Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Runaway Train

We seem to have a bit of a hiatus from our regular D&D game, so I have been filling the void with a few Victorian Shadows games, my D20 modern shadow chasers game.  You can see here & here

Last outing was fun and over the top.  Right at the start of the evening I opened the adventure with a shadow creature breaking into their flat and asking for the money they stole from his 'master'.  They chatted with the obnoxious little creature for a while, gaining some cryptic knowledge.  When it became clear the creature was not going to get the money, he simply replied, "You die then."  The party scoffed.  That is until streams of shadow creatures crashed through windows and the front door.  After a tense combat making quite a mess of their flat (broken windows, doors, furniture, loads of bullet holes and a nasty burn from a flare gun) the party used the clues and determined they needed to stop a train robbery.

Before getting on the train a humorous scene ensued.  While they waited to see if the bad guys were getting on the train, all but one of the tickets sold out.  They needed to convince some NPCs they didn't want to get on the train, and buy their tickets and still they were one short and needed to sneak a party member on the train.  It it the little things which amuse game masters.

Perhaps running an adventure on a moving train is too cliche.  Having been in so many movies might lead you to believe the adventure would be too predictable.  It was anything but.  There is something satisfying about having characters needing to sneak past conductors, hop on and off the moving train, run down the top of the train leaping the gaps, and giving perfunctory greetings to NPCs crouching under train furniture while they casually pass them armed to the teeth.  Sure the engineers were safe, a character leapt of the train only to see shadow creatures hiding under the coal car.  Shadow creatures were thrown from the top of the train.  A character attempting to leap onto the moving train missed.  Dynamite was used by the party madman to separate the last train car from the rest of the train, mistakenly believing all the shadow creatures where in that car.  Thinking they had the shadow creatures and their controller trapped in the car, they surrounded the openings; a party member peering in through a hole in the roof discovered dynamite just about to go off and the controller leaping from the train.  BOOM - party members go flying off the top as the car explodes.

It was an exciting evening, and I think everyone had fun.  They stopped the bad guys from getting the money, but did not stop the other half of the shadow creatures from slaying the engineers and driving the train full speed into the next station.  You win some, you lose some.

Although this game does not eliminate my desire to run/play in a D&D game, it is fun to play and I enjoy running D20 in the lower levels more than in the higher levels.  This group is operating at 3rd level at is very easy to run.  Now I just need to work on the next overused cliche for an upcoming adventure. 

The dice never lie.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Caribbean Forts

I just got back from a nice Caribbean vacation.  Looks like I missed posting in January altogether.  Ah, well, such is the busy life I lead some times.  During our trip to Puerto Rico and the subsequent cruise I got to visit a number of island forts.  Besides being intrigued by the ingenuity, and fascinated by the history, I always come away with some adventure ideas and a little better understanding of what it might really have been like.  This one was more food for thought for that Carib/Pirate game I keep threatening to run.

The forts in the islands were in their prime during the age of large cannons and muskets, so the architecture represents those features.  The walls are enormously thick, finished on the outsides but filled with rubble and dirt in between, and the cannon ports are narrow on the cannon side and wide in the direction they want to direct fire.  Forts are often multi-level and built to use or overcome local geographic features.  Another common feature in the region is to design the fort as a huge water collection system which routes water to massive cisterns underneath to handle long periods without rain, or long sieges.

In Old San Juan we visited El Morro, and Castillo de San Cristobal.  Neither one of the was impregnable, but both are quite impressive.  El Morro features six distinct levels with a surprising height difference between the lowest and highest levels.  Perched on the point protecting San Juan harbor, the stone behemoth must have been an imposing site when ships sailed past.  San Cristobal, on the other end of old San Juan, was not as impressive a sight from a distance, but was also formidable.  I especially liked the tunnels which were designed to have explosives placed along the inside to defend against possible breach; if an enemy broke through one side of the tunnel the explosives were meant to insure they never saw the other end of the tunnel.

On St. Kitts we visited the Fort on Brimstone Hill.  Even if this fort sitting on a 200 meter pimple of land along the coast did not have the great views and impressive fortifications that it does, how could you not visit a place with such a name!  And yes, the area around the base of the hill does smell of sulfur from the volcanic rocks, and I suspect some mild volcanic activity.  Again, the fort was not impregnable, but was impressive.  Apparently the powder magazine in this fort was struck by lightening and totally destroyed more than once.  Makes one think a bit before accepting guard duty during those violent tropical storms.  I really liked the caponiers which protruded from the centers of the forts polygonal walls.  They were designed to provide cover for close fire musket troops to defend against an enemy attempting to scale the walls.

I'd recommend all three to those even mildly interested in historic fortifications.  They were all in reasonably good repair and had numerous displays and associated materials to further explain what life was like in the time period.

Oh, and we did also find plenty of time to enjoy the beaches, snorkeling, and partake of island style food and drink.  But that doesn't usually give me adventure ideas.

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