Wednesday, July 28, 2021

ACKS Session 26: Scaleyboy Soirée (Death of the Megadungeon?)

Foreword

I pray for the health and safety of you who are reading this. You are a child of Christ.

Session Report

The players spent all their downtime between Session 25 and this one hiring a bunch of mercenaries. Light Infantry, Heavy Infantry, Cavalry, the works. So I was certain they'd take to the wilderness again, go ranging far and wide! No.

Down in the sewer of Cyfaraun we go! 


The players had an offer from a major NPC, one Lanista Nuvicus, to go capture the lizardmen his smugglers accidently let loose into the sewer. He was bringing them into the city to fight in the arena for his gladiatorial school... but all went awry. This is the same guy that asked the PCs to capture the crocodile two sessions back, same botched operation.

The players decided on this mission over the one offered by an actual Patron (a major NPC played by a real person). The Patron, one Liber Faunus, was offering them cash and prizes to bring back some elven antiquities from the Nethercity the PCs discovered way back when below the sewer. 

Doing a mission for a regular boring old NPC instead of a Patron PC? Somewhere, Jeffro is crying into his 1e DMG. 

What means?

Well the mission for the Patron seems, to the players, to be one that would take multiple sessions. The one they decided on to capture the lizardmen appeared to be a one session event type thing. This aligns with what Jeffro discovered in his 1e campaign that this sort of play will lead to players focusing on smaller delves and events that can be addressed in one session of play. As such this sort of play reflects the old fantasy pulp short stories with one weird event that can be read in one sitting rather than long drawn out Game of Thronezzzz or Wheel of Time style intrigue that goes on and on and on and on with thousands page books.

I've found the same. Recon sessions are rare since few of the players want to risk having a 0 XP session for recon with promise of returning later for the Big Score. Said player might not be around for the Big Score session!

When my players have had a recon session it's usually after they went after a Big Score and realized it was already gone or their info wasn't as good as they thought. "Well there's no dragon hoard here but maybe we can take a look at Level 2 of this dungeon and figure out what to bring next time?" Something like that.

Does this mean that the #brosr has killed the megadungeon?! Perhaps! I will ponder that and poast more about it later. Back to the session report!

The players were waiting for Marn (PC Mage Level 3) to get out of Time Compression of his learning new spells upon leveling so he could bring his Sleep spell to this "capture alive" operation. Well Marn's player couldn't play tonight. So the party, despite having waited a week to try this mission, decided to do it anyway without him! (?????) This meant they would be using nets and the edge of their weapons to try and take the lizardmen down without killing them.

They started off by having Xanthus (PC Cleric Level 2) Commune with his god Istreus and ask 3 questions about the location of the lizardmen's lair in the dungeon. This was done safely from the Tavern. Xanthus tried to do the Commune in his room privately since Istreus has taken to personally showing up and walking around whilst fielding questions. Locals then fall to their knees in awe at the presence of a deity and Xanthus didn't care for all the attention. Istreus decided to follow him into the tavern room anyway and NPCs fell to their knees. It was a big thing.

(I read a bit of Moorcock and have decided to have deities show up in the campaign. Why not?)

The party marched across the city a few districts into the Festival District and used the answers the Deity gave them to pinpoint the best entry into the sewer to be as close to the lizardman lair as possible. They entered the stench filled dungeon and marched in single file since the platform above the sewer sludge of waste was only about 5 feet wide. 

About 20 minutes into the delve I rolled a random encounter: 1 lizardman. Well that's helpful.

The party attacked it but not to kill. Subdual damage only since the lizardmen were worth much more alive than dead to the Lanista quest giver. The lizard warrior was toting a dockworker prisoner, presumably to eat, and had no such qualms about Mortal Kombat. He downedTimothy (new PC Venturer Level 1) and Sabo (NPC Henchmen to Blackmoon L0) with an attack and a cleave, before the party could knock him unconscious. Timothy fell in the sewer sludge upon his apparent demise. The party was able to save his life but he lost an eye (-2 to missile attack rolls) and would need 2 weeks of bed rest before adventuring again. Catch you later Timothy. The henchman had no such luck. Doornail.

believe it or not there's
treasure to be found here!

With the lizardman captured the PCs went to interrogating him. Xanthus could speak scaleyboy language so the calm cleric set to interpreting all the vile threats the PCs wanted their tied up captive to hear. Gundro (PC Gnomish Trickster Level 2) used illusion to create the image of a Crossbreeding Vat. The player of Gundro asked me what a lizardman most fears and I tossed out something like "being crossbred with an inferior creature" and the Players' ideas of how an illusion of such a fear might look just went on and on.

I think by the end of it one of the PCs was threatening to dip a pug dog into the vat and toss the lizardman in behind it. What an insult to a glorious lizard warrior! The vat being completely illusion ofc. Is this storygaming?

Eventually the lizardman agreed to show the PCs to the lair of his fellows. It was some thirty minutes deeper into the dungeon. Upon closing in on its entrance the gnome tripped off a trip wire alarm near the lair with a bunch of metal tied to it to make noise. He used Ventriloquism to say "oops, I slipped" in lizardman language in hopes the occupants of the lair wouldn't prepare themselves.

They did.

Blackmoon (new PC Assassin L1), his remaining henchman, and Gwenael (Henchmen to Daria Fighter L1) were tasked with taking the lizardman prisoner back to the sewer ladder so he wouldn't try and escape during a battle.

At the lair itself were some stairs which raised up from the sewer platform into what looked like an old elven shrine of some sort. Daria (PC Bladedancer Level 5) and Gaius (PC Fighter Level 4) ascended the stairs quietly but the lizardmen, prepared for approach, surprised them. Attacks were made on Daria and I spent the rest of the night ruling the lizardmen were smart enough to not attack Gaius until last since his armor was obviously so much stouter than all other PCs.

Daria cast Hold Person but BOTH of the lizardmen made their saving throw. At this point a hidden lizardman jumped out of the sewer sludge behind the group's back ranks of Gundro, Xanthus, and Timur (PC Barbarian L1). The beast got some scratches and hits on Gundro and Timur but couldn't kill either of them. Xanthus make a fighting retweet to wisely battle another day!

Timur moved up the stairs with the front ranks to hopefully save Daria from getting knocked down in defeat, leaving Gundro to fend for himself wherein the lizardman ripped the gnome's mouth off and ate it laughing. Gundro died.

Daria cast Hold Person again and the leader of the lizardmen was held in place by the power of Ianna. Gaius beat the other lizardman down with subdual attacked until it hit the floor of the sewer unconscious. Timur had ran back down the stairs to save Gundro but it was too late. He and Gaius chopped the lizardman in the sludge to death since it didn't have the brand indicating it was trained to fight in the arena. Thus, not worth a big cash prize from the NPC quest giver to bring in alive. Sorry, scaleyboy.

Blackmoon and Gwen, during all this, had been attacked by a ratman on their way back to the surface. I ran this combat at the same time as the lizardman battle, even though it may not have happened at the exact same time in the game world. That's an old trick I picked up running 3e so a split party could have a fun combat at the same time and not have to sit around waiting for a combat to end that they weren't a party of. 3e combats were sooooo slow, it was almost a necessity.

During this combat Gwenael grabbed the ratman in a wrestling hold and pinned its arms. It screeched and growled angrily as Gwen said "go go go!" to Blackmoon and his henchmen. Indicating they Secure the Bag of the lizardman prisoner rather than risk it breaking free whilst PCs were distracted.

The best part of this was when we all realized Blackmoon took one of the two torches with him. Gwen had to drop her torch to wrestle and I rolled a 1d6 to see if it burned out upon falling on the floor. This is an ACKS Core rule btw 1= torch wen out. I rolled a 1. Her torch fell in the sludge and went out. 

So she wrestled the ratman in the dark surrounded by the stench of a sewer dungeon. Hearing only growls of a lycanthrope pinned beneath her and her comrades footfalls echoing further away in the distance. 

Eventually she pushed the ratman off her and run through the darkness towards the ladder out of the sewer, the vile lycanthrope hot on her heels. 

As per ACKS in Dungeon Chases you make a Save Vs Paralysis every time you take a hard turn or whatever so I ruled she'd have to make one to grab the ladder and not slip enough to stall her movement, wherein the ratman could chase her down, closing the distance and returning to melee combat. Saving throw succeeded and she ascended into sunlight. The beast didn't take chase.

The other party eventually followed behind and brought the other prisoners into the street above and the party cash outed their reward. Later they were visited by an NPC from the Tower of Knowledge who offered them 600 GP for a map to the Lizardmans' Lair since it was an elven ruin of some esoteric interest. The delve was a success.

Afterword

During this writing I was discussing with the Caller about the party's tactics and he had this to say:
"we used to be soft on rear guard because we'd clear a dungeon, knew where we were. Now we make precision delves but get attacked from behind more. Interesting evolution."

I think this may put a lie to the claim that my campaign, and others like them, have killed the megadungeon. The Caller is correct that their party, in earlier sessions, would do multiple delves to map an area well and keep the danger in front of them. I believe this evolution may have much to do with the fact the party has changed its makeup quite a bit. In early sessions, as often happens in TSR Era dnd, the party quickly realized how necessary it is to put some plate armor wearers up front and keep the fighter in a doorway or hallway. 

Regular human sized enemies are unlikely to get past a front line of two or more stout plate wearers. But the party lost Mandonio (deceased PC Fighter Level 4) and now only have one mid level fighter with plate in Gaius. Their combat tactics have changed and thus so has their preferred mission choice.

I am uncertain if this party of players will ever return to delving a mid to large sized dungeon, and that's fine. But I think the megadungeon still has a place in a brosr campaign. One way an enterprising brosr DM might consider handling a megadungeon the PCs have abandoned is consider each level of the dungeon as a small army. Each dungeon lair as a unit or two. So level 2 of a dungeon with a lair of 50 lizardmen, and a lair of 50 gnolls, might come under the command of a Big Bad in either tribe (or a lone evil wizard on the dungeon) where they depart the dungeon to range the nearby wilderness as a small army. Or, if the megadungeon is below a city, do small raids into the city above to capture prisoners here and there, rob a jewelry shop or take prisoners for crossbreeding from the temples or whatever. Give this military unit to a Patron player, perhaps, and watch the sparks fly.

In my campaign the PCs just sold a map to the entrance of a megadungeon to a city Patron player. Perhaps the future of the megadungeon in my campaign is to do abstract dungeoneering for Patron player(s) who may see it as a sort of resource to be mined for treasure and magic items wherein they compare the Profit to the possible Losses? Perhaps this Patron comes up against a Patron monster in the dungeon proper and I have a bit of in city mass combat happenings? Time will tell!


Surviving PCs Present

Blackmoon (0% XP bonus) Level 1 Assassin: 321 xp gained. Total: 321

Daria (0% XP bonus) Level 5 BladeDancer: 321 XP gained. Total: 13,264

Gaius (10% XP bonus) Level 4 Fighter. 352 XP gained. Total: 10,032

Timothy (5% XP bonus): 336 xp gained. Total: 336

Timur (10% XP Bonus): 352 xp gained. Total: 1,935

Xanthus (10% XP bonus) Level 1 Cleric: 352 xp gained. Total: 2,064

Hench:

Gwen (Daria Hench, Fighter L1): 160 xp gained. Total: ???

Surero (Blackmoon hench): 160 xp gained. Total: ???

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.

Alexa this is so sad play "Stayin alive" by the bee gees


Tuesday, July 20, 2021

ACKS Session 25: Death of the Joker

This session was played on 07/14/21 with players adventuring for 2 days and needing 1 day of rest as per ACKS rules. PCs are eligible for session play and downtime requests on 07/17/21 and after.

Foreword

I have no idea what's happening anymore.

I used to think my campaign was a comedy

Session Report

The Joker made an appearance this session. The guy who normally plays Gundro (PC Gnomish Trickster Level 2) couldn't play him since Gundro was out of play for a week learning new spells. So we brought in the ACKS class "The Fool". It's in the ACKS AXIOMS 5 supplement and I ruled only one could be in the campaign at one time and only played by a player who's lost at least 2 PCs to death. Well today was the day! He rolled the "Jester" Template, named him Corydon (PC Fool Level 1) and we were off and running.

Except not.

The players had been planning for a week or more (idk) to delve the Nethercity below the city of Cyfaraun. They even had a Patron who was willing to pay them for particular artifacts absconded from deepest reaches of the mysterious dungeon. I was ready! I re-read some of the module and made notes about where they might go. And then at session time, they changed their mind.

"Is there something we can do tonight that doesn't involve going into a disgusting sewer." haha, ok guys. great. Talk it out. They were in the big city of Cyfaraun with two major hooks but not the exact class makeup they were hoping for to tackle either. So they weren't sure what to do. Debates and discussions about a session goal began....

I went to get a beer. 

An hour later they had a nebulous goal of "go find the bandits that attacked us like a month ago". Ok? Sure. Out of town they went.

Because wilderness encounter checks are so frequent in ACKS when players travel from one town to the next or make the circuit from various civilizations, I pre-roll about 12 to 20 checks ahead for the major terrain types the PCs are likely to cross through during a session. This includes checking for Surprise (for both sides, Distance, and Monster Reaction. Sometimes the monster is actually a friendly Lawful Cleric like The Dude and the "encounter" isn't a fight but an opportunity for the PCs to make a friend. 

Well my next encounter wasn't that. It was 4 Chimeras. They have like 7 attacks each and breathe fire. Needless to say the PCs did NOT end up looking for bandits this session. Due to the planning stage of the session taking so much session time, this session ended up being primarily about the battle with the Chimeras.

My initial description of them was just weird, on purpose. "Big Dog bodied creatures with wings made of stone". Chimeras are freakshows (by definition, check the dictionary) so I felt they could look like just about anything and still have the same abilities and attack routine. NBD. I wanted the Players to have to make a decision about their actions without knowing exactly what they could be facing.

The reaction check of the Chimeras indicated "Neutral" so I had them circling some 180 yards away from the party threateningly. They may not have attacked. But the party loosed their archers first. Reaction became Hostile and the fight was on.

I randomly rolled how the chimeras would approach their attack and the dice told me 2 would come at the front ranks and 2 at the back. The 2 attacking the back would take a round or two to get in position. The two in the front hovered above the front ranks of the party and breathed fire twice.

Marina (PC Fighter Level 2) was burnt to ash immediately and died in the road. A bunch of the party's Light Infantry mercs were burnt up screaming out their last breaths. Gaius (PC Fighter Level 4) and Daria (PC Bladedancer Level 5) were injured very seriously but didn't die.

PCs loosed as many arrows as they could while the chimeras had yet to land. Little damage to the creatures and no deaths as all. Melee only PCs were frustrated for a round, setting for a charging or holding to make mounted charges with the opportunity never presenting itself. Xanthus (PC Cleric Level 1) decided to making a fighting retreat, you can't proselytize when you're dead! Some mercs and a henchman failed Morale, upon seeing a PC and some mercs killed, and began to do the same.

BriarWhisper (PC Elven Ranger Level 3) was able to get a sniping attacking off on one and did some solid damage early in the second round of combat. Then 2 of the chimeras landed and began to claw and bite at the Light Infantry mercs up front, cleaving and tearing through like 11 Light Infantrymen killing them where they stood.

Another flew straight at Daria and scratched her up pretty bad before she disengaged from melee on horseback to make a charge later in the battle. Gaius charged that one and hit it hard with a lance from horseback.

One of the reasons the PCs decided to wilderness crawl for this session was that Daria and Gaius both have the Riding Proficiency, making them able to attack from horseback with double damage on a charge. It came in handy later in this battle, for sure.

Things weren't looking good. The back ranks, mostly populated by spellcasters and lower level PCs, was about to get attacked. This was until Donny Keebler (PC Elven Spellsword Level 1) cast "Summon Beserkers" in the sky above the flying chimeras, dropping insane beserkers out of Valhalla and directly on the backs of the beasts. "Witness me!" the beserkers cried out when the chimeras wasted a round shaking the barbarians from their backs. The men fell with a splat in the road and dissolved into smoke returning to Valhalla and a pint of mead. One of the chimeras was so annoyed with being ridden that it decided to retreat.

BriarWhisper got a clean sniping shot off on one of the Chimeras killing it with massive sudden spike of damage. Gaius and Daria were about to do the same with another but not until the chimera in the back ranks landed and breathed fire on the lower level sorts.

This is when the Joker PC was burnt up to a crisp, his corpse not even fit for crows. The player said "well my special snowflake PC that I waited so long to bring into play didn't even make it through one combat". I love lethal DND. Corydon died with a smile on his face and a song in his heart. He had a laughing box in his breast pocket that was still working and laughing "hahahaha" over and over endlessly, like the end of Batman (1984). There will be no sequel for Corydon :(

donnys ashes released at sea by gaius and daria
"goodnight, sweet prince"

Donny Keebler's legs were burnt completely off and he died as well. Some of the mercs bit the dust too. A horse. Some dogs. It was all very sad.

The party lost nothing further since Gaius and Daria were able to make mounted charges at the 2 beasts that were still alive, both still at ground level putting themselves in danger. The fight was complete but not without the loss of three PCs. 

BriarWhisper decided to leave combat early and chase after the fleeing chimera. His thinking was that if the party could confirm the beasts' nearby Lair they could perhaps at least get some treasure from these creatures at a later session. I used the ACKS Wilderness Evasion rules to decide if he followed it well enough for this. He failed. My ruling is that he can try and track the creature from this battlefield at a later time with Tracking. Within reason, as far as time frame. Perhaps the PCs will get paid from this battle after all.

Gaius's player made a crack that "I don't want to be cold but 3 dead PCs means we get a bigger cut of the monster killing XP right". Yes, you cold bastard, it does.

Afterword

I didn't realize it at the time but this session was a case of players wanting to play to their strengths. Two PCs with the ability to make mounted charges is very powerful indeed. The problem the PCs ran into is most of their current wilderness themed hooks are quite far away (and far into time, making them deal with time compression). 

This is something I saw when I played in Jeffro's 1e game. We always wanted to play to our PC strengths and these changed constantly due to PCs being out for training and a constantly changing cast of players. The one session I played a 1e Ranger I pushed for the party to just go wander the wilderness. I was able to use the ranger's tracking skill to take the party to a Lair where we could get paid. I think we were trapped in time compression the following session and my ACKS players wanted to avoid a similar fate.

To my mind the party had plenty of time to evade or ignore an encounter with 4 Chimeras but my guess is they saw the creatures, knew they had little time left in the session, and thought "the XP from fighting these things is as good as any other XP... lets GO!" Real DND will cause players to make meta decisions like this which spotlight nuskool dnd-ers never would.

Was it worth it? I'm not sure Corydon, Marina, and Donny Keebler would think so. But they're not around to be asked. 

Surviving PCs Present

BriarWhisper (5% XP bonus) Level 3 Elven Ranger: 683 XP gained. Total: 7,119

Daria (0% XP bonus) Level 4 BladeDancer: 650 XP gained. Total: 12,943

Gaius (10% XP bonus) Level 4 Fighter. 715 XP gained. Total: 9,680

Xanthus (10% XP bonus) Level 1 Cleric: 715 xp gained. Total: 1,712 [LEVEL UP TO 2]

Hench:

Gwen (Daria Hench): 325 gained. Total: ???

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.

Alexa this is so sad play "That's Life" by Sinatra

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

PVP in Real D&D [Theory]

Player Vs Player (PVP) is a big point of contention for many players of D&D and other Table Top Role Playing Games. (TTRPG). Some players love it and enjoy being the PC who flips the script on the campaign by cheating another PC out of something, or directly attacking them. Some players hate it, claiming D&D is meant to be co-operative. 

Both can be correct.

Alexander Macris, in his stellar work "Arbiter of Worlds" classifies TTRPG Campaigns into "three basic social dynamics[...]: Collective, Competitive-Collective, and Individualist. Each of these social styles has its own implicit rules that govern how the players behave towards each other." 

These rules can be unspoken with friends who have gamed together for years and are simply understood implicitly. Or perhaps the players all sit down and discuss how they prefer to game. Macris correctly states that most big arguments between players and/or DM during a TTRPG campaign are because different players prefer one of the below styles more than the one being run by the crew as a whole. If you ponder your own campaign (and I hope you have one running rn.. if not stop reading and go text your friends to schedule some gaming) you'll realize it fits into one of the below pretty neatly.

u buy now

Here is my paraphrase of the social rules he outlines for each:

Collective: Each player will make a PC that fits in, is entitled to enjoy the game, and decisions will be made democratically. In such a campaign loot would be shared equally and PCs would go through pains to assure everyone gets an equal amount of magic items, or something.

Competitive Collective: Each player will make a PC that fits in, though they need not be friendly to eachother. No one is entitled to enjoy the game except by virtue of his character, and decisions will be made democratically. In such a campaign treasure wouldn't be equally disbursed and there may be arguments in character about small elements such as which NPCs to work for or something.

Individualist: Each player has his own PC and accepts the consequences of running an anti-social one, no player will get assmad (my word) if PVP erupts on their PC, and decisions will be made in character in game. In such a game there'd likely be a great deal of private messaging with the DM about how PC1 is pickpocketing PC2 etc. If you make a PC that doesn't fit in with the group you can and perhaps should expect to have your PC killed or not brought on adventures.

Macris's descriptions are more expansive and very useful. I recommend you read his book asap. He's the best RPG thinker out there right now. A quick and dirty rundown is all that's needed the purpose of this blog.

So I'm sure you're asking? "What kind of social system does Dubs prefer? Which of the above does his amazing ACKS campaign run as?" 

Here's the kicker, reader. BROSR CAMPAIGNS RUN ALL THREE STYLES AT ONCE.

It seems a mad claim but it's not at all.

Collectivist

When the main adventuring PCs of my ACKS Campaign are delving a dungeon together they are obviously running a Collective effort. In my campaign the PCs are all sharing an equal cut of all treasure. It was never discussed, they just fell into it. Additionally, it seems they are deciding their group goals such as which mission to try each week, based on a democratic vote. I'm not privy to all these discussions (they're done in private so I won't spy) but it's what I'm gathering from context clues.

They'd never have been able to tame a giant crocodile if they were not working together in tandem to achieve big Wins for the group as a whole.

Competitive Collective

My campaign, just like Jeffro's legendary 1e AD&D sessions, are Competitive Collective thanks to Jeffrogaxian Time Keeping and Downtime. In that campaign I played Chaz the Elf Thief. He was an elf supremacist and despised humans. During downtime he would rile up all the fey in Trollopulous (the main city we were all based in) to riot and destroy things. This would often put the party or other PCs at odds with the authorities or what missions we could try and do in session. Other PCs did the same, in their own less Chaotic Neutral way. But when session time rolled around Monday Night, Chaz was there to help out his homeys. It wouldn't make sense for him to backstab the fighter in front of him that's holding off a throng of orcs from killing the back ranks (including Chaz), right?

PC's in my campaign have similar stuff going on. Yllmeeton (Deceased PC Shaman Level 3) was gathering a cult in Turos Tem which angered the local Temple Authorities. Mandonio (Deceased PC Fighter Level 4) really wanted the major NPC Priestess in town to ally with the Party but Yllmeeton's behavior angered the Priestess and it gave a major negative to the Reaction Roll Mandonio and other PCs would have when dealing with her. "Hey Priestess Genelen can we have a healing potion for our next delve?" "Not as long as that shaman heretic is in your party!"

Yllmeeton wasn't trying to PVP the party or get them killed. Quite the opposite he was a fantastic healer for the party before some Hags ate him. He was just running his character in a way that seemed true for him during Downtime. The rest of the party wasn't helping him gather cult members, that was his gig not theirs. It was handled almost entirely off stage in downtime. Jeffrogaxian Time Keeping made this more feasible than Variable Time Keeping.

Individualist (PVP)

So I've shown that a Real DND campaign is Collective and Collective Competitive. What about Individualist (also PVP). That's what Chantsonian Patrons are for!

The Patrons are full on Individualist. If you follow the weird tw1tter LARP + mass combat campaign Jeffro's Trollopulous game has become, that's self evident. Let me give you an example from my campaign.

On July 1st Inthorn the former Bandit King was being put on trial in Siadanos for his brigandage. Legate Valerian, who has been run as a patron for about a month, was at the trial as a character witness. It was Valerian's belief (thanks to the PCs, most especially Mandonio) that Inthorn was ensorcelled by Dairin the Mage. This was the reason for Inthorn, a retired Lawful General, turning brigand.

Well thanks to some luck and oracular dice, Dairin the Wizard (also run as a Patron) was in Siadanos the week of the trial. It was the talk of the town so of course he knew it was going down. Well Dairin's player decided he would ATTACK THE TRIAL WITH A MASSIVE FIRE ELEMENTAL. So suddenly on July 1st I have a PVP game going on with a power fighter and commander of a platoon (Legate Valerian) battling in the streets with a mad wizard (Dairin) who summoned multiple magic beasts to cause havoc and hopefully kill Valerian and Inthorn. 

Full on PVP. Full on Individualist. 

Eventually Dairin summoned a Nightmare and flew off away from the town before he was surrounded and killed by the Lawful forces nearby. Legate Valerian and Inthorn survived the battle with the elemental and Inthorn was cleared of all charges. But the damage to the city was massive and authorities are angry. A reward for Dairin's capture or execution is being posted for Adventurers to try and claim.

But perhaps a Patron will claim Dairin's head sooner? This is a type of PVP where another party of PCs or a Patron could swoop a mission or prize the main PC's are interested in. It's a much gentler and natural version of PVP than just "I attac my party member".

Or perhaps Dairin is simply too powerful and clever for any of them and will continue to menace the region. I've no idea. But there's no doubt this type of gaming has brought full PVP to my campaign in a way that hundreds of TTRPG game theorists wish they could pull off.

If they read this blog and follow the #brosr on tw1tter perhaps they'd learn how.

You don't have to choose between Macris's three approaches. You can have it all if you just embrace the madness of Real D&D. 


Tuesday, July 13, 2021

ACKS Session 24: Croc Whisperers!

This session was played on 07/07/21 wherein the PCs traveled and delved until 07/11/21. One day of rest on 07/12/21 as per ACKS rules makes these players can make downtime requests and adventure on and after 07/13/21.

Foreword

1=1 Time Keeping has resulted in players doing alot of fancy footwork to get their PCs into the locations and positions they need to attempt the missions and quests they think will be rewarding or fun. This has had mixed results with some sessions not being particular rewarding with treasure and XP, and some sessions not being fun for some players. This session however, though it took about a month of planning and tackling of logistics, had a very good GP/XP reward indeed. Read on! 


Session Report

The party set out from Turos Orn on 07/07/21 to arrive in the city of Cyfaraun on 07/09/21. There were no random encounters on the road along the way. Daria (PC Bladedancer Level 4) hid her Charmed giant rattle snakes in the party's wagons and was able to get them past the guards at the gate. The party rested a day in the Temple district since they had double timed it to the city and were worn out. 

Their plan was to meet up with Timur (PC Barbarian Level 1) who was stuck in downtime play in Cyfaraun for over a month. He had been in pit fights, fought in the arena, and met an important Patron named Liber. Liber claims to be a businessman and well-to-do merchant based out of the Old District but he's certainly putting out vibes that he may be involved in a crime syndicate. He came to Timur and Donny Keebler (PC Elven Spellsword Level 1) after the party delved the sewers and rumors swirled they had found the Nethercity. Liber stated that elven antiquities one might find in the Nethercity is HIS business so PCs best come through him. But he'd help them delve it if they played nice.

This is one quest that has dropped thanks to Patron play. Problem was 90% of the PCs were off on the frontier far from this city. So it took them about a month to work out their various other goals and get back.


Another possible quest Timur uncovered in Cyfaraun while on downtime play was for Lanista Nuvicus. This is the Lanista (gladiatorial school proprietor) that Timur had been fighting for and training with during this downtime. Because Timur achieved a Friendly reaction roll result with Nuvicus, he revealed to Timur that he tried to smuggle a Giant Croc and some Lizardmen into the city to present for fighting at the next Games. Both escaped into different parts of the sewer during the botched smuggle. Liber's men were to blame but Liber didn't seem to care much.

Nuvicus, on the other hand, was beside himself with worry that authorities would find out and prosecute him. Rumors swirled that the Croc had already killed dozens of dock workers. He offered Timur 3,000 GP to recover the croc ALIVE. Dead would be fine but a much lesser reward. Nuvicus still wanted to field this beast at the next Games. This is the quest the PC's decided to tackle this session.

For a few weeks now they have been asking me about giant nets, cages, croc muzzles, and all other sorts of non-lethal ways to get ahold of the beast. I had no idea what their overall plan was. Did they even have one? They plan in private so I can't see it, so I really didn't know.

After resting in the Temple District the party had info that Timur was likely at the Mink Inn and Tavern where Liber does business out of and where Timur and Donny Keebler have been staying.

ACKS Capital of the Borderlands has interesting and, in my opinion, very good rules for city crawling. I'll give a fast breakdown.

If you've been to a destination from your starting point before you move at Commuter speed. Much faster. If you've not made that commute before you have to move at Meandering speed. This is much slower to account for looking at street signs, asking for directions, etc. Meandering within a district takes about 20 minutes. Meandering from Location 1 to Location 2 in neighboring districts takes 2 hours. Every 20 minutes of travel the DM makes a random encounter roll on the city encounters chart.

So they had 2 hours of meandering ahead of them. Many encounter rolls! But only one hit. 

An assassin shot a poison crossbow bolt at some citizen right in front of the party's litter and killed the guy. Briarwhisper (PC Elven Ranger Level 3) climbed the townhouse the assassin was on and took chase. He got a couple arrow shots on the man in black but eventually the assassin turned a corner and was lost. Some other party members converged to help with the fight but the townhouses were a long row and it took many minutes. BriarWhisper eventually tracked the assassin's trail of blood drops into the backdoor of a townhouse some 10 or 20 minutes after the event. But the party decided not to follow up with this mystery.

The guards annoyed the PCs with questioning for about 2 hours until the party was finally dismissed and they went on to the Mink and met with Timur.

Some players switched out their PCs at this point. Marn (PC Mage Level 3) was retired for the night so he could focus on finding a new master. He gave up working with The Man From Another place and learning magic from the little fella a few sessions back and Marn has been trying to convert from Chaotic alignment to Lawful. He's currently Neutral. Donny Keebler (PC Elven Spellsword) was brought in instead. 

Ashitaka (PC Elven Spellsword Level 1) was exchanged for Timur.

The next day the party went to Nuvicus's gladiator school and reviewed the mission. Nuvicus gave them a map to a sewer entrance along the west bank of the river which is rumored to be where the croc lairs out of . Nuvicus provided Timur with 2 gladiators to go along and serve as henchmen. The party got there quickly with no encounters.

Now they dungeon delved into the sewer. It was a straight sewer tunnel with no juts or side passages. The stench of the sludge along the center made most of them nauseous and get a -1 to attacks and damage. Gross.

Eventually the party came to a circular cesspit filled to the brim with corpses and human bones. BriarWhisper confirmed tracks of a giant lizard around here (and the previous tunnels, actually). 

The schemes began!

Gundro (PC Gnomish Trickster Level 1) was asked to make an illusion of a goat on the end of some gore the party fished into the middle of the cesspool with a grappling hook and rope. Trouble is the illusion wasn't powerful enough to make sound. 

"So here we go fellas we need to make the goat sounds ok? A goat sounds just like a sheep but more angry... not bahhh but bAAAh. Do you get it?" No one ever gets what Gnomes go on about, Gundro. So sorry.

No croc was fished up. So they decided it must not be there and they would just wait for it to return.

Four hours later it did indeed come. I rolled that it was Hostile and would attack. I also rolled it surprised the group closest to its approach. I was prepared to kill like three PCs because the closest group were all low level and/or hit points. But alas I rolled that it was at a distance beyond it's combat movement! So all it could do with its surprise round is close the distance speedily. 

Initative was rolled as normal. Fast PCs were throwing nets at it to no avail. Some took missile attacks which did a bit of damage here and there. But as I counted down the initiative it was looking like the croc would at least get to eat and cleave through a few PCs before they'd be able to start getting major attacks on the thing. Woe!

But Daria (PC Bladedancer Level 4) surprised me with Charm Animal spell. I knew she had the spell but what I didn't remember is that it HAS NO SAVING THROW. So This 10+ HD creature was now a pal and a friend. Mission success! That easily! No one died and no one was even bitten. Amazing.

The party marched the giant croc out of the sewer and up into the street. The Plaza Disctrict wasn't too happy and everyone in the thoroughfare ran into their homes and shuttered the windows. The Festival District near Nuvicus's school however... they loved it! (I rolled a maximum Reaction Roll for the districts reaction to this strange occurence.)

A big parade began in the district with bards and clowns hitting the street to march behind the party as they went right up the street towards Nuvicus's school. Music blared and carousers caroused. What a show! 

Nuvicus met them at the gate to his school and was beside himself with happiness. Not only was the croc back but his school got amazing publicity with this impromptu parade! He threw money into the street for carousers and gave the PCs a 500 GP bonus for a job well done.

Timur made a soapbox speech about how Nuvicus is the best school and h*ck with Maximus's competing school. He probably thought he sounded quite fantastic rather than the 3 INT dolt that he is. The session ended with the players all feeling very high on themselves.

Afterword

Seems like they had a really easy win, right? I mean... no saving throw for an overpowered spell. Dubs, do you even know how to challenge players? But reader you forget that this particular Win for the players involved the following:

-good downtime play by Timur to go looking for Lanistas to serve and become a gladiator. This wouldn't have happened without Jeffrogaxian Time Keeping.

-lucky/good reaction roll check of 12+ on a 2d6 +modifiers from Nuvicus to tell Timur about the mission at all. If the PCs just delved the dungeon and stumbled across the croc would they have tried to capture it? Why? They'd just fight it and/or run away with no cash reward. No big win

-PC with Charm Animal coming all the way out from the frontier forts to get back to the city to help on this mission. That alone was about of dozen or more wilderness encounter checks

-Time. This all took REAL TIME. Timur had to send a rider with a message out to the rest of the Party telling them they should come back to the city. That took a few days of REAL TIME. 

Now, I will admit I was shocked that Charm Animal is so powerful as to not need a save. But that's the rules as written and I play RAW. The players knew their spell before they ever started planning. Doing research like that and finding out how to exploit your strengths is how real DND works. 

Nuvicus is a normal NPC and is not a Patron. So this was all done abstractly during downtime with Reaction Checks. If you're reading this and would like to run Nuvicus and try and make him rise up to be the most prominent Lanista in Cyfaraun and the Borderlands perhaps contact me. 


Most Patron play being explored right now is about moving armies around. But creative DMs (me) and a good game system (ACKS) offers other sorts of play that some may not have considered. ACKS has a minigame for running a gladiator school and fielding gladiators, putting down revolts, and Spartacus type things like that. 

The PCs ended the night stoked that Nuvicus would be able to field the Giant Crocodile in the next gladiatorial games and hopefully beat down Maximus's gladiators, a guy they've decide they don't like. Though they've not met him.

I love the fact that my PCs can be part of it all in a way where they help tilt the scales in the favor of one Patron or NPC or another. This is what real dnd is all about.

Surviving PCs Present

BriarWhisper (5% XP bonus) Level 3 Elven Ranger: 655 XP gained. Total: 6,436

Daria (0% XP bonus) Level 4 BladeDancer: 624 XP gained. Total: 12,293 [LEVEL TO 5]

Donny Keebler (5% bonus) Level 1 Elven Spellsword. 655 xp gained. Total: 2,238

Gundro Aleslosh (0% XP bonus) Level 1 Gnomish Trickster. 624 XP Gained. Total: 2,575 [LEVEL TO 2]

Marina (0% bonus) Level 1 Fighter: 624 XP Gained. Total: 2,240 [LEVEL TO 2]

Timur (10% bonus) Level 1 Barbarian. 686 XP gained. Total: 1,580

Xanthus (10% XP bonus) Level 1 Cleric: 686 xp gained. Total: 997

Hench:

Gwen (Daria Hench): 312 gained. Total: ???

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.

Alexa this is so sad play "Am I not Merciful?" from soundtrack of the hit film "Gladiator"

 


Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Jeffrogaxian Time Keeping vs Variable Time Keeping [Theory]

 I am the foremost authority on Jeffrogaxian Time Keeping (JTK) vs Variable Time Keeping (VTK) because I've run and am running two campaigns rn using ACKS and all it's complicated campaigning rules. These include fielding armies, leading military campaigns, building keeps, crafting spells, running trade ventures, running crime syndicates and all the other things that make a dnd campaign more interesting than just delving dungeons and going back to town. One of my ongoing campaigns uses JTK and one uses VTK. 


As the authority, and as a giving man eager for the people to enjoy superior dnd campaigns, I am composing this blog poast to explain to you, the people, how they differ and why JTK is the better of the two.

First lets define them. 

VTK is method of dnd ttrpg etc timekeeping with which most DMs and players are familiar. How does it work? The main thing you'll be familiar with in VTK is that if you have a 4 hour dnd session and run out of time whilst your PCs are deep into a megadungeon it's nbd. Your DM hits the PAUSE button and you and he pick up where you stopped next session. Some version of VTK, like my ACKS Greyhawk game, allow PCs to FAST FORWARD through time for whatever reason they wish. These might include fast forwarding so the wizard can create a magic item that takes 1 month to create. During that time I'd say "hey what are the rest of y'all doing in that month" and we hash that out at the table.

JTK is different in that players can NOT pause the game between sessions. My e-fren Chanticleer describes JTK as follows: 

"During a campaign sesssion, players have some control over the flow of time. Players can spend their time traveling, exploring, fighting monsters, resting to regain spells, or in one recent session my players spent an entire week of in-game time casting glyphs of wardind to lay their aboloeth trap in the sewers. However when the game is not "IN SESSION", players DON'T HAVE CONTROL over time. When the players aren't playing the calendar of the campaign setting moves forward in sync with the real world calendar. "

Chant gives an example but I'll give one of mine so there are more out there for higher variance of reader grokking. Imagine the players began to explore the wilderness on July 7 and it took them ten days. They come back to town on July 17th. My next session is on July 14th. The PCs involved in the above exploration can't be played on the July 14th session because they were busy doing things that day. They won't be "done for 3 days".

When you institute JTK you end up with a major paradigm shift on how players approach the game. Guess what kids, you can't PAUSE in the dungeon so you better complete your delve and get back to a safe zone before the end of the session time. Some players and DMs don't like this, claiming it tethers the PCs to civilization or that it limits their choice. 

In some ways, perhaps. But the gains are massive. Swole.

In practice the players realize that if they take just a day or 2 to delve during a session they have 5 days their PCs are existing in the world before the next DND session. They don't want to waste that time so they start making "Downtime Requests". Those are things that Mr Wargaming describes as things that  respectable adventurers should be doing but which don't really warrant session time. 

Such as: hiring mercs, burglarizing petty nobles, carousing, rumormongering, making magic items, assassination... etc

Players will start jumping at the opportunity to do these things because they don't want to WASTE that downtime between sessions. In a VTK campaign they often won't have time for ANY of that unless and until they are able to convince their other party members to slow down and let them do those things.

In practice this often means multiple players bored at the table as Joe the Mage describe the magic item he's going to create. Or Swole the Barbarian rolls dice and counts gold pieces to figure out how many infantry he can hire this week. 

My Greyhawk ACKS campaign in VTK does the above. These are players who have been friends since middle school so they work things out pretty well about when they're going to take breaks from adventuring to do "upkeep" type stuff. It goes pretty well for us. But a JTK campaign is going to inspire players to do those things more readily.

Running a VTK with big elements will mean a DM has to be quicker on his toes. If they want to spend 2 hours of session time hiring infantry to go wandering around looking for randomized trouble (lairs etc) you need to be on your A Game as a DM and have lots of modular materials ready. I use various Books of Lairs as Dynamic Points of Interest as per ACKS GMing advice.

This is MUCH easier on the DM using JTK because he will only need to "fake it" for a couple hours and then he'll have another week to do some more detailed prep if the players decide to push one with that plan next session. 

So ease of DMing is one point in favor of JTK. Another is that a JTK campaign can have COMPETING PLAYER CHARACTER PARTIES. 

My ACKS Auran Empire Campaign has two different PC parties. I run one group of players weekly online and I run another group every month or so face to face at my home. The player parties have already swooped each other's hooks and such a few times.

This is not possible in VTK campaign. If Group 1 pauses time in a dungeon does that mean Group 2 is stuck paused as well? Silly. Two points in favor of Jeffrogaxian. 

Last but certainly not least is JTK Campaigns can have Chantsonian Patrons. You're going to have to check out my last session report for an explanation of this one. But the bottom line is, with JTK, you can have wargames between massive factions happening AT THE SAME TIME as you run normal dnd sessions. The results of those various wargames (or syndicate street battles or whatever) will echo into the dnd sessions. 

Check out here where I had my dad run a wargame against one of the major NPC villains wherein he controlled one of the major NPC good guys. This isn't feasible in VTK because how would I gauge the timing of the military campaign if my PCs can PAUSE Time in the megadungeon? Or if they can FAST FORWARD THE WHOLE UNIVERSE. I can't!

So let's conclude. Jeffrogaxian Time Keeping is superior because it makes downtime easier for a DM (and PCs) to manage well, it allows competing PC parties, and it allows Patron play with major wargames etc going concurrently with normal dnd session play. 

Variable Time Keeping has no clear advantage on anything that makes a good ttrpg campaign. Some players or DMs may be skittish about running an "always on" campaign, or just not enjoy pondering their hobby as much as JTK players do. But this may be a sign that said players would be better served by a different sort of game. 

Candyland, perhaps.

Friday, July 2, 2021

ACKS Session 23: Giant Flies Attack! [Patrons and Timekeeping]

 This session was played on 06/25/21 and adventured until 06/30/21. One day of rest, as per ACKS rules, means players can play sessions and make downtime requests on and after 07/01/21.

Foreword

The players have been slowly trying to unite all their various PCs in one location. Jeffrogaxian Timekeeping has caused most players to have two or more PCs in various frontier forts in the campaign region. I didn't understand what they had in the mind the last two or three sessions when they kept traveling and traveling. But this session, it became clear.

They wanted to get all their PCs in one Fort so they'd have a bigger range of choice on party composition in future sessions. If one player has a mage and a fighter, for instance, he can only bring one or the other to the adventure that session. If both are in one location, he can bring either, based on party need.


These are the kinds of interesting logistical challenges 1=1 timekeeping brings to a campaign. I'm finding that these sorts of challenges might not be "fun" for all players. I've heard complaints on the tw33ter that it's "like doing taxes". That's fine, don't play my game. I prefer players with  #EliteAuditorMindset

Kidding. Kinda.

If tackling such logistical challenges isn't to the players' liking or interest, they're free to approach the game in a different way. There are plenty of in-game quests, options, patrons, etc for them to interact with that won't push as deeply against the 1=1 timekeeping challenges.

Session Report

The party started in Turos Tem with Crassus (New PC Venturer L1), Daria (PC BladeDancer L4), Gaius (PC Fighter L4), Gundro (PC Gnomish Trickster L1), Marn (PC Mage L3), and Polydoros (New PC Fighter L1). They checked in on a hanging story point from last session: the death of Mandonio (PC Fighter L3). Daria checked into getting the pieces of his body put on a proper funeral pyre down at the Hospital. This was accomplished and Priestess Genelen (NPC) oversaw the services. She assured the adventurers that she would petition to have th deceased Legionnaire named a "Petty Hero"; making him officially recognized for ancestor petitions.

So the party left town with a wagon full of their past treasure and about a dozen various mercs.

They traveled counter-clockwise around the Auran Borderlands circuit of roads coming to Turos Aster after a day of travel. Crassus sold quite a bit of the party's looted goods from last session and gold was passed around as per agreed upon cuts. Daria attempted to get her evil sword (absconded from the Leper Dragon's Lair last session) identified at the Chapterhouse by some Mages. They hemmed and hawed, looked it over, took Daria's money and declared they had no idea what magic it held. "It says 'Kinslayer' on the side her in Ancient Zaharan, ma'am". She already knew that. Thanks alot, fellas. They left Turos Aster the next morning.

During travel they noticed some giant ants a couple hundred yards off the road and decided not to engage. The ants ignored them. They arrived in Turos Spen after about two more days of travel.


Crassus successfully sold some high dollar treasure here and cash was passed around again. 

At this point the players were in a town where quite a few of their backup PCs were "parked" in previous sessions. Polydoros's player decided he'd rather play Xanthus (PC Cleric L1) from a few session back. So in Turos Spen he "switched out" mid session. The player for BriarWhisper (PC Elven Ranger L3) also showed up to play at this point. He also plays Mandonio so he'd have had to make a new backup PC to travel from Turos Tem to Turos Spen at the start of the session. Him being late due to irl concerns actually made placing him into the session easier that it would have been otherwise.

So, with BriarWhisper among the crew and Xanthus taking Polydoros's place, the players started discussing their options. It became super gameist. I love gameist.

Basically they had about an hour and half of session time left and they wanted to make SOME kind of score. Crassus's player in particular was explaining how he'd made hardly any XP in the last few low or no score sessions. Daria's player, who is usually the Caller, was pointing out they don't want to adventure too deep into the game world's future and not be able to play these PCs next time. They were already four or five days into the gameworld future by now so they only had one or two to play with if they wanted these PCs next session.

See the sorts of gaming concerns that come into play with 1=1 time? I find it all very interesting.

The party decides they will travel a few hours north from Turos Spen to a nearby woodland and just look for trouble (Lairs) to beat up and loot. Sounds good!

I went to the ACKS Lairs and Encounters book. It has rules for deciding how many lairs on in a hex and what chance to roll for PCs to find them. Each check is a d20 roll to hit a number (11 or higher, for instance) that takes the PCs an hour of game world time. Each time they check, however, I also roll a random encounter check for that terrain. 

As one player said "this can be profitable and you find an easy lair but you can also find a wandering monster with no lair like HAGS and everybody dies". He was referencing this session wherein the hags in the Viaspen Forest just wanted to #livelaughlove . So sad.

After one hour they were successful! They found a lair for Giant Carnivorous Flies! It was built into the concaved chest of a massive giant's corpse laying among the trees. Gross. The party started throwing military oil fire at the big hole and about a dozen giant flies got angry.

My notes on the battle itself are chicken scratchy so I'm just going to give you the hits. Gaius charged his horse right up to the hole and killed like 3 of the flies. Crassus, proving his mettle, followed right behind Gaius and actually got a kill with his little goofy merchant's short sword. Amazing.

The flies went everywhere and hit many different ranks of their crew. As a DM this is something to keep in mind with crazy unintelligent flying monsters like this. I totally randomized who they attacked, giving priority on the PCs and/or mercs closest to the lair itself. Some of the weaker less armored PCs took a few attacks and I'm sure the players got nervous they'd lose a PC. But all the PCs held strong. Their allies soon converged and helped them take down the one or two flies that got in their face.

Sadly Gaius lost two of his remaining 3 light cavalrymen. Daria lost a handful of her light infantrymen. Her snakes, which she charmed last session, got forgotten during the session even though they were following the PC's caravan. Sad. They likely would have enjoyed eating some giant flies.

When the flies were dead the party spelunked the hole in the ground and found nasty giant guts and fly eggs everywhere. Among the gore was 4 gems of various value. There were some possible valuable wooden statues in the hole but the party had destroyed those by tossing military oil down the hole. Sadface.

They rolled their loot back to Turos Spen and the whole caper only took about 4 hours of game world time. They weren't trapped in time compression for future sessions and they could cash out their XP. Success all around, from my viewpoint.

Afterword

I've been introducing Patrons to my ACKS campaign. What are Patrons? They are major NPCs that you hand off to be played by a human. Said human decides the actions of the NPC based on the handful of goals and detailed resources the DM provides them. 

A few days after Session 23 I decided to give Legate Drakon of Turos Spen to a friend to run as a Patron. A few of the rumors/goals I gave him was that a Gnoll Lair was in the nearby Viaspen Forest that his scouts saw monster sign of, and that Crassus the PC venturer was shopping for trade goods in Turos Spen. He wanted to meet the PCs immediately!

 On an off day with no session Legate Drakon sent his Centurion Adam "Animal Lover" Baldwin to give the PCs a message. 


"Good afternoon, Legionnaire," he said meeting Gaius at the Travelers Inn "I assume you're the leader of this band of assholes called Team " He shows Gaius the letter. "Look man, it's a letter from the Legate. He's summonsed you all up to the villa tomorrow. Seems he wants you to slaughter the gnolls in the Viaspen and maybe help your perfidious merchant with a trade venture. Don't worry, I won't be there at the villa. I got better things to do than circle jerk with a bunch of dumbass adventurers." At that, the Centurion left.

We opened up a private group chat and the Patron player ran his plan by the PCs as they joined him at the villa. The scene got a bit testy as the Legate himself was short saying "listen up, gnolls are in the forest and I want you to take them out." PCs, nigh always resentful of authority figures, bucked his short tone and assumption of their obedience. Daria argued with him a bit about the time frame the party could do it in and the Patron had this fantastic line:

"It sounds to me like you want me to do your job for you. You appear to be under some delusion I come to you on bended knee begging for your aid. You're a mercenary of little not. Do not presume to lectur me on the cost of maintaining an army." Wow. An NPC figure of authority figure would be unlikely to speak thusly to a PC. The DM would have the worry that the player himself would take offense and become angry with the DM and campaign. Instituting Patrons allows NPCs of note to act like they would actually act around some murder hobos.

Now, the Legate and PCs eventually came to terms and a price and time frame was agreed upon. The Legate is in private chat with Crassus these days (and with me) trying to work out some trade caravan planning. 

I have a handful of Patrons in my campaign now. Some may be villains. In fact, two of them may have just had some PVP fighting (Spoiler: they did). Stay tuned to this website for more information on how that went down.

Have a happy fourth of july, everyone.

Surviving PCs Present

BriarWhisper (5% XP bonus) Level 3 Elven Ranger: 316 XP gained. Total: 5,781

Crassus (10% XP Bonus) Level 1 Venturer: 331 xp gained. Total: 331

Daria (0% XP bonus) Level 4 BladeDancer: 301 XP gained. Total: 11,669

Gaius (10% XP bonus) Level 4 Fighter.  331 XP gained. Total: 8,965

Gundro Aleslosh (0% XP bonus) Level 1 Gnomish Trickster. 301 XP Gained. Total: 1,951

Marn (10% bonus) Level 2 Mage: 331 XP Gained. Total: 5,408

Xanthus (10% XP bonus) Level 1 Cleric: 331 xp gained. Total: 331

Surviving Hechmen Present

Gwen (Daria): gains enough XP to become a level 1 fighter. Agrees to continue adventuring as Daria's henchmen.

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.

Alexa this is so sad play "fortunate son" by creedence clearwater revival


Dubzaron Session 141: Dazed and Confused

Session played on 02/21/2024. Participating PCs:  Daria: L9 Bladedancer, Lawful. George of the Jungle: L4 Beastmaster, Neutral Reaver: L5 Ba...