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.

Friday, October 20, 2017

a silly experiment

I wanted to see what the party would look like if I simply took the first image that google came up with for each of the seven BX classes.


Is this guy supposed to be a dwarf?  Eh, he'll do as a short and stocky human cleric.


Nice.  This guy looks ready for some adventure.


This result is perfect in every way.


Buy this fellow some armor and weapons and I'm sure he'll get the job done.


Shoes on halflings make me sad.  I worry they are the victim of cultural pressure to conform inflicted by the shod races.


Not the beardy Gandalf I expected, but I'm not disappointed either.


Looks like a ninja badass, but only gets d4 hit points at 1st level,  That's a typical BX thief.

That was kinda fun.  If I could draw I'd do a group sketch.  Anyway, I may have to try the same thing with some Moldvay Basic monsters.

Cool guy Kelvin Green drew the party!  Thanks, dude!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Vaults of Vyzor, session #21


Yareh Falsong, mutant thief (Sam Mameli)
Harold the Adequate, human fighter (Adam Thornton)
Moar Lût, chalicothere pack ape (NPC)
Big Gnome, LotFP specialist (Luka Rejec)
Evil Steve, assassin (hireling)
Anstonac, demon (NPC, summoned by Barnabus Sleet)

Harold's Diary Entry

Dear Diary (13 Oct. 2017),

Remind me never to piss off Anstonac.
by Sam Mameli

Yareh had some kind of mission to get into the Purple Vaults presumably under the "Thieves' Guild" headquarters. The "Thieves' Guild" was--emphasis on the was--pretty much Goodman Johnson and his sons.

Rose Royce bagged on our delve. I think maybe she just doesn't want to pay me back the 100 gp she owes me. So Big Gnome cast about for a hireling and we came up with Evil Steve, First Level Assassin. He must be legit, he has a black cloak and a dagger and everything.

So then we went to a dinner party at the Johnsons' for some business Yareh claimed to have. Yareh almost immediately started insulting our hosts, and eventually they could take no more insult and came at us, steak knives in their hands. Yareh stabbed the old man pretty hard, but he didn't go down, and then one of the sons came for me. I mean I guess I probably was a tempting target, having dinner in my breastplate and horned helmet and all, with my sword at hand.

I didn't want to be That Guy, so rather than stabbing him, I punched him. Then Big Gnome whipped out a gorgon penis and whacked one of the sons with it, sending him senseless to the ground. Then Yareh whistled, and Astonac, the timber wolf murder demon, came in from where he and Möar Lût had been waiting outside. For the first time this day he uttered one of his charming catchphrases--this one was "it's murder time!"--and popped one of the Johnson daughters' heads clean off. Everyone started screaming and diving for the windows and stuff.

At this point it was clear I wasn't going to be needed for this fight, and I sat down and resumed dinner. Yareh de-spined one of the sons, the demon went on a horrific rampage, and I finished a couple more turkey legs. We grabbed a couple of nice vintages for later (as a "legitimate businessman", Goodman Johnson had had a pretty good wine cellar). I looked under the table and found the expected secret door.

I remembered what had happened to Courtney the Hideous and invited Evil Steve to open it. Amazingly, he dodged the poison darts that shot out, and we sent Anstonac down the ladder that was under the door. He reported back that it was a root cellar with another trap door and no one to murder, so we went down.

There were three large chests there. These were not attached to demonic snake-ladies telling us the Elf King was a douche, and were much less dangerous, as they were only trapped with an acid nozzle, three stabby swords, and a series of poisoned needles, all of which Big Gnome handily disarmed, rather than the bewitching power of breasts, which has brought woe to many, myself included. I closed the door above us, figuring that the po-pos would be looking for us soon, since some of the erstwhile "Thieves' Guild" had made their escape.

In these chests we found quite a lot of gold and gems and jewelry, and Möar Lût earned his name again, handily carrying two chests' worth of stuff. Big Gnome pulled a total dick move and reset the traps and put the Thieves' sign for "all clear" on the empty chests. It was impressively douchey.

Evil Steve suggested we just leave and retire, which wasn't a bad idea, actually, except that we really needed to find a different exit for some plausible deniability. We asked him to take a look at the trap door, and he found, and disarmed, an acid nozzle. The demon wolf leapt down and we followed. Under the trap door was a purple-walled dungeon room, with strange leather-and-metal suits attached to a machine by tubing. Big Gnome told us it was the Lungs Of The Ancients or something like that, and it was for breathing underwater. He's really quite good at figuring out mechanisms.

Anyway, Anstonact went a-murdering, and we followed the blood trail and shouts of "good morning,
Greg's not his real name, but it's
the closest you can get without
mastering Bugbearish vowel blends.
motherfuckers!" through a room with eviscerated goblins to a fork where he awaited us. A little way north we found some bugbears. A fight ensued. Big Gnome cold-cocked one with his gorgon schlong, and Anstonac ate another, although Anstonac got his pretty timberwolf snout broken by one. Yareh told him to man up and rub some blood in it, and that seemed to make him feel better. At any rate it turned out that the bugbear--Gregbear, we called him--we had knocked out and taken prisoner spoke Orcish and would find us a way out and fight for us for 100 gold.

We were running short on time, so we started following Gregbear, who told us we'd have to traverse the Duke Of Ghouls' territory. Along the way we easily destroyed a couple of zombies, and found a party of ghouls, whom we dispatched (Anstonac ripping one of their hearts out and eating it, but getting an artery severed and spraying demonic blood all over everything). Yareh and I took hits but resisted paralysis; Gregbear was paralyzed and Evil Steve was left half-dead and paralyzed. Nevertheless, Gregbear could still communicate by blinking, and we made our way through the doors he blinked to indicate led to the exit. We crossed from the purple dungeon into the pink-
insignia of the Duke of Ghouls
walled one, and we also disguised ourselves by wearing the armbands of the Duke Of Ghouls we took off his patrol party's corpses, hoping to bluff our way past any more ghoul patrol challenges.

Towards the end we ran blindly as our time expired, and everyone but Yareh made it out. We're gonna have to come up with a ransom, but I think we can probably afford it. I was amazed that Evil Steve survived, and Gregbear seems pretty cool. I don't know if he's planning on moving upstairs now and hanging out as a hireling in the tavern, or if he's going back to the dungeon. Anstonac is a terrifying murder machine and a hell of a party wolf-demon. Good for him.

Oh yeah, there's a map I sketched too.

Anyway, really successful delve today. Maybe now that I have some money I should invest in better armor. I'm keeping the horned helmet though, because it's cool.

Yareh’s Journal 10/13/17

After being invited to dinner at the Johnson's I found myself seated with a rather unsavory crowd. All
I love Sam's new illo of Yareh.
was going well until I made the mistake of asking for some salt for my pasta dinner. The patriarch of the family went into a rage! He screamed that the pasta was perfect and salting it was a grievous insult to his family. He pulled a sword, and his children followed suit. I was forced to heroically fight my way through them, luckily I had hired a bound demon to act as a bodyguard and backup in case anything went down. And good thing too! A crazed housewife nearly brained me with a sauce pan, but the demon made quick work of her and a few others of the bloodthirsty thieves guild.

After dispensing with my assailants, me and the rest of the crew decided to take a look around for the passage to the fabled “Violet Vaults”. We found a trap door leading in to a root cellar. Down there were 3 chests. Not sure what was in them, they looked trapped and we had more important work to do. Namely making our way through the Violet Vaults, discovering a strange contraption for breathing in foreign environments and narrowly escaping some goons of the Duke of Ghouls. It seems like the Violet vaults connect with the first level of the Rosy Halls. I would draw a map but as we were leaving I got captured and ransomed for all of my earthly possessions.

What a day!


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)


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 (Perttu Vedenoja), Persimion Finch (Galen Fogarty), Magic Meryl (Nick Kuntz), Merrill Meadows (Michael Julius), Chef (Richie Cyngler)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Conversation with Jim Raggi: Part 1

~50 minutes of dialogue between Jim Raggi and Matt Finch.  I especially liked Jim's thoughts on adventure design and their overview of the early publishers of the OSR scene.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Fave images from All the Worlds' Monsters

All The Worlds' Monsters was an early Chaosium product (1977) that compiled a bunch of crazy critters from an array of D&D referees, including notables such as Dave Hargrave, Clint Bigglestone, and Steve Marsh as well as lesser known figures of the era.  They were edited into consistent statblocks by Jeff Pimper and Steve Perrin.  The screengrab here of the cover scan really doesn't do justice to the awesome George Barr cover.

My first up close and personal encounter with this product wasn't until the 1990's, when my good buddy Pat got a hold of a copy and used it to write a pretty trippy adventure.  My Demogorgon-worshiping half-orc assassin/cleric killing an Air Squid with an arquebus is a cherished memory.  Critter by the great Dave Hargrave, illo by Carol Rode.

When Roger Harvey's Coachman of Death shows up, he turns a PC into a zombie and then carries them off in the back of his coach.  Another Carol Rode illo.

The X-Ray beast is another Dave Hargrave creation.  Its eye shoots deadly radiation and can see through walls.  Illo also by Carol Rode.

Tucked in the back of the book is an interesting version of the dungeon level versus monster level chart.

You can get a PDF copy of this wacky product and its two follow-up volumes for five bucks each at DriveThru.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

get your Lamentations Bundle of Holding

FYI the current Lamentations Bundle of Holding is crammed full of PDF goodness.  For 14.95 USD you get the LotFP core rules in all their glory (still my favorite retroclonish system), a coupon good for 20% off print items in the LotFP web store, and six adventures.  The adventures include Kiel Chenier's sweet Blood in the Chocolate, the classic Death Frost Doom, the always-controversial Carcosa, The Monolith From Beyond Space and Time, and both the Isle of and Dungeon of the Unknown.  That's a lot of cool stuff for fifteen buckaroos!

There's also an awesome bonus level.  If you pay at least the threshold amount of $27.74, then you get a bunch of other PDFs as well: Veins of the Earth, Towers Two, No Salvation for Witches, Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess, The Stygian Gardens of Abelia Prem, Qelong, The Roots of Bitterness, and my own Broodmother Skyfortress.  Which means I get some small piece of the bonus tier sales, apparently.  But my own skin in the game doesn't change the fact that all this stuff normally retails for over $140 in electronic form.  IMHO, any two of the PDFs in this bundle are easily worth the bonus tier price, much less all of them.

Cool additional detail #1: One lucky bonus tier purchaser will also win one of every LotFP book that James has in stock.  Cool!

Cool additional detail #2: 10% of the the LotFP proceeds will be donated to the EFF.  Keep up the good fight.

Offer ends Monday, my friends.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Vaults of Vyzor, session #20

Hey, all!  It's midterm grading time and this one will have to be brief.


  • Ilse Raagenkampf, LotFP specialist/quack chirugeon (Perttu Vedenoja)
  • Chuckles the Dungeon Chicken (NPC Pet)
  • Lobat Greel, Martial Master (Jesse Goldshear)
  • Persimion Finch, Fighting Man (Galen Fogarty)
  • Barnabus Sleet, Muscle Wizard (Maxime Golubchik)
  • Emma Bright-Eyes, Muscle Witch (NPC henchwoman)
  • Sharene, Elf Muscle Wizard (NPC henchwoman)
  • Dale Bidwell, Fighter/Valet (NPC henchman)
  • Gachos Disco-Wang (NPC demon)
(Barnabus brought a whole second party along with him!)

First Expedition

Not this kind of cyclops in a tux, the kind
that has 13 HD and does 3d10 damage.
Pulled by the geas laid on Barnabus Sleet, the party entered the vaults below the Azure Towers.  There they discovered several trap had been reset.  (Barnabus left a note at one point complementing the maintenance staff for their work.)  The machinery on the ceiling around the monster cages was active, zapping the critters into agony with esoteric blue energies.  Out of pity, the party released the gargoyle and ghoul from their cage via a knock spell.  They wandered off and were encountered again later without violence.  The 2 chimerae were also released.  They were on the verge of death and no threat to the party.  The muscle magicians carried them to the surface.  The 2 mariliths encountered in previous expeditions were also rescued, but only after the party killed the bejesus out of their new jailer, a cylcops in a tuxedo.  The cyclops had a giant briefcase full of the gold, which the party quite liked.  

The party's efforts to make it over to the first level of the Verdant Vault via the connecting tunnel was cut short.  They encountered some uncanny valley near-humans with long earlobes and eyes with double-pupils.  They were carrying laser pistols.  Ilse was grazed by one shot for 8 points of damage, meanwhile Gachos Disco-Wang was completely incinerated!  Only Barnabus's ring of lightning bolts got the party out of that mess.  Lobat, a laser pistol wielding greaser from the Gathox Vertical Slum, was pretty stoked to find a zap gun that did more dice than his.

Second Expedition

I am loving my new
wandering monster charts.
This time the party decided to enter via the Verdant Scriptorium, discovering that Barnabus's geas was not barring him from doing so.  At least at the moment.  The Bargain Wolves were not home and the party made quick time to the chamber adjacent to the summoning room.  Here they encountered five floating blue orbs, like some ghost hunting TV show malarkey.  These malignant weirdos fired blue zaps at the party and Dale was nearly killed with a critical hit.  The best move of this fight was probably when Lobat zapped his own tube of hair gel, causing it to explode among the blue orbs.

The party then made their way to the former site of the gnome wrestling arena, which had been converted to a foundry and machine shop of sorts.  The gnomes were working on strange machinery under the tender supervision of whip-wielding orcs.  The orcs were temporarily routed and 49 gnomes were rescued and brought to the surface.


Carousing was a bit of a fiasco.  A drunken Persimion Finch made a sloppy pass at one of the Ink Witches, and has been turned into a swine for his trouble.  Ilse and Barnabus got married while blotto, much to the Muscle Wizard's consternation.  I also suspect that I am forgetting other shenanigans that occurred.

Good ol' Barnabus is investing a bunch of his own money into building a new section of Vyzor Village for gnome inhabitation.  A henchman of the Sorcerer of the Blue Mask bought the strange machinery that was recovered.  And the Jarrod Memorial Library is now guarded by two pet chimeras.


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)


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 (Perttu Vedenoja), Persimion Finch (Galen Fogarty), Magic Meryl (Nick Kuntz), Merrill Meadows (Michael Julius), Chef (Richie Cyngler)

Friday, September 29, 2017

Vaults of Vyzor, session 19


  • Magic Meryl, magic-user (Nick Kuntz)
  • Arthur, dungeon doggie (NPC pet)
  • Mike O'Nidd, myconid (Matt Barclay)
  • Chipping Ongar, halfling Alice (Peter C)
  • John Lackwit, 0-level loser (NPC hireling)
  • Kerf Merklin, cleric (Herman Klang)

Magic Meryl's Narrative (written by Nick)

What up, fellow Librarians of the Jarrod Memorial Library (and any other being reading this)! Magic Meryl here with the scoop on how our Library's name sake's head has come to find a place of honor here amongst the stacks.

I was joined in this recovery expedition by the cleric Kerf Merklin, the halfling Chipping Ongar, the mycondin Mike O'Nidd, my faithful companion Arthur, and a wicked hang over. A special thanks to Chipping for financing a lot of the expedition including re-outfitting Mike O'Nidd (dude didn't even have any pants), hiring John Lackwit (R.I.P.), and getting a ridiculously large shield that saved our bacon a couple of times. I think that last item was Kerf's idea.

We started our mission, like any trip to the Verdant Vault, by bribing the Bargain Wolves with some prime cut meat. Kerf courteously handed them the meat which they enjoyed greatly (granting us free entry and exit from the Vault). We slipped out the northwest secret door as they chowed down.
We rolled south to the elbow of the "L" shaped passage where we tried to pass through a southwest door. John Lackwit set up the tower shield in front of the door and I watched the party's back as the rest of the gang pulled a rope tied to a ring on door. It worked like a charm as the door swung open with a hefty heave causing the bolt from a crossbow trap to land right in the center of a target Chipping painted on the shield. If only the rest of the doors were so easy.

Kerf snagged the heavy crossbow (I wanted to sabotage it but whatever) as we swung south to try to find an orc skull to give to the demon that killed Jarrod or complete the pentagram if we needed one. We took the next door West and that was the end of our luck with opening doors for a got minute. Neither the furthest west door on the southern wall nor the west door at the end of this hallway opened (The western door may be a fake like previous parties have thought. Later on, I didn't see a match in the hall next door where there should be one). The noise of the doors rattling really was making my hungover head scream so I suggested we try another route. We end up cutting through a relaxing meditation chamber perfect for giving a wizard a recharge in spell power. It was behind the Eastern most North door in the hall. We popped out of the mediation room North through two sets of secret doors before emptying out into of a hall.

The hall contained the most breathtaking sight I have ever seen. Three-inch fireflies floated around the hall, illuminating whole hall in a bioluminescence radiating from their lower abdomen. I am used to running into things like slime-covered carrion crawler love dens in these dungeons so it was really welcome thing to run into something as beautiful as that moment. Chipping and I really regretted not having anything to capture a specimen in. He wished to return with a butterfly net at a later date (we really ended up ruing not having the right gear in that moment). As we took in the scene, one of the giant lampyridae gentling settled on John Lackwit's head. 

We then headed down the hall to the West.  We found ourselves in a chamber to the slight Southwest where we were expecting to find a door spiked beyond reason in the West wall. Instead, its burning ember remains lay scattered around the entryway. A fear filled the pit of my stomach (not great when hungover). The demon that killed Jarrod had escaped.

When I planned this mission, I wasn't sure how it was going to go in the least. I had prepped my classic magic missile spell in case I had to blast the demon with the only thing I had that had the slim chance of injuring it. I had expected that someone (let's be real, John Lackwit) was going to die opening the door to the demon. And I had trained my dungeon terrier, Arthur, to fetch Jarrod's head using the scent of Jarrod's spell book*.

Arthur let out a pleasant yip and wagged his tail as he caught scent of Jarrod from beyond the wreckage of the door. I knew I had to stick with that last part of my plans. It took Arthur just a quick moment to come bounding over the rumble with Jarrod's head; Arthur safe and sound. I stored the skull in my bag and gave Arthur a treat along with some solid affection. He was such a brave and faithful dog just like I knew he would be. Chipping even comment on how good of a boy he was.

Kerf decide to investigate the pentagram room for a secret passage. That is when things got all fucking weird and creepy real quick. The glowbugs all swiftly flew up the ceiling and Arthur started softly growling at the eastern hall we arrived from. It was the fricking demon coming for us for messing with his shit. I knew it couldn't be anything else. We decided to retreat South.

Passed the door, the hall mostly was mostly a bust. Like previously mentioned, there was no door to the East where it should have matched up with one we failed to open earlier. There wasn't any abandoned loot like that marked on the map of the last adventuring party to explore this end of the Vault. There was a door in the Southern most spot of the Western wall. It was spiked and had a warning about undead scrawled across it. Kerf said he could handle them and we believed him. we cracked that sucker open. What else are we going to do? Go fight a fricking demon with no magic weapons?

Inside, we found an odd shaped room with a southern door, four urns, and seven petrified bodies of orcs set in the walls. Finally, we had found our orc bodies to get a skull from. Kerf bravely grabbed my lantern and went into the room to investigate while the rest of us remained safe behind the tower shield. Chipping lit a torch. Kerf inspected an urn in the shadow of a dead orc to discover that the urns were covered in old paints of green-skinned humanoids and at filled with coins (at least the one he looked at was). That cleric has some real chutzpah.

We huddled up and developed a through plan for investigating the urn. After a few wrong turns, we settled on Chipping and I cutting off the western wall of orc dead with a barrier of oil to be lit at the drop of a torch. Mike O'Nidd volunteered to tie a rope around an Eastern urn so we could pull it over and dump the contents to see if it was all coins. Kerf stepped into the room to prepare for turning the dead orcs if they reanimated. I waited with Arthur and magic missile at the ready. John Lackwit held the tower shield. Mike tied the knot but was visibly nervous. Who wouldn't be at such a high stakes operation? The urn teetered and shit got bananas before the urn hit the floor.

All seven bodies began to move. The length of the room was a wall of flame. Mike was bitten and paralyzed by what appeared to be orc ghouls. Kerf's divine calls to turn the unholy creatures went unanswered. John Lackwit was also frozen. No one's attacks were hitting. Even poor Arthur's. I pour out a second line of oil to block us from the ghouls as Kerf carries Mike back to the party. It is set a light just as Arthur comes bounding back over.

None of this is stopping these undead jerks and I, swear on my life, thought this was it. Between the unrelenting dead and fires raging everywhere: we were all going to die. But, then, Arthur valiantly leapt to protect me from a ghoul attack and the fiend slipped on some oil in startle right into our fire wall. I fired off a magic missile. The adrenaline from fighting for my life and the focus of practicing my art finally cured my body and mind of the pains of my hang over. With more fire and my party mates finally hitting a groove with their attacks, the next thing I know the ghouls are all dead. Only poor John Lackwit perished in the fight; never grasping the level of danger he was in the whole delve.

We decided to cremate John in the fires. We collected the coins from the urns into our bags along with some scrolls. John's ashes are scooped into an urn. By the time this is all over, Mike has regained movement. Our resources drained, we decide to risk retreat the way we came.

In the hall near the summoning room, we find gore of exploded fireflies covering all the ceiling. It is dripping down and bodies are everywhere. Arthur rolled around in it while Mike covered himself in glowing, arcane markings. This is the last real thing of note we encountered on our egress. The crossbow trap had been replaced. Kerf takes it much to the disappointment of Chipping, who also wanted to sabotage the trap.

I traveled straight away to the Jarrod Memorial Library to present the skull to Barnabus Sleet. The party had to agreed to split the reward of 100 gp equally but in an act of one-time kindness, paid 100 gp each to the party members. I passed up my payment to move up a rank as a librarian.

Today, you can find Jarrod's skull mounted in the memorial wing of the Jarrod Memorial Library waiting to answer inquires on Level 1 spells, the Verdant Vault, and general life knowledge due to a permanent enchantment.

Addendum 1: On my honor, this is a truthful account of events as I recall them. I know that the events deviate from the lyrics of a popular song at the Drooling Thoul. No disparagement of my fellow adventurers is meant. But, seriously. Kerf Merklin in no way singlehandedly defeated the pack of ghouls wielding a crossbow in each hand. For one, Kerf only had one crossbow at the time. Secondly, his holy vows prevent him for using such a weapon in the first place.

Addendum 2: I have heard rumors of Mike O'Nidd blundering into a chance encounter with the Sorcerer of the Blue Mask himself while celebrating our parties success. I was not present at such events because my memories of my previous hangover where too fresh. Plus, Arthur deserved some quality time after being such a good dog. Anyways, it is a real shame it happened. With none of us today being a real ruff type, he really stepped it up to be our party's fighting-myconid. Sad to see such a solid fungi run into a streak of bad weeks one after the other.

*You can check out Jarrod's spell book on the shelf at the Jarrod Memorial Library.


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)


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 (Perttu Vedenoja), Persimion Finch (Galen Fogarty), Magic Meryl (Nick Kuntz), Merrill Meadows (Michael Julius), Chef (Richie Cyngler)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

revised Vaults of Vyzor campign intro

Yesterday I got a query on how to join the Vaults of Vyzor campaign.  The answer to that and several other questions can be found in this document:

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

quick Vaults of Vyzor update

Cool new campaign logo by Sam Mameli
There's now a player-created Google Plus community called Vyzor Frequent Delvers.  If you're a Vyzor player and haven't got an invite, hit me up on G+ for one.  Between sessions business will be conducted there and some roleplaying as well.  Right now, for example, Laurantha the Unbeautiful is trying to figure out a way to assassinate the Elf King with an invisible ballista, Yohey the Carpenter has ingratiated himself with a magic-user henchman of the Sorcerer of the Blue Mask, Brutal Pete is attempting to organize a dubiously enchanted marching band, and Barnabus Sleet continues to be out of control.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Vaults of Vyzor, session 18


Szazsraz the Lizard Wizard (Chris Wilson)
Brax of the Tallstones, barbaric fighter (Brad Black)
That Pictish Bastard (NPC merc, he doesn't speak enough common to realize what people are calling him)
Mike O'Nidd, myconid (Matt Barclay)
Kilic the Free (Alex Joneth)
Iter the Physick (NPC quack)
Thanks to the magical compulsion afflicting Szazsraz, the party entered the Azure Vaults in hope of assassinating the Elf King.  The communal map-sharing among Vaults of Vyzor participants made it a lot easier to do things like avoid the pit trap in the first chamber (the lid mechanism of which has been repaired) and to find the stairs down.  

Francis and Sidney, the imprisoned beholders, once again pleaded to be released but once again those pleas fell on deaf ears.

On the second level they nearly ran into trouble with the ghost librarian, as Szazsraz had several books overdue from a previous expedition.  Fortunately, the party convinced her that he could pay some of his fines and return them on his next visit.  

Elsewhere on Azure II they found the living quarters of an elf wearing steampunk mad scientist gear.  The rassled this clown to the ground and interrogated him.  He confirmed that the Elf King was often on the third level below the Azure Towers, but not always ("It's a big dungeon, dude.").  He almost directed the party to their doom, until he found out that they were bringing him along.  Then he suddenly remembered they needed to turn left instead of right to get to the ramp down to the third level.  One other thing about this prolonged encounter: the party used a beholder eyeball as a gag when they wanted to shut this dude up.  That's a) gross as heck and b) the kind of out-of-the-blue nonsense that makes running FLAILSNAILS games so great.  No way did that eye originate in my campaign.  It is a crossdimensionally migratory eyeball.

Anyway, this elf dude directed the party to these big brazen double doors.  On them are carved the exploits of a bunch of elves.  One of them is taller than the rest, with the biggest ears, hair like fire, and a crown.  The decorations show this guy performing such mythical exploits as rodeo roping a tyrannosaurus, getting into a fistfight with the Sun, and beating Death at a game of tic-tac-toe.  Szazsraz grabs the two big pulls and prepares to give them a mighty yank, but the doors open at the lightest touch.  

In retrospect, that could have been their warning.  Everyone other door in the dungeon hates the PCs guts.  These doors are happy for you to come in.  The throne room is a titanic chamber, lit by magic torches giving off green faerie fire like effects, with a double throne in front of a massive tapestry, and eight black supporting columns holding up the high vaulted ceiling.  No one seems to be home.

As soon as the party is inside the door slam shut.  The light of magic torches change from cool minty green light to malignant red illumination.  And the eight pillars magically transform into eight monsters.  They're humanoids, about 7 feet tall.  Their skin glistens like the night sky, their claws and fangs shine silvery chrome.  Their eyes smolder like fire.  And they don't seem friendly.

As you can imagine, the party doesn't really want to fight these unknown creatures.  They try opening the door.  Only as they desperately pull do they notice the magic sigils set into this side of the doors.  Someone--I can't recall who--gets the idea that the thrones might protect from the demons? genies? whatever-the-hells-they-are and makes a mad dash for them.  In the meantime, both NPCs are torn to shreds by a series of claw/claw/bite attacks in what would turn out to be my best to-hit rolls of the day.

The guess about the throne is right on the money.  The monsters seem to ignore the first couple of PCs who make it to the two thrones.  And it even works on a third PC sitting in the lap of another.

Unfortunately, that leaves Szazsraz is in a tough spot here.  With all eight monsters bearing down on him, a dash through them to the throne on the opposite side of the room would probably be suicide.  Instead, he opts to cast invisibility and try to sneak out of the way.  But a couple of the baddies are dangerously close to be casting a spell and one of them hits with a claw.

I roll a twenty and we go to my new critical strike table.  This chart is home made, replacing Dave Hargrave's chart, which I've been using for decades.  I'd like to note for the record that is has lots of less-than-lethal results.  Because I am jerk, I like to make the player roll the effect when a monster has critted him.  Poor Chris rolled a decapitation result and Szazsraz's head goes tumbling across the throneroom floor.  Rest in peace, you crazy reptile sorcerer.  Your place in the annals of the Vaults of Vyzor campaign is secure.

With no one left to murder, the monsters go all pillar-of-smoke and return to their places as the columns.  Kilic, Brax, and Mike discover that merely standing up such that they are no longer in contact with the throne seats is sufficient to reactivate them.  A search of the two thrones reveals nothing but a secret stash of black lotus powder.  This plus the goggles and gloves of the elf scientist are the only loot from the whole expedition.

As carefully as possible, they precariously lean over the backs of the thrones and use a spear to try to lift up the tapestry a few feet behind them.  Behind the tapestry is a narrow hole in the wall, an escape tunnel as it where.  They take some time discussing who will be first, second, third into the tunnel, then dice are thrown to see if anyone pratfalls in the mad scramble out of the room.  The rolls go their way and the throneroom guardians do not pursue them down the narrow tunnel.

This cave-like tunnel winds up and down, left and right for quite a long distance.  It emerges into a previously unknown section of the dungeon: the Orange Vault!  

About this point I notice that we only have 11 minutes before I have to end the session and get ready for work and that to end session inside the dungeon could be a Very Bad Thing for their PCs.  They hustle through the level as best they can, encountering some fairly recently dead wizards (something tore them to pieces), a room with four Egyptian style sarcophagi that they hurried through, a pit trap, a garbage room, and one of my favorite dumb dungeon traps: an illusory bottomless pit (if you fail your save you lay on the floor and scream like your falling, forever--or until someone who saves snaps you out of it).  But alas, they don't make it out before the session ends.

With the PCs in the dungeon at the end of regulation time and no safe way out, we go to my little-used Escape the Dungeon rules.  Your base chance of making it out somehow is 50%, modified by plus or minus 10% for the difference between your level and the dungeon level you ended on.  So, for example, a seventh level character on the sixth level has a 60% chance of getting out in one piece.  If you fail this roll, throw a d20 on the chart below.

Triple Secret Random Dungeon Fate Chart of Very Probable Doom (d20)

1. You lucky dog! You manage to somehow escape the dark forces of the dungeon. You return to civilization, naked and half-delirious.
2. Waitaminute, Lefty’s not right handed! Situation appears to be #1, but you’ve been replaced by a shapeshifting badguy.
3. Maimed. You escape but suffer the effects of a random critical hit. Also, 50% of your stuff is gone, randomly determined.
4. Alas, you are no more. If any comrades escape they are able to bring your remains and your stuff back to civilization.
5. Pining for the fjords. If any comrades escape they are able to bring your remains back to civilization, but your stuff is lost.
6. Dead as a doornail. The general location of your body is known to any surviving comrades.
7. Your stuff has become part of a dragon’s hoard and your body part of a dragon’s supper.
8. That is an ex-character. The location of your body is unknown to all.
9. Bought the farm. Your body and possessions irretrievable due to dragon fire, ooze acid, disintegrator beam, etc.
10. Also dead. Your body is irretrievable due to dragon fire, ooze acid, disintegrator beam, etc. but your stuff is still around for some other jerk to nab at a later date.
11. Held for ransom by seedy humans. A member of the Thieves Guild can arrange release for 1,000gp per character level. 1 in 6 chance the money disappears with no prisoner release.
12. Captured by monsters. Escaping comrades know the level you were captured on and the type of monster holding you captive.
13. Captured by monsters. Escaping comrades know the level you were captured on, but not the type of monster involved.
14. Captured by monsters. Escaping comrades know the type of monster involved, but not what level to search.
15. Captured by monsters. Unseen monsters spirit you away to an unknown location.
16. A fate worse than death. Drafted into the ranks of the monsters. Roll d6: 1-2 undead, 3 lycanthrope, 4 charmed, 5 polymorphed, 6 other.
17. You and your stuff are sacrificed to loathsome gods in order to gate in d6 demons that are added to the dungeon key.
18. A gorgon or somesuch has petrified you. Escaping characters know what level to search for your statue.
19. Lost in the dungeon. GM sets your location each session. Re-enter play if the party finds you.
20. Opportunity for betrayal. Pick one other character who got away safe. Roll 1d6, 1-4 he takes your place and has to roll on this chart while you escape, 5-6 you both suffer the fate rolled by your victim.

So here's what happens.  A day later there's a commotion over at the Rosy Ruins.  The workmen clearing the rubble call for the mercenaries kept on hand, as a pair of monsters seem to be coming out of the basement.  Before crossbows are fired, a shout goes out.  "Hold your fire!  Hold your fire!  I think I know these guys!"  It's Yohey the Adventuring Carpenter, who has been working with the rubble clearing crew for reasons of his own.  Under the dust and slime and filth coating them, he recognizes fellow adventurers Brax and Kilic.  They spent most of the past 24 hours on the run from pursuing monsters, horrors not seen on the surface world since the Arduinian age.  They don't know where they've been or how they got from the Orange Vault to the Rosy Vaults.

Brax reports on the death of Szazsraz to his known friends and Barnabus Sleet takes the barbarian out drinking to help him forget his troubles.

A couple of days later, Mike O'Nidd finds his way out via the Azure Towers.  He's bereft of all his equipment and delirious.  He recovers, but the mushroomy adventurer can't quite consciously remember the terrors he experienced, but he can't quite forget either.  He'll be haunted by half-remembered horrors the rest of his days.

map by Brad Black


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)


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 (Perttu Vedenoja), Persimion Finch (Galen Fogarty), Magic Meryl (Nick Kuntz), Merrill Meadows (Michael Julius), Chef (Richie Cyngler)