Friday, January 30, 2015

A World A Week: The Unplayed Lands

I must've been making this one for something. I think it was '03 or so.  Can't remember.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Wid: A Type in the making

Since about 1994, the term "The Wid" has recurred in my fantasy works, role-playing and fiction. This wasn't really meant to be a Type (class) but a verbal piece of atmosphere that deepened the milieu a bit.

It started in a setting called Artha, which, despite it's Hindi origins, kind of became Russia, the Ukraine, Romania, and various places along the Danube. The Wid were the non-official sages, magi, and martial artists that battled to save the soul of their land from the Fatha Rugga (or the "Dark Monks"). They enabled Mikhail, the Usurper, to take over the city of Marshoon to begin the end of the Ugorath dynasty. The word "dynasty" was a ruse, Ugoran was 900 years old, and faked his death many time over the last 400 years to rule Vast Arth.

I haven't thought much about the Wid and the Fatha Rugga for a few years now. Strangely the term for a recognized wizard from this campaign, "Weth," still sticks around. My players might remember Mazweth, the Still, Pot 'Weth" Belly, or Weth Frahm. The Wid, popped up two nights ago in a dream.

The dream was mix of Vietnam War documentary and gun safety PSA, with some beautiful scenery, just outside of the Hills of Hap and my Grandparents' house on the way to Ilek Vad (my vacation spot). After the M113-A9s (double 25 Mike-Mike guns on the top) cleared out, and all the Deuce-&-1/2 -riding Legs stopped carelessly shooting at the non-combatants, and me--Luckily I was wearing a kevlar not a steel-pot and more worried about the MLRS-delivered landmines than anything, but those poor male non-combatants were taking a beating.

After the mechanized infantry was clear of the area, I was setting up an LP/OP and marking TRPs for the support coming inevitably through. I didn't feel bad not following the fight, because I had been ahead of the column for ten days already. I noticed a lot of the non-combatants were popping back up, thank Godsheadness that the heavy dudes were such bad marksmen. Then the non-combatants started fighting among themselves. Frankly, I suddenly didn't know who to trust.

One dude caught my interest. He was up against a much bigger dude. He would dive into the ground and emerge a few, not more than five, yards away. The radio to my left, told me to displace and move to the top of "Hill 409 Vatcher." It was to my right and a few hundred meters from my shoulder blade (northwest). I turned to start the hike and start on an over-watch set-up. I heard steps behind me.

A gray faced, long-white haired dude was walking up behind me. I had my Colk .45 so wasn't worried. He most likely was a paid local who was told to accompany me. How else would he know my position? Still I didn't know who exactly to trust. These dudes can travel through the ground.

I woke up amused. I moved my hands to check the feed on a long-gone Mark 19.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Ever Underestimated D4

I know that I really don't need to be paying any attention to more RPG rules sets just right about now. A decade ago, I advertised a Four-Sider Universal System (or somehting that abbreviated spelled "FUSS) at Peryton Publishing for April Fools Day, thinking it was the funniest thing ever. Then there is the old-school joke about using them as caltrops. But ever since Charlie Fleming, of RARR! I'm A Monster Publishing, put out his 15-page horror setting (a complete RPG actually) The Librarians of Doom, I've been looking at d4 matrices.

I find that LoD, or Librarians, captures what we call urban fantasy as well as some cosmic horror rather well. Ever since Highlander, that genre has been rife with sub-par emulations of the film in all forms of media, especially RPGs. The biggest problem is that folks don't remember to keep things simple. Go with a one-liner (Don't lose your head over it) and keep the mechanics simple, (chop and clop, then POP!), WALLAH! You can go funny or sinister with ease.

I hope to do crossover scenarios for D4Core rules as well own TACK (Crawlspace) system, over the next couple of years.

The original librarian of doom.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Wobble: Payphones, Part 2

I am up to 196 payphones between Norwalk, Ohio in the west to Connaught, Ohio in the east and as far south as Ashland, Ohio. Only twelve are working. I wonder if I should start adding if the device is intact or not in this unofficial study in a little note booklet carried in my shirt pocket. A little late for that because I am not going to retrace my steps to recheck the earlier finds unless I am work, but we'll see. Still no one is taking the payphones away, functional or vandalized.

Wobble kernel: No one is taking the payphones away. Laziness or a reason that isn't obvious? Emergency preparedness or something insidious? 

Interesting to me, but what to make it "gamer interesting?"

Saturday, January 24, 2015

A World a Week: The New India Seas

The New India Seas was a campaign that lasted for almost a year in '01. My neighbor and his his friends were still smitten with me as a GM, but wanted something different than fantasy or "retro sci-fi." It was, for lack of a better term, so I'll use my own, a "Powder Punk" campaign. It started out as a pirate campaign set around 1670.  Well, elements of the Scarlet Pimpernel and more than three musketeers worked their way into things.  I was using a T&T variation of mine called "Moonlight, Muskets, and Magic" written back in 1986.

I must've drawn this one up after the campaign was over.

The games started, as you'd guess, in the New Indian Seas, my take on the Caribbean, with a whole lot more population than was in the region in the later 17th Century. It soon washed over into the American Carolinas and the western shores of Ireland. Muskets gave way to revolvers about a century and a half too early, as things went Spaghetti Western, in a region called El Norte (Texas-Tamaulipas). When the Characters were hired by the Dutch Federal External Affairs Guild to save William Penn and Claude Duval in London, those revolvers knocked the red coats for a loop.

Things petered out when the Characters were set to start a Pirate Round series of adventures. I so had some surprises in store for the crew of the Sekund Fiddle around Madagascar.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wobble: Glam World

This world is Sirius 17 in the Pi Verse. Originally, a prison colony for the Greatest Empire, this world's population adapted to its environment and then overcame it. The residents became the masters of quantum-photo mechanics as well as just plain old survival. Even before the rebellions that shook the outer colonies of the Empire became the Revolt, Glam World was on the path of revolution.

One of the original Glam Pirates of Sirius

At first the residents started pirating the less protected ships coming into their star system. Then the residents decided that they weren't a penal colony, but a hot-spot for colonization from the home-worlds. The biosphere make-overs were very successful at attracting free-thinkers, the unorthodox, and the idealistic, as well as dissidents of the Empire.  As the pirate crime-lords were on their third generation of clone clans, Glam World was a beacon of iconoclasm to the rest of known space.

While the rest of this universe looks like a steampunk adventure setting, Glam World looks, well, very glam. The basic outfit is a spandex-like leotard, that is designed to reflect extreme levels of light and heat. Most residents shave their heads, to accommodate wig-like helm apparatus that acts as a communications antennae and psychic-energy amplifiers. The machines that are engineered in this system are made by makers that take great pride at them  being designed to not look mechanical. More often than not, the items resemble crystals. 

The average Wobbler should be careful in underestimating the theatrical trappings of the average traveler from Glam World.  Since the start of the Revolution, Glam World is one of the major players in the war. It has taken to Wobbling more so than the other rebelling nations, and has proven itself as capable as the Greatest Empire at it. Its trans-dimensional special forces, the Glitter, have thwarted many schemes of the Empire's infamous Copernicus Corps. They are known to have a few schemes of their own.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Apocalypse in Your Hometown cover demo

Art By Bill Bricker
The Apocalypse in Your Hometown, scenarios for Darkshade Publishing's T&T: Stay Alive!.  Works from New Zealand, to the UK, to Cleveland, OH, to the coasts of California. It is coming soon.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A World A Week: Pholus City

Pholus is a big city.

Better put Pholus is big city-state with about four actual cities and sixteen smaller ones within its area. T&T has Khazan. The Forgotten Realms has Waterdeep. Earth has New York City. My city that never sleeps is this one.

Pholus was at first named Phollux. After five years of the word "nexus" being involved in about 20,ooo gaming products had my regular players, even a couple irregular ones, panning on that name, no "X"s could be heard in the pronunciation. Sideways pronunciations aside, my collective worlds have had Pholus since about 1999.

The area actually started out as an exploration into what was becoming "steam-punk." I had been reading White Wolf's Changeling releases, and wanted to develop an urban fantasy High Fantasy setting. To keep it cool, I decided to make sure that steamships, dirigibles, and coal-fueled boilers made it into the mix, while players played their T&T kin Characters. I called it "Modern Fantasy" after the literary classifications, now these days we call it "late-Victorian or Edwardian-Aged fantasy" The differing species addressed racial issues that we had trouble discussing in reality. The initial couple of table-top sessions were a murder mystery. When everyone kept wanting to turn small clocks into cell-phones (the new tech widget!!!)--  Lest I forget, every hand-help stick became a semi-automatic weapon... . I grew tired of this "new" genre.

This collection of before-the-industrial-age cities became the starting point of various fantasy campaigns. These campaigns were influenced from a very wide range of fantasy sources. From those based upon Zelanzy's The Changing Land to Samuel Delaney's Neveryona, with plenty of Larry Niven-ness in between and on the sides. Finally, I came across Monty Cook's Ptolus and didn't feel so bad about reviving this particular old material for new settings, as his introduction inferred that it was actually a good idea. I pronounce Ptolus as "Thole-Us", so "Full-Us" sounded just fine, even catchy, in my ear from that point on.

Pholus has, of late, held as the "Jeruslaem" city for my Isun campaign on my world of Elder. With Peryton's inclusion, the realm has been pretty firmly affixed there.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A New T&T "Class"... umm....

Scott Malthouse, little Werdna, has just released his Shadow & Blade: A Guide to Assassins in Tunnels & Trolls (Assassins!). Now the dude has done about one thousand items since I met him, way back when. He has, when he's worked on T&T, been always pretty cutting edge. At the same time, he's always had a good grasp of the mechanics of the game as it should be written, that means "With two six-sided dice and mathematics." This current project is a bit of a departure, so it has piqued my interest beyond just the initial read. Let's start out with Assassins! being a Godzilla of a product and work from there.

Mind everyone, I try not to give out spoilers.

The cover art is in color and isn't a piece of clip art, at least as far as I know. I personally think it's a picture of Scott doing a weird David Bowie which I can't complain about, but must award a Sasquatch to the rating. That's "Godzilla+" in my greater scheme of things.

Jumping into the work, I see a bunching of houses or guilds where RPG players can affix their assassin Characters to in any campaign. Indeed there is no mention of a rules system relevant in this section. Not a bad tactic, but there is no introduction. I am not being academic here. As a T&T player/GM/author, I've never needed an "Assassin" as a full Type ("Class" for the D&D-head reading), a bit of salesmanship would have avoided my subtracting of two Saquatches-- that's a " -Godzilla,"  now.

When the organizations give way to prosaic rules, there is more than one kind of assassin. I am treated to three categories of assassins. It's kind of a paradox here. It is all very generic, though the Assassin types's and their mandated skills required are not. I am speaking about the ease at which Malthouse makes his assassins easy to relate to to any gamer. This is a RoboMonster-sized plus (almost back up to a Godzilla). BUT... .

Then there is a solo-dungeon, the big T&T selling point since 1979. Who can argue with that? A neutral point to me, though I am sure it sells like hot-cakes.

As maybe the last of the "real" T&T players in the world remaining, the rest have been sidetracked into tepid almost-celebrity worship qualified with money-giving, I still don't get it. All my Warriors, Wizards, Rogues, and Warrior-Wizards can be assassins as needed already.I am not going to be buying any D&D products because it is T&T adaptable. While the author makes sense of why anybody would bother to add "assassin" to literary-based fantasy setting, there is a slip in getting some full-out high fantasy need for them.

No Malthouse (all grown up now, lil' Werdna) , I can't give Assassin! a Godzilla. Work on the explanation, even if it is filler. You've got the math down for T&T, easy enough. Now get the literary bit down. Maybe work on your titles and subtitles to be more interesting. Shadow & Blade: A Guide to Assassins in Tunnels & Trolls is a King Kong worth of a work.

By the way, folks, "King Kong" is on a scale of "Smurfs" to "Godzilla." This is about the best gamer literature on assassins as PCs that I've ever read.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Wobble: The Alot

Dwellers of a small moon of where the gas-giant Jupiter would be in our own universe, in the Psi Verse, the Alot are the culmination of a group of species, and those species' racial subsets, blending into one. In the magical-strewn milieu that is this universe's trademark, the Elves, humans, Dwarves, Orks, and various "half-breeds" all came together to form the Alot.

The Alot are hatched from very large eggs that must be placed with their heads upside-down to come to full fruition. These "ass-upward" pods are tended by Midwive-Magi, or Maguses/Magusesses (most are female), as they are called there. These "Creatures" sing incantations that not only mix various metaphors and literary allusions, but also confuse the meaning of race and species. These songs, are sung in a Cant, that cannot be read by the casual observer because of its confusion as to what words should be capitalized and which should not. 

When the Alots are first hatched, usually when the gas-giant that blazes upon their home planetoid has half-baked the fertilized eggs, they are something of monstrous beings. Large, furry, and clumsy things that stumble around knocking careful constructs over and in general being too cute to correct. But they often fall prey to the keen-eyed, sharp-tongued predators known as the Wise-Owls of Uranus. As the beings mature, their genes become more defined and resemble particular ancestors, turning into elves, humans, dwarves, and orks.

There are plenty of hybrids types among these individuals. Even some of the player-character Wobblers from Mu will have the Alots of Blood clan in their veins, though they won't like to admit it.  Most display amazing psychic abilities, which are known as "psionics" on the small moon, still leaving a blank look on the face of the usual listener not from there. It is for this reason why Alots make Wobble sessions so great.

The governing body of the Alot are the Alot of Years. This group all have the word "alotof" added either at the front of their most popular nickname. The most wise is known as Alotof-Brains. The most beautiful and maternal is known as Alotof-Woman. Most Wobblers will encounter the exiled ex-Alot of Years member known as Alotof-Hokum. Hokum has been both helpful and harmful to inter-dimensional travels so no comclusions have been drawn about him as of this printing of this article.