Saturday, February 27, 2010


I am going to run a GURPS one-shot adventure. For a variety of reasons, I've decided to give the system a try in preparation for the future. I've selected an elite cadre of gamers to come along with me on this ride so I am optimistic that it will be a productive and entertaining adventure. I'm going to stat out a few characters, some mages and warriors and gunmen and such, and let players pick and choose who they want to play. Once everyone has a character I'll run them through a relatively quick scenario that will involve some skill use, combat, and dialogue. The goal is to get a little bit of everything done in the scenario so we kind of get a picture of how GURPS works. I plan to make it short and play it as a learn-as-you-go type thing, which should make even a short scenario take a ridiculous amount of time to complete.

The main thing I hope to get is an idea about how to construct scenarios and battles and how to make the transition from d20 to GURPS an easier process down the road. I also want to get an idea as to what sort of information needs to be kept on hand for quick reference during sessions. I guess this thing basically amounts to an investigative report on GURPS and whether or not we can figure out the intricacies of the system and find them delicious.

I have to say, I'm really rather excited to try this out and see how it goes, even if it is just a little one-shot thing. It's a chance to see my campaign world through the GURPS lens rather than the somewhat foggy and misshapen d20 lens. There is however a danger associated with that, I may get too excited or spend too much time on this one shot idea and I may end up too focused on GURPS and end up not putting the effort I should into my current d20 campaign. I have to restrain myself. The GURPS test run will come, but not at the expense of other stuff I am working on.

This leads me to another thought. Is GURPS going to be the right system for the group? I mean, there are dozens of generic systems out there and a fair few are just as neat as GURPS. Should we take a break from campaigns when we finish this current one and try out a few different systems before committing to one? There are lots of pre-made adventures to go along with all those systems I imagine, so it would certainly be easy enough for me, or any of us really, to run stuff. Hell, it might even be a time to explore the possibility of someone else becoming a GM when they had no idea they'd like the role.

I've just used d20 rulesets too faithfully for so long that I missed out on something great like GURPS. I think a little exploratory gaming might be in the group's best interests, but who knows. I guess I'll just see what the groups has to say about it when the time comes.

I dunno, we'll see I guess.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Good Indicator (and An Unexpected Insight Granted Me By Blogging)

I own a lot of random shit that related to DnD. I have more six sided dice than could possibly be used by the group in a single turn (at least for DnD, I may actually need more for GURPS). I have...two DM screens I think, a stack of character sheets and maps that is quite literally as thick as my EMT-B course textbook. I have four dice rolling programs and an obselete 2nd Edition AD&D toolset installed on my laptop. I own like five Planescape box sets, one for Dark Sun, one for Forgotten Realms, and so on. I bought 3.0/3.5 Edition books on a monthly basis and got a hold of pretty much every product with the d20 logo on it. I purchased every d20 Modern book except Future Tech, Dark * Matter, and some monster manual type book (Shadow Chasers had just bottomed out though and Modern caused me to get a little wonky in the brain just then).

Point is that I guess you can say I put my money where my...I dunno, heart is.

I mentioned to Jeremy the other night that I haven't purchased any 4th Edition books since my initial five book purchase. I think that, more than anything else I could say says something about 4th Edition. Sorry Mr. Perkins.

The thing is, I love 4th Edition. Seriously. I think its great if you can get past the dragonbewbs and the whole leather is the new hawtness motif of the artwork. If I was still sixteen or seventeen, or if I had never read The Iron Dragon's Daughter and way too much Michael Moorcock stuff, 4th Edition's high fantasy rules-light glory would take me to a happy place. I know that sounds like a backhanded compliment, or an outright cut down or whatever, but I do genuinely like the system. The problem is that I'm too overly aware of its flaws because I'm not who it was made for.

I don't know the name for my breed of gamer or DnD nerd or whatever you'd call me. I am what I am though. I need overly complex rules that account for everything, I need my heroes to be scarred and scruffy with vices as big as Conan's biceps. I need my magic to be twisted and destined to be the ruin of man. I need technology to be at a believable/realistic level based on the age of the world and its starting tech level. I'm that kind of gamer, whatever the name for it is.

4th Edition wasn't made for dudes like me. It was made for this generation of gamers and I'm not a guy that grew up on MMOs and pokemon, though I have great affection for both and have dabbled in them. Call that a criticism if you want, its not, to be relevant and ensure its continued survival a game must evolve with the times. Don't get me wrong, I like pokemon games and I enjoy MMOs and am not saying being hardcore into them or growing up with them is a bad thing in any way. I'm just saying I reach a point eventually where they don't interest me. To continue: 4th Edition is (bold)DnD, just as every edition preceding it has been DnD. I explained what DnD is in a previous post I believe so we can stop here on this "what is DnD" issue.

Back on topic-ish. With 4th Edition I've basically just been going through the motions. I keep abreast of the release schedule, interesting projects like the PA/PVP Podcasts and the Robot Chicken sessions, and I keep up my DDI subscription so I get info on new releases and have access to the character builder if anyone wants to utilize that fun little resource. The only reason I do all of this, if I am being honest with myself, is to access as much power creep as possible to keep Spineplate as over-powered as possible so that he can be shiny and stand in front of a bunch of lace wearing quiche eaters (i.e. pansies).

The following is meant in jest...mostly.

Rage GM Interlude: If Spineplate dies because those idiots don't understand concepts like "focus fire" or "give the dude between us and the swords backup" I'm going to bend them over and make them bleed. From their asses. Because I'm raping them. With Spineplate's hammercock. End Interlude.

We're getting somewhere here, just bear with me. If this all seems to be random and the point seems to wander, its because I often switch points mid-post. What I've figured out after writing all of the above is this:

I haven't played DnD in a long time. A long, long time.

As I've said before, DnD is color coded dragons and dread gazebos. It's ripping off Tolkien. DnD is narrowly defined/vauge to the point of uselessness alignments. The settings I have always gravitated to are Planescape (where alignment, religion, and philosophy are dead-fuck-serious business), Dark Sun (magic eats life, no color coded dragons, hobbits, or water), and Spelljammer (SPACE! [and miniature giant space hamsters]). In my opinion (pro-tip: every word hammered out onto this page is always just that, an opinion) those are the least "DnD" of all the settings published so far by Wizards/TSR and Ravenloft comes in a close 4th and I like it too.

My campaign uses a d20 ruleset currently. My magic ain't pretty and doesn't come in a variety of shiny and useful plusses, my campaign has rifles so powerful that they make full plate irrelevant and crude semiautomatic weapons are even in the process of being developed. My dragons are greenish-brown komodo dragon and crocodile looking motherfuckers that spit acid and are the size of a house.

I don't play DnD anymore and I'm ok with that.

Music: To The Kill - Violent Femmes
Music: Gimme The Car - Violent Femmes

The One-Eyed Man, Part 5

Seventhmonth, 9995 DK

Callifay and I stood waiting to enter Hell. We were both dressed as the one-eyed, bandanna wearing Child of Volung, we looked enough alike to be almost twins in the disguises. Citizens of this strange country bore identification numbers on their bodies and each of the multitude attempting to enter Hell must be logged by the wardens and guards of the gate before they could be allowed into the city. I found the wait annoying, but I desired to enter the city by subtlety. I could not shed my disguise and mention my name to bypass the lines, my reavers could not know of my presence within the city till the last moment or they would surround me and foil my plans.

When our place in the line neared the wound in the wall that had been the gates I struggled to suppress a smile. I could see in my mind the bears we had dragged from The Beast Lands and clad in massive plates of barding. I could hear fifteen of them chained to the gates and snarling and roaring as arrows and bullets clattered against their armor. The gates had been bound in place by sorcery and forgework and it had taken both brute strength and arcane forces to remove them.

Once I could have just willed them away, or burst them apart with destructive forces, my Gifts had once been that potent. In this era I was forced to use my Gifts with finesse and care and had managed to achieve the same effect. The protections bound within the gates had taken the shape of a crystalline latticework of protective energy that made the metal and stone of the gate far more resilient than any mundane gate could ever be. With my Gifts I had acted as a chisel or lever and pried sorcerous struts away from the defensive forces and enabled the brute strength of the bears to defeat the gate when I could not. Even that minor effort had caused my ears and nose to bleed and I had almost collapsed in the midst of the battle surrounding the gates and the bears.

When the time came, Callifay and I gestured at our red-brown armbands and glared menacingly at the gate guards. They let us pass with little more than a casual glance. We were clearly reavers by our demeanor and our armbands, and they were free to enter and leave the city as they desired.

In the first district of the city we passed the monument to my victory quickly, not paying it much attention. The warped remains of the gate were not a medal of honor, they were a reminder to the inhabitants of Hell. With the broken gates forever hanging above their head they would never forget that this city was mine and I could do with it as I wish.

"Where will we go?" asked Callifay.

"I think we should walk the streets for a few days and gauge the state of the city before acting."

"What care you for Hell? Once Cenn dies, this place will no longer be yours."

"If the reavers do not claim this place as their own, or if someone as powerful as Cenn does not lay claim to it, The Bleak Tyrant will attempt to claim its power."


"If we are to fight the Nel, I do not wish to do so with a creature whose motives I do not know at my back. This city must remain ours or at least allied with us."

"Could I not kill the rulers of Hell? That would meet the letter or your decree that no nation take it with an army."

I shook my head, "We must be subtle. You are not well known enough to be respected as a tyrant and master of this place. It would take time for you to make a name for yourself and when you did show yourself to be in command of this place the Tyrant might be on our eastern wall and the Nel on our west."

"Then let us leave off this farce of your death and just claim the city as ours. You are known and feared, but you weave plots within plots and it is infuriatingly difficult to try and keep them all in mind while we speak."

"The Nel will come and we will war with them. They must find you here but not I, they will seek you and think you know my whereabouts. Perhaps they will even suppose I am Volung or the creature Cenn. Regardless, if they find you but not me they will be wary and think me somewhere within these lands and that will make them overly cautious in battle."

"I gathered all that, I am a general of long years as well, Cenn."

"Cast aside your pout brother, or you'll find me reluctant to share a bed with you this evening."

He chuckled and asked, "Why this fixation on Hell and its condition?"

"We are two warriors, Callifay. We wage war as veterans of countless conflicts, but there are still only two of us. If I die here and in the chaos rumors are born of my continued survival it will draw the Nel to one of the most fortified cities of this land. A city riddled with hundreds of miles of underground tunnels and chambers."

He laughed again, "We will lure the Nel here and entrap in a maze?"

"We destabilize the city with my death, you will garrison the reavers here to restore order and to investigate rumors of my survival. If the Nel reach this continent they will track you here and lay siege to the city. The reavers will fall and you will flee into the depths."

He smiled, "And they will be forced to infest the city and keep order or have it angry and at their back while they face other forces of this country. With Nel permanently camped here we can sally forth from the catacombs and make war at our leisure."

I smiled at him and nodded my head.

"What of the rebels already within these walls?"

I removed a rolled up sheaf of papers from my belt and handed to him, he looked it over while we spoke, "They care nothing for my reavers and what they did in Kusseth's employ. If you come to the gates of this city pledging to defend it with our reavers, they will accept your aid and the logic of you seeking rumors of my continued survival."

"You think them that close to taking the city?"

"No," I said as I gestured to the paper in his hands, "but I do know that Kusseth relies too heavily on our men to keep the peace and to act as a symbol of control. If reavers suddenly vanish from my city and those left make a mass exodus upon my death, the power structure of Hell will have large gaps that the rebels can exploit."

He nodded when he finished reading the papers and made to return them, I waved a a hand at him and he put them in his belt. We walked the city for a few hours making small conversation as we sought our destination. Eventually we found our way to the 302nd district and stood before the Jigging Jackass. It was quite truthfully the best lodging and bar in Hell, and also the place I was destined to die. I was also a key location in the rebel underground of Meroteth.

A cadre of hard looking soldiers, mostly greenskin Abraxens and Uncout, stood guarding the front door of the place. I flipped up my eye-patch and shifted my bandanna and was immediately recognized. They nodded and let us pass without comment and we entered through the wolf-iron bound door and entered the main room.

The Jackass was well appointed with padded leather furniture cut from prime lumber found in Vyanthnem. The chairs and tables and stools and even the bar were all expertly crafted and bore the marks of an artist's vision in the carvings encrusting them. The floor was hardwood and stained to a glossy dark finish where it wasn't covered by thick rugs. Lighting fixtures that provided steady, clean light hung from the ceiling and were shrouded in the thick tobacco smoke that filled the room.

Callifay and I looked to be brigands while those around us wore frock coats or suits. We received glances, but no glares or looks of derision for we'd made it through the front door without bloodshed and that showed us to belong here as much as the well dressed individuals around us did. We found a pair of chairs and dropped our gear to the floor between them. In a moment we had our pipes going and glasses of whiskey in hand.

"The Jigging Jackass has never failed to please," I said with a sigh.

"Indeed," said my lover.

We spent half an hour drinking and enjoying the comforts of padded leather chairs. Our endurance and vitality were near limitless, but the long trek to Hell had lacked certain comforts. When we finished our drinks we rented a suite for the next few days and stowed our gear there before heading down past the ground floor and into the first basement, the Jackass was three stories aboveground and had several basement levels.

The first basement was a game room, full of men and women playing cards or dice or lobbing knives and such at targets around the room while vendors circulated hawking cigars and pricey liquors. We seated ourselves and settled in to wait. Our presence was noted quickly and it didn't take long for the individual I sought to find us. Callifay and I were chatting and he cleared his throat when he approached us.

Nakmander, the last knight of Meroteth was as Fell Human as the breed could come. His skin was wine red and covered in fine scales almost too small to see. His hair was as jet black and straight as my own, his nose hooked like the beak of a hawk, and all three of his eyes were a jaundiced yellow color. The third one peered at Callifay from behind Nakmander's ear while the other two bored into my own.

I gave him a nod and the ram's horns sprouting from the sides of his head dipped a fraction of an inch in return. He wore the white apron of a cook or bartender and beneath that was common clothing, but at his hip was the symbol of his office. The serrated sickle was larger than any normal tool and was wrought of black iron that glowed intermittently with a putrid green light. Meroteth had been a place of virulent sorcery in its prime and Nakmander continued those traditions as best he could.

"What brings the reaver Cenn to my door?" he asked.

His voice was harsh and gravelly and his teeth were sharp and white.

"When one man comes to another's dwelling he does not begin rifling through his possession without first asking for permission."

He nodded and dragged a third chair over to us.

"What then does the reaver and his cohort ask for?"

"Information. How near are you to wresting control form Kusseth's grubby hands?"

"Four years at the most. We have found a means of shattering their power from the safety of our own dark dens. Soon we will be able to strike the capital itself."

"Oh?" murmured Callifay.

"Have you read papers recently? Or perhaps ridden the highway that runs south from Kusseth?"

I nodded.

"The craters south of the city of Tolon, the ones shattering the highway."

"Your doing?"

He nodded, "I must admit that Tolon itself was our target. There were interlopers though and they foiled our plans and cost the cause valuable assets," he paused and his eyes flashed brightly, "we will not fail again."

"Excellent," I said, "I believe I will be able to aid you in the taking of this city."

His hand stroked his chin and he said, "I am listening."

"I have come here to die."

His eyes widened and his lips parted as his jaws grew slack.

"Elaborate," he ordered.

"I have come to Hell, the Jigging Jackass specifically, to die and to do so violently. When I do fall I believe my reavers will leave Hell and return to the main encampment. We both know of the need Kusseth has for their presence in this city. With them gone you could easily take direct control of Meroteth."

He smiled as I spoke the city's true name and said, "Some will not go. Their loyalty to you is unquestionable, but they have families and organizations they have built here within our wals. This has become their home as much as it is mine."

Callifay nodded and presented the rolled up sheaf of papers I had given him to Nakmander.

"A list," he said quietly, "of those that have requested to stay in Hell or have requested excessive leave time here. Remove them from Hell prior to Cenn's death and you will hopefully find your city empty of reavers when the time to act comes."

Callifay made to add more but I cut him off and said, "Let me be clear, Nakmander. Those reavers, any reavers in your walls, are to be taken alive and unharmed. If a single reaver dies I will burn this city to the ground and stake you out before the shattered remnants of the gate in the first district. Is that understood?"

"If you truly plot your death and it can get the rest of your reavers out of Hell, sending those few dozen out alive and against their will be well worth the trouble. If events play out as you believe we may be able to accelerate our timetable and take back our heritage within two years, perhaps even one. I must ask, why do you do this? I do not count you as a true friend to the cause, but you have aided us in the long years since my uncle went mad with grief and began hunting you. Your death does not sit well with me"

I scowled at the thought of the Butcher but Nakmander was far saner than his uncle and a competent ally, "I tire of my reavers and I tire of Kusseth and I grow weary of leadership. Take your city and explore your sorcerous blood, if I grow bored of life out in some wilderness I'll simply return and take it back."

Now he scowled, "I understand the tiring burden and you have my respect, Cenn. Respect will not grant you mercy should you come to my home with violence in mind, though. Even if you are a dead man."

"I understand," I said.

"I must circulate this information and make plans accordingly."

"Go and set your plans in motion, Nakmander. When my reavers dissappear I will know my time has come."

Nakmander nodded and left us, Callifay and I soon retired to our suite. Once in our rooms, we took advantage of the massive bathtub and heated water in one room.

"Occassionally," I said as dirt and sweat slid free of my skin and warmth filled my bones, "occassionally it is permissible to indulge in comforts such as this."

"Perhaps," said Callifay with a smile, "there will soon be an opportunity for you to inform the rest of our people of that fact."

I slapped the water and splashed his face with soapy liquid saying, "I forget how impertinent you grow when the two of us are alone."

"Impertinent, eh?"

I nodded and we both smiled. Then he surged across the tub at me and quite literally threw me over his shoulder and carried me to the other room of our suite.

Through the noise of the splashing and dripping water and my own surprised bellow I could hear him say, "I'll show you impertinence."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Further Insights (and Revelations)

For about as long as I can remember, my favorite book has been The Iron Dragon's Daughter by Michael Swanwick. At least as far as fantasy is concerned. Apparently it has a sequel and I definitely need to check that shit out.

Its not the best book per se, and I'm not even sure there is a "the best book ever" for me. It has a good story that I like, plus some elves (or faeries) and dragons and magic and all that stuff I really dug when I first read it. I still like a lot of what its selling to this day.

I picked up a copy of the book from the library at that age where I'd finally discovered there was a cool portion of the Bible called Revelations where fucked up shit happens almost as much as it did in The Old Testament. I had just read about Behemoth and Leviathan and had started reading Dragonlance and generally was at that age where dragons were swell. My interest in the book boiled down to the following: It had a dragon on the cover, neat, I'm in.

Now, I was youngerish, so a lot of the stuff about the drugs and sex went over my head. I didn't know what cunt was or why Jane had named it Little Jane, but whatever, you encountered a lot of weird shit in fantasy novels. I certainly didn't understand Swanwick's commentary about suffering and reincarnation and the current state of fantasy literature and whatnot. What I did pay attention to and understand was the fact that Melanchthon was a dragon and dragons were awesome. So I began reading it. Read, read, read, process, process, proce..s...s....wait. Ok, Jane is an enslaved changeling working in a...factory that builds weapons for the Elf Lords or something? Melanchthon is a dragon, a really old dragon...made out of iron? He also has stealth capabilities like a stealth fighter jet?

What. The. Hell.

I understood magic, and I understood magic objects that could do shit, I even understood talking magic items. What I hadn't ever encountered before was a sentient stealth bomber made out of iron and built into the shape of a dragon. It blew my mind and altered my perceptions of what fantasy literature could be and what magic as a force could be in such books.

The Iron Dragon's Daughter is my favorite book because it made me the writer and GM I am today, as least style-wise. Understanding that fantasy could be something other than gruff, vaguely Scottish dwarves, forest loving elves, and knights in plate, or that magic could be more than fireballs and lightning bolts is a lesson I learned at a very young age. I am incredibly thankful that I had the opportunity to learn that lesson before even the idea of writing had ever remotely entered into my head.

So thanks Michael Swanwick. Thank you as well, mom. If not for your utter lack of interest in what I read I might never have learned what I know today. Something ironic I guess, my mom spent so much time keeping DnD out of my hands but never really monitored what I was reading and for a while all I was reading was Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms. Two rather popular and venerable DnD settings. Heh, life is funny and interesting I guess.

Thinking about it that way, my mom is directly responsible for my dedication to DnD and the quality (if you choose to call it that) of my current campaign setting.

Commitment To a Concept

This is kind of about something that has been on my mind lately, and it will become clear once we finish this up. Its also about gaming for the right reasons, I guess.

To really enjoy "role-playing" games I think you have to be committed to the role you're playing. I'm playing Mass Effect 2 and its a fun game, but the aspect I truly enjoy is playing my Shepard and playing him as a Renegade for the reasons I've decided make it reasonable for him to be a Renegade. Does this mean I'm having more fun than someone who just shoots everything and makes whatever dialogue choice he feels like making at the time? Hell if I know.

To continue, Fred plays a Dwarf named Derf (which is actually a blind dwenoren with sensory spines on his chin and face, but he refuses to accept my retcon), and I think its pretty blatantly obvious that he has no affection or attachment to the character. The enjoyment he gets when Derf does something successfully is probably far less than what I get from Spineplate when he pulls off a daily that drops an enemy down to its bloodied value in one hit.

Don't play a fighter or cleric or whatever because you think that the group needs it. Play the fighter/cleric/whatever because you need to. If you play it to screw with the DM/GM or other players, you're playing for the wrong Dogdamn reasons.

Note about the future: From now on I will say GM whenever it would be appropriate to say something like Dungeon Master, Game Master, Storyteller, Sheriff, or whatever the title is for the system. GM is easier and just as recognizable as DM.

I used to GM for the wrong reasons. I had a story to tell and I wanted to watch the players be part of it, but only if they did what I wanted. Nowadays I have a story to tell, but I want to see how the players interact with it and how they alter it and the world around them. I'm not sure there is a right reason to GM, but I think that is a better one.

If you GM because you have to (been there) or because you feel obligated to, you've made a poor decision. You need to care about the world or environment you're building or its going to be trash or you're never going to make the time to work on it so that it can be more than trash.

It all boils down to the following: if you're going to be a part of something that is so dependant on everyone being into it, make sure you're playing or GMing for the right reasons.

Music: Very Poorly Concealed Secret Track (Ping Pong Cover) - MC Frontalot

Monday, February 8, 2010

The One-Eyed Man, Part 4

Fifthmonth, 9995 DK

Our feet tread dark paths in the gloomy forests of The Wild Lands. We had been walking south for a week, each of those ten days had been spent bringing us closer to the time when we must separate again into master and servant. When we had first started south from Kusseth's borders we had spent twelve or more hours a day walking, but as we drew closer to our camp we found ourselves spending more and more time at rest.

We clasped our hands together between us as we walked, I held my bronze blade in my left hand and Callifay bore his in his right. We went armored as well as armed in this land, it was as dangerous as The Beast Lands to the west, albeit for different reasons.

"Should we move the camp west, back into The Beast Lands?"

He half turned his face to me and asked, "Why?"

"If Cenn is to die, the band will fall into anarchy until you are able to restore control. Better to have them away from the villages found here in these forests if that is to happen."

"I suppose that is true," he said, "why such foresight, brother?"

"If Cenn's Reavers suddenly turn on the civilized tribes of Uncout and Abraxens here in these lands, or some of them are seen to, we lose our perceived reliability and opportunities for employment that rely upon our reputation."

He snorted, "Who has our employer been since Meroteth fell? Do they care for a few tribes of Uncout? Do they care for any color of Abraxen other than the greys?"

"Kusseth's standing contract with the reavers would need to be reviewed by whoever takes control of the band when Cenn dies."

"Why have you not done so already?" There was a small smile on his face when he asked that.

"The butcher," I said.

"Ah, it is as I guessed then. Kusseth does their best to keep Smiling Jack chained, at your request."

"His hunger for vengeance is well earned and reasonable, but while I live these dogs are my men and I'll not allow some meat merchant to put them down."

He squeezed my hand before saying, "You must admit he has come far since the conquest of Hell."

"Yes, and if he would stay in the north he could remain free and enjoy his position as master bard of Kusseth's colleges."

"Do you have no remorse in your heart for his pain, for the crimes against him that have filled him with the hunger for vengeance you claim to respect?"

I shook my head and tugged my hand from his as he spoke once more, I felt him egging me on, for what purpose I did not know.

"Was he not a victim? You well know the pain of a lost lover and family."

"I did not spit contempt down from a high tower at an army that had taken every city whose gate they had camped before. I told the rulers of Meroteth what would happen if they did not unbar their gates and allow me to take their city in peace. They put pride before their obligations to their people and Jack suffered the price of their hubris, just as thousands of others did that day."

I could hear the screams and feel the blood and sweat. My skin was flushed with the heat of a burning metropolis. Conquering Meroteth had been glorious and I could feel my eyes grow warm and luminescent as my mind relived those times and those feats of glory. A strong pulse beat beneath my scarred brow and a smile touched my lips.

Callifay grabbed my hand and dragged me close, our lips met and there was a deep hunger there. He had been on the front lines of Meroteth as well. Every drop of spilled blood and smoke shrouded memory of that battle was a shared moment between us. Our blades thudded to the earth as our arms wrapped around each other. We slumped against a tree , shedding clothes and armor as our bodies entwined.

**(Vaguely Awkward Interlude, At Least For The Author)**

We lay there mostly naked and smoking our pipes, our backs against a tree and our bodies touching.

"Why bring thoughts of Hell and Jack to my mind as lure to bring me into your arms? You know you are more than enough, Callifay."

He turned to me, a smirk across his lips and his eyes barely open.

"In battle," he said, "you burn with passionate intensity. Your skin is afire and your eyes aglow with radiance, and sometimes that is the Nel I desire."

"I shall endeavor to keep that more firmly in mind then."

"Whatever you are, or however you choose to act, as long as you know yourself to be Keroen Skathos, that is enough."

You should not speak that name here," I said.

"And why not? Will your enemies come for you? There is an ocean between this land and our own. How would they even find this place with no knowledge of astronomy or navigation?"

"You grow too bold on this trip Callifay, and you forget what brought you to this land in the first place. "

"This Wytchstave," he whispered, "it would act as a beacon then?"

I nodded.

"Could they really find you by the mere utterance of your name?"

"Maybe, it would take luck yes, but maybe."

He turned fully to me, his eyes wide and glowing, "Then let them come I say. Let them come to this land of firearms and cluttered cities and disease. Let them come and find that they are not nearly as mighty as they believe."

"What has come over you, man? Are you an arms dealer that you hunger for such war? Has such a short time spent alone in my arms driven you mad with passion of your own?"

"No," he said still smirking, "but it was a close run thing. You must admit it would be intriguing to face the Nel in this land though."

I nodded and puffed placidly on my pipe and said, "I will admit that yes."

"If they were to come against Cenn's Reavers led by an ancient and legendary warrior from their past?"

"I imagine that would be unsurprising if my name was what brought them to this land."

He waved a hand to silence me.

"I mean, what if they found me in your stead and no sign of Keroen Skathos?"

"I imagine they would be surprised, and perhaps some would be dismayed."

He nodded, "What excites you more, Cenn? Waging war against Volung and his children or the massed might of the Nel?"

"The Nel, I would have thought that obvious. You may recall though that I have done so before, recently in fact."

I chuckled quietly as I finished speaking. His pipe had long since gone out while he spoke and he absently tapped out the ash and paid no attention to my laugh.

"If the Nel were drawn to this land by something, would they be inclined to conquer it?"

"I suppose they might, but I do not know if they could. They have no concept of firearms nor do they understand disease and sickness."

"Let us say that they could, would that be worth fighting against? If Cenn dies and I take control of his reavers and spend their lives against the Nel invaders, leaving just you and I as the last remnant, would that be a war worth fighting?"

"You and I fighting to free this land from the Nel?"

He nodded.

"That would tax us in ways fighting Volung would not, and would likely offer me more freedom than being your aid would. We would fight this war as equals, as brothers in arms."

He nodded again and said, "Just the two of us, back to back once more with a horde arrayed against us."

I could taste the blood in my mouth and feel my skin slick with sweat, I could see the silver blades of the Nel. I could feel them bite hard into my skin. I could feel Callifay and I pressed back to back our bodies moving in time with one another in the fashion only a true battle brother's could.

I suddenly felt very warm, my brow itched and my tongue felt too large for my mouth.

"Light a fire," I whispered.

His eyes widened, "You would contact him directly, and so soon?"

I shook my head and half-dazedly whispered, "No. He barely remembers the old ways of our people, those that are tied to the seasons and the elements. His Gifts will though, and if we can first draw their attention that may be enough to draw him here to this place."

I felt Callifay call on his twisted Gifts to light a bonfire, when he had finished I wrapped my arms around him to hold as he began shivering and grew cold to the touch. He possessed all the might of our people, the Gifts I had bestowed on them, his were rather potent as well. Something was wrong within him though. Something within his Gifts was broken and sapped his vitality when he drew on them. It was this strange mechanism of his Gifts that made Nel and other creatures uneasy or belligerent in his presence.

When he recovered we dressed and tidied our camp, when we finished we sat next to the fiery orb that had appeared near us. Mosses and ferns had begun to burn and the air was filled with the stench of burning weeds.

"Fire and light," I whispered as my eyes unfocused and a trickle of blood seeped down from my brow.

"Fire and light, hear me."

I could feel something stir within me and felt something stir within the flames.

"Fire and light, her my words and carry them back to your master."

The fire had lost its circular shape and had become something natural and mundane and wholly of this world. Shapes whirled within it.

"Keroen Skathos, Bloody Head, waits upon an eastern shore with The Blade of Old Night in hand. I wait for you, you I once called son and later called grandson when you fled from the dark. I wait for you."

The fire was a blur of shapes and presences now, but his true face never appeared. Maybe the power I had taken from him crippled his most ancient senses, or perhaps he was merely not paying attention. His Gifts had felt the call though, they would hear my words and so he must eventually as well. He come, of that I was certain.

The Forgettening

I left something out the other day when I was talking about campaigns that were and whatnot. Its just a little thing, and I never really got too far on it, but I thought it was kind of goofily neat.

It was during that time that I was first really getting into Led Zeppelin, this was probably around the time I bought I and II and added them to my collection. There was so much...I guess you could call it mythic imagery in some of the songs that they were somewhat inspirational to me. Even when you get past the Lord of the Rings-ish songs there was some neat stuff to be found in there. To be fair though, my brain has been conditioned to "find" mythic fantasy elements in pretty much anything, whether they're there or not.

So, the gist was that I would base a campaign world on the albums of Led Zeppelin. There was going to be a city where doves were a sacred creature, based on the line about doves in Houses of the Holy, and harming them was punishable by death.

There was a race of the world called the Gentle Race, and their elders kept them chained to a vow of pacifism. This was because the elders saw all of time and space and possessed technology that could literally scorch the planet black, that was mostly based off of the first few lyrics in Kashmir.

Another tie in or whatever was that there was going to be a scenario about a city that was situated in a low valley and was perpetually in danger of flood. See where I'm going here? Well, there were bandits that wanted to raid the town, or were being employed to destroy it, something like that. They went about destroying the levees surrounding the town with explosives and the PCs would have to stop them or something while the flood was in the midst of occurring. Do I really have to say what song it is based on? No? Good.

Gallow's Pole and Immigrant Song were some other songs I had scenario ideas for. There were other little things, but nothing that was a big deal. I could just never find a clearly understood way of saying where the inspiration was coming from without being blatant about it. I could never really come up with a campaign focus story-wise either, so that was another reason it never really reared its head.

Music: MC Frontalot - I Hate Your Blog

Affirm Good Buddy

I think I've decided that I do want to use Cafe Press to make a hoodie. Jeremy and I were talking and I described to him the emblem of Cenn's Reavers and he seemed to think it was a neat icon. Its a horizontal crescent that is open with a sword perpendicular to it as if it is sliding down into the crescent. The sword is almost down to the hilt in the crescent so the handgrip is about the only portion of the sword that extends up past the points of the crescent. Beneath the crescent, in line with the descending sword, is a drop of blood. I dunno, I kind of like it and think it might make a decent looking thing to put on the front of a hoodie sort of to the left or right of the zipper on the breast. I think a full back picture of it would be a little too much. I dunno though, the kind of black hoodie I was looking at was like sixty bucks, and I've been burned by internet hoodie purchases before. I love my Penny Arcade hoodie, but the thing is thin to the point of being more like a long-sleeved shirt than what I consider a hoodie to be. Maybe I'll get together with Jeremy and see what we can come up with We'll see.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The One-Eyed Man, Part 3

Last Week of Fourthmonth, 9995 DK

We lay on the scrub grass clad only in tunics and trousers and stared up at the night sky. After our discussion we had left Kusseth and had spent the majority of the day walking. Our kind had no need of sleep and our regenerative abilities allowed us to stave off exhaustion for far longer than a mortal could, but even we must eventually tire and need to spend an hour or two at rest.

We had shed our disguises and our ears had long since healed. Our weapons and armor and supplies lay nearby, for no creature can truly relax when clad in heavy leather or when gird in a dozen instruments of bloodletting. We had even removed our boots and socks. We had stopped when we saw a shower of falling stars to the south, one had been so large that a dust cloud rose into the sky when it finally struck the earth.

The scrub grass was sharp and dry, but we ignored it. I lay half-atop Callifay with my head resting on his stomach and his arm across my chest. Staring at the sky, the endless void which always mesmerized me, I could have lain there for a thousand years and not grown bored. Callifay laughed.

"What?" I asked.

"You stare at the sky, so mesmerized. There is no tension in your body."

"You know of my fascination with the heavens, and the comfort you closeness brings."

"I do," he said and I could almost see his smile in my mind's eye, he continued, "Do you miss the blade of Old Night?"

I chuckled, "What warrior does not miss his favored weapon?"

"What will become of it when Cenn the Reaver dies?"

I had not thought of that. In my tent deep in the Wild Lands there was a treasure trove of weapons and armor. My old blade was resting in an oak case, but when Cenn died the pile of loot would be scavenged by even the most loyal of my men and that blade could not resurface in this land.

"It cannot easily be moved," I said.

Even stored in its case it produced a profound chill that others could sense, though Callifay and I had never been able to feel it and if it were moved those of the band would sense it.

"And I cannot wield it, I've not the strength for that. Could you draw it here now and hide it?"

"No, it is not a weapon that can be hidden and I cannot call it to hand over so great a distance. Perhaps if we were closer."

"What will we do with it then?"

"I could not bear it with me in my new incarnation as your aide."

He chuckled and my head moved with his laugh, "No, it is rather identifiable. Could you secure it as you have in the past? Within you?"

I stared at the void above, counting stars and missing another presence.

"No, the Nightmare Lands no longer rest within me and that is where I have hidden the blade before."

"Could we not just let it be taken from your tent and released into the world? You can feel its presence as easily as you can feel mine, and I think no creature could keep it from you if you truly desired its return."

"You speak truth, but The Blade of Old Night is a subtle artifact. It is not a weapon to destroy armies or make a mortal into a god."

"What then is the power of such a blade? You have always been cryptic about its deadliness."

"With good cause."

He took his hand from my chest and I felt him cross his arms over his own.

"In this place, among such as you and I are, what harm is there in the telling, Cenn?"

I sighed, he was right. If ever a creature were worthy of knowing the nature of my blade it was Callifay, and there was no harm in telling him.

"Its most base power is the method in which it deals death. The Blade of Old Night is not an object of this reality. When it cuts, it does not truly cut, it removes. If I were to cut off your arm with it and you put the arm back together you would see it was now shorter, shorter by the width of my blade."

"Would that aspect not have come to light by now among our people?"

I shook my head, "How often has a warrior of our people had the time to stoop to the ground and reclaim a fallen limb? Is it not easier to wait a week for the limb to return of its own accord?"

"A valid point. What of the starry sky bound within the blade?"

"The Old Night. There is no other name for it. It is a carpet of stars and clouds and that exist within the blade. On no world have I seen such a sky, only within my old blade."

"What does that mean though?"

I shrugged, "I cannot say, I know only that that was the name that leapt from my mind when I decided to name my blade."

"What of the objects you pull from it? The knives of black and silver?"

I shrugged once more, "They are there. I know what the blade contains and know that my hand may draw it from within."

"Useful, but not something I would think it necessary to be cryptic about."

I nodded, "True."

He waited but I said nothing.

"Please," he said as his hand returned to its place across my chest.

I sighed and spoke, "It has the power to cut our Gifts away from us in a fashion that prevents their return."

"That, that is a power worthy of your secrecy. I almost regret prodding you."

"Yes. It was with the Blade of Old Night that I was able to become Cenn the Reaver and leave our homeland in such a state as it is. It is why I cannot will us back to our homeland."

"You mean you cannot reclaim your power?"

"No, I can, but I must return to where it has been stored. It has been truly severed from me, I cannot even feel it calling to me. It it gone from me, cut away by my starlit blade."

"I, I had not known that. I thought you, I did not know. It is one thing to be unable to use your Gifts to their full potential, that is my weakness, I can fathom that. To be unable to even feel their presence though, I had not imagined any of our kind could willingly do that to themselves. I did not know, Ker-"

"Enough," I growled angrily, "I more than anything living know what I sacrificed for our people. I need no one to tell me of my loss."

He was silent, but he shifted and was able to put his other arm atop my chest and clasped his hands there. We stayed that way for the rest of the evening.

Campaigns That Could Have Been

I guess I'm on a festival of remembering older stuff. There are a few campaigns that I was never able to do, or that just never got off the ground. Here is a bit about them.

2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
Unfortunately any records of what might have been in this era have been erased from the annals of time. I can't find anything on my laptop. Aside from always wanting to try out Dark Sun or Planescape, I don't know what might have been. There is a folder on my laptop titled Orsus. All I have is a paragraph in a file titled "Scenario 1" where the player's wake up in a tomb with gold coins on their tongues and feel their memories slip out of their grasp. They're covered in dust and know that one of the many doors around them is an exit and the others are armories and spell component closets and the like. I have no idea where that was going, but there is a companion file that has an alternate class system I was trying to finagle into 2nd Edition.

3.0/3.5 Edition Dungeons and Dragons

Heck If I Know
This is the one I am currently running in 4th Edition, but it would have been nice to play it in 3.5. I can't date when I first started working on it because all the files have a created date of March 2009, which was when I transferred all of my DnD stuff from my desktop to my laptop and the computer they were originally stored on has long since passed into ruin. There is a last modified date of February 2008, so they predate 2008. I had a good feel for 3.5 Edition, so I was pulling out all the stops and creating my own classes and a bizarre system of poisonous and unreliable magic that only partially translates into 4th Edition.

This one was slowly approaching the point of robustness that Heck If I Know was at, never quite got there though. There were a lot of maps and I had some ideas about a lot of things for it. The main unique point of it was that there were no humans in it.

This was a world where everything had died, or was dying, and it was all undead except for a few enclaves of the living. I basically deconstructed every undead monster, then rebuilt it in a way that was based on feats that the players could take. We talked a little about it, but it never went anywhere. I think part of it was that we couldn't reach a consensus on whether the group should be living or dead.

I tried to convert Planescape into 3.5 Edition. Huzzah for consensus reality! No interest from anyone but Tony and a little from Jeremy because of the philosopher clubs that can change reality motif.

Tony and I
Tony and I were going to create a campaign. I shit you not. We spent a lot of work time at computers bouncing emails back and forth at six am. He was working on a kingdom of Aasimar based on an image of an aasimar king brooding on a stone throne and I was working on a clan of swamp gnomes that rode dire wolverines into battle. It would have been epic. We both got lazy I guess. I like my current campaign, but I think that with Tony and I at the helm, this could have been something amazing.

This one was a result of reading a lot of Michael Moorcock, a love of the phrase "consensus reality", and my frustration that no one would choose an appropriate alignment. I actually tracked alignment points in d20 Modern Shadow Chasers, you know what alignment everyone was? Chaotic Neutral. They randomly followed rules and broke the law and basically did whatever they felt like doing at the time. I've since learned that alignment is a really stupid system for understanding the complexities of the human psyche. Anyway, the campaign centered on the balance between Law and Chaos and it had a few maps and a unique pantheon of gods and the like (many of which were divine incarnations of previously retired PCs). As far as robustness of the background material, it is somewhere between New and Heck If I Know.

4th Edition

The Nel
When we first got into 4th Edition and I hadn't discovered my niche or groove or whatever you want to call it when I decided to try and be a really good DM, I toyed with the idea of converting the Nel to 4th Edition and trying to run something in Grenaldeen in the era following the disappearance of Keroen Skathos. Eric is the only one that has read my story about Keroen Skathos, so everyone would kind of be more lost than they usually are when I throw them into a strange fantasy world. I managed to tamp down my urges to go converting, partly because it would be super easy in GURPs and ultra hard in 4th Edition, and in GURPs the Nel (or Fey if you want to think of them as that) would be balanced unlike if they were put into 4th Edition. Anyway, I still think it would be neat as Hell to run it, but I might just write about it instead when I get around to it.

So there it is. Lament for what could have been experienced. Imagine the laughter, loot, and licentious behavior that the world shall never see.

Campaigns That Were

Ok, so the previous two posts influenced this post a bit. I'm going to go back and as best as I recollect write down some previous campaigns I've attempted to run. It'll be broken down by edition or system. I forget things so feel free to offer insight if you're a former player. Not all of these are necessarily "campaigns" in the truest sense, some might more accurately be described as character creation trends.

2nd Edition AD&D

The Whatever Wars
-This was the name I just came up with for when we all played back at Handy. Eric, Jeremy, Mike, Shawn, and a few others that might have been Troy Histead and some dudes we knew from the Handy library got together during lunches and played DnD in the library or the science lab. There was no overarching plot, just sheets of college ruled notebook paper with stats and we'd slog it out. Good times.

The William Wallace Era
-Mike and I watched Braveheart and we thought it was glorious, so Mike decided to make a fighter named William Wallace that was attempting to recreate Scotland in an ocean by dumping dirt into it. He killed a lot of kobolds and got to level fifteen. I actually had a decent campaign written out where he recruited rangers and warriors and such to his banner. It was probably the first kernel of a campaign setting that I ever came up with. Wish I could find the notes for it somewhere.

Summer happened and we all finished junior high and we kind of took a break from gaming for a while. I mentioned DnD to Jason in passing while he was getting me into Magic: The Gathering and he kind of thought it was goofy, later he expressed an interest in playing it so we broke out the old stuff, bought some books, and started gaming again. I recall him being a...wizard and us playing the silver anniversary edition of Keep on the Borderlands. I don't recall who all was playing, but I do remember giving Jason a real hard time for using thees and thous and attempting archaic speech patterns to fit the world. I probably should have let him roll with it. I don't recall how long this lasted but I do recall us also owning White Plume Mountain and Against the Giants and intermittently attempting to play those.

The Black Claw Clan Era
I started attempting a linked series of adventures that started in a town called Runegate (it was called such because it had a magic gate with runes on it). This first scenario was pretty standard fare, the guys were hired to destroy some bandits. At this point Jason was running his tigerman Kain and had decided to be evil. Long story short, they cleared out the bandit fort and took it over. Before they took over the territory I believe there were a few scenarios that Eric and Jeremy were around for (as...druids? rangers?) and I recall a bullywug scenario with an ambush scene that took a bunch of part members down and got them captured and no one really liked that, which was understandable. Anyway, the "arc" ended with the group sneaking into a dwarven city for unspecified reasons and killing everyone in it. For some reason the city was also above ground.

The Gauntlet
These were a series of random encounters designed to be really tough for players. We (Jason and I) had reams of paper dedicated to challenging fights of various kinds designed to brutalize your character. If you survived the...twelve rounds I think it was, you got to keep your character and any associated XP or loot. If you lost, I can't recall what happened.

The Drow Character Era
During the previous era of gaming the Drizzt Do'Urden books began circulating the group. Suddenly everyone (myself included) decided that they either a) needed to be a drow, b) needed to wield two melee weapons, or c) needed to be festooned with hand crossbows. Or they needed to do all three. With Jason's penchant for killing any PC that disagreed with him or Kain, there was a high turnover rate for non-Jason characters.

The Fey
I read this series by...her last name was Rusch. It was called The Fey and was like five or so books. I also read the trilogy of books that take place after the Willow movie by Chris Claremont. From both series I cobbled together a race of highly overpowered and magical immortals and those became what we played for a while. I think Dave Morgan joined us once as well. Later I began to write about "my" Fey, which were basically Rusch's Fey, plus the malevoiy or whatever they were called in the Willow trilogy. I also really needed to check the power of Jason's Black Claw Clan and stop him from using Kain to kill and control the group.

The Sokar Fey
Anti-heroes roxzor!!1! I liked the Fey, but they were too clean for my tastes at the time, so I wrote a plotline where they fled a world and became trapped in a lightless abyss and over time their society became darker and more evil. Then they found a way out and decided to reclaim the place they used to live. It was actually a little fun, it was two campaigns run at the same time and the players were actually hunting their alter egos in the other campaign. I know JP, Jason, Jason Knochel, and...James I think were involved. There were also some cybernetically inclined dwarves. I think we actually played like seven or so scenarios.

A Norse Story
A read a book series about an alternate Norse mythos. I say alternate because as far as I recollect it did not take place on Terra. Anyway, I took the world depicted in the books and converted it into AD&D and we played around with it a little bit.

The Kardia Campaign
My second edition epic. I threw everything I had previously created into one big pot and made a pretty robust world, there was also a story associated with it about my Cernunnos NPC, I was big into myth and legend and horned gods back then. The Fey were there, the Black Claw Clan was there, pretty much everything I could think of from mythology and contemporary fantasy fiction was in there as well. We had ten players as well as two DMs (Jason and I) running everything. It was a massive clusterfuck. We played once and didn't even finish the entire scenario. I honestly don't even recall the main plot or whatever of the campaign.

Spawning Time
I was reading some Age of Mortals or Fifth Age or whatever the Dragonlance stuff was called after Weis and Hickman killed off their most beloved characters. Kitaria's dragon Skie created something called a spawn, it was a rather powerful dragon humanoid. I rolled with it and statted them up for like every color, shade, or metal of dragon. So the spawn intermittently hopped into scenarios from time to time. I think Shawn played a mercury spawn one time. Eventually Mike, Jason, and Shawn played some platinum spawn working for Pyrite, the gold dragon that took the form of a ring on Fizban or Zifnab, whichever one was Paladine. They had disintegration breath weapons.

3rd/3.5 Edition Dungeons and Dragons
The whole 3.0 and 3.5 Edition Dungeons and Dragons line is pretty damn blurry, so some of the stuff may be inaccurately placed.

The Tomb of Damara Revisited
Whenever the group rolled up a bunch of new characters we always ran the 2nd Edition Tomb of Damara that was included with a box set that I originally bought ages ago. It got to the point where everyone that gamed regularly with us knew precisely what was in each room even without my descriptions. As an homage to our roots I converted the tomb to third edition and made the monsters and loot random so we wouldn't grow to insanely knowledgeable about it in this edition. We never used the Tomb 2.0 again.

I was at a loss for ideas, so I brought out the big guns: the Arthurian mythos, sort of. Armies of undead were storming across the world directed by an evil sorcerer so the players were going to try and break into Camelot and free Arthur from his slumber to save his people when their straits were most dire. Long story short, turns out the evil sorcerer is Merlin and Arthur was a Lawful Evil despot that brought peace and prosperity to the land via his iron fist and killing naysayers with his armies of undead. Player's were going to end up joining or fighting him once they woke him up.

Unspecified Revival
Like the Tomb of Damara, this was another homage to the past. I decided I wanted to try and run a free form campaign where I pulled shit out of my ass and rolled with the punches. As a twist I started everyone out at tenth level and created a stable of characters based on all our favorite 2nd Edition characters like Kain, Gherett, Shade, Algar, and two or three dual-wielding drow. All told, there were like twenty characters brought back to life. Nothing happened and the scenario was kind of lame because I didn't even have a bare bones plan, and Jason Knochel just wanted to go into the mountains away from everyone else.

The Fey
Brought the Fey up to speed for the new edition, still overpowered, still carbon copied from those books and Celtic myth. Everyone rolled characters, we even got Tony's friend Joe to roll a character. Never played it, I honestly don't even remember what the campaign was going to be, I was just excited to play the Fey again.

New Kardia
This is one that was actually long runningish, like seven or eight scenarios I think. Everyone was involved and I'm pretty sure it was definitely 3.5 D&D. The players were in the employ of a guy named Ardas who had a metal face and wore a cloak that was either red or composed of blades, I can't recall. Eric played a coked out wizard, Tony a psion, Jeremy a ranger with philosophy, John was a favored soul, and Dan was a dwarf. There was a demonic army invading this continent and Ardas wanted the guys to stop it. Eventually it would have involved journeying through the nine layers of The Nine Hells only to confront Asmodeous of the Ninth and have him step aside and show them a portal to the tenth layer, which was actually the continent they were from. Spoiler Alert! Ardas was the Lord of the Tenth and he was trying to make the Hells expel his layer so it could become its own plane. The player's were actually petitioners of the Hells before Ardas started doing stuff. If the players wanted to fight Ardas they could go to the upside down floating mountain city and turn it on so the robot inside it busted out and then they could fight Ardas physically. We did not get that far.

d20 Modern

Ambrosia Matrixes
This one was short and kind of odd. d20 Modern had just come out and I thought it was pretty neat, but I didn't quite know what to do with it. For some reason I decided to go the American Gods route and say that gods are real and like to bum around America, the player's were fledgling gods. Each player was granted something called an Ambrosia Matrix that accrued a special type of XP and gained special abilities as it levelled. Some dude named Atreus granted the PCs these matrixes and then I think they killed Tiamat because she was a computer...something. I was probably playing Final Fantasy 7 and reading American Gods around that time.

Shadow Chasers
I had just fucking ridiculous high hopes for this campaign. When I sold Jeremy and Dan on the Shadow Chasers concept I think it had kind of a noir/pulp/Lovecraftian feel to it. Monsters exist and you are the hard boiled detective types that peel away the layer of illusion and exposes the monstrousness beneath it. ...Didn't quite pan out like that. I ended up girding the setting in the same shiny bullshit exterior that DnD is always clad in and it lost the pulp and scariness, if it ever had that in the first place. Jason and James tried to play too, and they were not invited back after they basically tried blowing up everything in sight. It took about two seconds for the spookiness of Shadow to be worn away and it became hack and slash. It was also a sequel to the book Pages of Pain (in which Poseidon fucks with the Lady of Pain's mind to convince here that she is his daughter). Anyway, Ellen was the Lady and her mind had been so fucked with by the Trojan and his urn that she had turned Sigil into another plane (Earth), but one that bordered on all other realms of Shadow. I couldn't really make any of that come across because Tony was the only one that knew anything about Planescape (consensus reality for the win) and no one had read Pages of Pain, so the last few scenarios looked extra random to the guys I'm sure. Then I just quit and this thing ended up tying in with Hekinoe as previously mentioned.

4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons

As long as I live, even if I live so long that time itself is slain upon the black blade of Entropy, I will remember this campaign. If I were some manner of delusional schizophrenic, this would be the place I live. Every little bit of fiction that I've written since I gained the ability to not steal every single little thing from other sources, has been written here in one way or another (except the James story and some GURPS stories). This campaign is glorious and I love every second I get to spend with the guys (and Martel) in it. I can't wait until we get into the rebellion plotline and I am super geeked about the heist scenario (even though I expect nine specific flavors of disaster to occur). Just as a little note, at this moment I am eleven minutes shy of eight hours of work on the heist.

Friday, February 5, 2010

I Just Remembered

In reviewing the previous post and thinking about that era I just remembered another d20 Modern campaign I was thinking about doing. I really dug the d20 Future and Future Tech stuff, I like badass gadgetry and technology and cybernetics and things of that nature so I was trying to do was find a way to use that stuff, but also do some post-apocalyptic stuff as well. So I came up with this campaign idea.

It was set in the future probably on a distant planet in a high end technology level, and the world was sort of dying out. I forget why, but the apocalypse was coming. The players were part of a special forces type operation and were sent out to secure certain resources for the future. Basically they would have ten or twelve scenarios to venture forth out into this dying world and their actions would change the face of the world when it "rebooted".

A couple examples:

One vault/complex/city was a genetic engineering facility that was trying to engineer certain attributes into humanity that would ensure they survive the apocalypse. The lab had a bunch of scientists though and each one had different ideas about what needed to be done to humanity. Some thought the world would be carpeted with forests by the time humans rejoined it, others thought the sun would never re-ignite so they would need to live underground to get closer to the planets core for warmth. Others thought it would just be a rugged wasteland, etc. Anyway, based on who the players sides with there would be elves, dwarves, and orcs in the new world and they would outnumber the natural humans or they could have said that everyone's points were valid and got everyone to agree to share resources and when the world restarted natural humans would outnumber the other races like typical fantasy world.

Another possibility was an energy net experimentation facility. One of the big concerns was dying tech in this coming new world, how would humanity be able to use the resources of their past if none of it had juice? This facility was going to engineer wetware nanites that would flow out into the world like pollen from a flower and slowly circulate among the living creatures left on the world. Currently the planet had a sort of energy web, kind of like wireless energy that Tesla dreamed of. If you had powered armor or energy weapons it was coded to draw off of this network. The nanite pollen would get stuck in living creatures and the bioelectricity generated by the living things of the world would fuel what was left of this network so your pulse rifle would still pulse after the apocalypse. If the pollen linked to a sentient mind it would also grant people the ability to draw on the energy network and wield psionic powers.

There was also a robotics facility that was working on mass producing robots to do mining and other resource gathering type things while humans waited out the apocalypse. Depending on the actions the players took there might be all kinds of resources available in the new world, or there would be a race of warforged hanging around after the apocalypse.

One of the last scenarios would be the players choosing to either a) find a secure location and go into hibernation till the world recovered from the impending apocalypse or b) they could join a clan of humans seeking to survive through the apocalypse. I a) was chosen, they get to play their same characters in the new world. If b) they got to help ensure humanity had a strong powerbase post apocalypse, they would also determine the type of society this clan evolved into, and they could play their descendants when the world restarted.

I dunno, I always thought it was a neat campaign idea.


Hekinoe is the name of the planet that I write in and DnD in. I only came up with that name last month. Here is how I came up with it: the folder for this campaign and the stories I write in it was called Heck If I Know because I never knew if the campaign world material would get used and I didn't know what to call it because not all the stories were written about The Known World, so on a whim I crammed all the letters together and deleted some and added an eee onto the end. Hekinoe. I do a lot of goofy stuff like that to come up with names.

Anyway. I feel like writing about the history of Hekinoe, but from the "metagame" standpoint and not the "seven thousand years ago so and so conquered a meaner so and so and thus the world was saved" standpoint.

It all started with d20 Modern and the Shadow Chasers campaign. The original intent of that campaign is irrelevant, I was just getting sick of it. Everyone seemed to think it was about killing monsters, so I stopped caring and kept trying to do silly things with it in my head and it became this kind of haphazard collection of scenarios that were only partially related, and the guys kept killing monsters. The only two scenarios I really truly enjoyed were clearing out the Bay City Mall and shutting down the Shadow Gate that had popped open in it and the Groundhog's Day scenario that involved Shadow itself trying to lock the guys into a coma as they relived the same day forever.

Anyway, as time progressed I was putting more and more work into the Heck If I Know folder and less into Shadow Chasers, so I was looking for a way to bring the two together. I made a scenario that plopped the guys down into another world at its start, total railroading. I'm not sure how they felt about it and at that point I doubt I cared. I recall it was a world with pine trees of blue crystals that the guys used to fuel a car that someone they killed had willed into existence. They also encountered someone called The Guardian and were tasked with procuring a skull of brass and bronze by some guy they encountered that had horns on his head.

Those crystal pine trees were the ancestors of the Eldumans and The Guardian was one of their descendants that was a former builder-slave of Kaleshmar. The orb he used to contact beings from other planes and realities was the Kaleshmar internet. We never played again after that scenario, but I had planned to make the stealing of the skull of brass and bronze sever this world from Shadow and trap the guys there. We would then switch to 3.5 Edition DnD and they would play the same characters in a fantasy setting trying to find their place in this world they had helped to apocalypse-ize. What I later decided had happened was this:

They would have eventually found a glassy black monolith after following a glassy back road north. There were also swords and walls that were both glassy and black, apparently I was into obsidian then. Inside the monolith they would have found a creature chained to a strange and alien device that caused their teeth to vibrate unpleasantly in their skulls.

The chained up creature would have been like ten feet tall and fanged and taloned and kind of monstrous and inhuman looking. He was something called a saevoi, a race that has had a lot of impact on poor little Hekinoe and the thing he was strapped to was a cosmic engine. The cosmic engine was a storehouse of energy drawn from everywhere at once. In my little mythos there is this energy that moves the cosmos, where it comes from and how it is generated I do not know, but it makes planets spin and stars continue to burn. The saevoi and their sibling races can draw on this cosmic energy and manipulate it, they are the creators of the cosmic engines. Anyway, this particular cosmic engine was malfunctioning badly and the people of Kaleshmar decided to capture a saevoi and lash the sucker to the engine in the hopes that its presence would stabilize the engine and keep it from malfunctioning too badly. It would have been better for all of Kaleshmar if they had captured a conteog, a race that embodies all the natural checks and balances that keep the universe from spiraling out of control and into oblivion. Saevoi embody that spiral, so the saevoi's presence juiced up the engine and had it providing all kinds of power for the Kaleshmarians. The process worked so well that Kaleshmars basically began dragging whatever cosmic entities they could find down out of the sky and slaving them to the engines they had powering their society.

To continue, the saevoi probably would have howled at the PCs a lot and begged for freedom or something. They would have killed it because it was big and there and they thought they were supposed to kill it and they never question anyone that ever gives them a quest of any kind, even if he has horns and offers no explanations or has a bearded metal face like Adras did.

When it dies and they remove its brass and bronze-like skull, all the juice that powers up the cosmic engine cuts off and suddenly the cosmic engine has to do all the work on its own. The engine breaks and probably explodes. The PCs don't know that because the horned dude that needed the skull whisks them away from ground zero.

Kaleshmar at this point is in serious trouble. Because of its huge output of resources they had come to rely on this engine for all manner of things, when it broke a lot of stuff stopped working on Kaleshmar so they began scrambling for solutions to their energy crisis and in the ensuing tizzy they really didn't have the resources to figure out what the PCs and the horned man were up to. Meanwhile Mr. Horn Head had the PCs venture forth to other cosmic engine sites to kill whatever cosmic entity was chained to them. The horned man was a bit of an anarchist and sought to bring Kaleshmar to its knees.

I'll clear up something right now: the horned man is still around in The Known World and has achieved his goal, which was to bring Kaleshmar down and to ensure his survival till time itself dies upon the black blade of entropy. He is not Keroen Skathos, Cenn the Reaver, Cernunnos, or Kern Yew'nose.

So the guys systematically cause Kaleshmar's power grid to go almost completely dark, but they (Kaleshmarians) are not stupid. They live on a floating continent and have backup systems to keep it floating even when they do get stupid and frantic. The horned man knows this and steps from the shadows and says he has captured the players, the villains that were slaying the cosmic creatures that were bound to the engines. He tells his peers that there is a way they can save Kaleshmar and return its might tenfold. He has the skulls the players have stolen and he believes that with the proper alignment of forces he can use the skulls of the creatures to seek out others of their kind and bring them to Kaleshmar against their will. Being desperate, everyone gets on board (Except A'lst?).

What the horned man intended to do never happened. There was a war going on in the stars above Hekinoe and it had just ended. The most potent weapon in that war had been decomissioned and the wielders of that weapon knew that many of their kind had come to Hekinoe and never returned. They cast the weapon down out of the sky and it struck Kaleshmar and split the floating continent asunder. All that is known about it was that it was a projectile of some kind that fell from the sky trailing thick clouds of grey smoke. It didn't burn or scream out of the sky, it just fell trailing grey and plowed right through Kaleshmar, further disrupting the power grid of the continent. It wasn't a massive missile or anything, what destroyed Kaleshmar was the energy associated with its passing.

I just learned that high velocity bullet wounds that pass through flesh have this effect called cavitation where there is a pressure wave that results from their passage through your tissue that knocks everything around and messes you up. Its like that.

It's at about this time that the timeline associated with my DnD campaign comes into play, so there you go. I'm not going to lie and say all of that was the plan from the beginning. I knew that the whole skull stealing bit was going to reboot the world and allow me to get in some fantasy play time. I only later began to try and synch everything up the way it currently is now and I kind of like the way it turns out. It ties my sci-fi stuff to my fantasy stuff in a way I like. If you find it interesting and enjoyable as well, cool.