Jeffro asked, so when asked one gives it the college try. After hiatus, Trollopulous rises again.
It was Jeffro’s fault the last time too. Hard to think it was five years ago and more. Back then Jeffro and I were playing wargames at our local club. We’d meet after work, get tacos, and ride the bus to the club and chat about our gaming dreams – one of which was to run AD&D 1st edition as closely to the rules as possible. But then Jeffro moved out of town and we never put out chats into action. Nonetheless, I did start an 1st Edition Oriental Adventures game soon after. I had three players who notoriously cheated on their rolls. They quit after five sessions. The reason being given is they didn’t like AD&D and wanted to play Werewolf or some other similar game that I wasn’t interested in. What didn’t the like? Well, I’m pretty sure they didn’t like the TPK we had in the first session. This was my own fault. I’d repurposed the Lamentations of the Flame Princess module Tower of the Stargazer into the OA game. It’s one of the safest LOTFP modules and I didn’t force them to drink the poisoned wine. Still. Then the other thing they didn’t like was saving throws. Saving throws? Yep. Too scary. They hated the idea that their character could die at the whim of a dice drop. And, 1st ed AD&D low level saving throws are rather difficult. But, I had a good time in the other sessions and their barbarians did level up 2nd in a memorable fashion by using the scrolls they’d found as smoking papers. Still, the game ended. They didn’t want to play AD&D and I didn’t want to run the games they preferred. That was that.
And the world changed. Now, subject dispersal and a tyrannical dystopia Jeffro set out on the quest again. Riding a mutant moose called the Internet, we played online in the most stupid way possible, plain video call. No Roll20. No online dice rollers. Just mics, jerky video, and the honor system for rolls. And it worked. Jeffro’s written all about it. Go read his columns. If you are here you likely already have. It was some of the best AD&D I’ve played ever. Certainly, better than the time that guy came at me with a carpet knife but that’s another story. Then Jeffro kicked it up a notch. He introduced Patrons, mediated by Twitter DM with game news advertised through the Trollopulous News Service twitter feed. But then it stopped and now what?
Trollopulous rises again. Under new management. Jeffro asked me to take up the reins. And, it’s big boots to fill. I’ve never used Patrons, I’ve never used 1 ot1 time, and I’ve never not used modules. But, Jeffro asked so we ride again.
This time it’s going to be both sessions, 1 to 1 time, and patrons. And like our own world there has been a Great Reset. It’s not all the same players and not all the same patrons. Hopefully, unlike our own it will also be a bigger world. And it is already. In preparation used the DMG Appendix B, to generate the lands west of Trollopulous. The method shown is random but, did pretty well in generating a playable setting. It does have its quirks. I ended up with five cities, all within a hundred miles or so of each other and few on water. But, that’s the beauty, like the Traveller planet generation system you roll and then you rationalize what you got. And the table below summarizes what I got pretty well – likely years’ worth of gaming is what I got. Assuming of course, that players decide to travel that way. Play’s can be perverse that way.
The Lands of the Five Cities
So, I put out the call and players and Patrons are rolling in. It’s catch as catch can. Whoever shows is whoever plays. Similarly I’ve only a small number of Patrons and could use a few more but that’s okay. I’ll play the other patrons until others show interest. It’s the DMs job.
One problem I have is I don’t quite know where everything left off. As a player I only got the parts of the action relevant to my character. No matter. We begin at The Octogon – the Adventurers Aid Society which lies in the western reaches of Trollopulous (360 miles away from The City).
The Lands of Trollopulous
The party starts as five and becomes six as the night goes on. The first sessions characters are:
Druggo Hairycock – 2nd level Thief
Franz – 1st level Fighter (a former henchman)
Tancred – 1st level Paladin
Pius the First — 1st level Cleric
Slomo Goldberg – 1st level Cleric
Fagor the Half-Orc Hero – 4th level Fighter
Our party meets and trades rumors.
At the Octogon resting from their travels is a large diplomatic mission of the Five Cities heading to Trollopulous. Representatives of the Five Cities are there with their retinues – about 250 living (presumably) souls or thereabouts.
An earthquake has struck leaving the AAS in a shambles and most importantly the AASs rental dungeon collapsed.
A plague has struck Trollopulous, apparently starting within the High Panderers Society but now spreading among the general populace. The city has locked down and quarantined itself.
A dragon has been seen flying west over the barrier mountains.
A fleet of strange ships has been spotted entering South Bay.
The party mulls this over and decides to first go check out the Diplomatic mission. From the get go it’s obvious there are tensions between the various five factions which include:
Sahar, a bellicose paladin of the City of St. Therese. He tells them St. Therese is the largest and most important of the Five Cities. Not yet strong enough to dominate them all but, soon the evil ones will be bested he promises. Sahars retinue is fifty horse of cavalry
Emlyn, a cleric form the City of Wisdom Glen. She’s very much an earthmother given to flower wreaths and gentle touches. Her retinue is all handmaiden clerics. They are allied with St. Therese. The
Azothinaktus, a saturnine visaged counter to Sahar from the City of Hammerhand.
Ruks, a warrior of the City of the Three Regiments. He’s angular fierce in golden armor and a high crested helm. The City of the Three are mercenaries who sell their services to the highest bidders from the other cities. He has fifty golden armored foot who stand at attention, march in time, and glare at all and sundry with their square eyes.
Hasthoth, of the City of Yauhiklendusz. Hastoth remains unseen. He travels in a giant rune-carved steel palanquin whose poles are carried between mammoths. The retinue is of slender courtiers in robes of unknown color who faces are blank as waxen masks.
From their inquires the group finds that the Five Cities are clearly allies only of convenience (or possibly inconvenience). Sahar and Azothinaktus argue and look daggers at each other. Emlyn stands between them making peaceful entreaties while the robed servitors of Hastoth shuffle this way and that on mysterious errands. Ruks and his golden warriors look on impassively at all.
Having gathered what they could about the envoys, the group then decides to check out the collapsed cave. Druggo discovers that he can wriggle through the rocks to find the passageway beyond is not completely blocked. Large glowing beetles crawl randomly about he dark hall. He comes out and soon the party has cleared enough rocks to let the others enter. They proceed and kill a couple of the glowing beetles which sends the others scurrying away down the hall. Proceeding cautiously ahead they discover a vast sinkhole, perhaps the result of the earthquake. Glowing beetles crawl the walls of the sinkhole. Forty feet down at the bottom of the hole sits a glowing rectangle. Druggo convinces the others to lower him down on a rope. He approaches the glowing rectangle and notes that the border is ringed with symbols similar to that of Hastoths palanquin. Boldly Druggo lowers himself into the opening only to discover himself pulled to one side to find himself laying in a giant square or park surrounded by huge cyclopean towers. The land is litters with rocks and crystals. Druggo isn’t there long when he spots several large cone-shaped beings enter the far side of the square. At the apex of each cone are several tentacles – some tipped with eyes, strange cones, and claws. They stop and Druggo sees the eyestalks and cones on all of theme rotate in his direction. Ripples wave up the bodies of the cones and they slowly start to move in his direction. Not liking the looks of things Druggo jams a handful of the rocks in his pocket and leaps back through the shining rectangle.
Back into the sinkhole Druggo is pulled out just in time to see a large beetle hauling itself out of the gate. It’s significantly bigger than the glowing beetles. They flee out of the delve and call it a day.
The rocks Druggo grabbed turn out to be valuable jewels which they sell at the AAS. They spend a night and recruit a band of the other adventurers to join them back at the sinkhole. Unfortunately, Tancred is not feeling well this morning. He has some marks on his throat, has lost a couple HP, and a point of both strength and constitution. They consult with Emlyn who heals him but is not able to restore his strength.
Nonetheless they head back to the sinkhole. There are a lot more of the glowing beetles and the party and their hirelings kill a good two dozen and drive them back. But, at the sinkhole the large beetles are coming. First one and soon another joins it. In sequence the two start hammering their abdomens into the side of the sinkhole. First there is a vibration and soon the whole place is shaking. The party makes saving throws to keep their feet and all do. That’s enough for the session and they head back to the Octogon.
So, they we are. It’s mostly been getting oriented and a minor delved. Each player ends up with 391 XP (223 from combat & 168 from treasure). 168 gp each.
So, we now have downtime. Druggo spends the week spying on Hastoth’s palanquin. Over several days staking out the box Druggo observes this:
the robed servitors come and go nearly always from one shadow to another. Sometimes it seems like they just disappear. Also, their faces don’t seem right — unnaturally still, waxy even.
A few days in they set up a kind of lean-to tent around the box and several goats are led into it. There is a terrified maa-ing then silence and the snapping of bones.
The robed servitors seem to be delaying the diplomatic mission leaving for Trollopulous. Members of the other delegations arguing with the robed servitors.
Things aren’t going well for Tancred. Each day he wakes up with one less strength and constitution. He asks Emlyn to cast a Remove Curve which has no effect. Talkin with the other delegations he does learn that the people of Wisdom Glen are prone to wasting sickness. Tancred entreaties Emlyn again who tries a Heal spell to no effect. The next day, weaker than ever, Tancred watches as Azothinaktus and Sahar argue then challenge each other to a duel. They fight and Azothinaktus is killed but not before Sahar is also wounded with a poisoned dagger. The Hammerhanders load up Azothinaktus’s body and ride off in a huff. The handmaidens of Wisdom Glen tend to Sahar.
The following day one of the young handmaidens comes and tries Dispel Evil on Tacred. Which works! His strength and constitution then start returning at the same rate they were lost. Tancred does see Emlyn looking at the young handmaiden with an uncharacteristic cold expression.
Also one night the skies lit up with an aurora borealis and a giant golden unicorn like beast was seen flying west through the sky. The following day a band of a hundred or so riders are seen west of the Octogon riding south.
There are other things going on in the background. But, that’s what’s publicly available.
The whereabouts of the late Elric’s Demonsword are unknown. Last seen entering the cavemen jungles.
A large band of cultists was massacred several months ago at their archeological dig. A mysterious shield was recovered from their diggings. But, the Cleric who claimed the shield absconded with it the very night it was found.
So, one session in and there is more than enough for it to go any which way. So far the tools in the DMG are working just fine. We shall see what happens next.
I am starting up the Trollopulous campaign again on July 1. (And note that the months of February to June will have passed with no significant player or campaign events. The players’ big successes were evidently awesome enough that they took a bit of a vacation!)
After observing my friend Chanticleer running player-run NPC patrons in his fifth edition “real time” campaign, it hit me that this was the key to playing the AD&D domain game. Other guys in the BrOSR are experimenting with enhancing the player-facing side of the game with player run patrons. My question was… what would happen if you cut the usual adventure party groups out of the picture entirely? And what if this was the real point of D&D, way more important than the usual dungeon crawl scenario?
I aim to find out! I can already tell you that the most obvious difference with this type of play is that everything in the rule book gets used at once– and everything you have ever thought about adding to your campaign gets put into play simultaneously and in parallel. And instead of being limited to exploring what a single group of player characters encounter, the whole world is in play at once with things happening all over the place. Finally! Free from the spotlight!
I have ten major domains, groups, patrons, and/or high level characters here that are almost all drawn directly from the original campaign I developed last year running AD&D rules-as-written:
The Indomitable Mushroom Men — played by Redneck DM
Ringo Starr and the United Cave Man Confederation — played by Cirsova
Note that working up a domain/patron like these takes about as much time as making an original one page dungeon. With these fleshed out like they are now, we now have a campaign where the overworld has finally received as much attention as the underworld. But rather than just being a bunch of unplayable “blah blah” like the old Gazetteer series, everything prepped is 100% useful for setting up an old style basement-grade miniatures campaign. Unlike my one page dungeon prep, all of this stuff gets used and played with the moment we turn the game on. (This doesn’t mean much to unflappable DMs like Bdubs, but it sure means a lot to me!)
Somebody asked me how this will work and I think that we’ll get everyone’s orders in before the month begins. During the month, every thing is plotted out in real time. Detachments will be sent around the map and encounters may result.
When I first thought this up I realized that the gameplay would be a LOT like Diplomacy. I wasn’t sure if everything would devolve into total chaos with a massive amounts of player elimination (a la Car Wars arena dueling) or if everyone would reflexively turtle up and cause nothing to happen. My hope is that 1:1 time will cause things to happen slowly enough that it is all manageable, but that nevertheless enough conflict happens that things don’t get boring.
Note that 70s style D&D campaigns are in many respects self-balancing. Players with boring domains can be given a second domain on the other side of the map if everything is too static. (The board game 7 Ages works this way.) This is what playing 9-point alignment is intended to help manage, after all. Alternately, a group of adventurers can find out what it is like to adventure in an authentic D&D campaign setting where the major factions are run by real players– and then interact with THEM instead of just having the referee handwave their behaviors in order to fit whatever he happens to want to make happen.
Really, no idea if this will work! But I can tell you that the players strike me as being unusually excited about these “patrons” that we developed for this. There is a lot of stuff here that people dream of doing but then somehow never get around to. The more I contemplate this, the more I think that something about this is supremely important to how D&D was meant to be played.
But again… we won’t know what this is like until we do it. (Oh, and to the dweebs out there that will pretend they tried this once but didn’t care for it and that naturally run their homebrewed B/X in stop time because that’s how they like it: shut up and go to the gym already!)
One thing that I assume to be totally different from the way other people do this: to me it is fine if the players talk amongst themselves to plan and plot and scheme as much as they like. My rationale for doing it that way stems from the accounts of the original Braunstein. A side effect of this is that the game is always on, always in play, and any player can interact with any other player whenever they think of something. Which naturally leads to maximum gaming surface area for minimal development effort. (70s wargamers needed good solutions to real problems, not something that could be easily packaged and sold.)
Gonna fake my way through some old school miniatures rules here. On the left, 60 light horse and 320 heavy foot. On the right 60 medium horse and 320 light infantry. Never done this before!
I elected for the light foot to stand still and fire bows. They kill five of the “half armored” medium foot. (!!) The medium horse charge the light horse, kill one enemy, and get “back half move in good order.”
Question: The medium horse keep moving after the successful charge. Do they get another attack when they come into contact with the light horse a second time?
Wait, though. The light horse took > 25% casualties. They fail a morale check and immediately disperse. The medium horse complete their charge movement and are now a full two feet from their starting position. (Chainmail requires a VERY LARGE TABLE.)
The heavy foot charge the light foot, killing 3 figures. The light foot also fall back half a move– just barely outside of the heavy foot’s completed charge move. Neither sets of figures must make a morale check due to casualties– but only just barely!
The medium cavalry are 27″ from their enemies and pointed in the wrong direction. An about face takes a full move, so they are out of play for two full turns no matter what. The infantry battle will come down to initiative and morale rolls.
The remaining 13 light infantry figures win initiative and fire ranged weapons. This kills 4 of the heavy foot, forcing a morale check. The heavy foot succeed. They attack! Again they score three hits while the light foot score none.
The outcome for the melee morale check indicates that melee continues. The light foot must check morale, though. They succeed! Neither group of foot must check morale again, however the light disperse after two more hits and the heavy after just one more hit!
The foot units will be fatigued after the next round. The medium horse will not be able to fire into melee. Everything is down to one more round of melee here.
The medium infantry score three more hits and AGAIN take none in return. The light foot automatically disperse due to morale rules. The surviving heavy foot are fatigued with medium cavalry bearing down on them from behind.
The medium horse can take no damage this turn. They get +1 to their rolls and easily kill two figures. The heavy foot are now past their casualty limits and are removed from play. Three medium horse hold the field!
Due to Fluid the Druid and friends being on a fourteen day wilderness adventure, we had an almost completely new lineup this week. The players, inspired by my recent professed boredom with regards to the campaign, opted to explore a crypt in the undead quarter which they have been terrified of for months.
First rank: Pedoface and Droopyboobs (elf henchmen of Chaz) Second Rank: Rubiest (Cleric), Bob Dobs (Half-elf Fighter/Cleric), Brother Parvus the Wayward (Cleric) Third Rank: Drizzle Pizzle (elite elf henchman of Chaz), Chaz, Druggo Hairycock Last Rank: New Monk Character
This session was as close to running an original module as I have ever come during this campaign. The situation was devised just after the players first entered the Undean Quarter many sessions ago. I revised my preparations a bit more when I undertook my big one page dungeon project.
The players went in to the this particular crypt after grilling me for clues about it. They wanted to go to the easier location of two choices and I finally had to just stonewall them on this. I think they were pretending to be pathetic and weak and confused just to trip me up and break the fourth wall as it were. Not this time!
They went in and explored some crypts. They disturbed them because, well, I guess these players will NEVER pass by a known monster because they refuse to leave anything in their wake that can complicate their eventual need to exit.
Anyway, some skeletons come out and and the clerics all try to turn them. All of them fail! The skeletons attack and drop one of the clerics. His player immediately rolls up… a new cleric to replace him with.
The party fights on and soon the skeletons are beaten back. They fail a morale check and back up to a wall, twist a sconce to 90 degrees and the entire wall flips around, Scooby Doo style.
The thieves search the coffins and find a hidden bottom. Inside is a single gold piece. The party searches all the other coffins and finds 25 gold peices in each of the others. WEIRD!
The party heads inside the secret passage and comes to an intersection. They send Druggo Hairycock to explore north and the New Monk to the east. Druggo walks around the corner and overhears voices in a room: “Our outer defense has been breached, master, but I’ll show them! I am warming up the ghouls even as we speak!” Meanwhile the monk finds a room with a weird insectoid idol. The players ask if it has jewels for eyes and I say no, I have already used that trick.
I think both scouts reported back. So maybe Druggo went forward quick again? Maybe I got confused I dunno.
Anyway, Druggo lobs a flaming oil vial and hits this dude that looks like Gargamel dead on. Druggo runs away with this other guy that looks like Eyegore hot on his heels. Initiative is rolled and Eyegore bites it before he even gets to do anything. Gargamel gets charged after this and he buys it while trying to cast a spell. The players’ initiative rolls were just too good this night!
There is a machine with some kind of countdown on it nearby. The players mess with it and/or break it. They then find six ghoul chambers in some kind of lock down. The clerics all go for the turn and one of them makes it this time. The turned and restrained ghouls are now trivially easy to dispatch.
They search around and find Gargamel’s man cave. It is furnished with shag carpet, bean bags, and stripper poles. They find a book case with a book by Marion R. R. Jemison-Delaney that gives a SCIENTIFIC procedure to produce ghouls. One of the clerics pour a vial of holy water on it, but some busybody manages two sell it to Zansel Melancthones for 10,000 gp making this one of the greatest treasure hauls for the least trouble that I have ever done in this campaign.
What was I thinking?!
Eh, well let’s just say the next lair will be designed a little differently. That said, the players hit everything just right this time when in other games they hit everything just wrong. The dice went their way, too. But mainly… having three clerics and two thieves just so happened to completely neutralize the challenge I had prepared many months ago when the players were markedly less elite in their overall play skill.
That’s how it goes. Honestly, if nothing surprising ever happens you’re probably doing it wrong.
The players searched the idol room and found another secret passage that looped back to the main entryway. It was obvious that this dungeon was both designed to fit on one page AND that it was pointlessly and unnecessarily Jaquayed. This was a very good mistake to have my face rubbed in. My takeaway is that this is a good example of why authentic megadungeons sprout large numbers of sublevels as actual play continues.
Very disappointing for me but also very instructive. The players calculated xp values immediately after the game and were pleased to discover that they now had many second level characters to serve as backups for their main characters. Or so they thought, anyway!
Treasure and Experience:
1055 XP for killing monsters. 10326 gold is the take which also counts for XP. (However, somehow Chaz and Drugg each end up with 14 additional XP and gold. No idea how this happened!) I count six PC’s and three henchmen, so the shares are divided by 7.5 with henchmen getting half what the PC’s get. 1376 gold for the players and 688 for the henchmen. 1517 XP for the players and 758 XP for the henchmen.
Cast o’ Characters:
Rubiest — Human Acolyte (Session 22 only) Frozen at level 1 until he levels! 1376 gold.
Bob Dobs — Human Veteran/Acolyte (Session 22 only) XP at 758/758 with 1376 gold.
Brother Parvus the Wayward — Human Acoylte (Delves 19[*F] and 22[*F] only.) Frozen at level 1 until he levels! and 1439 gold.
New Monk Character — Human Novice (Session 22 only) 1517 XP and 1376 gold.
Chaz the Elven Footpad — Level two thief. [Delve 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, and 19, and 22] 1250 + 30 + 528 + 362 + 106 + 239 + 1531 = FROZEN AT 2500 XP UNTIL HE LEVELS. Member of the Order of the Knights of Trollopulous. +1390 gold in session 22.
Druggo Hairycock — Halfling Rogue. (Delve 22 only) FROZEN AT 1250 XP UNTIL HE LEVELS. 1390 gold.
Pedoface and Droopyboobs — Elf dweebs (Delve 22 only) FROZEN AT 750 XP UNTIL HE BECOMES A LEVEL ONE ROGUE
Drizzle Pizzle — Elite elf (Delves 20 and 22only ) FROZEN AT 750 XP UNTIL HE BECOMES A LEVEL ONE ROGUE
If my numbers are right, the clerics are short on cash to do their training. Of course Parvus is so weak, he must pay additional tithes and offerings for his well known errors. Bob Dobs has training penalties due to his bizarre sect. (I am willing to count gold spent on spell research as counting for this.)
Druggo could level if Chaz is willing to take the time to train him AND if he is willing to accept less than the usual 1500 gold fee.
Chaz requires 6000 gold for self-training costs. This is tremendous. However, he can spend three weeks game time training his henchmen up to level one thieves, presumably taking 2250 gold from them for the priviledge in the process.
Chaz player suggested the following right after the game: “So Chaz has turned the living room of our spooky house into a thief training facility. Locks and dummy traps for us to pick/spring until they break down from use. Different lighting source types and shadow shapes to practice hiding in. Different textures of walls placed on the outside walls to practice climbing. All items breakdown and have to be rebuilt and re-purchased, using up Chaz’s self training cash. We only go there during the day then leave the undead district for town. The peaceful protests slow down since Chaz isnt around less to rile them up. Chaz will attempt to make a friendship with his necromancer neighbor by offering the trogs to him as servants. And having tea at the necro’s house when he’s taking a break from training.”
Fluid, Rhedegar, Malbert, and Malalip all return to town on the day before the next scheduled session. Time paradox totally avoided!
I always had a terrible time with Gamma World. I mean, it was always my favorite role-playing game, but I just could not imagine how people could come up with the sort of stuff it would take to sustain an ongoing campaign for it. Back in 1931, this would not have been a problem, though, as this story from Hugo Gernsback’s Wonder Stories demonstrates. You remember the mental mutation de-evolution which gave a character “the power to strip abilities from a mutant opponent by regressing it along ancestral lines”? Well this short piece is all about what the opposite of that would look like.
Check out what each stage of transformation out hapless scientist subjected himself to:
“He was transfigured, godlike! His body had literally expanded into a great figure of such physical power and beauty as we had not imagined could exist. He was many inches taller and broader, his sin a clear pink, every limb and muscle molded as though by some master sculptor.”
“He was no longer the radiant, physically perfect figure of the first metamorphosis. His body seemed to have grown thin and shrivelled, the outlines of bones visible through its flesh. His body, indeed, seemed to have lost half its bulk and many inches of stature and breadth, but these were compensated by the change in his head. For the head supported by this weak body was an immense, bulging balloon that measured fully eighteen inches from brow to back! It was almost entirely hairless, its greak mass balanced precariously upon his slender shoulders and neck. And his face too was changed greatly, the eyes larger and the mouth smaller, the ears seeming smaller also. The great bulging forhead dominated the face.”
“At first glance the great head inside seem unchanged, but then we saw this it had changed, and greatly. Instead of being a skin-covered head with at least rudimentary arms and legs, it was now a great gray head-like shape of even greater size, supported by two gray muscular tentacles. The surface of this gray head-thing was wrinkled and folded, and its only features were two eyes as small as our own.”
There you go: three all-new mutant types that can be dropped directly into your campaign. Even better, read the whole thing and you’ll have everything you need to role-play their personalities and motivations. The brevity and broad strokes of this sort of pulp tale are far easier to improvise with at the table compared to the exhaustive (and exhaustingly tedious) ecology articles of the Ed Greenwood era of gaming.
And given the fact that nearly one third of the Appendix N list was actually science fantasy and not sword & sorcery at all, here’s a bonus gaming tip for you: there’s no reason you can’t add this sort of off the wall weirdness to your AD&D game, either! In fact, doing so would be well in line with the sort of genre mashups you can find in everything from the original edition of Dungeons & Dragons to the 5th edition of Tunnels & Trolls.