NIGHTWICK ABBEY: The Purple Eater of People Session 37

For a far fuller session report, checkout Mycelium Mischef for Session 37

For Mayfly's downtime, he spent most of the time looking researching the book taken from the Abbey last week. Unfortunately, it was written in a language unfamiliar to Mayfly, but the book makes references to several magical diagrams like those seen on the floor in the last encounter. The book also makes reference to one for each cardinal direction.

Hmm... worth exploring with this outing. The rest of the party agrees that going back to the third level would be worth the risk given how the party has been able to handle itself so far. [PC NOTE: Also the rule we have imposed that the party can only have 10 members or risk increasing the number of encounter checks seems to work well. It provides enough space for each player but helps keep the action moving.]

IN THE ABBEY...
  • THE SCREAMING PILLARS: The party charts a course into the Abbey via mapping done previously and arrives at the entrance to the 3rd level without incident [PC NOTE: Mapping- it works! In game, we post a route on Discord, DM calculates how many encounters rolls occur, and we start that game at the desired room, provided there is no encounter.]

  • THE FOUR SIGILS to the OSSUARY: The information from the book is confirmed with the discovery of four sigils on the 3rd level. They glow with divine energy and the area around them appears to be the consistency of cracked, irritated skin as if the Abbey rejecting them. Little else is figured out. The party turns south again and hits an extensive ossuary. Moving around in the four ossuary rooms the players are able to gather 1500 SP from hundreds of biting skulls by popping the coin out of their mouths with spears.

    The party's activities don't go unnoticed as four Breaking Wheels crash into the party! Oil flasks are thrown with torches following! The party's clerics and fighters land solid hits as axles are shattered.

  • THRONE OF VALAX: The party turns southeast and hits a room with a well-worn path leading from the north door to the east door. At the east door, there is a sermon in another language, so the party turns north into a room depicting four dukes of hell. After a brief investigation, the party head south into a room dominated by a demon.

    Mayfly offers up a false name to learn that the book of Elric is in the Lair of the Rulesmaster and this room will be known by the presence of... the Rulesmaster.

  • RUMBLE WITH THE SWORD BROTHERS: The party turns northwest and encounters a room with a band of sword brothers lead by a far more menacing undead knight. The two sides square off with a quick victory established by the party with the liberal application of their remaining oil flasks and torches. All under the (maybe) amused eye of a devilman smoking a pipe. With that fight concluded and a quick sweep of the treasure, the party returns.
...BACK AT THE MEDUSA'S HEAD  

The total experience gained from this outing for the party was 6500! With each character gaining 650 SP in the process, which should set us up for some solid carousing the next gaming session.

A few missteps in the maps,
but otherwise roughly accurate




ORIGIN STORY: How I Got Into The OSR

In an effort to keep to my word to make things more blog-centered, I am going try to read, link to, and respond to more blog posts.

Over at Gorgon Bones, there is an OSR origins story of sorts. And I thought it might be fun to tell my version. I don't know how long this will be but I will try to not meander too much.

I STARTED WITH 2e AD&D

Despite BX being my preferred edition of D&D, I actually got into the hobby by stumbling upon my brother's comics and 1e AD&D collection. But the frustrating thing is that I had a bunch of adventures and filled out character sheets, but no starting rules. However, I did find in the collection a copy of TMNT and Other Strangeness so that was my very first RPG. A few years later, the second edition of the game was put out and I snatched it up quickly. Fortunately, I had made a friend in middle school who played with his 2 brothers and cousin.

And so I headed off into the RPG wilds, rolling up several characters that I would never play and really only ever getting about 1 Saturday afternoon's worth of adventuring in on any adventure. Eventually, group had bought boxsets, splat books, and such-- Ravenloft and Planescape being the favorites. By 14, it had all accumulated to just too many rules for one DM (usually me). So, things wound down by about 16 with the occasional game of Battletech or 40k in there. And of course Magic the Gathering. I eventually got deep into school and dating and all my RPG stuff lay dormant but the fun never forgotten.

INTERLUDE SEPERATED BY MANY YEARS

ME: Wait you said you ran games for White Wolf? They do Vampire?
TEACHER: Yeah but before my friends and I did do a lot of
Call of Cthulhu.

ME: I don't play WoW because I've already played that game... its called Dungeons & Dragons 

ME: I never understood where your Player's Handbook was because how did you learn the game?
BRO: Oh, I guess I did have the
Basic Box but must have given it away. I never did understand why people moved to AD&D, Basic was enough.

YEARS LATER AT THE CROSSROADS OF 5e D&D & 6e CoC, I MET THE DEVIL

I was comming off getting big into the US boardgame revival in the mid-2000. There were three games that stuck with me (and continue to do so) all from FFG: Cosmic Encounter, Talisman, and Arkham Horror. 

Of course 5e D&D came out and hearing it was a more back-to-basics D&D and not the direction that 4e had taken, I was all back in. But as I started reading the adventures I couldn't help feel they still were the same on-rails experience a lot of 2e was. Which, in addition to the volumes of splat-book rules we piled on, really made the game a drag. So, remember how much fun Arkham Horror was I wondered if Call of Cthulhu was the same fun. And The King in Yellow was one of my favorite mythos stories-- so I started looking up "Carcosa" as a setting.

And lo-and-behold, I start reading on the internet how someone has published suppliment to D&D called Carcosa and there were calls for it to be banned or censored or burn because it was just too much.

At first I thought this was some sorta gag right? Like a book based on a book about a play that makes people go insane and see visions of a planet called Carcosa was being boycotted? Just like the fictious play. Can't be real.

With a little more digging I, like a lot of folks in the OSR scene, had my first encounter with Lamentations of the Flame Princess. But I still couldn't figure out what kind of D&D it was and no store in my area were carrying the rulebooks. Casting about more I hit upon a few notable blogs like False Machine, Monsters & Manuals, Monster Manual Sewn From Pants, Dungeon of Signs, and Zak's blog. So the first three things I got my hands on were: 

  • Deep Carbon Observatory
  • Yoon-Suin
  • Vornheim

And after reading those books, I all of a sudden I had a version of D&D that I could keep in my head. I realized that unlike 2e, I didn't need to keep a bunch of chats and stats in my head. Instead, I could keep a few relevant numbers and relationships in my head. I had also found Matt Finch's manifesto about the old school scene. That too clicked with me.

Those three books also kinda represented a mix of what I wanted out of D&D-- a game where creativity moves to the front, instead of numbers. They also encouraged me to develope at-the-table tools and to creatue situtions, instead of trying to create a "story" the players are to follow. The tone of DCO and Vornheim appealed to my inner meloncholy while I found Yoon-Suin sorta reminded me a little bit of Planescape in that it was a D&D setting, but pretty removed from traditional D&D.

MY VERY OWN BX D&D

In the near present, I started running BX in earnest when I was asked to start a D&D campaign for some folks who worked around me.

5e of course was a natural start, but it quickly became apprent that it was just too much for complely novice players. They really didn't "get" how to play an RPG so I needed a system that was stripped down. A few sessions with the Black Hack and then I transitioned to BX. At first with a lot of LotFP as it was about the best BX out there. But, I finally looked on ebay for a copy of B/X D&D. Found a good copy of each book along with a copy of B2 Keep on the Borderlands and as a treat I had them bound together in library binding (left pic). A now very cherished relic. But so much so, I hate to use it unlike my very well worn copy of OSE.

An really from there the rest is on this blog!

BLOG!: Good God! What Is It Good For?

How Twitter views blogging

With the recent Twitter turmoil caused by its new owner, there has been a call to return to blogging as a means of communication in the OSR pond I swim in. And I absolutely agree.

WHY BLOG

Slower & more in-depth: To me, one big reason is blogging's slower, cooler, longer form is a good counter-balance to Twitter or TikToks rapid hot-take environment. Blogging allows for a deeper discussion, better dissection, and/or a more balanced review of whatever RPG topic is being looked at.

"Quieter": Blogging too helps muffle the other voices in the same space. Responding on Twitter to trending topics presses you to prioritize rapid response and a bit more group think, but with a super spicy twist, in order to get those likes and reshares. Blogging on the other hand is far quieter- you, your thoughts, and a blank sheet. I find it a relief.

Archival & stable: The last broad reason to blog is that its comparatively more long-lived and archival and therefore paradoxically easier to share than something like Twitter. Less on an individual post level, but its easier to share things from years ago or share like or grouped things-- like all monster posts for the "Sky Castle of Violet Spires" series.

WHAT TO BLOG

Rule Zero- write about what interests you and don't worry about anything else. Seriously. That is the simplest piece of advice I can give. The more you drill into what interests you, the more the blog will develop its own voice. I love reading people's idiosyncratic views on the game.

Like, start A Fist Full of Fighting-Men (great name!) a blog all about fighters and fighter-centric campaigns. Its fine to hyper-specialize because that will lead to more novel posts of even well-worn topics like reviewing B2 again for the 1000th time.

A close second is writing about what you have recently been playing. I still think there is a surprising lack of this sort of content in the RPG space. A lot of theories exist. A lot of ideas about what works, what should work, and what is the correct way. But still few people showing their work. And for new players and DMs, being able to see this work is important because it helps explain the "why" especially in a lot of old-school play cultures. 

This is primarily my reason for blogging all my Nightwick games. To demonstrate that GP = XP, mapping, and rolling a random 3d6-down-the-line magic-user can work. And it had a knock-on effect of generating ideas about how to make the classic d4, one-spell at level 1 MU successful in-game-- resulting in one of my highest read posts and having it featured in KNOCK! Vol 3. But let me say again, this MU advice didn't arise from me theorizing, it was from 20+ sessions of megadungeon play with this PC.

Write about problems, campaign-wise, you are trying to overcome. This is similar to writing about playing, in that its starts with experience first not just an idea about how things should be done without actually attempting it first. Like a house going up in a neighborhood, people often find the process more interesting than the finished product because they can see "inside".

Here at ICL, this is why I started blogging at bit about my "Super Cleric Bros." campaign. I thought it might be useful to describe problems or content that needed to be generated for the game and then just show the "think-through". Nothing is incredibly novel about the campaign, but it generated some good responses. And I think represents more the sorta campaigns/game people are running.

But this also can something as simple as, "I'm running a swamp campaign.  Here is my d6 random encounter table for the next session." Even that is blog-able. Why? Because of Rule Zero, you are interested in it.

GETTING STARTED

  1. I keep a Mead Five-Star grid-rule notebook close at hand for jotting down anything that pops into my head. Its also great for responding to hot takes without responding to hot takes. Occasionally review it just to see what good ideas I've forgotten.

  2. I just use Blogger because its easy for me. But just use whatever platform is low effort. But when blogging, content is king, so I'd not worry about more than just a banner to convey what your blog's "thing" is. Some famous blogs don't even do that.

  3. Then I am trying to post once a week- so 52 times a year. And I do want maybe about 1/3 of those posts to be something from play. So far I am at ~40+ posts and really I think I could do more if I would just relax, post more idiosyncratically, and leaning into posting about whatever I want.

  4. Tags do help! I wish mine were a little better and I think a good way to start might just be to use the OD&D titles as tags themselves (ugh- that IS a good idea):
    • Men
    • Magic
    • Monsters
    • Treasure
    • Underworld
    • Wilderness
    • [Campaign Title]

  5. Here are some topics (from an OSR perspective) that might help: 
    • Last RPG post that lit a fire in your brain and why? 
    • Description of the last session you played in. 
    • What are 6 pieces of "terrain" to add to any dungeon room encounter? 
    • Who are the gods of law, neutrality, & chaos in your campaign and what if my fighter gives an offering to each?
    • What are three illustrations that define some part of your ideal D&D?

  6. Finally after you've built up a good bit of material, try to organize it in your sidebar for ease of reference for yourself and the folks who start dropping by!

THE WHEEL OF TIME: Domain Cycles

Like this, but the figures represent levels
(the nice calendar from
The Blacktongue Thief)

In my ideal D&D ruleset player advancement would stop short of 10th level. I think the 9th-level domain goal is a wonderful one and any advancement after 9th by the player should feed into that. And in fact, I would try to being domain leveling into lower levels in my ideal D&D.

Then the play loop begins again in a (hopefully) changed the world.

But this got me thinking that a table could refer to these loops as "cycles"-- spongy units of time that more mark change in the game state than they do in actual specific amounts of time per se.

I could imagine a table saying remarking something like this: 

"Ha ha remember in the 2nd Cycle when Susan leveled her fighter far enough to get that sweet keep, but we never found the lich so we started the 3rd Cycle trying to mount defences against an army of the undead?"

 Marcia of Traverse Fantasy had the suggestion of also doing a sorta interlude to discuss the implications of the end of one cycle to the beginning of another cycle-- Like a "Cycle Downtime?"

I think this would be a good thing too. In this sorta downtime setting maybe each character NOT at domain level could gain something of value or maybe it allows full development of a downtime institution or relationship:

  • Building investments complete
  • PC gain a non-landed title status
  • Guild standing increases
  • A crucial piece of research is completed
Basically something cool that is not quite a level gain, domain attainment, or a +2 sword but still intersting and adds to the world.



NIGHTWICK ABBEY: The Purple Eater of People Session 36

 

For a far fuller session report, checkout Mycelium Mischef for Session 36

After stealing an intriguing juicer from the bowels of Nightwick (Session 35 Fresh Juice), the party returns in search of the often talked about but never seen garden that is located within its depths.

(PC NOTE: I have been lax on also providing some extra commentary about rule changes and such as of late. This week the group talked about a couple of things: (1) Party size maximum, which in Session 35 was 17! and (2) Shields Shall Be Sundered. 

Party Size Max: Okay, I brought up the issue that 17 PCs and hirelings (see Session 35) were actually starting to impede both PC actions in game and player actions on a meta-level. Basically physically organizing all the tokens on Forge was eating up delving time with little benefit. Especially given that a lot of players are now 3rd level and we have a fair number of clerics and changelings ("elves") so when all 10 players are present we roll with some firepower. Solution: One player suggested that maybe over 10 people, we maybe have twice the number of random encounters representing the party is making just that much more noise. Perfect! Its a real consequence, but doesn't artificially cap the total party.

Shield Shall Be Sundered: A second suggestion is that if the hireling number is reduced how about some compensatory mechanisms for fighters (who especially see heavy combat) to prevent so much death and therefore the desire to have more cannon fodder. Solution: DM not so much in favor of SSbS, but proposed we could break armor and weapons to avoid injury on our death & dismemberment table we roll at 0 hp.)

The party completes a set of downtime activities (PC NOTE: This is now handled over Discord which is very convenient). Mayfly spent 40 SP to learn that a wizard Eldric left a spellbook containing the method by which they created all manner of strange creatures.

IN THE ABBEY...
  • The party's aim is the fabled gardens of Nightwick, but they are brought up short by a mob of cultists of the Lady. The party's arrows fly! And Luminal cast Hypnotism ordering one cultist to hug another-- snarling their ranks with love. And love truly conquers all as the cultist are slain.
    ⚔️ 11 swords are gained!

  • The party continued easy, then turns south to head to the second level. But before they can, they are confronted by the cries of a captured monk. "Help me good folk! I was captured by horrible devilmen!" Half the party is suspicious and half the party decides to help-- resulting in the monk, transforming into a crazed, profane Abbey denizen! Quickly slain.

  • Fed up with the surprises Mayfly casts ESP and begins a sweep of the second floor where the juicer was located. A crude map of bizarre minds is made which allows the party to avoid both the devil men and something stranger on the floor. Exploration to the west reveals a secret door- but with a little focus, Mayfly is sure nothing good can come of going through it. The party votes to continue to the third.

  • On the third level, the party stops in front of two pillars made of skulls that cackle loudly upon their arrival: "Somebody's doorbell...". The party turns west into a room with profane art depicting the supremacy of the Pit over Heaven. With caution, the party turns south then west again which causes them to stumble upon some manner of foul ritual!

  • The party formed up for a tough fight, but with initiative in their favor, the party struck quick! Sotar cast Hold Person on the silver-masked leader and the cultist rushed into an onslaught of arrows from Anston and Blossom. What ritual were they performing? What evil could have been unleashed? We'll never know. What we do know is quite a bit of treasure was found:
    ๐Ÿ›ก️ Plate, ๐Ÿ‘บ silver devil mask, ๐Ÿ—ƒ️ gold box, ๐Ÿ“– and a tomb
(PC NOTE: I think the most notable thing here is the value of ESP as a way to detect not just enemies, but possible secret doors. Because if you can sense thoughts through a wall, sure there might just be a hallway connecting, but there might be another way. This had never really occurred to me. So I think Mayfly's spell compilation still fits him more in an exploratory position than anything else. My loadout is usually: Light x2, Charm Person, ESP (we use a spell point system).)

...BACK AT THE MEDUSA'S HEAD  Mayfly will try and translate the book to see what powerful knowledge can be gained. Especially since Halfdan's Tower is closed, much to Mayfly's frustration.

SPEAK! SPEAK! Rules for Talking Animals


I really like this post from Rotten Pulp about talking animals.

When thinking about my own campaigns set in fairytale-like settings, I too have thought about talking animals. And here are my "rules" for them:

  • About 1/6 can talk, but don't always immediately lead with this information
  • Another 1/6 have the intelligence & communication ability of a "Disney animal companion"
    • These creatures come from the union of a talking animal and a regular animal under unique circumstances
    • Knights love having intelligent horses and loath talking ones
  • Most animals will only talk to a trusted human companion out of the earshot of others or when in need
    • Frequent enough that people know animals maybe can talk, but infrequent enough that most folks still think you are crazy for suggesting such
    • Talking animals are not to be trusted- this is common knowledge
  • Talking animals find it very hard to overcome their animal natures and certainly give advice and aid through that lens. So, if you are drowning and you ask your talking animal friend to save you:
    • A lion would go to the road and demand with a kingly air that someone else help you
    • A fox would go to the road and lie saying you are a prince who can give a reward
    • A bear would just push the first carriage over and then motion for people to follow
  • Most talking animals don't have the desire to be any more human/civilized save for foxes, cats, 50% of toads/frogs, 25% of dogs, and swine (this is very dangerous)
  • Monkeys hate other talking animals and the feeling is mutual
  • Talking animals can be hirelings, but operate with a -1 moral and always want payment in something bizarre
  • Snakes, owls, and ravens are connected to magic and occult knowledge
  • Mice are surprisingly good tailors if motivated
EDIT: Why are talking animals not to be trusted? Well, because one never knows if the animal is talking because:
1 | It is just a talking animal
2 | A good person cursed by an evil person and needs help
3 | A bad person cursed by a good person and needs a fool to help
4 | Someone who tried to trick a fay and was too dumb to do so
5 | It is hungry and humans, fascinated by talking animals, are an easy snack
6 | It is a jealous animal and wants to steal your station in life (swine are notorious for this)

NIGHTWICK ABBEY: The Purple Eater of People Session 34

After many absences, the famed (in his own mind) conjurer Mayfly returns to delve once again into the horry pits of Nightwick Abbey!

My last post was Session 27, but if you would like to see what has happened since, the cleric Sotar has taken up the pen over at Mycelium Mischef. And is chronically the party's adventures in the underbelly of hell. I am going to try to blog a shorter format of the sessions until Sotar wants to pass the pen back.

At the tavern, two new joiners of the party are a fighter, XXX, and a frogling, XXX.

In the depths of the Abbey:

  • The goal is for the party to get to the 2nd level of the Abbey and find the bizarre lightning-producing machine. Wrench it out. And sell it! 

  • Alas, the party gets caught up talking to manimals, then Mayfly is tricked by his talking gold skull into saying the wrong thing: "You're as dumb as Bloatus!" cackles the golden skull.

  • A fight ensues! Sotar almost dies, but the party defeats 6 manimal men: two by weapon, one by Light, Hypnotism, and the rest broke as their morale faltered.

  • The party screws around with the switches a little. Clicking one causes much hooting from a distant hallway. They don't touch the one with the "brain" and "potion" symbols. Enough puzzles! The party wrenched the coil out of the ground, loaded it on a Floating Disk, and made a hasty exit... just in time to see the glowing malignant form of Bloatus coming toward them on so many hands.
Back to the tavern, now 1,016 SP richer after selling the coil to the wizard Halfdan.

And in case folks are curious, here is the current body count for Nightwick Abbey: