Monday, August 31, 2009

Inside Baseball

My blog has slowed down a lot lately. So, I notice, has Oddysey's. I think it's for the same reason.

We're engaged in a one-on-one game which has recently undergone a few momentous transformations. These flowed naturally from the course of events and decisions that the PC made. And therein lies the difficulty.

We've fired off nearly daily emails to each other over these issues, not because the campaign is falling apart but because it is thriving. Oddysey and her character are delving deeper into the world, ferreting out details and such that I'd only vaguely outlined in my own head. Now those details are becoming integral parts of the game, strategies are being built around them, and decisions are being made that have serious social consequences.

So why aren't we writing about that? Because, quite simply, the amount of background material you'd need to make sense of what's happening is huge. This is not unusual in my campaigns. I drop a few seeds of such things, present my players with difficult challenges, and they usually rise to the occasion by taking such things and crafting clever ways to overcome those challenges. So far, so good, but these sorts of things build on each other over time. The variations in gift-giving customs between the elves of Ashwood and Malfanwys become a vital element of an adventure, but that doesn't make any sense to an outsider until they understand that elves even have gift-giving customs, and then you have to explain what gift-giving means to elves, and eventually, it's turtles all the way down.

We've been writing up some very neat stuff (and you should bug Oddysey about her brief discussion of how dwarves use jewelry to express social and marital status), but it's both taken up a lot of writing time and not produced much that is suitable for general consumption. I'm going to be combing through some of this older stuff to find gems that I think y'all would enjoy, but don't be surprised if blogging is light for another week or so.

Image credits: Sister72 and WordRidden.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

More Digital Ink on Where the Kids Are

Randall Bills over at Catalyst Game Labs has quite a bit to say on this subject:

I believe the most significant hurdle (a hurdle that’s always been the bane of our industry, simply more so now) is market penetration. With kids not driven out of their houses to get their geek on and discover gaming by accident along the way, getting them to find our games is all the more difficult.

Yet it’s important to recognize that the market still exists. It allows us to see that instead of giving up on RPGs, we need to think outside the box for how to deliver RPGs to a hard-to-find market. Instead of bemoaning the lost days of yore, we can step up to the challenge and declare emphatically that RPGs still rock, are cool and can find a great audience, including the next generation.

As I've mentioned before, I think MMOs and console gaming are a distraction. The real threat is freeform online play based on beloved IPs like Harry Potter and X-Men and Middle Earth.

That said, the fix remains the same, as Mr. Bills points out. People are not going to show up until they're invited.

And we need to start extending that invitation. ICv2 Insider’s Guide reports that the second quarter of 2009 saw improvement in nearly every segment of the hobby games industry except:

The roleplaying game category remains deeply troubled, with most brands down, and the gap between Dungeons and Dragons and the rest growing.

UPDATE: James Edward Raggi IV riffs on this topic as it applies to the Old School Renaissance.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Gods as Monsters

There's a neat article from a few weeks back about polytheism posted at “The Tao of D&D”. It's a bit long, but a lot interesting, so worth your time.

One of the philosophies espoused in the article is that the gods should be great and powerful beings who "can smash a PC, or kingdom like a bug", far beyond the “glorified monsters” they appear as in Deities & Demigods. So where did Messrs. Ward and Kuntz come up with the idea of the gods as creatures who should have stats and could be defeated in combat?

Probably from the myths themselves.

These myths are hardly consistent when it comes to the powers of the gods. Isis could flood the Nile with a single teardrop, but had to spend time disguised as a common, mortal nursemaid in order to rescue the body of the murdered Osiris. Yep, murdered, as in slain, as in reduced to 0 hit points (or -11, depending on your house rules). Osiris was lucky; he got resurrected. Poor Baldur wasn't so fortunate and ended up staying dead.

And Baldur was hardly unique among the gods and their brethren. Zeus slew his father and imprisoned the other titans. Tiamat was dismembered after her husband was killed (arguably in self-defense) by their children. Heck, the entire Norse pantheon was doomed to die in battle against monsters and frost giants.

Dying and torment were not unknown to the gods. Nor were they omniscient. Odin lost an eye and hung for three days from Yggdrasil, the World Ash, to earn the right to drink from the Pool of Wisdom and learn the making of runes. Thor was fooled by illusions. Ares was driven, screaming in pain and horror, from the plain before Troy by Diomedes.

Having said all that, I think most folks will get more mileage from the system outlined in “The Tao of D&D” because it tends to agree with people's default assumptions. We tend to think of gods as mystical forces rather than flesh-and-blood creatures, and we assume the relationships our characters will have with the gods will be distant, obscure, and personal, rather than matters of civic duty, akin to jury duty and paying taxes. If you're going to do something other than that with your deities, you should probably make them central to the campaign and its themes, as was done in the Dragonlance campaign.

Art Credits: Frederick Arthur Bridgman, Bertel Thorvaldsen.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It's All About the Benjamins

There's more info now about what Messrs. Mentzer, Ward, Kask, and now Clark are up to. There's a lot here to like, not the least of which that they are talking about it on Dragonsfoot. The range of games they're talking about is promising, though the fact that Swords & Wizardry isn't listed seems odd.

I love the fact that these guys are jumping in like they are, and that they are treating it as a serious business. As I've mentioned before, there are real benefits to treating this sort of thing as a profit-making venture.

That said, they sure want a lot of cash up front. And that, honestly, is the most fascinating thing about it. Can they raise that kind of scratch? If anybody can, it's them. And if they can, it'll mean there are some real legs to this OSR thing. That'll be very, very interesting to watch.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Trollsmyth the Mastermind

Jeff's Gameblog has pointed me to BrainHex. It's about computer games, but it's still intriguing.

Your BrainHex Class is Mastermind.

Your BrainHex Sub-Class is Mastermind-Socialiser.

You like solving puzzles and devising strategies as well as hanging around with people you trust and helping people.

Each BrainHex Class also has an Exception, which describes what you dislike about playing games. Your Exceptions are:

» No Punishment: You dislike struggling to overcome seemingly impossible challenges, and repeating the same task over and over again.
» No Commitment: You dislike being asked to complete everything, preferring to pick and choose which tasks you will attempt, or simply messing around with a game.

Learn more about your classes and exceptions at

Your scores for each of the classes in this test were as follows:

Mastermind: 17
Socialiser: 16
Seeker: 15
Survivor: 10
Daredevil: 6
Conqueror: 0
Achiever: -2

And if we check out what a Mastermind is, we find:

“I know what to do.”

You like solving puzzles and devising strategies.

Your behaviour is focussed around making the most efficient decisions.

Your major brain region is the orbito-frontal cortex, an area just behind and above the eyes involved in making decisions, and the nucleus accumbens (or “pleasure centre”) which is closely linked to it.

Your chemical messenger is dopamine, which is chemically similar to cocaine, and is involved in habit formation.

If you were an animal, it would be an octopus.

I am the octopus! Koo-koo-kachoo! But at least I don't hate people. ;p

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Not Quite Dead Yet

But since we're talking about Sinister Adventures, it may, in fact, be undead. They'll be posting submission guidelines in the near future as well.

Things look good for our end of the RPG woods, with Sinister Adventures getting back on its feet, Mr. Raggi churning out new stuff, and whispers of a new venture by Tim Kask, Jim Ward, and Frank Mentzer.

Gettin' High in the Lands of Doom & Teaparties

”Hey... Black lotus. Stygian, the best!”

“This better not be haga.”

“I would sell haga to a slayer such as you?”

I'm actually not aware of much drug use in Howard's stories about Conan, but it's all over the place in the works of Clark Ashton Smith and Michael Moorcock.

On high tables about the walls of the alchemy, there were jars, flasks, and vials containing subtle drugs and powerful elements, some of which were drawn from the more arcanic kingdoms of nature. Disregarding the moon-powder, the coals of starfire, the jellies made from the brains of gorgons, the ichor of salamanders, the dust of lethal fungi, the marrow of sphinxes, and other equally quaint and pernicious matters, the magician soon found the essences that he required. It was the work of an instant to pour them into the seething cauldron; and having done this, he awaited with composure the return of the reptiles. - “The Flower-women” by Clark Ashton Smith

In the realms of fantasy, it is an easy thing to come up with all manner of wild and fanciful inebriants and hallucinogens. The real world has more than its fair share as well. What follows is a short list of those most common in the lands of my Doom & Teaparties campaigns.

Chocolate is typically drunk as a thick, foamy liquid (it's foamed up by pouring rapidly from one container to another) and is considered a mild aphrodisiac.  Fermented and roasted beans are also ground into a powder which is used to spike other drugs, or sprinkled over or in food.

Cannabis along with hashish and sinsemilla are also fairly common. Usually it's burned in a pot that those wishing to indulge gather around so they can enjoy the fumes. It is smoked individually by some, but most consider it a more social drug. It's also baked into some sweetbreads pastries.

Coca leaves (not to be confused with cocoa leaves) are often given to slaves engaged in manual labor in the lands of the lizardfolk. The lizardfolk and their slaves claim that chewing the leaves boosts the slaves' energy and strength. The gods point out that the lizardfolk themselves use the leaf only rarely themselves, and claim that prolonged use makes humans docile and tame. The gods consider the cultivation and sale of coca leaves to be a crime, though rumors maintain that extracts from the leaf and root are part of the process the Shkeenites use to tame newly acquired slaves. The lizardfolk use similar extracts as part of an aphrodisiac they feed to their slaves when attempting to breed them.

Licorice is often consumed by just chewing the root to freshen the breath. The syrup from boiled roots is used to help break up coughs and cure mouth sores and fevers. However, the temples of the gods frequently serve the syrup mixed with food and sauces to their novices as a treat, because it is known to suppress the sex drive and other “antisocial” behaviors.

Large quantities of powdered nutmeg are combined with chocolate and other herbs into a potent potion brewed by lizardfolk witches to induce prophetic visions, though it's typically administered to criminals before execution or sacrifice. The effects are thought to be especially unpleasant, and such a victim can rave and babble for an entire day. Such visions are nearly always doom-laden, but the mystics and rulers of the empire take such predictions seriously.

The gods use nutmeg in the incense used during ceremonies in their temples, but the amounts are too low to produce any noticeable hallucinogenic effect. It is believed, however, to ward against airborne diseases, so the incense is often used in and around hospitals.

Anthoneiri or “dreamblossoms” is a flower from a clinging vine that grows best in Fairey. The long, leaf-shaped petals are a milky white near the center of the flower, blushing to pink and then a brilliant crimson at the outer edge and pointed tip. The stamens and pistil of the blossoms can be used to create a potion that induces a wild, sometimes violent, bestial state in the drinker, and is used by some shock troops to work themselves up into a fury before battle. The scent of the dreamblossoms is a potent aphrodisiac, and prolonged or saturating exposure can induce a temporary state of extreme satyriasis/nymphomania that, if sated, will result in a very deep, restful sleep with especially bizarre and vivid dreams. Hierodules of Tiamat are known to use this effect to attempt to contact Tiamat in her prison.

Moonglories are a small, shrub-like plant whose silvery blossoms open under the light of the silver moon. Chewing the root is a common cure for male impotence. Eating the blossoms raw is known to cause mental instability, but when properly prepared it is a potent anesthetic. A more concentrated form is sometimes combined with sinsemilla to produce a powerful hypnotic drug that can be used to make a person highly suggestible or alter their memories. It is believed to be another tool in the pharmacological arsenal of the Shkeenites.

Lotus plants come in a number of colors, each with its own potent powers. Chewing the petals of the white lotus before bed results in restful sleep full of pleasant dreams, and is thought to be a ward against the nocturnal predations of night hags and nightmares. It is often administered to mothers going through difficult pregnancies, as it's also thought to settle the tummy and curb the effects of morning sickness as well as gentle the emotions.

Purple lotus is noted for its prophetic powers. Alchemists and soothsayers use a potent mix of dried blossoms, sinsemilla, and moonglory blossoms to get hazy glimpses of the future. Chewing the petal gives a mild euphoric effect and stains the tongue a dark purple color. Some use it to enhance the effects of other drugs or alcohol. In many human cultures, maidens will chew a fresh purple and white petal before bed on nights of the full moon in hopes of having a prophetic dream in which they will get a glimpse of the face of their future husband. Purple lotus are often grown outside the temples of Hasrit, and some coming to watch the whirling dance ceremonies of the priestesses will take a petal or two to chew, though the priestesses warn that they will not be responsible for the results of such practice.

The petals of the red lotus are thought to release the emotions, to bring secret thoughts from the depths of the soul, and unleash inspiration. It is thought to be especially potent when smoked with cannabis under a full silver moon. When the petal is chewed, it does strengthen the emotions and makes the chewer more susceptible to mood swings. When dried and smoked mixed with cannabis, those mood swings can be extreme. It is grown in the temples of Uban to be used to help unlock the inspiration of the priests who are thwarted by a particularly difficult or thorny problem, but always under the supervision of other priests, since it nearly always results in the user curled up in the corner, babbling and weeping in stark terror at horrors only the smoker can see.

The petals are sometimes ground into a paste, combined with aphrodisiacs, and turned into a lip paint. This lip paint is thought to slowly excite not only the wearer, but anyone kissed, and is sometimes used by those hoping to seduce an otherwise disinterested or hesitant lover.

The most precious and potent lotus is the black. Black lotus petals are dried and smoked to produce a deep feeling of contentment, invulnerability, and, eventually, powerfully erotic dreams. (Unscrupulous alchemists will often cut dried black lotus petals with common cannabis that's been dried and dyed a dark color.) The root can be chewed to improve the endurance and strength, but also results in a dulling of the wits, and prolonged use can reduce a person to a drooling imbecile, as well as permanently stain the lips and teeth an ugly purplish black color.

It's sorcerers who prize the plant above all others. The pistil is the primary ingredient in a potion that, when properly prepared and drunk, creates a dream-like state in which the wizard's vision can pierce the veil between worlds, see into other dimensions, and, according to some, even see the very stuff of magic floating in the air like streaming ribbons or floating soap bubbles. Its use can improve the magical abilities of sorcerers, but most will only indulge when it is most necessary. Rumors of the dangers include madness, possession by beings from higher planes, and actually being physically kidnapped into such bizarre dimensions.

In certain communities, bees are cultivated near fields of the various lotus plants, and the pollen of the lotus blossoms is turned into honey. This lotus honey tends to be very sweet, slightly more viscus than common, and impart strange visions or variations on the more typical effects of using the flowers to those who eat it.

Just in case it wasn't clear, I certainly don't recommend actually trying any of this stuff in real life. Chocolate will make you fat, nutmeg will make you vomit if you get enough in you to produce hallucinations, and I suspect chewing on lotus petals isn't that good for you, either. As for the imaginary stuff, well, if you find a vine of dreamblossoms, please tell me where. ;)

UPDATE: Gavin's got the goods on a few psycho-active substances of a more crunch-affecting variety over in "The City of Iron."

Photo Credits: 00dann, davitydave, matze_ott, and NZ Alex.

Oh My Freakin'...

Ok, yeah, most of you have probably seen this already, but wow, is that an awesome trailer.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Music for Doom & Teaparties

The subject of music that makes folks think of our Doom & Teaparties campaign came up recently. I'd actually started to put together something I play in the background when I'm working on the Doom & Teaparties game. In part, it's a bit of what I think music in the campaign may sound like, and in part it's just music that inspires me to think about the campaign.

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Most of these pieces don't have words in English because I sometimes find it hard to write if I'm being distracted by English lyrics. Yulunga is a nice, atmospheric piece that fits many aspects of the campaign; it gets me out of medieval northern Europe, and fits well whether we're talking about the city of Pitsh or the palaces of the efreet in the City of Petal. Tikal pumps things up a bit, and brings in a touch of South America, which works because I'm pulling a lot from the Maya, Aztec, Olmec, and Inca for this campaign, especially for the Wednesday group.

Alan Stivell is one of my favorite makers of celtic music. Frankly, if I'd been able to find it, I'd have used his wonderfully atmospheric "Ys" instead of this piece, but it works for me to bring that touch of celtic to the Fey.

The next three build up the sense of menace and mystery. There are others I'd like to add, like bits from the Myst, Gladiator, and latest King Kong soundtracks, but I can't find those in Playlist's system. I may just end up throwing that together onto a CD of my own.

Art by Winslow Homer.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Natural Mutations of a Campaign

I've got two Moldvay/Cook/Labyrinth Lord games running right now. In one, the group has just returned from a dungeon, sold their loot, and is considering what challenge to tackle next. Nothing unusual there.

In the other, in spite of being in an efreet city on the Plane of Fire, the last game was largely taken up by the blossoming romance of the single PC and an NPC. Some clues were gathered, some mysteries were solved (which, of course, led directly into new mysteries needing to be explored), but mostly it was conversation about the difficulties inherent in a relationship between a dwarf who'd been transformed into a nixie and a human cleric. I don't think we rolled a single die the entire game.

Are we still playing D&D? Yep. The nixie could give her beau the ability to breath underwater, the cleric prayed for his spells in the morning, and their efreeti host had 10 hit dice and the ability to create illusions at will. I'd be shocked if nobody else ran games like this. In fact, I know other people do. It might not be typical, but it does happen.

And this is the way it's supposed to work. The point is for your group to take the game and make it their own. Do you want to destroy the great artifact of evil and return the rightful king to his throne? D&D can do that. Do the PCs rarely leave the city-state and instead strive to make their guild of Blades and Shadows the masters of every criminal enterprise within its borders? D&D can do that, too. Maybe the PCs are all students in an ancient and storied thaumaturgical university, or mamluks of the cabal of brain-eating tentacle-monsters who rule the world.

This is why the modules of original D&D were so bare in terms of setting and story. They were built to be dropped into any of these campaigns. Sure, the assumption was that you'd have to march a few days through the wilderness to reach the The Slave Pits of the Undercity, but they could just as easily be placed in the sewers of your campaign's largest metropolis. You were supposed to take what TSR and others had made and make it your own. The modules of those days way back when were not so much games or stories, but miniature sandboxes. Some might not fit as well in your campaign as others (funhouse dungeons, for instance, are a poor fit for my campaigns), but the bulk of the translation work was up to the DM and players.

This is why I tend to be pretty vague when writing about RPGs and campaign construction. What's perfect for my game might not have any place in yours. I tend to run relationship-centric campaigns, were groups A and B team up to combat the forces of the loose and fractious alliance of C, D, and E. Other campaigns are focused on a particular location (Ptolus or the megadungeon campaign). Some are like action movies, with the barest plot stringing together action scenes like beads on a cord, or grand strategic visions where logistics and planning take center stage. The important thing, of course, is finding what works for your group and what doesn't. Learning what you don't like can be as important as figuring out what works.

Image credits: John William Godward and Paul-Marie Lenoir.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Sartorial Variations of Pitsh

Fasion in Pitsh is based largely on human fashion of course. The major contributors are the cultures on the northern shores of the Turquoise Sea. These lands are not quite as tropical as the southern coasts of the Sea, but it is comparable.

The largest ports are part of the Lizardfolk Empire, and so most humans from those places were slaves or free menial laborers. The typical garment in these lands is a loincloth, usually a strip of linen about six feet long and three to five inches wide that's wrapped around the waist and loins so that the tail ends dangle down in front. This is a fairly unisex garment, and women might wrap another, similar cloth around their breasts in various ways, though such covering is not required and many go without. This is the daily garment of most of the farmers and woodsmen who live just outside the walls of the city.

There's also a slightly fancier version, which is some sort of chain or rope around the waist from which hang a pair of cloths of various lengths and widths, one in front and one in back. Because of the near-constant breezes off the sea, the hems of these cloths might be weighted with decorative stones or small copper pendents. This sort of thing is fashionable among the slaves of the more well-to-do, and the serving slaves of higher-end establishments, like the Pelican's Perch, wear such garments, the panels edged in decorative embroidery. Free people might wear such garments as well, especially in the height of summer, though they often add an open jacket of gauzy linen or net.

The further north you go, the more likely you are to encounter the all-purpose and flexible tunic. Hem and sleeve-lengths vary depending on culture, though almost everyone goes with light linen cloth when they reach Pitsh. Generally speaking, while sleeve lengths vary depending on individual taste, the lower the hem, the more well-to-do the wearer is. The longest, however, is usually ankle-length, which keeps the garment out of the frequently muddy streets of the city. In all cases, the garment is always cut loose and boxy, and is sometimes worn without a belt by both sexes. After the loincloth, variations on tunics are the most common clothing seen in Pitsh, and most of the sailors wear a short-hemmed, sleeveless tunic.

The northwestern shores of the Turquoise Sea are settled by free humans who generally have no allegiance to either gods or empire. The fashion there is kilts held up by a leather or metal belt for both sexes, and the females generally wear halter tops or a bandeau while the men often go bare-chested or with an open jacket or square-cut vest. To the eastern edges of the Turquoise sea the fashion is more towards sarongs, kaftans, and layers of loose, light robes.

Many people go barefoot, which just makes sense in the frequently muddy streets of Pitsh. However, sandals are very popular as well, and come in various styles. Most are made of leather, though you do see some hemp and cord styles. Some mercenaries and adventuring sorts prefer buskins. Very few wear full boots, especially through the hot, wet summer, since closed shoes and boots tend to promote all sorts of unpleasant foot-rot.

Jewelry is very popular, especially among those who have lately come from the Lizardfolk Empire. Most men and women have their ears pierced. Bangles, bracelets and bracers are common additions to even the poorest persons attire, made from leather or various metals. Anklets are very common among women and those who don't walk outside often will wear toe rings. Armbands are popular among both men and women. The men from the more western lands will wear torcs, but necklaces of various fashions are typically worn only by women. Rings are very popular as a sign of status among those who don't work primarily with their hands.

Headbands are popular for both men and women, and tend to be woven bands of patterned linen or leather. Male and female versions might have metal or jewels of some sort set into the band, and female versions might have the stones or coins dangling from the band over their brows.

Cosmetics are rarely worn, except for special occasions. Women typically paint their lips and khol the flesh between their brows and their eyelashes, as well as use rouge on their cheeks and darken their lashes. Men will darken their lashes and sometimes paint their lips, but even that's fairly rare. Both sexes pluck and shape their brows.

Hair tends to be long for both sexes. Men often gather their hair into a single clip or bind it into a ponytail. Women more frequently pile their hair atop their heads, using pins and combs to hold it in place.

Most children go naked until they are six or seven years old. Then they usually wear a loincloth or similar garment until twelve or thirteen, at which point they'll typically adopt their parents' styles. However, as children of different cultures marry and intermingle, there has begun to be a blurring of the cultural lines, and people have begun to mix and match the styles that appeal to them.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Fates Worse Than Death

Via Twitter: My DM, @trollsmyth, regularly demonstrates the principle that the only DMs who kill PCs are the ones who can't think of anything more evil.

There's been discussion in the past using monsters that are nastier than the levels of the PCs would indicate is “fair.” Yes, this sort of challenge really pushes your players to be creative and flexible. It doesn't, however, always go well for the PCs.

Last night, it was a water naga from the 1e Monster Manual. The AC of 5 is hardly anything to get excited about, and the 8 HD is nasty, but a large enough group can use the power of iteration to really pound such a creature into submission. No, what's really nasty about the naga is her ability to cast magic-user spells: “4—1st, 2—2nd, 2—3rd”.

The party decided to hole up inside the dungeon. They thought they were in a safer part and posted guards. (This is not as foolish a decision as it might appear on the face of it. Camping outside the dungeon could potentially have resulted in being ambushed by something far worse than the naga.) The naga, having discovered where they were and knowing they were after the treasure she was guarding, cast invisibility on herself in an attempt to sneak up on them. It was only partially successful; one of the guards overheard her slithering up and woke some of the others. Not that it mattered too much. When the naga was close enough, she dropped her invisibility and launched a nasty alpha strike. The sleep spell took down all but one character, and that was a cleric who didn't last very long after that.

While I'm certainly not suggesting that PCs should never die, too frequent death removes the sting as much as any invulnerability; when death merely means a quick, fifteen minutes rolling up a new character and dropping them into the dungeon to get back into the game, what, then, really is the sting of death? The loss of stats, and maybe some equipment? When players expect to lose a character, they avoid investing anything emotionally. Then they truly do care more about the magic sword or ring than they do about the person wielding it, because the magical trinkets are the only things that truly last. (And while that can actually make for a very interesting theme to an Old School game, it's not the sort of thing we're aiming for in the current games I'm running.)

However, if you're up to playing a bit by the seat of your pants, and have a nice, open, sandboxy-type campaign, player defeat just means a bit shifting of the gears. In our case, the naga now had a nearly intact adventuring party at her disposal. By keeping a few of the NPC hirelings as hostages (and being prepared to indulge in the liberal use of the charm person spell), the naga was able to convince the group to perform a “small service” for her. It's a tangent, a side-quest that might grow into something greater.

What will the future hold? Will the heroes grudgingly accept the naga as an ally to their cause? Or will she become a hated foe, a nemesis to be hated and hunted a few more levels down the road? I don't know, which is part of what makes this sort of thing as much (if not more) fun for me than for my players.