Gherkin's Greyhawk


Right, I decided that rather than hogging Zip's thread with my Journal updates forever more, I should start a new thread.

Here I will periodically post links to the latest updates of my campaign journals, for anyone who is interested.

Once more, here are the entry points for the three journals I have so far:

Quest for the Hanging Glacier:
A completed adventure, though the storyline is to be continued. Mid-level characters in an arctic setting.

Caves of Chaos:
Ongoing adventure, low level characters in a fairly traditional dungeon crawl. A work in progress.

New adventure just started, mid-level characters are sent on a spying mission to an enemy stronghold. Coastal setting.

Future updates will be posted here. Comments are welcome but if anybody happens to 'take issue' with anything I will start a seperate discussion forum to debate the issue in question.


Update posted:

In case you hadn't guessed, this journal is written from a player rather than referee perspective. And Sunaeco is, of course, my character.

Naturally, any views or opinions expressed by Sunaeco are not necessarily my own!

Update: The 'Pussyfooting' adventure got put on hold, just as it was about to get going in earnest too. Sadly, and irritatingly, the referee flaked out on us - we took a break for Christmas and then we couldn't entice him back to the table afterwards (another formerly excellent roleplayer becomes a drone in the Blizzard collective - we are meeting at his house, and he just sits upstairs at his PC raiding, unable or unwilling to tear himself away - which is what he does most evenings now so far as I can gather).

I will be taking the reins and continuing the Pusyfooting storyline on his behalf at some point. But for the moment I have a storyline of my own to see to its conclusion. A link to 'The Rescuers' journal will be posted shortly.

The Rescuers

Something of a change of pace from 'Pussyfooting' - this adventure kicks off with a huge slaughter-fest!

First, I think I'd love playing in your campaign...all that effort going into it!

Second, while I haven't WoW-ed (yet), I'd ever abandon friends downstairs while playing on my PC... that's just antisocial.

The Rescuers - Next Installment

Trying to catch up on my campaign journals again!

If you missed the first two parts or want a recap scroll up to the top of the thread.

More Rescuers

In which we learn a little about certain people's motivations

Rescuers Continues

Hey - are people reading these? Shall I keep posting the links up here?

Rescuers (next bit)

Well, I'm going to press on regardless...

Again, Rescuers

Phew. One day soon I'll catch up to where the party is at....

:) How far ahead of your thread are they?

About 6 sessions / episodes. We're on a temporary suspension, though, due to various RL factors. Play will re-commence in two weeks time, by which time I hope to have caught up the journal.

A few points I thought I'd mention, peering 'under the bonnet' as it were:

  • It might be tempting, at first glance, to perceive this as a fairly linear adventure that the players were railroaded into by yours truly, as it has all the hallmarks. However, the situation the party ended up in actually arose out of a combination of dynamic circumstances within the campaign, including some specific player character actions (some of which I haven't mentioned in the journal as it would be giving the game away to my players - they'll find out eventually, maybe). I didn't engineer the situation. The initial rescue mission itself wasn't something I forced on them either - it was entirely their own idea. This adventure virtually wrote itself, up to a point.
  • .

  • The death of Drualda was entirely unplanned and was a bolt from the blue. Some very lucky die rolls on the part of the player were her downfall. She was a longtime party opponent, so it was hugely satisfying for them! My smarter, resourceful NPCs always have an escape plan, but she didn't get a chance to execute hers...
  • .

  • It was also not planned from the outset for Xipil to fall into the party's hands. However, when I realised that this was a possibility, and realised that this would lead to some interesting plot development, I kind of let it happen - as in, I decided that, by a handy coincidence, Xipil was in the right place at the right time for the boat to pick him up. The Yuan-Ti are recurring foes in my campaign, and the party has tangled with their boss lady on a previous occasion - and got their butts handed to them on a plate. I have an adventure planned for the future where they will have a chance to inflict a major setback on the Yuan-Ti. Xipil's testimony will give them vital information that will enable them to (possibly) succeed in this endeavour - should they choose to undertake such a venture.
  • .

  • The river journey described is a bit linear, though I was fully prepared for the party to ditch the boat and go yomping through the jungle if they really wanted. But they kept muttering the Apocalypse Now mantra of 'never get out of the boat, maaan'.
  • .

  • Such an A-B journey on the character's home world I would just skim over with maybe just a few interesting sights thrown in. When people are in strange territory, however, I like to go into plenty of detail to emphasise the 'otherness' of the place. One of the things I didn't like about the Planescape setting is that they made the Outer Planes seem a bit mundane. I do use Planescape material sometimes but I try to make sure the players never feel at home in the Outer Planes.
  • .

  • Gao Kung is an NPC, and also one of the big guns in the party. I gave him to one of the players to run, a player whose own characters are a bit underpowered for this adventure - so that he gets a slice of the action when things turn ugly (which, in the Abyss, is quite frequently). It's never much fun running NPC vs NPC fights while the players sit and watch. I gave Xipil to another player to run as well. Everyone else are player characters.
  • Rescuers - Two More Helpings

    Just to let people know I'm still around, and still reading this low-traffic, high-quality forum. Both my Mum and my Aunt passed away recently and then I had to bail my cousin out of a mess of trouble so I've had a lot to deal with.

    I seem to recall that Morbus was due to become a daddy a while back. Don't remember hearing any more. Hope everything is going fine with that. Hope Gilgamesh's wedding plans are coming along well also.

    Rescuers Returns

    Yep, I'm still here. Been pretty busy lately. The campaign's still going strong, just behind on my write-ups!

    Rescuers Continues

    This adventure has now actually ended and the group are about to start something new. As I'm so far behind on this journal I have decided to lapse from my usual narrative style and blitz through with a straight list of events and place descriptions.

    Still more to come. It's a bit of a dry read, doing it like this, but it's still a useful plot recap for my amnesiac bunch of players!

    Yet More Rescuers

    ...and a Merry Christmas / Happy Hannukah / etc to all Gamegrene readers and contributors!

    Rescuers Forges Onwards

    Happy New Year to you all...

    Update on this thread - it looks like he (the aforementioned MMOG-zombified player) may have burnt out on WoW at last, and is set to make a welcome return to the gaming table. He joined us for a 'Christmas special' and seems to be re-enthused....

    Gosh. Two years since I visited this thread. About time for a swift update.

    'Gherkin's Greyhawk' has a good head of steam going and is gathering momentum. We are now, at long last, closing in on the climax of the sub-campaign that's been playing out over the past 4 years of real time. Namely the Monmurg War. It's going to be an interesting summer.

    Brief synopsis:

    Monmurg, the most powerful city state in the Hold of the Sea Princes and commanding the greatest fleet on the Azure Sea has launched an unprovoked attack on the Keoish city of Gradsul, with a wave of terrorist attacks on the streets and a flight of dragons attacking the Keoish fleet in the harbour.

    The story that unfolded beyond this event involved several bands of intrepid heroes from Keoland. One group were sent as spies to the city of Monmurg to gain intelligence on the enemy and to organise fifth column activities - and also, to pull off a daring rescue of the Duke of Gradsul's daughter who was being held hostage. Another group were involved in a diplomatic mission to the Yeomanry, to smooth the passage of the Keoish army in their march upon the city of Monmurg to exact retribution - for it turned out that a shadowy cult was exerting influence on the High Council of the Yeomanry to try to bar the passage of Keoland's armies through the Yeomanry's territories. This group were also instrumental in the capture of a sacred boar which was prophesied to be an important asset to the Keoish army, warding them against ill-fate.

    Meanwhile, other characters were involved in several side-quests, most but not all of which were related to the forthcoming war.

    This has been a multi-layered, multi-threaded campaign, the most ambitious and complex I've ever worked on. We've had ups and downs, some bits worked well, others were troublesome, but on the whole it's been - dare I say - epic. And I mean that in the true sense of a word that's been dreadfully cheapened in recent years. I think it has also raised people's expectations for immersion and plot complexity in a campaign as well. In that sense, my work is done. And now, the end - and a new beginning - is near.

    Ships are being loaded with supplies, arms and men, as the army marches onwards, nearing their final goal. The greatest battle in over a century will be fought upon the walls and the waters of Monmurg.....and the fate of nations decided. What part will our heroes play in this great drama? Does fate hold any surprises in store for them? And will they succeed or fail in the final challenges that face them?

    Time for an update on the latest happenings in Gherkin’s Greyhawk. I am presently running a large-scale battle - involving thousands of troops - as an adventure. The challenge with this is to keep the action focussed on the player characters while giving them the feeling of being part of a huge battle that is going on around them.

    The PCs’ involvement occurs through a series of ’scenes’ which depict particular combat engagements or missions that they find themselves in. The players are told what their objectives are and how this will affect the overall progress of the battle if they succeed.

    The first scene - retaking a village that had fallen into enemy hands - took a couple of sessions to conclude, but since then I’ve been aiming to make each scene last one session. As a group we are lucky enough to have a large collection of figures (that’s ‘minis’ to you youngsters) so we can lay out a large number of combatants on the tabletop. However, in order to speed up some of the larger-scale combat engagements, things happening on the periphery that do not directly involve any of the PCs are run in an abstract sense only - in other words, I make it up as I go along rather than making hundreds of dice rolls, knocking down kills and moving the battle lines forward or back to provide the flavour of what is happening.

    The ‘bad guys’ that the PCs are facing here are mostly orcs, ogres, trolls etc. That may sound a little mundane but actually they don’t often come up against these mainstays of fantasy villainy, so it makes for a pleasant change. They have axebeak cavalry and a squadron of wyvverns. The PCs tend to find themselves up against the enemy’s elite forces and commanders - although they do sometimes find themselves up against opponents that they significantly outclass and they then get to enjoy the pleasure of putting them to the rout with contemptuous ease. I think you owe it to your players to give them these sorts of encounters once in a while.

    I have made good use of the 3.5e ‘Heroes of Battle’ supplement for this adventure. The authors suggest constructing a battle adventure flowchart and a complete set of diagrams of all the potential battlefield states corresponding to flowchart outcomes; I toyed with the concept but realised that this would be a huge amount of work and much of it would be wasted as only one actual path through the flowchart would be followed. (I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has tried using this method exactly as the book suggests). Maybe if I were writing an adventure for publishing, this amount of rigour would be required. Instead, I have taken an incremental approach, drawing up a plan of the battlefield and the location of units for the players, then running them through a scene or two, then drawing up a revised plan based on the outcome, and so on.

    Battle of Westkeep - Phase 1

    Battle of Westkeep - Phase 2

    Battle of Westkeep - Phase 3

    I started by drawing out the terrain and then overlaid a sheet of acetate and used OHP markers to draw in the units; a wet cotton bud is used to erase a unit prior to repositioning. (I totally have the skill to do all this on a computer but it’s so much more fun doing it by hand…..)

    When working on this kind of thing it very much helps if you have experience of tabletop wargaming and/or military re-enactments. What I’m effectively doing here is creating snapshots of the battle in progress. These are shown to the players. In fact, their characters would not know what is going on across on the other side of the battlefield. However, showing these to the players gives them a sense of being a part of the greater whole and the feeling of the scale of the event that they are immersed in.

    Plenty of description plays an important part in this kind of adventure. This locale has now seen three armies turn up and lay seige within the past three months; it’s war-torn, and corpses have lain unburied for weeks. It’s also nice to mention magical explosions that are seen and heard going off in the near distance, from the PCs viewpoint. Sometimes stray riderless mounts are encountered. Lady Ambarran, an elven healer riding a unicorn, breezes in after an engagement, escorted by her guards and protected by a banner that radiates a Sanctuary effect, and offers healing to the poor wounded humans.

    The player characters are a large and diverse bunch so I split some of them off to go on a commando raid on a catapult battery, secretly ‘parachuting’ them behind enemy lines - dropping them off the backs of griffon cavalry with the aid of potions of feather fall and invisibility.

    I have also given some players a chance to run some high-level NPC heroes, just for the pleasure of being really outrageous combat monsters…..

    If the Keoish army is successful in defeating these forces, which seems likely, they will march upon their final objective - the City of Monmurg. The main issue with this battle is not so much whether they will win, as how dearly that victory will be bought, and whether they will be strong enough to take Monmurg afterwards.

    Time for another campaign update, for those who are interested.

    The Battle of Westkeep has been won, after a hard fight, in a decisive victory for the PC's homeland, Keoland; the Keoish army now marches on Monmurg. Elsewhere, in an engagement involving a second party of PCs, there has been a breakthrough of Monmurg's naval blockade and the flagship of the Keoish fleet plus a handful of others is racing towards the city of Monmurg to launch a marine assault co-incident with the attack of the land forces, making this a two-pronged attack. In fact the marine assault is a feint to try to draw enemy forces into a quadrant of the city that can be isolated by capturing and holding, or destroying, two bridges - and a third party of PCs are infiltrated into the city, aiming to do just that.

    Keoland looks set for victory. But perhaps things will not be so straightforward.....

    Can't believe my last post on this thread was October last year! OK, so in brief - we have spent almost a year now in real time running the PC's-eye-view of the actual assault on the city that I discussed above. We meet once weekly for an evening session, by the way. We were on hiatus for a while due to some RL stuff getting in the way, and then I needed a break for a while so our other DM stepped into the breach for a few sessions. Nevertheless, that's still around 40 sessions we've run on this, which is approximately 160 gaming hours.

    We really are close to the end of it all now, at last. Early last year (2010) I actually imagined, WWI style, that it would all be over by Christmas. Looks like I was out by a year.

    I'll do a write-up on this after the dust settles.

    In other news, I've just started a PhD in Astrophysics (at the age of 46, just to disprove what they say about old dogs and new tricks).

    You're a monster lol. Why don't you sit down and let the rest of us feel good about ourselves for a little while? :P

    Astrophysics eh? I was intrigued when I learned that one drop of iron will kill a star in an instant. Made me see a star as a monster.

    I'm sure that's not the kind of astro-physics that you do. You know about star-signs and constellations, right? Reading good omens etc.

    Yeah.. I think sitting down at Gherkin's gaming table would be worth the trip across the pond. Even if he is a geriatric.

    We really all should try to meet up sometime and just run a couple one-shots together. Who knows, we might end up hating each other, but it'll be entertaining.

    Geriatric? Well, as a wise man once said, "When 46 Years Old You Reach, Look This Good You Will Not". Or something like that :P

    Good to see Gamegrene rising from the grave once more. I have been lurking on these recently active threads but too busy to find the time to chip in. I must get into that social interaction thread sometime, it's a subject I've pondered recently.

    Since you ask, I'm working on computational modelling of protostellar jets. In a nutshell - young stars grow in a similar way to a human child, by adding mass through inflows of matter from the surrounding environment. And like a human child, they also - er - produce outflows as well. In the case of young stars, these are supersonic jets of gas (typical speeds are 100 kilometres per second) that escape at the poles, launched by powerful magnetic fields. I'm aiming to improve on existing computer models of this process, which plays a key role in star formation.

    I think Yoda has a lot in common with a gherkin. They are both green and wrinkled. (PS - you only have a few years on me... gasp!)

    Solar-poop? Stellar excrement??

    You are going to be the world's foremost authority on Star shit??? Or to be more accurate infant stellar flatulence. You are not interested in grown-up stars -- or the particles. You are making a more acurate computer model a fart. Cool. I don't think boys ever grow up.

    That sounds really interesting! Might I suggest that you look at dying stars as part of your modelling. Young babies poop and fart without reserve, but old people do too. There seems to be a parity at the extremes -- the universe undoes things in a similar way to creating them.

    Okay. I am taking the piss out of you. fun. I am amazed by it all and I am glad to live in a world where scientests explore so deeply into things. Scientest, poets, musicians, priests should all be applauded for the same thing. They try to help us find a deeper, richer, universe with more wonder and marvels than we had ever guessed. Thanks!

    So gravity strips electrons from the particles of dust, creating a soup of charged particles -- the gas becomes ionized, polarized, pulverized and finally ejected from the star? If you have a spinning magnetic field aren't you going to create electricity? What is the word for that thing that charges current like a rod through a spinning magnetic field ... hmm -- it sucks being old. Excuse me -- I have some plasma I need to eject from my core.


    Solenoid. That is the dohickey I couldn't remember. Google is my Ginko-Biloba.

    "Excuse me -- I have some plasma I need to eject from my core."

    -So that's what we're calling it now.

    "Good to see Gamegrene rising from the grave once more"

    -Hells yes it is. Now we just need to get Gazgurk back. Or the guy who thought Aeon's review of 5th edition was legit and not satire.

    "Or the guy who though Aeon's review of 5th edition was legit and not satire."

    That was quite possibly the most hilarious thing to ever happen here on Gamegrene. Good times.

    Wait, it's not? That review itself was awesome, and then the internet made it awesomer :P

    "We really are close to the end of it all now, at last."

    Cannot believe I wrote that in September.

    Gherkin's Greyhawk still lumbers onwards towards its end. I found that I really had to flesh out some events that I originally thought we would just skim over. The players became emotionally involved in the outcome of these events to a greater extent than I'd expected so I just had to do them justice by devoting some extra sessions to them. Having set out to build an atmosphere of desolation and despair, it surprised me when I found that I had actually succeeded.

    But we really, really, absolutely definitely are close to the end of it all now. I mean, *really* absolutely definitely. Not the other kind of definitely.

    This week, I managed to kill a long-standing and well-loved NPC, allied with the party. Uswuld Voss. The grizzled chieftan of a barbarian tribe [19th level, if you must know] who the player characters had persuaded - against his initial instincts - to lead his people to war alongside them. On the advice of one of the player characters an assault was mounted against a gatehouse - one of the last bastions of the enemy's defences. Voss led the charge. He died after just one blow [and a failed save vs massive damage - bad time to roll a 1]. He slumped to his knees, his head stoved in by a huge morning star. It seems the enemy leader, Terraktus, had decided to take a personal interest in the defence of this gatehouse, and it was none other than he who had weilded the weapon that had taken their friend's life with such frightening ease. Terraktus yanked the considerable bulk of Voss' lifeless form aloft with one hand and dangled his corpse in front of the PCs before contemptuously hurling him to the ground before them.

    'Oh dear.....I think I've broken him.'

    Four sessions to go. I think.

    Gherkin's Log. Earthdate 12th September 2013.

    One year and nine months since my last entry here. I am glad the site is still up and running. It really should remain as some sort of monument to pre-social media gamer interaction. What became of all the Gamegreners? Are we all still well? Are we all still gaming? (I mean 'real' gaming of course......).

    My own bastard old-new-school Greyhawk campaign continues and still provides us with a quality gaming experience. The Monmurg sub-campaign ended maybe 6 sessions after my last report in January '12. A huge weight off my shoulders to finally see the back of that lumbering beast. I had a duty to see it well-concluded, and it was; "The 'Murg" has now joined the legends of our gaming group and a kind of mythology has already started to spring up around it.

    A note that may be of interest to readers (should anyone once more tread these echoing lofty halls). Uswuld Voss' death at the hands of Terraktus (as described in my previous post) was not the last fatality of that campaign. And those slain by Terraktus could not be restored to life; their souls were claimed in perpetuity. Now - I need to point out that resurrection is not a frequent occurrence in our campaign, in any event. Terraktus' power served to make certain of that, in the case of the heroes he slew.

    And yet, here was an interesting thing. Ancient scrolls discovered in the library of Castle Monmurg turned out to be a sacred relic of the death goddess, Wee Jas. It was a long time before even the most scholarly members of the party were able to decipher them and unlock their power.

    In a nutshell, they were a 'get out of jail free' card for the afterlife. Wee Jas would grant the resurrection of any one person of their choosing - even someone who was 'off-limits' for any reason.

    I gave the players involved 2 minutes to make their decision. Without too much hesitation, they decided - 'Uswuld Voss'.

    Now this led to an interesting conundrum. Voss' people had already buried and mourned him and his estate had been divided by his sons.

    Furthermore, they were a superstitious, magic-fearing folk whose religious dogma amounted to 'the dead should stay dead'. Voss had died on his feet fighting, with honour, rather than the descent into old age and dotage that he feared. He had died a hero's death.

    Within a day of his return to life, Voss had decided - 'My people must not know of this'.

    Voss departed towards destinations unknown, far from the lands of his people. To seek another hero's death......

    I am still haunt the halls, but I suppose I have to, so as to maintain appearances ;)

    Hello Morbus. I thought I sensed your ethereal presence hovering around somewhere nearby :D