Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wednesday Werk: No Wednesday Werk This Week

Sorry, folks.  No Wednesday Werk this week.

Don't be sad.  It will return next week (barring unforeseen incident, of course).  You could pass the time by looking at the backlog of Werk posts.

Or, you can step right up.  Tom Waits will take your sad away.

Happy Leap Day, everyone!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Cassandra Syndrome

Really quickly: noisms posted this awesome thing at Monsters and Manuals.  He mentions it with reference to story games, but really you could do it with any sort of game.

Make sure you read it.

Think of how different genres would change the tone: it would likely skew tragic in modern horror games (your mundane life would probably collapse under the strain, leaving you a shattered husk with no allies), but D&D characters would likely become more ruggedly individualistic than normal (nobody listens to you, so what the hell, you're going to do it yourself).

This, of course, assuming that characters don't take advantage of the situation (which seems particularly likely among murderhobos).  Imagine you know an earthquake is going to hit downtown, and will demolish the Lassater Building.  So you short sell the stock and wind up richer than when you started (incidentally, this is what Al Qaeda financiers did with the World Trade Center before it was attacked).  Or it's a fantasy setting, and the characters realize they can steal the Crown Jewels during the chaos caused by the earthquake.

Fun stuff.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Persons of Interest: Lana (formerly Larry) Wachowski

You did it.

You can argue that a celebrity who ruins his marriage by delving into L.A.'s BDSM scene and then starts identifying as female isn't appropriate for Unknown Armies, but you'd probably be wrong.

That level of symbolic tension is perfect for an avatar of the Mystic Hermaphrodite.

This basically goes in the same format as Nadya Suleman: you can check out Lana Wachowski by looking at Wikipedia or IMDB without my help.

I will, however, specifically direct you to this thread on The Straight Dope.  It talks about Larry's 2001 affair with Los Angeles dominatrix Ilsa Strix (leading to his 2002 divorce from then-wife Thea Bloom), as well as his transformation into Lana Wachowski.

Dukes put the smart money on Laurence encountering the occult underground during his time in L.A.'s BDSM scene, although a few tell a convoluted tale of a young Larry meeting the Freak back in Chicago.  From there, he made the conscious decision to channel the Mystic Hermaphrodite (by symbolically wrecking his marriage, changing his gender, and keeping this all very personal and quiet).

Some dukes also claim the Wachowskis are deliberately inserting mystic themes into their movies (some dukes claim the "desert of the real" is symbolic of the Statosphere and The Matrix is all about the Clergy's cycle) in an attempt to bring magick to the masses.  (Some even blather that The Matrix sequels sucked because the first one was just Hinduism in a science-fiction/action film while the other two were an attempt to reconcile human understanding with the incomprehensible symbolism of the Invisible Clergy.)

Smart dukes want to stay the hell away from that.  Between the Sleepers and the Sleeping Tiger, I'll take neither, thank you.

Personality: The Comic Book Nerd.  Friendly and outgoing on subjects that capture her attention, otherwise somewhat awkward and standoffish.
Obsession: Identity.  What makes people determine whom they are?
Wound Points: 45

Rage Stimulus: Violation of privacy.
Fear Stimulus: (Self) Losing track of herself.
Noble Stimulus: Teaching.

Body: 45 (Used to Work Construction)
Carpentry 30%, General Athletics 25%, Struggle 15%, Work Without Rest 15%
Speed: 40 (A Trifle Awkward)
Dodge 20%, Driving 30%, Initiative 25%, Squirrelly Reflexes 15%
Mind: 70 (Nerd)
Conceal 15%, Directing 35%, General Education 25%, Notice 15%, Writing 35%
Soul: 65 (Philosophical)
Acting 10%, Avatar: The Mystic Hermaphrodite 25%, Charm 20%, Friends in the Business 30%, Lying 15%

Friends in the Business: This represents Lana Wachowski's industry connections.  Mechanically, it's similar to A Friend in the Family (UA2, pg. 43).

Violence: 0 Hardened 0 Failed
Unnatural: 1 Hardened 0 Failed
Helplessness: 1 Hardened 1 Failed
Isolation: 2 Hardened 2 Failed
Self: 3 Hardened 2 Failed

(You can also see this entry over on the Unknown Armies site.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Deadlands, Part X

You might want to watch or listen to this first.  To get you in the mood.

Ahem.  When last we left our heroes, they arrived in San Francisco, did a little opium, and met with Little Pete.

Little Pete's a very bad man.

So, David Hood, Father Seward, and Jeb are still under the influence of opium.  Jake and Ruby O'Flahertie were not.  There's a bloody woman in the corner, and a few goons around.

Little Pete makes the group an offer.  He wants the moon jar (you know, the one the Gentleman said can be used to cheat your way into Heaven?), because it holds secrets; specifically, anyone who touches the jar can access any secret within, but anybody who touches the jar also has his secrets added to the pool.  If we help him get it, he'll keep it, but we can access it whenever we want.  To sweeten the deal, he has a little ritual that will ensure nobody in the agreement betrays anyone else in the agreement.

We agree.  Little Pete speaks with the chained woman in the corner and they come to some sort of agreement.  He smokes a bunch of opium and an old Chinese woman hacks his left arm off (we guess he'll be at the game, too).  She then prepares this little ritual.  He eats a burning coal, drinks a fluid, and Father Seward, Jake, and Ruby all similarly drink.

To facilitate the search for playing cards so we can enter the game, Little Pete gives us a list of people, and where they're staying.  Knowing about Sonny, we decide to go there first.

We leave.  A figure with a rifle is standing on the roof, and a couple of people notice him as he takes a pot-shot at David Hood.  Father Seward draws and fires; the figure drops out of sight.  Tong gangsters and a few others go running, and find the figure to be a small boy.  Jeb takes his rather sad-looking rifle.

The group splits before the police arrive.

We travel to our new female companion's shop in Chinatown — she is evidently a butcher, and despite being Caucasian, she's a Chinese-style butcher.  People get cleaned up, and we solidify our plans.  Particularly since Sonny isn't supposed to be at the hotel, we presume this won't be easy, but at least it'll be predictable.  (Plus, maybe everyone's asleep and we can do this quickly.)

This hotel is in a rough part of town.  When we get there, though, it's not right.  The hotel is neither completely dark nor well-lit — a single, red light flickers in the background of the main windows.  We dither a while.  David and Ruby look inside and are shaken by what they see.  David is about to walk inside when he is restrained, but Father Seward takes the opportunity to glance inside.

It's a horrorshow.  Several people sit around a table, each with cards in hand like a poker tableau.  They are dead (or at least unmoving), but their bodies have been unnaturally twisted and deformed.  A woman — a prostitute by her mode of dress — lies on the table, spread-eagle.  A note is attached to the table with a knife.  We see it has Jake's name is on it.

Jake is reasonably confident that this is the handiwork of his old mentor, Cornelius.  We know this is bad news.  We leave.

The other hotel is in the ritzy part of town.  There is a fence and a gate around it.  Jeb keeps watch by looking homeless, while Father Seward makes a circuit around the block so as to look inconspicuous.  David, Jake, Ruby, and our new companion contemplate breaking in.  After some bickering, they decide to go around the back (if only to evade the police officer they hear walking this block).  Ruby sees a strange sight — a few rooms are lit and occupied.  Men occupy these rooms, but Ruby can tell that two of them are wooden dummies, and their pacing is regular, as if they are on a track.  The other man holds a six-barreled gun.  When he realizes he's been spotted, he ducks down.

After discussion, the group reconvenes.  Given the choice between the horrible, unnatural scenario and the super-science-and-possibly-getting-arrested scenario, we go for the supernatural one.

Yes, we all know what that says about our characters.

Anyway, we return to the horrorshow hotel.  We go inside, expecting a trap.

We enter, noticing a house of cards we could not see before.  Jeb goes upstairs and encounters an unseen force touching his cheek; he returns downstairs in a hurry.  The rest of us go about searching the bar and main floor.  Jake's note is definitely from Cornelius, as it indicates he "knows what to do."

We dither before Jake notes that Cornelius probably put something in the woman.  Our new companion — being a woman and a butcher — checks first.  She examines her orifices (nothing there), and then starts to cut her open.

By this point, Ruby is overcome.  Father Seward accompanies Ruby outside.  Jeb faints.

The examination continues.  The woman's uterus looks like it's bulging, so it gets checked.  There is both a box and an unborn child inside, along with a rush of black water.  The box contains a set of seven playing cards, each of which has the distinctive back marking them as entry cards for the poker tournament.

As everyone has gathered themselves again, Jake starts smashing bottles of liquor.  He notes that the house of cards has caught fire, so he just leaves, allowing the fire and the liquor to do its work.

We return to the butcher shop of our new female companion, (hopefully) ready for tomorrow's poker tournament.

Wednesday Werk: Quindra, Hallimox

In this week's Wednesday Werk, we'll look at the Quindra and the Hallimox.

The Quindra are an ancient race of crystalline beings.  When I say ancient, I mean ancient; we're talking aeons, epochs, and contacting the Hounds of Tindalos ancient.  Any given Quindra is probably millions of years old, at least.  This extreme age is complicated further by the Gordian Knot of space-time the Quindra inhabit: each one is actually a collective soul comprising five individuals, and all five are probably plane-hopping across planar boundaries.

This extreme age and alien intellect means that the Quindra effectively operate outside the morality of the sapient races or even the gods themselves; some half-mad sorcerer attempting to contact one for forbidden knowledge might be ignored, aided, or liquified from the inside-out without rhyme or reason (for that matter, the sorcerer might get that treatment from different facets of the same Quindra).

Sane magic-users avoid these creatures, but then again, sanity among magic-users is a very mutable quality.

There is a lot of variety among Quindra, and some of them are near-godlike.  Regardless, there are a few common qualities among them:

  • They hold the knowledge of all they have encountered in their multi-dimensional facets.
  • They even retain the sounds they have heard, and they can replay these sounds at will, even stringing them together in the speech and language of sapient races.
  • In addition to unearthly sounds, they can also emit light and energy they have captured, typically as a defensive/offensive maneuver.
  • Their multi-planar nature allows them a type of clairvoyance, allowing them to detect magic and see the invisible.
  • Additionally, some specimens can use spells they have encountered, replicating the arcane harmonic frequencies they originally perceived.
A tale from the archives of the University for the Study of the Arcane Arts and Sciences in Duchy Jepson suggests a group of Vecna cultists once attempted to capture a Quindra to extract every secret retained in its crystalline matrix.  The lone survivor succeeded, after a fashion, but touching the alien intellect of the Quindra drove him completely catatonic, and any telepathic contact with his mind was noted as being "inimical to the health and sanity of the telepath."  Some of the magi theorize that Quindra may reproduce memetically, and that this shift marked the beginning of the cultist's transformation into a new Quindra, but no one knows for certain.

The following Quindra is suggestive of a typical specimen.  This one bears no spells, either being young or simply not using them in combat.  This creature will typically open combat with Song of Control, using Flash when two or three attackers are within range.  It will frequently spend an Action Point to use Shardswarm immediately after Flash, particularly if it seeks to flee rather than fight.  It then attacks with Song of Control if available and Song of Confusion if it is not.

The Hallimox are another race of planar travelers, although rather than the typical knowledge-seekers found amongst the planeswalkers, the Hallimox are death-cultists.  They have a particular interest in the varied funerary rites of the various sapients throughout the planes, focusing predominantly on mummification rites.  Many travelers have reported seeing them in the Shadowfell (for you classic cosmologists, the Shadowfell combines aspects of the Negative Energy Plane and the Plane of Shadow, among others; as an example, the so-called Demiplane of Dread exists in the Shadowfell), although they have been found in the lands of the living, as well.

The Hallimox are noted for their psychic ability to conjure necrotic balls of violet flame, as well as their relationship with the strange living darts they carry; these creatures are bred by the Hallimox as living weapons, and they use a rudimentary telekinesis to find their targets.  A given Hallimox probably only has three or so (the DM can roll 1d6 to see how many darts a Hallimox has), but they return to their owner after attacking.  Enterprising adventurers may attempt to grab these creatures by spending three minor actions (which must be used in the same round, effectively depriving the character of a turn as it tries to grab the fast-moving dart) and rolling a DC 25 Athletics check; a grabbed living dart goes inert immediately.  If the Hallimox loses all darts, it can no longer make a Living Dart attack.

Living darts captured by adventurers typically go inert (the darts' symbiosis apparently only responds to the Hallimox), but there's always some friend-of-a-friend story suggesting that some magus or alchemist has devised a way to keep them active for future use.

The following Hallimox represents the profile suggested above.  Rumor has it that some specimens actually spread a wasting disease with their fireballs (DMs wanting to replicate this should make PCs make a saving throw at the end of combat; failure indicates that the character contracts a Level 9 disease similar to Mummy Rot).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Gaming with Mike Mornard

So Rushputin of Warpstone Pile fame informed me of an article that I had to read.

I was not disappointed.

Blog of Holding has a seven-part series on gaming with Mike Mornard.  That links to the first part, and you can proceed from there.

In addition to some thoughts on old-school gaming, the series talks about Mornard's memories of gaming with Gygax and Arneson, but most importantly, it has this little gem I'd never heard before:
Mike gave a fascinating account of a typical early D&D game, with a peculiar detail that I'd never heard before. Gary never used maps or minis: maps and minis were Dave Arneson's thing. Gary ran games in his office, which was provided with chairs, a couch, and file cabinets. While playing, Gary would open the drawers of the file cabinet and sit behind them so that the players COULD NOT SEE HIM. They only experienced the Dungeon Master as a disembodied voice.
Rushputin and I are all for trying this; I don't know if it's something any of us would do frequently, but the idea of the Game Master as a disembodied voice is intriguing.

Also, it better explains the role and necessity of the party caller.  A caller is helpful in old-school gaming just to keep everybody organized (particularly with a large party), but if the DM can't see the players, a caller is essential to avoid confusion.

Anyway, go read the series, would you please?

A Passel of Things

As I've previously said, the worst thing for a role-playing blog is lots of role-playing.  (It doesn't help that most of the stuff I'm making is stuff I'm using, meaning either my players will read it or the notes are too sketchy to be useful to anyone but me.)

Anyway, here's some stuff you may have missed.

Swords & Stitchery has a random space harlot table.  If I ever run a space opera game, I'm totally using this.  (And maybe even if I don't run a space game.)

Lurking Rhythmically gives us Unknown Ponies: Failure Is Awesome, a homebrewed system for running My Little Pony with Unknown Armies rules.  This made the rounds a bit ago, and I totally neglected to mention it.  I don't know jack about My Little Pony fandom, but I approve of anyone who spreads the gospel of Unknown Armies.  Also, I'm fairly confident that this'll get used — imagine being thrown into some Videomancer's horrorshow where you are suddenly bound by the rules of My Little Pony.


Finally, also for Unknown Armies, I give you this news story.  Some mountain man is breaking into isolated cabins in the Utah wilderness, living for a time before stealing provisions and vanishing back into the wilderness.  The feds have found his camp sites and his caches of heavy weapons, but the picture of him in the article is the only actual evidence of him.  His fingerprints don't match anyone in the database, the FBI can't figure out if he's on their most wanted list or not, and there are literally only two pictures of him.

Could be an Ascension bid, or it could be the old archetype of the Peacemaker, cast out of the Clergy and inverted, and now causing fear in the American west.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Roostercat... judging you.  Read about the bane of 0-level commoners and Hylians alike.

Look at those eyes full of hate.

Wednesday Werk: Triloo, Rattong

In this week's Wednesday Werk, we'll look at the Triloo and the Rattong.

The Triloo are a race of beings noted for bizarre, magical sight and an absolute love of reading.  They are also known for other idiosyncrasies, such as a hatred of the color yellow, and an obsession with threes (both of which likely originate from their peculiar trinocular vision).  Their eyes allow them great visual acuity, and even allow sight into other dimensions; it is believed that this sight, coupled with their natural love of scholarship, is why most Triloo are extremely well-educated on occult subjects, and why they can sense magical objects and effects on sight alone.

And did I mention they love books?  They will gladly accompany adventurers promising them interesting books, and if they are extremely swift and voracious readers.  Triloo can skim spellbooks and scrolls to learn the spells and rituals within, and they can conceivably learn to cast these magical abilities in this fashion, memorizing rituals without a ritual book.  If given the components, they will gladly cast these rituals.

In combat, Triloo rarely rely on learned spells, instead using their Visual Overload and Eyeblast abilities.  They will, however, cast any spells they learn on behalf of those they consider friends.

The following Triloo is a typical member of the species.  Although this specimen knows only three languages and lacks spells, the DM should feel free to add languages and arcane powers (likely based on Wizard spells or similar powers) as he or she sees fit.

The Rattong are a grim, aloof race, evidently thrust into a role as planar migrants since becoming the refugees from some nameless catastrophe.  Limited reports indicate that their lack of coloration is caused by some horrible, color-devouring entity that infested their home plane.  Since that time, they have scoured the planes in search of weapons and spells that can aid their effort to stop this menace.  Although they are desperate for aid and allies, they are extremely moody, typically breaking any agreements they make due to a lack of patience.  Occasionally, tales emerge of a Rattong apprenticing under some great master or other, and these almost always end in betrayal.

Despite this reputation, it is possible some agreement could be reached that would be mutually beneficial, or simply that the Rattong ally with someone whom they understand to be much more powerful than they (they're flighty, not stupid).  In such a case, they may form temporary allies.

The following specimen represents the versatile discipline of the Rattong, displaying both martial prowess with multiple weapons as well as an arcane trick or two (in this case, an Eldritch Volley with operates similarly to the warlock's Eldritch Blast or the wizard's Magic Missile).

Other representatives of the species might lean more toward arcane might than this one, although the mercurial Rattong sometimes lack the discipline necessary for spellcasting despite their natural aptitude for sorcery.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Persons of Interest: Nadya Suleman, aka "The Octomom"

Yeah.  I went there.

Whatever your personal thoughts on the subject, the current culture of blip-on-the-radar celebrities is perfect fodder for Unknown Armies.

I may have mentioned this game before.

I've been wanting to do this for a while — although, given the age of the subject matter, I'm guessing that's obvious.  Since the warped souls behind the slaving and Old One worship in Remnant have convinced me to delve back into UA (not that it took all that much convincing), I finally had the gumption to complete this.

As a note, as lot of these things are extrapolations of whatever I read, since I have relatively little knowledge of this person.  (You can see a short biography here and another here.)  I assume she is an unconscious Avatar, possibly propped up by public scrutiny and belief.

Without further ado:

Nadya Denise Suleman

Personality: Cancer.  In her own way, she actually cares for other people.
Obsession: Children.  No matter what you might say about her, Nadya is extremely interested in children.
Wound Points: 40

Rage Stimulus: People who think she's not good enough.
Fear Stimulus: (Isolation) Dying alone.
Noble Stimulus: Helping the sick.

Body: 40 (Old Back Injury)
General Athletics 20%, Resemble Angelina Jolie 35%, Struggle 15%
Speed: 50 (Average)
Dodge 20%, Do Two Things at Once 20%, Driving 25% Initiative 25%
Mind: 60 (Educated)
Conceal 15%, General Education 25%, Notice 15%, Psychotherapy 35%, Speak Arabic 15%
Soul: 70 (Intuitive)
Avatar: The Mother 20%, Charm 25%, Fifteen Minutes of Fame 20%, Lying 30%, Social Worker 30%

Psychotherapy: Nadya can provide counseling and psychological first aid as described in UA2, pg. 69.

Resemble Angelina Jolie: This is Nadya's physical beauty skill.  She can roll this in situations where attractiveness comes into play, as well as situations where she totally wants to creep people out.

Violence: 0 Hardened 0 Failed
Unnatural: 0 Hardened 0 Failed
Helplessness: 1 Hardened 0 Failed
Isolation: 1 Hardened 2 Failed
Self: 4 Hardened 2 Failed

Possessions: A wealth of stuff garnered by compensation and the kindness of strangers.

(You can also see this entry over on the Unknown Armies site.)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Deadlands, Part IX

I forgot to post this, didn't I?  Ah, well.

When last we left our heroes, we had our poker tournament entrance cards stolen by a gang led by someone named Sonny who is decidedly wrong, and we arrived in San Francisco.

Knowing the Flesh Menagerie to be down by the docks, we decide to get a hotel room somewhere in the working class section; not too close to the docks, but not among the really nice houses.  The place we find is a once-charming bed-and-breakfast turned into a flophouse with probable links to prostitution.  The proprietor takes David Hood and Ruby O'Flahertie to be a married couple, and so gives them an actual room; the rest of us (Father Seward, Jake, and Jeb) get a hay-covered common room.

We go to Hood and O'Flahertie's room to discuss our plans.  We are interrupted three times: once by the proprietor of the hotel, bringing things; once by the glint of a rifle with an array of lenses on it for aiming (by the time we register the guy and duck, he's gone); and once by the police who indicate that they've been having trouble with a bunch of one-handed people, and have come to warn us that they won't hesitate to lock us away if we cause any problems.  They also tell us to avoid Little Pete — as always, this is the worst thing one can say, as we were totally unaware of any such person and are now confused as to whether the police were giving us a sly hint or legitimately trying to warn us.

During the conversation, David is the only one among us who still has a card.  When he pulls it out, it has changed, depicting a skeletal tableau on the back.  It is likely some eldritch identification effect.

After these events, we decide to split; Jeb and Miss O'Flahertie will go to make contact with her solicitor, while David, Father Seward, and Jake will go try to find any word of Sonny so that we can later ambush him and steal our cards (and any other cards he may have swiped).

We split.  Ruby sends a telegram and is receives a return telegram a few hours later telling her to ask for Mr. Brown at Chen's Chinese Laundry.  We don't find Sonny, but do overhear some things about him, including a loose-lipped Irishman discussing a poker tournament so he can win money back and pay off the tongs.

We reconvene.  After discussion, we decide to inquire at Chen's Chinese Laundry.

We leave.  The proprietor asks where we're headed, and we say we're just going to go looking around the city.  He indicates a curfew of 9 PM, and that the doors are locked then.  We'd best be back.

We leave and notice a boy following us.  We walk to Chinatown, and the boy doesn't follow us into there, although before he leaves our sight, Jake tips his hat to him to let him know we've seen him.  The boy blanches and flees.

We look for Chen's Chinese Laundry.  As we approach it, we are approached by a well-dressed man wearing silk robes.  He introduces himself as Mr. Sing, and after commenting on us by name, he indicates his boss, Little Pete, wishes to meet with us.  He inquires as to our activities, and when we explain that we were looking for Chen's Chinese Laundry, he indicates that we should go to Little Pete's place, as the quality of laundry is much better there.  He gives us directions and leaves.

We discuss briefly, and after explaining to David Hood that "laundry" probably refers to opium, we enter Chen's Chinese Laundry.  It's a little place with a sheet separating the front from the back; thick, sticky smoke curls from behind the curtain.  We ask for Mr. Brown, and we're quoted a price.  Determining that this is probably code for opium, we leave and decide to inquire with Little Pete instead.

We go to his place, which is a large, lavish affair.  Drummers and dancers perform outside as well-dressed men enter.  We enter, and are met by a woman who tells us to wait.  Mr. Sing eventually comes out and explains that he is pleased we could make it.  Eventually, we're brought into the back.

It's an opium den.  Well-dressed men enjoy the company of topless and nude Chinese women, serving them opium.  We are led to a cushioned room and told to wait.

We wait.  Women enter.  They convince David, Father Seward, and Jeb to partake of opium.  Jake doesn't partake, but certainly enjoys partially-clothed women.

Eventually, Mr. Sing returns and we are led to an office, where we are introduced to Little Pete.  Apart from guards, there is also a somewhat large woman, chained in the corner.  Her clothes are torn and she is bruised and bloodied.  Her left arm ends at the elbow, although this is likely an old wound.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Adventures in oD&D, Part 3: Death in the Tomb of Theronna Onyxarm

I ran a game of oD&D on August 7.  After the failure of that, I made a few tweaks and ran the game again on November 5, this time for my regular D&D 4e group.

The second run went much better.  Of the twenty humanoids, five chickens, and one goat who entered the dungeon, nine humanoids and one goat remained.

We continued the game recently, and it didn't go so well.

Everyone died.

What happened?  Foul luck, really.  If you want the official account of events, you can read Escape from the Tomb of Theronna Onyxarm, Part 2.  Some notes after the jump.


The group was smart.  They didn't split, conforming to something more like a phalanx.  They didn't have mapping tools (and that's intentional; if you haven't read the other entries, the PCs are just college students who aren't prepared for this dungeon), but they used some chalk to mark their way.

When they doubled back to a room with a score of kruthiks, they wisely decided to avoid it.  The next door, however, led into the room.  As did the secret passage they found — and that's exactly when the random number gods conjured a pack of shadows to close off the only escape route.

It's just five shadows.  That's not so bad.

The group has to run, and when they do, kruthiks boil from the tunnels in the walls.

That's a lot of kruthiks.  We're boned.

The group loses about half its number, but manages to get through the door and close it behind them.


...and then they wander into a dead end, and get cut off by a horde of dwarf zombies.

"Tonight we dine in Hell!"

In an amazing twist of fate, Paul O'Trieadies, running around with 1 HP and at the front of every line, was the last man standing.

"I must not fear.  Fear is the mind-killer.  Fear is the little-death..."

But eventually, entropy takes us all.

Expect the Tomb of Theronna Onyxarm to be posted shortly, likely after I'm done editing.  I'll probably convert the business to Labyrinth Lord for ease of reference.  Among other reasons, Labyrinth Lord is more readily available than the LBBs.

Wednesday Werk: Walmakash, Urglun

In this week's Wednesday Werk, we look at the Walmakash and the Urglun.

The Walmakash are a race of planar travelers with an innate affinity for magic.  While the Zaldrim might actually be composed of magical energies, the Walmakash understand magic in a way few others do.  The Walmakash aren't just the custodians of strange spells and artifacts — which they scour the planes to find — they comprehend these phenomena intrinsically.  The Walmakash are thought to search for these spells and objects at the behest of their enigmatic masters, cryptically called the Distant Masters.  There's always some rumor or other of some magic-user who met the Distant Masters, but if anyone actually did, the parties involved certainly aren't talking.

The Walmakash are small, flabby, pale things with similarities to humanoid toads or salamanders, and their appearance is incredibly nonthreatening (although the archives of the University for the Study of the Arcane Arts and Sciences in Duchy Jepson record one encounter between a chalk-white, human planeswalker and the Walmakash in which the planeswalker, upon sighting the creatures, attacked them in a frenzy, raving accusations suggesting the creatures were somehow responsible for the death of his daughter).  Those learned in the ways of the planes know that the nonthreatening appearance of the Walmakash is a total fallacy, as their facility with magic is hardly a trifling thing (the aforementioned planeswalker did not survive the experience).  The most notable ability of the Walmakash is their facility for learning arcane lore; the Walmakash collect scrolls and books as most magi do, but can access and memorize spells and rituals instantaneously.  Some have been known to utilize this ability in combat, surprising any would-be magus who thought his trick was unique.

The following Walmakash suggests a typical specimen in search of artifacts and arcane lore.  This one has the trappings of a magic-user, although his spells are unique, likely the result of research during planar jaunts.  His ability to charge his staff with blazing fire is probably his most notable trick, typically unexpected by anyone who would expect the Walmakash to have limited facility in melee combat.

Enterprising DMs may wish to add another ability to this Walmakash (and any Walmakash of their devising).  As the Walmakash can retrieve magical information within a ten-foot radius, assume that a Walmakash, as an at-will Standard action, may mimic any power with the arcane keyword as long as the source of that power is within two squares.  A power thusly mimicked may be used once before the end of the Walmakash's next turn.  Incidentally, this may be used as an excuse to allow the Walmakash to cast any ritual, even those unique to the player characters (such as the Rite of Arkentaash, which is unlikely to be known by anyone who has not held the Ashen Crown from Seekers of the Ashen Crown).

The Urglun are a breed of living construct, typically an accident of strange alchemies or unfortunate experiments.  Those who create them are typically poor alchemists only capable of creating these deranged shock troops.  These savage creatures bear intelligence only slightly above the level of animals, and they are extremely bloodthirsty.  Their extreme violence is compounded by their ability to heal themselves by consuming their fallen comrades; the creatures can replace their limbs with those of fallen Urglun, and they can heal their wounds by consuming the flesh of their dead.

The following Urglun is indicative of a small, mass-produced specimen that has been outfitted with handaxes (although these might just be improvised weapons cobbled together by the Urglun themselves) and a shield.  They attack in hordes of twenty or so, either under the marginal command of whatever half-assed alchemist created them, or on their own as a roving, pillaging horde.

In addition to the above specimen, Urglun have been noted in all shapes and sizes, providing the perfect outlet for DMs who like to create their own creatures or re-skin existing creatures.  All of them have been noted with an immunity to Charm effects (as they're just not sapient enough to be affected by them), and all of them bear some variation of the Eater of the Dead power, allowing them to regain hit points or gain temporary hit points for eating a fallen comrade; the Urglun Ravager variant just tears a handful of flesh from a comrade as it falls and proceeds to devour it in the middle of combat, but other types might actually stop to consume the corpse of a fallen Urglun (likely gaining more hit points for doing so).

Any creature crafted as an Urglun should bear the urglun keyword so as to facilitate Eater of the Dead.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

They Fight Crime!

E. M. Lamb's oft-mentioned The Misses (pictured here with Azathoth tattoo) brought They Fight Crime! to my attention.

It delivers exactly what it promises — two randomly-matched, idiosyncratic characters who fight crime.  Just the thing for random character concepts and unlikely team-ups.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What Happened to You in Carcosa?

Weird Fantasy Role-Playing has, as some games do, a difference between city prices and rural prices.  In the rules, you can pick whichever set you want at character creation, because it's likely you picked up your gear in your travels.

However, since Carcosa predominantly describes rural environments, I've been toying with the idea of requiring a trip to the city of Carcosa in one's backstory if one wishes to use city prices.  So, without further ado:

What in the Hell Happened to You in Carcosa?

If you want to have journeyed to Carcosa before play starts, have your DM roll 1d30:

1 - You were infected by some mutagenic virus.  Start play with one random mutation.  Every day (typically upon awakening, reflecting something that happened to you while you slept), save vs. poison.  Failure indicates that you receive a random mutation (Carcosa, pg. 265, assuming the DM doesn't have his own mutation chart).

2 - While walking around the nearly abandoned streets of grim Carcosa, you found a sack of gold in some garbage.  You have an oversized sack of 2d20 × 10 gold pieces.  No, you don't get experience for it.

3 -  Maybe there was too much wine, or ale, or opium.  Or maybe you shouldn't have taken a hit of juice from the thorax of that thing that looked like somebody crudely spliced a gecko, a squirrel, a coral, and a praying mantis.  Whatever it was, that night put The Hangover to shame.  You begin play with no money or equipment, and roll for a carousing mishap on Jeff Rients' original table or Zak Smith's expanded table.  You get no experience for this round of carousing.  Roll 1d6; on a 5 or 6, you still have your own clothes.  On a 1, get a random mutation from whatever Spawn ichor you drank.

4 - You suffered a nasty wound taking weeks to recover, or maybe you suffered some form of wasting illness.  Lose ten ability score points at random (for each point lost, randomly determine the ability from which it is taken).

5 - You heard the word "Hastur" on the lips of some blank-eyed madmen in Carcosa, and it intrigues you.  Hastur...Hastur... you like the sound of it!

6 - You ran afoul of some Sorcerer or other, and you were cursed with aging.  Every day (typically upon awakening, reflecting something that happened to you while you slept), save vs. magic.  Failure indicates that you age as if you cast a sorcerous ritual; roll on the unnatural aging chart (Carcosa, pg. 14 or 267).

7 - A nameless troupe of pale dancers performed the most beautiful dance in Carcosa.  Since that time, you have been rendered unable to speak.  Don't forget to buy paper and ink.

8 - You found a Space Alien weapon (your DM should generate the size based on the tables in Carcosa, pg. 251-257).  Unfortunately, it was abandoned because somebody recognized it as flawed.  The first time you fire it, it explodes.  Determine how much energy is left in the power cell and express it as a percentage (so, a rifle with 36 charges remaining has 72% energy left).  The rifle explodes, dealing damage in a 30' radius like a grenade.  Assume the exploding filament and power cell deals the weapon's base damage for every full multiple of 10% power remaining, to a minimum of its base damage (so, that rifle with 72% energy remaining would deal 14 dice of damage in a 30' radius; a rifle with 24% remaining would deal 4 dice of damage; and a rifle with 8% remaining would deal 2 dice of damage).  If the weapon has a special property (such as being a gamma radiation weapon, or a sulfur weapon, or a logic weapon), it deals damage as that type of weapon.  It is possible to fix the weapon, but that's for the DM to adjudicate (maybe it requires a successful Tinker check, maybe it's a 1 in 10 chance like fixing a robot, or maybe you need to take it to an expert).

9 - Carcosa?  You've never been.  In fact, you cannot recall anything about your life before gameplay begins.  You just picked yourself out of the dirt with your current statistics and equipment.  What did you do that you cannot remember?

10 - Maybe there was too much wine, or ale, or opium.  Or maybe you shouldn't have taken a hit of juice from the thorax of that thing that looked like somebody crudely spliced a gecko, a squirrel, a coral, and a praying mantis.  Whatever it was, that night put The Hangover to shame.  If you're starting at first level, you begin play with no money or equipment and you need to roll a carousing mishap on Jeff Rients' original table or Zak Smith's expanded table.  You do, however, begin play with 1d12 × 250 experience points.  If you're above first level, use the carousing tables (again in Classic or Porn Star edition, depending upon your DM).  Your DM is well within his rights to say that you suffer a mishap even if the table says you shouldn't, because seriously, who gets drunk in the baroque city of Carcosa and expects to get away unscathed?

11 - You are the carrier of a mutagenic virus to which you are immune.  Anyone who spends more than 1-6 hours with you must save vs. poison or receive a random mutation (Carcosa, pg. 265, assuming the DM doesn't have his own mutation chart).

12 - Some jabbering madman on a street corner ranted at you.  If you're a Sorcerer, you know a random ritual.  If you're not a Sorcerer, you know (but cannot cast) a random ritual.  Somebody might pay you for that information, though.

13 - The nobles invited you to a grand feast, and the food was so invigorating.  You have a bonus +3 hit points per hit die.

14 - You found yourself in a strange labyrinth underneath the city.  You wandered for hours, eventually finding a bottle with your name on it.  When you opened it, it whispered a secret to you.  Your DM will tell you what it said; this could be an important campaign secret, or it could just be some horrible revelation that will only bring misery.  Bonus points if it's both.

15 - Every night you dream of Carcosa, and in your mind's eye, you return there.  Every morning, upon awakening, save vs. magic.  Failure indicates that you re-roll on this chart.  If you receive this result again, you do not have to save vs. magic the following day, although the dreams start again on the following day.

16 - You found a friendly robot or reprogrammed a deactivated one.  Your DM will randomly generate a robot (Carcosa, pg. 259-262) to be your faithful companion.

17 - Ever since your trip to Carcosa, you hear horrid whisperings in your mind.  Sometimes they tell you useful things, and sometimes they tell you awful things.  Sometimes they just tell you gibberish.

18 - You traded for a shiny new laser gun.  Begin play with a random piece from the armament tables (Carcosa, pg. 251-257).

19 - You found some weird thing that injected you with something that burned like the devil.  Every day (typically upon awakening, reflecting something that happened to you while you slept), save vs. poison with a +5 bonus to your roll.  Rolling a "1" is always a failure, no matter what your saving throws are.  Failure indicates that you have mutated into a random Spawn of Shub-Niggurath under the DM's control.

20 - When you awoke one morning, you found a pale mask sitting on your chest.  As long as you wear it while casting rituals, you never have to save vs. magic to avoid unnatural aging.

21 - Man, this water is quite a strange shade of jale.  Begin play with a random mutation (Carcosa, pg. 265, assuming the DM doesn't have his own mutation chart).

22 - You ran afoul of some grim and gaunt fanatic of some forgotten god, and now he hunts you.  You are being hunted by a Sorcerer of the DM's design, and the DM is encouraged to make him a tough opponent.  The sneaky little bastard is starting to wear on you, because he has this thing about letting you catch glimpses of him when he's stalking you; every time you see him, save vs. magic or flee in fear.

23 - You opened a door and some thing lashed out at whatever limb was through the doorway.  You are randomly missing a limb.  If it's a leg, you move at half speed.  If it's an arm, you can only hold one object at a time (no sword and shield), and cannot use two-handed weapons.

24 - You had an intriguing conversation with a lovely (and apparently sapient!) ulfire gem, and when you awoke in the morning, it was gone.  You're psionic (Carcosa, pg. 18-21).

25 - You tinkered with a robot, but when it activated, you apparently programmed it to destroy the first thing it saw.  Meaning you.  You are being pursued by a random robot (Carcosa, pg. 259-262).

26 - You were cursed to be outcast from your village.  Every day (typically upon awakening, reflecting something that happened to you while you slept), randomly determine your color.  You can use the charts in What Went Wrong, if you'd like, or you can just figure out some other way. might be your friend if you're stuck.

27 - You gazed upon a monolith in Carcosa and blacked out.  When you awoke, you were back home.  Now, whenever you sleep, save vs. magical device or begin reciting the details of a random ritual.  You cannot benefit from this, but any Sorcerers who listen to your somniloquy can learn whatever ritual you are reciting that night.  If you're a Sorcerer, they can teach it to you if they so wish.  Non-Sorcerers will probably try to kill you for the nighttime blasphemies you speak.

28 - You returned from Carcosa subtly wrong, unable to interact with non-Carcosans.  When dealing with people and creatures not from the city of Carcosa, you are considered to have Charisma 3.  Maybe you rant in alien tongues, like some fantastical version of Tourette syndrome, or maybe your lean and hungry look puts people on edge.

29 - You saved somebody from a pack of things that strongly resembled spiders with Deinonychus heads, as envisioned by Ralph Steadman.  This fellow is now your loyal companion; s/he is two levels lower than you, to a minimum of 0 level.  Assume s/he has leather armor and a weapon.

30 - One of the bleak nobles of Carcosa thought your shabby clothes would be the latest fashion.  He traded your clothes (buy another set or you're naked) for a set of Space Alien battle armor.

(A Note on the City: In addition to Carcosa itself, some stuff on this chart makes oblique references to Call of Cthulhu, particularly Delta Green: Countdown, as well as the original work of Chambers and Bierce.)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wednesday Werk: Zaldrim, Scarletscales

In this week's Wednesday Werk, we'll look at the Zaldrim and the Scarletscales.

Like many of the creatures from Hereticwerks, the Zaldrim are planar travelers.  They scour the planes in search of eldritch artifacts, seeking magic items and components for their own inscrutable ends.  Strangely, they are not able to travel the planes naturally, instead relying on spells, rituals, and magic items like most other creatures.

Zaldrim are psychic and clairvoyant, displaying senses and communication abilities far beyond those of other creatures.  They display amazing arcane knowledge, and any given individual is typically well-versed in arcane lore.  For the right price, a Zaldrim may even share this knowledge, conceivably teaching any ritual or alchemical formula of its level or lower.

Strangely, the Zaldrim appear to be arcane themselves, possibly being composed of arcane energy.  When slain, they violently explode in a burst of eldritch energies.

The following individual is representative of a typical Zaldrim spellcaster a potent magus who has learned many spells and is highly adept in their use.

(Some conversion notes about the Zaldrim:  the original version is vulnerable to Dispel Magic, Holy/Unholy Word, and Confusion.  This change showcases one of the downsides to the more rigid combat system of 4e.  Some of those spells no longer exist in 4e, and Dispel Magic is very limited, but enterprising DMs might add vulnerabilities or allow strange effects on existing powers.  If somebody tries something clever on the magical Zaldrim, feel free to adjudicate the rules with skill checks and the damage by level table.  Note that the high Arcana skill covers the Zaldrim's ability to use several spells like Detect Magic and Read Magic at will.)

The Scarletscales are one of several varieties of ophidian humanoids found among the planes.  The Scarletscales are the keepers of a mystical military culture, combining the worst traits of monstrous humanoids and movie martial artists.  As a race, they train to seek worthy opponents with which to cross blades.  They are extremely cunning, however, and are certainly not above dirty tricks to win a fight.  Despite their alignment, they do not display the savagery of the orcs and their kind, instead channeling their destructive urges into a sort of ferocious grace.

Valorous bards tell many tales of Scarletscale swordsmen.

(As an aside, 4e DMs may wish to lump Scarletscales with the snake-cultists of Zehir, or just leave them as their own thing.  Or they may wish to imply some sort of war brewing among the evil cultists of Zehir and the chaotic evil cultists of some demonic snake-deity.  Whatever floats your boat.)

The following Scarletscale depicts a typical warrior of the species, a swordsman with a few magical tricks to increase his lethality in combat.

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