Archive for the ‘Game Matrix Campaign’ Category

Thoughts about writing Game XYZ

January 14, 2012

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
– Antoine de Saint Exupery

I think the value of this statement directly relates to your plans for the game you’re writing. Take a building as an example: the architect who takes everything away has an empty lot instead of a building. What the quote really encourages is simplification if you can get away with it.

If my goals for the Game were to make it as simple as possible, I would just give up and play something like a stripped-down Burning Wheel:

You’re good at A, okay at B, and mediocre at everything else. Name A and B. Tasks related to A get 3d6, B tasks get 2d6, everything you can’t argue fits under these gets 1d6. Opposed rolls compare dice results; higher wins. Unopposed rolls are actually opposed by the referee: 5 is tough, 10 is really damn hard, and 15 is almost impossible.

Or I could do a very stripped-down D&D style game with classes and races and pretty much end up with a D&D board game, the entire rules written on both sides of a pamphlet.

But the first is almost pre-existing, and the second exists already in the form of the various Microlites (20, 74, etc.).

What I’m doing isn’t out there yet. Sometimes I get discouraged because I feel like it’ll never get finished. Not that I spend all the time editing and fiddling with little things. I just keep finding simpler ways to do things, which is vital to my goals with the Game:

1: Lots of player choices within the Dark Ages fantasy setting
2: Easy to run at the table
3: Strong impartial referee

Goal 1 requires lots of content, which I’m fine with. Testing so far hasn’t shown the players to be paralyzed by excessive choice. Goal 2 requires that all those choices be very simple. Anything complex gets red-flagged for replacement with something simpler. If I can’t do it, I scrap it in favor of something with less complexity and fewer features.

But as I go about this refining process, and I’m running a 1E game at the same time, I find myself less dissatisfied with existing games.

I just read that the development time for 4E was about a year, for 3E two years, for OD&D three years. While I haven’t been putting in as many man-hours as those folks, I’ve been writing the Game for six years. The structure has changed, two primary assumptions were turned on their heads once. I’ve felt like totally changing directions several times lately but instead of putting energy into a different “grass is greener” game I just took a break.

I’ve heard the NaNoWriMo advice: you need to just say it’s finished sometime. I don’t think that applies to a document with headings that need something worthwhile under them and they have nothing yet.

Anyway, just venting I guess.

JOESKY TAX

Familiar Malady Table (What’s Wrong With Sprinkles?!)
1 Diarrhea / intestinal worms
2 Fleas / mites
3 Moaning and complaining about nothing in particular
4 Ate something completely disgusting and has an upset tummy
5 Got into a fight with someone else’s familiar
6 Pregnant / got someone else’s familiar knocked up
7 Excessive shedding of hair / scales / dandruff
8 Ornery, scratching and chewing things
9 Feeling devious, will be up to no good, may ruin spell components
10 Feeling slighted or ignored, demands attention, may interrupt magic work
11 Dental problems: abcess, cracked tooth, tooth decay
12 Got out in the rain last night, coughing and sneezing

Encumbrance and Coins per Pound

October 28, 2011

This goes out to Lord Kilgore, upon whose blog I decided not to reply because my reply would have been way too long. His post was How Many GP per Pound?

I’ve used 10 GP = 1 lb (1E/2E)
25 GP = 1 lb (3E)
72 GP = 1 lb (1,000 GP = 1 stone (14 lb)) (game XYZ I wrote)

(We’re currently playing 1E)

It does make a huge difference. For example, if I want to buy a silver dagger that weighs 2 lb, the minimum materials cost is going to be 1 GP in 1E, 2 GP in 2E, 2.5 GP in 3E, and 7.2 GP in my game. And the workmanship is a big part of the item cost!

If there’s a treasure of 1,000 GP, it will encumber a normal naked person with 9 STR down to MV 3″ in 1E. The same person in 2E couldn’t walk according to Table 47, but he could walk at MV 1″ if he took only 890 GP according to Table 48. In 3E that character could carry the 1,000 GP and another 50 lb and move at 20′ (2/3, or equivalent to 8″ in 1E/2E) (from the SRD). In my game a PC can carry 5 stone, or 70 lb, before suffering movement penalties. That means the naked 9 STR dude can carry 5,000 GP before slowing down.

So you see two dimensions: how much does money weigh, and what are the encumbrance rules? In my game, money weighs a LOT less, and the encumbrance rules are more indulgent otherwise than 1E/2E. In 3E, PCs can carry similar amounts of weight in each encumbrance category, but move much faster even when encumbered, and the coins are lighter than in 1E/2E.

But what about the other equipment? If your game has less or more focus on equipment like rope and other climbing gear, cold weather gear, food and water, ammunition, etc. then that will affect how much treasure an actual PC can carry around. That is, a PC who has enough gear to survive the expedition in the first place!

I think the trend toward more indulgent encumbrance schemes results in less need for magical storage like bags of holding, fewer trips back to town to sell loot, and far less reliance on pack animals and porters. In Game XYZ PCs do see the need for extra equipment, and certainly armor weighs something, and treasure isn’t always in the easy form of precious metals and gems. Despite the very light coins, they still feel the need to yank donkeys around and when someone found a Backpack of Holding (15 stone, or 210 lb) it was a pretty hot deal.

Currently in 1E, I tell them when they find treasure how much it will weigh them down and they decide if they want to carry it around. I note down the current MV of each PC. When they get back to town and dump the loot, I reset the current MV to their normal amount. This means if they find a series of small pieces I don’t care, even though in total it might drop someone down to the next 3″ category. Only when they find a big load do we change things (of if the PC changes his standard equipment loadout on his sheet, such as by changing armor).

CHANGE PLACES!

September 28, 2011

I’m getting a bit burned out on the new game system / campaign.

1: The things I’m writing aren’t always better. In many cases they’re just different.
2: A completely huge sandbox is demoralizing for the referee because the adventurers will simply never explore all the cool things you made.
3: Wilderness adventure is a bit boring. The players wander around looking for cool stuff – and that cool stuff is typically a dungeon or town.

So we’re switiching it up to a smaller sandbox. It’s a mountain valley with a ruined city, four rebuilt villages within it, and four dungeons in the surrounding wilderness. You can get across town from one village to the next in 10 minutes. You can get from the village to the nearest dungeon in a day, or a half day on horseback.

And to give me a break from writing rules (I’ve been working on the current set for 2 years, and it’s just the latest iteration of serious game-writing work of the past 6 years) we’re doing 1E AD&D. PHB, DMG, MM.

Of course I’m adding a few things. For one, we aren’t using the surprise / weapon speed rules from the DMG, because I don’t like the fact that the PCs could get ambushed and lose 2-4 rounds depending on the monster and get a TPK based on a single d6 roll. There’s a fairly good chance for the PCs to lose 2 rounds, which really sucks. I’m adding carousing like Jeff Rients. I’m also taking away the racial level limits (retaining class and multiclass restrictions) and replacing them with a +25% Human XP bonus.

To get a new M-U spell in your book you need to burn a scroll to copy it in. The only way for you to steal spells from someone’s spellbook is by seizing it and memorizing from it directly. The only way for you to share a spell with a friend is by creating a scroll. You also gain a new spell of your choice that you can use at the new level when you gain a level.

Training and upkeep costs are in. You need to spend the week doing training. I will be using the training montage tables I made.

Some things leap out at me on a detailed reading of the rules. Multiclass characters gain the better of their classes’ weapon and armor restrictions, except for Thieves. That is, a Cleric/Fighter can use edged weapons. A M-U/Fighter can wear armor and cast M-U spells at the same time. But a Fighter/Thief who wears heavy armor can’t use his Thief skills. This makes demihuman multiclasses powerful indeed!

Dang now I’m speaking vaguely Gygaxian.

I think park of this is because I’m burned out on the current game and have a further-refined idea of how best to prepare and run a game. It’s also partly a nostalgia – I want to try playing the edition I first learned to play on its own terms with all its quirks. Third, I want my players to experience this game because most of them haven’t played anything but the one I’m working on!

I’m not especially against the idea of completely scrapping demihuman class limitations. Heck, why not let anyone multiclass with anything? Is there really some game balance issue with a Human Fighter / Ranger / Paladin? Or an Elf Ranger / Cleric / Illusionist / Monk? But that kind of game feels an awful lot different from AD&D as presented in the computer games of the day.

There are some fun things coming next Sunday in the Valley of Kurland.

Sessions 54 and 55

May 17, 2011

The adventurers spent the winter chilling out in the Chateau d’ Mila (previously Chateau d’ Awesome before Mila pulled the Throne card from a Deck of Many Things). They had their own little projects going.

They went back to the ruins of Earthstrike to suss out the place again and check which magic items were for sale by the weird glowing men in the basement of Presa Maximo’s tower. All overpriced, alas.

They traveled north to the Sunken Grove and encountered Goblins who claimed to not be connected with the ones who destroyed Earthstrike. The adventurers killed them anyway. During the fight the PCs took two Fireballs in succession from a Goblin magician, taking down their Illusionist Arkeshi. They used their one precious Elixir of Life to raise him from the dead. At this point everyone has used their bath in the Fountain of Life and nobody has any Raise Dead ability. They have the spell, but nobody has 9th level Healing magic skill.

In the following session the adventurers left their horses and a trained leopard above in the basement level of the Sunken Grove and explored the first dungeon level (below the basement) for about the fourth time. They found it picked pretty clean. They encountered some skeletons and some bats but nothing special. They descended to the second level and found the sinkhole down to Level 3. But they explored south throughout the hidden Toad Shrine, braving a permanent Blade Barrier and several floaty wispy monsters that zapped them, finding some treasure. Then they explored north and completely destroyed a colony of Mushroom Men with Fireballs. As the remnants escaped down an underground river they looted – a few potions. A bit underwhelming. But the XP they gained from the fight was incredible.

I changed certain spells to require spell components (basically a monetary cost to cast the spell). The Identify spell used to figure out what a magic item does now uses 10 GP worth of powdered pearl per item examined. Because this was a change in the rules with the new revision they convinced me to let them swap out some of their sapphires for pearls on a 5:1 ratio just this once. Such a softie.

So we’re now officially on version 1. I saw a couple typos in the text but they’re not too bad. Need to add to and edit the magic item book, but again it’s okay. Working on the referee book now, and after that the monster book which should be pretty easy.

Sandbox Within A Sandbox

May 13, 2011

I realized something when I despaired that my sandbox campaign was too far-flung and didn’t have enough cool adventure sites in it, and those adventure sites weren’t expansive enough, so you end up with scattered sites 2-4 (5-mile) hexes apart wherein each location has 1-6 sessions of adventure possibility.

I fixed the first problem by adding random site encounters and expanding random monster encounters on the fly when I roll that the creature was near its lair. These both end up becoming new sites that I add to the map.

I just realized the fix for the second problem. Before I thought of each adventure site as a little nugget based on one or two cool things that I wanted to place. But you have up to 5 miles to explore. Why not design the adventure site like a little sandbox? This follows the module design for Isle of Dread, Lost City, and Dwellers of the Forbidden City. And now that I type this, I realize that I have already dropped a bunch of these down without thinking, and didn’t remember them because I haven’t gone through any effort to develop them yet.

I made the connection when I thought, maybe I need to refine the sandbox arena to a more densely-detailed smaller locale, like a single mountain valley or something. I have some initial notes for a bunch of these campaigns. Why not just cram the valley sandbox into my big sandbox?

I don’t need to be careful about the adventurers getting sidetracked in an offbeat site that has a lot of depth. It happened accidentally with the Sunken Grove, which was the first dungeon explored on the very first game session, plumbed down to Level 3 but not completely explored (chased off by Mushroom Men). The party returned with a different composition later and scoured Level 1 and 2 again, not discovering the entrances to Level 3. Now they’re back.

Sessions 52 and 53

April 18, 2011

No idea how many sessions we’ve actually had in this campaign. I didn’t keep track. We haven’t had many lost weekends, and no Great Summer Blackout, so I’ll just guess.

I guess with 52 weeks per year, so 52 sessions, that in the first year (Jan ’10 to Jan ’11) we had 45. Then another 3 per month until now, which is Feb, Mar, and halfway through Apr ’11. That brings us to 53, so the last two sessions were 52 and 53. Close enough for horseshoes.

(For some reason I’m now thinking about how the bank will generally let you start with Check No. 1001 or so. I didn’t want to cheat, but I caved and let them start me at 101.)

Session 52: Robbing and Dragon
The player who lost all her goodies to the Deck of Many Things realized she also lost her spellbooks. The PCs had just traded copies of all their spells to the wise woman of a troll village in exchange for some potions and a few of her spells. They returned, asked for copies of her copies, and she said if they killed the dragon who lived in the Fogspire Peaks to the west she would do it. She gave the unfortunate PC 6 spells of her choice to put in her books before she left. The wise woman wanted the dragon dead because he kept her from picking the special flowers from the mountain valley below his home, and she needed the flowers from that patch for her Love Potions.

The PCs scouted the dragon cave, found him not at home, and ran in to loot. They stole a lot of magic items and left the coins, gems, jewelry, art, and nonmagical equipment. There was a lot left! As they fled, force-marching down the mountain, they saw fire and smoke as the angry dragon searched around for the thieves.

One PC returned (!) using Meld Into Stone to creep in safely. She spoke with the dragon, who was sulking on his nest, and he seemed affable and welcoming. He asked his guest to follow him into the next cave for tea, and she did, and tea was had. She spilled a few more beans than she meant to. The dragon mentioned that he had just lost some heirlooms that had “sentimental value” and said if she found any that had washed down the mountain in the recent storms he’d gladly pay full value for them. He claimed the contents of his nest were really only a portion of his vast hoard, which included a library he would share with them.

Session 53: Getting Robbed Back
Here the PCs did an Augury as to the dragon’s intentions, which results were inauspicious. The dwarf of the group was adamant that the dragon was no good, but the two main spellcasters (one of whom had only 6 spells from the troll shaman!) wanted to trade the lesser items from their haul back to the dragon in exchange for spells and money.

The two went back to the cave and met the dragon. He gladly accepted their magic items and thin lies about how they got them, leading them into the deeper parts of the cave to the library. Along the way, he used a jeweled staff from the returned loot to “disable some magical wards” but he was actually trying to use it to charm them. Some of their saves came close, but because they were both elves they avoided all of them. Eventually he came to a place where he had to fly across, and he asked if they could fly. When they replied not, he offered to ferry them across and they agreed. He later lured them into a side passage and breathed, confident that they didn’t have any way back. One died immediately, the other taken to almost no health, and the survivor fled with the charred arm of her fellow.

This survivor navigated the cave river in the back of the dragon’s lair to a side cave with mushrooms and a tribe of vegepygmies, who honored her as “the tallest,” to some consternation by the slightly shorter vegepygmy warriors. They nursed her back to health and she found a way back to the dragon’s nest, but he was brooding there.

The other PCs outside and down the valley, close to the troll village, sent a mental message to the two wizards and found one dead and the other trapped. They then sent a mental message to the dragon, saying his treasure (in particular a valuable magic sword) were in the troll village. They fled north away from the village and dragon cave, back home. The trapped wizard fled when the dragon left his cave and met up with them later. They raised the dead wizard at the Fountain of Life in the Monastery thereof (using her one “get out of jail free card”) and returned to find the troll village a smoking ruin. Not one stone lay upon another stone. They found a troll shepherd later and told him of the devastation, and he said he would find other kin to live with.

//

Both outcomes were fine with me. They just got snagged by a combination of greed and naivete. In the end I think they came out ahead, but they would have been MUCH better off knowing when to fold ’em. This was not a capricious DM decision, it was just a tough monster and they got pretty lucky the first time. I rolled for whether the dragon spotted them in his aerial search and he didn’t. I rolled a simple percentile check to see how poorly the village of trolls fared and got a “95” which to me meant they were destroyed and maybe one or two fled, with the dragon surviving.

There was much more dungeon to explore, and they didn’t even touch half the hoard. The troll village held some surprises they missed out on by selling them out to the dragon. But in the end they walked away with one of the most powerful magic swords in the game and a few other miscellaneous magic items. I think in the future they’ll be a bit more cautious about trusting people and monsters – but so far there hasn’t been such a sharp distinction. Just because something is non-human doesn’t mean it’s out to get you. Just because something is human (or dwarf, or elf) doesn’t mean it’s a friendly resource.

Session Update and Other Associated Updates

April 6, 2011

Gaming Group
The group now meets at my dad’s house, where I played with his group years ago. My group still meets on Sundays. It now includes only one original member (Mark) and four other regulars (Kristy, John, Callie, and Zack). We have two who play now and then (Jeanette and Lexi).

Campaign Synopsis
The adventurers explored around the peninsula with the frontier town Earthstrike, establishing themselves in an ancient keep some 20 miles away. They tangled with the denizens of the peninsula forest of Brackenwood, including giant black squirrels, dryads, and angry forest spirits that beseiged their “Chateau D’ Awesome” with an army of pumpkin-men. Earthstrike was menaced by a fort of goblins across the inlet to the south.

After they were chased out of there they explored more widely, venturing down into dungeons as it pleased them, realizing early on that the game’s primary reward was treasure, and the best treasure was down in dungeons. During this period they explored a haunted asylum monastery, the City of the Ghosts which comes to “life” again every night, the dungeons under a collapsed village. They were spirited away by a ghost ship that took them to a skull-shaped island where the stars were wrong and a great underground harbor seethed with piratic culture. They worked their way out of the trap-filled caves to escape, only to find on their return that the island was in some other dimension and several years had passed.

Earthstrike was a cold ruin: the goblins had won and left with many captives. The adventurers tracked the goblins to the pass leading into their lands, and shied away at the brink. They got new six-legged troll-horses from a troll village in that green mountain valley and went back to exploring elsewhere. They felt themselves unready for the rescue attempt.

In the dungeons under a wizard’s laboratory near the City of the Ghosts they noticed but did not disturb a dragon – the first they have seen. Later they found a village of dwarves who traded with them, and plainsmen nearby, but no other civilization. One player fell afoul of a Deck of Many Things, losing “all property.” She handled it really well.

Game Design
I’m almost done with the player’s guide rewrite. I’m also having second thoughts on one basic design premise, which was replacing classes with a list of 3E style feats that characters could learn as they gained levels. It’s different from a class-based game, but I’m not sure it’s objectively better. I am sure it’s not better on all counts. I need to solicit last-minute feedback from my players.

The magic item book is done. It’s hot. This magic item book is the pimp snizzle. So palpable.

Next up: the monster book, then finalizing my referee notes into a referee guide.

Of course I’ll put it all up on the blog for free (as in free beer).

Whoops!

September 11, 2010

Guess which blog I blew off for the past few months?

I was laid off and had a period of much work trying to get things in order. We continued gaming, but I didn’t have time to write for the blog. I typically write the session summary some days after the game, so it’s fresh enough in my mind. That didn’t happen, so I’m probably going to be unable to give precise descriptions of what happened in the last 15 or so gaming sessions.

Some things are happening though. I’m going back to school, and in a year and a half or so hopefully there is some measure of economic recovery. Regardless my character sheet will look a little more attractive to potential employers …

Things are happening on the D&D game front too. We lost one player who moved to Bremerton. The following weekend (last weekend) we lost a couple who just bought a house and discovered they’re pregnant! A lack of energy and time is at fault, but it sounds like they would play if they could. We still have 3 players and 0-2 more potentially joining this Sunday.

Things are also happening on the D&D writing front. I’ve been working on an actual list of magic items (descriptions, values, and a table for random selection). I’m up to about 850 and will probably end up with 1000. Artifact details will be a separate task, since I don’t need them right now and they won’t appear on the random selection tables. This is a huge deal. I’m serious, man. There is a cursed potion that will make you throw up for several minutes.

I’m sure you are as excited as I am.

Next on my plate: finish revising the monster stat pages (and adding monsters), revamp the random encounter charts to include the new ones and change the encounter chances for monster rarity (it seems like 20% of the wilderness encounters are with those damn Giant Ticks), revise the Players Guide, and continue work fleshing out the wilderness and the individual adventure sites in that wilderness.

Included in the Players Guide rewrite will be more summoning spells for the Time and Space school, general beefing-up of the Illusion school, more social skills, a few details for the Craft skill, general clarifications, a single blasted tpyo right in the first page, removal of the Troll PC race (sorry Poul Anderson), and a possible split into two booklets: the general rules and the Magic rules.

Part of me says that I should be able to say whatever I need to say in 44 booklet-fold pages (11 sheets) and that it’s nice to need just your single booklet, a pencil, two dice, a figure, and some scratch paper. Another part says the players will enjoy the greater variety in quality skill choices and spells, and the players who don’t want to bother with spellcasting can just leave that booklet in their bags. So it goes.

Anyway, things are still in motion, someone just kicked the plug out of the socket for a couple months. I’ll cobble together a synopsis of the events of the middle sessions and start keeping notes on current ones. That way I can post them in order and get that bit up to the present.

Session 13 Explorations to the North

April 30, 2010

Again, we were missing the same two players this week. But they had sufficient strength, with their horses and many hunting dogs, to be comfortable exploring around the inlet to the north of Earthstrike. They already explored the inlet to the south, where the palisade of wolf-riding green men was.

They rounded the shores of the inlet and crossed two rivers. Each river had the pylons of an old stone bridge, which they used as support for sapling-bridges so they wouldn’t have to ford the river. Around this time they left the last scraps of the deciduous maple and oak forest behind and entered a mostly redwood and pine forest. They turned back east at the end of the inlet and hugged the coast.

The coast here was overgrown bluff, and the trail was very close to the edge. At one point they fought off a pair of bears that had a cave on the trail. A steep hillside above, a narrow path, and a drop-off to the waves below made for difficult fighting.

Later they came upon a tree with roots grown over the path to form a cage, with scraps of cloth and leather stretched on the outside. A dog sent up ahead found no danger. Inside it was a small hovel, with a dugout cave into the hillside some ways for storage and a cot. It would have been a cheery little campsite if cleaned up. But they pressed on.

The forested coast gave way to grasslands, and inland they saw a great gravel plain of perfectly round boulders and stones. They continued until the coast turned north at the end of the inlet, and to the north their explorer in bird-form found a desert of ashes. They were hoping for more civilized lands, but I reminded them after they asked that this is the frontier. The only known town is Earthstrike.

On their way back they found a fishing village on the coast of the grasslands. While exploring therein they were attacked by great mantis-like insects burrowing from below. At one point, a larger one spit up two globs of acid, one toward a dog and later toward an adventurer. Both missed, luckily. The larger specimen fled once severely injured, but they declined to venture into the burrows.

The trip back home was uneventful, during which they decided to travel normally instead of searching as is their custom. We actually had 14 days in a row, 3 rolls per day, of no wandering monsters.

When they arrived back at the Chateau D’ Awesome, they saw dozens of Giant Black Squirrels fleeing over the walls from the inside. Their supplies and equipment were strewn about and chewed, but there was little actual loss.

Later, on the way to Earthstrike, their hunter encountered a deer with antlers of shining gold, hooves of burnished bronze, and a clean white coat. He gave chase, and the deer led him along until nightfall. He became quite lost, and eventually found his way to Earthstrike by turning into an owl, finding a coastline, and making some guesses.

They were gone in total almost two months, their longest expedition to date.

This session I decided to go back to using party-initiative. That is, the party rolls and the referee rolls, and the winning side goes first. This encourages organized play – little plans every round. It also helps keep players involved rather than zoning out when it’s someone else’s turn. I read a blog post about this the other day but now I can’t find it. So if anyone remembers where it is, I’ll link it here.

Session 12 Return to the Cemetery, and the Women of the Forest

April 29, 2010

This session we had everyone show up.

They decided to return to the cemetery with their archaeologist (she has Read Languages and is trying to learn this lost language).

Along the way, they stumbled across a grove of trees. The men of the party (not including the one who is perpetually in bear-shape) saw finely-limbed, exotic looking women with tan-brown skin and leaves and flowers in their hair, beckoning to them (separately) from behind the trees ringing the grove. One succumbed, walking into the tree and disappearing into it as everyone saw a woman’s arms come out to embrace him.

They tried to stab at the trees, one causing enough harm to pierce the bark and wood, and blood flowed out onto the ground. They didn’t know if it was the blood of their amorous Halfling in the tree, or of the tree itself, or of the tree-woman. Further assaults caused the tree-woman to eject the stunned and half-clothed Halfling.

Instead of fleeing like the others, another man succumbed to the charms of the tree-woman he saw, and almost stepped into another tree. At this point, another player decided to hack at the tree, evidently trying to destroy it. But the trees were quite old, 10′ across, and his attacks only enraged the tree-women. They concentrated their efforts on him, and he failed against one of them. The others began peppering the grove with Entangle spells to stop his friends from attacking the trees.

They saved him at the last moment and fled all at once, having seen enough of this particular grove.

The return to the cemetery was relatively uneventful. The archaeologist deciphered some writing that suggested the cemetery was more recent than other ruins, and was of lower construction quality. The carvings in the nice tomb with the treasure showed that the one interred (and destroyed last weekend) was an adventurer of great fame. It showed him underground, using his sword to battle vast hordes of gangly-limbed green men. Behind the horde a cruel tower and atop the tower a weird demonic creature exhorting them all onward.

She’s quite close to having enough exposures to the language that she will be able to read it without rolling her Read Languages check. That means she can go back to the few things she failed on and try to figure out what they are, including one book they found several sessions ago. I believe it was in the basement of the Chateau D’ Awesome.

I decided that the grasses of the grove, long though they were, weren’t strong enough to trap someone until the end of the Entangle spell. I gave anyone in grass a new save every round if they spent the round fighting free, at which point they could escape the area of effect. But anyone in the woods, beyond the ring of trees, were subject to the standard Entangle effect (if they failed the save, they were stuck until the spell ran out).

I don’t like using Charm and Geas effects, because it takes away a lot of player agency. But many creatures use those effects, and certainly the PCs have such magic available. So instead of just taking control of the PC, I give them directions. In this case, I explained that there was a magical compulsion to get to the tree and to be blissfully happy with the tree-woman in question, regardless of other responsibilities and friends’ wishes. Love-blindness, you could say. No need to run, but full normal movement toward the tree every round.

This worked fine until one player decided he didn’t want to play along. He tried everything he could to not go toward the tree. He tried to walk through an Entangle spell instead of just stepping a bit to the right to avoid it. He tried grabbing for his friend to join him with the tree-woman, even though he knew his friend was Entangled and could not possibly come with. He did everything short of walking in the opposite direction claiming that eventually he’d go ’round the globe and arrive at the tree by a less direct route.

But then again, if I’m giving the player just one choice, why am I bothering to give him any choice in the matter at all? I really don’t want to just take over completely. In a direct fight it’s much clearer, if a PC is charmed and I say to him that he now views the man in the funny black robes as a trusted friend and his old friends are now his mortal enemies. In these cases, too, there are many potential inefficiencies a player can employ to make sure he doesn’t do too much damage to his friends. And maybe that’s okay – if a Charm merely neutralizes the victim it’s just as powerful as a Paralyze or Sleep effect.