maandag 29 juni 2015

Blogpost #3 Episode 2: Rise of Las Cucarachas

Blogpost #3

Poorly written, badly spelled, boring and incoherent notes of our Dungeons& Dragons sessions.

Played in Amsterdam , in the garden, nice weather for once , June 6th, 2015.

Episode 2: Rise of Las Cucarachas.(wherein the band members face the  psychological challenges that big time bands have to cope with…)

Did I mention that all 4 gnome characters have exactly the same ability scores and skills? No? Well now you know….the players decided that all gnome were to be exactly the same..Which saved up a lot of time rolling for new characters, and they all can help each other out figuring how spells work and such…because they’re all the same!
Our heroic band of adventurers wake up in time to have 1st breakfast. All, except Gibal, who’s still sleeping.
At the breakfast table, the Halfling owner of the Flying Escargot says to them: “yesterday you sang about a Cyclops named Ramon, well, it must totally be a coincidence, but I now a person called Ramon, and he’s a Cyclops too! He owns a tavern in Krostos.”.
Jesus then says (and here it’s always difficult to tell if it’s roleplaying or the player just being his usual self): “...and say to Ramon that he’s a big pooftah and a hufter!” (Dutch for jerk/ asshole, pardon my French).
The owner replies: “Well, that’s weird, I do not know him to be like that, well my employees will see meet him soon as we do a lot of catering in the neighbouring cities”.

The players decided that, as their Big Time, real life counterparts, the band members need to have some mental problems..
Gibal: some sort of narcolepsy
Jesus: drug and alcohol addiction,
Juan: Slightly, just so slightly, psychotic
Jorge: sex addict, “there’s nothing wrong with love”
Jesse, the band manager, just likes to eat a lot and, that‘s not a problem at all, because he’s a Halfling, no? In which way could that possibly a problem? Bulimia, what’s that?
So after breakfast Jesse goes to  the food cart to see if the owner gets the hang of the mayonnaise recipe he gave him….not really good yet, so he helps him developing the better mix.(he used the ingredients in the wrong order!).
Also at the market, Jorge is looking for, I quote -and staying in the Spanish/Mexican/Peruvian theme- “Chicas”. to satiate his sexual appetite….and he finds a nice- rotund- Halfling girl who’s willing to cuddle (but not more than that!). (“..are you in the Rolling Thunder?”).
Jesse, always the hard working manager, orders some ponchos at the market. 10 green ponchos, 10 cp each + 0,5 cp per embroidered letter…not enough cash to have “Flauta de Pan” embroidered, so he settles for “PAN”, 65cp + 10cp extra, for it to be ready the next day.
Everybody (except Gibal, still snoring in bed) is at the marketplace, while cockroaches quite rapidly infest the town…
The Market people start accusing each other of selling rotten food. The poultryman accuses the fishmonger to be the source of the cockroach infestation.
“What? How dare you say that my fish is not fresh?”
“Well, there’s no lake within 100km, how could it be fresh?”  (would that be plagiarizing a Belgian comics about a certain small village in Gaul?, no,no”).
So arguments arise and the commotion gets to be louder and louder.
Some villagers try to fend off the cockroaches with boots, brooms and torches. More and more and more keep coming in an incessant stream.

During the commotion, Juan, invisible, proceeds to steal wares from the different market stalls, and placing some of them on different stalls, just to stir up trouble.
Jesus casts a “Crown of Madness” spell on the fishmonger (where a metal crown materializes on the recipient of the spell, and becomes mad). With a crazy look in his eyes , the fishmonger grabs his sharpest knife and assaults the Poultry man who uses a frying pan to parry the blows). After a short fight , the poultry man is critically wounded and the fishmonger is restrained by the rest of the merchants.

Meanwhile the cockroach infestation seems to disappear just as fast as it had shown up.
Then the merchants discover each other’s wares on the wrong tables and again some tumult ensues…

Gibal is now awake and is just in time for 2nd  lunch at the Flying Escargot”.
For those of you who don’t know: here’s the daily Halfling meal routine: 1st breakfast, 2nd breakfast,1st  lunch,  2nd lunch, Linner (lunch- dinner), 5 o’clock tea,  dunch (dinner -lunch), dinner, 2nd dinner, midnight snack.
After his meal, Gibal goes to the market  (where,  meanwhile all dust has settled) and sees that really nothing is  ever happening in this boring town, so “guys, let’s leave!”
Juan also wants to leave and goes towards the stable to ready the carriage, donkeys and alpacas.
Jesus returns to the Flying Escargot  “just for the sound check!”, and drinks , in 10 minutes, the band’s whole booze allocation for this night’s gig…
Juan, has found another chica, and really badly wants to “connect” with her, so he manages in bringing het to the stable for some” haytime” / heavy cuddling, (no deed done, though, in spite of the Charm spell he used on her- remember: it only works for one hour, and the recollection of the subject of the spell is crystal clear, so there are limitations -and dangers- in (ab)using  this spell).
Jesse, back at the “Patatas Barn”, is  perfecting the perfect mayonnaise to perfect perfection, nothing perfunctory about this professional  procedure!
Mayonnaise might end up being a success as the sales of patatas with mayo now surpasses the ones with gravy!
Only Jesse and Gibal are on the marketplace. When streams of cockroaches invaded the town again.
Swarms upon swarms upon swarms, a multitudinous multitude (a lot, of cockroaches… you get the idea) invade the town.
Jesse walks stream upwards, so to speak, and crushes the fouls insects under his boots as he stumble further and further. Now, it’s ankle high, now he’s knee high in the swarms (ankle high for a human), now waist high, and it really starts to hurt as the tiny creatures sample tender Halfling flesh. Buildings disappear under the weight of the swarms the town, streets, alleys, temple, marketplace are in trouble, Big Time!
Villagers flee out of their houses; everybody tries to fight back armed with torches, brooms, etc.
Far behind the swarms, huge cockroaches, buildings high (5 meters), are advancing.
Jesse climbs on a building and readies his bow to start shooting at a mega-cockroach as it come nearby.
Gibal, plays his Doss flute and uses the animal friendship spell in it to at least control the cockroaches near to him.
The huge cockroaches have reached the marketplace, when Jesus stumbles, totally hammered, out of the Flying Escargot and struggles to walk in a straight line towards the creatures …(a very circular straight line).
Meanwhile, back in the stable: Jorge is is still busy with his chica, and Juan is preparing the carriage, while all th time mumbling (we gotta go, we gotta go).
The huge cockroach (who’s been on the receiving end of Jesse’s arrows) spits slime on Jesse, for acid damage. Jesse jumps from the building onto the huge roach, the rogue sneak attacks the bejesus out of the  bug with the help of Jesus. Jesus! What? A huge green acid spitting cockroach…wouldn’t that be an ankheg (monster manual page 21)? Could a thing like that be possible?  A monster posing as another one?? Re-skinning, for the win!
While Gibal plays the Flute he notices that, somehow, sometime, it seems that the big cockroach stop moving for a moment when he hits a special tone/note (did anybody realize the that te words “ tone” and “note”  have exactly the same 4 letters? Mind-boggling). It looks as if the Huge cockroach is glitching, ..a bug in a bug?
Back at the stable, Jorge tries to persuade his conquest that it is for her own safety that he valiantly, heroically, accompanies her towards the ditch at the back of the village...”But I must go to my family”..”No,no , it is MUCH safer here with me”… but now the charm spell ceases to affect her, and she flees towards the village to rescue her family.
Jorge and Juan also run towards the marketplace and join the other bards, using their flutes. The 4 of them all hit a particular note, a harmony, and thanks to “Tenacious Gibal” ’s world famous “inward fluting technique” they force the huge bugs to stop (surely not lifted from Mars Attacks!?).
This allows the villagers to kill the big ones. The small ones, not being controlled anymore disperse and vanish from the village…(question: when a gnome plays a steady beat/ rhythm, is he a metro-gnome?)
The human villagers all claim they did it themselves.
Quite some casualties among the locals, dead, houses burnt down.
The big cleanup has begun.
That night at the Flying Escargot the band gives an awesome gig. The bar is ransacked (but the owner is cool about that, in the light of the incidents).
The new songs played are: “Buenas Tardes Poultryman”, “Just call me Al (Paca)”,
And the villagers chant “Las Cucarachas, Las Cucarachas”. Which the band play, and are from now on called Las Cucarachas henceforth.
Next morning, Jesse gets the ponchos, and because of them helping in rescuing the town, as a gift, free of charge, they will embroider las Cucarachas” (ready next day).

They discover that in a town 3 days from here  (dubbed  “3 days from here”,  by my players) (3 days for “normal” people, not midgets), there’s the yearly Battle of the Bands.
Last year, the Rolling Thunder were a big success. And there’s a rumor saying that Cyclops Ramon, with his 3 brothers are forming a band, yes, you’ve guessed it:” the Ramons”. (“Eye of the Cyclops” is their hit).
End of Episode 2.

DM notes:
Some combat, some (built-in) deus ex machina, some mental disorders, all in an evening’s work.
Adventures hooks/ possible scenarios:
What happens to the fishmonger? How did hebecome  insane, all of as sudden?
What happens to the poultryman?
Where do the cockroaches come from..(who cares?)
Will Jorge get in trouble for “charming” the chicas?

Critical failure: now when someone rolls a “1” on a d20, it’s time for DM intrusion (stolen from The Strange RPG) : a sort of a plot/event complication. Jesse rolled a 1 when shooting arrows at the cockroach, meaning that, that particular giant cockroach now had a personal beef with him, it’s personal (cockroachal?) now.

 Don’t “Kill your Darlings”...your players wil do it for you!  As a DM no need to worry if the monster or encounter you create is good or bad: feed it to your players anyway, thet will destroy it mercilessly…

So, thanks for reading!
Expect next episode pretty soon (or later than that).

Keep on Truckin’

My twitter handle/thingie: @sjapH

maandag 15 juni 2015

Blogpost #2 PILOT/Episode1

Blogpost #2
Played in Amsterdam May 19th, 2015

To start our new campaign: the Players decided to play a band of gnomes bards (musicians) accompanied by their manager/roadie (a halfling thief). I rolled on the magic item table in the Dungeon Master Guide (DMG) to get them magic items. By chance (it was meant to be!) I rolled a magic instrument for the bards (1 per person): a Doss Lute, which we promptly changed into a Doss Flute, because they all decided to play the Pan Flute. And for the thief, pardon, manager, I rolled a poncho (cloak) of protection...really, how random is that?
So here is the cast of zeroes, ahem, heroes:
 -Juan de Niño de Baptista de Corazon Flinteros (played by Klaas) 6 th level Gnome Bard (Spanish accent).
 -Jorge Julian Flinteros de Niño de Baptista de Corazon (played by Edwin) 6 th level Gnome Bard (Spanish accent).
 -Jesus Flinteros de Niño de Baptista de Corazon (played by Onno) 6 th level Gnome Bard (Spanish accent).
 -Gibal de Niño de Baptista de Corazon Flinteros (played by Willem) 6 th level Gnome Bard (Spanish accent).
 -Jesse (yes, just Jesse) (played by Jesse) 6th level Halfling thief (Belgian accent).

 Also what type of gnomes are they? Garden gnomes? Forest gnomes (run Forest, run!) no: Rock Gnomes, it makes sense, because they are a band , so they must rock....
Their band name is : "Los Hermanos de Cojones Azul con Flauta de Pan" Their hits are: "Juan day fly", "Rosita con frijoles negros", "Chico/Chico/ guacamole". All of which were sung at a very high pitch and at maximum volume by Onno (from the school of overacting)..*Mental note: next session must be played at somebody else's house (kids and neighbours were not amused...).
 It all begins when our fearless group of adventurers play a last concert in the village they're in -Panchos- at the Drooling Donkey Inn. They play all their hits while standing on a makeshift podium (a bridge table); they are tiny gnomes after all. Quite a lot of folks dig the show, also the 2 kids -boy and girl- (they're 35 years old, young for a gnome -barely legal?) that have been following the band since the Hermanos (*a band of inbreds?) have left their hometown to tour the wide wild world. The next day they leave Panchos to the Northwest. One day  travel on the cart pulled by 2 donkeys (their 2 alpacas are in tow).
 Arriving at Krostos, they talk to the town guard at the gate about their business. He asks if they are, perchance,  the Rolling Thunder?,-a mighty good percussion band-, he is a bit disappointed that they are not, but  recommends the "Gouden Beker" (Golden Cup) as a good place (the best place in town!) they might be able to perform at. The guard gets a free ticket (for his wife- Carmelita) for the show (free ticket even if we’re not sure there will be a cover charge).
The other bars/inns in town are (all those names were made on the fly, like almost anything in this adventure, remember it’s “seat of the pants DMing”- and I’m not even wearing pants): The Flying Donkey, The Starved Boar, The Creeping Caterpillar and the Silver Scimitar. They can play at the Gouden Beker (although it's dice gaming night) (*weird that an Inn has a Dutch name all of a sudden..Well, it’s magic, so there you go)…The owner asks if they are, perchance, the Rolling Thunder?-a mighty good percussion band- he is a bit disappointed that they are not…but they can play nonetheless.
 To advertise their pig, sorry: gig, they go through town sticking posters on walls. They see posters for another band playing tonight at the Silver Scimitar...The Silver Acrobats... those posters are ripped from the walls and they use the back of those to advertise their own show.
After that, Jorge goes to the market to buy some new stones for his flintstones collection). 1 copper piece (cp) for 10. As he's interested in buying a new poncho, it so happens that the grandma of the stones merchant makes clothing (2 market stalls further). He's interested in a red one (*hmmm, the band’s uniform is green, wtf?) will be ready tomorrow morning...(5cp paid up front). The show is going strong in a full Gouden Beker (it is dice gaming night, so it makes sense). Each bard give their own full 30 minutes Pan Flute solo... Suddenly a giant shape blocks the door: a Cyclops wielding two huge clubs (clubs in a club!) enters and shouts: who ripped my posters? (it's Ramon, the owner of the Silver Scimitar!). The band keeps on playing while using a charm spell on succeeds and Ramon digs the band for the next hour (after 1 hour the spell will cease having effect, and our heroes all are very aware of that) Jesse, goes through Ramon's purse (66cp). 2 bottles of the stronger rotgut available are given to Ramon, he drinks them in 2 big gulps, and rocks to the band ...the band announces an intermission and leaves surreptitiously…. ..The manager (Jesse) had already "collected" some money from the crowd...They leave to camp not too far from the village (there might be ghouls in the area). Leaving the “groupies” behind
Next morning Jorge becomes invisible and slips past the town guard to collect his red poncho.
He walks through town and notices the ravage caused to the Gouden Beker, the both nice round windows have been smashed…walking towards the Silver Scimitar he sees the huge shape of Ramon sleeping and snoring in front of his bar…Jorge turns visible again, gets his red poncho, turns invisible back again, and gets out of town…and still no sign of the known gnome (try to say that fast) groupies.
The band leaves and paces forward while the manager/roadie/ Halfling cooks makes meals while on the cart. (breakfast, 2nd breakfast, brunch, lunch, second lunch, linner –a lunch/dinner- 5 o’clock tea).
Then, just before dinner, starved, they arrive at the next town: Ritorga.
They have to pay the guard 10cp to enter (1 per person+ cart and animals), but it’s good for one year. The guard  asks if they are, perchance,  the Rolling Thunder?, -a mighty good percussion band- he is a bit disappointed that they are not…
From now on our heroes really get to hate the “Rolling Thunder” (* obviously a name made up on the fly –seat of the pants DMing, without pants but with a fly..whaaat?- a mix of Rolling Stones and Johnny Thunders, I guess is what I was aiming at, it sounds good…but it just so happens – it dawned on me a few days later- that The North Face is selling travel bags with wheels called, you guessed it, Rolling Thunder! –... So made up or blatantly stolen? I do need a bag though...Roiling Thunder could have been a good one too, too late).
3 inns in town:
The Slithering Snake, de Griffioen (another Dutch name, magic, I tell you! Anything is possible in a world full of magic, that’s the beauty of D&D), and the Flying Escargot (*yes, made on the fly).
They go to the Flying Escargot a Halfling run establishment. Really nice place, high ceiling, excellent food –obviously- the band (are they the Rolling Thunder, perchance?) can play a few evenings in a row in the  nice (beer)garden.
Having had enough already of the Rolling Thunder they called themselves "Los Hermanos de Cojones Azul de Rolling Thunder con Flauta de Pan" or something like that…anyway pretending to be the Rolling Thunder and attracting  more audience…

Plenty Patatas are eaten at the market place choice of gravy or ...gravy … What , no mayonnaise? What is mayonais? asks the owner of the food cart. Jesse, the Halfling/ cook/ band manager/ thief/ bon vivant (Belgian accent), gives him the recipe, the owner says he will try tomorrow.

They play an awesome gig in the Flying Escargot’s garden…(*gnomes in a garden=garden gnomes, no?)…
The whole repertoire, including their trademark famous one note 30minutes solos, and a new song about a Cyclops called Ramon…

They sell merchandise (small gnomish made music boxes of their hits for 1 Gold piece -1gp-, steep price, but good quality). And they realize they need ponchos to be made  to sell….
Oh, and they do parties, weddings ad Bar-Mitzvahs too!

End of the pilot/ episode 1.

All in all, not much in terms of combat, but in terms of role-playing, world building and making a mess of things: it was a blast!!! Lots of laughs, lots of fun, that’s what you really want from an evening D&Ding.

DM notes:

Technicality: A day after the game, I noticed that the Charm Person spell couldn’t have been cast on a Cyclops. It can only be cast on a humanoid type monster. A Cyclops, is a Giant type monster, not a humanoid (bipedal, humanoid looking, but not the humanoid “tag” in its stats line)…to charm a Giant you need the 8th level spell Dominate we retconned it by saying they had possession of a scroll with the Dominate Monster spell, and used it to beguile the Cyclops…et voila!

Size does matter:
We played this episode thinking of the Halfling as “the big guy”, compared to the gnomes..But reality set in later in the week, when we read the description  in the PHB (Player’s Handbook)
Gnomes are between 3 and 4 feet tall and about 40 pounds… (90 centimeters to 1, 20 meter and about 20 kilos)
Halflings are about 3 feet tall and about 40 pounds… (90 centimeters and about 20 kilos)
So now the gnomes are the big guys! What do we make of it? Is Jesse a particularly HUGE Halfling? Or are the gnomes very short??? We need to figure that next episode.

Adventures hooks/ possible scenarios:
-Will Ramon the Cyclops seek revenge for the Dominate Monster spell?
-Will the owner of the Gouden Beker seek to obtain material compensation for the damage caused to his inn (maybe under the threat of physical harm)?
-Will they ever meet the Rolling Thunder?...And will it be at a “Battle of the Bands” festival/brawl type of thing?
-Will they ever encounter Jorge Zamfir, the mysterious and elusive Master of The Flauta de Pan?
-What happened to the 2 groupies/followers?

Money: In my campaign I adapted the D&D monetary system to our real world currency to make it easier for me to estimate the value of things:
1 copper piece (cp)= 1€ or $1.
1 silver piece (sp)= 10 cp= 10€ or $10
1 gold piece (gp)= 10 sp = 100€ or $100
1 platinum piece (pp)= 10gp= 1000€ or $1000.

Languages: Languages are just an excuse for using funny accents at the table. So taking Europe as a reference for languages and D&D Character races: we came up with these:
Elves are French (haughty and aloof). Dark Elves are Italian (think of the Borghias). Halfling are Belgian,hey they love good food and are merry fellows! German/Scandinavian for Dwarves.
Orcs: Russian. Swiss German/ Lichtenstein for Gnomes.  Spanish for Tieflings. Dragonborn: maybe British…
Our heroes decided to have Spanish accents anyway, so they are from a group of gnomes that travelled settled elsewhere in the past…the players chose Spanish, because of the Peruvian pan flute, and took it from there, flute, ponchos, accents, Spanish names, patatas….

So, thanks for reading!
Expect next episode pretty soon (or later than that).

Keep on Truckin’

My twitter handle/thingie: @sjapH

zaterdag 6 juni 2015

Blogpost #1 Welcome to Seat of the Pants DMing

Blogpost #1

Welcome to "Seat of the Pants DMing" (TM).

This blog is dedicated to the sessions of my 5th edition D&D group.

I aim to write a summary of each session we play. It should be twice a month, or at least once a month.

It's called seat of the pants dungeon mastering, because I aim for zero (or almost zero) preparation and act/react on what the players do.

This comes on the heels of an almost 3 year (very slow & irregular) campaign of the Tomb of Horrors for 4th edition D&D. that went from 4th to DnDNext and finally to 5th.

I prepared well by reading and re-reading everything, trying to remember everything (and forgetting a lot!).

Getting to grips with somebody else's material was very difficult for me, and often I didn't understand the intent or purpose of the plot/encounter. I did my best to entertain the players, but is was a difficult experience for me.

So, I decided to go for another approach, and make the world, encounters, NPCs, etc on the fly as a reaction to what the players do.

The only prep I will do is read on the notes of the last session(s),  monsters, the rules, the DM guide and jot down a few ideas I get during the day.

We already played one session like this and it was liberating! The players and I made the story as we went, and I presented them options to act upon. We laughed a lot and a gazillion sub-plots and opportunities materialized out of thin air. My mind went wild(er than usual)!

Thanks for reading,
till next time (or the one before that!).