Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Return to Martial Artistry

I'm currently enjoying an online combat sequence with my OGG, and really waiting for my old martial artist character to get defeated by another more skilled and more versatile martial artist.

However, the act of fighting as best I can (and losing) is very instructive as it brings me into contact with rules and tactical options and timing issues that I haven't thought about in years -- and in some cases the rules have changed! It's interesting to see the approach my opponent has taken in building his character and in using his character -- sparking my own ideas on how to improve my character while remaining faithful to the original character concept.

Martial artists have always been a fascination of mine in RPGs; in fact, I've always had to take a mental leap in tactics when dealing with any sort of ranged weaponry. My character (the Kawanga Kid) is in fact a "cheat" along those lines by getting a 'stretching' power defined as chain weapons, thus allowing me to use my martial arts at range.

It's odd, though, having had some small background in fighting, when you try to model HTH combat with rules not meant to deal with the intricacies. But then again, at some point, abstraction is necessary in any RPG.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Setting Expeditions: The Hero Universe, Part II -- Post-Cataclysm to the Medieval Era

As I mentioned in Part I, the Hero Universe meta-setting is one of the most kitchen sinky of kitchen sink settings, spanning pre-historic past to the far future, and all the spaces in between. Again, most of this text comes from the PDF found in the link above, and is available for free from their site. Just a bit of editing and rewriting was done on my part.

Part I tackled all the Pre-Cataclysm eras and ages. Part II tackles the setting from the Cataclysm through the Medieval Era.

The Cataclysm (~30,000 B.C.)


In this extinction-level event, the lands of the Atlantean Age are shattered, or sink beneath the waves, destroying virtually all traces of the pre-Cataclysm civilization. Due to one last heroic act by Emperor Vondarian, the few survivors of the Cataclysm gain the ability to breathe underwater and found the underwater realm of Atlantis.

Several other hidden kingdoms manage to survive somehow up until the modern era.

Note: In addition to ending the existence of most of the fantasy races and creatures that existed in the prior era, this even also manages to re-arrange the world into a more recognizable map. However, I do find the extinction of races interesting -- this is where ridiculously powerful and advanced races that could have given humanity a run for dominance of the planet get caught off-guard and are weakened or wiped out. It also helps establish the scope of humanity's capacity for destruction.

The World of Tuala Morn (28,000 BC TO 20,000 BC)

When the waves recede, new landmasses and new civilizations -- mostly predecessors of those to come -- arise, such as the quasi-Irish Celtic land of Tuala Morn, the quasi-Arthurian land of Logres, the quasi-Meosamerican Taloctec lands, and so forth. But the lands are unstable, and after eight thousand years collapse back beneath the waves.

The Age of Legends (20,000 BC TO 11,000 BC)

Once again, new continents arise in the forms known to us in the modern age (although most of North Africa is forest and savannah rather than desert). After a few thousand years of Stone Age level technology, some civilizations -- whose influence is later seen during historic times -- arise in this period.

Note: Great cities are built in South America, Africa, and Asia, as well as in Europe and Australia, with each culture or civilization a sort of “fantasized” version of what appears later. Toward the end of this period these civilizations all collapse, leaving the stage empty for later ones. See Philip Jose Farmer’s “Hadon of Ancient Opar” for a good example of what this could be like, or Wilbur Smith’s “The Sunbird,” or Charles Saunders’s “Imaro” series.

The Classical Age (10,000 BC TO 400 AD)

This age is broken up into two major segments.

The Age of Heroes spans from 10,000 BC to 200 BC. In this era of civilization, Ancient Egypt arises along with Mycenae, Crete, and Sumeria -- but Greece is the dominant culture near the end of the
era. Many believe in magic, but it is rarely seen in action (at least, not by everyday folk!). The era of Greek, Norse, etc. mythology, when gods, demigods, and mortals mingle on Earth. The decline of Greece and the rise of the Roman empire marks the end of this age.

The Roman Empire ranges from 200 BC to 400 AD. In this era,  the Roman Empire conquers much of the known world during this period; great civilizations also flourish in China and the Americas. For the most part, the pragmatic Romans disbelieve in magic, as the gradual decline of mystical forces makes true spellcasters increasingly uncommon (though magic remains stronger in some corners of the world far from Rome).

Note: A lot of the classical elements that have found their way into the modern fantasy genres (and in fact the foundations of western theater and storytelling) come from this age. Sword and sandal adventures abound here, and the full flowering of some of the most well-known mythologies are ready for use in this age.

The Medieval Age (400 AD TO 1500)

This is also broken up into two major sub-ages -- Arthurian Hero and Fantasy Europe.

Arthurian Hero takes place from 400 AD to 900 AD, and is a time of Merlin-esque magics,
the faerie folk, and adventure around the world. It focuses on a Fantasy Europe, a dark/low sort of fantasy set in the Celtic/Arthurian Age (with, of course, anachronisms like plate armor as necessary for fl avor). Europe is a wilderness with pockets of civilization here and there. The wilds are dangerous, home to dragons, trolls, and fierce beasts.

Notes: The “Bard” series by Keith Taylor, Celtic myths, Arthurian legends, and Norse sagas are excellent resources for this sub-age.

Fantasy Europe takes place from 900 to 1500 AD, and is the classic period of medieval adventure when magic briefly surges upward in power again before continuing its swift decline during the
Renaissance. Knights in shining armor, powerful yet fairly rare sorcery. High adventure in a “fantasy medieval Europe” where magic exists, knights in shining armor slay dragons, and only the power of
the Church keeps demonic minions at bay.

Notes: Adventures in fantastic realms (such as Lyonesse, Hybrasil, and Antillia) are possible during this time, but they eventually sink or pass into the Land of Legends as magic diminishes or magical disasters occur. This is also the time that many mystical creatures and races like the Fair Folk begin their transitions into other realms, whose doors become increasingly more difficult to open. Furthermore, there is a spate of monster slaying in this era, which eradicates many creatures of magic.


Next Up: The Modern Eras of the Hero Universe

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Even Mo' Mystara: A Karameikos Adventure Module

Robert Nuttman has posted a module for playtest called Hunting Bargle for what he did to Aleena.

No, actually it's the module TC1: The Baron's Favor, is identified as the first module in the Thorn's Chronicle adventure path series, and is available for BECMI and Alternity, but does indeed have Bargle the Infamous as the main villain in this adventure -- and his mad scheme seems to involve women again.

Aleena does get a mention in the module, but as per GAZ1 she is fine when the adventure starts. Unlike the claim of one of the possible endings of the Basic Book in BECMI, she did not in fact die in Gazetteer canon.

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, The Baron's Favor.

The Baron here is Baron Halaran, and he's enlisting the heroes' aid in finding out why girls have been disappearing near the ruins of Mistamere. The module is nicely laid out, with boxed text to be read to PCs, boxed stats for creatures, maps for the various locations, and interesting mentions about many things in Karameikan / Mystaran lore.

The author does state on his site that this is his version of Mystara, so not everything here may necessarily be in sync with official canon, but it is an interesting take and another welcome entry into the source material for Mystara...

... fine, I'll say it.

Bargle must die!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

NPC Hero: Elemental Champion of Water -- Part 1

Haven't built a new Champions character in a while, so I'm going to start off with the character concept. I have a name -- Alena -- but she's going to have a superheroic alter-ego: the Torrent Rider.

Please be warned that none of what follows has anything to do with the original TV show. I'm just using some elements from the show and twisting them or infusing them with other weirdness.

Overall Concept

My view on her is as the black sheep of the sisterhood blessed with the Elemental Jewels. All sisters are charged with mastery of their assigned Jewels before they may ascend once more to the Enchanted Realm. In order to master the Jewels, they must learn and master facets of the Jewels (some large, some small) and gain the abilities hidden within each.

Her original facet of the Jewel of Water was that of the Torrent Raider -- mostly abilities associated with thieving and raiding.

The current facet she's working on is that of the Torrent Rider -- abilities associated with mobility, kinship and control over water creatures, navigation, sensory gifts, and a legendary mount: the First Sea Serpent known as Fars.

Her mother also gifted her with an weapon: a hafted weapon known as the Hydra's Tooth. Among many things, it allows her to summon the Second Sea Serpent (known as Larwi) to do her bidding.

Offensive Capabilities

Aside from some rudimentary fighting skills as befits a spunky and rebellious young woman, her primary attack powers stem from three sources:
  • the First Sea Serpent -- special attack powers against preternatural creatures and spirits;
  • the Hydra's Tooth -- a powerful weapon that deals physical damage to foes;
  • and the Second Sea Serpent -- a huge serpent that, when summoned, can perform feats of great strength and lay waste to enemies over a great area.

Defensive Capabilities

The First Sea Serpent grants her great agility in battle, due to its sinuous grace and terrible speed, but when necessary, it encloses her in an impervious sphere reminiscent of a perfectly shaped pearl.

The Hydra's Tooth grants her rapid healing from any physical damage.

The facet of the Torrent Raider also grants her the ability to temporarily become water, usually in the form of mist or sea foam, before reincorporating into her humanoid form.

Movement Capabilities

She can swim really fast, as per both facets of the Jewel. But the First Sea Serpent grants her flight and even faster swimming.

Special abilities

Needs to be able to breathe under water, can endure extremes of temperature and crushing pressures of the deep. Can see in near darkness, and can sense the movement of things in water.

She can also communicate with family and friends, and do some scrying using pools of still water.

The Torrent Raider aspect should grant her stealth and infiltration abilities, as well as the ability to appropriate things that don't belong to her.

Wrapping Up

Okay, so that's pretty clear in terms of concept. It's a bit messy, but I wanted to do a more mythologically-based water superheroine. I don't know if I can pay for everything, but I do like the summoning and control of the Sea Serpents. Eventually, she should be able to summon all Seven Sea Serpents once she's mastered the Hydra's Tooth, and the facets of the Jewel should grant her even more watery abilities.

Next up for this character: Point Building!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Fading Suns Updates from RedBrick


It seems that I missed this on the Google+ feed, but even a month old it's still relevant. The mentions of Fading Suns in the "State of the Brick" post for 2012, as found on the RedBrick messageboard.

Check 'em out:

FADING SUNS THIRD EDITION
Fading Suns Third Edition is one of the game lines that’s suffered most during our downtime period and we are thankful for the support from Holistic Design throughout this time. Angus McNicholl, FS3 Line Developer, and his team have persevered and produced what we think is an excellent incarnation of Fading Suns, moving the timeline forwards and revisiting the game system to streamline and improve the “Fading Suns experience.” We’re close to releasing the Player’s Guide and more books are in the pipeline. At time of writing, the general schedule for 2012/early-2013 looks like this:

2012/Q2: Player’s Guide
2012/Q3: GM’s Guide
2012/Q4: House of the Lion, Shards Collection I
2013/Q1: Pirates of the Jumpweb, House of the Mantis

A number of Shards are being developed for Fading Suns Third Edition, which will be released throughout the year. You can also expect an additional news announcement related to Fading Suns in the near future. It’s a great time to be part of the Known Worlds!

FADING SUNS SAVAGE WORLDS AND PATHFINDER
As we announced on Pinnacle Games web site last year, RedBrick is working on releasing a version of Fading Suns for Savage Worlds. We are also updating the previous d20 version for use with the popular Pathfinder roleplaying game. Both editions are based on Fading Suns Second Edition. Development on Third Edition has taken precedence over these editions, so the first books are currently scheduled for release in late 2012/early-2013, as follows (for each system):

2012/Q4: Player’s and GM’s Guides
2013/Q1: Lords of the Known Worlds, Priests of the Celestial Sun

FADING SUNS CLASSIC
A number of Fading Suns Second Edition books are currently out of print. As with Earthdawn Classic, we will be publishing the range of Fading Suns Second Edition books in the smaller 6.14x9.21” format. These are low-priority releases and are being scheduled around standard releases from other editions.

I must say, the Savage Worlds / Pathfinder thing caught me by surprise. Should be interesting!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Setting Expeditions: The Hero Universe, Part I -- Pre-Cataclysm

In one of the most kitchen sinky of kitchen sink settings, the Hero Universe meta-setting lays claim to a single setting from the pre-historic past to the far future, and all the spaces in between. The link above is to a free six-page PDF that was released around the time of the 5th Edition ruleset, so it's been around a while.

Naturally, it's not going to give you anything other than the broad strokes of the meta-setting, and in fact some of the settings were fleshed out in separate (not-free) setting books from HERO Games.

Overall, it reminds me of three things: The History of the DC Universe which was published after the seminal Crisis on Infinite Earths maxi-series, the Planetary comics series by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday, and the Wold Newton Universe which grew out of Philip Jose Farmer's ingenious attempts to tie all manner of pulp heroes (and villains) into a single history and set of families.

The reasons it does this include: to create a massive backdrop against which Heroic and Super-heroic adventures may be played; to allow spaces in the timeline in which the various genres and sub-genres that super-heroic fiction might be played; to create rationale for bringing various NPCs and organizations backwards and forwards in the timeline.

Before I talk about the pros and cons of the approach, let me give you a taste of the various time periods (and descriptions + inspirations of each) tackled in the document. Much of it is taken from the PDF itself, though trimmed, edited and annotated by yours truly.

But let's start off with the era that seems most friendly to the type of settings found in OSR adventures -- the fantasy genre-friendly era:

The Pre-Cataclysm Period

The Pre-Cataclysm Period is an age of civilization prior to the recorded history of mankind. For flavor, think Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Jack Vance, Lord Dunsany, Michael Moorcock, Lin Carter, and the like.

Fantasy Primeval (100,000 TO 75,000 BC)

The first civilizations of men other sentient races -- such as Dwarves and Elves -- arise. Initially, many of the dreaded Elder Races control much of the planet, and dominate most of the races of men either directly or through fear, but are in decline, gradually leaving Earth after warring with each other for millennia.

The gods evolve, and many walk the Earth, using humans as pawns in their interminable wars with each other. At long last, the wars of the gods come to a head, and in a tremendous clash they break the world. Realizing they could destroy themselves by destroying their worshipers, the gods depart Earth for other dimensions, leaving the planet to settle down and the few surviving humans to rebuild their shattered civilizations.

Note: One might consider this very similar to the Runequest setting, where magics constantly shape the world, physics are just as valid in terms of world rules as arcana, and where battles of gods ensnare the lives of mortals.

Turakian Age (73,000 to 65,000 BC)

An age defined by the rise and fall of Kal-Turak, Ravager of Men, from whom this period takes its name. It ends with the overthrow of Kal-Turak at the hands of all the free peoples of the world, in a magical cataclysm that once again re-shapes the world.

Note: Kal-Turak acts much like a campaign's uber-baddie, kind of a Vecna meets Invincible Overlord meets Darkseid, and gets to return in various forms and guises in future ages of the timeline.

Valdorian Age (50,000 BC TO 33,000 BC)

The Valdorian Age -- named after a Hero Universe fantasy empire founded by its hero-king Valdor -- is a classic sword-and-sorcery style fantasy setting in the mode of Howard or Moorcock. Mankind remains the dominant race on the planet; other races go into decline (many apparently vanish). Fantastic creatures of all descriptions are found on the Earth (some remnants of the Primeval age, others newly arisen). The gods still exert a strong influence on the Earth through gateways, priests, and avatars.

Note: This age seems friendliest to a Conan-like campaign, or an Elric-like campaign, or a Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser campaign depending on where you adventure and how you arrange your nations and states.

Atlantean Age (32,000 TO ~30,000 BC)

Toward the end of the Valdorian Age, a new empire, the Dominion of Atlantis, arose. Based on an ancient island (of the same name) of great mystical power, Atlantis soon came to dominate most of the world. Around 30,500 BC, Dalsith, son of the rebellious warrior-king and sorcerer Cormar the Mighty, sacrificed his soul to the Kings of Edom for great mystical power and became Sharna-Gorak the Destroyer, Vondarien’s greatest enemy. The clash between Sharna-Gorak and the forces of Atlantis shook the earth, eventually sinking continents, toppling mountain ranges, and creating a great flood -- the Cataclysm.

Note: The Atlantean Age is a overpowered high fantasy campaign setting, where magic can push the power ratings to super-heroic levels. It has an eclectic cultural mix that is reminiscent of Barsoom or Jack Vance’s Dying Earth or perhaps even the Final Fantasy series of video games.

The Cataclysm

This takes place around ~30,000 B.C. and it changes the world yet again. It destroyed almost all traces of civilization prior to this time. The survivors were thrown back to Stone Age technology and magic.

Note: the function of the Cataclysm is meant to handwave all this hoo-hah about no evidence existing concerning pretty much everything that happened prior. There will be stories and accounts that might survive to the present day, but since terrible physical and magical energies laid waste to everything, what puny evidence might be found is inconclusive and certainly insufficient to draw any inference about the majestic histories that were wiped from memory.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

NPC Heroes: Elemental Champions

Alena
Title: Torrent Rider
Element: Water
Points: 300 + 150
Amihan
Title: Jetstream Juggernaut
Element: Air
Points: 300 + 150
Danaya
Title: Stonewood Savant
Element: Earth
Points: 300 + 150
Pirena
Title: Firestorm Magus
Element: Fire
Points: 300 + 150

Time Shock: Music, TV Shows, RPGs

I'm not a grognard. I haven't been around gaming since the beginning, even if part of my gaming pedigree touched on the Moldvay D&D Basic & Expert Sets and the 1st Edition AD&D modules.

But I am getting a little whiff of that generational gap that creeps in when talking to younger folks. You know, the ones who think that a remake of a song is the original version, or that a movie that they saw on HBO only came out a few years back instead of a couple of decades back.

New gamers that I meet -- excited about RPGs and settings -- begin talking about something I think I know, like Forgotten Realms, and then veer away from it by mentioning D&D 4E.

D&D 4E is a game I only skimmed and then avoided. It wasn't what I was looking for in D&D. I did like the initial work in D&D 3E -- I liked a manageable list of Feats, I liked the options for multiclassing, the rationalization for saving throws, and so on. I was a bit perturbed by things like attacks of opportunity, but I rode along for a while. But then it started to get larger and larger in terms of rules.

This was different from what I was used to -- most of the books that came out for D&D were settings and adventures and that kind of thing. Now the rules expanded to eclipse even HERO at the time, and the streamlining in certain areas was now overwhelmed. I mean, I might as well just go back to HERO because, while there is a fair amount of ruleweight to learn, it's pretty much the same core rules all throughout, just different applications here and there -- a steady block of rules instead of a constantly growing one.

And then they shifted to 3.5, which totally pissed me off and alienated me. I stuck to 3E, but then drifted off to other games.

But for the new generation, 4E is it. It's the new thing, its the current thing, it's the gateway into the hobby and I don't want to kill their enthusiasm -- but I can't share there exact same passion for RPGs because our preferences and landmarks and experiences are vastly different. I end up being this aloof 'game veteran' who tries to change the topic because he doesn't want to be rude and belittle someone's current passion, but risks doing that very thing by changing the topic.


Friday, March 23, 2012

RPG Theory: Parallels to Theater

Years ago, I encountered and tried to wrap my mind around the whole GNS (Gamist, Narrativist, and Simulationist) theory. I failed.

However, I did appreciate the attempt to understand RPGs in terms of different goals and priorities. It started me thinking along similar lines, though peppered with my own experiences with games, stories and storytelling, and simulating experiences.

What to call this series of ramblings? No idea, but I'll start on something that doesn't normally get discussed when talking about RPGs (well, okay -- I have not idea if it's discussed regularly in RPG theory): parallels to theater performances.

RPGs -- How are they like theater?

When I talk of theater, I speak inclusively about two types of theater performances -- scripted plays and improvisational theater. Because I'm not sure about my terminology, I'll define them.

Scripted plays for me refer to performances wherein a written play is interpreted and performed by a company of actors and a director.

Improvisational theater for me refers to performances wherein a situation is framed, characters are established, and a story is revealed and shared through the impromptu interplay of the actors and perhaps a moderator / director of some kind.

The parallel of the improvisational aspect is pretty clear -- except for the most railroady of games, there are questions as to which characters will perform significant activities to move the plot along, there is variance in terms of how successful the characters are, and certainly the words and interaction of PCs and NPCs are not scripted. All this is very much in line with improvisational theater, with a little bit to a lot of game mechanics and GM influence to adjudicate or guide the game's flow and progress.

There is, however an aspect of scripted plays. Certainly, railroaded plotlines may be seen as scripts. The classic modules where room descriptions were meant to be read out verbatim can be seen as scripts. Perhaps even the rules and game mechanics can be seen (if squinting and downing some alcohol) as script-ish in that it limits what a player's PC can do -- unlike most improvisational rulesets that encourage a "yes, but--" or "yes, and--" approach to things. Rules and Game Mechanics serve to negate or narrow elements of the performance that would otherwise be totally up to the performers to include or not.

RPGs -- Not Theater

And yet there are differences. In theater, the audience is really the, er, audience. The people watching are the targets of the performance, not the actors themselves.

The GM doesn't merely adjudicate or guide, he/she often plays the role(s) of other characters that the actors encounter.

Elements of the story aren't revealed as exposition from the PCs, unless the GM decides he must do the heavy lifting of a one-human Greek Chorus.

And, depending on the game chosen, there are rules that determine how successful physical, mental, emotional, psychic, and spiritual conflicts are resolved -- things that would be invisible to the audience (especially those who don't understand the game rules or setting). In plays and stories, deserving a success or failure is often up to story logic (good or bad), while in many RPGs, there are game mechanics to regulate said triumphs and tragedies.


Next RPG Theory post: Stories and Storytelling in RPGs

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Weird Adventures: Recent History

One of the hurdles of creating characters in the world of Weird Adventures is hammering out the recent history to get a sense of what the recent past of the characters might have been influenced by. While this is normally fairly straightforward in a standard Pulp or D&D game, the combination of both in the setting can give one pause.

Fortunately, there is a major element of Weird Adventures history that works for both: The Great War. It serves two purposes:
  • for the Pulp game, it is a direct analogue to the War to End All Wars, World War I;
  • for the D&D game, it is an indirect analogue to a recent-ish apocalyptic event from which the glorious old empires did not recover.

 Here's a direct quote from the book:

Acid fog was released from sprayers to discourage attackers or to soften defenders. Amorphing solutions delivered via artillery shells sowed terror by making flesh malleable, dissolving limbs, or even melting soldiers together. Thaumaturgical explosives and blights laid waste to cities and farmlands. Rays of searing light or jets of intense cold fired from zeppelins cut swaths of destruction across enemy trenches. There were also weapons calculated to cause more terror than direct damage. Fear rays lead to mass panic in population centers. The battlefield fallen were briefly reanimated to turn on their grieving comrades. Squads of murderous constructs with the appearance of children’s toys were sent into unsuspecting villages in the dead of night.

It's a great broad stroke take on a major historical event that leaves enough space or lacuna for the GM to embellish great or little known events. For some inspiration on the matter, one might pick up the trade paperbacks of Arrowsmith (by Busiek and Pacheco) on what an eldritch WWI might look like. Check this out:

Holeeeeee Moley! Bane bearers! Front and center, bane bearers!

A Return to Kitchen Sinks

In the past, I've done explorations of what I call kitchen sink settings. I've done two proper expeditions before:

Code: Black [ 1 | 2 | 3 ]
Lightspeed [ 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 ]

My next one should've been Fading Suns, but I realized that I have a lot to say about that one (and I've posted a lot on it in the past), so I'll hold off in favor of another that I should be able to finish in a shorter number of posts: the Champions Universe!

Past...
Present...
Future!


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Return to Champions

Well, we're using a newer edition. It's
actually 5th edition + house rules.

Because my Old Gaming Group (OGG) has been playing via e-mail, I finally rebuilt my old Champions character -- a martial artist with a chainmail costume, plus a shield and a grappling hook chain weapon (a kawanaga).

He's called the Kawanga Kid (he couldn't quite figure out the name of the weapon), but in this advanced timeline he can't be a 'kid' anymore. Furthermore, I was pushed by my current gaming tastes to add some texture to the character, mix in some wrinkles into the origins, and flesh out what he's been doing for the past two decades since I played him.

I began thinking about all the elements of his character, and then started writing down some names for aspects of his abilities and identity. Here are some of them:
  • Death Knight
  • Kawanga Kid
  • Disciple of the Storm Fist
  • Kawal ng Kadena (Soldier of the Chain)
  • Jack of Shields
  • Chosen of the Adamantine Aegis

And I realized that I had a whole background taking shape before my eyes.

I reorganized my character sheet, rebuilt my character, and am now thinking about how I'm going to rewrite his origin to incorporate all these expanded elements.

It's interesting and embarrassing to see how simplistic, transparent, and derivative my old character was. It's interesting to see how I choose to reshape it now.



Monday, March 19, 2012

Mo' Mystara from Bruce Heard


Sporting a mock cover from Håvard Blackmoor, there's a new D&D module set in Mystara by Bruce Heard. Not only does it feature references to Glantri and their wonderful magical research, it has an entry on the Nosferatu of Mystara.

This entry explains how Nosferatu differ from Vampires, and will certainly allow DMs to creature their own Nosferatu NPCs.

I've been waiting for this ever since I read about a certain Nosferatu in Karameikos and used him as an NPC and occasional resource for my players due to his unnatural familiarity with the history of the land. No, they did not know what he was, and I purposely dressed him differently from the stereotypical royal bloodsucker.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

More Prometheus and Fading Suns musings


I posted before about how the upcoming Ridley Scott film Prometheus can serve as inspiration for the Fading Suns RPG. And that was before I saw the full trailer above.

Aside from the very obvious option of tying in the major archeological find here with the Annunaki of the Fading Suns, there is a lot that might be mined for direct application to the way the Guild (in particular the Scravers and Engineers) might mount such an expedition to a secret Annunaki world.

The fact that the Fading Suns universe holds penalties for non-authorized citizens of the Known Worlds that use high technology shouldn't matter here -- Engineers, Scravers, Charioteers, etc. are covered by the Doctrine of Martyrs, allowing them to take on the burden of understanding technology and the higher sciences.



Another option that can be used: this scenario that unfolds in the trailer can be the very reason the Second Republic -- humanity at the height of its scientific and mystical knowledge -- fell apart. It could be the very reason entire systems were sealed off. It could be why certain technologies and certain gateway technologies are still proscribed, and why the Universal Church of the Pancreator (as well as Guildsmen and Nobles in the know) punish violators secretly, violently, and permanently.

Update

Below is the UK version of the trailer. It's different from the U.S. version above.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Cool Stuff about Star Frontiers

Needler Pistols

The needler pistols were frickin' awesome. The Jim Holloway illustration of the two adventurers firing needlers at an agent running away. I wanted my character to have one.

In my mind, I wanted the awesome coolness of firing needle darts at evil science fiction villains.

Yazirians

I don't know why, but I found these goggle-wearing, gliding, monkey-like hotheads an interesting race to play. I found the race honor thing intriguing at the time. I didn't quite consider them wookie-replacements. They weren't Kzinti or anything.

I dunno, maybe Elmore and Jim Holloway just drew 'em really well. They felt like adventurers supreme. The Vrusk and the Dralasites were interesting races as well, but I didn't feel like playing one in a game.

Neat SF Maps

The cool fold-up maps -- despite the two dimensional nature -- fired my imagination. Futuristic roads and public transport, futuristic buildings, cool vehicles.

It created this staggering backdrop (no matter how Legion of Super-Heroes + 1970s science fiction shows the end result might have been in my mind). Awesomeness!

What did you find interesting or attractive about the game?




Thursday, March 15, 2012

Prometheus and the Fading Suns

There've been some new posts on the official Fading Suns forums since the last time I posted, but this post is not about that.

No, this post is about the upcoming movie Prometheus (by some guy named Ridley Scott -- why is that name familiar?) and how so many of the visuals, when taken out of the movie context as stills, trigger story ideas and memories of things from the Fading Suns books.

Here are just a few examples.

Interface


Could be considered a look inside one of those terraforming machines on the colonized planets of the Known Worlds.

Stoneface


Aside from the obvious Annunaki reference, it also triggers the much-repeated parallel between the Space Jockeys and the Lovecraftian Old Ones. Plus, one wonders if the repeated images of 'human' faces weren't so much a reflection of the creators, but of an 'in vogue' art style. And perhaps the creation of humans was the 'in thing' at the time.

Surface


Again, ruins of the Annunaki are often interpreted by later races in terms of their own experiences and the discovered utility of the artifacts. But what if these are just the tip of the iceberg? What if, like the Coke bottle in the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy, the hardness of the glass is only incidental to the material it's supposed to contain?

Scareface


I'm struck by the parallel between this and the sarcophagi of Ancient Egypt. Perhaps these ancient pyramidal structures were ancient space / dimension traveling devices that required the travelers to encase themselves in protective coffins complete with readouts and dials for the long travel ahead? And perhaps our own colossal monuments are pitiful cargo cult attempts to recapture that grandeur and promised immortality?

And what happens when they come back?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Megabat: Giant Golden Crowned Flying Fox


When someone asks you what a giant bat looks like, just show them this picture (taken by one Allen Olaez here in the Philippines).

Wikipedia says
The giant golden-crowned flying fox gets its species name from the golden fur around the head, in sharp contrast to the black body. Like all other fruit bats, they have no tail. They are among the largest bats, with a wingspan of 1.5–1.7 m (4 ft 10 in–5 ft 7 in) and weighing 0.7–1.2 kg (1.5–2.6 lb).

and it does look huge, despite a little bit of play with the visual cues -- check out the positioning of the tree that it's attached to.

I'd freak out if this thing came diving at my face; thank god they eat fruits.

And yes, it is a megabat.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Filipino Western: Julio Valiente in San Basilio

Most would think that shooting at a knife in your hand is, well,
crazy and dangerous. But not Julio Valiente -- it's a way to save bullets.
In addition to the many imported Western movies and TV shows that my grandfather and father enjoyed, I also grew up on some Filipino Westerns.

Filipino Westerns can be considered an early sort of interstitial or cross-genre movie. They grabbed many existents and tropes of, er, Western Westerns and stuck them in the tropical clime of the Philippines, and liberally mixed them in with pulp tropes. Hence, masked heroes with horses and six shooters riding past nipa huts and trees native to our tropical clime.

Here's a series of clips strung together with the theme music from one of those Filipino Westerns: San Basilio. The most memorable part of the film is the part when two villains are running away from the hero Julio Valiente, and he decides to execute them with his last bullet (ignoring the ones on his arms, of course) by shooting through his knife -- the implication is that his knife split the bullet in two, allowing him to kill two people with one bullet. The actor -- Lito Lapid -- is currently a Senator.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Enigmundia: Cults of Orcus

The Cults of Orcus are many and varied in name and goals. They tend to be more secretive in cities, grow in organization and influence in the rural areas, and consolidate into masses of  followers in the wilderness.

A common trait to these cults is a fondness for vows and oaths -- every rise in rank and stature in the cult is accompanied by a new, very eruditely composed oath that is added to all the prior ones. Politicking and jockeying for position is commonly characterized by attempts to get opponents to directly or indirectly break oaths to their lord and master.

Cult Depictions

The depiction of Orcus as a goat-headed lord of the undead seems to stem from his Panthenian roots, where he was considered to be one of the first cthonic gods and therefore one of the princes of the vast Underworld of myth.

Even back then, his demesne was Oaths, and he was a feared punisher of oath-breakers -- a much-replicated image in the museum of Imperian relics depicts him as a wild-haired, non-descript old man effortlessly heaving two muscled oathbreakers off a cliff as punishment. Sages have pointed to the strange stygian colorations of the cliff, starkly contrasted with the sylvan splendor found above, as an indication that the punished are being cast down into one of the many Pits to the Underworld.

There is another series of depictions of Orcus that is found in the foul tomes of the Oathbound (sorcerers who have entered into pacts with demons and devils). He is shown as a young, whiskerless man wielding a wand when the Oathbound first make their pacts, then as an immaculately robed patrician a rod when warning them against potential violations of their oaths, and -- his most fearsome aspect -- a grey-haired, bearded old man with long nails and piercing eyes when claiming them for breaking their pacts.

Lord of the Undead

His association with the undead seems to be tied to his purported role as overseer of contracts and agreements between demons and the sentients of the mortal realm. There are a variety of cults that are not dedicated to Orcus per se, but call upon him to officiate the sealing of pacts with demons and devils. It is rumored that the undead that serve him tend to be those that he's punished for failing to live up to their vows in life, and now must uphold foul oaths in death.

Other more discerning scholars of his cults have suggested a different reason: they theorize that Oathbreakers and those they make pacts with are often unaware of certain clauses inserted into their agreements -- clauses that bind both demons and sentients to the service of Orcus if either of the two violate the terms of their contracts.

If this is true, then the power of Orcus is fearsome indeed. Centuries of broken pacts between demons and sentients of the sunlit realms make for a terrible Underworld army at his command.

Orcs, Ogres and Orcus

Few orc and ogre tribes worship Orcus, yet he is known to them all as the father of their races. Their animal cunning, their distrust of words and equivocation, and their seemingly inherent treachery seem to be totally at odds with the fiercely cerebral, meticulously literal, and oath-sensitive nature of their progenitor god -- which is perhaps why a number of cults sponsor expeditions, crusades, and wars against orcs all across Enigmundia.

A few have theorized that the races were attempts to create his own minion race -- one to replace the hordes of humanity on Enigmundia -- that were cursed by other gods. Others have suggested that they are the personification of his own brutal nature, driven out (mostly) from his person.

It is likely that the truth will never be known, as no scripture or writing seems to speak of the incident, leaving the matter to apocryphal oral traditions in the humanoid tribes.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Inspiration: the Dyosa Fantaserye

The Philippines has had its share of fantaseryes, all of which have had to contend with budget constraints in realizing their respective counter-realist visions. Another series that caught my attention with its core concept and occasional sparks of budget- and industry-transcending brilliance was Dyosa.

Dyosa ("Goddess") was a TV show about a young woman who, at the age of 18, discovers that she belongs to a divine lineage. Here's the upshot from Wikipedia:

Josephine is a young orphan who finally finds out she is no ordinary mortal after reaching the age of 18. After years of being raised by her foster parents, Josephine finds out she is the 'Takda' or Chosen One with divine powers and must help save the world from the Kasamyan, who are evil creatures from Lower Earth. After becoming a full-fledged goddess, Josephine also discovers that she has the power of the earth, air and water. To harness these powers, she takes the form of Dyosa Tierra, a centauride, Dyosa Agua, a mermaid, and Dyosa Cielo, a harpy.

Now, like most local teleseryes, this show certainly had its share of romantic and domestic drama, but there were some scenes that truly sparkled because of some surprising humorous situations written into otherwise cliched scenes. I felt that they really overreached in terms of the three forms of the goddess -- it was just too expensive and time consuming to solve the issues of animation and SFX cleanly. The most problematic was the centaur form, due to the motion of the horse and trying to stitch the upper half of the lead onto it. But, it was ambitious and who am I to say they shouldn't have tried to push the boundaries of local fantasy shows in terms of concept and SFX?

Gaming Inspiration

Despite the modern setting of the series, I'm intrigued by the idea of the goddess taking multiple forms.

Dyosa Cielo -- the winged form associated with the air -- is described as both
harpy and siren. It's interesting because both are winged female creatures
(though the siren has also been associated with a mermaid-like aspect) of myth.
I'll be delving into both to tap into the Immortals and Creatures of Enigmundia.


Dyosa Tierra -- the centaur form associated with earth -- makes
me think about the role of the race as a protector of the forests
and the lands of a given realm. It is perhaps one granted by
the Immortal that oversaw their creation.

Dyosa Agua -- the mermaid -- already has many
interpretations, but perhaps this form of the Goddess
can can likewise be linked to the creation of a race.
Perhaps as a counter-race to the Deep Ones that
serve strange alien gods that will surely
find their way into the creatures of Enigmundia.

Should be an interesting delving into classic mythical creatures.


Less than 24 hours left to avail of the sale!


Check out DriveThruRPG and RPGNow for the items on sale! There's less than a day left, so decide now and pick up those items you've always wanted to get for your GM! It all ends March 7, 2012!

See my original post on the GM's Day Sale for recommendations.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

OGG HERO House Rules: Aborting to a Defensive Action

My Old Gaming Group (OGG) has been enjoying a renaissance of HERO gaming in the supers genre, and there have been a flurry of e-mails about rules clarifications and house ruling. If not obvious in our past post, or in this one, let me just say that in terms of gaming preferences:
  • we play at a high power level
  • we are concerned with both tactical combat and character roleplaying
  • we place a high premium (at least when running Champions) on the mechanics and dice rolls speaking for themselves despite story directions for adventure or character plotline

The most recent e-mail discussions covered the classic Aborting to a Defensive Action maneuver.

Page 361-362 of 5th ed revised: Aborting an Action: "A character may perform more than one defensive Action wihle Aborting - such as Aborting to Dodge and activating a Defensive Power - provided they are not mutually exclusive."

This means you can abort to reallocate a multipower, activate a force field and missile deflect, allocate levels to missile deflect, then perform the missile deflection.

I am not sure that we want to do this, because it makes levels a lot more powerful, as well as multipowers, but the bad guys will have it too, so it is kind of balanced.  This could make a character with a bunch of levels very dangerous.

For example, if Musashi puts all his levels into location and damage to hit an agent in the eye with his tetsubo on phase 12 so he can get a massive presence attack for having the guy's head spiked on a 4 inch by 4 inch piece of steel.  On phase two, a villain who is unimpressed by the action flies up and tries to spike him with a move through.  He pulls ahead to block, reallocates all of his levels to OCV and blocks.  Even though he might not have a high enough speed, he can continue to block because he has a lot of levels.

This makes aborting very defensively powerful, but since you cannot pull ahead past your next phase it still has limitations.  It will force people to be a lot more judicious with reserved actions - reserve your action until an opponent makes a move, then be sure you attack them on that same phase.

Subsequent replies generally went like this:

The one down side I see is that it makes combat LESS lethal, which in turn means combats take longer, which in turn means role playing is shortened, since combats already take long enough.  You better have a massive OCV when attacking guys, because you can be sure they are going to block you, or you HAVE to wait till they go in the phase you act so they cant abort to a block.


So ultimately:

It makes multipowers and levels way too tough.  If you can abort to reallocate a multi, I would buy everything as ultra slots, have a 150 point multi with Attacks and defenses, have some def outside the multi, time a massive attack to go on dex count 1 of a phase, abort the second the next segment comes to apply ridiculous defenses.  The points I save on the slots I would use to buy extra speed only to abort phases.

Imagine a character with 6 speed (9 with the limitation) doing this with maybe a 210 point multipower.  you could easily make this powerhouse in High powered game, have a 60 pd/ed hardened force field, and a 28d6 EB at 0 End - not a lot of drawbacks there.

I think we should stick with the old way.  That way there are consequences to level allocation and to multipower allocation.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mystara: Slouching Towards Specularum

Retro-clones, neo-clones, and the upcoming 5th Edition of D&D (which promises to have some weird kind of backward compatibility) make it enticing to dream of a Mystara Reborn!

And indeed, there's much buzz online about it -- but where's a good place to start?

Well, in addition to somehow wrangling a copy of the Rules Cyclopedia (RC) and grabbing a couple of the classic modules (B2, X1, X2, etc.), the logical place to start is the Gazetteers.

The Age of Ravens blog has an excellent series of reviews on the Gazetters:

GAZ5: The Elves of Alfheim
GAZ6: The Dwarves of Rockhome

GAZ7: The Northern Reaches

GAZ8: The Five Shires 

GAZ9: The Minrothad Guilds

 
Dreams in the Lich House also posted a bunch of interesting links on Mystara, including:


Interestingly, someone raised the issue of a Mystara Megadungeon. There are comments that many were mentioned in the Gazetteers and source material, but none actually was fully detailed.

Interesting idea for a project, but which one?

Anyway, we shouldn't worry about stocking it, as the blog Stocking the Dungeon has several ideas for that. However, another big draw are, of course, the statted out versions of the D&D cartoon characters as ready-made NPCs in Mystara:

Can't wait for the Acrobat and the Cavalier.


Mythic Hero: A New Kickstarter by Steven S. Long


One of the minds behind the 5th and 6th Edition of the Hero System has a new kickstarter project. It's called Mythic Hero.
Mythic Hero is your guide to the mythologies of the world for gaming. It describes dozens of mythoi, with character sheets for gods, heroes, monsters, and other mythological beings, as well as information on their cosmologies, magical practices, and more. Right now the list of mythologies I plan to cover includes:

American Indian (split into six sub-chapters covering major cultural groups)
Armenian
Assyro-Babylonian
Aztec and Mayan
Canaanite*
Celtic
Chinese
Demonology (medieval Christian demons like Belial, Moloch, and so on; may also include some angels)
Egyptian
Etruscan*
Filipino*
Finnish
Greek and Roman
Hawaiian and Polynesian/Oceanic (possibly split into two chapters)
Hindu
Hittite*
Hungarian*
Inca
Japanese
Maori*
Masai*
Mongolian/Turkic*
Norse
Slavic/Russian
South American* (possibly combined with Inca)
Sumerian
Voodoo
Yoruban
Miscellaneous

(Entries with a * after them are subject to being demoted into the “Miscellaneous” chapter based on how my research goes.)

Additionally, Mythic Hero covers common divine abilities, how to incorporate gods into your campaign (including how characters interact with and even fight them), how to create your own pantheons for your games, and how to run Mythic Hero campaigns.

Other books have covered mythology for gaming to varying degrees, but many of them are out of print and I don’t believe any of them are nearly as comprehensive and thorough as Mythic Hero will be. Currently I estimate the book will be 300-400 pages long (it could easily exceed that), with a color soft cover and black-and-white interior art, and retail for approximately $59.99 (if I can produce enough to sell beyond the Kickstarter). All that’s subject to change as the project progresses and I get a better idea of what it will look like in the end, of course.

Seems like an interesting endeavor. What say you, blogoverse? I love mythology reference material.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Armchair Review: Marvel Heroic Roleplaying

Here's my review for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying:
Right off the bat, I have to warn you: Marvel Heroic Roleplaying is a mashup of different RPG philosophies and may not be what you're expecting from a super-hero RPG. If you give it a chance, if you accept that not all of it may necessarily flow down traditional RPG design paths, I think that you'll find it's an excellent RPG.

It uses Cortex Plus, which -- as anyone whose even leafed through another Cortex Plus rulebook can tell you -- doesn't necessarily guarantee the exact same ruleset. This variant still creates dice pools, but the sources of these dice pools (Affiliations, Distinctions, Power Sets, and Specialities) are different enough from the Smallville version to claim that it's a different game altogether.

I do like the Affiliations (which differentiate character power levels when operating as part of a team, as a buddy, or solo) and the Distinctions (which give both bonuses and "penalties" based on character "tags" or "schticks") a lot because of the narrative / comic book feel they give the game.

I like the Power Sets with some reservations. While the Power Sets (with their related SFX, Stunts, and Limits) do allow for very broad, yet customizable abilities that can fit on one page, the absence of a coherent point-based approach really throws me off when trying to determine relative power levels. They also may pose problems for GMs and Players with less solid character concepts and more rules lawyer-oriented philosophies.

The Specialties are a nice way to cover skill groups quickly, in pretty much the same fast-and-loose way that comics tends to handle skills. I wish that there was a little bit more gradation in the skill levels though.

Of course, it does mean that Character Creation can be very fast, and can be tweaked as the game goes along.

As far as task resolution, GMing, and scene / adventure / campaign rules go -- it's very much got a narrativist / indie feel (game milestones that grant XP that you can spend to tweak the game, several mechanics that feel very much like Fate), but with just enough crunch to pencil in justifiable rankings on the abilities of a given character.

The art is fantastic, and -- since most of it was taken from comics in the past decade -- it has a very modern feel to it as well.

The mini-event that comes with the game, and the characters with ready stats, are all taken from the New Avengers storyline that preceded the whole Civil War, Dark Reign, and Siege storylines.

Overall, it's a fantastic RPG that somehow manages to grant that feeling of playing in a modern Marvel comic book, somehow gives mechanics to the somewhat elastic power levels found in their pages, and somehow allows the players to recreate the narrative ebb and flow of adventure and drama in the genre.

Most important -- it's an RPG that makes me want to play! Avengers Assemble!

I guess the most difficult thing for me is dealing with the narrative mechanics. It really twists my mind in non-traditional directions, much like the Fate rulesets always have. In fact, I'm more comfortable with the World of Darkness rules, which I consider more traditional, than these types of rules. But with Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, I have a better feel and understanding of why they might work in emulating the genre.

The AGE of Mystara

Ever since I joined the Mystara Reborn group on Facebook, I've been seeing a lot of activity and discussion on Mystara, and it triggered a review of some of the Mystara I have with me.

I was then reminded of the work done by Byron D. Molix on the Dragon Age / AGE conversion of Mystara. And then I found out that he'd just recently released another book with many of the adversaries of the Mystaran world.

Time for a closer review of Dragon Age and of these fan-made sourcebooks. They look nice! I wonder where the art came from; I don't recognize it.

Find out more by clicking on the image.
Find out more by clicking on the image.

How long is that bow? How long is that arrow?

I was doing some image research and came across this picture of a Philippine "aboriginal war long bow and arrow" with a indigenous native in the "Investigating US History" pages of the CUNY website.

Now, we're not known for our height, and I'd assume that the longbow is about right, based on longbow pictures and their relative size to caucasian bearers. But that arrow seems, well, huge! Is it just me, or does it rate extra damage dice? If we assume that the user is less than 5 feet tall, does that make the size of that arrowhead more in line with regular arrowheads? It looks like a spear being launched by bow!

"Speak softly, but carry a big -- holy frijoles -- is that a longbow?"
By the way, for my non-Filipino site visitors, Negrito -- which, as you might guess, means "little black person" -- isn't really looked upon fondly as a term to reference one of the 'races' of early indigenous residents in our archipelago despite its use elsewhere in the region.

Then again, we're used to the naming game, having been called Indios at one point (the Spanish word for 'Indian') because European explorers kept mistaking different places for India. Other names included "Luzones Indios" (a reference to the northern region of the archipelago), "Manilamen" (a reference to the city), and "Indios Bravos" during the time of the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Setting Expeditions: Code Black -- Part IIIb

So to wrap up Code: Black, the setting can easily incorporate source material from a variety of horror RPGs.

Fabulous Monster Hunters

For your standard monster hunting thrills, you can use the source material already in the book and add in things from Supernatural by Margaret Weis Productions or the Buffy the Vampire Slayer / Angel RPGs by Eden Studios. Look no further than White Wolf's World of Darkness and New World of Darkness for different spins on classic monsters.

Keep in mind, however, that the primary approach toward monsters in Code: Black is that -- at their core -- all these monsters are also former inmates on Prison: Earth. They're evil, and because they're not human, they tend to be more touch by Evil than humans. Of course, some humans could probably give them a run for their money; and maybe one or two are 'redeemable' by human standards. But those are few and far between. Most monsters are for killing, pure and simple. It's just that there are enough numbers of them that all out war between the monsters and humans would make things very messy, especially for those born without The Sight -- the ability to truly see things for what they are. So there's an uneasy truce, and killings are only countenanced in set rules of engagement.

Stalking the Mythos

For modern Cthulhu-inspired horrors, look to the newish The Laundry RPG, the semi-newish Trail of Cthulhu, and the older Delta Green for different takes on organizations taking on the mythos in modern society.

The Laundry contributes an interesting take on the nature of the Deep Ones and the greater powers of a mythos-choked Earth, and the tenuous detente with the various occult organizations of the world. It also posits a math-based basis for magic and summoning of creatures that was explained more fully in the novels of Charles Stross. Furthermore, it gives source material on the possible structure of anti-mythos government agencies not only in the U.K., but also around the world.

Trail of Cthulhu has a plethora of adventures set in modern times that will challenge the agents of Code: Black's Brotherhood of Gilgamesh; Delta Green will give an example of a cell-structure based conspiracy of mythos-fighters in the American idiom that can be easily tweaked to avoid contradictions with the material from The Laundry.

Exploring True Reality

For strange invaders from alternate dimensions that may or may not be heaven or hell, try to find a copy of Kult and pick up JAGS Wonderland and JAGS Book of Knots. Esoterrorists is another must-read for this type of horror exploration.

Kult's main proposition -- that the true reality is the city known as Metropolis, and our reality is a prison meant to keep humanity from awakening to their true nature -- is very in sync with the cosmology of Code: Black. Furthermore, the creatures and monstrosities that fill the RPG are more inspired by the Hellraiser and Nightmare on Elm Street movies and books -- and perhaps the Silent Hill series of games, which can make for a different change of pace adventure as well.

JAGS Wonderland & Book of Knots are very similar, though realized through a wonderfully dark and consistent use of the Alice novels as both inspiration and metaphor for humans dealing with the dangers of different levels of reality.

Esoterrorists tackles agents struggling to stop the breakdown of our reality, and covering up the attempts of Esoterrorists to release imprisoned intellects and entities and extradimensional realities into our own.


All in all, Code: Black is a lovely kitchen sink setting that allows GMs and players to make use of almost any horror RPG material.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Big Ol' Sale on a ton of books at DriveThruRPG & RPGNow


This is one of the biggest sales of the year from DriveThruRPG, and they've only got it up until Mar 7, 2012. They call it their GM's Day Sale -- most, if not all, the books on sale are really geared towards making a GM's life easier.

And we players want that, right? It means we get more gaming time in, and occasionally get to try out new RPGs or settings without having to run it ourselves.

So go out and buy your GM a new RPG or RPG sourcebook today!

Noteworthy Items

Old school game collectors may want to pick up PDF copies of Bushido, Space Opera, Aftermath!, and Flashing Blades for archival purposes.

OSR devotees may wish to peruse Goblinoid Games' offerings for Labyrinth Lord, TimeMaster, and Mutant Future and finally pick up a copy of Realms of Crawling Chaos.

A Call of Cthulhu fan? Look at all the Chaosium items on sale!

One of the few Elric game groups and looking to buy your GM a whole slew of old school Elric! and 4th edition Stormbringer rulebooks and source material? Always wanted to play Hawkmoon? Looking for some more material for that Legend RPG you heard about that's based on the last Runequest rules incarnation under Mongoose? Want to pick up some Traveller stuff on the cheap? Go to Mongoose's page and browse for some deals.

Want to complete your Heavy Gear collection of sourcebooks, or get all the ship diagrams for your Jovian Chronicles-inspired campaign? Visit Dream Pod 9's page.

Looking to grab all the older sourcebooks for Fading Suns from Holistic Design to prepare for RedBrick's release of the 3rd edition rulebooks later this year? A fan of Cubicle 7's Doctor Who, The Laundry, Qin, Clockwork & Chivalry, or Airship Pirates RPGs? Been itching to try the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying RPG? Or the other Cortex Plus stuff like Smallville and Leverage and Supernatural?

Go to this sale! I mean, even Eden Studios has their Army of Darkness and the Buffy Corebooks marked down by 50%!

Shopping Tips

Go through the sale, and just keep adding stuff to your wishlist. Don't think, just do it! When you're done, then begin picking from your wishlist and select the things you REALLY REALLY want, add them to your shopping cart and buy them.

Once you're done, share the wishlist (with all your remaining items) with your family, friends, and fellow RPG players with a subtle hint that they can do their birthday / Christmas shopping early buy availing of this one week sale!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

i09 Post on John Carter and Michael Chabon gives D&D insight

In an io9 article titled "Michael Chabon's 17-year Quest to Write a Mars Adventure Movie" (which tackles an io9 interview of Michael Chabon and the upcoming John Carter film), there is an interesting quote that I feel has direct bearing on the once-prevalent post-apocalyptic fantasy flavor of D&D:

As the 19th century turned into the 20th century and archeologists started to press deeper in to the jungles of Central and South America and into the deserts of Mesopotamia and India, they began to encounter clear evidence of many civilizations that had attained some level of technological greatness. You look around at these places and you see the living descendants of these people living without the incredibly sophisticated caliber of technology that their forebears had invented. I think it's a very haunting, stark memento mori for a representative of any civilization.

And then another related quote:

The rise and fall of civilization is this inevitable process, to which we must all eventually succumb. Nobody's going got be more haunted by that thinking than a parvenu, an ariviste who's kind of new to it all. The person who's most worried about losing everything is the person who's had it the least amount of time.

This can, perhaps, inform not only the PCs we create, but also the higher level NPCs -- the movers and shakers of the land -- who are perhaps closer to the former glory, are perhaps long-lived survivors of that fall, are perhaps seeking to recapture that former greatness.

And the seeds to that greatness may lie in some forgotten ruin. Somewhere.

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