Monday, February 25, 2013

Polyhedron on Archive.com

Several issues of Polyhedron magazine — either the RPGA publication or part of Dungeon magazine, depending upon the era — have been placed on archive.org for download or streaming.

Check it out if that sounds to be up your alley.

(For the record, I totally just downloaded issue #152 because it has the d20 Modern preview featuring the rules for the Thunderball Rally mini-game.  Especially since I already had issue #153 featuring both the orangutan race for Thunderball Rally and the Omega World mini-game.)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Deadlands, Part XXXII

When last we left our heroes, David, Rex, and Ruby watched a performance of the Mandragora at The Well; Jeb disappeared; David, Ruby, and Rufina encountered the lesbian spy from Brent Manning's party; and David, Ruby, and Rufina visited Dr. Morrow and learned more about the strange rock that powers the fabulous engines of Sweet Water.

After discussion, the group decides that they should come clean with Dr. Morrow, and Ruby decides to do so the next day.  David and Ruby decide to go under the pretense of asking Dr. Morrow for what manner of gift they should give The Doctor.

The next day, everyone awakens, and after breakfast, they break into three groups: Father Seward and Rufina will stay at the hotel and study Latin and Scripture, David and Ruby will go to Dr. Morrow's to explain about their amnesia, and Rex will trade his rifle for his cousin's gun (since Jeb has disappeared, he decides to be a touch more inconspicuous).

Rex goes to the outer edge of the city to trade in his gun.  He states his business to the woman behind glass at the kiosk, and stuffs his rifle through the slot.  He is about to retrieve his pistol when he sees terror flash across her face, causing him to notice the reflection of two men with pistols leveled at his head.

The girl screams and ducks.  He grabs his gun and ducks as they fire.  The bullets lodge in the glass, leaving a spiderweb of cracks.  Strangely, the glass does not shatter.

A firefight ensues.  Rex is grazed by a couple of bullets, but gives better than he gets: he blows the right ear off one of the men, who retreats, and his next bullet grazes the other man.  As the man attempts to return fire and retreat, Rex runs him down and beats him into unconsciousness.  He then sits on his chest with his gun to the man's head, and waits for police to arrive.

He is interrupted when he notices the rifle pointed out of a nearby window.  He pulls the man on top of him, but the bullet manages to penetrate the man's leg before embedding itself into Rex's leg.  He returns fire, and though he cannot see anything, he is fairly certain he hit something when the rifle barrel retreats into the gloom.

When the police arrive, they are initially confused by the scene until Rex explains things.  They ask if Rex wants to accompany them to hunt down the assassins, and he agrees.  The police officers tactically move down an alleyway with Rex following.  They make their way to a building with an external lift — almost like a modern window washer's scaffold.  As the lift rises into the air, a man peeks over the roof of the building and drops a bundle of dynamite.  It bounces, and Rex tries to kick it away.  He misses.  It detonates as it bounces through the air.

Meanwhile, Father Seward and Rufina are studying.  As the buildings rotate, Rufina and Seward see several people standing on an elevator rising along the building.  They have enough time to recognize Rex among the figures before a fireball engulfs the platform.

The shockwave hits a moment later.  Windows shatter, pelting everything with broken glass.  An object has been thrown clear through the now-open window.

That object is Rex, lapsing in-and-out of consciousness, his legs blown off.  Rufina rushes over to him to apply medical attention, while Father Seward rushes over to him to pray.  After a minute, Father Seward's hands glow and Rex's legs start to grow back.  His other lacerations and wounds begin to heal.

After he recovers and dresses himself, he explains what happened.

Meanwhile, David and Ruby are headed to Dr. Morrow's.  The sky has been overcast for much of the day, so it is hardly surprising when a peal of thunder sounds and it begins raining.

It is significantly more surprising when it begins raining blood.  (So much so that Ruby utters, "Not again!")

The shower is brief, although a cowboy boot filled with a severed foot falls by Dr. Morrow's doorstep.  When they ring, Dr. Morrow lets them in.  He is again surprised to see them, but invites them to stay.  After pleasantries, and mentioning that they would like to get a gift for The Doctor, Ruby informs Dr. Morrow that she and David have something important to discuss.  He takes them down to his lab and turns on some of the louder machines.  Ruby then explains that Cobb has taken their memories.  He is shaken, and excuses himself for pie, returning with a whole pie and a fork.  After taking some pie, he explains what he knows.

The group knew that Cobb could take memories from people, and so they were secretive about their plans when they met Dr. Morrow.  In any case, the group was tracking Cobb, and felt that they understood his plan and goals enough to stop him, but they would need the help of several allies to do this.  One piece of the puzzle is something called Garrison Wells — the group did not say if this was a person, place, or object, but something important for Father Seward waits at Garrison Wells.

From Buena Vista, ended up in Denver, where they defeated some insectoid demonic thing — a humanoid cockroach with praying mantis arms.  Dr. Morrow had both a medieval woodcut drawing of the creature, and an article written by David Hood.  For the group's aid, Dr. Morrow and Professor Bartlett manufactured the metal arms for David, Ruby, and Rufina.  They also agreed to ally with the group and aid the party in its fight against Cobb.

To do this, Professor Bartlett went to Texas ahead of the group to help handle the problem.  Bella (the lesbian spy associated with Brent Manning), Dr. Morrow, and a third (presumably Samuel O'Malley) traveled to Sweet Water to help handle the problem there.  For some reason, it was important that there be an O'Malley in both Texas and Sweet Water — something about the blood.  Dr. Morrow is not certain whether or not The Doctor is evil, but the group apparently had a method and plan for dealing with him.

With his explanation finished, and since Ruby had mentioned some questions about the health and status of the baby, Dr. Morrow sends David upstairs after giving him a gift for The Doctor (some manner of cube with clock faces on each face of the cube) and seeing to it that his manservant offers pie.  He then proceeds to give Ruby a gynecological examination.  According to Dr. Morrow, Ruby is under too much stress, and so risks aborting the fetus.  In addition to simply living a less stressful lifestyle, Dr. Morrow also prescribes her laudanum and gives her a vial of it.

Meanwhile, Rex and Rufina note that David and Ruby have been off on their own for a little while.  Father Seward decides to go to Dr. Morrow's house to check on them.

He arrives, and after being greeted by the manservant, he is brought in and offered pie with David Hood.  They chat over pie, and eventually Dr. Morrow arrives with Ruby.  He expresses surprise that Father Seward is eating pie — he apparently tended toward rotten meat when Dr. Morrow first met him — and bids everyone farewell.

Meanwhile, hotel staff has moved the contents of Hood's room to the other side of the hotel.  As such, the hotel staff direct David, Father Seward, and Ruby to their new suite — apologizing profusely for the inconvenience caused — and the concierge offers David Hood anything he needs, even mentioning that they have access to a nearby tribe of American Indians and can have them perform a smoke ritual over the expecting mother to calm her.  David requests more laudanum on Ruby's behalf, and says he will let them know if they need anything further.

Back in the new suite, everyone describes their respective days.  During the conversation, it occurs to everyone that Jeb's chalk drawing is back in the old room, and nobody yet knows its significance.  David mentions asking the Indians the concierge mentioned, and while Father Seward thinks this is a bad idea — he is suspicious of any Indian rituals associated with Sweet Water — he agrees that this is likely the best lead they have to find Jeb again.  Rufina, meanwhile, goes back to the old room to guard the chalk drawings.

David Hood and Father Seward travel downstairs to speak with the concierge.  David explains that he wishes to speak with a shaman or other representative of the local tribe, but the concierge explains that the tribe is rather secretive and only does business through the hotel.  They only appear in full ritual dress and in dim lighting.

The concierge also mentions that Ruby is free to come and look over decorations for her party.  David and Seward manage to play off this information, and learn that Ruby was apparently planning a large party.  Everyone will be there, even The Doctor.  Before departing, David asks the concierge's name, and he replies it is Donald Sullivan.

When David returns upstairs, Father Seward remains to see if he can find further information.  He does not find much more, although he does learn that the original register claimed only four people rather than the party of six currently staying in Sweet Water.  Additionally, the group apparently requested that they be allowed to inspect the room before furniture and decorations are added.

Father Seward returns to the suite, laughing because he strongly suspects that the "Indians" are actually just hotel staff dressed as Indians.  He also adds to what David has already started explaining about the party, although he notes that he neglected to ask when it is.  Ruby will likely do so when she goes to peruse decorations.

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

Don't try to trick two Bostonians with fake Indians.  Boston invented that scam.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Lamentations for Free RPG Day 2013

I totally neglected to mention this!  (And I even Kickstarted it!)

Lamentations of the Flame Princess is trying to Kickstart an adventure for Free RPG Day 2013.

Check it out.  If you get them up to $15,000, they'll release print copies of Better Than Any Man for Free RPG Day.

Just a couple days left, so go ahead, would you please?

Edit: Ended at $18,738.

The Life and Death of Large LeFarge

Well, this past weekend, my Crux of Eternity players killed notorious gang leader, Large LeFarge.  I previously mentioned Large LeFarge a while back, as well as giving him a shout-out on the Fantomist entry.

I'm particularly proud of him.  He came out of a desire to match the awesomeness of Bill the Butcher, but with a D&D twist.

So I made him a very, very angry pixie.

My favorite attack is his ability to throw pixie dust at people, causing them to float away.  The party's fighter ended up falling victim to this attack, floating around the room for several rounds before he finally saved against the effect and fell to the floor.

Without further ado, here's Large LeFarge (4e stats):

Pour out a little for our fallen homies.

Level 12 Encounter (XP 3500)
  • Large Lefarge (level 10 solo soldier)
  • 4 streetwise thugs (level 9 minion, Dungeon 161, pg. 32)
  • 2 Waterdeep street thugs (level 7 soldier, Dungeon 171, pg. 96)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Review: Rapture's Voyage

Being Valentine's Day and all, I figured I would do something appropriately-themed.  As a word of warning, my review posts tend to draw the highest traffic (ostensibly because a large number of people are searching for the subject of the review).

This...probably won't be one of those posts.

Bedroom Adventures: Rapture's Voyage doesn't actually exist.  I know this because I went around looking for an appropriate summary page (I usually link to Wikipedia articles and suchlike in the main text).  I didn't find any.  Nothing on Wikipedia, nothing on BoardGameGeek.  Nada.  The company, TDC Games, still exists, but from the look of things, did not continue the Bedroom Adventures product line (an advert on the back references the next in the series, Ecstasy Fulfilled, but I can find no evidence of its existence).  In fact, they don't reference Rapture's Voyage at all, apparently having stricken it from the histories.

Of course, no matter how deeply one attempts to bury one's shame, the internet illuminates all.  There is an archived 1993 article from The Seattle Times that discusses the game, for example.  Also, there is a series of videos depicting people playing the game at a party for laughs.

The Game: Rapture's Voyage is a combination role-playing game and board game, drawing from the tropes of romance novels.  It is meant as an intimate game for two lovers, and I strongly suspect it has never been played this way.  The male character is Lord Jonathan Coulter, a noble-turned-pirate, and the female character is Abigail Marie Charington, a wealthy dilettante whose family has fallen on hard times and has been forced to flee an arranged marriage.  She is currently masquerading as a young boy, but Captain Coulter determines her to be a woman in the prelude.

Although I like the idea that he's looking for a young boy, finds an adult woman instead, and decides to roll with it.

Each character has a script, following the format of a choose-your-own-adventure or solo RPG.  The two scripts cross-reference so that you can keep pace with each other.  There is limited decision-making, and there is a spinner that is used for some actions to add an element of chance.

The default path assumes a rather pedestrian romance novel script — douchebag captain calls in young "boy" to mess with her, they become some manner of friends, she nearly dies in a squall, both fall in love, and live happily ever after.

Did I mention that the timetable is only two days long?

The game's unplanned humor comes from the cheesy writing quality and interjection of various tropes.  Coulter notes a crewman who might be a South Seas cannibal, and Charington's arranged husband "was a disgusting dredge of a man with wisps of course [sic] orange hair grown long at the sides and brushed across the top of a shiny bald spot.  It was a contest to see which part of his body protruded more... his eyes or his stomach.  His breath could tarnish silver.  He was at least fifty, stuttered when angry and had a penchant for young women... young inexperienced women, to be more precise."

A South Seas cannibal and a deep one hybrid?  Around Boston?  This should be pretty awesome.

For me, though, the best part of the game is the potential for failure.  The game does have a couple of "Game Over" conditions — in skimming and playing this monstrosity, I found two death conditions and a nonstandard game over.  It is possible for Lord Coulter to attempt to lift Abigail Charington over his head and suffer a fatal heart attack, it is possible for Coulter to make a move such that Charington shivs him to death, and it is possible for Coulter to discover a birth mark that marks Charington as his long-lost sister, so they stop making love.

Awkward.

If there are more lose conditions, I didn't encounter them.

Play this game if you have time to kill and someone hilarious with which to play it.  Drink helps, too.

Since there is no way my rambling will do this game justice, you should probably make sure you watch those videos I linked earlier.  Here they are again:




Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Deadlands, Part XXXI

When last we left our heroes, they encountered The Well, and David and Ruby met with the Duchess.

Father Seward, Jeb, and Rufina remain at the hotel room, with Jeb using his spyglass to keep a lookout on The Well.  Rex is on his way to The Well.  David, Ruby, and the Duchess are also on their way to The Well.

Father Seward, Jeb, and Rufina are merely hanging about, passing the time.  Father Seward suddenly begins to smell a sweet smell, curses, and runs off in search of it.  Jeb and Rufina follow, and as they ask what is wrong, he says he smells something and suspects some manner of gas.  He comes to Jeb's room to find a bowl containing cactus flowers and other plant materials, almost like some manner of potpourri.  Father Seward quickly surmises this to be some manner of Apache death curse, which causes the victim to waste away.

Even if nobody is quite certain when they ran afoul of the Apache.

The trio spends some time looking for secret passages — without success — before Rufina comes up with the idea of sending the flowers back down the pneumatic tube.  Father Seward is humored by this, so it is quickly done.  They later receive a pneumatic tube from the front desk, informing them that the tubes are not to be used as trash receptacles.  Father Seward sends a reply asking about the significance of the flowers he sent.  He receives a further reply a little bit later; the person at the front desk seems confused, and appears to not know about the flowers.

Jeb continues searching for secret passages.

Meanwhile, David and Ruby accompany the Duchess to The Well.  The crowd is quite large, but David, Ruby, and the Duchess (as befits their status) make their way to the front.  Rex, on the other hand, is closer to the back.  He notices David and Ruby up front, but doesn't know what they're doing there.

Within the Artifice, the green threads spiral out of the crowd in all directions.  The special threads are also evident — Rex's frayed golden thread drifts in the wind, while David and Ruby's ochre threads trail out the window.  Ruby notes that the Duchess has no threads, but that's not right — an anomaly, like an absence of a thread, reveals itself as it passes through the threads of the crowd.  It appears she has some manner of invisible thread.

After a pause, the show begins.  An East Asian woman, wearing a red, silk, Chinese dress emerges upon the balcony.  Her left arm is heavily scarred with burns and appears useless; the burn scars slip out from underneath her collar and disappear behind a featureless white mask.  She has long, black hair falling down to her waist.  When she removes the mask, burns cover half her face, and her left eyelid is partially melted shut, revealing only glimpses of a milky, white eye.

She is accompanied by a Caucasian man in evening wear.  Faint, green lines connect her to most of the room (although not David, Rex, or Ruby, likely because they have never met her before).  A thick line connects to the Doctor's balcony, although it disappears as it hits the balcony (presumably at the outer edge of the effect of the Artifice).

The man and woman approach a piano; he sits to play while she lounges atop it and sings, and they proceed to perform a somewhat mournful tune.  As the music builds, the ambient ghostly images begin to become more permanent, somehow seeming more real.  The ghosts listen to the song, as the concert continues, their voices become vaguely audible, and their "touch" feels like a vague, static electricity.  Between songs, they turn and stare at the audience, apparently looking at friends and loved ones.  David, Rex, and Ruby note that they recognize only minor associates among the spectral horde — friends fallen out of touch, distant uncles, and suchlike — and David and Ruby further note that no ghosts stare at the Duchess.

Finally, David and Ruby see John Michael Patrick and David's mother attempting to push through the crowd of ghosts, but the concert ends before they make it, and they disappear.

Thin strands now connect the woman — the Mandragora — to David, Rex, and Ruby.

The Duchess declares another wonderful concert, with tears welling in her eyes, and bids David and Ruby good evening.

As the crowd disperses, David and Ruby linger.  Rex also lingers, and asks them what they're doing at The Well.  David and Ruby explain the change in plans as they were invited by the Duchess.  As they briefly talk, Ruby looks to see her father's ghost.  Despite the low, vague voice, she clearly recognizes what he mouths to her — "Help me."

Noting that Ruby is shaken, the two gentlemen escort her out of The Well and back to the hotel.

Upon the return to the hotel, the two groups discuss what transpired.  Ruby explains the message from her father, and Father Seward concludes necromancy, as he suspected.

As conversation continues, a couple of people realize they have not seen Jeb in a little while.  Father Seward quickly explains the Apache death curse as he hurries off to Jeb's room — to find no Jeb and a series of chalk drawings on the walls.  A figure, roughly of Jeb's build, is depicted, as are a series of tiny hands.  The art is distinctly American Indian, and Father Seward notes that the hands are somehow reverential.  He begins to doubt his earlier Apache death curse conclusion.

Wiping at one of the hands reveals that the chalk drawings are, in fact, chalk, so the group decides not to touch anything until they can determine how to get Jeb back.  There is some deliberation, but the group decides to stay in the hotel for the night.  One by one, they all retire to bed.

Father Seward has a dream in the night.  Out on the plains of the Midwest — possibly Wyoming or Montana or some such place — dark clouds gather, illuminated by lightning.  Despite the dark, the whole scene is illuminated from a white light coming from behind, almost as if the scene is being depicted on a stage.    The crows that follow Father Seward watch as they fly around, eventually gathering and coalescing into the skull-faced shaman that revived Father Seward and apparently required his daughter.  The shaman points behind the Father, and he turns around to see a twisted, old oak tree.  Father Seward — appearing as he was before death — hangs from the tree, a noose tied around his neck.  The shaman stands under the tree and points — his hand turns into a crow, which settles on the hanging Seward's left shoulder and plucks out his eye.  The crow returns and is reabsorbed as the shaman's hand.  He crushes the eye and approaches the Father Seward observing this scene, wiping the fluid on his forehead.

Father Seward awakens with a start, apparently having only slept an hour.  Still relatively well-rested — he hardly sleeps since dying — he dresses and walks out into the common room to read and wait for the others to awaken.

David awakens first, and Father Seward begins to explain his dream as Rex awakens.  Eventually, everyone is awake.

The plan for the day is to have dinner with The Doctor that evening.  After appropriate deliberations, David, Ruby, and Rufina decide to visit Dr. Morrow.  Father Seward and Rex will remain at the hotel.

On the way to Herr Doktor Morrow's house, the trio spies a mustachioed man, apparently attempting to evade police.  David and Ruby recognize "him" as a woman, and swiftly surmise it to be the lesbian spy from Brent Manning's party.  As they saw her disembarking an airship earlier, this is hardly surprising to them.

Rufina is still unaware when Ruby calls over the "man," and acts as though the group knows "him."  Rufina quickly surmises the fellow's identity, however, when "he" sweeps her into a passionate kiss and leaves half of a mustache on Rufina's face.  The police, seeing the mustachioed man joining the other group, are still suspicious, but appear to break off pursuit.

The disguised lady starts making idle chatter while leading them down a seemingly deliberate series of roads and alleys.  As they approach a closing gate, the spy takes one last opportunity to kiss Rufina — slipping something heavy into her pocket — before dashing through the gate before the police can catch her.

When they have an opportunity to dart into an alley and look, they find the object to be a small, green stone. It is exceedingly hot to the touch, although it does not burn or scald the skin.

After the strange encounter, the group arrives at Dr. Morrow's house.  A butler lets them in and fetches Dr. Morrow.  He seems a little surprised to see them, and is relieved that Jeb is not with them.  He asks them their business, and David Hood improvises the fact that they have forgotten some aspects of arm maintenance.  Dr. Morrow proceeds to explain that the arms require water at least every other day to prevent overheating.  The arms are powered by miniature steam engines that are heated by naturally-occurring, exothermic rocks that have been refined by industrial processes.  Water must be added to power, and more importantly, cool the engine.  Overheating causes the mineral to explode.

As a demonstration, he even removes the pellet from David Hood's arm.  It appears to be some small, shiny black stone, perhaps the size of a marble or a pea.  Without proper cooling, this would produce an explosion notable enough to kill the arm's user, and possibly kill or injure bystanders.

Dr. Morrow continues to speak about the stone, indicating that it is mined from the earth, and in a raw state, appears as a greenish mineral.  He proceeds to describe a stone quite similar to the one Rufina carries — although the group does not reveal that they have a sample on hand — and indicates that a stone roughly palm-sized (like the one Rufina currently carries) could be refined into one of the pea-sized samples that powers the clockwork arm.  This stuff is worth more than gold, and a stone of that size would easily fetch several hundred dollars.

Dr. Morrow also notes that many rumors float around the stone.  Most persistently, some say it is cursed, as those who refine it sometimes die a slow, wasting illness.

Rufina asks what would be necessary for Dr. Morrow to teach her more about the stone and its uses, and he explains he would be willing to take on a student if they can reveal all they know about The Doctor.  Coincidentally, the group notes that they have dinner with him this evening, so they hope to learn more.  Dr. Morrow has so far been unsuccessful in learning his secrets, other than the fact that The Well or The Artifice, however it works, is powered by the refined form of that strange, green mineral, likely in large quantity and probably cooled by the river that once flowed here (it has since been diverted underground).  He notes that he has no idea how it works, or even whether it reveals the dead or simply influences minds.

He then segues to ask the trio how they came to be in Sweet Water, when he heard at least some of them were to be in Texas.  At least, that was the plan when he gave them their arms in Denver.  They nervously explain that the plan changed, and when he obliquely asks if the Devil problem has been handled, they indicate it has not, which seems to make him considerably more nervous.  At his request, they also arrange a cover story (apparently he was not supposed to know them, according to whatever cover story they previously arranged), indicating that they heard he was one of the best to service their arms.

They further ask, and learn that he dislikes Jeb because Jeb broke an ornithopter of Morrow's design.

Satisfied, the group leaves.  Upon returning to the hotel, they find red and white roses — the white roses arranged in a cross — by the front door.  The note indicates that they are for Rufina, and the mustache drawn on the card suggests they are from the lesbian spy.  Upon entering the hotel room, the flowers are examined, and it is revealed that the bouquet contains gun barrels — more components to eventually build a functioning firearm.

David, Ruby, and Rufina explain their encounter with the lesbian spy and Dr. Morrow.  Father Seward and Rex, upon learning that he seemed to know components of the group's plan as well as their fight against Cobb, are flummoxed that they didn't just reveal their amnesia.  The group deliberates about what to do, and considers dinner with The Doctor that evening.

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

As the astute might surmise, it appears that this version of Deadland's mad science is powered by uranium. By description, miners are probably gathering uraninite (or pitchblende, as it would likely be known), tobernite, or autunite, but as there are several varieties of greenish, uranium ores, it's not exactly clear.

We briefly discussed being the sort of group that just dams the river and lets the explosion/meltdown happen, but decided against it.

Although I still maintain that we have no clue just how terrible that would be, given that we don't really understand the whole radiation thing.  "It makes an explosion?  Like, it'd probably destroy The Well, right?"  And irradiate the whole town.  And the water supply.  And everything downwind.

Awkward...

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