Friday, April 28, 2017

DCC Tower of the Stargazer play report

Yesterday I ran/played Dungeon Crawl Classics for the first time ever.

It was awesome.

Finding DCC was reminiscent of when I discovered Lamentations of the Flame Princess years ago; a breathe of fresh air! The fantasy game I've been looking for, for the last 20 years.

All the modifications I was making to LotFP are already included in DCC. So, I'm switching systems. A lot less work and stress for me to build the game I want. That's a big load off my shoulders.

The rest of the group enjoyed their Zero Level adventure as well.

So what adventure did we play?

Well, I ran Tower of the Stargazer with a lot of modifications.

First, I removed all the background from the module. The players were supposed to control four characters each, but three players chose to control three characters; I still have no idea why. I explained, exhaustively, how that wasn't a particularly good idea, but they insisted on three.

Anyway, the characters were all from the same town in a run-down barony ruled over by a powerful wizard. The wizard himself hadn't been heard from in many years, and the barony was run by an appointed magistrate who was killed in an ambush by bandits a few months before. Since then, the area around the town has been plagued by monsters, bandits, crop failures, cats mating with dogs, etc. So the town sent a small group of villagers to the wizard's tower in order to appeal to the wizard directly for help. They never returned. The player character's were the B team, sent to talk to the wizard and see what happened to the first group.

Outside the tower, I changed the four large lightning rods into a huge field of smaller lightning rods of heights varying between 10-20 feet. Each with a cable running from the base of the rod to the base of the tower. There was stone path leading to the front door of the tower.
  • Walking along the path at normal human speed would take 3 rounds to reach the front door.
    • There is a 1% chance x number of characters that a random character is struck by lightning for d6 damage. 
  • Walking through the field of lightning rods reduces the chance of lightning strike to a flat 1%, but unless walking carefully at half speed, there is a 1 in 6 chance of a character stepping on a "hot" wire and being electrocuted for d6 damage. I had figured that the players would be fearful of the lightning and attempt to run to the tower to avoid getting hit.
  • There were three bodies of the A Team of villagers on the path, and three bodies in the lightning rod field. Searching a body takes a round, which means another roll to see if lightning strikes.
The first character death occurred when a dwarf grabbed a lightning rod and tried to pry it out of the ground. Lightning strike for 1 damage; the dwarf had 1 HP.
The second death occurred when a human attempted to search a body of a villager and was struck by lightning.

Death Count: 2 

One of those dead villagers had a coin that when flipped, would always land on its side. This would become very important later on.

Reaching the front double-doors, one character decided to knock using the door knocker, while simultaneously another character went to open the other door by grabbing the door knob. Got stuck with a poison needle, failed the save, died.

Death Count: 3

I decided that the tower should not be cleaned/kept up by "magic" as stated in the module, and instead the Calcidus the Stargazer utilized animated dead bodies (zombies) as maids and butlers, While living assistants cooked food and helped with experiments.

Each of the zombies had an iron bar through their neck and would only be animated for a period of time before needing to recharge in the cells in Basement Level 1; each cell had a device with copper wires attached that the zombies would plug into and recharge. Two zombies plug in at a time, while two others work elsewhere in the tower.

So the characters enter the tower and in the foyer is a zombie maid dusting the couches and coffee tables and a fake plant in the corner. The maid has a note pinned to her dress that says, "Please wait to be summoned, Calcidus." One character found some Copper change in a couch, another stole a painting of Calcidus as a young man from the wall. This was a mistake on my part, as I intended for the painting to be the False Chanterelle painting from Maze of the Blue Medusa, but I completely forgot.

Eventually, they tired of waiting to be summoned and opened the door to the next room.

Opening the door caused the maid to attack the character who opened it, while from the other room, a zombie butler rushed at the character moaning, "nooooot summmonnnneed," and attacked. The zombies were eventually defeated by bashing in the skull of the butler, maiming the maid with a critical hit to the knee, and then finishing the maid off by dowsing her head in holy water. Fun tidbit; the Lick-Spitter character armed with a bucket and a tin of breath mints tossed a mint into the maid's mouth with a great roll before she was destroyed.

Searching the Sitting Room, where the butler attacked from, I described the china cabinet and the fine, fragile dishes within. A player stated that one of his characters was going to throw the dishes into his sack. The fragile dishes all shattered.

They quickly figured out the stack of crates were fake and found the trapdoor underneath. After carefully examining the statue, they figured out it too could be slid away revealing another trapdoor.

This is where things got tricky.

The party decided to split into THREE groups. One group went up the stairs to Level Two. Another group went down the trapdoor leading to the storage room in Basement One. And a single character went down the trapdoor leading to the small room in Basement One closed off with a portculis.

The single character didn't even try to lift the portculis, but that was partially my fault; I described it as iron bars, leading them to conclude it was a jail-type cell. My bad. Not that they would have been able to lift it by themselves anyway. Still, I made another mistake. They did notice a red glow coming from beyond the portculis but they couldn't see the source. More on that later.

The second group that went down to the Storage Room found the secret door, and the character with a background as a miner made a skill check to figure out what would trigger the door to open, and discovered a suspiciously loose flagstone on the floor and stepped on it, opening the door. Oddly, no one wanted to open the regular, normal door. They also did a cursory search of the crates, but found none of the strange contents to be interesting enough to take.

Going through the secret door,  they found the zombie recharging stations. The last three cells I kept as actual cells, including the 15 armed skeleton. That tripped some of the players out. I also kept the brain leech, and one of the characters swallowed it. That should be a nice surprise at the beginning of the next adventure!

The laboratory I kept pretty much as written, including the mirror room and the body on the table, and the microscope with the blood vials. One character immediately wanted to look at the blood through the microscope and missed a saving throw and licked the smear off the slide. ewwww. I haven't decided how the blood will affect the character; perhaps some sort of slow, agonizing death as the virus contained destroys their cells. Or maybe a couple rolls on the Corruption table! That's an even better idea.

The mirror room has an issue within it that I didn't realize until the players discovered it. One of the mirrors produces a doppleganger which either fights you or melds into you doubling providing another hit die. If you fight it, it has all the same equipment that you have, so potentially, you could just keep looking in the mirror and doubling your equipment and money, or get more hit points, for as long as you want.

Anyway, another character died here when they failed a save and a laser beam cut a hole through their chest. Two characters saw their ability scores increase, and one saw theirs decrease. Two of the mirrors were smashed. One character looked into a mirror and gained a profound knowledge of something... an answer to a question of their choosing at a later time. More on that later.

Death Count: 4

This group of characters discovered the elevator and took it up to Tower Level 5. 

On Level Two of the tower, the other group of characters found the living servants quarters, which has been long abandoned. They were very interested in the oven and several characters thoroughly searched it, finding nothing. They went up the stairs to Tower Level 3.

The door to Level 3 is locked and trapped, as written, in a really strange way that isn't consistent with the theme of the tower. So I changed it.

Instead of a trickle of blood, followed by a wall of blood pouring out of the door, I changed it to a simple lock trap that electrocutes the lockpicker if they fail their skill check. Unfortunately, the character that attempted to pick the lock failed their skill check and was electrocuted.

Death Count: 5

Entering Level 3, the characters found the Wizard's chamber. When I ran Tower of the Stargazer last, I felt that the wizard was... lame. So I killed him. The wizard was dead, laying face down in the circle of salt. Died of old age/starvation/whatever before the characters got there. One character decided to try and enter the circle to check on him. I allowed this, with the idea that anything can enter the circle, but nothing can leave. Before this little fact was discovered though, a different character swept some of the salt away, breaking the circle.

One of the characters took the Star Crystal, and they discovered the elevator on this level. Messing with the dial, they saw the characters who used the elevator to travel to level 5 go down past them, all the way to Dungeon Level 2.

Dungeon Level has a puzzle, and it took a while for the players to finish it. Earlier, one character looked into one of the magic and gained knowledge of something they could choose to ask about at a later time. They used it to figure out the puzzle.

All the characters regrouped at Level 4.
I didn't like the thing in the freezer, so I changed it to a Face-hugging alien who implanted its seed in the belly of an unfortunate character. That will be a gruesome death later on. I figured that an alien monster would make more sense for a wizard's tower dedicated to finding life on other planets than a vial of living, but evil, blood. Plus, there was already evil blood in the basement.

The characters searched the first library extensively and found what was hidden in there. They reached the "game room," with the ghost and a player had a great idea for beating it. The last time I ran Tower of the Stargazer, a character died playing against the ghost in a game of Blackjack. This time, it was a different player not involved the first time around who played against the ghost. This player's character was the one who picked up the trick coin earlier in the adventure. The game he chose was to flip the coin, and allow the ghost to call heads or tails. If the coin landed on what the ghost chose, the ghost wins. If it lands any other way, the ghost loses and the characters can pass through the door.
The ghost lost, and the players found the magical library. They searched this library even more extensively than the first, and found a few low level magical scrolls. I'm not as worried about overpowering low level characters with magical scrolls as I would be in other game systems, since they have to roll a d10 vs the DC of the scroll in order to use it successfully. It's pretty much a trap, unless they somehow get really, really, lucky.

Moving to the 5th floor, the characters find the telescope. I had planned for the telescope to be a trap as well; if the controls were manipulated in the wrong way, the whole thing would blow up, destroying the tower and everything in it.
I didn't count on the players though, a classic GM mistake.
The players quickly figured out the pool of water with the fish was acid. They quickly figured out to put the coal and the powder in the coal chamber. And, most surprisingly, they figured out the controls for the telescope on the first try.
However, after putting the powder into the coal chamber and powering the laser, a character looked through the view finder and was transported to another world. Where they were promptly killed and eaten by aliens.

Death Count: 6

The remaining characters left the tower and made it through the electrical field outside without a hitch. They were talking about using the tower as a base of operations in the future.

Final death tally: 6, with 3 more dying (brain leech, alien virus blood, alien egg) in the near future.

For a group that started with 21 zero level characters, I feel like this wasn't dangerous enough. Which means I failed.

Next adventure I plan to either run Deep Carbon Observatory, or Maze of the Blue Medusa.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Skills and Skill points

Skills and Skill Points

Every character has the ability to perform skills. In most cases, character's aren't particularly good at any skills, but have at least some chance of success. Skill rolls are only necessary if the Referee determines that there is a chance of failure if attempted. Otherwise, the Player should be able to role play the situation without needing to roll dice.

Skill level is ranked from 1 to 6. All characters start play with a 1 in 6 chance (around 16%) to successfully attempt a skill and is resolved by rolling a d6 and rolling equal to or less than the skill level. Certain skills are affected by a particular Attribute Modifier, and in that case the modifier is subtracted from the die roll, not added to the skill level. If a skill should advance to a 6 in 6 chance of success, then two d6 are rolled, with failure only occurring when double sixes are rolled.

The names of the various skills are:
  • Bushcraft: Bushcraft shows the chances of your character being able to survive in the wilderness through foraging or hunting, and identifying tracks, plants, and animals.
    • A successful Bushcraft check can mean that foraging or hunting for food takes less time and produces higher yields.
    • A character's Wisdom attribute modifier applies to Bushcraft.
  • Climb: This skill is rolled when a character is climbing under adverse conditions or attempting to scale a vertical surface that would be more difficult than the average person could reasonably attempt.
    • Climbing a tree or cliff with numerous hand and footholds would not require a roll against this skill. Climbing a ladder of any height would also not require a roll.
    • Attempting to scale a cliff face or castle wall with few hand or foot holds would require a roll against the Climb skill.
    • Situational modifiers can be applied, such as having (or not having) proper equipment, being encumbered, the weather, duress, etc.
    • A character's Strength Modifier applies to Climb.
  • First Aid: This skill is used for minor healing when a safe place to rest is not available. First Aid can only be used on a character once per encounter, or once per injury. Based on the skill created by James Young at
    • On a success, the character can heal a number of Flesh equal to the die roll.
      • For example; if your skill is 3 in 6, and you roll a 2, then 2 points are healed.
    • On a failure, the character takes an additional 1 Flesh damage for every point they failed the roll.
      • For example; if your skill is 3 in 6, and you roll a 5, then 2 points of damage are inflicted.
    • A character's Intelligence modifier applies to this skill.
  • Language: Language skill indicates the chances of the character to be able to understand a particular language.
    • Every time a new language is encountered, the character rolls against this skill. Success means they know the language.
    • Failure means the character does not know the language and may not roll again for that particular language until the character reaches the next level of experience.
    • A penalty of +3 to the character's roll is applied for obscure/dead/cryptic languages, and a +2 penalty modifier for exotic languages from other realms.
      • For example; a character has a Language skill of 3 in 6 and rolls to see if they somehow know the language of the Cult of Duvan'ku, which hasn't been spoken in centuries and was little known when even back then. They roll a 2, but with a +3 penalty, their total roll is 5, which is a failure.
    • A character's Intelligence attribute modifier applies to Language.
  • Navigation: Navigation is the character's ability to not get lost while traveling. Following roads and paths does not require a skill check, but travel through the wilderness or on the high seas does.
    • A character's Intelligence attribute modifier applies to Navigation.
  • Search: Searching is the ability to discover hidden items and clues.
    • Searching a 10ft area takes a single 10 minute Turn.
    • If you fail your roll, you may not search the same area again until your next level of experience.
  • Sleight of Hand: Sleight of Hand includes hiding objects on one's person, picking pockets, readying a weapon without an observer noticing, and other such actions.
    • A character's Dexterity attribute modifier applies to Sleight of Hand.
  • Sneak Attack: Unlike other skills, the skill level of a Sneak Attack does not indicate the chances of success or failure, rather, it indicates the amount of damage done in the attack.
    • A single rank in Sneak Attack means 1x normal damage. Two ranks means 2x damage. Three ranks means 3x damage, and so on up to 6x damage.
    • Sneak Attack bypasses Grit and inflicts damage directly to Flesh.
    • A Sneak Attack can only be attempted on an opponent who does not know the attack is coming.
    • Any character, creature, or opponent who is eligible to be the target of a Sneak Attack is also considered to be Surprised for the purposes of the Sneak Attack.
    • There is not an attribute that applies to Sneak Attack.
  • Stealth: Stealth is the ability of the character to move or hide themselves or an object, and remain undetected.
    • Stealth is always considered an Opposed Skill Check (see below). If the situation would not require an Opposed Skill Check, then success (or failure depending on the situation) is considered automatic.
    • A successful Stealth check to sneak up on someone means that they are considered Surprised for your next attack. This also means that a successful Stealth check can lead to a Sneak Attack.
    • A character's Dexterity attribute modifier applies to Stealth rolls in situations where the character is attempting to physically hide themselves or sneak up on an opponent.
    • A character's Intelligence attribute modifier applies to Stealth rolls in situations where the character is attempting to hide an object from visual inspection.
  • Streetwise: This skill is similar to Bushcraft but for urban environments. It allows the character to find food, shelter, and people within a city or town.
    • A character's Intelligence OR Charisma modifier applies to Streetwise.
  • Swim: This skill is used when a character is attempting a difficult feat when immersed in liquid.
    • Attempting to cross a raging river or swim across a pond while while encumbered would require a roll against this skill to avoid sinking and possibly drowning.
    • Attempting to swim a long distance would require a roll against this skill in order to avoid tiring and drowning.
  • Tinker: Tinker is a loose term used to describe the ability to manipulate mechanical objects. This can be used to pick locks, disarm traps, use unfamiliar machinery, build a wrist watch, and similar.
    • A character's Dexterity modifier applies to Tinker. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Strathos Setting Update: part tres

Playtested last weekend. Here is the skinny:
  • Ran the players through Tower of the Stargazer. A quick, 1st level adventure by Lamentations of the Flame Princess. 
  • Got the players to try out the new Wizard, Fool, and Yon classes. 
  • The Wizard died after losing a game of Blackjack with a ghost.
  • They took to the three-save system immediately.
  • Flesh and Grit took a little bit longer to understand, but I used Palladium's HP/SDC system as guide - they are old Palladium players, so it made more sense to them with that example.
  • Didn't get to try out the new firearms rules, as no one had a gun. 
  • Didn't get to use Shields Will Be Broken, although we've used that in the past, so no big deal.
  • I got good feedback on my rules document and character creation document. By "good," I mean I now have more ideas on how to improve those documents. I play with people who ask a lot of questions and aren't afraid to tell me what they don't like. Which is great! It's refreshing to receive constructive criticism instead of just hearing that everything is wonderful.
  • Didn't get to playtest the Muscarn Mushroom Men, as I'm still working the kinks out of the class. There was a nice amount of interest in them though, so that makes me happy.
  • Looking back, I think the player who used the Fool class didn't fully read the Level Up section, because I don't think they rolled on the table at level 1. Which I should have noticed while playing, but didn't think about until afterwards. I'm rewriting and reorganizing the Fool class to make it easier to read AND make it more in tune with the setting, and less like the source material I took it from. 

Next up, I'm going to publish the Three-Save rules I came up with, and how to convert LotFP classes to it. I'm also going to publish the firearms rules I'm using. And yet another write up of the Yon class, Wizards, the Fool, Shaman, Barbarians, and maybe more setting specific stuff.