Friday, March 30, 2012

Disturbing News of the Molg

Yesterday, Hereticwerks posted an update about the Molg.

Ordrang and Molg are evidently members of the same species, being the female and male of the species, respectively.

Sexual dimorphism is weird.

As few gain access to the chambers of Remegni the Stoic, no one knows if his survey of the Molg life cycle has uncovered this fact.  Depending upon how the sexes are established (no one knows for certain), it is possible he will never observe the behavior, or maybe he just wonders why Ordrang keep getting into the habitat.

The course of occult science rarely runs smoothly.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Surrealist Compliment Generator

So Rushputin at Warpstone Pile brought the Surrealist Compliment Generator to my attention.

What is that, you ask?

Simple: it generates a random surrealist compliment for you.  Something like, "Give me your hand that I may want of your broken nails," or, "Your higher cerebrations are most post-mortem."

Since I know I have characters who would talk like that, and so do you, it seemed like the thing to mention.

So, go ahead.  Give it a try.

Wednesday Werk: Molg

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

First things first: read the Wednesday Werk post on the Ordrang first (and read the original Hereticwerks post, because you love it).  Baron Lee van Hook has some stuff to say on the Molg (what's a plant biologist doing talking about slugs?), and his statements might make marginally more sense if you understand some of his other stuff.


Additionally, Ordrang and Molg occupy similar ecological niches, and so compete heavily.

Anyway, the Molg, like the Ordrang, are scavengers of ectoplasm.  Whereas the Ordrang are typically found singly or in small groups, the Molg tend to travel in larger groups, occasionally being sighted in groups as large as twenty or so individuals (the collective noun for molg is a "march," as in "a march of molg").

In his research of the Ordrang, Baron Lee van Hook of the University of the Study of the Arcane Arts and Sciences in Duchy Jepson came across the Molg — not only do they compete, but Molg are known to attack and devour Ordrang for their stores of ectoplasm.  Not knowing anything about animals (although some of his alleged microphytes have animal-like behavior), he started doing research and trying to recruit some of his fellows.  He managed to obtain research partners in no less than Headmaster Magister Ebenezer Cascata Ail-Mudren Jepson (a noted naturalist in addition to his many credits as an adventurer and parliamentarian on the Council of Magi) and fellow professor Magister Remegni the Stoic (famed anatomist, healer, and purveyor of curses; only the Goldenear twins know more about shadow magic, and good luck gaining audience with them).

What they found was that the Molg are scavengers, although they are small enough to devour ectoplasmic residues from graveyards, battlefields, and suchlike.  However, they are significantly more aggressive than Ordrang — the Ordrang typically only attack ghosts, and even then, they do so with a very simple need to eat.  The Molg, on the other hand, coordinate their actions like wolves, and they will attack living or undead targets with equal ferocity.

The Molg have also developed a method of external digestion; Baron Hook says some plants (which he calls carnophytes, meaning "fleshy plant"), like mushrooms, puffballs, and tree brackets, digest food in this manner, while Headmaster Jepson says that some insects do the same thing.  In the case of the Molg, they use energy projections, apparently having developed the ability to project radiant and necrotic energy at their foes.  These specialized projections break down ectoplasm, releasing it into the environment.  The Molg can then harvest the ectoplasmic residues.

Sorcerers and necromancers have been known to domesticate the creatures (as much as one can domesticate a slug, anyway) to clean out areas saturated with ectoplasm.  Necromancers especially like to keep them on hand because they attack Ordrang, and because they can be trained to specifically attack living creatures.  Magister Remegni kept a couple from the Hook-Jepson-Remegni survey, and is apparently attempting to study the life cycle.

The following entry represents a fairly typical Molg specimen.  In combat, Molg will typically target undead first with Ektoplasmolysis (yeah, Baron Hook's been naming stuff again), then target any remaining living creatures with Ektoplasmorrhage.  They are cunning enough to switch if a tactic isn't working (for instance, if you resist 5 necrotic, they'll start hitting you with Ektoplasmolysis), but they'll probably stick to the routine for the first attack, giving you a round or so of inefficient attacks.  Domesticated specimens follow their master's instructions, typically attacking a little more efficiently — maybe only the first one hits with Ektoplasmorrhage before the rest switch tactics, for example.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Penny for the Old Guy and Stats for the Aye-Aye

You don't know this thing?  This is an aye-aye, a lemur native to Madagascar.  While not my favorite animal, I'm rather fond of them.  I mean, look at that face.

They're interesting creatures; they use a specialized middle finger to extract grubs and such from trees.

Also, they're supposed to be pretty friendly; they have no fear of humans.

Anyway, noisms wrote a post requesting statistics for such a creature, and I decided to participate, because aye-ayes are awesome.  Also, proving that synchronicity is rampant, Jedediah recently started a new series called "Strange Beasts" which gives descriptions of weird creatures rife for gaming.  So far, she's only done honeypot ants (another favorite of mine; the variety and diversity of ant species is truly staggering), but I'm sure that will grow pretty quickly.  Or it already has, because you're reading this post three years in the future.


Anyway, I decided to go with the legends surrounding the aye-aye to make a mythic aye-aye.  Stats are Weird Fantasy Role-Playing, but conversion should be pretty simple.  Enjoy!

Death Lemur (Mythic Aye-Aye)

No. Appearing: 1
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 120′
Armor Class: 13 (as no armor + shield for you non-LotFP:WFRP people)
Hit Dice: 7
Attacks: 1 (finger-stab or pointing)
Damage: 1d4 (or death; see below)
Morale: 9 (if your system tracks morale)

Occasionally called the "aye-aye" by native tribesman, the Death Lemur is a strange, nocturnal creature.  Supposedly, the Death Lemur was empowered by the local death god as a psychopomp.  Seeing a Death Lemur is an ill omen, and a sure sign that a death will befall the village.  For this reason, the villagers have many minor rituals that are to ward against the presence of death, and whole tribes will engage in ritual hunts to purge the creatures from the nearby forest in the hopes of removing the taint of death from the area.

Death Lemurs are frequently solitary, and sapients always encounter them alone.  They are typically docile, only attacking those who attack them, although they do occasionally take lives according to inscrutable whims.  In combat, the Death Lemur points at victims with its long, thin middle finger; anyone subjected to this fate must save vs. magic or die instantly.  If forced into close combat, it will attempt to stab with its middle finger.  The creatures are surprisingly adept with their strange digits, able to punch through light armor or find gaps in more heavily-armored opponents.

I can only express puzzlement that borders on alarm.

Click it.  I dare you.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wednesday Werk: Pseudoblepas, Nerglid

In this week's Wednesday Werk, we'll look at the Pseudoblepas and the Nerglid.

The Nerglid are a race of warlike beings who wish to display their supremacy over humanoids by defeating them in combat.  They focus on humans, but will pick any mammalian humanoid race (and if those are unavailable, they'll move to reptiles).  This may have something to do with their supposed fungal ancestry, but then again, who knows?

For that matter, their fungal nature is not immediately apparent; their suits of armor come complete with face masks that resemble humans.  Their masks are made of a strange, rare metal (scholars suspect either they have an extraplanar supply or their homelands are rife with the stuff).

They show no quarter in combat, although they are intelligent, and can sometimes be convinced to avoid fighting to the death.  Although that might involve determining what they want, and nobody has quite figured out that mystery.  Yet.

As an aside to adventurers: when he isn't blathering about "microphytes" and "phagœktoplasmotic macrosciaphytes" (further information on the latter is available here), Baron Lee van Hook has promised a reward to anyone who can bring living specimens, dead remains, and strange masks to him.  Interested parties are directed to the University of the Study of the Arcane Arts and Sciences in Duchy Jepson, located on the Sorrowfell Plains.

The Nerglid use polearms in combat, typically tending toward halberds and glaives.  This particular specimen uses a halberd (or something similar enough in design to be called a halberd), to great effect.  In combat, he typically opens by savagely mauling somebody with Impale.  He then alternates between Halberd and Halberd Sweep as appropriate, typically using Halberd to menace individuals, and Halberd Sweep to menace groups.  (The Nerglid are also typically mounted on Pseudoblepas; in such a case, he uses Mounted Leap in lieu of Halberd whenever he is able.)

As noted, Nerglid are usually mounted on Pseudoblepas.  These creatures are extremely docile things that resemble a largish dinosaur with lobster claws and webbed feet.  They move primarily by hopping, like kangaroos, and tend to look rather comical.

Don't be fooled.  They are extremely vicious when mounted, and the Nerglid are adept at using their rhythmic hopping motions to inflict devastating strikes.

This specimen represents a fairly typical Pseudoblepas.  It will Claw or Tail Lash as its rider wields its halberd.  A Pseudoblepas without a rider will typically stop attacking and will move to a safe place (behind a rock, at the edge of the battlefield, basically anywhere that removes it from the main thrust of combat); if it is bloodied, it will flee.

It is possible for a player character to use a Pseudoblepas as a mount, although it is more likely that one would be obtained as war spoils rather than purchased.  The Nerglid raise them specially, and the likelihood of finding one on the open market is slim.  A Pseudoblepas whose rider is killed can probably be retrained with the application of the "Handle/Train Animal" function of the Nature skill, (Player's Handbook, pg. 186, or Rules Compendium, pg. 149), likely as part of a skill challenge.  I'd recommend a Complexity 1 skill challenge as they're fairly docile and easily trained.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Fiasco: Play Report

So I posted a review of Fiasco earlier, which coincides with the fact that I actually played it!

We had four characters (all of whom had Irish surnames because it was Saint Patrick's Day):
  • April Gallagher: Currently between jobs.  One night, April was driving home while drunk, and accidentally struck and killed Owen O'Kelley's parents.  Since that time, she's become involved with Sophie MacInnery, a local bookie, in the hopes of gambling to pay off her legal debts.  She's found Sophie to be a decent ear, as the two of them are quite racist.  April is also trying to string Owen along, knowing that he's loaded.
  • Catelyn Kennedy: Realtor.  She is currently trying to deal with her client and one-night stand, local meth head Owen O'Kelley, who claims his house is haunted.  She is also trying to deal with her cousin, Sophie MacInnery, because the two of them are currently engaged in a dispute over a replica Captain James T. Kirk captain's chair that their uncle left to them before he died.
  • Sophie MacInnery: Bookie.  Sophie is currently embroiled in a fight with her cousin Catelyn Kennedy about  a replica Captain Kirk chair that their uncle left to them before he died; she could always use the money, so she's hoping for some payment out of the deal, either by selling the chair or extorting the money out of Catelyn.  One of her typical customers is April Gallagher, who seems nice enough, as the two have taken to complaining about Central American immigrants together.
  • Owen O'Kelley: Meth dealer and addict who purchased a multi-million dollar home in the nice part of town, but refuses to stay in it because "it tried to eat [him.]"  Apparently, he and his realtor, Catelyn Kennedy, had a one-time fling in that house, and now he's trying to get back at her by sleeping with April Gallagher, who killed his parents in a drunk driving accident.
That's the setup.  Our Playset was the "Tales from Suburbia" Playset in the core book.  Gameplay in Fiasco is chaotic, as scenes jump into flashbacks, current time, and suchlike.  Try to stay with me; I'll be throwing everything out in chronological order.

Catelyn and Sophie meet at the storage unit where they keep this Captain Kirk chair.  Sophie wants to sell it; Catelyn wants to keep it.  Sophie says she'll let Catelyn have it for $10,000.  Around this time, Owen shows up; he's a Star Trek fan and has heard that this thing might be going on the market.  He thinks it should be in a museum (he literally quotes Indiana Jones, which cracks up the whole table).  Sophie maintains her idea that she's selling it to somebody, whether it's her cousin or another buyer.

Owen also takes this time to let Catelyn know that his house is haunted and tried to eat him.  She says there's very little she can do about that, but they agree to work something out, particularly because he'll help her pay for the captain's chair.

A couple of days later, Sophie calls April to come to her office.  She indicates April's last bet didn't come through, and she owes $5,000.  April asks how much time she has, and Sophie says she'll give her a week.  Sophie also indicates that she has another thing cooking — some underground fight club featuring Hispanics (I told you they're pretty damn racist) — and April says to put $1,000 on the biggest guy on her behalf.

April then goes over to Owen's trailer (he's been living there because he can't live in his house, as it tried to eat him, you understand).  She turns down his offer of meth (although she swipes some meth from the refrigerator when he isn't looking).  However, he says he'll give her his house if she'll sleep there overnight with him.  She agrees.  Before she goes, she asks if she can borrow $5,000.  Owen only gives her $500, which she takes.  She says she'll see him tonight.

Owen makes the call to Catelyn.  She'll be over, too, to sign the house over to April.

April arrives at the house to find Owen's scooter outside.  She knocks on the door and Owen answers, inviting her inside.  He leads her to a side room with a bed and several candles, where he makes it abundantly clear that he won't just sign the house over if she sleeps in the same house as him, but with him.

Before anything can happen, Catelyn knocks on the door.

Cut to a couple of hours later, when Owen is missing and April and Catelyn are looking for him.  April calls Sophie and tells her to get over to the house, because she has an exciting prospect for her.  Sophie agrees and hangs up.

Sophie arrives around midnight, and the three continue searching for Owen, to no avail.  Despite what April hopes, Catelyn indicates that no transference will take place without him.  April gives Sophie the $500, and then asks about the other opportunity.  Sophie calls her contact, Tom, who indicates that April's guy won and killed the other combatant.  Although it's pretty clear that this bites into Sophie's finances, she agrees to call the debt square and pay April an additional $5,000.

Even so, Sophie isn't pleased.  She breaks into a bottle of wine, and drinks a fair amount.  April joins her.

Around 2 AM, April and Sophie are still drinking in the makeshift bedroom when Owen returns, crashing through the window, naked, covered in blood.  Some of it is his from leaping through a pane of glass, but some of it appears to be...someone else's.  Sophie's gun comes out reflexively, but it returns to its hiding place when it's obvious he's not doing anything.  He's alive, but unconscious.  April, Catelyn, and Sophie (likely wisely) decide to leave.  Catelyn calls 911, and they get into their cars.  As they drive away, Catelyn starts driving erratically — breezing through stoplights and stop signs.  After some frantic cell phone calls, it becomes obvious that her brakes are malfunctioning (unbeknownst to anyone, Owen cut her brake lines while he was away).  Despite being drunk, April speeds around her, gets in front of her car, and makes bumper contact to slow Catelyn's car to a stop.  They manage to get out of the situation with only some crumpled bumpers.

Catelyn thanks her, and asks if she can get a ride.  Since April's drunk, she deigns to drive, and offers to let April stay at her house for the night.

The next day, a hungover April calls Sophie and goes to her house to collect her gambling winnings.  They're about to seal the deal when there's a tapping on Sophie's window.  Her gun comes out, and she checks — it's Owen, wearing a hospital gown and bracelet.  April asks to bring him inside and Sophie agrees.  When Sophie leaves the living room to go get April's money, Owen urinates on her couch and vomits on her floor before passing out.  Sophie gives April the wad of cash and asks her to leave, which she gladly does.

April calls Catelyn and takes Owen to her house to finish the paperwork.  When they get there, he asks to use the bathroom.  He's in there a long time before Catelyn checks on him, and she opens the door to find him face-down in the toilet.  Catelyn calls 911 as April pulls him out, and she starts doing chest compressions.  He starts awake, and responds by strangling her.  She passes out around the same time he does, and Catelyn is left as sirens arrive.

As the paramedics make their way in the house, Catelyn begins to explain about the pair, which confuses the EMTs as they only heard that a lone man was the one here.  As they call it in, they enter the bathroom to find only April, still unconscious.  The EMTs finally load her onto a gurney, and call the whole mess in.

Once she's alone, Catelyn thinks for a while.  She finally decides to sign Owen's house over in her name.

Cut to a few days later.  Sophie has a couple of guys delivering the chair to Catelyn's new house.  After some tense words are exchanged, along with the $10,000, Sophie and her movers leave.  As they do, an errant foot kicks some dirt aside to reveal a jar of money — apparently Owen has been burying his meth earnings all over the yard.  Sophie covers the jar again and decides to return later to dig them all up.

In the epilogue, Owen tangles with some cops.  April is trying to break into Catelyn's new house at the same time Sophie returns to dig up the money.  The two come across each other in the dark, and Sophie fires a shot, wounding her.  Catelyn calls 911, and Sophie jogs around to break into Catelyn's car and hotwire it.  She manages to get inside and do so just as the police arrive, but is surprised as April appears in the backseat to strangle her.  To make matters worse, Sophie learns the hard way that the repairs to Catelyn's brakes weren't as thorough as they should have been.

Finally, Catelyn also lets the police know about the money buried in the yard.

The final tally is: Sophie's probably dead, Owen is who-knows-where, April is probably crippled for the rest of her life, and Catelyn is sitting pretty in her new house.

...and that's Fiasco.

Addendum: The system is indeed pretty simple and easy-to-learn.  We made (which is to say, I made) a couple of mistakes regarding the Tilt and the Aftermath, but it was still fun and basically worked.

In the future, it will be easier to keep those things in mind.

Review: Fiasco

I've been waiting to do this one for a while.

So there's this game called Fiasco.  Perhaps you've heard of it.  If you haven't, go click on that link; that takes you to the main site.

If you haven't, the premise is really simple: you're in a Coen brothers' movie.

You know movies like Fargo or Burn After Reading or Bound where a foolish plan goes pear-shaped really quickly?  That's the style Fiasco emulates.

Basically, Fiasco encourages the sort of gameplay that emerges in other role-playing games, because seriously, in what game hasn't some poorly-considered plan thrown the whole work out-of-whack?

Also noteworthy is that Fiasco is one of them newfanged story games, meaning that it bears aspects similar to a role-playing game (there is a loose framework of rules meant to facilitate sapient beings doing weird things to other sapients), but it focuses more on collaborative storytelling (those rules primarily drive the story rather than simulating reality).

The rules are relatively straightforward.  You arrange four dice per player, two white and two black.  Put them in the middle of the table, and roll them.  Use these randomly generated numbers to buy story elements from a shopping list called a "Playset."  (In addition to the four Playsets in the core book and the additional four in the companion, there are a bunch on the internet, and Bully Pulpit Games releases a new Playset each month.)  Each Playset is a collection of relationships, needs, objects, and locations meant to reinforce a particular setting or genre; there's a D&D-style fantasy Playset, a Desperate Housewives-style suburbia Playset, a JFK-style Dallas 1963 Playset, and even a Playset set in McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

Once you have your story elements generated — you two guys are brothers who share a suitcase with the ashes of $100,000, while you two are a pimp and prostitute who hang out over at the 7-11 by the trailer park — you're ready to go.  Those dice go back into the central pile, and they act as your countdown meter, letting you know how much game you've got left before it ends.  Each scene takes a die out of the central pile, and when no dice are left, the game is over.

Naturally, there's a bit more to it, so here's the meat: when it's your turn for a scene, you choose to either Establish or Resolve.  If you Establish, you get to say what the scene's setup is — I'm driving to work in the morning, I'm arguing with my ex-husband, I'm sitting on the trunk with the dead hooker in it, whatever — but if you Resolve, your friends set the scene for you.  Likewise, if you Establish, the rest of the table Resolves, deciding whether things go well for you or not, but if you Resolve, you get to pick.  Resolution is determined by the color of die chosen — partway through the scene, if you (or your friends) pick up the white die, the scene goes well for your character (however you wish to determine that), but if someone picks up a black die, the scene goes badly for you.

The whole game continues in this fashion, with a couple of complications.  The game is divided into two acts, and during Act One, you give these dice away (so if your scene goes well and you have a white die, you give it to whomever you want).  During Act Two, you keep the die (so if things go badly, you keep your black die).

The changeover between acts comes halfway through the game, and is called the Tilt.  You roll your little pile of dice in front of you, and you subtract low from high (so, if you have a white die and a black die, and roll White 6 and Black 2, your total is White 4).  The highest numbers get to roll the remaining dice in the middle to determine the Tilt, just like in the Setup.  The Tilt is a random element — something's on fire, or somebody does something monumentally stupid — that changes the game significantly.  Two of those come out to play, the group continues through Act Two.

Finally, there's the Aftermath.  Everybody rolls their dice in front of them, and subtracts low from high.  The higher your total, the better you do in the epilogue.  It's entirely possible to fail all game long and end up smelling like a rose, and it's also possible to do well all game (or be a nice guy who doesn't deserve it) and end up with a terrible endgame.  It's fast, it's furious, and it's not terribly fair.

Those are the rules.  I probably haven't done them justice (this review does a pretty good job of describing everything coherently), but they make a lot of sense when you read the book.

As for the game itself, the rules facilitate a fast-and-furious playstyle where characters do stupid things to get what they want.  As with many games, there is nothing that forces this, but it is subtly encouraged (when you have items like "a need to get rich through a re-written will" and "a suitcase full of cash," there can really only be one outcome).  Really, you're not getting the most out of the game unless you're making the most of the downward slide.

Incidentally, The Fiasco Companion mentions something I've often thought about Fiasco: it would make a killer setup for other role-playing games.  At the end of a Fiasco game, you have a terrible situation in which several people are probably dead or have ruined their lives forever.  That sort of monumental screw-up is the sort of situation where somebody wants vengeance, or somebody needs everything to be cleaned up, or where the existence of something has emerged that somebody wants (if the suitcase of cash was last seen being buried in the backyard, chances are good several somebodies are looking for that case, even if they don't know quite where it is).

There are a couple of Playsets (Dragon Slayers, Objective Zebra, and Camp Death, for example) that really lend themselves to the typical gaming subjects, but if there isn't a Playset that really matches your game, make one up!  You could easily make a Shadowrun Playset, or a Call of Cthulhu Playset, or whatever (I've been wanting to make a Chicago occult underground Playset for my Unknown Armies game).

Overall, I'd recommend it.  It's a bit of an odd bird if you're mostly used to traditional role-playing games, but the rules are pretty easy to learn.

One final note: if you're familiar with the source material and want a softer game (maybe you like the sound of the freeform role-playing thing, but don't want a poorly-planned heist with drugs and guns), check out The Fiasco Companion.  The book is primarily essays regarding advice, suggestions, and rules hacks for the original Fiasco; one of them is softening Tilts and Aftermaths if you want something more like a John Hughes teen comedy, or just a lighter situation marked more by pratfalls than poor judgment.

Expect an actual play report in a moment.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

M. A. R. Barker

In case you haven't heard, another giant in the RPG hobby, Professor Muhammad Abd-al-Rahman Barker passed away yesterday.  He was eighty-two.

As usual, I've got nothing to say that a thousand people haven't already said on the subject, likely more eloquently than I.  Go read some of the links if you're interested:

GROGNARDIA: RIP: M.A.R. Barker (1929-2012)

Hill Cantons: M.A.R. Barker has Passed to the Isles
Hereticwerks: A Titan Passes...
Porky's Expanse: Glimmers through a darkness ebb
Swords & Stitchery: The Loss of Professor M. A. R. Barker
Harvard's Blackmoor Blog: M.A.R Barker (November 3, 1929 - March 16, 2012) Rest in Peace

And check out the official press release from the Tékumel Foundation.

For my part, Tékumel is a setting I have only explored a little, but it sounds pretty neat.  You should check it out; the original manuscript is over on Drive Thru RPG (I have yet to purchase it because I'm still holding out for the maps and print-on-demand options).

Friday, March 16, 2012

Deadlands, Part XII

One note before we get started: there are a couple of dream sequences in this session.  All players received at least one dream (many received two), but since I'm playing from Father Seward's perspective, I only know his dreams firsthand (I know some stuff Jeb and Jake dreamed, but that will come up in the game description).  Father Seward hasn't shared his dreams with the party yet, largely due to the whole chaos of the session.

As such, I'm hiding the dreams behind a javascript cut, the ones Jedediah uses over at Book Scorpion's Lair (and the ones Porky notes in this post).  They're not spoilers — Father Seward will probably describe the content within a session or two — they're just there in case any of the players in the Deadlands game want to gloss over them until they come up in-character.  Read them or don't depending upon your personal inclination.

When we last left our heroes, they engaged in a poker tournament at the Flesh Menagerie.  Doc Holliday won the moon jar (yes, that moon jar), and then dropped it.  It broke and started spilling this weird, cloying, grayish smoke.  And then a Rattler smashed through the Flesh Menagerie.

The back end of the Menagerie pitches into the sea.  The front end pitches forward.  Bodies go flying.  Father Seward loses consciousness.

Father Seward has his first dream of the session.

It's a first-person perspective of someone wearing purple gloves and smoking a cigar (or, more properly, a cigarillo).  He is organizing a group of American Indians who are dressed like bandits, and he orders them to burn the town.  The scene changes and the man is walking through the town — it's Paraíso, Texas, c. 1837.  The man enters a house — Father Seward's old house in those days, back when he was raising a family — and calls for the Father.  There's no answer; Alexander and Lorenza aren't home.  The man goes through the house and finds a young girl playing with a doll.  It's Antonia, Seward's daughter.  She looks at him without fear — just the curiosity that only a four-year-old can muster — and the man strokes her hair and says, "Necessity is the mother of invention..."

The Father awakens on a dock.  He is being slapped and questioned by several Chinese men, Tong by their look.  His addled brain takes a moment to piece together their queries — in Chinese, mind — but he finally determines that they are asking about the location of Little Pete.  Seward manages to reply back, in broken Chinese, that he doesn't know, and would they stop slapping him?  When he says he doesn't know, they drop him unceremoniously on the dock and move on, repeating this treatment with everyone they fish out of the water.

Father Seward gets his bearings.  He's pretty sure the "dream" he experienced is actually a memory from the moon jar, and the gray, greasy smoke from the moon jar seems to have subsided into an actual fog — mixed with the smoky smell of fire.  However, due to the thickness of the fog, no fire can be seen.

He also sees Jeb and Ruby O'Flahertie.  Jeb has a rope tied around him that dangles into the water, and he has some bleeding wounds in his abdomen.  Ruby is unconscious and looks half-drowned.  Father Seward, still confused, asks Jeb if he's all right, and borrows Jeb's knife to cut the rope; it's Jeb's rope, and not attached to anything, so that plan is quickly canceled.  Jeb unties the rope instead and gets his stuff together.  Father Seward prays over Ruby and she awakens, and then he checks on Jeb, prays over him, lays on hands, and heals his wounds.

The group arranges themselves, and the tale comes out — Jeb overheard some people, including a guy with a metal nose, talking about killing Jake and Father Seward (in that level of priority) and capturing David Hood.  To prevent this, he got into a gunfight with them, and managed to heavily wound them and drive them off.  The worm appeared and threw the whole street into the ocean, and he nearly drowned from Ruby's half-conscious flailings.  He did, however, save her life.

Ruby recalls little from all this.

Jeb also indicates that he had some strange dreams when he was knocked out, visions of things.  Father Seward assumes these to be further moon jar memories, particularly since one of the "dreams" depicts a botched cattle rustling operation resulting in someone being shot through the neck.  Father Seward chuckles and says that's the Black Riders.  He further explains that they were stone stupid, particularly Joe Bob and Griswold.  He doesn't really explain further.

The group decides to head for Rufina's butcher shop while looking around for David, Jake, and Rufina.  To aid mobility, Ruby's new silk dress gets torn despite her protestations.  They finally confront the fire, swiftly claiming wooden buildings in downtown, and despite the fact that Father Seward wants to circumnavigate the flames, Jeb says to go straight through, because "if we got through Atlanta, we can get through this."

Ruby is on board with this plan.

Jeb ends up dragging an unconscious Father Seward and Ruby out of the inferno that currently dominates San Francisco — and her dress is severely mutilated by Jeb to make bandannas — but they make it out all right.  After getting themselves situated, they find their way back to Rufina's shop, run in to grab Seward's backpack and Jeb's guns, and leave.  Jeb gives Father Seward a rifle, and the group takes to the main road with the other people leaving the city.

Meanwhile, David Hood awakens on the back of a horse.  His hands and feet are bound, and he is laid across the horse on his belly.  A large, Hispanic woman (probably with some Caucasian ancestry thrown in) is currently riding the horse.  David starts asking questions, and learns that he is currently being taken in for a bounty — he's wanted in Boston.  The bounty was posted from a bar David doesn't know but whose address suggests a disreputable part of town, and the reward is $200 in silver.

That's about all he learns before she gets annoyed with him and puts a bandanna in his mouth to gag him.

He tries to get the gag out of his mouth without her noticing, but instead pitches off the horse and onto the dirt road.

She doesn't notice.

David takes a moment to struggle loose from the bonds at his wrists, removes his gag, and unties his feet.  Then, he starts walking down the road and finds himself amongst the people fleeing the city.  He is momentarily distracted by a lot of leg showing on a passing girl when he realizes it's Ruby and her mutilated dress.

Reunited, we explain our adventures since separating, and Father Seward asks about this Mexican bounty hunter — about how old was she, and did she look like she could be part-white?  David says she looked to be in her thirties, and asks why.  Father Seward replies that he's just curious.

After some discussion, the group decides to camp here in case Jake and Rufina pass along a main road.

Meanwhile, Jake and Rufina awaken across the bay (that is, modern-day Oakland and a journey of at least a couple miles across the San Francisco Bay).  Rufina awakens first and awakens Jake by kicking him (who enigmatically says, "I do," upon awakening).  Through the smoke on the bay, they can see the orange haze of San Francisco on fire.  They start to walk, eventually finding a rowboat to clear the bay.  Along the way, Jake recounts the group's adventures from Boston to San Francisco.

By the time they make it to the city, Rufina's shop is destroyed.  She says prayers, and then the pair starts to make their way out of the city, although Rufina stops to check on various shops and houses on the way out.  She frequently seems disappointed.

Finally, Jake and Rufina find themselves leaving the city amidst a crowd and as they come to the outskirts, they see David, Father Seward, Jeb, and Ruby sitting by the side of the road.

Jake opens by indicating that Ruby made quite a pretty bride with a handsome groom.  She initially denies it, but everyone gets more interested when Jake asks why Cornelius Cobb, his old mentor, was sitting on the groom's side.

Honestly, she doesn't know.  Her husband's name doesn't match anyone Jake ever knew.

There's a bit of discussion about where to go next — nobody has anything pressing, now that the whole poker tournament thing is done.  Rufina answers by starting to walk, so the group gathers and starts wandering down the road, presumably to the next town.  Despite any unfortunate implications, Father Seward gives Ruby a pair of his trousers for her exposed legs on the walk.  After several hours, the group starts looking to make camp as night falls.

Finding an existing camp set up by a family, the group approaches.  When the father comes out of the makeshift tent with a shotgun, Father Seward speaks, explaining that he's a priest, and he and his associates were hoping to make camp hereabouts.  After Father Seward actually convinces the father that he's a priest, the family sets about offering things to him, and when they won't listen to Father Seward's protestations, he finally silences them with a grim stare and a stony, "No."

After the group is revealed, there is another tense moment as the wife remarks that Ruby must be a whore with those pants; Jake immediately prompts awkward apologies when he similarly insists she is not — also with a gravelly voice and a cold gaze. The wife apologizes and gives Ruby a plain dress.

Once the awkwardness is overcome, Father Seward leads everyone in a prayer, the group determines who will take what watch, and everyone sleeps.

Father Seward's second dream of the session.

Once again, it is first-person perspective.  The man is about six inches taller than Father Seward, and he is walking on a dirt road cutting through the desert, accompanied by a pock-marked and sore-covered mule.  The man comes to a sign which reads, "SWEETWATER  POPULATION: 191".  The man takes a piece of coal and crosses out "191," writing "0" next to it.  He continues walking.  Somehow, Father Seward is aware that this is Arizona.

The group awakens — rather roughly, as comments suggest everyone slept poorly during the night due to bad dreams.  The family and the travelers breakfast together before deciding to head for San Jose as a group.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wednesday Werk: Ordrang

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

In our discussion of the Ordrang, we're going to do something a little different.  As with most Werk entries, most of the important information regarding the creature(s)-of-the-week can be found in the original Hereticwerks entry (and I just linked to it three times, so you have no excuse to not read it).  As such, there isn't a lot to add.

However, Baron Lee van Hook, noted scholar and Discipulus of the University of the Study of the Arcane Arts and Sciences in Duchy Jepson, has taken to studying the occasional Ordrang sighting on the Sorrowfell Plains.  This initially seems strange because Baron Hook's field is botany, and he is currently arguing for the existence of what he calls "microphytes," exceedingly tiny plants that live in symbiosis with all living things, although some varieties may cause diseases such as blinding sickness and filth fever.  However, he considers the Ordrang to be what he calls a "macrosciaphyte," a very large microphyte with a connection to the Shadowfell.

We're not going to bore you with his notes and lectures on the subject, but Baron Hook's macrosciaphyte has a few notable characteristics.  Baron Hook classes the Ordrang as a "phagœktoplasmotic macrosciaphyte" (that's an "ectoplasmic-eating, large shadow plant" for laymen like you and I).  He has further noted that it possesses something he calls a "phagœktoplasmic pilus," a protrusion it can extrude from its spherical form that will attach to sources of ectroplasm and drink it dry.  The Ordrang lacks senses as we would understand them, instead bearing a rudimentary sense of ectoplasm.  If threatened, they can typically jaunt through the Shadowfell to regroup in what Baron Hook calls a "phasing tumble" or "shadow tumble" based upon the run-and-tumble behavior of his alleged microphytes.

The Ordrang is typically rather rare, and usually does not attack living creatures — it only focuses on incorporeal undead, finding them the most ready source of ectoplasm.  They have been known to attack astral projectionists on accident.  They will occasionally attack living things under the domination of a magic-user or if they are starving and no other energy sources are available — Baron Hook indicates that they are able to  they are able to phagœktoplasmotize the ambient ectoplasmic energy in all living things.

(DMs might consider this order of operations: they will attack things with the insubstantial resistance and the undead keyword first, things with only the insubstantial resistance second, things with only the undead keyword third, and all other things thereafter.  They will not attack living creatures if they are "sated," although some magic-users use them as eldritch guardians.)

The following specimen is indicative of a typical creature.  They are typically found in some places of the Shadowfell, and any place where necrotic energy is present — basically anywhere incorporeal undead may form.  Some, as noted, may also be found in the company of sorcerers, although necromancers almost never use them, as dominated Ordrangs still have a tendency to eat their summoned ghosts.

Friday, March 9, 2012


I'm not one for memes, but I was tagged by Jedediah, and you should probably be reading Book Scorpion's Lair (books, role-playing and randomness), Ook, she wrote (an ecology photoblog), and Of Rats and Gangs (the Shadowrun replays noted on Book Scorpion's Lair have their own blog, written as an in-character journal).

If none of those interest you, what in the Hell are you doing reading my blog?


The Rules Are:

1. You must post the rules.
2. post eleven fun facts about yourself on the blog post.
3. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post, and create eleven new questions to ask the people you've tagged.
4. Tag eleven bloggers, however, you can break the rules and tag fewer people if you want. Make sure you hyperlink their names/blogs.
5. Let them know you've tagged them - it's good manners ;)
6. Enjoy and have fun with it.

1. If you could choose three people to game with (any at all: fictional, real, famous ect.), who would that be?
Stephen Colbert, Snoop Dogg, and Irene Adler.  Why, you ask?  Stephen Colbert has familiarity with the game, Snoop Dogg would probably have a blast (seriously, Snoop Dogg always projects an aura of having fun), and Irene Adler outwitted Sherlock Holmes.  She would either be the most interesting player or the most annoying; it's difficult to say.

2. What's the most weird thing you have ever eaten?
Everything I've eaten makes sense to me.  I guess I'll go with fried pickles, as my response was typical of the responses I've seen — initial suspicion followed by immediate acceptance.

3. Name the three most important things to have in case of zombie attacks.
It depends on the zombie.  I'll go with clean water, clean food, and plenty of wood — fighting zombies never seems as important as outlasting zombies.

4. Whats top of your bucket list?
I don't have a bucket list.

5. What's the most weird character concept you have ever come across, as a GM or player (feel free to include your own)?
I always get back to the eccentric newspaperman who wanted to disprove religion.  He had a missing eye but frequently wouldn't wear an eyepatch.  Sadly, I never ran that game.

6. Dracula or Frankenstein? Why?
As much as I love Dracula, it's all about Frankenstein's monster.  Shelley's original creation is some alchemical god, super-strong and hyper-intelligent.  He'd be likable if he didn't have all the daddy issues.

7. If you could choose any movie at all to see on the big screen (again or for the first time), which one would that be?
Lawrence of Arabia.  I'd imagine it's impossible to go wrong with a Lean epic.

8. Where did you buy your first dice?
My very first set (Vampire: the Masquerade d10s) was a gift, but I know they came from Colzac Comics.  The first set I bought came from a gaming store a nearby mall; I was out on a random outing and recalled that a friend of mine worked at said store.  I can't remember the name of the store for the life of me.  Both of these stores are now defunct.

9. You're offered a day on a holodeck. What do you create?
I'm running my next Cthulhu LIVE game, obviously.

10. Time travel: what would be your destination of choice?
You know, time travel seems like more of a hassle than an adventure, so I'm not sure I'd want to deal with it.  That having been said, I talked about the Colonial era earlier in the week, so that could be interesting.  For that matter, I've heard a tale about a Man in Black visiting the Continental Congress.  I want to see if that's true.

11. If you had to choose a RPG system to live in, what would that be?
I guess I'll go with Unknown Armies.  It sounds about right.

And now, my turn:
1. You can pick up to five players, living or dead, to populate your gaming group.  What is your dream gaming group?
2. What is your favorite role-playing game?
3. What is your favorite role-playing game you've never had the chance to play/run?
4. Do you prefer to play or GM?
5. What is your favorite novel?
6. What is your favorite author?
7. What is your personal Appendix N?  Give three (quick) examples.
8. What was your first role-playing session like?
9. Do you listen to music while gaming, and if so, what band(s) do you choose?
10. How did you meet your current gaming group?
11. What is your favorite gaming moment to date?

You!  I'm going to do this self-serve: if you like the questionnaire and want to pass the chain, then you're officially tagged.  Answer the questions either on your own blog or in the comments.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Room...of Renunciation

What if The Room isn't just a poorly-implemented-drama-turned-cult-classic?  What if it's a seminal occult work for the postmodern era?

Some dukes think Tommy Wiseau was onto something, and somehow depicted a Room of Renunciation.  Specifically, they think he depicted the Room of Lovers Torn Apart.

Assuming such a room exists, theorists claim that the Room of Lovers Torn Apart only tests those who believe their love is ironclad.  Your typical "friends with benefits" situation never gets tested, and the people who are married for fifty years without complaint don't get tested, but anyone who thinks s/he is absolutely in love when s/he could be easily swayed away is, of course, in danger.

This situation is greatly complicated by the fact that nobody has seen the Room of Lovers Torn Apart, but the sort of dukes who believe in it says that it likely appears as the sort of unassuming apartment seen in The Room — someone in the Room of Lovers Torn Apart would likely be unable to discern the difference between the Room and her own apartment, for example.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Deadlands, Part XI

So I missed Deadlands last week.  Fortunately, Nicole didn't.  So she's writing the session this week.

When last we left our heroes, they had just made a deal with Little Pete to find a moon jar (you know, that moon jar).  They thwart an assassin, and forced to make a choice between breaking into a ritzy hotel and scouring an unholy site, they pick the unholy site.  They recover their cards and are prepared to go to the poker game at the Flesh Menagerie.

As we missed curfew at the hotel, we slept at the home-cum-butcher shop of our new acquaintance, Rufina.  Our breakfast and discussion of game day plans are interrupted by a knock at the door, which Rufina answers.  She is greeted by a street full of Tong, escorting a lacquered palanquin.  One man opens the door to reveal a massive scroll.  He hands it to Rufina, they exchange bows, and the Tong leave.  It contains info on most of the players in the game that night.  The scroll is large as it was poorly translated from Chinese and the writer doesn’t have neat English lettering.

A sample of the notes:
Ruby O’Flahertie – Dispossessed land owner, person of no significance
David Hood – Not believed to be skilled opponent.  Not clear why involved.  Many
sealed legal documents
Jake Jepson – Outlaw.  Possible conflict with Pinkertons/Geyer & apprentice of Cobb
Father Seward – Status unclear.  Mystery?  Murderer?
Jeb – (ink is spilled, the writing indecipherable)
Sonny (our train robbing friend) – Hollow man
Patrick Michael O’Flahertie Jr. – Deserter.  Dispossessed land owner.  Connection to
Detective Frank Geyer – Pinkerton
Cornelius Cobb – The individual to beat

It also notes that no weapons or magic are permitted at the game.

We burn the note and begin preparations.  Jake spends the time playing many hands of practice poker.  Ruby goes to town with Rufina to buy a Chinese silk dress and get her hair done.   David and Jeb return to the hotel.  David makes himself all dandified, though Jeb only pauses to grab his shotgun, and then proceeds to a gentleman’s sporting goods store where he gets a Bollard target rifle.  The shop owner even gift wraps it, with pine needles, pine cones, and a spritz of lemon to give it that real outdoorsy smell.  Jeb is unimpressed.

Once everyone reconvenes, David drops a bomb.  He has done some thinking and, giving in to his Curiosity, has decided that he will lose his hand.  Thankfully we’ve got a new butcher friend and, with Ruby, the Father, and Jeb walking around the block, Rufina and Jeb get David liquored up and restrained, and his hand is swiftly and cleanly dispatched.

That evening we make our way down to the warehouse district.  Jeb buys a room for the night at a saloon across from the Flesh Menagerie, and keeps watch for ne’er-do-wells.  We make our way into what appears to be a hastily put together poker room, except that a glowing border of arcane symbols creates a boundary between the general entrance and the tables.  There are men waiting there to collect weapons and magical paraphernalia, with the warning that if you dare cross the line with either on your person, you will be sorry.  We do as we’re told, and safely cross the glowing symbols.

Suddenly we find ourselves in a scene that must have sprung from the mind of Guillermo del Toro.  The room is appointed in lush and exotic fabrics, woods, and lighting.  Nine tables are arranged around the room, with a massive glass-topped bar running along one wall.  But the staff are not of this world.  Nude figures walk about with serving trays and the like, and they are all just wrong.  One male figure, sans genitals, has a mouth and nose, but then his head distorts into a massive flesh-cube.  A female figure walks around on four legs bent backwards like a dog’s.  Upon presenting their playing cards, the party members are each given keys and escorted to private rooms by these hellish creatures.

The room is also packed to the gills with many of the era’s more notorious celebrities: Oscar Wilde hobnobs with Samuel Clemens, Jesse James and Belle Starr look surly, and August Strindberg, William Butler Yeats, and Doc Holliday are also in attendance.  Familiar faces also include Sonny, Little Pete, Mr. Butler, Jake’s old mentor Cornelius Cobb, and Ruby’s brother Patrick (she was under the impression he’d died in the War).  All have missing or mangled left hands

The room is quickly brought to order as the game is explained by our host, a wizened Chinese man who speaks through a translator.  The prize is the moon jar, and the group is given the opportunity to test its authenticity.  David and Ruby, being Curious, partake, giving and taking memories.  The assembled mass is divided among the nine tables, and the warning is given that cheating will result in a fate worse than death, with overt reference being made to the strange beings that serve us.  Whoever wins will be given a 30 minute head start to get the hell out of Dodge, and the game organizers cannot be held liable for anything that may happen to them after that time.

The game begins.  Most of our party goes out within the first round.  The only two who make it to the final table are Jake (predictably) and David (surprisingly).  Unfortunately, we were not to be winners, and the final prize goes to Doc Holliday.  Considerably drunk and taking quite a shine to Ruby, he asks her to escort him to claim his prize…

Jeb has been keeping close watch on the warehouse, and he also notes that something is making his water glass vibrate.  He sees what seems like Tong taking position surrounding the warehouse.  Another group of men is standing around an alley near Jeb’s window.  They are discussing our party, and their leader, a man with a silver nose, mentions that Jake and Father Seward are the ones to kill first.  They are the survivors of the rattler gang from St. Louis.  Soon the vibrations get stronger, and there are cries of, “Earthquake!”  The hotel room pitches at an alarming angle…

The rumblings are felt in the Flesh Menagerie as well, and it quickly occurs to our group what is about to happen.  As Doc Holliday’s hands close about the moon jar, David shouts, “Rattler!  Run!”  Ruby dives away, knocking Doc off balance, and the moon jar slips from his hands and shatters, emitting an acrid smoke.

A gargantuan Rattler bursts forth from the floor, bringing in a wash of water with it.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday Werk: Phorain

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

The Phorain are a race of flightless, avian humanoids.  They originate from a grim, hot plane (when first encountered on some worlds, planeswalkers thought they were originally from Athas; this has since been shown to be flatly untrue), although they are well-equipped to travel across any sort of environment.  Since leaving their home plane, the Phorain have been found searching for knowledge and testing themselves in the most extreme environments imaginable.  Phorain are able to go without food or drink for weeks, and they are highly adaptable.  Parties with Phorain guides have shown a marked increase in wilderness survival, although the literal-minded Phorain sometimes forget that their companions are not nearly as robust as they.

When the Phorain are encountered, they will frequently barter for goods, particularly magical items as they are always looking for an edge in any encounters they may face.  They tend not to have magic-users in their ranks, although they occasionally deal in rituals and things that they have found in their travels.  The Phorain are extremely practical, and it is unlikely that any encounter with them will turn violent unless those dealing with the Phorain are incredibly stupid or greedy.  Of course, the Phorain do offer their services as mercenaries, so they will occasionally be found in other people's conflicts as soldiers-of-fortune.

The following Phorain specimen represents just such a warrior, a traveler who has fought in the wars of others (or possibly a professional such as a bodyguard).  Such a Phorain could just as easily represent any sort of Phorain fighter — perhaps it is a member of a Phorain hunting party, or perhaps it is just another aimless wanderer seeking wealth and glory.

As noted in the original description, the Phorain also make excellent mercenaries.  Phorain mercenaries follow all the rules for hirelings found in Dragon #397 and reprinted in Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium, pg. 136-139.  As noted, Phorain mercenaries cost double (meaning that the level 6 hireling noted below costs 420 gp per day to hire), but they have special talents that make the cost worthwhile.  Plus they typically won't retreat unless ordered to do so, so that's a plus.  A typical Phorain mercenary is detailed below.

As noted above, this mercenary costs 420 gp per day to hire.  He won't retreat, although he tends to be literal-minded in his interpretation of commands.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

New Fairy Tales

One last thing: researchers recently discovered a cache of new fairy tales compiled by Franz Xaver von Schönwerth.  Like the Brothers Grimm, Schönwerth scoured the countryside looking for folk tales and weird legends; unlike the Grimms, he left the tales without his own commentary or editing.  (The Grimms apparently told King Maximilian II of Bavaria that Schönwerth was the man to continue their work if they were unable.)

Apparently, 500 previously undiscovered fairy tales were left languishing in an archive.  Some of them are just adaptations of well-known stories like "Cinderella" and "Rumpelstiltskin," but some are brand new.

(In case you missed it, here's the article again.)

If you want an example of one of the lesser-known tales, here's "The Turnip Princess."

The Tomb of Theronna Onyxarm

So I did a series of posts on running an oD&D game (here's Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3).  In that game, the players played college students attempting to escape from the Tomb of Theronna Onyxarm, a long-forgotten dwarf folk hero.

Well, I finally put up the Tomb.

I removed a lot of my extraneous notes, and now the document only details the tomb.  All D&D-specific references (read: Product Identity) have been removed and replaced with Labyrinth Lord references.  However, astute observers will note that this tomb can be used with any old-school ruleset with minimal fuss.

In addition to the tomb itself, The Tomb of Theronna Onyxarm also details a new creature: the hive lizard.

Download it here.

Colonial D&D

I'm not going to lie: a couple of months ago, I read this article at the Tao of D&D.  Since that fateful reading, the idea of Colonial-era D&D has been in my head.  Admittedly, it doesn't help that I have friends who consider this stuff a current event, or that I'm inundated with fourth graders studying Colonial history, or that my friends have been discussing this trailer:

(It further doesn't help that delving back into Unknown Armies, with its clockworkers and ritualists, tends to bring up modernism, and as noted in the Constitution article linked above, modernism falls outside the scope of most role-playing games.)

Will I ever run this?  Will I ever have time?  Who knows?

But like the Carcosa ConstantCon game I'd like to run, I might throw down some notes.  Maybe I'll use them, or maybe they'll inspire somebody else?
  • It's the American Colonial era.  Maybe it's skewed like Jeff Rients' Caves of Myrddin, or maybe it's relatively true to the source material, but it doesn't matter.
  • I'd probably use Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Weird Fantasy Role-Playing.  I still haven't decided if I'd use non-human classes or not, but if I did, they'd probably be really rare.  Like, you're the only elf in the Colonies rare.
  • The thing I find the most interesting is the prospect of being caught between two mythologies: the colonists certainly brought their old mythologies with them, but the wilderness has all the old American Indian stuff in it, too.  That way, you could fight a pack of vampires in old Philadelphia but then encounter a spearfinger out in the wilds of Virginia.
  • Dungeon-delving would be American Indian-themed.  This is the weird, exotic flavor of the setting — as a European settler, you really don't know what to expect when you find an old Indian ruin.
  • The whole shebang could also be tied into the Revolutionary War — the gold and treasures gathered from dungeon delving are what help fund the war effort.
Really, the setting seems rife for the Weird.  You can have mundane politics (or even spy plots!) in the cities, or you can have weird European legendry.  You can have mundane wilderness encounters in the forests, or you can have weird Indian legendry.

Plus, Deist mad scientists with their alchemical and clockwork constructions seems like a necessary component.

Addendum: Mr. Robertson on Google+ posted this story about Mayan ruins in North Georgia.  It seems relevant.  Then again, this article suggests the first is bunk.  Nothing is ever clear-cut in science, although those gaps are good places to throw Weirdness.  Just ask Tim Powers.

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