#RPGaDay2015 15: Longest Campaign Played

RPG-a-day-2015Carrion Crown: The Haunting of Harrowstone coverThe honor of longest campaign played goes to Carrion Crown. I’ve written extensively about it, recorded post-mortems with the GM and players, and generally covered it at length. Basically, Carrion Crown was a blast to play and a very singular experience in my tabletop game history. We developed a camaraderie there that I hadn’t enjoyed before or since. I’ll be thinking fondly of those folks when I’m old and senile.

#RPGaDAY 29: Most Memorable Encounter

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The #RPGaDAY prompt was concocted by Dave Chapman of Autocratik. Grab the list and join in!

Wake of the Watcher cover.In the midst of Carrion Crown‘s Wake of the Watcher chapter, beset by nightgaunts and mi-go, we happened across a creature sufficiently bizarre to put all the Lovecraftian beasties to shame. It hopped. It squawked demanding, nonsensical questions. It projected images between antennae. It was . . . the riddling turnip. Or really, it was a cerebric fungus. But the WTF factor of the encounter stuck with us for weeks after, past the mi-go’s Mr. Chunder blender, Gea the inside-out mockery of an eidolon from beyond the Dark Tapestry and even the incarnation of Shub-Niggurath herself.

“They must have ordered it late one night off the electric radish.”
— Geoff on Mr. Chunder

Honorary Mention

Way back in the day, there was the Stargate SG-4 campaign. This team of four tromps through the gate to a shiny new world, discover it’s the middle of the night in a museum and they immediately panic. Run! Hide! Don’t let the aliens find us! Never mind that this is the Stargate universe, where a simple “hi” works wonders. No, some primal groupthink instinct kicked in and the team members were all seized by an utter dread of actually encountering any inhabitants of this world they’d come to explore.

#RPGaDAY 13: Most Memorable Character Death

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The #RPGaDAY prompt was concocted by Dave Chapman of Autocratik. Grab the list and join in!

Lucky day thirteen of #RPGaDAY brings us to the happy topic of dead characters. Carrion Crown had a slew of memorable character deaths and maulings, thanks to Hunter’s merciless cleaving to the unswayed justice of the die. Three stand out in particular in my mind:

  • Callimachi, attempting to be the stealthy scout of the party, explored some corner of a fortification the creepiest, darkest mountains of Ustalav and took a point blank banshee shriek to the face. Save or lose an excessive number of hit points. Hit points: lost!
  • Solis the elven summoner got caught on the wrong side of one of Thadeamus’ walls, as I recall, leaving him to fight a big bad alone. That big bad opted to employ a suffocation effect — in a whirlwind? — and it ended poorly for Solis.
  • Horace Gunderson was the first of the Carrion crew to fall. Exploring the acid factory of Vorkstag and Grine, he was mauled horribly by a golem hound. And, interestingly, Horace was the only adventurer in that campaign who opted to stay dead.

#RPGaDAY 9: Favorite Die/Dice Set

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The #RPGaDAY prompt was concocted by Dave Chapman of Autocratik. Grab the list and join in!

Yellow, hand-inked Game Science dice.My favorite dice set is the one I never bought. Some months into Carrion Crown, after I’d been grumbling probably a little too loudly about rolling unnaturally poorly — because there’s true randomness, and then what feels random to people — I was delighted on my birthday to be presented with a set of Game Science polyhedrals, colored bright yellow to go with the Lego figures included with the dice. The game group had gone in together on the gift, and I was touched. I’ve used those polyhedrals as my primary dice ever since. The Lego figures are a little more specialty, as one has the sword of Iomedae painted on his back, and one is basically Indiana Jones, so I keep them in a place of pride at home, waiting for the day they can rejoin the fray

I’ve read over on RPG.net that Lou Zocchi has since sold off his dice business to retire, and the dice produced since then don’t meet the same level of quality. I hope that’s not the case, but I shall treasure mine all the more anyway. Maybe someday they’ll become as worn with fun as Theron’s.

Broken Moon on Carnagecast

Broken Moon cover.The latest episode of Carnagecast features Dan, Hunter and Toby, fellow compatriots in our Carrion Crown campaign, talking about their thoughts in playing through the third module, Broken Moon. Go give it a listen and hear about some of the stuff that I didn’t recap.

And hey, if you rated the show in iTunes, that’d be pretty cool, too.

“Your pickle wife, while beautiful, is a gopher.”


Auberon Crane puts the mayor of Illmarsh in his place.[1]

[1] That gem floated up out of my deep memory last night. As it was uttered during the great recap hiatus, I must ensure its existence outside the Twittersphere.

[Carrion Crown] On the Road to Caliphas

Cover of Ashes at Dawn.This week in Carrion Crown, a Dan (Auberon Crane), Geoff (Andris Kreitov), Joey (Thadeamus Straw), Toby (Solis Lightwarden and his eidolon Gea) and Tyler (Alexandros Callimachi) and GM Hunter struck out on the road to Caliphas.

. . . Only having once completed their shopping errands, of course. After a retreat to the Stairs of the Moon in the Shudderwood to help Solis convalesce from his sharp break with good ideas, the adventurers return to Lepidstadt to pick up commissioned items and release Thadeamus Straw from the cell in which he slaved away, crafting wondrous items for his new “friends.”

“Don’t take any wooden pickles.”
— advice from Judge Daramid

The dark rider’s letter spoke of Caliphas, so that’s where they head, urged on further by Judge Daramid, who suggests checking in with the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye’s membership there. Viktor the coachman happens to be available for hire, so there’s a familiar hand at the reins as they travel across Ustalav to the nation’s capital, a hive of debauchery and excess, by all accounts.

The first night, sleeping by the roadside, Andris hears a coach passing by during his watch. When he investigates, the coach instantaneously halts. The door opens, as if in invitation. Andris, for once in his impulsive life, stands his ground. The coach moves on. In the morning, Viktor is shaken to hear of the incident, recounting the old tale of the black carriage, whose chosen passengers disappear after its second passing.

“Why would you ask questions? They’re already dead. Aside from ‘What’s that worth?'”
— a Dan

Later, as the coach approaches a bridge, as Gea and Andris detect the scent of rot, they catch sight of dire wolves stalking through the trees. Across the bridge, a mounted figure blocks the way. Unflappable, stoic Viktor is at a loss, so as Callimachi yells, “Drive!” Kreitov grabs the reins, whipping the horses into a frenzy to cross the bridge.

The horses gather steam. The rotting dire wolves keep pace initially. Crane and Callimachi awkwardly fight them off from inside the coach. Once they build up a lather however, the now-panicked horses leave the undead monsters well behind. The figure ahead in the road smartly moves out of their path.

“This went differently in my head. *urk*”
— Andris Kreitov

As the coach passes, Kreitov gets a good look at the figure, noticing it lacks a head. And that it’s astride a fiery, smoking nightmare of a mount. Andris’ impulsive nature returns from its holiday. He launches himself from the coach in a flying tackle of the headless horseman. They struggle briefly before the Ustalavian hunter finds himself bodily lifted by the throat into the air.

The horses have their full head as Viktor clings to the bench for dear life and the reins flap uselessly. Solis crawls out of the coach to take charge of the situation once Callimachi gives him a boost. Thadeamus looks back to block the wolves’ progress across the bridge with a wall of ice. Crane rolls from the runaway coach while Gea flies overhead, both making to join the fray against the headless rider.

Looking back down the road, Callimachi gestures for Straw to move the two of them back into the action via dimension door. This has the unintended side effect of putting them right in the path of the ghoulish dire wolves creeping out of the river, but not before Callimachi gets off a bolt of searing light on the rider.

The nightmare breathes gouts of smoke as its rider swings an improbably long flail through the air. Andris, Auberon and Gea are at it hammer and tongs to put the rider down, even forcing him to dismount.

Once the horseman and wolves are dispatched and Solis has reined in the frothing horses, reflection suggests this was a dullahan, a sort of fairy. Checking its possessions, Andris receives yet another shock of searing pain as he discovers a particular amulet reacts negatively to his touch — and that of anyone else in the group. Almost as though it were opposed to being in the possession of someone who might be called “good” . . .[1]

[1] And that’s all that happened that night. Despite the brevity of the recap, that was a long-ass fight against the dullahan and ghoulish dire wolves. Some very nice cinematics, with the runaway coach and Andris leaping off to confront the rider. Apparently we missed some expository dialogue, but you’ll have that when putting the NPCs on the defense. Apparently the dullahan didn’t expect to be charged by a rattletrap coach with a wolf and a snake on the roof.

[Carrion Crown] Mother of a Thousand Young

Wake of the Watcher cover.This week in Carrion Crown, a Dan (Auberon Crane), Geoff (Andris Kreitov), Joey (Thadeamus Straw), Toby (Solis Lightwarden and his eidolon Gea) and Tyler (Alexandros Callimachi) and GM Hunter plumbed the final depths of a truly wretched hive of skum and villainous mi-go.

The cavern still reeks of whatever ichor the inside-out Gea-thing seeped from its exposed organs before finally fading away to . . . where? Where does an eidolon filtered through the Dark Tapestry go once it’s had the ectoplasm beaten out of it?

“You have other friends, right? Celestial friends with giant feet?”
— Callimachi gauges Solis’ current tactical use

The only person in any position to answer that question lies deep in the cozy embrace of a crossbow whipping-induced nap. His compatriots stand over the crumpled elf, debating earnestly whether it’s better to leave him there and what if the Gea-thing comes back? In due time, Solis is revived with a bit of healing magic. His first concern is for Gea, but some inept fast talking distracts him — which only goes to show just how addled the elf truly is.

Meanwhile, Andris scouts beyond another purple membrane portal, finding a room filled with mi-go machinery and a great glass dome looking up on the bottom of the lake. He almost regrets his decision, as he espies still more mi-go and, strapped to an operating and seemingly lacking the finer benefits of anesthetic, a man stripped to his black trousers undergoing the monstrosities’ surgical terrors.

This news provides a kick in the seat of the armor to everyone, for whom the breather was turning into a lengthy chat about how Solis can be made “safe,” given his current state of mind. Thadeamus’ suggestion of dominating the elf is taken dimly. Instead, Straw leads off the offensive with a tastefully placed fireball, after which everyone rushes in and starts a-swingin’.

“I cast dominate person on Andris.”
“‘No time to read minds! Make a Will save.'”
— Joey and Hunter

The battle is over shockingly quickly. Solis brings on a cavalcade of rhinos and slows the mi-go’s inhumanly fast reflexes. Auberon and Kreitov get in close and personal with the fungi creatures. Callimachi unleashes a hail of crossbow bolts. The wizard Straw forgoes indulging in his desire to whip out his rapier.[1] While running a mi-go through, Andris catches sight of its victim, finding him thrashing in his restraints as star slugs burrow under his skin. The hunter grimaces, remembering his own encounter with the slugs’ life cycle at the Undiomede manor.

It’s in the clean-up that the true dimensions of the situation become clear. Andris glances up and his jaw drops, sword likewise dipping to the ground as his mighty thews go slack. One by one, the others in the chamber notice the direction of Andris’ gaze and follow suit. And one by one, they are completely staggered by what they see.

Emerging from a gaping portal in the water overhead is a writhing mass of tentacles, mouths, talons, horns and hooves that can only be the one, the only, Shub-Niggurath. Not enough to suborn the Dagon-worshiping skum, the mi-go have, for unfathomable reasons, elected to bring this great old one into the world from beyond time and space. It is, all things considered, a highly questionable plan.

To make things even better, as Shub-Niggurath crawls out the rent in reality, the man in black explodes. The star slugs inside have done their business, rending his frame to shreds as a tree-like beast of tentacles bursts forth. With two menaces before them, the adventurers focus of the — slightly — more immediate threat of the thing that erupted from the dark rider. Happily, the death of the abomination resonates with the emerging great old one above. The portal contracts and Shub-Niggurath retreats beyond the Dark Tapestry.

The force of the portal’s abrupt closure, however, rocks the skum dome, fatally fracturing it beneath the crushing pressure of an entire massive lake. Solis snaps alert at the impending threat. With a speed no one could have expected of him at this point, the elf grabs Callimachi and Kreitov to teleport them all up to Kroon’s boat on the surface. The ranger notices a small casket on the floor by the operating table, however, and twists away to grab it. Thadeamus provides egress for himself, Crane and Kreitov, joining moments later the others on the surface as the skum lair gives away beneath the pressure and collapses into a waterlogged ruin.

Callimachi leans over the bow railing of the boat to watch the waves as it makes for the shore.[3] Investigation of the casket reveals not only the sea sage effigy, stolen all that time ago from Lepidstadt University,[4] but personal effects and correspondence confirming that man was the dark rider from Feldgrau, which pretty much made his evisceration by the mi-go okay. The letter also provides a lead: the rider was to meet his correspondent in the capital of Ustalav, Caliphas, at a particular inn.

Caliphas can wait for another day, though. The heroes have to tend their wounded, decide whether to claim doctorates or money from Crowl for the return of the sea sage effigy,[5] and make use of some of the treasures liberated on the Illmarsh expedition. Crafting commissions are placed in the street of cunning artificers and, on Crane’s suggestion, they all repair to the Stairs of the Moon in the Shudderwood for a period of time. Surely the relaxing natural scenery will do Solis a world of good, once they put those werewolves in their place again.[6][7]

[1] I forget how it came up, but as we launched the ambush, Hunter made a joke about the PCs making all these John Woo battle moves — Callimachi sliding across the floor, launching bolt after bolt, that sort of thing — while . . . Straw ran away because he lost his invisibility? I think that’s it. Joey will be along shortly, I bet.

[2] You realized it was the damned dark rider we chased across Ustalav, didn’t you?

[3] Vowing to kill every miserable soul in Illmarsh, no doubt.

[4] So long ago I didn’t recognize the name of the fellow who promised us all honorary doctorates, Montaign Crowl, at all.

[5] Hint: no one took a doctorate.

[6] Because who set up the current chief of the werewolves in their place? That’s right: we did.

[7] And thus we dinged 11th level. The rest of the evening was spent pawing through equipment listings to optimize the expenditure of a shocking amount of loot for returning that effigy. Plus Solis got himself a mi-go mist projector that surely will never, ever prove problematic in the middle of a fight. Oh heavens, no.

The Games of 2012

What did I play in 2012? Well, according to my log over at Boardgamegeek/RPGGeek.com, in 2012 I played:

  • Role-Playing Games
    • 36 sessions of Carrion Crown
    • 11 sessions of Skull & Shackles
    • 1 session of Fiasco
    • 2 session of Call of Cthulhu
    • 1 session of Qalidar / True 20
    • GMed 1 session of GURPS Ghostbusters
  • Board Games
    • 9 rounds of Betrayal at House on the Hill
    • 6 rounds of Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game
    • 9 rounds of Dominion — with attendant expansions I will not list
    • 4 rounds of Android: Netrunner
    • 4 rounds of Give Me the Brain!
    • 3 rounds of Pandemic
    • 2 rounds of 7 Wonders
    • 2 rounds of Arkham Horror — with attendant expansions I will not list
    • 2 rounds of Carcassonne
    • 2 rounds of Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers
    • 1 round of Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer
    • 1 round of Castellan
    • 1 round of Chrononauts
    • 1 round of Chupacabra: Survive the Night
    • 1 round of Clue: Harry Potter Edition
    • 1 round of Cthulhu Fluxx
    • 1 round of Dungeon Petz
    • 1 round of Fealty
    • 1 round of Frag
    • 1 round of Guillotine
    • 1 round of IceDice
    • 1 round of Jungle Speed
    • 1 round of King of Tokyo
    • 1 round of Ligretto
    • 1 round of The Lord of the Rings Adventure Game
    • 1 round of Lords of Waterdeep
    • 1 round of Monty Python Fluxx
    • 1 round of Nefarious
    • 1 round of Small World Underground
    • 1 round of Smash Up
    • 1 round of Star Trek Deck Building Game: The Next Generation – The Next Phase
    • 1 round of Tales of the Arabian Nights
    • 1 round of Talisman
    • 1 round of Tobago

[Carrion Crown] Depredations of the Mi-Go

Wake of the Watcher cover.This week in Carrion Crown, a Dan (Auberon Crane), Geoff (Andris Kreitov), Joey (Thadeamus Straw), Toby (Solis Lightwarden and his eidolon Gea) and Tyler (Alexandros Callimachi) and GM Hunter delved ever deeper into the lake bottom lair of the skum and what seem to be their new fungoid overlords.

Once the mi-go are dealt with, Solis, looking more wan than ever before by the light of glowing cave moss, insists he needs to rest. Kreitov and Crane don’t disagree too strenuously. A plan is crafted whereby Thadeamus casts rope trick and the rope itself camouflaged among the glowing moss throughout the cavern complex. Everyone scampers into the extradimensional space for some fitful rest, sleeping with one eye open and trained on the “window” looking down into the cave.

“Could we put these in the handy haversack?”
“Did you bring one?”
— Thadeamus and Alexandros

Eight hours later, they emerge refreshed in resources, if not emotionally. Solis weakly tries to dissuade the others from investigating the chambers from which the mi-go emerged, but they are undeterred. Most of the chambers are empty, as though they’ve been cleaned out. One contains a few stray parts made of a greasy black metal. Thadeamus pieces two together and abruptly disappears with a snap, reappearing seconds later and talking backwards at impossible speed. He blinks in and out of existence repeatedly while Callimachi and Crane look on in disbelief and growing concern. Just as suddenly, Thadeamus snaps back to reality with a crackle, somewhat perturbed at the holy warriors leveling blade and bolt at him, demanding to know who he is.[1] At Callimachi’s great reluctance, the array of mi-go technology scraps are packed away for another day.

Further down from the mi-go’s chambers, they find a dead end chamber with that abbatoir stench. The rent remains of human and skum alike litter the ground. It’s as still as the grave — until the stone of the floor distorts and shoots upward into sharp-edged spikes and a ravening multi-armed beast with a vertically-oriented jaw snapping ferociously. The spikes divide the group in half, but Gea easily glides over them to join in the melee, which sorts the gug, as Thadeamus dubs it, in short order. The spikes persist after its death, so it takes a dimension door to get everyone out of the chamber without navigating its razor sharp bounds.

The central dome continues to beckon, leading the investigators down the southerly hallway. Kreitov and Callimachi sneak up on a trio of skum, two “modified” with exposed brains and inexplicable bits poking out, one corpulent and otherwise whole — that seem to be in the middle of stripping a shrine to Dagon, pulling gold and shell artwork from the walls. With barely a shared glance,[2] the pair launch a volley of missiles, getting the drop on the chumps for very little payoff. In the course of the ensuing fray, it seems the unmodified skum is a priest of some ilk, calling down flame strike and wielding searing light. Inspection afterward reveals the skum worshiped Shub-Niggurath, not Dagon as one might presume. The implication there are factions forming among the skum, perhaps at the prompting of fungal overseers, is not lost on the group.

Beyond the shrine, the way forks again. To the east is something completely unexpected: a shaped, rectangular chamber, lined with columns and pedestals. In the natural cave system the skum inhabit, this crafted hall with 90 degree angles sticks out like a sore thumb. It must be a new addition by the mi-go. Certainly, it’s filled with their handiwork. The pedestals lining the hall each bear a glass cylinder filled with a bubbling, blue fluid in which are suspended whole brains. The sickening truth connecting the chamber of eviscerated human and skum remains and this room of brain cases sinks in with everyone. Solis slumps to the floor, murmuring to himself quietly. Kreitov and Gea guide him toward the hall. Thadeamus detects thoughts within the room, most of which are the screaming insanity of poor souls trapped in a sightless, soundless black void. Straw zeroes in the one whole mind in the room that isn’t one of his associates: that of Mayor Greedle, pleading for someone to help him.[3] Fiddling with controls in the pedestal, the magician elicits first nothing but an arrhythmic clicking that puts everyone’s teeth on edge, then slowly brings forth the voice of the mayor, still pleading for help.

“They must have ordered it late one night off the electric radish.”
— Geoff on Mr. Chunder

The only help they can provide, though, is the peace of the grave. Grimly stone-faced, Crane and Callimachi go about removing the brains from the sustaining fluid as Thadeamus works out how to release the catches sealing their containers. As they perform last rites for the victims of the mi-go, Kreitov scouts down the other passage. What he finds is very nearly as unsettling: a dimensional shambler throwing skum corpses into the gaping, swirling bladed maw of yet another mi-go device of greasy black metal.[4]

Doubling back, Kreitov updates the group. No longer completely swept away by the prospect of having the element of surprise on their side, as in the Dagon shrine, they take this opportunity to do a little preparation. Callimachi beseeches Iomedae’s favor for the group. Straw disappears in a pop, weighing the relative merits of fire and electricity against vegetable matter. Solis, in a heap on the floor and mumbling vaguely under his breath this whole time, nods decisively as Gea evaporates without warning, which is not her usual style of exit at all.[5]

“It’s going to be better now,” the elf announces. No one is certain what to take away from that, so they opt to table questioning his meaning for now.

Thadeamus peeks around the corner to lob his fireball, which goes down a treat with shamblers and mi-go alike. Andris bolts forward and wrestles with a shambler, intending to hurl it into the mi-go chunderizer, but finding the shambler rather opposed to that plan of action. Crane and Callimachi join the fray at close and medium ranges, respectively, just as the air sizzles and something slithers into existence. It’s serpentine and vaguely Gea-like, but massively bigger with bony wings. In fact, there are bones all over, as though the serpent had been pulled inside out.[6] Solis, around the corner and by himself, giggles deliriously, apologizing to no one in particular for stealing the book Straw found, On Abstruse Geometries, but he had to do something to give them an edge against these monstrosities, so why not fight Dark Tapestry with Dark Tapestry?

Crane’s skin crawls at this clearly evil monster from beyond, but it turns toward the shambler and mi-go, so that’s acceptable for the moment. Once they’re dealt with, however, the Gea-thing lingers on. Then this distortion of an eidolon, filtered through the Dark Tapestry, becomes the problem. Auberon and Andris engage the beast, discovering that as they deal blow after devastating blow and normally internal fluids spatter everywhere, it seems unflagged, almost as though something were feeding it vitality, as summoners are wont to do for their eidolons. Callimachi bolts back around the corner. Raising the butt of his crossbow, he savagely cracks Solis across the temple. The elf, worn, weary and perhaps forcibly drained of life by the Gea-thing, falls unconsciously to the ground, but there is no expected corresponding pop. The eidolon is stronger than anyone expected. The Gea-thing continues clinging to the material plane until Andris and Auberon finish it off completely. It vanishes with that same skin-crawling sizzle, leaving the four humans breathing heavily in the now-still cavern.

[1] Hunter brought up “evil doppelganger passwords,” where when a group splits up, they assign each other a line of poetry to recite on reconvening, just in case someone gets replaced by an impostor. It’s a pretty good idea.

[2] Callimachi remembering the last time he insisted Andris hold back for a moment. It didn’t go well for the hunter.

[3] Thus explaining Thadeamus’ extreme reaction to scrying for the mayor when he first disappeared.

[4] Dubbed “Mr. Chunder,” which the mi-go must have drunkenly ordered late one night off the electric radish.

The electric radish being the riddling mushroom that so vexed us in the previous session.

[5] And really, that was our out-of-game warning something was up. Solis never voluntarily dismisses Gea without extreme coaxing.

[6] Looking something like a venomthrope, as Hunter explained.