Monday, November 22, 2021

More Thoughts on Patron Play

After I posted the Essential Guide to Patron Play for your D&D Campaign I've had folks ask me various questions to elaborate on particular concerns or ideas. One person in particular, a member of the ACKS Discord, had some very pointed and interesting questions for me.

So here are my thoughts on those various questions about Patron play in no particular order:

1. "What HD/Level Patrons do you find most effective? Now that your PCs have leveled will you be making Patrons higher level?"

Hit Dice and Level aren't all that important. Just like you don't try to balance the game world around session play or the PCs by fudging random encounter rolls or whatever, you shouldn't concern yourself with whether or not the Patrons are too powerful or not powerful enough. The concept is the thing. 

Patrons aren't really competition for the PCs they are competition for other Patrons. So their power with respect to rival Patrons is more important than where they stand in relation to the PCs. And even that isn't too important. This is a living world, right? One city might have more troops or resources than another. It's not about balance it's about the world in question; the idea, the milieu.

2. "How do Patrons handle the time jump spend a month in the session? Can they retroactively catch up...?"

You can only run Patrons using Jeffrogaxian Timekeeping; real time time keeping. So if PCs adventure a month into the future they will be trapped in the future for a month before they can take actions. With that in mind the DM can always have a general idea about where the PCs were and at what time(s) if the Patrons happen to go to where PCs ended the session a month later.

This sort of stuff is a bit mind bending and DMs are going to have to work on possible issues as they crop up. For my part I've yet to have any sort of timekeeping or time compression issues which I found challenging to adjudicate. Jeffrograxian Timekeeping abides.

3. "How many Patrons are practical to maintain at any time?" 

This will be up to the DM and the Players in question. You'll have to gauge for yourself. If this is a concern then I advise using the "Limited Approach" to introduce 1 or 2 Patrons at a time and see how it feels.

Some Patrons will want to ask a million questions about every action they take. Some will take an idea and run with it and rarely even bother the DM with questions before they interact with PCs or other Patrons. DMs deciding to go full BROSR in their approach to D&D will need to embrace the paradigm shift that comes with Jeffrogaxian Timekeeping and Patrons. The latter of which will mean you will have less control and hands-on with all elements of your campaign. The Patrons and your PCs will begin to worldbuild without you. As such, the normal bottle neck of worldbuilding is smashed. And this is a good thing.

4. "What ratio of Good vs Evil (or Lawful vs Chaotic) Patrons do you recommend?" 

This will have to come down to DM taste as well. 

I think 50/50 is fine but if you prefer a more challenging campaign world I'd allow as high as 75% Hostile Patrons vs 25% Friendly.

I actually prefer about 25% of Friendly and 25% Hostile with the other 50% of Patrons that *should* be somewhat Neutral or wary of PCs. These would be the mob boss who doesn't have any predisposed reason to dislike the PCs, the head of the Mage's Guild who simply sees PCs as a tool, or the King of Elfland who simply doesn't like humans at all but isn't evil going out looking to kill them all.

Again this is all going to come down to milieu, what Patron ideas are interesting, and how comfortable the DM is with campaign difficulty or lack thereof. I warn all DMs reading that if you allow too many Patrons friendly to the PCs the PCs will end up begging for said Patrons to essentially play the campaign for them. "Hey there's this orc lair... how about you go with your army and clear it?"

But if you find that PCs have turned tons of Patrons to their side and they're becoming a team, so what? OSR minded DMs in particular, I find, need to let go of always having the most difficult or lethal campaign and let their PCs have Wins. If PCs start winning all the time and are as much as pointing Friendly Patrons at their (PCs) problems then that is the new nature of the campaign.

Don't we all play D&D to see what happens? If what happens is the PCs are the minds behind the Patrons' thrones then so be it.


Thursday, November 18, 2021

BDubs' Essential Guide to Patron Play for your D&D Campaign

Introduction

Since I have the longest running most publicly well documented #brosr campaign running with Patron NPCs I have decided to create the Essential Guide on the subject. This is a public service for all the #Elite DND hobbyists or those aspiring for Elite #BROsr status. 


My campaign uses the Adventurer, Conqueror, King System (ACKS) but I also recommend Advanced Dungeons and Dragons First Edition (1e) for this sort of Patron play. The BROSR and BDUBs do NOT recommend using any other game system to attempt Patron play. It has been done with 5e but it is not ideal.

There is an Objectively Correct way to play Real D&D so you want to have the best foundation for your serious campaign. 1e is the best system for this, followed by ACKS. Choose another system at your peril!

Additionally, this guide assumes you are playing with Jeffrogaxian Time Keeping (JTK). Check the link and read that blog before proceeding, if you know not the term. JTK essentially means, outside of session play, time passes in the game world at the same rate as the real world. Real Time Timekeeping (or JTK) grounds the campaign in reality and provides Patrons with a clear conception of how much they can do and accomplish each day, week, month or whatever.

Variable Time Keeping does not work well with Patron play, causing too many problems and weird issues cropping up. Don't do it!

Now, on with the guide.

What are Patrons?

Chanticleer is an e-friend, tw1tter celebrity, and the DM of a 5e Waterdeep campaign that employed BROSR best practices; including JTK and downtime. He coined the term "Patron" for "characters who would be NPCs whose downtime is controlled by a Player"

That's the quick definition. Allow me to expound.

Most DMs launch a new campaign with a handful of Important NPCs or they have to create them to suit the needs of the campaign as PCs explore the world. Some examples include The Castellan at the "Keep on the Borderlands", the Thieves Guild Master sort (ala Fritz Lieber's "Farfahd and Gray Mouser" tales), The Evil Wizard (ala Saruman or Flagg), The Orc Chief leading a nearby tribe the PCs must needs defeat ASAP, etc

NPCs stack up as a D&D campaign plays on. Chanticleer found that he was running out of time and imagination on what these NPCs might be up to each week. They'd surely continue to live their lives even if the PCs weren't engaging with them on a regular basis, right? 

Instead of allowing yourself as the DM to hit this wall of real life constraints on your time or a sapping of your imagination, you can simply give the major NPC(s) to a real Player to run. Said Player (now Patron) essentially makes Downtime Requests the same as PCs do between sessions. But the Patron does not play in Session Play. Such a right is reserved for PCs.

The term "Patron" was coined because many Patrons will end up looking up the PCs to handle various missions for them, since the PCs have the luxury of doing weekly (or at least frequent) session play. One thing you'll find running major Patrons is that you and the Patron player will better understand why the Castellan doesn't just clear out the Caves of Chaos himself, or whatever. He can't be bothered. There's usually much bigger threats and goals in front of the Patron than a clutch of monster lairs. That's why Patrons offer cash and prizes for PCs to take care of small-fry problems.

The Patron will also not want to risk his own non-expendable resources such as his major retainers or troops; sending them to the Caves of Chaos or whatever dumb low level dungeon the PCs are certain is the most important thing in the game world. To Patrons: PC's are an expendable resource to throw at their problems.

How Do I Introduce Patrons?

There are no hard fast rules on how to do this since only the DM himself will know his PCs, his potential Patrons, and his own aptitude for juggling all these things. However there are some approaches I recommend and some advice on things to be aware of when introducing Patrons. 

Limited Approach: 

If you already have a campaign underway you may find you have a few NPCs that need more weight in the world. More importance due to PC interest. Or perhaps you as the DM are very interested in an NPC that PCs couldn't care less about. Without Patron Play a good DM would basically delete or ignore that NPC for the rest of the campaign. If the PCs don't care then you don't force an NPC on them. HOWEVER, if you have an NPC you think is really interesting perhaps you find a Patron player who agrees and wants to run with the idea. 

With Limited Approach you simply turn NPCs or good NPC ideas into Patrons as they come into your game world. One or two at a time will enter the world. This is the approach I and Chanticleer used. When Ferigno the Green Dragon and Dairin the Evil Swamp Mage were firmly established NPC villains the PCs hated, I realized I'd never be able to play them both as well as they deserved to fight off PC incursions and schemes against them. They were assigned to Players as Patrons. The rest is history.

With Limited Approach be aware that Patrons will be MUCH MORE ACTIVE, on the whole, than an NPC. There is no amount of random action rolls you can make for an NPC that is going to compete with a player controlling an NPC with major resources at his disposal. 

A Patron Villain could be very dangerous to the PCs, for instance; using everything at his disposal to simply kill as many PCs as he can while they're resting at the inn. Patron Villains will do the sort of "unfair" things a DM would be too scared to do to PCs for fear of losing player loyalty to the campaign. Be wary of this effect when introducing Patrons, most especially villains. Having the villain be remote to the PCs "home base" will help mitigate a sudden assassination of a PC for instance. Or at least give the PCs time to become aware that Dairin the evil swamp Mage might send an assassin to kill them during downtime.

Brainstorm Approach: 

With Jeffrogaxian Time Keeping you're going to have PCs storm an orc lair, or whatever, kill a half dozen of them and run away with some treasure. PCs will then take to planning the best way to go back to eliminate/loot the lair. As a DM you don't want the Orcs (or whatever they are) spend the week or two the PCs are away just standing in their numbered dungeon rooms waiting to get killed. You can give the Orc Chief to a Patron Player  on a short term basis.

"Hey Joe, the Chief is sure the PCs are coming back. How might he prepare so he and his warriors aren't destroyed?"

Joe will then take to coming up with the most hairbrained schemes and ideas about how to defend his dungeon lair. You, as the DM, can just chuckle and take notes. 

"Ok first we're going to make a bunch of pit traps... and fill them with warg dung..." it will go on and on. 

If the Orc Chief and the lair in question are ignored for a long time perhaps the Orcs begin to gain back their numbers and even grow into a larger threat. Joe the Patron Player will be sure to ask you these sorts of questions. If the orcs aren't dead in a couple weeks Joe will begin to get attached to the Orc Tribe and grow them and start throwing crazy ideas by you about how he wants to leave the dungeon in search of more orcs... or the minotaur on the other side of the dungeon. The beauty is you don't have to figure all this out. You just field Joe's questions, make the best rulings you can, and roll with it. Just like you do with PC's during session play.

Audacious Approach: 

No one likes Session 0. "But I do!" No you don't. But you could launch a campaign with player input in a way that's actually fun and cool by letting a bunch of Players create and run Patrons in your campaign world for a while. All the crazy ideas for major rulers, kings, assassins guild leaders, or whatever will clash against each other and leave in its wake (or wreckage) an interesting campaign world for PCs to adventure in. 

Jeffro Johnson's incredible and impactful Trollopulous 1e campaign re-launched after about 30 sessions by having like a dozen Patrons all dropped into the campaign world at once just to see what would happen. After they ruined basically everything some new PCs were able to explore a game world that looked much different as far as political divisions or whatever.

You can do this same approach with a brand new campaign without having any ideas at all for the game world. Just ask 10 dudes what Patron they want to run, let them create it, drop rumors about the other Patrons (who they'll surely want to ally with or kill) and go. In short order you'll have a campaign world that's much more interesting than one in a module or setting box set.

How Do I Make a Patron?

Once you've decided which approach you want to use for Patrons you'll need to create them. The thing to keep in mind with Patrons is their personal Ability Scores and such are not nearly as important as the resources at their disposal. 

Is it the Baron's 18 Strength that makes PCs want to follow the laws of the Barony or his 500 soldiers? Obviously the latter. But how do you decide what these resources are?

Making "Monster" Patrons: 

These are the easiest to create. If you're running 1e (which you should be) you can simply direct your Patron player to the 1e Monster Manual and say "roll up an Elf lair as per the numbers Mr. Gygax elaborates". The Patron player then goes through the very long "Elf" entry in the Monster Manual and after some time he has rolled up the numbers of his troops, the numbers and levels of all his officers, and he claims the "Elf Lord" as the Patron proper. This Elf Lord "lair" is placed in your game world wherever it seems feasible and the Patron Elf Lord begins marching his army around, casting or researching new spells, getting into trouble with PCs or other Patrons. 

It's assumed you gave this Patron some general starting motivation about why he's riled up enough to start being more active in the world. After a while the Patron will develop his own motivations based on his own broken psychology or perceived slights by other PCs/Patrons or whatever; and take on a life of his own. 

Making a Hill Giant or Dragon Patron is just the same. Open the monster entry in the manual and start rolling up numbers, treasure, etc. ACKS has a monster section very similar to the 1e Monster Manual so you can do the exact same thing as with 1e.

Making Human Patrons: 

This is very similar to introducing Monster Patrons except Human Patrons are more likely to be installed in the PC's Border Fort or City or wherever they lay their head for safety at the end of an adventure. These will be your Kings, Dukes, Guildmasters and the like. 

ACKS has the upper hand on creating these without DM input, in my opinion. Open to page 253 of ACKS Core book and you'll see how the writer has designated "Adventurer", "Conqueror" and "King" tier designations if you wanted to have PCs start a campaign at higher levels. 


You simply apply this to Patrons instead. These rules have a game system for the Patron having a certain amount of XP and Gold Pieces to use to pick a class at a higher level. Then use his GP to acquire major Retainers, Mercenaries for his army, Keeps, Guild house, magic items etc. You can create this for the Patron (if he's a novice RPGer) or you can say "take care of this and get back to me".

If you're running 1e instead you'll need to peruse the 1e DMG for information about your campaign city's demographics, how that translates into income for the Patron, and extrapolate from there on what sort of resources he might have based on the type of Patron he is. The assassins guild master will have a bunch of assassin toadies, for instance. The Mage Guildmaster will have apprentices and library full of spell books. etc. You could also use the 1e rules for Creating NPC Parties to decide what magic items and equipment the Patron would have on hand, if you wanted to gameify it.

If you're using a module and are designating an NPC in there as a Patron you can simply cut and paste the information about the NPC's entry  and his resources to a Word doc or something and send it to the Patron Player. It won't be long before he's ignore most of the boring parts about said NPC and grabbed onto the fun aspects (or made his own).

If you have an idea that has no in game economics or tech tied to it then just work with the player and hit the best solution you can. I don't believe 1e has economics or tech on how to create a thark airship but that's exactly what the Trollopulous Patron Macho Mandalf had under his authority.

The economics on all this does NOT need to be perfect to start. If you start a Patron with hardly any cash and scratching for every gold piece you can rest assure the Patron player will begin coming up with schemes to get paid. He will rise to the challenge or fail. Just like a PC.

How Do I DM/Play a Patron?

Basics: 

DMing and playing a Patron is done a bit more by feel than exact instruction. If you're already running Downtime requests in your campaign (and you MUST be if you want a Real D&D campaign) you simply allow the Patron to make Downtime requests the same as the PCs. You then apply those actions to the campaign world.

Doing this will depend on how you run Downtime. You can do like I do and have a chat client with all your PCs and Players and they can send you Downtime Requests between session play and you execute any rulings on these as you find time day to day. Some BROSR Elite call this an "Always On" campaign. This is what I do. Although PCs and Patrons know I will get to requests when I can, I'm an adult with real responsibilities.


Another approach to Downtime is, upon the end of a Session, you ask all your Participating PCs what they're doing between now and next week's session. Gray Mouser is racketeering the Street of the Gods, Merlin is researching a new spell, Fagor the Orc Fighter is recruiting sumo wrestler henchmen etc. You take note of this and the date it started and the next time Merlin asks you "hey about 2 weeks ago I started spell research when I wasn't adventuring" and you check to see if that was long enough to finish. Roll any dice on the matter there if necessary.

You can do something similar with Patrons though you'll need to text them or call them or something, take a quick note, and go from there.

Timekeeping: 

I advise DMs to run Patron actions week to week. Hit up the Patron and say "you have 7 days of actions you can take before the next PC Session is run". It's my opinion that Session Play itself keeps all this crazy Patron stuff grounded.

ACKS has clear description on what it calls "Campaign Play" and how long it takes to Rumormong, Heist a Bank, Train in a new weapon or whatever. For those running other systems I advise allowing one Major Action each day and 2 Minor Actions. Major Actions would be something like doing a heist or rumormongering, traveling, making war, whatever. You'll get a feel for Major/Minor distinction in your system of choice (ACKS or 1e only) especially if you are properly running wilderness travel, timekeeping and such.

Neutral/Friendly Interactions: 

What about when Patrons want to talk to one another? 

If the Patrons are in the same city or close enough to be feasible that they would have correspondence, you simply let them chat or talk on the phone as much as they want. They can LARP until their hearts content about how cool they are, or scheme with the other Patron against the PCs, or double cross one another. Said Patrons can then inform the DM of anything about the discussion(s) that would cause real movement in the game world that the DM would need to know about.

If Patron Merlin makes a magic sword for Patron Gray Mouser, the DM would have to know. If Merlin simply has tea with Fagor, it doesn't matter if the DM knows or not.

Patrons and PCs will begin to scheme as much as they can without taking actions the DM would need to be informed about. Recently my PCs had a pit fight between eachother a a Patron's illegal pit fighting facility without informing the DM at all. They had another player they trust oversee the attack rolls and stats. I was only told about it later. Amazing!

In this way the Patrons will act as secondary DMs and take alot of worldbuilding off the shoulders of the DM even with PCs. It's a way to avoid the bottle neck of always needing the DM to inform the PC about every aspect of a game world and him simply not having time.

Hostile Interactions

If Patrons want to attack or make war on one another, the DM will need to get involved quite a bit more. In this case the DM will need to know the exact makeup of the group the Patron is using to run the operation. Perhaps the Patron is sending some of his Major Retainers to attack the PCs or another Patron. You simply do the math on the timeline for something like this then roll it out in D&D combat or some abstraction system. The Patron will learn of the results through rumor or from any of his retainers that survive to tell the tale. If the Patron sends his Retainers out to do something and they die he may never find out what happened to them at all!

The best part of Patron play is it allows you to have hex based wargames running in your gameworld concurrent with session play. This is how Gygax and Arneson's tables were run, so you'll be in good company. 

If you're running 1e you'll need to use Chainmail for mass combat and if you're running ACKS you'll need to use Domains at War: Campaigns . The latter gives you clear rules for supply lines and hiring or drafting more soldiers or whatever. There is a time cost so once again Jeffrogaxian Time Keeping makes this all feasible and all such decisions meaningful. 

If Patron armies engage in Mass Combat you can run it Abstractly quickly based on best decisions the commanders would make. Or, if all participating Patrons and PCs are available in chat when you have time to run the numbers, you can ask them for strategic and tactical decisions here and there. 

Running Patrons During Session Play:

If the PCs decide to interact with a Patron during session play you are not going to be able to get input from the Patron Player that very moment. In this case you run the Patron just like an NPC taking note of the Patron's personality (based on his actual play) and any contingencies (traps, plan of attack, favorite spells etc) that he gave you. In this session I ran Ferigno like an NPC because the PCs came at his Lair with a squadron of various soldiers to try and kill him. They didn't win but they put a hurt on him.

Why are Patrons Important?

" As with most other role playing games, this one is not just a single experience contest. It is an ongoing campaign, with each playing session related to the next by results and participant characters who go from episode to episode. As players build the experience level of their characters and go forth seeking ever greater challenges, they must face stronger monsters and more difficult problems of other sorts (and here the Dungeon Master must likewise increase his or her ability and inventiveness). While initial adventuring usually takes place in an underworld dungeon setting, play gradually expands to encompass other such dungeons, town and city activities, wilderness explorations, and journeys into other dimensions, planes, times, worlds, and so forth.

Players will add characters to their initial adventurer as the milieu expands so that each might actually have several characters, each involved in some separate and distinct adventure form, busily engaged in the game at the same moment of "Game Time". 

This allows participation by many players in games which are substantially different from game to game as dungeon, metropolitan, and outdoor settings are rotated from playing to playing. And perhaps a war between players will be going on (with battles actually fought out on the tabletop with minature figures) one night, while on the next, characters of these two contending players are helping each other to survive somewhere in a wilderness." 

-Gary Gygax, Advanced Dungeon and Dragons "Player's Handbook" page 7

Have you ever ran a D&D campaign like that? Probably not. Yet its in the introduction of the 1e PHB which we must assume no one ever read. Because that description of D&D sounds millions of times more interesting and engaging than the ones you or I grew up playing.

If you use Jeffrogaxian Time Keeping and Patrons, you can have this type of game. It's my guess that Gygax and Co. played so frequently that PCs leveled into "Name Level" thus becoming what we're calling "Patrons". Thanks to a combination of social factors most of us simply don't engage with our hobbies as much as Gygax and Co. did with D&D back then. So the quickest way to get THAT GAME is to use Patrons as soon as you, the DM, think you're ready.

Patrons inject excitement and unpredictability into a D&D Campaign. They take on our life of their own and their interactions begin to seed dozens of hooks week after week. They'll begin sending PCs on missions to get stuff for them. They'll double cross PCs and rip them off. They'll make war with other Patrons over the smallest of slights (or none at all!) and the PCs will need to deal with the fallout to the game world. 

Patrons may swoop or threaten to swoop PCs' adventure hooks; grabbing up the Magic Sword of MacGuffin before the PCs can get to it. So it will give the Session Play proper a sense of urgency and excitement. They'll be in a hurry to hit Ferigno the Patron Green Dragon so they can claim the treasure horde before the Patron Legate Drakon takes his army over there to claim it. 

Some PCs may realize they have an easier mark to sell items or economic schemes to in Patrons than in the NPCs the DM controls. So Elite PCs will start hitting up Patrons with their ridiculous schemes and begging for resources ("hey Legate could I get some of your soldiers to lead against this monster...") from Patrons rather than DM controlled NPCs.

And guess what... if you're a fair DM, you let them! The Patron will have to deal with the fallout if he lets the PCs rip him off all the time. And the fallout could be huge.

It's time for you to have the engaging wild and wonderful D&D experience that the creators of the game took for granted. It's time to bring PATRON PLAY to your campaign! With this guide. Now you can.



Wednesday, November 17, 2021

ACKS Session 35: Elves in Vegas

Session was played on 11/10/21 with PCs adventuring for 9 game days. Needing 1 day of rest as per ACKS rules, participating PCs may make downtime requests and play in sessions on and after 11/21/21.

Foreword

Patrons rule.

The hook the Players tackled this session was directly generated through Patron and PC Downtime play. After defeating Ferigno (Deceased Patron Green Dragon Level ???) and Dairin (Deceased Patron Mage Level ???) during "Ferigno's Last Stand" mass combat, Legate Drakon (Patron Fighter and Domain Ruler Level ???) marched on to Ferigno's lair to claim the dragon's horde as spoils of war. 

my campaign can do this. can yours?

 

There he found a palisade around a tower with dark magicked thorny vines surrounding the and crawling the tower. BriarWhisper (PC Elven Ranger Level 3) informed the Legate that Ferigno's horde was inside the tower beneath the vines. The Legate ordered his men to chop down all the vines, leaving the sturdy stone tower standing alone; bloody pulsing vines dying on the ground.

There was a steel locked door on the southern wall and on the eastern wall were red velvet curtains hanging to the ground from about 15 feet up along the outside of the tower wall. On the ground in front of the curtains was a stone slab floor with a white and brown zig zag design. Jazz music with a heavy bass line was emanating from beyond the eerie curtains.

BriarWhisper was certain BOB from Twin Peaks must be nearby and Legate Valerian ordered the Clerics among his army to Detect Evil and divine for the weird creature. The following happened:

"While detect evil is being cast the jazz music gets louder and the world darkens until all folks of level 3 are above are standing in what feels like space among the stars. The curtain and floor remain floating in nothingness in front of you. All L2 or lower folks are gone completely and the L3+ feel unable to move except heads and eyes to look upon one another. 

A midget in a red suit comes out from behind the curtain dancing very hip. He talks backwards but you see subtitles in front of you in your common tongue. 

'Just missed him! Just missed the prize! All glory no gold.' He then wiggles his finger in a circle and there is a rewinding sound and you see BOB and some strange vine goblin creatures carrying treasure from Ferigno's hoard into the curtains. BOB is laughing silently as he counts all the money on his fingers. He then flies off east. The goblin...things... enter the curtains and don't come back out. 

Let's rock!

The scene changes and you see them running down a strange street with horseless carriages honking in fear and people screaming. Massive concrete spires are here and there flashing with neon lights. The goblins storm a weird place where loud games of chance and being played and claim a massive treasure vault to store Ferigno's treasure. Looking at the front of the building with the vault it has a weird sign that says 'The Bellagio'.

You're back in the present but still in the star field and the Man from Another Place Tells you: 'Come along then,' he opens the curtain, 'fire walk with me.' Then all of the higher level folks find themselves back in the Viaspen Forest. 

Various henchmen and mercs are waving their hands in front of their leaders' eyes saying things like 'you ok boss?' The small man is gone."

Drakon and BriarWhisper brainstormed whether they should enter the curtain (assumed to be a magic portal, thanks to the vision) or not. After all was done they decided to leave it be with the agreement BriarWhisper would return with an adventuring party. Drakon was promised 50% of whatever was found messing with the red velvet curtain.

After breaking down the regular door to the tower and finding the dragon treasure gone, all parties agreed Ferigno must have been a greedy jerk and sent his ill gotten gains into the portal to keep the Lawful army's grubby hands off of it. (I'd not have had a regular NPC do this. It was the Patron player's great and fun idea. Get Patrons into your d&d campaigns ASAP.)

Anyway, I don't know exactly what BriarWhisper told the other players to get them to return to this weird place. But a week or so later, when the next session after it happened was played, they were ready to brave the weird curtains.

What happened was one of the strangest, most gonzo, stupidest, greatest sessions I've ever ran. Mine PCs went to Las Vegas. And all it took was a couple of random encounter tables and the creativity of #Elite Players.

Session Report

BriarWhisper and the other PCs left the city of Cyfaraun and traveled south and east along the Auran roads. Passing through Turos Orn they turned south and entered the Viaspen Forest from the northern edge. They had been lent 20 Heavy Infantrymen from Legate Drakon so were moving pretty slow. A day or so into the forest they came across some giant vampire bats, surprising the creatures and easily killing all but one of them. Daria (PC BladeDancer Level 5) considered using Charm Animal on one but decided it would not be a Lawful act to have a pet turn people into vampires. All bats were killed.

Arriving at Ferigno's tower and the Twin Peaks curtain thing they tied a rope around BriarWhisper's pet owl Shadowfeather (Hench Owl Level Who Cares) and sent him into the curtain. They were hoping to have the owl scout and come back and report back to them what he saw. Because this plan has worked so well in the past. The rope dropped to the ground as if it was cut at the line when the owl passed into the curtain. 

So much for that.

The Players started voting whether any of them would enter the eerie curtain at all. I grabbed a drink. 

When I came back Daria, Gaius (PC Fighter Level 5) and Zoria (PC Mage level 1) were absolutely NOT going inside the curtain. No way no how. 

BriarWhisper, Laru (PC Thief Level 3), and Timur (PC Barbarian Level 2) were in. I rolled Morale checks to see if all their henchmen were in too, of which there were quite a few. None of the henchmorons balked. LETS GOOOOO

Once BriarWhisper touched the curtain to open it all individuals in question disappeared from the Viaspen Forest and found themselves in a mazelike hallway of red velvet curtains and zig zag carpet. Heavy bass jazz music was playing very loud indeed. The Black Lodge.

Players were aghast. They tried to turn around and come back the way they came. No luck. Were they stuck forever? Who knows! They began to wander around the place like the final episode of Twin Peaks Season 2. 

After a while (who knows how long, time had no meaning) they came upon a room with a couple of leather easy chairs, a small table with a statue of Saturn, and a man in a black suit and tie with slicked back black hair and a bemused expression. Federal Bureau of Investigations Special Agent Dale Cooper. (Random Encounter roll.)

cooper was alone so they netted him

Timur decided to throw a net on the man so we rolled initiative. He missed. Some of the other PCs decided not to attack Cooper at all. I was chomping at the bit to have Cooper fire off his pistol at one of the PCs but my Reaction Check deemed he would hold his hands up to declare himself no threat to the PCs. Too bad.

"I'm no threat to you. Why are we here?" he asked. Apparently this was Season 1 Dale Cooper experiencing a dream state. He informed the PCs the last thing he remembered was going to bed in the Great Northern Hotel in Twin Peaks Washington. The PCs were clueless. About half of the players themselves got the references, half didn't I'd guess. But it was no matter. The PCs asked Cooper to accompany them to deal with BOB. Cooper knew BOB and he was in, joining the party for a while.

They wandered the Black Lodge for a while (who knows how long) and eventually came out a red curtain that led into a scorching desert. Climbing over a hill they found an ugly road of smelly black stone Cooper informed them was called "asphalt". Horseless carriages were racing down the road as blistering speeds that made the PCs a bit dizzy.  

Cooper attempted to hitchhike and Timur joined in. No luck. One assumes the moderns racing down the highway in their Prius's aren't too into picking up a bunch of elves and others who look like ren faire rejects.

hoofin it down the strip

After a few hours of walking along the freeway they came to a big neon sign flashing "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada". PCs were finding that subtitles would appear in front of their line of vision to translate the weird language on the sign and from Cooper.

Soon they entered a massive city of towering neon spires that blinded them as night fell. Cars were slowing down to gawk at the PCs and honking and cheering them as they trudged down the Strip. BriarWhisper informed Cooper they were looking for a building called The Belaggio and the FBI agent remembered going there on vacation when he was younger. He knew the way.

Some hour or two later the motley crew was at the famous Belaggio fountain. Cooper stared off over the water seemingly hypnotized until he saw a Starbucks, walking suddenly towards it to get a steaming hot black cup of Joe. Timur joined him and enjoyed the brew.

The other party members stood around the Belaggio fountain uncertainly until some fanboy tourists asked BriarWhisper if they could take some pictures with him and his elf henchmen. "You guys look great", they gushed, "just like Legolas and the lord of the rings!" BriarWhisper was offended these tourists didn't realize he was more of a Poul Anderson/Dunsanny elf and our campaign has very little Tolkien influence and he denied them their selfies. Dilettantes. 

A couple Peter Jackson film fanboys snapped pictures anyway, running away drunkenly with nerdy  low t giggles.

shutterstock,com 553626145

Agent Cooper came back outside with Timur and the party quickly entered the Belaggio hotel and casino. They were in a big open lobby with blue haired old women dropping coins into clanging slot machines. The Players and I were starting to get into the comedy of it all and I described the "local peasants" to them as "dressing inappropriately for their age, with the men dressing in short pants and sneakers like children and the women all done up like harlots". At this point I was channeling the hilarious fish out of water elements of the film "Les Visiteurs" and "The High Crusade" and playing up the foibles and foolishness of modern man as compared to the fantasy Roman citizens and elves the PCs represented. I've not laughed so much during a session in a long time.

The laughs kept coming when Timur went shopping at the hotel gift shop and bought some Affliction gear and Adidas three stripes. He saw a billboard for UFC advertising the next big bout of Holloway VS Rodriguez and he was inspired to update his fit. Timur, of all the PCs now, was the only one really fitting in as far as fashion. Looking fly.

He paid the clerk with 3 gold coins and the clerk's eyes went wide. The PCs caught the clerk putting cash from his own wallet into the cash register and pocketing the gold coins. The PCs took to calling the dollars "tickets" and Laru approached the clerk to give him "some tickets for these gold coins" so he could have local currency on hand.

The clerk ripped Laru off giving him like 100 bucks for 10 gold coins (iirc) and somewhere Glenn Beck pumped his fist for the clerk's savvy investment in gold.

The other PCs talked with Cooper for a while and encouraged him to use his FBI badge to demand answers about BOB, the vine goblin things, and the vault seemingly full of dragon treasure. They used all the sophistry at their command "those coins don't belong here Dale, they're from our world!"

Cooper, thinking himself in a dream needed little convincing, approached the front desk, flashed his badge and soon the party got a meeting with the hotel manager. They all filed into the big office which had a huge window on the far wall overhanging and overlooking the pit of card games, roulette, and craps. Shortly into the awkward meeting Cooper advised the PCs back away. Cooper's "Detect Evil" ability (he's a Paladin, natch) revealed that the hotel manager WAS BOB! Roll initiative!

BOB laughed heartily and the illusion of him being a schlubby hotel manager dropped away. The illusion of the pit bosses and security guards in the pit and around the casino dropped away well; they were vine goblin things! 

BriarWhisper was ready to fight BOB, who he believed to be a Wraith [taking half damage from silver and full damage from magic... who knows!] and loosed a bunch of silver arrows at the tv villain. It appeared to hurt him. Timur and his henchman barbarian, and Dolores (Hench Fighter Level 1 to Laru) engaged BOB and melee and Laru hoped that Dolores hadnt been lying all this time about having a magic sword. She's bragged about it since he hired her some 6 months back. 

BOB in disguise in his fancy office

The other fighter types grabbed silver arrows from BriarWhisper's quiver and were using it as improvised weapons. I made a quick ruling they were -4 to hit and break on a natural 1 roll. This ruling became the turning point since the lesser prepared fighters could still do damage on the powerful BOB.

BOB grabbed Timur and Energy Drained the Barbarian; lowering him from level 2 to 0 XP and level 1. Brutal!

The silver arrow dagger attacks continued and BOB missed his next attack. On the third round I rolled a Morale Fail and BOB Was going to flee; which is very easy for him since he can fly and pass through walls. Yet before BOB could depart the hotel manager's office and annoy the PCs another day, Dolores made a good strike with her truly MAGIC SWORD and BOB screamed and faded into the abyss; dead.

The Players cheers filled the voice channel. BOB was a truly villainous villain who had been confounding the PCs for months.

Upon his death the big windows overlooking the pit shattered as about a dozen of the vine goblin pit bosses were firing pistols into the office from the floor. The party hit the ground for cover but Zaidu the Bard (Hench Bard Level 1 to Laru) was standing in the center of the room Inspiring Courage with a tale of heroism and was winged in the eyes, possibly dead from gun shot.

Tourist and croupier's were screaming on the casino floor and trampling out of the place. Before long the casino was empty except for the Party and the Monsters.

Dozens of the vine goblin things were storming up the stairs towards the office and the melee fighters held the door while Laru and other shady folks were tossing Military Oil onto the stairs and setting it alight. The crazy goblins stormed through the fire and like 30 of them died.

The goblins with pistols had climbed up on top of slot machines and card tables to get a better line of sight from the floor into the office and were squeezing off shot after shot at the party through the window. Dolores was shot in the knee seriously injured, BriarWhisper was shot across the eyes and left moaning on the ground, and MistWeaver (NPC Hench Spellsword Level 1 to BriarWhisper) hit the ground from a gunshot wound as well. Much of the party was hiding under desks and behind couches and such. 

Agent Cooper took a couple shots at the goblins on the casino floor to no avail.

Luckily for the PCs the major losses the goblins on the stairs were taking caused the whole group to fail Morale and they fled to parts unknown into the streets of Vegas. 

Agent Cooper tended to the wounded and saved all gunshot victims from death with Lay on Hands. After which he mysteriously said "my work here is done" and left forever.

Laru and FiveX (NPC Hench Thief Level 1 to Laru) set about turning the place over for treasure or clues.

Laru picked the hotel manager's safe with a Natural 20 and found a pistol (given to MistWeaver since Laru thought it was wand with a handle), a bunch of "tickets" (dollars which the PCs were now calling worthless) and a deed for the casino. Inside the desk Laru found a sticky note with a code to the big safe downstairs in the basement.

jackpot!

The Party hustled downstairs and got confused by the buttons on the elevator but eventually got underground to the safe. Laru opened it with the code and Ferigno's horde of gold coins was inside, along with massive wall covering stacks of "worthless" dollar bills. Timur tossed the coins and seemingly magic items into sacks, emptying the dollars out, and tossed the sacks onto a big push cart.

By the time the party was pushing the big cart across the lobby floor a big voice called out from the glass front doors on bullhorn "come out with your hands up, we have you surrounded". The players scrambled on the mics to come up with a plan. "Lets just pocket everything we can and run!" They pocketed what they could which was pretty much all the coins since they had so many people on hand. Now what?

Timur boldly exited the front sliding door swaggering up to the line of police cars and nervous Las Vegas cops (who wear khakis, as per Gaius's player on the mic) and declared he was a UFC fighter and the other members of the party are his entourage. They were frightened by the crazy monsters inside the casino and finally were able to escape. With his new Affliction pants and t-shirt and fly adidas he certainly looked the part.

Timur greeting the cops "bro it's cool bro
don't worry about the elves  and bags of gold bro"

Well... ok. I guess I need to roll a Reaction Check to see if the cops buy it... ok they buy it. Timur and his "entourage" swaggered past the police line and back down the highway for some hours before  returning to the red velvet curtain. Back in the Black Lodge they didn't hit any more random encounters and they were back out the other side in the Viaspen Forest back in our fantasy world. Daria was biting her nails waiting for them to get back, just beside herself with worry. Gaius was asleep. 

The whole crew marched back through the Viaspen and ended the session at Oakhilt, the Fastness of the Elves, feeling quite successful indeed.

Afterword

I dropped the Black Lodge curtains into my campaign world because I love the tv show Twin Peaks. Las Vegas was one destination through the Black Lodge because it's a major location in Twin Peaks The Return (season 3). Ferigno and Dairin loved the Vegas stuff and were discussing at various times to go there and raid it or take it over or something. When Ferigno decided to hide his treasure in Vegas I knew it had to have gone to The Belaggio, the casino from the original Oceans 11 film with Sinatra and the Rat Pack. And the Clooney remake iirc; zoomer readers would know better on that one.

There was a time, when I ran fake D&D, in which I'd never consider entertaining the possibility of the PCs going to Las Vegas and/or the modern world. Too confusing right? Too many factors like guns or weird weaponry. How would regular folks react?

But this time I decided "who cares? If the PCs go there I'll deal with it at the time." Guess what? It worked beautifully. Seamlessly. 

The BROSR recently got into a tw1tter argument with Some Obtuse Dork (SOD) who claimed that every style of game needed a new rules system. Want to do modern TTRPG? You need a "Modern Game System" of course. Want Chthulu style gaming? You most certainly can NOT put Lovecraft monsters into your D&D game, you MUST play "Call of Chthulu"! Such was SOD's claims. 

It was and is my contention that the best way to bring various elements into a campaign is to simply put them in your long running game. Don't overthink it. Gygax put a pit trap which dropped into Alice's "Wonderland" in his game and we can assume it was a blast for all involved in his Greyhawk Campaign. Certainly there is at least one famous module, "Expidition to the Barrier Peaks" which backs up my claim.


Good players want to be invested in your game world. If you re-launch a campaign every time you want to try a new theme or milleua, you're shooting yourself in the foot like a goblin with a pistol.

This session in particular proves that you can have a noir style Las Vegas hotel casino heist right in the middle of your regular fantasy campaign. The only people who wouldn't want that are SODs and nerds.

Surviving PCs Present

Participating Vegas PCs: BriarWhisper, Laru, Timur, Agent Dale Cooper (full cut NPC like The Dude) Participating Vegas henchmen: Dolores (Laru), Five X (Laru), Juba (Timur), Maro (Laru), MistWeaver (Briar), Raven (Briar), Zaidu (Laru) PCs who didn't go through portal: Daria, Gaius, Zoria XP for 7 Vampire Bats Killed: 203 [full group gained] XP for Monsters Killed: 1,120 Treasure XP Value: 9,950 Total XP Pool: 11,070 Cuts: 15 with PCs claiming 2 Hench XP: 748 [includes bat xp] PC XP: 1,496 [includes bat xp] PCs 

BriarWhisper (5% XP bonus): Elven Ranger Level 3. 1571 gained + 11,685. Total: 13,256 

Daria (0% XP bonus) BladeDancer Level 5. 10 gained + 15,392. Total: 15,402 

Gaius (10% XP bonus): Fighter Level 5. 11 gained  + 21,828. Total: 21,839 

Laru (5% XP bonus): Thief Level 3. 1,571 gained + 3,093. Total: 4,664 

Timur (10% XP bonus): Barbarian Level 2 (Drained to Level 1) Energy Drained to Zero XP then 1,646 gained + 0. Total: 1,646

 Zoria (?% XP bonus): Mage Level 1.  10 gained  + 0. Total: 10 

Surviving Henchmen

Each gained 748 XP modified by XP bonus (if any)

Dolores (Level 1 Fighter for Laru)

Five X (Level 1 Thief for Laru)

Juba (Level 1 Barbarian for Timur)

Maro (Level 0 for Laru)

MistWeaver (Level 1 Elven Spellsword for BriarWhisper)

Raven (Level 1 Elven Ranger for BriarWhisper)

Zaidu (Level 1 Bard for Laru)

Deceased:

Dama (L1 Venturer) played by RR.  Current total xp: 75. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Darius LeVay (L1 Assassin) played by JB. Current Total XP:451. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Donald the Guardsman (L1 Fighter) played by MP. Current Total XP:570. DECEASED. Intra-party justice in Session 3.

Felix (L1 Thief) played by Nicholas. Current Total XP:431. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Hektor (L1 Paladin) played by Moai. DECEASED. Cause of Death: goblin warg rider throat removal surgery in Session 2

Leonidas the Inquisitor (L1 Cleric) played by RR.Current Total XP:498  DECEASED. Frozen undead blistering cold aura left his skin frostbitten and broken in Session 6. Body not recovered.

Mard the Mage (L1 Mage) played by Nicholas. DECEASED. Frozen undead blistering cold aura left his skin frostbitten and broken in Session 6. Body not recovered.

Yolo Baggins "My friends call me Swaggins" (L1 Gnomish Trickster) played by J. DECEASED. Paralyzed and eaten by ghouls in Session 12. Body not recovered.

Jack Filcher (L1 Thief) played by C. DECEASED. Shot full of arrows by Inthorn's brigands in Session 12. Body not recovered.

Swoleous Maximus (L1 Paladin). DECEASED. Captured then drawn and quartered by Inthorn the Brigand warlord in Session 12. Posthumously named "Petty Hero of Turos Tem" by Legate Valerian. Ashes offered a place of pride in the Hospital.

Damianus (L1 Cleric). DECEASED. Captured and beheaded by Inthorn the Brigand warlord in Session 12. Posthumously named "Petty Hero of Turos Tem" by Legate Valerian. Ashes offered a place of pride in the Hospital.

Bucky (L1 Barbarian). DECEASED. Became a illegal pit fighter during his downtime. Had two bouts to the death, winning the first and losing the second. Was killed by Young Jack Sparrow who sashayed into the ring, drank rum, and mogged on Bucky before putting a dagger into his ribs, killing him. This happened during downtime between Session 17 and 18.

Broll Wolf-Eater (L1 Barbarian). Current total XP: 1079. DECEASED. Carried off by harpies after falling for their enchanting song in Session 19.

Brother Franklin (L1 Cleric). DECEASED. Decapitated by a mad cultist of a Lovecraftian slime thing in Session 19.

Felix the Elder (L1 Bard). Total XP 825. DECEASED. Captured by mad cultists and fed to a Lovecraftian slime monster in Session 19.

Templar Flavius Africanus (L1 Cleric). Total XP 7. Killed by the claws and beak of mad harpies in Session 19.

Xendi (L1 Explorer). Total XP 6. DECEASED. Carried off by harpies after falling for their enchanting song in Session 19.

Yllmeeton (L3 Shaman). Total XP 4,563. Bludgeoned by the corpse of a bowmen by Rosie Odonnel hag in Session 21.

Longinus (L2 Assassin). Total XP 2,036. Had his face ripped off by Rosie Odonnel hag in Session 21.

Mandonio (L3 Fighter). Total XP 4,779. Charred to a leprous crisp by diseased Dragon breath in Session 22.

Corydon (L1 Joker). Total XP: 0. Burnt to a crisp by chimera breath so thoroughly his corpse wasn't even fit for the crows. Died with a smile on his face and a song in his heart. that's life and as funny as it seems... some people get their kicks, stomping on a dream... In Session 25.

Donny Keebler (L1 Elven Spellsword). Total XP 2,238. Had his legs burned completely off by chimera fire breath in Session 25.

Marina (L2 Fighter). Total XP: 2,204. Burnt into ash by a chimera fire breath in Session 25.

Gundro (L2 Gnomish Trickster). Total XP: 2,575. Had his mouth and tongue bitten off by a lizardman ambusher in the dank sewers below Cyfaraun in Session 26.

Polydoros (L1 Fighter). Total XP: 0. Had his legs ripped off and eaten by Akira monsters in the dark canopy of the Viaspen Forest in Session 28.

Odrum (L1 Explorer). Total XP: 287. Javelin to the heart from the hands of weird vine goblins hidden in the walls of Ferigno's lair in Session 30.

Garvin the Nutless Wonder (L1 Mage). Total XP: 0. Fell off the side of Ferigno's lair 20 feet to his death in Session 30.

Blackmoon (L1 Assassin). Total XP: 768. Choked to death by BOB from Twin Peaks while stealing treasure from Ferigno's dragon horde in Session 30.

Xanthus (L2 Cleric). Total XP: 2,364. Choked to death by BOB from Twin Peaks while hanging out on the roof of Ferigno's lair in Session 30.

Turin (L1 Cleric). Total XP: 0. Eaten by Wargs in Session 32.

Alexa this is so sad play "Ain't That a Kick in the Head" by Dean Martin

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Ferigno's Last Stand

Foreword

Every since The Desolation of Turos Tem the PCs and Lawfully aligned Patrons in my campaign have been extremely mad-online with Ferigno (Patron Dragon Level ???) and Dairin (Patron Mage Level ???). Their primary goal appeared to be simply to get justice for Turos Tem; vengeance for their lost PCs and henchmen.  


But many were waiting, biding their time, as I took a 6ish week hiatus from session play. During this time, however, I was running some Downtime requests here and there. Real Time D&D never sleeps! 

During Ferigno's downtime request he came upon a randomly rolled Lawful Monastery in the Viaspen Forest. "This is too close to mine lair!" he stated, and proceeded to set up an attack on the Monastery. I quickly rolled up some numbers of brothers/sister clerics and the level of the leader of the monastery; one Sister Lucia (NPC Cleric Level 6) who turned out to be a Mendicant. As such I decided she came into the Viaspen Forest searching for The Dude who was captured by hags a long while back.  After finding no sign of her fellow Mendicant, her deity sent a sign that she should build a monastery in the forest. 

This was all done with random rolls. Including Lucia's Alignment. If it had popped as "Chaotic" Ferigno may have had an ally NPC rather than an opponent near his lair.

Some quick Mass Combat numbers resulted in the following scene going down at the monastery, which I relayed to Ferigno's player:

"Attack on Lucia. The initial gambit to approach invisible gets you in a good position at the palisade but they are not surprised. Lucia seemed ready and had good watches on, her many clerics and herself sporting holy symbols against BOB and his pals. You swoop and attack as best you can then drop when the timing seems right. Initially Lucia's bowmen and wardogs are removed from fighting by your breath and the wraiths, even while some wraiths are beat down by some of the clerics wielding magic weapons, and Lucia turning one. 

The next turn all the wraiths are run off or run down, BOB grinning at you as he escapes into the trees. At this time you hit the dozen or so mixed level clerics with a breathe weapon and they are injured (some killed) enough to stop fighting. 

Lucia, her panthers, and light infantry fight on. Panthers keep you hemmed down in the palisade even as Lucia strikes at you with a magic hammer. You strike and poison the panthers but you are feeling weak and fly up to flee as Lucia clambers on your back. You shake her off while at the treetops and are pretty sure she's dead or at least mortally wounded from the high fall, but you're extremely fatigued and limp home to sleep."


Can your game system of choice create the above scene in 5 minutes with a handful of d20 rolls? If not, consider switching to Advanced Dungeons and Dragons with the Chainmail supplement. Or, be like me, and run ACKS with the Domains at War: Campaigns supplement. You must have a way to run fast abstracted combats, including mass scale combat, to run real DND and entertain sudden crazy downtime requests.

Ferigno and any other units which were "hit" in the mass combat needed a week to recover half of their original number. Lucia was Mortally Wounded with broken legs and would need to rest a month! I rolled some reaction checks to see if her remaining faithful brothers and sisters would stick around the monastery or flee. They fled to Turos Spen, handling or evading any random encounters on the way. 

Ferigno didn't get to the monastery for a second attack in time because, after his week of rest, he decided to go recruit the nearby Hill Giants to his cause; taking about a day. Time enough for the Clerics to leave their palisade and carry their shrine off on a litter so Ferigno wouldn't deface it (as he's known to do).

Legate Drakon (Patron Fighter and Domain Ruler Level ???) received word that Lucia the Cleric and "Her apprentice clerics (6 of them) request rest at your demesne. They lead a unit of Light Infantry, a half unit of bowmen, 6 panthers, and 10 war dogs". Drakon said yes. Upon meeting with Lucia's Clerics, who were carrying her on a stretcher, Drakon was informed they knew exactly where Ferigno's lair was. 

Drakon then decided now is the time to strike the dragon! He had called his vassals to arms way back when he heard about the Desolation of Turos Tem so they were already on site and ready. 

Turns out BriarWhisper (PC Elven Ranger Level 3) was also in Turos Spen! During this session play hiatus I asked vaguely in the chatroom "are any PCs leaving the city to travel during October?" BriarWhisper said yes; going to Turos Spen. It must have been fate.

Drakon and BriarWhisper came to terms for BriarWhispers pay and spoils for joining this military campaign and the army set off for the forest the next day on 10/09/21.

The Campaign

Week 1.
Yellow = Drakon movement. Skull = Giants 
and their movement. Green circle = Ferigno lair

BriarWhisper advised Drakon to march first to the abandoned Gnoll camp he and his Party had discovered some months back. It would be a safe place to rest and re-supply. During this week of travel I made Recon checks for Drakon's army AND for Ferigno. The dragon was aware that an army entered his wood to the northeast but didn't have their exact location as yet. 

I gave Drakon a bonus on his Recon check due to BriarWhisper being given a small band for ranging purposes. I also allowed them to run an op wherein they went to Lucia's abandoned monastery and looked for tracks or monster sign. No luck. Little did they know Ferigno and the Giants had been there a few days before with plans to attack Lucia again. If the timing would have turned out differently Briar and his band could have been face to face with Ferigno and 8 hill giants. Phew!

I was ready to run the next week of marching and get the Mass Combat underway when both sides of the engagement threw me a curveball. BriarWhisper convinced Drakon to give him a day or two to ride to Oakhilt's Fastness and attempt to recruit the Elves to the cause against Ferigno. Granted. Oakhilt balked a bit but offered to join the cause for a 50% claim of all spoils; most especially magic items. The Elf Lord brought a single mixed elf unit to the cause about 2 days later.

Ferigno, for his part, sent BOB flying with a message for Dairin admitting he was under attack. Dairin made the decision to move immediately, bringing only his fast Lizardmen with him, to join Ferigno and help save his dragon pal from certain defeat. There is honor among psychopaths, after all.

Some of Drakon's men were gossiping about the Elves.

"There is some murmuring among your ranks about these elfs being the ones that killed the old Palatine of Turos Orn some hundred years ago when said Palatine decided he would march with an army to kill the elves, ending Orn's logging of the Viaspen. OakHilt's name isn't spoken even among the murmurers who believe it may be cursed or saying it thrice may bring his wrath upon them like Candyman.

Your officers don't appear scared or unwise enough to gossip about such things. "Joker" (an Elven Spellsword himself) ofc thinks its funny and you hear him confirming the most ridiculous of wives tales about Oakhilt among the rank and file. 

'Yep. Oakhilt'll come right through a mirror. Happened to me once when I was shaving . He brought me a beer. Great guy!'"

Drakon addressed the morale issue before setting off:

“Men, we stand at a crossroads. We can take the path of whinging and wailing over the past, or we can forge ahead into the future. Forget not our purpose here; we come as the righteous fist of an angry, just (insert goddess of war here). We come to avenge our fallen brethren of Turos Tem. We come to avenge our brother Adam, taken from us while defending the commoners of Tem who were ravaged by the enemy. What is a skirmish between neighbors, a misunderstanding that cooler heads could have prevented when compared to such atrocity? Bury this superstition, and join as one against the common foe. Ferigno dies and gods willing Dairin shortly after. We will March forward together, into Glory!”

The Battle

Drakon's Army and Ferigno's horde, now led by Dairin the Mage, came upon echother around noon of the day Drakon set off. They were mutually aware of eachother so fought a Pitched Battle. 

This battle was fought at the Platoon scale in ACKS so units of infantry men were about 120 men and cavalry were about 60 horse. 

Drakon had the following at his disposal: 

1 unit of Cataphract, 1 unit of Horse Archers, 1 unit of Veteran Heavy Infantry, 2 units of Heavy Infantry, 1 unit of Bowmen, 1 unit of Clerics from the Temple of Ammonar in Turos Spen, and 1 unit of Elves. 

Dairin has the following at his disposal:

Phase 1 Start

2 units of lizardmen, 2 units of Hill Giants (each with 4 giants in it), 1 unit of Dire Wolves, 1 unit of Wraiths, and 1 unit of Ferigno.

It was a pretty even Battle Rating for each army with the Lawful forces at about 28 and the Chaotic forces at 25. This would come down to strategy and luck!

I was using the slightly more complicated Mass Combat rules from ACKS AXIOMS 4. These include Phases of combat with Missile, Skirmish and Melee phases. 

The first Phase was Missile which included Ferigno and the wraiths, as flying units. And the Hill Giants throwing boulders. Drakon decided to do a Heroic Foray going straight at Ferigno. Heroic Forays are where the action zooms in closer to get more DND style combat you're likely familiar with. The Foray was quick with the following result:

Phase 1, Foray, Round 1: Drakon: Drakon, Oakhilt, his Spellswords, BriarWhisper, Joker, Anen. 8 Cataphracts, 8 Horse Archers, 10 Bowmen.
Dairin: Ferigno, 8 Hill Giants. Result: Drakon directs a charge towards Ferigno and the giants jump in the way taking the brunt of the destruction. All giants are felled or ran off but not before they batter a hole through Drakon's regulars. All the Cataphracts, Horse Archer, and Bowmen are killed or injured to the point of no longer being able to fight. Drakon pushes the fight to Ferigno who instead withdraws from the Foray completely (he won group init and failed morale).

I made a ruling that Dairin would need to make a Strategic roll for Ferigno to be part of the Missile combat phase against the Lawful army. He failed. Here's how the Missile phase went:

Phase 1 Missile round: Elves let loose some magic arrows as BOB and his wraiths are flying chasing cavalry around the field. Perfect shots sending half of the wraiths to the Abyss and the other half languishing in limbo between this plane and the plane of shadow. BOB himself grins and disappears. The human bowmen were killed during the phase, most having their life force sucked from them like something from Event Horizon. The other half of bowmen curl in the fetal position in terror and are out of the fight.

After this Dairin directed Ferigno to Reserve, to protect him, and Advanced on Drakon who held his position. The next phase was Skirmish. Drakon had no units in Skirmish position so Dairin's Lizardmen got a free attack phase, throwing darts across the field destroying the 2 units of regular Heavy Infantry. 

Phase 3 then commenced with both armies converging in melee. The Clerics of Ammonar and Veteran Heavy Infantry from Turos Spen clashed with the dire wolves and bashed their heads into the dirt without taking any losses. 

Phase 4: Skirmish phase with no units :(

To start Phase 4 Dairin ordered a withdraw and succeeded. We found ourselves in a Skirmish phase with no units on either side so I asked both Commanders if they were moving troops around. 

On Phase 5 Drakon ordered an advance and succeeded in bringing the fight back into a Melee phase. As you can see he had his entire army ready to clash head on. I was getting my d20's ready when Drakon called an audible and decided to do a Heroic Foray against Dairin and Ferigno directly! Here's how it went:

Phase 5, Foray: Turn 1: Drakon leads a charge of major principles towards Dairin himself. The Mage is hiding among his throng of lizardmen waving his arms about with spells and trying to rally the fleeing unit. Upon seeing the charge his way he calls for and his evil Ruingaurd spouse Zakiti, the Keeper of the sinister stone of Sakkara, and Ferigno to follow him to intercept. Both forces clash with some Cataphracts and Infantry being swooped and killed by Ferigno. Fire launches from Dairin's fingers across the field, killing the rest of the lawful regulars. Drakon stays close to Loarn the Cleric of Ammonar and Angelo the bloodthirsty mage of the Turos Spen Chapterhouse. Joker casts Jump and bounds across the battle field going straight at Dairin laughing gleefully. Dairin casts a strange spell that chokes Joker out of the sky and he falls apparently dead on the ground. 

BriarWhisper keeps hidden in the Lawful throng and feathers dozens of lizardmen with arrows. Oakhilt weaves spells to empower and protect himself and his forces who also launch cover fire with bows. He runs some lizardmen through who try and engage in melee with him. Drakon slices Zakiti's head off when she jumps in front of the charge screaming that she will "defend her beloved from the Empyrean Swine". She's dead. 

As Drakon, Angelo, and Loarn get closer to Dairin, Ferigno drops in the center of them and eats the Cleric and Mage with a gulp. End of Turn. 

Lawful Losses: Joker, Angelo, Loarn, 2 BR of Cataphract, 2 BR of Heavy Infantry. Remaining: Drakon, Oakhilt, Oakhilts 4 Spellswords, BriarWhisper [with his Henchmen], Anen, Pyle. Morale: No fails. 

Chaotic Losses: Zakiti, 6 BR of Lizardmen. Remaining: Ferigno, Dairin, 2 BR of Lizardmen. Morale: No fails.

All involved decided to fight on with another round/turn of Melee. It seemed clear that the next round would decide the battle one way or another.

Phase 5 Foray: Turn 2: Dairin flies into the air magically and he and Ferigno swoop back and forth. He launches more fireballs down at the group as Ferigno swoops with acid breath. Anen the Explorer's face melts off and he turns and gives a roman salute to Drakon as he melts into a pile of green goo. "My life for yours, sidi." BriarWhisper runs cover with arrow fire and owl head shakes so Oakhilt can cross the field. The Elf Lord slaps slender elf hand against the backs of Drakon, Pyle, and some of his Spellsword officers and they take to the skies. He launches missile spells at Dairin who appears immune by some magic bubble. Dairin chuckles at the elf lord and gyrates his hand in spellcraft and a poison cloud drops directly on Oakhilts head, sending him into coughing fits so strong his lungs shuck out onto the forest floor leaving him dead. 

The spellswords toss advice to Drakon here and there how best to control his flight as he wobbles a bit getting used to it. Ferigno comes out of invisibility and swoops their formation sending them scattering but getting his wing caught on a high branch and wobbling his flight. He appears from invisibility after the attack. The spellswords swarm the dragon and beat upon him with weapons and feet. Kalan the Spellsword, his sword empowered with some recent spell that turned it purple, stabs downward into the back of Ferigno's neck and the lizard makes an angry grunt that suddenly mutes as the life in his sharp eyes go out. He falls from the sky causing a booming quake as his lifeless body hits the ground.

Dairin casts mirror image just as Drakon flies close and engages him in melee. The angry Legate slices the holograms out of the sky as they swoop here and there through the treeline. Dairin screams out hoarsely that he will avenge his wife's death and gets enough distance to shoot a scouring wind at the Legate. The hot wind burns his face red but he doesn't falter. With all his illusions and holograms gone Legate Drakon zooms through the sky and slices Dairin in half at the beltline. His upper and bottom torso flutter to the ground like Darth Maul. Dairin is dead. 

Lawful Losses: Oakhilt, Anen. Remaining: Drakon, Oakhilts 4 spellswords, BriarWhisper [with his henchmen], Pyle. 

Chaotic Losses: Ferigno the Green Dragon, Dairin the Mage. Remaining: None.

That was the end of the battle. 

The fleeing unit of lizardmen were too disorganized to properly retreat and are routed. The other unit of lizardmen attempt to retreat and are run down and destroyed by the Horse Archers and Cataphracts. Auran legionnaires and cavalrymen cheered and chanted "Drakon Drakon Drakon!" over and over. The elves stood around their Elf Lord in a circle humming. Oakhilt was dead entirely and no cleric's seemed to have any ideas. The elf officers discussed amongst themselves in elvish simply "let's return him to the Fastness as soon as treasure is secured, no further discussion of this in front of the humans".

Turos Orn
Not without significant losses, particularly to his major retainers, but Drakon was victorious. He went on to investigate Ferigno's lair but I'll leave his findings to my Session 35 report, since the PCs went back. He also claimed the treasure from the dead Hill Giants' lair. But Dairin's hideout has yet to be found. 

Drakon eventually marched on to Turos Orn, the keep of the Palatine he is vassaled to, arriving on 10/27/21.

Drakon's army arrives in Turos Orn. News of the victory was passed down the line from troops to Orn's farmers and peasantry. The elves depart the army back to their Fastness (still hidden, the army was not led past it) with Stormroot (who resplaced Oakhilt as Lord) giving a serious but appreciative nod to Drakon before departing.  By the time the army actually approaches the massive castle of Turos Orn proper a victory parade is set up and Palatine Vallanna is all smiles on her normally serious visage. She places a laurel wreath on Legate Drakon's head when he ascends the road to the main gate of the keep. She raises his hand above his head in triumph and the peasantry and merchant guild members who have gathered in a throng cheer heartily. The soldiers begin a chant of "Ave Turos Spen! Ave Aura!" which the men of the peasantry join in. There is a feast quickly thrown together that lasts some days.

Drakon eventually departed Turos Orn to be celebrated in the city of Cyfaraun but I'll leave that tale for another time.

Monday, November 15, 2021

ACKS Session 34: The Wild Horse Rustlers [Why the Thief Class is Powerful]

Foreword

ACKS author Alexander Macris is among many folks who claim the old school thief is underpowered. Macris, as is his way, proved it with maths. Others claiming as such tend to be guys who rarely DM and only PC; essentially they're begging for their class to be buffed. 


It is my contention that the Thief class is perfectly balanced and powerful. One of the few classes that makes it to level 2 and 3 on a regular basis as compared to the other classes. 

Can I prove the Thief Class is "balanced" with maths? No bc I'm not a nerd. I'll prove it with this session report!

Session Report   

Players wanted to get their clutch of Team B PCs from  Turos Spen, a borderlands fort, and back to the city Cyfaraun. I assume this is so these PCs would have access to the city's much bigger market and be able to do adventure sessions with the Team A PCs, going forward. 

Do you know how bad DND players/DMs believe you must start a new campaign every time you want to explore a new theme etc? "How about we play a campaign with all Rogues! We could rob stuff and be Neutral or Chaotic. That would be so funny!" Yet they never actually do it. Why? Because every time you start a new campaign you lose player engagement. Players who enjoy Thief type classes want to run around and cause mischief in a campaign world that matters, not the new one you keep relaunching every 3 months.

Real DND,  BROSR DND... it allows you to have some "rogue only" sessions here and there. With the combination of real time play and a stable of players, rather than 4 special snowflake PCs/Players, new themes and schemes will come into the campaign off and on as players become bored with the old themes ("save the empire!") and want to work on lower stakes ("rob the merchant!").

That's what happened this session.

Due to Real Time play and some players taking the session off, the senior PCs in this session were two thieves. Two. Thieves. Things got shady FAST.

Rat Face (PC Thief Level 2) and Laru (PC Thief Level 3) were hanging with the other PCs at the Travelers Inn in Turos Spen. Other players were discussing what the Big Goal should be for tonight's session when Rat Face starting eyeing up the tavern for who might be a good mark for Pickpocketing.

Turns out there were a couple of big time merchants drinking wine and making tasteful banter with one another. Rat Face sidled up to group and was able to cop a small pouch of 25 gp from the one of two merchants I never named.

As is Rat Face's way, he decided to push his luck. He rolled a 1. He was caught trying to pick pocket a merchant named Regularicus. The merchant's guards began to bow up and were looking to apprehend Rat Face to report him to the local authorities and a funny thing happened. 

Players were very concerned about Legate Drakon (the ruler of the town) finding out about all this. Because Legate Drakon is a Patron player. And one who has shown to be quite serious about keeping crime down in his Legature. Players began to scramble to find any possible way to keep this foolishness under wraps so it would never get to Drakon's ears. Players will NOT do this to keep regular NPC Rulers in the dark. Get Patrons in your Campaign ASAP.

Bribes were tossed out. "Don't bring the authorities into this, Regularicus. We can pay you back two-fold!" etc. I don't recall who exactly achieved the good Reaction Roll but the Merchant decided not to report Rat Face to the authorities once Rat Face paid a 25 gp bribe. Essentially the thief robbed Peter to pay Paul. The player himself was lolling about the whole thing.

I hear the math nerds out there! "But this means a level 2 thief only has a 50/50 chance to pick pockets. How weak!" Ok, Pythagoras, calm down. Maybe that's true. But he survived didn't he? And would any other of the standard classes even attempt something so readily?

It's my contention just giving the class the name "thief" is like a superpower. The player is immediately thrust into the mindset of Cugel the Clever or Gray Mouser. The term "Rogue" is more bleh and doesn't inspire such boldness and cleverness, imo. As such, the thief's power comes partially from the shared Appendix N fiction that Elite dnd tables have as their primary inspiration.

And that's not all that happened. Because Cugel (thus Laru) are unforgiving jerks, Laru deemed it an offense that Regularicus didn't want to barter with him. This can not stand! He and Rat Face also agreed that Regularicus must have some bigger prize nearby than his simple purse.

Upon Regularicus leaving the Inn they decided to trail him. Turns out he is a local to Spen. They followed him back to his Manse and made note of its location. Casing the joint began but they called off any heisting this evening. I can't recall why.

The next day the party wanted to travel north about a day to Turos Morn to check out its market. Except the two thieves: they wanted to check out if there were any soft heist targets. The players were spending their travel time trying to buy horses and having very little luck.

So Laru and Rat Face decided they'd just steal some horses. A few random rolls later I confirmed they did find a small stable at a nearby farm which appeared to have no night guard. For some reason Smarticus (PC Mage Level 1) accompanied them on the horse rustling. Perhaps that player was bored of watching the Thieves have all the fun. 

It turned out to be a good call. While the thieves were grabbing up and leading all the horses out of town the farmer from the nearby home must have heard and came out with a pitchfork to look around. Smarticus cast a sleep spell on the farmer from hiding. The crew of misfits made off with 5 horses and stayed in the woods outside of town that night. The PCs who didn't participate enjoyed a warm bed at the Inn.

The rest of the session was primarily travel to the city of Cyfaraun which went MUCH faster thanks to the burgled horses all the PCs could ride on. Back in the city some horses were sold but most were disbursed around to PCs in the group(s) who didn't have any. Well played.

At this point we were wrapping up session play since rolling random farms, stables, pick pocket victims had used up enough time to encompass a short session. Daria's (PC Bladedancer Level 5) player wanted to switch over to her to wrap up an old hook with an evil sword. She wished to cleanse the evil sword found some sessions back, "The Kinslayer", so she took it the Occulus Lawful Temple of Ammonar near the center of the big city. Spent about 10 minutes in prayer... and the goddess Istreus didn't answer her prayers. Sad.


Richelieu (PC Cleric Level 1) was a brand new PC who had travelled with and rolled his eyes at the thief PCs all session. He stepped up to the altar, took the evil sword in hand, and exorcised it of it's evil easily. The blade disintegrated into dust and Richie took claim of some of the XP for the success. 

I'm not sure Level 5 Daria can ever live this down... 

Afterword

All in all this was a slower paced and lower stakes session. Which is great. Players got to mess around a bit in urban environments during session time and focus in on some heists and burglaries. Fill out the underworld part of the game world a bit and get some travel done.

Real BROSR DND allows all sorts of session styles and themes to be played in the same campaign. There is no need for us to have a "thief only campaign lmao" when we can slip sessions in like this whenever it makes sense. 

Do NOT start a new campaign every time you want to try a new campaign idea. Simply drop the new idea into the game world and let the party find it. Urban sessions come and go, np. No need for a full urban campaign. If players WANT a full urban campaign they'll just choose to find and never leave your nearest city.

Weird campaign themes can be dropped into the game world just as easily. Want to have space travel in your campaign? Drop a UFO somewhere and drop rumors to the PCs about it. Want to have vampire themes in your campaign? Make Dracula a Patron. Want to send your PCs to Las Vegas? Well.. I did that next session. Stay tuned for the session report!

There's also no need to buff the Thief class itself when good players, like these two, can run the show now and then to acquire five-finger-discount horses when the party truly needs them.

Keep in mind Rat Face was the exact same PC who burgled Turos Tem whilst the Patron Legate Valerian was out fighting (and losing) an existential threat to his domain during the Desolation of Turos Tem. Rat Face has garbage stats yet is making a major impact on the game world. Elite Player is about the Player, not the class. 

Surviving PCs Present

Laru (5% XP Bonus): Level 3 Thief. 34 XP gained. Total: 3,093

Proteus (5% XP bonus): Level 2 Cleric. 454 xp gained. Total: 2,292

Ratface (0% XP bonus): Level 2 Thief. 57 xp gained. Total: 1,577

Richelieu (10% XP Bonus): Level 1 Cleric. 476 xp gained. Total: 476

Smarticus (10% XP Bonus): Level 1 Mage. 36 xp gained. Total: 36

Surviving Henchmen

Dolores (Laru), Maro (Laru), Zaidu (Laru), Yuno (Proteus).

Deceased:

Dama (L1 Venturer) played by RR.  Current total xp: 75. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Darius LeVay (L1 Assassin) played by JB. Current Total XP:451. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Donald the Guardsman (L1 Fighter) played by MP. Current Total XP:570. DECEASED. Intra-party justice in Session 3.

Felix (L1 Thief) played by Nicholas. Current Total XP:431. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Hektor (L1 Paladin) played by Moai. DECEASED. Cause of Death: goblin warg rider throat removal surgery in Session 2

Leonidas the Inquisitor (L1 Cleric) played by RR.Current Total XP:498  DECEASED. Frozen undead blistering cold aura left his skin frostbitten and broken in Session 6. Body not recovered.

Mard the Mage (L1 Mage) played by Nicholas. DECEASED. Frozen undead blistering cold aura left his skin frostbitten and broken in Session 6. Body not recovered.

Yolo Baggins "My friends call me Swaggins" (L1 Gnomish Trickster) played by J. DECEASED. Paralyzed and eaten by ghouls in Session 12. Body not recovered.

Jack Filcher (L1 Thief) played by C. DECEASED. Shot full of arrows by Inthorn's brigands in Session 12. Body not recovered.

Swoleous Maximus (L1 Paladin). DECEASED. Captured then drawn and quartered by Inthorn the Brigand warlord in Session 12. Posthumously named "Petty Hero of Turos Tem" by Legate Valerian. Ashes offered a place of pride in the Hospital.

Damianus (L1 Cleric). DECEASED. Captured and beheaded by Inthorn the Brigand warlord in Session 12. Posthumously named "Petty Hero of Turos Tem" by Legate Valerian. Ashes offered a place of pride in the Hospital.

Bucky (L1 Barbarian). DECEASED. Became a illegal pit fighter during his downtime. Had two bouts to the death, winning the first and losing the second. Was killed by Young Jack Sparrow who sashayed into the ring, drank rum, and mogged on Bucky before putting a dagger into his ribs, killing him. This happened during downtime between Session 17 and 18.

Broll Wolf-Eater (L1 Barbarian). Current total XP: 1079. DECEASED. Carried off by harpies after falling for their enchanting song in Session 19.

Brother Franklin (L1 Cleric). DECEASED. Decapitated by a mad cultist of a Lovecraftian slime thing in Session 19.

Felix the Elder (L1 Bard). Total XP 825. DECEASED. Captured by mad cultists and fed to a Lovecraftian slime monster in Session 19.

Templar Flavius Africanus (L1 Cleric). Total XP 7. Killed by the claws and beak of mad harpies in Session 19.

Xendi (L1 Explorer). Total XP 6. DECEASED. Carried off by harpies after falling for their enchanting song in Session 19.

Yllmeeton (L3 Shaman). Total XP 4,563. Bludgeoned by the corpse of a bowmen by Rosie Odonnel hag in Session 21.

Longinus (L2 Assassin). Total XP 2,036. Had his face ripped off by Rosie Odonnel hag in Session 21.

Mandonio (L3 Fighter). Total XP 4,779. Charred to a leprous crisp by diseased Dragon breath in Session 22.

Corydon (L1 Joker). Total XP: 0. Burnt to a crisp by chimera breath so thoroughly his corpse wasn't even fit for the crows. Died with a smile on his face and a song in his heart. that's life and as funny as it seems... some people get their kicks, stomping on a dream... In Session 25.

Donny Keebler (L1 Elven Spellsword). Total XP 2,238. Had his legs burned completely off by chimera fire breath in Session 25.

Marina (L2 Fighter). Total XP: 2,204. Burnt into ash by a chimera fire breath in Session 25.

Gundro (L2 Gnomish Trickster). Total XP: 2,575. Had his mouth and tongue bitten off by a lizardman ambusher in the dank sewers below Cyfaraun in Session 26.

Polydoros (L1 Fighter). Total XP: 0. Had his legs ripped off and eaten by Akira monsters in the dark canopy of the Viaspen Forest in Session 28.

Odrum (L1 Explorer). Total XP: 287. Javelin to the heart from the hands of weird vine goblins hidden in the walls of Ferigno's lair in Session 30.

Garvin the Nutless Wonder (L1 Mage). Total XP: 0. Fell off the side of Ferigno's lair 20 feet to his death in Session 30.

Blackmoon (L1 Assassin). Total XP: 768. Choked to death by BOB from Twin Peaks while stealing treasure from Ferigno's dragon horde in Session 30.

Xanthus (L2 Cleric). Total XP: 2,364. Choked to death by BOB from Twin Peaks while hanging out on the roof of Ferigno's lair in Session 30.

Turin (L1 Cleric). Total XP: 0. Eaten by Wargs in Session 32.

Alexa this is so sad play "Bury Me" by the Smashing Pumpkins


More Thoughts on Patron Play

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