Tag Archive | osr

TPK: Post-Mortem

Nine sessions into my latest game and the hammer came down.

A TPK.

Yes, at least one of my players would object to me saying that, since their character managed to flee the conflict wounded, reach an island, and crawl beneath their overturned rowboat as the buzzing of a group of stirges approached.
And as is always the case I wonder what went wrong.

Yes, there were bad decisions and bad dice rolls, and one night we should’ve called the game at a cliff-hanger point instead of pressing on – but things happened as they happened. Now everyone’s making new characters (and we’re changing the rule set while staying in the same setting), but as is the case it’s time for introspection and dissecting the game to see what worked and what didn’t.

Here we go…

THE BASICS

Rule set: Through the Sunken lands by Flatland Games. It’s a retroclone and one I’ve used before.

Characters: A Pirate Captain, the Goblin’s Child, and the Student of the Dark Arts (players could pick playbooks from either Through Sunken Lands or Beyond the Wall). This ended up being a fighter/thief, a fighter/thief/mage, and a mage. The playbooks are fun, but they can be disappointing when the rolls don’t go your way. Despite two fighter types I don’t think anyone started with a strength above 13.

House Rules: The use of fortune points was expanded. Spend two to shrug off a spell effect. Spend a fortune point to regain a HD of HP on a short rest.

Advancement: XP was a combination of pop quiz style (each adventure offered a basic amount of XP for accomplishing certain goals) and XP for loot. Loot however needed to be spent in town. A carousing table was used.

Since characters got XP for loot, there were instances of one character splitting off from the party, getting very lucky, and getting loot the other characters never knew about. (The players knew and rolled their eyes in disgust… or at least I imagine they did. We play online without any cameras, but I swear I could hear the eye rolls.) This also meant times where the party had loot they needed to convert to XP, but had to travel to a bigger settlement to spend it. This was the situation before they died. Still I liked this mechanic and the mix of XP awards. But it did incentivize a certain selfishness among the players (or at least it did in that one heel player). This, however, fit the sword & sorcery vibe in my opinion. Whether the selfishness led to the TPK is debatable. The party never really came together as a group loyal to each other and able to strategize together.

Equipment: Inventory slots and a usage die. Both of these worked well, but they did seem to have an infinite amount of rope.

THINGS THAT MAYBE DIDN’T WORK

Nothing. I’m perfect.

Uhhh… I mean…

Time Management: You get a feel for the game and when something tells you this is a good point to end the session, end the session. It’s okay to finish 35 minutes ahead of the usual time. Better too short than too long. If the game had been cut early one night, then players would’ve had a week to prep/ask questions before going into the encounter that killed them*.

Avoid Bullet Time: There’s a tendency to want to play out every moment of game time. That’s not always necessary. The loot mechanic of get back to town to gain XP maybe encouraged some bullet time, since if the game ended with them making camp, the next session would then be them getting back home. Often a random encounter would happen that would then thwart their objective to get home and send them deeper into danger and deeper into turns and bullet time.

Telegraph Threats: It’s fun to make things weird and unpredictable, but (as an example) giving a goblin a breath weapon where they can vomit out a slurry of jagged gravel that does D6 damage to everyone in range may be fun, but A) it induces paranoia in players, which can lead to analysis paralysis, B) it also makes it difficult for players to determine what they should worry about.

Information Economy in the Fog of War: Is it punishing the players by withholding information about their current mission, because they spent their one opportunity to research things researching some other information they thought was more important? Is that a failure on the GM’s part for not telegraphing what details are important? Should the GM even worry about this? Are players supposed to say (hell, even know!) the magic words that will trigger an NPC to give the relevant information or should players just be given the damn information that might be relevant? In other words…

Should players hear about a thing (that may be relevant) even if they never ask about the thing?

Questions. Questions.

* Yes, that character made it back to the beach so the campaign actually ended with the lone survivor cowering under an overturned rowboat and a fade to black as buzzing approached.

Mysthead #4

And here it is…

Mysthead #4, a system neutral micro-setting for seafaring fantasy adventures.

Inside you will find multiple generators, a local region and the many peoples who live there, several unique curiosities, a hexflower encounter matrix for seafaring events, and more!

You can find it at DrivethruRPG (affiliate link) or here at itch.io: https://myxomycetes.itch.io/mysthead-4

Enjoy!

Scarecases and more…

Have you ever wanted to wander an endless staircase at the intersection of realities and populated by horrors?

Well, now you can!

Over at itch.io, I’ve posted a trifold brochure outlining this scarecase environment. It’s written for Old School Essentials but can be easily adapted for other games.

Link to itch.io. Or look for “Myxomycetes”.

And over on my Patreon, I’ve posted a game called Perils & Procedures and a bit from a WIP I’m currently calling Champion’s Mark.

Perils & Procedures is the journaling game of perilous procedures you play online! But really it’s me poking fun at a certain variety of TTRPG blog posts. On one hand, I love them. On the other hand, I hate them. Unfortunately, I can only navigate this tension with ironic detachment.

Champion’s Mark is a chivalric TTRPG supplement based on Orlando Furioso. It’ll be a mix of NPCs, Tables, and Adventure Seeds that I hope will let players embrace some of the weird hallucinatory wildness of chivalric romances. This is a real thing, not a gag like Perils & Procedures. I’ll likely share bits and pieces as I go along. Current deadline for that is January 2023. If you want to help make that happen, please consider supporting me on Patreon.

An Into the Odd Character’s Tale As Depicted in Tokens

I’m playing in an Into the Odd/Electric Bastion game. It’s fun, but has required some rejiggering of my escapist expectations. With D&D or Blades in the Dark you generally play someone with panache from the start. That’s not the case so much with Into the Odd as the below will show.

To start we made two characters and picked the one I liked the most. One of the options was an out of work animal tamer and I thought it would be fun to play as the shepherd kid accosted by the players in the game I ran (it’s the same group and would’ve been a funny in-joke), but in the end I opted for the other character: an out of work canal lock keeper with a robotic eye.

Now to me that sounded like a swashbuckling river pirate type:

Bonus points if you can guess what comic this character is from!

And that’s what I planned on playing, until I looked again at my character sheet and saw DEX: 4. Now a DEX: 4 is not something that says swashbuckling pirate. It says more bookish and uncoordinated, so from swashbuckling river pirate I shifted to local canal crime boss’s in too deep accountant.

Nothing says adventure like James Joyce.

And that worked! My nebbish accountant has found himself stranded with strange companions on a very strange island. He’s diffident and not at all a fighter. Or wasn’t at first. Two adventures in and that’s changed.

Early after his arrival on the island he came into possession of a stuffed cat and now refuses to part with it. Not only that, but the statue has the power to turn him into a man-sized cat at night. This is okay, but not great because there’s a chance when he changes he’ll attack his companions. Thank god, he has the 4 in DEX and not WILL. More to the point of this post, my initial token for his cat-form was this:

It’s your boi, Behemoth!

But again, under all the fur and teeth and claws, he’s still a nebbish accountant who got in too deep with canal gangsters. Once more my expectations had to be changed (and I saw a tweet of some awful 19th century tiles), and so:

It’s your boi, 바보

Let’s see if this remains his final form!

But there’s a notion when discussing Old School RPGs that your character is what happens to them and that’s proving true here. From a collection of numbers (DEX: 4!) to a personality to a history accumulated through play, this character is fun for the simple fact that the whole experience has been unpredictable. It might not be to everyone’s taste, but it certainly feels refreshing and liberating to me. Stuff is happening and not only has it changed my character, but also my character was never who I thought they were in the first place!

That’s neat.

Into the Odd: Actual Play

I recently ran a game of Into the Odd using the scrypthouse write-up from my Mysthead 3 ‘zine (itch.io page here). It was fun. The players were repairman sent to determine why a local scrypthouse had gone silent.

Using the pathetic fallacy generator from the ‘zine, I rolled up a house that craved silence and dampened sounds. For the cause of the trouble I decided the local corps members had come into contact with a void wraith and been taken over by a bad signal. I also stuck a roaming void miasma around the station’s roof and a juvenile pig herder having an altercation with a rival adventurer nearby.

The players arrived. When they got within sight of the house they promptly heard shouting, gun shots, and the squeals of pigs. Approaching with caution, they came upon a scene of dead pigs, angry pigs, a shouting swineherd, and an old man in heavy armor standing atop a rock reloading his rifle. So the players split up. One approached the swineherd, the other approached the old man. Sadly, the pigs caught the latter repairman’s scent and attacked.

Chaos ensued. The repairmen drove the pigs away and took the swineherd hostage. The child proved belligerent and eventually escaped. The old man introduced himself and gave some backstory. He came here to meet a friend. The station’s locked. The pigs are weird. Yadda. Yadda. Time to go in.

One repairman starts work on unlocking the door while the other does a sweep of the building’s perimeter. He doesn’t get far before the miasma attacks those at the front of the house. Fortunately, they managed to get the door unlocked and get inside. Things get worse from there.

The interior’s a mess. The corps technicians are all signal-zombies. Exploration happens. One repairman gets infected with a lexical fungus (mildly amusing, but dropped after a few minutes). They reach the brazen head and find it disconnected. Before they can check it out the old man’s friend walks in and kills the old man with a belch of void static. Cut off from the front door the repairmen have no choice but to flee deeper into the station. They manage to reach the basement and activate the back-up brazen head. It gives them some suggestions, but really the repairmen are as freaked out by it as all the signal-zombie weirdness upstairs. Or downstairs now. The void wraith’s found its way into the basement.

More cat-and-mousing ensues. The repairmen manage to get back upstairs. One’s now for high-tailing it out of the station while the other wants to destroy the void-wraith. High-tailer reluctantly agrees to assist. The void-wraith shows up and the plan’s to lure it into a room full of gizmos and zap it. This works, but doesn’t kill it. High-tailer runs for the door, while the other grabs the old man’s gun.

*click*

The old man hadn’t a chance to reload the gun before getting killed. The void-wraith kills the repairman. High-tailer returns and kills the void-wraith. The corps techs return to their sense. The void miasma disappears. The surviving repairman gathers up the dead.

OVERALL
I liked it. It felt like running B/X D&D without the baggage. Combat took me a bit to get used to. And the lexical fungus proved more a spark for a few table laughs than a solid game mechanic. Now I’m thinking how to run ItO as as a Numenera-esque settlement-building game. My take is that the system’s aesthetic is fueled as much by its illustrations as by its mechanics, and it doesn’t have to be some flavor of Edwardian Paranoia.

Game Stuff

Never too early to figure out your next Halloween costume.

I updated my itch.io page with all the game materials I’ve made to date. They are all pay what you want. Most materials use Necrotic Gnome’s Old School Essentials as their ruleset, but they could be tweaked for any tabletop fantasy game.

Mysthead 1: Mysthead is a grab bag ‘zine of stuff used at my table and not. 12 pages, includes details of the Mysthead region with adventure seeds, the Beachcomber class for Old School Essentials, and a D20 table of strange things washed up on the beach. 

Mysthead 2: 12 pages, details Mysthead’s goblins and elves with adventure seeds, plus tables for mnemonic relics, whispering skulls, fae/goblin political structures, and underdark rumors. Also includes the Rumormonger Spider, a playable class for Old School Essentials.

Wolves of the Gnarlwood: a 3 page system-less wilderness adventure  

(You can also find the classes as separate PDFs along with one for the Unright Goat.)

Check them all out here.

What Made the Goat Go Wrong?

“The only domestic animal known to return to feral life as swiftly as the cat is the goat.”

There in the barn, biding its time, watching the villagers go about their daily business, the goat waits. Something strange has happened to the goat, and it is no longer right. Yesterday, it was as normal as any other goat in the field. Now an uncanny intelligence burns behind its horizontal pupils.

What happened to the goat? Roll below to find out:

  1. A skyrock landed in the back fields. The chromaspectral beings within changed the goat before they died.
  2. A bored fae taught the goat to read and write for a laugh.
  3. Long ago a mindlord’s ethership crashed near here. Its engines have slowly released mutagens into the soil. Fortunately, the goat ate most of it.
  4. It’s not always demons, but often it is. This is one of those times.
  5. The goat stayed out overnight, and the full moon’s light made it weird.
  6. A passing saint blessed the goat. Now the goat seeks to free other goats from demonic domination.
  7. The goat was found unconscious beside the alchemist’s garbage heap. No one knows what it ate, not even the alchemist, but the goat hasn’t been right since.
  8. A terrifying night with nature cultists scared wits into the goat.
  9. Those little red mushrooms that sprout in the cow pasture after the rain.
  10. The goat saw a goat on a passing aristocrat’s coat of arms. The goat thinks it’s royalty now.
  11. Drunk scholars kept the goat as a pet. The goat had the best manners of them all.
  12. Unknown to all, the goat’s descended from the Thunder God’s pets. A single thunderclap was all it took.
  13. The goat is the chosen one. It was supposed to be the orphan swineherd, but destiny’s arm slipped. Now only the goat can save the world.
  14. One too many head-buts with a rival goat.
  15. A passing fiddler played in the fields and the music was enough to make the goat dance.
  16. The goat is the last great project of Vinssloss Nerkutt, the legendary animal trainer.
  17. One of the goat’s parent’s was a dragon in disguise. The goat may occasionally breathe fire.
  18. A voice on the wind gave the goat a true name before disappearing.
  19. A recently deceased soul has been reborn inside the goat. The goat must finish a task the soul failed to do.
  20. It is better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all. Heartbreak made the goat strange.

If you would like to see the full playable goat class for your tabletop games, it’s available for free on my patreon: THE UNCANNY GOAT.

Enjoy!

Game Changer

It’s entirely likely that some more RPG related posts will start cropping up here. Entirely likely as in at least one or two will in the near future.

I’m trying to put together a B/X Dungeons & Dragons game to be played via G+ hangouts. Since I prefer maintaining one blog as opposed to more than one don’t be surprised when the talk here shifts to orcs roll 4d6 six times, drop lowest, and place in order. Of course if you want to play feel free to let me know.