The Tomb of Annihilation’s Revenge 2: “I don’t know; Scry casual.”

The Tomb of Annihilation’s Revenge 2: “I don’t know; Scry casual.”

In which the Sigil 6 Scry the Cradle of the Death God.

TEXT: Tomb of Annihilation's Revenge

PIC: Acererak's green-gem eyes looking down on the Lost City of Omu

Who are the Sigil 6 – Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Shepherd and what have they been up to?

Sigil 6 Subject Divider
Sigil 6 Subject Divider

The Corpseflea formerly known as Failed Soldier is now Shepherd. The player described the character not at all responding to the old name.

Love it.

Some players were missing tonight, so we had a low-key scry and chat. It was a lovely downshift.

Shepherd, the Corpseflea Death Priest, scryed into the chamber where the Sigil 6 had destroyed the Death-God Acererak was growing in the dungeon under the Lost City of Omu. He saw 8 Lich Soul Jars and with a Gem of True seeing, saw an invisible lich, bound by iron over its arms, legs, face and hands.

In the Chapel of Hate, they saw the Nothics chained to the wall and with a solid Arcana check, Bugwump explained that Vecna seeding false manuals that did not turn necromancers into liches but into Nothics, one eyed beasts with only vague memory of their previous lives. They also saw the secret doors down the hallway they hadn’t explored because I messed up and shared a map with the secret doors on it.

* shrugs * Eh.

During their last delve into this mess, they had access to the Godroads. This time they do not. They bought a Teleport Scroll as a safe retreat measure.

I really like re-visiting old places, seeing how things have changed. I’ve got fun ideas about the Lost City of Omu and how Chult has changed in the months since the Sigil 6 was here.

An ambitious tribal leader is uniting factions throughout the continent.

Next Game: Into the jungle. No, really.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

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Learning new skills in Into the Odd

Learning new skills in Into the Odd

I was thinking about a character learning new skills in an Into the Odd game, rulings not rules and the way OSR bloggers have been tossing around the words procedure and mechanics lately. So, here’s a procedure or a ruling, clearly inspired by Apocalypse World, filtered through Traveller and now here for some Odd use, capped off with a quote about learning to read from my favorite book.

When your character wants to learn a vocation or skillset new to the character, have them describe exactly what they want to learn and what they want to do with it in the game.
Then the Referee will tell you 1 to 4 of the following:
[ ] It is going to take X weeks/months/years of consistent training.
[ ] First, you will have to hire a tutor through [an in-game faction].
[ ] You will need X to help you with it.
[ ] It is going to cost a fortune.
[ ] There is a lost Arcanum that is said to offer this training.
[ ] There is a known teacher in a district of Bastion or a faraway province of the Deep Country or lost in the depths of the Underground. Perhaps this teacher is even in a more alien and distant land.
[ ] Those who safeguard these training methods are rigid in their orthodoxy and will guard them dearly but there are always rebels and heretics at the fringes…
[ ] There are none who can do that in this world.
Once your training is complete you can do the thing. Note it on your sheet somewhere. If you want to work with the Referee on a skill system, knock yourself out but it isn’t needed. Before this training the character couldn’t do this thing; now they can.

“It was hard and unnatural at first, but the process began to come more easily. He reread the book constantly, more and more quickly, not interested by the story, but ravenous for the unprecedented sensation of meaning coming up at him from the page, from behind the letters like an escapee. It almost made him queasy, almost made him feel like spewing, it was so intense and unnerving. He turned the technique to other words.
	He was surrounded by them: signs visible on the commercial street beyond the windows, signs throughout the library and across the city and on brass plaques in his hometown, in New Crobuzon, a silent clamor, and he knew that there was no way he could ever be deaf to all those words again.
	Shekel finished The Courageous Egg and was full of rage. How come I wasn’t told? he thought, searing. What fucker was it kept this from me?”
 - China Miéville, The Scar
Eveleth Font - icons from the font that reminded me of Into the Odd (cog, lightning bolt, star, crossed hammers, pistol, no idea what this one is, word bubble with skull in it, moth, tree icon, fiery skull, star)

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More Reddit GM Advice

More Reddit GM Advice

Reddit Icon in front of my lovely rainbow dice from Dice Envy.

I made a list of 3 GM advice subreddits called RefAdvice.

Dagger Subject Divider

Incorporate that idea of destroying something and remaking it stronger into every aspect of the world you can.

When healers give healing, have them talk about bones re-knitting stronger.

When someone dies, instead of rest in peace, have folks say something about them returning, better made in a better world.

When blessing a new building, have the priest say something about building it better next time should it fall.

Have that theme of rebuilding first and foremost in your mind when you are making the world. When you think about the lore of a city – what was on that spot BEFORE the city – how is the city a better version of that…

Good luck!

Dagger Subject Divider

GM: You’ve got some time before things heat up again. What do you get done in that month?

Player: I’d like to fix the fighter’s broken magical sword with that magic orchid we got from that time in that place with the thing.

GM: Cool, sounds like you have everything you need. Whose forge do you use?

Player: My brother is a smith in the city, remember? I’ll use his forge.

GM: Right! I had forgotten. Y’know, there’s no skill for making things in 5e. But you have plenty of time and space. Let’s just say you do it, yeah?

Player: Sounds good.

GM: Let’s have some role-play with you, your brother and the fighter as you finish…

  1. Establish what they want to do.
  2. Decide how to do it – rolls necessary? Anything need to be gathered?
  3. Role-play a short scene to make it real and let the moment breathe.

Hope that helps! Good luck.

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Don’t feel like you have to write out a beginning, middle and end. You don’t have to make a publishable product (and honestly, many published products aren’t that useful at the table in play). You have to get started.

Ask the players to make characters to deal with Astral Elves coming to the Realms with an eye towards taking over. Diplomats, spies, monarch’s agents – people who will be asked to deal with this shit.

Start with a cold war, with the Astral Elves making allies and winning people over with promises that colonizers always start with. Get some ideas for a first adventure, a minor tussle or a conflict in Cormyr as the Astral Empire try to win over the Purple Dragons.

Have fun! Good luck.

Dagger Subject Divider

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The Delve & Salvage Cooperative

The Delve & Salvage Cooperative

Something I want out of my dungeon-delving fantasy crystalized during last night’s Into the Odd’s session. It is a feeling that has been growing since playing Wake of the Sorcerer Kings with Sean (LINK to blog posts / LINK to youtube videos). Here it is:

I want to play our games in a weird, sometimes horrific, fantasy dreamscape and not a capitalist nightmare.

In Wake of the Sorcerer Kings we solved this by making the delving a union-backed civic duty that, like firefighters, protected the community.

I wanted something a little different for Into the Odd and it hit me during a moment where they were divvying up the treasure. The players did fine and found a cut that worked for them. I have no interest in that tension. I want treasure to go into the Delving and Salvage Cooperative’s (DaSC?) vault, able to be signed out and used on future delves by whoever needs it. Everything the delvers find is community property, co-owned by their comrade adventurers who are a part of the Co-Op.

This takes pressure off the game and gets rid of arguments about how gets what treasure. The treasure goes in a pile and once they are home, into the vault. Cool stuff is shared. It is a community.

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Into the Odd Delve #1: The Nine’s Tomb

Into the Odd Delve #1: The Nine’s Tomb

Thousands of years ago, when I was in junior high, we’d play AD&D and the premise was called the Quest of the Nine. In this premise, one character from each alignment represented a higher power in a quest to find an artifact called the Dragon Orb. The idea was that we couldn’t directly hurt one another but once we got to the Dragon Orb, all bets were off.

Hence, my Into the Odd adventure idea, the 9’s Tomb, in which adventurers have had themselves interred in the Underground. Since Into the Odd is an industrial take on dungeon delving, the adventurers we knew from D&D were a thousand years ago. It felt fitting to loot what we know of adventuring as the first delve.

Less than a thousand years ago I had a Facebook Group of FB friends who are also gamers. 99% of them I’ve either met at cons or have gamed with face to face over the years. I asked if folks were interested in gaming together and got a few games together, thinking that we’d play an Into the Odd campaign in a consistent world. This was our first session in what I hope will be a twice-a-month game with rotating players.

After past year or so of Thursday nights going to D&D 5e, Into the Odd felt sparse in a good way. Rather than go to the dice, I found myself asking lots of questions about what the characters were doing and what it looked like, so I could decide how the world reacted. When the dice did come out they were fast and decisive. No initiative and no to-hit rolls was a relief. When in doubt, I shared too much information, so the players had enough information to make interesting decisions.

The tone was perhaps goofier than my gaming usually is – with the Fighter and Thief Skeletons playing it up for yucks until Culver showed them his Arcanum, a Bone Box, and the Thief stabbed him to get it. There are Prog Rock musicians called The Floating Skulls in this world, we discovered. I doubt I’ll be able to stop myself from making Floating Skull band t-shirts.

My favorite moment was when they cut a deal with the attacking Air Elemental and opened a gate they found in another room to the Dusklands, where a Dooskelf had attacked them earlier. Outside the box thinking and using the world around them as tools and levers feels like exactly what this game should be doing. What will become of an Air Elemental in the Dusklands? Maybe we’ll find out some day, maybe it will just be a mystery.

The players made interesting decisions – leaving the Intelligent Sunsword in its tomb, rather than deal with the Sword Nun who appeared to whoever wielded it, asking the wielder about their faith. They crushed the Thief’s skull rather than keep the living/talking skull as a mentor and adopted the electrified floating sphere, naming it Sparky.

We hit the fast forward button a bit at the end, getting through the last bits of the dungeon; the interesting parts were already thoroughly mined. Moving forward, we’ll flesh out the Underground, Bastion and the Deep Country and I’ll make a map of some kind with notes on the unknown bits in between the explored areas until we have a kind of hex-crawly shaped thing to explore. But for now, just single shot adventures as the characters grow stranger and stranger and the world is filled with ancient religions, prog rock bands and dusklit dimensions just beyond a magical portal.

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Dragonslayers: military fantasy built on Into the Odd

Dragonslayers: military fantasy built on Into the Odd

The Dragon and its children, personifications of greed and power, rule this area by tooth, claw and fire along with their dragon knights (knights in cool dragon-adorned armor) and loyal bureaucrats and dragonsworn nobles. The player characters were a part of a resistance, a rebel force that fought the Dragon and its armies on 4 brutal fronts and lost. Now they are all that’s left…

Dragonslayers / Military fantasy built on Into the Odd

Red dragon's yellow eye, built digitally from a crocodile eye

I made 4 different d66 tables, one for each front of the war. The Northern Front is where the dragon’s lair, a front where mountain pass battles with dragon knights and very possible engagement from The Dragon itself. The Southern Front isn’t a proper front, but where a city-state is, where lots of intelligence battles and back-alley knife fights occurred – the only battle mentioned on the Southern Front’s d66 tables is The Knight of a Thousand Knives. The Eastern Front is where the Green Devil Gorge is located, lots of hit and run battles in the hills and gorges, trying to make a dent in the Dragon’s overland merchant caravans. The Western Front is the Riverlands, covered in fortresses and castles, lots of prolonged sieges, starvation and fallen walls.

The characters got one free roll on any of the fronts of their choice and then got another roll for every 1 or 2 they rolled when rolling up their 3 stats, HP and Gold. We ended up with interesting characters who had an array of gear, named weapons, magical abilities, reputations (some well earned, some not so much), intelligence and contacts. I had a vague idea about getting more rolls through trying to level up and possibly taking scars but nixed it as too complicated; we had more than enough rolls on the evocative d66 tables.

One of the players had a child as a kind of contact/NPC/ally and I realized that, in a brutal war story, that could be a really poor choice. We X-carded it and had them roll again. Moving forward, I’ll take those options off the chart and come up with something better.

We had to cut the first session off early so we made characters, described said characters and the players decided that the first mission would be rescuing a unit of gryphon riders and their steeds who are held captive in a fort in the Green Devil Gorge. I wanted that first mission to come to them, not that I think any of these folks are going to have any trouble being proactive.

I’ve got ideas on statting out the dragons and some houserules on characters gaining more hit-points but more on system stuff later as it migrates from my ink in my notebook to a Google Doc. Looking forward to seeing this shake out at the table.

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The Tomb of Annihilation’s Revenge 1: Return to Chult

The Tomb of Annihilation’s Revenge 1: Return to Chult

In which the Sigil 6 return to Port Nyanzaru.

Who are the Sigil 6 – Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Failed Soldier and what have they been up to?

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

We discussed some shopping options and picked up matched Rings of Protection +2 with the Sigil 6 symbol on it. Yes, the group has matching rings. Items were bought and discussed and they spent down some of the fortunes they’ve accrued adventuring.

One thing was certain, they needed to go back and grab the lich’s soul jars their gnome friend, Dosk, picked up in looking over her scans of the tomb.

They went through a portal that took them directly to Port Nyanzaru and could feel the weight of the Death Curse was gone. The city was even more vital and full of energy now that death wasn’t hijacked.

There were more folk from the country and jungle in the city, people of different dressed and different makes of weapons and heraldry. It turned out that someone named Daacad was uniting the tribes to fight off the undead plague and some of Daacad’s folk were in the port to demand the Merchant Princes did their fair part to make Chult better.

Jusko had given their Ranger Guide, Tefnek some gold to purchase him an apartment. She got him an apartment made from a grounded ship, staked down on a black sand beach just outside the city. Jusko surfed and Tefnek suggested he stay and settle down but Jusko refused (I didn’t quite say, “Drew, do you want to retire this character?” but I came close).

The group got saddles on their pterodactyls and we ended a bit early there. We had some players missing and decided to start the journey back to Omu with more people at hand.

Drew:

Bugwump and Kuru discussing the merits and flaws of deliberately provoking interdimensional tears in the fabric of spacetime — as our opening scene — was pretty damn entertaining.

Trundle being interested in bringing back Omu to Chult was cool too — Trundle as a chosen of the gods trying to seek a solution involving gods, fun. Also the Incredible Hulk themesong for Trundle the Roadcursed was fun.

Anthony constantly CONSTANTLY brainstorming plans, side grifts, fallback plans, opportunities.. someone get him a job managing disasters somewhere, his brain is shockingly good at engineering solutions out of the detritus around him.

“Judd, did you engineer this bad guy or is he from some supplement?”

“Basically, what I did, was put a Demilch into an Iron Golem. Pretty simple.”

Bees bioengineer new queens. Whoa.

Bugwump hates flying, “I find this method of conveyance appalling.”

I kinda liked that the ship-apartment was the old Styx Boys boat. And that I got the old Slav out onto the water to get some night surfing in. Maybe the matchmakers will work some miracles. I thought about retiring him, but I think walking out on the S6 when they’re being hunted — plus having no idea what I’d play next — makes that hard right now.

Next Game: Into the jungle.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

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Dread Domain Detectives Illustrated, Session 3 – The Missing Mentor

Dread Domain Detectives Illustrated, Session 3 – The Missing Mentor

After more than a month away from the game, we eased back in, looking into a cold case, their mentor is missing.

The Lamordian House of Lords debated changing penal law so that any found guilty of a felony could have their body offered to science to better our understanding of the natural laws (inspired by the Bas Lag’s books’ ReMade).

Dread Domain Detectives Illustrated

Dungeons & Dragons

Weird Science,

Crime,

& Gothic fantasy!

Ripped from the 
pages of
Van Richten’s Guide to
Ravenloft

With Art by Storn A. Cook

Viktor and Talis dig into their unfinished caseload - a missing person and a burglary.

What became of their mentor, Mathias Vimmer?

Who burgled the University's hallowed laboratories?

Who hunts the streets of Ludendorf?
Private Eye but the eye is an eye.

Started the session on Warlock Cliff, a cliff-face just outside of Ludendorf where magic doesn’t work. When I started to describe it, Jeff and Storn jumped in, offering further details – fog coming in from the sea and a lighthouse below the cliffs, throwing light through that fog – a bell on a dinghy from somewhere in the waves. Good stuff.

They spoke with their mentors nemesis, Emil Enh, a corrupt constable who was arrested and thrown onto a prison hulk. The old villain was sick, with a bone-rattling chest cough and wanted them to take him into custody so he could help them look for their old mentor, Mathias Vimmer (our Commissioner Gordon).

They got 3 cases – a murder case involving a university student, a casefile from a man named Adam, who was currently serving on a Prison Hulk for Breaking and Entering, Assault and Illegal Possession of a Firearm and a missing person case about a young woman named Elise, who had been arrested in the past for thievery and body-snatching.

There was a fun series of scenes where the crew was trying to gain access to the Inspector General’s safe, the current Inspector General didn’t know it was there. We found ourselves butting heads with D&D a bit (more on this later).

In the end, they got some important files from cases Mathias was keeping, along with a pistol and knife from the war and a picture of his ex-husband.

Ravenloft Lore Icon (raven on a skull)

Viktor tracked down Dr. Lukas Kronecker who teaches (I hesitated, not sure what subject he taught and Storn said, “Pantheons Beyond the Borders.”) Mythography, allowing me to drop some St. Ezra lore.

It turned out, the ex-husband didn’t know anything and was bereft that he didn’t know where Mathias had gone. Viktor told him that they found a picture of them together in Mathias’ safe. When he left, Viktor could hear the Mythographer crying.

Talis took the pistol and knife to a Vistani woman, who could, at this point, only say that Mathias was not anywhere in Lamordia alive and if he was dead, his spirit was not restless. She would work to look beyond the borders but that would take time and resources.

DeKalb, the Tiefling from their last case, was out of work because of things they did. He was hired by the Kranev Investigative Guild and would be an administrative aide and added muscle when needed.

D&D 5e doesn’t seem to be helping us much in our goal of playing an investigative gothic fantasy buddy crime story. We’re discussing other options.

The End, with human/bat skeleton, wings fanned out.

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The Week’s DM Academy Responses

The Week’s DM Academy Responses

Reddit Icon in front of a pic of my Dice Envy rainbow dice set.

I love making inspirational tables so I can make jobs on the fly with a roll of 3d6.

Here’s an example.

The Client Needs:

1-2) Blood

3-4) Intel

5-6) An Item

The players will take this from:

  1. Local Crime Org
  2. Warlock’s Demon’s Cult
  3. Local City Guard
  4. Local Politician
  5. Foreign Power
  6. INSERT SOMETHING REALLY STRANGE

Wild Card Table

Something strange in the mix is:

  1. A Rival Demon (or Devil)
  2. Zealous Paladins
  3. Local Adventurers making a mess
  4. Local Craft Guild
  5. Cult from the countryside
  6. Local Noble

Hope that helps!

Good luck!

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Have you heard of the saying, “Don’t prep plots, prep situations.”

Might help. Here are a few links:

Here’s a series of links where I take something and mine the situation from it called Situation Mining:

I made a brainstorming document called Context, Cool Shit and Consequences. Hope it helps your process.

Hope those links are helpful. Good luck!

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Keeping the game moving isn’t only your responsibility. The game being fun isn’t only your responsibility.

Everyone can help to keep the game moving. Everyone needs to be helping to make the game fun.

Talk to your friends about how the arguing wasn’t fun and come up with a way together to make decisions in a way that is more fun.

Good luck! it is not all on you.

Spear Subject Divider

Don’t judge them. Ask them why they are doing that or ask what their characters are thinking but do so out of curiosity, not judging their choices.

Spear Subject Divider

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