Sunday, November 1, 2020

In Search of OD&D Part 3: The Northern Shores of Tamerthya

In part 1 and part 2 of this search for OD&D, I asked the question: does my old friend Mike McDowell's 1992 game style, the one that has for years haunted my memories as being so immersive that it blurs the lines between fiction and reality, exist anywhere other than the past? Also, I detailed my brief research of Dave Arneson's first fantasy campaign setting called Blackmoor, because statements by his original players caused me to infer they had also experienced a similar game style to the one I played way back in the nineties. I never came to any solid conclusions about how to experience Blackmoor the same way as the old-timers, until now. 

Several hours before the "OD&D: Tamerthya" game that I signed up to attend at Garycon's Autumn Revel 1, the Dungeon Master Dirk Collins sent me an email that contained links to three PDF files called Tamerthya, Fantasy Price List, and DnD Towns North Slope. Imagine my surprise when I opened the DnD Towns file and saw this:

Does that look familiar? In my previous post I lamented about the raw data from Dave Arneson's Blackmoor campaign that I didn't understand how I was supposed to use to play Dungeons & Dragons the way I was familiar with. This data looked remarkably similar.

Later in the day when the scheduled time to play in Dirk's game arrived, all of us players were invited to log on to which is a virtual tabletop website that I have some experience using. Dirk indicated that we should each pick a pre-generated 5th level character to play as. I always gravitate towards playing magic-users so I picked a human female wizard named Isa Farstar, although I wasn't entirely keen on playing a female (it always feels wrong somehow). So far this game was like every other role-playing game I have ever played.

Then Dirk asked us to pick a city to rule or control or... actually I'm not entirely sure how he phrased it but I picked the port city from the picture above, Lesym Flym. Okay, that is something I couldn't remember doing in any game I've ever played.

Our dungeon master then said we could buy our starting equipment. Isa Farstar had around 9,000 gold pieces on her which I thought was a lot but then Dirk said we could also use the money from the treasury in our town. Lesym Flym had 38,454 gold pieces in its treasury!!! I was pretty impressed with starting a game with that kind of buying power but then I opened the PDF called Fantasy Price List:

I stopped cold here on page 3. There were options to buy dragons and trolls! That was actually somewhat overwhelming to imagine, so out of caution, I settled for purchasing a +3 longsword which was also fairly amazing.

Next, gameplay proceeded around the virtual table with Dirk displaying a map of the city that each player was in charge of and a map of the surrounding countryside. I had enough forethought to grab a screenshot of my Lesym Flym.

Isn't it beautiful? 

During each of my successive turns I was able to do what seemed to be about a weeks worth of activities which I think amounted to about 20 minutes of one on one game play each time with Dirk while the other players listened. The first thing I noticed was that there was the symbol for a mine nearby to my city. When I asked the DM about it, he asked if I would like to go check it out. I told him I wanted to send 20 of my light cavalry to the location to secure it. When they arrived, the mine was already occupied by dwarves who were in the process of working it. Because my character, Isa, is a Magic-User she obviously had access to a selection of known spells. I used the ESP spell to directly communicate with the lieutenant of my cavalry and instruct him to tell the leader of the dwarves that we have laid claim to the mine since the founding of our town and that we demanded controlling interest in the mine. Their leader said he would need to talk to the elders of his clan which were away at that time. At that point I instructed my men to return home. I also initiated an inspection of my city walls by my stone masons and the captain of my city guard. That was the end of my first turn.

On subsequent turns, I had my scribes draft a contract with the dwarves for my controlling interest in the nearby mining operations. I sent a group of about 20 miners and apprentices to the mine. I began construction on a second set of gated wall enclosures around the three existing gates of Lesym Flym and a portcullis that could be raised and lowered into the river which flowed into the city from the west. I set up a meeting with the bishop of the largest organized religion inside my walls to discuss the catacombs beneath the city and what ancient magics may be entombed there. Three of my four war galleys made birth from Lesym Flym and charted a course north under my order of exploration.

There were noteworthy things the other players did as well.

Another player named Sarah was playing a character named Lord Bitroch. Bitroch had actually left his town early in the game on a mission of exploration and diplomacy and had stopped at one other players towns and made peaceful contact. By the end of the entire session Bitroch and his entourage had arrived on the horizon to the south of my beloved city. In-character I did not know the intentions of the approaching force, and had the captain of my city guard sound the alarm to close the city gates. Bitroch and his associates approached with loud declarations of peace and private concerns of xenophobia on my part. 

After the show of fortification, I opened my gates to the ambassador and he subsequently offered an invitation to join a trade council of sorts. To which I agreed on the condition that I be allowed to send my own ambassador with Bitroch on his further travels of exploration. He acquiesced and I allowed him to take a tour of my shipyards so that he could get a better idea of how to construct his own shipyards upon return to his city. Further, I took down payment of 5,000 gold pieces to begin construction of a ship for him.

Other memorable things done by the rest of the players were that a tournament was announced and invitations dispatched to the four corners of the known realm. A pact was made with some local forest dwelling druids. Demi-humans were asked to leave one city because they weren't wanted there and elsewhere other demi-humans were invited to come to a religious cult type of city.

By the end of this whole thing I had come to three realizations. First, no combat had ever taken place although one or two checks were made for wandering monsters by Lord Bitroch during his travels. This lack of battle did not detract from the game one bit. Second, playing this game had caused me to experience that completely immersive game style that I had been looking for off and on since I was 15 years old. Last, and most importantly is that I knew with absolute certainty that from now on this was the style of game that I really wanted to play and even run above all others. 

From here on out, I will do whatever it takes to be involved in this game and others like it. 

Speaking of this game, Dirk Collins is running two more upcoming convention games like this one that take place in other parts of the Tamerthya continent. They are both at Virtual Gamehole Con and it takes place NEXT WEEKEND!!! If anyone reading this would like to play in an RPG unlike most everything else being played right now, follow the links below and above all else have fun!


Monday, October 19, 2020

In Search of OD&D Part 2: Ancient Blackmoorian

In my previous post, part 1, I reminisced about my favorite game session of Dungeons and Dragons and asked the question - Does my old friend Mike McDowell's 1992 game style, the one that has for years haunted my memories as being so immersive that it blurs the lines between fiction and reality, exist anywhere other than the past?
About a year ago I watched a well made documentary called The Secrets of Blackmoor. In it, the people that played with the father of fantasy role-playing games and co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, Dave Arneson, described the sensation of actually being in the Blackmoor world. At the time, the documentary and these revelations so moved me that I began to research the past of Dungeons and Dragons: The World's Greatest Game.

I attempted to correlate my experience of total game immersion in the early 1990's with the original Blackmoor Gang's descriptions of actually being the characters they were playing in the early 1970's. Along with several other avenues of research, I purchased a copy of Arneson's 1978 Judges Guild material called The First Fantasy Campaign (at premium cost) and carefully read the thing cover to cover. There were some interesting stories about the game world but the whole thing seemed to me to be a mess of raw data. 

For instance, the first 14 pages of the book are a section called "Blackmoor, The Campaign". Here is  the entire first page which is prefaced with a short explanation of how the game was in the third year of play and quickly approaching a Great War:

The first time I read that it made little sense in relation to what I thought I knew about my D&D. The rest of those fourteen pages were similarly vexing to me. I thought some of this must be a throwback to the wargames that Arneson and his bunch had come up on but I just couldn't grasp how RPG game play would progress. Perhaps I'm somewhat dense but I feel my confusion was ironically confirmed in The Secrets of Blackmoor documentary!

 "The core concept of (Dungeons and Dragons) is only covered on 2 pages (Of the 1974 White Box rules) by a brief example of how the game is played. Every role playing game published after dungeons and dragons follows this same format: lots of rules and a small example of how the game is played."

A moment later in the film David Wesely, the father of all role-playing games said 

 " just can't seem to describe the game by writing down all the rules. You actually have to have somebody talk you through what it looks like when people are playing it so they can get a feel for the social interaction on on a level that's very hard to describe as just simple, flat statements."

Here's another example from the aforementioned section of the Arneson's book that had me asking "what the hell am I reading?":

I read that and thought "why is this here and what am I supposed to do with it?". 
With the exception of my failed attempt to use Arneson's world building matrix, I set the publication aside as a trivial work with no practical application for me. Doing this saddened me because I had hoped to fully understand how the game worked from Dave's perspective but the comprehension had eluded me.

That is, until I attended a virtual gaming convention during the second weekend in October of this year.
The name of the convention was Garycon's Autumn Revel 1. In the weeks before that con I had perused the listings over at for games that sounded like they would be fun to play. About halfway through my search I stumbled upon Dirk Collins' listing for OD&D Tamerthya. The description said:
"When the original player groups met in order to to play Blackmoor in Minnesota as well as Dungeons and Dragons in Lake Geneva or Illinois several unique things occurred that made these early games very endearing and special for all of the first players, observers, and participants. In previous years as your GM, I have hosted a variety of wilderness and dungeon crawls where players explored in a “sandbox” style original D&D game which is very much like the D&D games that were being played in the mid and late 1970’s. I ran these games to introduce new players to the game, and so that experienced players could remember the original game in it’s full glory.

This year, of course, will be no exception, and Autumn Revel players will be able to enjoy the game as it was played in the very early days. You’ll have characters that are, ...of course great leaders and heroes. The game will begin as each player either picks or rolls up a fifth level character. Then each player will inherit a stronghold, base, or enclave from which to begin play, and everyone will see how they fare as Lords of the New Empire!"
That last sentence sent shivers up my spine. It was seemingly calling to me as if I had discovered some long sought after ancient treasure. I signed up for it immediately and when the day of the game arrived, I tell you I felt like a kid again, I felt 1992.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

In Search of OD&D Part 1: 1992

In 2017 I started playing role-playing games again after close to 20 years of hiatus. I've been looking for answers ever since.



Way back in the 90s I had played two dozen or so games of Dungeons & Dragons using TSR's then popular 2nd edition rule set. Most of the games seemed similar in style to me and could best be described as one shot games where one of my Dungeon Master friends would make up content on the spot as we played. I would always be in control of my own character and its powers but not much else.

There was one stand out game from back then that has always been what I have called my favorite game session of Dungeons and Dragons. It was a solo game where I was the only player with my old friend Mike McDowell as the DM. The basic gist of that scenario was a heavy emphasis on fortification of a fictional frontier town to protect against a looming invasion from unknown forces in the wilds. 

My character at the time, who I remember as being a Ranger named Aaron Presney, Sheriff of Teneth, personally oversaw the construction of a wooden palisade to serve as city walls, the installation of hot oil vats above the one gated entrance, and the training and equipping of a small defense force pulled from the local townsfolk. I initiated all of these in-game changes and Mike narrated their reality.

Before the impending siege, I took to the catwalk atop of the newly built defensive perimeter and gave a rousing speech about our upcoming perseverance and victory against the looming invasion. I want to emphasize that so engrossing was this game with Mike, that I can still remember standing atop those walls and seeing the thousands of faces of the townsfolk cheering below. I remember walking the nearby fields and watching the volunteer army train for battle. I remember witnessing the laborers at work in the nearby forest, cutting down the trees and hauling them back to town to build our wall. I remember actually being there!

Unfortunately for the village of Teneth, one night we were suddenly under attack from within by large dog men creatures called gnolls. It turns out that while I had my villagers fortifying our home above ground, these gnolls had been digging tunnels under our very feet. The slaughter that followed is a blur of torchlight and blood in my old memories.
Gnoll (source)

That's all there was. We stopped playing at the point of the city being overrun. Maybe I was killed in the chaos? Perhaps the city was completely decimated? Maybe my friend saw how attached I was to the character and his life and didn't have the heart to tell me there was no happy ending? What if Mike didn't have enough mastery of the rules to pit thousands of attackers against thousands of villagers?

I may never know.
Fast forward to the recent past.

In the last three years, I've been on a role-playing game journey, searching for answers. The questions are always changing and the answers sometimes cause multitudes of new questions but the journey has been fun. I've met a lot of passionate people and played at many different venues but it seems that there has always been one elusive question floating around at the periphery of my consciousness. It's never really had form or structure but I'm sure that it has been there this entire time. It hasn't been put into words until just now.

Does McDowell's 1992 game style, the one that has for years haunted my memories as being so immersive that it blurs the lines between fiction and reality, exist anywhere other than the past?

Yes. Yes, it does.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The Fight On! Compiled Index +4

Way back in 2008, many up-and-coming role-playing game writers combined varying portions of their proprietary artistic game content to create a quality fanzine named Fight On! This outstanding publication was devoted to the earliest sets of rules for RPG's, such as Original Dungeons & Dragons, 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Empire of the Petal Throne, and several others. Eventually the 'zine topped out at fourteen issues released over a period of five years. According to a message board or two, there has been a fifteenth issue in the works for several years, but it has yet to manifest to a hard copy.

In May of 2011, the first four issues were combined into one large tome named the "Fight On! Compiled Compilation +4". 

This well manufactured Print On Demand book is available from The price is ridiculously reasonable, especially considering the vast amount of content contained within from some of today's heavy hitters in the Old School Renaissance gaming community.

One thing that becomes inescapably clear when I sift through the contents of my personal copy of this treasure is that there are tons of new monsters, unique magic items, spells, and quick reference tables that deserve, no, DEMAND to be used in current game sessions. The book is heavy on other valuable content as well but, in the end, quick access to the information I listed before simply doesn't exist. I've recently found myself wanting to look at the name and location of every magic item all at once to better decide what I would like to borrow to add to my personal campaign world. After fumbling around with fluorescent post-it notes and scraps of paper for several weeks, I have finally decided to take matters into my own hands.

Without further ado, I am pleased to present something I thought

would only take three days to complete but, in fact, took three

weeks. It's the -

Guys, I wanted this thing to look good and be easily accessible to anyone that would like to use it as a free supplement to the book. Hopefully, I have succeeded in both areas but I invite you to be the judge. This PDF file is intended to be printed, stapled, folded in half, and placed inside the front cover of the book itself but you may use it however you see fit. Just use it.

Have fun!


Monday, May 25, 2020

The Cult of the Goat

Having prayed through the night for the guidance of Torm, the revered cleric Nermus aproached fellow cleric Fulgoth Tannerson with a proposal. He explained to the dwarf that he would be willing to try to raise Reardon Gray and Naill Ravenwing from the dead at a discounted rate in exchange for the completion of a task that was of a personal nature to the holy man. Our adventurers were to journey to a cave that recently appeared in the wooded hills to the east. There they should retrieve the daughter of the esteemed cleric. She had sent one of her scouts back to inform the elders at the priory that her and her patrol would enter the cave and investigate a strangely colored light eminating from it.

Many days have passed since the patrol entered the cave. Too many.

Fulgoth confered with his friends that were still living and they all agreed that the ritual to return Reardon and Naill to life must be attempted. The steep, but halved price of 3,500 gold pieces was paid and the somber event began soon after.

The Priory of the Disciples of Torm's Victories is a beacon of civilization at the edge of a hostile wilderness. Standing for inumerable generations the fortress is just as imposing below ground as it is above.

Fulgoth, Gunner Tannerson and Alaghast the Goat Whisperer were escourted through a series of interior rooms within the priory before coming to a set of stairs that seemed to be hewn from solid rock. The dank smell of countless centuries momentarily assaulted the senses of the entire group as they began to descend into the catacombs beneath the santcuary. Despite the illumination of the passages, from this point on  there were many areas of uneasy dark along the underground route.

Arriving at a far removed doorway, Nermus informed everyone that these were the "Screaming Rooms" used for rituals such as those about to be performed. Inside, the bodies of the dead friends had been prepared. Their grizzly wounds no longer glistening with the freshness of life, both the body of the half-elf and young human were yellow with the palor of death. Several attendants were standing near the rock hewn slabs that held the dead.

Having held a special place among all of those dedicated to Torm within this room, the ritual to raise the dead was to be adminstered first to the paladin, Naill. After some assistance in preparation by the astute Fulgoth, Nermus raised hands and eyes above him having coated the aforementioned in a carefully concocted blue paste. There he kept his posture for several minutes. With brutal force, the wide-eyed receptacle of Torm, slammed his hands onto Naill's cold chest.

Along with a sharp gasp of breath, Naill's eyes shot open to reveal the dull cloudiness of his light blue irises. That's when the screaming began.

Several of the attendants moved quickly to restrain and try to comfort him with various salves and cold compresses. These seemed to give him little comfort as the yellow tinge of his skin began to give way to the dark red hues of distress.

Calmly, Nermus crossed the room to the still lifeless half-elf Reardon Gray. Fulgoth, having never seen this ritual before now followed the learned cleric with the hesitation of shock. Gunner and Alighast also seemed to be somewhat unnerved by the tortured agony of Naill.

In the same way as before, Reardon was also recalled from the icy grip of eternity except that a full two seconds seemed to elapse from the time Nermus pounded his chest and the when his eyes bolted open. Perhaps this slight delay had something to do with the lineage of the half man? After all, everyone knows elves have no soul and therefore cannot be retrieved from eternal sleep.

As the three witnesses made the long and twisting trek back to the ground floor of Torm's sanctuary, the screams of their two friends followed them nearly the whole way.

Once alone Fulgoth humbly asked Nermus to help instruct him in the ways of faith. Nermus agreed, and over the next few days Fulgoth Tannerson achieved level 2 in the game. This training was given only under agreement that if any loot was returned from the cave, Fulgoth would tithe 30% to the priory.

By day two, Reardon and Naill were beginning to learn to walk and talk again and by the end of the third day they were both feeling capable and in good spirits. Neither had any memory of the encounter with the bears that had led to their demise but both bore the scars of critical wounds in different parts of their bodies.

On the fourth day, the entire reassembled crew borrowed a cart from the priory stables, hitched their mule to it, and were led to the mysterious cave by the scout that knew of it's location. Once there, the scout departed to relay the news back to the hallowed priory.

Map location 1 - The mouth of the cave was peculiar. Both of the dwarf brothers could easily tell that the ceiling should move, however there were no visible seams in the rock. The opening was jutting from sort of earthen mound and a pink glow could be seen emanating from somewhere deep within. As the Gray ranger descended into the opening to familiarize himself with the surroundings a pungent, musty smell hit his nostrils. There was a familiarity to the smell that no one among them could place. Perhaps the smell was out of context in some way?

Finding nothing but mysteries at the cave mouth, the entire party ventured into it's darkness. Soon, torches were lit and one was handed to Alighast's newly formed unseen servant which then was mentally commanded to move to thirty feet in front of Alighast to illuminate the distant environs. As the room was lit several things were discovered. Map location 2 - There was a small pool of clear water that had formed from a steady drip in the ceiling. A school of prawns had taken up residence in the pool that were being fed upon by quick moving reptiles nearby.

Map location 3 -Further back, there was an eight foot tall pile of Guano underneath a sea of bats that seem to roil in the torchlight. At the farthest wall there were three steel doors. From under the door to the left emanated a sharp pink light. Map location 4 - To the left of that door, proped up against the wall was the skeletal remains of a dwarf with a rusty knife lying in his rib cage. Scratched into the floor between his legs were the words "UNDEATH IS THE TRUE DEATH".


STOP... It as at this moment that yours truly realizes that he misread the map. There was never a pink light in this part of the cave and there is no pink light under the door. I would usually go with whatever has been played before but that makes the map problematic so I'm doing a roll back. Grrr, that's frustrating and I don't like doing it.


While investigating the doors, the movement of the torchlight spooked the bats so much that they swarmed the entirety of the cave before flying out into the sunlit world beyond. This loud disturbance subsequently awoke a pure white cadaver carver from its slumber within the mound of excrement. Battle ensued with the explorers proving victorious except that their goat named Barry was cut in half by the thing. Upon nearly diving headfirst into the foul mound, Alighast found a metal bar with markings upon it indicating that it is a royal bond, redeemable by the royal treasury for 500 gold pieces.

During the battle the mouth of the cave closed, sealing all inside.

Alighast opened his backpack to place the bar inside with his other valuables which seemed to trigger an incursion by nine large creatures resembling Angler fish. These entities are able to move without trouble through solid rock and leave a trail of slime behind them as they seem to swim through the air around them. All were fixated on Alighast or rather the 900+ gold pieces in his backpack. These creatures are officially called Arumeretrix or more affectionately as Gold Diggers.

Quickly all of the hummanoids realized they were sorely outmatched and threw their gold onto the ground but not before the death of Naill Ravenwing occurred. Naill had been swallowed whole by one of the gold diggers. Eventually Reardon slew the gold digger and cut open it's belly exposing the bloodied and deceased body of Naill inside.

Within moments Naill awoke completely naked and in the fetal position, inside of a ball filled with pink fluid. He reached out and pushed on the elastic wall of this mysterious container only to be birthed onto the floor of a pink cavern that smelled of roses. Barry the goat was also there, braying helplessly with his fur drenched by the pink fluid. Also, alarmingly, Barry now had eight eyes upon his head.

Naill realized there was now something different about himself as well. It seemed that now, once per day, he could detect all secret doors in a 100' radius; when he does so, he also emits a high pitched ringing noise, which will be audible for a good distance.


More was described before the game ended shortly thereafter but I am going to omit it because it will be one of a few minor changes that will take place due to the map confusion from before.

Thanks for reading and while I feel like I'm pretty good at writing fiction descriptions, I get annoyed with the time that it takes for me to construct, profread and edit the paragraphs. I feel like It's a good skill to hone but there's so little time in the day as it is that this eats up a large portion. I'll probably switch back and forth between paragraphs and bullet points intermittently from here on out.

Also, a friend of mine suggested I get the players to do a write up that would be worth in-game experience. I'll consider it.

Thanks for reading!




Wednesday, May 20, 2020

A Grisly Reckoning

Back by popular(?) demand!

I had originally taken a break from writing the summaries of the adventures of my AD&D group due to the ever changing pace of life. This was initially met with minor protest but has more recently been protested by at least an additional person which greatly amuses that part of my psyche that is always in the back of my mind telling me negative things about myself.

Let me see if I can give some bullet points to bring us closer to the most recent session.
  • After the battle of many skeletons, the victorious war party returned to the small mountainside town of Savoy.
  • Upon arrival to the quaint village, various bits of loot were sold and the proceeds were stashed in what could be best described as the Bank of This One Guy's Pants Pockets of Holding.
  • Some interesting items that were acquired during this profitable visit include, but are not limited to a Guidebook to Historical Curiosities, Vol. 1 which has yet to be read and a signet ring of what is probably a distant Sword Coast family. 
  • A mule was purchased at Findar's Stables in lieu of renting a horse which still bizarley requires a drop of blood as part of the deposit.
  • The return trip was made to Castle Xyntillan where bandits that had been encountered way back in session one were finally defeated and their leader was captured and questioned.
  • What Gilbert "The Fox" Malevol told them was more madness than useful but Alighast's telepathic connection to the giant brain in the glass jar did produce some useful information.
  • It was decided that Gilbert should immediately be taken back to town to answer for his probable crimes but information from the brain suggested that the Malevol "maintains ties to lawyers and officials in Savoy" which would eventually adjust the method that was used to turn him in.
  • On the way home, another thing that adjusted the game plan was when, on a whim, the adventurers tried to sneak up on a Stone Giant's lair only to be discovered by several large 12 foot long cave bears that the giants used to guard the area.

  • It was during that encounter that Reardon Gray, the half-elf Ranger/Cleric and Naill Ravenwing, the human Paladin of Torm were both savagely mauled in such a graphic manner that when loading their dead bodies for transport, the surviving party members had to take special care not to lose pieces of them.
...okay that part about the pieces didn't actually happen but it sure created a vivid image, didn't it?

  • After "The Battle of Cave Bear SURPRISE!" the general mood of all players seemed to be a mix of shock and gloom, which in retrospect amuses me greatly.
  • Back at Savoy some interesting town folk were met and negotiated with.
    1. Madame Polidori, proprietor of the Cathouse of Mme. Polidori.
    2. Several ladies of the night.
    3. Torg, the hulking bouncer at the Cathouse.
    4. Claude Malevol, an apparent drunk that frequents the local taverns and the Cathouse.
    5. A "handler?" of the Malevols, whose name does not seem to be in my notes, which is frustrating. (Maybe Vince has it, he's good at backing me up on stuff like this.)
  • It was decided that Gilbert "the Fox" Malevol would be traded for an arranged meeting with a priest of high enough level to raise the slain brothers-in-arms
  • The meeting was set at the Priory of the Disciples of the Torm's Victories, which was three days travel to the north along the Old Road.
  • When the travelers arrived, it was impossible to not immediately notice the busy comings and goings of the place.
  • Many men and some women were in nearly constantly training to serve Torm in whatever battles he may call them to.
  • There, at the priory, the weary funeral procession finally met a cleric named Nermus, who prescribed a hefty price for even one persons raising from the dead - 3500 gold pieces.
  • When the group appealed to his sense of mercy, Nermus told them he would pray about the matter and offer a decision the following day.
...and at this point we have come current with the beginning of the most recent adventure which I will detail in the next blog post.

I need a favor from you though. If you've made it this far, tell me either through the comments below, a direct message, face to face, or any other way if the bullet point delivery system is as effective as the book report method I have used previously. I am actively trying to find a way to lessen the amount of time I need to devote to this and for it to still be entertaining and informative. Please, I must have the critique or feedback that only you can give.

Until next time,


Friday, May 1, 2020

Songs of the Dead

Session four at Castle Xyntillan was a good time for all. The finalization and implementation of my much anticipated dungeon master screen provided a major boon for the ease of play that was experienced throughout most of the nearly four hour first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game. Before laying out the recap of that very satisfying adventure I’d like to brag about the positive features of my newly crafted screen. If you don’t know what a dungeon master screen is used for let me elaborate a bit.

The purpose of the dungeon master's screen is twofold. First, it serves to add a bit of mystery by blocking what the referee is actually doing to keep track of all of the moving parts of the game the game is actually taking place in person. Since this current campaign I'm running is actually taking place online, the wall between the players and myself isn’t really necessary, which makes the second purpose the number one reason why I need one. This second purpose is that vertical barrier always has quickly accessible charts and graphs on the game masters side. Most will also have some original artwork on the obverse side to display to the players. The absence of reliable reference materials on the inside surface and actually, the complete void of any traditional DM screen at all has been a major headache for me since day one. I've been grumbling about it to my players Vincent, Mike, Bryce, Stefan, and Jacob for nearly two weeks now.

Without further ado, here are the five pictures of what I have created using a combination of screenshots from relevant rule books and a vector graphics program called Inkscape

This last page is page one from another custom DM screen that I found called "DM_Screen_by Peyre".

Finally, here is a picture of how the thing looks in real time.

Last night was the trial run for this new gaming aid. Initially I was very pleased with it’s usefulness. After a good amount of game time had passed, I did eventually realize that there were at least two much needed reference materials missing from my concoction. In the future, the tables for Thieves Skills and Turning Undead will need to be added somewhere. Otherwise, I’m very happy with my evolving comfort for running the game coupled with this valuable new resource I’ve created. Feel free to share your thoughts or any feedback about my new toy in the comments below.

Now on to the recap. When we rejoin the band of adventurers who are fast becoming brothers, they have just started a daily rest in the previously explored stables. The sole benefit of 90% of the rests that have been taken for the entire campaign to this point seem to be just to memorize spells again, whether that be through intense arcane study or by extensive prayer to whatever deities the holy men have decided to follow.

Sunset quickly arrives and the group divides up into night watch shifts previously decided upon that are based upon grouping of strengths with weaknesses. The actively resting characters bed down in the loft above the stables while those standing guard remain in the stable area below. The first watch passed with nothing substantial to report.

However, during the second watch overseen by the flawlessly good human Naill Ravenwing and Gunner Tarneson the dwarf fighter, the howls of a potentially large pack of wolves could be heard at increasingly closer distances to the watch location. Even Ray the war dog was uneasy about the mysterious unrest of the creatures. Reardon Gray, the half-elf ranger/cleric/thief had fortuitously used iron spikes to brace the doors closed before the night watch had even begun. It was because of this that the door remained unopened when a mysterious visitor “gently” tried to push the one of the doors inward as the wolf-song increased in proximity and intensity over the remaining hours of the nighttime vigilance. This inward pushing was described as giving the door a rubbery appearance as the strength of it was carefully put to the test. Eventually the howling subsided, day broke, and the crew was able to resume their expedition into the unknowns of Xyntillan.

Returning to the hallway that had been filled with cobwebs the previous evening, the adventurers opened the door at the end of it. Inside they saw a soldiers barracks covered in still more cobwebs. Naill took a step into the neglected room only to have a swarm of around 1500 spiders descend from a cluster of webs near the ceiling. After winning the ability to act before the spiders could reach him, Naill quickly dropped the torch he was carrying and slammed the door shut. Soon smoke billowed from under the door as the many webs were quickly consumed by fire and the explorers decided to search two other rooms before returning to see if the fire had died down.

The first of the two rooms was a nearly identical barracks to the one now on fire excepting that it was not covered in spider silk. A thorough toss of the place unfortunately yielded no loot. The second room that got checked was a slightly larger troop barracks with mostly the same furnishings save one: housed in this place was an ornate footlocker adorned with a placard that read “Contains type IV treasure”. The box was not secured by a trap or a lock, so the thief opened the lid to the strange storage case only to find it empty. Furthermore, there did not seem to be a false bottom or any other type of hidden compartment. Several party members ventured guesses as to what the meaning of this situation could be with the most interesting theory being that elsewhere in the castle there could be a magic lock that would work to reveal potentially hidden contents once affixed.

Returning to the room that had been lit afire, the door was reopened and Reardon crawled upon his belly to reach a previously spotted footlocker. On his way, he felt some discomfort as he moved over a couple of hard round marble sized objects. Collecting them, the half elf pushed himself back out of the room. Victory was realized when the thief discovered the lumps to be beautiful pearls worth approximately 80 gold pieces each. A total of eight pearls were discovered after another search was made of the floor below the smoke.Nothing but worn out boots were found in the foot locker Reardon had been attempting to reach.

Pressing further onward with apparent dreams of wealth and conquest, another room was opened where rotten sacks of potatoes and two, thirty gallon wooden drums of flour were found. Two additional doors led out of this room, one to the east and the other to the northeast. As the adventurers listened at the door to the east, they were dumbfounded by the sound of a large group of men singing a drunken tavern song. I would record a lyric or two from the jingle that I was urged to recreate in real time but I don’t wish to distract too much from the excitement of the retelling of this story with my magnificent and awe inspiring musical talents.

The door was opened with little trouble and the front ranks of our heroes were amazed to see that there were 25 skeletons seated at a long refectory table united in undead merriment. Reardon the ranger was the only one to win the element of surprise and chose to use his advantage to unleash an arrow attack he had readied prior to opening the door. Six arrows were loosed into the group of unaware revelers which unquestionably precipitated the ensuing hostilities. What followed was fifteen amazing rounds of bone crunching melee.

Almost immediately after taking to their feet, the skeleton horde split into two groups, one half crowded the doorway that the waylayers had recently opened and the other half cut north to an area as yet unexplored during the these expeditions to Xyntillan. Over the course of battle, several times, portions of the two groups were made to turn and run away by the two living clerics and the one paladin when each brandished the holy symbols of their respective deities. In the end, even as three skeletons armed with short swords tried to go north around the front line through unmapped hallways and rooms to mount an unsuccessful attack from behind, the forces of the living won out against the entire undead troop with an overly superior victory.

Sifting through the destruction, eleven of the short swords the skeletons bore were found to be serviceable and were stashed in the previous room next to the barrels of flour which at one point in the skirmish had been used to barricade a door. It was agreed upon by all of the party members that at some point they would return with a horse and cart to haul the valuables back to the town Savoy where they could be sold.

Only about an hour had passed since the castle had been entered but the spell casters had used a good portion of their spells and the decision was made to return to the relative safety of the stables to rest, study, and pray.

It was still only mid-morning on this 22st day of Tarsakh, 1367 DR or Dale-Reckoning.This is the seventh day in game time since the beginning of the campaign.

Loot gotten – 8 pearls @ an estimated 80 gold a piece.

Monsters slain – 1 spider swarm and 25 skeletons

One final innovation that we put into use during this game was the use of the mapping program at At the conclusion of the game, everyone agreed that it was a vast improvement from the mapping styles attempted previously and lent a tactical variable to game play that was lots of fun.

Thanks for reading & play more games