Welcome Back to the Labyrinth

"We have been away far too long, my friends," Ashoka declared, his face lit by the eldritch green glow of his staff. "But we have finally returned to the labyrinth whence our adventures first began."

"Just imagine the treasures that lie within," said Yun Tai, flexing his mighty muscles. "Wealth enough to live in luxury the rest of our days."

"And arcane artifacts of great power," added Ashoka his words dripping with avarice. "All ours for the taking!"

"Umm...guys?" Nysa interrupted. "Do you hear something dripping?"

Monday, October 29, 2012

Delving Deeper

I had the opportunity, this past weekend, to peruse the Delving Deeper rule books, which can be downloaded for free from RPGNow (Adventurer's Handbook, Referee's Guide, Monster & Treasure Reference).  I was very impressed with what the authors, Cameron Dubeers and Simon J. Bull, have created.  This is the most faithful reproduction of the original D&D rules that we have seen yet and it is very well-written and organized.  Indeed, Delving Deeper is what D&D might have looked like if it had been written by J. Eric Holmes.  What sets Delving Deeper apart from other retro clones is the clarity of its writing, and its effective organization and layout.  Everything from the original three rule books, and more, is included and explained very clearly and simply, and the comprehensive table of contents makes it easy to quickly find the information you need.

Volume 1: The Adventurer's Handbook is what one would expect, providing character classes, equipment and spells in a compact thirty-seven pages.  The core classes: Fighter, Cleric, and Magic User are detailed, along with rules for Elves, Dwarves, and Halflings.  The Thief is also presented as an optional class.

Following the character classes are some very useful guidelines for NPCs including Hirelings, Retainers, and Mercenaries, Loyalty and Morale, Monster NPCs and Relatives, including provisions allowing characters to bequeath their possessions to their next of kin so that in the all-too-likely event that they die, they can pass on their goods to their next character.

The equipment section is short and to the point, and includes useful guidelines for the weekly cost of a character's upkeep.

Following the spell descriptions are rules for spell research and enchanting magic items.

The Referee's Guide contains all the information that a game master needs to run a campaign in just twenty-nine pages, and is especially useful for first-time game masters; I found myself wishing I'd had this book when I was starting out.  Following a short introduction to creating a campaign setting, there is an extensive section on dungeon creation, which includes an obligatory dungeon cross-section, and stocking tables for populating a dungeon on the fly, random dungeon encounter tables, trap tables, and a sample dungeon level.

Following the all-important guidelines for dungeon creation, are rules for underworld exploration and combat and, just like in the original little brown books, there are sections detailing wilderness exploration, seafaring exploration, and aerial exploration.  These include random tables for detailing wilderness hexes, encounter tables for each environment, rules for overland, oceanic, and aerial movement as well as rules for evasion and pursuit.  Taken as a whole these rules give you everything you need to run a hex-crawl campaign.  The book ends with rules for constructing strongholds - something every player will want to do at some point.

The Referee's Guide is the real gem of Delving Deeper.  The rules contained within set it apart from all other retro clones and as the name suggests, gives the game master the tools he needs to run his first campaign.

In volume three, Delving Deeper has, again, taken its cue from the original source material and presented the monster statistics in tabulated form, followed by a chapter of monster descriptions that are free of game mechanics.  This is how I like a monster book to be laid out.  I dislike the Monster Manual-style of stat block followed by description for each monster entry, and much prefer descriptions to be separate from mechanics.  The tables of monster statistics are easy to use in game, giving the game master all the monster information he needs at his finger tips without having to page through the whole book to look something up.

The monsters are followed by treasure tables and in similar fashion to the original rules, much space is devoted to magical swords, the sole province of the Fighter.

Though I've followed the development of Delving Deeper, I hadn't planned to buy it, content as I was and am, with Swords & Wizardry Whitebox.  After reading the PDF's, however, I've changed my mind - I was pleasantly surprised by the high fidelity with which Delving Deeper emulates the original rules.  I'm planning to soon begin a D&D campaign for my daughter who is now old enough to be introduced to the joys of role playing, and for several weeks I've been trying to decide which rule system to use.  Now that I've seen Delving Deeper, my search is over; it is nearly the ideal game for introducing young children to the hobby, lacking only interior illustrations to capture a child's imagination.  Consequently, these free PDFs have sold me on the game and I will soon be ordering a boxed set of my own.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Crime and Punishment in Catapesh

If you are running a city-based campaign, as I am, and the player characters habitually wake up naked in jail, you will inevitably find yourself in need of some way of dispensing justice to your merry band of scoff-laws.  It seems almost to be a universal rule that players + cities = trouble; there are just so many opportunities for mischief and it is the nature of players to exploit these to the fullest extent.

The following crime and punishment table is inspired by the one in Judge's Guild's City State of the Invincible Overlord, but has been customized to reflect life in the City States of Lemuria.

The outcome of a trial is determined by a d20 roll on Table 1.  This roll is modified according to the severity of the crime, the magistrate's temperament, bribes, and the character's Charisma score (described on the modifiers tables, below).  Once the outcome is determined, roll on the appropriate punishment table to determine the specific details.

(If subject is charged with multiple crimes, use the modifier for the most serious offense, then adjust it by -1 for each additional charge)

Severity of Crime                                                                        Outcome Modifier
Dueling, Public Nuisance, Drunkenness                                                +2
Bribery                                                                                                   +1
Public Debauchery, Trespassing, Property Damage                              +0  
Theft, Arson, Resisting Arrest, Extortion, Blackmail                                -1
Assault, Rape, Kidnapping, Tomb-Robbing, Piracy                                -2
Murder, Necromancy, Treason, Trafficking with Demons                       -3
Tax Evasion, Smuggling                                                                         -4

Roll      Magistrate's Temperament                                          Outcome Modifier
1          'Hanging Judge'                                                                        -4
2          'Tough on Crime' Crusader                                                      -3
3          Hung Over                                                                                -2
4          Irritable                                                                                      -1
5          Scrupulously Impartial                                                                0
6          Cheerful                                                                                    +1
7          Sympathetic                                                                              +2
8          'Bleeding Heart' Reformer                                                         +3

Bribes                   Charged with Bribery                                   Outcome Modifier
100 gp or more                15%                                                               +1
250 gp or more                10%                                                               +2
500 gp or more                 05%                                                              +3

Charisma                                                                                   Outcome Modifier
Below Average                                                                                        -1
Average                                                                                                   0
Above Average                                                                                       +1

Table 1: OUTCOME OF TRIAL       

Die Roll         Outcome
1 or less         Execution
2                    Dismemberment
3-4                Imprisonment
5                    Flogging
6                    Enslavement
7                    Indenture (roll on Jail table for duration)
8-9                Jail
10-11            Fine
12                  Probation
13-17            Dismissal
18-20            Favourable Judgement


Execution                 Dismemberment       
1. Beheading             1. Hand                      
2. Hanging                 2. Foot                    
3. Impalement            3. Tongue                  
4. Sacrifice                 4. Eye                        

Imprisonment            Flogging (1d4 dmg per ten lashes)
1. Six Months            1. Ten Lashes
2. One Year              2. Twenty Lashes
3. Three Years          3. Fifty Lashes
4. Five Years             4. One-hundred Lashes
5. Ten Years             5. One-hundred and fifty Lashes
6. Twenty Years        6. Two-hundred Lashes

Enslavement to            Indenture to
1. City Work Gang      1. City Work Gang
2. Galley Oarsman      2. Farm Work Gang
3. Mines                      3. Mines
4. Gladiatorial Pit        4. Plaintiff
5. Brothel
6. Plaintiff
7. Overlord
8. Atlanteans

Jail Term                       Fine Amount
1. Ten Days                  1. 10 gp
2. Thirty Days               2. 100 gp
3. Sixty Days                 3. 500 gp
4. Ninety Days              4. 1,000 gp
5. Six Months                5. 5,000 gp
6. One Year                  6. All Possessions

Roll on Jail table for period of probation.  Guilty party may not bear arms or armour, and must report to the gaolers once per week.

Favourable Judgement
The accused is acquitted and receives financial compensation from the plaintiff.  Roll on the Fine table to determine the amount of the award.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Session 14:

After a long summer hiatus we have resumed play where we left off:  with the party enriched by an enormous trove of treasure recovered during their last foray into the catacombs beneath the necropolis.  The subsequent night of celebratory debauchery ended with Ebbin naked in jail, and no idea how he got there.

The following morning Ebbin was hauled before a magistrate, hung-over and clad in a mildewed potato sack, charged with public drunkenness.  The city watch testified that they found him passed out in a public fountain, but the magistrate was in a cheery mood and dismissed the case.

Concerned for the whereabouts of his armour, magic weapons and, most especially, his Gauntlets of Aten, Ebbin and his compatriots returned to the tavern where they had been drinking the night before, and the barkeep recalled that Ebbin left in the company of a dancing-girl named Sulma, who worked at a bawdy-house called Gilded Lilly's.

They found Sulma on stage at Gilded Lilly's, dancing for a small afternoon audience clad in naught but the tabard of a templar of Aten.  Ebbin leaped onto the stage demanding the return of his gear and attempting to take back his tabard, but was grabbed and hauled bodily off the stage by a burly, looming Khurgani barbarian in the employ of the house.  Sensing, correctly, that Ebbin was seconds away from picking a fight with the bouncer, Xuphor defused the situation by speaking to the proprietress, Lilly, who promised to speak to Sulma at the end of her set.

Sulma admitted to taking Ebbin's things after he passed out in the fountain, but only to 'keep them safe.'  Unfortunately, on the way home she was accosted by a notorious loan shark named Haroun, and his thugs, who took all of it in payment for the 100 gp debt she owed him.

Their conversation was overheard by one of the patrons lurking in the nearby shadows, a guild-thief named Roary, who just so happened to owe money to Haroun, himself.  Seizing the opportunity to eliminate his creditor and turn a profit in one stroke, Roary introduced himself and offered, for a small fee, to help the party ambush Haroun during his collection rounds.  He led them through the maze-like tenements of the poor quarter, known by the locals as Hope's End, to a narrow alley-way where he was sure that Haroun was soon to pass.  Sure enough, before long Haroun and his two body-guards did, indeed, enter the alley.  The two guards fell in the ambush, but the cunning Haroun got past Xuphor and escaped into the labyrinthine streets of Hope's End.

Roary was sure that Haroun would retreat to the safety of his offices to gather reinforcements and urged the party to head directly there.  Roary knew that Haroun had recognized him and feared that he would appeal to the master of the thieve's guild, in which case Roary would be in a great deal of trouble - the kind that ends with you floating face-down in the harbour.  Thus, he was desperate to find and kill Haroun before he could squeal to the guild.

They arrived at Haroun's offices and found a couple of his henchmen waiting for them, but no Haroun, only an open trap-door in floor Haroun's warehouse, that led to the sewers.  After dispatching the henchmen, the party descended into the sewers, but were promptly ambushed by a crocodile hiding beneath the surface of the water.  When the croc was dead they noticed that it was tethered by a length of chain - the beast was obviously a guardian for Haroun's planned escape route.  Xuphor, who stayed above to inspect the warehouse, found all of Ebbin's equipment lying in a pile awaiting liquidation.  Giving up any hope of catching Haroun before he reached the Guild Master, the party decided to lay low for a awhile and head back down to the catacombs.  It is telling commentary of one's lifestyle when an undead-packed dungeon is the safe alternative to remaining in the city.

Once in the catacombs, the party continued their exploration, but spent most of the rest of the session battering down bricked up doorways and attracting the attention of prowling Mongrel Men and Sapphire Skeletons.  Just as they were about to call an end to their exploration and return to Catapesh to rest, the party discovered a narrow, crumbling passage-way and Roary decided to investigate it.  When he disturbed the rubble he was swarmed by giant centipedes; he succumbed to their poisonous bites and died a horrible death, though perhaps not as horrible as the fate the the Thieves Guild had in store for him, so perhaps it was a blessing.

The remainder of the party returned to Catapesh and, as they were being sought by a vengeful Thieve's Guild, took the obvious course of action: a night of drinking and whoring at the nearest tavern!  Ebbin sought ought Sulma for a quick tumble, then carried on with an evening of bacchanalian revelry that found him, in the morning....naked and in jail.