Friday, December 24, 2010

Castle Amber

Well, we postponed the Castle Amber adventure until Dec 26th - the day after Christmas! I do have a couple of days off the week after Christmas so maybe I can pull together an adventure log of at least the highlights if it goes well. One of my buddies who is playing in this game has only played once in the last year (which is also the last time I played the game at the table...)

My preparations are complete - I have character sheets, ready-to-go backpacks filled with adventuring gear to save time, a list of immortals worshiped in Mystara, a print out of the character and monster t0-hit tables, a print out of the death and dismemberment table...


Saturday, December 4, 2010

X2 - Alternate Tomb of Stephen

After reading several Clark Ashton Smith stories I've come up with my alternate idea for the Tomb of Stephen. After the PC's acquire the 4 items and perform the ritual to transport them to the tomb, I'm going to have them transported to Yondo. They will end up on a strange endless plain with a sickly smelling lake before them. On the other side of the lake will be a strange hemispherical mountain that was created by an asteroid or moon crashing down upon the plain. At the base of this spherical mountain is a large marble building with columns all around it.

They will have to work their way around the lake, encountering various "abominations" among them a group of sickly white ape men who are performing horrible sacrificial rituals to elder uncaring deities. This world that the PC's have found themselves is a pocket dimensional dumping ground. It was created by Stephen for his tomb and over the many years that passed by it has become populated by creatures from many dimensions and worlds, sucking them in as the pocket dimension moved through the inter-dimensional vortex and overlapped temporarily with other realms and planes.

If the PC's can get past these strange white ape men and into the tomb I will have antechamber attended by skeletal knights in rusty chain. In the inner sanctum are mummy guardian kings, bound by magic to the tomb of Stephen. The PC's must battle their way through the mummy guardians to the coffin and following the instructions on the inside of the coffin, burn the tapestry. This will revive Stephen and the rest of the adventure will conclude as written in X2.

I think I will be running this adventure on the weekend of the 18-19th and since X2 is a pretty large adventure I'm not sure we will make it to the Tomb of Stephen or to Averoigne. I'll probably keep this much detail for now and then just wing it based on this premise if the PC's make it that far.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

X2 Castle Amber

I picked this module up probably 6 months ago. I'd like to try running for a group before starting a campaign using B/X rules to see how my players like it (all these guys have been playing 2nd, 3rd edition, and even a little 3.5 and 4th edition in the mix). So B/X DnD with its race as class, no feats, etc... might be a little bit of a surprise for them. However, I think Castle Amber will be a great adventure to show off the attributes of the B/X system.

There is one thing that bugs me about the adventure that I am thinking about changing. It is part 8 - Steven's tomb. This part of the adventure becomes a linear set of rooms with guardian creatures in them. It is repetitious open door, oh look, monster! The rest of the adventure is really well crafted and this final tomb section just seems lazy or constrained by page count. I'll have to figure something out to spice this section out and make it just as interesting as the rest of the adventure. I'll post up what I come up with if I can figure out a way to link files - I'm not very trained in HTML-fu.

Also, I'm really interested in fleshing out Averoigne - I'm a big fan of C.A.S. stories and I think I will probably re-read them in order to get more of the tone and feel that I'm looking to convey. Anyway, hopefully this works out - I'm pumped!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Aloof Gods and Vancian Clerics

My first high level character that survived past level 10 was a cleric. I realized early on that clerics were a very powerful class. They have the ability to manage their HP better than any other class. They can wear any armor, fight with decent weapons, turn undead, and cast spells! In fact, it is my personal belief that in most editions of the game the cleric is way overpowered relative to the other classes.

One thing that a lot of other GM's have done over the years is give their PC clerics the ability to cast spells without praying for them ahead of time. One excuse for this is that clerics should not have to pray for their spells - instead the diety will grant the magic as the player needs the spells. Another excuse is that if clerics are forces to prepare their spell list ahead of the game they will be forced to choose all healing spells and therefore robbing them of using "the fun spells" during the game. I say bull crap.

I think this viewpoint is tainted by the influence of Christianity on the game. I am a Christian gamer and believe in God. However, I think the typical views of Christianity - that we have a personal god who interacts and listens to us - has begun to seep into the DnD game. In the DnD world I like to think of the gods as being more aloof than our Christian god. This poly-theistic world forces the gods to look down at men as pawns in a battle as they vie with the other deities for the souls and prayers of humanity. They play by certain rules.

In order to perform miracles, clerics must recite ancient prayers and rituals instilled with power over the ages of mankind merely by belief and repitition. These prayers and rituals bind the magics of the fantastical realm and allow clerics to cast this "spell" or "miracle" at any later time by finishing the prayer. The gods are bound by these rules that have been created by the beliefs of humankind. It is this same belief that supports their very existence.

A god can choose not to answer a ritual or prayer, but if his cleric fails to perform the ritual the god cannot just "give the magic" to his cleric. If you want to have "channeling clerics" than why don't you just adapt the rules of Rolemaster or some other channeling based clerical magic system to the DnD game or perhaps a spell point system? In addition, the DnD gods are not personal, they aren't right by your side as you are adventuring. Instead, I see the DnD gods as aloof, proud, and terrible! They watch your cleric and make sure his deeds, actions, and maybe sacrifices please him/her - if they do, then that cleric's prayers will be answered. As a cleric advances in levels he unlocks the secrets of more powerful prayers and rituals - calling on more fearsome miracles.

Anyway, even if you don't buy my fantasy world metaphysical argument about why clerics should use vancian type magic - I think vancian clerical magic in DnD just works better than spell point, channelling, or just letting clerics use their spell slots according to the chart on any spell of that level. I also think it improves player creativity and skill to have to choose out their spells ahead of time and also brings a measure of balance to what I think is already an overpowered class.

Related to this post, I've been thinking quite a bit about greatly altering the cosmology/planar system of Forgotten Realms (which used the standard multiverse system of AD&D). My next post will likely cover that.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

BX-FR Alignment Dilemma

I think I have finally decided what to do for the alignment system in my new game. Initially I had been leaning toward using the AD&D alignment system since all my books have the dieties and NPC's and magic item alignments in terms of the 9 pt alignment system from 1st ed AD&D.

However, I have never been a fan of the interaction of know alignment, and detect evil type spells and abilities with alignment systems that contain "good" and "evil". I really like the concept of Lawful, Neutral, Chaotic as three buckets for grouping the world generally into "teams". You have the forces of order (generally thought of as the good guys) the neutral rogues who are mostly unaligned and are looking out for themselves, and finally the forces of chaos. However, even a character with a chaotic alignment isn't necessarily "evil".

I read a really good post from Robertson games blog here which describes their use of the three point alignment system. I don't really agree 100% with the concept of making chaotic characters be evil and then turned over to the DM as NPC's - instead I'm planning on playing it more like the Moldvay core rule (essentially with a lot of room for interpretation). However, I think I will be borrowing the Robertson games post's idea of having a Lawful tongue, a neutral alignment language, and finally - the Black Tongue which I really like both in name and in spirit.

I've also been tossing around the idea of a "taint" system but not played out the same way as the Unearthed Arcana version. If I can pull something together around that I think it could be a good roleplay aid.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

B/X Modified Weapon Table

Damage Weapon Type Cost(gp)Wt(cns)
1d4 Torch 2sp, 10 cn
1d4 Daggers, dirks, knives 3gp, 10 cn
1d4 Sling (30 stones) 2gp, 30 cn
1d4 Club 3gp, 50 cn
1d4 Javelin 1gp, 10 cn
1d6 Staff * 2gp, 40 cn
1d6 Bow + 20 Arrow X9, 30-40 cn
1d6 Hand Axe 4gp, 30 cn
1d6 Light Lance 5gp, 50 cn
1d6 Mace 5gp, 30 cn
1d6 Crossbow (30 quarrel) 40gp, 50 cn
1d6 Short Sword 7gp, 30 cn
1d6 Spear 2gp, 30 cn
1d6 War Hammer 5gp, 30 cn
1d8 Sword 10gp, 60 cn
2d4 Axe * 7gp, 50 cn
1d10 Pole Arm* 7gp, 150 cn
1d10 Two Handed Sword 15gp, 150 cn

I've decided I'm using the optional Variable Damage System for my B/X game. I think this variable weapon damage system is a better abstraction of reality since if I had to choose between a dagger and a sword to go into a gladiator ring, I'm going with the sword all the way. The dagger can kill a normal man with a single strike but has lesser probability of doing so vs. the two handed sword - this seems reasonable to me.

I created this table for my players to use for weapon selection. I changed a few things from the core BX rules (increased the damage for a staff to 1d6 and made an Axe do 2d4 instead of a 1d8). I think with this system every weapon has some kind of advantage.

For example the spear is a 1d6 piercing weapon that could be flipped over to be a 1d6 staff (if fighting skeletons). You could also use it to try and detect pit traps. A war hammer could be used to pound stakes into the group for pinning doors! Etc..

Anyway, the completion of this table gets me another step closer to running my B/X forgotten realms game. Now I'm having a mental argument with myself about whether to us the Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic alignment system from the core rules or to use the AD&D system of LE, LN, LE, etc... I've got a couple of reasons to go either way. More on that soon.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Zen of NOT spell casting

I was listening to the Roll for Initiative podcast #33 about magic users. I think they missed one significant point. They were discussing what spells you should choose and what you can do as a magic user other than spell casting to aid a party (identify strange monsters - up to the DM, do historical research, and throw stones).

However, one thing that wasn't said was - PACE YOURSELF. At low levels magic users only have a few spells. It is pretty tempting to use all of them in each encounter, but this is something that all DM's will learn to punish you for early in their DM careers. You will run out of spells and then NEVER find a place to rest. You have to try and calculate your party's chance of success without your action and then decide when to cast certain spells. This gets easier with practice. Each spell is different, some like Charm Person may be better if cast early; timing is everything.

Another thing that I always did as a magic user, starting around 2nd level, was mix it up in combat. If the party is facing down low level humanoids - jump in with a dagger or staff and put the wizardly smack down. Especially if your hit point rolls were decent. Any damage that you take saves the fighters and clerics from taking it, but you should know when to run away (basically after you are hit once). My technique was to use a sling for a while but then jump in there with the staff or dagger toward the end of a fight as the PC's are already starting to win. You might get hit once but maybe you will get to knock out an enemy without magic!

Finally, know and explore the battlefield. While the rest of your party is hip deep in goblins, take a look around - are there more sneaking up from behind? Also, look for ways to use dungeon dressings to your advantage. You can throw torches and oil, flip over tables and hide behind them, push chairs in front of doors, block alternate portals to the room you are in, look out the windows of the castle, etc... Anything to give your party an edge later on.

Anyway, the guys at RFI talked about a variety of other techniques so check out their 1st edition podcast, it is pretty damn cool if you have a long drive to work like me.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Lost Boys

I'm continuing my cheese horror October fest with one of my all time favorites. This movie is frigging awesome - I'm blogging this while watching so it might get a little rough. Corey Feldman, Cory Haim, the Frog Brothers!!!! Keiffer Frigging Sutherland!!! The movie opens with montage of freaky people to People are Strange by The Doors. A little family moves to the murder capital of the world "If all the corpses that are buried around here was to stand up all at once, we'd have one hell of a population problem". By the way there are lots of refences to Pan.. check it out, The Lost Boys.. the boys who never grow old, fly around... yep... makes sense with the vampire theme except you add lots of killing!

It has this cool theme music "Cry Little Sister" and a great soundtrack; and the old taxidermist, pot-smoking, root beer drinking grandpa who uses Windex for aftershave and says, "One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach... al the damn vampires". That is when he isn't visiting the widow Johnson!!!

IT IS 1987 and you too can fight vampires with Edgar and Alan Frog using a vampire slaying manual found in comic books "Where the hell are you from, Krypton? Pheonix actually..." Don't get lured into becoming one of them though...and also, just try counting the number of times that they say Michael.. it numbers in the hundreds I'm sure... "Drink some of this Michael, be one of us... Micheal, Michael, Michael" Queue up Cry Little Sister!!!!

The movie has a great mix of comedy and horror and I recommend it to anyone! I won't bore you with the plot, this movie is all about style, one liners, "death by stereo", bikes, babes, spiked mullets, blood and gore and vampires.

“Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It’s fun to be a vampire."

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Massive Waterdeep Map

I got my new copy of City System today in the mail. I had to run down into the man-cave and put together the massive ~5.5 by ~11 ft map of Waterdeep that comes in the box. My girlfriend looked at me dubiously while I did this... I think she thinks that is probably the nerdiest thing she has ever seen. A massive 10 part map of an imaginary city - I love being a gamer!!!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Serpent People

Here is my work up of the Serpent People, they are a little like Yaunti that they are replacing, but less serpent-like for the most part. I also want them to have a global presence in my Forgotten Realms similar to goblins. I envision these serpent people living in the lower depths of the underdark and only coming up to the surface in specific locations. In my Waterdeep /Undermountain game they are going to have control of Skullport engaged in trade with the thieves and dark forces of Waterdeep, and will be found throughout all of the Undermountain megadungeon in small bands. Also, if the PC's journey by sea to the jungles of Chult, I will have these creatures leading tribes of cannibalistic humans through dinosaur infested jungles!

Anyway, this work up is for BX DnD but you could use/modify it for S&W or LL very easily.

Serpent People

Armor Class: Variable

Hit Dice: 2-4*

Move: 120'

Attacks: 1 by weapon

Damage: 1d6 or by weapon

No. Appearing: 1-12

Save As: Fighter 2-4

Morale: 9

Treasure Type: U

Serpent people are the result of the interbreeding of men with serpents during the dawn of mankind. Forced underground by men and elves thousands of years ago they were brought to near extinction. In the dark they prayed to their serpentine god Shurresh (an aspect of Set) and plotted. In recent years they have come to the surface again taking political control of the city of Hlondeth and exerting an above ground presence in the dinosaur infested jungles of Chult. They are also trying to establish control in the dalelands and in the north surging upward from their vast underdark cities.

Most serpent people appear as humanoids with fine scales as skin, and a snake like cast over their faces. They appear dark brown with a greenish purple tint and their eyes are of rust, yellow, or copper. War bands of serpent people typically wear fine chain armor and wield short curved blades and bows. They have infravision to 90 feet in the dark.

Some bands of serpent people will have either a cleric of Shurresh (1-10th level) or a magic user (1-10th level). Additionally, all serpent people have a 50% chance of having mental abilities. Examples of abilities include a charm like ability to fool humans into believing them to be human (save vs. spell to avoid), or domination/summoning abilities over snakes, or ESP. Serpent people are friendly with other serpent/lizard/draconian monsters such as nagas and kobolds, the second they regard as a servant class.

It is rumored that the serpent people have spies all across Faerun. Men whisper aside fires at night that the serpent people steal babies, that female serpent women lure men down dark holes with enchanting songs, and that they torture and breed captive men in their dark cities producing more abominations. There are also rumors that in these cities there are many other twisted forms of snake/men abonminations. Some that area nearly all snakes or men with snakes for arms, etc... there is no proof if these rumors are true.

Removing the Emo Dark Elf

I'm still working on my Forgotten Realms campaign. Here are the recent developments:

1. I've ordered up a copy of City System and The Ruins of Undermountain. Sadly my original copies were destroyed in a fire years ago. These books will be the basis of the game.

2. Drow - after thinking about it - I don't think there is anyway for me to resurrect these monsters for use in my game. All my prospective players have read too many novels about a certain drow ranger for me to ever think about including another drow elf in any DnD game. They just feel tired to me - the players know all their powers and weaknesses etc... My plan is to replace them with Serpent People - who will be a dominant race in the underdark in my campaign - filling the role that the dark elves have in the past and hopefully changing the character of my campaign toward the direction I'd like to go.

3. I'm working up two adventures to kick the game off that will probably use spells/items from my Vats and Pools article that I wrote up several months ago. I'm pretty excited to see how that material playtests.

Next up - a post about the serpent people I'm working on for my game.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Returning to the Realms

I've finally made up my mind on what campaign to run for my next game - Forgotten Realms.

Since I want to try and tempt a couple of players who haven't gamed in some time, I'm planning on enticing them with the combination of Waterdeep + Undermountain.

I used to run Waterdeep as my primary campaign for probably 5 years. The two guys I'm planning to recruit both had characters of 10th-12th level in that game and whenever we speak of DnD in general both of them always bring up the good times they had in Undermountain.

The game I was running in Undermountain came to have a near legendary status - in any other game setting my players would say stuff like, "This is nothing, we survived the torture chambers of the illithids in Undermountain." Whenever we played in this dungeon the player I'm looking to recruit would faithfully put in the Hellraiser soundtrack, which he had decided was thematically appropriate for the dungeon.

But, the kicker here is that I'm going to run this game using B/X rules and I'm going to make a few changes to the realms setting to make it easier to run. So I'm working on a few changes to the game to accommodate the change from AD&D to B/X. Here are a couple of them:

1. I'm organizing the deities into Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic groups - instead of the LG, CG, N, etc.. that was shown in the core books. I'm also selecting a few special deities that will commonly have "Adventuring Clerics". Here is my list so far:

Lawful - Tyr, Torm, Lathandar, Ilmater, Helm

Neutral - Tymora, Selune, Tempus

Chaos - Bane, Bhaal, Myrkul, Talos

2. Gnomes - the B/X rules as written don't have gnomes as a player race - they are described in NPC/monster format (B35). I think I'm going to stick with that for now. If somebody really wants to be a gnome, I'm going to slightly modify the Dwarf class to make it work.

3. No Time of Troubles, and absolutely no plaguestorm crap. I'm going to start the game out DR1356, using my copy of the 1987 Sourcebook + Cyclopedia of the Realms and add to that Waterdeep City System and Undermountain. I will probably use little snippets from the Volo's Guides during stops to villages and inn's and I'll also be using the treasure tables from Forgotten Realm's Adventures supplement. Other than these books - no other sources will be considered valid. Anything read in a FR novel, or sourcebook will be considered valid, and large sections of even the books that I listed will be changed to freshen things up a bit while retaining the original Realms flavor my PC's will be looking for. I will let the events of the game, and my strange whims take the realms in a different direction from the Canon chronology from the last 20 years or so. Mainly, since I'm really displeased of the direction that was taken.

4. I'm strongly considering eradicating a few races. The drow are at the top of my list. I think the drow have become very stale creatures too chained by the novels that are out there. There are a few other demihuman races that have become somewhat redundant/boring.

5. Changing the planes. I find the idea of the "plane of fire" "demi plane of shadow" "Hades" "The Abyss" very tired and I'm thinking of trying something different. More to follow soon on this one.

Anyway, there are probably some additional changes and modifications on the way to help merging the Realms with B/X. I'll be posting more on this soon.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

PBEM Update

My Greyhawk PBEM Castles and Crusades game is still alive, but barely...

The game is approximately 18 months old, which is ancient for PBEM, and most of my players are around 3rd level. I was taking them into The Dark Chateau module by Rob Kuntz. The action started out great with the players adopting the usual paranoia associated with entering a "funhouse" style wizards haunt.

They met up with some goblins/orcs who were hanging near a couple of external sheds. The PC's were surprised and after taking on heavy arrow fire they pulled back into the woods and then proceeded to fight fire with fire. The elven ranger of the group has a +6 bonus to hit with his arrows (no magic involved) so he mostly sniped the orcs and goblins from afar while the wizard of the party laid the smack down with magic missiles. The fight was over quickly.

The players did a sweep of the outside of the Chateau, finding their encounter with some strange giant frogs to be intimidating. They decided not to mess with these frogs who glided about in the pool gazing at them with alien stares of disinterest. They entered the Chateau and swept through the first floor fighting some giant rats and claiming a magical Cleaver. However, at this point they hit a slow spot. The players are having real life conflicts/disasters and a general paralysis of decision has affected the group. Presented with a variety of traps and tricks, they are hitting a wall.

So over the last 5-6 weeks things have stalled completely. There were only 3 posts in the last week. I started to lose interest in the game and contemplated several times about giving up on it. However, the fact that we have had almost a year and a half of really good times in this game is stopping me. So I decided instead to throw a curve ball at the players.

I decided since they have killed several groups of goblins & orcs around the area during their 3 day (game time) stay near the Chateau, that the goblins and orcs have decided to get some reinforcements and attack in force. The goblins bribed a couple of hill giants and also rallied several loosely affiliated bands together to make a war party over 100 goblins&orcs strong.

The party had left the ranger of the group outside the Chateau (since the player of this character is in the military and would be unavailable for the next 6 months or so) - so I decided to have him run by the Chateau and warn the party. Here is the post:

Esmeralda begins to prepare her trap for the centipedes, pushing smelly rat meat
into a large sack with a grimace. The rest of the party flexes, prepares, and
tenses for battle. Just then a cry is heard from the outside of the Chateau.

"An army of goblins are coming, and they brought a giant!!!!" Comes a cry from

Turning quickly, Leinen leaps quickly to the window and catches a glimpse of
Lo'Stranner running past the Chateau from the north side and heading toward the
south. He leaps into the underbrush of the forest just as a group of barbed
arrows slam down into the soft earth of the Chateau's lawns.

This army must be at his heels.. which means you only have moments to decide how
to react!!!

Well, I have dropped the gauntlet. I'm going to force some action out of my players or force a TPK and move on to a new game. The evil GM in me prefers this to a slow wasting death of the game. I definitely feel at least partly responsible for the way things are turning and I'm hoping I can breath some life back into this game or just dump it. I can't keep it going the way that it has fallen apart.

Either outcome, I have definitely realized that PBEM games of this sort do not handle dungeon based adventures well - unless you have a group of very interactive posters. Wilderness encounters are much better since things are much more fluid and the players have an easier time figuring things out.


Aaaahhhhh, Tremors.... this movie is pure gold and not just because of Kevin Bacon ;)

My horror-octoberfest netflix driven stream of b-movies continues. I've watched a few other unmentionables, but then I went back to the source and found this movie. I've probably watched this movie 10 times but I never get sick of it. I really like a mix of humor and horror together and this movie delivers. Just watching Reba Mac firing two revolvers like crazy at a huge plastic worm brings a smile to my face.

Here's to the graboids! Whether from space, or engineered by scientists for the fun of it. We salute you sirs!

Monday, October 4, 2010


I've got to thank JB for this one - his crazy B/X halfling posts got me really interested and I really wanted to read the rules that he was discussing.

Anyway, I nabbed an Ebay copy of Moldvay Basic and Cook/Marsh Expert. Reading them over for the last couple of days I realized Moldvay Basic DnD was the first DnD that I ever played - now I remember not having the experience tables for higher level and making it up! I was 11 or so at the time and we quickly switched over to 2nd edition ADD - and so the fact that I started on Moldvay basic had been lost to time until just now.

After reading these books over I'm strongly considering on using them in my my new campaign that I am working up. Since I have ZERO players for this theoretical game - I can still change things... such as the entire rules system without any relearning or grumbling :)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Formative Images

James at Grognardia's question got me thinking back to what imgages capture the spirit of DnD for me. Mostly I think of the 2nd edition booksthat came out just as I was getting into the game. And firstand foremost of the artists that rocked those books was Larry Elmore.

Here are a few of my favorite images from Larry:

This first image from the 2nd Edition Players handbook probably sums up DnD the best for me. The party, the dead dragon, the treasure, and the the little details like the scratches on the fighters legs, and an arrow in the dragon from the elf! This image is pure AWESOME.

The death of Sturm... Reminds me of the deaths of some of my favorite characters. Some of them died stupidly, but others died valiantly.

Larry always drew awesome dragons... this one always made me want to make a character that was powerful enough to somehow get a dragon to ride. It happened once, and only once, and if I remember correctly right after I got the dragon the DM at the time decided I needed to retire that character.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Night of the Creeps

aliens, slugs, zombies with exploding heads, naked chicks, zombies killed with lawn mowers, space ships, fraternity house antics, slugs jumping into peoples mouths, random side plot about a psychotic axe murderer, flame throwers, stupid plastic looking alien people, horrible acting...

Seriously, what is there about this movie that is not to love? or maybe I housed a little too much theraflu and zicam.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

White Box House Rule: Encumbrance

This morning I had a moment of enlightenment about encumbrance. This was due to me remembering a line from Matt Finch's Old School Gaming Primer.

Rulings Not Rules.

I was looking for a way to handle encumbrance with a really simple system that didn't create some confusion. There are a couple of systems out there using slots (like video games do), or encumbrance value systems giving every item a value and then adding them all up. However, each system requires complete tracking of all the items that somebody is carrying.

Instead I'm going to try this alternate system:

1. During character creation - the character can pick out items and purchase them and put them on his sheet without recording weight or anything.

2. The GM will make a ruling on the encumbrance level of the player when it becomes important in the game. I'll probably take the character's strength score into account while figuring this. Overall, when players are hanging out in the tavern all of this won't matter, but if you are hiking 15 miles a day through rough terrain with >90lbs on your back it may start to cause fatigue. And if you try to do acrobatic combat maneuvers or leaping a
cross chasms I'll use my action resolution system and adjust the difficulty due to the level of encumbrance.

3. I'll keep some stock photo's of zero encumbrance characters, light encumbrance characters, medium encumbrance characters, and heavy. When the players are choosing items, I'm going to ask them to think about the backgrounds they are choosing and see if the items they are picking match up with pictures of that kind of character. For example, an acrobatic fighter probably should only carry a few critical small items in pouches along his belt or on his legs. This would allow him to leap chasms, run along tree limbs, etc... A dungeon explorer might call up the mental picture of a dude with a heavy backpack full of spikes, picks, hammers, torches, a 10-foot pole, he knows that he isn't agile, and he takes last initiative in round 1 while he take time to drop his pack before entering combat etc....

4. From time to time I'll check players character sheet and discuss what they are carrying and see if their default encumbrance has changed.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

White Box House Rule: Backgrounds

For my upcoming white box S&W game I'll be using character backgrounds as an option. I like this concept since characters will still fit on a 3x5 character sheet but be given a good deal more flexibility and "crunch" for players who like a few extra choices.

Before I get into the backgrounds I need to explain how I am planning on dealing with most actions requiring a die roll. For most situational encounters I'm planning to use a d6 action resolution system where the GM sets the challenge level. Higher will be better and the player must achieve result greater than or equal to the challenge level with modifiers added in.

Challenge Levels:
1-3: Routine
4: Moderate
5: Challenging
6: Difficult
7: Heroic
8-10: Legendary


+1 for relevantly high stat
-1 for relevantly low stat
+1 for use of Background pump
+2 for use of Background Double Pump

A couple of points about this system:

1 - don't make characters roll for routine checks if you think it would be routine for the PC's to succeed unless there is a special way that the PC's could succeed. You could have them roll against a higher difficulty level - if they fail they succeed at the task because it was routine for them, however, if they succeed at the higher level difficulty they can get extra information or some extra bonus because of that.

2 - You shouldn't need to use a lot of extra modifiers - just move the challenge level up and down to reflect the circumstances. It may be routine for a character with the RANGER background to track ogre tracks, but it may be hard for him to follow them if they move into a stream, or along rocky cliffs where there are no imprints, or if it is raining really hard and the earth is sloshy. Just adjust the difficulty modifier.

3 - Use the character's background in determining the difficulty level (more about backgrounds and their powers later). A character with the soldier background may have a routine or moderate difficulty level against knowing the crest of an opposing army, but he probably has a legendary challenge level to decode the necronomicon.

Typical challenge levels for dungeon feats - I would set most secret doors, traps, hear noises, climb walls, etc... at a 4-5 difficulty (moderate to challenging) - you can then modify it up or down depending on roleplaying of the characters.


I'm planning to allow the characters to take backgrounds at the start of their character. Humans will get two slots and non-humans only 1 slot, this is to reflect the versatility of the human race and also offset some of the racial bonuses that non-humans get.

A character background should be a single word, a short statement, or at most a sentence. The player can work with the GM to detail what a background is "good for" - these backgrounds can be a lot like Risus cliches or typical subclasses

Example Fighter backgrounds that are sub-classes: Soldier, Thief, Ranger, Knight, Paladin, Buccaneer, Swashbuckler, etc.. Example cleric sub-classes: paladin, druid, mystic

Alternatively you could use a short phrase or sentence like: Bastard Son of the King, Backgammon enthusiast, Seeking Revenge against the Serpent Cult, Born in the Saddle, etc...

After you get the language for a background, and work out what they could typically be used for, you assign one or more available slots to the bckground.

Each "slot" in a background can typically be used once per play session or adventure (the DM decides the "refresh rate"). To use a slot, you must explain to the DM how you think your background applies in a situation and then you can affect the following:

1. Re-roll any one roll.
2. Ask the GM to re-roll any one roll (if it was a hit, it must be before damage is rolled, but you could also ask the GM to re-roll a damage roll).
3. Gain a +20% to any non-damage die roll (+1 on a d6, +4 on a d20, or as close as it can be approximated).

Players can use these twice in the same die roll (to get a +2 on a d6 action resolution roll, or a +8 on a d20 attack roll) but they will be "burning" more of their power quicker in the adventure...

I think as the characters advance I'll give them one more slot (to use in a new background or add to an old background "strengthening" it) maybe every 5-6 levels? So if they had 2 slots in "Knight" they could either take a third slot in Knight or add on another background at 5th or 6th level. New backgrounds must be explained in some way and "mesh"with the overall character concept.

Also, I think there will be a lot of subtle use of these backgrounds in determining the relative challenge levels for my action resolution system. Sneaking past the palace guards would perhaps be of moderate difficulty for the character with the thief background wearing soft leather armor, but would be heroic or legendary for the paladin in full plate.

I'm pretty excited about using this system, I think it will be fast and fun.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Del Toro and Cameron Make Mountains?

Did you hear that Guillermo Del Toro and James Cameron are going to work together to make HP Lovecraft's At The Mountains of Madness?

You must be kidding!!! No mister, I'm serious, dead serious...

Hell Yeah!!!!....

I would think this is a complete joke if I hadn't read it on like 4 movie related news pages...

And I thought I was excited about the Whisperer in Darkness! movie being released by the HP Lovecraft

I'm not sure if there is a zeitgiest of all things Lovecraftian or if it is because I have been focusing on his work and blogs and podcasts so I am just finding out more about things that were going on all along. Anyway, the rest of 2010 the future are looking quite polyphemus...

White Box

While things have been pretty busy in my two PBEM games (Castles and Crusades Greyhawk as GM, and Call of Cthulhu as a player) - my next goal is to get a pen and paper game going of Swords and Wizardry.

I have a copy of the White box edition in print, so I think I am going to start with that and then tack on appropriate house rules. Here is the list I have so far:

Definitely implementing -

1. Death and Dismemberment Table
2. Aspects/Cliche's - this is going to coincide with a d6 method of task resolution. I'm going to expand a little on a combination of ideas from David Bowman's Delver's Article from Fight On #4, and Matyas Hartyandi's inclusion to the GitRDone article of Fight On #6, and ideas from FATE and Risus.

Strongly Considering -

1. Altered Races (saying goodbye to the Tolkien Themes)
2. Modified Movement and Encumbrance

I haven't decided on the game world yet - I know it will be a Sandbox style game where the players can add background if they wish.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Fall of the House of Usher and...

Ok, so I've been listening to audiobooks from for maybe 6 months now. Almost all of the audiobooks have been pretty great so far.... except this one. The main problem with this audio-story is that it had been "Produced"!

The production involved playing awful music and sound effects in the background that overwhelmed the timid voice of the narrator. Some of the sound effects were copied and/or repeated incessantly - a strange ghostlike scream was replayed several times with almost no rhyme or reason. thunder and lightning sounds were added to the story. the sounds of high winds drowned out the voice of the narrator. I actually couldn't hear or concentrate on the story.

It was frigging awful!

The story is pretty good, I had read it as a teen but I couldn't remember exactly how it went, and I wish I had stuck to a visual format on this one. Hey, at least it was cheap.

I tried to erase this last audiobook out of my mind by immediately starting in on a new one: "Tales of the Occult". As the title explains this is a collection of short stories dealing with the Occult. This book is read by a clear narrator, with a strong voice, british accent, and with absolutely no background sounds. Ahhhh, so refreshing!

The first tale that I am listening to is The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen. I wasn't sure what to expect from this collection of tales but this story is so good that even if all the others are horrible I will still be satisfied with my purchase. I think I will be blogging more about this story when I finish it.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Lovecraftian Podcraft Goodness

This will be the summer of the weird tale...

Since I started playing in DaddyGrognard's CoC game I've added a couple of extra Lovecraftian focused podcasts to my morning commute (normally I've been listening to RPG circus in addition to various other books in digital format on my 45 min morning commute) During the ride home at night I like to rock out to a little metal.

Here are my newest werid podcraft additions:

Lovecraftian Obsession Podcast (I've been listening to this one since the Shane Magus turned me onto it) - interviews with famous Lovecraftian scholars, authors, and game designers. Some discussion of Lovecraft history and philosophy, debate about certain stories.

The HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast - These guys (who were involved in the creation of that cool silent film "The Call of Cthulhu") tackle each of HP Lovecrafts stories in the order that they were published. Good narration by Andrew Leman on many of these stories. They do some good discussion about the stories and drop some cool facts about his life, friends, inspirations, and other errata. Cool website - check it out!

Yog Radio YSDC - this one is new to me - they seems like Lovecraft reporters on the front lines... I've only listened to one of these podcasts so I can't comment much on this one.

I'm also about to listen to "The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allen Poe this upcoming week. Maybe I will discuss the story on this blog. I used to be really into Poe as a teen - I memorized a couple of his poems by heart during those years and I can still recite parts of
them to this day. Anyway, happy listening if you check out these audio format podcasts!

In Search of Gold


Gaily bedight,

A gallant knight,

In sunshine and in shadow,

Had journeyed long,

Singing a song,

In search of Eldorado.

But he grew old-

This knight so bold-

And o'er his heart a shadow

Fell as he found

No spot of ground

That looked like Eldorado.

And, as his strength

Failed him at length,

He met a pilgrim shadow-

"Shadow," said he,

"Where can it be-

This land of Eldorado?"

"Over the Mountains

Of the Moon,

Down the Valley of the Shadow,

Ride, boldly ride,"

The shade replied-

"If you seek for Eldorado!"

Edgar Allan Poe

You can read about the analysis of this poem here. I've been thinking about Lovecraft, Poe, and other weird fiction writers. Eldorado was one of my favorite Poe poems. I like that it has an efficiency in words that is many times lacking in Poe's poetry.

I might be reaching but this poem of Poe's kinda reminds me of DnD a little. This knight is searching for the a fantastical city of gold (sounds a little like mythic underground cities in some of our games). The gold metaphor could also be spiritual enlightenment, or wisdom which is a little bit like gold = exp... Also it has knights and shades and adventuring....

Monday, June 28, 2010

Forgotten Realms

A lot of old school players really get down on forgotten realms. During the heyday of my gaming this was my favorite world to game in. One of my favorite things about the game also runs completely counter to the Sandbox approach of gaming - it is the Aurora's Whole Realms catalogs and the Volo's Guides.

I used these products ravenously. I found that I almost never used published adventures during the times that I was running forgotten realms. Either (1.) these published adventures involved characters that were in TSR books that were coming out at the time or (2) in order for me to involve my players I had to pull some nasty tricks out of my hat. The only published adventures I used were Undermountain (a delicious megadungeon that I added 10+ levels to), Myth Drannor ( a boxed set of an ruined city megadungeon with broad strokes but almost no detail, and the Haunted Halls of Eveningstar (probably my favorite Forgotten Realms adventure module - I think I will write a blog post all about this module sometime).

However, I used these accessories like crazy:

1. Aurora's Whole Realms
2. Volo's Guide to the Sword Coast.
3. Volo's Guide to the North
4. Volo's guide to the Dalelands.

These books had wonderful items for my players to purchase, wonderful foods for them to have their characters eat, and lots of different inns and taverns to play around in. I didn't have to waste any time coming up with a tavern for the players to sleep at in each town they visited - Ed Greenwood did it all. I didn't have to worry about the price of a red and grey dress for one of my female players (she could pick one out on page 81 of Aurora's).

Anyway, I love settings where the author fills in crazy amounts of non-dungeon related detail. I can use that and then focus my energies on filling dungeons or creating the intrigues of the kings court or creating city adventures for a group of scaly rogues... in other words - the fun stuff.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Generation of Swine

I'm sitting here reading Generation of Swine by Hunter S. Thompson and what is tripping me out is how original this guys brain pattern is. Most people copy the thoughts and style of others in everything they create. Not Hunter.

Here he is riffing about Reagan:

"Reagan's children must be proud of him. With AIDS and acid rain, there is not much left in the way of life and love and possibilities for these shortchanged children of the '80's. In addition to a huge and terminally crippling national debt, and a shocking realization that your country has slipped to the status of a second-rate power, and that five American dollars will barely buy a cup of coffee in Tokyo, these poor buggers are being flogged every day of their lives with the knowledge that sex is death and rain kills fish and any politician they see on TV is a liar and a fool." ~ Hunter S. Thompson

I'm not sure what he would say if he was living in the foul year of our lord 2010... trickle down economics... lol... As I read this book I simultaneously want to laugh and vomit - now that is art. I wish I could have had brunch with him in vegas.

Anyway, the article I wrote about watery magic of vats and pools is definitely getting published - more to come on that soon. I think I am going to work on supplemental material for that article and put it up on this blog - extra spells, maybe some extra random tables.

The LL lord game that I was in flopped... our GM went turn coat on us and started a Mutant Future PBEM game. Who knows, maybe he will come back later. I wasn't feeling Mutant Future, although it received lots of good words on the nets, so in summary I'm back to a single game and I'm the DM. If anyone knows of any old school PBEM games where I could be a player - please let me know. I have some ideas for games that I could run as DM, but I would much rather be a player.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Weird Watery Magic of Pools and Vats

I haven't been posting much on this blog. Recently, I've been pretty much obsessed by the use of magical vats of liquid in my games. I created this Lovecraftian sort of monster in my Castles and Crusades game. It was an outsider "demon" creature from space that crashlanded in the Bright Lands of Greyhawk. I combined this concept with Moldvay's "The Lost City" and I'm working in this whole backstory about how the creature has spent the last 500 years feasting on the intellect of humans. My thought is that this creature is made totally of protoplasm and it can fashion itself a body and change the hardness of its goo to that of chitin plate if it desires. It's intelligence was so alien to human kind that initially it could not communicate telepathically with humans. After 500 years of feasting on human psyches it has now adapted to be able to communicate. Anyway, I ruled that during its crash landing on earth it lost a particular artifact which allowed it to live easily in any environment. It has been stuck deep underground living in certain pools that sustained its abominable lifeforce until it could regain the artifact. The PC's were chasing this Half Orc Assassin which had obtained the artifact, but they failed to stop the half orc from returning the artifact. This demon being which was revered as a god by these underground people has now been unleashed on Oerth. I'll be bringing the PC's into confrontation with the beast again once they have gained a few more levels and could survive the encounter. Anyway as a side effect of this adventure I became obsessed with pools and vats. I started brainstorming a huge number of ideas for how these magical vessels of liquid could be used to awesome effect in DnD style games. I have written a ~4-5 page article so far and I still have lots of ideas. I'm thinking of throwing it in front of some folks that publish hobby gaming fanzines. In addition, I will probably publish most or all of the ideas up on this blog and try and get some feedback for how the article is progressing. Here is my introduction to the article - I haven't done any re-writing yet, this is still a first draft:


Human kind has long had both a fascination and fear of water. Man needs this precious liquid each day to live and yet he can drown in a mere teaspoon of the substance. Vessels of water hold a powerful symbolism of motherhood and the womb, juxtaposing the origin of life itself with an environment that man can no longer enter without fear of death by drowning. Foul potions brewing in the cauldrons of witches and the embryonic vats birthing an artificial monster of a man are just two examples of how this powerful symbol has been employed in literature. This article aims to flesh out a variety of ideas on how you can use vats and pools in your fantasy RPG game. These entities should be used infrequently and each use should invoke either a pure magical wonder or a sense of horrific alien fear. The statistics used in this article are written for Swords and Wizardry, however they could be adapted with ease to any retro clone or original edition of DnD.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Detect Evil Sucks

I'm really sick of detect evil and detect alignment spells. I think these spells are roleplay crushers which yank pc's out of the act of roleplaying and into a tactical method of gaming even when confronting humans. I like to add mysteries and conspiracies to my games, but I have to go to great lengths to think about how to avoid a single detect evil spell from ruining the conspiracy that I am creating.

Instead of using roleplaying to try and solve mysteries many times my PC's will go right for detecting evil on everything - figure out what is bad and kill it. Also, with paladins in the party my group enters a dark room or something, and the paladin will try and use a detect evil spell to determine if there are enemies in the room. I'd rather the PC's resort to using their heads and try strange little tricks to decipher where the enemies are instead of getting to the door, casting a detect evil spell and saying - oh sure, there's some bad stuff in there, lets go heal up quick before we go through this door.

For my next DnD campaign - whatever actual system I decide to run, I'm going to use the simple Law, Neutral, and Chaos system of alignment and I'm not going to allow any detection of moral compass. To replace these slots for clerics I will give them more augury spells and maybe detect undead or detect extraplanar entity spells. This seems justified in that undead and extraplanar entities are not from this world and may radiate negative energy or leave some planar strands or marks that priests could identify by calling on certain magics.

I think this will also increase the power of telepathy spells, clarivoyance, clairaudience, etc... because in order to "divine" an NPC's intentions they will have to do more than cast detect alignment and then make a snap decision about who the NPC is. Using auguries might let the GM drop interesting hints to help the PC's without cutting to the chase and revealing the entire mystery or conspiracy that he is trying to weave. I think humans are more complex in their motivations than a simple good and evil bucketing allows for.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Birth and Death

I've got exciting news! I just joined a new PBEM labyrinth lord sword and sorcery game. I'm playing a red haired barbarian (Skarite) cleric of Wotan, Brannach.

Here is an overview of Brannach:

Name: Brannach
Class: Skarite Cleric
Level: 3
AC: 5 (Std Lthr + Shield)

Hit Points: 21

Appearance/Description: Brannach has a long mane of red hair that lies back on his shoulders. Upon his chest he bears studded leather armor gilded upon his forearms with bronze bracers. His zealous religion can be a bit off-putting to some.

Exp: 5001
Nxt: 6251

S: 14 +1 to attack and damage
D: 10
C: 13 +1 hp
I :13 +1 additional lang. Able to read and write.
W: 15 +2 to all magical saves, +5% to EXP
C: 7 +1 Reaction Adj, Max 3 retainers, Ret. Morale 6

Weapons: Light Mace +1 to attack (1d6+1), Sling (1d4)


2 pair of clothes (2gp, 2lb)
Studded Leather (30gp, AC6, 20lb)
Light Mace (5gp, 1d6, 3lb)
Shield (10gp, AC-1, 10lb)
Sling + 10 bullets (2gp, 5lb)

BackPack (2gp, 2lb)
Bronze Bracers (1gp, 1lb)
HolySymbol (silver) (25gp, 1lb)
1 Wineskins of water (1gp, 8lbs)
4 vials (4gp, 1lb)
50ft Hemp Rope (1gp, 10lb)
6 trail rations (3gp, 6lb)

On mule: Saddle and saddlebags (5gp), 3 more wineskins (3gp), feed for mule 5 days (1gp), bedroll (1gp)

Animals: Mule (30gp)

Wealth: 16gp

Saves: BA:16 Poi&Death:11 PP:14 Wand:12 Spell:15

Cleric Abilities: Turn Undead, Spells, Diety is Wotan (Odin)

Languages: Common, Sharan

History: I can work it out later... perhaps something to discuss with the party over a roaring bonfire?

I'm pretty excited about getting involved in an old school flavored DnD game as a player (not GM)!!! But, I've decided I'm pausing my Mythic solo game Streets of Madness for now to gain some internet time to devote toward posting in my Greyhawk Castles and Crusades game (as GM) and posting as a player in this LL game.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ronnie James Dio

In case you didn't know: Ronnie James Dio, died of stomach cancer on the morning of 5-16-10...

I heard of his death this morning. I always knew of Dio's song Holy Diver, but a couple of years ago I really got into RJD's music. His epic lyrics and belting vocals made him a big influence for me in the last couple of years. For me early heavy metal bands like the kind that Ronnie James Dio was apart of (Black Sabbath, Dio, Elf, Rainbow) really drove home the imagery and pageantry of metal fantasy. They defined the leap toward the fantastic land of the gods and devils that drove me to play this game. I'm not going to say that my life is going to be different now that Dio is gone. I didn't know him, I just really liked his music.

For me the importance of his death for me is that each time someone like Dio or Frazzeta falls off our little planet I feel like a little of the original artistic spark and magic that drew me into this game goes with them. It won't go all at once, it will be like a long tide, leaving behind it nothing but dust.

Rock on Dio... you will be missed!

They say that lifes a carousel
Spinning fast, youve got to ride it well
The world is full of kings and queens
Who blind your eyes and steal your dreams
Its heaven and hell, oh well
And they'll tell you black is really white
The moon is just the sun at night
And when you walk in golden halls
You get to keep the gold that falls
Its heaven and hell, oh no!

Heaven and Hell - Ronnie James Dio and Black Sabbath

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Streets of Madness: Scene Four - Part 2

Chaos Factor: 4

Characters: Jimi, Eddie, Mrs. Rosse,

Threads: Find out who killed the dead guy. Investigate the Salvage Company. Explore the ship.

Heading down the stairs I catch sight of some blood. The lower levels aren’t well lit and there is a pretty foul smell catching my nose immediately. I head into a tight hallway and see a smear of blood heading into a doorway at the other end of the hall. There are three doors on each side of the hallway and another doorway with a stairway sign marking that it descends further into the boat. I decide to check out the blood.

Q: Does anything jump out at Jimi? [50:50, strong YES]

Q: Is it human? [unlikely, yes]

Suddenly out of nowhere a man leaps at me from one of the doorways of the boat and slams the gun from my hands. In the ugly gleam of single light bulb in the hall way I catch a glimpse of crazy eyes peering at me from behind wire-rimmed glasses, a white blood splattered lab coat, and grasping hands. I fall back against the far wall and try to twist around to defend myself. Should have expected that, I guess I’m getting slow.


Edward Palantine. *Crazed* Ship Doctor [3]

Edward was the ships doctor - a reasonable man of intellect whose rational mind snapped like peanut brittle at whatever he has seen down here in this ship. He has been infected by an almost supernatural fear, paranoia, and madness.

Risus Combat - grappling - Jimi, ex special ops cliche [5] vs. Edward [5] ~~ a tie!

We fall back and I twist around to get a better grip on the man. I am a better fighter, but this man fights with insane strength. I’ve got a backup pistol in my ankle holster, but this guy is crazy so I’m not going to draw that unless it is life or death. He is drooling on me and babbling insane phrases. I can’t quite make out what he is saying. I try like hell to give him a good punch and shut him up.

Risus Combat - grappling - Jimi, ex special ops cliche 3d [14] vs. Edward 3d [11]

Risus Combat - grappling - Jimi, ex special ops cliche 3d [16] vs. Edward 2d [6]

Risus Combat - grappling - Jimi, ex special ops cliche 3d [11] vs. Edward 1d [5]

My fist finally connects with his face and I knock him backward. I leap atop of him and although his fists and arms swing up feebly I’m able to land another blow that reels him nearly senseless. I realize I’ve got him at that point and I scream in his face, “Calm down, damn it!!!” He won’t so I give him one more good punch. His eyes roll back and close.

I pull my head up and look around. I quickly grab my gun and wipe the sweat off my face. That was bullshit crazy. This guy looks like a doctor or something, he only needs a stethoscope to complete the look.

Q: Did that fight draw anyone (anything) else? [50:50, No].

Cuffing the “doctor” to the nearest door-handle I head down the hallway, my gun held before me close to my face. I turn into the doorway that had the blood smear and nearly wretch on the floor. A sickening smell like rotten pork drifts out of the room. There are body parts everywhere. Some of them have been cataloged and small strips of paper attached with a description, maybe in latin? There are strange gashes in some of them that might be from fingernails or claws? I immediately remember the lion, the marks look more like claw marks not fingernails... man.. this is screwed up...

I shake my head at this scene and get back onto the case. There has got to be an explanation for all of this. Maybe it lies below. I head to the stair case and begin to descend down. I enter a massive hold piled high with boxes. There must be several staircases and hatches that can open up for loading. At the bottom of the stair is something that makes my heart stop a beat. There are some cases explosives, the kind used for underwater demolition, and they are wired up with a timer. The timer has [1d6, 2] 2 minutes and 6 seconds on it. I watch the next ten seconds ticking down on the timer before I realize that this is real.

Q: Does the horrible thing reveal itself? [50:50, No - only missed by a couple]

As I turn and begin to run up the stairs I hear something from down in the hold. It is like a shriek but it is hard to tell if human lips could have uttered it. I’m not sure if I have time to get the doctor off the ship, but I give it a try. I run over, and fumble with the key. I am counting the seconds in my mind as I heave him up onto my shoulder. Another heart beat, another second. I count ten more as I run up the stairs.

I’m running out on the deck. I think about it for a moment and decide to toss the good doctor off the boat into the sea. His body hits the water nearly lifeless but then begins to stir a bit after he hit the water. I am climbing down the ladder as fast as I can. I undo the ropes on the small craft that got me here and then start up the engine. I grab the doctor and pull him in and then turning the craft I push the throttle full ahead.

I only get a few seconds from the larger ship when the deep concussive blast happens. It rocks the smaller craft so bad I think I’m going to capsize! The side of the larger ship ripples and swells like a balloon for a moment and then the ship seems to heave and shake in the water.

In the next few minutes while I am speeding away from the larger ship and cuffing the doctor again the larger ship begins to tilt backward and begin to sink. My mind thinks back to the ship, to those bodies, dissected, cataloged, placed along the counters and the pans and the shelves. How many souls died on that boat and why. I look at the doctor and his dull mad eyes glare back at me.

“When we get back to shore... you and I are going to have a talk. And you are gonna give me some answers by god. You are going to answer for what I just saw back there! Big time!”

Well I'm thinking I will increase the chaos factor back up to 5.