Thursday, June 25, 2015

Now Taking Orders for Swords & Six-Siders!

UPDATED: 1/18/18

Vanquishing Leviathan LLC is going out of business and is no longer taking orders.

Swords & Six-Siders (S&SS) is the ultra rules-lite, 1d6 only, OGL fantasy RPG inspired by 0E, BX, and T&T. S&SS is great for both new RPGers and old schoolers alike who are looking to get more gaming done in less time. Don't take my word for it, download the game for free and try it for yourself!

The Swords & Six-Siders boxed set comes with a box (5&1/2"x9&1/2"x1"), a 24 page Player's Book, a 36 page Gamemaster's Book, and 6 character sheets.
$20 for a boxed set, or $30 for two boxed sets.

Additional S&SS Player's Books can be purchased for $5 each.

The Castle that Fell from the Sky is a classic fun-house tournament dungeon, combining hack-n-slash, tricks, traps, puzzles, and roleplay elements. It is designed for a party of six 3rd level characters, and to be run in a 6-9 hour game slot. The adventure comes in at 40 keyed encounters, 32 pages, plus a loose, hand-drawn map, and features numerous non-standard monsters. (See earlier posts for play reports.)
$10 each.

Shipping & Handling:
If you are ordering from the 48 contiguous United States, please add $10 for S&H ($5 if no boxed sets are included in your order). If you are ordering from outside the 48 CONUS, please e-mail me which items you want and where you are so I can calculate the price of S&H (this can take several days).

Vanquishing Leviathan LLC is going out of business and is no longer taking orders.

Shipping Times:
Ideally, I strive to have packages in the mail within 2-3 business days of receiving payment, but it can sometimes take a week or more depending on sales volume and filling out forms for international shipping. Orders from the 48 CONUS are shipped in boxes via Priority Mail (EDIT: Orders that do not include boxes will be sent in Priority flat envelopes, as the small Priority boxes are just barely too small for digest-sized books).

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Playtest #2 for The Castle that Fell from the Sky

The Castle that Fell from the Sky
Playtest Group 2 at NTRPGCon 2015

Don't read this if you intend to play in it.

If the first group was efficient professionals, the second group was a psychotic comedy troupe. =) There was one cancellation, so this group was a more balanced group of 5. Well, balanced in terms of classes, not mental balance. ;^)
Gredda Stonefist (3rd level dwarven fighter)
Charles Chatsworth the Third (3rd level halfling fighter)
Storg? (3rd level halfling? thief)
Fabio (3rd level elf myrmidon)
And my personal favorite, for reasons you'll see later,
Elthorn (and Elthorn Jr., and Elthorn Jr. the second) (3rd/2nd/1st level elf wizard)

I didn't know any of the players before this game, and none of them had played S&SS before. Yes, there is some outrageous fortune and comedy gold in this one, so don't stop reading until the end!

If the first group were the cautious, efficient professionals, this second group was more a wandering psychotic comedy troupe. The two halflings were especially, uh, bold. (What is it about halfings?!)

This group didn't approach doors with caution, carefully listening for noises. No, Charles Chatsworth the Third, the official doorknocker, approached every door with a swift kick. Being short, low STR, and a terrible roller, he almost never managed to kick any doors open. He'd make lots of noise kicking them, and then howling in pain. It wasn't long before he was limping with both legs. (Charles really, REALLY wanted to press the red button at the entrance, the one marked "Don't press the red button, you idiots!" but somehow managed to restrain himself. For the time being. That was pretty much the ONLY restraint that character showed during the entire adventure, heh.)

Like the first party, this group's first encounter came in the plant room. Rather than fighting the plants, they immediately choose the nuclear option by throwing oil flasks into the room, setting it on fire, and closing the door intending to come back later after the flames had died down. (As it would turn out, they ran out of time, so they never made it back here or to the swamp beyond.)

They proceeded to the fire pit room when one of the undead guards were approaching (I believe this one had the lion head). IIRC, they managed to barricade the door in some fashion so the lion-creature couldn't get to them. It roared in frustration as they taunted him. They then moved into the ice maze while the lion-headed creature waited patiently for their return...

The Ice Maze

This group decided to move through the room-of-mirrors-like ice caverns by holding onto a piece of rope, with two people in the front rank. This served to keep the party from accidentally getting separated, and helped when they eventually got to the Abomination. Since there were two in the front rank, none of them were ever left to face the Abomination alone. Not having a 10' pole of DOOM handy like the other group, they attacked the Abomination the old fashioned way as a group, and the damage they took was spread around, but no one died.

Elthorn the wizard notices the collar on the now dead Abomination, and how it has a magical sparkle. He tries to remove the collar, but it would not budge, so they chop the Abomination's head off to retrieve the collar. Elthorn then decides to put the collar on. (The point of the magical collar was to keep the Abomination in its cave, as it was the pet/god of the Ice Spider Men.) Elthorn's player was a man of integrity, for even as the saw the look of horror on my face when he told me what he wanted to do, he did not try to backtrack.

Being the nice guy that I am, I have everybody roll a WIS check to see if anyone would warn him this was a really, really bad idea. Did I mention that over half the party had a WIS stat of 1? They all failed. So they think it's a great idea if he puts the magic collar on. So he puts it on (as a belt). They also retrieve the saber of lightning, but they are too afraid to press the red button on it. After this, they depart the cave and are teleported back to the maze entrance. All except poor Elthorn.

Rather than being teleported out of the cavern, he instead takes damage from an electrical shock. Did I mention he had been reduced to 1 hp prior to this, and didn't drink a healing potion? So he died alone in the ice maze, with the rest of the party wondering what happened to him. The sad part was, he had a dispel magic spell, so he could have removed the magical collar had he survived the minor shock damage. So the party exits the ice maze with the saber of lightning, wondering where Elthorn went, as they happen to bump into Elthorn Jr. "Where's my daddy?" "We don't know, come with us while we look for him..."

The Pyramid

They return to the fire pit room where Charles Chatsworth the Third attempts to kick the door open to the hallway and fails. The group can hear the lion-headed creature snicker from the other side at his ineptitude. They open the door, and combat ensues with the undead guards who have been waiting patiently for their return. One of the monsters has a magical flute that, when playing a tune, silences all other noise in the area (thus preventing the casting of spells). The halfling thief acquired this item, and it would later be put to good and not-so-good use...

One of the undead has a fish-head, and it spits up a huge bubble that starts rolling towards the party. The bubble passes through several characters until it hits a spell caster, which causes the bubble to burst, erasing one of his spells.

Someone casts Turn Undead, and the lion-headed creature begins to flee. Charles the clinically insane halfling fighter decides to spike climb up the creature while it flees. For what purpose, I do not know. They manage to kill it in the hall where their shadows fled. The dwarf notices that the hallway has an unusual slope to it. Like the other group, they choose the wrong direction and set off the rolling boulder trap.

The Cave

I'm trying to remember the order here, but I might be getting some of this wrong. I believe they go through the hieroglyph room, and like the other group, end up going the wrong way towards the barred entrance. Gredda the dwarf easily bends the bars and they enter the dark cavern. Prior to reaching the darklings' ambush, they ran into Barbar Jinx, the annoying leprechaun. The group tries to catch him, but are unable. Then when Barbar begins to taunt them, Storg plays his magic flute to silence him. Frustrated by being silenced, Barbar Jinx stomps his feet before running away. (This was actually a bad thing for the party to do, because even though he was annoying, he was a dungeon merchant with many useful things he could sell or trade with the party.)

Moving on, they are ambushed by the darklings, but a sleep spell makes short work of them. Charles Chatsworth the Criminally Insane decides he needs a ride, so he grabs some rope and tries to mount one of the darklings and steer them like a flying steed. Even though he'd have to do so blindly within their magical sphere of darkness... Anyway, the darkling is about the same size as he is, so the critter is unable to fly with him on its back. Having awakened it and unable to fly it, he dispatches the evil critter.

They enter the room with the evil cult, and once again, all the roleplay I had prepared was cut mercilessly short with an all out assault. They deployed a Sleep spell out of the gate, made short work of the group, and took a couple of hostages. What came next, well, the less said the better. I'm pretty sure they are guilty of committing war crimes according to the Geneva Convention.

Back to the Pyramid

Here, the party gets even further off track as they go another way, entering a series of rooms that is only there to lead the players astray. They run into more animal-headed undead guards, and come back around to the room with large carven faces and lit candles. Unlike the previous group, they mess around in this room until the trap is sprung, and the darkness attacks (insert "I cast magic missile at the darkness" jokes here).

The party manages to find their way out of the dark room trap, all except Charles the psychotic halfling. No, Charles ain't running from no darkness, Charles is determined to kill the darkness. (It is technically possible to kill the darkness, but it is highly unlikely, and sooooo not worth the trouble.) Charles actually starts off pretty lucky and is doing alright, but the dude is eventually going to die, fighting the darkness all alone. Eventually, the group manages to talk the halfling psycho out of the room so they can move on.

Btw, it was around this time they finally got the nerve to press the button on the saber of lightning, and learning it is an awesome sword. It was also this series of rooms that Gredda, the female dwarven fighter with max STR, decided to push aside the psycho-halfling-door-kicker and decided to try her hand at smashing open every door they came across. Unlike poor Charles, she was rolling sixes, headbutting doors off their hinges with ease!

Enter the Dragon

I believe the party returns to the cave area and makes their way to the supposedly magic pond statue. They hear the promise of magical blessings if they give the statue gold or magical treasure, and even though they recognize the voice as that of the prankster Barbar Jinx, they decide to try giving it some of their magic items. But while deciding what to give, they lose interest and move on to the chamber containing a large red dragon asleep on top of a pile of treasure. And so begins the most epic chain of events in this entire adventure...

The dragon sleeping on the pile of treasure is an illusion (the players do not know this, of course) designed to get players to waste their best spells and warning the real dragon in the next chamber. While they are eyeing the dragon, Fabio notices something that would prove useful in the near future - the cavern tunnel they are in is too small for the dragon to fit into.

At this point, the psycho traveling circus makes an uncharacteristically wise choice: to send the halflings (who are able to move silently) to sneak and scout ahead to see what lies ahead in the far tunnel (the first group didn't do this, they merely decided the dragon was a waste of time and headed back towards the Necromancer). As Charles put it, the Halfling Crew went to work, sneaking past the dragon sleeping on a huge pile of treasure, only to discover an identical dragon sleeping on an identical pile of treasure in the next room. They realize something strange is going on here, but they're not sure what. So they sneak past this sleeping dragon too in order to see what lies in the cavern beyond.

Amazingly, Charles had managed to somehow resist the urge to shout BANZAI while charging a dragon not once, but twice. Well, all self-control went out the window when he entered the adjacent chamber containing a caveman village with a giant gong. Without caution, without thought, dude ran straight up and kicked the gong. Well then. Stuff's bout to get real, knowhatImsayin?

When the gong is kicked, both halflings then hide, waiting to see what's gonna happen. The gong woke up the dragon from a deep sleep, and the dragon comes to the gong expecting it's about to be fed (the cavemen ring the gong every time they have a victim to present to the dragon for food, to appease the dragon). Well, the dragon's grumpy, hungry, and there's no food, so the dragon decides to take his anger out on the caveman village.

So while the dragon is busy stomping little mud huts and burning down the village, the two halflings run back into the dragon's lair to snatch some loot. Charles tosses his backpack to the thief while taking position to keep look out for the return of the dragon. (I keep rolling to see when the dragon returns back to his lair, and the players get really lucky.)

Storg the thief crams one backpack full of gold and deposits it by the cavern entrance back towards the rest of the party. As Charles continues to keep watch, Storg notices that all of the treasure here is gold, but he doesn't see any magic treasure. And with a dragon this big and bad, surely it has some magical treasure. So Storg stops scooping gold and begins to look for a secret room somewhere in the cave. This is where their luck runs low, because no matter how many times he searches, he cannot find the secret room of magical treasure.

While Storg is still searching, the dragon heads back to his lair. Charles warns Storg while grabbing the backpack of gold and making off for the rest of the party. Now see, Storg is the greediest halfling thief I have ever seen. Rather than do the sane thing and run, he decides to hide, hoping he can later continue his search for the secret door.

The dragon returns to his lair and notices someone's been messing with his gold, so he runs into the illusionary dragon chamber, where he sees the stubby lil' legs of Charles making haste towards the narrow exit. Charles manages to make it before the dragon can get him, so the dragon roars in frustration next to the narrow cavern, hoping the players will be stupid enough to come out and play. No such luck.

Meanwhile, rather than running the other way, Storg resumes searching for that secret treasure. Despite me giving him my Really?-Dude-you-so-gonna-die face, Storg keeps searching, and keeps failing. Eventually, the dragon gets fed up and starts to head back towards his lair. To give their thief more time, Fabio steps up with a lightning bolt scroll and zaps the dragon right in the keister (unfortunately for little damage). Fabio then quickly retreats back into the cavern, and since the dragon knows there's no point in remaining there any longer, he returns to his lair. Time for the halfling thief to die, me thinks.

But wouldn't you know. It is at this exact moment the thief FINALLY rolls well enough to find the secret door, opening to the stash of magic treasure. The halfling is shoving the last of the magic items into his backpack when the dragon returns to his lair and sees him. Prepare. To. Die. Punk.


Wouldn't you know. Some players just seem to have a way of spoiling all of the GM's fun. And I had been waiting for this foolish halfing to get what he had coming. Well, out of options and facing imminent death, Storg goes into desperation mode, grabs the magic ring he had just picked up, and without knowing what it does, he puts it on hoping for a miracle.

Miracle happens.

The ring, you see, is a magic ring of action. When you put it on, it drains 1 hp while freezing time for 6 seconds. He puts it on, loses a hp, and sees the dragon freeze in mid-motion. Storg doesn't bother to think, he just immediately bolts towards his party. OK, no big deal I thought, when the 6 seconds is up, he will be toast. A halfling can't outrun a large firebreathing dragon.

Then another miracle happens.

Now don't you just hate it when players come up with something you never saw coming in a million years, enabling them to get away with stuff they shouldn't be able to get away with? Without missing a beat, as soon as he hears the dragon moving again, he instantly removes and replaces the ring back on his finger. Loses another hp and gains another 6 seconds. Rinse and repeat until the halfling is safely back in the narrow cavern, rejoined to his party. The dragon is angry. I'm angry. See, this goes right to my GM pride to see the players loot my dragon without anyone dying. Well played, well played indeed. (This would lead me to nerf the magic ring in the printed version of the game. Blame it on Storg.)

Funny Stuff Happens

The party returns to the fountain statue room and go through the magic loot. Among the loot is a sword that flames on command, a scroll that contained a map of the pyramid part of the castle (they recognized it as such since they had already explored large portions of the pyramid), and a magic wand, among other things. I informed them they could not determine the type of wand it was without a magic user first attempting to use it. Hehehe.

Yes boys and girls, it's about to get even better...

Elthorn Jr., who is apparently no wiser than his old man, decides to take the magic wand, figures out a great way to test it. Elthorn Jr., who just so happens to have most of the magic loot from the dragon in his backpack (except the flaming sword, the map, and the ring) goes over to the caveman village (through a different path) with his new magic wand.

Elthorn Jr. walks up to a caveman widow, on her knees grieving beside the freshly charred corpse of her husband (courtesy of Charles kicking the gong, causing the dragon to go nuclear on the village). I wish you could see how Elthorn Jr.'s player acted this out with the appropriate voice, facial expression, and gesture. Elthorn Jr. walks right next to the grieving widow, points the wand at her, and says "Bless you... my child..." as he activates the wand.

This is where I literally fell to the floor laughing. Literally. I'm LOL right now as I type this. I really don't know what he expected the wand to do, but... it was a wand of fireballs.

"Bless you, my child." BOOM!

I like that he first walked right up to her before discharging the wand of fireballs, cuz now the widow is a charred corpse, her husband's charred corpse is now a heap of ashes, and Elthorn Jr. is now nearly dead and without eyebrows.

The caveman villagers who watched all this, and who are normally non-violent, decide between the dragon and this heartless wizard, they have had enough. They instantly form a mob and come to bring caveman justice to the elf. So Elthorn Jr. raises the wand of fireballs and points it at the coming mob in self defense...

Yes boys and girls, it's about to get even MORE better...

To fully appreciate this, you see, it helps to understand the way magic wands work in Swords & Six-Siders. I don't like keeping track of charges, so I designed wands in S&SS to require a roll every time it is used, to see if it has any charges left. So the thing is, so long as you don't roll a 1, the wand works. But if you roll a 1, the wand doesn't work, and it crumbles to dust. This way you never know if it's going to work, or fail at the worst possible time.

Well. I think we all know how this is going to end.

When he tested the wand on the grieving widow, he rolled a 6. It worked VERY well. But now with his life on the line, he rolls a 1. Naturally. The wand crumbles, Elthorn Jr. gasps, and then is never seen again.

The rest of the party had been watching all this from a distance, lamenting that Elthorn Jr. had on him some of the dragon's magic loot. They debate whether or not to attack the village to retrieve the magic items on Elthorn Jr.'s corpse. Had they decided to be so callous as to attack that poor village to retrieve the loot, I would have had the dragon show up and kill them all with his breath weapon. Haven't the cavemen already suffered enough for your greed?!

The party wisely decides to just walk away. As they're leaving the cave, they bump into Elthorn Jr. the Second, asking them, "Hey, have you seen my big brother?"

At this point our time slot was almost up, and between the looting of the dragon and the demise of Elthorn Jr., I was spent. How were you going to top that? I offered to close the game. Nope, the players wanted to play on.

Time to Kill the Necromancer

Like the first group, they decided to leave the caves and bust the move to the Necromancer in the pyramid before time runs out. This second group had the advantage of a map, and judging by size, shape, and layout, they could easily guess where the Necromancer must be.

On their way to the Necromancer, they enter the room with two sarcophagi covered with precious metals and stones. Unlike the first group, this group stops to loot the sarcophagi, awakening the mummies inside. Gredda, now wielding her new flaming sword, nails one of the mummies, but is shocked that the massive blow appeared to have no effect. Fabio instantly swings his saber of lightning at the clay jars, causing the mummies to suddenly drop. (The mummies are immune to harm, save for attacking their preserved organs contained in the jars adjacent to their sarcophagi.)

They stop by the library area, and like the previous group, stashes away the magical tablets.

They make their way to the Necromancer's throne room without further delay, and as Charles gets ready to kick the doors open, the doors open of their own accord. Well, by now you know this is a roleplay encounter, and you also know the players are going to launch a full scale assault before the Necromancer can even get a word in.

Without having a clue, but nevertheless lucking upon the perfect use, someone throws one of the magical clay tablets at the Necromancer, and that one just happened to be one of the exploding ones (rather than one that would have aided the Necromancer). Storg, man I am really starting to hate this halfling, uses his ring of action to get next to the Necromancer and starts playing his flute, preventing him from being able to cast the deadly plague spell. I tell you, this group kept bouncing back and forth between being brilliant and imbeciles, and this time they were brilliant once again!

Being unable to cast any spells, the Necromancer tries to kill the flute-playing halfling. For 3? rounds, the Necromancer chases Storg (can't ever hit), Storg shakes n bakes while playing the flute, and Fabio and Gredda are chopping huge chunks out of the Necromancer with their saber of lightning and flaming sword (remember the Necromancer is largely invulnerable except to FIRE based attacks). Like the other group, Charles tries to douse the Necromancer in oil, but misses. It doesn't matter. Between the flute and the two fiery swords, they chop him down to size and manage to KILL the Necromancer before he had a chance to escape. They collect the Elixir of Life.

As time runs out, the party returns to the entrance so crazy Charlie can at long last press the giant red button he's not supposed to press. And...

the end.

The group ends with a score of 1800, narrowly edging out the first group. They had the treasure from the dragon, but they weren't nearly as close to finishing the dungeon as the first group.

Having designed the game system and the adventure, I would love to take credit for how awesome these two games turned out, but in truth, a game is only as good as its players. And these players, in both groups, were all great. Thanks for playing (and to you, thanks for reading). I hope y'all had at least half as much fun as I did. =)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Playtest #1 for The Castle that Fell from the Sky

The following is an account of the first playtest for the soon-to-be-released S&SS adventure: The Castle that Fell from the Sky.

The Castle that Fell from the Sky
Playtest Group 1 at NTRPGCon 2015

Don't read this if you intend to play in it.

The adventure was designed for a party of six 3rd level PCs, but we had one cancellation and one no-show. The pregens they chose were: a halfling thief named Peck (capitalbill) with boots of levitation,
a dwarf fighter named Gundar (EOTB),
a halfling fighter called Antal (he would soon earn the nickname "Lil' David"),
and Gylynth, an elf myrmidon with a flying cloak.
AFAIK, none had ever played a game of S&SS. This is based on some notes I scribbled a day later, and typed this nearly two weeks later, so I'm sure I got some things wrong.

Being low on players and spells (only 3 1st level spells among the entire group), I thought for sure this was going to be a bloodbath. It was, but for the monsters! Never underestimate the power of player skill (and sheer dumb luck) to thwart the GM's best laid plans...

Upon entering the castle, they somehow managed to resist hitting the big red flashing button marked "Don't press this button, you idiots!" despite having not one but TWO halfings in the party. Peck briefly considered using the other birdbath/pedestal as a bathroom before opting to move on. After receiving some advice from the ghost of Neb-Lo (they needed to retrieve three special items to open the crystal door and advance to the second level: the crystal ring in the pit of the swamp, the saber of lightning in the ice maze, and the elixir of life from the necromancer), the party explored to the N.

They entered a room with a large fire pit, then went another way, only to watch their shadows run away! They backtracked again, this time entering a room full of potted plants. The other door was locked, and while Peck picked the lock, the plants attacked! Naturally. Pun intended. The party made short work of the plants before proceeding down some stairs to a swamp-like area. (Both of the playtest groups were exceedingly lucky on wandering monster checks. As a result, for a good part of the adventure, the 1st group's kill record consisted solely of potted plants. Clearly this was a group to be feared!)

The Swamp

They wandered through the swamp ruins of a temple area, where Peck discovers a glowing magical object - a symbol for good! This item turns undead, and part of the luck of this group was that they found it before they encountered any of the undead. Peck the halfling thief would become Peck the halfling thief [i]cleric![/i]

After some uneventful trekking through the swamp (curse all those failed wandering monster rolls!), the party came across a large statue of a skull. In the two eye-sockets were shimmering puddles of a silvery liquid. Peck stuck his 10' pole into one of the puddles, and his staff was suddenly coated with a metallic shimmer as the puddle disappeared. Thus it became, for a time, the 10' pole... of DOOM! More on this later. The dwarf then dipped his axe in the other puddle, and the same happened to his axe.

The party continued to explore the swamp as the dwarf mysteriously disappeared (smoke break). Heads of many monsters begin to surface in the swamp, so Peck escaped to a dry path (combining his boots of levitation and his 10' pole of DOOM as a sort of barge), and the elf's cloak turned into wings so he, too, could fly to safety, leaving the stubby halfing fighter surrounded by murky water of varying depths and a large number of monsters heading towards him. I'm sure he was thinking "Thanks, guys..."

Perhaps feeling the twinge of a guilty conscious, the elf casts a sleep spell, rolls well, and all of the monster heads drop down into the drink. Now that the danger is over, the dwarf suddenly reappears with the party, and they all start down the path in search of the Eye-Serpent in the pit of the swamp.

The party arrives at the pit, and briefly see movement, but they don't see any creatures. Clearly this must be the Eye-Serpent, and it must be invisible. After discussing how best to approach the critter, the dwarf decides to charge down the muddy pit, fails his DEX check, and goes tumbling head over heels a la Jack and Jill style into the lair of the beast! Fortunately, the dwarf managed to at least hold onto his axe (and not stab himself... that would have been bad).

I forget how exactly the combat went, but I believe this is when the halfling fighter began to show his amazing prowess with the sling (he stayed at the ridge of the pit, slinging stones at the monster to great effect). The Eye-Serpent tried to paralyze the elf with his gaze attack, (the elf flew down to the center of the pit) but elves are immune to paralysis. The fight didn't go on too long before the dwarf managed to sink his axe into the beast, causing it to die instantly, but his axe lost its sheen! Peck discovers the crystal ring on its tail and realizes it is a ring of invisibility! He also realizes his 10' pole is now a one shot death attack.

The party heads down another path, and heads start popping out of the water again. The party is being stalked... by toad-men! They hop out of the water and begin to attack. The party has early success, but then the eyes of the toad-men open wide as they begin to bob their heads side to side. Half of the party is hypnotized and begin to follow the toad-men into the depths of the swamp water. The other half of the party managed to slap some sense into their hypnotized allies, and then made short work of the toad-men (they failed their morale check). Yes, lil' David was deadly with his sling.

In the distance they see a giant bee hive, and just ahead, a lone woman is reclining upon a giant mushroom. She could have been the twin sister of slave Leia, if Leia had put on 600+lbs and was really, really ugly. Well, the party decided they didn't like the looks of this (pun intended) so they turned around and took the long way out of the swamp without further incident.

The Ice Maze

The party returned to the fire pit room, picked the lock, and there entered the ice maze. As usual, they were lucky on their rolls, so they didn't get lost or jumped until they reached the lair of the Ice Spider Men. The Spider Men attacked from the ceiling, spitting webs at the party and entangling some. But the Ice Spider Men proved no match for lil' David's sling and Peck's mighty levitating enema attack! Peck held his sword up and used his boots of levitation to approach the spiders from below, and rolled for max damage, killing the Spider in a single blow!

After dispensing with the Ice Spider Men, the party pressed on with the dwarf leading the group. All of a sudden, the dwarf vanished into thin air, and the group was being timed! Six seconds later, they figure it must be a teleporter, so the rest of the group rushes into... the lair of the Abomination!

The players appear in the lair of the Abomination (a giant great ape with four arms). Keep in mind, the Abomination is a bad dude. He has four attacks per round, and he had an entire round alone with the dwarf. And the dwarf was surprised for that round. The Abomination might have single-rounded the dwarf... [i]if[/i] I hadn't rolled surprise for the Abomination. Sigh. They both spend that first round staring in shock at each other. In the second round, the rest of the group appears, they win initiative, and Peck pokes the giant in the eye with his 10' pole of DOOM. Insta-kill. Are you kidding me?! Here they discover the second item on their list, the saber of lightning (an awesome sword, as you might imagine).

This is how lucky the group was. First, they stumbled upon the metallic puddles near the beginning of the adventure. Had they tried to touch or drink the stuff, it would have been very bad for them. But they do the one thing that makes the substance a positive for the party - they dip their weapons in it, which, unbeknownst to them, gave them two one-shot kills. And of course, the first one-shot didn't go to a lowly toadling. Oh no, it had to go to one of the boss monsters in the dungeon. So the dwarf lucked out, and they naturally used the other insta-kill to take down the second major monster. Fortunately, we all know good luck can't last. And it didn't...

The Pyramid

The party re-entered the fire pit room where they encountered what looked like two preserved, ancient Eqyptians with head transplants from animals. Peck successfully uses his glowing symbol, causing the monsters to shriek and throw themselves into the fire. Peck decides he's starting to like this being a "man of the cloth" and all. The party enters the hallway when they encounter two more of these things. The party manages to flank them, having three on one side and Peck sneaking up from behind. Peck uses his glowing symbol again, but since the monsters are pinned between him and the rest of the party, his turn undead was all for naught, haha.

I forget which of the undead guards these were (there were many wandering guards with various animal heads, each animal head giving it a different magical ability). Whichever magical abilities they were, I remember they were causing the party real problems, and I believe some of the players began to take heavy damage. Lil' David was trying to back out of melee so he could use his sling. You see, lil' David had a magic sword but couldn't hit the broad side of the barn with it. But he was rolling hot with that sling. Unfortunately, he couldn't get into position to use the sling, so the fight dragged on. Perhaps Peck did a backstab and then received a smack down for his trouble? I don't remember all the details, but the party eventually prevailed.

Returning to the place where their shadows ran away, Peck successfully managed to trigger the rolling boulder trap (got both parties with that one, yay!). The rest of the party managed to get out of the way, but poor Peck got rolled, albeit for minor damage. I think it was around this time Peck was running out of healing potions.

They make it to the hieroglyph room where Peck cracks the code(?) and reads the story of the Necromancer. There are three other exits to this room, two of which lead to the Necromancer whom they sought. They decided on the one door that leads to a wild goose chase. Suckers! It is really unfortunate they chose the wrong direction; otherwise, who knows how far they would have gotten?

They encounter some bars, and successfully manage to bend them. Before going in that direction, they check out another door. The door opens to a room with giant faces on the walls, with a lit candle in front of each carved face. As they were examining the room, the faces began to blow out the candles one by one, so the party said "Forget this," closed the door and went through the barred exit.

The Cave

They entered a huge cavern filled with stalactites and stalagmites, with but a narrow path down the middle. As they were going down the path, they noticed what looked like orbs of darkness descending towards them from the stalactites...

I forget the exact sequence of events, but I believe Peck ends up engaging several of the darklings while the rest of the party runs screaming into the next cavern - right into the magic rituals being conducted by an evil cult and their idol. The lead sorceress demands they provide her with the secret code ("I'm fighting the Zombie"), which the party doesn't know, so the dwarf charges to attack. I think the elf tries to charm her, but she makes her save.

The three party members are battling the seven cultists when Peck manages to stumble in shrouded in darkness (there is a darkling on Peck's neck, auto-hitting him every round as it sucks his blood). The darkling is the rough equivalent of a stirge, so not too deadly, but Peck keeps missing while the darkling is draining Peck's life away. Finally, Peck is reduced to 1 hp. The only way Peck can survive is if #1. he wins initiative, #2. he actually manages to hit the critter for the first time, and #3. does enough damage to kill the critter with a single blow. Yeah, fat chance.

So naturally Peck wins initiative, hits, does enough damage to kill the darkling, and nervously clings to that last hp! (Peck had already drank all his healing potions for that day.) The rest of the party prevails against the evil cult, they failed their morale, and they fade away. The party takes the loot they left behind and descends down some stairs to a fountain with a statute.

A voice comes from the statue promising them magical blessings if they will donate gold or magic to the statue. The party is unimpressed, or cheap, so they go down a passage to one side, where they stumble upon a large red dragon sleeping atop a huge pile of treasure. The party eyes the dragon for a bit before returning to the fountain and trying the other path. Here, Peck scouts ahead silently and invisibly through a caveman village, where he sees a huge gong, with another passage that he believes leads to the other side of the sleeping dragon. (He's correct, but not exactly in the way he thinks, heh.)

Peck is tempted to hit the gong, thinking it would wake the dragon, cause the dragon to come this way to investigate, and allow his party to grab some of the dragon's loot. But in a rare fit of sanity, the halfling thief with a WIS of 1 and the rest of the group decides not to mess with the dragon or the gong. They realize this is all a distraction from their goal of finding the Necromancer, and since they're running out of game time at the Con, they head back to the hieroglyph room and try another direction.

Back to the Pyramid

The group quickly moves through several rooms, not touching the jeweled sarcophagi, the evil idol with the blood-red ruby (players never let the GM have any fun), the huge cisterns, etc. and don't roll any wandering monsters. They enter the Necromancer's library where the dwarf spots some clay tablets with magic symbols. Not knowing what they do or how they work, he throws them in his backpack before moving on. At this point, because we are rushing, I messed up and forgot about one of the traps. Anyway, they make it to the doors of the Necromancer's throne room.

While they are listening for noises, the doors open and the party sees a cloaked figure on a throne tell them, "I've been waiting for you..." Now see, this is the Necromancer and this was intended to be a roleplay encounter. Sure, you could fight the Necromancer, but that isn't the only way to get the Elixir of Life. Whatever, as I'm preparing to roleplay, the dwarf immediately throws marbles into the face of the Necromancer (he rolled a 6). EOTB told me he did this because he assumed the figure was an illusion. Nope. The Necromancer said, "WHAT THE... IT'S ON NOW!" and stood up to cast a plague spell.

The party rushes forward, with Peck (through his ring of invisibility and boots of levitation) gaining the Necromancer's throne, preparing to backstab him. The elf(?) hits the Necromancer with the saber of lightning, causing great harm to the Necromancer, when the dwarf(?) throws a flask of oil onto the Necromancer, rolls a 6 to hit, and the oil is set aflame for, again, max damage. At this point, the Necromancer is seriously hurt, so he turns into a cloud (dropping the Elixir of Life) and escapes through a secret passage behind the throne. Poor Peck, with but 1 hp, died instantly from the area-effect plague spell, sprawled across the Necromancer's throne.

Now here is just how lucky this group was. The Necromancer is tough, and fighting him toe-to-toe could easily end in a tpk as he has a lot of hp, insanely high damage reduction, and heals/drains hp with every attack, all while auto-hitting everybody in the room every single round through his plague spell. The Necromancer only has one weakness: fire-based attacks (which bypasses DR and causes extra damage). So what do they do? Naturally, for the first and only time in the entire dungeon, they break out an oil flask, roll max hit and damage. That, with the saber of lightning, put the hurt on him straight out of the gate. But if you think the Necromancer got punked in this game, wait until you see what the 2nd group did to him!

The party was going to drag out Peck's body, but decided it was funnier to leave it sprawled across the throne of the Necromancer, to remind the Necro that he got pwned. The party decides not to pursue the Necromancer, takes the three items back to the entrance, and following the instructions, they open the crystal barrier to the second level as the six hours of game time expired.

If they had only had one more hour, they probably could have gotten to the end of the adventure and racked up a bunch more points, even though they probably wouldn't have survived the final fight. Then again, you just never know. Still, they came very close to finishing the dungeon, all while being short-handed on numbers and spells. They managed to score a very respectable score of 1650 in this tournament/con game.

At the end of the game, we all joked that with all of their good luck, how they made it look so easy, this would probably doom tomorrow's group to a tpk near the entrance. And in all honesty, it was such a great night of gaming I quietly figured there was no way the second group could match the first group. Boy was I in for a surprise! More to come...

Monday, June 8, 2015

NTRPGCon 2015 Report

The 2015 NTRPGCon just came to a close, and it was as great as ever. If you're into old school fantasy RPGs, live in/near Texas or are able to make the trip, do it.

Highlights for me include:

1. Running two groups through The Castle That Fell From The Sky, my soon-to-be-released S&SS adventure. The two groups were completely different, and each ended up being epic in their own way. My games were blessed with some excellent players. Stay tuned for play summaries including spoilers, tears, and much laughter.

2. Playing a game of Jeff Talanian's AS&SH, with Jeff running Beneath The Comet. And we beat it. I believe we were the first Con group to do so. Booya! Awesome groupmates, GM, game system, and adventure. In the future, I will be signing up for all of Jeff's games.

3. Playing in BadMike's rendition of B1, with Erol Otus in my party. Erol Otus healing my lowly thief because I failed at the one thing BX thieves are actually competent at = I win D&D. Seriously, how cool is that?! EO was nice enough to sign my Moldvay Basic book.

4. The seminar on small/self-publishers. It was great to hear about mistakes made and lessons learned.

I'll begin taking orders for S&SS as soon as I finish the Castle That Fell From The Sky adventure - probably next week. I'm printing plenty of copies, so supply should not be an issue.

Also to come in the days and weeks ahead: play reports, posts on the business of OSR publishing, tips on running convention games, an inside look at how I make and price this stuff, and a look at what's to come.