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A Red & Pleasant Land, Part 5: Leveling Up

Prep time

Not much. The campaign has gotten back to a low-prep, "I can run this on auto-pilot" place. One of the best things about A Red & Pleasant Land and many other OSR books is their at-the-table usability.

I sketched up a couple dungeons just-in-case and just-for-fun.

I also solved the problem with my too light dungeon blocks by painting some pennies black and gluing them to the bottom of the blocks. The blocks are a little less modular now, but much more stable at the table.


  • Wolfram Veta - Cleric of Vorn, Grim Gaunt God of Iron, Rust and Rain
  • Orv Gaster - Alistair, wearer of the checkered pants
  • Gor Orben - Amazon, "She is Gor"
  • Zeera Hargen - Magician, master of the stab-them-with-my-knife spell
  • Jhovan the Wanderer - Alistair, seeker of cake recipes


  • The players start where they left off -- in the treasure room of the Tower of the Stargazer.
  • For the players that weren't there last session, did a roll on the "Where have you been?" table. They had been driven temporarily mad by the constant stress and hidden away in a niche somewhere. "-1 Wisdom today but +1 hit point", which I interpreted to Into the Odd as "1 damage to WIL, recover 1 point of STR"
  • Despite declaring the lever & force field puzzle as "bullshit" during the last session, the party was still determined to solve it. Initial attempts were much like the previous ones: go through the mirror to the Quiet Side where there are still functioning levers, try some combinations, inevitably get electrocuted to unconsciousness and lay there until the levers auto-reset.
  • Wolfram finally comes up with a clever idea. "Could I wrap a cloth around my hands to insulate them from the electric shock?" Seems a reasonable enough idea.
  • Now that there's no risk of shock and they're basically in "try every combination" mode, I offer a dilemma. We can fast-forward and say "You eventually find the correct combination", but it will cost you d6 WIL damage as the absolute silence of the Quiet Side grinds away at your sanity.
  • The players take it. Wolfram loses some WIL, but the forcefields come down on the Quiet Side. The rest of the party comes through the mirror, grabs the treasures chests, and drags them back through the mirror.
  • The party examines the chests for traps (they're learning!). Everything's clear. They open them up and I give them a rundown on the contents: one chest full of copper pennies, one chest full of gold shillings, a large pearl, a set of crystal dice, and a box of white powder.
  • As I continue to slowly introduce the new resource management rules, I also explain that each "treasure" is a single, indivisible item. i.e. The treasure chest of gold shillings is a single, "bulky" item for purposes of the game. To keep things simple, let's avoid "Gor takes 100 coins, Orv takes 100 coins, ..." One person takes the whole thing, it takes up 2 inventory slots, do you want to try getting this thing home?
  • Between the five of them, there will be no real issue carrying everything. But there's one more thing they want to take with them...
  • The looking glass. They want to do the following: go back to the storage room. Take lids off of some barrels, some scrap wood, a couple spikes from their climbing gear, and construct a basic set of wheels & axels to roll the looking glass on.
  • My ruling was something like: Sure, you can probably hack together something, but it will a) take d6 hours to complete, b) make a lot of noise during construction, c) Luck roll against their climbing gear to see if they've expended that resource, and d) be literally comprised of junk you found in a dungeon, so have a high chance of falling apart during your trip.
  • They roll very well and now have a looking glass on wheels. They begin their several day journey back to Castle Cachtice.
  • Which immediately gets interrupted the first night of camping by the sound of breaking glass and maniacal laughter. The ten of diamonds playing card which was formerly the wizard Uravulon Calcidius has regenerated and shattered the glass bottle the players had placed him in!
  • Jhovan, who was on watch, and Zeera, who was unable to sleep after sampling the white powder, immediately attack. They win initiative and knock a few HP off of Uravulon. The wizard counterattacks.
  • Basically ad-libbing myself through this wizard, I roll on the "Magic Effect" table in Vornheim (holy crap, do I love usable-at-the-table OSR books). Looks like he's got a spell that will cause all intelligent creatures to find him "pathetic". So I'm thinking "WIL save or find Uravulon so pathetic that you can't bear to do him harm".
  • Even though I'm the one supplying the dice, I'm pretty sure my players are somehow using weighted dice. Remainder of the encounter goes: Jhovan and Zeera both pass their WIL save are unaffected by the spell. Everyone else is now roused from sleep. All players attack. Players roll really well. Uravulon takes slight STR damage. I roll really badly. Uravulon is a playing card again.
  • The players are sick of these playing cards turning back into vampires at the worst times. They dig a deep hole and bury the playing card in it.
  • Nothing else major on the way back to the castle. A minor incursion by Little Crocodiles during another night of camping (which Zeera decided to sleep through), but they drove them off easily.
  • An audience with the Heart Queen to make their report. Why had reports stopped coming from the tower? Had the Red House attacked? Has the wizard succeeded in finding new cake recipes amongst the stars?
  • "I'm sorry, my queen. The wizard Uravulon had betrayed you. He has kept all of the cake recipes for himself." Successful WIL save. "Treason! Betrayal! Guards!! Dispatch a regiment to the tower. Off with Uravulon's head!!"
  • The Queen is quite happy with the success of the players, her precious little scouts, her adorable pets. For now, they continue to be more useful as servants than as meals. As a reward, she will even remove 7 Golden Guilders off of the considerable debt they've accrued under her hospitality.
  • "Royal accountant! How much debt does that leave them?" "Yes, my queen. Room and board, croquet mallet rental, feast fee, being allowed to continue living... that leaves them 93G in debt to the crown."
  • Players sell off the treasures they acquired. Total amount comes to: more than enough to pay off that debt immediately.
  • They decide to pay nothing further off the debt for now. The queen is happy, no need to zero out one debt and potentially accrue another.
  • Some shopping. Gor happily buys an eagle to replace the one she lost. The party also puts in a build order for a wagon -- it will be ready at the end of their next expedition.
  • The party has finally completed an expedition. Level up time! More HP, a few attribute scores bumped up. I also give everyone a roll on the random Alice level-up table, and a couple players come away with some nifty new quirks.

Questions before next session

  • What's the next expedition? The players want to follow-up on the information the Merchant Sheep gave them -- a magical item hidden in a nearby sundial.

What worked well?

  • Still haven't fully implemented it, but what I've introduced from the resource management rules has worked well so far. Luck Rolls against resources for non-standard uses. Players took well to the "treasure as a single, indivisible item" idea.
  • The adventure module. Tower of the Stargazer was, as described, an excellent introduction to OSR-style play. By the end of it, players were exercising more caution, thinking more about their environment, the objects in it, and ways to interact with them.
  • Played with a couple more ideas from Electric Bastionland. Introduced a debt to the players, which looks like it will put good focus on "you need to find treasure and earn money". Also used the "roll all the damage against a target, keep the highest each turn" combat rule. Being outnumbered in combat was still dangerous, but there was less one-turn slaughtering happening.
  • OSR continues to kill it with usable-at-the-table layout.

What didn't?

Not something "bad", but something I need to think on more. My players really like crafting things. Off the top of my head, they've made hang gliders, parachutes, the wheels for the looking glass. And there's already been "Can't we just cut down trees and build a wagon, boat, etc?" inquiries.

On one hand, it feels like the players are trying to bypass having to find, buy, or carry anything. A problem comes up -- just invent the solution! On the other hand, that's also the kind of creative, use your environment, combat-as-war, don't look only to your character sheet for answers play that I want to encourage. I probably just need to better arm myself with rulings on how long it takes to cut down X number of trees, necessity of hiring craftsmen to help design Y, required resources and tools for building Z, etc.

Feels like the kind of stuff that's gotta be in the 1e DMG somewhere...

Also not really "bad", but I need to definitively list what's included in the Into the Odd "basic climbing gear" and "basic camping gear" because there's been disagreement between my players and me on what "basic" includes. Mostly came up during this session when they wanted to dig a hole to bury the playing card in. Players: "Basic camping gear would obviously include shovels". Referee: "I was thinking it's more just bedrolls. And since 'shovel' is also a separate item you can get in one of the starting packages..."

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