TRAVELLER: Out of the Box–More On the Value of Tables, Improvisation, and Lack of Plot

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In this post I discussed what “Encounters” meant in 1970s RPGs.

I later came across this post at Dispatches from Kickassistan called Dynamic Hexcrawl Required Reading: Yoon-Suin & Philosophy.

While the post is primarily about Yoon-Suin‘s amazing tables and design philosophy for presenting an RPG setting, it also addresses the value of randomization and tables in general.

I believe that such syntactical weight should be given to the improvisation, innovation and creation processes. Charts and tables can give you elements to play with, but it is through a conscious, creative action of building interrelations between those elements that details become facts and that facts are given life at the game table. We must interpret the data given to us and it is in that act of interpretation that data-gathering becomes synthesis, where we create something new out of the raw “A, B, C” of our data source.

This is why I love tables.

The best things that tables can be are (a) inventive (introducing new things I might not have thought about otherwise) and (b) useful. Yoon-Suin’s tables do these things on nearly every page. The book focuses more on creating interesting and useful social structures than stuff like terrain and lairs because, let’s face it, there’s enough stuff out there in other resources (or already in our brains) that reinventing the wheel isn’t always the most practical thing an author can do. But what is practical? Taking the “here, make it yourself” a few steps further than I’ve seen it done before and instead of telling me “this kingdom is like this, this other kingdom is like that,” author David McGrogan gives us different series of tables to let us figure out for ourselves what each place is like. In essence, he provides an aesthetic, you and I fill in the blanks when set about using the material. He provides the words, you and I supply the syntax.

One only has to keep the logic of this post in mind and see the value of Classic Traveller’s Main World Generation system and the use of its Random Encounter Tables. (Traveller‘s random encounter tables range from NPCs, to Patrons, to Starship Encounters, to Legal Encounters, to Animals.)

I should add that the Kickassistan post and posts like it are a corrective to folks who say, “I don’t like the crazy worlds Traveller‘s Main World Generation system offers.”

Tk Ben fair, the people who complain about the results of the Main World Generation System are  usually the folks trying to map entire an Traveller sector. That’s 16 subsectors, which averages 560 worlds! And sometimes they are trying to map multiple sectors(!), so drilling down for imaginative gold for so many planets might well prove frustrating if not impossible.

But if one remembers that in original Traveller one was supposed to develop one, maybe two, subsectors, the use of randomly generated Main Worlds as “a prod to the imagination” makes perfect sense. The system produces results that demand extraordinary justifications–and thus settings worthy of pulp adventure science-fiction.


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I think expanding the Random Patron table in Classic Traveller with some lessons from Yoon-Suin might be interesting.

Here are example tables from Yoon-Suin. In these tables the Referee determines what group the Player Characters encounter or know:

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One of the results is 6. Noble House.

Here is the table for Noble House:

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One could create such tables for a world, a cluster of stars or a subsector, to create a specific feel of culture and place. Many elements on the tables could be design as “open sets,” so instead of “Nobility” it might be “Ruling Class”–a term translatable to any kind of government system or world culture.

For something far less involved one could expand on the Traveller Patron Encounter table, modeling it on this table from Yoon-Suin:

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In this case, one would roll on the Patron Encounter from Classic Traveller, then roll on the middle column above, and then once more on the Classic Traveller Patron Encounter table. In this way the Referee doesn’t find himself simply staring at a noun (“Arsonist”). Instead, the table helps prompt action and situation in the Referee’s imagination.

Also note that in this method which NPC is looking to hire the PCs is not specified. The Referee, once he brainstorms up the situation, is free to have any of the NPCs he concocts wth this method approach the NPCs. An Arsonist might be the first NPC rolled, but it might be the Noble who hires the NPCs, knowing their is an Arsonist on his tail.


APPLYING THIS TO TRAVELLER

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Over at Citizens of the Imperium (membership required to read threads past the first post), Mike Wightman wrote up another interesting method of using the Patron Encounter table to help generate interesting results:

Easiest way is with an example (note that this is using the 81 version of LBB3 – Starter Edition and The Traveller Book actually have much more comprehensive tables)

I roll on the patron table and get:

rumour, avenger, army

next I roll on random person encounter

workers, animal encounter (a roll of 6,n I take as animal or alien) and ambushing brigands.

I pick the starting encounter:

Lets say the players encounter some workers who are obviously agitated, discussion with them reveals that the industrial plant they have been operating has been closed due to rumours of some violent native beast, and that some hotheads are thinking of going to hunt the animals down. There is a rumour that the animals in question have highly valuable (insert whatever you want here – anagathic glands, valuable fur, expensive blubber – whatever).

Players may or may not join the hunt, but they have been seen talking to the workers.

Next encounter depends – if they go on the animal hunt then they may encounter the ambushing brigands who are also after the animals, or they may encounter the army patrol guarding the industrial site and containing the animals.

If they don’t go on the hunt they are approached by the avenger who has lost (family member, best friend, whatever will pull players in) and offers to guide the players past the workers/army guards to get to the animals.

If they went along with the workers they may still encounter the avenger being attacked by the brigands/army patrol.

It’s fairly organic – I may decide to change the encounter order in response to player actions, and reaction rolls may make things more tense than they need to be.

And at some point I have to generate the animal stats…

By making several rolls on the Patron Encounter table, and letting his brain mull how they might be connected, he creates situations (not a linear adventure) for the Player Characters to wander into.

This kind of thinking–create situations for the Player Characters to wander into through the use of random tables–is often poo-pooed these days. But it was the bread-and-butter of RPG play in the 1970s.

The shift occurred when the model of publishing changed. At first, games were self-contained, with tables offering Referees and players a toolset method for creating situation, setting, and play. When you bought OD&D or Original Traveller, you really didn’t need anything else to have countless hours of play.

But, of course, that led the creators of these games with nothing else to sell. Moreover, consumers, being consumers, wanted to buy more things. Publishers obliged the consumers  by creating detailed setting and pre-built adventures.


cropped-big_thumb_5cd94fac8a576ffacd5c650d9754f745.jpgBACK IN THE OLD DAYS: SITUATIONS, NOT PRE-PLOTTED STORIES

A distinction has to be made here. The early adventures of Dungeons & Dragons were environments. That is, they had no plot and were not linear in their expectation of play. They were situations scattered around a map. What the Player Characters chose to pursue, in what order, whether to fight them, outsmart them, avoid them, exploit them, were all matters left to the Players to decide for their Player Characters.

So, as a modern example, I ran the module Death Frost Doom from Lamentations of the Flame Princess. (You can read all about my LotFP campaign if you are so interested.)

[SOME SPOILERS ABOUT DFD FOLLOW BELOW!!!]

The module is a terrific dungeon scenario. But it is structured in an interesting way:

The quest-item the PCs seek is at a “chock-point” in the geography of the dungeon, which basically divides the dungeon in half, and thus the adventure. The Players, upon having their characters find the quest object, can elect to grab the object and get the hell out of the creepy place. Or they can continue on, dealing deeper into the weirdness.

Importantly, the second half of the dungeon is where things get particularly bat-shit crazy. Even more importantly, there are events waiting in that back-back have what can have a cataclysmic, apocalyptic effect on the game’s campaign setting.

I ran the scenario knowing of two things would happen: An undead priest ruling an army of thousand of undead would rise and march on 17th Century Europe — or he would not. That, clearly, is a big fork in the road for any campaign. And I played it without any concern or expectation as to which way it would go. The Players would make choices and take actions on behalf of their PCs… and the fallout of those choices would dictate the direction of the campaign. I had no big plot, no agenda, no “right way” I wanted the “story” to go. I had no story, I had no expectations for the campaign. The campaign would, in fact, be exactly what it turned out to be, found through play, not in planning.


BACK TO TRAVELLER

If one reads the Adventure 1: The Kinunir for Classic Traveller one finds four situations, not a “story” or a campaign of any kind. The book is basically a list of suggestions for scenarios that the Referee will have to flesh out.  Adventure 1 does not assume any sort of straightforward plot. Rather, Adventure 1 assumes the Referee will be using both the material contained within its pages and all the Random Encounters Tables found in Traveller Books 1-3. These tables would be used to flesh out situations and an evening of play, adding unexpected details and situations and filling out the environment in unexpected ways.

But module design would change drastically within the first few years of the hobby.

By 1980 what I think of as “Old School” was already shifting and becoming lost. The needs of publishers are in many ways the antithetical to the promise of the early years of the hobby. Call of Cthulhu, for example, published in 1981, was firmly in the camp of very linear, very “Your Players Will Experience This” modules.

I don’t think the folks first playing D&D from 1974 to, say, 1978 would ever have imagined such a structure as the Dragonlance modules. And, I would argue, the folks first playing Traveller would have looked at The Traveller Adventure and not quite known what to make of it.

Many people enjoy these very plotted adventures–and I would never begrudge those people their pleasure. My only point is that such designs gut the original spirit of play of early RPGs.

Tightly structured adventure scenarios fall apart with too much randomness or too much freewheeling agency on the part of the PCs. Rather than find out where the campaign goes based on the mix of the PCs actions and randomly rolled details, later RPG design expected PCs to follow the paths of the adventure “correctly”–or render the investment of the module useless. Whether such play is better or worse, it is certainly different.

One of the joys of the OSR is bringing back a trust and expectation of randomness, and a love of discovering where the campaign will go through play.

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A Kind Mention of My Group’s Lamentations of the Flame Princess Game

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Over at Dragons Gonna’ Drag, Justin Steward names his Five Favorite LotFP Play Report Series… and my group’s game is on the list.

We’re on hiatus right now (with other members of the group running having run different games over the last few months) but I’m gearing back up and we’ll be playing again in a few weeks. It was a delight to see the game mentioned in such terrific company.

Check out the other Play Reports listed. They’re all a blast.

Fallen World Campaign [LotFP]–Eighteenth Session

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– Or –

Shit Just Got Real

The Player Characters had spent several sessions exploring Scenic Dunnsmouth (reworked and renamed for my campaign as Scenic Bergenzel).

In the last session the group had managed to hold off attacks from both Uncle Ivanovik, his hunting dogs, the Original Spider, and the spider’s cultists. As always in this game, the Players had a lot of choices to deal with: Should they continue exploring the village for more effects of the Spider Cult? Should they look for the source of the village’s strange time dilation and solve that mystery? Should they head back to the town of Murnau, where they had left Karr-El, the Jale-skinned warrior from Carcosa they had befriended? Should they head back to Munich to fence their treasure so they could level up (per the Lamentation of the Flame Princess rules)?

Their decision of what to do next was based on two points:

  • They now knew that time moved slower in Bergenzel than in the outside world. They also had no idea how much time had passed in the outside world while they had been in Bergenzel for what seemed to them to be only a few hours. So they were worried about how Karr-El was faring back in Murnau. Getting back to Murnau to check to make sure Karr-El was all right seemed paramount. (They had left him in an inn with a stock of food.)
  • Moreover, they had acquired enough treasure so that all of them were going to level at least once (the Specialist in the group would in fact hit two levels). And those that leveled once would also be gaining enough XP to be just under the level requirement to gain another level very quickly after that. So, getting back to Munich alive to take advantage of the XP gains seemed a wise course. (How sad would it be to continue exploring Bergenzel only to die because they did not get the extra Hit Points awaiting them if they had instead returned to turn in their treasure and gain levels in Munich?)

They group decided it was going to travel back to Murnau, collect Karr-El, and then get back to Munich to turn in their treasure and level up. The group had also rented a farm house for a full three months and had hirelings waiting for them there (an alchemist and two fighters). They would rest up, research spells, and make plans for their next move.


However, as they approached Murnau they saw smoke rising in the distance. Getting closer they saw flame burning low and the charred remains of the town. They could just make out corpses scattered about the land around the town. And at the edges of the town they saw crucifixes with people on them. They assumed, reasonably, that the mad, religious war sweeping Europe had reached the town they had left recently left. But, more importantly, they had left their companion from another world in a town that had just been attacked and massacred.

They rushed toward Murnau, covering distance quickly, leaving caution aside. When they reached some of the corpses outside the town they examined them. They found arrows in the backs of some. But others had cauterized wounds that had punched through the clothes and into the backs. The group was a bit stunned by this, as their 20th Century brains struggled to mesh together what their 17th Century characters were looking at.

“So,” one of the Players tentatively ventured, “might we say this is… laser fire?”

Beat.

“Not that we would know that.”

I nodded. “Exactly.”

The group kind of went crazy at that moment. Not in an excited violent way. But their imaginations were stirred in a confused way, not sure what the heck to do with this new, important piece of information.


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What the Players didn’t know yet, but that I’m about to tell you, as that the marauders who destroyed Murnau were not Protestant soldiers but a company of warriors and sorcerers from Carcosa.

At this point the Players know that Carcosa exists. They know that there are Sorcerers on Carcosa and learned from Kaar-El that Sorcerers get their powers from making deal with strange gods. They know that there are warriors, but have only seen the warriors use strange, primitive swords carved of stone. They know Carcosa is a brutal place of tribes and clans.

But because Kaar-El would have a difficult time articulating some of the concepts of his world to people of 17th Century Europe, and because it never occurred to the Players to ask, there has been no discussion of the alien technology left behind on the world of Carcosa and now used by its warriors.

And to clarify some of the basics of travel between Carcosa and Earth…

  • People can travel from Carcosa to Earth via Null Space using the Spatial Transference Void on Carcosa. (The Spatial Transference Void is found on p. 31 of Carcosa. I have added the Null Space/travel element for the needs of my campaign. Also of note: The Player Characters know about the Spatial Transference Void on Carcosa because three PCs got trapped in Null Space while adventuring in The God That Crawls. The remaining members of the group wanted to find a means of rescuing their friends, and their research into Null Space led them to understand there was a method of entering Null Space on Carcosa.)
  • There is no direct portal from Earth back to Carcaso. Thus, a ritual was made to create the World Stone. This stone, activated by murdering three people, allows folks to teleport from Earth back to Carcosa. The World Stone is inefficient: It only allows one person to travel per murdered person (the murderer is the one who travels) and it only transports organic material (so no alien technology). Thus, Carcosa has been shuttling spies and limited strike teams back and forth between Carcosa and Earth, but has yet to find the means of efficiently launching an invasion.
  • The Players found the World Stone in a Duvan’Ku temple (it was the McGuffin found in the Sacred Parasite’s chamber in Death Frost Doom), but have so far been loathe to use it. First, because they are afraid going to Carcosa. And second the whole murder thing is kicking them out.
  • Agents from Carcosa have been hunting them to track down the World Stone. Currently, anyone from Carcosa on Earth is trapped here.
  • With the loss of the World Stone to the Duvan’Ku several decades ago, all communication back to Carcosa has stopped. But a cult on Carcosa has stepped up efforts, sending sorcerers and warriors to Earth. The motivating strategy has been successful: in order to survive, the Carcosans have been working their asses off to figure out how to open a fluid gate between Earth and Carcosa. They did research on the Duvan’Ku and discovered the cult, through their research in manipulating time, also found methods of seeing other worlds (the snow globes in DFD!) They are now seeking out methods of traveling to other worlds in alternate earths to get help.
  • Note that the Player Characters are pursuing a similar path of research and exploration, having tracked down the Other Worldly Explorer and having found the codes to three other worlds in the Other Worldly Explorer’s drawings.
  • Note that Carcosa and Earth are in the same dimension, and none of the methods everyone is pursuing right now can help anyone get back and forth between Carcosa and Earth. The issue of traveling between Carcosa and Earth is traveling, quickly, the gulfs of space. These new methods are for traveling between alternate Earths.

So, the Player Characters rushed into town, finding a few survivors amid the ruined buildings as they searched for Karr-El. A young boy told of how the attacks fired weapons of “colored-lightning”–confirming the fears of the Players.

When they finally found their Jale-colored friend, he was burnt and dying. I had set him at -4 HP (meaning, per the LotFP rules, he could not be cured), but hanging on with all of his effort to warn his companions if they could find him before he died.

He was so happy to see them. And so desperate to warn them who had destroyed Murnau and to warn them of what was to come.

Days earlier I had been walking the dogs and this monologue popped into my head. I spoke for Karr-El, pretty much word for word as it had first occurred to me:

You need to know, you need to know, they’ve come… I didn’t tell them anything, they wanted me to tell them where your were, but I didn’t tell them anything. But I listened, I listened to what they said. They’re heading for a temple, full of glass globes that can lead to other worlds. They have used auguries and magic to find a world with a metal canister containing a magical substance, Aakom… they are going to find it. They are going to rip a hole between your world and my world. They are coming to replace your gods with our own. You must not let them do this… 

I was listening, while I was in the room you left me in, I was listening between, I think you called him a priest, I saw him from the window. A young man came to visit him. They were talking. I was listening through the wall. The young man was worried about many things. And the priest said, “Let us pray.”

And I heard the prayer. It began, “Our Father, who art in Heaven… give us this day, our daily bread…” And I thought, I know those words, words like those words, that’s who we beg for food on my world. But then the priest said, “And forgive us our trespasses, as we we forgive those who trespass against us… lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…”

And here Karr-El choked up…

We have no words like that on my world. You must stop them. You must not let them bring my gods here.

He looked to the two clerics in the party.

If my friends were to die, I wish they could die on this world. Because it is, what I think you call, Heaven.

And he died.


Well, after that there was this quiet moment from the Players. And then, whereas all options were open, there was a sudden determination on the part of the Players to focus their efforts and find a way to stop the invasion of Earth by the Carcosan gods.

The picked up on what Karr-El had said about the metal container. They went through the handouts and scraps and notes they’d been accumulating for the first 17 sessions of play. And then they pulled out this sheet from the folio they found in the home of the Other Worldly Explorer:

LotFP folio Qelong

“There,” they shouted, “the canister!” as they jabbed their finger at the image of the canister.

“That’s where we’re going,” they declared, focusing their decisions to a specific path.

I explained to the group’s Magic-User that Aakom is rumored in the reality bending texts of the arcane arts. It is the string-theory of magic, I said, and quoted the words from Qelong about it: “Aakom is a substance somewhere between mana, azoth, and plutonium.”

They were all suitably impressed.

They gave Karr-El a burial, and took what survivors they could and made their way back to the barn they had rented outside of Munich. They decided they would level up, research spells, and make decisions on what equipment and retainers to add to the group with all the loot they had hauled out of Bergenzel.

The session then slowed down to them looking through the rule book on the sorts of retainers they could hire, looking at details about estate managers and accountants.

My fiancée was in the kitchen baking, listening to all this talk of monthly expenses and employment concerns and declared: “What are you people doing! This sound terrible!” Because, honestly, it sounded like they were planning a new company at my dining table.

The hour had run late, and there were more planning to be done. I decided to let the group dwell on these matters in the break between sessions before they committed to further action.

As it is, they plan on heading for the Other Worldly Explorer’s keep in the Alps. And there they hope to find the method of traveling to the world with the Aakom, getting to the canister before the group from Carcosa does.


Weeks have already passed in preparations at the barn. Meanwhile, the Carcosans, led by His Magisterial Importance, have followed in the footsteps of the Player Characters into the temple of the Duvan’Ku. They lost several members when they became possessed by the Clerics in the shrine (and were gunned down by their companions.)

But His Magisterial Importance and his troops have found the snow globes hidden away in the Duvan’Ku High Priest’s chamber. Using arcane methods learned by a sorcerer who has studied the ways of earth magic for decades, he has discerned which world contains the Aakom they need to port back and forth between Earth and Carcosa. They, too, wish to travel to the Valley of Qelong…

A Note on the XP System from Lamentations of the Flame Princess

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I’m loving it.

Here are the basic rules for gaining Experience Points and leveling:

1. Player Characters receive XP for defeating enemies (not sneaking around them; not tricking them; not negotiating with them). XP is based on Hit Dice, with the following formula. (Please note how relatively low the XP award is compared to the reward for hauling back thousands of silver pieces, as described next.)

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2. Player Characters receive XP for recovering treasure. One silver piece worth of treasure is worth 1 Experience Point. Here is the text from Rules & Magic:

Recovering Treasure 

This is the primary method for gaining XP in the game. However, not all monetary gains are counted as “treasure.” The following will gain the characters wealth, but they do not count for XP purposes:

  • Coins looted from bodies outside of adventure locations
  • Rewards
  • Selling equipment stripped from foes
  • Selling magical items that have been used by a player character or retainer
  • Tax income
  • Theft of wealth from mundane merchants, rulers, and citizens
  • commerce, and other business activity (including selling of mundane items stripped from foes)
  • The following treasures do count for XP purposes:
  • All valuable objects recovered from uncivilized or abandoned areas
  • Money hoarded by creatures who have no actual use of it

3. Experience awards are to be divided equally amongst the surviving participants of the adventure. (So when it comes to XP, there’s no point in pilfering gems out of a companions pockets or sneaking off to grab some silver candlesticks while no one is looking.)

4. Treasure is calculated for XP only after it has been returned to a secure location.

Notice that there is no XP offered for role playing, spending the silver, carousing, or any other activity than defeating monsters and recovering treasure from adventure locations.

What does this system do?

  • It focuses play on exploration rather than combat, since PCs will gain much more XP by finding treasure than defeating monsters
  • It focuses play on exploration rather than combat, since PCs who enter combat might die, and the best reward is for finding treasure over combat
  • It focuses play on the group, since there is no reward for going off on one’s own to roleplay or carouse
  • It focuses play on the group, since finding treasure for XP and hauling it back to civilization to level up depends on the efforts of many
  • It focuses play in general–everyone knows and understand quickly what the game is about. No matter what else is going on in terms of roleplaying or big plots in the campaign, everyone knows that what we are ultimately focused on:
    • Going to adventure locations;
    • To find treasure;
    • And bring it back to civilization.

There is a clarity to all this that is great at the table becauseif the players get lost in terms of what to do with their PCs (which happens sometimes), these rules always guide them back to simple principles: Go find an adventure location; find the treasure within; bring it back to civilization.

Notice, too, that the game focuses Player goals for their Player Characters in a very simple and stark way. No matter what else is happening in terms of roleplaying and campaign plots, there is one ambition everyone at the table can always agree on: Leveling up is a good idea.

Keep in mind that when I run my Lamentations of the Flame Princess game, there is an open and honest chance the characters can die during play. So the Players very much want to level their characters, because they want those extra Hit Points, if nothing else.

Keep in mind, too, that in the tradition of Original Dungeons & Dragons, as well as Lamentations of the Flame Princess, balancing encounters is not a concern for the Referee. The Players might very well encounter a creature or situation that overpowers them. How they choose to engage new and mysterious creatures is part of the adventure. If they are clever and play well, they’ll understand they are outgunned and make decisions about how best to handle a creature. They might avoid it, trick it, trap it, and more. But the key is, sometime situations go south… and having more Hit Point, more spells, more modifiers to hit are all a great thing to have. Again, this drives the Players to want to level. Which in turn provides clarity of play.

Fallen World Campaign [LotFP]–Seventeenth Session

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The third session of Scenic Dunnsmouth, the first big fight of the game. Pulled out the battle map and cardboard figures.

The killed Magda (infected) last week. Tonight they went down to the basement.

When the adventurers went down to the basement, they saw a tapestry hanging upon  a wall. Upon the tapestry was the image above, along with smaller images of insects and images of planets and stars…

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The adventurers recognized the ant symbol from the map they had found magical marking the topography of a Bavaria inside the skin of a flayed knight. (It’s a long story… you can read more about it here.) The bug shows the location of Goblin Hill in Better Than Any Man. They group almost journeyed to Karlstadt (and thus Better Than Any Man), but got waylaid in Munich searching for rumors about explorers to other worlds, found their way into the The God That Crawls, and never headed north after all. i simply sits there on my shelf, waiting to be unleashed.

So… the players saw the tapestry and were all like, “BUGS!”

There were also three corpses on the floor. Actually, they weren’t corpses. They were cultists, playing possum after hearing Magda cry out upstairs after being killed by the Magic Missiles. When they heard the adventurers searching upstairs for twenty minutes, they decided to play dead and see if they could ambush anyone who came downstairs.

Three adventurers went down to the basement. They were cautious about the corpses. The cultists revealed themselves, combat ensued.

Meanwhile, upstairs, as the fight broke out downstairs, Uncle Ivanovik showed up, screaming “She was mine to kill!” (He had been tracking them for hours, waiting for the right time to strike.)

After the portion of the party downstairs dispatched the cultists they ran upstairs to help the friends upstairs — only to be attacked in the rear by the Original Spider, who had been hiding in a tapestry behind an alcove. Meanwhile, one party member crashed through a window in an effort to race around the cottage and flank Ivanovik — only to run into Ivanavik’s hunting dogs.

So, they were fighting–for a moment–on all fronts. But Adrian, the Scottish Witch Hunter, got the initiative, fired his pistol into the Original Spider’s head for some solid damage, jumped out of the trap door from the steps, kicking the trap door shut, and flinging himself on it.

Anika, the group’s Magic-User, cast Hold Portal on the door, sealing the Original Spider in the basement for at least 50 minutes–giving the party time to focus on Uncle Ivanovik and his dogs.

In the next round everyone gathered around Ivanovik as best they could, with Anika casting Fairy Fire on him. The +2 bonus from the Fairy Fire was augmented by a bonus I gave each attacker for having multiple attacks on him. Moreover, Werner, a fighter, had gained 10 Blessing points by toasting a glass of whisky with Graupher’s corpse the session before (per the instructions in the Scenic Dunnsmouth rules), and The Doctor (one of the Clerics) cast a Blessing on himself to aid in the attacks as well.

So bonuses were flying left and right. Adrian killed one of the war hounds. The rest of the group reduced Ivanovik to 1/4 his Hit Points, and I decided to make a Morale Check. He failed! I declared he would flee on the next round. (In the game, we all declare actions first, and then roll a single initiative die per side.) He won the initiative! He bolted at 120′ into the mist, vanishing from sight. Or at least he would have, except he still had Fairy Fire glowing on him! Everyone chased him out of the house at one third their combat speed, which allowed them to make attacks with the various ranged weapons they had (two firearms, a crossbow, an arrow). I had everyone roll at once, totaled the damage, and down Uncle Ivanovik went!

They then drilled holes into the basement. Anika had prepared several grenades made of glass spheres filled with gunpowder and rusty nails. They lured the Original Spider towards the holes they had drilled by dropping the heads of Uncle Ivanovik and Magda down into the basement. When the Original Spider approached, they dropped the grenades… and did exactly as much damage as they needed to kill the thing.

Of course, the grenades did a great deal of damage in the basement. I had them roll a d100 and divide it in half. That revealed the reduction in value of the magical library and lab equipment they would later find when they searched the basement.

They did win — but they were all certain they would be dead soon enough!


Having a night to sleep on it and a ponder to think about it, I’m not sure I’ll be bringing the battlemat out again.

In previous sessions, where we played without markers and I made quick sketches for reference, the fights were more fluid and a bit more entertaining. By keeping it in the imagination of the players the combat felt more “alive” even though we used all the rules, positing, and modifiers.

Something I’m going to think more about.

Fallen World Campaign [LotFP]–Sixteenth Session

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The Lamplighters (the name the Players have given their group), began the session in Scenic Bergenzel, and finished the session still in Bergenzel.

I thought they would have left, for at the end of the previous session, the came across the Mona Lisa in the home of Rudolph Grauph, the Other Worldly Explorer. This is not a copy, but the actual painting by da Vinci from an alternate Earth. Sure, this means that there are now two copies of the Mona Lisa in Europe. But still, it’s authentic and will fetch the party more than enough silver (45,000sp, to be precise) to level everyone up. But there were still mysteries to solve, and the Players suspect that there’s evil-doing they might be able to put a rest to. And because they have, in their heart-of-hearts, a desire to be heroic, they stayed to deal with the mysteries at hand.

The session began with a lot of throat clearing on the part of the Players. They had a many threads of adventure and danger in front of them, and weren’t sure which way to go or what to do. This wasn’t because they were lost or uncertain of their choices. There were simply so many choices!

The Player Characters left Grauph’s home, riding the skiff they took from Herman van Kaus’ boat house.

The priest, Father Iwanopoulous had seen enough weirdness and terror for one night (the stuffed and mounted corpses, the alien artifacts in the Explorer’s home, the attack by Uncle Ivanovik) and asked to be returned to his church.

The PCs agreed and traveled to pick up Herman van Kaus, who they had left (in a state of shock after seeing his niece’s true nature) at his brother’s house.

Herman was still in shock. And Father Iwanopoulous, missing the safety of his church, asked that he and Herman be brought by the adventurers back to his church. The adventurers agreed, dropping them off, and working out a signal for the priest to mark when it will be safe for the those hiding in the church to open the door.

All of this took time on the part of the adventurers, with everyone with a lit lantern tracking the amount of oil used with the poker chip scheme I came up with.

Father Iwanopoulous had told them that a member of the Dietz family was a servant to Jako and Sue Amster. He often went up to the mountain on errands for the Amsters, and Father Iwanopoulous believed he had dealing with Grauph in Grauph’s base up in the Alps.

The whole purpose of coming to Bergenzel was to track down Grauph based in the Alps, since they had heard rumors he had traveled to other worlds. They had heard that he had a home in Bergenzel that he sometimes stayed at, and so Bergenzel seemed the best starting point for their quest. Since arriving in Bergenzel:

  • Grauph’s corpse, which meant no answers would be coming from him…
  • Images he had drawn from other worlds, each with a code of some sort that most likely allowed them access to the world…
  • No clues as how to access those worlds…

The only way forward to using the drawings they had found of other worlds was to find his keep in the Alps and see if contains the answers they seek.

But first, a few notes about how an Other Worldly Explorer ended up in a published module, and how all this fits into notions I had four months ago…


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If you look back at the Random Rumor Table I created for the campaign, you can see how I began sowing seeds of all these ideas and ambitions into the game from start.

The value of a Rumor table is this: I get to say, “These are the things that interest me,” and present them to the Players. It’s a menu of things to explore. But do I expect them to pursue them all?  No. Do I expect them to pursue them all in any particular order? No. While the Rumor are there to entice and focus the Players, it is up to them to decide what to do.

So, the Rumor Table says, “This is what interests me!” And in turn the Players say, “From this list, this is what interests us!” But note we’re all sharing off the same list. This is important! I get what interests me. They get what interests them.

You can see the references to Grauph in the image from the table above. I didn’t know his name Grauph four months ago, though I did know there was a man who had travelled to different worlds. I thought at first I was going to make his home the home of the last scenario in No Dignity in Death. But then I bought and read Scenic Dunnsmouth and fell in love with it. I decided to place the village at the base of the Alps on the way to the home of the Other Worldly Explorer.

The fun of Scenic Dunnsmouth is that you create the village from scratch, using dice and playing cards. The book contains a whole slew of NPCs, each divided into four families with specific traits. There are also special locations that can come up in the creation process, depending on how the dice fall.

I created the town exactly as described, with one forced alteration: I knew the Other Worldly Explorers . There is, in the setting, the possibility that there will be the home to a Worldly Explorer. Where a particular d12 fell, I decreed it would be the Worldly Explorer’s home… and then made it the Other Worldly Explorer’s home.

[The only other solid change was switching some of the names out, to make them make more sense in the Bavarian setting where I had place the town.]

And when I randomly created the home of Jako and Sue Amster, I discovered they had a servant, Isiah, who “is almost always making treks into the mountains to bring back hay and vegetation for the cows.” I immediately decided that his “treks into the mountains” involved interactions with Graup at his keep. Which would tie into the quest the Player Characters had set for themselves.

Part of the fun of the campaign has been the challenge and delight in taking all these terrific modules and finding the elements already in them to inspire me in my efforts to stitch things together. For example, the snow globes found in Death Frost Doom inspired my notion that there were many worlds, some of them at war with each other using earth as a battlefield, that the Player Characters could travel to. This, in turn, led to the notion that while my game was set in 17th Century Europe, I could use all the wonderful Lamentation of the Flame Princess books I had bought no matter how fantastical. (I already owned Death Frost Doom, Qelong, and Carcosa before play began, and have picked up Isle of the UnknownCastle Gargantua, and others since we started.)


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The adventurers, followed Father Iwanopoulous’ directions, heading off for the estate of Jako and Sue Amster on board their skiff. As near the southeast corner of the village they hear gentle mooing from cows. They find a spot to hide the skiff, climb up the bank to the driest part of the village they’ve seen so far. They see cows up ahead.

In short order the following things happen:

  • They come across Jako Amster, who looks down upon them (with the muddy, thuggish armor) and wishes them to go away.
  • They ask about 20 years of back taxes, but he tells them he’s current on his taxes, having paid his taxes for the past five years to the new priest in town. The Players all know that the priest arrived 20 years ago, and this one more piece of evidence to tell them time is _screwy_ around Bergenzel.
  • They ask to see Isaiah, telling Jako they have the authority of the priest in Murnau backing them on this. Jako gets his servant.
  • Isaiah arrives, bent, stooped with age. He is the only person who leaves the village regularly. So, once again, the group knows something is wonky with time in Bergenzel, since those who leave it do not gain its slow-time effects.
  • Isaiah leads the adventurers a little bit away. I have him beg them to help him escape, along with Martin (Jako’s son). Isaiah knows something strange is going in with the village in terms of children born with deformities and something strange going on in Magda’s hut. Jako went to the hut a the instruction of a relative a few months ago. And then he brought his wife. And now they are planning on bringing the boy. The adventurers agree to get Isaiah and Martin out of Bergenzel in exchange for Isaiah leading them to Graupher’s keep in the Alps.
  • Isaiah goes to get Martin secretly out of the house. The adventurers hear shouting, a little boy shrieking. They storm the house from different entrances. One adventurer shoots Jako dead. They find Isaiah bloodied and dazed at the base of the stairs. They rush upstairs and find Martin’s mother about to slit her son’s throat rather than have him taken away from the Original Spider. The two clerics rush in, tackling her to the ground and freeing the boy. But she won’t stop struggling, going for the knife, and two more party members standing over her kill her with arrow shots.

They get Isaiah and Martin to the church and leave them with the priest. They then head to Magda’s cottage.

Carefully they approach the cottage, using trees and shrugs for cover.

Anika, the group’s Magic-User, sends an unseen servant carrying a lit torch toward the cottage’s front door. Everyone watches the torch drift eerily though the thick mist toward the door. The unseen servant knocks on the door.

Everyone waits a moment. The door opens with a creak. A few members of the party can just make out the pale face of a woman, the rest of her hidden by the black clothes she wears.

Anika hears Magda speak… she is casting a Charm Person on one of the clerics. (Charm Person is the only spell she knows, sadly.) Anika casts magic missile. Initiative rolls are made. Magda gets her spell off, and the cleric fails his saving throw. But Anika’s magic missile rush at her with streaks of blinding white light and cut Magda down in one attack!

She falls dead in the doorway. The Charm Person breaks.

As the Players would later say:

“She brought a Charm Person to a Magic Missile Fight.”

The players had their characters carefully enter the house and search the chicken shed attached to the cottage. They searched a full twenty minutes before they could feel the heat from the basement below on the floor and found a secret trap door.

Lifting it, they saw stairs leading down to the basement.

And there we stopped of the night…

Fallen World Campaign [LotFP]–Fifteenth Session

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SCENIC BERGENZEL (AKA Scenic Dunnsmouth)
–or–
DEATH AND TAXIDERMY

SPOILERS BELOW! See previous entries for how we ended up here.

The adventurers make their way up from Herman’s Boat House to the cottage of Adolph and Sheila Van Kaus. Hearing voices from the cottage (just audible over the sound of the bleating of the sickly sheep eating moss around the house), they pause and eavesdrop. They hear Adolph and Sheila bemoaning their fate, Sheila wishing she had a husband who could make her marvelous furniture, and Adolph wishing he had a wife worthy of making marvelous furniture for. (It’s all from the module. It’s great.) The players were amused and delighted and disarmed, and walked up to knock on the door.

Now the house has been infected, which means the couple’s daughter, Kaylee is a product of the cult–an attractive girl with six spider arms and able to fight with all of them with a dagger each. She’s in her bedroom, with the door closed, so while Adolph is rude to the Player Characters, they suspect little danger. They get information about where the Church is and decide to move on.

However, Mike, who plays Vilfolk, a Specialist, has decided that he’s going to stay behind and talk to the couple about fixing their leaky roof. The party doesn’t usually split up. But it becomes clear through the evening’s play that Mike is making sure isolate his character in order to draw out trouble to himself and lure the dangers of the village out into the open.

Now, Adolph and Sheila are supposed to be obnoxious and drive PCs away, due to their family nature. But when one of the Player Characters offers to stay behind, I realize that this is one of the few chances I might have for the infected villagers to get the drop on one of the PCs and get him or her to the Spider to be infected. So, first Adolph refused Vilfolk’s offer. And then, as soon as the party is leaving, the door swings open again, and he invites Vilfolk inside.

Eric, another player, decides that his character Werner, is going to stay with Vilfolk, standing outside the cottage with his crossbow ready, in case trouble arrives.

The rest of the group heads north through the swamp for the church, looking for Father Iwanopolous in order to secure the back taxes they’ve bought from Father Jonah back in Murnau.

Adolph tours Vilfolk through the leaks in the ceiling, leading him to the master bedroom, and then his daughter’s bedroom. Vilfolk is on guard. But as he heads back to the main room with Adloph (where Sheila has been sitting the whole time) Kaylee moves quickly from her bedroom, a dagger in each of her six hands, and strikes! She get surprise! I am convinced that I’m about to take Vilvolk down and then move quickly to dispatch Werner!

But… Kaylee rolls poorly, only hitting twice (!), and then only doing a few points of damage (!). The fight is on!

Sheila has grabbed a dagger and rushes for Werner. Werner fires a crossbow bolt into her. Vilfolk fights Kaylee, then realizes he might not last against all of her attacks. He bolts for the door to join Werner outside. Werner meanwhile drops his crossbow and swings the Spear of Longinus he took from The God That Crawls into Sheila. (This is the first time Werner has used the spear. He does not know it yet, but he is now cursed, unable to be helped by spells cast by Clerics.) Sheila is killed by the blow. Kaylee arrives right behind Vilfolk.

They fight Kaylee in the doorway, blocking Adolph from helping… but still… six attacks a turn. They end up fighting defensively as they call for their companions to return.

The rest of the group is a few minutes away up the swamp. By the time they get back the fight will be over one way or another. But they hustle as fast as they can back south.

Adolph sneaks out a window with a club and tries to flank them. Lots of wounds back and forth, until both Kaylee and Adolph are dead.

Now, I didn’t expect this to happen. But now I’ve tipped my hand… the PCs all gather up, examine Kaylee’s corpse, and quickly surmise some sort of Spider Cult is busy in Bergenzel.

The group goes back to Herman’s shack. They aggressively demand he tell them what is going on. (They are certain everyone is in on it and are preparing to string up everyone.) They drag Herman’s ass up the path to his brother’s place and show him the corpse of his niece. He goes paler than he already is, drops to his knees, and passes out. Suddenly they are not sure if everyone in Bergenzel is already corrupt. (Note: Not everyone is.)

They leave Herman in the cottage, take his skiff, and make their way up to the church for more information.

LotFP Player Map Scenic Bergenzel


They find Father Iwonopolous. They know Father Jonah sent him to Bergenzel 20 years ago. But when they ask about how long he has been in in the village, he says about five years. And even then, in his eyes, he seems hazy and confused about the matter.

They tell him about Kaylee, and he begins to understand that Magda, living in a cottage north of the church, might be at the center of this. Many of the parishioners have invited him to go to her home and try to save her soul. The Players now suspect that getting folks to Magda’s place is ruse to get folks infected.

They ask about Rudolph Graupher. He is the explorer of other worlds they are seeking. (Although they might make some money collecting taxes, they really are here to track down clues to find him. They know his keep is in an hidden location in the Alsp. But they also know he might have a home here in Bergenzel.) The priest knows Graupher, though he can’t remember when he saw him last. But he will lead them to the house.


 

LotFP folio Qelong

They reach Graupher’s house. This was the Worldly Explorer’s Home in the Scenic Dunnsmouth rules. I have made it the Other Worldly’s Explorer’s home. It is the only element I “forced” when setting up the village. Everything else was random, per the Scenic Dunnsmouth rules.

By chance, the Other Worldly Explorer’s Home also is where Uncle Ivanovik (a terrifyingly powerful serial killer wielding a rusty two handed axe) has set up shop in Bergenzel. He is crazy, believes Magda was once his wife, and wants to kill her. He hunts people in the swamp, and then stuffs them like trophies. Here are my notes for the house. Some are straight from the book, others are altered because of my needs for the campaign:

WORLDLY EXPLORER’S HOME

Here lies the abandoned home of RUDOLPH GRAUPHER, a man of wealth who explored the alternate realities of many earths. Trinkets from these other worlds decorate each and every room of his three story brick home.

His parlour contains alien masks carved from a strange, greenish petrified wood, mannequins in Oriental looking silk dresses (three of them, each worth 100sp, though closer inspection reveals there is slit in the back for what might be a tail), and a fez sits on the mantelpiece underneath a shield with an emblem they do not recognize on it and a pair of swords of unseen design behind it. His fine leather furniture is protected by linen sheets. His dining room contains a solid oak table, a set of ten exquisitely carved chairs, and a fabulous oil painting mounted on one wall.

The painting is worth 40sp, but if the player characters have great knowledge of the art world the painting is actually from a famous Dutch museum (actually, a copy from an alternate Earth) (which apparently now houses a fraud) and is worth 45,000sp. No matter what the value of the painting, it depicts a dark haired noblewoman with an enigmatic smile.

At the top of the stairs stands a stuffed creature, like a bear but with feathers rather than fur and eyes all over its face, rearing up as if to attack. Grauphen’s bedroom contains lacquered wicker furniture and a heart shaped bed with zebra fur blankets.

A gem inlaid rapier (worth 650sp) and 4 bottles of expensive scotch (each worth 200sp) are tucked into his dresser.

Per the setup if Uncle Ivanovik has set up house, Graupher is dead and stuffed at the head of the table. There are also several adventurers, naked, gutted, and stuffed poorly, their feet nailed to the floor to keep them upright. They are in fierce poses to mimic the pose of the creature at the top of the stairs. (However, the creature’s taxidermy is done well… the work done on the dead men is not.)

The whole encounter played out with growing terror. At first, looking in the living room from the front door, it seemed like a normal but empty home.

But then one of the characters decided “Since we’re here…” to take a quick look inside. The door was unlocked, after all, so why not.

Stepping inside they saw the first of the stuffed and posed men. And from there the weirdness kept building… more naked and stuffed men. Artifact from alien worlds. And so on.

So they decided to explore the whole place after all. Everyone but Vilfolk made their way through the house, checking for traps, and exploring carefully. Vilfolk waited by the front door with the priest. The water of the flooded swamp reached right up to the doorway.


LotFP folio Gargantua

On the second floor of the house the Player Character found a dozen GLOBES… all showing continents and worlds that did not match any maps they had ever seen before.

They also found THREE SHEETS FROM A FOLIO that had been scattered on the floor.

The pages are covered with DRAWINGS. I described the drawings as looking tentative, as if the hand drawing them were finding the elements of the images “as if in a dream…

There are also, on each page, A COMBINATION OF NUMBERS of some sort. (You can see them you look at the accompanying photos.) The Player Characters will, if they track down the Graupher’s keep in the Alps, be able to use these numbers to travel to the worlds illustrated on each sheet.

Anikia, the Magic-User, meanwhile detects a scent in the room. It is similar to the Lotus Powder the adventurers found in Death Frost Doom, but processed in a different, magical manner. She has enough knowledge to recognize it as a powder used to alter one’s consciousness to dream of other places.

Next to a chair they find a hookah with the residue of the crystalized lotus powder, as well as a small table with a bottle of ink and a red pen which most likely had been used to make the drawings on the pages.

The group looks for other pages, but everything has been torn out of the folio, and most likely burned down in the still warm oven in the kitchen they explored on the first floor.

They also find a journal entry from Graupher.

LotFP folio Isle of the Unknown

So, the folio sheets…

These are props I made that tie directly to images from each of three locations I would love the Player Characters to go to. One set of images is Graupher dreaming of Quelong. Another set of images is the beanstalk that leads to Castle Gargantua. And the third set of images is Graupher catching glimpses of the Isle of the Unknown.

You will note, if you have a copy of Qelong, I stole liberally from Rich Longmore’s fantastic art from the interior of the book.

The Players LOVED the folio pages and are now wondering which world to go to, how to access the codes, and where to go to find their way to these other places.


Meanwhile, down by the front door, Uncle Ivanovik snuck up on Vilvolk and the priest.

Once again, I thought, “This is it! Vilfolk is going down!”

Here are Uncle Ivanovik’s stats:

UNCLE IVANOVIK
Armor Class: 14
Hit Dice: 11
72HP (+2 due to 16 CON)
Move: 120 (40)
Attacks: 1 (+13 to hit [HD11 + 17 STR])
(-2 for AC 15 or better for the Daggers and Straight Razors)
Damage
     Daggers 1d6
     Straight Razor 1d6
     Rusty Two-Handed Axe 1d10
No. Appearing: 1
Save As: Fighter 11
Morale: 8

He’s tough! And the PCs are all Third Level.

He surprised Vilfolk, getting a swing in, but only doing 3 points of damage.

On the next round Vilfolk got the initiative and swung the priest into Graupher’s house, following him, and slamming the door behind him. He bolted the door.

Uncle Ivanovik BANGED once on the door. It would take him a few minutes to break down the door. So he quietly snuck off into the swamp, leaving the group in the house.


The players now have the folio pages. They also know that there is a man in the village who sometimes did errands in the mountains and might know where Graupher’s keep is. They also know that there is a spider cult. They also know that there is something wrong with time in the village. And, most astoundingly of all, perhaps, they have found a painting worth 45,000sp! It’s in their hands and they could head home and forget about the spider cult and the time issues and call it a win.

We left the session there, with the group uncertain about which path they would follow when we reconvened.

Death is on the Table

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Expectations for RPGs can be so different for so many people and across so many kinds of games. This needs to be said, because many people assume that there is one right way to play an RPG, or certain technique ruin the fun of RPGs. But the fact is, 1) setting expectations; and 2) using the right techniques in the right combination, is key to getting good RPG play.

When I assembled my Lamentations of the Flame Princess game I sent out an email with the following email:

Lamentations of the Flame Princess is part of the Old School Renaissance of RPGs. A clean and sleek version of the early Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set, the game focuses on exploration, danger, and weird fantasy. The setting will not be Tolkien-esque, but a warped 17th century Europe where the strange and magical is rare, inexplicable, and invasive.

OSR games in general, and Lamentations of the Flame Princess specifically, work from principles that are different than a lot of game in recent decades. In general…

  • The Referee has environments and situations, not a pre-planned “story” of any kind
  • Players drive things forward with their choices
  • The game is dangerous. The Referee is not there to kill your characters, but neither is he there to protect them. Dice are rolled out in the open. Death is part of the game. (Luckily, new characters are easy to roll up!)
  • The situations you encounter are not “balanced.” You might want to avoid encounters, you might want to flee encounters, and if you choose to engage them you’ll want to have the PCs manipulate the fiction toward your advantage (Short hand: Think of conflicts as asymmetrical warfare, not as engaging in a sport.)
  • In this kind of play the Referee presents the players with an environment that is as solid as possible, that would continue existing if you weren’t there.

Notice how clear and explicit I am about so many things in that email!

We’ve had a death. We’ve had characters trapped in Null Space after fucking around with a magical device. But no rage quits yet.

I think the fact that I was so explicit about the play style is why everyone has LOVED the LotFP modules I’ve been running (Death Frost Doom, God That Crawls, Stranger Storm). They’ve been on their toes, on their guard, cautious, on point, and focused. They’re not there to knock over every applecart but to survive. They know I roll the dice out in the open, and they know I don’t fudge on their behalf.

And in surviving they feel pride… even if they don’t get to every room or play with every widget.

Exploring to see what happens next rather than to get to some point with a specific goal is the name of the game (to tie this back to the OP). And it’s working really well. How?

Well, the Players talk to me. And then I talk back. They know that the minute they have to make an attack roll, an attack roll might be coming back. So they come up with schemes and ideas to get around or avoid the beasts that might kill them. By building fictional details one time after another in the conversation between each other, between them and me, and me with them, we add create the specifics that let them mitigate, when possible, the dangers of a dangerous world.

To be clear then: The game play is not in rolling to hit. The game play is in the decisions and ideas prompted by the fact that the moment you start rolling attack dice, things can go horribly wrong.

Notice that other games are not built this way. Player Character death in Sorcerer is possible, but the conditions by which death occur are very different than those in LotFP. In other styles of play, the Referee will make sure to fudge the dice rolls to make sure Player Characters don’t die because the game is built on those Player Characters completing the journey of the story, or because no one wants the bad vibe of death at the table.

But we’re playing with death at the table in the LotFP game. Here are some of the techniques and rules that help make it work:

  • Player Characters are easy to roll up.
  • Player Characters don’t arrive with elaborate backstories, but are focused on the adventure at hand. (Their backstories are built in the early levels of play!)
  • Experience points gained for combat against monsters pales in comparison for XP offered for collecting treasure, per the rules. This means the Players are not determined to rush into combat in order to level.
  • I’m not concerned with making “balanced” encounters. Because I don’t expect the the PCs to enter combat with strange creatures–because it is wiser for the PCs not to risk death doing something that might not gain much XP–I leave it to the Players to decide if they’ll fight or not fight. There is always risk, never enough information, and they are then forced to come up with excellent plans to tip the combat in their favor, winning without combat if possible. But that’s their business, not mine. I just provide opportunities and obstacles, and sit back and see what they choose to do!

If I get a chance to Referee Classic Traveller, I’ll be playing the exact same way. It’s how the game was built to be played, and I’ve learned a lot from the LotFP to make all the techniques fit together well to make the play successful.

Scenic Bergenzel

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Last week I used Scenic Dunnsmouth to roll up the random town. As I mentioned, I’m putting the location in my Fallen World campaign, nestled in a vale in the Alps.

So, here is Scenic Bergenzel for  tomorrow night. Each square is one inch. The brown sheet is for the Players to map as they explore the mist-shrouded town and discover its secrets.

They are looking specifically for the Other Worldly Explorer’s House (for information about how to travel to other worlds). But also to collect 1,200sp in back tax debt from the village, having purchased the debt from a priest for 500sp back in Murnau.

I went to Dyson’s version of his Dunnsmouth and stole a lot.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess Campaign — and Why I Love My Players

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We play our LotFP game on Monday nights. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, my Players usually get an email chain going, full of jokes and quotes from the game’s previous session. It’s a blast across days… all from one night of play.

Early on in the campaign, the Players started tossing oil and lighting things on fire as the first choice of action and reaction. By the second session they were calling their group “The Lamplighters.” The game is set in Germany in the Thirty Years War. As a group they have explored the crypts and tombs of secret cults and encountered the tools and spies of alien worlds hoping to invade ours.

One player, Eric, has become a huge fan of the hit musical “Hamilton” and listens to the lyrics over and over again.

He sent off an email that began…

Maybe I’ve been listening to too much Hamilton hip-hop, but I got a rap battle in my head now.

And was followed with this…

I’d tell you our story but you’ll think I misspoke
Our crew is no joke, we went from broke to baroque
You’ll know we coming to your town when you see smoke
And by dawn we’ll be gone like the settlement of Roanoke

We’ve likely burned more horses than we’ve ridden
Struck by gods that’d leave mortals bedridden
We find old curses and corpses in tombs hidden
And we break open doors that say “FORBIDDEN”

So if you need us light a vigil
But first hire some firefighters
Steel and flame is our sigil
Yeah, we’re the Lamplighters

You try to keep up with us you might need a trainer
To kill your doppelganger like it’s a no-brainer
Half our original crew is currently “extra-planar”
Those we don’t slay we tend to put on retainer

Now we’re on a roll with some psycho gear we stoleJust jumped down a hole with a God living like a mole
So Anika can get a new scroll and go grenade bowling
And Werner heads to the roof for some Scooby-Doo trolling

So if you got room for new-hires
After a blood god killed your gunfighters
Light the chariot signal, sires
And summon the Lamplighters

If anyone else survived we’d have fans
But we don’t ever stand around for reprimands
And Rauk’s about to try some crazy plan
‘cuz Adrian’s in the corner with his head in his hands

[double-time rhyme stanza]
In night blacker than black we come back just to reap what we sowed
Got an almanac of bric-a-brac and a brain with a toad
We make our attacks and the facts’ll just end with: explode
We leave with your tax and an axle alone in the road

So if it’s time for a heist
Then believe, Bavaria needs us
We got the spear that killed Christ
And we comin’ for Space Jesus

–Lamplighters