Friday, December 31, 2010

Northern Reaches: Session 8

The 8th session of our Northern Reaches campaign (with pictures) is now up for your enjoyment.

This is the session from our day-long "Funion Fest" as my friend Darren called it - well said.

In this session the party began a new adventure - to the Caves of Chaos!

Northern Reaches Session 8

Happy New Year to everyone. Be sure to raise a glass and think of Scottish poet Robert Burns when you sing "Auld Lang Syne" tonight.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Identifying Magic Items

I'd like to develop a better method of identifying magic items for my players.

Assuming a player doesn't want to test a thing (sword, potion, wand, etc) out in combat, I normally charge them a hefty 100gp or the services of a magic-user or cleric.

I'd like to give players at least some opportunity to occasionally figure things out on their own.

What do you do in your games? Alternatively, have you come across a good method elsewhere?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

More Painted Citadel Miniatures

I painted a few more citadel miniatures prior to Christmas.

I love the Bretonnian peasants, they're perfect for poorly equipped villagers (or whomever), down on their luck, who turned to working as men-at-arms as a last resort.

Alongside these I have a Bretonnian knight I bought in about 1986-1988ish that I just repainted. He turned out a little quirky, but that's ok. Sometimes I have a vision for a particular mini and sometimes I don't.

I really like the pose of the last mini, a Norman inspired knight in a creeping-along-the-dungeon position.


You can click twice to embiggen


Seems there's no love for the d12 in the early editions of D&D.

This is one of the few things I lament about old school play.

I really prefer a game that uses all the polyhedrons, simply for variety sake. I really do get bored of rolling d6s.

So, I'm toying with the idea of raising the damage of either the Halberd or the Two-handed sword from 1d10 to d12. If it was AD&D the variable damage vs L sized creatures would remove the need, but because were playing a B/X-AD&D hybrid I'm stuck.

Does anyone have any constructive suggestions to incorporate the d12?


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Northern Reaches Session 7 and Painted Miniatures

First, session number 7 of our Northern Reaches campaign took place on Friday and the report is available at Red Box Niagara. This was the final short-ish session of the Tomb of the Iron God adventure.

Switching gears, I haven't done much painting in the last two months largely because I've been sick with a lung flu/cold that reappears every other week (or so it seems). Also the fall term really picks up speed at my university and there's just no extra time. I did manage to paint a couple PCs recently. This is a mixed bag of both Ral Partha (bought from Ironwind Metals, they are great guys), Citadel, and one Red Box Miniature.

Not sure if I will get to post before Christmas so I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. We have our Northern Reaches Mega Session (looks like B1 is the leader in the clubhouse) before the New Year and I'll post that undoubtedly longish session summary not long thereafter. All the best.

Click to Embiggen

Ral Partha:

Ral Partha:

Red Box:

Ral Partha:


Ral Partha:

Ral Partha:


Citadel: I really love this miniature. He looks like he should be on the cover of a module painted by Pete Mullen or Erol Otus.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Adventure Poll: Northern Reaches MEGA Session

I'm planning a full-day classic D&D session between Christmas and New Year's Eve! Woot!

I'm pretty excited about it! I haven't played a day session like this in a long time. This is a busy time of year so I want to get a head start preparing the adventure, etc. We look to have a good group of players.

If you've read the rumours section of the Red Box Niagara site, I've dropped hints for both B1 In Search of the Unknown and B2 The Keep on the Borderlands.

I know it's a tough call, but please vote and let your voice be heard. I have a particular leaning, but no decisions have been made. I want your input.

Also, have you ran a full day session recently? How did it go and what suggestions do you have to make it a fun day?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Miniature Identification: Grenadier?

Hi all,

I think these two figures are grenadier. Can anyone confirm or set me straight?


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Northern Reaches: Session 6 with Video!

We just played our 6th session of the Northern Reaches campaign.

We experimented with some video.

Please feel free to comment here.

here's a direct link:

Northern Reaches Session 6

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Northern Reaches: Session 5

Our latest session report from the Tomb of the Iron God is up, check it out.

Red Box Niagara

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Monster Suggestions (Revised)

OK, thanks to the commentors I've revised my list of monsters for an adventure I'm going to work on in the coming weeks. I'd like to create an introductory adventure (you can never really have enough of those), but this list looks more like a level 2-4ish senario. Again, I want the themes of rot and corruption to come out in the monsters.

Human Cultists (maybe, subject to plot)
Shambling mound
Yellow Musk Creepers
Yellow Musk Zombie
Water Weird (fouled water)
Olive Slime/Slime Creature
Son of Kyuss
Violet Fungi
Rot Grubs
Carrion Crawler

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monster Suggestions

I'm going to write an adventure featuring a ziggurat and the revival of a cult devoted to the evil god Moander (Rot, Corruption).

I usually begin with the basic idea followed by a roster of monsters. I whittle down that list as I go along.

Here's a start, can you think of any interesting monster suggestions new or old?

Shambling mound

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Northern Reaches Session 4

Hi all,

Instead of simulcasting the session reports both here and on the Red Box Niagara site, I'm going to just post them there and see whether that works or not.

This report is written by one of my players and details the fourth expedition into the Citadel of the Iron God. Enjoy.

Red Box Niagara

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Windows of Otherworldliness

I have a question.

I'm interested in learning more about the "window of suspended action" style of cover art in early TSR modules. I'm assuming this approach began with the A Series, but I don't know that for certain.

Has anyone bumped into articles or material on forums that discusses cover art for D&D?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Classic Monsters and Adventure Design

Last year I delivered a paper on nostalgia and the Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classics line of adventures at the Popular Culture Association conference in St. Louis. For the paper I read every adventure cover-to-cover and I (naturally) played a few using the 3.5 rule-set. I'm currently revising the paper for publication.

Since reading through these adventures, I've thought a great deal about the classic TSR adventures I played back in the day, the 3.5 retro-modules, and the modules published more recently by (or associated with) Goblinoid Games and Mythmere Games.

Adventures come in all shapes and sizes, of course, and I know what makes an adventure fun for one group might be boring for another. Having said that I really do wish that more adventures led to a climatic battle with a classic monster. I'm not talking a "boss" battle. I'm talking adventures wherein the party hunts down and defeats the deadly Chimera of Ulik! Or the Medusa that lurks in the Sunken City! Or the blood-thirsty Gorgon of Burgal-Thor! I mean, who wouldn't want to go on those adventures? You know what I mean?

I'm talking an adventure that you can bang out in a night or two with your friends that leads to a death-match between the PCs and a mighty archetypal beast. Don't give me any of the railroad/sandbox bull-shit either. It isn't about that. It's about sitting down having fun with your friends, but it's also about the anticipation of the battle with the great beast - and if you've played D&D long enough you know that feeling - excitement mixed with trepidation.

It's for these reasons that I think DCC#35a Halls of the Minotaur is brilliant, and provides a model for what I'd like to see/what I'm looking for. At the outset you know a minotaur is involved - but it's the anticipation of the battle to come that makes it a really cool adventure. The slow but steady build to the climatic battle with a minotaur - and it doesn't get more classic than that in terms of monsters. Further, adventures like this set the monster apart. The minotaur isn't standard-fare anymore. The adventure returns the minotaur to the exotic monster status it should have, and I really dig that.

Don't mistake the type of adventure I'm talking about here. I'm not talking about the Giant Series, or the Drow Series, where you fight so many of the same monster that you really can't distinguish one battle from the next. I'm talking a climactic battle with an archetypal monster.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

New Red Box Campagn Wiki

I've set up a campaign wiki for my players. The wiki includes the campaign session summaries and a bunch of other stuff including hooks for future adventures, NPCs, etc. I'm still editing some text here and there. It's a work in progress:

Red Box Niagara

Friday, November 5, 2010

OW Minotaur

I'm sick (again) today with a cold or flu of some sort.

Here's a couple pics of my Otherworld minotaur and some pig-faced orc crossbowmen.

Have a good weekend.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Northern Reaches: Session 3

This session was played on Thursday, October 28, 2010.

Featuring the PCs:


and the men-at-arms Corgax, Colmar, Hillgax, Murgar, Balson, the torch-bearers Untag and Margrim, and two wardogs Cerberus and Fenrir.

I'm going to start this session report by stating how proud I am of my players. Over the first two sessions, and coversations in and out of game, the players have been adjusting to old school play from 3.5 and 4E. They've experimented with flaming oil and holy water but only with limited success. They've also learned some hard lessons regarding combat - avoid full frontal attacks and only pick the fights you know you can win. Part of this includes fighting on your ground rather than the ground of your enemies, preparing in advance, and having an escape route in case things don't go your way. Keep this in mind as I overview the session.

Having covered most ofthe eastern portion of the dungeon, they now attempted to move to the unexplored western and northern half of the monastery. They've learned that the Iron God destroyed his own clergy by turning them into iron statues for their avarice and for animating the dead they were charged to protect.

The party entered a room with a dry fountain and with two iron statues of priests.

There were strange writings engraved in iron and stone on the walls and Binford the Acolyte was told to read the writing. He fell into a trance and could not be revived by the party!

After considering a couple strange plans that included dragging Binford around the dungeon or outright leaving their only cleric all the options, they fortified their position and waited for Binford to revive. Over two hours later Binford awoke from his trance having received heroic visions from the Iron God wherein he was depicted slaying the deity's corrupt priesthood. Fortunately no random monsters were encountered.

The party began this session having had a number of hirelings (4 total over two sessions) reduced to zero hit points but they all managed to make their save or die roll and revived to 1 HP. Their luck did not continue during this session. The party ran afoul of 8 giant rats. The torch-bearer Margrim was reduced to zero hit points and the following round a big cheeky rat ended his life with a mighty nibble coup-de-gras! Margrim's ignominious end shall be soon forgotten remembered in song as the first casualty of the Northern Reaches campaign.

After the fight with the giant rats, the party continued north and heard two seperate groups of goblins. They didn't know exactly where the goblins were located, but they thought it best to retreat to a location with a known means of exit. They called this their "safe room". Here they concocted a plan to lure the goblins into a trap. They decided to pour oil across a 10x10 section of the hallway adjacent to their safe room. Knowing the racial emnity between dwarves and goblins, they sent Murgar out into the hallway to scream obscenities at the goblins. These included well-known favorites as "Your mother was a hamster and your father smells of elderberries!" or "Gold! come get your free gold!".

After a few moments several sling stones buzzed near Murgar's head and he hi-tailed it back into the safe room.

They waited for the sounds of the goblins slipping and falling on the greasy oil. Colmar and Vith ran out, threw torches on the prone goblins, and ran back into the room.

By this time the general raucous got the attention of a large group of goblins who were now moving en masse down the hallway towards their position. To their credit the players fought the urge to enter the hallway and take the fight to their enemies. Rather, they waited for the goblins to come to them where they could concentrate their attacks on one goblin at a time and where the goblin horde was bottle-necked at the door entrance. The goblins were confident in their numbers and repeatedly made their morale checks. The party killed 15 total (without a sleep spell) before the chief, shaman, and body-guards decided the PCs were too much and it was time to flee the dungeon. Sadly, Balson, the farmer-turned-man-at-arms did not survive the battle.

After the battle, the party severed the heads of the goblins for return back to Threshold. Castellan Belrain pays 5gp per head brought to the city gates.

They then moved north to the goblin's base room where they pilfered the grave goods the evil humanoids had taken from within the monastery. Everyone agreed it was time to return to Threshold for tea, cake, XP, rearmament, and to hire some new cannon-fodder hirelings including Werford and Pelwin. Unfortunately they left their mule unguarded so they had to huff their gear back themselves. They honestly didn't think they needed to guard the mule as they "hadn't had to do that in other editions of D&D." Makes total sense but did reinforce to me some of the charm of the game that's been lost over time.

Overall another fun session. It was awesome to see the guys implement some of the strategies and approaches to old school play I'd been suggesting over time. The PCs are about half-way to second level. Leveling is a huge deal in this version of D&D so it would be really cool for them to make it to second level with, effectively, their first PC.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Northern Reaches: Session 2

The second session began with the same cast of characters. They include:

PCs: Vith (El/MU 1), Sweargen (Hu/F 1), Binford (Hu/Cl 1)

Men at Arms: Hillgax, Balson, Colmar, Corgax, Murgar (Dw)

Wardogs: Cerberus, Fenrir

Torch-bearers/Porters: Margrim and Untag

Shameless plug: The hirelings were generated using Meatshields!

This was a slightly shorter session than the first, primarily due to me getting a cold the day before the game. In the first session, the party entered the ruined monastery of the Iron God. The explored a portion of the first level and encountered a large group of goblins. Despite being surrounded and having 3 party members reduced to zero hit points a few bumps in the road, they managed to escape without any casualties.

Instead of wandering aimlessly with no apparent rationale The party began the second session by rethinking their strategy and backtracking to a door they previously left unexplored. They found a dusty room with circle marks on the floor and Binford unwittingly stepped into the center. He entered a trance and received a vision from the Iron God who told him he destroyed his own religious shrine due to the avarice of his own monks. He placed Binford under a Geas to clear the complex of evil. Binford converted to the worship of the Iron God.

The party found a secret door and then another room with a single door. Behind the door was a horde of skeletal undead! The wardogs fled immediately. The PCs wisely did not enter the room but rather closed the door and waited for the skeletons to come to them. After hacking down the door, a lengthy battle ensued with Colmar being reduced to zero hit points. He made his save vs death and revived to 1 HP several rounds later.

Skeletons Behind Door Number 1:

So Turning Didn't Work, Now What?:

In the skeleton room the party found a secret door to a treasure room containing 3 chests filled with silver coins! Each of the characters loaded up with as much as they could carry and decided to high-tail it back to Threshold. They also found some tapestries and carpets of value and hid everything in the treasure room so they could return later with a mule. The party spent a fair bit of time (2 days to Threshold and two days back) moving the valuables back to town. In this session 6 days of game-time passed (for a total of 12 total days).

With one exception, the party didn't run into any random monsters. However, on one trip back to the dungeon the treasure-seekers ran to 2 zombies! The dice represent containers of oil thrown by the party.


Overall this was a fun session considering how crappy I felt. The guys are still experimenting with the flaming oil. They know there's excellent damage to be had but haven't quite figured out how to best use it in combat. The same thing goes for vials of holy water.

We're planning another session for this Thursday.

Totals to Date:
PCs Killed: 0
Hirelings Killed: 0
PCs/Hirelings Reduced to Zero HP: 4 (3 in 1st Session)
Goblins Put to the Sword: 13
Skeletons Destroyed: 10
Zombies Destroyed: 2
Plundered Goods: 1645 gps of value
TPKs: 0

Saturday, October 23, 2010

OW Pig-Faced Orcs, Ogres, and Bugbears, Oh My!

As you know I've been tackling my Otherworld miniatures with reference to the AD&D Monster Manual. The backdrop is my Hirst Arts dungeon.

As a point of reference I've included the description information from the MM. You be the judge. You should be able to click twice to embiggen the images.

Orc: “Orcs appear particularly disgusting because their coloration – brown or brownish green with a bluish sheen – highlights their pinkish snouts and ears. Their bristly hair is dark brown or black, sometimes with tan patches. Even their armor tends to be unattractive – dirty and often a bit rusty. Orcs favor unpleasant colors in general. Their garments are tribal colors, as are shield devices or trim. Typical colors are blood red, rust red, mustard yellow, yellow green, moss green, greenish purple, and blackish brown.”

*Bonus points if you can name where the shield device comes from in the above image :)

Ogre: "The hide of ogres varies from dull blackish-brown to dead yellow. Rare specimens are a sickly violet in color. Their warty bumps are often of different color - or at least darker than their hides. Hair is blackish-blue to dull dark green. Eyes are purple with while pupils. Teeth are black or orange as are talons. Ogres wear any sort of skins or furs. They care for their arms and armor reasonably well."

*In terms of the ogres, I deviated on the eyes. I went the reverse with white eyes and purple pupils. The talons I kept grey. With the bugbears I went white eyes with red pupils (see below).

Troll: "Troll hide is a nauseating moss gree, mottled green and gray, or putrid gray. The writhing hair-like growth upon a troll's head is greenish black or iron gray. The eyes of a troll are dull black."

Bugbear: “The skin of bugbears is light yellow to yellow brown – typically dull yellow. Their hair ranges in color from lusterless tannish brown to brick red. Their eyes are greenish white with red pupils. The odds and ends of armor they wear, as well as whatever cloth, skins, or hides they drape themselves in, tends to be ill-kept, dirty, and dingy.”

*Similar to the ogres, I deviated on the bugbear eyes. I went with white eyes and red pupils.

*Haven't finished the bugbear chief yet.

Comments welcome. I'll have the second session recap up shortly for the Northern Reaches campaign as well.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The 10 Commandments of D&D Gaming

In the comments of a previous post, reader Bluebear Jeff highlighted some of the D&D do's and dont's he learned when he started playing D&D. Two in particular resonated with me, so I thought I would make this a collaborative post wherein we could generate a top 10 list of recommendations to new D&D players who are playing old school editions. Bonus points for humour. We'll begin with Jeff's contributions, in no particular order (yet):

1. Never fight anything that you don't have to.
2. Nothing is ever what it seems to be.