Friday, November 27, 2009

A Fist Full of Dice

I have a soft spot for Weapon vs AC tables. They are a remnant of the Chainmail rules and represent another level of tactical choice within combat. The problem with them has always been complexity — they just are too ungainly to use. Recently, I was looking at the Chainmail rules and had a bit of an "Aha" moment. The reason the Weapon vs AC tables work in Chainmail, is that the to hit number remains static. It doesn't matter who is wielding the weapon — that particular weapon will always need the same number on the die to hit that particular AC.

This is why Weapon vs AC tables have never transfered well into the alternate combat system in the LBBs, which went on to become the standard in later editions — the to hit number is determined by character class and level, not the weapon used. Thus, Weapon vs AC tables have since then consisted of a bunch of unwieldy to hit modifiers.

The secret, then, to using a Weapon vs AC table is to tweak the system so that weapons determine the to hit number, not character class and level. This can rather easily be done if, as in Ruins & Ronin (and 3rd ed), characters are given attack bonuses based on character class and level. Thus, on an attack roll a player totals the attack bonuses and penalties to the to hit roll and compares it to the target number provided by a Weapon vs AC table.

There is another option, however, and it is provided by the LBBs. When using the Chainmail combat system, characters would progress according to troop type as they gained levels. For example, a 4th level fighting man fought as a Hero. This progression resulted in more opportunities to hit, not in an easier number to hit. Thus, one way to utilize a Weapon vs AC table would be to translate the old LBB Chainmail combat classifications into number of d20s to roll per round. Despite the greater number of opportunities to hit, this system results in about the same number of hits, because the target numbers remain the same — I've run a number of simulations. If anything, at higher levels combat moves a tad bit faster and allows fighters to be a bit more powerful.

Besides the added tactical wrinkle, there is one big advantage to this rules tweek. The higher level a character gets, the more dice you get to throw. Personally, I have always enjoyed the tactile wonder of a fist full of dice and seeing them roll across the table.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Just a quick thanks to everyone out there who's taken the time to read my ramblings, to those who've bothered to leave a comment, and to every one who's ever been involved in our hobby. My life has been enriched by all of you. I'd also like to share a quote from Alexander Schmemann, a great theological mind from the 20th century:

Thanksgiving is truly the first and essential act of man, the act by which he fulfills himself as man. The one who gives thanks is no longer a slave; there is no fear, no anxiety, no envy in adoration. Rendering thanks to God, one becomes free again, free in relation to God, free in relation to the world.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

World Building Part 4

My project continues...


There is one centrally important reality about humanity in Scripture — God made humanity in His image and likeness (Gen 1:26-7). As such, humanity has a special role within creation — we are God's representatives to creation and we represent creation to God. This is why when Adam and Eve fell, they took the rest of creation with them.

Thus the Lord God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than all the wild animals of the earth. On your breast and belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He shall bruise your head, and you shall be on guard for His heel.

This special role within creation still exists despite the fall. God has set up humanity in an adversarial role against the Adversary himself. He has given us the power to lift creation up to God — away from nothing and into life. As the personification of that nothing, the devil and his minions will try to lead us to pull creation back towards nothing. Since we have been endowed with the image and likeness of God, who is ultimately free, we have the freedom to choose which path we will follow.

When creating a fantasy RPG where their are a plethora of fantasy races from elves and dwarves to goblins and lizardmen, there arises a conundrum: what, exactly, is "humanity?" Or, more precisely, who is endowed with the image and likeness of God?

This can be handled in a number of different ways:

  1. All fantasy races are not human and play, to one degree or another, an adversarial role towards humanity. In terms of an RPG, this works better in a Sword & Sorcery-type world where players are going to have exclusively human characters.
  2. All fantasy races are human. The various differences in races have come about because of some expression of magic. In a world where sin can manifest itself physically, an orc represents humanity consumed by hate and violence. Half-breeds are easily explained in this manner. Worlds using this model allow players to have characters from a wide variety of fantasy races.
  3. All fantasy races represent the children born of the Nephilim and human women. This choice falls somewhere in between option 1 and option 2. In this setup, fantasy races all have a dark beginning and are more apt to side with their demonic origins than a normal human. As such, players would be free to play the exceptions — those that embrace their human origins as opposed to their demonic one. To a greater or lesser degree, these races would face distrust and prejudice from their human neighbors.

Each one of these choices has consequences in terms of moral dilemmas that will face players. Option 1 allows more freedom for players to slash their way through a bunch of orcs with little or no qualms — they are physical expressions of evil that need to be eradicated. Option 2 muddies the water quite a bit. Killing an orc is the equivalent of murdering a human being. Option 3 similarly muddies the water; however, this can be tempered by how one sees the choice of following the demonic or human path for fantasy races. If this choice is ongoing, than killing an orc is murder. If following the demonic path represents a choice where there is no going back, killing the orc is closer to option 1.

As you can see, there is quite a bit of flexibility in how to represent humanity in a fantasy setting — none of which requires a polytheistic world view.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

World Building Part 3

My project to produce a template from which to create a fantasy RPG world based on Scripture and Christianity continues:

The Fall

So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. — Revelations 12:9

The word Devil (diabolos in Greek) means 'the slanderer' or more literally 'the one who divides.' The word Satan means 'the adversary.' These are equated with the serpent from the Garden of Eden, who is (for the purposes of a fantasy RPG setting) is wonderfully called the great dragon. In Luke 10:18 Christ tells us that, "I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven." In Isaiah 14:12, Satan is called the Day Star ("Lucifer" in Latin) which proceeds the rising of the sun. This takes on significance when put in context of Christ's title the Sun of Righteousness.

Given all of these images, the Devil was a being of high importance (usually understood as an archangel). He rebels against God by reaching for godhood:
'I will ascend into heaven; I will place my throne above the stars of heaven. I will sit on a lofty mountain, on the lofty mountain to the north. I will ascend above the clouds; I will be like the Most High.' — Isaiah 14: 13-14

In this rebellion he takes with him a group of angels. In doing so, he aligns himself with the nothingness from which creation comes. He becomes the personification of nothing. His actions try to pull creation away from God and back to the nothing from whence it came.

Then the serpent said to the woman, "You shall not die by death. For God knows in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil." Genesis 3:4-5

As the serpent, Satan deceives Adam and Eve and gets them to follow in his sin of reaching for Godhood. When Eve gets her husband to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, she and Adam sought knowledge. Specifically, they wanted the knowledge of evil — a world without God.

Thus, when creating a fantasy world, there needs to be an Adversary — a personification of Chaos bent on pulling the world away from God. Given the number of names associated with this being in Scripture, we are free name him according to the context of our world (translate "adversary" or "slanderer" into some version of elvish, for example). For purposes of world bulding, it is important to know that the name Adam means humanity. This story invites us to use it metaphorically. A fanstasy world does not need an Adam and an Eve per se; however it does need humanity to seek a world without God — the knowledge of evil. This pursuit is the result of a deception by the Adversary. To add flavor, one can use the metaphor suggested in Gensis 3:3. Eve tries to defend God by adding to the command of God to not eat of the tree of Knowledge of good and evil. She says to touch it is to die. Thus, the Adversary can use the good intentions of humanity to lead them to their fall — in trying to defend God, they come to know a world without God.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

World Building Part 2

I continue with my project to produce a template from which to create a fantasy RPG world based on Scripture and Christianity.


In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was unseen and without form and darkness was over the abyss; and the Spirit of God rushed upon the waters. — Genesis 1:1-2

The word used in the Greek to translate the word "created" (a word exclusively used for God) is episen — the root for the English words "poet" and "poetry." In other words, God the Poet created the world using His Word. As such, we are invited to interact with Scripture as one might interact with a poem — study the language, how it is used and play with the images of Scripture and its metaphors.

Law vs. Chaos

In this light, there are two interesting linguistic flavors found in Genesis 1:1-2 that not only are often lost in translation, but invite us to see the act of creation as a struggle against Chaos.

In the Hebrew, it is possible to translate the first line of Genesis as "When God created..." Thus, the second verse becomes more confrontational. Darkness, invisibility, void, the abyss, the deep (all words used in various translations of Gen 1:2) call to mind a roiling Chaos that is fighting against God as He begins to create. This image is reinforced by the Greek word used to describe the action of the Spirit — epephereto. Usually translated as "moving over" or "hovering," it has a hostile, confrontational connotation. It comes from the verb "to rush upon."

As reflected in later Jewish thought and ultimately Christian dogma, 2Mac 7:28 states, "Look at heaven and earth and see everything in them, and know that God made them out of nothing." Since creation, by its very nature, comes out of nothing, by nature it is doomed to return to nothing. Thus, the picture painted in Gen 1:1-2 can be understood in terms of the Law vs. Chaos dynamic in D&D. God wills creation to be according to His Word. The roiling Chaos that the Spirit moves against is the force that is struggling against God's will — it is trying to return creation to the nothing from whence it came. Thus, the three alignment system of D&D becomes a simple Us vs. Them schematic similar to that found in war games. The forces of Law side with God's will for creation to exist. The forces of Chaos strive to return creation to the nothing. Neutrals are willing to side with either Law or Chaos as it suits them (which calls into question the validity of having a Neutral alignment — one is either for or against God — but that is a topic for another day).

Keep in mind, Scripture has two different accounts of creation. This reality invites us to use different metaphors to describe the same truths. So, when imagining a creation story for a fantasy world, we are free to attach any kind of imagery to the creation story we want as long as the following are true:
  • The One God creates from nothing.
  • Sans God, creation returns to the nothing from whence it came.

Monday, November 16, 2009

World Building Part 1

In response to my meditations on Psalm 8, Rob Conley of Bat in the Attic had this to say:

As for the pagan aspect of my cosmology. I choose a more allegorical approach because I never been comfortable in portraying a fictional Christianity in any other than a version of our world.

Probably because I am history buff I am very much aware of the fact that part of the impact of Jesus Christ is that he was born in history, acted in historical times, and was witnessed as part of history. He wasn't some mystical figure out of some golden age like so many religions had at the time.

This got me thinking. I make no bones about being a Christian nor about my belief that despite an early nod to the Christian roots of Medieval Europe with the inclusion of the pseudo-Christian Cleric class, D&D took a sharp turn towards a polytheistic and pagan world-view that it not only hasn't been able to shake, but has been ingrained within the mechanics of the game itself. Thus, there is an inherent conflict between my faith and my favorite hobby. When confronted with the possibility of playing D&D with a Christian world-view, including Christ and all that He stands for, most of us who play D&D have balked at the idea — even those of us who are Christian.

Rob made me aware of how uncomfortable we all can be with taking the historical reality of Christ and all that He has done for humanity and seemingly reduce it to fantasy. Making a fantasy version of Zeus, Set, or any other number of pagan gods is much easier, because they float around in that pseudo-imaginary space called myth. To a certain degree, they are outside of history.

This fear and discomfort, I believe, is misplaced. God chose to reveal Himself through literature — through the writing of men and women who produced both the Old and the New Testaments. As such, He invites a creative and imaginative interaction.

So, it is quite possible that the real reason for our hesitation to play D&D from a Christian point of view is that no one has gone to the trouble of doing that creative leg work to make a template from which we can create fantasy worlds founded in Scripture.

As such, I am going to try and do just that. I will take a basic concept necessary for world building, examine what Scripture has to say about it and then strip it down to a skeletal form. Hopefully, what will emerge is a template that we who love to build fantasy worlds can use to create worlds based on Scripture and a Christian world-view. My first installment:

The Name of God

And the Lord said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" — Exodus 3:15

When God reveals Himself to Moses in the burning bush and Moses asks God His name, God responds, "I AM." Note that this name is a sentence begging for a predicate — I AM . . . what? Scripture is then replete with names, attributes and titles that can all be plugged into God's name: the Most High God, King, Lord, Truth, Life, Longsuffering, Almighty, etc. We are invited to interact with God's name in exactly this manner.

Thus, when C.S. Lewis chose to portray his fantasy version of Christ as a lion named Aslan, he did so on very sound scriptural grounds. In a world of talking animals, it makes perfect sense to have Christ as a lion — the King. As long as the titles and attributes of God remain, the name of God given in Scripture actually invites us to create a name for him within the context of our fantasy worlds.

As a starting point, I offer several examples of the names, attributes and titles given to God roughly translated into other languages:

  • Mindenhato
  • Hollallrog
  • Trindod
  • Bendigaid
  • Heilig
  • Osios
  • Makarios
  • Szo
  • Golau
  • Vilagos
  • Bolesesseg
  • Santaidd
  • Ios
  • Mab

This is fertile ground that offers a huge variety of names that we can give God appropriate to Him within the context of a fantasy world of our own making.

Lost Colonies Session 7

This was one of those weeks where life intruded on just about everybody. As a result there were only three of us. This is when the strict use of time actually becomes extremely useful. During the campaign, I've insisted that the party be back in Headwaters at the end of every session and that for every two days that go by in real time, one day goes by in game time (giving us a week in game time between sessions). This house rule payed off this weekend, because it allowed the three of us to play with little effort. We merely came up with legitimate reasons why the other party members could not adventure and went about enjoying the rest of the evening.

Thus, Hamlin and Dn. Swibish decided to continue following up on the trade route rumors by attaching themselves to a caravan going to the city. They hoped to attract any raiders disturbing the trade and then follow them back into their lair. After some negotiations, they were set to begin their journey four days hence. They took advantage of the hiatus to go hunting in the Giant Insect Jungle. Due to judicious use of flaming oil and a dearth of good rolls on my part (nothing above an 8, including several 1s) our two stalwart adventurers managed to kill off an ankheg and loot its lair. They came away with a pile of semi-melted copper and silver which served as a nest for several intact eggs. They used the booty to order another set of chitin armor, several potions from the alchemist in trade for the eggs and managed to convince a local smith to smelt the huge hunk of silver and copper into coins.

Alidor informed the party that he had found a way to replace Grak's amputated forearm. He would require three things: a hunk of metal (the harder and more valuable the better), a smith who could forge the metal to his rigorous specifications and the bottle of silver liquid the party lost when they decided to take on the dragon. It was decided that silver from the ankheg lair would be used for this project, but the rest would have to wait until more members of the party were available.

Once the caravan headed out, the party set a trap for any raiders every night. They lit a fire and then set up a cold camp some 50 yards away in a blind. Thus, when the attack did come, they were able to ambush the raiders and take down what they assumed to be their leader very quickly with concentrated attacks. The rest failed their morale and ran. The "leader" turned out to be a 7' tall ape-like creature with claws and fangs.

The party then tracked the raiders back to an ancient Ziggurat covered in vegetation. They then proceeded to make raids themselves. I find it very interesting that this party has done very well at taking advantage of tactical situations and mechanics. They concentrate their attacks so as to take down larger opponents quickly, they use charges whenever possible and liberally shatter shields to avoid damage. To be honest, the reason for this is primarily because they've learned that if they don't, I will — they know how deadly an encounter can become if they get tactically lazy.

Although they did successfully defeat quite a few foes, including several humanoids and another ape, they did not explore all of the ziggurat and ran into a very large four-armed ape-like creature which was too much for the small party to handle. Our session time ran out and everybody headed back toward Headwater, including the merchant (who has turned out to be quite the coward).

During their travels, the party noticed a buildup of orcs at the ruined monastery. I'll be interested to see what the party chooses to do next session. Some of my vague background plots are beginning to move and I'm interested to see if the party picks any of them up.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, "My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust." For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence; he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, or the arrow that flies by day, or the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot. Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name. When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them. With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation. Amen.

— Psalm 90(91)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Things that Make Me Go Hmmm...

Over at Grognardia, James meditated on his mild discomfort with what he called "double-dipping" characteristics — those that have both a game mechanic and give XP bonuses (such as Dex for Thieves). In response, Matthew Slepin of Wheel of Samsara wrote this:

If you don't like the idea of XP benefits for high stats (and I do not like that at all; nor requirements for certain classes) then I think you're left with two rational decisions. Either make all the stats mean something or dump them.

This got me thinking: what if all the characteristics were dispensed of? All mechanical bonuses associated with characteristics could then be tied to classes. This got my creative juices flowing and I came up with the following:

  • Archer: This class is good with ranged weapons. They receive a +1 to hit with all ranged attacks.
  • Berserker: This class is good at delivering devastating blows in HTH. They receive a +1 to all damage rolls in HTH.
  • Sergeant: This class represents natural born leaders. Other classes may have a maximum of 3 hirelings. Sergeants may have up to 6. These hirelings have a +1 to their morale. Sergeants may also forfeit an action to provide a floating +1 bonus to a fellow party member for that round (to hit HTH, to hit ranged, damage or AC).
  • Shield Maiden/Tank: This class is good with armor, shields and defense. They receive a -1 bonus to their AC.
  • Weapon Master: This class is good with HTH weapons. They receive a +1 to hit with all HTH attacks.
  • Clerics, Elves and Magic Users do not receive any bonuses beyond their spell casting abilities.
  • Dwarves get a +1 HP for every HD.
  • Halflings get a +1 to all saving throws.

Now, personally, I like a little randomness in my character generation. This can be accomplished in any combination of the following:

  1. Roll a d10 to determine which class the character is.
  2. Roll a d6. On a 1-3 the class bonus remains at 1. On a 4-5 the bonus is 2. On a 6 the bonus is 3.
  3. In addition to the class bonus, roll on the following table:
1-2: +1 to hit with ranged attacks
3-4: +1 damage with HTH
5-6: -1 AC
7-8: +1 to hit with HTH
9-10: +1 HP per HD
11-12: +1 to all saving throws
13: -1 to hit with ranged attacks
14: -1 damage with HTH
15: +1 AC
16: -1 to hit with HTH
17: -1 HP per HD
18: -1 to all saving throws
19-20: Roll twice ignoring 19-20.

Archers, Berserkers, Sergeants, Shield Maidens/Tanks and Weapon Masters function as fighters. The other classes all function as otherwise written.

D&D without characteristics — makes me go hmmm...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

On Alignments and Psalm 8

Psalm 8

O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.

Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?

Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.

You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

I've been meditating upon this, the first Psalm of praise within the Psaltery. It asks an important question: who is man that God should give us the role of royal regent within His creation? That God made all of humanity in His image and likeness — His representation within creation — and His priests — His representatives within creation — is an awesome reality. When doing a little research I ran across this little piece of analysis by James Luther Mays:

Human dominion extends over domestic and wild animals, birds and fish. The list is meant to include all living creatures. This designation of the sphere of human dominion reflects the struggles of early humans to domesticate and control, to live with and by the use of the wilderness of the world. It represents the entire human undertaking to do what the other animals cannot and do not do, order and shape what is already there into habitat. Animals are dependent on a habitat; humans depend on their capacity to craft one. The power and responsibility that belong to that capacity are interpreted by the psalm as a regency given to humankind in the world. The psalm invites us to see all the civilizing work of the human species as honor and glory conferred on it by God and, therefore, as cause and content for praise of God.

What struck was the last line: The psalm invites us to see all the civilizing work of the human species as honor and glory conferred on it by God and, therefore, as cause and content for praise of God. This puts an interesting spin on alignment. It reinforces the notion that within the three alignment (Law/Neutral/Chaos) system, Law equals civilization and Chaos equals the wilderness. But more than that, civilization is defined as the human activity that specifically gives rise to the praise of the One God.

This reinforces my own adherence to the three alignment system and further clarifies my own discomfort with the nine alignment system introduced in 1e. The pseudo-Christian Cleric of OD&D actually makes sense within context of Law/Neutral/Chaos. There is enough flexibility within three alignment system to accommodate a wide variety of world-views, especially a scriptural one. Once D&D moves away from this flexibility into the specific world-views of the nine alignment system, that freedom is severely hampered. The pseudo-Christian Cleric no longer fits as well and the system begins to demand a pagan/polytheistic world-view. This demand found its full expression in 2ed and thereafter, which marks the beginning of my own alienation from the game.

Once again, I find the freedom found in OD&D and her clones allows me to play the game we love in a way that I can live up to the call of Psalm 8.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

City States

Although I started playing D&D in the late 70s and have gone through several modules set in Greyhawk, I have never taken part in a campaign which took place within that iconic setting. For whatever reason, the vast majority of the people I have played with over the years have always used home brew settings and do-it-yourself dungeons. I have had a passing interest in Greyhawk, due to its place in the history of our hobby, but never felt comfortable with it.

This week I cracked open a book that explores the economic and political history of towns and cities in Germany during the Middle Ages. What struck me was that as a political entity, these towns and cities became independent city-states due to several factors. Trade allowed the Burghers to become wealthy. In order to ensure stability and continued trade, these Burghers allied with each other to create councils which became the political force behind these city states. They invested in armies, in defenses and in superior technology (canons, guns, etc.). The remarkable part of this story is who they were protecting themselves against: the nobility. There is a story of one city state who was besieged by several princes who banded together to take it over. They failed. The technology and the professionalism of the city state troops proved to be too much. In addition, city states endeavored to acquire territory — a defensive buffer zone between them and the nobility.

For me, this sheds a new light upon the city state as a D&D setting, of which Greyhawk is the archetype. The city is governed by a council of various families and guilds with a variety of interests. Some of them conflict, but all are united in the desire to protect the city (and thus their own interests). In addition, the city invests in "technology" — it houses a school of magic, is tolerant of magical research, and gives wizards a seat on the council. In turn, this collection of magic-users can be called upon in times of trouble. As a result, there will also be a heavy concentration of magical items within the walls of the city.

There is a very competent city militia; however, there will also be a requisite number of adventurers hired on by various members of the council to take on tasks that ensure the survival of the city. One of these tasks is the acquisition of territory — clearing areas of monsters and the building of strongholds in order to maintain this territory.

These efforts will be in opposition to various "princes," whether they are orc tribes, the armies of mad kings, demon led hordes of barbarians, evil monks, or your run-of-the-mill power hungry nobility.

Although this framework does not lend itself as easily to a sandbox kind of game as does the proverbial keep in the borderlands, it does allow for a more political and patron driven campaign.

Having never had the whole Greyhawk experience, I am curious as to how closely this model fits with what was actually played. I know that if I ever were to go about making my own version of Greyhawk, this is the direction I would go. I am, however, more inclined to just apply this model to a campaign entirely of my own design.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lost Colonies Session 6

This was a fascinating session on several levels. The players decided to explore a rumor about missing trade caravans that they hadn't looked into yet, and then got sidetracked by a random encounter. The entire session revolved around finding a lair and rooting it out in order to find treasure. This reveals two things: the players have figured out that treasure is the surest way to gain experience and that I had better have a few lairs up my sleeves, because this party is going to be interested in finding them.

The creatures that the party encountered were "cleaning crew" monsters — predators that were capable of killing a fresh meal, but who primarily feed on a trash. Thus, their lair was much more likely to be associated with creatures who produced trash. The players were in the vicinity of the Giant Insect Jungle, as it has come to be called, and the only real trash producers would be a tribe of chaotic humans that graft giant insect parts to their bodies. Thus the lair the party found was a series of caves occupied by this tribe.

Then something interesting happened. The party talked. They've figured out that combat is deadly and that not every situation needs to be beaten over the head with a spiked club. The party sought a safe place to camp and some healing for one of the party members who seemed to be getting ill from his wounds from the trash eaters. The negotiation did not go well; however, through a series of bold moves by the party and several bad morale checks, the party bullied its way through the underground lair. With minimal combat, they managed to walk off with much of the tribe's treasure.

Amid this wonderful bluff by the party, two things of note happened. A young teenaged boy named Grak was rescued from having his first graft replace a hand. Through a combination of kind acts of healing and bravado, the boy was convinced to help the party. He first showed them the tribe's altar where various body parts to be replaced with giant insect grafts were sacrificed in a pool of acid to an image of a Cthuloid monstrosity. In an act of unexpected religious fervor, the party sought to purify the area.

As an aside, I make clerics roll for their bonus spells. They keep receiving that spell as their bonus until it is used. This forces clerics to be creative and it also allows them the opportunity to use some of their utility spells that would otherwise be ignored in favor of Cure Light Wounds. As a result, the new cleric of the party, Deacon Swibish from Redwraith, had Purify Food and Water which he cast upon the pool. Then Tykris the Fighter threw his holy symbol into the pool. The result was rather dramatic. Instead of watching the symbol dissolve in acid, a great crack formed in the pool and through the carving, draining all the contents of the pool and leaving the holy symbol untouched. This awed Grak, who wanted to become a follower of the party's God. They happily took Grak back to Headwater and gave him into the care of Fr. Valinor, the local priest. They are also interested in finding a way in which to help heal or replace the hand Grak lost in preparation for the graft he was to get before he was rescued.

Due to life, a couple of players in the campaign have become itinerant members of the party. They come occasionally when life allows. This session saw life allow both of them to play. At the end of the evening, knowing that they wouldn't be back for a number of sessions, they each wanted to find something for their characters to do until the next time they were able to play. Akmed the Dwarf ended up traveling north to a dwarven colony to learn how to work with bronze. Tykris ended up wanting to spend time with Fr. Valinor at the church, learning in what capacities he could help. The expectation from both players is that this time of training, as it were, will result in some kind of skill or game-play reward. I am inclined to give it to them, because they are invested enough in their characters to think of it, and because it will give them an incentive to come back to the campaign when they are able.