Friday, January 31, 2014

DragonStrike and Wildspace

So on Wednesday I got to watch the "instructional" video for TSR's 1993 D&D-themed board game DragonStrike.  Despite being the tutorial, it really just shows a dramatization of a DragonStrike adventure.

You can blame OUT OF CONTEXT D&D QUOTES for this.

More interestingly, I learned that the actors (as the same characters) were going to return for a Spelljammer-themed television program called Wildspace.  It was never produced, although there was a trailer:

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Monday, January 27, 2014

Happy Birthday, D&D!

I've seen a couple of sources placing yesterday as Dungeons & Dragon's fortieth birthday, so we'll go with that.  I celebrated by playing D&D on Saturday; the PCs fought some Carcosan Space Aliens, and then nearly died when they found some Space Alien robots.  (Incidentally, since we're almost finished with the Carcosa dungeon, I'll likely be posting my 4e Carcosa encounters within a couple of weeks.)

Happy birthday to D&D.  I'm sure much more eloquent people than I have things to say on the subject (where's Maliszewski when you need him?), so it'll just suffice to say that role-playing games are fun, and thank you for forty years of fun.

Here are some appropriate links:

Happy 40th birthday, Dungeons & Dragons! (Yahoo!)

When Dungeons & Dragons Turns 40 (Playing at the World)

Dungeons and Dragons Turns 40: 10 Awesome D&D Computer Games (PC Magazine)

Dungeons & Dragons turns 40 (USA Today)

All I needed to know about life I learned from “Dungeons & Dragons” (Salon)

Dungeons and Dragons is 40 Years Old (Daily Kos)

And finally, Out of Context D&D Quotes (Tumblr)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Lich Jesus

I usually find this sort of thing done to death, but I happened across an article that I think did the concept justice (despite a lot of silliness in the article).

There's a persistent joke going around that Jesus Christ is a lich because he was a potent spellcaster who returned from the dead under his own power within 1d10 days of his death.  I always find this a little annoying as it ignores the fact that Christ's deity revives him from the dead (clearly the DM playing favorites), or depending on your interpretation, that Jesus was a divine avatar and so never actually rose from the dead (if Jehovah or whomever loses one avatar, he just...sends another avatar).

At any rate, this blog post from Compromise and Conceit breathes a little life into the Jesus-as-lich concept by framing the various religious conflicts of the first millennium in the context of this fact.  The Jewish clerical establishment may or may not think Jesus is a rabble-rouser, but more importantly, they understand that he is slowly-but-surely gathering the components to build a phylactery and must be stopped.  (The Roman government is apparently unaware of the threat, although the Jewish clerics manage to get them to act.  Sadly, it's too late.)

(This also neatly utilizes the underused clerical lich concept, and totally paves the way for Jack Shear's lich popes.)

He goes on to explain a Vatican conspiracy hiding the Christ-phylactery (or the Christ demilich, by now), among other things (including early tensions between Jewish magic-users and a barbarian Muhammad).

Ultimately, this seems like it would be excellent background for some manner of early modern, Lamentations of the Flame Princess-style campaigning.  (Or you could even set your game earlier chronologically, if you want to dust off your copy of Testament that you clearly totally have in your collection.)

Go ahead and check out that Jesus-as-clerical-lich article and then craft some gonzo occult conspiracy D&D campaign.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Ask Chaaths-Neb, the Eternal Pharaoh

What's the deal with space aliens? — Casey Garske

WHAT IS THIS FOOLISH MORTAL, WHO WISHES TO LEARN THE SECRETS OF THE OUTLANDERS?  HEAR A TALE OF PATHETIC WRETCHES TOO WEAK TO SURVIVE ON ANY WORLD: FOR UNTOLD MILLENNIA, THE INVADERS FROM THE SKY HAVE COME TO CARCOSA TO PILLAGE ITS BOUNTY.  THEIR BULBOUS HEADS LACK THE SECRETS OF SORCERY OR THE CAPACITY FOR PSIONICS.  THEIR TECHNOLOGY CANNOT PENETRATE THE PSYCHIC BARRIERS I HAVE ERECTED AROUND MYSELF.  THEY MINE, THEY EXPERIMENT, BUT THEY ARE CHILDREN BEFORE THE MIGHT OF THE MUMMIES OF THE RADIOACTIVE DESERT OR OF THE OLD ONES THAT SLUMBER WITHIN CARCOSA.  THE WILL AND WISDOM OF NYARLATHOTEP WILL FORCE THE BULBOUS-HEADED SKY-MEN TO FLEE FROM SAVAGE CARCOSA.  SURELY, THE DOOM OF FALLING STARS WILL SCOUR THEIR GREY PLAGUE FROM THIS LAND.

THEY ARE DOOMED TO EXTINCTION, JUST AS THE SERPENT MEN BEFORE THEM.

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

Dear C-N,

I'm having some problems with my coworkers. We run a cleaning and home repair service and we were hired to clean up this old abandoned structure. We kicked out the squatters, patched up some electrical problems, scrubbed up some slime, nothing out of the ordinary. It's taking time, but we're getting the job done. Then some people came over and everybody slowed down. This one guy, real cold and stiff sort, tried to slip out while no one was paying attention. Two of my crew decided to lie down on the job rather than help clear out the room. Personally, I don't think it's appropriate or professional for the team leader to "take a dirt nap" with the only woman on the team. And plus, the one chain smoker in the group decided to step out into the hall, light one up, and broke this old jar with some nasty fluid inside. It made a huge mess all over the hall. I've been with most of these guys since we were in the military and I'd trust them with my life, but I just don't know what to do anymore.

Scaled and Frustrated in Carcosa

YOU ARE A DICK.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Better Than Any Man, UA edition Part 3 and 4: Bring Out Your Dead

We ended our brief foray into early modern Unknown Armies this past Friday.  No more conversions, as the PCs didn't encounter anything noteworthy.

In Part 3 of our Better Than Any Man game, the PCs stumbled into the town of Thüngen — which Mr. Raggi placed under the control of a capricious group of bandits.  After a couple of desperate combats, the PCs fled Thüngen a little more battered and with their Epideromancer friend unconscious.

They flee the town, ignoring the burning homestead in the distance, and instead go in the complete opposite direction of Karlstadt and Würzburg, hoping to completely avoid the madness of this region and the advancing Swedish Army.  They come to a small pond and run into a fleeing woman, apparently running from the witch trials in Würzburg.  She joins them, and both she and Mannfried attempt to treat the fallen wizard's wounds.

They both fail.  Spectacularly.  The epideromancer Goffhilf catches fever and dysentery and dies within a couple of days.

Tragic.
The group continues to trek through the woods for a couple days, making a 90° at some menacing-looking earthen mounds, and stops as the wizard Goffhilf breathes his last.  They bury him, bed for the night, and awaken to find that they've been sleeping very near a plague-ridden corpse.

Within a day or so, they stumble back to Eger, and the PCs are whisked back to their home time, no doubt leaving a very confused, frightened, and hungry woman outside the town gates.

All told, the final session resulted in four deaths — one from fever and dysentery, and three more within a few days as several characters die of the plague.  One joins a nunnery, and the other continues his mercenary career, now 10,000 ducats richer.

At final count, out of a total of eight characters, six died — probably among my most deadly non-TPK games ever.

Friday, January 17, 2014

ADVICE FROM CHAATHS-NEB

BEHOLD THE ETERNAL PHARAOH, CHAATHS-NEB
So I've been running two 4e groups through the first level of my Carcosa megadungeon in preparation for finalizing it and running it on Google+ (probably in Labyrinth Lord), and one of the adventuring parties encountered a bombastic mummy brain called Chaaths-Neb.

Despite the fact that they killed him, he lives on eternally — because I think he's going to start an advice column:

IMPUDENT MORTALS, BOW BEFORE THE MIGHT AND COLLECTED WISDOM OF CHAATHS-NEB, THE ETERNAL PHARAOH OF THE RADIOACTIVE DESERT.  THE HERALD OF NYARLATHOTEP AND THE OMNISCIENT SEER OF FALLEN STARS AND BARREN WASTES CALLS UPON MILLENNIA OF FORBIDDEN WISDOM AND LORE.  BRING YOUR PATHETIC QUERIES BEFORE THE MIGHT OF THE ETERNAL PHARAOH, AND PERHAPS HE SHALL MERCIFULLY GIFT YOU WITH SOME OF HIS BOUNDLESS KNOWLEDGE.

(If you ask for advice in the comments, Chaaths-Neb will respond over time.  If I get enough of a response, this might become a regular feature.  Feel free to submit your queries in "Dear Abbey" fashion, signed with a descriptive anonymous tag.)

Monday, January 13, 2014

What I Like About Lamentations of the Flame Princess

James Raggi neatly summarized his stance on things in this post on Google+.  In the comments, he says, "Dungeons are HOSTILE TERRITORY full of DANGEROUS THINGS and YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THERE."

Boom.

The Lost Cosmo-Apes of Carcosa

So, the other day, this amazing thing appeared on my Facebook feed:

Monkey-Rocket to Mars!
Unsurprisingly, this immediately spawned visions of space apes loose on Carcosa.  (A note: I found that a similar concept to the one I'm about to present exists in the cartoon Captain Simian & the Space Monkeys.  I've never seen it, although I'm going to go out on a limb and say that a cartoon called Captain Simian & the Space Monkeys and featuring the voice talents of Michael Dorn and Malcolm McDowell is worth watching.)

The Bion satellite program was a Soviet program (and later a joint U.S.-Soviet program) to investigate the interactions of life science and astronomy.  Between December 14, 1983, and January 7, 1997, Bion 6 through 11 used rhesus monkeys as test subjects in unmanned space flights.

Publicly, that is the USSR's only foray into primate research.  However, many records have been buried regarding the former USSR.  No doubt buried in some old GRU warehouse, there may exist records of a failed test rocket flight from the 1950s.  The exact cause of failure is unknown, but the capsule was not recovered, and all primates on board were presumed dead.

It is not clear whether the capsule froze, placing the apes in some sort of cryogenic stasis, or whether the capsule hit a wormhole or was somehow flung at relativistic speeds, but whatever the case, the capsule made its way to Carcosa.  At least some of the primates survived.

And now they're crash-landed on Carcosa.

So You Want to Play a Primate in Carcosa?

These rules assume you're using Carcosa with Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Weird Fantasy Role-Playing.  If you're not, you'll have to do a little finagling.  (Incidentally, if you're using any third edition resources, there are rules for playing orangutans in Dungeon #94.)

If you're playing any large ape (orangutan, gorilla, maybe even a big chimp) you progress as a Dwarf.  If you're a smaller monkey (rhesus, spider monkey, whatever), go ahead and progress as a Halfling.  You start with no money.

Ability score generation is modified: you roll 3d6 for Constitution and Wisdom, 4d6 for Dexterity and Strength, and 2d6 for Charisma and Intelligence.

As with dwarfs and halflings, your primate starts with a skill at 3 in 6 and progresses as you level up.  Unlike dwarfs and halflings, you get two skills, and they're the same whether you're a monkey or an ape: Bushcraft and Climbing.  These skills progress at the same rate as Architecture for dwarfs and Bushcraft for Halflings.  (As such, they hit 4-in-6 at level 4, 5-in-6 at level 7, and 6-in-6 at level 10.)

The big drawback is that primates can't read or write, and they don't understand Common (they understand some basic commands in Russian).  With Referee approval, your Carcosan ape might eventually learn to understand Common, and may even be able to communicate with a rudimentary sign language, but you probably won't start out that way.  (Maybe make a Languages check every time you level up; success indicates you've learned to understand Common, while a second success lets you develop a sign language.  If your low Intelligence drops you to a 0 in Languages, you can roll two dice and succeed if you roll snake eyes, if your Referee is generous.)

Primates can use tools, and so can use equipment if they can scrounge any.  (The Referee is free to impose penalties if s/he thinks the particular tool is outside the realm of typical primate knowledge.)

Finally, primates have an innate slam (or kick, or claw, or bite, or whatever) attack.  Apes deal 1d6 with their innate melee attack, whereas monkeys deal 1d4 with theirs.

And there you go.  Your Referee can drop your Soviet wreckage in a random Carcosan hex, and you're ready to go.  Go play that drunken monkey one shot you never knew you wanted to play.

Update (12-09-2016): Goblinoid Games has released Apes Victorious, an old school RPG that riffs off Planet of the Apes.  It includes character classes representing sapient, humanoid monkeys and apes, and so is probably relevant here.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Over the Edge on Bundle of Holding

Given my love for Unknown Armies, I'd be remiss if I did not give a shout out to the current Bundle of Holding.  For roughly the next week (they occasionally extend popular bundles, so it's possible it will go for a while), Bundle of Holding is doing an Over the Edge bundle.

What is Over the Edge, you ask?  Over the Edge is a proto-Unknown Armies, conceived at least six years before UA.  The setting dispenses with the grittiness and gutter magic of UA, but maintains some high weirdness — David Lynch meets Erich von Däniken meets The Mikado.

Also notably: the game system uses the dice pool mechanic common to pretty much everything White Wolf does.  Jonathan Tweet and Mark Rein·Hagen worked together on a project, having previously developed Ars Magica together, and then went off to develop Over the Edge and Vampire: the Masquerade.  The dice pool concept remained common to both games.

At any rate, Over the Edge takes place in the small, Mediterranean island nation of Al Amarja.  Conspiracies abound on the island — all conspiracies are true, and pretty much all conspiracies have a presence on Al Amarja.  Skulduggery is so thick that it is common to serve guests snacks and beverages in their original containers (so as to assure them that they are not poisoned — it is also common to hold bottled drinks with one's thumb sealing the neck of the bottle for the same reason).  Scheming, sorcery, and super-science converge to craft a frenetic setting — Sigil meets Night Vale is likely another apt description.

(Character creation supports this strangeness, not only being incredibly fast and freeform, but lending itself to character backgrounds such as "cult sorcerer" or "monster from another dimension.")

If any of this sounds interesting, check out the glut of stuff on Bundle of Holding before January 15, 2014.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Happy birthday to D&D!

A rare late afternoon post: Happy fortieth birthday to Dungeons & Dragons.

Have an article from The Guardian.  Don't eat too much cake or whatever it is you do.

Funknown Armies


So Greg Stolze posted this thing on Google+ as well as this thing on RPG.net discussing the possibility of rebooting Unknown Armies in 2015.  (Oddly enough, the Unknown Armies fansite is still quiet.)

He's also taking fan suggestions (apparently everyone's caught the crowd-sourcing bug) in those two threads.  So there's that.

My personal vote: I love the system (although I'm apparently the only one among my gaming friends who likes it that much), but would totally love to see an updated chronology bringing everything from roughly millennial to 2015 (or whenever it gets published).  Less millennial fever and more everybody sneaking to avoid the Sleeping Tiger; still just as frenetic.  Basically the way Delta Green is evidently going to move from mid-nineties X-Files-style conspiracy stuff to post-9/11 intelligence community stuff.

Alternately, as noted in the RPG.net thread, as the universe canonically reboots in Unknown Armies, just ditch all the canon and make a new setting.  In that case, I'd still like a sourcebook on core UA: 2015.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 in Review

This year has been totally hectic (hence the lack of attention devoted to this blog).  There was moving, marriage, a death in the family.  (Consequently, I didn't write Dwimmermount.  Sorry, guys.)

In gaming terms, I played more but ran less; historically, this is a strange state of affairs.  (However, I mostly ran Unknown Armiesa failed modern game and a continuing early modern game so that's a small victory.)  With the failure of the Carcosa campaign and the Spelljammer campaign, I think my brief flirtation with old school D&D has ended for the moment.  (If interest waxes again, then I may run again; I still plan on running the Carcosa megadungeon for Constantcon/FLAILSNAILS once the 4e crew finishes with it, and I'd like to return to Spelljammer at some point, because I put a notable amount of work into that campaign.)

Sadly, as I'm running fewer games, there have been fewer innovations on my part at the gaming table.  I have been posting my updates on the Better Than Any Man-to-Unknown Armies conversion, but that is about the only notable thing I have been doing recently.

Other than a litany of failed campaigns and incomplete gaming notes, I did finally complete an exciting project.  After almost a decade of being scattered on any available surface, the role-playing book collection has finally found a home.  Behold!

"Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
The gaming book collection achieved legendary status many years ago among my friends as its size became known.  In fact, those four shelves aren't enough to hold it; we'll need a fifth to accommodate the new World of Darkness collection and to account for any new growth.  Presently, they're nestled with some other assorted books and games on a shelf of their own.

The rest of the collection comprises this bottom shelf and the small stack of books on the far right.
I have a few duplicates, and Nicole's collection of roughly a dozen or so books (a score of books, maybe?) is interspersed within this collection, but that's largely my own insanity on display.

To my surprise, D&D and its many derivatives (including d20 Modern, retroclones, and any associated games) form the bulk of the collection.  (Although that's by volume; boxed sets are fairly bulky.)  World of Darkness makes a strong showing for second place.  Call of Cthulhu, Deadlands, and Unknown Armies probably round out the top five.

That's some of the most notable stuff for 2013.  As Janus bids us to reflect of the previous year and the next, hopefully there will be more gaming in the new year.  (I mean, that's always the hope, right?)

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