Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Unicorn Meat: Hooks and Factions

Another week, more Unicorn Meat. This time it's going to be the hooks to get players out there, and the various factions among the carvergirls. As a bonus, I threw in the David Sugars-suggested 80-word summary.

Opening Crawl


The last unicorn farm rots away deep in the festering backwoods. The adults vanished into the swamp in a single night, leaving the girls trapped in its ruins. White-Eyes and her buchas rule the farm with a brutal hand, but it frays at the seams under the strain of old rivalries and impending starvation. This is to say nothing of the monsters in the swamps and the whispers of some great Beast lurking in dreams of the deep night.

How You Got Here


Hook 1: Colonel Tim Fisk 

For campaign openers and one-shots

A mutual friend from back during your time in the army is cashing in a favor. He’s sending you out to follow up on a kidnapping case that went cold half a decade ago, back when the war was in full swing. In his typical amateur spymaster fashion the coded letter is loose on details, but he's able to tell you this much.
  • A young girl was recently found dead in a field a few miles from the swampland edge. No one claimed or identified the body before burial.
  • He believes that the girl is one Maddy Aberdeen, who vanished five years prior at the age of eight. Furthermore, he believes the case linked to others he has been investigating.
All the rest is directions to a location deep in the backwood swamps.

Fisk wants the job done discreetly. Get in, gather as much information as you can, get out. There’s a fat under-the-table payday in it for you once you dead-drop the evidence with one of his go-betweens.


Hook 2: The Map 

For use in a pre-existing campaign

The corpse can't be older than a day or two when you find it in the roadside ditch. A girl of twelve or thirteen: emaciated, wearing rags, curled up in a ball. There’s blood caked all around her ears, eyes, mouth, nose. A jagged wound stretches across her forehead. The leather pouch clutched to her chest contains some soggy crumbs and a crumpled scrap of paper: “We are dying. Send help. Do not trust White-Eyes.”

A crude map is drawn below the shaky text, leading out into the backwood swamps...

Hook 3: The Girls 

For one shots or campaign openers

The adults vanished during the night, White-Eyes and her Buchas are stomping on our necks, and the rest just twiddle their thumbs waiting for the end of the world.

Fuck that shit.


Getting Yourself Situated


Regarding All Carvergirls

  • The youngest are around four, the oldest are nearing twenty. Most are in the middle. Malnutrition and poor health makes it difficult to tell.
  • Visitors will be met with suspicion. Trust in adults decreases with age.
  • They are more hardcore than you, and they know it.
  • They wear orange jumpsuits and ratty, patched-up hand-me downs. Scars, lingering injuries, and crude tattoos are everywhere.
  • Each one is tattooed with a block of vertical bars on their forehead and on the back of their right hands. They received these when they came here.
  • They all have thousand-yard stares. They have seen some shit.

Scrunts and Carvers

The foundational divide on the farm. Everyone is either a scrunt or a carver. No exceptions.

Scrunts are the youngest and least-experienced of the girls, right at the bottom of the social ladder. They typically roam about underfoot in packs or latch on to a group of bigger girls for protection. When the farm was still running, they were employed mostly in the sweatshop or pastures. Many of them only speak cavehtung. The most trusting of adults. An insult when directed at anyone else.

When a scrunt has bloodied her hands enough to look out for herself, she becomes a carver. Sometimes her gang members will present her with a gift to commemorate this. In other cases it is just a change universally known but never acknowledged: the girl is a carver now, and that is settled. Carvers form gangs naturally; nearly every one is part of a gang, even when affiliated with a larger group.

Some legendary carvers might be called Old Bloods. An honored title, and not used lightly. The most recent was

Buchas

White-Eyes wasted no time assuming control after the adults vanished. Her buchas, all hardened veterans of the killing floor, swiftly took over the factory for their own use.
  • Leader: White-Eyes, acting through Greythorn.
  • Wants: More unicorns for the slaughter, to wipe out the Church.
  • Brutal in the enforcement of their rule, secretive inner workings.
  • Does not currently consider the Big House a threat.


The Big House

The opposition party against the buchas, headquartered in the manor from which the name is drawn. Large number of scrunts seeking protection, with a few hunters among the group's carvers.
  • Leader: Pugs
  • Wants: To wrest control of the farm away from the buchas, to escape.
  • Sometimes used to refer to just Pugs and her lieutenants, other times used for everyone who isn't a bucha, depending on the speaker's factional leanings.
  • Does not have the numbers to directly challenge White-Eyes. Pugs is attempting to get more veteran gangs on her side, to limited success.


Nightwatch

They paint their faces with chalk and charcoal and weave crow feathers in their hair. They cut out their tongues and sit perched in high places through the night. They keep the monsters at bay so you may sleep quietly.

  • Leader: #23
  • No one messes with them, everyone listens to them.
  • Skilled in rootwork and other minor magics unique to their vigil.
  • Can't speak, but know sign language and most can write.
  • Necessary protection if one goes out at night.

Hunters

With the pastures and pens empty, unicorns have to be brought in from the swamp itself. Hunters have always been an eclectic and eccentric bunch
  • No unified leadership: each team picks their own chief. Lots of internecine conflict.
  • Know their way around the backwoods: necessary to navigate the swamps.
  • Has heard talk that the buchas mean to replace or crack down on them: not pleased with this.
  • Usually has some members of the nightwatch around for expeditions.
  • Somewhat insular, lots of strange traditions.

The Church

Separatists holed up in a half-sunken church deep in the swamp. Raid the farm regularly for supplies or leave warnings of impending apocalypse.
  • Leader: Crazy Angel
  • Wants: Complete destruction of the farm and the institution of unicorn farming. To preach repentance, for the coming of the Beast is nigh. 
  • Hostile to all other factions and outsiders. 

Freebies

There are some carvers that don't properly fit into a gang of their own or any of the major groups. Some are listed here.
  • Birdie - The oldest girl on the farm at 22. Simpleminded. Kept around the Big House to help out caring for the scrunts. Sweet and very literal-minded.
  • Stitches - What passes for a carvergirl doctor. Bones set, wounds stitched up, tattoos made to request. Once sewed someone's head back on (so it is claimed). Dry and dour.
  • Tessel and Grudge - Keep watch over the shrines in the barn and the equipment stored there. One is always on duty. Might as well finish each other's sentences.


Sunday, August 12, 2018

Mini-Bestiary


(David McGrogan brought up the wonderful minimalism of the Zangband monster entries, Michael Bacon suggested blog posts, I need only the flimsiest of excuses to do mini-bestiary entries.)

Antiwarrior, Orc - Powered by a pacifism so potent it ignites on contact with its violent counterpart.

Broskavoska - Something like a bear, something like an ox, something like a wolverine. Smells like whiskey, has a face only its mother could love.

Cannonball Slugger - A big club and a lot of muscle is sometimes all the artillery you need.

Cardguard - Cheap, disposable, less-than-effective protection. A pack of 52 comes with four companies, NCOs included.

Floodcaller - Tall, dark blue, armless, columnar, drooping faces like a great bone trumpet. Always travel in packs of six, will call the waters after settling into a few days of silence. Head for high ground.

Ghost-Faced Killer - Hollow hole for a face, ghosts nest there. The favored knives of necromancers.

Humdinger - Something like a stork with a beak like a bell. Very nasty around mating season, you can't miss the call: Hmmmmmmmm-ding!

Lilithic - Demoness with a head like a screech owl and a calcified womb. All the monsters she mothers are born into stone and need blood to hatch.

Loan Shark - The gold teeth aren't just for show: just ask anyone who falls behind and gets tossed into the university moat.

Procrastinating Beast - Tiger-striped and fat round the middle. "Eh...I'll attack you tomorrow."

Pumpkin Ooze - This is what happens when you leave those Jack O'Lanterns out on the porch for too long past All Hallows.

Snipe - A cute little wading bird never seen without its trusty anti-tank rifle.

Tatterdemalion - A demon that loves clothes, but never takes care of them. Rotten garments slough off and are replaced with regularity.

Walking Tank - Instead of treads, it has four-to-eight humanish arms. Popular with orcs, typical crew consists of pilot, gunner, spotter, and healer.

White Wizard, False - The beard, the hat, the staff, the robe, it's all a ruse, a big skin-sack. The real thing is a dust-bunny with all the legs like hair and big yellow eyes that lives in the head.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Play Report: The Kadesh Club

Playing tonight in the wonderful world of the Danscape Planejammer, we have:
  • Waterblossom, eladrin magelander nee organ farm escapee (Michael K)
  • Blake, a face-stealing traveler and former gigolo (FM Geist)
  • Gavel, a traveler who just oozes everywhere. (Martin O)
We open to find the three crewmembers of the Divided Survival Power in a terrible pickle. They've been trying their hand at running tea and opium out of Yoon-Suin, but the most recent shipment ended up stolen to the last gram by one of Blake's many trysts.

The Lady Sidris, drow matriarch and crime lord, is not pleased with this at all. She wants her money. But, she decides that calling in a slave cleaning the floor of blood would be too much of a hassle - the trio is given a shot at clearing their debt: go to the Kadesh Club, and steal a book from its proprietor, famous genasi businessman Corrin Shen. "You'll know it when you see it, they are told."

Before they leave, Gavel and Blake spend all of their remaining money on opium. Gavel's species leaves sticky ooze everywhere, and so ends up outfitted with a Harkonnen gravity chair, after Blake persuades a lobster-alien dockworker to help them out with a bit of seduction and some drugs.

The Kadesh Club is a place for rich people to go slumming and engage in some war tourism. Being that it orbits around the gas giant Charnel House, where devilish and demonic fleets meet to do battle.  Unfortunately, the war has lulled for a bit, so no fireworks were on the docket.

A casino resort filled with rich people is Blake's natural habitat - he swiftly integrates himself into the posse of the rightes, strongest looking individual in the atrium, a golem anmed Donson who looks like he came right out Renaissance Florence. With WB and Gavel are volunteered to act as servants, Blake handily begins flirting with the golem, and everyone goes to the nearby Valhalla Bar.

(Yes, the one from the game. To complete my horrible reference hackjob, they all witness the manager tossing out Space Dandy and Meow.)

Drinks are had and information is gathered. (The drink list and descriptions from VA-11 HALL-A come in very handy) The crew learns that Shen is a collector of rare art and artifacts, and appears on the casino floor every night to welcome the guests.

The crowd moves on to the casino floor, and the trio start scouting out options. Shen's quarters are seen to overlook the floor, with a single guarded entrance on the stage. Gavel joins a blackjack table and a wins a small amount of money. Waterblossom mind-melds with a guard to steal information and learns that Shen is late tonight - the attempt to act as a desperately-needed crystals-and-chanting healer falls on deaf ears. Blake accompanies Donson to the dice games and scopes out the staff entrances.

Gavel finally finds himself in a horribly complex game that he only manages to survive in because WB gleaned info from the octopoid dealer, and then mind-melded with his fellow ne'er do well. One of the other players gets shot. A discussion with an elf about the benefits of terribly impractical clothing are had. Gavel finishes out his hand by cheating with one of his mutations, a micro-teleport, swiping an extra card and taking advantage of an obscure loophole to walk away with 1000 gold pieces.

At this point the lights go down, the spotlights hit the stage, and from the elevator comes the man himself, dressed to the nines. He gives his speech and goes about shmoozing. WB passes by and gleans images of an angry woman who looks something like a tropical fish from Shen's mind. Blake convinces Donson to buy them a suite in the resort, heads through the doors, meets a salamander lady, and does drugs in the bathroom with her while discussing their life story and hip new fashion tips.

As Shen makes his rounds, Gavel uses his spell-tumor to cast Resounding Command at a vat-cloned halfling creature, forcing it to push him directly into Shen. What follows is a grand display of bellyaching and faked injury the likes of which FIFA players would be awestruck to see.

A doctor is called for, but no need! Shen is, in fact, a doctor! Swiftly Gavel is grav-wheeled out of the main floor and past a staff door.

Meanwhile: Blake has decided to set up salamander woman higher up in the social world to have a contact for the future, and gives helpful fashion tips to get the most out of a wardrobe.

With nothing working, Gavel hands Shen a sending stone phone and groans that he must have his special doctor to have any hope of survival: one Dr. Muffin Glitterhammer.

The call distracts Blake from his fashionable dreams, but gets him swiftly whisked over to where the others are. Blake immediately goes whole hog on being a fake doctor, and we are treated to one of the greatest lines I have yet recorded as a DM.

"Cocaine gives me a bonus at being a doctor."

Blake demands an isolation room, far away from the peasants and their germs - Shen, displaying a great amount of generosity, volunteers his own quarters. The four take the service elevator up. WB is zapping Gavel all the way there with his color changing cantrip.

Shen's apartment contains a great many expensive art pieces, a ghost security system named Bauvert,  a large fish tank containing black water and abyssal icthians, and most importantly, the book.

Blake requests obscure items for the appropriate holistic treatment (blue cat milk, a ball of solid gold, 2 liters of plasma) while manuvering Gavel's gurney around to take a better look at the book. Thick as a DCC core, bound in blue leather, recursive MC Escher occult symbols all over, and claw marks from the inside.

Know it when you see it indeed.

With the materials delivered, Blake declares that the evil has been taken out of Gavel's body. Gavel uses this opportunity to feign a horrible seizure, driving the other three to be whisked away into another room.

Unfolding his handy boarding axe, Gavel smashes the book case as if by accident. Bauvert (who is basically just Poe from Netflix's Altered Carbon adaptation) descends from the ceiling and starts a banshee wail, summoning Shen. Gavel tosses his axe at the fish tank, leaving a large crack.

Something moves in the blackness.

With no time to waste, Blake sweeps Shen into the elevator for safekeeping as the cracks enlarge and more water pours out. WB and Gavel grab the book just as the tank shatters; dark water floods the room to reveal a fucking aboleth.

"It's like if AM was a jawless fish." - Me, describing the aura of said aboleth.

WB whips out his holdout blaster and shoots out the window. The two go flying out, using the gravchair as a way to slow their fall.

On the stage, Blake hands the overwhelmed Shen to some guards, telling them to get him to safetly. Looking up he is able to catch the descent of his two compatriots, followed by the emergence of the aboleth in a cloud of psychic force fields and unbridled abyssal hate.

Blake empties his gun at the creature, abnd while a few bolts manage to break through the shields, the aboleth is unaffected.

Needless to say, they get the fuck out of there.

Amidst the panicking throngs they do manage to spot the salamander lady stepping up and orchestrating emergency evacuation procedures. The manager of the Vallhalla bar is out front screaming "YEAH! RIOT!" and suplexes a fleeing noble on principle. Blake grabs seven gold pieces out of his pockets.

They bang up some other ships on the way out fo the parking garage, but Blake blames it on one of Donson's followers who was giving him the stink-eye.

Upon return, Lady Sidris' guards immediately take the book from them and declare the matter settled. The guard captain is persuaded to look into some backup IDs in case things go south.

And with that, Waterblossom collapses into a weeping, traumatized heap as Blake and Gavel do more drugs.

BONUS TIME; ANSWERING BELOCH'S QUESTIONS

  1. Who did them wrong? Some of Donson's syncophants were definitely plotting something.
  2. Did they do anything stealthily? Hell no. But also yes, in that no one knew it was them.
  3. Who benefitted? Lady Sidris. Shen's other rivals. The Aboleth.
  4. Aftereffects of death? Hundreds of the cosmic rich are now dead, meaning tabloid sales are UP, power grabs are UP, and worker revolts are UP.
  5. Did the characters attract attention? A whole lot of it, but not exactly directly to them.
  6. Desires / interests to hook players in future? Socialite nonsense is ace, use it.






Thursday, August 9, 2018

Unicorn Meat


Nikolay Karelin

“The unicorns shall come down with them; their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness.”


It sits in the backwoods beyond the black stump, in the dark and steaming place where civilization never took hold. The plants grow up thick and twisted and sick in the poisoned creole soil. The sun bleaches the life from the leaves, boils the mud into dust, turns water into salt, peels the skin away. The cruel air does not move, does not break. Time is stillborn.

There are no gods out here, no help this far from home. The backwoods sent law and light crawling back to lick their wounds in the safety of lands less sickened. The backwoods can tear out a man’s soul, eat it raw and wriggling.

Among the razor grass and arthritic black trees, amidst those bottomless pools of murk and mud, wrapped in the chains of creeping moss, under that evil sun...

Look here, the rust-eaten sign...

"Sunny Smiles Unicorn Farm"

So what's all this then?

Mostly system-and-setting-neutral dungeon module tentatively titled "Unicorn Meat". You've already seen a glimpse of it with my carvergirl class, and it's been coming along nicely enough that I thought that I might as well drop some of what I've been working on for this year's #diy30-slash-#rpgaday. (Or at least the first week of it.)

It's like LISA: the Painful plus Lord of the Flies plus a bit of True Detective plus some Silent Hill and all wrapped up in a neat package of slavery, capitalism, apocalyptic millenialism, a whole lot of blood, and the world's most hardcore pre-teens.

Day 1: Colonel Timothy Fisk

An old friend from back during the War. He's always been a fixer, sticking his nose in places where he can make connections and pulling your bacon out of the pan. Now he's calling in a favor.

Appearance: Tidy uniform, square shoulders, right leg lost below the knee.
Voice: Deep, calm, doesn't stand out much by intent.
Wants: To unravel the conspiracy built up around this kidnapping case.
Morality: Reliable, ruthless, realpolitik to serve idealistic justice
Intelligence: Has the making of a spymaster or investigative journalist.

Day 2: Factory Entrance

Cavernous, shadowed. Smells of dust and rust and heavy, wet air.
  • Forest of pastel-colored tallow candles spread out on the floor. Few remain lit.
  • Mural on the opposite wall: A red dragon with seven serpentine necks, fighting a carvergirl.
    • Text: WE WILL NOT BE DEVOURED.
    • Four necks have golden heads, three do not. One head will be filled in each day before dawn, counting down to the end of the ritual. To accelerate things, add more heads.

Day 3: Orgone Suppressant

Orgone is a metaphysical energy that develops alongside the hormonal changes of puberty. Humans can't detect it without specialized equipment; unicorns can't stand the stink of it, and so will either flee or fly into a frenzy when they pick up the smell.

One of these small green pills can suppress the body's generation of orgone for 12 hours. It can mask one's scent enough to sneak up on one of the creatures, and will prevent a unicorn from flying into a frenzy.

Repeated use of suppressants result in permanent suppression and sterilization. Save vs poison for every dose taken in excess of five days of usage.

Day 4: The Shrine

A corner of the barn has been converted into a shrine to the three primary carvergirl deities. Offerings have been placed at the foot of each icon. Maintained by Tessel and Grudge.
  • Bloody Mary
    • Blood-stained wedding dress, broken hand-mirror, tangled, ratty hair.
    • Danger, survival, cruelty, kindness. 
    • Offer her glass shards, milk teeth, white flowers, all with a drop of blood.
  • Brother Bones
    • Red coat, straw hat, skull mask, dark glasses, hunting rifle
    • Death, crossroads, backwoods, mysteries, abandoned places.
    • Offer him bullets, cigarettes, moonshine.
  • Lily Black
    • Charcoal skin, goat horns, honeygold eyes, smoldering pipe.
    • Pain, endurance, twists of fortune, vengeance, getting even.
    • Offer her pennies, nails, nightmares. 

Day 5: Totem Field

  • Dozens of unicorn skulls on sharpened stakes facing the factory entrance
  • Totems, mojos, and root talismans everywhere 
    • Stealing one gives a -2 to a random roll (to hit, damage, single attribute check, save type) until the mojo is burnt, the curse is shifted to another individual by burying the talisman on their property, or it is broken by a caplata of the Nightwatch.
  • H.C. ( a member of Nightwatch) is napping in a gibbet cage. She has no tongue (as is typical for members of that faction), but carries a slateboard and chalk to write out responses.
    • She hasn't seen anything particularly out of the ordinary, save that White-Eyes has been exiting the Factory less and less recently.

Day 6: Loading Dock

  • Concrete platform with a wooden roof, abuts the railroad.
  • A crocodile suns itself on the dock, blocking the door to Packaging.

Day 7: Pugs

De facto leader of the carvergirls living in the Big House. Most of her followers are scrunts and a few hunters. Rival to White-Eyes.

Appearance: Dark skin, checkered red bandanna, 'Happy Satan Instant Ramen' t-shirt.
Voice: Self-assured and confident 14-year-old chain smoker.
Wants: Take the farm for herself out of bucha control, keep her girls safe, to end her waking dream.
Morality: The sleepy, friendly exterior isn't an act, but not above a healthy amount of backstabbing.
Intelligence: Bright, but overlooks the flaws in her plans.

Bosun Red and Pebblemouth,
sittin' by the fire
Bosun Red told Pebblemouth
"I'm gonna set your shit on fire"

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Banner Saga in the OSR




The Banner Saga is one of the most solidly-OSR video games out there, so in honor of its recent conclusion, here's all you might need to run it.

Class: Mender

Men and women who show aptitude in pulling upon the threads of creation are taken in by the order of Menders and sent out across the world to build and heal.

HD and Saves: As cleric
Weapons and Armor: Light armor and simple weapons

Mend: Menders may repair [level] damaged objects per day.

Herb Lore: Menders are trained in herb lore and healing arts.

A Welcome Sight: Menders gain +1 to reaction rolls among common folk

LeKsoTiger

Class: Valka

The highest and most powerful of the menders are the valka, who sit in council at Manaharr and watch the world unfold around them. Men of their number often go mad from minds over-driven.

HD: As cleric
Saves: As magic-user

Weapons and Armor: Light armor, simple weapons, spears

Herb Lore: Valka are trained in herb lore and healing arts.

Wielders of Power: Men or varl who would willingly and openly cross a valka are tremendously driven or immensely stupid. Wielders of political power are inclined to dislike your interference, and undermine accordingly. 

Loom-Mother's Gift: The valka are masters at pulling upon the threads that weave together creation. They may use their powers [level] times per day safely, as per VAM rules. Beyond this limit, they mus Save vs Magic or risk unraveling (roll on your favorite spell backfire table)

Valka begin with two powers on the following list, randomly rolled. Each time they level up, they may gain another (re-roll duplicates)
  1. Mend  - Repair a damaged object or small structural damage.
  2. Arc Lightning - Does 1d6 damage to target, 2d6 to adjacent target, 3d6 to the next, etc.
  3. Troll Stones - Tears monoliths from the ground
  4. Confusion - Enemy must pass save or attack its fellows this turn.
  5. Inspiration - Target gains 1 reroll.
  6. Ride the Lightning - Shoots forward in 50' straight line, automatic melee attack, then return.
  7. Mend Flesh -  Heals target 1d6+lvl HP.
  8. Breeze - Target may move double their speed for one turn.
  9. Runic Gale - 10' circle grants all who step inside a +1 to all rolls their next turn.
  10. Choose one

LeKsoTiger

Class: Varl

Horned giants created by the god Hadrborg; now a dying race, as no more will ever be made.

HD and Saves: As dwarf

Weapons and Armor:  
  • Cannot use minor or small weapons
  • Cannot wear heavy armor.
  • To-hit as fighter.
Of Our Bones, the Hills: Varl add + 1 to their STR and CON modifiers.

Shoulders Most Broad: Varl may carry twice as much equipment before becoming encumbered. They may carry 2 Sacks during long-distance travel.

It's the Beard: Varl are all male, cannot reproduce, and show no interest in related fields.

Fear of Fire: A successful WIS save is required to come close to or interact with fire. Otherwise, varl will avoid it as a priority.

Canary; full name, Cainánóiridhe

Class: Horseborn

Half-man-half-horse beings from the southern plains of Dalalond. Their relationship with the northerners is strained, for the horseborn are responsible for the killing of all horses in the world. (Use Welsh for their names)

HD and Saves: as fighter

Weapons and Armor:  
  • Can only wear light armor, specially made.
  • Proficient in flails, spears, and lances.
  • To-hit as fighter.
Freedom of Movement: Horseborn move and carry as ponies, being smaller than normal horses. They have no love for cities, buildings, and walls. Underground is right out.

Like a Kick in the Head: Horseborn may make a 1d8 melee attack to an adjacent enemy. On a hit, the target must make a successful Save vs Paralysis or be stunned for 1d3 turns.

Pins and Poisons: Horseborn may 1) tip their spears in poison (1d4 damage for 3 turns, does not stack) or 2) pin an enemy in position with a crippling shot (enemy reduced to 5 movement)

Couldn't confirm who made this :/

Class: Dredge

Created by a bitter and nameless god to wage war against the rest, the dredge are the silent hordes that come up from beneath the earth and down from the north wastes of Valkajokull.

HD and Saves: as fighter
Weapons and Armor:  See below. To-hit as fighter.

Stone Speech: Dredge speech is akin to the tones of a tuning fork. Menders may learn to understand their language, and may speak it with the aid of an appropriately-tuned staff. Dredge can understand the language of men and varl, but cannot speak it.

The Great Enemy: Men and varl (especially the latter) view you as an enemy. Hostility is guaranteed, violence likely.

Special Equipment:
  • Armor: Dredge armor is an extension of their stony skin. They cannot wear any additional armor atop it, but may use shields. A dredge may elect to shatter their armor to absorb 1d12 damage from a single physical attack. They will take -2 to AC for each time the armor has been shattered, which cannot be repaired without the aid of a mender, stonesinger, or two days' work by a trained stonemason. Anyone adjacent to the dredge when armor is shattered takes d4 damage + 1 bleeding damage for d4 turns.
  • Weapons: Dredge weapons are made of stone. On an attack roll of 1, the weapon will shatter, dealing d4 damage, + 1 bleeding damage for d4 turns.
Template: Choose one of the following archetypes.

Stoneguard
  • AC as plate
  • Carries a shield and warhammer (d10)
  • Can wield great weapons in one hand.
Slinger
  • AC as chain
  • Sling does 1d6 damage.
  • Shatterstones (explode on the next turn, 1d6 to adjacent enemies, d6 ammo die) 
  • For -2 penalty to hit, can stun enemy for 1 turn with a successful attack.
Stonesinger
  • AC as leather
  • Carries two stone blades (d8) that may be struck together to cast spells.
  • Disease strike - A successful hit does an additional 1/turn to living targets, non-stacking.
  • May cast the following [level] times per day. 
    • Can mend shattered armor and weapons, or other broken objects.
    • Rupture - Enemies within hearing distance take 1d6 + lvl damage. All dredge armor in range shatters in addition to the damage.
    • Umbrage - All nearby allies lose -2 AC from damaged armor, but gain +2 to hit and +2 damage until the end of combat. Dredge armor shatters.

Gods


The gods are dead, their powers have faded from the world. There was never an organized religion, and now few people hold onto any of the old traditions at all.

Each god has a god-stone somewhere in the world, engraved with their likeness. They are notable landmarks, and gathering places for the few remaining faithful.
  1. Loom-Mother - Creator of the world and of humanity, teacher of magic.
  2. Dundyr - Loom-Mother's counterpart, god of beards, smithing, games, and song.
  3. Hridvaldyr - God of beasts and hunting, of the deep forests. Weilder of a terrible spear.
  4. Denglr - God of fortune and wealth, all things desired that one cannot have.
  5. Radormyr - God of the harvest, depicted as a great serpent that lives within the sun.
  6. Marek - God of waters and the sea, depicted as a vast aquatic beast.
  7. Hadrborg - Disciple of the Loom-Mother that created the Varl.
  8. Ingrid - Through her godstone, the menders learned the language and history of the gods.
  9. Bjorulf - God of mead and brewing. Very popular, despite his stern countenance.
  10. Stravhs - God of secrets and trade. Built weapons the gods used to kill each other.
  11. Aselei - Goddess of all those traveling unfamiliar lands, of what lies beyond the riverbend.
  12. Irynx - The Winter Bird.
  13. Baldringr - A god of war, shunned by the varl for reasons they will not say.
  14. Vez'nan - God of a lost, subterreanean people. Gained the greatest power by forsaking all.
  15. Geirraðr - God of wise council and direction, off invention and good decisions.
  16. Bygglaerer - The Builder, who formed the cavernous foundations of the world.
  17. Lauga - Goddess of love, beauty, and things that happen in the night.
  18. Dredge - The dredge  raised a godstone in their own image. Their creator goes unnamed.

Playing the Saga

Luka Rejec's Ultraviolet Grasslands covers everything one would need to run the travel portions of the Saga. Simply replace the points of interest with locations from the game (or suitable equivalents) and play with the final goal being reaching Arberrang (or, for UVG, The Black City). Besides that, the following points should be helpful.
  • There is a darkness in the north, and the dredge are pushing south. We don't know why.
  • Fighters and specialists are as usual.
  • Clerics and magic-users are replaced by Menders and the Valka. 
  • There are neither horses nor plate armor. You do have yox, which are yak + ox.
  • Most strange creatures come from underground.
  • A single valka is significant. More than one is a status-quo-breaking proposition.
  • Among 100 refugees, there may be one or two menders.
  • You must keep moving. The dredge will not stop and wait.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Regarding the Wages of Sins of the Flesh

Original sin is inherited sin, inscribed on the meat and souls of all of in Adam's line.

This is quite unfortunate. As one might receive grace by partaking of the Body of Christ, one may only receive sin and wickedness by partaking of the Body of Man. Hence come all the monsters of the nights and wild places - beasts that have feasted upon the flesh of men, violating the dominion granted in the Garden are transformed. Sin builds up like poison within their blood and bones until all trace of their rightful station has been wiped away and all that remains is their acting-out of man's stolen depravity.

I have listed here only those beasts I have seen with my own eyes, have heard of from trustworthy eyewitnesses, or have read about from learned and worthy sources. It remains incomplete. Satan's creativity in his perniciousness knows no bounds.

Boars shall be made into the bristlebacked hordes of the orcs. Of all monstrous beings they are most common; a thundering, squealing wave of pillage and rapine. Of war and implements of war they have inherited a great love, though they can make no such weapons on their own, and lack knowledge of any other craft or tool.  

Dogs shall be transformed into the terrible barghest. The black moor-hound may reach the size of a pony, with claws like that of a bear and eyes like burning embers. Its shaggy black fur, matted with filth, is as resistant to a blade as good armor.

Wolves, however, shall be transformed into the loup garou, a beast which takes on a more manlike shape than its common cousin. They do not walk according to their form - bones and skin rebel, and go different ways. I met once a French Benedictine who claimed to have seen one in the midst of its moon-frenzy, and to have witnessed its demise at the hands of a novice who cracked the fiend's skull with a silver candlestick.

Tigers of the east, upon devouring a hundred men, shall be transformed into manticores, who bear men's faces and speak with men's voices. In Jerusalem I met a merchant of Babylon, who has spoken previously with Indian merchants who sell the steely, poisoned needles of its tail as weapons of assassination, and the pearls of its stomach as ingredients to elixirs of life.

Lions shall transform into chimeras. Like a king beset by unworthy advisors, so the noble beast is beset by the arguments of the goat (being the sins of the common throngs) and the dragon (being the sins of the mighty.) and is thus perpetually at war with itself.

The hyena of Ethiopia shall become as a gnoll. I know little of this beast, save that the mere hint of its laughter makes those inhabitants of the region tense, and that I saw one's hide for sale as a rug in Alexandria.

Bears will lose all of their fat, becoming little more than sacks of skin. They will carry around animal hides and stuff stolen children into them, to eat later. The skull and jaw split apart, becoming as the mandibles of an insect. The common folk call the creature a bug-bear. Where practicality reigns, creativity stands aside.

Rats shall grow to the size of a child and stand upon their hind paws, burrowing into the walls and below the foundations of manors and keeps.

The jackal shall become one of two forms: the cynocephalus of India, and the 'goat-sucker' as described by certain scholars of Aragon. The latter is more obscure, but is said to retain a dog-like shape, gaining a leprous appearance and a taste for the blood of livestock.

A lizard might in due time become a basilisk. Several bestiaries I have consulted claim that the tarrasque was a basilisk that had grown since the time of the Patriarchs, but all are conveniently vague on the matter of where its bones are interred. 

I heard of only one instance of a man devoured by chickens, but I have also only heard of one instance of a town overrun by cockatrices. The link is sound.

Serpents become dragons, a most natural extension. Certainly it is the serpent of the Garden who, after having eaten its fill of the lost and damned, becomes the red monstrosity on which the Whore of Babylon sits astride.

Insects grow to prodigious size and ferocity, but rarely change their forms - the scarlet deathworm born of certain breeds of maggot is the primary exception.

Sharks and fish shall become as the Deep Ones of the cold northern waters, and all manner of sirens and mermaids besides. They prey upon man's lusts and drunkenness, drawing the foolish into their saltwater graves.

Of the Nile crocodile there comes the lizardman, so sits indolently upon the bank with birds in his teeth. He cares not that you might see him, nor even that you approach, for he considers you well aware of your inferiority already; he does not need to remind you.

Men who devour men show the greatest variety in evil forms.
  • Those that eat flesh out of gluttony become ogres. It is an affliction of the first estate, as a man without wealth will find it hard indeed to glut himself as a baron would.
  • Those that partake out of starvation become wendigos. Most common they are in the cold wastes of Ultima Thule and the deep deserts of Arabia. Pitiable, were they not most deadly.
  • Those that eat only the dead become ghouls. Dwellers of crypts and ossuaries, bone-gnawers.
  • Those that are driven by the throws of leprosy of syphilus or the plague become zombies. Half-dead and dead of mind, they shamble about in search of warmth before they can go no further.
  • Those that drink of man's blood and blaspheme against God, recanting of His mercies, become vampires. They are struck dead upon the spot, but ride every night to hunt the living.
Of all these creatures and more, be wary. Keep your sword sharp and your eyes open, for the machinations of the Evil One are numerous and his shadow is far-reaching.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

A minipost on 40k Ecology

As requested by Evlyn M.

Galactic ecology is akin to a hive city: layers built upon layers built upon layers that have collapsed and fused together so that it has become more or less impossible to separate them, but not so fused that one cannot scrape aside the current state of affairs to see what lies beneath.

Each civilization follows the same pattern. They spread out from their homeworld, bringing with them all manner of pets, pests and other animals with them. Alien ecologies are either wiped out or integrated upon contact; those brought along for the ride spread further afield, and through intent, chaos incursion, or the typical turns of nature, drift from their original forms.

Transplantation is the name of the game.

Then that civilization collapses, and the biosphere stops spreading, and changes become more pronounced. The same animal brought to two different Necrontyr worlds could result in hundreds of different descendant species each, given enough time.

Then a new civilization comes along, and the cycle repeats. They introduce their own local life forms, alien life is further transplanted between the worlds of the new civilization, and this continues until that civilization also collapses.

Repeat cycle, add chaos to taste.

In terms of where this leaves us practically regarding the dark and grim ecology of the 41st millennium, it's a clusterfuck.

The Eldar, Slann, Necrontyr, C'Tan, and Old Ones all came before and all left behind vast swathes of their own biomes, all of which have shifted over time. For several of them, their cast-off pets have evolved into sapient species of their own right, with their own growing civilizations. The Imperium itself comes and goes in great waves, so many of its worlds have had mass introductions and transplantations multiple times over. Then there are the Tau, who integrate everyone they come in contact with (and thus spread a huge hybrid biosphere among their controlled territories) Orks and Tyranids just make more of themselves ad infinitum.

In short, it's likely that only obscure worlds of the galaxy have a native biosphere. Everyone else is using some gigantic chimeric clusterfuck, as it right and proper for the setting.


Monday, July 23, 2018

Fragments Found of a Setting on the Steppe

Turner Mohan

It's amazing, some of the stuff you can find lying about in old notebooks and half-finished stories. I can't recall if I started writing these scraps down before or after I discovered Against the Wicked City: judging by where they are placed and in which notebook it was some time in late 2015 or early 2016, so it's very likely that it had some influence on this.

Peoples on the Steppe

  • Clay-Folk - Brown of skin, hair dark and curly. Settled upon the canals and aquifers of an ancient irrigation system, now returned to nature. Possibly the descendants of the builders of those ruins. Peaceable and possessing of great storytellers.
  • Traveling Peoples - Of similar countenance to the Clay-Folk and considered as kin. Ride about with their herds upon their chosen beasts: horses, bison, and mammoths.
  • Mountain People - Light brown of tone, prone to greying early. Hold the mountain passes secure and tax merchants heavily. Near all their talk is of yak milk and dragon-gods, and they talk incessantly.
  • River People - Red-gold skin and sandy hair. They hold all things in common upon their rafts, and perform no marriages among themselves. Their women go bare-breasted and the men all train in song.
  • Pale Men - Stocky, pallid, hair black and thin. They came from the far North and sought to introduce civilization to the Clay-Folk. Their homes are built of black metal and cough up black clouds. They are humorless at large, and do not care for gods or stories of gods.
  • Sea Peoples - Swarthy folk who live on the coast to the south, living off their rocky vineyards and on the bounty of the sea. Blade-priests of the swordfish-god come north in pilgrimage.
  • Bloody Men - Their bodies are covered in scab-stripes from flagellation. They hate all other bands of men on the Steppe, for reasons that have been forgotten by the targets of their raids. Their hordes grow and grow without ceasing.
  • Beast Men -They wear the heads of goats and the hides of dogs and have forgone the speech of man entirely. They live by the club and the shattered skull.
  • Men of the Moon - Silver and without hair, taller than a strong men by half. Their voices are like flutes, and they trade in curses.
  • Those Who are Not Men - Seen only ever at a distance in the twilight: a dark form and two eyes like the last embers of the sun. That is all.
  • Enemies of the Pale Men - None know who or what drove them south from their bitter forests. All that can be said is mercantile hearsay and supposition, for the Pale Men say nothing.
  • Those from the World Beyond - There are tales of great empires across the mountains, across the sea, across time and across the far end of the steppe. Will they turn their eyes here, as did the Pale Men? None know yet.

Monsters


  • Demons of earth, sea, and air - Most prolific of all dangers upon the steppe.
  • Monsters of the Steppe - Solitary beings glimpsed in the far distance.
  • Skinchangers - A man who has worn too many skins loses his own body, until he is just a filthy breath in a coat of hair.
  • Flesh-Folk - Imagine the shape of a man, bloated and without skin, pink and marbled white, tottering mindlessly through the grass in herds. They are the embodiment of man's great failure.

Gods

  • Abu the creator breathed life into the Clay-Folk.
  • Repappa the Tricky One taught the Clay-Folk how to make the Flesh-Folk.
  • Zaizu took pity upon the Flesh-Folk. She tried to give them her breath, but failed to give them souls. They remain only the image of man.
  • All manner of evil spirits of the earth came forth when Sha-Bo-Nen made emissions upon the ground to make clay like Abu.
  • All manner of evil spirits of the sky were made in the arguments between Gallu and Tu-La.
  • All manner of evil spirits of the sea were made from the afterbirth of Loe - the curse of Unu-Za fouled the Sea-Mother's womb and killed her some Foteh, whose body become host to Gash the Worm.
  • Jima-Who-Made-the-Moon lost the gift he had forged for his beloved Niben in a game of bones to Shisheh, Shapeless One.
  • Mato sends down stars from the sky, for he loathes the earth of Sha-Bo-Nen and stays loyal to the tyrant Sken.
  • The Thousand Legions of Baru once made the march to heaven and deposed the tyrant Sken. They camp there still and became the stars.
  • Tuzza the Mishapen is hairy and apelike - he gambols about as a clown, but his souls is sad. He is rejected by those he seeks to bring joy to.
  • Red Charzoum is the god of slavers. He is a wrathful and unkind master.
  • The realms under the earth are domain of Musu the Quiet. The wicked he gives to his lover Ahan, whose belly swells with souls and who womb births all manner of deep creatures.
  • Hanech-Ta sought to aid Baru by building a tower to heaven, but was never able to finish.
  • The dead not eaten by Ahan are made slaves of Xa-Ruc-Li for a hundred years and a day in his war against the demons of the earth, sea, and sky.
  • Shi-Dhes drew a map of all the heavens, and of all realms on and beneath the earth. She did this to account for all the treasures in the world.
  • Those who die are taken by Galmuz, who flies in the night. He does not speak, and accepts no gifts. He is pleased only by the rites of sky funeral.
  • Rasch-Lo  is the builder of walls and layer of foundations. With his brother Hanech-Ta he makes bricks of clay and walls of stone.
  • The name of Eshu is known to all, but none know why. His name marks all secrets above and below.
  • Xerech the Hundred-Thousand-Legged stalks the world and swallows up rivers and cities in search of his tail.
  • Rosh-Acho wars against the Brothers Behind Walls. He lords over the hunt, and hoards all good cuts of meat.
  • Aris Ring-Giver came from beyond the horizon, bearing oaths and gifts and gilded words
  •  Mashu the sorcerer-king is master of the Darker Arts. His apprentice Tachu built the Wise Ways to cast light upon his master's villainy.
  • Grim Lerli poles the streams of time in her canoe. With her travels Jambul the Sleeper and the Dreamer, whose lullaby is made by four-armed Sucho-Sha on drum and flute. Together they encompass all seasons and turnings.

Other notes 


  • There was a crusade in the north. It passed by the steppe, but ripples of it were still felt. 
  • The cycle of the phases of the moon is a curse that might be delivered on those who go out on fell nights. The goddess behind it has no name, the storytellers are agreed that it is neither Niben nor Shisheh's doing. 
  • Storytellers fill the role of bard; astrologers, haruspexes, and augurs fill the role of wizards. 
  • Times are changing, borders shifting, enemies now friends. 
  • Zodiac signs: eagle, serpent, bear, cat, goat, catfish, prairie dog, bison (yak), raveb, tower-tree, and crab.
  •  There's a background listed here for "born in gunpowder". I have no idea what that was supposed to mean.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Play Report: Sleeping Place of the Space Swine

Ran myself a pick-up game last night: a level 0, two-man run of Logan Knight's Sleeping Place of the Feathered Swine, using my Danscape Spacejammer setting and 5-ish Hack rules.

Party consisted of:
  • Freebo, a gnomish hull-barnacle scraper
  • Dean, a goliath death-ray optics-polisher
(Occupations taken from the space dungeon backgrounds list via Hapless Henchman)
We open with the two unlucky chaps working on a mail ship in the outer system (Freebo was previously fired for being too honest with his boss, and Dean accidentally killed the prior mailman with one of the death-rays he was polishing and so felt honor-bound to replace him).

On their ship with them were some assorted NPC crew-members (read: backup PCs)
  • Basiera, a drow jacobin and pilot
  • Durran, a goliath forge-father
  • Jacques, a sea-elf formerly of the space-curry industry
  • Igor, a duergar mad scientist assistant and Time Cube devotee.

Basiera informed the crew that the asteroid settlement they were approaching hadn't been responding to any normal communication, but she was picking up a weak, intermittent distress beacon. The laws of space are quite clear, one must respond to distress signals and mysterious lacks of signals in equal measure, and so Freebo and Dean were selected as the away team. They in turn chose Durran (and his very impressive custom-built plasma rifle) to tag along with them, and head down to the planet.

(For a visual aid, the settlment consisted of several sealed-off craters which had had breathable atmosphere pumped into them and some basic vegetation transplanted.

In the abandoned arrival center, Freebo hacks himself some admin privileges and looks through the security footage: seems everyone packed up shop and left in the middle of the night before last. Lifesign detection is only picking up one other individual, somewhere outside.

On the crater floor the trio find that life form to be a harried thaumonaut named Felix. He explains that he was part of the security team that was sent in from the main settlement when the crater was sealed off night before last. He begs for help, claiming that his party was attacked shortly after entering a nearby cave by unknown beings. He's lost his spellbook and his friends, and still needs to find out what's going on.

Dean, being a big dumb earnest idiot with a heart of gold, manages to persuade him to come along with them. Felix, so shaken by his recent catastrophe, can't figure out if he's okay with this. Dean has more or less adopted the wizard at this point.

Upon entering the cave, Dean fashions a sling so as to more easily carry the traumatized Felix as one would a baby. The wizard does not complain.

The party quickly finds the remnants of a campfire and a pit of ooze. Freebo, in trying to investigate the shimmering rocks on the other side, loses his grip and falls into the pool, shlorbing down into a bigger cavern. Despite being able to call up to his friends, he is written off as dead by Dean with great melodrama.

On the lower level: Freebo stays far away from the snorning pink flab-hulk that is the feathered swine, finds some light-absorbing mushrooms, and manages to find a passage back up to the upper caves.

On the upper level: Dean, Felix, and Durran manage to avoid a perilous chasm. In a crack in the wall Dean finds a bloated, severed leg. Worms begin to eat into his hand - he calmly pulls out his space-lighter and burns them out.

Freebo rounds the corner then, and is discovered with great joy to be not dead. Being a gnome, he is able to fit into the crack and find the wounded Aspeth, one of Felix's compatriots. With the wizard, Freebo is able to get Aspeth down from her perch and into Dean's sling. She categorically refuses to be taken back to the ship for medical attention, and insists on killing the creatures in the cave before she dies. She gives the ampoules of sedative to Freebo.

In the next chamber, they find the worm tumors, feasting upon the remains of the security team. Durran (guided by Aspeth's advice) advances fires a shot off to smoke them out.

Combat is met, then: two of the tumors go after Durran, while the other four hold the entrance against the other two. Freebo manages to get two successful ampoules into them, allowing Dean and Aspeth to go aid Durran: alas, they are too slow and his aim is too poor in the melee to be much help. Durran's throat is torn out and he crushes the tumor's heart through the hole he shot in its chest.

Dean is infected again during the fight, and the infestation swiftly sweeps up his arm. Using his goliath resilience, Dean shrugs off the damage that lopping off his arm with Aspecth's axe causes, and cauterizes the stump with Freebo's laser-scraper. He picks up Durran's plasma rifle and slings it over his shoulder.

Investigation of the room reveals the leftover equipment of the dead security team. Freebo grabs the sphere from the pool, and the crew descend deeper. The monsters need to be rooted out.

In the burrow-room, Freebo manages to find three black firebombs in a hole in the wall. This is great, until a tumor slides out of another burrow and manages to get its claws onto Felix. The others manage to kill it quickly, but the wizard's spacesuit is ruined.

The crew enters now the great chamber of the feathered swine, queen and source of this infection. Dean, using his lighter, a scrap of cloth, and the bottle of windex he got as background equipment, fashions a crude molotov and tosses it at the swine. Freebo follows it up with a black firebomb.

The swine does not appreciate being set on fire and lets out a horrific screech, bull-rusing the group. Dean is struck down and killed. Aspeth rolls out of the sling and grabs the plasma rifle. Felix is crushed under the creature's bulk. Aspeth takes off half of its head with a green bolt but it's not enough to fell the beast.

"KILL THE FUCKER!" she screams.

Freebo, knowing that this is the only way to end the nightmare, dodges out of the way of the swine's burning beak and tosses a second grenade behind him.

The explosion is a glorious spray of chunky pork salsa. Aspeth's severed arm flies by, flipping off the swine's carcass. Dean's severed arm flies by, giving a thumbs up.

Freebo retreats to the ship, traumatized forever. Basiera dumps the packages off at the visitor center, declaring that if "they want their mail that bad, they can fucking get it themselves."

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Class: Carvergirl

To.M

Class: Carvergirl

They kill unicorns.

Hit Dice: d6
Saves: As halfling
Weapons and Armor:
  • Cannot wear anything heavier than light armor. 
  • Cannot use large weapons. 
  • Medium weapons must be wielded in two hands.
  • To-hit bonus as fighter
  • May use DEX bonus for melee attacks.  
Skills: Choose or roll two. For LotFP skills, these skills begin at 3-in-6 and increase by 1 at levels 4, 7, and 10. For SotDL skills, add an extra boon at levels 4 and 7.
  1. Bushcraft - Wilderness survival; scrounging, foraging, identification.
  2. Butchery - Properly carving up animals into usable pieces.
  3. Dirty Fighting - Sneak attacks, hamstrings, kidney punches, crotch-shots
  4. Hide - Remaining unseen and unheard.
  5. Rootwork - Understanding root magic, creating root charms.
  6. The Watch - Knowledge of the monsters of the night
Cavehtung: In addition to the common language, carvergirls speak a chaotic creole pulled from a dozen mother languages and sewn together with their own slang. It is impenetrable to outsiders, save with a lot of slow, clear enunciation and pantomiming. Most speak it as their primary language.

Starting Equipment:

  • Ragged clothing
  • Weapon and trinket
  • A handful of cigarettes or a rat on a stick or a flask of rotgut
  • Tattoo of vertical bars on forehead and back of right hand
  • 1000-yard stare.

Name Table (d6 & d8)



123456
1BulletMooneyCloverBluejayJackassIbis
2TickSquidDizzyGritFloaterWalker
3WickSix-EyesWinterChestnutWartRags
4MouserKipShitbitchBo MaybeSawboneDrop Bear
5FireballThornyCrunchThistleBig ShotNo-Nose
6BiterSproutGreasyFinchPillbugTiger
7RedMarblesRotgutBlackheadPepperMailbag
8GloryWillowTwitchSaltlickGhostsmokeToothsome

Status (d4)

  1. Young scrunt; unproven and soft
  2. Blooded carver; good with a knife
  3. Hardened veteran; sharp and cunning
  4. Among the oldest; an institution

How Did You Come to the Farm? (d6)

  1. Orphaned
  2. Abandoned
  3. Forgotten
  4. Lost
  5. Stolen
  6. Sold

Weapon (d8)

  1. Carving knife
  2. Rusty shank
  3. Machete
  4. Shovel
  5. Broken bottle
  6. A long gun with no bullets
  7. Sharpened bone or stone club
  8. A unicorn horn

Favored Breed (d10)

  1. Midlands Blue
  2. Appaloosa
  3. Three Dead Ladies
  4. PfTD
  5. Mountain Draft
  6. Old World Palatine
  7. Quakemouth Bastard
  8. Shambling Dorie
  9. Qirax Devilsoul
  10. Karkadann

Your Nature (d%)

  1. Humor black as a tarred gallows.
  2. Break chains, burn shit, eat the rich.
  3. Still hoping, however foolishly, that things will get better.
  4. The facade is cracked.
  5. Devoted utterly to the hunt.
  6. A rare kindness
  7. Just barely keeping it together.
  8. Pain-tempered wisdom
  9. Dead girl walking
  10. WAR SEASON

Descriptors (d12)

  1. Tumorous growths
  2. Organ failure date tattoo
  3. Missing or misshapen limb
  4. Bone-shard facial piercings
  5. Crow-feathers woven in hair
  6. Disfiguring scars
  7. Blind in one eye
  8. Ocher-and-clay face paint
  9. Albino or piebald
  10. Filed teeth
  11. Filthy, matted hair
  12. Occult tattoos

Trinket (d20)

  1. Your sister's skull
  2. Necklace of rat teeth
  3. Hand-carved dice
  4. Spotted unicorn-hide poncho
  5. Horn from a prize hunt
  6. Jar of scavenged coins
  7. Rag doll with a crowfeather bonnet
  8. Poster detailing the cuts of meat
  9. Shimmering blanket of woven unicorn hair
  10. Cords of root amulets and bone talismans
  11. Three bullets and a photograph
  12. Long pipe and a bag of unicorn shit
  13. Pendant icon of Brother Bones
  14. Padded leather apron
  15. Purple foalskin moccasins
  16. Fishing rod, bait and tackle
  17. Cold iron horseshoe
  18. Gator-skull helmet
  19. Circlet of swampflowers
  20. Fetal unicorn in a jar

Carver girl, carver girl, don't lie to me.
Tell me where did you sleep last night
In the blood, 'neath the bone, where the sun's never shone
Won't make it the whole night through

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Faction Progression: Knights of the Broken Sword

From Endless Legend

This is an example of one of the alternate progression systems I proposed back in this post and first worked on in my Shadow of the Eschaton hack.

Knights of the Broken Sword


Long ago there was a mighty sorcerer-king, who ruled over a vast and prosperous kingdom. When he had grown old, there came from the night, vile ghouls that rose from the earth and breached his castle by secret paths. They killed the king in his chambers and lapped up his golden blood, taking it into themselves and drawing upon this power. The king had no heir, and so the kingdom fell to ruin and dissolved among its lords. Few of his knights remained loyal, and swearing an oath to their Lady they waged a war against the goldbloods that lasts to this day.


A) Initiate
Requirements: Swear the Lady's Oath
  • Stone mask, tabard bearing the order's regalia (+1 boon to social rolls within friendly territory)
  • Lady's Compass (Detects goldbloods within 1000ft)
  • Will be called upon by higher-ranking knights to assist in the hunt of goldbloods.

B) Knight
Requirements: Complete initiation
  • Knight's Mask (Proof that one has completed initiation)
  • Blessed broken sword (1 boon to hit goldbloods, 1d10 damage : d4 to all others)
  • Lady's ring (Official seal of the order, legally binding)
  • Lady's Burden (Must consume the blood of at least one goldblooded creature per month)
  • May call up 1-2 initiates for aid in a hunt.

C) Veteran Knight
Requirements: Years of service and notable achievement. (Alt. bribery and politicking)
  • Seat on the temple council (may vote on and direct order policy)
  • Reputation precedes you (+2 boons to social rolls)
  • Access to the uncensored Annals (contains order's true history & names of the great ghouls)
  • May call up a lower knight for aid in a hunt, along with 2-3 initiates.

D) Lord Commander
Requirements: Elected to the position by meeting of the temple councils or by the Lady's wish.
  • Access to the Lady's audience chamber.
  • High broken sword (2 boons, 1d10+2 damage to goldbloods)
  • Can request aid from outside the order to assist in a hunt.
  • May direct the order in major hunts.
  • Can command goldbloods with vocal commands (target resists with 2 banes).

Sunday, July 15, 2018

3 Reviews: Krevborna, Chromatic Soup, and Faux Pas

It's a triple header!

In line with some of the talk going around of improvements in the general OSR/DIY community, I've gone and revamped my reviews to be a bit more directed. They're still going to be rambly and based primarily on clusters of personal impression points rather than in-depth analysis, though.


Krevborna: A Gothic Blood Opera

Jack Shear
Pdf purchased
Perused

What is It?: A system-neutral gothic horror setting guide / toolkit.

Notes:

  • The title is very accurate. You know exactly what you are getting into.
  • Provides everything one would need to run just about anything - NPCs, monsters, factions, cities, wilderness regions, potential dungeons, encounter tables, aesthetics character backgrounds, plot seeds, recommended reading.
  • The formatting is such that each topic of note is a table, bulleted list, or a single paragraph. Each city and region has the same sections in the same order, all nice and neatly spaced. Very easy to read.
  • The Bloodborne influence is super-strong. Mostly this is a positive, though when we had gotten to Grail Dungeons I was less enthusiastic about it.
  • There is not a whole lot of art (that which is featured is very good), which when combined with the formatting leads a lot of the book to look pretty samey. There's a good deal of whitespace. But, that does make it easy to find information on the page.

How I'd Use It: Most likely I would nestle Krevborna out in the hinterlands, and leave dangling hints and rumors of the goings on far away. It seems a good fit for a strangers in a strange land setup, so "invited to partake in elaborate vampire hunt" would also not be out of the question. I could definitely see adapting the tables in Yoon-Suin to Krevborna to supplement the provided adventure seeds.


Chromatic Soup, issues 1 & 2

Evlyn Moreau et al.
Physical copies purchased
Perused

What is It?: A pair of regional-setting gazetteer-zines filled with classes, monsters, random tables locations, and all manner of  practical plug-and-play things.

Notes:

  • Free pdfs, less than 5 bucks each for physical copies of 100+ pages, and Lulu regularly runs free shipping coupons. This is the highest quality-to-cost ratio in RPGs, by my reckoning
  • Content that can be plucked out and used as one desires. Links between entries can easily lead you into gradually introducing more stuff as time progresses. All the great strengths of zines are here on display.
  • The settings are full of weird backwoodsy folk and weird backwoodsy locations, fleshed out through the content.
  • Digest size makes for easily handling and carrying about.
  • There's no issue 3 yet, and thus I can neither submit content to it nor purchase it.

How I'd Use It:

Several of the classes have already snuck their way onto my master list of character options. With the way the books are organized, that alone will bring in other entries. The Tarry Baunbak, demon salesman of vol. 2, is sure to appear in my games at some point.


Faux Pas


Nick LS Whelan
Pdf purchased
Perused and played

Disclosure: I helped playtest this (though not all of it) and am credited in the book.

What is It?: A town come down with a terrible plague of the demons with a dungeon below. Comes with an audiobook!

Notes:

  • The audiobook module is both novel and helpful. Nick's done a great job with Blogs on Tape, and in proper form he's able to get all the content to sink in and stick.
  • The encounters in the town are all memorable (on account of being terribly fucked up). Writing is vivid and to the point. The mutations are visceral and gross. Adding the Violence as a temporary event complicates all reactions.
  • The gotcha (the demons are neither demons nor evil) is, unlike many gotchas, not just there to screw over the players. There's a solid amount of interaction choices and potentials to be had.
  • Offhand mentions of the practices of the ancient cult and the Creature that Lurks on Mars are the right kind of flavor-that-probably-won't-come-into-play: short and evocative. Same with God-most-Censorious.
  • The art and photo collages really aid with the off-kilter tone of the whole thing. The time limit adds the looming dread into the mix.

How I'd Use It:

Standalone adventure, and it's already been added to the docket. 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Kicking it Old-School with 5e: Character Creation


5th edition is super-popular, and that is fucking great. New blood is good blood.

The question is "How do we get all the new blood that's over there, and bring it over here?"

To that end, I'm writing up a couple posts as a way to bridge the gap between 5th edition and old-school play, as a way to encourage them into the mindset while not straying too far from the rules that they are familiar with. Ideally, it would be something that you could introduce to all those bushy-tailed, bright-eyed newbies while running sessions at the local library without scaring them all away.


Basic mechanics

  • Attributes are 3d6 in order. Attribute bonuses are as in 5e. 
    • If the level-0 session is not meant as a funnel, you may adjust scores as you wish.
  • Reaction and morale rolls are in effect.
  • For level 0 characters, start with 1d4 + CON bonus HP.
    • Alternatively, HP = CON,  skip HP gain at level 1.
  • Checks operate under Shadow of the Demon Lord rules. You need to beat 10. Add your ability modifier to d20, then apply the greatest boon or bane that was rolled. 
  • Initiative is also according to SotDL rules.
  • Advantage and Disadvantage are replaced with boons and banes.
  • Skills are out. Proficiency may be treated as a single Boon. 
  • Feats are for walking, not for characters.
  • Backgrounds can be whatever fulfills "prior employment". Use whatever list you like. You start with a (usually makeshift) weapon and an appropriate item, DCC style.

 

Character Race

Character race is determined by die drop.


Category (d%)TypeRaceRerollBonusWeakness
1-5Human (d20)1-7: HumanAnyKinship with dogs1 bane to resist mutation
8-10: DwarfCONCan identify origin of worked itemsNo booze = exhaustion
11-13: HalflingDEXLucky: rerolls a 1, 1/daySave vs lost in cities
14-16: GoliathCONShrug off d12 damage 1/dayToo big for normal doors
17-18: Half-OrcSTRExtra attack after drawing first bloodCursed by the orc gods
19-20: FirbolgWISSpeak to animals and plantsUnmaskable smell of dirt and sweat
6-7Monstrous (d10)
1-2: KoboldDEXCan squeeze into tiny spacesTerribly nearsighted
3-5: GoblinDEXImmune to diseaseLeave filth and grease everywhere
6: HobgoblinINTKnows military hand signsAll about machismo and saving face
7: BugbearSTRHides without detection under beds and behind doorsTerribly confused by blankets and sheets
8: LizardmanCONd6 bite, 13 AC scalesSave vs cold or 1 bane to all checks
9: OrcWISCan survive a hit that would drop to 0 HP, 1/sessionSave vs blood-frenzy
10: SerpentmanINTMilk a dose of venom 1/dayOpium addiction
8-9Elf (D12)
1-2: GnomeINT1 boon to understand, repair, and build mechanical devicesEnemies may choose to punt
3-4: Half-ElfCHA1 boon on saves vs magicHated by domestic animals
5-6: Wood ElfDEXStealth boon in natural coverAllergic to iron
7-8: DrowCHADarkvisionSunlight sensitivity
9: Sea ElfCONSpeak with sea creaturesSinks like a stone
10: High ElfINTThermal vision and magnetic senseTerrified of ugly things
11: Shadar-KaiDEXSpeak with dead, lvl/dayLooks like a warmed-over corpse
12: EladrinCHACan make dead plants bloomMust have permission to set foot in a building
10Exotic (d8)
1: DragonbornSTR2d6 dragonbreath 1/day, 15'Breath causes 1d6 damage to self
2: KenkuDEXMimicry of sounds and voicesCompulsion to devour carrion
3: TabaxiDEXDarkvisionSave vs laziness
4: GithINTCritical range 19-20 with bladesSave vs chaos or anxiety attack
5: DuergarCON1 boon vs mental effectsAlcohol triggers PTSD
6: TritonCHACan breathe underwater1 damage / hour if left to dry out
7: AasimarWISCan heal ally lvl HP Explode when critically hit
8: TieflingCHAResistance to fire damageHeavy leaden footsteps

 

A Minor Extrapolation of Setting


5e comes with some implied setting bits that aren't all that common in OSR-style games: cosmopolitanism, panoplies of playable beings, and high magic all over the place. Certainly not in the tradition of Appendix N, but let's try something different.

All those angels / demons / dragons / liches / squibbly squid things / other immensely powerful beings out there? They run the world. They are the boot stomping down on everyone's neck, forever. They are the scions of a world based on inequality and systematic oppression.

Imagine a world where Jeff Bezos can resurrect himself.

You know that sort of crippling melancholy oppression found in the boat and parade sequences of Ghost in the Shell? Replace the computers with magic.

The superficial trappings are different, but the core is the same: old-school 5e characters are nobodies on the fringe, scrounging through the wilderness and the ruins of previous civilizations and societies, trying to make ends meet in a world stacked against them. It's basically scum and villainy tier Star Wars.

If the players want to be big heroes, let them. But make them earn it. No one gets to start out as Mr. Big Hero Man. Gotta work for it.


Classes 


Character classes will be featured in a subsequent post. For the time being, one could easily use classes as they are in 5e, or Mateo Diaz Torres excellent Lamentations of the Fifth Princess. The final result will probably tend towards the latter over the former, but with more random tables.The aim is to get all nine core classes adapted, so that prospective players will keep the options they get in the default book.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Class: Priest



Alexis Rives

Everyone and their cousin has their personal take on clerics (I really, really like Beloch Shrike's anti-magic cleric, myself) so I might as well too.

Class: Priest


HP, XP, Saves: As cleric
Armor and weapons: Light armor and simple weapons only.
Starting Items: Staff, holy text, holy symbol (prayer beads, icon, amulet, etc)

Bless: With a prayer and a laying on of hands, you may do the following:
  • Bless a person: give another individual 1d6 + lvl points that they may add to any non-damage, non-magic roll they make. This may be cast CL times per day, but the recipient may only receive one blessing per day.
  • Bless an object: The object is considered holy to the priest's religion and will remain so until the next day. If cast every day for a week, the object will permanently be considered holy.
Turn: Priests may turn away unholy beings as in LotFP. Roll 2d6 and compare to the graph below.
  • Numbers indicate what must be rolled for a success.
  • 'T' indicates automatic turn.
  • 'D' indicates automatic destruction.
Upon failure, the priest cannot Turn for the remainder of the day.

Turning works against whatever is considered unholy by the priest's religion. By default, this includes demons, malicious spirits, and desecrated undead.

Relics: Priests may use relics appropriate to their religion

Holy Orders: Choose one of the following.
  • Parishional
    • +1 to reaction rolls within your community.
    • Can drum up 1d6 volunteers or a specialist in an emergency.
  • Monastic
    •  +1 to reaction rolls with those of religious or political authority.
    •  May request access to monastery's wealth and resources (CHA check).
  • Scholastic
    • Gain 2 additional languages and 2 academic areas of knowledge.
    • +2 boons when attempting to debate on a known topic.
  • Martial
    • May wear medium armor and use bladed weapons.
    • +1 to reaction roles among soldiers and men of violence.
  • Penitent
    • +1 additional HP gained each level.
    • May Bless and Turn as one level higher for sacrifice of 1d6 HP (heals 1/day)
  • Mendicant
    • +1 to reaction rolls with the poor, homeless, and marginalized.
    •  May live on half rations.
  • Inquisitorial
    • 3-in-6 chance of accurately detecting a lie. 3-in-6 chance of false positive.
    • +2 boons on attempts to intimidate.
  • Charismatic
    • Can gather and stir up a crowd with an hour of preaching.
    • Can project your voice and be heard over long distance and loud noises.
  • Heterodox
    • Possess studied knowledge of rival religions, 1d3 close contacts among other faiths.
    • Take orders from the top: may occasionally eschew church bureaucracy.

Mike Mignola


Sunday, July 8, 2018

Chambermaidens: Henry Justice Ford Monster Manual

For Eric Nieudan's bestiary project.

Chambermaidens

Armour class: as leather
Hit dice: 1
Move: 1 turn of fast, otherwise slow
Attacks: Fist (1d2)
No. Appearing: 1
Morale: 9
Treasure: Special (see below)
Alignment: Neutral or Good

A type of faerie native to all manner of pots, jars, and assorted earthenware containers. Typically take the form of beautiful women about a foot tall, wearing gowns of white, blue, or butterfly wing. Generally friendly, but very protective of their pots and the contents thereof. They greatly enjoy riddles and games, and so will ask visitors to bring them some obscure and obfuscated item for their help.

What Does the Chambermaid Desire?
  1. A peacock tailfeather.
  2. A crossword puzzle with no errors, done in pen by an orc.
  3. A gastrolith from a basilisk.
  4. A spirit of hope and open skies.
  5. An ogre's love letter.
  6. A shell that contains seven seas.
A befriended chambermaid can provide information about the dungeon, adjacent hexes, enchantments, or local monsters, and will be willing to share the contents of their pot.

What Does the Pot Contain?
  1. Enough stew to keep 10 men fed for a month.
  2. A pond's worth of cool, clean water.
  3. A wagon full of nightsoil.
  4. The scraps from 10 aurochs eaten by trolls.
  5. The mummified organs of a prince, wizard, or priest.
  6. Fine wine enough to keep an army drunk for days.
Breaking a chambermaiden's pot will release all of its contents at once, and produce one very angry chambermaid. Curses will fly.

(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)