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Saturday, July 22, 2017

On Writing, Part II

Whew... So this has been a long time coming... I've been riding the wave of life as it were. So without further ado let's continue my retrospective look into the writing of Sky ov Crimson Flame. In Part I I discussed what first led me to write and the developments in some of the major characters. In this segment, I'll be discussing (or probably just rambling on about) the design of the Keep and the over all story development, plus monsters!

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't read Sky ov Crimson Flame then press no further!

Designing a Dungeon:


As must surely be common knowledge now, Sky ov Crimson Flame is my first major published work in the tabletop gaming realm. Before that I wrote a small piece called The Fell Mountain for Mythoard (Sept, 2015) and before that I merely designed my own adventures for my household games.

Growing up I played mainly 1st & 2nd Editions of AD&D and didn't read many adventure modules. When 3rd Edition showed up I shunned it (probably in part because my old man is a die hard THAC0 guy and in turn I was created in his likeness). It wasn't really until I got deep into the OSR that I finally read a bunch of adventure modules and those mainly of the DCC RPG variety. Long story short, I was doing some diligent research before I ever sat a finger to the keyboard.

Now my original plan was to make something simple, throw it to the wolves and see what became of it, but once I got to writing the adventure grew from a tiny keep with maybe 4 rooms to a much larger affair. When writing, I usually keep a list of things I want to see: a crazy witch, a falling red star, a resurrection of some sort, a necromaner. Those were the four many things for Sky ov Crimson Flame anyways. It was from that list I started tying the story and keep's design together.

In one of the drafts I began this idea that the Crimson Star falls early on in the adventure and from its flames the Keep grows into the massive tower that is reminiscent of the Necromancer's from another world or his past. The PCs would literally be walking on flagstones of fore to defeat the Necromancer before X event happened.

It was getting out of hand... So I toned the story back a little. That's how I write I guess, just vomit everything out onto the keyboard and see what sticks and what needs to scrapped into the trash.

I knew I wanted the players to enter the Keep from the bottom up and so devised ways in which to get them to that point, but always with the mindset of replay-ability. If you've read the adventure you know there are several sections where choices in path must be made or random items are found. This is kind of staple I'm sticking to while writing the next adventure, is it replayable? Would people actually want to run through this crazy thing a second or third time?

So if I were to dish out any sort of advice it's: Is it replayable? Is it too big and does it boggle down the story you're actually trying to convey? If so, trim that sucker down!

Read-Aloud Text:


Looking back on my read-aloud text I wish I had trimmed them down a little more. They seem a bit heavy-handed now and hard to read to a table. I know why... I was trying really hard to invoke a true sense of the horror and macabre in every scene and when I read it aloud to myself at my desk it sounded too cool for school! As I've found out though, that doesn't always work when you trying to read three paragraphs of text to table of gamers. Secretly I must want to be a novelist... I'll do better next time folks :-p!

Table-Time:


The amount of time it takes to play the adventure was major concern of mine as I wanted it to be ran at conventions, etc. I started combining rooms together or taking out whole chunks that just bogged down play. The adventure must keep some momentum if the players are to have fun

The library area in Sky ov Crimson Flame is a major section that can slow play down in the adventure, but only if the players want it to and so it's really on them. If they want to get the hell out of there and to the next area they can do so with a bit of figuring out. 

My two cents: Write the adventure so it only slows down if the players decide to slow it down. Otherwise keep it movin'!

Monsters!


Yeah buddy, good monsters are a major factor to good adventure and I tired (and constantly keep trying) to come up with weirdos to fight. DCC RPG, being the wonderful tome it is, was inspiration enough. The corrupting effects of magic lead directly to the Corrupted Flesh and helped round out the Necromancer's past. 

The opening scene for Evil Dead II was a major influence on the Cherub Head-bats, the fact they are baby faces and not skulls just added to the creep factor. Lovecraft and Moorcock were heavy influences for the randomly generated things that can happen in the Nexus Between Worlds. I can't remember how the Shambling Flesh monster came about, because originally the PCs just fault a bunch a cultists towards the end. Perhaps that concept bored me and I just changed it one day...

This is probably a big, "No, Duh!" but try to come up with original monsters. It's too easy to copy and past from a monster book. No lazy writing for you!


Well that's all I have for today folks. I'm not sure if you find any of this insight, or perhaps lack there of, fun or helpful, but hey... it's free right?  Til next time!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Free RPG Day: Recap!

Yesterday, as you all surely know, was a religious holiday for the table-top gamer. The day our publisher godlings bestow upon us gifts of free merchandise; of which in return we help peddle in the hopes to convert others into the cult! I'm talking of course about Free RPG Day!


On this glorious day of days I Judged my 0-level adventure Sky ov Crimson Flame for a group who have played table-top RPGs before, but had yet to experience the gonzo nature of DCC RPG. I will not recap the entire section, like I did in my last post, just the goofball highlights!

The Highlights:

  • These players were really getting into the role-playing aspect of the game, so much so that one of them was changing his character's occupations and telling me how they were backwoods moonshiners. I warned them not to get attached...
  • They are also the fist group of players that wanted to bury the dead as they figured out the wretched villagers were of course from the village of Reed. Most of my other groups are of the more murberhobo variety and could have cared less.
  • The first death happened when a Cherub Head-bat bit off a man's face!
  • When the Cherub Head-bombs were dive bombing the characters, one of the guys oiled up his duck and sent it flying into the monsters, causing both the duck and the flying head-bomb to  explode!
  • The dwarf lowered his pig into the dungeon and asked it if all was clear.
  • In the library the PCs found three magical items (from the magic item list provided in the module): The Crow Book, which was used a lot...; the phallic thing in a decanter, which was not drunk but was taken out of the decanter and flopped around a lot ("now your just playing with it!"; and finally the strange scroll, of which killed a player when he broke the wax seal.
  • When the Crow Book was first opened it killed some players, the next time it was opened they were trying to kill the Corrupted Flesh.
  • Speaking of the Corrupted Flesh, it consumed the dwarf while we was riding his pig in the Library, the pig freaked out and the ran around trying to get the monster off it. 
  • The PC with the Love Letter from Belesa found her face in the box and went crazy. He put on the face because he missed her so? I don't know why exactly...
  • The Soul Chamber took out another 5 or so PCs again.
  • The Butcher Cultist had the upper hand this time around and surprised the party, he murdered three PCs before he was put down.
  • Out on the courtyard, the Fleshy Mass was strangling and eating PCs left and right, while the smarter ones ran up the tower to confront the witch.
  • The PC that loved through a duck a the beginning decided to tie the Crow Book to the bottom of a goose in the hopes it would open and the crows all attack the Flesh Mass. I judged it worked, but the goose, being followed by a murder of crows, took off towards the village and that when they arrived back everyone was probably going to be dead... The Fleshy Mass only suffered minor cuts.
  • On the tower, the Witch's surprise magic missile attack backfired on her!
  • The PCs started killing the impaled victims hoping to stop the eldritch light pouring from their faces, which was drawing the Crimson Star closer. In the game, this works and slows the ceremony down.
  • In the end, they killed the witch and stop the ceremony and tossed the chaos dagger over the edge of the tower.
I'm not sure if I converted any new disciples to DCC or not, but overall we had a great time!



Monday, June 12, 2017

Session Recap: Sky ov Crimson Flame

Last night I introduced a couple of newcomers to Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG with my 0-level funnel Sky ov Crimson Flame. Out the 20 characters total (this includes 4 rescued villagers) there was a total of 14 character deaths! Below is are the highlights from the session (possible spoilers!), but first the players and their characters!

The DOOMED!

Nothing brings people together like a near TPK!


Jordyn was playing: Laurence the Squire, Cherry Star the Astrologer, Iskamar the Shaman and HuMungo the Grave Digger.

Charlie (not a newcomer to RPGs, but new to DCC) was playing: Baby Dennis the Cheesmaker, Lesley the Cobbler, Fico the Halfling Mariner and Ronnie the Dwarven stonemason.

Alana was playing: Darren the Costermonger, Darrel the Gongfarmer, Dave the Elven navigator and Dan the Ditch Digger.

Will (totally new to RPGs) was playing: Baby Destroyer the Woodcutter, Big Jerry Tea Cups the Trapper, Angeline Gungertoes the Radish Farmer and Mike the Minstrel.


Adventure Highlights:

  • Setting out from the village of Reed, the party entered the dreaded Eastern Forest and was surprised by a group of maddened and flayed people. Here the party encountered their first death as Darren was torn to shreds. They soon vanquished the the foes and continued to towards the direction of the falling Crimson Star.
  • Death Toll: 1
  • Reaching an Ancient Keep, they crossed the bridge, ignoring the Head-bat chewing on a crucified corpse, and attempting to open the gate whereupon Head-bats from the battlements pushed over two statues that came crashing down, breaking the bridge. Surprisingly no one fell to their death!
  • The party took the right bend on the ledge around the Keep's rock foundation. I asked the players to determine their walking order as follows: Will, Jordyn, Charlie, Alana. As they wound the bend three head-bats, with explosive bottles tied and lit to their... heads?, were spiraling down towards them. Will and Jordyn's characters pushed on to the backside where the ledge widens, but Charlie and Alana's characters couldn't make it in time. Dave the Elf shot one of the fiends down, but the other two exploded killing, Dave, Dan and Baby Dennis.
  • Death Toll: 4
  • After the explosion Charlie and Alana's PCs found new opening in the rock and entered.
  • Will and Jordyn's characters entered through a grate which lead into a dungeon. From there they found a set of keys and moved on to the stairwell that rose to the next level.
  • The new cave turned out to be a tomb of some ancient king with elephantiasis bones. Darrel the Gongfarmer found a magic sword laying with the King! They headed up a set of stairs that lead to a secret door which entered a hall of tapestries. Lesley the Cobbler (being of high INT) began studying these tapestries.
  • As Will and Jordyns PCs ascended the stairs they heard footsteps and mumbling. Laurence the Squire stuck up the stairs and peeked around the corner seeing several figures in the dim light. He told Baby Destroying, who flew up the stairs to surprise attack whoever it was and ended up almost killing Lesley as he was studying the tapestries. 
  • Now that the party was back together they entered the only room they could, a library and began searching the surroundings.
  • Darrel's new sword began glow as if aflame just before HuMungo was attacked by a naked husk of walking skin that split down the middle and consumed his flesh!
  • Death Toll: 5
  • The Party attacked the creature and Ronnie the dwarf began through potions from a nearby bookshelf at it! (I rolled a random Potion from Fifty Fantastic Functions for the D50 and got one that drained 2d6 STR). Darrel and the Corrupted Flesh were struck by the foul potion that steamed about the room and, failing a Fort save, Darrel's muscles deteriorated and he collapsed on the ground.
  • After they defeated the monster, one of the PCs started carrying Darrel around like a backpack until the Shaman attempted to heal him with some herbs and holy water (she rolled high enough and I allowed 3d4 STR healing. Enough to take Darrel from -6 to 1.)
  • In the library, Ronnie found a strange tome bound in black feathers, of which he decided to open on the balcony near by. The crows picked his bones from his flesh!
  • Death Toll: 6
  • The Party also found a box with a girl's face in it. The face was Baby Destoryer's lover Belesa (the first taken from the village) and he lost his mind (losing some INT points from the ghastly reveal).
  • While exploring they found a secret tunnel which lead to a strange dug out room. In the room were two iron metal arms. Baby Dennis activated the arms (which would normal encase him in crystal before transporting him to Other Worlds and disintegrating his body, except that he rolled a 20 on his Fort save and survived!) The crystal, however, exploded and sent chucks flying through the room which killed Fico, Cherry Star, Iskamar, Laurence, Baby Destroyer, and Big Jeffery Tea Cups!
  • Death Toll: 12
  • Skipping ahead the party found a window to the next level just before the Corrupted Flesh regenerated and tried to get them.
  • Having heard some evil guy talking on the other side of the door, they busted through and surprise the Butcher Cultist and easily dropped him!
  • They evenutally reached the Courtyard and battled and killed with the magic sword the Shambling Flesh monster before heading up the the tower to face the Witch there.
  • As they emerged at the top of the tower, the Crimson Star was a huge ball of flames! The Witch was almost complete with her ritual as they attacked and missed in the confusion and blustering winds! The Witch killed Darrel with a brutal stab to the throat! 
  • Death Toll: 13
  • One of the newly saved villagers, Shakia the Elven barrister managed to take the strange fleshly dagger out of the Witch's hands and push her face down into the pool of blood she was standing in. 
  • On the last round, before the Necromancer would have appeared and sent him all into a Nexus Between Worlds they dragged her body out of the sticky bloody muck and through her off the tower.
  • Shakia, who had the weird blade, was a possessed and attacking her fellow party members. Killing Baby Dennis, before they wrestled the blade from her.
  • Death Toll: 14
  • With a 10ft pole they knocked the dagger off the tower into the deep valley below and "save the day!" sort of...

What did I learn?

  • I was using the printed module to run the game and there are plenty of places were I say, "Man, I wish I put a comma there" or "Why didn't I think of this before!"
  • I agree with a recently Facebook review that there are too many DC checks for what should be obvious things. (i.e. Dwarf masonry checks, etc)
  • I changed a few things (with the chance of a die). For example: the door to the Butcher Cultist is suppose to be locked, but at the time their party only had 3 wounded PCs and I knew there were "fresh" ones on the other side if they managed to kill the cultist. So with a percent die of 50 or less the door would be unlocked and they could just barge in, which they did. I also added one more villager in that room to be saved (there are only 3 in the book).
  • Sometimes the players roll well and sometimes they don't. They were able to kill the Shambling Flesh Mass easy. It's hard to judge whether a creature like the Shambling Flesh Mass has too few dice or not. In retrospect I probably should have given it 8d6 HD for the 8 cultists it took to make the creature instead of the 4d10 it has.  
In the end there will most definitely be a 2nd or "revised" printing of Sky ov Crimson Flame as I continue to grow both as a Judge and a writer. (Note that I'm not going to "George Lucas" the shit out of it, just add a few things here or there). More than likely this will happen with the printing of my next adventure.



Tuesday, May 9, 2017

On Writing, Part I

With the release of Sky ov Crimson Flame I've decided to take a little retrospective look into its development and the personal experience points I've gained (I'm at least at level 2...)

WARNING: If you haven't read Sky ov Crimson Flame there's a chance you'll catch a few spoilers!

Before the Owl Knight's Flight


As I've stated numerous times, Sky ov Crimson Flame is based on the first impromptu session of DCC-RPG I ever ran. There, late at night, in a darkened kitchen, with only a handful of friends; I spun a tale of prophecy, black magic, a horned moon rising and a crimson star falling. In that moment I was in my element!

You see for a few years prior I had been wanting to play a good fantasy RPG campaign, but I didn't want anything to do with 3rd/Pathfinder or (gods forbid) 4th edition; while at the same time I wanted something "new" that wasn't 1st or 2nd edition. That's when I stumbled across the OSR community via Google+ and an entire new world was open before my eyes. I looked at all the "new" retro clones, but it was DCC-RPG that struck a cord. A rockin' heavy metal cord that vibrated straight to my very core!

So to say I was excited to be playing an RPG again is an understatement and as I wove my story of evil resurrected, killing lowly 0-levels left and right, I had no idea that I would attempt, in the near future, to actually produce an adventure. Yet that's exactly what happen. Maybe it was all the 3rd party adventure materials I was buying or the community in general that appears so open and accepting.

In any case I began what I thought would be a simple project, maybe a little dungeon, just a couple of pages. After all, the first funnel was a small ruined keep with 3 rooms top (the players were two nervous to explore the rest of the keep, which of course I was making up as I went along). However, as I've learned time and time again, none of my projects end up being small endeavors.

So It Began...

The first draft had several titles as I slowly determine what the hell the actual story line would be. Devil's Moon Rising (eh...), Horned Moon Rising (meh...), Red Flame Resurrection (too on the nose...). That first draft was a meager 8 pages long and at the time I felt like I was really doing something! Go me! Then came the next draft.... and the next draft... and the next. The next thing I knew I was 8 drafts in and had an additional 8 more pages.

So what changed between drafts 1-8? A sense of grandiose ideas were forming in my monkey mind. More rooms! Nastier baddies! Things of epic portions were taking shape. Some of which stuck in the final version and some of which changed. Through play-testing several rooms were merged into one and the finale was re-worked again and again!

Changes & Developments

Concerning the Witch

In earlier drafts the witch was encountered by the second area:

Area 2 - A Keep in Ruin

50 yards away the Keep comes into view. A facade of stone, blacker than the night. Rotted vines cover the walls and hang off the mounded gargoyles that leer at you from above. Through the large archway in the front wall a great pyre can been seen. A figure dressed in nothing but a bloody stag skin and brandishing a strange dagger dances and chanting around the fire.

The figure dancing and chanting around the fire is a witch. The loan survivor of a cult dedicated to the necromancer Balrothharid. In her hands is the very dagger the necromancer once used. She is wearing a bloody stag skin and is otherwise nude.

This was due in part of that first session I ran. She was going to be very powerful, killing off several 0-levels in a grand battle right before the Crimson Star fell on the keep and caused the dead to rise, etc, etc. In a sense she was a red herring as the players were suppose to believe she's the end all be all early on when actually she's just a pawn. (Similar to the final version). Everything happen at a much more rapid pace at this point.

By the 8th draft the Witch was called the Head Priestess (later changed back) and, like in the final version, the PCs had to first journey through the bowels of the Ancient Keep in order to encounter her at the climax.

Concerning the Necromancer


For several drafts the Necromancer, Balrothhraiid, (who's name changed several times) was resurrected and encounter in a true old school fashion - a tomb. However the idea of him travelling across unknown worlds was present early on and in some cases there were multiple shades that attacked the PCs as they attempted to destroy the body of the Necromancer encased in crystal. Sound familiar readers of SoCF? Some of these elements were kept in one form or another.

For the longest time I had this idea of the Crimson Star causing worlds to collide and the structure of the Ancient Keep changing to its former glory as represented on another world. The flames would take shape of a greater structure and could be walked on. In the end that idea faded out pretty quickly as I just couldn't make it work. 

Concerning Game Mechanics


At first I had no idea what I was doing! I had only every really written screenplays (nothing you've seen believe me) and so to prepare I read the rulebook over again, cover to cover, and as many adventures as I could get my hands on, both official and 3rd party. Still I was unprepared and the only way in which I improved was by constantly writing, draft after draft. Am I great writer? Nah! I get excited and type too fast and the next thing I know I've written incoherent garbage that I don't even know exactly what I mean, but I kept at it and that's my only advice for anyone inspired to do the same. Never. Stop. Writing!

Now for your reading pleasure I present the FIRST DRAFT of Sky ov Crimson Flame. From reading it and comparing it to the final print version you can gather some knowledge of the inner workings of my brain, or maybe just get a kick out of how simple it was in the beginning. Hell, I don't know! This is literally the brain dump version that I haven't even read and I'm sure is chalk full of errors and terrible ideas. So enjoy!










Thursday, March 9, 2017

Sky ov Crimson Flame Pre-Orders




That's right! Owl Knight Publishing is accepting pre-orders for its launch title Sky ov Crimson Flame. You can hit any of the links here on the page or visit the Kickstarter page and order!

If you're interested in whole sell orders please drop me a line at thorinthompson AT gmail DOT com.

CHEERS!

Monday, December 19, 2016

DCC-Dune: Swordhands

The Sword of this Dune-a-fied setting is very much like the Warrior class of DCC-RPG. There are certain changes and flavour text to get it a science fiction vibe, but ultimately that will come in to play through the scifi weapons and adventures.

Shielding Fighting (or Dueling) is quintessential to Dune and I will finally go into detail about it further below!



Swordhand


You are a skilled warrior bound by a sworn oath to protect and serve your House. There is no melee weapon with which you are not skilled. You may be a royal guard, an instructor to the heir, the commander of a garrison, or perhaps all three.


After the invention of the personal shield the use of projectiles became rather futile. Master Assassins became the currency on which disputes were settled and masters of the sword became the necessity for which the noble families were protected. All Swordhands learn their trade on the harsh planet of Hizaal. There after a lifetime of trials the trainees, if they survive, leave the planetary school as adepts skilled in all manor of melee weapons and hand-to-hand combat techniques to join the Noble-house of their home world.


Swordhands serve their houses with the utter most loyalty; however, there have been reported instances of swordhands going rogue. These few often become sell swords and are known to be extremely dangerous.


Hit points: A swordhand gains 1d12 hit points at each level.


Weapon training: A swordhand is trained in the use of all weapons and if using a melee weapon of any kind the swordhand’s initiative and deed dice are both raised +1d.


Alignment: A swordhand is usually always of the same alignment of the Noble-house they serve.


Attack modifier: (Same as DCC Warrior class)


Mighty Deeds of Arms: (Same as DCC Warrior class)


Shield Fighting: See below...


Critical hits: (Same as DCC Warrior class)


Initiative: A swordhand adds his class level to his initiative rolls.


Luck: At first level, a swordhand’s Luck modifier applies to attack rolls with one specific kind of weapon. This is the weapon they were most superior with on Hizaal. It must be chosen at first level and the modifier is fixed at its starting value – neither the weapon nor the modifier changes over the course of the swordhand’s career.


Action dice: A swordhand always uses his action dice for attacks. At 5th level, a warrior gains a second attack each round with his second action die.


Languages: Common, House’s secret battle language, plus 1 additional language for every +1 Intelligence modifier.


Level
Attack
Crit Die/ Table
Threat Range
Action Dice
Deed Die
Ref
Fort
Will
1
+d3
1d12/III
19-20
1d20
d3
+1
+1
+0
2
+d4
1d14/III
19-20
1d20
d4
+1
+2
+0
3
+d5
1d16IV
18-20
1d20
d5
+2
+2
+1
4
+d6
1d20/IV
18-20
1d20
d6
+2
+3
+1
5
+d7
1d24/V
17-20
1d20+1d14
d7
+3
+3
+2


Level
Title (Lawful)
Title (Neutral)
Title (Chaotic)
1
Serviceman
Soldier
Raider
2
Swordsman
Brigand
Brigand
3
Knight
Cavalier
Marauder
4
Champion
Defender
Ravager
5
Master
Adept
Reaver




Shield Dueling
Shield Dueling is a fairly new style of fencing designed to take advantage of the slight vulnerability of the personal shield. With the careful precision of a slow moving object, usually that of a dagger, an attacker can penetrate an opponent's shield. Prolonged shield dueling however is extremely dangerous as the increased friction between the two phase-fields can cause a Phlogiston Disturbance!

To make a precise strike during a shield duel, the attacker must land a successful attack roll when his or her’s Precision is equal to or greater than his or her’s opponent’s current AC.

Below are the basic rules by which the art of Shield Dueling is accomplished:

  1. Both fighting players set a d20 in front of their person. This d20 represents their Prescision. At the start of the duel both fighters set their d20 to 10.
  2. Both fighters roll for initiative. Whomever wins the initiative attacks first and sets their precision tracker to 11.
  3. The attacker rolls his action die (usually 1d20) and adds their attack bonus plus their Agility modifier. If the roll is equal to or above the defender’s AC the attack lands and the attacker raises their precision die by a number equal to their Agility modifier. If the attack was a miss the attacker lowers their precision die by a number equal to their Agility modifier.
  4. The defender now rolls to attack following the rules above.
  5. If an attacker fumbles their roll they must roll on the Fumble Table (DCC-RPG p. XX) and lower their precision tracker while their opponent raises theirs.
  6. If an attacker rolls a critical they score an automatic hit through the shield which wounds their opponent.
  7. The Judge rolls a percentage die to determine if the shield duel has resulted in a Phlogiston Disturbance! This is a 2% cumulative chance each round.
  8. Both opponents re-roll initiative and begin the second round of fighting.