Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Bedrolls and Backpacks

This post is the fault of Rich at Swordnut Radio.

Okay, I like a challenge. And I have a mind like a weasel.


Roll up the bedroll. Place it in your actual bed, giving the impression that you are sound asleep. This is useful both when an assassin's quarrel pins it to the bedframe through what would, in other circumstances, have been your heart, and when a servant peers through the secret peephole to reassure the king that yes, you are respectably abed, and definitely not treasonously committing hanky-panky with his husband.

Use the bedroll to guard against sharp points: place it over a wall to protect you from spikes or glass shards, or hold it in front of you while leaping through a window without opening it first.

Use the bedroll as emergency quick-release padding when falling onto abrasive surfaces, such as when hurling yourself from a third-floor window to escape an enraged monarch.

Wrap it around your arms while facing down a wolf or training a warhound. Many smallish animals will struggle to get through that. Especially useful for low-level mages in cat-dense areas.

While travelling through the desert, saturate the bedroll when you find an oasis. Drape the soaking bedroll over you to help cool you by evaporation. Before departing, roll it and place in your waxed canvas backpack, so it can serve as an improvised water-carrier.

With just a bit of rope, transform it into an inadequate camel-saddle, still superior to trying to sit directly on the accursed creature.

Flick your wrist to unfurl the bedroll over a smallish mass of vipers, scorpions or similar unpleasantness, buying yourself a moment to rush across unmolested.

Place the rolled-up bedroll on your head and wrap it in bright fabric. Tell the people of the next town that you are a Tzeetvolf, one of the great nobles of the distant land of Gnasht, on an important diplomatic mission to the king, but temporarily impecunious after your caravan was caught in a storm. Point to your improbable headgear as confirmation that you must be some kind of foreigner, because everyone knows foreigners dress funny.

Fold the bedroll the other way to form a draught excluder in the cheap tavern room where you are hiding from the royal guard, or the cramped cabin of the ship you were forced to seek passage on in your attempts to flee the country. Bonus: also keeps out many kinds of vermin, especially if treated with camphor.

Practice slipping the bedroll from atop your backpack and unrolling it in a single smooth movement. This can serve to impede and temporarily blind attackers, deflect light weaponry or capture small animals.

Soak the bedroll in oil and place it in a bottleneck, or amongst a large stretch of dry vegetation. When the troll conjured by the king's archwizard steps unwittingly onto it, simply toss your flaming torch to engulf the creature in fire.

Soak the bedroll in holy water before sleeping in a location you believe to be frequented by the undead, or when harried by pesky minor demons summoned by the king's deputy archwizard.

Wedge a corner of the bedroll under a door to prevent interruption during important diplomatic meetings, such as a highly personal rendezvous with the king's husband.

Wrap fragile items, such as expensive china, magical potions or stolen crowns, to protect them from the shock of rough journeys.

Form a haybox by wrapping your hot food tightly, allowing you to cook meals while you hasten cross-country in search of a haven from royal wrath.

Keep hot items hot by using it as insulation.

Keep cold items cold (because that's also what insulation does).

Dip the bedroll in delicious beef dripping and use it to distract wild dogs; leave it behind as a decoy for bloodhounds.

Dip the bedroll in delicious chocolate and use it to distract elves.

Dip the bedroll in soup and chew it in a desperate attempt to stave off the agonising pangs of hunger.

Cut a hole in the centre of the bedroll and transform it into a useful poncho, keeping off the rain as you trudge through the backwoods to avoid detection by the king's bounty hunters.

Use the bedroll as an improvised sledge to speed down the snowy slopes of the Heavenclutch Mountains, evading the howling ice-ogres that pursue you.

Look, we know how it is. Adventuring can be a lonely occupation. Six months in the wilds, constantly pursued by a variety of slavering beasts and amoral humanoids, plus the occasional diabolical monstrosity; never knowing the touch of a lover, inebriated colleague, courtesan, sailor, love golem, Margrek's Illusory Bedmate, affectionate sheep, doppelganger, siren, thinly-disguised bilefiend, really persuasive enchanted staff, on-again-off-again nemesis or Blanket of Really Good Massages. Your bedroll doesn't judge.

Slice the bedroll into thin strips to use as improvised bonds for captives, reins for the horse you stole from a pursuing bounty hunter, or rope to escape your top-floor room when you hear the stealthy, padding footsteps of a royal assassin approaching.

Conceal an assortment of bladed objects from unenthusiastic guards.

Inscribe important messages on the bedroll before rolling it up.

Cover one side of the bedroll with silver foil. This will serve as a useful sunscreen against the baking heat of the Dying Sands, where only the foolish and desperate venture.

Also, when the mischievous winds and cunning pathways of the Dying Sands lead you inevitably to the Tower of Many Bones, you can whip the bedroll in front of you as you turn round at the sound of skittering claws, slaying the foul gorgon with its own baleful image.

Clasping the bedroll in one hand at your waist, allow it to discreetly unroll as you step back from your onrushing adversary; then, as her foot lands upon it, seize it with both hands and yank sharply upwards, tipping her backward and buying a moment's respite. Use that moment to hurl the bedroll over your adversary's face while applying blade repeatedly to kidneys.

Before inserting your hand into suspiciously-sized openings in a ruin, temple or vault, roll up a bit of the bedroll and insert that instead.

Use a pitchfork to hold up the bedroll a short distance from your body before racing through the Hall of Slaughter. The padded fabric will catch and entangle the barrage of poison-tipped darts that shower you, allowing you to move far faster than the members of the palace household trying to weave their way between pressure plates.

Wrap your bedroll around the tip of a pole and soak it with oil. Use it as a durable torch, anti-troll countermeasure or festive outdoor lighting.

Eke out meagre provisions with small, chewy chunks of bedroll. Few companions will ask too many questions about the precise origin of the ingredients in their stew, for fear you will tell them.

Tie and soak the bedroll, the excess weight giving you a functional improvised club. Insert a walking stick or other pole for easier wielding. Not much cop in most situations, but useful against small foes and wild animals that can be readily scared off.

Use a small measure of ice magic to freeze the sodden bedroll into a substantial club. When you are later captured by the watch, feign outrage and point out that you could not possibly have bludgeoned anyone to death; all you have is a bedroll and a backpack.


Carry your familiar, pet, or a small mystical child you have rescued from a peculiar imprisonment but whose beatific smile and cherubic features are frankly too nauseating to keep on display.

Fill the backpack with stones to use as a counterweight on a pulley or lift mechanism, such as when assisting the king's husband to lower himself safely from a high tower.

Fill the backpack with sand and swap it with a valuable archaeological artefact you plan to steal, hoping to prevent the triggering of a weight-sensitive trap mechanism. Tip: ensure the item you plan to steal weighs about as much as a backpack full of sand.

Fill the backpack with feathers and put it on backwards, forming surprisingly-effective armour against light weaponry and animal attacks. Works particularly well if you have a waist-high wall or window to defend.

Put the backpack over your head to conceal your hideous features, you repulsive cretin.

Store large and thoroughly dull books in the backpack. This assists your disguise as a travelling bore - not only does it add verisimilitude, but few people will wish to question you closely. Moreover, the books will provide a layer of protection against the arrows and poisoned knives of the royal assassins.

Put a helmet on top of the backpack and place it by a window or wall, lit from behind, to give the impression of a sentry.

Put many scorpions inside the backpack, and drop it out of the window to create a distraction.

Transport other, smaller backpacks.

Write important notes on the inside of the backpack, which few people will bother to check for paperwork.

Leave the backpack prominently in your room, secured with a shiny padlock which is not in fact closed. Fill it with rubbish, on top of which you place an envelope sealed with an important official's name. Inside the envelope, place a hastily-scrawled letter with an explosive runes or horrific curse amongst its lines.

Put heavy objects inside the backpack and practice wielding it as an improvised weapon.

Completely waterproof the backpack, and use it to transport water. When travelling to the sea-realms to seek aid against the murderous vengeance of the king, use it to transport air instead.

Place the backpack over a slain gorgon's head before opening your eyes, allowing you to look about you without fear. If you tie the strings tightly before severing its neck, on inverting the backpack the head should fall neatly inside.

Pretend the backpack contains incredibly valuable items you are secretly transporting on behalf of the Wizards' Guild, and not the head of a gorgon. When the ruffians who have been watching you ambush you and demand you hand it over, do so while screwing your eyes shut in apparent fear. Bandits often carry valuable items stolen from previous victims. Protip: Practice locating a swede, pumpkin or leather football by sound alone and replacing it in a backpack!

Determine which pocket of your backpack is the most accessible to someone else when worn. Encourage hornets to construct a nest in that pocket.

Tie a stout, camouflaged rope to your backpack and hurl it onto the parapet of your enemy's castle. When a bemused guard picks it up, heave with all your might; most will reflexively tighten their grip, allowing you to yank them bodily from the parapet.

Balance your adventuring backpack atop a door, so that the guard passing through on a routine patrol is struck atop the head and stunned by the weight of copper coins and damaged goblin armour within.

Cut a hole in the back of your backpack and wear it at all times, concealing the leathery wings you have sprouted through unwise negotiations with the Order of Damnation.

For a quick disguise, throw on an oversized coat on top of your backpack, and claim to be a hunchback. Works best if nobody sees you do it.

Balance a waxed backpack atop your head to keep off the rain.

After a regrettable encounter with Hesidian Rage-Moths, use your bush knife and backpack to construct rudimentary clothing in order to enter the city without summary arrest for public indecency.

Insist on publicly and fairly dividing up the loot from your latest immoral escapades. Patiently pour the shares, one handful at a time, into an appropriate number of backpacks. Do not inform your colleagues that you have employed hobbits to crouch beneath the table, reaching into the backpacks through cunning holes to extract the gems and replace them with lumps of worthless glass.

Place a cannonball inside a backpack, enchanting it with a spell of weightlessness, and pour a variety of more ordinary goods atop it. Encourage thieves or enemies to make off with it, then dismiss the enchantment. Dispose of them at your leisure.

Conceal an extradimensional space within a backpack, and place low-level contraband in the bag itself. Arrange for it to be confiscated by the guard. After a prearranged interval, have the thief emerge from the aforementioned extradimensional space, steal everything valuable within the guard's vaults, and put them inside the extradimensional space, before breaking out. Have the bard turn up disguised as an embarrassed noble and pay a bribe to retrieve the barely-illegal backpack.

Hire a small warehouse. Fill it with backpacks. Leave a clipboard on a shelf, with a purchase order for 10,000 mimic eggs. Leave a single boot and a broken dagger in a pile of chicken blood near a shelf, spattering that also with blood. Cast magic mouth on a large but random selection of bags, each time enchanting them with a very occasional snore, each one different. Capture the PCs, and have them wake up tied together near the clipboard.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Call of Cthulhu: Rigid Air actual play

A while ago I ran a scenario from the Fearful Passages book for my gaming group. I'd initially been a bit hesitant about the scenario as written, for reasons you'll find here.

After much thought, I'd made some changes to the scenario and run it for some friends during a weekend visit. The session went pretty well, much fun was had by all, and the players made a few suggestions. I incorporated them as best I could for this second attempt.

This second attempt I recorded and have finally got around to editing down. I'll discuss the changes I made in a future post; for now I just want to get these episodes up at last.

You can find the episodes at this Archive.org page.