Friday, August 30, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Intriguing

I saw this on Tim Brannan's blog, and I decided to take it on. Primarily because the questions themselves triggered many memories of joy playing this oldest of games in my repertoire.

What say you, blogosphere? Does it trigger the same things with you? If so, you may wish to share with the rest of us.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My 3E Campaign: Failed Faerun

My Forgotten Realms campaign, using the 3rd Edition rules, kind of evaporated many years ago due to various changes in the lives of all the players. But once in a while, I like to go back to it and see if I can resurrect it in terms of a campaign premise.

Caravan to the World

My inspiration was threefold: the new Forgotten Realms sourcebook for D&D 3E, the short stories set in Sembia as started off in The Halls of Stormweather anthology and Dragon Magazine at the time, and the Lord of the Rings (but perhaps not for the reasons you might think).

I was certainly interested in running a proper long-term campaign, and one in a setting that had a lot of pre-built baddies and well-fleshed out material (that I felt comfortable with tweaking here and there). With Faerun as the prime setting, it was a natural choice -- even if I'd shunned it back in my D&D / AD&D days.

The Sembia short stories granted an insight into what a different type of D&D adventuring might be: a city-based sort of adventuring, a politically motivated series of adventures, and the importance of trade, commerce, and power in cities that were embracing civilization in the face of existence-ending threats like liches and dragons and a thousand other entities. Also, the reference to the King in Yellow in one of the short stories made me want to introduce those Elder Gods of Lovecraftian origin into the mix.

Lord of the Rings inspired me because, among many things, it was a novel that showed off its milieu. There was a storyline that forced the viewpoint characters to leave their homes and explore quite a bit of the world that Tolkien had crafted.

Of course, I didn't want to go the route of the quest -- too stereotypical. Also I wanted PCs to be able to appear and disappear, to bring in new characters if they wished, or to retire other ones while still keeping the spine of the story line intact. What other campaign premise / frame could I use? With Sembia and the Dales as an inspiration, I decided upon a trade caravan.

Yes, a trade caravan would bring the PCs from the breadbasket of the Dales to Sembia, and through other points in between. They might encounter Zhentish opposition (or aid), if they discovered a threat to caravans in Drow-infested woodlands; they might chill at hints of foul cults praying to forgotten Elder Gods in cities; they might discover strange trends the cities that regular denizens might not, as few stray from their lands of birth...

At the same time, I wanted to recreate something I hadn't found a word for yet: sandbox play. The option for players to leave the caravan when it dissolved at its ending point, and to join another bound for another city. Or perhaps to become involved in another type of campaign premise: expeditions to hidden cities and treasure.

Alas, it was not to be. But perhaps I can resurrect some of the ideas in Mystara one of these days. There's certainly at least one caravan in Karameikos...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Armchair Review: Rocket Age

Rocket Age a love-letter to the era of pulp planetary romances. Radium-powered rocket ships are zooming humanity (and other alien races in the solar system) all around, with 1930s versions of the U.S.A., Britain, and France coming into conflict with the proto-Axis versions of Germany, Italy, and Japan. Aliens from Mars and Venus, and a rich tapestry of rocket age technology, expansionist policies, and interplanetary politics provide a fantastic backdrop for your planet-hopping adventures.

The Vortex system, which captured the neo-pulp feel of the newer adventures of Doctor Who (also by Cubicle 7), really reinforces the swiftness of action and the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants tone of the genre.

An example of the interior art -- a stylized map of the Rocket Age solar system.
I really enjoyed the meatiness of this book: the black & white art, which somehow gave modern era weight and gravitas to the classic alien and rocketship imagery from this well-known genre; the tour of the solar system, which gives the broad strokes of each planet as a mini-setting, along with locations and characters of note, and loads of plot hooks; the clearly laid out tables, the illustrations of planets and aliens to help GMs and players visualize the setting -- the love of the genre and the project is quite evident in the density of material in the Rocket Age RPG.

All in all, a fine RPG to add to the library of this pulp subgenre.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Armchair Review: DWAITAS -- The Second Doctor Sourcebook

Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space -- The Second Doctor Sourcebook is a must-have for Doctor Who
completists. But it is also a wonderful resource for any DWAITAS campaign, because of the detailed stats for different Cybermen incarnations, Daleks from this era, and the Ice Warriors of Mars -- this is, after all, when The Doctor began leading the charge as a hero, instead of being a more manipulative mastermind (as in his prior incarnation).

Book Breakdown

Once again, a lot of black & white pictures from the series to help give a visual grasp of this era of The Doctor. The Doctor and his Companions are statted out, along with his villains in the era:

  • Cybermen (Marks 2 through 4, Cybermat, Cyber-Controller, Partial Cyberman, etc.)
  • Daleks (Black, Humanised, Emperor, etc.)
  • The Great Intelligence (Robotic Servents, Yetis Mark I and II)
  • Ice Warriors
Lots of tips and tricks to capture the feel and themes of this era as well.

And of course, synopses and adventure hooks for the episodes of The Second Doctor. It's a great look into the resonant themes of this era in British Science Fiction -- and a great source of RPG ideas for our modern times.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Isle Imperium 1.46: The Merchant of Marvels and the Eldest of Dragons

Master AUDEN delays his own and the First’s departure somewhat by presenting the Stalwart Warder to VARIAN, who opts to take said shard along in place of the Cerulean Mediator. From there, the First proceeds to the waypoint just outside Peerdin, only to realize that it is no longer viable. KHIMERE is able to solve this difficulty, however, with the result that MANTIUS is able to transport the team to the last known location of Alina’s ship.

Unfortunately, the ship itself is no longer present, so the mounts splash into the ocean, eventually managing to extricate themselves in various fashions. ARCTURUS then manifests a frostweave gate to one of Diamond’s bright light facilities, where all soon suffer terrible backlash from ALECTO and CATALINA’s disastrous attempt to synergize intuition and ideation in order to learn more about their task of finding or forming a new writ. Notwithstanding this—and the cost of 100,000 bright light to access Aly’s Saint of Scholars ability—they are able to glean the following options for the first step of the mission:
  1. Go to the tower of Ephesus in the desert of salt; find the widow of the Pheran heresy, who will tell how to find Izurei, the writ-maker.
  2. Go to the labyrinth of Ionika in the steppes of Garanth; find the horned god IONIKA, who will give the key to Pasver’s vault.
  3. Go to Kortheos, the city of the dead, in the Iapinian archipelago; speak to the necrosages, who will give the harmonic cylix.
Further investigation reveals that all three choices contribute an equal percentage to long-term mission success—0.5%--but that the second will make the group happy “if they have bright light”. With no solid reason to choose otherwise, they select that one, and Ian contacts the Imperial Civilar of Nova Aeternus, who graciously provides directions to the steppes of Garanth. Through ideation, Cat also learns that Ionika is the fourth eldest dragon, a wicked and greedy devourer of shards, but by then the First has already made its choice, and are unable to change this decision. Mantius takes them there with a phantasmic gate.

The steppes prove to be a viciously wind-blasted plain, such that the mounts are barely able to remain standing. Kim constructs a buffer out of earth, which gives her the breathing space (after one of her four summoned elemental scouts goes flying into the air) to conceive of spiral steps that lead up to the floating land mass discovered by Cat and interpreted by Aly as the actual labyrinth. With Ian buttressing (and prettifying) the stair, the First move upward, where Arc and Kim discover that contact with the underside of the land mass allows them to reverse their gravitic orientation. The group does so and, via a trench again made by Kim and improved by Ian, enters a shaft in the underside, at the bottom of which Aly and Mantius determine that there is one human-sized person in the large chamber directly ‘below’ them, from which numerous tunnels and pathways branch off.

Following a cautious entry in which the First separates into forward and reserve teams, they regroup upon meeting GELDARIUS, mounted by the legendary Merchant of Marvels. Despite the fact that they do not possess the requisite ‘proof’ to enable them to purchase his more marvelous creations (after which the nature of his “curse” would apparently compel him to once again shift location), he is kind enough to offer them the opportunity to purchase some of the less wondrous items created by his former apprentices, now itinerant journeymen. After a nerve-wracking bidding session (in which Arc and Cat, particularly, endear themselves to Geldarius through the high value they place on the merchandise), they are able to acquire many useful items at breathtaking expense, though this amount is later generously returned to them by Geldarius, along with clasps that not only hold their shards securely, but allow them to alter their raiment and reshard once per day at the time of their choice, in lieu of one of their usual resharding windows.

After pleasantries, a meal, and some tension with Aly, the Merchant of Marvels demonstrates his kindness even further by accompanying them to the lair of Ionika. Upon their arrival, the dragon promptly attacks, but is stayed by a defensive sphere erected by Geldarius. Ionika continues to batter at the sphere even as Cat leads the negotiation, finally arriving at the painful agreement of one contingency shard and two of the First’s shards in exchange for the key to Pasver’s vault and two of the shards in Ionika’s possession, among which Aly identifies, as positive-seeming possibilities, the following:
  1. Truesilver Pardoner
  2. Fearfeather Battleharper
  3. Shrouded Kinslayer
  4. Cognate of Pillars
  5. Glimmervale Crusader
  6. Cyclopean Gladiator
  7. Memory of Loyalty

Gilded Cannoneer and Stalwart Warder having been the shards reluctantly proffered in the exchange, Arc and Ian select the Memory of Loyalty and Truesilver Pardoner—moments before Geldarius, having burnt out several rings in his efforts to hold the dragon back, sends the First hurrying away from the lair. He attempts to bluff Ionika, but it decides to attack regardless, whereupon the Merchant of Marvels uses an ability to declare the dragon’s eyes “marvelous”, ripping them from its head.

Grabbing the waiting Cat and BREGAN, Geldarius hastens away as well, as the blinded dragon begins to smash through the walls in pursuit of the group. Aly is meant to be caught and devoured, but Arc takes her place with martyr’s blow, whereupon her Saint of Widows synergizes the efforts of Mantius, Brand, Cat, Ian, and Kim to smash the dragon’s face and snatch Arc literally from the jaws of death. The eight mounts are thus able to flee to Geldarius’s home, which the Merchant instantly commands to move away, also triggering commands that somehow ‘fold away’ the floating land containing the dragon’s lair.

Viewers are then treated to the sight of the Stalwart Warder shard rising up and glowing among the many shards that surround it within the lair. Answering gleams herald the other shards’ rising, as they unite to attack the weakened dragon.

sundry information:
1.    Athenos: a name mentioned by Geldarius
2.    The Saint of Widows says she has “three lives left”

Monday, August 19, 2013

On the Radar: Some Thoughts on the Ennies

I was browsing through the winners of the Ennies, trying -- I suppose -- to see how up-to-date and in tune I really was with the popular view of the RPG industry. Overall, I sense that I'm really a niched kind of gamer, with off-center tastes, but I'd hesitate to call myself eccentric or unusual given the pool of gamers out there.

Here are a few things that caught my eye:

Night's Black Agents gets the Silvers for Best Game AND Best Writing

I did an Armchair Review for this RPG and its related campaign, The Zalohzny Quartet, and I heartily agree with the award. It's a lovely crafted subgenre that does spectacular work in focusing on the parent genre -- espionage -- for genre emulation.

I think a lot of people recognize its many merits; after all it was nominated for Best Rules, Best Interior Art, Best Game, Best Writing and Product of the Year!

On a meta level, the Gumshoe ruleset is certainly coming along nicely. It's gotten so that the ruleset allows for a greater variety of genre scope.

In fact, with Night's Black Agents, Ashen Stars, Trail of Cthulhu, and Mutant City Blues, a possible sub-campaign premise in my developing Confederation Chronicles campaign would be:

Not all Lasers are released into the wilds of space. Some are tasked to keep track of worlds and systems being brought into the fold of the expanding Confederation -- to make sure that the weaknesses, dangers, and existential threats that might be lurking beneath the surface of these rediscovered wonders do not destroy all that the Confederation has built.
Trained, Motivated, and gifted with special abilities that set them apart from their peers, these Ultra-violet Lasers stand against another Fall of Night, as the Confederation struggles toward a true rebirth.

Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space wins the Gold for Best Family Game AND Doctor Who: The Time Traveler's Companion wins the Silver for Best Supplement

I quite like this RPG, and I'd never actually thought about it as being a family game. The de-emphasis on combat (and rules that support this -- with talking and running taking place before any combat initiative-wise) was, in my mind, a great nod to this genre of TV show.

In retrospect, it does have a family appeal with the emphasis on resorting to communication first, before resorting to an out-and-out rumble.

The supplements for this RPG have also been astounding, with real love for the entire series very evident. A review of the Second Doctor's sourcebook will be upcoming.

Other Items of Note

Eldritch Skies gets a Judge's nod -- a game whose take on the Cthulhu mythos deserves a return, beyond my initial Armchair Review. Certain themes and aspects of the themes and tone make it a fresh feel on the standard mythos treatement, in my humble opinion.

Also, this Pathfinder RPG seems to be really popular. ;) Probably should give it a read.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Inspiration: Elementals and the Justice Machine

I had seen the Elementals before, but it was my high school buddy Tony who introduced me to the back issues of the Justice Machine. Funny thing is, both properties were always associated with RPGs for me, perhaps because of prior exposure to the art (and some source material) in RPG collections of friends.

The opposition of the Elementals, of course, I'd seen in slightly different form in Villains & Vigilantes. The Justice Machine, I'd seen in the Justice Machine sourcebook -- that's right, I only realized it was a sourcebook based on a comic book when I saw the comic book!

What I loved about both series was the tempering of the super-heroic genre with touches of realism's tropes: more wide-scale attempts at controlling super-powered beings, a real fear that these characters might die, dealing with mature themes -- but without too much of the badly handled grim & gritty feel -- with some aplomb. That and the feel that the status quo was always threatened; there wouldn't be a reset that would take things back to the default in a few issues.

It wasn't perfect, some plot lines fizzled while others flared far too brightly for my tastes, but I enjoyed it a lot. Incorporating them into a universe would certainly have them in the ranks of the 'professional metahumans', the ones who aren't driven by the need to right wrongs, or the responsibility of power, but who do a job that they try to live with. Sometimes they call the shots, sometimes they do what's necessary.

Plus, I really liked certain character concepts -- Monolith being my fave in the Elementals, and Titan and Talisman from the Justice Machine.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Lords of Pandius: Inspiration -- Thor God of Thunder

The current Marvel series Thor: God of Thunder is a good source of ideas for a multi-pantheistic world.:
Throughout the ages, the gods of the Marvel Universe have been vanishing, their mortal worshippers left in chaos. NOW! the Mighty Thor follows a trail of blood that threatens to consume his past, present and future selves. The only hope for these ravaged worlds lies with the God of Thunder unraveling the gruesome mystery of the God Butcher!

For Mystara, with a relatively stable set of Immortals -- perhaps a Butcher of Immortals is something that the Hierarchs have all heard rumors of. Perhaps it is something that the old, true gods -- or merely the generation of Immortals long past -- had taken care of.

In my case, I'd certainly tie it to the absence of the Olympians, and perhaps suggest why there are Immortals that take the name of gods from other pantheons: the Old Ones are still locked in battle against the Butcher of Immortals, but their source of power and meaning -- Mystara -- must still move and turn with time and the seasons. And perhaps the next generation of Immortals will find the key to defeat the Butcher once and for all.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

RPG Blog Carnival: Mining Genres for a Campaign (part 2)

Here's my 2nd RPG Blog Carnival post on campaign prep. This one is about mining a specific property, as I'll tackle mining a sub-genre in a subsequent post.

I've occasionally posted about inspirations for campaign ideas, but the most developed analysis that I did of a specific property to date was with the comic book The Sixth Gun.

In this series of posts, I do several things:

In Inspiration: The Sixth Gun, I post in general about the property to give some background about it, and why I want to tackle it for the purposes of changing the tone of a fantasy RPG setting or inspiration;

In Mining the Sixth Gun: Weapons of Dark Purpose, I talk about the big McGuffins of the series -- the Guns -- and how they're applicable to a fantasy setting with slightly adjustments to the existents;

In Mining the Sixth Gun: Monstrous Men, I talk about the type of opposition that PCs can expect to confront, as seen in the comic, and as might be seen in the campaign;

In Mining the Sixth Gun: The Strange and the Familiar, I talk about how the rest of the world feels, what other difficulties might arise when PCs trying to achieve their goals, and what kind of visuals and elements might reinforce the desired tone.

In Mining the Sixth Gun: Friends and Posses, I talk about how the concept of friendship and adventuring groups can be given a different spin, in the light of the weird western.

Admittedly, I could have gone on -- just as the series did -- but I felt I'd tackled enough for the purposes of giving my fantasy RPG campaign a different feel, a western feel different from the typical hack & slash.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Lords of Pandius 07 - PROWESS and Immortals

I'm basing it on Armor Class.

In Lords of Olympus, Prowess is defined as a combination of physical skill in combat, as well as a grasp of strategy and tactics. Intelligence might modify it, but since the rules say that intellect isn't a Primary Ability, we only go with combat skill. I could base it on either the Immortal Level or Hit Dice, giving me 35 Class Rankings of Prowess (zounds!) or I could compress it a bit by going with Armor Class. So, I'm basing it on Armor Class, coz the straight progression irks me a bit.

Using Immortal Armor Class, the following would occur:

AC 0 is Olympic Class
AC -1 is 18th Class
AC -2 is 19th Class

and so on until

AC -20 is First Class.

There's an interesting effect as well, where the first 6 Immortal Levels are essentially the same Class ranking, while Immortal Levels 27 to 36 have a Class ranking each level.

Next: Summarizing the Primary Ability conversion approaches + Costs of each Class ranking

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Lords of Pandius 06 - EGO conversion

This took a while, because I was wrestling with a need to be a bit more symmetrical in how I determined the remaining Primary Abilities for Lords of Olympus in the Mystara setting. Then I thought about the fact that if I was trying to recreate the Wrath of the Immortals (WotI) rules in a different game system, why didn't I just play the WotI game as is?

To that end, I went back to the wordings in the Lords of Olympus RPG and tried to find out if there were equivalent abilities aside from the Ability Scores that reflected it. Here's what I decided:

EGO and Immortals

Ego is described as being very important to mental defense, domination, and the ability communicate with mortals and gods mentally. And it's also important for a lot of the powers of the gods. I therefore decided to take a fresh look at the various WotI tables.

Here's a good candidate:

This table gives us a view of how Immortal levels map against Mental Attacks. Which theoretically gives us a measurement of how many classes there are for Ego!

Progression ranges from 18 to 5, across 36 levels. If we assume that levels 1 through 6 are Olympic Class, then 17 through 5 are the various Numbed Classes (and Tied Numbered Classes).

There are 13 Numbered Classes (First through Thirteenth) for Ego as follows:

Levels 1-6 are Olympic Class
Levels 7-8 are 13th Class
Levels 9-10 are 12th Class
Levels 11-12 are 11th Class
Levels 13-14 are 10th Class
Levels 15-16 are 9th Class
Levels 17-18 are 8th Class
Levels 19-20 are 7th Class
Levels 21-22 are 6th Class
Levels 23-24 are 5th Class
Levels 25-26 are 4th Class
Levels 27-28 are 3rd Class
Levels 29-30 are 2nd Class
Levels 31-33 are Tied 1st Class
Levels 34-36 are 1st Class

Monday, August 12, 2013

RPG Blog Carnival: Mining Genres for a Campaign (part 01)

This month's RPG Blog Carnival is about campaign creation. Since my blog occasionally tackles different entries into campaigns that never quite get run, I figured it was a good fit -- it'll help me revisit a lot of started-but-not-finished ideas for campaigns.

And believe me, there are a lot.

My first stop: genre mining.

Genre Mining

Even if you're very familiar with a particular genre, you'll find that -- as a GM -- you want to get in touch with what aspects of the genre you want to appear in your games. Likewise, you'll want to find out (or perhaps just assess in your mind) what your players may be expecting in your genre-inspired game.

There's no need to reinvent the wheel -- there are certainly a number of books from HERO and GURPS that tackle entire genres and the difficulties of translating them into games. I loved both GURPS Space and Star Hero not only as spectacular genre sourcebooks, often dealing with many Science Fiction subgenres and tropes along with the difficulties of implementing them in RPGS.

However, the exercise of writing down your own take may be worth your while, particularly if you see some unique concerns with regard to your proposed schedule of play, play style, and number of players.

This last bit actually came to the fore when I began thinking about an espionage campaign. Here are all the posts that I did on the issue of the 'adventuring party' size in an espionage game:
Next: Mining a sub-genre

Armchair Review: The Zalozhniy Quartet

I posted my review of this Night's Black Agents adventure earlier in the year on RPGNow, but forgot to put it here:

Once you've settled in to your regularly Night's Black Agents sessions, I highly recommend The Zalozhniy Quartet.

Set in post-Cold War Europe, agents must unearth the nature of the conspiracy from clues, and a tangled web of allies, foils, and enemies.

I liken it to a shorter Masks of Nyarlathotep, wherein the campaign is best run when the Director (GM) has read through all the materials, has prepared and understood where all the events, clues, NPCs, and linkages are in advance so as to maximize the enjoyment and reward of the players when (if?) they overcome this slew of antagonists and difficulties.

Unlike Masks, the author has gone out of his way to enable running the four segments of the campaign in any order! This means that there are options for each segment to be modified if it is played 2nd, 3rd or last (and therefore a climactic ending) in the campaign.

As a resource for a supernaturally touched post-Cold War Europe, it also has a lot of material to mine and reuse in future campaigns.

I'm a bit daunted by the modern day espionage campaign; perhaps I always was. But when I remind myself that a campaign can be grounded in cinematic versions of espionage, then I can probably try my hand at it.

There is a certain level of commitment to this type of campaign, certainly. And my old GM muscles want me to actually insert it into an ongoing campaign. But I think it actually might work as is, sort of a tip of the hat to British TV series -- a complete season in one go.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Collection of Aspects

Here's my collection of aspects from the Echoes campaign so far.

My original aspects start with the middle row:

Anima: Emotion -- somehow tied to the sense of emotion, or perhaps control over it; has been successfully used to make someone flee from me in fear.

Anima: Thought -- my birth aspect, and therefor cannot be taken from me; seems to be tied to refinement of thought, but I may be able to push it into the realm of telepathy or even mental control. Not sure yet, though it has been used successfully on certain elemental creatures with that particular effect.

Metal: Blade -- no successful use at this time.

Wood: Tree -- was used in combat defensively, when facing down a lightning elemental; in conjunction with other attributes, was able to absorb lightning attacks and channel them into the ground like a tree.

The bottom aspect is also thought, but in an unfamiliar world and an unfamiliar element structure.

The top aspect is an 'angelic aspect' whose provenance is still unknown; it has, however, driven (in concert with three other angelic aspects) what seemed to be a demonic aspect from reality.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Echoes S01E01: introduction of Mikael, Almira, Vassily, and Nikolai (part 01)

as recorded by archivist Nikki

This is done in script format, as were the latter documents for the The Court Adamantine game sessions.

PC Speakers in Bold
NPC Speakers in Bold + Italics



Some of the seniors-- including myself-- have been observing your work, and as a result of our evaluation, I am prepared to offer you a full fellowship. You would be a junior; you would have tenure. Is this something that would interest you?

Of-- course, Senior. I would be honored. But I have not yet presented my--

The prince of Vesper spoke to me a fortnight ago, and he brought up the need of Vesper's military to improve its steam weaponry-- so I thought of you. Once you are a junior under my guidance, you see, we can turn you away from these little dynamos to improve wheat production and the plight of the poor and whatnot, toward creating turbines that will make steam shots faster and more fatal...
Senior Maganov continues rattling on about the military technology they will develop.

... Vesper, rising to be the city among cities, with the Foundry in prominent--

But also-- if you will allow me, Senior-- the efficiencies I am proposing on the civilian side would uplift the entire city. A well-fed army is, of course--

That may be, but that is not at all what the prince is requesting. In fact, in one month, he requires a demonstration, to which I agreed. Your mind is brilliant.

I-- I would not really-- It is not really--

Your mind is brilliant, like mine. And with my guidance, our brilliance will shine, and the prince will look upon this brilliance and give the Foundry its due, and it will be because of you and because of me. Hmm? All you have to do is sign here.

This is such an honor, Senior. May I have an evening to consider it?

What is there to consider? This is a fellowship, with me as your mentor. The last junior I mentored went on to win the Zenith award... You will be grateful as well.

(seeing no way out of it)
Where do I sign, Senior?

Everything goes black.


Just what did you think you were doing?!

I was singing... because you forgot the line.

I did not forget! And even if I did, a simple cue would have sufficed. You sang. The entire. Fucking. Aria!

Did we not get a standing ovation?

That was my part! And if you want to stay in the company, you will remember that your part is in the chorus, Chorus Girl!

Excuse me, but when was the last time you had a standing ovation?

We had standing ovations in all the last three cities!

Excuse me, but those were never for this aria, always after a chorale.

Are you actually so delusional as to think that everything-- that you-- that--?
Get out!
The Hallway Outside Anya's Dressing Room - immediately

Don't worry, I'll defend you, but I hope the lesson has been learned, all right?

Oh, I'm sure she did.

In the very next performance, The Incident recurs, only more stunningly than before. Anya, glaring at the chorus girl, is so incensed that she forgets the very same line. Almira graciously allows her a chance to recover before singing the line, the aria, the lead in the succeeding counterpoint, the alto role in the next verse, and, finally, the mezzo-soprano crescendo, since Anya, utterly discombobulated, flounders off-key. Anya stops singing-- and physically attacks!

Stop iiiiittt!

Everything goes black.


After receiving most alarming news from her brother Vassily, Vassily has run to get support from their brothers Vassily, Vassily, Vassily, and Vassily. Drama, naturally, follows.

She is not worth it! Kalvada is not even among the Five Houses; they are only after you for your skills. What makes you imagine this girl loves you?

She gave herself to me! You would have to kill me to keep me from her side.

Fine, then!

(separating the two and wresting knives out of hands)

You see, she commits one of the worst of sins, turning brother against brother!

And that Sonja has a face like spilled paprika!

And they are going to make you work with third-grade beef!

Despite these dire imprecations, Vassily is not to be swayed, and soon makes his regretful but determined last goodbyes. The remaining siblings curse, grumble, and/or sulk, UNTIL:

Enough. We are cooking for the second prince tomorrow night. We need to plan, and decide who is going to take over the meat station. I propose myself.

Patissier Vassily appears to redouble the fervor of his constant praying.

Nothing less than the best for the prince, and it is known that he prefers meat.

Yes, so perhaps we might prepare a cold meat course! I'm sure Vassily could--

I certainly could, or Vassily could do a braise, or a stew, maybe a borscht--

No. Listen to me-- stop that praying!-- this is a prince of the land, and so we are going to prepare the roast that all know is his preference, and I will do it, and no one is going to mention the name of Vassily again! Are we clear? This is our--

You cannot make a roast!
(into the dead silence that follows)
I am sorry, Vassily, but you cannot make a roast, not to the standards you, yourself, have set for our house... None of us can, not in just one day.

I. Can do. A roast. Can I not, Vassily? Vassily? Vassily?

(after another silence)
Am I the only one with balls in this kitchen?!

She's right.

Vassily stomps off, but later comes back. Non-apologies are exchanged, harmony is restored, and the menu is revised. All seems to proceed swimmingly, even when it is discovered that the prince's dinner is in fact a sort of contest-- against, of course, the House of Kalvada.

Things become even more fraught when the eldest Vassily is revealed to have been poisoned, and his course-- the soup-- happens to be the one requested for tasting by the prince. Vassily takes over the soup, bitterly informs the estranged Vassily what she believes his new family has done, and flounces off to present the soup for comparison with that of their rivals.

Everything goes black.


If one applies the critique of reason, on a point-per-point basis, the differences in philosophy are not so extreme as to merit such a response. This entire war-- Perhaps it was an error of the Patriarch to declare the other Church heretic.

You must bear in mind that not all-- sadly, in fact, not many-- are often governed by reason. Some differences, however minor, may never be resolved.

Then it would seem our Church must go.

(after a brief pause)
I would not stifle the questions of youth-- and intellect-- and these are questions I struggle with myself. But I would not repeat such a statement, outside this room.

Is it a wrong path of thinking, Tutor?

Is there such a thing as a wrong path of thinking? But it is a dangerous path.
Nikolai's discussion with the smarter of his two pupils is interrupted by Vesper's elder prince, her uncle. The niece respectfully excuses herself, giving the men privacy to converse.

I think-- this is between us-- that even if my impending marital arrangements push through, I will beget no issue. And my brother Anatole-- well, let us just say that his interests lie elsewhere, which makes my niece our heir. Your responsibility is thus magnified, and to that end-- though my niece and nephew's progress has been more than satisfactory-- I have retained a second tutor.

That is wise. I would welcome such support.

The new tutor is summoned and introduced, and the prince departs, leaving them to become acquainted. The woman closes the doors and windows-- following which, they kiss!


Congratulate me; it took a year to secure your position; it took me three weeks.

I see your competitive spirit is as fiery as ever.

I've instructions: the younger prince is to be the lone prince-- in two nights' time.

She is friendly to our cause. This may change things.

Out of deference, I concede the lead.

AT NIGHT, the tutors make their way to the girl's chamber, easily avoiding the already-known guard patrols. While Magda stands watch, Nikolai approaches the sleeping target.

Everything goes black.


MIKAEL finds himself-- literally, he does not recall how he came to this position-- in front of an audience, delivering a lecture on a new steam-powered rifle, which he finds brilliantly innovative, notwithstanding the fact that he apparently designed it himself.

Everything goes black.


Almira finds herself in a locked room, brandishing a knife over a bound, gagged, and wounded Anya. Horrified, she drops the knife and backs away. There is a pounding at the door.

This is not what I would do. I don't-- I don't need to-- I am bigger than this!

Everything goes black.


Vassily finds herself on horseback, riding madly through the night.

Where is the prince? Why am I here? Hello? Hello!

Nikolai rides toward her, bleeding. Almira and MIKAEL also ride up. Everything goes black.


Almira finds herself gently touching Nikolai's bandaged arm, while Vassily makes soup, and MIKAEL checks on the four horses tethered outside. There is a table with some notes on it. Nikolai picks up a paper, which reads: 1) Find Idhira, 2) accounting of acquired Components.

Excuse me, do you know how we got here?

Do I know you?

No, I don't recall meeting any of you. Have any of you had--?

Everything goes black.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Crests in the Multiverse of Echoes

Our Echoes campaign is shaping up to be unusual, with our characters only really revealed at the end of the 3rd session, and the players learning a lot more about the three echoes (worlds in the multiverse) that we'll find ourselves jumping to :

Ganym -- the Easter European-inspired steampunk setting;
Gaoshu -- the China-inspired steampunk setting;
Amitava -- the Persia/India-inspired steampunk setting.

And we'll be learning a lot about Crests, those things that allow us to bend the rules of reality and do astounding things!

But here's what we know so far about them:

On Crests, Their Acquisition, and Their Expression

definition of Aspects

In the various Milieus of Echoes, everyone is born under the Aspect of a certain Element, which grants them certain gifts. For the common run of people, these are simple things, such as being born under the Rain Aspect of Water, and thus not getting sick from being caught in the rain, or perhaps feeling particularly happy when it rains.

It’s important to note that no one is born under the Element of, say, Water, but only under an Aspect thereof—Rain or Dew or Frost, like that. In a sense, it may be said that the Elements do not exist in and of themselves, but only as collective terms for their Aspects, in the same way that the word ‘rice’ does not really exist in Filipino, but can be perceived as a collective term for its concrete aspects of palay (plants that the rice comes from), bigas (uncooked rice), kanin (cooked rice), and so on.

It seems that people can only be born under Aspects of Elements which are considered ‘common’ to their place of birth. More elevated Aspects—as well as Attributes, which will be covered shortly—are typically acquired in the course of study as a Crest-wielder.

universal versus local

There are universal rules governing Crests; these, recorded herein, are some of them. Some Echoes also have local rules, including but far from limited to which Aspects are considered common in a given locale. Whenever there is a conflict between universal and local rules, local rules take precedence; otherwise, universal rules are in play.

definition of Crests and their Components

All that an Aspect does by itself is to allow an involuntary expression of magic, as mentioned previously. In order to actively cause a desired effect, one needs a Crest.

Think of Aspects as nouns, and Crests as sentences. You may possess the noun ‘Rain’, but you need a whole sentence to tell the universe you want to ‘Deluge my enemies in Rain!’ So Crests are composed of both Aspects and Attributes, which are modifiers we can equate to verbs, adjectives, etc., which define things like range and area of effect.

A Crest, therefore, is a linkage of at least one Aspect and a flexible number of Attributes—we call these Aspects and Attributes, collectively, Crest Components—the effect of which depends on (among other variables) what Aspects are incorporated, how they are structured, the intent of the Crest-wielder, and the manner of deployment.

Crest deployment

There are two types, one of which has two subtypes.

  1. Empowering – The Crest-wielder channels the power of Crest Components to fuel physical combat. There is no associated cost, other than time spent.
  2. Expressed – The Crest-wielder assembles Crest Components to achieve a magical effect, in one of two ways:
    1. Invoked – A Crest is drawn on the spot, typically manifested as an intricate, branching halo surrounding the Crest-wielder’s upraised index and middle fingers. This is costly in terms of both Mana and Hit Points.
    2. Inscribed – A Crest is inscribed beforehand on some surface, and activated when needed, for either single or multiple use. Inscribing a Crest costs Mana and materials, but activating an Inscribed Crest costs only 1 Mana.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Lords of Pandius 05 - MIGHT and FORTITUDE

Having done the quick & dirty conversion approach, plus the ability score conversion approach, the time has come to see how these would translate Mystaran Immortal stats into the Primary Ability class rankings.

Lords of Olympus specifically states that there are no equivalents of Intelligence or Charisma (as those are to be role-played), so we can drop those from ability score conversion. That leaves four ability scores to four Primary Abilities. Simple, right?

Not quite. Let's see why:

MIGHT and Immortals

Might is clearly described as physical strength in Lords of Olympus, so that means Strength in Wrath of the Immortals (WOTI). I have some minor doubts, as WOTI also has a table that shows that damage from bare-handed attacks is based on Immortal rank.

A stunning range of 2d6 to 4d6 damage! Well, I think I'll stick to the conversion of WOTI STR to Lords of Olympus MIGHT. However, if your Immortal level is from the Empyreal to Hierarch range, you are definitely among the top in your class; those below that range are considered Tied in their class ranking.

So: MIGHT is based on the Ability Score conversion table.

FORTITUDE and Immortals

We don't follow the same rule with Constitution. According to the table above, and other text in WOTI, hit points are determined by your Immortal level WITHOUT any influence by Constitution! Therefore, an immortal's level determines the FORTITUDE class ranking in Lords of Olympus.

Constitution only impacts an Immortal's ability to resist Immortal poisons. Regular poisons, as you might guess, don't affect immortals. Therefore, we ignore the Constitution ability score as negligible for the purposes of this conversion and use the table that I created for translating Immortal power levels into Lords of Olympus class rankings (which I thought was a mistake).