“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu

1514 Daanarni E000000-0 Ni.

Daanarni is blindingly bright; a blue-white supergiant. You can read by it in the next star system but one, that’s how bright it is. So look away into the blackness, and after your eyes or your screen filters have adjusted, you may be able to make out a small, bright dot. Zoom in on that, and keep zooming, and eventually you’ll see a human figure in a deep space pressure suit, solar panels cranked out of the backpack like wings. It was the light glancing off those that caught your eye. It doesn’t look like he’s going to run out of power any time soon, whatever else he’s short of.

One of the panels reels in, just a little, and after a while extends back out again. You realise he’s using the radiation pressure and the solar wind to tack across the system, quite possibly just to keep his mind off wondering how long he’s got left before the air and water recyclers break down or he starves to death. Or whether he could open the faceplate just a crack, just long enough to scratch that God-damned ITCH on his nose.

You’re just starting to get bored with watching his glacial progress when the familiar disk-and-slab shape of a subsidised liner winks into existence, not too far away from him and on an intercept course, or nearly so. Its turrets swivel to align lasers on him, the ship’s computer having registered him as a potential threat; after a few seconds it picks up the suit’s transponder and moves the ship itself elegantly aside instead. You scan through the appropriate radio frequencies, and shortly pick up traffic between suit and ship.

“…I say again, this is Surveyor Arion Metaxas of the GAS Bozcaada out of Mizah. Well, technically I suppose it’s not so much a ship, more an expanding ball of gas fluorescing in the far ultraviolet, but… Sorry, I’ve been out here quite a while. Permission to come aboard? I’ll be good, I promise, and the Archive would be ever so grateful, I’m sure. I certainly will. Oh, and there were some pirates in the system a while ago, you might want to keep an eye out for those.”

“Hang tight, Surveyor, this is the Combine liner Dromedary, Captain Anderson commanding. Give us a few minutes and we’ll reel you in.”

At length, a hatch opens in the Dromedary and a pair of suited figures appears. They tether themselves to the ship, then jet across to intercept Arion on manoeuvring thrusters while he reels in the solar panels. Catching him easily, they escort him back to the ship, and all three disappear inside.

To be continued…

-o0o-

Fade up theme music (Joe Satriani: The Traveler). Roll credits…

DARK NEBULA SEASON 1: THE TRAVELLER

Starring Andy Slack as Arion Metaxas

Also starring…

  • Karen Gillan as Coriander
  • Vin Diesel as Dmitri
  • John Lithgow as Perry Anderson

Produced and directed by Andy Slack

Written by a bunch of dice and large quantities of single malt.

Music by Joe Satriani.

Based on the boardgame by GDW, Solo by Zozer Games, and Savage Worlds by Pinnacle Entertainment.

With additional material from Classic Traveller by GDW and Stars Without Number by Sine Nomine Publications.

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Review: Fantastic Frontier Quickstart

Posted: 1 November 2017 in Reviews
Tags: ,

No game last Saturday night, so no writeup today; so instead, I had a quick rummage through the review pile and drew this forth.

In a Nutshell: OSR sandbox. 40 page PDF by Beaten Path Publishing, Pay What You Want on RPGNow.

CONTENTS

This is a short product so breaking it into chapters seems inappropriate.

The premise of the game is drawn from the famous West Marches campaign; your PCs live in a town or village on the edge of civilisation; behind them is a peaceful, adventure-free retirement, and before them lies a wilderness studded with dungeons and other places of mystery. It’s assumed that there is a largish group of players, but only a few can play in each session, so the PCs are drawn from a pool. They hexcrawl out of town, stopping if and when they see something to investigate, kill or loot. There is no setting but what the group makes. So far, so West Marches.

The rules of the game are essentially a stripped-down version of D&D; 9 classes, 10 races, 4 attributes, and so on. Your PC also has a Culture (basically a background, what he or she did before adventuring), traits such as Loner or Kind, and a Profession, such as Priest or Farmer. The Class and Profession determine what skills you begin with, the other elements boost your levels in attributes or skills; to succeed at a task, roll 1d20 and add your skill level. You collect experience points from training, exploration or combat, get enough together and go up a level, go up a level and get hit points, go up enough levels and unlock other advances. Equipment items are the usual mediaeval suspects.

Unusually for such a basic game, as well as hit points you have stamina points and stress. The stress mechanic is interesting; you gain stress for – well, stressful things happening to you – and once this reaches a certain level, you can’t do anything else until you have rested. If you let your stress max out like that too often, you stop adventuring and retire.

So far, nothing too unusual. Where this starts to get interesting is in the base town. This begins with three buildings; the tavern, which restores stress; the guildhall, which issues quests; and the butcher, who sells rations and torches. There are another six buildings you can pay to set up, things like a marketplace which sells equipment, a library that tells you where to find stuff, an alchemist who provides potions. But wait, there’s more… you can use your loot to buy upgrades for these features, for example if you upgrade the temple enough it can resurrect dead PCs. The only thing they tie back to is the rules on stress, so if you use the town rules you need to use stress, and vice versa. In effect, this makes the town another character in its own right, which buffs the PCs between raids, and which levels up when they share their loot with it.

The GM section is fairly basic; start by marking the base town on a hexmap, then put something interesting in each hex around it, and build out the frontier a little at a time as the players explore. The players build the wider world for you by how they describe their characters’ backgrounds. You don’t describe anything you don’t have to, which reduces work for the GM and gives the players room to be flexible.

Almost half the book is made up of various forms; a dungeon form, specialised character sheets for each class, a GM party sheet.

FORMAT

Four-column black text on white with black and white art. Four column is a bit unusual, but this file is in landscape rather than portrait, the better to display on a screen I expect.

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT

More buildings for the town please!

A hex mapping sheet along the lines of the dungeon sheet.

CONCLUSIONS

So this is an intriguing little melange. It has a D&D base, with influences from The One Ring, the West Marches, MMORPGs, 13th Age, Darkest Dungeon, RTS videogames and probably more I don’t have the background to notice.

I can’t see myself running a D&D campaign any time soon, but I am tempted to break this down for parts. The premise, stress and town-building rules are intriguing, and I’m tempted to wrap them around Gold & Glory. I could do that easily by moving the Hearts of Stone off-map into a new frontier. Maybe have a building for each icon, which ones the players build influences how the icons interact with them. Actually, that’s not a bad idea, deserves more thought.

Overall Rating: This is effectively an open beta, so it doesn’t seem fair to rate it yet. Good effort so far, though.

Tryouts: Gold & Glory Dungeon

Posted: 28 October 2017 in Tryouts
Tags:

“Why are we in a swamp?” asks Abelard. “It’s alright for you, Carlesha, you humans are tall enough to stick out of the water. The half-folk an’ me, we’re like to drown.”

“Stop whining, Abelard. See yonder gazebo? That will be dry, and inside are the stairs leading down into the Serpent Shrine.”

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the stairs go down below the water level. Stands to reason that shrine’ll be flooded.”

“Have faith, Abelard. Have faith.”

“Didn’t do the priests much good, did it?” Abelard mutters under his breath.

I’ve selected the Snake Shrines dungeon for this trial, because I love the idea of getting into it through a stone gazebo in the middle of a swamp. That suggests the first room below ground should be in the center of my graph paper, or in this case Dungeonographer grid, which I have arbitrarily made 30 x 30 squares. I decide that since my main focus this time is the dungeon generator, I shall use the Savage Worlds Quick Combat option. I note that in the Snake Shrines, there are no doors.

First room; I draw three cards. 9 of diamonds, 7 of spades, 3 of clubs. That tells me the first room is 9″ x 7″, has one exit, and has treasure in it, specifically a one-foot snake idol worth 200 gp. That’s a pretty big room, so I roll a d12 and a d20 for features; 6 and 10, respectively. After a couple more dice rolls, that resolves as a chasm, 6″ x 4″ and 30 yards deep, and a flooded floor. That’s how it works, so now you’ve seen it once I’ll speed up. Here’s the final map, with the room details below.

Room 1: The stairs end in a chamber 18 yards by 14, the floor covered in water leaking into the Shrine from elsewhere which pours into a chasm 12 yards by 8, and draining away who knows where… “Aha!” cries Abelard, plunging his arm into the scummy water and pulling out a golden snake statue a good foot long. “Floods aye, but gold too!”

Room 2: North of the party is another chamber, 16 yards square with two exits; but at Abelard’s cry of triumph, three hideous snake-human hybrids turn and glare at him from the shadows. As they charge the party, Abelard’s dwarven eye is drawn to the golden snake torc around the leader’s neck, worth a good 100 gp in his estimation. Then the burly mutants are upon them, and a fierce melee ensues.

Time for some quick combat. A witch and two rogues against what are effectively three Uruk-hai? I think they’re outclassed, so roll at -2. Neither side appears to have a tactical advantage, so that’s the only modifer. Carlesha rolls on her Spellcasting d8 and gets a 3; she fails and collects a Wound, and it takes two bennies to soak it, so she only has one left. The dwarf and the half-folk each roll on Fighting d6; both succeed on a 4, and get through the fight unscathed.

Abelard, elected mule by virtue of being a dwarf, adds the torc to his bulging backpack. Now the party’s loot is worth 300 gp. Looking up, he sees a big chunk of the ceiling has fallen in; this explains where the water is coming from. On one wall is a delapidated wooden shelf with a couple of mouldy candles on it, but this is of no interest to treasure hunters.

Room 3: East of the snake mutants’ lair is another huge chamber, 20 yards square, with two exits. Spiralling columns provide some cover, but within stands a regal snake-woman, towering over a pile of bones, who points at them and commands: “Leave! Or die!”

“Just going,” says Carlesha, and the party backs away. “But… but…” stammers Abelard. “Look in the next room! Beyond the corridor!”

Room 4: Actually a corridor running south, the raiders can see this has two other exits and a very large snake coiled up on the floor. It watches them lazily as they withdraw.

The connection between rooms 4 and 5 isn’t created by the rules, it just made sense to me given that both rooms have an exit which can only really be in that place.

Room 5: Whether a wide corridor or a narrow room is unclear, but as the adventurers retreat they can see a long room, lined with a double row of statues of standing snakes, many of which have gemstones as eyes. The floor appears to be covered in deep mud.

Room 6: The party moves through the snake-mutants’ lair into a corridor with two further exits, and Carlesha pauses to run her fingers lightly over an inscription on the north wall: “Scales of the Three Moons, Bless Us! Blood Snake, Give Us Strength! Soul Snake, Give Us Wisdom!” she reads aloud. “Hmm. I wonder what that means?” But before she can work this out, a small, venomous snake darts out of a hole in the carvings and tries to bite her. Panicking, she blasts both it and the carvings to smithereens with a bolt of energy.

I can’t help but embellish the raw table entries, hence the hole in the carvings, but more Quick Combat here… Carlesha rolls on Spellcasting, no modifiers, and gets a success with a raise, recovering one benny and comprehensively frying the snake.

Room 7: At the end of the corridor on the north side is a further chamber, centred on a 10 foot tall stone snake idol, with massive ruby eyes. The floor is again flooded, and there are empty torch sconces on the walls. The dwarf boosts the half-folk up, and between them they quickly remove the statue’s eyes. Total loot so far: 700 gp. Assuming they can get out alive, that is.

Room 8: Opposite is more of an alcove, a priests’ robing room perhaps? Whatever it was, the walls and ceiling are visibly unstable, and the entire floor has collapsed into a pit 20 feet deep. Abelard can see coins at the bottom, but also a number of snakes, and the bones of the last person to try recovering the coins. “Let’s give that one a miss,” he suggests.

Given that they don’t fancy mixing it up with the Snake Queen, that’s it for the day, and they emerge and make their way back to town. Here, they fence their 700 gp of loot; they agree to buy two units of bandages and balms against future need, and take 200 gp each as their personal share. While the two rogues go Carousing, Carlesha embarks on some research; they each make a roll on the appropriate activity table and I decide they each take one advance, which at this stage of their career costs them 50 gp each, leaving them with 150 gp in savings. Our dwarven friend draws a joker, which lets him draw two more cards; he hears a rumour about another dungeon, and gets a Tarot reading which temporarily grants him the Luck Edge. His half-folk rival parties hard, and gains Charisma until the next time she is out on the town. Carlesha’s research means she learns a new power permanently; however this is actually one she already knows, with a new trapping.

As I don’t currently intend to play these guys permanently, I won’t bother with the advances and new power. I could have bought them another couple of advances each, but you can only draw an activity card once between sessions, and besides it doesn’t feel right, although it is only likely to happen in the early stages of a hero’s career, since there is a steady rise in the cost of advances.

GM NOTES

This is a very enjoyable little game; it does the best job I’ve seen yet of making Savage Worlds feel like an Old School dungeon crawler, and I’ve tried that several ways now. I intend to use it to create dungeons for the Hearts of Stone group, although I will probably create my own monster, treasure and feature tables – or more likely, borrow them from some OSR game – to avoid giving you too many spoilers from Gold & Glory.

Incidentally, I’ve played a few sessions off-camera, and this particular dungeon had some unusually large rooms. Notice though that you do get some long narrow ones which act as corridors.

Quick Combat worked pretty well too, so I’ll add that into the toolbag for future solitaire games. While I’m playing a combat-heavy group session most weeks, I can afford to cut some corners in solitaire gaming without suffering skill fade.

8th June 216, near Anvil Road; Boris, Dave, the Fox, Kowalski, Pascal, Silmaria, Soreth, X7-09.

Most of the party are now in the Mines of Madness, one way or another, and have set up an impromptu camp on the first level near the lift shafts. Boris, Dave, the Fox, Pascal, Silmaria, and X7-09 are exploring the second level after Hug-Hug sacrificed himself (twice) in a not-entirely-voluntary manner to let them pass beyond the altar room, and after finishing their repast, Soreth and Kowalski troop down the stairs to join them. Hayes and Ssh’ta are nowhere to be seen (they are still in Marblehall directing the relief effort).

Moving on from the altar room leads them into a cavern, where they find a metal golem in the shape of a dwarf, nine feet tall and almost as wide, pulverising red crystals and filling barrels with the resulting dust. Eventually they attract its attention, and at length Silmaria remembers they took the deed to the mine from the leader of the skeletal miners. She shows this to the golem and it accepts her as the new owner of the mine and itself. Silmaria directs Dave to decorate it and teach it how to dance, with the aim of using it as a backing dancer for her band.

Boris assumes the form of a cockroach, and slips past the boulder blocking the other exit from the cavern. Silmaria orders her new follower to push the boulder aside, which it does, and everyone troops into the cavern beyond, which proves to be knee-deep in guano and full of bat swarms and giant cave crickets. Pascal is an insectivore, but crickets the size of sheep are too much for him, so he directs X7-09 to cut one down with an axe so that he can feed. The others cluster beneath a leathery pod on the ceiling, which turns out to be a giant bat, so Soreth tries to incinerate it with her fiery breath. It dodges, and flaps around the ceiling in terror for the rest of the scene.

Growing bored with this, the party passes through an exit ringed by stalactites and stalagmites, looking disturbingly like a giant stony mouth, and descends a series of ledges into a further cavern. The Fox makes his usual dramatic exit, and is immediately assaulted by a giant worm fifty feet long for his pains. It miraculously fails to crush him, instead flipping him fifteen feet into the air and back onto one of the ledges.

The Fox is really not having a good day.

Boris (who has resumed his human form) casts fear, and zombie ghost snakes fill the cavern. The giant worm is no match for this, and submerges to flee in fear.

Exploring further, the party comes upon a door and opens it. Beyond is a square chamber, occupied by a liche on a throne. Before it can speak, X7-09 holds up the deed to the mine and says: “We are the new owners, and we’ve come to talk to you about the rent.”

The skeletal figure gestures, and a door opens opposite him, revealing a pile of treasure. Soreth immediately starts sneaking towards it, closely followed by Silmaria, who says to her new friend sotto voce: “Golem, please assist Soreth in the treasure recovery, follow her lead.” The golem starts creeping towards the treasure. Soreth grabs an armful of loot and holds it close. Valore glides over and picks up a silver cat statue.

“Wait!” calls the Fox. “What about the Forever Stone?”

“That is no longer an option,” the lich intones. “You have chosen the treasure.”

Icons are invoked. Soreth and her armful of “shinies” disappear, as does almost everyone else. Silmaria lunges forwards and manages to grab an armful of loot before she shimmers out of existence; the rest of it fades away. X7-09, Boris and the golem are left staring at each other and the lich. None of the treasure remains.

“I refused the treasure,” says Boris. But before anything else can be discussed, Boris blinks out of existence.

Discontinuity…

Soreth shimmers into existence in a familiar location; her home cave, just outside Drakkenhall. Humming cheerfully to herself, she dumps her armful of shiny coins onto a larger pile, then snuggles into it for a nap with a satisfied “Aaaah!” She seems to have developed small, but functional-looking, wings.

Silmaria appears in a cosy pub with several chests of loot, including a ruby-studded horn, a number of potions, lots of coins and eight silver cat statues. “Better start counting,” she mutters to herself. “Soreth really should be here,” she muses, and starts counting out a share for Soreth.

Valore and Dave blink into existence in the Cathedral in Santa Cora, near the Priestess herself. “Ah, the very person!” declaims Valore, waving a silver cat statue for emphasis. “Look here, Priestess, having seen the state of the world and the numerous followers of the Lich King, I implore you to start a great crusade against the unholy! Now is the time, before they consume us all!”

The Fox is now in his old room in Stormwatcher Mansion, just outside Glitterhaegen.

Kowalski Klas’tak is in the Dwarf King’s bedchamber in Forge. “This is going to take some explaining,” he says, under his breath.

Boris has appeared in the Elf Queen’s boudoir. “Aaawkwaard,” he says to himself.

Meanwhile, back in the mine, X7-09 becomes aware that Pascal is in his chest cavity. “Come, golem-type construct,” he says. “Follow me, I will lead you to your mistress.” The three of them tramp off in search of the exit. Inside the construct’s chest cavity, Pascal the sentient chamaeleon admires his new armour.

Behind them, the door swings closed with a muffled thump…

GM NOTES

Well, that didn’t go as expected. Specifically, the stalwart adventurers fell for the decoy treasure, then several of them secretly used icon rolls to advantage themselves in obtaining said treasure; above, you see the result of their carefully-worded pleas to their icons interacting in unexpected ways.

Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking. Always dangerous, that. The current situation for the group is this:

  • We get 4-5 people turning up to most sessions now. I can manage that without splitting the group into two teams.
  • Who turns up isn’t very predictable. That’s cool, it’s meant to be a drop-in game.
  • Most people regularly miss 2-3 weeks between sessions, and some as many as 8 or more. This makes it hard to progress a long-term story arc built around specific character backstories as well as introducing ‘skills fade’ on the rules.
  • The Roll20 character sheets keep breaking, not sure why, it only seems to happen on some buttons for some players. I’ve set up some buttons for common dice rolls as a backup, but it’s unclear how much that will help.

I’m making some changes to the campaign to suit this new situation.

  • I’m merging the teams back together. To explain why PCs change from one session to another, I’ll base them in either a city (which is near a lot of adventure sites, West Marches style) or aboard a ship (which visits lots of adventure sites, like pretty much any SF TV show you can name).
  • I’ll park the story arc, at least for now, and switch to short adventures that can be completed in a single session. Probably dungeons, as we seem to have the most fun in dungeons.
  • We’ll keep an eye on how the character sheets and buttons behave, and if they get too bad, we’ll switch to another game that uses the built-in dice roller without needing macros.

As and when circumstances change, we can always do something different.

I want to try out Gold & Glory: Seven Deadly Dungeons, reviewed last week right here. It’s not designed for solo play, really, but I’m sure I can make it work that way. First I need some player characters…

For the first character, I begin by drawing three cards: 2 of clubs, 10 of diamonds, 9 of diamonds. These give me a male dwarf rogue, with characteristics of Ag d6 Sm d6 Sp d6 Vi d8; skills of Fighting d6, Notice d6, Stealth d6, Streetwise d6, Climbing d6 and Throwing d6; the Brave Edge and Bad Luck and Mean Hindrances. (I chose the last two skills, the rest are determined by his class.) His gear includes leather armour and a dagger from his class, and then I draw cards for extra gear; you draw three cards here and choose two to determine your gear, but as a rogue, the dwarf repeats this twice.

The first three (club 7, heart queen, club 6) give me the options of soap, mirror and comb; 2d6 toy soldiers; and a hammer and 20 nails. Hmm. I like the idea of the toy soldiers, but reluctantly discard them.

The second three (diamond 5, spade ace, diamond jack) offer me a spyglass, a bag of caltrops (and Throwing d4), and lockpicks (plus Lockpicking d4); goodbye, spyglass.

The final three (heart jack, diamond 7 and spade 9) are lockpicks again, a shovel and bucket, and wooden dice (plus Gambling d4). I’m not sure what happens if I take lockpicks twice, so I discard that one.

As the character is randomly created, he automatically gets the new Edge, In the Hands of Destiny. As a dwarf he gets Low Light Vision, Slow, and Tough (factored into the statblock above).

Let’s call him Abelard, and as he has no Arcane Background, we need not concern ourselves with powers. I can’t do connections until we have the full party, so let’s generate a couple more; I’ll just give you the name, race and class here, and the statblocks below. Experience teaches that big parties are hard to run solitaire without introducing a level of abstraction (as in Solo), but as each PC has (optional) connections with two others, I need at least three; two more, then, and each draws a card to establish a connection with the next.

7H 6H QD: Female half-folk rogue.

2D 8S JC: Female human wizard.

THE USUAL SUSPECTS

Abelard, male dwarf rogue

Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigour d8.
Skills: Climbing d6, Fighting d6, Gambling d4, Lockpicking d4, Notice d6, Stealth d6, Streetwise d6, Survival d4, Throwing d6, Tracking d4.
Charisma +0, Pace 5, Parry 5, Toughness 7 (1).
Hindrances: Bad Luck, Mean, Slow.
Edges: Brave, Low Light Vision, Tough.
Gear: Leather armour (+1), dagger (Str+d4), backpack, soap, mirror, comb, hammer, 20 nails, bag of caltrops, lockpicks, shovel and bucket, wooden dice.
Connection: Competing Friends with Belka; whenever one rolls snake eyes, the other gets a benny.

Belka, female half-folk rogue

Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigour d6.
Skills: Fighting d6, Healing d4, Knowledge (Music) d4, Knowledge (Trade) d4, Notice d6, Shooting d6, Stealth d6, Streetwise d6, Survival d4, Throwing d6.
Charisma +0, Pace 6, Parry 5, Toughness 5 (1).
Hindrances: Anaemic, Lame, Short.
Edges: Elan, Fortunate, Spirited.
Gear: Leather armour (+1), dagger (Str + d4), backpack, musical instrument, winter clothes, bandages (1 use), helmet, crowbar, 6 torches, flint and tinder.
Connection: Former business partner of Carlesha, I haven’t decided what trade they were in yet.

Carlesha, female human wizard

Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d8, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigour d6.
Skills: Fighting d4, Knowledge (Magic & Occult) d6, Knowledge (Trade) d4, Investigation d6, Notice d6, Spellcasting d8, Survival d4, Tracking d4.
Charisma +2, Pace 6, Parry 5 (1), Toughness 5.
Hindrances: Bad Luck, Big Mouth,
Edges: Arcane Background (Magic), Attractive.
Powers (10 PP, nature trapping): Bolt, deflection, detect/conceal arcana.
Gear: Staff (Str + d4, 2H, +1 Parry, Reach 1), dagger (Str + d4), spellbook, quill, ink, 6 candles, flint and tinder.
Connection: Former hunter – used to go hunting with Abelard.

Next up: Into the dungeon…

Anvil Road, 8th June 216. Boris, The Fox, Hug-Hug, Pascal, Silmaria, X7-09.

Almost all our heroes are somewhere in the mines now, and gather by the campfire between the lift shafts and the spiral staircase. While the others lick their wounds and roast – well, best not to think about it, really – over the fire, Boris, the Fox, Silmaria, Pascal and X7-09 descend by the northern lift shaft (now repaired by X7-09) to the lower level.

Some short-range exploration allows them to tie up their rough maps of the upper and lower levels, and to deduce correctly that the only thing they haven’t investigated on the upper level is the mysterious moaning noise behind one of the walls. Leaving that for another day, they follow one of only two unexplored corridors they know of, which twists and turns and at length leads them to a circular chamber with a high ceiling, which X7-09 notes is covered with holes. On the middle of the floor lies a body in chainmail, stretching its hand out towards a large gem. The Fox attempts to shield-surf down a short flight of stairs into the chamber, fails miserably, and walks the rest of the way to the gem, intending to liberate it. Two things happen immediately; large spikes slide out of the holes, and gravity in the chamber reverses, hurling the helpless Fox onto the spikes. Through swift reactions, adroit use of the shield, and (to be honest) miraculous luck, the Fox survives the spikes; then gravity returns to normal and he falls 20 feet to the floor, suffering severe contusions.

The rest of the party had cautiously retreated outside the chamber during this performance, and so survived. Pascal scampers into the chamber, again reaching for the gem; this triggers the trap again, and while Pascal’s extraordinary wall-crawling abilities protect him, the Fox is again slammed into the ceiling spikes, and then back onto the floor again. He begins to look somewhat the worse for wear and there is some doubt whether he can leave the chamber under his own power, so Boris casts entangle in his unique manner – extending his luxuriant armpit hairs to a length of some 15 feet and projecting them for the Fox to grab onto. Given where this impromptu rope has been, the Fox is reluctant to grab it – until it triggers the trap again, when clutching on to it allows him to avoid the spikes, but not the bonecrushing slam into the floor afterwards. X7-09 and Boris reel him in like a fish and he is partially healed. Pascal gathers up the loot and after a short argument, the Fox gets the chainmail for his pains – and puts it on before anything else can stab him.

Pascal determines to his disappointment that the gem is an illusion, and more productively, that if he walks round the edge of the chamber he can cross the chamber without setting off the trap. The party cross to the other side and open the opposite door, at which point they are blasted by a lightning bolt of uncommon puissance. Fortunately, X7-09 is in the van, and as he becomes more experienced and better-equipped, he is getting increasingly difficult to hurt. Smoking slightly, he leads them through, and they discover the bottom end of the staircase where the others are camped. Not wanting to risk the chamber again, they troop upstairs, across to the lift, and back down again, before taking the only route they haven’t explored yet, another passage.

At length, this passageway ends at a door, with an apparent gargoyle statue in an alcove nearby. Remembering that “the gargoyle knows the command word”, they ask for this and receive it. It’s at this point they begin to wonder what the command word does, but Silmaria is inspired by the word and begins scribbling notes about an awesome song using the word as its title.

X7-09 marches up to the door and tries to open it, receiving a very large spring-propelled spear in the guts for his pains. However, his shield slows it down enough that it does no actual harm, and he twists it sideways intending to smash its wielder into the wall beyond. He discovers that the door is false and the spear part of a trap, but while he is finding this out, Boris runs a long nail down the gargoyle’s cheek and says “My, aren’t you a handsome fellow,” while at the same time the Fox barrel rolls away from the skewered X7-09, expecting further attacks – straight into the gargoyle.

The gargoyle interprets this combination as an attack – wouldn’t you? – and leaps from its alcove to rend the party into toothsome chunks. Boris immediately invokes his magical bodyguard (a medusa).

“Stanley, my love,” says the medusa. “It’s been so long!”

“Gorgon – kill!” instructs Boris.

“Anyone in particular, or just all of them?” asks the medusa.

“Not me!” shouts the Fox.

“Just the statue today, my dear,” explains Boris.

“How dare you cheat on me!” roars the medusa. “You thought I’d forgotten after all this time!”

While Silmaria taunts the gargoyle from the rear, the others lay into it with a will. Everyone hits it and hurts it, except X7-09 who is preoccupied with the door; but perhaps predictably, it dies when Boris kicks it somewhere tender with a viciousness not normally seen in elven wizards.

After some discussion, the party declaims the command word, thus opening a secret door. Following the corridor beyond leads them to an altar room, with an unbound corpse nailed to the altar by a dagger. The errant Hug-Hug is hiding behind the altar.

“Fanatics!” hisses X7-09, deducing in a flash that a sacrifice of some sort is needed to proceed. While the rest of the party gazes on, mouths open in shock, Pascal casts stun on Hug-Hug, X7-09 grabs him and slams him on the altar, and Pascal rams the dagger into his chest, killing him instantly. A section of wall slides back, revealing a passage deeper into the mines.

“Poor Hug-Hug,” says Boris, intoning a request to his patron Icon under his breath.

“Yes, Master?” moans Hug-Hug, as he struggles to rise from the altar.

“You have done well, my friend,” says Boris. “The King has given you a second chance.”

The Fox cries out: “THE NECROMANCER!” and leaps forward, longsword swinging for the goblin’s exposed neck. Hug-Hug’s head flies from his shoulders to roll across the floor, while Boris gleefully skips off to join the rest of the party, as they venture into the newly-revealed passageway…

To be continued…

GM NOTES

The Fox is currently going by the name of Sir Balthazar Rook, but I find it easier to think of him as the Fox. He never takes off his closed helm, as we have established that while everyone forgets his face at midnight, they do remember that their party contains an Imperial knight (who for some reason never opens his faceplate).

X7-09’s player (also Pascal’s player, though in this session X7-09 was the Wild Card and Pascal the Extra sidekick) is proving remarkably good at figuring out puzzles with next to no clues, which is gratifying.

Boris continues to be a deeply unsettling individual. The player does Chaotic Neutral very well.

Pressure is mounting to explore Babe Island (drawn on the map by Boris about 15 sessions back), so I have agreed to take them there once they’ve finished in the mines, which will probably be next week. I’ve been meaning for a while to switch over to some homebrew adventures, and this is a good chance to do so. Who knows what they’ll find there? Not me, but the dice will soon tell me…

In a Nutshell: Old School dungeon crawler for Savage Worlds. Written by Giuseppe Rotondo, maps by Dyson Logos, published by GG Studios. 114 page PDF, $9.90 at time of writing.

CONTENTS

Introduction (2 pages, one of them a black and white illo): What Gold & Glory is; not a setting, but a really fast Savage Worlds dungeon crawler with random character generation.

Character Creation (14 pages): Savage Worlds doesn’t have a random option for character creation, relying instead on the semi-pregenerated archetypes; this section provides a one (you can still use full fat SW if you want). You draw three cards; suits determine the character’s gender, race, and ‘character class’, while values determine edges and hindrances.

Race determines starting characteristics, and character class is basically a starting skills and equipment package – it has no effect on character development later in the game, but does define what gear you have and what you can do with it. If you have an Arcane Background because of your class, you draw 1-2 more cards to check what powers you have; arcane casters also roll a d6 to select trappings for their powers.

You draw another three cards for extra gear you might have; some of these items give you extra skills.

Optionally, each player draws a card for a connection between his character and that of another player; so in a group, each PC is connected to two others. These have mechanical effects as well as narrative ones – my favourite is Competing Friends: whenever one PC rolls snake eyes, his Competing Friend gets a benny.

Equipment (10 pages): This covers currency, selling loot, buying magic scrolls, and a revised encumbrance system which disposes of pounds weight in favour of abstract units. There are a few new mundane items (shout out for the poison purge, which allows you to reroll the effects of being poisoned). Light sources have an additional attribute: The usage die. When you enter a new room, you roll that die; if you score a 1, the usage die becomes a d4, or if it is already a d4, the light goes out.

Setting Rules (10 pages): These are focused on Arcane Backgrounds, lighting conditions, time and movement during exploration; they serve to make the game more like Original D&D. Wearing armour reduces your casting chances, you can prepare spells ahead of time for mechanical benefits, you only recover power points under certain conditions, experience points are based on loot recovered, that kind of thing. Design notes explain the decisions the author has taken – the objectives are to speed up play and discourage disruptive behaviour at the table.

Experience (6 pages): Your PC is in this game for the loot; you enter dungeons because that is where the loot is, you slay monsters because they are standing between you and the loot. The revised experience system is the key setting rule, and as such gets its own small chapter.

If you spend your loot on carousing, magical research, or offerings to Solis the Sun God, you can convert gold pieces to experience points – spending the money on other things doesn’t help. The xp you need to gain an advance start at 50, and increase at each rank. In effect, then, you buy advances with loot. Once per session, if you have spent gold to buy xp, you also draw a card based on which activity you spent the money on; this gives you a random benefit, which can be temporary or permanent. Anyone can carouse, but research and offerings only really help those with the right Arcane background.

Wild Draw Dungeons (6 pages): This is a random dungeon generator, intended to be used on the fly. If you do this, you’ll need a second card deck with the aces, faces and jokers removed. Draw three cards for each room as you enter it; the values determine the room’s size and number and type of exits, while suits determine what’s in the room. At first, I thought there was no advice on connecting rooms with passages; but after a little thought I realised that a corridor is just a long, narrow room.

Optionally, you can take some black cards out of the deck; this means you get to the interesting rooms more quickly.

There are examples of the dungeon layouts this generates, but specific monsters and treasures vary from dungeon to dungeon, which is where the next chapter comes in.

Dungeon Adventures (61 pages): These are intended to be used with the random generator in the previous section; that creates the map, while the seven dungeons in this chapter each provide an overall theme and tables of loot, special features and monster encounters – these are generally standard SWD monsters with a couple of modifications. Each dungeon has flavour text split into what everyone knows, what information can be found by a Streetwise or Investigation roll, and what it looks like once you’re inside. Sometimes there are special rules which apply to a particular dungeon. Several of them have a distinct fairy-tale feel.

FORMAT

Single-column black text on white, lots of black and white dungeon maps (most chapters have one as the last page), occasional line art or colour images.

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT

There’s no index or table of contents, which doesn’t bother me at all because I use the PDF reader search function. But you should know what you’re getting, and an index or table of contents isn’t it. Update 22 October 2017: The product now has a table of contents.

I find the vertical text centering used in tables harder to read than top-centred text. It’s only really possible for me because of the grey banding on table rows. That could just be my eyes, of course.

At different places in the book, it seems to say random PCs start with 250, 2d6, or no cash. I’ve assumed no cash because the gear is often worth more than any of those amounts. Update 16 October 2017: The author explains it’s 2d6 for randomly created PCs and 250 for ‘standard’ ones. My mistake.

If I draw three cards for gear, then get a joker to draw two more, how many of the four items do I keep? I used two, thinking that the extra choice was enough of a bonus. Update 16 October 2017: The author confirms you keep two.

CONCLUSIONS

In about three sessions’ time I’m going to need some fast and easy SW dungeons for the 13th Age game. This may well be how I get them.

The random character generation sequence might be an entertaining way to create NPCs. The setting rules strike me as an especially simple and elegant way of encouraging PCs to behave like D&D PCs without forcing them to do so.

The seven dungeons provided will certainly get you started and keep a group occupied for quite a few sessions, but you will eventually need to prepare more encounter and treasure tables.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5. I love this, and it will see use in the next few days. Watch for an ‘after action report’ soon!