NIGHTWICK ABBEY: The Purple Eater of People, Session 9


Art by Chris Huth

Previously in Nightwick...

The Party

Blossom (Rogue 2)
Bertol (Rogue 2)
Mayfly (Magic-User 1)
Sumac (Changling 1)
Hirelings: None attending us this time

At the Medusa's Head...

(PC Note: This session was abbreviated, but revealed some good developments in terms of NPCs. And I think when attempting long-term campaigns, consistency of meeting, even briefly, trumps the length of any individual session.)

(PC Note: At the beginning of the session we also gained a new player!  With DEX 15, I believe another rogue. They will be joining us for Session 10- a milestone for sure!)

The date is Uno-December 13, 1390 and the feast of the new year has come and passed. But on this particular day, feasting of a different sort is occurring due to the wife of Nightwick Village, Lord Arkard, giving birth to a daughter.

But that is little of the party's concern. To be frank, Bertol was quite surprised Nightwick Village was large enough (or worthwhile enough) to garner governmental oversight of any sort. But this might have something to do with the proximity to Nightwick Abbey and the propensity of graveyards in the area to vomit forth their occupants.

The individual who occupied the party's, and specifically Mayfly's, attention was the noted magus of great power, Halfdan. A rumored man of great power and wicked nature. Mayfly thought he could sell the wineskin of bizarre blood to the mage to fund deeper exploration into Nightwick Abbey.

The party made their way down the road to the looming tower on the other side of the graveyard. On their approach, a surprising storm arose over the tower. Mayfly's eyes skittered over the front door, searching for any traps and finding none-- he knocked. And to his surprise, a bear answered.

The party was ushered, most politely, by the bear into a very old, musty (possibly lice-ridden) waiting area. The bear trundled upstairs and a few moments later the Magus Halfdan appeared. This supposedly great wizard called for drinks. Which was brought back down the stairs by the bear, holding mugs in its mouth and a cask of drink around its neck.

Discussion commenced with Mayfly angling to get payment for the weird blood. But after some back and froth, Halfdan was not forthcoming. Bertol stepped up to provide a shrewder way of putting things, resulting in a deal being put into place.

From Halfdan the party learned:

  • The blood is a type of trap. Using it (or ingesting it) will create a connection between the thing/person and Her (aka The Lady).
  • The Sword Brothers, builders of the Abbey, also had a fantastical underground garden and many wondrous contraptions. Halfdan will pay top dollar for them.
  • The Magus Halfdan gave the party a magic scroll in return for obtaining some items from the Abbey's garden within 6 months time.
  • The scroll: Read Magic (1st), Ventriloquism (1st), Fireball (3rd) [total value ~500 SP + 5 weeks to manufacture]
So fruitful! The party has obtained a "paper cannon" in the form of the fireball spell. And who knows Mayfly could transcribe the ventriloquism to his own spellbook (hmm...)

Pictures our DM used to capture
the "feel" of the NPCs


In the year 2020-too, I feel there are mortal hands plucking at the heartstrings of OD&D. Trying to see if the old body can rise anew? I think it's great! Understanding OD&D is most likely an important piece in the whole D&D puzzle not matter the edition you prefer.

Gus L. makes a good point in the Grognardia comments about the dangers of OD&D offloading a portion of the play experience to another game:

There's very little of the wilderness in D&D's wilderness and adventures in it have always felt more like a bus ride with occasional fistfights to me then hikes in wild places.

I suspect this can all be traced back to the decision to offload wilderness travel rules to Outdoor Survival (which after all is a one-shot board game with fairly frustrating rules - even worse when you add hostile bandit armies, dinosaurs, and dragons to it's already tough survival rules).

And finally, an astute Redditor makes a nice observation about OD&D's influence on why Moldvey Basic D&D stops at level 3: 

This stopping at level 3 intrigued me for a long while as well. Like, why three? 

Well .. level 4 is when in OD&D, in good and proper Chainmail fashion, your character graduates from being a normal (if aspiring) combatant to a proper Hero! This progression gets carried over, including the level titles from OD&D which itself includes the ones from Chainmail, into Holmes/Moldvay/B+X. 

Interestingly, many spells and effects only work on monsters/NPCs/etc up to 4HD(+1) ... because that's when things become Heroic. Chainmails "[Heroes] have the fighting ability of four figures" seems to have really set a major line in the sand.

CROSS-OVER EPISODE: My Review of The Hole In The Oak At Bones Of Contention


My Bones of Contention review of The Hole in The Oak covers how this might be a new low-level classic.

The actual play-through can be found here on this very blog.

If you are looking for a good adventure to start off the year with this is a good one. At the end of my players run through they were selling giant lizard eggs like gun runners.

NIGHTWICK ABBEY: The Purple Eater of People, Session 8


FIRST POST OF 2022: While I wanted to cap off 2021 by catching up to my Nightwick posts, I think it is only fitting that I start 2022 with a game I really look forward to every week and that I hope continues strong in the new year. This post also epitomizes what I want this blog to be about-- the *playing* of old-school games. The thoughts and principles of "classic play" when put into practice do work and yield engaging games.

In Nightwick previously...

The Party

Blossom (Rogue 1)
Bertol (Rogue 1)
Mayfly (Magic-User 1)
Sumac (Changling 1)- our first!
Hirelings: Red, Curly, Pavel, Assmus, Kunrat

(PC Note: Our DM, history expert, offered some great pre-game history facts that have, in part, informed the conception of Nightwick. This one involved a graduate from the famous school of Necromancy in Toledo Spain who was contacted by a bishop to summon the devil in order to cut some other Christian cult out of the miracle business. Its funny that despite being evil, it seems a lot of Church figures had the devil on speed dial.)

At the Medusa's Head...

Another two weeks pass since the last delve into Nightwick. The party has been mainly resting and trying to figure out how they will overcome the giant roadblock that is the Butcher of Nightwick. Review maps and plotting courses, the party decides to try to see what is on the second level of the dungeon. The rogues are feeling especially confident after perfecting their craft just a little bit more. So all is good except for the mysterious itch Blossom picked up after a long week of drinking...

(PC Note: So our Rogues leveled up by creeping ~100 XP over the line after some carousing. The thief class is often seen as weak in BX, but having the lowest progression, 1200 XP to go from 1st to 2nd, is quite meaningful when risking life and limb for every 100 GP. At the current rate, my MU Mayfly has to survive ~6-10 more delves to get to the 2nd level. This is not a knock against our DM nor old-school play mind you, but I think a demonstration of how XP differences among classes is a good constraint vs. 5e's unified progression.)

Nightwick, Right Tower, Level 2
(purple is recently explored)

A RAPID DESCENT TOWARDS 2nd LEVEL: With all haste, the party pushed into Nightwick's right tower and to the stairs located where four hanging bodies were found and the very nice silver bowls. Now replaced by wooden bowls-- the cheapskates.

FURTHER DEPICTIONS of THE LADY: At the bottom of the staircase were two columns each again depicting The Lady, prophetess of the Church of Law, in a lurid manner. However, for these columns, her eyes are hollowed out allowing a red fluid to drain out of them and pool below. North from the stairs is a single door.

A HALLWAY ENDING IN ABSOLUTE DARKNESS: After hearing nothing through the door, Blossom waves Red forward to due the honors of crowbarring the door open. Moving into the hallway our Chaingling Sumac takes point and reports the west direction terminates into absolute pitch blackness that even their dark vision does not penetrate, while the east contains two doors and extends further beyond the torchlight.

Mayfly is puzzled by the darkness, but before a solid theory about what it can be is formed based on years of academy training, Bertol sends one of the hirelings through. Without a rope tied to their waist. The hireling reports its really really dark and (amazingly) walks back out seemingly unscathed (sus -.-). Mayfly casts Light about 2 fit inside the darkness. Instead of eliminating it, the light seems to be surrounded by darkness. Two silver pieces later, another hireling walks through and reports it is just all white and too bright. With other avenues available the party decides to come back to it later.

BLOOD SCRIBBLING: Cautiously moving down the hall, the party checks the north door. Hearing nothing they quietly pop the door open and peer insights. One cultist is licking the red fluid off the wall, hood back, and feverishly whispering. A second cultist is on the ground apparently transcribing those words. The party quietly closes the door, but Mayfly thinks those writings might be very valuable.

A PACT OF DEVIL MEN: The party opens the door directly south and finds themselves face to face with four devil men! The party freezes in horror and anticipation of what might come next as they gaze upon the pointy horn and beards of this group-- three of which are virtually identical. The incongruous one speaks, "Clearly this is not a room you are invited into."  The party, "...uh..." and Bertol quietly closes the door.

And since both doors open inward, Sumac had the idea to tie them shut with a rope running between the pull rings ("---" above on the map). Might not hold forever, but certainly by the party time. Very clever.

BLOOD ORANGES: Not quite knowing what to make of all that, but knowing they still have empty pockets, the party turns north with Sumac bravely scouting in the dark. Sumac reports back there is a metal container (like a modern dumpster) set into the floor. In it are moldy orange peels. To the right of this container is a door and to the left, stairs leading down and a hallway continuing west.

The party checks out the door to the right and enters a room containing a large machine. A puddle of milky orange fluid on the ground. And five crates of bones and five crates of ...oranges?! Mayfly realizes that these are an incredibly valuable delicacy and certainly would fetch ~100 SP per crate! The party, experienced in knowin' when the gettin' is good, gathers up the oranges and absconds with them for a total haul of  500 SP . The biggest haul yet out of Nightwick.

...After a night's rest in Nightwick Village...

Bertol peeled off from the group, happy with his orange-tinted gains, but the rest of the party wanted to quickly go back to see if there was more to be purloined, especially from upper areas of the Abbey that had not been as well explored. This proved to be potentially a mistake...

Nightwick, Right Tower, Level 1
(purple is recently explored)

WE CAN'T STOP HERE, THIS IS (DEER-MEN) COUNTRY!: Entering the northeastern door, the party is brought up short by a goblin barricade. Mayfly tries a 2 SP bribe to see if the party can get any information about the stone vulture archway to the north. All they learn is that's where deer-men reside and the goblin don't go there.

Feeling bold, the party forms ranks with Red and Curly in front and march toward the archway. As they pass under the arch, Sumac spots a formation of deer-men and shortly after their bleating cries are heard! Their attack is swift! Arrows fly toward the party, several striking Red, dropping him, and severely wounding Curly. The party leaves Red's body behind in order to make sure they don't join him in repose.

Just before leaving, Sumac throws a few silver coins at the foot of the statues and notices that while the goblins want to grab them, they dare not move-- at least for that amount.

...back to The Medusa's Head.

Mayfly thinks its time to visit this wizard "Half-Dan" and maybe brokering some information with the strange blood of the mixed-up beast he found in Nightwick.

 (PC Note: Well that last little bit did not go well at all. I think we certainly have reached a point where solid preparations will have to be made to move through Deer-man territory or make it past the Butcher. One advantage of all the map-making that has been done is that is easy to review where unexplored hallways and doors are. I think I need to draw everything together to see what options the party has. One of our new players also made a good risk assessment that the easiest stuff in Level 2 might still be less risky than the hardest stuff in Level 1.  So exploring Level 2 might be more worthwhile. Of course, there is always the Left Tower, but the hords of deer-men there too pose a problem. Maybe its time to sell a soul or something?

NIGHTWICK ABBEY: The Purple Eater of People, Session 7


Due to the holidays, I was not able to write the prior session up, so 7 and 8 will be back to back.


The Party

Blossom (Rogue 1)
Bertol (Rogue 1)
Mayfly (Magic-User 1)
Gurkle (Frogling 1)
Gelb (Fighter 1) 
Hirelings: Red, Curly, Pavel, Sibet, Assmus, Kunrat

At the Medusa's Head...

In the two weeks sense the last outing the party spends some time patching themselves up. Mayfly takes this opportunity to transcribe a Protection from Evil scroll given it was this spell that saved him from the iron statues in the mausoleum. In addition, Mayfly converted some of his silver into adornment for his person-- a necklace in the constellation of the Basilisk. 

(Player Note: Adornment allows conversion of coin into XP for a 2:1 basis)

Session 7 Map;
new exploration (purple)
RIGHT TOWER: The party chose once again the right tower as it is the best known tower and descended once more into Nightwick Abbey.

NORTHWESTERN DOOR: The party creeps through familiar territory and arrives at the southern door to the Reading Room. As a precaution, two previous doors were spiked to allow quick exit.

SOUTHERN HALLWAY: Gelb gets covered in purple viscous fluid after cracking the door trying to get it open. The second attempt was a success and the party could see a long hallway with a door east and west.

BATTLE IN THE SOUTHERN HALLWAY: As the party moves south, a rushling of robe from the north fills the group with dread. The battleline is drawn at the door. The party quickly forms up. Fighter Gelb and man-at-arms Kunrat are in the front rank with Red and Currly forming the second rank with spears. Bertol looks for opportunity while Mayfly and Blossum throw harsh language.

The party sezies the iniative and Kunrat plants his axe deep into the torso of the first cultist-- one down! Red and Gelb send another back to the Pit to join his friend! The scrum shift as more cultist unfazed by death seek to bleed the party and push forth.  Next round, Gleb scores a hit and Kunrat follows with a killing blow. Blood lusted the cultist fight on but zeal does not make up for their lack of skill-- the party takes only a few scapes. Kunrat lands a blow which is followed quickly by spear stabs from Currly and Red yeild anothing cultist corpse! But vengence draws near as Gelb is severly injured in a follow-up attack. At the thought of losing a fellow human to this satantic nest, Red returns Gelb's injury with a killing blow! Howling the cultist continue their assault, but more are laid to rest as the party number has them at a 4 to 1 ratio now.

NOT A MOMENTS REST: The party checks the eastern door, hears nothing, and pops it open-- disturbing to cadavarites who rush the party! Wary from the battle, Gurkle takes a nasty blow from fetid fingernails. Enraged the party responds with force to avenge the favored frog. A few silvers are found in reward (7 SP)

DINING HALL DEPECTIONS OF GOD: The frogling showing no fear encourages the party to press on. Following the loud THWACK! THWACK! the party moves throught the western door. The dining hall is old and crumbling. Tables break and chair desentigrate at the slighest pressure. The only thing not touched by age is a stone base relief to the north.

Like earlier depections of The Lady, this art too is heterical showing the perfect sphere of God as flattened top and bottom like a slightly squished ball. The stone the depiction is made out of almost seems like dull metal and very smooth to the touch. Also odd is that this sphere does not sit on the top of the world as it normally should, but instead sits over The Pit. And enthroned in The Pit is the devil-lord Asmodeus and the crown of many-eyes (picture left).

THE HEAD BUTCHER: As Mayfly concludes the investigations of the art, a vile stench preceeds a thunderous knock at one of the southern doors. Before one can say "sorry we don't want any", the door explodes as a large mass of devilman squeezes its odius bulk through the door. The monsterous clever in hand is more than enough to send the party rushing to the door. Poor Gurkle is targeted due to owning a pair of tasty frog legs-- highly valued to the denizens of Nightwick (RIP Burp Frogling). The attack is vicious but Gurkle is able to make it out alive as the party bolts toward the exit! It was only the poor hireling Sibit who might have been hangstrung by Bertol in order to distract the giant devilman. But who knows?! It was all so confusing with the runing, the screaming, and the eye-watering stench no one could see or think straight.

While knowlege is its own reward, silver is a lot shinier and pays for drink, but alas there was no cutlery to steal this time. But the party did sharpen its swords on 8 cultists and 2 cadaverites (~200 XP)

...back to The Medusa's Head.

INSIDE THE OSR THERE ARE TWO WOLVES: OSR-V the Revival (Preservation) vs. OSR-N the Renaissance (Principles)

Cross your eyes to see two
(art: DiTerlizzi) 

I hate when I write a thoughtful response on Reddit and not this blog. So here it is repeated and maybe I am just tilting at windmills. 

Previously I have linked to this interesting series of posts over at the Simulacrum blog about the history of the OSR. Bonus points for Simulacrum using the frog card from Talisman as a graphic. Additional bonus point for editing of one of the new Battletech manuals.

And while the post divides the OSR into four categories, I think the preservation vs. principles divides things most cleanly, and in the end its these two factors that really matter the most:

Old-School Revival (OSR-V) is concerned with access and preservation of old-school D&D (mainly AD&D) as envisioned by Gary Gygax. The focus is on, not system mastery as 3e+, but at least system familiarity; includes non-D&D properties like Call of Cthulhu. 

Call of Cthulhu because, while not compatible with D&D, the system and even new adventure design hasn't changed really since its inception. Like AD&D, the adventures seem to ask players to use system familiarity to navigate tropes associated with the game. Mainly that most CoC adventures are oriented around a revelation not a true investigation.

Old-School Renaissance (OSR-N) is concerned with the re-imagined principles of old-school D&D (mainly BX) as expressed in the Principia Aprocrypha. OSR-N adds new ideas  also about at-the-table utility, layout, and information design (and in some ways 'zine-based publishing); includes non-D&D properties like MOTHERSHIP

MOTHERSHIP because while not compatible with D&D, the system and adventures ask of players similar things to D&D-based OSR-N modules: use player-skill to survive and explore strange environs. 

D&D Compatability is a red herring (?): I am not big on the idea of compatibility being a defining factor. As I alluded to in my OSR-N definition, if two systems are based on the same principles governing what is expected of the game-judge and players (MOTHERSHIP and BX D&D) then their systems most likely will "scale" with the adventures of the other. I think you could run most MOTHERSHIP adventures with BX D&D and vice versa. Also, the same system, like BX D&D, can straddle both OSR-V and OSR-N, so we have to look at the supplement/adventure/'zine/module/megadungeon and/or the DM's approach to play to understand what is intended.

Let's return to Call of Cthulhu for a moment because I believe discussing the OSR outside of D&D helps remove some "emotional baggage" that comes with the discussion. It also allows us a model that really only has, for all intents and purposes, a single edition (1). 

Looking at the rulebooks, CoC is a solid OSR-V because little has changed in rules since 1981. And pretty much all the adventures, big or small, follow a similar path of revelation. Act I established the mystery, Act II introduces the clues and antagonists, and Act III closes with the reveal of eldritch involvement (surprised/not surprised!). Familiarity with the CoC system will allow players to successfully navigate each act. Knowing where to apply Spot Hidden checks for plot-moving clues. Knowing who is most likely the secret cultist among the NPCs or has additional clues to hide. And knowing that while shotguns rarely work, dynamite almost always does. Strong preservation of the traditional method of play: mystery, investigate, then fight/big reveal + going insane.

But you can transmute CoC into OSR-N by altering the structure of the typical adventure from a revelation into an actual investigation. Now with an investigation structure, you achieve something more akin to asking players to use their own skill to explore a hostile landscape (figuratively and literally if they end up on Yuggoth) to solve a true mystery. 

The social landscape of victim(s), suspects, points of interest, and such is now more similar to a Jaquaysed dungeon, with vital points of interest and opposition spread out over a landscape that must be explored. This is very different from traditional CoC revelations which are like linear 2e "adventure paths" with their series of scenes strung together like beads. And the utility and layout required by an investigative style of CoC will also result in a change of art style. This is because the Keeper will have to have rapid access to critical information as players now will come by it through a variety of ways and methods instead of in the manner anticipated by the module writer. 

Summary: As before, I recommend the original series of posts. They cover a great deal of history with a lot of the movers and shakers. But at the core of serval debates of the OSR, I think are the cosmic forces and alignments of preservation vs. principles. Evidence of this is the recent "art-punk" dust-up where the preservationist/Revival faction felt the principle/Renaissance faction had gone a step too far. Mork-Borg being identified as the chaos daemon at the heart of it.

EDIT: And just for the record, I'm in the OSR-N camp. I prefer the weird, phantasmagoric, surreal, fey, apocalyptic, fairy-tale and dream-like over preservation of Gygax's exact vision of D&D.

(1) CoC is on its 7th edition, but it varies little in each of those editions compared to D&D's 5 editions plus basic lines.

CAVE EVIL: Random Thoughts on Barrowmaze Campaign ft. PC as Cultists


S. Poag bringing it as always for the older BARROWMAZE cover

Despite running Archaia, I think Barrowmaze might be the stronger of the two modules. Here are just some random thoughts I had post-Christmas while flipping through my copy. Would it be more fun if players were either Acolytes of Orcus (clerics) or Necrolytes of Set (magic-users) instead of regular adventurers? 

  • Mono-Faction Play With All PCs Would Be Part of One Faction: Sorta a Cave Evil vibe meets The Venture Brother's Monarch. Each group must be on the lookout for a specific set of magic items,  objectives, and the Tablet. And of course, kill the other guys.
  • Different Classes for Each Faction: Maybe even different character classes for each faction, nothing too different, but more like a reskinning. Or maybe just use KNAVE.
  • Hide From the Normies: Basically, you can shop in town, but don't let the law or the church find out what you are
  • Carousing Ritual Table: Going with a baddies campaign, instead of a carousing table, characters must participate in a similar mechanism that gives them supplies, gear, and undead minions for the next session?
    • Must do this at the end of every session-- draw upper-level cult leadership ire if you don't make it on time. Yes it sucks, but you're in a not nice cult.
    • Have results ranging from "mildly useful" to "YOU are the sacrifice!"
  • Spread the Faith: Using some bits from my "cleric campaign" maybe an objective would be to set up shrines to Nurgle and your faction to win favor. Add a sorta area control element to the greater dungeon. 
    • Maybe have some Chainmail level dust-ups when things get slow. Just have the players fight a battle for some portion of the dungeon
  • Dungeon Weather: I'd certainly want a Barrowmaze-specific Overloaded Encounter Die
  • Undead Monster Parts: Maybe also each faction has a use for some pieces of undead they kill: salts, biles, and ectoplasm

Necrolytes of Set

Acolytes of Orcus