[OSR Actual Play] Greysands Campaign - call for IRC players



  • edited April 2014
    I'm in the channel, but it seems to be quiet.

    Edit: nevermind there are people there, it was just my internet connection acting up.
  • edited April 2014
    My attendance has been beyond poor the last two weekends. Life abounds. Who knew?

    Did Sunday's congregation feel out a mid-week playdate? I need to run again - I been out of the collaborative, conversational process of ruling agreements for too long and I'm worried the... lingua franca (?) has developed without me.
  • Didn't agree upon any new dates, no. I wouldn't be surprised if players were available on some weekday as well.
  • I could do Thursday evening. From 6pm GMT. I think Eero is busy then, though. That might work well with Mike wanting to GM?
  • Bam! Sounds good. If there's an interest I might start on a boat some distance out of Carrion attempting to outrun pirates/storm/thirst and get to the safety of port. Sure, it's the kind of on-the-nose kicker that maybe'll be frowned upon but I've yet to visit Carrion as a player - really don't have the info to pick up on Eero's turf.
  • edited April 2014
    I'm almost certainly in on Thursday, and my vote is for the Seafort!

    Edit: I won't make it for 6pm GMT. I probably won't be home until 10-11pm GMT.
  • Damnit Paul, and I was just about to say how excited I was at The Return to The Seafort (cover art in the style of Georges Remi). 11 is the time I'd want to stop!
  • Carrion's not really my turf in any meaningful sense. As far as I'm concerned, feel free to do whatever with it. It is even possible to consider an alternate Carrion, used when you're GMing and not me. Would make sense with the amount of definition that the place has gained over a few sessions of urban adventuring - not to speak of my specific sources, which aren't the same specific sources (and specific interpretation of those sources) that somebody else would bring to it.

    (To be specific, here's how I would prefer handling overlapping GM territories in a campaign like this, concerning shared fictional properties: the other GM reinterprets freely, the players accept that it's an alternate take on the same topic, and the GMs share notes however much they'd wish, so as to reflect events in the alternate locations to whatever degree they find amusing. So if PCs burn down the "Temple of the Spider God" in Mike's Carrion, perhaps in my Carrion it's the Old Temple that's been burned down - stuff like that. Similarly, if I ended up GMing the Seafort for some reason, I'd just throw down my own interpretation on the matter, and Mike could reincorporate whatever events to whatever degree he wanted into his version.)

    (Also, I would totally love to see an alternate take on the "city of pulp fantasy adventure" that Carrion represents. I'm sure that your Carrion would be amusingly different in detail.)

    As for starting in the middle of scenarios, I don't have theoretical criticism of the practice, if that is considered more satisfactory. (I generally don't - as you've seen, I find the vortex of scenario negotiation leading to the flashpoint a central part of the game.) I would advice hearing the GM's scenario setup first and then choosing the characters for it, as it would be illegitimate to put an appreciated character in extreme danger without direct player input. As long as the player can go in with a new character with no investment in staying alive, it doesn't matter how desperate the GM's scenario might be.

    I might or might not come in around 10pm GMT on Thursday night, as has occurred before. I hope that I won't, as that'd mean that my writing is going well.
  • edited April 2014

    (Also, I would totally love to see an alternate take on the "city of pulp fantasy adventure" that Carrion represents. I'm sure that your Carrion would be amusingly different in detail.)
    If it helps I've never read any Grey Mouser but I do have a lot of Discworld, Dickens and WFRP floating about up here.

    As for starting in the middle of scenarios, I don't have theoretical criticism of the practice, if that is considered more satisfactory. (I generally don't - as you've seen, I find the vortex of scenario negotiation leading to the flashpoint a central part of the game.) I would advice hearing the GM's scenario setup first and then choosing the characters for it, as it would be illegitimate to put an appreciated character in extreme danger without direct player input. As long as the player can go in with a new character with no investment in staying alive, it doesn't matter how desperate the GM's scenario might be.
    This is what I thought you'd say. :) The plan would be for me to lay out the scenario in open terms:
    "You are the crew of this ship. You are three days from Carrion, the nearest known port, but the threatening (1d6)
    1.pirate galleon
    2.storm front
    3.ubiquitous leakage
    4.pick two from the above
    5.all three
    6.all three and there is a 50% chance for each PC to start locked in the brig for serious yet unspecified crimes
    will come to bear at dawn tomorrow if no action is taken. Undertake perilous seahex or die. New characters only."

    The real gem in this scenario is if it's completed there's now a ship in port with an exhausted crew of international irregulars. Opportunities for old cast members to hit the sea and opportunities to bring some new, gonzo high fantasy "Warriors from the Distant East" or refugee Arabian wizard-princes into the setting without merely "finding" them wandering in the woods.

  • That's not a bad scenario at all. I appreciate the fact that the players don't quite know how serious the situation is when prepping (because you only roll the difficulties after character choice and equipping), and I also very much like the strategic point you make: it's a way to establish an amenable ship in the strategic milieu, so there are internal campaign stakes to it.

    Three points I'd fine-tune:

    1) You should make the players roll for positions on the crew (or otherwise determine them), too, and randomize the NPC crew dispositions. This way you might get to play the captain, or not, and you might have to deal with a mutiny (from either side of the fence), or not. This has huge significance for the final disposition of that ship if it survives to port, whether it'll end under PC ownership free and clear, in some sort of crew-ownership, or under a NPC owner-captain, or possessed by the PCs in contradiction to law (making them pirates), or whatever.

    2) The ship should start (the disaster should strike) like 3d6 days away from safe terrain, rather than just three days. Makes it more challenging, an opportunity to e.g. perish for lack of potable water or whatever.

    3) A 1,000 xp quest reward for the party if the ship makes it, and 10,000 if the party ends up in possession of the ship at the end of the travail. One could dress this up in monetary terms (a 1,000 gp reward for saving the ship from the merchant whose ship it is, whatever) of course, but that's ultimately irrelevant to me - the point is to be clear about the goals of the scenario.

    Generally speaking, though, a fine One Page Dungeon subject matter.
  • edited April 2014
    Sounds awesome. Midweek is bad for me but i'll be jealous. The big-city-multiple-DMs thing sounds probably great too.

    Easy way to give xp for capturing the ship is just to treat it as treasure, at list value from your fave book or a proportion of that (half?) to represent it as used goods. Ships of various kinds are usually 5000–30000 coins. You could easily make a judgement that a captured ship with uncertain title (ie: pirate status) is worth less because it's harder to sell, too.
  • edited April 2014
    One page? Pssh. Cigarette Packet.

    Let's wrap this up then!

    You are the crew of this ship. You are 3(+2d6) days from Carrion, the nearest known port, but the threatening (1d6)
    1.pirate galleon
    2.storm front
    3.ubiquitous leakage
    4.pick two from the above
    5.all three
    6.all three and there is a 50% chance for each PC to start locked in the brig for serious yet unspecified crimes
    will come to bear in (1d4) days if no action is taken.

    Undertake perilous seahex or die. New characters only.

    Your new character rank on board ship is (1d10)
    1.the lowest rank, either (roll high) a cabin boy or (roll low) indentured labour.
    2.part of the crew! an able seaman
    3.part of the crew! a carpenter
    4.part of the crew! a cook
    5.bosun's mate - a petty officer raised from the ranks, so to speak
    6.a clerk - someone's gotta keep the records, the keys and the purse-strings.
    7.midshipman. A junior officer. Literally, roll 10+1d6 for your age.
    8.lieutenant. Command watches, lead press gangs, impose your captain's will.
    9.captain. You command the day-and-night running of the ship.
    10.master. You are the legal owner of the ship. You employ a captain to maintain and run her for a large fee. Three things: She is in peril. The crew's pay in is arrears. You are aboard. Negotiate likely (heavy and valuable) cargo with DM.

    There are 10+2d10 crew aboard. There are 2d6 officers. Roll likely dispositions normally.
    A 1,000 xp quest reward for the party if the ship makes it, and 10,000 if the party ends up in possession of the ship upon reaching safe port. Additional XP may be gained from the sale of any cargo (10% of GP value is taxed in Carrion).

  • I'm up for that. Anyone want to join me in dangerous sea-questing on Thursday?
  • edited April 2014
    I'll run either the Seafort or the Sea-quest on Thursday from 7pm (GMT).

    The Sea-quest has a certain charm because, seeing as all I know so far about it is what you can read above, Eero or anyone coming late could hop into the DM chair and pick up if post-midnight playing is your jam.

    I was thinking of throwing up general Greysands tables on this thread as they come to me - or maybe I should take that off to a blog to prevent thpoilerth and bloat? Any interest in A Greysands Chart Almanac blog?
  • To the extent that this is an experiment to learn and propagate Eero-style hygienic play, posting stuff like that might be educational. We can all critique the tables and make them better. There might be some amount of valuable surprise lost, but I think in general it's better for the players to have a grasp on what might happen anyway. Yeah?
  • Also, it's looking like I might be available for Thursday play even during your Euro time slots. So yay!
  • Sounds excellent! Of course, you shouldn't wait on me -- I'll show up if I can, but more likely you'll have to play without me. :(
  • pehraps: put the tables up on a wiki and then you can both add bits to them. let them grow gradually specific and baroque and fiddly and that will counteract most possible spoilery affects.
  • Sounds good, Adam. Never made a wiki - any advice?

    That said, there's nothing sadder than coming across an abandoned wiki for a now-defunct online game. But I'd imagine having a public place to deposit game resources (other than Google drive) would probably make spectating a little easier for regular forum-goers. Like, someone just curious about how we're mapping - etc.

    An elegant solution to the Multi-DM Paradox is for DMs to jot down little tables (or just single Encounter entries) for different things they introduce in a certain region. Then, when the next Playgroup comes along, they can simply open up the previous group's tables for, say, Carrion and effectively have all the same colour without the original Master being present. Write-as-you-go-Module Making, so to speak.

    Is anyone else seriously contemplating being a DM for us? Gimme a whisper or something and we can go through some options: I'd like it so that whoever is online of an evening, some kind of small playing-card scenario can be dug out and enjoyed.

  • I'm playing a game on Google Docs and G+ in which we collaboratively build a map and a few documents about locations on the map with pictures, written descriptions and encounter tables. The game directs us what to do on our turn, but one of the options is to add an encounter table for a random map tile or, if that tile already has an encounter table to alter it.

    The talk above about a wiki and multiple contributors made me think that a "game" on the side where people collaboratively build and over-build all these random tables and simultaneously a more trad RPG campaign that uses those tables would be a kind of cool symbiosis.
  • Mike:

    1 slaves
    2 spices
    3 drugs
    4 breeding pair of giant sheep
    5 everlasting ice (sculpture)
    6 whale ambra
    7 clay tablets with book-keeping of the overseas branch of the merchant house
    8 sleeping clay golem
    9 visiting sultan, with harem and royal guards
    10 bales of wool
    11 grains
    12 wizard weaponry scavenged from the pole
    13 drugged giant
    14 silk
    15 exotic hardwoods
    16 tobacco
    17 dyes
    18 dreams, hopes and fears, bottled up and ready for sale
    19 carpets
    20 polar ice liquor
    21 a diplotatic delegation
    22 walrus ivory
    23 exotic insect cysts
    24 machinery to put the locals out of work
    25 coffins full of dirt
    26 clay tablets containing secrets of ancient craftsmen
    27 animated furnishings
    28 a dentist
    29 fireworks
    30 cement
    31 fairy seeds
    32 crystal children
    33 a frozen illithid
    34 a chained wizard-king
    35 frozen aliens
    36 impossibly fast, metal hulled coastal cutter
    37 refugees
    38 wine
    39 plague
    40 oil
    41 pirate saboteur
    42 white sand
    43 life-like statuary
    44 ingots of glass
    45 giant stone fist
    46 wizard spam
    47 flying carpets
    48 piles of weapons
    49 exotic lamellar armor of unknown make
    50 improved crop cultivar
    51 tulips
    52 chained iron door
    53 wind mill
    54 great casks of fermented vegetables
    55 tiny white coffin of a child wiht full royal guard
    56 ant farms -- a new noble treat from
    57 rum
    58 opium
    59 midgets in cages
    60 kidnapped nobles
    61 A church organ
  • edited April 2014
    ^ that is awesome.

    Also, I doubt I will be able to play tomorrow since the game's about noon my time, but I am so jealous of the perilous sea-hexing that is about to ensue.
  • edited April 2014
    Kurisu, that is what happens when you ask IRC to suggest items for a Cargo table. Thick and fast responses - lovely. Might try set aside some time on IRC post/pre game to make the playgroup populate various lists; the flow of information is so fast that it's pretty easy to see what's a natural thought and what's a deliberate joke - we narrowly avoided having Vonnegut's Ice-9* in the hold.

    (*Speaking of which, where's my Wes Anderson adaption of Cat's Cradle starring Jason Schwartzman and Peter Dinklage?)
  • We are getting ready to sea hexcrawl now. Come join in, even if you are completely new and haven't played with us before! http://irc.lc/ircnet/habavaara/irctc@@@
    If people wish to undertake some character generation, I'll be on shortly.
  • We joined the action at The Silent Dusk, a three-masted sail ship, when it was 7 days from Carrion, the nearest known port. A threatening storm front was two days away. Laden with our cargo of drugs, whale ambergris and a visiting wizard sultan (with harem and royal guards) we set sail to find a safe course to land.

    The master of the ship was Lefory Acquaid (ChristopherWeeks) who was bumbling and very rich. Next was our good captain, who was either an NPC cleric called Aved, or Eero playing a TALKING WHALE. Salty Ben (MartinEden) was a lieutenant and we had two PC clerks: Benbet Pegason (DWeird) who had escaped the law in Carrion and Ameqran Shaw (Jonas) (a new player - whoo!).

    We sailed NE past a mysterious light-house way out in the middle of the ocean, but decided not to risk investigating. Then, on the second day, crew morale was poor in the face of the storm, so Benbet attempted to cheer the crew by telling them the Story of 1,000 Needless Sailor deaths (a poor Cha roll there). So we broke out the booze and hoped they wouldn't discover the cargo was almost entirely hallucinogens.

    As the evening drew in, a giant mechanical fish-submarine thing appeared and began tailing us at a distance of a 100 feet. We were debating what to do with it when I had to leave for the evening. I see from the Google Doc that Paul started playing after that, as Kip the ship's boy, and that Lefory died and Chris took over playing Pered, the crack-shot crewman with the mangy parrot. What happened? How much longer did you play?
  • We played quite a bit more. From my perspective, the two defining moments were when Lefory died by being crushed by the ship's mast when the giant Roc attacked, and so the ship's cargo experienced an interesting legal reset; and then the exploding gold where we all almost died. The only other co-owner of the cargo was the sultan, so Benbet approached the captain about maybe tossing the fellow overboard. The captain was a religious man, so he didn't want to take part in the deed himself... But nor was he going to protest too much if the sultan 'happened' to die. So Benbet (who, I should correct you, didn't escape the law, but rather probable thieve's guild retaliation after some very unsuccessful spying) recruited Kip the Ship's boy to help possibly drug, poison or otherwise murder the sultan and his harem.

    On the same island that Benbet finally found a source of ingestable poison, a small hunting/water party lead by Peret found a pool that turns anything it touches to water. Naturally enough, they brought it back to the ship and tried out various items on it, all of which successfully turned to gold. However, when they tried to turn water into gold, it turned into superheated liquid gold... Which promptly exploded, splattering everyone in the room, turning one of Peret's eyes to gold and killing two sailors, with one of them being the much beloved cook. This had every crewmember frenzied, splashing each other with the golden waters, killing, maiming, and ripping the gold bits away.

    Benbet tried to restore some order with a rousing speech, but it was only so-so succesful. Peret, meanwhile, just wanted to leave the quarreling members of the crew on the island and have them deal with shit there. In the end, the ship just sailed around the island once or twice, letting the gold-hungry crazies cool down a bit, and then picked them back up.

    As it stands, Benbet is poised to poison the sultan and his family, but the ship itself is in somewhat uncertain shape, what with it's crew having just gone through a bout of gold-craze.

    It was a weird experience, in ways. I felt very much like I had a character from another genre, trying to murder sultans in their sleep while the ship was flutting from island to island and finding increasingly weird magical stuff there.
  • You forgot about the whispy floating lights you caught by the barrell, the two pieces of a brass scarab figurine you found on the beach and the crew sighting a silervy craft flying above the clouds before the storm. Adventurous situations abound, but you've behaved sensibly throughout. Encouraging murder plots in the Private Messaging and diciding to roll to see if the crew would go gold-crazy is punishing you for your prudence. ;p A boat is, above all, a social adventure. Be duely warned: some encounters shift the crew's mood dramatically.

    I'll be very happy to talk about how the game went on this side of the screen. I found the whole business very relaxing actually and look forward to arranging the second leg of our voyage (and maybe stock up on some new players?). I felt like we got much done and adventures were had.

    I liked the characters everyone played. Human beings don't default to "pirate" as soon as they get near salt water - so I'm glad we had an interesting array of personalities. Loved the craziness of new players joining and having to roll who they were on a pre-existing list of crew members (who said I had a thing for NPC prep!?), including the Impossibly rich 4th Level Magic-User Sultan and his wives! The social range we had in the party (from Master to Cabin Boy) got some good RP juices going.

    I've already been asked to write up my tables neatly so the scenario can be run with a Real Live Group (how outrageously flattering!), would anyone else be interested? A crude PDF on the nature of the Magical Southern Seas.
  • Mike, while (as you know) I'd be quite interested to see the tables you're using, I'm more curious (in the context of this thread) about the prep process. How long you spent on various aspects, which were important to get right vs. which ones could be hand-waved safely later, and which parts were generated by the group (perhaps the cargo and the NPC list?) vs. carefully pre-defined by you.
  • edited April 2014
    The prep is really low intensity. Actually, my aim in the DM experience is to be as low intensity as possible: I want an easy life, and I certainly can't be the stimulationist/simulationist computer the OSR text/folklore suggests. Far too stressful. You might call my DM style lazy, but I like to think of it as flowing down the path of least resistance. My D&D Tao?

    The key to prepping this campaign was a nice tight focus on colour and exploration before anything else. This is a variant on Eero's Primordial D&D that points to "Challengesome Adventure" as D&D's aim. Challenge-Adventure/Colour-Exploration are very similar, perhaps synonymous in many contexts, but it seemed more important the the players experience a speedy procession of colourful locations and situations through eventful exploration than to set up a balanced expectation of a challenge-reward axis as found in the typical dungeon adventure.

    A ship at sea seemed like apt situation to drive this style of game: the transport-cum-habitation confines all known PCs and NPCs into a shared space with easily recognised and performed relationships and goals - the status-game between the Officers and the Crew is pretty intuitive to everyone. Simply place 'em in a boat out at sea, tell the players that Home and Safe is X/Y days that-a-way and they have a problem to solve (a nearby storm/pirate ship/real danger). The storm isn't necessary but it gets people thinking and sets a good pro-active mood.

    Player pro-activity is key to my D&D Tao/Zen/tranquillity flow thing. The players own the boat (effectively), so moving it is their business. All reasonable boating stuff is on the boat - rope, cloth, knives, hooks, poles, compasses, a spy-glass, whatever, but it might not be in easy reach in every situation - so describing how you're getting the ship to go faster and commanding the crew in certain ways all effects how I make the world respond to the player (the boat goes faster, the crew fight off a giant squid well) but really it comes down to the players picking up the ship-piece and moving it to the next hex as fast as they like and making me take an Event Roll.

    Event Rolls are my main activity as a DM. The reason I've gone through my total process above is so I don't look dumb when I tell you that rolling a single d6 is pretty much what I spend my time doing as a DM behind the screen. Players enter a hex (at their speed of travel it was 1 hex every 12 hours, so events at dawn and dusk, or noon or midnight) and I roll for an event. 1 or 2 is a Sea Encounter and 6 is an Island. A usual Wandering Monster check might only be on a 1 but as my Encounters are focused on Colour and Exploration I wanted to have more of them come up!

    The Sea Encounter chart is a 30-item list that started life as a d4 table on a piece of scrap paper at work. Starting small and building towards a 1000-piece Megatable as inspiration strikes is the most sane approach. Again, emphasis on Colour rather than Challenge, so there are very few entries (maybe 20%) that are Challenges in the D&D sense of the word (i.e. Potentially Deadly). This might seem like I'm playing with kid-gloves but I'm 100% convinced that player interaction with the world is fundamentally entropic (everything a real human mind examines in D&D world turns into the senseless, chaotic mush-of-the-imagination) and thus chaos and conflict will abound naturally and I really don't need to set up purposefully antagonistic threats. So really the name of the game is populating this table with little events that seem suitable to the genre of High Fantasy At Sea. Lots of texts to draw from - Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Pirates of Blackwater, Nintendo's Wind Waker, Monkey Island, Earthsea, 20,000 Leagues, Moomins, Prince Valiant, etc.


    We go from being attacked by the Kraken all the way to light showers of silvery dust from a solitary black cloud that has no effect other than to make the sea teem with fish. In the last game we literally met Captain Nemo in the Nautilus. Now this could have been a fight but it seems more colourful to relax the usual D&D combativeness and write that Nemo's only hostile if you're carrying slaves, but otherwise points you towards land in a friendly "get outta my sea, damn kids" kinda way. In fact I'll usually roll a second d6 after establishing the encounter to roughly determine an NPC's positive or negative reaction to meeting the players. Nemo rolled high, so he was very friendly and pointed out two islands nearby (one with Giant Ants, which the players cleverly avoided). Again, with this theory of D&D Entropy, I might as well start everyday human NPCs as reasonably disposed to the players as new acquaintances - if their situations put them at even the slightest of odds (Nemo classically hates Slavers, the PCs have a boat fulla slaves - which *is* a cargo option, of course. Good design there) then we're going to have fighting and chaos. Why force the challenge?

    The post-Encounter d6 reaction/disposition roll is really useful in giving me pointers to how a less obvious scene might play out. The Roc Encounter is actually on my table without much info, but during play my disposition roll was so poor I felt the Roc should menace the ship, inflict some structural damage and maybe pluck up a random crewman for dinner. You know, colourful menace rather than strict combat challenge. If the PCs had wanted to chase down the Roc over the sea and burn its nest, then it totally could have become one - but for now I'm keeping it easy and trusting to Entropy to drive things into conflict.

    The Island table is only eight entries. Islands differ from sea encounters in the way that trap-rooms differ from wandering monsters - the threat/adventure is still there, just much more tied to a High Colour location that can be reliably retuned to once it's On The Map. The principal is easy - imagine something Weird/Compelling/Supernatural that you could find on an isolated island in Fantasyland/Mythological Greece/Nintendo's Wind Waker (yes, it's very Video Gamey, isn't it? I like that. High Whimsy levels, high supernatural themes). The pool of water than turns what it touches to gold is lifted straight from Dawn Treader , with a few additionally sadistic twists added by yours truly. But there's really not much to the islands aside from a High Colour mood I want to push: the perfect hush of the dusky Yew-covered Islet with this still, cursed pool of water. That sudden roar from the crew when they're told about the Magic! Ah! Thematic stuff! This is My Jam.

    Anyway, hope this is insightful. Probably a little rangy but maybe we can neaten it up with some questioning.

  • Care to post the tables? Presumably in some kind of spoiler brackets or linked so that those who want to avoid it can. Then I might run this with my playgroup in a few days!
  • Anyway, how about another session of that?

    Mike, would you be free to run on Wednesday? It's the only day of the week I know I'm free, sadly.

    We've also been thinking about using Google Hangouts for this sort of thing, too. Might want to start putting down some groundwork and testing for that, too.
  • Mike,

    That's an excellent writeup, fantastic. I really like your restatement of "D&D entropy", which is a very tangible thing. Very old-school but very real, and a good principle to keep in mind in play. (I say "very old-school" because it's fundamentally opposed to the opposing school of thought, as seen in games following Sorcerer, where the fiction is crafted very intentionally to produce and heighten conflicts.)

    What about the hexploration aspect? Did you have a means of generating ship direction, weather, or "terrain", or were you just improvising that stuff? Was there a mechanism or principle around which the "journey home" operated? (For example, given a certain series of rolls, would it have been possible to make it back to port uneventfully?)

    I'd love to play again, and my schedule's not too bad in general, but Wednesday is not an option for me. I'm willing to do the Hangouts thing, too - I've tried it before, and it works pretty well.
  • Yeah! I can do Wednesday or whatever evening is deemed best. My after-work schedule is pretty free for pushing around. Although pushing back drawing, painting and writing is a bad and procrastinatory habit I generally find our games creatively energising - so I'm keen for more. Tempted to write up a mini-Reconception of B/X D&D as a game of Seafearing Fantasy for Players Aged 10 and Up... Oceans & Odysseys, Waves & Wizards (Seas & Sorcerers!?) or whatever. Probably help me run more of these adventures as well as keep quiet the steady, highly flattering stream of requests I'm getting to share as-of-yet-non-existent material.

    Thanks Paul! Gratifying to know my ramblings about entropy inherent in the shared imaginative space and elsewhere are being received with anything other than derision. I admit it's a bit "out there" even by game theory standards. I like your placement of the idea in a timeline with Ron Edwards marking a pivotal shift towards a different philosophy. That said, it does separate RPGs into a BC/AD model with RE as a messianic figure... a scary thought! (Ah, but I tease: I know that wasn't your intention.)

    Ok, sea hexploraton (or sexploration, if you like being deliberately misleading). The direction of the ship was pretty obvious to everyone as the only coast known to me is Greysands. So starting x days off the coast of Greysands with the goal of returning sets up the position and direction pretty easily. This information is pretty up-front in my write-up above; it's the premise of the scenario. I guess there's a strong motivating ideology of Home and Safe going on here; the players have much to loose but little to gain. Many of the encounters might suggest treasure is up for grabs (the Golden Pool, for example) but really the Players are exceptionally rich already, they just have to get back to port/civilisation to validate their wealth as a till-clerk might validate parking. This is a protraction of the D&D notion that XP only comes from spending money, rather than earning it. I've always liked this thought and stuffing the players pockets with imaginative (/compelling/problematic) riches and letting their natural instincts to fight their way Home and Safe is a pretty good soft "kicker."

    The storm/danger tends to set the weather for the initial stages of this adventure (there's a 4/6 chance of having the storm hit) - otherwise, I must confess, it's pretty improvised. Whether it's raining or sunny, whether the sunset is beautiful or the storm brings hail is actually not terribly important. It looks like it might be, being so important to the colour of seafearing, but it's really down to a certain poetic whimsy and what the mood of the encounters are suggesting. Importantly, major whether activities that will have an effect on the progress of the ship (becalment, sudden drastic wind change and further storm-fronts) are included in the Sea Encounters table, which demonstrates their systemic importance to me somewhat. So it's a real mix of colour-improv and the categorised demands of an OSR table here.

    I guess the players could make it home without event? I mean, it's a 50% chance of meeting something in each hex so the odds are pretty miraculous, but it's possible I guess. Why that would be desirable, I couldn't tell you. If you're asking if this is balanced, fair and the players are likely to make it back if they're reasonable... well, I couldn't tell you that either. "No" would be my guess. The constriction of the game thus far to low levelled characters can't even guarantee that antagonising captain Nemo won't result in the boat getting sunk and everyone drowning shortly after. You probably wouldn't get far if you wanted to come out here and pick fights, but that's D&D everywhere.
  • edited April 2014
    A note on D&D Entropy:
    The classical opening situation of any game - the Tavern - is a great example of the tendency towards Chaos in D&D. My hypothesis is that any normal playgroup that's started in a modestly detailed but pretty everyday Tavern environment will, without any directed adventurous input from the DM, eventually result in conflict. This is mostly because it's difficult to express yourself with any validity in D&D without conflict, and therfore desire for expression is an entropic force in D&D.

    I wanna run a game where all I say is "You start in a tavern, here's a print out of a floorplan, a few NPCs and the Menu. Go." and then "What do you do?" every time it's my turn to talk and just watch as people are robbed blind, murdered and then set of fire - not necessarily in that order.
  • I have unprecedented freedom to play tomorrow (Tuesday) if anyone else is up for it.
  • I'm technically free on evenings both tuesday (if it's late enough) and wednesday, but I don't want to make any promises as it conflicts with getting sleep and spending time with my family. I might drop in, and if I do I'm definitely game for some High Fantasy At Sea.
  • edited April 2014
    If nothing unforeseen happens I'm available both Tuesday and Wednesday from 6 pm GMT. If we get enough players, a GM, and if the Silent Dusk is still sailing, I'd be happy to continue that game. Or roll up a new character for another adventure.

    Last time was the first time I played D&D and the first time I played on IRC, so I can add some information for other prospective new players. I checked in as a spectator on an earlier game run by Eero, which is something I suggest doing if you're uncertain about joining. That time the game was already running, and since I needed help creating a character I didn't want to interrupt. The second time the game hadn't started, so with the help of the other players in the main chat, and a PM chat, I quickly rolled up my first character.

    I got the name from the first suggestion on Behind the Name Random Name Generator: Ameqran Shaw. By typing 6#1d6 in the main chat, the dice bot gave Ameqran:

    Str: 10
    Dex: 17
    Con: 7
    Int: 11
    Wis: 7
    Cha: 11

    Based on his high dexterity the other players suggested either a thief, an elf, or a halfling. I asked for the easiest one to play, and was suggested either a thief or a halfling, so I picked the latter. We're using the Moldvay rules, right? In that case I should add to the character sheet (in Google Drive) that he has a bonus with missile weapons and for hiding, and so on.

    I realize now that I shouldn't have been allowed to play a halfling, since the requirement is a minimum of 9 in both dexterity and constitution. Are we disregarding minimum requirements on purpose? I'd like to use the rules as written, to get to know the actual game! I'd like to keep playing Ameqran, but follow the rules when creating the next character. I'd like to change his alignment from neutral to lawful, as that's how I played him. I hadn't read the Moldvay text on alignment when I picked neutral, and lawful fits him a lot better.

    How do we handle the percentage bonuses to XP? Ameqran would get a 5 % bonus based on his dexterity. I've seen that some groups add 5 % of the next level immediately to avoid having to add 5 % every time you gain XP, so that would be 2000 * 0.05 = 100 XP for a 1st level halfling. Or is it such a minuscule amount, combined with low chances of survival, that you don't bother?

    The game text in the Google doc says:

    "A 1,000 xp quest reward for the party if the ship makes it, and 10,000 if the party ends up in possession of the ship upon reaching safe port. Additional XP may be gained from the sale of any cargo (10% of GP value is taxed in Carrion)."

    I have a couple of questions:

    1. Do we still get monster XP (is there such a thing in Moldvay?) and gold XP, in addition to the above?

    2. Is the 1000 XP quest reward divided among the PCs, or does each PC get 1000 XP? If it's divided, is it among the PCs who are in play when reaching port, or between every PC who has been in play for at least a session?

    Last time I could only join for 60 minutes, which turned into 90 minutes because time flies. I didn't get to roll dice, but it was fun to act a bit and to see the ship and its inhabitants turn into life. The players were free to run the ship as they liked, both in the sense of deciding where to go and also, for example, if the ship's clerks (Ameqran was one of two clerks, based on a roll on the character rank table) counted as officers or not (they did).

    We had a caller that was responsible for communicating our intended ship movement, and from my perspective it was nice to not have to bother with that for my first game. I imagine that without a caller the GM would spend a lot of time trying to figure out who of the players have authority to decide the movement, if there's consensus, and so on. Now the consensus building, or dictatorial decision making, lies with the caller, so the GM has one less thing to do and can focus on more important things.

    The ship's log in the Google Drive document only lists day 1 and 2, with the second day being the meeting with the giant iron fish. It would be nice if one of the players who kept on playing could add the following days, so that we who missed them can catch up.

    I've been looking forward to next session since the last one, so I hope it's Tuesday or Wednesday. It was great fun.

    Edit: Wednesday's out. /Jonas
  • I realize now that I shouldn't have been allowed to play a halfling, since the requirement is a minimum of 9 in both dexterity and constitution. Are we disregarding minimum requirements on purpose? I'd like to use the rules as written, to get to know the actual game!
    You'd be the only one, then :D

    I don't really know for others, but for me it is something of an important cornerstone system element for the game of old school D&D that it's not by the book in the exact sense that you propose here. No relying on a rulebook over rulings, no going with some arbitrary idea just because it's in some rulebook, and so on. I have zero respect for a procedure that e.g. causes a player to not play a halfling because Moldvay says that it has stat minima, while the players at the table do not see such a difficulty or even remember that rule. Where is the legitimacy to a rule that nobody agrees with or understands?

    Of course that's just my viewpoint, I'm sure there are others who admire Moldvay specifically and would like to be more book-consistent. Hasn't come up so far, so it's a good topic of discussion.

    Regarding your questions: you can add the percentage xp bonus to xp from the start. No big deal if you don't care to, either - as you say, it generally does not matter.

    For Silent Dusk and its xp rewards, Mike's the authority, as he's GMing the adventure. I would assume that monster and treasure xp are normal, and the quest xp is divided among the group in even shares. XP is generally distributed between the characters who are in on the session when the xp gain occurs, with shares perhaps set aside for others if the players feel that those other characters contributed significantly to the success in some prior session.
  • The min-stat thing was something I was thinking about when you were rolling up but I didn't bring it up because, primarily, I didn't want to be that guy. And also it's something I don't care about.
  • Many of the players haven't even seen or read the ruleset, I imagine. We're primarily going off of what seems good at the time and precedent.
  • The Sea Encounter chart is a 30-item list that started life as a d4 table on a piece of scrap paper at work.
    Is this up anywhere? Ideally annotated with any metanarrative reason you had at the time for including specific items/groups/ratios?
  • I'm currently writing up the whole deal, along with design notes, to share out here. This'll probably get finished by the end of the week (after another field test tonight), though if you've got players and a sea-itch you want me to help scratch before then I can probably get the general tables out quick and add in the philosophy later.
  • No rush! I'm actually toying with a Gamma World hack in the hopes that I can capitalize on this current interest in B/X, so I'm mostly interested in the design philosophy rather than getting it to the table ASAP.
  • This current interest in B/X? You make it sound like I'm not the only person interested in it! :D

    Yeah, my design philosophy is really coming together... nicely ("the way that can be named is not the eternal way"), but it needs to get more praxis before I feel comfortable with civilians replicating my mode.
  • You'd be the only one, then :D
    Nice! :) I should rephrase: I'd like to learn the game as written, and reading only gets you so far. For me it's most beneficial to read, play, read about things encountered in play, make adjustments, and play again. This is a chance for me to experience the rules and not just read them.

    To quote Wittgenstein in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus:
    My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them—as steps—to climb beyond them. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.)
    He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the world aright.
    I've barely started climbing, so for me it's too early to throw away the ladder that the rules provide. Or, to use another quote; Chesterton's fence:
    In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it."
    John F. Kennedy supposedly paraphrased this as "Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason why it was put up". The rule on minimum requirements is there for a reason. My guess is that it is to guarantee that demi-humans fill a certain niche. You don't expect a dexterity 3 elf based on Tolkien's work, and the minimum requirement makes sure you don't see it here either. It also makes demi-human adventurers more rare than humans, which may be good if the setting is focused on humans. On a player level I can see how it makes demi-humans more sought after for players if they are harder to get.

    I agree that the group's rulings should trump the rules, but I see the rules as "first rulings" that someone else has made for you. They set a precedence, but you can of course change them if they don't provide the effect that the group is after.

    I have no problem playing Greysands/Sea Exploration fast and loose. It will still give me fodder for the "read about things encountered in play" step, for example minimum requirements, which is great. We shouldn't stop play to look up rules and the GM shouldn't feel any pressure to play by the book. I guess we will stop play if the GM makes a ruling that the players doesn't understand or agree with, for example giving +1 in one situation, but not in a later similar situation. Referring to a Moldvay rule may solve these situations quickly, but only if the whole group agree with the rule.

    When I GM Whitehack I write down my rulings if I expect them to appear in play again, for them to set a clearer precedence. These codified rulings have a higher status than the actual rules, while an in-the-moment ruling has a lower status than the rules until I've had time to think it through and codify it. I usually start each session with an update on rulings I've thought about since last session, to build group consensus.
  • That's a solid post, Jonas.

    I'm reading through Moldvay at the moment myself, for what it's worth. There's an account of someone else reading through the text HERE.

    As for the minimum requirements for demi-humans, I've seen Gary Gygax explain that it is to make sure that demi-human characters are suitably rare.

    It makes a lot of sense from this perspective: your reward for rolling an unusually good set of stats is that you have the option to play this unusual character type, including some special abilities you get right away. To make it a choice which remains interesting, however, we'll slow down the XP progression and put a cap on the level you can achieve. So, rolling those great stats gives you this tempting option, but with a downside to keep it an interesting choice.

    (In our particular case, I wouldn't have objected to the halfling character, however: the idea that rolling unusually well gives you this opportunity, I think, isn't broken here. Sure, we're not following the letter of the law - that 9 Constitution - but we ARE following the spirit of the law, and I'd say that rolling a 17 Dexterity is plenty of justification for making a halfling character. Had you rolled a totally mundane set of stats which didn't meet the minimums and then asked to be a halfling, I might have had a different opinion.)
  • Thanks, Paul. Nice to see the Gygax explanation.

    I went back and looked at the section Ability Score Adjustments in Moldvay, where you can move points between certain abilities 2 for 1. But you can never raise or lower Constitution or Charisma, so it wouldn't have helped me with the Constitution requirement. Does anyone have an idea why those two are exempt? Is it because they are so central for HP and the number of retainers, that the temptation to increase them would be too high?

    Also, another (paraphrased) Chesterton quote, for fun:
    The whole modern [OSR] world has divided itself into Conservatives Rules and Progressives Rulings. The business of Progressives Rulings is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives Rules is to prevent mistakes from being corrected.
  • We discussed doing tryouts with Hangouts tonight, so everybody interested get into the chat at some point; we'll start from there and proceed to start a Hangout, and see about whether it might provide a better platform for play. An interesting experiment, as I for one have never tried to play via video conference.
  • We played another IRC session on the Silent Dusk yesterday. The GM was Potemkin, with DWeird, ChristopherWeeks, and me as players.

    The action continued on the island with a pool of water that turned everything it touched into gold. There was a discussion among the PCs what to do about the crew that had left their posts on the ship to use the gold water. One PC wanted to leave them, and two wanted to pick them up. We rolled 50% for the captain and the rest of the crew, with the result that the PC who wanted to leave people stepped down after a small attempted mutiny. There was also a discussion on whether the gold water would be communal or if each PC and crew member immediately would get private shares.

    We continued our journey and found a small ancient boat drifting at sea with eight skeletons by the oars. We decided to tip the boat over and bury them at sea to remove the bad omen, but at first contact they turned to life. The skeletons tried to pull the crew members with hooks down, but all of the crew made it while two skeletons fell in. The NPC captain saved the day, by being a cleric and rolling exactly six skeletons turned.

    After continuing the NPC sultan passenger managed to magically locate a pirate ship between us and our destination. Through magic the pirate ship also became aware of us. The ships were equally fast, so we couldn't really go pass them without them catching us. We raised a white flag and let them come closer. The plan was for the sultan to use his charm spell on the pirate captain, with the backup plan being to fire gold water on their sails or hull with the ship's ballista. The pirate ship fired first, but missed. When the sultan tried to charm the pirate captain the DM rolled a d12 instead of a d20 by mistake, which succeeded. When a player pointed this out, the player mistakenly rolled another d12, which also succeeded. At last we rolled a d20, and a third success! When the pirate captain issued orders to leave us be the crew mutinied, but the pirate captain made his command roll and we could escape.

    We had a final encounter when an enormous amount of fish appeared. The Silent Dusk is still a couple of days away from the destination Carrion.

    Some observations:

    * I missed the end of the previous session, so I wasn't that invested in the gold water. It was a very neat idea and a fun encounter, but I didn't think that the time we spent on hiding a personal flask or publicly taking a personal flask was very fun. I was a bit quiet during this part, and it was very nice of another player to check in by PM to see if I was having fun. Going silent is a bad thing to do when you're chatting. If you're sitting around a table the other people can tell when you fold your arms and lean back and wait, but not here, so it's important to always communicate. It wasn't that I was bored or considered leaving, it was just that I felt I had nothing to add and wanted to wait until the others were done.

    * The skeleton encounter was really good. I liked how it started out with vague hints, like a small light on the horizon, and the sultan saying he could sense great pain and suffering from the boat. The players were expecting a ghost ship or a slave ship, but when we found the boat I didn't expect the skeletons to wake up. The final fish encounter was the opposite of this, which is why I think it fell a bit flat. It's a nice encounter and should be kept in the table, but it would have benefited from a gradual buildup, like the sea around the ship starting to boil without mentioning fish, to give the players some time to figure out what to do. But we wanted to wrap up, so it's understandable it was a bit quick.

    * I joked about being saved by the two NPCs, first the skeletons and then the pirates. But the plan to use their abilities was still the players', so it didn't feel like the GM saved our bacon. Both NPCs meant that we could avoid fighting, so it would have been a different game if they hadn't been there. So far my halfling has readied his short bow three times (iron fish, skeletons, pirates), but hasn't fired a single arrow. It's just an observation, and in all situations we wanted to avoid fighting if we could since it would've been very dangerous.

    * We had two channels, #habavaara for OOC talk and #silentdusk for IC talk. I think it's a good idea, but unfortunately we couldn't roll dice in #silentdusk, so we had to use both channels for playing. This lead to split attention, and both me and the GM had trouble keeping up in both channels and knowing what to post where. I think that *all* game talk should go into #silentdusk, even jokes and player strategizing, because that's what would happen around a table. It's easy to mark dialog with quotes and short comments in parenthesis even in the game channel, so there's no need to use the OOC channel for game talk. The OOC channel could be used for "I'm having this great pasta right now" kind of comments, and for other people who are curious, but don't want to disturb the game channel with questions. When I first joined #habavaara and there was a game going on I didn't want to start asking questions, so a separate game channel can be a good idea.

    * There was talk at the end of doing a Google Hangouts video chat next time. My current online gaming situation won't allow that, but please go ahead anyway. I'm playing on the couch in a silent apartment with my kids sleeping. I don't want to talk to myself and wake them and I don't want to put on earphones because then I won't know if they wake up. IRC has been perfect for me. Also, I'm using green text on a black background in my IRC client, so it feels like playing a text adventure game, with a much more intelligent game engine (thanks, Mike!).
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