuing them but they were able to find the illusion-cloaked entrance.
They were attacked by a grizzly bear (an enchanted bearskin akin to a Figurine of Wondrous Power they left behind because of its bulk). In the maze-like upper levels they found many zombies and skeletons. As they went deeper into the complex they fought a number of dretches and strange devil-dogs (based on wild hunt hounds from the old Deities and Demigods) in a series of skirmishes. At a great stair they had to answer the questions of a spectator. Realizing that they had to think like an orc, they passed the test.
Deeper still they fought two massive algoids and a ju-ju zombie who was obviously formerly a Broken Bone chief (the fate of those who fail to become Overking!) and finally were attacked by an invisible stalker guarding a door.
Exhausted, they rested and recovered spells.
The pause was also to prepare for the next cavern, a massive space larger than the Cavern of Herds -  a cyst within the earth a mile across and half a mile high filled with a fungus forest. They descended a 1/4 mile ladder after learning the mobats were only interested in flying creatures. While odd tracks were visible in the fungus forest, the trail was clear. After a half-mile they came to a chasm; at the base was a roaring river riddled with obsidian rocks a quarter of a mile below. The 50 yard long rope bridges (with no guide ropes!) stretched from the edge to 2 rock spires and finally to the massive orcish temple on another rock spire. The rope bridges were such that only one person could safely dross at a time and a slow walk - otherwise the oscillations would pitch people into the river.

The Temple
Within the gigantic temple the party was immediately attacked by 5 ju-ju zombies. Moments later the former Overkings shambled from their tombs to stop the invaders - each as a mummy! Since the last rope bridge was now only mist the party went all-out, releasing Golden Lions, a Quartz Warhorse, and using spells and items with abandon. The weaker henchmen without magic weapons all lit torches and prepared oil flasks for a last stand.
The ju-ju zombies bought enough time for the mummies to close and the fighting was fierce, lasting a total of 10 rounds. With careful battlefield maneuvering, the use of oil on closing mummies, and some hard fighting the party prevailed with no deaths (although mummy rot was had by quite a few!).

The Aftermath
The statues of the various orcish devil patrons all collapsed because non-orcs had desecrated it. The party found the five tombs of the Overkings with their symbolic burial goods (4,000 electrum pieces and 5 amethysts each), and teh regalia of the Overking, which they took with them.
The orcish warband that had been following them was within the fungus cavern, but they had found a passage to an iron boat on the rver. They cut free the last bridge and left, eventually reaching a landing (the enchanted boat returned to the temple after they left it).
The trip back to Wyvern Keep was easier than anticipated - all shamans and witch-doctors had lost their spells and the inter-tribal truce was off. The party force-marched to Wyvern Keep and met with Bishop Alturin (visiting from the Four Counties) and the Royal Magister (dispatched from the capitol) and with their aid destroyed the regalia! The kept their loot and received rewards from the king.

Thus ended a 7 year adventure arc.

The Regalia
These items are meant for orcs; if used by anyone else they slowly warp that person's will until they seek out an orc shaman and volunteer to be a slave to the orcs.

The Ring of Yurtrus- Grants Leadership.

Bands of Baghtru- Grants strength and endurance.

Shargaas' Amulet- Grants great resistance to poison and disease.

Luthic's Armor- Grants incredible protection from physical harm.

The Dripping Blade- This scimitar rivals the greatest elven and dwarven weapons of power.

The Eyepatch of the Chosen of Gruumsh- Grants resistance to magic and light.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Massive Update on Blackstone

  Sorry for light posting, but contracting 40 hours a week plus running your own business equals looooooong weeks.

  For those of you unaware, I have been running an AD&D 2e Skills & Powers campaign called Blackstone for about a decade with the same very dedicated players. Despite my dedication to jazz band adventuring Blackstone has 4 distinct adventuring groups that have never directly interacted. The 4 groups range from 3rd level to well inside the domain game.

  For the entire decade of gaming the parties have grown aware of multiple Big Arcs floating around. With some subtle maneuvering and the willing by-in and actions of the players we had a massive crossover recently! Essentially, the various parties' investigations finally intersected forcing the parties to meet.

BIG Spoilers, so no players read below

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Languages of Seaward, Part IV - Goblin, Plus Some Background on Language Development

  This one follows parts I, II & III.

  Someone asked me 'how is your son coming up with these? How collaborative is it?'
  So, sure - I'll tell.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Magic Item of the Week: The Blanket of Mercy

From the Wife!
  This item is one popular with religious brothers and clerics, but can be found among people with the proper spells and skills.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Street Level Champions Play Report: Two Down

  Sat down with the kids today and played an afternoon game.
  We are using the Hudson City: The Urban Abyss supplement for a setting. I am using some of the villains and heroes, plus my own.
  Hudson City is an amazing book and one of the best supplements I have ever seen for any game.
  The clan and I played a short intro against street gangs a few days back, but this is the first 'non-intro' session.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Worldbuilding Afternoon

Taking a long weekend off and had 3 hours free so I cranked out a few things: three villains for my street-level Champions game; more work on the sector map for my Traveller setting; an adventure for my Seaward campaign; and some details for my Rolemaster setting. I only had an hour for Rolemaster, so I apologize for how raw it is:

Monday, January 1, 2018

Retro Adventures - Devil's Rock

  I have been DMing a looooong time. Like all DMs I worry about getting stale and predictable. You know, getting tot he point that the players know what to expect.

  So I dug into my archives and found - my folder of adventures from 1981! I am running one now called Devil's Rock

  Spoilers: Players Stop Here