Lunchtime Lairs 5: Eat cheese, live longer

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This week we were joined by Sam who played Hector the Hoplite and James rejoined us with a new character, Seneca of the Streets, after Fean the Quick perished a couple of weeks back. We were also missing the strong arm and directness of Blegrim.

Now according to Google a Hero is:

a person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.

It wouldn’t really be fair to describe our characters as heroes this week because they happily accepted Mina’s offer of a fat wedge of cash to bring her the head of her scheming aunt Olga. No questions – is this right, is this necessary? Just a simple ‘Yes, we’ll murder your aunt for cash, no questions asked?’ So, nothing heroic is going on this week.

After a further recon of the Olga’s home, not quite big enough to call a mansion, but surrounded by trees and railings the players took quite a bit of time determining their plan of action. Options included:

  • f84ba96f639243630112d2b69cea127dLocating a mercenary company and hiring their Trebuchet
  • Approaching a pirate ship with a view to loaning an Arbalest
  • Recruiting street urchins to create a distraction (very community focused, helping poor kids earn a crust)

In the end the plan decided upon was quite simple. Hector and Senaca would approach the house (as they would be unknown to Olga) under the pretence of having information. This would create a distraction while Romula, Andromeda and Faqual stealthily positioned themselves to attack the poor old lady.

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Hector and Seneca were able to blag their way into Olga’s home convincing her and her manservant that they had information of worth with the condition that they leave all their weapons outside (Hector was able to conceal a dagger though which in the Black Hack is as good as any other weapon in the hands of a warrior). While they were doing this Romula and Andromeda were trying to sneak over the railings and Faqual approached the building from the front.

4a8a24fe9de970557356bd1a4f42aa11Of course it didn’t take long for all hell to break lose and within moments Olga was casting Charm Person spells, her manservant was hacking at Senaca, Hector (now charmed) was hacking at Senaca and Olga was making her escape. Faqual joined the fight from outside a broken window and ended up in a scrap with the manservant while Hector and Senaca duked it out. Romula and Andromeda arrived in the nick of time, Romula using the classic Cheese Wheel distraction technique to break both Hector and Senaca out of their charmed state. Andromeda quickly dispatched the manservant.

And that was were we left them. Olga had fled into another room and they were only marginally closer to having her head on a platter. I don’t think Frodo, Aragorn or Boromir have anything to worry about in Hero hit parade, but Elric may want to look over his shoulder.

It’s great to see new players coming along to Lunchtime Lairs, that’s 7 of us now and I’ve been told there are a couple more on the way. We’ll have to start a second table soon.

Lunchtime Lairs 4: Underground Inferno

Last session we left our heroes in a diseased flesh filled underground cavern which they had set on fire while trying to rescue Olga’s daughter Mina from Elias Goldtongue and the psychic space beetle. Andromeda was able to slap Faqual out of his brain addled state and they were both able to help Romula free Mina while Blegrin showed his love of axe work and set to on Elias and the beetle. Unfortunately the beetles teleportation ability allowed it to get behind Romula which it then took out of action.

homemqueimaThe situation was looking desperate, Andromeda making a frantic bid to escape with Mina when Blegrin hoisted Elias over his head and cast him into the flames. Consumed by fire the evil cleric writhed and screamed and the beetle disappeared. The group deduced that Elias had summoned the beetle, and that’s why it disappeared when he was killed, but they haven’t yet considered that maybe Elias wasn’t the mastermind.

With little time to spare as the city watch closed in on the temple the group fled and returned to the Pigs Stick and Carrot tavern where their adventure had started. Their intention of returning Mina to Olga her ‘mother’ was questioned when Mina told the party that Olga was really her evil aunt who needed her alive to get access to her inheritance. Refusing to hand over Mina to her aunt they took her to a different tavern to decide what to do.

Mina told them her story, how her aunt Olga wanted to get her hands on her fortune, left to her when her parents died. Now Mina has offered them a handsome reward to bring her Olga’s head. The session ended just after our heroes had staked out Olga’s mansion. Will they be able to call themselves heroes any longer if they are willing to behead a leprous old lady?

Lunchtime Lairs 3: Beetle Juiced

A quick recap. Temple, rescue daughter, guards, disease, fights, heads rolled, blood splattered, spell casting priest and a weird, monstrous, psychic, teleporting space beetle.

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This week the party’s Cleric, Romula (Clarky), made an appearance and the slaughter continued, with Blegrin (Alex) leading the way and Faqual the Sorcerer (Dave) adding to the carnage with his toblerone inspired molten chocolate magic missiles (both milk and white chocolate varieties).  All was going well until the space beetle, host of the Lunar Seed (you don’t need to know but can imagine) hugged Fean the Quick (James) to death.  If he’d been Fean the Strong he may have survived.  Putting the bad guys on the back foot having killed or mutilated all of the guards, the party pushed on through the temple to find an underground cavern, infested with pustulent fleshy growths clinging to pillars and a stink from the bowels of hell.  People who had been drawn into the temple were lying around, covered in the diseased growths, almost like human grow bags. It was here the bad guys, Elias Goldtongue and the beetle made their stand while the last guards fell upon our remaining heroes (saddened as they were by the loss of Fean).

v23bA plan was formed: block the corridor with a 2 man shield wall while Andromeda the Thief (Matt) and Faqual make Molotov cocktails with their oil flasks, then set the whole cavern on fire.  Great plan and all was going well until the beetle used it’s cosmic spray ability and Faqual failed his saving throw, falling into a euphoric daze and spilling the remaining contents of his oil flask on the floor where the party stand. It was about this point that they spotted Mina, the daughter of Olga they were there to save.

Most of the guards now out of the fight, Andromeda lashes her Molotov cocktail and starts setting the flesh and some of the poor, diseased supplicants on fire – a blaze which quickly spreads.  Romula and Belgrin run to rescue Mina while Andromeda tries to slap the idiotically drooling Faqual out of his daze.  And so we left it there…

The Black Hack thoughts

The OSR roots of the game started to show through this session. A few failed rolls and things can quickly turn bad, and once armour is depleted characters seemed far more vulnerable in combat.  At the beginning of the session Fean the Quick had full armour and hit points, but just a handful of failed rolls took the character out.  When a character is reduced to zero hit points they are ‘Out of Action’, unconscious and unable to contribute for the rest of the encounter.  After the encounter the player rolls on a d6 with results ranging from just knocked out to dead, with other results including penalties to dice rolls to disfigurement.

The Black Hack is far from a perfect system. Some of the ideas don’t make sense – the usage die for resources is a clever idea, but is perhaps too abstract.  If you wanted to buy two flasks of oil, that’s what you should do instead of one flask with a d6 usage die.  And there are gaps in the rules – how to make contested ability checks for example. But those issues aside it is great fit for Lunchtime Lairs – light, easy for players to pick up and it just works.  I suspect it may struggle with higher level characters.

Next week shall see a resolution to this adventure, The Curious Fane of the Lunar Seed, then it will be GM rotation time with Clarky up next.

Lunchtime Lairs 2: Hack, slash, kill!

After a slow paced start to Lunchtime Lairs last week with much investigation, reaching out to contacts and trying to discover just what the hell was going on I had expected there to be a bit more action this week.  I wasn’t disappointed, from kick off axes slashed and heads rolled.

Before I get into more of that though I have to mention our players.  Twice as many as last week – if we carry on like this I have no idea what we’ll do.  Bar room brawl anyone? In addition to myself, Clarky (Romula the Cleric) and Matt (Andromeda the Thief) from last week we were joined by Dave (Faqual the Sorcerer), James (Fean the Quick, a Thief) and Alex (Blegrin the Warrior).  Perfect.  With characters chosen and a quick explanation of the rules (which takes all of 5 minutes) we were underway.

The new players were brought up to speed with a summary of the previous session and the current plan.  It was a sensible plan; stake out the temple and look for an opportunity to get inside, maybe taking out a guard or two, while other party members would investigate the diseased pustules appearing in parts of the slums.  While Romula and Faqual visited the Sisters of Mercy, a benevolent religious order caring for the poor and sick and lead by the mysterious Brother Eldritch, Blegrin, Andromeda and Fean observed the temple.

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Everything was going according to plan until Andromeda and Fean where disturbed while peaking through a window and Blegrin took the opportunity of a distracted guard to chop his mates head off.  Thus combat was entered and chaos ensued.  Blegrin quickly found himself outnumbered by guards and their captain, while the thieves took out a guard at the rear of the temple and quickly found themselves embroiled in a combat with more guards, their leader Elias Goldtongue and huge hairy psychic beetle.  Faqual arrived and was slinging about sleep and charm spells with mixed results, and so we had to end the session there in mid combat.  There’s no doubt the party are in a tricky situation.

And where was Romula while all this was going on? After an losing her lunch emptying a bucket of filth and vomit she had to get some rest, convenient as unfortunately Clarky had to leave early, real life once more proving that it is far less fun than living in an imagined fantasy land.

The Black Hack in combat

The Black HackI was interested to see how combat would work with the Black Hack and with the rest of the session being one long scrap we were able to take the rules through their paces. There are some clever ideas in the rules, for example, to determine initiative players must pass a Dexterity test (roll under it), with a success meaning they get to act before the bad guys and a failure meaning they act after.

To score a hit with a weapon the player must roll under their characters relevant attribute with various modifiers, Strength for melee attacks and Dexterity for ranged. Attributes are the gold standard and created as nature intended. Damage is based on class, for example a warrior always does 1d8 damage with an axe or dagger.  When a monster or NPC attacks a character the player rolls for them to avoid the attack, with a +1 to the roll for each level the enemy is above the character.  A couple of the characters had Strength of 16 which meant they had a 75% chance of hitting, and also a 75% chance of avoiding being hit.

The armour system is unique, I’ve not seen it any other systems.  Each item of armour has a number of points which reduce damage, but once used they are spent until the character takes a one hour rest. Leather armour has 4 points, Chain Mail 6 and Plate 8.  After a couple of hits armour is generally depleted and anything beyond that comes straight off the characters hit points.

The characters were very effective in combat, with the percentages being in their favour, but when they do get hit their armour quickly diminishes and they are much more exposed.

Spellslingers

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Sorcerers and Clerics (from level 2) have spell slots which they can either fill with remembered spells or use with any spell from their spellbook. After a spell has been cast they have to test their Intelligence or Wisdom, with the spell slot being retained on a success. This meant that Faqual the Sorcerer with his single level 1 spell slot was able to cast a number of spells – sleep a couple of times and charm person.  It’s a neat idea, but I can see a situation where a Sorcerer at higher levels rarely runs out of spells and is just blasting through everything.

The Wild Bunch

All great adventures have the odds stacked against the heroes and that’s just what we have here.  Will the characters survive next weeks session or will it end in a Wild Bunch style TPK?

If you’re interested in Lunchtime Lairs and can get into Liverpool city centre between 12 and 2 on Wednesdays get in touch with either Clarky (@DissectingWrlds on Twitter) or myself via this blog or @nfbenson on Twitter.

 

When the Grogmaster calls…

Dirk the Dice, master of all things Grognard and anchor stone of the Grognard Files collective kindly asked me to write an item for his blog about my resurgence back into the amazing world of RPG’s.  Chuffed, nay honoured to be asked, I put my metaphorical pen to paper and scribbled down some stuff which you can read on his blog here.

If you don’t already read the Grognard Files blog and listen to the podcast I’d heartily recommend you do.  Right now.

Lunchtime Lairs Session 1

Today myself and Andrew Clark (@DissectingWrlds) started Lunchtime Lairs, our attempt to fit in weekly short RPG sessions.  The venue was Just Play in Liverpool, the time 12-2.  As part of our planning we had decided on a generic fantasy setting and a simple system – The Black Hack – the idea being that all adventures would be short and completed in a single session. Then anyone could step up and GM the following week.

We had one other player turn up (Matt, a chap I work and whose ear I have bent about RPG’s for some time) for a total of two players and a GM.  Taking on the GM role for this inaugural meetup, I had determined to go for light preparation with theatre of the mind delivery which is very much not my usual approach or style of GMing.  For ideas I turned to Frog God Games Tome of Adventure Design; there are many products of this type around, but this one is fairly comprehensive and gave me more than enough idea to get started.

The Adventure

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Andromeda the Thief and Romula of the Red Hand (a Cleric) were our characters, rolled up in the first half hour.  Within no time they were in the employ of Olga the leper, a merchant struck down by the disease; their mission – to recover her daughter, Mina, who has disappeared into the Temple of Joy and Serenity, drawn in by the preaching of the priest Elias, the warden and keeper of the temple.

Tapping into underworld contacts a dark picture unfolds, poor and vulnerable folk from the slums are being drawn to the temple and disappearing within.  Worse still, pockets of diseased, pustulent flesh have been seen clinging to the walls of building in the slums, exploding and spreading disease.

The duo stake out the temple and learn something of the movement and patterns of it’s inhabitants.  Carefully they lay their plans which shall be put into action next week…

With one new player to RPG’s, a fairly cautious approach was adopted, so this first session was largely discovery and planning.  We only scraped the surface of the Black Hack rules with a handful of ability checks – I like the roll under stat mechanic; whether it has any significant shortcomings is yet to be seen.

I’m looking forward to next weeks session; seeing how the party approach the temple and testing out the TBH combat system.

 

 

 

Virtual Grogmeet 18

November seems such a long time ago now, but I still have great memories of games played and people met at Grogmeet 17.  Organised by Dirk the Dice, host of the Grognard Files podcast, this is an evening and full day RPG meetup in the heart of Manchester.  For those who were unable to attend Dirk arranged Virtual Grogmeet, an evening and day of gaming taking place this weekend over Roll20.

The event was arranged well in advance with lots of time to consider what adventures to run.  I had thought of running something Pulpish, but ultimately decided to stick to my favourite system, offering to run one of the published Lamentations of the Flame Princess scenarios Forgive Us.  Yesterday evening I was joined by Andrew, Graham, Howard, Steve and Tom as they set out to recover a green porcelain demon mask from the Tenebrous Hand.

Roll20, as brilliant as it is, once more failed us on the voice and video front with players dropping in and out. We fell back on the more reliable Hangouts which I will use as default if I have more than 3 players in future.  Characters were chosen and we got underway.

Spoilers ahead if you plan to play Forgive Us at some future point!

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Kick off: Too clever for their own good

Having climbed into the Butchers through the roof the party encounter a mutated dog in an attached room.  Engaging their OSR drive by trying to avoid unnecessary conflicts, they came up with a clever plan which became known as the Norwich Gambit.  Their scheme in place they opened doors while keeping out of the beasts reach and felt some degree of cleverness as their ploy worked and the external door was closed behind the dog as it wandered outside.  They were later to discover the consequences of that cleverness.

Norwich Gambit

Half-time: Praise God for PraiseGod!

Further exploration of the complex was hindered by all of the doors being locked. The party’s specialist, PraiseGod Barebones was essential to their continued exploration of residential areas and The Dog & Bastard alehouse.  The evening became weirder with pools of stinking black goo, a madman and a revealing and unnerving suicide scene.  A letter found at this scene left the adventurers wondering whether the Norwich Gambit had been a good move.

Further Exploration
Andy as Whitehead the Cleric, ponders with some consternation on descending the stairs having heard movement down there…

End-game: The Vault of Doom

Poor Whitehead

Further investigation lead the party into the cellar and the Tenebrous Hand’s vault.  Even I found that bit creepy, a room full of stationary, undisturbed gribbly monster things in a room full of treasures.  Dynamic lighting really created suspense here as the players were unable to see each other or the number of creatures.  Needless to say the party found the treasure they were after but having lingered too long saw the monsters stirring.  As the party fled to the exit O’Neill the sorcerer covered the floor in sticky webs; holding the monsters as intended, but in doing so made it more difficult for the other adventurers to escape.  Poor Whitehead, even as the rest of them fled they could hear his screams.

As they fled from the complex into the cool night air of Norwich, the screams across the city made it clear why the Norwich Gambit had not paid off.

Final thoughts

Forgive Us is a fantastic set piece adventure with an eerie atmosphere which grows as the game progresses.  I did have concerns about fitting the game into the allocated time slot, and conversely had to make tweaks to accommodate the time constraint; I can see the adventure fitting more comfortably into two or three sessions.  Like much of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess material the adventure is perfectly presented and eminently usable at the table.  There are two other smaller adventurers in the package as well which I would hope to run sometime.

Despite the video issues Roll20 delivered on it’s promise – dynamic lighting is perfect for an scenario like this (although can be a pain to set up), limiting each players view of their environment and sometimes the other characters.  I used a few sound effects for fright value and some background ambience; I reckon these add to the game if not overused.

A huge thank you to the players, Andy, Graham, Howard, Steve and Tom who threw themselves into the game and came up with really creative play. And a big thanks to Dirk the Dice for organising Virtual Grogmeet – onwards to the next one (via Grogmeet18)!