Commentary thread for that “Describe your game in five words” thread.

Nuclear police lay ECW ghosts.
This is "BCU Black," a GURPS Action campaign about a branch of the UK's Civil Nuclear Constabulary whose job is to deal with occult matters. They got the job because radioactivity interferes with magic. This was a comparatively straightforward scenario: retrieve a book about geomantic hauntings from a recently-deceased magician's library (the poltergeist guarding it let us take the book once we read it our letter from the magician) and then use the ritual in it to lay some ghosts, fending off other magicians who wanted to take the tainted magical energy in the haunting for themselves. Sadly, one of us took that magic for himself, although the rest of us don't know that yet.

log in or register to remove this ad


(he, him)
Thursday: Still giants (fight and talk).
Shattered Star is a sequel of sorts to Rise of the Runelords, and like its predecessor it has a chapter which features a lot of giants (so far at least - I am a player for this one so I am not sure how long this will continue). We had a big fight against hill and fire giants, and then found some maimed giants in pits that appeared to be prisoners. The one that spoke common was happy to talk to us, and gave us some info (although not much). We said we'd come back to help them out of the pits when we had dealt with those who had imprisoned them, and sure enough through the very next door was a whole bunch more giants including the (apparently mad) boss.

Sunday: New characters had less trouble.
After a TPK in the last session we had, and then missing a couple of Sundays due to holidays, the new characters had a brief encounter with one of the previous PC's animal companions and then did a bit of (re)exploring and fought some duergar and an allip. No major difficulties, but then they have yet to re-encounter the roper!
Last edited:

Escape magic killed the spy.
This spy had been given an escape method: a potion of teleport, and a scroll with a description of a safe place to teleport to. He'd also been given a good description of our party and told that we were working for the local government, but since we weren't in the habit of arresting people without evidence, he should keep a low profile and stay calm. He didn't do any of these things.

He fled the village and when he got to the good road, used a potion of polymorph that he'd stolen from someone years ago to turn himself into a horse so that he could travel faster, We knew he was heading for the road and had a start on us, so we sent our semi-druid ahead to look for him in falcon form. She spotted a horse proceeding purposefully with no rider, which was definitely interesting. She followed him, and he turned back into a human and then collapsed. The polymorph potion had not been of the finest, and required a system shock roll, which he failed. The DM's plan had been that we'd find him by the side of the road, exhausted by the gallop, but he'd gone and died before we got to him.

So we delivered him to the intelligence agency we sometimes work for, because they're undoubtedly better at Speak with Dead than us, along with his satchel containing clothes, all his notes (including messages that told him to destroy them), the scroll and the potion. We'd opened the scroll, at which point it had stopped being magical.

They reckoned the magical seal on the scroll had sent a message of some kind when it was broken, and identified the "teleport" potion as a fast-acting poison. Speak with Dead had yielded his superior in his organisation, an innkeeper in the town he was heading for, and confirmed that he was working for the main enemy organisation of the campaign. Not a bad day's work.


(he, him)
Thursday: Found ally eaten by spiders.
Early in the session we took a prisoner; a wererat who had been planning to lead a wererat uprising, after one of his people had been lynched by some townsfolk who blamed him for the plague going on in the city. Said wererat had a legitimate point, but all the uprising would have done would be get a bunch more wererats killed (along with a bunch of other townsfolk). It was his one of his own people who asked us to intervene.

Anyway, like said his anger was justified so we did not want to just kill him; just take him off the board for a bit. We talked about handing him over to the authorities, but we came to the conclusion we would either execute him or let him go, neither of which suited us. So we decided to go an talk to an acquaintance from the previous chapter - a slightly shady character who ran an entertainment establishment down at the docks - to see if he could help.

Unfortunately, when we got there we discovered that the place was deserted and covered with webbing. We headed straight for the boss's office, and found him dead and covered in apparent spider bites, and then fought a couple of spider swarms. Looks like more spiders next week....

Sunday: Lots of consecutive animated things.
The PCs are exploring a largish dungeon, and they entered four rooms in a row which something animated and attacked them. In order: Two large skeletons and a wight, six medium skeletons, an animated rug, and an animated arming dummy. After that, they re-explored the top level that the previous PCs had already cleared, ran into some stirges, and eventually encountered some troglodytes (although it was late, so actually dealing with the trolglodytes will have to wait for next week).

Goblins respect orbital kinetic strikes.
The world of Avalon has been run by the same DM for about 45 years. Many campaigns have been run, our AD&D1e game is only the latest. In the Blackmoor tradition, there have been aliens from space, including a colonisation ship with about two billion kobolds on board. Sorting that out was a bit complicated.

A couple of years ago, somebody in orbit dropped "Rods from God" kinetic strikes on quite a few cities. The reasons for this are complicated, but a PC with far more ego than sense was tricked into playing a part that the bad guys couldn't do themselves.

Our current campaign has been partly about assisting with the recovery from the orbital strikes. The government we work for has decided to annex some land that was not previously organised, so we've been hexcrawling it, to find communities and offering them the choice of (a) join the country, get protection, pay taxes, obey laws (b) leave unmolested, with several months notice or (c) if they insist, we'll drive them out by force. We also try to deal with monsters that are aggressive enough to attack us while we're doing the hexcrawl. So far we've managed to back off and call for help on things that are too tough for us (one beholder, and some ropers, thus far).

We knew that there were goblins in a part of the area, because we've spotted them gathering food from the farmed area round one of the flattened cities. We had no real objection to this, and had tried to talk to them, but they ran away. Yesterday we found the goblin tribe from the other side of their territory. Since we were at one of their sentry posts, looked far too tough for them, and wanted to talk, they were willing to talk. They were also willing to join, because they were under the impression that the flattened city they'd seen had been flattened by the government for rebellion, or otherwise not staying in line. We managed not to disabuse them of this idea; they clearly had not heard that many cities had been struck. There were about a thousand goblins in total, including women and children. I'm not sure we could have fought all of them successfully, but we'd have torn a big hole in their warrior supply, and they didn't want to try it.

The government will send a negotiator and guards to sort out the details, and hopefully someone to deal with the ropers in the marsh near the goblin cave. We weren't going to try it: we might manage one roper, but not several.


Poor thief almost got goo’d

Tonight’s session had a lot of zany moments (including one where the poor thief got mind-controlled and set on fire), but this one happened at the end is a good example of what I’ve been doing with my homebrew system.

After the party made camp, they went into the dungeon. I’m running The Incandescent Grottoes, so it’s a good test of my system’s compatibility. This session, they had pushed deeper into the ooze cult’s area. At the very end is a strange place with several tanks of gel. There’s a yellow one with a corpse in it, an orange one, and a red one with a skull.

They’d figured out the red one was dangerous, but they weren’t sure about the orange one. The barbarian decided she would throw the corpse into the orange one to see if it would bring the corpse back to life. It didn’t. The tank’s frame had been damaged, which I noted as consequence since the intent was to put the body in the tank. Naturally, she rolled only a regular success. That means she gets her intent, but there’s a consequence.

I described how the tank was going to come apart and go everywhere. If she lept out of the way, she could get away safely, but the thief behind her was going to take the goo (and be disfigured). Alternately, if she took the goo, it’d block the thief. Of course, I also suggested that there are other possibilities if she had a good idea. Which she did.

She has the High Jump speciality from her ancestry, which lets her leap up several meters. She wanted to grab the thief before the gel hit and jump onto the tank with the yellow gel. Okay, that’s going to be a standard target (10). It’s Exert (DEX) this time because she needs to be quick. Her DEX is not great (I think it’s just +0), so we looked for help.

The thief said when all this was happening, he wanted to try to climb on the barbarian. That would let him roll Exert (STR) to help. If he rolled well, he would give her a (success) +1 or (complete success) +2. The barbarian’s bard retainer also started singing a helpful song. She rolled poorly on her roll, and the thief did too, but his Expertise feature lets him reroll one of this dice (skill checks are 2d6). He did that and got enough to succeed, which gave him a +1. Otherwise, help can add consequences, which no one wanted.

The barbarian’s player liked the help, but he really wanted to make sure his character would completely succeed. I have a mechanic where you can sacrifice something, so he said his barbarian would sacrifice her spear. That would give her 3d6+3 versus a target of 10. The player rolled 17, so she more than made it.

The way this played out in the fiction is as the tank came crashing down, she used her spear to help boost her and the thief up as the thief grabbed on and she jumped up onto the gel.

If she had rolled poorly, they would have overshot into the gel. It wasn’t dangerous, but you have two people trapped in a tank of stuff they can’t breath. That definitely would not have been a good situation.

aramis erak

Wed SW:
Starkiller's trap. One Character dies.
Yeah, I used Jason Starkiller as the big-bad.
One of the Jedi in Training faced him... I got a really good roll, and the crit was "another attack on the same pool" which resulted in +60 on the crit roll, and I rolled a 98... Player isn't upset. He's got a new character in mind.

Another PC dropped starkiller with an Ion Gun... from a fighter.


Dungeon of the Mad Mage:
Death Slaad CAN be charmed

Level 8 - Slitherswamp
Player character produced "Rod of Rulership" which they obtained from the Spirit Nagas and used it on the horde of bullywugs coming to join the fight.

One of the other player characters said, "What about the Death Slaad?"

Acting player character said, "Is that possible?"

I said, "Well, all creatures you can see, so sure, its possible."

Acting player character said, "C'mon. He's a Death Slaad with powerful spells. Of course he's immune to charm."

I scan the stats, confident that, surely, a Death Slaad is immune to charm. "Uh. Nope. He gets advantage on his saving throw though."

I roll two 4s.

"He holds up his hands and takes a knee."

Other player characters, "Holy naughty word!"

Me, "Okay, Erica, it's your turn. You have Spirit Guardians active and the Death Slaad is in its area effect. The decision is yours. Do you drop the spell to maintain the cham - or do you keep it up, thus causing him damage at the start of his turn and ending the charm? The decision to stop the fight or keep it going is entirely yours."

Moment pause as Erica considers, "I keep it up."

Other players, "Yeah! naughty word that guy!"


Creative Ettin Mechanics Worked Well.
5e conversion of a Pathfinder Iron Gods game I am running. 6th level PCs hunker down after two of them are drained 24 max hp by a spectral guardian, including a normally 37 hp 8 Con kobold bard and a front line plate mail life cleric. The bard can't make it so I plan on him hiding if any combat occurs while they are resting (it does). A Lord of Rust, the ettin executioner known as the Draigs shows up with some orcs and breaks into their hidey hole before they can long rest to recover the lost max hp.

There is a group of six Lords of Rust individualized villain figures the party has to deal with in their Mad Max bartertown type of area. One is the ettin. In 5e ettins are only CR 4, with an easy to hit AC 12. Even with the party being down to 3 PCs, one being down max hp to start, and the ettin having a pair of orc supporters, that would not be much of a challenge and the ettin would not seem that big a deal.

So I turned the 5e ettin into a 4e elite monster, twice the hp, twice the normal attacks. In Fantasy Grounds I put in two ettins in the combat tracker, Ferra Draigs and Morta Draigs (collectively, the Draigs) with only one body on the combat map, with the corresponding combat tracker stat block having twice the normal hp.

This gave two initiatives (one for each head) and came out to roughly the equivalent of the Draigs being the action equivalent of two CR 4 ettins.

This worked out for the combat dynamics I was going for in the fight. Two-Headed monster going multiattack twice a round at different points in the initiative worked really well, and mental effects like disadvantage on next attack having to be placed on specific heads added to the ettin effect.

aramis erak

They saved Padme and kids...
So, campaign conceit: Ben panics when Padme gives up... carbon freezes her.
Party brought in on a job - carry a frozen Padme away from Tatooine. Of course they checked the cargo...
That was a few months ago for players, and twice as long for the characters. They've since built up cred with both Ben and Bail Organa. They've been starting the Rebellion in year 3. Ben's still moping about misjudging Anakin...

Fast forward... they finally convince ben there is a hope - a new hope - Luke & Leia. By use of a sith holocron of the prophesy ... They also convince Bail. So, they finally, 3 years after the fact, thaw Padme and birth Luke and Leia. And, using heal, keep all three alive.

I inform the players that that's the endpoint, the victory.

aramis erak

5 Rokunganjin characters mostly generated
one more was generated prior.
  • Shiba Kazeyuki, Asako Inquisitor (done prior)
  • Shiba Ume, Shiba Guardian
  • Utaku Gin, Utaku Battle Maiden
  • Mirumoto Gorō, Mirumoto Ni-Ten duelist
  • Isawa Hikaru, Kaito Spirit Seeker
  • Toritaka Kohaku, Toritaka Phantom Hunter
Kazeyuki and Kohaku are both haunted.
Sat Transformers (Essence20 system)
finished intro adventure. Not impressed.
Not bad enough to drop it, nor good enough to recommend it.

Mystery with giant mining worms.
The AD&D1e party have been exploring "The Caverns of Adamant," which was once an adamant mine, but became disused. Various creatures and people moved into it over time. Since the party have become very wealthy by finding a gold mine, they're somewhat interested in finding more mines.

Over the past few sessions, we've discovered a flooded system of shafts below the level of the mine. which appear to have been eaten into the mountain, rather than dug with tools as the mine was. The flood water is seawater, which is interesting as the mine is about 3000' above sea level, and many miles from the nearest coast. We had an encounter with sahuagin within the mine, and as far as we know (which is not much), they only live in the sea. The world of Avalon has only one continent and is mostly ocean.

In the last session, our report reached the intelligence agency we sometimes work for, who called us in and asked lots of questions. The really giant worm that ate the largest shaft, which is about 70' in diameter, matches worms that have been found mining adamantite in [CLASSIFIED AND REDACTED], which is a worry for the agency because of [THING WE DON'T KNOW, WHICH THE AGENCY MANAGED TO AVOID EVEN HINTING AT]. They sent some much higher-level people to look at the place, and we went along as guides.

The worm business was confirmed, as was the way that the sahuagin are getting in, and the tunnel where the seawater is coming in was found, although not how it gets there or where it goes. It became clear that there were questions to be asked of the wizard who used to be based here. He was a monster-maker, who seems to have been eaten by his own chimeras about 30 years ago. We knew where his bones were, but there was no response on Speak with Dead by a cleric who certainly should be able to reach back far enough. There are several imaginable reasons for that, but the session ended there.

aramis erak

What was the bad? (Don't have the Transformers, but my son has the Power Rangers one [I think same system?]).
Yeah, same system.
THe bad parts:
  1. starting characters feel incompetent. Not horribly incompetent, but still not competent.
  2. dice mechanics left players confused as to where they were unless using a table and counter on said table.
  3. Skill & Specialization issues
    1. Higher skill without specialization results in higher chance of success but lower chance of critical success.
    2. Higher skill with specialization results in not only vastly more success, but also much higher chance of crit.
  4. awkward equipment requistion system
  5. multiple cases where rules are poorly worded, and required using the examples to guess the correct interpretation
    1. the process for crits and extremely high rolls mention they stack, but are unclear how. It's possible to get rolls up to 38; TNs can be as low as 10. If you roll double the TN, it is double effect. If you roll triple the TN (and yes, we did have this happen) it's triple effect. Criticals do double effect. It's explicit both happen, but not clear weather double TN and Crit is ×3 or ×4, and triple TN is ×4 or ×6. (I lean towards the latter interpretation)
  6. classes rigid frameworks, more rigid than D&D 5E (despite being clearly riffing off D&D 5E).
  7. it uses d2

So, and example for #3
Joe has d8 skill. Joe is rolling vs a fairly typical 13. Joe is rolling 1d20 & 1d8, summing them. If the d8 maxes, it's a crit, so long as it succeeds numerically. so about 1 in 32 chance of crit (5-20 on d20, 8 on d8)
Now, fred has d6 skill, but is specialized... he rolls 1d20 & 1d6, & 1d4 and 1d2, and crits if the number hits 13+ on the d20 and the best other die, and either the d4 is 4 or the d6 is 6... but the success uses the highest non-d20 plus the d20. (It's explicitly called out in the rules.) d2 do not generate crits, but this means more than 1/4 of successful hits by a specialist will be crits for double effect.
This gets worse for higher rolls.

Improvement is in attributes and Perks (= Features & feats)
You have a class; it dictates what attribute is raised each level, excepting those levels set aside for subclass features (3, 6, 10, 17, 20). Each class also determines which perks one gets at that level, again, excepting the subclass levels, but also setting aside a handful of general perks: 4th, 8th, 11th, 15th, 19th.

Skills exist in 4 groups - one group per attribute.
Total levels plus specialties in an attribute's skills equal the level of the attribute. So... you might need to raise your Strenth so you can take Might (and thus fight better), but your class doesn't have Strength improvement until 2 or 3 levels on, you're stuck unskilled for those intermediate levels.

No Experience Points, per se... but advice to level up as direct fractions of a level...
Transformers (Essence20) p266 said:
The sample Troubled Waters, rewards players with a whole level for their characters. Generally, a Mission of its size would reward ¼ of a level. Longer or more challenging missions can reward ½ a level or rarely a whole level, but never more than 1 level.
So, milestone. But not entirely so.

aramis erak

Sun T2K
Town, Doctor; Town; Bear; Russians...
They enter one town, sell their prisoners to the locals, one of whom needs medical aid like RIGHT «BLEEP»ING NOW... but so does the SFC, both with holes in their throats. Two for 40 liters potable water, two jerrycans, and 4 clips of 5.56N, plus access to the doc.​
Doc saves the PC.​
Also, they see a pair of MiG-23 Floggers inbound on main street... which puts them aimed at the town's southern T-72... their sniper takes out both with his M82 sniper rifle... called shot, engine.​
They leave town quickly in the morning, Next town, they blow by, stopping long enough to deliver a note from Doc to his cousins.​
They find out there's an empty farm up the road.​
They head for it. They find the farmhouse burned to the foundations, but the barn standing. So, they camp in the barn.​
That night? a bear. They wound it.... SSgt Morton puts a Cal .50 in it through the door; SFC Moore, still recovering from a hole in his throat, misses, but still suppresses the bear... and that breaks its morale.​
Next day, they go digging for resources... coming up with 2 vehicle spares, 2 electrical spares, and one electric razor - charged. And a Soviet sniper team spots them doing so...​
They capture one, and SSgt Morton puts a Corps-approved .50 in each of the other three.​
Lt Briley fetches the motocycle (with sidecar) they'd been using. A fairly weathered Soviet Dnepr M-72 ...1955 model year from the IMZ plant. But not terribly efficient, not well maintained.​
half the party got three XP, half got 4...​


A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
That's a deliciously evocative image. I'd like to know more.
From Rappan Athuk. Playing the 5e version.

High tier-4 level of the dungeon. An ancient area of the dungeon created by an ancient order of druids as part of the protection of world-threatening creature. Took the party of mostly 17th-level PCs about two hours to defeat them.

Dodge Spanish Inquisition, head upriver.
They'll be going the same way, and we want to stay ahead of them, or they'll likely impress our canoes. Our plan was fairly sensible, but the GM wants a livelier approach, and said:

GM: "All of those (ludicrous) plans would have been good plans. This is a swashbuckling game. There's no such thing as a plan that's too silly!"

Bob: "Challenge accepted!"


I crit!
Fist bumps for D&DBeyond cancellations.
My table, no the whole store, was a buzz about the OGL debacle. And when I informed my players that my DnDBeyond account ended on Feb 14th I got fist bumps.

Then it was all talk about other games. Very cool. I asked the store to open Monday for a table of other games and I had GMs asking if they could get tables too.

Even the players whose Wednesday is their only D&D time, new about the OGL debacle.
Last edited:

An Advertisement