Minotaur Civil War and Current Events

From Module to Incursion

I wrote a twitter thread about tonight’s game and I thought that got it out of my system but no, there’s more rattling around for me to chew on.

(NOTE: I’m re-reading this blog post and watching myself try to write a normal actual play post and failing to filter out how odd and wrong everything is right now. Maybe because it feels surreal to be gaming right now. There is going to be a game soon when I turn to my friends and say something like, “See you next game; I hope we’re still gaming in a democracy-shaped republic.”)

Thunderspire Labyrinth offered the inspiration – the treasure-hunters chasing a group of shitty people (in this case human traffickers who sold people to ghouls for food and slavery). The shitty people ran into the ruins of a minotaur city, said to be cursed and devil-haunted – you know, the usual.

The module itself was a bit too much for me, so I distilled it down to 5 sets, grabbing names and details from the module as needed:

  • Saruun Khel’s Gate
  • The Lantern Road
  • The Great Stair
  • The Flooded City
  • The Thunderspire Peak

Here’s the full write-up if you want to see what I worked off of today.

I wanted the players to know that there was more than one way in, so I made the goal of the first set: Decide how you want to enter Saruun Khel. The players were savvy. They watched the ravens flying around the gate, noticed that the older ravens refused to enter and only the younger ravens went in at all.

Saruun Khel

I’m not sure why a fantasy story about a beautiful city, full of bullish folk who worshipped labyrinthine choice and devils and demons falling to civil war because of the worship of a selfish liar full of secrets would appeal to me right now.

Drew made his Hunt roll to know the history of the place. His none-too-bright former gladiator knew the history of Saruun Khel because there was a gladitorial game based on the city’s civil war. Love it.

Sometimes Trophy Gold’s Hunt rolls call on the GM to say something the players find that is terrifying. Sometimes they find what they are looking for but still, run across something terrifying. It isn’t always a monster encounter.

When Revel was looking for a map of the city, I had to offer something terrifying.

“Here’s what is terrifying. This city was really beautiful. It was an architectural marvel, a flittering jewel in this mountain and now it is a flooded ruin. Now it is nothing but a dungeon to loot because of civil war.”

Yeah, it is obvious that shit is on my mind.

Griffons and Dragons

There was another cool moment where Revel charged a griffon. It was a dangerous move and Drew knew it. The actions of the other two characters entirely saved his ass. Rasei fired arrows at it and I had archery as a weakness of griffons – John had his character, Theoden do something so smart that I wrote it down as a new weakness. He used a spell to imitate a dragon call.

Of course griffons would be scared of dragons; it is the only predator above them on the food chain in the mountains. Those two actions, both utilizing weaknesses, dipped the griffon’s Endurance so that their roll defeated it.

I’d like to take this moment to say that describing a griffon dragging a goat up onto an 8 foot rock and eating it was fun. Giant eagle maw cracking bones and horns and hooves; the sound of it must be terrifying. That was a fun GM moment.

I knew there was a dragon in the Tomb Mountains but didn’t know if it was awake. Today I found out it was awake now. John’s character, Theoden, imitated a dragon-call to scare the griffon and then a few Hunt rolls demanded something terrifying.

Yup, dragon’s awake. What would wake up a dragon fast? A dragon-call. Mountain ranges aren’t big enough for two dragons.

I decided there was a scholar from the capital studying griffons in the peak.

The Big Score

Drew’s ex-gladiator said, “Where do minotaur store their taxes?”

The city is entirely flooded. The tombs are on hilltops, so they only have knee-deep water in them but the rest of the mountain is a big moongator tank. One can see the tops of towers and cathedral spires in the murky water. The players are thinking about ways to drain that water or freeze it and dig through the ice.

I had a panicked second – what would I do if they drained Saruun Khel?

It was a short second of panic. Here’s what I’d do.

In Trophy Gold you are saving up to get 50 gold and achieve your drive. What if they drained the minotaur city and defeated whatever was still guarding the city streets?

What if I just said, “Good job, you all achieve your Drives. Roll up new characters. You see a city just opened up called New Khel and adventurers are flocking to it. From this metropolis you can go delving in the underdeeps or along the surface of the dragon-haunted Tomb Mountains.”

Maybe they just do it. Maybe they’d just change the world a bit and we’d take some time to adventure in that changed world and see what treasures are worth hunting in it.

Maybe you can build something on the wreckage of a minotaur civil war.

Or maybe they’ll get eaten by the moongator, stalking the floodwaters, a moon-colored monster.

We’ll see.

Vote. Be prepared.

See you on the other side.

An odd night on a barren hill

When I have the energy to do so, I try to write a short synopsis of our Trophy Gold games. The dice kept telling me that strange and terrible things were happening. Who am I to ignore them?

This was tonight’s synopsis:

In which the treasure-hunters made camp on a hill after meeting a lost soul, discussed theology, went to bed for the night, thinking that they would wake up and go plunder the Palace of the Skeleton God with Blackwolf.


The Sisters, gods, devils, and saints of this world had different plans – very different plans.

It was complicated. A goat that had lost its herd instincts entered camp and was accidentally lit on fire – an amorphous blob-beast, drawn to the hill by the sorcery, ate the flaming goat and took on its characteristics. The treasure-hunters fought the flaming goat-blog-man and killed it.


Somewhere in there a god was spoken to in all of its fell, patriarchal glory and a soulless copy of Elezio (Evilezio), an illusion of Elezio brought to life by a sorcerous mishap, gave terrible dating advice to Revel.


Sometimes it just goes like that.


We’ll get to the Palace next week.


“Even by wizard standards that was a pretty fucking crazy night.” – Blackwolf, Wizard

Inspiration Goat Table Techniques #1

I used the above technique in the Thursday night Trophy Gold game and got a wonderful tale from Jesse. He told me about how his orphan pickpocket broke into a noble’s house and had to kill the noble in order to get out.

I loved it because it wasn’t a kill that made the world a better place (well, depending on the noble) and there was a touch of shame in it. This kid was a treasure-hunter because they had lived a tough life and this was the only clear vocation open to them.


Inspiration goat now has a twitter account that will act as a place for me to share these new weekly table techniques and the Daydreaming about Dragons podcast:

Where’s Judd?

If you’d like blog posts sent right to your inbox, please subscribe below:


These are the places you can regularly hear and/or see me talking about gaming or doing the thing and streaming some play. Links are both in the pictures and in the text beneath.

Here’s the link where I store my links.


Daydreaming about Dragons Podcast

The logo for my podcast, Daydreaming about Dragons

In which I have a conversation with you about techniques that are shaking out at the tables where I sit and inspirational media.


The Sixth Ring, a Trophy Podcast

In which Jason and I discuss the Trophy RPG and in doing so end up talking about game culture and techniques that link up to all kinds of tabletop RPG’s.


I’m often gaming on the Actual Play twitchstream channel.

World of Dungeons, Twitch.com/ACTUALPLAY

Municipal Dungeon Delving in the fantasy city of Jaquays (pronounced Jake-Ways) in the wake of the Sorcerer-Kings, who have abandoned this world and have left their toxic labs, wyrd towers and feral pets all over the city-scape. More about the making of this game here.


I’ve been honored to play so much on the Actual Play channel, a place where I’ve made wonderful friends and played wondrous games.


What am I regularly playing off-stream?

The Sigil 6: Outlands Expedition Team

On Thursday evenings we play D&D, our Thursday night game, founded at the start of the pandemic. Here are the characters and the links to the related blog posts (houserules, AP posts, etc.).


https://githyankidiaspora.com/friday-night-troika-and-other-strangeness/

Here’s where I’m keeping my ideas for the science-fantasy RPG, Troika!, and blog posts about our Friday night game. Link above (and in the tabs at the top of the page).


After years I’m getting together with old friends, Jeff and Storn, and playing an investigative D&D game set in the Domains of Dread from Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft and countless other supplements from my gaming youth. It is an experiment and it is working for us. Storn graciously illustrates characters in the game and his art is a lovely way to commemorate the game.


I have a Threadless shop, all artists’ proceeds go to amazing causes. My hope is that my nerdery will make the world a better place somehow. Design examples and links to collections below:

https://shopofjudd.threadless.com/collections/tabletop-role-playing-games
https://shopofjudd.threadless.com/collections/science-fiction
Geek Media Studies
https://shopofjudd.threadless.com/collections/geek-media-studies
https://shopofjudd.threadless.com/collections/dune-collection

Travel in Trophy Gold Redux and Pretty

We played our third session of Trophy Gold last night and it is really fun. I thought I’d hate the tokens handed out in Hunt rolls but I’m enjoying the heck out of them. If a player doesn’t like that kind of meta-mechanic they can just use it as Gold but it is a fantastic way to get things moving when someone explores the environment in any meaningful way.

From, “I peak in the tomb to I look behind the tapestry to see if there’s a secret door” to “I look in the tomb to see if there’s any treasure,” I’ve seen Hunt rolls make both of those endeavors more interesting than they otherwise would’ve been.

Looking back on my earlier blog post on travel I can see places where my wording was awkward, especially after playing a few sessions and seeing these mechanics hit the table. Below is a poster I made with the travel rules, which are still slightly tweaked Hunt rolls but I think I have tightened up the wording. I wrote the previous blog post almost 24 days ago, which in 2020 time is about 73 years.

I changed safety from beasts to some protection from beasts because monsters don’t care about your damned walls. Still, some protection is better than none and every advantage you can muster when you are picking up steel against a beast is important.

More house-rules will no doubt emerge. When winter cloaks the land in ice and death and treasure-hunters bundle up in their chapter houses, does one take a dark die when one travels?

inverted-dice-6  Add a dark-colored die if you are willing to risk your mind or body in order to get to where you are going. You must include this die whenever you travel during winter’s reign of ice and death, when days are short, the ground is frozen and the veil between our world and the Quietlands is so perilously thin that some folk slip through the Bone Gate while sleeping in their own warm beds.


Travel Poster


I’ve been futzing with the layout tools in Canva.com and making book covers for campaigns I’m playing in. I am really not good at graphic design and layout but learning a new thing is fun. I’ll start taking lessons on Lynda.com for Affinity Publisher soon.


General Research Division, The New York Public Library. “Van (Arménie).” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1867 – 1870. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e2-7060-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

https://shopofjudd.threadless.com/collections/geek-media-studies

Find this design and more in the Geek Media Studies collection…

Death in Trophy Gold

If a character reached 6 Ruin because of physical limitations of mortal flesh, an incarnation of Death will come to take their soul to the Quietlands beyond the Bone Gates.


Quietlands Guide, Lesser

Description: Quietlands guides often change their look based on the culture of the deceased. Sometimes they are a ghoul riding a rotting polar bear, an angel with a thousand eyes and 8 wings or even an old fashioned skeleton in black robes and a scythe.

Endurance: 6

Habits:

  1. Cleave a soul with a magical weapon.
  2. Cut a magical tether that no mortal weapon can touch.
  3. Cut a deal for more time as long as it means more souls for the Guide.
  4. Raise the recent dead to cover their retreat into the Quietlands with the soul.
  5. Offer the soul one last good-bye to someone important from their life.
  6. Tell mortals a detail about their eventual deaths.

Defenses: No mortal weapon can harm them.

Weakness: Summoning circles can entrap them if you can trick them into it.

Holy relics have strong effects on them.


What if the characters drive away death?

The Quietlands will come for them. It is only a matter of time.

The dead character’s Ruin is still 6. Their souls are in their bodies and they can move around but the clock is ticking. If they are called upon to make any Ruin rolls they either fall to dust, their soul evaporating into the universe like water into a stormcloud or they will become a vicious undead monster, losing control of their character as they become a NPC.

If the character can find the right lore, they can fashion themselves into a sentient undead character, setting their Ruin to 1. How do they do this?

Lich-Rites

Maybe they perform the Lich-Rites. Now their Ruin is bound up in their ability to devour spells. When they need to lower their Ruin, the only way is to devour spells. Each spell they remove from a living or dead skull or ripping them off the written page. These spells are stored in their decaying bones, able to be cast by them for a price. When they cast them, their Ruin will increase.

If they reach 6 Ruin again their bodies will turn to dust and only a jeweled skull will remain as they turn into a villainous Demi-Lich, bringing horror to some tomb.


Other Rites

Blood Rites, Ghoul Rites, and many others haunt the shelves of dusty libraries across the loom of the world and new rites are born every so often.

Sometimes a character hell-bent on vengeance will not attach to any rites, turning into a spite-filled Revenant, turning to the Quietlands after bloody justice is wrought.


Quietlands Storm

Description: A stormcloud in the shape of a  roaring skull.

Endurance: 9

Habits:

  1. Ghosts slip into the living world to offer dire warnings.
  2. Rain cold hell down on the countryside
  3. Lightning strikes anything built by the dead character since they perished.
  4. Wind rips the soul from the character’s rotting shell
  5. The dead rise to bring the lost soul into the Quietlands
  6. Cause spells to act in odd and unexpected ways

Defenses: No mortal weapon can harm them.

Weakness: Powerful holy sites can slow the storm down for a time.

There is a black diamond in the eye of the storm. Plucking it from the skull will cause the storm to abate but the storm will attempt to possess any who hold the diamond.


The Quiet One

If the Quietlands Storm is somehow defeated, the Quiet One will venture forth before the year is over. You’ll know when it happens. Words will cease to be heard, holy statues will cry blood, temple and church roofs will fall on the heads of the faithful and a generation of children will be born as hungry ghouls.


How do Undead Exist if the Quiet One is coming?

I’m glad you asked.

In the Quietlands everyone’s tomb is waiting, prepared and silent. Yours is there. In order to stop death from seeking a lost soul, you must venture into the Quietlands, find your tomb and leave a living soul in its depths. There are few guides qualified to lead adventurers to their own tomb and fewer maps but for every lich-queen or vampire lord is someone who knows how to get this fell task done.

 

These designs and more in my Threadless shop, all artists’ proceeds go to amazing organizations and charities:

Trophy Gold: Debt holders

Trophy Gold: Debt holders

project-image-funded.jpg

Debt is a tangible mechanical part of Trophy Gold. I thought it’d be worthwhile to have options for the table when someone comes to collect.

Who is holding the debt?


1. Bulla Shrines

Said to have invented credit, debt and banking, the demi-god, Bulla is a faceless deity whose accountant-priests are known to have necromantic powers. Some say they use these powers to demand a spirit continue paying for the living’s debt, even after death.

Some whisper that Bulla’s displeasure with its government was one of the many forces bringing about the the Fall of Olde Kalduhr.

If you fall behind on payments, revenant-collectors will be sent to bring you to the nearest shrine.


2. Some Ducal Asshole

Some dukes and duchesses love being patrons to adventurers, hearing their daring stories and taking the pick of their treasures.

If you fall behind on your payments the duchy’s thug-knights and their retinue will most likely be the ones dragging you back to the ducal seat but sometimes a noble will get off their throne and pursue an adventurer themselves, often with highly paid bounty hunters in their company.


3. The Dark and Gold Guild

Some adventures live to see their dreams realized. Those in the Dark and Gold Guild are adventurers who earned a fortune and used that fortune to capitalize on others’ desire to delve and raid tombs.

Not wanting to ever don armor again, if you fall behind in your payments it will likely be adventurers coming after you, becoming more and more seasoned as the debt grows.


4. Starless Matron

The dark and deep parts of the world, where the starless elves build glittering cities and the cave-bear-folk tend to their shroombeast herds are the Starless Matrons, powerful fae matriarchs who pay homage to the All-Mother, (may her holy webs and eight legs be blessed).

If you fall behind in your payments, Starless Elf Freeriders, riding giant spiders or lizard-raptors will begin trying to collect your bounty. If that fails, they will turn to the altars of their spider-pantheon and begin summoning.


5. Death

Surely you were not so foolish as to put a lien on your own living soul for some trifling gear to go delving. Surely not.

If you were to fall behind on your payments, Death would begin collecting from those all around you until you found a shrine and paid that debt in full and then some.


6. Farmer Cooperative

They had a good harvest last year and wanted to invest in a hero so that their children could know wealth and live the dream. They pooled their money and put their trust in you and your daring, equipping you for a series of delves.

If you were to fall behind on your payments, the farmers would send their best trackers and veterans of war after you to reclaim payment or bring you back to the village for a trial.


The Trophy Kickstarter is in its last days, within bow’s shot of its last stretch goal in which myself and an amazing group of table-top role-playing game designers will get to design incursions that will be a mega-dungeon. Please check it out.