MERP: The Party Escapes

With the goblins pounding on the door (aren’t they always?), the party rappels out the window to the roof below and then down to the parapet. They avoid discovery and enter an arch, go down two levels and enter an unused  passage. At the end they find a secret door leading into an orcish chapel. They wait and heal for several hours, then two goblins investigate the tunnel. Hamrammr, Araluth, and Elentari hide around the edge of the tunnel and attack the orcs as they come into view. They are doing well when Jor decides to throw a lightning bolt into the melee and Tum follows up with a thrown dagger. Here’s Araluth’s reaction, captured by Tum’s phone.

Araluth face palmsAraluth face palmsAraluth face palms

Luckily, neither Tum nor Jor hit the fighters, and the orcs are quickly killed and their bodies hidden. The party enters the chapel and steal the evil magic skull of the orc priest. Assuming it is going to come to life and try to bite them with its jeweled teeth at some point, Araluth puts it in his copper pot, ties it up with his dirty shirt, then puts it in a bag, ties THAT up, and puts it in the bottom of his backpack.

The party then goes up to the parapet, drop into the back courtyard and again go down to the barrel room from the back balcony. Rope has been our most valuable weapon in this adventure. Tum hides below the barrel room, and silently rages as Araluth instead enters the room above him. Araluth finds four orcs inside, two of whom are about to descend to the dock below with a load of barrels. He cuts the rope just as the orcs on the platform come eye to eye with the hobbit. One orc is reduced to a gelatinous mess by the fall; the other swan executes a perfect swan dive into the moat, avoiding injury. Narlag, the orc underneath the platform, is unimpressed and splatters under the weight of the barrels. One of the remaining orcs in the room cuts Araluth twice for 57 hits before Araluth cleaves him down the middle. The second orc attacks, but Araluth and Tum kill him and unsuccessfully try to drop both of them on the orcs below. Araluth and Freya shoot the remaining orcs until the last tries to swim away and is electrocuted by Jor. The party descends, and floats away on the platform, rowing with barrel staves under arrow fire from above. During their time in the castle, 35 orcs died. At the end of the night, it is remembered that one of the three Northmen stayed with them to help, but everyone forgot him. The GM decides that he left with the other two earlier. The Theyn and some of his men may have been sold to Ughluk, so there is a chance they might yet be saved. The party still has to escape the dark valley.

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MERP: Still in the Damn Castle

The party is faltering. Jor has been captured. Araluth, Elentari, and Hanrammr are badly wounded and fighting four orcs on the stairs. And Tum is running higher and higher in the tower.

Jor is taken before the goblin chief and questioned, though he gives little of value in response. Tum runs opens the next door, surprising four orcs. He runs through the room and up again, finding himself on the tower’s top. There’s a broken bridge to the next tower, but it’s a 10 foot jump, so the hobbit instead crawls over the lip of the broken bridge and tries to hide under it, out of sight of the pursuing orcs. It’s a desperate plan, and it doesn’t work. He slips, and falls 30 feet onto the roof of the building, which is rotten with age and collapses under him, dropping him another 30 feet to the chieftain’s hall, next to Jor.

The orcs continue beating them and asking questions. Jor insists that there are hundreds of men assaulting the castle. Tum starts shouting, “Tens of Thousands” and won’t stop. Finally the chieftain loses patience. “Toss them in the cells. We’ll give the hobbit to Grond first.”

Meanwhile, the Dunedain and Northman are retreating down the stairs as the orcs score hit after hit. Elentari and Araluth retreat into the room while Hanrammer continues down the stairs, allowing both groups to attack the lead orc. Hanrammer is knocked unconscious, but the others manage to stop the orcs. The door they sealed earlier starts to bang and then buckle, so they retreat. Araluth sends two of the Northmen down to the barrels and instructs them to escape and get help. Elentari tells them how to get into the valley. Yosef (one of the Northmen) stays to help. The Dunedain climb out the window and up to the roof of the balcony, and then haul Hanrammer and Yosef up as the orcs break into the room. The orcs don’t see them and the other two Northmen get away. Once the orcs leave, the party secures themselves on the roof with ropes and rests for six hours, after which they meditate and heal.

They descend when they hear cries of “Grond! Grond!” coming from the ruined cathedral. It seems like a good distraction for their continued search of the castle. They are about to head up the spiral stairs when they hear Jor in the dungeon. They go down and save him, but don’t engage the guards. They then head upstairs, stopping to remove the bar from Grond’s door (again). They know Tum is in the room with Grond, but what they don’t know is that Tum is still alive and hiding in the muck and feces on the ground, trying to stay awya from Grond, who is searching from him. When the door opens, the party runs for the spiral stairs, followed by Tum, covered with muck. They head up again two flights to a door behind which they hear grumbling orcs. Below, there are shouts from orcs and Grond. The party bursts into the room and kills the four orcs, one of whom falls from a window. They open the next door and find the Theyn’s daughter. They bar the door and begin to rappel out the window to the battlements while the orcs advance up the stairs. Twenty-five orcs have died since the party entered the castle.


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NAVAH: The Winter Wolves

A new party started in Navah. Ian Fantron (warrior from Gardall) led two mercs from Anthavar — Josette (Spiritologist) and Ignar (burglar) — into the snowy hills to track six wolves that killed a little girl recently. Ian brought 2 guard dogs and a hunting dog. Josette brought a Selkie, a horny demon, and a small fire elemental. On their first foray, they rescued Gurney, the survivor from the previous merc group, who had been hiding in a tree for 2 days. His three comrades (Jerak, Lorosh, and Farttal) had been killed by the wolves, and his stories put fear into the party, and they refused to go out again by themselves. Ragnil (town guard), Brice (Ranger), and Francis (Ranger) went out with them, and set wolf traps with silver tracings around the tree. The wolves chose that moment to attack, and in the battle Brice put one down, Ignar put another down, and Ragnil put down a third. Francis went down with an abdominal wound, and Ian shot into melee, killing the one guard dog that had been attacking the wolves.

The party went to follow the two survivors and found that Ignar’s wolf was gone. They began tracking it, but Ian stayed, convinced by a fumbled roll that the wolves had gone a different way completely. As a result, the three surviving wolves circled back and came after Ian. The other guard dog ran for its life, but the hunting dog tackled one of the wolves and got its leg broken defending his master. Ian proved his worth, and killed three of them. One of them he killed twice, because it got back up and started fighting him. When the rest of the people arrived, he was hacking off its head, just to be sure.

The party returned to town, where the two mercs from Anthavar received 200 s. for their effort and Ian received a pat on the back. He was pissed, and started complaining, a LOT, despite the fact that Ragnil and Brice were giving him big props. He was complaining so much that I made him roll 1d10 when Stanbern came to reward him with a lovely +2 to hit, +1 damage backsword. If he had rolled low, Stanbern would have been offended and not offered the sword, but he rolled high, and got his sword, which made him much sunnier in disposition.

There’s one more winter wolf out there, and the party hopes to kill it before winter festival. Next time.


PS: As a test of the revised Journeyman system, the adventure worked very well. Combat went very fast but each hit still had character and added to the roleplaying, thanks to eliminating hit points and instead using four levels of wounds. Plus it all worked with the existing information both in Combat and in the Foes description. Kudos to MERP for inspiring the changes!

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TRAVELLER: Trojan Reach

Our party was small — just myself (a Vargr corsair with 2 Starburst for Extraordinary Heroism) and a Qwab (Newt) diplomat on Pallindrome. We were embedded with 2nd squad in the servant of Baroness Gloriana, along with another Vargr, and a bunch of humans. Our first week we avoided a bar fight one of the locals attempted to goad us into, and Biwa (the Qwab) order a biwa at the local music store. Next week, both squads struck a deserted downport that was being used by human smugglers from Theev. It was an easy strike, and we took out their two laser emplacements first, then kneecapped anyone not dropping their weapons. They dropped their weapons quickly. Turns out they were trying to harvest pharmaceuticals from the bio-engineered plants that were producing atmosphere. We captured 80 smugglers, a modular cutter, and an ATV, among other things, for our employer. That earned us a 3,000 cr. bonus. Nice.

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TRAVELLER: Preparing for Old School game in Trojan Reach

So we’re getting ready for a Classic Traveller game set in the Trojan Reach. I dug around and found my copy of Galactic 24c so I can act as navigator on my laptop, where I’ve installed dosbox. I’m looking forward to it. Now I need to roll a Vargr character. Hope he survives character generation! Ah, the thrill of Traveller.


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MERP: The Most Fun I’ve had in Years

In the MERP campaign, our players explored the dungeon under the castle, after killing the orc guards last time. Elentari healed herself, Hammrammr, and then Araluth. Then we barricaded the doors up, then searched the orcs for money, and then freed the three Northmen prisoners held captive. The Theyn and his daughter were not among them. We armed the Northmen with orcish swords and shields and then returned to the storerooms, instructing them to build rafts of the barrels and rope in the storeroom so we would have an escape route should things go poorly. We tied the handles of the double door together (there were orcs on the other side) and then ascended the spiral stairs. The next level held the tunnel where the cave troll was being held, the door barred on our side and dire orcish runes against removing the bar were incised above it.

A group of orcs came down from above, and we gave battle, killing the first three and then engaging another four. Jor cast a lightning bolt into one orc, and then pulled back waiting for another chance. Araluth yelled “Free the Troll” to Jor and Tum. Tum assented and Jor went to help, and then had second thoughts and tried to stop Tum. Jor fumbled, fell on the floor, and screamed at Tum as the hobbit opened the door to the Troll lair. Tum vanished up a set of stairs on the other side of the room, the opposite direction that Araluth had hoped (Araluth had expected them to come back and take shelter in the spiral staircase where the troll couldn’t reach). Jor stood indecisively long enough for the troll to notice him and give chase. Tum came back to find out what was happening with Jor, and also was noticed. Both ran up the stairs and almost into the five orcs coming down. Tum and Jor went left and entered the dining hall just as the five orcs left it and went down the other stairs and ran into the troll. Two orcs died, and the rest chased Tum and Jor.

The troll munched on the dead orcs, but then heard Araluth singing “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic” in Sindarin very loudly and came to investigate. Hammrammr had fought the orcs upward, and two of them were now in the room with the troll. He ate them, though they tried to escape, and the other orcs ran up the stairs while the warriors went down, with Araluth getting one cut in on the troll’s hand as it reached for them in the stairs.

Pursued by the remaining orcs, Jor cast Shade, which did little. Tum cut open his backpack in hopes that the orcs would fight over the silver he had stolen from the party several sessions back. Then Jor and Tum fled again, closing a door in the face of the sole orc still pursuing them. They found themselves on the balcony of the cathedral, and after bracing the door with chairs, Tum lowered himself over the side and slid down a rope. Jor waited too long and was forced to fling himself over the rail, where he pancaked 30 feet below and exploded his lungs and heart. Using a Fate point, he tried that again, this time climbing down the rope. At the bottom they found themselves in the cathedral where they had seen a Northman slaughtered and eaten by the troll. Not good. Even worse, the portcullis was down. Tum squeezed through but Jor could not. Tum tried to sneak up on the troll, and failed, then tried to slide through his legs and died. Another Fate point, and this time the hobbit made it back to the spiral stairs, which he proceeded to descend.

Unbeknownst to him, four orcs had come up from the dungeons after the warriors, who now were hiding in the storage room. Araluth spilled his provisions on the stairs going up, and left the bag, as if someone had dropped it while running upward. The warriors closed the door to the spiral staircase and then hid on either side in case the orcs entered the storeroom. Luckily, the orcs followed the bait, and now were aimed straight at the descending hobbit.

Araluth led the warriors to the rear of the ascending orcs and with huge bonuses, managed to muck it up again. The warriors became locked in a battle with the four orcs, managing to kill one as they fought in retreat.

Tum heard the orcs and turned around, running upward, going higher and higher in the tower.

Jor was dismayed when the orcs raised the portcullis, which summoned the troll back to its lair. He ran under the portcullis and then was forced to hide himself in the troll feces when the creature returned. It went past him and he then stood up, realizing that the orcs were closing the double doors that sealed the troll in with him. Screaming and covered with poo, he ran out among them, fumbled, and found himself at the bottom of a pile of orcs while a few more barred the troll back into its lair.

Final scores so far: 17 orcs killed, 3 Northmen rescued (for now). And so much ridiculousness that we were laughing hysterically most of the time.  Good times!

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Enjoying “The Expanse”

We started watching The Expanse this weekend, and are greatly enjoying it. A complex story with few major problems (so far). It is a SyFy channel series, and is a hard sf space opera involving a Cold War between Earth and Mars, with the Belters caught in the middle and unhappy about it. Best of all, it is a Traveller campaign set at about TL12, but without jump. The player characters are a cashiered Terran Navy officer, a Mars Navy veteran, a brawny Merc raised in a brothel, a cowardly Medical Officer on the run from his drug dealers, and a skilled and beautiful Engineer who may have ties to the Belter terrorist organization. They start off in a dodgy old mining pinnace, and quickly upgrade to a military 200 ton frigate, complete with Martian battle armor and 12G acceleration. So if you like Traveller and hard sf, you should check out the series. We watch it on Amazon Prime. I liked it so much I’m going to start reading the books it is based on by James S.A. Corey (a pseudonym for the writing team of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck).

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MERP: The Dark Dark Valley

The party faced two more challenges from the mad wizard, namely a room that threatened to electrocute them and then another that tried to freeze them. In both they solved the puzzles of the crooked way and so came to a dark wood in box canyon five miles long and three miles wide. The valley was perpetually in gloom due to a malevolent mist that hung over it at all times. A well-traveled footpath led from the Straight Path (at the cliff’s bottom) to a tall castle surrounded by a 100′ foot deep chasm and perched precariously on a single spire of rock. The party entered with much trepidation, walking straight through the front door for lack of a better idea. Avoiding wargs and orcs, they did not enter the keep itself, but circled it, coming at last to the back where they lifted the hobbit up to a ruined cathedral window. Inside, he saw a cave troll chase and devour a Northman while over 50 orcs applauded and cheered from the balcony. The party went to the rear terrace, and slipped over the side to avoid the wargs which had now spotted them and were barking away. They dropped 50′ into the winch room, and then made their way through the storerooms, killing 4 orcs. Then down a long winding stair to the dungeon, where they killed another 5 orcs. Hammrammr was killed by a large orc in chainmail, and so was forced to spend a fate point. And there ended the night.


Next time, we hope to rescue the Thain and his daughter, return up the spiral stairs and use the barrels in the storerooms to make our escape from the winchroom into the river and away.

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MUTANT WORLD: A Problem for the Party

At the end of the game last week, the party was stopped by a force that turned anything that crossed the final feet of the tunnel into a cloud of powder. Here’s the problem they face:

A mile-long steam tunnel leads down to the upper level of an open area that is well-lit. The last few feet of the tunnel feature a unique feature. An angled area of the tunnel looks much fresher, clear of any moss or dirt, and perhaps a little deeper than the rest of the tunnel. A pair of human boots lays at the edge of the area,  with a skeletal tibia and fibula sticking out of each. The bones are cut off cleaning, as if with a hacksaw, just where the floor changes color. Looking around one finds other similar artifacts: a rat’s tails, bugs cut in half, etc.  The angle of the area indicated that whatever was doing this was to the left, out of side around the corner of the corridor, and probably on the ceiling of the next space. The top of the tunnel is the same height as the ceiling of the next area.

The party begins experimenting by tossing sticks into the area, trying to throw them past the opening of the area beyond. Initially there was a scraping sound and then the thrown item disappeared in a puff of powder. When they continued their experiments, there was no scraping, but the items still disappeared. They put a hatchet into the area. The metal part of the hatchet was unaffected, but the handle disappeared, including the part inside the hatchet blade, which was fully surrounded by metal. A metal sheet was put into the area next, and was unaffected. They tossed a rock in, and it was unaffected. When they put a piece of wood behind a rock and shoved it in, the wood was disintegrated. After testing with various rocks, they found that a foot of stone would protect the wood. They hypothesized they might built up a pile of stones that would stop the unseen force. I ruled that piling up rocks would take a pretty long time. They have a mile long tunnel they would have to traverse, and the pile would not be just one foot thick at the base. I estimated it would take them about 16 wheelbarrows of rocks and 8 hours to do the job, and without a wheelbarrow or a ready pile of rocks, it would take about 4-8 times as long, which meant 3 to 6 days of work, working 12 hours each day.

An alternate plan of using the pyrotechnic fuse blasting caps they had found to tunnel through the concrete walls of the tunnel and go around the force. This had several problems. First, these caps are very small explosives, and they probably don’t have enough of them to do the job. If they returned to Mourne to purchase explosives, it still might not be a good idea to blow up sections of the material that keeps the hill from falling on them.

So, they have observed that non-organic objects seem unaffected by the unseen force, but organic objects, even sticks and rope, are utterly obliterated. As they continue to experiment, they notice that sometimes the item behind thick steel will be unaffected, at other times, it will be completely destroyed. The inorganic material does not reliably shield against the force. They hypothesize (Molecular Understanding) that the inorganic material does not so much stop the force as deflect it. For whatever reason, they don’t think it reliably protects them, which makes them worried about the tunnel walls themselves. They also suspect (Sense skill) that the rock they put in the danger zone as an original test is getting thinner, but they are not yet sure. The only mirror they have is a signal mirror, which has a hole in the center for directing the beam. Still, they put the mirror into the area, being careful to aim the reflective surface away from them. The stick supporting the mirror again disappears, but much slower this time. They can actually see the stick dwindle and then disappear, gnawed away by an invisible force.

Please feel free to offer suggestions to the party about how they can get around this obstacle. I’m not sure they actually can!

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MERP: Eastward to Ostenfeld

After their abortive efforts at Eagle’s Nest last time, the party headed south on the trails and then eastwards, following the missing scouting party of the year before. They encountered thicker vegetation than they expected, so they took a side trip to Sittard to pick up falchions and other other instruments. On the way there, they encountered a Soul Besh, or rather, the Soul Besh encountered the front grate of a grav truck traveling at 45 mph. It survived, but just barely, and dragged itself into the forest while the party cleaned a lot of gunk off the windshield. On the way back, the bear was attacked by a Buzzer (Giant Wasp) but they fought it off.

After travelling east and chopping vegetation in the August heat, the party was approached by a voice in their heads, a voice that emanated from Berberis, a mobile and sentient Warty Barberry. Berberis warned them of the Blue Winseen they were about to enter, and the two Parn that lay beyond. Wrench burned the Winseen with his radiated eyes, and finished it off by building a fire on the final five foot ring. When the Parn attacked, they tore through Growler’s force field and did great damage to both Growler and Wrench before they died. Afterwards, the party found the bodies of three of last year’s scouts and their gear, and Berberis explained that Rowlff and Phero had escaped but never returned.

The party brought Berberis with them. Their next encounter was a river that needed fording. The grav truck could cross, but not the mechanic’s cart they were towing behind it. A hasty raft was built and the cart put on it, with the grav truck pulling it into the water. The tow rope snapped and the raft headed downstream. Wrench jumped overboard thinking he would tow it to shore, but he forgot he was wearing all his armor and metal equipment and went straight to the bottom. He cut off much of his gear and managed to make it to the surface, where Berberis rescued him with telekinetic flight. Meanwhile, Corinne tried to use the truck to stop the cart, forgetting that the truck floated about two feet off the surface and therefore began to push the cart off the raft rather than pushing the raft. She backed off, and tried a number of stratagems to direct the raft to the opposite shore, with Berberis joining her in that effort as the raft floated across the lake downstream. They reached the other shore, but like Wrench before her, Corrine jumped into the water and slipped on the rocks as the raft ground over her. She managed to squirm out before she drowned, and then she and Berberis managed to hook up the cart again and tow it to safety some hundred years upstream on the shore and then 100 yards inland, where they found another overgrown trail (or perhaps the same one?). When they recovered, they took the grav truck back across the lake and picked up Growler and Wrench. The whole time, I was rolling for lake encounters. Everyone knows that the waters of Mutant World are one of the most dangerous places to be, but no encounters came up, despite many rolls for them.

That night two Dabbers fooled Wrench into giving three power cells to the “Spirit of the Glade.” They also stole items out of the truck’s glove box. The party would not leave the truck unlocked again. In the morning, the truck was able to show the faces of the thieves (captured by its cab camera) to its owner.

A bit wiser, the party continued on to Ostenfeld, an enormous village surrounded by dangerous plants and protected by hundreds of spear-wielding warriors with six arms. Boipelo, a PSH and one of the Council of the Six, came out to speak with the party and convinced the rest of the Council not to kill them that night. Instead, Boipelo argued that they might be useful allies, and pumped the party for information before frankly telling them that the party would not be allowed into Ostenfeld until they proved their worth, especially because they were accompanied by a bear from the north, where they had heard of the attacks by Spartak on PSH settlements.

The night ended with the party continuing south on the trail, and happening across a steam tunnel that under normal circumstances would have been unseen. They hid the truck, put Glysock inside of it, locked the doors, and camouflaged it. Berberis stayed with the truck because he did not function well in the dark, but Corinne, Wrench, and Growler entered the long tunnel. At the end they were stopped by a force that turned anything that crossed the final feet into a cloud of powder. The party will spend the next week or so until the next game trying to think of a solution.

The party was supposed to encountered Ostenfeld much earlier in their careers, when they were less well-armed and therefore less suspicious to the Council. Sheldon had led the party west rather than east, so their arrival was delayed long enough for them to be viewed as a threat. Luckily, they were not ambushed by the 400 warriors that might have attacked if Boipelo had not convinced the Council to wait and see.

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