Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Tales from the Borderlands – Episode 6 – Tales from the Outer Rim

               As mentioned last episode our group was taking a slight detour from the Caves of Chaos to go to a galaxy far, far away. I have been running D&D for almost two years straight on a weekly basis, and for the past few months I have been running a 5e game as well. I was D&D’d out and I needed a change of pace. I decided to bust out the West End Games Star Wars D6 system for some cinematic goodness. Why WEG Star Wars? Two main reasons, it is what I know (though the last time I played it was the 90s) and it is the best Star Wars RPG. I also wanted to do something that did not resemble a dungeon crawl at all. I printed out a bunch of templates for characters and had the group pick what they wanted. We ended up with a Wookie Warrior, Brash Pilot, Outlaw, Mercenary, and a Technician. You might be asking, “What no Smuggler or Jedi, those are so classic?” I had two additional players, but they both had to leave unexpectedly due to an emergency, and they chose those templates. They left so early as to really not affect the game at all. I went ahead and ran an Instant Adventure, so it might seem familiar. 
REUP Edition

                The conceit of the game was that they were all young people looking to join the Rebellion after the success at the Battle of Yavin. They were to all make their way to a smaller core planet, to start the perilous journey to the Outer Rim to a Rebel training facility. They had never met each other before, and were now being introduced to how the Rebellion does things. As they enter the space port they are told that they will be packed into shipping containers, and smuggled into the Mid-Rim. From there, they would meet with the local Rebellion cell and they would arrange for the rest of their journey. Already the PCs are a little nervous about this plan because it seems risky. Of course it is risky, you are in an act sedition organization live a little. They all get into the different containers, but the group had not planned for a Wookie, and he was forced to crawl into an industrial cylinder and have the ends welded shut and some air holes poked in it. He instantly became a dog in a carrier, and the jokes ran rampant across the table. Also, no one in the group spoke Wookie, so there was communication issues. The transport lifted off and they heard the pilot, Garrack, tell them it would just be a few hours now.

                Smash cut to the next scene as the transport touches down and is immediately greeted by Imperial inspectors. They are requesting the cargo manifests, crew manifests, and want an inspection. Garrack attempts to comply with their demands, but is hesitant when they ask to see what is in the crates. He keeps telling them it is foodstuffs and if he breaks the seal on the containers, it could damage the cargo. The Imperials are not buying it, so Garrack knocks a warning on the side of the Brash Pilot’s container, opens the lid, and hits the Stormtrooper with the lid. I was excited, finally some action, so cinematic combat that is not in my dungeon crawls. I can hear the John Williams score kicking in, and it is about to get awesome. What does the Brash Pilot do? I hesitate to call him Brash at this moment. He stands up and puts his hands in the air to surrender. WWWHHHAAATTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!! My jaw literally hit the floor. A scratch sound across the record and the William’s score ends. I legitimately did not know what to do. The Stormtroopers turn on Garrack and start to kick the shit out of him, and still the BRASH Pilot does nothing.

This was suppose to be an intro fight.

Finally the Outlaw decides to bang on his crate to see if he can get the attention of the Troopers, and he does as a few peel off to inspect it. As they open the crate, he shoots one in the face. This triggers the Wookie to bust out of his container like the Kool Aid Man, Oh Yeah. Each of the PCs now started popping out of the crates to blaze away at the Imperials. The Technician got stuck in his crate, and tried to burn his way out with a plasma torch, but that lasted longer than the combat. The Wookie was a beast and kept walking towards enemy fire absorbing the shots until he picked up a trooper and threw them into the others. The battle ended and Garrack chided the BRASH Pilot for being a bit cowardly, and told them they had to find “The Maze”. He warned them that more Imperials would be on their way and he had to take off.

Not knowing what “The Maze” is, the Technician used his computer to slice into the local network and figured out that it was a bar on the other end of town. While he was in there he decided to poke around and found the plans to the patrol schedule of the local Imperial outpost. They made a few Streetwise rolls to avoid any danger, and made it to The Maze. It was a dark bar with an actual maze-like structure. As they made their way through, they had several encounters. One was a small alien that the Pilot knocked over his drink. They could not understand it, but it was drawing all the wrong kind of attention. The Wookie ended up picking it up, getting kicked, HARD and the little guy scampered off. Next the Mercenary was recognized by a strange mantis-like alien as having worked a job together in the past. The Alien’s human name was Pop, and was trying to seduce the Mercenary. Pop was a little offended when his friends drew him away, and might return at a later date. At this point people are watching them and people in the corners are talking into communicators while looking at them. The Technician in a hurry runs smack dab into a female in Mandalorian Body Armor. She doesn’t say a word, but follows the entire group as they walk by. The Wookie tries to intimidate her, with no success, he also did not notice the Wookie scalps hanging off her belt.

The Maze

They make it to the back of the bar and there is a huge, green alien that is almost the size of the Wookie with a partner who looks almost feline. They pick a fight with the group and for a few round they brawl it out in the bar. Finally guns start to get leveled, and the feline drops a smoke grenade on the ground and it turns out these guys are the Rebellion contacts. They head through a secret compartment into the headquarters for the local Rebellion cell. They meet the Rebel commander, and she explains that they need the group to fly a transport and X-Wing past the Imperial blockade and get supplies to a nearby system. The transport is nearly full, and they need to go to a local port and pick up the last of the delivery, and take it to the ship and get out of here. The transport and the X-Wing are hidden out in the woods, and she give them the coordinates to find them. All their hopes lay on this group and them completing this task. This was as far as we got, we still have a bit to go and I think I want to get through all of this before I return to D&D.

I had a great time playing this side excursion and my advice to any Game Master is to take a break and do something else every now and again. Players if the GM asks to do something like this, go along with them, odds are they need a break in order to recharge their batteries. You do not want to play with a GM that is burnt out, it is not a good experience. I also found out that I really missed this game and cannot believe it has been so long since I played it. I got the REUP edition, which is out on the net, and it takes 2nd edition Revised, and updates it as far as format and adds in materials from popular supplements. It is 500+ pages long, and it is wonderful. I went ahead and had a POD copy made because I like it that much.

Missed the other Episodes? Look here to catch up.

I went ahead and created a Facebook group for the blog, if you are interested the link is here.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Tales from the Borderlands – Episode 5 – The Bitter Taste of Defeat

This week in the Old School Essentials campaign..... 

               If everything went well for the characters in episode 4, everything went wrong in episode 5. This whole time we have been playing the rolls for random encounters have gone favorably for the players, but not this game. They were relentlessly pounded by the random encounter die, and got little in return for it. We kept a large portion of the party from the previous weeks. We still have the Dwarf, the Cleric, and the Magic-User, but to that we added another Dwarf and another Cleric. To distinguish the Clerics I will refer to the older Cleric as Cleric-tough, and the newer as Cleric-weak. The reason is the newer Cleric-weak, rolled pretty bad and only had 2 HP and couldn’t afford platemail. Everyone at the table kept telling him to buy a grave early in the game, because it is coming. The new Dwarf was a beast and had great stats including a 1 AC and 10 HP, people at the table all pointed and said, “New Tank!”

                The characters headed off to the Caves of Chaos without a guide and without any henchmen. I keep trying to drill into their heads the importance of these things, but they want more money. Apparently the 30 silver a day for torchbearers is too heavy a cost for these adventurers. They do make it to the caves without incident, and immediately head into cave D where they met goblins before. They decide to go towards room 17 where they had the first ever encounter of the campaign and continue on. They discover a set of stairs, and quickly get scared and decide to go back. This whole time I am rolling random encounters. Backtracking and heading into room 19 they start to hear unusual noises. They hear goblins yelling, and general chaos. The Dwarf decides to “sneak” into the room, I advised that the stealth skills of a Dwarf in platemail might not be the best, but he goes ahead anyways. He sees a group of goblins, attacking the air, and shadows flicking around the room. I rolled a random encounter at the same time they were entering the room to I combined the encounters. Everyone in the room saw the Dwarf with his friends close behind and all the PCs heard was, “New friends!” and the beating of wings. They got flashes of images of small humanoids with insect wings moving towards them. I rolled randomly to see how many of the Pixies would stay and which would go to the PCs, all seven of them went to the PCs.  

Truly a worthy foe!

                The PCs almost break ranks immediately, they try yelling to the goblins that they will help with the Pixies. The reaction roll was crap, and the goblins begin to hurl javelins into the party at the same time as the Pixies are stabbing them. The new “tank” Dwarf laughs at the goblins and then gets hit for 6 points of damage and stops laughing. The pixies continue to try and stab the party, almost gutting the Magic-User. The Pixies keep yelling about how much “shiny-ies” the party has and trying to take their gold purses. Eventually they begin to fall back, but the Pixies give chase and are much faster than the party. The Magic-User gets the good idea to throw lots of money on the ground, and after 50 GPs of loss, they manage to stagger away. So much for that endeavor.

                They decide to brave the stairs and begin to backtrack yet again. When they get back to room 17 they run into one of the greatest threats to PCs in the Monsters Manual. It is a random encounter that I always fear to get or to give to PCs, Giant Bees. The 5e players have no idea why my players from previous games are so upset, they do not know about the poison mechanic. The Magic-User decides that now is the time, and casts Sleep. He managed to drop all 9 of the bees and the party walks away unharmed, but it could have been much worse. They then proceed to go up the flights of stairs and find themselves at a hallway with a locked door.


                The plan started out well, they knocked on the door and pretended to be goblins. The new “tank” Dwarf and Cleric-tough up by the door, the rest of the party hiding down the stairs. The Dwarf knew goblin and was confusing enough to get the Hobgoblins on the other side curious, until he blew it. They told him they were going to open the door and to step back, he then in COMMON told his party to get ready. Hearing this, the hobgoblins knew something was amiss. I described how it took a few seconds then the door came quickly open. One hobgoblin was opening the door and hiding behind it, the others had crossbows ready and fired. Once the shots went through the hobgoblin shut the door and locked it. The bolts went out, and the “tank” Dwarf was struck again he was down to 1 HP. The Cleric-tough stood by the door, as the “Tank” Dwarf crawled away. Sure enough, the door flung open and three more shots came out, this time the “tank” Dwarf dropped. He made his death savings throw, but was out. The Cleric-tough stuck his foot in the door, and ran in as the rest of the party followed.

One of my favorite monsters.

                The Magic-User gave the ‘tank” Dwarf a potion, and he got back 1 hp, but was up. There was a good pitched battle in the room, but the part managed to take out all of the Hobgoblins gaining a whopping 16 GP in the process. They looked down the next corridor and saw only a cavernous, long hallway and decided to head back to the keep, actually poorer then when they started. As they went home I had them roll to see if they got lost, and they did, because guides are there for a reason. This spawned an encounter with Fire Beetles that was not that spectacular due to Sleep. The Magic-User has rolled a minimum of 8 HD of monsters each time he casts it. Someday his luck will run out, but it was not that day.

An old friend with a new face.
               This is where we ended and we are actually taking a 1 week break from the game. I have been running D&D for nearly 2 years straight on a weekly basis. I wanted a “palate cleansing” and decided to run a one shot of WEG Star Wars. I love that game, and have not played it since it was in print. It was one of the defining games of my childhood along with D&D and Robotech. I wanted to do something more cinematic and much less dungeon grind. I will most likely be doing a write-up of Tales from the Outer Rim next week, and then back into the Caves of Chaos from there.

P.S. I almost forgot about this. I told my players that they could set up a will with the bank, and if they brought in new characters, they could have them be a relative. This was a fun little thing, that isn’t too realistic. One of my clever players knows how powerful Sleep is, and is working on copying his spellbook over so that he can will it to his next character. I know B/X does not technically allow this, but I like Magic-Users learning from found materials. They are learning certain lessons, and this is a creative use of the rules.

Missed the other Episodes? Look here to catch up.

I went ahead and created a Facebook group for the blog, if you are interested the link is here.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Old School Essentials Game Master Screen Inserts Review

                I was asked to do a favor for the Old School Essentials Kickstarter and be a tester for the GM screen inserts. I do want to qualify this review and say I was sent the product for free and it was to make sure that the printing was on target and quality. I am happy to say that this product is a great quality for the asking price. You are getting crisp, clear screen inserts with the trademark Necrotic Gnome layout. The art is striking and the colors really pop. They are printed through DriveThruRPG and the process took about 1 week including the shipping (for someone in America). They come in sturdy packaging shown below and are printed on a thick, semi-gloss cardstock. If you want to buy this product look here.

                I cannot stress enough how wonderfully these insert’s layout is and how easy they are to use at the table. I know that Gavin polled people in the OSE forums asking what tables they would like to see, so it was community input that helped in the design. While these are designed with OSE in mind, many OSR games could have this GM Screen and it would be an asset. Especially players of BX, BECMI, and Labyrinth Lord. The product will be released to the public soon, and if you have not considered getting one, you should take a look.

(Please note the camera on my phone is not very good, the color on the artwork is much better in person.)

If you have any questions on the product, I would be more than happy to answer them. Seek me out in the comments below or on Facebook.

I went ahead and created a Facebook group for the blog, if you are interested the link is here.

I also created a Facebook group for Old School Essentials players here.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Tales from the Borderlands – Episode 4 – The Sweet Taste of Victory

               Last week’s adventure was a massive success for the players. I believe that the two PCs that died last week, came back and made characters that fit the party’s needs better. We lost a Fighter and an Elf last week, they remade characters and have a Cleric and a Magic-User. The Cleric could have made a really good Fighter, but the player wanted to be a Cleric. He has an 18 STR, 13 CON, and 13 DEX, while his WIS is 11. Even so, they have a good tank in the Cleric who will eventually get some spells. The Magic-User rolled pretty average across the board, and that is not bad for a MU. The thing he did roll was the magic number 11 on a d12 for his random spell. Any player of Old SchoolEssentials or BX should know the mythic number 11, because it is Sleep. That spell is just so darn good at low levels and can turn the tide for a party that is in danger. We also had a new player, who was a solid 5e player, but wanted to try older D&D. He really enjoyed the change of pace and commented on how fun it was because your characters are so fragile. He said you have to make good decisions, and bad decisions make the game so tense. He rolled up a good Fighter and was pleased with his results. The only returning character we had this week was the Dwarf, the two thieves could not make it. So 1 Dwarf, 1 Fighter, 1 Cleric, and 1 Magic-User are heading to the Caves of Chaos, with a single torch bearer Alania in tow.

                The group immediately heads back to the Owlbear caves and wants to search its lair for any possible treasure. As they enter, I make sure to mention there is a whole wing of the cave system here that they have not explored. They head into the debris strewn lair of the Owlbear and search and find grasp in the hand of one of the victims of an attack, a scroll case. The new fighter of the group discovers this singularly, and decides to not share it, or make anyone aware of its presence. In fact, he does not even open the scroll case to see what is inside. Generally in a game of this nature, that is not a good idea, but each to their own. Seeing that there is nothing else, they decided to enter the other side of this particular cave system.

                I was really worried about this section because the chance of PC death is quite high, and unless the party takes extreme caution it can go downhill fast. I describe how the cave’s debris starts to lessen and the cave starts to become damper and damper. They enter a cavern that is dominated by a small lake and they begin to circle the outside of it. One of the PCs notices a shiny object in the pool and points it out to the other characters. They decide to remove everyone from the cave except the dwarf, and have him take a look at it with his Infravision. As the party members leave the dwarf’s vision starts to adjust and he notices that the thing in the water is not alive, or at least does not radiate heat. That is when the gray oozes lash out with their surprise actions. Normally gray ooze is a nasty combatant that can strip away armor, surprise opponents, and melt their flesh. These guys felt more like the smiling slimes from Dragon Warrior on NES. The party beat them down and the oozes could not hit for love or money. They then retrieved the golden chalice from the water, and left the cave feeling pretty good about themselves.

I wanted them to be more dangerous then this.

                I rolled a random encounter for them and decided to bring back their old friend the Ogre. He was waiting there with a herd of six goblins wanting some money and payback. He saw them laughing and literally drinking from the golden chalice and wanted that in exchange for their lives. I had a dramatic speech ready to give about how he was going to crush their bones, and then destroy the Keep, but before I can get to that the Magic-User interrupts and says, “I cast Sleep, screw that guy.” He rolled really good and all seven of the combatants fall asleep. They then begin to slaughter all of them, roll up into his cave, take back the money he stole from them with a hefty bonus of gold he extorted from the goblins in the past few weeks. With those successes under their belt, and light left in the day they decided to head back to the keep to safely store their gains. Did I forget to mention they decided not to hire the Woodsman this trip as a guide? Because they did not. I had not been making them possibly get lost, and lowered the random encounter rate due to him, but they thought they knew better.

                On the way back, they were camped on the 2nd night and the Cleric was on watch. The Cleric did not hear the sounds of the approaching doom until it was almost too late. The party was attacked by 10 skeletons, and the real issue was that the skeletons were on them almost before they could stand. They decided they did not want to abandon their gains, and wanted to fight the overwhelming odds. They battled and fell back more than once, the Cleric failed their Turn Undead check, and the Dwarf was taken below zero for the 2nd time, but survived. The funniest part to me is that the Fighter hiding the scroll was actually hiding a Scroll of Protection from Undead. I find his greed being their near downfall utterly hilarious. Scrambling to leave, they realize that the Dwarf was the only member of the party that even remotely knew the route to and from the cave, as this was everyone else’s first time. Then proceed to get lost for 2 more days before finding the Keep, avoiding random encounters along the way.

                We called it a little early because we had enough time for some book keeping, but not another trip into the caves. I think I am going to have the noble of the Keep take notice of them now, because they are actually doing some good. I was thinking about offering some alternative adventures like seeking the hermit, finding the bandits, or even traveling to Orlane to deal with the local issue of strange happenings. We will see what they want to do and how it will all unravel. I hope everyone is still enjoying the series and I hope that you follow the blog.

Soon I hope...

Missed the other Episodes? Look here to catch up.

I went ahead and created a Facebook group for the blog, if you are interested the link is here.