Sunday 25 February 2018

Team Tsathogga: the state of play

This week's Team Tsathogga session was a bit of a milestone for the campaign: the first time we devoted an entire session to the PCs just travelling from place to place, gathering information and making arrangements with their various allies. No-one got stabbed. Nothing got stolen. It was all just long conversations and complicated overland travel. (The PCs are currently planning a heist, though, so I'm sure things will be back to normal next session.)

When I started this campaign, I deliberately kept things very simple. Most of the players were completely new to RPGs, so I wanted to keep set-up time to an absolute minimum: they rolled up some 0-level characters, I told them 'you're a bunch of serfs who have been sent by your community to retrieve a magical sword believed to be hidden in some nearby caverns', and off they went. One side-effect of this was that their PCs didn't really have any ties to their home village. The in-character reason for this was that their PCs were the kind of socially isolated (and thus socially expendable) people that you'd expect a medieval community to pick for a subterranean suicide mission. The out-of-character reason for it was because I didn't want to waste time on it: I wanted to get them into the dungeon ASAP, and allow all the character development to emerge organically from actual play.

But the result of this, which I really hadn't foreseen when we started playing, was that the dungeon then became their home. They made friends with the elves, and the goblins, and the toad-men. They became Tsathogga cultists after discovering a temple to him down in the underworld. As they've travelled further across the world, encountering all kinds of bizarre monsters in the process, their first question has always been 'can we ally with it?' rather than 'can we kill it?' Two and a half years of game-time later, they've ended up with a network of friends, allies, contacts, and minions so extensive that entire sessions can be consumed in managing them, as became apparent this week.

Anyway. This is a snapshot of their current situation.

Current party members:
  • Circe, Warlord High Priestess of the Frog God (Cleric 5).
  • Hash, elf adventurer (Elf 5).
  • Norm, elf drug pusher (Elf 4).
  • Pole, toad-man fungus-brewer (Cleric 4).
  • Sophie the Muscle Wizard, college dropout (Magic-User 5).
  • Sovan, half-man half-lotus (Cleric 5).
  • Skadi the Indestructible (Fighter 5).
  • Tiny, demon scout (Fighter 5).
Current Followers:
  • Hallgerd, Dark Folk emissary of the Navigator Houses of Nox.
  • Princess, an ancient engineer robot from space.
  • The Red, a giant riding toad.
  • The Sister of Seraptis, a four-armed underworld creature of uncertain origin, kept drugged at all times for safety.
  • Spy Rat, rodent espionage expert extraordinaire.
Ex-party members (now allies of the party):
  • Atella, craftswoman (Fighter 4)
  • Erin, king of the Purple Islands (Fighter 3)
  • Hogarth of the Purple Hand (Magic-User 5)
  • Jack the Fighter, too pretty to die (Fighter 5)
  • Kroak, toad-man revolutionary (Cleric 3)
  • Zeth, mad scientist (Magic-User 4)
  • Ambie, a baby snake-man who is being raised by Zeth under carefully controlled conditions.
  • Andrew and Sarah, angels of the Church of the Bright Lady.
  • The Archivist, keeper of the Great Machine and leader of the Purple Islands tunnel-dwellers.
  • Becky, an undergraduate student at the Glasstown Academy of Magical Arts.
  • Captain Catherine, mercenary captain, Jack's one-time lover. 
  • Dara, a Qelongese nun turned golden lotus farmer.
  • Dopey, Spacy, Sleepy, Trippy, Zoned, Stoned, and Manic, seven drug-addled elves whom the PCs reunited with their families.
  • Elder Amelia, a senior cleric in the church of the Bright Lady and a secret alien.
  • The Fleshdregs, a gang of misunderstood mutant monsters living in a forest, protected by sympathetic outlaws. 
  • General Ngour, commander of the garrison of Xam.
  • Goblin Jack, Hogarth's goblin apprentice, a necromancer of great ambition and little talent.
  • Grik, Grak, and Gruk, goblins, the Low Priests of the Frog God.
  • Hash's mum, who cooks great fungus pasta.
  • King Nath, current ruler of Qelong.
  • Marcus, a psychic head-in-a-jar recently attached to an alchemically-animated zombie body.
  • Matthew, a grizzled sea-captain.
  • Mai, a senior Qelongese cleric.
  • Navigator Hafdan, governor of Stoneport and representative of the Navigator Houses of Nox.
  • The Putrescence, a giant purple cloud-monster controlled via an ancient brain-melting machine.
  • Sergeant Ribbet, mutant toad-man soldier, who governs the goblin warrens in Circe's absence.
  • Tad and Wort, toad men who owe their lives to the PCs.
  • Tarsh and his daughter Zeniba, sub-chiefs of the Purple Islanders.
  • Titus, an elderly cave-dwelling necromancer, brother to Marcus.
  • Toad-man rebels hidden throughout the forces of the Science Fungoids, who pretend to be loyal to their masters, but still secretly follow the teachings of the Frog God and look to Circe and Kroak for deliverance.
  • Vem, a huntress, now war-leader of the people of the Purple Islands.
  • Volf, a medical student, Jack's one-time boyfriend.
  • Vorn, leader of the Free Demons, and his followers.
  • Several tribes of goblins.
  • A swarm of twenty giant projectile maggot vomiting zombie vampire toads.
  • 30-odd (very odd) mutant toad-man soldiers.
  • A large village inhabited by a combination of Qelongese refugees, ancestor-worshipping fishermen, converted cultists, and mostly-reformed cannibal savages.
  • A hidden community of tunnel dwellers, who have preserved ancient scientific knowledge long thought lost on the surface world.
Notable Assets:
  • Cleaver which infects anyone injured by it, gradually turning them into spore zombies.
  • Chest full of stolen gold.
  • Collection of magic daggers.
  • Demon-slaying sword. (Dropped it on Deathfrost Mountain, totally going back for it some day.)
  • Dwindling supply of space acid.
  • Evil madness-and-mutation-inducing necromantic spellbook in a locked lead-lined box.
  • Forest of hallucinogenic fungi.
  • Garden of narcotic lotus flowers.
  • Gas mask.
  • Half-finished demon in a spawning vat.
  • Huge quantities of drugs and poisons.
  • Laser bracelet.
  • Massive favour owed by the King of Qelong.
  • Monster creation workshop (work in progress).
  • Network of psychic brains in jars, currently tuned directly to the god-mind of the Devourer.
  • Sailing ship.
  • Shock baton.
  • Snake-man pain wand.
  • Space suit (ape-man sized).
  • Ring of Water Walking.
  • Vampire toad spawning grounds.
  • The brainwashed demon army of the snake-men.
  • The Company of the Hawk.
  • The Devourer cult.
  • The Golden Lotus adepts loyal to Master Prem.
  • The Order of the Divine Surgeon.
  • The staff of the Glasstown Academy of Magical Arts.
  • The Science Fungoids.


  1. This sounds like a blast. My campaign similarly hit a point recently where we had our first non-dungeony or hexcrawling sessions, about 4 of them just talking through faction play. The players are at roughly the same level as yours. Things are at a fun point, kind of on the knife’s edge with their enemies, although the party just pulled off a real coup. We’ll see what happens next.

  2. How did you decide, and then lead hooks into the section in Quelong? I'm interested in the intersections between 'unplanned' play driven by player goals ('let's do X to get those goblins we met last week as slaves') to the separate, internally coherent addition of a published adventure.

    1. I built the campaign world by distributing content from various OSR sources across a map, and then constructing a shared backstory to link them all together. So the snake-men from the Islands of Purple Putrescence were the secret masters of the cultists from Death Frost Doom, the Chamber which was poisoning Qelong fell to earth as part of the same rain of weird magical stuff as the demons in Liberation of the Demon Slayer, the caves from Liberation of the Demon Slayer connected to the caves from Demonspore, and so on. The PCs are thus continuously encountering links which, if followed, will connect them with material from one module or another, but it's up to them which ones they actually follow up. On the week that they went to Qelong, they could just as easily have wandered off into Deep Carbon Observatory if they'd chosen to follow a different lead...