Friday, June 28, 2024

How to Total NonStop Braunstein your Traveler Campaign

"We have tried to make these rules as complete as possible, with provisions for both solitaire and unsupervised play".
- Traveler Core Book 1 "Characters and Combat", Page 1


Today on BDubs&Dragons we are going to try something a little different. Recently Jeffro Johnson of Jeffrogaxian Time and Appendix N and Battle Braunstein fame analyzed how to run the old 1978 scifi TTRPG "Traveler". His focus was how you can easily run Traveler without "modules" if you know how to use the random character generation system and the random charts to do a bit of what Alexander Macris of Adventurer Conqueror King System fame calls "abductive reasoning". Check this out!

The focus of my blog post is to take what Jeffro created and add my own Traveler PC to it. This Traveler PC, completely randomly rolled here, will be brought into Jeffro's simple campaign set up with an eye on Total NonStop Braunstein play (TNB). TNB means playing EVERY session of your TTRPG campaign as a Battle Braunstein. You can check out the links to explain what a Braunstein and Battle Braunstein are here.

What Did Jeffro Do?

Jeffro rolled up a starting planet called "Moonshine" which the charts told him was low tech, no government and no law. Check out his blog for exactly how he rolled this up but for my purposes lets say he created a "lonely outpost in the backwaters of space" in which "the only thing of interstellar relevance here is the scout base". He likens it to rural Kentucky so he named the place Moonshine. "Images of the Dukes of Hazzard running liquor across state lines come into our minds unbidden."

Thanks to low/no prep Jeffro's rolled up PC with a Vehicle skill result means he's a helicopter pilot from Moonshine come back after his retirement. Great no prep stuff!

I'm paraphrasing quickly because the point of this blog post is for me to create a PC to put on Moonshine in such a way that my PC is involved in a Braunstein against Jeffro's PC and/or NPCs. Does this mean full on PVP where I want to off Jeffro's PC? Maybe but not likely. I will be creating the PC live on this blog post then using abductive reasoning to set up a Braunstein on Moonshine. Can I pull it off? Well first we need to paraphrase Jeffro's adventure scenario.

Jeffro used the "76 Patrons" book for Traveler to randomly generate an NPC for his PC to interact with, to create the session adventure he imagined may be engaging (it is).

Upon rolling up a Patron (NPC) as "Scout" and the Random Encounter as "Vigilantes" Jeffro comes up with the following fantastic session scenario and worldbuilding:

"There is some sort of piracy operation going on in this world. The scout base is corrupt. Some of the locals are opposed to this. TC from Magnum P.I. is flying from island to island looking for clues in a weird Space translation of Hazzard, Kentucky. He immediately finds himself inside the plot of the classic movie Outland. Is first encounter is with this world’s counterpart to the Bookhouse Boys from Twin Peaks."

He mentions Twin Peaks so maybe you now realize why all this intrigued me.

Lastly he describes the following session scenario possibility:

"We can play for a while even in a zero prep session just with this. As referee, I might declare that things just go wrong with an initial investigative encounter and guns are immediately drawn. This is entirely consistent with both Raymond Chandler novels and Dumarest of Terra. Might as well lean into it! We do not need an elaborate scenario to begin play at all. We need relatively simple situations to serve as tutorials for the main rule systems of the classic Little Black Books. We not only have a campaign setting that took no effort to play, but we also have a game that is already running. It’s more important for our first steps within this space to get the players up to speed on how the rules work than it is for it to actually feel like a real game."

Point being Jeffros PC the "LT Colonel" has some vigilantes trying to get him in the Bookhouse Boys or telling him not to mess with the Bookhouse Boys or whatever. So finally, on to my PC!

My Traveler PC

Ability scores are rolled with 2d6 with 7 being average. Here we roll:

Strength 7 Dexterity 6 Endurance 7 Intelligence 6 Education 8 Social Standing 9

So, we've got an extremely average man here who has a bit of extra education and social standing. Seems the only way to acquire skills and training is to enlist.Should I enlist in Navy, Marines, Army, Scouts, Merchants or Other?

In Traveler you have to roll 2d6 +DM (dice modifier) to successfully enlist. Fail this and you're in the draft and your PC is probably going to suck. My best DMs are for the Army (need 5+) or Merchants (need 7+). My stats allow a +2 DM on both tries so we can assume Merchants are generally going to train better skills since it's harder to hit. BUT it looks like I'll get a DM for all of my other rolls if I go down army path. Giving it a shot!

I'm in the army with a terms of service of 4 years. Rolled a 9 to survive my TOS and an 11 to get my commission (add LEVEL 1 rank to Service). Nice. Am I promoted? Just barely thanks to the +1 DM for my high education. Woot! I now have 2 RANKS in Army and is a Captain.

The way this works is I get 2 random skills for a TOS and 2 more for the ranks I achieved. I can choose from the chart I'll screenshot to the side of this blog but I'm going to go with the Advanced Education Table for Army men since I have an Education of 8+. "Leader" "Computer 2 ranks" "Tactics"

Anyway this will continue on until I'm done. Realizing this is getting a bit long but you can see why Traveler is celebrated for it's outstanding character generation. I'll finish it on my own and post below.Feel free to skip as this is almost scratch paper which I'll meme up some ideas about just after.

TOS 1: Enlist in Army, Survive, Commission, Promotion. Achieve Captain. 4 skills: Leader, Computer 2, Tactics 22 years old
TOS 2: Re-enlist, Survive, Promotion to Major so 2 new skills. Keep with the Advanced Education: Computer 4 26 years old
TOS 3: Re-enlist success, promotion to Lt Colonel. Keep with advanced education: Admin, Tactics2 30 yo
TOS 4: Re-enlist, Survive, no promotion. Leader 2 34 yo
TOS 5 (aging gets me -1 to STR and END!) Re-Enlist successful. Survives. No promotion! Computer again! Age 38
TOS 6: (aging gets me -1 DEX and END) Re-enlistment is harder as I'm getting slower from too much time behind a desk with Computers. Barely survive! Promotion finally to Colonel. Admin, Tactics AGE 42
TOS 7: (aging gets me -1 STR) Barely re-enlist again. Survives TOS. NO PROMOTION. Leader. Age 46.
TOS 8: 7 terms is when you're forced out of Retirment unless you roll boxcars. I didn't so I'm forced out of retirment!

Retired Colonel Luther Stickell: 46 years old. Army Rank 5 Colonel. STR 4, DEX 5, END 6, INT 6, EDU 8, SS 9. Leader 2, Computer 4, Tactics 3, Admin 2. Gun 2 (body pistol), SMG 1, Rifle 1. Items: 2 High Passage Tickets, and 20,000 credits.

So based on the above you get a picture of a guy who started his Army career well and was promoted after leading men into battle. Over the years however his head for computers over fighting made him miss out on promotions. Since he achieved tactics 3 and Leader 2 you need to think he may be a bit of a coward... men listened to him but he wasn't promoted for his led battles. Higher ups saw him pull back and not lead from the front or focus too much on the 1s and zeros and not the boots on the ground.

When he was 42 he was promoted to Colonel but with no further promotion for 4 years despite leading another successful battle at 46 they pushed him out! This guy is a secret king who wants to prove he should have been promoted to General a decade ago. He is still trying to prove himself!

So, our Colonel has the cash and skills to prove himself but cowardice which always makes him come up short. He recalls a backwater planet called Moonshine he was stationed in at 42 (4 -6 years ago) where he was asked to get things organized at the Scout base. He failed to get law and order there but perfected his Admin skills and was promoted to Colonel as a sort of thank you for spending 4 years in such a thankless task. The higher ups figure his retirement funds was thanks enough.

But Moonshine seemed a place he could tame, a place to bring tech and the order that comes with it. With his 2 ranks in Leadership he hires on 12 men to be part of his crew to clean up the backwater planet. He's a bit of a desk jockey with 2 successful big battles on the outskirts of the quadrant (where he was successful but he was notably absent from the firefights) he figures he can make it happen. But he won't be hands on. He comes to Moonshine as "a new sheriff in town" with a dozen former military who retired over the years and never achieved his lofty ranks. They mostly know him from his Admin years so don't realize that if wetwork goes down the Colonel will be in the rear with the gear.

I've named him Colonel Luther Stickell based on the hacker guy played by Ving Rhames from the Mission Impossible film series. I can go ahead and then rip off his mob character from Pulp Fiction and make him an amalgam of both, but a colonel. This means his cronies are John Travolta, Samuel L Jackson and other lower tier thugs from that film (and Tarentinos other crime films bc why not?) but twisted to be former soldiers. Heck you can even add Uma as Colonel Stickell's "kept woman" like her storyline in Pulp Fiction where one of the PCs try to steal her away with charm and dance!

Now THIS is a cool faction!

My PC in Total NonStop Braunstein

The Braunstein aspect writes itself. Colonel Stickell has put himself up against the vigilantes Jeffro rolled up. So, in the session 1 that Jeffro laid out wherein the Vigilantes accost or attack his LT Colonel, I would have Colonel Luther try to meet up with Jeffro's LT Colonel and see if I can get him to spy on the vigilantes. "Hey man, we both know what war is like. Do you really want your home planet to be backwater rat's nest of hillbillies forever? I'm going to bring computers to this place! We're going to have tech. We're going to civilize this spot!"

Jeffro could then agree, betray me and run moonshine/guns and align with the Vigilantes, or whatever. If he's fully on Stickell's side he may learn that the Colonel takes half measures when guns are drawn. If he aligns with the Vigilantes he'll need to keep abreast of the surveillance equipment Colonel Stickell begins to ship into Moonshine for installation (Colonel Stickell thinks computers can solve any problem). Maybe he becomes like one of those UK Bladerunners knocking my equipment out as part of his session actions. Maybe Jeffro's guy just doesn't want the High Tech that Stickell wants brought to Moonshine. He's against it like old hillbillies were against the TVA?! Braunstein play is dynamic play!

All this based on some dumb random rolls and the combined imagination of just a few players. And not even real players but a couple of guys making blog posts and theorizing. How much better would all this be in real weekly session play?

But the trick is the focus on the Braunstein play within the session and game world. Traveler doesn't have dungeons for us to "get the ruby" from and but there's no need for us to all hope on a starship like Firefly, OG Star Trek, or Cowboy Bebop to be "Wagon Train to the stars!" Which seems to be a common approach to those poor TTRPG players brought up on conventional approaches to TTRPG in general and D&D in particular.

We have a much more interesting scenario on this planet of Moonshine! You just need to be creative enough to do it and brave enough to risk dying in PVP where they might lay their vengeance upon you. Are you bad enough to try?

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Analysis of Dubzaron session 120: “I hate everything and everyone”


Today is June 20th, 2024 and my name is BDubs. Below is the session report and relevant stats for Dubzaron session 120. I never released this report publicly because I was so confounded and unsatisfied by the whole event. At the time I wasn’t exactly sure why. But with almost a year of hindsight and the amazing success of Jeffro Johnson’s “Battle Braunstein concept and my own success with the Fishstein, I have a better idea of what went wrong here for myself as a dm and the (lack or) campaign excitement itself. 

I’m placing the session report as is directly below as it was written in July of 2023. Then after that I will have some analysis from where I stand today in June of 2024. 

Why do this? Well I was recently on a string of extremely successful podcasts where I publicly stated my thoughts on the Braunstein concept. I rated the other BROSR campaigns here and I discussed the concept itself with Jeffro here

Both streams had BIG FINDINGS and BIG CLAIMS which I realize now apply to this unfortunate session of Dubzaron. 
 Now here is what I wrote last year:

07/19/23 to 07/22/23. Rest 07/23/23. Actions 07/24/23


Dilly the Dwarven Fury, L1, Neutral

Edelweiss, lvl 8 mage Magical Scholar, Neutral [Mortal Wounds where she jumped back up and did some yoga]

George L4 Beastmaster, Lawful [mortal wounds where he's a superhero who got shot 36 times]

Gront Coldsky, Level 7 Neutral Barbarian Housecarl

Tuck Tenders You Death Level 6 Barbarian Pit Fighter with Ducky Level 4 Fighter (and a cast of thousands)

Marauder Barbarian Neutral (Group 2)

Standing Mountain L4 Elven Spellsword

Xanthos L7 Lawful Cleric(Mendicant)


Tuck: Ducky L4 Fighter


Frost Weaver, lvl 4 spellsword Captain, Neutral

Davian Cruise, lvl 5 Dwarven Machinist Artillerist, Neutral

Azalea, lvl 6 Shaman, Neutral

Lily, lvl 6 Bladedancer, Lawful

Gilford, lvl 6 Venturer, Neutral


Ulysses L1 Neutral Explorer(Mariner)

Koite & Potami L0 Dudes

(Not a hench but there) Fides III, Hunting Dog

George: Wolfie - Wolf

Gront:  Hafgrim, Level 3 Neutral Assassin Cutthroat. Bravis, Level 4 Lawful Mage Elementalist

Foray XP Pool: 11,660
Mass Combat Kills XP Pool: 1,200
Spoils from Defeated Troops: 14,760 (half to be paid to troops or Calamity) = 7,380
Foray Cuts: 25
Hench Foray Xp: 467
PC Foray Xp: 933

Session Report 
Edelweiss led a big army to sack the town of Fishton. There was a mass battle the dm was not prepared for between the Lawful forces and the Fishton kind of vaguely Cajun and Lovecraftian hybrid folk who live there. They had french napoleanic troops which were interesting for story but not particularly powerful in practice. The session only had time for one Heroic Foray and this itself took about 2.5 hours. It was a grind with essentially no chance of any players losing much of anything due to them be bedecked with many powerful magic items acquired primarily in solo or downtime play, and each having about 3 or 4 buff spells cast on them.

Said foray involved 4 dragons on the bad guy side which scared none of the PCs due to all the buffs, hundreds of musketeers and hussars on the Chaotic side, and like every single pc and hench. The chaotic side also had a warlock that was able to pop off a fireball before his next spell was fizzled and then a giant strength Standing Mountain threw a boulder crushing him into the dirt. There was a big robot there too fighting for the PCs hench, apparently. Who knows.

The whole thing was very unsatisfying and I wonder if there might be something to say for the overall #brosr preference for 1e AD&D.

During the battle a couple of Barbarian PCs were hiding out in fishton and stole away into the unguarded Huge Tower and grabbed a chest full of gold and platinum. That would have been ran better and been more fun if my mental capacities were not tied up making an army of thousands with their relevant leaders and such; just to get stepped on like roaches.

George and Edelweiss fell during the battle but Xanthos is a powerful cleric so they were healed back up.

Also I got a headache.

PC Grades:

Perfect on all cases. This is truly elite level play which will be celebrated across the cosmos for all time. Starring: that guy and The Pc who was buffed a lot. And super wizard. (dubs 2024 note: I was being sarcastic… in a way since they did kind of play their in session “get the ruby” role but didn’t go beyond that.)

DM Grade: D-. I played the Foray quite badly wherein I lost the use of a dragon breath due to not realizing a player had a particular item to mitigate it. Dragons are smarter than that but I’m not. I also should have focus fired more PCs with muskets & focused on missile fire more. Additionally, I added no story elements of any interest and nothing I said about the worldbuilding will be remembered. Except the jagermeister mist off the river; the only reason I didn’t get an F.

Analysis by BDubs 2024

I'd like to start by saying I don't hold any ill will to my players at that time. They were playing the game that was put in front of them. My annoyance with this session, and the subsequent splitting headache I got running it, was due to mine misunderstanding of what a real D&D campaign (at the time).

I was missing the axioms! But which ones? And what am I talking about?

Well on my recent podcast with Jeffro Johnson he made the bold claim that real D&D has a handful of axioms that, if changed, will result in a different (worse) game.

Some of the axioms are this:

1. Play your game RAW (rules as written) NOT with Rule Zero "due as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law".

2. D&D is appendix n focused. Reading these books/stories will make it easier to run real D&D which is a pulp fantasy simulator.

3. 1:1 time is foundational to real D&D.

4. Scaling up for mass combat is foundational to real D&D. (Example: 20 troops etc = 1 unit on the board)

5. D&D is a Braunstein!

So if you read the above report, and certainly if you were playing BROSR style in the summer of 2023 and before, you'll realize that I was failing to follow the 4th and 5th axiom!

Scaling up is not something I have tried much in my ACKS campaign because, well it's ACKS. Alexander Macris wrote what I believe is a pretty cool wargame called "Domains at War" which is built to work with ACKS perfectly. It uses a Battle Rating system. So, who needs to scale up, right? Wrong.

I'm going to start exploring scaling ACKS up to be like 50 men = 1 unit on the board or whatever. I have zero wargaming background so we'll see how that goes. But you can read above that the wargame and "heroic foray" took the bulk of the session time and had little to no interesting strategic or tactical elements. I was bored and had a headache the whole time despite (just look!) there being DRAGONS, and GIANT ROBOTS, and HUSSARS. Like... how could this be boring? How could this not be worth running? 

I'll tell you.

None of us had the fifth axiom in our mind, that real D&D is a Braunstein.

Let me take you back to 2023 Dubzaron and how the town of Fishton came about. I was on a break from DMing and playing due to irl concerns. And some great Co-DMs stepped up to fill the void and keep Dubzaron alive. Thank you all!

During some of these sessions the PCs went exploring the wilderness in search of a new city to buy and sell goods in. They wanted to pay less taxes, or not need to bow to Patron Drakon, or maybe DM Ambrose just wanted to try using Appendix B to generate random wilderness and see what would happen. (This was at the height of my "zero prep is best" rhetoric which had taken the BROSR memesphere by storm in the DesertSwamp.)

So Fishton was generated in session. Including it's crazy elements of having Napoleanoic troops, and a Taylor Swift Lovecraft monster named CThaylor and the cult of same. The PCs found the crazy town and were chased off. So they went back to the drawing board of 1:1 downtime to bide their time, lair smash, and get all the best buff spells and items to attack Fishton and take it for themselves.

I don't fault them for this. It's the game in front of them at the time. But it's become clear in June of 2024 that this was inferior gaming. Because this was NOT a Braunstein.

This was a name level Get Along Gang that was building up big numbers to come blanket me (the poor bedraggled DM) with huge numbers and spells and buffs that there is no way I'd be able to parse well enough to give them a real challenge. I missed that Edelweiss couldn't be hit by a breath attack because I was trying to run an army of thousands and parse the 4+ buffs that were on EACH of the PCs. Meanwhile my NPCs had bascially no buffs on them (and the PCs still whined that one of the NPCs could See Invisbility.)

In BROSR 2023 style I came to DM Ambrose to ask him what the troop numbers would look like in this town he created in a noprep session. Now firstly, his notes weren't great. That's just one of those things. My DM notes suck, as well; and I'd be loathe to try and communicate them to another DM to challenge me and my Get Along Gang army if I had to.

But if the sacking of Fishton was run like a Battle Braunstein (rather than a Get Along Gang beat down to the DM)... oh man I promise you DM Ambrose (now playing NPC CThaylor) notes on his army numbers would be impeccable! Because he has something to lose. He cares. He wants to beat the other PCs. He wants to hit them with his own "stupid PC plan".

Recall my last podcast where I joked how Jeffro's one player was broken and ragequit due to being faced with ONE "stupid PC plan"? Well DMs like me face these plans every week. And session 120 almost broke me.

This was compounded by the fact that Edelweiss the mage was playing solitaire every single day to smash lairs and get more cash and prizes preparing for this attack on Fishton. This, until recently, was celebrated as a sort of Elite level downtime play. It's similar to what Mandalf did. Except Mandalf generated many interesting sessions for PCs to enjoy during this downtime solitaire. Edelweiss had a few, but was overall just focused on stacking Gs, man.

Myself and the better BROSR DMs have had, since discovering the solitaire approach to 1:1 downtime play, an uneasy feeling about this. Something not quite right about PCs playing a solitaire game in which they can't really lose. But we couldn't put our finger on it beyond thinking it was probably just too easy.

I felt in 2023 as long as the Patron or Name Level PC was generating interesting session hooks that it was probably ok. They were doing their job as a sort of adjacent "co-DM". Smashing lairs for cash and prizes was kind of their reward for helping co-dm and create campaign hooks. While I still think this is BETTER than just playing solitaire for cash and prizes, it doesn't quite hit the mark.

Because the mark is the Braunstein. 

These players should be playing their role in a way that looks for contention. That looks for the faction based PVP. That generally ignores the NPC aspects of the campaign world because the DM honestly can't be bothered to figure all those out or create them in such a way to be challenging. Even if I made every NPC of Fishton perfectly, they wouldn't all be decked out in +3 Armor, shields, and swords. They wouldn't all have the best possible spells and troops they could find. But the PCs did when they attacked Fishton!

I would never, as a DM, try to hit the PCs with a totally unfair plan like PCs often hit a DM. There is a social element there, an unspoken agreement that PCs will think the DM is a real jerk if he did something like that; if CThaylor sent a sleep demon to eat them during 1:1 time before they could get their army in place. But if PCs did it to my NPCs? It's all good, man!

So as long as a DM is hemmed in by the Goldilocks theory of challenges not being too hard OR too easy, there's no way a PC vs NPC campaign can be as engaging as PVP.

So, as a I discussed on "This is DunderMoose", this is why approaching D&D as a Braunstein, and some sessions as a Battle Braunstein is key.

Doing so would have prevented Dubzaron Session 120 from being titled "I hate everything and everyone" and I wouldn't have needed to give the campaign world a do-over with the Fishstein. We'd have instead had a city sacking for the ages. A session we'd have all been buzzing and talking about forever. Instead, we had a session which I hid from the public for a year.

What a disaster.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Dubzaron Session 154: Dancing with Darkness

Session 154: Dancing with Darkness 

Time: 05/22/2024. Rest 05/23/2024. Can take actions 05/24/2024

Einar: L6 Barbarian, Death Dealer, Neutral. 
George (of the Jungle): L5 Beastmaster, Lawful. 
Kyrandis L2 Wonder-Worker, Wrath-Bringer, Lawful.
Rory: L6 Barbarian, Death Dealer, Neutral.
Tuck: L6 Barbarian, Neutral.
Xanthos: L7 Cleric, Mendicant, Lawful.

Hench (others were brought but did not dungeoneer for XP)
Einar: Magos (Mage 4), Thiefos (Thief 2)
Tuck: Duck (L? Class?), Ye (L? Bard)
Xanthos: Agenor (Fighter 5), Tigga (Phase Tigga 6HD)

XP For Treasure:33,025
XP for Kills: 2,850
XP for Magic Items: 0
Total Pool: 35,875
Total Cuts: 18
PC Cut: 3,986
Hench Cut: 1,993

Session Report

I am writing this session report over a week after it was played so my memory may be fuzzy. However I feel this report has something to offer since it was nearly completely NoPrep and the random charts and rolling helped inspire me to create and give exposition on some major world-building of the Immortals scale. 

For months now the Dubzaron campaign has been slouching towards Ragnarok. Last summer I was chatting with Kyle Oconner (Patron) about how his witch got her soul eaten by the evil sword/demigod Stormbringer during Operation Muscle Thunder. This event set off a chain of deeper events within the BROSR multiverse (along with BROvenloft) wherin Mr Wargaming was asked (demanded of) to run a cosmic war for the Fate of Stormbringer. The links in this paragraph will lead you to some of the most incredible D&D content and moments that anyone has ever done. Or as the #BROSR calls it, Tuesday.

During my talks with Kyle we were also wondering what more could be done with Queens Rest Mountain; the extremely high level dungeon inside a volcano at the edge of his domain. The Necromancer Queen who was in torpor in the place woke up last year and split; she's assumed to be deep in the Wastes growing an undead army. 

(The NPC and Dungeon is based on ACKS "Sepulcher of the Sorceress Queen" module. I recommend it if you are a module enjoyer with a high level party you're having trouble challenging.)

Since the dungeon is empty of its original stocking I've been restocking it on the fly with the random encounter charts from the Fiend Folio. This has made the place very deadly and very very strange.

So what more could be done with the dungeon? How about an interplanar war? Yes! I told Kyle I loved the idea of perhaps bringing a Neutral pantheon to the world of Dubzaron. ACKS's pantheon is a nice Not-Rome group that works well for its three point alignment but, for my money, there's a big hole for the Neutral barbarian sorts. One can assume they do ancestor worship and maybe like the nature and war gods of ACKS just fine. But one can also break out the AD&D Deities and Demigods book and think "wow the Norse pantheon rules".

So after this conversation with Kyle last year I've been dropping hints here and there about the Queens Rest Mountain dungeon and how it was some focal point of a planar... something. I really didn't know or need to unless play took us further in that direction. 

Kyle wanted his witch back so he dropped a hook to go into Queens Rest Mountain to find a way to get her back... across the planes or something. Because it's me I told him "there's some Twin Peaks curtains in there somewhere which a seer says leads to Celeste your former witch". Simple.

Slowly little story points in the bog standard dungeon delving have given life to the dungeon and life to the original vague concepts. During this session, it really started to become clearer. Here's how.

They entered the front room of the dungeon and found their Cloud Giant friend Primanti laying on the floor dead. Dead as a doornail. Why?

They hadn't been back to the dungeon in a few weeks due to it spewing poisonous gas. So I decided there should be a chance something bad (or even good!) might have happened to him. I took on DM Brigadine's 2d6 method of this sort of question. 12 = great!, 9-11 = good, 6-8 = nothing happened, 3-5 = bad, 2 = TERRIBLE. It's like a B/X reaction roll. And I rolled snake eyes.

So he's not only dead but all his treasure is gone. Here's where the session magic happens. I didn't really know WHY he was dead but the players had a tracker and wanted to investigate. I think the tracker failed by looking more and more over the body they realized his big honkin neck was covered in vampire bite marks. 

Why? Because a few weeks back the found that Slenderman was lairing in this dungeon. He's a not-vampire they met on Barsoom who absconded through the portal to Dubzaron when they Escaped from Barsoom. His powers are very similar to a vampire but there appear to be something differences which we'll get to later.

Well the players know that Einar the Barbarian is charmed by Slenderman so they got on edge. How could the vampire kill their friend! Some of them wanted vengeance but they realized Einar might not help them fight (or worse!) and also realized that Slenderman has 4 ladyvamps and they would be taking 5 (FIVE) level drain (TWO LEVELS) attacks each round if Slenderman and his ladies had the standard Vampire attack routine. Yikes.

So the stage is set for one of my favorite Dubzaron big bad evil guys since The Man from Another Place or Ferigno.

In the next room however the good guys got some help. I randomly rolled up a restocking for a room they'd been through 9000 times and got some ultra powerful thing in the Fiend Folio that was essentially an archon or angel or something and Lawful Good. The plot thickens!

In the monster entry (I don't remember what the thing was called) it was described as like a colorful unicorn made of wind. Ok... and it had the ability to build wooden things at will. Oh here we go. Well in this room was an evil altar that the PCs destroyed like a year ago or more. So I determined the air unicorn was creating a Lawful Good statue where the altar once was. And the statue was of THOR!

The players investigated and the guy with knowledge skills hit his roll to determine who the statue depicted so I described all that to him. Then Xanthos started talking with the wind unicorn. Who really liked him of course because alignment matters in real D&D.

Here's where I just started giving exposition for my vague concepts of Norse stuff going on in this region. The hits that the archon shared with Xanthos and the party were something like this:

-Dubzaron world will be the field of the next battle leading to Ragnarok
-Surtur the fire giant of Jotunheim of Norse myth is falling back in the ongoing battle because Celeste the Witch (Kyle's lost witch) is there in the planes and helping the Asgardians with planning and such (Joan of Arc coded)
-Thor is leading the Asgarding host and must claim Dubzaron world for the good guys of the pantheon or Terrible Things will happen
-They're in another world right now but the battle there is winding down. What the PCs do here will impact that battle and may decide the winner and Celeste's fate.
-The twin peaks curtains are how all of this will come to dubzaron world across the bifrost bridge. They'll likely see Heimdall if they can get the curtains to work.
-Strormbringer is involved... somehow. (Audible gasps from the players.)
-the curtains are north then west (Xanthos got the nigh exact location of the thing they had been trying to find for months).
-Slenderman is between here and there in the dungeon.

The last two were more direct items they just needed to keep moving and do their PC goal. The Slenderman comment had them all groaning. Rory the Barbarian (despite being kind of dumb) started wondering out loud if may his pal Einar was charmed by Slenderman and how if they went against the vampire Einar would not help or fight them. Xanthos and Kyrandis discussed if there's something they could do while Einar assured them Slenderman is great, a good friend, no problem. 

The next room had the giant statue of the Necromancer Queen which needed the Scepter and Orb placed in her hands to open to the next room. The party took months collecting these items and finally placed them to open the door (even though Einar almost broke the Orb dropping it during his climb up the statue).

And right there in the next room was Slenderman and his 4 dames. They were doing some swing dancing to a ghostly band in a giant sepulcher room with beautiful coffins for each of them. 

"So nice to see you Einar!" 
"You too man!" the barbarian replied "but you haven't been lifting! Look at your spindly arms!"

It went on this way with the two "friends" chatting it up as all the rest of the party stood awkwardly and Xanthos and Kryandis angrily held their tongue and damaged their cleric class grades.

Slenderman had a positive reaction check with the party arriving at his new much fancier lair (filled with the Cloud Giant's lair treasure, natch) and allowed them to search for secret doors to get to the curtain room.

Finding this secret door took them to another room where they fought a cloaker (thanks Fiend Folio!). The room had a big treasure haul of like 6,000 platinum pieces which they gathered up. Then finally to the room with the purple twin peaks curtains.

The curtains moved like the little room was fool of wind even though it most certainly wasn't. On the opposite wall was a mural of the Asgardians fighting with the Jutenheim giants and Celeste by Thor's side.  More hints at DM Dubs' vague worldbuilding. In play I changed the mural from being an ACKS focused one. Using a module's map and general room concepts for your own material is that easy.

The party debated going into the curtains or not and ended up voting on "not". Most of them believed they may get in a fight with Slenderman's crew and they wanted to have game time to deal with that. Also they were doing the math on their score of the platinum pieces (and some other smaller score I've forgotten about) and wanted to secure their level and cash for training. 

Only Rory's player was really pumped to open the curtains and made his opinion known despite falling in line behind the overall decision.

On the way back out Slenderman was still happy to see the party and grilled Einar for information about the twin peaks curtains, getting their general location. "I think I'll check out those curtains," the vampire replied. "No need to that," Einar tried to convince him to no avail. "Oh I'm looking at them," he said between lindy hops.

The party escaped the dungeon and got back across the wilderness to a safe spot without further impactful encounters.

But they did debate what they could do about Slenderman. How can they remove Einar's charm or curse or whatever. Would Slenderman just start the Ragnarok himself? How would he be involved? Would he find a good enough follow for his flawless lead?

DM Musings

This was alot. I'm sure most of you didn't follow all the years of worldbuilding implicit in the above or why it's so important. The worldbuilding is important because it was almost all done IN PLAY so at least some of the players at the table each week care about some of it. It's not all just in the DMs head where he ponders how great his ideas and personal immersion is.

It's also important because I hope this will show you why Gygax states in the forward to the AD&D Deities and Demigods book that it's "obvious to anyone who plays D&D why this book is important". I'm paraphrasing. 

Just reading D&Dg likely won't instill understanding of its importance. Playing D&D will. It's an absolutely necessary addition to real D&D campaigns. 

The above information is also important because one of my gaming goals with all this is to have it all lead to a MAX LEVEL Battle Braunstein. In ACKS that's level 14. Guys like Kyle Oconner and Drakon Invictus need a real game to play, not just solitaire. But max level lads like them (and Macho Mandalf if you're talking about Trollopulous) need AND DESERVE something earth shattering. Something incredible. Something epic and campaign shaking. 

They need Ragnarok. And it’s coming. 

Class Grades

Einar: L6 Barbarian, Death Dealer, Neutral. Grade: E. Dealt Death
George (of the Jungle): L5 Beastmaster, Lawful. Grade: E. Tracked and did his part in combat.
Kyrandis L2 Wonder-Worker, Wrath-Bringer, Lawful. Grade: S for superior. Allowing a vampire/undead to just keep rocking it is hitting Divine Lawful spellcasters in this case due to the circumstances of Slenderman destroying a Lawful creature in the dungeon and no clear in session planning against this great evil. I understand the argument "class grade shouldn't mean suicide" but I feel its egregious enough situation (and between downtime actions of cleric-types not looking into the vampire issue) to cause a one step grade hit.
Rory: L6 Barbarian, Death Dealer, Neutral. Grade: E. Dealt Death.
Tuck: L6 Barbarian, Neutral. Grade: E. Did his barbarian thang.
Xanthos: L7 Cleric, Mendicant, Lawful. Grade: S for Superior. See Kyrandis above. I was also concerned about not much Divination cast but it looks like that particular slot was used. It's a shame because the conversation with the wind unicorn was great!

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Dubzaron Session 152: Hole Lotta Adventure

During this session I was actually a PC! DM Vince McMaximus was the referee and I had a blast. If you’re stuck as the foreverDM at your d&d table you really need to embrace the BROSR methods and mindset; you’ll be a PC in your own campaign world in no time. 

I made a whole twitter thread about my experience as a PC during this session you can read here. But I’d like to emphasize that I had to roll a new PC because my main PC (who would have done this session’s goal) DIED IN DOWNTIME. Worse than that, Liano the Elven Enchanter died at the hands of CThaylor the Demi-goddess when she rose from the depths and wrecked Fishton during my Battle Braunstein event! 

Liano was chilling in Fishton’s elf district and I mostly forgot about it and didn’t care that much since I rarely get to PC. So at the start of Session 152 I realized oh man Liano was on site when CThaylor was raised at the Wet Wedding and went on a rampage. I decided to let the evening’s DM decide what shot Liano would have had to escape before his house was crushed or whatever. It was deemed 50/50 and the d100 roll went against me. So I and the co-DM retconned my character death; allowing CThaylor to claim another victim! Insane. Brosr play can’t be topped.

Just read DM Vince’s session report below and find out for yourself. God bless. -DM BDubs


 - Hermes L4 Mage (Edge Wizard), Neutral

1 MD CAV(Bob)

    Valor Cleric 6 Undead Slayer Lawful

    Honor Paladin 5 Gallant Lawful

    Esmerelda Mage 5 Warmage Lawful


    Wolf Eye 1st lvl elven ranger

Arcanist Avenger: L1 Elven Nightblade, Lawful

Platoon vet horse arch 

Platoon nomad horse arch

Session report:

The crew set out early morning of May 8th from FOB Dina 1 en route to FOB Dina 2 which was newly established thanks to the clearing operation this same crew did a while back.  Apparently (due to this odd fixation with Queen’s Rest) this crew likes hanging out with nomads drinking mares milk all day.

Because it is apparently not known about Dina and the Brovenmaidens..they are a group of lady fighters from Brovenloft.  What? Are they like Amazons or something.  NO! This is far stupider!  Because Eddie the Lich, during the original Brovenloft, sent every fighting age male to fight along side hordes of skeleton warriors to sack the Elf King’s Kabul Castle…all the fighting age males ended up in Red Frontier when they got World War Wished out of the Papal Solar attack in Elven Kandahar…

Later the next day, when Eddie’s Bass Pro Shop pyramid got bombed by the same Solars, he used what ended up being his final wish to make a company of fighting age females L1 fighters so they could use the platoon of tanks the Red Frontier mage, Boldvay, brought with him to Brovenloft, in order to be used on the assault of the Count’s Castle Brovenloft.  They Brovenmaidens (Eddie the Lich, iron maiden, brovenloft…you see?) Were led into battle by a one Smokey the Bugbear into the battle at what was called, in their journals: Sesylvaniagrad.  Captured by the Elf King, they were all treated hospitably after the impressive slaying of 1000 hippogriff riders and handing the “pope” the greatest PR defeat in Brovenhistory…circuitously, Smokey and Jake the Snake Roberts brought the Brovenmaidens with them back to Dubzaron.

Dina is their leader and hunched to Vince…thus the memetic importance of naming the FOBs “Dina”.  #BROSRLore

Anyway, the party met some more nomads in the night.  I rolled to see if these nomads knew the nomads that were already friends with 80% chance they were different.  I rolled in like the 90s…so they’re boys.  They keep going.

The important thing that happened was when they found a hole in the ground.  This hole is in the ground because of the results of the ACKS II wilderness travel rules.  They’re super cool.  The result was technically a “portal”…Well Dubs now STRICTLY controls the goings and comings to and from his precious little Dubzaron via the Black Lodge (I don’t blame him).  Therefore I decided to stick it to him by hollowing out his whole planet.  But the players don’t know that…they only guess it.

After nervously exploring around the hole, they finally got creative and figured out a way to float down this bottomless pit.  Hermes the Good Guy cast levitate on Arcanist Avenger who floated down about half a mile to discover that he saw an opening to the hole on the other side that looked like sky.  The party decided they would like to come back better prepared.

So they decided to hex clear.  They met some berserker types in a little palisade camp.  The painted their flag with a blue hand.  Honor the paladin is apparently the most charismatic dude in the Borderlands now that Vince is a good guy, and he went and convinced these guys to proclaim allegiance to Dina.  Nice!

The crew kept going and found a herd of 80 light horses munching on the grass.  The party cast “talk with animals” and appealed to the horses with the promise of oats…it almost caused a revolt of their own horses who thought they weren’t going to get any oats.  Apparently there were enough oats.  The price of oats has spiked in Turos Spen. 

There was a lot of bouncing around at this point.  Notably, they found some more Blue Hand berserkers…again this was the result of dice.  One night they got surprised by a pack of Blink Dogs.  The dogs attacked but after being given jerky by this lawful party, it turns out that the guy that got mauled by 4 dogs turns out to have been just been mauled with slobbery dog kisses by these good bois.  The pack of Golden Retrievers with visible halos blinked away in gratitude.

Eventually the party made it back to Dina 1 and had to wait for a while while Mike Tyson counted out their reward.  There are 2 platoons worth of nomads hanging out there too and are antsy about getting back to the main camp of the great Kubla Ken. The platoon leaders are Secretariat and Mannamead.  The naming convention for these horse warriors is names of famous race horses, save of course is the title of the Great Ken of the Kennhate.

So this whole session was completely no prep.  The hole itself was created by the table in the book hit from solo play that was to fulfill the conditions created in the last session.  I’ve never thrown as many 1s and 2s on encounter rolls before.  I felt good about how the session turned out from a DM perspective given that this is mostly wilderness travel.  It’s still wasn’t as good of a session as the no-prep session where the chaotic party ran into John Candy the Hill giant and ruined his life.

There were no aberrations in PC roll play.  E for everyone


XP for Treasure: 7132

XP for Captures/surrender: 2713

Total XP Pool: 9845

Cuts: 10

PC Cut: 0%: 1969

Hench Cut: 0%: 984

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Dubzaron Session 151: Securing the Orb

Time: Dungeon Delved on 05/01/2024. Travel on 05/02/2024. Rest on 05/03/2024. Actions can be taken 05/04/2024.
Bloodletter: L6 Barbarian, Death Dealer, Neutral.
Doc: L1 Thief, (Alignment?).
George (of the Jungle): L5 Beastmasterm Lawful.
Rory: L6 Barbarian, Death Dealer, Neutral.
Tuckonidas Bulk: L6 Barbarian, Neutral.
Tulsa Doom: L2 Shaman, Snake Handler, Neutral.

Bloodletter: Magos the L4 Mage
George: Fido the War Dog
Tuckonidas: Duck (L? Fighter), Ye (L? Bard)

XP for Treasure: 4,000
XP for Kills: 5,270
XP for Magic Items: 32,250
Total XP Pool: 41,520
Cuts: 16
PC Cut: 0%: 5,190   5%: 5,450   10%: 5,709
Hench Cut: 0%: 2,595   5%: 2,725   10%: 2,854

Session Report

The main parties of the campaign took a brief excursion the last few weeks to lift the Evil Muppet Curse (which they caused) back at Muppetlantis. This was mostly handled by the Dubzaron co DM Brig and he did some session reports about the curse and its lifting that I'll drop in this space soon. 

Today I'd like to talk about Session 151 of Dubzaron. 151 sessions. Good heavens can you imagine. Do the critics of the brosr have campaigns that even go into double digits? Maybe here and there. But even those flounder and die when their PCs levels go into the double digits. Because they don't know how to run real D&D. What a shame. 

If only they'd use 1:1 Jeffrogaxian Timekeeping, Patrons, and Braunstein play they could have real D&D campaigns like the BROSR. Like me, BDubs; the greatest long running DM with a current campaign still going. 

While this amazing feat of 151 sessions is mostly due to mine general greatness; I would be remiss if I didn't celebrate the many players who have made this possible. Primarily my Co DMs who kept Dubzaron going for about 6 months when I was dealing with some irl stuff: Brig, Ambrose, Vince, RM, and JB. Thank you!

Also, I'd like to thank all the players, current and former, whose excitement, passion, and engagement in the world of dubzaron kept us all ready to come back for session after session. Thank you!

I would have said all this in the session 151 session report but I had some irl stuff come up last week and had to bail. They broke the curse of muppetry without me! This is fitting since the curse itself happened without me. Once again, Mr and Mr Black Lodge Games, this felt foolishness was not my fault! 

With the muppetry out of the way and all the medium size or smaller bipeds of the world no longer made of felt; the party gathered again in the Sepia Hills to tackle the new tentpole dungeon of the campaign: Queens Rest Mountain!

They set off for the volcano on May Day, ignoring rumors of shamans and druids of the hills (in the more hidden villages) celebrating this druidic holiday with human sacrifice. I decided Patron Kyle OConner who runs this region isn't so into that part of druid faith system but turns a blind eye if it's practice is not too publicly celebrated in the deeper hills and hollows. I found this to be interesting worldbuilding but, as is the case with most all worldbuilding the DM does, the players DONT CARE.

Within a few game world hours they were at the dungeon inside a volcano. They passed by the entry room which is now controlled by a Storm Giant named Permanti who is friendly to them. He advised them that last week, during some lava floes on the outside of the mountain, the various chaos monsters he had to yeet had unnatural fiery aspects. Fiery hair and fur, breathing fire, things like that. Be careful if you delve the dungeon during a floe! 

The party has explored this place a bunch so it was a quick rundown of going three rooms north, two rooms east etc to get where they were going. Althought a made a couple random monster encounter rolls nothing hit so they got to the area they wanted to check out with no danger. Sad.

They passed through a room with a broken wall and into a hallway going north towards their assumed goal. They came upon an evil altar in a cubby with fire giants and the necromancer queen depicted on the side of it in bas relief. No one had any holy water or "Bless" spell to cleanse it so the Lawfully aligned members of the party didn't cop their nice 800 xp bump from doing so. And perhaps took a grade hit from not at least physically defacing it, stay tuned for grading below to find out!

Searching the wall behind the altar Tuck realized it was all cracked up and could be broken by someone with some strength so Bloodletter busted through it like the Koolaid man. On the other side I rolled up a random encounter of 4 vampires (lol, lmao) which I made a 30% chance was Bloodletter best from from Barsoom: Slenderman! and it was!

Bloodletter was charmed by this slightly altered version of the ACKS vampire (I won't tell you which of his abilities are changed; fog of war!) way back on Barsoom and he was happy to see his pal. The reaction roll wasn't great but Slenderman gave Bloodletter a ring, long ago, which improved his reaction with Vampires. So it was enough to make Slenderman simply vaguely annoyed.

You see, Slenderman had made this nice crypt room his new lair in the world of Dubzaron and he was enjoying some personal time with his 3 lady friends (the other 3 vampires in the encounter number roll). Surely they were up to nothing prurient, perish the thought! Slenderman was teaching them the Lindy Hop! Yes he has come to Dubzaron to spread the word of social dance; most especially swing dancing!

While Bloodletter advised Slenderman to hit the gym more to bulk up his spindly arms, the party notes 2 sarcophagi in the room with one piled high with Lair Treasure. Bloodletter made nice with his "friend", letting him know the part was in search of an Orb and Slenderman telling them it was in a room to the north. He saw it but decided to leave it be "but bring it to me for study when you acquire it". 

The party realized they revealed to much and Bloodletter made excuses. They really didn't want to give a vampire the Orb they've been trying to bag for like 4 months. So Slenderman said bring him some dwarves or other smaller slaves to rebuild the wall they broke and help him expand his lair and it was left at that. The vampire gals wanted to keep some of the party members but reaction rolls from the party deemed that Slenderman said "nah". He instead struck up his phantom Big Band and they all got back to Lindy Hopping as the party left.

The party traveled north and found a room which very clearly looked like a trap. It was huge with a magic circle in the center, a big fireplace with an Eternal Flame (magic) inside, braziers all around the room, and a big disgusting statue of a pregnant crone (thanks alot, Macris). The Orb was floating in the eternal flame.

I went to get a drink while the party discussed their plan to deal with it. Magos used ESP to read surface thoughts in the room and heard "Burn, Kill, Rest" and Tulsa asked the ancestors through Commune if an elemental was in the room "yes". and some other questions I forgot. 

The eventual plan was to tie a rope to Doc the Thief (???), let him pop off a Ward against Elemental to go in and grab the Orb. 

This plan took a while to develop with some back and forth between the thief being scared and Rory stating they were "[redacted]ing dead without a Cleric". 

But all said and done the thief was sneaking into the room, secure in the knowledge he couldn't be attacked by melee from elementals. He checked out the magic circle and saw 4 reliquaries around it made of gold worth about 1,000 each. He mentally noted that and went to the fireplace. He tried to use his sling to rope the Orb out of the fireplace. Before he could try the eternal flames burst out and lit the braziers around the room and 6 Hell Hounds (2 large, 4 smaller)  all about the room. And a massive earth elemental rose from the magic circle.

In my kindness I made surprise roll for the party (who were "set to ambush" from the doorway) to see if they could get a free round of attacks on the monsters. They could and downed one of the big hell hounds. Sadly a brazier blast out fire and healed it back up at the end of the round. 

Upon normal combat, the barbarians started attacking and beating down dogs and Bloodletter shifted focus to knocking over braziers so the dogs couldn't be healed back up. Doc tried to get out of the room with Duck shadowing to hopefully protect him. Magos put 2 of the smaller hell hounds to sleep which made them unable to be healed back up by braziers; taking them off the board. 

The elemtal smashed Fido the wardog, then Ye and George. He was not able to attack Doc as per the scroll of warding and the dogs (despite chasing the thief) never got an attack off on him because he won initiative at the right times. 

The combat took a while but that was most of the content. When all was said and done the party had a few beat up and beat down members. Upon triage all the fallen members (iirc) were able to get back up as walking wounded.

Doc, during the battle, had escaped back down the hallway. As this was very close to where they had encountered Slenderman I made a wandering monster check to see if he'd mosey along to check out the proceedings. The answer was yes. So he popped right next to Doc and used his charming gaze on the thief. Failing his Save Vs Spells, the thief found Slenderman to be his best pal in the world! So they went back to practice some swing dance and Slenderman pocketed the Orb.

Tuck's player was heard on mic "I [redacted]ing hate Queens Rest Mountain". 

While the party triaged the fallen comrades Bloodletter went to see if he could convince Slenderman to give Doc and the Orb back. Generally the reaction rolls favored the party so Slenderman said "this Orb isn't even magical, it's junk! But my ladies would like to eat the thief" to which Bloodletter replied "that's fine as long as you give me the Orb". 

As the ladies approached to kill Doc I allowed him to try and talk his way out of it and the Reaction Roll dice were kind again. They decided he was "too weak to eat yet; let him level a bit and come back". Doc agreed to that plan.

Upon returning to the big battle room Doc noticed a small gold key in the fireplace and Bloodletter reached into the flame to take it out, taking 3 damage. That would have killed the thief. 

They opened a door on the north wall and came to a room with a magic furnace anvil thing and shelves full of magic items. They bagged those, making nice XP, and left the dungeon. They traveled all the way back to the city of Claymore Crossing to have the items identified and split them up among the party. They were as follows:

Staff of Healing, Wand of Fireballs, Shield +2, Shortsword of Light +2, 5 crossbow bolts +3, 24 arrows +1, 27 crossbow bolts +1. 

So what will they do now that they have the Orb and Scepter? They believe it will open the door to the Twin Peaks curtain quest that Kyle Oconner gave them like a year ago. Will it? Will they die in the attempt? Find out next time!

PC Class Grades
Bloodletter: L6 Barbarian, Death Dealer, Neutral. E for Excellent. Dealt death and played up his charmed friendship with Slenderman.
Doc: L1 Thief, (Alignment?). S for Superior. Failed to try and grab a little something extra for himself from Slenderman's lair or the magic circle room.
George (of the Jungle): L5 Beastmasterm Lawful. E for excellent. Didn't back out of battle. Tried to set ambush. Attempted to track.
Rory: L6 Barbarian, Death Dealer, Neutral. E for excellent. Dealt death and didn't flee from combat.
Tuckonidas Bulk: L6 Barbarian, Neutral. E for excellent, bold and didn't flee from combat.
Tulsa Doom: L2 Shaman, Snake Handler, Neutral. E for good healing and using commune. 

How to Total NonStop Braunstein your Traveler Campaign

"We have tried to make these rules as complete as possible, with provisions for both solitaire and unsupervised play". - Traveler ...