Friday, November 28, 2008

I'm not missing... I'm off on a Mystic Journey...

AGP's Black Friday Weekend Sale!

Getting in the spirit of the season, Adventure Games Publishing is offering all AGP PDFs at 25% off through the end of November! Don't miss out on this, the last sale of the year! Stock up on Wilderlands of High Adventure Castles & Crusades goodness so you can keep on gaming through the cold, snowy winter months...


Adventure Games Publishing


AGP00104 Rhadamanthia Continental Map
$5 Now $3.75 DTRPG RPGNow

AGP00107 World of the Wilderlands
$6 Now $4.50 DTRPG RPGNow

AGP00108 Imperial Town of Tell Qa
$9 Now $6.75 DTRPG RPGNow

AGP00201 Monsters & Treasures of the Wilderlands 1
$4 Now $3 DTRPG RPGNow

AGP00251 Barbarians of the Wilderlands 1
$4 Now $3 DTRPG RPGNow

AGP00253 Aendryth’s Eldritch Compendium
$2.50 Now $1.88 DTRPG RPGNow

AGP00303 Faiths of the City State: Forn Sidthr
$3.00 Now $2.25 DTRPG RPGNow

AGP00501 Adventure Games Journal #1
$12 Now $9 DTRPG RPGNow

AGP01251 Judges Campaign Map 18: Southern Reaches
$5 Now $3.75 DTRPG RPGNow

AGP01251 Players Campaign Map 18: Southern Reaches
$1 Now $0.75 DTRPG RPGNow

AGP05004 Wilderlands of High Fantasy: Skills, Feats, and Languages
$5 Now $3.75 DTRPG RPGNow

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gary's Greyhawk Campaign: OMG, Adamond!

Okay, before I forget everything, let's get down some notes about what happened:

Session 8, Part 3 (Tuesday, November 18)

Adamond discovers that he has been made a fool of by the ogre and gnomes, and all but he and a few of the party members have a good laugh; Kreegin has to go out and get the angry halfling and convince him to return to the gnome camp. The party spends the night with gnomes and ogre at gnome camp. They bury Orid under the stars amidst a stand of trees on a nearby hill; as he had never mentioned having a patron deity, few words are said, and ritual is forgone.

During late dinner, the ogre reveals he is only half-ogre; his mother was an ogress while his father was a woodwose (known to some as a sasquatch). His mother was also, in fact, a half-ogre; half ogre and half giant! Thus, Gorkh, as he is named, is very tall and very hairy and falls not quite under any one racial rubric.

Gorkh decides that he will guide the party to the back door of the Moathouse, to make up for his little trick, and to help "poor Friar Pudge."

In the morning Spugnoir has to bribe the party to take him back to Hommlet; it costs him two 50 gp gems and 10 platinum pieces.

At the bridge they meet with Elyas and Kor, who have brought honey and fresh bread, which Grokh gratefully accepts. They too had their own adventure last night, with two of the serving wenches; Kor charmed one, whilst Elyas had to "make it worth her while" for the other one by crossing several silver over her palm.

The party, whole again save for Friar Pudge, then returns to Hommlet with Spugnoir. Spugnoir tries to renege on the deal by climbing out his window, but fortunately Zymm pulled a card (Rogue) and he and Kreegin got there just in time to smile and tap their pommels at Spug, who was halfway out the window... and so the party got paid.

The next morning the members of the party do some shopping. Elyas also discovers that his companion of the prior evening left him some "change" in the form of a special burning sensation. When he angrily complains to the innkeeper and insists on a refund, whipping out the offended appendage in the middle of the common room during breakfast (!!!), he gets thrown out of and banned from the Wench and his erstwhile companion gets fired (as such things are not allowed by the ostler).

The party finally meets up with Gorkh in late afternoon, and they head out to the back entrance to the Moathouse. Along the way, near twilight at the point where they take leave of the Eastern Road, they come face to face with their hated enemies, Lareth and Rannos Davl (!!!) with Friar Pudge in chains between them, the whole guarded by two gnolls and four bandits. A general melee ensues, all eager to cross blades with the villains. The bandits and gnolls are either quickly dispatched or flee, especially with the assistance of Gorkh, who takes serious wounds in the process. Mort de Magus was taken out of the battle early by a well-placed silence spell from Lareth. Even so the party prevails against the minions, and seeing the battle go against them Lareth and Rannos flee, dragging Friar Pudge between them, but find that he weighs them down to greatly, as the last of their defenders falls and the party rushes to them. Lareth calls forth his elemental minion, a flying spirit of flame, and they turn and face the party...

Thus ended Session 8...

Session 9 (Tuesday, November 25)

The party quickly realize that though they outnumber the villains, their enemies prove to be vastly more skilled than they realized, and upon close examination and sad experience discover that many of their weapons and armor bear runes of enchantment. Even so, they get in some lucky attacks, and though the party is heavily wounded, both villains decide discretion is the better part of valor (or villainy) and flee into the gathering darkness, leaving behind the much abused friar.

Overjoyed at retrieving the friar but disappointed at losing their quarry, the party returns to Hommlet and, after a late supper and deciding that they needed several days to rest, immediately go off to sleep. Elyas bribes the stableboy and groom to let him sleep in the loft in the stables.

The next morning after further shopping at Gremag's Mort, Elyas, Kor, and Kreegin set out for an isolated spot several miles north, where Mort casts his find familiar spell while under the guard of the other three.

After seeing off the wizard and his companions, Adamond spends the morning scouting out the rest of the village. Friar Pudge, having re-acquired a holy symbol at the trader's, returns to his room and heals his copious wounds, though as with Tarnish, the scars never heal...

Zymm refuses to leave the room, for when he wakes up he pulls Void, and decides that today will be a very bad day; he wants nothing to do with it, and crawls back under his covers and goes back to sleep after healing Twidorek of his worst wounds.

Meanwhile, Tarnish goes to see Jaroo to ask for guidance about his earlier encounter with what he believes was none other than Fharlanghan. Jaroo is, once again, out on walkabout, so Tarnish settles in to wait in the glade behind the druid's hall. There he falls asleep and dreams... or maybe he has a vision. In either case, he first seems to encounter the same Old Wanderer, in the druid's grove, sitting across the fire pit, warming his hands on the crackling bonfire... all points beyond the nearest trees are obscured by mists...

Around lunch time Twidorek is enjoying a beer in the common room, when he hears a familiar voice behind him; he turns and there sees Gremag talking with Rannos Davl! Rannos sees Twidorek and smiles and stares at him over his beer. Twidorek then feels a tap on his shoulder and hears another familiar voice ask, "Mind if I sit here, friend?" He turns and looks up...

Zert!!!

His eyes bug out when he sees the tall warrior.

About this same time, Zymm takes another reading with his cards...

Ruin!

Zert then tries to get Twidorek to understand that those who he represents wish to "cut a deal" to get the party to leave. The offer is what he considers very generous: leave Hommlet, in fact, leave the whole area and never return, and they will be allowed to live. Plus, to "ease the journey," he plunks down a sack full of coins; Twidorek peeks in and sees platinum coins. 200, to be exact, as Zert tells him. All that, and their lives, if they would just leave, and never return... no more muss, no more fuss.

Twidorek, however, not only does not seem to fully understand the level of the threat, he also makes a few comments that he might just run off with all the cash himself! Zert says that if Twidorek were such a fellow, he might be fighting for the wrong team. Any which way, Zert says, he decided he should stay and wait to meet with "someone else from your group, someone who could understand the gravity of the situation." He then calls for a wench to bring beer, for himself and his "friend."

What Zert did not know was that Adamond had walked into the Wench even as he sat down with Twidorek and hid behind a pillar right behind the warrior, hearing every word. Adamond quietly sidles up behind Zert, draws his dagger, and in one quick silent move hops up on the back of the chair and puts his blade to Zert's neck!

"Someone like me, maybe, Zert old pal?" he says, pricking Zert's neck and drawing a bead of rich red blood.

Oozing smarminess at any lack of concern for his own safety, Zert continues to speak nonchalontly, calmly reiterates the deal, and says that "You can take the deal, or you can slit my throat, your choice."

"Thanks for the invitation!" Adamond says, and then slits his throat!!!

Blood spatters across the table; Zert falls back in his chair and Adamond dives back and away as crockery crashes behind him; a serving wench screams bloody murder as she sees the blood dripping from Adamond's blade!

But Zert is not dead yet, though he has one hand covering the horrible cut in his neck [Kurgan-style], while calling out in a gutteral, ruined voice "You're dead! You're all dead!"

Adamond takes a flying leap at Zert and strikes with his dagger, but the blade breaks on the armor Zert wears under his cloak. At this point the few remaining customers, including Grmag and Rannos Davl, are crying out "Murder! Bloody murder!" and some run out of the inn to find Rufus and the guard.

Twidorek, in shock at what has happened, flees upstairs and grabs his few things. Adamond follows more slowly, after dropping the dagger pommel and grabbing the back of coins.

Twidorek hurriedly explains what happened to Zymm. Zymm puls another card...

Sun!

And decides that if they just get out of the inn and get the truth out there, everything will clear up. He hopes. At least, for him.

He decides this is a crossroads for him and the party, and pulls another card...

Medusa!

Altogether he interprets this as meaning, "The gods are telling me I'll get out of this okay, but everyone else in the party is screwed."

[Realize that the rest of the party never got around to telling Zymm and Kreegin the full history of their struggle against the bandits of the Moathouse, especially Zert's part in the kidnapping of Tarnish, the capture of Kor, and the ambush on the Southern Road. So as far as he's concerned, especially considering the horribly mixed-up tale told by Twidorek, Adamond is a murderer! Or, as Mike (Adamond/Mort) corrected Travis (Zymm/Kreegin), an "attempted murderer... Zert isn't dead. Yet."]

The three of them head on down the stairs. The common room is empty save for Zert, Gremag, and Rannos Davl; Gremag is helping Zert, holding a rag over the wound, while Rannos simply smiles and stares at Adamond, hand on the pommel of his short sword.

"Rufus and the guard should be here any time..."

Adamond just stares at Rannos. Zymm goes to Zert; he's used up his spells for the day, but he uses his training in healing to help. Twidorek nervously looks around then bolts out the door, pulling the lethargic Friar Pudge with him.

There he finds the stableboy and groom with their horses all saddled up and ready to go, including Tarnish's. They heard there was trouble, and considering how kind the party had been to them, thought they might help (they'd been well paid several times to take good care of the horses). The stableboy asks Twidorek for more details, and when they hear that it WAS Adamond who caused the ruckus, the groom frowns and hands over two copper to the stableboy.
Adamond leaves the inn, backing out, keeping an eye on Rannos Davl the whole way out. He joins the other two, and they take off down the South Road, even as they see Rufus and the guard hustling to the inn far down the East Road.

Shortly thereafter Rufus and the guards arrive at the inn. They take statements from everyone there; all who were there agree on the salient points: that Adamond attacked Zert without provocation, attempted to slit his throat, and when he failed, tried to kill him once again. When he failed, he then ran off with a sack, which, as Zert claimed, "Was my hard-won treasure from adventures of the last week and a half."

Zymm admited to knowing nothing directly, only what he had been told by the gnome, and so had no statement to make about Adamond and Zert; however, he did accuse Rannos Davl of being in league with Lareth and the bandits, and of fighting at the side of the bandits when the party attempted to rescue the good friar!

Naturally, Rufus was unbelieving, as were Gremag and all the others in the inn, for Rannos Davl was an "honorable member of the community," being accused of "terrible crimes by an itinerant adventurer, a priest of the god of rogues no less!"

Rufus refused to hear any more such accusations unless Zymm could offer any proof, other than hjis word; as he could not, that ended the conversation. Rufus said that there was definitely something going on with Adamond, and would take the information he heard and join with Burne, Jaroo, the Canon Terjon of the Church of St. Cuthbert, the village elder Conor MacFlann, and the other members of the village council to decide "what needs be done."

They then escort Zert to the Church of St. Cuthbert to heal his grievous wound. [BTW, I should note here, that I do not allow most detection spells in my campaigns... especially know alignment. Takes all the work out of figuring who the bad guys are. Detect evil exists, but it can only detect extraplanar/magical evil, never "intent."]

Zymm goes out to see what happened to the other three, and speaks with the stableboy and groom. When informed that the three had fled south, he draws a card...

Ruin.

Later that day, as twilight falls and the three fugitives are nearing the now-familiar southern trail to the Hill of Shadows, Tarnish remianed caught in his dreams... or vision. After much soul-searching and discussion with the Old Wanderer, he dreamt further; he dreamt of being a butterfly, one of the last of the season, fluttering around in a marsh. He flittered about from wilted flower to browning shrub, until he flew into a copse of woods, and there he saw several men; though he did not remember them, for he was a mere butterfly, he knew the one in black armor was a hated enemy. He watched him as he went to a small hillock in the midst of the copse, and there pressed a certain spot upon a large boulder; the boulder rolled aside and revealed a passage beyond. The men walked into the darkness, and the boulder closed behind them... and then a bird struck at the butterfly, and Tarnish awoke with a start!

He was alone, in the glade in the grove. The ashes in the fire pit were still warm, and yet he could not remember ever lighting the fire...

Tarnish made his way to the Wench, and ther found Zymm sitting on the porch, staring into the deepening darkness. Zymm filled him in on what had happened, as far as he knew, still uncomprehending at Adamond's viciousness. Tarnish then told him the whole, unvarnished history behind their struggle with Zert, Lareth, Rannos Davl, and the bandits. Contemplating on this as he shuffled his cards, he drew one...

Idiot.

He shook his head, and decided that he and his brother had fallen in with the wrong party of adventurers... they were searching for wealth and riches, while these fellows were stuck in some sort of vendetta...

When Tarnish went into the common room, the whole place went quiet, and all eyes turned to stare at him; for it was when he had returned from the Moathouse during the early rituals of Brewfest, with his strange scars and horrifying tales of the "return of the Temple of Elemental Evil," that trouble had started in the village. The lieutenant of the guards, and many guards, dead... rumors of bugbears and gnolls in the forests and hills... and now the attempted murder of a man in the very common room of the Inn of the Welcome Wench! Everyone gave him space, and after the initial stares, none dared meet his eyes...

The serving wench fled when she noticed it was him, and the ostler came out himself with a platter of simple fare and a beer. "You and your friends are paid up through Thursday morning," he told him. "But after that you are not welcome here, any of you, especially that mad halfling! Gods help him if he ever shows his face in here again! Any further troubles and I'll have you all out, refund or no."

Through the night Adamond, Twidorek, and Friar Pudge continued along the trail without incident; they passed the Hill of Shadows around 10:00, and were nearly to the bridge when from out of the darkness dark, sepulchural voices cried out to Adamond....

"Adamond, beware, you are in danger!" "Adamond, beware the darkness!" and so forth...

The trio stopped and Adamond worriedly called out to the voices. "Kor? Elyas?... Mort?"

"Dooom! Doooooom! You are doooomed, Adamond Bigtoe!"

"... mom, is that you?"

Gnomish giggles answered him, and he rolled his eyes. Out strode seven gnomes, friends from meetings in the prior week. They were returning home after delivering some goods to Gorkh, well-fed on stew and honey-cakes.

Adamond filled them in on the situation; they shook their heads sagely, tut-tutting that this all would come to no good; they had seen the grievous wounds suffered by Gorkh in the battle of the previous day, though the creature's wood-born arts had him already well on the mend.

"Und all zis zeeminkly over ein zack of coinz?"

"It wasn't about the... it was never about the sack. The sack is meaningless."

"Oh, can I have it then?" piped up Twidorek.

Adamond threw it at him. "Sure, here, have the stupid sack," he seaid, never having bothered to look in it..."

"Thanks!" Twidorek replied with a great smile.

"Und vass vill you, Twidorek? Stehst du mit trouble, oder vill du komm mit uns? You are ein gutes kammerad, yes?"

Another spoke up, "I haf a zizter, she is young oond schoen! She vould like to meet you, I think..."

"Oh, I dunno..."

"Alzo, dere are trouble zu viel for unsere cousine, deine volk im Welkwood, aus den Suss, yes? Remember, wo spoke of dis ze ozer night?"

"Yeah... I suppose my family and friends need all the help they can get..."

"Und mein zizter, she haz eine nase so gross vie eine kartoffel! Sehr schoen, yes?"

"Hmmm..." Twidorek looked from Adamond, to the gnomes, then back at Adamond.

"Sorry my friend, but my family needs me to the south."

After some discussion, Friar Pudge decided to follow Twidorek to the south... far away from Lareth and his ilk.

And so the gnomes, Twidorek, and Friar Pudge took leave of Adamond short of the bridge, and he watched them return south, until their torches were mere points of light against the darkness.

Adamond continued north, then turned off the trail to the smaller trail to Gorkh's hut. After pounding on the great door, he woke the snoring creature, then explained the circumstances.

"... and so, um, I was kind of wondering if, maybe..."

"If maybe you could lie low here for a while, until you see which way the winds blow?"

"Yes, yes that's it exactly."

"Sure, no problem, I have plenty of room."

"Thanks, Gorkh, I really appreciate this."

"My pleasure; I still owe you from the little joke I had on you."

As Adamond sets down his pack, Gorkh considers the great door.

"Looks like I need to install a halfling flap..."

Adamond gives him a withering look...

***

The next morning, and Mort is still chanting... 21 hours after starting the ritual. The others fell asleep long ago, and Mort is on the verge of falling asleep, when he hears a tiny voice squeak from behind.

"Ach, sure 'an this isn't happening to me again!"

He turned and looked. There, upon a stump, stood a small man, smaller even than Adamond by head and shoulders; dressed in green pants, vest, coat, and hat, white shirt, and little shoes with gold buckles, he held a wee walking stick (or maybe it was a shillelagh) and puffed on a long clay pipe. His shoulders shuddered as he gave out a great sigh.

"Aye, and so 'tis. I had just sat down to some fine boiled cabbage and frothy beer when, once again, I felt me the sudden urge to go out of me wee home and find... something. An' here at the end of it all... is you."

"Er, yes, me. Mort."

"Mort. Tha' not be an honest Flan name, aye?"

"Aye. Er, nay. I mean... no, I'm not of the local Flan, I'm from Veluna."

"Oh, Veluna, aye. An wha' be a Velondi doin' 'ere out in the Kron Hills, eh?"

"Oh... that is such a long, long story... but wait, let me see if I understand. You... you are my familiar?"

"Oh, aye, boot I so dislike tha' term. Do I look like a wee cait? Nay, we folk what get called to service prefer the term, assistant."

"I... see. To be quite honest, I was rather expecting a cat or crow or maybe even a simple toad. Not, um..."

"A leprechaun?"

"Right... leprechaun. One of the Little People."

"Oh, an' do ye have a problem with wee people, then?"

"Well, no... not in general. One in particular, yes, but he's not... no, that's besides the point."

The leprechaun heaved a great sigh. He turned back, as though looking at his home far in the distance, and shook his head sadly.

"Well, at least it shouldn't be for long, I expect."

"Shouldn't be for... long? What do you mean by that? Shouldn't be for long? Aren't you my fam... I mean, my assistant for as long as I live?"

"Oh aye, that I am. For as long as you live, indeed. Boot ye see laddy, I've doon this before."

"And... and that means what, exactly."

"Oh, I can see ye are one o' them adventuring wizards. Ye git it in yer head to go out, kick in some doors, kill some 'monsters,' steal their treasure, live the high-life."

"Um... yeeees..."

"Well, do ye know wha' th' life-expectancy is for an adventuring wizard?"

"Nnnoooo..."

"Ach, well, far be it from me to spoil the surprise for ye. Boot jus' once, I'd like me to be called by a hedge wizard, ye know, one o' them what cures boils, finds goats, makes love potions, and gets paid in potatoes and beer. A nice, quiet, long assistanceship where I can be fat and lazy. Not this hurry-up-we're-all-going-to-die-if-the-familiar-doesn't-push-the-button-in-time lifestyle."

"Push... button... push what button?"

"Oh, ne'er mind that, lad," he sighed. "I guess a year or three o' adventure might do me guid; I could lose a wee bit of weight."

"Year... or three?"

"Aye, or maybe a few months. Ye doon't seem swift on the up-take. Have ye gotten enough sleep lately?"

Staring at his "assistant" Mort could only waggle his mouth in disbelief.

This was the point where Elyas, Kor, and Kreegin arrived from their camp several score yards away.

"Cool!" muttered Kreegin. "Mini-Mort!"

Mort turned and gave Kreegin a look; were he not so weak from casting the ritual, he'd have likely cast daggers with the look. Real ones.

"Oh, Mini-Mort! Aye, I rather like that," the leprechaun said. He then stuffed the long pipe into a short pocket of his vest, let go the shillelagh (which stood of its own accord), and rubbed his hands all over his face. His face moved about like clay in his hands, and when he pulled them away, he looked just like Mort, down to the long, flowing beard!

"Cool!" said Elyas, Kor, and Kreegin in unison.

"Oh... oh, no..." said Mort.

The leprechaun grabbed the front of his coat and pulled. His entire suit ripped off, and underneath was a set of flowing burgundy robes, exactly like those worn by Mort. The crumpled suit disappeared in a shower of pixie dust. He picked up his shillelagh and tapped it on the ground, and it and the space around it wobbled once, twice, thrice, and the shillelagh grew longer and thiner and smoother, to take on the form of a small, leprechaun-sized staff.

"Oh no..." whimpered Mort.

"Ach, I fergot somethin'" smiled the Leprechaun, and tapped the staff to the brim of his green had. It exploded with a *POP* and in its place was a tall, conical burgundy hat decked with gold stars, moons, and suns.

The leprechaun pulled his still-smoking clay pipe out from the folds of his robe, puffed on it deeply, and sent out several smoke rings, through which gyred and gibels and smokey cat.

"So, master," he intoned in a deep, serious, mock-sage-like voice, "what adventure are we off to this fine morning?"

Any response Mort had was lost in the gales of laughter from the other three adventurers...

*** CODA ***

Mort and the others arrived back at the Wench about an hour later, just as late breakfast was being served. They walked into the common room and saw Tarnish and Zymm sitting quietly... with everyone else giving them wide berth.

"Oh, how can this morning *possibly* get worse?" he muttered under his breath.

Tarnish stood up from the table and walked to them.

"Adamond tried to murder Zert last night, here in the Wench..." he said matter-of-factly.

"Ohhhh... ye had to go and ask, dinn't ye laddie?" muttered the leprechaun on Mort's shoulder.

The door of the common room opened, and through the morning light Rufus and the guard entered with a jingle jangle of chain and blades, Rufus with a very official-looking scroll in hand...

End of Session 9...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Signs of the Times...

Normally I've been avoiding commentary on the Game Industry on this blog, as I'm more interested in actually playing games these days. But something struck me today when I went to check the news on ICv2.com.

The top three news pieces were about an offer to buy out the assets of a game company in bankruptcy, a new game company re-starting a line it bought from a game company that was in bankruptcy, and another new game company formed to buy out the assets of a company that was recently shut down. To wit:

Eleventh Hour Offer for Gen Con

Rackham Plans Simultaneous Releases

Piñata Games Hires Operations Manager

I think were I to comment on the sad state of affairs currently it might ruin my whole day...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Gamma World 4E Horseclans Mashup

Here's a little something for Gamma World and Horseclans fans. These are from maps I drew back from when I was trying to put together a Gamma World campaign with a Horseclans flavor. Tech Level II predominates, and ruins of the Ancients are relatively rare, as are Artifacts.

Pure Strain Humans are much more predominant in this setting; all the kingdoms of the East Coast (the Black Kingdoms, Middle Kingdoms, and the Ehleenoi Kingdoms) are PSH dominated, though they too are merely TL II. While most mutant humans with physical mutations are killed at birth, those with mental mutations are often missed (though if found, are usually burnt at the stake in the Greek and Burker lands, while those with strong Esper-style mutations are inducted into the ruling caste in many of the Black Kingdoms, notably Zahrtogah). The Great River Kingdoms and the Kingdom of Memphiz are PSH and Mutant Human dominated. The Horseclans are a mix of PSH and Mutant Humans. Zarkanian Wilderlands are mostly Mutant Animals. Other territories are pretty well mixed; the Westron Kingdoms are as detailed in the gazetteer included in GW 4E, save as mentioned before for the tech level being lower.

This is, I should note, also a sort of preview of the radioactive ruined Red Zone world of Terra Gamma in my Classic Traveller Campaign...

As always, click on either map to see a larger version...



Friday, November 21, 2008

Gary's Greyhawk Campaign: Session 8, Part 2

Adamond and Mort rode to the great sitting stone nigh the old bridge over the River Kron, and there met with the rest of the party. Behind them strode the great shaggy ogre, his digeridoo over one shoulder, over the other a sack holding a bedraggled gnome and a much-bruised Spugnoir.

All looked to Adamond expectantly and quite amusedly.

With a sigh and a quiver to his shoulders, Adamond explained the situation to the rest of the party. He detailed his meeting with the ogre and his deal to procure more honey-cakes in return for the lives of the gnome and Spugnoir (and needless to say, his own life).

"I hope to find the gnomes somewhere to the south and east of the Hill of Darkness," he said. "From what they told us, they lived not too far from there, and likely would be willing to trade honey-cakes for the lives of those who sought to use the dark power of the hill. I know this delays the rescue of Friar Pudge, but considering the circumstances..."

The others discussed the situation; some found it amusing, while others felt it was a great bother, but none had any desire to take on the great shaggy ogre in combat themselves, for surely they would suffer loss of life and limb, and be still no closer to rescuing Friar Pudge.

Silent throughout, for he had been the first to voice his support of Adamond's plan, Mort kept an eye on the ogre, who sat placidly upon the sitting stone picking his toes while the debate went on. From under bristly brows and hooded cloak he watched as, now and again, the ogre seemed to sneak peeks at the group, watching intently as one spoke, then the other; a look seeming of amusement to pass his face at one who expressed the idea of slaying the ogre, another look of derision when another thought to try to pass off simple rations as honey-cakes, and a third look of confused incomprehension when Zymm and Kreegin argued briefly with one another in Suloise.

"Interesting..." thought the mage. "Though we all speak in Common, and quickly, there seems far more comprehension in his face than I would have assumed from his earlier communications with Adamond..."

A comical look of dull, eager, stupidity quickly set upon the shaggy ogre's face when Adamond turned from the group to tell him what had been decided.

"We go now, get honey. Hoooney!" Adamond slowly told the ogre. It had been decided, though hardly unanimously, to go with Adamond and the ogre to fulfill the deal.

"Hoooney! Yumyum hoooney! We go now!" cried the ogre and he stood from sitting upon the great stone.

And so the group set off again to the south, grim looks on most faces, resignation on others, sly amusement upon the face of the mage...

***

As they reached the glade wherein stood the Hill of Darkness, the ogre slowed, and a scowl came over his face.

"Mmmmm. Bad place..." he rumbled between his tusks. He stopped for a moment, absently dropped the sack (with a squeal from the gnome and a cry of pain from Spugnoir), shifted the digeridoo from one hand to the next, then picked up the sack with his now free hand and threw it over his other shoulder... with again, more yelps and yowlps of terror and pain from within.

The ogre then made to follow the tree line south and east, but stopped short after a score of yards when he noticed the rest of the party stopped in the glade.

"Where to now, Adamond?" the rest of the party inquired of the halfling.

"Ummm... I... I'm not sure. I guess we could scout around, see if there are any other trails that the gnomes might have followed east?"

"Wonderful... Whose leading who here? ... Well, we can use a rest ... Oooh, a butterfly!" muttered the party members at each other, the last from Twidorek, already bored with the whole thing.

"Hey... where are Elyas and Kor?" called out Kreegin.

All looked around quickly, but none saw the slightest hint of either warrior.

"I noticed Kor dropped back earlier on the march, he said he wanted to speak with Elyas," said Mort.

"Auugh! Those two argued the most against this trip," sputtered the halfling. "They thought we should just go back to Hommlet and get some honey and bread."

"Maybe that's what they did, figuring this was some sort of, oh, wild-gnome chase?" Zymm countered.

"Wherever they are off to, it's too late now. If we go and try to find them, we'll be even further delayed in finding the gnomes and getting this done and rescuing Friar Pudge. So onward we must go," cried Adamond. "Twidorek and I will try to find a path leading east to the gnomish lands. You all wait here."

"This sounds all too familiar..." complained Kreegin.

The ogre said nothing, but sat tailor-fashion staring to the south and east along the treeline... for a moment, Mort thought he saw a sorrowful look pass over his face when he heard mention of Friar Pudge. But only for a moment...

***

Elyas and Kor trotted their horses over the old bridge with a clatter, then reined them in just short of the great sitting stone.

"Aha!" Kor called out. "I thought mine eyes had spied another trail hither along yon river-bank."

"So you are right, my rustic friend," said Elyas of Aerdy, with his Eastern accent. "Likely it cuts closer along the Eastern Road to the village than that northern trail. Let us try this route, and perhaps we can be in Hommlet in time for supper."

"Aye, and then we can purchase honey, and bread, and when the fool's mission to find the wee gnomes fails, hopefully save the halfling from becoming ogre-dung."

"Eh, brains for dung he has it seems, why not the rest of him as well?" And both laughed at the Easterner's quip as they set off down the western trail at a trot.

***

"Oh, here! Look here!" cried Twidorek to the halfling.

"What, have you found a trail?"

"No, but look at this beautiful flower bloom. So late in the season and yet so bright, isn't it?"

"Auugh! Twidorek, we are searching for a trail, not stopping to smell the flowers." The halfling rubbed his fingers to his brow; he wished Friar Pudge were there, as he'd have some ameliorative in his healer's kit for the thunder pounding away in his head. Perhaps a swift kick to the gnome's rear would help...

"Oh look here! Look here!" called out the gnome excitedly.

"What is it this time? A cute widdle bunny? A lonely fawn? Gods help me, perhaps a dragon hatchling?"

"No! A trail!"

***

The rest of the party thanked their lucky stars when the halfling and gnome returned without further incident.

They were getting ready to head out when they heard a crackling dry voice pipe out from the sack beside the ogre.

"Water... water, please water!" came forth the pitiable cry from the once proud Spugnoir.

"Ja, wasser! He's too little und I have zu viel! Schnell, please!" cried out the gnome, shrilly.

Adamond, feeling responsible for the charges (after all, if they died, he'd have nothing to bargain with), went to the rough-woven sack.

"Waaater. I'm going to give them waaater," he slowly told the ogre.

"Waaater? Waaater!" nodded the shaggy beast.

Adamond slowly undid the tie and pulled the sack down from around the half-standing Spugnoir and gnome. The gnome hopped forth into the tall grass, turned from the party, and unfastened his breeks. He let forth a great groan as he relieved himself.

"What of you, Spugnoir?" Adamond asked.

"Ach, zvar 'ne bissel late for ihm, ein hour vergang, at least," the gnome whimpered.

Everyone looked to Spugnoir with disgust. He simply shrugged.

Adamond let Spugnoir drink while the gnome voided.

"So... Spugnoir, I hope to trade you to the gnomes for honey-cakes. How does that sound to you?" Adamond whispered to Spugnoir.

"Eminently pleasant and preferable, compared to my current circumstance," he whispered back. "I'm... not certain I'll be worth much, though. They rather do not like me." He cast about with worried eyes, until they lit upon the Suloise brothers Zymm and Kreegin.

Zymm looked him straight in the eye, shuffled his cards, and drew.

Ruin

Shaking his head, he whispered to his brother, and both cast back looks of disdain upon their Suloise fellow.

"No," Spugnoir muttered. "Not worth much at all."

"How about you, gnome friend," Adamond turned to the bedraggled gnome, who now greedily drank from the skin of water. "Will you perhaps be able to assist in securing the honey-cakes we need to spare my and your lives?"

Cringing, looking at his feet with water dripping through his beard, the gnome shook his head.

"Ney, nicht mehr than Spugnoir, I vould guesz," the gnome said. "For zvar Ich, denn ihm had guided zur Schattenhuegel, against the regln of mine peoples. I'm not vilkommen back in der alte delven... vas not vilkommen much before, und zertainly not jetzt..."

"Wonderful..." Adamond muttered under his breath, his hopes dashed; he knew Spugnoir would not be worth much, but had thought that saving a fellow gnome might be worth more. Certainly not so for an outlaw!

And with that wonderful bit of news, the party set off without further delay toward the eastern trail the gnome had discovered .

Mort was the only one of the party who found it remarkable that the ogre was in the lead by the time they had reached the trail at the tree line; in the lead, though the halfling and gnome had discussed with no one the exact path to the trail...

Through deeper forest they passed. A tree-shrouded ridge lined the sky to the south and west. The merry whisper of a river could be heard through the trees to the north and east. As twilight fell, the burbling of the river faded and before them stood another line of hills. They climbed up, walking their steeds, zigging and zagging back and forth amidst the trees, toward a low, broad saddle in the hill line. Stars twinkled in the eastern sky as the sun set.

As they reached the full height of the pass between the hills, they saw before them a great shadowy expanse of forest; to the north the Gnarly, to the south the Welkwood.

And then they heard a horn. Once, then again it sounded, each a deep resonant blast from the horn of some beast.

"Twidorek," called out the halfling. "Was that a gnomish signal?"

"Ummm... yeah. I think... Maybe."

"What did it mean?"

"Well... 'Enemy sighted'... I think," the gnome said, with no surety in his tone.

***

The late afternoon sun dappled through the overhanging branches along the merry river. Elyas and Kor were making good time to the west, trotting then walking their horses as they went.

"We should be coming to the Eastern Road soon, I expect," Elyas said, more to himself than anyone else.

"Aye, so I too expect..." answered Kor, then stopped short. Both slowed, then pulled on the reins and stopped their steeds. They looked about, and Elyas pushed away the leathern cheek-flaps of his helm from over his ears, and cupped his hand to better hear.

"Is that... singing?"

"So 'tis. Coming from the west; an ancient Dwarvish tune, if I am not mistaken."

Slowly, the singing came closer. "... it's off to work we go! Heigh-ho! Heigh-ho!"

And around the bend marched a gang of dwarves, 13 in all, each with a mule piled high with gear including shovels and picks. They stopped as they saw the pair of Men.

The lead dwarf stepped forward.

"Heigh-ho strangers, and well met!" he said in rugged Common. "This Dwarf hight Rollo by name, of the Line of Odo. How might this dwarf call you?"

"This Man hight Kor, of the Land of Highfolk, and his companion is Elyas, a Man of the Line of Aerdy," Kor replied, in Dwarvish.

"Elyas and Kor are we, and at your service," said Elyas, also in Dwarvish, as he tipped his helm respectfully to the dwarf.

"Ah, Men as know the True Tongue and proper decorum, and not of the Flan! Will wonders never cease!" cried out the dwarf Rollo.

"And were we better met with more time, mayhaps we would sit back and enjoy a tipple with new-found friends, as is the dwarvish way," said Kor. "But we are on an important mission, and time is of the essence. Perhaps another time, when we are well-met again?"

"Indeed, as is only proper for new-met friends! Another time again, perhaps, as we will be not far from here. We are seeking new prospect..."

A chorus of hisses, coughs, and a grumble rumbled forth from the dwarf's companions.

"Ah, yes, you must pardon this Dwarf, he is not used to speaking with Men of such obvious manners. Our business is, as you know, our business, as yours is your own."

"Of course," the two Men said.

"However, if you are staying in Hommlet now and again, perhaps we can share a tipple at the Inn of the Welcome Wench, eh?"

"Aye, for there we stay quite often," said Kor.

"So then, another time! Till then, new friends well me!"

"Until then," Elyas and Kor called out in unison. Both lifted their blades, sheathed and hilt high, to the dwarves as they passed them to the right, and the dwarves in turn tipped their helms to the pair.

As they rode off into the gathering twilight, the two heard the singing start up behind them.

"Mademoiselle from Armentieres, Parley-voo? Mademoiselle from Armentieres..."

Elyas rolled his eyes, "Well, a fine bit of dwarven brandy would have been nice, but at least we missed out on the drunken singing..."

Kor simply nodded. Dwarves loved to sing, but never had yet been born was the dwarf who could sing well...

***

In the deepening dark, the party saw short, now-familiar forms making their way through the trees from the northern hill. Several members of the party struck flint and steel to torches, that all could see. Adamond walked forth to greet the gnomes.

"Greetings!" he called out. "We are gnome-friends seeking trade! We met a party of your kindred by the Hill of Darkness last night..."

"Gruss den Sternen! Halfling, I remember you! I vas mit de party at de hill, ve who feasted mit you und shared zuesse honey-ceks und mead."

"Excellent! Well I remember it, as though it were only yester... um, right. Yesterday, and so it was." Adamond caught himself, as the gnome giggled at his disconcertment.

"Zo, vas do you need mit unz den, again, halfling?"

"Well... I have a little problem, you see..." And so quickly, as the other members of the gnome guard gathered around him, Adamond filled in the gnome on the situation with the ogre and the honey-cakes.

***

Meanwhile, back along the trail with the rest of the party, all were watching Adamond in conclave with the gnomes, all save for Mort and the ogre. The ogre was watching the gnomes, who were stealing furtive glances at the ogre as Adamond spoke quickly. Mort, who watched the ogre, noted that the creature wore a slight smile, and as the gnomes stole glances at him now and again he winked in their direction.

Mort sidled up next to the ogre.

"So... you've just been having one on with the halfling then, haven't you?" he said to the ogre quietly, in Ogrish.

The ogre looked down at Mort and a giant smile crossed his face, a great rictus of fangs and tusks from ear to ear. "Ah, so one among you can speak the Great Tongue," he replied, just as quietly. "I thought I had some glances upon me now and again, and not cast with fear or hatred.

"Yes, I've been having a nice little joke on your companion now, since first he stumbled upon my home. He never had anything to fear from me, as long as he maintained a civilized manner."

"So, then, you are also already familiar with the gnomes?"

"Hmmm... you are quite observant, young mage. Yes, I know of the gnomes, and have dealt with them on numerous occasions. Trade with them regularly, in fact, and for honey-cakes among other things. I keep watch on the northern trail, stopping evil men and creatures from passing over it, and in return for that and other services, as well as goods from villains undone, I get needful supplies. Especially delicious honey-cakes."

"Well, I'm not sure this little trick was all that well-considered, all in all. We were on a rather important mission, you know."

"Indeed, as I learned more of your mission to rescue your friend I realized my trick had gone overly long and too far by half, perhaps. But now we are here to see it to the finish, so let us make the best of things. Perhaps I can make it up to you, somehow."

"Strange behavior for an ogre..." Mort muttered, half under his breath.

Looking down with a slight look of disappointment, the great furry beast said softly, "An ogre? Mayhaps you are not quite as observant as I thought. I never said I was an ogre..."

***

To be continued...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fight On! #3 Dedicated to Bob Bledsaw

Per Calithena, assistant to the editor Ignatus Umlaut:

The premier fanzine for the old-school renaissance comes out swinging with a +5 vorpal claymore of disintegration! All 148 pages of Fight On! #3 are released in honor of the late Bob Bledsaw and in cooperation with the Judges Guild, and feature the following legacy articles:

Wilderlands Map 19: The Wild North by Robert S. Conley, detailing the lands north of Valon and west, by many folks' reckoning anyway, of much-fabled Blackmoor!

Haghill by James Mishler of Adventure Games Publications, detailing the legendary village near the City-State of the Invincible Overlord and the communities monstrous and mundane that surround it!

Inferno: The Fifth Circle by Geoffrey O. Dale, author of the original Inferno, taking you farther and deeper into Hell than gamers have ever trod before!

You can also learn intriguing tidbits about the history of Judges Guild from Bob Bledsaw II and Bill Owen, the Guild's co-founder, and read a stirring tribute to Bledsaw and the early days of gaming from Bill Webb, co-founder of Necromancer Games!

But it's not just the glorious of yesteryear to be found in our pages. David Bowman's contest-winning Spawning Grounds of the Crab-Men and Diana Jones/Indie RPG Award double winner Jason Morningstar's first honorable mention Khas Fara give you two tough new adventures to tackle, the latter of which can be played with traditional fantasy games or with The Shadow of Yesterday. Gabor Lux, the Hungarian Prince of Swords & Sorcery, takes you inside his Fomalhaut Campaign.

Our front cover was penned by Len Cain of Berkeley gaming legend. Baz Blatt brings you new demons for Empire of the Petal Throne, while Max Davenport gives us some terrible and zany monsters for Mutant Future! And Fight On! stalwarts and newcomers Jeff Rients, Steve Zieser, Kevin Mayle, Lee Barber, Patrick Farley, Del Beaudry, Vincent Baker, Kesher, John Miskimen, Age of Fable, Calithena, and many more are back and ready to rock your game with the newest tables, tricks, sorcery, monsters, and mayhem their deviant minds can devise!

Whether you started in 1974 or 2008, you won't want to miss this fall's issue! Buy it now from lulu:

Fight On! Issue #3

and be sure to pick up the first two issues as well if you haven't already. Happy gaming, and Fight On!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gary's Greyhawk Campaign: Session 8

Midmorning on Freeday, 7th Brewfest 579 CY, the party stood along the northern trail from the Hill of Darkness, looking down upon the recumbent forms of a treecat and their erstwhile companion, Orid the Elf. No final last words, no last quips from fey mage, simple silence in death was all they had of him. Well, that and what he had in his pack and pouches, as they mourned their friend in the way so many adventuring kind do: making sure his share of the treasure and his equipment didn't go to waste. When they draped his bloodless body over the saddle of his horse, all he had left to him were the clothes on his back; his pointy had lost somewhere in the brush along the trail.

Only Twidorek the Gnome, who most of the party had forgotten was along to rescue the friar, shed more than a tear, as he doffed his gnomish cap and said a silent prayer to the gods to look after his friend's soul. Tarnish the Geoffite, the only other of elven blood in the party, remained stoicly silent, and was neither heard from nor seen much for several days.

Time being of the essence in their rescue of Friar Pudge, the party continued on to the north, seeking the Eastern Trade Road (a.k.a. the New Road or Low Road), that they might find the back way into the Moathouse. They came to a bridge over a deep portion of the Kron River; old and weather-worn, built in the good times before the rise of the Temple of Elemental Evil, it looked sturdy if rarely used, but Adamond and Twidorek went forth to check. It proved sturdy (as it should have been, for though they remembered it not, they crossed this bridge whilst captives of the Bandits), though there was one plank loose and perhaps troublesome to a horse crossing, and so forewarned the rest of the party crossed walking their horses. Twidorek continued to search along the northern stretch of the shore by the bridge, and there found a series of footprints... giant, twice as large as a Man's... near a large, flat stone rock. The prints were of moccasined feet, so whatever manner of creature it was had some civilization. And the prints were recent, too, as they were made in the soft ground made wet from the night's rains...

Worried at the implications of a giant creature wandering somewhere nearby, Adamond decided to try to see where the prints went; he took Twidorek with, but bid the others to remain and wait, as two small folk might remain unnoticed while the whole party certainly would be spotted with ease.

And so the pair followed the tracks to a trail that led east, into the lightly forested hills. They followed it for a mile or so, until it turned slightly north, and there ended in a small glade before a thick copse. There, at the end of the trail, stood a shack built of logs and mud... a "shack" as large as a goodly-sized townhouse of Verbobonc, with a door 12 feet tall and six feet wide! Immediately upon sighting it, Twidorek turned on a common and went back the way he came, whistling under his breath. It took a few moments for Adamond, who continued on, to realize that the gnome had retreated; as he turned to call to his fellow, however, there was a monstrous creak as the gigantic door opened...

Quick as a flash, and with the instinctual sense of the halfling, Adamond dove toward the edge of the glade, there to hide among the roots of a tall tree. Unfortunately, he did not realize that the area around the roots of this tree, seemingly piled about with leaves and branches, was actually knee-deep in water, puddled from last night's rains... Man-knee-deep in water. And so with a great splash Adamond dove into the puddle of water and mud and came up sputtering, covered head to toe in muddy leaves and sticks.

At this point he heard a gnomish squeak as Twidorek looked back toward the shack and then took off as fast as his little legs could let him, running with speed back to his companions. Afraid, soaked, shivering, and yet curious, Adamond peeked up above the gnarly roots, and stared eye to eye and nose to nose into the face of an ogre, bent over and looking straight down at him...

The ogre stood a full 12 feet tall and was covered head to toe in long, matted brown fur. It wore a loincloth and moccasins and nothing else. Its eyes were large and wide and dark, deep blue; its nose was wide and flat, lost in the fur of its face; and its mouth was wide and filled with many pointed, sharp teeth, as well as two great lower tusks, like those of a great boar or warthog.

The ogre smiled. The halfling smiled back.

"Hi friend!" Adamond said in the Common tongue, his smile reaching his ears and waving both hands in the air. "I'm a little lost... um... Me and my friends are looking for the north road... and... And here I've gone and fallen into this puddle... and I'm all wet.... Can you help us?"

The ogre looked down at the halfling, his smile widened; a vast furry hand reached and plucked the halfling from the puddle. Adamond was lifted into the air until he swayed, face to face, with the ogre at its full height...

***

Back at the bridge, the others were getting tired of waiting; a few were worried.

"It's taking them too long. What can they be up to?" wondered Kreegin aloud.

"I'll bet they are in trouble," his brother Zymm replied.

"Oh, I'm sure of it," Mort interjected. "The halfling is good at that. I've known him since his days in Mitrik. There they might have given him a prize for his trouble-making abilities, if they hadn't thrown him out of town first..."

Now even more nervous, Zymm looked from the wizard to the trail and back, then shuffled his tarok deck one last time and drew a card.

Skull

"Verdammte halblingen," he cursed to himself. To his brother he called out in Suloise, "Kreegin, wir geh'n. Ich brauche nicht, auf einer sicheren Sache zu wetten..."

And so the brothers jumped on their horses and set off at a canter, Zymm calling back, "If trouble is sure to follow the halfling, better to meet it on our terms, no?"

The others quickly agreed, and took off after the brothers down the trail.

***

Back at the glade, the ogre smiled deeper and rumbled forth, "Frrrriiiiiieeeend?" He pursed his lips and blew on the halfling; leaves and sticks flew away, and the gale-like wind quickly dried the halfling, mud caking on his cloak and armor. Unfortunately, dental hygeine is not practiced among the ogre's kind, and the sickly carrion scent of the ogre's breath caused Adamond to lose his breakfast... projectile-style, right in the ogre's face.

The ogre wiped his face with his other hand, sniffed at it, and licked it. "Hooooonnney?"

Adamond realized that the ogre tasted the honey cakes he'd had that morning, left by the gnomes for breakfast.

"Honey? Do you like honey?"

"Hoooney. Honey honey honey. Frrrreiiiiend?"

"Oh, if you like honey, I can get you some. Plenty of honey to eat. Just don't eat me. Honey good; halfling bad. More honey?"

"Hoooney!"

Adamond reached back into his ruck, a very precarious position dangling 10 feet in midair, and pulled out three honey cakes. He thanked his lucky stars that he'd taken them as part of his share of Orid's goods (not that he'd bothered to ask the rest of the party...)

"Honey cakes. Here, have some honey cakes."

"MMMMMMM. Hoooney!" The ogre took them in his other hand, and they disappeared down his vast maw. He then turned to the shack, opened the door, and went in, Adamond swinging wildly from his other hand. "Frrriiiend! Hoooney!" The huge door slammed behind and there was a thunk as the catch fell into place.

***

The rest of the party raced down the trail as quickly as they dared, Kreegin and Zymm in the fore; they did not notice the gnome running in their direction until it was too late. Fortunately, Twidorek was able to duck out of the way before he was run down. They heard him cry out, and stopped.

"Ogre... big... smelly... hairy... OGRE!" wailed the gnome.

"Where's Adamond?" the rest of the party cried.

"OGRE!" was all the gnome could say, catching his breath. "He's with the ogre, he's caught, I'm sure of it!"

The gnome climbed up onto his steed, and the party took off down the trail...

***

The shack was spartan; a huge bed-like structure along the wall to the left, a huge table and cabinet along the wall to the right, and a huge fireplace at the back, large enough to roast a small ox, warm and crackling with a roaring fire. The ogre took Adamond to the table, where he grabbed a large bowl. He dunked the halfling in the bowl, once, twice, a third time. Fortunately it was water, mostly. The halfling, sputtering and disheveled, was placed on the stone hearth before the fire to dry and warm. He looked around; but there was no way to escape, and no possible way he could get that huge door opened on his own.

The giant sat down on the huge bed. "Hoooney! Yumyum hoooney!" he cried out. Adamond's eyes went wide as cup saucers when he saw the giant reach back and pull out a huge club, tall as he was and thick as a small tree.

But the ogre didn't crush the wee halfling with the club. Instead he placed one end of the club to his mouth and started blowing into it. Deep, resonant noises came out the other end... "Bwong bwing bwing bwong dwing dwong!" and strange, rhythmic music suddenly burst throughout the shack.

The ogre looked over his strange instrument at the halfling, an expectant look in his eye.

"Music... music... aha! Dance!" Adamond thought. And so he began dancing, tapping his feet on the stone hearth, waving his hands in the air; dancing a halfling jig to the strangely merry sounds produced by the ogre's strange trumpet.

It was then with a crash the door flew open, mighty muscled Kreegin at the fore, Zymm right behind, and further beyond Adamond could see Elyas and Kor and the others.

Kreegin and Zymm looked at Adamond as he danced, smiling and waving his hands.

They looked to the ogre, sitting on the bed, his digeridoo in one hand, his other slapping his thigh to the weird tune.

They looked back at Adamond, who smiled at them, waved his hands, and nodded his head.

They then looked at each other, shook their heads, and walked back out the door...

"What's going on in there?" cried out the gnome. "It sounds horrible. Is he torturing Adamond?"

"Worse. Adamond's dancing for the ogre." Kreegin replied, shaking his head.

"Dan... dancing?"

"Yeah, dancing for him. They both looked rather... cozy together," Zymm muttered, with a haunted look in his eye.

"Unnatural..." whimpered the gnome. "Purely unnatural."

"No, it's just Adamond," intoned Mort. "Par for course, I'd say."

***

Suddenly the ogre stopped playing. He went to the door and refixed the latch. He strode to the hearth and picked up the halfling, who was still dancing his heart out. He swung the halfling through the air and set him on the tall table.

"MMMMMMM. Luuuunch."

"Lunch? Yes, lunch. I am... am a bit... hungry, after all the dancing. What's for lunch?"

The ogre turned to the cabinet next to the table, undid a latch, and pulled forth what looked to be a sack of potatoes. He poked it with his finger. "Luuuunch!"

Adamond realized it was no sack; it was a gnome, tied up and looking much worse for wear. His knees went a bit wobbly.

"Lunch? No... no no no. Not lunch. Gnome!"

"Gnoooome? Luuuunch?"

"No, not lunch. Gnome!"

"Gnome! Luuuuunch!" the ogre bellowed.

Outside, Twidorek heard the ogre bellow "Gnome! Lunch!" rolled his eyes in fear, gave off a great squeak, and ran off down the trail toward the bridge.

Inside, Adamond put on a sad face, "Gnome no lunch. Gnome friend!"

"Gnome... freiiiend? No lunch?" Friiiend?

"Right, gnome friend, no lunch." And a thought occured to him.

"Gnomes have honey cakes!" he cried out. "Gnome bring honey! Honey!"

"Gnome... hoooney?"

"Yes, gnome honey. No lunch, hooooney!"

The ogre smiled. "Gnome no lunch, hoooney. Hoooney hoooney hoooney!"

He set the gnome down on the table next to Adamond, turned, and reached into the cabinet. He pulled out a larger form... a man, dressed in purple robes with stars, moons, and suns. "Luuuunch!"

"Spugnoir!" Adamond cried out, biting his tongue.

"Spoooog-nwaaar? Lunch! Spoog Nwar Luuunch!"

"Yes! I mean, no! Spugnoir is Spugnoir, not lunch!" Sorely tempted to let the ogre eat the wizard, Adamond thought twice, if for no other reason than he liked not the thought of having the vision of the ogre eating the man haunt him for the rest of his life.

"Spugnoir not lunch! Hooooney! More hooney!"

"Spooog Nwar hooooney?"

"Yes, gnomes trade honey for Spugnoir, bad man, trade honey for Spugnoir!"

"Hoooney! More hoooney!" the ogre danced a jig as the wizard swung wildly in his hand.

"Yes, yes, more honey," said Adamond. Now came the hard part.

"Me... I go get honey. Bring gnome and Spugnoir to gnomes, get honey, bring to you!"

"Hooney hooney hooney. Go get hoooney!" The ogre picked up Adamond and set him on the ground.

Gladdened the ogre seemed to understand, Adamond thought about how he would get the gnome and Spugnoir away from the shack with him, and how they would lose the ogre. He began formulating a plan, and missed when the ogre pulled forth a large sack and stuffed Spugnoir and the gnome into it... he then went and grabbed his digeridoo. He swung the sack over one shoulder, and the gnome and wizard crashed into his back with a thud, a whimper, and several groans.

The ogre lifted the latch on the door, opened it, and pointed outside with his digeridoo. "We go gnooomes. Get hooooney!" he cried out.

"We... I mean, I... aw, dammnit!" Adamond cursed under his breath. The ogre intended to go along. "He doesn't seem to trust me. Why doesn't anyone ever trust me?"

He looked out, expecting to see his friends. He saw Mort, sitting atop his horse looking bored, and his own horse, tied to a shrub, munching contentedly on some tall green grasses.

"Crap."

***

"Well, let's give them a couple more hours," Zymm said, as he and the others waited at the great stone near the bridge. "If they don't show up, we'll head on out, scout out the rear entrance to the Moathouse ourselves. That is what we were here to do, right?"

The others nodded their assent, though they were nervous about checking out the Bandit lair without a wizard and down one thief. But they couldn't wait around all day waiting for Adamond to get out of his... situation, whatever it was. And they weren't about to take on an ogre just to save the foolish halfling!

"Twas a big brute, even for an ogre," said Kor. "Mayhaps it t'were a bit giant-blooded, methinks."

"Looked more like a bear got too friendly with an ogre, says I," said Elyas.

"Whatever it was, it's Mort and Adamond's problem now; and if they aren't back soon, the halfling won't be our problem anymore, either," muttered Zymm as he shuffled his cards. He turned to the trail and drew a plate, held it before the trail, contemplated a moment upon the ancient celestial symbol upon the reverse, and flipped it to face him.

Throne

"Huh," he grunted. He lowered the card, and there down the trail he saw Adamond and Mort, walking their horses toward the bridge... and behind them, the ogre, with a sack in one hand and, leaning upon his shoulder, a huge club in the other!

Twidorek gave a voiceless squeak and buried his face in his hands. The rest waited, not sure what, exactly, what going on.

"Who rules over who, I wonder?" Zymm thought, as he contemplated the meaning of the card.

To be continued...

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Abominable Charles Christopher

The Abominable Charles Christopher is a webcomic by Karl Kerschl.

It's fantastic, funny, mysterious, sad, gorgeous, and very deep. Unfortunately it only updates once a week at best, but once you see the art, I'm sure you will understand why.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Faiths of the City State: Forn Sidthr Available in PDF


Faiths of the City State — Forn Sidthr: The Old Custom is a 13-page PDF detailing the City State of the Invincible Overlord's civilized religion dedicated to the Aesir, centered on the Temple of Odin on the Square of the Gods. The 12 pages of game text provide Judges with all the information needed to immerse players in the primary faith of the City State, including:

Religions and Cults of the City State
History
Worshipers
Pantheon
Worshiper’s Alignment
Clerical Alignment
General Pantheon Cleric
Pantheon Symbol
Hierarchy
Patriarch
Temple
Holy Texts
Liturgical Tongue
Sources of Power
Rituals and Holy Days
Sacrifices
Canon and Dogma
Peculiarities

The Faiths of the City State line includes a major aspect of game play that has not been explored in most games: the fact that character death is not the end for that character! Faiths of the City State — Forn Sidthr: The Old Custom provides all the information needed to determine the fate of a faithful Forn Sidthr character’s soul after death and in the afterlife. A character’s virtues and sins during life determine whether she feasts among the honored dead in Valhalla until she fights alongside the gods at Ragnarok, wanders through the cold wastes of Niflheim until her soul is burned away when the fires of Muspelheim spill over at the end of the world, or even worse, is condemned to wander the mortal world as a draugr, an undead creature accursed by the very gods!

THE AFTERLIFE
Table I: Disposition of the Soul
Greater and Lesser Sins
Virtues
Table II: Doom of the Draugr

WARNING: THIS PRODUCT CONTAINS MATURE SUBJECT MATTER. Faiths of the City State — Forn Sidthr: The Old Custom does not hold anything back in detailing the sins and the penalties associated thereto. Reader discretion is advised.

Faiths of the City State — Forn Sidthr: The Old Custom describes an imaginary religion in a fantasy campaign setting. Any resemblance to real world religions, historical or modern, is purely coincidental.

Designed and approved for use with Castles & Crusades, Faiths of the City State — Forn Sidthr: The Old Custom adds a whole new level of detail for religion in a Wilderlands of High Adventure campaign or any other campaign setting.

A whole new religion for the City State for only $3.00.

Buy it at DriveThruRPG.com

Buy it at RPGNow.com

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

No Game Tonight

I like Wisconsin, generally, as a rule. I even don't mind living in the middle of nowhere, much, as it is nice and quiet most of the time, and the folks round hereabouts at least tend to be pretty friendly.

It's the weather that gets to me. Especially when it rains/ices/snows (as in, all of the above, all at once) on Game Night, necessitating the cancellation of the game. Or at least, of my game; everyone else lives in Stevens Point, so they will still get together, likely, and play board or card games. Without me.

But the Classic Traveller game that was going to finally, actually start tonight is cancelled.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I'd do better if I had me some 'chucks...

27

Created by OnePlusYou - Free Online Dating

After all, they really are little more than goblins in disguise... now if they fought smart like kobolds, I'd be screwed...

Wilderlands OD&D is back!

Wilderlands OD&D is back, and already has some kick-ass posts.

Awesome.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Gary's Greyhawk Campaign: Session 7

As dawn broke on Earthday, 6th of Brewfest, the party awoke in their suite at the Inn of the Welcome Wench. They took stock of the loot that they had previously and fortuitously left in their suite, as well as the treasure such as they had left behind, and thus had remaining to them after the debacle at the ambush on the Southern Road. Fortuitously they had not yet attempted to sell off the treasure they had gained after they defeated the bandits during the ambush en route to the Moathouse earlier on the day they had been captured (the 3rd of Brewfest, a very busy day indeed), and so from the arms and armor they had looted from the bandits they re-equipped their basic needs. They decided that after breakfast they would go out to sell the rest for needful cash.

As they marched forth from the Wench with their loot, they were met by two men they had noticed earlier in the morning as they had sat and breakfasted in the common room. They introduced themselves as Zymm and Kreegin, brothers late of Elredd on the Wild Coast, men seeking adventure, glory, and importantly, gold.

"We have heard tales of your adventures of late," Zymm said, as he fiddled with a deck of cards in his hand, as dear to him as the pair of dice, holy symbol of Norebo, dangling from a chain on his neck. "Perhaps you have need of our talents. As you can see, my brother here is rather handy with arms and armor..."

They looked to his brother, a hulking-tall man with arms of muscle upon muscle, such that his chain shirt could barely contain them, and nodded their assent.

"As for myself, I have a... special... relationship with Norebo. This might come in handy at times, do you think?"

Again nodding their assent, they asked, "Yes, indeed this is so, but how do we know we can trust you? This has been a great issue of late."

"Well, let's just say that you have to... take a chance, now and then," Zymm smiled, shook his head such that his hood fell back, releasing long platinum blonde hair. It was then that they noticed that the pupils of his eyes were silvery-white against white orbs, the mark of pure-blood Suel, a mark his hulking brother seemed to lack.

After some discussion, the party decided to allow Zymm and Kreegin to join them on their endeavors for full shares, at least for the time being.

Desirous of not dealing as yet with the Traders, uncertain of the faithfulness of Rannos Davl, they then sought to sell the remaining suits of chain and weapons to the village blacksmith. The blacksmith said he had no need of them, nor even the funds if he did, and being advised they had no desire to deal with the trader, suggested they take the items to Rufus to see if he would buy them to outfit his men.

And so they did, and Rufus did indeed buy the remaining loot (several suits of mail, a few broadswords and long swords, light crossbows, and many quarrels). They sold a remaining suit of studded leather armor, of which Rufus had no need, to the leather worker. The party then went to see Jaroo, but he was away on walkabout, checking the region for further dangers after the party's report of bugbears at the Moathouse. They then decided to feel out where, exactly, Rannos Davl stood...

When they arrived at the Trader's Establishment, they were informed by Gremag that Rannos "had just left this morning on a trading journey to Verbobonc" and would be gone for "several days at least, maybe a fortnight if he returns with laden wains."

"Oh really, and what might he be seeking to purchase in Verbobonc?" Mort de Magus asked pointedly.

With a smile, Gremag said, "Well, I do believe the trip is, in part, to acquire the alchemical items you asked after several days ago, good wizard."

"Oh... right..."

Unsurprised, the party asked Gremag to convey to him their desire to speak with Rannos as soon as he returned home.

They then used the bulk of their remaining treasure to pre-pay on their suite and meals at the Wench through to the 4th of Patchwall, lest they lose all treasure again and be destitute and without any support.

There was some debate during lunch as to what they could do to recover their good friend and ally, Friar Pudge. Sensing that no further assistance would be forthcoming from Rufus and Burne after the latest disaster at the Moathouse, and uncertain of the support of Jaroo (whom they knew would stand against the forces at the Moathouse, just not necessarily at their side), they decided to seek out further magical power.

During the long, dark night they had been carted back to the Moathouse after the ambush, they passed by a steep hill atop which they saw standing stones; though none of the others saw, both magic-users noticed magical energies crackling and coursing around and over the stones. Perhaps, they thought, such power could be harnessed for some use against the forces of Lareth the Beautiful?

And so in late afternoon they set out to the south, to find the tall hill and perhaps suss out some advantage. As night fell the light of Celene and the waning light of Luna were hidden behind clouds, the way along the path lit by a spectacular lighting storm. But the party simply covered themselves with their hoods and continued on, as they knew that the last they had passed this way the stones were crackling in the deep of the night. Several hours later the trail emptied out into a familiar wide glade in which they saw the tall, steep hill and the stones atop... now glittering at times only with dull pulses of power and a much-subdued gleam of arcane power.

Crestfallen to find that whatever power was there was no longer, seemingly, as strong, the magic-users proceeded up the hill to check out the site, and the others followed, save for Kreegin who remained to guard the horses. Marching up the slick, steep hill was too much for the clumsy Tarnish [Dex 8], who fell and scraped his knees, then returned below to keep watch on the horses with Kreegin.

At the top of the hill they found six large standing stones circling a black stone altar; the altar had obviously been used for sacrifices, as it was caked with blood and all around could be seen bones of animals (at least they were sure they were of animals...). Upon the stones the magic-users discovered unpleasant ancient glyphs, of which Mort could make out nothing at all, and Orid only little, merely able to recognize what might be a symbol for "summoning" and another for "divination." As they studied the stones further by their sputtering torches and flashes of lightning, Kreegin and Tarnish below spotted small, skulking forms making their way from the forest line throught the tall grasses... One stood forth and pulled back his hood, revealing a large potato-shaped nose over pursed lips and a well-trimmed white beard.

"Gooten aabend," said the gnome. "I yam Krildt Schildtbreckner, oond dese are mine vriends," he said, waving back to the two-score gnomes making their way toward the party. "Vass might I be esking, har you oont your vriends do-ink here at ze Hill of Darkness?"

At hearing "Hill of Darkness," Tarnish shook his head and muttered under his breath, "Of course, I knew it..." Then called out through thunder and lightning to the others atop the hill.

Slipping and sliding and spattering themselves with mud, the others made their way down the hill, where they parleyed well into the night, eating gnomish honey-cakes and sipping apple cider. The gnomes, it turns out, were from the Gnarley Forest, and knew well of the Hill of Darkness, which they called der Schattenhuegel, or Shadow Hill. They informed the party that they came here and guarded it, "durink de high-times, venn de magie ist ztrong oont can be uzed to zummon evil tings." They explained that the "high times" fell four times yearly, at the height of each of the fest-weeks and a few nights before and after, and that the source of the power was said to be "a demon, sehr machtig, a prinze of de darken realms verbindet oonter de steins." Their greatest worry was that some magic-user would use the power casting a simple summoning (requiring a sacrifice of an animal, or even a sentient being) and release the dark prince.

"How do you know that the dark one has not been released yet?" Mort asked the gnomes.

"Vell, ve iz still schtandink here, oond nicht dead or vurse, nicht wahr, mein freunds?" Krildt answered, while munching on a gnomish honey-cake.

At that most gave up any idea of pursuing the matter further, though Orid and Mort whispered to each other of plans to maybe return some time... but something still didn't sound right.

Then they realized... if the gnomes had been guarding the hill this whole week, where had they been when the party passed through earlier, prisoners of Lareth and his bandits?!?

When informed of this, and told the timing, the gnomes replied, "Ach ja, dere had been einer zauberer, on dat night, he hat tried ze summonink, you know, oond ve schtopped him oond his kumpels oont chazed after him. Zoundz like you oont de bandits pazed troo here ven ve vaz chazing de vizard."

A strange gleam lit in Mort's eyes. "This wizard... what did he look like?"

The gnomes gave a description the party knew well... Spugnoir!

"So that's why we didn't see him at the Wench this morning!" Mort crowed. "What did you do with him when you caught him?"

"Oh, ve did not kapture de vizard on his vriends, dey got avay, oont ran off to de nord. Ve gave up after zeveral hours."

Disappointed that Spugnoir had eluded the gnomes, but still cackling at his discomfort at the hands of the wee folk, Mort and the others chatted further for a while with the gnomes, then went to sleep in the tree-bough huts the gnomes offered to them. Several also purchased some of the fine honey-cakes, which though not as nutritious as elven way-bread, was certainly tastier, and kept fresh and sweet for several months.

When the party wakened a few hours after dawn on Freeday, 7th Brewfest, the gnomes were gone, their mission fulfilled.

They then set out to scout out the rear entrance of the Moathouse. They knew not where exactly it was, as when they arrived near the Moathouse they had had bags placed on their heads and were continually spun around to disorient their sense of direction, but they knew the place where they had stopped. And so they followed the trail northeast from the Hill of Darkness.

Several hours into the misty morning, about halfway to where the trail passed the Eastern Trade Road from Hommlett, a dun-furred terror burst forth from the low branches of the trees alongside the trail. A tree-cat, a type of cougar native to temperate forests, leaped down and knocked Orid clean off his horse to the ground; a terrible snap was heard, and a fountain of blood geysered into the air. Whether the cat or Orid screamed none knew, but the scream and the blood spooked the horses, and Mort, who was just ahead of Orid, fell fast and hard as his horse ran out from under him. Adamond was able to only barely control his horse.

Before it could run away let alone drag off its prize, the cat was pierced with arrows, bolts, darts, and magical missiles of force. It fell, hissing and caterwauling, atop the form of Orid, which did not stir, and would never do so again, as his body sat in a widening pool of blood, with his neck canted at an impossible angle...

A natural and regrettable encounter with a hungry and desperate beast? Or something else, perhaps? For it was Orid who had translated some of the sigils atop the Hill of Darkness...

And so the session ended...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Classic Traveller: Map of Known Human Space

As usual, click on the map for the readable size...

Last bit of CT for a while. Now that I'm back in the writing groove, its AGP products and Gary's Greyhawk AD&D 1E Campaign for the next week at least...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Classic Traveller: New Hope Sector Map


The New Hope Sector is two sectors Coreward and two sectors Trailing of Old Earth Sector (which is today the heartland of the Terran Hegemony). The Neolunar Sector Spinward is the heartland of the Democratic Order of Planets with its capital at Earthica IV. Auld Vaticano Sector was the heart of the Neo-Persian Empire until the First Great Sector War; today the Dominion of the Space Pope in New Hope Sector is but one of many successors to the expansive Neo-Persian Empire. Glyph Sector is the southern heartland of the Interstellar Dragon Empire, while Outways Sector is a patchwork of minor domains and many balkanized, backward, or even primitive planets.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Classic Traveller: Western Alliance Domains & Districts


The Western Alliance is a federated union of noble domains, ruled by a Princeps (elected for life) whose powers are held in check by the House of Lords (all nobles of Soc 10+ have a seat, with a number of votes based on their rank +1, i.e., Lords/Senators have one vote, Knights have two, Barons have three, etc). Lords are lesser nobles (Soc 10, Rank 0) while appointment as a Senator is a non-hereditary honor granted to a commoner (Soc 10, Rank 0; not all with Soc 10 are Lords or Senators, most are Scions of a noble house with no official Rank). The House of Commons is a recent creation, designed to let off the steam of the commons, but as they are discovering is mostly for show and has little real power.

#1) Capital District (Capital: Capital City)
#2) County of St. Martin (Capital: St. Martin City)
#3) Barony of Lafayette (Capital: Marion)
#4) Barony of Baraboo (Capital: Sauk City)
#5) Barony of Ramsey (Capital: Troy)
#6) Marquisate of Berwick (Capital: Reilly)
#7) Marquisate of Passaic (Capital: Anson)
#8) Marquisate of Jericho (Capital: Salem)
#9) County of Laramie (Capital: Scudder City)
#10) Barony of Muskogee (Capital: Cimarron)
#11) Barony of Callahan (Capital: Cimmeria)
#12) Tlanocco Highlands Protectorate (Capital: Fort Mictlan)
#13) Barony of Anahuac (Capital: Anahuac)
#14) Barony of Matagorda (Capital: Matagorda)
#15) Barony of Carlisle (Capital: Barlow)
#16) Barony of Shelby (Capital: Jackson City)
#17) Concordia Prefecture (Capital: Los Santos)
#18) County of Cardiff (Capital: Pleasant Springs)
#19) Barony of Baldwin (Capital: Daphne)
#20) Barony of Oglethorpe (Capital: Smyrna)
#21) Ansheka Reservation [“The People”] (Capital: none)
#22) Grand Duchy of Columbia (Capital: Columbia City)
#23) Barony of Bristol (Capital: New Liberty)
#24) Barony of Pinellas (Capital: Largo)
#25) Freeport Prefecture (Capital: Freeport)
#26) Lake Agubba Reservation [“Holy Lake”] (Capital: none)
#27) County of Vizcaya (Capital: Bilbao)
#28) Barony of Morgan (Capital: Irontown)
#29) Barony of Cumberland (Capital: Mechanicsburg)
#30) Barony of Guernsey (Capital: Cambridge)
#31) Barony of Westmoreland (Capital: Greensburg)
#32) County of Jefferson (Capital: Monticello)
#33) Gotham Prefecture (Capital: New Manhattan City)
#34) Barony of Saratoga (Capital: Corinthian Springs)
#35) County of Ansonia (Capital: Ansonia City)
#36) Barony of Windham (Capital: Grosvenor)
#37) Barony of Cranston (Capital: Newport)
#38) Barony of Chilmark (Capital: Barnstable)
#39) Marquisate of Kindersley (Capital: Eston)
#40) Barony of Selkirk (Capital: Laketon)
#41) County of Halliburton (Capital: Cheney Bay)
#42) Barony of Loodstroom (Capital: Noordmeer)
#43) Barony of Canandaigua (Capital: Gorham)
#44) Barony of Chaumont (Capital: Longlake)
#45) Saranac Prefecture (Capital: Fort Ticonderoga)
#46) County of Zuidhaven (Capital: Zuidhaven)
#47) Duchy of Niuhaven (Capital: Niuhaven)
#48) County of Beverplaatz (Capital: Beverplaatz)
#49) County of Noordhaven (Capital: Noordhaven)
#50) Lake Adudagig Reservation [“Lake of Tears”] (Capital: none)
#51) Lalhardalbana Prefecture [“Land Between Two Lakes”] (Capital: Fort Rients)
#52) Zweistroom Prefecture (Capital: Fort Rupert)
#53) Kieferwaald Prefecture (Capital: Fort Lunenbourg)
#54) Great Glacier Prefecture (Capital: none)
#55) Eisland Prefecture (Capital: none)
#56) Schneeland Prefecture (Capital: none)
#57) Staveren Bay Military District (Capital: Fort U-238)

Classic Traveller: Geographical Map of Ansonia & N. Valvidia