Saturday, June 30, 2012

Appendix N Adventures

We all have a Kickstarter problem.  Click to enlarge.
Here's the deal: City of Iron brought Appendix N Adventures to my attention.

For those who don't know, Appendix N Adventures is a proposed module series for Dungeon Crawl Classics made by Brave Halfling Publishing.

Why is this awesome?  Brave Halfling Publishing isn't just a reputable company, they're ready to build your DCC campaign.  If you contribute $20 to the Kickstarter, get pdf/print copies of everything they publish — so far, that's six modules, and if they reach $15,000, they'll also be releasing a companion campaign setting.

You...really can't buy six (maybe seven) supplements for $20 anywhere, so this is probably well worth your time.

Go check out the Kickstarter, if you'd like.  You only have a couple of days left (the project gets funded at 9:00 AM, Monday, July 2), so be swift.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Deadlands, Part XVIII

When last we left our heroes, they found a blasphemous work by Leonardo da Vinci, were contacted to recover the Doomsday Clock by the Catholic church, and were threatened by an unknown entity (possibly the serial killer known as the Angel of Death).

Having recovered somewhat, Ruby agrees to go with the group to investigate the Peerless and its model.  David Hood, Father Seward, Jake, Jeb, Ruby O'Flahertie, and Rufina get ready and hail a carriage.  David has the model ship while Seward still has the ship's wheel in his pocket.

The group goes on a carriage ride.

All is well until a black, clawed hand clothed in a grey sleeve reaches through the window and grabs Father Seward, pulling him out of the moving carriage.  Perched atop the carriage is a malformed, black-skinned humanoid with bat wings.  It wears a Confederate uniform.

Father Seward's revolver is in his hand and firing shots within seconds.  Two hit and one misses, although they do not stop the thing — they merely prompt the creature to drop Seward.  He lands hard and strains his left ankle, but is otherwise okay.  While he keeps firing shots at the thing, it grabs David Hood from the carriage, prompting him to send the model ship spiraling from his grasp and onto the road, where it splinters.  Rufina leaps from the carriage and grabs onto the thing's arm in an attempt to pull it from the carriage; the creature stays put, and starts slamming her and Hood against the carriage wheels.  When it finally drops them, it swoops off the carriage and into the street — Rufina tears after it while David runs in a panic.  It manages to grab the largest remaining chunk of the model ship and fly away — Seward lodges a bullet in the back of its skull, but it doesn't stop the creature, which finally disappears over the buildings.

Meanwhile, the carriage picks up speed and goes around the corner.  Ruby is cowering in the cab this whole time.  Jeb asks the driver to stop, and before he has a chance to respond, Jeb smashes him in the face with his rifle butt.  Jake casts a quick hex and electrocutes the driver with black lightning.  The driver finally has a chance to react and abandons the carriage as it stops, running into a nearby alley.

While the group is dusting themselves off in the street, Jeb comes around with the carriage (driven rather poorly, as he's hardly a teamster).  Father Seward asks where the driver went, and when he gets the story, starts yelling at Jake and Jeb for assaulting the driver.  He then stalks off to find the man.

Jake, Jeb, and Ruby leave the carriage and start to gather everyone to leave.  They plan on leaving the carriage behind, and so that the police are less likely to listen to the driver's story, Jeb soaks the seat in whiskey.

Father Seward finds the shattered driver whimpering in an alley.  He prays over the man and lays on hands.  The man says that Seward should be careful as some of Seward's companions are apparently bandits, and that Seward should follow the man to the police.  Seward hesitates and thinks a moment, but in that moment, the man stands and runs.  Seward sighs and returns to the rest of the group.

The group finds itself on the street again (sans David Hood, who tore down the alley and has not yet returned), and decides to return to the hotel.  Father Seward says he's going to stay behind for a moment to look after Rufina, and he'll catch up with them.  Jake and Ruby start walking back to the hotel.  Jeb lingers for a moment, but when he's convinced that Father Seward has things well in hand, he makes his way back to the hotel.  Father Seward prays over Rufina and lays on hands.  While he's making certain she is all right, David returns, and Father Seward performs his third miracle for the night, healing David's wounds.

As Rufina has gathered what chunks of the ship she could, the trio of David Hood, Father Seward, and Rufina decide to wander down to the docks and investigate the wreck of the Peerless.  As police arrive to investigate the gunshots, the three duck into alleyways to make their way to the port.

When Jake returns to the hotel, he orders some liquor and tea (containing opium) to calm Ruby's nerves.  When Jeb returns, he starts playing the mandolin.

Meanwhile, the three emerge from another alleyway and see the wreck of the Peerless.  It looks as though it lies where it ran aground, with support beams built to keep it from collapsing.  David Hood notices a few unmoving bodies of policemen in the shadows, and he points them out to Rufina and Seward.  Rufina maintains a lookout while Hood and Seward go to look; they find the corpses of police officers, apparently having been killed by heavy sword blows.  Father Seward notes that to be a little refreshing — swords mean that whatever they're about to face is human — but that unfortunately means that someone is on the ship.  Right now.

Spotting a living police man, David Hood gets his attention.  The officer comes over and taps a buddy on the shoulder — revealing that the man is just slumped against the wall, dead.  David Hood shows the officer what he found, and after a little discussion, we learn that this man is an officer O'Malley (in fact, a relative of the detective from St. Louis) and that he is willing to look the other way if we help him investigate the ship.

We walk.

When we hit the deck and peer into belowdecks, we can already smell the kerosene.  Guns are out of the question.  Even so, we climb the ladder to the hold — first O'Malley, then Hood and Seward.  Rufina waits behind for a moment to ensure there's no ambush, and then starts climbing.

Kerosene is soaking the floor.  When O'Malley, Hood, and Seward round a corner, the source becomes obvious — several barrels have been overturned in the room with a large, open crate.  The crate contains a large, ornate clock matching the one seen in da Vinci's tome, The Fall of Man.  A man stands in front of the box with a broken saber.  David Hood recognizes him as his brother, Abraham.

Abraham looks sick.  Crazed.  David says he knows he can't destroy the thing, right?  Abraham says he knows that now, but he suspects he can get rid of it by sending it back.  Before anyone can react, Abraham starts the weight.  Father Seward falls to his knees and begins praying.  O'Malley, oblivious to the enormity of what just transpired, takes a board he found to Abraham's head, killing him instantly.  A wave of energy issues forth from the clock and passes through all present.

Back at the hotel, Jake, Jeb, and Ruby are still drinking and relaxing.  Suddenly, they spit out their drinks.

The liquid has turned to blood.

**********************************

I'm fairly certain the Doomsday Clock was unleashed solely because the group forgot its guns-and-politeness, strictly gunteel ethic.

As Nicole mentioned, it was humorous that some of the group catered to their baser instincts in the same session that a Hell-artifact was activated.  That couldn't have been more perfect if it were planned.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wednesday Werk: Withering Mist

"The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep."
— T. S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

In this week's Wednesday Werk, we'll look at the Withering Mist.

The Withering Mist is less a creature and more an unnatural phenomenon.  This putrid gas will sometimes erupt from graveyards and coalesce into vaporous entities that seek life force on which to feed.  If they manage to completely drain a victim, that creature's withered flesh will frequently break apart to release another Withering Mist, thus forming a life cycle of the entity.

The entity is fairly simplistic, but it does appear capable of merging with humanoid hosts — if they keep the entity fed, the entity will transfer some of that energy to the host, healing it.  Some misguided magi and purveyors of dark secrets have entered into this bargain, but it almost always ends in death as the inhuman whims of the Withering Mist are too alien for a humanoid to balance.  Killing sprees are common.

This Withering Mist specimen may represent a small cloud, or a smaller part of a large cloud (a standard level 7 encounter could feature five of these creatures, and it is totally reasonable to assume that they are part of the same miasmal cloud).  A Withering Mist wades into combat, attacking foes with Enervating Miasma and Wither-Wight Bond.  A Withering Mist will typically open combat by attempting Wither-Wight Bond, but a large group of them will stagger that attack so that enemies must still contend with Enervating Miasma and Withering Aura while one or two Withering Mists are out of play.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Persons of Interest: She of the Dying Light

Original photograph from: http://undercheese101.deviantart.com/art/Cave-Girl-Test-83913843

She of the Dying Light (a Neutral 4th-level Fighter) is the young leader of a small tribe of Purple Men.  Forced from their native village after the attack of a giant dolm ooze, covered in scaly eyespots and with a single, cytophagous maw, they fled to the mountains west of the Blighted Lands and south of the Radioactive Desert.

Somehow avoiding the tender mercies of mad Azathoth cultists, ravenous spawn of Shub Niggurath, and the Jale followers of the Omnipotent King, the ragtag tribesmen managed to find a cavern which has apparently formed around the ruins of a crashed Space Alien ship.  Strange monsters and degenerate, mutated Space Aliens haunt the ruins, so they have not moved too far into the ship's bulk.  They have managed to scrounge some alien technology and set up some loose barricades, so they remain hidden and defended for the moment.

She of the Dying Light was chosen for the role of tribal chieftain due to her psychic talent (a family trait) and vibrant red hair, which marks her as chosen of the Sun.  Although She of the Dying Light lost her mother in the ooze's attack (her mother was among the first to react, and immediately lunged at the creature with her spear — many believe her decisive action and noble sacrifice allowed so many to escape), her aged father is still among the living.  A potent sorcerer and psychic, the old man is blind — those who gaze into his eyes might see the afterimage of the Sun's corona, indicating that he stared at an eclipse.  Among the tribe, they believe this contributes to his sorcerous power.

In the upper levels of the ruined vessel, the tribesmen have found a strange, alien gate.  There is a rumor that the tribe has established contact with an extradimensional civilization, but no one knows for certain.

Spawn of Shub Niggurath Bonus: The nameless creature that attacked their village still lives, as the natives' Stone Age technology was no match for its impenetrable blubber.  If encountered, the creature is a large, scaly, dolm ooze.  It bears four eyespots and a single circular gaping maw.  It is immune to normal weapons.  Its relevant statistics are AC 12, MV 120′ [land], HD 5, and it is Chaotic.  She of the Dying Light would probably be grateful to any who can defeat the creature that killed so many of her brethren, including her mother.

Evil Sorcery Bonus: Here are some Carcosan sorcerers from Gorgonmilk.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Starships & Spacemen

In case you haven't heard, Goblinoid Games announced the IndieGoGo campaign for Starships & Spacemen a couple of weeks ago.  For those not in the know, this is a remake of a 1978 RPG that draws its tropes from a popular science fiction franchise, and this edition is compatible with Labyrinth Lord and Mutant Future.

I'm all aboard on this one.  I don't consider myself a huge Star Trek fan, but I always seem to get excited about Star Trek.  Or maybe I'm just in love with William Shatner's luscious hairpieces:

Admit it.  You are, too.
Or maybe it's just the opportunity to do some horrific Gamma World/Metamorphosis Alpha/Star Trek mash-up.

Whatever the case, one of the more hilarious things to come from this is Forehead Friday.  Starships & Spacemen features a chart of random foreheads to outfit any new alien races your crew encounters.  While the IndieGoGo campaign is live, Goblinoid Games is displaying another entry on the chart — so far there's one for June 8 and another for June 15.

If any of this sounds interesting to you, why not check out the IndieGoGo campaign, would you?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wednesday Werk: Sanguinovore

In this week's Wednesday Werk, we'll look at the Sanguinovore.

The Sanguinovore is culled from the ranks of the restless dead, an angry spirit whose life was ended by vampiric attack.  As such, the Sanguinovore is an apex predator that hunts vampires and other undead.

Baron Lee van Hook has compiled a few anecdotes regarding Sanguinovores, as they are a prey species of the Ordrang (see also the Wednesday Werk entry).  The creatures seem to fear and flee from the Ordrang, which treat Sanguinovores as any other source of ectoplasm.  They will attempt to flee, and if that is not possible, they will attempt to destroy the Ordrang at any cost before being devoured.

Sanguinovores typically do not attack living creatures, instead focusing on vampires and other undead.  However, if they are starving, they have been known to kill living creatures to harvest their essence.  However, some corrupted Sanguinovores have been encountered; these creatures will prey upon anything they encounter.  Also, some necromancers have been known to enslave the creatures with magic and force them to attack their enemies.

The following Sanguinovore is a typical, uncorrupted specimen.  In combat, it will focus on vampires first, then undead, and then (maybe) living creatures (again, if corrupted or commanded by a wizard, all bets are off).  The creature will frequently attempt to enter combat under the cover of Invisibility, and will frequently begin by hitting a vampiric opponent with Terror, spending an Action Point, and attacking the same target with Energy Drain.  The creature will then cycle between using Invisibility and attacking, favoring Flame Blast and Furious Disruption.  It will use Energy Drain whenever a target presents itself, and Terror to subdue a particularly dangerous opponent (or to set an opponent up for Energy Drain, if it wishes to attack a particularly dangerous opponent).


Astute observers will no doubt note that Terror lacks the "Fear" keyword.  That's intentional; Sanguinovores' Terror ability cuts through those with Fear resistance.  Some scholars theorize that it acts as a rudimentary form of domination, triggering the mechanical fear response in creatures without actually instilling fear.  Whatever the case, very few creatures can resist it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Name That Movie

Over at Digital Orc, there's a contest underway to recognize stills from various movies.

Sadly, I'm drawing a blank, but maybe you'll do better.

Check out Win My Game: Name That Movie.

Dead Eye

A Note: If you plan on playing "Dead in the Eye," minor spoilers abound.  Otherwise, read on.

I neglected to note something in yesterday's Free RPG Day report: I've been ripped off!

Okay, it's probably just coincidence.  But it was funny when I was thumbing through things, and so I will share it with you.

D&D released "Dead in the Eye" for Free RPG Day, and the crux of the module is a Far Realm incursion on the Prime Material Plane of Toril.  There's a bunch of mutant creatures and an evolving beholder.  It looks like great fun.

Anyway, back in October 2011, I made some post about a cheesy dungeon trick involving a magic maze.  A tunnel opens into three branches, which must be navigated properly to access whatever dungeon lies within.

See, it starts out like this:

This looks familiar, right?

And loops unless it is navigated in this way:

Oh, yeah.  I'd know those MS Paint arrows anywhere.

So, I'm reading through "Dead in the Eye" when I come to this on page 8:

Copyright 2012 Wizards of the Coast, from "Dead in the Eye," blah, blah, blah

It's a bit more complicated than my original scheme, but the blue-highlighted route depicts the proper way to navigate the maze (it ends up looping in odd ways to confound interlopers, and travelers don't get any clues before they enter), but you still go left, right, and then continue on towards the dungeon.

It's a fairly classic trick, so I'm assuming it's a coincidence.  If it's not a coincidence, then it would appear that Wizards of the Coast developers and freelancers are reading my blog, which is also cool (go ahead and give a shout in the comments, if you'd like, as I always appreciate feedback).

Monday, June 18, 2012

Free RPG Day in Review

This past Saturday, June 16, 2012, was the sixth-annual Free RPG Day (that's the official page; you might also want to check out further information on their Facebook page or their Wikipedia page — the latter features an archive of the stuff released on previous Free RPG Days).

A bit of history: Free RPG Day was started in 2007 (and if the Dungeon Crawl Classics modules for this year's Free RPG Day are any indication, Goodman Games apparently had something to do with it).  Inspired by Free Comic Book Day, Free RPG Day is the same bit: publishers release teasers, demos, and quickstarts of their products in the hope that you'll buy them.  It's goodwill to help grow the industry.

Strangely enough, I participated in Free RPG Day back in 2008, not knowing it was only the second year.  I was not thrilled with the experience, and I wonder if the relatively early stage of the process had something to do with it.  That year, I found myself at The Compleat Strategist, and supplies were apparently limited because the guy did a random chart roll for you to get one thing.  I got a D&D 4e module ("Treasure of Talon Pass") back before I played 4e; it was supposed to come with a miniature, but totally didn't.  One of my associates got a quickstart/module for Hunter: the Vigil, which she was kind enough to give to me.  E. M. Lamb got some fantasy setting (I believe it was Goodman Games' Punjar: The Tarnished Jewel), along with Murder at Miskatonic, a copy of a hastily-written Cthulhu LIVE script (and even though he tried to get rid of that Cthulhu script, I got him an autographed copy a couple of months later).

This year, Nicole and I went to Big Planet Comics and it was way more awesome than my previous experience.  Big Planet Comics organizes a shelf, puts all the stuff on it, and has everything ready on a first-come, first-serve basis.  We arrived about ten minutes after opening, so I'm not sure if the missing stuff is stuff they didn't order or if it was already gone by the time we got there.

Whatever the case, I was humored by the line-up this year.  World of Darkness was totally absent; in fact, the only modern/horror/occult/conspiracy genre game represented this year was Conspiracy X.  Everything else was science-fiction/fantasy.

Of the stuff available, we had:
  • Battletech: A Time of War and Shadowrun: These are together because they're in the same booklet.  One is about big robots fighting wars, the other is about magic and cyberpunk together.  Battletech features "Swift Plans," about stopping a gang war, while Shadowrun features "A Night on the Town," wherein things go south when a Mr. Johnson tries to hire the PCs.
  • Cosmic Patrol: A retro-futurist RPG about pulp adventures in spaaaaaaaaace!  The included adventure is "The Kahn Protocol," wherein the characters crash on an asteroid with an old research station and have to signal for rescue before oxygen runs out.
  • Conspiracy X: A government conspiracy game about UFOs and weird events in the same vein as Delta Green and The X-Files.  The included adventure is "Convoy," wherein agents have to recover and transport a crashed alien vessel to Area 51.
  • D&D 4e: The fourth edition of some "advanced" edition of some game from the 1970s.  You've probably never heard of it.  Rather than a quickstart guide, the offering is just a module called "Dead in the Eye," which features aberrations in Forgotten Realms.
  • Dungeon Crawl Classics: This is Goodman Games' fantasy game, based on 3e and oD&D.  One of the most discussed features of DCC is the 0-level "character funnel" — a player controls four 0-level characters, and with any luck, one of them will reach 1st level in a class.  This book lacks quickstart rules, instead packing two adventures: "The Undulating Corruption" features the return of an ancient evil, once sealed away, while "The Jeweler That Dealt in Stardust" is an urban adventure that involves sneaking into the house of a noted crime lord.  This booklet also details the Mystery Map Adventure Design Competition.
  • Hârn: Hârnworld has been around a little while, and it's a fantasy world, albeit one without absolute morality and with low-magic.  Columbia Games released a map with some setting information on the other side, designed to be used with any game system.
  • NeoExodus: An anime-influenced setting for the 3e/OGL/Pathfinder set.  The included adventure, "Undying Legacy of the First Ones," is an adventure in which the PCs try to stop a group of cannibal bandits and end up doing a little dungeon delving.
  • Only War: Part of the Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay series, Only War allows players to take the role of members of the Imperial Guard.  The included adventure, "Eleventh Hour," gives PCs eleven hours to escape bombardment behind enemy lines.
  • Pathfinder: The OGL-compatible fantasy offering from Paizo.  The included adventure, "Dawn of the Scarlet Sun," is an urban adventure pitting the PCs against a serial killer.
Big Planet Comics also had some of the dice and assorted things (I managed to get a "Forest Die" d12 from Q-Workshop), as well as the third-party Pathfinder adventures "Shadowsfall: Temple of Orcus" and "Slavers of the Sunken Garden" (Nicole picked those up, but I left them since they'll be released in pdf and there weren't many copies remaining).  Sadly, the Brass & Steel quickstart and Castles & Crusades adventure were not available.

All in all, it was a good experience (certainly better than '08, anyway).  As noted, I felt it unfortunate that occult conspiracy games were underrepresented (that's what started me in the hobby, after all), although I was humored that retroclones and D&D-derivatives dominated.  The company Catalyst Games also made a strong showing, with three of their game lines (Battletech, Cosmic Patrol, and Shadowrun) making an appearance.

For anyone hoping to go next year, getting there early is an absolute necessity.  Of course, I know it varies from shop to shop — some shops require participation in any in-store events to get stuff — so what you might have to do in your locality may differ.

Three More Things: Big Planet Comics also apparently put out stock from last year, so I managed to snag a copy of the Dragon Age quickstart from 2011.

Also, Grognardia has a shorter piece about Free RPG Day.  Raven Crowking's Nest also has a piece on Free RPG Day.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Planewalker's Codex

Another shout-out this morning, this time to the good people over at Planewalker.  They just released a Planescape fanzine, The Planewalker's Codex.  Issue 1 is available now.

So, if you dig the setting, download it here.

Dungeon Crawl Classics

So Grognardia made a post about his experiences with Dungeon Crawl Classics, and in that post, he refers to the Dungeon Crawl Classics 0-Level Generator.  It spits out four 0-level characters for the character funnel.

For not having read DCC, my 0-level OD&D game was right on the money.  One of the randomly-generated characters I obtained has a goose in his starting equipment.

Anyway, go check it out.

Deadlands, Part XVII

When last we left our heroes, the group grappled with paranoia, got a little educated, and found a blasphemous tome within David Hood's mother's house.

The assembled group — David Hood, Father Seward, Jake, Jeb, Ruby O'Flahertie, and Rufina — are currently contemplating the dense, Latin tome as it sits on a table in the mud room.  Jake, having a flash of inspiration, asks to borrow one of Jeb's knives and goes upstairs.  Father Seward and Ruby follow — he begins scraping away at the layer of ink on the black room, and finds that the walls were previously painted purple.  Beneath that, there is nothing spectacular other than plaster.

While part of the group does that, David flips through the book.  He notes some interesting depictions of Satan — a large portrait features Ol' Scratch with several pairs of wings and surrounded by eyes — as well as a series of portraits depicting Da Vinci building a grand machine (at the behest of demons, no less).  When it is finished, it is revealed to be an enormous clock.  After the Pope excommunicates him, the machine is grabbed and buried at a ceremony depicting a huge number of priests, bishops, cardinals, and the like (seriously, the picture features the Pope, the clock, the hole, and a sea of faces that takes up the rest of the image).

When Jake, Ruby, and Seward return from upstairs, David shows them the pictures.  We manage to puzzle together the above story, as well as the fact that the eyes and wings on the picture of Satan marks him as a high-ranking angel, calling to mind the Fall and all that jazz.  Jake manages to puzzle out enough Latin to read references to Da Vinci's Doomsday Clock and to understand that bad things happen if it is activated.

While the group is discussing these revelations, some members faintly hear someone singing "Ave Maria."  The group crowds around the door and peeks out to find a young boy sitting on the front porch.  He's singing.  We take up positions and David Hood decides to go out, as it's technically his house.  The boy asks who he may be, and when he replies that he's David Hood, the boy indicates he has a letter from the bishop, but he can only give it to him if he passes a test.  The boy then holds a set of rosary beads against David, and apparently satisfied, gives him the letter.  Ruby peeks out and attempts to say something, but the boy indicates he isn't talking to her.  He then runs off.

Returning indoors, the letter bears a seal of the bishop of Boston.  David opens and reads it; the letter requests his presence as soon as possible to discuss certain matters of import.

After some discussion, the group decides to return to the hotel with Da Vinci's Fall of Man and the model ship of the Peerless, and set Jeb to guarding them.  The group then goes to meet with His Eminence.

The nuns at the cathedral are originally rather suspicious, but once David Hood shows them the letter, they lead the group right to his office.  After introductions are made, the bishop gets down to cases — despite not being a Catholic, David's mother was a benefactor of the church.  As part of this, they asked her to help them secure an artifact — Da Vinci's Doomsday Clock — for safe-keeping in their vault in Boston.  She managed to do so, but the Clock now sits in legal limbo, trapped in Boston Harbor.  The diocese wishes to enlist the group's aid to recover the artifact and keep it safely tucked away.

The bishop also explains what happens — if the clock is activated, it ticks an hour each day.  Each day, some new horror is unleashed on the area.  When it finally strikes "midnight," it opens a gate to Hell that makes the Earth coterminous with Hell for miles around.  The Clock, incidentally, appears to be indestructible, and once activated, cannot be deactivated.

There are a few questions, primarily from Rufina.  The most notable question is, since it cannot be destroyed, why not just sink it into the Atlantic?  The bishop says that is not as safe as it sounds, and Father Seward interjects that some things that might want the clock don't need to breathe.  The bishop agrees.

Also, when asked about the Angel of Death, the bishop indicates that the Angel appeared before the mess with the Peerless, but it seems too coincidental to be unrelated.

The bishop also gives the group a companion volume to Fall of Man.  He indicates that this came from a young woman in an insane asylum, and although that is not the most reputable source, he has come to trust the counsel of the book.  He also suggests that the book contains information on the forces that might seek the Doomsday Clock.

Before parting, he asks if anyone wishes to take communion — David, Father Seward, and Ruby all deign to do so.  Father Seward also asks if there are Latin lessons, and he says there are lessons on Saturdays.  Both Rufina and Seward express an interest.

The group then departs for the hotel to pour over their new book.  Once they return — finding the objects safe with Jeb in their absence — Father Seward begins reading the journal to everyone.

The journal is by one Janice Meyer, and it appears to have been written using whatever she could get her hands on — the paper differs from entry-to-entry, the writing materials (which are typically her own blood and feces) differ, and the style even differs, sometimes reflecting the use of tools while sometimes suggesting she wrote with her fingers.  It would appear that someone eventually took this sheaf of papers and had them professionally leather-bound.

Overall, the book reads like a novel, although she sometimes breaks up her descriptions to complain about the food at the sanitarium.  Janice indicates that she lived in Georgia — Ruby recognizes that this story takes place on her family's property many years before she was born.  She loved her brother Travis, and Travis beautifully played the fiddle.  One day, the Devil appeared — a creature with red skin, goat hooves, and a purple sash.  The Devil cannot resist a bet, and he and Travis made a bet about who could play the best fiddle.  For two weeks they played, and the people came to watch.  Finally, the Devil conceded, and Travis won the bet.  The bet was for souls, meaning that Travis won the Devil's soul.  Travis began to sprout uncountable wings and stepped into a seam that formed in the air, presumably a portal to Hell.  The Devil became mortal and fled that place.

A week later, there were strange lights.  Janice investigated to find the seam again open.  Horrid, blasphemous shapes pour out, and each cursed her before entering the world.  They are the Unholy Sephiroth, and they are known as Cathariel, Ghogiel, Sheiriel, Azariel, Usiel, Zomiel, Baal Chanan, Theuniel, Ogiel, and Lilith.  They represent rebellion, folly, weakness, ignorance, sadism, weakness, ugliness, failure, dullness, and imprisonment.  These creatures are cortices — a cortex being a mortal form of a demon that can wander the Earth while its soul remains in Hell — and that doorway lies open, but invisible.  One cortex keeps returning.  No spirit has exited the gateway.

The end of the book marks the year as 1798.

As Ruby now has to process that her plantation home sat on a Hellmouth, and Jake has to contemplate that he was likely mentored by the Devil himself, the group takes a little time to discuss these matters.

Finally, it is decided — the group will take the model ship in a carriage and drive past the harbor.  Father Seward will affix the steering wheel to the model ship and see if it does anything, as it is possible that the model is sympathetically bound to the actual ship.  The group decides to do this before dinner.

As Ruby is dressing, however, she notes something etched on the glass of the bedroom.  Father Seward leans out the window and sees that "RUBY" is scratched into the window.  After searching, David finds another instance of the name.  David and Father Seward then break the news to Ruby, who immediately assumes it's the Angel of Death come to kill her.  The group decides to stick together, and further prepares to go on a carriage ride past the harbor to have a look at the Peerless and see if their model ship serves any purpose.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Free RPG Day on Saturday (June 16)

Free RPG Day is on Saturday, June 16, 2012.  For those not in the know, any participating FLGS gets a parcel of stuff and gives it to people.

Further information and a list of participating retailers in your area may be found on the Free RPG Day website.

Be seeing you.

Wednesday Werk: Ractur

"Ractur?  Ugh.  Nasty little blighters.  Thicker'n Vistani, they are.  You never find just one; you're facing a small army of them, swarming with chattering teeth and sharp knives.  They come for your gewgaws and dungeon loot, but their attentions have been known to be fatal.  Bastards pack a vicious bite, stewing with more disease than a portside whorehouse.

"Inevitably, some clueless berk starts lamenting the plight of the 'poor, fuzzy little woodland 'umanoids.'  A week later, 'e's leading the torch-wielding mob, 'cause 'alf 'is village is dead from dysentery." — Ogden "The Glaive" Thursson

In this week's Wednesday Werk, we'll look at the Ractur.

The Ractur are every bit as nasty as their reputation suggests.  Thieves and marauders in the vein of goblins and kobolds, the Ractur are outcasts and refugees, welcome nowhere.  In the case of Ractur, this has less to do with any sort of vicious degeneracy and more to do with the fact that they are disease carriers.  Bards indicate they were driven by their ancestral woodlands by fire — and that those fires were set to drive them away.  Like the komodo dragon, the Ractur carry a loathsome disease in their bite, which has been known to kill afflicted victims in hours or days (very rarely, someone will die within minutes of infection).

Other than their notably virulent saliva, the Ractur are known for their love of shiny objects and their typical illiteracy.  They do not recognize the written word as valuable, and so have been found with nests composed of rare books, ritual scrolls, treasure maps, and the like — some of them still readable, if only partially.

This Ractur Vagabond represents a standard, urban-dwelling specimen.  The Ractur attempt to attack from surprise if possible; otherwise, they typically attempt to move into flanking positions to make the best usage of their Dagger attacks.  They reorient with Beat Feet, and use their dreaded Bite to keep foes on the defensive.

Astute observers will note that they do not actually carry dire rat filth fever, but their disease could be considered similar enough to not warrant different rules.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Roll out the blogroll...

...you'll have a blogroll of fun.

Here's some stuff you might find interesting.

Goblinoid Games has an IndieGoGo campaign for Starships & Spacemen, a 1978 RPG based on Star Trek.  They're reprinting it to be compatible with Labyrinth Lord.

Richard's Dystopian Pokeverse (the mastermind behind Carcosa Wacky Racestalks about D&D as an early modern game, riffing off this post at Dreams at the Lich House.

Lurking Rhythmically (y'know, the gun-brony RPG blog behind Unknown Ponies) has a post about 7th Sea and Julie D'Aubigny, noted opera singer, swashbuckler, and bisexual.

Down the Glen Tramp Little Men

The alternate title for this was "Fifty Shades of...Followers," but I decided to nab a line from a classic poem instead.

Ahem.  So, this past Monday, (that's June 4 if you're reading this in the grimdark future), I hit fifty followers.  (Ironically, as with my first follower, my fiftieth follower is someone I know personally in my Monkeysphere.)

Incidentally, I was at 271 posts at the time.  So I guess that's something, too.

At any rate, to celebrate, here are fifty things you can find at the local Goblin Market, Swap Meet, or other genre-specific eldritch market.

Fifty Strange Objects

1. Several sheets of flash paper containing several examples of Victorian erotic art.  If the pages are burned together and the smoke is inhaled, the character will get a vision of the location of a hidden sorcerer's crypt containing untold riches and rituals.

2. A thumb drive containing a .mpeg file depicting an elementary school play.  It appears to be a play about woodland animals learning to live in harmony, but during the final musical number, a soloist steps forward and begins reciting a monologue from The King in Yellow.  Screaming starts just before the media player crashes.

3. The Box.

4. Nineteen left socks.

5. A mad sorcerer's grimoire written on a single, continuous piece of tanned hide.  Analysis suggests it's human skin.

6. A Glock 17 that oozes human tears whenever it is fired.

7. A singer's voice in a wooden box.

8. The memory of a comical loss of virginity.

9. A box containing several years' worth of the Fortean Times.  Someone has written "True" or "False" next to each article heading.

10. A clay figurine which is supposedly some sort of homunculus, although the activation commands are forgotten.  In truth, it is merely a prison for the soul of a dead magus.  Note that both things may be true — if the proper syllables are spoken, it may be forced to animate and obey the petitioner.

11. A vicious knifing.

12. An aluminum water bottle of purple liquid.  This liquid has all the typical effects of LSD, save that the user can also see ghosts.

13. The memory of a mundane family vacation to the beach.

14. A hamburger in sealed lucite.  The plaque indicates that it was purchased from McDonald's on December 12, 1948, making it one of the first hamburgers sold at the renovated San Bernardino location.

15. Bigfoot's Social Security card.

16. Something off this Goblin Market table.

17. A snowglobe, depicting a small town in the Midwest and evidently originating from their chamber of commerce.  When the snowglobe is shaken, it rains (or snows) in the actual town.

18. A silverware set made by Paul Revere.  Old stains that look like strange rust cover some of the pieces.  If any old DNA can be extracted, it is revealed to be wolf blood.

19. A black garbage bag full of fingernail clippings.

20. A copy of the famous August 1991 issue of Vanity Fair featuring a nude, pregnant Demi Moore on the cover.  If examined closely, one can see the vague outline of an inhuman shape in her pregnant belly.

21. A fleeting memory of the color jale.

22. The Axe with the Edge of the Sun.

23. A ball-peen hammer.  Any slot machine touched with this ball-peen hammer will release its jackpot.

24. A dog's corpse, prepared with taxidermy.  Any cavities in the body are filled with fortune cookie fortunes.

25. A jar of baby teeth.

26. A brown glass eye.  If placed in an empty eye socket, it renders the user completely immune to injuries sustained from car accidents, even if she is thrown clear of the vehicle.

27. A set of polyhedral dice made of meteoric iron.

28. A dirty speculum.  If touched to a wooden object, an image of the woodwright will appear in the user's head, along with an impression of the person's name.  If the object is mass produced, the user will get an impression of everybody involved in its creation.

29. An unlabeled VHS tape.  The tape appears to be an amateur documentary on a man named "Phil" as he goes through his errands.  Any person, place, or thing with a supernatural talent or origin exudes a golden halo.  Phil is not supernatural, but several things in the background of the video are.

30. A hatchet head, pitted with rust stains.

31. A collection of 57 wheat pennies.

32. A musket ball, retrieved from a human cadaver.

33. Something off this Random Magical Junk table.

34. A CD of The Art of War by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.  The CD is heavily scratched and cannot be played, although when held to the light, the scratches appear to form arcane symbols.

35. A recipe for a medieval immortality elixir, pieced together as a collage of magazine clippings.

36. A clump of bees, pickled in formaldehyde.  Close examination reveals that the bees' legs have grown together, forming the clump of bees.

37. A child's drawing of a black shape labeled "CENTER TOOME."

38. A toy steak, carved from wood and painted.

39. A leather wallet stuffed with joss paper in the form of Hell bank notes.

40. A rattle.  It appears to be a Barbie leg jammed into a baby doll's head, and the head is filled with some sort of object (beads? bones?) to make it rattle.  The baby head is haphazardly decorated as a jester's ninny-stick.

41. A yellowed sheet of vellum containing a recipe for hummus.  The Latin writings sarcastically refer to it as a work of alchemy, which might confuse a modern scholar.

42. A violin that makes music so terrible it causes actual psychological stress in victims.

43. A monocle.  If dipped in milk, it allows the user to diagnose any illnesses currently affecting any person the user can see.

44. A jar of dappled light, filtered through autumn leaves.

45. A Ziploc bag of black piano keys.

46. An unlabeled 5 1/4" floppy disk.  Assuming the operator can run the program, the screen will read, "COORDINATES?"  If the operator inputs a valid address, the program will read "Y" if a magical item is present in the location and "N" if one is not present.

47. An elephant's leg, hollowed out as an umbrella stand.  It still emanates the infrasonic signals used by elephants to communicate over long distances.  If somehow decoded, it appears to be a mating signal.

48. A baseball cap which, when worn, makes the wearer seem appropriately dressed.  It does not alter appearance, and it does not allow the wearer to enter places where he would not be allowed, but it does mean that the character can wear a T-shirt and jeans to a formal affair and not be turned away based upon his mode of dress.

49. A sardine key that opens any lock it touches.

50. Six hairs in a jar stoppered with wax and human blood.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wednesday Werk: Hagtessa

"When we was young, we saw a maulkin lady what had a malmsey nose down by the refuse dumps.  Thought she was a beggar.


"Like I said, we was young.  Weren't on our guard in the city.  Thought it were 'safe.'  Whatever that means.


"She was on us in an instant.  Geezer Geoff raised his staff, but she put some sort o' hex on 'im, 'fore he could even cast a magic missile.  Whilst he was staggering, insensate, she pounced on Shae.  Was only Brother Melech what kept 'er at bay, and even at that, it was tenuous.


"We did the smart thing.  We ran, 'alf draggin' Shae and Geoff with us.  Took several days of the Brother's tender mercies to get Shae back on 'er feet.  We didn't go down to the refuse piles for quite a time after that.  Just weren't worth it." — Ogden "The Glaive" Thursson

In this week's Wednesday Werk, we'll look at the Hagtessa.

Combining some of the worst traits of ghouls, hags, and magi, the Hagtessa are wizened, mad old women thought to emerge from beyond the sane planes known to mortals.  It is likely that they were once mortal women, but have been transformed by some black curse; indeed, some scholars claim they are enslaved by mad, eldritch things beyond mortal comprehension.

Whatever their origins, they are now decrepit, old, undead hags with immense magical powers and terrifying strength.  While the creatures are capable of devastating attacks, vile sorcery, and innate magical abilities, they are also known for their abilities to enact magical rituals with nonstandard components.  Most notably, they engage in planar travel using humanoid sacrifice as a ritual focus, and they have also been known to travel on the same plane through lesser versions of the same.

Basically, they're bad news, and their hatred of free-living things prompts them to hatch insidious plots and enact grotesque tortures.  Petitioners can learn rituals or gain their aid, but it will almost require a reprehensible task on the part of the petitioner.

The Hagtessa Blood-Witch is a terrifying combatant.  It will try to lure its opponents into range of its Terror Aura and use Maddening Revelations.  It will then spend an Action Point to drop Shroud, negating any attacks that require line of sight and granting concealment to the Hagtessa.  It then uses Ensorcelling Glance to force a character against its allies, and will use it whenever available; when it is bloodied, it will only use it if doing so does not provoke opportunity attacks.  It will proceed to use Fleshrot when it is available and Rip and Tear when it is not.  As it attacks, it uses Torturous Teleport to refocus and flee large groups of enemies.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Magic in Carcosa

Forgive a spot of rambling, but I have this Carcosa megadungeon in mind.

Don't get all excited.  I don't know when I'll be ready to run, and this is the same megadungeon I noted back in January.  Since I'd almost assuredly open it to FLAILSNAILS, that means I have to consider Clerics and Magic-Users that might arrive from other games.

Is it absolutely necessary to change the magic rules?  Probably not.  However, I would like to highlight the weirdness that is Carcosa, and accentuate the fact that native Carcosans are probably the best equipped to handle Carcosa (although I really like the persistent idea that some planeswalker will arrive and start organizing the populace like John Carter of Mars or Lawrence of Arabia).

Here's the thing, though.  To tackle this subject, we have to consider D&D magic — after all, Crusssdaddy already wrote a post about this on the Doomed World CARCOSA (and one for magic-users), so why am I doing it again?

Simple.  I really like the concept, but the magic works differently in my head.  Here's where I'm coming from.

(Also, as an aside, I might not keep these rules, but here's my current thought.)

Clerics

Clerics are fanatics and faithful who pray to the divine and are rewarded for their efforts.  That's really simplistic, but the bottom line is that clerics devote themselves to the divine, and so the divine devotes itself to clerics.  Whatever the particulars (some clerics pray to multiple deities while others only revere one), there's a give-and-take relationship present.

Clerics may not specifically pray for spells, but it's obvious their devotion grants them a pipeline to the gods.  In order for their magic to work, they have to maintain that open channel.

Carcosa interferes with this in two ways.

First, as noted in the Doomed World CARCOSA post, "The Old Ones dominate CARCOSA and the other Gods of the multiverse aren’t too keen on intruding."  I agree, although I'd also point out that Carcosa has a limited connection with the spirit world, suggesting the people are more familiar with corporeal things.  I'm inclined to keep the divine spell failure rules posited in that blog post: "Cleric spells have a base 50% chance of failure, modified downward by 5% per level of the caster (ex. a 3rd level Cleric has a 35% chance of failure, an 8th level Cleric has a 10% chance of failure, at 10th level and above the chance of failure is removed).  A failed spell counts as spent."

Second, as noted, "Praying for spells can be dangerous and calls to distant Gods are prone to attract unwelcome attention."  However, the some of the rules and comments in the article seem to imply that the Old Ones are divine and hold dominion over the gods.  In my head, as in Call of Cthulhu, they're not.  They're physical entities, and for all his power, Great Cthulhu with 57 HD is just a variation (albeit a weird variation) on a Fighting Man around level 57.  Power level has nothing to do with it; although the world's greatest boxer might be able to physically defeat the Grey God of Lightning and Tailors, one's a god and the other is not (although a Fighting Man at 57th level is hardly just a normal human anymore, either, he's not divine).

As such, casting cleric spells doesn't risk drawing the Old Ones' wrath.  However, it does draw their notice: a cleric must save vs. spells/magic at +2 or else have the expenditure of power be noticed by one of the Old Ones.  Within 1-10 days, the servitors of one of the Old Ones will arrive to investigate and likely kill the cleric.  Which Great Old One notices the expenditure of divine power (and subsequently sends servitors) is up to the DM, who is free to use the d10 chart on the above blog post.  Common sense may also apply — if you're in the middle of the desert, Cthulhu probably isn't going to send deep ones after you.

Unlike Crusssdaddy's post, I assume that turning only works on undead, and that spells tend to work the same, albeit with some Carcosa trappings.  Clerics seen casting spells are considered to be sorcerers, mutants, or stranger things, and so will be treated accordingly.

Magic-Users

Arcane Vancian magic is a strange animal, typically abstracted in D&D and its incarnations.  As D&D is implicitly post-apocalyptic (and some settings imply magic is modular and almost technological in its origin; see this Jeff's Gameblog post on sufficiently advanced magic for an example), magic is typically seen as a lost art.  Its heyday has passed, and only shadows of once-great power remain — Chaucer even writes about long-gone days of magic in The Wife of Bath's Tale, saying, "In th' olde dayes of the kyng arthour, / Of which that britons speken greet honour, / Al was this land fulfild of fayerye. / The elf-queene, with hir joly compaignye, / Daunced ful ofte in many a grene mede. / This was the olde opinion, as I rede; / I speke of manye hundred yeres ago. / But now kan no man se none elves mo."

-C at Hack & Slash recently tackled Vancian magic in his post, "On a Change in View."  As noted in the post, the best summation of Vancian magic is, "The design of this mosaic we cannot surmise; our knowledge is didactic, empirical, arbitrary."  Vancian magic is vague because even the wizards don't understand it — they merely understand how to access it.

But what if Vancian magic is vague not because it's dense but because it's unsafe?  Carcosa, pg. 111 states, "At the height of their powers, the Snake-Men destroyed themselves by releasing ultratelluric forces impossible to control."  What if that powerful ancient magic from the histories messes with the same fundamental forces as the Snake-Men's sorcery?  What if civilizations with powerful magic are rare (almost every D&D setting shows magic in decline) because they tend to destroy themselves — see the Doomsday argument and Fermi Paradox for real-world theories regarding the same problem.

Whatever the case, it is assumed that arcane magic taps into the fundamental forces of the cosmos without divine intercession.  The magus is the intercessor, and he has to deal whatever happens.

In Carcosa, that means he has to deal with the leftover energy from the Snake-Men's disaster.  Those ultratelluric forces are still available, and wreak havoc on the fabric of magic.  Unlike clerics, who become more adept at contacting their patrons from anywhere in the multiverse, this never gets easier for magic-users. Low-level magic-users cannot adequately prevent backlash, although they tend to throw less power around.  High-level magic-users become much better at preventing backlash, but channel more magical power.  The problems of control and efficiency effectively cancel each other out.

As such, whenever a magic-user casts an arcane spell, the player should roll a d20.  Nothing happens most of the time, but if he rolls a "1," the caster is struck by a backlash of cosmic force.  The DM should roll 1d10 and consult the following table:

1 - The magic-user is subject to unnatural aging, aging from 1-5 years instantly (roll on the Unnatural Aging chart).

2 - The magic-user takes 1 die of damage.

3 - The magic-user gains a random mutation.

4 - The spell fails, and the magic-user can cast no more spells that day.

5 - The magic-user acts randomly, as if affected by confusion.

6 - The magic-user goes insane as if struck by an insanity weapon.

7 - The magic-user loses a level, to a minimum of 0.

8 - The magic-user takes a number of dice of damage equal to the level of the spell.

9 - The magic-user summons a random creature.  The creature appears within the caster's line of sight, almost as if summoned by a summon monster spell.  This creature is not predisposed to like the caster and will likely attack.  The DM should determine such a creature by either rolling on a local encounter table or by generating a random Spawn of Shub-Niggurath.

10 - The spell goes awry, with twisted effects: attack spells hit allies, or even the caster; healing spells deal damage; protection spells grant vulnerabilities; and so forth.

Astute observers will note that incurring backlash does not necessarily cause the spell to fail.  Even if backlash kills the caster, he will cast the spell unless the particular backlash in question contradicts this claim.

Conversely, if the magic-user rolls a "20," something unexpected (but positive) should occur.  Roll 1d10 and consult the following table:

1-4 - The magic-user does not expend a spell slot by casting the spell.

5-7 - The spell's variable effects are maximized.

8-9 - The spell's effects (range, duration, damage, etc.) are doubled.

10 - Instead of the spell the magic-user intended to cast, the magic-user casts a random spell from the magic-user spell list.  This spell is always appropriately targeted — attacks hit enemies and protection spells target friends — but can otherwise be any spell from the list.  Yes, your Level 1 Magic-User might cast wish, although that's probably just more trouble than it's worth.

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