Some of my planning materials from the last session of my Dark Sun Dungeon World game

I’m a great fan of notebooks and prepping stuff for sessions (without unnecessarily restricting your players) so thought i’d share some of the notes I made for my last Dark Sun Dungeon World game.
A couple of pages from my smallest notebook that I use to jot down random ideas and plan out sessions beforehand.

Some of the NPC cards that I use for my game, they most don’t include stats since Dungeon World is a very simple system to stat NPCs for, the notes mostly include personality, NPC goals, knowledge and appearance.

My larger notebook (a diary my wife bought me), used for jotting down what actually occurs in the session.

Dark Sun Campaign – Dungeon World – Session 6

Themiclés began to agonisingly pull his wounded body across the sands towards the cover of the dunes, a huge spear shaft still piercing his side, Athrialix slithered over to the Templar and with both hands began pulling the injured man towards the dunes, only stopping when it became obvious they were out of firing range.
In the distance Hurgen, Tk’Tak, the Bloodtide and their entourage of half-giants approached the unfolding scene and witness Athrialix pulling the bleeding Templar to cover, not wanting to agitate matters or be associated with the Templar themselves, the group elected to stay back. Themiclés meanwhile, between swallowing mouthfuls of a fruit based healing tonic that Athrialix pressed on him, told the philosopher that the mission was the most important thing, without water everyone in Arrakis would die, it was more important than anything even his own life; looking at the state of the Templar Athrialix suggested that they withdraw to the northern mountains and look for another way into the city, nodding in exhaustion Themiclés allowed himself to be pulled onto the back of Athrialix’ crodlu and the small party moved northwards into the forbidding darkness of the mountains.
At a distance, the Bloodtide turned to Tk’Tak and asked if he knew what Athrialix was doing with the Templar party, the mantis man responded that he wasn’t sure but that their philosopher friend was not being held against his will; at the Bloodtide’s suggestion Tk’Tak transformed into a desert bird and flew over the tower to scope out the defences, he saw a number of dwarves clad in leather armour keeping watch from the roof, each with a number of throwing spears to hand, a female dwarf matched between them, snapping out orders in a commanding, military fashion. Returning to the party, they watched as the doors opened and the dwarves came out to scavenge the fallen remnants of the Templar’s slaughtered crodlu mount that still lay on the sands, Hurgen approached them holding her hands out in friendship, after some initial tension the dwarves welcomed them, recognising that the half-giants were also former slaves of Arrakis like the dwarves own ancestors.
The dwarven commander, a woman by the name of Karam escorted them into the tower of Sandstone, a decaying watchtower being all that remained of a once glorious city, an old dwarf accompanying the group named Makad lamented that they had lost so much of their heritage that they could no longer even read the dwarven legends and stories carved into the walls, “It wasn’t enough for Arrakis to destroy our lives, they has to take our history as well” he mused bitterly, lost in his memories. Karam explained that the lower levels of the dwarven city had long since been blocked and were inaccessible; she was interrupted by Makad who told a long rambling story about a fell creature trapped in the lower levels, although Karam didn’t seem to take his story seriously, discounting them as mere legends. Karam explained that her great-grandfather Drakmar (a famous dwarven gladiator whose fame lived on even now, his exploits had inspired the Bloodtide to break free from his own bondage) had lead a group of escaped slaves north from Arrakis to reclaim their ancient home.
Hurgen asked whether they would allow the half-giants a home in Sandstone, the dwarves seemed amenable (and sympathetic) but explained there meagre resources could barely provide for themselves and the shanty town of tents filling the tower, each tent inhabited by a malnourished dwarven family; with the decrease of regular caravans due to a recent spate of bandit attacks they were barely surviving themselves. Tk’Tak suggested that perhaps, with the help of the half-giants and his friend in Shades they could set up some sort of trade concern themselves, Bloodtide was skeptical saying the Shades was a foul place rules by a man called Aráz, also known as the Slaver Lord and the Bandit King, no doubt they would be trading to the very people who were equipping the bandits.
Makad meanwhile had taken Hurgen aside and continued his rambling tales, explaining that he had been just a boy when Drakkmar bought them here, but he remembers the look of horror on the old chieftains face when he emerged from the depths having encountered the creature of the lower levels, Drakkmar said that the thing must never be allowed free and called for ten stout warriors to join him as eternal guardians; Drakkmar then descended into the depths with ten men, none of them were ever seen again but occasionally people disappeared in the tunnels nearest to the lower levels.
Under cover of darkness Athrialix took a single soldier and hunkered down in the dunes just to the north of the tower, calling upon ancient magics he cast a mantle of invisibility onto the soldier who climbed the tower, murdering the dwarven sentry on duty and dropped a rope down the side of the tower. Athrialix sent the soldier back to rendezvous with the rest of the Templar party, giving him orders to wait three days for him; sneaking into the tower Athrialix stealthily made his way through the filthy domiciles inside the tower until he located a deep well in a disused side tunnel, climbing down it he discovered that the well was blocked by chunks of fallen masonry, the lithe philosopher was forced to discard almost all of his equipment to squeeze past the obstructions and continue his descent.
A few levels up, just as the Bloodtide was worrying about where Athrialix was and what he was doing with the Templars a loud alarm bell began to sounds, the dwarves had discovered the body of the murdered sentry and sounded the alarm; during the distraction Hurgen asked Makad how they could get down to the lower levels, the old dwarf thought for a moment and then told them that there are a few wells leading down there but most are blocked and an old gate obscured by a collapsed tunnel roof. Deciding to try the gate, the half-giant Hurgen and Tk’Tak (who transformed into a mighty ursine creature) cleared the gate quickly, just giving Bloodtide time to poke around some adjoining tunnels, although he found little other than the decaying remnants of some ancient mineworks.
Beyond the gate, Tk’Tak could just make out a dull amber glow and, as the dust cleared they found themselves confronted by a roughly dwarven shape composed entirely of black stone and molten, burning rock, the creature opened it’s mouth and flames flared within the snarling maw.

Dark Sun Campaign – Dungeon World – Session 5

The Bloodtide and Hurgen continued to lead their motley collection of half-giants northwards away from the city-state of Arrakis, eventually they planned to make their way to a rumoured dwarven settlement in the far north, but first they would stop at an oasis that Hurgen had visited when she had originally escaped from Arrakis and slavery herself.
Meanwhile in the city-state itself Tk’Tak was attempted to buy supplies from Athrialix’ uncle, the trader Kallisto, the shrewd businessman was less than keen to see the Thri-Kreen, especially given that he was still owed a number of rampager body parts by them, but grudgingly he agreed to help arrange for Tk’Tak to purchase some supplies. The mantis man had agreed to help Athrialix conduct a ritual to purge Arrakis’ underwater reservoir of the green plague that had transformed the water to a viscous emerald coloured sludge. Athrialix needed a sample of pure water to begin the ritual; having purchased his supplies Tk’Tak set out to meet Hurgen and the Bloodtide at the oasis, planning to collect a sample of clean water from there and convey it back to Athrialix in Arrakis as quickly as possible, hopefully before the city died of dehydration.
Meeting with the others a day south of the oasis Tk’Tak delivered his supplies to his associates and the waiting half-giants, Hurgen expressed her wish to give her fellow half-giants a chance for survival; Tk’Tak transformed into a small serpent and slithered north ahead of the main group to scout out the oasis. In the oasis a number of lithe figures with slightly pointed ears, wearing light desert robes moved around the area, one of them, a figure festooned with bones and shells, seemed to spot Tk’Tak despite his diminuitive form and the mantis man druid quickly slithered back to his friends. Hoping that the elves were not necessarily enemies, Hurgen approached, holding her sword out in a gesture of peace and asked if they might take some water from the oasis; the elven response was an abrupt “If you can trade?”
Hurgen and the Bloodtide told the elves that they were leading a group of escaped slaves from Arrakis and would die without water, the elves appeared to be sympathetic towards this and allowed them to drink without further antagonism; during this time it became obvious that the elves had about a dozen Rampagers nearby, despite not being shackled or restrained in any way the creatures appeared reasonably docile, certainly not the brutal, berserking monsters that had attacked Arrakis so recently. One of the elves talked, in broken common, about how Arrakis had enslaved some of their kind and that they would use the Rampagers to take revenge, Hurgen seemed comfortable with this idea, Tk’Tak and the Bloodtide less so (privately Korvin the Bloodtide wondered how many innocents would be sacrificed on the altar of the elves revenge). Quashing his worries for the moment, Tk’Tak collected a small ceramic flask of pure water and, changing form into a desert bird, began to fly the water sample back towards Arrakis, where Athrialix was waiting for it.
Athrialix was walking through the College of Philosophy in Arrakis when he was stopped by the wheezing old figure of the aged philosophy student Coptarix, the old man congratulated Athrialix on being accepted into the ‘Trial of the Magi’, when Athrialix expresses ignorance of this the old man seemed surprised saying that a Templar was waiting for Athrialix in his quarters, the old student had just assumed (given their recent conversations) that it was connected with the mage trials. Politely excusing himself, Athrialix rushed to his chambers where indeed an azure robed Templar (who introduced himself as Themiclés) waited for him; the Templar explained that, without it’s ancient waterworks, the city was dying and that he had been investigating ancient rumours and legends looking for anything that might help. In a series of ancient scrolls Themiclés had discovered mention of a water demon trapped below the ancient dwarven city of Sandstone to the north and had secured permission to take a small party north to investigate, although not clear exactly on his reasons for wanting to recruit Athrialix the Templar implied that he was away of the young philosopher’s budding magical talents.
Flying back towards Arrakis Tk’Tak spotted the devastated remains of a massacred caravan littering the desert sands; swooping down and resuming his normal form the mantis man found a single survivor, a man called Remu. After feeding Remu a restorative tonic, the injured man was able to relate how the bandits attacked the caravan and stole their supplies, Remu took one of them down  before he himself was laid low; searching the body of the dead bandit Tk’Tak found a number of coins on him, all of Pharnish origin. Sharing his water rations with Remu, the man departed saying that he was returning to the city of Shades, he thanked Tk’Tak once again and told the mantis man to look him up if he was ever in Shades.
At the oassis Hurgen was talking with Bloodtide about the elves plan to attack Arrakis using the Rampagers but the human gladiator remained unconvinced, saying that Rampagers could not be wielded like a weapon, they are indiscriminate beasts; one of the elves who seemed to have taken a shine to Hurgen asked them to join their quest for vengeanes, saying that, with their help, the conquest would occur more quickly and less innocents would die. Hurgen seemed sympathetic and with a laugh, the elf handed Hurgen back her own healing fruits that he had stolen from her pockets without her realising, grinning Hurgen handed him one back for his people.
Heading out of the eastern city gate riding atop a Crodlu, Athrialix, the Templar Themiclés and two guard began their ride northwards towards the rumoured dwarven settlement, Athrialix pausing briefly to leave a message with his uncle for when Tk’Tak returned with the water sample. As they travelled a desert bird trailing silt flew overhead, at first the avian form of Tk’Tak didn’t recognise Athrialix amongst the party (swaddled as he was in light, desert travelling robes) but eventually he realised that the philosopher was accompanying the group and began to follow them. Later that night when they made camp and Athrialix excused himself, Tk’Tak landed nearby and, resuming his normal form, met up with Athrialix and explained that Pharn seemed to be sponsoring bandits to prevent merchants getting supplies through to Arrakis, he also told his friend about the elves, their control over the Rampagers, and their planned attack on the city.
Athrialix mused on the news for a moment, he had heard rumours of the elves, thieves and conmen of the deep desert, they had shaman who had ways with the beasts of the sands but would not hesitate to break the spirit of a deal if it suited them, hearing that the others were also planning to head to the dwarven settlement Athrialix frowned, “This could be trouble.”
The group at the oasis woke in the morning to find that the entire elven encampment had apparently moved on during the evening and, after hunting some Rampagers in the desert, the party set off in pursuit tracking them to a camp of hide tents a few days southwest of the oasis; Bloodtide spotted the bone decorated elf entering a tent and attempted to follow him but was barred access by a surly elf warrior, things looked like they might get violent for a moment, but the shaman emerged when he heard the Bloodtide’s booming voice. Bloodtide explained that he could not support an attack on the main city since too many innocents would die but perhaps the elves could attack the Blackrock fortress just north of the city, disabling the Templars, striking a blow at the Sorceror King of Arrakis and avoiding many innocent deaths?
The elf shaman said that he would consider Bloodtide’s advice and showed him into the previously barred tent, on the floor were sat a circle of elves, all holding hands with their eyes rolled back into their heads, “This is how we control the Rampagers” said the shaman before leading the Bloodtide back outside again, he also warned Bloodtide that their spies had seen a Templar party heading north from Arrakis.
Travelling back towards the oasis the party were set upon by a wild Rampager, it burst out of a dune biting deeply into Hurgen’s neck; with mighty sinews straining the half-giant grabbed hold of the creatures neck and twisted, feeling vertebrae grind beneath her powerful hands. Bloodtide slid below the belly of the distracted creature, slicing upwards with his assortment of weapons, screaming “The tide is rising!”
As the Rampager howled and reared up, pulling free of Hurgen’s grasped, she gripped her weapon and cut deeply into the creatures chest, spilling steaming innards onto the hot desert sands, the body collapsed atop Bloodtide; moments later the gladiator exploded out of the corpse, his punch daggers shredding him an exit through the creatures spine, his blood splattered face grinned, “Well that seems to sort out our food problems.”
Meeting up with Tk’Tak the group rested and began heading north towards the dwarven city; the Templar party had already arrived at Sandstone and found little more than a ramshackle stone tower surrounded by mountains, eager to resolve Arrakis’ water problems, Themiclés rode forward and announced himself as a King’s Templar, his reward was a barrage of arrows and spears throw from the tower; as they clattered around the Templar, Athrialix threw caution to the wind and hurled arcane fire up at the stone edifice as a distraction.
Suddenly there was a sickening thump as one of the spears pierced Themiclés’ body, his Crodlu bucked wildly and the Templar toppled to the floor.

Making use of Fate Zones during Dungeon Crawls in Dungeonworld

Now i’ve never been a particularly big fan of the stereotypical dungeon crawl in RPGs for a number of reasons, mapping out a sprawlingly huge (often unreasonably so) underground complex has never really ticked my roleplaying boxes, I find a lot (not all) dungeons to be a little ill thought out and normally have no real logic behind them behind being a large space for a GM/writer to cram full of bizarre traps and monsters that seldom interact with each other in anything resembling an eco-system (despite all living in close proximity to each other).

In fact i’m such a non-fan of the traditional dungeon crawls that one of the earlist RPG Bugbears videos I did on my Youtube Channel dealt with this subject (I have embedded the video below for anyone interested in seeing some more of the details behind my dislike).

  
However, i’m currently at a point in my Dark Sun Dungeon World game where the players have trekked north to the dwarven city of Sandstone, Sandstone was once a watchtower of a much larger dwarven city in ancient times, however, now it is little more than a single tower containing a shanty-town of tents where the malnourished dwarven occupants (descendants of escaped slaves from the city-state of Arrakis) huddle together.
The players have discovered (through various means) that Drakkar, the dwarf slave who lead his people to reclaim Sandstone, discovered an unholy creature described as a demon of water lurking in the old mineworks and catacombs beneath the tower, according to the dwarven legends Drakkar called for the services of 10 loyal warriors to serve as eternal guards for the beast, he then descended into the depths with these warriors and none of them were even seen again. Given that the ancient water works under Arrakis have been sabotaged by the competing city-state of Pharn, the players are keen to locate this demon of water in case it can help with the current plight of the city and have ventured down into the depths.
This leaves me with an interesting dilemna, I don’t want to forbid the player characters from exploring the ancient and partially collapsed caverns that compose the remnants of the ancient dwarven city (after all, helping the dwarves to reclaim their homeland could gain them valuable allies and potential a home base for future operations), however neither do I want them to have to slog through a massive dungeon crawl where they slowly and meticulously trawl through the vast network of subterranean passages, clearing them out and making them safe for habitation.
So what do I do about it?
One possible solution occurred to me when I was reading some posts on G+ where a question was being asked about the use of zones in Fate; for those who don’t know, a zone is effectively a way of conveniently labelling and splitting up and area, used in combat in Fate it saves having to keep track of square by square grid movement, allowing PCs to travel between discrete areas.
A more detailed explanation of zones in Fate can be found on the excellent Fate SRD website: http://fate-srd.com/fate-system-toolkit/zones
This seems to me a great way to represent the undercity of the ancient dwarves without having to capture a ridiculously large amount of detail, I suppose it’s a little like when you’re looking at the street view on Google Maps, if you zoom out the overall map stays the same but a lot of the fiddly details disappear.
I think that using zones, combined with the travel rules and making custom moves from Dungeon World will allow me to capture the broad strokes of a dungeon without having to do extensive mapping.
A more detail explanation of the travel rules from Dungeon World can be found here: http://www.dungeonworldsrd.com/moves#TOC-Undertake-a-Perilous-Journey

Essential journeys are measured in the number of rations consumed and dangers faced, the group picks a trailblazer, scout and quartermaster. Each character with a job makes a Wisdom roll and can achieve various effects on a success such as reducing the amount of time it takes to reach your destination, spotting any potential danger and reducing the number of rations consumed during the journey.

For each area I will write down the consequences of failing these rolls; i’d probably come up with something like the map below (please note: this is only an example, not my final design, and uses a map taken from this website – http://henchmanabuse.blogspot.co.uk/2011_03_01_archive.html).

Each of the zones would be a journey requiring a number of rations (depending on the distance) and would have a list of hazards associated with it for if the Scout fails their roll.
For example I might have something like the following list of encounters:
Catacombs Below Sandstone
  • The PCs encounter a party of Sandstone dwarves attempting to excavate in the ruins of the catacombs.
  • A desert creature has entered the catacombs through a tunnel/collapsed section.
  • The characters comes across some old mineworks that allow them excess the the ruins of the dwarven city at a reduced ration cost (but they must make a roll to avoid a collapse).

Ruins of the Dwarven City
  • The degenerate remnants of the original dwarven settlers still live here, a savage raiding party attacks.
  • A clutch of mantis men have colonised several of the tunnels.

Lair of the Water Demon
  • The characters encounter one of the Magmin guardians, intent on preventing anyone releasing the demon.
  • A lesser water elemental spawned by the demon attacks.
  • The rock in the area is weakened by the aura of the demon and collapses.


Obviously these are just a few examples, but I think this system will allow me to highlight a couple of key encounters in each zone and maintain the feel of a dungeon crawl without having to resort to the sort of dungeon crawling that I dislike.
Plus, it combines two of my favourite systems (Fate and Dungeon World) – looking forward to giving this a try in my next game 🙂

Dark Sun Campaign – Dungeon World – Session 4

As he walked down the corridors of the Academy Philosophica, morning light streaming in through the windows, Athrialix’ attention was drawn to a circle of his peers eagerly discussing matters of import; an elderly scholar was addressing them, a man that Athrialix recognised as Coptarix, a particularly learned (if somewhat eccentric) gentleman. Coptarix was telling his younger colleagues about the ‘Trial of the Magi’, a great tournament that was reputed to be both a test of intelligence and wisdom, it happened only rarely (indeed Coptarix had only known it occur once before in his lifetime) and was the only way to become a magus legally within Arrakis, those who took on the challenge either came back mystically stronger and with the support of the Sorceror King or they did not return at all. Those who took the test were sworn to secrecy and thus no-one knew exactly what they involved although, if rumours were to be believed, the test was different for each person; those who succeeded would appear again (after a suitable period of training) wearing the deep azure robes of a sorcerous apprentice.
Meanwhile, having heard a man in the local cantina discussing that Pharnish agents were behind the recent sabotage on the city’s ancient waterworks, Bloodtide, Hurgen and Tk’Tak made their way to the college, built in a fairly normal quarter of the city, Tk’Tak transformed into a desert firebird on the way, thinking it less suspicious than a Thri-Kreen trying to gain access to the college. Arriving at the gate the Bloodtide explained to the guard on duty that they were here with a special delivery for Athrialix and, after a few moments, the guard sent a porter to fetch Athrialix. Arriving at the gate the scholar accepted the delivery of the firebird and ushered his friends inside to his own quarters, attempting to fetch them some water from the nearb pump, however the barest trickle emerged; Bloodtide showed the locket to Athrialix and explained about the Pharnish sabotage and the green slime that somehow had been used to effect it. Hurgen had notice some of the slime adhering to her boot still and went to scrape it off, she was surprised to find that it had dried out and had a spongey consistency, ash she touched it though the slime appeared to absorb the moisture from her hand, causing her skin to wrinkle and dry, wiping it off she quickly washed her hand under the trickle from the pump and appeared to suffer no further ill-effects.
There was a loud cry from the corridor as one of the academic collapsed, he appeared to be having some sort of seizure, green splotches had broken out on his skin; before Athrialix could get a better look the college apothecaries whisked the spasming man away on a makeshift stretcher, although just to be on the safe side Athrialix advised his colleagues not to drink the water.
Moving to the library (despite some initial problems with the portly librarians ‘no animals’ policy) Athrialix turned to Bloodtide asking “So are we resolved that we’re going to try and solve this water problem then?”
“Yes, otherwise everyone will die” replied the Bloodtide in his usually matter-of-fact way.
Throwing himself into the research Athrialix discovered a reference in an old, badly translated tome pre-dateing the apocalyptic transformation of Athas into the desert world that it is now to something called the Creeping Death, a plant-like organism that devours water wherever it comes into contact with it, using the moisture to reproduce itself and repeat the cycle; Athrialix suggested that the best way to proceed might be to force Pharn itself into providing an antidote whilst the Bloodtide wondered with the Templars did not seem to be doing anything about the current situation. Athrialix took the sample of the slime that Hurgen had scraped from her boot and passed it to one of his colleagues for examination.
In response to Hurgen’s queries about the fate of her people (now that slaves to power the waterworks were no longer needed) Tk’Tak, still in his firebird form, soared high above the city; to the north, outside the wall, a makeshift shanty town of tents had been erected and, under the watchful eyes of the Kings Templar, chain gangs of half-giants were digging huge trenches. As they walked through the streets heading for the northern gates, Bloodtide heard a familiar voice from a couple of streets away, one of his old opponents from the arena the Sultan of Death was addressing a small group of chained half-giants.
Resplendent in his green and yellow robes (strictly this were the colours of Pharn but then the Sultan did play the villain in the arena), the Sultan stroked his enormous waxed moustache and offered the half-giants a place of glory fighting in the arena, saying that instead of remaining as slaves and digging fruitless wells for water that doesn’t exist they could spill blood on the sands and bathe in the glory and accolades of the cheering crowd. Bloodtide had to admit that the Sultan make it all sound pretty good, but he knew the truth behind the gilded lies, kicking a crate out of his way the Bloodtide hurled his sword at the Sultan striking him a glancing blow to the shoulder; in the chaos Hurgen snapped the chains of the half-giant prisoners, who immediately began to attack their jail guards with all their formidable might.
Striding forwards Bloodtide called out the Sultan, challenging him to single combat, the moustached villain responding by striking out with his mace, Bloodtide felt the blow crash upon him and tasted copper in his mouth, spitting out blood onto the sand he grinned and said “Is that all you’ve got?”
As he rushed forward, brandishing his weapon, Bloodtide’s instincts saved him as the Templar rushed in from the side and hurled a bolt of sorcerous energy at the one-time gladiator; hurling himself to one side, Bloodtide impacted heavily with the wall, the eldritch bolt missing him by mere inches. Looking up, he could see that in the chaos the Sultan of Death had made good his escape, howling his frustration the Bloodtide barely registered Hurgan’s voice in the distance shouting “Fight your oppressors!” as she lead the half-giants in a bloody rampage towards the city gates.
Bloodtide took a savage blow from the Templar on his wrist armour, quickly tying his wrist wrappings around the Templar’s arm he pulled his enemy in close, driving his punch dagger into the unarmoured neck of the Templar, the Templar spasmed, gurgled and then dropped to the floor. Seeing that the half-giants were already some distance away and that the Bloodtide (formidable though he was) wouldn’t be able to catch them on foot, Tk’Tak transformed into a Kank, the Bloodtide swung onto it’s back and they raced through the city streets in pursuit of the berserking half-giant mob.
In the chaos Athrialix took the opportunity to follow the directions to the abandoned tunnels that Tk’Tak had given him and soon found himself standing beside an algal green expanse of slime that used to be a reservoir, it seemed as though the slime was spreading, looking around he saw the remains of Bloodtide’s war spade still sticking from the slime and (carefully) grabbing the handle he was able to pull the, now slime-covered, body of the Pharnish saboteur from the muck. Leaning down next to the body Athrialix called on his mystical powers and spoke to the spirit of the deceased, learning that the man had indeed bought the Creeping Death here (contained in a silver locket) to poison the water supply; as the spirit began to fade, Athrialix called on the power of things living nearby, using defiling magic to hold the shade in place longer, discovering that a traitor lurking within the city had provided the saboteur with access to the waterworks.
As he let the spirit depart Athrialix looked around him, a circle of the plant growth had been reduced to ash and destroyed, could defiling magic somehow be part of the solution to this problem?
The rampaging half-giants smashed through the northwest gate of the city, battering aside the guards that stood in their way, outside were more chained half-giants digging what looked like wells under the watchful eyes of city guard and two Templars, one of the free half-giants was hacked down by a Templar as the Bloodtide charged through the ruins of the city gate, leaping from the back of his mount and barreling into the murderous Templar. As the sorcerous soldier attempted bring his eldritch powers to bare against the gladiator, Hurgen chopped the other in half, sending his blood pluming into the air whilst the Bloodtide head-butted his opponent, forced him to the ground and stabbed him with a punch dagger. Looking around they could see that the half-giants had freed their kinsmen and, with reinforcements now fighting with them, had quickly finished off the guardsmen; a young half-giant warrior called Ruusal seemed particularly impressed with the Bloodtide and asked to follow him as an aide, seeing something of his own eagerness for battle in the half-giant’s eyes the Bloodtide accepted.
The half-giants quickly discussed what to do next, the majority of them wanted to make for a dwarven city that was rumoured to be in the mountains far to the north, perhaps they would find some allies or at least respite from persecution there; Tk’Tak agreed to sneak back into the city and buy provisions for themselves and the 20 half-giants that survived so that they could make the perilous trip through the desert to the north.
Meanwhile Athrialix had been attempting to create a ritual for solving the city’s water problem and believed that he could do so but that it would take him several days, he would also require a sample of pure water and help from someone who understood the natural flows of energy; he was relieved when Tk’Tak arrived (thinking that the Thri-Kreen druid could help in the ritual), but was less relieved when Tk’Tak told him about the half-giant breakout and their plans to head north towards a dwarven city. Athrialix agreed to prevail on his uncle Kallisto to get them a good deal on the supplies in return for Tk’Tak’s help getting a sample of clean water from outside the city and his aid in casting the ritual; the mantis-man agreed and, after some haggling with Kallisto (who was not happy that they had still not supplied him with the Rampager body parts as originally agreed) they got most of the provisions necessary for the northwards trip.
Meeting up with the rest of the group they distributed the supplies and began moving northwards, planning to stop off at an oasis that Hurgen knew of nearby (she had rested there after her initial escape from slavery) before continuing, Tk’Tak would take a sample of water from their to Athrialix for use in the ritual and would meet up with the ground afterwards.
The last words that Athrialix had said to Tk’Tak before they parted ways still rang in the mantis-man’s ears, “I have to undertake the test of the magi.”

Dark Sun Campaign – Dungeon World – Session 3

As the group crested the sand dune, creeping slowly to the top they witnessed a scene of utter devastation, the camp beyond the dunes had been smashed until it was almost unrecognisable, one of the archaeologists lay on the floor, blood staining the sand from a deep wound in his side whilst the Templar was engaged in a pitched battle with a long sinuous creature combining the worst aspects of a centipede and a crustacean, a small crate attesting to where the beast had burst fourth from beneath the ground and attacked. Raising her shield Hurgen charged down the steep side of the dune into combat, Tk’Tak ran forward to assist but lost his footing and tumbled down the dune, open-mouthed the Bloodtide shook his head, seeing that any chance of strategy had now gone and charged after them. Athrialix meanwhile took full advantage of the distraction that his berserking comrades were providing and silently slipped into the ruined camp.
Moving into one of the surviving tents undetected Athrialix saw a microscope, numerous local specimens of fauna and what appeared to a scale drawing showing the size of the rest of the state (assuming that the body attached to the giant obsidian hand held to normal human proportions), he could barely stifle a gasp, the thing was huger than anything that he had ever beheld, a veritable collosus. Rifling through the papers he came across what looked like an itinerary and scratched his chin, it seemed that the original purpose of the dig had been to invest some interesting flora called the ‘Dead Man’s Cactus’ and that the party had only chance across the hand by accident after also being set off course by a sandstorm, the Templar had insisted that they prepare a report and charts for the Sorceror King before returning to Arrakis.
Outside the Templar stabbed at the Ankheg screaming “Thus perish all who oppose the Sorceror King!” Seeing that the immediate danger was past Hurgen offered her hand to the Templar, but the armoured warrior just sneered at the prospect of shaking hands with a slave, before he could utter a biting retort the Bloodtide (having suffered the tender mercies of the Templars before stabbed his punch dagger into the man’s neck killing him. Tk’Tak was examining the tunnel left by the Ankheg whilst Athrialix bought out the information that he had found, musing about an old legend concerning a Giants Graveyard far to the north of the continent and that perhaps it was connected with the great hand, perhaps these ruins were even the remnants of Hazak Simm, the lost city of the giants – who knows?
The sands around the group suddenly burst into life as a dozen or so insectile figures that bore a startling resemblance to Tk’Tak rose from the sands, one of the Thri-Kreen who had irredescent insect wings and referred to himself as ‘the Caller’ stepped forward to speak with Tk’Tak and explained that they were the guardians of the ‘Father of Giants’ set here to prevent him from rising again; he asked them to leave explaining that it was not safe for them here, he pointed at Athrialix and continued “especially not for one such as him.”
Eager not to have to kill the remaining scholars from the dig, Hurgen ordered them to not to go home (since no doubt the Sorceror King’s agents would get the location of the ruins from them), providing them with rations and suggesting that they make for the City of Shades to the east; as they walked off into the distance over the dune, Bloodtide turned to the Caller and said “You do realise that they will tell the Sorceror King and the Templars will be here in weeks?”
Nodding the Thri-Kreen Caller gestured to two of his clutch mates and pointed eastwards after the scholars saying simply, “Kill them.”
Reacting violently to the proposed callous murder of two fellow scholars, Athrialix reached out his hand summoned fourth a wave of magical energy that blasted out towards the Caller, the matis-man leapt nimbly to one sided, raising his own twin sets of arms in return; a huge sharp fragment of rock raised itself from the ground and flung itself towards Athrialix, striking him through the shoulder and causing him to grimace as blood stained his academics robes. Stepping between Athrialix and the Caller, the Bloodtide managed to smooth over the situation by explaining that the man were like the Caller’s clutch brothers, this seemed to smooth things over and the Caller shook hands with the Bloodtide; meanwhile Tk’Tak had transformed into a silt serpent and quickly dragged the injured Athrialix below the sands, emerging behind one the ruined tents, away from the other mantis-men.
Rubbing some healing herbs into his injuries, Athrialix gestured to Hurgen and the two of them headed for the Mekillots, riding northwards away from the ruins, the Bloodtide shook hands with the Caller once more and both himself and Tk’Tak followed after their companions whilst the mantis-men returned to their vigil.
Days later they arrived in Arrakis, the whole city seemed to be in an uproar as they rode through the gates, there was talk that the ancient waterworks below the city had somehow been damaged, Tk’Tak spoke to some passersby who blame everything from ancient curses to the work of Pharnish spies for the destruction of the only stable water supply in the region. The crack of a whip and shout alerted the group to the presence of a templar and five soldiers leading a chained gang of half-giants down the street towards the gare from the city; although she glared at the Templar and worried for the fate of her people if the news of the sabotaged waterworks was true, Hurgen chose not to make a scene, the Bloodtide, having once been a slave himself, was sympathetic to the plight of the half-giants.
Athrialix travelled to see his uncle Kallisto in the merchants district of Arrakis and rote a letter about the mantis-men tribe sacrificing people, the rough location of the ruins and a mention of the obsidian hand, he was interrupted when a half-giant escaped from a chain gang burst in shouting “Help, they’ll kill us all given the chance!” As Templars began to burst into his uncle’s shop, Athrialix decided that discretion was the better part of valour and slipped out of a side door, making his way towards the academy and his dorm as quickly as possible.
Hurgen meanwhile had given Tk’Tak directions to the abandoned tunnels that she had originally used to escape from her slavery in the waterworks below Arrakis; transforming into a small domestic lizard and snuck into the waterworks, however, the normally clanking ancient machinery was silent, there were signs of explosive sabotage and a bloody struggle. Seeing few guards (perhaps because the damage had been done) Tk’Tak returned to where he had left the others and lead them back to the underground caverns full of ancient stone pillars and ruined pieces of the pre-cataclysm mechanisms that had once provided water for the entire city. Heading down to what had once been the underground reservoir they were horrified to find that the water appeared to have been replaced by a sticky green slime, a rough notice was pinned to the water of the tunnel:
“Stay Out, by Order of the King’s Templar”
His eyes drawn to something glinting in the slime, the Bloodtide spotting a body slowly slipping below the muck, grabbing his war spade he sunk it into the corpse and pulled it to shore, as he did so a wonderous sight met his eyes, a silver locket (“metal, real metal!”) tumbled from the Pharnish uniform that the corpse wore, a red ruby was studded into the lid of the locket and inside were traces of a greenish powder. The dead body also had six Pharnish coins showing the image of Jom’Ul Sorceror King of Pharn on them, the Bloodtide sneered, throwing them back into the slim before pocketing the locket.
“We need to see what Athrialix makes of this.”

Dark Sun Campaign – Dungeon World – Session 2

For a write-up of the first session and the thoughts behind the campaign please see my previous post: http://reddicediaries.com.gridhosted.co.uk/uncategorized/creating-dark-sunesque-campaign-for_10/
Athralix’ uncles Kallisto explained to the group that the iron hard chitin and razor sharp scythes of the ravagers who were a king’s ransom and that, since they always travelled in packs, it was entirely likely that there were some more of the arachnoid beasts lurking in the dunes surrounding the city of Arrakis, he explained that he would pay them handsomely for the creature’s body parts and introduced a guide to the desert that he had procured for them, a mantis-man who introduced himself as Tk’Tak through clicking mandibles. As the group walked through the city streets (having accepted Kallisto’s offer and some money up front as a goodwill gesture) their new guide mused that there must be a reason that the Ravagers were attacking the city; these thoughts were interrupted by a ragged beggar man from the side of the streets shouting that the gods had returned to Athas and that he had seen them with his own eyes, Hurgen shook her head sadly whilst the Bloodtide sneered, everyone knew that the gods had long forsaken Athas, the man was obvious made from the heat. Athrialix and Tk’Tak had both seen strange things in their time though and spoke to the man, who told them how he had been lost in the desert and had seen a huge obsidian hand bursting forth from the sands amidst ancient ruins.
Visiting Sung-Ki, a local trader the group purchased a bull-mekillot to carry their provisions and equipment before making their way into the desert, Hurgen checked their rations whilst Tk’Tak plotted the route and the Bloodtide ranged ahead as a scout; they had been travelling for some days when the Bloodtide spied a tell-tale whirling of sand and wind approaching and shouted back “Sandstorm! Dig yourselves in!”
Tk’Tak concetrated and shed his own form turning into a silt serpent and effortlessly burrowing into the sand whilst the others covered themselves as best they were able; emerging several minutes later it seemed that they had wandered far off course to the south, Athrialix peered curiously at several strange, spikey cactus like growths that dotted the landscape around them, but his investigations were cut short when mummifed hands burst from the sand and ragged, sun dried corpses lurched into a horrifying semblance of life, their hands grasping for the living. Diving backwards Athrialix threw out his hand and a bolt of arcane force smashed into one of the creatures, whilst the Bloodtide and Hurgen drew their weapons, wading into the creatures, smashing them to pieces.
Once the adrenalin of the combat had been spent the party had chance to inspect the (now truly) dead bodies, one of them was dressed in the uniform of a King’s Templar from Arrakis, the uniform was tattered but unmistakable, tucked into the pocket of the uniform was a rough map showing the location of some ruins nearby, there was also a large X on the map with ‘the hand’ written under it in arcane runes. The talk of the hand reminded Hurgen of an ancient myth concerning the father and mother of giants who all other giants are descended from, creatures so big that they blotted out the sun.
Deciding to visit the site on the map the group made camp as it started getting dark, whilst on his watch Tk’Tak heard noise from over a couple of dunes and, sneaking forwards, spotted the signs of some sort of archaeological dig being conducted under the watchful eye of a Kings Templar, they seemed to be excavating the fingertips of a giant hand protruding from the sands, they were so dark in colour that all light seemed to be absorbed by them and they stood out even amidst the darkness of the night. Returning to camp Tk’Tak woke the Bloodtide and told him what he had seen, Athrialix had also woken up, complaining of a bad dream, any further explanation was cut off by an ear-piercing scream from the direction of the dig.

Dark sun Dungeon World – Campaign Map

Here is a hexographer created version of the campaign map that we came up with, as befitting the Dungeon World campaign creation guidelines the map is fairly loose with a lot of blank space left still to explore.

Creating a Dark Sun(esque) Campaign for Dungeon World

My regular group and I had decided some time ago that we wanted to do some D&D style fantasy but not set in the usual pseudo-medieval environment common in so many RPGs, a number of ideas were bandied about before we eventually agreed on running something set in the Dark Sun world; after that we talked about what rules system to use and chose Dungeon World since we had really enjoyed the previous test game that we had run using the system and the players seemed to quite enjoy the fact that Dungeon World positively encourages player evolvement with the creation of the setting. Having asked on the Dungeon World Google+ community for some advice regarding running a Dark Sun game, the response overwhelming seemed to be not to let our game be limited by the published material; I thought this was good advice and so made it clear to the players from the start that, although we were using the overarching themes of the Dark Sun setting (a savage desert world ravaged by defiling magic), if there were a conflict between our ideas and the published setting, we would be using our ideas.
We had a general chat about the idea of a desert world and of course the Dune Saga was mentioned, rather than try and fight against this, since the players have mentioned it then it must interest them to some degree so I chose Arrakis for the name of our city-state, plonked unceremoniously in the middle of our (then) blank map. I labelled the rest of the blank area desert and, as another nod to the Dune Saga, I draw a rough worm-like creature in the middle of the desert area and labelled it ‘Wyrm-sign’, I haven’t decided what (if anything) it means yet but we can fill that in later.
For the game we are using the Dark Sun Dungeon World playbooks from here: http://www.geneome.com/2013/06/05/dark-sun-canon-and-dungeon-world-characters/
Unfortunately one of our players couldn’t make this session but I gave the players the choice of whatever character playbook they fancied, after some debate we ended up with a human Gladiator (Korvin, an escaped slave known in the arena as ‘the Bloodtide’), Hurgen a half giant fighter who had escaped enslavement in the irrigation/waterworks beneath the city-state of Arrakis and Athrialix a human wizard who was studying philosophy at a large academy in the Arrakis. After the players had created their characters and made their choice of initial moves (character powers) we moved onto them filling in their bonds; essentially in Dungeon World each playbook has a paragraph on it containing blank spaces where you fill in the names of other characters to detail your connection to them.
For example, the bonds paragraph for the wizard (on the Dark Sun playbook) says:
______________will play an important role in the events 
to come. I have foreseen it! 
______________is keeping an important secret from me. 
______________is woefully misinformed about the 
world; I will teach them all that I can. 
______________has seen me use defiling magic. 
Following the character/world/first session generation guidelines detailed in the Dungeon World corebook, after the players had created their characters and we’d talked through them a bit I had them introduce their characters to the other players and we did a brief Q&A with myself and the players taking turn to ask each other questions related to the characters; this lead to some very interesting facets of the characters and the gameworld being discussed and defined (although, following advice from the DW book and the other people on the DW G+ community I was careful to leave plenty of blank space for later expansion).
Some of the interesting things we discovered were:
* Giants, although once common, are now widely believed to be extinct, having been hunted as part of the sorcer kings pogrom against non-human races; however, recognising that the giant’s stength, if harness properly, could be useful, a female giant was captured and from her the race of half-giants were created. Half-giants now breed true, with the occasional throwback being possessed of size more similar to their forebears; most half-giants are used as slave labour and work in the ancient pipe and waterworks below the city of Arrakis.
(I put a skull on the map, possibly to represent the site of a giant graveyard or their last stand)
* There is a threat of war between the City States of Arrakis and their neighbour Pharn; Arrakis’ sorceror king is largely scholarly and spends his time researching arcane and esoteric lore, content to let his Templars rule the city, whereas Pharn has a much more oppressive and military feel to it.
* Arrakis has a high proportion of scholars, learned individuals travel to the city in order to benefit from education at the Academy, a school of philosophy and learning within the city; following further discussion of this it was decided that Arrakis had a distinctly classical look to it’s architecture (columns, etc).
(This came about from discussion with the player of Athrialix the wizard, whose Uncle, a reknowned merchant is financing his education at the academy – mainly as a way of showing how cultured he is, rather than for Athrialix’ benefit)
* An area of wild magic known as the Spellscar seperates the city and is perhaps a remnant of an ancient battle, forked lighting crackles over the landscape of the Spellscar, randomly striking the sand and turning it into strange crystalline glass structures that dot the landscape in this area.
* Much of our map is occupied by a petrified forest, we have not defined any further details about this yet.
Following the first session I have started to nail down a few more details about the steadings in the setting, Arrakis is a large cosmopolitan city but the number of people in it has started to outstrip their resources, this could cause problems in the future; nearby is the fortress of Blackrock where the Order of the Kings Templar are trained and where a large amount of the martial resources that police Arrakis originate and to the east is the Town of Shades, a sprawling outlaw settlement on the outskirts of the petrified forest reknowned for being the home of an infamous slaver (to be detailed later) whose men raid desert tribes and provide slaves to the larger city states.
I’ve also (loosely) defined a campaign front and an adventure front as defined in the book; the first session involved Athrialix being obliged to accompany his Uncle Alexandros to the gladiatorial games (despite his lack of interest in them) in order to stay on the old man’s good side, meanwhile Korvin and Hurgen were travelling there to meet with Alexandros since Hurgen wished to acquire some more healing fruits and Bloodtide had said that he knew a trader who could get them what she needed. Their meeting and negotiations were interrupted by an alarm horn being blown from the city walls, and a number of arachnid style creatures known as Rampagers swarmed the city walls, six of them making it inside and attacking people with their razor sharp claws; our heroes were able to fight off a couple of these creatures despite the panicked crowds, Bloodtide even saving a young mother and her child, Hurgen was badly injured during the fight and Athrialix was forced to reveal his magics (although only to those present). As the chaos started to clear, Alexandros invited them all to his supply house to recover.
Please note: The rampagers occurred entirely as a suggestion from a player and we couldn’t really remember what they were like in the official Dark Sun campaign so we re-skinned them (to something more akin to the Acklay from Star Wars), something which was very easy given DW’s great monster creation guidelines.
I very much enjoyed the first session and it seemed to go well for the players, as a taster of what is to come I think it worked very well and, having drawn up the Rampager attack into an adventure front, I am confident in running the next session.

Dyvers Great Blog Roll Call 2014 and moving towards a more video orientated format

I’ve recently been reading through Dyvers 2014 Great Blog Roll Call and was very pleasantly surprised to see this blog mentioned in the list, i’ve quoted the entry below for convenience:

An enjoyable blog that has recently begun to focus more on an AV aspect of blogging than on a written one. An interesting blog all the same.

I especially found it interesting the mention of an increased focus on the AV aspect of blogging rather than the written one; this was something that seems to have crept up on me gradually (and without me really thinking about it) as the games that I was writing about originally wrapped up and I started playing more online games. Since the online games were normally recorded anyway it seemed logical to make videos about them rather than write a lot of stuff about them (session reports aside); i’ve always been a believer that you can take something positive out of almost any feedback so I looked back over the blog and, having been made aware of it, I think that the author of the Roll Call was correct, all of my blog entries recently had been links to videos or session reports.
This was something that i’d not really considered up until it was mentioned, however, now that I am aware of it I plan to do something about it; my Youtube channel (which I enjoy very much and will be continuing to support) receives at least one video uploaded per week (assuming no accidents or real-life emergencies), normally on a Wednesday, going forward it is my intent to do the same for my written blog, designating Wednesday evenings firmly as blog & video evenings. Of course i’ll still be linking to videos in the blog but I wouldn’t want to abandon the written aspect of blogging since I find it gives me a different sort of enjoyment to creating videos and is also something I can do whilst sat downstairs whereas videos have to be set up to have minimal background noise, lighting, etc.

Also I have a new game starting this weekend, a Dungeon World game set in the Dark Sun campaign setting (or at least something based loosely on it, since a large part of Dungeon World’s enjoyment comes from finding out about the setting as you play) so expect some blog entries about that shortly 🙂

Many thanks to Charles Atkins author of the Dyvers 2014 Great Blog Roll Call for his kind words about the blog and for bringing to light something that had escaped my notice, I hope to use the feedback to see my blog (and Youtube channel) go from strength to strength.