Tuesday, December 28, 2021

ACKS Session 39: Meet the Beetles!

The PCs adventured in two delves taking two days starting on 12/15/21. After one day of rest as per ACKS rules the PCs can take actions on and after 12/18/21.

Foreword


I was just talking with a friend the other day about how it doesn't seem mine players will be taking the PCs back into any dungeons any time soon. "They don't seem to be interested in delving anymore," I lamented. So of course like a day later at the start of Session 39, this session, they inform me they will be delving the sewers beneath the city. 

Real D&D is so weird. When you give your players full REAL agency you will be constantly surprised by the choices they make and the goals they set FOR THEMSELVES.

Session Report

The party gathered up and set off for a manhole cover in the Old District of Cyfaraun. I was scrambling to find my adventure book for this delve and had to research again how the rules worked with regards to the sewer sludge (the stank) which instigates the PCs to make a Save Vs Poison or feel sick and act with -1 on most checks while in the sewer. We ran around the table and about half the PCs saved. I used the honor system of PCs tracking this minor debuff for themselves since I couldn't be bothered.

The mission they gave themselves tonight was to do some mapping of the dungeon for a new Patron they are calling MapGuy, but who is actually named Rene (with a frenchy last name I can't recall). 

When this player submitted his Patron idea of being the Map Guy in Cyfaraun I was skeptical it would be any fun. But my decision regarding new Patrons coming into the game since November 2021 was to let them bring something they were passionate about. Some perspective Patron Players have asked me if I "needed" something in particular in the campaign world. Not really. My theory is the passion the Patron brings because it's HIS idea will make for a better campaign world. Whether he's helpful to the PCs or antagonistic is neither here nor there, for me. The Passion and the concept is the thing. MapGuy appears to be having fun so far.

So anyway the PCs were trekking down the sewer platform next to the nasty sludge and taking note of each room and the size of hallways and such. MapGuy was going to give them some gold pieces for each room or something like that. I don't know the details because I don't need to. 

Hearticus (PC Cleric Level 1) was in the front line with Aeneas (PC Paladin Level 1) so this was a holy rolling group indeed! Unfortunately I rolled up a random giant beetle encounter and rolled up they were Hostile. The beetles ALSO got surprise on the entire party AND were within charging distance with their horned head attack. So the beetles charged down the sewer platform and gored Hearticus unto death. His player was laughing hysterically at how ridiculous the PCs story had been. Hearticus only made 1 (one) roll in his entire PC career and it was a natural 1 on a d20 on his Save VS Poison. So Hearticus's only scenes in this campaign were him climbing down into the sewer, projectile vomitting from nausea from the sewer sickness, and then getting gored to death by beetles. Hearticus was the cousin of Smarticus (DECEASED PC Mage Level 1) who had a similarly bad single session existence. It seems that PC naming convention isn't very lucky!

Aeneas for his part held the front line very well. Despite having only 1 (one) hit point he simply never got hit. This was helped along by Rapunzel (PC Priestess Level 2) who cast the spell Sanctuary on him. I botched my reading of this spell and we were letting Aeneas attack from the Sanctuary when it's supposed to keep him from being attacked but make him unable to return attack. Live and learn!

The battle was against like 3 beetles and neither side was having much luck landing attacks after the first round. Mickey Mouser (PC Thief Level 1) waded into melee when the front line fell but then had his own face ripped off. The player began rolling up a replacement thief. Dolores (Level 1 Fighter henchman to Laru), the hero who killed BOB in Las Vegas, got hit in the Achilles heel by a beetles horns and she went down with a serious mortal wound. She'd be out of action for a week. And unable to walk since her other leg had the same Mortal Wound from some past session. Dolores has been through alot!

Eventually the PCs killed a beetle and the rest failed their morale check and fled the battle. The PCs decided not to pursue since they were pretty beat up.

The party fled back to the surface streets having only been in the dungeon about an hour of in world time and 2 hours of game time. Our sessions normally go 4 hours or so and the PCs geared up for a second delve and attempt at their sewer mapping mission.

Nubbs (PC Thief Level 1) replaced the dead Mickey Mouser and Harder (PC Mage Level 1) replaced the dead Hearticus. So both players were able to keep on playing. It was easy to explain how they joined the party since the survivors of the first delve just went back to the inn to rest. They "picked up some green horns" for delve 2.

The next day the party went back into the sewers the same direction and passed the abbatoir of the beetle battle. Beyond that was an iron door/gate thing which the party broke down by rigging up and pulling a grappling hook... or something idk. Moving north they came to a section of the dungeon which was away from the nasty sewer sludge and they all started feeling better. The player of Hardar was making jokes about how his openly chaotic (evil) mage was creeping on Rapunzel and celebrating the death and evil he saw around the dungeon. By losing Hearticus the player stumbled upon a PC he seemed to be having more fun with; an unrepentantly evil mage where the player could "embrace his id" and just make bad (good) jokes about being a PITA.

During the course of the dungeon exploration the PCs mapped out a pretty nice section of rooms and halls. During this time a swarm of creeping crawling bugs came upon the party and Rapunzel used Magical Music to put them to sleep. On review of this ACKS Proficiency it seems this does NOT effect Vermin so I was 0 for 2 on my interpretations and understanding of the Priestess's abilities this session. Live and learn!... again!

Some giant flies were randomly encountered as well but their reaction to the party was Disinterested so I ruled they bypassed the party and went to eat the swarm of sleeping bugs the Priestess knocked out. Eventually the party found a wooden ladder and trapdoor exiting out into a Small Cantina in the Old District of Cyfaraun. Laru (PC Thief Level 3) is pretty deep into the underworld of Cyfaraun so I ruled he was aware this Cantina used to be used as a legit front of Liber Faunus's (DECEASED Patron crime syndicate boss Level ???) kaput Argollean Family syndicate. 

We wrapped there.

Afterword

So you'd think the Party would be pretty unhappy about this session right? Very little treasure (they found a crate of wine worth like 200 gp and that's it) and multiple dead PCs and injured Henchman. But thanks to this end of session discovery the PCs were pretty pumped, especially Laru. 

A few of the Players began scheming how they were going to take over the Small Cantina (which they named Beetle Juice) and start running their own crime hijinks out of there. And it could be a safe entrance to do further delves into the sewer from a more private and safer entrance. Next session report you'll see how they doubled down on this plan and made a very serious score indeed!

I didn't plan any of this and the PCs certainly didn't play having a juice bar under their control at the end of the session, but that's how real emergent storytelling works in real D&D. Keep reading this blog and follow the #brosr on Tw1tterz and you can learn how to have a Real D&D campaign of your own!

Surviving PCs Present

Aeneas (5% XP Bonus): Level 1 Paladin. 62 XP gained. Total: 62

Hardar (10% XP bonus): Level 1 Mage. 65 XP gained. Total: 65

Laru (5% XP bonus): Level 3 Thief. 62 XP gained. Total: 4,726

Nubbs (5% XP bonus): Level 1 Thief. 62 XP gained. Total: 62

Rapunzel (10% XP bonus): Level 2 Priestess. 65 XP gained. Total: 3,434

Surviving Henchmen Present

Nuria (Rapunzel): Level 1 Cleric

Dorlores (Laru): Level 1 Fighter

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.

Lord Zyklon (L1 Elven Spellsword). Total XP: 0. LORD ZYKLON DISEMBOWLED LORD ZYKLON upon finding himself on the losing side of the Desolation of Turos Tem.

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

Rat Face (L2 Thief) Total XP: 1,577. Seemingly grabbed in the dark by a Xenomorph in Session 36. In a sinkhole your party can hear you scream! 

Smarticus (L1 Mage) Total XP: 0. Captured by a Xenomorph in Session 36 for all the party to witness. Taken deep into a sinkhole.

Hearticus (L1 Cleric) Total XP: 0. Gored to death by giant horned beetles in Session 39 after projectile vomiting all over himself from the stink of sewer sludge.

Mickey Mouser (L1 Thief) Total XP: 0. Gored to death by giant horned beetles in Session 39 in the happiest place on earth: the Cyfaraun sewer!

Alexa this is so sad play "The Mickey Mouse Club theme"

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

ACKS Session 38: Wilderness Trekking [Crafting Hooks for Real D&D Play]

Players adventured for 22 days and parked in Turos Veren on 12/30/2021. Needing one day of rest as per ACKS rules, players can make downtime requests and participate in sessions on 01/01/2022 and after.

Foreword

I haven't crafted a hook for this campaign in like 30 sessions because having Patrons and real player agency for PCs leads to dozens of hooks. What's more is those hooks are going to be more interesting to players than anything I come up with. Why? Because the players would have had a hand in designing the hook just by virtue of following the threads and concepts in the campaign world that interest them. 

The hook this session was yet another Treasure Map. The map had some scribbled notes about how there were some fancy magic items at an elf mage's "backup lab". This included the "Shield of Stone", assumed to be a shield with some very good protection magic. 

Here's the thing: this treasure map was given to the PCs by a Patron (Magna Legate Drakon) on the agreement they'd bring him the Shield of Stone. Everything else at the "backup lab" was theirs to claim. 

This treasure map was in the world due to Drakon leading a campaign into the forest, randomly generated whenever he hook a Hill Giant's Lair down with his troops. 

So Patron play in downtime created a hook for Session 38; but only because the PC players interacted with a Patron and came to an agreement! This is so much more interesting, and leads to better worldbuilding, than hooks designed by a DM. 

Get Patrons into your campaign asap and you'll never need to push another boring hook on your PCs!

Session Report

Oh my how they traveled.

The party left Cyfaraun with many cavalry mercenaries and a wagon. Gaius (PC Fighter Level 4) didn't show up during the planning phase of the session and PCs were worried he might not arrive to lead his cavalry units. That's kind of his thing.

I made a house rule where allied PCs can trade mercenary units around for session play if their regular PC leader can't make a session. But it instigates a loyalty check, wherein the mercs might quit the employ of their leader. So players were loathe to risk it so Daria (PC Bladedancer Level 5) could lead them.

Thankfully Gaius showed up just before they left Cyfaraun and it didn't come to that. 

The Party traveled for some days to the town of Luseatem (where many PCs were "Parked" after tangling with a xenomorph ). They traded out some PCs notably the monk Radames (PC Mystic Level 1) decided to stay in Luseatem and Aurora (PC Priestess Level 2) joined up with her retinue of very good henchmen. 

This decision in particular may have saved the party from taking some major losses. Read on and find out how.

So anyway the travel continued and there were no hostile random encounters. It seemed no monsters wanted to risk death by taking on the Party and their 35 or so cavalrymen. The party arrived further north along the Line than they have ever been, at Turos Gundan. Players stumbled over themselves and cross-talked the mics with all various forms of jokes about giant robots and weebs. Gaius, for his part, kept the jokes in character and riffed on what a long strange trip his adventuring career has been. He's one of only two PCs that has survived since session 1 and recently got Energy Drained (Level Drained) so lost some memories.

He got drunk at the tavern and waxed nostalgic about old PC allies, putting his arm around Daria (calling her Darius, the player's assassin that died back in session three lol) and asked about where various LONG DEAD comrades were. "Don't worry Darius, with Mandonio (Deceased PC Fighter Level 3) holding the front line with me, we'll never fail!"

It was good stuff.

on the road again

The next day the party left Turos Giant Robot and a few hours into their northward travel I rolled a random encounter of 70 wild horses with a Neutral reaction (??????). The dice are weird.

The players realized this right here was a resource and Daria used Charm Animal spell on "the alpha horse". Then cast "Speak with Animals" to convince the Alpha Horse to take all of his herd with the PCs. The Players enjoy making me do the animal voices in the campaign... forcing me to do more and more outlandish animal voices and thought processes is a running joke on its own.

Alpha Horse thought Daria was just a great gal and he agree to lead his herd up to Turos Veren. Once there the party double crossed Alpha Horse and penned him and his crew up so they could be sold later at great profit. 

The next day the party took a ferry across the Krysivor River and treked into the Istrith Forest for the first time. Rumor has it the Istrith Forest is a land of elves and fey, now nomadic and angry since the beastmen and an ancient dragon claimed the city that once hid in the midst of the tall redwoods of the forest.

I was happy something finally got the PCs to go into the wilderlands of my campaign. They've been running circles around the inside of the borders since session 1, only braving the wild side of the river (and the Unbroken Line) two times

The travel went quite well. It took many days of in-gameworld time for PCs to trek deep into the Istrith Forest in search of the Elf Home ("backup laboratory") that was marked on their treasure map. They got lost for a day and needed to backtrack at one point. But they even stumbled upon a random treasure cache which was hidden in an old elf ruin. Big bags of coins in the floorboards just waiting to be pulled up and claimed. There was a love potion in with the treasure as well. 

They made their way to the location of the treasure map and were able to pinpoint the exact location within a few hours; which is quite amazing considering the d20 rolls they have to make to find the X on a wilderness treasure map with my house rules.

On the way back from the Elf Home to Turos Veren and civilization they came upon an Evil Altar which I improvised as being the stick figures hanging from trees from "Blair Witch Project". Spooky! But also a resource since the players blessed the location and destroyed the stick figures gaining 100 XP for every Lawful PC or Henchman of the expedition. 

There were no hostile random encounters after days and days of travel in the deep dark forest. I was shocked. Considering how profitable this trek was turning out to be, I was annoyed it was going to be so easy! My reputation as a Killer DM was hanging in the balance. Could I live this down?

On the last day before they got back to Turos Veren to cash out with their treasure and gain XP they were attacked by like 9 Hostile Werewolves who go surprise on the party. It was on. I was surely going to take some henchmen down at the very least. I was pumped!

Aurora's player stopped me with a question. "Niveeda (Henchman to Aurora, Explorer Level 1) has less chance of being surprised. Did she perhaps not get surprised?" I checked my dice. Oh no. Most groups are surprised on a 1 or 2 on a d6 but Niveeda is only surprised on a 1. I rolled a 2.

maybe next time, fellas
Because she wasn't surprised and because she had a special ability to evade wilderness encounters more effectively, Niveeda was able to get the group out of a combat with the werewolves where they'd certainly take some losses.

I was crestfallen

The party got out of the Istrith Forest, having been there almost two weeks, without any hostile encounters. Amazing. It was a very successful wilderness adventure for the party and, despite my jokes above, I'm proud of their success.

Surviving PCs Present

Aurora (0% XP bonus) Level 2 Priestess. 1,455 XP Gained. Total: 3,063 [LEVEL UP TO 3!]

Daria (0% XP bonus) Level 5 Bladedancer. 1,455 XP Gained. Total: 17,323

Gaius (10% XP bonus) Level 4 Fighter. 1,601 XP Gained. Total: 10,114

Marn (10% XP bonus) Level 3 Mage. 1,491 XP Gained. Total: 8,248

Timur (10% XP bonus) Level 2 Barbarian. 1,491 XP gained. Total: 3,650

Xanthos. Level 1 Cleric. 1,491 XP gained. Total: 1,958 [LEVEL UP TO 2!]

Henchmen present

Niveeda (Level 1 Explorer for Aurora)

Prajna (Level 1 Fighter for Aurora)

Akshat, Faruk, Kudret, Shems, Umashtar (Level 0 bros to Timur) 

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.

Lord Zyklon (L1 Elven Spellsword). Total XP: 0. LORD ZYKLON DISEMBOWLED LORD ZYKLON upon finding himself on the losing side of the Desolation of Turos Tem.

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

Rat Face (L2 Thief) Total XP: 1,577. Seemingly grabbed in the dark by a Xenomorph in Session 36. In a sinkhole your party can hear you scream! 

Smarticus (L1 Mage) Total XP: 0. Captured by a Xenomorph in Session 36 for all the party to witness. Taken deep into a sinkhole.

Alexa this is so sad play "Holly Jolly Christmas" by Burle Ives.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

ACKS Session 37: Swamp Wise! [How to Run NPCs in Real D&D]

Session was played on 11/24/21 with PCs adventuring for 5 days. Needing 1 day of rest per ACKS rules the PCs can make downtime requests and adventure on and after 11/30/21.

Foreword

Happy Advent Season!

Session Report 

Don't you love it when a plan comes together? Sure that's cool. But what about when PCs make a plan that... doesn't? Also fun! That's what happened this session.

The Party began their adventure in the elven fastness of Oakhilt. They left and traveled on to the major city of Cyfaraun as fast as they might. There they grabbed some of the PCs who had been "parked" in that city some sessions previously.

I think this is fair to the spirt of running multiple parties. Those PCs weren't available in the "town" the major portion of the party started at but if the party can get to where their friends are parked in a reasonable amount of game time then I allow them to convene and switch out PCs (if they wish) at that time. I advise other DMs running these sorts of campaigns to do the same. It helps players who may be skeptical about playing multiple PCs see the benefits of it. Now if there was only an hour left in the session I'd probably tell them they couldn't switch PCs or grab new players or whatever. 

Timothy MadEye (PC Venturer Level 1) spent quite a bit of downtime looking for boats to take the party out to an island out on Lake Laman. Some of the party were convinced that's where Dairin (Deceased Patron Mage Level ???) kept his wizard's tower. Some players are convinced they'll find a nigh empty lair with piles of gold just laying around if they can just find Dairin's abandoned demesnes. Maybe! 


However Proteus (PC Mage Level 2) hasn't been in the party for a very long time indeed. Mage's are an odd lot. They'll just disappear into libraries for months on end reading studies on frogs, film analysis, and existentialism. You know; things no one cares about. The party asked Proteus to use his insane Soothsaying ability. This is a powerful Proficiency in the Adventurer, Conqueror, King System (ACKS) rules where even a low level mage has access to the "Contact Other Plane" spell. I outline how cool the ACKS "PC Template" subsystem back in this session report where Proteus did used this same ability to great effect.

Proteus delved his mind deep into the outer planes this time. He risked a FIFTY PERCENT CHANCE of going insane for TWELVE WEEKS to be able to ask a weirding planar creature 12 questions. With real time play that would mean Proteus would be out of the game for 3 months. Go big or go home!

Well Proteus braved the astral projection of his mind deep into the furthest reaches of the Dubsian Cosmos and did not go insane. He found himself in the Mauve Zone from Twin Peaks Season 3 The Return; entreating with The Fireman. Sure you probably don't get that reference but I don't care. 

I don't recall every question Proteus asked but one was like "Is Dairin's Lair on the island and Lake Laman?" "No." The air went out of the room for the PCs. They really thought it was there and had the boats to get there! Was all their downtime planning wasted?

But they also asked the Fireman if Dairin's abandoned Lair was in the swamp and got a "yes". This is when the plan started evolving (falling apart?)

Instead of going to the island in the Lake they crossed the Lake to Turos Quelle and then commissioned some swift boats to get them out into the Viamir Marsh and start looking around.

Daria's new bff

While crossing the Lake they got a random encounter of a Giant Octopus that, for reasons unknown, was Friendly to the party (Reaction Roll maxed out in their favor). Daria (PC Bladedancer Level 5) used Charm Animal on the thing and plans to charm it every single day to keep it as a pet. It traveled with the party the rest of the session as they crossed waterways and swampways. 

But lets slow down because I promised to teach you, in the title of this report, how to Run NPCs in Real D&D. 

Short Version: NPCs just aren't that important. Accept it and you'll know how to run NPCs in real D&D. 

Long Version: NPC can be completely ignored until the NPC is needed. They don't need to be pre-rolled and you don't need to know who every blacksmith, cooper, or even who every Prince is. Players don't care so much about that sort of pre-made worldbuilding by the DM. What players care about is the worldbuilding they were involved in live. They care about the NPCs they were able to give their own input on during its creation. 

This session has an example: Leadfoot Joe.

While the Party was rumormonging around Turos Quelle about where Dairin's lair might be Radames (PC Mystic Level 1) decided to "go to the docks and check the rumor mill". He succeeded in his roll for this and I made some dumb Old Prospector type voice like "oh yeah we heard there were lizardmen getting riled up in the swamp. Leadfoot Joe can't stop talking about it." 

Where did the name come from? No idea. I think I was listening to some Leadbelly that week and it just seemed like a good name. 

Players loved the stupid name. They were enamored. They just HAD to look into this Leadfoot Joe guy. 

When they dealt with the Legate of Turos Quelle (and NPC they soundly ignored and didn't care about despite him having his own keep, ships, etc) they basically decided for me that Leadfoot Joe MUST be a ships captain, right? He's known down at the docks! 

Even more, they went and FOUND Leadfoot Joe and essentially demanded he admiral their fleet of four swift boats into the swamps. Clearly he can do this right? 

Well... who knows. I made up the name from thin air. He was nothing before the session started. His importance to the session and Players was created as we went. 

As the session went on I leaned into the absurdity of it all. He was INDEED qualified to admiral a fleet of four swift-boats (he's Leadfoot Joe for goodness sakes!). I gave him the same dumb Ol' Prospector voice I gave the unnamed NPC from before (no one noticed) and now and then I'd have him comment on how he got his name. Was he just slow or had a bad leg? NO!

He had begun to gather (very stupid) backstory. PCs made jokes that became his backstory. When we talked about how the ships might sink they of course joked that poor Leadfoot Joe would sink like a stone due to his... lead foot. 

So I had him confirm the whole tragic tale.

"Oh dag nabbit this reminds me of that time I stuck my foot in a bucket of hot lead on a bet! Worth every penny!"

Anyway as you can see NPCs are better when Players have their hand in the creation. We did something similar with The Dude.

You might say "well how can I remember all the NPCs in the world... like if I make up a shopkeep during one of the Player's shopping trips and he wants to go back to that guy... I'll forget!"

No. If the NPC is worth remembering one of the Players will remember him. Or you, the DM, will remember him. If he gets forgotten then he wasn't worthy of the campaign in the first place. Real D&D filters out the bad ideas and leaves only the good stuff for Players and DM to engage with, in this way.

So anyway back to the session report.

Leadfoot Joe led the Party into the swamp on swift boats owned by the Legate of Turos Quelle. They spent a few days in a literal a metaphorical quagmire of trying to find Dairin's lair without a very good idea of where it was (if it was in the swamp at all). The PCs had trouble rejiggering their session plan after they were certain they'd go to the Island on the Lake. So this was all being planned as they went.

During this time they got attacked multiple times by giant alligators who crashed from the mud, ate a bunch of archer mercenaries then disappeared into the mire. Players became pretty annoyed.

Session time was running out and players worried they'd make no Big Score but they lucked out on random encounters and found a Wight Lair. The party of dungeon delvers pulled up to the island crypt and marched into it. 

They easily killed the 2 Wights laired there but not before Gaius (PC Fighter Level 5) took a hit and get Energy Drained (Level Drained), losing a ton of XP and a level. It was a bummer. The Wight lair had a handful of gems and PCs did pretty well on XP gains otherwise.

When they got back in the boats and continued to the edge of the swamp they realized they had been lost the whole time. So they weren't even sure if they were searching the areas they were supposed to.

Guess who they blamed? I know you can.

Leadfoot Joe! 

He was the biggest hero and most liked NPC since The Dude but by the end of the session he was the goat. The reason for their failure. A representation of everything that went wrong that session.

But that's what happens to NPC's in Real D&D.

Surviving PCs Present

BriarWhisper (5% xp bonus): Elven Ranger Level 4. 489 XP gained. Total: 13,745

Daria (0% XP bonus): BladeDancer Level 5. 466 XP gained. Total: 15,868

Gaius (10% XP bonus): Fighter Level 4. Energy Drained from 2,189 xp down to 8,000 XP. 513 XP gained from adventure. Total: 8,513

Marn (10% XP bonus): Mage Level 3. 513 XP Gained. Total: 6,757

Proteus (5% XP bonus) Mage Level 1. 489 XP gained. Total: 2,781 [LEVED UP TO 2!]

Radames (0% XP bonus) Mystic Level 1. 466 XP gained. Total: 466

Timur (10% XP bonus) Barbarian Level 1. 513 XP gained. Total: 2,159

Zoria (5% XP bonus) Mage level 1. 489 XP gained. Total: 500

Henchmen Present

Jane the Cleric (Daria), MistWeaver the Elven Spellsword (BriarWhisper), Raven the Elven Ranger (BriarWhisper), and Yuno the anime warrior gal (Proteus) each get 233 XP.

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.

Rat Face (L2 Thief) Total XP: 1,577. Seemingly grabbed in the dark by a Xenomorph in Session 36. In a sinkhole your party can hear you scream! 

Smarticus (L1 Mage) Total XP: 0. Captured by a Xenomorph in Session 36 for all the party to witness. Taken deep into a sinkhole.

Alexa this is so sad play "Friends in Low Places" by Hank Williams Jr. 

Dubzaron Session 64: Return to the New Badlands (and Operation Muscle Thunder)

Session Played on 07/06/22 and ending on 07/16/22. Actions available again on 07/18/22. Session Report The party was able to secure many tro...