Sunday, November 25, 2018

Greyhawk Dexterity Modifier to Armor Class: Just for the Fighting Man?

Okay, this is going to be a hardcore nerd post. I’m going to indulge into a bit of rules minutiae. I’ve been digging in my OD&D books lately because I plan at some point to do a post comparing the different retro clones and how closely they hew to the source. I’m not interested in finding out which is the most authentic, but rather, I’m curious to note how the small deviations actually affect play at the table. Whether intentional or not, these small mis-readings or diverse interpretations are just as interesting to me as any factual historical account of how particular rules came to be.

In looking at how ability score modifiers changed from the 3LBBs to Greyhawk, I noticed something I had never come across before. I did a little poking around in the old forums and didn’t find anything about it either. It could be that I missed an article or just that no one has ever posted about it because it’s so universally known. I came across a passage that seems to suggest that the Dexterity modifier as it is applied to Armor Class is a benefit exclusively enjoyed by the Fighting Man.

What prompted me to check the Dexterity modifier in Greyhawk in the first place was noting how different the Dexterity modifier table in Iron Falcon was from the parallel table in Swords & Wizardry Core (which is the 3LBBs plus Greyhawk). In S&W Core, the Dexterity modifier is universal to all classes as better by 1 for scores of 13-18, and worse by 1 for scores of 3-8. The Iron Falcon table showed the Dexterity modifier giving a Dex score of 0-14 gives no bonus or penalty, a score of 15 improves AC by 1, a score of 16 by 2, a score of 17 by 3, and a score of 18 by 4. This modifier is applied only to Fighters, with an alternate option to apply it to all classes at the GM’s discretion*.

This wide discrepancy again sent me to my copy of the first supplement. Again, I’m not particularly interested in what Strategic Review article or late-era Gary interview may have influenced Chris Gonnerman or Matt Finch to write their charts as they did. I’m more interested in comparing them to the original to see how the changes might affect the game one way or the other. What I found in Greyhawk was surprising.

It turns out that Iron Falcon’s Dex mod chart replicates what is laid out for Dexterity’s effect on AC. The relevant passage on the middle of page 8 of Greyhawk reads:

“Dexterity affects both the ability of characters to act/react and fire missiles. It is also the prime requisite for thieves. Fighters with a dexterity of greater than 14 can use their unusual manual dexterity to attempt to dodge or parry opponents’ attacks. For every point over 14 they are able to reduce their opponents’ chances of hitting them by 1 (5%).”

The Iron Falcon chart reflects this passage exactly, a bonus of 1-4 for scores of 15-18, and no mention of a penalty to AC for a low Dexterity. What struck me most was that it specifies that the fighter receives this bonus. Now it’s possible that Gary was using “fighter” as common parlance for Player Character combatant – meaning any character of any class. However, “fighter” is used as shorthand for the Fighting Man class all over Greyhawk. There is also a passage earlier on page 4 that seems to reinforce this idea the fighter-only Dexterity mod to AC:

“Fighting Men: Other character-types may engage in hand-to-hand combat, but only true fighting men are able to use their strength and dexterity to utmost advantage in melee.”

When viewed next to the wording of the passage on page 8, it would seem only fighters would be able to use their Dexterity in combat to avoid a blow. Thieves may be the most dexterous, but their class lacks the combat know-how to take advantage of it in close-combat. While I may not want to run my games that way, the intention of the rule seems pretty clear.

What is interesting to me is how Swords & Wizardry (and other simulacra) apply the AC modifier to all classes, as AD&D did in 1978 (PHB), B/X did in 1981, and every edition did thereafter. (Holmes in 1977 is a notable exception as it used the 3LBB rules more closely.) I’ve always played it with all classes getting the AC mod. Everyone I’ve ever known has played it that way. It’s as if everyone missed the exclusivity of this rule, or simply, like me, decided, ‘Nah, I’m not going to do it like that.’ In any case, how that conscious (or not) re-interpretation affects the intent of the rule is pretty huge.

First, applying the Dexterity modifier to AC for all classes makes Dexterity much more important. Many modern players feel that Dexterity is the true God Stat – it’s useful to everyone no matter what your class. Finch, in his WhiteBox rules’ alternate Universal Attribute Bonus rules, gives the -1/+1 modifier option for Dexterity to AC. There is a caution that it maybe should be limited to more swashbuckling campaigns without a lot of armor. There is an implied recognition that having Dex affecting AC makes the stat have a very powerful impact on the game.

Next, by giving this benefit to all classes, it takes something special away from the fighter. If only the fighter gains this benefit it makes this class much more powerful. When paired with the rule that only fighters use Strength bonuses for melee attacks and damage, it truly differentiates this class from the others and makes the cleric not nearly as good at combat (one of these days I’m going to write a post about how the 3LBB cleric is OP). If you use the strict interpretation of the rule (as S&W does with Strength to-hit & damage), that fighters, and only fighters (no paladins or rangers), get this benefit, it makes playing a bog-standard character much more appealing.

It should be noted (as was pointed out to me*) that S&W’s application of Chainmail’s man-to-man parrying rules does give some of that power back to Fighters. However, a parry is an active action taking the place of an attack, which is not as great a boon as a passive AC boost. Still, some of that Fighter “specialness” is preserved. In Delving Deeper, for instance, parrying is a non-exclusive action for any class.

As for how I feel about using this in my own games, I’m pretty sure I won’t. Possibly because my players would revolt. Partly because I grew up playing the game with AC being affected by Dex for all classes and it’s what I’m used to. More than that though, is the affect it would have on my game. Magic-users would be even more fragile than they are. Thieves would be less-likely to engage in combat, more likely to be played strictly as scouts, lock-picks, and trap-removers. People would want to play clerics even less. Then there’s thinking about how it would make a party of bandits (or other fighter humanoids) more powerful adversaries.

It has been said that Gary never understood why anyone would ever want to play anything other than a fighter, a Conan-like superhero. Given this rules interpretation, I can see how that makes sense.

CORRECTION: I updated this post because I made some incorrect statements about how Iron Falcon and Swords & Wizardry Core handle these rules. Just like Greyhawk, I glossed over the finer details. Both Gonnerman and Finch note that their work differs in parts (intentionally so) from the original game so shame on me for not careful reading. On the other hand, what’s an RPG post without a little errata?

Saturday, November 24, 2018

GM Notes - Morgansfort Session 10

The party question the young cultist they've just take prisoner, the lone survivor of their roadside ambush, and let him go. They take stock of the wagon’s contents, and bury the bodies of the cultists off the road. Disguised as cultists they head north to Slateholm. Close to the city, they run across a farmer and wife heading south with an oxen and cart and squabbling loudly. Nyphus greets them and learns there is a tax to enter the city in preparation for the Harvest Festival. Nyphus give them the needed funds while Pater sneaks onto their cart as the couple heads back. The plan is to meet up later inside Slateholm. Nyphus leads the wagon after the cart a ways back. They are questioned by the guards and end up paying the fine.

They see notices for their capture, but they look at least a week old, covered by other posters. They make their way through the Docks to the offices of the duty collection manager, Jochim Kellborn – the man who introduced them not three months ago. Jochim maintains an underground railroad for runaway slaves from Urd who stow away on merchant ships. The group enters his office dressed as cult members. Jochim is giving orders to a boy of about 9. He dismisses the boy, greets his old friends without ceremony or surprise, and begins questioning them about what happened at Morgansfort. He digs into them a bit about the mess they’ve made and how they’ve gotten themselves into trouble.

They party defend themselves, tell their side of the story, and asked to be taken to the Duke. Jochim tells them that the cultists have suddenly rose up in power and influence in the area, and they need to be delicate. He can keep their wagon and belongings safe, but isn’t willing to still his neck out by trying to intercede on their behalf with the Duke. He says that there are a lot of tensions right now in Slatesholm. The followers of the hundred gods (the old, pagan religions) are starting to proselytize on the streets and the Church of Tah, Reformed is watching them carefully, though not doing anything yet. He tells them if they insist on going to Ravenstone they could get a ride on one of the ships in the harbor, but no one will be leaving until the day after tomorrow, until after the harvest festival. The group leave to find a ship.

Pater slips off the wagon before the couple make it to the market square. He nearly bumps into a couple of cultists, but slips past. He finds lodging for the night in a common room of the Medusa’s Mirror in the Merchant Quarter. He starts asking around for information.

The rest of the group talk to Captain Ferris Merriweather of the Amber Tide, a clean and beautiful ship. He asks for an exorbitant rate, and laughs at their attempt to bargain. They next try the Tarred Goose, an ugly-looking longship that looks like it’s undergone heavy homegrown modifications. They approach a group of drunken sailors near the gangplank. They are recommended to “Captain” Baldrick who is currently passed out and must be roused. He bargains their fare down to something they can afford, and will allow them to sleep on the ship that night.

The group split up to gather information. Renik finds Pater in the Merchant Quarter and takes him back to the others. Mel and Nyphus split up and ask around the Docks, no longer disguised as cultists. They learn although there is some support for the cult, there is some among the populace that view them with fear and distrust. They all hear the following rumors:

·        Beware the Green Mark. Its print is poison and will stain your soul.
·        The Monks of the Mark bring peace to the people. Their verdant sign will open the hearts of men.
·        The old gods are restless. They will make their move soon and return.

The party sleep somewhat fitfully onboard with the rowdy, bearded and burly sailors. In the morning they go down to the main thoroughfare and watch the harvest festival parade. A range of  deities and beliefs are represented. The main float features Demeter and Persephone representing their annual meeting with Hades. The parade ends at the “underworld” of the Slateholm cemetary.

A commotion breaks out as three giant rats drop on a group of grubby, poor children watching. The party leap into action and quickly dispatch the rodents. An angry woman dressed in frilly antiquated clothing gathers the children up to lead them off. In the calm, as the parade goers look on the party, they see two black-robed men watching from the other side of the street. Nyphus assumes a threatening, beckoning pose and a whistle blows as the city watch close in to keep the peace.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Eldritch Cock's New Saving Throws

I've been thinking about Lamentations of the Flame Princess' new book, Eldritch Cock, ever since I picked it up on FreeRPGDay. The new spells in the book are pretty interesting, but the new playtest rules in the back inside cover are what I've been thinking about most. James Raggi has made a number of changes with the intent of increasing the influence of the ability scores in the game. One of the biggest changes is how saving throws are handled. IvanMike1968 just covered this very well on his YouTube channel (here), and it kind of prompted me to put my thoughts down.

To be perfectly frank, the new E.C. saves feel pretty foreign to me. I've only just started coming around to Swords & Wizardry's single saving throw mechanic after having used the standard five categories from old school Dungeons & Dragons for years. S&W creator, Matt Finch, gives special bonuses to certain classes for particular types of saves which gets it close to the original D&D rules. It's also extremely elegant which is part of the reason I've come around after my initial resistance. Now Eldritch Cock's new saving throw system comes around and has challenged my old school prejudices once more.

The new E.C. saves are based on a character's Charisma score for magic-related saves and their Wisdom score for non-magic-related saves. Instead of the traditional roll high on a d20 save against a target number based on the character's level and class, the new system is a dice pool mechanic where the relevant ability score determines how many d6s you throw. A roll of one 6 is a partial success, and two or more 6s are a full save. These saves don't improve with level progression, but last the lifespan of the character. The percent of at least partial success, however, is generally better with this new system.

Although I've never struggled too much with the idea of level progression impacting saves, it does make a lot of sense to keep it relatively static. The idea that a character gets better at ingesting poison without dying after going on a lot of adventures is a little absurd (although maybe you work up a tolerance, or learn to distinguish some telltale aftertaste/scent). At the same time, I'm still not a big fan of dice pools. I understand the utility of a bell curve, but there's just something about clattering all those dice on the table which doesn't thrill me.

So I came up with a d20 approximation of the new system that combines S&W's single saving throw, takes ability scores into account, and approximates the math of the new LotFP system so that characters have more of a shot of survival at 1st level without ever getting crazily invulnerable at high levels.

With this new hack, all saving throws would be made on a d20 with a roll of 1-10 indicating failure, a roll of 11-17 being a partial save, and a roll of 18-20 a full save. This universal saving throw wouldn't increase with level progression, but would (or could, based on GM ruling) be affected by your ability score modifier, from a -3 to a +3. When you break it down into the math it looks something like this:

Ability Score
Failure %
Partial Save
Partial %
Full Save
Full %
3 (-3)
4-5 (-2)
6-8 (-1)
9-12 (0)
13-15 (+1)
16-17 (+2)
18 (+3)

*Maybe a natural 20, plus a second partial save gives you a full save.

For comparison, here is the new saving throw rules for Lamentations featured in the back of Eldritch Cock. Again, a character's Charisma score determines the number of dice thrown for magical saves, and their Wisdom score determines the number of dice for non-magical saves. One roll of "6" is a partial save, and two or more "6s" are a full save.

Ability Score
Failed Save
Partial Save
Full Save

Now, right away, you can see that my d20 method and the EC save percentages are not exact, but they're close. The d20 saves are generally a little better, but not by much. The big difference is one is a flat distribution (d20) and the other is a bell curve (xd6) which leans towards the middle values. The outcome of this is that Partial Save category is dynamic with xd6 bell curve where it's static for the flat d20 roll.

Where my d20 version does make up the dynamic difference is in its use of multiple ability scores depending on the type of save, whereas LotFP's new system just uses Wisdom or Charisma. Having Constitution affect the save versus poison makes more sense than Wisdom. Having Dexterity affect versus Breath Weapon/Devices/Jump-out-of-the-way saves seems more appropriate. So on and so on. I get that by using only Wisdom and Charisma, Raggi makes them not dump stats, but I don't know if that justifies it for me. If I were to use the d20 global save system above I would keep the traditional, seven-bracket B/X ability score modifiers ranging from -3 to +3 to give it that dynamic swingy-ness.

At the end of the day, I'm not sure I'm sold on a global saving system for one big reason: how it affects adversary saves. Traditionally in OSR games, "monsters" save as a Fighter class would at the same hit dice level (or possibly M.U. if more appropriate). In a system that uses ability scores to modify a global save range, a couple of things happen.

First, not only do your low-level PCs have better saves, but all of your low-level adversaries/minions do too. It might make spellcasters possibly less effective against lower-level opponents. Next, you will either need to assume a standard 4d6 save for all NPCs and monsters, or start giving full stats for all your monsters. The first option works fine for your average bandit or evil human in LotFP, but doesn't feel right if you add in any otherworldly or eldritch horrors. The second option is where all the modern D&D systems have gone, creating huge stat blocks for monsters, something I have no interest in. While it wouldn't be too hard to ballpark a stat in the moment, I might bias myself for or against the players in the moment.

In the future, I'm toying with using a S&W style single save that improves with level and may be influenced by an ability mod at the GM's discretion. That leaves it open for a flexible rulings approach, helps low-level PCs save better against threats that test their strengths, allows for experience to influence your chances, and keeps running a monster fairly low-crunch.

I have heard some playtest reports on G+ that the new level-less spells found in Vaginas Are Magic and Eldritch Cock are way too powerful at lower levels, making the fighters feel useless. I wonder how many of them are using the new saving throw rules, where the average opponents has a decent chances at saving for half. The new LotFP Ref book should be out in 2019 so maybe we'll find out if these new save rules make the cut.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Over the Garden Wall as Inspiration for a Dolmenwood/Gardens of Ynn Campaign

I recently discovered Cartoon Network’s short animated series from a few years ago, Over the Garden Wall. It’s a charming world full of faerie mystery and autumnal melancholy. While watching it I was reminded of Necrotic Gnomes’ Dolmenwood setting and Emmy Allen’s Gardens of Ynn. Like those two game worlds there is a light whimsy with dark, folk tale undertones to this story of two brothers lost in a strange woodland named the Unknown with their talking bluebird guide, Beatrice.

Over the Garden Wall is a parable with Divine Comedy parallels, a bittersweet journey of self-discovery. It would be incredibly easy to tuck any of the characters and places into encounters in Dolmenwood or Ynn. I’d love to create a campaign using either of those supplements, and populate it with the harvest revelers of Pottsfield, the Woodman of the Dark Lantern, Adelaide – the Lady of the Pasture, the riverboat frog constables, the hysterical Auntie Whispers, and especially the Wraith-like, operatic Beast of the Woods.

I can’t be the first person to think of this. The series ran just one season, enough to cover the characters’ story arc of trying to find their way home. A series of graphic novels followed afterwards. There’s not enough of this gentle strangeness in D&D and I want more of it. Particularly now, since it's fall and Halloween is in the air. Everyone always thinks about dark horror-themed games this time of year, which is all well and good, but a little more Something Wicked This Way Comes is nice sometimes too.

If you haven't checked it out before it's worth a look. I think they are all still on Hulu as of this writing, and also on Dailymotion.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

GM Notes - Morgansfort Session 9

After spending the next several days resting and recuperating, the group leave the cave they have been hiding in and hit the road. The past few days noises and lights could be heard at night in the direction of the Old Island Fortress and the fort above, but the morning of their departure all is quiet. They have lived off the fruits of the sea as Nyphus was quite capably able to keep them all fed. This includes the sullen and taciturn, Br. Karnoff, the Green Mark acolyte and their captive. They let Karnoff know in no uncertain terms should he attempt to bolt for they will not hesitate to dispense with him. Their plan is to keep to the road until other travelers are heard, and then taking cover in the forest until the way is clear.

Very soon on the road they begin to see signposts with bounty notices looking for four travelers meeting their description. The group is wanted for the murder of one cultist, and the abduction of another. It is signed by the Bailiff Tomandy and Father Thelbain of Morgansfort. Conspicuously absent is Baronet Halden Rathwynn’s name. The group pull the notices and destroy them as they go. Mel cuts her into a choppy shag to hide her ears, Nyphus shaves his beard, Pater and Renic do what they can to look unobtrusive. Karnoff, however, still looks like a cultist.

Nyphus takes off his gear and pretends to beg for food and clothes at a nearby farm. The clothes are for the cultist, to disguise him as well. Nyphus is taken in by a farmer who asks her grown son to take him upstairs to get some of his older brothers’ old clothes. The son quietly complies while the woman fixes some bread and cheese for Nyphus, who hides a gold piece near a window to pay them for the debt. Nyphus gives the clothes to Karnoff for disguise.

A few nights later the group are camped in the woods off the eastern side of the road. During the middle of the night, while Renic is on watch, noises outside the group’s clearing are heard. Sounds of shuffling feet in the brush. More tellingly, a rank smell of fecal death permeates the camp. The group wake up and quickly arm themselves. Figures appear on the edge of the campfire’s light. They are human, naked and smeared with dried blood, dirt, and human waste. They are moaning and one of them is holding his prolapsed bowels below him in his hands. Renic leaves the light to circle around the intruders to find out where they came from. He tracks their trail back to a filthy hole of a cave where the smell of excrement and sickness is more pungent. Back at camp, Mel tries to communicate with them. The figures make motions to stay away from them, but make imploring motions. The group interpret the pantomime to indicate that they are asking for aid. The group gather some of their food and place it outside the circle. The emaciated diseased take the offering and shuffle off.

A few nights later the group is again awoken in the early morning by the emergence of dancing lights moving toward them in the forest. As they come closer they reveal themselves to be otherworldly Will-o-the-Wisps. They get the group to follow them further east, away from the road. Twenty minutes later the eerie lights lead them to a clearing, built like a natural amphitheater with a horseshoe-shaped marble temple at the bottom. Lifelike statues dot the courtyard. Pater scouts ahead and enters the temple building starting with the room on the right, which he finds to be an artist’s studio, smelling of turpentine and stretched canvas.

While Pater examines the left room the group finds a gallery of work in the room on the building’s right. Before entering the middle archway, or the crest of the horseshoe of the temple structure, a cloaked and hooded figure walks out. A female voice asks them who they are and what they are doing here. When she sees the Will o’ the Wisps she makes some snarky comment to them. The figure and Mel exchange introductions. The woman is Calista. She removes her hood to reveal a burlap mask covering her head, the top of which riles with movement. She explains she has lived in this shrine for a millennium, cursed by the elven goddess to remain here for her crimes. Once a rich and beautiful noble woman, Calista was transformed into a medusa for by the goddess after she burned a dryad wood. She came to the shrine and exacted vengeance on the elves there turning them to stone. The goddess imprisoned her in the shrine, doomed to recreate the lost beauty in art form. No one may leave the shrine without permission of the goddess below.

The party explain their mission of rooting out the cult of the Green Mark. The medusa tells the party the Wisps brought them for a reason and they will need to speak to the goddess. Small figures, wood golems the medusa has created through dead dryads. The child-like beings mutely lead the party into the shrine, through underground tunnels to a lower chamber where a door in the wall stands. The door opens and they are presented with avatar of the goddess. All by Mel are paralyzed with fear. The goddess communicates to Mel telepathically telling her she will let the party lead and even aid them in their quest by conferring gifts upon them.

For Mel, a Root Crown which gives her the ability to awaken one tree a day per level (achieve sentience, take on human characteristics, and uproot themselves to become mobile). For Nyphus, an Bridging Arrow (single use, creates a bridge over a chasm, river, etc. – fist-sized stone sphere tip). For Pater, a Lantern of Concealment (a steel construction adorned with moons and suns, that renders the bearer + 1 invisible as long as the lantern is lit) and one canister of expensive oil. For Renic, ­­a bundle (6) of Witchfinder’s Candles (detect magical enchantment, spells, conjured spirits, or creatures).

The group leave, taking the terrified cultist with them. They decided to hit the road early. A few days later, a wagon can be heard coming over the hill. The group hide in the roadside forest, waiting for them to pass. The wagon is being driven by two black-robed individuals and out front, two men in leather masks and harnesses clamber ahead on all fours. The group decides to let the strangers pass, but Karnoff runs out into the road, saying, “Brothers! Brothers! Help!” The maniacal leather berserkers rip him to shreds before the cultists on the wagon can stop them. Four more cultists pile out of the back of the wagon (six total) and inspect the corpse of Karnoff. The group launch a missile attack taking out a cultist and hitting the berserkers. The berserkers and five of the cultists are dispatched quickly. Renic is hit by friendly fire from Pater. They take one of the cultists hostage, a terrified, callow youth. They plan to make for nearby Slateholm (only a couple of days away) to catch a ship to Ravenstone, home of the Green Mark.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

GM Notes - Morgansfort Session 8

The party holes up for the night in the room/house with the crossbow skeleton, spiking the door. In the morning, the group listen at the door and hear some shambling and moans. The four zombies they had turned from the previous day had returned. Mel and Nyphus turned two of them again while the last two had to be hacked to pieces.

After the fight, the group head north back to the room/square with the well. They manage to open the door to the west that was previously blocked before. Pater scouts ahead and finds himself in what appears to be a private family’s tomb. Within the wall lay corpses in burial wrapping. A smaller set of child-sized holes lies empty. Hidden in one of these unoccupied holes Pater finds a small stone seal which when pressed opens a secret door into a hidden passage west. Through the short passage another secret door is found (by Nyphus, I believe). This exit ends up on another north-south passage/street.

The group head north and reach a door where they hear intense buzzing behind. They try western room first that houses dozens of bats which fly down the passage south. The room reeks of guano. Underneath the dung is an intricate tile mosaic of elven designs. A minute after the bats have vacated, the group hears eerie singing down the southern passage coming from an open area. Nyphus investigates and finds an ancient elf chained to the eastern wall within.

The group joins him. The dusty fellow proves to be half-crazed, welcoming them to the great elven kingdom of Nevelainen. He speaks in vague nonsense of a calamity that befell the city long ago and mentions the Les Fourmir or the dead. They try to free him of his ancient bonds, shackles pinned through his forearms. Once removed he disintegrates.

The group head north to the door where they heard buzzing. Upon opening they find four giant ant men and six giant ants. All are eating maggoty fly larvae. The ant men speak in a heavily-accented archaic form of the Common tongue. The group explain they want to leave, but the leader of the ants, an apparent head guard explains he must bring all trespassers before their queen, unless some other arrangement could be worked out (bribe). The ants notice that Br. Karnoff is bound and they ask to trade the prisoner for permission to leave. Nyphus and Mel are fiercely against the proposal both from a sense of morality as well as pragmatically wanting to keep him alive to use as a way to get into the northern slave city of Ravenstone in the north, the seat of the Green Mark, run by the Archbishop Nemesine who Father Thelbain said was blackmailing him. The ant suggests he could take part of the prisoner while keeping the conscious part of him alive. Again, they reject the offer. The leader notices Mel’s necklace and scarab broach, and Renic’s golden earring. An exchange is begrudgingly made.

The group leave the buried city and find themselves toward the bottom of the cliff to the north of Morgansfort, facing the sea. They find a small dry cave and rest a few days to rest and heal, fishing from the sea, and planning their next move. That plan is to head back north to Slateholm to find a ship to take them over the Western Sea to Ravenstone where they hope to infiltrate, expose, or destroy the Green Mark.

Friday, September 21, 2018

GM Notes - Morgansfort Session 7

It is around 11:30 p.m. Father Thelbain acts quickly and has his acolytes clean up the remains of the dead, mute cultist, Brother Malachi. Brother Karnoff is bound and gagged. Before more discussion of Ravenstone and Bishop Nemesine can be had, the Morgansfort alarm bells begin to ring. Fearing soldiers coming to the church to investigate and find a dead cultist, the priest ushers them to the back of the sacristy where he tells them they must leave the fort immediately. He explains that the cultists have ingratiated themselves to the Bailiff Tomandy as diplomats from Ravenstone. If Br. Malachi is discovered to be dead, the PCs will be arrested. Thelbain is also eager to keep his connection to Nemesine via blackmail private as it will mean his de-frocking. He encourages the group to take Karnoff with them which they want to do anyway as a way in to Ravenstone. He gives each of them a healing draught before leading them to the upper level of the Chapel of St. Queril where it meets the northern fort wall.

Thelbain talks his way through a guard tower and follow the inner keep wall around to the central tower. As they make their way above the fort, they see troops below mobilizing and in the distance, strange lights appearing over the Old Island Fortress. Thelbain unlocks the tower door with a special key. Inside they descend a long spiral staircase to the ground floor and beyond until they reach another door of a far older make. Thelbain tells them that they will find a way out of the fort through the cliffs to the north by the sea. It is a way only know to himself, the Bailiff, and the Baronet. Thelbain tells the party the staircase to the passages below heads south. If they turn themselves around and head towards the most northern and western path they will find the way out. The group enter the passage and Thelbain closes the door. The key clicks behind them. They are locked in.

Pater scout ahead down the stairs 20 ft. south, coming to a landing with three stairways branching west, south, and east. The group heads down the western branch. The ceiling did not slope with them. As they descended the ceiling became cavernous above them. They found themselves in a north-south “hallway” with cobblestone flooring and white-washed plaster walls. They realize they are in fact in an underground city. The floor is a road and the walls are buildings. Examining the walls more closely they found a door directly from across the stairs. Pater checked for traps, found none, and opened the door. A crossbow bolt shot out missing Pater and Nyphus at the front, hitting the wall behind them. The “bowman” was a (in-animated) skeleton sitting across from the door with a crossbow aimed at the door which apparently discharged with the disturbance of the door. The room is covered in dust and curtains hanging on the walls. There is no further way forward.

The group head north back in the hall and reach a doorway/gate leading to a 30’ x 30’ octagonal room with a large well in the middle. There are other doors to the west, north, and east. Pater checks out the well and the group are surprised by a giant, fanged skull on a stalk body of vertebrae. The snake-like bone creature begins to sway, hypnotizing part of the party. The group engages in an extended battle. Pater is hit a couple of times and comes close to death before jumping on the back of the spine behind the head. Eventually the group manages to defeat the great thing cutting the head from the spine which clatters to the bottom of the well.

Nyphus “lays hands” on Pater with a loud slap, rebuking him for disturbing the well and reviving some hit points.

The group recognizes the room to be a small, town square and head through the door north. They find another dead skeleton holding a small chest. Inside the chest are two cruets of holy water and a small scarab broach (of protection). Br. Karnoff comes to life and starts mumbling motioning towards the well-room. The party see shambling figures silently approaching the threshold to the well-room from the south. Renic springs into action and charges. Pater fires an arrow. Mel and Nyphus attempt to turn the zombies. Mel’s turning works and four of the foul beasts flee. Mel and Nyphus coat their arms with the holy water and join Renic in bottle-necking the zombies at the door. All contribute, but Renic’s new sword is the bloodiest ending the battle with a pile of a dozen zombie corpses stinking up the room. During the combat Pater tried both the room to the east (blocked/caved-in) and the door to the west (locked/stuck).

Now the party find themselves in an underground city, past midnight with low to mid-levels of hit points, and their spells depleted. They must now decide whether to rest whether to push on to find their way out or hole-up for the night to rest up. Once out, they need to plan a course of action. Ravenstone is far north across the sea. Do they return to Slateholm to find a ship? How do they transport their prisoner (Karnoff) without arousing suspicion? What if he refuses to help them get into Ravenstone?

Greyhawk Dexterity Modifier to Armor Class: Just for the Fighting Man?

Okay, this is going to be a hardcore nerd post. I’m going to indulge into a bit of rules minutiae. I’ve been digging in my OD&D book...