Dungeon World: The Living Star and Various Bundles

We've got several new products today! Well, technically there's one new product plus a few new bundles, but Drivethru still counts them as individual products.

The first is that The Living Star is now on sale (and I'm really fucking proud of this cover). This is yet another strange concept from Melissa that we've been playtesting for about a month now.

She got the idea from a quote by Carl Sagan, that we're all made of star stuff, and just went with it: you're a human (or humanoid, we don't care if you're a dwarf or halfling) that is somehow able to manifest various "star" themed powers, like glowing brightly, superheating your hands so that you can rend metal apart, and fly through the air on solar winds.

The advanced moves let you hurl plasma, zip about at light speed, manipulate metal, and more: all told there are twenty-one of them, with a couple extra that we couldn't fit on the character sheet.

This playbook is a bit cheaper than other stuff we've made because it doesn't have magic items and/or compendium classes, but if you want to pick it up even cheaper we've got a few options for that with a pair of new bundles!

The Awfully Big Playbook II bundle has all of the playbooks we made after the first playbook bundle we made; The Bard, The Living Star, The Spider, and The Vampire.

If you want to get everything, then just snag All of the Playbooks: this has every playbook we've written, plus Playbooks of the Dead since it includes all of our undead books.

If you've got any questions, complaints, suggestions, etc, you can hit me up using those nifty social network icons in the upper right-hand corner.
November 21, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

A Sundered World: Class Overhaul

First things first, here are links to the current-enough versions of most of the classes from A Sundered World:


I mentioned at the ass-end of this post that since they're all based around roll-and-hold moves, I was considering changing some of them. Partially because I'd like to see more variety in how they operate, but mostly because I think that there might be better ways to mechanically express what the class does.

I think the battlemind and nomad seem to be fine as is: they both saw some action in the session, and from what I could tell the battlemind was tearing through baddies and soaking damage, while the nomad was zipping about and auto-damaging from a distance.

Adam has mentioned some possible tweaks, like adding a tear currency or something along those lines for teleporting and making attacks: when he shows me his idea, I'll post that and see what people think.

With the shaman I was considering adding a point pool (Spirit?), as I envision the shaman gradually exhausting her spirit as she calls upon it for power. Both Dan and Chris have played this class, and the only complain was how you could get nothing when you called upon it and missed (this has been changed so that you hold 1).

I dunno, maybe the "take -1" option is good enough? If you think the Spirit pool is better suited, should it be based on Wisdom, Constitution, a flat value, or something else?

As for the wizard (and warlock) I was thinking that instead of rolling to hold magic, when you wanna use magic you gain fatigue (or debt in the case of the warlock), roll+INT, and then pick something from a list (similar as to what you do now, you just get the one thing, though).

If I did this I would make a rotes move that lets you perform minor magical feats without gaining fatigue, and just fold evocation and thaumaturgy into one thing, maybe even change moves so that you can gain more fatigue to deal more damage and/or add tags.

Anyway, what do you guys think? Do these sound like better/more fictionally appropriate mechanics for making the classes do what they are supposed to? Do you prefer to roll-and-hold? Do you have something else in mind entirely?

Expedition to Castle Ravenloft: Swamp Meat With The Drowned Lady

Cast
  • Felicia (level 2 human thief)
  • Gamamyr (level 2 elf wizard)
  • Kyr (level 2 living star)
  • Locum (level 2 slayer)
  • Mim (level 2 witch w/ familiar)

Summary
After driving off a small pack of werewolves, the party returned to Barovia so that they could rest and resupply before heading back the following day: thanks to Mim's divinations, they knew that the Sunblade was somewhere in the swamp, and once they found it they'd find the place of power, too.

They'd been slogging through the swamp for a few fruitless hours when Gamamyr suggested using his magic: it had a limited range, but there was a possibility, however slim, that they were close enough for him to detect the sword's presence.

He had intended to attune his sense of smell, hoping that if there was magic nearby it'd block out the swamp's foul odor. Somehow the spell backfired, and instead of allowing him to smell magic it greatly enhanced his natural sense of smell; given that they were waist-deep in a swamp it had unfortunate yet amusing results.

While everyone else waited for him to recover, Mim gripped her upper and lower jaw and gave them a hard pull. There was a snapping and tearing sound as her body, then her neck expanded and her face peeled back. A serpent slithered forth from her mouth, leaving her former body, clothing, and possessions behind in a crumpled heap.

Shortly after Snake-Mim, well, snaked her way into the water three dark, long shapes drifted out of the mist. They certainly looked like logs, but were floating directly towards them despite each coming from a different direction and the water being perfectly still.

Not taking any chances, Gamamyr held his breath and released his most recently-learned spell: a small orb of flame arced overhead, and as it struck the water between two of the Not-Logs it exploded, engulfing both of them in flame. There was a loud hiss, and a cloud of steam exploded outward. When it cleared they could see that while the objects were on fire, they were still moving towards them, seemingly unaware of the flame.

The fire made it more difficult to see what they were, but once one got close enough and lunged at him Locum they figured it out: zombie alligators.

He tried to move out of it's way, but not only was it surprisingly quick, the water hindered his own movement. It clamped it's jaws around his torso, tearing into his flesh and knocking him into the water. As he struggled to pry it's jaws open, Felicia drove her rapier through an empty eye socket and into it's skull: it twitched for a bit, and then it's jaws relaxed as it stopped moving.

Felicia helped Locum to his feet while Kyr readied himself for the unscathed zombie-gator's attack. Before it could strike Snake-Mim exploded from the water and coiled around it, causing it to flail about wildly as it attempted to shake her off. It was much stronger than she expected, but she was able to keep it restrained long enough for Kyr to strike, slicing off part of it's jaw and fortunately only nicking her.

Given that the only offensive spell he had prepared was fireball and everyone was clustered together, Gamamyr drew his knife and started wading towards it. He was still waiting for an opening when something emerged from the water behind him and dragged him underneath.

Kyr's eyes were able to detect heat, allowing him to see Gamamyr's struggling form even underwater. Whatever had him was radiating no heat, which meant that it was probably undead. He dove after him and Locum, having just finished off the other charred zombie-gator, followed. Kyr's body flared brightly, providing some much-needed illumination, and they could both see that it was the same creature that had attacked Gamamyr back at the crossroads.

Gamamyr was surprised to see Kyr swimming towards him, and since the creature briefly stopped biting him he assumed that it was, too. Knife in hand, he desperately stabbed over his shoulder and felt some resistance. The creature released him, and he kicked away as Kyr and Locum swam past, blades drawn. He surfaced just in time to see Felicia finishing off the last zombie-gator, and Kyr and Locum followed soon after, the latter of whom was carrying the creature's jaw.

With everyone only somewhat scraped up and plenty of time left until the sun set, they decided to keep pressing on. Snake-Mim changed back to her old self—in a similar manner as before—and consulted her runes. They didn't always give detailed information, but they could hopefully narrow down the direction they needed to go. Surprisingly, they indicated that they should go east.

They were fairly certain that they had explored most of the western region, so with nothing else to go off of started in the other direction.

After another cold, wet, miserable hour a pillar appeared out of the mist. When they approached it they saw more, and realized that they looked like they might have at one point flanked a path. They were made of stacked stone cylinders, some toppled, all covered in vines, moss, and strange glyphs depicting creatures like snakes, spiders, and other, more abstract shapes that were more difficult to identify.

Mim again checked her runestones, and after discovering that this was a place of power Gamamyr began lamenting about his lost book, the Abridged History and Geography of Barovia. Felicia produced it from a bag, claiming that he had dropped it during the zombie attack and she had just forgotten about it. Gamamyr's surprise changed to confusion, then to anger, and then they were tossing accusations, insults, and even some veiled threats back and forth.

Fortunately their argument was abruptly cut off when a voice like dry reeds spoke from somewhere within the mist.

"By all means, kill yourselves: it will make things so much easier."

It sounded familiar, almost like Madam Eva, but something was just slightly off about it... Kyr demanded that whoever was speaking show herself, but she told them that she was the least of their worries: her children were hungry. Kyr looked where he thought the voice was coming from, but couldn't see any signs of life. He then quickly whirled around to look behind th— Huh, still nothing. He wondered if her "children" were undead, or maybe they were somehow cloaked from his si—

Then he looked up.

Ah.

Winding down the pillars were a pair of massive, worm-like creatures. He shouted out a warning, and when they slithered into view everyone could see that their bodies were a deep red and covered in veins. There were no eyes, and their mouths were circular and filled with needle-like teeth. Locum had encountered these before: they drank blood and were blind, which somehow made them all the creepier, but hunted by sensing vibrations. This made it difficult to hide from or ambush them, but they could be disoriented by loud noises.

Before they reached the ground Kyr rushed over to one of the pillars. He pushed against it, willing fire into his hands. It heated the stone, softening it just enough for him to push it over. It smashed into another pillar, knocking the worm free. The impact didn't seem to hurt it much, and as it writhed about trying to orient itself Felicia dashed over and began viciously stabbing it.

The worm recovered and snapped at her, but she managed to dodge it and scamper onto it's back. She continued stabbing at it, and while she was able to easily avoid it's mouth forgot about the tail: it snatched her up and swiftly coiled about her. Unable to slip free, it brought her to it's mouth and sunk it's teeth in. Her body was wracked with agony as it began draining her blood, and to make matters worse she could see that it's wounds were slowly knitting close.

Locum was rifling through his bag for some kind of explosive, when the other worm simply dropped off the pillar. It didn't land on him, but around him, and before he could react wrapped him up in it's coils. As it brought him to it's mouth, he managed to wrest an arm free, draw his sword and plunge it through two mouth flaps, effectively pinning it's mouth shut.

As the worm tried pulling the sword free, Mim cursed it so that it would be more sensitive to the sound that it relied on, and then started screaming at it. Kyr took a cue, drawing his other sword and banging them together. The worm convulsed with what they assumed was pain, but Locum was still unable to free himself.

Gamamyr again drew his knife. He wasn't terribly skilled with a blade, but he hoped to maybe distract it long enough for Locum to escape. He didn't want to risk hitting Locum, so slowly approached it, only throwing the knife when he was a yard or two away. His dagger grazed the beast and it released Locum. Unfortunately, it did so by throwing him at Gamamyr, and they both went sprawling into the water.

With Locum finally free, Kyr stopped banging his swords and went on the offensive, but with it no longer distracted by the noise the worm managed to pull Locum's sword free just in time to snatch up Kyr with it's jaws and start feeding. Kyr's hands began to glow bright red, and he grabbed onto the worm's head. There was a loud hissing noise as it's flesh began to bubble, and it quickly released him.

Locum and Gamamyr both regained their feet. Seeing Kyr staggering about in search of his sword, Locum quickly scaled one of the pillars, drew his silver kukri, and leaped onto the worm. Since he wasn't touching the ground it couldn't sense his presence, and he literally got the drop on it. The force of the impact drove his blade deep into what he thought was the beast's head, killing it.

Biting back the pain, Felicia managed to get one of her arms free and stab the worm in one of it's mouth flaps. It flailed about and shrieked in pain, which when combined with some of her blood allowed her to slip free. Bloody and dagger in hand, she was still considering her next course of action when there was a bright flash behind her, followed by a second, blinding flash and blistering heat.

The next thing she knew she was on the ground. Much of her exposed skin burned, and she wasn't sure if she still had any eyebrows. When she collected herself, she saw that the worm had been reduced to cinders that reeked of burnt meat. Locum was busy carving something out of the other one, while Gamamyr was walking towards her.

Then the voice again spoke. It was a mixture of anger and sorrow, and told them that they would pay for murdering her children. Skeletal arms burst forth from the water, grabbing Gamamyr and pulling him under. Kyr got to his hands and knees and searched the water, but couldn't find him. Even his sight couldn't detect him.

Assuming that whoever was speaking had taken him, they set off in the direction of the voice. Mim used her magic to conjure a storm that blew the mists away, and Kyr shone brightly as he lead them forward. They moved between the pillars, and after a few minutes saw who—or maybe what would have been a more accurate term—had been speaking to them.

She stood before a ruined, overgrown ziggurat. Her hair and robes were both grey, ragged, and filthy, though the latter was a somewhat darker shade. Her eyes looked like empty sockets, and her skin was pale and wrinkled, like old parchment that barely clung to her bones. One hand held a metal knife in the shape of a long, slender fang that she was sharpening on her teeth with smooth, practiced motions. The teeth looked to be made of stone, and the knife sparked and made loud scratching noises until she finished, after which she licked the blade clean with a long, snake-like tongue.

Before her was a squat, stone alter, clearly stained with blood and surrounded by the bones of numerous humanoid victims. Gamamyr was tightly bound to it with thorny vines, and the party could see that they were biting into his wrists. He craned his head to see them, with Kyr shining at the forefront, but when he opened his mouth to speak vines quickly snapped over it, muffling him completely.

The ancient crone placed two bony, clawed fingers over his mouth and said, "Shh...it'll be over soon."

Behind the Scenes
Again, I want to thank both Christon Suess (who is playing in the campaign as Locum) and Bay Chang for their generous Extra Life donations that Melissa, Adam, and myself are gradually working off (nine hours, now, though if I counted my Shadows of Mordor playtime we'd have been done by now several times over).

I like actually playing through this as I convert it, as it gives me more stuff to cram in the document once it's good and ready to go. Take the zombie gators and tremor worms: if we hadn't actually played it I might not have thought to include either of them.

Zombie Alligator Group, Stealthy
Bite (d8+2 damage, 1 piercing) 10 HP 1 Armor
Close, Messy
Special Qualities: Crushing jaws
Just as strong as when they were alive, and their hunger can never be sated. Instinct: To drown and tear apart prey
  • Drift about unnoticed
  • Suddenly spring from the water
  • Tear something apart with it's jaws

Tremor Worm Large, Group
Bite (d8+1 damage) 10 HP 1 Armor
Close, Reach
Special Qualities: Sense vibrations, drain blood
These blood-red worms were created by the Drowned Lady to protect her from any who enter her dominion. Their ability to drain blood is makes them especially effective against vampires. Instinct: To drain blood.
  • Track someone without seeing them
  • Wrap someone in their coils
  • Heal by draining blood

Also? I might have not described the Drowned Lady the way I did. Dunno why I thought of it, but I just liked the idea of her sharpening a knife on her teeth. I think she's supposed to be the craziest of the three hag sisters.

Similarly, it's nice seeing how another player runs with the living star. Adam's doing a great job asking questions and coming up with some creative uses that we hadn't anticipated (like igniting his hands while grabbed). We haven't yet seen whether our tweak to blinding flash is still too good or bad (originally on a 10+ it let you blind everyone around you: it now only lets you blind one target that can see you, and on a 7-9 the GM chooses someone else to be blinded), but so far everything else seems pretty solid.

I ended up cracking open 10+ Treasures for the loot roll. I was trying to think what they could fish out of the tremor worms when someone—I think Chris, maybe Adam—said something along the lines of "If only there were a couple of books filled with pre-fabbed magic items". I flipped a few pages in, saw the chameleon ring, and figured it would make a lot of sense: it makes it harder to see you, but the worms don't hunt by sight, so there ya go. Here it is straight out of the book:


Now that we've played with the witch some more, we've decided to change the storm-brewer move so that it doesn't take several minutes, but just a few moments. The damage for a witch is as low as it can be (d4), so storm-brewer is a great way to give her some ranged damage. I think that the fact that it's an advanced move and you really can't use it underground or inside most dungeons is going to "balance" it out.

Speaking of which (witch?), Ben is a regular reader here, and a while back emailed me with some questions about The Witch playbook. We started talking back and forth, and he decided to not only run his own Expedition to Castle Ravenloft one-shot, but even wrote up a play report for it.

Give it a read: the names are kind of silly, but it sounded like they had a blast (which is frankly the most important part). I especially love the part where the pirate character tried staking someone with her peg leg. Never would have thought of that.

Fiiinally, if you want you can follow me on Google+, Facebook, or Twitter!

Image Dump
Over ten drawers for minis: you'd think I'd have some snakes in there. >_>

Class Warfare Review

Class Warfare is a third-party Dungeon World book that is intended to help you make new classes. It does this by categorizing "specialties" like caver, devoted, blue mage, poisoner, and arsenal into a number of archetypes: the adventurer, disciple, magician, rogue, and warrior. You make a new class by choosing an archetype, 2-3 specialties, then maybe do a bunch of tweaking until at a glance it looks good.

And I don't like it.

Taking it from the top, the layout is very minimalist (basically the same quality as Dungeon World), with everything being divided using various headers, but no colors, boxes, lines, etc. The art is also very inconsistent in terms of style and quality, sometimes even time period (I'm pretty sure everything but the cover is Creative Commons stuff).

In other words, probably what you've grown to expect from the "indie scene".

While there's a lot of moves, some are printed twice, some do very similar things, some are culled from other sources like Dungeon World and Grim World, and some are just really vague. Take the engineer's Mother of Invention: there's no mention of how long it takes to make the machine or what the limitations are; it just takes however long the GM thinks to build, and on a 10+ it just does...whatever the hell you designed it to do.

Even worse, there's no information on how to make your own moves, which would have been much, much more useful. This is why in both volumes of 10+ Treasures I put in an entire section on how to make your own magic items from scratch: it's one thing to sell people a big book of moves, but it would have been so, sooo much better if there were guidelines on how to approach and ultimately structure a move on your own.

There are a number of specialties that I couldn't see anyone using, especially in a typical Dungeon World game, like the fool, pilgrim, luminary, merchant, landed gentry, and shopkeeper. I mean, who wouldn't want to be able to roll+WIS to see if you have an item in stock? Fuck going into a dungeon, managing a store is where it's at! Hell, once you hit 6th-level you can even pick a move that lets you check your store for stuff that you shouldn't have.

Not sure why anyone would actually do this, and I have no idea why anyone would even choose this move, as in most cases it just puts you in some sort of nebulous trouble.

Earlier in the book he walks you through the process of creating a class, with the dust eater as an example. At the end he states that it "may not be the most clever, original, or cliche-busting class ever written", and that it "might have a little too much in common with the paladin".

This is a problem for two reasons. The first is that he really should be showcasing what this book can feasibly do. Opening with a somewhat re-skinned paladin doesn't really sell me on this book, but that also leads me to the second point: I can already tweak and do move swaps with ease. Why buy this book when I could just take the paladin and either shuffle the moves about, and tweak or write a few new ones until the paladin does what I want?

Case in point, my first Dungeon World character was a halfling fighter. After the first session the GM said fuck halflings and changed them to kobolds, so I became a kobold fighter. We were using Dungeons & Dragons kobolds, which meant that I had a kind of draconic ancestry. I decided that I would have hailed from red dragons, so had red scales, red dragon horns, and an affinity for fire. When I leveled up, I asked the GM if I could have some kind of ranged fire attack: we took the volley move, changed it to CHA, and put in an option to take -1 ongoing instead of losing ammo.

Simple and effective, and that was for second-session Dungeon World-ers.

Don't get me wrong: I'm sure there are some gems scattered about, and maybe it's just more useful for the typical player, rather than someone who spends a good deal of time designing classes and moves from scratch. That's a good way to sum this up: it's not for me. I don't see myself ever using it, not even as a source of inspiration, but with the $16 price tag I can't even recommend it for the casual player who might want to try something new that just barely extends beyond swapping and tweaking moves that you can find in the Dungeon World book (or even online).

If you are genuinely interested in making classes, compendium classes, or moves, I would pass on this and spend the time actually designing your own stuff. Get feedback from people and keep challenging yourself: you'll only get better over time, and you'll be able to crank out quality stuff a lot quicker (all told The Vampire only took about a week). Honestly I think that if anything this book is more of a crutch, and hope that people passionate about writing and designing don't just resort to slapping a bunch of moves together and calling it a class.
November 13, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Dead Tree Treasures!

Since Drivethrurpg now allows publishers to bundle up print books, you can get physical (and digital) copies of both 10+ Treasures and 10+ Treasures: Volume II!

Quick note: the reason why it shows doubles is that when I created the bundle it only let me choose between a pdf and softcover, and normally if you buy them individually you can opt to get the book and pdf for the same price.

I figured it should be the same for this, too, so just to be on the safe side and make sure you also get the pdfs I added them to the bundle separately.

Of course if you just want pdfs, you can always get the digital treasure trove.
November 12, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

10+ Treasures Volume I & II Reviews

I was tagged a couple times in a post on the Dungeon World Tavern a while back—which was the only reason I noticed it, as I'm not a member of that community—concerning a third-party Dungeon World product.

Basically someone was curious about it, but since there weren't any ratings or reviews they had no idea what to expect quality-wise, and didn't want to risk the asking price (which was ten or so bucks).

Of course, given that not all product reviews are necessarily an honest indication of content and/or quality, at that price I'm not sure I would pick it up even if there were any.

I briefly joined so that I could clarify a few things and pitch in my two coins, stating that this was why I'd previously brought up the matter of ratings and reviews: the more people that leave them, the more likely that a somewhat accurate picture will start to form.

That, and I think that honest reviews are a great way for an actually receptive creator to improve on their work.

In any case I was pleasantly surprised to wake up—several days ago as of this writing—and find myself tagged in a post by one Sophia Brandt, author of the blog space beyond reality: she was kind enough to not just merely rate 10+ Treasures and 10+ Treasures: Volume II, but write an entire review for both of them on her blog.

What I like about it is that it comes across as very honest and neutral. She likes both products, but still makes legitimate criticisms. It's almost as if she *gasp* understands that you can still speak favorably about something despite it's flaws, that it's "okay" to like something that is less than perfect (which ends up being basically everything I have ever read/watched/played).

In the end she even recommends them without making exaggerated statements like "it deserves your money".

This is the kind of stuff that we need to see more of. I fully believe that most gamers are already hesitant to buy indie products, and why wouldn't they be? Despite featuring poor organization, writing, and/or production quality, plenty of them end up with 5, maybe 4 stars, and/or blatantly dishonest blurbs proclaiming that it's amazing, deep, or even "has at least as much content as a $40 release from a big publisher".

Yeah, a book might only be a couple bucks, but if the product sucks that still means you've wasted a couple bucks: how many times do you think you're going to sucker someone before they stop gambling their money altogether? If you want to better support the indie scene, then when you buy something at least rate it, and rate it honestly.

Even if it's a friend (or a friend-of-a-friend, or a guy that did you a favor that one time), just tell them like it is: in the long run you'll be doing both parties a huge favor.
November 10, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Fright Night: The Lost Child

Actors
Casey and Rena, stars of a new paranormal investigation show

Extras
  • Sam, landowner
  • Zeke, caretaker
  • Stacy, reporter
  • Joey, camera boy

Establishing Shot
We start with an overhead shot of the crumbling, abandoned estate that was once the Longsview Asylum for the Mentally Disturbed. Night is falling, and the long driveway to the large iron gate is illuminated only by the piercing headlights of a van.

Scene 1: Extra Attack/Environment
The van stops, the front doors open in unison and out step CASEY and RENA. They are the sort of pair that makes for good TV: Casey a man’s man with fists hard as rock and a brain to match, Rena a witty woman who is likable, if only a little jumpy.

They approach the gate, where SAM, the estate’s owner, stands waiting. He is glad they've come, as there have been strange things happening around the estate. They were highly recommended after their last case in Amityville. It is at this point that he was planning to turn them over to the elderly ZEKE, but though the caretaker promised to meet them at the gate as well, he was nowhere to be seen when Sam arrived. The businessman then leaves them to their work and begins the walk down the drive.

The investigators, along with their young assistant/cameraman JOEY, begin unloading the van of their equipment. Upon getting everything out, however, they realized that Sam has forgotten to give them the key to the gate, which is closed with a heavy padlock. They aren’t about to let this stop them, though, and Casey easily scales the wrought-iron and drops to the other side. (C: Brawn Success) 

The other two pass the equipment through the bars and he helps them up, over, and onto the grounds. (R: Brawn Success)

The two fire up their small cameras and record some opening remarks about the place before they push the front door open with a creeeak and step inside. After setting up their gadgets they split up to explore the twin wings of the old building.

Scene Notes: For this game, to keep things mysterious and spooky, I decided to shy away from gory on-screen deaths. I originally planned to actually have Zeke show them around the grounds, but when I rolled Extra Attack I figured he was expendable enough to disappear. The environmental result I also kept simple, making them have to find a way inside the gate.

Scene 2: Environment/Actor Attack
Rena takes a flashlight and Joey and starts down the hallway through the non-violent wing. The first large room she passes is the children’s area. The idea of mentally disturbed children creeps her out and she begins to walk faster, but as she does her flashlight flickers and dies. This along with her already taut nerves causes her to drop it, and it clangs to the floor before rolling into the children’s ward. (R: Cool Failure)

Joey activates the small light on the top of his camera and the two slowly enter the large room. Using the soft glow their eyes sweep across scattered toys and games, before spotting the missing flashlight under a crib. (R: Wits Success) 

Rena bends and reaches her arm underneath, straining to reach the metal cylinder. She is so focused she almost doesn’t hear the squeak of wheels rolling across the floorboards. She turns her head to see a large hobbyhorse bearing down on her! (R: Speed Defense)

It slams into her, and she falls to the floor, twisting her ankle as she hits. Joey grabs the flashlight, helps her to her feet and she leans on him as she begins to hobble back to the van to patch her up.

Scene Notes: Another environment roll; this one allowed me to mess with the lighting and plunge them into darkness. It also made Rena go into the playroom (she had decided to skip it). This fit perfectly well with my monster, as I got to establish a pattern of playthings as weapons. The hobbyhorse coming out of the darkness of its own accord seemed a nice touch.

Scene 3: Extra Attack/Director’s Choice (Information)
Casey is in the violent offender’s wing, and his first stop is the padded cell of one of the worst. A serial killer and cannibal was kept in this room, strapped to his cot and sedated. Casey thinks this might be a good place to start looking for unhappy spirits. As he opens the door and shines his light inside, his heart freezes as he sees a figure lying on the bed. (C: Cool Failure) 

On closer inspection, however, he finds that this is nothing more than a rather effective scarecrow. It seems that the dangerous man caged here had a wicked sense of humor, and had left a stuffed uniform to surprise any prying eyes before they moved and ultimately executed him.

The investigator begins by recording an introduction to the room and its famous occupant. He calls to the spirits to reveal themselves to him, and starts banging on the walls, hoping to rattle them into making themselves known. He makes his way around the room, finally finding himself tapping on the metal frame of the room’s only furniture, a cot bolted to the wall. No ghosts pop up, but as the vibrations of his pounding pass through the metal, the mattress is dislodged and reveals writing on the wall.

It seems that the isolation and medication had taken its toll on this once charismatic psychopath, as what Casey finds are ramblings scrawled in blood. He is unable to make sense of the long, stream-of-consciousness-style sentences, but words and phrases stand out to him. Things like “experiments”, “cutting my brain”, “they’re in my head” … (C: Brains Failure)

Casey, disappointed not to have found anything especially exciting, moves on.

Scene Notes:  I got a choice for the plot roll this time, so I decided it was time to drop some information about some of the stuff that had occurred in the asylum’s past. Bloody scrawlings made the crazy even crazier. As Casey made a rather unintelligent character and failed his brain roll I only gave him snatches of what was written, but enough to get them thinking. And again, the extra attack happened off-screen, which ended up setting the next scene up perfectly...

Scene 4: Extra Attack/Body Found
Rena and Joey exit the asylum, and the boy helps her over the fence. Upon further examination, they decide that she will be fine, apart from a slight limp for the next few days. As they turn to go back in there is a shout from behind them. Up runs STACY, an eager reporter who had followed them up and then waited for them to show their faces.

She convinces them to let her accompany them and help them search for clues, as long as she gets to publish the scoop. She is confused as the other two begin to scale the fence, and points to the gate, where the padlock hangs open. She pushes the gate open, switches on her flashlight, and they all walk inside.

Joey, who is holds the other flashlight, is getting more and more nervous. He is erratically jerking the flashlight toward the smallest sound or movement. Rena grabs his arm to steady it as his beam illuminates a shape lying behind one of the bushes by the wall. (R: Wits Success) 

The three head that direction, Stacy in the lead, Rena behind her, and Joey tiptoeing in the rear. As they round the bush, Stacy’s light settles on the prone form of Sam. Rena’s eyes narrow as she takes in the details of the scene. (R: Cool Success) 

Stacy gasps beside her. And Joey lets out a high-pitched scream.

Scene Notes:  I decided they should stumble upon the body of the owner for this one, as I had killed him in my head last scene. Since they didn’t know he had come back/died, the open padlock added a new mystery for a bit.

Scene 5: Jump Scare/Object
Meanwhile, Casey has made his way to the other end of the wing, to where residents were “cured”.  This process included injections, waterboarding, and electric shock therapy, among other questionable practices.

He turns his camera on and describes the horrors that had once been perpetrated in this room, running his fingers along sharp implements and cold restraints. He even flips the lever that controlled the electric currents. When he does a shower of sparks rains down from above, causing a frantic lunge to the lever and some nervous laughter. (C: Cool Success)

Still filming, he begins an encore of his ghost call, rattling chains and banging on pipes. He grows tired of this as he reaches the far end of the room and finds a bookcase full of bound volumes. He pulls a few out, thumbing the pages. He laments the lack of pictures, and grabs a few more, tossing them aside as they one by one fail to hold his interest.

As he flips through one more he discovers that sections of this book are highlighted and underlined. The words are long, and he doesn’t understand much of being discussed, but this one does have a few diagrams. (C: Brains Failure) 

The section seems to be detailing portions of the brain that are not activated in the normal human, and theorizing as to what their purpose might be. After turning the book this way and that, Casey tosses it too and decides to head back to the lobby to see if the others have had any more luck than he.

Scene Notes: This scene occurred in a pretty isolated area, and I didn’t want to tip my hand with the monster just yet, so the shower of sparks worked as a jump scare. And since Casey was still poking around, I gave him some more clues in the form of a book. His character was still too thick to glean a lot from it, but again, the snatches he did get added to our understanding of the asylum.

Scene 6: Actor Attack/Director’s Choice (Body Found)
Rena stoops to examine the body of the now-deceased property owner. The flashlight’s glow catches a glint of metal clutched in his hand, and she extracts the key to the gate. (R: Wits Success) 

It seems the man had realized his mistake and returned to give them the key, when he was attacked before he reached the steps. She also discovers the instrument of Sam’s demise: a bloody baseball that had struck him in the back of the head before rolling under the bush.

She checks to see if Joey is filming this, to find that his camera and light are lying on the ground.  She and Stacy look left, then right, and finally up. What they see unnerves them further. The young camera operator’s scream had apparently not been because of the body. His body is slumped over a branch that is sticking through his chest. The really odd thing, however, is that the branch he was skewered on is several yards up the tree…

Rena has had just about enough. She instructs the reporter to call for help, and returns to the dark interior of the asylum to look for her partner. As she passes the booth that had once been used to greet visitors something long and black shoots out of the darkness at her. (R: Brawn Defense) 

She is unable to bat away the pen that sticks itself in her shoulder, causing a trickle of blood to ooze down her arm. She yanks it free and runs down the hallway to where Casey is just emerging from his wing. After filling each other in they realize that there is one portion of this place that they have yet to explore: the basement.

Scene Notes: I’ll admit, I forgot to kill someone in Rena’s last scene. But Joey’s rather girly scream was ambiguous to be open to interpretation, so I went with it. I brought in the levitation to do him in, tossing him into the high limbs. And having them turn around to find the body made sense, so I used my director’s choice to toss that in.

End Phase
As they descend the stairs, their lights illuminate a large open space surrounded by cobwebs and various groundskeeping tools. Sitting in the center of the dusty floor is a figure sitting cross-legged, back to the stairs. As the paranormal pair watch, this figure slowly begins to rise into the air and turn to face them. Suspended before them is a man, but the grin spread across his face is that of a child. He looks at them and says, in a singsong voice, “Did you come to play with me?”

Casey cautiously steps forward, unsure if this is the spectre he has been seeking. He grabs a rake and slowly reaches its end out to poke the figure. The solid flesh tells him that this is definitely a live body, but the man he is prodding flinches away. Smile turns to pout as he screams, “You’re just like all the others!  Poking and prodding… I don’t like you at all!”

A mass in his temple begins to pulse, and Casey feels himself being hoisted into the air by an unseen force, and before he can react he is thrown against the wall. (C: Brawn Defense) 

The monstrous boy of a man floats toward him, his mounting rage fueling a power unleashed by meddling hands so many years ago. As he advances on Casey, Rena runs in from the side, brandishing her flashlight. She swings it and catches her foe square in the chest. (R: Brawn Attack)

This brings a howl from his lips, and he rises higher, glaring at them from the rafters.

From the ground Casey looks around for something he can use against the angry man-child. He reaches out, grabs a hoe, and comes up swinging. The man is too far up, however, and he ends up just swinging wildly. (C: Brawn Attack) 

As he retreats back to his partner, a pitchfork rises up and flies toward them, piercing their flesh. (Both: Speed Defense)

This final injury gets Rena’s adrenaline pumping, and she wrenches the tool free and hurls it back at her enemy. Her aim is true and one of the prongs passes through the man’s side. (R: Brawn Attack)

Yelping in pain, he crashes to the ground and begins backing toward the stairs.

Casey is already moving toward him. He brings his flashlight down on the pulsing lump poking from the prone man’s head with a satisfying THUNK. (C: Brawn Attack) 

A snarl contorts the crazed inmate’s face, and his eyes dart around before settling on a sharp tilling implement. He raises his hand to harness it, but to his shock it does not move. He tries several times, becoming more agitated until, with a frustrated scream, he collapses with a grunt and a pout. Like a punished child, he scowls at the pair who have ruined his fun.

Rena picks up a shovel and raises it above her head. The man before her turns his head and sticks out his tongue, a final defiant gesture. With a form that would have made any golfer proud, she swings the shovel and brings an end to the last resident of Longsview Asylum. (R: Brawn Attack)

Casey and Rena drag the body up and out to the lawn and lay it out with the other victims, the large man narrating to his camera the whole way. Lying on the grass he discovers one more body: that of the ace reporter. He hoists the camera high and assures the viewers that they will be back next week to see if they can rouse her spirit too!

 We fade out and transition into the show’s credits, a mix of jump cuts, extreme angles and screaming guitar.  After the credits roll we are treated to one last shot from Casey’s camera. “Looks like we need a new cameraman,” he tells us. “We’re taking volunteers…” A predatory smile spreads across his face, as suddenly a dark shadow passes behind him.

FINIS

Final Thoughts
First of all, I want to say thank you to Red Castle Games in Portland for allowing me the opportunity to participate in this year’s fair, as well as to my two unsuspecting victims. The entire evening was a blast. I met a lot of cool people and got to play some brand-new games before starting this one. And I could not have asked for a better pair to play with!

Now, on to the game. The abandoned asylum is always a setting ripe with possibilities for horror, so I was excited to see what I’d be putting our heros up against. I rolled a MAGICAL, MOBILE HUMANOID. Mobile is a fairly new addition to the attribute tables, and one that we took some time thinking about to make sure it worked for all the bases. Since humanoids are already mobile by nature, I decided to give this one a special mode of movement.

I chose levitation, as it fit with the magical trait.  From there a picture formed of a place where mad doctors experimented on patients, trying to access abilities hidden deep in the brain. Their one success before being shut down was a young boy. While they unlocked his telekinetic powers, however, he became developmentally stagnant, and while the rest of the residents had been removed, he had stayed, hidden in the crumbling building.

We had a time constraint on this game, so while I had Casey and Rena roll for the climax after their scenes, we decided to cut to the end phase after a few scenes apiece. So hopefully the above will flesh out what I was thinking a bit more. With more time I would have been able to pepper in more clues and backstory.

That said, I feel that this game went amazingly well. I loved seeing the characters develop. Casey played his as a Steve Irwin-type, only much dumber. He was banging on the walls looking for ghosts and getting information he didn’t understand, as all of the exciting stuff was happening to Rena, who was just trying to survive the experience. The juxtaposition of the scenes bouncing back and forth like that added a bit of levity that, when paired with the dark happenings, really gave the whole experience a fun flavor.

And for those of you who noticed that we never found Zeke, I’ll leave that detail to your imagination… Though if you imagine that I forgot to tie up that loose end, you’re probably right. :)

November 09, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

A Sundered World: The Legion's Crucible

Cast
  • Cheveyo (male scion storm shaman)
  • Devona (female deva infernal pact warlock)
  • Diotos (kytheran battlemind w/ mutation)
  • Kivana (female cthon dragon-tongue wizard)
  • Waive (male scion reconstituted nomad)

Summary
The job was simple enough: head to an island and see why the outpost there had stopped responding.

When they arrived they discovered that insect-like machines had slaughtered everyone, and were in the process of strip-mining the island. They managed to destroy the creatures, and were transporting the remains back both as proof of their deed and to sell as scrap.

Then the psychic storm hit.

It swiftly engulfed them, arresting their minds and battering their bodies. The ship was hurled off course, abruptly coming to a halt when it collided with another island. One by one they crawled forth from the wreckage, nursing their physical and mental wounds, and took stock of the situation.

The front of the hull was shattered, but the ship would have still been serviceable had the collidor not been destroyed by the impact. Waive could repair it with the right parts, but from their current vantage the island appeared barren and lifeless: their only option was to start walking and hope for the best.

Cheveyo shifted his sight into the spirit realm, and discovered that the island was the grave of a once mighty spirit: it's serpentine body was coiled protectively in upon itself, and it had suffered many grievous wounds before dying. He drifted up, and high above what he saw confirmed his suspicions: with the island's spirit dead, there would be nothing but rock and dirt to be found.

Then he saw the pit.

It was perfectly circular, with a ledge that gradually spiraled down and out of sight. Cheveyo was wondering who or what could have made it, when he saw three squat, armored creatures emerge and begin making their way towards their crashed ship.

He lowered himself back to the ground and told everyone that they had company. Fortunately the creatures were moving slowly, which gave them ample time to prepare. When they finally came into view Cheveyo realized that they weren't just armored, but made entirely of metal: more insect-like machines, except they were larger and weren't made of copper, but steel.

Otherwise they were similar to the others they had faced: their faces were alien and expressionless, with several sets of crystalline eyes that glowed a dark red and clattering mandibles. Then, after a few moments of simply staring at them, their bodies changed shape to assume somewhat more humanoid forms, with four arms that ended in curved blades.

Well, that was new.

Diotos acted first. He charged forward, blades erupted from his arms and allowing him to easily tear through the plates protecting it's torso. There was a loud grinding noise, and the creature shuddered a bit before retaliating with all four of it's limbs. They sliced and stabbed, and while he was able to shrug off the brunt of the attack it still provided a sufficient enough distraction from the other two.

They didn't make it more than a few steps before being pummeled by blasts of inky shadow, lightning and fire. When the dust cleared the one that Diotos had attacked was completely destroyed, and the other two were heavily damaged. They stood there, apparently calculating their next course of action, but before either could act Waive sliced through the air, bending space so that his sword stroke cleanly beheaded one of them.

With only one warrior left, and barely standing at that, Diotos again charged, heedless of any danger. The warrior moved with surprising speed, catching him with it's blades and holding him in place just outside of his reach. Once it was certain that Diotos wasn't going anywhere, it extracted two blades and prepared to finish him off.

Cheveyo released his spirit Alistor, a tumultuous hurricane of thunder and lightning. Alistor raced towards the warrior, and just before it struck Waive also appeared behind it; both of their attacks landed simultaneously, and the combined onslaught overloaded it's power source, causing it to explode violently.

Once they'd gathered up the debris, Waive told them that he could now fix the collider, albeit with some arcane assistance from Kivana. Before he started though, he wanted to check the island to see if there were more of the machines, and if so what they were up to. Everyone else agreed, and they began floating up to the pit Cheveyo had discovered.

Once they were above the pit they saw that it descended deep into the island. Smaller, copper workers were scuttling about the walls, busily and tirelessly tearing at it in search of metal. At the bottom, or what they assumed was the bottom, they could see random currents of lightning arcing about a metallic object: Waive extended his sight, and he realized that the object was in fact a face.

None of the workers reacted to their presence as they drifted down, and they deduced that since they weren't attacking they didn't regard them as a threat; presumably they would respond if attacked, but no one dared test the theory. Eventually the stone walls became metal, featuring circular tunnels that that the workers seemingly entered and exited at random as they ferried raw and processed ore about.

They also saw that the face was not just a face, but merely the tip of the ice-island: the machines were in the process of constructing an entire body. It was not as large as the god corpses that they had seen, but was still considerably larger than most ships. The lightning they had seen was dancing between rods protruding both from the construct's head and the catwalk that encircled it; were they trying to charge it up?

Resting on the catwalk were four equidistantly positioned constructs. They looked roughly as bulky as the steel warriors they fought after arriving, but were made of a duller iron. The party hovered above at what they hoped was a safe distance, but as they discussed their next course of action a warrior crawled out of one of the holes. It approached one of the iron machines on the catwalk, and they both started clicking loudly to each other.

Cheveyo didn't know what they were doing, but wasn't about to take any chances. He drifted towards it, and when he was close unleashed a devastating blast of lightning. It seemed to stun it, but the rest of the iron ones began emitting a high-pitched tone; at this the copper ones immediately stopped working, detached from the walls, and started floating towards him.

Ultimately they succeeded in destroying the workers and what they assumed were transmitters (thankfully no other warriors showed up). They wanted to continue exploring the hive, but were all severely wounded and exhausted. Plus there were too many unknown variables: were their more inside? How many? Would the metal giant awaken? What was it capable of?

They opted to instead return to the ship so that they could recuperate and prepare.

Behind the Scenes
So, the original intention was to run this as a one-shot, as one of the players from our Expedition to Castle Ravenloft game couldn't make it due to personal reasons and I didn't want to just cancel our weekly game. I knew a few players were jonesing for some Sundered World, but I didn't expect them to enjoy it so much that canning the Ravenloft game would make it to the table.

The good news is that everyone loved pretty much everything about the game, though the race and class questions, and race moves were especially praised. The only thing that received negative criticism was the Look sections for both race and class (the idea is that you choose whatever you want from either list), but even that was basically a nitpick at worst.

We were running really late, so rather than stop the game mid-combat I resolved the battle with a single move (which is why the last paragraph doesn't go into, well, any detail): I had everyone roll 2d6, and depending on their results had them make one or more choices between hit point loss, losing gear, gaining a debility, and in the case of Devona gaining debt.

Periodically we stopped to suss out some mechanics, like whether the nomad could just spend fold to outright deal damage to nearby things, if the shaman should be able to add it's Might when spending boon to unleash nature's wrath, and whether cthon can be healed by magic. This is one of the reasons I was also keen on giving the material a go: I wanted to see how well it worked out in play, and based on the player feedback most of it seems very solid and works well together.

One thing I'm a bit iffy on—and this could just be my personal preference—is that most of the classes are roll-and-hold (all of them except the invoker do this). The intention is that you can use other classes like fighters and thieves, but I think that there could be a better way to fictionally represent what the new classes do so they don't all rely on the same mechanic.

Here are some things I noodled on while writing this:

  • Have the warlock just gain debt to do things automatically, but keeping the debt cap based on Charisma and using CHA for eldritch blast (so that it still has a "key" stat).
  • Instead of rolling to hold magic, the wizard gains fatigue and rolls to see how well the spell works out. One of the 7-9 options could be to gain more fatigue.
  • Give the shaman a point pool, like our skeleton and sun priest. Not sure if I would base this on Wisdom, or just make it a flat amount (like 10). Fiction-wise it just makes more sense to spend points, representing the spirit becoming exhausted.

What do you think? Again, maybe roll-and-hold is the best way—the players certainly felt that the classes were awesome as hell—and it just sounds bad to me: curious to know what others think.

Dungeon World: The Playbooks of the Dead

The Playbooks of the Dead is now for sale on Drivethrurpg!

This is a compilation of the undead playbooks we've written over the course of this year: The Ghoul, The Mummy, The Skeleton, and The Vampire.

It comes with everything you'd find in those playbooks: custom letter-sized sheets, as well as the digest-sized books—which contain extra moves, gear, developer's notes, etc—all assembled into a single pdf file.

In other words aside from a few bits of original art, content-wise there isn't anything new in this book, so if you own the others you might wanna pass on this (though I did send out discount coupons for people that purchased them already, so you shouldn't have to pay full price for this).

This is basically a product bundle with a bit more presentation: you're not just getting each playbook for only $1.75, but everything is organized so you don't have to switch between multiple pdfs (well, except for the character sheets, that is).

Fright Night: Shockolate! Play Report

NOTE: Since he isn't an author of this blog, I'm going to point out here that this play report was submitted by Ben, one of creators of Fright Night.

Actor
Jill as Brittney Glass, visitor to the ChocoLand amusement park

Extras
  • Kevin, Brittney’s date for the evening
  • Suzanne, Brittney’s good friend
  • Tyler, Suzanne’s long-time boyfriend
  • Ron, the park’s maintenance man
  • Julio, the park’s groundskeeper

Establishing Shot
We open on a dimly lit room, where a hunched figure is shuffling back and forth between a large cauldron and various ingredients laid out on a table. She drops in a few small objects and the cauldron lets loose a billow of thick, brown smoke that fills the screen, causing it to fade to black.

Scene 1: Actor Attack/Director’s Choice (Object)
Our foursome walks through the gates of the ChocoLand amusement park. TYLER and SUZANNE, resident lovebirds, lead the way, with Suzanne pulling her boyfriend along and pointing out all the things she wants to do. BRITTNEY and KEVIN follow, smiling silently at the others’ enthusiasm.

As she walks, Brittney catches sight of something on the ground. Bending, she discovers it’s a perfectly wrapped piece of chocolate, the park’s claim to fame. She shows it to her date, and he offers her first dibs. She unwraps it and pops it in her mouth, savoring it until a shout rings out behind her. She turns just in time to see a cart barreling towards her, but is unable to get out of the way in time.(Speed Failure)

The cart careens into her, sending her sprawling to the ground. She lands on her arm, bruising it. As she pulls herself to her feet and brushes herself off, a young man in a light brown uniform runs up, apologizing profusely. It is JULIO, the park’s groundskeeper. Brittney assures him she’s relatively okay, and he pushes his cart away, lamenting the accident.

Brittney and Tyler look around to discover that their friends have left them behind. They decide to go off on their own and choose the park’s roller coaster as their first destination.

Climax Roll: 3 (Total: 3)
Scene Notes: Since I already had an idea of what I wanted to have the danger in this story be, I picked a piece of chocolate as my object. I had Jill roll for it to get her used to the rolling process. Had she not succeeded I would have put the object somewhere else. The janitor’s cart seemed a good danger for the beginning of the game, and allowed me to dish out a little bit of damage.

Scene 2: Extra Attack/Omen
When the pair arrive at the coaster they discover that the line is quite long. They dutifully join the queue and inch their way forward. Suddenly, a large man jumps over the velvet rope guiding them toward the ride. His hands and face are covered in chocolate, and he is screaming jibberish into the air.

He grabs Kevin and sniffs him before lifting him and throwing him over the rope, where he crashes to the ground and is still. The man then turns on Brittney, but she is able to evade his grasp. (Speed Success)

Thwarted, he runs off into the night. Brittney runs to her date, who is beginning to stir. She examines him and finds that he is bleeding from where his head struck the pavement. She helps him to his feet and they abandon the line to go in search of the first aid station. Passing by the haunted house, she notices that the flowers and tree in front of the attraction are dying. (Wits Success) 

Pretty fitting decor for such a spooky attraction, she thinks.

Climax Roll: 0 (Total: 3)
Scene Notes: Since I had to attack a player, I introduced the zombie-like state of the park’s inhabitants in this scene. I was curious to see what would happen on the roller coaster, but this seemed to work in the flow of the story. I was a bit sorry to leave the coaster behind. Dying vegetation as an omen was something I seized on for this plot with the black magic going on.

Scene 3: No Monster/Omen
Upon finding the nurse’s shack, they are surprised to find the door closed and the lights off. They let themselves in and Brittney rummages around, finding antiseptic and bandages to dress Kevin’s wounds. (Wits Success)

They turn to leave, and Brittney jumps as the sound of static fills the air. (Cool Failure)

The voice on the other end of the nurse’s forgotten walkie talkie says they’ve got “another one”, and then curses her for her absent-mindedness when he realizes she’s not answering. Thus patched up, Kevin offers to walk Brittney back to the roller coaster. She is concerned about his head injury, however, and they agree that that would not be the best idea. Since they had already walked this far, they decide to press on down the midway.

Climax Roll: 3 (Total: 6)
Scene Notes: Hijinks on that roller coaster just weren’t meant to be, I guess. Darn medical training… The lack of monster movement gave me the freedom to focus on the surroundings of the park. For my omen I went with the cryptic walkie talkie transmission. And that burst of static made for a nice jump scare moment as well.

Scene 4: No Monster/Object
The two pass through the gaming section of the midway. Kevin stops and attempts to win his date a stuffed bear at the water gun race, and fails miserably. He challenges her to do better when she laughs at him, but though she does slightly better she loses as well. (Brawn Failure)

Past the games they find themselves on the backside of the park, where the lights are dimmer and more spread out and the grounds are less nice. They pass a small hut with a sign for a Fortune Teller, and decide to stop in for fun. The door does not open easily, but with some force it pops open. (Brawn Success)

The interior is pitch black, and the two feel around for a light. Brittney finally finds a lamp on a table. When she pulls the chain the dim light reveals a horrible face leering at her, inches away from her own! She stumbles back, running into Kevin, and the two end up in a tangled heap. (Cool Failure) 

Kevin pulls himself to his feet, and begins to laugh. Brittney looks back to the table to discover a crystal ball, reflecting back a caricature of her own face. She chides herself for losing her cool, and turns to discover Kevin pulling a park map from the wall. He explains that he forgot one on the way into the park. He pockets it and they leave the hut. (Wits Failure)

Climax Roll: 2 (Total: 8)
Scene Notes: The monster is ominously quiet lately… I threw in the scene at the gaming booth as a fun, low-risk roll. As Brittney is low on cool, I’ve enjoyed making her scream and freak out. The map could have provided information about the park, but a failed wits roll ruled that out.

Scene 5: Extra Attack/Environment
As they leave the hut, a gruff voice demands to know what they were doing in there. They look up to see RON, the resident handyman. They explain that they were just looking to get their fortunes read, and he says that the gypsy who occupied the hut is no longer employed by the park after complaints of odd behavior. He tells them that she was living on the land when the park was built, and that she was furious about being ejected, screaming that “they’d be sorry”. (Brains Success)

He tells them to move along before doing so himself. Brittney turns to go, but Kevin points at a building further into the darkness, naming it as where the park’s chocolate is made. He talks her into going exploring. On arriving, however, they find the door locked and are unable to find a way in. As they start to walk away smoke begins to pour from under the door.

Brittney realizes that the smoke is mechanical in nature rather than incendiary, and Kevin runs off to find the maintenance man. Left alone, Brittney realizes how creepy her surroundings are. So when footsteps come to her from the darkness, she timidly whispers, “H- hello?” The footsteps speed up, and she is just able to duck behind the corner of the building when a figure runs into view.

She breathes a sigh of relief when she realizes it’s Suzanne. Her friend embraces her and exclaims, “It’s Tyler. He’s gone crazy!”

Climax Roll: 1 (Total: 9)
Scene Notes: I finally got to introduce Ron, and he got a gruff voice for a bit of personality. My environment roll prompted the malfunctioning candy-making equipment, which further set up the importance of the chocolate. When Jill sent Kevin off, I got to play up the “alone in the dark, spooky park” side of things. The footsteps-turning-out-to-be-a-friend was a nice potential danger. I also decided it was high time to start having her friends succumb to the killer candy.

Scene 6: Extra Attack/Omen
Suzanne tells Brittney that she and Tyler had wandered around, riding rides and playing games, before deciding to buy a hot fudge sundae. They settled into a picnic table, and as she talked he had a few bites of the ice cream. As she watched, however, he started eating faster and faster, finishing the dish before she knew it. And then he’d gone back for another, scarfing that one down as well. Then a glaze had fallen over his eyes, and he had run off down the midway.

At the close of this strange story Ron returns. After assessing the smoke, he unlocks the door and goes inside to see what is wrong. The girls hear him curse from inside, and as he emerges, wiping his hands, he tells them that the chocolate has turned to a dark sludge, gumming up the works. They ask him what happened to Kevin, and he says that the last time he saw the boy, he was at the stand that sells elephant ears.

The girls go in search of their friend. Walking further on, they see a figure hunched over a trash can, riffling through it and tossing trash about. The figure looks up and they realize it’s Tyler, his eyes blazing, his hair a mess, and his hands and mouth covered in chocolate. He screams gutturally at them, raises his arms, and runs away.

Climax Roll: 1 (Total: 10)
Scene Notes: This scene was largely expository and informational, so no actual rolls took place. (This is, of course, not ideal.) With Kevin still missing I set the ball rolling on his fate off-screen, buying a snack. With Ron already checking on the machines, my omen was the sludgy chocolate.

Scene 7: Presence/Information
It is now that Kevin arrives, munching on an elephant ear smeared with chocolate, which he happily offers them. Brittney quickly declines, and the new threesome decide to look for Tyler. Their shock is broken by the voice of Julio. He appears glad that Brittney is still okay, and when they tell him of all that has transpired he starts to wonder if it is all connected to something he’s seen before dismissing the idea as ridiculous.

They push him, and he mentions that the plants growing in the park have begun to wither and die, though they had been fine the day before. (Brains Success) 

And though it might be silly superstition, his grandmother used to say that this was a sign of black magic. As he walks away the hair on Brittney’s neck begins to stand on end, and she wonders what is going on in this park.

Climax Roll: 1 (Total: 11)
Scene Notes: I revealed a bit more about what’s going on with those plants to go with my information roll. And the hair standing up was a bit of spooky presence, albeit more implied.

Scene 8: Actor Attack/Body Found
Turning the corner at the dragon boat ride, they come upon a crowd that has gathered. Pushing to the front, they see a large figure being covered by a sheet. (Wits Failure) 

They ask the crowd what’s going on, and discover that a man had collapsed, apparently from a heart attack. Brittney suspects that this was the man who attacked them earlier, but doesn’t say anything. She realizes that Kevin is gone again, and looks around to see him at the concession stand, buying another chocolate-covered ear, which he devours on the way back.

He asks the girls if they have any more chocolate, and when they don’t he becomes insistent. His anger escalates, and as they watch his eyes glaze over and he begins to yell. He grabs Brittney, throws her to the ground, and begins to scratch and bite at her until someone from the crowd pulls him off, sending him running. (Brawn Defense)

Brittney is pretty beaten up from this experience. She and Suzanne decide to go to the security booth to try and get some help. The young man at the booth tells them that there is no need to worry, that the situation is being dealt with. His eyes widen as he looks past them, however, and he slams the front of the kiosk shut, locking himself inside.

Scene Notes: It seemed to me that the stress of being a chocolate zombie would be too much for some, most notably the big guy from the roller coaster, so I had him bite it as a warning of possible doom. Since Jill failed her wits roll, however, I didn’t come right out and say that it was him.

Kevin is getting worse just as we’ve seen others do, so it made sense to have him turn on Brittney and attack her. I had fun with the exchange with the security guy. And with Jill deciding she wanted to try and leave, the climax couldn’t have happened at a more perfect time!

Climax Roll: 2 (Total 13)

End Phase
It is at this point that the girls decide that they’ve had enough, and that they should leave. As they head for the exit they see a crowd of crazed people swarm a chocolate stand and begin to tear into it. They almost reach the gates as a second crowd begins to come in from the parking lot. (Speed Failure)

The two duck behind a bush and let the crazies pass, but as they emerge the gates slam shut, almost as of their own accord. And if that wasn’t bad enough, dark clouds begin to gather above the park. Brittney realizes she needs to distract the zombies if they are to escape. She runs down the midway, calling for them to follow. She underestimates their speed, however, and she watches as her friend is overwhelmed by the hoard. (Speed Failure)

As she passes the haunted house, she finds that the plants, previously sick, are now black and dead. She thinks back to what the groundskeeper had said, and realizes that whatever is going on, the cause is in that house. She opens the door and enters. Inside all she sees is rubber monsters and exhibits of horror and death. She is unsure of where she is going until she spies a door set in the wall behind a monster, marked for staff. (Wits Success)

She opens the door to find a room full of extra props and costumes, and beyond the old gypsy, sitting in front of her cauldron. “You are too late,” she says softly, “it has already begun.” “What do you want?” Brittney demands. “What does anyone want? I want my due.” She begins to tell of her humiliation, and her plan to use the park’s precious cocoa beans against them. She had been clouding people’s minds with the sweets, turning them into destructive drones driven only by the need for chocolate.

She did not expect for the curse to affect the larger people first, but soon they would all succumb. She sniffs the air and smiles as she realizes that the girl before her had eaten the chocolate as well, and says as much. Sure enough, Brittney’s mind begins to fog. She realizes that she doesn’t have much time. She grabs a fake axe left over from the execution display and rushes at the gypsy. The old woman raises a hand and Brittney’s arms stop their swing, blocked by an unseen force. (Brawn Failure)

The gypsy smiles and waves the hand, sending the girl flying backwards into a rack of costumes. Tangled in clothes, Brittney finds a large pin stuck in one of the dresses. She slips it up her sleeve and comes up running. Rather than attack the old woman, though, she runs past and throws her weight against the bubbling cauldron, sending it crashing and its contents spilling on the floor. (Speed Success)

The gypsy yells in anger and advances, but slips on the liquid and crashes to the floor herself. Brittney jumps on the small figure and sticks the pin into her chest. (Brawn Success)

She thinks it is over, until a bony hand shoots out and grabs her by the hair. Almost on instinct, her foot jabs out and drives the pin home as a howl escapes the hag’s lips. (Brawn Success)

As Brittney watches, the woman is surrounded by a billow of smoke that fills the room, obscuring her vision. When it finally subsides, she is alone. Brittney walks back out onto the midway, where people are shaking off their stupor. She finds Tyler and Kevin, staring at each other rather confused. Out from the bushes limps Suzanne, who had escaped to hide when the crowd realized she didn’t have any chocolate.

The four slowly walk to the entrance, ready to leave this night behind. As they walk through the gates, Suzanne turns to Brittney and says, “I’ll never eat chocolate again!” The four begin to laugh. As we fade to black their laughter morphs and becomes the low cackle of an old gypsy woman, plotting her next revenge.

FINIS

Final Thoughts
All in all, I rather enjoyed this story. It turned out to be a little tamer than some, sort of absurd (chocolate zombies?...), but in a weird sort of way, it worked. It felt like the sort of cheesy, family horror film you saw in the nineties. As such I decided not to flat out kill the extras, instead using my “death” rolls to curse them and plunge them into madness, as I felt that fit the mood a little better.

At the start I was unsure of how I’d swing this one. Jill chose the amusement park locale, and then I rolled a SUPERNATURAL, CURSED PLANT. This didn’t make sense until I had her flesh out the park a little bit, and she decided that it had a chocolate theme. From there all that was left was the obligatory old gypsy, and we were off to the races!

This is one of my favorite things about the system, though. I don’t know that I ever would have come up with this scenario/monster combination if not for throwing all the aspects together and being forced to make them fit. It stretches you as a storyteller, and helps ensure that no two games will ever be the same.

This was Jill’s first official RPG, and I’m still a fairly new GM, so things were a little slow in spots. But it really started to come together once we found our give-and-take rhythm, especially at the end. She nearly escaped out the front gates, had to choose between sacrificing her friend and taking damage by the angry hoard, and I was really starting to think I might have to kill her until she started making her rolls again.

She was down to one die in each of three stats at the end, which made her defeat of the gypsy that much more epic and brought the game to a satisfying conclusion which she helped to orchestrate.

(This part was added by David/me!)

We're going to start doing Hangout games, to give people a better idea as to what the game about (and also iron out any kinks) so that we'll be better prepared for the next time we run a Kickstarter campaign. The best way to get in on it is to join the Google+ community or Facebook group.
November 05, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Expedition to Castle Ravenloft: The Vampire, The Witch, and the Werewolves

Cast
  • Felicia (level 2 human thief)
  • Gamamyr (level 2 elf wizard)
  • Kyr (level 2 living star)
  • Locum (level 2 slayer)
  • Mim (level 2 witch w/ familiar)

Summary
Urik extended his arm, and demanded that Kyr relinquish the book they had found in the village's church. Kyr didn't know what Urik was capable of, and wasn't going to take any chances: he charged forward and struck him with Klaus's broken sword.

The force of the blow knocked him to the ground several feet away. Kyr didn't give him time to recover: by the time Urik regained his feet he had closed the distance, and before he could speak or do anything he drove the sword through him.

Urik casually looked down at the sword, then back at Kyr. His face showed no sign of concern as he reached for Kyr's, hands twisted into bestial claws. Kyr released the sword, charged both of his hands with intense heat, and caught both of Urik's arms by the wrists. His flesh began to hiss and blacken, and after a few moments Urik's entire body transformed into mist and swiftly sped away.

Gamamyr was focused intently on the battle, mulling through the spells he had prepared in case he should intervene, when a voice behind him shouted out a warning. He turned around and was shocked to see that the zombies were no longer dangling from the gallows, but shambling towards him.

Worse, they were almost upon him.

Sparing no to time to look for whoever had warned him, Gamamyr put some distance between himself and the zombies; as he began to gather magical energy, a dark, cloaked shape seem to materialize from the mists behind them. There was a bright flash, and one of the zombies was almost sliced in two. It fell to the ground, but didn't seem to notice the stranger as it continued feebly crawling towards Gamamyr.

Zombies were slow even with legs, so Gamamyr chose a target that was still standing. He uttered the words to his only offensive spell, and was surprised when he unleashed a blast of magical eneregy that was so powerful it completely obliterated it's head. He stood there, pleasantly surprised by the results, which made it easy for something else to literally get the drop on him.

Pinned to the ground, Gamamyr could see that it looked like a normal person, except that there was a hole in his chest. So, probably undead, just much stronger and more agile than a zombie. As Gamamyr struggled to free himself, its mouth opened so wide that it tore at the flesh on both sides of its mouth, and he could see that all the teeth inside were fangs.

Properly "motivated", Gamamyr was able to wriggle free before the creature could sink its teeth in, but as he regained his feet and legged it ended up back in the arms of the remaining zombie. Or rather, he would have if the stranger didn't leap off the gallows and cut it in half just before it reached him.

With Urik at least momentarily vanquished and the zombies destroyed, the creature that had attacked Gamamyr loped off into the mist.

The stranger wiped his blade clean and stepped forward to formerly introduce himself to the others: his name was Locum, and he had arrived in Barovia shortly before they did, just in time to get trapped by the outbreak of zombies. After they stopped the zombies he kept an eye of them, judging their actions and intent. While some of their actions were...less than altruistic they at least seemed sincere in their quest to destroy Strahd.

Locum offered to throw in his sword and knowledge of monsters with them. They accepted, and told him that they were heading to a vistani camp to see if there was an easier way to get into Strahd's castle. He agreed that it was a good idea, and the continued on their way.

It didn't take long for them to arrive, and they heard the camp well before they saw it: the sound of singing and music steadily lifted the foreboding, oppressive silence that had surrounded them since they arrived. When it came into view they were surprised with just how much it contrasted the village: Instead of death and rot, the smell of delicious food wafted through the air, and there was a great bonfire lit, surrounded by men and women dressed in colorful garb that danced to cheerful music.

Up until they saw them, that is.

The music and dancing abruptly stopped. Though the people didn't appear hostile, they didn't appear welcoming, either. They stood there, watching the group, waiting for them to say or do something. Kyr approached one of them, hands before him in a gesture of peace, and asked where their leader was. The man pointed to a tent that, while somewhat larger than the rest looked entirely unremarkable.

He thanked the man, and together they walked over to the tent, all the while under the suspicious gaze of the vistani. The entrance of the tent was covered by cloth, but before Kyr could call out a greeting a voice like dry reeds invited them inside, stating that they were expected. They exchanged confused glances before stepping inside.

Scattered about the edges were a small pile of blankets, a pair of barrels and some wooden crates, a desk bearing many small drawers, and a table with a pitcher, some cups, and clay bowls. In the center was a round table with a red cloth draped over it, over which loomed a woman: she was ancient, and dressed like the rest of the vistani in the camp.

Oh, and she also looked to be about nine feet tall.

Gamamyr broke the silence that followed by asking what she was. She narrowed her eyes at him, but before anyone could respond Locum struck the back of his head. This seemed to endear her somewhat; she introduced herself as Madam Eva and stated that they were here because they sought answers. This prompted a series of questions, the most relevant of which were how to get inside the castle, where they could find a weapon that could defeat Strahd, and where they could find his book.

Madam Eva consulted some cards, and they learned that there were no secret ways into the castle, a blade forged of sunlight was lost somewhere in the swamp south of the village, and Strahd's book was somewhere in the bowels of the castle. They thanked her for her help, but before they left she told them that Strahd had bound himself to the land, his book would tell them how to break the chains, and provided them with a cryptic answer as to where he could ultimately be found.

Per her instructions, the party backtracked towards the village, but when they reached the bridge left the road and started following the river south.

They didn't travel far before a fur-covered, clawed arm grabbed Kyr and hurled him from the wagon. He landed some distance away, and when he regained his feet saw that aside from three massive wolves standing before him, he was quite alone. They stood there snarling at him, as if daring him to run. Instead, he flared brightly, and while they were blinded took to the sky.

Locum snatched up the reins to stop the panicked horses from bolting as a bulky, wolf-like humanoid starting climbing into the wagon: a werewolf. Gamamyr pelted it with his magic, knocking it back off, and while it recovered Mim reached over and plucked a few hairs from it. She was still tying it to one of her poppets when the werewolf appeared again and began clawing savagely at her. It managed to carve several deep gouges in her arm before Felicia pulled her to safety, only to find herself hauled out of the wagon by it.

Locum blasted the werewolf with a gout of magical fire, catching both it and the wagon on fire, which in the thick mist provided Kyr with a much needed landing signal. He landed next to the wagon, and seeing the trio of wolves loping towards Felicia stood before her and started swinging his sword in wide arcs. He caught one with the flat of the blade, but the other two managed to stop in time. Kyr watched them intently, waiting for them to make a move, but instead of rushing him they both glanced at each other and began slowly circling around him in opposite directions.

Gamamyr saw that the werewolf had just put itself out, and was starting to creep around the wagon so that it could catch Mim unawares. He raised his hand and began chanting, but something went wrong: there was a low thoom as he was thrown from his horse towards the river. His head hurt and his ears were ringing, but he was otherwise okay...until vines snaked around his limbs and started dragging him towards a large mass of mud and vegetation.

Locum had encountered such a creature before, and knew that Gamamyr was doomed if someone didn't help him. He abandoned the wagon, hoping that the horses wouldn't flee, drawing his crossbow and a bolt as he went. As he loaded a bolt the string snapped, and he cursed under his breath: spears and arrows were ideal, as they were best suited for piercing the fleshy seed that was at it's core. He dropped the crossbow and drew his sword, using it to slice through the vines that had entangled Gamamyr and pull him to safety.

With everyone else sufficiently occupied by more...immediate concerns, the werewolf regarded Mim coldly. It pulled itself onto the wagon and started stalking towards her, teeth bared and growling. Mim pulled out a strange wax doll, fur bound to it with twine, and held it before her. The werewolf hesitated and examined it closely, unsure what to make of it.

Mim pinched one of the arms between two of her fingers and gave it a twist.

The werewolf yowled in pain as it's arm—despite lacking the necessary amount of joints—mimicked the poppets actions. It recoiled in pain and again fell back out of the wagon, where it lay on the ground writhing and whimpering. The fire had been slowly spreading about the wagon; with the werewolf incapacitated and no way to put it out, Mim hopped onto the horses and cut them free. She managed to calm the horse she was riding, but the other race off into the mist.

Locum and Gamamyr returned to see Kyr and Felicia tooth to sword with the trio of wolves. Kyr had wounded one, but was himself wounded and unable to deal with the other two that had ganged up on Felicia; it was all she could do to avoid getting torn apart. As Kyr prepared to dispatch one, Gamamyr finished it off with his magic, and seeing that the party no longer divided the remaining pair of wolves fled.

This just left the plant-monster.

It was slowly shambling towards them, surrounded by long, writhing barbed vines which worked splendidly against Kyr when he tried to get up close and personal with it.

Locum knew that it was vulnerable to fire, they just had to dry it out first. Mim hexed it with a "dry spell", as Locum trying digging around for some salt; unfortunately he had come to Barovia prepared to deal with vampires and therianthropes. This meant it was time for plan B: hitting it until it stopped moving. He circled around the creature, which didn't seem to react to his presence until he stabbed it: vines erupted from its body, knocking him away but leaving his sword stuck.

Before Locum could recover Mim rushed in with her silver mace. She hoped to hammer the sword further in, but only succeeded in breaking the sword off at the hilt; her eyes widened with panic, both because she'd broken Locum's primary weapon, and because there were now vines snaking towards her.

Kyr's arms burst into flames. burning through the vines that bound him and easily allowing him to tear himself free. Still aflame, he plunged into the creatures mouth hand first and incinerated it from the inside out: apparently Mim's curse had worked, or at least worked sufficiently enough.

As its smoldering body was reduced to ashes they found the remains of quite a few people inside, along with a gem-encrusted golden cross and a silver kukri that both appeared to be quite valuable. They took stock of the aftermath: most of them were wounded, Locum's crossbow needed a new string and his sword was broken, they were short one horse, and the wagon was in a barely functional condition.

They decided to return to Barovia for the three R's: rest, repair, and resupply.

Behind the Scenes
This marks our official first Extra Life session (three hours down, twenty-one to go), and I want to thank Bay Chang and Chris Seuss for helping us hit our goal on the first day. On that note, Chris is participating in the game as Locum, using a slayer that someone created (not sure who, but maybe he can chime in and credit whoever whipped it up).

I wanted to make this session into a podcast, but for some reason you can't hear anyone playing via Hangout, just Melissa and myself (not sure why, I have an awesome mic and we could hear everyone just fine). This week I'll see if people are willing to try Hangouts on Air (or whatever it's called).

It's kind of nice that I was able to work in the optional side quests this time around: the last time I ran this with Dungeon World the players just went straight to the castle. I mean, they'll still have to go to the castle to get the book, but at least they're aware that they can make their mission much easier if they go through some extra motions before trying to confront Strahd.

Yes, I own a copy of Three Dragon Ante, which I have only played once. It's not that interesting of a card game, but I suppose it makes for a nice prop. I accidentally read the expanded explanations for the Sunblade and tome, which is partly why they knew that the Sunblade was in the swamp. Oh well, I at least caught my self near the end, so they aren't sure exactly where Strahd can be found.

In the official adventure, the location of Strahd, various items like the Sunsword and Strahd's tome, and how to "awaken" them is randomly determined during a fortune reading with Madam Eva. The book explains how to do this with not only a normal deck of cards, but also tarot cards and the cards from the game Three-Dragon Ante (which is what I used since I actually have one).

In the conversion I've created several tables that you can just roll on if you don't want to deal with cards. I don't provide all the cryptic riddles (not sure if I can "legally" do that), so if you don't own the pdf you'll have to create your own dialogue, or just outright tell the party the locations.

I feel like whenever I run Dungeon World, that the players seem to miss much more often then when I'm playing. Almost everyone raked in enough "miss XP" to account for just over half of 2nd-level, and all but two players made it to 3rd (and the ones that didn't are only one point away). I'm sure I said it elsewhere, maybe even before, but I guess it's good to get these out of the way as early as possible: things won't go so well if they're still on the Miss-train when they confront Strahd.

Adam is still playtesting the living star, which is great because seeing it in action I think that we need to revisit the blinding move. Like, maybe make it a roll and hold that allows you to distract or gain a bonus against an enemy (so you shine brightly instead of just flashing): as it stands he's been able to blind entire groups of enemies with ease.

The creature that attacked Gamamyr is the same thing that Kyr accidentally attacked a few sessions ago. It's a ghoul, but a ghoul more inline with the mythological ghoul, meaning that it can look like whoever it's killed, but also change it's shape into a variety of carrion animals. So, yeah, that'll make it easy to sneak up and spy on the party.

Finally, somewhat related, we released The Vampire a few days ago. It's our fourth undead-themed class, and if you're interested in running Ravenloft, some other undead/grimdark/dread-themed setting (converted 4th Edition Shadowfell, anyone?), or just giving your players a non-"traditional" class option, you should at least check out the preview.

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