HALLOS SUBSECTOR: Notes for a Setting for Classic Traveller

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The subsector I’m working up is part of an empire in decay. The empire’s power is slipping away, both politically and economically, as civil wars across different sections of the empire have drained its focus. The influence of the empire on the subsector as a political or social entity is non-existent.

Instead, three noble families which have rules potions of the subsector are now scrambling to exert influence and exploit resources of worlds not yet explored. The families see themselves as both standard-bearers for the rich tradition of the imperial past, but also cut off from its support and making their own way forward as best they can.

Trade has been limited and focused on about on third to one half of the worlds in the subesctor. There are many “fly over” worlds, with ships focused on wealthy and high population worlds. Mortgages are backed by the noble families, with fealty and history with the families being a primary consideration for getting a charter on a ship, trade route, or resource exploration rights. A-class spaceports are owned by the noble families. Industrial espionage and sabotage is on the rise between the noble houses, affecting both starships and spaceports.

Common Noble House Tech Level is 9. Average Noble House Tech Level is A-B. Exceptional Noble  Tech Level is C. This, of course, limits the practical size of starships to less than 5,000 dTons. Higher tech levels may well be scattered around the subsector for the PCs to discover, interact with, and puzzle out.

There are many worlds with indigenous, native aliens, as well as settlements of humans. Some of the humans are settlers from the empire either invited by the noble families or seeking better opportunities. Others are from times before a previous rise and fall of interstellar society cycle and thus cut off socially and culturally from each other. (Again, trade has been limited to and focused on a few key worlds. Space lanes, jump cassettes, and other limiting factors from early CT rules are in effect.)

There is an indigenous and ancient faith revolving around psionic powers that has been isolated and quiet. It existed from the time before the last rise and fall cycle of civilization in the subsector (centuries ago). As a power vacuum opens up in the subsector the cult begins to make itself known. It begins recruiting from both the common populace and tries to insinuate itself in the noble houses as well. The teachings promise peace (of course) and a chance to avoid the coming possible crisis of an all out war by uniting the worlds of the subsector under one banner. Obviously none of the noble houses want this. But how to use the faith to their own ends, or stamp it out completely, all the while not being influenced by it is part of the stress the rules class is under.

I haven’t decided yet if the Player Characters will be centered on worlds from one of the ruling houses or have arrived from beyond the subsector. If they have already have served in the noble house’ military or services and have easy access to patronage and get us going. (Whether they remain loyal to the noble house over time is their business.) On the other hand I am tempted to have all PCs arrive in the subsector fresh. This makes the entire environment open to exploration and allows them to find their own way in terms of loyalty. I think this will be something to bring up with the players and ask them what they want.

Adventures will be a mix of political conflict fought out over resources, cold-war espionage and sabotage, as well as expiation and adventure on backwater worlds where all sorts of aliens, alien civilizations, and cultures can be found. (I should note that each of the three noble houses also has their own specific cultures as well.)

Most worlds are politically isolated, with no law enforcement between the stars apart from the efforts of the three noble houses protecting they limited influence on several star systems each. PCs will have varying degrees of safety from the law in illegal activity, depending on where their activities take place and who is backing them and providing cover. (Noble patronage can be very helpful in some circumstances.)

The tone and feel is a softer SF than I think many people expect from Traveller, with the SF elements serving as a backdrop and as McGuffins for adventure rather than and end in and of itself. Think Jack Vance’s Planet of Adventure and The Demon Princes books, E.C. Tubb’s Dumarest Books, Herbert’s Dune (just the first book), and a bit of Game of Thrones.

That’s the basic sketch I’m working from.

QELONG: Aakom Poison Tracker (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)

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My Players’ characters are heading off to the Qelong next week and I’ve spent my break from Refereeing by working up notes and prepping details for the expedition.

As I’ve noted before Qelong is dense and complex. I’ve taken some time to “unfold” the material in the book and prepare for an easier time running it.

One of the complex parts of the setting is the threat of Aakom Poisoning. If you’ve read the module you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t read it you don’t know what I’m talking about–but don’t worry because its too complicated to go into.

For those of you have an interest in running Qelong for your players but who have thought, “How the hell am I going to track the Aakom Poisoning?” I offer this following tracking sheet.

The deal is this:

I will print out several sheets, using one sheet per day the Player Characters travel through the Qelong valley. Each day of travel I will mark down any actions that incur Aakom points. (Each column heads notes the number of Aakom Points accumulated for different events.) At the end of the day I total the Aakom points for that day and then total the to the Aakom points for the entire expedition thus far.

The spreadsheet itself was sort of a no brainer. But I imagined what a mess the sheet would become after several days of adventure. (Truly, tracking Aakom Poisoning is a pain in the neck.) It was only after I realized I should have a new sheet for each day that I thought, “Okay, I can now track this and use the threat of the poison in a reliable and organized manner.”

I bring this up because my players are smart players and they love to have new problems and puzzles. I don’t want to hand-wave the effects of the poison. If the application of “scoring” the Aakom points is consistent and understandable they will figure out the patter and they will take action to solve the problem. Hence this detailed solution to tracking the poison.

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Fallen World Campaign [LotFP]–Twenty-Third Session

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– Or –
The Characters Finally Head Off to Qelong

Months have passed since we’ve played my Fallen Worlds campaign. I’m slammed with work and prepping my notes for the group’s journey to the Qelong Valley on an alternate Earth.

Other players have picked up the slack in the intermediate months, and I get to be a player for a while. We’re played a kick ass in short campaign set the world of The Last Airbender. We’re now playing in the world of Shadowrun using the HeroQuest rules.

But here’s a recap of the last session we played months ago!


Having cleaned out Graupher’s Keep of the creatures that had escaped from the menagerie and the interplaner creature that Graupher and his men had brought back in their travels to research and destroy, the Lamplighters took some time to sort through gathered treasures and magic.

The magic-user researched spells and set up a new lab in the keep. Two of the characters experimented with the power suits that they had retrieved from the slaughtered Carcosans they found dead in the remains of Death Frost Doom. One power suit was still locked, but they had a weekly chance to find the combination and finally pulled it off. Each power suit had unique abilities I had randomly rolled using the tables from Carcosa.

Carcosa describes the alien technology of the world in the style of Jack Kirby style art. So the players in 17th Century Europe have suits of armor in the style of the image above.

The Lamplighters also hired in workers to clean out the mess left over from the thousands of undead in the Turning Tower, as well as fortifying and repairing the compound as a whole.

Now, in the Session #22 recap I noted that I thought once the Players had found Graupher’s ship they would be heading off to the world of the Qelong Valley to find the Aakom they needed to free their friends who became trapped in Null Space while exploring the ancient Duvan’Ku catacombs under Munich. (It’s a long story… but if you read all the entries you’ll get the details. I realized I can’t keep recapping everything in every recap. It’ll just take too long! Short version: They need to go the Qelong Valley in an alternate dimension, recover the Aakom leaking from a cylinder that is poisoning the valley, travel to Carcosa using The World Stone, get to and enter the Spatial Transference Void in the city of Carcosa which will let them enter Null Space, rescue their friends, and use the Aakom to escape Null Space and return to earth!)

Instead, they decided to return to Bergenzel and clean it out once and for all. Okay, I thought, and then next week Qelong!

But no. After experimenting and cleaning up the keep they decided that since some of the spider cult members of Bergenzel had fled the town, the most likely place they would have gone to would be the Insect Cult located north of Karlstadt. They didn’t know about the Insect Cult, really, but months earlier they had found a map of Europe on the inside of a dead knight’s flesh marked with:

  • the death symbol of the Duvan’Ku which marked the temple from Death Frost Doom
  • an insect symbol which marked the Insect Cult from Better Than Any Man

The Players had decided back in the seventh session that they would be traveling to the bug mark on the map. You might recall that I prepped for Better Than Any Man, the Player Characters stopped in Munich while traveling north to Karlstadt, found out rumors of ancient Duvan’Ku catacombs under the streets of Munich, researched further, and stumbled intoThe God That Crawls. (Which I had moved from England to Munich.) In doing all this they promptly forgot about heading to Karlstadt, my prep was scrapped and they entered a terrific module that took us three sessions to clear out.

More things happened and their focus turned completely from the events to the north and they headed west in an effort to find an adventurer rumored to have a ship that could travel to different worlds so they could go rescue their friends trapped in Null Space. (Again, the recaps keep looping around. In part it is because I have remember for myself how all this stuff went down!)

The point is: Once they Players had declared they were going to Karlstadt I started the countdown that is a core element of Better Than Any Man. The Swedish Army was going to sweep down from Denmark across the Holy Roman empire whether the Player Characters went north or not… because it started and it was up to them to get back up there in time to find all sorts of treasures and adventures or not.

Well, they never went back. And the catalogue of events listed in Better Than Any Man took place as described over the ten days of the adventure–even if the Player Characters were not there to participate in the adventure!

The Players, of course, knew nothing about any of this. Nor did their characters who had spent that last two months in shrines and catacombs built by the Duvan’Ku or traveling through the time-distorted swamps of Bergenzel. By the time they headed back to Munich to see the treasures they had recovered they heard about the onslaught of the Swedish King but did not realize that the adventure that had been waiting for them had been wiped out. (I try to be honest about how the world is moving forward around the Player Characters, whether the Players are aware of it or not. This was one of those times!)

So: We gather for Session #23 and I’m thinking: “Okay, here we go to Qelong!” And the Players decided to go to where they saw the insect symbol on the map. And they had no idea the Insect Cult was wiped out by the Swedish Army (along with the witches of Karlstadt and so on.)

So I pull out Better Than Any Man. Because even though the main adventure sites have been destroyed by the Swedish army Better Than Any Man has a whole list of awesome random encounters I can use to generate content for tonight’s session. Since the area will still be war-torn and ruined almost every one of the encounters will still be viable.


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THE SIGN IN YELLOW

The Player Characters travel to Munich as they head for the Insect symbol on the map. They ask about rumors of the war, of the invasion by the Swedes, of anything to do about insects.

The find out that the Swedes sacked Karlstadt, sacked Würzberg, and killed many witched. They destroyed a tower that no one could see and the rivers ran with blood. They attacked a compound filled with monsters. Few men came out so they used explosives to seal it all up. The details are sparse. It is told more like exotic rumors and tales… but it is all true! This is the aftermath of Better Than Any Man–and the Lamplighters missed the party.

But, more pertinent, the Players hear rumors of dreams that have been haunting the citizens of Munich for weeks. People have been unable to sleep–or, rather, have been sleeping but do not feel as if they have slept. A figure in yellow robes haunts them. The Players begin to notice a strange symbol in yellow scattered on the walls of Munich. People feel that something is coming. That while they had feared what might happen once the Swedish army sacked the Catholic cities, this would be worse.


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THE WITCH’S HEAD

The group continues north. They pass Würzberg and see corpses of “witches” that hang from trees. And hear tales of the witch trials taking place. They travel on and I make a random encounter roll. They hear rumors of war elsewhere. But a large portion of the Swedish army has been disbanded after the cities were sacked and mercenary troops took their loot and went home.

They reach Karlstadt. They see the heads of the witches on pikes on the city’s wall. Again, this is the aftermath of Better Than Any Man. They have missed all the events. And yet, by playing out the events as they occurred we have new chances for unexpected adventures.

For example, the adventures decide they want to examine one of the witch’s heads. Why? I do not know exactly. But can I blame them?

Since their journey south along a road to investigate fallen meteorite–upon which they came across a corpse that was later revealed to have been killed by a doppelgänger from another planet come to study the human race–and all the things they had seen from that moment onward until now, would it be truly unreasonable to assume that investigating the decapitated head of a witch on a pike might not yield interesting information? Certainly it was a possibility that such a thing should be looked into. And so they did.

Note several things:

I had no idea the players would want to investigate a decapitated witch’s head. I put it there as a bit of color and to make clear that whatever had happened had happened and the situation had wrapped up.

It is not my place to tell the players there is nothing interesting to be found by investigating a decapitated witch’s head over a city gate. If this is something they want to do I let them do it. Remember, in this game I have no plot, I have no story. There is no place we are trying to get to, no climax I need to guide them toward. Whatever they choose to pursue is the story.

At this point they are providing material for me to use. Again: I have no story. The Players make rolls as they sneak around and try to investigate the head of a decapitated witch.

So they get to the head. It seems to be, I explain after they examine it, a decapitated head and nothing more.

They decide to steal it.

James Raggi once stated there was no need for a Call of Cthulhu insanity-style mechanic for Lamentations of the Flame Princess because after a while the Players would be having their characters do all sorts of crazy things with the characters all of their own volition. Guess he was right!

The group slips the head into one of their sacks and makes their way back out of the city before they are caught with the witch’s head.

They decide to head back south, making plans to travel to Italy to find sailors for their ship and their journey to one of the worlds Graupher discovered. And so they travel south, this imposing group of fifth level adventurers…

  • Werner, Prock a German mercenary
  • Adrian MacBride, a Scottish cleric
  • Vilfolk, a specialist noted for his facility with languages and knowledge of architecture
  • D’Antonio, a warrior from Spain
  • Rauk Bork, a specialist from Germany noted for his sneak attacks and tinkering
  • Anika, a magic-user who has gathered strange spells and items during her adventures

As the group travel the sack with the head begins to move. They open it and the head is speaking. They talk to it, and the witch’s head is trying to warn them.

“I made a pact with the Insect Gods,” the decapitated head says, “because I knew something far worse was coming.”

“What?” the characters ask.

“The gods of Carcosa,” the decapitated head says.

Anika, the group’s Magic-User, decides to place the head upon her staff as an imposing decoration. And so they continue south in this fashion. Because this is, after all, Lamentations of the Flame Princess

Some Thoughts on the Witch’s Head
I want to note here that I simply made up the head talking on the spot. I wanted to crank up the growing tension about the Carcosans and their invasion. I thought the dead witch would spit out a warning and that would be that.

In retrospect I would not have done it this way. I should have let the Players have their characters cast a spell of some sort or come up with some magical shenanigans to get information from the head if that’s what they wanted. I was excited to talk about what I was excited about. And certainly I’m allowed to share what I’m excited about.

But given that they stole the head of their own volition with no expectation it would provide information, I should have let them decide to press the matter further.

Not a big deal… but I did think about this after the session. A lesson learned.

But more: now that Anika has placed the head on her staff it is kind A Thing for me to deal with. Does it just keep talking? Spitting out omens? Or what?

I have decided the head will be an artifact of sorts. It actually isn’t the witch that spoke to them, but an avatar of the Insect God that hopes to manipulate the characters to its own desires. It will pose as the witch as long as it can to deceive them. It will have some powers it will offer to Anika to make its presence more palatable. But I haven’t worked those out yet.


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THE MERCENARIES

The group continues south, but is still with the territory of Better Than Any Man. I roll on the encounter table from the book. I roll an Encounter!

I roll on the Encounter Table to see what sort of encounter. I roll a 21. Rogue Mercenaries! Interesting! I hadn’t expected that!

I roll again to see if they are foreign mercenaries. 50% chance. They are! I read the description quickly:

these men are simply foreign mercenaries stranded in a strange land trying to survive with no idea how to get home through hostile territory…

Again, unexpected!

I decide these are Swedish Mercenaries who came over for the fight, pillaged, broke off from the army when payments came late. I roll to determine how many. 150 troops!

Huh. I have no idea how this is going to go.

I have each side roll for surprise. No one gets surprise.

I decide the Player Characters spot a patrol of Swedish Mercenaries–and the Swedes spot them. Rather than try to skirt the patrol the Players have their characters walk up to the patrol. Because here is a thing: The Player Characters are like Fifth Level now. In the setting we’ve built that is a big deal. They simply carry themselves differently. They are bad-asses who have seen the shit and when they approach a bunch of Level 0 Swedish Troops on patrol the troops take a step back. Because this strange crew of soldiers and specialists, as well as the strangely powerful looking cleric and the woman who is dressed in sturdy travel clothes but carries herself with the confidence of a woman who has looked the devil in the eyes and lived to tell about it walk like they are the last people you want to fuck with if you want to see another day.

I make a Reaction Roll, per the rules. I give a +2 to the roll since a) the mercenaries are without food or income and in no need to get into a fight they don’t need to get into, and b) the Player Characters look like bad-asses–so they probably won’t want to get into a fight.

The roll (if I remember correctly) was somewhere around the middle. The members of the patrol and the Player Characters trade pleasantries and trade doleful comments on the state of the war-torn world. The mercs explain their circumstances.

One of the Player Characters, Werner, asks to speak to their captain. The mercs are wary of this. But when Werner says it might involve employment they perk up and lead the six travelers to the camp.

Now, Werner is played by Eric. And Eric is a clever guy who comes up with clever plans. (Eric loves puzzles. He takes notes all the time and then goes back to them to put two or three pieces of clues together to make some solution unspool in dungeons.) So I can’t wait to see what is going to happen.

I check Better Than Any Man for more details about the mercenary company they are about to meet:

There will be 10d20 soldiers in all, with as many camp followers (cooks, wives— or “wives”, and children, etc.) in any such band, and the initial encounter will be with either a patrol of 3d6 soldiers (50% chance), 1d6 camp followers (40%), or with the main camp itself (10%).

Officer: Armor 16 (breastplate), Fighter Level 1d6, Movement 90’, 1 musket or sword attack for 1d8 damage, Morale 1d6+5.

Sergeant: Armor 14 (jacks or buff coats), Fighter Level 1d4, Movement 90’, 1 musket or sword attack for 1d8 damage, Morale 1d6+4. Has Strength 15.

Rest of the Troops: Armor 14 (jacks or buff coats), Level 0, Movement 120’, 1 musket or sword or pike attack for 1d8 damage, Morale 8.

Horses: Armor 14, 5 Hit Dice, Movement 240’, 1 hoof attack for 1d6 damage, Morale 8.

Camp followers: Armor 12 (unarmored), Level 0, Movement 120’, 1 dagger attack, Morale 6.

I roll a d20. A 15! So there is a large camp of 150 troops with as many followers.

The patrol leads Werner and the other Player Characters to the mercenary leader, who I quickly name Captain Boris Johansson. I roll the Reaction Roll secretly and tuck it away for later. I know how Johansson will react… but I want to wait until Werner makes his offer.

Werner offers the following: “Your men have no employer, no way to get home, and currently no food or work. We have need of soldiers. More than that, we have a keep that needs troops. And we have a village nearby that is deserted, but with home and lands that you could call your own. We’ll grant you the land and you can settle there and live there as long as you are under our employment.”

At first I didn’t know what Eric meant by all of this. And then I remember that the group had cleared out the village of Bergenzel not only of the spider cult but also the mist caused by the Time Cube that had held it frozen for decades. No one lived in the village anymore. And now it was a small village with buildings, land that was no longer a swamp, a church already built, and so on. He was offering them land that they had cleared. And silver for working for them. And I thought, “Okay! Good offer!”

On top of that I had already rolled a natural “11” on 2d6 on the Reaction table (“Talkative.”) So Captain Johansson is willing to at least entertain the idea.

Negotiations took place using the Hiring Retainers rules. We added up the modifiers, rolled 3d6 and the group got a 16 on the roll. Which meant a Loyalty of 10. (Very good!)

The company began packing up to head down to the Alps and the town of Bergenzel.


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THE INVASION OF EARTH BY CARCOSA

So, the next day the Player Characters and the Mercenary Company head off. The players are now in good shape. They thought they might be going to Italy to get sailors to man Das Forscher, but I decided the merc company would have a good number of men also familiar with sailing and could serve as marines.

As they traveled they discussed which world they might go to next. They had not yet told the merc company all the details of the adventures or plans, waiting until the right time. But they had made it clear their adventures would be wild and extraordinary… and that at the same time the rewards would be great. This pleased there mercenaries. And more than that, because of the rolls I had made I decided Captain Johansson was quite taken with the group. He could tell they were survivors and a hardy bunch and he was willing to hitch his fate to theirs.

Now what the Players did not know was that every day since they had left Graupher’s Keep I had been making a secret die roll to see when the invasion of the earth by the Yellow King of Carcosa would begin.

I mean, we knew this was going to happen sooner or later.

Kar-El, the Carcosan they had befriended months earlier had spelled it all out. And they had gotten enough information to know the Carcosans had been working on a method of expanding and re-working the Spatial Transference Void to allow a direct connection between Carcosa and Earth that would allow two way travel. (Currently the Spatial Transference Void only goes from Carcosa to Earth. This is why one needs the World Stone to go back to Carcosa.)

So…

The Players Characters and the merc company are heading south. They hear an amazing rumbling through the air. The ground trembles under their feet. It is something like an earthquake. And here I asked which characters might have experienced earthquakes before. Several Players describe when their characters have experienced earthquakes.

“This is something more,” I say. “Something different. It is as if the whole world has been touched. As if something has shifted in the earth itself, and not just under your feet.”

The look to the east and they see that there is a tear in the sky about a hundred miles away… the bright blue sky TEARING OPEN as a strange swirl of colors is visible. And from within it a MASSIVE BRIDGE OF STONE extending from the tear in space down toward the earth.

Upon the bridge they see, small but visible in formation, AN ARMY walking down the stone bridge.

And visible within the army, glowing with a presence that makes him more visible than he should be at this distance. He is a figure in yellow. He is, in fact, the King in Yellow, one of the avatars of Hastur of Carcosa. Some of the Players recognize this, others do not. I say no more on the matter.

I also do not add that Hastur is imprisoned under Carcosa and needs the sacrifice of millions to free himself. He has come to earth to make this happen. The population and means of war and execution exceed those of Carcosa and it here that he will found the altar that will free him–the planet earth itself.

Everyone is stunned by this sight. Many of the mercenaries drop to their knees and pray.

Werner says, “This is the enemy we fight. Come with us and we will defeat this army in their own kingdom before they can take our world.” Their plan is the same as it has been: To go to another world to find the Aakom, go to Carcosa, and manipulate the Spatial Transference Void. But now the stakes are bigger… not just to rescue their friends, but to destroy the Spatial Transference Void and seal the gap between Earth and Carcosa.

Now, Captain Johansson gets it right away… that this is a big fucking deal and if he can help he’s going to help. And he trusts the Lamplighters because of that Loyalty roll, so he’s all in. And he rallies the troops as best he can.

Eric says, “You know, given what they’re seeing they might not all want to come.” And I think, “True.”

So I make a roll to determine how many men Johansson can keep loyal to the company. And he is able to keep two-thirds of them on board to deal with this new, impossible threat. So the Lamplighters head off with 100 soldiers and their camp followers.

It is a several days walk and I make a roll each day. The Players do not know what the roll is for.

They make it back to Graupher’s Keep without incident. But on that day I roll again and I tell them, “You hear a sound like a terrible trumpet. A wind that rushes across the landscape rushes toward you. It rushes across the whole earth from east to west. You know this to be true as you know you own hands. And as the wind passes by both the Magic-User and the Cleric are uncertain about something. For it seems your sense of your magic in your thoughts and your god in your heart have been lost.”

They try to use their spells. Nothing happens.

The power and logic of Carcosa is exerting itself. The world is changing as the armies of the Yellow King march upon Europe.

The Player Characters and their mercenaries, which I have decided to dub Lantern Company, make haste and prepare to leave earth on their journey to another world and discover the means of stopping the invasion.

They have the coordinates from Graupher’s notes. Inside the underground lake in the Alps they turn the ship’s wheel per the combination written on the page of Graupher’s dream-induced drawings. There is a strange sound as the winds and waters of countless worlds rush by them…

And they are gone…

TRAVELLER: Out of the Box–A Subsector Map and a Cluster

A Subsector Map:

FullSizeRender-10The lines between worlds are charted space lanes generated with the 1977 rules. These are navigational routes allowing a starship to travel safely from one system to another without the Generate program. The charts are encoded on self-erasing cassettes that can be purchased from starports within jump range of the destination world.

A charted space lane does not guarantee regular traffic. Only that the route is traveled enough, and the information updated frequently enough, to make it safe to travel there without the Generate program.

You’ll notice I erased a few of the lanes. This is in part to clean up the map. If there is a route that extends from A port to a B port and the B port connects to a C port, one can assume there is a route from the A port to the C port without having to directly connect the A to C port.

The other reason is that I’m still futzing with the subsector and deciding about how many worlds in that lower right corner already have space lanes routes. I’m pretty sure that the B starport world in 0708 will still connect to the E starport world in 0709. But many of those fainter lines will take a bit of work on the part of the players to reach them. They’ll have to scrape together enough money to get the Generate program, or charter a flight, and so on.

Notice that the two worlds with E-class starports next to 0708 do not have gas giants. The 1977 rules require gas giants for skimming unrefined fuel. This means that if one arrives in jump-1 ship one cannot leave again unless one carries extra fuel in the hold. Other methods of reaching these worlds and returning involve chartering ships, working one’s way up to a jump-2 ship (and using half the fuel one way and half the fuel the other way.) In short, these two worlds will really not have been visited much, offering a terrific sense of “journeying into the unknown” — which is very much the feel I want to offer to the Players.

I’ll be focusing on a cluster of star systems at first:

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Six worlds, one of them being a high tech level world with an A-class starport.

From these worlds a series of lesser starport worlds trail off to the lower corner. And then we can head to another A-class starport in the other direction. But generating enough details for these first six worlds will be enough to get me going.

The subsector is beyond the edge of the empire the characters have come from. If they have a Scout ship or Free Trader then they have sailed that ship a great distance to arrive at this section of space.

The subsector is not ruled by any  central government; it has no shared culture; the worlds are culturally and technologically isolated . Trade is sparse, though a few world governments and charter companies do have ships established for trade between a few key worlds. Not many ships ply the darkness between worlds.

Per the 1977 Ship Encounter rules pirates and government ships cluster around A and B starports. The D and E starports see little if any trade. The danger at the these worlds off the beaten path is isolation and the environment itself. Tensions exist between higher tech worlds with A class starports. The conflicts are often fought on other worlds as natural resources become a point of contention. There will be an underground mystical order with psionic powers trying to unseat these powerful governments and instal their faith as the ruling order.

The worlds of the setting will have for the most part an exotic and even archaic spirit and aesthetic to them. The player characters will be from a more “conservative” (cultural, not political) and recognizable society that the Players can easily identify with. I want a sense of each culture being a bit different and unique. The player characters will definitely be “outsiders” finding their way amid these new worlds.

The fictional inspiration points are the E. C. Tubb’s Dumarest books, “The Beyond” from Jack Vance’s Demon Princes books, Frank Herbert’s  Dune with its raw and dangerous environment, as well as movies like The Man Who Would be King, The Wild Bunch, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, which focus on ex-military who head off into conflicts and lands uncivilized to find their fortunes.

Notes for My First Session of My Lamentations of the Flame Princess Campaign

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I just came across the pages shown in this post. This is how my Lamentations of the Flame Princess campaign began, with three people I knew, and three others I found off of Meetup.

I started my campaign with a brief adventure called Stranger Storm from the original LotFP Referee Book and the notes pictured above. (You can get the PDF of the LotFP Referee Book for free at RPGNow.)

The Player Characters started on a road, at night. They had each rolled a rumor from the World Rumor Table I made, as well as rumors about meteorites that had fallen to the south a few nights earlier.

They were looking to find the meteorites, but would encounter the situation of Stranger Storm along the way.

The adventure Stranger Storm has no maps. I grabbed some maps from other RPG books to help me out.

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So, I started with:

  1. Rumor Table (which focuses the players, but lets the choose what to do)
  2. Stranger Storm (With a few alterations of the creatures to fit my campaign. Specifically I altered the nature of the Changelings to make them into arcane spies of sorcerers of Carcosa.)
  3. A stack of LotFP adventures that the Rumors on the Rumor Table point to
  4. The notes I have attached in photos
  5. A map of an inn and of a small keep I cribbed from elsewhere (they never went to the keep)

We’ve been playing for over a  year, alternating games on occasion, for a solid six months of play so far.

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The Sandbox vs the Railroad… or Spontaneous Story Creation vs. Pre-Plotted Story

Elsewhere I’ve talked about the casual, improvisational nature of early Traveller play, the value of random rolls and random encounters in Old School play, and what we mean by “encounters” in Old School play.

I’ve also touched on how the nature of modules and adventure design changed from the early days of the hobby to what publishers produces in the 1990s. (In short, adventures were once more situational and lightly sketched (as in the early Classic Traveller Adventures) and later became more focused on pre-plotted stories (The Traveller Adventure, the Dragonlance modules). In the first random rolls and random encounters are the Referee’s friend because they offer more opportunity for the Players to make choices and create more adventure material on the fly. In the second they random encounters are a problem because they distract players from “what the story is supposed to be.”

Someone pointed me to this lovely video which does a bang-up job of giving examples of two different kinds of play. In one campaign found as the Referee responses to the interests and desires of the Players and makes up material as needed. In the other the Referee knows exactly how he wants things to go and forces the Players along certain paths to make sure the story is awesome.

I really think it is worth a look…

Der Entdecker: An alternate-reality sailing ship found by the Player Characters in my Lamentations of the Flame Princess campaign

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My game is on hiatus right now, allowing me time to sort through some bookkeeping and prep for further adventures.

As noted previously, my players tracked down a sailing ship that can travel between alternate earths. Here’s a writeup for the Players, using the rules from Rules & Magic and the ACKS Guns of War.

I built the sheet above to hand the players so they’ll have a sense of ownership of this piece of equipment. They’ll be tracking supplies and more.

When we left off they had used the ship for the first time, using the ship’s wheel to steer a course for an alternate world where two arch-mages fight a decades long battle and the the peaceful Qelong Valley has been shattered by the fallout.

Fallen World Campaign [LotFP]–Twenty-Second Session (Return to Bergenzel!)

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— PLUS: Thoughts on how I Run My Games and Set Up My Adventures —

SPOILERS for Scenic Dunnsmouth below!

The Lamplighters had journeyed to Bergenzel (AKA: “Scenic Dunnsmouth“) in our fifteenth and sixteenth sessions. They had managed to:

  • Find Herr Graupher, the inter-dimensional explore they needed to find (he was dead, yes, but they did find him)
  • Uncover the nefarious spider-cult that had taken over the village
  • Track down Magda, a witch who had fallen prey to the spider-cult
  • Defeat Magda, the Original Spider, and Uncle Ivanovik (the man who had killed Graupher)
  • They found the location of Graupher’s Keep from a man they rescued, and helped this man rescue the son of one of the cultists

They had done very well for themselves. They had found what they had come for, and they had done some good deeds along the way.

But the mystery of the swamp (“Why did time move differently here than the rest of the world?”) was still unsolved. They could use the information they had found to travel to Graupher’s Keep or they could continue to explore the village.

Their decision was… “Okay, this place is creepy. Let’s get out now!

So, they bugged out, returning to the farm they had rented outside of Munich to heal up, study some magic they had found, and make scrolls.

As recounted in the previous session report, after several seeks they made their way past the ruins of Murnau, past the path that led to Bergenzel, and up into the foothills of the Alps where the cleared out and took control of Graupher’s Keep.

The greatest prize of this expedition was a ship that could travel between worlds, hidden away in a massive cavern with an underground lake within the mountain that housed the keep.

I thought for certain they would gather a crew, board the boat, and travel to an alter reality. This has been the purpose of seeking out Graupher and then his keep. But the group was very excited to have taken control of the keep and wanted to clean it up, hire troops to man it, and make sure the road to the keep through the lowlands was safe.

The meant, one of the players declared, they had to go back to Bergenzel and figure out why a mist covered the swampy town and what was causing the time dilation. (They assumed the two were connected.)

There was uncertainty on the part of a couple of the players about this course of action (“Wasn’t there a spider-cult there!”) while the rest of the group knew they had left a portion of the map unexplored and wanted to return and solve the mystery. And so it was decided they would head back.

As they explored the village they came across only abandoned homes. Apparently the rest of the cultists had fled. They returned to the church–and found poor Herman dead on the altar and Father Iwanopolous hung upside and crucified on the church wall. Parting presents from the fleeing cultists.

The fate of the priest, Herman, and the cultists still alive from the last journey was all stuff I had to decide on my own. (“Make it up,” in the parlance of OSR-Refereeing!)

Scenic Dunnsmouth doesn’t specify what the cultists do if the Original Spider is killed. You may no recall–as I did–that the Player Characters had found a map on the inside of the vivisected flesh of Sir Bruno, a knight of an order doing battle against the Duvan’Ku, and on the map was a mark of an insect.

Here’s the passage from my notes describing this:

A prisoner is here, Sir Bruno, a knight of the Order Medicinal. The order gathered the orphans of victims of the Cult of Duvan’Ku in Bavaria in centuries past. After the temple from Death Frost Doom was sealed up by the Clerics of many faiths, they shifted their focus to helping orphans of crime and war, though the order felt less driven in purpose. With the outbreak of the religious war 15 years ago across the Holy Roman Empire they found new energy.

Sir Boris heard rumors of the meteorites and strange circumstances around Middlehelm and went to investigate. He was captured and tortured by Ulrich and Gunther. They want to know where the Duvan’ku hid the World Stone.

The World Stone is a device that can transport people between Carcosa and Earth. Sorcerers from Carcosa used it to spy on Earth. Duvan’Ku cultists stole it and hid it hundreds of years ago.

Sir Boris refused to tell them what his order knows of the World Stone. So they vivisected him with magical means, peeling the flesh of his torso from him, revealing the truth as he knew it:

The inside of his flesh has become a topographical map of Bavaria.

Along the northern edge of the Alp floats the “Death Symbol” from Death Frost Doom. The Shrine from Death Frost Doom is located here. The World Stone is in Area 22 of the Shrine.

Further north on the map there is the sign of an insect. This marks Goblin Hill, from Better Than Any Man. The Order is actively investigating the rise of insects in the area and is closing in on Goblin Hill.

The agents of Carcosa care very much about the Duvan’Ku and the Insect Gods.

This is a technique I use in every adventure: I leave one or two clues or breadcrumbs for one or more other possible adventures. This way, as the Player Characters proceed they have choices about where the will go next. Note that I don’t leave the clue as to where they “have to go next”–because I never assume I know where they will go next. I give them many options. They can choose to pursue any of them… and even ignore those that I set before them and go off after something goal they decide on their own. That’s why, as in this case, I offered clues to two different adventure locations.

This was the symbol they found on the map marking Goblin Hill from Better Than Any Man:

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They had all found the same symbol on the curtain in the basement of Magda’s hut… the curtain over the alcove where the Original Spider was hiding. (The text of Scenic Bergenzel specified that a curtain hung over the alcove. I decided to put the insect symbol on the curtain.)

Spelling all this out is a long way of telling you what I decided to do with the remaining cultists since the text of Scenic Dunnsmouth. Keep in mind, until the Players decided they wanted to go back to Bergenzel I hadn’t thought at all about the fate of the remaining cultists. Honestly, there was so much going on and so many other big events occurring, I’d forgotten all about them.

But this is how, in my view, healthy sandbox settings run. One can go off the mental deep end thinking that you are responsible for mastering and tracking every element in a fantasy world or interstellar science-fiction environment. But this isn’t the case at all.

I recently recorded an interview with Victor Raymond, who played in Professor M.A.R. Barker’s fabled Thursday Night Empire of the Petal Throne game. (I quoted Victor several times in a post about How People Played Traveller in 1977.)

In the interview, Raymond told a story about someone pointing at a spot on the map of Tékumel and asking Professor Barker, “What’s here?”

And the Professor replied: “I don’t know. I haven’t been there yet.”

And the person, very confused, replied, “How can you not know?”

“Well, I named it. I know a little bit about it. But until characters I think of go there and interact with each other, interact with the land, I really don’t know what’s there. I haven’t been there.”

I think that’s a really important lesson for all Referees. The man who created the world of Tékumel, who ran games on that fantastical on a weekly basis for years, who wrote novels about that world, not only did not know everything about it. He assumed that until that patch of geography was put into imaginative, creative motion, he could not know it fully.

This ties into a post I wrote a while back about the value of Random Encounters and Random Tables in Sandbox RPG play. We simply can’t know everything about a fictional environment, and we don’t need to know everything about a fictional environment if it is not in action.

This doesn’t mean that we simply ignore the plots and actions of our NPCs if they are off-screen. I spent time imagining and dreaming about what the Carcosan spies on Earth are up to in their effort build a bridge between Carcosa and Earth. Even when they vanished from the Player Characters’ concerns for many weeks of play, I never forgot about them. I imagined their setbacks, their victories, how they were moving forward with the raid on the Duvan’Ku shrine for the snow-globes of alternate realities that would let them travel to a version of the Qelong Valley and come back with the Aakom they needed to tear a rift in space from the Spatial Transference Void to the central Europe.

What it does mean is that we are wiling to find things out in play. That we let our imaginations be inspired by what happens in play. That we let the tension of the moment, the acts of invention (like my players using The Lost Battalion to defeat 3,000 zombies in the tower they needed to clear).

So, what had the cultists decided to do after the Lamplighters had killed the Original Spider and a good number of the cultists? I had no idea, since my imagination had no need to imagine anything in Bergenzel for a while. But the moment they decided to go back, my imagination was happy and excited to get back into gear.

I decided they cultists would head toward Goblin Hill. There were, after all, the arachnids in conflict with the insects. I decided the Original Spider was of this brood. And the cultists would think they were going “home” to carry on the work of their spider-kin. They tracked down the non-cultists in Bergenzel, murdered them in a horrific fashion, and headed north.


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After sussing out the fact that the cultists had picked up stakes, the Player Characters were left with the mystery of why time moved so strangely in Bergenzel. This was a mystery they wanted to pursue, sine the point of returning to the cursed town was to make sure passage to their new keep was secure and safe.

They had taped a good section of the village on their first visit, but Eric, the sharp puzzle-loving member of my group, noted that the northeaster quadrant of their map was still a blank. He assumed that whatever was causing the time-dilation would be found there. So that’s were they headed.

They saw a faint glow ahead of them as they approached the Time Cube, the light diffused by the moisture in the air that only got thicker and thicker the closer they got…

I won’t go into all the details of the experimentation and time distortion shenanigans they got into as the explored the cube. (At one point they fired a laser at the cube from one of the suits of power armor they had recovered from the shattered expedition the Carcosans had sent into the Duvan’Ku shrine. The bolt shot toward the cube at the speed of light–at first. And then it got slower and slower, until it looked like it was just about to touch the surface of the cube, but never reaching it…)

Suffice to say, like so much from the LotFP product line, it did its job well. It was mysterious, and offered a sense of both danger and novelty. They approached the problem with care and a great deal of curiosity, until the Magic-User cast Time Stop and the cube vanished. (The laser bolt suddenly sped back up, shooting into a tree past where the cube had been and destroying it!)

The water’s of the river suddenly began flowing again. The marsh began (slowly) draining. The mist that had obscured the small village for years vanished, allowing sunshine to illuminate the land around them once more.

I had assumed at this point they would return to the keep, stock provisions and crew, and sail off to Qelong to get the canister their Carcosan friend had told them they had to reach before the Carcosan agents did. But they surprised me (again!). They said they wanted to head north toward the point on the map where they had seen the insect symbol. They want to finish the cult once and for all.

An Appreciation — and Warning — About QELONG

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Qelong is an amazing piece of RPG work. It is a rich setting, with plenty of weird dangers, conflicting factions, mysteries to unravel, and choices to be made about the plight of “others” you have no investment in.

Inside it’s mere 50 pages is an incredible amount of adventuring in a compelling and strange place.

Because it only 50 pages it is dense, with encounter tables for a dozen types of terrain, several cool NPCs, a dangerous goddess trying to escape her imprisonment, and almost two-dozen new beasts and ghosts and things for your PCs to encounter. The land itself is trying to kill you… and I can’t wait to see how my Players handle that.

But because it is so dense, to really bring all of it to the surface to the players is going to take me a good chunk of prep.

I’m rolling up encounters for each beast now, so I have stats and everything ready to go. I’m reworking some of the layout and text so it is things are clear for me.

If I have one complaint, I would have loved a longer book with a lot of the ideas and text unfolded on the page. For most of the Random Encounters, there’s simply no way I could make a random encounter roll, check the monster, and get into combat.

Moreover, the factions, how they are set up, and how they interact require plenty of thought ahead of time.

This isn’t a complaint. I’ve been wanting to run Qelong for two years now. It is why I gathered a group of players for my Lamentations game. And now my players, after piecing together clues about an inter-dimensional war in 17th Century Europe, are about to travel to another world and track down a source of Aakom in the Qelong valley to stop the invasion of Earth by Carcosa. I’m nothing but excited!

I’m just stating a fact. Qelong is awesome. And it is dense.

I think to get everything you can out of it takes some work ahead of time.

Fallen World Campaign [LotFP]–Nineteenth through Twenty-First Session (Or: How The Lamplighters found a ship to sail to different worlds)

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[WARNING: Toward the lower third of this post there are SPOILERS about a magic item found in The God That Crawls.]

Not enough time in my life for a detailed recap. But that’s fine. The gist of the weirdness is all that’s needed.

Please see this preceding post and this preceding post for context. Those links contain all the setting notes.

So, the Lamplighters approach Graupher’s Keep. They approach carefully, finding the gate locked, the pennants snapping in the wind, but no one at the walls to answer their calls.

They scaled the wall of the towers at the top of the stairs. Saw the corpses of men and strange creatures in the courtyard below…

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Their movements and efforts were methodical and careful. Such would be their pace for the next few sessions.

The Nightmare Lizard appeared from the doorway leading into the kitchen. It caught the gaze of the cleric, who was infected with a dream that began pounding in his thoughts–a memory of riding a horse across the Scottish countryside. The creature retreated, thinking, in its dim, lizard-like way, to pick off the intruders one-by-one.

The other Lamplighters moved quick down the walls into the courtyard. As they moved toward the buildings ahead of them, they found the strange creatures, the dead men wearing the crest of Graupher, and a collections of ruined puppets and a puppets stage. (This freaked them out.) They entered the main doors to the hall, found the shattered cages of the menagerie, and started to piece together what had happened as they explored.

They dispatched the creatures that escaped from the menagerie with greater ease than I expected. (I didn’t commit to telling the Players that they had so many rounds before the nightmares in their heads exploded their skulls from the inside out. This would have caused panic… but also might have killed two of them! Instead, I pulled my punches and it the nightmares in their heads were simply description–not a tangible reality that would fuck them up. So, that’s on me. Lesson learned. Stay tough!)

The explored some more. Figured out that the creatures had escaped. But not much more.

They then moved to the entrance of the Turning Tower, which I located at the north west edge of the keep.

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The tower took them about three weeks to deal with.

  • There was the slow exploration and looking for traps.
  • Slowly piecing together the strange architecture of concentric elements (even before they discovered the levers).
  • They encountered men raised from the dead as zombie who wore Graupher’s crest.
  • They met Tahneko, a creature built of many limbs and who controlled the zombies.
  • Tahneko asked them to find Baylor and kill her for him, for if they did not he would kill them. They said “Sure. We’ll go kill Baylor.”
  • They found another room with a spiral staircase. As they explored the room, naked clones of three men (a dozen of them) moved down the stairs toward them. These were creatures made by The Mother Of Unused Flesh, a creature summoned from the Plane of Flesh who now possessed Baylor, a sorcerer from the World of the Lost. (Please see this link for all the background details.)
  • Baylor appeared at the top of the stairs, a lovely woman with long, striking white hair, and asked them with two voices (one hers, one the Mother of Unused Flesh) to go kill Tahneko. They said, “Sure.”
  • They explored more. Found corpses. Found the private rooms of Pierre and the Archbishop. Found journals. Pieced together the history of what had happened.
  • They tried to find the lab in order to finish the Holy Word spell Pierre and the archbishop had been working on. But to no avail.

But they did find Graupher’s bed chamber:

  • Inside they found a strange box full of traps. Dismantling them one by one they found a small box with an amazing item in it: A miniature wheel of a sailing ship made of jade.
  • They then found a set of stairs leading to a rough corridor dug into the very mountain (remember the tower is built into the mountain).
  • They followed the corridor until it opened up to a huge cavern with an underground lake.
  • And upon the water of lake, in the huge cavern, was a three-masted sailing ship.
  • The ship, however, lacked its wheel.
  • They put together many clues and realized they had found Graupher’s method of traveling between worlds. When the jade sailing wheel was pulled from the box, it grew in size and could be placed on the steering spindle.
  • The numbers from the drawing they had found corresponded to the number of spokes on the wheel (12). By turning the wheel back and forth like a combination lock, they could travel to the worlds with the combinations they had. (Look for the numbers toward the middle of the folio sheet below.)

LotFP folio Qelong

But before they used the ship, they wanted to deal with Tahneko, the Mother Of Unused Flesh, and help Baylor if they could. So they left the tower to regroup and decide what to do next.


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Their magic-user burned lots of magic items and magical library books to build up a really solid bonus to cast a Summon Spell on The Mother Of Unused Flesh and rip her out of Baylor. It took three weeks to prep. But they did it!

But then, when they opened up the doors to the tower they found pressed wall to wall with cloned men. Some were zombies, some where not. The Mother Of Unused Flesh had been building an army of clones in the weeks the Lamplighters had been prepping their Summoning spell. The clones had gone off to fight Tahneko’s zombies. They almost reached Tahneko, but enough died on the way that Tahneko raised them as zombies. The fight was still ongoing. But it was a nightmare in the tower, with clones squeezing out the door.

The Lamplighters struggled to close the door before any zombies could get out. They succeeded, and discovered the that the clones, no longer controlled by The Mother Of Unused Flesh, were mindless husks.

Meanwhile, they were worried about Baylor — still in the tower, but no longer possessed. They assumed Tahneko was still alive, but with an army of two thousand or so zombies in the tower, what were the going to do?

And then the most amazing thing happened.

They remembered one of the items they had collected from the deepest level of The God That Crawls. They had found a series of chambers, each with the word FORBIDDEN on the door, and each containing a unique, bizarre magical item. They had been carrying many of these items around for weeks, afraid to use them, but afraid to simply toss them away.

One of the items was THE LOST BATTALION

The Lost Battalion
Here a cohort of 4″ lead legionnaire figurines are spread out on the shelf and piled on the floor. Under the base of the commander figure is the word “Attack” written in Latin.

If the commanding figure is held and the word spoken aloud, the cohort will animate and fight for the one holding the commander. They will not stop until the commander figure is destroyed.

Lead figure: Movement 30′, 0 level, treat as unarmored, attack does 1hp damage.

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They assumed that the figures would attack if the word “Attack” was spoken. But they didn’t know for sure who or what the figures would attack. (Might it be the person who speaks the  word “Attack”? Maybe!)

But they decided to give it a shot.

They snuck up to one of the tower’s murder holes facing the keep’s courtyard, dumped sack containing the cohort through the slot, and shouted the word “Attack.”

The Players were really tense a moment, not even sure if anything would happen. And they they saw the sack begin to shift. Tiny spears sliced through the fabric of the sack. The Players gave up a gasp. And then the Players gave out a cry as the figures leaped down from the ledge over the zombies and clones and set about attacking them.

Now, I had no idea any of this would be happening. I had no idea the Lamplighers would be taking three weeks to build a supercharged thaumaturgic circle in order to, essentially, performa an exorcism on Baylor. Thus, I had no idea The Mother Of Unused Flesh would have three weeks to make clones (at a rate of a new clone every ten minutes). And I certainly had no idea that the Players would have their characters pull out The Lost Battalion after having found it months ago in play.

So, I had to adjudicate on the spot the results of all this stuff.

I reviewed the facts about The Lost Battalion:

  1. There are 500 of them
  2. They each get an attack
  3. They deal 1hp each
  4. They are made of lead

I came up with the following:

  1. Flesh-hungry, mindless zombies will be utterly unaware of these magical lead figures, not only because they are made of lead but because the figures are so tiny and the zombies in the tower were presses up so tightly against each other they would not be able to easily look down.
  2. The figures are going to hit 40% of the time against the naked zombies. (AC 12 for unarmored figures). With 500 attacks a round, even at only 1hp each hit, The Lost Battalion would do (on average) 200hp every round against 1, 2, and 3HD monsters.
  3. I decided The Lost Battalion was going to behave essentially as a medieval-magic equivalent of a nanotechnology grey-goo and would simply mow through the zombies at an incredible rate, killing them with fantastic ease even before the zombies could react.

I came to understand quickly, in a way I hadn’t before, why the ancient monks who had built the catacombs of The God That Crawls, labeled the magic item FORBIDDEN! It is TERRIFYING!!!

So, with this item, the Players cleaned the the tower of the zombies.

They waited for silence. Then entered. Walking the corridors carefully, not sure what, if anything, had happened to Tahneko.

But he was dead. They found his body. He had been torn apart by The Lost Battalion.

Let’s look at Tahneko’s magical abilities (which are stolen from one of the creatures from Death Frost Doom, by the way):

  1. Each lvl drained adds d6hp to Tahneko
  2. Charm Someone by Looking in their Eyes AT WILL
  3. Telekinetically move up to 1000lbs AT WILL
  4. Can cause any item to melt in holders hand and appear in his AT WILL
  5. Control any undead AT WILL
  6. Detect all magic Items within 50′ AT WILL

I had to make one quick, off the cuff decision about ability number 3: Did it affect only 1 item up to 1000lbs, any number of items up to 1000lbs? I decided on the former — that he could, at will, slap anything around up to 1000lbs, but he could only focus on one item at a time.

And so, when the Lamplighters examined the room, they found several of the lead figures flattened against the wall opposite Tahneko. He did mange to fling several of them away from him with his massive power. But it was only one figure around, a magical power capable of flinging 1000lbs used to fling only a few ounces, while the rest of the cohort charged him tearing him apart.

Notice that NONE of his other magical defense could help him at all.

And so the Players defeated an amazing challenge in the most amazing way.

They found Baylor safe in the magical laboratory. (She had retreated to it as soon as The Mother Of All Flesh was pulled from her.)

So, now they had a sorcerous from another world as an ally. They had acquired a keep that now belonged to them. The magical tower now belonged to them. And they had a ship that could carry them to another world.