Friday, October 31, 2014

Paint Table Friday

I started in on Song of Blades and Heroes (part of my 10 games, 10 times challenge) and it's done two things: got me psyched about paper figures again but also, maybe I should try to paint some of the Reaper Bones figures I've got taking up space.

Shields need some touching up and the swords aren't finished yet.
And here's a blurry picture of a portion of my paper goblin warband (led by the red chaos knight):


Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Ever Expanding Dungeon: Session 35 and My 500th Post!

This post is the 500th here on Tabletop Diversions, and so it made sense to feature a session summary for the Ever Expanding Dungeon.

'tween story (using Mythic Variations)


Setup: 
The party returns the Dagger for 4 weeks of rest and relaxation, armor repair, and healing, as well as some sparring and tactics practice. The Sheriff is a little concerned about the activity, particularly as a magic-using type seems to be involved, but otherwise allows it to continue. After two weeks of rest, they are ready to return the dungeon in the hills.

Is that what happens? 50/50, Chaos 5, 63. No

For 'tween stories, if you get an ordinary no, then just choose the next most logical thing:

After 2 weeks of rest, the party opts to head into the dungeon again, seeking fame and fortune. 

It isn't fancy or terribly interesting but it gets the job done.

Return to the dungeon

Utilizing the survey that some of the players filled out, plus my own preference as Ygg, it was a sure thing the party would return to the scene of the last battle, but in terms of where to go from there, there was a difference of opinion.

Having agreed to return to the scene of their most recent encounter, Zilliniy and Ygg wanted to venture East towards the unknown, while Leegand and Eomond wanted to head north to see if it connected to area 17 on the map. Runolf, Maglom and Lykidas saw little difference in the choices.

Utilizing my Intra-party Decision Making system:

Does the party go East?

Ygg -11 + 1
Zilliniy - 7 +1
Eomond - 12 +1
Leegand - 8 +1

Ygg and Zilliniy = 20 yes
Eomond and Leegand = 22 no

The difference is 2 in favor of no.

Treat as a 50/50 roll in Mythic, Chaos 5: 53 + 2 = 55, No

After brief debate, the party decided that, once in that room, they would check out the north door.

They moved quickly through the dungeon to the Gnoll Shrine room (they don't know it's called that) 

Anything here? I chose to use the b/x stocking die roll of 1d6. 5, Empty, Treasure? 4, no treasure

Wandering monster ? 1, nope


Checking the secret door from the hallway into the room of their final stand against the orcs, Eomond and Leegand listened for anything on the other side.

I based this on the survey responses.

Does Eomond hear anything? I can't find in S&W:Whitebox a roll for hearing noises, so I posed it to Mythic - 80, no

For Leegand, I am using the thief class from Whitebox Heroes (since S&W: Whitebox has no thief class). I roll a 4 (on a d20), which means he does hear something.


Although Eomond could hear nothing, Leegand, possessing that ability to hear even the faintest hint of potential trouble or income common to all those who engage in questionable activity outside the limits of the law, overheard the murmuring of voices in a heated exchange.

I turned to Mythic, What does he hear? Negligence of the Public. Which i figured would be some kind of argument about something - I don't know why.

Rather than enter through the secret door, which might reveal its existence to creatures who might not know of it, Ygg suggested they check the door to the room where they and the Dwarves started their battle against the orcs last time.

Ziliniy and Runolf coverd the steps, while Eomond and Leegand again listened.

I used the same method as before:
Eomond - 02, he hears something
Leegand - 14, nothing


Eomond hears "Punish good" according to Mythic.

The sound of a whip cracking and muffled screams was all to clear to Eomond.
Thinking it could be someone in need of help, or someone who might be happy to be helped and return the favor, the party prepared to enter.

Leegand checked door for traps, found one, and was able to remove it.

I decided I would treat traps this way: If the PC detects a trap, they can then try to disarm it if it turns out one exists, but if they don't, and one exists, then they automatically trip the trap.

Using the Whitebox Heroes thief class again, I roll a d20 and get a 3, which is a yes

I check with Mythic, is the door trapped? 42, yes
Can he disarm it? I roll a d20 and get a 3, he succeeds in disarming it

Next, I checked to see if the door is locked.

Again, I as Mythic, Is the door locked? 46, yes
Can he pick the lock?  I roll a d20 and get 9. I turn to the table in Whitebox Heroes, and find he fails to pick it.


The door, however, was locked, and his attempt to pick it, failed.

Wandering monster check? 5, nope

The party arranged into Door Smashing Order.

         Door
Maglom     Runolf
Zilliniy       Ygg
Leegand    Lykidas
        Eomond
The door flew open and ....

Scene setup: 
The door flew open to reveal some orcs beating a dwarf who is shackled to several others of his kind, who are deceased.
Does it hold? Chaos 5, 8, yes
How many orcs? I turned to the d30 DM Companion and found 5 orcs present. Just five? AHAHHA. Piece of cake


Using the S&W:WB method of testing surprise with 1d6:
Are they surprised? 4, no
Is the party 3, no
Initiative: Party: 5, Orcs 1

Maglom moved into the room and yelled for them to unhand the dwarf.

Zilliniy's bow aimed steadily at one of the orcs, while Runolf glared threatingly, the flicker of flame from the party's torch dancing off the honed blade of his trusty axe.

Mythic: Do the orcs stop? This seems unlikely, given they hate dwarves and one just told them to stop.  42, No

Somewhere, I read that in S&W, each PC can take only 1 action per round of combat, which seems absurd, but on the other hand, I rather like as it feels very wargame-y and reminds me of GASLIGHT.

  • Zilliniy let her arrow fly: 17+1 = 18, hits for 4 points of damage and drops an orc where he stood
  • Runolf charged the nearest orc with Ygg following close behind
  • Leegand attempted to sneak into the room to flank and attack the one with the whip.
  • Lykidas held his ground, prepared to cast Sleep at the first sign of its necessity.
  • Eomond covered the party's rear - the last time they failed to do so, they were surprised by orcs coming up behind them.
With one dead immediatey, I had the orcs check morale. There's no mechanism for this in S&W: WB, the intent is that the GM will decide. I decided to keep the wargaming theme going and rolled a d6, if i rolled more than their number, they would fail - rolled d6, 3, they passedDoes anyone see Leegand? First I rolled to see if Leegand was successful in sneaking, he was not. Then I asked Mythic if anyone noticed 10, yes.
  • The orc nearest Runolf attacked him, but failed to cause any damage (it rolled 14)
  • The whip orc charged towards Leegand
  • The other two charged Maglom (determined by die roll: 1-2 Maglom, 3-4 Zilliniy and 5-6 Ygg) yelling "Kill the dwarf!"
Fighting continued for 3 more rounds, with orcs dropping and some party members minorly injured (save for Zilliniy who took 6 damage)

With 2 orcs left... 

Does the part give them a chance to surrender? Based on responses to the survey, I deem this Unlikely but then roll 33, yes


Maglom ordered the orcs to drop their weapons
Do the orcs comply? 81, nope


Runolf gets 3 attacks each round and hacks up one of the remaining orcs. The other find's this line of argument persuasive.

The orc dropped his sword and surrendered.

Does anyone from the adjacent room enter? 50/50 68, no
Anyone from the hallway?(Wandering monster check 2, nope)

Maglom interrogated the orc for the party.

I used Mythic to learn something about the orc's personality: Open for Food

The orc told Maglom that he and his people are starving, that the dwarves have cut them off from their food supplies and that they are desperate.

Ygg tried to persuade Eomond to give up some of his rations to get the orc to talk more.

Does Eomond agree? Very Unlikely 69, nope.

Will Maglom? Very unlikely- these dudes have been slaying dwarves, even if not her own 07 but Ygg pulled a guilt trip, mentioning tales of Gutzom's kindness.(truth or not it worked)

Maglom offered the orc some food and he became downright chatty.

Can he show them where the orc lair is on the map? 50/50, no.
Is it on this level? 81, no
Further down? likely. 40, yes

He notes that it isn't on the map, but further down into the dungeon.

How many of his people are there?

She asks how many of his kind there are,and he answers [Mythic replied Abuse of Weapons] that with the in fighting, and the battles with the dwarves, and the lack of food, their numbers dwindle daily.

Ygg felt a bit sympathetic - afterall, the Hedonistic Lumber Jack wants everyone to party.

Ygg had Maglom ask the orc if his people could pay for food to be delivered to them? 

Mythic: 50/50 33, yes

He nodded yes, although he seemed a bit confused by the question.


Ygg proposed to the party that they return to town, gather food and such, and then sell it to the orcs for a profit.


I turned to Mythic, and asked Does anyone disagree? 
Based on the survey replies to how much gold should be spent on negotiating with NPCs, I decided that the odds are high someone will disagree. Likely, 12, yes. 

Who? After looking at it, I saw that Ygg might be alone in this plan.


  • Zilliniy has a deep seated racial hatred for orcs. 
  • RUnolf wants adventure, which playing delivery boy isn't
  • Maglom still isnt happy these dudes were beating the dwarf
Speaking of, Leegand checked the dwarf. is he alive? 50/50  91, no

Does anyone agree with Ygg? 50/50, no

Lykidas could go either way, as could Leegand, Eomond wants adventure but a supply of easy gold isn’t terrible either.


Party conflict:
Ygg - 11 + 4 = 15

Zilliniy - 7+5 = 12
Runolf 11+1 = 12
Maglom 15 + 2 = 17
That's 39 opposed to Ygg's 15.

It wouldn't have mattered, as I rolled a 93 anyway, for an exceptional no.

Not only did they disagree with Ygg, much of the party was for killing the orc - seeing him as a liability and not to be trusted, plus there's that whole "I hate orcs" from Zilliniy and Maglom pointing out the pile of dead dwarves shackled together.

Ygg conceded that the party was right and noted that it is an opportunity lost but that this is just how things are.

In typical fashion, the party looted the bodies. [Anything? 1d6, 5, no] but found nothing.

They readied themselves to try and enter the adjacent the room, despite the heated exchange Leegand had heard before, and which had now gone silent.


Friday, October 24, 2014

The Ever Expanding Dungeon XP Awards

Well I finally got around to calculating the XP for the last two sessions of my solo dungeon crawl, The Ever Expanding Dungeon.

Here are the XP totals and what 's needed for the next level (those who started at 2nd level, which is all but Ygg, started with enough XP to be at 2nd):

Ygg : 1045/1500
Lykidas : 3701/5000
Zilliny : 6691/10,000 (Variant Elf, so I could map her to b/x)
Eomond : 3509/4000
Leegand : 2501/240 (using White Box Heroes for the Thief class)
Runolf : 4139/4000
Maglom : 2921/4000

Two characters leveled up and there was also some shopping and pretty much anyone who can wear plate armor is. 


Runolf and Leegand are now both 3rd level.

Runolf now has 15 HP, Leegand is up to 10.

For those curious, in the last 2 sessions"

Runolf dealt 37 points of damage, with Zilliniy close behind at 30 (the next nearest is Eomond with 12)
Maglom took the most damage - 14 points - followed by Zilliniy and Eomond with 13 each.


I've already played the next session, and since the next post will be my 500th, it seemed appropriate that it be dedicated to the Ever Expanding Dungeon.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Happy Blogoversary and 100,000 Views!

On Saturday, Tabletop Diversions turned 3 at the same time it crossed 100,000 views.

I'm also approaching the 500 article mark.

With so many milestones so close together, I should probably consider doing some kind of celebration here on the blog.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with this. 




Yep, my son is going as a backhoe loader for Halloween.

Please excuse the mess. i finished it at 5AM Saturday morning and a few hours later there was a mad dash to attach the straps and get everyone ready to go to the Atlanta Zoo for their "Boo at the Zoo" event.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

To Screen or Not to Screen?

One of the things that drew me to punk rock was the idea that the stage isn’t a sanctified space for the performers to deliver their message from behind an imaginary barrier, and upon which the audience could only gaze in adoration. Rather, the stage is just another spot in the room, and there is no barrier, real or otherwise, band and audience blend together until it becomes impossible to determine who or what the performance is and who the audience is. (As a side note, it doesn’t usually work that way. People are conditioned to the audience-performer divide and often play their conditioned roles.)

Abandoning the DM/GM screen is a bit like that - perhaps without the pretension that I packed into that last paragraph - and tears down a wall.

I’m currently reading Alexis Smolensk’s How to Run and he notes that he does not use a DM screen. His reasons for dropping the screen seem to align with my own when it comes to rolling dice in the open so, I thought I would give it a try sometime.

As fortune would have it, last week the FLGS was quite crowded with Warhammer40K players (a new thing at the store and what looks to be a another big draw for them, although not as big as Magic:The Gathering) and rather than the usual two tables, we were consigned to a single small table - which was fine as we had about half of our usual number. Even with just four of us, the table was pretty crowded with character sheets, dice, the abstract combat sheet and miniatures, not to mention my map book, dungeon key, etc.

It seemed like a suitable opportunity to try and run screenless, if only to save some table space.

Despite the authority I am assumed to have as the “DM”, the fact is that I am playing the game, too. My role is different than the roles of other players who are responsible for one or two characters (I let player’s run their hirelings and charmed opponents, unless I think the NPC would refuse or resist the action the player is having them take), but I am still playing the game. Although it's subtle, without the screen, I think there was a definite mental shift on my part, if no on the part the other players.

Was I worried that the others would see my maps? A little, but not because I thought they would cheat (I’m not really sure how you can cheat at playing an RPG).

Rather, when I am running a PC, for me, much of the fun is the discovery of the place; with the map in view (not in the middle of the table mind you), that might be jeopardized. More importantly, to me as a DM, now that I’m trying to give them successes when they roll as such, it makes it harder to modify the map when they find a secret door I didn't know was there.

But that raises the question, what am I afraid of if they see me add it to the map? That I will undermine my role as DM because I am supposed to be all knowing about the game world? (I don’t think that’s written anywhere) That they will know I improvise and that parts of the game are “made up” randomly determined? I don’t worry about this when there is dialog or reactions in combat or when I roll to see how an NPC reacts to a character with a particularly low charisma score, why then in this situation does it matter? Is the map sacrosanct? Is there a rule or unwritten social contract that says Thou Shalt Not Modify the Map in Play! (i don’t mean Quantum Ogring something. For that I think there is indeed a social contract that thou shalt not undermine agency even if you think the other players will never know).

Some people will point out that the screen is helpful not for hiding anything but because it has frequently used information for the DM. I would agree, except, I play war games and typically, war game rules do that on Quick Reference Sheets that are simply held in hand. Why is a screen, usually in a static location on the table, more helpful than sheets you can hold in hand and reference while moving about? (Ever since I played in a DCC game in DragonCon 2013 with one of the most animated GMs I have ever witnessed, I have, for the most part, given up sitting when running a social game.)

In my experience it’s not better, and it might actually be worse.

When I’m standing, reading items at the bottom of a screen is difficult to say the least. The same info held in hand is easily read. That said, I’ve started putting much of the relevant info for creatures, traps, etc. into my key, and memorized most everything else (b/x lends itself to this). Players are responsible for knowing their Saving Throw numbers, To Hit numbers, etc.


I’m running the next session of the Trelleborg dungeon on Friday night and expect to have more players in attendance. I will try it without the screen again and see how it goes.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Solo RPing as Improvisation Warm Up

One thing I noticed at DragonCon in my 2nd session of The Dungeon of Akban was that I was decidedly  freer with my improv than either the session of the Purple Worm Graveyard or the first session of the Dungeon of Akban. After giving some thought to it, I believe that it wasn't because it was the 2nd time I ran Akban that weekend, or the 3rd time over all, but rather, it's that I played Ganakagok for 4 hours beforehand.

I'm sure those who do improv acting warm up in some way or another - but I only have an episode of Family Guy as evidence of that, and that may not be the most authoritative source. Never the less, having played a character for several hours preceding my own game, I stepped into the role of GM with my improvisational muscles thoroughly loosened up. 

By way of example:

When they found the dented helmet, which  I figured looked like something a Roman Centurion would wear, I described the sensation of coldness that they felt as the approached it, simply for effect but this was enough to land it stuffed in the backpack of a character (of a 1st time tabletop role-player at that).

In the final combat, she lobbed it toward the White Witch and her wererat collaborator, hoping to somehow release whatever magic she imagined it contained. 

Seizing the opportunity, I described an array of mystical lights, shooting forth from the helmet, and a ghostly glowing form of said Centurion taking shape beneath it. He attacked the Witch on behalf of the character who had released him, and when the Witch and the wererat were finally dead, he saluted her (the character who threw it, not the witch) in thanks for freeing him from his earthly bonds.

OK, that's not mind blowing or anything, but it's not part of the adventure as written, it was a spot light moment for the player, it vindicated her taking the helmet and her hopes that it was magical, it "awesomed up" the experience of the game (important for a 1st timer), and it was an "F*** yeah!" moment for the table (literally, enthusiastic explanations were made).

I'm not sure I would have come up with that idea in that moment if I hadn't been playing earlier in the day.

So, before the last Trelleborg session, I decided to conduct a rather poorly controlled experiment:

I broke out Cthulhu Dark, a free and very rules lite game of Lovecraftian horror, some Rory's Story Cubes (the three 9-dice sets) and a d6 and went to work improvising an adventure. I set up each scene by the roll of 3 Story Cubes, and handled GMing with the d6 using 1- "Yes and", 2-3 "Yes, but", 4-5 "No, but", and 6 - "No, and", and game mechanics as needed (particularly the investigation roll). 

I played on and off throughout the day.

I didn't play for four hours or even remotely close, but when I got to the store to run Trelleborg, I felt ready to go, to react to the players with less hesitation and more awesome. I certainly felt like I relied less on my standard reactions to their activity. Clearly this is all anecdotal,as well as poorly documented, and the players would have to tell you if I did in fact deliver anything worth noting.

While I can't prove it, I also believe it was the warm up that allowed the idea to give them successes when they roll a success to come to the fore, in the moment, rather than on reflection during non-game time. 

Whether or not solo role-playing is the most efficient way to warm up for improvising in a social game is another matter and I'm happy to consult other sources if anyone cares to enlighten me. In the meantime, this will be my new go-to prep the day off a game.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Adventure Maximus : Solo Example

For my solo attempt at Adventure Maximus, what seems like forever ago, I generated my character according to the rules, and ended up with a Minotaur Officer. 

To me, the minotaur is one of the iconic races of Adventure Maximus. Possibly because he's on the box and really catches my eye. And I've always liked the Minotaur of Greek myth.

The Officer class gets plate armor and that was my main motivation for choosing that above the other two I drew (I can't recall what they were).


My equipment card came up: My Axe (here meaning the slang for guitar, although shaped like the hacking weapon. picture something Gene Simmons would use on stage with KISS). Unfortunately, the axe's bonus could only be activated as long as the player played air guitar at the table. This is kind of useless in a solo session, or rather, I didn't feel like figuring out how to handle it so I decided I'd ignore that feature.


For my ability card, I drew Braids and Beards which, depending on how much I spent could increase my armor class or heal wounds.
I randomly generated a few names on line and chose "Gundar."

The mission: Snow White needs my help because the Master Assassin escaped with the fabulous Cake is a Pie to the Road in the Crystal Caverns.


Master Assassin is a boss creature, Cake is a Pie is an equipment card and the McGuffin and the Crystal Caverns is a map card. The other details are from the MadLib adventure generator.



Scene 1, Chaos 5

[Rather than drawing the creature, equipment and map cards for the first encounter, i only drew the map card to start, so I could set the scene: The SOurce of the Snake Bite River]

Gundar, having received the plea from Snow White to recover the fabulous Cake is a Pie, set out to track the delectable healing treat. As a former officer in White's Fighting Fantasy Brigade, he felt duty required his acceptance of the mission.

[I couldn't decide if he was going to start from the Source of the Snake Bite River or if he was journeying there. Enter Mythic GME: Is he starting from the Source of the Snake Bite River? 50/50. 60, no]

Gundar left his home in the pre-dawn hours towards the Source of the Snake Bite River, a river which had long ago carved much of the land, including the Crystal Caverns. By following the river, he hoped to find the long rumored secret entrance to the road within.

[I needed some sort of focus for the scene so I rolled on the Mythic Action and Verb tables: Oppress Emotions. This made me think of monks, so:]

A monastery at the mouth of the river would be his first stopping point. 

It would do no good to rush head strong into battle - a lesson Gundar had learned long ago. The propensity of the minotaurs for rage is well known, less so is their ability to turn that power into a calm abiding from which they can, like the greatest zen master, act spontaneously without fear or hesitation.

As Gundar approached the monastery, he caught site of two lizard men scuttling of the water, They looked sneaky and suspicious as they eyed the lone traveler approaching.

“My beef is not with you. Move aside, and let me pass," said Gundar, his voice booming.

[Do the lizard men heed his warning? 50/50. 47.]

Despite outnumbering their quarry, the thought of fighting so heavily equipped an opponent had them rethinking their plan and without further ado, slipped back into the cool rushing waters of the river.

Once inside the monastery, Gundar sat with monks there and chanted the sacred syllable "Moo!" for some time.

Scene 2  Chaos 5
[I drew the map card for the 2nd encounter, Location: The Court of Darkness]

Gundar, having achieved inner calm, bade the monks farewell and began his way down river. There, looming in the distance he saw the spires of the Court of Darkness. Going around the city would add too much to his journey and so he decided to enter into the foul place.

[I turned to Mythic to get a sense of what was happening in the city: Praise Danger]

Word must have gotten out about his journey, and denizens of the dark city gasped and mouthed silent cheers for our hero. Silent because they were under the watchful eyes of the Court’s guard. Any cheering of any kind would be subject to harsh penalty.

[Gundar has the Notice ability, so I decide to put it to use. Do i notice anyone skulking about the shadows wishing me ill? 6 successes!]

Gundar glanced up at the spires from time to time. Something about the Gargoyles wasn't right. In fact, it appeared that two of them had changed position since he last looked.

He readied his crossbow carefully and then turned to fire.

[Initiative (roll and count successes): Gundar 3, Gargoyles 2]

Gundar shot his crossbow  [It takes 1 action point to use the crossbow, and he scored 5 successes. Damage is done if the attack has more successes than the target has armor. They have Armor 6 and thus no damage was done] and the bolt sailed past them.

[Since he can take one action per Action Point, he shot again, 5 successes. And again, nothing, and the third time wasn't a charm either.]

The gargoyles attacked Gundar [they have 2 AP each] but cannot penetrate the plate mail.

[After all sides have acted, the initiative moves to the next player, in this case the GM or the gargoyles and then all sides act again. This continues until combat is resolved.

8 Rounds of combat and neither side did anything of note.

Gundar spent an AP to bring on Razorback, an ability on his Ability Card, which improved his armor by 1.]

Tired of wasting time, Gundar took off running through the streets, trying to shake the gargoyles.

[It costs 2 AP to move out of close range combat, so he held 1

For the gargoyles' part of this initiative I asked Mythic, do they pursue? I set it at 50/50 since I have no idea why they chose to attack. 29, yes]

With the advantage of flight, the were able to easily track their prey and attack. 

[It cost them to 1 AP fly into range, leaving 1 AP to attack and they did 2 damage.

On his next turn, Gundar, with 4 AP now, his max allowed, since he saved one when he ran, spent 3 on invoking Red Dwarf to regain 3 health, and then attacked, ineffectively.

Five more rounds and i was tired of the combat so again, I had Gundar try to find a way out.

I asked Mythic, can he find a place to duck into? very likely? 74, yes]

Finally, Gundar ducked into a small dive of a diner, panting. The owner came out, and seeing the armored minotaur, and assuming the worst of anyone so attired, said “Bathrooms are for customers only. Buy something or get out.” 

Gundar handed him a copper for some water and peeked around looking for another way out.

[Again, I used his Notice skill: 4 successes. ]

Gundar spied a door at the back of the kitchen behind the counter. Since the shop keeper was a bit of a grouch, he went to check out the bathroom first, in case there was a window he could fit his large minotaur frame through.

[Mythic: is there a window ? 35, yes.
is it big enought to crawl out? unlikley82, nope ]

Back to the front, Gundar attempted to convince the owner to let him use the back door. He rested his hand on the hilt of his sword, going for the intimidation effect.

[I rolled 4 success for Gundar to 2 for the shop keeper]

Begrudgingly, the shop keeper let him through.

Out in the alley, Gundar glanced up at the skies. 

[Are the gargoyles there? 60, no.]

He made his way out of the Court of Darkness and continued following the river towards the Crystal Caverns.