The Grey Coast – OSE West Marches : Part #11.

In the eleventh session of the Grey Coast campaign on Roll20 with Old School Essentials, the party has explored the southern reaches of the coast looking for a hidden village of gnomes. Generally, the session was focus on wilderness exploration and hexcrawling.

  • Moonbeam the Elf
  • Doron the Elf
  • Elthak-Dur the Duergar
The south-eastern corner of the Grey Coast map (6 miles hexes).

A Trip to the Happy Dead Gnomes Hills

Moonbeam, Doron, and Elthak-Dur were warming their bones in the usual corner of the Black Boar Inn & Lodge during a windy and cloudy day in Greymouth Harbour. The local fishermen too scared to go out with the boats to fish crowded the tavern. Elthak-Dur remembered the rumours of the gnomish village in the Southern reaches of the Grey Coast. The three decided to organise an expedition to explore the area. After having hired three of the usual retainers from the garrison of the Black Company — Samson, Johannes, and Bran —, the party left the town and headed south.

The first day nothing of interest happened: they spent the whole time following the road; Moonbeam has caught a pidgeon to cook and collected some berries as a meal for the night. The second day of travel has been more interesting. When the party was reaching the crossroad south of the hills of the Windshire Mines, a band of seven knights in full plate approached the adventures. They discovered that the knights are servant of Lord Grannoth: a retired warrior and mercenary who has built a small stronghold next to the crossoroad between southern coast and the northern hills. They were not friendly and demanded a toll to let the caravan to pass. The three decided to pay rather than facing an unfair fight. The journey continued to south following the road and the weather has improved from cloudy to sunny.

The band arrived at the place south-est of the map. They reached the place signed on the map from the mines where the Gnomes’ village should be. The shore was less rocky than the north-east, and long sandy beaches interrupted the shorter grassy cliffs. Nevertheless, they did not find anything: the adventurers have inspected the coast back and forth — literally nothing. (In terms of rules, they have explored 2 hexes inch by inch in a whole day.) The day after, they have decided then to explore the inland towards the hills on the west. Soon, the party lost the direction between the woody hills, finding a terrible scene: in a clearing between the hills, the band found an acient ruin where hundreds of bones covered the floor; five gnomes had been brutally sacrificed on primitive altar representing a half-bat half-frog god. On their bodies, there was the mark of a red bear claw. The adventurers examined the place, but there was nothing of interest besides the altar.

After the macabre discovery, Doron, Elthak-Dur, and Moonbeam went to explore south while the henchmen were waiting at a camp not far from the ruins. While exploring the hills, the three met hostiles: a group of barbarian scouts dressed in rusty chainmails and furs, wearing the same mark found on the dead gnomes. At that point, they tried to escape among the woods. Still, the barbarians managed to reach them — and the battles became inevitable. Elthak-dur burnt using the Duergar psionic power Heat one of the savages. Meanwhile, Doron and Moonbeam took care of the others with longbow and sword. Doron charmed one of them with the spell Charm, turning him against his comrades. At the end of the combat, the party had interrogated the charmed barbarian: his name was Lanek, and he was a member of the Scarlet Claw tribe plaguing the hills. They are in war with the gnomes to rule on the area, that is why they had been sacrificing them to their patron god Tsathoggua. But the Scarlet Claw marauders ignored where the village could be located as well — as if the gnomes had hidden it with some sort of illusion. After having pillaged the belongings of the fallen enemies, the party decided to go back to the Greymouth Harbour.

Conan the Barbarian OSE Pt.1: Thot-Amon’s Demon, Apes, Snakes, and Giant Spiders

I am a huge fan of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian and sword & sorcery in general. I would love to import some of Conan’s foes in my home campaign of Old School Essentials. Of course, different rpgs and supplements regarding the Hyborian age and the Cimmerian have been released in the past: the D&D adventures Conan Unchained, Conan against the Darkness!, Conan the Buccaneer, Conan the Mercenary, Conan the Triumphant, and Red Sonja Unconquered; the licensed TSR’s Rpg Conan Roleplaying Game; some supplements for GURPS; the Moongose’s Conan RPG; and recently, the 2d20 Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of by Modiphious Entartainment. However, I had difficulties finding the early TSR modules of the ’80 in PDF. And I did not find stuff ready for OSE and B\X generally. So, I have decided to go DIY and stat for myself these creatures and foes for the most famous barbarian of fantasy literature. I hope that will spare time to many referees.

Apes, Giant Snakes and Spiders: Conversion Table

Different giant beats like spiders, snakes, and apes appear in the Weird Tales‘ stories. Most of them can be converted by reskinning actual monsters of OSE. For this reason, I will provide below a conversion table rather than full statblocks: the table will contain the name of Conan’s creature, the monster name and the page in OSE, and what to modify of that particular group of stats.

Name Short StoryOSE Base StatblockModifications
Giant SpiderThe Tower of the ElephantTarantella (BB p. 56, RT p. 192)Substitute Onlookers and Dancing with Poison and Web from Black Widow. HD 2 (12 hp) Stealth Death: 4-6 to Surprise.
Golden SerpentRed NailsRock Python (BB p. 54, RT p. 190)Bite (1d8 + Constriction)
White SerpentScarlet CitadelRock Python (BB p. 54, RT p. 190)80′ feet; AC 2 [17]; THAC0 14 [+5]; ML 10 Bite (1d8 + Constriction); Poison (causes death in 1d6 turns).
Ghost SnakeBeyond the Black RiverSea Snake (BB p. 54, RT p. 190)Bite (1d6 + Constriction); Feeding Frenzy: Attracted to the scent
of blood or violent movement in the
water (from the Crocodile).
The Grey ApesRogues in the House; Iron Shadows in the MoonApe, White (BB p. 4, RT p. 140)AC 5 [14] Trapper: 2-6 chance that the creature has prepared a trap of some sort (e.g. trapdoor, poison, etc.); Battle rage: +2 to hit humans and similar humanoids (e.g. orcs, goblins). Rage sometimes makes them attack their allies. (From the Barbarian).
BB = BlackBox’s page; RT = Rules’ Tome page.

Thot-Amon’s Demon

In The Phoenix on the Sword, a middle-aged Conan king of Aquilonia faces a conspiracy to take over the throne. The sorcerer Thot-Amon — who was serving one of the plotters — finds his lost evil ring of Set, evoking a servant of the Stygian serpent god to seek vengence. The creature has the appearence of a baboon demon with wings and a canid mouth. Conan managed to kill him thanks to the enchatment of the god Mitra that the ghost of Epemitreus has carved on his sword.

AC 4 [15]; HD 5 + 3 (33 HP); ATT 2 x claw (1d6), 1 x fist (1d6+2), bite (1d6+1); MV 120′ (40′)/ Flying 150′ (50′); AL Chaotic; SV D14 W16 P14 B15 S16; TT I; XP 75

  • Infravision: 90′
  • Mortal Grab: If Thot Amon’s Demon hits the opponent with the claws, the victim must succeed a Saving Throw vs Paralysis to avoid being grabbed and receiving 1d6 damage every turn until someone set them free.
  • Gaze of Fear: Works similarly to the spell Cause Fear: Saving Throw vs Spells and who fails will run away for 120′ until they will not see the creature.
  • Servant of the Ring Wearer: The creature will obey every command of who owns the Ring of Set. If the owner of the ring will lose it, the demon will attack them as well.

Stonehell Dungeon and Open Table One-Shots

I will give my two-cents here on how to use the megadungeon Stonehell Dungeon as “fun-house” for a one-shot game of Old School Essentials. This advice came from my experience some days ago, when I have refereed it for four 1st level characters: in particular, Joyce the Paladin, Doctor the Druid, Smilzo the Thief, and Imowhertheren the Elf. These notes could be useful for someone who wants to use this mega-dungeon as a convention game or online game. I have loved Stonehell as dungeon for a self-contained session: it has all the elements to make experience the old-school gaming to players new to the OSR.

Contains spoilers dedicated to the Referee only. If you are a player, do not read.

My first error has been starting the game at the Floor 0, i.e. the canyon with the gate and the different grottos around the valley. We have spent most of the first session exploring just the entrance. Nice if we are talking about a long-breath campaign, a waste of time for a game that will last only one night. If I had to run Stonehell again for a one-shot, I would make the characters beginning straight to the entrance of the 1st Floor. So, I suggest to start from the first floor of the dungeon and skip Floor 0. Reframe the Stonehell beneath a city or a town just outside the walls. In this way, the characters can stock equipment and supplies, then go straight to the entrance without being bogged down.

My second advice is mixing up the different areas. Put at the beginning advanced sections of the dungeon to spice up the game. In the Introduction, the author suggests treating Stonehell like a toolkit or a framework. I have decided to substitute the Kobold’s Korners (Level 1D) with the Reptile House (Level 2B) — though they did not reach the south-eastern zone of that level during the game. Do not worry to place quarters of deeper levels earlier: facing situations that they should have faced later forces the players to come up on the fly with unexpected approaches.

Third, intensify the presence of the Nixthisis from the beginning. I know that the module encourages to manifest the most obvious effects much later in the crawl. But, anticipating it from the first floor gives a fun feeling of uneasiness to the players. Roll every hour on the Appendix A Chaos Events in the Into the Heart of Hell volume (p. 148) from the start. I love deploying the Doom Lures more often beyond 1C to show the presence of Nixthisis : let the entity hunting down the adventurers actively through its servants multiple times during the session.

The fourth and last advice depends on the taste of the referee: giving a quest or a purpose to the delve. E.g. Saving a priestess kidnapped by the orcs, goblins or the corrupted descendants of the prisoners; mapping the area on behalf of the local guild; retrieving a particular object. This encourages to focus on the most exciting parts of the exploration and negotiation with NPCs rather than grinding treasure. I prefer a pure sandbox style where players do whatever they want in the environment, so I have not applied it; but, some referees would benefit from it to cut dead times and give a pace.

The Grey Coast – OSE West Marches – Sessions 07, 08, 09, 10

It has been a while: I have been busy with a move, jobs’ applications, publishing, and writing my doctoral dissertation — with some sunbathing on beach in between to preserve my sanity. Of course, the TPK has not stopped us from continuing our campaign! We had continued over July and August to play on Roll20. Rather, I did not have much time and willgness to write down detailed reports. Let me update you with some bullet points:

The adventurers have met plenty of happy goblins…

  • Session 7: We have rolled new characters: Doron the Elf, Victor the Vermillion (Magic User), Moonbeam the Elf, and Elthak-Dur the Duergar. The party have commissioned two shield made of silver to reflect the light. The, they have used them to reflect the petryfing gaze of the basilisk into the Tomb of the Serpent Kings. Afterwards, they have explored other sections of the dungeon, clearing an alternative netrance from roots and branches. And they have freed for error a female demon enclosed into a circle. Thee demoness has killed one of the hirelings and injured heavily Doron.
  • Session 08: The party decided this time to explore the sourroundings of Eryas Hold. They also heard news from a merchant at the Black Boar Inn & Lodge: a mysterious portal pops up regularly on the eastern coastal road of the Grey Coast. The adventurers have discovered that the strange cult of Lleigh — acolytes who implant organs and limbs of their victims to empower their bodies — has taken the whole castle and bring prisoners once a week. While camping for the night, strange voices and Cthulhian whispers has come from the ancient manor. Suddenly, three of the cultist have attacked the encampment. Doron charmed one of them who fled in the nearby edge of the forest. Meanwhile, Victor discovered that the cultist regenerates their wounds after a while; so, they chose to behead them and burn their corpses just to be sure. They have deemed the castle too dangerous for now and run back to Greymouth.
  • Session 09: The adventurers encountered a band of goblins among their hills, earning their trust through fresh food, subterfuge, and the Charm spell. They have learnt from one of them that they are exiles from the Goblin Citadel: Gneir the Goblin King has driven away his brother and everyone who has refused the new faith of the Jale God; such exiles found refuge in the Tombs of the Serpent Kings, and they are now plagued by mushrooms growing on their skins. Continuing the exploration of the Tombs, they recovered — opening a snake-shaped door with a jeweled knife obtained previously— a wonderful throne of gold plus many ebony mirrors from a royal chamber made of scarlet marble. Of course, they have left the hard task to bring it out to the retainers from the Black Company. Finally, they have met Xiximanter: a peaceful lich-like serpent-man priest tinkering with alchemy and black magic. His laboratory was full of exotic herbs, weird brass containers, and shelves full of They have offered the life of the goblins in exchange of some healing potions and one potion of spell mutation. And Xiximanter has taken the fool creatures and thrown them into the depths of a trap-door. The meeting has ended with Xaxminater explaining to Victor his latest attempt to create an elixir of immortality.
  • Session 10: Again, the party continued to crawl into the Tombs. They recovered from a garden of rottening plants and buried chopped finger a wonderful crown. The crown was made of entwined silver and golden snakes with glowing diamonds and emerald as eyes; no one has tried it on their forehead. They have met the goblin tribe living here, and they have conquered their trust by stocking them with meat and other trinkets. Doron has convinced their leader — a goblin who sat on a seat made of bones and other scraps — to trade a golden idol for a crowbar. The goblin lord found more comfortable to scratch his back with the latter. Afterwards, the party explored the south-eastern areas of the Tomb: thanks to the directions that the goblins has given, they located a silver magical door with a keyhole resembling a basilisk. They back tracked to the hall of columns the petrified reptile: Moonbeam and Elthak-Dur ripped off the key needed from the chain of the petrified basilisk using an hammer and an iron spike. Unfortunately, the petrified key did not fit into the door. At that point, Elthak-Dur used one of his psionic powers as Duergar (i.e. Heat, check OSE Advanced Fantasy Genre Rules) to melt the lock and access the room. Inside the vault, they have found a mighty shiny sword on a pedestal, two treasure chests, and a mumified snake-man on a stone chair.The party decided first to investigate the mummy and burn it with an Oil flask. But the undead woke up and paralysed with his gaze Moonbeam and Doron. Instead of grabbing the treasure, the adventurers decided to not risk, dragging the two out, and sealing the door again — leaving inside the treasure and the mummy bashing at the ancient passage. Later, they checked the door next to the vault leading to a prison room: it was full of bones, dried blood stains, and some jelly skeletons were roaming the place; they did not notice their presence. So, even in this case, the party decided to flee. The session concluded with the party coming upon a ritual pit full of smoke and fire, and beyond that stood a connection room with a triggered trap.

This is the state of the campaign so far in a nutshell.

This week I will referee in person — respecting some social distancing measures — a one-shot of the Stone Hell Dungeon #1 using Old School Essentials as ruleset. For many of the players, it will be the first time playing an OSR game. I will let you know how it goes, and eventually some tips & tricks to use Stonehell as a stand-alone scenario.

Regarding OSE, I have also backed the Advance Fantasy kickstarter with the Dungeon Inflitrator pledge. Since I have been playing a lot this game and I always allow the extra classes and races, it would be handy to have the compiled tome besides the other two supplements.

If I won’t be too lazy, I would like to review a couple of OSR\Retro-clone games. Plus, I will start the following RPG-related project: stating the main creatures and villains of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian short stories for B\X D&D. Indeed, I am reading the omnibus with all the tales of the Cimmerian. He is my all time favourite fantasy charater, and I would love to throw some of the Hyborian creatures in the Grey Coast. I will make some posts on the blog with stats for 1-3 monsters each, plus a table to help referees to reskin existing OSE monsters to represent some of them (e.g. the giant apes or the snakes).

The Grey Coast – West Marches OSE – Session 06

In the fifth session of the Greyt Coast West Marches OSE campaign, there has been a total party kill.

  • Sunshine the Elf (Deceased)
  • Koras the Cleric (Deceased)
  • Hayfinger the Thief (Deceased)
  • Tharduir the Dwarf (Deceased)

A bitter end

It is another day in Greymouth Harbour. In the middle of the monastery, the abbot applied a strange bluish potion on Sunshine, turning him back from stone. Koras had to ask help to him after a basilisk had petrified the elven mistress. Sunshine decided to risk again and explore more the ruins of the Tomb. Tharduir and Hayfinger joined him at the Black Boar’s Inn & Lodge after hearing the last exploit at the tomb. The group also hired a cleric named Rilexa besides the people of the last expedition (Graphar, Sven, Drelan, and the wizard apprentice Efri). After a whole morning of planning, they are out on the road again. The journey and the weather were pleasant. Soon, they were back at the waterfall on the edge of the forest. This time, Drelan stayed outside with the cart, and the rest entered.

They have moved as fast as possible to the central heptagonal hall with the pit. They checked first the south-western room: a sort of priest room full of scrolls fallen on the floor, where a silver icon representing a snake man stood on a small altar. Koras searched the scrolls, finding a scrap with the name ‘Baltoplat’ faded but still readable on it. They used the ten feet pole to move aside the icon and take it without triggering any trap.

The next room was the eastern one: when they have opened the door, a strange skeletal snake man raised and moved to attack them. The skeletal creature injured Tharduir at the arm, breaking part of the wooden shield. Sunshine asked Hayfinger to pass him a better-suited weapon to fight this monster — she had only a dagger and a bow. The thief has grabbed his sword and thrown it to the elf who took it on the fly. Surrounding the undead, the party managed to overwhelm it. The place was empty, except for some funeral trinkets on the floor.

The western door did not have so many surprises: someone has not finished the room, and it was dug only by half. Someone has abandoned plenty of rusted tools and shovels on the ground.

They have decided then to venture on the southern decorated door, where a stair was leading down below. Tharduir and Hayfinger noticed that the third step was not fixed; and indeed, it was the trigger for a trap: when they have triggered it, the stair became a smooth ramp at which end a pit full of sharp spikes opened. After a minute, the stair has returned to its normal position. Skipping that particular step, the party managed to crawl beneath without activating the trap. They reached a vast hexagonal hall covered by ancient steel shields. At the other side, there was an opening of 30′ feet on an immense dark cliff. Out of nowhere a colossal skeletal snake man of more than 12’form emerged from the darkness; such undead giant was wearing a full plate armour, and it was holding an axe. The skeletal snake giant grabbed Graphar and killed the mercenary instantly. Koras and Rilexa tried to turn it away, but they failed: their holy symbol burned like hell and it fell on the ground. It was too strong for them. Sunshine aimed to the head with the bow to distract him and allowing the rest of the band to escape. He managed, and they ran away. At the top of the stairs, they saw that the giant skeleton was trying to grab them, but the passage was too narrow for him. Hayfinger proposed to attack him from a distance, but Sunshine convinced the thief to leave it alone.

Afterwards, they checked the room in the south-east: there was just one single stone coffin. While the rest of the band was searching for secret doors, Hayfinger inspected the coffin: no signs of a violation, however, there was a black slime pouring from it. Hayfinger smelled it and felt sick. Fortunately, Sunshine had a healing potion — identified last time from Melfiner — and he healed the poor thief.

Finally, they investigated the last door on the north-east. There, the tragedy happened: Sunshine noticed a slightly higher tile than the others under the door with a sigil on top; she checked it with the usual pole and the sigil activated. An electrical explosion invested the band, frying them. Only Rilexa has survived almost burnt on the floor. After some hours, Drelan entered, finding the corpses and taking all their belongings. For the rest of our adventures, only the darkness awaited them.