Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Is Science-Fantasy "Laser Sharking"?

I've been thinking about this for a few weeks, and finally decided to take yet another work break to clear my head and put my thoughts down. 

A few months ago, I started up a short-term 1st Edition AD&D/OSRIC campaign using the classic module S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. As most of you probably know... hm.  Wait a sec. 

SPOILER ALERT!  If you have never read or played this module, but intend to do so sometime in the future, you're going to want to stop reading now, because this will spoil some of the "surprises" in the module. You've been warned.

So, as you know, the main premise of the module is that a section of a rogue spaceship ends up crash-landing in the World of Greyhawk, where it's buried inside a mountain, and various mutated flora and fauna somehow get out and terrorize the countryside.  The adventurers are called in by the Grand Duke of Bissel to investigate the "strange goings-on."  Now, all of this is played rather seriously, at least as serious as you can get in an RPG about dwarves and elves and magic.  But, the thing is, unless the DM has been stupid and not covered up the picture on the front of the module, then not only do the characters not know that they're going to investigate a crashed spaceship, but the players also don't know.  It's revealed only through vague descriptions about metallic "workings", doors that magically seem to open and close by themselves, invisible lighting sources and intermittently turn on and off (magic!) and things like that.

In my group of five players, only two of them knew the premise of the module.  Two others would have known had I told them what the name of the module was, because they have some decent old-school cred, but I was very careful never to mentioned the name of the module, and I changed the name of the hills from "the Barrier Peaks" to something else so they wouldn't catch on. 

One of the players who knew all along what the module was about was really not happy about the whole thing.  He gave me a lot of good-natured ribbing about forcing him to play "a 1st edition elf" who was of course a classic Fighter/Magic-User (I created everyone's characters for them) and also playing in a fantasy game that now included space ships and ray guns. 

"I don't like chocolate in my peanut butter." 

This refrain was drilled into my head over the past few months as we worked our way through the module.  My friend really did not like the idea of having a fantasy world "tainted" by science fiction trappings, and it was more than a mere annoyance.  He played the game and enjoyed himself, but that part always bothered him.  I think if it had become the basis of a long-term campaign and I had built my world around the assumptions that aliens could potentially visit the world and leave technology there to be found, he most likely would've said "Thanks, but no thanks." 

He's much more of a "fantasy-purist."  He prefers Tolkien, Cook, Martin, and writers of that ilk.  And I like those, too, so there's no complaint there.  But, he hasn't read some of the old pulp classics like books in the "Sword & Planet" genre, for example, where magic and technology exist side-by-side. 

A few weeks ago at his house for dinner and game day with some friends, the discussion came up and my friend Cal asked him friend Tom, "Isn't science fantasy lame?"

Tom replied, "Yep, because it's always laser-sharking." 

Both Cal and Tom are two of the smartest people I know, but I have trouble seeing this point-of-view, because growing up, I never really cared much about mixing magic/fantasy and technology/science-fiction, one way or the other.  It was pretty much all the same to me - exciting adventure stories (or movies) that transport you to another world.  I always preferred Star Wars to Star Trek because the world of Star Wars was so much more interesting to me - the whole idea of a mystical force existing side-by-side with blasters and laser swords was awesome.  A soldier from Earth's past gets magically transported to Mars where he ends up having great strength and rescuing a beautiful red-skinned princess from her four-armed alien captors?  Cool!  Two thousands years in the future, a barbarian teams up with a princess and a total Wookiee rip-off in a land of savagery, super-science, and sorcery?  Sign up me!  Huge "ether-ships", lizard-man tribes, and interplanetary exploration in the Victorian era?  Hell yeah!

All of those things actually appeal to me quite a bit, and I was intrigued by all of them growing up.  I totally ate up the Thundarr cartoon because it reminded me of Gamma World, but also because I thought it was awesome that somehow in the aftermath of the apocalypse, some people developed the powers of sorcery, almost like some kind of latent psionics or something. 

So I continued my discussion with my friend, and he mentioned that having futuristic settings with magic don't actually bother him all that much.  He's a big fan of the original Star Wars (Fanboy alert: please don't get started with the whole, "But it says that it takes place 'A long, long time ago...'"  Move along...), which is arguably the best-known science-fantasy epic ever.  He had never heard of Thundarr but we explained it to him at one of our game nights and he at least didn't walk off immediately. 

His big problem is having a "traditional" fantasy world invaded by science-fiction trappings.  He's cool with things like the Iron Kingdoms and stuff that mix fantasy and gunpowder.  But he doesn't want "Tolkien with blasters."  And, sure.  I don't need to see any fan-fic that puts aliens and laser guns in Tolkien's world.  But, short of that... I'm good.  I can totally see a place for science-fiction elements in Greyhawk, and certainly there were some in Blackmoor. 

So, I said to Cal, "What about Warhammer 40K?  That's a futuristic setting.  So, you're cool with that, right?"

"Dude... no.  Just... No.  'Space Orks' with laser guns and stuff?  That's just stupid."

Oh, well.  To each his own. 

What about you?  Where do you come down on the whole "science fantasy" discussion?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter: 28 Years Ago Today(ish)

I mentioned this in my second blog post ever, but the first D&D product I ever received was the Moldvay Basic Set (the one with the Erol Otus Cover), which my mom and dad gave me as an Easter gift 28 years ago when I was in 7th Grade, way back in 1983 while I was living in Sandy, UT.  I'd been playing the game for at least six months before that, but always by borrowing stuff from my friends or checking books out at the library (remember when you could check out D&D books at the public library)?  But, finally, I had my own D&D set.  I was "official."

Easter wasn't a huge holiday at our house - my family is not made up of church-going folk (although, oddly, both of my parents attended church when they were little, but I only recall my sister and I going a handful of times in our youth).  But, we always had Easter dinner with the family, including my grandma and uncle, and my sister and I always got some sort of Easter Basket.  As we got older, the baskets included less in the way of candy or eggs (especially since I absolutely can't stand hard-boiled eggs), and more in the way of little presents, like a super cool Lego space set, or maybe a new drawing pad and colored pencils.

The D&D Basic Set was the Easter Gift of 1983 for me.  I don't remember anything else that was in my basket.  And, it's actually eclipsed pretty much every other Easter gift I received as a child.  There are actually only two other Easter Gifts I remember with any clarity. 

The first is a Lego Space System "Surface Explorer" that I had received the year before and which provided me hours of entertainment at my Grandma's house while she and my mom watched a "Lawrence Welk Show" marathon on PBS. 

The second was the super cool Star Wars Cantina Adventure Set (Sears Catalog Exclusive) which I must have received for Easter 1979 but I remember that I got the one with the rare blue Snaggletooth action figure, which had debuted in the Sears 1978 Christmas Wish Book, but by Christmas 1979 the figure had been replaced with the more proper red Snaggletooth. 

So, you'll notice a theme with my Easter gifts - they confirm my descent into geekdom at a very early age. 

And, how perfect is it that my daughter (who is barely 22 months old, so really my wife is the culprit) gave me a Green Lantern t-shirt for Easter this year?  The geek cycle continues.

So, Happy Easter, everybody.  Any fun, cool, or interesting gifts you remember from over the years?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Game Stores: Hammond Toys & Hobbies (Sandy, UT)

I've decided to take a quick work break and do another post about some of the old game shops I used to visit back in the day.  Staying with my theme of "earliest to latest", I'm going all the way back to the beginning for me, when I learned the game while living in Sandy, Utah.  I've already written about probably the "coolest" (atmosphere-wise) game shop in Utah back in the day, Cosmic Aeroplane.  Today's post is about a more true representation of an actual game store, Hammond Toys and Hobbies. 

Unlike Cosmic Aeroplane, Hammond's was actually located in my hometown of Sandy, so it didn't involve a 20 minute car ride to "the city" to get there.  All we had to do was hop in my mom's 1981 brown Buick Skylark (which, years later, ended up being my first car) and zip over to Hammond's, which was about a five minute drive.  I use the word "zip" facetiously here, because:

1) My mom was driving.
2) It was a BUICK SKYLARK.  'Nuff said.

Hammond's was the complete deal - a full toy store and hobby store in one.  It was absolutely crammed to the gills with every toy imaginable, but in a very organized, orderly way.  Stuffed animals, puzzles, action figures, die-cast metal cars, models, dolls, board games, radio-control cars, trains, blocks, Legos, trucks, preschool toys, and the Granddaddy of them all - Role-Playing Games, were all on display in a clean, well-lit store with relatively fresh air and a friendly staff. 

And what an RPG section!  Back then, to get an RPG your choices were to risk going into "the city" and peruse the very limited selection at Cosmic Aeroplane and walk away with a contact high, or else go to Gemco, Fred Meijer, or Toys (backwards) R Us, and see basically just TSR boxed sets (Moldvay Basic, Cook Expert, maybe Gangbusters and Top Secret, and perhaps the latest module or two, if you were lucky).  If that didn't work, then you went to Hammond's.  After a while, I gave up on all of those other places and just went to "the source." 

Hammond's carried not only the boxed sets, but also dozens of modules, the AD&D hardbacks (which, believe me, were pretty hard to come by in conservative 1980s Utah), and also games by other game companies. This was the real treat for someone like me, who started seeing ads for these other games in The Dragon but never saw them in a store until I went to Hammond's.  They carried Traveler, MERP, Rolemaster, and lots of the FGU line like Space Opera and Aftermath.  Not only did they carry all the new stuff, but they had a bunch of old hidden gems, sitting right out on the wire peg racks.  The first time I ever saw, or even heard of, the OD&D Supplement II: Blackmoor was at Hammond's, and I eventually ended up saving my money to buy it. 

Hammond's also carried accessories for role-playing games, like graph paper and (gasp!) hex paper.  They actually had pads of hex paper you could buy, with your choice of two different hex sizes!  Seriously, you can't imagine what this was like to a kid growing up in a relatively small-ish town in Utah back then.  This was A Big Deal™.  

 Sadly, my friends and I at the time didn't always treat Hammond's very well.  Let's just say that around the time I fell in with a group of friends who were... less than honest.  They may have blurred the lines a bit between games and real life regarding the thief's pick pockets skill.  These people didn't stay my friends for very long, but the damage was done at the time.  

Interesting, while looking up some images for this post, I found that Hammond Toys & Hobbies is still going strong back in Utah.  They're apparently been around since 1954 and still have three retail locations in addition to an online sales business.  I checked out their site and found some very quaint references to RPGs.  For example, there is a company listing for "TSR", under which is listed "Dungeons & Dragons."  However, there is a completely separate listing for "Wizards of the Coast", under which is listed "Magic: The Gathering." Their selection doesn't look very deep - the D&D stuff is a mixture of 3E, 3.5, and 4E stuff, but they have some Warhammer FRP stuff, dice bags, miniatures, and other items.  

I'm glad to see that one of the few game stores I visited in my youth is still around and apparently doing quite well.  Here's a toast to their next 57 years in business.  Cheers!

Hanging: At my parents' house in my old room while they watch my daughter and I "work"
Listening: "Lebanese Blonde" by Thievery Corporation
Drinking: A negroni with Hendrick's gin

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Invasion of Work

Posting's been a little lighter lately than I would like.  When I started the blog, I had planned to try to make a post every weekday. 

Lately, work has kind of gotten in the way a bit.  The short version: I own my own boutique advertising agency in California, and a few months ago our main client that we've worked with for over six years was acquired by a huge capital investment firm.  The first thing the new owners did was cancel the contracts of all of the existing agencies, including mine. 

So, I'm in a very aggressive "new business mode" trying to secure new clients.  I feel that if I'm doing anything else during the day (like posting to the blog), then I'm not being efficient in terms of getting new business, and consequently I'm letting my co-workers down, who are relying on me to keep the agency running. 

I'm still continuing to game on the weekends (I just ran a session of my ongoing World of Samoth campaign yesterday), and I do spend a bit of my very limited down-time perusing other blogs and reading gaming materials. 

SHAMELESS PLUG: If you know of anybody who could use advertising services, please share our agency's information with them.  We have experience in all categories (including having worked on the advertising for D&D 3rd Edition for Wizards of the Coast) and all media types (TV, digital, magazines, etc.).  Our agency's site is located here: http://alwaysoncommunications.com/.

Thanks, everyone!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Encounter Tables for Gamma World (or Mutant Future), Part 4

Here is Part 4 of my Encounter Tables for old school 1st Edition Gamma World (revised slightly to comply as close as possible to Mutant Future rules). As a reminder, Part 1 provides #1 - #5 and also explains why these encounter tables exist in the first place.  Part 2 has encounters #6 - #10. Part 3 has encounters #11-15. 

The "Sons of David" (as well as the "Brother of the 11th Commandment" from Part 3) are from a very famous post apocalyptic book which heavily influenced Gamma World, although I had to change the name for copyright purposes.  I'm sure you can figure it out.  The "Templars of Ancestral Purity" are an homage to one of GW's cryptic alliances, also changed for copyright purposes. 

Have fun!

The following is designated open game content per the Open Game License



  1. Army of the “Sons of David” (25) [AL L, MV 120’ (40’), AC 4, HD 1 x 8, 2 x7, 5 x 6, 10 x 5, 7 x 4, #AT 1, DG (by weapon type), SV L8 (leader) or L7 (two captains) or L4-6 (all others, based on HD), ML 10 (leader and two captains), or 8 (all others), Mutations: none.]
    The leader is armed with a battle axe and a crossbow (each 1d8 damage).
    The two captains have polearms (1d10 damage).
    The five sergeants have muskets and enough shot to fire 20 times (1d10 damage; 20% chance of misfire).
    The ten soldiers have long swords (1d8 damage).
    Three of the seven soldiers have short swords and short bows (each 1d6 damage).
    Four of the seven have flails (1d6 damage).
    All members of the army also carry a dagger (1d4 damage).
    These pure humans are followers of a religious sect called the “Sons of David”, which stretches back to millennia.  They will not attack unless provoked or if the encounter people who are somehow allied with “the Impure” (see encounter #29).
  2. Pure Human Cyborg (1) [AL N, MV 120’ (40’), AC 8, HD 6, #AT 2, DG 1d6 (built-in duralloy warclaws) or 7d6 (micro-missile launcher built into his right arm with three missiles left), SV L6, ML 7, Mutations: none.]
    This cyborg is an outcast, and will befriend any who aid him.  He may be recruited or hired.
  3. The “Iron Man” (1) [AL N, MV 120’ (40’), AC 1, HD 9, #AT 1, DG 10d6 (unarmed attack), 5d6 (Mk 1 laser pistol built into each finger) or 7d6 (blaster rifle), SV L9, ML 10, Mutations: none.]
    The Iron Man is wearing Heavy Encased Military Armor, but he has already used all of his supply of grenades and missiles.  His power cells will charge the armor for another four weeks, total.
  4. Templars of Ancestral Purity (5) [AL N, MV 120’ (40’), AC 4, HD 4, #AT 1, DG 1d10 (lance) or 1d8 (long sword), SV L4, ML 8, Mutations: none.]
    The Templars are all pure humans on a quest to rid the world from the contamination of mutants.  They fear that humanity is being destroyed in the face of ever more mutant humans being born and breeding with the few remaining pure humans.  The leader is carrying a Mk 1 laser pistol (DG 5d6) and mounted on a war horse.  The other four are mounted on huge mutant riding dogs (use the stats for dire wolves), one of which has the neural telepathy mutation to communicate with his master.  Lastly, one of the Templars (select at random) is actually an android who has infiltrated the group by posing as a pure human.  He has a vibro blade hidden in his cape, and will attack other pure humans if he comes across them while the other Templars try to calm him down.  The Templars will not attack other pure humans (with the exception of the android), but they will attack mutant humans on sight.
  5. Tribesmen (15) [AL N, MV 120’ (40’), AC 6, HD 1 x 8 (leader), 12 x 6, 2 x 5, #AT 1, DG (by weapon type – see below)]
    The leader it a mutant human (DG 3d6 poison (poison stinger) or 7d6 (bazooka with mini missiles) or 1d4 + 6 (vibro dagger), SV L8, ML 9, Mutations: aberrant form (larger mouth which adds +3 to damage on Shriek mutation),shriek, toxic weapon (poison stinger, Class 3)
    Three mutant humans (DG 1d10 (carnivorous jaws) or 2d6 + stun (stun whip; like a baton but with a 10’ range) or 1d4 + 6 (vibro dagger), SV L 6, ML 7, Mutations: aberrant form – natural weapon (carnivorous jaws, DG 1d10), fur (-2 to damage from cold-based attacks)
    Four mutant humans (DG 1d8 (horns) or 2d4 (“power chucks”) or 1d4 + 6 (vibro dagger), SV L6, ML 7, Mutations: aberrant form – natural weapon (horns, DG 1d8), mane/bristles (-1 from cold-based attacks)
    Five mutant humans (DG 1d6 (retractable claws) or 1d6 (blood agent grenades) or 1d4 + 6 (vibro dagger), SV L6, ML 7, Mutations: aberrant form – natural weapon (retractable claws, DG 1d6), natural armor (extreme carapace, +2 to AC but movement reduced to 75% of normal)
    Two pure humans (DG 1d8 (crossbow) or 1d4 + 6 (vibro dagger), SV L5, ML 7, Mutations: none.
    This mixed group of tribesmen is all wearing mixed piece-metal armor.  The two pure humans are “younglings” and the mutant leader believes they should be exposed to radiation as a “rite of passage.”  He is slightly insane and believes that they will simply absorb the radiation and take on beneficial mutations, versus becoming ill.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

On This Day...

I was reading a few blogs today that mentioned that today is the anniversary of the date that Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin became the first human being to travel into space back in 1961.

Today is also the anniversary of the launching of the first space shuttle, exactly 20 years later, back in 1981.  The Space Shuttle Columbia was the very first reusable craft to travel into space.

Today is also the anniversary of the day that FDR died, in 1945, shortly before Hitler's Germany was defeated in World War II.  He presided as President for over 12 years, dying three months into his fourth term.  His presidency was the reason for the creation of the 22nd Amendment, limiting the office of the President to two consecutive elected terms. 

Most interestingly for me, today marks the anniversary of the start of the American Civil War, on April 12th, 1861, at Ft. Sumter in South Carolina.  The war dragged on for four years and was the bloodiest four years in American history.  I've also had a strong interest in the American Civil War, always doing extra reading on it for history class, and later in life learning that I had relatives who fought on both sides of the conflict (although mostly for the South, it turns out).

There was even an article in an old Dragon magazine about a campaign that could include "sophisticated" elven cavaliers fighting against urban industrialized dwarves.  Even though it seemed kind of silly, I liked that article a lot as a kid and it did help to fire my imagination about how to take the standard fantasy tropes and turn them upside down.  (As a side note, I would love to tell you which issue of Dragon it was, but after spending over 20 minutes searching online and even trying to go through my PDFs from my Dragon CD-ROM collection, I gave up.  All of this technology and nobody can do a decent index for Dragon magazine articles).

Civil wars play a somewhat important role in my current World of Samoth campaign.  There are currently several wars going on, and while many of them are between different countries, there is one major one that's self-contained in a country called Verundhi where the established ruling class in the North is slowly losing ground to a group of rebel upstarts in the South who seem to be getting magical help of a... less than savory nature.

There's also a type of "civil war" happening in one of my major monotheistic religions, as the more hard-line elements of the Church have taken it upon themselves to actually arm troops and cross a political border to track down and kill a group of "heretics" (dwarves, who don't follow the religion).  This has sparked a continent-spanning war between two different sides, even though they both claim to follow the same religion.

So there you go - hopefully a little historical inspiration for your games.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Old School AD&D Game: 4/08/2011 Recap


The continuing adventurers of our old-school 1st Edition AD&D game through module S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.  You maybe want to familiarize yourself with Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and also most importantly, The Characters. 

PREFACE: This was the end of this particular game/adventure, and to be honest, it wasn’t quite the end I had hoped for.  I’ve owned this particular module since way back in 1983 or maybe 1984 and I’ve never had the chance to either play through it, or to run it myself.  So, when the opportunity came up to run the group through it, I quickly jumped on it.  It’s the opportunity I’ve been looking for since I was a young teenager all those years ago. 

However, at the end of the day, I’ll just say that some people in the group didn’t really ever get into it and were more concerned about how quickly we finished so we could move onto do something else.  This left them skipping by huge sections of the module in order to “skip to the end”, and although I could have introduced plot elements like more wandering monsters or announce that they didn’t have the correct colored key-card to move into the new sections, I eventually gave in.  A good DM needs to realize when his players just aren’t into it, and move on.

RECAP: Although the normally quiet Dougal pushed very strongly to simply leave the level and move on, the group’s actual leader, Sir Innes-Kerr decided that he wanted to figure out how the wheeled platforms worked.  He assigned Prince Lanliss to the task, as Innes-Kerr recognized that the elf noble had a much greater understanding of this… “magic” than the rest of the adventurers.  

Prince Lanliss readily accepted the challenge, partly no doubt to prove the superiority of his elven intelligence.  While Dougal constantly complained that it was taking much too long, Prince Lanliss examined the device over the course of several minutes.  A few times the item hummed to life, but then immediately stopped.  Eventually, Lanliss was able to get the wheeled platforms to work and announced that they were a form of transport.  However, he was the only one capable of guiding it properly.  After all of this time spent figuring out how to make the platforms work, Innes-Kerr eventually ordered Dougal to enter the odd metallic shaft again and attempt to move to the next level. 

Lanliss stopped Innes-Kerr and suggested that they had not actually searched the entire area, and there may perhaps be items here worthy of study or research.  The Prince also pointed out that they had found the rectangular shapes of pressed colored glass to be useful in opening doors and controlling the various “golems” they had encountered, and that perhaps there were more of the glass “keys” on this level. 

Innes-Kerr was forced to agree, and in order to save time, the group of adventurers decided to split up [which was accompanied by the old faithful Ghostbuster’s line, “Good idea.  We can do more damage that way.” ].  Lanliss suggested that Dougal accompany Innes-Kerr, while he, Li Mu Bai’s Cousin, and Wulfgar Stonegut searched another area.  Lyria teamed up with Eldrim “Paunchshaker”, and Altman Maximandius paired off with Arwain. 

Whilst searching for items, the team of Lanliss, Li Mu Bai’s Cousin, and Wulfgar stumbled into an area that seemed to make them sick.  It was as though the very air itself were filled with contaminants spilling from the uncared-for artifacts found in the dungeon.  Lanliss and Wulfgar easily shook off the pain and were soon able to breathe soundly again, secure in the knowledge that they had not been permanently damaged.  Li Mu Bai’s Cousin, unfortunately, was not so lucky.  He breathed heavily of the contaminated air and could feel his very strength being sapped.  Lanliss and Wulfgar were left to wonder just how long Li Mu Bai’s Cousin would be able to stay with them.  The poisonous air seemed deadly and they had no items or magic with which to combat it. 

Meanwhile, as the other groups searched the haunting, echoing corridors, Dougal was able to maneuver Innes-Kerr into a dead-end hallway on the opposite end of the level, where he made a surprise announcement.  He was not, in fact, Dougal Caimbeul, human scout from the County of Ulek.  He is, in fact, Ausk Torak, half-orc Assassin of the Jagged Fang tribe from the Pomarj.  During Innes-Kerr’s “famous” massacre of the Jagged Fang Orcs, the arrogant and boastful paladin ended up beheading Torak’s (aka “Dougal’s”) mother, a witch-doctor of the tribe, who was unarmed at the time.  Torak was but a child at the time, but he saw how the humans treated his orcish relatives and vowed revenge on Innes-Kerr.  He took up the study of assassination to be ready to kill Innes-Kerr when he was close enough. 

With that, Ausk Torak yelled a short two-syllable expletive at Innes-Kerr in his native oricsh tongue, which must have been some sort of comment on Innes-Kerr’s questionable heritage, and then with complete surprise he performed a deadly assassination attack with his broadsword.  A second later, Innes-Kerr fell to the ground, dead.  Barely stopping to clean his sword, Torak jogged back to join the rest of his adventuring companions.  His work, as he saw it, was done. 

As the rest of the adventurers met back up, the vile illness that was consuming Li Mu Bai’s Cousin was explained.  Amid his wracking cough, the adventurers looked around for their leader, Innes-Kerr.  Dougal replied that while they were off searching, he learned that Innes-Kerr planned to betray and murder them all, so he was forced to kill him.  Oddly, Dougal hadn’t had the foresight to bring any of Innes-Kerr’s items to split up amongst the party members. 

Altman Maximandius seemed curious at this turn of events.  He knew Innes-Kerr’s grandfather, and although the paladin could be arrogant and bossy at times, he did seem to have a good heart and the possibility that he was planning to betray and murder the group seemed preposterous.  As a paladin, he would clearly lose all of his abilities for such an act of turning against his deity.  This seemed very strange indeed.  As he looked over toward Prince Lanliss, he could tell that the Prince was also having trouble reconciling these actions. 

The group asked Dougal where Innes-Kerr’s body was, and Dougal replied that he had left it where it had fallen, directly opposite of their current position.  Altman, in secret, quietly spoke to Wulfgar and Paunchshaker”, asking of either of them had the ability to speak with dead.  Paunchshaker announced that he had prayed for that very spell from Lydia, the goddess of Knowledge, Music, and Light just that very morning.  Altman suggested using the spell to question Innes-Kerr.

Meanwhile, Arwain, Innes-Kerr squire and herald, proclaimed his innocence and staunchly defended his master, saying that he would never betray his companions.  Prince Lanliss softly began to mutter to himself, and slyly pulled a few spell components out of his pouch.  He was ready to cast a powerful web spell on either Arwain or Dougal, depending on the outcome of the speak-with-dead conversation. 

Dougal accompanied the seven remaining adventurers over to Innes-Kerr’s body rather than try to sneak away, and Eldgrim Paunchshaker began to chant in a lyrical, but lusty, singing voice, calling upon the power of Lyria to enable him to speak with their dead leader, Innes-Kerr. 

After the spell was cast, a hush fell over the adventurers as they leaned toward Innes-Kerr.  His mouth opened and he groaned, and Paunchshaker knew that he could ask the dead paladin four questions. 

“Why were you killed?”

Innes-Kerr’s grating highlander brogue cut through the air, as he explained, “Well, me lads, it seems that old Dougal there is not what he seems.  Years ago, on one of my first, glorious campaigns, I led a group of cavalry and men-at-arms to lay waste to an evil orc village in the Pomarj, which of course is a den of evil, don’t you know?  I rushed forth on me study steed Silverheart, or it might have been Silverheart the Second at that point.  I don’t quite remember.  With our banners blowing gloriously in the breeze, I raised high me favorite claymore, Argent Death the Second.  Or, it might have been the Third by that time.  As the thundering hooves of our mounts sounded loudly throughout the countryside, I brought down me blade and beheaded an evil orc witch before she could cast a spell on me. And that vile orc woman, me lads, was this traitor’s MOTHER!  He’s a half-orc swine and he’s killed me!”

[I will interject here that this was probably my single favorite moment of this session.  The guy playing Innes-Kerr, Jeff, really went all-out to deliver Innes-Kerr’s last speech, and really made Innes-Kerr’s pride in his accomplishments come through.  I didn’t capture what he said above word-for-word, but it was pretty close, and all delivered in a very thick Scottish accent which just cracked me up.]

Shortly after this, the adventurers looked at one another in shock and surprise, and asked Dougal if this was true.

“It is true.  He murdered my mother, so I have sought vengeance on him, as I’m entitled to.”

Prince Lanliss then immediately cast his web spell on the half-orc assassin, who failed to leap out of the way.  He was caught in a very thick covering of webs, and the other adventurers could hear him struggling for breath.  The webs were suffocating him.  They began to debate what to do.

“You know, Eldrim, I believe that you can ask Innes-Kerr three more questions,” Altman helpfully suggested.

“Oh, I know.  I’m actually considering asking him to re-tell the story about how he and his band of knights slaughtered the orc tribe again, just so this half-orc has to hear it all over again!” laughed Paunchshaker.  “Seriously, though, I believed we’ve learned all that we needed to.”

As the adventurers tried to figure out what to do with the half-orc murderer, Prince Lanliss offered that since all orcs are evil, then Torak’s mother, the orc witch, was evil.  And all orcs should be killed.  And since Torak is half-orc, he is at least half-evil.  Therefore, since he is at least half-evil, he should also be killed.

“So I can clearly not drink the potion in front of me!” shouted Arwain, trying, and failing, to add to the conversation. 

In the end, as there was no leader left to direct them, the adventurers decided upon a simple vote.  Prince Lanliss, Wulfgar Stonegut, and Lyria all immediately voted to let the half-orc suffocate, as centuries of racial intolerance between these races became evident.  Altman felt a responsibility to Innes-Kerr’s grandfather, who had treated him well, and also decided to vote to let the half-orc die.  At this point, this was the majority, although Arwain and Eldgrim Paunchshaker also voted for death. 

As they came to this decision, Torak’s last shallow breaths could be heard from behind the thick covering of webs.  He was dead. 

This also marked the time when Li Mu Bai’s Cousin became too weak to travel with them, so they left the monk on this level, as comfortable as they could make him, and decided to continue onward.  Four members of their adventuring company were dead. 

Prince Lanliss took over the job of leading the adventuring company, although Arwain felt the job should have fallen to him, as Innes-Kerr’s second.  Lyria, the halfling thief, was ordered to scout up into the shaft again and find the entrance to the next level.  After falling, she recovered her strength and eventually was able to open the sphincter door onto a level of overgrown trees and other vegetation. The rest of the remaining adventurers joined her, and they made their way slowly out of the door. 

Lyria, who seemed to now be following in the footsteps of Dougal, began to complaining loudly and wondered outloud just how much more of this structure there could be.  Prince Lanliss suggested that they would find “nothing of value” on this level, and opted to continue to the next level.  Preparations were made, the door was shut, and Lyria again began to climb, and fall, before reaching the next level.

Here as the door was opened, a sound of calling animals and birds could be heard.  The area was teeming with all sorts of life – the adventurers could see skittering little animals similar to rabbits and other rodents all around.  Once again, Prince Lanliss proclaimed that they should not stop and dally, but rather continue onward to the next level. 

This time, Lyria did not fall as she climbed to the next sphincter door, which she opened onto an area that looked almost identical to the level where they had found the wheeled platforms.  Oddly, the adventurers also decided to skip this level, and closed the door and climbed to the next level.  At this point, the shaft did not seem to go anywhere else, so they determined that they must be at the “last level.”

Moving cautiously onto the level, the adventurers saw six golems like they had encountered before.  They were completely inanimate, but as the adventurers moved into the room, they hummed to life and began to move toward the adventurers in what appeared to be a threatening manner.  Prince Lanliss quickly cast a wall of force, sectioning off the golems from the rest of the party.  However, they were now left with only one choice in which to explore – counter-clockwise. 

As the adventurers began a sweep of the level, they found huge empty areas that looked like they were designed for storage.  However, most of the contents had been picked over or completely moved away.  They seemed to walk for quite a while before moving into a room that seemed full of dozens of bloated bat-like creatures that were emitting a strange vapor.  Prince Lanliss quickly shut the door and announced that they should not go that way. 

Backtracking their steps, the adventurers eventually entered an area that was full of steam, making it nearly impossible to see.  Uncharacteristically, the team moved into the room anyway, and got separated. 

Screams were heard, and the adventurers were never seen again.

[Post-Script: The six adventurers entered a former bath/spa of the spaceship, which was full of steam and also four doppelgangers.  The module indicated that the doppelgangers would pummel the characters and hit automatically.  Rather than use the very cumbersome and time-consuming pummeling rules from the DMG, and also since it was nearly 11 o’clock and getting close to the time when the group leaves, I used DM-fiat and declared that four of the characters (Prince Lanliss, Eldgrim Paunchshaker, Altman Maximandius, and Arwain) had been slain, and copied, by the doppelgangers.  I mentioned this to the players, and said that Wulgar and Lyria were, for now, unaffected, and that we could continue playing later to see if the doppelgangers would win the day, or if Wulgar and Lyria could hold out long enough to defeat them and escape from the “dungeon” alive.  However, most of the group opted to call it quits at this point, and even before I had closed my module, the DM for the next campaign was already announcing plans for the next game.]

Summary
Module:                              S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks
No. of Players:                  Five
Casualties:                          100% (10 characters)
                                                1 death by exploding grenade
                                                1 death by assassination
                                                1 death by radiation poisoning
                                                1 death by suffocation in a web spell
                                                4 deaths by doppelgangers
                                                2 deaths “unexplained”
Artifacts Recovered:      One laser gun, three “wheely-sleds”, a violet key-card, an orange key-card
# of Sessions:                    Four
Total Playing Time:         Probably about 9-10 hours, total, once you take out all of the chit-chat time
Food:                                    Pizza all four times, plus ice cream bars three times and homemade chocolate cake once
Drinks:                                  Smithwick’s Ale, Tap Room Amber Ale, Newcastle, various other beers I forgot, North Shore Distiller’s Gin No. 6, North Shore Distiller’s Gin No. 11, some great single malt Scotch but I don’t remember the name


Hanging:  Home office desk
Drinking: Tap water (I’m sick… AGAIN!)
Listening: “Talkin’ Baseball (Forever Dodger Blue)” by Terry Cashman

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Encounter Tables for Gamma World (or Mutant Future), Part 3

This presents Part 3 of my encounter tables for Gamma World and/or Mutant Future. Part 1 provides #1 - #5 and also explains why these encounter tables exist in the first place.  Part 2 has encounters #6 - #10. 

Enjoy!

The following is designated open game content per the Open Game License


  1. Mutant Plant (1) [AL N, MV 0’ (0’), AC 5, HD 3, #AT 1, DG 1d6 (throwing thorns, 50’ range) or tangle (vines that entangle opponents that get within 5’ of the plant), SV L3, ML 10, Mutations: animal limbs or organs (eyestalks), projectile thorns (1d6 damage), tripping tendrils (entangle instead of doing damage; plant is STR 15)]
  2. Healers (4) [AL N and L, MV 120’ (40’), AC 10, HD 5, 3 x 4, #AT 1, DG 1d2 (unarmed), SV L5, ML 8, Mutations:  one of the healers with 4 HD has psionic flight and neural telepathy.]
    The leader is actually an android, accompanied by two pure humans and a mutant human.  They will only attack in self-defense.  They are carrying two healing packs and a broken medical droid which they are taking back to their base – the nearest “shrine” where 20 more healers are found.
  3. “Wanderers” (3) [AL N, MV 120’ (40’), AC 10, HD 2 x 4, 1 x 2, #AT 1, DG 2d12 (uzi), 1d8 (medium caliber pistol), 1d6 (rapier), 2d8 (heavy military rifle), SV L4, ML 7, Mutations: none.]
    The leader, a pure human male named Phalk, has four HD and is carrying the uzi, pistol, and rapier.  Another pure human male named “Sarge” with four HD is carrying the rifle.  The last is a young pure human girl named Phaina with no attacks.  They are running from a group of pillagers who have been ravaging the countryside (see Encounter #14, below).  They are searching for a mythical home called “Genesis.”
  4. “Pillagers” (14) [AL C, MV 120’ (40’), AC 9, HD 1 x 6, 1 x 5, 12 x 4, #AT 1, DG 1d10 (shotgun), 1d8 (medium caliber pistol), 1d8 (civilian rifle), 1d6 (light caliber pistol), 1d6 (short sword), 1d6 -1 (shovel, pick, hand axe, etc.), SV L5 (leaders) or L4, ML 8 (leaders) or 6, Mutations: none.]
    The leader is carrying the shotgun.  His lieutenant is carrying the medium caliber pistol.  Of the remaining pillagers, two are carrying the civilian rifles, three are carrying light caliber pistols and short swords, and the rest are carrying an assortment of makeshift weapons such as shovels, picks, axes, etc.  This group of rabble-rousers have been terrorizing the countryside and are particularly interested in harassing the “wanderers” from Encounter #13. 
  5. Brother of the 11th Commandment (1) [AL L, MV 120’ (40’), AC 10, HD 3, #At 1, DG 1d6 (staff) or 1d4 (dagger), SV L3, ML 6, Mutations: none]
    This lone wanderer prefers not to attack (part of the 11th commandment to preserve all life).  He will offer help to anyone he meets by giving food, directions, etc.
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