Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Looking for a villian... inquire within

I'm looking for a villain. The first stage of our latest campaign is rapidly coming to a conclusion - probably a bloody, hard-fought conclusion.
Once the dust settles, the wounds are bound and the wetstone is run over the swords I’m considering having another crack at DM'ing. It'll be my first DM'ing 4th edition - but life wasn't meant to be easy, right?

I've been throwing some ideas around - I'm seeing a big bad stirring up a gang war to get everyone looking the other way while he/she gears up to snatch up the city.
There may be links with the underdark and plenty of sleight of hand - the players will find themselves chasing smoke and fighting off lesser enemies until they finally reach the big boss.

Thoughts? Do I want a sexy, sultry succubus or medusa hiding behind a sumptuous mask? An elegant vampire sipping golden goblets of warmed blood from the safety of his villa as his cronies do the dirty work?
A doppelganger playing the part of a courtly, visiting merchant prince.
A human diabolist spinning evil webs of power around her?


Friday, January 20, 2012

Under Siege - not the Steven Segal kind though

So, we're under siege. My 4th edition party has found itself defending the crumbling Hillsfar from a horde of Lamia-loving cultists, dominated rabble and of course... said Lamia.
So far, we've organised the city guard, completed hasty repairs to the walls and towers, created a second line of defence and formed a citizens' militia.
A quick sally through the sewers also knocked out an inflitration attempt and raided the cultists' camp.
Next session will see the horde descend on the city - and hopefully we can hold them back
But it got me thinking - organising frightened townsfolk, throwing together walls ala the Seven Samurai and generally finding yourself caught up in someone else's problem is pretty much par for the course for D&D.
All in a day's work for adventurer.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

" just sit around you listen to him make things up? How do you win?"

"So... you just sit around and listen to him make things up? How do you win?"

Quote from my wife after watching our DM describe a scene for our D&D group.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Life's cheap - but votes aren't

I've been throwing around some ideas for a new campaign with a new setting. While, I always abide by the ole "start small" adage - i figure I might as well have an idea of an over all setting.


Campaign idea: “Life’s cheap – but spells (and votes) aren’t”

The scene:

Grand, decadent and sprawling empire of humans that has endured for a thousand years since breaking free of an even older Elvish empire.

Things are starting to come apart – corruption is rife, the empire’s bureaucracy has taken over to the point that the real rulers are the money-grubbing civil servants and politicians who spend their entire career learning how to be a politician but have no idea how to rule.

The empire has conquered various humanoid races (Hobgoblins, Goliaths, etc) under their rule and treat them like second-class citizens (non-humans can’t vote) and does a good job of keeping the borders free of the feared barbarians and other nasties.

The Empire: Huge bureaucracy with a scheming senate and a clueless God-Emperor never seen in public. Mind-numbing laws and un-navigatable political system.

It keeps good (if distant) relations with the older Elven empire and half-elves are highly regarded as lawyers, viziers, advisers, lobbyists and negotiators.

But like all non-humans they can’t vote and are usually encountered as high-level bureaucrats.

The large army of pikemen and Wyvern-mounted cavalry police the inner lands and keep the peace while a foreign legion style force called the Outland Watch patrol the borders, keep the monsters at bay and operate as Wild West-style marshals-cum-border ranger monster hunters.

The Outland Watch: Often just called the Watch and its members referred to as Grey Riders or Grey Watchers due to their grey cloaks, the Outland Watch is the home of many non-humans, exiles, adventurers, jilted lovers and fools.

A ten year hitch in the Watch guarantees citizenship and voting rights, regardless of race. But few survive their hitch and serving riders can’t vote unless they leave the service.

Service also absolves criminals and rebels while giving them a measure of respectability.

This means a Goliath, who would only be one rung above slavehood in real life in the empire can join the Watch for the chance at citizenship and a measure of respect.

However… the survival rate for members is amazingly low.

The magic/technology: Magic is jealously guarded by the various colleges of magic, all sworn to the empire. Local wizards must have come from one of the empire’s closely monitored, screened and controlled magical academies and frequently find themselves assigned to government or military work as a way to pay off their “tuition fees”.

Wizards are also highly sought after by nobles and administrators.
Outside wizards are closely watched and sorcerers are treated with suspicious and obviously “barbarians” from the other side of the borders.

The Empire still keeps in contact with its former Elven rulers and occasionally swaps magical items or parishioners.
Odder still are the occasional items or buildings discovered from a much older race. They include structures made of a hard, brittle metal, magic weapons that can spit flame and smoke and even stories of man-machine hybrids that once served as super soldiers.

The setting: The back end of the empire. Rebellion seems to be in the air. The borders seem less stable. Taxes are rising, food is getting scarcer. And no help seems to be coming from the capital. Pcs have somehow ended up in the boondocks – are they newly minted Grey Riders fleeing a jealous lover/working off bad debts/keen to do the right thing or are they fomenting rebellion in the borderlands? Or maybe they’re just in the wrong spot at the right time?

Saturday, December 31, 2011

4th edition session wrap up

As promised I thought I'd slap up a session report of the new group's first session.
Pat, our DM, pitched the setting to me as "Deadwood meets Forgotten Realms". I was hooked - his idea was a lawless, frontier setting where we'd ride into the middle of a town gripped by lawlessness and chaos.
If anyone has seen the top notch HBO tv show Deadwood, they know what I'm talking about.
My pc (a half orc ranger by the name of Mordoc Blackwood) has been dispatched to the town to investigate the slaying of its wizard-ruler.

One of our players ended up pulling out at the last second so i ended up playing the Ardent (Therus) as well.
Here's the in-character report I did up to send to the group:

To Baron Haarkon Magnuson,

Milord, this being a true account of my time up to date in the city of
Hillsfar since you dispatched me to investigate the apparent murder of
Forgive my rough soldier’s hand and my poor grasp of words but I
thought it best that I tell you what has occurred so far.
My trek across the wilds of Cormanthor was relatively quiet – apart
from clearing out a small nest of bandits two days out of Hillsfar –
and upon reaching the city I found it in a state of chaos.
The wizard Maalthiir had ruled the city with an iron hand for several
hundred years and I expected Hillsfar to be in some sort of trouble.
From a peddler on the road I discovered the wizard was reputed to be
quiet mad – routinely executing those who displeased him and keeping
the citizens in line with threats and fear.
But the sight that I discovered was overwhelming: the city gates lay
open, garbage had not been cleaned up in weeks and the first thing
that greeted me was the sounds of a city guard nosily fornicating
with a slattern on the rampant.
I chanced across two other men at the city gates – a half elf by the
name of Therus and Elros, an elf – both had also come to the city
investigating the mysterious death.
It was about this time that the lusty guard finished up and hurled his
woman off the wall. She was dead of course, and as we entered we
found things continued from bad to worse.
Milord, you tasked me with finding a particular captain of the guard,
and by Kord I doubt any of us thought it was a task of such magnitude
when I first set out.
The city had seemingly descended into total anarchy – garbage clogged
the street and everywhere people staggered about seemingly drunk,
starving or even too stupid to realise their plight.
No guards stood watch – and no one attempted to break up the
occasional brawl or drunken argument that sprung up.
As we entered we spotted a man of some importance – clad in heavy
plate and flanked by several companions, all obviously guards – he
disappeared into a small tavern and left the others outside.
Each of them seemed in a state of half dress and half drunkenness – all
wielded weapons that were unclean and uncared for a none possessed a
full uniform.
I must confess, milord, I failed to reign my anger in when the group
of ruffians – I hesitate to call them soldiers – accosted us, jeering
at us for being non-human.
Initially we tried to push our way to the tavern door but were
repeatedly stopped, until one even fired a crossbow at us.
At that point, Kord forgive me, I snapped – headbutting the largest of
the thugs and drawing my blade. What followed was a farce. The guards
were drunk and ill-trained and didn’t stand a chance.
Therus came immediately to my aid, rushing the group with his halberd
cackling wildly while Elros flanked the crossbowman.
It’s best, milord if I describe my companions – Elros seems a quite
sort and, as I’m about to describe a sorcerer of some power.
The half elf on the other hand seems… rather mad. There was certainly
an otherworldy aspect to him and he seems more than a simple sellsword
although I do not yet know what he is.
He also seems to thrive on sowing chaos and is possible unhinged.
While Elros bewildered our enemies with a series of icy blasts I
attacked with the flat of my sword in order not to kill the idiots.
Therus on the other hand decided it was ok to hack away.
It was quickly over – a battered with the hilt of my blade and then
some threats saw our foes off.
Inside things weren’t much better. In every corner patrons were
fighting or fornicating while the guard captain sat, unheeding, at the
He was an odd one – immaculately clean and precise with a slightly
otherworldly feeling about him and spoke of strange things. He seemed
uncaring of the chaos, telling us every human should live as he saw
fit and squeeze as much as they could from their short lives.
He told us that Maalthiir has frequented an up market brothel two
weeks ago and then disappeared.
After settling in he agreed to take us to the bawdy house and left us
there. Inside we discovered the brothel was a classy affair and we
were soon accosted by the host – an older but still beautiful woman
called Maria – and the house’s girls.
It was Elros who pointed out that many of the girls were non-humans,
including halflings and half elves.
For the price of a platinum coin we discovered the wizard Maalthiir
was a regular and had seen a new girl (a girl who had started that
very day) and then promptly disappeared. We checked the room, which
seemed harmless enough – until the creature struck.
From no where a giant metal snake appeared and bit me, taking a decent
chunk from my shoulder. Bloodied I staggered back while my companions
attacked – Therus charging in with his longarm while Elros dived
across the room – hurling eldritch fire as he bounced off the huge,
canopied bed.
Now armed with both of my blades I waded in, hacking repeatedly at the
construct – I struck it repeatedly, while Therus poked it.
Despite its size the beast eventually succumbed to our attacks – I
dispatched it with a double slash that took its giant, hooded head
Almost immediately we were again set upon – this time by two small
clay creatures. We turned them into dust in a matter of seconds and
again searched the room.
Inside a large, locked chest (which I was forced to break open with my
sword after our repeated attempts to lockpick) we found a dried scarab
Taking this mysterious object we again descended down to speak with
the girls. Milord, I’d rather this next part did not go any further.
I bedded the owner of the house several times that night in an effort
to extract further information about this mystery.
I discovered that Maalthiir was a regular but the girl he had last
seen had since disappeared. She stayed in the brothel less than a day
and saw several high ranking members of the city guard, before
servicing the wizard. My charms also got me a chance to see the
establishment’s books – revealing the names of the guards the missing
woman had seen.
Much later we reconvened with the guard captain and discovered that
all of these guards had gone missing.
Sensing a growing mystery I offered him my services as a guard captain
and my companions as my lieutenants to restore order to the city, one
quarter at a time.
Therus spent much of the afternoon speaking with locals and among
other things came across some strange carvings on the city walls – odd
and disturbing runes seemingly scratched by a madman.
So we found ourselves operating from a new, large guard house in the
merchants’ quarter – I dispatched Elros to the docks where he returned
with several men of questionable character.
Being as I had dismissed the remaining city guards, fearing their incompetence.
That night, as we finished the repairs to the converted house we were attacked.
Four men – one a huge giant – all clad in matching loin cloths stood
outside chanting and wailing. They repeatedly ordered us to “give her
back”. All were heavily armed.
I immediately took the fight to them – diving out of the house’s
window, I dispatched one of the cultists with a double slash and moved
into the fray.
Therus on the other hand found himself battered as the giant fighter
kicked in the front door and hacked him down with his giant pair of
Elros meanwhile followed my example and sprung out of the window –
spitting spells at the attackers.
The battle was a near thing – we discovered on of the cultists was a
wizard and repeatedly called lighting down to strike my companions. I
was badly hurt killing him and the other cultists before falling on
the giant from behind.
Therus was hurt even worse but still managed to put up a plucky defence
Milord, we are now recovering from our wounds and have begun
patrolling the nearby streets.
I plan to recruit and train more guards who will be loyally solely to
us in an effort to clean up this town.
We will continue to investigate this growing mystery – I fear the
cultists, the unsettling graffiti and the missing ruler are all

I have dispatched this letter on a caravan heading your way and hope
to hear soon.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

I'm baaaaack, baby!

"I'm back,"
Erus grunted, shifting his shield onto his shoulder and started down the hill. The village before him was almost alien - it had doubled in size and now spread across both banks of the river since he had last clapped eyes on it.
The old growth forest that he had so loved as a child had been cut back and replaced with new buildings of wood and stone.
It had been 15 years since he had joined the roving band of adventurer's and left the village - 15 years of battle and treasure. Despair and joy. Laughter and misery.
In 15 years he had slain hordes of enemies. Collected a king's ransom in gold. And lost it. He'd bedded hundreds of beauties. And held dozens of friends as their lifeblood spilled onto the ground.
And now he was home.
Head held high, hand on sword he marched through the town, looking for a familiar face. The house he had grown up in was gone, replaced by a new one. His father's smithy was now a stable.
Finally he reached it - the inn he had so loved as a young villager. No longer did the black cat sign swing from it's lintel. Now a pair of tankards hung there.
"Oi! who the hell are you?!"

That's right.. Gobbo's back. I know it's been almost a year in between posts but this blog has often been in my thoughts and many was the time that i thought "I really need to get back to blogging".
But life... as it always does got in the way.
In the past year we've moved cities, I've changed jobs, got a pretty major promotion, my wife's grandmother died and my mother suffered a heart attack.
As all this happened, a few ugly occurrences seemed to be taking place among the online OSRIC bloggers and the whole environment didn't feel all that friendly.
so it's been a pretty rough trot that was pretty much devoid of roleplaying.

But I'm back - and oddly enough it took D&D 4th edition to drag me back, kicking and screaming.
About six months ago I ended up playing 4th edition with a couple of fellas i met online - I was looking for a game (any game!) and they were also in the same position of having just moved to Sydney.
We hit it off, we had a ball and then the game folded - certain players couldn't be bothered anymore, the DM had some personal shit to deal with... same old story.
The good news is that the core group of those players have kicked off another campaign - another 4th edition.
Now... I'm willing to admit 4th edition is not exactly blowing me away but i am enjoying gaming and I'm finding I'm actually enjoying the mechanics of 4th.
Best of all, I'm playing rather than DM'ing: we've got a first time DM who appreciates my support (we'll bounce ideas off each other and sling emails back and forth all week leading up to a game) and a group of mainly younger guys who are first time players.
Yep - not only am I the old man of the group but I'm the only one has ever played 1st and 2nd edition.
While this goes a long way to making me feel old it also means my pc (a half orc ranger) has developed into a mentor-like character rather than an out and out leader type, which is great.

So you can expect the following from Gobbo in the coming days and weeks: session reports, 4th to old school conversions and vice versa (I said i was enjoying 4th not that I'd given up on old school gaming), my thoughts on the new edition.... and general geek stuff.
And I'm sure I can get some BoL in here as well.

So - friends, Romans, Gobbo lovers, gather around.

Now, if only i can get these kids to understand what a THACO is...

Monday, October 4, 2010

BoL: an NPC for every game III

You walk into a bar, right...
Aluyu gave the tavern door a shove, letting it swing open with a loud creak. Almost instantly the music and hubbub of voices stopped.
Stepping forward he drank in the room - a dozen faces stared back, each set of eye, each weathered cheek told a different story.
Unslinging his baldric he tossed his short sword to the wretch cowering by the door and mounted the creaky steps to the bar.
"Ale," he barked to the greasy tub of lard working behind the bar.
First the bard started wailing on his oddly shaped pipe. then the talk resumed.
When the drink had come and the sellsword had parted with two copper bits, he turned to take in the other patrons.

So, back by popular demand are more ready made NPCs for Barbarians of Lemuria

The Duelist
Noble houses are known to frequently feud and when they do, it is better to send hirelings to do the dirty work.
Once a mere vagabond the duelist has made a name for himself as the fastest blade in town.
When a noble wants a rival removed or an opponent humiliated, they call the duelist.
For a simple pouch of gold that rival will suddenly find himself facing off with this dark caped swordsman in a back alley.
St: 1 Ag: 1 Md: Ap:
Bwl: Mle: 2 Msl: Dfc:

Mercenary 1
Thief 1
Longsword, short sword, dark clothes

Gentleman adventurer
Some men are content to sit at home, grow fat off their coins and die content. Others like this gentleman find they have a thirst for something much more.
Once a rich noble this character sold off all his possessions in order to quest into dary crypts, deep jungles and across unending seas.
Generally found bloodied and bruises or covered in grime the gentleman adventurer spends coins as fast as he receives them on financing his next great adventure.
St: -1 Ag: 1 Md: 1 Ap: 1
Bwl: Mle: 1 Msl: Dfc: 1

Noble 1
Soldier 1
Heavy armour decorated with silver links and studded with gems, expertly painted shield, ridiculously plumed helmet, short sword

Big Game Hunter
With feline grace a beauty one would expect to find this lass on a sheik's pleasure barge. Instead this wild woman lives for one thing: the hunt.
An expert tracker she is proficient with a range of hunting weapons and has been known to go weeks without sleep or rest while on the hunt.
Little is known about her, but is reputed to be the last of a tribe of savages who lived high in the mountains. A tribe where women ruled by their might and men were mere pretty playthings.
St: Ag: 1 Md: -1 Ap: 2
Bwl: Mle: 1 Msl: 1 Dfc:
Hunter 2
Brace of spears, knife, slings. Leather and fur garments (acts as very light armour)

Withered seeress
The seeress can see into the future. And, it is reputed, into the very hearts of men.
But to gave upon her is to risk madness and only the bravest will seek her counsel.
Over the years she has been in the employee of great lords, ladies, kings and empresses but only for a short period.
Her mere appearance is enough to make her employees sick of her. Despite her wealth, the seeress wears tattered dark robes and the few who have seen past her ratty veils say she is horrid to look upon.
But folk still seek her visions.
St: Ag: Md: 3 Ap: -1
Bwl: Mle: Msl: 1 Dfc: 1
Sorceress 1
Scribe 1
Tattered robes, occult trinkets, fetishes and objects.

The haunted highwayman
Once this bandit had a life, a wife and a babe on the hip. He was never rich but he had a farm and some land.
All this changed when bandits came - his wife was raped and then sold to the slavers and his child thrown into the fire.
He was given the chance - join or die. A coward he chose to side with the band and has spent the last years raiding and pillaging with the group.
But his thirst for vengeance has been carefully fed each day he spends with the brigands.
One day he will have his revenge.
St: 2 Ag: Md: Ap:
Bwl: 1 Mle: 1 Msl: Dfc:
Bandit 1
Farmer 1
Short sword, light armour

The Stout soldier
A fighter, fighting man, man-at-arms, serviceman, swad, warrior. He is all of these things.
The professional soldier is a fighter sworn to his lord's service - in return for protection and agreeing to fight when and wherever he receives food, lodging and gold.
His body is criss-crossed with the scars of his trade but life is good for this one.
St: 2 Ag: Md: Ap:
Bwl: 1 Mle: 2 Msl: -1 Dfc:
Soldier 2
Short sword, spear, shield