Thursday, 30 October 2014

Cape Town has a Castle shaped like a Cthulhu is that?

Nestled in the shadow of Table Mountain is South Africa's very own Castle,and it is shaped like a pentagram. How Cthulhu is that? A fitting post for Halloween if ever there was.

But I will let Wikipedia take over for a bit, The Castle of Good Hope (Dutch: Kasteel de Goede Hoop; Afrikaans: Kasteel die Goeie Hoop) is a star fort built in the 17th century in Cape Town, South Africa. Originally located on the coastline of Table Bay, following land reclamation the fort is now located inland. In 1936 the Castle was declared an historical monument (now a provincial heritage site) and following restorations in the 1980s it is considered the best preserved example of a Dutch East India Company fort.

Built by the Dutch East India Company between 1666 and 1679, the Castle is the oldest existing colonial building in South Africa. It replaced an older fort called the Fort de Goede Hoop which was constructed from clay and timber and built by Jan van Riebeeck upon his arrival at the Cape of Good Hope in 1652. Two redoubts, Redoubt Kyckuit and Redoubt Duijnhoopwere built at the mouth of the Salt River in 1654. The purpose of the Dutch settlement in the Cape was to act as a replenishment station for ships passing the treacherous coast around the Cape on long voyages between the Netherlands and the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia).

During 1664, tensions between Britain and the Netherlands rose amid rumours of war. That same year, Commander Zacharias Wagenaer, successor to Jan van Riebeeck, was instructed by Commissioner Isbrand Goske to build a pentagonal fortress out of stone. The first stone was laid on 2 January 1666. Work was interrupted frequently because the Dutch East India Company was reluctant to spend money on the project. On 26 April 1679, the five bastions were named after the main titles of William III of Orange-Nassau: Leerdam to the west, with Buuren, Katzenellenbogen, Nassau, and Oranje clockwise from it.
In 1682 the gated entry replaced the old entrance, which had faced the sea. A bell tower, situated over the main entrance, was built in 1684—the original bell, the oldest in South Africa, was cast in Amsterdam in 1697 by the East-Frisian bellmaker Claude Fremy, and weighs just over 300 kilograms (660 lb). It was used to announce the time, as well as warning citizens in case of danger, since it could be heard 10 kilometres away. It was also rung to summon residents and soldiers when important announcements needed to be made.
The fortress housed a church, bakery, various workshops, living quarters, shops, and cells, among other facilities. The yellow paint on the walls was originally chosen because it lessened the effect of heat and the sun. A wall, built to protect citizens in case of an attack, divides the inner courtyard, which also houses the De Kat Balcony, which was designed by Louis Michel Thibault with reliefs and sculptures by Anton Anreith. The original was built in 1695, but rebuilt in its current form between 1786 and 1790. From the balcony, announcements were made to soldiers, slaves and burghers of the Cape. The balcony leads to the William Fehr collection of paintings and antique furniture.
During the Second Boer War (1899–1902), part of the castle was used as a prison, and the former cells remain to this day. Fritz Joubert Duquesne, later known as the man who killed Kitchener and the leader of the Duquesne Spy Ring, was one of its more well-known residents. The walls of the castle were extremely thick, but night after night, Duquesne dug away the cement around the stones with an iron spoon.( I wonder what poster he used to cover the hole?) He nearly escaped one night, but a large stone slipped and pinned him in his tunnel. The next morning, a guard found him unconscious but alive.
In 1936, the Castle was declared an historical monument (from 1969 known as a national monument and since 1 April 2000 a provincial heritage site), the first site in South Africa to be so protected. Extensive restorations were completed during the 1980s making the Castle the best preserved example of a Dutch East India Company fort.
The Castle acted as local headquarters for the South African Army in the Western Cape, and today houses the Castle Military Museum and ceremonial facilities for the traditional Cape Regiments. The Castle is also the home of the Cape Town Highlanders Regiment, a mechanised infantry unit.
Prior to being replaced in 2003, the distinctive shape of the pentagonal castle was used on South African Defence Force flags, formed the basis of some rank insignia of major and above, and was used on South African Air Force aircraft." Attributed to Wikipedia.
But that's not all! You hear me say in my best Tele-Sales voice. Just over the pass heading towards scenic Hout Bay, is another. 

This one is more earthly and less Lovecraftian in design, and is in fact a replica of the Lichtenstein Castle found in southern Germany. It used to be a guest-house but is now in the hands of a Russian Businessman and was bought for 23 Million Rand. 
Happy Halloween and Happy gaming! 

The ROK Sessions Part Two: The Beast Beneath.

I don’t know if any of you have ever been surfing, but when you are way beyond the backline, and something bumps your leg... let’s just say that your mind tends to go to dark places. Usually it’s a seal. You pray for it to be a seal, beg for it to be a seal. But sometimes it’s not, and in those nano-seconds until you actually know, time slows down, electricity courses through your body, and your heart kicks like a bull in your chest...
 But more on this later.
As is too often the case nowadays, you can never get a full murder of PC’s together; real life tends to take care of that somehow. However, I did have two of them for our monthly 1st edition AD&D game. It was Greenslade Fane and Shade DuMond. The Ranger and the Thief. A bit light on the old magic and healing which meant that one false step... and it would be Goodnight Vienna for both of them.
When last we met they were being beaten to crap by a Carrion Crawler. Pyus managed to kill it and we called it a night.
 So for the beginning of our second session I sock-puppeted the Cleric character for the first twenty minutes until I could get the story going.
They came to a door, locked, voices on the other side. Shade opened it quietly and snuck into the room. He peered around the dog-leg tunnel and spied a room full of orc (orcs? orcsess?). He went back to inform the rest of the group but on the way out accidentally kicked a rusty helmet against the wall.
One thing leads to another, and an orc comes to investigate. Shade quickly hides in the shadows and backstabs him beyond the pale. Then another one comes along. Shade doesn’t have time to hide the body so the orc lets out a bellow and the shit got real.
Pyus and Greenslade join the ruckus and keep their end of the combat up nicely. Things got a bit hairy when an orc started sniping at them from a dark tunnel up ahead, and Shade took a nasty spear wound to the head. Added to the facial damage he took from the rats yesterday, as Billy Connolly once said,” He had a face like a fekkin’ football. Stitched all ways...”
The combat wound down. Two orcs fled, another was captured. Pyus sacrificed his whiny ass after interrogating him and found out that they had been hired to patrol the tunnels and sewers under Hann; just who this puppet master was was yet to be revealed. During the course of the scuffle a torch had been thrown and had now set a pile of old clothes and blankets on fire. Smoke started to fill the room and the party thought it wise to leave. They headed up the tunnel that the orcs had used in a hurry. Shade in front, Greenslade behind, and Pyus as tail-end Charlie. Due to the smoke billowing from the room, Shade fails to spot the pit trap and goes arse over kettle into a massive storm drain below. Greenslade does the same, but somehow Pyus fails to see this happening because of the smoke and he just keeps on going.
Meanwhile, the other two are bobbing along next to medieval turds and whatever they use for loo-paper (corn husks I presume) in this neck of the woods. They manage to get out of the sewerage and in to a cross walk tunnel that is dry and above the watermark. Just as things look like they may be getting better, they spy the two orcs that had fled from the guardroom, only now they are back with some Ogres to support them. Discretion being what it is, the two players decide, sod it, and head off into the dark. They jump into a massive bore tunnel, that rapidly fills with water and gushes them into the unknown. They get washed down said tunnel for ages using the bio-luminescent fungus on the tunnel walls to show them up from down. They hear a rush, and then whoosh, they are falling into complete darkness. They land in water in complete darkness. Panic sets in. Backpacks and weapons are jettisoned. Luckily they are both lightly armoured or it might well have been over right then.
Property of SPartan.

 Do you remember the opening scene in Jaws? Where the girl is out swimming in the dark and something tugs/bumps her leg? Squeaky Bum time indeed.  Well that’s what happens to the boys. It is amazing what you can do as a DM, when you tap into that primordial fear. The fear of the unknown is so powerful that it is almost a relief when you get to finally see the monster, because then you know what you're  dealing with, but up until that point, it could be absolutely anything. It’s all conjecture until you see it’s gibbering form and watch the spittle fly from its gaping maw. That’s why Spielberg holds off as long as possible to reveal the shark... there’s a lesson in that.
They swim madly for what appears to be a lanterns bobbing on a small boat, trying desperately to not think about what might be lurking beneath the this underground lake. They make it to the gunnels of the boat and pull themselves up dreading that something might just pull them back into the water. It’s always that last few seconds that things are at their most tense...
 They sit up and take stock of the situation. They are on a boat, a smugglers boat by the look of things. Three lifeless bodies lie in the pool of lantern light. They check the bodies, all dead, all mooshed and jelly-like, as if they had been constricted, turning the men into to mince pies. They search the boat. There is lots of adventuring gear, ropes, backpacks, grappling hooks, oil, lanterns and of course, iron rations. Shade flips the bodies to see if he recognises any of them. He does. One of them is the guy who got them into this fine mess in the beginning, the guy with the box and the scar running down his face. A quick search reveals a contract on his person between the ‘Crimson Cloaks’ (the dead dudes on the boat they presume) and a merchant by the name of Semaj; that is paying them to hit an old tomb, the tomb of the Dread Knight to be precise. It turns out that Semaj has an ancestor who was killed by the knight whose spirit has been unable to rest until certain requirements are fulfilled. It seems that the Knight was buried with the arms and armour of his fallen foes and one of those is a sword belonging to Semaj Senior, Senior, and Senior. Until the sword is buried with the body of Semaj’s ancestor, his spirit cannot rest. There is also a map.
The players get rowing, slowly, as they have no idea where they are, and eventually spy some eerie blue flames burning in the distance. There is a quay carved out of the rocks below and they tie up the boat. 

Suddenly, a huge set of tentacles rise from the inky darkness and attack. Greenslade uses the measley hand-axe and does what he can to defend himself, Shade finds a harpoon. We have an epic Ahab moment on the boat with Shade raising his fist to the darkness swearing revenge on the submerged fiend for all the nightmares this is going to give him.
 He hurls the harpoon into the water, and BAM, he actually manages to hit the beast. Luminous ichor floats to the surface of the lake. Meanwhile, Greenslade is hacking and slashing, sending pieces of calamari flying everywhere, while Shade is trying desperately to reel the harpoon back in. 

The battle rages, tentacles grope blindly for the players, it is absolute mayhem. The PC’s are tripping over ropes, dropping weapons, being flung by tentacles against the stone walls, things are looking dire. The beast from below rises slowly to the surface... Shade takes aim with his dripping harpoon (Remember he is taking serious ‘to-hit’ penalties because he is a thief, but needs must), eyes, like badly trimmed lanterns glow balefully in the dark, and then, ‘ A big grayish, rounded bulk, the size, perhaps, of a bear, was rising slowly and painfully out of the water. As it bulged up and caught the light, it glistened like wet leather.” Apologies to Mr Wells.
Shade drew his arm back, took careful aim, and with a snap of the wrist, missed entirely. Fuck. Now what I could see them thinking.

 Now what indeed. Greenslade threw his hand-axe, and miracle of miracles, he actually hits it in the eye sending it back beneath the surface of the lake allowing them to escape up a set of stairs that have been carved into the cliff side.
 All in all, a fun little encounter was had by all, because (a). There was an element of fear emanating from them, and (b) because I managed to do that to them. Well, actually, no. I didn't. In fact, they did that to themselves...I just got to watch.
Part one available here.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Bo and the Beast. Part 2.

Bo sat on the wet sand watching huge slabs of water break on the beach. The waves were grey and white, like the gulls that called and spiraled above. He stood, wiped the sand from his legs, and walked barefoot toward a tiny hut in the distance. He carried his boots in one hand, sword in the other. Lightning licked the clouds as thunder rumbled above. The sea, as if sensing the imminence of the storm, writhed madly below. Half-remembered lines of childhood doggerel swam into Bo’s memory, ‘Every man was a child once, fearful, and scared of the dark; taking refuge behind his mother’s knee, as the thunder starts to bark...’
The hut was built from drift wood and scavenged flotsam. Smoke trickled from a chimney before being spun away by the wind. Bo knocked at the makeshift door and waited. It opened, revealing an old man, both thin and gaunt, with deep lines on his face from a lifetime of squinting at the horizon. His eyes were the colour of the sea that threatened the beach outside. A thick scar ran diagonally across his face, passing over his left eye, coming to rest on his withered and wrinkled neck.
“I need a place to stay for the evening,” said Bo after bowing to the fisherman. The old man nodded and went back to his place by the fire. He left the door open; Bo took this as a sign of invitation. He had to crouch to enter.
“I have coin,” said Bo, “I can pay for food if you have any.” Again the old man nodded. He pointed an arthritic finger at a steaming pot hanging over the fire. Bo put his boots and sword out of the way. He unslung his knapsack, took out a pouch, and offered some tobacco. They sat listening to the storm while smoking their pipes. Later the fisherman spoke.
“I know who you are. You’re the one they call Bo.”
Bo raised an eyebrow.
“Your sword,” said the old man, “no one in the isles has one like it. Or if they did, they haven’t done enough with it to warrant me knowing about them.”
Bo pulled the gigantic sword closer. He couldn’t unsheathe it, there was no space. He patted the ivory handle instead.
“This is Nigashi,” he said by way of introduction.
“A pleasure I’m sure,” said the fisherman.
It was a remarkable weapon, an Odachi that was two shaku bigger than normal, thus making it five in total. It had been handmade for his great grandfather­. Bo had pulled it from his family’s shrine, as his father’s house had burned down around him. He had carried it ever since. Odachi were normally used on horseback, but Bo had taught himself to wield it like a normal blade while standing on his feet. It was deadly, the extra weight, length, and keen edge, could cleave a body in two, just like the wheat that falls before the scythe.
Bo and Nigashi were well known in Jwar. He was a sell-sword, not a Samurai, nor a Ronin; but a free agent.  He dealt with problems, problems that others could not solve. That was why he was journeying to Waterfall. They needed help; the newly appointed Daimyo and his men were powerless to kill a beast that plagued the small town. The reward was two thousand gold moons, or so the rumours went. They also claimed it had slain fifty of the Daimyo’s men, always coming after sunset, always taking its victims by surprise. They never knew where it was going to strike next.
 Bo was most assuredly not the only sword for hire in Jwar, but he was the best. He had no illusions that others would not try and snatch the purse from under his nose, but it mattered not. Something that has killed that many men would not die easily. It was a dirty business, the mercenary game, but Bo played it better than most.
 “So what are you doing in these parts?” asked the old man.
“I’m going to Waterfall to kill the beast.”
The fisherman was noncommittal, as if he heard this sort of thing every day. He took some bowls from a low hanging net and filled them with stew. Bo crossed his legs while he ate. The food was delicious. Hot, salty, and brimming with fresh fish; Bo helped himself to another bowl.
“They say he’s a bad man, the Daimyo of Waterfall, a cruel man,” said the old man.  “They call him Lord Blackheart, and every town he governs withers and dies as though touched by the plague.“
 “So why do the Shiho keep him in their ranks?” asked Bo.
“Because he funds their war, I suppose, with men and with moons. Who knows how they think,” said the fisherman.
Bo had heard of this Daimyo before, and it was as the fisherman had said; he was a brutal and callous man who taxed the towns under his control too heavily. He was quick to anger, and those who displeased him were hung, or worse. The gates to Waterfall were said to be lined with the heads of his foes.  He sent boys as young as twelve to fight alongside the Shiho Clan against Clan Takashi. Bo knew to be wary when dealing with this man, but the offer of thousands of gold moons was far too tempting to be ignored. It could see him live out his days in modest comfort, if he so chose. Bo spooned stew into his mouth, staring intently at the fisherman, thinking of his reason for being here, on the beach, in the hut.
 “My father was killed by a monster,” said Bo, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, remembering his father’s bloody death as if it were yesterday. He stared hard at the old man whose eyes were now the colour of the drying herbs that dangled from the smoke filled ceiling.
“Maybe it’s the same one,” said the old man, slurping his meal, looking down.
“Maybe,” said Bo, “but there are many fiends in this world.”
“Aye, that is often the case,” replied the old man.
They ate in silence except for the wind that prowled outside the hut. It darted in and out gaps in the driftwood making the flames dance.
“Do you believe in monsters?” asked Bo while filling his pipe and getting comfortable on the sand floor of the hut.
 “I see things,” said the old man pointing in the direction of the sea.
“Like what?”
“I’ve fished these waters since I was a boy. There are things out there that scare me.”
“Such as?”
“Sharks for one, especially big ones, they terrify me. That’s what killed my father,” said the old man. “One attacked our boat. My father fell into the water where it bit him in half. I was six years old when it happened and I had to swim all the way to shore. I was terrified it was going to get me too. I can’t forget how its eyes’ rolled back in its head before it took him. They were black, lifeless, dead almost.” The old man shuddered at the stolen memory.
“But still you fish?” asked Bo, carefully unsheathing his short blade.
“What else am I to do?”
Bo nodded in agreement. The two men smoked in silence.
“And how did you come by that scar old man? Fishing?”
The man remained silent, he appeared nervous. He looked down at the sand then up again at the sell-sword. Bo noticed his eyes were now the tawny hue of dried leather.
“Got hit by a bailing hook when I was a youngster,” he said eventually, as if trying hard to remember. “Can I get you some more stew?” he asked. Bo shook his head and said,” It’s strange... in fact, if I were a betting man, I’d wager that was done by a sword and not a hook.”
“This?” said the old man pointing to the scar in question; his face colouring ever so slightly as he did so. “No, like I said, I got this working on the docks down Eddo way. Hurt like a devil it did.” He laughed and began to stand, his eyes now blue and as clear as a vaulted summer sky.
“Not so fast,’ said Bo putting his hand on his knee forcing him to sit, “What’s the hurry? I was going to tell you how I came to be here.” The old man smiled grimly and remained seated.
“I was ten when you came to my village with your banners flapping and your swords drawn mimicking the local Daimyo and his Samurai. But before I continue...what did you do with the real fisherman? You killed him and buried him outback, didn’t you?” asked Bo, quietly. The two men sat in silence for several heartbeats. Outside, the storm roared.
“How did you know?” asked the shape-shifter eventually, realising the game was up.
“Your eyes. They’ve gone from grey to brown to blue. And the scar,” said Bo, pointing at it with his short blade,” when I first came in it was left to right, now it’s right to left. Your kind is apt to make mistakes when nervous.”
“How did you find me?”
“Garial. I caught up with him in Kobe where he was pretending to be a merchant. He told me you’d be around here, somewhere. He didn’t give you up easily, I had to torture him first, but he told me your whereabouts in the end. Your lot always do. You mujina might be cruel, but you’re remarkably cowardly. All I had to do was ask around in the village if anyone hadn’t been seen in a while. They told me that old Myoho, the fisherman, hadn’t visited the market in over a week; and here I am.”
“So what happens now?” asked the mujina in a deadpan voice.
“We fight. You die. Simple,” said Bo, shrugging his armoured shoulders. He watched the shape-shifter’s face run like snowmelt until it was smooth and as featureless as a thousand-year-old egg revealing his true self.  The mujina pleaded for its life as Bo held his short-blade to its pale neck.
 “Ten of you came to my village that day. Ten. You’re number eight... where are the remaining two?” asked Bo quietly.
“What’s in it for me? You’re going to kill me anyway,” hissed the creature.
“True, I am, I’m sworn to punish those that attacked us and killed my father, but I could make it quick, and painless. Or I could draw it out for days like I did with Kia’ll. Choice is yours. Admittedly, it’s not something I would normally do, giving you a choice.”
“Normal? What’s normal about any of this?” asked the quivering mujina.
“I tend to agree with you, normality is an illusion, an idea. What’s normal to the butcher... is terrifying to the pig,” said Bo, pushing his blade deeper into the pallid flesh of the shape-shifter. Bo watched the skin break and tiny drops of blood bead and run down the length of his sharpened blade. Bo waited patiently for the mujina to come to the right decision.
“Tsien is in Waterfall disguised as the new Daimyo,” gushed the mujina eventually. ”I don’t know what happened to Seri. I haven’t seen him in many years.”
“Waterfall?” exclaimed Bo loudly. He tilted his head back and laughed. ” It seems that karma has a sense of humour after all. Now I can kill two monsters with one sword...tell me, what do you know of the beast that stalks that town? Does it have anything to do with you and your, craven Clan?
“No. It is not part of us, all I know is that it has killed many men and that it continues to do so... just as you do. Maybe you’re more alike than you would care to admit.”

Bo stared at the smooth face of the mujina before he slit its throat. The creature’s hands sprung to its neck to stem the gush of blood, but there was naught it could do against such a deep cut. The blood flowed quickly through its pale, entwined fingers, like a river cascading down its chest, falling to the floor of the hut and beading in the sand. The mujina gave a last gurgle then collapsed in the corner on top of a pile of nets. Bo wiped his blade on his dead foe’s robes  then pulled the body by its feet out into the rain. Let the crabs deal with it he thought. He came back inside the warmth of the hut and strung a hammock. Eight down, two to go, he said to the fire before Grandfather Sleep took him.

Of Power Stations & Pylons... and the Ring of Karn.

I grew up in the shadow of cooling towers, in a small village that bordered a power station located in northern Kwa-Zulu Natal. We were encircled by kilometer-long strings of  pylons that anchored us to an industrial town about twenty minute away.  Surrounded by rivers and bush, there was all manner of things a teenage boy could get up to when the sun was out. But on those days that it rained, we played D&D, and when I say we played, we played for hours...

The story on how I came to discover Role-Playing I’ll save for another day, but it involves boarding school, shoe polish, Adolf Hitler, a Union Jack, the Vierkleur, and a weekend of detention.  But I digress. 
The town where I went to school had a really nice library  which was surprising for somewhere so provincial. Usually the good stuff was kept for the larger metropolitan areas, like Durban, or ‘Maritzburg, and we would  be left with the dregs, (like battered copies of Wilbur Smith, or tear-stained editions of Mills and Boon), but luckily for me they had all the books a 13 year old loves to read. Stephen King, Phillip Dick, Clive Barker, Anne Rice, Orwell, Le Guinn , Susan Cooper, Bukowski, Herr, Kerouac, Bradbury, the list went on.
Anyway, one day I was down there after school picking out something to read before taking the bus home, when I came across a book called, ‘The Dungeon Master’ by William Dear.

Now, I knew what a DM was (obviously), but I didn't know if this book was fact or fiction, so I took it out anyway and I devoured it that night. What can I say, I was young, and it was about a boy who ‘disappeared’ while playing D&D. It had Steam Tunnels, Mysterious Tables,  Paper-Mache Heads,  live action Role-Playing. Then there were bonfires, Tolkien societies, and an actual example of a D&D game... I thought it was great. The fact that it spawned a horrendous fekkin’ movie called ‘Mazes and Monsters’, was lost on me, and also, how it literally, projectile vomited, the ‘dangers’ of D&D into every living room across the globe, was lost on me too.

What stuck with me however, was the example of play found therein, especially the introductory portion of the game that Dear himself played; arriving in the town of Hann, being accosted by beggars, a shadowy figure making off with a box under his arm while being pursued by the local Watch. Then pinching the box from under their very noses and heading off to a local tavern, that not only had an escape tunnel, but one that led to a dungeon...pretty heady stuff for a teen.
 Over the years when called to run a game on the fly, this is what I run. Sure, my version deviates significantly from what you’ll find in the actual book, but the spirit of it is there, especially the beginning.
So, when we finally got around to getting a monthly 1st Edition AD&D game off the ground, I decided to kick off the evening with my version of what I had read in that book all those years ago... homage if you will.
game table session one
That first evening found the three characters wandering in the town of Hann looking for a place to have a quiet drink and plan what they were going to do next. There was Greenslade Fane (the Ranger), Pyus Doomsayer (the Cleric), and Shade DuMond (the Thief). Our MU was already AWOL on the first night, but has since been embraced  back into the fold.
So, there they were, strutting their stuff until they got surrounded by beggars looking for coin or food. The beggars became pushy and Shade felt more than a few fingers dancing in his pockets. They heard a commotion that focused everyone’s attention on a man being chased by the Watch; he was coming down an alleyway that ran between the tavern and an inner bailey wall.
 As he made the turn he slipped in a pool of water, and lost his grip on the box that then went sliding toward the players. Miraculously, no one seemed to notice this...except for Shade of course who kicked the box under a pile of fishing nets, drew down on the beggars, and told them in no uncertain terms to F%$k off.
The beggars fled and Shade picked up the box. One of the guards spotted what was going on, gave a shout, and summoned his brothers-in-arms to give chase. The PC’s legged it to the tavern, paid the inn-keep a gp, and headed for the booth that housed the secret door leading to the tunnel.
They made it just in time. As the guard pulled back the curtain to the snug, Shade deftly closed the secret door. They then padded down the tunnel to a larger room filled with empty wooden crates, and decided to open the box. Long story short, they found a necklace, tried it on, summoned its owner , and under pain of death, had to delve the local dungeon and return with the Ring of Karn...or else. (Can you say chugga-chugga-choo-choo? Yes I know it's all railroady as hell, but hey, what you gonna do?)
They accepted their miserable fate then headed off into the darkness. Their first encounter was with a plague of giant rats. It did not go well for the players; but for the rats? For the rats it went swimmingly. People were losing fingers to the feral little fuckers. Pyus nearly lost his tongue as one landed on his face and tried to burrow its head into his mouth. Shade lost most of his nose and there were  several bouts of high pitched screaming too... Oh, how we laughed!

With the rats dispatched (finally), and Shade pried off the wall, they decided to quit while ahead and barricade both doors before calling it a night and tending to their  wounds. Pyus was a busy lad and healed whomever he could before catching some Z’s. In the morning it was more of the same before heading deeper into the dungeon.
They came across a Carrion Crawler nibbling daintily on the body of a pig-faced orc. It was just on the edge of their torch light when they discovered it, and luckily for them, it was facing the other way.  Greenslade got a few pot-shots in with his bow, which  missed. This alerted the CC to their presence and the shenanigans began. 

The ranger took several flailing tentacles to the face and failed his Saving Throw which left him comatose on the dungeon floor. Shade swears he climbed the wall to ‘get around it’, I think he was trying to, ‘get away’ from it myself, but hey,  over the coming weeks I'll let you be the judge of that. 
Anyway, that left Pyus going toe-to-toe with the beastie. He was dodging left and right, making  saves, and dealing damage. Shade jumped off (fell off?)the wall onto its back and did a fair bit of damage. 
However, he got a gout of thick, black, Carrion Crawler goo in his face and mouth, and proceeded to spend the following few rounds vomiting up everything he had ever eaten. That left the Cleric to fight it on his own.

  His god must have been smiling on him that day, because he dispatched the creature with ease. Eventually Greenslade woke up, Shade stopped being sick, and they pilfered the body finding some Elven Boots of Silence tucked into the dead orc's belt. Then they headed up the tunnel regretting ever coming to this poxy town. It was round about here that we called it a night and made arrangements for the following month’s game.
 It was only a few days later that I realised our first night of gaming had been on the exact same day James Dallas Egbert had actually disappeared, thirty odd years ago... weird, huh?  

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Bo and the Beast.

Bo and the Beast

artwork by anthony van wyk


I. The Beast of Waterfall. Shelter from the Storm. The Old Man and the Hut. Of Monsters and Memories.

Outside, in a town called Waterfall, the wind howled and beat against a guardhouse door. Inside, the room was filled with off-duty soldiers drinking, gambling, and carousing with the local Oiran. A sergeant peered at his cards while listening to the din coming from outside but ignored it the moment he won another hand. His pile of coins grew rapidly; he had won six games in a row and was hoping to make it seven before turning in for the night.
He was feeling lucky; he’d just drawn ‘Iron Samurai’, undeniably the strongest hand in the game and virtually impossible to beat. He slid all his coins through a puddle of sake to take their place proudly in the middle of the table.  He was off in his head somewhere, merrily spending the fortune he was about to win; the noise outside merely a distraction. Until it came again, this time louder, more violent; the stout oaken door bulged in the middle, as if something were trying frantically to get inside the fetid room. The sergeant dropped his cards on the table and drew his sword. The others followed suit.
“What is it? What’s wrong?” whispered a soldier when the fearsome banging stopped and the room grew quiet.
 “I don’t know. Sounds like... I’m not sure what it sounds like,” slurred the sergeant, wishing he hadn't finished that last bottle of rice wine. Some of the ladies tittered nervously in the corner.
“Silence!” he barked, holding up his hand. The men watched, and waited. The tension grew when the infernal hammering began again.

“I’m going to see what it is,” said a soldier with his back to the door. Before he could even turn, the door exploded in a hail of splinters; masonry cracked and fell to the floor as the intruder forced its way inside...that’s when the screaming started. The beast stood taller than any man; its massive horned head surveyed the room, relishing what was to come. Its nostrils flared at the repugnant stench of man; then it attacked. Afterwards, body parts and coins lay scattered on the floor amid pools of glistening blood. It seemed the sergeant’s luck had run out after all, ‘Iron Samurai’ or not. And so it began...
*an excerpt for a project I am working on for GCT Studios and their wonderful game called 'Bushido.'*

Thursday, 23 October 2014

19.17 Swamp

Just some of the information I am throwing together for Tenkar's Landing Crowdsourced Sandbox Setting. My Hex is located on the South West side of the isle and is primarily a swamp. Hex marks the spot at 19.17 to be precise.

 The Wreckers
On a wooded hammock (obscured by Okiep trees and Ghost Breath moss) only half a mile north from where the Inkemba River meets the sea, is the skuilplek (hideout) of the Wreckers.  On moonless nights when storms prowl the waters, they lure unsuspecting ships onto the rocks by means of false lights. They can have a foundering vessel gutted in under an hour, and be back in their skuilplek to drink, carouse, and revel, before the boat is even at the bottom of the Skerpion Trench. Besides being inveterate looters and ne’er-do-wells, they are also cannibals, who feast heartily on the flesh the boats bring.

Their god, Wraak, doing his thing.

The Wreckers have lived in this part of the swamp for generations and are a solitary people. They do not mix with the other of the inhabitants of the swamps, preferring their own company. They have no use for the gold and jewels they sometimes find in the holds of the ships either, preferring medicines, clothing, tools, weaponry, and chief among all, rot-gut spirits; and so, with no need for currency, gems, jewellery and piles of coins, they are left lying around their camp (amongst the bones of their victims) for the dogs and the children to play with.
 Their leader, Rooi Jan (Red Jan), has limited powers of creation. Once per month he can sculpt a Modder (Mud), or Dryfsand (Quicksand) Golem, using materials found just outside his front door. These Golems will follow his basic commands and will last until midnight of that evening, whereby they will collapse to the ground. (Statistics on these below.)

The Wreckers have a ceremony every seven-day, where they give thanks to their god Wrack for the bounty he bestows upon them. It is on this day that they are at their weakest because of the nature of their intoxicating worship. They imbibe the extremely hallucinatory mushroom called the ‘Ilumbo Ikhowe’ and dance with wild abandon until the sparks of their bonfires join the stars in the night sky.  There are approximately 80 tribe members at any given time. The exact split according to sex and age is up to the DM; just ensure that you have enough males to be able to put up some resistance if attacked. They utilise basic swords, clubs, cudgels and spears. They do not use bows of any kind and possess very little armour.  Their leader, Rooi Jan, has a fiendishly sharp Panga (machete) that deals (1d8 +1) that he carries with him at all times. He even sleeps with it and takes it to the toilet.

Rooi Jan has a fondness for drunkenness, and when the captured liquor runs out he resorts to brewing his own, following an old family recipe passed down from his Wrecker forefathers. The tribe call it Wit Blits (White Lightning) because it is see-through and extremely potent. Just a fifty ml measure consumed, will act as a restorative of 1d6 Hit Points. This can be done just once a day, anymore will lead to extreme drunkenness and loss of Dexterity etc. The morning after the night before will lead to severe penalties vs. Constitution... This doesn’t apply to the Wreckers though, they seem almost immune to its extreme effects, and consume gallons of the stuff when available.
The Huts (made from wattle and daub) are laid out in a circular fashion surrounding a large bonfire area where a badly banked fire burns constantly to keep away mosquitoes.  Guards are posted every night, and dogs are kept chained outside the perimeter of the village to warn against possible attack from PC’s as well as swamp creatures.

Use S&W Random Treasure generator to determine just what baubles have been left lying around. On the whole, I think the Wreckers would best be bargained with instead of assaulted. Players could possibly hire their services to take them up river if they wished. But remember that they do consume human flesh, so the PC’s might want to keep one eye open at all times. (Insert any number of cannibal jokes here.)
As mentioned earlier, Rooi Jan can create either a Modder Golem, or a Dryfsand Golem once per month and just tweak to suit your fiendish tastes. 
 I do however suggest that all bashin’ type weapons (maces- the flat of a spade etc) do slightly more damage to the Golems, and that the Dryfsand can move 12 over actual quicksand, and that it tries to drown whomever it hits successfully (possibly Save vs. Dex to avoid?)

 The Heks of Hex 19.17
A dilapidated oil field lies half an hour’s march north of the Wreckers camp.  Hundreds of years ago this area was dry and above sea level, but now the silent pumpjacks and derelict derricks rust idly in what is known as the Blighted Bog

Sea-water has mixed with the subsurface water tables forcing pockets of oil, methane gas, and tar to the surface. Old vents still remove as much of this deadly gas (methane) as possible , but occasionally, especially after particularly violent lightning storms , huge gouts of flame go tearing up many feet into the sky and burn uncontrollably for years on end.  The fauna and flora found in the Blighted Bog is twisted, deformed, and follows the left-handed path of chaos. Hybrid plants of a carnivorous nature abound, and it is here, amongst all the misshapen glory of the poisoned earth you will find the ‘Heks’, or the Triumvirate as she calls herself, as she was born with three heads: one fair, one foul, one somewhere south of heaven.

One fair, one foul, one somewhere south of heaven.
One head always tells the truth, one head always lies... and the third head tells the future.  Roll 1d4 to determine how many hours she can see ahead...but you are likely never to find out as she controls an Efreeti that she will summon to help her if anyone becomes hostile. She stores the soul of the Efreeti in a silver lantern that is buried under an old road sign for Highway 69.
The Heks lives in the trunk of a hollowed out tree and has done so for years, but if you try and engage her in conversation, it will be hard to get a word in edge-ways, as the three heads are constantly chatting. Due to the highly combustible nature of the area, she is immune to fire damage; in fact she thrives on it. If someone would deal her flame damage, she converts those potential damage points to hit points instead. Minimal Treasure to be found here, maybe some foul concoctions that turn out to have restorative powers? I will leave that for the DM to decide.

Things of interest: Oil and Tar, and lots of it. There are several tar pits dotted around her dwelling. If you were of a mind too, you could try and excavate some of them for bones. There is rumoured to be a Scaled mammoth skeleton in one of them; if found, it would be of massive interest to the Apothecaries, and Potion Wranglers of Tenkar’s Landing...not to mention it would be worth a few bob too.

 Junkyard Dogs...from Hell.
Once a junkyard but now an overgrown labyrinth of moss and vine smothered cars, it is home to a ferocious Minotaur, called Inkuazi, and his two Junkyard Hell hounds.  The walls of the labyrinth are high, many stories high, and made up of crushed cars and trucks. Obviously over time, certain sections of wall have collapsed, choking off the hundreds of pathways that criss-cross the junkyard, but for the most part they are intact and climbable, and offer a Crow’s Road peek at the rest of the swamp.

In the centre of the Junkyard Labyrinth is where Inkuazi and his hounds call home. An old water proof freight container (now a grassy cave), is their abode. Just outside the cave is the moss covered hulk of a Buick 8, which for all intents and purposes is as good as a tomb.

 If the party where to examine the car, they would find:
1)      A skeleton in the boot (trunk, whatever) of the vehicle, alongside a rotted canvas tote bag filled with bags of white powder.
2)      In the glove compartment (glove box, jockey box,, we really ARE an international community on Tenkar’s Isle) they will find a two spell books. One written by Stephen King, called ‘The Stand’, and the other being number thirteen in the ‘Song of Fire and Ice’ saga, titled ‘Reign in Blood’.
3)      In the back seat are several 8-tracks and LP’s. One being the ‘White Album’ by the Beatles, another being the ‘Black Album’ by the Nazgul. There is also a melted single of (Baby can you dig your man?)by an artist called Larry Underwood.
4)      A scroll of ‘The Washington Post’ with a headline that reads, ‘Peace in our time.’
5)      In the ignition, a set of keys attached to a white rabbit’s foot that will bless the owner with one re-roll of ANY dice per day.
6)      And a map of what the isle used to look like, hundreds and hundreds of years ago.

The Minotaur patrols the Labyrinth with his two hounds. The bleached skulls of trespassers are left in a pile outside the entrance to the labyrinth in the vain hope that it will dissuade people from entering.  There is a warp here, in the junkyard, a warp in the weft between the worlds, and this splinter in one of the cosmic eyes, allows the hounds to operate in this demesne and not be confined to the lower guts of hell.

   The Minotaur has trapped the Labyrinth extensively. Tripwires are attached to huge piles of teetering cars, and deep pit traps, (filled with spikes and other metallic detritus) litter the pathways. A huge magnet, once used to raise vehicles off the ground hangs at the exit of the labyrinth.  This may cause players to be pulled upward, depending on how much metal you have on you. Sheathed swords and daggers will be the first to go, and if you are wearing chain, or plate mail...well, you’d best get used to hanging around. The Minotaur will use his knowledge of the Labyrinth to his advantage, leading people into dead-ends or areas that are heavily trapped. Once the party are stuck between a dead-end and a trap, he will release the hounds and fight alongside them to rid his precious Labyrinth of invaders.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Gaming Table for Session Four: The Ring of Karn.

It had been a while. I lie. It had been a long while since I had played any sort of Role Playing game. I had been threatening to get a group together for ages, but just never really got around to it. You know how it goes, work, life, kids, some bullshit re-run of a re-run that you find yourself watching.

I  met some guys on the 40k tournament circuit that played every week. Every week, I thought... imagine that. I would settle for once a month. So that's what we do, a once a month session for the veterans of the Psychic Wars. Greenslade, Pyus, Kia'ell, and Shade DuMond, getting it on. The pictures are proof of that.

And as for the story, well, I will bore you with that when I can.