Thursday, February 27, 2014

Isle Imperium 1.52 -- Cities of Bone

from Empire dela Mort
ALECTO, ARCTURUS, and VARIAN dive into Arc’s frostweave gate just as the smoke seeking them coalesces into a man, an evident member of the Bone legion who tells his shardling (a sort of sentient, hazy nimbus surrounding a tiny shard), “Bone prevails… I want this glory for myself.”

Meanwhile, Arc is faced with the decision of whether to try and break through the barrier surrounding Bone territory, or try to have his traverse find another way out. Opting for the latter, he ends up taking them to an icy wasteland which they later learn is called Hibernia. Narrowly escaping the guardian creatures of the place—which they feel compelled to avoid looking at directly, thereby perceiving them only as enormous shadows that crash up to attack the trio’s shadows through the ice surface—they discover that the low mounds sporadically scattered throughout the area are small chambers that use rose quartz to sustain as well as prevent the hatching of seventeen winterheart dragon eggs, as indicated by the marking ‘7 of 17’ painted on one.

Hibernia also hampers the use of their abilities; however, through the Lord of Shadows that he is wearing, Ian is able to discover technique, a method of using shard abilities that modifies those abilities in a certain way—in this case, by adding the definition ‘longshadow’, which allows their shards to function close to normally in this otherwise hostile environment. As a provost, the Lord of Shadows is further able to share techniques, which Ian promptly does, enabling the three to locate, travel to, and breach an uninhabited Bone legion tower within Hibernia.

Within the tower, they bluff their way past the shardling custodian (learning that M. Revenin of Bone’s Second Number, mounted by the Strife Mechanic, passed through thirteen days ago) to be able to use the ‘Gate of Four’—a set of mirrors facing outward in a square, set atop a rose quartz mandala on the floor, similar to the one Aly manipulated to get them into the tower. Examining the elaborate decorations on each mirror, they are able to determine that they are transport gates leading to Solaris, Cielis, Luna, and Terra. Almost accidentally figuring out how to activate the mirrors, they step through the portal to Terra, beginning a series of several traverses through various mirrors, as follows:
  • Terra (leading to Hibernia, Solaris, Cielis, and Luna)—judged too populated
  • Luna (leading to Terra, Niveum, Ignis, and Aquero)—neither regular nor longshadow abilities function
  • Terra
  • Cielis (leading to Terra, Barbas, Aquero, and Soma)—neither regular nor longshadow abilities function
  • Terra
  • Solaris (leading to Terra, Gargantus, Lithus, and Ossis)
At Solaris, they encounter a female mount of the Bone legion, preparing to use the Gate of Four there. Once again, Ian bluffs their way past her, but this more or less compels them to head down the tower stairs as if they belong there. Reluctant to push their luck further, they render themselves unseen through an ability of Aly’s, in order to avoid another Bone mount (male) going upstairs and a further two (male and female) heading down. As the pair exits the tower, the three Diamond mounts scurry invisibly after them, thus finding themselves in the Bone city of Solaris.

The city itself apparently emits some sort of call to non-Bone-aligned shards; and while the Unconquered Avenger and Devoted Warder manage to remain true to their natures and legion, the Lord of Shadows is irresistibly drawn away, forcing Ian to hastily don the Bejeweled Warder. They then attempt to gate out of the city, but Arc’s scourge gate (his frostweave having been burnt out by the passage to Hibernia) registers all their desired destinations as nonexistent, just as their attempts at warder communications register their comrades’ shards as destroyed or ruined. After some trepidation due to the presence of an architect within the city (and learning that all architects originate from Bone), Ian decides to use civilar traverse, registering the destinations available from Solaris as: Alaricien (affiliated with Bone), Io Presis (Bone), and Urul Haek (Bone).

They decide on Urul Haek, and find it a deserted city perched just above the lip of a volcano. From there, Ian determines that they can traverse either back to Solaris or to Merinius, a city affiliated with both Ivory and Bone. As they ponder why the cities of Alaricien and Io Presis have become mysteriously inaccessible from this new location, a reddish Occidental dragon comes into view and demands an explanation of their presence. Utilizing the gaze of dragons ability from the Prince of Dragon shard, Arc explains that they are merely passing through, and the dragon URUL HAEK agrees to let them continue on their way, going so far as to call Arc “little brother”. Aly suggests waiting the few minutes until resharding so that she can wear the Saint of Consonance and support Ian as a fellow civilar, but the delay seems to irk the dragon—though not as much as Arc’s implication that the dragon is chained to the city (which it is, from a visual perspective). As the dragon rears up, they hastily flee to Solaris.

At the center of Solaris, they meet another dragon, the gold-and-silver SOLARIS, who has a quite civil conversation with her “little brother” Arc, and lets them be on their way once he has assured her that they mean no harm to her or her city. They move on to IO PRESIS, the attendant dragon of which is not nearly so affable, freezing Ian in place to prevent further traverse on his part. This being the case and it being resharding time at last, Aly switches to Saint of Consonance so she can trigger a traverse and Arc switches to Prince of Dragons in hope that it will improve communication. Sadly, exactly the opposite happens, as Io Presis identifies Arc as “the one who refused the youngling when she needed help” and turns his immobilizing attention to Arc.

Aly attempts to traverse the three of them away to the Ivory and Bone city of Caecum, but forgets to take her number with her. Ian does not forget, but Arc is left behind regardless. After paying the 1,000 bright light necessary for the first use of abilities in Caecum, the duo hastily return to the platform beneath the giant rose quartz shard in Io Presis, where they quickly snatch Arc away as the bronze dragon is summoning the architects and other authorities of the city to come deal with him.

From the Bone city of Vesperis (the only other option available from Io Presis), civilar traverse can take the harried refugees to Antiochus (affiliated with Bone), Ursu (Bone), Ulianus (Bone), or Teraton (unaligned). Seizing on the unaligned option, they hurry to Teraton, from where they can traverse to Heryodus Primus (affiliated with Amethyst), Zalium (Amethyst), or the crown city of Korantium (Carnelian). Stunned to find themselves in the rival empire of Korantium, and much more stunned to learn of at least two heretofore unknown legions, the trio decide to stop in apparent relative safety and gather their wits.

They take refuge in a nearby inn, where Aly’s scholar-fueled communication skills and attempt to pay for breakfast with one of Khimere’s pearls get them mistaken for members of the Pearl league. Although the landlady meekly tells them that breakfast is on the house, she also calls for an evident civic official—who turns out to be Arc’s long-lost cousin DEVON Minato.

After officially ascertaining from Aly that the three ‘Pearl’ mounts intend neither to participate in the ongoing tournament nor to stay in town for more than a day, Devon makes to leave, but is intercepted by Arc, whom she then hisses at, “What are you doing here?! The leagues still seek the line and they still seek you,” implying that Teraton (along with Arc’s parents, brothers, and sisters, who apparently live there) has remained free and unaligned precisely because the leagues have not been able to eliminate ‘the line’ in Arc’s absence. She goes on to tell him that they have evidently crossed several ‘ages’ (which seem to be geographical rather than chronological divisions), and that they should go back the way they came immediately.

As Arc is receiving this frantic chastisement, Devon seems to become aware of someone approaching, and addresses the gem around her neck, “Sphere Machinist, will you help me?” By this method, she manages to conceal herself and the trio from the Amethyst league member who enters, clearly in search of them. The unfortunate landlady valiantly does her best to cover up, which prompts the frustrated man to threaten to burn her establishment down since “I cannot harm you, but this will not violate the terms of the truce.”

Springing to the landlady’s aid, Devon lowers the concealment and, as the Amethyst man stares at the Diamond mounts, she reappears next to him and sinks a knife into his side. This evidently makes the man’s jewel flash some sort of alert, and Devon cries out that they have to leave before falling unconscious. Aly badgers the name of a nearby town out of the landlady and renders her petrified in hope that she will be construed as a victim, as Arc hastily gates them away to the town of Agarol.

Just outside Agarol, Ian tries to take the flashing amethyst from the dead man’s neck, only to have his hand badly burnt on contact. Arc is able to take hold of the gem, learning that it is ‘the fifth amethyst, the Hierarch’, and that he can wear it, except that he will never again be able to bear a shard. He therefore tucks the now-quiescent jewel away while Ian hastily constructs an underground tomb to conceal the man’s body. Nevertheless, they still have the sense that pursuit is hot on their heels, so Ian uses civilar traverse to take them to the crown city of Korantium.

At Korantium, they feel they have gained enough breathing room for Aly to consult with the Saint of Scholars, who promptly panics and essentially hollers at them that they must go back exactly the way they came, wasting no time, since every moment they spend in this age weakens them. Unsure whether to leave Devon or take her with them, they try to awaken her, Aly finally slapping the woman at Ian’s suggestion, thus engendering ‘serious consequences’ as a result of a legion member ‘attacking’ a league member. Not having much other choice, the awakened Devon agrees to go with them, and is hastily sworn in as a member of the First, discarding her Sphere Machinist and donning the Scarab Helionaut.

Accordingly, then, with Devon in tow, the group retraces their steps, paying bright light to facilitate traversal and whisking twice past the startled officials of Io Presis before they finally arrive at Hibernia, where a male Bone mount barely has time to react to their appearance before he is savagely attacked and they use longshadow door to flee the tower.

Outside in Hibernia, they move to the two mounds they passed earlier, Arc prying up the rose quartz covers in hope of freeing the young winterheart dragons, before activating a gate once more at the first mound they encountered. From there, they travel back to the port of Kaven, where the Bone mount they fled in the first place greets them with, “I thought you would be back.”

leagues encountered or heard of: Citrine (Devon’s), Amethyst, Pearl (referred to as “riparian”), Carnelian, Garnet

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Border Wardens: 10 Complications for the Castellan

The Castellan?
Here's a set of 10 possible complications for the Castellan, all culled from the thread titled "100 Random Complications for Module B2: THE KEEP ON THE BORDERLANDS".

  1. [ Item 1 ] The Castellan is a psychotic martinet who subjects the inhabitants of the Keep to brutal and humiliating abuses of military “discipline”. The Bailiff is plotting a revolt.
  2. [ Item 2 ] The Castellan is dead, killed in a boar-hunting mishap a few weeks ago. The current “Castellan” is a 0-level soldier wearing his armor and posing as him. If the forces of Chaos discover this, they will immediately attack the Keep en masse. If the PC's discover this, the authorities of the Keep will stop at nothing to silence them.
  3. [ Item 4 ] The Castellan has a beautiful and feisty young daughter who is desperate to escape the Keep and get back to civilization. She will attempt to coerce, trick, befriend, seduce or otherwise manipulate the PC(s) if she thinks it might achieve her goal. Daddy is very protective and possessive.
  4. [ Item 5 ] The Castellan is a once-great war hero, banished to the Keep as punishment for supporting the wrong side in a palace intrigue. He plots and schemes for a way to return to court, and is always on the lookout for useful idiots to uses as pawns toward this end.
  5. [ Item 9] The Castellan is dying, and has no children. If any of the PCs is a lawful fighter who shows bravery and initiative, the Castellan will take a shine to him or her and begin to groom the warrior to be his replacement. This will drive some of his advisers and staff murderous with jealousy.
  6. [ Item 22 ] The Castellan has very severe dyslexia and is completely illiterate. He depends entirely on the Scribe (Keep area 26) for all his written communications (making the Scribe effectively the second most powerful person in the Keep). Some insiders suspect this, but no one actually knows.
  7. [ Item 24 ] Castellan's Standing Order #1: The gates to the Keep are never to be opened after the sun sets. Never. NO EXCEPTIONS.
  8. [ Item 46 ] The previous Castellan (who died in an extremely suspicious fall from the Keep's walls) was utterly insane, and the men of the Keep are working day and night to undo his many bizarre alterations and strange policies: The bright pink walls are being painted over, children are no longer kept locked in dog cages in the Central Towers as insurance against their parent's disobedience, dwarves are no longer forcibly shaved, and a tarp now covers the massive guillotine, shoved into an unused corner of the Inner Bailey.
  9. [ Item 74 ] Destroy all monsters! The Castellan has banned all negotiation and peaceful contact with the inhabitants of the Caves of Chaos, on pain of death. Any ransom payments, truces with monsters, etc. must be kept very quiet, as the Captain of the Watch will investigate rumors of such as crimes and do his best to see that the “Chaos fraternizers” hang.
  10. [ Item 98 ]One of the Castellan's maids is actually the daughter of the King's younger brother, being held hostage at this remote keep under order of the king as insurance against his power-hungry brother's ambitions. Her presence at The Keep is a tightly-held and politically sensitive secret: When few strangers are at The Keep she is allowed to wander the Inner Baily more-or-less freely, but if there are a lot of prying eyes around the Castellan has her stashed in an out-of-the-way guestroom in the Keep Fortress, often bound and gagged (She is livid about this humiliation, but the Castellan thinks the dungeon is just too cold and wet for one of her breeding). If PCs were to discover her existence, rescue her, and return her to her father, their rewards would be great indeed... but at the possible cost of plunging the entire Kingdom into a brutal civil war. If the PC's find out about her, and the Keep's authorities know that they know, "Accidents" will be arraigned.

All 100 complications were submitted by:

And I don't remember who submitted what anymore. You can follow the link to find out more! But be warned, not all entries are *ahem* politically correct.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Isle Imperium 1.51 -- The Scent of Myrrh

Myrrh, as it turns out, is deadly to unsharded humans and deleterious even to sharded ones, such that prolonged exposure prevents most ability use, causes unconsciousness, and drains recent memories, albeit allowing the recovery of long-suppressed ones. Unconscious in a warehouse full of the substance, certain members of the First recall the following.

  • was hungry for knowledge and travel to Nova Aeternus as early as ten years old, strongly disapproved by father
  • also as early as ten, was repeatedly exhorted by an unseen voice claiming to be in the woods to “set me free”
  • traded a pommel he “has always had” and a dagger with HADRIAN in exchange for books and scrolls
  • at around 14, got in a fight with father over Arc’s “allowing” his cousin DEVON’S purse to be stolen (by a young Aly and Cat); father let slip that Arc was “found”; Arc ran out and father had a heart attack, was enfeebled ever after. Later, Devon (from Nova Aeternus) said, “You were sent here… safer here… I came to see if you’re all right.”
  • experiences the memory of an ancient man, ORENICUS, wishing to be freed of the extended life apparently granted by his shard from fallen Opal, Fate Spinner. The mount’s servant ULIKAEN attempted to oblige by removing the shard but was killed when it defended, fatally slamming him into the wall. Another servant tried later, using a blade.

  • like Arc, was a regular attendee of the yearly carnival at a young age; when they were around 10, Hadrian (probably) got a wooden statuette from a fortune teller there, while Ian (probably) got a kiss (may have been the other way around)
  • had some tension with Hadrian early on over Ian’s mother’s role in the household; Hadrian’s grandmother decided to teach Ian to read and play a musical instrument
  • At around 12, Hadrian was mauled by a bear. Guilt-stricken, Ian went to avenge him, thus meeting the sharded bear SALAMIS, who proposed to spare Ian’s life if the latter removed the dagger that woke him and prompted him to attack
  • Some time after, Ian made an arrangement with ‘Salami’ wherein the latter pretended to attack in order for Ian to impress his lady love ‘Princess Ayelle’ (a.k.a. TISIPHONE). The plan succeeded, and Tisi gave Ian his first kiss.
  • experiences a memory of DIONES walking through the city of jewels, Acrete, with a certain RASELDAN (not the same as Ruby’s), Bejeweled Warrior

  • wanted to juggle as early as nine years old; was prevented and threatened by lead juggler ROVANCUS (“Juggling is men’s work; you need balls”) in favor of his apprentice, ‘Conrad of the Seven Fingers’. Tisi wanted to be an actress and singer; MEGAERA, a dancer.
  • After Rovancus’s death, Aly was apprenticed by Conrad, with whom a romantic relationship soon developed. At this time, Tisi was hurt by Aly’s acceptance of and friendship with the troupe’s young new lead actress, CATALINA.
  • Some time later, as Tisi was mediating between Aly and Meg over the latter having fallen in love with Conrad and vice versa, they were visited by a massive shambling form that quickly divided into three hooded humanoids, presumably the Furies. The trio noted that the sisters are well named—the eldest being protective, the middle one calm, and the youngest sharp—and prophesied: “Three like diamonds in hand / One who will try and fall / One who with emerald will stand / One who will be one with the saint of all.”
  • had a falling-out with Cat at the age of 15 over the man whom Aly believes to be the father of Cat’s daughter Alia
  • remembers the existence of the Empire of Korantia, the primary rival nation of the Imperium

The three adults are woken from their slumber by the shards Bejeweled Warder, Saint of Consonance, and particularly Unconquered Avenger, who uncharacteristically breaks the rules by making everyone unconquerable, despite not being mounted. Arc uses impossible leap in an attempt to gain perspective from a higher vantage point, with the unintended result of breaking all three through the roof and out of the warehouse. There, they learn from the irate custodian that they evidently made a deal in which they would be allowed to purchase myrrh if they could manage to stay inside the warehouse for two hours.

After returning to the warehouse and enduring the allotted time, they buy three wagon loads of myrrh at the price of 200,000 bright light. They are then obliged to load the myrrh manually onto their hired ship, since abilities are not working and only a second’s contact with the substance was enough to kill one of the unsharded crew members who tried to help them. It takes them three days to do this, and another fourteen days to travel by sea to the port of Kaven, where they are supposed to meet the other four members of their number. (Arc has a hazy memory of sitting in a bar with everyone when Cat decided they should split up to improve their chances of acquiring myrrh in as little time as possible.)

They arrive at Kaven to find it a deserted port with nothing more than a well and four empty warehouses, cut off from the rest of the land by a sharp cliff. Aly and Arc are deciding where to store the substance when Ian realizes that the top layer of myrrh has evaporated even as they speak. Frantic, they resort to prayer in an attempt to make the offering to Terminus, and are rewarded by a voice telling them that they must cross a boundary. They do so, hauling a wagon each from pier to shore, and thereby find themselves in what is apparently the god’s sanctum, where their offering is graciously accepted and permission granted for the rewriting of the writ without further difficulty.

Once returned to Kaven, they decide to at least fill their flasks from the well, having realized that they evidently split their supplies, as well as shards, with the other team. On the inner rim of the well, they find a message from Mantius, carved into the stone in carnie hand signals: “Waited for 3 days, but had to go bec the Bone L is after us. See you at next meeting place. Be careful.” A second message reads: “Don’t let them get their hands on the land grant!”

Mystified as to the location of ‘the next meeting place’, the three decide that since they cannot travel by sea, the boat having long departed, they might as well go by land, at least until enough time has passed to render their shards fully operational again and to enable them to reshard (Ian having remembered that they have been unable to deshard for all the intervening days). Accordingly, Arc leaps to get a better look beyond the cliff overlooking the port—and is shocked and horrified to discover a vast, teeming encampment of the Bone legion just past the ridge.

Following Arc’s panicked descent, the mounts hurry to the water in the hope that washing off any remnants of myrrh will enable them to use their abilities properly. His choice of a spot behind a rocky outcropping proves fortuitous when a dark flash heralds an outpouring of black smoke that seems to be some sort of method of seeking, which before long manifests images of the Phantom Herald, Saint of Consonance, and Scarab Helionaut, clearly indicating the Bone legionaries know exactly who they are looking for.

Fortunately, the washing works, enabling Arc to manifest a frostweave gate and all three of them to hastily reshard. As the black smoke turns back toward the shoreline where it bypassed them previously, they hastily dive into gate, knowing it will not be able to take them to their intended destination, but hoping for the best.

sundry information:
  • The ‘thunder pact’ apparently comprises the shards Keeper of the Thunder Pact, Gallows Mage, Soul Sculptor, and Augur of Arrows.
  • Arc reveals that Ian’s stepfather’s name was Belarigus.
  • chance of mission success: from 11% (Cuburdus) to 15% (unknown) to 18% (myrrh acquisition) to 28% (Terminus’s permission)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Play On Target takes on Settings with Serial Numbers Filed Off

So this post is a set of reactions to Play On Target's podcast episode on Settings with the Serial Numbers Filed Off. As always, these are one sentient's opinions and not meant to be a review or critique -- in the hopes that this feedback will help the podcast creators gauge how their podcasts are impacting their audience.

Stuff that I Really Enjoyed

Play On Target provides useful information in the podcast site about the episode in question!

Not only does it tell you what the episode is about -- "we talk about the pros and cons of releasing a product that is obviously a licensed property with the numbers files off" -- it also gives a list of relevant links to each of the games mentioned in the podcast.

Great for research, and to figure out how a game's name might actually be spelled, especially if composed of a homonym friendly play on words (I'm looking at you InSpectres).

I'm also grooving to the fact that my opinions on the Fading Suns reactions (It's not Dune with the serial numbers filed off. Nor is it Warhammer 40k with the serial numbers filed off.) match my own. I also find it hilarious that my reactions to the 'almost-Highlander' RPGs (Legacy: War of Ages,
Immortal: The Invisible War) were so similar, despite the fact that I never bought either -- just looked 'em over in the game shop. To be honest I felt that purely on visual appeal alone, Legacy: War of Ages was clearly the superior product -- but neither convinced me to shell out money.

Dread. That game again. I must buy it -- when I have the money.

I liked the reversal of the premise also -- just before the middle of the podcast -- that led into the discussion of the murky issue of vampire / werewolf / frankenstein's monster / world of darkness / new world of darkness intellectual property.

Bounty Head Bebop. Cute and Fuzzy Seizure Monsters. Really? Frickin' A! Thanks!

And yes, Fiasco & Hollowpoint are also things I must play soon.

All this stuff in the space of an hour! Amazing!

Stuff that I Found Interesting

I didn't know that d6 Space was effectively Star Wars with the numbers scraped off. I mean, I know that the d6 systems are really close to that original system -- a friend of mine picked up the Metabarons RPG, and I could really see the Star Wars D6 system that I knew and loved underneath everything -- but I didn't know it was that close in the generic system as well. I should really go through it now that they're free on RPGNow.

I also agree it would be cool to find out about the 'cease-and-desist' rumor about either or both 'almost-Highlander' RPGs. Keep us posted on that, guys!

I also found it interesting that InSpectres came across to some folks as more of a Ghostbusters-alike RPG, rather than as the indie game / collaborative RPG approach. Which is how I know about it -- and I'd pretty much dismissed the analog to Ghostbusters, because of that confessional mechanic that was mentioned. But it's true -- it really owes a lot of its inspiration to Ghostbusters.

Lords of Gossamer & Shadow is also interesting, because of its original incarnation as Amber: The Diceless Roleplaying Game, and because of its expanding sources of inspiration. In fact, I was immediately thinking of integrating an equivalent of the TimeLords and the Daleks into the list of other factions to run into. It has a different feel that the other forked setting / ruleset -- Lords of Olympus -- which is really more in the vein of gods and demi-gods and politics and epic universe-shaking and -shaping adventure.

With one exception -- see below in Stuff I Didn't Like -- I got a nostalgic thrill on the rundown of the X-files inspired RPGs. I was surprised that C.O.R.P.S. 1st Edition wasn't mentioned, but I guess I'm one of the few remaining BTRC fans.

When talking about Cyberpunk, I flashed back to the Fading Suns RPG and wondered how much some RPGs are less [insert property here] with the serial numbers filed off, and are just very niched genre/sub-genre emulation games / game systems. Cyberpunk 2020 certainly qualifies, and so does the Mekton series of games.

Burning Sands: Jihad. There is such a thing?

It's interesting that the Price of Freedom still has that stigma to it. Greg Costikyan has mentioned before that he really didn't believe everything in Price of Freedom, or at least to the extremes described in it. He seems to have been going for a Paranoia type of vibe for it in modern day(especially since it was also under the West End Games banner), but I think it was too close to reality to jump over to the humorous side of things.

I also like Crimson Skies, and enjoyed reading Warbirds. I wasn't as put off by the setting. Just think that it's not an alternate dimension but an alternate dimension timeline. Besides, they might have been trying to avoid the whole intellectual property landmine just waiting there.

The brief discussion on why getting licensed properties can be difficult for RPG companies, and thanks for the "Blake's 7 RPG" link reference. Although, I would posit my suggestion for such a game: Cold City / Hot War + Stars Without Number.

Stuff I Didn't Like


I know that this is all by fans for fans, and that we're not all professionals here, but consider this constructive criticism -- and just imagine me making these expressions while listening.

There was a point where the podcast crew was trying remember the game 3:16 Carnage Among The Stars that made me cringe a bit, and I was trying to figure out why. God knows the same thing happens to me on occasion, and it can be annoying. I do suggest that in the future, you can just say you'll put it into the the show notes and move on -- I felt that we wasted some time there remembering (subjective, because I KNEW what you meant guys, but screaming it across space and time wouldn't help). I also cringed at the mention of Hot War, because it was such a different type of game from what was being discussed -- but that's just me.

Also: come on, guys. Delta Green was written that way before X-files came out, everybody knows that. It's in the preface thingy in the book. As hard core Call of Cthulhu enthusiasts (which you are, right?) at least one of you would have known that bit of geek trivia. But, to be fair, it was very much in the vein of that conspiracy-laden zeitgeist.


You may wish to...

Technical stuff. Sometimes the difference in the audio quality can be jarring. Early on, some of it was choppy -- and then some times staticky. Mostly okay though, don't get me wrong.

Also, because there are so many of you guys -- rather than just a duo -- I kind of lose track of who's talking. Not that it matters, since most of the time I'm listening to the content -- but perhaps once in a while an identification of sorts might be great, 'cause in my mind I don't want to keep score of whose talking by labeling them (in  my mind only): Lowell; Not Lowell; Lowell again, maybe; Sam? Not Sam -- wait no, Sam, so who was the other guy?; Brian???; Not Brian, definitely not Sam, maybe Andrew????

Be careful when you guys end up talking over each other -- the volume can be painful to folks with earphones!

Structuring. Perhaps you can try to group things together and create artificial breaks at various arbitrary points (Sci-Fi, then Fantasy, the Horror OR 80s, 90s, 2000's) so that folks like me who squeeze the show in can feel like we're finishing a chapter or two and then come back to it later taking on the next chapter and so on.

Inspiration: Steve Gan and the Star-Lord

With the renewed buzz around the Guardians of the Galaxy film (which doubly-hit me recently because of my SF feeds and comics feeds), I was surprised to hear about Steve Gan -- a Filipino-Chinese comic book artist that not many might have heard of -- in my social media feeds.

It turns out that -- according to this Comixverse article from last year -- Steve Gan was a co-creator of Star-Lord (along with the legendary Steve Englehart). Steve Gan is more well-known locally for the icon of Filipino Fantasy by Caparas and Gan known as Ang Panday (“The Blacksmith”), which debuted in March of 1979. It was further popularized by a series movies by Fernando Poe, Jr. and many other leading men in movies and TV since -- such as Jericho Rosales (to the right).

This, of course, makes me curious about their take on the Star-Lord, who seems to be getting less press than Groot or Rocket Racoon.

It also triggers my interest in the so-called Philippine Invasion of comics back in the 1980s, also recently touched on by the Fire & Water series of podcasts.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Border Wardens: What Are The Borderlands?

When I first picked up the Keep on the Borderlands, I skipped right past the Keep, and the outdoor map, to the Caves of Chaos.

Now that I've returned, different things catch my eye as hooks:

  • the various factions of the Keep, and the intrigue unfolding there
  • the two (?) references to the Caves of the Unknown
  • the mad hermit, the lizardmen, the spiders, and the raiders in the wilderness
And I begin to read things into the setting, especially tied to the setting of Mystara.

Why is the Castellan here? He's clearly meant to be five levels higher than any of the PCs, as are many of the high positions in the Keep -- what is he meant to guard?
  1. A more prosaic reason: this is where an invasion from the western mountain border might osttensibly take place, hence the fortifications and quite possibly some kind of early warning system back to the capital. We should expect more secrets: hidden weapons and secret allies from the wilderness, as well as a truly marvelous method of notifying the nearest military forces of Karameikos.
  2. A more fantastic reason: the keep guards against encroaching Chaos. The Caves of Chaos were so named by a powerful (and now deceased) duo of magic-user and cleric. Naming it (in a magical/theurgical sense) thereby curtailed what it used to be -- a font of uncontrollable forces of Chaos from the mountains, or the earth, or a rift in reality. The Castellan (and those who hold official positions in the Keep) were also named, and gained special abilities when in opposition to those forces. Many fell in the Forgotten War, and they always keep an eye out for trustworthy adventurers to induct into their ranks. And they keep an eye on the ever-shifting tactics of Chaos.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Gaming Culture: Consuming Podcasts & Hangouts

Logo of one of the podcasts
I listen to. Do you know
which one this is?
I listen to a fair number of gaming and gaming-related podcasts, and have been working through a bunch of online interviews and hangouts.

The great things about this are:

  • getting exposure to concerns, views, and opinions that were new or unusual when compared to my own gaming culture experience over in the U.S. and back here in the Philippines;
  • learning about new RPGs, revisiting old ones;
  • studying the history of our hobby from accounts of researchers and people who are / were there at the time;
  • thinking and re-thinking my position on game theory, socio-political issues raised within the industry in the community;
  • and learning about interesting related content and art that inspire or were inspired by the hobby.
So I hope to tackle a few of these podcasts in clusters and individual portions, to just express why certain things resonate with me: be it nostalgia, new ideas, or just sheer geek delight.

And besides, I'm getting gunshy about some of my Border Wardens and other campaign posts -- though I am working on them, honest!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Rocket Age: Two to Try!

A lost city of ancients, in contested territory -- on Mars!

Here's the blurb:

"The Lost City of the Ancients!  A free introductory scenario for Rocket Age our new radium-powered game line of interplanetary adventure! 

The discovery of an apparently intact Ancient Martian ruin deep in the Western Highlands has set potentially deadly events in motion. Such a find would draw treasure seekers and archaeologists from across Mars, but this one is even more of an attraction. It lies in territory unclaimed by any faction or nation. This makes it free for the taking and, despite the harshness of the Western Highlands, the need to travel through territory held by the Blue Chanari and the stiff competition, three other expeditions are already kitting out in the French held city-state of Kolpith."

Racing Rockets 'Round the Planets!

Here's the blurb:

"The First Solar Cup race has just been announced, a rocket race that launches from the Indianapolis Interplanetary Rocket Port, flies around Venus, and shoots back out to Mars before turning around and heading down the straight towards Earth. 

As much as race fans and the rocket set are looking forward to this contest of men and machines, a dark cloud hangs over it. An extortionist calling himself Ghost Racer has sent letters to the race commission threatening to disrupt the race if they do not pay him a ransom. The Solar Cup Commission have not take him seriously, but two days ago a bomb was found in one of the rocket ship hangars. 

Our heroes must join the race incognito to protect the racers and spectators from this Ghost Racer. But can they catch him before it's too late?"

Yeah, I'm feeling my way around this setting for my first attempt at running it. The former adventure establishes some of that political intrigue and colonization feel; the latter adventure gives the scope and capability of space travel as the background.

And I can theoretically include an alternate universe Timelord, too...