Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Updates from the lands of Xan Than Du

So the Xan Than Du games have been progressing and the parties have gotten involved in numerous hijinx that I have become too increasingly lazy to document in separate posts.   They have explored an abandoned outpost for treasure hidden by an ancient madman,  dealt with desert demons and nearly been mauled to death by the leader of a cult of lion worshipers.  They have engaged in tough negotiations with hostile villages for supplies,  defended a Spanish mission from a small army of angry locals, had an incredibly unlikely second encounter with the Cave of Wonders (that ended far more deadly), and search for a shipwrecked vessel from the Texan Navy with the aid of a wise hermit high on a mountain.   Characters were mauled by animals,  robbed by bandits, and in one case captured by slavers in their pirate hideout due to to fallout from a Djinni's wish.

One character befriended a local gorilla named Harambe only to shortly after become the guest of a certain mad big game hunter that is seeking a more dangerous prey.

In short, it is what you would expect in terms of cliche and tropes and murder.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Market day at the old Andoran mission

For any regular readers,  this is a reference table for use in my Xan Than Du game so that it can be referenced in play.

Combat Gear


2 silver.  Medium, pole, hand and a half, piercing.


2000 silver,  limit 1.


5 silver,  limit 20

Rusty Breastplate

50 silver, limit 5.   Crude, partial, plate armour.

Suspiciously Expensive Rapier

500 silver, limit 1.  Medium, light, defensive, piercing.


5 silver

Holy Water

1 dot, 30 silver.  ?d2 weeks

Catholic Bible

1 dot,  100 silver



3 silver, 4 dots.


40 silver



2 dots.  5 copper for 5 days.

Fresh Vegetables
1 dot. 2 copper for 1 day.


1 dot. 6 copper for 1 day.

Red Wine

15 silver, 1 dot.

Hot Spices

10 silver, 1 dot.



2 silver

Longhorn Cattle

40 silver

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Reflection on Buystarter Best Practices

I was asked to compile a few thoughts on the best practices of a "Buystarter",  which for those not familiar with it,  is a term I coined to describe completing the manuscript of a work,  then publishing it in that rough form on RPGNow/Drivethru RPG for sale.   Those platforms have the ability to update a work to all downloads after the fact.  The product is sold at a discount, and  I announce that I will gauge the money from the first month worth of sales to improve the manuscript if there are sufficient sales to fund those activities (art, layout, cartography, editing, etc) AND I feel like improving the work. At the end of the month I will either discontinue the product or raise its price to full.

This functions in many ways similar to crowdfunding,  without the added overhead or stress of having obligations to fulfill.  Explicit in the buystarter premise is that people are guaranteed nothing, they paid a discounted rate and are entitled to no improvements.

I have used this with two releases:   "Under the Waterless Sea" and "The Price of Evil". "The Price of Evil" generated more funds than "Under the Waterless Sea",  but neither had massive sales nor profits.

With that bit of context, my advice towards best practices is largely "Fudged if I know",  since I only have two data points.  But here are my educated guesses  (which is a $10 phrase for "hunches").

1.  Be frugal and decide if you really need art, if it adds anything to the works usability.
2.  Layout is the most important thing to invest in.
3. You will not make nearly as much as you could with a kickstarter
4. You need to have a reputation of actually delivering, this might not go so well for a first release.
5. Don't dally,  start working on anything you are going to do immediately, even when the buystarter is still going.
6.  Avoid scope creep.  You can always do more.  Do that on a future re-release.

There you have it,  six platitudes of limited use.  Enjoy!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

How do you know you've got enough elements for a finished game scenario?

Whenever I sit down to generate game content for play I make a conscious decision of how much stuff to cram in one avenue of play.  Elements in an encounter, session, adventure arc, or campaign are all intentionally spaced out to ensure its all playable and fun at the table.  I don't want fifty bajillion things to track at any given time,  nor do I want players stuck dealing boring one dimensional adventures.

I try to have about 5 things.  A magic number based on cognitive power of humans.  You can go a little more, some people have a little less, but this will be perfect for most players to know whats going on, and for me as a GM to remember off the top of my head.  By keeping about 5 moving pieces (sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less) I can keep it all in my head and so can players as long as they don't invent too many red herrings through faulty reasoning.  That simple,  end of article right?

Well, depends, whats a thing?

A thing depends on the context.

For an encounter its participants, terrain, consumable inventory, rival goals, and the like.    If I have 12 identically armed bandits, that is "one thing".  If 6 are archers and 6 are spearmen, that is "two things".  If there are 6 spearmen fighting 3 swordsmen and 3 archers that is "four things".  The swordsmen, the spearmen, the archers, and the conflict between the two groups.  If the terrain is interesting at all, you are already up to five things.  If the PC's are on a mission with limited supplies, their own goal of whether or not to get involved is a sixth "thing".   This is something I try to build into random encounter tables.

Move up to a session or to a based location and you have things such as factions, large monsters,  major treasures, puzzles and the like.  Minor things like a locked desk drawer with a poison needle trap and 10 gold,  not really a "thing" in this context.   The room which contains an orc shaman, the trapped desk, and a bunch of scrolls and books with important investigative clues to the complex as a whole would be a "thing".  The room as a piece of the whole is a "thing".    A series of small guard rooms full of goblin thieves with a faction goal would be a "thing".  The giant spider prowling the halls would be a thing.  The rumoured tomb of a wight with a magical sword is another "thing".  The place is in swamp that has partially flooded the compound is a fifth thing (the terrain).    That site is risking being overfull.  If I also added in a rival adventuring band that is six (still fine),  and a dragon that roams the swamp hunting stragglers its at seven (pushing it),  and then threw in a cult of Gulnor the Frog Demon who are trying to turn the complex into a temple...its now a big mess for most folks  (though, 7 +/-2 means some folk can still handle it).

But what about mega dungeons?  A mega dungeon is meant to be a multi-session longer term game.  So I treat that similar to an adventure arc.   In an arc each adventure location is a "thing",  any overarching goal is also a "thing" .  For example,  if we looked at a a totally unique game concept where players arrive in the town of Bistram to look for a prince who was kidnapped by demons and held in the ruins under an old Cathedral,  that campaign (as a megadungeon)  would have a few different elements.   Rescue the prince,  the sub-dungeon of the cathedral basement, the sub-dungeon of the catacombs,  the sub-dungeon of the natural caves, the sub-dungeon of the demonic palace.  If the town of Bistram had issues to solve at the same time you'd be pushing up to six "things".

As another non-megadungon example you might have a quest to overthrow a corrupt baron.   You have the "things" of dealing with the corrupt baron,  three site based adventures (freeing prisoners from his jail, allying with or defeating the forest bandits,  maybe a monster he won't deal with that threatens peasants), and you then have room to add in another complication or side quest, perhaps something like an invading army of the undead that prevents you from just obliterating his forces but requires you to keep them intact for that future purpose.

Full fledged settings or campaigns then step it up a level.  Each megadungeon or adventure arc is a "thing".  An overall theme or goal is a "thing", examples being carving your own Kingdom out of the region or say being British explorers looking for the Eye of Set.  Large scale faction conflicts are a "thing",  such as an occupation of the region by a foreign power,  or a war with the dark lord and his orc hordes.

If you have a campaign about interpersonal relationships, each of those relationships often becomes an additional "thing" at each level.   If there is a bitter blood feud or devotional love between two PC's that becomes an important element at the encounter, session, adventure arc,   So when figuring out content for your own game,  keep that in mind when writing an adventure.

As a final note,  if you are a fan of red herrings and twists,  depending on how much time you want players wasting you may or may not want to consider those things.   If its an established part of game play to sift through red herrings and expect twists,   might not be a "thing".  Much like an M.Night Shyamalan movie, its expected.  If these are unusual parts of your game,  you might want to consider them a "thing" because players will spend a lot of time and attention on them over other elements.


TL;DR :    5 elements

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Ups and Downs of Fully Episodic Games

Especially during summers,  I try to run episodic games.  What I mean by that is that every session is fully self contained  (even if I have to force the issue) and that there is no case where the same player has to be present two weeks in a row.

The main upsides to this from a play perspective are logistical benefits towards player attendance, but it also allows for easier planning from a GM point of view in that I always know how the game will start, and who will be present.   It allows a number of "boardgamey" mechanics to come in place to deal with what people are doing between games.  I am currently using this to also track where they can start a game from,  but you could also use this (and I have) to force them to start from the same spot each week, which allows you to better control the options available and explain how characters just "show up".

The main downsides from a play perspective deal with immersion. When you make the game episodic that becomes a key decision making point in planning courses of action.  How much actual time is left in the session,  something not at all in a character's mind.  When the payoff will occur also comes up as a factor.  In a non-episodic game it is perfectly acceptable to spend one session planning a caper and the next one executing it.   In an episodic game, no one wants to spend a session planning a caper they will not (or at least may not) be present for.  As a GM, this may require stepping in to remind people that, out of character, this is an episodic game and that if they have a lot of planning to do they should reach out to you after this game and before the next one to cover all that planning.  It will of course be a less immersive and more resource allocation/boardgame style of planning,  but it does mean it doesn't waste the weekend of those who won't partake in the outcome.

I personally find the episodic nature makes the games more memorable in discreet chunks. Rather than remembering specific scenes or moments of a longer arc there tends to be very concrete memories of specific Saturday nights and all of the details, big and small.   This makes it much easier to remember the little details that become important later. I do find it makes the game have less of a resonant "theme" after the fact,  a side effect of remembering distinct "episodes".  This makes the campaign as a whole less, "sticky" for lack of a better term.  There is an almost instinctual habit of comparing session to session rather than viewing them as a cohesive whole even if they form part of a chain of progress towards a campaign wide goal.

When creating content for an episodic game, the brain naturally flows towards content you can re-use in future campaigns,  by function it has to be easier to disconnect to other parts of the setting because it has to be something that can be approached in one sitting chunks and then left alone for potentially several weeks.  As a perk, this makes it easy to create publishable adventures, especially site based adventures.  The downside is of course that this easily disconnected and reconfigurable content would be subpar as a setting book.  It would take heavy rework to make everything not seem like a bunch of disconnected set pieces (specifically because that is what it is)

As a closing thought,  one great advantage of a fully episodic game is it takes zero effort to switch to another campaign  (such as a non-episodic game) for any length of time,  or to switch back during odd weeks.  It allows for a great filler campaign when key players for a non-episodic game are missing,  you can revisit old characters and have a nice little self-contained adventure.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Expedition to the Lost Legionnaire

This post follows the expedition of the online group, as composed to my home group as they compete to find the Eye of Set.

Sitting on the veranda sipping tea they overheard that a sailing ship had seen a makeshift encamp and a lone member of the foreign legion waving to them.  Sadly the cliffs and rocky shores prevented a landing and they were forced to sail on.

Taking the hook, the expedition decided to purchase some riding animals and a large amount of water and millet and to travel days through unknown terrain to mount a rescue.    The party once again contained a judgmental British industrialist, a Texas gunfighter, and now a retired French Cavalry Officer.

They set off across the narrow desert and ventured into the long grass of the savanna, where they were promptly ambushed by lions.   Not wishing to risk injury they rode their horses at full tilt to simply outrun their pursuers.  They rode hard through the day and camped near a large rock,  unfortunately their sleep was plagued by a swarm of flies.   The next morning they cut through a patch of dry scrubland and came upon a dead legionnaire sprawled among the branches of a leafless tree,  his expensive repeating rifle at the base.   They moved forward when the industrialist noticed the tell tale signs of disease and held everyone back.   Deciding the rifle would be useful, the braved the risk to retrieve it before using whale oil to burn the tree and cremate the legionnaire.

Riding further they noticed that a large swarm of hyena's were slowly stalking them, keeping well back.  Unnerved they continued and noticed that buzzards were also beginning to hover over them.  Attempts to turn and ride off the Hyenas were only temporarily successful as they would scatter and then eventually reform.   As the sun wound low they moved into the badlands and saw that jackals were now forming in the rocks ahead of them.   Once more they tried to run down the Hyenas,  but in this chase they heard the voice of a woman, and rode to find an Oasis with a lone woman waving a stick at more jackals.   As they rode in on thundering hooves to rescue her they were assaulted on all sides by a swarm of Hyenas, Jackals, and diving Buzzards that tore at their flesh and were fearless in the face of sustained gunfire from the various repeaters.  In a tense battle of pistol fire and horse hooves they eventually managed to kill the swarm of animals, suffering innumerable small injuries along the way.

The woman thanked them and asked them to camp here at the oasis for the night, and share in her refreshments as she began to strum a Zither.  The Texas stayed up into the evening to speak with her and share dates from her bowl while the cavalry officer and industrialist set fire to the animal corpses.  As the morning sun began to rise the British industrialist awoke early, and noticed out of the corner of his eye that for a brief moment the woman seemed off, corpse-like, before the image of her returned to normal.   A normal person would have been unsettled but left it at that,  but the British industrialist specifically placed no value in the lives of non-Europeans and even then only negligible amounts to the lives of non-upper class British.  So he immediately drew his revolver and shot at her head.   She did not even both moving and seemed almost ready to laugh as the gun was aimed.  As the bullet sunk into her head,  "the universe" reminded "her" that this particular gun was a holy relic having been blessed by god for its role in rooting out the snake cult of the last adventure.   With a shocked look still on the remains of her face,  the bullet exploded her skull and dropped her body to the sand.  He form had the appearance of weeks of rot.    Further more,  the dates in her bowl now appeared to be decaying human toes.

Refilling their water stores and packing up her Zither, which seemed to have an almost magical quality to its tones, the party made haste to continue on their journey.  Reaching the cliffs overlooking the water,  the party was soon ambushed by a band of desert nomads with banditry on their mind.  Thinking the battered trio would be easy picking they charged in firing matchlocks and bringing their lances to bear.    Firing two pistols at once the Texas gunfighter brought down four in a few seconds, his companions taking out another pair between them.   Having their charge broken the remaining few quickly broke.

The cavalry officer took the two injured nomads, and stabilized them to be taken as prisoners (along with their guns and camels) while the gunfighter took the bodies out to be buried.  The industrialist went to find the legionnaire on his own.   The industrialist found the legionnaire,  dehydrated, starving, and wearing a tattered uniform with his rifle still in hand.  He was living in a simple structure of ragged cloth and brush, and was successfully talked into following the party home.   The gunfighter meanwhile was overtaken with a powerful urge while burying the dead and took to eating parts of the dead men's flesh.  He found him self surging with strength and freshly invigorated.   He secretly carved more flesh for "special rations".

Riding home they encountered another band of nomads,  this one offering to pay a ransom for the two prisoners.   Not wanting to risk another confrontation (and seeing financial rewards for low risk) they took the offer and continued.  Moving into the savanna once more they encountered a band of warriors bearing simple hide shields and clubs.  Their leader demanded tribute and the party offered him a matchlock.  This seemed to impress him greatly and he implied safe passage, giving them a small golden trinket as well.   Continuing on the party moved through the savanna to the edge of the narrow desert separating them from Guam-yaiv,   They came to another band of warriors with the same garb and a leader riding a chariot pulled by golden quagga.  This situation seemed tense until the leader noticed the amulet.  He demanded it in payment and then let the party go without a word.  Perplexed by the exchange (which involved little language)  the party returned to Guam-yaiv a success to the local authorities,  happy to receive word of the legion and its progress.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Caravansary in the Secret City of the Nomads

For any regular readers,  this is a reference table for use in my Xan Than Du game so that it can be referenced in play.

The Caravansary
Your presence changes prices by 5% per point.  Each point of infamy to the French decreases price in the Caravansary and vice versa for infamy with the locals.  Occasionally the caravans will be out in the desert and can be encountered beyond the confines of the secret city. Goods from the Bazaar in Guam-Yaiv may also be purchased at triple their normal price,  having been acquired through banditry.

Combat Gear

Bamboo Lance

Large, Pole, Piercing, Light
5 silver

Horn Bow

Small, Piercing.  30 silver
Obsidian Arrows: 1 silver for 6 arrows

Tortoise Shell Shield

 Small shield.  5 silver

Ivory Knife

 Small, Piercing.   200 silver
                            ?d8 weeks

Requires a combined presence+standing of 6+


Signalling Mirror

40 silver


1 copper for 3



 6 copper, comes with 1 day of water.

Dried Dates

 1 silver a day
 1 dot


7 silver


3 copper for 4 days
2 dots

Prepared Cactus

2 copper for 1 day.
1 dot

Local Meats

 4 copper a day
1 dot


1 silver for a pipe (1 dot)
2 silver for a dose.
30 doses can be stowed in  1 dot pouch.



60 silver (triple for war trained)


75 silver (triple for war trained)

Tiny Dog

 1 silver (triple for fattened version)

Monday, August 15, 2016

A backlog of Xan Than Du expeditions

So GenCon came and went,  I met many interesting and wonderful people and much merriment was had by all.

It also meant I was drained, didn't run Xan Than Du games for 2 weeks and didn't get around to posting play reports.   Here are back to back play reports from the home group.

The party set out with the treasure seeker Kojata once more to loot the ancient tomb of horror and misery.  The party consisted of the British Cavalry Officer, An upper class gentleman with a bought commission, and a disturbed Royal Marine.    They wandered the familiar route through the harsh light of the desert sun,  burning quickly through water reserves but avoiding the terrors that roam through the night.

Once more they left Kojata to guard and they went deep into the tomb,  the sound of horrible screams and gunfire erupted from deep within, along with the smell of burning flesh and burning incense.  The party returned without the unhinged Marine,  but brought with them six fabulous gems.  The party quickly press ganged a British porter they had forgotten they had hired, a former cabin boy,  and went back into the tomb after some scotch.  It was quiet for a while before a horrid wailing as if from some mournful child echoed forth.   The party rushed out with two jade urns full of honey and a set of silver inlaid bone tools,  including a curious honey dipper.

Not wishing to waste time fleeing from whatever was in pursuit of them they stowed their valuables and made their way through the desert, back to Guam-yaiv.  at night.

Midway back they heard the beautiful music of a zither and the singing voice of a young woman.   The British gentleman and the cabin boy moved forward to investigate while Kojata warned of witchery and the Cavalry Officer smelled a bandit's trap.     The woman was playing an instrument and eating dates from a bowl.   She conversed at length with the British in crisp English,  eventually offering them hinted at rewards and secrets.  At this point the gentleman made to leave and the player was forced to roll a number of resistance rolls to the magical words she had been saying in their conversation, becoming aware of the attempted charms all at once.   The cabin boy pressed for more information,  then spurned the woman.  Who immediately began changing into a monstrous hyena.   A rifle bullet from the cavalry officer knocked over the beast as it chased the cabin boy,  but it quickly began to have its bones and blood reform and heal before their eyes, cackling like mad.

The Cavalry officer drew forth his enchanted sword from the cave of wonders and summoned the Genie within,  the sight of which caused fear in the fabled carrion concubine, scourge of the desert.  As the concubine fled, the genie asked what wish he could grant but the cavalry officer informed him false alarm and that he might make a wish later.  The genie sighed and went back into his prison.

Returning to Guam-yaiv they sold the honey, tools, and jade urns but they sent Kojata out to find a special buyer for the set of Gems,  knowing that while it may result in intrigue it could fetch a much higher price.

The next session the party consisted of the Cavalry Officer,  The Cabin Boy, and the Stage Magician.  Kojata had found a potential buyer in the chieftain of the Desert Nomads.  The party was to meet the chieftain in two days at an obelisk amidst ancient ruins in the desert.   Suspecting potential foul play they left early, scouted the site, and pushed into the savanna to camp.  They camped at a rocky outcropping and hunted gazelle.  The Stage Magician used his Crystal Ball from the Cave of Wonders to scrye the sight the next morning, watching the chieftain set up a potential ambush and bury his treasure.

The party then approached the meeting place and left two sharpshooters behind the chieftain's warriors and sent their negotiators in.   There was a tense debate.   The chieftain offered only the fair value of the gems and a promise of safe passage from all Nomad bandits,  but also demanded the location of the tomb.  The party countered (After a tense and grueling negotiation) to get more than simply safe passage,  but full membership into the Chieftain's tribe.  Eventually the leadership of the tribe relented to this deal and an arrangement was struck.

The party was taken deep through the desert (with only a few encounters with wildlife) to the secret city of the nomads which was  hidden deep inside a mighty chasm,   The city (more a large town) was a series of cliff side dwellings overlooking a massive oasis and an orchard of date palms.

One of the party was required to marry a local, and the cabin boy volunteered. After a series of hazing rituals in which the elders laughed merrily, he was wed to the chieftain's least favourite daughter from his least liked concubine, Parsii.  She was said to be touched by mystic gifts and carried around with her one of the tiny hairless dogs the locals bred for meat. Having married a local,  the cabin boy was offered (and accepted) initiation in the secret mystery cult of the local god of agriculture and insects.  This cult was an enemy of the carrion god whose concubine they had previously battled in the desert, and also an enemy of the decadent city of Guam-yaiv.

In game terms, they unlocked a settlement which allows them to start or end each week at either Guam-yaiv or the secret city of the nomads.  They may also create nomad characters.

Having some time left,  the party set forth and explored desert and the savanna. They fought jackals, saved Nomads, risked disease from flies, and encountered an opium caravan from Yoon-Suin under attack from a pack of painted and bejeweled lionesses.  Slaying several lions and driving the rest away they discovered the caravan was unfriendly and suspicious.  They took the lion corpses and their jewels to be taxidermied and added to their museum exhibit.

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Temple of Lies

A couple days ago I said I would get a free adventure out to you all prior to GenCon if the Bundle of Holding for Lamentations of the Flame Princess rose up a few ranks.   It shot up.


Behold!  The Temple of Lies your patronage to Mammon has conjured.

You still have a few hours at the Bundle of Lamentations if you haven't yet purchased it.

Friday, July 29, 2016

A new adventure in time for Gen Con, potentially free!

So currently I have some works on offer with a Bundle of Holding   that ends in a little over 75 hours as of the time of posting this.

It is currently the third most popular bundle of holding of all time.   But I am nothing if not competitive.   If this bundle of holding can climb its way to the number 2 spot by reaching $28, 564 I will release a free adventure in time for GenCon this year.   At the average bundle price,  this is about 160-175 new bundle purchases.

Plus, it helps a charity.

With a free adventure its like getting free money*!

*note that it is actually in no way like getting free money.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A rival expedition in the land of Xan Than Du

Session 1 of the Google+ game

A newly arrived expedition of British Explorers arrived in Guam-yaiv,  staying with a friendly British merchant. This is a rival expedition to the home group, which you had seen in previous posts.

Their founding members were the devout aristocrat Lord Dingleberry, a superstitious opium addict named Cecil Fernsby, and Arizona Jones, a British emigrant to Texas, fresh from the Mexican-American war and eager to return to his home country as a member of the Royal Explorers Society.

As they took their first trip to the local bazaar to purchase initial supplies and perhaps name their expedition,  they engaged with small talk among the merchants to learn some rumours,  seeing if anything would hook their interest.

One thing that did was a local commotion as French soldiers ransacked the market looking for someone in a hurry.  As soon as they passed they heard  a muffled plea "Aidez-moi" as some rough men hauled a figure wrapped in a blanked away, disappearing into the back alleys.

Rushing to action before the hook expired they chased the group into the alley, except for Cecil who climbed onto a roof to gain an aerial view.  They tracked the kidnappers to a shady opium den in an alley, guarded by a stern looking doorman who was keeping away the beggars.

While Joe attempted to converse with the angry guard Cecil attempted to stealthily drop a brick on his head.  Unfortunately the beggar turned out to be a second guard and leaped to his feet with a throwing dagger in hand.   Lord Dingleberry was amazingly quick on his feet and interrupted this by calmly pistol whipped the beggar in the temple,  knocking the beggar unconscious and sadly getting blood onto his shoes.

The split second commotion seemed to give the guard enough were with all to expect an attack,  but he was too slow and the brick still struck him and knocked him out like a light.    Angry at the blood ruining his shoes,  Lord Dingleberry kicked the peasant beggar to death while the party decided to kill the guard and take his key to the opium den.

The party descended into the compound and found a room of impoverished addicts,  but spying a still valuable signet ring on one of them,  Joe snuck in and grappled with the unfortunate soul.  To contain the struggle he ended up needing to bludgeon the victim to unconsciousness with a series of punches.

They bypassed the latrine and continued deeper into the compound where they found a room full of clerks and a single guard.  They were counting coins and sorting great heaps of opium.    The party burst into the room and decapitated the guard before demanding the clerks surrender.  The shower of arterial blood really added to the weight to the argument for surrender and so the clerks did.  A great haul of gold coins and opium was quickly thrown into a sack while light zither music emanated from the VIP room further in.

Cecil did some quick math and realized that this opium den could never hope to turn a profit given the few patrons it could hold at full capacity and the number of guards and staff it housed.  They interrogated the clerks as to the location of the kidnapped Frenchwoman and ascertained that she was being held in the lavatory they had passed earlier.

Backtracking to the lavatory they had passed earlier,  one of the clerks attempted to make an escape when they approached the door.  He was quickly struck with a knife in the back and left to bleed out on the floor.   The party discovered secure tie on points hidden in the ground near the latrine and discovered that midway down the pit (about 20 feet) was a secret chamber.

Cecil descended and nearly fell 40 feet into a mound of fetid waste,  but managed to hold his grip and enter the secret passage.  It opened into a room with a large amount of climbing supplies including a rope and grapnel tied onto the wall.  Cecil throw the grapnel back up so that the party, including their 4 hostage clerks, could descend.

Moving through this secret underground structure they found a series of blue stone arches.  The clerks intentionally set of some sort of tripwire, causing the arches to hum loudly and give away their position.  None of the clerks were able to escape the volley of loud gunfire and sword strokes.

The party continue deeper into the complex, finding a storage room full of millet, water casks, and an unusual round sarcophagus.  As they began to investigate,  crossbow bolts whizzed into the room from a hidden archer somewhere in the darkness down the hall.  Lord Dingleberry attempted to abscond with the sarcophagus but it began to shake and a large serpent quickly escaped from it.  As Joe dropped his candle and bolted down the hallway to find this hidden archer,  a female face appeared in the darkness and began to whisper to Cecil.  Lord Dingleberry could barely contain his horror as he saw that this female head was sitting atop the body of a great serpent.  He fired his pistol at point blank range and managed to slay the beast in a great torrent of black tar as its body aged a thousand years an a few seconds and crumbled to dust.

Cecil and Lord Dingleberry raced down the hall after Joe to find him grappling with an armoured warrior with a bizarre serpentine dagger.    The three of them combined were able to quickly dispatch the guard and steal his valuable silk and mail armour.   Injured and certain of more guards alerted to their gunfire they bravely rushed towards the sound of running water, hoping to find the kidnapped Frenchwoman.

And on a great stone slab, surrounded by fresh coals that warmed the air,   was a great snake finishing its meal,  two feet in European ladies shoes sticking from its mouth.  Joe aimed and with great luck was able to shoot the snake dead in a single shot so it could not escape into the water.  Whats more,  the shot didn't also kill the Frenchwoman, in fact it barely destroyed a single calf of hers.    Using his medical skills from the Texas Navy,   Joe was able to revive the woman despite the long odds.

The party retreated quickly and alerted the French garrison who stormed the location, finding it hastily abandoned and encountering only some resistance from a few stragglers.

The party gained great favour among the French garrison for saving a captain's daughter,   but also incurred great ire among the locals for thwarting this blow to the occupiers.

Foes Vanquished:
1 Beggar
1 Bouncer
1 Washed Up Opium Addict
1 Guard
5 Clerks
1 Temple Guard
1 Ancient Serpent Woman
1 Blessed Python

Treasure Recovered:
Treasured Family Heirloom Ring
Opium Den Treasury (39 gold, 491 silver)
Opium Den Supply  (13 small pouches)
Ancient Round Sarcophagus
Suit of Brass and Silk Mail with Serpent Emblems
95% of Mademoiselle

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Down Time Activities in the lands of Xan Than Du

My current game is set to run with an assumed week in between games. This allows for some healing,  but also a time to generate new adventure hooks, or gain new skills.  The following downtime activities are available.

Tranquil Relaxation
Required Standard of living:   Medium or greater
The character spends his days contemplating philosophy, painting, or sipping tea and/or gin on the veranda.   Devoid of conflict the character heals a point of stress.

Required Standard of Living:  Low or Medium
The character gets involved in games of cards, liquor or other intoxicants, and engages in trivial pass times.  They regain luck as if their standard of living was one level higher.

Required Standard of Living:  Any
The character pores through library records, or hunts down leads in seedy establishments, or whatever is appropriate for the rough topic being sought. If researching,  an intelligence check with an arbitrary penalty for difficult determines success or failure towards gaining information towards a single question.  For investigation, a charisma check is similarly made.  

Martial Training
Required Standard of Living:  Any
The character seeks out a trainer to further their martial prowess (ie, combat tricks).  You have to find new teachers beyond the fencing instructor at the lodge,   Jean Dumas.

Jean Dumas requires not more than 3 infamy with the French and a High Standard of living in Guam-yaiv,  he knows fencing related combat tricks.

Skill Training
Required Standard of Living:  Any
The character spends the week practicing a new skill.  They may make an intelligence check,  if they do they earn 1/12th of a skill.  When they have 12 successes towards a skill, they learn the new skill.

Charitable Work
Required Standard of Living:  Medium or Less
The character helps the poor and needy, and perhaps throws in some religious conversions. They heal luck at one rate worse than normal but also gain 1 piety and reduce the negative effects of infamy by 1 for the following week (then people forget the deeds you have done).

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Buy this stuff so I can get money, also a charity or something

I am in a bundle of holding for Lamentations of the Flame Princess products.

You can get The Pale Lady and Thulian echoes in the starter collection, and Scenic Dunnsmouth if you spring for the bonus collection.  I think you also get some lesser known products as well,  but who cares about that?

Buy my stuff!

Also help out a good cause.


Monday, July 11, 2016

A temporary reversal of fortunes in the lands of Xan Than Du

Once more the party ventured towards to secret tomb found by the shady Kojata.

A Stage Magician seeking more real magic, A British Cavalry Officer, and their newest member,  a British Naval Officer who bought his commission and has no field experience.  The naval officer brought with him a dromedary re-directed from its original destination in Australia and a loyal cabin boy holding a massive brown bess he couldn't effectively use.

Loading up with vast amounts of water and cheap millet they trekked forward to the secret tomb.  On the way there they stumbled upon a crumbling adobe structure recently uncovered from the sand. It was small, no more than two little rooms.  Investigating they saw it was an ancient morgue or mausoleum,  holding middle class cadavers temporarily.  They looted it and recovered a gold tooth, some polished stones, and some ancient animal bones.

Continuing on they saw armed desert nomads ahead,  they saw them with enough time that they could take a circuitous route to avoid them, albeit arriving later at the tomb. At dusk.

They went into the tomb and all was quiet.  The sound of gunfire and then a gust of wind emerged from the tomb's shaft before they returned carrying a fat purse of coins, a gleaming bronze sword, and an 8 foot long bronze statue of a cobra.  Kojata was pleased they seemed to understand treasure meant shiny, although there was more bronze and less gold than he'd hoped.

Returning to Guam-yaiv they saw the nomads had camped at the ancient morgue.  The wind was kicking up, and the party had gotten too close before spotting them.  One of the nomads had a rifled musket and opened fire,  thankfully his gun misfired.  The wind then seemed to kick up and hide the party, allowing them to easily escape.  The stage magician claimed credit.

Taking their gains (and giving Kojata his share) they ordered fancy fire arms (a revolver and air rifle) and luxuriated around the colonial quarter for a few weeks to recover some terrible mental strain they had encountered in that tomb.  The revolver arrived in port,  but the air rifle was still on order when they set forth again, this time at night.

The trip was uneventful,  but as they traveled they seemed to pick up a larger and larger pack of jackals following just out of shooting distance.   When they reached the tomb, Kojata demanded an extra hand to guard the animals (in this case the cabin boy).

Once more the party descended into the tomb and emerged in silence some time later,  the naval officer incapacitated and bleeding.  Their treasure,  a small piece of string, the remnant of a seal they had cut.

Kojata was not amused by this seeming backslide in their ability to identify treasure and avoid death.

They decided to pack up and head out,  but as soon as they did so the jackals whom had been hiding swarmed over a dune to attack, over a dozen.  In a barrage of gunfire several were felled, but still they advanced.  In a swirling melee they managed to badly injure the cabin boy before their morale broke from the vast amount of lead filling the air.    The party took a few dead jackals as "bounty" and headed into the desert to return to Guam-yaiv.

Along the way they encountered nomads,  but cautiously approached them.  The nomads traded a jar of dried locusts for a dead jackal.  Apparently locusts were starting to appear in the area in great numbers.  Nodding and eager to take their incapacitated companion (who also was their linguist) back to Guam-yaiv they left.  They passed by the mausoleum and saw some sort of holy man mediating on its roof.

Curious, the cavalry officer road up and attempted to converse.  He seemed unable, so he offered a dead jackal.  The holy man looked but unimpressed but also resigned to politely give thanks.  He left a dyed thumb print on the cavalry officer's head and waved them on.   They continued to Guam-yaiv,  but spied an unusual sight.  Some sort of offering of a fresh papaya on a rock in the middle of the desert.  Not wanting to investigate and take risk, the cavalry officer shot it from a distance with a musket and they returned to town.

Kojata is not sure if they are messing with him with their treasure selections.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

"Its faster to travel by (hex)Map, so lets do that"

This is a break from my Xan Than Du related posts,  but it is an idea that I was mulling on relating to travel in hexcrawl games where dying of malaria in the jungle isn't the point.  In games where there is an available map and you aren't traveling into the complete unknown.

There will be encounter tables that are challenging for low level parties (or suicidal)  but ho-hum for higher level parties or large convoys.  No real insight there.  It is often boring and time consuming to roll through those encounters once you are well beyond them having a threat.  The time consuming part especially as life intrudes more and more on your time available for gaming with age.

A Hit Die number for each hex.   Pass this HD number in your party and you "travel by map" right through the hex.  Nothing in there will bother you and they will generally stay away from your party.

This could be small for roads that have only the odd highwayman (a Hit Die value of 5 or 6)  or it could be huge if you are going near an enemy army (a Hit Die value of 10,000).

Events could also raise those numbers (secretly or openly).   If a city is sacked and the countryside if full of extra bandits the number might go from 5 to 20.  If a monster moves into a forest but hasn't yet been publicly exposed the number might go up by say double its HD (you'd need enough of an edge its no real worry).

For higher level hex crawls this has the effect of opening up more of the map without spending 2 hours of game time arriving,  while also ensuring low level characters have to have serious worry about crossing the dark woods to make it to the city  without the protection of a caravan or some such.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Markets at Guam-yaiv

This is a utility post for games set in Xan Than Du,  both my home game and the G+ game I will soon be running as a rival party.  Let me know on G+ if you want in.

Your presence changes prices by 5% per point.  Each point of infamy to the French increases price in the Colonial quarter but decreases price in the Bazaar and vice versa for infamy with the locals.

The Colonial Quarter:

Combat Gear

Pith Helmet  

3 silver  
 counts as a helmet



20 silver  
medium, slashing, versatile, defensive


20 silver  
medium, piercing, light, defensive


5 silver  
large, pole, piercing

Brown Bess or eqv.

50 silver  
large, devastating, armour piercing, complicated, loud*

Trade Gun (carbine)              

30 silver  
medium, devastating, armour piercing, complicated, loud*

Pepperbox Pistol

50 silver  
small, experimental, armour piercing, can't reload in combat, repeating, loud*

Cookson Repeater

100 silver,  special order (?d4 weeks)
large, armour piercing, complicated, ineffective, repeating, loud*,
7 shot magazine

Air Rifle                              

 250 silver,  special order (?d4 weeks)
large, armour piercing, repeating
20 shot magazine


Spare Air Tank                               50 silver
Pump                                              75 silver

Colt Revolver                        

250 silver,  special order (?d6 weeks)
small, armour piercing, repeating, loud*, accurate**
6 shot magazine

Colt Revolver Carbine

350 silver, ,  special order (?d6 weeks)
medium, armour piercing, repeating, loud*, accurate**
6 shot magazine

Needle Gun


500 silver,  special order (?d6 weeks)
large, armour piercing, repeating, loud*, accurate**
5 shot magazine


100 silver,  special order (?d2 weeks)
large, armour piercing, long range, complicated, loud*, accurate**

Lefaucheux Shotgun

300 silver,  special order (?d2 weeks)

large, minor, burst, loud*, accurate**

Paper Shells

2 copper a shell


1 copper a cartridge


1 silver for 100 charges in flask



 Rifled Bullets

2 copper a bullet

Exploratory and Stealth Gear

Oil Lantern


10 silver

 Whale Oil

1 silver

Deerstalker Cloak

3 silver


2 silver

Heavy Tools (Sledgehammer, Lumber Axe, Shovel, or Pickaxe)

4 silver

Hemp Rope

1 silver


2 silver

Iron Spikes

1 silver


Tinned Rations (Biscuits, Beans, or Corned Beef)

1 silver for a day
1 dot.

Sack of Potatoes

25 copper for 12 days
4 dots

Wheel of Cheese

4 silver a  4 days
2 dots

Cooking Pot/Pan

3 silver


2 silver


3 silver

India Pale Ale

5 silver
4 dots

French Champagne

10 silver
1 dot


20 silver
1 dot

Trade Whisky

2 silver
1 dot

Tin Canteen

2 silver
1 days water


1 silver

Pack Harness

2 silver



200 silver


50 silver


5 silver


10 silver

The Bazaar:

Combat Gear


30 silver
Medium, Slashing, Defensive, Exotic


25 silver
Medium, Blunt, Devastating, Vicious, Defensive

Brass Buckler

10 silver
small, buckler

Bamboo Tower Shield

1 silver
large, tower

Leather Cap

2 silver

Leather Armour

7 silver

Brass Helmet 
      10 silver
Brass and Silk Mail

200 silver

Mail Armour, Sophisticated, Ornamental


20 silver
Small, devastating, armour piercing, complicated, loud


40 silver
Large, devastating, experimental, armour piercing, complicated, loud*


2 silver for horn with 100 charges

Repeating Crossbow


10 silver
Medium, piercing, repeating, ineffective


1 silver for 6 bolts



50 silver
Medium, Piercing


2 silver for leather quiver with 12 arrows


10 silver
Large, slashing, pole weapon


5 silver
Small, piercing, vicious

Exploratory and Stealth Gear


3 copper


1 silver


1 silver


2 silver

Hemp Rope

1 silver

Silk Rope

100 silver


2 silver

Dark Cloak

2 silver


Sack of Millet

14 copper for  14 days (requires extra water)
4 dots

Charred Bushmeat

3 copper for a day
1 dot

Local Fruit

2 copper for a day
2 dots

Sorghum Bread

12 copper 3 days
2 dots

Dried Fruit

1 silver a day
1 dot

Smoked Fish

5 copper a day
1 dot

Bottle Gourd

With Water:    2 copper and holds 1 days water
With Foul Brew:  5 copper
1 dot


With Water:    5 copper and holds 1 days water
With Pomegranate Wine:  1 silver
1 dot

Clay Jug with cork stoppers

With Water:          1 silver and holds 6 days water
With Foul Brew:   3 silver
4 dots



75 silver  (triple for war trained)

Water Buffalo

40 silver


75 silver  (triple for war trained)

New Tags for Firearms:

Loud:  when fired the weapon causes 1d6 suspicion but its damage die size is 1 greater.
Accurate:  Based on the throwing tag,  the weapon gains +2 to hit targets in other areas but -2 to hit if used in melee.

Special rule for firearms in a semi-modern setting:  When shooting a target not in or near cover,  the defender does not get to add a combat modifier to their defense roll.