Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hex Reassignment Surgery: Deities

So, the basic tone of the re-skin is trending towards "grim" and that means I'm working against my typical inclinations. Not a problem, but a challenge. +Jack Shear's TotGaD: What I know about the gods of the World Between is the source I'm drawing from.

Really quick detour:
I have just begun my read through of +Andrew Shields ' excellent 'The World Between for Fictive Hack, and I believe if you've not seriously looked at his adaptation you're doing yourself a disservice. There are a lot of exciting ideas, and he expands The World Between in very interesting ways, and adds a beautiful map into the mix.

Okay, back to deities. Before I enumerate a buch of Jack's stuff, let me give you the outline of my idea on how these are going to be used: The source material is human-centric. The humans of the setting have a unified, organized church that is a major pillar of human culture. Elven law dictates that humans are not permitted to worship any gods other than their own, and human culture and religious practices reinforce that. The demi-humans have their own cherry-picked pantheons from Jack's lists. Not much invention, just re-mixing whats already there.

The weird, otherworldly, and capricious Nature Gods seem like a good fit for the elves in the Black-Mash. These gods should be linked to rites that make them seem primal, alien, and pagan. Blood, and sex magic as suggested by +Andrew Shields seem appropriate.
  • The Crooked Moon
  • The Forest Who Walks
  • The Gods of the Grapes
  • The Lamenting Mother

Dwarves should have some considerably "metal" deities...so I'll combine the Storm Sovereign pantheon with anything on the list that seems fitting to me. I notice a lot of female deities in the dwarven pantheon, and that's fine. I've always liked my idea of matriarchal dwarves anyway. It will make for great tales of their dalliances.
  • Astariax (Goddess of Intrigue, Stratagem, and Mercantile Prosperity) – always depicted as wearing luxurious clothing and with her nose turned up in the air haughtily; like if Paris Hilton were Machiavelli
  • Charlak (God of Imprisonment) – it is said that he carved out dungeons beneath the world before men ever walked the globe.
  • Garm-Gorak (the Bloody Maw, God of Wolves and War) – like a Viking on an LSD-and-PCP cocktail *In Black-Mash, Dwarves are Wolf-Riders and have a special kinship with Canines. Over time, they have bred dogs for many purposes and Dwarven Dogs are a thing as much as Dwarven Weapons.
  • Hulmora (Goddess of the Elements) – if Thor were a permanently pissed-off goddess who threw thunder and lightning and rain everywhere
  • Merrihel (Goddess of Death and Glorious Battle) – the Morrigan via German opera and Romanticism; has Shadar-Kai Valkyries; hates Baba Yaga
  • Thanalia (Goddess of forging, sailing, and cavorting) – party-time goddess *Sailing might seem contradictory, but embrace that...its a good detail.

The humans of Black-Mash have an elaborate and unified religion. Their church plays a part in nearly every aspect of human culture, and is often the connective tissue of human civilization in the wilds.
  • The Lady of the White Way – a warrior-mother goddess, like Mother Mary crossed with Joan d'Arc; a monotheistic goddess—all other divine beings are considered to be false idols and demons; has a hierarchical priesthood, a pope, cathedrals, inquisitors, witch hunters, and templars; her church has four apostolic saints.
  • Arianna, the Bloody Redeemer, a crusader who brought the fledgling Church of the Lady to the pagans. She is depicted as a mighty warrior in plate armor wielding a sword stained with the blood of infidels. She is especially revered by cavaliers, mercenaries, warlords, and nobles from military families.
  • Bernus, the Stumbling Wayfarer, was a merchant who converted to the faith of the Lady after an encounter with an angel on the road. He is depicted as a blind-folded pilgrim leaning on a shepherd's crook. He is especially revered by travelers, traders, gypsies, and penitents.
  • Calbrius, the Light Seeker, a monk who compiled the scattered theological documents said to be the holy writ of the early Church into the Book of the Lady. He is depicted as a cowled, hunchbacked scribe laboring over ancient tomes. He is especially revered by scholars, astrologers, wizards, and learned theologians
  • Coraline, the Voice of Doom, was a mystic who became a prophet after wandering the wastelands of the north. She is depicted as a gaunt figure whose eyes burn with divine radiance. She is especially revered by oracles, inquisitors, templars, and witch-hunters.

I think it would be a good idea to put a kind of dark-mirror version of the Church of the Lady into play. The reverence of these gods is a kind of open secret tolerated by the Church of the Lady. These gods seem like a good fit for halfings too, since halfings somehow were once human.
  • Killane of the Road (The Luck Lord, The Prince of Coins, The Keeper of the Crossroads) – revered by gamblers, pirates, bandits, and travelers; a happy-go-lucky god; definitely a trickster. *the archetypal man at the crossroads 
  • Mama Lazuul (Lady of the Midnight Hour) – goddess of crimes that happen under the cover of darkness and late-night rendezvous; goddess of thieves and love
  • Papa Simett (Lord of Secrets and Whispers) – it is said that anything that is whispered is heard by Papa Simett

The Beast-Gods
These primal deities are a collection of Gnoll-gods and the forgotten, elemental remnants of pre Church domination. Isolated humans may take up the worship of these gods, but it will cost them much of their humanity.
  • Father Sothack (God of the Briny Depths, the Drowned King, Prince of the Kraken's Maw) – grim sea god; Neptune crossed with Dagon; his avatar looks like that Cthulhoid guy from Pirates of the Caribbean; his rites involve near-drowning baptisms
  • The Golden Lion – Beast God; God of Pride, Honor, and Martial Prowess
  • Hakhan (Demon Lord of Bestial Bloodshed) – depicted as a massive minotaur or broo-like creature covered in blood and girt with a belt of skulls; basically the god of death metal album covers
  • Junox (The Ever-Flowing God) – a god more feared than worshiped; said to have created oozes, slimes, jellies, puddings, etc.; rules from a throne made of garbage and refuse
  • Kumo-Thlis (The Snake God, The One Who Slithers) – definitely sinister; his rites involve snake-handling, speaking in tongues, rolling in the aisles
  • Mong-Trall (The Capricious Monkey God) – a trickster god; his temples are defended by monkeys wielding razors
  • Mother Lothack (Demon Queen of the raging sea, the Tempest Queen, Our Lady of the Sharks) – the demonic consort to Father Sothack; those who survive shark attacks are considered to be blessed by her
  • The Luminous Hawk – a Beast God; barbarians believe that he drags the sun into the sky each day; he is the enemy of the undead
  • The Unconquered Badger – a Beast God; he is the God of defending hearth and home; you've seen the honey badger video right? he's like Ron Swanson in honey badger form


That leaves me with Devils, Demons, and Extra-planar Menaces. This is a kind of tool-box to pull from when I might need ideas for Black-Mash later.
  • The Carrion Marquis – super creepy and gross death; god of death in war; depicted as a rotting general surrounded by a cloud of black flies
  • The Dismembered One – super creepy and gross death god worshiped in Mord-Stavian; depicted as horribly crippled and missing limbs
  • The Flayed Maiden – super creepy and gross death god; depicted much like Julia in Hellraiser II before she gets her skin back
  • Matakhan (Demon Queen of Assassins, Executions, and Poison) – purple-skinned and multi-armed; bloodthirsty; may be a female avatar of Hakhan
  • Morgath (Lord of Undeath, The Corpulent Reaper) – a big fat fleshy grim reaper; fit for doom metal album covers; worshiped by liches, vampires, pennangalan
  • Narlathia (Fey Goddess of Enchantment, Pain, and Plunder) – her servants are deadly red-caps and drow; revered by marauders; Lolth-y and Cenobite-y
  • Skaylex (Goddess of Fungi) – more feared than worshiped; the mushroom men are her servants
  • Slithian Vor (Demon Queen of Aestheticism and Carnality) – Slaanesh as designed by Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley; sends succubi as emissaries
  • Sluurge (Demon Lord of Pestilence, Famine, and Gallows Humor) – always depicted as wearing a top hat; a diseased dandy
  • Zzorch (Demon Lord of Mutation and Wild Magic) – like Tzeentch, but more interested in mutations and magical experiments; Victor Frankenstein would have worshiped Zzorch

Friday, December 14, 2012

Fun with Abulafia

I'm learning how to use Abulafia. HENCE: the Wampus Country Witch Generator.

I'm still learning how to make it work. Even with just a couple of entries automated...its kind of exciting for me to watch it work. I had to force myself to stop dog-piling entries into the tables. Obviously, I'm going to have to separate the generator into "Classic" and "Modified" versions or something. I immediately started wanting to make "private" pages that would help me run games...any ideas on that front would be welcome!

Here's one to come back to:
Black Betty Sumac or "Dame Sumac"
foul pact, foolish bargain

My adventures with Abulafia are all documented here:
http://www.random-generator.com/index.php?title=Category:Coded_by_Bryan_Mullins

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hex Reassignment Surgery: Humanoids, assembled!



Right now I'm still reading the Blackmarsh hex list. It's interesting to note that the material looks pretty sandbox-y to me on the surface, but actually has some story baked right in.

Today I'm looking at races and making notes on how to use them. Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque takes an approach that I think is interesting:

"Since my campaign setting is humans-only for the player characters, I tend to associate each human-like race with a fear linked to the human condition; that is, each demi-human race represents some problematic aspect of mankind that we like to pretend doesn't exist."

So, I'm making a list of things that will help me keep towards the uncanny side of demi-humans. Its intended to be a kind of quick-n-dirty reference to remind me what I'm aiming for when I use or re-skin demi-humans from the Blackmarsh source. I intend to "lump" some of these together and so they are listed together.

Dwarvesthe fear of Avarice
Dwarves should always have a price. One that is high, strange, and inflexible. Dwarves should always have the most unique gear and / or services that can be crafted and bought. Dwarves will always insist on being paid in the clearest of terms. They should be blunt to the point of rudeness about what they will and won't do; do and don't want etc. Dwarves should also behave as though their greed is normal. They will expect those they interact with to have a price, and will want to know what that is. Graft and nepotism are expected...then you'd want to run their societies kind of Roman. Patrons, and favors and bribes, and obsessions. They might be kind of Hanseatic, or Mafioso...I'm not sure. The entire race should be in some sort of protracted war against another non-human race over a failure to pay a debt. These are the folk who created the idea of interest as a thing that accumulates, they may have invented money too.

Drow, Eladrin & Elves:  fear of Decadence, Alien-ness, & Chaos
My first lumped group, and one of the more problematic demi-human races for me personally. I don't really like fantasy elves of any stripe, its just a problem I have. I like that Jack has removed the color coding from his elves, so I'm keeping that and renaming them all Faeries until I come up with something better. Every Elf, Nixie, Sprite, and Mermaid in the Backmarsh source needs to be filtered as I go. That shouldn't be hard to do because one of the stories baked into the setting has to do with Elves and where they stand on the idea that they have the right to govern the other races. That can be spun in a gothic way, right?

Where you find a Faerie will tell you a lot about them. If they are rustic, they might be Elves; urbane and social, possibly Drow; aloof and hermit-like...maybe Eladrin. Fey should have a modestly knowable set of logical operators. They should keep their word (perhaps strictly), have long memories, and have a hard time relating to shorter-lived races. They should not use magic, but rather be magical. They should distribute boons and curses frequently per the TotGaD source.

My list from before applies here. Making them weird and unique will be necessary as they have a large part of the Blackmarsh back story, and I might get bored with them if I don't lean into the challenge.

Giants, Trolls, & Ogres fear of inebriation, the abject, & cannibalism
Two words for you...Troll Hunter. There is plenty of swamp in Blackmarsh and plenty of Trolls in the TotGaD Compendiums. A broad selection of Troll-ish goodness lets me have good, old-fashioned monster fun times. I like that Jack gives Trolls a kind of antipathy. Their nearness assaults the mind and drives out reason. They curdle milk, and pollute clear streams of water. They rage through the countryside and consume mass quantities. If they do talk, they talk of the greatest meals they've ever had (or the bravest people, or the most valuable item) and may be goaded and tricked easily. This includes Hags though, too so don't get too triumphant there, Finn McCool.

Gnollsfear of Animality
Maybe it was all the He-Man and Thundercats in my early days, but Hyena / Jackal dudes are completely rad. They should attack in packs, have alphas, and be red in tooth and claw. Anytime you start to put a wolf encounter in, change it to a Gnoll encounter instead. Gnolls are often linked to slaving in D&D...who are they taking people to? They don't keep them.

Gnomesfear of the Unheimlich
If used correctly, the players should assume the Gnome in question is a kind of representation of Satan. Maybe there's only The Gnome, and it serves some similar cosmological role as the adversary / tempter. Rows and rows of shark-like teeth is a great image to use to startle and disarm. They should offer great power at a terrible price, or seemingly easy solutions to tough problems.

Goblins & Koboldsfear of science run amok & misrule
Basically Gremlins. They should spawn like crazy, die in droves and be mostly reptilian...keep the "dog head" for extra strangeness if you like. Should be known for eating the flesh of Humans, diabolically-trapped warrens, dangerous war machines, weird magical automatons (made of what: wood? bronze?), and unexpected explosions. Their leaders should be a major cut above, with ageless shamans and wizards maintaining enough organization to keep the Man-flesh supply steady. Goblin as a name has a lot of baggage attached to it for me, so I will probably use Kobold in its place. "Kobolds ate my baby!"

Halflingsfear of place
What happens to a Human when they have no hope? What does it look like when they succumb to the mundanity of life? Hobbits. Thats the answer. Over time, Humans can literally shrink as their spirit of independence withers and they become a caricature of the free-willed individual they were once. Halflings, are therefore mundane in every outward aspect and sinister in every interior manner. Interactions with them should be a kind of "hey this could be you, if you'd settled down and started pig farming..." or "Damn, down-and-out is really down and out..."They might be used as a kind of house-fairy analogue as well...the ones you leave little gifts for in hopes they don't ruin your life. They should certainly be a kind of gleeful parasite on human societies.

Orcsfear of savagery
Bred for war, but by whom? Everywhere you find a Faerie who does not want to get its hands dirty, or whatever...there will be an Orc. Guards, brutes & enforcers. Orcs without masters leave the "civilized" areas and wind up with even more sinister masters. TotGaD has them listed as a created race, so there may not be any sexual dimorphism. Being created raises lots of interesting questions. How do you control them? Can they be commanded to do anything other than delight in savagery? What vile rituals and ingredients come together to create them? 

Tieflingsfear of racial degeneration
Caliban & Half-bloods. Interbreeding rarely goes well, and there are dark, corrupting forces out there everywhere. Curses, diabolic-pacts, and magical mutations are just a few ways you could wind up with a messed up humanoid. I personally don't like Tieflings (see Elves above) so I wont be using them in the strictest sense. Maybe some cultists and sorcerers have to hide their forked tongues, and file their horns down...thats fine. What I'm thinking of is more along the lines of Mike's Half-Elves. Setting aside the willfully mutated, I want some slice of half-blooded freaks to be victims, or innocents. That might be too Quasimodo...I don't know.

That's everything I have that overlaps between what I want in the game, whats in Blackmarsh, and what Jack has written. I'm resisting the urge to kitchen sink a whole bunch more monsters. Snake-men, for example, make an appearance in any game that I run (...too much V: The Final Battle for me as a kid...) My counter-argument to myself being that any more 'monsters' should be unique rather than assumed as a 'species' ... which serves my ethic of trying to fight the Vanilla Fantasy Creep.

~IMCTT

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hex Reassignment Surgery: Backmarsh, meet The World Between


Deciding where I wanted to pull my ideas from for this mash-up / re-skin was pretty easy. I've been reading +Jack Shear's Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque compendiums for a couple of weeks now. I am really enjoying them as gaming materials and academic primers on the subject of gothic literature. Reading them, and trying to understand 'how-to: Gothic' has been fun and challenging. I'm finding that in my attempts to wrap my head around the materials that I'm able to prevent some of my own, vanilla fantasy assumptions from being so automatic.

The Swords & Wizardry SRD has all the marks of a labor of love, and like its bigger cousin the Pathfinder SRD I love that its online, and easy to get to. When I saw the Blackmarsh Campaign Setting described as an example for newer GM's to follow, I decided I wanted to take the time to try and understand it. Hex-mapped campaign settings are not really in my background as a gamer; I was rarely able to afford game books growing up, and I didn't take the time to really appreciate the technical side of game books until much more recently. So, hex-mapping is pretty much "all-new" to me.

Having read most of the TotGaD companions a couple of times now, I can tell that while I'm going to aspire to be as "Gothic" as I can manage while re-skinning this, I don't think I will manage to be as faithful to the inspirational materials as I want to be. That's pretty okay with me in the context of trying it out though. I'm not writing any papers for Jack's class so I should be okay. The exciting thing for me is going to be using his material as a way to stretch my GM repertoire and try to put a clear "fingerprint" on this basic campaign setting. Due to my own personal tastes I may wind up with something more Alex Toth than Edgar Allan Poe, but I will have made an honest attempt.

I want to read Blackmarsh through a couple of more times before starting, in earnest with the re-skin and hex reassignment, but here are some of the ideas I've got forming currently on the big picture side:

Blackmarsh vocabulary changes:
We have GOT to get rid of 'Viz' as a name. I can't take it...I keep flashing back to the Coo Coo Cola Cult episode of Rescue Rangers. I'd rather call it Magicite, or Manna. Quintessence has the right sort of feel to it, but seems less "does what it says, says what it does" than Manna. Even blood stone, star metal, or ghost rock would be better. So, Viz is gone and Manna is in for now. I want to reserve Jack's 'demonstone' for later.

So, Manna is a thing in this setting. A discreet unit of magical quintessence that allows a magic user to cast a spell, but retain it in memory. This works on a 1:1 ratio of Manna to Spell Level. So, you can burn 1 Manna and keep a Level 1 spell in memory; 2 Manna for a Level 2 spell etc. Also, 1 Manna is equivalent to 100 GP for making magic items.

That's pretty cool, right? It makes Manna a fantasy-style gold-rush kind of resource. The problem now is that I'm reading that Manna (Viz) is both a discreet unit and some kind of interestingly unique snow-flake resource. The setting has some indications that it can be any number of amazing forms: "a flask of pure spring water, a newly bloomed flower, or an iridescent rock" while simultaneously, the sand-box has locations with artefacts that have places where "Viz can be inserted." So I'm going to want to clean that up. Hopefully without rules / too many rules. The questions that arise immediately for me are "where are the Manna pools?" or "how can I make that game-able?"

What I'm thinking right now is that Manna can be caught, and crystalized somehow to make it a unit. With some skill, this could tie into the gothic 'grandeur of nature' thing and maybe even cast an eye towards Reason vs Supernaturalism...I'm not sure yet.

Gothic themes and window dressing:
Feyan Folk, Elves, Eladrin, Drow and fairies of the D&D description are a bit whimsical for the inspirational material. Making Elves weird is going to be hard for me in actual play, so I'm going to want to set them up well in my head. That means narrowing the field and changing some designations and really trying to use Elves for something other than 'High Men' or whatnot. (I will not take 'Ancient Astronauts' off the table.) So I want to lump Elves, Eladrin, and Drow as concepts into something more compact. I think I want use them to highlight the fears as indicated in the Compendium...I just don't want to make a major kind of distinction between them. I think I'll have an easier time emphasizing the subtleties at the table if I keep them together in one slot in my head.

I will want to think deeply about the cultural rules that allow Men and Feyan (or whatever I'll call them eventually) to interact. In Blackmarsh, as in Tolkien, the Elves are the shepherds of civilization but on the wane...I'll want to address that in particular rather than assume it. Bake it into the setting as a feature not a bug. Keeping them weird will require some anthropological raiding for strange customs and the like.

Weird ideas about individuality, property, and modesty
roles as names "Puck" "Alder King"
bound by certain kinds of agreements
morbidly fascinated by mortality in short-lived sentients
a comment on class / colonialism
problems with intensity or exposure to human emotionality makes ruling humans complex
have a 'veiled countenance' and 'unveiled' wich is hard on other sapients

Monsters are going to get lumped a little too. I want Trolls that are Giants, and want to call them Trolls ala 'Troll Hunter' with a lot of various breeds. There are Troll tables for that. Gnolls are definitely in because of the 'Grand Guignolls' and my love of animal-dudes. There's plenty of swamp, but I don't know what kind of D&D swamp denizens I want. I do want Goblins as Gremlins, and maybe Kobolds can be my swamp guys. They eat humans and are devious so they hit some classic Degenerate Hillbilly notes with a lot less of the classist implications I see with Ogres and Voodoo Halflings. If I have Orcs, I may use them as created enforcers for the Elves...

Thats it for now. Feel free to sound off on some of this if you have the notion.

~IMCTT

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hex Reassignment Surgery: Getting Started

Okay, I want to learn something about hexes and stocking them. I've been doing the reading, and being the lazy sort that I am...I intend to re-purpose, re-skin, and borrow wholesale from wherever I can. The purpose is to learn something about what kinds of building and randomization tools I work best with. That means its time for Hex Reassignment Surgery!

Rule #1: Free is for me
If its not free, with some sort of fairly-clear intent of free use attached its not going to be used.

Rule #2: Re-skin-spiration!
There are a ton of awesome, random generators and free ideas out there...try to use them to good effect.

Rule #3: Less is more
Just a reminder to keep the representations light so more people can use them.

Basic Ingredients: 

Hex-Stocking Theory:

Miscellaneous Inspiration & Resources:

Damn, that's a lot to contemplate! Next time, the Elevator Pitch, and some re-defining of the basic Blackmarsh lingo to suit my desire.

~IMCTT

Monday, October 8, 2012

Wampus Country Roll Call

There's a game I want to happen. Maybe you'd like to play? Its a Play by Post set in a tall-tale fantasy wilderness called Wampus Country. The setting is great, go and see. 

Here are the details. +Erik Jensen has this living, breathing, and unique land just waiting for us to kick around in. He's using Labyrinth Lord as his base rules. His house rules are on his blog. 

If you're wondering what that might look like using some version of Basic D&D as its engine, I will tell you that recently some PC's stopped a gigantic rooster from destroying a town...so yeah.

Erik says: 
"I'm projecting a "fairly casual" pace - looking at a minimum of 4 posts a week as we find our feet, and adjusting from there.  My posts will most likely be in the evening (EST) during the work-week.

Please distinguish between ic spoken, ic narrative, and ooc text by some clear means in your posts.  I don't need standardization so long as I can easily tell what's what!"

You don't need to know anything about the setting except that we're going to try and play in a game where things like The Jack Tales, the legend of Mike Fink, are mostly true. It could get a little Deadwood, or be more Wild, Wild, West or O' Brother Where art Thou? ... but one thing it won't be is boring. Particularly if you are there with me. So...consider it won't you?

If you're interest is peaked, then let Erik know. He'll provide greater details, I'm just the hawker.

Here are some things that might get you in the mood:

http://wampuscountry.blogspot.com/2012/08/booze-banjos-and-bazoul.html
http://wampuscountry.blogspot.com/p/house-rules.html
http://character.totalpartykill.ca/basic/

Friday, July 13, 2012

The "Man" in the Cold Iron Mask

For Clayton,

There was a phrase uttered at the table two weeks ago that has been haunting me. So much so, that I'm going to try and blog it out into something people might want to use in their game.

The "Man" in the Cold Iron Mask

So, there's the phrase...and you can see how it kept niggling at me. Poking my brain with lots of little questions...that you can answer and use in your game.

Let's break it down. You've got some good ingredients here: musketeer-era politics, a mysterious prisoner, and a really kind of striking artifact. Let's tinker with them and try to get something for your home game.

Prisoner #24601 is... (d6)

1. A servant who was imprisoned with his VIP master and now can not leave...
2. A scheming, bisexual, minor noble from court who has embarrassed the King...
3. A non-person who was invented by the prison administrator to make himself seem more important...
4. The king's brother from another, but also French-royal, father...
5. The king's identical twin brother...
6. An assassin hired by a highly-placed government official who failed to kill his target...

but really...let's weird that up now. (d6)

1. who is also Reynard, the trickster fox spirit...
2. who is also Morgan LeFay / Oberon / The Merrovingian Heir / Cernunnos...
3. who is also the were-beast of GĂ©vaudan...
5. who is also the actual King, who's been secretly replaced...
6. who is also the dragon who once ruled this land long before the advent of men...

Whats with the mask?

The mask is not as interesting unless it is iconic and invariable. It is a face covering and head piece that has been hammered from a single piece of meteoric iron. The mask simultaneously keeps the prisoner's identity a mystery and prevents the prisoner from expressing a True Nature. To the naked eye at least, the mask should appear to be made of some crudely-shaped and maybe lumpy metal. If the Actual King is in the mask, then the mask should draw on his memories, or life-force, or aura to send power to the villain who is impersonating him.

The next time your players are in the Bastille, or any old, weird dungeon you can have them run into someone like this instead of a regular monster encounter. How long has this person been here? What's been keeping them alive? How hard is it to get the mask off? I don't know, but it could be fun to find out.

>B

I tried to keep the flavor of the above options related to French folklore, but there's no reason beyond that.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

How I'm using the Pathfinder Beginner Box

Keeping it simple?

The idea with this game is to just relax, have fun, test out a few ideas, and learn some things about running D&D that I might not have known. One loose goal I set for myself has been to just keep running games with the material that is inside the box, or material that I already have, or material that is free. So far, thats been great. I (mostly) keep to my cheap ethic, and I learn some things about making my own game out of what's available.

What's in the box?

The box has some useful things in it. Very clear and basic GM guidance for different types of terrain, random tables for said terrain, lists of traps, a fair-sized bestiary with accompanying cardboard figures...a dry-erase flip-mat, a book with some items & magic items, a little bit of information on Sandpoint...just click here if you don't know what's in it.

What else did you bring me?

There are some free downloadable extras, including four small adventures that I've also added to the pile of things to pull from. I have always liked early level adventures, and I have a pretty big virtual stack of those to use should the need arise. I've pulled some of my favorite One Page Dungeons for use in this game...and I broke my "don't spend money on this game" rule by purchasing a few James Raggi adventures in PDF for further inspiration.

So what?

So, I feel like I have what I want for the most part...a bunch of ideas in various stages that I can take apart and put back together as I need them. That seems pretty advanced for me considering I've only really run some linked modules for the system before this. I want to push myself to find that sweet spot between being over-prepared (and therefore over-committed to an idea) and not having anything for the players to do if they act "unexpectedly." Previously, I've not been a big fan of how the modules constrain my sense of the game...so I want to go more towards an 'in the moment' style.

What did you learn?

So far, I've learned that players don't do what you expect them to, and that putting some limitations on what I'm doing has allowed me a little room to grow. The last session went really well on my side, it didn't need so much prep that I got 'tired' of thinking about the game, and so I felt a lot more engaged with the table as a result. I didn't even have a set number of adversaries; (I know, I know...SLOW DOWN TEX!) instead I just kept feeding them goblins and complications until it seemed like enough. It was interesting. The "heavy" encounter of the night was another sort of organic thing I threw together based on the dungeon layout. Secret door here + hall full of traps = locked door, ambush shooting gallery here. I felt good about it, and I could tell they were engaged...so that made me happy.

Where are we going?

Basically, I'd like to branch this thing out into a kind of sand-box for them to rummage in. The next steps will be to get a sense of the area, place some things...make a decision or two about how to handle random encounters, if any...and to stock up on useful tables and charts generated by my favorite DIY D&D folks. By rolling those things up with the contents of the box, I think we may have a mini-campaign that is worth talking about when its over.

Do you use it RAW?

No...and yes. I'm pretty much using the rules as written. I've allowed the PC's to take full HP at the first two levels (to lure them into a false sense of security). After that, I'm afraid they're not in much luck...I'm planning to limit the HP from here on pretty seriously. I'm still working on a scheme to keep all the HP in the game low, so if anyone has any suggestions or interesting precedents...I'd like to know. Maybe just three / level for the fighter, two for the rogue and cleric, and one for the wizard? I don't really know yet.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ten Freaks for Hubris Part 4

First, I decided to randomly roll ten half-elf characters for +Mike's Hubris hack.

Then, I diverged into table wankery.

Next, I dropped a bunch of stats on you and thought I might be done with these guys.

Finally, I have half-page, 1st level character sheets for these ten freaks!


What is behind the link, and how to use it

The link has a PDF copy of my ten, half-page character sheets for the Hubris game. The ten classes in the Hubris hack are each represented by one Half-elf freak set to Mike's starting rules as best as I can tell. They are pretty freaky and look like fun to me.

Keeping with the X-Men / Morlocks vibe, I imagine these ten as a highly motivated and committed unit who are banded together for mutual protection and to execute the will of their master, Javier. You can make them sound mysterious by using lots of bad Latin phrases. 'Domum Damnatis' and 'Reformatorium ab Vaccum' are two that I really like...regardless of how they don't really translate IRL.

Their very bad German "pirate names" are code-names, or secret names that they know each other by. They would also have as many given aliases as needed. They might travel as some kind of "Midnight Carnival" or may be stationary and based out of a type of sanitarium or asylum for keeping Void / Chaos mutated freaks from offending the bourgeois's delicate sensibilities. There are lots of ways to use these.

Even for "first level" they have some interesting abilities and weaknesses. What intrigues me is the idea that they all can sort of keep tabs on each other using the basic Half-Elf 'Hound Dog' ability. Which could allow them to execute some pretty elaborate plans without having to really talk to each other. They're resistant to further chaos mutations, and have some Elven immunities. To me, that sets the stage for some interesting questions with interesting answers.

Now, if only Mike would let me play the regenerating warrior priest of a bastard trickster god...or the pig-faced alchemist with the small, conjoined stomach twin, or the bat-winged ranger, or...or...or...

*sigh*

Enjoy these!


Notes, Disclaimers, etc...

I learned a lot more about C&C than I thought possible without owning any of the books...that being said...I am prone to human error and make no claim that these are free from flaw.


I also learned that there is a really engaging thing that happens when some of your choices are constrained. The random tables that started all this have really turned me around on the idea of random tables. Guess my PSY professor was right...too many choices = bad; a few choices to spur creativity = stimulating.


Useful Links for C&C

These were *very* helpful, and some are super nice!
>B

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Beria Annis: Finder of People and Things

+Mike Evans has gotten me thinking about games I'm not in again. So, I will take a small break from the Ten Freaks for Hubris series to put forward an NPC idea for your city games...

I'm presenting the details I settled on eventually first, but further down I just throw down the process by which I arrived at my idea and cite the places I'm pulling things from. There are no stats per-se...just a kind of conceptual map that I'm hoping will be useful for any type of game. You can make your own stats when you decide how you want to use her. Plus, I'm linking to a few stat blocks that were inspirational.

Beria Annis: Finder of People and Things

The Details

Beria is a towering (even though bent), ancient-looking, female humanoid; twisted of limb, sinewy, and with hard, nobly skin. Her teeth are metal and rusty red, her skin is iron hard, dark blue, and she is immune to cold temperatures / effects. Fitting her barbaric ancestry, she is able to handle herself in a fight and forgoes the use of weapons. She is particularly good at finding things using her wits, and the ancient magical practices of her people, the Marzanna.

Skills & Strengths

Weaknesses & Complications

  • Fire is a problem.
    • The Marzanna never had need of the promethean gift, and are 'vulnerable' to it.
      • Experiences pain within 10 feet of naked flames and x2 Damage from fire.
  • She must observe her taboos or lose her gifts until she can correct the problem. (Would you like a list of her taboos, or want to make them up yourself?)
    • Must eat the flesh of a freshly dead sapient once every new moon or can't 'Speak w/ Dead'
      • An expensive magic ritual is needed to attune herself to the Otherworld if the moon phase is not favorable.
    • Must conceal her skin in motley rags and deep hoods or lose her Iron Skin.
      • Has to go 24 hours without someone's gaze falling upon her, make new motley, and bathe in blood.
    • Cannot accept payment in the form of money, or loses half her health/wounds.
      • Must do a favor unasked, and without thanks to be able to heal to full.

Motivations

  • To keep living off the decadence of civilization.
    • Her disdain for the decadent and moneyed is well-known and hard to conceal.
  • To find things to amuse, and interest her voracious intellect.
    • Ala Sherlock Holmes, she loves mysteries, puzzles and occasionally drugs. 


The Seed

Beria Annis is an intelligent problem solver after the fashion of Sherlock Holmes. You could use her as a Special Inspecktor attached to the City Watch or as a particular type of Bounty Hunter Employed by the Influential. You know, an IG-88 for your Vornheim game or whatever.

In your game, she might be a Warrior Priest who can 'Speak w/ Dead' ... but in my own Pathfinder Basic games, I like to look for a monster entry that captures the "feel" I'm thinking of. In the case of this character I'm thinking: "witch" & "hag" with a tweak or two to make her seem new...the two images that best capture her in my mind are...

Inspirational Pictures

http://www.flickr.com/photos/30019445@N03/4213850419/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/armchairdj/2284835338/

And then I started sorting through "Hags" and "Iron Ladies" until I arrived at an idea for basically a Black Hag, or Annis Hag, or an Iron Hag...and tried to get an idea for a story out of that creature.

Inspirational Links

WrathofZombie's Monster Manual entry 'G' (for Green Hag)
Zak S. ~ Vornheim
Wikipedia ~ Beira
Forgotten Realms ~ Marzanna
D20PFSRD ~ Annis Hag

And again, I'd love to hear some feedback on this if you've got the time. Thanks again to Mike, for inspiring me on a day off!
>B

Monday, May 21, 2012

Ten Freaks for Hubris Part 3

Part 3, meet the freaks...(edited)

Before, I decided to randomly roll ten half-elf characters with the Hubris mutation tables.

Last time, I diverged into tables and learned how to bore you all.

Now, I've assigned stats, classes, and a single background to each stat block, and included sex and gender information just to satisfy my own curiosity / motivate my choices, but without knowing more about Castles & Crusades, I can't really do much more with them.

If you're German is better than mine, then I apologize in advance for the names. I couldn't shake that Marvel comic book vibe while I was doing this, so I tried to subvert it with literal, or ironic names...what I would describe as "pirate" names.

Based on the stats, and the mutations I tried to work a theme, just to make them seem interesting. In some cases, it works and in some it does not. I did not make statistically optimal choices in every case, but hey...


Sonnenbrand
STR
INT
WIS
DEX
CON
CHA
S: Female G: Male
professional beggar / pickpocket
Sunburned Skin - 09
Hair Smells Like Garbage - 24
Rogue +2 DEX
12
13
12
15
__

17
8
13
Gelbende
STR
INT
WIS
DEX
CON
CHA
S: Female G: Male
raised by animals
Yellow Skin - 06
Cat Tail - 57
Druid +2 WIS
11
8
14
__

16
17
13
9
Leer
STR
INT
WIS
DEX
CON
CHA
S: Androgynous  G: Neutral
used to be a hand-servant
Grey Skin - 03
Androgynous - 85
Monk +2 CON
13
12
12
13
14
__

16
8
Knorrig
STR
INT
WIS
DEX
CON
CHA
S: Male G: Neutral
former circus freak (the unkillable child!)
Regeneration - 96 (limb regen & 1 HP per round)
Albino Skin - 01
Warrior Priest +2 CHA   Diety = Baily
11
8
13
14
15
15
__

17
Seuche
STR
INT
WIS
DEX
CON
CHA
S: Male G: Male
from a long line of  male witches
Plague Skin - 75 (GM's choice; CON save or contract)
Spiked Tongue - 48 (5 ft. Long - 1D4 damage)
Witch +2 CHA
11
11
11
14
13
14
__

16
Stur & Reiter
STR
INT
WIS
DEX
CON
CHA
S: Male G: Female
was worshiped as a god by goblin tribe
Pig Face - 54
Small Conjoined Stomach Twin - 64
Alchemist +2 INT
11
17
__

19
15
14
14
13
Zungeline
STR
INT
WIS
DEX
CON
CHA
S: Male G: Neutral
started out as a grave robber
Spiked Tongue - 48 (5 ft. long - 1D4 damage)
Claws and Fangs - 49 (claws - 1D6 / fangs - 1D4)
Fighter +2 STR
14
__

16
10
11
11
12
8
Nicht
STR
INT
WIS
DEX
CON
CHA
S: Female G: Female
ex scribe
Void Jaunt - 45 (15ft. per day in 5ft. inc.)
Extra Arm - 30 (provides extra attack at -6)
Sorcerer +2 INT
7
16
__

18
14
12
12
12
Schafskopf
STR
INT
WIS
DEX
CON
CHA
S: Senseless mutant plumbing G: senseless mutant gender
Overgrown HEAD - 67 (big, bony plates) (+1 to CON)
White Hair - 26
Barbarian +2 CON
14
9
12
12
13
__

16
9
Geflugelt
STR
INT
WIS
DEX
CON
CHA
S: Female G: Female
raised by a cult to track & kill their enemies
Bat Wings - 60 (fly at your movement rate)
Reptilian Skin - 97 (high-quality, handbag-style leather)
Ranger +2 STR
16
__

18
9
12
16
13
10




So, here they are, a stable of ten, corrupted half-elf souls. This turned out to be the exact number of classes in the Hubris hack's rules so I tried to get one member to fit each class. There are some mixed results, but over all I was pleased. There are a few in this bunch that I would *LOVE* to try and play in Mike's game...feel free to use them for whatever in your own games. If you do, I'd like it if you dropped me a note and told me what you decided to do with them.



EDIT:
Here are the final Freaks at first level. This is the basic format I use for adversaries in my Pathfinder Beginner Box game, and I thought they might be of use to someone. So here they are...



Name:
Stur & Reiter
Schafskopf
Gelbende
Zungeline
Leer
Perceive:+3-1-1
Initiative:+1+2+1
Move:3040303030
HD / HP:d4 / 16d12 / 22d8 / 16d10 / 15d12 / 21
AC:1316 (18) / 14 (16)*16 (17)16 (18)11
Melee:dagger 1d4great axe (+1) 1d12
longsword (+1) 1d8
hand axe 1d6claws (+1) 1d6
fangs (+1) 1d4
spiked tongue( +1) 1d4
bstrd. sword (+1) 1d10
glaive 1d10 (reach)
Ranged:dagger 1d4 (10ft)s. spear 1d6 (20ft)whip 1d3 (reach etc)bola 1d4 (nonL, trip)
Special:hurl bomb 1d4 (20ft)rage* (2 rnds)
DR1; +2DAM; -2AC
animal companionclaw/claw/bitepunch 1d3 (L)
stunning fist (1/rnd)
Loot:leather armor
alchemist lab
100 gp
hide armor
hvy. wooden shield
400 gp
hide armor
lgt. wooden shield
400 gp
chain mail
hvy. steel shield
200 gp
300 gp




Name:
Geflugelt
Sonnenbrand
Nicht
Knorrig
Sueche
Perceive:+1+3-1
Initiative:+2+2+1+1
Move:3030303030
HD / HP:d10 / 17 d6 / 9d4 / 13d8  / 18? / 15
AC:15 (16)15 (16)111513
Melee:short sword 1d6dagger 1d4 (10ft)
hvy. mace 1d8
quarterstaff 1d6sickle (+1/+1 holy) 1d6 (trip)dagger 1d4 (10ft)
spiked tongue 1d4
Ranged:composite short bow 1d6 (60 ft)hand crossbow 1d4 (30ft)darts 1d3
(20ft; ROF 3)
sling 1d4 (50ft)
Special:fly 30ft
favored enemy human
imp back attack
+ 4 to hit; x2 DAM
spell casting
ritual magic
channel god 3/day
invoke god 1/dy
lay on hands 2/day
bewitch (CHA) 2/day
blood boil 1/day
(2d6 CON for 1/2)
Ravage (WIS)
Loot:studded leather
buckler
200gp
studded leather
caltrops
thieves’ tool kit
100gp
padded cloth armor
spellbook
100gp
chain shirt
holy symbol
holy water
100gp
leather armor
300gp