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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor

 

Yes, Oh God yes! The world needed this.

Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor.

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What. The.

White Dwarf #1 (1977) p.21

Sometimes I wonder how this hobby managed to survive nearly 40 years… So, this was the level of humour in 1977? (yeah, I wasn’t even alive back then, so?)

Very interesting: level 3 is a grafitti artist, and level 9 seems to be a bit harsh for such a weak joke.

It’s good that we have moved on from things like this. Well, most of us, anyway.

[Traveller] 30 Quick Questions For Your Starsystem

Way back in April (basically the Dark Ages in internet terms) Jeff Rients introduced a set of 20 questions for quickly fleshing out a fantasy campaign. Brillant idea. It just gives the basics, and I highly recommend using it to get a basic idea about any campaign setting. Now, of course, Traveller already does give some of the basics, but always even more basic than even D&D. After all, in Traveller there’s a new world every week. So here we have a little questionaire to fill in the most important blanks for that next system you’ll visit.

Just take a good look at the UWP, note what you like, and then let the answers just come…
1. Can we breathe without aid?
2. Can we stand normally or is everything totally screwed gravitationwise?
3. Can I wear guns?
4. And what happens when I do?
5. What else is banned here?
6. So, where can I get guns in this place?
7. And how do I get money to pay for them?
8. So, how do you guys make money?
9. How many peopleare around?
10. Where can I find somebody to ask a lot of stupid questions? (e.g. scientists, historians)
11. Are they fighting each other?
12. Who’s fighting whom? And who’s winning?
13. Would it be advisable/profitable/sane to get involved and how much do they pay?
14. Who is in power?
15. But who do we actually deal with?
16. Where is the next bar/where’s the startown?
17. And what do we drink there?
18.Who might be the worst person to piss off while pissed?
19. How long has this world been settled?
20. And by what sort of people?
21. How many white spots are left on the map?
22. How about within the whole system?
23. What do you guys eat here? Anything interesting?
24. Any other customs I should be aware off?
25. So I pick out a random passersby and ask him what he believes, what’ll he tell me?
26. What rumours have been going around the last few months?
27. What companies are there? And if none, where’s the money?
28. So, I think I felt something between us, can you tell me the way to the next Psi Institute?
29. Is there anyplace on this world where I definitely should not go and if yes, hoe do I get there?
30. What’s the fastest way to get rich in this system?

Get them while they’re young

A pile of Lego blocks, of assorted colours and...

bricks bricks bricks bricks wonderful briiiicks!

The Evil GM is wondering if Heroica by Lego might help us getting kids hooked on RPGs. And all of a sudden I am reminded of the times when D&D was the scourge of the Earth for taking over our children! Will nobody think of the children!
Which reminded me of something else. There is already something like that around: it is called BrickQuest, and it is supposed to be a hybrid of Lego and HeroQuest. good old HeroQuest, that’s how I got my start into gaming. Also the dungeon would be cheaper and easier to build than the same thing in miniatures. Not really a fan of miniatures here, so this is a plus for me.

Oh, and there is something called BrikWars, for all those who want to have wars in there as well.

Actually, once one enters the world of adult Lego fans one realizes something very quick: Roleplayers are not the only nerds in the world.

It also reminds me of something else. back in the days when I used to go to the local cons, there was this group of roleplayers who were technically my clique (which meant that I was somehow connected by location, high school, extracurriculars, etc., although I never really fit in that group). They got this neat idea at one point to make use of their old Playmobil toys. I don’t even know if that one is international, but those things were basically larger, more action figure-like variants of Lego with similar theme ranges. They also were immensly popular in Germany when we grew up, and as far as I can see from my friends with kids, they still are.

Way hardcore... (photo by williac)

And so at one point about a third to half the convention centre (it was a very small convention centre) was taken over by a giant roleplaying/wargaming panorama with multiple storylines going on.
Actually, that was kind of the problem in the end. Instead of a wargame most players started the usual roleplaying stuff that they were doing when they were kids. So I got bored and  joined a round of Shadowrun instead.

[One Page Dungeon] The Mourning Wight of Brakhill

Adventurers Needed!

Desmond, Baron of Byrkwood, has a proposal for the characters: he spent a large sum for a custom-made set of dwarven weapon and armor for his eldest son, it was supposed to be crafted by the famous artisan Brakr, Master of Brakhill. After the dwarf took the money he did not come back to the Baron in over two years. Not knowing what happened to Brakr (and more importantly: what happened to his new armor?!), he now wants to send out a daring group of adventurers to see what happened. And get his money back.

Why do we always wait for the One Page Dungeon Contest to come around to show off our dungeon creating skills? That’s a bit like a singer who will perform in public only once a year.

Anyway, this is a small dungeon adventure I thought about a few days ago. Back then it was supposed to be an orcish lair. Turns out the topic changed two or three times in between.

SC1_Mourning_Wight_Of_Brakhill (download)

Update: Updated the file for the OPDC2012. Basically I added the Creative Commons license.

[Labyrinth Lord] Worldbuilding: The Gods of Bithynia

Hommage des dieux à Zeus

Isn't it a bit cramped in this pantheon?

Influences

What always struck me as one of the best parts of Das Schwarze Auge was the wonderful way religion was handled in the background, especially in the early editions. Now, there are a lot of things to say about the way this religion seems old and contrived and clearly based on the classic pantheon, but in my opinion that is actually one of the best parts of it. All the Twelve Gods of Aventuria (which later got supplemented by a plethora of half-gods, antagonists, and other quasi-divine beings) have clear responsibilities and characters. They are stock characters that can easily be used in any given situation. Everyone can think how Rondra, goddess of war and honor is like (especially if her symbol is the lion), anyone can think what Ingerimm, god of fire, metalworking and dwarves would be like.

The interesting thing is that they are clearly derived from the classical archetypes, just stripped down to their bare essentials and mixed up a bit (e.g. the sun god as the lawful good ruling god instead of a completely Zeus-like figure). And then outfitted with something that amounted to a medieval church structure where appropriate:an Inquisition for the sungod, orders of knights for the goddess of war, centers of learning for the goddess of wisdom, etc… it all works surprisingly well in context and mostly because the basic assumption is that there is no petty strife between different gods. Some arguments maybe, but there is a general consensus on what’s right and what’s wrong.

Of course that is low fantasy Aventuria, and I am trying to worldbuild for D&D here. So we need strife, we need action  between the gods, we need pettiness and arguments, and actually, I don’t want knightly orders, I don’t want devils,  and all those medieval trappings. Let’s go back to when gods took their matters in their own hands… the 1960s, with all those wonderful Sword and Sandal movies…

Or alternatively the ancient world of the Greeks.

Planning

For my own campaign I don’t want big ecclesiastical structures, I want something more along the lines of worship in the ancient pre-classical world. The pantheon should be free-wheeling,with a few generally agreed-on gods, but rather open to outside gods able to break into the local ‘market’, which of course  believers might first try to fit into the already known pantheon, like Zeus and Jupiter were connected with each other when the Romans slowly gained power.

This also leaves the whole thing open for local cults of minor relevance that will not be discounted just because nobody has ever heard about their deity. It also will leave some open space (and I should add something like that in somehow) for deified heroes, similar to Heracles and Theseus, to give a clear indication of what might be possible farther down the campaign.

In other words: pretty close to your normal D&D pantheon, just with more internal logic.

Sources

The names of the pantheon are mostly variations on gods in the Greek/Roman pantheon which most people will not catch.

For Hestia I could not  just find another name for, Tyche seems obscure enough (and I like Pratchett’s notion of calling her ‘The Lady’ anyway, so her name should not come up too much), Vejovis was a new one even to me, but he was an actual Roman god. He was generally considered  to be Aesculapios (who would be one of these deified heroes) but his character is much more twisty than that: he slowly moved from being the god of marshes, snakes, and criminals to become the god of medicine and healing. Some speculate that heoriginally was a much darker being that had slowly succumbed to the light side over time. Which would be a nice change variation on a far too well-known trope.

Oh, and then there is Anantios, who is not really part of the Greek world, but  I wanted a trickster and a spider god in there, and why should that one be so dark when we already have the god of wine and the one of death being the same.

The Gods of Bithynia
 Name - Symbol - Area of Influence 
 Kasios the Mighty ('The old lecher')    Lightning Bolt         sky, thunder, rulership
 Basíleia the Kindly                     Diadem                 women, marriage, family
 Dawon from the Deep                     Trident                sea, horses
 Kidaria the Plentiful                   Grain                  fertility, agriculture, nature, and the seasons
 Itonia the Wise                         Helmet                 wisdom, handicrafts, defence and strategic warfare
 Adon/Chthon* the Nightly One            Grapes/Key             wine, celebrations and ecstasy, theatre
                                                                 /underworld, dead and the riches under the Earth
 Loxias the Enlightened                  Lyre                   light, knowledge, music, poetry, dreams, prophecy and archery
 Kynthia the Huntress                    Bow and Arrow          hunt, virginity, childbirth, archery, animals, the moon
 Enyal the Warrior                       Sword                  war, violence and bloodshed
 Kypris the Beautiful                    Rose                   love, beauty, desire, sex
 Chalkeús the Mute                       Fire                   fire and forge
 Enodios the Quick                       Tortoise               commerce, thieves, and messengers
 Hestia the Friendly/Welcoming           Hearth                 hearth, domesticity, family
 Vejovis the Scaled                      Serpent                marshland and earthquakes, medicine, healing.
 Triodia the Arcane                      Crossroads             magic, magic users, and crossroads
 Nomios the Wild                         Flute                  wild, shepherds and flocks, sex, nature, hunting and rustic music
 Anantios (Anancy) the Sly               Spider web             spiders, trickster, knowledge
 Tyche ('Luck','The Lady'**)             Coin                   luck, gambling
* one god who personifies two different aspects, this is a widely-known mystery of his cults
**'the One-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named-(no!-the-other-one)', general consensus is that if you call to her she will go away

Detective Dee and the Phantom Flame

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

Image via Wikipedia

There are things one might expect from a movie like “Detective Dee and the Phantom Flame” and logic is not one of them. Still, the essential Chineseness, the unabashed nationalism, the historic hodge podge and all those other failures come together in a quite nice fantasy-action flick that can be enjoyed even without getting all the cultural references.We might just wonder a bit what exactly is going on there. It’s not really a Detective story, that’s for sure. Too many things are just dragged out into the open just to serve as another hook for a nice new action sequence.

Anyway, this was the murder weapon during the movie (obligatory RPG content):

Firebeetle Powder
Firebeetles are found in a rather distant country, somewhere over the seas, but they have been imported into other places as well due to the interesting abilities their bodies possess. They will have to be taken care of with a special diet and environment as they do not survive in sunshine. The most interesting thing to be gained from them is the powder of crushed fire beetles.
This powder is harmless in it’s dry form, but will react strongly when being put into contact with water (at which state it still is inert) and then being subjected to direct sunlight (indirect light and shadows do not seem to create this effect). The influence of sunlight will incinerate the mixture. This also affects living beings that swallowed some of this powder: if they are subjected to direct sunlight their body will start to burn out from the inside, until nothing but a smoldering pile of ash is around (1d20 damage per round!). The powder does not leave the body naturally, if no antidote is given it will stay in the  body and strike at any time the affected person enters sunlight.

And here the trailer:

[Labyrinth Lord] Vampiroids

Ernst Stöhr, Vampir, 1899

Okay, this one is not intended to give you Dracula, this one is more that kind of folk legend vampire that is so common over the whole of Europe. I imagine them more to be some half-living bloodcrazed monster than some fancy aristocrat. Normal vampires don’t lend themselves to a “Goddamn Bloodsuckers” Hack and Slay play that easily. These are more mooks than masters. They might be found in the employ of a real vampire though. Mostly, I guess, PCs might come across the in graveyards and old ruins in the wilderness, or having run over the next village they wanted to rest in.

Vampiroids
No. Enc.: 1d4 (1d6)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 180’ (60’)
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 4
Attacks: 1 (touch, see below)
Damage: 1d8, drain life energy
Save: F7
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: VII

Sometimes, the legend goes, when the ones slain in battle are not buried, and when their open wounds are not washed, then evil spirits can enter the dead body and resurrect it as an undead beast, craving the blood of the living. The general public often conflates stories of them with those of other, more powerful creatures, but for unsuspecting towns and villages these creatures are even more of a threat. Especially because of a special trait they have: everybody slain by them has a 10% chance of raising as one of them the next night if no special precautions are taken. Their brains do not work quite as well as when they were alive anymore, and they generally show a wolfish quality in their intelligence, often even forming packs for their hunt.

Their general appearance is ragged and dirty, often only the tattered clothes they were killed, or buried in, sometimes nothing at all.Their appearance will grow worse with time. Their fangs, which are only slightly larger than before, grow bigger over time, their skin becomes more leathery, and they slowly loose their hair over time, until they barely resemble the humanoid they originally were. They do generally take only sparse interest in their looks.

They will generally try to find dry places away from the sun, often tombs and old ruins, in which they can sleep undisturbed during the day. If this is not possible they will bury themselves in the ground to avoid the sun.

During the night they are better off than most of their prey. They have infravision, a better sense of smell, and they can run faster than the average human. They are stronger and more agile than before.

What they lack is anything but basic intelligence, which decreases over time as well. The time they were dead normally was enough to kill most of their braincells, so they have a more primal urge to kill and drink blood, to the detriment of their own survival instinct. They also an aversion to garlic of all things and will take 1d6 damage for every round they stay in direct sunlight. They count as undead and can be warded off like them.

On the other hand they are easier to be killed than most and will stay dead once their heart or head is removed. (although there are different folk-rechniques to make sure the beast stays dead).

Magic:

Create Vampiroids
Magic User 5
Duration: Permanent
Range: 0

This spell turns the bodies recently dead humanoids into Vampiroids. This spell does not give power over them, so the caster should have a way of controlling them once they are animated. They remain animated until they are destroyed.

The caster may animate a number of hit die worth of Vampiroids equal to the caster’s level. A lawful character that casts this spell may draw disfavor from his god.

Adventure Seed:

The Dourwood is haunted, everybody slain there will raise as a Vampiroid within the next 3 nights if not buried properly. The locals know this and have long adhered to a set of rules that takes care of this (burying the dead under piles of stone, washing the wounds of the dead, removing the heart of the deceased). But now something is upsetting this practice: a foreign army has occupied the country, and has forbidden these practices as heathen. Which would be only mildly stupid, if they did not also kill a large contingent of local soldiers and left them “for the vultures” in the woods. Most locals have carefully locked their doors the last few nights. The PCs are in the middle of this, when suddenly some patrols disappear.

Glory Hole Dwarven Mine

Cober of Glory Hole Dwarven MineWhat?

No, seriously, what?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(No, I don’t know anything about this module. I just found it on a website, never saw the module itself)

 

[Obscure Games] Nephilim

Nephilim (role-playing game)

Image via Wikipedia

So it was another day in the big city for me, and it must have been around 2000. The “big city” it was because it was the next town with Gaming Shops (in this case Bayreuth, where every summer people from all over the world gather to listen to Hitler’s favourite composer and/or show off that they can), and it must have been 2000 because that shop closed down when the Euro came. Not that this had anything to do with each other, but I remember the owner complaining that he had to change all the prices in the store to Euro, even though he only would be open for another month after the currency change.

Anyway, it was that store where I found this game. I hovered a bit between the German version and the English version, but then I took the English one, mostly as they threw in a few more books into the deal. That alone told me back than that the game might already be a lost cause. And it was, in a manner of speaking.

Technically the ‘obscure’ part in the title is rather debatable. Originally a French game with multiple editions, it was published by Chaosium in the Anglo-Saxon world. Going with all the clichees that one expects from the CoC-loving French (get your mind out of the gutter, I’m talking about Call of Cthulhu here) the game was based on Chaosium’s Basic Role-Playing system.

I never found anyone who ever played this game for real. Myself I thought about using it as a source book for a Call of Cthulhu campaign, but that never materialized, mostly because my tries to play CoC never turned out so successful.

Maybe I should try to find the French version as a reference, but the English version at least was rather heavy handed, and I doubt that style was something not present in the original game.
It was another one of these games which had a high concept but lacked in execution and desirability to play.
It even tried to show this with it’s tagline: Occult Roleplaying.
According to the story presented in the preface the authors were discussing a new game when they were approached by a gentleman who had heard them talking. He talked to them about occult topics, and allowed them to use his library of the occult for further research into these areas.
In other words: this is the game BADD was afraid of when they were talking about Satanism in D&D: a game which actually researched it’s occultism and put in all the real stuff. This is what Jack Chick was warning us about.

So, how does it hold up?

Well, all in all it’s a half-hearted Call of Cthulhu pastiche. And not only because the authors had the great idea to base the rules of their game on BRP. That one was more a stroke of genius/outright luck. CoC has a completely different status in France than in the rest of the world, and most players are at least familiar with the system.
The whole setting is also so close that one might easily use parts of Nephilim for a crossover campaign with Call of Cthulhu. Basically there is only one difference between both games: in Nephilim you play what you would fight in CoC.

I wonder why nobody ever pointed that out, especially with the extra creepy descriptions in Nephilim itself. The Nephilim, to go a bit into the background, are ancient spirits which once had a body but now are disembodied spirits who have to take over human hosts to stay in this world. They take over the bodies of their hosts completely and will try to get out of their own lives as soon as possible to be able to use the body in whatever way they need,  slowly transforming the body of their host into a form that matches their own spirit.

Does that sound creepy to you? It does to me.

What you are playing in this game is basically a psychic rapist, a changeling, a body-snatcher, taking the body of someone else and replacing the original conscious with something else. And that character has been doing that for a long time before.
There is a very interesting character generation system where one has to choose which previous lives one has lived. This is easily one of the coolest things about this game, one can choose multiple past lives and gain background and skills from that, of course against a price (I think it was essence power).

When incarnated into the new body there is an interesting system of different tribes and groups that can keep one interested in an intrigue game similar to the one in all the WoD games, there even are similar evil spirits (more evil than mindraping body-snatchers? Really?) just as in every single WoD game. And there is interesting informations on a magic system that is based on occult teachings (which amount to fancy descriptions for spells that do nothing in particular), there is indepth reearch into different areas of occultism (which of course was inspired either by the Nephilim or their antagonists), and there are lots of interesting conspiracies and mysteries to uncover (which at least in the English version seem to happen only within the United States).

And all the time while I’m reading this thing I have to think to myself: Jesus, this is a game about constant mindrape. Not only that, but there are mechanics in the game that cover how the soul of the host body actually reacts to the intrusion by the Nephilim.Which also keeps in line with the backgrounds of pretty much all the WoD games. Only that this one was more overt than anything Vampire ever signified about rape.

I never got up the will to use this game for real, mostly because I never could get the will up to play. It would make an awesome source for a really huge CoC campaign though. And not only that, it even would have the right stats, well, besides the sanity at least. This is a annoyingly well written game actually. I just wish it was less… rapey.

At least it’s not FATAL.