Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Knightly Orders of the Grand Tournament

So here is a little bit of an update on what is currently happening in the Graylands Campaign:

In an encounter with the powerful Fae Lady, Agatha Silkspinner, one of the PCs, a dwarf named Doc, made a bad deal.  He ended up having his soul taken from his body and replaced with one of her minion's.  Mr. Aphenaeus put a stop to the minion's dastardly ritual and sent the party to retrieve Doc's soul.  He sent them through an in-between dimension where there was much danger and adventure.  They made it through this weird realm and found themselves in Faerie.  They heard tell of a tournament that Agatha Silkspinner is hosting for the prize of a mortal soul. They made a deal with the Summer Lady to become here champion in the tournament.  In exchange, the PCs must steal the Silver Rose Key, an artifact of unknown power, and return it to the Summer Lady.

The PCs then went on to the tournament and met an unusual cast of characters.  Here are the factions and main characters at work in the Grand Tournament.

The Leisurely Knights of the Summer Days:  This odd group of Fae is more of a social club than anything else.  They are an order devoted to doing as little as possible and maintaining a disinterested malaise.  This group of morbidly obese knights is represented politically by their lowest ranking and skinniest member, Sylephus Aramb,  Their knight in the tournament is a silent knight that stands perfectly still in its armor bearing its lance and shield all the time.  Though the PCs have already tried their best to make it move, the knight seems immovable and its armor tightly buckled together.

The Lollipop Knights:  We represent the Lollipop Knights, the Lollipop Knights, the Lollipop Knights.  These gnomish lancers have been beaten year after year and they are looking to get a victory this year and have their little beady gnome eyes on our party.  You can't trust a Gnome.  Don't trust the Gnomes.

Mindseer Bilobax, representative of the Eld Overmind:  The Eld is a race made by Chris Kutalik.  Check out his blog: and his latest book, Misty Isles of the Eld:
Mindseer Bilobax is an Eld of my own invention.  The PCs met him in the in-between dimension.  He then fell off a platform and fell on a demon from the Hot Hell which he has now turned into his mount for the tournament.  The Eld are always hated at these events.  The rules of the event are that magical cheating is forbidden while mundane cheating is encouraged.  Technically, this allows the Eld to use their highly advanced biotechnology to become next to unbeatable.  The Eld also don't even need mortal souls.  They already get a lucrative amount of mortal souls in their realm of the Cold Hell.  This has made them completely hated in Fae social circles but, due to ancient blood pacts, they must allow a representative of the Overmind to compete.

The Frozen Blood Fangs:  This knightly order hails from the icy mountains on the border of Faerie, facing the Cold Hell.  They are a brutal bunch of drunken louts and probably the toughest, roughest warriors in all of Faerie.  They have no qualms with "accidentally" injuring opponents during the nightly feasts.  If the Eld can somehow be beaten, these guys are the next biggest threat.

The Harbingers of Rot:  This odd cabal of Fae revel in ugliness and aging while the rest of Fae kind clings to beauty and youth.  Little is really known about these beings other than rumors.  It is said that, upon entering their primordial forest, its corrosive forces begin to age the victim at an accelerated rate.  The knights then circle the prey, keeping it in the forest until its inevitable demise.

The Bogeyman:  The Bogeyman has become increasingly fascinated with mortals over the ages.  He is supposedly benevolent but no one really knows why.  People have guessed that he might be siphoning off fear from the mortals he helps.  Others suspect he has some grand scheme he is working on.  Some think he might just be a nice guy.  He is not in the tournament but he is observing and helping the party.

Agatha Silkspinner:  Mortal souls have become more and more rare amongst the Fae.  It is a grand prize for her tourney.  She intends to amuse herself and increase her social standing and political clout to try and take power from the Court of Summer, particularly the Summer Lady.

The party is set to face the Lollipop Knights in the first round.  We shall see if they are able to prevail.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

News from the Graylands: 2

In today's news, flyers have appeared all over local Phaidecian boards, breeding bulls, and highly promiscuous men.  These flyers read as such,"A grand tournament is being held in the home of most noble Lady of Arachnids, Agatha Silkspinner, for the Hand of a Queen of Beauty and Love!  Some champions from your fair city are scheduled to participate in the festivities.  If you wish to view the proceedings to cheer for your fellow citizens, come down to the edge of the Martyr's Bone Woods to the small, nameless pond that is full of lily pads that are perched on by pale frogs with luminescent violet eyes in the night.  Look down into the water and toss down a purple ribbon to indicate that you would like to remain unharmed and unenchanted of a scarlet cockade to indicate that you would allow harm and enchantment to befall you.  The hands will bring you to us."

In other news, more and more people in fine clothes and masks of varying colors have been seen gathering in back alleys and descending into the sewers.  Servants have noted that their masters have been disappearing in the night only to reappear in the morning.  We asked the supposedly-dead, homeless man who shrieks prophetic warnings in the vicinity of the City Gate and he had this to say, "Maybe they are going to the endless festivals of the living masks.  Maybe they go to the place where the law walks in obsidian armor and emerald flame.  Maybe they go where borrowed flesh walks, fueled by foul lightning.  Maybe they go to where the ancient slimy denizens fo the depths walk alongside tiny men in spiffy suits.  Maybe they go to worship He who Has a Shadow for a Master!  Maybe they go to Him who Counts Seven instead of Ten!  Fear and love him!  Fear and love the Fingercounter!"

The Council for the Criticism of Names found that "Simply naming a village after its favorite past-time spelled backward does not count as a clever name.  Redrum is not a clever name."  When asked to comment, a priest of the Hidden Lord who currently works as an adventurer on the Forbidden Isle Guild named Borscht, raised a finger to his lips and shushed us, loudly whispering, "It's a secret!" He then began to tell us the entire story without omission.  Apparently, he was sitting in the ceremonially blood-stained outhouse behind the Temple of the Hidden Lord when he had a vision of a dark figure sitting before a mirror with a tome open in front of  him and the words were reflected in the warped mirror.  He saw dark wool and a plague doctor mask sitting amongst the ruins of a clocktower in flames.  He walked outside to see a townsperson horribly murdering another, remembered the reflected words of the tome and came up with the idea.  He told us this in such minute detail and taking so much time to rail at us about Dark Gods that it took several mind-numbing hours to finish his story.  By this point, one of our reporters had sadly committed suicide.

To the family of Verex Ithik, we offer our condolences.  His death compensation check will arrive at your door within a day.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Horrible House of the Mad Doctor Area 1

Mad Science has always been a fascinating aesthetic to me.  The tesla coils, the stitched-together monstrosities, the white lab coats have always intrigued me.  I think it is a way of dealing with the very real fear of being made something other than myself.  The idea that a person could surgically alter you to become a monster in appearance while your untouched mind screams against the utter defilement and horror of what is totally sacred, is terrifying to me.  Throw that is with symbols of childhood and you have a soup of deep-seeded nightmare fuel.

And so we come to this cartoon:

What does this little gem give us?  It gives us a cherished childhood character being threatened with surgical hybridization.  It gives us Mickey Mouse battling against elusive and mocking symbols of mortality.  It gives us a dang good dungeon.

The whole set up is perfect for a dungeon, especially as a diversion from the main story.  Now you might be thinking, "Ok we just make it in color and take out all the cartoony elements and we have an interesting and spooky dungeon crawl."  If you are thinking this, you would be completely missing the point.

The point is that this is really quite scary and fascinating as it is.  If you have a serious campaign this would be completely out of place and maybe that would be good every once in a while.  Players get bored of seriousness.  If you have found a party that doesn't bore within thirty minutes of completely serious play, you have found a miracle and I beg you to let me GM for your group sometime.

We leave it in black and white.  We leave it as a cartoon.  We change the PCs.  If you have ever played a Kingdom Hearts game, you know how cool it can be for Sora to get a new costume for the Nightmare Before Christmas setting or get shrunk down for an Alice in Wonderland stage.  There is something about changing not just the environment but being changed by it that makes one feel that they have truly been brought to another world.

First, we give the players a door.  A simple door but strange.  It would be black and white and cartoonish but the PCs ought to have no context for this so describe it in terms of it looking artificial or inflated.  This door leads them to a dark tunnel that leads up and out of a coffin into a world of shades of gray.  They arrive into a graveyard that is going to take the place of the nondescript forest from the beginning of the cartoon.  A storm is raging.  White lightning flashes in a pitch black sky as the dead trees bend wildly and unrealistically in the gale.  The PCs will notice that they have become black and white caricatures of themselves.

It is at this point you are going to have to find something that the PCs value, preferably something living.  I took a sheep from the party, the Sheep for which this blog is titled.  More on that later.

The Mad Scientist in his black cloak grabs the helpless pet or companion and runs into the front door of his castle.  The adventure begins.

Since we are transforming the PCs into black and white cartoons of themselves, we need a mechanic to represent the new cartoon abilities of the PCs:

Spoopy Deed of Toons: If the PC describes their actions as though they were a character in a Mickey Mouse or a Looney Toons show, roll a d6 and add it to your d20 rolls.  On a 4+ the PC is automatically successful in their endeavor and may gain an additional akin to the Mighty Deed of Arms mechanic in DCC but cartoon themed.  On a 1 this action cartoonishly fails to hilarious effect.

We are also going to throw out Initiative.  If there is some question of who needs to go first, just go around the table.  This is to just give the freedom we want to have to parallel the free-flowing nature of cartoons.

Feel free to use the pictures here to show your players, in fact, I'd encourage it.

Area 1: Outside the Castle

Area 1A: Graveyard
You exit the darkness to enter into a world drained of color.  Everything is in shades of gray including you. The sky is covered in menacing gray clouds and white lightning flashes through it.  Dead trees bend wildly and unnaturally in the gale.  Everything is just a little too rounded, too exaggerated. Looking at yourselves, you can see that your eyes and hands have inflated and that you have become bizarre caricatures of yourselves.  You have just emerged from and open coffin and now stand in a graveyard.  A plank bridge stretches from a cliff over foaming black and white water to a tall castle on top of a mountain in the shape of a skull.

It is at this point that the black cloaked arm of the Mad Doctor should emerge from behind a gravestone and catch the friendly animal companion.  He will run over the bridge just like in the short with Pluto and let himself in the front door by pulling on the lever.  PCs shouldn't be able to see how he gets in the door from where they stand and this sets up the trap we have in area 1C.  The PCs ought to give chase but the Mad Doctor should be able to get back inside his tower before the PCs are able to react.

Area 1B: The Bridge
The Bridge requires little description.  It is just a white plank bridge without any guard ropes.  The bridge will start to fall behind the first person to step on it.  This will happen very quietly so the PC/s will have to make a DC:12 Reflex Save or fall into the water below into Area 1D.

Area 1C: The Door

It is far easier to just show this picture to the players than to describe it in words.  Using the lever will just open the door to 2A which we will discuss in another post.  Using the knocker will drag the PC inside and throw them against a column inside taking 1 damage and then they must make a Reflex Saving Throw DC: 11 or take 1d6 damage and be decapitated by the knives that the impact knocks loose.  This will not mean the death of the character, rather, in the style of cartoons they will be perfectly alive just their head will be separate from their body until they can be magically healed or until they leave this dimension carrying their head.

Area 1D: The Moat:
After falling in the water a PC can see that a rickety old dock attached to a wooden stair that goes up back to the top of the cliff or they can swim to the base of the mountain where there is an arched cobblestone entrance to a stair leading to Area 4A.

That will be all for now.  I will be posting the whole adventure in pieces but probably not all in a row.  So keep an eye on this blog for the rest!  Leave a comment if you have a better description for the PCs' first arrival in the world.  I had a hard time doing it justice and I am still not happy with it.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

News from the Graylands: 1

The Phaidecian Court of Coins has proven unshakable in the face of Human (But Only Human) Rights Activists' claims that the number of disappearances of the poor in the Dust district has shot up.  The Gold Courtiers responded by waving their appendages in a dismissive manner while the Silver Courtiers continued to snore loudly.  The single Copper Courtier sighed, hanging his head and wept silently.

Noise complaints have been issued from the people of Redrum village over the ongoing ritual happening at the site of where the bizarre monastery used to be.  These complaints were delivered in the usual Redrumian way, with a dagger pinning the note to the door .  The village priest awoke the next day to find a veritable museum of knives, daggers, and even a harpoon stuck into his door, all pinning the request, "Make it stop!"  The noise in question comes from the cabal of black hooded mages hired by the Halfling Mafia.  Their horrible, nightmare inducing undulations have proceeded for three weeks straight now without any signs of stopping.  More on this later.

Skeletal horses have been seen walking across the mist of the Saint's Blood Lake.  Farmer Jared reports having seen the horses galloping upon the waters when one stopped and looked at him with baleful scarlet eyes before walking over and eating from the apple the farmer held in his hand.  Despite the fact that the apple bits came raining down from its fleshless jaws, Farmer Jared believes he has made a friend.  This is quite a good thing because Jared is such a bothersome and boring person that nobody ever thought he would have a friend.  Observers have reported seeing him walk with the undead steed, discussing, the particulars of apple orchard tending.  What a boring man.

Goodnight and, as the elves say, "I hope Putin does not kill you."

Welcome to the Graylands!

In the noble tradition of Game Masters blogging about their ongoing campaigns, I would like to introduce you to the Greylands.  It ought to be understood that this is in no way a completely original world.  I have shamelessly taken things from other GMs and this world developed around the design of Dungeon Crawl Classics, the modules I had bought off Drive Thru RPG, the insanity of my players, and my own madness.  My big inspirations have been the Hill Cantons, the Dresden Files, Dr. Strange and Mr. Norrel, Lovecraft, and the usual sources of Conan and Tolkien.

On the far eastern continent of a pre-historic Earth, there are three dominant cultures.  There is the pseudo-Christian Lawful culture which oversees the civilized lands on the eastern half of the continent, the paganistic Chaotic culture which oversees the western half, and the cultures of Neutrality which is by far the least populated, hiding away in cities and secluded places, mainly right in the middle of the continent.  This middle area, between the light of civilization and the darkness of anarchy, is called the Greylands.  This is where our adventure takes place.  It is a diverse ecosystem with many different biomes from plains to forests to jungles.  It has a diverse population.  All the major races can be found here: elves, dwarves, humans, and a surprising amount of halflings.

A few notable locations have become central locales for the ongoing campaign:

The Village of Redrum: This quaint, quiet village amongst the fog covered hills of the Chaotic side of the Greylands is just a perfect place to vacation for the Lawful family looking for some release from city life, that is if you don't mind the incredibly psychotic villagers, the human sacrifice at the temple of the Hidden Lord, and terrible beer.  It really is just terrible.

Some interesting facets of this town include the local chapter of the Halfling Mafia, the nearby Cave of Secrets where any question can be answered, and a giant hole in the ground where an old monastery use to be before it got up and walked away.

The inhabitants will constantly tell obvious lies, daring you to call them out on it.  The inhabitants will also quite frequently become fed up with their day to day lives of farming and blood sacrifice to go adventuring, facing horrible death or gaining an incredible reward.  Those that survive an adventure foreseeably do not stick around in town for long and move to Phaidecia.

The Lawful City of Phaidecia: Only about a day's journey from Redrum, lies Phaidecia.  The people walk around in Victorian attire beneath the gaze of faceless stone gargoyles with the single arrow symbol of Law in place of facial features.  The city is divided into four districts: Dust, Copper, Silver, and Gold.  For a person who is a resident of the Dust district or an outsider, it costs a copper piece to get into the Copper district, a silver for the Silver District, and so on.

The religion of Phaidecia is the Grand Ticking Church of Timekeeping Decachrontatus who turns the Grinding Gears of Reality.  The symbol of this deity is a clockface with Roman numerals and ten hands.  The Ten Wands preside over their religion from the Clocktower Cathedral, each ancient member holding one of the titular Ten Wands which Decachronatus crafted from the white bones of the Storm Leviathan, mother of the Chaos Titan and a lesser known unnamed deformed god.  The Wands are the official rulers of the city.  The Court of Coins makes laws, deals with funds, and even runs the town guard, but the Wands can veto any law the Courts make and lead the city in the event of a war.  The Wands are all very sleepy and hopelessly lost in their theological rigidity.  They will often veto a motion out of sheer grumpiness or the remote possibility of doctrinal dispute.

Notable locations include:

Ten of Wands Inn: This is a tavern in the Dust district which served the majority of the adventuring community before the Forbidden Isle Guild started up and started taking all their business to their tavern on the island.

Clocktower Cathedral:  An incredible feat of architecture, this massive church has constantly moving parts that acolytes must learn to navigate with their eyes closed or else face being crushed between massive gears.  Liturgy is spoken at each of the ten marks of the day, the priests becoming like parts of the massive clock.

The (Not so) Forbidden Isle:  This formerly giant spider infested island on the Saint's Blood Lake was declared forbidden by  priests after they made contact with the horrible monstrosities that dwelled there.  It was said that a wizard made a deal with a Fae, predictably ending up in something horrible happening.  Some adventurers found their way there at the behest of Jacob Aphenaeus and miraculously drove out the arachnid threat, taking the island as their new base of operations.

Notable people include:

Thenifus Amaxis:  This crazy town prophet madly declares the message of the "Fingercounter."  No one really knows who this odd hobo is talking about.  He was formerly a merchant working in the Silver district and a friend of Mr. Apohenaeus before he went on a journey outside the city.  Upon his return, he was quite mad, yelling his new gospel to anyone who would listen.  He left with the party of adventurers to the Forbidden Isle and it was rumored that he died there, but there is some question of that because travelers coming through the main gate still claim to have been accosted by someone yelling, "Fear and love him!  Fear and love the Fingercounter!"

Mr. Aphenaeus: Jacob Aphenaeus is a local sorcerer and businessman.  He is the patron of the Forbidden Isle Guild.  Rumors surrounding his odd political views and business dealings abound.  Some say he is an anarchist.  Some say he is a heretic.  Everyone knows and fears Mr. Aphenaeus and he seems to like it that way.

Stacy Thantrilus: Mr. Aphenaeus' former house servant turned Guild Manager.  She is rumored to have been trained by traveling blade monks or that she is possessed by a terribly strong demon.  Most people notice, in the least, that Mr. Aphenaeus keeps no bodyguards but can sometimes be seen with her is public and no one questions who the bodyguard really is.

I will be posting more information about the setting and characters of this campaign as we go.  If you are an ACU student interested in playing some Dungeons and Dragons comment on this post and we will see if we can get you involved.  The Guild is open to all adventurers.

I will also be posting News from the Greylands in the style of the Hill Cantons.  If you are already a player in my game, take notice.  These News sections will be possible quests you can embark upon.