Familiar rules [LotFP, Archive]

Find Familiar is not a spell per se. Rather, “researching the spell” represents the Mage gathering the lore and equipment required to bind an animal or spirit to their service. Nor is it cast, crudely, as a lure to the waiting fish of the void (for there are far too many sharks, and worse, in those Plasmic waters), but taken on as a spiritual journey and investment. Though most Magi would be loath to admit it, Familiars also provide companionship upon their lonely road to power; more importantly, they provide subservient and reliable companionship, an extension of themselves. Even Clerics will sometimes accept the aid of a friendly or at least allied servant of their Gods. Remember, though –  the price of service may differ in detail, but it is equally terrifying for the servants of Angels as of Demons..

As bound spirits, Familiars cannot be Dispelled, though they can be Turned and in some cases Banished. They are hedged out by appropriate warding magics.

Natural Familiars
Natural creatures are the easiest to bind, and the most common associates of Magi of all waters. They also excite less comment among the uncultured, should the Mage still be forced to hide their powers from the jealous and frightened. A Natural Familiar is created by binding a combination of the Mage’s own Plasmic energy and other latent power to the beast, and is always a draining and deeply unpleasant process for the Mage. Treat the entire process as Researching a 1st-level spell, with the final sacrifices and costs coming only after the ritual is complete. The wizard will be completely exhausted and require a full day of rest when the ritual is completed.
Any sacrifices made to create a Natural Familiar are permanent. Even after its death, barring exceptionally powerful healing magics or extensive and deeply unsavory spell research, the wizard’s gifts are not returned.

The animal gains the following benefits
• 1 HP for each permanent HP the Mage invests in it during the soul-binding rituals. Its natural life is also extended by 1 year for each HP so invested; the DM may also allow the caster to pledge some of his own life force (years of life, HP, stat points, etc.) to the Familiar at an appropriate ration for more HP/Life.
• It may use the Mage’s saving throws whenever applicable. Further, when in the Mage’s presence, any Magic Missiles or similar spells targeted at the familiar will normally strike the Mage instead.
• It may speak freely with the Mage in its own tongue, and be understood. If given a point in Languages, it may also converse in one Human language with others, and possibly even learn other languages depending on its Intelligence. A familiar with Intelligence 14 or more is literate, though writing may be somewhat difficult. All animals may furthermore speak with any others of their kind (cats with wildcats or lions, ferrets with martens and weasels, etc), but do not convey this ability to their masters without further research.
• Most other animals will treat with the Familiar deferently, or at least with appropriate condescension. It gains a permanent 1-point bonus on Reaction rolls from natural animals.
• At the DM’s option, the Magos may make a further appropriate sacrifice of Life Force, magic items, bound Plasms (spell slots) or other resources to grant the Familiar additional skills and abilities. For example, the Wizard with Spider Climb might sacrifice a spell slot to give his familiar the ability to walk on walls and ceilings.

The Mage benefits thusly:
• Speak with, and understand, his Familiar.
• The information and additional insight provided by their presence subtracts 10% from the cost of any magical research and item creation; the Familiar also acts as a “gopher” during the process, retrieving needed tools or bearing messages to those outside the laboratories as desired.
• A bonus point in a single appropriate skill possessed by his Familiar.

Finally, both the wizard and his familiar are marked out from others by their association with each other.
• During the Familiar’s creation, the player must choose one or more features that the Magus and Familiar share. This could include anything from birthmarks and sigils, to similar physical and behavioral features. Each time the caster and Familiar level up, add an additional characteristic to this list.
• They will have an identical plasmic aura to anyone using the Second Sight (Detect Magic, True Seeing, and similar spells or magic items).
• At higher levels, the Mage may perform additional research and rituals to give or share further power with their familiar. Common abilities bestowed include limited shape-shifting, seeing through the Familiar’s eyes at-will, use as a “plasmic battery”, greater facility in speech and new skills, or even human form and spellcasting ability. The process is half as expensive and time-consuming if the Mage knows a related spell (Speak Unto Beasts, for example, would facilitate learning the Speech of All Cats from one’s Familiar.)
• If using the DCC Corruption/Taint rules, or the Maleficar and similar classes, both the Mage and the Familiar may be marked more explicitly in any case where the Familiar is present and participating in the Mage’s spellcasting.

Homunculi
Developed more fully later; I’m poking at the stuff in England Upturn’d as I have time, but so far none of my players wants a Homunculus.

Other Supernatural Familiars
Imps, Gremlins, some lesser Undead, and other Plasmic beasties may desire to form pacts with the Magos; not all will become Familiars, however.  Treat normal pacted entities as a Retainer or Henchman for loyalty purposes, though they almost always require remunerations more.. esoteric than mere gold and specie. Likewise, their housing and feeding requirements are more exotic than most employees. Payments are usually given on Samhain or All Soul’s Eve and Walpurgisnacht as part of a larger ceremony.
Becoming a Familiar requires forging a direct link between the souls of the Plasmic entity and the Wizard. In addition to the sould-binding rituals, the DM and player should negotiate a contract for the creature’s service and enumerate its powers. Its loyalty is affected as a Henchman or other “demi-PC” character accompanying the party. Most will (again) have goals other than a simple share in the treasure the party collects – esoteric materials, information, or seemingly-insignificant acts at requested times. Failing to meet these requests will enrage and potentially even free the Familiar, but the party as a whole is under no more obligation to meet them than they would be any other Henchman’s demands.
In general, a Supernatural familiar will be in a more adversarial relationship with the wizard and his party, but also much more powerful than a plasmically-enhanced natural beast. Dismissing a contract without prejudice will usually return the life force the Mage invested, but good luck getting it back if you broke it. Familiars themselves cannot break the word of a contract but will, of course, twist it depending on their personal goals and general cussedness.

Common points of contracts include:
• Bonuses to Summoning spells and control rolls (especially in the service of the Familiar’s interests)
• Use of the Familiar’s powers at a negotiated price, or amplification of its powers through the sacrifice of spell levels/Stat points by the Magos. Familiars almost never allow themselves to be “used” freely, but will rarely pass up the chance for a little more profit..
• Many supernatural familiars will have knowledge of tongues other than the Magos’. They may wish to negotiate for its skill; woe betide the wizard who blindly trusts a servant of the Father of Lies, however.
• Access to a bonus spell, usually limited shapeshifting or illusion magics.
• Listed punishments for violating the minor terms of the agreement, usually taken as oaths. These will have >very< visible effects.

Updated Physic rules, Seamanship [LotFP Skills]

So, I’ve got a fire under my ass (for the moment) and I’m re-upping the now four-year-old rules for my homebrew LotFP skills.
And before you get started on why Clerics get this, remember:
Knights Hospitallier.

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Physic:
“Physic is a shorthand for all the healing arts; diagnosing and correcting imbalances in the humors, knowledge of healing herbs, of staunching and stitching, fitting artificial limbs, and all things appropriate to the station of a doctor. ”

As a starting skill
Clerics may start with Physic at a base chance of 3 in 6, and advance as a Dwarf’s Architecture skill. Other classes may exchange their starting skill for a 2-in-6 chance at Physic, and advance as an Elf’s Search skill. All classes begin with 1 point in Physic.

Uses
1) All characters with Physic may attempt basic first aid on themselves or a single comrade following combat. This takes a Turn. A success heals 1HP per point of success. Characters with Specialist’s Tools (Physic), often called a Leech-bag, get a +1 to this roll. Specialists and Clerics with the Physic skill and tools always heal their skill level in HP on a success, and may divide this number between more than one character.

2) A character with Physic and Specialist’s Tools (physic) may forgo their normal rest to heal others. They may care for a number of patients equal to their skill level, and double each patients’ recovery rate.

3) A Specialist or Cleric with a Leech-bag may deal 1d3 damage to an ally who has failed a save versus Poison, drugs, or diseases (and similar imbalances in the humors). If the Physic roll succeeds, their ally is allowed to make an additional save.

4) A Cleric or Specialist with Specialist’s Tools (Physic) can attempt to resuscitate a “dead” character. This can only be done if the character has succumbed to wounds or other immediate trauma rather than “instant death”, and their body must be largely intact. No scraping Captain Pancake off the bottom of the cliff, or trying to undo your comrade’s tuberculosis. Poisons, diseases, and other conditions will remain in the character’s system, and they may succumb to these eventually.
If the character succeeds at a Physic roll, the “mostly dead” character’s player may make a Save vs. Poison. If successful, the formerly-dead character will stabilize at 0HP and enter a coma for 1d6 hours. They remain barely-lucid and helpless for 3 days, minus their Constitution bonus. They will usually suffer some severely disfiguring injury or mental trauma; to use the crit/injury table of your choice. Feel free to assign bonuses or penalties depending on the severity of the character’s injuries and the suitability of the environment.

Restrictions, Bonuses, and Penalties.
1) Rolling a “6” on a Physic attempt always fails. Unless the Leech is a Specialist or Cleric, the character(s) being treated immediately suffer 1d6 additional damage, reduced to 1d3 damage if the character is using a Leech-bag. Clerics and Specialists only injure their patients on an additional roll of 4+; with a skill level of 6, this is reduced to  6+ roll.

2) The Physic skill cannot cure conditions that specifically require magical healing. It also cannot cure magically-induced conditions and curses like a Blindness spell, but could remove a necromantically-conjured poison from a character’s system or restore the sight of a man blinded by the flash of a spell.

Depiction of a carrack, carrying John of Gaunt to Lisbon. From Jean de Wavrin's 'Chronicles of England', Bruges, c.1461-83. c British Library Board, Royal MS 14 E. IV, f.195r

Depiction of a carrack, carrying John of Gaunt to Lisbon. From Jean de Wavrin’s ‘Chronicles of England’, Bruges, c.1461-83. c British Library Board, Royal MS 14 E. IV, f.195r

Seamanship:
The mastery of a ship at sea, and how to survive on the waves. Treated as Bushcraft when adventuring on the water or along the coast/rivers, with the following additions:

1) A Specialist or Magic-user with Specialists’ Tools (Seamanship), which include a Sextant or Sunstone, star-charts, and compass, can determine their rough location on a successful Skill roll.
2) Seamen may attempt to predict the weather for that day; on a successful roll, the DM should inform them of the day’s sailing conditions. Failure yields no information.
3) The character helming a boat may add their Seamanship level to the ship’s saving throws against weather effects, grounding, reefs, etc.

Savages may exchange their starting Bushcraft skill for Seamanship.
Hunting at sea requires fishing gear or harpoons (as Javelin). Lines and harpoons are expended as “ammunition”.

Busy Day [admin crap, LotFP]

Went through and updated the House Rules page, Occultism, the Savage, and a few other posts. Currently updating Physic to match my current offline rules, and reconciling firearms and Seamanship with my notes as well. Forgot how damn much some of this stuff has changed. Currently queuing posts for the next couple of days.

…also, I dropped the silverware drawer on one of my fingers and it’s pouring rain. So painkillers may be involved.

Occultism Skill Rework and Grimoires [LotFP]

It’s been a few years, and a good bit of play, since I posted the Occult skill here. Anon asked about it today, and I figured I might as well go root out my hardcopy notes and post the revisions here.
I’ve loosened the day-to-day bookkeeping restrictions in favor of a more intuitive system, and added a bit more gambling to the mix. The additional rules for bonuses are encouraging my players to do weird stupid shit, like carrying around live chickens for sacrificial purposes and cranking themselves on Red Lotus in inappropriate places, and it also allows me to throw in more evidence and clues when the PCs are dealing with cultists/EHPs/witches and diabolists. Those folks can also be a serious, time-sensitive threat to the party without needing to have a level 9 Magic-User running around. It’s also a lot more dangerous than using a regular skill, but still useful enough to tempt players. Finally, the Grimoire rules place a sharp limitation on ritual spellcasting while adding a new and desirable form of treasure to the DM’s options.

h-clarke-faustus-appears

Harry Clarke – Faust – Faustus Appears

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Making 28mm Asphalt Roads [Modern/Post-Apoc]

Following on from a post over at Tabletop-Terrain about making roads with self-adhesive floor-tiles, I swung by the Home Depot (gotta love that 10% veteran’s discount) and picked up a sample of this shit – TrafficMaster “light brown travertine” SA vinyl. Given that it’s running less than $1/square foot, and each square foot makes two 12″x6″ road sections, this is going to be a about half the price of my previous favorite option – Ikea “Avskild” cork placemats.

Before I break down the advantages of each, I figured I’d put up a quick shot to show you the texture of the vinyl tiles versus the cork.
• Ikea Cork sheeting, painted as concrete (from the Airbase Toblerone project).
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As you can see, it’s got a pretty fine texture, even on the smaller bunker. Good for concrete, but it’s not really my favorite on the asphalt front. The surface tearing is nice and chunky, and the edges wear pretty well.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any pics of the commissioned road set I did a few years ago, but we’ll go over my experience with them below.

•Trafficmaster tile, inked and uncut (I just slapped some India ink on with a wet rag and took a photo here without cleaning the tile first: the pale spots appear to be greasy areas from previous handling..).

img_20161030_151202_887Here we’ve got a much more irregular surface, and it’s already very reminiscent of weathered asphalt even with the pale spots and brown undertone. It is, however, a thin sheet of plastic – less than .25mm – laid over a ~1.5mm rubber sheet. That may make larger areas of surface damage look less realistic unless I cut out the undersurface and hammer the surface plastic down into the “damage” pattern, or fill them with basing ballast.

So, what’s my take so far?

Cork sheeting

Advantages –
Realistic surface damage (for both asphalt and concrete). It’s easy to sink in some paper clip wire to simulate rebar on a broken section, or a small piece of low-gauge copper cable/plastic pipe for other conduits, which dresses up the edges nicely.

Multi-purpose. Crumbled scrap bits make great rubble. You can face a chunk of foamcore or stiff card with the cork and get a plastered concrete surface in minutes – one that’s also easy to trash and make look good.

Super-easy to work. Cutting, fitting, and weathering the cork bits for both of the pieces in the pic above took me about two minutes.

Cheap. Granted, both of the materials have that going for them, but it bears repeating; this stuff costs about 75c/ft^2.  In other formats, unfortunately, that’s not so true – a straight-up roll of cork from a craft or art store can be more along the lines of $5/ft^2.  And there’s a certain amount of wasted material because of the rounded edges of the Ikea stuff and the weird size.

Disadvantages –
Poor surface sealing coupled with moisture sensitivity. You have to paint PVA or another sealant onto cork, or it has a nasty tendency to swell. That flakes off paint. It also behaves oddly when painted unless you seal it – soaking in some colors, repelling others, and generally being a pain in the ass. Plus, again, it can swell or crumble without sealant while you’re painting it, screwing up your effects or damaging the piece.

Fragility – the same thing that makes it easy to work makes it hard to store. Cork works best as a facing on top of another material, like heavy card or styrofoam. In storage, dropping or bumping the container can shatter off a large chunk of cork, and the pieces frotting against each other in the box will not just wear the paint but tear chunks out. That means you need padded storage and rigid containment, which reduces the amount of stuff you can store in a given space. With roads it’s less of a problem – you can wrap them in cheap felt and glue a sheet of craft foam to the edges of the box – but storing a large building is a >massive< pain in the ass

It just doesn’t look like asphalt at larger scales. With a good paintjob, you can pass it off pretty well at 6-10mm, and I’ve seen some guys make 15mm look decent, but at 28+ it looks like shit unless you work it as concrete. How many cities or highways do you know of that use concrete for the roads? Yeah. It’s fine for sidewalks and warehouse floors, but not roads.

Vinyl Tile

Advantages –
Tough as hell. I did a few experiments with a painted chunk, slapping it edge-on against a desk and flapping the piece back and forth. Paint held well, and even the section I stripped the vinyl from seemed to be doing okay. Unfortunately, rubbing the painted sides together did do some paint damage, so I’ll still need surface protection, but rubbing gently with stiff, sealed card didn’t do too much damage. I think I may be able to get away with just peeling and sticking the flooring sheets onto posterboard and using that as layer protection; for more on that, see “conclusions” below.

Great surface texture. I mean, look at that pic again. That’s literally a thirty-second swipe of india ink – not a damn lick of paint – and it already looks like a road.

The sheets are a better shape and size than the Ikea mats I’ve been using, which means there’s less waste. Basically with cork I got two 6″x16″ chunks of straight road, or two 12″x8″ sections. Lots of room for a shoulder, but the roads also wound up looking unrealistically wide compared to 1:43 or 1:48 cars (let alone the figs). Of course, I could trim off that extra couple inches on each side and use to make sidewalks and curbs or building parts, which was pretty cool. With the vinyl I get four 6″x12″ straights, nearly quadrupling the yield per dollar spent.

On that note, the sheets are even cheaper than cork, especially in bulk; I can get ten 1’x2′ sheets for under twenty bucks. So for the same $20 I can get either ten sections of road with sidewalks/shoulders, plus 2 intersections per road section I drop, or forty sections without sidewalks. Sections that require less reinforcement and storage area.

Properly painted, it also looks like facing stones. With a little work, it’d be great for adding a “sandstone” texture to the lower floors of Foamcore ruins, which means I still have an outlet for scraps. Cork does have an advantage, though, in that crumbled bits of cork will look great just tossed on a rubble pile, where this will require trimmed and (roughly) squared sections of the scrap rather than “whatever’s left”

Disadvantages –
Heavier, by a substantial margin. Each sheet weighs about half again as much as one of the placemats, making it harder to transport on foot/bus.

Harder to weather and simulate surface damage – as I mentioned above, just picking the surface off reveals a chunk of rubber, which has a terrible texture. So you have to backfill the holes with basing ballast, or find some other way of getting an interesting texture instead of smooth cuts. That adds working time as well, which seems to be compensating for not needing to seal each individual piece.

Harder to work – This shit is dulling the HELL out of my boxcutter, and straight-up snapped a #11 Exacto blade within 5 cuts. It’s also tearing the shit out of my leatherworking swivel knife, which is why the boxcutter is getting an outing. I also can’t slap it up on the deck of my paper-cutter to just slice off straight sections, which means breaking out the rulers, square, and compass.

Floppy – A disadvantage both share, but the higher weight of the sheeting makes it more noticeable. I’m gonna need to give these a stiffer backing to keep the paint on, even if it held reasonably well in the basic tests.

Surprise contestant:
EVA (Craft) Foam
Advantages:
Easy to work, soft, multi-purpose.

Disadvantages:
Poor surface texture, floppy, fragile, and more expensive than either. Worse, it’s sensitive to heat and to spraypaint, so it’ll need sealing.

ConclusionsI’ll definitely keep using cork for my own street/postapoc projects, but I’m about to add a lot more vinyl to my toolbox. Given the properties of both, I’m thinking of using an 8″ wide strip of black posterboard, with the vinyl laid on top (using its own adhesive) as a road bed and either cork sidewalks or ballast to simulate gravel shoulders. I could also take strips of foamcore and cut out roadbeds from the center ( just leaving the bottom layer of card), and mark up curbs/sidewalks onto the raised edge sections. The foamcore method is almost certainly going to be the way to go if I’m making bridges/overpasses, unless I can convince that guy in the Makerspace to let me use his laser cutter on some MDF or hork up for the Hirst Arts bridge mold..

General update (BT, LotFP, RL)

Been away for a while, and while I’ve been getting a lot done in meatspace I just haven’t had the right kind of energy or focus for extensive writing these last few moons (I’ve still posted a bit on tumblr and the LotFP G+ groups, just not enough material/fucks to hack at the KB here for a while) . Not to mention, I haven’t been getting much if any table time in (although that’s changing), so there really hasn’t been much to write about.
Oh, and my fourth wedding anniversary is tomorrow.
So.. general update time.

 

On the blog front:
Went back and fixed some broken links as well as doing minor edits to a couple of posts as playtesting shakes out. Notably, Camo Specs Online (the BT color reference site) went down and had to completely restructure, so I had to fix all those links. I bumped all my drafts to the top of the queue to see what’s salvageable.
I’m also going to be revising the sidebar links and adding a few new cool people to the list, as well as removing dead sites. If you happen to see something let me know.

Kickstarter updates:
Got my copies of World of the Lost, Towers Two, and England Upturn’d. All are amusing in their own ways. Reviews as can be arsed.

Robotech RPG Tactics continues to be a mass clusterfucking event, with Palladium now weeping crocodile tears about how hard it is to make new sprue layouts while promising us the same shit they have been since Wayne stopped talking last year. Kevin got hit by a truck and people were celebrating in the comments because at least the header on the Pallladium updates changed for a week. I need to get a few more items before continuing work on the build reviews for the Archer/Spartan, Warhammer/Tomahawk, and Longbow/Phalanx.

The Skyway Project buildings are fucking awesome.

Gameplay updates:
Got my friend A. into BattleTech, and we’ve done a couple of training fights now as well as dicking around watching ’70s and ’80s Real Robot anime. Much fun was had, and BATTLETECH occurred

Ran a picaresque game with Scenic Dunnsmouth for my folks on the 4th, using the characters from the Thanksgiving game as well as a couple new rolls. It got cut off right after a Big Reveal ™, but at a place that allows adding or subtracting characters as necessary. Play report shortly, along with house rules in use.

Meatspace projects: (project logs in line for several of these)
I’ve successfully sorted nearly 20 years’ worth of loose papers – including DM notes, half-finished projects, dead campaigns, and reference files. All of my gaming books are likewise sorted. I built new display shelves for my desk out of a deceased bookcase, and I’ve cut the panels for a chemical and paint storage rack as well.

One of my friends bought a folk-banjo at an artist’s garage sale, and I’m pretty sure I can do one. So I’ve salvaged most of the materials and gotten some tools together; just need strings and elements for the neck. I’ll be blogging my progress as it goes.

Finished one large piece of 6mm terrain. It’s a busted wall based on the shore defenses in Ha Shih Dao in the first missions of Steel Battalion. I also mounted and prepped a half-dozen California Base Turrets, along with a surprise FrankenMech Mechaturm, a massive wall, an assortment of bunkered buildings based on the ERTL Space Shuttle labs and sattelites, and some Quonset huts.

Painted and/or prepped a huge number of models for the Black Widow project. Photos coming this afternoon.

Bought a hardcopy of The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh and soft-copies of various BT books (IntOps, CampOps, RS:Industrials, CM:Mercs).

I’ve built up some post-apoc minis for This is Not a Test, and grabbed an assortment of terrain. I also organized and repaired/re-stored all my modular terrain systems. I have a shitload of terrain.

Finished another few props for the local theater folks, including a Kodak Brownie 1880’s model and a couple of books.

Joined the local makerspace, and I’m likely going to be teaching a class on scratch-making half-timbred buildings for Mordheim and the like. Watch this space for deets.

Thanks for putting up with my shit. Have a shiny.

Thanks for putting up with my shit. Have a shiny.

“The Forgotten”, Session 5 (Actual Play, LotFP)

Had an entertaining, if startlingly combat-free, session this week. Brother #3 (the good Doctor) managed to get a real weekend off for the first time in a while, and brought his fiancee. She’s never played, but was interested. One of the other players couldn’t make it (due to work), so she got to be hung-over all session.

As an aside:
I’m not sure if the Savage class is mechanically more attractive than the others, if it fills a particular evocative need, or if I just wrote it well, but for some reason around a third of my players in the three campaigns and one-shot sessions I’ve run have taken them (the rest are basically Specialists – there are a total of 3 Fighters and one Cleric out of over 20 characters rolled).

Anyway, brother’s fiancee set about hammering out a Savage of her own – a Polynesian shark-cultist, lost in a storm during his rite of passage, and wandering the seas as a navigator looking for home.

Andrew Wyeth - "Gust of Wind" from "The Black Arrow"

YAR HAR FIDDLE DEE DEE~!

Where we left off:
Last session, Elizabeth discovered and purchased her father’s cabin boy in a slave market, deliberately concealing her reason by claiming him as an, ahem, “lady’s companion”. She quietly questioned him in the cabin about her father’s ship’s fate. He’d been thrown overboard from the Crow’s nest during a strangely-colored storm, and saved by a hunk of planking. The Corsairs picked him up and sold him out of Morocco, and he knew no more.

During the interview, the lookout and one of the PCs spotted a lion made of hellfire stalking along the coast towards the ship; they immediately weighed anchor and bailed for the Canaries. Three days out, they overtook a battle-in-progress between a Portugese carvel and a Corsair dhow. It was not going well for the merchants, who had been dismasted. There was a short argument amongst the crew about which flag to run up before they engaged, but eventually “French” won out. The Wind of Avarice‘s crew successfully sunk the pirate dhow, but blew up one of their own swivel guns with a misfire (mortally wounding a crew-man). The pirates had just enough momentum and position to ram and board; most of the Corsairs made it onto the carvel’s deck. The PCs closed and counter-boarded, sweping the pirates from her decks. Several misfires and an extremely successful Physic roll later, they recovered a half-dozen each of guns and blades, plus 8 prisoners, and saved two of their own crew as well as a mortally-wounded Portugese. For charity’s sake, they escorted the limping carvel back into her last port-of-call (their own destination as well), pulling in in the late afternoon.

The island’s governor begged off thanking the party and paying the bounty for the corsairs they had captured, citing “important business”. The Berbers were hauled off into the dock to await trial, and our “heroes” prepared to go get unrighteously pissed. Meanwhile, Sailing-master Michel set about finding materials for repairing the Wind‘s burst seams and mild hull damage from its repeated ramming adventures, and paying the ship’s tunnage taxes.

This session:
Conceding to the general mood, I fired up my Alestorm station on Pandora, because we’re well out of the territory for Berber music.
Also, apparently Alestorm has decided that they should do some Dimmu Borgir on the side (fast forward to 4:10 for the abrupt whiplash into full-on Swedish Death mode, then at 6:20 they’re back in Scottish Pirate, and shift off to power metal in the ~6:40 range..)

As we began play, Hernando’s player was slightly crestfallen when I pointed out that they hadn’t actually committed any acts of piracy per se – just sex trafficking, slave trading, smuggling, murder, fraud, grand larceny, sales by defraud, tampering with the fabric of Reality, more murder, providing aid and comfort to a fugitive, probable accessory to regicide, incitement to riot, arson, mayhem and maiming, torture, desecration, and espionage.
In five fucking sessions, I might add.
On the bright side, they don’t have any active governmental death-warrants yet, so there’s that.

Anywho, the party immediately decided to split up, which would have been a bad idea if my random encounter dice hadn’t had other ideas. Seriously, 12 rolls and no encounters? What the shit.

• Doctor Byron: CAROUSING TIME! He burned over 400sp, making a contact with the local “crimelord” and acquiring a dose each of purple, white, and crimson lotus, a bottle of something resembling habu-sake but with a frog inside, and a vial containing a sticky neon-orange oil (a curare extract). He was instructed not to take any of them in combination, and “don’t make any plans” for the day he used the frog-booze. He also picked up a useful rumor: there’s a pirate base somewhere to the North, and they should stay outa them waters if they don’t want a fight.
He passed out drunk in the rafters of the inn, there to stay the night.

• Hernando: Has been feeling increasingly itchy since he read a certain book during the Forgive Us run. He unpacked the Black Eagle, determined to use a combination of threats and a crowbar to extract magical knowledge from it (Bonus points for roleplaying a fighter with a tragically low Wisdom, I suppose). Unfortunately, after a badly-failed saving throw, he passed out; dreaming of a great black eagle with the face of a man ripping at the top of his skull, he took a couple points of Wisdom damage. Waking up, he wrapped it in an iron band, roped onto the steering-anchor, and hucked it into the harbor. This is clearly going to go well for him..
He awoke covered in fur, and spent most of the morning shaving.

• Brygytte: Got tanked, got into a pit-fight alongside Ol’ Roy, and won. Down 3 HP, up 300sp (mostly in jewelry and small coin). She came back to the ship shortly thereafter: during the fight, she’d heard rumors of mysterious stranglings each night in the town. All were known “trouble-makers”, but no-one on a ship or outside the town’s walls had been taken. No-one was sure who the culprit was, though all and sundry believed that deviltry was afoot *gesture to avert the Evil Eye*.

• Elizabeth: Tapped one of the remaining whiskey-tuns, leaving with a cask of whiskey, and bought a chicken. She asked one of the local urchins to take her to the “most respected grandmother” in town, but the urchin (blowing his reaction roll) decided to take her to the most-feared grandmother – Mama Odie’ – before fleeing. Mama was currently preparing to cast a divination for a strapping young Polynesian man; Elizabeth hailed him in (almost) his native tongue, and asked after his business. They chatted briefly while the houdoun did her thang, coming up with the prophecy “Travel with this woman, and you shall find your long-sought home“.
Elizabeth then made offerings to Mama for guidance; one set of boxcars later (given her CHR and gift modifiers, it was more like a 15..), and after providing the priestess with a “thing of him” – E’s father’s diary – she began casting the ritual again.

Seek the Violet sky.
Offer the sky a fish, and a bird to the sea.
Lay eyes on no man
for a night and a day.
The place you seek you soon shall see

The business transacted, Mama Odie proceeded to get roaring drunk, offering Elizabeth an interestingly-filgreed skull, which she claimed was a trapped spell (a scroll of Palsied Affect). Elizabeth returned home at a “seemly” hour, and slept the sleep of the non-damned.

• Two sailors disappeared during the night.

Re-united in the morning (well, other than Byron’s drunk rafter-sleeping ass), the PCs discussed their next course of action. Hernando, Brygitte, and the silent Polynesian grabbed a few samples of the furniture they’d jacked from the thieves’ guild in Tangiers, looking to sell it off at the sugar plantation outside town. On the way, Byron noticed that the workers appeared to be restive – bunching into small groups, working very slowly, and talking amongst themselves a bit much.
After being rudely rebuffed by the butler (“We don’t accept *sniff* peddlers here, sirs”), they managed to hail the young bounder in charge from the yard. Following another very positive reaction, he offered to buy their furniture and whiskey, and sell them un-processed cane at a very favorable rate – provided these charming adventurers gave him their tales. Cue in-character exposition to get brother’s fiancee up to speed… “Alonso”, the given name of the young master, seemed particularly interested in their harrowing and almost completely false account of their escape from  Marseilles (which also omitted their wizardly encounters in that city, and the other magic items they’d acquired).
Byron recognized the gentleman as being an agent of the Queen of France, in this Portugese port, and offered to discuss “personal matters” with him in French. After the PCs alerted him to the brewing unrest, he requested that they take a letter to his “associate” Bernardo Larriva, in a small tower on the northwest of the town.
Brygitte and the Polynesian returned to the ship to organize a working-party, quietly preparing the ship for action under cover of unloading the cargo.

Bernardo turned out to be a ferrety, whispering man with sharp white streaks in his red hair and many dueling scars – including a ragged slash across his throat. He accepted the letter and informed the PCs that they’d “know when he needed them”. He also passed a successful Sleight of Hand roll…

The night passed rather uneventfully, though one of the lookouts sighted three black sails coming from the Northeast, which slipped around a headland in the early morning.

Items of business:
• The governor is probably butthurt about several minor diplomatic insults.
• Slave revolts gonna slave revolt.
• The ship’s crew is perilously short of extra hands, and she still needs to finish her repairs before leaving “civilization” (such as it is).

GM tracking info. Feel free to disregard.
Price index:
Rum, other alcohol up 20%. Food down 10%. Luxury clothing down 12%. Luxury furniture up 10+%. Others as Rural or rolled as necessary.

Ship’s armory (not including PC weaponry):
2 swivel guns, 8 breeches (requires 10 shots’ worth of powder per shot)
1 light cannon, with 20 balls (requires 25 shots’ worth of powder per shot)
3 linstocks
9 50-shot casks of gunpowder, plus 30 shot’s worth in an opened cask
Four-stone-and-five of lead
10 match-lock calivers and muskets (all loaded and prepped)
2 flintlock pistols
100 feet of match-cord

Current haul/cargo status:
~50gp worth of silk clothing, packed in chests (2500 silver shillings) (smuggling hold)
20t of unprocessed sugar-cane (20 gp/1000sp)
1t of grain and biscuit (1gp/50sp)
1 tapped tun of fine whiskey (smuggling hold)
1 untapped Tun of rum
4 bottles of good French wine (sent as a “tip” by “Alonso”)

1 curious eikon of Solomon, adorned in Arabic characters.
1 magic bird, who is apparently a giant asshole.
1 sheaf of extremely incriminating blackmail papers on assorted Tangierines
1 sheaf of accounting records for the Tangierine theives’ guild.
3 charts of assorted clarity and value; one appears to be a treasure map pointing to a location to the NW of the island they’re currently docked at.

Coffers:
70 pieces of gold (3500 sp)

Crew (current, reflecting casualties and roster changes):
Captain Hernando Velasques
Doctor Wm. Byron
Quartermistress Lady Elizabeth
Sailing-Master Michel St.-Jourdain (NPC, 2nd-level Specialist with 5d in Sailing-craft, 3d in Languages)
L’t. of Marines Brygitte Benoit (Henchman)
Cabin Boys Ol’ Roy and William Holt (official position: Catamite to ship’s quartermistress)
Marines – 1 1st-level Specialist, 1 1st-level Savage (both currently unnamed ><)
Sailors – 19 able-bodied, 3 wounded.
Civilians – Malika bint-Gifar (wife of Hernando, NPC, 0-level Specialist or is she?)

A Sample Mage, using my generator from earlier (LotFP, NPCs, Spoilers)

Spoilers for my players under the jump. Plz to go away, thank you.

Beardsley-peacockskirt

So, this is one of the mages I made for last week’s session, using that generator from the last post plus some of the other stuff I’m working on..
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Tables for Creating Low-Level Wizards & Other Fools who Would Tamper With the Skeins of Fate (LotFP/D&D).

Harry Clarke - The Snow Queen

Harry Clarke – The Snow Queen

In addition to my generators on Last Gasp (Wizardly Schools and First level Spells for LotFP wizards), I’ve been working on a full NPC speed-generator for mages, to go with a more general NPC supplement I’m writing. I used it last week for generating a couple towns and their conflicting magical populations. I’m retaining copyright on this one, mostly because I’m hoping to publish – but with a creative-commons attribution non-commercial license if ya want to use it.

Here’s the current draft document:
So, if you don’t know if this town is the kind of place that attracts Reality Warpers, roll on the first table. If you already know who’s there, or you’re just generating an NPC, skip the first table. If you don’t know their level, roll 1d6 at the end, adding mentor/school modifiers

———————————
Is there a wizard?
  (Roll 1d8, +2 if in a thaumocracy, +1 if inside a city (5000+ citizens). Note that these modifiers are cumulative. In a large city, roll once  for each major ward or district)
———————————

  1. No
  2. No
  3. Hedge-mage/shaman/goodwife of power
  4. Hedge-mage &c.
  5. A Magic-user
  6. A Magic-user
  7. A Wizard (see “Seclusium of Orphone” and “Isle of the Unknown” for more information on the distinction between Wizards and Magic-users. Loosely, “Magic-users” use magic, “Wizards” ARE magic)
  8. Several of them (1d3 to 1d6, at your discretion)

———————————
Are they part of a cabal?
———————————

  1. Yes. Several of them. Someone’s going to be in trouble soon… (roll twice on the table, taking both results. Keep rolling if you keep getting ones..)
  2. Yes, and the cabal has powerful rivals; they’re in an active turf war
  3. A secular secret society, not limited to Magi
  4. Yes, and it’s (roll 1d6): 1-3 – riven by internal conflict, 4-6 – stable – for now. Magi being what they are, of course, they’re still jockeying quietly for advantage.
  5. Yes, and this mage is in charge (+1 level, may have missions for or claims upon a PC mage)
  6. No, but they have a rival with whom they are as friendly as wizards get.
  7. No, and they have a rival who’s a powerful enemy
  8. No, and they’ve pissed off a cabal or society
  9. No, and they’re at war with another independent
  10. No, and they were cast out of one
  11. No, and they’re in a position of public power (secular or religious)
  12. No, and they’re hiding from one (other than the Church)

———————————
How did they learn their skills?

———————————
(Roll 1d10 for Magi in rural or heavily chaos-tainted areas, roll 1d20 for cities or larger, add +1 if there’s a major thaumocracy or city in the area. Roll 1d6+2 for Wizards.)

  1. Raised in a local tradition (themed spell list, little ambition, but unlikely to be set afire. Roll 1d6 – on a 1-4, ignore the “why aren’t they on fire” table, and treat as “locals approve” )
  2. Local Tradition (as 1, above)
  3. They’re self-taught (all spells rolled randomly, seeks magical information and knowledge more aggressively, lower a level)
  4. Self-taught, (As 3, above. If a wizard, he was created by an Item of Power)
  5. Pacts and Infernal contracts (Must bargain a thing of supernatural value to learn further spells. Constantly looking for ways to pay that don’t hurt themselves.)
  6. Feyblooded (no iron in their home, despises gulls, gets a +2 on all rolls to learn spells, but can’t roll again. Ever.)
  7. Possessed (Uses demonic abilities, cannot learn new spells. Turning has a chance of removing the demon)
  8. Plasmically conceived (Learns spells instinctively; cut research times in half, but gains no benefit from a library.)
  9. They had a mentor (roll on the Mentor table, gains some free magical nexus or trinket as a gift)
  10. As 9, above
  11. They killed their mentor (roll on mentor table, gains 1d3 nexii/trinkets, add a level)
  12. Their mentor was killed by a rival (gains an enemy)
  13. They escaped their mentor (may be hunted – roll on Relationship table)
  14. They mentor another wizard (+2 levels. Roll another wizard, skipping this table, of level 1d3; roll for the student on “mentor” and “mentor relationship” tables)
  15. As 14, above
  16. Poached from their mentor by another wizard or school
  17. Tutored in a school or cabal, and they were expelled
  18. School/Cabal, still in tutelage (-1d3 levels)
  19. School/Cabal, still in tutelage (-1d3 levels)
  20. School/Cabal, graduate
  21. School/Cabal, graduate
  22. Yes, and they’re in charge (+1d3 levels)

———————————
Mentor sub-table
———————————

  1. Mentor was kind, but incompetent (-1 level, minor magical trinket or tool)
  2. Mentor was kind and competent (+1 level, minor trinket/tool)
  3. Mentor grew bored and cast them out (-1 level)
  4. Mentor was ruthless and cruel, but competent (+1 level, gain a spell of cursing)
  5. Mentor was ruthless and cruel, but incompetent (-1 level)
  6. Still under tutelage (-1 level)
  7. Actively plotting to kill or usurp mentor. May attempt to enlist PC aid.
  8. Tried to kill, but failed (Under a curse, seeking to lift)

———————————
Relationship with mentor?
———————————

  1. Respect, genuine
  2. Respect, grudging
  3. Raw hatred
  4. Subtle hatred
  5. Resentment
  6. Fear (even if he’s dead. ESPECIALLY if he’s dead)
  7. Lovers, or similar physical/metaphysical desires. (Roll again on the table to find the mentor’s opinion on the matter..)
  8. Fondness
  9. Condescension
  10. Apathy
  11. Curiosity (“where are they?”, “are there secrets they didn’t teach me?”, etc.)
  12. Mentor or student is unwillingly enspelled (Roll 1d6: 1-4 – student, 5-6, mentor)

———————————
Why isn’t the mage on fire?

———————————
(In a Thaumocracy, roll 1d12 – this is how they’re maintaining their own power against their rivals.)

  1. Political favors/blackmail (to include providing black magic services, enchantments, or implicating the “patron” in their own crimes)
  2. Stealth and concealment of powers
  3. Vulgar displays of power (raw fear. This wizard probably isn’t long for the Mortal Coil)
  4. Subtle displays of power (targeted curses, illusionary omens, &c)
  5. Has ensorcelled locals (strategic charm spells, keeps them under threat of a death-curse, etc)
  6. Has ensorcelled major official or patron
  7. Wizard is laying low, hiding from a warrant, rival, or lynch mob in a nearby place
  8. Kills all inquisitors and challengers, subtly
  9. Kills inquisitors and challengers, extremely unsubtly
  10. Powerful magical defenses (Sanctum, magical traps, summoned creatures, extradimensional bolthole, etc.)
  11. Powerful mundane defenses (Bodyguards, army, traps, fortified home)
  12. Political power (Wizard uses an official position as cover, or is shielded by a powerful patron)
  13. Owns or provides an indispensable service (widespread blackmail, providing protection against a greater threat than himself)
  14. Stealth and concealment of powers
  15. Locals know there’s a wizard, and they’re trying to find him (Adventure hook!)
  16. Locals don’t care, government cares (this can change rather abruptly depending on the wizard’s behavior or omens, plagues &c.)
  17. Locals disapprove, government doesn’t give a damn  – and is suppressing witch-hunts (Locals may attempt to hire PCs to assassinate)
  18. Local citizens are down with witchcraft, government does not approve (Locals will be actively obstructive)
  19. Citizens and government approve of witchcraft (Possibly on the way to a thaumocracy?)
  20. Lies (roll again on this table)

Lusus Naturae (Review, LotFP)

Three years ago today, I opened this nerdy little candy stand, averaging a post every five days. Cool.
Let’s celebrate by getting into Lusus Naturae, the first explicit (and boy is it..) Lamentations of the Flame Princess “monster manual”. It’s written by Rafael Chandler, best known in my circles for the Teratic Tome (a universal monster book that just leans heavily on LotFP). It’s serviceably, and occasionally beautifully, illustrated by Gennifer Bone. You can find the pdf here (link) for fifteen bucks. Print version’s expected soonish, but it needs to get shipped from Finland.

So, first, some pontificating, so you know where I’m coming from.
I define “Horror” as “The fear of impending, but uncertain violation”. The violation can be of your body, mind, or assumptions about the structure of the world (psyche?). The uncertainty isn’t just if it will happen, but also when, how, and in what manner. An important part of horror is that you feel, on some level, deprived of agency – usually by biological reactions or simply the apparent futility of action. To defeat it, you must reassert your ability not just to act, but act meaningfully.
Roleplaying games are celebrations of agency; therefore, you’ve got to balance seeming helplessness with the possibility of success. Mystery helps (adding uncertainty), as does things that screw with the rules of the game (see: assumptions about the structure of the world). Players should know that the characters can die, or be horribly affected. On the other hand, only shitty authors coughFatalcough see “violation” and think “RAPE ALL DAY EVERYDAY”. Parasites, mutation, loss of control over personal space, having secrets wrested from you.. all are unpleasant and (properly played) horrifying outcomes.
Lusus Naturae is one of the better horror gaming aids I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t need a Sanity mechanic to make the players start screaming and setting each other on fire..

Synopsis:
What it ain’t: This isn’t meant to be “all the monsters” for a campaign. It’s not really a source for wandering monsters, either – though a couple things would certainly be appropriate.
What it does: Adds/adapts a treasure system to Lamentations. Contains an assortment of horrifying, modular mini-Mythosoi with accompanying additions to to your campaign world. Fucks with players.

What’s it about?
Lusus Naturae is basically a dozen metal album covers made into a book. There are some truly Lovecraftian enemies that will alter your campaign world if they show up. The treasure and magic items are highly-portable, and several are quite interesting. You can use at least a couple things in the book at almost any level of play, and you can challenge a low-level party without instantly reducing them to a fine red mist (the main problem with the critters from the MMII, the Fiend Folio, and the assorted “Deities” books in 1e).
It’s also deliberately, sometimes extremely, offensive – and on pretty much every possible level. There was shit in there that skeeved me out, and I used to work as a search engine tester. Many things in the book alter or rewrite the rules; you have to pay attention while using it.

What’s new about it?:
There are several innovations I like, and some I’ve already incorporated into my own campaign. Specifically, several of the summoned monsters have ill omens or Harbingers associated with their appearance. I’m adding them onto the “Omens” section of my random encounter tables.
I’ve also spoken about Death Curses and Desecration penalties elsewhere. I think they’re an excellent, thematic way of adding a little unpredictability to the game. I’ll post more on my current mechanics later. That said, Chandler has expanded on the classic idea to include boons/banes/weird magical things that happen to the person who strikes a killing blow against some of the monsters. These range from small mechanical bonuses or maluses, to extremely specific magical abilities or information and tools. Not every monster has them, but they have an appropriate fairy-tale feel to them.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10
If you’re into horror, the book is almost certainly worth it. If you or your players are easily squicked, or you demand “SUPER SRS, ALL THE TIME” games, it’s not for you. It’s not quite as pretty as the usual Lamentations release, but it’s just as usable as any other.

Detailed breakdown after the jump.
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Just got Lusus Naturae (LotFP)

I backed this a year and change ago on Kickstarter. The pdfs just went live on Drivethru RPG for fifteen bucks. Review forthcoming as I read – watch this space for more.

In penance for my sin of crass hyping, please enjoy this perspective map of mid 17th-century Paris.map - 1600s - Paris

The Skeleton Key (Magic Item/LotFP)

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. That’s not what it does…

A brass cylinder roughly a handspan long, and about as big around as a little finger. At the top, the cylinder pierces a twisted ring. It is incised with a well-worn images. The obverse shows a skeletonized body, greatly elongated, tied by its wrists to the top of the hoop, while the reverse shows a bound hermaphroditic figure in the same posture. The images are blackish-green at the top of the ring, fading to a deep russet black near the end, and the base of the key is also blackened badly. A thin slot is visible at the tip of the cylinder on the end furthest from the hoop.

Spoilers follow. Players beware.

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Robotech RPG Tactics, Wave I – Part II (Problematic Models and their assembly, and Component Quality)

This is part 2 of a multi-part series
#1: Compatibility and Scaling
#3: Destroid Defender

In addition, Palladium addressed some of the concerns expressed in this post, including making some of the excluded cards and assembly instructions available on-line (though they’re still partially incorrect)
See the post here.

By way of preface, this was supposed to be a fluff post, and take maybe a couple hours to write while I worked up test models for the game, took pics of the sprues, and noted down the hard spots for a new modeller.

It’s been a sodding week, and I’m only covering the worst offenders so far; the Destroids are on hold until I can get some magnets.

The mini quality has been, hands-down, the most controversial part of the entire game to date. Is everything shit? No, not by any means.
But all three armies (Zentraedi, Malcontent, and UEDF) get the shaft on something. The Quel-Regult is by far the worst offender, with multiple parts that don’t fit, and a missing component (see below). The UEDF player, meanwhile, gets a bit screwed by having even more models to build than the Zen player – models which take almost three times as long to build out, and have significant problems of their own. The Malcontents? The boxed set doesn’t even contain any legal units for them.
And while some of the models are a bargain, the Zentraedi get hosed on a critical component of their army.

Full breakdown after the jump.
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FtA: Oathbreaker, The Sundering Breath (New magic weapons)

Came up with a new magic item while reading the old Judges’ Guild adventure “Zienteck”, when considering ways to fix a rather boring weapon tucked into an interesting place. The second pair of weapons (Oathbreaker) were the sidearms of one of my Vampire: The Masquerade characters ages ago, herein modified for D&D/LotFP. If you’re interested, it’s got the basic Vampire stats afterward.

The Sundering Breath:
Created by a former Cleric to aid him in unmaking the Golems and other Things given Unlife in his maddened experiments. He would eventually be consumed by his belief that all Men drew breath stolen from He That Is, weakening the font of force from which all Clerics draw their power. The fallen Wizard would embark on a one-man Crusade to return himself to his former Grace and power by uncoupling the Spirits stolen to craft the Unliving, and rejoin them to the true Breath. That he did so with a stolen spirit speaks volumes of his corruption..

The Breath is a heavy and inelegant Crow’s-beaked warhammer. It is faintly transparent, and the inscribed pattern of golden Kabbalistic runes and precisely-positioned number tables seems to writhe in the hands of its owner. It does only half damage (1d4) to any target that is not imbued with an Animating Genius. When it is used to smite Things so imbued (including, but not limited to: most Undead, Soul Gems, Phylacteries, Golems, and many magic items), the Sunderer has a cumulative 10% chance per purposeful blow of breaking its enchantment. Be wary, however, as the force(s) released may not be especially friendly. It can only strike corporeal things, but this includes binding circles/fields or the like which are currently containing a living or Unliving spirit.
Items of Angelic and Demonic magic are immune to its effect, as are certain types of naturally-occurring Undead; only those made with stolen or bound life force or spirits are vulnerable. Elemental spirits are freed but not destroyed.
The Sundering Breath may also be used to cure a victim of possession – but the target must be struck with the hammer, and with full intent to harm (normal attack roll, and 1d4 damage per blow). Mortals slain by the Sunderer may not be reincarnated, resurrected, or reanimated through any means short of direct Divine intervention (id est, not a Cleric saying “can you do a brother a solid”, but YWH Himself shoving a metaphorical finger up the corpse’s nose).
If a character successfully frees a spirit or Genius with nowhere to go, it will haunt his dreams until guided to the proper Reward.

Oathbreaker:
These ancient weapons are said to have been forged in the fires of the wars against Cain’s Brood, seen the battles that threw down Enoch and Nod. The Man who carries them is a Pariah, a kingbreaker, destroying falsehoods and truth alike in his wake.

Stats, LotFP/D&D:
The Oathbreakers are a pair of ancient, unbreakable bronze short swords, each marked with an indecipherable rune that causes revulsion in all who view it. Its pommels are unlovely chunks of a plain, gray stone indelibly stained with blood, supposedly cut from the weapon of the First Murder. Each sword calls out to its mate: when owned for one full week, the bearer will become consumed by visions and dreams. At first, these will be from the point of view of the owner of its twin, or from the twinned sword itself if it is unowned. Eventually, the character will begin to have visions of flying to the area in which the sword can be found, or the dying dreams and days of its last owner. The owner will also see the Mark of Cain (the same as on the sword-blade) branded on the forehead and right hand of any being who has killed another in anger and with intent. This latter power is shared with anyone touching any piece of the First Weapon, whether deliberately or accidentally.
The blades do 1d6 damage per round, per Small weapons; dual wielding the blades uses the normal rules for your edition (in my case, roll twice for damage and pick the best). Against any creature which has the Mark of Cain, however, they ignore all special defenses, including incorporeality, the need for cold iron or silver, the requirement for certain “plus” ratings, etc.
If invoked, by crossing both blades before the face of another being and speaking the phrase “I give you Freedom” in Enochian, all magical or divine enforcement of oaths they have sworn will be severed. It also dispels many curses, at the GM’s discretion. Finally, a character who is carrying or owns either blade becomes unable to take any enforceable oath for any reason; they will be overcome by chills and nausea, and their tongue will cleave to the roof of their mouth, rendering the character dumb for 1d4 rounds. Likewise, no other being may swear an oath to the owner of either of the swords.
(They can wound, but not kill, Cain himself. Yes, this came up. No, I will not explain how.)

Stats, oWoD: 5-point Artifact. Does one die of Aggravated Damage for each point of True Faith the wielder possesses to anyone who has committed murder, in addition to its normal damage. When crossed, and the formula is uttered, all Blood Bonds owed by anyone who views them are dissolved

Booyah!

The Death Frost Doom update just went live. Off to snuggle with it in a corner.

Family Fun (Actual play)

Ran a game this week! AND I finally killed one of the bastards – even if the Cleric managed to save him shortly thereafter.

I was down in Oregon for my cousin’s wedding (glorious: the groom wore a Regency riding-coat, purple silk waistcoat and cravat, and pulled it off), and crashed at my sister’s place for a few nights.

We wound up with almost the entire family around a table for the first time in ages (missing 2 brothers due to work). It’s been a LONG time since I’ve had to run 8 people at once. Fortunately, we had a fairly sober table (‘cept for the drunken goat and his pet Irishman), which made things much easier. The game itself continues to run fast and clean. I tested out the LotFP fast-roll sheets (see the house rules link, above), which worked like a charm; the equipment lists continue to be a sticking point, however, and I think I may just need to set up some of my patented “Generic Adventuring Packs” on 3×5 cards again. More on that later. Still, I actually had players deliberately minimizing their gear to avoid encumbrance penalties, buying pack-animals, and using their remaining gear and weapons in much more creative ways. Guns continue to be a huge hit with the players, and a great deal of fun to manage; strategic misfires changed the outcome of several fights. I found a few minor points on the gun sheets I need to clean up and make clearer, so those will be addressed soon.   The players also continue to avoid spellcasting like the plague*, making me a sad monkey. Time to break out the wizards…

*Current total of characters rolled up for my games: 6 Specialists, 5 Fighters, 2 Savages (both shamans), 1 Cleric, and 0 Mages.

The players, in order of seniority:
• Malcom O’Maihle, Irish Whitesmith (Specialist). Notable items: cold iron dagger, tinsmithing gear, and Oliver the English Goat (“Called him that so I could beat him without feelin’ too guilty”) [Dad]
• Guysponge Fourpwood, Mighty Pirate (Fighter). Notable items: Fat sack of cash, Kettle Hat, Pig Latin proficiency. [Sister #1]
• Arturus Falconwrath, Dilettante and Upper-class Twit (Specialist). Notable Items: Elspeth the Camel-sheep (a pack-llama), Rifled carbine, attitude, disownment from family. [Sister #2]
• Giselle, Venetian whore Spy (Specialist). Kelptomania, hourglass, lockpicks, other tools of trade. History with “Arturus”. [Wife]
• Matahi, South-Seas Harpooner [Savage]. Taboos out the ass, shark-tooth sword, flensing knife, harpoons, the Arm of Zotz (God, I love that spell), assorted shaman’s tools. [Brother #2]
•  Kerwin, German Jäeger [Fighter]. Uniform, rifle, one of the only German-speakers in the party. Excellent character portrait. [Sister #3]
• Rajahan, Persian mercenary [Fighter]. One of the few players who brought shelter. Someone’s going to sleep way better than the rest.. [Sister #4]
• James, Cleric. Had Holy water and a good old “Holy-water sprinkler”. Only PC with a shield or armor heavier than a buffcoat. [Brother #4]

Plus one character who went unplayed due to its owner deciding that bed was the better alternative to math.

Scenario: Players are shipwrecked on the Isle of the Forgotten; items are what they’ve managed to salvage/lay claim on. The party were on two separate ships, both wrecked in the same storm, and of several differing religions, which I forsee making life interesting if we pick these poor bastards up again.  Mild spoilers for “Better Than any Man” below the cut, so if you still haven’t read it, go get it. (I re-skinned the Farmhouse complex from BTaM on the fly into a recently-raided Polynesian village.)

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What I did this Weekend (Fallout, Crimson Skies, Borderlands)

Re-installed Fallout and Fallout 2 again on Friday (from actual factual disks! Yes, kids, I’m that old..), and spent the weekend in a happy haze blasting mutants. I’m playing with a crapload of patches, of course – raw, the games are playable but lovably buggy (like everything else from Bethesda/Black Isle). You can pick up most of the patches here (link). I recommend the High-res pack, 1.02 official, and 1.03 fan-patch for Fallout, and the “Restoration” mod plus the official patch and the high-res patch for Fallout 2. The restoration patch in particular has made this a much more enjoyable experience for me, what with all the things I haven’t actually played through like 15 times before – although it did bugger up a bit; little girls have been replaced with Mr. Handies. That gave me a bit of a pause: strolling into Klamath Falls the first time, and seeing like six sentry droids running for me demanding candy and hugs. Damned near earned the Child-killer perk a mite early.

On that note, Fallout inflamed my post-apoc gun-fest itch, so I’ve done some more writing on the Guns Guns Guns! Vault-Hunter’s Brochure, finishing off the basic character generation chapter and adding in some more critters to blast. It’s still not ready for release, but another couple of days of work and it’ll be ready for playtesting.

As if I didn’t have enough on the plate, visiting brother #3 (who may be becoming a permanent roommate? Time will tell) has also reignited my raging boner for Crimson Skies. It looks like a perfect candidate for Fantasy Flight’s Flightpath system (read: X-Wing/Attack Wing). Yes, I know there’s already a tabletop system. Two, in fact, but Clix still sucks donkey balls, especially for dogfighting.

Not just for PC and XBox, folks!

Not just for PC and XBox, folks!

But I like the feel of Flightpath. The point-buy system would need slight modification, however, to accommodate the Crimson Skies Ace/Wingman unit structure. I’m thinking certain pilot cards need to be labelled as “wingman” rather than forcing all wingies to be generic. Wingies would give the flight additional abilities, even if they’re not necessarily great buys; “Brooklyn” Betty, for example, could grant an additional evade die to her flight (her constant radio chatter, her own admittedly good piloting skill) despite her abysmal gunnery skills. Nate Zachary (Flight Leader) might get bonuses as long as there’s a female pilot in the sky (lowered evade, boosted attack) because he’s a hot-rodding ladies’ man. So on, so forth. Needs a lot of hashing out, and I need to get ahold of a few more of the plastics (I only have half the plastic airframes available, need a few more to horse around with). Still, I can do a playtest with what I have right now, and it should turn out well.

Off-line for a couple days (also, Vance, and Wizards vs. Magic-users)

Heading out of town for a few days.
In the meantime, I’ve been reading me some Jack Vance – it’s amazing how many things, subtle things, that D&D jacked from him.

You hear “Vancian Magic” way too often in this hobby from people who don’t understand what it means. Yes, the disposable spells and imprisoning/memorizing them is Vance to the core.
It also implies a bunch of other shit. Research, experimentation, Lost Spells in the Dark and Weird places of the world, barely-controlled Tech and Nanotech. One of the reasons I’ve always had a problem with the 3x + (and even 2e to an extent) is that they simultaneously make research less-attractive/non-existent, and make magic too mundane.

See, a “Wizard” is different than a “Magic-User”. Magic-users, what the common folk call “wizard”, simply have magic. I’ve used several in the past that were 0-level NPCs and/or other classes, but had access to a magical tool, even a toy, or some internal mutation that gave them power.
A Magic-user is a deceptive bastard who uses fear and magic to keep himself off the pyre and serve his needs. Magic-users wield nothing more than a tool; they are laborers, not craftsmen, of Magic – and by 4e, they are all that remains.

(Reginald Balfour) This guy? Candles of Hypnosis and glasses that let him read any code. Boom - "Wizard".

(Reginald Balfour)
This guy? Candles of Hypnosis and glasses that let him read any code. Boom – “Wizard”.

Wizards and Magi, though? They almost understand magic, even are magic to some degree. A Wizard hunts power, knowledge, tools. He hoards as the Dragon, jealous of power, laboring to keep it hard by and thieve it from the less-worthy. A true Wizard does not have equals, but enemies, masters, inferiors, puppets; those with a hold on his soul or his power, and those who depend upon them. Wizards deceive, yes, but also play with Magic in a way a simple “user” never will.
Wizards study, and often die for, their Art – for a Wizard is an Artist, a Craftsman, a maker of Wonder.

The longer or more tightly-regulated the spell description (with limited exceptions), the closer you move to nothing but Magic-“Users”. When Grease stops conjuring a layer of bacon fat in an area and starts becoming “You can but make someone slip, or disarm them”, a Wizard isn’t the only one who loses out.
The entire game feels the hurt, for creativity and “breaking the rules” with magic are the very substance of the fairy tales and sagas we draw from.
More importantly, these acts should be part of the stories we write on our own every time we hit the table. Our tales are of finding wealth and creeping under the weight of dread, exultation and mourning, and above all being clever gits who do what we shouldn’t with every tool we have, because that’s the way Humanity works. It’s what we’ve done ever since we rejected the Garden, and it’s our fucking inheritance right alongside the weight of Adam’s Curse.
The Game shouldn’t be an endless walk down a barren corridor, whose seamless and indestructible walls lead into an unbranching infinity forever interrupted with doors, should not consist of hunting for the one and only key on our collective belt that will fit this lock.

Branch the corridor, tear down the walls. Give your players toys, not just tools; marvel at what they make of broad, Weird powers instead of simple rayguns and a really big sack they fill with FPS-style first-aid kits.

John_William_Waterhouse_-_Magic_Circle

(From John William Waterhouse)
When’s the last time one of your PCs had to do this to use a magic item?

LotFP Crowdfunding Review #4: “Forgive Us”

As promised, here’s the full review for Kelvin Green’s adventure Forgive Us. Since this is one I’ve actually played, I’m going to include commentary from my players as well as my own; since I had to adapt it directly to my campaign, I’ll also add in notes on the conversions and the tools I used. This will be relatively spoiler-free: if you want more details, check the session reports (here and here). Note that I haven’t run the secondary adventures yet.

The full module is available here.

Overall Rating: 8/10
In essence, this is a One-Page Dungeon (or rather, a series of them) writ large, by a master of the form. Mr. Green’s expertise shines through in the tight and easy-reading/playing prose. On the opposite side of that equation, some elements (mostly information about secondary NPCs and magic items) were neglected in that focus on clarity and simplicity. There are a few minor playability issues; a map error, a mystery with one vague clue which can stone-wall the party. The flavor and mood, however, more than make up for them.
The main adventure in Forgive Us (formerly Horror Among Thieves) is fun, fast, and brutal. The location is flavorful, with an evocative and consistent theme. The treasures are engaging, the traps make sense, and the final moments will likely make your players brown their collective trou.
On that note, my parties are careful and heavily-armed – but this is a seriously threatening adventure. If you run it as-written, it will definitely give a 4th-level party a hard run for their money – as long as you can keep the PCs from leaving the location. Fortunately, it’s almost certainly going to pull them in tight until they hit the bitter end.

But don’t just take my word for it, listen to my players:
(The Doctor): “That.. was the most Metal game of D&D I’ve ever played”, “Silver makes a man rich. Nice furniture makes him feel wealthy.”, “At first, when I found out what that d20 was for, I was miffed I hadn’t rolled a second. About 30 seconds later, I was really glad”.
(The Archaeologist): “The details were wonderfully consistent.. and the maps were just detailed enough but not too detailed”
(The Fighter): “Murderous”.
(The hireling Henchman): “I got class levels!”

The next two adventures are shorter (or much longer, depending on how the PCs react). Both can be used to great effect when the party returns to one of their old haunts. Indeed, it seems almost like both were written for a DM who’s saying, “Well, they’ve gone back to that first town from 3 levels ago.. now what?”
In Heaven, Everything is Fine is well-suited as a hex-crawl element or special encounter; a contained area with a simple but cleverly-disguised problem the PCs can fix. To use it, however, you will need either to generate a large number of NPCs, or cannibalize an existing “village” adventure or NPC portfolio supplement. It has a fantastically set-up series of Weird encounters that should keep your players skittish but interested.
Death and Taxes is more of an encounter or political scheme than an “adventure” per se. It resolves an NPC’s story arc and adds a Nemesis to the party’s roster of enemies. Treasure per se is limited, but the loot is excellent. To engage the PCs, it depends entirely on the players’ fondness for an NPC (which it kills off-screen). It’s not exactly an appropriate module to run early on, or for the seriously hacky-slashy crowd.

All three adventures also contain many nods to Hammer Horror or its descendents, and a few tributes to other classic films or roleplaying products.

Detailed breakdown under the jump.

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Some Generators I wrote (LotFP, Magic-users)

The kindly folks over at Last Gasp Grimoire have created a random generator maker (you don’t know how hard it was not to type “generated a generator for generating generators”..), and I have availed myself of same.

Click the following 2 links to generate:
A name for your (presumedly foul) Wizardly organization*
&
The Spells which they teach to initiates
(or, “what spells your first-level Mage doesn’t have to seize from others”).+
EDIT: These links break WordPress (one contains over 1000 entries..). Go to the 7th order page and look for “wizardly schools” under “names” and “Random 1st-level Spell Generator (LotFP)” under “Spells”

*”–” means “nothing”, and (and?) is an optional element. Skip it when writing down the name if it makes sense.

+Wizards may choose one spell in addition to those generated: if a spell is doubled in the generator, they may either memorize it without access to spellbooks, or select an additional spell. It’s weighted to always provide at least one each of an attack and non-combat spell, although my definitions of either might be.. debatable. It uses spells from the Spell Contest booklet**, Gingerbread Princess, Better than Any Man**, and God that Crawls. If you don’t have one of the above, make something up.

** These two are PWYW/Free, so you have no excuse :b

Have fun, and poke around – there’s a lot of entertaining stuff in there already.