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Handy Haversack
Handy Haversack
Handy Haversack


Now that my players are leaving the collapsed, degraded, and thoroughly soaked in blood manor house behind, here are the one-line recaps from our sessions in "Beasts of Kraggoth Manor":

• If you're going to speak with animals, that pregnant black-furred stag with blue human eyes prefers "they."

• Hands: two. Skull: exploding! ROSSCON: 1.

• Exorhthym stick or no, it might be time to find a new dump stat, Utropia

• Everything I know about looting I learned from this cursed, exploding ape-man skull

• You cannot gag that which fears not the lips of necromancy.

It all went about how it sounds!

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More inspiration in my ongoing quest to replace the Priest class for PCs with something I and my players might want to play. Healbot no more!

(To be clear, Priests are fine as NPCs; I just think they flatten into instrumentalit drones as PCs.)
The Gods Must Be Crazy
The Gods Must Be Crazy

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This seems broadly relevant.
PDF for the Gardens of Ynn, now out.
I'm kinda happy with it. Maybe I'll stick it in print, who knows.
Now on Sale - The Gardens of Ynn
Now on Sale - The Gardens of Ynn

My people tell a story. A story of a seller so perfect, so uncompromisingly exacting in every detail, that once you have bought from him, no other seller can ever satisfy.

I do not know what the future holds. But I know the seller my people speak of is

+Jay Hassan

(This post is really long.)

(I'm also making it Public because I'm not sure I have any Public posts Nor am I really clear on what this means.)

tl;dr: CHARGE!: A way to load your random encounter table with potential energy that converts to the D&D Thing your players are looking for when enough accumulates.

I came up with something for my GaryCon game that I think I like quite a bit but there's no real way to playtest it, so I'm not sure how it will mesh with the four-hour slot. Moreover, times being what they are, I'm not even completely sure I made this up rather than simply regurgitating something I've encountered someplace else. So if you think this has already been done, please let me know.

And I guess if you're playing in that game, stop reading this.

I'm running the excellent "Ruinous Palace of the Metegrogos" and was thinking back on when my group played it. As awesome as the adventure is, the ruined palace itself is only a few rooms once you're in it. A lot of the fun comes from the fucked-up dog druids in the woods, and my group's interaction with them grew out of a whole slew of things I had thrown onto a random encounter table as they were making their way toward the Piteous Woods. The background created by those encounters set things up really well and, as it happened, getting away from the dungeon was the most fraught part.

So for GaryCon I realized I couldn't just start the game in front of the dungeon. Some set-up is necessary, esp. since I don't think the interior is likely to be four hours!

So what I did I'm calling "CHARGE!" It's a way of using random encounter tables to manage a PC search for a D&D Thing -- adventure locale in this case, but it could be any object of searching, really. The point is that when a certain threshold is reached, the game switches from my encounter table to the encounter table from the adventure because the PCs will have found It -- the Thing.

Really, to my mind, it's a way to let the random encounter table do the work of a pointless overland map that doesn't do anything to enhance the players' time in an adventure but just fills in the idea that adventures come with overland maps (NB: "Metegorgos" does not have this problematic overland map! I'm kvetching more generally about the wider state of adventures). I am not saying that wilderness maps are always pointless. If you're gonna hexcrawl, hexcrawl! Obviously there are lots of fine uses for outdoor maps.

But if PCs know the Thing they're looking for is in an area -- a forest, a mountain range, a valley, whatever it is -- and they start searching, the point for them is to find the thing. "CHARGE!" tries to make it so you don't need to bog down with "You have reached the forest. Which direction would you like to search?" either by having to do a shit-ton of earlier work to familiarize your players with what might be meaningful answers (i.e., by having had a different campaign) OR by just letting them stumble around without any way to "meaningfully" (i.e., with fun) decide what the stakes might be. "Uh, north?"

Hopefully it can help modules be modular.

Anyway, I made a big complex random encounter table that steals heavily from Goblin Punch ( (Thanks, +Arnold K.. You're in this a lot. Goblin Punch: the gift that keeps on giving!)

Which, basically, roll a d6 dawn, noon, evening, midnight

1 = Encounter
2 = Evidence (of an encounter from 1)
3 = Evidence of Faction [in this case, the druids (YOU ARE DAMNED carved on tree [])]
4 = Weather Event
5 = Evidence of Faction [in this case, Signs That He Is Drawing Near (fucked-up nature events like all the crucified squirrels) []
6 = Nothing

And then the chart has columns of 20 entries for 1, 2, 4 (you could do the same for 3 and 5, of course; I just already had separate tables for these).

BUT you roll a D8 on those columns.

The wrinkle being "CHARGE!":
So CHARGE! starts at 0, and every event from 1, 2, 3, or 5 adds 1.
For 4 (weather), you also roll a d6 again, which might end up adding to CHARGE!

So for "Metegorgos," encounter 20 is with he Zombies of the Piteous Wood -- that is, the module starts when you roll encounter 20. On a d8.

Encounters 1-8 are stuff on the fringe of the forest the PCs are searching, and as they accumulate CHARGE!, the events are more and more about the content of the module: the dungeon and the druids.

Until the encounter roll = 20, which is when I roll on the Piteous Dead encounter chart from the module.

And more CHARGE can accrue from the outcomes of certain encounters, too. Like if you talk to the Kimmerians and learn their rumors instead of just fighting them it goes up by 1. Or if you track the fleeing deer or ghast it goes up by 1. If the players, that is, use the things they encounter to investigate their goal, they draw closer to finding it.

Because it doesn't matter where they are in the forest until they get where they're going. What matters is whether there chance of finding the thing is increasing.

My main worry is I'm just not sure if it will advance fast enough for con play -- will be enough time for the dungeon?

I tried rolling through the sequence last night and ended up with five full days: Encounter 20 came at midnight 5. BUT I rolled a statistically signifcgant small proportion of CHARGE-adding encounters!

After that I decided to add 1 CHARGE! after every Midnight, too. I am toying with the idea of using a d10 or d12 just to speed things along. <wails>But all my careful calculations!</wails>

I think this would be fun for my own home game. And I think it's broadly adaptable to this situation: the players going to find a Thing with a more or less decent notion of where that thing is. I think it leads to more fun, choice-driven, interesting stuff than just a map and a list of encounters.

For those of a certain age, I think this would be a really useful substitute for the maps and random encounters of S4 and WG4. As much as I love those maps.

But ... is it too much? Too complicated? (It doesn't feel complicated when I look at the table -- it looks pretty standard.) Too Springfield's answer to a question no one asked?

Had a total blast of a session yesterday. It was a reminder that sometimes specific prep can make a big difference. We had had several session of Maze of the Blue Medusa and then three more in Fever Swamp, so for a while I hadn't really needed to prep. I had read those adventures, I had made a few tables, the players were defining what they wanted to accomplish, so there wasn't a lot I needed to except show up . . . I think?

Anyway, I spent all day Saturday just prepping some NPCs and locations and hooks, and Sunday was one of the best times we've had in a while! Not to throw shade on either of the locations we had been playing in, which also yielded great play. But things came together super well yesterday. Of course, I should have been prepping for GaryCon, but . . .

Resources in play:

• AS&SH 2nd ed.
• Colin Chapman's AS&SH name generator
• Ben Ball's Hyperborean Random Encounter Tables
• Colin Chapman's "Drunken Debauchery!"
• Michael Prescott's "Shattered Gate" (
• Michael Presscot and Kiel Chenier's "Hounds of Low Tide" (

One-line recap: "Here's 23 gold; good luck with your suicide. Hey, Ke$ha, is that a hand axe in your stomach, or are you starting to happen?"

Slightly longer for a player who couldn't make it and another who had to leave early:

"Wish you'd made it! This one had all your favorite elements: drunkenly insulting a landlady, throwing crocodiles onto boats, contributions to the delinquents of miners -- and all that was before the sex party by the thew waggon!

After you left, KE$HA SAVED THE DAY!! We were shocked, too. But she vomited up a hand axe while she charged and managed to disrupt the necromancer's spell, then take out the skeleton, and then Valaka made it to the fight and dropped the necromancer with a sleep spell. So as we froze fromed, Jon and Mato were climbing up from the sanctum leaving a love-struck tiger below, Kesha and Valaka (and good ol' Gormal!) carried the day behind the ruined wall. And Hrodbjorn is still alive. That guy has really covered some ground since he almost killed himself falling down the stairs.

So you have the necromancer in your power and his sanctum at your disposal. You know about the lizard. What I'm looking forward to the most is Jon realizing he can't get out of the tree with his armor on!"

The landlady insulted during Drunken Debauchery was the proprietor of the Keg and Frigate, so there might be consequences for the familiar left behind to guard the canoe . . .

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The original, magazine version of Operation Unfathomable was the first game I ever ran for strangers, at GaryCon VII in 2015. Since then, I have run it twice more at cons and once in my home game. An urge to thank +Jason Sholtis and let him know I was running the module at GaryCon was a big part of what led me to get on G+ in the first place.

I even in a small way contributed to the publication of the current form, and I couldn't be prouder to be involved.

So check this out if you haven't already!

What's the Hydraic presence going to be like at GaryCon this year?

+Jacob Hurst, do you have anyone selling copies at GaryCon in March?

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+Jeff Talanian

A nice take on REH's bday from +James Maliszewski. Thanks for it, James.
Today is the 112th anniversary of the birth of Robert E. Howard. I don't have a lot to say on that score because, as with so many topics, I've already said a great about him, his writings, and his influence on subsequent fantasy authors (and roleplaying games). If you're interested in those, go back to the blog and read my entries on this date. By and large, I stand by everything I said in them.

The one thing I will say is that, having begun to delve into Howard's correspondence with H.P. Lovecraft, I think he was a much more complex and sensitive person than he is commonly given credit for. Of course, anyone who's read his stories with any attention knows this. But many, who know of Howard only fleetingly as "that guy who created Conan and killed himself" probably don't and that's a shame.

I say this not so much because I think REH necessarily had any deep insights or unique philosophical viewpoints of which the world is deprived by its ready acceptance of the caricature De Camp and others painted of him. Rather, it's that, the older I get, the more I find myself deeply sympathetic to the very human desire simply to be understood on one's own terms, however flawed and contradictory those terms usually are.

If we're lucky, we'll have a handful of people over the course of our lives who do understand us in that way, though not all of us are that fortunate. I suspect Robert E. Howard was one of the unlucky ones, which is why, on his birthday, I feel a small obligation to speak on his behalf.

Happy birthday, Two-Gun Bob!
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