Dan McPharlin’s “Year One”
It’s been almost a year and a half since the Vaults of Ur game began and it’s now looking like it’s winding down. The core players mostly want a break to play other games, not to mention the one player who’s been emotionally traumatized by what the ruins did to his character. I kid. I kid. But only sorta.
It was a fun year and change, and a good time getting back into the groove of running a game. I still don’t know what I’m doing and could certainly do it better, but some moments were pretty wonderful. Thanks Dennis, Dean, Jeremy, and Alexei, plus all the other folks who joined in. The Vaults remain.
The Abyssal King draws champions to his realm with the promise of glory and renown. It is a twisted, broken land, dotted with castles, towers, and ruins, scattered amid craggy peaks and thick, gloomy forests. Only the bravest, most daring, and ruthless can ever hope to win a place at the Abyssal King’s table. Others must wins service with the lesser lords and ladies, or carve a domain for themselves out of the wilderness where fearsome beasts dwell. And beneath it all the Moldrig wait, the cursed dwarfs who once ruled over men, steeped in terrible wisdom. plotting their insane schemes, and working their arcane forges.
Whether by sword or sorcery a knight seeks but one thing: glory.
I never really got the hang of adventure design. Some kids I knew made meticulous maps and filled pages with neatly written stat blocks and all that junk. I never quite had the wherewithal to do that, and pretty much did my best getting just winging it (and ripping off the last movie/book/TV show consumed). For awhile this actually worked – but not always. So I did the meticulous design thing, but it wasn’t as fun.
When I started up the Vaults game, I once again tried winging it. The results were mixed. I then designed an adventure or two. But who has the time to do that? So, after a bit of bumping about I’ve honed my skill set down to two methods* that incorporate both design and winging it, and don’t take too long to use:
1. Obstacles: Think of the opponents the characters may encounter. Give them turf and an agenda, and not just dopey room assignments. Have them actively engage with the party. This is basic stuff. Literally. It’s Keep on the Borderlands.
2. Settings: Think of all the things the party might encounter in an area then fill out one of these. Drop some dice. Adventure. These hex drop tables are a lifesaver. A few drops and you pretty much have an adventure.
And that’s how it’s done, and generally an hour or two before the game’s scheduled to start.
* Of course make/steal a map to use goes without saying…
In the years between the eighth and ninth cataclysms the remnant population of Ur came into contact with the Hive. Where the initial matriarchs of the Hive came from is lost to history, but it is speculated that the first matriarch was a renegade from her own civilization who sought shelter in Ur. Symbiosis between local humans and the Hive occurred over the next few centuries. Now the towers of the Hive rise above the south east section of Ur.
The Hive is a massive structure, riddled with tunnels. Strangers must dose themselves with bug powder in order to communicate with the population. Those under the influence of bug powder have increased sensory perceptions and can interpret the chemical signals the beetle residents use to communicate. In the center of the Hive is the central air shaft and fungal garden. From here rise ventilation shafts around which the tribes have their quarters. Far above in the towers sit the “great minds” – strange human insect hybrids that have devoted their lives to research and study. While in the depths below are the reservoir royal chamber where the queen spends her days surrounded on all sides by her loyal guard.
The humans of the Hive are divided into various tribes kept complacent via chemicals distributed through their bug-regurgitated rations. At times population pressures force struggles between tribes. In combat Hive tribes-people fight as fighters, using weapons and armor fashioned from beetle carapaces along with various chemical concoctions such that burn, confuse, or immobilize. Most groups will be led by a 3rd level fighter and have a cleric in their midst.
Unused tunnels run throughout the Hive, and these are often home to outcasts, predators, and other trespassers. Also ruined buildings can be found in places throughout having been absorbed into the Hive over the centuries.
But is it really a schedule change if there was never any schedule in the first place, eh?
From now on Thursdays* are going to be gamedays around here. I figure it’s about time there’s some consistent content on this blog, and I’ve stolen so much from so many other gaming blogs that posting my own stuff seems only right. Not to mention most of this stuff has already been written in some shape or form even if it’s only scribbly-scrawl at this point. Pretty much all of it will have been used in play and pulled from my Vaults of Ur game. Whether there’s any other content remians to be seen.
*Times are listed in Korea Standard Time. My Thursday may in fact be your Wednesday.
Once upon a time one of my 3rd grade students drew this:
THE DREADED EAGLE SHARK!
And I was like, yes, my players will have to fight this. And they did! And then afterwards they all drew pictures of it,
because they are greedy for sweet sweet experience points because EAGLESHARK!
As you can see the description sort of shifted because it was late and I was like eagle wings, no bat wings, no two legs, no four legs – two tiger, two eagle…
I had a great time at ConFusion. I met a lot of people, bought a lot of books, and drank some wonderful beer — the best of which was homebrewed by my buddy Mike. All good. Besides seeing old friends I hadn’t seen in years and meeting new people, I got a chance to do some gaming, in particular Zvezda’s Samurai Battles.
It’s a great game and pretty simple to play once you get over the learning curve. The scenario involved me defending a village from marauders. We played using the Art of Tactics rules, which involve writing orders in dry erase marker on laminated cards and then having both sides act simultaneously. Stuff happened. Enemy arquebusers (like those above) walloped my archers, but not enough to prevent my cavalry from doing a flanking movement. Spear guys poked people with spears. Samurai got hewn down. Folks ran out of arrows, and the village was defended. Score one for the good guys.
The Gray Weirds are the remains of certain wizards and sorcerers who sought to escape the ravages of Ur’s Fifth Cataclysm by transforming themselves into gray oozes.
In their inactive state Gray Weirds resemble stone columns supporting a stone mask or bust depicting the person they were before their transformation. When provoked they lose their rigidity and display all the characteristics of gray oozes. In addition to these abilities Gray Weirds may cast each of the following spells once per day: ESP, mirror image, and hold portal.
Gray Weirds tend to lair in the habitats of their former selves – wizards towers, isolated research facilities, etc. Whether or not they retain any aspect of their former personalties remains unknown — to date no one has successfully communicated with a Gray Weird or knows if such a thing is even possible. Gray Weirds often cultivate other slime creatures in their lairs.
The party started out on the banks of a forgotten subterranean river having come across by rope-pull after their boat sunk. They wandered through many caverns and encountered many strange things. Some of these things tried to kill them, others made them try to kill each other, and a few just gave them the willies so bad they turned tail and ran in the opposite direction. But when the night’s over, where’s the party? Back on the same riverbank. . . doing their laundry. All except the one guy who died trying to wrestle a REDACTED.
What cracks me up is when I make the adventure the day of the game, and it’s just a broad-stroke scribble-map of “Room 4: 3 Ghouls — 50GP in gems hidden under rock” – and then the players end in the dungeon, giving me another week to add stuff so that when we game again it’s “Room 4: 3 ghoul outcasts from the undercity. If the ghouls hear the party approach they move to the opposite side of the pit in Room 5 and leave a trail of gold coins to the trapped sarcophagi in Room 6.”
So players – if the DM says the adventure got made that day, then that’s the time to be bold. Otherwise those wheels within wheels start turning. . .
Artwork by one of my 3rd grade students.
“NOTE: You do NOT need a Ph.D. in History to play this game. This game is based around the most superficial knowledge of U.S. history, and the personages therein. If you only know Samuel Adams as a beer, or think LBJ is a political group fighting for the rights of alternative sexual lifestyles, so much the better!”
From “Presidents of the Apocalypse” a gonzo superhero presidents versus radioactive mutants homebrew Dennis has been tinkering with.
This game is genius.
You can be armed with an Eisenhowitzer.