Friday, July 27, 2012

Deadlands, Part XIX

When last we left our heroes, they fought with a batlike creature that might have been the serial killer known as the Angel of Death, assaulted a carriage driver, and witnessed the activation of the Doomsday Clock.

We left in two groups.  Jake, Jeb, and Ruby were drinking in the hotel suite.  David, Father Seward, and Rufina were in the Peerless.  Sergeant Séamus O'Malley, brother to Detective O'Malley in St. Louis, had just killed David's brother Abraham when the latter activated the Doomsday Clock.

When the clock activated, a wave of energy emanated in all directions.  Simultaneously, across town, Jake, Jeb, and Ruby noticed that the liquor turned to blood.

I think we're about caught up.

Since the water is turning to blood, Jake, Jeb, and Ruby (reasonably) assume that the Doomsday Clock has been activated.  They proceed to gather everybody's things and make way for the cathedral, assuming that David, Father Seward, and Rufina will make their way there.

Meanwhile, David, Father Seward, Rufina, and Sergeant O'Malley note that the acrid smell of kerosene appears to have been replaced by the coppery smell of blood.  The Peerless starts rocking violently, and so they try to skedaddle.  As they try to escape, the ship flips and everybody falls into the (now blood-filled) harbor.

You can't keep an O'Malley down, so he manages to scramble back up onto the deck.  Likewise, David hauls himself back up on deck.  Father Seward and Rufina seem to be having more trouble, but Rufina manages to pull herself out of the water along with Seward.

Once back on the ship, the blood-soaked party manages to return to dry land.  O'Malley has business (what with him being a policeman and the whole water-to-blood thing), and so takes his leave.  David and Father Seward decide to go to the cathedral while Rufina decides to return to the hotel to gather Jake, Jeb, and Ruby.

David and Father Seward arrive at the cathedral without incident.  They knock on the door and are greeted by a very old priest who immediately tries to close the door on them.  David manages to keep the door open, shoving the old man over, and they indicate that it's urgent.  As the priest still isn't calm, Father Seward tries to show him that it's a totally different sort of emergency by explaining that they're on assignment from the bishop, and they need to speak to him, and look at the holy water font.

When the priest sees it's full of bubbling blood, he agrees to get Bishop Keefe.

Bishop Dennis Keefe, obviously having been awakened, calls them into his office.  David and Father Seward relate the night's events, and before long, Jake, Jeb, Ruby, and Rufina have joined them.

After a quick recap, Bishop Keefe indicates that he'll need the tome, Da Vinci's Fall of Man.  He plans on studying it, along with some other volumes kept in the Catholic archives in Boston.  Sometime early tomorrow, he wants to call all the congregation heads together to discuss the crisis.  He wants Father Seward there, and Seward agrees.

Keefe then sends them from his chambers.  Rufina takes one last opportunity to glance over the Fall of Man, and Bishop Keefe summons a black carriage and an entourage of warrior-monks to escort him and the group to the Catholic archives.  He shows the group around and indicates that he'll be locked into the archives, and that there are things not to be seen there.  Before he sends them away, however, he gives Rufina (because she's the one who can carry it) a sword with a bejeweled hilt.  It's obviously some sort of relic, although no one can quite place its heritage.

The group leaves and decides to return to David's mother's house.  The group mulls the idea that Bishop Keefe shouldn't be trusted, but decide to cross that bridge when they get to it.  David and Father Seward stay up studying, Jeb stays awake to keep watch, Rufina sleeps in front of the door with the sword in her arms, and Jake and Ruby fall asleep together on the floor.

David and Seward don't find much that they didn't already know.  David reads his parents' journals in more depth, and finds that a creature — a dark shape, many-eyed — visited his mother the night before the man with the purple hands came and inserted inky fingers into her mind.

Father Seward finds an envelope containing a letter opener and colored dust — flaked-off paint from the illuminated Fall of Man manuscript.  He cannot recall any damage to the book, and doesn't know what someone would try to hide in it.

Before David, Father Seward, and Jeb go to sleep, they awaken Rufina for guard duty.  They tell her what they learned — she neglects to mention it, but the colored dust came from the splash-page of the Catholic church gathered around the Doomsday Clock to bury it — and then she takes guard duty.

The next morning, everyone awakens.  Already, there is a commotion in the streets: wailing, sobbing, yelling, scuffling.  Jake apparently had a dream the previous night that makes him mistrust the Bishop more — he's partially incoherent, but he thinks Bishop Keefe knew the situation in which he was getting Mrs. Hood involved.  Jake, Ruby, and Rufina decide to stick around to research some things.  David and Jeb decide to go hunting for a boat — during the discussion with Bishop Keefe, they determine that they don't have enough time to take the clock anywhere by train (Jake and Ruby hoped to ditch the device in the Hellgate on the O'Flahertie's property), so they'll have to take it to the middle of the ocean and hope the clock's Hellgate closes in 24 hours.  Father Seward is going to go to the meeting at the cathedral.

Jake, Ruby, and Rufina decide to go to the room covered in ink to do a little investigating.  Rufina starts punching holes in walls, but doesn't find anything of note.

Father Seward gets accosted on the way to the cathedral by several people looking for religious guidance.  He manages to make his way to the cathedral and press through the throng.  The old priest from the previous night is standing guard, and indicates that the Jewish contingent are late; as he looks tired, Father Seward offers to take over while he waits, but the old man bids him to enter the cathedral.

As he does so, he finds the place in an uproar, with the religious leaders of Boston shouting at each other.  Bishop Keefe looks relieved to see Father Seward, calls the meeting to order, and asks Father Seward to retrieve Fall of Man from his office.

Father Seward takes a moment to flip through the book, noting the damage to the spread depicting the Doomsday Clock, but only has a moment before the screaming starts.  He returns to the chamber and peeks in the front door to find a man in a blue top hat, blue coat, and white pants.  The man-thing has no face, only an inky blackness where a face should go.  His coat is open, revealing hundreds of infants wielding knives and other weapons.  Each infant bears a grievous wound.

If you squint and use your imagination, the entity resembles a combination of these two things.
The creatures are attacking those present, mutilating and torturing them (I distinctly recall a group of them nailing Bishop Keefe to a large cross).  Father Seward, knowing he is powerless to stop this, mutters a prayer under his breath and sneaks out the back door, pausing to put a cloth over the book so that it's less recognizable.

Meanwhile, David and Jeb go to the shipyard.  Jeb stands guard while David finds a bitter old Scotsman, and after a lot of bickering, gets him to agree to $500 to borrow his riverboat and take it out to sea.

Since David now needs money, David and Jeb return to the hotel.  As they enter, they notice Mr. Dare and Mr. Sharp checking out.  Determining that banks are out, David asks if Mr. Dare can front him some money; Mr. Dare agrees to front him a hundred dollars, but admonishes him to pay him back assuming the Apocalypse isn't coming.  Figuring that he won't have another opportunity, David asks Mr. Sharp why he's pretending to be blind; Mr. Sharp, in a huff, explains that it's all about jury sympathy.  Mr. Dare seems shocked to learn that his associate is sighted.

Meanwhile, Father Seward is wandering back to Hood's house when he catches sight of the Jewish contingent.  They summon him into an alley, and he indicates that if they try anything, he may not be able to take all of them out, but he will kill one of them.  They quickly explain that Bishop Keefe said to be on the lookout for Seward, and they get him to change clothes.  They ask if he has a place to lay low, and Father Seward reluctantly invites them to return to Hood's house.

The group arrives and Father Seward knocks on the door — Ruby answers and is quite surprised to find Father Seward in different clothes with about four or five Orthodox Jews behind him.  Introductions are made — the Jewish leader's name is Rabbi Ezekiel — and Father Seward informs everyone of the morning's events.  Jake indicates that his dream involved the baby-creature: it was the entity that visited Mrs. Hood the night before Cobb came, and when Cobb reached into her brain, he took the memory of the creature.

Rabbi Ezekiel explains that this creature is a minor-to-middling demon by the name of Bashiel; in olden days, devotees would sacrifice babies to it through unspeakable acts.  This apparently granted the entity power.

He also asks if Father Seward has the book — Seward presents Fall of Man to Rabbi Ezekiel — and Rabbi Ezekiel indicates that the book holds secrets behind the pictures.

Suddenly, it clicks for the group — Mrs. Hood wasn't defacing the book, she was trying to delve deeper into it.  Father Seward presents the letter opener and the Jewish contingent gets to work carefully scraping and translating the book.  Seward gives them some of his rations while Jake and Rufina go out into Boston to get more food; fruit is apparently a good idea as water is apparently prevented from turning to blood so long as it is in a living system.

David and Jeb find the bank closed and locked, but as per Father Seward's prediction, the looters have already started combing the streets.  To await their passage, David and Jeb climb to the roof of the bank.  Already, they see fires and other groups of looters.

They are also greeted by a very strange sight.  On a rooftop a few buildings distant, there stands a man in a blue top hat, blue coat, and white pants.  He looks to be reveling in the chaos, and as he moves, it becomes obvious that his head is jet-black.  David and Jeb debate opening fire, but decide against it, and proceed to watch as he inhumanly jumps from rooftop to rooftop before climbing a nearby belltower.

After Jake and Rufina return, Rabbi Ezekiel informs the group that the Jewish scholars have hit a problem.  The hidden passages are in Aramaic.  These passages can be read, but it will require another foray out into the city — the translation requires a book they have back at the synagogue.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wednesday Werk: Grobbly-Bonk

In this week's Wednesday Werk, we'll look at the Grobbly-Bonk.

It's a bit of a digression, but to give readers an idea of the Grobbly-Bonk, we include an excerpt from a lecture on the Abyss by the University of the Study of the Arcane Arts and Sciences' very own Professor Uaaru.

According to Professor Uaaru:
"I cannot stress this enough: there is no such thing as 'safe' demonology.  It is a common misconception among amateur or brash sorcerers to think that there is an entity that is easy to control.  The example of Grobbly-Bonk is a classic in this regard.  The name is comical, the entity has a reputation of being stupid and somewhat clumsy, the sacrifice for the demon is relatively easy to obtain, and the ritual to summon the entity is readily available; you could probably find it in our library if you look hard enough.  Maybe you'd summon him, maybe you wouldn't have a problem.  It's entirely possible, maybe even likely.  But for novice or expert alike, the best case scenario for failure is that nothing happens.  You flub a syllable or lose concentration for a second and you've lost a couple hours' work.

"But the worst case scenario?  You make a mistake in the binding portion or you neglect to draw your sigils correctly, and he eats you.  You forgot the cardinal rule — there is no such thing as 'safe demonology.  You wear many hats — you're scholars, you're craftsmen, you're brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers and children, you're lovers.  Grobbly-Bonk is always a demon, twenty-four hours a day, and no matter how simple its motivations, it is always trying to figure out how to overcome your defenses and eat you.  All demons are.  They can't be trusted, because they want to unmake reality.  Everybody in this room wants something different.  All demons want to unmake the world.  Even though they bicker, they all seek the same basic goal.

"Which brings us to the second point — Grobbly-Bonk isn't the point.  The ritual is easy and readily available because it behooves someone to have you cast it and succeed.  Each demonic action is another foothold of the Abyss on our reality, and every sorcerer who feels comfortable conjuring demons is just another potential fool who will some day summon something he can't put down.  He's a weak link in the Prime Material's defenses.

"Frequently, the Path of Screams begins with just a simple, tantalizing, first step."
As noted, Grobbly-Bonk is frequently considered a minor demon, one lacking intellect or motivation, one that can be easily swayed.  As also noted, it is a poor idea to ever underestimate a demon.

However, many of the tales are reasonably accurate — while Grobbly-Bonk may wish to eat you, it is relatively unintelligent and by-and-large only seeks to eat.  In fact, the most notable material component in its summoning ritual is meat.  While it does require over a ton of meat, it doesn't care what sort of meat it is fed — 1,500 pounds of rotten cow carcasses will catch its attention just as much as a ton of virgin's flesh.  This makes the Grobbly-Bonk a very tempting target for first-time demonologists, as the summoning ritual does not require the vile components so common in other demons' summoning rituals.

As for the demon itself, it typically keeps to a simple bargain — so long as it is fed when it arrives, it will attempt to enact the will of its caster.  Being of such low intellect, it will do so to the best of its ability, and it has a habit of leaving its task only partially complete when it eventually dissipates back to its plane of origin.

The Grobbly-Bonk is best known for its ability to locate lost objects.  Frequently, the Grobbly-Bonk will idly sketch a treasure map on nearby paper or etch a map in a wall or dirt floor, even if not prompted to do so.  These maps tend to be crude and frequently ignore several important details — such as traps, monsters, secret rooms, and suchlike — but are typically accurate with regard to whatever features they show.

Assuming the summoning goes wrong (or assuming a rival mage's summoning goes well), the Grobbly-Bonk is a fearsome combatant.  The Grobbly-Bonk opens combat with Fearsome Countenance, and will frequently spend an action point to savage someone with Double Attack.  When engaged by multiple combatants and adjacent to at least one, it will drop Darkness to confound foes.  The Grobbly-Bonk will typically fight to the death, although if precautions are not taken, "death" usually only dispels the creature back to the Abyssal realms.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ten Books

Brendan at Untimately asks what ten printed RPG books would you keep if you could only keep ten?

I responded in the comments, but I'll say the same thing here.  Unknown Armies only has ten books in the set:

  • Unknown Armies
  • One Shots
  • Lawyers, Guns, and Money
  • Postmodern Magick
  • Statosphere
  • Hush Hush
  • Weep
  • The Ascension of the Magdalene
  • Break Today
  • To Go
Boom.  Done.  If I had to ditch all my pdfs, too, I'd just hack the Fuzzy Logic engine for whatever campaign I wanted to play.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Some Rambling on Morality

So this podcast with Vincent Baker prompted this post on G+ by Zak Smith which prompted this post by Patrick Stuart which prompted this post by noisms.

Go ahead and check those out if you have time; the posts are short, but the podcast is somewhere in the forty-minute neighborhood (although you can probably manage without listening to the whole thing if you're pressed for time).

Anyway, the dialogue boils down to morality in games — namely, is morality a value that should concern us in gaming?  If we do bad things in games, are we bad people?

There's an article by Stephen King that's been floating around for a while, and it's called "Why We Crave Horror Movies."  The central thesis is that we watch horror movies as a form of catharsis (which is hardly surprising), but that the cathartic experience is the release of our darker emotions.  At the beginning of the ninth paragraph, he writes, "The potential lyncher is in almost all of us [...] and every now and then, he has to be let loose to scream and roll around in the grass."  He goes on to say that we are all conditioned to conform to the expectations of society, "But anticivilization emotions don’t go away, and they demand periodic exercise."  He continues, saying, "If we share a brotherhood of man, then we also share an insanity of man. None of which is intended as a defense of either the sick joke or insanity but merely as an explanation of why the best horror films, like the best fairy tales, manage to be reactionary, anarchistic, and revolutionary all at the same time."

He ends by summarizing this activit as something we do to "keep the gators fed."

So what does this have to do with role-playing?

I'd be hard-pressed to recall which World of Darkness book mentioned it (probably The Book of Madness, although I cannot precisely recall), but one of them referenced the whole "keeping the gators fed" idea, particularly in regard to playing villains.

I accept this behavior.  To throw more quotes at you, Mr. Rogers tells us, "Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning.  But for children play is serious learning.  Play is really the work of childhood."  Among organisms that play, most do so as a dry-run of adulthood — baby animals play to practice evading predators or catching prey, while humans practice running a household or engaging in basic mercantile behavior.  This is largely conjecture on my part, but I doubt we ever really escape this behavior.  We're always preparing for possibilities and eventualities, and in this vein, we continue to undergo that catharsis.

In my role as GM, I don't set any limits on the PCs' behavior (obviously, every world has a status quo, and my NPCs will gladly impose morality upon you).  In the confines of the game, the players are presumably friends and the environment is presumably "safe."  If you want to be moral paragons, or typically amoral murderhobos, or the most vile rapists and thieves imaginable, I don't really have a preference.  As long as everyone is comfortable, I don't have a problem with it.

That's the rub.  Everyone, as a player, should feel safe gaming in my group.  The world might be deadly, and you might not be able to trust the other characters as some of the must cutthroat bastards imaginable, but as long as everyone's having fun, there is nothing wrong.  If you want to play Black Spiral Dancers or Nephandi or Sith or Carcosan sorcerers, make sure everyone is on board and make the most of the downward slide.

Strangely, though, this is never an issue.  I never really lead the players one way or another with regard to morality, and most groups have an emergent tone that appears as gameplay progresses.  Torturing the bad guys would be relatively out of the question in The Imperial City (with a couple of notable character exceptions — E. M. Lamb's Kasi, who developed into a Tantric Thuggee devotee, might be able to get away with it) and would be totally inappropriate in False in Some Sense or The Truth Shall Set You Free, but has happened in Crux of Eternity and The Darkness of the Womb, and would be totally appropriate for the villagers of Remnant from Nasty, Brutish, and Short.

Basically, if the players want to have a relatively light round of fun, want to explore heavy moral themes, or just want to "keep the gators fed," that's all fine by me.  The moral line that cannot be crossed is a function of the group, not any particular viewpoint.

Note that this is not the same as being devoid of morality, however.  As an individual outside of my GM role, I'll usually comment on the group's morality if the mood strikes me (typically, I'll usually only comment on a shift in tone within the player group).  My world always reacts to it, too — my first Sabbat game ended with most of the characters being hunted down by the police and Camarilla agents because of their murderous rampage.  Charles Odderstol, the big villain of The Imperial City, typically tried to convince the PCs that he had the moral high-ground because they were antagonizing him.  (As an evil, insane cultist, they were perfectly justified, but it was still an interesting pattern I'd noticed.)

To summarize: in the Google+ post, Zak Smith says, "Is an underlying idea here that morality in the game has something to do with morality in real life?  Like: it doesn't.  Like not at all."  I understand different points of view — in noisms' post, he writes, "I was brought up by Christian parents (a Christian mother, more accurately - my Dad mostly humoured her), and my mother always tried to instil in me the notion that things that we watch, read, or listen to do actually affect our 'souls'; when you watch a violent film it is actually bad for you in some sense.  It is corrupting." — but I agree with Zak.  Fictional morality doesn't really have much (if any) bearing on real-life morality, and one can view any fictional acts that may be considered "immoral" or "transgressive" as simply keeping the gators fed.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Oathsworn King

Since I just listed a bunch of things to kill you, maybe I'll give you something helpful?

Maybe.

The other day, The Wisdom Frog Croaks gave us (well, really, gave MONSTROUS TELEVISION) a cursed monarch known as the Oathsworn King.

Go ahead and read the description.  I'll wait.

So, after reading that, the Oathsworn King struck me as the sort of creature that would be willing to help you (assuming, of course, that he thought you were a lost subject).

As such, I figured I'd give him companion statistics for D&D 4e (because that's what I'm playing).

Naturally, you'd have to do a little finagling with the statistics for when he inevitably turns on the PCs, but that's neither here nor there, is it?

Expedition to the Barrier Peaks for 4e

So, I wrote an adaptation of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks for my regular 4e group.  As befits 4e, it's a bit shorter and more linear, but I tried to include things that were either appropriate or actually came from the module in question.

A lot of appropriate creatures come from the new Gamma World.  The adventurers have tangled with robots, vegepygmies, froghemoths, and suchlike.

Of course, Gamma World doesn't have everything, so I ended up making some creatures for this adaptation.  As such, there are things like...

Aurumvorax

Source:  http://sfery.wikia.com/wiki/Aurumvorax
The aurumvorax is back.  Gary Gygax based this thing on the wolverine and the honey badger, which goes to show how vicious it is.  It also eats gold, which is how it gets its shiny coat.  Statistics:


Wolf-in-Sheep's-Clothing


Source: http://bit.ly/Q5d3OD
It's a creature that appears to be a stump with an alien rabbit on top.  That's the lure.  Statistics:


I paired that creature with several of the following...

Velociraptor

Source: http://www.assault.it/2012/02/09/audio-assault-83-velociraptor-handjob/
And like the rest of the world, here's where I ruin your childhood by telling you that's not a Velociraptor.  It's actually closer to a Deinonychus.  I noted that in the statistics because it humored me to do so.  Statistics:


Xenomorph

Source: http://user.xmission.com/~vancea/Xenomorph.htm
You couldn't honestly expect me to have this miniature...


...and not use it, could you?  Naturally, I did.  Statistics:


Facehugger

Source: http://bite-it-locusta.blogspot.com/2010/08/current-render-of-cg-facehugger.html
Naturally, if there's a Xenomorph, I had to include some Facehuggers.  Statistics:


These creatures are primarily labeled as aberrant for whatever reason, but you can make them whatever you want.

Interested parties can read about the party's exploits aboard the crashed ship here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wednesday Werk: Vilg

"Gross." — Ogden "The Glaive" Thursson

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

The Vilg are a highly-reviled race of toad-creatures that devour the remains of the rotten and corrupt dead.  Found in charnel houses and musty old tombs, the Vilg are easily-recognizable due to their disgusting diet, foul smell, and habit of going places no self-respecting toad would go.  They do not necessarily seek water, instead congregating in sites where corpses are frequent.  Supposedly, the Dustmen of old Sigil had to deal with the creatures frequently — although whether they found the creatures to be pests or used them for disposal changes with the telling.

Vilg are occasionally kept as pets and familiars by ghouls, goblins, and other foul humanoids that can withstand their stench and grotesque diet.  Some fastidious underdwellers use them to clear their lairs of offal, much as fishmongers might use snails to keep fish tanks clean.

Vilg are most likely to be encountered in their capacity as pets and familiars; one might find such a creature in a ghoul's den, or traveling with a goblin hexer.  Vilg typically attempt to avoid combat, but if pressed, will attempt to Bite opponents and then use Bounder to reposition themselves or escape.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Library

I've been busy lately (as I previously said, the worst thing for a gaming blog is gaming, among other things), but I'll hopefully have more content, y'know, soonish.

Anyway, today is Information Access Day, meant to remind you about libraries.  I know this is only tangentally related to role-playing, but if you like gaming, chances are good you absorb a fair amount of media.

If you do that, chances are good you're into the library.

Libraries always need your help, so here's some stuff for you to read on the subject:

Issues: The Future of Libraries

Information Access Day

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wednesday Werk: Fantomist

"Fantomists?  We 'Cocks don't let 'em into the city.  Lemme tell you what happened the last time a Fant came around; somebody turned up dead by the docks, and the Claasen said they had a lead on a guy.  All the descriptions suggested a wizened humanoid surrounded by this ghostly mist.

"Well, that's all anybody needed to hear.  The call went out.  Jax showed up, Torili and Balror showed up, even LeFarge showed up.

"The fight was pretty anticlimactic, all told.  Most of us held back, and a couple of guys ran in.  They panicked, ran back out.  A couple of Fants came out, throwing ectoplasm.  They saw all of us, and knew there was no way out, so they started slingin' Flash like it was goin' out of style.

"It went just like you'd expect.  One of ours went down, but you've got arrows slingin', you've got Torili summonin' spirits, you've got Jax dancin' between arrows like she's on stage, and then LeFarge rolls in and straight-up decapitates one of 'em.  With no support, the other Fant falls right quick.

"That's what happens when Fantomists show up in Scandshar." —Tlindill "the Drubber" Randalore

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

The Fantomists are a secretive group of necromancers.  Whether they're a sect, a religion, a secret society, or a race is unclear — they seem to have traits of all these things — but it is clear is that they're Bad News.  Reviled by many groups, the Fantomists must hide their activities, and so operate behind the scenes, for operating openly is frequently fatal.

As for the Fantomists themselves, they are not quite undead, instead occupying some queer twilight between the lands of the living and the dead.  They know many secrets, and always seem to be looking for more.  Some merchant or adventurer always seems keen on learning their secrets, but the Fantomists have a way of twisting things in their favor.  Buyer beware.

Although the Fantomists are hated equally by most organizations (particularly clerical orders), in the Sorrowfell Plains, the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks appears to harbor a particular hatred for them, dispatching large groups of enforcers to handle any potential Fantomist incursion.  Rumors suggest that there is an ancient feud between the two groups, but those in the know suggest that the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks is merely protecting an investment — if the Fantomists try to influence events from the shadows, that's cutting into the Menagerie's action.

Of course, smart observers suspect that this doesn't prevent Fantomists from doing things in Menagerie strongholds such as Scandshar — it probably only serves to make Fantomist sects in the Sorrowfell leaner and meaner.

The Fantomist Death-Priest represents an adept spellcaster among the Fantomists, and represents the sort of character adventurers are likely to meet.  The Fantomist Death-Priest opens combat with Ectoplasmic Bolts — it waits to use its other powers to maximum effect.  It uses Bleakwind Gale whenever foes are adjacent, and if three or more foes are adjacent, it will use Grim Miasma to give itself some breathing room.  It waits to use Damning Rot, typically doing so when it can be certain that the power will hit several foes, and place a zone in a tactically advantageous position.

Of course, sometimes the Fantomist will get lucky, and its foes will be nicely grouped to start.  In that case, it may well open with Damning Rot.  If several Fantomist Death-Priests are fighting together, they will frequently try to cover as much of the area as possible with Damning Rot zones, and some members will focus on using Ectoplasmic Bolts to make the other Death-Priests' necrotic attacks more effective.

Monday, July 9, 2012

AetherCon

I hadn't heard of this until reading this post on The Most Unread Blog on the Internet. Ever.

It's...probably just easier to repost the bulk of that post:



Grab your virtual dice bags folks and mark down November 16-18, 2012 on your calendar, as the AetherCon Online RPG Convention is coming to your computer! Best of all, it’s FREE!
We will be featuring tabletop RPGs of all types throughout the weekend, highlighted by four three-day tournaments of Pathfinder Call of Cthulhu, Pathfinder, Savage Worlds, and Shadowrun. Game tables will be run on the powerful, yet easy to use, Roll20 browser-based virtual tabletop. Learn more with the Roll20 tutorials and the Roll20 Live Stream.
Grab your virtual dice bags folks and mark down November 16-18, 2012 on your calendar, the AetherCon Online RPG Convention is coming to your computer. 

We will be featuring tabletop RPGs of all types throughout the weekend highlighted by four three day tournaments of Pathfinder, Call of Cthulhu, Savage Worlds, and Shadowrun.

Additionally vendors, industry guests, and artists are also in our plans. We will be releasing free downloadable wallpapers throughout the months leading up to the con. 

Members of the Artists Enclave currently include Paul Abrams (TSR, Shadowrun); Alex E. Alonso Bravo (DC Comics, Pixar, AEG); Brent Chumley (AEG); John L Kaufmann (Shadowrun); Eric Lofgren; (Paizo, White Wolf, Mongoose Publishing), Chris Malidore (Fantasy Flight Games, PEG), Patrick McAvoy (WotC, AEG, Fantasy Flight Games), Brad McDevitt (Chaosium, CGL, Battlefield Press), Jesse Mead (Fantasy Flight Games), Aaron B. Miller (WotC, AEG, Open Design), and Stanley Morrison (AEG) among others.

Additionally, to date game publishers confirmed as taking part in AetherCon either through prize support, supplying guests, or taking a vendors booth include: 

Battlefield Press, Catalyst Game Labs, Chaosium, Chronicles of the Void, Flying Buffalo Inc., Immersion Studios, Imperfekt Industrees, Kenzer and Company, Paizo, Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Stardust Publications, Sundered Epoch and The Design Mechanism.

Confirmed guests to date are Wedge Smith and Doug Bush (Chronicles of the Void), James Sutter (Paizo),  Steven ‘Bull’ Ratkovich (CGL), and Lawrence Whittaker and Pete Nash (The Design Mechanism).

Confirmed games to date include:

All Flesh Must Be Eaten
A Thousand and One Nights
Atomic Highway
Call of Cthulhu
Castles & Crusades
Dark Heresy
Dragon Age
Eclipse Phase
Fantasy Craft
Labyrinth Lord
Legend of the Five Rings
Leverage
Mouse Guard
Mutants & Masterminds
Paranoia
Pathfinder
Pathfinder Society
RIFTs
Savage Worlds
Serenity
Shadowrun
Time Lord
Star Wars WEG D6
Swords and Wizardry

and more are on the way.

If you’d like to play in a game use our Player Pre-Registration Tool.

If you’d like to run a game use our  GM Pre-Registration Tool.

If  you don’t see your game in our lineup, would like to lend a hand, or need to inquire for any other reason, feel free to use our Contact Us page to do so.

Be sure to visit our websites and show your support for AetherCon via Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.

Return of the Son of Remnant

Ladies and gentlemen, meet E. M. Lamb's newest Carcosa character:

David Bowie and Sean Connery had a crotch-bulge-off.
Who won?  The viewers.
Why does he need a new one?  Well, I'll put the whole story up on Obsidian Portal shortly, but it was the most pimp-ass thing I've seen in a long while.

His character (Shako of the Wastes) and Nicole's character (Lilimuth Yogthoth) go to visit The Incomparable Crown to establish some sort of accord, not realizing it's a village of secret cultists.  They eat, the food is poisoned, Lilimuth falls asleep in her stew, Shako doesn't.  Immediately, he's on his feet — he grabs The Incomparable Crown and holds the fork to his neck.  The Incomparable Crown doesn't put up any resistance as Shako tells him to start walking.  Shako's child-slaves are dragging Lilimuth's unconscious body.  There's a little knot of people forming around them, and before Shako can react, one of them lashes out with a spear, killing him instantly.

Lilimuth manages to escape with the help of his slaves, and then both she and his new character die in the caverns beneath Remnant.

And that's how E. M. Lamb lost two characters in one game session.  So next time, he'll be playing the Green Hornet up there with a shiny new raygun.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Guest Spot: Vampire: the Masquerade conversion

About a minute ago, I referenced David Phillips, and wouldn't you know, he wrote a blog entry here today.  Mr. Phillips has a few thoughts on Vampire: the Masquerade, Vampire: the Requiem, Dark Ages: Vampire, and his work tying them all together in his most recent campaign.

I have recently started running a Dark Ages: Vampire game that using the classic setting and the new World of Darkness system.

I was inspired to do this by a recent trip that I took to Brussels, Amsterdam, and Bruges. If you are not familiar with Bruges, you should definitely check it out... in person! It is a city near the coast of Belgium that has barely been changed or developed since the 14th century. I felt, while walking down the stone streets, that a vampire would jump out and drink my blood at any moment. That part didn't happen, fortunately, or for some people, unfortunately.

With my recent adventures in writing, I have been led time and time again to a final conclusion. I would love to write fiction for White Wolf. The last few campaigns that I have run in Vampire: The Requiem, and Mage: The Awakening just have novels written all over them. I know, I know, a lot of people say that about their campaigns. I guess I'll join the hordes and hope to get lucky one day.

The biggest time burner has been converting disciplines and thaumaturgy that were not in the Vampire Translation Guide. The conversion is actually fairly simple, if you are not trying to convert the math probabilities over, which RPGs rarely do.

Take a look at what I did with one of the paths of Mortis:

1: Masque of Death

The character can assume the visage of death or apply it to another as a minor curse.
System: 1 BP to gain the palor of the dead. The target also gets +2 on Intimidation rolls. If the character uses this to pass as a dead person, the perception roll to discover the Cainite is undead suffers a -5 penalty.
To inflict the curse spend 1 BP, touch the target and roll Stamina + Medicine + Mortis – target’s Stamina + Resilience to inflict it as a -2 to Dexterity and Composure. It lasts for a full night and day.

2: Cold of the Grave

Can take on the semblance of the dead to resist physical and emotional pain.
System: Spend 1 Willpower and gain +2 to Resolve, Composure, and Stamina for the scene. The Cainite also suffers -1 die on Presence and Manipulation rolls.

3: Curse of Life

This curse gives a reminder to the weaknesses of the living without the benefits of it.
System: Spend 1 Willpower and roll Intelligence + Medicine + Mortis – Stamina to affect a target within line of sight and 20 yards. The victim gains -2 dice on all rolls, cannot heal with blood, or raise physical attributes. This can be ignored for a scene for 1 Willpower. Remains until the next sunset.

4: Gift of the Corpse

Ignore most of the inherent weaknesses of being a Cainite.
System: Spend 1 Willpower and roll Stamina + Occult + Mortis. Each success gives one turn for this condition to stay in effect. The Cainite is immune to holy artifacts, sacred ground, frenzy, and Rotschreck. Sunlight and fire only do lethal and stakes have no effect.

5: Gift of Life

The knowledge of death allows the Cainite to echo the abilities of being human again.
System: Spend 12 BP with no turns that no is not spent. Roll Stamina + Occult + Mortis. She becomes immune to the sun and act during the day with no restrictions. After one full day, the power goes away and the character suffers a -3 on all checks to resist frenzy for 6 nights.

Now, after having done this conversion, I have to say that my review of the Vampire Translation Guide is not as good as I first thought. The guide is a good way to make players feel comfortable with converting from one system to another, but it isn't that great. The writers essentially just changed the dice pool rolls and did little else. The "feel" of the new system is not there. The "speed and simplicity" of the new system is not there. It could have been so much better.

Also, if you like anything I have said here and want to support a kickstarter for cyberpunk fiction, please check out The Trivium Proportion.

Start Kicking!

Here are a few crowdfunding campaigns you may wish to consider.

1. A friend of mine by the name of David Phillips (that's his author page on Facebook) is all over the internet.  He's on Twitter, Reddit, StumbleUpon, BoardGameGeek, BoardGaming.com, Tumblr, and (whenever their website returns) Nevermet Press.  For that matter, he doesn't know it, but the minor Imperial City villain Robert Crafft (better known as Michael Bolton to the PCs) was based on the sorts of nasty villains he played back in our LARPin' days.

Anyway, he wrote a cyberpunk novel called The Trivium Proportion (that's part one of the story from Nevermet Press, again here for whenever the website returns).  Now he's looking to publish.  To that end, he started a Kickstarter for The Trivium Proportion, and he's looking for your help.  I'll have a sample of his writing up a little later; if you like what you read, donate, would you please?

2. Goblinoid Games is still looking for assistance regarding Starships & Spacemen.  Plus, since the new version is compatible with Labyrinth Lord and Mutant Future, you can have that "James Kirk, Max Rockatansky, and Gandalf team up to fight Cthulhu" game you've always wanted to run but everyone told you was too gonzo to try (but has already been partially done in this picture).

3. The other day, Land of Nod posted about a battlemap Kickstarter.  If you use minis at the table, these battlemats sound interesting, and the artist's previous work is absolutely gorgeous.  Check out their Kickstarter here.

4. This is the big project being discussed among the OSR crowd.  James Raggi of Lamentations of the Flame Princess is running not one, not two, but nineteen simultaneous Indiegogo campaigns.  Zak Smith wrote about it, Jeff Rients wrote about it, and the man himself wrote about it.  Without further ado, here is the list (or you can check on all simultaneously):

Escaping Leviathan by Aeron Alfrey
The Seclusium of Orphone by Vincent Baker (art by Cynthia Sheppard)
Strange and Sinister Shores by Johnathan Bingham
Towers Two by Dave Brockie
The Unbegotten Citadel by Monte Cook (art by Eric Lofgren)
The House of Bone and Amber by Kevin Crawford (art by Earl Geier)
Of Unknown Provenance by Michael Curtis (art by Amos Orion Sterns)
Machinations of the Space Princess by James Desborough (art by Satine Phoenix)
Horror Among Thieves by Kelvin Green
We Who Are Lost by Anna Kreider
The Land that Exuded Evil by Cynthia Celeste Miller (art by Rowena Aitken)
Pyre by Richard Pett (art by Michael Syrigos)
I Hate Myself for What I Must Do by Mike Pohjola (art by Joel Sammallahti)
Broodmother Sky Fortress by Jeff Rients (art by Stuart Robertson)
Normal for Norfolk by Juhani Seppälä (art by Rich Longmore)
Poor Blighters by Jeff and Joel Sparks (art by Mark Allen)
The Depths of Paranoia by Jennifer Steen (art by Jason Rainville)
Red in Beak and Claw by Jukka Särkijärvi (art by Jason Rainville)
The Dreaming Plague by Ville "Burger" Vuorela (art by Juha Makkonen)

The ones that caught my eye are  Towers Two because I want an adventure written by the lead singer of GWARThe Unbegotten Citadel because Monte Cook seems to have a head for oD&D,  Machinations of the Space Princess because James Desborough and Satine Phoenix, and  Broodmother Sky Fortress because I still lament not playing in Rients' Caves of Myrddin while I had the chance.  Never having read or run a certain game about Mormons, I can't speak for  The Seclusium of Orphone although it might be up your alley if you know Baker's work.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Wednesday Werk: Rulak

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

The Rulak is a fungal creature typically found in remote, lifeless areas such as wastelands and deserts.  Baron Lee van Hook, postulating that the creature is a "carnophyte," would dearly like to study one.  Unfortunately for scholars, such creatures are relatively unknown in the Sorrowfell Plains, although some travelers have claimed to encounter them in the Stonemarch or in the deserts of the isle of Anhak.

Baron Hook has compiled a few reports of the creatures, however, and it seems that they largely exist to reproduce.  Agitation and physical violence against the creatures causes spore production, and these corrosive spores will infect living hosts.  The spores will grow to maturity in an infected host, and the Rulak spore-pods will issue forth from the victim's flesh and fly away to parts unknown.  If the victim survives, recovery is possible, although victims will frequently bear the scars for quite some time.

Unlike many creatures, the Rulak displays a startling lack of self-preservation in combat, as its death fosters its reproduction.  The Rulak will typically swoop from the sky to confront creatures, opening with Ball of Force before shifting to Double Attack.  If forced into melee, it will use Spit-Blast; otherwise, it will attempt to float out of range of foes while using Ball of Force when it is available and Double Attack when it is not.  When it is almost bloodied or dead, it will attempt to occupy a central area in the encounter location so that as many foes will be targeted by Sporulation as possible.  When it is near death, it will do the same thing to target foes with Rupture.


Any creature that is hit by spores and fails its saving throw at the end of the encounter contracts Rulak Spores at stage 1.

Rulak Spores, Level 1 Disease
A thousand tiny spores grow and writhe under your flesh.
Stage 0: The target recovers from the disease.
Stage 1: While affected by this stage, the target takes a -2 penalty to all defenses and loses a healing surge.
Stage 2: While affected by this stage, the target takes a -2 penalty to all attacks and defenses, and loses a healing surge.
Stage 3: The spore-pods burst from the target's flesh.  The target loses all healing surges and moves to Stage 0.
Check: At the end of each extended rest, the target makes an Endurance check if it is at stage 1 or 2.
8 or lower: The stage of the disease increases by one.
9-11: No change.
12 or higher: The stage of the disease decreases by one.
Special: The Cure Disease ritual does not remove the disease; instead, the target cannot roll Endurance during her next extended rest, as she is automatically assumed to have no change in disease progression.  Similarly, a target of the Curse Disease ritual cannot be aided with the Heal skill.  Normal disease progression resumes during the following extended rest.

Monday, July 2, 2012

El Tiburón, the Bulette of Scandshar!

So, a while back, one of my associates posted this:

A half-orc monk luchadore annihilates a dragon.  Click to enlarge.
So, the other day, I was messing with companion characters for fourth edition, and I was inspired to make this guy.  He might adventure with the Shields of the Sorrowfell, he might not.  It remains to be seen.

As written, he is a suitable companion character for parties of level 8-10.

So, without further ado, I present El Tiburón:


Astute observers will note that his Grab is nothing special, but I included the grapple action for ease of reference.

Resources for You

Here are some things you should watch, read, or view.

This article from the Daily Mail depicts Wonderland, a series of fantasy photographs.  Check 'em out for inspiration.

Serendipity has a series of random generators for things such as cities, medieval names, fantasy novel titles, and suchlike.  For all your random generation needs.

And finally, if you need creative insults, there's the Insult Generator.  Perfect for depicting someone who's just a touch off-kilter.

Role-Player Hater is now Malleus Blogstrorum

E. M. Lamb's Role-Player Hater is now the Malleus Blogstrorum at http://malleusblogstrorum.blogspot.com/.

Update your bookmarks and such accordingly.

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