Monday, December 30, 2013

4 NPC's for the end of the world

Dawn of the Days of the Restless, Walking Dead

I'm currently awash in research that I'm hoping will help me run a Savage Worlds "the end is happening right the heck now" game of surviving in an urban environment while the dead return to life and civilization melts down.

So here are some Extras for use in your modern-ish PA setting. Three are "pulled" using the Zombie Run "cast of thousands" table, which is a lot like the SWEX NPC generator that used to be in the Explorer's Edition...and their starting gear is drawn from the Zombie Run and Hell on Earth scavenging tables...just to kick the tires on those tables, and redistributed in a sensible manner. The final Extra is more of a plot/quest generator that I just got the idea for based on my read of a contributing writer for a "prepper" website which Im finding to be great reading / entertainment.

Alec, Nate, and Sophia
These three are a little survival band to encounter early, either out scavenging or holed up in a place your PC's want to break into and loot.

Alec is: dirty, blue eyed, 20-ish, and bearded
Used to be: WRITER (local graffiti culture)
Loves: Cats (demonstrated by the cat with mustache and monocle on his t-shirt)
Carries: Aluminum softball bat (d6+d4); 1 flash-bang grenade (stun power)
Knows: a cache of 2d20 meals and 3d12 Liters clean water

Nate is: doughy, black-eyed, 50-ish, with steel gray hair
Used to be: ENGINEER (public works)
Loves: Conversation (the end of the world has killed a good talk over beers)
Carries: Large crowbar (d6+d4); 1 flash-bang grenade (stun power); 5 pints fuel
Knows: how to travel more quietly using the public utilities systems

Sophia is: tall, large-eyed, 50-ish with straight hair
Used to be: ENTREPRENEUR (start ups are her specialty)
Loves: Math (running the numbers brings her real satisfaction)
Carries: AR-15 (Use M16 Stats) +1 to Intimidation / 4 rounds left
Knows: how to organize and delegate to medium size groups of people

Goods held in common / up for barter:
25 rounds of .50 cal, 15 crossbow bolts, a case of 24 sodas, 9 extra meals

Captain Bart
This is a character with real potential:
But I see him as an etherial, ham-radio operating presence that relays possibly useful information. A kind of "Three-Dog" character with a survivalist / prep-er bent.

Bart is: a ghostly voice on the radio, 60-ish, 
Loves: preparedness and ham radio
Carries: Colt Commander (2d6+1)
Knows: that he's "too old" to "bug out" but hopes that he can still help people over the radio from his secret "bug in" location

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Unbirthday Week:

I turned 35, and decided I'd give YOU a present. Maybe more if there's time over my little holiday...

Goblin Patches and their perils:
The light of civilization doesn't reach far in a wild, hard-scrabble fantasy world. At the dim, grey edges of organized sapient culture, there exists a twilight realm of unconscious fear and anxiety where fears take living shape and begin to colonize.

Goblin Patches are an aggressive fungus that can begin anywhere the refuse of civilization can be found...sewers, garbage piles, latrines...whatever you like. These patches produce a mess of plant goblins (read +James Young 's idea below). Use your favorite stats, and number of appearing stats.

Older patches may produce goblins with specialized functions, and higher HD or wounds. Low HD or non Wild Card "goblins" either explode when taken down (+Jack Shear 's idea below) or have a 2 in 6 chance if you're feeling nice. Large patches might inhabit entire sections of wilderness or dungeon and co-opt other boring encounter-type monsters making them fun again...(giant ant with a mushroom growing from its head anyone?)

Possible weaknesses to exploit:
Salt (or other common thing like Vinegar)

Evidence of possible problem:
Missing pets (or other vulnerable targets)
goopy-exploded slime where exploratory goblins have died errupted
someone turns up with a gross patch of skin after being "bitten"
another type of low-power monster turns up, with fungus sprouting from skull...

Possible complications:
explod-y goblins are spore-spreaders helping the patch expand...
fungus is also magical and therefore can't be starved out without some kind of arcane component (it feeds on FEAR I tell you!)
growth has a rapid "infection" rate in certain monsters or terrains
it never really "dies" until you destroy the progenitor growth spore (queen, CPU, mother-brain what have you)

Foundations of this idea:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Been waiting to add this one to my DVD collection for a while. Got a crummy copy at Half-Price for cheap. In tribute to Bob Carlyle, and Guy Pearce and all the rest: a SWDX imagining of a monster...

(As SWDX "bear" but with different Special Abilities)
Pace: 8; Parry: 6; Toughness: 10
Agility d6, Smarts d6 , Spirit d8, Strength d12+4, Vigor d12
Skills: Fighting d8, Notice d8, Swimming d6
Pace: 8; Parry: 6; Toughness: 10

Special Abilities:
Pick One, or for a really mean monster add as many as you like:
Frenzy, or Improved Frenzy
Hard to Kill, or Harder to Kill (build in a special story based way to kill 'em)
Killer Instinct
No Mercy  (though, I'd rather see you using the 'Blood and Guts' rules)

Hinderances, to taste
Big Mouth, Cannibal (Windigo love to talk about...y'know)
Bloodthirsty (A bit obvious?)
Habit, Major
(might be a good way to do this, but the Vigor check is likely offset by 'bear' stats)
Vow (lets start a master-race!)

Rules Hack to replace 'Habit' / emulate the, "insatiable" thing if you like:
Use the 'Hunger' rules from p.99 but replace 'food' with 'human flesh.' This has the benefit of being in line with previous fatigue rules and is a minor change. The drawback is that you gotta know those rules. Doubling the requirement might be a nice tweak as one but the GM is gonna give a crap though. I'd say roll a d3 to randomly determine how many 'fatigue' levels if you like...or be really mean and start them at full.

Pro Tip:
Give your Windigo a BA back story with a few possible variations so that they can blab it when they're first discovered. Ravenous is a great introduction on a few ways to play it. Or for a more random / monster of the week vibe, simply replace "bear" on your animal encounter table with "Windigo" I guess.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Answering Jeff's 20 Questions for the Blackmash Hex Reassignment

"You can run D&D with just some PCs and a dungeon. I think that's totally legit. But if you have a campaign setting, here are some things for you to think about.  Better to muse on these before your players ask you, rather than finding yourself on the spot. Campaign worlds, whether published or just notes scrawled in some DM's binder, contain a lot of material that most players honestly just don't give a crap about.  That's entirely okay.  Answer some of these questions or others like them and you'll have yourself a campaign regular players can relate to." 
~Jeff Rients

What is the deal with my cleric's religion?
The Church of the Lady is a large, and far-reaching organizing element of human society. All clerics have functions and responsibilities as well as limited legal authority inside the Church. (big 'C' Clerics are special though...they can channel / manifest power) Four apostolic Martyrs act as ideological pillars of the Church. Taking up the order of one of these Martyrs is a formal way of declaring your personal politics. A shadowy inversion of the Lady of the White Way is a sort of open secret, and it is possible to be a 'Cleric' in this tradition as well, though to do so puts one at peril from both the Law and forces of Corruption.

Where can we go to buy standard equipment?
Bone-stock equipment can be had at list pricing in the starting zone at Castle Blackmarsh. Dax Brothers Equipage is famous for its quality gear, but their prices usually ward off those with a light purse. It is possible to curry favor with different groups who could make getting gear easier: The Order of Bernus, the Wayfarer will supply Church sanctioned Wardens and Rangers with basic necessities at a very low cost. Becoming an agent of Abrams the shipping Magnate, or a mercantile guild might entail access to certain goods. In the wilderness, or near sparsly settled areas there may be some issues getting various types of items. It is possible to swap with folks met on the road, etc. 

Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?
Taking a creature of Corruption anywhere near settled lands is a bad idea, Church Warden's Patents or no. Dwarves could do it most likely, particularly if your monster is anything like their Dwarf-dogs. Their prices are always bitter though. 'Sides, its a fools errand to wear a metal suit: can't swim in it, can't run or hide in it, and Summer in the swamplands would kill you, sure.

Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?
"They" all say that it has to be the "Wizard of the Isle" who dwells out in the Smoking Bay on that rock "they" say is the biggest piece of the "Mountain that Fell" course "they" are all damn-fools. Tyrilas, the Summer King is most-likely to be the mightiest sorcerer alive, and he sits the throne at Castle Blackmarsh.  

Who is the greatest warrior in the land?
The Summer King ceded the wild-lands to his greatest Champions, and they ward the lands beyond the Pact where Humans are forbidden. These are the seven greatest warriors ever to take up the blade: Ash, Oak, Yew, Alder, Elder, Hazel, Apple.  The Apple Knight is also called Sinerian, and she is the Chief of the Rangers based at Castle Blackoak.

Who is the richest person in the land?
Abrams has the largest shipping concern in Blackmarsh. How he's gotten away with that is a mystery, as he's not even taken Orders. Tyrilas and the Summer Court pretty much "own" the entirety of the Pact Lands, they just let us live they must be the richest Folk around. Then again, the Cardinals hold the handles  to the doors of Heaven so maybe they're the richest?

Where can we go to get some magical healing?
The easiest way would be to have an association with the Church. Barring that, there's some secret societies, and cults. A trick or two might be learned / found / discovered along the way if you're brave enough for that.

Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath? 
Same as for magic healing. Death is pretty permanent. The Orders of Coraline, or of Calbrius would be mighty hard to convince. But those who worship Mama Lazuul, or Papa Stimett might know a thing or two about calling across the veil of night.

Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?
A secret society is what you're looking for. Are you religious more or less? Are you okay with breaking the Law? Cultists know spells too. Its said you can learn spells by eating Fae, but that would be a sin against the Law and open your soul to corruption...

Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?
Inside the Church when near civilization, out in the wild you'd have to bargain with a witch or something. A member in good standing with a secret society could also gain easy access to experts.

Where can I hire mercenaries?
Typical rowdies can be had from any place with a population. Real mercenaries could be more difficult. If you were brave enough, you could always recruit out in the Fens where the brigands and pirates are.

Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law? 
The Church frowns hard on casting in public, and casting in general. Even with dispensation, it could bring trouble down on you for causing a stir. Real blades are marks of status, and society enforces the status pretty strictly, so you might be de-bladed as a sign of deference or something. People who can channel divine power run the risk of being pulled into a large and dangerous political game within the Church. The farther you go from the Church, the less likely you'll be met with Inquisitors.

Which way to the nearest tavern?
The Dancing Fool is just the other side of the wall from the harbor. Its big, its cheap, and everyone goes there; caravaners, sailors, capitans, guild-folk...y'know businessmen. (Read: Patrons)

What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous? 
Hells yes! Reports from Jorvik say that Giants may have ranged down out of the Westwall. The Dwarf merchants from Olden Hold claim there's a demon boar up there so big, and smart that no one can find or kill it. They've named it Tatari-gami and placed an immodest bounty on its head. The sailors and fishermen always tell tales of the Bay Kraken, which must be utter shite, but make good stories. Even just ripping up a Gobblin Patch by the roots or keeping some Kobolds from spiriting away an entire village would earn you a little fame, and maybe an offer to join the Wardens.

Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?
The Rangers are like to be gearing up for a push against the Gnolls sometime soon. Away east, the Cardinal Ragnar chafes under his cassock at being stuck out in a castle on the strand, facing a swamp. Its rumored he might be harboring wild, heathen men from the north rather than guarding against them. You could always take orders and join the Wardens in their war on Evil...

How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?
Aways south and west of here the Dwarf Lord Mazardan stages gladiatorial combats to honor the Dwarf Gods and to bring riches into the markets of Olden Hold. She has a reputation to maintain after all, even so far from home. Rumor has it she's seeking another husband for her Manner-serai.

Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?
Several esoteric societies inside the Church, cults, covens, and guilds. What's your fancy?

What is there to eat around here?
Snake-blood-porridge, giant crab-man stew. Fish, wild game (just don't poach beyond the Pact) & Halfling grain for brewing and baking.

Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?
There are a few relics holy to the Church at large. Any decent-sized piece of the Mountain that Fell will get you into some serious trouble too. Ancient dwarf weapons lost to time, and mysterious magical elf constructions surely must crop up as well.

Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure?
"The Lake King" lives in the bottom of one of the great swamp-lakes in the Blackmarshes, in a city made from solid gold.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Spring Cleaning

I'm not good for frequent posting. I'm still tinkering with Blackmarsh, trying to understand it, trying to make it less (in my humble opinion) vanilla-fantasy. Meanwhile there are a great number of creative, and productive DIY D&D projects just erupting around me, and lots of "I paid for this product and now I'm going to read it" type-situations to take my attention away from getting up a regular blog post.

The "Gygaxian-democracy" thing has been producing interesting and eminently useable crowd-sourced things for play. You can, were you inclined, simply pickup, prep a bit, and run things like Devilmount, The Kraal, and Hexenbracken. In their way, they are more distinct, interesting, and useful than many, many, many products that you and I have paid for. I love that, and I think you should look them over if you get the chance. Armed with any of your favorite versions of the rules, and maybe Zak's advice on "How To" do should be in for a lot of fun and discovery.

There are a few products for Labyrinth Lord that I have found to be worth my money in terms of ideas and potential use, and they are from Sine Nomine. Red Tide: Campaign Sourcebook and Sandbox Toolkit, and An Echo, Resounding: A Sourcebook for Lordship and War are two products that seem like companion pieces to me. They explain the "sandbox" thesis of Sine Nomine pretty well, and give good examples to boot. Spears of the Dawn and Other Dust also look like great and useable games, but I'm not done really digging into them. I did help KickStart Spears, and the timeliness and the quality of it convinced me to go back and look at other products...well played +Kevin Crawford ...well played.

Things I have in the "to-do" plie for the Hex-Reassignment thing, which I feel will cap that thing off for now are as follows:

  • post some sample encounter tables for the region and a list of useful links for running
  • post a list of the things that inspired the work to begin with
  • maybe post something covering the meta aspects of my take on this...maybe

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Hex Reassignment Surgery: Turf

I really like the free Blackmarsh stuff, and I've been trying to connect in a more intuitive way with the Blackmarsh map, so I went through Welsh Piper's ideas about turf and started dotting the map. This is a conceptual map for now, trying to show different types of influence, knowledge  and allegiance. Since this work is ultimately for trying out  +Jack Shear's gothic flavor I'm using the Blackmarsh map key as a basis to launch the re-skinning from.

I've used green to show areas that have a loyalty to the Church, are settled, and relatively safe. Yellow is for specific adventure sites and / or encounters that aren't always going to overlap with the Church's laws, goals, etc. Red, is mostly for monster-controlled territory or ranges, specifically dangerous sites, and anti-human or anti-church things.

The zones of influence suggest a lot to me at a glance: who might know what about things in the area; who you might bump into when you're out and about; where the secret / valuable stuff is; what kind of re-skinned monsters ought to go where. Zak had a post about zones a short time back too. For me, the coloring works as a way to get some better info at a glance. (In reality, I don't know what the "X" with superscript next to them are intended to I did this instead.)

Its not quite finished, but I've certainly gotten a better idea of the map and the map key overall than I had before. Welsh Piper's thoughts about world building, turf, and letting random tables guide the wilderness exploration experience have produced some interesting results. I've not added all the overlapping territories yet, as I wanted to focus on the areas around Blackmarsh Castle to get a better idea what starting characters near there might face. If you're checking my work, you'll note that I didn't really fill in some of the full "ranges" suggested by the size of some of the encounter monsters...thats because I was in a hurry and more interested in settlements and the like.

With any luck, I'll be able to figure out a way to tag a PDF version of this map with "stickies" or annotations that I can simply click on during a session to get a bit of detail of each 5 mile hex. Then, maybe add some custom encounter tables for zones, and BAM...its all over but the treasure rolls...right?
A work in progress: Combining info from the Blackmarsh Hex key and Welsh Piper's Thoughts on Turf.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

"Duke" Brassclaw

I've been looking for inspiring images of Goblins and Kobolds for the Blackmash work I'm doing, but the side effect is that I wind up finding more pics that make me think of +Erik Jensen's Wampus CountrySo now this image won't get out of my head. So here I present to you the villan, Duke Brassclaw. I used the Wampus Country Striga Generator to give me an idea of what I wanted to know about it / him. So here's a story about the "Duke" Brassclaw...

Name: "Duke" Brassclaw
Once there was a Duke and Duchess back West, in Granddad's Country. They joined the wrong Magikcal Social Organization. The price they paid was loss of social capital and since they were mostly broke anyway they had to sell their titles and lands and head East in to Wampus Country. This was some time ago, and since they came out here they say they ain't never been heard from since. You and me, we know different though, don't we?

Origin: foul pact, foolish bargain
Being sorcerers of some skill, the two thought they knew the score. Just move West, make some ritual bargains, get rich. More's the pity, they only realized too late that Wampus Spirits can be fouler, and blacker than any old demon.

Hates: newborn infants
Now you know that "Brassclaw" was once two people. Because they bargained away their domestic union, and their future heirs, babies and their cries only serve to remind 'em of their bitter loss.

Modus Operandi: harries travelers on "her road"
Away out in Wampus someplace, there's a road that leads to an ancient place. This is where the Duke and Duchess went to make their dark pact. It was the place they'd hoped to call their own. Now, their minions patrol the land around that road, and demand "taxes" of any who dare venture there.

Features: frightening primitive mask
There was a mask, once. A big, ol' owl-headed thing with a long nose on it and little owl legs made of bright brass just a-pokin' out the front next to some ivory tusks! It was the symbol of the pact for riches and glory between the couple and the ancient spirit in that old, old place. The thing is...they had pledged to display the mask in their great hall, ugly thing that it was, and never never were they to put that thing on. Of course, they knew the mask was the face of that ol' spirit. It was plain to them as the nose on your face is to me...they jest knew that they could cross that spirit, and make it work for them if they put that mask they did.

Dress: shift woven of spider-webs
Well, I don't have to tell you that the ancient spirit not only tricked them, but cussed them good for breaking that bargain to boot! It didn't welch on the deal the two of them do have a title and lands. Though not the way they might have thought. They've got a crown, and a cape too. But the cape is made of cobwebs, and the crown is made of feathers.

Supernatural Quirks: she can remove any curse with a kiss - any curse but her own, that is
Oh, and they're still powerful, my dears, yes they are! They can break the foulest of curses with but a kiss from their long nose.

Vulnerability: mundane plant (holly-berry, potato) Obviously, baby's breath!
I heard from a Cupcake Man I met on the road once that ol' Brassclaw can be kept away by wearing a crown of Baby's Breath in your hair, and that in the Springtime they ain't seen in the meadows nor the glades.

Conveyance: chariot/coach drawn by (black steeds, skinless hounds, blinded orphans)
But sometimes in the dark of night, you can hear Brassclaw's royal-purple coach a rumblin' down a lonesome road. If you do, be sure to be clear off the road before those poor, blind, orphans pulling that thing can smell you! 'Cause if you ain't, and they ketch'll have to pull that coach in their place my dears! Yes, and they'll get to go home to your folks just as reg'lar as anything, and won't nobody notice it. Only folks who'll remember will be the two of you, and of course, won't be no helpin' it 'lessen you can trick Brassclaw into kissin' you!

Implement: skull, corpse, or body-part (cat’s skull, mummified infant, fox-tail)
The Cupcake Man told me that sometimes the Feyan out in the wild get a little meanness in them and try to scare folks on the road at night by conjuring up a vision of Brassclaw and that purple carriage. I tricked him into tellin' me how to know the difference between the haint they use and the real Brassclaw too! The only way to know you're stuck in the dread presence of the real Brassclaw is the bright red Foxtail Brasclaw carries as a wand...

Minion: superior-to-the-norm specimen (lesser undead, goblinoid)
...and the whippity-clever Goblin footman wearing giant hip-boots and a wig who carries the Foxtail wand and is never far from its master.

There! Now I can get to thinking of something else! Whew! Also, if you want stats...I don't know...use Owlbear stats and have the thing cast as a 4th level Magic-User or something. "Warning DIY D&D product...never use as directed."