Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Back-to-Basics OD&D Greyhawk Campaign - Sessions 5 & 6

Session 5 (two weeks later...)

At the end of that summer, the three freemen adventurers - Siliceous Slagg, Jake, and Haruspex Niv - decided to finally go to Grossettgrottell and see if Mather and his clan had a reward for them. They were joined by Niv’s newly hired man-at-arms, Peter, and a new adventurer, Sagan the Nameless, who they suspected was spying on them for Eneever Zig, but let him come anyway.

After an uneventful trip into the Cairn Hills, they finally reached Grossettgrottell, which seemed to be no more than a thorp full of gnome shepherds with a human-sized inn. The inn was run by Halril, an elf maiden, who entertained merchants who could not or would not go down into the warrens (a friendly merchant of this sort they met was John Rown) and gnome shepherds waiting for the bowling games to start. Though they made sure the inn could put up their wagon and two draft horses, it seemed accommodations were scarce because this was a fest day, or a market day, and indeed they were missing it even now in the warrens below.

Moving outside, Slagg quickly found the concealed tunnel entrance to the underground warrens. They were stopped at a guard outpost where the gnomes were suspicious until Slagg described Mather and his nephews, and then they were admitted, and warned not to pet the badgers (they had many opportunities to, but chickened out).

The entry tunnel went past a side passage with a dwarven glyph over it, but they ignored it and pressed on to the trade hall cavern. In this enormous cavern they found the marketplace just starting to break down for the day. They hired a gnome guide for 2 sp who took them to a tunnel that led to the Amdur Clan’s section of the warrens, home to Mather and the nephews, Horach and Pincnan. Here they were received warmly and told they could stay as long as they wanted. A feast would be prepared for them – but the chef Ipayah refused because she had no violet mushrooms for everyone’s favorite dish. The mushrooms could only be found in the Forbidden Caves.

At first, the party wanted nothing to do with the Forbidden Caves. They found the Amdurs’ drinking hall and, socializing with the gnomes there, learned of undisclosed bounties on kobolds, goblins, hobgoblins, and orcs that infested the Cairn Hills. They told about kobolds bursting into flame when killed, and goblins having special abilities, which may or may not prove to be true. But the Forbidden Caves were starting to sound more tempting, especially when Horach and Pincnan agreed to come and point out poisonous mushrooms to them (the whole “forbidden” thing was really more of a guideline…).

In their first cave, they found poisonous, sticky mushrooms, and normal-sized beetles that seemed to like heat. In the second cave, they found destroying angel mushrooms that were, besides being deadly poison, would explode with a flash if thrown. Jake was collecting some when three giant centipedes attacked him, but they were quickly dispatched by the party without harm. Niv made Peter collect the bodies and place them in his pack.

In a third cave, they found a slick slope and decided it looked too dangerous, so they backtracked to a side passage. Down this way they found a fourth cave with a 4’ cube carved stone in the center of it. Though initially wary of the cube, Jake went in and touched the back side of it, at which time the side facing a small side passage turned white and the side facing a shallow niche turned black. There was definitely some puzzle here, but they decided not to mess with it. It was getting late and they wanted to find their way back. Which they did!

Session 6 (Two weeks later…)

On the two-week anniversary of the party’s arrival in Grossetgrottell (this week’s market day-fest was taking place in the neighboring village of Chataignier), the party was planning to go back and explore the rest of the Forbidden Caves. Haruspex Niv, Jake, and Sagan the Nameless found Siliceous Slagg, who had been spending time with his fellow dwarves in Grossettgrottell, while the others had been staying close with the gnomish Amdur Clan. Their reunion was cut short by a commotion -- the mayor’s son, Zeph, had been kidnapped! Everyone who wasn’t away in Chataignier was mobilized to search, including every burrowing mammal, but the only clue was that something had been seen heading towards the Forbidden Caves!

Mather was rallying his people when he spotted the party. Singing their praises as experts in rescuing gnomes, he also volunteered to come with them, armed with his lucky dagger and a shield he had bought. They also had Niv’s man-at-arms hireling, Peter, along with. Slagg volunteered that he knew of a dwarven hero staying in the area, but the others did not like the thought of splitting treasure with a hero and decided six people was quite enough thank you very much.

The party headed back into the caves, being more careful to map this time, and used Niv’s ESP spell to try and home in on the gnomenappers. They covered a lot of familiar ground at first, making sure the four caves they knew about were not occupied and looking for tracks. It was when they returned to the cave with the magical stone cube in it that Niv’s spell finally detected evil monsters ahead. Still, the party took the time to try and detour around the direction the thoughts emanated from, suspecting an ambush. So they came at a cave with three goblins and four giant rats in it from a slightly different angle. The rats charged at them and the goblins threw their spears, but Jake blocked the tunnel entrance with his shield and the spears all glanced off -- and then their opponents were all dropped by Niv’s Sleep spell. They had minimal treasure -- 12 sp -- and it was decided (after killing the rats) to tie up the goblins and see if they had any information of value. It turned out, their boss was a gnoll, and the gnoll had gnomenapped Zeph. The goblins were guarding his back as the gnoll headed deeper into the caves. After questioning them, Slagg dispatched them with his axe.

The next cave had a high ledge overlooking it like a balcony and there was a lone goblin guard watching them from the balcony. The party went back to get the three throwing spears from the dead goblins and come back, but when they did they found the lone sentry had gone and got all his friends -- four of them -- to come man the balcony with him. They lobbed javelins at the party, lightly injuring Slagg, and nearly killing Mather (he was saved at the last minute by Jake’s only cure spell). The javelin-tossers were chased back by flaming oil, but soon the cave was filled with smoke and too dangerous for the party to stay. Luckily, there was another tunnel down here to try…

Which lead to a cave with the gnoll in it, accompanied by a lone goblin, and a sack with something moving in it. The goblin met the advancing party and blew out Jake’s torch (being able to blow out torches was something the gnomes had told them goblins could do -- and it turned out to be true!). The gnoll was running towards a tunnel on the other side of the cave when the lights went out; Sagan tossed a Sleep spell down the tunnel as far as it could go and caught the gnoll in it, which they found out after Slagg dispatched the remaining goblin. Sure enough, Zeph was sleeping now in the bag, but they woke him up. Mather comforted Zeph while the gnoll was tied up. The party quickly decided they would bring back their prisoner to face gnomish justice…and maybe collect a reward for capturing him. They also found the cave the gnoll had fled into was the cave of violet mushrooms -- the very delicacies they had been looking for last time! They filled the sack that had held Zeph with the delicious mushrooms and started to head back.

But not all the way back yet. There was something Sagan had noticed while mapping…that a dead end they had seen earlier seemed to come to the other side of the balcony cave. They all went there and searched it for secret doors. They almost found none, but Peter found it, searching a little further back in the tunnel from the dead end. This lead to the secret lair of the six remaining goblins, who were felled by another Sleep spell. In a chest, they had 9 cp, 300 sp, and 31 ep, which the party took.

And lastly, Jake wanted to back and gather 16 more “exploding” destroying angel mushrooms, enough to fill the remainder of space in his backpack.

When returning to the Village of Corippo, they returned Zeph, and were treated to a 50 gp reward, plus 20 more for bringing them the blackguard who had abducted him. The violet mushrooms were worth 50 gp to the Amdur Clan (and shared only with the Amdur Clan, cementing their cooking- related power in the community!). Jake looked into if the destroying angel mushrooms were saleable and learned that the four he’d picked two weeks ago would rot in the next few days, meaning his collection was of limited value.     

Friday, September 11, 2020

My Back-to-Basics OD&D Greyhawk Campaign - Sessions 3 & 4

Session 3 (Two weeks later…)
The wagons rolled over the drawbridge into the courtyard of Castle Greyhawk once more. Rulf, acting like he thought of himself as a sergeant when he did not outrank any other indentured servant, called for everyone to line up and sound off, while the wizard Eneever Zig reviewed them. Zig’s instructions were short this time. Instead of waiting here, Zig was going into the dungeon himself, to speak to someone in the Bottle City. He explained how this was literally a city in a magic bottle, on the second dungeon level. He did not even assign guards to the wagons before walking off.
Jake, Haruspex Niv, Siliceous Slagg, and Baron von Hage (Baron was his first name) were not interested in guard duty, they abandoned Rulf and the others for the trapdoor that led into the dungeon, intent on collecting bounties.
Passing the dungeon cells, they found a third gnome in the first cell! The gnome was chained up and made it clear an ambush was waiting for them in the second, adjoining cell. Forewarned, the four bounty hunters surprised two brigands lurking in the next cell, a variant of the trap the brigands had left here for them last time, but more dangerous because one of the brigands had an alarm horn in hand. Thankfully, the brigand dropped the horn when surprised, and neither brigand lasted long (one slain, the other, Bill, captured).
The gnome was freed. His name was Mather, and he had come looking for the two gnomes freed two weeks back, but was himself captured and tossed in here as fresh bait for the bounty hunters. Mather, unlike his cousins, wanted to accompany them and avenge himself, and was given Baron’s dagger.
Bill was questioned about the location of the Master. He had no idea, but he explained some dungeon economy to them. Rather than being paid money he was allowed to keep, Bill was given a weekly allowance that he could use to buy replacement weapons, good wine, or a romp with the Master’s harlots. This seemed like a good clue to the bounty hunters and they insisted Bill lead them to the harlots. Niv cast his ESP spell so he would sense thoughts they approached and would be harder to surprise.
The way to the harlot rooms seemed deserted, though. Bill suggested that it might be meal time; his sense of time was thrown off by the week he had spent in the cell as part of the trap for them. Eventually they reached a locked door that they could not break down, but the noise of them throwing themselves against it brought the attention of the harlots on the other side. When they claimed to be the Master, it brought the madam, Muriel, to the door.
There was a brigand in the room who was now half-dressed, had picked up his spear, and rushed in to fight, with Muriel fighting alongside him with her dagger. But the brigand went down fast and Muriel surrendered. She had fought to make a show of loyalty, but her only real loyalty was to her girls. She said she had few encounters with the Master, and most of her dealings were with a lieutenant, Gregory. It was Gregory with whom Muriel had an arrangement that her girls would always be compensated. She was asked if the women would want to leave the dungeon if escorted, but she said some had been down here long enough they did not remember the surface world anymore. She agreed to lead them into the vicinity of Gregory’s quarters, but would not risk being seen with them and let him know she had betrayed him. She also implored them not to kill Gregory, as her girls would no longer be safe then.
Two more brigands had been in the next room of harlots, but one escaped and only one remained to guard the other’s escape, wielding only a scimitar in his hands. He was a capable swordsman and it took some time for Slagg, Baron, and Jake to drop him.
A short distance away, at Gregory’s quarters, they fought and killed a guard outside the room, and Baron was finally able to upgrade his armor to what this man had been wearing. By now, Muriel had vanished (Mather had her dagger now, though). The door to Gregory’s room was locked, and another door on the other side that seemed to lead into the same area was locked. Niv sensed no thoughts within, so making lots of noise breaking a door down did not seem useful enough to them. Instead, they moved on to a new part of the dungeon past here.
The next rooms were also empty of people, but they were not empty. One contained a blue opal in a chamber full of centipedes, including two giant centipedes, which were easily killed. Mather helped in the combat here, despite still having no armor. Another room contained a stuffed albatross on a wooden pedestal, with a pair of dice next to it. A third room contained even more elaborate and puzzling contents. There was a pool of water (curiously, saltwater!) with a chain hanging from a pulley above it. In a small adjoining room was a winch controlling the chain. The bounty hunters tried lowering the chain into the water, and tried baiting the chain with the stuffed albatross, but caught nothing on their fishing expedition.
While trying to solve the puzzle, they were caught by three guards on patrol and the bounty hunters fought them and killed them. Mather, again, proved useful (so much so that he was convinced Muriel’s dagger was magical), but by now both Slagg and Baron had been injured and Jake only had a healing spell for one. Leaving Baron moderately injured, they decided it was time to start heading back. Returning to the harlots’ rooms, they found Muriel had returned here. She told Mather her dagger was not magical, shocking him to learn that it was all himself who had been so successful in combat. Muriel had discussed their offer of freedom with her girls and three of them wished to go.
They got turned around once on the way back out, but realized they had taken a wrong turn when they reached a pit they had never seen before. Luckily, they had still been dragging Bill around all this time, and Bill led them out. However, not far from the first bandit lair, they opened a door and found four wandering giant rats. Two of them jumped on Baron and tore him apart. Mather killed them both, while Slagg and Jake took care of the other two.They tried to revive Baron, but all they got out of him were his final words. “I had a good time…don’t tell anyone how I died.”
Returning to the courtyard (Bill was forced to carry Baron), they found all the other servants badly hurt and one of the wagons smashed! Two ogres had ambushed them from the roofs of the nearby round towers and hurled rocks down on the nearest wagon to smash it. The ogres had been chased off after a horrendous battle.
Eventually Zig returned and he had news too: the dungeons had changed since he was down there last and he could no longer find the Bottle City. He offered a 200 gp reward if they happened to find it. No one had, of course, but they did have treasure to show Zig. The dice found by the albatross had fading magic, or some residual magic, to them. Curious, he gave them 50 gp for the dice. The blue opal was worth far more -- 2,000 gold pieces. Now the bounty hunters had a serious discussion -- use the money to resurrect Baron, or pay for their freedom? The 2,000 split three ways would make all three of them free men (or two men and a dwarf, at any rate). The desire to be free men won the day, but to assuage their guilt they agreed to give the remaining 200 gold to Baron’s next of kin.
And so they all left, with the remaining wagon, to return to the City of Greyhawk…
Session 4 (Two weeks later...)
Though Haruspex Niv was eager to get Mather to Grossettgrottell (and possibly a reward), Jake and Siliceous Slagg made him wait, vowing they’d do that after one more trip to Castle Greyhawk. They brought Goryc along (even though Goryc is still an indentured servant of Eneever Zig!).
Thanks to a wealthy patron Jake met the previous week, they had a carriage ride and men-at-arms escort all the way to Castle Greyhawk. Once there, they realized they could do anything they wanted, with no mission from Zig. They looked around the entrance and found an ogre’s “nest” in one of the square towers, but the ogre wasn’t home (the heroes know there are at least two).
Then they checked out the stables on the south side/high end of the castle grounds. There they found a working wagon, miscellaneous possessions from old workers, and – on the third floor – a haunted room. Jake performed a ceremony to try and put the undead to rest, but the ceremony only upset – a wraith! Niv and Goryc ran (I wasn’t taking the blame if they got energy drained while they were NPCs). Slagg had a silver dagger, so he stayed and fought. Jake poured holy water on his morning star so he could fight too. And they won! (Chiefly because the wraith was a terrible fighter/I could not roll more than a 10 to hit/forgot silver weapons do half-damage. Oops!) The room contained some loose change, a holy symbol, and more importantly a workbench full of a master blacksmith’s tools in pristine condition.
Rather than move on in exploring the castle, Slagg had an unusual suggestion: why not quit now with the spoils they had? They could load everything that looked saleable into the wagon and push it downhill to the courtyard entrance. If they hurried, they would get out before the ogre(s) came back. After some discussion, they agreed as a group to leave, left the castle, and met their escort just outside. Their carriage had two horses; they bought one outright from the driver and returned at half-speed to civilization. Rather than return all the way to Greyhawk City, they stopped at the Village of Hawfair Green, so they would reach it by late evening.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

My Back-to-Basics OD&D Greyhawk Campaign - sessions 1& 2

 Prologue (Session 1)

They came in a covered wagon, not allowed to see the route through the hills they took to reach the castle. They were only allowed out when they were in its courtyard. Their actions were limited because they were the indentured servants of a wizard – one Eneever Zig.
The wizard himself was there and waxed nostalgic about where they were – Castle Greyhawk. He talked about how generations had looted its dungeons and been responsible for the beginning of a new social class, the adventuring class. And, even though the castle should have been cleared out by now, someone or some force had restocked the castle dungeons with monsters and treasure. Zig wanted those treasures, and any treasure brought to him would help pay for their emancipation. He even showed them a way down, revealing a concealed trapdoor in the courtyard.
The initial five servants were Card, Jake, Korrin, Rex, and Thorin; of them, only Jake was human. They found the dungeon, at least near this entrance, was truly a dungeon in form and function, and one of the first three cells were inhabited. They freed two gnomes and sent them up to the surface. Their jailors were a group of bandits at the end of the hall. Not many of the bandits were there in their lair, so they went down quickly.
From a bandit they left alive they learned of a nearby maze area the bandits avoided. This sounded promising to the five adventurers. They explored some of it, finding a spear trap behind a false door, and eventually found their way to a room with kobolds in it. They also made short work of the kobolds. Then they found a larger room with a row of three doors and, after they tried one, they found this area was inhabited by a lot more kobolds – too many to handle! They fled for their lives, Rex sacrificing himself in an attempt to slow the kobolds down…

Session 2: Five Months Later

Eneever Zig returned to the castle, with two wagons full of servants and other retainers this time. He wanted information more than treasure this time, and put a bounty of 100 gold on the head of Gurth, the bandit leader. Jake, having survived the first foray months earlier, returned to guide three new adventurers, Goryc, Hauspex Niv, and Siliceous Slagg. They went down via the same route.

At the prison cells, they found the same two gnomes! They had never made it out of the courtyard, having been captured by an ogre five months ago and returned to the cells. They had someone else in the cells with them, but this man turned out to be one of the bandits. He pulled a dagger to Goryc’s throat and demanded the others leave! Niv was fast with a charm spell and put the bandit under his power.

The charmed bandit led them to the bandits’ rooms. The bandits were spread out over two rooms, with Gurth in the second room. All of the bandits were dispatched, save Gurth and one other (the charmed one was killed by Slagg). They collected some treasure and returned up top to claim their bounty. The light of day hurt the eyes of the bandits, so accustomed had they become to living underground.

Zig asked them to pin Gurth down, then used a medallion to read Gurth’s thoughts. The medallion killed Gurth, but not before giving up his thoughts to Zig. Zig did not get the answers he wanted, but he now placed a bounty of 200 gp on someone Gurth knew as “The Master.” Zig also appraised the treasures the adventurers brought back. Goryc suspected Zig of lowballing them and cast a magic-detecting spell. None of their treasure was magical – but he did learn that Zig was protected by two invisible, magical guardians nearby him. At least they got 100 gold which, when added to their bounty, gave them 200 gold to pay down their servitude. Just 550 gold each left to go…

The captured bandit that wasn’t Gurth was eager to trade information for his life and told of a lieutenant who might know where the Master was. The prisoner was forced to lead them down and took them to a room full of eight orcs. Prepared for them in advance, the two magic-users dropped all eight of them with two sleep spells before the orcs could even reach them. They killed all the orcs, but left one alive for questioning. Their new prisoner told them the lieutenant they sought was a “half-goblin” named Herg and gave them directions on how to find Herg.

The adventurers followed the directions, passing three doors that led into rooms that housed huge weasels. They left the weasels alone and made their way to a large muralled hall and a pair of double doors, just as the orc had described. But the double doors were extremely hard to open.

While working on the doors, a man with a candle and a cape made of rat pelts approached them. This man was a roving furrier, buying rat pelts, and had been down here so long he wasn’t sure he wanted to leave and promised to think it over.

Meanwhile, the magic-users found, if they each touched one door that they opened for them. Unfortunately, the orc had lied. This was not Herg’s lair, but the lair of nine berserkers. Short on spells and not feeling confident, the adventurers tried to quickly trap the men inside the chamber, but the men were able to easily open the doors from inside. The adventurers fled the way they had come, but the berserkers were faster and caught up to them around the corner, in the hallway with the weasel rooms. The adventurers staged a fighting withdrawal up the long hallway, but would likely have lost the battle had Niv not started opening doors and letting weasels out. The weasels wound up doing more harm to the adventurers than anyone else down here had, but they also kept the berserkers busy and allowed them to escape.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Campaigning in South Province

This is the longer version of the write-up about South Province that I wrote for Canonfire, and you can read here:

Campaigning in South Province is for the DM who wants to downplay dungeon crawling in favor of political intrigue and military campaigning. More properly called the South Province of the Great Kingdom until 587 CY, and thereafter known as the United Kingdom of Ahlissa, the South Province is one of the most population-dense areass in the Flanaess, which means it is relatively safe of dangers such as roving bands of monsters, dragons, giants, etc. That is not to say the South Province is safe -- the Herzog of South Province extensively used humanoid troops and now there are many orcs and hobgoblins still in positions of authority throughout the kingdom. The warmongering followers of Hextor are everywhere and they are displeased with a stable, peaceful Kingdom of Ahlissa. The former capital of Zelradton is a hotbed of devil worship, so bad that to avoid their influence the capital was moved to Kalstrand, a city only annexed to the kingdom post-Greyhawk Wars.

The United Kingdom of Ahlissa is much larger than the former South Province, now including the lost Prelacy of Almor and much of what was known in recent memory as the Great Kingdom. However, these areas are not covered in this entry and should be covered separately.

The South Province is in the southeast Flannaess, south of Relmor Bay, bordered to the east by the Thelly River, to the south by the Greyflood River and the Iron Hills, and Dunhead Bay to the west. Its latitude and geography suggest a climate like Earth’s Egypt. While there are no interior rivers within the province, the population density suggests there is no shortage of water, so there must be ample streams and springs, as well as well-fed water. This is supported by the abundance of food prepared in South Province, one of the chief staples of the economy, even though copper, silver, and gold are all mined around the perimeter of the province. In this wet, hot clime, rice is likely a staple of local diets.

The culture, largely Oeridian, is here more like a mixture of Germanic and Slavic. The original Flan inhabitants were decimated by the migrating Oerdians and this long ago act of evil has cast a lingering presence over the Province ever since. Corruption is rampant and the standing army is little more than bandits, brigands, and monstrous races (including a significant number of ogrillons). Much of the history of its Flan inhabitants is now lost, though the Flan name for this land, Ahlissa, suggests some kinship with the legendary Queen Ehlissa of antiquity.  

The “natural enemies” of South Province are the states of the Iron League to the south. Idee, the Iron Hills, the Hollow Highlands, and Sunndi resisted generations of herzogs who ruled South Province before the current Overking, and the unattainable goal of finally reabsorbing those lands, long ago lost to the Great Kingdom, have not been forgotten.   

Country specific resources:
Developments from Stonefist to South Province” (Dragon #57)
Ivid the Undying (the unpublished Sargent-era supplement)

Adventures in this country include:
lCity/naval adventures along the coastlines, fending off Scarlet Brotherhood-backed pirates.
lPerform a quest for the druids to restore the Bonewood.
lDefend Trennenport from a Sahuagin invasion.
lExplore Icespire, a cursed area on the Dunhead Coast where it is eternal winter.
lExplore the Undercity of Prymp, with its watery caves of deadly monsters and connection to the Underdark.
lAid (or put down?) an insurrection of the slave population.
lOppose the machinations of the Church of Hextor without openly fighting them (since they are inexorably bound to the power structure of the kingdom).
lPolitical intrigue between backstabbing political factions willing to take any steps against each other, up to assassinations.
lQuest for Queen Ehlissa’s Marvelous Nightingale, hidden somewhere in her ancestral lands.
lSolve the mystery of the callings from the Calling Mines.
lTransform the system from within, gradually lessening the hold of Lawful Evil over the kingdom and backing leaders who can change it to Good.
lAfter 400 years, the Yuan-Ti (represented by Graf Reydrich’s ancestor, Reynevar the Snakeheaded) return to Ahlissa. But for what purpose? Do they also seek the Nightingale?
Adventures in nearby areas include:
lCement the tenuous alliance between the Iron Hills and Ahlissa through diplomacy.
lEstablish peace with the Kingdom of Nyrond (and stop their raids!).

Fan-made Resources:
“The Principality of Ahlissa” (Oerth Journal #16)
“Trennenport” (Oerth Journal #21)
“Zelradton: City of Steel” (Oerth Journal #18)

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Downtime Spending Rules for OD&D

Downtime Spending

In OD&D, where game time is meant to correspond to real time, I saw a need for mechanics to determine what happens during those 2 weeks of game time between our sessions.
You pick the social class you want to live like, and that determines how much it costs per week, as follows:
Lower Lower Class (bums on the street) - 1 cp
Middle Lower Class (what you were as indentured servants) - 1 sp
Upper Lower Class (freemen, working class) - 1 ep
Lower Middle Class (common tradesmen) - 5 gp
Middle Middle Class (guild tradesmen) - 10 gp
Upper Middle Class (merchants) - 20 gp
Lower Upper Class (knights) - 60 gp
Middle Upper Class (barons) - 180 gp
Upper Upper Class (dukes) - 360 gp
Upper Upper Class+ (princes) - 720 gp
Upper Upper Class++ (kings) - 1,440 gp

What Happened to You Doing Your Week of Downtime? Table
Roll       Result
1 or less Someone kills you in your sleep and takes all your stuff
2            There is a 5 in 6 chance that someone beats you up, robs you of 10-60% of your wealth, and leaves you with 1 hp
3            You have a 4 in 6 chance of catching an ailment/disease/infestation (referee’s call)
4            You have a 3 in 6 chance of one of your contacts/followers/hirelings/henchmen leaving you
5-9        Nothing happens
10          You have a 3 in 6 chance of picking up a new contact/meeting someone to hire
11          You have a 4 in 6 chance of someone seeking you out to hire you to do something (plot hook!)
12          You have a 5 in 6 chance of a sponsor finds you and offers to pay your way to the next social class up next week
13+       You are accepted into the hierarchy for your class or race (your choice) or advance up in that hierarchy (permanent one step up on the social class table)

Social Class Modifiers
LLC -4
MLC - 2
ULC -1
MC - no modifiers
LUC +1
MUC +2
UUC +4

[This next part is adapted from an early Dragon magazine: ]
Further, like in the original Blackmoor campaign, you can earn XP *again* by additional spending during downtime, in the following ways:
- Religious sacrifice. Any classes, no more than 1/week, no limit.
– Philanthropy. Non-chaotics only, no limit (half-value for Neutrals).
– Spell Research. Magic-users only, up to 250 gp per level per day.
– Clan hoards. Demi-humans only, no limit, but must travel to the location of the clan & its hoard.
- Guild/Church tithing. Any classes, no more than 1/week, up to 10% of everything you have.
– Carousing. Non-lawfuls only (half-value for Neutrals). Max spent is 500 gp per level per night (or 250 if at less than full hp). A character needs a CON score of 2 per day (so a CON of 14+ is required to keep going all seven days of the week), and the character needs an equal number of days of rest afterwards.

For downtime extra spending, 1 XP is earned for every 2 GP spent (so 50% of its initial XP value when earned).

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Making a Marvel Cinematic Universe -- in the 1980s (part 4)

Previous entries in this series (from 2017!):

In which I postulated a Marvel Cinematic Universe begun with a Fantastic Four movie in 1986, followed by a tied-in Hulk movie 1987.

Contained more information about the Hulk movie (sort of a reboot of the TV show version, but with Skrulls), and Fantastic Four 2, coming out in 1988.

Is all about the Thor movie that would come out in 1989.

Thor was a late spring debut, with the Spider-Man movie set to come out in the early fall. In between, DC’s Batman movie came out and threatened to derail everything. A huge summer blockbuster, more successful than anything yet to come out in the MCU, it made Universal’s and Marvel’s execs worry. Were they on the wrong track, sticking so close to the original canon? Should they try to steal away Tim Burton and have him create a uniquely twisted take on the Marvel Universe? Despite their hand-wringing, it was too late for Spider-Man, already in post-production.

Spider-Man (the name was changed to The Amazing Spider-Man by summer, to make it stand out more) was going to be its own departure from what had come before. Director Barry Levinson had been tapped because the producers wanted the director of The Natural, Good Morning Vietnam, and Rain Man to create a superhero movie thoroughly grounded in realism. For casting, then, the teenage Peter Parker had to be an honest-to-goodness teenager and not a baby-faced twenty-something. Many teens auditioned, but the role went to unknown actor Neil Patrick Harris, who was already filming the pilot to Doogie Howser, M.D. for television and had to be bought out of his contract.

It was, like many things tried in the MCU, a gamble; young Neil was going to have to carry a movie that was all about character and story. This movie would have no supervillain -- it would be about Peter’s story of going from nerdy nobody to television celebrity, his downfall of pride, his loss and tragedy, his quest for revenge, and ultimate acceptance of responsibility, broken down into 117 minutes. The only bad guy would be The Burglar, Flash Thompson (sort-of), and at times Peter himself. This was a nuanced, adult superhero movie, but still balanced for the youth market by a PG rating, the colorful-looking hero, and lots of special effects and stunt work (though Neil worked hard to get in shape for the movie, he was not able to do his own acrobatics).

Shirley MacLaine, then 55, was cast as Aunt May. Though younger than she looked in the comic books, the Golden Globe winner was deemed important for the emotional heft she would give the part of the soon-to-be-widow. Aunt May’s part in the movie was expanded so that we follow her journey almost as much as Peter, bonding with her as she stresses over raising a teenage son who isn’t hers, and then feeling her pain when Uncle Ben is murdered.

Uncle Ben was a character who would not be appearing in any sequels, so no big budget was spent on a big star for that part. Charles Haid, best known from TV’s Hill Street Blues, was cast. Though younger than Shirley, they proved a good match with strong chemistry in their early scenes together.

Though 19 at the time and needing to pass for 16, Jonathan Ward was cast as Flash Thompson. He had the difficult task of being a bully that audiences could also warm up to as Flash came to idolize Spider-Man, unaware that he was idolizing the boy he mercilessly picked on.

Veteran stage star Frank Langella, who two years before had been Skeletor in the He-Man movie, agreed to be J. Jonah Jameson, the tough-talking, cigar-chomping, well-meaning-but-really-a-jerk publisher of the Daily Bugle. The loud critic of Spider-Man who turns out to be right about him, or the person Peter becomes before he decides to change himself for the better.

Audiences and critics loved The Amazing Spider-Man. Perhaps hungry for something more solid and satisfying after the dark confection of Batman, The Amazing Spider-Man climbed to the third highest-grossing movie of the year, beating out Back to the Future Part II and after earning $371 million -- over four times Fantastic Four 2 had made -- became by far the most successful movie yet in the franchise. Shot on a modest $12 million budget, this was a huge money-maker for Marvel and Universal and proved to them that they had been on the right track all along, but had just needed audiences to warm up to the concept of superhero movies.

The success of The Amazing Spider-Man only added to the pressure on Fantastic Four 3. Could it ride Spider-Man’s coattails and become the mega-blockbuster that the first two had failed to be?

There was early talk of replacing the FF with bigger celebrities, but the producers decided continuity was critical and kept all the same cast from the first two. Billy Zane would be back as the Sub-Mariner and he would be teaming up with Doctor Doom, the first film to have two supervillains in it. To give Doctor Doom the proper gravitas, Alan Rickman -- Hans Gruber in Die Hard -- was cast as Doom. Fans loved the irony, since FF 2 had just beat out Die Hard in the box office two years earlier. Alan affected a Latvian accent for the film; later in interviews he admitted he had been told Doom was from Latveria but, not being a comic book reader, had not understood it was a fictional country and thought he misheard. Regardless, the accent worked.

The film combined the stories of FF #5 and #6 very closely. Doom forces the FF to test his time machine and sends them back into the past to collect Blackbeard’s treasure. Rebecca de Mornay, already chaffed that the Invisible Girl had an unequal role in FF2, was given more to do this time, interacting with Doom in cut-away scenes while the boys are trapped in the past, and ultimately saving them. In the second half, Doom recruits Prince Namor in a revenge scheme and then launches all five of them and the entire Baxter Building into space. The movie is almost the opposite of The Amazing Spider-Man, being heavy on spectacle and moved by plot instead of by character. It’s advantage is a huge special effects budget. Flush from Spider-Man, Universal spent a whopping $50 million. The expenditure pays off -- audiences eager for another superhero blockbuster pour into theaters and give FF2 the no. 2 spot in the box office, pushing out Home Alone, and becoming the most successful Marvel movie to date with a whopping $480 million.

FF3 was the only MCU film of 1990. Hulk 2 was set to come out in 1991, but it was delayed until fall so so Spider-Man 2 could be rushed into production and given a big summer release.