Stonehell dungeon, in fantasy Europe, rules by Eero and Sandra

I have just begun my summer "DnD" campaign: since I'm on vacation and the other players are students and/or between jobs, we'll play during office hours for two weeks.

The whole campaign is very much inspired by Eero's writings on early DnD, his Fantasy Netherlands campaign, and other OSR discussions around here. I owe pretty much all the rules to either Eero or Sandra, and I'm prepared to be accused of treating Eero's writings in particular with the reverence that he denies Gygax et al. I don't think I do, but I can see why it'd seem that way.

The rules, or thereabouts

The world – sadly only in Swedish

In short: the Holy Roman Empire stretches from the Netherlands all the way down through Italy. To the east is Prague and elven-infested forests (so no known counterparts to Poland, Russia etc). To the west is Gaul: deep wilderness, barbarian settlements some of which might even be called "cities", and remains of ancient Roman conquests, reclaimed by nature and the Gauls. (One such Roman ruin is Stonehell Dungeon, which was the party's first goal. With its ten levels it can keep them busy for the whole campaign, but they might tire and try something else halfway through.)

I have some ideas for how the Holy Roman Empire fits together, but it's pretty handwavy and mostly the setting is just an excuse to get the party out in the wilderness and into the pre-written adventure modules that I've plopped down here and there. The first session I gave them a choice between a "wizard tower, you've heard there's treasure" and "an old ruined fort where you've heard there are gigantic underground vaults full of treasure". They chose the latter, so we go to Stonehell. This thread will chronicle my campaign.


  • edited August 2018
    Our first batch of adventurers:

    - G. F. Tráin, a fearless adventurer and natural leader
    - Jauques, a Gaul, but at least he speaks Germanic
    - Conrad, the seventh son of a farm that didn't really have any use for more sons
    - Unintelligible, a mighty warrior of Jylland
    - Nameless, a mysterious figure (name held off until level 2)

    All are Adventurers except for Unintelligible who is a Fighter. Lacking Sages, they have no-one who knows any more languages, no-one ordained, and no-one with knowledge of the arcane arts.

    This thread will contain spoilers of Stonehell, of course. Maybe other modules in future sessions; I will mark those comments accordingly.

    Part 1: Towards the fort

    We start the session with the adventurers disembarking the fishing boat with which they had hitched a ride from Maastricht up the river Maas. They have travelled for two days, and have food for 9 days in their packs. They start by the fallen Roman bridge by the river bend that they had been told about, and set out to follow the overgrown roman stone road through the hills.

    Nameless immediately rolls a natural 1 on their pathfinding, and the party gets lost within hours. I told them they were lost immediately—still debating with myself whether I should roll pathfinding rolls in secret in the future—and they realised that they were now instead following a small trail, which had veered off to the east.

    They encounter a riderless horse in panic. They fail to stop it, fail to locate the rider (unbeknownst to them: a frontier ranger, now dead after a barbarian attack), and then backtrack to the road without sighting the horse again.

    After two more days of uneventful travel they have passed into the forest and up along the mountainside. Reaching a clearing on high ground, they sight the "fort": a ravine enclosed by a wall (similar to Helm's Deep). The wall is collapsed in several places, but the imposing gatehouse still stands. Within the wall, an overgrown courtyard with ruins of smaller—and a gate into the mountain wall at the far end of the ravine.

    They look for smoke or flags, but seeing none, they cautiously approach the gatehouse. The gates are long since broken open, the portcullis is down but several bars are rusted and broken allowing normal-sized people to climb inside. The passage through the gatehouse has arrow-slits facing inward from both sides, and ends with another portcullis in similar shape.

    G.F. and Conrad climb in. G.F. spies through the arrow slits on the north side, and sees only darkness. Conrad goes to the south side, but hears a whooshing, whining noise approaching him! They spook and go around to climb over a collapsed wall section.

    The good climbers make it up and throw down a rope to help the others. While hauling up G.F. (Who's only at Strength 6), Conrad notices someone spying on them from atop the wall. Whoever it is sneaks away (failed morale roll from my side) but Conrad warns the party.

    They make it down to the other side and into the Gatehouse from the back entrance. They find the northern arrow-slit room, which is empty. Then they smell smoke and meat coming from another room nearby. They prepare for an ambush and open the door, but there's no-one inside. Some sleeping furs and food in disarray hints at someone who left in a huff—perhaps retreating to higher ground? There is a ladder nearby.

    However, soon after they open the creaky door the hatch above the ladder also opens, and an arrow comes flying down! Jauques shouts up at the attackers, asking who they are—in Gaul. Fortunately, they understand her. They are Gauls in exile from their village, who have claimed the gatehouse as theirs. The party quickly agrees to not disturb the gatehouse, although they don't actually promise anything about the southern room, which the Gauls claim to be haunted. When they say their goal is the vaults under the fort, the Gauls laugh, saying they will likely die. Jauques asks that the party be allowed to explore the ravine and enter the vaults without being attacked, and in exchange promises a share of the loot when they return. The Gauls accept. On their way out, Jauques steals the food they left behind (1 ration). 50 XP (10 XP per HD of creatures encountered and "handled"—basically anything short of a full retreat will give them the monster XP.)

    Inside the ravine, the party quickly spot two smaller gates in the mountain walls; one to the north and one to the south. They decide to explore these before going for the main vault.

    In the north one, they encounter a fire beetle and kill it. (10 XP) They have never seen such a creature before, and the intrepid G. F. Tráin with the help of the knowledgeable Nameless manage to extract two glowing glands from the carcass. They tie them to sticks to make torches, which show now signs of going out! (They will last a few days.) The beetle's lair also held a half-eaten goat kid, which they clean and cut up for 4 rations of food.

    They search some more rooms, and find a piece of flame chalk: the writing is invisible, except when heated up by e.g. holding a torch nearby. They find a message written in the same chalk, telling of a stash of jewels hidden two floors down, in the chamber past the acolytes cells, along with warning of "the wasps".

    They also encounter some green slime, which sticks to their clothes and eats through them. was lucky to wear gloves, since he stuck his hand right in it while searching a box. Jauques was being snarky about it (he thought), so he put his hand on Jauques shoulder and left the glove there! They lost one perfectly good glove, and ruined Jauques' cloak by cutting off a chunk of the corner. But no-one got their flesh dissolved, so, great success! They left the slime in the room they found it, after a half-hearted attempt to pick it up. I hope they come back for it if they find an enemy they want to throw slime at :) (20 XP)

    Since the sun is still high, they decide to tackle the southern side-cave. The first room has a chilly air and a sense of unease, and they soon spotted faint blue lights glowing at eye-height from the next room. Turns out it's the magical glowing eyes of several animated skeletons, that start marching down the corridor towards the fearless G. F. Tráin! The session's longest fight, perhaps 5 rounds long, ensues. All skeletons are slain but Unintelligible takes a rusty sword to the gut! It's a major injury, all his abilities are halved, and Conrad rushes him outside into the sun and starts cleaning the wound.

    After finishing up the skeletons, they search the rest of the southern rooms and find them devoid of valuables. There are many mysterious runes, and a strange chest-high dome-shaped monument that seems to be the source of the unnatural chill. They immediately take to calling this evil place "the refrigerator" and debate the merits of storing their game there if they were to replenish their food supplies by hunting.

    We end the session as they make camp in the northern chambers (next to the fire beetle's lair). Unintelligible's player will be missing for the first half of next session, which happens to align with the fact that he shouldn't be up and about immediately. Depending on how far the other four have come when he joins tomorrow, he'll either get to play a wounded Fighter, or roll up a replacement character.

    Tune in next time, when the party might end up actually entering Stonehell!
  • Stonehell is good stuff; I haven't read it, but I've played it for quite a few sessions (of hitting our collective heads on the goblins in the first quarter of the first floor, but still).

    Your fantasy Europe reminds me of the Warhammer Old World in the particulars. You might, if it's relevant, discover some occasional heat by taking influence where appropriate.

    Also, that's a very cool set of rules you have there, I like a lot of the ideas [grin]. I don't think that my house tradition has ever had such a comprehensive written description in one place. There are GMs who play with high enough influence from me to consider them disciples (in a strictly factual sociology sense - I don't run a D&D school or anything like that), but I don't think that anybody's committed their rules set to paper in that much detail. It's very cool, and if you don't mind I might link people to this write-up on occasion to give a quick rundown of how we play old school D&D here.

    You're the first person I know who's tried to adopt my house system down to the mechanical detail without having played it with me - you're doing all the funky mechanical bits, it seems, like the different ability score line and success-counting and stunting in combat. Do let me know if you run into any difficulties with the mechanical particulars; I haven't really focused in explaining those in detail in the Internet in any systematic fashion, so for all I know there might be some really obvious and useful little rules that I use but that I haven't mentioned in whatever sources you've researched for this.

    Also, props for using my new skill system - my primary disciples have shied away from it, clearly thinking that I've suffered an aneurysm and started crafting rules bloat [grin]. If you come to any significant conclusions or observations about the percentage-fraction skill rules, please do share; I am still far from tapping all the implications there.
  • edited August 2018
    A few observations about the rules follow. These aren't corrections so much as simple notes on a few places where your writeup differs from how I play. If any are intentional, good for you - owning the rules mechanics you use is central to GMing something like this, I think.

    Being thrown off a cliff: Kudos for daring to list that as a circumstance that bypasses hitpoints - I'm much too amused by the traditional "1d6 damage per 10 feet fallen" falling math to do that myself. A good example of something that is simply a stylistic choice as far as I'm concerned, as long as you're consistent.

    Goetia: My original intention in like 2012 when I established the initial version of these rules was that memory slot spell casters (only one possible type of magic here) need a separate initiation (feat) for each spell level. The first initiation was called "Goetia". I was also flirting with the idea that while Goetia allows you to learn any 1st level spell whatsoever, there could be other initiations that e.g. give you levels 1-3 from a specific school of magic, or whatever.

    Exhaustive actual play has indicated that requiring a separate initiation for every spell level is a relatively harsh requirement, while initiating different magical traditions is indeed a fun way to distinguish in a deep way between two magic-users, while still being elegant and using the same spells for each. I don't think that we ultimately have ever had a player with a simple "Goetia II" initiation that would simply allow them to use 2nd level spells with no further significance.

    This is to say, treat Goetia with care; it's fine as a generic starter initiation, but give players opportunities to get more and more flavourful initiations with less limitations. Goetia is particularly a good starter for newbies because giving them something like "Oshian Illusionism" doesn't benefit them any when they find their first spell books and scrolls, all written for Neo-Platonic hermetics, and then they find that they can't learn these new spells. At least a generic initiation, even if harshly level-limited, avoids that particular disappointment.

    Ritual magic: As your magic rules do not comment on this, I assume that you don't use "ritual magic", which is something that I use extensively myself. "Ritual magic" is the local term for the idea that all spell slot magic is actually ritual magic that is simply cast in advance - the traditional "spell memorization" is replaced by ritual casting, so wizards don't so much sit with a spell book every day as they do magical rituals. Ritual casting normally (as in, until the players start fine-tuning this) takes an hour per spell level, costs 1 rupee per spell level in reagents, and requires a spell-casting check against DC 20+[spell level]. (The dice roll is obviated for an initiated magician doing a routine casting within their comfort zone - such as when memorizing spells for later use.)

    The ritual magic conceit has three big, fat implications: the first is that any character can learn and cast spells, they just can't prepare them for use later like a magic-user can. The second is that you can cast the same spell multiple times per day, as long as you're OK with the ritual casting taking hours at the time. The third is that characters can learn spells over their level, they just can't prepare them. The spell-caster initiations in this scheme are not so you can learn spells, they are so you can do that without having to roll dice, and so you can prepare them in advance for casting at a moment's notice.

    I mention the ritual magic rules because I am personally very fond of them, and think that they're some of our finer mechanical work. They solve a lot of the artificial weirdness in D&D elegantly, without injuring the dungeoneering logic. It also helps make high-level magic exciting that your character doesn't need to get to like level 45 to use that high-level spell - they can just take the risks and expenses of a magical ritual, instead. It might be surprising, but apparently allowing 1st level characters to cast a Fireball with three hours of preparation and a risky skill check does not break the game.

    The other two character classes: I note that you're only using the three character classes I established initially in the game. I've since added two, the "Ascetic" and "Servant", myself. I'm fond of them and think that they serve a purpose, but the game obviously runs fine without, as well.

    Monster XP: Yes, I am in favour of this math. Rather elegant, and a subtle fuck you to expectations about advancing by monster-slaying [grin]. As I've said at some point, I like to keep monster XP in the game, but I consider it more of a stylistic detail than a serious scoring device.

    Questing philosophy: I disagree with you about the conditions in which a quest is a quest. You write that quests undertaken out of greed are not quests, while I am of the opposite mind: anything the characters do in the game that is interesting enough to play out in detail should achieve them experience points on success. That's what the points are, a gauge of character success. If something is not worthy of points, it should not be worthy of play, either.

    This means that I certainly make sure that a character who decides to find an ancient magical book gets quest xp for it. It does not matter whether they're finding the book for selfish reasons or on behalf of somebody else; all that matters is that it's a proper quest declared in advance, and that the character is not scoring treasure XP by selling the book - if they are, then obviously they can't double-dib by also getting quest XP.

    I generally refuse to do adventures as a player in old school D&D if those adventures do not score experience points. XPs are the goal, as far as I'm concerned, so any set of rules that prevents me from going on an exciting adventure by refusing me the points is bugged [grin].

    Healing: I've started calling "how many short rests I have taken today" with a special name, because it is essentially a character statistic. I suppose you could say "fatigue" in English - so you start an adventure with zero fatigue points, and normally a night of rest zeroes you out again, and so on. The actual rule is still the same - you take as many penalty dice to your hitpoint rerolls as you have fatigue points. It's just maybe a little bit easier for people to understand the rule, and it's more natural to add and subtract when we call them points instead of "how many short rests", etc.

    One thing you might also want to do is to add to this daily "fatigue" score on the basis of character encumbrance, starvation, sleep deprivation, etc. I notice that you have some pretty heavy-duty rules for these things in there. It wouldn't be a bad idea if they were also reflected in hit point refreshment, and it's a simple thing to do.

    Learning new skills: I note that you don't really comment on that in there. I've been letting players take a "heroic skill breakthrough" at the end of a session of play instead of an ability score improvement roll to improve one of their skills, and I've largely liked the option: it is in line with how "big a deal" I envision skills to be, which is to say, not very.

    Stunting: I hope you're doing combat stunting! It is one of the high points of your system.
  • Also, that seems like it was a good adventuring session. If I remember correctly, my character lost a foot or something in that green slime there.

    I am greatly amused by the Gaul connection. I like these opportunities myself as a GM; the players generally starve me for details about their characters, so I will hold dearly onto anything at all they give me, and it is always a joy when something about an individual character happens to matter for the events in play. The players enjoy it as well when their characters are acknowledged as individuals; it is this process, more than anything else, that begins a character's transition into a mid-levels one.
  • Thanks for the feedback and comments!

    On falling from cliffs: actually I didn't think this one through. I do intend to use the standard 1d6 per 10' fallen, and when writing that I must have thought about cliffs that are essentially high enough that you roll more d6's than your current HP or something. But technically it's not the same category as save or die: it's a specific unsurvivable amount of HP damage :grin:

    On that note, I'm edging towards your notion of generalised HP that protects against everything. For starters, all poisons will be different combinations of exhaustion penalties and HP damage, up to the ones that are save-or-die by the book being 10HP, possibly higher for higher-level threats. But the regular poisonous wildlife and monsters you'd find in upper Stonehell for example, they'd be save or 10 dmg. Same with magical save-or-die effects. (The 4th-degree stunt of bypassing HP could be countered by paying 10HP per level of the attacker, and then taking the regular damage—I think this checks out.)

    On magic: I hadn't thought much of where to go after Goetia, and I hadn't thought of ritual magic. I really like it though, and if the players go there something similar will certainly evolve in this campaign!

    On skills: I was wondering how this would be met, but for starters it sort of plays like the "player-facing" mechanic is just: sometimes the GM tells you you can't use your whole ability score on a specific roll; write down the number you agree on. And the whole percentage crunch is sort of under the hood. Of course I want my players to do the skill maths independently and I think they will soon, but so far it was used for one roll (Conrad trying to clean and stabilise Unintelligible's wound) and I think they'll be there pretty quickly. The ones who care about the system have read the rules doc, of course.

    The reason I don't mention skill learning is actually because I was a bit wary on the whole improvement mechanic you use, with one ability or skill improved per session. Main reason is that it muddles the simulation/genre split: abilities and skill are cold, hard simulation whereas levels and HP are a narrative conceit on top. Improving abilities during downtime (training and whatnot) fits in, a random +1 per session less so. But I just sort of put off the decision and never made it before we started playing, and after the major injury I really see the argument from variance: the abilities vary a lot, affect the results a lot, and the game is just more interesting if there's a back-and-forth between improvement and injuries rather than just an attrition :P So I'm introducing the ability improvement rolls in today's session unless anyone objects, and probably the skills as well (like you've said, it's a good consolation prize for the poor sod who doesn't roll over any of their abilities).

    On quests: Hm. My reasoning was that if you quest for magic powers, those are your reward—and they go outside the level system. So, the point were that the improvement is the reward, and XPs are the main way of getting there. Being strict about XP being a measure of success, at whatever we decide to play, has its charm, but I also feel like the game deciding for you what counts has its merits. I mean, if we go completely free-form and the players can e.g. negotiate that their party are dwarven scholars documenting the stonework, and get XP per room explored... There are loads of interesting non-treasure goals you could negotiate, but it kind of seems like a hassle? And if we set down from a rules perspective that actually, gold is worth XP whether your characters care about it or not—you don't negotiate whether you want this expedition to be per-gold or per-room—then you shape what kind of characters get made, and what kind of adventures they have, for better or worse. I think I stand by my choice of having pure "improve my abilities" quests not be for XP. XP is the measure of success, and you should only do a non-XP side-quest for magic powers if you think it'll be worth it in the end, or if you play less than 100% to win and want to improve your character despite it not being measured as success.

    On fatigue and healing: I was thinking about this, and a fatigue score is a clean way to combine the two systems, I'll definitely think about it. I actually had some compunctions about even the fatigue disadvantage hit die in the first place, for the same reason as above: if HP is purely narrative, it doesn't follow that you get less of it the more tired you are. I justified keeping it by saying it makes sense as a mechanic for shaping the narrative: it punishes adventurers who take overlong adventuring days. Likewise, it doesn't follow to me that this "not too much in a day" counter should have anything to do with the "walking for days across a desert with no food" counter of exhaustion. It could, sure, but it doesn't have to. Right now the fatigue hits on HP, and exhaustion hits on abilities (-X to all rolls); two incomparables. You could make the argument for combining them, but you could also make the argument for flipping them around if you really wanted to. I'll see what we settle on in this campaign, and it might get reflected in the document.

    On stunting: I hope so too. The Fighter's very first attack, after the whole party had whiffed, was 20 above AC and he rent that fucking fire beetle in twain :) Other than that we haven't had any combat stunting but I'm still learning the ropes myself and I'm going to try to encourage the players to do it as they get extra successes. I have kept the mechanic in mind for knowledge checks etc but I think most rolls have actually been within +-5 of the DC.

    Second session starts in half an hour :smiley:
  • The philosophical reason for why hit points can be affected by things other than avoiding sword strokes is, of course, that certain events pre-justify character death dramatically: if hit points are a dramatic rule that predisposes characters to survive dangers, then it makes sense that behaviors and circumstances that foreshadow death also take away hit points.

    This is why I have characters lose hit points (or suffer fatigue penalties to hit point refresh) when they take a long force march or deprive themselves of sleep or encounter stressful circumstances: these are all things that foreshadow this character's weakness. I know that this is very similar to strict physical simulation, but that's how human storytelling is: it sort of flirts with reality. Things that would exhaust people in reality, and therefore make them more likely to make a mistake and die in combat, will shave off hit points in D&D and cause the same.

    This is the same logic that works backwards when hit points are refreshed, by the way: the underlying reason for why your character regains their hit points during a short rest is that the short rest is a dramaturgical signal about how you're safe for now. It's not exactly because the character needs a moment to catch their breath and gauge their injuries and steel themself against coming horrors, but rather because them having the opportunity to do this is a statement about the fact that this specific action sequence did not manage to kill the character, and therefore they can have some more hit points for their next trouble.

    In general I've found that I never regret assigning hit point penalties to to anything in this system - the quick refresh combined with the fatigue system makes it work fine. Somebody tells your character that they're married to their sister, so yeah, take a 1d10 psychological damage, why not. Dropped to zero hit points? Uh, seems like you'll want to make a Will save to avoid indefinite insanity over the shock. By all means, friends, do continue saying horrible things to each other - it's just a few hit points for every nasty jab, and you'll get them back when you take the time to catch your breath.
  • Part 2: Wildlife encounters

    They settle in for the night, and the random encounter table rolls 2 brigands in first watch. The watchman Conrad is sitting in the dark opening with no fire, so I rule that Conrad sees the brigands' lantern while they don't spot him. They disappear up the switchback trail in the night. In the morning hours I roll up 1 wolf, but again the watchman stays still and the wolf, while aware of the party, doesn't attack because of a failed morale check.

    Unintelligible's (who we decided to call Dan which is Swedish for Dane, which is what he is) injury is examined: in addition to the permanently halved abilities, he will have -4 to everything today and -2 to everything tomorrow—with the added risk of prolonging the recovery if he stresses the wound (i.e. when failing physical rolls with large enough margin). He is left to rest in the northern chambers for now.

    The other four examine the pool under the waterfall: the water is apparently hot, and there's no clear egress. They spot what looks like a metal plate at the bottom of the rocky pool.

    Then they head into the eastern chambers: the third mini-dungeon at surface level. They find old leaves, trash, and old furniture. After a knowledge check they infer that the dressing of the various chambers has varied a lot in age, from "old and worn" to "completely rotten away". They agree that people must have come and gone in different waves for some reason; used the place and then abandoned it again. (I try to play down the "adventurers come here all the time so there's been regular traffic for decades" angle and keep the place more ancient, forgotten and unknown as well as keeping "adventurer" from becoming a social class rather than a crazy idea. These rooms became a slightly more boring as a result.)

    In the second room they meet a rabid raccoon. They kill it easily, and Nameless feels lucky indeed that its bite hadn't penetrated her boot, when they notice after the battle that it's frothing at the mouth. 10 XP.

    They explore the various corridors, including a lot of trying to force stubborn stone doors open. The western half of the complex has settled a little, with rubble on the floor from a cave-in and a lot of cracks in the stonework. They startle a cobra among the rubble, but manage to back off and let it crawl back into its nest. 10 XP.

    They find a throne room with a spiked it trap in front of the throne. About here is where Conrad's player decide that this place must have been built for the lulz essentially, since there are too much logistical hassle for anyone to have such a thing. Sure if you want to kill the messenger, click the button in the throne armrest to have them fall to their death. Then what? How do you clean up? Your throne room now smells of blood and gore for weeks? What if a servant falls in by mistake? I sort of want the dungeon to make more sense, but eh, I have wizards (or similar) to blame when it comes to the actual explanation. Weird, right? But that's what you see.

    This was Conrad and Nameless exploring on their own, while Jauques and G.F. Tráin were sitting in the raccoon room trying to skin it and make a hat. They rolled dismally, so they were looking at two hours of scraping and greasing, whereupon the pelt would have molded before it could be sewn into a hat anyway.

    Conrad and Nameless also find the secret door in the throne room, but can't get it open without help so they interrupt the hat-making contingent and ask them to help. The door leads to a hidden study: a stone table and bookshelves upon empty bookshelves. Jauques finds the secret compartment in the table, containing an unadorned silver ring, a small clear potion, and a bag of 50sp! Their first treasure!

    The whole party, apparently postponing the raccoon hat, investigates the remaining rooms and find a) a disused bedroom, b) a disused bedroom infested by large insects (fist-sized pillbugs by the module, but I forgot what a pillbug was so I just said "bug" and then improvised that they were some sort of locusts) and c) a room with a crude trap. Nameless got hit in the head with a sandbag as she opened the last door, broke her nose and got a concussion (dropped to subzero HP but made her saves).

    As they search the room with the trap, Nameless is walking back toward the exit and hears something moving in the room with the raccoon. A huge black bear has wandered in and is eating their half-skinned raccoon carcass! "My hat!" exclaims G.F.

    They wait for the bear to leave on its own, but after half an hour G.F. grows impatient. (I rolled for how long the bear would be chilling there, and they would have only had to wait for 10 more minutes.) He's a man of action! He lights a torch and jumps out trying to scare the bear away. It panics and attacks. He and Jauques hold it off with torches while the others dash for the exit. I have the defenders roll Will checks to intimidate the bear with their fire and noise, but they kept failing, so they "hold off" the bear by tanking its attacks. The bear is 4HD and has three attacks, which is pretty dangerous, but I roll badly so only near the end of the combat does it get a bite in, bringing G.F. below zero HP as well. He makes his saves, getting a nasty minor wound in his left arm, and they back out and scatter. The bear doesn't follow.

    My rules say monster XP is for monsters that are overcome in some way, and we agreed the players didn't really overcome them as they more or less just escaped. It was a close enough call that I had to agree that the bear didn't really overcome them either, so it would also miss out on its XP :P

    This was the half-way point of the session, and Unintelligible's player joined us. I'll write up the next half of the session—when they finally go down into Stonehell proper!—in the next post.
  • I love you Jonatan
  • Players don't get to do any GM tasks
    So this is a difference from how I do it. I delegate AF. I want buy-in to the simulation to be a shared experience
  • I change the tasks to be player tasks. If the dungeon says "there is an encounter on 17-20" I change it to "1-4" and have the players do the checks
  • (PS: I'm way better than Eero at this kinda stuff)

  • Yeah, that line actually doesn't really reflect how we play, good catch! It's true in the sense that there are GM tasks that they don't do—prep, playing the monsters—just the same as the GM doesn't get to play their PCs. But when it comes to actual tasks, then yes. I have managed to pawn off the initiative tracking to a player, and I've told them clearly that I want us to learn this system as a group so that they can ask each other about details on encumbrance, skills etc and not have to bother me with everything since I'm busy trying to parse the tersely-written module without missing any connections :P

    The section with that line is ripped straight from @David_Berg in this old thread. This project was partly an attempt to finish the job that that thread started.

    I'm sorry if I disappoint you by going with Eero's rules over yours in places, Sandra. If nothing else, I made the high-level choice of not buying 5e at all so I haven't looked directly at those rules at all. And the doc you shared with me influenced my thinking but hasn't made it into my text that much, I think. I find specific rules much easier to write down than principles!
  • (PS: I'm way better than Eero at this kinda stuff)
    Come to my dojo and say that to my face, if you dare.
  • Eero, he wrote:
    I owe pretty much all the rules to either Eero or Sandra, and I'm prepared to be accused of treating Eero's writings in particular with the reverence
    aren't you satisfied with that? Do you also have to clobber me in some kinda dojo?[*] Isn't there a peaceful way out? Join forces & combine strength for greater good etc etc?

    [*]: I mean futilely attempt to clobber me #untouchable2097
  • Of course, but how can there be respect if you demand a superior stature without proving it? I'm happy to admit that you are the better GM, but only after seeing your stuff with my own eyes.
  • Part 3: Meet the Gloomies
    (Second half of yesterday's session)

    Seeing as Dan (aka Unintelligible) is very out of action, the player decides to roll up a new character. I'm fine with Dan sticking around in their base camp as a backup character; he'll be a little more viable in a few days. If the player wants to bring both characters into the dungeon, he'll have to play one of them and the other gets demoted to essentially a hireling.

    The new character is a Sage; an English monk recently thrown out of his monastery (he doesn't mention the thrown out part). We establish that G. F. Tráin had quite the recruitment campaign when putting the party together, and the monk heard about it right after they set out, decided to come after them, and just now catches up. The monk doesn't get a proper name but we can call him Father. We elide the introductions and get to dungeon delving!

    The main gate leads to a single square room with a round staircase in the middle, going down. A small verse is carved into the archway above:
    Beware All Who Enter
    These Benighted Halls of Stone.
    Within Lies No Solace
    Nor Any Comforts of Home.
    Toiling For Our Crimes
    We Must Dig Where We Dwell,
    With No Freedom or Mercy
    In Our Vast Stony Hell.

    (Conrad remarks that the first rhyme was iffy, but Father assures us it's better in the original latin, from which he was translating.)

    They debate the sanity of a nation that builds something like this as a prison, as opposed to the economic option of using the death penalty or, I don't know, building normal houses. The possibility that the fort originally had another purpose, and the rhyme was added as a curse was cast upon it or something, is floated.

    By the staircase, they find lots of messages scrawled into the stone walls, as well as a lot of tally marks (counting days or years). The one message they can easily make out and understand is in germanic, and reads: "clean up after yourselves!".

    They go down. The staircase exits into a large room with several exits. Some of the corridors leading out are adorned with archways carved to look like grotesque mouths of ogres or something, with fangs. Jauques remarks "what is this, Hell's Entrance Hall or what?" I found this funny since I had never mentioned the name Stonehell to them, nor used the word hell outside the poem above, and this section is named "Hell's Antechamber" in the module.

    They start with the nearest door, finding a disused kitchen. The pump over the dry wash basin at first seems stuck, but then it starts pressing out green slime! They quickly stop, and leave the clump of slime hanging from the faucet.

    They try the next door but the doors down here, while unlocked, are really stubborn to open. This stems from my reading of the rules, where opening even unlocked doors requires Open Doors checks which take a whole exploration turn. It seems weird to all of us, but we settle on a sort of fairy tale logic where "that's just the nature of the doors here". They get stuck in various ways, the hinges rust etc, and each requires the right combination of pressure, well-meaning tackles and finagling.

    After Nameless, who is still concussed, has struggled with the same door for half an hour, a group of skulking humanoids arrive (photo reference: Gollum). They chatter amongst themselves in an unknown language, but when hailed by Jauques it turns out at least some of them understand Gaul. They are shy and easily spooked, but introduce themselves as the gloomies, the caretakers of this place. They live here, but when answered whether they own the place they quickly defer to "the Black Bears". The Black Bears apparently owns the place now (implying they haven't always) and the gloomies must serve their betters.

    G. F. Tráin tries speaking "barbaric" with them as well: running out babbling "bar bar bar!". One of the gloomies misunderstand him and tries to answer in Latin, which causes the priest to check in. Jauques tries to hire the leader as a guide, but he asks for an outrageous price. Father rolls an astonishing 72 on a charisma check (d20 exploded twice), and gets a guide for free! The youngest among the gloomies is a devout Christian convert, God knows how or why, and has been branded with a cross by his kin (or by himself?). He asks if Father will take him in and teach him, much to the scorn of his gloomy peers, and Father of course accepts him into his flock.

    At this point Nameless gives up on the stubborn door and joins the others, which prompts laughter from all the gloomies as they can see by her broken nose that she walked into their hilarious trap upstairs! They admit to keeping all traps around here functional, because they have always done so.

    The gloomies leave (except for Doggo), after giving up some more information. Doggo is young and doesn't know many details about the place, but he does know the placement of some traps, and the routes between places he's been. They learn that the northern passages lead to "The Dragon" as well as an offshoot passage to the "Living Dead"—both of which are places the gloomies don't go. The southern door holds a "scary old man who yells at you", and the southeast passage leads back to the gloomies' home (that's where the rest of them slunk away to).

    (part 3 part 2 in a separate post because this one got too long)
  • Doggo helps them with the stubborn door. The module claims that everyone living here are used to the doors' peculiarities and aren't hindered by them. I will run it as them having a much easier time, since they can start by trying to open them with skill at DC 20 taking no time; and only if they fail they must resort to Strength checks taking a full exploration turn like the party. I'm not sure about the underlying mechanics but I had Doggo rolling at +10, thinking that the adult gloomies probably roll at +15. (I said that Doggo rolled with Wits, but in retrospect perhaps it should have been Knowledge. Hm.)

    Behind the doors they find a small dining room and room badly burnt by a fire (they speculate about dragon fire). Nameless takes a wooden shield that hung in the dining hall like a heraldic weapon; we had been discussing the shield rules and she was regretting not getting one from start.

    They choose to wait with both the dragon and the living dead, and start by tackling the Old Man Who Yells At You. They open the door into an empty room with skeletal remains and blood stains on the floor, with another door and a rusty portcullis leading out. About a minute after entering—while Nameless is searching the room for secrets—a wind buffets through the portcullis and a booming voice tells them "Fools! Flee before your bones rest here forever!" Nothing else happens.

    The portcullis is rusted in place and heavy, but not locked, so they manage to get it up after struggling for a while. Nameless stands watch, and at one point sees a party carrying a lantern approach from the north corridor (the one leading to the alleged dragon). She quickly covers her own light and tell the others to cease their noisy work. They wait patiently behind the door as the other party walk by, disappearing down the same passage the gloomies went. They could hear jangling of weapons, and footsteps definitely heavier than the gloomies'. Perhaps its the Black Bears?

    Behind the portcullis the corridor splits in two, and one leads to a room with a dried-out fountain shaped like a leaping fish. As they investigate the room, Jauques puts weight on the fountain base and a poison cloud trap is sprung! Jauques fails his save and takes -10 HP (save or die in the original module). He makes his injury saves, so this is a minor injury: he got clear before inhaling too much of the stuff, but his lungs are messed up and he'll have -2 to anything that requires any sort of stamina for the next few days.

    They explore on, and Doggo recognises the next crossroads. There's one passage that also leads to the dragon's den, he claims, and sure enough the hewn stone walls soon give way to a natural cave, damp with moss. They quickly back out and explore the other options. One has a locked door—the first one they've seen with an actual metal lock set into the door. The third leads to a room where the walls and ceiling has settled, and Doggo warns them to walk very slowly and stay silent. They do, and Nameless spots a giant centipede sitting in the ceiling! They don't want to disturb that.

    Doggo has promised them that this way leads to clean water, and they are eager to find a water source. (The ravine itself has no water outside of the hot spring, which they daren't drink. The alternatives are either climbing the ravine walls and go exploring the mountainside, or going past the gatehouse again. Both doable, but with their own risks.) Before they get there, they pass through a room with a statue of a bipedal lizard holding a plate full of copper coins! Doggo warns them that it's dangerous, and they inspect the statue closely. Sure enough, the arms and the plate constitute a moving part, probably to spring a trap if the plate is tampered with. They leave the treasure, for now. Across the lizard room lies a small cistern of water. They refill and head back.

    There are two more passages to check before going back to the stairwell. One leads out of the centipede's, but Doggo claims it just leads back to the stairwell by taking the long way around.

    The other one is close to the portcullis, and leads to a small shrine. The priest and Nameless start investigating the carvings on the walls, but G. F. Tráin cuts through the crap and heads for the main attraction: there's a giant stone wheel on the far wall, above the altar, and he immediately spins it. It starts a great racket, and G. F. is hypnotised by the glyphs spinning past. It slows to a stop, with the topmost glyph being a sad figure, sitting down with a dejected posture. He is cursed: he will always have 10 initiative (otherwise 1d20+Wits, and his Wits was 14).

    He immediately spins it again! This time it stops on a figure standing tall with a shield. He is blessed with +2 AC. G. F. himself is conflicted: the curse came with an overpowering sensation that this was his just punishment, but the blessing likewise convinced him that it was a blessing he deserved for his deeds. The priest has finished studying the carvings, and deduced that this is a blasphemous shrine to a heathen goddess of Chance. Conrad looks over the glyphs, and count as many "good" as "bad" ones (inasmuch as he interprets the drawings correctly).

    Jauques wants to spin the wheel too, but it stops immediately and nothing happens. The others deduce that it is because he is a heathen Gaul; it only works for civilised people. No-one else tries to spin it.

    This is where we were out of time and finished the session. Tune in next time for the session we played today—now with a sixth player! Also: the first PC death. Who will it be?
  • Part 4: The battle by the pit

    I give different status to the core troupe (the five we've seen so far) and the roster of guest players that are interested in the campaign but couldn't commit to all the sessions in advance. One such player showed up today, and I essentially told him that we won't stress telling him all the rules since we don't want to slow down, and if a character death of his could be blamed on this, sucks to be you. In return, you get to drop in and out of the game session-to-session. With that said, he picked up quickly and rolled with the punches!

    We decided that one of the five Gauls in the gatehouse had reconsidered the dangers of the underground vaults, and thought that with this impressive party they have a chance of making it out with treasure alive! Thus Frank the Frankish shaman (Sage with a bond to a spirit of Light, functionally the spell Light) ran into the party as they passed by the staircase.

    They proceed north, and find a wooden signpost pointing warning of the dragon. The passage in question seems to lead to the same natural cave system (they checked their map and the geometry checked out as well). There are several other passages, and Doggo explains that two of them join up farther away and then lead toward the living dead. There's a door, where Doggo claims they store "nasty stuff" that the older gloomies trade with "scary people downstairs" who apparently eat it, maybe? They open the door: it's essentially a morgue, holding several dead, embalmed human bodies (gloomies and otherwise). They hear a squeak, and close the door again.

    Another party of gloomies, coming from the north, hails them from the dark. They are upset, telling them that the corpse storage is not their business and they should not open that door! Jauques rolls poorly on his charisma check to ask them for information, so they don't give up anything useful. The party does let them pass, though, and they continue to the south.

    During the encounter, the rear guard Conrad notices a person spying at them from behind a corner. He warns the others. I make a note that the Black Bears (that was them) are waiting for a good time to ambush the party, and they will talk to the gloomies who aren't too keen on them either. The party decides to press on.

    They decide to investigate "the long way around" just to complete their own map, and in case there's anything on the route that Doggo doesn't think to mention. They pass through two rooms with large bas-relief stone faces. In the first one Doggo leads them across a safe path, warning that some of the floor tiles will trigger the trap. He even shows them the small dart holes in the walls, proudly proclaiming that he helped re-arm this trap once!

    Later on, Doggo halts them at an unremarkable point in the corridor, and tells them to proceed pressed against the walls, since there's a pit trap. On the other side, they find a door in the wall while the corridor leads on to what, according to their map, must be the centipede lair. As they investigate the door, however, the gloomies hail them from behind. They ask them to come with them, and leave this place, because they're not allowed here anymore! They approach cautiously, and when the two parties are standing with the pit trap right between them, the gloomies scream a command word. The Black Bear warriors are moving in from the other side, trapping them!

    The fight is our longest and bloodiest yet. The Black Bear tribe (physically regular humans) has sent seven warriors, among them two archers. The party only has Jauques, so they decide against a prolonged archery duel and rush the Black Bears. Frank and Conrad stay and guard against the gloomies, who have drawn daggers on the other side of the pit trap.

    The fight initially goes badly. Even though the gloomies hold off on crossing the trap, they bind up two of the party who just stand there defending. Jauques takes an arrow to the knee (minor injury, more penalties to physical activities) and G. F. Tráin gets his left hand cut clean off (major injury). Conrad triggers the trap with a thrown club (since the gloomies know exactly where it is but the party only approximately, a straight-up hole is easier to maneuver around) and then abandons the rear guard to Frank and goes to help against the Black Bears.

    The gloomies take their chance now that Frank can't cover both sides of the corridor at once. He's hit by three attacks after his HP runs out, but is still standing! He passes his first injury save (minor injuries), passes the second one with at least four extra degrees of success, so we get our first "actually, it was just a scratch" moment, but then fails the third one for a major injury. Jauques goes to help against the gloomies, fells one, but is then downed himself. A knife to the shoulder, major injury, and as a first in this game he fails the mental injury save meaning he collapses, unconscious from the pain. Soon after, Frank is hit by another savage dagger. He gets is second major injury, and is slain!

    But then, their luck changes! As the party fell the fourth Black Bear warrior, they fail their morale check and start running away. This is right before the gloomies would have hit their rear hard. The party doesn't pursue, opting to face the gloomies and scare them away by showing the Black Bear corpses and rolling high Will checks to intimidate. The gloomies scatter immediately, but not after stealing G. F.'s backpack that he had dropped to the ground in order to fight unencumbered.

    I roll in secret and determine that the Black Bears fail to keep their wits about them and stir up the giant centipedes, who kill another one of them. The remaining two escape to alert their captain.

    The party waits a single turn to wake up Jauques, tourniquet G. F.'s bleeding arm stump, and loot the fallen. They leave Frank's body, and he might be found in the corpse storage if they go there on their next visit :D The Black Bears carried quite a bit in spare change, so they gather up 29sp and 10cp. The whole encounter was also worth 200 XP (7 Black Bears, 12 gloomies, and 1pit trap, all counting as 1 HD enemies).

    Then they head back past the traps and to the stairwell as fast as possible. They hear booming voice of the Old Angry Man echo ahead of them (the two Black Bears that got away are waiting in the room, and have just triggered the enchantment). The Black Bears decide against attacking on their own, and the party never spots them as they rush up, outside.

    (part 4 part 2 in the next post)
  • As the injuries are tallied up, we acknowledge that Frank's player has no character, and G. F. Tráin and Jauques are considered injured to the point of unplayable. They make a plan to head back to Maastricht with what little loot they have, and recruit new adventurers.

    We discuss which route they'll be taking and how dangerous it might be, and we agree that no-one is particularly interested in playing out the hex crawl. I offer them a deal: everyone rolls two Strength saves of DC 10, and if you fail either, you die on the way back. For the characters who still had Strength > 10, I said that a natural one gives a -5 (and the value of 1), so Conrad with Str 10 had to roll, but Nameless with Str 14 couldn't fail even on a natural 1. In hindsight I should have made it "you get a major injury on the way back", just on the off chance that the hitherto completely uninjured Conrad had failed those rolls—a little weird to stake immediate death in a game with the "cross" system.

    G. F. Tráin failed his roll! I looked that the random encounter checks I had prepped in case they wanted to play out the journey, and figured he had been slain by wolves. They concocted a story where G. F. Tráin the One-Handed, ever the fearless leader, had volunteered to hold off two hungry wolves with only a torch while the rest of the party escaped in the night. They came back in the morning, gave him a proper burial and salvaged his gear. Then we cut to Maastricht, dividing the loot and XP.

    We debated over shares for dead PCs, and PCs who were only present for part of the adventure. Dan and Father took half a share each, since they had only been in half of the adventure, but we ended up deciding against having dead characters getting either a share of money (classically for their family) or of the XP. I give encounter XP immediately after the encounter, so G. F. took some of that to his grave, but treasure XP was given out here in Maastricht so his share of that one was just split among the survivors.

    According to the rules for Guide-type hirelings in LotFP (which is my main reference for spells and price lists), Doggo got 1/10th share of the expedition since he had participated in dangerous events. He didn't get any encounter XP since he just cowered in a corner (though he did pass his loyalty checks; one when they were surrounded and one when 25% of the party went down).

    They sold the fire beetle bladders, no longer glowing red but still alchemically interesting, for 15sp. They paid an alchemist (to my surprise they found an alchemist operating in Maastricht, in secret of course—I gave them 1/10 odds that there was one) 10sp to identify the potion they found as a potent healing elixir (mechanically: immediately re-roll HP with advantage, plus regain up to 1d6 points of ability scores due to injuries). They keep it. They also keep the ring, on the chance that it's magic and becomes useful (I hinted at this so there was some meta-gaming here but I don't mind in this instance).

    All in all, they cashed in 85sp, and so split 85xp in 4.1 shares, for 21 XP each. The most experienced are Nameless and Conrad, with 100 XP each, meaning that so far encounter XP is actually much more than treasure. However, there are a few treasures in the areas they have explored that would offset this, so essentially they have been unlucky with their searching.

    I reminded the players that they now got to choose whether they wanted to go back to the same dungeon or search for another adventure, and they were dead set on returning. The session was close to wrapping but we did another logistics phase and blazed through the travel to the gatehouse with the new party. I'll leave that—as well as the introductions of the four amazing new characters—to next time.
  • Seems like you're doing well - classic hijinks. Fun to read about a dungeon that I've spent quite a while outwitting myself.
  • The game world concept is essentially my own take on your fantasy Europe, with all supernatural stuff being unknown to the civilised world and local to weird locations. Since there is some contact between human surface dwellers and at least the first level of Stonehell, I have replaced most non-human humanoids with more regular humans. For the interested, the gloomies are kobolds in the original module, and the Black Bear tribe are orcs. Their rival gang of goblins, which the players have heard mentioned by the gloomies but not encountered yet, is the Gundar tribe. Both of these tribes speak Gaul natively, although noticeably different dialects from each other and from e.g. Jauques and Frank. (The Gaul exiles in the gatehouse are also goblins originally.)

    The language thing has actually been a little tricky, since Stonehell just assumes everyone speaks common for the most part, including in its written messages. What I'm settling on:
    - The original builders of Stonehell (at least the upper parts, the prison part) spoke Latin.
    - The tribes on the first level are native Gaul speakers, but they don't have a written language so the ones that do write have learned either Latin (if it was a long ago, passed down through generations deal) or Germanic (if they have communicated with the outside world in the last ~100 years). The tribesmen who have outside contact also speak Germanic, but most only speak Gaul.
    - The gloomies have their own language, with no writing system. The literate ones know Latin script, since they take care of the dungeon itself and all original text is Latin. A given gloomie speaks (1d6) 1: Gaul, 2: Germanic, 3: Latin, 4: A language used by lower-level denizens, 5: neither, 6: roll twice and take the union. In hindsight it would make sense for the gloomies to have some more writing of their own, but I guess this way there's a bigger chance the party gets to read signs etc which is nice.
    - In addition they have found "strange runes" in more than one place. Next session they will have a Gaul magician, and while we have established that there is no "Gaulic written language", they might have good chances of deciphering ancient runes. These runes might be dwarven, elven, fae, lizardfolk, or just pre-Roman Conquest Gaulic, from mostly dead druidic traditions (since this Gaul was partly conquered, then Rome fell, and for some reason we're back to small settlements and nomadic tribes).

    So far I'm not at all missing the orcs and kobolds! There might be dwarves coming up soon though, and that'll be fun.
  • Another note on Stonehell: I mistakenly played the first two sessions under the impression that a standard Stonehell door was made of stone. The players remarked upon the improbable craftsmanship several times, but I was convinced I was just playing the module as written. Then I looked it up and they're supposed to be stout iron-banded wooden doors XD
    I debated with myself whether to ret-con this, but I ended up sticking to my guns and I will add a specialised door-making guild among the gloomies (or perhaps some other people on lower levels) who zealously keep up the tradition in the face of impracticality :P

    Besides, the thing we found oddest, i.e. the difficulty and time required to open the doors, would't have been less weird with the wooden ones. And that I'm playing as written: just opening a closed door in Stonehell requires an Open Doors check which in standard Labyrinth Lord is used for forcing open locked doors, if I'm reading this correctly.
  • Yeah, when we played this it was also set in the same "fantasy Europe" concept - the GM was also influenced by me (and Jim Raggi, the other guy pushing historical fantasy in D&D hereabouts).

    The gloomies were essentially morlocks in our game - human prisoners trapped underground for generations, undergoing dungeon-related adaptations. The dungeon was set in Moldova, Eastern Europe, which brought its own nuances - it had been built by the Byzantine empire in its heyday, for instance. The denizens spoke something nigh-understandable for characters with native Greek, I seem to remember.

    I personally like what you're doing in terms of slathering color on the D&D elements, obviously. I've used similar logic in our historical fantasy campaigns a lot, and I feel that it makes the game much more intellectually stimulating for me when I can draw on all these possible connections. Like your Gauls, for instance - much easier to immediately have some ideas for what their magical traditions are like than if it was "Blood Coastians" or something instead.

    The door-opening thing you remark upon comes from original D&D - Stonehell is probably belaboring the point because of how that particular rule is usually dropped from later dungeoneering procedures. I think that the original assumption is simply that all doors are indeed stuck - plus probably there's a gaming desire to draw out the timeline and make opening doors costly, and so on; the early game was pretty minimalistic, sometimes they had these rules that make sense if you're not intending to treat the game to a careful exegesis.

    If you feel that the 10-minute door opening thing is too gamey over the long term, I suggest developing it in this way: assume that it takes a whole turn "by default". This is how organic rulings often develop in this game: you have a baseline rule that then gets elaborated upon by further detail, but the baseline is still available for whenever you want to default back to something simple and quick. Constructing rules edifices like this requires most of all that the baseline rule is both conservative and simple, which the door-opening rule is, so this seems like a suitable place to apply this principle.

    What you might do in practice is to say that the 10 minutes per door opening check is for when the party is working without appropriate tools. Add a big mallet and spikes and a crowbar and an axe and whatever else, and suddenly it's going much faster. This admittedly doesn't do anything about the fact that you'd expect regularly used doors (such as the gloomies use) to not get stuck all the time, but that might be something you can't eliminate without starting to randomize the stuckyness status of individual doors. (That's something I've liked to do: a simple 50% chance per door in dungeon that it's stuck, otherwise it works fine as long as it's not locked.)
  • I'm reading along, but don't have much to add just yet. An excellent writeup! It's inspiring me to get more active about running something like this myself in the near future. Thanks!
  • My door opening rule I developed while my players explored Stonehell (they're still there!).

    First attempt: a single kick. Monsters roll surprise if it opens.

    Second attempt: 1 turn and requires a crowbar.

    If the second attempt fails the door must be destroyed which will require axes and three turns, each provoking a wandering monster check.
  • edited August 2018
    Part 5: Nameless, the Stonehell tour guide

    Here's our party for the second expedition to Stonehell:

    - Nameless, the only returning member of the original party (Adventurer)
    - Father, who only lost sharing the above title on a technicality (Sage: cleric)
    - - Doggo of the Stonehell gloomies, his acolyte (Hireling: guide)
    - Renée, the eldest sister of Jauques the Gaul (Sage: magician)
    - Schvuu, a warrior (Fighter)
    - Bothrun, a seiðkona from the northlands, though definitely a good Christian if anyone asks, thank you (Sage: magician)
    - Lillesippa Besväraren, a 13-year-old girl from Maastricht with dreams of becoming a great barbarian, who essentially stowed away on the ship and begged to come along on the adventure (Fighter)

    We established a few things during this new round of character creations:

    Jauques retired from adventuring, and stays with his family whose large seasonal hunting party are staying somewhere within a few days from here. So Jauques never even came with the others to Maastricht, but we ruled that if both he and them got home safely, he'd get his share of XP for salvaging treasures back "to civilisation" anyway. Alas, some druid or other has pronounced a prophecy that one of his family must brave Stonehell dungeon, so now that Jauques failed the task the family sent his sister instead. They have more children, so this player has her character background status situated.

    Dan the Fighter is now known as Halvdan (Half-Dan) since he's just half the man he once was after taking that skeleton's blade. He was taken in by the monks at a monastery in Maastricht, and will likely stay there for a long time before attempting the journey back to his homeland, not to mention any more adventuring.

    Conrad was uninjured, but still reconsidered his choices and stayed in Maastricht. (The player never stated the OOC motivation explicitly but I think he wanted to try out another class, since he rolled up Bothrun the magician.

    "Lillesippa Besväraren" is an great pun in Swedish, that I wasn't able to translate.

    The party gets the same deal as the original one: skip through the haggling over boat rides, and start by the fallen bridge down one ration. Renée meets them at the bridge as well, after a days travel from her family's camp. Nameless makes pathfinding with advantage since she's followed this exact overgrown road before recently. They make good time and arrive at the gatehouse in less than two days. The only encounter was the dead body of an elf, apparently slain in combat and dumped in a ditch stripped of everything but his clothes. No-one has seen an elf for real before, but the pointy ears and fair features are unmistakable. Father gives him a proper burial (Renée, the heathen, speculates that the elf might not have wanted a Christian burial but doesn't interfere) after Lillesippa has claimed his cool green tunic.

    They pass through the gatehouse with caution, and just as they emerge from the other side they are hailed from a second-storey window by the remaining Gauls. They were sleeping when the party left a week ago, so they had assumed they had died in the dungeon. Out of the ones who parlayed with them last time, only Nameless remains, but they manage to convince them that they gave the agreed toll to Frank (who you'll recall did die in the dungeon) who took off with it. They strike the same deal again: if they emerge with any treasure, they are to pay a toll before leaving the ravine. Yeah, yeah, says Nameless.

    Last time they had asked about exploring the southern half of the gatehouse, where the Gauls didn't go because it was haunted. This time they just assumed it would still be okay, since Father was concerned about the eternal souls of the poor restless dead. They find two essentially empty rooms, and the room with the arrow slits through Conrad had seen a ghost way back in part 1. They do indeed find ghosts: five adventurers, just sitting down, walking around, talking inaudibly to each other. The ghosts at first don't notice the party, and when Lillesippa tries greeting them they react as if she is the hardly-visible ghost. They even walk right through her, for 1 HP damage, without taking notice at all! The bones of the adventurers lie scattered about the room, and Father resolves to bury them.

    They dare to explore the second floor, hoping that when the Gauls said they avoid "the south side" they meant both floors. They emerge from a staircase into a large room, perhaps an old mess hall, where a nest of stirges immediately attack them. They slay the three flying critters, (30 XP) but decide against trying to make hats out of them. They also find a dead woman, a traveller or adventurer, who kept a small hidden pouch with 10sp and a 50sp ruby! Already a haul almost as great as the previous expedition's!

    The door to the next room has cobwebs on it, so Nameless takes the chance that they do not violate the Gauls' territory. The room has a hole in the roof, some broken furniture, and a weakened wooden floor due to the leaking roof. Nothing of value is found, and they daren't go further.

    (part 5 part 2 in the next post)
  • Next, Nameless gets to be a sort of tour guide. "Over there is the refrigerator room where we saw the skeletons, there's the hot spring..." Some of the players have a heavy completionist streak, but none of them takes a leader role this time—a combination of people being tired, and Nameless being the natural leader in-game while her player isn't that decisive. So they end up milling around the ravine for most of the session, trying this and that, with the overarching idea of exploring everything else before going down the stairs again.

    They bury the ghosts' bones, which gives them 50 XP. I don't actually give XP for restless souls given solace, but the ghosts where technically listed as monsters which I judged equivalent to 1 HD (they even scared them before), and burying them was the only thing that really would have counted as "overcoming" them. They didn't get any XP for burying the elf or the non-haunting woman.

    They examine the "refrigerator", and see that the skeletons they destroyed last time have been re-reanimated! This time they send the two ranged fighters—Bothrun with a bow and renée with a sling—in to lure them out, while everyone else lies in ambush just outside the door. Father also takes the time to ask for the Lord's blessing on their conquest against undead, which gave four of them +1 to all relevant rolls and +1 damage against these lesser undead (extra effects after the +1 to rolls are negotiated based on the caster level and "level" of the undead). The tactic pays off, and all 6 skeletons are knocked down at essentially no cost! (60 XP)

    Lillesippa is so impressed by the Lord's blessing that she immediately abandons her dreams of becoming a barbarian warrior, and decides she's a holy paladin now.

    Father manages to read some of the carvings in the skeleton chamber: they talk about a curse over these people, to never find rest and remain in agony for all eternity. He buries the skeletons as well, in the hope that they will not rise again. They make the foes' own rusty sword into crosses to mark the graves. While the adults toil, Lillesippa tries her hand at cooking the stirges for lunch.

    They then brave the hot pool, with both Nameless and Lillesippa going for a swim and trying to examine the metal place at the bottom. Nameless tries to swim down but doesn't make it, and Lillesippa drops a rusty sword on it to no effect.

    They finally decide to investigate the switchback trail leading up the south side of the ravine, and then come back, set up camp, and brave the dungeon on the morrow. The switchback trail passes close to two natural caves, and then leads over a ridge. Nameless spots smoke as if from a campfire rising to the sky beyond that ridge. They check the caves first.

    The first opening leads to a small system of caves, where they encounter and slay both a giant crab spider (20 XP) and two giant centipedes (20 XP). Father actually tripped and fell when battling the centipedes, and got bitten twice before his comrades Schvuu and Lillesippan slay the critters. As the poison spreads through his body (two save or die i.e. 10 HP damage leading to an injury save) he quickly produces the small flask they found on their last trip here. It counteracts the poison with a burning sensation throughout his veins, and he gets up without a scratch. Truly miraculous! But now it's gone. The caves also contain a small stash of 94cp, and some cave wall paintings that might be of gloomie origin.

    The second cave mouth is a wolf's den, but I need only tell Nameless' player "going by the smell, some sort of large animal must live here" and she turns the party around. She has bad memories of the black bear last time. (The module actually just says the wolves are here, in which case they would have attacked as soon as she approached, but I gave the party small odds that they were out hunting and the party got lucky.)

    The final stop is to go over the crest and look for the fire. They follow the trail for a while, until they no longer see the ravine behind them, and finally spot smoke rising from among the underbrush. They deduce that it must be a chimney going up from a cave, but they can't see an entrance around here. (It was a bit further down the path, hidden, so they might have found it if they had pressed on.) They go off the path and find the chimney; the crude work of an amateur mason. They decide to write "Good day" on a flat stone with the flame chalk and throw it down. Whoever's down there responds by dousing the fire, and the party hides around the area. Sure enough, 7 brigands soon appear from the path.

    Renée decides to hail them, rolling well on her charisma while the brigands get a friendly reaction roll. The gist of their interaction is that a band brigands who call themselves the Ghost Beggars live here, and Renée and her gang are welcome to go into Stonehell but don't come up here again or else. Some of the brigands have been down there, and they recognise Doggo as being a gloomie. The party quietly assumes the brigands will try to backstab them as they emerge with treasures, of course, but everyone plays nice for now. Just as they're parting ways, a brigand tells Lillesippan "nice tunic"; hinting that it was these guys who slew the elf yesterday.

    I don't think I gave them XP for this encounter; I doubted whether it ticks the "predisposed towards hostility towards the characters" box that my rules has for considering them a threat. In hindsight it definitely did—they had their weapons readied when Renée started talking. I might settle this next session if I remember.

    They check out the northern chambers to see if they're still safe camping site. I roll on a table to see if a new monster has taken up lodging there. I roll the black bear encounter from the table, but it's a unique encounter and that bear already has a lair, so I judge that it's just been spending some time there recently. They don't search too carefully, so they don't notice the stray fur and droppings. If they leave anything in the camp, it'll be trashed by the bear when they come back, and there'll be a 1 in 6 chance that it's chilling there when they come back.

    They divvy up the night watch, and during Schvuu's watch a flock of stirges close in on them, hoping to prey on the blood of sleeping humans. Schvuu wakes everyone up, they prepare an ambush and roll initiative with advantage. All but one stirge go down before they get to act in the first round, and no-one takes any damage. (50 XP) They postpone the expedition start one hour in order to get everyone well-rested despite the interrupted sleep.

    (part 5 part 3 in the next post)
  • In the morning, Bothrun and Renée prepare their spells (Enlarge and a Knock/Hold Portal combo, respectively) while Lillesippan barbecues stirges for breakfast and Father prays for the Lord's blessing upon their quest to scour the vaults of the undead. The players seem more keen on tackling the dragon, but it never hurts to be prepared! Our ruling for spell slots: preparing takes two hours; neither that nor casting requires a roll; you can re-prep spells during the day but that counts as a short rest for fatigue purposes (disadvantage HD next short rest).

    They go down, and decide to try the locked door now that they have a spell for it. On the way there they open the regular Stonehell doors with a crowbar they had brought. For now I'm going with a variant of Krippler's rule: first check is very fast if it succeeds, subsequent checks take 10 minutes each. The crowbar gave them advantage on the roll. They pass through the room with the booming magic voice, and hearing the warning repeated verbatim they deduce that there's no bite to this particular magic trap's bark. They also pass by the poison cloud fountain, which Lillesippan almost touches before Nameless warns her that it almost killed old Jauques last time.

    I wrote that casting doesn't take a roll generally, but the Knock version of Renée's spell is a Will check where regular closed doors are DC 5, Stonehell stubborn doors are DC 10, and locked doors are 15 or higher depending on the condition and sophistication of the lock. She rolled 15, and I realised I hadn't committed to a DC for the door beforehand. I wavered and ruled that 15 was enough to get the lock open, but that the door was still stuck like a regular door. Since the door was actually sealed away for a reason by craftsmen who knew their stuff, and in pretty good condition, it probably should have been 20 for that result. Well well.

    They are greeted with moldy dust, and see a series of crypt doors with Latin carvings: names and dates. They all date from around A.D. 600—the current year is A.D. 1214. They break one open and Renée and Schvuu start searching the six corpses lain to rest inside. They don't get far before one on a high shelf rolls over and drapes itself over Renée—it's a zombie and it tries to bite her face! Lillesippa manages to get it off her and throw it out into the corridor, where Nameless cuts it down. The Lord's blessing came in handy today too!

    We called time and ended the session, with 7 more crypts and one other door left undisturbed. We'll pick off right here come Monday. However, Lillesippa's player (the guest) won't be able to join. We'll decide then what to do with Lillesippa, but she'll either be demoted to a hireling, or she decides she wants to be a robber who lives in a cave (she thought that was so cool) and run off to join the Ghost Beggars.

    Despite a general feeling of not much progress, this must have been the most lucrative single session. They racked up 42 XP each from encounters—that's almost a third of Nameless' total so far—and found treasures worth 69.4sp. On the other hand, they generally rolled well, and their one major setback was mitigated by spending their potion of extra-healing (whose effect in my game I made up without looking up what it did in LL :P ).

    The Ghost Beggars are introduced by name in the supplement Stonehell: The Brigand Caves; in the original module they are just "brigands" who show up around the ravine and have a base nearby.
  • Some thoughts on restocking dungeons

    It's been just over a week since their last foray, so I now have the weekend to get to work re-stocking the explored rooms of the dungeon as much as I like. The module has a table: (1d6) 1: monster, 2: monster and treasure, 3–6: nothing visible; on 1 in 6 a hidden treasure. It's a nice little table, but it seems slightly off to me in that it doesn't account for the passage of time. Returning after two months is different from returning after a week. On the other hand, returning after two months should realistically require not only re-stocking the dungeon but also changing many of the original undiscovered (or undisturbed) descriptions, since they are transient by nature. And I don't want to have to do that—I can't be arsed to extrapolate all undiscovered levels (currently 2–10) forward a week every time they go back to town!

    Of course, it's possible to just say that the description in the module is for "when the players get there". Now if the players get to level 2 after being away for a week, we retroactively decide that if (counterfactually) the players had got there last time, they would have found rooms that were extrapolated one week back in time from the description in the module.

    I am worrying a bit about the rivalry between the Black Bear and the Gundar though. In the module, the Gundar have "recently" been almost wiped out, and the remaining ones are preparing an imminent kamikaze attack on the Black Bears. The players don't know much, but the gloomies did tell of another tribe that used to live there but was chased out now. I now have to go through the rest of level 1 and choose: either decide that the Gundar were slower in their revenge than the module implies, and it hasn't happened yet (some rooms might be changed), or decide that it did happen (lots of rooms might change, and its hard to not view the strategic new landscape as less interesting, since there are fewer moving parts). I'll most likely go with the former this time, but if they leave the dungeon once more with still only having heard of the Gundar, they'll sort of force my hand. Such is the double-edged sword of simulation I guess: in order to make the simulation feel real, the default tool is to put in the work running the simulation even when the players aren't looking!

    Such musings aside, it still requires some imagination and a lot of judgment calls to re-stock the discovered rooms while keeping the rest of the dungeon in mind. For this first substantial re-stocking (I didn't do it before today's session, and they only passed through a few rooms so I'll get away with it) I will use the table as written on all discovered rooms that are neither trapped, regularly patrolled by the Black Bear tribe, or otherwise has a purpose which the adventurers didn't alter (i.e. the corpse storage). The tables for the area they have explored will almost only yield Black Bears, gloomies and wildlife anyway, and those are easy enough to slot in.
  • This is great stuff! I bought Stonehell Dungeon a while back and was kind of unimpressed by it because it seemed kind of same-y and less gonzo than I was used to, but I really like the way you have brought it to life.

    One question that occurred to me when I was reading through it is that there are lot of hallways with doors in Stonehell, which is appropriate I guess but I was wondering how it work if the PCs stop kicking down doors and just go down the corridors for a reconnoiter first to see what's at the end. Has that been an issue with your players, or do you think they will keep playing it smart and clearing small sections at a time?
  • Restocking is a pretty fascinating process, and makes me realize I haven't researched old dungeon crawls texts to see what kinds of techniques have been attempted.

    My own approach has usually been either to handwave it (for small dungeons and short periods of time), making a few obvious changes based on the events of the previous adventure, with a few randomized decision trees to keep me from going with my first idea every time, or to develop a little system.

    The last time I did this, I made a list of "monster actions", and, when the PCs retreat from the adventure locale, enact a few of them. The amount of time elapsed tells me how *thorough* or far-reaching the action might be.

    For instance, I might know that the ogres in the dungeon wish to capture and enslaves the troglodytes. If that's the determined monster action, in one day they might just capture one, but after a month or a year they might enslave the entire tribe and build pens to keep them in.
  • It occurs to me that it might be interesting to make use of random encounter tables to see who else happens upon the dungeon and to generate outcomes from there. (Mongolian scouts found the place? Ok, what does that mean for our purposes?)
  • "One question that occurred to me when I was reading through it is that there are lot of hallways with doors in Stonehell, which is appropriate I guess but I was wondering how it work if the PCs stop kicking down doors and just go down the corridors for a reconnoiter first to see what's at the end. Has that been an issue with your players, or do you think they will keep playing it smart and clearing small sections at a time?"

    I'm not sure if I understand what you mean. Do you mean that there are often some routes with doors blocking, and some without, so you could potentially go across half the level without opening a door if you go by the "path of least resistance"? That's true in places I guess. My players definitely try to assess which way is more dangerous, pros and cons of different routes to the same place etc. If they have a goal, like when Doggo told them they were headed for the water, they most likely would have gone through doors to get there even if there were easy-access corridors nearby. Sometimes during the ten minutes someone's working on a door, someone else says "I take one of the torches and go a little ways down this hallway, just to see what's there". They've never split the party.

    Putting aside the immersion-breaking gamey-ness of it, the 10-minute door checks are a great wrinkle in the exploration game. I don't track exploration speed, instead just eyeballing both travel distance and discussions and eventually go "yeah, it's been 10 minutes", mark the time, and roll a wandering monster check. I usually don't even tell them this; they know I roll for shit now and then and they knew from the start they wouldn't be able to track time accurately in the dark anyway. But most of the times I mark a turn passed it's due to an open doors check or searching a place thoroughly.

    They have caught on to "time passing -> bad" now and I think they factor in both the time and the noise of opening doors into their decision-making. If there are two corridors and the one they explore first ends in a door, they might well backtrack and check the other one at least some 20'-50' down before bashing in the first door. If the second corridor ends in a room without a door, I'm sure they will poke their heads and torches in and look around before opting to go back. I don't see this as a problem.

    Aside: It's funny, I gave out the Old-School Primer as inspirational reading when putting the group together, but I definitely use search rolls—straight up "say how high you rolled and I'll say what you find". I often take into account how they're searching, and there's this continual back-and-forth of precedence-setting where we're establishing how they're usually searching if they don't say anything else. When searching the fountain room, they said "we search the room", I asked if they were investigating the fountain or just the walls, they said "of course the fountain" and I just decided that Jauques had put weight on the fountain's base (in order to get closer) and triggered the trap. I guess in my head I try to separate it: stuff you couldn't miss if you look for it, I tell them if they say that they look there, no roll: if you say you look up, I say there's a spider there, if it's just sitting there. But stuff that you could legitimately miss, even when searching, that's a Wits check. And the thing is: against uneven backgrounds, in the dark with only flickering torchlights, you could miss a lot of things. They said they were investigating the statue for mechanisms, but I think it's feasible to miss the small seam by the arm-joint on a bad roll, under those conditions. Besides, since they roll searches in the open, they can notice out-of-game that their highest roll was a 12 and that's not very high, so let's spend another turn searching. Let them use more time if they want to, I say. Similarly, they haven't tried yet, but I think even the total amateurs that they are could have picked that lock with enough tries. If they could survive four hours worth' of wandering monster checks, that is...
  • Paul: that "monster actions" idea for restocking is great!
  • Thanks!

    I find it useful in a number of ways, because it forces me to think about what the monsters want and what they might be doing, what weak or strong points the dungeon itself might have, and so forth.

    All that brainstorming is really handy for giving the dungeons and it's inhabitants life, in a very economical way.
  • Oh, I never realized that the Ghost Beggars are from the Stonehell material - when playing this stuff I thought it was something unrelated placed by the GM in the sandbox. We certainly had our moments with them.

    Good observations about restocking - you've pretty much captured the pertinent issues, I think.

    These are very detailed descriptions of what happened in each session. Interesting documentation for those wondering about what precisely happens in old school D&D sessions. I would be right at home in this game, myself.
  • I did my re-stocking round today. I rolled on that mini-table for all rooms that seemed relevant, and turned up nothing all around :P

    I also made som monster action notes for next time they leave and come back, if anyone's interested:

    Gatehouse keepers:
    - Live in gatehouse until something better comes along
    - Explore and "conquer" rest of the gatehouse (d6: 1: one fell through floor and died, 2: one fell through floor and got hurt, 3–6: floor still intact)
    - Joined by an exiled german alchemist/demonologist
    - Capture a gloomie as a slave

    "Ghost Beggars" brigands:
    - Locate Zorrel's sister (then: mount expedition to save her)
    - Recruit to fill ranks
    - Rob a caravan to replenish stores (roll 1d12 to see how many days since they left; they return on the 9th day)
    - Press gang gatehouse barbarians into joining, claiming gatehouse and ravine
    - Drive out gatehouse barbarians, post sentries at gatehouse

    Black Bear / Gundar situation:

    If the PCs get to them during their second expedition, the Gundar tribe is situated exactly as in the book. They have been on the run for weeks now, and moved their HQ to its current position a few days ago (before that they held the fungus caves). They have sent a messenger to old allies across the land and are debating how to continue. They put great effort into staying on top of the Black Bear's guard patrols etc. The two tribes co-existed for a long time before the current war.

    - Each week (d12):
    1. Gundar scores important victory. 1 Gundar and 3 Black Bears dead; Gundar territory expands. Barricades in open corridors.
    2. Gundar recruits 1d6 inmates or berserkers as reinforcements.
    3. Gundar makes daring raid on 1–2: Black Bears, 3–4: Gloomies, 5–6: brigands, replenishing their stores (but damaging their standing).
    4–5: An informal truce forms; Gundar HQ is the same and they start trading more actively with the Ghost Beggars.
    6–9: No change; Gundar hide, subsist on raiding and dishonest trade.
    10: Gundar stores are dangerously low. They will last about a day and are currently planning an expedition as above.
    11: Black Bears strike down a guerilla raid. 1 Black Bear and 3 Gundar dead.
    12: Black Bears breach Gundar's defences, slaughter all but 5 who move up to the western ravine chambers. Black Bears loot Gundar HQ but leave it empty for a week before moving in themselves.

    After a month: 1/6 Gundar allies (1–2: Hobgob tribe, alerting the redoubt in 2D; 3–6: other Gauls from down south) have answered the call and are mobilising.

    (I could make a similar table for the Ghost Beggar / gatehouse Gauls situation, now that I've set them up to be in conflict. If the PCs leave them exactly as is, maybe I will. But there's a good chance the PCs will anger, weaken or otherwise affect one of the sides before they leave this time.)
  • I re-read some early posts in the thread:
    It's very cool, and if you don't mind I might link people to this write-up on occasion to give a quick rundown of how we play old school D&D here.
    I don't think I ever answered you, but of course! Share the link freely, both you and everyone else. If anyone feels their influence is in that doc and wants more credit than currently given, let me know as well. (So far I've credited Eero and Sandra for rules, and David Berg for compilation help since I swiped some of it from his "let's write up Eero's primordial DnD" thread.)

    Revisiting combat stunting: we have started doing it a bit! It's mostly resulted in people pushing their opponents prone, but we also had Lillesippan throwing the zombie away from Renée and out into the corridor. And I don't think I mentioned it, but the second skeleton fight had Bothrun score like 8 extra degrees of successes, so "bypass HP" wasn't enough. I had her roll her damage with advantage, and then roll 1d3 to see how many skeletons were hit in succession. The damage then "spilled over" from one skeleton to the next, so the arrow clove right through two skeletons and into a third :D

    Finally, I've written up my take on the ritual magic and spellcasting rules and posted to the players. If they find it reasonable, we'll play with it tomorrow and I'll share it here afterwards!
  • I've really enjoyed reading the summary of play, but hadn't looked at the rules document until this evening. It's an excellent summary, and very well put together! Thank you for this resource.

    Like Eero, I'm not too committed to the particulars of the rules, but I do really like how clearly the conceptual basis of the creative aims of this style of play are summarized in the document. Well done! I also hope to be able to point to this document at some point when an explanation of the creative agenda and process of this style of gaming needs to be discussed.
  • I did a small addition to the door opening check, as well as searching: the normal duration is 10 minutes, but you can spend two successes (i.e. take -10 to your roll after seeing the result) to make it 1 minute. (And still, the very first check at a new door only takes 1 minute, pass or fail—close to Krippler's kicking rule.)

    We also adopted these ritual magic rules:

    A spell is a skill, i.e. going from 0% to 100%. Sages with the "Goetia" Initiation start with 100% in one random spell, other than that no-one has any positive numbers from start.

    Anyone can try to cast a spell they know as a ritual. This requires:
    - 1 hour per spell level
    - a Knowledge check DC 20 modified by the skill value
    - a Will check DC 20 modified by the skill value
    i.e. the ability score is multiplied by the skill value: 1d20+(Knowledge*Skill)
    Some spells have a check as a part of their effect; the above checks are in addition.

    Anyone with Goetia can also prepare spells in their mind. This requires:
    - 2 hours
    - No checks (except checks that are part of the effect)
    - A d% roll under the skill value when casting the spell, or it whiffs—possibly with minor cosmetic effects, but nothing useful nor dangerous

    Preparing your spells costs 2 hours flat, even for higher-level casters who have several spell slots. I'm not 100% clear on spell slots yet, but I figure 1 per level is a good start. Preparing spells also counts as a short rest for fatigue purposes (except for when doing it first thing in the morning, before any adventuring).

    As for learning new spells: a character with Goetia has a spellbook or equivalent that contains their collected notes on magic—not just instructions for specific spells (those are a smaller part of actual text). They can learn (and transcribe) spells from other spellbooks or similar documents/artifacts. Again, I don't have standard DCs set up but I figure it will vary wildly, from "meticulous notes written by a wise master intended for his students" to "mad scrawlings in a cave". In any case, Goetia allows self-study, to pretty quickly get a few percentage points in the new spell, and then gradually build it up.

    For characters without Goetia (or a similar Initiation), the ritual option is there if they manage to learn a spell. However, they pretty much can't do it without active instruction from someone else.

    Part 6 coming soon—with more deaths!
  • Part 6: The Living Dead

    We last left our heroes by a crypt, where they had defeated a zombie. They search the room it came from, but only find corpses and rotten linen. Lillesippa decides she doesn't enjoy dungeon crawling after all, and wants to go be a robber instead (her player won't come back for the rest of the campaign). We demote her to a hireling for the time being and say that next time you pass near the stairs to the surface, she'll just leave.

    They opt not to open the other crypts, and instead go for the door at the end of the corridor. They read the Latin inscriptions—it's excerpts from Christian prayers for the salvation of the souls laid to rest. However, the large cross engraved on the door has been altered: someone has extended it upwards to form an upside-down cross. They force open the door.

    Inside is a small altar chamber, with Christian imagery but also a preoccupation with death (skulls and bones abound in the relief carvings). They search the room, and Nameless realises as she touches it that the altar is cursed! She quickly backs away, making her save, and feel the tenuous grasp of the evil forces begrudgingly let her go. Since no-one opts to touch the altar, they never get to see what the effects of the curse would have been. They also don't find the secret room hidden to the side.

    They debate whether the other crypts are likely to hold any treasure, but they are disparaged by Father. He wants to lay living dead to rest as much as anyone, but robbing the graves of honourably buried Christians sits ill with him. They recall that there is another part of the dungeon which Doggo said held "the Living Dead" and that they could try their luck over there. Perhaps they were more obviously blasphemers or heathens, Renée hopes, so that Father won't have qualms about looting them.

    They take the long way around the dragon caves, and pass the pit trap where the battle took place last time. They investigate the door that they never had time to open then, and find a cluttered storeroom. Almost everything is in useless condition, including heaps of rotten firewood, but they grab a hammer and 6 large iron nails.

    As they pass the corridor with the ogre-mouth relief vaults, Lillesippa bids farewell and heads for the stairs. She'll be found among the Ghost Beggars if the players go there, but won't take an active role in anything if it would make a difference to her viability as a returning PC. The remaining five (Nameless, Schvuu, Renée, Boþrún and Father) head west, as Doggo leads them toward the dwelling of the Living Dead—that is, these totally different Living Dead that he told them about before.

    They pass a new door that they haven't tried, and stop to investigate. Inside is a giant stone sculpture of a bearded human head. As they look around, it starts emitting steam from its mouth and its eyes start glowing. It speaks with the same voice as the magical warning south of the staircase. It tells them it has been placed here to answer their questions; it will answer three.

    Schvuu immediately asks: "where's the treasure?" It answers "Beware the caves, for there be the dragon!"

    After mulling it over, they ask "What's the dragon's weakness?" It answers "When meeting the dragon, keep your head up!* Then pierce its flesh with metal."

    *Untranslatable; in Swedish the phrase "watch out" literally reads "look up".

    Finally, they ask "Will we survive this?" It answers "To get out of here alive, just remember: never put your right foot in front of your left foot." Having answered three questions, the mouth stops smoking and the eyes stop glowing.

    (The oracle gives 1–2: the truth, 3–4: falsehood, 5–6: one of 6 pre-written cryptic responses. The first answer was a cryptic response, which they took to be a hint that the dragon has treasure—which happens to be true! The second answer was truth—the "dragon", actually a giant gekko, has no particular weakness, but it sometimes hides in the ceiling so looking up could help them. The third answer was falsehood; I didn't know whether they would survive so I gave them nonsense. Even if they had followed it, and happened to live, the causality implied by the statement would still not be true.)

    During their questioning, the rear guard Boþrún notices the unmistakable chatter of gloomies down the corridor to the south. She alerts the others, but by the time they are done with the stone head the gloomies have vanished. They investigate a room where there are soot silhouettes of people on the walls—very foreboding. This is where the gloomies spotted them from, but they are gone now. The players haven't explored enough to know that the silhouette room is connected to another area they think is behind them. The gloomies know this, and have headed that way to encircle them.

    They keep heading west toward the Living Dead. They find the oracle's responses too cryptic to trust the stuff about the dragon to be true. They pass a room that bears mark of an old battle, and then they hear the gloomies behind them again. They don't know it, but they are trapped—the way ahead has a particularly sturdy door (DC 25 compared to the regular 20) and the gloomies block off the way back. Some of the gloomies approach with drawn weapons.

    Renée tries asking them what they want. One of the gloomies speak Gaul (this time determined randomly—this party actually had exactly one each who speaks Gaul, Germanic and Latin, respectively), and answers that they are not welcome here. It's unclear if they recognise Nameless and Father from last time, or if everyone's unwelcome now. Renée's charisma check does bring down their aggression a notch, and like all gloomies they are cowards. They make a deal: keep going forward, into the dwelling of the Living Dead, and never come back. That's not much of a deal, someone says. Doesn't matter, those are the terms. The party shrugs—they were headed there anyway, and they figure they can deal with the gloomies when they come back.

    They inspect the large double doors, adorned with relief carvings of a literal dance macabre. They open it with relative ease (money well spent, that crowbar). A smell of dust and old death meets them.

    (part 6 part 2 in a separate comment)
  • That's a tricky situation. I wouldn't want to be trapped in that particular part of the dungeon with the gloomies blocking the way back. We did get spectacularly trapped in the dungeon ourselves by the circumstance of the gloomies controlling the staircase, but we avoided them down the well and on the 2nd level, which is somewhat friendlier.
  • They leave the doors open and walk unwaveringly onwards. Doggo is scared, but Father's stoic calm helps him cope. They reach a large room, with ruined sculptures and two rows of pillars stretching out into the dark. (There are also exits forward, left and right.) But it's not all dark: six fire beetles are grazing on the lichen growing here. The party readies their weapons; this enemy was easy enough last time, and provided them with long-lasting torches of improved fire safety. Doggo recognises them: they're a staple of the Stonehell dwellers' diet.

    The beetles go down without incident (60 XP). The players are doing their best to allow the two ranged fighters clear shots, and both Schvuu and Nameless are using their shields more actively (pay 2 initiative to make a defence roll, which supersedes your AC if it's better). Nameless takes one carcass and demonstrates how to extract the glowing organs, and then they get to work on one each in the interest of speed. Renée flubs her Knowledge roll, puncturing the glands and spilling hot, glowing slime on the floor. They also decide to take some culinary chances, and cut up the beetles for rations.

    (Here, I rolled for random encounters during the hour or so they spend here, and got several. However, we had already went through the whole process, so I may have been a bit biased in my interpretation of the tables towards results that would likely result in discrete breaks in their work, so that it could be resumed afterwards without too much hassle. In hindsight, I would have liked to say "you know what, strike everything after Nameless demonstrated the gland extraction; you're interrupted by zombies; we'll re-roll whatever you thought you had done afterwards if you still want to do it".)

    First, they noticed a stream of ants ("insect swarm" on the table) pouring out of a crack in the wall, headed for the dead beetle Father's working on. They quickly switch it for Renée's, whose glands were already ruined, and write it off as acceptable losses. The ants don't venture further into the room, and the party don't bother them. I forgot to give them XP, but the ants weren't out to hurt them anyway.

    Next, they hear shuffling steps coming from the north corridor. They line up next to the doorway and the rangers take their shots as soon as the zombies shuffle into the light of their torches. Then Nameless, Schvuu and Renée hold the corridor. Nameless drops to 0 HP and takes a minor injury—a zombie tears a nasty gash along her arm with its fingernails—so Father tags her out. There were 6 zombies but the party effectively keep it a 3-vs-2 by blocking the corridor (more nimble opponents would have been able to squeeze their own front rank, making it 3-vs-3). When the zombies are down to 3, they retreat into the room so all 5 members of the party can surround the zombies and get their hits in. Other than Nameless' flesh wound, no-one is hurt. Of course, they are helped by the fact that Father and Nameless still have all actions taken to scour the vaults of the undead blessed by the Lord. (120 XP)

    They wash the wound, and finish up with the beetle butchering. I roll up 3 cobras on the wandering monsters table, and my credulity is strained. What are they doing here? Why would they attack? If they live here, why wouldn't they had attacked earlier? Why would they want to eat the beetles—they eat much smaller animals, right? In hindsight I probably could have gone for "driven mad by the chaos energies of this godforsaken, evil place", but I didn't. I set the cobras to a 5 for "Hunting for sport" on my morale/loyalty table:

    2 Traitorous, pressured into service, forced into service but no risk of enforcement
    3-4 Cowardly, forced into service and enforcer close
    5-6 Fickle, underpaid, protecting, hunting for sport
    7-9 Normal pay, protecting territory or superiors, hunting for food
    8-9 Good pay, protecting home or friends, hunting for food while starving
    10-11 Well paid and emotionally invested, protecting own life or way of life
    12 Mindless, zealous, parent protecting young

    And then I rolled higher than 5 on 2d6 and they decided not to attack the large scary humans. (No XP—not sure if they should have been, by my rules.)

    The party moves north, to investigate the origin of the zombies. There are two empty rooms here, one of which is a mausoleum, and I had decided to myself that this is where they came from (when I had to choose which way they were approaching from). However, I forget that this should mean that the door would be open, so they just pass by the closed door. To my luck, the map has a small walled-up room nearby, the size of a supply closet, that has been broken open from the inside. The players deduce that's where the zombies were, and move on. I retroactively accept this explanation as better than mine.

    They enter a room full of unlit candles—some sort of memorial hall. Schvuu finds a secret door in the corner, leading through a narrow passage out into a corridor. They don't know it, but they're actually very close to the beetle room; this corridor meets up with the eastern exit. They happen to go in the other direction, though, and come to a set of doors, one at each side of the corridor. They force one open, and find a large crypt. To large sarcophagi, and numerous shelves and alcoves filled with embalmed corpses. Renée got her wish: the place is largely non-denominational, and she starts looking for treasure. (Father is not completely happy, but doesn't stop her.) Just as she opens a ceramic urn to find it full of silver coins, three of the dead awaken as zombies! Typical.

    Boþrún gets bitten in the arm, but other than that they make quick work of the opposition (60 XP). (Father's and Nameless' blessings will stay until sunrise the next day, and though the party has lost track of time, it's only just before noon.) They search the remaining grave offering urns, and tally up a total of 200 silver pieces! They divide this windfall evenly at once, to spread the risk and the encumbrance penalties. Father gives a small prayer over

    (part 6 part 3 in a separate comment)
  • Whoever's standing guard outside the room suddenly warns them: they heard footsteps, from several people, down the hallway to the east. They quickly throw the coins into their bags and go out to face whoever's coming—closing the crypt door behind them in case more zombies awaken. The footsteps stop; whoever it is stays outside the They are hailed by a raspy, sickly, terrible old voice:

    "Why are you here?"

    "We are adventurers!"

    "There's no adventure here. Only silence and death".

    "You should come closer to our light, so that we can see you!"

    "I'm standing precisely where I mean to. You should leave."

    "We're here to cleanse these vaults of the undead."

    "Then you have your work cut out for you."

    They start approaching again, and soon skeleton upon skeleton can be seen. The party ready their weapons.

    The battle is hard-fought, to say the least. They do the same 3-vs-2 tactic as with the zombies earlier, but both Schvuu and Father have to be tagged out due to major injuries.
    (Hilariously, each got an arm cut off below the elbow. Major injuries are definitely my number one source of insecurity in this game so far: what am I allowed to do? How worse can it get? How soft can I go, so that the previous guy doesn't think it unfair? Today I brought out the "body part hit" table from Swedish simulationism strawman RPG Eon, third edition, and happened to roll the lower arm for both of them. When using a table in order to remove culpability for improvisation, I can't very well improvise a new interpretation of the very same roll, so it had to be "arm cut off" the second time as well! Tomorrow I'll look over the corresponding critical hits tables more closely and see if I can get a better procedure that I'm still comfortable with using.) They have every chance to retreat, but just as they are on the verge of giving up Renée hits a Wits check to realise that the current wave of skeletons is the last one. They kill the last one—now having destroyed 10 skeletons over many rounds—and tend to their wounded.

    (The voice from the darkness before was not a skeleton, but the cursed leper Malfreces Nul, who commands the undead here but has no particular ambitions of his own. He just sicced the skeletons on them and then went about his business.)

    We debate the viability of achieving effective tourniquets for our new amputees, and though the prolonged combat already makes it unrealistic we allow Boþrún and Nameless to roll for it (Knowledge check modified by their Medicine skills of 75% and 10%, respectively). Both fail, and we agree that while the details aren't important, both Schvuu and Father bleed to death within minutes.

    Doggo is beside himself with grief, and now no-one can speak with him either (he speaks only Gloom-tongue and Latin). Renée, with the help of a decent Charisma roll, manages to get across the point that they will bring him up to the surface to bury him. No-one has anywhere close the encumbrance budget to carry a corpse, so they stash Father and Schvuu, with their respective gear, each in a sack and start dragging.

    Amazingly, they make it all the way to the staircase without random encounters. The gloomies have not been waiting for them outside the entrance to the dwellings of the Living Dead, presumably having better things to do. Rest assured, the Black Bears are aware of the party's return now at least. They need as many hands as they can to get the corpses up the long stairs, so they leave Boþrún to guard the late Schvuu while Doggo, Renée and Nameless get Father to the surface.

    Again they get lucky, and Boþrún's vigil is uninterrupted for the 30 minutes it takes until Nameless and Renée come back down, having left Doggo to guard / weep for Father. But finally, their luck runs out, and I roll a random encounter as their getting Schvuu up the stairs. As they reach the top of the stairs, they found Doggo slain by two arrows, Father's body bag torn open and his body looted. Lucky they split up that treasure beforehand—now they only lost one share!

    (The encounter was "brigands". I decided that while they have their own entrance into Stonehell from their cave base, they are unlikely to have walked through the dungeon all the way to the staircase, since they also have access to these stairs from the surface. So to be encountered by the stairs, they must have had business here, and if they had been down there, returning to the stairs, they would have noticed the corpse-draggers way before since Boþrún had been guarding the stairs for some time. The logical conclusion was that the brigands just got here from the ravine, and as such they had run into Doggo first. Alas, poor Doggo. Rest in piece.)

    Upon this sorry sight, we end the session. I ask the survivors to make their customary end-of-session ability score improvement rolls, and Renée's player exclaims "what's even the point, now?". A good session all around.
  • edited August 2018
    Hah, I knew they'd get fucked up by Malfreces Nul. Respect for sticking to the process and letting those characters bleed to death after combat amputation.

    Regarding major injuries, my suggested heuristic is this: "As per traditional D&D rules procedure, your character should just die here, right now. The rolls and routines we have already done are what the vast majority of the tradition holds sufficient for a character to die. However, I prefer a system that simulates the horrible, more or less career-ending injuries that may occur in between a character being basically-fine and them being dead as a doornail, and I choose to place those possibilities here, at the limit of death. Therefore, I ask you now: will we just leave this character dead, or shall I pronounce on their wounds with more specificity? You will get what first occurs to me, no takebacks, no negotiation - this is a dead man walking, if they indeed are after this injury. If you think that you would not enjoy playing a dying man in his death throes, then we can just call it done and move on."

    (That's roughly how I explain the "wounds and crosses" stuff to the players. The question about whether the player wants the death or the wound is also standard procedure; most of the time the players want the wound, probably because they're rarely sensitive enough to dread macabre description of violence, and because they are hoping against hope that this time the wound might be a survivable one. Sometimes it sort of is, and the character can come back later almost as good as new. This is of course particularly true when the wound has been caused by something relatively safe, such as a boxing match or accidental fall.)

    That is to say, I find it useful to consider the assignation of major wounds an explicit inspired GM privilege. Monsters die when they take a major wound, remember? Major wounds only occur when a player explicitly asks for their character to live on. Often the wound is career-ending, or proves deadly in consequence. There is no fairness or game balance or simulation here, all that already happened before. The GM shouldn't feel constrained by careful procedure any longer at this stage, I think.

    The main advantage aside from emotional security (the GM's, I mean - it's a harsh job having to pronounce characters dead) in my model is that I don't need to lug around an ever-more complex and detailed procedure for critical injuries; rather, I can just pin down the first idea that makes sense and assign that. Quicker, and most importantly, less quantified: we have to discover what each injury means, and we never know in advance what the particulars of each are. This leaves more room for medical maneuvering, and leaves the player delightfully alone in deciding whether the character is still viable in some way or not.
  • edited August 2018
    That's a very good take. My players haven't objected to how harsh the major wounds can get, but I have never said that they can choose death immediately. I like that: if you ask me to just throw a major injury at you off the top of my head, I can't guarantee that it will be both realistic and fair! So if you want the fair system, die now, otherwise you explicitly sign up for "whatever I think of first". Next time I run a game like this, I'll definitely use that from the get-go. I'm not sure if I want to backpedal and sell this on my current players now, though. We only have three sessions left, so I might just tough it out at squaring the circle of injury options that are simultaneously varied and interesting and roughly the same level of survivability as each other. Nor 100% sure.

    Speaking of the end of the campaign: my players are dying to know all the behind-the-scenes stuff, so I told them today that I'll host a tell-all debriefing session after Friday's session. If anyone wants to be able to tackle this dungeon again, with me or another GM, then they shouldn't attend. I think they'll all be there, and I don't blame them—while Stonehell is good, there are other dungeons for future campaigns. I spoiled myself on playing Stonehell by reading it years ago, even though it seemed more likely then that I'd get the chance to see it as a player than as a GM based on my gaming habits. I also told them about this thread, but that they shouldn't read it until after Friday.

    Similar to how we've fleshed out magic and cleric rules (right, I haven't told you my system for how often Father could Bless), we're now hashing out weapon differentiations and some Fighter Initiations in our Discord channel. Here are some Initiations I wrote up:

    Weapons training: you gain +1 to AC when using a weapon with longer reach than your opponent; you gain +1 to hit when using a lighter weapon than your opponent; you roll d8s for damage when using a two-handed weapon; you gain +1 initiative when attacking with ranged weapon unhindered.

    Spear training: when using a spear, you gain +1 to hit, and +2 to AC against opponents with shorter reach than you.

    Longsword training: when using a longsword, you gain +1 AC against opponents with shorter reach than you, and you have advantage on your damage rolls.

    Bow training: when using a bow, taking an extra action only costs you 5 initiative points, and you may do so in any round in which you act before all your opponents.
    [It usually costs 10, and is only available to the one with the highest initiative—i.e. must also act before all his comrades.]

    But now we're considering adopting the "Weapons training" bonuses for everyone, all the time. Those of our players most knowledgeable about medieval weaponry have remarked on the fact that all weapons are mechanically identical. We've talked about fictional positioning, but no-one has so far been able to e.g. keep someone at bay with a spear such that the spear-wielder got to attack but the opponent did not, or anything like that. Most people have used sword—based on the fact that all other weapons are mechanically identical.
    (Note that the +AC for longer reach and +attack for lighter weapon, if allowed everyone, effectively cancel each other out in the case of e.g. sword vs dagger.)
  • Great writeups, as usual. I'm really enjoying the various phantasmagoric imagery from the module - it's making me want to run some dungeon crawls myself. (I've played a few sessions recently, but haven't run anything since our adventures here on Story Games several years ago!)

    How did you come up with those proclamations/riddles for the skull? Presumably, since the players have to come up with a question, and you roll what type of response, they can't be prepared in advance, but your answers seem fairly well thought out.

    A rules question (for both of you, potentially):

    Those spellcasting rules suggest a fairly high probability of "whiffing" (casting a spell to no effect, for instance). In my experience, that's really not much fun.* Is that a concern for either of you at all?

    *: Although, as a counterpoint, in the current adventure dungeon crawl houseruled D&D I am a part of, spells operate on something more like a PbtA system, where the GM gets to improvise drawbacks or disasters on failed spellcasting rolls. I've had two wizard characters whose spellcasting attempts were significant enough failures that they basically superceded the actual adventure. (For instance, the first thing I tried - to animate a statue - led us to a random table for nearby spirits, and the statue turned into the reincarnation of some ancient minor god-being. We spent the rest of the session dealing with this monster, at the expense of not making any progress in the module itself. So perhaps at least a "spellcasting failures lead to disaster" approach might not always be welcome at every table! I have a method I like for my own house D&D, which I feel avoids such issues, but it's still a work in progress.)

  • edited August 2018
    On the stone head oracle: "...but your answers seem fairly well thought out." Thanks for the complement! My process is I, uh, sat quiet for a minute after rolling while I thought of a good answer.

    By the book, one third of the time you will literally get one of these randomly:
    1. ―Seek out the well that whistles and cast a treasure into its depths.
    2. ―Avoid pointed arguments. The results can be shocking.
    3. ―Seclusion is magic‘s watchword. Seek the room without doors.
    4. ―Death rests uneasy here. Do not awaken that which cannot sleep.
    5. ―Beware the caves for they be the home of the Dragon.
    6. ―Pester not the fish that breathes air!

    For "where's the treasure?", 3, 4 and 5 sort of work with various amounts of squinting. 1 definitely looks like an answer, it's just false. 6 is true but obviously irrelevant, and 2 is... let's go with broadly applicable. I think with 2 or 6 the jig would have been up even more, as in they would have assumed that the oracle was not only untrustworthy, but also giving an answer causally unrelated to the question. Now that I think about it, I'll make sure to replace nr 5 with a new one now that I've used it.

    To walk through my thoughts: when asking about the dragon's weakness, the "true" result they got was my best effort at saying something useful without being too prosaic about it. (I had high confidence they would catch my punny Swedish "look out/look up" thing, knowing them.) If I had gotten "false", I would just have fabricated a classic weakness: silver weapons, a missing scale, or staring into its eyes without blinking perhaps. If they had listened, man would they have hated that oracle, but I'd have to assume that's a foreseen outcome both by whoever's responsible in-universe, and by Micheal Curtis. had they rolled "cryptic response" again, then both 1, 2 and 3 might've fooled them, when presented as leads to a dragon weakness. 4 would be non-sequitur, 5 again would just show the seams, and 6... they might have taken that as a suggestion to weaponise the poison gas trap against the dragon? It's not too far off so they might have had a shot actually.

    For their last question, "will we survive this", if they had gotten a "true" result I would have given them something like "Yes, if you do exactly this: walk out this door and to the right. Then turn left. Wait behind the corner for a minute, then double back, go left, right, then left." I knew about the gloomies planning to encircle them at this point, and this plan to sneak past them would be executed before it was time for another wandering monster check, so they'd had gotten out scot free and left some mildly confused gloomies. If I had felt mean, I might have given the answer slowly, but then asked for wits checks to have parts of it repeated. For a cryptic response, I think all of them could be construed as being tips on how to survive (but again, repeat answers would just fall apart). For "false", well, I gave them the best thing I could.

    A "false" answer to "where's the treasure" would have been tricky; I would have regretted not foreseeing and committing to one ahead of time. You see, it was very easy to get into the "what do they deserve" mindset here, so I'm glad I didn't roll it. Give them something to easy to disprove (I dunno, "just outside my door") and they would write off the oracle as a phony—on the first question, boring! To the extent that the oracle has a will, it doesn't want that either. Give them something more elaborate, and I might just get them to chase that rainbow for a session or two. Sure, other adventure will happen on the way, but I don't want a large part of this campaign to be a wild goose chase if I have anything to say in the matter—and since I get to interpret what "false" means, I do. So I'd feel compelled to make up something with the right level of wrongness. My best candidates in hindsight are:
    - "In the trash heap". It was close by so it'd be easy to check, and there are spitting cobras there.
    - "In the crypts on the left-hand side". I had rolled the crypts randomly and all the treasure was on the other side—but after fighting some undead and rats for nothing, they might consider the interpretation that the oracle was using the (unintuitive) opposite perspective? Worst case, they'd fight a bunch of undead, which is what they did this session anyway :P
    - "A secret chamber in the throne room". It'd be false because they had already looted it, so they might assume the oracle was just working on old information. Then there's still a point in asking more questions!

    These took a few minutes to come up with; I'm not sure if I could have done it on the spot. Except for the trash heap. Digging through compost just to find a cobra never gets old.

    Tips for putting something like this in your dungeon: either have the GM embellish and modify the "cryptic responses" that are put down verbatim in the table, or expect the players to at least suspect that the answers are unrelated to the question posed. For me, I would also have appreciated a few words about the oracle's will. Does it want to be used, or left alone? Does it want to hurt people, play pranks, or neither? Is it a creation, or a trapped being?

    Also: the dungeon notes says the statue has crystal eyes, but specifies neither their worth nor what happens if they are pried out.

    Also also: the Wheel of Fortune can be spun twice a day, and the oracle will answer three questions each day. The players have no idea both of these effects are "per day" and I give it about 50/50 odds they will try either of them again.
  • On my spellcasting rules: I wouldn't know, we never had anyone try anything but prepared casting yet. Remember, with a 100% rating in your spell, prepared casting is without checks (unless the spell effect is a check), and ritual casting is your full Knowledge and then Will against DC 20. With that said, I have been thinking about having something more interesting happen when failing the ritual casting checks. At the very least, I assume you could bump up the skill a few points as you learn from your mistakes, I guess? Otherwise, a mistake in Knowledge could mean there's something wrong with what you're trying to do—perhaps a chance of accidentally reversing the spell or hitting the wrong target?—and a failure of Will that it takes too much out of the caster—HP damage or fatigue perhaps?

    We'll see, if people start learning new spells and trying to cast them before they're mastered. So far the magic-users haven't even asked if they can learn each others' spells, which I sort of assumed they would ask...
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