Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Wobble: the D&D Universe

The Xi Verse-
On what would be Earth in this universe are small societies that are somewhere around the Later Metal in technological development, downright medieval looking. Humans are the dominant species here tend to form feudal government systems and caste-based societal models. A variety of what we would call creatures of folklore and myth, like dragons and trolls, dwell here as well.
The technology level remains somewhat stunted because of the ability of basically anybody that can read being able to perform rituals that enact what researchers are calling magic at this point in time. This seems to keep the elites of this planet wanting to keep literacy and mathematics as hard to attain as possible. 
Some of the human natives have Wobbled into the Omicron and Alpha universes, but don't seem to have gone much farther.   

The Kingdoms of Grey Rock, this culture spreads from what we'd recognize as Ice Land and peters off somewhere the Azov sea in Russia. These fiefdoms are ruled by knights commanded warrior-kings or powerful wizards.

The Sultanates of Jhambhur, this culture extends from northern India to the Grecian peninsula and over northern Africa into the Iberian peninsula. Ruled by warrior-kings and their knights and wizards. More often than not the sultans work together a lot of the time under a ruler known as the Mogul.

The Empire of Nobo-Songhai, the feudal kingdoms of sub-Saharan Africa extending all the way into the southern extremes of the continent. There are often multiple emperors, and civil war is not uncommon.

The Hunting Ground Nations, maintain an oral tradition making it even harder for anyone to learn magic, these nations are on the north American continent.

Realms of the Flying Serpent, the feudal kingdoms of northern South America and Central America. They generally like to keep more primitive than medieval to keep things more interesting.

Elfheim, colonists from the Psi, the light and dark fairies, universe seem to be in control of areas around the globe. Finland, the islands of Japan, and the peninsula of Florida according to a few local maps. The natives of the Elfheim domains regularly travel to and from the Psi universe through a shortcut that is known only to them.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Is Your Easter Bunny Up to Snuff?

With Easter right around the corner, or two weeks if you're Eastern Orthodox, I hope everyone is preparing for some awesome tabletopping. I dunno about you, but a three day celebration of the dead coming to life and mixing in pagan fertility rites and symbols (that's eggs and rabbits) is about the most surreal holiday that I can think of. I really do enjoy getting the Easter Bunny involved in RPG sessions.

Here's my Red Bat Easter Bunny
Physical 100   BASH 225
Mental 75       ACC 210
Charm 700     DUCK 250
Luck 125       SHAKE 185
Nerve 85       HITS 185
                     BLAST 775
                     SHRUG 875
(A plethora of magical things)
Friends With Golden Egg Goose (Lk+9)- Very helpful when needing gifts in a hurry. The guy can get 2d6 magical, and very valuable, eggs per day. He doesn't usually give them out as Easter gifts though.
Been Down the Rabbit Hole (NV+17)- He's hipper than Santa Claus, and kept his head around the Red Queen. Cthulhu might be scary, but E-Bunny doesn't loose his cool very often
Notes: Probably the oldest surviving Pookas of all time. He was one of Pan's personal favorite prodigies when the whole Christianity thing killed the Old Time Religions. He still is a giving sort, just don't piss him off.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Under-Grunge: really gritty supernatural role-playing

I was in a bit of discussion today about bath salts and zombie attacks, which I think are complete click bait. The stuff sold as "bath salts" may or may not contain sufficient amounts of cathinone to deprive a person of sleep, but not enough to mimic the effects cocaine or meth. Besides boosting the body's natural levels of dopamine, because of growing respiratory discomfort, there is no generalized feeling of euphoria. Maybe the user experiences moments of spiking then dropping blood pressure can cause psychedelic hallucinations while that person faints, mimicking severe dehydration during a hangover from alcohol, but no big whooping psychosis. So the well publicized "drug-induced cannibalism" craze has more to do a The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad being on the same cable TV channel than any horrifying wonder of chemical engineering.

This sort of fantastic thinking is a great "street level" enhancement to the standard horror based RPG though. Delta Green has already added the Tcho-Tcho people selling black lotus to get a DEA angle into their games. The TV show, Blade, had the whole ASH, thing going on.

MUT-8- This chemical mixture was first produced during the First World War by Baron Von Ruhong of the AustroHungarian Empire. It can actually have part of the recipient's DNA mutate itself into something of a super-power. 67% of all the tests died on the table. Only 22 out of the surviving 315 test subjects did not develop severe mental disorders. It is said that this drug is behind the appearance of super-powered heroes and villains from 1935 and on.
There are documents that show the Nazis, the USA, and USSR all experimented with the drug during WWII. There are rumors of official governmental usage as late as 1986.

ZOM-B- This drug is usually used in secretive religious cults where the belief in a strong guru/prophet figure is in charge. The leader of said cult develops a relationship of faith and trust with the intended users sometimes taking years. Those given the drug that have survived, refer to their time under its influence as having been in paradise. Their bodies though are under what appears to be the psychic influence of the figure. The effect can last for months.
These "zombies" physical bodies seem to be in a constant state of adrenaline reaction to threat. They are cognizant of no pain, except fire and burns, and are only fully incapacitated from doing their leader's will when dead.

Blue Blood- This plasma-based chemical compound, mimics the effects of vampirism after initial exposure, without the supernatural qualities described throughout literature around vampires. The exposed are stronger and faster, and can heal faster than normal when consuming human blood. They are highly susceptible to UV light burns.
These exposed are somehow immune to the adverse effects of InFERnol, and use it gain the supernatural traits associated with classical vampires.

WarHOL- Turns the user's skin to plastic for hours at a time. They become heavy mouth-breathers as their bodies cannot regulate body temperature adequately.

Essential Salts- This tincture, also called "Lovecraft," is quiet an elaborate, and expensive, application various preternatural pharmacuticals in a certain order which will restore the semblance of life to a corpse. These returned are reported to be deeply damaged in terms of their mental stability.

InFERnol - This drug while in effect endows users what can only be describe as supernatural abilities, they are however subject to severe personality changes and later recall nothing. The alternate personality may reappear later throughout the subjects life.

Players can play Agent (Federal DEA specialist), Deputy (local law enforcement), and Professor (scientific researcher), and Gumshoe (civilian) classes. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Shades of Gray in a T&T Sitting

No this isn't about sex in T&T.

Last night I ran a video session for a longer lasting group, JerryTel, Peryton, and The Boy (no name until he turns 18), with their pretty well developed Characters. While fetching fresh water and supplies for their ship en route from Pykvaale to the Islands of Stragae, they encountered the Raj of what they thought was a remote deserted island. They were commissioned by the prince, who was a Paju (a feline-folk species in my games) to get the statue of Kali away from a local death cult living atop the mountain which dominated the area.

Well after a fight with a band of cyclops, or "cyclopi" as I kept calling them, the adventurers met the death cultists themselves. It was mostly a community of ratlings and the high priest was a dwarf of south Asian descent that liked to wear white skull tattoo over his cheeks and brow. After an apology by the party's usual trouble-maker, The Boy's Character, Curly, for starting a fight with the cyclops guarding the path to the temple, things really lightened up.

JerryTel's Character, Jherri, the Great, took the lead in the scenario. He filled out his Warrior's personality a bit, showing a deep reluctance to bother the cultists who were being very nice and hospitable. The were definitely profit-driven, they charged for healing everyone, but they invited the adventurers to stay as long as they liked. They put on one of the better feasts that group had ever had, even if it was vegetarian. Of course the subaltern of temple, a ratling named Rizzi, would often entertain them as he practiced his singing of the Bhagavad Gita and tried to interest them in items from the Souvenir Shop. 

The group did notice that the cyclops lived away from the temple of Kali community, and had a shrine of their own. They also noticed that their own ritual healing seemed to coincide with the blood sacrifice of the injured cyclops from their earlier fisticuffs. Still, the cultists were very nice, and it became known that the ratlings lived in dread fear of the paju prince claiming their home as his domain-- he was a cat after all.

Jherri also noticed that in the pre-sun rise hours, Oa, the dwarven thugee-priest, and six of his temple guard ratlings would "Sing the Brahma Bull" from the summit of the mountain to the sea. A giant sacred cow would manifest from the mountain side and saunter its way, often walking on the air, to the surf. It was quite a striking scene. Now Curly, knew that there was something more to the scene than what they were seeing, but The Boy himself has been trying to moderate his somewhat impatient role-playing tactics of late, so he hanged back for the session. Peryton's Wizard, Alanthea (sp?), worked on her tan and bought the Cliff Notes Bhagavad Ghita to read.

Jherri, the Great, announced that the group was going to forgo the mission of stealing the statue of Kali, which both Curly and Alanthea decided not to argue against. They did have to pay for their dinner on this evening though. Jherri even joined in the ritual of "Singing the Brahma Bull" the next morning. He was supposed to be awarded some additional Con points, but failed a Savings Roll, and ended up with a just red skull tattooed onto his forehead. The sorceress was able to Dis-Spell the marking after quite a hard magical procedure, so the group decided to make their way down the mountain.

On the way down, the group was attacked by a rather large white bull, that had red eyes, breathed fire, and could cast Upsidaisy spells. It was a tough fight for the group, but after five turns they were able to injure the creature enough that it dissipated into thin air. But failing a Saving Roll, Curly now had the skull mark on his forehead. Alanthea was able to once again do magical surgery to remove it. And sure enough another giant-ish bull attacked having to dispatched again. This time everybody made the Saving Roll, and no one was further afflicted with the skull mark.

Running into the Raj, Prince Tantinje, again as the group boarded their snark (a boat that can be rowed as well as sailed). The tiger-faced aristocrat chided them on their failure, but Alanthea came up with a good enough lie to save some face. No payment was forthcoming though, including fresh water and food.

I wrote this scenario about six years ago as a counter to the second Indiana Jones movie. You know the one that conflated Hinduism with the Chinese-Siamese delicacy of monkey brains, and forgot that thugees were yogis and got their martial skills from that training not the goddess of death and rebirth. It was one where no one was right. The prince did indeed want to force the ratlings into submission and make them a part of his hunting grounds. The death cult had overran a temple of the Sun God, of the Old-Time Religion (Apollo/Sol Invictus), but the best the now pagan god could do was muster up a few cyclops, who were idiots, to try and retake the island. The cyclops were disliked by the raj as much as the death cultists so became "friends" with the folks that they should have been evicting. The big message is, "we are all wrong but what are we going to do about it?"

One thing, The Boy asked me what time period the game was set. It helped me establish that if my world of Elder was on Earth's timeline, it would be set around 1340 BP (years before the present)  or 675 A.D. The age of iron legions has passed and the knights of chivalry haven't appeared just yet. The spiritual magic of the Old Time Religions are being phased out by the monotheists, who were in turn are falling on each other.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

A World a Week: Still, but Not Just, Undwater

My Tare K'uhd ("Deep Waters") campaign setting turns into some twenty-six pages in my notebook. But I started getting into prehistoric history as well as life aquatic. This lead to this map on the eighth page of these scribblings.
 The kindred of the kuda and slithids made way for my otgan (otter-people), and hissers (crocodile-people). The muckra, sentient algae colonies came about while I play-tested my cave-man scenarios, complete with humans and apes (hominins). The lands of Kikiyang, the north part of the Long Island, even had a dinosaur or two, as it was the Hisser "capital."  The land-based Sleth (sleestaks) were tied to these few remaining dinosaurs. Boy you should've seen all the aquatic dinosaurs I worked into the deeper waters, the kuda had their hands full.

An advanced, well bronze-age, human culture was exploring these strange waters. These humans were viewed like martians from another planet by the locals. They were based off south Asian Harappan culture. I was attending lectures on India at a local library at the time. I drew up this map for my academic notes.

Friday, March 20, 2015

A World a Week: Underwater Kingdoms

This was my first annotations for underwater kingdoms around 2002. These are specifically the Kuda and Slithid kindred areas. Kuda came from my sci-fi Kodoa, but had more barracuda aspects. The slithid were more like grouper fish-faced humanoids.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Just Give Me the Year

Monk, Michael Larsen, is this close to having me write up a steampunk setting. He keeps writing these scenarios for "my game system" and I keep publishing them. All he needs to do is pick a year, a specific year, and I would trip out the world from there. He's got plenty of new and weird tales.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Fifth Year Ennui

Kid (in back seat): I have ennui!
Mother (looking at a map): You should've come to terms with the absurdity of everyday existence before we left the house.
Father (driving and wearing a tee shirt stating "Sarte"): There is no exit, anyway.

I think, a good role-playing session can do a lot of good for a persons soul. A lot of us here, as in the link that you're reading this from, have been doing it for most of our lives. A few of us, wouldn't mind not seeing some movies, well maybe seeing them later, if there was a intriguing RPG session somewhere nearby. But every few years, I tend to watch good players and blooming GMs get bored. Everybody else in the world is happy to hear it.

The folks that always thought the dude was cool, if a little into D&D, like wives and buddies that are bad golfers finally get some attention.

The folks that thought that she should have studied more in school, even start expecting her to pick up a doctorate course now that her 17 year-long Vampy  campaign finally concluded. Or at least she will finish that damn book.

The folks that produce RPG games as a basis to sell to other games (cards, miniatures, board games, and video) , love when that happens. Final one of those loafing pencil and eraser sorts stop moping around the FLAG reading the 9E Critter Manual for free instead of buying it, to get around to buying some (miniatures/packs of cards/boardgames) and people can get on with improving the economy.

Everyone except the role-player gets happy. The cool dude reaffirms that he never really liked golf and his wife is finding more friends' kids to babysit along with theirs. The author finds out that her the average chapter in her 3,678 page novel is 700 words long, and the 40 re-started plots seem a bit convoluted at best. The "hobbyist" realizes that the guy with the most amount of storage space wins every $15 entry-feed tournament. When the depression breaks, it's not just books and a couple pewter figures getting dusty.

I've noted that a couple of my fellow fantasists have fallen into the trap of mundane, yet don't know why. Here's some things I've noticed from my helicopter mode of existence.

Decide if it's entertaining or not? If it isn't ask yourself why isn't it and then what it take to be for it to be interesting again. For most people it's that their expectations from an RPG session can be met from playing boardgames that have popped up of late. Arkham Horror in the place of Call of Cthulhu comes to mind. Perhaps this means that things were getting a rote, more so than you need cardboard maps, a whole lotta special cards, and placement on the map to make your horror role-playing fun again. 

Mix up the groups both as a GM and as a player in differing types of games, outside of conventions. If you have a core group, that is great. Cleveland is the first place that I have lived anywhere long enough to essentially have one. Having moved around a lot, I was able to get over the fears of actively seeking out new people to role-play with starting around 1984. Since the age of the net-tubes, this has gotten about 1,000 times easier. Even the bad groups, and there will be at least one, will give you a line for something new when they wrap up. The mixes of players keep people reinforcing what they like about RPGs, not so much focusing on the dramas of the clique.

Don't get too overwhelmed by the industry of our hobby. For a lot of small businesses this whole game is about moving tonnes of books. It has become pretty clear d20/OGL brought in a horde of unheard of authors, and heard of authors started looking into maybe doing their own works. Luckily WOTC's 4E removal of role-playing from D&D helped non-d20 users get some sun. This developed into for many of us as many as a Kickstarter commitments that a lot of individuals can budget. Books about paladins, werewolves, orks, robot-suits, half-elves, blimp navies, and unspeakable horrors are all great but they only sell so much. They only need to sell so much, if you think about it. Keep in mind what you're into and where you are going next, you might not want to invest too heavily in that Needy Soul Sucker: The CCG-RPG if you're doing fine with Harry Potter and Doctor Who: the Dragonslayers D20 rule set though it is now a year old.

Do conventions, sometimes it's meeting new people, other times it's hanging with your group in nice places. It still does you good.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Red Bat is coming.

I was bat crazy before it was fashionable.

Well it's been getting worked on for multiple years but now I am happy enough with it to get it out there. My actual impetus to get it done, Monk, of course, has written an adventure for _my_ rules system that should be published around St Patrick's Day. Now the guy is the best friend that I have but he has written four steampunk scenarios for me to date, and never once noticed that I didn't have steampunk rules nor even that much familiarity with the audience. Believe it or not TAG's Wildly Heroic Action Pulp (WHAP!) was typed up out of nowhere because I had sixteen handwritten pages of the first one needing a T&T six-sided dice-friendly format.

A bit of history, TAG, itself, was around since my Spacer(TM) campaigns, long before the first official publications. You know the rules that you print out and mail to yourself, way back in yester-years of the 60s-90s. It was called LAG for "Laggy's Adventure Gaming" but some kids beat me to that acronym with Live Action Gaming. Spacer's worked just fine for me, but after trying out the rules with pulp/steampunk and modern horror, I wasn't happy with them. So since about 2009, I've been revising the rules into something a bit more manageable, and it would need a need different handle.

The roughs have been labeled "TROTT" notes, which stands for "Tom's Really Awesome Table-Topping." At the same time, I started working heavily with playing cards and developed "Tom's Action Card Kit" (TACK) for the new takes on Crawlspace. So after about three years of folks, mostly Peryton and JerryTel, teasing me about developing rules just because I think of an acronym, I felt I needed a different name. Since I like acid jazz, Angelo Badalamenti's "Red Bats with Teeth" came to mind, and it fit better than "Release" (by Melt Yourself Down) which what I was actually listening to at the time. As bats happen to be 20% of mammals around, there are plenty of "red" bats on our planet having nothing to do with music. I hope this name reflects a common trait among the line's releases, but also shows the flexibility of real bats.

So now the Red Bat "generic" system is all-but finished. My other complete TAG games can now fold into mere settings, with special rules written in as needed for that supplement. Hopefully other systems' fans will pick them up to see what they can use for GMing their own niche-minded games. And maybe one day, Monk will send me a scenario written using these rules.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Crawlspace: NPCs

From last Thursday night's game session, someone asked me "how are you working the NPCs?" He was right to ask. We were playing on-line with only draws to seen from bad camera angles, if not just trusted. I actually held every draw card so everyone could see it. I didn't think to show everyone the NPCs that they were dealing with.

It boils down to this. When NPCs are important to a scene, I draw a card, face down. When I must test his, or her, capability I state the rating. If you've read the rules "One" is the hardest. until  somewhere around "7 " being ridiculously easy. I then draw a card for that NPC's effort and flip over the card that I set aside for them.

Now this method can be for singular NPCs and groups, depending on how many card decks the GM has to play with. Since I currently have about eight different stacks, I actually can do multiple gangs of NPCs.  Whenever I have to draw on one specific member, I just rule, then draw, and turn that Character's card upward.

I have fully detailed NPCs, complete with Player-Character styled Actor cards. I still use these NPCS, but only infrequently. For the most part, I use one card to represent an NPC, and then I base every success or failure based upon the single card that I drew for them.

That is one way of dealing with things that occurs in the plot of any scenario. Got a better method? Please jump in, I want to read it.