Monday, 16 January 2017

Back to Apple Lane - Part III



Last time our heroes discovered that the crystal they had been assigned to guard had gone missing. There seemed to be little they could do at this stage than wait for the return of Gringle and Quackjohn to Apple Lane in the morning.

Gringle returned to survey the damage - the kitchen door bashed down, most of the kitchen furniture matchwood, a pile of bodies in his temple room, many of his roof tiles broken...and some sheepish adventurers unable to explain how the crystal they were meant to be guarding, disappeared in the night. Gringle was himself at a loss to explain where the centaur and the dragon newts had come from, given that he had told the party to expect an attack from baboons.

Still, a missing crystal was a missing crystal. Gringle pronounced himself unable to pay bounty on baboon heads unless the characters could find it. He and Quackjohn did not have the name of the adventurer who had sold it to them, and no idea where the baboons laired up. If the adventurers wanted to be paid, he said, then they would have to go get it back.

He agreed to buy some of the equipment of the fallen attackers (e.g. the centaur's lance), and sold a Haste scroll to Quilliam. He also bought the Fertility runestone they had taken from one of the dead dragon newts for 200 silver pieces (Rothgar's player, despite being a mean haggler in Indian street markets, does not seem inclined to haggle in-game!)

Rothgar and Quilliam dragged the bodies outside, gave them another search, and debated whether to skin the centaur for its hide, with a view to making armour from it. Quilliam in the end decided the result would not be superior to what they were already wearing, and Maria again declined to have armour made for her. Finally, the set fire to them, and headed over to the Tin Inn to see if anyone could remember the mysterious adventurer who had come through a week earlier.

At the Tin Inn, across the street from the pawn shop, Quilliam had a chat with the landlady Bertha, who could remember the stranger but not his name or where he was going. He did not stay at the inn.Quilliam and Rothgar eventually eye-balled a somewhat disheveled man, sitting down and writing in one corner of the common room. They struck up a conversation with him, and discovered him to be a poet, called Pramble.

Pramble, a man struggling to make ends meet as a part-time poet and part-time scullion, was questioned fruitlessly about the adventurer, but this led on to a conversation about last night's fight at the pawn shop. Pramble was naturally keen to hear about the outcome, as he had watched it all from the inn and wanted to compose a ditty about the action. Rothgar was under-impressed with the fact that Pramble had not helped when they needed it, but Pramble professed he was not a man of action, but of words. He had, however, spotted the centaur, which he identified as Biglaugh Bigclub, a known bandit and part of a group that had been making a nuisance of itself in eastern Sartar recently.

Quilliam questioned Pramble on whether he was aware of any bandit lairs in the vicinity, and while the poet held out for some money before revealing the information, intimidation from Rothgar quickly changed his mind: he said that a troll called White Eye was rumoured to have set up a base near the Rainbow Mounds, about a day's hard march from Apple Lane.

Deciding that this was as good a place as any  to start, the adventurers bought some provisions and set off, deciding to make it an easy two day hike to the ancient monoliths on the Rainbow Mounds. Camping under the stars in the arid wilderness, Zariah rolled a critical while foraging for roots and rabbits, and discovered the tracks of four baboons, also heading in the same direction as the party, and seemingly carrying something heavy...

The next day they pressed on, and came upon the giant megalith called the Giants' Table. Beneath it, they discovered a cave entrance leading down. The party began quietly stacking rocks to form a small wall across the entrance, and then started a fire. The wind blew the smoke down into the cave, and the group waited patiently. Eventually they were rewarded by the unexpected sally of four rock lizards, which came pounding up out of the smoke and the darkness. Smiling grimly, Rothgar readied his axe...

Monday, 9 January 2017

100 Days Campaign: it's all kicking off!

June 15, 17.55 in the evening, Charleroi

It looks like it is kicking off at Laneffe...!
 News is flooding in fast from all over the theatre. The French seem to be coming at us from all directions. To my right, Zeithen and the Prussian I Corps have been attacked by the French III Corps under Van Damme at Thuin. To the south, at Laneffe, it looks like the three divisions I left there have been assaulted by that rogue Marshal Ney, with D'Erlon and the French I Corps. I'm not exactly sure where Napoleon is right now, and I am trying to identify which of these attacks represents the main French thrust. However, two entire corps are starting to look more than a little convincing!

On my left, at Yvoir, another French corps has materialised from the direction of Dinant under the command of Lobau, with six brigades. Heavy fighting is being reported in that direction.

Spies have come in from Marche, reporting that French cavalry were seen there, heading north. This could mean some form of outflanking maneuver, either towards Ciney or Bomal, but this looks like a long way round. If there IS a major French formation out there, it would be heading towards Huy or Liege and might therefore require further investigation. The question is whether I can spare the cavalry for a foray in that direction...?

At the moment the most potent threat seems to be from Ney. I am leaving Zeithen to take care of the situation at Thuin, while I concentrate the Prussian IV corps south of Chaleroi. It looks to me as if a big battle is brewing here. I may need to support my troops at Laneffe, or assist Zeithen, depending on what happens there. We look to have another couple of hours of daylight left, after which we may have a chance to consolidate our position.

What is also worrisome is that the French are reported at Mons. This is a bit out of my 'sector' so to speak, but there are British troops at Seneffe and Ath, so with luck Wellington will be able to deal with that little trouble. Still no dispatches from Wellington's headquarters. I wonder what he is up to?

Generalfeldmarschall von Blucher

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Gaming plans for 2017

Fuel Stop - coming to a gaming table in 2017.
I'm now back from a very enjoyable break in India. about which I may post further in the near future. Suffice to say, it was a wonderful opportunity to return to the country of my childhood, from which I had been away for far too long.

It seems to be de rigeur on many of the blogs I currently follow to outline some gaming plans for the New Year. I anticipate that I'm going to be extremely busy this year on the work front, so will therefore be keeping any ambitions within conservative limits.

Tabletop roleplaying games

On the RPG front, I quite enjoyed running Deadlands Noir at Dragonmeet last month, so plan to run some more homebrew scenarions at cons in the future. In particular, I will continue to fine tune 'Looking For Lucy', perhaps migrating it from the Deadlands universe to Call of Cthulhu. Although originally written to launch a Deadlands Noir campaign, it seems to work quite well in a con environment, and may also be published on this site at some point for use by others.

My 'Operation Prospero' spec ops adventure, which I ran using Night's Black Agents at Dragonmeet 2015, has been submitted to the Delta Green shotgun scenario contest at Kelvin's suggestion, and I plan to convert it wholeheartedly over to the new DG rules, again for use as a one shot at cons.

I'm also working on a couple of new ideas for adventures: 'Fuel Stop' is a WW2 adventure in the Pacific theatre, which features the crew of a B29 bomber that has sustained damage during a raid on Tokyo in 1945. Running out of fuel over the Pacific Ocean and nearly a thousand miles from the nearest Allied base, the crew are desperately looking for somewhere to land, other than in the sea! I'm probably going to be working on this over the next 3-4 months when I get the chance. This may either use Savage Worlds or Call of Cthulhu.

Finally, at a very early stage in a fourth adventure, currently without working title, that takes place in Malaya in the 1920s. The investigators are all locally interested parties that respond to the suicide of an English manager on a rubber plantation in Perak during monsoon season. This is still very much on the drawing board, but like 'Fuel Stop', is beginning to take shape.

Apart from this, I'm dabbling in a few new systems at the moment. In particular, I've become quite focused on Glorantha in recent weeks and have been running some RuneQuest while in India over the Christmas break. This is something I'd quite like to continue with going forward, perhaps migrating the campaign from its beginnings in Apple Lane to New Pavis. Further updates to this campaign will appear on this site.

 Miniatures

I achieved very little with this in 2016, and expect little better in 2017 due to the amount of work involved in managing three growing companies. I shall be keeping my ambitions very conservative, with perhaps some Blood Bowl, X-Wing and Warhammer 40,000. If time, I may experiment with some other games, like Dragon Rampant and The Men Who Would Be Kings. I'd also like to try out some Vietnam War company-level scenarios if there is the opportunity. I suspect miniatures gaming will be conducted on a very ad hoc basis this year.

I'm also meant to be putting together the next issue of the Battlefleet newsletter for the Naval Wargames Society, but not much progress has been made on this yet. Hopefully I will be able to make some more progress in the next couple of months, when time allows...

Megagames

As I mentioned in a previous post, I may see if I can organise a couple of megagames in Brighton this year. There are a number of logistical obstacles involved, the two primary ones being an appropriate venue and attracting enough players. It may be we try out one of the established scenarios first, before venturing into brand new events. Again, for the time being, updates on these projects will be on this blog. 

In summary, I'm taking a very cautious approach to 2017, with very few ambitious projects on the horizon. The question will be how this sits with a very busy work schedule.

Monday, 2 January 2017

RuneQuest - more from Apple Lane!

Last time we left our heroes defending Gringle's Pawn Shop in Apple Lane from a determined assault by a pack of baboons. Thanks mainly to the efforts of Rothgar, a barbarian clad in sack cloth, several baboons have been slain/incapacitated in a most brutal manner. Quilliam, a somewhat ineffectual sorceror, has investigated the sound of someone trying to bash down the kitchen door...

Inevitably, the kitchen door was battered down, and there came the tumult of something/someone stumbling through the pots and pans Quilliam had thoughtfully strewn across the kitchen floor. Before long, the inner kitchen door burst open, and an armoured centaur charged through into the temple. By this stage, Rothgar had appeared in the opposite doorway, and he charged the centaur, while Quilliam, with scimitars drawn, attacked from its left.

At the top of the stairs leading to the kitchen, Zariah had rolled one of the barrels from the upstairs storeroom into position, and now nocked an arrow to her bow, sighting on the centaur (we duly pondered the friendly fire rules for RQ, as, while the centaur was partly hidden from Zariah behind a door, if she missed, there was a good chance of hitting Quilliam or Rothgar).

The centaur fought hard to defend itself against the two men, but was quickly wounded in several locations, and brought down. While Quilliam focused on finishing off the beast, Rothgar charged into the kitchen, tackling two dragon newts that had been standing behind the centaur with bows ready, only to now be faced with the blood-smeared apparition of Rothgar, while behind him the sorceror gleefully hacked away at their fallen centaur comrade.

Rothgar used his tower shield to charge straight into one dragon newt, driving it to the ground and then finishing it off with his short sword. Meanwhile, Maria charged into the kitchen wielding her rapier, and got a lucky critical hit in on the other dragon newt, dispatching it on the sport. Rothgar now ran over to the back door, which had been bashed off its hinges, and almost ran straight into a larger dragon newt armed with an odd-looking serrated club. The creature had a swipe at Rothgar, unsuccessfully, before the barbarian struck back, injuring it. Seeing two of its comrades down already, it chose the better part of valour, and fled into the night.

With the battle over, the adventurers paused for breath. Checking outside the front of the pawn shop, they found the body of one of the baboons, the leader who had fallen from the roof, was missing, presumably dragged away by someone else. The door to the kitchen was locked and barred, while the remaining bodies were moved into the Issaries temple and stripped of weapons and armour. They found two Disorder runes on the dead baboons and a Fertility rune on one of the dead dragon newts.

As thre night drew on, the two male heroes bedded down in the temple area while the girls slept upstairs. Rothgar managed to integrate one of the Disorder runes before falling asleep. In the morning the adventurers arose, only for Rothgar to discover that Gringle's crystal was missing...

What really happened - one of the female baboons on the roof took cover behind a chimney to avoid being shot by Zariah. It then decided to slip down the chimney into the kitchen, where Quilliam heard it descending, and lit the fire. The chimney has two flues, however, so the baboon used the second one to slide down into the living room, then unoccupied, and hide under the snooker table (!). Here it cowered until everything went quiet, whereupon it sneaked out. Despite having a sneak score of only 15% it made four consecutive rolls - one to sneak past Quilliam, one to filch the crystal from Rothgar, one to avoid waking Rothgar, and a final roll to sneak past Quilliam again. I was quite prepared to have it waken one of the duo, but given its amazing fortune, I allowed the result to stand.

The baboons have been left in a perilous situation, however; while the crystal has been recovered, they are down to the senior female, one adult female, a young male, and the current leader, who is badly wounded and must be carried. The bandits who they teamed up with have fled, after their primary warrior, the centaur Big Laugh, was slain along with two dragon newts.

Monday, 26 December 2016

RuneQuest on the beach

I'm currently in Goa, the former Portuguese colony on the west coast of India. Fed up with the bad weather in England, the strikes and the general whingeing about whether to leave the EU, when and how, I have retreated to the little village of Utorda, about five minutes from 25 kilometres of sandy beach, shaded by palm trees.

I've brought with me a copy of Labyrinth Lord, which I picked up at Dragonmeet in London for the princely sum of £10, and my digest-sized softback copy of RuneQuest Deluxe, by Mongoose Publishing. Once the sun goes down here in southern India, sitting outside can be a little problematic due to the swarms of mosquitoes which drench the area. I anticipated the kids might appreciate playing some RPGs in the evenings rather than being eaten alive outside!

I wanted to get to grips with MRQ1 at my leisure, rather than in a live game session so to speak. I've thus also packed a copy of Greg Stafford's very early RQ scenario, Apple Lane. While this was written for an earlier version of the game (1980, so RQ1 I expect), I thought it might be useful in helping us with a walktheough of the game rules.

The kids generated four PCs for the game, including twins, Zariah and Maria. Zariah is a nomad archer, while Maria, separated from her sister at an early age (can you say "Skywalker"?) has become proficient with a rapier and...and...with baking. As you do. They met at the Tin Inn in the little Sartar village of Apple Lane with two strangers strangers fresh off the caravan trail, Rothrog, a barbarian with a big rusty ring through his nose, and Quillian, a budding sorceror with two scimitars on his back. Rothrog is wearing only sack cloth and carrying a tower shield, but looks like he means business.

As they were chatting, they were approached by Gringle, the owner of the local pawn shop, conveniently located across the street. Gringle has a baboon problem: a tribe of local baboons has tried to steal a magic crystal from him, a crystal he bought from an adventurer for 20,000 silvers. The fact that the adventurer slew most of the adult males in the tribe in order to get it is neither here nor there. Gringle has to go away on business overnight, and asks the adventurers to guard his fortified shop while he and his duck butler/bodyguard are away.

Rothrog decided he should keep the crystal on his person. After Gringle left, he took up position at the front door of the shop. Maria baked some olive bread for supper in the kitchen. Quilliam established himself on the upper floor with a good line of sight while Zaria backed up Rothrog.

Shortly after dark, the baboons made their move, smashing a downstairs shutter and dropping a burning torch into the main corridor. While Maria and Zariah ran to put out the flames with buckets of water, there was a hammering on the tiles on the roof. Quilliam soon spotted two baboons trying to break through the tiles with maces. He cast his Palsy spell at them several times, to no avail. They were soon joined by two more baboons, also intent on breaking in through the roof. At this point, Rothgar strode out of the building into the street, and roared that he had the crystal they were after, and they had better come and get it - if they thought they were hard enough, of course...

The baboon leader took the barbarian at his word, and tried to climb down the wall into the street, but rolled a critical failure on his Athletics and crashed to the ground, stunning himself. Before he could get up, Rothgar charged him and dispatched him with is axe. Another baboon (the leader's mum!) began hurling Disrupt spells down on Rothgar, while Quilliam was joined by Zariah who started shooting at the baboons on the roof with her bow. The baboons shot back with their slings.

It was at this point that three more baboons came around the side of the shop, and also started casting Disrupt at Rothgar. For the first time, the barbarian began to look a little worried. Maria decided to leave the shop to assist him. Rothgar shouted for help to the denizens of the Tin Inn over the road, but either the music was too loud or they were too afraid to assist him. However, he quickly proved how vicious he could be, using his shield and his axe in combination to take down all three baboons in short order (Rothgar's player has evolved a particularly nasty shield bash attack which combines nicely with an additional combat action). Up on the roof, Zariah managed to shoot one (critical hit, which took the baboon down straight away), while another took cover behind the chimney.

Now the adventurers heard the distinctly unpleasant sound of something trying to bash down the kitchen door at the rear of the shop. Quilliam ran downstairs to investigate, leaving Zariah to secure the shutters upstairs. As he entered the kitchen, the sorceror saw some ash coming down into the kitchen fireplace, and heard something scuffling in the chimney flue. Keeping an eye on the door, which was being subjected to repeated blows, he used an oil lamp to set light to the wood in the fireplace, then scattered some pots on the floor, and retreated back into the temple (Gringle has a small temple to Issaries in his home).

First impressions - I have run RQ before, but some time ago. Part of this exercise is really to get to grips with the combat and magic systems, and I believe this is why Stafford wrote Apple Lane in the first place. It certainly achieves that. It is great to have the time to spend working through the mechanics. We are NOT using MRQ2, which I think streamlines some of the combat, mainly because I did not want to bring heavy hardbacks to India. Combat is taking longer than Pathfinder, but it is speeding up as we get more used to it, and the system of reactions. It feels more like a real battle, and is deadlier than Pathfinder - one or two hits can be enough to take a character out of a fight. All the baboons have their own individual profiles, so it can be fiddly keeping track of all this, but at the same time, everyone seems to be having a good time. Apple Lane itself is well-written, with plenty of detail on the plans of the 'bad' guys.