Wednesday, November 14, 2018

'Yon of Ofaz Session # 11

"I am too busy to heal"

"City of Diamonds"
NOTE the 'Yon of Ofaz in distance.
I have a couple of rules I use for my game.  
First, a player is allowed to play one persona at a time.
Second, if a player is not present during a particular session I contrive a logical way to temporarily shift them out of active play and into the background. I don’t like “playerless” bodies hovering around to be used as guinea pigs or back ups. The game should be played by players who are actually present.

Way back at the start of session #8 Simon and Robin were introduced into the game by being teletransported into the Cyclone Werks via a Smorkk. At the end of that session the troupe splits up. DurBur Duke, Lyn and Squire have had enough and decide to leave this place, while Simon and Robin choose to stay behind. The exploits of the former are well documented, so let's go back and follow Robin and Simon.



The huge 40 foot by 40 foot door slowly grinds down, sealing the pyramid. For a time, all is quiet. The two Smorkk Back-Trackers ponder their next move. They are on the ground level of the ancient technological place. Underneath tarpaulins a folded up conveyance which exhibits 1870’s era steamboat gingerbread detailing and massive 40’ diameter spoked wheels chokes the space. Higher above is the gyrating rotor blade hub. Orange swirls of energy dance from their tops to another smaller platform higher up. On it Mamiss is zooming from one control panel to another in literal blur. Above her, directly under the apex is a large floating brain suspended in a vortex of orange energy. 

Cyclone Werks Interior

Robin climbs into the the giant rotor/power transfer system swinging in slow circles above their heads.  Simon follows suit and clambers up under a tarpaulin on the side of the giant folded machine. As Robin perches on the rotating hub, Mamiss floats up suspended on her rocket boots. Using a voice randomly generated from page 5 of the core rule book (PLOOK or Peter Lori On an Opium Kick), Mamiss suggests that she will let them out if they will go back to their friends and get them to come back and try out her new invention. Robin says she would be interested if Mamiss will give them various magic goodies and the let her cut all her hair off.

After an awkward silence Mamiss leaves the pair and rockets away. On the platform just above Robin’s head the other Mamiss is still zooming around at terrific speed under the large floating brain. Robin shouts up to the brain “who are you”? A booming voice from above answers “I am 8-Cha-Ale”. A conversation of sorts follows in which we learn that 8-Cha-Ale is many hundreds of years old and a survivor of the old times. However, most of the answers were “I am not authorized to answer that question”. The pair head back down into the complex and back to the so called “fun” room. It is here that the Smorkk device that they teletransported inside the complex rests. By pressing a hidden stud and saying a special pass phase they hope to reenter the device and return back home. Their journey is a cut short when a monolocazoid miluetian runic coordinate ruptures and magically ejects them into the po-lane of real life where they are deposited in front of DurBur Duke. DBD is alone, Squire has retreated to his tub, Lyn is out scrounging in the fields. DBD has been pretty busy in the meantime and is in the process of retrofitting four giant legs with claws no the ends to the rock foundation of the Blorg homestead. Simon goes out into the homesteads fields looking for mice. Instead he finds a green bottle protruding out from underneath one of the korn sleds, but is unable to recover it. He brings back several ears of fresh korn to eat instead of the old slorg stew. DBD spends time bolting on the legs and cutting a giant hole in the hovels roof for a spherical control turret. It can extend and retract inside the cramped homestead. 

Simon relates to Robin and DBD that he saw a green glass bottle wedged under a korn sled out in the field. The group goes out to get it and after a bit of wrangling pry it loose. On the outside of the bottle is a bas-relief of a Beese. Inside is a large floating magical Rubicon. DBD grabs the bottle and tosses it quickly into his mind shack. He wants to pull out the cork, but decides it might be best to not open it while inside his mindshack. 

Green Bottle
Once the bottle is out in the real world, DBD pulls out the cork. The Rubicon flies out like a manic hummingbird and flutters about, taunting them just out of reach. The cork shrinks until it disappears. Someone jumps up to grab the magical gemstone, doing so causes a magical step to appear under their feet. Another jump yields another and steps are conjured until the mystical staircase leads upwards 25 feet. Just beyond the last step the Rubicon flits about tauntingly.

They are all tired from their visit to the “City of Diamonds”, DurBur Duke especially who somehow has been in single PHP digits for days. Without a word he climbs into the now spider-like Blorg hovel and begins walking it back to The Wall. After the first step towards freedom, the Blorgmobile immediately starts to lift up on two legs and tip...DBD forgot to cut the storm chains securing it to the ground. As the hovel lumbers away Robin and Simon jump on, now also headed back to civilization.

New "Larger" table!
Until Sunday, Sunday....Sunday!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A look at the 1975 Original Tomb of Horrors

A side by side comparison
of the original 1975 Tomb of Horrors Tournament Game
and the 1978 mass market S1 Tomb of Horrors Module

The deluxe version of the newly released D&D Art and Arcana by Ten Speed Press includes a bonus booklet with scans of the original Tomb of Horrors as run at Origins I. At long last we can now compare the 1978 published version of the Tomb of Horrors to the 1975 original. It is considered a classic of dungeoneering, so a couple of years back I dissected it piece by piece to see what I could learn. This seemed only fair since it was usually the one doing the dissecting.  Acereak’s final resting place has also gotten some new press lately because it plays a big part in the novel “Ready Player One”.

Let's compare and contrast. What you will find at the bottom of the post is a room by room description of where they are the same and where they diverge. Surprisingly, the mass market version that we all know and love is almost exactly the same as the tournament game run in 1975.

Except for two things:

The first major difference is that the “fake Lich” was added to the 1978 module. In the 1975 tournament version this ruse is not present. Keep in mind it was designed to be played by fifteen players in two hours. One hundred and twenty minutes divided by thirty three keyed areas equals 3.63 minutes of real time per area. The later addition of the “fake Lich” could only exist with the added luxury of having unlimited time to play through the tomb.

The second difference is that the revised version is even more cruel. This dungeon has a well earned reputation of being quite merciless and was specifically designed to spank players who had over large egos. In the 1975 version there are many places where a character could be instantly killed. The revised S1 brings torment to a whole new level by adding tweaks like the Chamber of Hopelessness. With this addition you are transported to a room just beyond the original Portal of Scintillating Violet (also known as the “killing room”) where this message in glowing letters reads:


The chamber is thoughtfully provided with “a small fountain” so that there is always “plenty to drink”. There are “numerous skeletons, rotting equipment and 30-300 each of s.p., e.p., g.p. and p.p. hurled about. Crushed gems and broken magic items are littered about - the work of insane victims and attacking swords”. If players try to pass through the only exit to the south all the swords and shields from the walls will “swoop to attack”. There are 16 swords and 8 shields. The first pair of swords are +1 to hit and damage, the second pair +2 to hit and damage and so on, the last pair being +8 to hit and damage. I calculated a maximum damage of 202, it’s fair to say that each round a character will probably get whacked for an average of 80-100 points. The original 1974 text includes 15 pre-generated characters and the character with the most HP is an 8th level Paladin with 40.

Going through the module again opened a couple of strange doors. Characters who enter the Archway of Glowing Orange within the Evil Chapel have their sex and alignment diametrically switched. When I was playing back in the old days (i.e., before the turn of the century) it would be fair to say most D&D players were male and they played male characters. This would mean that as groups of these good male characters were systematically run through the tomb, that a sizable percentage of the survivors would return as groups of evil females. Maybe they would get together to form some sort of she-woman man haters cult. I think I might make the dungeon they would have made as a response to the Tomb of Horrors. Something to think about.

There is also this thing where you are teleported nude back to the beginning. It's supposed to be a punishment. But maybe it’s more like streaking. What if that was the thrill, not getting to the end and getting a magic widget or sticking to the Lich-man. Think about wearing armor constantly, the infrequent bathing, having itches that could never be reached, the chafing,  the constant sound of metal sliding across metal… And then you get sucked into this devil's mouth and suddenly that tiresome sweaty stinky scratchy burden has been lifted off your back! You can scratch anywhere you want. You feel like a floating bubble and understand now what it's like to be truly free.  Maybe that's the real goal of the Tomb of Horrors, to be able to scratch anywhere you want.

(good luck with the part below. You're going to need it.)

Link to the document, below as a PDF

A comparison of the
Original 1975 Competitive Tournament Version of the Tomb of Horrors
and 1978 S1 Module Tomb of Horrors

O = the original 1975 competitive tournament version of the Tomb of Horrors
S1 = the 1978 TSR published S1 Special Module Tomb of Horrors

Number of pages in the key:
O: 10 pages and 33 areas
S1: 9 pages and 33 areas
Note the S1 pages contain 3 to 4 times number of words than the original version.

O: 24 full page illustrations (by Tracy Lesch).
S1: 8 full page, 29 half page and 2 smaller illustrations (by Jeff Dee, David C. Sutherland III, and David A. Trampier).

They are both essentially identical. The 1978 S1 map includes the addition of room 27a and hallway #20 extends a further 20’ to the east.

Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Both list out six “random” locations, about half the list on each are the same.

Notes for the Dungeon Master:
Included in the 1978 S1 only. For the original 1975 tournament this was probably verbal.

False Entrance Tunnel (west):
O: #1 / S1: #1
O: 4d10 damage
S1: 5d10 damage

False Entrance Tunnel (east):
O: #2 / S1: #2
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Entrance to the Tomb of Horrors:
O: #3 / S1: #3
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

In the original 1975 text pit traps are described as “All pits except the green one open if stepped on or pressed heavily. Spikes are poison”. In the 1978 S1 they warrant a separate detailed description which describes how they function and inflict damage.

Door covered by plaster:
O: #3a / S1: #3a
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Message in Mosaic Floor:
O: #4b/ S1: #3b

Two Jackal Figures Holding a Box:
O: #4 / S1: #4
Both same, S1 much more descriptive. 

The Arch of Mist:
O: #5 / S1: #5
In the original 1975 text if you press the glowing stones correctly you go to Great Hall of Spheres. Otherwise you sustain 1d6 damage and teleported to the Lair of the Gargoyle. In the 1978 S1 if you press the glowing stones correctly you go to the room of The Three Armed Statue. Press them incorrectly or stray off the path and you are teleported to The Forsaken Prison or back to Entrance to the Tomb of Horrors.

The Face of the Green Devil:
O: #6 / S1: #6
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

The Forsaken Prison:
O: #7 / S1: #7
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Gargoyle Lair:
O: #8 / S1: #8
In the original 1975 text there can be 1,  2 or even 3 Gargoyles, depending on how big the party is. In the 1978 S1 text there is only one Gargoyle but has additional clues about the tomb on a slip of parchment.

Complex of Secret Doors:
O: #9 / S1: #9
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Great Hall of Spheres:
O: #10  / S1: #10
The red and black spheres lead to the same locations in both versions (red to Chamber of Three Chests and black to Chapel of Evil). The 1978 S1 adds the gold sphere which leads to the room of the Three Armed Statue (an area which is not in the 1975 original version).

Magic Archway:
O: #11 / S1: #10a
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Three Armed Statue:
O: - / S1: #11
Added to the 1978 S1. If you complete a number of complex tasks you will earn an invisible Gem of Seeing.

Trapped False Door:
O: #12 / S1: #12
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Chamber of Three Chests:
O: #13 / S1: #13
In the gold chest the original 1975 version has 10 asps, the newer has 12. In the silver chest the 1975 original has a lift ring covered with a fatal poison, while the newer S1 version does not.

Chapel of Evil:
O: #14 / S1: #14
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Opalescent Blue Alter:
O: #14a / S1: #14a
In the original 1975 text players sustain a base 26 HP damage from the Lightning Bolt and if the altar is only struck by a magic weapon it then explodes for 30 HP more. In the 1978 S1 the Lightning Bolt inflicts 40 HP damage and any object that touches the alter causes it to explode for 60 HP in a 30 foot radius.

Archway of Glowing Orange:
O: #14b / S1: #14b
In the original 1975 text this area reverses players sex and alignment the first time in. The second time in it switches them back and inflicts 1d6 HP. The 1978 S1 has the same effect upon the first entry. However, on the second time in only alignment (not sex) is restored and 1d6 damage is suffered. Entering a third time restores their sex, however they are teleported to area 3, the Entrance to the Tomb of Horrors.

Stone Gate:
O: #15 / S1: #15
In the original 1975 text the stone gate is a one way door, in the later 1978 S1 a stone block sinks into the floor revealing the opening. This area of the tomb is one of the most critical areas because one of the pits in the hallway has a secret door at its bottom which is the only way into the rest of the tomb. In the original 1975 version this is a tiny notation on the map, while in the 1978 S1 this secret doors importance is described in detail.

Locked Oaken Door:
O: #16 / S1: #16
Both same, S1 much more descriptive. In the 1978 S1 can be found the infamous words “snuff them out”. 

Magical Secret Door:
O: - / S1: #17
In the original 1975 version this is noted on the map as “Detect Magic to Locate”. This secret door is the only way into the rest of the tomb, much like the Stone Gate, above. You can find the secret door normally, but must use a Gem of Seeing or Detect Magic to “locate” the magic. Once located a Dispel Magic or Remove Curse must be cast to open the secret door. 

False Crypt Protected by Fear Gas:
O: - / S1: #18
Added to the 1978 S1. The original 1975 does not include the false pseudo-lich. Instead, there is faint notation on the map written here indicating “12 Skeletons”. Keep in mind the original was designed to be played by 15 players in two hours. One hundred and twenty minutes divided by thirty three keyed areas equals 3.63 minutes of real time per area.

Laboratory and Mummy Preparation Room:
O: #17 / S1: #19
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Huge Pit Filled With 200 Spikes:
O: #18 / S1: #20
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

The Agitated Chamber:
O: #19 / S1: #21
Both same, except in the 1978 S1 if the tapestries are burned they turn into Brown Mold.

The Cavern of the Gold and Silver Mists:
O: #20 / S1: #22
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

False/True Door:
O: - / S1: #23
In the original 1975 text what happens is simply noted on the map. Both areas work the same, however in the 1978 S1 original the Shambling Mound is replaced by a Juggernaut.

Adamantite Door:
O: #21 / S1: #24
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

The Pillared Throne Room:
O: #22 / S1: #25
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Devil Face (Green Mosaic):
O: #23 / S1: #25a
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Devil Face (Blue Mosaic):
O: - / S1: #25b
Added to the 1978 S1. It teleports you to The Portal of Scintillating Violet (see below).

Charred Remains:
O: #26 / S1: #25c
Both same, S1 much more descriptive. On the S1 map the “c” is missing from the key.

Ebony Dias and Silver Throne:
O: #27 / S1: #25d
Both the same except that the effects of touching the silver/gold ball to the crown in the 1978 S1 are reversed.  On the S1 map the “d” is missing from the key.

The Portal of Scintillating Violet:
O: #25 / S1: #27
Both the same except that the 1978 S1 is more deadly than the original.

The Chamber of Hopelessness:
O: - / S1: #27a
Added to the 1978 S1. Victims are teleported here from the Devil Face (Blue Mosaic) noted in the 1978 S1, above.

The Wondrous Foyer:
O: #28 / S1: #28
Both the same except that the 1978 S1 key has an Antipathy spell on it.

The Valves of Mithril:
O: #29 / S1: #29
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

The False Treasure Room:
O: #30 / S1: #30
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Bronze Urn:
O: #30a / S1: #30a
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Granite Sarcophagus:
O: #30b / S1: #30b
In the original 1975 text it contains unidentified scraps.  In the 1978 S1 the sarcophagus reads “Acererak” as a ruse. A broken and useless Staff of the Magi is also present.

Iron Chests:
O: #31 / S1: #30c
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Iron Statues:
O: #30 / S1: #30d
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Two One Way Doors:
O: - / S1: #31
In the 1975 original the words “one way” are written on the map. In the 1978 S1 these are Phase Doors and described in detail.

Secret Door:
O: #32 / S1: #32
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

The Crypt of Acererak the Demi-Lich:
O: #33 / S1: #33
Both same, except in the 1978 S1 if you insert the wrong key (gold) there is an explosion that causes 5d6 damage.

The Demi-Lich:
O: #33 / S1: #33
Both same, S1 much more descriptive.

Monday, October 15, 2018

'Yon of Ofaz Session # 10

“Weaponize Me Later”

"Peon" is not a verb
Last time Lyn (a Gnyll Sneak), DurBurDuke (a Frubbar Schwartzer) and Squire (DurBurDuke’s Roboservant) left the fantastic “City of Diamonds” to seek shelter in the Blorg homestead. The plasma storm kept them holed up until the first lull between storm events. A group of 12 urks, seeking shelter surrounded the house. The thick rock walls kept them safe until the urks realized that a recent addition to the hovel (a small wooden bathroom) meant that a hole had been made in the stone wall. The urks began to rip this off, board by board. Realizing that their time might only be measured in mi-nutas, Squire was put into a robo-suit (called the Wrecking Ball), rolled outside and tasked to take care of the pesky urk problem. While mighty, the robot’s PHP was quickly reduced to zero. Seeing the writing on the wall, Lyn puts on DBD's rocket boots and gloves, grabs up DBD and escapes out the front door.

Left to right: DBD, Lyn & Squire
Lyn flies a gentle arc around the twelve urks jumping up and down on smashed bits of Squire now trapped in the crushed Wrecking Ball. DBD and Lyn are hatching a plan to retrieve the brain module of the robot. A plan is made and after a few slow circles they land on the hovels roof. A good thing too, as the urks had pulled out their bows. DBD begins to beg and plead with the urks to let them back into the hovel (the BA rain is due any time). Rad Bag (the urk leader) suggests that they will do this if DBD "become their slave for one year for each leg he has" (i.e., two). The urks start chanting “We want frog...we want frog” (in a distinctly soviet voice). DBD does some quick thinking and proposes that he build them a slave frog robot. The urks huddle for a quick conference. After a bit Rad agrees, but says “no tricky frog stuff”.

The BA rain is minutes away, so the troupe, Rad and two urk guards hole up in the tiny hovel. DBD retreats into his mind-shack to build the "frog" robo-slave. The first attempt is a total wreck and doesn’t work. Fortunately, he has a second one in crates for quick assembly. After a quick coat of green paint, a square face placard and some googly eyes, it’s ready to serve it’s new masters. There are still many minutes to go before the next calm and everyone (three urks, Lyn, DBD, Squire and the still wet with green paint rob-slave) all sit together in the one room hovel. It’s quiet...until one of the urks wonders what they should make their new slave do. After a lot of thinking they decide it should scratch an itch. There are some tense moments waiting to see if the robo-slave either 1) scratches the itch or 2) misses and pokes out someone’s eye.

What a 5 Nimbality looks like
The BA rain subsides. A period of stillness has begun. Rad the urk says “OK, you all go now. This our house”. DBD begins whining immediately, nearly stunning the proud cruel hard urk. Rad exclaims “Ok..ok..we now are the leaving” and all twelve urks scurry away. No time is lost, the troupe knows the Tarnodo portion of the mighty storm is still to come. Just as the wind picks up, they clamber back inside. 

Squire is inside DBD’s mind shack, helping to construct giant individual spider legs when an outside energy force starts to filter into his circuitry. It is completely unknown, ancient and powerful. He knows also can alter him chemically. It’s intent is unknown. After several mi-nutas (and still not knowing the intent of this force or it’s potential harm) Squire decides to let this alien thing into his circuitry with the understanding that he will be forever changed. This force of ancient programming breaks the bond of his robo-slavery to DurBurDuke...he has free will! But that’s not all...his body starts to change into pure liquid! During the change he feels a need to find a container and settles on blue plastic stackable bin. As all his body has now become water, he also knows he can no longer be inside his former masters mind shack and must leave immediately. Once out with his comrades in the tiny hovel he starts to experiment with his new form, seeing how big he can be, what shapes he can mimic, can he get hot or cold.... He expands to fill the room and while his two fellow travelers are inside him they feel a sort of healing. (It’s amazing to see how the newfound ability to heal affects old relationships). Lyn decides that she wants to lick him. The new Squire recoils from this, but not before she can get a good taste. 

Apparently licking things is a thing in my game
There is much discussion on the merits of being owned versus having free will. Not more than a few times the changed Squire uses his newfound Deep Triskelion voice to counter the arguments of his former master DurBurDuke. BDB continues to build giant spider legs to attach to the hovel turning into a vehicle to travel in this harsh land. As Squire waxes rhapsodic about being connected to this land and how he wants to stay and see more, DBD is mumbling how all he wants is to start his own the wall...

Technically there should be eight...
It's like homework, BUT FUN (don't tell your parents that
you are summoning demons. Trying to explain how you
could spin black plastic discs backwards will prove futile).
Onward NEXT WEEK. And no real demons, I PROMISE.

Forward to session #11


Go Back to session #9

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Behold...The System!

Not sure that's a good title, but I'm home for a few days because I've been coughing. I was supposed to run the 'Yon today, but had to cancel. I thought this would be a good time to talk about My System. A venue will ultimately shape the content, this has been written about by David Byrne in his book "How Music Works". As the format by which music was created and listened to changed, so did the kind of music that was made. For example, before there were recordings, listening to music was a small social affair, people would play the piano and sing. Initially, Edison's phonograph came with blank cylinders to record your own music. However, it didn't take long for a performance by an expert performer to be recorded and suddenly there was a market to listen to a specific recording. The nature of music performance and listening changed overnight to adapt to the new technology.

Fig. 1 The two methods compared
Pencil and paper games have been beholden to the 8 1/2 x 11 printed format. This format is great for printing and binding to be sold at mass. However, I have found the nature of bound and printed adventures for games makes them inherently linear. I have also run things off a computer, this can alter the "railroad" style of play, but there are other issues. With this in mind I have created my own system. In figure 1 (above), is the traditional version on the left and My System on the right. The traditional version pretty much resides on 8 1/2 x 11 books and paper that live in files. These go into portable file containers. Add to this all the other junk you need, dice, pencils, screens, mats and miniatures and you have a lot of stuff to haul. These plastic bins are an upgrade for my Con gaming, I can almost get everything moved in two trips.

Fig.2 My System
I want to be able to carry it all in one go. Call me OCD, but I found by forcing myself to edit down to  the essentials clears out weeds in your thinking. There is 3x the information in these boxes than in the two larger bins. This unit is designed to fit in a large soft cloth bag for easy transport. The modular boxes of cards stack like bricks on a wooden base for support. One unit, one trip.

Fig. 3 Boxes
Each box has a place for a label, the lid is put underneath to not get lost or take up space. Space in gaming is a big deal, no matter how much you fight it, every flat space in a 25 foot radius will have stuff on it. All "loose" parts of My System are designed to get folded in and not waste any space.

Fig. 4 Box is also a card holder
These boxes are custom made to hold two stacks of 4 1/4 x 5 1/2 cards. There is an insert in each so the box can also be used as a file index. This box has 6 complete adventures inside.

Fig. 5 Half sized boxes for dice
There are two shorty boxes for dice, markers and writing implements. I was originally going to put this stuff into a standard box, but the depth meant digging through layers. Wasteful and inefficient, especially if you are running at a con. The small units allow stacking (even when open) and allow everything to be visible. I see you shaking your head. Oh, there's more.

Fig. 6 Cards are 5 1/2 x 4 1/4
Sorry, had to get a cough drop. OK, here is what determined all the other sizes, the cards. A couple of years ago I stopped designing my stuff on 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of paper. The initial reason was that it was hard to make changes and slotting it all into the narrative format struck me as restrictive. I looked at standard card sizes, the problem was they are all thin paper and you cant put them through your printer easily.

Fig. 7 Card stock source
I found a source on Amazon for 8 1/2 x 11 card stock sheets (the same used on vanilla file folders). These are cut into quarters to become my basic 5 1/2 x 4 1/4 cards. I use a paper cutter to mass cut them into stacks. It takes a while to go through them, so it's not a big deal. By using these cards I discovered other benefits. First, designing on a small card is a good way to design just one thing. One item, one room, one trap, one event. Very rarely do you need two or more cards. You end up with a system where you know each card is about one idea. Additionally, if you change the idea, rewrite on a new card and swap with the old one. Way easier to make changes. The cards are less intimidating, so it's easier to fill them up. The design process is easier. I do a lot of traveling (train, aircraft), these take up less space so it's much easier to work on a crypt crammed in between other passengers. During play cards can be pulled out as needed for reference. I punch a hole in the upper left corner to hold them together, depending (figure 6, above). The system is meant to be flexible. 

Fig. 8 Base module
The card board is not strong enough to work in a soft bag, there needed to be a support base. The base is custom made to nest two of the boxes on top. Stuff that is lager than the boxes go in here.

Fig. 9 Base contents
The top is clear plastic. Mainly what's in here are my screen and mat. These are all custom built.

Fig 10. The mat
The complete mat is dry erase. Each square is 8 x 8 inches. At 1 inch equals 5 feet, this covers 120 x 120 feet. The squares can be rearranged as needed.

Fig. 11 Ugly markers
I disdain fancy miniatures. they take up a lot of space and weaken the use of the groups collective imagination. The cubes are the player markers, the wooden lotto discs are creepazoids. You can buy old Lotto games on Ebay for a few bucks.

Fig 12. Magnetic screen
I have done much to improve my screen. You really need to think about it's function. Those big fortress like things with charts on them become a barrier between you and the players. My goal is to be as actively engaged as possible at all times. Engagement is the heart of my games. (There are a number of older posts on screens). 

Fig 13. Metal sheet
This screen has gone thru a lot of revs. The flat parts are sheets of ferrous metal cut to size. The edges and corners are filed down.

Fig 14. Magnets
The supports are wood, there are pressed in magnets in various spots.

Fig 15. Ease of construction
Building the screen is a snap.

Fig 16. Simple construction
Various elements are put together to make a card holder just big enough to keep things hidden. I also found that having two or three "mini" screens worked better than one big one. 

Fig 17. The whole enchilada
There are two more supports to add on two more panels. This is the Referee's view. Things can be picked up and moved around at will.

Fig 18. Front
The player side is basically a big refrigerator. Game aids and pics can be removed from the system and stuck to the front using magnets. I have been using this for the last two years and this system has really changed how I play. Hopefully I'll not be sick soon so I can get back to running some games!

Fig 19. A game from a few weeks back.
Note the SYSTEM in use (lower left)

Saturday, September 22, 2018

'Yon of Ofaz Session # 9

Yes, Moisturizing Your Erasers is a Little Weird...

"City of Diamonds"
DurBurDuke, Lyn and Squire have had their fill of the so called “City of Diamonds”. As the massive 40 foot door on it's side un-yawns to a close, (leaving Robin and Simon to work out their own fate among the shiny hallways and Jacksonesque minions) they move as quickly as they can back to the safety of the Blorg homestead. This is the dead calm before the first phase of the storm. Lyn who has weathered at least 12 such weather events recalls that the average time of this first dead calm lasts 30 minutes. Moving at 120 feet per na-nuta puts their ETA at 50 minutes. Both Lyn and DBD notice that their bodies both have changed. Lyn is a full foot taller now and 100 ulbs heavier. DBD is also taller and heavier. Lyn’ fur is grayer, DBD is sprouting odd clumps of hair. Squires, the roboservant appears unchanged.

Lyn, Sqire and DBD. Look how clean the table is!

The trip back is uneventful, the calm is holding. The front door to the homestead is shut, no one is around. DurBurDuke politely knocks on the door. There is no reaction or sound from inside. However, both Lyn and DBD’s sense of smell has increased to such an extent that they can smell 13 zlogs inside. DBD unlocks the door, Squire goes in and scans the area with his flashlight eyes. Completely empty. Squire goes to the bathroom (an addition) and sees a tail peeking out of the rafters up above. He attempts to scramble up between the two walls, but falls with one foot in the commode. DBD comes in and in a loud voice addresses the hidden zlogs, informing them he knows they are there and what are they doing. The resident zlog (“Zlog”) says “they are having a meeting”. The troupe (mindful of the coming storm) suggests they have their get together in the barn. The zlogs hustle out.

The first plasma ball bursts from the ground and explodes in a ricochet of lightning bolts as the troupe secures the door. They search the tiny hovel, finding nothing, not even a hat. There is no food and the stove is cold. Squire volunteers to brave the plasma storm and goes outside to pick eight ears of Korn. The slave machine gets back unmolested and the troupe feasts on boiled Korn. Even Squire wants to “eat” and puts the Korn to his mouth slot.

Nearly a full gar-nuta passes and the plasma phase of the storm transitions to the second dead calm before the bowling ball sized rain. A short time passes and there is a knock at the door and a rattlely old voice saying “can you please help? Our wagon wheel has fallen off and I’m worried about my baby”. To which the troupe replies “why should we believe you”?  DBD throws together a quick periscope and snakes it out the tiny window to discover that the voice is coming from a group of 12 Urks. The troupe now tries a different tack and says “we don’t have anything and you should try the Blotts up the road”.

This makes the Urks more determined than ever, so they all start banging on and shaking the tiny stone shack. After all, it can weather the storms and Tarnodos, what are a few pesky Urks gonna do?  Besides, their stupid.

They wail away like heavy metal rockers for many a long deca-nuta. There is a pause after which the the troupe hears them focus their destructive attention onto the addition to the hovel, the tiny wooden bathroom. An outer wall was opened to add the modern convenience of a pour and release plumbing commode in a smart little wooden addition. These timbers are being systematically ripped away by the angry band of Urks and the troupe knows it is only a matter of time before they are going to be inside. DBD fashions another radio controlled explosive device. Next, DBD puts Squire’s head unit into a giant spherical fighting robut (called the "Wrecking Ball") which is then released outside to dispatch the Urks. No problemo.

The "Wrecking Ball"
Squire is quite powerful in the massive metal fighting machine and is able to smash a few of the Urks. But, in a couple of na-nutas, the Urk force is peeling away the fighting machines PHP systematically. From the discussions about whether Squire’s programming has been backed up illustrates that the troupe has come to grips with Urk numerical reality. Lyn puts on DBD’s rocket suit, grabs the not so tiny Frubber and rockets out the front door to safety. Circling the Blorg homestead they see that Squire is resting motionless and the Urks are posing on his hulk snapping victory pics with pocket orbs to share on The Social Medium.

Join us next time...

BTW, Pith has been updated to work better and the title of this session comes from one of the many interesting topics of conversation that can only be had playing Crypts-N-Creepies.

FORWARD to session #10...

...or go BACK to session #8...

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

'Yon of Ofaz Session #8

Your Collar Awaits:

Everyone falls asleep eventually. It brings rejuvenation and, “oh look now we are wearing these cool new collars”. They are a thin metal band (strange, no clip or fastener) and a dull translucent red triangle on the front.

A note on the players present. Our story of the exploration of the “City Of Diamonds” continues with Lyn, DurBurDuke and his faithful roboservant Squires. Many of the players are now away at college. The way I run, if an owning player isn’t present to play their character, a plot device is created to explain this. I don’t let players play more than one persona at a time so that there aren’t “extras” hanging around in the group (so called hirelings, or trap fodder). So, if your wondering why I’m not recording what Fred, Topper, Mortimer and Chris-Tle are doing, it's because they are getting a higher education. 

Left to right: Lyn, Robin, Simon, DBD and Squires.
DurBurDuke (DBD)  instructs his roboservant to attempt to try and remove its collar. No luck, the collar has been riveted to the machines metal neck and slipping out of it only activates a hidden mechanism which causes all wearers of the devices to be stunned and writhe in agony. DurBurDuke then commands the robot to crush the triangular device on the band around his neck. The faithful servitor puts his robot claw to his master’s neck and begins squeezing. The red triangle  cracks and gets white hot. Before it can burn a hole through his throat the roboservant tosses it to the floor where it melts. Without pausing, work begins on removal of the roboservants collar.

Robin Froth

Simon Snakeman
Meanwhile, a pair of Smorkk Back Checkers* have teletransported into the complex via a TSL* (Teleportal Seed Link) attached to one of the “City of Diamonds” many victims. The first is a Hume dressed much like the ninja (page 13 of the core rule book) who calls herself Robin Froth. The other is Humanoid shaped bag of 101 snakes calling himself Simon Snakeman. This creature pines to become “a real boy”. These two have a history together as competitors in the the hit crystal orb show “Freedonian Ninja”. Allegedly, Simon lost to Robin because she cheated. But, bygones are bygones and they are now friends working together for Smorkk* collecting unpaid product delivery. Shortly after appearing Lyn (the Gynll) enters the room. After some quick introductions they all decide to go up a few levels in the futuristic complex and meet up with the rest of the troupe.

* Smorkk, Smorkk Back Checkers & TSL
The three press the chime on DurBurDukes door. They find the two making various plans to get the remaining collar off Squires, the robot butler. They only have a few moments of peace before four red and black leather clad minions show up behind them, all holding open collars to place onto the bare necks of the newbies. A struggle breaks out, the minions of Mamiss are blasted by an EMP gun, bitten by at least one snake and another is sucked into a magical bag. Simon uses the miracle Blow Smoke to cause confusion so they can all run into the egg shaped elevator. Upon reaching the main floor, they exit into the main work space. It is filled with a gigantic folded up conveyance measuring 40x40x120 ft. It has two 40 foot diameter wheels and gingerbread styling like the kind typically found on a 1860’s era steamboat. As the group skulks around, Mamiss glides in on her boot jets, followed by six of her leather clad and helmited minions, all holding collars of obedience. DBD steps out, points the EMP weapon at the folded up machine and says “Let us leave or I’ll destroy your invention”.


Mamiss laughs not unlike Peter Lorre on an opium kick (page 5 of the core rule book). She invites DBD to destroy the machine. She wonders aloud if he has the guts to destroy something so beautiful. Finally she offers the group the chance to pilot the machine in a test run across the mighty Aanssk Desert. The troupe mulls the offer offer over for a few seconds and DBD answers “no, we just want to leave". Mamiss is somewhat disappointed and disgusted. The huge 40 foot door on the side of the pyramid slowly rises as Mamiss and the minions turn and disappear. Outside a new storm is brewing. It is unclear how much time there is until the plasma balls begin rising from the ground and exploding in ricocheting electrical bolts. (For the proper effect insert a random # of groans here). DBD and Squires jump onto the Krag board and head back towards the Blorg homestead. Lyn follows. The two newbies, Simon and Robin decide to stay within the mighty pyramid.

Until next time!
(Below are my further notes on Smorkk:)