Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dave's not here, man (a prelude to an adventure)

Ready to roll, +Shawn Sanford. Something to work from. I'm not sure what the adventure involves (only have read the back cover blurb), but this should take it in the right direction.

Ever since the collapse of Emirikol's tower, Kormaki had felt listless, a sense of pervasive dread and impending doom filling his waking moments. His brush with his deities had, on balance, been something other than what he'd ever expected, and certainly nothing he would wish for. Even the arms of Wendylita, the High Priestess of the Metal Gods' Iron Cathedral brought him little comfort. For a time, he sought refuge in drink. It didn't work. So he drank some more, and stonger stuff. All that bought him were hangovers and blank places where his memories should be, and bruises and scrapes where his skin should be. When his brothers and sisters in the Divine Order asked him what troubled him, he had no real answer. Nothing did. Everything did. He didn't want to talk about it.

After several weeks of this pathetic crap, Kormaki discovered, quite by chance, that he still had one more dose of the Purple Tentacle. He'd first encountered this substance back in the days when he'd just started adventuring with the Order, back before the Order even had a name. There had been a well, but not an ordinary well. When they'd approached it, they'd been attacked by some hideous beast from beyond space and time. They'd sent the bastard packing, of course, but it had left behind the tip of one of its purple tentacles. Long story short, they decided to see if it had any special properties... particularly psychoactive properties, and... well, yeah... they got totally high. Hey, man, it was the Seventies; it was a crazy time. They'd seen visions of things and places beyond the realms of their imagination, and it changed their perspective on the world around them. From this communion was born the Divine Order of the Purple Tentacle. But here was one last dose... "What the hell," he muttered, and drained the vial in an instant, chasing it with moonshine.

Perhaps hell-beasts from beyond space and time age differently than creatures of this plane. Perhaps substances derived of them do, as well. Whatever might be true, the Purple Tentacle had somehow become even more potent with age. Kormaki's mind was transported to every place, and every time. He watched the march of history from its beginning to end, and witnessed, first-hand, each of his lives upon this world, past, present, and future. Whole universes were birthed and then died, and he was witness to every moment, every tiny detail. Everything was born. Everything lived, Everything died. Everything was born again, lived again, died again, over and over and over. After a while the details began to blur into formlessness, and only the recurring patterns remained viable: Birth-Life-Death, all connected, with no beginning and no end.

Kormaki awoke, many hours later, his head hazy, his body weakened from the Tentacle's effects, remembering virtually nothing of his visions, but muttering to himself, over and over, like a mantra, "Deathisnotfinaldeathisnotfinaldeathisnotfinaldeathisnotfinal..." He blinked his eyes, and rubbed the crud out of them. Reaching for the whiskey bottle to wash the foul taste form his mouth, he suddenly was confronted with a moment of absolute clarity: a vision of Dave Filth's final moments, right before, during, and after he was sucked into that wizard's accursed jewel, and lost forever.

In that moment, everything clicked into place. Death is not the end, but only the beginning. Thus it only stood to reason that Kormaki's duty to his flock, even if that flock was only a gongfarmer-turned-warrior and a newly-frocked member of the cult of the Metal Gods, also had no end... They were brothers to death, through death, and from death, onward. And in that moment, he found a new purpose. He would confront Death itself, if need be... but Dave Filth would live again.

Filled with righteous certainty, Kormaki readied himself, donning mail and taking up axe, he hit the streets to look for those who might join him. They'd have to be brave, or fools, or both. As he strode down the filthy streets, guided by his idiot vision, a lost hymn was revealed to him, and so he knew he was on the right path. Though it led to death itself, it was the only path to take.


So we bravely gather, though we moan with dread,
Do you see before you, the Kingdom of the Dead?







Monday, August 25, 2014

Alive!

I've been a participant in +Shawn Sanford's ongoing DCC RPG FLAILSNAILS campaign for probably something over a year, now. Shawn runs a great game, and his skills as a judge, combined with his reliability in running sessions, are things that have kept me coming back for more. This game also has given me a chance to play in a variety of published DCC RPG modules, which I really don't get to do as often as you might think, and certainly not as much as I would like to. He has hinted that he might be on the verge of exposing us to some original, sandbox play and Sanford-authored adventures, which I would love to try out, but we'll see what happens with that in a couple of weeks. For now, let me tell you about the last session.

At the last cliffhanger, the party (most of us below the recommended level) had killed two wizards, including Emirikol and his rival, Leotah (sp.?). I was pretty sure we'd die in that session, but not so. That put my cleric, Kormaki Lemmisson, right on the cusp of 4th level, a place I never thought to see. We still needed to survive one more session for him to make the jump, though.

We began by looting the wizard's bedroom/study. Found some pretty good stuff in there, including a lot of actual gold and gems. Mat's wizard gained a bitchin' cape of protection against magic, plus 2. Then we went through a portal to what seemed to be Emirikol's "panic room." It was chock full of iron golems and a black gem that zapped us repeatedly with harmful magics. Chris's Dyer Halfling managed to spider climb up to the ceiling, and dropped about 30 feet to double stab it. Double crits! He smashed the gem... and himself. Tried to heal him, but failed. Then, the tower started shaking. Self-destruct mode initiated, apparently. Time to bail! We fled to the previous room, presumably the top of the tower.

Once there, we had two options: Leap through the black portal that Leotah had used when she'd arrived, earlier; or, we could brave the non-Euclidean geometries of the tower, and not die in the process. There was a lot of falling stone happening, and I was not convinced that we could find our way out. That tower was confusing. Given that we didn't have any idea how long we had, I opted (along with Chris and one other person--Mat, I think) to leap into the black portal. It was... a mistake. We suddenly found ourselves 120 feet above the pavement. Shawn advised us to get ready to roll 12d6 damage. Instead, I called upon the Metal Gods, asking for for divine intervention. Chris burned his luck down to the minimum to aid the cause. I burned mine too, and the roll was a 37. Shawn allowed that I'd survived unscathed (as I most likely was aided by Robhal, the Metal God of flight, studded leather, and steel). Chris and (I think) Mat each took some damage, but not 12d6. They survived, barely. Chris's luck will heal, at least. That's excellent. That halfling has been a godsend to this party.

So, we survived. Believe me, no one saw that coming, least of all me.

Bad things:

  • My disapproval is now going to need some serious repair. My cut of the treasure will be donated at the Iron Cathedral, when I am able. Maybe I'll blow it on Dave Filth's wake (see below).
  • My luck mod is now -3, and that's not going away any time soon. I fear it may be the death of me.
  • It's official: Barry's character, Dave Filth, is no more. When Emirikol died, we lost all hope of getting him out of that gem he got Magic Jarred into. I'll miss that guy. He was a mate to Kormaki, and we'd been through many an adventure together. I'll see that he is sent off properly at the Iron Cathedral. There will be many a tankard and bottle drained in his name, at the wake. 

Good things:

  • Kormaki is now 4th level, an Apostle. He gains one 1st and one 2nd level spell, and another hit die. He also gets a +1 bump to his Fort saves.
  • The wizard tower is now a pile of rubble. Fuck you, wizards. Eat a bag of wangs. Oh, wait, you can't. You're dead. Fine, eat them in Hell.
  • We are due some payment from the city guard for fulfilling our charge to deal with this wizard problem.

Now, all I have to do is avoid falling anvils and pianos. I have a feeling it won't be very easy, so wish me luck. It's not like I have any of my own.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Meetings with the Metal Gods: Recapping an Epic Gen-Con

People, I've seen the Promised Land. I have traveled across the hills and plains, and found Nerdvana; and it was peopled with My Folk.

I rose in the dark of the morning, and, lacking sleep did sally forth to Bush Field. There did I mount a bird whose food is flammable, whose breath is fire, whose roar is mighty, and rose we did up into the sky. A short journey ensued, to the land of Indy, ere I dismounted and, girding my loins, and taking up my pack and what small weapons and gaming stones I bore with me, strode into a new land. And, Lo! There I saw in the sky, wreathed in fire and smoke, an apparition of Chaos. 'twere the wizard +Wayne Snyder, and I recognized him instantly. Soon we were joined there, in that eyrie by others of our clan and faith: +Gabriel Perez Gallardi and +Doug Kovacs.

Doug and Wayne did depart, riding in a waiting chariot, while I and the Uruguayan, a swarthy, moustachioed  worthy of fell aspect and impeccable manners, awaited our own. Soon did arrive the hulking Pole with booming voice, +Adam Muszkiewicz to bear us away, into the heart of the city. Within mere minutes, our foe, Murphy, did strike against us, casting a spell of heat and imminent fire against the mechanical heart of the chariot, and we were forced to stop at a local oasis. There did we purchase cool drinks while the chariot cooled its temper. We provided an elixir to sooth it, and soon we were on our way, once more.

We approached the monolith, itself limned against others like it, known only as Con-Rad. In this great edifice would we lay our heads, when the opportunity for slumber came (which was not often enough). Our hosts treated us like kings, though we were but princes of the road, and unsavory to look at. It was then that I strode forth to meet the Dark Master, Good-man, who had summoned me from my lair, to bear witness to this annual ritual.

I wound my way through the labryrinth called "Sky Way," and, after many a false turn, was guided by a member of the Con Guard, to the mighty treasure house. There, I communed through the aether with the Dark Master, and he brought forth a talisman for my use. With it I could pass, then, the gate guards and enter the sanctum. Within, men and beast alike arranged in artful ways the treasure of many distant lands, each conclave of wizards within its own ritual circle. Some even did erect edifices of stone and metal to bear their banners, and the jewels of chaos gleamed under the harsh light of the weirdling suns.

Chessex dice display. Yes, I bought a lot of them. How could I not?

For the Dark Master I toiled, long into the eve, ere being granted leave to join my band, the +Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad. We gathered in the tavern of Em-Bas-E for the nightly ritual, contending there each night, our judges calling forth powers fell and terrible: Fish wizards with laser eyes, the dead ones, amazons and squid men, and Young Dave Mustaine. Many died there, from battle, from rains of acid blood, and from corruption. I slew a fish-wizard, garotting him with my sackcloth thong, though my corrupted junk had withered away (not pictured).



In the end, only one escaped from Catastrophe Island. I, however, fell to fierce and furry Chewbacca, whose luck knows no bounds. Then the gods grew weary of play, and their mortal toys were put away.


Let me tell you also of the siege of Exhibition Hall. Each day the ravening hordes did gather outside the gates, ready to sack and to pillage.

Totally ready for ravening. Take our money!
Each day we stood stalwart and steely-eyed (or bleary-eyed, depending on the previous night), behind stout ramparts of merch'.

The Goodman Games booth crew.
Top: Steve Bean, Edgar Johnson
Bottom: Michael Crane (I think?), Keith Labaw, Dieter Zimmerman
For days we were besieged, our merch stocks dwindling, until the hordes broke and retreated to their lairs. Much gold had we gained, and one Hwil Hwheaton (a.k.a. +Wil Wheaton ), skald of the Interwebz, consorted with the Dark Master and +Michael Curtis. I am told he bore from that meeting two tomes of lore. Mayhap he will sing their praises before all is said and done. 

Yeah, I missed this one. Hey, Wil, how about putting DCC RPG on Tabletop?
(Photo from DCC RPG Facebook page)
 Each day was battle and bachanal, each night too short, as we feasted and drank, well-met in taverns and great halls, telling stories, playing games, rolling dice.

Blood for the Serpent King!
Each night grew longer; each morning came earlier. But we were stalwart. Each day dawned to reveal new possibilities and new challenges. We marched on, our line unbroken, under the protection of the Metal Gods.

These are my people.
And on the last night, we met in conclave, hoisted tankards, and drank to our own health. The night was endless and too short, all at once. 

Oh, boy, did I fail my Fort save this night. Almost missed my plane.
So much happened on this campaign, too much to remember, too much to tell. But I was there, surrounded by friends, both old and new.

Joseph Goodman, Nathan Panke, Alex Mayo, Harley Stroh
I finally got to meet Jen Brinkman. She's just as good in person.
Gabriel Perez Gallardi and Wayne Snyder. Also even better in person.

The ritual is complete, the spell is cast, and circle is joined. We call into being a Purple Planet. We summon forth the Metal Gods. You will all die, and you will love it.
The wizard, Harley Stroh, and his team of badasses. We will bring forth
the Purple Planet from our fevered brains. (Photo by Wayne Snyder)
Pictured: Harley Stroh, Edgar Johnson, Doug Kovacs, Tim Callahan.
Photobombing: The rest of the Metal Gods crew.
Not pictured: Daniel J. Bishop and Terry Olson).
The final dawn it came too soon. I bolted from my pallet, reeking of the night before, stomach churning, head pounding, parched and panicked. Without even a proper fare-thee-well, I departed, borne to the hall of the great birds by a hulking black chariot. But all was not well. The bird of my desire had fallen ill, and would not be on time. I was stranded for a time in Indy, and then again in the land of Charlotte, where I bided my time on the edge of sleep and sickness, the corruption from my night's revelry roiling in my guts. Long hours did I wait, until at last I was born home upon wings of steel, to be greeted by my loving clan.  I spilled forth, then, my tale, and gave out the loot I had wrested from that foreign land. A slight repast. A sleep like death, but too short. Far too short. 

Cold morning came early (too early), whisking away half-remembered dreams. Dreams? Was it only a dream? Then how true these dreams, of people and places, and all the things we did, graven upon my heart like a poem, ringing in my mind like a song. I was there, and you were too. Our days were too long, and our hours too few. I hope that yours was just as fine, your friends and your time, as good as mine. That's all I have, and this tale is done.

Author's Note:

Thanks to everyone who made my first Gen-Con (my first gaming con of any kind!) a great one. I know I'm going to miss somebody, but here's a list:

Sadly, I will not return next year. It's at a bad time of year for me (Monday was hell, people...). However, I will attend North Texas RPG Con 2015. I hope to see at least a few old friends there as well.                      








Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Off to GenCon

Oh, long suffering readers (all two of you), please forgive the radio silence. Between work on stretch goals for the inimitable +Harley Stroh's Peril on the Purple Planet, getting ready for GenCon, and getting work stuff squared away for going away this weekend, I have been neglecting the blog. I will come back soon, with reports from the hinterlands of Indianapolis.

In the meantime, I look forward with great anticipation to meeting the flesh sacks of the virtual people with whom I interact fairly frequently. The +Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad will be there, including Sr. +Gabriel Perez Gallardi, all the way from Uruguay. Cannot wait to see them.

I'll be working with Goodman Games on my first ever GenCon (and first ever gaming convention of any kind). I'll be at the booth in the exhibition hall from 10-1 on Thursday and Friday, and 10-11 on Saturday, and running games in the afternoon on those days. You will also be able to catch me at DougKon in the evenings, if you care to do so.

I've also made my reservations for North Texas RPG Con 2015, which will be my con for the foreseeable future, probably, as GaryCon and GenCon come at very awkward times of the year, work-wise. Still, the lack of sleep this weekend, the probably "con crud" I will pick up, and all the rest of the unpleasantness of travel, all of it will be worth it. My friends in the Metal Gods group are the fucking best, and the rest of the folks at Goodman Games are classy as hell.

Livin' the dream, people. Hope to see some of you there.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Bleg: Peril on the Purple Planet

I don't do a lot of these "blegging" posts, but here's one you might want to read.

Goodman Games' current Kickstarter for Peril on the Purple Planet is going full-tilt boogie, and closes out in seven days. The adventure is the work of Harley Stroh, but also includes components created by a cast of many others, including me, Daniel Bishop, Terry Olson, Tim Callahan, and illustrated (of course) by the mad wizard himself, Doug Kovacs.

I've seen a lot of the material for the stretch goals (Yes, they're already written/being written), and the work we've done, so far, is incredibly cool and fun. Because of non-disclosure agreement, I can't go into details about the specific content, but the stretch goals listed on the pledge site are suggestive of the various aspects of The Awesome that Awaits. Go take a look at those stretch goals and imagine what you could do in your games with that material, even if you don't run the straight adventure. You could mine this stuff for great ideas for years and years of DCC RPG madness.

The $50 buy-in is the sweet spot, for which you'll receive a boxed set, including all of the stretch goals. Just go look at that list, and tell me it's not worth the money.

The Pitch: This thing is awesome. Let's make Joseph Goodman create some more stretch goals. Let's make this boxed set the coolest thing ever. Fifty bucks gets you EVERYTHING. Go (NOW!) and make it happen. You won't regret it.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Lacuna Locurae

Just a follow-up from my earlier post. I've had some time to think through how I'd like to approach the colonial element, done a bit of research into mid-15th century warfare, and so forth. Here's what I have so far. I still need names for the various levels of the city, so feel free to offer up suggestions. Ignore the bolding of the names. It's an early-draft formatting trick I use to ensure common spelling of names and titles.

Lacuna Locurae

An Early Colonial Setting for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG
by
Edgar D. Johnson III

Introduction

Lacuna Locurae is an otherworld, a world in a plane of existence parallel to the Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad campaign world, a shadow to the planet Ore. The starting locale for the campaign is Magyaru, a bustling port city of a fading colonial power. The city is host to a trade in all manner of things, a crossroads of sorts to the world's powers, and a place where any deal might be made, for the right price. Nobles and pirates, sages and savages, witches and those who hunt witches might be found in Magyaru, along with any other thing in the world, anything at all.

The main influences over this setting are Howard's Solomon Kane stories and, to be frank, gothic fiction as it has been done in a bunch of shitty movies. The pulp feel should be high, but so, too, should be the pervading sense of both encroaching doom and infinite horizons.

Personae Dramatis

Though Magyaru is ruled by a colonial governor and his captain-general, its merchant houses and guilds are growing in power, aided in part by High Primarch Kraston Moll and clergy of the the Temple of Luz, whose hierarchy has begun to question the governor's leadership and the insidious influence of his mysterious, masked advisor, Her Ladyship Lorenia Rond. She, for her part, is reputed to come from far Silicia, thousands of leagues to the west. None have ever seen even her fingers, let alone her face, for her customs dictate that she be fully masked and robed outside of the Glass Tower. The high clergy of Luz, in fact, suspect the Lady is a witch, and that her shroud conceals tokens of her bedevilment and corruption from the righteous. They would like very much to allow the Inquistors of Luz to put her to the question, and burn her for her crimes against all that is holy. That course, however, is not possible at this time, for the Governor is seemingly besotted of the foreign devil. The governor is the fifth son of Arch Duke Corlo Mythrux, who is advisor to the Empress, Herself, and thus not to be trifled with. His son, Danal Mythrux, however, is little like his esteemed father, and has been sent far from court so that he won't continue to embarrass his family. Captain-General Koban Markoz arrived with the governor, and serves both as military leader of the colony, as well as shepherd of sorts to the Arch Duke's troublesome scion. He is utterly loyal to the Arch Duke, but only barely tolerates his son—a fact which enrages said son, and has made it much easier for Lorenia Rond to insinuate herself into his coterie of sycophants.

The Governor spends much of his time at his cups, or perhaps dandling a concubine upon his knee. He has a particular penchant for the native women among the servants. Though he is not a cruel man, Danal Mythrux has difficulty understanding why this might be a problem for anyone else, particularly the women themselves. He is, of course, peerless in this realm, and deserving of everything he wants (or so he fancies).

The Governor's advisor, the mysterious Lorenia Rond, is, herself, a native of sorts. Imperial colonists arrived in the region only 100 years ago, but her tower, the Glass Tower, already stood atop a flattened area of mountainside, 1,000 feet above the highest spires of Magyaru, itself. The symbolism of this fact is not lost on Captain-General Markoz, though the Governor will hear no ill spoken of Lady Rond.

Geography

Magyaru consists of several more or less spacious levels cut into the side of a mountain. Each successive level is smaller than the one below, and the lowest level abuts onto a wide gorge which gives birth to a river entering the harbor itself.

The seven levels of the city above Harbortown are organized largely by function. The highest level of the city proper is (1) the Governor's Palace and associated executive offices, barracks, etc. Below the Palace, in order of importance, are (2) the estates of the noble families (need name for this level), (3) the homes and business offices of the merchant princes and guild masters (need name for this level), (4) the cloisters of sages and clergy (need name for this level), (5) the market square and the shops of skilled tradesmen, (6) the homes and barracks of common laborers, soldiers, and mercenaries (need name for this level), and (7) the hovels of the dregs and remnants of civilization: madmen, indentured servants, and slaves (the Low City). Each level has one or more stairs, elevators, or whatever other means of access; but the higher one goes, the fewer are the "bridges." The Governor's palace only has one stairway, but it is large, sumptuously crafted, and very, very well guarded.

It being customary that the "high and mighty" live on high, as it were, many of the nicer buildings of each level of the city hover at the edges above the next level down. Not coincidentally, the areas near the higher cliffs are less desirable, possibly because the levels drain water (and its various contents) from high to low: Shit literally flows downhill, ending up in the harbor, for the most part. Also, clusters of ramshackle shanties and platforms hang from the cliff sides and fill the hollows between the lowest two levels (Harbortown and Low City). They are inhabited by those whose lot is worst (or whose infamy is greatest). There are occasional "accidents"— fires, collapses, and the like—which result in dozens or even hundreds of casualties among these unfortunates. Rampant poverty and squalor give rise to all manner of crime, though most of it finds victims among those living closest to the misery, not those higher in the city.

The city guard forces of Captain-General Markoz ("greencoats"), are willing to ignore crimes that don't affect the high and mighty. Those who ignore this class barrier will find no mercy from the Grey Court (as the legal offices of the Captain-General are called), which makes a public spectacle of the trials, judgments, and inevitable executions of any who dare to afflict the comfortable. It's not that Markoz is corrupt, but more that he recognizes quality by the color of its coin, and believes that worthiness manifests as wealth, whether the holder of the coin be guild master, merchant, pirate, adventurer, or prince of the underworld. For this reason, the most successful grifters in Magyar or those who are not recognized as criminals at all.

Finally, there is the port, proper, its wharfs and jetties a chaos of perpetual activity. There, one can find ship to any place in the known world, arrange for supplies and repairs, and hire a crew or a party from among the sailors and other adventurers who frequent the dockside inns, taverns, and dives.

Above the city, the great mountain climbs into the clouds and beyond. The Glass Tower of Lorenia Rond shines a thousand feet above the city, old beyond measure yet gleaming as if new-made. It stands athwart the best path to the celestial summit of the great mountain. No one thinks to go beyond it, though; no one has ever tested this implicit boundary. No one even wonders why this is so.

The broader region of mountains in which Magyaru is situated is populated by tribes of savage humans, some warlike and some less so. Most of these savages are content to leave the Imperials to their affairs, and trade with them occasionally. Some warlords, though, contemplate at length the riches of the city, and the wonder why they should not have a part of those riches, or maybe even all of them.

Religion

The cult of Luz the Purifier holds sway in Magyaru, and guards its prerogatives and official status like a miser guards his gold. The cult is only one of many of the Empire's faiths. However, it is the official faith of this particular colony, having underwritten substantially the founding of Magyaru. So, in most things, other cults go about their business quietly, and without antagonizing the Temple of Luz or its High Primarch. High Primarch Kraston Moll is a veteran of the Imperial temple's politics and is connected at all levels of the city, and can deploy a variety of resources, from spies to his personal guard (which is not inconsiderable). He also is rumored to have a force of temple assassins at his disposal, but it's only a rumor, after all.

Luz the Purifier is a lawful deity, the flame of knowledge and disperser of shadows. The Temple of Luz also is home to many of the Empire's great artificers and natural philosophers. Much of its doctrine revolves around a complex astrology of sun, stars, and moons (the Great Machine), and there are festivals and sacrifices marking significant conjunctions of them. In many ways, the cult makes Magyaru a better place, providing learning and charity to the respectful and law-abiding. They can be ruthless, however, and work hard to suppress magical heresies, the cult itself the only acceptable practitioner of the divine. Those who dabble in the arcane, or who truck with magical beings, tend to become targets of the cult's retribution, though it often is not direct, relying on provocateurs and catspaws among the working classes' faithful.

Technology

While firearms are becoming relatively common among the martial classes, they are primitive. The low-velocity, smoothbore, matchlock muskets and pistols are state of the art. Mostly, though, armies still rely on primitive weapons at close quarters, and crossbows are the most common missile weapon.

Plate breastplates and brigandine armors, similarly, are becoming more common than traditional ring- and chainmail, and shields typically are used only by heavy infantry and heavy cavalry.

Artillery exists, but consists of "bombards," huge, unwieldy pieces designed for siege work, and for reducing fortifications. Mobile, wheeled artillery has not yet emerged; and shipboard cannon still are not used. Instead, naval warfare relies on long-range fire with bows, crossbows, and primitive siege engines, and closing with the enemy to engage via boarding action.

Steel and iron are the metals of the age, though good-quality bronze weapons and armor still can be found among the savage tribes of the highlands.

The World Outside Magyaru

The mountains behind the city rise up, past the Glass Tower, up into alpine valleys and highlands, up, up, up, to the stars, some claim. People don't like to talk about what's Above. They avoid talking about it, and take great exception to those who question too much. A variety of savage tribes live above the city, and trade foodstuffs and other products with the city-folk, usually in exchange for iron and steel weapons and tools, gauds and tokens of civilization, and whatever strong drink might be available.

Magyaru produces little of what it uses, and there are few arable acres within the city's boundaries. The sea is mother and father, nurturing life and providing the sternest of taskmasters, and provides everything Magyaru requires, be it trade goods, precious metals, warm bodies, food, or whatever else. The city's harbor is a ravening maw, consuming all the good things that enter it, even if only in the form of silver from resupplying ships making port calls, and from their crews who sample from the fleshpots of the lower city.

Races

From highland savage to Imperial royalty, the races of this world are the races of Men, and come in all kinds, creeds, colors, and flavors. Human ways are pretty much what you'd expect: They glom together in groups because of accidents of geography and parentage, and each group believes on some level it is the most righteous (by whatever arbitrary measure).

Here, in Magyaru, the majority and the ruling classes are one in the same: Imperial mutts of various sorts. People of particular regions who, because of duty to the Empire, lived out their lives far from home, and there found life, love, and an ending. There are, however, plenty of visitors from far-off, exotic climes, with strange and outlandish customs and beliefs. Magyaru is a crossroads, people come here to make deals. They usually tolerate the idiosyncracies of others for practical reasons.


PCs who have come from Ur-Hadad or other places with the demi-human races (e.g., dwarves, Halflings, elves, etc.) will find themselves subject to scrutiny. Dwarves and Halflings, of course, can pass as humans who happen to be shorter and smaller; they also may face additional jibes and petty cruelties because of their size. Elven PCs, on the other hand, at least those who go without the expensive (and concealing) iron-protective raiment, will draw pointed looks, and signs to ward off the Evil Eye. There are no elves here. To the folk of this world, they simply look like demons of legend (which legends, it should be noted, are all eerily similar in matters of infernal mythology, no matter their cultural origin).

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Using Mighty Deeds to Bring Flava to tha Fighta


One of the greatest contributions the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG makes to d20 game mechanics, is the "Mighty Deed of Arms" for warriors and dwarves. Like the "feat" in later editions of D&D, the Deed is a specialized maneuver resulting in better, flashier combat outcomes. It allows for things not explicated in the rules, but also provides a set of principles--general themes that can be applied flexibly to given circumstances--whereby one can engineer this particular subsystem to generate "feat-like" outcomes. Consider the following passages from the rulebook (pp. 88-92) to be the principles of which I speak:

  • The higher the deed die, the more successful the Deed.
  • A warrior’s Deeds should fit the situation at hand and reflect the might and daring of a great fighter.
  • A warrior may even devise a “signature move” that he frequently attempts based on his particular proclivities.  [even one involving a specific weapon ~EDJ]
  • Creative players will certainly come up with new Deeds. Encourage and allow this.

The example deeds in that section of the rulebook are types of attacks and effects (e.g., blinding, pushback, etc.), and provide a sense of how to scale outcomes based on the Deed Die roll. What it doesn't go into as explicitly, is how the Deed can be used to differentiate character from class--i.e., to make each character more than just another stereotypical example of his or her class. Sure, there's still room for the fighter to be the main battle tank of the party, but Deeds can be matched not only to fit a particular combat situation or need, but also to tell us who your character is, and how he or she takes care of business.

An Example

Suppose you wanted to create a warrior, but also wanted to avoid the increased fumble dice associated with heavier armor. If you handle that character like the standard "tank" fighter--heaviest armor available, plus shield--going toe-to-toe with every creeping horror and boss monster out there, you'll be slaughtered. Fun for your GM, but not so fun for you. So what can you do?

First, think a little bit about great fighters you've seen, the fighters who don't wear mail but still kick ass. Like this guy:
Errol Flynn being awesome in high boots and a leather vest,
with not a scrap of plate mail (nor a shield) in sight.
I can think of a couple of Deeds for the prototypical swashbuckler type. The first of these is defensive. Let's call it "Baffle Them with Bullshit." One reason swashbuckling swordspersons are so cool, is that they both outfight and outfox their opponents. A good one cash go up against the burliest of foes and slice that foe to ribbons, whilst taking nary a scratch in the process. Baffle Them with Bullshit is the reason they don't get killed. With slashing, slicing, silver streaks of sword-swinging, the swashbuckler weaves a wall of protection, adding to his or her AC on a successful Deed, but not otherwise affecting the strike. The warrior can still hit, but the way he or she does so--with lightning-fast arrays of feints, counters, and strikes, makes it more difficult to the opponent to hit the warrior. The better the result, the more the protection.

The "Defensive Maneuvers" entry in the rulebook's Mighty Deeds of Arms section is pretty generic, dealing with providing active defense for the party--Shield walls, back-to-back fighting. That's one way to go, but preserves a fairly archetypal "fighter" role for the PC. Using the deed in ways that moves you away from the typical hack-n-slash fighter (or hand-n-bash, for dwarves), also helps to to move you in the direction of another version of the warrior archetype. In this case, the Deed provides access to a different kind of fighting style, and subsequent choices about armor, for example, that support that style. You can't very well go leaping about in plate mail (at least not without risking a dire Reflex save), in the same way that you can in thigh-high boots and a leather jerkin (Whew! Did it just get hot in here?). If you're going to go up against heavily armored foes, then you'll need to have a fighting style to reflect how you go about your business: nimble defense, piercing thrusts, leaping, swinging from ropes, etc., all of which could go into your repertoire of Mighty Deeds.

Or how about this guy:
Errol Flynn being awesome while wearing hose of Lincoln Green.
So, you say your warrior has an 8 Strength due to that whole "necrotic drain from a chaotic wizard" thing? No worries. You still got  that Agility bonus. It's not much, but it makes shooting a bow much more attractive than swinging an axe. In this case, deeds will be focused on things like precision shots, trick shots, enhanced rate of fire, and the like, and even get you thinking about things like fire arrows (or poison, for the chaotic among you with a disregard of the dangers of poison-handling). Again, the flavor of the fighter shifts from armored tank to something else entirely, something more like the "ranger" archetype.

The main thing I wish to emphasize, here, is that Mighty Deeds are not simply something you do in combat. They are used for that, certainly, but they also help you think about who your warrior is, and how he or she does the biz. As soon as you get done with that zero-level funnel, and you look at the possibilities, that 7 Strength might make veer wildly from making a warrior character. It shouldn't. Are you more agile? Then use your Agility to drive your deeds? Are you a high Personality character, but the very thought of playing a cleric gives you hives? Fine. What if one of your Deeds involved taunting your opponents, enraging them and making them sloppy, and allowing you to take advantage of, say, lowered armor class, an enhanced fumble die, or something of that ilk?

Using the Mighty Deed of Arms, all of this (and more) is possible. You needn't be limited by prime requisites, by armor and arms choices, or by other limitations we tend to ascribe to the warrior-as-fighter. Sure, you're still a fighter, but specialized Deeds can make you a smarter, more interesting version of that archetype, and you needn't be the strongest guy in the tavern to do so.

Obviously, you and your judge will need to make good decisions about how this will work. The best place to do so is in the 0-level to 1st level transition period of character generation, when PC classes are chosen. With the right idea, and the right set of Deeds, your warrior may not be the biggest, baddest, hard-ass around, but he or she can still be mighty, indeed. (Damn, that one never gets old.)



Sunday, July 13, 2014

Game Review: Cities of Darkscorch

In an earlier post, I crowed a bit about receiving my copy of Cities of Darkscorch, but it wasn't until last night that I had a chance to play it. The wife and child joined me for fantasy rockband madness, as we dodged the blacklist, dueled with opposing quartets (and each other), and tried to get ourselves to Numenor for ultimate battle. Short version: It was fun.

Long version

The game is a turn-based boardgame. The contents consist of:

  • 16 wooden counters imprinted with the name of a band (the bands on the Warfaring Strangers: Canticles of Darkscorch compilation). I got Stoned Mace, the wife got Wrath, and the daughter got Medusa. 
  • 3 dice (d4, d6, and d20)
  • 25x25 inch game board (not shown below)
  • 2 decks of card (Fate cards and Foe cards)6 "city banner" cards with sliding windows
  • Warfaring Strangers: The Darkscorch Canticles double LP, with band bio insert
  • CD of Warfaring Strangers compilation
Box Contents (not including game board or double LP)

The production quality for everything included is very good. The double LP cover and insert are extremely nice, as is the box that everything comes in. Some of the game pieces (especially the banner boards) are not as well-made, but nothing aggregiously terrible. The art style is simple, and invokes a sense of nostalgia. I can totally see this stuff drawn on a school notebook or on a backpatch. I mean, seriously, look at that wizard on that chopper! The main gripe I have is the choice of fonts used for the flavor text and city markers. They're quirky and in-theme. They're also pretty hard to read, at times, which can get in the way of fun. For example:


Reading this stuff can be a pain in the ass, and the little windows don't like to stay put.

Same font used  on game board. Also a pain in the ass.

Gameplay itself is very simple, and reminds me a little of Munchkin (but only a little). Here are the basics:
  • You place your counter on the "City" written its reverse side. This is your home city. You must win a battle in your home city and claim that city's "banner" before you move out onto the board.
  • Each player gets three Fate cards to start, and can get more through battles or by landing on particular board locations. They include advantages, disadvantages, transportation, new band mates, and getting placed on (or getting off) The Blacklist.
  • Battles require you to go head to head with an opponent from the Foe deck. Draw the card and roll a d4. At the bottom of the foe card is a list of symbols each with an associated number. So, a "2" shows an "X" symbol and a 17. This is the drummer, who has a value of 17. You must roll the Battle Die (a d20) and get that number or above to win the battle. Defeating the foe also entitles you to receive 1 or more Fate cards as loot.
  • Fate cards can be played during a battle to enhance a roll. You play cards that give you positive modifiers. Other players can throw down cards to give you negative modifiers, just to screw you over. Many a battle was lost, last night, because of this. To be fair, though, other players can certainly work to help, as well.
  • If you win a battle on a city space, you win a banner from that city. You must collect all 16 banners to make it to the final battle, in the city of Numenor.
  • The first player to get 16 banners advances to Numenor, and is immediately joined by every other player. This person is the headliner. You don't get to be the headliner if you haven't acquired the 16 banners.
  • Once in Numenor, everyone tallies a band score, including the bonus numbers of any band members those on any advantage cards. You also can play your disadvantage cards against the headliner (at least that's how we did it). 
  • To battle, everyone rolls a d20 and adds the band score. If the headliner wins the roll, the game is over. If not, he or she must leave Numenor (moving at least one space outside) and return to try again. 


Going for atmosphere
As I said earlier, the game is a lot of fun. The cards are often pretty damned funny (and a bit bawdy), with references to sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll. I found myself laughing at a lot of the cards as we played the game. One example:

Again with the hard-to-read font.
 Overall, I have to say I'm glad I picked this up. We had a lot of fun playing it with three people, and I think it would be even better with four or five. That would provide more opportunities for PvP battles, and chances to screw over the other players (which is always fun).

So, to summarize. Simple, easy to play, fun, and pretty well-conceived game. I'll play it again.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Peril on The Purple Planet

Good people! Hearken unto me for a moment, for I bear extraterrestrial tidings of great import!

Another fantastic Kickstarter has been launched by Goodman Games. Harley Stroh's Peril on The Purple Planet, a swords and planets adventure in the best traditions of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard.

So much peril! Look at all the peril! You want this peril!

Your humble narrator has even made a small contribution to the project (some material for the campaign booklet). I'm in for the boxed set, and it's looking to be pretty damned great. They already have over 100 backers, and I imagine that the stretch goals for this will be pretty damned impressive. So, if you've an interest, check this one out.

But why listen to me? Listen to the Dark Master, himself, Mr. J. Goodman:

Send your fantasy adventurers to face alien perils in Harley Stroh’s long-awaited sword-and-planet epic!
Summary of Kickstarter:
  • A Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure module of planetary scope – at level 4. The adventure flings your characters to adventures on a distant world dying slowly under a weirdling sun.
  • The basic pledge funds print+PDF copy of a boxed set containing Harley Stroh’s 32-page adventure module, plus a second 32-page campaign booklet – and possibly more depending on stretch goals.
  • The first softcover book is the adventure module Peril on the Purple Planet, which has two built-in special features. First, the cover art is oversized, and spreads across front and back cover in addition to wrapping around to front and back flaps. The flaps also double as player handouts when folded out to face the table. Second, the adventure map is a three-page-wide hex crawl, which folds out of the module center as a three-panel gatefold. Additionally, the adventure includes a number of B/W interior handouts to show the players what they face on the Purple Planet.
  • The second softcover book is a campaign booklet to expand your journey on the Purple Planet. At the basic pledge level, before any stretch goals, it includes three chapters: Lost Tombs of the Ancients, Bestiary of the Purple Planet, and Lost Tech of the Purple Planet, with contributions from Daniel J. Bishop, Tim Callahan, Edgar Johnson, and Terry Olson.
  • You can support this Kickstarter by adding on other adventure modules from the Dungeon Crawl Classics line, most of which are on sale for 25% off as part of this Kickstarter. You can also add on Purple Planet Player Guides at $5 each.
  • Stretch goals for this project will put even more items into the boxed set! These include the possibility of an ecology book, additional encounters, a book of handouts, a book of magic, a custom GM screen, and a guide to the Purple Underplanet!
  • The basic adventure module is complete and ready to print. All writing, art, and layout is complete. The additional writing for the campaign booklet is also complete. Art and layout for the campaign booklet will begin when this Kickstarter funds.
  • We expect PDF copy of the module to be available shortly before Gen Con, and print copy to be available at Gen Con or shipped soon after (depending on backer preference). If we have extra copies remaining at Gen Con after all Kickstarter pickups, they will be offered to the general public. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Lacuna Locurae

I've been pondering what I should run for my face-to-face group, after they completed Sailors on a Starless Sea, and I think I've finally come up with something.

After escaping from the Starless Sea, the longship emerges, eventually, from a crack in a cliff, into a river. I'm thinking I might try the whole OMG WATERFALL! thing right off the bat, just to set the tone. We'll see. The more interesting thing is that this campaign will be in a realm outside of the "normal" DCC world.

What the party discovers is that they are at the base of some very high cliffs, above which are mountains surpassing even the Andes and Himilayas. Below them, foothills stretch toward a large coastal city, ocean and distant islands to the horizon.

The city itself is a colony of a distant kingdom, and a crossroads for trade. Tech levels are early colonial--ships capable of intercontinental travel, muskets, maybe the rudiments of heavy industry, etc. The city fathers are wealthy merchants, and the colonial governor is an ineffectual figurehead. There is a small colonial garrison in place to keep the peace; its leadership is competent and just, but their numbers are too few to do the job. The colony is becoming less and less like its original kingdom, and slipping slowly but inexorably toward independent-mindedness.

Culture is somewhat... unenlightened. Abject poverty exists alongside almost unimaginable wealth, and indentured servitude is common (outright slavery extremely rare, but not unknown). The city a rough and tumble place, and parts of it are entirely uncivilized. Witchcraft is a capital crime, and witch-hunters are respected figures, among most of the population, and especially among religious adherents. Executions are a popular form of entertainment for many in the lower classes, there not being much else to occupy them but drinking, fighting, and fucking. The demographics are entirely human (well, almost entirely so, but I can't go into that yet), but there's a pretty large degree of diversity among the human population, what with all the ships from far-off lands making portfall in this place.

I'm calling the campaign Lacuna Locura (Catchy, huh? I hope nobody did this already. Mr. Google says it hasn't been done, but...).

What is it? Let's start with some definitions.

Lacuna:  a gap or blank space in something; a missing part.

Locura:  insanity, madness; crazy thing, folly

There's an oddness that underlies the setting, things that aren't discussed, things that make people very, very uncomfortable. Those mountains above the city? Nobody goes there. In fact, nobody even talks about them. If the party tries to claim they are from there, people won't believe them. Nobody is from there. There's nothing beyond them. This is a Known Thing. Nobody here thinks differently. It's as if some part of reality has been removed from their minds. This is the lacuna, the missing knowledge. My thought is that a veil of magic separates the realms and keeps the population ignorant of this separation, and the very existence of a place "outside." Attempts to make claims to the contrary, or to demonstrate that the possibility, is provocative in the extreme, and could bring violence (even official notice) down on the party. The party, in contrast, knowing what they know, would be perceived by the citizenry as completely mad, by the city's officials and religious leaders as potentially subversive and dangerous, and by certain unnamed others as a dire threat. This is the locura, the psychosis afflicting this place.

I've yet to come up with a name for this city, but don't want to force it. It'll come eventually

The ruleset I'll be using is DCC RPG, the firearms rules from +Dak Ultimak's Crawl! (the original DCC RPG fanzine), possibly some elements of Transylvanian Adventures by +Scott Mathis, some bits of Lamentations of the Flame Princess style weirdness, and probably some other stuff that I'll make up along the way (mostly to do with the reasons behind this madness of missing memories). This is intended to be city-based adventure, but I could certainly see plenty of opportunities for adventures on the high sea, investigation of the mysteries of the mountains, etc., depending on where the players want to take it.

I think this should be fun, and a departure from the kinds of games I normally run and play in. Maybe it will end up being a good setting, as well. The Metal Gods campaign has set a pretty high bar in that regard, so my expectations for this will be high as well.

UPDATE

Thanks to +Adam Muszkiewicz for helping me with my Latin. Locura Locurae is the correct genetive form.