Anyone know if Ray Otus is intending to do a print collection of his Plundergrounds zine?

Anyone know if Ray Otus is intending to do a print collection of his Plundergrounds zine?

Anyone know if Ray Otus is intending to do a print collection of his Plundergrounds zine? (Maybe Ray Otus will know!?)

I just want to say thank you again to Jason Cordova​​ for this goddamn Labyrinth move.

I just want to say thank you again to Jason Cordova​​ for this goddamn Labyrinth move.

I just want to say thank you again to Jason Cordova​​ for this goddamn Labyrinth move. I have had an idea for this dungeon under a sun dial that is constantly turning and opening some doors and closing off others and I kept thinking, “Dear God, I’m going to have to map this thing.” But now, thanks to this move, I can just throw some fiction at it and let the move do the work. Dreams, Jason! Dreams for you! 

Dreamation 2017: The Watch

Dreamation 2017: The Watch

Dreamation 2017: The Watch

Yes, I finally got it together to write up some of what happened…

My words really can’t convey how intense and rewarding this game was.

Originally shared by Christo Meid

Dreamation 2017: The Watch

The Mystical Fox Tabak

You’ve probably ready posts by other players in the Long Con game of the Watch at Dreamation (by Tony Lower-Basch, and Michael X. Heiligenstein They talked about the events, the battles the camaraderie. What they didn’t talk too much about was the magic…

I played the Fox, one of the extended playbooks for the Watch that we’ll only see if we make some stretch goals (that’s a big hint people — please back it! I want those amazing playbooks). You might think the Fox is a trickster or a cunning thief. That’s not how Tabak came out. Her playbook says in no uncertain terms that she talks with spirits of the dead among other things. That immediately drew me: creepy magic!

Tabak, my character, was chosen by Laustek of the Degrassi table. As you might have guessed by reading Tony’s write-up, we were a tight group and earned the name Degrassi. We covered for each other, argued with each other, exposed our fears and vulnerabilities to each other (e.g., Open Up to Someone) but we had each other’s backs even when we did horrible things…

When team Degrassi was taking the fort, following the screaming lead of Presti the Fabulous (aka Presti the Reckless), one of the shadow-thralled got up and surprised Tabak, pinning her to the ground and vomiting putrid shadow into her…. Tabak boiled with rage, freed herself (or was she freed by a comrade?) and fought fiercely. Later, when searching the fort, it was Tabak that found the 3 hostage women in a side room. It was also Tabak who was overcome by the rage of the shadow and viciously slew them…

From that battle, three of our women had been tainted by the shadow: Laustec, our leader, Tabak, and Patho (sp?). We had not known of Patho’s corruption until she attacked Laustec and infected her also. Hiding this corruption from our commander (the women above Laustec), we pondered what to do. At this time, a new force of shadow thralls was approaching the fort, preparing to lay siege. Tabak came up with a risky idea that had the chance of solving many problems at once: she should do the Spirit Walk move and, through extreme exertion, take her comrades with her and cleanse everyone of the shadow taint…This raised her Weariness and Jaded, but Tabak needed to atone for what she had done to the hostages, so she was willing to take the risks of losing herself. Tabak instructed all to close their eyes and link hands, and she would lead them through the whispering spirits.

The Spirit Walk went as planned, with a tunnel opening through the spirit world, leading right to the center of the enemy’s forces as planned. Engaged in battle, our friends were briefly separated. Tabak threw herself to attack the commander of the Shadowthralls, only to discover (missed roll) that it was her cousin. She fell in shock and anguish (missed roll resulted in being overcome by weariness, an excellent cinematic mechanic), since her cousin had been her best friend, and more, growing up. Laustec came to the rescue and saved Tabak. In the ensuing battle, one of the women killed Tabak’s cousin, and Tabak obtained the amulet that had been around his neck — a shadow artifact that Preyma had divined could be used to create a talisman of protection against the shadow. On taking down their commander, Team Degrassi achieved a stunning victory, and routed the shadow forces. Not to forget, the Spirit Walk has also cleansed three of the comrades.

On returning to the fort, Peyma and Tabak performed a ritual (Peyma’s move), using the amulet, some of the remains of the shadow vomit (yes, Tabak kept it in her waterskin after the attack: she has more willpower than I do!) and light to create a protective amulet that would make the wearer immune to corruption by the Shadow.

Team Degrasi hid what had happened to us (shadow tainting) and the fact that we had taken a shadow artifact from the commander, since she felt that any that had been touched by the shadow should be killed. This, of course, ratcheted up the tension, but made our characters bond and trust and protect each other all the more. Oh, and blow off steam, talk heart to heart, etc. Degrassi, after all.

An aside here: in all cases where magical moves are mentioned, the mechanical effects are given in the playbooks, but the fictional details are left to the players and MC. It was Tabak that decided that the Spirit Walk was a chill pathway through spirits of our dead, who would whisper and try to lure living souls from the path. When Tabak botched her roll when confronted with the leader of the enemy, it was the MC who asked: how do you know the leader? The first person that came to mind was Tabak’s beloved cousin… This creative, collaborative flexibility led to fantastic, mesmerizing storytelling and cinematic opportunities to show that our character’s were not emotionless automatons of war, but people that had been drawn into this battle, and were trying to hold on to their humanity. It also, of course, gets everyone to buy-in to the story, since we all contributed to it and no two games would play the same.

Well, hopefully this post has given you a glimpse of the intense dramatic nature of The Watch. Please support it: not only will you bring a great game into the world, but you’ll free the Fox and other playbooks, which are currently locked as stretch goals!

Props to our GMs: Anna Kreider and Aaron Friesen.

A big thanks to the players: Tony Lower-Basch, George Austin, Rebecca W, Michael X. Heiligenstein, Joe Beason, Albert D, and Doug Bonar

I’d like to share two 5yo kid gaming actual reports from this morning’s commute that made me smile:

I’d like to share two 5yo kid gaming actual reports from this morning’s commute that made me smile:

I’d like to share two 5yo kid gaming actual reports from this morning’s commute that made me smile:

World of Dreams:

Dreamer described the initial scene as an empty white space as far as the eye can see. His Dreamer just had an enormous paintbrush. Dreamer didn’t give me much to work with here, so instead of a series of follow up questions, I just asked “What do you do?” Dreamer proceeded to paint the scene, starting with the sky, the sun, then the grass and the flowers. Finally he described a large Gecko on a tree trunk. Dreamer invited the Gecko to take a tour of the world Dreamer had painted, and they began travelling. At this point, Dreamer repeatedly pointed out new details Dreamer had painted, and they eventually came to a large castle. They climbed to the roof of the castle, and in the distance Dreamer saw a large red streak of light approaching at high speed. Dreamer decided to run, and used a Lucid Token to transform into a bird.

During the pursuit Dreamer realized that the red streak was actually a large red bird that wanted to speak with him. Very suspicious, Dreamer slowed down to allow conversation. The red bird challenged Dreamer to a race. The race involved a series of acrobatic tricks, and Dreamer ultimately won.

We were getting close to school at this point, so I moved to the final phase: “You sense the Wim is near, what does it look like?” Dreamer explained that the Wim was hiding as the castle. “How will you stop the Wim?” Just needed to pull some of the stones out of the base of the castle wall. “Great, but first you will have to get past the castle’s catapults.”

After some great rolls, Dreamer dodged a slew of catapult stones and landed near the castle wall. He used a Lucid Token to transform into a giant ogre and pulled out some stones, overcoming the Whim.

Generic DW Variant

My other son GM’d this session, and I played as my fighter, “The Greatest Fighter.”

GM set the scene. I had just visited a new village and learned that a woman had been taken by some goblins. We started in a forest as I was following the goblin tracks. Out of nowhere a tiger appeared, and I raised my shield and yelled “Get out of here!” The tiger retreated to get reinforcements, and I sprinted down the path.

At the end of the path I came upon a lone unsuspecting goblin. I rushed to shield bash the goblin, but the goblin turned at the last second and yelled “Stop, I’m a friend!”

This goblin, Ryu, said he would help me free the woman. Ryu led me to a cave, where two large goblins were standing guard. Ryu asked me to pretend to be a prisoner, and he talked our way past the guards. We came to a large room where seventy goblins were playing Werewolf (the party game). In the distance I heard a woman shouting for help and I asked Ryu to take me to her cell. We freed the woman and she led us out by the goblins (who were too distracted to notice us).

Ryu and I then returned to town as heroes, without any violence at all.

Heard a lot about this game, looking forward to checking it out!

Heard a lot about this game, looking forward to checking it out!

Heard a lot about this game, looking forward to checking it out!

Originally shared by Sean Patrick Fannon

One of the truly groundbreaking games of our hobby, this is the third presentation of James Wallis’ masterpiece of narrative storytelling game development that many argue heralded many current trends in RPG design. GM-less gaming? Diceless? Player-driven…

The Hall of Legends #009 – Home is in the Blue

The Hall of Legends #009 – Home is in the Blue

The Hall of Legends #009 – Home is in the Blue

Date: March 13th, 2015

Game: Society of Dreamers

Players: Jason Cordova Daniel Lewis Ferrell Riley and myself.

Society of Dreamers is Matthijs Holter’s gm-less atmospheric horror game about a group of people in 19th century Europe investigating mnemosites, which are creatures that dwell in dreams.

We played the game in a darkened room by candlelight, which contributes immeasurably to the game’s atmosphere.  Furthermore, the game calls for a Ouija board style planchette, used to select the type of scene that comes next.  We ended up using a poker chip, but still it does wonders for the mood.

Character creation is gorgeous.  It’s a sort of player-seeded randomness.  Everyone writes down on note cards two examples each from four categories:  age, gender/sexual orientation, nationality, and occupation.  Then the cards are gathered and each category is shuffled.  In order to create the basics of a character, everyone randomly picks one of each.  Players can choose to exchange a single card for another random one, and then they have their character.  After this process, we end up with Ferrell’s female Moroccan scholar, Dan’s Norwegian watchmaker (also a woman), Jason’s Ethiopian candlemaker, and my bisexual German archaelogist (both men).*

After character creation, the game begins with ritual.  First up, players get up and go around the room, clapping and otherwise making loud noises to ensure any lingering spirits are chased away.  As I see it, this serves three purposes.  First, it does what pretty much any ritual does:  it unites the participants in shared action, investing that action with meaning and separating the newly-formed us from the them of everyone else.  Second, it strikes me as something that spiritualists and the like might actually have done, and serves to help everyone get into the headspace of dream investigators.  Third, it’s deeply silly.  It provides everyone a chance to shake out the sillies and put levity behind them as they switch to the serious tone of the game.  After this comes a second ritual.  The players close their eyes, except for one who will recite instructions from the game text.  The reader instructs the other players to envision above each of their heads a small glowing ball.  Each ball is connected via a similarly glowing rod to a much larger mass above the center of the table.  Everyone holds this image in their heads for a few seconds.  This second ritual blatantly engages the players in a shared dreaming space, which is more or less what the characters in the game will soon be doing.  It also sets a somber tone to contrast with the hand-clapping fun of the first ritual.  We’re in different territory now.

The game’s basic conceit is the same every time: characters investigate the nature of the mnemosites.  What that nature actually is, however, is determined during play.  Each scene has a scene guide–something like a temporary gm–and after a scene has played out, players will talk about whether or not they learned anything about the mnemosites, with the scene guide getting final say.  As we played out scenes–at first with hints of the supernatural, then getting gradually more surreal and weird–we learned more and more of our quarry.  One scene finds Ferrell’s young girl pursuing a phantom playmate.  Another features a mystical coming-of-age ceremony in which Jason’s character encounters his dead grandmother, who leads him to her grave.  After a creepy scene in a museum with a whispering mummy, we establish that the mnemosites speak through the dead.  After Dan’s character is shown a bizarre clue about her sister’s behavior, we get the first inklings that the mnemosites are trying to warn us of danger.  We further establish that they come in at least two types (one of which is that danger), are accompanied by cold, have potentially severe effects on the passage of time, and rely on mother figures.  We also establish the wonderfully cryptic “home is in the blue.”  Blue, green, and yellow become common color motifs in our scenes.

Our session had lots of creepy highlights, but I’ll mention two of my favorites.  The first is a feature of the game: a type of scene called a “Dream” or “Dreamer” scene (I forget which is which).  One person is selected to go into the dreams of another character.  In our game, my character is selected to delve deep into the dreams of Jason’s mystic candlemaker, Abebe.  This means I won’t actually be the one declaring what I/Abebe am/is doing.  I close my eyes for the duration of the scene, and describe the results of actions the other players tell me to perform within the dream.  The result is very dreamlike:  Someone tells me I follow a trail I come across, tracks left by a lion.  I describe the scene of carnage that the trail leads me to.  They tell me I investigate, and I describe the dead body I find.  They tell me I pick up the near-decapitated head and see whose it is.  I say that it’s clearly Abebe’s, whose dream-body I currently inhabit.  They tell me I ask dead Abebe/me a question.  I describe its attempt to answer, lips and tongue unable to pronounce any words without breath from its detached lungs.  Brilliant marriage of mechanic and theme here, and it makes for a very fun scene.

My other favorite scene involves a gradual build-up of tension and weirdness.  It features escalating time distortion, a hidden warning engraved inside a watch, and the arrival of a single guest, not once but twice–once upstairs, impossibly, and shortly thereafter downstairs as expected.  Time proves not to be a reliable friend, and the scene ends with us fleeing our house to escape what may or may not be a mnemosite come to kill us.  

The way the game works in play is great.  With no GM acting as gatekeeper to the truth, we can go into a game where everyone knows nothing and surprise each other with emergent creepiness.  The manner in which we played helped out with this.  One player would set the scene, as per the rules, but allow room for lots of input from other players, very much to the point where the scene’s not-quite-GM could still be surprised and affected by details from others.  Several times during the game, we used a technique whereby the scene guide sets the scene up for a reveal of some sort, and then asks one of the other players what precisely is revealed.  “She leans in and whispers one word to you.  What is it?”  “Run.”  Love it.

The unplanned nature of the game also means that, unlike most mystery/investigation rpgs, we could easily build the weirdness up around the characters.  We see aspects of their lives as children, adolescents, and adults, and get to know them a bit.  As the weirdness comes through dreams, or invades reality in dreamlike ways, it’s very effective at both being surreal, and also at conforming itself to the player characters.

Our game ends in vagary.  Questions unanswered, fates undetermined.  But we manage to make sense of much more than we had any expectation to, I think.  It makes for one of the best game sessions of my life, and will, I’m sure, remain a high water mark for future surreal horror.

*Props to the Story Games Name Project for having Ethiopian, German, Moroccan, and Norwegian names for us.

The Hall of Legends #008 – The Rat of Wisdom

The Hall of Legends #008 – The Rat of Wisdom

The Hall of Legends #008 – The Rat of Wisdom

Date: April 27th, 2014

Game: 1,001 Nights

Players: Ferrell Riley Daniel Lewis Rob Ferguson Shea Herlihy-Abba and Rachel.

When a gaming session is going well, every moment has the potential to be legendary. The energy between the players tends to feed on itself, in a loop, and builds and builds until someone grabs hold of it, unleashes it, and does something amazing. But occasionally, someone grabs hold of that energy, unleashes it, and then throws it to someone else to do something amazing with it.

Such was the case in our game of 1,001 Nights. A quick primer: 1,001 Nights is a game about nested stories. Each of the players is a member of the Sultan’s court, and each has their own ambitions, desires, and rivalries that implicate the other characters. Gameplay involves each character, one-by-one, recalling a story. The story will then be acted out by the other characters at the table. Roles for that story are assigned, with the choice selections being given to the character the storyteller favors, and the haggard crones and talking donkeys being given to the characters the storyteller despises. It is supposed to reflect the subtle ways in which court politics affect even the most harmless and leisurely of activities. 

Our game was humming along nicely, with various intrigues and desires bubbling to the surface, and with everyone being mindful of the wrath of the Sultan, which can interrupt the proceedings and send a character to their death, if they aren’t careful. During one of the tales, which was a Cinderella-esque fable, the character of the Rat of Wisdom was proposed. The Rat of Wisdom was to be played by Ferrell’s character, and his job was to dispense sage advice to the Cinderella figure in the story. As the story got underway, Dan took the opportunity to grab the energy loop and crack it open, like an egg, on top of Ferrell’s head: his character reminded the other characters that, in this story, the Rat of Wisdom always spoke in rhyming couplets. 

Everyone at the table howled with laughter. That the Rat of Wisdom spoke in rhyming couplets was now gospel truth [editor’s note: there is no such thing as ‘the gospel truth,’ since the ‘gospel’ of Jesus Christ was just a series of stories invented by the Romans to pacify militant Jews. Hail Satan]. Everyone turned to Ferrell, certain he would throw in the towel on this one. But, to his credit, he did not! From that point forward, when his character spoke, he did so in rhyming couplets. It was amazing, we all had a good laugh, and it really made the whole experience unforgettable. 

Ever since, we have sometimes played games where we get some control over how another player’s character behaves, and occasionally someone will throw in ‘speaks in rhyming couplets’ as a way to get a laugh, or to callback to the Rat of Wisdom. As such, the Rat of Wisdom is probably with us for good, and so he goes in the Hall of Legends.

The Hall of Legends #007 – Kharis the Mummy

The Hall of Legends #007 – Kharis the Mummy

The Hall of Legends #007 – Kharis the Mummy

Dates: September 5th, 2013; September 12th, 2013; September 25th, 2013; October 2nd, 2013

Game: Monsterhearts

Players: Derek Grimm Daniel Lewis Alex Camacho Ferrell Riley and myself

A lot of people tend to pre-judge Monsterhearts. They see a game about sexy (and sexually confused) teenage monsters, and they immediately think Twilight. Of course, anyone who has played it knows it is much more than that. 

At its most basic, Monsterhearts is a metaphor for the teenage experience. At that age, your hormones are going crazy and you’re trying to stake out (no pun intended) an identity for yourself. You don’t have a lot of control over your body or your emotions. Neither do werewolves, as it turns out, and that is what makes the game so sticky (‘sticky’ being a good thing, meaning a game that really pulls you in and sticks with you). 

One of the things I love about MH is that it gives you permission to be naughty. Moves like Lash Out Physically and Turn Someone On signal as much, as does the fact that each of the characters has a powerful ‘Sex Move.’ Gameplay is essentially PvP, and involves gaining emotional and physical control over the other PCs. And each character has a state called Darkest Self, during which their monstrous nature is dangerous and unstoppable (except in the case of the emotionally fucked-up Ghost, who actually fades from view in Darkest Self and can only be brought back via seance). 

This idea of monstrous teens behaving badly was on full display with Derek’s Mummy, Kharis. To start, the Mummy character is a delightful contradiction: he remembers a time when he was an all-powerful god-king, but he is presently a teenager, subject to the rules and whims of adults and other authority figures. This contradiction was on full display with Kharis. He constantly craved power, and wanted nothing more than to subjugate his classmates and force them to worship him, but he was also kind of a loser. When he failed to become quarterback of the football team, for example, he instead went out for captain of the cheerleading squad, believing this to be a position of power from which to re-build his kingdom. He lobbied to have the school’s colors changed to purple and gold, which he believed to be more regal, and therefore more appropriate for him to be seen in. He was also heavily-involved in the school’s miniatures wargaming club, as it reminded him of his former life commanding great armies (his favorite game, btw, was Fantasy Hammer; look it up). In a lot of ways, Kharis reminded me of Tracy Flick, with his constant need to be in charge of everything. 

One of the more interesting aspects of Kharis was his odd home life. He lived alone in a huge mansion with just a single servant to look after him. Eventually, though, he made servants of several of his friends from school. These initiations into his service were usually preceded by a creepy formal dinner in which everyone had to stand while he ate, and engage in ritual praises of him at certain points during the meal. It was during one of these strange dinners that we saw Kharis at the height of his madness. Fully engulfed in Darkest Self, and encouraged by his homeroom teacher (who was also his sorcerous mother in his previous life), he gathered a number of his close friends and servants at his home to witness the ritual sacrifice of his rival, a thug from school who had beaten him up. Wearing nothing but a kilt (Kharis was a euro-pagan mummy) and brandishing a massive, two-handed sword, he cut off his rival’s head and collected the blood in a chalice. He then drank the blood and commanded everyone present to engage in an orgy (including his mother/teacher, who was pleasuring herself in the corner as he committed the grotesque act). This scene was actually the end of our MH campaign, and it was a pretty bonkers one. But it felt like a natural ending for a character who, despite being in high school, believed himself to be a god, suffuse with the power of life and death. 

I don’t mean to downplay the other characters that were in that MH game. In fact, there were a lot of really terrific moments all around. But Kharis was definitely the highlight for me. The character fully embodied what Monsterhearts is all about: strange and frightening monsters who just happen to be dealing with all the bullshit teenagers have to deal with. He was unforgettable, and so he’s going into the Hall of Legends. *

The Hall of Legends #006 – Weekend Warriors

The Hall of Legends #006 – Weekend Warriors

The Hall of Legends #006 – Weekend Warriors

Date: September 12th, 2014; September 13th, 2014; and September 14th, 2014. 

Game: Dungeon World

Players: Ferrell Riley Kyle McCauley Jeff Burke Kristina Vansickle Daniel Fowler and Gary Wilson 

I’ve been playing roleplaying games since I was in the 6th grade. I often wonder how that changes my perception of them vis a vis someone who came to the hobby as an adult. In many ways, I imagine our experience is not so different; people seem to instinctively understand the joy of group storytelling. But there is something you get as a kid gamer that is very difficult to replicate as an adult: the weekend-long, gaming sleepover. 

From the 6th grade until I graduated high school, I participated in regular, weekend-long sleepovers in which my friends and I rolled dice and battled monsters late into the night. We’d play until 6 AM, fall asleep surrounded by books and dice, and then get-up a few hours later and do it again. I can’t count the number of times my nerdy friends and I would be sitting around the table, eating pancakes, arguing about the relative merits of the various 3rd-level Wizard spells (because, let’s face it, the Wizard sucked until he hit Level 5 and could take those sweet 3rd-level spells). 

I have many distinct memories from this time, such as when the Tome of Magic came out and we spent a whole Saturday having our minds blown by all the amazing new options that lay in front of us (Wild Magic? Insane! Elemental Magic? Incredible! It was a heady time, I assure you). It was during these weekend sleepovers, probably around the 8th grade, that I created Gormakir the Cruel, a villain who remains a favorite of mine to this day (many of you will know the permutation of him that showed-up in Carcosa), and Cenduwain, the untouchable elf queen powerbroker in ALL my fantasy campaigns. To this day, my friends from that era occasionally ping me on Facebook and reminisce about those awesome times. 

Adulthood robs us of this sort of thing, doesn’t it?  

Which is why I was so excited about our recent Anthology Weekend. The idea was that we would play the same game of Dungeon World for an entire weekend. While we wouldn’t be able to play until dawn each day, and there was certainly no sleeping over, it was still great fun, and a close approximation of what it was like to game in junior high. For a single weekend, I was reminded of what it was like to have nothing to do but play roleplaying games, and it was kind of amazing. 

And what an adventure it was! I’ve been promising a re-cap of the Anthology Weekend game, and this seems like as good a place as any. 

Our party consisted of Gerda, the Dwarf Priestess (full title: Gerda Who Holds Fast to the Stone); Heiron the Human, the Human Fighter (his nickname, “the Human,” was given to him by the dwarfs of Gerda’s order, who raised him); Ariel, the Human Elementalist; Hycora, the Elf Druid; Greguh, the Orc Dungeoneer; and Xeno, the Human Mask Mage. They were on their way to the Castle on Dancing Peak, a long-abandoned (and routinely forgotten) keep deep in the Twisting Wood. 

After battling a group of orcs who were after the blood-traitor, Greguh, the party arrived at the tiny village of Turning Knot, just outside the Twisting Wood. While investigating the nature of the castle in the wood, they learned, quite by accident, that this particular village had made an enemy in the god served by Gerda, the Sentinel (full name: The Sentinel of the Last Bastion of Day’s Final Night). Owing to the god’s wrath, combined with an angry, vindictive earth spirit inadvertently summoned by Ariel, the village of Turning Knot found itself swallowed by a crevasse. The party managed to escape the catastrophe relatively unscathed, but were no closer to learning the secret of the Castle on Dancing Peak, and had to get a move-on as there were orcs on their tail. 

They set out into the Twisting Wood, a journey which took almost a week, as that particular forest is notoriously difficult to navigate, and came upon the ruins of a shrine to St. Abren, who, in life, tried to map the great forest. After narrowly escaping death at the hands (hoofs?) of a family of minotaurs who had made the ruins their home – and after recovering a trio of life-renewing bottled fairies hidden there – the party continued their journey. 

The castle stood on a high, twisting peak (a “dancing” peak, if you will) freestanding in the middle of a deep valley. It was connected to the edge of the forest by a long bridge, which itself was a structure that had both an inner passage in addition to the topside crossing. The party trekked across the bridge, fighting off skeletons and manticores. In what has become my moral quandary equivalent of the infant goblins in Keep on the Borderlands, the party found a baby manticore and had to decide whether to kill it or let it live (they killed it, of course, just like every other party who has encountered a baby manticore in my DW games). They went inside the bridge, too, which was filled with numerous deadly traps. There they found a shrine to the evil rat god, Reekeesik. Behind the shrine’s altar, they discovered a little black door, carved with images of rat swarms, no more than three feet high. The door appeared to lead nowhere (it simply opened to a brick wall) but the party deduced that this door was used to travel to the 434th layer of the Abyss, the home of the rat god himself! Gerda’s god commanded her to find a way into that realm and slay Reekeesik. They didn’t know HOW to use the door, but they figured the answer would be somewhere in the castle. 

The rest of the adventure principally revolved around searching the castle, discovering its secrets, and finding a way to destroy Reekeesik. During their search, they learned the castle was actually called the Castle of the Dreaming Doors, and that, in fact, there were numerous little doors all over the place, each leading to a different realm in the Outer Planes. They learned that one could only enter the doors during astral projection. 

After discovering a secret tomb on the side of the castle, the entrance to which hung freely in open space (with a long fall into the valley beneath it) the party learned the castle belonged to the legendary Castafiel family. The Castafiels, it seemed, were religious crusaders who conducted raids into the evil outer planes and recovered from battle in the good outer planes. This strange castle, with its little dreaming doors, was the base from which they launched their raids. 

The party encountered numerous monsters, including my infamous gelatinous cube trap, but their principle nemeses while searching the castle were the Flower Knights; ancient, wandering warriors bound to the Castle for eternity by powerful magicks. The Flower Knights were: the Knight of Mums, loquacious and eccentric; the Knight of Orchids, utterly insane and longing to be reunited with “mother”; and the Knight of Silver Lillies, who guarded the castle in its form on the astral plane. The party managed to defeat the Knight of Mums and the Knight of Orchids, but reached detente with the Knight of Silver Lillies, who refrained from attacking them so long as they didn’t bring anything evil into the castle from the Outer Planes. 

Ultimately, the party discovered the plans being made by Lucero Castafiel to destroy Reekessik. Though Lucero didn’t live long enough to carry out the attack, he did craft a weapon, the Rat Stabber, forged from Olympian steel and the bone of a great owl belonging to the goddess Athena, which was to be used to destroy the demon rat. They found this weapon buried with Lucero in the Castafiel crypts and then made their way to the Dreaming Room, where special incense would put them to sleep and project them into the astral plane. 

The conclusion was positively epic. The party entered the 434th layer of the Abyss, which was all inky blackness, and navigated their way to Reekeesik’s pit using Lucero Castafiel’s map (after destroying a few of Reekesik’s demonic minions, that is). The demon god’s lair was pulsating with millions of rats, which the party had to wade through before reaching him. The beast, a gigantic rat with thirteen legs, three mouths, and ten eyes, rose to meet them. Some members of the party were too scared to continue. Others were frightened, but steadfast. Gerda, believing she was answering a divine call, ran to a ledge and jumped, attempting to pierce Reekeesik’s heart with the Rat Stabber (which was a sort of javelin). Unfortunately, she failed and was swallowed by the rat god. But her loyal follower, Heiron, took up the weapon and plunged it deep into the beast, slaying it. 

Gerda passed beyond the Black Gate, to the realm of her god, the Sentinel, who explained that her divine mission was to raise-up Heiron and lead him to Reekeesik. She then began her eternal watch on the Sentinel’s tower. There were lots of other cool details during the course of the adventure I don’t have time to mention (search the Anthology folder for The Irresistible Mule – you won’t regret it), but suffice to say, it was an amazing weekend. 

I’ll conclude very quickly with something that occurred to me while I was writing this: the Gauntlet is entirely about recapturing that feeling of what it was like to game in junior high. The Anthology Weekend was the most immediate evidence of this, but I think, deep-down, all my efforts with this group are a love letter to my childhood.

But it’s more than that, too; more than mere nostalgia. It’s passion. It’s a self-sustaining energy loop, giving back two-fold what I put in. It’s like the character Max Fischer from the movie Rushmore: “I guess you’ve just gotta find something you love to do and then do it for the rest of your life.” 

The Hall of Legends #005 – A Summer in Carcosa

The Hall of Legends #005 – A Summer in Carcosa

The Hall of Legends #005 – A Summer in Carcosa

Dates: July 25th, 2014; August 1st, 2014; August 8th, 2014; and August 15th, 2014

Game: Dungeon World (Adventures on Dungeon Planet)

Players: Jacob Densford Nicolette Khan Jeff Burke Daniel Fowler Ferrell Riley Kyle McCauley Russell Benner Scott Owen David LaFreniere 


Was it a dream I had, of Carcosa? Or was I really there, thrashing about? The light of the ulfire moon seemed to fill me with equal portions of lust and dread and impotence. There was a girl, too; yellow-of-skin from head to toe, as if dipped in yellow paint, and crying yellow tears. All I could think of doing was holding her and consoling her and burying my thumbs in her sockets and crushing her skull and calling out for approval from nameless gods while I slaked my hunger with her perfectly yellow brain meat . . . but I resisted this dark temptation. 

And there were others . . . 

The off-worlders, for a start: Gullyver, the Earthling; Zed #003, her “loyal” Engine of Destruction; Omid, the Psion; and Delgado, the Technician.

And the natives: Qua the Insatiable, a Barbarian, purple-of-skin; Verrin, the Ranger, green-of-skin; and Scabs, the Mutant, red-of-skin (most of the time). 

And the Inevitable: Grezzurkt’taa, a foul sorcerer with even fouler designs for this world of Carcosa Most-Foul, who operated entirely beyond our perception. 

And there were things that happened, too, as if in a dream . . . 

The Deep Ones, answering the call of the blue woman’s bloodcurdling screams;

a midnight revel among barbarian raiders, with much feasting and fucking; 

velociraptors with purple eye lasers, and a triceratops with six cybernetically-enhanced legs; 

an abandoned research station in the sandy, yellow desert; 

the visceral breeders, whose whip like-tails spray their fluid down her throat; 

an emergency abortifacient made from a cocktail of poisonous fluids from his mouth-suckers; 

Security Drone #093, featuring Octo-laser Array and Electromagnetic Ultra-Pulse; 

an attempt to eat Security Drone #093 with the giant mouth that had suddenly appeared on his upper torso;

a vicious arboreal specimen with screaming, carnivorous, monkey-face pseudopods; 

an orange girl in search of help;

an orange girl inadvertently beheaded;

an orange man, mounting another orange man in a runic circle; the squamous red mass above their heads pulsating in time with their thrusting, and a throat being sliced at the precise moment of ejaculation;

a group of ulfire cultists, dedicated to Nyarlathotep, feasting on the sweet pus extracted from their leader’s protruding growths; 

a Rose Maiden, incapable of saving her people at the End of All Things, hurling herself into the maw of a dolm-colored grotesque just arisen from the Fecund Protoplasmic Pit;

a Violet Mist, filled with hate;

a spawn of the void, propagating itself inside the poor sap’s green genitals, and the wicked-precise castration that resulted therefrom (the second abortion in as many days);

4 blue men, 8 bone men, 5 yellow men, and 10 green men spilling their seed in a stone brazier shaped like a vagina, calling-forth the Child of Cthugha;

a man, having crossed a yellow lake in a yellow boat, to a yellow island, where he finds a yellow-robed man sitting atop a twisting, yellow throne, who he deems to be a Liar;

a yellow cavern, lined with the bodies of the yellow dust men, who will only stay themselves if the Yellow Song is sung;

an epic wrestling match with a massive blue spider with tiny human hands on the ends of its legs, the result of which is symbiotic stalemate;

the Fetor of the Depths, whose stench causes the poor sap to gag so violently, he spits-up some organ meat;

a final confrontation with the Inevitable;

and a rescue;

and a darkness spreading over the galaxy as the weird science of the planet of Carcosa fails to be contained to its throbbing, thrusting surface.