Archive for the Uncategorized Category


Posted in Uncategorized on June 23, 2013 by Jeff Russell

Howdy folks,

Since I realized Google+ was making up a large part of my online gaming discussion, and I got tired of the weird authentication to comment on blogs with my WordPress account, I’ve ported the blog over to Blogger.  I’m still getting used to it, some stuff I like, some stuff I don’t, but I’m looking forward to the integration with the discussion/promotion on Google+.  So, to continue following along, please go here:

Requiescat In Pace Mr. Harryhausen

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on May 8, 2013 by Jeff Russell

I didn’t grow up with Harryhausen the way a lot of the folks into this Old School stuff did, but I certainly love and appreciate his work.  And that’s why I think that the idea to make Friday an OSR blogfest in honor of the late, great Ray Harryhausen is a fantastic one.  So spread the word and tune in.

The Long Recap

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on April 11, 2013 by Jeff Russell

ImageGrasping, Avaricious PCs – the best kind

So, long time no recap.  As mentioned in my little apology for non-blogging/calling myself to action post, I’m going to completely change up my style for recaps.  The whole ‘pulp adventure narrator’ tone was dumb, and I was dumb, but now I’m better, and I’m going to actually talk about player decisions and my decisions and how the session went down and so forth.  Feedback on my refereeing style are quite welcome (even if they’re “wow, that sounds super boring, you suck”. If so, you’re a dick, but it might be useful input). 

For the too long, didn’t read crowd, feel free to scroll down to the rules at the bottom of the post in bold italic (a method for determining what players have heard body parts of a slain foe might be good for).

At any rate, looking back, yikes, a lot has happened.  The last recap was for sessions 13 and 14, and last night we played session 27.  So, yeah.  Shortly after where we left of there, Blum the wizard wandered into a seemingly empty room full of scrolls and got himself killed by a poisonous giant centipede.  Considering Blum’s sleep spells had been astoundingly useful, and that he had been rather deadly with his quarterstaff (“The Widowmaker”), he was greatly missed.  Add to this that Blum’s player is the one with the most difficult schedule, and therefore the most often absent, his character took on a sort of “mascot” role for the party, and as the first PC death (astonishing, I know!) the party decided he deserved a proper memorial. More on the memorial later.

So, for reasons that remain obscure to me even now, after returning to town to properly bury the body on their shared property, they decide that the best revenge would be to go take out the seemingly unending force of trollkin they fought and ran away from (I think the rationale *might* have been: they made us flee where we were exploring, the new place we went because they were scary killed Blum, therefore it’s their fault).  After another sizeable battle against prepared foes, a big scary chief showed up with his big scary bodyguard *from behind them*, and feeling trapped (they were pretty trapped), they decided to try to call out the chief mano a mano.  Turns out, that’s actually a sacred and respected ritual to this tribe of trollkin (the “blood rite”) and the party had killed enough trollkin to make it a credible offer (trollkin are kinda weird that way).

After some haggling over how it’ll work, it ends up with Yllgrad (dwarf fighter) and Dag (former bandit sergeant now henchman of Bryni – and one of the most effective characters, not just because he started out level 2, but because he *always* rolls well) square off against the Trollkin chief (he had a name, but he’s dead now, so whatever) and his biggest, baddest champion.  Oh, with no armor.  With knives.  Yllgrad’s player tries to get clever by spreading some centipede venom on the blade, and I rule it’ll have a weakened effect due to being old (it’s already the weakest kind of centipede, so the poison had no effect on the fight).

By ganging up on one guy at a time, and narrowly escaping death (I think 1 hit point left for Dag, the toughest character in the party at that point), they defeat the chief and his champion and, surprise, are now chiefs of the sword clan! So, what do they do with their newly acquired evil humanoid tribe?  Well, besides take half their loot, they put them to work cutting down one of the massive statues of an evil sorceror dotting this level, cut away walls of the dungeon so that the huge thing can be maneuvered out (thankfully they were only on level 2), and then transfer it to human workmen on the surface to take into town to be the giant monument to their fallen mage.  So now the party has a 20 or 30 foot tall statue of an evil demon-worshipping sorceror in their yard, with the name of their dead friend carved in the base buried under it. So that’s cool.

At any rate, the party also discovered a treasure map in the room that killed Blum, and it marked the location of a mine up in the Trellheim mountains.  They organized an expedition, got ambushed by giants, hid for a while, then snuck past them and found the mine.  It was haunted by the ghosts of the miners killed in the cave in.  Only by invoking Volsungr, the god of forge and craftsmanship (and mining, apparently) could they lay the ghosts to rest.  Oh, and the dwarf’s player came up with the death blessing of followers of Volsungr all by himself, and it was pretty cool (Volsungr, find my path).  This also narrowly avoided one of the clerics of other gods from invoking the wrong god in the mine and the ghosts turning all scary, so that was good for them.  Turns out it’s a mine of Volsungril, this world’s equivalent of adamantium/mithril/whatever, and they found a small nugget of the stuff (worth a crazy huge amount of money) apparently as a gift from laid-to-rest ghosts.  Of course now the game is about trying to secure the mine of infinite wealth and magical weapons and nothing else, but I figure that will have enough complications to be alright.

So, they returned the big city (Mickleheim) to hire a bunch of fighty hirelings, because Silverdelf is pretty much tapped out (too many killed and maimed), and decide to launch a huge expedition into the mountains to clear out the giants.  But first they figure they’ll get their tribe of trollkin and take them along too (not realizing that this is potentially problematic in all kinds of ways).

Well, while down there, they get the idea to get an even bigger hoard of trollkin to help them kill the giants, and so they attempt the same blood rite trick with the neighboring rival spear clan.  Turns out that the spear clan does their blood rite a little differently, and the rolls go a little better for the chief than for Yllgrad, and right when it looks like he’s going to lose, the players come up with the plan of interrupting the fight with a thrown spear made to look like it came from the watching spear clan reps.  Well, chaos ensues, the players slaughter all of the spear clan guys, and manage to convince the remaining sword clan guys that the spear clan started the trouble.

When they get back, though, they level with Odo, the sword clan shaman, about what happened, and they say they want to have a big party to get everybody fired up to go start a war with the spear clan.  Odo’s a devout (demon worshipping) shaman, though, and the blood rite is sacred, so instead of a party, he summons a demon to attack the party, the party kills him right as he completes it, and he curses them with his dying breath.  The party fights the demon, and it’s disappointingly easy for them to kill.  And the clan scatters in terror.

Poking around the now abandoned sword clan lair, they find Odo’s assistant and end up keeping him as a prisoner, and then decide to go down a set of ornate stairs and find themselves in what appears to be a temple and/or tomb of the old sorcerors, who they find out were called “the Urog”.

While exploring the temple to this Iron God of the Urog, Yllgrad is struck by a terrible vision of a trollkin going crazy and murdering and dismembering and eating his whole tribe before running deeper into the catacombs.  So the players know this place is creepy.  They find a warning inscription with instructions about going into the sacred catacombs, and two of the three entrances are flanked by basins full of nasty water and teeth.

Well, sure enough, they don’t follow the instructions, and are struck by horrible hallucinations after a few rounds of exploring and pushing a giant block around.  After they flee from the hallucinations, they decide maybe now’s not the time to explore the super creepiness, especially if the offering required by that room of skeletal hands is that they cut off somebody’s left hand, so they head back to town.

Back in town, they once again decide to return to the mountains to clear out the giants so that they can have a safe passage to the mine.  Did I mention they hired 20 soldiers in addition to their usual retinue of hirelings?  I decided that if they were going to treat them like red shirts, so was I, so these guys are especially prone to dying horrible deaths, like when holding a trip line in front of the entrance to the giant’s cave and being sent flying off when the giant runs into it.

One distinguished himself by volunteering to be “bait” for a counter ambush on the giants, and he narrowly came out alive after getting clipped in the head by a mule flung by the giant.  This crazy old coot looks like King Bumi, is named Helm, and is apparently wiry, jaded, and willing to do incredibly stupid things for reasonably small amounts of money.  A perfect hireling, he’ll probably stick around even if the other surviving members of the 20 don’t.

So, they clear out this cave of giants, including the women and adolescents, make surprisingly short work of high HD, high damage opponents because apparently 20 to hit rolls + standard cross bow damage = dead giants.  So far everybody and everything has had D6’s for hit dice, but I’m *strongly* considering upgrading monsters to D8’s, since a standard weapon in a standard fighting man’s hands does d8 damage (using Akratic Wizardry’s weapon damage chart).

There’s some debate about what to do with the surviving giants, but in the end, the party decides to keep one adult female, and one adolescent male alive to try to sell off to House Dagaeca back in Mickleheim (they’ve mentioned their desire to buy exotic beasts before. We’ll see whether giants qualify as “beasts” or not, assuming they get them back safely).  They’ve also heard conflicting rumors considering the medicinal and magical properties of giant testicles, hands, and tongues, but decide that cutting off those parts is a little too icky for rumors they don’t even know to be true.

Then a posse of 3 trolls rolls up, and ask for a parley.  Turns out the trolls are glad to see the giants gone, and offer safe passage along the path in exchange for being given the surviving giants.  Yllgrad’s player ends up flubbing the negotiation by demanding too much and insulting the trolls (and this is *minutes* after introducing the “Good at” and “Bad At” skill system found here, and him picking “Bad at detecting lies, haggling, and negotiations”, so that was perfect).  When the troll gets all insulted, Yllgrad attacks him, and a general melee ensues.  The leader, who was negotiating, goes down, one of the other trolls grabs him and runs while the other holds off the PCs and their horde of hirelings (down to 13 out of original 20 at this point).  After downing that troll and chasing the others for a bit, they see a smoke signal going up, and they know that a troll village is nearby, so they decide to high tail it out of there.  Despite this being the first time the group has met trolls, and despite trolls being somewhat mysterious to people, Yllgrad’s player knows the score and scorches up the body, but they decide to keep it to see if troll parts will sell for anything. 

Whew, and that brings us up to speed. Here’s some rules to make this long read through a little more worthwhile:

The characters have killed something and want to know if any of its parts are worth anything.  Ask the players which of their characters have heard anything about valuable body parts from this creature.  For every player that says his character has, roll a D10 and consult the following chart:

“I heard that ________ is a cure for/ingredient in/component of. . .”

  1. Eyeballs
  2. Gallbladder
  3. Hands
  4. Heart
  5. Intestines
  6. Appendix
  7. Testicles
  8. Penis
  9. Tongue
  10. Feet

Pick something that seems to go with it, or something totally out there (or use a random potion/spell chart of some kind).  Tell the players that’s what they’ve heard. If multiple dice come up for the same body part, feel free to make up different uses they’ve heard for it, or to say they’ve all heard the same rumor.  That’s what the players know.  It’s up to you to decide if the rumors are true, but you might assign a straight 50/50 chance or 10% per die that came up the same body part, or whatever else.  But don’t tell the players that until they’ve tried to unload the parts or make something out of them.



Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on April 11, 2013 by Jeff Russell


So, again with the absence of blogging thing.  You know, apologies, et cetera.  Reading through awesome OSR/DIY D&D blogs has made me realize something important, though: my “fictionalized” accounts of each session were ass.  Though in my heart of hearts I may have dreams of writing fiction, this here gaming blog is not the place for it.  More than my questionable literary style, in recounting a bunch of in-fiction actions, I’m leaving out the best stuff.  What’s fun and interesting about D&D (and especially what is fun and interesting about reading about other people playing D&D) is the interactions at the table, the problem solving, the jokes, et cetera.  “The fiction” as a coherent thing only really matters to the participants, I think, other than as the context for and product of the interesting stuff.

The other big thing I realized is that I’ve been holding off on using this blog for hammering out some of the more nitty gritty stuff for Fellhold for fear of my players seeing it and spoiling the surprise.  I’ve decided that this isn’t useful or super necessary.  Any game content that might spoil stuff for the players will just get a big fat SPOILERS warning of some kind at the top, and that will be that.  If my players read it, they’re adults, they can still have a good time anyhow. Especially since most of what I’ll be hashing out here will be systems and tables rather than plot points or secrets or what have you.

Finally, after reading this post by Mr. Rients, and this post by Zak S., I’ve decided that my campaign needs to be more awesome.  I’ll admit it, I’ve succumbed to the artsy fartsy urges that Mr. Rients talks about and limited my setting (no elves or halflings, for instance).  I need to continually remind myself that whatever cool aesthetic vision I may have for the world and adventures in it, primarily it is the setting for a game, the players’ characters are the focus of that game, and what makes this more fun than writing up a tedious fantasy novel is the surprises I get from interacting with other human beings.  So, I’m going to relax my iron self-imposed “genre restraints” in the face of things that are totally flippin’ sweet.

Oh, I lied. Finally finally, I’m going to strive for more posts with more gaming content (monster interpretations, stats, whatever). 

Fellhold Session 4 Recap

Posted in Uncategorized on October 4, 2012 by Jeff Russell

Our adventurers were joined for the first time by their magic using companion, Blum. Acting on intelligence gleaned from Dag, a former bandit turned hireling, the party concocted a plan to counter ambush the bandits by disguising themselves as traveling monks of Dwyn, borrowing a cart from the Silverdelf distiller and covering the back with a tent in order to conceal a number of hirelings and Yllgrad the dwarven fighting man. After being surrounded by seven bandits, including the leader, they attacked. Early in the fight, Earn, son of Earn, one of the party’s clerics was incapacitated, as were the party’s other cleric Caleb and one of the fighting men, Bryni. They were quickly attended to by hirelings so that they would not bleed to death. Blum’s attempt to charm the bandit leader fizzled, but he used his staff to deadly effect, smashing multiple bandit skulls. One hireling was killed by a deadly effective spear thrust, but soon after, the bandits, having taken more than half their number in casualties, broke and fled, but our bloodthirsty protagonists pursued them and cut them down, though the bandit leader proved a tenacious foe, he was dispatched by the combined efforts of Dag (now controlled by Bryni’s player), Yllgrad, Varian the fighting man, and two of his hirelings (controlled by Earn and Caleb’s players).

Searching the bodies of the bandits furnished the party with a small amount of loot, and though in need of some repair after rough treatment, 7 sets of chain mail and some spears and crossbows, with which they intend to better equip their retinues. They returned to town to heal and rest and prepare to retrieve the whiskey stolen by the bandits for a reward of 500 gold marks. Altogether, it was one of their more successful expeditions thus far and marked the first very small step into the world outside of Silverdelf and Fellhold.

A Brief Sci-Fi Aside

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 21, 2012 by Jeff Russell

So, I read through Grognardia’s review of Warhammer 40,000, Rogue Trader, and it made me realize something. My design meant to take Necromunda in a slightly more role-play-ey direction was in fact taking 40k back to its roots in Rogue Trader. Now, I think that I can make some more interesting and balanced game design decisions, but overall, Rogue Trader was originally created to address the design space I was shooting for: small skirmish groups based on flavor, with an Arbitrator making it easier to have complex scenarios. I’m going to give the rogue trader rules a gander and see what’s different from the 2nd Edition 40k and Skirmish rules I grew up with versus how I want to design my version of the rules.

Prep is Fun!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 6, 2012 by Jeff Russell

So, we had to put off our first game session until next week due to a number of scheduling difficulties, but that’s probably good, as I will be far more prepared this way. I’m having a grand old time swiping stuff from modules and supplements new and old, gleefully combing OD&D, S&W, AD&D 1E, LL, and whatever else comes in handy, while checking facts about ecology online. I haven’t designed a dungeon in about 15 years, and back then I was completely focused on providing *just* the right challenge that players would have a tough time of it, but would win, and they were all “lair” type dungeons, very much of the “something bad is outside of our village, please go deal with it!’ school of thought. This is my first megadungeon, and I’m finding the process of thinking out what the different levels are, and what their relationship to each other is to be fascinating and intoxicating. Let’s hope it stays that way.

A Wild Campaign Appears!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on August 29, 2012 by Jeff Russell

Last night saw the character generation session for my new old school campaign, Fellhold. Fellhold is a dungeon built into the living rock of Ashfell made up of ancient dwarven ruins, later additions by a foul cabal of sorcerors and their minions, and who knows what else that has burrowed its way in. The general feel is Germanic swords and sorcery (think if Robert E. Howard wrote Beowulf. Or, you know, the Frost Giant’s Daughter works too). For visuals, think Paul Bonner’s stuff for Riotminds. 

The Game is using Swords and Wizardry White Box as it’s core rules, though with some house rules. I originally planned to use the original three Little Brown Books (LBB’s) of the actual white box edition of D&D, but even just going through character creation I discovered the advantages of S&W’s streamlined and reorganized layouts. I will still be using the LBB’s and the supplements for further material (there’s a lot more about creating and stocking dungeons in “The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures” for example). 

We’re playing the game over Google+ using hangouts, and soon to use Tabletop Forge program, which is already pretty cool, but looks like it will be really great as it gets developed after its successful Kickstarter campaign. 

We’re starting with a large group, six players and myself, and that brings us 4 fighting men, one of whom is a dwarf, a magic user, and a cleric. Dwarves are the only demi-humans in my campaign, and the number of evil humanoids will be extremely curtailed as well. We’re sticking with the original three classes for now, but without a level cap on dwarves (they can still only be fighting men, however). Experience will be awarded for treasure spent and for killing monsters. 

The most notable house rule so far is an adoption of Akratic Wizardry’s Class Based Weapon Damage rather than either straight d6’s across the board or Supplement I (and later D&D’s) weapon based damage. This strikes me as a nice compromise that allows some differentiation between weapons, maintains fighting men’s dominance in combat, but allows for some variety (such as allowing priests of Germanic gods the use of spears). 

Hopefully regularly updates regarding this game will be a good spur to keeping up to date with this blog like I haven’t for the last long while.  I’ll be posting summaries of sessions, notable house rules, and possibly some flavor stuff as it emerges through play. 

The Old School is So Cool

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on July 4, 2012 by Jeff Russell

So, I’ve been reading Grognardia over the last few days, specifically the posts related to the “Dwimmermount” Campaign, and it has hit me like a ridiculously specific polearm to the forehead. I had brushed up against the “Old School Revolution” before, and found some things to like there conceptually, but this series of posts is what really hammered home the ethos and the virtues thereof to me. 

James Maliszewski’s aim was to perform the gaming equivalent of historical re-enactment. He wanted to start with the D&D rules as originally released into the wild, and as much as possible, only add house rules and setting details as they became important in play (with some initial things to go off of, of course), much as the game went about its business between the publication of the original D&D box with the publication of Advanced D&D.

The things that especially amazed me were a) his focus on play as the the whole damn point, b) faith in abiding by the rules, however harsh, and the emergent drama that would result, and c) detailing things as they come up in play, and not before. Taken together, these things created an extremely compelling vision of play that I would love to try to emulate.

Don’t worry, Book of Threes is still in the works, this is just something else that excited me. 

I Tought I Taw a Puddy Tat

Posted in Uncategorized on June 29, 2010 by Jeff Russell

Yes, a tweety bird joke because I have grown week and gotten a twitter account. I mostly got it to play Echo Bazaar, a browser based game set in a surreal and fantastic Victorian London, for which Mr. Vincent Baker and Mr. John Harper are working on an Apocalypse World Hack, the snippets of which were tantalizing. At any rate, I’ll probably also use it to post quick thoughts and updates regarding the site and game design and such. Probably picking up in traffic after I get back to America and have a cell phone again.