Monday, September 17, 2018

Just an Occupational Hazard of the Speed Business

Don't forget: you have a week left to sign up for Just an Occupational Hazard of the Speed Business, another thrilling play-by-post race at the Unknown Armies Fan Club.  The top three winners get access to fabulous prizes, so get hype!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Just an Occupational Hazard of the Speed Business

So over on the Unknown Armies Fan Club on Facebook, I'm running a play-by-post illegal street race in Los Angeles — think The Fast and the Furious meets Tim Powers.  In addition to bragging rights and in-character glory, the top three winners get fabulous prizes, potentially including a copy of Maria in Three Parts!

If you're interested, come join us:

Just an Occupational Hazard of the Speed Business

If you want to join, you have until September 25, 2018 to submit a character.  Join us!

Friday, August 24, 2018

Tales of a Guerrilla Roleplayer: Koan

Before Enlightenment chop wood carry water.

It sneaks up on him, the way it always does.  Nostalgia.  And it never hits in D.C. or New York.  Hell, it never even hits in Manassas even when he passes by the spot where this all began for him — that’s always where the Gemini used to live, a couple of universes ago.  He still searches for him, from time to time, but knows it’s a fruitless errand — how would you ever hope to find someone devoured whole by the cosmos?

No.  It’s always Fredericksburg.  Fredericksburg is where Aris died, it’s where Rutters happened, it’s where a lot of things happened.

He drifted away from the others, like you do when you reach the mountaintop and have nowhere else to go.  They all drifted apart to various degrees, really.  Sure, they maintain contact, swap stories and Christmas cards, but they’re not close the way they once were.  Accomplices, fighters, lovers.  All gone, all ground into dust the way the universe does.

He likes that.  (Then again, he always liked entropy, liked endings.  Things begin, but they’re meaningless if they don’t end.)  He remembers the old days, but he doesn’t necessarily miss them.  He hated living under the threat of constant war, that this cold war of theirs might suddenly turn hot.

More recently, he hated that they became the Watchers themselves, shepherding reality to their own ends.  He knew it was necessary, but it still didn’t rinse the foul taste out of his mouth.  He’s forgotten more than most mortals ever know, but he still recalls his own quiet resentment.  Some of the others felt similarly, but it had to be done.

So he left.  He heard that the others were undergoing some manner of divine trial, and he heard about that business in Colorado, but he still walked away.  Went to find his own path, finally free for the first time in forever.

He went to Tibet for a little while.  War found him there, this time in the form of the Red Army and their hierarchical sorcerers — having no mundane history has its perks, and espionage came naturally, but he still hated it.  He enjoyed the monastic life, but he didn’t like checking over his shoulder.  He didn’t like how they treated him, like he knew some grand secret.

Gravity pulls downward, and downward for him always means back, back to the origins.  Back to 0,0. 

Back home.

He avoided the supernatural community, instead turning to the quiet life.  Once you’ve seen the strange, Awakened to its possibilities, you can never leave, of course, but you can reduce your footprint, make yourself small.  Make yourself unobtrusive.  Make yourself so strange and so mysterious that nobody comes for you, lest you decide to flex.

Be secret, and if you cannot be secret, be the dragon no one wishes to wake.  War taught him that, at least.

He made friends, friends from old splinters, friends from shards and universes long ago — he knew how to talk to them, what they liked.  He fell into old patterns, returned to an old life in a reality that had forgotten.

But still, nostalgia burns.  His wife knew, of course — he made sure to initiate her into the secret, projected into her consciousness so that she recalled a life she never lived.  Manipulative?  Likely so — but we can’t help who we are.

So, nostalgia burns.  He happened to pass by the Creepy Church a little while ago, but it’s different now, changed as the turning of ages tends to do.  They have more money, became larger, exchanged the sickly, wan, pale yellow light for a bright, white one.  The turning of two universes made it prosper, and it no longer carries the resonance it once did.

But it was in Fredericksburg proper that nostalgia gripped him.  The conditions were perfect — the rain on the windows, riding in the backseat of cars as he did ages upon ages ago.  They could have been traveling to the streets with secret names, they could have had weapons and sigils in the trunk, they could have been hunting vampires or preparing for the Watchers, but these people didn’t know, didn’t interact with the shadowed world.  Even with the secret open, they still kept to their side.

It was the alley that caught his attention.  Memory came flooding back, go down, turn left, knock on the back door, but he looked.  There was no back door, swallowed by the turning of universes, forgotten.  A dim memory.

His companions queried, and he shook his head.  “Must’ve gotten turned around,” he said.  “Let’s go.”

Back into the night.  Back into a mundane life with secret eyes.

After Enlightenment, chop wood carry water.

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Forgetting Shield

This is a relic of the Ulvenbrigad in my Frostbitten & Mutilated game.  A rival adventuring party stole it, but the PCs managed to steal it back, although the cleric died in the process.  Anyway, enjoy!

This large shield of black metal bears a strange, twisting symbol on its face, done in some manner of relief.  Anyone within 60’ viewing the front of the shield must make a save versus Magical Device or be affected by the symbol’s effect.  (During combat, attackers get a +2 to the save because they aren’t concentrating on the shield as much as their opponent’s movements.)

Anyone failing the above save is lulled into a state of unconsciousness that lasts for 1d4 hours.  Upon awakening, he or she has completely forgotten the events of the previous day.  In cases where the subject has experienced severe mental trauma, this amnesia will cure them of any insanity or mental disorders caused by those experiences.

However, the shield also has a massive side effect: it emits microwave radiation in a 60’ radius.  Water within 60’ of the shield begins to boil, and living things are wracked with pain as if they are on fire.  The pain is so intense that everyone within 60’ of the shield, including the wielder, must make a saving throw versus Paralyzation in order to act normally.  Those afflicted will usually either collapse or attempt to move as quickly as possible out of the radius.  Creatures that roll a 1 on the saving throw against Paralyzation take 1 point of damage from blisters and surface burns.

Because both of these effects are permanent, the Forgetting Shield is usually stored in a strange basket of woven metal, and only removed by the strongest warriors.  (This basket acts as a Faraday cage, in case any of your PCs get any brilliant ideas of what to do with that.)

This artifact works roughly the same way in any old school class-and-level RPG variant, but if you're using 5e, I'd check out the Symbol spell to help adjudicate the effects — Con save for pain, Wis save for amnesia/sleep.  I'd set the save DC at 20, although you can set it at 15 if you're a generous soul.  If you see the shield in combat, gain advantage on the Wisdom saving throw.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Rules of Engagement

I've been ruminating on several blog posts for several months, so here's a sliver of one that I should get out of my head sooner or later.

Back around the New Year, a friend of mine was talking about D&D, and how he didn't like the idea of how a fighter with high Armor Class (or low Armor Class, if you're playing with descending AC) is going to use hit points less than everyone else.  It means that our hypothetical fighter is not engaging with every part of the system, and so this GM is inclined to include monsters with better to-hit scores that will strike an inflated AC more frequently.

That almost sounds like a punishment.

If a player makes a character a certain way, that's presumably because they want to play that character with certain expectations as to how things are going to go.  If you play a high-movement, low-AC character, you presumably expect to stay mobile enough that you're never a valid target (or if you become a valid target, you leave).  If you play a wizard, you want to engage with those tasty spells.  And if you make someone with a notable AC, you want to be the immovable object.

Don't punish that choice by devaluing their AC, instead look at everything else on the character sheet.  If you still want to provide a challenge or target hit points or whatever, they probably still have several weaknesses that enemies can exploit.  Your hypothetical walking shield wall is probably still vulnerable to spells, being neither the most mobile nor the most strongly-willed.  And that's without getting into other consequences such as threatening their equipment, allies, family members, fellow party members, and the like.

Besides, there's no need to punish players for their good decisions when they're always likely to cause blowback with their bad decisions.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

State of the Madicon 2018: Three Months' Dead

The state of the Madicon is strong.

It's been three months, but I'm just now getting this on the blog.  Nicole and I made the annual pilgrimage to Harrisonburg, VA for Madicon 27 from March 9 to March 11, 2018. (Interested parties can read about Madicon 22, Madicon 24, Madicon 25, and Madicon 26.)  Since we're so far removed, this will likely be short and sweet.

Friday night saw hang outs and light board gaming (we tried the Mage Knight Board Game, which was probably a little more complicated than we ought to have tried to tackle at the time, but was still entertaining), but the meat of my con memories come from Saturday.

A last-minute substitution on Friday led to me running an Unknown Armies one shot rather than my usual Lamentations of the Flame Princess nonsense.  (Fortunately, I was aware of the eventuality, so I had both prepped.)  Tying in with my usual campaign, the players were high school students whose friend went missing, apparently into a mysterious cave that wasn't there just the other day.  Examination of said cave led to an Otherspace depicting a strange Soviet Los Angeles, replete with weirdos, velociraptors, and morlocks.  I think people had fun, but it also went in an unexpected direction: to find their friend and escape, the teenagers ended up cutting a deal with some mystics on the other side, who returned to our side of the gate.

The setup.  Click to enlarge.
The Objective board.  Click to enlarge.
The character sheets.  Click to enlarge.
That evening saw a continuation of Arashi's long-running 7th Sea game, which was just intense as usual.  There were costumes, there was wine, there were tears, there was awkwardness, it was a hell of time.  (And we've been dealing with the emotional fallout for three months now.  Compounded, of course, by the fact we haven't been able to play as often.)  Not as many pictures as previous Madicons, but I believe there are more unflattering pictures lurking on the internet somewhere.

Sunday we played Nevermore, which is pretty fast once you get the hang of it, and then we headed home.

Sadly, this will likely be our last regular Madicon, as the group with whom we travel probably isn't going in quite the same arrangement.  But we will no doubt set foot in that glorious land again.  If only for Glen's Fair Price.

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