Monday, March 28, 2011

Gamma World

I recently attended PAX East with a few of my friends. While attending a panel, my friend Shawn was lucky enough to win a free copy of Gamma World. Long story short, instead of playing some Dungeons & Dragons Encounters at some tables that were set up, we opted to break open the game and have Lance and I play around in the set.

It was fun.

The game is zany as Hell, and also a bit rules light. There are a lot of 4th Edition staples in the game. The power system, defenses rather than saving throws, hit points based on Constitution score (rather than the Constitution modifier), and so on. The skills are further stripped down from 4th Edition, obviously you don't need stuff like Arcana and Dungeoneering in a world that does not include magic and dungeons full of aberrations, although a lot of Gamma World enemies could definitely double as 4th Edition aberrations, there is a Dogdamn land squid for Pete's sake. 

There is also a land shark. It, like the bulette, makes me oh so happy inside. 

The setting is pretty broad, some time ago, something happened, possibly science related (I vaguely recall reading somewhere that a super collider was involved), and mashed all the alternate futures and timelines and eras of the universe into one ball of madness on earth. It was then dubbed Gamma Terra or Gamma Earth, and chaos very quickly followed. 

Your origins are your key feature, they determine whether you are just a mutant human, a hawk man, a swarm of rats, or a giant cyborg cockroach. I was a Doppelganger Felinoid called Lyano, I could use cat claws and summon alternate selves of myself. Lance was an Android Pyschic, he could grab stuff really hard and use mind bullets and whatnot. Anyway, your origins (you roll for two, a primary and secondary), determine two of your scores, which type of mutation you have affinity for (Dark, Psychic, or Biological), and also what skills you may have a bonus for. They also determine your powers and critical abilities. This isn't like 4th Edition where you have a shit ton of options for powers, you get an at-will or encounter power for each origin and a few others as you level, you never have more than a few, even at level ten, which is the level cap at the moment.

The equipment section is pretty much my favorite part of the rules (excluding crazy origin combinations), you have a lot of leeway in that area. There aren't like fifteen different types of armor, just three. Light, heavy, and shield. It is left up to the player to determine how that armor looks. Is your heavy armor composed of a 55' Chevy Bel Air hood and road signs? Or is it thick slabs of tire rubber bolted together and tied to you with chains? The weapons are just as simple: heavy and light attacks, heavy and light melee weapons (like a signpost or a knife), heavy and light guns (like a .22 or a .45), and heavy and light ranged weapons. (a thrown bowling ball or a thrown knife). Light and and ranged stuff tends to use Dexterity, while heavy stuff tends to use Strength. Pretty straightforward and intuitive, and again, it is up to you to determine your weapon or attack's nature. 

Your starting equipment is randomly rolled, as is your skill bonus. You roll a die, which determines how many times you may roll on a very broad table. You can end up with things like fuel, toy cars, boats, horses, or laptops. Or trucks. The table doesn't go to deeply into what stuff does, other than miles per gallon and passenger capacity for trucks and "you'll figure out what it can do" for everything else. Lance and I had two horses and a boat and some generators. We probably should have tried to make some kind of cyborg boat horse generator that shot lasers. Next time. 

I said before that the skills are pretty light. You get stuff like Mechanics, Conspiracy, Stealth, Interaction, etc. Your origins determine your bonus in two skills, and you roll for a random bonus to a third. The equivalent would be being trained in a skill in 4th Edition. There are only a few skills and it is pretty easy to figure out what they do.

You also roll randomly in stats. Your origins determine your ability scores to a certain extent. Each origin has a ability associated with it, Dexterity for Felinoids, Intelligence for Doppelgangers, and so on. Your primary origin ability stat is 18, your secondary is 16. If both origins have the same, it is a 20. Everything else is 3d6, no rerolls, in order, do not add anything. I rolled a 7 for Strength and a 5 for Constitution, which isn't as bad as it would be in other versions of the game. All the powers and stuff are like 4th Edition and you can use Intelligence and Wisdom and non-Strength scores and such to make attacks. 

Gamma World also has guns and I really like the rules. Guns fire ammo, Gamma World doesn't get into energy cells or bullets, you either have ammo or you don't. You have two options: conserve ammo, or spray and pray. If you are conserving ammo, you may only fire a gun once an encounter, but you'll still have ammo at the end of the encounter. If you are not conserving ammo, you can fire your gun as many times as you want during an encounter, but you are out of ammunition at the end of the encounter and will have to find or barter for more afterwards before you can use your gun again. I like it, it is pretty simple and easy to manage. I gave up tracking ammo a long time ago in my Hekinoe

I want to take a moment to mention that you have a lot of leeway to just decide things in the game. It is a really cool feature. If you get the Hawkoid and Seismic origins (and this is pointed out in the books), it doesn't mean you have to be some weird earth eagle man from underground, though you can be. You can say you're a gargoyle if you want. If I had wanted to, I could have said that my double from the game we played was one of my Felinoid's eight extra lives that could pop back in time to help me out. ...That is actually a neat idea, I regret not coming up with it then. Oh well. There is a lot of free reign in this game and that is an awesome feature, and only adds to the zaniness I spoke of earlier. 

Zaniness. Even in the earliest incarnation of the game (back when Gygax and his son worked on it), the game was not super serious. It was about mutants and lasers and bat crap crazy radiation induced mutations from alternate dimensions mish mashed with this one cause all manner of shenanigans. Lance and I fought badger and pig men and giant lion bat things by shooting lasers, throwing bowling balls, summoning alternate selves of myself,  and using a blow up doll. 

Is it any wonder that Shawn TPKed us? Is it any wonder that we were laughing and giggling and having a super fun time?

Alpha Mutations and Omega Technology. This is a button issue for me. Every encounter, you have random mutations that can affect your character, in addition, you can draw Omega Tech cards after some abilities. These are loot basically. For instance, my Felinoid had a mutation affect it called Stink Glands and Lance had a tech card that was like a Fusion Rifle or something. The mutation cards can be overcharged for an additional effect, you make a d20 roll and add a bonus to it if you have one (some origins gain a bonus to certain overcharge rolls). For instance, Stink Glands gains the ability to do poison damage in addition to its other effects. If you fail overcharge rolls, the mutation goes haywire and you end up with a penalty of some kind (-2 to attack rolls for Stink Glands). Omega Tech doesn't operate the same way, but there is a chance you could deplete an item's charge and end up with a broken Fusion Rifle or Freeze Ray, you can still use the item, but it is very much less effective. 

Now, the button part of the issue, you can buy booster packs for these mutation cards and technology cards. No. We are already letting Magic: The Gathering get way too involved in 4th Edition with all these power cards people are  bringing to the game and the Harrow Deck or whatever it is being sold now. I played Magic, Pokemon, and the World of Warcraft card games. I love Munchkin. I dig games and card games. I do not dig Dungeons and Dragons, or even a variation of it, having a collectible card game as a main component of it, especially not when you consider the amount of power creep that occurs between sets of Magic: The Gathering. Lance and Shawn have advised me to just not buy boosters packs and just use the cards out of the deck. I can live with that, but I still don't like this trend. 

There are no feats, or classes, or even that many levels. It is essentially a stripped down version of 4th Edition, but what it loses isn't that important. There is a lot of flavor packed into the game where the rules were removed, and I like it. I tend to favor complexity over simplicity in most games, but Gamma World's flavor is robust enough that I have a rollicking good time playing it. 

So yeah, if you want some crazy fun and think the 4th Edition ruleset is a solid ruleset, Gamma World might possibly be for you.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Rogue's Gallery Of Aborted NPCs

Ok, so I said I'd gone through a bunch of ideas for the NPC, and I have. Here is a mostly complete list of them.

Greenskin Abraxen Fighter (Archer)
This guy was basically Fas'binder 2.0. The goal was to be a kind of primitive hunter type that used Master Craftsman to make magical bows and arrows. I didn't have too much planned for him, other than a desire to try and find his original clan in The Beastlands (the Niht clan). The guys could either help him or hinder him, or ignore him, and each those choices would have affected the events going on in The Beastlands at the moment.

Elduman Monk (Zen Archer)
This idea combined two ideas I had. I wanted a kind of wise advisor to the group that could be all wise and mysterious with kind of a psychic theme. I explored the option a bit and talked to Fred about it and kind of came to the conclusion that a wise and mysterious person of any sort amounted to me basically railroading the group into being good guys. This idea went through two other versions as well, a Fighter (Archer)/Wizard/Arcane Archer version and a Psychic Warrior/Psionic Archer, Psionic Archer is not a prestige class that exists mind you.

Elduman Monk (Weapon Master)
I briefly detoured from my ranged obsession to contemplate and build a monk that focused on weapon combat. The concept was the same as my other monk ideas, a wise and mysterious combat expert. This guy would have focused on disarms, trips, and sunder attempts with a temple sword.

Fell Human Rogue (Poisoner)
For some reason I got on this weird ranged combat kick. Came up with an idea for a knife thrower Rogue that used poison to augment the small damage of daggers. I also decided he would be mute, then there would be no danger of me deliberately or accidentally leading the group. This idea also went through another version, an Elduman Soulknife with blade skills that focused on chucking blades of idealized will at his enemies.

Child of Volung Barbarian (Hurler)
This idea continued the whole ranged combat thing I was fixating on. He would charge enemies and pick up things to throw at them along the way. A pretty straightforward idea. I envisioned him with a large barrel of smaller barrels on his back and reaching back to hurl them as he charged. The hurling rage skills allow a raging Barbarian to throw large objects, but rather than improvised weapon damage, they do damage based on their size and distance thrown, ala falling object damage.

It was at this point that I let go of ranged combat and kind of decided that I wanted a powerful NPC that was useful to the group, but might have a background or personality issue that made them a useful, but less than ideal adventuring companion.

Child of Volung Barbarian (Drunken Brute)
This was the drunken barbarian idea I spoke of previously. He would combine some hurling rage powers with the Drunken Rage class feature and some booze related powers to shrug off status effects. He would have been constantly irritable and very pragmatic about things. Also drunk, and angry. Very hard to deal with and handle, but an absolute monster in combat. I would have also really liked to expose the group to another race in The Known World. They only really have long term experience with Fell Humans and Soulless, and now Okwighta.

Fell Human Rogue/Wizard/Arcane Trickster
This character was going to be a professional thief that used sorcery to augment his skill use. The brand of trouble he brought to the group would stem from his underworld ties and his willingness to steal everything not nailed down that had a resale value greater than a mark. To be honest, I envisioned him as something of an even more amoral alternate D'alton. One that could sneak attack with fireballs and lightning bolts.

Fell Human Alchemist/Rogue (Poisoner)
This was going to be a vaguely creepy dude obsessed with life and death and how various chemicals caused or altered those states. The troubles he brought with him would relate to the fact that he was a major creeper and his allegiance to the most skilled Alchemist in Hekinoe and the shenanigans that that savage doctor got up to. Those shenanigans are tangentially related to the plot of this campaign.

Fell Human Magus
The key feature of the Magus seems to be a pseudo-two-weapon fighting/flurry of blows type ability that allows them to wield a sword in one hand, and a spell in the other. The Magus is an interesting class that I kind of like. The trouble from this character would stem from his background, though it would only really be an issue if the players pushed and pulled at the threads of it. 

Anyway, that is the stable as it currently stands. I've limited myself to plotting out the Magus (one Krieg Byr'ger, formerly of the Necropolis), to only three levels in an attempt to preserve the mystery of the character. I guess I'm fluctuating between the Barbarian (Drunken Brute) and this Magus idea I have. The Barbarian would be a lot, I think, but in the end, I think the Magus would be more rewarding to play. Can GMs play multiple NPCs?

Monday, March 21, 2011


The following are some theories, some fake and others dead serious, that my group has come up regarding the campaign.

-We are the PCs of the Mysterious Enemies, and Nakmander is their GM.

-We're clones, and Nakmander used mind control and sorcery to get us to work for him.

-We're not clones, that is too cliche' for our GM to use.

-What if we're all descendants of The Robust Five and are reliving the genetic memories of the original Robust Five, ala Assassin's Creed?

-I don't think we're clones, beyond that, I don't care to theorize about what happened, I want to let it unfold.

-We're not clones, but they do exist, and we have to hunt them down and kill them and earn the Quickening.

-The giant gemstone thing is controlling everyone in Meroteth and that is what Nakmander used to control us.

-We probably just went back to work for Nakmander.

-D'alton is a banker at the bank we robbed, and the whole Robust Five are just a comic strip he doodles in his bank ledger.

-We're all participating in a mystery-style reality show.

-Temporal stasis in a world where magic goes haywire or wears down could explain us being unaged. The clones are with Nakmander and they had stored us in the basement of Tesla's Boil. Hank was not loyal to Xein, works for Nakmander or the clones or believes in the rebellion.

-Cowboy wizards, who are also ALIENS.

-We are the dream of Kethranmeer as he falls to the ground, dying.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Thoughts On Character Backgrounds, Among Other Things

"We don't explore characters; we explore dungeons."

That is a motto for Old School D&D. I found that quote on a blog I like to read called Grognardia, and that site referenced it from somewhere else. It is a nice, succinct little motto with a good depth of meaning. I like a quote linked in the comments section on the blog that it was pulled from as well, I won't repeat the exact words, but the gist of it is that the first six levels of your character's career are his background. 

I like a nice meaty background, something interesting, possibly cool. I never demand backgrounds of my players, because some people don't feel comfortable writing, and others don't like to worry about that kind of thing. Others don't feel like they need to justify why their character is the way it is. Others are just lazy.

Kethranmeer's initial background was roughly a paragraph. It was simple and easily read, and over play he evolved, and the background evolved with him. I won't lie and say I had everything planned out for Kethranmeer from day one, but by level six, I had a pretty good idea where I was heading. The first six levels of playing him were how I figured out all the rest of it.They were where I discovered that he was afraid of small, underground places. The first six levels were where I decided he was Unaligned, or Neutral, or whatever, with slight tendencies towards Good where his friends and family were concerned. The first six levels were where I determined that he thought Xein was ok and D'alton was a solid sort that he could be fast friends with. 

This is why I want to slow down leveling in my current game. The players need time to get to know their characters. Between the system switch and leveling once every scenario, and never really having a super good handle on 3.5 Edition and 4th Edition in the first place, we need to slow down and get to know these incarnations of our alternate selves. Dungeons (I use dungeon as a catch all term for where battle and adventure are taking place) are where the absent minded GM realized that he's been using Feint and sneak attacking improperly. Dungeons are where we discover our characters, from a rules standpoint, and a background stand point. Dungeons are where we discovered that the original Robust Five were a collection of sadists that would burn and bury people alive. Dungeons are where we discovered that The Robust Five had no problem murdering teenagers for no better reason than because they were told to. Dungeons are where we discovered that The Robust Five were so apathetic that they would let a thief steal their means to freedom right out from under their noses without complaint (other than Xein).

I guess what I'm saying is that we should concentrate on the now of our game, and not the in nineteen levels of our game. There is too much of a focus on "I want to take this feat in twelve levels"  and "I want to have this many ranks in this skill in ten levels." This is not to say that we should only think of our character's future when  we level. Have an idea where you want to go, but chill and enjoy the now of your fledgling PC. If there is one thing I've learned building out twelve or so NPCs, planning your character out for twenty levels (or more) when you have three hundred experience to your name gets boring. You don't get to discover the character anymore, he's all done and written down, there's no mystery or curiosity to associate with playing him. For me at least.

In the end, get as involved with your character creation as you want. Play and plan your character in a way you want. Do whatever you want. Me, I need to just pick something I like and let it evolve as I play. Spending twelve hours at work talking to Fred and reading my Pathfinder books wasn't really productive for finding an NPC for me to play. I think I like Kethranmeer so much because he was a mystery that unfolded during play. I never sat down and plotted and planned for him. He just became what he was, and it worked, and it was fun.

Last line, I promise. Just have fun while you game, however it is that you have that fun.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mathematical Isanity

According to last campaign's level progression rate (fifteen levels for every thirteen months of adventuring), after ten years of adventuring, Derf should be a 138th level sorcerer.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mysterious Enemy #2, Part 5

The Fifth Month
His fingernails were broken things, his wound was a red, inflamed, burning coal of pain and fever that dripped pus everywhere. His teeth were black nubs, his flesh was gaunt against his bones and muscles and distended belly. He could not stop shaking and every few seconds he giggled uncontrollably, which turned into a hacking cough.

Once he had been able to climb back up into his dirt stairway, he'd found the soft dirt above the packed dirt to be easy to move. He just kept up digging with one hand, constantly in motion, until his fingernails peeled back and bled and his hand became a leather, callused thing, more unfeeling scar tissue than flesh.

Exhaustion was a thing he'd come to know as a close companion in his time since waking to a hacked off limb. He had become an animal since then. A beast with no time or ability to worry or mourn his fate. He just dug. He had become a pale and wasted cave creature in this hole and when his mangled claw-hand finally pushed through to the surface world, the dim light of the moon blinded him.

Blinded and blinking, his digging became frenzied, he began lunging upwards on the sliding slope of dirt, clawing like mad beast, froth flecking his dry lips. When the hole above him was wide enough, he wriggled through it like a pale grub creature and lay in the cool night air. He was gasping, his lungs burning and his heart pounding in his chest.

He looked around as he lay there, and a grim laugh choked its way out of his throat. He saw the grey stone of the traveler's roost to his left, downhill. The spot he'd chosen to dig his way out had been beneath a hill. He cried then as he lay there aching and wanting to scream, what should have been fifteen feet, had turned into forty or fifty because of mere random chance. When he choked down his sobs and had the strength to sit up, he did so, and began looking at the night sky.

As he gazed at the night sky, his thoughts turned to revenge. He was weak and wounded, but he was alive and could find food and marks and a way to torment those that had forced him to become this thing of pain and despair. Looking at the night sky, the moon bright, he could see the faint yellow glow of Gorelon peeking out from behind the moon.

His thoughts slowed to a halt and he laughed, a mirthful, if a bit frenzied, laugh. He closed his eyes and smiled, suddenly realizing that everything he had experienced had had a purpose. His thoughts turned inwards and he was suddenly struck by the thought that his tormentors had not been such, they had bestowed a gift upon him, a gift he did not fully understand in that moment.

He dragged himself up off the ground, eyes open and staring at Gorelon, and the pus filled stump of his arm suddenly itching like crazy. He absentmindedly itched the wound and a scab flaked off, revealing smooth grey flesh that felt like rubber to his callused fingertips. He decided that regardless of the cost, he would find a way to thank his benefactors. He would find a way to bestow the gifts that had been given to him this night, on them.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Ran'dahl Koltchrain

Player: Shawn
Race: Fell-Human
Class: Summoner
Age: 19
Height: 5'
Weight: 110 lb.
Description: A short Fell Human with bulging eyes.
Favorite Color: Dark purple.
Fluff: Ran'Dahl was born to a poor tinkerer family in the Fell Peaks. He was a slight child born with bulging eyes and scaly skin. Upon his introduction to the world, his father Ran'Duhn accused the mother, Chann'i of mating with a serpent. After much accusation and further investigation, they determined that these defects were the result of all the low quality magical objects stored within their home.

As time grew on, Ran'Duhn and Chann'i tinkered more and more with their creations, eventually creating some high quality products. These were more prone to misfiring, but they were extremely potent and high in demand. So much so, rather that the family was starting to attract some unwanted attention from the gangs around the Fell Peaks.

Upon Ran'Dahls 10th birthday, Ran'Duhn presented Ran'Dahl with his first magical device, an action figure that when probed with sorcerous energy would walk and punch. Ran'Duhn told Ran'Dahl that that he had some sorcerous talent and that with practice he should be able to make the action figure animated. For the next month, Ran'Dahl worked tirelessly at playing with the action figure, even going so far as naming it Za'ith.

Ran'Dahl had showed so much success with this small Za'ith that Ran'Duhn decided to start introducing him to more and more items. For the next year, Ran'Dahl actively participated with his father in researching and testing magical devices.

One night, when Ran'Dahl was 12, a gang raided his father's workshop for all his magical devices. Ran'Duhn woke up and grabbed his blasting rod that he kept next to his bed and ran to confront the gang. When he leveled the rod at the nearest gang member, the rod exploded and took out Ran'Duhn as well as the two nearest gang members. Chann'i then told Ran'Dahl to stay in his room while she grabbed the family revolver and tried to shoot the gang leader. The leader, not being afraid of Chann'i ran up to her and knocked her out. He picked her up and started walking away with her as Ran'Dahl came storming out of his room with Za'ith. He commanded Za'ith to attach the gang leader, but the little action figure only started walking when the gang leader stomped on it and smashed it to pieces. The leader laughed and strode off with Chann'i in toll. Ran'Dahl was left sobbing in his broken home, suddenly alone with not even his action figure to keep him company.

Ran'Dahl waited two weeks in his house, hoping that his mother would come back, scrounging for any and all sustinance. Nothing happened. Finally, he ventured to where the workshop was and started sorting through the wreckage. He knew that there were secret spots that his father kept the most prized items but he didn't know where. For days Ran'Dahl would dig around the house and workshop looking for items. Each night he would drop from exhaustion. His dreams would be filled with horrible memories of that night. However, more frightening was his recollection of Za'ith. His action figure was becoming more real in his mind; much larger, stronger, and dangerous. At first, Za'ith would just appear as he would when they would play, but Ran'Dahl would suddenly wake when Za'ith would look at him, staring with red-glowing eyes. Soon, Za'ith seemed more real and menacing.

One day, he was scrounging in the workshop when he heard someone enter through the front door. It was a member from the gang. He started tearing through the workshop looking for anything of value. Ran'Dahl hid in the back under a desk. Ran'Dahl then noticed something attached under the desk, it was glowing slightly. He was just starting to reach for it when the gang member found him, hauling him out by the scruff of his collar. He asked Ran'Dahl what he was doing under the desk and if he was hiding stuff. Ran'Dahl became really frightened and started sobbing, but couldn't help to look back to the desk. The gang member caught this look, threw Ran'Dahl in the corner and retrieved the item. He started walking towards Ran'Dahl and cursing him, telling him that he better find more things or he would kill him. Ran'Dahl started sobbing harder and wished that Za'ith would come and get rid of this man. As he was thinking that, he felt a sudden chill and hear the gang member scream.

Ran'Dahl looked up and saw a large, menacing figure standing before him, blocking Ran'Dahl's view of the gang member. This figure stood about 7' tall, had long arms ending in gruesome claws. He had a very muscular, but thin build with long arms and legs. The figure stooped slightly but looked ready for action. Ran'Dahl mouthed "save me" and the creature lunged at the gang member, killing him in a blur of arms, teeth, and claws. Once the job was done, the creature looked back to Ran'Dahl and it was then that Ran'Dahl recognized that it was Za'ith. He had red eyes, a maw full of sharp teeth and a very dangerous air to him. Ran'Dahl was afraid, but he somehow knew that this creature, Za'ith, would not harm him.

As the days went on, Ran'Dahl learned how to summon and dismiss Za'ith. He began to learn how to control Za'ith and how to best utilize Za'ith to augment his own meager body and skills. Soon, with the help of Za'ith, he found many more trinkets and magical devices hidden in the workshop. He collected these and tinkered with the ones he deemed less powerful. There were some mishaps, but all in all Ran'Dahl learned a lot about magical devices.

After about a month of being holed up in the house, he ventured out. Not for wanting to, but for the sake of food. He went down to the first market he could remember and tried to get some food. The merchants would not hand out any, as the food was precious to them as well. Ran'Dahl became desperate; he offered a tiny trinket that he kept in his pocket for some food. The merchant that he offered the trinket to immediately took it and gave Ran'Dahl a sack of food. Ran'Dahl then ran home. He was inside all of 5 minutes when the door flew open and a couple of strong-arms came inside after Ran'Dahl, looking for more magical devices. Ran'Dahl immediately summoned Za'ith who promptly took out one strong-arm while the other ran away.
This was how Ran'Dahl became a small-time peddler in magical devices. This type of activity carried on for his teenage years, where he learnt some tricks to detect magical devices and how to creatively escape or folly the attempts of people looking to hurt him. Eventually, Ran'Dahl decided that he could better use his skills with Za'ith through other means. He decided to head towards the city and see if he could get hired to be a guard.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Xein Mac'Fumos

Player: Eric
Race: Human of Fell-Human Descent
Class: Alchemist
Gender: Male
Age: 28
Height: 6' 4"
Weight: 180 lbs.
Description: Overly large and bulging ice blue eyes.
Personality: Pretty open. "Not a murderer."
Favorite Color: Grease and bronze.
Fluff: Xein Mac'fumos was born to a poor woman in Kusseth who did what she could to make ends meet. She thieved and whored herself for only a few gold a day, just to make sure she had a roof over her head and food in her stomach. In her early twenties she was with a Fell Human "client" who became violent, beating her relentlessly. She quit prostitution and started thieving heavily, targeting Fell Human males, most of which suffered some sort of disfigurement or another during her attacks. It was two months after the abuse when it became apparent that she was with child. With a mouth to feed on the way, she decided to break into a local mechanic shop owned by an Abraxen to steal what money she could to support the birth of her child and hopefully support them for a few years on one night’s earnings. This was not to happen. She was caught by an alarm and captured inside the building, all the doors locked from the inside, trapping her in.

She was taken by the wardens and as per certain regulations and the fact that the Abraxen knew the local senior warden, and was able to buy her as a slave. He told her that she was very talented at thieving and didn’t trip any of the alarms on the way in, he asked her how she did it and she elaborated that the designs could have been better, showing him while explaining. She asked about possibility of freedom due to being pregnant. He refused, saying it was punishment for trying to steal from him, but he did agree that the child would be born free and explained that they would have a better life under his roof anyway, also stating that he would educate the child in his shop if the he showed the same aptitude that his mother did for technology and its workings.

He was raised by his mother and the Abraxen, both teaching what they knew. Once old enough to work for an engineering firm he was constantly teased about his mother being a former whore and the fact that he was living with the Abraxen. Anytime anyone said anything about his mother’s former occupation, his anger would flare from his heritage and he would get into a physical fight, most of which he lost. But in the work gangs he was also noticed to be one of the smartest by his employers and not really delegated heavy lifting or laborious activities, but generally consulted on designs. (Secretly this was because he was living with an Abraxen and they figured the young one would have some insight to their [Abraxen] technology) This further alienated him against the others in his gang.

 In a few short years of this, he was eventually hired as an engineer consultant and field-tester for equipment. He did this for a good four years when (as one of their top testers) they gave him a particularly expensive steam powered backpack designed to assist in repairs and other various tasks. He had advised them on some simple design modifications for structural integrity. One of the senior engineers called him out on it and told him that he was strictly testing this one, not an advisor like previous projects. Dejected, Xein decided to just do his job and finish field-testing it. While working on a steam-wagon, the pack started to cough and sputter, finally just giving out. He looked at it and assessed the damage, seeing that he couldn’t repair the pack, he took it back to the firm and they were outraged. It was beyond anyone's ability to repair. The senior engineer was furious, and started to insult Mac, when the engineer called his mother a whore, Mac threw a devastating punch and knocked the man out cold. When he came to he called for the local warden and told him a lie about Mac stealing the pack. He was beaten and then thrown in jail for assault and thievery.  

Xein escaped with a small bad of individuals from prison eight years after he was put there. Some went different ways, and a few became close friends. John Jo'nson was his best friend in The Robust Five (More Or Less) and during their travels, they would play tricks on each other at night to keep themselves entertained on boring nights. Prison made him a different man from the one he was before going in, he was killing without thought and in general causing mayhem where he never would have before. He even burned some people alive underground, something he would never like for his family back in Kusseth to know about.

They traveled to Hell to pull off a heist that got D'alton thrown in the prison mine in the first place. They pulled off the heist perfectly, but an old friend of Mr. Braun's turned them over to the bank's owner and backer, the Rebellion. It was led by Nakmander, and they were forced to work for him because they refused to turn over the money. The Robust Five (More Or Less) essentially became the strong arm for the Rebellion after quickly and efficiently defeating a dragon in the catacombs underneath Hell. 

Xein, yet again feeling trapped/imprisoned, lost a bit of touch with reality, burning his hand in front of NakmanderNakmander and destroy it, forgetting what happened after they set the “fuse” for the “bomb” (a backlash of magic). Just prior to this, though, they almost lost their lives to a single Fallen warrior in the basement of the establishment and Xien successfully used an unknown device and attracted the attention of some higher being.

In the next few months, his head cleared and he started to think closer to what he was like before Beltan. The work with his bar, The Tesla's Boil, was what helped him focus on calming down and recognized his blood lust. Just after defeating Nakmander and stopping the entire city of Kusseth from being wiped off the map, he started to meditate at least an hour a day, working to calm himself. For the misdeeds he had done, he helped the community in many different ways, from starting a fire department in his district to providing healthcare to all.

He was at odds with D'alton over the failure of the heist and some betrayal. His first act as a better person was to reconcile with his old friend, who was going through hard times from the death of his brother, Kethranmeer, who died in the battle with Nakmander. It seemed Kethranmeer was the glue that held their small band together, because Derf and John soon left the group.

Now, it was ten years later, he doesn't know what is going on and has no memory of what happened. This will be a trying time for him, especially in his quest to keep his blood lust in check...

There are some things he needs to know: What happened? How is his family? What happened to the close family of employees he had? Why would Hank react to seeing them like that? And many, many more questions...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Kethranmeer (Updated)

Player: Steve
Race: Soulless
Class: Fighter
Gender: Identifies with male pronouns.
Age: Debatable, 138.
Height: 6' 6"
Weight: 900 lbs.
Description: Looks exactly like a knight if full plate armor, save that his helmet, which is actually his head, has no visor or eyeslits and is merely a blank wolf-iron plane.
Personality: Quiet, likes battle, values family and friends over everything else, for the most part.
Favorite Color: Cannot discern colors.
Fluff: The creature known as Kethranmeer was one of the twelve original Soulless created by the artisans of The Fallen Empire of Man and the Okwighta Aleknostas. Trained and raised for a lifetime of battle by Omne-4, for forty years he served the nation of undead as a blood-slick metal warrior, reaching a moderately high rank and gaining control over a small force of his kind. He and his unit were sent on a mission to the country of Kusseth to investigate underground ruins and he was wounded beyond repair and left to rust and go mad from his isolation. He was discovered by a creature named A'lst that found his sorcerous nature repugnant but his machine nature intriguing, A'lst altered Spineplate and negated the sorcerous energies of his creation. This stripped Spineplate of his allegiance to the Fallen Empire and his somewhat homicidal nature and replaced his psyche with that of an unthinking metal beast. Over time A'lst grew affectionate towards his metal hound and taught him the language of his people (Thoeleknair) and gave him a name befitting his developing personality (Kethranmeer, meaning warrior of steel mind and steel flesh). A'lst had ties to the bardic colleges and Kethranmeer was inducted into the colleges as a warrior and during one of his missions with the bards he was caught by the wardens of Kusseth. Because his kind were thought to be sorcerous constructs of war and due to his clearly deadly nature he was to be destroyed, but A'lst had connections to a senior warden of some repute in Kusseth (Traith Harris of the 37th). The warden vouched for the construct and he was instead imprisoned in the Beltan prison camp where he was modified by smiths and miners to become an ideal and untiring mining device. Over the next twenty years he succumbed to the rigors of isolation and abuse and devolved once more into the animalistic state A'lst's interventions had first left him in. At the end of that twenty years he was able to escape from Beltan by being involved in a prison break masterminded by Smiling Jack and Laram of Volungshemle. He met up with a collection of malcontents that were later dubbed The Robust Five (More or Less) and became fast friends with a human of Fell Human descent called D'alton Braun.

During their adventures, the bond of friendship between Kethranmeer and D'alton grew to one of brotherhood, eventually growing as strong as the Soulless' flesh when the two creatures bought their freedom from the rebel leader Nakmander. Despite his freedom, and his pressing need to watch over his sons, Kethranmeer stayed with The Robust Five out of loyalty to D'alton. Remaining in Hell was not as detrimental to the cause of Kethranmeer's rebellion as it might seem. Once his sons were free of the sorcery of The Fallen Empire of Man, Kethranmeer dispatched them to the east and traversing The length of The Known World via steam engine made the task less time consuming than it might otherwise be. When Kethranmeer's direct input was needed, messenger night fowls could be sent with great reliability to have an answer from him in a relatively timely fashion. When matters at hand demanded quick action, it fell to Mokethneer to determine the fate of the Soulless rebellion.

Despite the insistent demands of his sons, Kethranmeer could not leave his brother D'alton and come to Steeltown with them. He felt that if he left D'alton and The Robust Five (More Or Less), they would surely fall in battle, or be betrayed by the unpredictable machinations of Derf. So he stayed in Hell and worked for Nakmander and his rebels in order to remain close to his brother of flesh and their friends. In that time, they opposed reavers and wardens and bards, and conquered all foes that they were directed against. Kethranmeer was a warrior, and testing his hammer against these foes thrilled him, though it kept him from his sons and his true calling. His actions in Hell did allow him to learn of the Fremwightan and their leader Konaleknostas, who Kethranmeer remembered from his time in The Fallen Empire of Man. This knowledge allowed Kethranmeer's son Mokethneer to later seek out and forge an alliance with the Fremwightan.

When Cenn the Reaver died, it was a great blow to Kusseth and its control of Hell and Kethranmeer realized that the rebellion of Hell was far closer to freeing itself than he had thought. He sent messenger night fowls to his sons and A'lst, telling them that his work was almost done and that he would soon rejoin them. His sons were to journey west and meet him in Kusseth, there they would recover A'lst and he would journey with them to Steeltown where they could finally come together as a family and fight for the freedom of their race. Hopefully with the aid of D'alton Braun, and perhaps the rest of The Robust Five (More Or Less).

It was not to be though. For as the rebellion moved ahead, it dawned on Kethranmeer and his friend Xein, that Nakmander and his sorcerers intended to destroy Kusseth City. Kethranmeer realized then that his entire family, save for D'alton, was at risk of meeting their death in the destruction that Nakmander desired to bring against Kusseth. Furious, Kethranmeer met Nakmander on the field of battle at the ritual site and sought first to halt his actions, and then to murder the sorcerers before they could complete their task when Nakmander called A'lst and Traith martyrs for the cause of Nakmander's rebellion.

The air at the ritual site hummed with sorcerous energy as Xein and Kethranmeer made to murder the sorcerers, but Nakmander did not allow it and levelled spell after spell at the Soulless. Eventually, Kethranmeer's rusted body could not withstand the destructive energies of Nakmander's sorcery, and he fell, his chest a ruin of slag and huge gaping holes from destructive beams of sorcery. The warrior fell, but fell knowing that his allies would stand against Nakmander in his stead. When battle ended and Nakmander disappeared, The Robust Five headed to Kusseth City in hopes of finding A'lst, but he was gone. So they returned to the Braun mansion and laid Kethranmeer's battered body to rest in his part of the mansion.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Psychogenic Fugue Arc - 01

9th of Thirdmonth, 10006 DK
The group woke up in a nondescript room that appeared to be in the basement of Tesla's Boil, based on the type of stone it was built from. The group found that they were in poor health, sick and nauseated with headaches and chills and weakness. They discovered that there was the remains of a meal in the room, and that their clothes were stained by food. Kuyst discovered that his owl was not in evidence, and when he suddenly realized this, he knew that his owl had appeared in the room, and turned around to find it on the floor looking at him. D'alton and Xein, the only two former citizens of Kusseth, found that their Kussethian identification tattoos were gone.

The group found that they had no memory of how they ended up in this room, but they did remember the events of last campaign. They also recalled working at Tesla's Boil and getting to know one another after last call and that sort of thing, though the further their memories got from the fateful battle that saw Kethranmeer murdered by Nakmander, the sketchier and more fragmented their memories got. When they tried to remember how they got in this room, their minds descended into a black void of emptiness that left them weak and gasping for air. Over the course of the day, they found that, if they marshaled their will and struggled against that blackness, they began to recall fragmented events

With nothing else to do, the group walked up a set of stairs in the room and found that they were in a secret room attached to a large coat closet/weapon check room. They also found that they could hear the sound of the common room of a bar on the other side of the other door in the closet. They walked through the door and found that they were in Tesla's Boil, except that it was much larger than Xein and D'alton remembered it to be. Xein did not recognize any of the employees or patrons, other than Hank Mar'du'kis, who was tending bar. Xein yelled and flagged down Hank, who responded by dropping his jaw and being surprised, his next move was to assault the group with a sawed off shotgun. The group attempted to peacefully subdue Hank and tried to explain that they meant him no harm, Hank ignored their attempts at conversation and continued firing on them, but a spell from Ran'dahl dazed Hank and allowed Za'ith to restrain him.

As the group subdued Hank, the front door of Tesla's Boil exploded inwards and the room was filled with heat and smoke. Through the smoke, the group noticed ten figures outside of the Boil looking in. Being weak, and unarmed, the group ransacked the Boil for guns and ammo and weapons, then fled into the basement of Tesla's Boil, and found it to be different as well, then Xein led them down a secret tunnel that went underground for several miles and opened up into the Braun family mansion. Once the group determined they were relatively safe and were not currently being pursued, they began investigating the mansion and found at least two months worth of dust over everything. They also found Kethranmeer's portion of the mansion stripped of wolf-iron plating.

As they searched the mansion, they found no evidence of their more familiar weapons, or anything really, other than dust and backup weapons and armor and some loose change in marks. There was however, and awful awful odor in the mansion, like something had died long ago and never been cleaned up. They tracked the scent to Derf's old room and opened it up, discovering that it had at one time been trapped, but time had rendered the trap unable to injure them. The room was covered in insane scribblings and sorcerous notations and the group found the remnants of a bloodstained journal, all of it very cryptic and in Derf's writing. They also found a door. On an exterior wall. The door was nondescript, but as the players began to approach it, they felt a cold so intense that it numbed them to their bones. Rather insightfully, they decided they were not prepared for whatever was behind the door and turned their attention to more mundane tasks.

As the group wandered the upper levels of the mansion they happened across windows and looked out upon Meroteth. They saw Tesla's Boil down the street, a zeppelin tower rising out of its side now, something Xein did not recollect building. They also saw a fire engine dousing the building in water and getting the fire under control. They also saw the center of the city, and above what must have formerly been the Wards of Governance they saw a large glowing diamond, and estimated it to be twenty feet tall. They also saw a flag flying above the city, a flag that was a field of black with a white obelisk and three bolts of white lightning forking away from its top. None of the group recognized the flag, but they knew it to be similar to The Fell Peaks and definitely not Kusseth's.

After the group finished searching the mansion and collecting gear and supplies, they fled through secret tunnels to D'alton's rowe'dhauss to rest and recuperate for the evening.

10th of Thirdmonth, 10006 DK
The group woke up in the rowe'dhauss and realized that they had slept for over fifteen hours. D'alton immediately suggested that they all try to find Nakmander, the man that had so recently murdered Kethranmeer and the group had attempted to kill. D'alton was ignored and the group decided that someone with a low profile should head up into the city and investigate current events. Ran'dahl, being a Fell Human and sorcerer seemed like the best choice, and he found his way to a bar called the Pissing Pony, a place the group had had some experience with in the past.

Ran'dahl engaged the bartender in conversation, claiming he was confused and had just come off of a Hell of a bender. The bartander was amicable and offered him some water and answered some questions. Ran'dahl (and later the rest of The Robust Five) discovered that it was the 10th of Thirdmonth, 10006 DK, close to ten years after their last coherent memory. Ran'dahl returned to the group and discussed their findings. D'alton once again said that they should seek out Nakmander, and the group elected to investigate The Jigging Jackass, though Xein remained in the rowe'dhauss.

The group found The Jigging Jackass to be in the same shape that they last saw it, busy and extravagant. As they entered the place, Ran'dahl struggled with the gaping void in his memory and vomited all over The Jigging Jackass' floor. He was forcefully escorted from the premises. Those at the Jackass found that the basement entrance where they so often had met Nakmander was gone, as if the room had been opened up and the stairway down had just been covered up. There was also a bartender they didn't recognize overseeing the place. When D'alton asked about Nakmander, the bartender said that Nakmander hasn't had direct control of the place in five years, and certainly hasn't been around in the two months since he left Meroteth at the head of a fleet of zeppelins heading south.

The group left The Jigging Jackass and picked up Xein from the rowe'dhauss, agreeing that they needed to see if they could track down Hank, because he clearly knew something. On their way to Tesla's Boil they ran afoul of a youth gang and murdered them. They also passed by the mansion, and found scorch marks all over the front of the building, several windows busted in, and the front lawn torn up. They found the Boil to be closed down early, but in one piece, save for a door. They also found the ten individuals that originally attacked the Boil inside of it. The group was able to eavesdrop and discover that their presence here was unexpected and they were supposed have gone south with the master of Meroteth. The group left before they were discovered and headed to Hank's apartment. Once there, they discovered that Hank had ransacked the place and left in a hurry.

Xein decided that he would go down the chain of his employees till he found someone that knew something, luckily, Waltin Fask lived next door to Hank. Unfortunately, they found Waltin's place to be in the same state as Hank's. Xein then decided to find Ant'uan Bordeen, an Elduman cook in his employ (with a Fell Human first name, which was odd, but no one ever questioned it). Xein was invited into Ant'uan's home and discovered that his Elduman friend hadn't worked for him in several years. Further investigation revealed that Ant'uan had not liked how closely Xein and his associates worked with Nakmander, and he was concerned about the artifact that Nakmander brought to the city and the shadowy creatures that came with it. Xein was bothered by this, but thanked his friend and gave him several of his homemade beers. D'alton was not bothered by the fact that The Robust Five had been working closely with Nakmander over the past decade.

The group returned to the rowe'dhauss and settled in to discuss their situation and how to proceed. They established that since there was a ten year gap in their memories, their first order of business was to investigate what had happened locally and across The Known World. To do this, they determined that they would send messages to their allies and do some local research. Messenger night fowls were sent by Xein to John in Port Brass and Traith Harris in Kusseth, while Kethralzahn sent one to his brethren in Steeltown.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Things You Might Not Have Known

First and foremost, Gonigi was a red dragon. The acid he used to hurt Nakmander was actually his breath weapon. He was working for Kusseth because Kusseth has all the red dragons. Kusseth imprisoned all the red dragons because Kusseth has no coal, so to support their industrialization, they have a series of tubes (like the internet!) running underground into all the red dragon bellies. When Kusseth needs heat for their forges and factories, dwarves riding on large stone golems punch all of the red dragon's in their bellies like rock 'em sock 'em robots. 

...I am having a seizure.

Edit After The Fact: Soulless are actually made of dwarf bones and have little dwarves inside them riding Scooty Puff Juniors, and all the little balls are Tesla coils and that is how Soulless are powered.