Friday, August 15, 2014


So I made a bad pun on Google+ yesterday, suggesting that Rafael Chandler should have called Slaughtergrid by the name "Quimmermount" instead.

But then I stormed a brain and realized — orcs on Rockulon Prime were originally vat-bred by the drow, like Peter Jackson's take on the Uruk-hai.  Being that the drow were sufficiently advanced, it makes perfect sense that birthing pits would somehow be self-regulating (or at least some of them would have been).  Probably some mild artificial intelligence, making the whole thing like a sentient ooze that generates orcs.

So what if one went bad, like cancer?  A cancerous flesh labyrinth, burrowing deeper into the earth, spreading corruption as it goes.  A malign, insane, genius-level intellect guiding the dungeon.

It would still have traps and monsters, but these would be part of its immune system.  There would probably also be mutant orcs as its birthing pit protocol became increasingly corrupted.

It could probably also have treasure — it produces bezoars and pearls and weird mineral deposits that work like gems, and it has probably absorbed precious metals and magic items.  It probably has caches from adventurers who previously attempted to delve it.  Or it created weird, organic devices of its own design, looking like chaositech or Yuuzhan Vong nonsense.

For that matter, what if Quimmermount needs organic material to generate further legions of progeny?  What if it is deliberately attracting adventurers to generate the necessary material, supplementing it with whatever its pseudopods can catch.

So, Quimmermount.  A cancerous orc birthing pit worming its way into the earth.  A living, breathing megadungeon.  It's a thing.

Brainstorm the Second: By the way, if you run a game like Lamentations of the Flame Princess which tones down the fantasy elements and makes creatures unique, perhaps this is the only source of orcs in your campaign setting.  Maybe orcs are relatively rare, only haunting one particular location with Quimmermount at its heart.

So when some baron asks you to look for these greenish, pig-faced monsters haunting, say, the Black Forest, you find the corrupted birthing pit at its heart, no doubt made by some antediluvian civilization for unknown purposes.  Or maybe the original birthing pit seed fell to Earth in a meteor strike, and has only now grown enough to start spewing out its bio-engineered progeny.

Maybe orcs are humanoid because it uses human DNA as the template.

I'm just rambling now, but there you go.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Panderii Skirmishers

The Panderii Skirmishers — also known as the Panders, the Pander Fighting School, or the Dagrayuro in the elves' native tongue — were a fighting unit organized under the Dark Elves of Rockulon Prime.  Well aware of the potency field permeating Rockulon Prime's Crystal Sphere, they developed a fighting and training style to make use of it.

Since the collapse of the drow, some military schools have continued to practice the school while other warriors have learned and developed some of the tenets on their own (or read about them in old tomes, or whatever).

A Panderii Skirmisher advances as a typical member of the fighter class — same base attack/thac0/whatever, same saving throws, same XP chart.  If your game uses prime requisites (such as AD&D), these are also unchanged — for example, AD&D 2e requires a minimum Strength 9, and offers a bonus 10% XP for a Strength of 16+).

Panderii differ from normal fighters in several ways:

  • If your game system assumes fighters automatically attract followers at domain level (or whenever they build a stronghold), Panderii do not automatically gain followers.
  • If your game uses weapon specialization for fighters (as AD&D 2e does), Panderii don't gain that, either.
  • Panderii cannot wear any armor, although they can use shields.
  • Panderii are limited to the following weapons: clubs, daggers, darts, hand crossbows, knives, lassos, short bows, slings, broadswords, long swords, short swords, and staves.

However, in exchange for these limitations, Panderii gain the following benefits:

  • Panderii Skirmishers gain a +2 bonus to AC (so +2 for ascending AC, -2 for descending AC).
  • Panderii move at 1.25× normal speed.  So, for example, Labyrinth Lord assumes 120' as a base movement speed; Panderii would move at 150'.  In AD&D, the base movement for a standard human is 12; the Panderii would move at 15.
  • Panderii Hit Dice move up one step — so, a Labyrinth Lord fighter with d8 HD would step up to a d10 HD; AD&D fighters with d10 HD would step up to d12 HD.
  • Panderii also gain the thief ability to Move Silently, with a base chance equal to the Panderii's Dexterity score + level.  As such, a Level 1 Panderii with Dexterity 14 would have Move Silently 15%, whereas a Level 9 Panderii with Dexterity 16 would have Move Silently 25%.
For obvious reasons, Panderii tend towards high Dexterity to boost AC.  On Rockulon Prime, they also tend towards high Strength or Charisma, as high values in these offer natural AC bonuses, as per the potency field.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Year Three

Tomorrow marks three years of How to Succeed in RPGs or Die Trying (starting with this post), which basically catalogs my transition from a modern occult horror conspiracy game master to a medieval fantasy game master.  I'm sure I'll wind up back among modern horror games before too long.

The past year has been pretty uneven in terms of regular blogging, but gaming has been fairly consistent (for certain values of consistent).  I continue to run Crux of Eternity when I can get the gaming group together, and I started running What Luck Betide Us, which similarly struggles with the tribulations of gaming as an adult.  I even managed to run a session of my woefully neglected solo campaign, True in Some Sense.

I've probably played more than I've run, however.  We continue the Changeling: the Lost game (although next week is supposed to be the last session), and occasionally get to play Rogue Trader with our ghetto fabulous crew.

Despite getting to the starting point I wanted, I've been lax in planning the Carcosa megadungeon; call it a new year's resolution to ensure it is operational and ready for the Google+ FLAILSNAILS crowd.  I am still ruminating on the abandoned Spelljammer game, though — my headspace has refused to let go of it and I hope to resurrect it.  You know, eventually.  (Really, I should bring some form of that to Google+.)

I haven't written anything terribly popular in the past year — a major side effect of not blogging — although my review of The God-Machine Chronicle certainly counts, and it's currently the most popular post on the blog.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Your Next Adventuring Party: The Funny Pages

A Sunday post?  What gives?

As much as I now realize I totally missed an opportunity by making this blog The RPG Reverend and only posting on Sundays, I stormed a brain about a week ago and this is what fell out.

Comic strips.

Your next adventuring party has been sitting in the Sunday comics for years, and I bet you never even noticed.  (I don't read a lot of comic strips, but I have vague recollections of Mark Trail, and when I thought about him being a ranger, this post congealed in my brain.)  Check this out:

Prince Valiant, the fighter

Prince Valiant, pictured here doing his best Conan impression
Prince Valiant is an Arthurian knight with a masterwork weapon, known as Flamberge.  In best Pendragon tradition, he eventually has a wife, five children, and a grandchild.  Very early comic strips include sorcery and pulp monsters, but this quickly becomes an anachronistic fifth century European setting mash-up.  For example, when Vikings capture his wife, he evidently follows her to America.  As the series progresses, he eventually lives up to his title, reinstating his monarch father to the throne of Thule.  In game terms, I guess he hits domain level.

Dennis Mitchell, the rogue

Dennis Mitchell, pictured here committing petty larceny
Dennis Mitchell is a modern-day boy whom, as he epithet "the Menace" suggests, tends to get into mischief.  Although hardly a malicious character, it seems plausible that his talent for mischief will some day give Dennis the tools he needs to become a master thief.  He always seems to have the tool he needs to annoy Mr. Wilson.  Despite his contemporary setting, he could easily be a mischievous boy in some pseudo-fantasy setting, assuming we're sticking with the traditional fantasy structure.  Players wanting a more malicious take on the character could easily use his British namesake instead:

Dennis the Menace, pictured here looking shady as hell

Little Nemo, the cleric

Little Nemo, pictured here awakening
Little Nemo is a dreamer on par with Lovecraft's Randolph Carter, save for the fact that he is roughly nine or ten years old.  As someone who can enter dreams and combat spiritual maladies, it makes sense that Little Nemo might act as the spiritual advisor of the party, particularly as an adult.  (Perhaps we can extrapolate adult Nemo having lost his dreamwalking abilities, but having retained his ability to navigate spiritual perils.)  Players wanting more interactions with the land of dreams could easily modify the cleric into something approximating the dreamwalker shaman kit from The Complete Barbarian's Handbook, making a more primal, shamanistic Nemo.

The Wizard of Id, the wizard

The Wizard, pictured here practicing alchemy with his spirit familiar
The Wizard is the vizier to the King of Id.  A potent magic-user, Wiz's spells still have a tendency to backfire, either due to absent-mindedness, the fact that he's in a comedy comic, or the fact that he's actually a Lamentations of the Flame Princess magic-user.  He is served by a spirit familiar, possibly summoned by use of the Summon spell.

Mark Trail, the ranger

Mark Trail, pictured here committing aggravated assault, possibly for the last time
Another contemporary character, Mark Trail is a wildlife photojournalist, environmentalist, and two-fisted pulp adventurer.  Although Mark is from a modern setting, he could easily be some sort of natural historian attempting to document the creatures of the wild.  And shooting people with arrows or stabbing interlopers with longswords.  Like Prince Valiant, he also develops a family as the comic progresses.  Unlike Prince Valiant, he apparently has an archnemesis named "Catfish."  Perhaps aboleths are his favored enemy?


Readers no doubt have other comic strip inspirations.  If you want to run an entire campaign on the premise, just cull your plots from set pieces introduced in Ripley's Believe It or Not.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Your Random Solicitor

About two-and-a-half weeks ago I ordered a copy of The Undercroft, issue 1 (read about its development at the creator's blog here).  Being particularly taken with the random lawyer tables, I decided to make one for the consumption of the reader.  Enjoy!

Darmorel Chorster, solicitor
Darmorel is a registered solicitor with the Advocacy and Solicitations Guild in Scandshar.  As a girl, Darmorel had an interest in linguistics as well as history.  As she grew older, her scholarly pursuits turned to current events, rankled as she was by the rampant corruption and apparent lack of equality in her home city.  She was sufficiently motivated to enter into the College of Law at Morgrave University in Sorgforge.

Unfortunately, she found that the tendrils of the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks, Scandshar's infamous crime syndicate, are far-reaching, indeed.  Having spent most of her money getting to Sorgforge and gaining admittance to the College of Law, she turned to what she heard was a reputable moneylender.  This moneylender — whom she now knows as a Peacock front — her an offer she couldn't refuse: take the money, and the "interest" on the loan would involve her cooperation with future activities.  Her future legal activities cannot stand against the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks, and they further hold some future as-yet-to-be-named "favor" from her.  At the time, particularly for a somewhat naive college student, the deal seemed acceptable — particularly as it was couched in fairly innocuous terms — but she now recognizes the full extent of the circumstances into which she finds herself.  A potential crusader for social justice has been hamstrung by a poor decision in her youth, a fact which grates on her daily.

Despite her compromised values, Darmorel attempts to be unswervingly loyal to her clients, representing them to the fullest extent of the law (and the Law, as an ideal to which she aspires).  She cannot be bought, which will no doubt lead to an interesting dilemma when the Peacocks inevitably come to collect their due.

Darmorel is known as much for her unflappable demeanor and unshakable integrity as she is known for her unique discourse style.  Having studied history and rhetoric at university, as well as magical theory, Solicitor Chorster mixes cultural elements of Elven and Olman discourse as well as bardic techniques into an abstract, allegorical, meandering style that seems initially long-winded to human ears before the components of the argument synergize correctly at the conclusion.  It is not entirely certain if this style of rhetoric will become popular, although it seems to work for her at the moment.

It is less certain how her deal with the Peacocks will fare in the end, but it is likely that her two drives will someday compete.  Will she abandon her principles, or risk death or worse?

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