Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Vaults of Vyzor #25: Band Geeks


  • Brutal Pete, dwarf band leader
  • Adam o' the Dungheap, mercenary bassoonist
  • Logo Tosslespanner, gnome flugel player
  • Thombur No-Face, dwarf instrumentalist
  • Gelash Cogsteel, gnome drummer
  • Hugo the Slayer, mercenary french horn player
  • Tinash Steamsteel, gnome tuba player

Aleksandr Revzin played Brutal Pete. I mentioned to my wife the other day that Brutal Pete has been on several expeditions to the Vaults but I don't actually recall him being any more brutal than the average dungeoneer. The rest of the band were split up, three characters apiece, between Peter C and Wizard Lizard (a.k.a. Tan), but I can't find in my notes who played which characters.

[The following article appeared in the evening edition of The Vyzor Voice, 10 November 2017.]

Marching Band Brings Home the Goldby Vulmon Beirel
Music critic

VYZOR – Brutal Pete’s marching band returned a few members short today from a grueling but apparently lucrative delve into the tunnels beneath the house formerly occupied by Goodman Johnson. Witnesses report that the band leader, along with flugelhorn player Logo Tosslespanner and tubaist Thombur No-Face, emerged from the dwelling’s root cellar with bulging pockets and burdened with a number of large sacks. Mr. No-Face was later observed buying rounds for strangers in The Green Mulberry before loudly declaring his intention of spending the next several days at the Nunnery. According to Mr. Tosslespanner, three of their band-mates perished from snakebite in the course of exploring unmapped regions, while a fourth died in an explosion caused by a malfunctioning French horn.

The losses leave the ranks of the marching band sorely depleted and completely lacking a percussion section or any kind of bass instrument. Nevertheless, the expedition may be judged a success in terms of the considerable amount of gold and gems that appears to have been retrieved by the ensemble. Cryptic answers given by Mr. Tosslespanner during a brief interview, along with the recollections of Vyzorians who were regaled by Mr. No-Face in The Green Mulberry, indicate that the major focus of the expedition was the use of a special apparatus for breathing underwater to retrieve a treasure chest from the depths of a pool infested with vicious fish.

It was unclear at press time when, or whether, the band would recruit new members. In the opinion of this writer, it is to be hoped that the ensemble will quickly fill out its ranks and resume its essential place in the artistic world of our fair community.

Brutal Pete's tale of the delve...

My first memories are of ripping out of my birth caul, which my father had formed from precious metals, the flesh of the hated ones, his own blood, and his labor. (They call us dwarves greedy and spiteful, for we lust for treasure and wage ceaseless war on our enemies, but this is our genesis and renewal). But my first true home is Vyzor and it felt good to delve below the Sorcerer's keep again. Not only that, but to lead my well-trained marching band, the Blue Brutal Beat Band (the 4 B's baby, the Quad Threat, the Quatro-Sting) armed with experimental music instruments made my blood lust sing.

By a roll of the dice, the Violet Vaults were chosen. We descended the ladder, chased away some poisonous asps and noted some diving equipment. In excellent formation we arrived at the pool full of piranhas. There was a large rectangular shape in the water and our instincts pushed us to investigate. Retrieving the diving equipment, we made a plan for Hugo the Slayer to play his French Horn of Concealment so Adam o' the Dung Heap could hide as some sort of box or a collection of loose tiles. Thus, the piranhas would be confounded. But calamity occurred and the French Horn exploded, ending Hugo's life, and causing us collateral damage. Hugo's training showed, for not once as he died did I see anything but a look of heroic determination on his face. I nodded once in respect to his severed and smoldering head as it flew past me and I saw it blink once, acknowledging my salute.

Logo Tosslespanner's alternate plan involved us slaying some asps, putting their bodies in a chainmail shirt, and bobbing that bundle in the the water to distract the piranhas, so Adam could safely descend to the bottom of the pool. The plan was a great success and what we retrieved was an iron chest. The final stash of the thieves guild! Stuffing our pockets, we carried the chest back to the entrance and made several trips topside to empty the chest fully. Our second death occured now. Adam, on guard below, was attacked by two snakes. Bitten, he fell dead to their poison. We carried his body up and laid him on a bier of treasure.

With the remainder of our time we decided to explore this level. All the humans were dead, so we "went dark," relying on our infravision. South down a wide corridor of pillars, then west to a 4-way intersection. Acting on a suspicion, I discovered a secret door and tunnel to the north. The band encountered large lightning bugs and resolved to try one more door, before retreating. I must take much of the blame for what happened next. Looking at what scraps of map I had for this level, I believed we had moved south and west of the lizard mummy king's throne room. Perhaps we had. When we opened a final door to the west a wall of snakes collapsed onto us. Tinash Steamsteel and Gelash Cogsteel fell to the venom of their bites. As spittle bubbled from their mouths I glared, making sure they understood to show no pain to our enemies as they died. Logo shrewdly played his Flugel Horn of Stilting to rise above the mass of snakes. Thombur No-Face blew on The Transparent Abomination and summoned men-sized life-draining Purple Tribbles, which battled the asps. We retreated topside, leaving two band members and some valuable magical instruments under a tide of venomous snake foes. Like a sore-tooth, this will pain me until vengeance and retrieval are done.

Final note from the DM

The body of Adam o' the Dungheap, well-known smelly hireling, was successfully retrieved from the dungeon. Thanks to the necromantic arts of Pete Loudly, he has been reincarnated as an orc. He still stinks to high heaven.


Tinash Steamsteel (gnome band member), Hugo the Slayer (band member), Gelash Cogsteel (gnome band member), Adam o' the Dung Heap (band member), Magic Meryl (Nick Kuntz), Arthur (faithful NPC doggie), Gachos Disco-Wang (NPC demon), John Lackwit (o-level loser), Szazsraz the Lizard Wizard (Chris Wilson), Iter the Physick (NPC), That Pictish Bastard (NPC), Bufo the Wizard (Makali’i F), Beefo the Gerblin Drinking Buddy (NPC), Willy Whats-His-Name (0-level Loser), Poor Brother Rupert (cleric hireling), unnamed serving boy (0-level hireling), Gwalin Rustbritches (dwarf hireling), Jarrod the Magic-User (Ian Reilly), Jonesy (0-level NPC), Little Liam Linkboy (0-level NPC), Limpy the Naileteer (Jeff Call), Engsal the Enchanter (Alex Joneth), Elfbraham Lincoln (Jeff Call), Littlens (0-level NPC), Biggens (0-level NPC), Stimpy (0-level NPC), Ren (0-level NPC)
Sigismunde von Flegelschnecke (Alexei McDonald), Sapphean Gratchit (Josh Rapp), Lobat Greet (Jesse Goldshear), Brax of the Tallstones (Brad Black), Mike O'Nidd (Matt Barclay), Kilic (Alex Joneth), Barnabus Sleet (Maxim Golubchik), Laurantha the Unbeautiful (Cullen), Big Gnome (Luke Rejec), Szazsraz the Wizard Lizard (Chris Wilson), Rose Royce (Kiel Chenier), Sneakerly Trull (Zak S.), Ilse Raagenkampf-Sleet (Perttu Vedenoja), Persimion Finch (Galen Fogarty), Magic Meryl (Nick Kuntz), Merrill Meadows (Michael Julius), Chef (Richie Cyngler)

Saturday, November 04, 2017

More on the Ring

Cool guy Evan Elkins made several improved versions of my map of the Ring.  Thanks, Evan!  I especially like this one that shows the borders of the interstellar polities and the names of the subsectors.

The borders make it a lot easier for me to notice a few details about the multisystem governments of the Ring.  A big one is the fact that fully half of them do not possess a class A starport.  (Starport type is the letter above the planet in the center of the hex.  A is the best.  An X indicates no starport whatsoever.)  This lack of class A starports is super interesting to me, as class A's are the only starports with facilities for the construction of starships. 

So where do these poor governments get all their jump capable vessels?  Do they buy them from other interstellar polities?  If so, which ones?  Do the sellers limit the sort of naval technologies they'll make available to others?  Or do the pocket empires that lack a class A buy all their ships from the two non-aligned worlds with class A starports?  A third possibility is that they make do with rickety old fleets from a previous era.  Some combination of all three of these possibilities is probably the best answer.  But one of the things I love about Traveller is how the random distribution of something like starports suggests ramifications for the campaign.

Another thing to glance at is the presence of naval bases, which take the form of a little star in the upper left of the hex.  Most of the governments of the Ring have either one or two naval bases.  So that's the norm for the region.  But two of them have no naval bases whatsoever.  They also don't have a class A starport.  I think it is fair to ask whether or not these two governments even have their own navies.  If not, what does that mean for the campaign?  If they do have a navy, why don't they have a base of some sort?  Whatever the answer, it should provide some interesting material for the setting.

Then there's the blue-outlined and white-outlined regions in the middle left subsector.  They possess 3 and 4 naval bases respectively.  Having more naval bases than average seems like an indicator of possible belligerency.  That looks like the section of the Ring with the biggest military build up, so maybe those two neighbors have a long history of interstellar warfare.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Vaults of Vyzor #24: rescue the dead


  • Pitwin Spryneedle, gnome (Mick Kuntz)
  • Hugbert the Bold, jerk (NPC hireling)
  • Ilse Raagenkampf-Sleet, LotFP specialist (Perttu Vedenoja)
  • Maria de Parma, fighter (Giuliano Pereira)
  • Lars Hootman, owl-man (Ian Reilly)
  • Sapphean Gratchit, blue mage (Josh Rapp)
  • Balphazad the Befuddled, magic-user (NPC hireling)
(report by Nick Kuntz)

To: Mister Barnabus Sleet
c/o The Jarrod Memorial Library

From: Master Pitwin Spryneedle

Dear Mister Barnabus Sleet,

Good morning, sir. Do not be confused as the Halfling delivering this missive and the unused potion of spider climb is, in fact, your fellow librarian know previously as Magic Meryl. Know, too, that she continues to want to be known as Magic Meryl (even though, I am sad to say, I detect no magical abilities residing in her reincarnated form).

As you know, sir, my parents are currently under the heel of the Red Hand Orcs somewhere in the Vaults below Vyzor. I could not leave my teacher to also be lost to the dungeon. Pete Loudly, your fellow Octarine Belt Librarian, suggested that an emergency mission to retrieve Magic Meryl’s body for him to reincarnate could be performed in 13 days. Several of Vyzor’s adventures volunteer to help me in such an endevour including among their number yourself and Meryl’s other fellow librarian Laurantha the Unbeautiful. As your are current under the spell of the Masked Sorcerer himself to defeat the Elf King, I could not risk your well being by delving into the dungeon for another purpose. Plus, with threat of invasion promised over the sale of that fish god statue to Loudly, I didn’t want to push it with the Masked Sorcerer. Instead, I recruited the following adventurers to assist from those that had volunteered:

Mario De Parma- The newly arrived to Vyzor human fighter was so friendly that when he offered help, I could not say no.
Sepphean Gratchit- The human blue mage was Meryl’s closest living friend and it was impossible to stop him from joining the mission.
Lars Hootman- The owl-ing fighter had stepped forward to return the favor of Meryl retrieving Jarrod’s skull. I knew Meryl would want me to allow him the honor.
Ilse Raagenkampf-Sleet- In the alleys of Vymrrys, I had seen her cast the most terrifying spell I had ever seen. She is probably the most powerful and fearsome being I have met so I had to see if she would come along.

In addition, we hired the Hubert the Bold and Balphazad the Befuddled to assist in carrying the body.

Our mission started with us assembling the frame for the pulley system Yohey constructed for us in the root cellar of the Johnson’s old place. Then we proceeded down into the Violet Vaults. Ilse took the lead and immediately ran across a snake. They have not stayed in the Throne Room of the Serpent King. She made short work of it. Sapphean downed a potion of animal control and we grabbed the door Yohey had taken off its hinges last visit to this awful place.

Around the corner, Sepphean quickly ran into more snakes which he easily charmed. We turned the door sideways and used it to blocked off a room to our right filled with more mage-killing sinister serpents. We moved quickly down the hall to the room with that life-like serpent pillar collecting about 13 snakes, all controlled by Sepphean.

With the Throne Room and Meryl’s body a mere 70 feet away, the retrieval team stopped to discuss our plan to get her out. As we discussed, Mario and Lars noticed a small form hiding behind some rocks. As soon as he noticed us noticing it, the little jerk tried to make a break for it. Ilse and I caught up to it, though. The weaselly fellow is some sort of foot high man named McGillicutty who had with him a small chid. He was terrible fashion sense and a terrible personality. When I tried to charm him, he shrugged it off and claimed, “You don’t cast magic on me, I cast magic on you!” Besides him being the most unpleasant person I know, we smoothed things out with him and I paid him 25gp to be our guide. He hopped onto Mario’s shoulder and joined us.

That sorted, we went about enacting our plan. We coated the thirty feet of corridor closet to the Throne Room in oil. Ilse walked to the edge of the Throne Room and summoned a strange mist that caused the snakes to start killing each other. Balphazad became incredibly jealous of such a display of magic that he torn off back out of the dungeon. Never hire that guy or let him join the Library as he is a total flake.

Meanwhile, the snakes had entered some sort of tangle of violence like a Last Gnome Standing wrestling match except less cool and more bitey. When they had defeated their fellow snakes in the room, they slithered their way towards us. But, ah-ha, I was waiting with a torch. Now, I will admit here that I did not do my best. I became filled with memories of Meryl’s death and burned with revenge. I should have been stronger as Meryl had sought to teach me to act in according to virtue rather than base feeling. None the else, I dropped the torch soon after seeing those cruel creatures as I wanted to see them burn.

And burn they did. The hall caught on fire and we waited as they died. At this point. McGillicutty opens his gob to mention something about an alternate route through the piranha room (passed some doors spotted on previous delves). We, though, decide to save that stuff for later and have Sapphean scout. He cast spider climb on himself and traveled across the ceiling into the Throne Room.

There, Sapphean noticed a couple of things. One, the mummified Serpent King was vomiting out snakes still. Two, he could see Magic Meryl’s body and it seemed to be snakeless. A quick use of the spell fly and he swooped down to retrieve Meryl. As he scooped her lifeless shell, two snakes popped up but they were a bunch of dorks and missed. We had retrieved Meryl!

At this point, we notice that McGillicutty had split. That dweeb is no good. Plus, he abandoned his kid to have Lars Hootman take responsibility for him. He even left a not about how bad of dad he’d be. Don’t hired him again. We quickly got back to the dungeon exit. We hear some kind of noise of a monster but it looks like the snakes kept it away. With a quick use of Yohey’s pulley system, we return Meryl to the surface and rushed off to Loudly’s shop. I gave him 750gp and he returned my teacher form the great unknown. She is shorter now that she is a halfling and keeps muttering about the “cosmic womb.” I have been there twice to be remade and I won’t forget it. I can’t imagine what she has been through. It has definitely changed her. She has started carrying rocks around in a pouch and calling them her “magic missiles.”  Hopefully with the help of friends like you and the talking skull of Jarrod, she will be able to adjust from the shock of her return and new life. I think not being able to cast anymore is going to be real hard on her. Still, I am glad she is back. I am also grateful to know so many kind and skilled adventurers. I would welcome having any of these cool fellows in my party anyday. They will always have the gratitude of Meryl and I.


Master Pitwin Spryneedle

P.S. I will be appearing soon with an offering of my spellbook to join the illustrious ranks of the Jarrod Memorial Library.

P.S.S. Seriously don’t trust that Balphazad-dude. He just ragged on us the whole time and split. Plus he is a terrible dad to his weird kid.

P.S.S.S. That wasn’t the end of our trips to the Violet Vault. We also visited the piranha room and found where McGillicutty lives. He was just sitting there drinking tea like it was no big deal, the jerk. I gave him a hardy slap on the back as a greeting and tea shot out of his mouth. Ha! It was a great prank. He told us that piranhas live in the pool we had already knew about thanks to throwing a dead snake in. He also told us that doors west of the pool or the corridor leading to his home go to the Throne Room f the Serpent King. He mentioned the room to the east of the piranha room that just had undead in it. It is marked as it is a waste of time and only filled with death.

P.S.S.S.S. The old door Yohey took off the hinges is currently blocking the corridor south right out of the Violet Vault entry leaving only the old hobo camp accessible. We wanted to keep the snakes out.


Magic Meryl (Nick Kuntz), Arthur (faithful NPC doggie), Gachos Disco-Wang (NPC demon), John Lackwit (o-level loser), Szazsraz the Lizard Wizard (Chris Wilson), Iter the Physick (NPC), That Pictish Bastard (NPC), Bufo the Wizard (Makali’i F), Beefo the Gerblin Drinking Buddy (NPC), Willy Whats-His-Name (0-level Loser), Poor Brother Rupert (cleric hireling), unnamed serving boy (0-level hireling), Gwalin Rustbritches (dwarf hireling), Jarrod the Magic-User (Ian Reilly), Jonesy (0-level NPC), Little Liam Linkboy (0-level NPC), Limpy the Naileteer (Jeff Call), Engsal the Enchanter (Alex Joneth), Elfbraham Lincoln (Jeff Call), Littlens (0-level NPC), Biggens (0-level NPC), Stimpy (0-level NPC), Ren (0-level NPC)
Sigismunde von Flegelschnecke (Alexei McDonald), Sapphean Gratchit (Josh Rapp), Lobat Greet (Jesse Goldshear), Brax of the Tallstones (Brad Black), Mike O'Nidd (Matt Barclay), Kilic (Alex Joneth), Barnabus Sleet (Maxim Golubchik), Laurantha the Unbeautiful (Cullen), Big Gnome (Luke Rejec), Szazsraz the Wizard Lizard (Chris Wilson), Rose Royce (Kiel Chenier), Sneakerly Trull (Zak S.), Ilse Raagenkampf-Sleet (Perttu Vedenoja), Persimion Finch (Galen Fogarty), Magic Meryl (Nick Kuntz), Merrill Meadows (Michael Julius), Chef (Richie Cyngler)

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

The Ring revised

So here's a revised version of the Traveller map I shared the other day.  I made a major goof in the first version: the bottom right and upper left corners of the map were the exact same subsector.  Whoopsie.

Now that this little issue is fixed, here are some next steps to make this map into a viable Trav setting:
  • Take a good look at the jump clusters.  What places are jump-1 vessels limited to?  Where can a j-2 ship go?  What parts of the Ring can only be accessed by j-3 or better?
  • Plan some travel routes.  I prefer the pre-Imperium (the official setting) version of trade routes in the 1977 version of the rules.  Tales to Astound has a good post on this subject.
  • Figure out what some of the Red and Amber Zones might mean.
  • Look at which worlds are dominant in the region.  Generally, a world with a high population, a high tech level, a class A starport, and a Naval base will be one of the big players in the setting, as those are the kinds of worlds with the resources needed to force their will on others.
  • Determine what all these dang allegiance codes indicate.  Those are the the little two letter things near the bottom right of each world.  Na stands for Non-aligned.  The rest are random output of the generator and are meant to suggest the name of some sort of interstellar political unit.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Center Cannot Hold

The Ring (pictured above) was created as a Burgess Shale type Traveller environ.  At 3 x 3 subsectors, the Ring is a bit more than third smaller in area compared to a standard Trav sector, but still plenty large for many kinds of adventures.

The individual subsectors were generated using the Zhodani Base's cool random generator tool, with race set to "Pocket Empire," settlement level to "Backwater," and most subsectors either "Standard" or "Scattered" density.  The central subsector was set to Barren settlement level and Rift density.  The graphics for each subsector were autogenerated by clicking the nifty "send to" button.  I then stitched the individual maps together rather hamhandedly in

The inspiration for the structure of the Ring comes from a couple of old strategy sci-fi games I played in my undergrad days.  I fondly remember searching U of I's local AppleTalk network for an unsecure Mac that could host our games of Spaceward Ho!Usually someone in the Foreign Languages Building unknowingly obliged.  Later we spent a lot of time playing the sci-fi mash-up game VGA Planets, where the Cylons could fight the Federation and the Rebel Alliance at the same time. 

As I recall, both games had options for configuring the initial spacemap and we tended to favor ring-shaped universes.  This choice allowed for each player to face at most 2 foes in the early stages of the game.  We liked slow build-ups, ending with titanic battles between well-prepared opponents.

World info and subsector maps below the thingy.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Vyzor #23: oh god I killed another dog


  • Yohey the Carpenter, LotFP specialist (Anthony Fournier)
  • Persimion Finch, pig (Galen Fogarty)
  • Magic Meryl, magic-user (Nick Kuntz)
  • Arhur, doggie (pet)
  • Pitwin Spryneedle, gnome (henchweenie)
  • Gozundi the Lizard (Chris Wilson)

To: Mister Banabus Sleet
c/o The Jarrod Memorial Library

From: Master Pitwin Spryneedle

Dear Mister Barnabus Sleet,

It is with a heavy heart that I write to inform you of the passing of my mentor Magic Meryl, 2nd Dan – Jale Belt Librarian. She perished in the 1st Level of the Violet Vault, covered in a swarm of poisonous snakes. Arthur, ever the faithful dungeon terrier, stayed with her to the bitter end. He, too, died of poisoning under the touch of their most fearsome fangs. I fear I would have suffered similarly, sir, if not for the heroism of the warrior cursed to live as a pig, Permsimion Finch.

I traveled with my mentor, Arthur, Mister Yohey the Carpenter, Mister Gezundi the Lizard, and the aforementioned Mister Finch as far as the 3rd Level of the Violet Vault. While what was encountered there include some of the most frightening brushes with the unknown in my fair short but adventurous years, they were not what befell my teacher. Still, even know; I do not want to dwell long on what transpired in those dungeons deep. Heed, though, this advice: Watch the ceilings.

Included with this missive is a map that leads from the hatch in the root cellar of the Johnsons’ old place to the location where Magic Meryl passed. When we left it, the long room had become flood with snakes. Snakes first poured from the mummified serpent man seated on the southern throne as well as innumerable holes hidden amongst the reliefs of those sinister, slithering creatures. I do not know now if the serpents remain or not.

From among the funds I acquired from the sale of a crown we recovered from the deceased Serpent King and 10 barrels of wine, I am currently offering a reward of 200gp total to those that return Magic Meryl’s body to the Jarrod Memorial Library. This is in addition to any current standing rewards you have for the return of librarians to your institution. It is there that she found a home in Vyzor and would like to return to join her friend Jarrod among the stacks.

I, myself, hope to one day be counted among the Library’s ranks to continue Magic Meryl’s legacy. While I am proficient in the casting of 1st and 2nd Level magic-user spells, I have yet to master one not yet found among your collection. Until then, sir.
With deepest regrets,

Pitwin Spryneedle

Pitwin and Persimion carousing


Magic Meryl (Nick Kuntz), Arthur (faithful NPC doggie), Gachos Disco-Wang (NPC demon), John Lackwit (o-level loser), Szazsraz the Lizard Wizard (Chris Wilson), Iter the Physick (NPC), That Pictish Bastard (NPC), Bufo the Wizard (Makali’i F), Beefo the Gerblin Drinking Buddy (NPC), Willy Whats-His-Name (0-level Loser), Poor Brother Rupert (cleric hireling), unnamed serving boy (0-level hireling), Gwalin Rustbritches (dwarf hireling), Jarrod the Magic-User (Ian Reilly), Jonesy (0-level NPC), Little Liam Linkboy (0-level NPC), Limpy the Naileteer (Jeff Call), Engsal the Enchanter (Alex Joneth), Elfbraham Lincoln (Jeff Call), Littlens (0-level NPC), Biggens (0-level NPC), Stimpy (0-level NPC), Ren (0-level NPC)
Sigismunde von Flegelschnecke (Alexei McDonald), Sapphean Gratchit (Josh Rapp), Lobat Greet (Jesse Goldshear), Brax of the Tallstones (Brad Black), Mike O'Nidd (Matt Barclay), Kilic (Alex Joneth), Barnabus Sleet (Maxim Golubchik), Laurantha the Unbeautiful (Cullen), Big Gnome (Luke Rejec), Szazsraz the Wizard Lizard (Chris Wilson), Rose Royce (Kiel Chenier), Sneakerly Trull (Zak S.), Ilse Raagenkampf-Sleet (Perttu Vedenoja), Persimion Finch (Galen Fogarty), Magic Meryl (Nick Kuntz), Merrill Meadows (Michael Julius), Chef (Richie Cyngler)

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Broodmother related public event

Hey, all!  I'll be at the Flanagan Public Library, 124 S Main St, Flanagan, IL on Thursday, November 7th 2nd starting at 7pm.  I'll be giving a talk, the working title of which is "How D&D Saved the World."  Go big or go home, as they say.

Since I grew up on a farm just outside Flanagan, this is sort of the return to the mundane world of my hero's journey.  In my talk I hope to explain my ridiculous hobby to the community that first knew me as That Weird Kid, so the content of my presentation may not be super interesting to my fellow specialists.  But please come if you'd like!  I'd be thrilled to see some friends and/or meet people I only know online.

If you bring your copy of Broodmother I would be happy to sign it for you, though I will only sign page 5.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Vaults of Vyzor, session 22


Laurantha the Unbeautiful, elf (Cullen)
Jimmy Neckbeard, halfling (henchweenie)
Sapphean Gratchit, blue mage (Josh Rapp)
Sneakerly Trull, orcish thief (Zak S)
Mozarella, doggie (pet)
Sigismunde von Flederschnecke, gnome fighter/illusionist (Alexei McDonald)
Gary Oldman Badger, badger (pet)

Laurantha to the Sorcerer of the Azure Mask--A Missive

O! puissant one, I, Laurantha the Unbeautiful, have returned from an expedition into the Azure Vaults, armed with new information about Elexus Starchild, and with one of the servants of the dreaded Elf-King in hand. This is my account:

In company of four faithful allies--namely, Sneakerly Trull, Snaphean Gratchit, and Sigismond Flegelschneckel, as well as my sometime companion Jimmy Neckbeard--we descended into the vaults beneath the Azure Tower. Through my perusal of the maps of previous expeditions, I expected to find stairs down to the second level of the vault through certain eastern doors on the first level, in a large chamber with two of the Elf-King's agonizer cages. And thus we did; but entering the large agonizer chamber, we beheld two beholders, emaciated and miserable-seeming in the larger cage (the other was empty).

Sneakerly took the initiative to negotiate with these erstwhile fearsome beasts; they, being half-starved, readily agreed to call out to us in warning if any danger came a-stalking up behind us, and in return, we would feed them the remains of certain carrion crawlers rotting in a nearby chamber. Though not exactly enthused about the nature of this dish, they nevertheless agreed--much to our aid further on!

The stairs were as I recalled them to be from the previous maps; at their foot opened an ancient library, all a-mess and haunted by a ghostly librarian. When I approached the desk and rang the bell, this spiritual custodian obligingly appeared, and led me by my request to the special history section. There, I perused many works, and was able to glean two things concerning our foe: firstly, that the ancient Elf-Druid war was started when the Druids (they being non-human at the time) first taught magic to men, and that the Elves, led by the Elf-King, opposed this folly as madness (as it was, alas); secondly, that the Elf-King's most puissant servant and champion is known as the Purple Mist, which may be a single identity, or perhaps several (the writer seemed uncertain which in his use of number).

Meanwhile, as I researched, Sigismond sought out works on trichology, hoping for a remedy for his hairlessness. It was just as Sigismond finished copying an alchemical recipe, and I my notes on the Elf-King's history, that we heard a great shout and alarum from up the stairs behind us: 'Beware the shadows!'

Thanks to this timely alarum by the beholders above, we were able to escape quickly into the corridors beyond the library and slip away down a side corridor. There, we heard a deep rumbling snore; Sneakerly declared that sleeping giants generally meant nearby treasure, and the party agreed in hope; but when Sneakerly sought out the source of the noise, he discovered no sleeping giant, but a great brown dragon, coiled in sleep and chained to the wall in a wide upward-sloping chamber. When he returned and mouthed the warning, 'Dragon!' to us, that dolt Jimmy Neckbeard nearly wakened the thing by trudging up to gawk at it, but we dragged him back, and decided better to turn aside rather than possibly face a dragon on our way out of the vaults.

There followed a series of explorations of the rooms of the second level of the Azure Vaults. We discovered a great arena, where orcs and morloi battle horrid monstrosities; we discovered the laboratory where those horrid monstrosities are stitched together and stored in stasis, most likely by the Elf-King or his servants; and we also discovered a conference room, complete with a set of decanters bearing golden liquor which we appropriated (and sold above); and lastly, a room with a great pool entering onto a vast underground river. All of this was mapped by myself, and when I have copied it well, I will share it with yourself, o! puissant one, and with my comrades-in-arms.

Lastly, while returning from the room with the great pool, we heard a noise behind one of the many doors of the hallway; Laurantha knocked, thinking that perhaps an Elf might be mistaken for a servant of the Elf-King--but no answer. So Sigismond threw open the door, and alas, what was on the other side was indeed an Elf, but with a fireball at the ready in his gloved hands, which he cast into our midst. The fireball damaged us all, but none of our own were slain by it; and the Elf himself was also injured. He panicked and attempted to flee, but was not only seized on the buttocks by the jaws of Mozarella, Sneakerly's faithful hound, but Gary Oldman Badger also seized him in his great claws.

This Elf--a pathetic creature barely deserving that lofty appellation--wept openly as if the demons of Hell had him in their grasp, and only wept more horribly as Sneakerly suggested a great plan involving his employment as a native dissident intent on the assassination of the Elf-King and the overthrow of his oppressive regime--and wouldn't this Elf (by name of Thesarius) like to be a hero? He very much did not want to do so; in fact, what he wanted and had been intending to do was to quit the Elf-King and escape out of the dungeon, which thing we happily aided him in doing, by tying him up with slightly paralyzing carrion-crawler tentacles and hauling him out of the dungeon with us.

Now Thesarius is with us, and hopefully we can glean further information about the Elf-King from him .
Your lieutenant in the War Against the Elf-King,
Laurantha Akala”

A week in the life of Sapphean Gratchit

I was hanging out with Magic Meryl after hitting it off in our expedition to the Dwarven temple the other day. She asked me if she could cast a spell upon me which I was ecstatic about being able to learn spells the way I do. She said it would change something about me. I didn't listen very much at the time. I sat there and waited for the spell to be finished. As it did, I found myself whisked away immediately and looking around it was dark and I was unable to see clearly. I could feel however, my body being slowly melted away and yet they were not disappearing, I could feel the same parts of me still. It was as if they were being transposed several feet away. This process continued until I was just a head floating apart from my body but I could still feel my body. Then it stopped briefly, I heard a voice reach out to me. It sounded a little bit like Meryl except far more...motherly. It spoke this to me, " Hello, little one. Here is a gift. Let your newfound intellect be a boon to you and your companions. " Suddenly with a flash I was back outside the castle. I was me but I also felt strange like I was able to see the world, more. I understood some things that I didn't before and I thought. I was thinking about things ahead of time!

I was on my way to tell Meryl what had happened when an elf woman approached me and asked if I wanted to accompany her on an expedition to the Azure Vault beneath Castle Vyzor. It was exciting because I had just come here not that long ago. I heartily accepted her offer and ran off to tell Meryl all that had just transpired. She was glad for me and I asked about the spell was it was still ringing through my memory. I was in the middle of deciding to commit it to memory when Meryl interrupted my thought process. " It is a magnificent spell, unfortunately you must have a womb in order to cast it. " I do not in fact have a womb and as such put the spell out of my mind.

A few days past and after some brief preparations, Myself, Laurantha, Sneakerly Trull, and Sigismund with his companion Gary Badger (actually a badger), (There might have been a dog as well? I can't remember) all found ourselves descending into the vault. We go past a room which past expeditions have been in and marked out a pit trap in chalk. I remind myself that I have some chalk for just a thing. After an uneventful first room we walk into another previously encountered room full of dead...things. (Carrion Crawlers, I think? They didn't smell very good decaying and all.) After, seeing Sneakerly smack a dog( It was at this moment I realized there definitely was a dog. Was it his dog?) with one of the half-dry tentacles. The dog subsequently became semi-paralyzed as a result. I thought to myself ooooo that would be a cool ability to possess. I thought better of consuming the long dead corpse of something that might paralyze me before we had even gotten started though. Instead, we picked up all of the tentacle bits we could find and divided them among ourselves. I made off with two.

As we walked into the next room we could hear raspy breathing and as we walked closer two emaciated Beholders in cages suddenly became apparent. Sneakerly addressed them and found them to be both starving and not liking their captors. I wondered to myself why they didn't try to kill us on the way in, but they didn't so i guess we are lucky if nothing else. Sneakerly made a deal with the beholders that we might feed them if they warned of anyone following us. They happily agreed and we continued onward.

As we came to the next door, I couldn't help but notice that we kept on having trouble with doors. When we conquered this door though we found ourselves in a massive library. Laurantha had mentioned the elf king and wanting information on him. So, we stopped here for a bit to do some research. After asking what we were looking for I deftly climbed to the top of a bookcase using my inherent spider ability that I got from eating those dust-blood dwarves in the temple a short while back. I saw a glowing ghost woman and informed everyone as quietly as possible. Laurantha saw a bell on the desk in the middle of the library and rang it. The ghost woman disappeared from where i was staring at her and reappeared in front of Laurantha. Laurantha inquired about the Elf King and the apparition guided us to a section of histories. After sitting down for a while to sift through the books Laurantha seemed pleased about having found something. I couldn't help but notice that Sigismund seemed to be looking for something else during that time, of what I am unsure. Laurantha was mumbling something about a purple mist when we heard the shouting of what I assumed was the beholdrs. They said shadows were coming our way. Not one of us wanted to fight them so we fled deeper into the vault.

A small time later we came upon many intersections of corridors going this way and that. We followed a low rumbling noise that sounded like snoring. We picked a few directions and came upon a couple of corridors leading to the same room. Sneakerly Trull went ahead of us briefly and tripped on something as he walked into the room making some noise. He then almost immediately reappeared in the archway of the room and made some hand motions and whispered. I was at the back holding the Lantern and checking behind us for those shadows so I didn't quite hear it but then suddenly a loud exclamation came from behind me, something about a dragon. A chill went up and down my spine a few times. No way am I ready for that kind of spell absorption. Apparently, we were safe still.

We decided dragon-slaying could wait until another day. We headed back the way we came and found an Arena of sorts. There was fresh blood on the ground and posters depicting the fights that presumably were being held here semi-frequently. We didn't find anything useful but I saw Sneakerly palce a sling underneath a broken tile in the corner of the arena. As he walked backed to the group he said, " Heh, just in case I end up here sometime. It's happened before."

There wasn't much in the arena so we left and headed north down the intersection we had passed. We found a door that led to a room(brilliant Sapphean... brilliant writing) in which there was a sort of council table. I saw in the corner a couple of cloaks. I rushed over and threw one of them on. I also saw a hat which I put on immediately. I didn't feel any magic coming from them, alas. The hat was fun though. I look like a joker or something. Laurantha found much more valuable liquor crystals and we placed some of them in the other sack I brought down with me. I looked under the table as we were leaving but it was just chair legs.

We continued down the corridor to a very large room that glowed strangely as I held up the torch I had been given. There were all these bluish cylinders and as we looked into them we could see the creatures that were being depicted in the posters in the arena. It looked like some kind of mad wizard creation, necromancy or something like it. Some of my tutors had mentioned not to delve into this kind of magic whilst they were failing to teach me anything, or perhaps it was me failing to learn. In any case, we couldn't find another way out of this room at first glance. Sneakerly, Sigismund and I sat around a few of the tubes trying to figure out what was inside. A few were obvious to the eye. There was a giant four frog thing. It looked just like someone stitched a tapestry together but used four frogs instead of textiles. There was one we couldn't wuite place that looked like something of and Ogre but with more bear on it, but also it had horns but the horns weren't on its head. I mentined, " There is definitely some demon in it somewhere." We left it at that. Laurantha meanwhile, went searching around the perimeter and seemingly knew how to find the secret door that was hidden just near the original entrance to this room. She pushed on a stone and an archway opened as the wall slid to the side. We followed this down a ways and it came to the staging ground for what I can only assume is to let these abominations into the arena. There was not much else there.

We turned again back the way we came and went down the final intersection in this area. It led to a series of doors, symmetrical on each side of the corridor. At the end of the corridor was a pool with flowing water, like an underground spring. Also, I looked into a toilet in the corner to make sure it was a toilet. It was Most assuredly so. The pool seemed to continue under the wall wherever it was flowing. There wasn't anything much of interest in this room at the end of the corridor. Sneakerly went along all the doors and stopped at one saying he heard something coming from inside. we couldn't open the door ourselves so Laurantha went up to it and knocked. A few moments passed and nothing happened. I asked if anyone was in there. She said she heard something fall. Sigismund stepped up and used his prying bar to open the door and as soon as it was open any amount at all a flash burst from inside. Luckily, I was being apprehensive and shielded myself from the blast with my newfound cloak. It didn't help much but I suspect if I hadn't been so quick to cover my face I might not have had many more seconds left in this world at that point. I quickly quaffed the potion I had taken in with me just for such an occasion. I could feel the singed flesh on me cover over with magically renewed flesh. As i was doing this looking up there was a small man in goggles trying to run through our entire party, unsuccessfully. He was quickly snatched up by badger and dog. Then, subsequently smacked with a half-slimy tentacle of a dead paralyzing creature. He was then tied up with the tentacle touching him so he couldn't move very well.

When he could speak again the man said his name was Thesaurius and he was a servant of the elf king. He probably shouldn't have said that. Laurantha had specifically mentioned looking for exactly someone like that. Sneakerly then made an incredibly convincing and concise speech about how Thesaurius was going to help us and wanted to help us defeat the elf king. As Thesaurius shed tears of joy for now having known how he could help us defeat the elf king we led him out of the vault. Still bound.

we stopped for a brief moment on the way out at the cages of the beholdrs who harried us slightly about letting them out of their cages. Which we said we would do once all of the vault was explored. Mostly sneakerly said that actually. For a moment I thought I was going to have to give up my carrot and tentacles but luckily Sigismund had some Mock-gnome sausages that he was willing to part with. the beholders commented on the fact that real gnome would have been better but beggars cant be choosers.

we had successfully made it back to the surface with all of our small amount of loot and one live servant of the elf king. Laurantha and I decided to celebrate. I had never been on an expedition before so she decided to show me a good time. We drank and ate merrily. At some point Laurantha handed me something that I thought was just some of the leaves that people around here seemed to smoke quite often and it didn't seem too harsh to try. I was incredibly wrong. My vision swayed and Laurantha waned and waxed in form from my view. Eventually things started to come into view again. Laurantha was nowhere to be seen but instead I saw a woman in front of me whom I did not recognize. She was very beautiful but I had no idea who she was. She looked so incredibly pleased as well. I finally heard her say something clearly, "....future husband..." I panicked. What a night I had, I think? I rushed out of there as soon as she said that. I turned a corner climbed up a wall as quickly as I could and saw her rush out of the building were just in I got to the top of the wall and ducked down so she couldn't see me if she looked up.

I really need to find Meryl. She might know what to do.


Gachos Disco-Wang (NPC demon), John Lackwit (o-level loser), Szazsraz the Lizard Wizard (Chris Wilson), Iter the Physick (NPC), That Pictish Bastard (NPC), Bufo the Wizard (Makali’i F), Beefo the Gerblin Drinking Buddy (NPC), Willy Whats-His-Name (0-level Loser), Poor Brother Rupert (cleric hireling), unnamed serving boy (0-level hireling), Gwalin Rustbritches (dwarf hireling), Jarrod the Magic-User (Ian Reilly), Jonesy (0-level NPC), Little Liam Linkboy (0-level NPC), Limpy the Naileteer (Jeff Call), Engsal the Enchanter (Alex Joneth), Elfbraham Lincoln (Jeff Call)., Littlens (0-level NPC), Biggens (0-level NPC), Stimpy (0-level NPC), Ren (0-level NPC)
Sigismunde von Flegelschnecke (Alexei McDonald), Sapphean Gratchit (Josh Rapp), Lobat Greet (Jesse Goldshear), Brax of the Tallstones (Brad Black), Mike O'Nidd (Matt Barclay), Kilic (Alex Joneth), Barnabus Sleet (Maxim Golubchik), Laurantha the Unbeautiful (Cullen), Big Gnome (Luke Rejec), Szazsraz the Wizard Lizard (Chris Wilson), Rose Royce (Kiel Chenier), Sneakerly Trull (Zak S.), Ilse Raagenkampf-Sleet (Perttu Vedenoja), Persimion Finch (Galen Fogarty), Magic Meryl (Nick Kuntz), Merrill Meadows (Michael Julius), Chef (Richie Cyngler)

Sunday, October 22, 2017

So you want to run your own Vaults of Vyzor-type game, eh?

Over on the Google Plus, cool guy Karl Stjernberg wrote:
Hey Jeff! I've been thoroughly enjoying reading each and every "Vaults of Vyzor"-post on your blog (and a lot of your other stuff too), and it has inspired me to maybe try running a game like that myself, but for people at work. 
I'd like to know more about the game in genera, such as: 
What are your methods for running such a game? What you do for prep, how do you generally you run things, are there things that can be worth knowing for running a vaults-type game, any do's and don'ts, what are your five most valuable resources? 
I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who'd like to know more about this and maybe it could even be something you could write more about on your blog? Kind of like a "So you want to run your own Vaults of Vyzor-type game, eh?"-kind of post? 
Anyway, I hope you keep running this game until the end of time, because I am enjoying reading the play reports a lot
Thanks for the kind words, Karl!  I'll attempt to answer your queries here.  You (and everyone else) should feel free to ask follow-up questions in the comments.  Anyway, let's begin.

The longer I do this sort of thing the more I'm convinced that good dungeonmastering is about making connections.  In this era of near infinite DMing resources, making up stuff whole-cloth is actually a secondary activity, albeit a good and rewarding one.  Basically, what I mean is that I don't create a campaign like Vyzor so much as assemble it.

So there's 13 known levels of Vyzor.  You know how many of them I wrote myself, starting with blank graph paper and my notebook?  Just one.  The rest are cobbled together, scavenged from old game products, stitched together with a handful of extra corridors and stairs, and edited for a bit of continuity.  One dungeon had a high level elf with super powers and a bad attitude.  Bam.  There's my master villain.

When putting these disparate pieces together, I just try to figure out some useful questions to ask about the different pieces.  Are the orcs in section A in the same tribe as section B? Which factions are allies, which are opposed, who runs the whole dungeon (if anyone), etc.

Prep for each session consists primarily of reviewing who it is I am inviting to the game and maybe looking over my big mess of dungeon notes and maybe reading the prior session report. For me a lot of the magic of D&D happens in the moment of play; the art of the game isn't found (at least for me personally) in writing things before play.  That's an important part of getting ready for the game, but in many ways it is cooking the meal when I want to eat.  Or it's like improvisational comedy or freeform jazz: you assemble your materials, you practice your repertoire of techniques, but when the time comes it's more fun the less of a safety that I have  under me.   So for example during the course of play, I like to look at my map and glance at the key.  I try not to read it if I don't have to and I try to avoid looking up anything in the rulebook.

My primary tools are the map and a screen with a few charts on it (of which saving throws and wandering monsters are the ones I look up most often).  I also have my composition notebook and some pens, penciles, marker handy.  For dice, I’ve really pared down in online play.  When playing by hangout I’m usually sitting in my easy chair with a small side table.  I don’t have a room for the DM’s usual array of dices.  I use a single d20 and a single d6.

As far as do's and don'ts go I think I would start with this: DON’T feel you have to build a whole bunch of backstory for your dungeon initially.  If you look back at my original post pitching the dungeon it was only slightly more than “here's a dungeon let us play.” The rest of the backstory can develop organically in drips and drabs thereafter. Sure I had some initial unfocused thoughts on the relationship of the Sorcerer of the Blue Mask to the Elf King lurking in the levels below, but I didn't need to flesh those ideas out until 15 sessions in.

But what info I did supply mattered immediately. DO give the players something to think about at the very beginning of play. That's why I had 4 entrances to four distinct areas of the dungeon. This is something that goes back to Uncle Gary's Keep on the Borderlands: if you're going to have a dungeon that's going to be the center point of your campaign or at least several sessions with multiple expeditions, then you want either multiple ways into the dungeon like the various Caves of Chaos or you want a place early in the dungeon that branches out in many different directions like say a grand hall with a bunch of different doors or a vast cavern full of branching passages where it's not going to be possible in one expedition to cover it all. I did the same thing with my previous online campaign where we started with three caves next to the sea and later four ways into the castle proper and then one expedition found a hidden fifth way in.

These options ensure some player agency every session by giving something for the players to chew on right away. It also meant that people playing later in the course of the campaign--maybe someone who hasn't played at all for the first 10 or 20 sections of the campaign--might still be able to explore something fresh and new.

Another big DO for this kind of campaign is do take into account the players effects on the dungeon a dungeon is an ecology in some ways a dungeon is a social situation and player characters are going to an evidently disrupt both of those things. You don't have to make huge gigantic shifts in the dungeons situation (though you can) but just little things that acknowledge what the players have done impacts the state of affairs in the dungeon.

I feel like this post is getting rambly and unfocused, so I'll stop for the moment. Karl, does this help answer your questions? If not, please ask follow-ups! Everyone else is invited to do so as well.