Reading, Planning & Writing: Friday on the edge of a Hectic August

I just wrote an e-mail to a friend, giving a kind of status update and explaining why and how gaming during the week doesn’t fit into my schedule lately. This August is hectic, filled with transition. It should be a good thing.

lw and c1

Reading: I am re-reading Lone Wolf and Cub by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima. I vividly remember when it first hit the states and I read it with my dad. I read it entirely as an adult and there is a speech in the next to last book that straight up made me get out of bed and cry.

The re-releases are published in small manga-style collections that I found really unsatisfying; the format just didn’t do justice to the artist’s wonderful black and white landscapes. My phone is actually a satisfying way to read it.

By my bed is Max Gladstone’s latest, Last First Snow.

lw and c 2

Planning: Life is a hectic blur this month. Don’t even.

I’m trying to figure out when I can game.

lw and c 3

Writing: The good news is that once I’m through this transition, I should have a neat space cleared in my life for writing.

And how are you?

DCCRPG: Welcome to the Hell Funnel

Eric couldn’t make it to finish up Doom of the Savage Kings, so I asked Rachel and Renee if they would pick up the characters who died in Frozen in Time and play in an idea I had, playing their dead characters in a Hell Funnel.

Good times.

As with all Dungeon Crawl Classics games I run, I start AP threads remembering the dead, in this case, the dead were already dead but now their souls have become part the infernal flora of hell.

*Rest in Hell*

Elsen the Watchman of King’s Landing, killed by stirge-like apprentices in a wizard’s tower, just off the River Styx.


*Welcome to Hell*

I monologued for maybe too long to set the tone. It might’ve been the longest exposition I’ve ever given to start off a game but hell’s tricky.

The characters found themselves in a 20 by 20 cube, a cage made of iron ribs, on jagged wheels, being pulled by a beast of burden that seemed to be made of the bodies of dozens of sinners, slammed together into a vaguely oxen-like shape, if you were around when oxen were created but don’t really remember or care about the particulars.

There were three comets in the sky, one much lower than the others. The comets stand out specially because the sky seemed to suck light. One was low on the horizon, probably about to crash into the ground.

Everything hurts. Time is odd and difficult to manage. It feels like coming out of a fever dream, the rhythmic creaking of the wheels. The desert sands are bone white. The last thing you remember is dying.

That kinda shit.

*The Devils*

When the comet crashed, the devils flying around the cage grew agitated and began to argue in Infernal, which sounds like a mixture of every ugly word in every language and vomiting. They packed up the items the characters had on them when they died and began to leave.

Maze the Thief tried to beg them to let them out before they left. I reckoned that begging a jailer is a skilled roll for a thief. The roll failed and the devils laughed. One spoke common.

“To the west are the mountains, Asmodeus. You could take your chances with him. To the north is Dis; you won’t make it there. To the east are the Drowned Swamps. To the south is the Styx.”

And with that the demons flew away with all of their stuff.

*The Iron Ribs Cage*

It turns out the cage was a Frost Giant an the lock, its head, still talked. I knew the lock talked when I had envisioned the encounter. I really had no idea how or if they were going to get out of the cage cube. Renee’s character, Nanny Millhouse Cromwell was a blacksmith, so I made a personality roll to talk an iron cage into opening for them a skilled roll, due to her familiarity with iron.

A stretch? It is in hell. Wtf.

She talked the lock into opening and she rolled so well that the lock asked to be unscrewed from the cage, to come with them and perhaps lock up something else somewhere.

After a brief discussion, it was decided that any opportunity to see the Styx in-game should be taken. South they went.


I didn’t do much prep. I jotted down some ideas for what was in each cardinal direction and daydreamed some ideas of what encounters are like in hell. It felt like prep I would’ve done when I was 14 and winging it, high on Mountain Dew and youth.

*The Ferryman*

On the Styx was a ferryman, some patches of scalp and hair still clung to its scalp and it was going through a bag, tossing items aside that it didn’t want. In the hold of its barge were a dozen or so souls, newly arrived, just like the PC’s. They were begging.

They overhead the ferryman talk to a cultist in the hold because he spoke Infernal but the ferryman was unswayed. On the ground around it were ceremonial knives, coins, tiny polished stones, boots, flowers – things people might’ve been buried with. It pulled a long noose out of the bag.

The barge was held to shore by a longer noose rope

After Mave the Thief did some sneaking and got his hands on a few knives – one silver and one bronze. They decided to untie the noose and try to get on the boat and into the Styx’s rough current before the ferryman could catch them.

There was rope swinging and stabbing and derring-do. Nanny fell into the Styx and failed her Stamina roll, getting amnesia, no longer remembering dying at all, no longer aware that she was in hell (I figured if she was in the Styx longer she’d lose more and more memory).

The ferryman was stabbed off the rope.

They found themselves on a barge, floating on a fetid, oily river with treacherous currents.

Mave picked up the ferryman’s pole and made a solid Int roll to navigate the river; that turned out to be a big, big deal.

*The Souls*

Nanny asked for her love. Mave assured her that her love was fine. “She’s fine because she isn’t here. We’re in hell, actually in Hell.”

Mave found the key to the hold in a bag of silver and freed the other souls. Renee rolled up 3 more characters to add to her funneling.

The ship went down the river for four years, it seemed. No one really talked for those years, too scared to upset a shipmate. It felt like an awkward four years on a boat. The river branched off, one area was a calm cove and the other was rough. When one of the souls suggested that a calm cove in hell must be a trick, Mave aggreed and turned into the white water.


*The Tower and Charon*

They came upon a broken, charred tower that was easy enough to dock at. When people stepped off of the boat, Mave felt a churning in her gut, as if something was wrong. It was her first biological feeling in a long time.

Renee’s new characters, all with pretty posh stats, went ashore to see this tower. It had no doorway but had several oblong oval windows.

There was a stretched skin of an abusive wizard, who said his apprentices must’ve cursed themselves with his magic. He had a long conversation with Elsen the Watchmen, who Renee decided had been from King’s Landing.

When the apprentices buzzed into the tower, Renee’s two characters who were at the foot of the tower, casually turned their back on him and walked back to their own barge.

Elsen died, trying to lead the, Anophelii-inspired, stirge-like apprentices back to the ship. George R. R. Martin would’ve been proud as Elsen of King’s Landing’s blood was sucked dry and he was dragged into the tower to be fashioned into a throw rug to go over the wizard-skin. Renee seemed relieved that her excuse to make Game of Thrones jokes was off the table.

Meanwhile, back on the boat, a ship came out of the mist for Mave. She knew it came for her. Charon walked off of his ship from a plank and boarded Mave’s recently stolen ship.

Charon took the bag of silver that the key was in.

J: Renee, did you take the bag of silver?

R: I didn’t say I did, so I guess I didn’t.

J: Asshole Judging is in effect! The silver is still in the front of the boat. Charon takes it.

Charon explained to Mave that she owned him silver for each of the souls she had transported across the river. She offered the silver knife she had stolen and Charon took that and complimented her river skills.

Charon: Would you like to be unmaksed? (showing a sharpened hooked thumb-bone)
Mave: No, I will remain masked.

After explaining that Mave was to charge one silver for each eye of each passenger, Charon walked away.

“The first eye is mine. The rest is yours.”

Renee: 50%, you won’t find a better deal in all of Hell.


Cage – 2
Ferryman – 3
River Styx – 2
Tower – 3

That was fun and a great way to stay sideways connected to the ongoing game but not moving on without a player. If I could’ve gone back and done a bit more prep, I would’ve had a random encounter table for each direction and a loose map for my own use and inspiration.

I’m excited to find out what life is like for a group of damned souls moving with the Styx’s current, with a anointed ferry-woman leading the way.

For Sale: Signed 1st print, Batman: The Killing Joke, Alan Moore & Thoughts on Batman: Reptile Rampage

My dear friend, Alexander is selling his Alan Moore signed copy of his 1st print, Batman: The Killing Joke on Ebay.

Plugging that is an excuse to talk about Batman!

Ever since Hans said that Batman (particularly in the Nolan films) is the myth that the 1% will save us I have not been able to shake his words from my brain. I was talking about that this weekend with Janaki and Carly. I immediately thought of this E-Z reader. E-Z readers are made to bridge the reading game between picture books and chapter books. Time Warner and Disney realize that this is an age where young folks bond with an intellectual property.

In this particular book, Killer Croc wants medicine. He wants his antidote and is rampaging through a hospital to get it. Batman tells him that there are good doctors in prison.

No shit.

At one point, Robin takes Croc’s pills and spills them in the sewer.

“No!” Croc screams.

It is Batman beating up a desperate uninsured person who is suffering from mental illness. He’s kidnapped a doctor but man that detail feels tacked on. The kidnapping is done off-screen and the doctor is never interacted with in any meaningful way. The doctor is never named. We see the doc tied to a chair, being untied in the background by Robin and with a blanket on his shoulders when EMT’s take him away.

As Carly and Janaki said in their best Bruce Wayne voices, “I don’t understand people like Croc. Why didn’t he just have his Alfred get his drugs for him or purchase a hospital?”

“Death created time to grow the things that it would kill.”

I just got done watching True Detective and I liked it but I’d be really careful about how I recommended it to, if that makes any sense.

NOTE: Paula’s review and analysis are spot on!

Spoilers lurk below.

I’m thinking about how I’d game it. My first instinct is to grab Unknown Armies, make up some kind of Room of Renunciation that is a room full of inadmissible evidence that points to terrible occult crimes.

But then I look at this old Sorcerer idea. I think of Rust Cohl’s notebook and his trailer. His notebook would be his demon, wouldn’t it? The trailer is when the demon grows.

“This is a world where nothing is solved. Someone once told me, ‘Time is a flat circle.’ Everything we’ve ever done or will do, we’re gonna do over and over and over again. And that little boy and that little girl, they’re gonna be in that room again and again and again forever.”

That is the quote I want to build the game on. Starting at the kicker and somehow circling back to it again. Maybe even playing the kicker through to its completion and then when it is resolved, picking up and starting over with tiny choices as different, letting the dice fall where they may and seeing what turns out different from the first cycle.

I dunno. Rustin Cohle’s got me thinking.

Have a good weekend.

7 Knights for the Riverlands

During our last Burning Wheel game Swordlord Zora seized control of a 400 person Rostlander army with 7 knights among them. I looked to my Swordlords pinterest board and found some decent knights and wrote up a short blurb on each.

Lady Liva the Young: a squire of Lord Drazj, she was knighted after holding a bridge during her Swordlord’s retreat. Her family’s lands was among the first to be taken by Brevoy when this conflict escalated. Her family’s True Sword is said to be captured by Brevoy and held by a Brevosi lord.

Sir Jeppe Sokka-Drazj: Jeppe is the knight who reported directly to the castellan; he is called the House Butcher behind his back in whispered tones, referencing the bloody work he did for his Swordlord. His father was raised to knighthood from distinguished service in Rostland’s army.

Lady Thea the Dawn-killer: one of the most celebrated tourney knights in Rostland before turning her eye to war. She has taken to it, known for surprising a small army of Brevosi soldiers before they had woken and butchering them in their tents.

Sir Karl the Saint: Is said to have traded away his True Sword, left his lands to his heir and took up errant knighthood because of a holy calling. Same say that he will be a Sword Saint when he perishes.

Lady Eliska Nemec – Her family held a border fort near Brevoy for years before Lord Drazj commanded them to pull her forces out to protect his retreat. The Nemec line can trace their lineage back to one of the original 7 Swordlords but their True Sword was lost centuries ago.

Sir Noah the Tree: He is an old knight who folk jest is old as many oak trees. In his youth he was a fine tourney knight but has since trekked from Swordlord to Swordlord, pledging his service for a time but leaving before setting down any roots.

Lady Pavla Drazj – a distant elder cousin of Lord Drazj whose True Sword was broken in a battle with the barbarians in the west. She was captured by a war band and sold into slavery but returned of her own accord.

Reading, Planning, Writing: Dry, Scratchy, Pollen Friday

Reading: I’m reading A Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall and it is good fun. If it ends as a complete, stand-alone novel, I’m going to write a love letter to it once I’m done.

Planning: Gaming and probably some brunches.

Writing: I’m trying to finish a few little things I started but I’m hitting road blocks. Finished a short story, which was fun.

And you?