Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Rise of D'alton

I began work on the sixth scenario today, and I'm starting to get amped up about the thing. I put in fifty-four minutes (I'm timing myself again) today and I can tell its definitely going to take more than seven hours to put together and its definitely going to be a bit different than some of the other stuff I've put before the guys.

Pro-tip for any players that read this: If you're in a fight, you fucked up. Heh.

Since D'alton is the only character in the group with a background attached to Hell, I'm preparing some blocks of information for him to wield like a blade during the scenario. It basically breaks down into a series of moments in the scenario associated with relevant information. I think I'll leave it up to Jeremy to choose whether or not D'alton says anything about the place or not. Or perhaps he can act shifty and play things close to his chest and teh group can make Insight and Diplomacy checks against D'alton's Will Defense to get him to talk. Or they could role-play their characters engaging Jeremy's in conversation.

I'm might also prepare a cheat sheet for Jeremy as well, something he and I co-create to outline the mechanics of the heist and a few abolutes that need to be done, a few spots were I want his character to do or say a certain thing, and some general info about D'alton's old stomping ground in the 2nd District of Hell.

A side note, I'm goofily amused with myself for explaining the name Hell in the next scenario and it having nothing to do with underworlds, afterlives, or strange dimensions full of demons.

The more thinking and planning I do, the more I start to get amped up about this scenario. It seems like its going to be a fun time and could have quite a few interesting occurences/complications. I mean, I have it set up in a fashion that allows the group to join the rebellion altruistically, as double agents, or as mercs. A lot of things could conceivably go wrong though and the group could end up in jail by the end of the night. Hehe.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

An Excerpt

So, the last four posts I've typed out have never been posted. This is mostly because I sit down to type when I'm irritated and its just ranty bullshit, and I don't want this place to be a ranty bullshit laden place. There is something that I typed that I've decided is the only really relevant part of the unposted posts:

"I'm not mad about Dungeons and Dragons. I feel that Dungeons and Dragons is going extremely well and I am having a lot of fun with everyone and hope everyone is having fun as well. I love our group and the campaign and have nothing but good feelings about Dungoens and Dragons.

The way I feel about this current campaign compared to previous ones is just shocking. I am filled with joy and optimism when I think about Dungeons and Dragons lately. Looking back on my past as a DM, I was lazy, rude, arrogant, and a host of other annoying vices. I felt like noboby cared, nobody wanted to play, so I felt a lot of times that I should punish them by not caring either. So after a certain point gaming sucked, and every time we rebooted the hobby this would happen.

A lot of that is on me and I believe that is why gaming is going so well lately, I finally got that attitude adjustment my mom always said I needed. I'm trying to be a good DM. I find myself getting lazy or doing stupid things and I actively work against my vices and try to change myself for the better. I'm researching DMing and reading tips and just generally trying to be a better guy. I also feel the player's are better too. It really feels like everyone cares about my little world, especially Jeremy and Eric and I cannot express how good their interest makes me feel. John knows rules fairly well, looks them up himself, pre-rolls dice, and is always the first to relpy to any goofy email I send out. Jeff is also doing really well for never having played any iteration of Dungeons and Dragons before, and Martel is right up there with him. They're both inqusitive and interested in the game and whats going on. Fred occupies the niche of the verbose derailer that helps keep sessions from growing stale while we're in a calmer/quieter/boring moment of the scenarios, he also helps keep me on my toes. Kudos to everyone, you all get a prize on the sixteenth, except me, my prize is knowing how the campaign ends."

Dear self, keep focused and don't let yourself get irritated by the little bits of stupid bullshit and turn them into what they aren't. They only become a big deal if you get wrapped up in them and lose sight of the important thing, gaming and your friends are fun and cool.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Six (or Seven) Hours and Thirteen Minutes

So I put the last touches on the scenario today. Its like done done, I feel like I don't even need to give it the once over before we game next time (I will, because that's in like two weeks, but still). It only took me six hours and thirteen minutes to complete. This includes updating the logbook, Walthuler's missive, and one of my three special surprises for everyone, in addition to the scenario itself. (There was another surprise that I was working on as well, but that's a side project and is my own special thing so I would feel wrong adding the time spent on it to my total.) I also didn't start timing myself until I was about four pages in, so we'll call that another forty-five to sixty minutes. I thought scenarios took longer. Seriously. I have quoted numbers and time spent to Jeremy before and said crazy numbers like fifteen hours or "its like a part-time job" and the like.

Yeah, being a DM is like a part-time job in addition to everything else going on in your life. This is true if you are a remotely competent one. I just thought it took more time to do the actual scenario than it did this time. I mean, six or seven hours is two or three diligent afternoons spent on work. I broke my time total down by day and discovered my problem, and its a surprisingly obvious one. I don't spend an hour doing the scenario. I put on a show for an hour and spend ten minutes over the course of it working on the scenario. Only twice in my totals did I actually log time close to an hour, everything else was ten minutes here, twenty there, and forty-three over there, etc. That's my fucking problem. I drag the scenario out over the course of two or three weeks and it feels like I've been on it for a month, when I've only done five hours on it. If I could just force myself to spend a full hour here, a full hour there, etc I'd be squirting scenarios out twice a month. If I could work more diligently and on a smaller scale we could game once a week for two hours or three at a time (in a utopia where all our work schedules worked out that is).

I'm glad I timed myself. I started it as a "I'll show them!" with a brandished fist at my players, kind of a "look at how much time I put in and you guys can't even learn the rules about running and action conversion without me holding your hand" type of thing. Six or seven hours isn't that big a deal, especially when broken into fifteen or twenty minute chunks over the course of three or four weeks. Time to let go of the dark side Steve and perhaps get over yourself.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Kaleshmar 101

Just as a heads up, the 101 posts are going to be pretty informal compared to the In My Campaign posts. Not that those are particularly formal. The In My Campaign posts are just written from a more..."in world" perspective I guess, whereas these 101 posts are just me rambling. I'm not posting them because people necessarily care (if they do, its definitely a plus though) but more from a belief that I should have these types of things written down somewhere. They'll all be going under the "In My Campaign" tag on the right though because they're basically the same thing.

If you game with me and have read some of my background material you know that Kaleshmar was an ancient civilization and was also a magocracy (mages and their like run shit). You also know that it was a huge continent and that eventually there was a disaster and it exploded and became all the hunks of beltanizine all over the world. You also know that the descendants of the people that were the citizens of Kaleshmar are the Eldumans of the Old Empire and their descendants in the New Empire.

Aside from a few basic details, most of that is untrue.

Kaleshmar was a mighty empire based upon a floating continent perpetually winding its was across the skies of Hekinoe (the planet my campaign takes place on, have a better name in mind?). They were a highly advanced civilization, so advanced that they could manipulate energy and matter itself. Some of my fascination with Tesla and his ideas for limitless and wireless energy are inspiration here, so if you see a theme, that is why. Basically their entire style of technology was based upon manipulating matter and energy. This coupled with immense technical libraries from ages past and intense mental conditioning allowed them to basically direct energy and craft matter as they desired, this training and conditioning took centuries though so its not like the were born with the ability to make mountains of candy and gold.

The basic rundown of everything (keep in mind that I am a layman and know nothing about physics or any discipline of science really) is that this empire was an empire of cyborgs. They had antenna and various other bits of techno crud implanted within their bodies that allowed them to draw energy from various storage facilities (including temporary storage facilities built from the techno crud within their bodies) and store all kinds of data and schematics in a sort of virtual H.U.D. that appeared before their eyes. They were able to use this invisible H.U.D. as a sort of touch screen to access info and direct energies, the H.U.D. could also be used via voice command as well (in fact, some types of matter and energy could only be accessed with the proper verbal command codes), and there were even some users so skilled and accustomed to their hardware that they could access and use this interface via mental commands alone.

To continue, Kaleshmar was a big and awesomely powerful empire and the Elduman's claim they are its descendants and were once its masters. This is true, in part. The empire of Kaleshmar was composed of three ancient and separate races. The first race, and the most powerful, were the race that A'lst is a member of and the Goblins and their kin of the Fell Peaks are descended from. The second race is the race that originally enslaved the Abraxen people in their desert homeland. The third and youngest race of the collective were the sentient crystal ancestors of the Elduman.

In addition to this, Kaleshmar was an empire of slavers. It was a continent of huge crystalline towers (built by the ancestors of the Eldumans, which was the reason they were elevated from slave race to master race) and there were over one billion inhabitants of the empire. Only about 37% of the population were members of one of the three races mentioned above though. The empire of Kaleshmar was built on the backs of many weaker and younger races, in particular the Abraxen race. Perhaps this was a blessing though. Because of the subjugation of the Abraxens and their drive to combat the "magic" of their masters with technology in their quest for freedom, the Known World enjoys the benefits of advanced medical, electrical, and mechanical technologies.

What caused the disaster and why does beltanizine absorb magic? Something from the space above the planet, maybe a weapon of some kind, blew a hole through a cluster of massive energy/matter batteries/converters when it fell to the earth below. The batteries ruptured and all the stored energy and its converters went haywire. As the continent fractured and impaled the landmass below, the converters began absorbing and replacing the matter of Kaleshmar with matter in the shape and format of its battery technology, turning the shattering continent into a big battery. The residents of the continent attempted to stop the catastrophe but their reserves of energy were dwindling faster than they could access them and as the land beneath their feet transformed it ate away any energy they were able to muster before they could do anything productive with it.

Are there beings that survived the fall of Kaleshmar? Obviously. A'lst is still around and the Eldumans are as well. What happened to the rest of A'lst's people and that nameless third race? Volung is a member of the third race, so technically his children are its descendants, just as the Goblins are the descendants of A'lst's.

Just because Eric may at some point in the far flung future read this, the Nel (Fey) are not a descendant or remnant of anything that lived on Kaleshmar and Keroen Skathos (Cromm Cruach) isn't either.

There are some pureblooded people of A'lst's race still around and when the Abraxens threw off the shackles of their enslavers the enslavers went north, far north. Beyond knowing they exist, I can't really say too much more about A'lst's people. I don't have a "Hey! They're over there!" idea for them. If the PCs had gone sightseeing across the oceans in my campaign instead of deciding on a rebellion, I'd have probably thrown them into wherever the group landed. Suffice it so say that they'll probably end up placed on whatever deserted island I create next.

Whoa, got a bit off track here and left that whole magic absorption thing blank. Magic is basically energy hammered into a certain shape by the caster's mind, not entirely unlike the technology of Kaleshmar. So that is why the chunks of Kaleshmar absorb and store magic, although it takes quite a bit longer and is far more clunky and unpredictable than what Kaleshmar had going on. The reason the spells within beltanizine go active when the rock is exposed other high energy sources is because none of the converting technology was operating correctly and the "batteries" basically lock up when they absorb something and this prevents them from absorbing anything else. However, the incorrect copying done by the ancient technology has fused the chunks of beltanizine into a broken amalgamation of battery and converter and any further energy they absorb is converted into the original shape of energy they have saved within them.

So there's some stuff about Kaleshmar and some half-assed (but not quite Magic Did It!) justifications for beltanizine.

Music: Wrong - Depeche Mode
Music: Quarter Past - The Fall of Troy

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Spineplate 101

Spineplate is weird for a soulless. This is a fact, and perhaps it is not as interesting a fact to others as it is to me. Spineplate has a six in Charisma, not because it is a dump stat or because he's ugly or anything of that nature. Charisma has absolutely nothing to do with physical appearance. He has a six in Charisma because he is one of a kind, has been enslaved for decades in the mines of Beltan, and because he has trouble relating to others. He doesn't understand humans and other humanoids, or even others of his kind. He's basically a construct crippled by social anxiety disorder, or perhaps a fantasy world equivalent.

In their natural environment soulless are intelligent and deadly arcane constructs of the Fallen Empire, the Fell Peaks have their own variants as well. Their construction arose from the constantly decreasing armies of the Fallen Empire, as an undead nation they had no means of increasing their population and an army of mindless undead lead by half a dozen intelligent sorcerers and officers can only do so much when led against an empire (the New Empire) that has been fighting undead for a few hundred years.

Fallen cannot truly die per se, their bodies can be destroyed and their minds silenced, but the energy of the Bleak Tyrant that animates them never really leaves their corpses. Artificers and sorcerers of the Fallen Empire found that this energy could be harnessed and bonded to a frame of metal to grant the construct it was bound to life. To do so they had to physically entomb the remains of Fallen within the shell of metal (or whatever material it was constructed of) and bind the power of the Bleak Tyrant in place with their own spells.

The result was an intelligent warrior that could not feel pain, thirst, exhaustion, or hunger. The side effect was that the remnants of the personalities entombed within the metal body (it often took several Fallen corpses rendered down to ash to power the animation spells) granted the soulless its own personality which developed as it aged. This is what is responsible for the echoing quality noticed in soulless speech patterns, as if several voices speak at once from within the metal monstrosity. There are also rare cases of latent personalities from the animating remains taking over the soulless they inhabit briefly, the more benign ones offering insight and experience to the soulless they inhabit.

Spineplate doesn't have that, he is alone in his head and perhaps doesn't remember a time before that was the case. He is a magitech device built by A'lst and powered by electricity and beltanizine. Beltanizine is my world specific metal that I have stated in game is a remnant of destroyed Kaleshmar. In the arcane disaster that caused the destruction of Kaleshmar all kinds of magic went haywire and the remnants of that continent mined in Beltan and other areas today is no different.

Because of the disaster beltanizine is like an arcane sponge (I have my reasons for it being so), it absorbs magic. The amount it absorbs is annoyingly random with rocks the size of houses absorbing only enough arcane energy to power a magic missile and pieces the size of fingernails absorbing energy to power fireballs and lightning bolts. The process of absorption is lengthy as well so it has little combat application, you can't draw a lightning bolt to your steel shield with its beltanizine plating and avoid damage, it doesn't work like that.

What it could do (if you got lucky enough to have the proper size stone on hand) is lay a rock on a wand of lightning bolts (if such ridiculously high fantasy things existed in my world, and they don't) for a few hours and the wand would become a stick and the stone would now have a lightning bolt spell stuck in it. Now you have a rock with a lightning bolt in it, which does nothing. Beltanizine has limited use to the common man, so it hasn't revolutionized any industry as of yet. Who it is of use to is thieves in the Fell Peaks or Fallen Empire that have a trap or chest on hand with magical protections that they can just drop a rock or two on and wait a while to open. Lockpicks made of beltanizine used slowly and carefully would slowly drain off the energy of alarm spells or traps without immediately tripping them, you just have to leave them where they are when you're done and hope they absorb enough of the spell to keep it from going off while your doing your looting in the next room.

A'lst (and a half dozen individuals like him) have developed a practical application for beltanizine. Beltanizine absorbs spells but does not naturally release their effects, you have a magic lump of rock. A'lst has discovered that with sufficiently high energy applied to the rock (constant electrical stimulation, immersion in fire or explosion, etc) you can cause the rock to use its absorbed spell. So if you threw your lightning rock into a huge bonfire or super hot oven, it would discharge its lightning bolt (almost constantly) before eventually melting (beltanizine has a relatively low melting point). Also, the absorbed spell is lost if you deform the rock too much, so you can't have a house sized rock with a neat effect carved and chipped down to hand sized.

How this relates to Spineplate is as follows: A'lst found a scrapped soulless a long time ago, one that was broken and busted but still functioning. He restrained it and then tore it open and fused a large piece of beltanizine to the remains within its chest. Eventually it died as its animating sorcery was absorbed by the ore. He then spent roughly three years perfecting the technology Abraxens use in their modern batteries to create a just barely workable and efficient self-replenishing power source based on charging the batteries with kinetic energy (Spineplate is a wind-up toy).

With the battery system providing constant current to Spineplate the beltanizine was able to power up the animating spells that gave the soulless life, and thus Spineplate was born. The personalities that had originally animated Spineplate's body were left in the ashes of their remains, only the animating sorcery of the Bleak Tyrant was absorbed by the beltanizine so Spineplate was left with no personality or learning, only the will to live.

A'lst is a little guy, but he has abilities and powers that made him more than a match for an unthinking metal beast. Eventually he was able to educate and teach Spineplate, A'lst even managed to teach him the complex tongue of his native language. Spineplate was forged of steel and wolf-iron to be a beast of war, so that was what he became, rather than a scholar like A'lst.

So that's a bit on Spineplate. Go team Kuh None.

(Also, I like Parentheses)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Street Fighting Man

When Father Hank came upon his church he was filled with righteous wrath. He saw bits and pieces of his congregation, those that lived nearby, milling about in the parking lot huddling together with one or two heads bowed in prayer. They were not alone though. The bombs going off had shattered many of the windows in the church but there were young men standing in the street doing what they could to shatter the rest with large pieces of gravel and debris, laughing as they did so.

The ten minute walk to his church had been full of sirens and Silver Legion propaganda and Father Hank had had his fill of petty offences by stupid men. He put a knee to the ground, the Garand's butt to his shoulder, and his cheek to the cold metal of the weapon.

"Put those rocks down or by the limitless depths of God's love, I'll bring his wrath right down upon your little heads."

There were six young men, no older than seventeen or eighteen at the most and they were startled, even more so when they turned to find a priest staring down the iron sights of rifle at them. Father Hank gave them one second to take the sight in before speaking again.

"Rocks. You'll be putting them down. Now."

Father Hank was a preacher and had belched a bit of brimstone from his pulpit in his time. He had a voice that hit like thunder and eyes that froze fools in their tracks. The rocks dropped to the road and Father Hank flicked the barrel of the rifle to his left, taking the hint the youths took off at a jog to the left and Hank rose with a groan from his crouch. He looked down his nose at the safety on the rifle, making sure his shaky fingers hadn't accidentally disengaged it.

Those near the church had seen what had happened and they waited expectantly for him as he approached the parking lot. He looked them over and was somewhat relieved by what he saw. Everyone looked to be alive and well, if a bit disheveled and confused, which was to be expected. He smiled at them, hoping to reassure them and that was when the second round of bombs came roaring down out of the sky like the wrath of God he had threatened the youths with.

He was closer this time and had no cover, he fell to his knees and curled up as best he could with his hands over his head. The noise was just as deafening as he remembered it, the wind whipped up by the nearby explosion bit and cut at his exposed skin. He could hear people yelling and screaming nearby and he gritted his teeth and did his best to ignore it and concentrate on weathering the storm of heat and smoke and debris.

Whoever was doing the bombing wasn't carpet bombing the city, there would have been more chaos and destruction. Someone was bombing specific targets and trying to minimize property damage or civilian casualties while still taking out what they wanted. The closest thing to a target he could think of nearby was a hospital to the east. That didn't make a lot of sense though, there were police stations and Silver Legion outposts, government buildings, newspapers, etc all over the city certainly worth more attention than a second rate hospital near a residential area.

The blast died down enough that Father Hank could rise up off of his bleeding knees and look around, his head rang and if felt like there was thick cotton in his ears. There was still dust in the air and a cloud of smoke hanging in the sky, but the wind and flying debris had calmed down enough that it was safe to look around. He approached the two dozen members of his congregation and they began crying and yelling and asking questions, some were injured he noticed, he couldn't understand a word any of them said.

Maybe he was yelling, maybe whispering, he couldn't tell but he spoke anyway, "By God you'll all be quiet or you can all go home. We've injured out here, form a line and those able to do so will assist the injured till we can all get inside and take cover in the basement."

He didn't wait for arguments or to see if they listened, just moved through the crowd steely eyed and intent on unlocking the side entrance to the church. Once the door was open he motioned everyone inside and attempted to turn on lights, having no luck. Holding a hand up for his followers to stay still he moved further in to the darkened interior, looking for a small maintenance closet. Once he found it he found the flashlights he had been looking for and returned to the crowd.

"Shut that door if you would. We've already seen the caliber of folks out on this fine day an we'll have no need of them in God's house. Form a line, hold the hand of the person in front of you and someone find me a roll of tape."

Father Hank proceeded to hand out three of his four flashlights, taping the last light to the barrel of his gun when he was able. As they moved through the church he saw that handing out the flashlights had been preemptive. Most of the east end of the building had been torn apart by the blast and was lit by the dim light filtering through the clouds of smoke overhead, muffled mutters and mumbles from his congregation told him their disappointment.

"The son of God was born between a cow and horse on a heap of hay, if our place of worship is to bear such a striking resemblance to that holy place, well, I'll be calling myself the luckier for it and you'd be doing well to feel the same."

The grumbles and mumbles fell silent and they continued through the corpse of their house of worship, finally reaching the big metal doors of the basement, which were ajar. There was a quiet click in the near silence of the broken church as Father Hank took off the safety of the rifle and used the toe of a shoe to fully open the doors.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Guy Named Hank

When the first bombs hit Chi-Town, Father Hank was out by his tool shed gardening. His tomatoes were looking sickly and it bothered him, he had been hoping to have some fresh ones in a month or two to use for his church's annual cookout. He made a tsking noise and removed the worst looking ones from the vines in the feeble hope that it would keep whatever disease had grasped that particular bit of vegetation from affecting the others. He was so focused on the plants that he didn't hear the sound at first, and when it did finally register it took him a moment to understand its meaning, it had been nearly a quarter of a decade since he'd last heard it in person. He dove for cover, banging a knee badly as he hurled himself bodily into the sturdy concrete toolshed.

It was the sound of dropping bombs that he'd heard and they had been far too close for comfort, but in his time of service he'd never known a comfortable distance involved with bombing. Even at the distance he was from ground zero, the noise of the blast was deafening and the shockwave that followed sent the doors of the shed swinging violently.

When the blast had died down and Father Hank's knee had stopped throbbing enough that he felt he could put weight on it, the priest rose to his feet and stepped out of the shed. As he'd expected the windows of his house and his neighbor's had been blown out by the blast. To the east, uncomfortably near his church, there was a cloud of smoke rising into the air. He could see other plumes of smoke and fire rising into the air but the one closest to his home and his church was his primary concern. He sighed in resignation, righted his glasses upon his face, and sent up a prayer to the Lord. Someone, whether it was the chinks or the krauts didn't matter, but someone had bombed his beloved country and that didn't sit well with Father Hank.

In his youth, he'd been Hank Mardukus (sometimes with a "Joban" thrown in the middle or used as a nickname) enlisting at the age of eighteen and full of zeal and ready to die with a gun in his hands for his God and his country. A humble man would say he'd been skilled at his duty, an arrogant man might say he was a soldier born and bred. Father Hank just said he'd been put in a kill or be killed situation and was lucky enough to have come out on top, although whenever he said lucky there was a bleak look in his eyes the no one from his flock could really understand. He'd served for twenty years, and in that time he'd gained a certain amount of attention from his superiors and he'd been put into something called an "unconventional warfare unit." It was the "unconventional warfare" that had given him that bleak look buried deep in his brown eyes, and the intermittent nightmares.

When his twenty years of service were up, he was a changed man. His zeal and devotion had been tempered in the crucible of war and he had been forced to do things by his sense of duty to his country that didn't sit with with his sense of duty to his God, and he felt torn apart by his devotion to both. He had come from a line of men given to the service of either God or country, his father had served in the military and his uncle had been a priest and their family tree was dotted with dozens of such pairs of strange fruit. His uncle had also been his priest and he had sought succor from the man, and had been advised that perhaps he could atone for his sins by taking up the cross and serving God in an official capacity just as he had done so for his country. So it was that at the age of thirty-eight Hank Mardukus enrolled in a seminary school.

Hank jolted out of his memories and found himself in his basement before a locked cabinet. Like a dazed sleepwalker he vaguely recalled entering his home and cleaning his hands and face in the bathroom before putting on his black clothes and white collar and venturing to the basement, at every turn finding the shattered remnants of his windows beneath his feet. He looked to his wrist and found his rosary there and felt his breast pocket, his hand meeting the reassuring presence of the Bible he'd carried with him for twenty years from front to front. He unlocked the cabinet and the light of the bare dangling bulb above his head fell on two gun cases, a cleaning kit, and several boxes of ammunition.

He opened the first gun case and removed his Colt M1911, frowning as he hefted its familiar weight. It had been his sidearm in war for the last quarter of his term of service and he regularly took it to the range and was meticulous about its maintenance. Rummaging around in the cabinet he found and strapped on his old "widow-maker" holster and after loading the Colt and checking the action he placed it in the holster on his hip. He was overly aware of, and somewhat discomforted by the fact that the handgun felt reassuring against his hip.

In the other case was his M1 Garand, not his old M1903 Springfield from his time in the military. By the time he'd been done with it, that weapon had been too abused and jury rigged to be safely stored by a civilian or used at a range. Some if his old friends that had stayed with the military had given him the Garand as a memento when it had come into production and been taken up by the US as the iconic rifle of her infantry forces. He loaded the Garand and slipped the shoulder strap up his arm to sit on his left shoulder.

He looked around the basement and his eyes fell upon an old leather satchel, dusty and dirty from being left down in his basement for too long. His clothes didn't have much room for spare ammunition so he loaded the satchel with what he had in his cabinet, the cleaning kit too, and took his rifle off his shoulder and put the satchel in its place. With the rifle in his left hand and resting on his shoulder, Father Hank walked upstairs to his kitchen.

He set the rifle and satchel on his kitchen table and reached a long arm up above the cupboards and felt around, his fingers finally settling on a dusty crumpled pack of stale Marlboros and a dented Zippo lighter, which he shook next to his ear to ensure it was filled with fluid. He placed them both in the front pocket of his trousers and restored the satchel to its place across his back and the rifle to his hand.

Father Hank was a reluctant killer, but he had a feeling someone would be wandering the streets intending to do ill to his flock, and every flock of stupid sheep must have a shepherd and sheepdog guarding it. Most priests saw themselves as a shepherd, Father Hank saw himself as the sheepdog. Despite the possible ramifications of his actions, he would savage any wolf he found among his flock whether it was clothed in the fur of a chink, a kraut, or a common thug from the outfits.

He was resolved to head to his church, rifle in hand and cigarette dangling from his lips. Stupid sheep had a tendency to congregate together waiting for the shepherd to help them, rather than charge the wolf en mass, so Father Hank would go to his house of worship and hope the sheep had the sense to come to him. His flock was devout, and he had a strong suspicion that bombs dropping out of the sky would be the sort of thing that sent them to their basements or their church seeking explanations and succor from their God and his representative.

He muttered, "Men did this, but God'll be taking the blame for it I'm guessing," under his breath.

He moved out to his front stoop, leaning his rifle against the iron railings and lit a cigarette. He could already hear sirens and loudspeakers spouting the propaganda of Pelley and his Silver Shirts. He spat on the ground at the thought of Pelley sitting in the White House safe and snug as a bug in a rug while his neighbors were hiding in their basements with their confused and crying families. Some of his neighbors were out on their lawns and in the street now, and he was drawing a few stares, but a priest with a gun was a rare sight. He clamped his cigarette between his lips and reclaimed his rifle before moving down the steps and beginning his trek on foot to his church.

The volume on a nearby Silver Legion loudspeaker increased to a roaring drone and a snarling frown split Father Hank's lips as he said, "Nazis, I hate those guys."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My Process

Eric and I were talking the other day about GURPS, character creation in particular. He is having some trouble wrapping his head around everything that is involved with character creation. After creating ten or twelve characters in my little Excel spreadsheet I've developed something of a process for character creation and I kind of outlined it for him on the phone. I think, and I said as much then, that I will post it up here. Not because I think it is particularly awesome or noteworthy, but just because having something to go off of can give you a bit of a leg up on the process and I know a few of my cohorts read the blog. I know I found it extremely daunting when I first got into it (skills in particular) and I mostly ignored any advice from the book itself when I started doing this stuff so perhaps some of this is a repeat of what you'd find in the pages of the Basic Set.

1. The first step is to have at least the bare bones idea of a character concept. Does he use guns? Is he a doctor? An explosives expert? A cobbled together automotan based on Tesla's prototypes and wired with modern electronics? This gives you an idea of where to start on everything. If you are gun or hand-to-hand combat expert your skills and basic attributes are very likely going to be vastly different than those of a doctor or teacher. With GURPS I like to peruse the advantages of the Basic Set and some of the alternate takes on them in other sourcebooks to get ideas for my characters. There is obviously the traditional path of taking inspiration from movies and literature and such as well. I guess his step is standard for any RPG.

2. My next step is to go to the basic and secondary attributes. I find them the easiest part of character creation. If you swinging punches you need higher end DX and ST, if its just guns you need DX, etc. If you have a general idea of your character in your mind this is one of the easiest steps. Ten is the human norm, if he's not human or is superior in a few areas, you know where your points need to go. I don't usually do much with secondary stats because I generally obsess over having super high stats and don't need to raise them. Again, if you have a clear idea of your character this is another easy part. If he is a hand to hand fighter, he needs Basic Move so he can get to grips with ranged characters before they destroy him, if he is a big bruiser of a charater he needs more HP than normal, etc.

3. My next step is to move over to disadvantages, for two reasons. The first is that it allows you to have a clearer picture of the points you have available to spend on advantages and skills when you get to those parts. The second reason is that a lot of disadvantages are stuff like Bully, Addiction, Secret, Honesty, etc. These sort of things can give you an even clearer picture of who your character is if you only have a vague idea. Going through the disadvantage list and picking out what sounds right is a great way to kind of fill in the details in a sort of organic way during character creation. If you already have a picture perfect idea of who this person is, this step is pretty easy, aside from some math crunching when figuring out all the Self Control roll factors.

4. This is the really fun part for me. I love scrolling through all the advantages thinking of new ways to use them and fluff them. The Robot had Enhanced Time Sense because his sensors allowed him to pick up minute movements and alterations in human musculature so he could anticipate their actions, but a wizened old martial arts master might have it because he has meditated and trained his senses and body to such a heightened state that his mind can process information and adapt to it almost instantaneously. It amounts to the same thing in the end, but its all about adding your twist to your character. To continue. I do a quick read through the portion of the book picking up only the advantages I absolutely MUST have for the character concept. Don't bother getting truly in depth, just take what you absolutely have to have for the character to work. Then move on.

5. Skills. I find skills to be the most daunting portion of character creation. There are so many skills to peruse, some with prerequisites, and its takes a lot of flipping. What I like to do is write down which skills I feel are necessary to the character and the minimum level I feel I need to function with them. Once they're all written down I go back to the page on buying skills and then start filling in all the costs. This can also be a step where you learn about your character's background if you didn't know them already. You can get to a point where you have two or four points left over or something along those lines and be reading something and decide that your character had a background in Accounting or Philosophy or Gardening (like Hank Mardukus). I also consider this to be the point where you purchase techniques and spells as well because those have a similar format to skills. I find that I really need to watch myself during this step, its very tempting to just spam a buch of every sort of skill you can imagine, but you really need to pick and choose and try and stay true to whatever concept or background you have. At four points a piece (in some instances) it can be easy to justify purchasing something you don't really need, but if you do it one too many times your going to find yourself going over your point total.

6. Do it all over again. Now that you've been through each area of character creation its time to tweak the mess a bit. Do you really need that fifteen in DX or IQ? Or can you drop it a point or two and free that up to pump up or purchase a skill necessary to your character's role in the game. Or maybe you only need five more points to purcahse Combat Reflexes or Precognition or some other neat advantage you'd like to have. Can you afford to take another disadvantage or have you come in under your budget enough to lose one you're not particular fond of? This is the part where you really refine the math of character creation and hopefully at this point you've got something you're fond enough to use during the game.

Hopefully this is a bit of help.

Music: Sally - Gogol Bordello
Music: Not A Crime - Gogol Bordello
Music: Immigrant Punk - Gogol Bordello
Music: Start Wearing Purple - Gogol Bordello
Music: Origin of the Species - MC Frontalot

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Of Impressive Length

I recently began listening to this podcast from a site/group called Role Playing Public Radio. They have a regular podcast, which I have not listened to. They also have something they call an actual play podcast, which I do listen to. The one I'm listening to now is a 4th Edition DnD one, but they also have a GURPS one, a Mutants and Masterminds one (I think), and a WWII Call of Cthulhu one.

The one I am currently on is what they call their 4th Edition New World campaign. The first episode is lost, so I had some catching up to do when I started listening to it. I am generally amazed at the content. The actual play podcasts are usually at least two and a half hours long and the one I am currently playing is four hours and eleven minutes. The gist is that the players are part of an expedition to a newly discovered continent and they need to help set up an outpost for the colony to live, their main concern being ready access to fresh water, as the seas around the continent are salt water.

The content is amazing and inspiring. They're not just wandering into dungeons and killing monsters. One of their quests involves leading an aerial and naval assault against a massive goblin ship and attempting to sink it as a preemptive strike against the goblin hordes before they can decide they've grown bored working for the government and want to plunder. The previous episode centered on them pissing off the lead slave merchant of the outpost they work out of and his attempts to make life exceedingly difficult for them by inciting them to violence and having paid witnesses in the crowd say they started it. The response of the players was to hire a lawyer and go to local leaders, business men and officials, and form a secret organization bent on ousting the slave trader from power and attempting to sway the popular opinion of commoners against the institution of slavery. Currently in the one I am listening to the party (an eladrin wizard, dragonborn fighter, orc warlord, a warforged fighter, and a warlock that only occasionally appears at the sessions) are leading an army of close to three hundred goblins, convicts, and mercenaries against a trap laden thieves guild underground complex.

The finale of that particular episode is a half hour discussion between the players and the DM regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the scenario and what the characters plan to do with the emptied our thieves guild complex. They also discuss the fact that they are going to found their own outpost nearby and determine what's going to go on as they found it over the next year of in-game time.

That's one thing I would really like, a ten or fifteen minute sit down where we discuss the scenario we just finished. Just a relaxed discussion over pop and chips about what happened and what we want to happen next, perhaps as we level everyone up. This bullshit where everyone takes off like bats out of Hell is vexing to me. I've put in sometimes up to eight or ten hours of work on the scenario prior to the session, everyone that shows up can surely take five minutes to talk about it afterwards. That's reasonable isn't it? I honestly just want to know what everyone thinks of my style and DMing method, what my flaws are and how I can improve the session for them. Actually, if you're reading this and you game with me, I've enabled Anonymous commenting so feel free to tear me a new one if you have complaints because everyone we game with has the address of this blog and I'm in no way savvy enough to track IPs and whatnot.

This leads into a discussion of one problem I think the group has. I don't feel that they're invested in the world at all. They know its full of weird stuff and weird terms and weird shit from my brain, but its not really attached to them any more than a standard cookie cutter pseudo-medieval fantasy world would be. Its there and their characters are in it and I think that's about as much interest as some of them have in the place. I do think that the group has a bit of attachment to Spineplate and I think the key is that Spineplate is around. He's there, he says things occasionally, and from time to time he ambles over in front of them when brigands attempt to put sharp objects in them. I think that if they were in one place long enough, had some repeat appearances from characters that could string whole sentences and paragraphs of dialogue together to engage them they might find the world more "real" than they do now. I want them to be attached to the world, because I think it makes for a better game if you care about your character and where he's been and where he is going in that geeky DnD way (not in the intense LARPing in steam tunnels/Jack Chick and his sadistic propaganda way). Most of the campaign has been a wild ride from one place to another engaging in sociopathic behavior, I think if I can play Hell properly and get them to settle down in one place so to speak, that I might be able to draw them further in to the world a bit.

I've spoken before about how I would like to "level up" my DMing skills and how that's one of my goals this campaign. At least I think I have. To be honest, I write a lot of posts and more often than not I end up deleting them, so maybe I did write and just never publicly posted it. These things happen. Anyway. I'm trying to get better at DMing, I'm still having trouble stepping away from the "you have to fight SOMETHING every scenario" mindset though. I'd like to do something where there is no mandatory fighting and every fight can be circumvented (I mean, technically most fights can be circumvented eventually with an Intimidate or Diplomacy roll, but you have to beat on the enemies for a while). I tried that once in d20 Modern Shadow Chasers. The guys ended up killing a bunch of shit they weren't supposed to and then complained that there wasn't a big final boss battle.

So, the point is I want to do more to improve my DMing style and I've been a bit successful in that I've been able to change up and vary the content of my scenarios. Aside from a deliberate dungeon crawl with a twist, I've been able to keep my scenarios varied enough that the guys aren't doing the same damn thing every five minutes. There are a lot of skill checks being made and I'm putting them in places that are not merely stone tunnels and passages. These are good first steps, but more can be done, which leads me to my next bit.

Its December, so I am a bit early, but I'd like to put my New Year's Gaming Resolutions on the blog. Normally I shy away from resolutions because I figure if you're going to do stuff, just go and do it and don't make a big deal out of it.

1. Find and use effectively some manner of audio mixer program to build ambiance during my scenarios. Just something that can add some background noise to build tension or as I discussed earlier, make the world more "real" to the players. Something that can simulate horses heading down a road or mystic chanting as the players enter a final battle against a group of sorcerers. I'm not saying every second of every scenario will have a soundtrack, but a sound effect to indicate its initiative time or the clang of a sword against armor when battle is joined. Stuff of that nature to add depth to the session and make it more than me just droning word after word at them.

2. Learn to let go and be less frustrated when the group does something that would normally frustrate and irritate me. This doesn't mean I'll be ok with them doing stupid stuff and needing their hands held, it just means I'm going to try and not fixate on silly stuff like the fact that they didn't know they could run and get all bent out of shape over it.

3. No more kid gloves in combat. I do a lot of rolling on my laptop rather than on the table. Some of it is an artificial means of keeping the guys in suspense, some of it is because I'm afraid to kill them. In fifteen years of DMing only two players in my group have died. I'm not saying I'm out for blood, but I have been holding off on using certain abilities of monsters because I am afraid to hurt the guys too badly. My encounters are balanced according to the rules and guidelines listed in the DMG and I don't take advantage of the group's weaknesses when I craft scenarios, so unless they act stupid or the dice act like dice they should be ok. This isn't a goal because I want to hurt the players, its a goal because I think they need to know that they can lose these characters. There are no save points or resurrections here in The Known World so if you fall in battle, that's it. I've noticed there are no tense, quiet moments during battle, everyone just keeps making dick and fart jokes the entire time like they do for the majority of the scenario, and I think that is a sign that they don't think of the fights as something that can have a lasting impact on them. Plus, I almost lost Spineplate trying to keep their characters from meeting their ends in a dark dwarven hole, its only fair they risk their characters as much as I risked my beloved NPC. We're entering into an Aeofel vs. Binwin situation here, so I'll leave it at that.

4. To keep a coherent plotline/story and actually finish the campaign. I like this rebellion idea and I like the idea I have of the ending and if there is one campaign I'd really like to see through, I believe it is this one. I have the next couple scenarios plotted out as well and that is definitely a good sign in my mind.

5. For years I've wanted everyone to tell me their thoughts on the scenarios and what they liked and didn't like and for the most part they've kept quiet. I don't need a paper from them, I just need them to tell me that "Hey, you remember that thing, we liked it. Do more stuff like that."

6. I want to expand my miniatures collection so I can more easily represent what the guys are fighting. There was a very nice response to my Lego men representations of all the characters and I think they'll like my upcoming addition to that even more. The group seems to respond better when you can put stuff right in their faces and take the burden of imagination off of them so I want to continue this trend with an expanded mini collection and possibly do that Lego battle scene thing I've spoken of before. The better I am able to suspend their disbelief the more they'll be into the game.

7. I would like to begin recording our sessions. Not because I desire to start a goofy podcast no one will listen to or anything of that nature. I just think I'd find it interesting and useful to be able to hear myself as I game and to also hear the things I missed during the sessions. I'm not sure how to go about doing this, but I think it would be a really neat and interesting thing to do and would offer a lot of insight into what makes our sessions tick.

8. I would like our sessions to be shorter and for the group to game more often. I think a bit of the difficulty we have keeping on task stems from people's attention wandering over the course of a seven or eight hour session of gaming, and sometimes just not knowing what is going on because the last session was three months ago. If I can shrink down my sessions by an hour or two and get us gaming regularly once a month and perhaps move it up two twice a month, I think that might make gaming a little more DnD focused and not so full of tangents to relieve the boredom inherent in rolling dice and listening to me talk for over six hours.

So there's some stuff.

Music - Pictures at an Exhibition - Mussorgsky

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Call Me a Prick If You Like...

So I sat down here this morning to begin work on the final few installments of Inconsistencies Continued (there were three left) and I decided that I wasn't going to finish it because I don't really like it anymore.

...I'm really irritated about gaming/GURPS/real life/etc right now so I need to get this out of the way before I continue or the post is going to be all passive aggressive and sarcastic: GRRR! LOUD ANGRY NOISES!

Ok, all better.

Inconsistencies began to bore me, it was just something funny I started because Jeremy got a kick out of it and I like it when Jeremy can enjoy my writing and other shenanigans. That is why I like GURPS so much. Its a excellent system with a lot more realism/simulationism (and rules) than DnD and it is a system Jeremy and I have a very real affection for and another thing we can bond over.

So what happened next in Inconsistencies Continued? The next scene was the group burning rubber to a Wehrmacht outpost, something with a hangar of some kind. When they crashed through the gates and had defeated the majority of the forces contained within the gates of the outpost the Robot began receiving that unknown sensor input again, except that this time he was able to deduce that it was a sensor that detected the presence of his brother, because his brother and the others of that team had caught up with the Robot and his team. There would have a been an episode strictly about them all threatening each other with hints at their various back stories and how they're all involved in each other's lives and whatnot. Eventually violence breaks out and the most intense firefight of the series begins and ends. The Gangster is wounded badly and we get a nice scene of the the Driver dragging the Gangster by his shirt collar towards the hangar and both of them unloading with the pistol and piano, respectively, on their enemies.

My original ending was going to be the group spitting on the remains of their most worthy foes and entering the hangar and to end it there, and just say that what happens next is up to the reader and possibly Eric's campaign. My ending, as the writer, is that they commandeer a jet and begin their flight to Germany. The Robot cracks open his insides and the Sorcerer begins draining off his power source to shield the jet from the sight of man and machine. The Robot is only having him shield the jet because he needs the Sorcerer's abilities to destabilize his TeslaCo power source. With his insides exposed and his power source now unstable the Robot plunges his fist into himself and breaks open the shielding on his interior and sets off a chain reaction that causes his powers source to detonate. This destroys the jet, both alpha and bravo team, and as the blast expands it begins to ignite larger and larger portions of Earth's atmosphere (even the nitrogen because I say so and Tesla was a nutter), the sky quite literally burns and a massive chunk of Earth's population dies.

With so many deaths, the beacon that is the Reich's occultists is shut down and the demons lose interest in coming to a dead world. Earth and a small portion of its population survive. The good guys win.

Music: Her Sisters They Were Weak - Witchcraft
Music: Chylde of Fire - Witchcraft
Music: If Wishes Were Horses - Witchcraft

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Take 1d10 Falling Damage

Is it wrong that after listening to Gogol Bordello all night I feel that Dan, Jeremy, and I should grow ridiculous handlebar mustaches (or glue such things to our faces) and go out to a bar and drink heavily?

I have a confession to make. I've fallen out of love with Reich-5. There, I said it. Don't get me wrong, stomping Nazis on American soil will be a grand old time, I assure you. I will be right there alongside everyone else saying stuff like, "Nazis, I hate those guys." I just don't have the visceral attraction to the setting that I did five months ago. Part of the cause is that we talked it up and it didn't go anywhere until a few days ago when Eric started working on the scenario, and a few weeks before that when he and I started hashing out some details during a car ride to Shawn's. Another reason is that writing Inconsistencies Continued has kind of burned me out on the whole Robot/Doctor/Driver/Gangster/Etc team and their adventures in Reich-5/Dixie. The final component is Laura's character idea, the charlatan voodoo priestess. That character is a neat idea, but it feels out of place in Reich-5 and more at home in Shadow Chasers. In fact, I just wrote an email to everyone using a similar sentence.

Anyone ever read Hellboy? The movies are ok, but they don't do justice to the character. I would have to say that Hellboy is my second favorite comic series, the first being Sandman (which is phenomenal). Hellboy does two things in my experience: pound on freakish monsters and Nazis with that freakish fist of his.

What I'm getting is that we could do something in the vein of Hellboy, or even Indiana Jones. Supernatural adventures set in the 40s where as often as not we're fighting Nazis or monsters or Nazi monsters. We have an element of supernatural weirdness that isn't as random and starkly out of place as a magic user or faith healer in Reich-5 , but we're still fighting the good fight against Nazis (I hate those guys), so Dan gets his WW2 gland palpated. ...That was kind of gross. We also get to keep that pseudo-pulp feel, or exchange it for an actual pulp feel, depending on who plays what and why.

I dunno. My two cents, ignore or ponder at your leisure.

Music: Sally - Gogol Bordello
Music: Immigrant Punk - Gogol Bordello
Music: Start Wearing Purple - Gogol Bordello

Monday, November 30, 2009

Inconcistencies Continued, Part 15

The meeting had devolved into pointless arguing that finally resulted in everyone but the Robot and the Sorcerer throwing their hands up in frustration and storming off to their own portions of the fire station. The Sorcerer sat at the table and was attempting to light a cigarette with a lighter the Driver had left behind. Once he successfully lit the cigarette and inhaled he began choking and coughing as the harsh smoke irritated his lungs.

“Why do they do this?” He asked between coughs.

“I am unaware. I believe there is an element of chemical addiction to it, among other things.”

“I cannot imagine anyone finding this experience enjoyable.”

“Chronic use builds up tolerance levels, in addition to dependency.”

“Ah, I see.”

“Do you have any additional input regarding our course of action?”

The Sorcerer laughed and said, “Are you sure you do not mean inaction?”

“You are referring to the fact that our lack of agreement on a next course of action is forcing us to sit idle when there is work to be done. You are attempting humor.”


“I have a question for you regarding your powers. May I ask it?”

“Of course,” the Sorcerer said, gesturing with a hand for the Robot to proceed.

“You are linked through realities to objects that funnel you power to shape and direct. You have shown that it is in your power to deflect physical objects via planes of force.”

The Sorcerer nodded, “That is correct.”

“How potent can these planes of force be? For instance, are you able to deflect light or perhaps sound?”

“Ah,” the Sorcerer said with a nod of comprehension, “you speak of invisibility, the power to go undetected by sight, and perhaps sound.”

“I do. Is this deed within your power?”

“I believe I could shield us from biological sensory modes, but not electronic as well. I would strain my powers doing so, and the protection would not last very long with me unconscious.”

“If we can provide you with a sufficient energy source, would you be able to convert it into the necessary power to fuel such an endeavor?”

The Sorcerer tapped his chin with a finger, his eyes unfocusing and looking past the Robot, finally speaking.

“It would depend on the type of energy and the duration of the spell.”

The Robot moved his hand to his side and undid a panel there, exposing his internal workings to the Sorcerer.

“If I provide you with the limitless power of the atom, could you shield us from sight and sound for nine to ten hours?”

The Sorcerer frowned, “If this is the name of Dog that animates you, such a drain could conceivably kill a golem, even one such as you.”

“Your assessment is inaccurate. Based on my readings after tuning my sensors to perceive how you work energy and matter I have estimated, based on the power output of my core, such a fueling of your abilities would reduce me to 37% of my normal combat effectiveness. This weakness would last for roughly twenty-nine hours. These values can be altered by reducing the speed at which signals bounce back and forth between my sensors and my processors, shutting down memory units, and reducing the strength of my servos as the move.”

“You are saying you would be blind and crippled once we get where you have decided we go.”

“Inaccurate. If I power down my sensors and servos to the point where I perceive the world at roughly human level perception and move and function at human level speed and strength I would only be reduced to perhaps 63% combat effectiveness. With bravo team joining us this reduction in my combat abilities should be negligible.”

“What is your plan, golem? What would you have me shield?”

“Is size a factor in your calculations?” the Robot asked as he slammed the plate in his side shut.

“Shielding bigger areas will be more difficult, yes. The difference in power necessary for such a prolonged use of my powers is negligible though.”


“I will ask again, what is your plan, golem?”

“The borders here in America will always be in flux, there are too many opposing factions in this country and our impact is not significant, especially when we can be set back so much by a single frontal assault. The demons coming from your world are a more significant threat, and we are the few who know of their plans. We are in effect the only ones capable of stopping them. The only real course of action for us is to commandeer a jet or plane of some sort and attempt to make landfall in Germany and raid whatever bunker the occultists of the Reich are dwelling in.”

“That…will be difficult.”

“You are correct. It is the only course of action though. If we continue to batter the Germans and Americans here, we will save a few lives and perhaps gain the rebellion a few thousand reichmarks of materiel. This will not stop the coming of the demons, and they will likely kill every human our efforts manage to save.”

“As much as I dislike it, those words are true. Those saved in this land will most assuredly fall to the demons.”

“Then you support my plan?”

“I suppose I must.”

“Excellent.” The Robot turned as if to leave the table, but turned back to the Sorcerer, “A final two questions.”


“Why have the demons not come to our world yet?”

“They have no means of seeing the great tapestry that is the various realities. They can journey through time and space to break the wall between realities, but they have no way of knowing what will be where they go. If someone from your world is calling to them, they have a beacon to lock onto that they can see and use to guide them.”

“Ah. My second query, is there any way to keep them from coming to this world?”

“Other than shutting off the aforementioned beacon that is your Germans?”


“I suppose if this world were dead, or mostly unpopulated, it would not be worth the resources they must expend to journey here.”

“A third question for you.”

The Sorcerer sighed, “Ask.”

“Could we conceal the population of this world from them?”

The Sorcerer shook his head, “You would have to mask the lifesigns of every living thing in this world to confuse them. They sense life and energy as I do, the strange powers within you would read as life to them and they would add you to their tally, just as they will add us all. I cannot shield this world from their sight, not even with the name of Dog within your chest fueling my powers.”

“I see.”

The Robot turned and did leave this time.

Friday, November 27, 2009

It's A Twist!

Just pretend the title of this post is whatever you feel is appropriate.

A few days ago I wrote something about the Bible of the Sharkosian-Dolphinian war being lodged in my brain. It was. It has since vanished, more writing has taken its place though. What I'm physically writing is the upcoming DnD scenario that occurs as the party journeys south to Hell, I'm also picking back up the alterations I'm making to my finished story. The alterations are a lot more time consuming and annoying that I'd really like to admit, but they need to be done. I just fear that I'll never again be able to read and enjoy this story once its finally finished and done, which would bum me out. I dunno, this is the first story I really dedicated a lot of energy to, and I hate to think I've grown bored or annoyed with it from having read and re-read and re-written so much of it. Its frustrating because I like Keroen, I like where he goes and what he becomes. Its hard to keep focused when rewriting his story is so hard for me to do and writing DnD is a thousand times easier. Even Inconsistencies is easier to write, I can bang out a thousand and a half words of Inconsistencies in like twenty or thirty minutes (to be fair, it shows) and that's normally how I write it Sunday night or Monday morning.

Inconsistencies is going south for me though. Not south as in, the South, but south as in I want to stop writing it. I hadn't originally intended to write it for this long. I thought of it as a one shot thing, but then Jeremy wanted more and said he'd pay for such, so I wrote more. It will be ending soon though, so yeah. If you still read it, sorry. I thought I could drag it out by writing about the Evil Southern Twins, but no one seemed particularly interested in them and like I said, I'm getting sick of writing about the whole world.

To heap another layer of honesty onto the developing pile here: I'm getting sick of the GURPS Reich-5-esque world. Ten years ago when we all got together at Jeremy's and had Dan on speaker phone and we were all in awe of the system and the intriguing implications of the setting, I was dedicated and into it and ready to roll some fucking six sided dice. Now I have a stable of ten viable characters to play, twenty thousands words of background story, books, and a solid understanding of the system and the world, and all I can think is "Nazis. Meh. Lets do Planescape." I don't even want to play the Brick or the Telekinetic anymore, and the Robot bores me with his six (on average) or more 6d p+ damage attacks each second of combat.

Plus, I have the suspicion Dan's initial interest in GURPSing shit up has waned. Or maybe I'm projecting, which is always a possibility.

This is not to say that I wouldn't play GURPS and have no desire to do the Reich-5ish setting. I made the setting, even if Eric puts his own twist on it, my story is going to color everyone's perception of it and I wouldn't have wasted time writing about something if I didn't like it. I like the setting, and I like GURPS a lot more and still want to see it in action, but I'm just not super psyched about it (the setting) anymore.

To bounce back over to writing. Like I said, the Sharkosian-Dolphinian thing fell away before I could get it to paper, which means it will roll around in there behind the scenes for a while before it pops up again. I'll get it out eventually, its one of those silly things I write to goof around, kind of like Inconsistencies.

The more I think about it, the more I think I'm going to need to restart the Traith story, rather than continue with what's already there. Some of what I've written can be used, but the parts that frame it need to be redone. This is unfortunate, but I think if I have a fresh start to work with I'll be able to do better with the story than my current effort. In the time since I last worked on it I've been able to hash out a clearer picture of the world, Kusseth, and the wardens in general and that can only aid in the development of Traith's story.

To bounce back to what I was rambling about with GURPS. I think the problem was that I got all revved up and ready to go like I do, and then we didn't go anywhere. We said it would be a while, but I bought my books two months ago and looking at the GURPs files on my computer they have a last modified date of May, which may or may not mean anything. The date I wrote out the timeline of Reich-5 is in August, so counting August, we are about to move into our fifth month of toying around with the idea of possibly maybe doing a GURPS campaign. I know we all agreed it would be a while before we got this all together, but we haven't even tried out a mock battle and tomorrow is the first time Eric and I are really going to sit down and work on some stuff for a mock battle. We're a weee bit shy of moving into half a year here guys and I'm starting to get bored.

I'm not trying to be an ass or mean, and if I'm coming off that way I apologize to any friends that are readers that are reading this. I'm four scenarios deep in DnD, plus two playtest games with everyone, and I've converted my campaign to GURPS. I'm not saying that I am more awesome than everyone else, believe me, I have my shortcomings in this department and they are legion (Eric and Jeremy and Dan can wholeheartedly attest to that). I'm just saying that either we are going to do this or not and its time to shit or get off the pot. Either we want to play GURPS and make time to do so, or we admit defeat.

Music: Chylde of Fire - Witchcraft
Music: Sorrow Evoker - Witchcraft
Music: You Bury Your Head - Witchcraft
Music: I Wanna Be Sedated - The Ramones
Music: Evil Is - Early Man
Music: War Eagle - Early Man
Music: Billy Jean - Michael Jackson.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Kuh None


Gaming on Sunday got me thinking about canon and retcons. I run a campaign in the same world I write in, but there are some pretty stark (to me) differences between those worlds. When setting up for 4th Edition I had to make some changes to the world to fit it into the system of rules that 4th Edition uses, so things aren't a perfect fit. See, I don't know how to make races and have them be balanced in 4th Edition, so I had to take a race already granted stats and try to alter them enough to fit what I envisioned for each race but still keep the general shape of what I based them off of to preserve balance. I have no idea how to create classes, and lack the time and inclination to do so, so those were a lost cause in the first place.

For simple ease of use and translation, I used dwarves as dwarves. Their stats are the same in my campaign as they are in core, and that was a poor decision on my part. The dwarves of core are a warrior race and have all kinds of good attributes for fights. They can use their Second Wind as a Minor Action and they have a stability ability that allows them to avoid pushes, pulls, and being knocked prone. All of which allow them to work extremely well as defenders and maintain a front line melee position marking as many foes as possible to keep them off of everyone else. The "dwarves" of my world are a dark dwelling merchant race. They have warriors yes, but nowhere near what they once had and their society has become a collection of merchants, bankers, scholars, and aristocrats with the warriors as the lower class citizens. They've lost the warrior nature that makes core dwarves what they are. If I had had more time to think it all through, I'd probably base the Children of Volung off of the core dwarf template (rather than dragontits), my dwarves off of the eladrin template, and base the Vyanth off something else. Aside from the ability to teleport, eladrin fit a lot better with the concept of my dwarves than anythig else I've found so far.

I also felt bad about Fell-Humans and their half-human descendants in this particular scenario. I found tiefling to be the best core race to fit with fell-humans, but again, it is not a perfect fit. Most of what I've written equates the hell-kin to a race of men twisted and malformed by demonic magic. This is true. Unfortunately most of the guys tend to perceive this exactly as tieflings look, red skin, horns, hooves, etc (at least I think that is how they picture it). I more envisioned it as people with vestigial tails, patches of scaly skin, arms that are shrunken and mishapen, or way out in left field with a fraternal twin fused to your spine with a head that peaks over yours. It was always a mutation fueled by magic, but it was meant to be darker and more twisted than "we are mini-demons, grrr."

Edit: To be fair, the way I made Nakmander look pretty much fits the mini-demon motif to a tee. So I guess the problem is my fault.

Music: Burn the Earth - Dethklok
Music: Be My Lover - Alice Cooper

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


You may have noticed that a lot of my posts fluctuating in text size, font, and various other things that are kind of random. I'm not sure why exactly it does that or exactly how to get it to quit. I imagine it is a bit of a pain in the ass, and I apologize. If anyone has any insight into Blogger and how to control this beast, please offer suggestions.

Music: The Snake - Witchcraft

Monday, November 23, 2009


There was some stuff here. Some of it was optimistic, some of it was a complaint. I deleted it because I can write it in a shorter format. Sunday went as follows: Overall I had fun and think everyone else had fun. There were some frustrating points for me, and some frustrating points for the group. Eric got a little pissy, but I forgive him. I need to pay more attention to what they do, because they did didn't know how to run or bull rush and didn't know you could downgrade a standard action to a move or minor action. I kind of have the expectation that they are looking at their books and familiarizing themselves with rules and their class between scenarios, and I'm not sure they do that or know that. I may make a point of mentioning that to them. Its not a big deal, but its difficult for me to remember the scenario, rules and abilities I need to know for my NPCs, and make sure the player are all following the rules for reloads and attacks and keep track of what powers they're using and their math. That's reasonable isn't it?

So what is next for Steve the DM? Well, I want to work out the called shot system. It should be fun, but I don't see the real need. All it will be is a series of attacks, made with penalties based on the target, to add a status effect or ongoing damage effect to enemies. So many powers already do that, so it seems redundant to me. After the called shots are finished and submitted to the group I begin work in earnest on the fifth scenario. I'm hoping to set up something in the scenario that the PCs take note of, but don't really care about, and don't really think of till the final scenario. I'm also going to do something to immerse the group in the scenario. It involves finding a decent text to speech converter. We'll see how it works.

I find myself thinking ahead. What will my next campaign be? I mean, I finally feel myself settling (happily) into the role of DM, so I intend to continue after this campaign finishes. Its going to be in this world, definitely. This world is too rich for me to just cast aside. Will it pick up where this campaign left off? Will it be about the Nel? Will Volung's brother descend from the North to finally murder him for his crimes? (Anyone know who Volung is?) I dunno what it will be, but it will definitely be in this world. Seriously, I do not know what it will be, nor do I want to. If I start thinking about it now I will get sidetracked. This is something I can ignore till like the tenth or eleventh scenario, which is when I see us heading into the end game of the campaign. I'm planning twelve scenarios, more if necessary (and happily).

What system will it be? 4th? No. I like 4th Edition, but its not a good fit for my world. If I still wanted my elves to like forests and was still into Tolkien-esque cliches, I'd do 4th edition. Its also RPG Lite. I like it, but it is definitely a less complex version of DnD than the previous editions, and this is a good thing and a bad thing, depending on who you are. I can find reasons for it being both.

Will it be GURPS? Perhaps. John seems interested in it and Jeff as well. Honestly, if not for Fred and Martel and the fact that they bought a book and travel at least half an hour to join us when we game, I would have switched to GURPS already for this campaign. I love the complexity of the system and the way you can tweak everything about your character to be what you want. I love the depth you can add to combat, or remove if you want something less rules heavy.

Pathfinder, the supposed DnD 3.75, has its hooks in me as well. I like the art style a lot. I mean, its generic fantasy art (minus the much maligned, and deservedly so, dragontits of 4th Edition) but I like the style of it. I have yet to do a real in depth look at the ruleset, but it does appear to be a more refined version of 3.5 that doesn't have the massive changes of 4th. Maybe I'll read it a bit and see if I can pro and con it. We'll see.

Music: Refrigerator Heaven - Alice Cooper
Music: Faeries Wear Boots - Black Sabbath