This week I read:
Volumes 8 and 9 of Delicious in Dungeon by Ryoko Kui
There’s an anime coming next year, so I decided to catch up on the manga. It’s a while since I’ve read the previous volumes, so I worried about having forgotten details, but it all came back to me quickly enough. It is more or less just about fantasy cooking jokes, but there is still a story underneath all the jokes. I definitely think this is the kind of story that works best in a visual medium though, it would be a really dull novel.
Corum: The Prince in the Scarlet Robe by Michael Moorcock
Corum is a very similar character to Elric. Very similar. They’re both amongst the last members of their ancient, powerful but decadent and dying, races which are being supplanted by mankind. But while Elric hates his people and serves Chaos, Corum loves his people and serves Law.
But hey, I come to sword-and-sorcery for a fun time, not for totally unique trope-free stories. I got the feeling that these stories would work better as the basis for an RPG campaign than the Elric stories, though it’d also be really easy to combine them and take the framework of the Corum stories and slot in some events of the Elric stories to make something a bit different. Which leads to the next book:
Black Sword Hack by Kobayashi
Which is a very Moorcockian sword-and-sorcery RPG I picked up a while ago, based on The Black Hack, and which has some kickass art. I skimmed through it at the time and liked it, but wasn’t really sure how to run a sword-and-sorcery adventure. But I found myself drawn to it after finishing the Corum book, and maybe I will give it a try in the near future. It is about time for the next one-shot, after all.
I feel like it would work best for solo games though—just the GM and one player—as in most of the sword-and-sorcery stories there’s a very clear protagonist, and all the other major characters who travel with them are defined by their relationship to the protagonist: the companion, the consort, the mentor, etc. But maybe I’m just being narrow-minded and it does work just fine with a group of coequal adventurers.
The Halls of Arden Vul
If last week demonstrated what I like about Arden Vul—cool stuff and mystery being everywhere—this week demonstrated what I like about old school play: using player skill in creative problem solving to overcome obstacles.
We ended our session last week with the players barricaded into a room with angry baboons battering down the door. As the players have now discovered, these baboons aren’t just wild animals, they serve a paranoid spellcaster (called Gerrilad) who has taken up residence in this part of the dungeon. So between sessions, I figured out what Gerrilad would do when the players tripped his baboon alarm: how long it’d take for the baboons to alert him, how many reinforcements he’d send, when they would arrive, and so on. I had a timeline of events all ready to go.
The players ended up stalling for time, so they were attacked by a much larger horde of baboons than those who had initially trapped them. Still, with some lucky rolls and the expenditure of magic scrolls, the players managed to drive off the baboons.
They then continued exploring, and happened to discover Gerrilad in his throne room torturing a dwarf who he captured some months previously. Half the party are dwarves, this guy is a dwarf, so Gerrilad was assuming that the party had come to rescue his prisoner.
The players decided to try to save the dwarf.
But how? Gerrilad was right there, they assumed he was probably a spellcaster if he could control baboons, and there were also several baboons in the room. A tough fight in the best of cases.
They ended up using a potion of flying (expending a magic item) in combination with a pair of magic rings (which turn the wearer of one invisible, but at the cost of turning the wearer of the other blind for the same duration), and a magic battleaxe (no special powers, just really good at killing) to sneak up on Gerrilad and behead him before he could react.
It was a clever solution.
They first asked about invisibility, but I said that that alone wouldn’t guarantee getting Gerrilad: he’d get a chance to hear them approach. I didn’t tell them flying would do the trick, they went through their resources and figured that out for themselves. Then I gave them a choice: they could either roll to hit, but be guaranteed to kill him if they did hit; or be guaranteed a hit, but have to roll damage which might not end up being fatal.
They chose the former, and the risk paid off.
Gerrilad was an important NPC. Was letting him just die without a fight a step too far? I don’t think so. The players spent a while coming up with this plan, they had to expend resources and go into danger to accomplish it (they could have failed to hit, alerting him to their invisible presence) and, like all good RPG situations, this actually ended up creating a new problem. Now they have all of Gerrilad’s weakened prisoners to escort out of the dungeon, and his treasure—which is far too much to carry in one go—to deal with.
It’s quite satisfying writing documentation, and refactoring things to make that documentation better.
I don’t think I have any other repositories in desperate need of docs. Though, when the next major release of Elasticsearch happens, I now have a place to put a runbook for that.