2016/02/26

Flowchart Room Description - Stab 1 - Probably Insane

+Patrick Stuart drew a spatial representation of a room being described. He asked if we thought it was insane. I said I thought so (although, to be clear, I'm a big fan of Patrick Stuart and like his insane very much).

Anyway, I suggested using a flowchart to depict a room and +cole long and +Jacob Hurst wanted to see what it would look like.

So I made a flowchart for a single room (well, clearing in the woods).

... aaaaand I'm not sold on it. It could work, but I think it would still take a LOT of layout work and still likely be slower to read for a DM using this in a product than a note-form approach. Something like the Hackslashmaster approach or the Papers&Pencils approach.

I might be wrong. Am I wrong? Hm.

2016/02/25

Session 40: Longwinter: End of the Underbaroness

We played our 40th session yesterday night and I learned a few things. I posted about it on Google+ and the post got long and then folks suggested I blog it so ... ok. Fine. Expanded repost.

The background to this session is basically this whole blog. Valleys, rivers, winter, artifacts.

A few days ago I was reviewing my point crawl and felt it had too many points. This was that point crawl, in node form:

Point crawl, node version.
The consensus was that I was being silly and didn't have a problem, that there weren't too many and that if I thought some were boring, I could just use them to have bad stuff happen there.

I ruminated and then spent about 10 minutes redrawing the point-crawl on A3 for my players to scribble on, spill food and drinks on.

This was that version 3:

Point crawl, version 3.
Anybody else notice that blogger html composer editing is really poor at layout?

OK, so that map started off the whole thread.


I guess it wasn't too many points. I trimmed a few of the more egregiously boring ones and made a few more loops. Full lines for cart-accessible routes, dashed lines for feet only, dotted for perilous terrain where you want a mule and don't bring along Grampappy MacDwarf, 'cos he's got a gimpy leg.

Each node is approximately 4 hours travel from another one, so a day's travel is two steps. In bad weather or terrain, a survival check determines if the travel is successful (so, potentially, a journey that should take 4 hours could end up really long if the PCs roll really badly). Getting lost is assumed to be included in that wasted time. Getting "really" lost is when you head off the node map.

Interestingly, I've found my games get better the less effort I put into my maps because I'm less invested in the artifact and materiality of the place - the unfolding adventure and gaming with friends becomes the heart of the product, not the map itself.

Here's a quick rundown of what happened at the table this week:

  • Todd Odd, Royale and Salami purchased ice lice infested mine, 
  • Hi John the Cultist stayed with Salami as his follower
  • Belhak assassinated underbaroness Izolda of Gomilsk, 
  • Todd Odd accepted a quest from Mongo Muti of the Cult of Indigogo to stop the Heresiarch of the Ultramarine cult in Vrelez, 
  • Quinn got a lead on the whereabouts of her missing cat Sparklebutts, taken north by a filthy wildling,
  • Quinn and Royale robbed a hospital, 
  • lied to the militia (badly), 
  • helped the militia, 
  • achieved a 400 golden goat reward posted on the head of somebody who looks suspiciously like Belhak the Backstabber
  • Belhak the Backstabber shaved
  • Todd Odd the Doc did some dental work at the hospital, 
  • The whole group went to the Funky Badger Karaoke, 
  • They accepted the Count Mostar's grudging suggestion that he would accept a wishing orb for his curse-marked son,
  • Royale got a letter of introduction to Count Rudolf of Rudvik,
  • they met some filthy wildlings, 
  • Lots of the PCs had a chit chat bribe session with the underbaronesses' butler, Herr Snoor,
  • They went to Bunker Hill, 
  • They drank Oscar's Spinal Chord, 
  • They played with cats and goats,
  • They learned that the difference between tsarists and wildlings was some very difficult to measure differences in average nose angle and face width-to-height ratios and about two bars of soap, hedge shears and less childhood malnutrition,

I don't really fully comprehend my players anymore, but oh well.

Crew: Belhak the Backstabber, Todd Odd "the Doc", Quinn Medicine Woman, Royale wit Cheese (bounty hunter), Salami et Rocquefort (bounty hunter).

Missing: Blanche de Namur, a warrior, the Necromancer Lawyer (forgot the name), another Warrior, another Thief

And here's a blow-by-blow account of how a hospital robbed, to give an impression of play style.

Me: after an (roll d6, comes up 5 not 1) uneventful voyage up the valley from Mostova you approach the little city of Gomilsk ... perched like a crown with it's white ring wall on top of an ancient Barrow from long long ago. Jutting up you see the temple of ... (point to players) ... what's it a temple of?
Royale w.C.: Kickstarter
Me: Seriously ... That's the best you can do?
Royale w.C.: Well, the other guy is the Cultist of Indigogo.
Me: Does anyone have something better?
Odd Todd the Doc: umm ... uhh ... wait ...
Belhak (the Backstabber): it looks like it's going to be Kickstarter
Me: Seriously?!
Salami w.R.: Shumashamashu
Me: What does that even mean?
Salami w.R.: I don't know! It's just not Kickstarter!
Belhak (the Backstabber): uh ... uhm ...
Me: Fine. Have it your way. The Temple of the Saint Kick Starter, who could start any chariot of the long long ago, even the Speed Demon V8, with a single kick. Anyway it's spires jut up and also the peak of the ... (point to player) where does Baron Boris III Borisov live?
Royale w.C. (excited): in a bunker!
Me: O_O ... ok, and the high chimney of the Bunker of Boris. It's said that it tunnels down into the belly of the Barrow, where the long dead of the long, long ago are buried. The Baron's father and grandfather led expeditions into the Belly, clearing out many of the filthy undead and automata that had been there, but the Mythic Underworld still occasionally belches forth, so the Baron lets adventurers go in for a small nominal fee of 1 golden goat per entry (at a silver standard of 20sp to 1gg, it's quite a fee).
Salami w.R.: ... wait, so they charge you to go in?
Me: yup.
Salami w.R.: They don't tax what you bring out?
Me: Nope, they don't care about that. They want the certain money.
Royale w.C.: So if we don't make it out, the baron still gets paid.
Me: Exactly.
Odd Todd the Doc: Are there any other services nearby?
Me: Sure, a graveyard, a hospice for the dying, a hospital for the living run by the Bloodletting Sisters of Mercy who also run a government sponsored health insurance system for adventurers, whereby they offer to take a 30% cut of the take (with a minimum franchise of 10 golden goats) for full healing.
Odd Todd the Doc: I go there to see if they have need of a dentist - i.e. Me!
Me: (roll dice) ... you come to the hospice and find two nurses in blood red wimples and seven patients (roll more dice) three of them had their teeth smashed in by a mace to the face. Ha! Mace to the face.
Quinn Medicine Woman: I ask them what happened.
Me: (mumbling like I had missing teeth) it just came out of the dark! Bump! It went bump in the dark and I was on my rear wiv my teef all flown! (back to normal voice) the others corroborate there was some big undead warrior with a mace and a big, totally dark shield that knocked their teeth out and left them for dead.
Belhak (the Backstabber): I offer my services for 10% of their take!
Me: 5%
Belhak (the Backstabber): 7%!
Me: Ok, they take your deal. (we roll dice and the final take is around 3 golden goats for a day's dentistry. Pretty decent) Right, guys, he's spending the day doing dentistry. What do you do?
Quinn Medicine Woman: So ... this is a hospital?
Me: Yes.
Quinn Medicine Woman: Do they have medicines and drugs?
Me: Of course, locked in the nurses' office in a few cupboards.
Royale w.C.: I can pick the locks! Um ... probably.
Quinn Medicine Woman: Ok, let's do it.
Me: Hang on, there are nurses all around, they'll see you. You need a distraction or something.
Quinn Medicine Woman: I have my cute cats and goats, I make them do tricks for the nurses.
Me:@_@... fine, roll Charisma or Animal Handling.
Quinn Medicine Woman: (rolls 12)
Me: Ok, they'll be distracted long enough for Royale w.C. to have one try, but if he mucks up too much, they'll notice.
Royale w.C.: I go for it. (rolls 17)
Me: Yeah, the ancient and much loved four-number combination lock would fool an illiterate yokel, but you're a heroic adventurer bounty hunter ... robbing a hospital. It doesn't stop you, the door falls open. The nurses are still enjoying Glitterdust and the Golden Goat playing with each other.
Royale w.C.: I quickly grab what I can.
Me: You toss what you can quickly into a bag ... we'll roll for what it was later, ok?
Royale w.C.: Ok.

... and that's pretty much how the hospital was robbed.

Usually bad puns or good plays also get accompanied by cheesy music.

2016/02/23

NPCs of Longwinter, or at Least Some of Them

Names and descriptions and details can be swapped and I've separated them with em-dashes, but for layout purposes in this format, they're just listed.


Rudvik, the City of the Pit, the Silver City, the Guild Warren, built in the guts of the Gargantuan Golem Fact of the Long Long Ago. Suspended on the cliff above is an iron spider of a fortress, now the Home of Counting and Count

  1. Counte Rudolf Rudov — the man with the golden hand and silver eye, his hands bedecked with rings, his abacus with beads of (1: amethyst, 2: emerald, 3: rubies, 4: sapphires, 5: garnets, 6: amber), his brow crowned with the Binary Bindlet.
  2. Countess Krovela Rudolfova — the Counte's wife, who's skin is forever milky and young as the day they were wed by the Baron's grandfather.
  3. Counteska Rudina Rudolfova — the Counte's daughter, some say witch, others wild thing. In truth she is (1: both, 2: neither, 3: a changeling, 4: a misunderstood goth).
  4. Vizir Sokolov — the wizard of Rudvik, demons worry when he is near. He turns tears into joy, everyone's happy when he walks by.
  5. Vaga — the death-dealer of Rudvik. Darkness stalks the steps of the death-dealer. Grown men become children in the presence of the death-dealer. The House of the Death-Dealer is surrounded by (1: shields, 2: skulls, 3: glass vials, 4: stone chimes, 5: silver-threaded copper coins, 6: feathers).
  6. Moksijeva Maja — a noble fightress, tough and just.
  7. Perimpepet — a brainy fellow, some would say a thief, he is a master of geomancy and mining.
  8. Nur Gottlieb — a rustumi preacher-pundit.
  9. Masad Obershtain — mason, builder and inn-keeper of the Sign of the Cog-clock.

Vrelets, the Sanatorium, the Village by the Marble Hall, built on the polychrome calcium ledge of the Great Hot Spring where even oranges may grow in the Dead Winter of the High Turan.

  1. Jana Janova — the good-doctor of Vrelets, she brings sleep and peace to those who can do no more and administers the Rites of the Purple.
  2. Ignobel Rosenberg — the mind-doctor of the Sanatorium, stitcher of souls and collector of dice.
  3. Nedred Shvab — a noble fighter, strong and hardy.
  4. Ostina Ostra — a smart lass, her wit sharper than her knife, but not by much. She would be a fox.
  5. Niza Visoka — matron and mistress of the blood bush plantation of the Marble Head.


Gomilsk, the City of the Baron, the High Town, built on a barrow and a bond of blood.

  1. Baron Boris III Borisov — blood-trothed ruler of the Vale of Saint Nom, a (1: kind, 2: harsh, 3: just, 4: oblivious, 5: scholarly, 6: arrogant) man out of his depth in games of strategy, but intensely good at games of luck. A rich man, he wants for a wife.
  2. Baronovitsch Boris IV Borisov — the bastard son is not a bastard but a nerd. A seeker after knowledge, a delver into the barrow below the town.
  3. Vera Plava — the fairest girl born of the Three Maidens of the Temple in living memory. Why does the Baron not take her? She loves (1: ivory, 2: hunting, 3: chess, 4: guns) but is (1: viciously smart, 2: spoiled rotten, 3: gentle as a lamb, 4: possessed of an ancient wraith).
  4. Kanzler Rudolf Valentinov — headman of the Valentinov clan, advisor to Boris. He collects ancient tomes, is kind to cats and hates boys.
  5. Haydn the Old — believer, preacher, spy.
  6. Philby Philbyyev — khan's ambassador, connoisseur of rabbits and berrywine.
  7. Morya Svetla — artifact merchant and calligrapher. Purveyor of fine amulets. She was abandoned by a dog in the dirt.
  8. Ulvar Silbershtain — hydraulic priest of the Steam Demon.
  9. Vincente de Biro — the bureaucratic head-tender of the Pneumatic Inn  and Brothel. Has a thing for the rabbit races.
  10. Mossy Moz — there's taverns and there's taverns. This is one of the taverns. Flying axes are free.
  11. Underbaroness Izolda — a tragic tale surrounds her, like a grim dress. One of woe and a lover lost.
  12. Vod — a noble fighter, courageous and fine.
  13. Medo — a smarmy wizard, purveyor of Toads and Toad charms, master of the pseudomantic school.
  14. Lado Bezgov — roguish and dashing, with a dagger of gold and a dagger of dragon bone and a fiddle so fine, it makes grown women weep.

Mostova, the Big Bridge, the Bridge of Giants, the Enormous Living Stone Bridge, seriously, it's a town on a huge bridge built in the long, long ago.
  1. Sheriff Leni — a jovial santa of a man with a dark past to overcome.
  2. Counte Verruca Mostar — the man with the iron heart and the Gauntlet of Grimace who loves cats for the mysteries they bring.
  3. Elena Trojska — the Purple Gunsmith. She betrayed a friend once. There are no bodies.
  4. Mushter — a pair of legs that open up like butterfly wings and a mad dog that wouldn't sit still. But a doctor's a doctor, even if his speciality is rusty proctology.
  5. Alfred Zorov — Zoro's House has beds, Zoro has a bar, his wife trades in curios. Worthless trinkets, you understand?
  6. Jovan Vrv — a basketman does his thing, but a basketmaster runs the elevators to the river cold down below.
  7. Oriana Diana — necromancer and lawyer, bringer of closure and wills. There's a parchment with her name on it. There's a locket clasped in the hands of a drowned deep one.
  8. Elvis Dirtnap — he plays his (1: banjo, 2: guitar, 3: bass guitar, 4: violin, 5: piano, 6: guillotine) in the bar every third night, when he needs to forget.
  9. Muti Mnogo — some cults are fun, some cults have mysteries. This cult has (1: fun weeds, 2: fun mushrooms, 3: fun incantations, 4: child sacrifice). Muti likes red and green.
  10. Raven Girl — she plays with the ravens in the Circle of the Black Glass and nobody disturbs her.
  11. Ebenezar Skrudjeyev — the Grand Toll-Master of the bridge, bearer of many chains, master of coin, mint and tea. He loves a good tale and collects old books.

Oak-that-bleeds-and-sings, the Longest House, the Hall of Horror and Home, hidden in the Pines where the Cold Wind "Reza" blows and cuts the flesh of evil men off their bones.
  1. Chief Owlfox — bold and red-haired, the temptress of the woods, the soft-eyed widow who loves a good skirt and sharp knife. 
  2. Chief Hawkbear — cunning and dark, bulky and grim, a shadow bringing firewood or death from the dark. He sees men's souls but is afraid of women.
  3. Boris Turtledove — witchman, wizardwoman, shawls and feathers and thick furs. Man or woman, it's not clear, but reading the burnt bones is her art.
  4. Karl Tree — a tree with the soul of a man, a man with the soul of a tree. Walk this way.
  5. Boneman Grim — how can one die when one's soul has been cleansed of flesh?
  6. Littlefox —so tempting, her tail so long. Her smile melts warriors' hearts.
  7. Jane — an outlaw who likes big guns.
  8. Shaman Owlfalcon — shaman and mushroom hunter.

The Last Trading House, the Green Bubble, the Most DFG Palace, clasping the marbled canyon walls like a demented translucent jelly-bird.

  1. Vizkont de Konti — third licensed silver merchant of the House of the Fourth Leg,
  2. Graham Schmidof — chicken-eating silversmith,
  3. Velisa Darteu — beady-eyed jeweler of the Velvet Sisterhood,
  4. Koliste Four-Two — khan supervisor with the big belt buckle and the mirrored eye,
  5. Miszko Temni — smaller burdenbeast merchant in speckled fur,
  6. Slavoshkrat Benzinov — glittering tinker artificer and karaoke star,
  7. Origen Kanalov — swaggering artifact merchant with the poncho and the feathered clock,
  8. Imba Takozela — leather-clad scholar from among the (1: rustuman, 2: petrograd, 3: morjanska, 4: turalia, 5: wolf-folk of the black wood, 6: white canyon),
  9. Polona de Marko — spy, tailor, sailor and international trader of mystery,
  10. Ibis Motel — smooth-talking flour-chucking food merchant with a cart of (1: boiled leeches, 2: broiled leeks, 3: grilled lima beans, 4: sautéed lemon-fish, 5: flambéed lobster, 6: fresh linear accelerated-growth lion-strip),
  11. Kapsikun Kundarov — militiaman with the clockwork heart,
  12. Petra do Pijer — churchman of the (1: rustuman leveller, 2: tsarist hierarchist, 3: petrogradist poly-sacralism, 4: kentauri shamanism, 5: shkraeti pragmatism, 6: potnik sweat-lodge vision fatherhood) persuasion with a gilded monocle,
  13. Ozrik Tamogled — fanatical lay rustuman leveller (1: carpenter, 2: shoemaker, 3: levite, 4: soldier, 5: roundhead, 6: turncoat),
  14. Elbreht Adamov — ruin explorer mumbling incoherently and tapping with a metal leg,
  15. scavenger with a wooden pistol and pet (1: cat, 2: rat, 3: clockwork hat, 4: dire rat, 5: animated mat, 6: bat),
  16. Vina de Vin — moustache-twirling restauranteur and cheese maker,
  17. Angela Merser — pleasure mercer with red shoes and a (1: boudoir, 2: synth-sensorium, 3: opium bowl, 4: rolling papers, 5: fine wines, 6: smoked shifter meat),
  18. Tabor Three-Three — kentauri fighter swaggering without a care in the world,
  19. Onda Tako — friendly and almost discrete agent of the (1: viles, 2: viladrines, 3: moss-fuckers, 4: tree-huggers, 5: vile bastards, 6: deathless doppelgangers),
  20. Djet — mysterious stranger known as (1: traveler, 2: walker, 3: jack, 4: jane, 5: loper, 6: stinker).
The Last Trading House is a joint enterprise of the Baron's Bullion Company and the Khanal Silver Company built in the shell of an ancient builder DFG palace (spheroid subtype B) in the Most Canyon.

2016/02/20

Longwinter 1 vs. Longwinter 2

The original icebox.



















About five years ago I ran my first Longwinter sandbox (or rather "icebox") game with my Tolmin D&D group. We used a cobbled-together Microlite variant I assembled after giving up on 4th Edition. It was one of the most fun campaigns I ever had, a time-limited survival-horror game of dwindling resources and sudden death in the cold, frozen wilderness.

This year I've decided to revisit the setting with my current D&D group, the Golden Goats. I replicated part of the experience by lightly re-skinning 5th Edition to have everyone start at 3rd level and not proceed far beyond 5th level (WTF!). Right off the bat I ran into the fun experience of the icebox morphing into something weird and different.

The original Longwinter was a grim, slightly viking-infused slog of ice and snow, axes and crossbows among the long-rotted ruins of a formerly advanced civilization.

The new Longwinter game has quickly become a pseudo-slavic spaghetti-western romp of pistols and great swords in a gold-rush setting of jostling humanities plundering and rediscovering the leftovers of an alien civilization (Picnic at the Roadside, Stalker).

With bad jokes. Many, many bad jokes.

But that's just how different groups run, and it's great. However, I've also run into other interesting game design challenges.

  1. Wilderness survival is not much fun with this group. Tracking details doesn't help and just gets in the way of the loose and silly game we usually run. I need to find a better mini-game for this than the list of loot and equipment and prices and space requirements D&D usually requires.
  2. My original icebox (see above) was built before I had as much experience with this kind of game. It had A LOT of locations (I count around 29) and I'm discovering that's too much. I can't keep them all straight in my head, and I don't have the time to prepare them all. Not to mention, the players just aren't going to see most of them. Realistically, we do about 0.5 locations per session.
What's one to do?

Copper memorite being held back by descendant.

2016/02/19

6d6 Very Bad Prophecy Bad Quests

Kill the King with the

1. translated works of Heftum the Major.
2. incense of the half-hazarded lotus of happenstance.
3. golden tangerine of the Tulibrideis.
4. point of the mystic tooth of the Glowing Unidont of the Crystal Crater.
5. stone that held the sword.
6. ineffable wit of Fitzminster the Fool.

Crucify the Count with the

1. onion of Bitter Regret.
2. glazed chalice of Massiris the Manumited.
3. cockatrice of Baells.
4. cornucopia of the Gleaming Siren of the Red.
5. swaggering sword of Blue.
6. foreskin ornament of the Speed Demon.

Dismember the Duke with the

1. dogs of the demon lords Turmoil and Gastric Distress.
2. puce pulver of the dusty library of Es Borg.
3. hammer of mighty blunt-faced Thak.
4. chariot of clouds and rainbows of Jesus-Thor of the Unicorn Battalion.
5. snicketty shadows of the snarky salamander.
6. eggshell of the last egg of the first dragon Guy Roy.

Behead the Baron with the

1. badger of Three Trees.
2. bucket of Myrio the Minor.
3. fourteenth expectoration of the Ettin of the Etiolated Ridge.
4. cudgel of Cugel the Quick.
5. fizzling anti-acid tablet preserved in the casket of Charon the Navigator.
6. tree of the Holy Badger.

Murder the Marquis with the

1. money pouch of Titian the Truculent.
2. green halberd of Holding.
3. cold bamboo rod of tranquility.
4. map of the mysterious maquis of Mezzanotte.
5. pearl of Offal.
6. snail shell of the foaming Love Goddess.

Execute the Emperor with the

1. pylon of pink smoky quartz depicting the Ascendancy of Max.
2. stabby sword of Budzo the Bold.
3. crown of pure coal.
4. breastplate of the Execution of Improbabilities Twice.
5. tree of everglistening needles.
6. haddock of Hell.

2016/02/02

Worms That Fight

Bearded blubber worm, AC: 10, HD: 8d12 (52 hp), Speed: Slow 20' (sudden extension),

Abilities: sudden extension (as a free action stretches up to 30' to attack a target and possibly pull it back), grappling beard (bitten enemy must save vs. paralysis or be entangled in the blubber worms blubby beard, entangled enemies are automatically attacked by soft slurping maw every round), blubber (takes no damage from bludgeoning weapons and half damage from slashing weapons), swallow (swallowed enemies must save vs. sleep each round and take 1 damage per round)

Attacks: +8 soft slurping maw 1d4 (swallows on a roll of 1), +5 rolling coils of blubber 2d6 (knock prone on a roll of 7, can attack up to 3 adjacent enemies with coils of blubber).













Bunny-eared bendy worm, AC: 10 (16 head), HD: 6d12 + 6 (45 hp), Speed: Slow 20' (sudden extension) or burrow (10'),

Abilities: sudden extension (as a free action stretches up to 20' to attack a target and possibly bite off a limb), nippy teeth (on a natural 15 to 20 it bites off a weapon or shield from the target, if the target has no weapon or shield, it's a hand that goes down the gullet), tough head (takes half damage from attacks to head, frontal ray or missile attacks have a 50% chance of being reflected), eruption (attacks from under the ground, high chance to surprise, deals 2d6 damage to all creatures within 15' from flying debris, save vs. knockdown), pull into tunnel (if it grabs a target to eat, it will pull it back into its burrow and try to escape with its meal).

Attacks: two bites in quick succession +9 nippy bite 2d8 (bites off item or limb on 15–20) and +7 grabby careful bite 1d4 and meal is 'grappled' (+7 to worm's grapple roll, additional 1d8 non-lethal damage per round).

Attacking the Bunny-eared bendy worm when it's carefully holding onto its meal has a 50% chance of hurting the meal.










Largiferous Leech of the Lich, AC: 8, HD: 6d12 + 1 (40 hp), Speed: Slow 20' (leap 'n' flip) or swim (30'),

Abilities: leap 'n' flip (leap up to 20' feat away, and on landing spin up to 180º doing 2d8 crushing damage in a 20' radius, save Dex DC 12 for half, free suckle attack after leap 'n' flip), writhing death throes (on 0 hp keeps writhing and dealing 1d8 crushing damage in a 10' radius for 1d8+1 rounds, save Dex DC 12 for half), blood is health (gain temporary hp equal to amount drained).

Attacks: +6 sucky suckle 3d6 (causes heart attack on a roll of 1, 1, 1) and +7 flabby whumpf 1d8 crushing damage.

A Largiferous Leech that feeds to bursting (suckles until its hit points total 100) erupts in a fountain of blood and gore, leaving at its core a innocent blood-omened child, drawn from across time and space to wade through rivers of blood and paint the heavens red with the lamentations of the weak and the wicked.