Dark, Deadly and Delicious part 4: Be the Monster Manager

In the penultimate part of this series of posts about Crypts and Things convention games, I look at an important role of the referee.

Be the Monster Manager

Don’t overwhelm the players with streams of monsters, unless that’s the point of the fight scene is that they can never overcome the flood of monsters and should run away!

Don’s mistake combat for automatic-fun. Make sure that you combat encounters are like scenes from a fun film, where the director has placed enemies and scenery in an exciting way, so the combat can play out with lots of unexpected turns and twists.

For example, don’t just throw 1d6+2 Men at Arms at the player characters who are strolling aimlessly through the palace. If you need a couple of men at arms to show up and challenge the characters about there right to be there, do so. It might lead into a fight (in which case they run away to the next courtyard where the rest of the palace guard is hanging out, with the court sorcerer and the King’s assassins who are practicing on various trampolines etc.), but it might also lead to an entertaining moment of role-playing as the players blag their way past the guards.

Next part 5: Pre-made characters.

An Excerpt from the upcoming Crypts and Things book “Tournament of Madness and Death.”

Tournaments of Madness and Death cover by David M.Wright

Dark, Delicious and Deadly part 2: Pacing

Part 2 of 5 excerpts from Dark, Delicious and Deadly, an article about running Crypts and Things at conventions.

You can Never Have Enough Pace

(as my mate Evil Gaz says).

This is the primary principle to bear in mind when running a convention game. To keep your players entertained you should help to keep the game moving along at quite a speed. Characters should be jumping, running and occasionally fighting their way through the adventure, each location building on the excitement until the big thrilling finale.

If the action drags, something happens

Things that drag the action, which might be acceptable in a home game where you have all the time in the world, need to be quickly moved on from.

For example, there’s a Locked door that blocks the characters’ way. In a home game, you might let all the table of players try something to open the door. The Thief goes through all their abilities; checking for traps, picking the lock etc. Then the magician casts Detect Magic (“is the door magically locked?”), the Fighter uses their strength to force the door, then everybody else follows on because they can all try to bash the door down. Finally, the players extract as much information from the Crypt Keeper, small details such as moss around the door frame, become excruciatingly important (“I lick the moss, to see if it is poisonous or magical.”)

You’ve not got time for this is in a con game. Let one character have a go at unlocking the door. If they fail, a guard (or a passing patrol of guards if the door has nothing behind it) opens the door from the other side to see who is making that noise and play proceeds.

Don’t be afraid to slow the pace

With all this talk about speed, if you or your players are finding it too much, put the breaks on. Slow the pace. Gently put the player characters in a safe place, slow things down to talk to an NPC for example. Let everybody get their breath back and then get back into it.

There’s a time and a place for investigation

I’ll say it up front C&T is not an investigative game. There may be moments where the players have to find secret entrances, talk to an NPC and ask right questions to find out where they are going next, but these are usually quickly sorted out and moved on from. Characters in Crypts and Things, tend to be men and women of action, and the character classes empathise this.

Next part 3: Rewards

From the upcoming Tournaments of Madness and Death for Crypts and Things (and other old-school class/level based games).

Tournaments of Madness and Death cover by David M.Wright

Crikey, it’s a Crypt Keeper in a Crypt with Crypts and Things!

Dark, Delicious and Deadly part 1: Focus

For the next five Fiendish Fridays, I shall be posting excerpts from “Dark, Delicious and Deadly” an article I’ve written for the upcoming Tournaments of Madness and Death adventure book for Crypts and Things (eta May?).  This article deals with how I write and present one-shot adventures for conventions.

So without further ado here’s part 1.

Focus on what makes Crypts and Things what it is

This is a big one. If you don’t focus on what C&T does, you might as well be playing one of the other variants of the World’s Favourite Fantasy Roleplaying game. Don’t let the fact that it has many features and troupes of that great Dungeon Crawling Game; Classes and Levels, the six characteristics, experience points and hit points are all there merely to make players and Crypt Keepers feel comfortable and at ease. The familiarity of some aspects of the rules is there to ease the players and Crypt Keepers into the game, rather than dropping them in from a considerable height with a huge learning curve. There’s also a delightful simplicity of the old school rules that makes them easy to build upon.

A lot of what C&T does is through tone and emphasis. The text of the game imparts this, but the extra layer of rules (Sanity, Black/Grey/White Magic, Corruption, Skill use and the abilities of the classes) highlights it too.

The big four points of what makes C&T special are:

  1. Player characters are the Heroes and Heroines. Even if they are anti-heroes, the player characters are deliberately the overpowered main characters of Swords and Sorcery fiction. Never make them the sideline in the adventures. Always put them centre stage.
  2. Enemies are horrible to horrific. As a counterpoint to the above, and to put the player characters in perspective, their opponents are the stuff of nightmares. They murder, they steal (so their victims will starve to death), they even suck souls. Even the most anti-heroic villainous player character should feel virtuous when confronted by the cruel machinations of a Greater Other.
  3. Humans are misguided power seekers struggling to survive (even insane cultists). Also though the default setting, The Continent of Terror, is human-centric, those humans aren’t forming lovely well-ordered Kingdoms. They are scrabbling in the ashes of their dying world for anything to keep them alive or give them a thrill that takes them away from their bleak day to day reality. If the players are looking for inspiration from non-player characters, they will soon find that they have to create that inspiration from themselves for others.
  4. Weird, beautiful and occasionally humorous. Despite the grimdark aspect of the game, there is much wonder and laughter in the setting. Let the players explore that and emphasise the fantastic nature of the world from time to time. It’s a critical factor of why people keep on coming back to the swords of and sorcery genre, again and again. The sheer playful escapism it provides.

Next Fiendish Friday: Pacing.

An Excerpt from the upcoming Crypts and Things book “Tournament of Madness and Death”

Tournaments of Madness and Death cover by David M.Wright

The Death Mask of the Evil Emperor

It seems like its been an eternity, but its Fiendish Friday! Here’s a magic item from the end of the Tomb of the Evil Emperor which is one of two adventures that feature in the adventure book Tournaments of Madness and Death, which is currently in production (eta March/April).  Of course this being a Crypts and Things Magic Item, user caution is advised.

The Death Mask of the Evil Emperor

On the surface, this golden funeral mask has a street value of 500 GP.

The Mask has a more sinister purpose. It is the Death Mask of the Evil Emperor, which allows the Emperor to return to the world of the living. Should a person put on the mask the Evil Emperor will take possession of their body, over a period of five nights. At first, the Emperor will invade the character’s dreams and confront the character in psychic combat there. Each time the player character needs to test their luck (which does not regenerate during the period of the possession attempt). If they succeed they win against the Emperor and it is driven off. If they fail, the Emperor wins and turns their dream into a nightmare. At the end of five nights, whoever has won the most psychic battles takes control of the character’s body. The loser is banished to wander the Shroud as a disembodied spirit, who will only be summoned back to Zarth if someone foolishly puts on the Death Mask.

This item features in the upcoming adventure book…

Tournaments of Madness and Death cover by David M.Wright

Green is the new Black!

Rejoice fellow OSRians, Glynn Seal’s (aka Monkey Blood Design) The Midderlands, as previously Kickstarted and supported by this here blog, has been released;

As a stretch goal for the Kickstarter I promised a Crypts & Things Conversion Guide, so you could use the Midderlands (which uses Swords and Wizardry as its base) without much fuss with C&T.

I’ve just finished the conversion guide, which is on its way for proofing/checking before a quick layout and release as a freebie via DriveThruRpg.com and the D101 Webstore, which I anticipate will be sometime next week.

In the meantime, he’s a quick excerpt from the C&T Conversion Guide.

Gloomium

Gloomium is everywhere in the Midderlands. It seeps up from the Middergloom, an ambiguous underworld below the Midderlands. It is toxic and corrupting. It is green in colour and is the source of much strangeness, corruption and twisted magic. This section explains how gloomium works in the context of Crypts & Things magic system.

As a Source of Khaos

Crypt Keepers should assume that the seepage of gloomium is the source of Khaos monsters and mutations, for games set in The Midderlands.

Corruption

Whilst in the Midderlands, use the Gloom-touched rules (Midderlands page 10 and 11), instead of the standard Crypts and Things Corruption table on page 64 of Crypts & Things.

Green is the Brightest Colour of Magic!

While in the Midderlands there is only two colours of magic; Green and Colourless.

Green is the magic of gloomium; it’s harmful, toxic and glows a malignant shade of luminous green when cast. It causes corruption when cast, using the rules on page 84 of Crypts & Things. All the spells on the Black Magic spell lists (see page 50 of Crypts & Things) are Green.

In addition, the following new spells from the Midderlands are Green Magic spells:

Curse of Old Hobb, Gloomium Shield, Middergloom Missiles, Morgontula’s Vomit.

Colourless magic is everything else (i.e. Spells from the Grey and White Lists). It does not have a colour when cast and its effects are usually boringly beneficial or utilitarian in nature.

What Did That Do? (see Midderlands page 74) is a colourless spell.

While in the Midderlands ignore The Summons of Evil rules for casting beneficial (white) magic.

Also, ignore the rules for Blood Magic (unless you are using The Others from Crypts and Things or a similar body of Demonic beings who provide magic for blood sacrifice).

Sorcerer’s Magic Sensitivity to Gloomium

Gloomium is green-hot, radioactive stuff as far as a Sorcerer’s magic sensitivity ability (see page 23 of Crypts & Things) is concerned. It drives many Sorcerers ‘up to the wall’, with the constant throbbing of the temples when their magic sense is triggered by a pool of the green stuff in some swamp, or from a creeping feeling of unease because the house they are lodging in is built over a large gloomium deposit. This does have the benefit of sorcerors being great at finding gloomium.

Using Gloomium to Regain Magic

Since gloomium is nasty raw magical stuff, sorcerer’s may regain magic by ingesting it. This is a particularly dangerous and insane practice which is not recommended by the Royal College.

The procedure is thus:

For each ‘gulp’ of gloomium, a sorcerer regains one level of cast spell and loses 1d6 hit points, from the toxic and corrosive nature of the substance, and upon a failed Sanity Roll loses 1d6 sanity points.  It takes one combat round to take a gulp. They also glow bright glowing green for the number of gulps you took in days. All these effects add to each other, so for example, if you take four gulps you take 4d6 hit points of damage and potentially lose 4d6 Sanity if you fail your Sanity Test and you can remember up to a fourth Level spell or any combination of spells whose levels.

For example, Ned the Anxious, a rather foolish apprentice of the Royal College, finds himself in a spot of bother in Cairn Chase Forest. About to be skinned alive by some rather Unmerry Men, and out of spells, he decides to take two gulps of gloomium, from a readily-prepared flask of the substance. This takes him two rounds, during which time the Unmerry Men close on him and fire off bows. In round three, the gloomium kicks off. He takes 2d6 Hit Points damage, rolling a four and a five for nine points of damage, and successfully makes his sanity roll – so keeps hold of his mind. With his innards burning from the liquid, he rememorizes the 2nd Level Spell Web and wastes no time in firing off a sticky web of green stuff at the Unmerry Men. If he had not been so worried, he could have taken his time firing off one Magic Missile this round, and another the round after (two first level spells equalling 2 levels of spells remembered as allowed by two glups). If he survives, he will glow bright luminous green for the next 1d10 days, making sneaking about and hiding very difficult and becoming a magnet for any nearby witch hunter.

Crypts and Things Deal of the Day at DriveThruRPG.com

40% off the price of the pdf bringing it down to $8.40 from $14.00 for the next 24 Hours.

Be a wild Barbarian, a deadly Fighter, a soul-torn Sorcerer or a sword sharp canny Thief, fighting evil tyrants and foul demons in a world rapidly dying and heading towards its final nemesis.

Crypts and Things (C&T) is a Swords and Sorcery Roleplaying game based on the Old School Rules of the 70s/80s. It also draws upon the British fantasy games and game-books of that period to bring a distinctly dark and dangerous feel to the game.

Fiendish Friday: In the Street of the Dead

Here follows a short location from the adventure The Furnace, from the upcoming Tournaments of Madness and Death for Crypts and Things and other OSR rulesets.

The Street of the Dead

In an old merchant’s district, an odd mechanical man awaits the characters in his shop of curiosities.

A well-worn dusty road, 20′ wide, goes seemingly on and on through the city and into the countryside beyond. Alongside are a bewildering assortment of buildings, most of which are boarded up. For this is the custom here in the middle-class area of town. That upon their death, they are boarded up with all their worldly goods inside their old shops. Now the various hammerings and bangs from behind the boards that they are desperate to get out.  Amongst the ruin of this once magnificent street, there is one shop that appears to intact, with golden columns out front and a lovely colourful sign that gives its name “Oeldi’s Shop of Wonders”.

Oeldi’s Shop of Wonders

Run by the overweight Oeldi, who wears a brightly coloured jacket and a blue fez. This curio shop has a 23% chance go having any item a character needs.  Oeldi stays here rather than fleeing the city doomed by the Undead because he is a magical construct created by The Nine (or his Nine Dads as he called them). As he takes damage the fleshy covering falls off revealing a brass body underneath.  If questioned about the entrance to the Iron Moon, he can reveal that it is in the mausoleum.

Oeldi AC 2[18 ] HD 8 HP 34 Attacks 1 Dam 1D6 +1 (Short sword +1 hidden beneath counter) MV 12 Special: Mechanical Construct – unaffected by poison, disease, Breathes fire three times a day (3d6 damage, Successful Test vs. Luck halves damage). Sleep, Charm or any magical mind control methods. CR/XP 10/1400.

Fiendish Friday: Stink River Healers

Here’s another preview from the upcoming Under Dark Spires for Crypts and Things and other OSR rulesets. In this adventure book, there’s an area called the Stink River. It more than lives up to its name, being a broken, weird land full of puss ridden diseases and poisonous insects and plants. Its also inhabited by swamp dwelling tribesmen. Since there are none of the usual Temple of Healing franchise out in this remote part of the world, I thought it best that I detail what levels of healing the player characters can expect.

Getting help from the Local Healers

The Stink River People have an established class of Healers, with one or two in each village. They brew up cures, antidotes and preventative medicines in their healing hut, which also acts as a place to keep ill people, usually up to five patients, in quarantine. In the hut, you can also find the tools of the Stink River Healer’s craft.  Metal needles for lancing noxious boils, a small oven for heating needles, clay pots for storing medicines and creams.

The Healers primary role is to look after their people; all else is a distant second. Adventurers cannot come swanning up to healing Hut, suffering from some disease or poison, and expect immediate treatment from the Healer no matter how much gold they offer. The Healer will merely laugh at them and go back inside, as the village’s hunters notch arrows coated with poison (typically Imperial Folly) and aim in the character’s direction.  First, they must establish a relationship with the healer’s village, and only when they are accepted as an honorary member, after helping out by killing off dangerous monsters rescuing kidnapped members etc., will the Healer even consider healing them. The advantage is at this point there is no charge to the character, they have already paid in kind by helping the village

Stink River Healer AC 7[12] Leather equivalent HD 4 HP 20 Attacks 1 Knife (1d4) Mv 12 Special: Spellcasting CL/XP 5/240

Healers typically know the following spells:

Cure Disease, Cure Light Wounds, Neutralise Poison, Purify Food and Drink, Remove Curse, Sleep.

Note these spells are very heavily based on physical ingredients, such as specific herbs and prepared creams and powers. The Healer one in six times be out of the ingredients and require the characters to fetch them from the nearby wilderness before they can cast the spell to help their wounded colleague.