Planarch Codex has me thinking about Kobolds

From an e-mail about an upcoming DW/Planarch Codex game:

I think I want to play a kobold, straight out of the Monster Manual.

A little scaled, horned being who grew up among 40 to 400 other kobolds. Raised to hate in a huge evil pile but left home with his red robes, his short sword and his wicker shield and is realizing quickly that the way he was raised might not have been perfect.

And so, I re-read the Monster Manual entry:

kobold jpg


I asked on G+, thinking I had run into some kind of old school D&D jargon but no. I was set straight.

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 10.52.08 PM

“gens, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2016. Web. 15 August 2016.

Flat Game Diagnostic Tools

When  a game was flat, there are questions that I ask to try to diagnose what went wrong. Essentially, I look at the tools the game gives us to make the game hum right along and shift from third to fourth and fifth gears and consider how they were used. Games don’t just have one tool and sometimes the use of tools isn’t the problem at all but it is a place to start thinking.

Burning Wheel: What were the players’ beliefs and what kind of artha hit the table?

Sorcerer: What were the kickers and what was written on the back of the character sheet.

I think Apocalypse World, Dungeon World and Sagas of the Icelanders might be, “What questions did you ask and what kind of answers did you get?”

A flat session might also have something to do with hard moves chosen on failed rolls and what is offered on the 7-9 rolls but asking the players solid questions and using the answers feels like an important detail that is often overlooked (or at least, under-discussed where I’m reading).

This isn’t to say that there aren’t tons of other mistakes that can be made with any of those games. I’m just talking about first thoughts when  my or someone else’s flat session.

Module Specific Death Moves

I posted this to Google+ but feel like it got lost in the mix, so here it is on my blog:

The Death moves are making me consider Front/Campaign death moves for different dungeons:

When you die during the Expedition to the Barrier Peaks Your soul is captured by the ship. Once a dozen such souls are taken, it will begin producing androids, teach them to crew the ship and attempt to free itself from the mountain.

Until then, you are stuck in the mainframe unless the players find a way to re-insert your soul back into another body.

When you perish attacking the Queen of the Demon-Web Pits your soul is caught in a soul-gem in Lloth’s web. If the players find it, you could be resurrected.

When you die trying to destroy the Slave Lords you approach the Black Gates and angels are waiting for you at the entrance to the Dead Lands. Roll as per the Black Gates move. On a hit, the angels send you back into battle, thanking you for your service and letting you know that your wings will be waiting for you when you return.

On a 7-9, the angels will demand something specific, asking you do be somehow more pious in your life than you were so that your soul is more ready to do Law and Good’s work.

On a miss, the angels take you beyond the Black Gates, saying that you are not worthy of the glory that will come with scourging the slave lords from the face of Greyhawk.

When you perish in the Tomb of Horrors, you roll as per the Black Gates move. On a hit you evade Acererak’s grasp and return, knowing that a fell power squats in the Tomb, waiting for the adventurers.

On a 7-9, your ghosts evades Acererak’s pull and you are able to warn your fellow adventurers about the peril of one trap.

On a miss, Acererak devours your soul and you are never seen again.

The lonely fronts after a Dungeon World one-shot

The one shot from this past weekend is over but I wanted to make some fronts to pass time during the commute and learn the in’s and out’s of DW.


**Front: The Empire of the All-Seeing Sun**

Cast: God-Emperor, General of the Sun’s Own Army, Gladiators, Rebels, Unconquered Savages, Common Sun-state Citizens, Dead Sea Cabal Necromancers


Will the God Emperor become undead?

Will the God-Emperor pass on his All-Seeing Power?

Will the Empire take over the world?

Will the savages destroy this empire and deficate in its ashes?


*Danger: Dead Sun Cabal*

Type: Ambitious Organization

Impending Doom: Usurpation

Grim Portents: Gain God Emperor’s favor

Steal moonstone from the consort’s cult.

Gain Iron Liche’s artifacts for their own use.


*Danger: God Emperor of the All-Seeing Sun*

Type: Arcane Enemy

Impending Doom: Tyranny

Grim Portents: Gathers worthy predessessors to his palace.

Gathers unholy texts regarding undead transitioning.

Leads armies against enemies.

Leads diplomacy, helping his enemy’s enemies.


*Danger: Moon Consort’s Cult*

Type: Ambitious Organization

Impending Doom: Chaos

Grim Portents: Friends replaced by shape-shifters from the moon cult.

God Emperor is assassinated.

Dead Sun Cabal’s efforts are harried.

Werewolf plague!


*Danger: Northern Savages*

Type: Hordes

Impending Doom: Chaos

Grim Portents: Giant-moot!

Raids on the empire’s borders.

Fall of a prominent Imperial holding.

Death seen, riding a polar bear towards the Empire’s capital.

Fall of the All-Seeing Sun Empire.


**Front: Revenge of the Iron Lich**

Cast: Iron Lich, Steampunk Undead, Power Hungry Wizards


Will the Iron Liche rebuilt his towers crypts and charnel factories?

Will the Iron Lich take over the 1000 Road Republic?

Will someone be possessed by an Iron Lich body part/artifact?


*Danger: Dead Sun Cabal*

Type: Ambitious Organization

Impending Doom: Usurpation

Grim Portents:

Sends agents to steal Iron Lich’s shit.

Sends a spy to watch adventurers.

Member betrays cabal for promises of power and immortality.


*Danger: Undead Hordes*

Type: Hordes (duh)

Grim Portents:

Known town is over-run.

Crypts are ransacked.

Smiths kidnapped to create lightning ghoul’s harnesses.


*Danger: The Iron Lich*

Type: Arcane Enemy

Grim Portents: Sacking places important from the lich’s living days.

Domination over death cults and inventors.

Hand re-built.

No longer a towerless wanderer, but a force to be reckoned with.


*Danger: Ocean God’s Wrath (they threw the Iron Lich’s hand into the ocean, y’see)*

Type: Planar Force

Impending Doom: Destruction

Grim Portents: Flooding, storms, etc.

Sea’s minions kidnap wizards and sages.

Sea Monsters attack coastal towns.

The Flood

Dungeon World: Visiting the Indigo Galleon with a Druid and a Barbarian

Mike was in town for the weekend, so it seemed like a good time to take out the shiny new Dungeon World tome and put it to use. I printed out the character sheets, along with the Barbarian, dropped them all on the table and Janaki and Mike chose their characters while I quickly skimmed The Indigo Galleon.

The skim reading meant I got the basic idea but got many of the details wrong, which turned out to be fine. My Captain-Senator was also a necromancer, with an Imperial Spellbook chained to his breastplate and he marched into town with a squad of 8 Imperial soldiers.

Janaki chose the Barbarian and Mike took a Druid. I adore how fast these AW-derived games steam through chargen while still providing lots of evocative details for the table to dig into.

Priscilla Foehammer and Nigel of the Stinking Mire had just gotten back from the Tomb of the Iron Liche. I asked Priscilla what she was attempting to destroy in the tomb.

“The Iron Liche.”

She rolled her Strength, got 7-9, so I told her that their battle brought down the tombs and gravely wounded the Iron Liche but she was not able to confirm the kill as he slid into a seemlingly bottomless shaft as the stones fell all around them.

I asked Nigel what he wanted to understand in the Tombs and he was seeking out the mysteries of the Iron Liche’s magics and he failed that roll, meaning that he had a hand of the Iron Liche, metal bones, rusted cogs and steam-powered exoskeleton, secreted in his bag like some kind of precious secret.

The adventure is a big glorious mess and it hit a hiccup when Priscilla died fighting some marauders in the abandoned dwarven mines. Rolling a 7 on her Last Breath move (thanks to her Barbarian move that gives her +1 on Last Breath) she confronted death, who looked kind of like one of the White Walkers from Game of Thrones, only he rode a polar bear. Death told Priscilla that she had to kill the necromantic Captain-Senator and stake his head in a high place with her name runes carved into his face.

This is when things got crazy. They rested up and healed for a day and then Priscilla called the imperial senator-captain/necromancer out and confronted him and his soldiers. Nigel turned into a War Elephant (straining the limitations of being able to turn into a domesticated animal) and stampeded the soldiers while the Foehammer cut off the necromancer’s hand and then head while holding on with 1 hit point left.

In the end, after a few more rolls and shenanigans, Nigel had secretly fastened the liche-hand onto his own hand (why do hands always figure prominently into my DW games…Vecna envy?) and was about to summon the Octopus God of the octopus folk so that he could turn the world into a swamp. Priscilla’s questioning of his actions caused him to hesitate and cut off the fell hand of the Iron Liche.

This game came very close to being Moby Dick and the Barbarian vs. Cthulhu but it didn’t get down that road. Nigel leveled up and Priscilla is 1 XP shy of 2nd level. I love the way XP works in this game now, love it to bits.

Pirates, chtonic deties, imperial necromancers, imperial necromancer’s head on a spear in the middle of a small fishing village by a glory-hungry barbarian, shape-changing into an alligator, a poisonous snake and a whale…it was a fine night of gaming.

Looking at their Bonds, Nigel realized that the danger the spirits warned him was following Priscilla Foehammer was actually him. Good stuff.

Welcome to Dis, letters to get started.

A Story Games Thread:

Ill-Met in Waterdeep

Dear Prime Newb Whose Home is still Digesting in Dis’ Guts,

Welcome to Dis.

You have what you could carry from your home and need to find some scratch so that you don’t have to sleep out under the alien stars.

Sure, this isn’t your first rodeo and you had plenty of adventures back at home but now you are in Dis. The trappings are familiar but the context is entirely new. Now you are all small fish in an ever-expanding pond that is constantly devouring other ponds.

Someone among you took the lead in getting you to Dis alive. Have that one roll +Int.

On a 10+, you either got out with a really amazing artifact or know someone in Dis who can help you settle in a bit.

On a 7-9, you have some remnant of your old world that isn’t immediately useful but you could sell it for 3d6 silver if you don’t mind it becoming a curio in a local parish’s shop window.

On a miss, trouble from the old world has followed you here.

There is a place for rent here in the Vecna Parish that has something that reminds you of the City of Splendors. Sure, all of the architecture seems to be littered with eyes and hands but something about this joint feels like home, dammit. Explain to the GM why you want to rent that place so badly. The owner, a one-eyed recovering wizard (recovering?), likes the idea of renting to new refugees, as it reminds him of when he first got here, fresh from Greyhawk City.

Chunks of your world are still floating on the top of the stew that is Dis. When your GM rolls on the job table, he will insert an element of the Forgotten Realms as either the Patron, Target or Job Type. The GM could describe a job and ask you what about that job is actually a piece of the Realms and how your character recognizes it.

The one-eyed former death cult wizard will hold the space for you for a few days while you do some honest or dishonest freebooting.

Hugs & Kisses,

Your GM

Please come to the thread and play along.

Planarch Codex Job List Table Results

After spending the past two years looking for a job (I start the new gig on Monday!) it is no surprise that the Planarch Codex job table spoke to me. It is fun and like any good random table gives you just enough detail to give your imagination an inspiring kick to the nethers.

Below are some results I rolled up on a lonely night when I still lived upstate with some GM’s notes below.


From the Job Table in the Planarch Codex:

Bloody business for those with the stomach for such things. Need highly skilled operators to get into an arcane library tower that is never in the same place two nights in a row and destroy an infernal item. Begin negotiations for employment at the Malsheemi Merchants’ Guild, where an array of eclectic arcane and mundane payment options are offered.

DM’s Notes: Malsheemi is a city in hell. These merchants are devils.

Holy work being offered, a delivery to a demi-god’s distant holy shrine on a distant plane so that my tithe might be delivered. Time sensitive. Pay can be in gold, gems, secrets, maps and more.

DM’s Notes:  Players in a play-by-post game took this gig, it turned out to be a gang leader wanting to send his tithe to a shrine to Prometheus, god of stealing from the high and mighty. Turned out  his home was being torn apart by a war betweeh Ghoul King and the Demon-Prince of the Gnolls

Professional adventuring party needed for bodyguard work for guild wizard. Please apply in person to the Wizard’s Guild Tower with list of appropriate references.

DM’s Notes: I’d ask questions about the players’ thoughts on wizards and riff off of that.

Guards needed for pilgrims walking the Kas Road. Food and pack animals provided. Payment in full upon reaching the City of a Thousand Swords.

DM’s Notes: Kas was the greastest swordsman who ever lived and is looked on as a saint to dedicated butchers who favor a sword. His pilgrimage is taken by swordsman on the verge of becoming legends but in order to take up this holy walk, they must put down all weapons and wear no armor. Here’s hoping their enemies don’t show up looking for vengeance.

Who squats in our harbor within those alien ships? Why are they here? I will pay you to find out! Inquire in the Manticore Tower and be prepared to discuss pay and begin immediately. How long can we afford to wait?

DM’s Notes: The players will be hired by a xenophobic shit-heel of a wizard very much inspired by Dying Earth books. The ships are woven, floating nests of giant spider refugees because I love giant spiders. I’d want to ask the players questions about how they feel about newcomers to Dis and/or how they felt when they first arrived.

According to the Laws of Dis we must inform any adventurers or freebooters who might consider the following job that it will put you in the midst of a holy war. When and if you inquire in person we will, by Dis Law, have to inform you one more time and then our lawful obligation will be met. The Holy Executioner, servant of Blind Justice is seeking the Trickster with 13 Faces for crimes perpetrated on several planes. Inquire about this work at the Gallows Temple.

DM’s Notes: Pretty self explanatory, a trickster deity known for disguise is hiding from a goddess of justice. I have no idea how I’d run this one.

Adventurers needed to aid a man possessed by an alien god. From what many of the best alienist summoners can tell us, the deity from another reality is seeking a pilgrim who ventured from this deep plane and is now in Dis. Inquire among the Nurse Warden’s Guildhouse.

DM’s Notes: I’d ask questions about the players’ past interactions with the nurse wardens and their brushes with alien gods.

Do a solid for the Captain of the Silver Axes and you will be paid well. Need freebooter scum who know the streets of Dis to find an obscure Temple.

DM’s Notes: I’d ask the players about their past tussles with the Captain before he asks them to find a roving temple that stiffed his merc company on a past bill.