Friday, June 28, 2013

Armchair Review: The War of Horus and Set

Reference books on history, mythology, and warfare hold a special place in the gamer's heart -- they provide inspiration for many a character or game.

How wonderful therefore that Osprey Publishing's The War of Horus and Set delivers on all three!

Here's my review as it appears on RPGNow:
First off, please note that this version is in ePub format and not in PDF.
With that out of the way -- this is a fantastic resource for RPG gamers. The writing has a nice balance between providing succinct summaries of the history and general flow of the myth and history of this particular focus area in Egyptian myth and in providing telling details about the variants and nuances of these conflated stories to provide a lot of game inspiration and adventure hooks for GMs. 
The Chapter titled "Gods and Their Realm" gives a good grounding in the cosmology of Egyptian gods and a list of the major players in the pantheon.
In "The Jealous Brother", there is an sympathetic portrayal of Set before the troubles between him and his brother, Osiris, began the inexorable slide into generational family feuding and tragedy. Of particular interest is the scene where Osiris is tricked into a deadly trap in full view of an audience. 
"The Vengeful Nephew", focuses on the war between Horus and Set from the revelation of what Set had done to Horus's father, through the various clashes overseen by the gods, right up to their final conflict. It is not bits and pieces of myth, but a fully described, flowing narrative. 
The Chapter titled "History and Warfare" peels back the curtain behind the narrative to discuss the often contradictory sources and variants of the myths that have been woven together for this book, to elaborate on real world warfare that paralleled the unfolding myths, and to detail aspects of Egyptian warmaking. 
"Enduring Legacy" talks about how these myths have influenced the modern day, crossing over into other religions or are echoed in other modern stories. 
All in all a rich source of material for a GM and her playing group.
Usage in Mystara

Given the existence of the Nithian culture in Mystara, it's hard not to want to use this resource as a way to twist and fill in the histories there with material from this book. I like the references here to Osiris as the First Mummy and to Geb as the source of the reanimating spell as a basis for that culture's resurrection spell. I love the references to the challenges between the gods Horus and Set (who may also be Seth or Sutek), and the way that the rulers of the land and the gods interact and ally.

I also like how they talked about Osiris's powers as lord of the Underworld and the ability to unleash chaos-spawned beings as a possible source of magics.

Also, given my past posts on the merging of gods (with Pflarr perhaps an echo of Hermanubis), there's no reason why this can't be an ongoing struggle between their allies and offspring.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

RPG News: A Pathfinder Sale!

Have you heard about the Pathfinder Sale? It's this week it's on Pathfinder compatible RPG PDFs. Over a thousand PDFs are be marked down 40%!

Been holding off on the purchase of that setting or supplement? Now's the time!

Books of interest include the following:

The Midgard Campaign Setting by Wolfgang Baur and the folks at Open Design has gotten high marks for its production values and its writing.

Maybe it's time to spend on this richly detailed campaign setting?

Lorefinder is a mashup of the GUMSHOE rules with Pathfinder. So for those who've got a hankering for investigation mixed in with their hack & slash, this may be the ruleset for you!

NeoExodus: A House Divided is a high-powered Pathfinder setting with some science fiction genre tropes mixed into its thoroughly fantasy setting. Give it a try at a discounted price this week!

Heroes of the Jade Oath is one of the best Far East-inspired settings for the Pathfinder ruleset. Looking to change up your fantasy adventuring for your gaming group? Look no further!

The Freeport Companion is a lovely resource for the Freeport setting cast in Pathfinder rules. It's one of the two swashbuckling settings I'd recommend for this ruleset -- high seas adventure, abounding treachery, and a touch of cosmic horror!

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Table for a Tropical Clime: Armor in San Lazario

From The Tao of D&D comes a table that will restrict the use of the warmer armors in different temperature ranges. There may be slight adjustments for people native to this area, but even we eschew very heavy armor to avoid heat-related ailments.

Time to strip down to the essentials, unless it's time to fight! Right, Amaya?

Seriously, though, some of it is also a matter of available materials. Perhaps the iron ore is difficult to get at, or at least in quantities that would make chain mail or plate mail likely to be produced (and maintained) on a larger scale. Or perhaps the powers that be don't look kindly on anyone manufacturing large amounts of armor?

Speaking of maintenance, being near the sea (and all that salt water) might make fighting against rust a real pain. How quickly does uncared for metal armor rust? Like those pieces of armor found in dungeons that may or may not have had blood spilled on them?

Another concern is the craftsmanship -- perhaps the skill is there for creating swords and other weapons, but I'm sure that it must be a pain to 'start over' when you've made a mistake with your armor crafting for chain mail or plate mail...

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Isle Imperium 1.45 -- A Little Learning

It was either this pic, or the D&D Basic Wizard's Eye. I really
wonder how the eyes of the Watchful Warder
eyes are supposed to look like -- I preferred the stylized
look of Agamotto myself.
After ALECTO’S training with Master AUDEN, the storm hits, immediately following which ARCTURUS has a confrontation with JERENAIS over the latter’s attempt to take a shard from a downed mount in the Undercity. Harsh words are exchanged—Jere accusing Arc of wanting to ‘keep him down’—but Arc is able to dissuade his cousin from any immediate bad decision.

KHIMERE confesses to CATALINA that, in an effort to protect her First Woman, she has been blocking TERENTIUS’S mental and physical attempts to contact Cat, including a letter in which Terry explained the healing eye which he put on her. Having assured Kim that she bears her no ill will, Cat hurries to the hospice, where she learns from Terry’s brother CARDIUS (who claims to have been removed from Diamond after an “altercation” with Auden) that the Watchful Warder shard shattered and became embedded in Terry’s body, leaving the latter in grievous condition, which the healers are at a loss to remedy.

Cat calls for Aly, who calls for MANTIUS, who determines that Terry will die in a matter of seven hours. Aly uses scholarly ability to reveal that they need a harrower in order to even have a chance at reintegrating the shard (25% of which is missing) while sustaining the mount, upon which the entire number is then gathered to scramble for a solution. After finding the Feylight Harrower CRISPIANUS and then losing him to LORD INQUISITIVE’S testing, the assembled team consists of the First, Lady ADRIA as Paladin of Last Chances, and Cardius, who sacrifices an eye in order to don the harrower Cyclopean Nuncio.

With only slightly better than a five percent chance of success, they nevertheless make the attempt, which results in a tremendous backlash that slams Cardius across the room and shatters the Cyclopean Nuncio. Terry dies; Mantius is struggling with the choice of restraining or releasing his spirit when the former Daughter of Passion shard reveals itself to now be accessible to Cat as the Essential Lady of Passion, since she has met the prerequisite by having her heart broken. Cat dons the shard and—through its abilities and the assistance of the shard Fellmind and its confused new mount—is able to revive Terry.

Mantius collects the remains of the shattered Watchful Warder shard while Aly, through the Saint of Consonance, restores the Cyclopean Nuncio. They are then summoned by ISAACUS, along with the rest of the Veiled Cardinals, who are instructed to follow Adria’s direction over the next few days to ensure that no untoward information escapes Peerdin through civilians or the lower numbers, since the dome will soon be coming down. Once Mantius and Aly are returned whence they came, she quickly goes to VARIAN, to guilt him about not telling Auden that Ana is alive, and to remind him that HADRIAN is somewhere around. Ian manages to lure Hadrian to him by playing one of the songs of their childhood, in the process striking a deal with the large blue-infested cat stalking the Undercity. Hadrian appears not to remember Ian, but it is a cordial meeting nevertheless.

Over the next few days, Arc asks LUCIA to officially be his lady and tells Ser ORLANDO of her acceptance, while the now-supernally healthy Terry has really, really lots of sex with Cat, in between which she tells him that he’s been removed as a ruling warder—to his jubilation—and he plots to be reassigned to the Third. Terry and the First are soon summoned to a meeting with the First Tier, in which Terry successfully advances his agenda, and the group discusses options in light of Amber’s fall, such as:
  1. Support Copper by replacing Amber as a frontline legion, facing both Amber’s opposing court and the Blight Speakers;
  2. Assist Emerald in forming a sub-legion to accomplish same, providing Kenjiro as leader and a huge number of shards;
  3. Leave matters as they stand.
Cat suggests a fourth option—forming a new legion by finding or creating a new writ—much to Isaac’s annoyance. This results in the latter’s agreeing to examine the possibility, ordering Cat to assemble the Pearl Court Scholar SHENG YU, the Indentured Scholar RAYNEL, and her unwilling self as the research team at the new Undercity library. She does so, surprising Raynel (who thought his possession of the Indentured Scholar was a secret), notwithstanding the fact that Isaac then summarily dismisses Raynel due to his “incomplete purchase” from said shard, replacing him with Aly.

Meanwhile, LEONTES the Younger alerts Ian to the presence of strangers outside Peerdin. Ian, Arc, Kim, and Mantius investigate, whereupon they meet the expressed legendary shard ALCHESIS, his eight-year-old ‘mount’ MAYA, and their friend, the expressed legendary shard TALIESIN. Before long, Taliesin compels the legendary MIRAJIN to apologize to Kim; Auden realizes that Taliesin is the Renegade Lyric; and all three legendaries agree to pledge fealty to the legion (after Taliesin’s  embarrassment at discovering that the Bejeweled Warder is “THAT Bejeweled”, given the tension between him and Canar). Little Maya (who recognizes and is recognized by Arc as Elect) is housed with Cat’s mother, and Kim introduces her to ALIA.

As ordered by Isaac, Cat attends the First Tier meeting the next morning to report the scholarly findings: that acquiring a new writ has a 30% chance of success, will be very perilous, and will take one number at least three months to accomplish. Isaac recommends that the First be assigned to undertake this endeavor, and the motion is carried over Orlando’s and Kenjiro’s objections, with Cat avoiding a tie by persuading Master Auden to change his initial opinion.

With two days before their departure, among other things: BREGAN is recruited to round the First out to a total of seven; all of the First are signed on as warders; Arc says goodbye to and receives a token from Lucia; Aly gets a tattoo, introduces Kenjiro to her parents, and spends most of the duration “working for the finance office”; Cat introduces Terry to LEPIDA and Alia; Ian tells Auden that he knows about their past; Mantius gives ROGELIO some salient advice; and everyone bids goodbye to Toby.

Sundry Information:
1.    The Phantom Aviator is expressed as a female named LARIAN.
2.    The Lady of Passion is named JELIN.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Solo Play: Memories of Game Books -- Part II

Now, some folks might look askance at this type of gaming. I mean, is it really an RPG if you play by yourself? Can't you just cheat? And where's the flexibility of the player to do whatever he wants, instead of just choosing between option A (turn to page xx) and option B (turn to page yy)?

Well, heck. It ain't perfect, it's probably superceded by the flexibility of modern RPGs, but there's still that wonderful exercise of the imagination here. The words trigger the imagery in your mind, and some handy illustrations help bridge the gap from time to time when your vocabulary fails you.

Just like some memorable face-to-face sessions, I still have memories of the first time I encountered the following stalwart foes in the dungeon of the Warlock of Firetop Mountain.

Let sleeping humanoids lie

The handsome fellow to the right was clearly a sentry. Going alone into a dungeon (with a crappily statted character no less) for the first time, you can bet I opted to sneak past the sucker.

Knowing I was going to go into the mountain fortress of a powerful warlock, what self-respecting hero would want to have everyone on alert that early on in the adventure?

The artwork is absolutely lovely -- the linework and detail, shading techniques and all really sold it to me... and became the palette that my mind followed throughout the rest of the adventure.

Sweet mother of pearl! What is that thing?

This frickin' thing scared the bejeezus outta me when I first saw it. And will not deny a visceral desire to kill it! Kill it dead! With quick but thorough ultraviolence -- dice don't fail me now!

"DM, I kill it with my murder knife! I stab it with my stabby thing! Wait, I'm alone here in my room..."

In retrospect, I'm actually amazed that this kind of reaction took place. But I think the art, plus the writing and the synergy between those two inputs and my imagination really made this thing an opponent to be feared!

Interestingly enough, something about the description and the picture warned me that I didn't want to be hit by this disease-ridden creature -- and I was right! I don't know if I was afraid of paralysis because it might be ghoul-ish in nature, or if I feared George Romero-style zombification, but I was so happy when I dropped this thing without so much as a scratch on me.

So, we meet again -- for the first time!

Yeah, it took me so many tries to find this guy. And I died when I first ran into him -- didn't have a chance to use the *ahem* 'secret way' to defeat the damn Warlock of Firetop Mountain. He's a tough character -- but oh, so cool looking too.

Time to warm up the pencils and the dice, it's time to venture into Firetop Mountain once more!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Solo Play: Memories of Game Books -- Part I

When someone mentions solo play -- not RPG play where there's a GM and one player, but an RPG played by one player and some module or book only -- I immediately think of three things: the Warlock of Firetop Mountain, Lone Wolf, and some old D&D modules by TSR.

But I must admit that the first one that comes to mind is the Warlock of Firetop Mountain by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone -- the version before it become #1 in the Fantasy Fighting Gamebook series.

Just remove the "25th
Anniversary Edition" tag
and this is pretty much the
cover of the book that my
late grandmother bought
for me many, many years ago
I think the reason that this really worked for me and hooked me is the cover. It was very different from nearly all the covers beside it, and when I looked closer, it said somewhere on the cover or in the book or on the back cover: "Part story, part game, this is a book in which YOU become the hero!"

Because I'd been unable, at that point in my young life, to actually play D&D with anyone other than my sister (and I didn't quite get the rules either), this was a fascinating opportunity for me.

I remember that the combination of the simple rules, the occasional illustrations, and the encouragement to map the place really helped reinforce that feel of playing in a dungeon game by myself. Puzzles, traps, and strange monsters and room were all part of the wonder.

The fact that I died quite a lot before finishing also helped with the re-play value.

I clearly remember getting my classmates hooked on this same series of books back in high school, and we all compared maps and strategies until people started solving them on their own -- and they all returned to Apple computer games.

When more gamebooks in this series started to appear, I was overjoyed and picked them up right away. Though a bit disappointed that I didn't get to bring my gear and character over from the prior books, I was happy to remain in that space for a time.

Until Lone Wolf and the Magnamund-set series came about, but that's another story.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Isle Imperium 1.44 -- Rise of Diamond; Fall of Amber

The destruction of a Legion has devastating effects on the surrounding
landscape, and nearby cities must endure terrible destruction.
Proudly displaying his first day’s worth of work on the Undercity to his number, VARIAN realizes that he is able to build two types of extraordinary structures on this inaugural day, and one per day thereafter (up to seven slots’ worth of each type), filling a total of 49 structural slots (some types taking up more or less than a single slot) for the entire city.

He decides to begin with ten Hazard Towers—well-received, apparently, by the legendaries that immediately take residence in the six towers customized by Ian and ALECTO—and one Bastion of Warders, equally appreciated by the five ruling warders present to occupy and receive the evident enhancements stemming from it. Aside from direct benefits to the first tier, the fruits of Ian’s labors also bestow on all mounts ten inner reserves and the ability to reshard every six hours while in the Undercity.

After the tour and congratulations that follow, mounts are finally able to reshard, with ARCTURUS repurchasing the abilities of and mastering Brother Sun at almost no expense, leading to the latter’s commencing to essentialize. Arc meets the four entities that comprise Brother Sun, in the process determining the shard’s inclination—dawn or dusk—in its next phase as Paladin of Dawn. The four entities thereafter ask him if he is willing to accept the challenge they levy for the right to bear the Paladin: to defeat its proximate nemesis, the Ascendant Champion, without using any of their associated abilities. Arc later meets with SER ORLANDO to pray, and brings up this issue (the Champion being one of Orlando’s shards), which remains unresolved.

As the exhausted CATALINA and Ian retire for the night, Aly goes to visit her parents (bringing MANTIUS and joining MEGAERA for dinner) and then KENJIRO, with whom she has a lengthy conversation concerning Terentius’s worth as a suitable partner for Cat. Among various other points of discussion, Kenjiro—disgruntled on Cat’s behalf—reveals that Terry has put some kind of “eye” on her (which Kenjiro has told him to remove and has been blocking) while Kenjiro has taken the liberty (with what he has interpreted as Cat’s permission) to write his brother Katsumoto a letter encouraging the latter to present himself as a suitor for Catalina. Before proceeding to other activities, Aly also learns that Aji of the Emerald is Kenjiro’s younger sister. She later shares this information with the Fifth before returning to the First’s dormitory to share the other information with the appalled Cat and KHIMERE, the latter of whom uncovers and identifies the eye on Catalina as a healing eye.

Mantius is summoned by ISAACUS along with LADY ADRIA. To these two, Isaac reveals the secret of his Circle of Insight, to be passed on to his successor in the event of “the permanent cessation” of his physicality and intellect, assuming his two appointees find said successor worthy. The Circle is composed of six seers and one actuary, as follows:

Torrent Hazard Farsight Talon
Cyclopean Visionary Pearl Court Dreamwalker
Oracle of the Empty Bowl Feylight Seer
GALIA, Bejeweled Actuary

It is not until later that Mantius realizes that the entire Circle except for Galia is dead; he is the only one that can see them. In an acerbic exchange, Galia informs Isaac that there is a 98% chance that a legion other than Diamond will fall within the next three days, its writ destroyed. After pondering the news in his own somewhat alarming fashion, Isaac swears Mantius to secrecy before dismissing him, thereafter instructing Adria to attain access to Master AUDEN’S secret records. Presumably spurred by  all this secrecy, Mantius’s Second Secret (from Nesimal) then attempts to leave its hiding place in his heart, throwing his body around and trying to wrest control of his tongue. It is stopped by MR. POTIOR, who speaks to Mantius about “our enemies who are not chaos… I cannot escape forever; it is not in my nature… Court the legendaries—they will do until I achieve my status.”

The next morning, Aly is very much surprised to find the Saint of Warrens shard still in its place in the girls’ breadbasket. Learning that the Saint of Consonance was birthed by Warrens--yet they evidently remain the same entity—she goes to share the news with Ian, who discovers that not only has the Saint of Shadows become essential, but there are also two new shards in their possession. Further investigation reveals that these are the Stalwart Warder and Paladin of the Lost Hour, which Aly’s saint was able to recover and restore because “there were those nearby who held a piece of them in their hearts”.

There is not much time for jubilation, as it is quickly discovered that a third shard was likewise recovered, Kim’s legendary MIRAJIN, previously destroyed in combat. The shard wastes no time in physically striking Khimere, despite the latter’s pleading with it to stop and Aly’s attempts to block and summon Master Auden. Mirajin moves Aly out of the way and freezes Auden, materializing as a physical manifestation when it contemptuously removes the Imperious Magister from Kim’s person and shards itself upon her instead. Following Kim’s scream of distress, Varian is able to persuade the shard to release Khimere, with the lure of Diones’s new towers and the possibility of finding a better mount. Notwithstanding Mirajin’s demand to know who the First Woman of the Diamond is—as well as its chilly inspection of Arc as a possible bearer—the shard appears to be convinced and agrees to accompany Ian to examine the Undercity. Cat and Arc remain to comfort Kim and explain to Auden.

At the Undercity, the shard flies up to each of the six occupied towers, appearing to threaten and then be rebuffed by the shards therein, particularly the Lord Inquisitive, which seems to send Mirajin on his way without too much difficulty. As the shard finally settles in its own (previously unoccupied) tower, Aly, Ian, and Mantius turn to greet the assembled mounts of the Second and Third Numbers, there to attend the opening of courtship with the legendaries as scheduled.

This event is delayed, however, when all numbers are summoned to the courtyard, where OLIVERUS announces that all personnel are to evacuate to the Undercity, given the information uncovered by Isaac earlier. The numbers move to obey, and Auden begins to literally and figuratively pull members of the Diamond from outside Peerdin into the dome once more erected by Lord Salinicus. Just as the last of the present population are safely moved below ground, a storm of terrible magnitude strikes outside, such that wind, rain, and various debris including chunks of mountainside are hurled against the protective dome.

Within, some of the madness is brought along with the refugees, so that Mantius, at Aly’s hollered instructions, is soon busy leading a team of healers; Kim, heading damage control; Arc, directing efforts to catch many people who come in at dangerous velocities, and Aly and Varian, transporting large groups from aboveground via civilar traverse to the Undercity, where LORD HANOR and Lady Adria are leading the endeavor to explain and organize. Cat saves Auden when the latter pulls in and is nearly run over by an entire ship, and is thereafter kept busy along with ROGELIO as various ships come thundering through. Even a few houses begin to arrive, managed by the Pinpoint Architect Artenas Artilian.

The effort is obviously hugely draining for Auden, who is helped by Mantius’s team. Ser Orlando attempts to take the recruitment warder’s place, but is unable to; he then turns his efforts to stopping Ollie, who is frantic at the continued absence of Terry, ALOYSIUS, the Seventh, and the Ninth. He wants to go out and find them, but is prevented first by Orlando, then by Isaac. Finally, after over 400 people, including future recruits such as COLIAN, are brought in, Auden collapses, exhausted. As everyone is heading underground for final lockdown, Cat, supported by her number and several of the First Tier, is able to use the Unconquered Warder’s warder summons ability to bring in a badly-injured Terentius.

In the four days that follow, it is confirmed that only five numbers of Diamond’s total 66 were lost and that Aloysius was rescued by Kenjiro. Terry, being too injured to perform as Master of Strategy, is regretfully removed from office and temporarily replaced by Lord Hanor. The storm soon abates, and the numbers are permitted to go topside again to perform cleanup and repairs, in the course of which the First spies the occasionally moving hand of someone evidently still alive outside the dome. Cat tries to sustain the person by activating passionate life repeatedly on her side of the dome; and her efforts are rewarded when the dome finally comes down and the man, one LINDARIUS of the Diamond’s 53rd number, is found to still be alive.

With the dome down, the Diamond soon becomes host to around 200 shards fleeing from the destruction of what is surmised to be the Amber Legion. Of these, only 35 survive intact, not counting the pride shard that is later learned to have reached Emerald with its mount, Pandora. At the inter-legionary meeting at which this is revealed, it is determined that no other shards of Amber are known to have escaped; and Diamond, having recently stymied their opposing court by means of the Tabernacle Run, is left with the difficult decision of how to support Copper, now faced with the combined forces of its and Amber’s opposing courts.

Special Structures Erected by Varian during the Five-Day Period:
day 1: 10 hazard towers (5 slots)
1 bastion of warders (1 slot)
day 2: 1 chamber of warders
day 3: 1 redoubt
day 4: 1 shard aegis
day 5: 4 specialist towers
day 6: 1 library

Bright Light
Warder Ability
hazard towers
21 (3/occupied)
21 (3/occupied)
14 (2/occupied)
7 (1/occupied)
7% (1/occ.)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Isle Imperium: Episode 1.43 -- Building

[ All in CAPS are PCs and NPCs first mention in the summary; all in italics are shards. ]

Ossis Potior (Bone Collector)portrayed in my mind
by Christopher Eccleston
En route to visiting Senator PATRICUS in the Undercity, the First have a discussion about the newly-acquired legendary shards, in which KHIMERE posits that it would be taken amiss unless most, if not all, of the First were to “pay court” for consideration as mounts; and it is resolved that the First will open the opportunity for courtship to the Second and Third as well.

The junior GRALIDUS arrives to fetch ALECTO and MANTIUS on behalf of Master ISAACUS. They depart with him and the remainder of the First goes on to Patricus’s domicile (which strikes them, VARIAN in particular, as considerably less than the statesman deserves), where they meet THESSALY and proffer their greetings and well-wishes.

CATALINA and Kim go on to visit the former’s mother and daughter, in the course of which both LEPIDA and Kim are distressed by Cat indicating Terentius as her significant other, whom she intends to introduce to ALIA. ARCTURUS goes to visit his cousin JERENAIS, in the course of which he is much dismayed to witness the current living conditions in the Undercity, including unclean well water and an enormous cat menacing the populace. Jerenais asks Arc to “put in a good word for him” in the matter of mount recruitment—a request that does not go over well with Jerenais’s wife MICA, landing Arc in the middle of a domestic dispute. He eventually manages to extricate himself and join Cat and Kim, departing the Undercity before curfew and arriving at the dormitory just in time for Cat to receive a summons to appear at her own disciplinary hearing the next day.

Varian attempts to improve on the building plans for the Undercity, but is rebuffed by the new Pinpoint Architect, ARTENAS ARTILIAN (his son Erasmus having been injured in a construction accident). With the assistance of juniors ENNAIS and LOGINUS, Ian is able to gain audience with masters AUDEN, KENJIRO, and SER ORLANDO, as well as mounts TALTUN and Ennais. In the course of this, documents are signed, enabling Ian to alter building plans as necessary, and the finance team calculates and approves a budget of 21 million bright light, the first million of which Kenjiro promises by noon the next day.

Meanwhile, having individually undergone Isaac’s inquiry into their loyalties, Mantius and Aly are drafted—as Bone Collector and Saint of Consonance, respectively—into the highly classified Veiled Number, among whose surprising roster Aly meets Ian’s brother HADRIAN and Terry’s brother CARDIUS. Led by Isaac, BENJAMINUS, Aly, Thess, Mantius, DANIELUS, and LADY ADRIA promptly embark on their first mission—recovering LEONTES, the Voice of Warders, and the Fellmind from the latter’s mount, TORRENCE of the Black Number, who is then summarily killed by Ben.

That night, Aly, Cat, and Ian have conversations with the shards Saint of Consonance, Fire Mage, and Bejeweled Warder respectively, in which Aly gets the okay to pay court to the Saint of Shards; Cat warns JEREN about the upcoming hearing and gets permission to pay court to a legendary; and Ian is surprised to find himself at a dinner at which he meets the legendaries, and DIONES makes it cordially clear that his mount is already in a committed relationship. Arc prays with Ser Orlando and receives his advice on legendaries as well as ladies.

The next morning, Cat is summoned by Kenjiro, who proceeds to tear up the summons to her hearing and instead take her, Taltun, and Ennais on a frantic whirlwind of bright light facility acquisition, which lasts until late afternoon and nets around 20 such establishments (and during which Kenjiro kills a courtier and they decline to enter a facility with a legendary inside).

At breakfast, Aly is picked up by Auden for her promised advanced training, which leads to her helping with the recruitment of prospective future mounts AJANUS (age 6), COLIAN (5), DERIADA (12), and more. She also winds up participating in some training and evaluation of the fast-rising 11th number, comprising:

  • Hadrian, Cyclopean Titan HERACLIUS, Hammer of Night
  • JUSTINIAN, Blue Light Infiltrator ARANIA, Lucent Warder
  • BASILICUS, Auric Decalogue EUDOSIA, Daughter of Storms
  • DUCAS, Brother Stone

which Auden expects to replace the current Tenth within six months’ time. Upon her return to Peerdin, Aly indirectly warns the Tenth, in particular MAISI, about this possibility.

Varian pushes forward with his improved plans for the Undercity, with the very reluctant cooperation of the Pinpoint Warder. He manages to win over the rest of the building committee:

  • KILLIAN, Master Builder KAIZA, Keystone Engineer
  • LORIC, Cloud Anchorite TOMASSI, Thunder Mason

as well as the complement of approximately 100 builders. The foundations are laid and the Bejeweled Warder’s vision begins to become reality in stunningly short order.

Mantius officially invites the Second to pay court to the legendaries after resharding the following day, and is unofficially invited to Lord Hanor and Lady Adria’s upcoming wedding. He spends the rest of the day waiting for Cat outside the shadow corridors (not knowing that she has been stricken from the list of disciplinary hearings), where he greets a distressed Lord Hanor, a furious ELINORA, a cheerful AMALTHEA, a sanguine TOBIAS, and QUINCEY of the Eighth, all apparently reporting for their own hearings. Mantius and Toby wait together until the frazzled Cat finally comes back from her many missions.

Arc delivers the same invitation to the Third, which is received with disdain by Elinora, to LUCIA’S annoyance. Lucia later apologizes further to Arc, only to again be interrupted by Elinora’s rudeness and her conviction that it was Cat who reported her to the ruling warders. After warning Arc that the First should expect challenges from many of the numbers after the three-month moratorium on challenges ends, Lucia leaves, to be replaced by STEPHANUS, IONIS, and Meg, who have a lot to say about Elinora, including that it was Meg who reported her and fully intends to do so again, at the first opportunity.

Waiting in line for salarium disbursement, Cat decides to confront Elinora, whom she feels is the one who reported her. They have an exchange of sharp words, but it ends civilly enough until the intervention of Kim, who slaps Elinora and is stunned to be slapped back. Elinora runs off (missing her salarium), and Kim is kissed for her action by Meg, Stephan, Ionis, and Toby.

Ian shows his friends what he has accomplished so far, and all witness are much impressed by the Undercity’s development.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

NPCs of The Court Adamantine - Michael Canar

Talking about your favorite NPCs is sometimes akin to talking about your favorite character; it's hit or miss in terms of interest. However, since Favorite NPCs is the topic of the month for the RPG Blog Carnival, I thought I'd write in a way that's useful to GMs, such as:

  • the roles that they played in the campaign
  • the ways they were characterized
  • why I liked them.

NPC of The Court Adamantine: The Rogue

Michael Canar is the human form of one of Isle Imperium's most notorious shards: The Renegade Warder. One of my character's two favored shards, Canar had a reputation as a constantly scheming shard -- cunning, charming, ruthless, and loyal to his friends.

To people he respects, he is very candid about having secret plans and personal agendas, but he wouldn't be Canar if he didn't often exaggerate, obfuscate, or lie outright about certain details. His long-term plans and willingness to fool himself into believing certain things in order to achieve his goals -- along with his many abilities, sequestered and stolen abilities, and secrets -- made him a beloved and feared figure in the Isle Legions. One part Odysseus, one part Batman; small wonder that he made it into the The Court Adamantine.

His roles were:

  • as a shard -- a source of mysterious abilities and information, a foil and sometimes an antagonist due to his agendas, a friend and confidante for PCs and NPCs involved in the game of shadows and espionage with its ever-shifting alliances;
  • as a person -- a reborn hero slowly remembering what being human is like, with contiguous memory and the ability to see plans through more easily without the occasional lapses in knowledge and consciousness that comes with being a shard; a loner or isolationist slowly learning what it means to be a sly, cunning, suspicious individual working within a large organization like a court. With his tendency to be restlessly inquisitive and working toward goals, he can be a bit like a monkey wrench thrown into plots of both PCs and other NPCs.
Characterization techniques:
  • as a shard -- since early on very little speaking to shards was done (we were often told that they weren't people, just tools), characterization was done through abilities of the shard -- listed and unlisted. Signature abilities with names like Implicate (which passed on damage and afflictions to others) and Discernment (which allowed an intuitive understanding of mysterious effects at play) gave a distinct flavor to the more combat oriented shards available. Also, the fact that the shard itself had a bank account in the Diamond Legion (separate from the shard bearer) clued us in to his affinity to costs and avoidance thereof.
  • as a person -- when he's at easy or his guard is down, he's arrogant, intelligent, and occasionally abrasive, much like a toned down master villain. But you know he's offended and possibly dangerously angry when he becomes very, very polite and charming. Long time friends will hear the knife being sharpened even as his face breaks into a warm smile.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

RPG Blog Carnival: A Quick Look at Kitchen Sink Settings

Well, look at that. End of the month already, and I've missed out on many posting opportunities.

So, for a last stab at Campaigns I'd like to run, I'll just quickly mention my series of posts on Kitchen Sink Settings, which is a term I use for RPGs and RPG settings that have been crafted in such a way as to allow the easy integration of many elements from books, TV shows, comics and movies in the same genre, and sometimes even across multiple genres.

The reason I want to run them? It's so easy to come up with adventure ideas!

Here are the three kitchen sink settings I've already done:


Lightspeed was a Fuzion-powered RPG whose major setting elements seemed to be taken from a universe that held Star Trek, Star Wars, Aliens, Blade Runner, Cosmo Police Justy, Space Precinct and other science fiction properties in its core (with the numbers filed off, of course).

Rebel pilots, space police, exploration vessels, ultra-powered psychics, ship-to-ship battles and space marines all in the same universe! Plus a system that I could easily tweak or convert to D20 or Hero, depending on my mood. What's not to like?

Lightspeed Post List:

Kitchen Sink Expeditions: Lightspeed -- Part I (Background & Broad Strokes)
Kitchen Sink Expeditions: Lightspeed -- Part II (Federation, Empire, & Old Earth)
Kitchen Sink Expeditions: Lightspeed -- Part III (Espers, Races, & Ships)
Kitchen Sink Expeditions: Lightspeed -- Part IV (Default Campaigns & Strange Brews)

Code: Black

This is a horror genre RPG that calls to mind X-files, Call of Cthulhu, Silent Hill, Kolchak the Nightstalker, Supernatural, and perhaps even Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. The genius of the setting -- the interlocking extradimensional prisons that make up our Earth reality -- allows for multiple horror sub-genres to be tackled within the same consistent setting. Think Delta Green meets Esoterrorists meets Chill meets Kult meets The Laundry meets Wonderland, and you have a good starting point. The game system is EABA, but there's no reason you can't use the core source material and then finally crib from all the other Horror RPGs you've been meaning to play!

Code Black Post List:

Setting Expeditions: Code Black -- Part I (Overview & Inspirations)
Setting Expeditions: Code Black -- Part II (Good, Evil, The Brotherhood, & the Flawed Prison)
Setting Expeditions: Code Black -- Part IIIa (Inspirations, Adventure Spine, & Name that Movie)
Setting Expeditions: Code Black -- Part IIIb (Monster Hunters, Mythos, & True Reality)

The Hero System Universe

Did you know that the Hero System has / had its own universe setting? And we're not just talking superheroics and pulp heroes here.

There was a time & place for pirates and consulting detectives, for sword-swinging barbarians and blaster-shooting space mercenaries, and everything around and between -- starting from the dawn of time, all the way to the distant future and beyond! And there was an overarching meta-history (very much reminiscent of the DC / Marvel Universe histories mixed in with some good Wold Newton, and a mish-mash of Future SF timelines) that you may want to pick and choose from -- or just have ready when your players want to jaunt across time & space!

It was the grand vision of Steve Long, who actually came out with a multi-page document outlining this grand span of history, which I used, updated, and added to with my own ideas for campaigns and little slices of fictional gaming opportunities.

Hero System Universe Post List:

Setting Expeditions: The Hero Universe, Part I -- Pre-Cataclysm
Setting Expeditions: The Hero Universe, Part II -- Post-Cataclysm to the Medieval Era
Setting Expeditions: The Hero Universe, Part III -- Musketeers, Pirates, and Revolutions
Setting Expeditions: The Hero Universe, Part IV -- Cowboys and Victorians
Setting Expeditions: The Hero Universe, Part V -- Mystery Men and Super-heroes
Setting Expeditions: The Hero Universe, Part VI -- The Future

I'm a little bit sad to see this RPG Blog Carnival go -- but then again, it turns out that I've been posting about campaigns I'd like to run for a long while!