Lanton: New Troubles

Report to the New Spymaster - Part 5: On Recent Events

As requested I have put together this report detailing the events that led to the current situation in the north. This report contains much information that is not known outside of the Masque Intelligence Agency and is for the eyes of the Spymaster only.

IX. The Black Gate

We've been aware of reports from the south for some time of the massive iron doors known as the "Black Gate". This structure lay in the distant wilderness near the nations of Contar, Jefam, and Sithess. These chained and magically sealed doors lead directly into a solid stone cliff and are covered in markings and runes that don't resemble any other known writing.

Thought to be another "elven" ruin, this has been studied my many scholars who have concluded that the gate's symbols do not match anything known on the rest of the continent, including what little elven writing we have.

A few years ago (566) a scholar named Sinclarnis from the island nation of Vortain came to the gate claiming to have discovered how to open it. After spending a few years and a small fortune, in 570 the gate opened.

Rumors of great riches that that lay in the gate and drove the surrounding nations to each claim that the gate was theirs. This may have led to open war, were it not for the fear that the new air ships of the north caused.

A war between the nations would weaken them enough that they could be easily conquered by the northern nations. While only Contar had ever been involved with a conflict with the north (during the Fellus expansion). They each felt that invasion was a real possibility.

The comprise was to create a neutral group which was to oversee the gate and it's explorations. Named the Black Gate Company, this group was given control over who could enter the gate, and to tax a portion on items that came out from the gate.

While most of this tax was to be distributed back to the parent nations, the Black Gate Company also set up a sort of make shift town outside the gate. There they sold supplies, maps, offered lodging, and offered an exchange rate to the coins of the nation at a less than reasonable markup.

Quickly the Black Gate Company became more wealthy than the nations that they were supposedly working for. They are now a powerful and rich organization with their own mercenary force. By the time they parent nations realized what was happening, BGC was already too powerful to simply shut down.

X. The Fog

In 573 a crisis hit the lands of Lanton. From all our reports no place was speared as a strange fog crept over the land and failed to ever recede. Some linked this event to the opening of the Black Gate, others (notably the northern kingdoms) blamed the now absent Mages Guild. Our own studies seem to suggest that the fog originated in the western wilderness, but have not found the source just yet.

While travel between towns has become more difficult and crop growth was effected, the worse part of the event was reports that strange creatures and beasts roamed the fog killing and destroying lesser villages and farms. At first these reports seemed just a fearful reaction to this unnatural event, but as more reports came it, it has become hard to deny something is going on. Even within walled towns people started to disappear and panic was setting in across the lands.

As you know, we began heavy research into the cause of the fog and also of any way to undo it. While we did not find the answers we were looking for, we did discover a ancient record of a similar event from the Land of Origin. That document was far from complete but it did have instructions for creating a ward which could be used to push off the fog.

The council tested and learned to creation of use of this ward then sent out a series of ambassadors to spread the knowledge. This act of good will lead to our praise in many nations, but we feel a bit of skepticism and doubt from Fellus which. Much to our own surprise we found that a very similar ward was already in use in the far south with claims that the wise men of Ach-Fin-Nor had discovered a way to drive back the fog a full seven months before our own discovery. (We have already begun sending more agents to the deep south, as this area has been historically considered of little interest. I hope to have more to report on them soon).

The wards themselves are simply enough, constructed of twigs and string, and the use of a small amount of blood powers them. This of course is very simlar to the "old magic" practiced by the many peoples in the Land of Origin, and there is some concern that it might drive some people back to the old gods and practices. Notably, Norfin is concerned over the use of this "arcane force" but has had its own people use it for the time while they investigate other means. The nations of the north are less effected by the fog as they have learned to navigate their air ships above it.

Most towns now are clear of the fog and some roads and farms have even been set up with wards at regular intervals. Still travel through the fog is dangerous, and wards not placed on a stake or post in the ground seem to be far less effective. We continue our research into the cause and remedy for this problem.

XI. The Marlin

One other strange thing came out of the fog shortly after it began: the Marlin. These men are of a race we have no record of and are a great concern over how little we know of them. Physically they appear very pale, but with dark eyes with no white in them at all. Their hair tends to also be of the deepest black, though some have been seen to have a pure white or grey hair (which may indicate noble blood, as the white haired members have often been the leaders of the groups we've seen).

The other interesting characteristic is the extremely long and pointed tops of their ears. While some considered them to be the return of the ancient "elves", they don't match the depictions of them at all. Their ears are too long, their faces too angular.

In any case they appeared out of the fog in ships resembling the fish that became their name. They appeared along the eastern cost in several ports in Jefam and Comak. They spoke a language that no one had heard before, and in many cases were detained for in fear. In each case, it only took a day or two for the Marlin to learn and start using the languages of Lanton, and so far we have failed to get them to teach us any of their own.

They claim to have come from a archipelago some ways to the south east and they they became lost in the fog. I've seen the reports we've gotten about their ships, and they are indeed unlike anything we've seen before. The construction is surpassing even the alchemical hulls of the northern airships. and the sails are built of a sturdy but light materials rivaling our own best silks.

As far as we know they have been released from each nation that had detained them. Now they continue to sail up and down the cost trading some but mostly keeping to their ships. The have been refused port in Fellus, which called the Marlin "non-human monsters" so they have avoided that area.

We still don't know what to make of these Marlin. There were many unrecognized objects on their ships that we have no bases of comparison to. So far all efforts to learn more about them have failed and they seem to be better at keeping secrets than we are. This no doubt concerns to agency and myself.

XII. Conclusion

As you can see spymaster the world has changed greatly in your abstinence. Still the mask of time remains intact and we as ever serve our masters and the great Secret, let only those who where the mask know it less the world be thrown into flames. Former Spymaster Talonnel has signed off on these repots prior to his dawning the mask of time and I hope that they meet with your approval.


Lanton: Alchemical Advances

Report to the New Spymaster - Part 3: Advances in the North

As requested I have put together this report detailing the events that led to the current situation in the north. This report contains much information that is not known outside of the Masque Intelligence Agency and is for the eyes of the Spymaster only.

VIII. The Alchemist Agreement

With both the major powers in the north very concerned over the power of the Mages Guild and a growing distrust of magic in general, the two kingdoms began to look for ways to fight magic. The Fellus king offered to share advanced his kingdom had  made in alchemy in trade for some resources that were harder to get in the east.

The results if this was a unified effort to further the understanding of magical properties found in certain types of plants, animals, and minerals. These new advances in alchemy created a stronger bond between the two nations as did the perceived threat of an external enemy in the Mages Guild.

The results if this research lead to magic resistant armors, powerful oils and other concoctions that burn when they are exposed to the air, and other forms of weapons. But the highest achievement of course, has been the development of various air ships.

These ships are made from light but strong timber are lifted into the are by great silk bags filled with the fumes from a burned concoction that we still have not been able to fully replicate. With these great ships the northern kingdoms feel confident that they can take on the Mages Guild should it attack them.

But the guild has not attacked. In fact the Atlas has appeared less and less in the north, and we have some indication that the guild has become isolationist and no longer "recruiting" new mages.

Yet the fleets of the great nations continued to grow, and their advances alchemy continue to create new powerful weapons. Other nations have begun to wonder if the new northern allies are not looking to use these new tools of war to conquer the lesser kingdoms to the south.

Though we still maintain treaties with both nations, concern is growing that we may not be able to repel a second invasion. Our trade of silk to the items has so far kept us in the good graces of our so neighbors, but it might occur to the Fellus and Norfin to simply take what they need.

My next report will cover more recent events: The opening of the Black Gate, the coming of the Marlin, and of fog.


Lanton: The Recolin Events

Report to the New Spymaster - Part 2: The Recolin Events

As requested I have put together this report detailing the events that led to the current situation in the north. This report contains much information that is not known outside of the Masque Intelligence Agency and is for the eyes of the Spymaster only.

VII. The Recolin Events

Fifty-two years after the end of the Fellus War. Another Dragon’s Tear crystal was activated in the ruins under the fort town of Recolin in the western edge of Norfin by a group of spies from Fellus. The young King Fellus III, had learned of the crystals and wanted to gather some. The ruins in the east had been smashed or looted long ago, so the crystals would have to come from Norfin. Unfortunately there were complications.

The mages guild had already begun working on “networking” the power of the crystals which made handling any crystal very dangerous. The Fellus spy cause an explosion and was later consumed by the energies released from the crystal. It is likely that another spy or the mages guild send the energy back to him to cause his death, but we don't know for sure who was responsible.

One of the main forces behind “Project Atlas”, Al-kin Marth became involved with these event at this time also. He was injured by the crystals energy. While sick he was also detained by the Recolin guard as the prime suspect in the explosion which was seen as an attacks against the city.

A group of explorers who were companions to Marth went looking for a crystal in hopes that it could be used to draw the energies out of their friend. We know that one of these explorers was Verak Varadim, the founder, prophet, and first god of the Church of the Ascension (also called Varadimist). Though my reports are sketchy, some claim that that another was Lord Vox of the Doshin (beast men.)

These explorers entered some ruins and returned with not only a crystal to save their friend, but also the Dragon’s Stone. Much rumor and legend surrounds the event that followed. Some say that they met the Last Elf, that they traveled to the home of the Dragons, or that they even spoke to the Canthist gods. Most stories have that the two men made their wishes on the stone, one to become a god, the other to unite his people. I am afraid that the facts I've gathered are a little less spectacular.

We know they returned to Norfin, where a group of mages had tried to break Marth out, but were killed or captured in the process. This also lead to further animosity towards mages in the region. They seemed to cure Marth (using a Dragon’s Tear to draw out the energies). Soon after they left Norfin and journeyed to “Project Atlas” which was still under construction. There Marth was again injured by an attack from another Mage (who I suspect was working with on under the influence of the Shadow).

Marth's assistant sent one of Atlas’ flying ships to recover a medical mage in Recolin. This created a panic in the streets and gave Norfin a glimpse of what the guild was capable of producing.

Back at the atlas the Dragon Stone was used or otherwise consumed, as all records of it disappeared after this point. Soon after the explorers left the Atlas and went their separate ways. Varadim to the north mountains where he began to preach of a new take on the Canthist gods.

If in fact Vox was with this group, I believe he then left and joined his people who made a great pilgrimage to the south and settled in the wild country. There he founded the nation of the beast men.

As for Al-kin Marth, he was exiled from the guild along with his assistant. The reasons seem to be that he had lost his ability to use magic after he was “cured” from the unstable Dragon Tear energy. After the events in Norfin, non-mages (even former mages) were not welcome on the Atlas.

Rumors that Marth regained his magical ability and began to teach a new type of magic not bound by the traditional “colors” have circulated for a time. And still there are the strange magic writings that appear claiming that “Marth Lives”, but we have found no other information on what became of the Al-kin or his assistant.

Of course the after the airship appeared in Recolin, Norfin and Fellus both moved to take action protect themselves. The guild was cast out of the northern kingdoms and new restrictions placed on mages. This of course led to the Treaty of the Northern Kingdoms and the “Alchemist Agreement”.

My next report will cover the aftermath from and bring us up to date on the current situation.


Lanton: History of the North

Report to the New Spymaster - Part 1: Background

As requested I have put together this report detailing the events that led to the current situation in the north. This report contains much information that is not known outside of the Masque Intelligence Agency and is for the eyes of the Spymaster only.

I. The Shadow

It is impossible to really understand the history of the north without knowledge of the entity that we have come to refer to as the “Shadow”. The nature and origin of this being still remains a mystery. It has been called a demon, one of the Canthist* “dead gods”, or even the Adversary**, his name be damned, whom we hide our faces from.

Earlier reports that this being was the same as the legendary Mar-gott, the so called "last elf" are false. This creature does exist, but is in fact something entirely different from the Shadow.

What we do know is that this entity seems to be some sort of spirit, though it may have some sort of form, it has only been able to posses others or speak through dreams and visions. Though this may seem fairly limited, the Shadow’s influence is wide. Much wider than previously thought. Range, language, magical resistance, none of these seem to be limiting factors to this entity.

II. The Fellus Unification War

To fully understand the events that led to the Northern Kingdom Treaty, I will need to go back a bit. As you already know, many years ago the regions of the north looked very differently. Small kingdoms and city-states littered the mainland. There was a near constant border squabbles between these small kingdoms. The largest of these was the eastern Kingdom of Fellus.

It is my belief King Karif Fellus II, after being invaded by forces of Anissa, decided that the north lands needed to be unified under his rule. Of the rumors that he began to worship the Congect god at this time, I have found no proof. His motivation, at first, was simply to end the border wars and unify the north.

Initially this campaign was quite successful and most of the areas to the east of the great divide were conquered and assimilated into Fellus. The northern regions were more difficult as its people were nomadic, moving to the north in the summer months and further south in the winter.

Fellus also invaded our Land of Masque, as you know. Their forces held the city of Poran and our capital for three weeks till the Face Plague hit them. I've done extensive research into the Face Plague but have never been able to determine if this was a disease that somehow only affected outsiders, a magical curse devised by our government, or an actual act of the Merfin gods. If anyone is left alive who knows the answer, they have kept the secret well. Regardless of its cause, the plague left only seven Fellus soldiers alive. They were held as prisoners but eventually released on promise from Fellus that no further military actions would be taken against our nation. This agreement was held for the remainder of the war, though Fellus kept a large camp of soldiers across the bay.

In 488 (Masque calendar) The king of one of the western kingdoms, Norfin, called for an alliance of nations to hold off the Fellus invasion. Many nations agreed but the alliance was never strong enough to repel Fellus. After just 8 months King Norfin declared that, “the peoples of the west, to remain free of the oppression of the east must choose among themselves one King, and united turn the tide of war.” Norfin had already gained the admiration of many of the westerners though liberating several towns along the borders.

Though some of the Kings opposed Norfin, their generals took oaths and became the unified army of the west, the army of Norfin.

III. The War of North

Unified and led by a keen tactician, the army of Norfin drove back Fellus and retook the lands west of the Great Divide. The lands north of Masque Bay were constantly trading hands and became the heaviest area of fighting.

To the south each Kingdom held its side of the divide. Ships would cross frequently, but holding the lands across the water proved too difficult for both.

Twice the army of Norfin crossed the bay and made camp in the Lands of Masque and twice they were driven off by our own army which had been grown in size considerably after the Fellus Occupation. Our nation vied for peace between Norfin and Fellus but we remained neutral. (Additional information on how this affected our economy and drove our trade to the south will be covered in another report).

The war went on for years, and though was often quiet, neither side showed any interest in ending it. Then something very strange happened. Norfin began to build forts on the far western border of his lands.

IV. The Norfin Discovery

Why the king would build forts on a side of the nation that bordered on unoccupied wilderness confused many historians and many of Norfin’s own men at the time. What they did not know, and I have discovered is that Norfin had found something buried in the “elvish” ruins that littered the wilderness.

For the sake of completeness I include the following brief explanation of the ruins: The elvish ruins as they are commonly called, are the cities of a civilization that existed in this land before the men of the north (and presumably the south) sailed across the ocean from the eastern lands. The statues left behind in many of these ruins indicate that the people that lived in them were tall with pointed ears or perhaps worshiped gods who appeared that way. Many of these ruins were torn down or build on top of as men arrived in this land.

What most people do not know, is that the ancient people has a source of magical energy called “Dragon Tears”. These crystals were often buried deep in the ruins, and even if found appeared like carved stones with little value. That is until they became active again.

King Norfin’s royal mage, Shadis Grey, claimed to have “awoken” the stones using her magic. It may be that her spells did do something that led to the stones activation, but I believe that the crystals became active because the “Dragon Stone” had returned to our world. This relic seems to be the center of some elvish legends as the “Wish Stone” or “Stone of Will”. I cannot prove that the stone appeared at this time, but it seems likely.

With the crystals active, Shadis was able to find a way to channel the magical energy from one crystal to another even at a great distance. This would usually result in the destruction of the receiving crystal, unless there was some life form that was able to absorb the energy, though this would lead to the death of that person or animal.

Norfin built the western forts as excavation sites. Crystals were to be recovered and shipped back to Shadis for research. Several were then sent to Fellus’ generals who would then end up dead, or have a spectacular explosion in their camp. At last Norfin had an advantage over the east, but not for long.

Shadis Gray disappeared one night, along with most of the crystals she had been using. Norfin had lost his secret weapon and the only one that knew how to use it. He suspected that she was going to make a play for power, or had found some other use for the crystals. To make sure that this weapon could not be used against him, King Norfin ordered all the excavation sites to destroy what they could, and seal the ruins. At the same time he sent a sealed letter to King Fellus. I don’t know the contents of this letter, but I believe that he claimed that he still had the power to attack enemy camps from afar and used this to set terms for and end of the war.

The Kings signed a treaty in 492. That would be the end of the story if it weren't for the Mages Guild and couple of explorers.

V. The Mages Guild

The Mages Guild served in the north for years, spreading the knowledge and gift of magic to all the various nations of the north. When they detected a person with latent magical ability, they would take them in and perform a process of “attunement” to align the apprentice to one of the colors of magic.

These seven colors of magic also corresponded to the seven Canthist gods, but over time the guild began to take a more secular approach to magic, and removed the references to the gods in their teaching. (It might also be noted that this is the time that Shadis Grey became a person of influence in the guild.) I don’t know if the Shadow was part of this divide between the guild and Canthist church, but it seems likely.

Though the claimed to be neutral during the war years, the Mages guild was more established in the western regions that became Norfin. Many more mages joined the Norfin forces than Fellus’. And after the war ended, Fellus placed heavy restrictions on the use of magic and required that no new mages be “attuned” without the approval of a “Royal Mage Overseer”. This effectively shut down the guild in Fellus.

After leaving King Norfin, Shadis Gray returned to the guild. She and other members of the guild had been told by an oracle, that a day was coming where magic would be made illegal. In fear she took the stones and her research to the guild for further study.

VI. Project Atlas

With growing hostility from the northern religions, the guild decided to begin work on a safe haven for mages. Project Atlas was at first a mountain stronghold, but as the mages understanding of the power of the Dragon Tears grew, they updated the plan. The atlas was to be a flying island and fortress, able to move anywhere. They could hide in the clouds, launch “airships” to rescue mages, and provide a self sustaining home for hundreds if not thousands of mages.

Of course when the kingdoms learned of the atlas, the fear that a flying fortress that could move an army of mages anywhere without detection created a panic and was the main force behind the Treaty of the Northern Kingdoms.

In my next report I will detail the how that occurred and the discovery of the Dragon Stone.

[* Canthism is the largest religion in the north, Its traditions state that there are 13 dead gods that were "killed" and cast out by the seven gods of fortune. These dead gods still function as negative forces according to tradition and are considered "bad luck".]

[** In the Masque religion of Merfinist, the Adversary is a powerful evil force who temps and possessed people by learning what they look like. This is why all adults in the Isle of Masque ware masks over their faces in public.]


What's been going on?

I know it has been a long time since I've posted anything. The two main reasons for that have been the loss of my job and the lack of gaming. While focusing on finding a new job, I have taken a break from GMing. That has led to a lack of campaign updates or much of anything else to write about.

But I miss working on this blog, so I'm going to start posting a few things. I have some fiction from one of my old campaigns (that functions as a sort of recap). There is also another project that I have been working on that I might post about soon.

Stay tuned....


Campaign Planning Form: Hunter Zero

We my group is taking a break from DF and going to run something else. We met and discussed what possible games to run, and this is what we came up with.

This form is a modified (and reduced) version of the Extended Campaign Planning form from How to be a GURPS GM.

Campaign Planning Form

Campaign Name: Hunter Zero
Genre: Monster Hunters
Tech Level (TL): 8 (modern)

Power Level: Heroic
Realism Level: Cinematic

Synopsis: I group of exceptional persons aided by a mysterious benefactor hunt down the horrors that hide in the shadows and prey on humanity.


Books Used:

Rules Options:
  • Buying Success (B347)
  • Player Guidance (B347)
  • Fright Checks (B360) - only for extreme or cosmic horror.
  • Flesh Wounds (B417)
  • Miraculous Recoveries (MH1:31)
  • Destiny Points (MH1:23)


Starting Points: 150
Disadvantage Limit: -60 (-55/-5)

Suggested Character Concepts: Commando, Security Expert, Researcher, Leader
Secondary Concepts: Driver, Face, Demo, Medic

Attribute Options:
  • ST: 8-18
  • DX, IQ, HT: 9-16
  • HP, FP, Will, Per: -/+ 3
  • Basic Speed: -/+ 0.75
  • Basic Move: -/+ 1

Social Traits

Low/High TL, Status, Wealth: Not used
Wealth: Starting gear will be provided for. After words PCs each get a budget to spend from the patron. Wealth levels are not used.

Cultural Familiarity: Anglo, Central Asian, East Asian, Eastern European, Latin American, North African, South Asian, Sub-Saharan, West Asian, and Western European

Languages: English (required), any other modern language

(see trait list)

Required Advantages:
  • Patron ("Zero", Modest Budget, Light Influence) [10]
  • Zeroed [10]


Recap: DF Sessions 22 & 23, Zerst 03

2014.07.31 & 2014.08.07

Aldred - Human Wizard
Fo - Minotaur Barbarian
Sir Loam - Arakun Knight
Barnabus - Human Swashbuckler


3A:137, Third Spring, 14th day:

A few days after their return from the mines, Aldred (and many other folks in town, they were later to find out) had a vivid dream. In it he saw a dark passage and a door which was being pounded on. A voice warned that an evil had awoken and would be rising from the depths.

The party started to search for information about this dream and where the "depths" might be. Aldred did find that there was an old set of tunnels and dungeons that formed a large complex under the town, but the only entrance that he learned of was under the Castle Von Dark. Other than that, there was no mention of any "evil" force that he could find.

Barnabus, tried hitting up the folks in the tavern, but didn't find any information on what might be going on. With no clear goal, and no desire to head back to the mines, the party took another week to search for more info and rumors.

During this second week, many new faces showed up in town. Adventurers and wizards who had the dream or heard of it filed into the town looking for fame, fortune, or whatever might lay in the dungeons below.

The party ran into Adalorn again, who offered to pay them if they were to help him scout out a well. He had not found a way to open the door in the Goblin Mines, yet, but the writing on the door had given him some measurements and he thought he had found another entrance. After explaining that he wanted to search for the old dwarven ruins for treasure when he first started, but now that every wizard in the land had that strange dream, he knew there would be competition.

Now he figures that if he could buy up the property around a reliable entrance, adventurers would pay for the chance to explore (and avoid some of the more dangerous entrances) into the dungeon. But before he bought up the property, he wanted a bit of scouting. After a bit of negotiating the party agreed, to check out the well.

They found the old well and Adalorn helped lower them down to the bottom. The well was 100 feet deep, and other than some wet sand at the bottom, the well was dry. The stones on the west side of the well's bottom were loose, and Fo was able to clear the stones finding a room beyond.

This room had an old drain were a trickle of water from the well dripped down below. They had found the dungeon, or at least part of it. Knowing that they would soon be competing with other adventures, the party decided to explore and maybe find something valuable.

There were two passages on the west wall, the party took the southern passage which led them into a hexagonal room with some old graffiti on the wall. Written in common was, "Welcome to the Heart". They examined this room finding 4 triangular pillars, a statue with three key holes under it, two passages to the south, and one to the north (and one to the east where they came in).

The continued north and passed through a room where each corner had walls of glass and was filled with some sort of liquid. Further on they found a room with two dwarven statues and a strange alter. A purple light shimmered over the alter, and as Aldred approached it he disappeared. Fo and Loam followed, while Barnabus kept back.

The others appeared in a dark room, and after getting the lights back on, found a room where the walls, floor and ceiling were all carved with spiraling grooves. They picked one of the three doors out and found the hall 45 degrees off from the room (they later realized that the room was 45 degrees turned compared to most of the rooms and halls. The hall went on for awhile before they found a door to the left (south wall).

Barnabus after waiting for a bit, decided to head back to the well and head out.

The rest of the group entered the door and found a room with stone tiles on the floor, each with an engraving of a scorpion on it. On the far wall they found more writing that read, "If a return trip you make, the scorpions will awake." Other than the door they came in from, there was a passage on the southern side of the west wall. From this they heard foot steps. They decided to hid in the hall and wait to ambush whatever was heading down, but it seemed to move off after a bit.

Then they moved on to find the hall turn to the south then back to the east leading back to the room with the drain, and finding Barnabus in the well just beyond about to leave.

With the party all back together, they still wanted to explore and try to find some treasure. They retraced their steps, back to the altar and this time all teleported to the spiral room. From here the found one of the doors (leading east) was locked. They took the door to the north.

This passage was a bit more uneven and crumbling. As they approached a turn to the east, they heard some soft sounds of panting and something moving around. They took the corner, and from somewhere deeper into the passage they heard, "Halt! Who are your?".

They learned that this part of the dungeon was claimed by a tribe of goblins. Sir Loam questioned them about passages deeper into the dungeon, band the goblins indicated that it was back where the party had come from.

So they returned to the spiral room and Fo began to bash on the door. Being a dwarven door, he found that he was going to dull his axe before breaking down the stone of the door.

[We ended the session here and picked right back up the following week. Fo returned to town, as his player was out this night.]

The party decided to head back down the hall and found that it dead-ended shortly after the scorpion room. So they entered the scorpion room again, and once in the room was filled with scorpions that began to crawl into their armor and sting them. They rushed through and then stripped down to remove the scorpions. Loam too a few stings, but once out the rest of the scorpions disappeared.

Back in the drain room the party evaluated where they had not yet explored and decided to take the first passage south of the Heart.

This twisted to the east and lead to a room with large (10 foot) tiles of alternating black and white. The whole room was diamond shape making it get wider then narrower as you moved from west to east. There was something written in elvish on the wall, but nobody could read it.

Testing the tiles they learned that the tile would light up as you moved on it and remain lit till you too a misstep. Then you were hit by magical lightning. It took them awhile and greatly injured the party, but the eventually figured out that they needed to move like the knight on a chess board. There was a door to the east and one to the south, which they learned unlocks if you move to it correctly.

Heading south they came to an open area with a passage to the west, and a bit to the east a door and a wide passage that lead back north. The door had written on it (in goblin), "Dregur's Unrest". They decided that this should be avoided and instead too the wide passage to the north.

This area had some low flame torches lit on the side of the hall and continued on north for awhile. The party found a passage to the east but as they got near, further north a group of six bugbears turned the corner.

Aldred threw a glue spell on the floor and caught up most of the bugbears [crit on the spell, so they were STUCK]. Aldred suggested they flee, but the others felt that they needed to finish off these monsters and attacked.

After a few thrown vials of acid and feeble attempts to move, the bugbears began to call for help. Loam finished off a couple, and Aldred cast flight on Barnabus (who didn't have a 2-hex reach weapon). Barnabus meanwhile took his blanket out, lit it and threw it over a bugbear.

This one sided fight continued on for a bit, then one of the bugbears escaped and took off running. Barnabus caught up to him as he turned the corner, and found that 9 more bugbears were heading towards them. The party decided to finish off the stuck bugbears [for some reason]. And while this was happening heard some steps coming from the other side hall.

A couple of turns later the group had to deal with the bugbears rounding the corner, and a group of 3 orcs and 3 goblins entering from the other hall.

The group was quickly surrounded, and Aldred took a few hits that were leaving him severely injured. Sometime during this fight he had cast flight on Loam, too, but not himself. The party knew they needed to escape and right now. Aldred (after a Blink to avoid death) held his staff horizontal above him, and the other two grabbed it and flew out of there as fast as they could. They retraced their steps and flew up the well.

They had escaped, and were alive, but didn't end up with any treasure. What they did have was a pretty good understanding of some of the major dangers in the dungeon under Zerst. They got their pay and an offer of a bonus if they kept quite about the well for a bit. It was time to rest and heal up.


Notes: The players didn't get a lot of action beats till the end, but it was still interesting to see them explore and deal with some of the dungeon features. There is also a lot of things that were left for follow up sessions.


My struggles with Dungeon Fantasy (part 3)

Over the last couple of weeks I've been struggling with working on my megadungeon. It feels like a chore and I am just not excited about it anymore. While trying to figure out why I was in this funk, I realized that there are many problems contributing. Here is what I've found.

Working Against my GMing Style (again)

I use to be terrified by improvisation. I would create pages and pages of prep notes in my early games because I wanted to make sure that every patron at the tavern had a name, job, etc. But I also hated doing a bunch of work that was "wasted" if the players didn't talk to that NPC, or whatever. After awhile I gave up on trying, and just would roll with the punches. Now I prefer to have just the key details and let the players figure out who's important and who isn't.

My Fallout game had 3 pages of prep (outside of equipment list and templates), mostly of bullet points of a location, the major NPCs there, what those NPCs want, and what they can give. My Traveller game had even less.

It might be that I've gotten lazy, but between work, family, and my other hobbies, I just don't want to spend 3 hours every night working on my weekly game. It ends up causing burn out.

But DF requires a LOT of prep! For DF I need maps, room descriptions, monsters, traps, loot, and other bits of interest. I like making maps, but as I mentioned before this can be hard to do well. DF2 and DFM1 both have some great monsters in them, but most are designed for a very select environment, or are something that is best used sparingly. The same old pit trap gets old quick, so rolling up new ones and making them fit can be a chore. Loot is always a bit strange to me. The simulationist wants to just roll on a table, but the 4th time you get the SM-2 Bows, for your group of Half-Ogre Barbarians you know how unsatisfying that is going to be for everyone.

And so I am burned out. I've thought about just going to published modules, but that means converting monsters, traps, loot, etc. That is a lot LESS work, but also tends to be much harder to make fun and balanced for my group.

While I think that the core problem is that I haven't been focusing enough on "story", and too much on the bits such as monsters and loot, this still is a concern b/c of the time it takes to get this all done.

Possible solutions: Again, I could just go to published modules, but I have a feeling that is going to bore me. I've never been a module guy, so I don't know if that would keep my interest up.

The other idea is to do "dungeon on the fly". I've never tried to do something like this, but have played with how it could be done. The basic idea is to just improve the dungeon, creating a rough map as the players explore, and just throw cool stuff at them randomly. I worry that this is going to create something that make no sense what so ever, and end up going to the silly side of things.

For the most part, I feel this is a problem that diminish with time. The more material I can create the more I can pull from later. So my hope is that once I've sorted out some of the other problems, this will also become less and less of an issue. That is IF I can get myself motivated to keep adding new items every day, and that will take time.


My struggles with Dungeon Fantasy (part 2)

Over the last couple of weeks I've been struggling with working on my megadungeon. It feels like a chore and I am just not excited about it anymore. While trying to figure out why I was in this funk, I realized that there are many problems contributing. Here is what I've found.

The Megadungeon Misunderstanding

Another big issue that I had was that I wanted to run a megadungeon, but didn't know what one was. I had never GMed, or played in a game with a megadungeon, so my understanding of one was based on what I read (mostly through play reports of others).

I didn't let this bother me because I figured that I could translate my experiences with video games that I thought were Megadungeons, namely the Diablo and Torchlight games. But I was in constant conflict, the ideas didn't seem to stack up correctly. It wasn't until I stared looking more into megadungeon design that I realized that I was just thinking of long or big dungeons, not megadungeons.

Due to this, I've recreated the first floor of my dungeon 4 times. I've redone the side view several times, and I still haven't gotten much done on the first floor in the way of actually detailed and stocked rooms.

I love the idea of a megadungeon, but I'm still struggling on making it work. Part of the reason that I wanted to do one was to have a space that can be "living" and wouldn't require me to draw up a new dungeon every week, but the up front time investment is making it hard to get to the point where I can reuse it. It's also difficult to create large complexes that makes sense, are fun, and provide a variety of options for a group of adventurers.

Possible solutions: Find a copy of Ruins of Undermountain, and convert it? Give up on the megadungeon idea all together?

Honestly, I've already taken parts of Undermountain, and my other "level 1" and merged them together. I now have a dungeon with a central hub area that branches out to other areas. It still needs a lot of work, but it is better fitting with he megadungeon design.

My Take on Evaluate

After +Jason Packer posted the following:
Assertion: The Evaluate maneuver is utterly useless if your skill exceeds that of your opponent, and is dubious at best if your skill exceeds 10.
A discussion followed about how to make Evaluate a useful combat option. Not too long ago I had a discussion with one of my players on the relative uselessness of Evaluate. "Loosing" a turn or more was just not worth the bonus.

After playing around with many different ideas for Evaluate (a per-based contested roll, an option for the Wait maneuver). I decided that most of these add more complexity and still don't do enough to make Evaluate more attractive than other combat options.

Here is a simple option that tries to give Evaluate more value:
For each second of evaluate you get +1 to your attack and +1 to defend against the evaluated target (both capped at +3). Additionally the target is -1 per turn (max -3) to defend against.
So "sacrifice" a turn to gain a small defense bonus, but also a greater chance to hit (and not be dodged/parried/blocked). This might be a bit "overpowered" but taking 3 turns to get the full bonus, while someone else gets to make 3 attacks seems fair to me.


My struggles with Dungeon Fantasy (part 1)

Over the last couple of weeks I've been struggling with working on my megadungeon. It feels like a chore and I am just not excited about it anymore. While trying to figure out why I was in this funk, I realized that there are many problems contributing. Here are my thoughts and possible solutions.

Working Against my GMing Style

This is sort of the root of all the issues, and I've sort of mentioned this before. I'm use to running games with little prep, and the prep I do being focused on characters in the world. With other games, I start with NPCs and factions, I set up conflict and then let the players take sides and direct the events. This is fun for me, but has at times created lots of in-party conflict as the sides tend to be both morally gray.

Part of the reason I wanted to try DF was to get away from this moral ambiguity, and everything that went with it. I thought I'd just have the players "kill things and take their stuff." So, I didn't bother with a lot of back story, NPCs, or much of anything really. When things started to feel a bit pointless or unfocused, I tried to retrofit in some "quests", but these didn't seem to really strike a cord with the players. That is probably because it didn't really strike a cord with ME.

My time and investment were spent on maps and monsters and loot and the dozens of other things that were fairly new to my GMing style (and initially exciting), and not on the things that keep me interested.

I think this is a case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. I went overboard in trying to do something different and took away one of the major things that makes me want to GM.

Possible solution: I need to spend more time thinking of the who's who of the setting, creating interesting major NPCs and getting them involved in the PC's lives. This can be problematic in a game where just about anyone is a potential target, but every major NPCs needs to have events that kick off when they are helped, killed, or even ignored.

This sort of thing gets my creative side going. The draw back is that it takes time away from other prep work, and I'm not sure I can run a dungeon w/o monsters, loot, etc.


My First RPG

It seems this is a thing going on, so I'll jump on board.

Early Exposure

I was exposed to RPGs for awhile before I played my first game. My older brother had run the game once (I think), but I was still very young and so the bratty little brother wasn't invited. I don't think he kept playing and later I got a hold of the Moldvay Basic Rulebook, and the AD&D (1st ed) Players Handbook. Even before I could read I flipped through these books. I instantly got that it was a game about playing wizards and warriors and fighting monsters and magic and treasures. I was hooked even before I every got to play.

Unfortunately those books eventually became lost and took a back seat in my memory.



On my 11th birthday I got an NES, the next few years I played many "action adventure" and "rpg" video games. I loved Dragon Warrior, Final Fantasy, Shadowgate, but the original Legend of Zelda really struck a cord with me. The exploring of dungeons, gaining new items, and solving puzzles reminded me a lot of the pictures I saw in those old D&D books.

My First RPG

It wasn't until Junior High, that I finally got a chance to play the game that had in my childhood filled my head with vivid images of heroes and treasure. A friend invited me to play D&D, after asking me if I knew what the game was. I said I sort of knew the game and had always wanted to play.

We met at his house and I rolled up my first character. We played using the D&D Rules Cyclopidea. I wanted to play "someone with magic and a sword" so I rolled up an Elf (from the get-go I didn't like "class restrictions"). I don't recall all the details, but I remember the DM setting down one of the six-sided dice on the "6" side, having me only roll 2d6 in order to get better than average stats. Even with what little I knew, I realized that he was tweaking the rules to make sure my character wasn't weak.

I think we were staring above level 1 (or maybe my character was just allowed to start at the other PC's level). I was allowed a couple of magic items, and I asked for a "ring of invisibility!", but instead got some elven boots and elven cloak (which I was assured was almost as good). I also got to pick some skills (it that is what they were called). I remember picking up ventriloquism, and a few others (including lip reading). Then we were off on adventure.

We were traveling up the road (not sure if we had a destination or not), and saw some smoke rising. I told the others that with my elven gear, and lip reading, I could do a bit of recon. I got off the road and approached the smoke to find a bonfire of furniture being thrown out of a cabin. There was a dead man, a woman tied up, and a couple of bandits ransacking the cabin.

I quickly returned to the others and told them what I had seen. Then suggested that I return and use my ventriloquism to throw my voice and convince the bandits that the ghost of the dead man had returned. I goal was to scare them off so that we could rescue the woman.

The plan went round and round for awhile. The other players were unsure if we needed to worry and maybe it would just be better to charge in. Our debate took up most of the rest of the time I had (the others could stay later than I could). So eventually we did charge in, but I had to leave after that.

After this I went out and bought my own copy of the Baisc Game, then the Rules Cyclopedia. Later I would pick up Marvel Superheroes RPG, Cyberpunk 2020, and several others before eventually finding GURPS (Basic Set 3rd edition revised.)

Looking back

For a long time D&D was an almost mythic thing for me. It was strange and mysterious and something that was for a time unattainable. Once I got the chance to play, I loved it but could tell right away that I wanted more. I had gotten use to the restrictions in video games, and so wanted no restrictions in a table top game. Once I learned about classless systems, I was drawn towards them.

Still, D&D was my first (table top) RPG and will always hold a bit of that "magical" something that I first gleamed when flipping through the strange books for that game that I was "too young" to play.


Recap: DF Session 21, Zerst 02


Aldred - Human Wizard
Fo - Minotaur Barbarian
Sir Loam - Arakun Knight

Back in town:
Barnabus - Human Swashbuckler


3A:137, Third Spring, 7th day:

Picking up where we left off last time...

It seems that Barnabus' injuries were more severe than what the originally thought, so he returned to town while the other's continued on.

The others found the back entrance to the mine, but after traveling in for a ways they came to an area where the supports had collapses. Fo, lifted and wedged the beam back up. This covered him in dirt, but the party was able to continue on. Further down they found another collapsed pat of the tunnel, but this time it would take some digging to clear. To the east the saw part of the wall collapsed leading into a room beyond. Again Fo was able to raise a beam and get the passage open for all to enter.

Exploring this room, the group found it might have once been a kitchen or some sort of storage. There were many broken boxes and other refuse lying around. Sir Loam checked the a broken shelf and found among the broken jars and trash, a tin that contained six glow vials.

Aldred decided to check a small room on the east wall, and was attacked by two giant rats. He was able to blink out of danger while the others finished off the rats. After they checked the room, but a quick search didn't net any more loot.

They left through a door to the north and found themselves in another hall. There were some doors, another collapsed passageway, and a set of double doors bared from their side and with a faint light coming in from behind them.. After determining that they would not be able to pass through the collapsed hall without some work that would draw attention, they decided to open the double doors up and continue on.

They entered into the next hall and followed it around towards a "smashing" sound. Peeking around the corner they found a wide hall to the north with several hobgoblins smashing rocks that were placed in a sort of "trough" in the middle of the hall.

After a short planning session, Aldred buffed  up Sir Loam with Might and Great Haste, and the three of them charged into the hall. The hobgoblins were somewhat caught off guard [surprise]. With great haste, Sir Loam quickly worked his way through the enemies. Fo engaged another and Aldred stayed back a bit. Soon more hobgoblins joined the melee, each had a large hammer used for mashing the stones.

Aldred through a Glue spell [that critted] on the floor of the connecting hall that kept a couple of hobgoblins at bay. After a few more turns the four hobgoblins were down, but two remained in the glue and two more were on the other side of it.

Aldred added Flight to Sir Loam's buffs as Fo struggled to get across the glue and attack. After the two that were in the glue were defeated, Aldred ended the glue spell. One of the hobgoblins had run off after being told to, "get da boss!" but Sir Loam's flight speed allowed him to catch up and end the fight.

To the east they heard a softer tapping sound as the halls became more uneven, and to the north on the west wall they saw another set of double doors. Aldred cast Seeker and found that the door they wanted was in the northwest, so they continued on through the doors.

Here they found an intersection, They took the north path and found a door with "Da Boss" scrawled on it. Even with a good idea that the door they were looking for was further on, they decided to bust into the door and attack.

Inside they found two orcs and a large orc-ish creature standing around a table. Fo charged in and took on the closest orc. Aldred and Sir Loam moved in towards the other. The orcs fought well, with the boss tossing acid occasionally. Fo took a few nasty hits before he was able to bring down the orc he was fighting. The other orc also was badly injured and moved back. The boss tried to make a run for it, but was cut off and then offered surrender.

The orc now slumped against the wall in the back said that he would tell where "the treasure is" if he was left alive. Sir Loam played the orc and the boss off each other a bit, and got the boss to give them each a bag of copper ($300 in raw copper), a healing potion, the location of the dwarf door, and safe passage through the mines! The leader agreed, and after some patching up, they were escorted to the door, then made their way through the mine area where several goblins were picking away.

Back in town the dwarf was pleased to see that they had returned with the rubbing and paid the promised fee. He then said that he would have more work soon.


The party was down a member, but things worked out more or less. I was a bit off my game and so there were several rule issues, but things still felt smooth. Still not having lots of healing was an issue, but nobody died, thought Fo came close. Kudos for the party shaking down, er, negotiating with the mine's boss.

The rules we had some issues with were:
  • Seeker - this spell is at -5 unless the caster has something connected to the sought item. I've been lax on this, but need to remember to enforce this.
  • Healing on 20+ HP should be double. This would have helped get Fo back above 0 sooner. Can't believe that I forgot this.
  • Need to better keep track of spells "on", this hasn't been much of an issue in the past, but with a support wizard who is casting many buffs, I'll need to watch this. And speaking of...
  • Great Haste is a "lasting" spell, apparently. I should add the duration types to my spell list.


Spells as Loot

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy puts some restrictions on what spells casters of various flavors can learn, but doesn't address the issue of spell rarity. When I played D&D (B/X), I recall spells being something that you wanted to find. The spell tomb of a powerful wizard could be a whole quest goal.

While the fighter-types are getting new armor and weapons, the wizard might not need more than a new power item and some potions. Sure, their is lots of cool loot a wizard could get, but that can often pale compared to the astonishing new powers that they gain from spells.


For my DF game, I've decided make "higher level" spells more difficult to gain and turning spells into loot. I'm using spells' Magery requirement as the "rarity" level, but with a few other restrictions:
  • Spells that have an unavoidable Magery X requirement in their prerequisite chain inherit that that same requirement.
    • ex. Identify Spell has a prereq of Detect Magic, which requires Magery 1, so Identify Spell is also considered to require Magery 1.
  • Spells with prereq counts greater than 10 are treated like they require Magery 2, Magery 3 for greater than 15.
Otherwise things break down like this:
  • No Magery Req - These spells are widely known and can be studied from books and sources that are readily available (spell instruction books can be found in stores)
  • M1 - These spells are commonly taught at the Wizards' Guild (standard training fees).
  • M2 - These spells are somewhat restricted. The Wizards' Guild may require that the player perform some service or at least be in good standing (no crimes against) the guild. These tend to cost more (1.5x) for training.
  • M3 - These spells are often unknown, hidden, forbidden, or otherwise not taught. Players will have to find a lost spell tome, hidden trainer, etc., in order to learn this spell.
For starting characters I'm thinking of limiting starting spells to: Any number of spells with no magery req, Magery x 3 M1 spells, Magery x 1 of M2 spells, and M3 are off limits.

Clerics and Druids are also limited, but using the PI requirements in DF1. I'll just map PI6 = M3, PI5 = M2, PI4  M1; PI3 or less as No req. Cleric spells aren't usually found, but instead are gained via donation to the church (training cost) and prayer. A god can give a spell to a character who has performed some service. Druid spells can be found, but are more likely to require a master Druid who lives in some remote place.


Recap: DF Session 20, Zerst 01



Aldred - Human Wizard
Barnabus - Human Swashbuckler
Fo - Minotaur Barbarian
Sir Loam - Arakun Knight


A new band of adventurers find their way to Zerst! Aldred Malrune is a student of all things arcane. He joined up awhile back with the group and has been seeking to flex his magical muscles and maybe learn a new spell or two. Barnabus is a former pirate that one day woke up hungover and found his ship and crew left him behind. He joined up to gain some coin while he awaits his chance to return to the sea and reclaim his ship. Fo met Sir Loam while traveling and thought that the arakun was going to need help. Despite being nothing alike the two have worked well together for some time. Sir Loam is an arakun with a code. He tries to do what's right, but often finds that it is all he can do to keep the others (and himself) out of trouble.

This band of "heroes" came to to frontier, like many others, seeking fame and fortune. They settled into the local inn. There they met a one-eyed Dwarf named Adalorn who offered them 20 gold ($2000) to enter an old mind and bring back a rubbing of a dwarven door in there (paper and coal provided).

After the party accepted the offer, Aldred decided to do a bit of research in the town archive to see if he could find any maps on the old mine. After an hour of searching he did find one map that showed where the mine was at, and also the location of a possible back entrance to the mine.

With this knowledge, the party set off to the back entrance of the mine. Before reaching their goal, they came across a group of six orcs arguing down the road. Barnabus and Fo immediately dashed off and began to sneak around the group. Sir Loam and Aldred continued down the path and then one of the orcs called out to them. Sir Loam told the orcs that they were looking for a mine, which caused the orcs to give each other a glance, but before any more discussions took place, Barnabus jumped out of the brush and attacked the orcs.

Barnabus and Fo took down the two closest orcs quickly then began to move on to the others. Sir Loam and Aldred began to run towards the action (as they had still been fairly  far off). Fo moved in to another orc, but ended up loosing his grip on his great axe and sending it several yards away. Barnabus attacked the three [with an all out attack] in the back of the group. Unfortunately, one of his attacks missed, and the others did not significantly injure the other orcs.

Still, one of the orcs decided to make a run for it. The two remaining attacked Banabus who took some nasty wounds [dropping to under -HP]. He was hurt bad, but still standing [making his Death and Knock back/Stunning checks].

The others began to close on the remaining orcs. Sir Loam tossed his spear at the runner but missed. Aldred used Poltergeist to throw Fo's axe, but it also missed. Fo using his horns, and later Barnabus' sword managed to deal with the orcs, but the runner got away.

After the battle they (quite fortunately) found a Greater Healing Potion for Banabus [Serendipity baby!], and Aldred gave one of his lesser healing potions. They also found a bit of coin, but no clue to what the orcs where up to.

They decided to continue on and soon found the back entrance to the mine.


As a "kick off" session, I wanted to get a feel for the group and what their were going to be like. I think this session did a good job of that!

The biggest issue the group is going to have to deal with is the lack of a healer. I created an Initiate hireling that was ready to be hired, but the party didn't seem interested in looking for one. If they continue to adventure without a healer, they are going to need to carry a LOT more healing potions.

The orcs were a mix of fodder and worthy. This might have given the impression that they would be pushovers, so I sort of feel that I was a bit misleading... but hey it happens (and keeps PCs on their toes).

Next session will pick up where this one left off.