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Movie Break!

Movie Break!

Sorry this post is a bit late, I got caught up doing other things and lost track of time! I thought I would have more time during my week off but it just didn’t happen. I’ll definitely get a gaming related post up next week but this week I wanted to reflect a bit on some TV. Very minor spoilers follow for Roadhouse (2024), Damsel (2024), FUBAR (2023), and Running Scared (1986).

My wife and I watched the new Roadhouse and while I appreciate that they didn’t just do a straight remake, honestly they could have called it something else if they weren’t interested in cashing in on the original film’s popularity, it wasn’t perfect. I am a huge Jake Gyllenhaal fan so can overlook a lot but there were two big problems for me. First is the way they swung the camera round during the fights. I’m just not a fan, I want to see the action not fancy camera work. Second, and honestly the big issue for me, is Conor McGregor. I’m was already not a fan and nothing in this movie made me change my mind, he felt like he belonged in a different film. For what it is worth my wife enjoyed the over the top silliness of McGregor’s character but I try not to hold that against her. I think the story was serviceable and with some adjustment to the villains and cut back to 90 minutes this could have been a pretty great film. 

Next up is Damsel with Millie Bobby Brown. Having recently rewatched Dragonslayer it was interesting to see a modern take on the trope of sacrificing virgins to the dragon to save the kingdom. I think Brown does a decent job but the CGI wasn’t great. I enjoyed it for the most part, I didn’t even mind the way it ended and understand why they made the choices they did, but overall I don’t think I’ll revisit it. It does have a novelization though so I might pick that up. In the end Vermithrax Pejorative is still my favorite movie dragon 

FUBAR is an eight episode series with Arnold Schwarzenegger playing a spy and it does a great job of feeding that True Lies nostalgia although Jamie Curtis is missed. Milan Carter does a great job in the Tom Arnold role and I really enjoy Monica Barbaro as Arnold’s daughter. My wife and I have only seen the first two episodes so far but I give it a recommend with the only negative being that Arnold’s age is really showing, he is not nearly as believable as an elderly action star as some of his peers.

The last movie I’ll mention is 1986’s Running Scared, a buddy cop film with Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal. I rewatched it and it still holds up as a fun film. The plot and action scenes are just icing on the cake but we are really here to enjoy the bromance between these two. It is really shame that Hines and Crystal didn’t make more films together. I also enjoyed seeing performances from Joe Pantoliano and Jimmy Smits. If you haven’t seen it and can just shut your mind off to enjoy banter between two friends check it out and if you have seen it give it a rewatch, I don’t think you will be disappointed as it ages pretty well if you don’t mind hanging out with a pair of likable cops while they stomp all over the criminal’s civil rights. 

That’s all for this week, next week back to gaming! Remember the words of the great ones, be excellent to each other!

USR Solo: The Supply Run

USR Solo: The Supply Run

Today I will be using Scott Malthouse’s Unbelievably Simple Roleplaying (USR) (and the automatic weapon rules from USR Cyberpunk) and the oracle I outlined in last week’s blog post to play out a day in the life of Charlton Heston’s character Robert Neville in the 1971 film The Omega Man. 

Robert Neville, Action Scientist

Action d8

Wit d10

Ego d6

Hits 12

Specialisms

Action – Military (+2)

Wit – Science (+2), Urban Survival (+2)

Equipment

Submachine Gun (Medium Weapon +2) In ranged combat Robert can roll a second time at the same or a different target. The second attack roll gets a -2 penalty. Has a flashlight mounted which negates any darkness penalties. 

Pistol (Light Weapon +1)

Knife (Light Weapon +1)

Leathers (Light Armor -1)

Tool bag (Repair/siphon +2)

Robert is out on a supply run. He is running low on Merlot and would like to find a new album or two to listen to. He loads some empty gas cans into his 1971 big block Chevelle and heads out of his compound after breakfast. Does he run into any problems on the way downtown? I’m going to say that it is unlikely. Blue 6, Red 3, White 1 so the answer is yes! Is the problem a trap set by The Family? I will say that is likely. Blue, 6, Red 5, White 1 another yes. Are Family members present? I will say this is unlikely due to it being during the day. Blue 2, Red 3, White 5 so no. Have they undermined a section of bridge? I will say this is likely. Blue 6, Red 6, White 5. The doubles mean I am asking the wrong question. Is the trap in a building instead of targeting the car? I will say even odds on this one. Blue 5, Red 2, White 5. So the answer is no the trap isn’t in a building and it is targeting the car but the doubles on the Blue and White dice mean an event or plot twist. I’m going to roll onthe Events table from Ray Otus’ Oracle. A 6, Reveal something about, or advance a thread. The Family is going to not only attack the car while Neville is in a building but he will also not find what he is looking for until later in the day potentially stranding him in the city at night. 

So Robert will find that he has already looted the good stuff from the stores on the outskirts of town and wastes too much time in the record store. He does manage to find a copy of Miles Davis’ Nefertiti and Sounds of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel. He still needs to find that bottle of wine so he heads deeper downtown and starts checking higher end restaurants. Does he find what he is looking for? I’m going to say it is unlikely. Blue 3, Red 4, White 2. So he does not and while he is in an expensive Italian restaurant that has been previously looted The Family strikes! Is the attempt to disable to Chevelle by taking out the tires? Do they succeed? Blue 4, Red 6, White 6. So we have doubles (remember the White die replaces the Blue since it is higher) so we are asking the wrong question. Does Robert hear them disabling the Chevelle? Blue 6, Red 3, White 3. He does.

The Family has built a ballista and uses it to hurl hunks of concrete or maybe a cast iron stove or heavy bathtub into the poor muscle car disabling it. Robert hears the crash as the metal crinkles on impact and rushes outside just in time to see the second missile hit home! Can he tell where the ballista is located? I’m going to say this is a Hard Wit Non Contested Attribute Test (NCAT) so he needs a 7+ using his d10 Wit. A 10! He not only can tell what building but what window they are firing from. Time to clear out the nest!

Robert runs to the front door, is it locked? I will say it is likely since the building is occupied. Blue 6, Red 2, White 3 so yes. He will pull a short crowbar out of his tool bag and use it to try and pop the door. So this will be Action d8+2 for the crowbar and I will say it is a Medium NCAT so he needs 4+ to succeed. 6+2 is 8 so he is able to get the front door open. Is anyone covering the front door or in the entry way? I’ll say that is unlikely. Blue 6, Red 5, White 4 so yes they are. As the door swings open a member of The Family is waiting with a crossbow and takes a shot at our hero! 

Family Member Action d6, Wit d4, Ego d4 Hits 2 Crossbow (Medium Weapon +2)

This will be a Contested Attribute Test (CAT) and I’m giving the Family Member a one time +2 because they are ambushing Robert. So Robert rolls Action, d8, against the Family Member’s Action d6+4 (+2 for the crossbow and +2 for the ambush) Robert rolls a 6 and the Family Member rolls a 5+4 for a 9! Robert takes the difference in damage 3 -1 for his leathers so a total of 2 dropping his Hits from 12 to 10. Now that the ambush has been resolved we will roll for Initiative. Initiative is Action + Wit.

Robert got a 10 and the Family Member gets a 5 so Robert goes first. He drops the crowbar and unslings his submachine gun. He’ll be able to fire next turn. The Family Member charges and attempts to use the crossbow as a club, we’ll treat it as a Light Weapon. Robert rolls a d8 and the Family Member rolls a d6 +1 for the improvised club. They both get a 6 but the +1 for the Light Weapon means the Family Member does connect, Robert would take 1 point of damage but his Leathers absorb that so we’ll just say it was only a glancing blow. Next round!

Robert wins Initiative again, a 9 to a 5, and fires a burst from his submachine gun at point blank range! This will be Action plus the Medium Weapon d8+2 against the Family Member’s Action of d6. Robert rolls a 1 against the Family Member’s 3 so with a tie we will say he doesn’t hit but he can fire again with a -2 because the submachine gun is automatic and this time we get 4-2 to the Family Member’s 1 so this time our albino assailant takes 1 point of damage. The Family Member is going to try to flee into the building, let’s see if they win Initiative and can get away.

(I like to give ties to the defender although in a solo game maybe they should always go to the hero, thoughts?)

The Family Member rolls 6 and 4 for 10 to match Robert’s 5 and 5! They will go simultaneously. Since the Family Member is running away this will be a NCAT for Robert but I will make it a Medium one as his target is moving. Robert fires another burst and 3+2 is a hit! No need to worry about damage as the Family Member only had 1 Hit left and Neville cuts them down before they reach the stairwell.  

Robert has a decision to make. He wants to go upstairs and kill the bastards that ruined his car but it is also getting late in the day and he needs to either find a way out of the city or find somewhere to hole up before dark. I think this requires a Medium Ego check, that is a 4+ using a d6. A 1! His anger gets the best of him and he turns on the flashlight mounted on the submachine gun as he moves to clear the rest of the building. 

I’m going to roll a d6 to see how many Family Members are left in the building, 2. We need to determine what kind of building this is, I’m going to say it is a

1 bank

2 department store

3 another restaurant

4 apartment building

5 or 6 office building.

I roll a 3 so it is another restaurant. The stairwell our unfortunate ambusher was running toward leads to a nightclub upstairs. Does Robert take time to check the ground floor or does he move straight to the stairwell knowing whomever destroyed his car is probably upstairs? I think it is likely he will go straight for the stairs. Blue 1, Red 3, White 3 so this is a tie meaning I’m asking the wrong question. Do the Family Members upstairs move toward the gunfire downstairs? I’ll say even odds. Blue 5 Red 5 and White 2 so again the wrong question! Is their a mechanical trap waiting for Robert? I’ll say that is likely, Blue 2 Red 2 White 6 so yes there is. Does Robert notice the trap before it goes off? I’ll give him Wit +2 for Urban Survival but say it is a Hard NCAT so he needs 7+. He rolls 2+2 for a 4 so he doesn’t notice the trap! A net falls on him and before he can get out the remaining Family Members come downstairs to subdue him. 

Robert shouldn’t have let his temper get the best of him! Probably best to end this here on a cliff hanger. Until next time be excellent to each other.   

The oracle I am using

The oracle I am using

Life has overwhelmed me at the moment so I don’t have a solo play post today. I have some scheduled time off coming up so I will have one next week. Instead today I will just bring you up to speed on the oracle I have been using to solo play.

I am using a combination of Matt Jackson’s Red, White, & Blue Oracle with a bit of the Recluse Oracle mixed in. Finally I have a dash of Ray Otus’ Oracle as well. This is a work in progress and I am refining it as I go.

I am using one red, one white, and one blue die. If blue is high the answer is yes, if red the answer is no. White is always rolled but only counted if one or the other is more likely, so if yes is more likely I’ll use the higher result of either the blue or the white die. This is all straight from Matt Jackson.  

Doubles on the two dice you are comparing means you are not asking the correct question, some presupposition behind the question is wrong. If both of the dice you are comparing are 3 or lower (on d6) add “but” to the answer and if both are 4 or higher (on d6) add “and” to the answer. This is borrowed from the Recluse Oracle.

Finally we need to determine if events or interrupts happen. Ray Otus’ Oracle has tables for these, I have been playing with making an event table which would advance a story or plot thread and an interrupt table for unexpected things but at the moment I’m just making both up off the top of my head when the rolls come up. What rolls you ask? If you get doubles using the discarded third die and either of the other two dice resolve the question as normal but it also causes an event to happen. This is when thread or plot line advances. Ray has this happen if all three dice are odd numbers and that also works, it just depends on how often you want events to trigger. The other way to adjust how often things happen is to increase the die size, if you go from using six sided dice to eight or ten sided dice you will get doubles or triples less often although I think the chances of getting all odd numbers remains the same.

Speaking of triples I am doing what I call an interrupt if all three dice come up with the same number. The difference between what I am calling an event and an interrupt is that the interrupt is a totally random thing such as the bank across the street being robbed. The interrupt isn’t directly related to any current story thread or plot line.

I like the idea of having a table or chart for events, such as the one Ray Otus has in his oracle, but I also like the ideal of not needing any charts to play. So far in my personal solo games I haven’t had too much trouble deciding how the plot advances but I think the randomness of a chart would remove a bit of control from my hands and that bit of randomness could definitely add to the game.

That is all I have this week. I highly recommend checking out the oracles I reference, all three are free or pay what you want. Until next week be excellent to each other!

Matt Jackson’s Red, White, & Blue Oracle https://youtu.be/qRGEoRFx9iw?si=TM4swnMKaWDZh9XX

Recluse Oracle https://gravenutterance.com/2019/03/24/recluse-solo-engine/

Ray Otus’ Oracle https://plundergrounds.itch.io/oracle

I have a confession to make

I have a confession to make

I really enjoyed doing the more impromptu game with Scott Malthouse’s Unbelievably Simply Roleplaying (USR) for 29 February this year! In fact I enjoyed it enough that I want to do some more here on the blog. I will still work on TSR’s AC3 with Dungeon Crawl Classics but I want to play through the scenario completely and then type it up, right now it is an obligation to get it done each week and I don’t want to be in that spot. I’d rather finish it, write the whole thing up, break it down to a number of smaller weekly posts and then publish them.

So even though this post was going to introduce the first level DCC party to play through AC3 I am going to postpone posting any more of that series until I am finished. I apologize to anyone that was anticipating that series and I will get to it, just not quite yet.

If you listen to the podcast you may be aware Influenza A hit our house hard, the whole family got sick and some still haven’t recovered. Due to that I am quite behind on blog posts so today I don’t have a recap of a game session to post. Kind of crazy that I have been home a number of days in a row but haven’t managed to get a game in but that is how the cookie crumbled.

By the way in the novelization of 1981’s Dragonslayer we are told a sorcerer created dragons and that same sorcerer created the magical stone we see in the movie. The king knew about the stone and also knew dragons like to eat virgins on the equinox. The king came up with the semi-annual sacrifices and the dragon approves of it in the novel although that approval is only communicated by stopping its attacks. The novel does show some of the dragon’s dreams and the story of it growing up as well, it isn’t amazing literature but if you enjoyed the movie and find a cheap copy you may enjoy it.

That is all for this week, I’ll have a session recap, most probably using USR, up next week. Remember to be excellent to each other.

Interlude 2

Interlude 2

Pictured above is a typical day’s haul from my PO Box. A Kickstarter fulfillment and assorted things I spent money on, usually off eBay. I want to concentrate on the novels for today’s post as they are all novelizations of movies, something I discussed in Interlude 1. Let’s cover them one at a time.

Another 48 HRS. I recently rewatched this film for a future episode of the podcast. I remember this being on heavy rotation on cable channels back in the day but didn’t remember the plot having so many holes! I know that a number of scenes where cut from the film. I also know the novelizations are often based on the early scripts so I’m hoping by reading the novel I’ll be able to get a little more insight in what they wanted to achieve with this film.

Dragonslayer is based on the script for the 1981 movie that was highlighted on Movie Monday over on the Keep Off the Borderlands podcast in February 2024. I am hoping to find the answer to the biggest question to come up during that episode, how was the agreement with Vermithrax reached where the dragon agreed to spare the countryside in exchange for sacrificial virgins?

The Black Hole is one of those movies I remember seeing in the theater when it came out, Maximilian scared the crap out of me! I have since rewatched it and still feel it is a pretty great film, even with the trippy ending. I’m very curious to see how the book handles the ending as well as the story in general. It is a novelization by the great Alan Dean Foster so I have pretty high hopes for this one.

Finally we have Batman Returns, this is an example of you win some, you lose some. Tim Burton’s Batman got a full novelization written by Craig Shaw Gardner and was pretty good so I had high hopes this might be the same. Sadly this is more of a young adult version of the story, only 92 pages long. I now need to research to see if a real novelization was ever done for this wonderful film. Interestingly enough the version I did get doesn’t shy away from the Dark Knight killing clowns, take this paragraph for example:

“Batman was about to take off when he glanced into his rearview mirror to see the Fire Breather stagger up behind him. The Fire Breather inhaled deeply — and Batman gunned the engine. Before the Fire Breather could exhale, he was wrapped in the Batmobile’s exhaust flames.”

Well that’s about all for this week. Next we’ll the blog will be back to the solo actual play. Until then, be excellent to each other!

Bonus USR Solo Dungeon Crawl

Bonus USR Solo Dungeon Crawl

2024 is a leap year and in honor of that I’m doing an extra blog post this week. It helps that I am home recovering from the flu so I have some spare time on my hands. I’m going to do a dungeon delve using Scott Malthouse’s wonderful Unbelievably Simple Roleplaying (USR) with John Yorio’s suggestions for Moldvay-Era Classes in USR. This is largely inspired by a combination of John’s blog, Tabletop Diversions, and James Sral’s podcast Sub-Class Act. I highly recommend both the blog and podcast to any perspective solo players as they are gold mines brimming with goodness. USR is quickly becoming my favorite light RPG and I highly recommend it. It is not fancy or flashy but it just flat out works. I’ll be talking more about USR on the blog in the future. I should note that today we are using the original USR rules not the 2.0 and I house rule that Hits are based on Action and Ego not Action and Wits. 

The first thing we will need are some mighty heroes! 

Wulfgar the Fighter Action d10 Wits d6 Ego d8 Hits 13 Smashing things (+2 Action) Melee Weapons Mastery (+2 Action) Dodge (+2 Action)

Great Axe (Heavy Weapon +3) Plate Mail (Heavy Armor -3)

Alfred the Cleric Action d8 Wits d6 Ego d10 Hits 15 Magic (+2 Ego) Turn Undead (+2 Ego) Melee Weapons Mastery (+2 Action)

Mace (Medium Weapon +2) Chainmail (Medium Armor -2)

Merlin the Magic User Action d6 Wits d10 Ego d8 Hits 8 Magic (+2 Wits) Research (+2 Wits) Alchemy (+2 Wits) 

Ceremonial Dagger (light weapon +1) 

Mouse the thief Action d8 Wits d10 Ego d6 Hits 4 Stealth (+2 Action) Pick Locks (+2 Wits) Missile/Ranged Weapon Mastery (+2 Wits)

Pistol Crossbow (Light Weapon +1) Leather Armor (Light Armor -1)

In true B/X style Alfred can’t even cast spells until he levels up! Merlin on the other hand can cast two, he’ll prepare sleep and magic missile. I’m not going to write out all their equipment but they have packs and torches and all the normal things one would need. They also have hired two torchbearers / treasurer haulers

Bob Action d6 Wits d6 Ego d6 Hits 5 Dodge (+2 Action)

Ben Action d6 Wits d6 Ego d6 Hits 12 Dodge (+2 Action)

I think we are ready to go in the dungeon! Let’s do a randomly stocked dungeon using the west tower of the haunted keep in the Moldvay Basic Set as our location. The layout will mirror the east tower but we’ll roll as we go to see what we find in the rooms.

The parties marching order will be Mouse sneaking ahead, Wulfgar leading the main party with Bob behind him then Merlin, Ben and finally Alfred bringing up the rear.  

Mouse slowly moves forward carefully checking as he goes. The front door is unlocked and he gingerly pushes it open, his crossbow at the ready. I rolled that there is a trap in the hallway, a ceiling block trap at that! Let’s see if Mouse detects it in time. He is moving carefully so even though he doesn’t have the specific skill we’ll give him a chance, it will be a Hard Wits Contest, he needs to roll a 7 or higher with his d10 Wits die. 2! He does not detect it and enters the hallway triggering the trap. In B/X he would make a Save vs Turn to Stone, we are going to say he needs to make a Hard Action Contest to avoid the trap, he just misses with a 6 but luckily the block only does 1 point of damage (out of a possible 10!), Mouse must have rolled to the side and only took a glancing blow. As the dust settles he notices a crack in the wall, on further investigation this is a hidden nook someone covered up long ago. Inside Mouse finds 600 Silver Pieces and 10 Gold Pieces! Lets see if Mouse tries to pocket the Gold before telling the rest of the party about the silver, I’ll call this a Medium Ego Contest. With a 3 he fails and pockets the Gold before hollering to the party to come forward and see what he has found. The rest of the party is thrilled that he is alive and at the discovery of the coins! They spread the weight around with everyone carrying 100 coins each. Considering the noise that was made by the block falling and his injury Mouse now falls behind Merlin in the marching order and Alfred moves up alongside of Wulfgar. 

They are in a 5 foot by 15 foot hallway with doors on the east and west walls and the hallway turning north at the eastern end. Wulfgar decides to check the door on the west wall first directing Ben to keep watch to the east. He opens the door but this is nothing but a long abandoned guard room, a table and a few chairs are in the room along with some cobwebs but nothing of interest. They move on to the eastern end of the hall and see the hallway goes 15 feet north and turns again to the east. Our fighter again tries the door in front of him and finds another guard room, unfortunately for the party this one has guards, in the form of eight skeletons! 

Skeleton Action d8 Wits d4 Ego d4 Hits 4, 3, 4, 5, 11, 5, 8, 4

Rusted Sword (light weapon +1) No Meat! (Medium Armor sharp weapons only -2)

Time for some combat! Let’s decide what everyone is going to do and then roll initiative. The skeletons are going to attack, they are in a 10 foot by 15 foot room and Wulfgar in standing in the doorway so he is blocking them at the moment. I’m going to say a maximum of three skeletons can attack him while he is holding the doorway with the rest just waiting for their chance if one of their boney brethren falls. I didn’t need to roll for that because skeletons will always attack and they never retreat so they didn’t have much of a choice in this circumstance. 

The party has a trickier decision, does Wulfgar hold the door bottling the undead in? If so I would say that Merlin could cast his Magic Missile and that Alfred could try to Turn Undead but at a penalty since Wulfgar is between the cleric and the skeletons. Alternatively they could try to shut the door and back up so when the skeletons leave the room, if they can even open the door, the whole party could participate and the Turn Undead would be at full strength. The danger with this second strategy is if the skeletons win initiative they will get three attacks on Wuflgar before he can close the door and he won’t get to attack back. I’m going to say it is unlikely that Wulfgar will want to close the door, let us see what the dice say. Wulfgar will stand in the doorway! So Wulfgar will attack one of the skeletons and dodge the blow of another as his two actions. Alfred will attempt to Turn the Undead from behind Wulfgar, I am going to say this will be a hard Ego contest since the fighter is between them (normally turning skeletons would be a medium contest for a level 1 cleric). Merlin will prepare magic missile but will only cast if it appears Wulfgar is in mortal danger. Finally Mouse and the torchbearers will watch the hallways in case another threat appears. 

The skeletons win initiative! Initiative is Action plus Wits, I used Wulfgar for the party since he was in front and he got an 8 to the skeletons 9. Three of the skeletons are able to move forward and attack our fighter. They have Action d8 + Rusty Sword ( +1 Action) so a d8 +1 and Wulfgar gets to roll his Action d10 to defend. He dodged for one of his actions so he can add +2 to one of the three rolls but he has to declare which one it will be. He will use it to dodge the blow from skeleton number 2. Because of his plate armor even if he is hit Wulfgar subtracts -3 from the damage inflicted, that being the difference in the rolls. 

Skeleton 1 5+1 Wulfgar 8 so the undead creature is unable to land a blow.

Skeleton 2 8+1 Wulfgar 6+2 so the skeleton wins by 1 point which is absorbed by the fighter’s armor.

Skeleton 3 5+1 Wulfgar 8 same result as Skeleton 1.

Now it is the heroes turn. 

Wulfgar has Action d10 + Melee Weapons Mastery (+2 Action) + Great Axe (+3 Action) for a total of d10 + 5 and the skeletons have a defense of Action d8 and their skinless condition means they get armor -2 against the axe.

Wulfgar 6+5 Skeleton 1 6 for a difference of 5 damage -2 for being bones means the Skeleton takes 3 points of damage leaving them with 1 Hit left. 

Alfred steps up behind the fighter, raises his holy symbol and commands the unholy creatures to retreat. He needs a 7 or better on his D10 Ego roll +2 for Turn Undead. A 7+2 is 9! Now the cleric does an Ego contest (+2 for Turn Undead) against each creature to see if they are turned. All eight abominations are repelled and retreat to the other side of the room. 

At this point Wulfgar closes the door. Did the party bring something to spike doors shut with? I think that is likely, yes they did. The party uses iron spikes to trap the skeletons in the room and discusses what to do next.

That is all for today, I am out of time. I hope this wasn’t too confusing to read as I did not go deeply in the mechanics. I would love feedback on this. Would you like to see more? Should I show more mechanics? Less? Something different?

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Until tomorrow’s regular post, be excellent to each other!      

Time for an AAR

Time for an AAR

In the army we had a thing called an After Action Review or AAR. After a block of training or presentation or field exercise we would sit down and discuss what went right and what went wrong. I want to do the same for my recent solo play here on the blog that ended in a TPK (total party kill) last week.

While I enjoyed it I think I was too optimistic in mixing and matching Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC) with a random TSR D&D module. I think it was especially optimistic, foolish even, to use a module recommending the party have clerics as a funnel. The issue with the DCC funnel is that the characters have no special abilities so they can’t cast spells or turn undead. Four ghouls very quickly wiped out a dozen 0 level characters! The fact the ghouls had three attacks a round and forced a save versus paralyzation meant that it was very likely one of the 0 level characters would be dropped each round. The party did manage to kill two ghouls and had wounded the other two so it wasn’t hopeless. I also rolled pretty badly, which is par for the course, so that didn’t help.

You, the reader, may be wondering at some of my tactics, or lack of tactics. I did let the characters gang up on the ghouls, if three or more peasants were attacking I bumped them up one on the die chain from a d20 to a d24 to hit. Sadly thanks to my poor rolling that didn’t help but I am sold on using the die chain as a modifier. Joe Salvador’s Reaver, which will be Kickstarted later this year, uses the die chain and it works great in that game. You can find a free quick start by clicking on the image:

I was talking about DCC combat tactics with my buddy Daniel Norton of the Bandit’s Keep Media Empire, links to all things Bandit’s Keep here: https://banditskeep.wordpress.com/ , and he said that it would be reasonable for a character or monster that is surrounded to be bumped down to a d16 for Initiative. That is a great idea and I wish I had thought of it because it could have made a difference. I also could have tried to have the Shaman use one of the chairs as cover, that is covered in the DCC rule book as a -2 to hit, but in the end I decided not to do it. That was probably a mistake.

The biggest question might be why didn’t I have the characters run away? Well two reasons actually. The first is there wasn’t anywhere to go. The characters didn’t know this but the creatures in the house only get tougher so running deeper in the house wouldn’t have helped. That said it could have been interesting but honestly after a certain number died I was ready to let the TPK happen and start fresh. The reason they didn’t run out of the house is that the soldiers would have killed them as per the opening box text. I toyed with the idea of having them run out and let the soldiers kill the ghouls but there are things in the house the soldiers wouldn’t be able to kill so that wasn’t a sustainable plan and honestly it seemed a little bit like a cheat. Maybe I should have done it anyway but it is too late now.

So what is next?

I previously said that I was going to do Ray Otus’ Gygax 75 Challenge which is ideally suited for a weekly blog. You can find it here: https://plundergrounds.itch.io/gygax75 . I will indeed do that but first I am going to make make a group of first level DCC characters and try this module again, I think they would do much better. After that I plan to do the Gygax 75 Challenge. Once I have finished the Challenge I will either continue on playing through TSR modules with the DCC party or start running through the Dragonlance series of TSR AD&D modules which are famous for being railroads. I think that kind of linear module would be ideal for the style of solo play I am going for on this blog. I will probably use the pregenerated characters in the modules and AD&D for the system if I do the Dragonlance modules.

Until next week remember the words of the great ones, “be excellent to each other!”

Enter the Ghouls

Enter the Ghouls

Time for another installment of my solo game using Dungeon Crawl Classics to run through the adventure included in TSR’s AC3, Dragon Tiles. Spoilers for that adventure below.

This is a long one but I did not want to break the combat over two separate posts.

When we last left our group of peasants attempting to rescue their fair princess, and claim a sizable reward, they had opened the front door and were about to enter the hallway. The Potato Farmer had noticed that something was strange about the far wall. The Tax Collector, who along with the Guild Beggar had taken it upon himself to lead the group had declared that the Potato Farmer would accompany the two of them to investigate the far wall while the rest of the party checked the other rooms. 

I am going to roll randomly to see who is first to the nearest door which is on the left hand wall. Since there are 11 party members left, not counting those already mentioned, I will roll a d4 and a d8 then subtract one from the total to get a result between 1 and 11. Just as a reminder those other party members are the Ditch Digger, the Healer, the Beekeeper, the Ostler, the Herbalist, the Rice Farmer, the Halfling Glovemaker, the Shaman, the Butcher, the Gong Farmer, and the Cheese Maker (who is injured and down to one hit point).

2+7-1=8. That is our Shaman!  Let’s see if they are male or female. Odds, male. He tries the door but it is locked! “Give us some help here!” I will roll two d10 to see who answers the plea, 1 & 4, the Ditch Digger and the Ostler. The Ditch Digger gets there first and along with the Shaman is able to break down the door.

(I didn’t use the Dungeon Crawl Classics resolution system here because the module is clear on this, a combined Strength of 24 or higher is needed to break down the door. The Shaman’s Strength is 12 and the Ditch Digger’s is 14.)

As the door gives way with a loud crack we are presented with more box text!

“Bookshelves cover the entire north wall of this musty library. Many books, their leather covers ripped and rotting, have fallen to the floor. 

A fireplace filled with spider webs and dry kindling stands along the west wall. Two swords draped in cobwebs hang above the mantle. Candelabras stand on each side of the fireplace. None of the candles is burning. 

A sofa and two stuffed chairs face the fireplace, and a large, thick rug lies in front of the sofa. 

A wooden desk stands in the southwest corner of the room. Several bottles and crystal goblets litter the desktop. An inkwell, a feather quill, and a parchment scroll lie between the bottles. A wooden chair stands before the desk.” 

I do not want to leave the Ostler out of the fun so he (I rolled a one, also a male since I’m going odds for male and evens for female) enters the room and is greeted by the sight of a form rising from the sofa. A few seconds later three more rise from the chairs and sofa and all four get to their feet to welcome their guests. The four appear quite hideous, they are beast like and dressed in tattered clothes. Interestingly enough they make no noise whatsoever. The Shaman looking in gasps and then screams, “Ghouls! Help, there are ghouls in here!” (Some may balk at my not making a roll but I think it is fair that a a Shaman living in a high fantasy world would know what a ghoul looks like.)

Time for Initiative!

So I said I was going to run the PCs by DCC rules and the module by BECMI rules, I am going to compromise in this case and roll a d20 for the ghoul’s Initiative. I am only going to roll once for the party and initially only the Ostler, Ditch Digger, and Shaman will be able to act, next round the rest of the party will be able to take action. Since the Ostler is closest I will use his +1 to Initiative. A 16 for the ghouls and a 20 (19+1) for the party, a lucky break!

The Shaman yells another warning as the three PC’s close into battle, “They are said to be able to paralyze their prey, do not let them touch you! Come on, we can overwhelm them!” He rushes forward and swings his mace at one of the ghouls. He needs to roll a 13 and rolled a 9, swing and a miss! Next up is the Ostler who will attack with his staff, sadly due to his low Strength he suffers a -1 penalty to the roll. He also rolled a 9. Not looking good for our heroes! The Ditch Digger is last, with a 14 Strength that is a +1 to the roll. A 13, that is a hit! The Ditch Digger’s shovel is treated like a staff so it does 1-4 (+1 for Strength) and the roll is a 1, so two points of damage to one of the four attacking undead. The module gives Hit Points for all four so I will just roll randomly to see which one it hit. 

Now it is the ghoul’s turn! The Ditch Digger has an AC of 10 which means our BECMI ghouls need a 9 to hit. The Ostler and the Shaman are AC 11 so the ghouls need 10 to hit them. Let’s see how they do, remember BECMI ghouls get three attacks a round, two claws for 1-3 plus a bite for 1-6 not to mention if hit the victim must make a save vs Paralysis! The one struck by the Ditch Digger will attack him. 6, 15, 6 so the second claw hits for 2 points of damage. Sadly the Ditch Digger only had two Hit Points and is killed as the ghoul’s sharp claws tear into the soft flesh of his throat. He falls to the ground and quickly bleeds out unable to even scream.

The second ghoul goes for the Ostler! 6, 12, 10 so one claw and the bite connect. The damage rolls are 2 and 2 for a total of four points which is enough to kill the poor man. The third ghoul attacks the Shaman, 6, 1, 4 all misses! The fourth ghoul will either also attack the Shaman or rush past toward the voices in the hallway, odds the Shaman and evens the hallway. I rolled a 4 so the ghoul moves into the hallway and attacks the closest character, let’s see who the unlucky soul is! It is the Herbalist. Connecting with one claw and the bite the foul creature barrels into Herbalist taking them to the ground and killing them on the spot. 

Time for Initiative again! I will roll twice, once for the Shaman and the three ghouls in the room and once for the rest of the party and the single ghoul in the hallway. The Shaman wins with a natural 20 against the ghoul’s 6 and in the hallway the ghoul wins with a natural 20 against the party’s 10. Since the Shaman gets a +1 to Initiative I will have him go first, then the ghoul in the hallway, then the party and finally the three ghouls in the room. 

The Shaman swings at the wounded ghoul whilst hollering, “In here, to me my friends!” He rolls a 10 which is not good enough to hit. He hopes his comrades come to his aid before the ghouls tear him to shreds. 

The ghoul in the hallway lunges for the Butcher. 4, 18, 6 the claw does three points of damage which is enough to kill the Butcher.  

I am going to have three other characters attack the ghoul in the hallway and the rest will go into the room. The three that attack the ghoul are the Rice Farmer, the Halfling Glovemaker, and the injured Cheese Maker. DCC does not have any dedicated mechanics for flanking or ganging up on opponents that I have found so I will just make use of the die chain and bump them each up to a d24 for this roll. In order their attacks are 17, 7, and 6. The Rice Farmer connects with their pitchfork which acts as a spear doing d8 damage. 8! The Rice Farmer sinks the pitchfork deeply into the creature’s face, the tines coming out the other side, ending it’s miserable existence. “They can be killed, have heart!” 

The Healer, Beekeeper, Tax Collector, Potato Farmer, Gong Farmer, and Guild Beggar rush into the room to see three ghouls starting to surround the Shaman. They break into groups The Healer and Beekeeper going after one, the Tax Collector and Potato Farmer another and finally the Gong Farmer and Guild Beggar after the last. 

The Healer fumbles with a 1 but the Beekeeper hits with a 17! The Beekeeper’s staff does 2 points of damage to the monster as the Healer’s incompetent blow makes them the laughingstock of the party but otherwise causes no damage. (I rolled a 1). 

The Tax Collector and the Potato Farmer are attacking the one by the Shaman so I will bump their die up one to a d24. The revenue man misses, 8, but the Potato Farmer connects, 19, with their pitchfork doing 1 point of damage. 

Finally the Gong Farmer and Guild Beggar both miss the last ghoul, 8 and 2.

The ghoul’s turn!

The first turns and attacks the Healer, 18, 3, 3. The claw that connects does 3 damage which leaves the healer with 1 Hit Point! Let’s see if the Healer makes their save, luckily ghouls are in DCC and require a DC 14 Will Save so no ruling is needed on my part. The Healer rolls an 11 and fails failing to the floor unable to move. 

The second ghoul strikes at the Potato Farmer, 1, 11, 13. Three points of damage total which is enough to kill the valiant Potato Farmer. 

The last ghoul will attack the Gong Farmer (I’m rolling randomly to see who is attacked) and connects with one claw (9, 6, 1). 1 point of damage and the Gong Farmer fails the save falling to the ground.  

Round three! 

I’m just going to roll once for the PCs and once for the ghouls this round. 5 and 18 so the undead will act first! 

The ghoul that just struck the Healer now attacks the Beekeeper, 11, 9, 14 doing a total of 7 points of damage which is plenty to ensure those bees will need a new keeper. 

The next ghoul turns it’s attention back to the Shaman, 3, 5, 15. The bite only does 1 point of damage but sadly that is enough to end the Shaman’s career. 

Our last ghoul attacks the Guild Beggar 16, 15, 15 for 10 total points of damage ending his aspirations of leadership forever. 

As the Rice Farmer, Halfling Glovemaker, and Cheese Maker enter the room they see one ghoul standing over the Healer and Beekeeper, one facing off against the Tax Collector with the Shaman and Potato Farmer at its feet and the last standing over the immobile forms of the Guild Beggar and Gong Farmer. They run in and attack the last one but only the Cheese Maker hits with his cudgel doing 3 points of damage to the fiend. The unfortunate Halfling rolled a 1 to hit and then a 3 on the Fumble table which is turned into a 4 due to his -1 Luck which gives a result of, “Your weapon is damaged: a bowstring breaks, a sword hilt falls off, or a crossbow firing mechanism jams. The weapon can be repaired with 10 minutes of work but is useless for now.” He sees the swords over the mantle, a long sword to a human but the equivalent of a bastard sword for him. 

Speaking of long swords the Tax Collector swings his at the ghoul in front of him but just misses. 

Time for Initiative, this will decide the fate of our heroes. The party gets a 9 which beats the 5 the ghouls rolled, they get to attack again!

The Tax Collector makes another desperate swing and with a 13 hits! He rolls 6 damage and gets a +1 due to his birth sign for a total of 7 damage which is enough to cut the ghoul down! Only two more to go…

The Halfling decides against trying to climb up the fireplace to retrieve a sword and picks up the fallen Gong Farmer’s trowel and attacks alongside the Rice Farmer and Cheese Maker. Sadly they all miss. 

The ghoul goes after the Halfling hitting with one claw for 3 damage which kills the poor Glovemaker. The last ghoul goes for the Tax Collector also hitting with one claw but only doing 1 point of damage, that leaves the Tax Collector with 1 Hit Point but the poor man failed his saving throw and drops to the ground. Now we have two ghouls vs two adventurers. Things are not looking good.

The party loses Initiative and both are cut down. Let us draw the veil over this sad scene so the ghouls can feast in peace.

I’ll be back next week with thoughts on this misadventure and to discuss what is next for the blog. Be excellent to each other! 

Interlude 1

Interlude 1

If you are reading this post life caught up with me and I didn’t get the next post for the current solo game typed up and ready for you. I apologize for that. In the mean time I prepared this post just in case so I can keep giving you weekly content. Hopefully we will be back to the adventure next week!

While I was growing up novelizations of movies were a big deal. These novelizations were often based on the original scripts and often contained details that didn’t make it into the movie. This made them essential reading for movie fans before the days of DVDs, deleted scenes and extended, director’s cuts of films. Funny enough with the big push towards streaming we are again loosing some of the best parts of DVDs and BluRays, deleted scenes and director’s commentaries.

Anyhow I would actively seek out the novelizations of the movies I either enjoyed or even ones I didn’t get to see in the theater. Even as late as 1989 I was buying them, I have one for Tim Burton’s Batman for example. I do think the heyday was the 1980’s, the Jaws movies, the Star Wars trilogy, the Indiana Jones films, The Black Hole, and on and on. You can still find many of these novelizations on the used market for pretty cheap, I would highly recommend trying one out to see what you think. But be warned, it may turn into an addiction!

I will be back next week, until that time be excellent to each other!

PS there is always one that got away, in my case it is the Phantasm novelization. Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm series is one of my favorite horror franchises but sadly the novelization is very rare and expensive on the used market.

What to do when a module has built in rails?

What to do when a module has built in rails?

Time for another installment of my solo game using Dungeon Crawl Classics to run through the adventure included in TSR’s AC3, Dragon Tiles. Spoilers for that adventure below.

As you might remember the Herbalist has secured a grappling hook on the tower and has successfully climbed the tower to a bricked up second story window. 

Here is where I need to make a decision on how faithfully I should follow the module. The description of the tower that the Herbalist includes the following text:

“If characters inspect the windows, they see that cracks run between the mortar around some of the bricks. Characters cannot pull any of the bricks loose, but they can look through the cracks. If they do, they see several of King Limakhan’s archers standing around the iron fence.” 

That is obviously from the inside not the outside but it seems clear that they do not want the PC’s to be able to open the window. I could follow this intent or I could give the Herbalist a chance to use the crowbar to pry a brick loose. If I was running this for a group I definitely would allow that. I think I am going to allow the Herbalist a skill check to do it. The Herbalist has a crowbar and there are cracks he can wedge it in. On the other hand he is not skilled at working from a height and wouldn’t be able to put his weight into it. I think this is probably not possible using the DCC rules. It would probably be a DC 15 skill check using Strength and the Herbalist has a 0 modifier. Even if I give a +2 bonus for the crowbar there is no way the Herbalist could roll high enough on a d10. I think in this case the Herbalist will not be able pry any of the bricks loose and will only be able to report darkness through the cracks in the bricked up window.  

This is frustrating but I feel I would be invoking the “rule of cool” and just disregarding the rules of both the module and DCC if I allowed this particular attempt to have a chance.

(On the other hand if we were using my home brewed skill system the Herbalist would still have a 1 in 6 chance of success)

The Herbalist climbs back down and reports the disappointing news to the Tax Collector. The group moves to rejoin the rest of our merry band.

 Our main party has successfully destroyed two stone gargoyle statues, see last week’s entry, with only two dead and one PC down to 1 hit point. An encouraging start! They now approach the front door. The Guild Beggar orders them to take axes to the door but Potato Farmer says, “Hold on a minute, maybe it is unlocked.” The Guild Beggar snorts, “Who would just leave it unlocked?” At which the Potato Farmer pushes the heavy doors which freely swing into the entryway exposing a hallway. An amused hush falls on the crowd as the Guild Beggar pushes his way next to the Potato Farmer and looks in.

The box text tells us:

“The sound of scurrying rats echoes from the north end of the hall. Cobwebs cover the ceiling and hang down into the hallway, which is musty and damp. 

Rotting black curtains hang along one section of the east wall. A long wooden table stands to the north of the curtains. 

Doors stand in the west and east walls of this hallway’s north end. A bricked-up window rests in the north wall, and a cracked mirror hangs from one of the window’s bricks. 

A jumble of footprints criss-crosses the dusty floor.” 

At this point the second story crew has rejoined them and the Tax Collector moves forward to survey the situation.  

Time for some Intelligence checks! I’m going to make these DC 15 skilled checks. Let’s just do the Potato Farmer and Guild Beggar initially, The Potato Farmer rolls a 19 (+2 for Intelligence) and the Guild Beggar a 13 (+1 for Intelligence) so the Potato Farmer passes easily with a 21 where the Guild Beggar’s 14 just misses. 

Look there,” the Potato Farmer says, “why would you have a bricked up window in the middle of a house? That surely is not the back wall as the house is wider than the distance to that window. Plus I did not see any rats when we walked around outside, they must be inside on the other side of the wall.

 “Indeed.” The Tax Collector says as he strives to take control back. “Here is what we will do. You , Potato Farmer, the Guild Beggar and I will check that northern wall, the rest of you check those other doors.” 

Another round of Intelligence Checks is needed here, these will be unskilled with a DC 10. The previous check was skilled because it was just picking up that the house was deeper than the bricked window made it appear. Since the PCs walked around the house it seemed they shouldn’t need any specialized knowledge to figure that out. This time we are seeing if anyone thinks to investigate the footprints. Only the Potato Farmer makes it!

The Potato Farmer puts his arms up in keeping the Tax Collector and Guild Beggar from walking through the threshold. “Hold on there, what about the footprints?” The Tax Collector in an obviously annoyed voice reply, “I was just getting to that. Let’s see if we can follow these footprints before we check the rooms and that window. Does anyone have any tracking experience?” He turns and looks to the group. “You, Ostler, you see a lot of tracks in the course of your work, do you think you could see what story these footprints tell?

Well sir that is not really what I do but I can give it a try.” I’ll be generous and give this an unskilled DC 10. With a 3 the Ostler comes forward and after looking states that while some do seem to be fresh they do not seem to lead anywhere specific. “Fine, fine.” The Tax Collector states, “We are wasting time, search the hallway as I directed!

And we will pick back up next week. Thank you for reading this and don’t forget to be excellent to each other!