Posts Tagged ‘boasts



04
Jun
11

Caverns of Thracia: “Mwa Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha”

After the adventurers in the White Sandbox defeated the Beast Lord, I asked them to sign my copy of Caverns of Thracia in memory of all the great times we’d had within its pages. Tonight I collected the last signature in the set: Paul Jaquays relishing the hundred-plus hours of suffering his brilliant dungeon design inflicted on y’all, which made the final victory so sweet.

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24
Sep
10

super awesome lets pretend time (pt 1)

This afternoon Tavis and I played a home-brewed version of D&D with ten 8 year old children at an afterschool program in Manhattan.  Let me front-load with the cute stuff:

  • Two of my five players were girls.  One of them, Joan, ended by saying, “That was AWESOME.  That was, by far, the best game I have EVER played.”  We loaned her a copy of the new 4e Starter Set to read this week – God knows what she’ll make of it.  So at the end of the session, a copy of D&D ended in the hands of an enthusiastic new (and female) player, which is what this is all about.  I am awesome (Tavis is more awesome, but gets second billing on this).
  • Joan initially was disappointed that there were no “normal girl” miniatures, but at the end of the session said, “I wish I could keep this, I LOVE her” in regard to her black-leather-clad dual-wielding female Doomguard.
  • “Okay, as you’re travelling along the old bridge road, you see a strange little lizard man, about 3 feet high.  He is astride a giant weasel, and looks to be having a nap in the saddle.  What do you do?”  “Kill it!  “Um, kill it.”  “Ooh, ooh, I attack it and then kill it!”  “Let’s just kill it!”  “Okay . . . Roger, what do you want to do?”  “I guess . . . I chop off its head, and then kill it.”
  • In the process of killing it: “I chop out its eyes!”  “Whoa cool!!  It can’t see!!”  “Nice one!”  “Yesssss!”  (twenty minutes later) “In the dungeon, you find Sir Justin.  The monsters have chopped out his eyes, leaving him blind.”  “That’s horrible!!”
  • All of these kids were 8 years old.  They showed strong ability to do D&D-type reasoning: “It sounds like this route is very direct, but dangerous.  Let’s try an indirect route and get there a different way. . . . Let’s stick together so the monsters don’t get us . . . This key probably unlocks a dungeon cell, let’s take it along with us. . . . This monster invited us to dinner: it must mean he’s planning to eat us!”  So all of these signals from the DM are immediately understood correctly.  I delivered these signals in a slightly exaggerated fashion, but the children had no problems understanding the big idea and how stuff fit together entirely on their own.
  • RaQuel said, “My second sword is also a cell phone.”

The idea is that we’d get a whole bunch of kids at the elementary school to role-play, using the Dungeons & Dragons brand as a bait-and-switch.  The idea would be to teach newcomers that these types of games exist, and Dungeons & Dragons is a fun thing to do.  And for kids who are already D&D players (there are a few in this bunch), we’d show them how to do things in a more Old Skool kind of way–which is to say, just imagining stuff and having fun, without worrying about “builds,” rules, feats, and other stand-ins for status-mongering.

Some of these kids are new.  Several of them that I was playing with had no prior role-playing experience, and were very frightened and worried about trying something totally brand new.  So I did a lot of work reassuring them that, “This is a game that is fun.  It helps you imagine.”  We would play as a team (“Yes!!  I’m so glad we don’t have to compete!”) and while unexpected things might happen, you’re never out of the game.

Tavis home-brewed some super-simplified version of 4e which was still too complicated for me to understand, much less teach.  My bunch played pretty fast and loose: roll + stat bonus = hope for the best.  Basically, my version of it was a D&D 4e Skill Check type system, just without skills, and 5 kids managed to accomplish 5 encounters (with 2 combats) in just over 40 minutes.

Maybe some day soon I will post up the little adventure I drafted, if I can figure out how to do it.

13
Sep
10

A Walkthrough for B2: Keep on the Borderlands

Go N. Hail castle. Go N. Get mission. Go S. Go S.

As readers of the New York Red Box and Red Box Vancouver forums know, I’ve been working on a piece for the online magazine The Escapist‘s Issue 271: The Red Box Diaries, “How a decades-long love affair with Dungeons & Dragons is reshaping the industry.”

My just-released article is called “Imagine Your Perfect Arcade Game“. The title refers to one of the key metaphors I use to talk about what makes Basic D&D and the way we play it unique, shamelessly lifted from cr0m’s blog post Running a Red Sandbox: “Red Box is an arcade game, not a video game.

In my enthusiasm for the subject, I ran well over my word count. Heroic editor Greg Tito just emailed me to say:

I cut it down a little bit more to get it under 2000 words. Unfortunately, the anti-walkthrough was a casualty, even though I thought it was hilarious it just didn’t illustrate more than what you are already saying with less words in other places.

As an appetizer, then, here is that excised tidbit: an illustration of what it would look like if you tried to write a video-game style walkthrough for the original Red Box’s starter adventure Keep on the Borderlands, meant to illustrate how radically different its improvisational approach is from the kind of RPGs most gamers know from computer games or even most modern tabletop ones.

Enter the lowest cave to the north. There is a 33% chance six kobold guards are here. If so, your DM may roll dice to see how they react to your arrival. If they want to be your friends, just play it by ear; maybe you can guess what explanation the DM has dreamed up to make sense out of this turn of events. Don’t let the conversation go on too long or you could be interrupted by a random wandering monster! If there are goblins, and they decide to fight, according to the rules your best weapon is flaming lantern oil. However, since one of the DM’s jobs is to model the physics of the imaginary world, you should first make sure no house rules have been introduced to reflect the danger inherent in tossing Molotov cocktails around a cave the size of a schoolbus.  If you can kill one of the goblins, and the DM is using the optional rules for morale, a lucky roll may cause the rest to run away from you. If not, you might need to roll up a new character. Try to get more than one hit point this time!

22
Jun
10

Do Not Read Fight On #9 If…

Pity my poor players, for whom some of the content of this excellent zine is off-limits

The new issue of Fight On is out now. Among the many awesome things it contains is an adventure called “Caves of the Beast Mistress”, which I wrote both as a tribute to Paul Jaquays’ Caverns of Thracia and “Night of the Walking Wet” and a memorial to my friend Sang Lee, whose monster illustrations grace the adventure.

Players in my White Sandbox campaign are hereby forbidden from checking out this part of the issue until they’re sure they won’t want to pursue any still-unexplored directions within the “side entrance” to the Beast Lord’s cave!

When y’all finally do clear these areas, the reward for your patience will be seeing that the names of the characters from the last few sessions are credited as playtesters.

EDIT: You may have trouble finding my contribution to this issue in the table of contents, as your attention is likely to be distracted by the familiar-looking name of  Eric Minton: Purchasing Potions (p. 25) and Grognard’s Grimoirs (p. 114). I am mortified to have forgotten to celebrate Eric’s pieces, which I hope will inaugurate an ongoing takeover of all printed matter everywhere by Mules.

27
May
10

we killed the beast lord. you missed it.

The Beast Lord enjoys his last meal

Tavis’s White Sandbox campaign is largely centered around Paul Jaquays’s 1979 masterpiece, The Caverns of Thracia.  On Saturday night, we defeated its arch-villain, Stronghoen the Beast Lord.

Thirty-seven players and fifty-five characters have played in the sandbox over its twenty-two session lifespan, and they’ve all been gunning for this moment.

What was most impressive to me is that defeating the villain was a beautiful team effort, in which everyone at the table that night played a part.

The Cast

Ookla the Mok, Elvish Ranger
Theos, Dwarven Magic-User (played by JoeTheLawyer)
Lotur the Scurrying Cur, a Fighting-Human (played by Greengoat)
Thales, a Faun
Arnold Littleworth, a Human Magic-User (played by me)
John Fighter, a Fighting-Human
Merselon the Magnificent, a Fighting-Human
Lucky, a Fighting-Hobbit (played by Eric)
THE SPIRITS OF ALL RED BOX CHARACTERS EVERYWHERE

Snapshots of Awesome

Ookla the Mok

Fred the Talking Fish (billion years old, made out of wood, you wear it around your neck, it never shuts up–in short, don’t ask!) cast an illusion on Ookla so that he looks like an Ixchel wearing a sombrero. Ookla would spend the next several hours going “Boogita-boogita-boo!” to every NPC in the game. (Dave had another awesome moment below, but I’m not sure if it was OOC brainstorming or in character.)

Theos the Renegade Dwarven Magician

Armed with our wand of paralyzation, Theos – unafraid to scout ahead – immobilized half a dozen slime-monsters which exploded out of barrels dropped by an especially pesky group of vines.  (He later made a pretty strong bid to operate the wand of wonder while high, which given Tavis’s glee at the idea would have been disastrous but showed massive courage.)

Lotur the Scurrying Cur

After overcoming a swarm of slime-monsters, Lotur ran up the side of a cave wall, and jumped down in front of a female Minotaur so impressively that she decided to worship him.

Thales the Faun, a Faun

Being half-goat means you can haltingly communicate to half-cows. (Who knew?) Thales managed to interview the female Minotaur, discovering much about their lair.

Arnold “Zolobachai” Littleworth

Armed with this information, Arnold cast Zolobachai’s Impertinent Invitation and strolled into a Minotaur Sorority Party. When his attempt to poison everyone failed, he made friends with their Druid-Queen Raven Gargamel.

(It turns out Raven’s gang views the Beast Lord as a sell-out to the lich roaming the dungeon, and she agreed to help fight the Lich if we first neutralized the Beast Lord.  She gave us a straight line of access to the Beast Lord’s palace.  I am pretty sure she didn’t want us to kill him, cannibalize his body for trophies, and then cook what was left in Arnold’s trusty frying pan, but all good relationships are built on keeping some facts strictly to yourself.)

John Fighter, True King of Thracia

With the help of our scouts, John found a group of ten were-bears whom we sorta knew.  After getting the bears good and drunk on Lucky’s dwarven ale, he promised them half the Beast Lord’s treasure if they would help us fight. Were-Bears are 6 HD monsters who cannot be injured by normal weapons – in other words, far more bad-ass than we are.

(So, with 8 of John’s soldiers, and 10 were-bears, we stormed the Beast Lord’s citadel. Everyone did brave things. Kudos especially to Ookla’s player, who ingeniously suggested using illusionary Harpies to trick the victims of a real Harpy’s mind-control powers. I don’t know if this was suggested in-character, so maybe it’s not an Awesome Thing for Ookla, but it was still damn clever, and built on an idea Joe had.)

Merselon the Magnificent

After the gang demolished six Gnolls, five Harpies and a Hydra, Stronghoen the Beast Lord and his group of Gnolls charged out at us. Though Theos managed to paralyze most of the Gnolls, Stronghoen incinerated all eight of John’s soldiers (including like 3 George Foremans) with a fire ball, which also put 5 of 7 party members at death’s door. When Arnold blinded the Beast Lord with the wand of wonder, MERSELON THE MAGNIFICENT magnificently vaulted into melee combat alone, and was the first of the Grey Company to draw the Beast Lord’s blood. For a round or two, Merselon fought the Beast Lord alone … until the Beast Lord slew him with single stroke of his enormous battle axe. It was an epic death.

Lucky the Hobbit

With Merselon down and the Were-Bears running away in terror, things looked grim. As Arnold desperately tried to revive the others, Lucky kept nailing the Beast Lord with critical after critical. As John, Ookla, and Lotur – all with 1-2 hit points – swarmed into melee, Lotur’s preposterous fumble managed to distract the Beast Lord long enough for Lucky to nail him straight through the throat with one of his deadly arrows, and as the Beast Lord fell to his knees, King John ran Stronghoen through with his blade, Heart of the Mok. (Then Arnold hit him upside the head with the busted frying pan.)

Lucky is more of a bad-ass than I'd previously assumed

Aftermath

We pretty much stopped right there: six survivors, each with one foot in the grave, gathered around the Beast Lord’s corpse in the depths of the Lost City. Though a Dog Brother was gathering reinforcements deeper in the palace and casting nefarious spells, the Slayers of the Beast Lord bowed their heads to honor all the brave souls who have soldiered at their side:

Merselon the Magnificent (Acrobat)
Christos, Assassin
Maldoor the M-U
Obscura the Illusionist
Lydio the Spider-Dwarf, M-U
Thisilyn, Cleric
Fostra, Archer
Caswin of Aeschlepius, Cleric
Emurak the multi-classed
Bartholomew Honeytongue, Cleric
Brother Gao, Cleric
Into the Mystic, Cleric
23, Robot Cleric
Myggle the Priest
Mallo Beer-bane, Cleric
Thorsten Skullsplitter (Fighting Man)
Garrett Nailo, (Cleric)
David Carradine, Monk
Colin, F-M
Tommy, M-U
Argus the Rat Knight, F-M
Narcissus, M-U
Elston, Elf
Sir Hendrik the Halfling
Garrock, Alchemist
Obamabiden the Druid
Fark the Dwarf
Dirk
Orb the M-U (and his spider)
Fletcher the Fighting Man
Janape
Bluto, F-M
Morena, F-W
Chance, Cleric
Billy the Rat
Nicholas, Cleric
Axum Maldoran (Axum)
Dr. Meridian Kaine the Cleric
Doghead the M-U
Tiburo, F-M
Wolfrey, F-M
Rebmik the Cleric
Balint, Sapper
Goo the baby Elf
Mariano the Fighting Man
Renaldo the Cleric
Florin the Dwarf
Oban the Cleric
B’Var the Fighting Man
Wallace the Caged (Fighting Man)
Mungar the Fighting Man
Tusk the Fighting Man

We could not have slain Stronghoen without their bravery, creativity, and fellowship.

14
Mar
10

looking for death in all the wrong places

Confession: I’ve spent a decent amount of time playing Dungeons & Dragons, but I’ve never fought a dragon.  Or a beholder.  Or  mind flayer.  Basically, if you look at a list of the fall-down-awesome D&D monsters, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered them.

if only that could be ME getting my brains devoured

Quiz time!  How many of these things have you encountered?  And, if you did, what happened?

  • Aboleth
  • Beholder
  • Berbalang
  • Black Pudding
  • Bulette
  • Demons (any – though my party met a Type V one time when I missed a session)
  • Devils (any)
  • Dragons
  • Drow
  • Githyanki
  • Kuo-Toa
  • Lich (though my party met one when I wasn’t around)
  • Mimic
  • Mind Flayer
  • Owlbear
  • Purple Worm
  • Rakshasa
  • Roper
  • Rust Monster
  • Salamander
  • Slaad
  • Umber Hulk
  • Xorn
  • Yellow Musk Creeper
  • Yuan-Ti

It’s a shameful, disgraceful list!  I’ve fought like a zillion freakin’ goblins, gnolls, stirges, and a gelatinous cube once or twice.   But I’ve never fought any of those.   Where the hell are the Mind Flayers?!

Part of the problem is that all these really great monsters are hiding out toward the end-game as juicy rewards to people who have put in the time, and I’ve never gotten past Level 7.  But dang it, Beholders are totally fucking beast!   Just throw one at us!  Make us run away!  Even if I get killed, I can die happy knowing that it was one of the greatest monsters in the history of RPG’s that killed me!  (Notice that a huge percentage of these things have crazy-ass ways to kill you, just like a James Bond villain is defined by his goofy weapon.)

I’m really hoping that, as Tavis’s campaign heads off into the Outer Planes and into the Underdark beneath Thracia, that we start encountering some of these guys.

Tavis, Eric –  hook a brother up with a grisly, trademark-related death!

And the rest of you – are these critters awesome to play against, or am I building them up too much by ogling the Monster Manual?  What were they like in play?

01
Mar
10

arnold and the allosaur

I’ve been bad about blogging – I’ve got little to say these days – but let me tell you about my character… (And solicit your own tales of bravery!)

Last night, while exploring the Caverns of Thracia, my 4th level Magic-User Arnold Littleworth stared down an allosaurus which had just devoured our platinum robotic liger.

Like this but made of Platinum

Rest In Peace, Loki

(Yes, we have had a platinum robotic liger.  This is not the focus of the story.)

Two things are noteworthy about this encounter:

  1. The rest of the party all ran away in terror.  I won’t kid you, I wanted to run as well.  But to the true hero, glory matters more than life itself.
  2. I cast a spell I researched: Zolobachai’s Impertinent Invitation basically allows you to mingle with monsters until the boss shows up.  Thanks to some sloppy drafting on my part, it worked perfectly in this situation.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time in the OSR that a Magic-User has researched a brand-new spell and cast it in play. (Though I’d be happy to be proven wrong.)

Not only has Arnold, also known as Zolobachai of the Nine Visions, traveled between two different campaigns, and been immortalized in print (entirely due to Tavis’s greatness) – but he is also Using Magic like a fiend.

What crazy, foolhardy tales of derring-do has your character been up to?  For me, this is the third or fourth time Arnold has risked crazy death:

  • Arnold – no weapons, no “good” spells – brained a Lizard Man with his frying pan in his first adventure, purely to save Colin Tree-Slayer’s life.
  • Arnold – again, no weapons or “good” spells – toppled a mind-controlling statue in order to save the party
  • Arnold swindled an 11th level Wizard into eating Giant Eagle dung, in order to lift a curse on his comrade, Sir Argus the Rat-Knight
  • The whole thing with the allosaur, yadda yadda old news

So although Maldoor is smarter, and Forager is more ingenious, and John is more noble, and Ookla is more sensible, and Chrystos is funnier–I think Arnold is hands-down the bravest and most gutsy.

Like this, but alive and smelly

Yes, I Defeated You (by just barely surviving)

I’d be happy to read tales of courage in the comments!




Past Adventures of the Mule

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