Thursday, October 19, 2023

Dubzaron Session 132: Barsoom Bop

Adventured on 10/18/23 and returned to Helium (safe city) on 10/19/23. Need rest 10/20/23 and can take actions 10/21/23.

Chipette of the Mysteries: L1 Priestess, Courtesan. Lawful. E.
Proteus: L7 Mage, Soothsayer, Neutral. E. RIP
Rory: L4 Barbarian, Death Dealer. Neutral. E.
Sheela: L1 Mage. Neutral.

Proteus: Nonus L4 Fighter
Reaver: Subatite L2 Mage.

The Players were back to their party that was Lost On Barsoom (TM) about A MONTH ago. Barsoom, for those who don't know (and you should if you are reading a BROSR blog... shame on you...) is the weird Mars setting from Edgar Rice Burroughs' fantastic sword and planet tale which began with the book "A Princess of Mars".
The Princess of Mars' name is Dejah Thoris and here in the Dubzaron campaign she's yet to meet the main character of her titular book series: John Carter. Where is he? Probably still out fighting in the War of Northern Agression. 
Our campaign stories on Barsoom are thus a prequel in which we will out do George Lucas both in making a prequel and in ripping off Edgar Rice Burroughs. 
Dejah was still in morning, wearing all black and holding court less frequently in the crystal city of Helium because her sister Jejah Thoris (or whatever) was killed by the Marvins about a month back in session 127 "Lost on Barsoom". She wants justice against the Marvins. Not revenge because Dejah is a heroine not a neitchzien will-to-power revenge filled PC. 
It took a while for us to get this session going because the 3 of us at the virtual table who had read A Princess of Mars (shame on you, Rory) hadn't done so in years. Or a decade in one case. 

So there was some back and forth about what should be in Helium. What Barsoom is like. How the world is laid out geographically. And we went round and round about this for 5 or 10 minutes until I made some fast ZERO PREP STYLE rulings. 

This is OUR Barsoom, gentlemen. It's laid out how we like. And thus I spoke that, if the PCs travelled or searched for hooks we would use Appendix B (DMG appendix for random wilderness terrain) or ACKS rumormongering rules.

The PCs wanted justice against the Marvins as well. And the prize that might come from making this happen, of course. There was some arguing with me that they "could have been" doing this or that the last month. The problem was none of this logged this month of "could have should have" actions in their downtime channels. I gave them some leeway on this by letting them retcon that they searched for henchmen during that month. Should I have been more of a stickler about 1:1 Jeffrogaxian Time and it's requirements for use, dear reader?

Allowing a search for henchmen let me add in some weird space opera style henchman classes from the ACKS setting book "Barbarians of Kanahu" that could be found. 

We had a new player join the table as well so he needed a new PC and I allowed him to choose from these weird classes if he wanted, also. But he chose a mage instead. Which is fine but, as we'll get to later, I decided on some house rules where Arcane casting can backfire on the caster because Arcane magic is simply dangerous on Barsoom. It does have a payoff so stay tuned!

Chipette had apparently spent the last month becoming besties (or BFFs) with Dejah Thoris and Chipette was able to secure information about the last known location the Helium navy and royalty have for the Marvins. Chipette also secured a flying airship to take the Party to the location for recon and/or takedown.

So with my running Barsoom with NO PREP and the PCs needing a POI for an established threat, how did I create this hook and location? Well first I realized the things that mattered to the PCs and the campaign were as follows:
1. Which direction are the Marvins?
2. How far away?
3. What's known about the place we think they are in?

Also: 4. What's on the way there? could have been something the PCs might ask but they didn't so I could just let the random travel to the POI decide as we went.

So I answered "which direction are the Marvins" by rolling a d8 for which direction on a compass. The answer was "East". Then "how far away" I like the PCs roll on this fast chart I made while they talked about nonsense:
"It is X Y where X is 2d6 and Y is (d6): 
1-3. miles
4-5. hexes (which are 6 miles each)
6. mega hex (which are 36 miles each)" Well they rolled like 7 mega hexes so the Marvins were actually 256 miles away (lol, lmao).

This was actually the point where the party was like "oh no we need an air ship or we'll never get there." They secured it.

But now we get onto the milieu of the POI the Marvins were seen at and what they might be up to. It was at this point I used my memory of the John Carter series, some dumb space opera scifi concepts I made up on the spot, and taking suggestions from the PCs to come up with the following list of points of interest for us to roll on:

1. Temple of Issus
2. Burrow of the Ants
3. Obelisk of the Chessman
4. The Burnt Glass Plateau

5. Tarzans House
6. Abandoned Air-Shipyard
7. Cold North
8. Ornithopter Tower

Now tell me you wouldn't want to adventure in ALL those locations. If you say "well Dubs those sound boring I'd prefer to adventure in the Caves of Chaos for the 75th time" then perhaps you should consider another hobby. 

Well the party rolled 1 on a d8 so in full on John Carter of Mars fashion the dice decided that the bad guy was at the Temple of Issus 254 miles to the due east. The players helped me devise how an air ship might work by us using the ACKS rules for regular sea vessels and just doubling their overland wilderness travel movement as per ACKS rules. Flying things can go "as the crow flies" avoiding hills and hollers so that equates to double wilderness travel movement. So despite the Temple of Issus being almost 300 miles away, the party could get there in just about a day. Amazing!

But I didn't know anything about the terrain from prep because prep is for geeks. I broke out Appendix B, the random wilderness generator, in the 1e DMG and got to work. I decided, to save time and because the air ship was moving so fast, the PCs would only get a sense of what each 36 mile hex terrain was in general. Not every single 6 mile normal hex. I also, rather than making a wilderness check for each 6 mile hex (or 42 checks) I'd just assume 1 encounter hit per mega hex. 

Me and a player figured "only flyers could do any damage to the airship" or "be a threat" but then I realized THARKS have those mega plasma rifles which can shoot miles. So if tharks came up as a random encounter the party might have a bad time. 

It's been said by prep addicts that rolling Appendix B at the table would make for a bad session. That the players would be bored bored bored. Well I can tell you that's wrong wrong wrong. 

It really didn't take that long and the main issue we had with time running short for session 132 was the lack of preparation the party had made by not doing any downtime on di1scord and coming to the session with rules worldbuilding questions for me. In our campaign they could have used downtime to figure out where the marvins were and even submitted an idea of what they might be up to and what the POI they were located in might look like. I enjoyed making the hook with my players like outlined above but the fact is this, along with figuring out airship stats (something else players could have done without me in downtime), and hiring hench (something else the players could have done without me in downtime) took up more time than Appendix B.

Why aren't the fake D&D geeks screaming on tw11ter about Players not doing THEIR prep or helping the campaign with milieu? Why do they raise their tiny e-fists in fake indignation at DMs for the sin of making them wait a minute or two for random rolls in session? For not generating reems of maps before the session starts?

Well, the main reason is D&D geeks often have less than charitable attitude to their poor overworked DMs. And as has been discussed on ROLLIN BONES podcast, some D&D geeks have this concept of the DM or D&D as another form of on demand entertainment. 

My players ARE charitable and are NOT geeks. They didn't do as much of this sort of downtime stuff likely due to them being men with lives to live. And I think some were a bit confounded by what they COULD do on Barsoom for a month. Gun shy? 

Back to the session report. Rather than list every thing they saw as they flew across Barsoom in a flying airship (I know you're jealous of this session) I'll just list what each 36 mile hex had and what was seen there AND give you a theater of the mind map of BROSR Barsoom as prep for your next session there. You're welcome:

Mega Hex 1: Wasteland of blasted gold and orange sands. Encountered 4 Wyverns on patrol. No Lair. Party evaded successfully despite Wyverns giving chase. Barsoom wyverns shoot poison barbs from wings and don't have a stinger.

Mega Hex 2: Wasteland gives way to weirding hills covered with giant mushrooms. Encountered a warband of Tharks patrolling. Neutral reaction and chose not to fire on the Helium airship.

Mega Hex 3: Mushroom hills continue. Single narrow mountain juts miles into the sky with a wyvern lair. 6 wyverns leave their lair to run off the helium airship. What riches might their lair hold?

Mega Hex 4: The hills give way to swaying lands of Endor (California giant redwood) forest of massive trees with lavender leaves. "Are there ewoks down there?" one player asked. Maybe.

Mega Hex 5: Endor forest continues.

Mega Hex 6: Endor forest gives way to scrublands of lavender and orange moss. Tiny mushroms dot the flat landscape. Strange 6 legged lizards are seen below grazing on the scrublands.

Mega Hex 7: Mossy scrub continues. The airship picks up and follows a dry riverbed towards the Temple of Issus. Below are seen caribou looking herd creatures with 6 legs and antlers that shine with spotlights that point here and there.

Mega Hex 8: The Temple of Issus is here. The dry riverbed looks to have some water. A rarity on dry Barsoom! They must be close to the temple of Issus, the goddess of water and plenty. 

Now you know what is due east of Helium for nigh on 300 miles. It took about 15 minutes to generate, not counting time spent with the Party pondering how to handle what they saw, running evasion checks, and making jokes.

Approaching the location of the Temple of Issus at about 3 miles away Captain Sinep Gib of the "Tejah's Heart" circled the ship so the PCs could see what was at the point of interest they came all this way to see.

It was primarily a massive circular gash on the ground some 3 to 5 miles across. The river was flowing into it and cascading into it. In front of this was a 60 feet tall black pyramid twinkling with lights and jutted with balconies and walkways. The pyramid was moving slowly around the hole in the ground because it was being carried by hundreds of slaves! These were from Helium and Captain Sinep Gib was quite angry about this. These marvins must be brought to justice!

As they approached they saw the top of the pyramid was flat with a sacrificial altar. Some crazy lady in white robes was doing a ritual and had apparently killed a Helium prisoner atop the altar. 10 of the little marvin creatures were around her jumping around and cheering for her ritual. 

The PCs discussed their play while I got a drink. When I returned their plan was to fly within 210 yards so Subatite could pop off a Sleep spell. They figured all the marvins would sleep and they would then capture the sorceress lady and interogate her for information about this whole marvin thing, and how to get home to the Dubzaron world.

This report is getting long so I'll just lay out the hits of the combat. I checked Reaction from the bad guys as the PCs flew closer and Jadis the White Witch (from Narnia) got angry quickly upon their approach. She tossed fireballs at the ship but that didn't really do enough damage to stop its approach. When they were close enough Subatite put like 3 of the marvins to sleep with his first Sleep spell. And 7 more later. Sleeping them all.

Jadis popped off a Hold Monster spell and paralyzed Captain Sinep Gib, Subatite, and 1 of the marines. She tried to target Proteus but even with the higher level Hold Monster spell it can only target folks with 4 HD or lower. Proteus is 7th level.

Now is when things got bad for the group. Jadis popped off an Invisibility 10' spell to make it look like herself, her fighting man bodyguard, and all the marvins ran away. The PCs didn't notice because they kept talking about how they were ducking to avoid spells and the marvins lazer pistols. So Proteus polymorphed self into a dragon but upon casting it he hit the low chance I made (5%) of arcane spells backfiring when cast on Barsoom. I took the rules for Spellsinging misfires from the ACKS "Heroic Fantasy Handbook". Turns out Proteus "stared into the Logos of creation" and, after failing his Save Vs Spells, became feebleminded. Cue up jokes of stupid dragons and gifs in the chat room.

Rory jumped on Proteus' back, anyway, to fly down and "check things out" down by the apparently abandoned altar. Jadis popped out of Invisibility and shot them both with a fireball. Rory survived by his mount Proteus the dragon didn't Proteus was at 0 HP but fell 70' taking 11 more. I halved the fall damage because Barsoom has lower gravity.

Rory, on the other hand, was able to go full John Carter spring jump mode off of Proteus's back and in Jadis's face and start beating her down. She disengaged from the combat and let her bodyguard fight Rory but the barbarian was the stronger hand and took the fighting man down. At one point Jadis shot off a desperate Cone of Cold at Rory hitting her own people but Rory stood tall with 3 hp left. 

When the ship got close enough the marines rappelled down onto the pyramid from the airship and Jadis surrendered. Chipette intimidated her into giving herself up and telling all she knew. Her reasons were nuts:

"We needed a unicorn horn from dubzaron so we could turn on the ozone destroyer because Issus told us to!"
"But you'd die too?"
"I would become one with the atmosphere and this new atmosphere would bring the holy rains back to Barsoom and my spirit would flow into the planet for eternity!"
"Ok... why sacrifice people?"
"To open the portal to Dubzaron and hunt for unicorns of course."

Ok that's a stupid plan but it all lined up with our previous seeds and hooks. At this point it was late so we did some housekeeping stuff:
-Captain Sinep Gib demanded all the marvins destroyed. Deep in the pyramid breeding pits of black slop was found from which they were crawling. Chipette objected but Rory and Sinep voted her down.
-Proteus's body was checked. He rolled a really bad Mortal Wounds check and the ship and party had no healers. He's dead. Did his items break from the fall?
-Lots of treasure in the pyramid! See below.
-Fly home and send ships back to pick up the rescued slaves of Helium.

I let the players roll up the random treasure and, besides the magic ring Jadis was wearing, there were no magic items in the pyramid.

We ended there but what other adventures might we have on Barsoom? Inside the giant hole in the ground appeared to be a dark city on a lake. A lake on dry Barsoom?! Is this where Issus lives? Dare they return to claim it? Dare they explore the endor forests to recruit ewoks? Dare they cast another arcane spell? 

Find out next time! 

Treasure:1,000 gp, 5,000 ep, 6,000 gp.  2 zircons worth 75gp each, 1 tiger eye worth 25gp, 1 sunset amethyst with the image of sol inside worth 750 gp. 1 Alabaster Jadis statue (the white queen) worth 700 gp, 1 wrought gold tiara worth 600 gp, 1 ivory lapel pin worth 400 gp, 1 porcelain music box worth 700 gp. Total GP Value: 3,325 gp

XP For Kills: 1380
XP For GP: 11,925 (Sinep Gib asking for an equal treasure cut to PCs which he will share with his Marines. With 2 charismatic PCs in the party he's convinced to not get in the running for the Magic Ring)
XP for Magic Items: 6,250
XP Pool: 19,555

Cuts: 10 (1 for marine platoon and 1 for Sinep Gib)
PC Cut: 3,911 xp
Hench Cut: 1,956 xp

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