Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The Seasons Turn

Week 13

This week marks the turn of the season from Spring to Summer and offers Seth Creighton the rare week off to participate in the Sunrise Celebration in High Rannoc.

In one area, a group of druids and farmers are performing a ritual to the Ash Mother. As the ash tree is associated with healing, I decide to participate. There is a ritual bath to cleanse our outside, then a cup of ash bark tea to clear the body of residual impurities. Thankfully, the actual clearing of residual impurities is not part of the ritual, as it was more comfortable to do that in the privacy of an outhouse.

Also, my golem has completed building a Garden Plot which I can use to grow a quantity of a plant ingredient. I decide on Surgeon's Sap, which should be a useful ingredient. I now set the golem to build a Fish Tank so I can keep some useful fish around. That should take him until Autumn to complete.

Week 14

The first week of summer brings with it an Intermediate Ailment, now that my Reputation has reached that point again. It turns out that an orc from Heroes Hollow has developed Adventurer's Rash, also known as the itch to adventure. It's not a complicated cure, but I will have to hurry. There's only a Timer of 4.

The Tags are Rash* and Senses*. Pixie Fur can heal the Rash, and Sea Beast Saliva can treat the Senses, but it is a very powerful ingredient. I have a small amount of time, so I'll see if I can find a substitute.

I decide to head to Glimmerwood Grove for a Coffee Cap. One thing I didn't realize is that I can increase my Reputation more quickly if my treatment addresses only the Tags of the ailment. This is something that I hadn't previously been tracking. So my Sea Beast Saliva treats Blood, Nerves and Senses, but the Coffee Cap only treats Senses, so I'll get more Reputation if I use the Coffee Cap, which only treats Senses with the Pixie Fur that only treats Rash.

1. As I pass a fairy ring, the fairies encircle me with their dance. One of them playfully makes off with my basket. The joke's on them. I hadn't gathered anything yet. Once they leave, I make sure that I have an empty pocket to safely carry the Coffee Cap once I find it.

2. I find the Coffee Cap under an old oak tree. As I'm gathering, I hear a small, pained hoot. A young owl has fallen out of its nest and injured itself. I don't have anything to treat it on hand, but I do still have some time to forage and might be able to find some Surgeon's Sap to treat it.

3. The good news is that I was able to locate the Surgeon's Sap. The bad news is that it was on the edge of Weaver's Wood. The giant spiders were on constant guard to detect when their webs had been disturbed, so escaping required some delicate footwork. I won't have time to treat the owl before I have to get back to my patient in my cottage.

Returning to my cottage, I find the orc pacing nervously. I crush the Coffee Cap into a fine powder, then set it to brewing in my cauldron. While it's bubbling, I crush the Pixie Fir into dust and finally sprinkle it over the finished brew. A few delicate sips and then a hearty chug later, my orc visitor finally allows himself to sit down.

Since I treated only the Tags he had, I gain 2 Reputation from a successful cure. Also, an Intermediate Ailment earns 30 silver and the Coffee Cap gave it a bit of sweetness good for another 4 silver.

As he rests up, I decide to return to the injured owl on my Downtime to treat their injury with the Surgeon's Sap.

During my Downtime, I return to the injured owl with my Surgeon's Sap. As I apply the sap, the owl coughs up a pellet made almost entirely of Hair of Boar. I'm guessing that he got injured trying to fight a boar. While I hope he doesn't get injured again, that's a useful ingredient to have on hand.

Reputation:13

Silver:114

Reagents: Darkwater, Fairy Dust, Gas Weed, Sea Beast Saliva, Shadow Shark, Wild Rose

Familiar: Spider (Magic Eye; Glimmerwood Grove only), Owl (Ways: Hair of Boar)

Golem Helper: Make Fish Pond (Will be finished by the end of Summer)

Upgrades: Garden Plot (Surgeon's Sap)

Tools: Alembic, Cauldron, Mortar and Pestle, Wand

Zones: Glimmerwood Grove, Meltwater Loch, Moonbreaker Mountain, Hero's Hollow, The Strange, Dreamwater Depths.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

New Apothecaria Adventures

 Before I get to Week 11 in Seth Creighton's career, I need resolve the penpal from The Strange. Write one question that Seth has for the demon, then answer it and ask a question about High Rannoc which Seth must answer.

What do demons of The Strange eat?

They eat souls. The Strange is between and around many realms and dimensions, so souls are always passing through. Now that the portal is open to Heroes Hollow, some adventurers are beginning to explore and embodied souls now sometimes find themselves on the menu.

What do the people of High Rannoc eat?

We eat the remains of living things once the soul has gone. More often than not, we remove the soul of the living thing so that we can eat the remains instead of simply waiting for the soul to leave.

Week 11

After a few weeks treating the monsters of Heroes Hollow, now it's time to treat one of the adventurers that pass through that dungeon. Karrigan the Wise has crawled to my door severely Wounded. I could leave this to the village doctor, but I really need a win after my last patient. Also, I have the necessary ingredients at hand.

First, I set the Shock Fish in my cauldron and boil out its electrical fluid. This is then allowed to cool and I add the Surgeon's Sap. The electrical fluid numbs the area as the Surgeon's Sap binds and heals the wound.

No major downtime projects this week, but we'll see how ready I am for the next patient.

Reputation:10

Silver: 60

Reagents: Darkwater, Fairy Dust, Gas Weed, Pixie Fur, Sea Beast Saliva, Wild Rose

Familiar: Spider (Magic Eye; Glimmerwood Grove only)

Golem Helper: Make Garden Plot (Will be finished by the end of Spring)

Tools: Alembic, Cauldron, Mortar and Pestle, Wand

Zones: Glimmerwood Grove, Meltwater Loch, Moonbreaker Mountain, Hero's Hollow, The Strange, Dreamwater Depths.

 Week 12

 I haven't seen a mountain ogre in some time, but it turns out that one of them is my patient this week. Granikka seems to have come down with Magnetic Thumb. I've treated this before, so it shouldn't be too difficult. The Tags are Pain* and Blood* and I've got a Timer of 6.

While Sea Beast Saliva is good for either Tag, it's also a pretty powerful ingredient. Starting from scratch, I head out to the Deepwater Depths, where Bas Bata once stood guard.

1. Shock Fish are fairly common at these depths, but so are more dangerous predators. Once I grab my sample, I spy a large garfish which looks big enough to make quick work of me. Hiding among the crumbling stone of the underwater city, I lose 1 Timer, but I also lose the fish that was hunting me.

2. As I'm hunting for the Slime Shell I need to treat the Blood* Tag, I find a bit of graffiti carved into a giant seashell that once served as someone's home when this city was occupied. C R A K W Z HER . I couldn't make out all of the message, but it feels like I've seen that handwriting somewhere. Maybe in the notebooks left by the old apothecary in their cottage?

3. Outside the city, I found a spot that had clearly been cultivated by the old inhabitants. A small, balanced ecosystem of useful plants and animal specimens lives here. I easily find the Slime Shell I was looking for and even have the opportunity to collect some ink from a Shadow Shark, which might come in handy.

Once I'm home, I set the cauldron to boil out the fluid from the Shock Fish. Once that's cooled down a bit, the slime from the Slime Shell gets mixed in to make a slightly nauseating potion. But it does the trick and Granikka is pleased that she can put her sword down from when she wants to.

With her ailment cured, I gain another point of Reputation, which puts me back in the position to attempt more challenging ailments. The 10 silver will also help if there are additional tools that I might need. But that will have to wait until after the Sunrise Celebration that marks the beginning of summer.

Reputation:11

Silver: 80

Reagents: Darkwater, Fairy Dust, Gas Weed, Pixie Fur, Sea Beast Saliva, Shadow Shark, Wild Rose

Familiar: Spider (Magic Eye; Glimmerwood Grove only)

Golem Helper: Make Garden Plot (Will be finished by the end of Spring)

Tools: Alembic, Cauldron, Mortar and Pestle, Wand

Zones: Glimmerwood Grove, Meltwater Loch, Moonbreaker Mountain, Hero's Hollow, The Strange, Dreamwater Depths.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

 Week 9

Seth Creighton's apothecary practice is doing fairly well. In fact, his reputation among the monsters of Hero's Hollow has brought another patient to his door. A vampire named Frederick has come down with a terrible case of Cludgie Mouth and it's now his job to help.

This ailment has the tags Curse* and Infection*. My Dentist Crab Claw Gel can be used for the Infection component, so I just need to forage for something to clear the Curse component. Looking over my options, it looks like Fairy Dust is my best bet, so I head out to Glimmerwood Grove.

1. As I'm gathering Fairy Dust that is clinging to a spider web, I see a unicorn in the trail up ahead. It seems to sense that I'm staring at it and dashes off. One day...

The simple errand seemingly taken care of, I return home and begin preparing my cure. Distilling the essence of the Claw Gel, I add it directly to the Fairy Dust, causing it to condense into a piece of rock candy. My vampire patient places it in his mouth and begins sucking. The candy dissolves fairly quickly, along with his bad breath.

I accept my patient's fee of 20 silver and bring my Reputation up to 11.

Since I don't have a big project anymore, I think I'll be skipping downtime for this week.

Reputation:11

Silver: 140

Reagents: Gas Weed, Pixie Fur, Sea Beast Saliva, Shock Fish, Surgeon's Sap, Wild Rose

Familiar: Spider (Magic Eye; Glimmerwood Grove only)

Golem Helper: Make Garden Plot (Will be finished by the end of Spring)

Zones: Glimmerwood Grove, Meltwater Loch, Moonbreaker Mountain, Hero's Hollow, The Strange, Dreamwater Depths.


Week 10

I did not expect to see Flossie again after curing her Toad Nose nearly 2 months ago, but this time she's back with a case of Ventriloquist's Cough. It sounds terrible, but since it's someone else's cough, she shows no sign of other illness.

Now that I've developed my Reputation, the people of High Rannoc now trust me with slightly more complicated ailments. Ventriloquist's Cough has the Tags Magic* and Cough** along with a fairly short Timer of only 4.

This is a tricky one. None of my current ingredients are much good. Magic is easy enough. Fairy Dust is easy for me to find in Glimmerwood Grove. But the only ingredient powerful enough to address the Cough** is in Hero's Hollow and has a side effect of Sleep that will have to be counteracted. And the only way to do that with the tools I have is in Meltwater Loch. It will take a lot of luck, but I'll do my best.

1: It's time for me to enter the mysterious portal in Hero's Hollow and enter The Strange. I find a font of Darkwater and fill my vial. As I'm screwing on the cap, a friendly demon with a fanged smile approaches me. She notices that I'm not a demon and asks where I'm from. I tell her a little about High Rannoc which intrigues her. Since I'm in a bit of a hurry, I suggest that she writes me a letter telling me about The Strange and I'll write back telling her more about High Rannoc.

2: I spend 1 Timer traveling between The Strange and Glimmerwood Grove. My only chance of pulling this off is hoping a friendly soul can get me to my third destination with haste. Unfortunately, just as I found a mushroom heaped with Fairy Dust, I hear a roar nearby. A mother bear emerged from her den and roared again while staring me in the eye. Discretion being the better part of valor, I ran away.

With no hope of gathering the final ingredient in time, I return home in defeat. Not long after, Flossie cough is gone, as whoever was throwing it to her has recovered from their cold. I make no money this week and lose 2 points of Reputation. It looks like I'm down to treating Novice Ailments again.

Downtime

While I don't have any major projects, I do still have some things to do. I promised a demon that I would write her a letter. (This is the end of my day, so I'll come at that next time) Also, I need to buy a Wand which will allow me to collect certain magical ingredients. That will cost me 100 silver, but would have allowed me to finish the potion for this week's ailment if I'd had it before.

Reputation: 9

Silver: 40

Reagents: Darkwater, Fairy Dust, Gas Weed, Pixie Fur, Sea Beast Saliva, Shock Fish, Surgeon's Sap, Wild Rose

Familiar: Spider (Magic Eye; Glimmerwood Grove only)

Golem Helper: Make Garden Plot (Will be finished by the end of Spring)

Tools: Alembic, Cauldron, Mortar and Pestle, Wand

Zones: Glimmerwood Grove, Meltwater Loch, Moonbreaker Mountain, Hero's Hollow, The Strange, Dreamwater Depths.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Another Run at Apothecaria

 Let me start off by saying that I had a lovely Halloween. I went to a good friend's Halloween party over the weekend and on Halloween night, I gave out a lot of candy. Not just candy. I also got a stash of small toys and whatsits for kids who may not have been into candy.

 A friend of mine from my hometown shared an article on Facebook about some new pumpkin color being promoted. While I'm not going to make kids single themselves out in order to get treats from me, it did get me thinking about what sorts of treats I'm offering. Some neurodivergent kids might not get the same joy from candy that others do, so something that's not strictly candy would mean a treat that they might actually be able to appreciate. So toys and stickers made it into my treat planning. They were in a bowl right next to the candy bowl.

It actually went over fairly well. I got a lot of candy, so I encouraged kids to take as much as they wanted. And some kids grabbed from the candy bowl as well as the toy bowl. Definitely something that I'll be doing next year.

I do still have the 13th Age review in progress, but I thought I would revisit my Apothecaria playthrough that I did last November and pick up where I left off. I may never do NaNoWriMo or anything of that scale, but I can definitely have fun writing during November.

When last we left Seth Creighton, the rookie apothecary of High Rannoc, he was a mere 7 weeks into his career. He had cured most, but not all of his patients and was in the process of his most potent cure yet: Treating the shattered tooth of the sea serpent Bas Bata, who lived in Meltwater Loch.

Combining Slime Shell, Liquid Fire, Shield Cap, and Vampire Venom, adding it to the cauldron of boiling Sea Beast Saliva along with the distilled essence of Giant Spider Venom, the poultice is complete.

Before Seth takes on his next patient, he takes stock of what he has accomplished in his short time as an apothecary.

Reputation: 9

Silver: 104

Reagents: Gas Weed, Pixie Fur, Surgeon's Sap, Wild Rose

Familiar: Spider (Magic Eye; Glimmerwood Grove only)

Golem Helper: Make Garden Plot (Will be finished by the end of Spring)

Zones: Glimmerwood Grove, Meltwater Loch, Moonbreaker Mountain, Hero's Hollow, The Strange

 

Week 8

After the impression that I made with the Dark Ruler of the Underlands, I seem to be drawing some patients from their domain. This time, an orc seems to have acquired phodothropy, which is the curse of turning into a hamster under the full moon. I've treated this before, but I don't have the ingredients that I did last time. It looks like I'll have to visit two separate regions to get the ingredients, which will take extra time. 

1: My first stop is in Meltwater Loch to get some Mermaid's Gift, a type of seaweed that helps with the Hair Tag. I finally manage to find some in a pool where a siren is practicing her alluring song. When she sees that I am drawn to her, she stops singing and apologizes. She explains that she is simply practicing and she is not yet hungry enough to eat me alive, but she suggests that next time might be different.  (or perhaps to fatten me up for our next encounter), she gives me a Shock Fish and sends me on my way.

2: Now it's off to Hero's Hollow for some Ghost Goo to deal with the Curse Tag. As luck would have it, as I started making my way through the twisting tunnels of the Hollow, I triggered a trap door that dropped me into a cell.The barred door was held shut by a quantity of Ghost Goo, which allowed me to escape easily and gather the needed ingredient at the same time.

I return home in plenty of time to treat my orcish patient. I put the Ghost Goo and Mermaid's Gift in my cauldron to boil until it forms a thick soup, which I serve to her. Even her orcish taste buds rebel at the toxicity of the Mermaid's Gift, so I don't make all the money I could, but my reputation continues to improve. I gain 16 silver and 1 point of reputation.

Now that I've got the cure for Bas Bata, I'll take my downtime actions this week exploring Meltwater Loch to see if I can encounter it again. Even if I don't, I'll try to gather some Sea Beast Saliva, since that's a useful ingredient.

1: No Sea Beast Saliva, but I do find Grobeck the Dwarf in his fishing boat. We chat for a while and he tells me about a Dentist Crab he saw not far from his fishing spot. Once we finish our conversation, I easily find the Dentist Crab and collect some of it s Claw Gel.

2: Searching a boat that had been wrecked by a sea beast long ago, I discovered a skeleton of one of the beast's victims, huddled over a barnacle-encrusted chest. It's unlikely to be plunder or it would have been looted long ago. Since I'm on my own mission right now, I decide to leave this poor soul to guard their treasure.

3: At long last, the greatest achievement of my short career has come to pass! As I wandered through the swamps of Meltwater Loch, I heard a familiar roar. The same rage and the same pain I had heard weeks before. Its long neck comes into view first as it unleashes another roar. Then it sees me. I don't move. I am terrified, but also I don't want to miss this chance. It comes closer, extending its neck to glare at me with its pitch black eyes. A low growl echoes in its throat.

I take out my sea monster-sized poultice and hold it in front of me. It sniffs the package cautiously. I don't expect the Giant Spider Venom to make things very appetizing. As it opens its mouth for another roar, I throw the poultice into the monster's mouth. It snapped its jaws shut at the surprise of the impact, then closed its eyes as the acrid taste of the Giant Spider Venom hit its tongue. But even with that, I was sure I could see the pain it carried lessen.

Reputation:10

Silver: 120

Reagents: Dentist Crab, Gas Weed, Pixie Fur, Shock Fish, Surgeon's Sap, Wild Rose

Familiar: Spider (Magic Eye; Glimmerwood Grove only)

Golem Helper: Make Garden Plot (Will be finished by the end of Spring)

Zones: Glimmerwood Grove, Meltwater Loch, Moonbreaker Mountain, Hero's Hollow, The Strange, Dreamwater Depths.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

WIR 13th Age #4

Though I forgot about this, did you? It's just that a lot of my writing time was taken up by RGPaDay. And now I'm back to this.

Now that all of the character details have been described, it's time for the combat rules.

Like a lot of other things in 13th Age, there's not a lot of detail, but for the most part, that's fine. It's supposed to be the "good parts" version of D&D, and obsessiveness about tactical detail is "unfun."

A couple of things that I didn't mention in the characters section do become relevant and discussed in more depth here. First of all, weapons do their damage die per level, so as you advance, even the fighter needs to worry about rolling buckets o' dice. That longsword does 1d8 damage at first level, but 5d8 once you make to 5th. Once you get to 10th level, you could be rolling 10d8 for a successful attack with an ordinary longsword. So this is where the book offers tips to manage large amounts of dice.

Also, characters have different Defenses instead of saving throws. Whoever makes the attack, whether it's a strike for damage or a mind affecting spell, rolls the dice instead of the subject of the effect rolling to resist it. I think this was a 4e innovation to make everything consistent, but 5e got overtaken by nostalgia from earlier editions and saving throws came back.

Then we get to the next big innovation of 13th Age: The escalation die. It doesn't have to be a die, just a way to track a value from 1-6. Basically, it goes up every round of combat until 6, where it stays if the bad guys aren't dead yet. The number on this escalation die is added as a bonus to PCs attack rolls, giving them a little boost even if their dice aren't on their side. There are also character and monster powers that engage when the escalation die reaches a certain point.

The GM chapter opens with advice on using the Icon relationships, which more or less demonstrates that the whole idea is really neat, but not fully baked. They suggest that GMs can use Icon relationships to add in plot twists, or allow players to add plot twists (more as a "get out of jail free" card), or even just have them manifest as cool stuff that the Icon connection gives the character access to. They then take this lack of clarity even further by openly suggesting "Once we publish this, people will figure out their own way to make this mess sort of work! Check the internet!"

We spend spend the smallest amount of time possible on some topics that the designers don't care about, dealing with skill checks and traps/ Then something that the designers care about: building battles. D&D has had encounter building rules in several editions intended to create a sense of balance or fairness into the proceedings, and this is no different. Though they do follow up their "fair fight" rules with suggestions to make things "unfair" and therefore more interesting.

Now we get to the rules for leveling up and one of the things that kinda kills my interest in this. And that is the fact that there is no XP. I understand the reasons behind this. It reduces the bean-counting in the game and the longstanding convention of XP for monster kills is not conducive to productive play. which has been known and understood pretty much since it was first implemented.

Maybe I'm spoiled on storygames, but even more traditional games will offer up some sort of Drama/Fate/Cool Point for leaning into the genre, doing cool stuff, or just making the GM laugh. While Icon Relationships can kinda sorta be that, it's also kinda sorta a lot of other things too.

Earlier in the book, it mentions that it uses alignments throughout the book as a way to define characters, but you don't have to. In fact, you can borrow the character description tools from other RPGs if you want. They mention Burning Wheel's Beliefs and Instincts, but you could also do things like character Aspects from Fate. And that's a problem, because those aren't just methods of describing your character's personality, but are also backed by those sorts of Drama Point mechanics.

It's just another point in the "Did they really think about this before writing it down?" column, really.

So the lack of XP sets up two issues for me.

1) The lack of mechanical incentives reduces player engagement/agency. While there are many ways to reward characters and get them involved in the action of the campaign, 13th Age leaves that largely in the hands of the GM rather than the rules. Not that this is necessarily bad, but it puts an extra burden on the GM, in my opinion.

2) If advancement isn't about rewarding players, it instead acts as a pacing mechanism, setting up how quickly the campaign escalates. Making the call on how quickly to advance with only 10 possible steps can be a challenge for the less experienced GM.

They do address some of this by providing for incremental advancement, breaking each level into 5 or so stages, so there are 50+ breakpoints instead of 10. They also discuss the idea of the 10-session campaign, where the party advances after each session. 

Now they get talking about treasure acquisition. And again, because it's a major source of bean-counting, they do their best to avoid it. You can get minor loot from various things, but magic items are serious business. They're not detailed here, but we are assured that they are.

Then there's a small discussion about rituals, which are basically spells that are cast out of combat. Some of the designers here worked on D&D 4e, so having the game focus on cool combats and kind of shoving everything else off to the side feels about right. So spellcasters have their combat capabilities well structured, but ritual casting is much more loosey goosey.

There are also small sections discussing the Icons and the gods of the setting. Icons are big, but also kinda vague. You can also make up your own Icons if you want, but the ones that are there make a pretty good set. The gods are just sorta there. They need to exist for the cleric and paladin classes to work, but most of their role in the setting is taken up by the Icons. If you want to use them in a story, you can.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

RPGaDay 2023 #31 FAVOURITE RPG of all time

I'm going to go ahead and say OSRIC and the OSR.

While I haven't done a lot of dedicated gaming over the last several years, as I've been thinking and planning about campaigns that I could be running, this is what I keep coming back to.

Part of it is the feeling of accessibility. You're more likely to get players if you say you're running some flavor of D&D, and it's a flavor of D&D that I've become familiar with.

Secondly, there are the storygame elements. It's a game about killing monsters and taking their stuff and that's supported by the mechanics. It can feel janky and limited if you try to treat it as a generic game, but let it exist in its element and it can sing.

Third, there's the wealth of resources. Not only could I run entire campaigns of published modules from nearly every decade, but there are also setting creation and random generator tools for every need.

There are other games that I enjoy playing and other games that I'm eager to try. But in terms of that go-to, pick up like you never left game, for me that's OSRIC.

Fiasco also hits a lot of those points, being easy to pick up and amazing at doing what it does. I think the only reason OSRIC is edging it out right now is that I've played Fiasco more recently, and it's not terribly easy to do a Fiasco campaign.

I have yet to run a campaign this year, in spite of it being one of my New Year's Resolutions.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

RPGaDay #30 OBSCURE RPG you've played

I've mentioned The Great Ork Gods, which is probably the most obscure game I can think of. When other events brought it to mind, I had to use the Wayback Machine to track it down.

I did also manage to play in a game using the Arduin system, which was notable in its heyday, but has faded into obscurity. It was run by Mark Schynert, who was a major organizer at DunDraCon and responsible for the assembly of The Compleat Arduin, which has been on my shelf for some time. We didn't use the Arduin fantasy setting, but engaged in a bit of meta fun as we played fictional characters who were pulled from our books. I played a Wonder Woman-esque Amazon (because I am secure in my masculinity and am not threatened by taking on other gender roles), while my wife (who was also in the session) played a romance novel heroine with Mary Sue powers.

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