Prep timeTook a vacation in Hawaii. Tried to run a marathon. Dropped out halfway through a marathon due to knee problems. Somehow cleared my GM burnout, got inspired and motivated again.
Finally worked out how to make a playable adventure out of the wedding duel that had been hanging over me for two sessions. Actually ended up using the drop-table map of the tower that I had started rolling up in the last 10 minutes of the previous, early-terminated session. The layout and contents of the map it had generated were fine, but I was finally able to look over it and come up with ideas for situations and relationships between rooms and NPCs.
Also tackled something that's been an annoyance to me for a while. Between A Red & Pleasant Land, Vornheim, and all the other OSR books in my collection, I have a lot of great random tables. But even with the usability focused layout of many OSR books, finding the right table mid-game takes time. And for some situations -- e.g. rolling a random encounter where I want to know the creature type, what they're doing, what they want, what their name is, and what their relationship might be to other NPCs -- I have to roll on several tables across several pages across potentially several books.
It's become a running joke in the campaign that if you want to annoy the referee, ask for the name of every NPC you encounter. (Reaches for copy of Vornheim. Again.)
So I did some work in Google Sheets to consolidate everything down into a pair of horizontally dense d20 tables: one for everything I'd want to know about an NPC, and one for everything I'd want to know for random encounters. And setup so I can easily re-randomize and re-print between sessions.
Planning to write more about this later and share the sheets with everybody.
Scrapped the hexcrawl entirely. I'd like to run a hexcrawl again sometime, but it no longer feels like a good fit for the current campaign. So I've replaced the square-by-square hexcrawl map with a blown up version of the map from the inside cover of AR&PL. Just another fun visual aid for the players, and if we're not doing an exploration-based hexcrawl, nothing on it is secret information.
Ooh, I also made fancy new character sheets incorporating color art from AR&PL. I actually think that was a big part of pulling me out of my burnout.
- Borus Bleeve - Borus the one-handed. Borus the hand collector. Borus of the two right hands.
- Karl Min Valé - Possible owner of "Min Valé Industries". Still can't woo his mirror clone.
- Wolfram Veta - Cleric of Vorn, Grim Gaunt God of Iron, Rust and Rain
- Chromula the Egregious - Chromula the I'm happy you came back even after the mess that was the last session.
- Gor Orben - Amazon, "She is Gor"
And another new player joining us (word-of-mouth continues to spread around the office):
- Arvick the Humble - Arvick the Has Always Wanted to Try Playing RPGs
- The wedding party approaches the tower where the Rite of Engagement duel is to take place versus a couple from the Colorless House. The groom-to-be, Wolfgang the Shrike, gives the players a quick overview of how such a duel will proceed.
- Wolfram and Gor, who have been in the campaign longer but weren't here for the last session, recognize the name "Wolfgang the Shrike". He is the Club the first met when they entered Voivodja. The Club who witnessed them murder the Rabbit. And the club who had issued a writ of duel to the now deceased Lolla Mesmer for "revealing his secrets". They don't like this guy.
- The tower ahead has only two obvious features from the outside: a grand entrance door at ground level, and a single window at the top, through which they can see a pulsing, beating light.
- The wedding party exits their wagons and is given a formal greeting by the Colorless House at the entrance to the tower. They are escorted through the tower.
- A grand entrance hall, flooded with murky water. Grand staircases leading up to balconies above. Further stairs continuing up from their, but the party is escorted instead along the balcony, through a doorway, through a dining room, another doorway, and into an exquisite, marble floors-and-pillars hallway. The duel will play out here. A single Colorless Bishop is there to preside over the ceremony.
- The duel: Wolfgang and his bride-to-be stand on one side of the hall, the couple from the Colorless House on the other, the Bishop in the middle, holding a rapier in each hand. Each of the brides steps forward, claims a sword from the Bishop, turns and walks back to their groom. They begin to hand the swords to their groom.
- Then, as soon as Wolfgang has received the rapier from his bride, he stabs it through her chest. On the Colorless side, the bride (a Colorless Knight) stabs her sword through her groom before passing it over. Wolfgang and the Colorless Knight each pull a misericorde from their belt and stake their fiancees through the heart. They rush back towards the center and passionately embrace each other.
- Betrayal! But looking around the hall, the only ones looking surprised by what just happened are the players and the remainder of their escort from the House of Hearts. Every Colorless Knight and Bishop in the room looks like they expected this to happen.
- Wolfgang glances towards the players and speaks to his new bride. "A post-wedding feast, my darling?"
- The players make a run for it. Their Heart escort dutifully remains behind the challenge the Colorless Knights that are descending upon them.
- The party make it back to the dining room and bars the door behind them with whatever chairs they can find. They continue running. Borus rushes through the door back to the balconies, but stops in his tracks as he glances over the balcony at the flooded entrance hall below. Half a dozen or more figures in black armor have gathered below.
- The party recalls the glowing window they saw at the top of the tower. Perhaps if they go up they can find another way out?
- They split into two groups and try to move stealthily along the balconies at either side of the hall. The group on the right accidentally steps on a water-rotted section of floor, letting off a loud creaking noise. (Failed DEX save). Every eye below is suddenly drown to the right-side balcony and the black armored figures make their way to the staircase.
- Luckily Wolfram was in the group on the left and has a particular knack for distractions. And a duck. He takes out Fat Balto, gives the fowl a good shake, and throws him over the balcony. His quacking and flapping draws the attention of the black armored figures and the hesitate for a moment on the stairs.
- Both sides make a dash for it. They are able to get to the stairs upwards during the duck distraction, narrowly avoid the quite rotten staircase collapsing underneath them (DEX save), and make their way upstairs to a bedroom.
- Four elegant poster beds. One of which has a large lump under the covers. The party quickly drags two of the empty beds over to the staircase and throws them down. They smash through and destroy the stairs below.
- Two heads suddenly pop out from the lump under the covers of one of the remaining beds. A man and a woman. Looking at the clothes that have been thrown over top of the neighboring bed, these appear to be members of the Order of Clubs. I guess weddings get them excited?
- As they are getting dressed, the party explains to the Clubs the outcome of the duel and they betrayal by Wolfgang. The pair agree that the best way out of the tower is to proceed up. There is another door in this bedroom that should lead towards the upstairs.
- Through the door is a quite strange room. A small platform on the other side of the door. At the far end of the room, another small platform and a spiral staircase heading up. And in between the platforms, a sharp drop 15~20 meters below, and the entire bottom of the room filled by a pool of murky water. Along the ceiling, several chandeliers. Along the walls, several torch sconces at regular intervals. And walking through the pool are two creatures, human in appearance but with the legs below the knees cut off and replaced by 10 meter long stilts. They are staring downwards and attempting to spear something in the water with their stilt legs.
- Karl decides to Indiana Jones it. He throws a rope and grappling hook towards the chandelier and tries to swing across. Failed DEX save. He plummets to the water below and takes d4 falling damage. The stilt creatures take notice and immediately try to spear him. Some HP loss but no STR damage, so Karl managed to roll out of the way.
- The party opens fire from above. Their attacks plus a pair of black bolas thrown out by the Clubs entangle the stilt creatures and send the splashing into the water below.
- Karl cuts the head off of one of the creatures. It turns into a swarm of gnats and goes flying off.
- Gor throws down her recently purchased misericorde and Karl stakes it through the other creature's heart. Blood pours from the wound and from the vampire's mouth. It floats in the water, utterly dead. The first vampire the party has properly killed.
- The party rigs some ropes and climbs up out of the pool to the staircase on the other side of this room. They ascend this metal staircase to the room above: an orrery.
- At a desk in the middle of the orrery, surrounded by all of the gear work and rotating metal globes, sits a person. Wearing a white cloak and completely engaged in studies, seemingly oblivious to the combat below. On her head is the long, white hair of a Colorless Knight.
- Karl taps her on the shoulder, startling her. She inquires to the result of the Rite of Engagement duel. Karl replies, "Everyone won."
- "Everyone?" "Yes." "So you and I won as well?" "I guess so, yes." "How wonderful! Then we're married now?" "Uhh.... yes!"
- Karl learns the name of his new wife: Blixa Vor Vorgen. She insists that Karl take her last name. She also insists that he must return to her by nightfall every night. Forever. He simply must. He must!
- She also gives her new husband her misericorde. For protection.
- The party asks if she knows the way to the top of the tower. Oh, yes. Just through that door, through the falcon room, and upstairs. But be very careful when you get to the harem room, my darling. You must keep your eyes straight forward. Do not glance around the harem room at all, my love.
- She will remain in the orrery to continue her studies. The party makes their way through the doorway to the falcon room.
- Turns out there's falcons in the falcon room. My players love birds! So they take a couple. Osrick and Throd. Throd appears to hate Osrick.
- Further upstairs, the party finds themselves in some kind of pantry. Walls lined with shelves, cheeses and various sundries on the shelves. And in the middle of the room, occupying any empty space that's not shelving sits a huge, hulking figure. Like a giant, rotund man. But with the top of his head cut off and removed like a lid. He sits confused, mumbling to himself. "Where? Whe..? Where am I? I? Where did they go? Where did my head go? Can't brain? Can't think?"
- Arvick makes conversation. Through the mumbled answers they learn that this is a Rook. He was brought here by the Colorless Bishop. And he doesn't like cheese. Afterall, he's a Rook, not a Tove. Toves like cheese.
- While the Rook is distracted my Arvick's conversation, the rest of the party sneaks along the shelves behind him and makes their way to the stairs on the opposite side. They stock up on cheese along the way. Arvick joins them after saying goodbye.
- The party finds themselves in a room of opulence, silk beds, silk curtains, pillows everywhere, and incense in the air. Obviously the harem room. Borus is the only one who remembers Blixa's warning and immediately declares "I stare straight ahead!" (Karl had to leave the game earlier.)
- Borus doesn't see the room. He only sees a single door straight ahead, glowing in a sea of blackness. Nobody else in the harem room sees this door. They are all distracted by the elegance of this place. Like there's giggles of pleasure in the air, even though the room has no occupants.
- Borus makes his way to the door and opens it. Reality snaps back for everyone. The harem room is still a beautiful looking place, but their whits have come back to them. And they can see the door now as well. Everyone heads through.
- In the middle of the room is a stone pedestal, on top of which is a golden plate. On top of the plate is a heart, beating and pulsing and releasing a glow in the room that matches the heartbeats. At the far side of the room is a single window.
- Looking through the window, they can see the bottom of the tower below. They can see their wagons, but the horses appear to be dead. And several figures in black walking around.
- Somebody picks up the heart. Looking back through the window now, they see a different scene. Ground extending out from the same level as the window. What looks like a different garden beyond.
- The party grabs the golden plate off of the pedestal and head through the window into this new garden.
- The first landmark they find in this garden is a fountain. Along the edge of the fountain sits a familiar creature. The Cheshire Cat.
- "So I see you finally took my advice and have come to the Red King's lands to chat with his Red Brides?"
Questions before next session
- Where the hell are the players now? Gotta make a map of this new garden.
What worked well?
- The dense d20 tables that I prepared worked really well. Having every table I need for an NPC or an encounter on a single sheet made everything much quicker to run.
- The additional density I had added to the AR&PL instant location die drop tables also worked well. As I said, I actually used the same map the table had given me at the end of the last session. At the time, I think I was just lacking the spark and motivation to make good use of it.
- Players seemed to like the new character sheets. They're pretty.
- I was worried that the setup to the duel would be too railroad-y. The players were literally being escorted to the duel hall. But I think it worked out. They asked questions of the NPCs along the way, made some ill-advised bets on the outcome of the duel, learned some of the layout of the tower. And, overall, the time from start of session to kicking the adventure into high gear at the end of the duel was short.
- Still not happy with how I'm handling leveling up. Really need to move this to Electric Bastionland rules.
- Otherwise, super happy with how this session turned out. Really feels like a good reset after the mess of the previous session. May be my favorite session of the campaign so far. (Although the Blood Sewers was really good as well.)