Friday, December 30, 2011

The Organization

The Organization is a pretty secretive secret organization in The Known World. Not much is really known about them. A few governments like Kusseth and The Old Empire know of them and are aware of their various interests, but the common humanoid of The Known World has no idea they even exist. The group is led by Savage Doc Managan, which is why Kusseth is the most knowledgeable about the Organization. In his early life, Managan was an adventurer and naturalist that made his fame exploring The Beast Lands and learning about the tribes of Uncout and Abraxens living there, he is also the foremost civilized expert on the great beasts of The Beast Lands. In his later life he joined Kusseth as one of the elite Brasscoats and worked extensively with Reginald E.C. Walthuler and the now deceased firstborn son of Volung, Melenthelher.

Managan makes his base of operations deep in The Beast Lands, using the natural flora and fauna and the primitive tribes of the area as his first line of defense, not that anyone really knows where his base is. From his base, the fingers of his organization extend across the face of The Known World via couriers and light zeppelins. Though he himself is a sorcerer of sorts, Managan makes extensive use of psychically gifted individuals to convey his orders and missions to the necessary parties. He also has no problem using mercenaries or hiring gangs through intermediaries to enact his will.

What is the core goal of the Organization? To know that, we must first know Managan. Originally, like Walthuler, he was a fanatically loyal patriot of Kusseth, believing that that country's industrialization and expansionist nature was bringing light to the uncivilized and superstitious portions of The Known World. Like many patriots of Kusseth, he became disillusioned by the bureaucracy and money grubbing nature of the country. Not a particularly unique story by any means, but it is his. He left the Brasscoats with a certain amount of bad blood and burned bridges and became something of a roving mercenary statesman, doing odd jobs and such for other countries across The Known World.

This wandering gave him a bad taste for all forms of government in The Known World. He didn't become an anarchist per se, but he found that Kusseth was merely one example of the problems with most large governments. Managan kind of came to the realization that governments were responsible for all the ills of The Known World. The New Empire's national pogrom against sorcery and "mutants" led to thousands of violent and senseless deaths, along with the prison camps that were the seed of Kusseth's beginnings. The hedonistic Silver King of Vyanthnem led to his people pillaging and slaying out of boredom against The Wild Lands and The Beast Lands. The national slavery instituted by The Fell Peaks led to the destruction of an entire culture that had existed longer than most nations in The Known World. Managan decided that governments were too powerful, had too much influence on the world at large. He realized that someone must oppose them, because most in The Known World were to weak or self-absorbed to do so themselves.

This is the guiding principle of the Organization. They are basically a continent spanning terrorist organization dedicated to weakening all nations. They are dedicated to keeping The Known World stable and as is. If one country gains an upper hand, the Organization is there to knock them down a peg or enable their enemies. The Organization has no standing army, though many of their couriers and psychics are skilled in a variety of deadly arts. They work through subterfuge and blackmail. Applying leverage where they can in the smallest amount they can to enact the change that Managan seeks. 

The core of the Organization is made up of members similar in mindset to Managan himself. Former patriots of whatever country that have found their work left a bad taste in their mouths. A good chunk of these individuals are veteran warriors and mercenaries that have seen the devastation left in the wake of an arrogant country's patriotic goals for expansion. At the lower levels, loyalty to the cause is not necessary, merely loyalty to the plentiful coin that Managan provides his agents. Managan's resources are extensive, as he is extremely long lived for an Uncout. He originally served in the Brasscoats around the time of 8900 DK, making him over one thousand years old. His long life span is believed to be a result of his potent sorceries.

So what has the Organization actually done for The Known World? To be honest, no one really knows. What they do is done with a many pronged approached. A dozen or more separate objectives scattered throughout the couriers that when performed successfully end up bringing about Managan's goals. Managan has no dossier on all his missions, no paperwork or catalog listing his achievements. He dispatches missions and watches his web twitch like a spider. Managan's plans are played for the long game and he will ignore quick and easy goals to ensure the long game continues unhindered. He is not rash, he is not unreliable, he is completely in control of the Organization and is willing to do anything to maintain that control and keep his plots in motion. He has purged the Organization several times to ensure that it does not become corrupt or stray too far from its narrow set of goals. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

That Old Familiar Feeling

Burnout is the curse of every DM, especially a nutty one that puts as much work into his world as I do. Lately I have been feeling that sensation of weariness with my campaign a lot. About the time my ex-wife asked for a divorce I started to really feel the crunch of it. I don't know if it was depression or apathy or what, but I just began to feel tired of Hekinoe, or at least this campaign. 

As I said in a previous post, this campaign was helped along a lot by talking to my ex-wife about it, and I am sure that that alone has a lot to do with my weariness regarding the game. Another aspect of it is that this is the longest campaign I think this group has ever had, I mean the first part was the first campaign this group has ever actually finished, even if it was only fourteen or fifteen scenarios long, and then we kind of over zealously moved into this second part of it.  Which I blame entirely on myself. I was really psyched about it and wanted to get started with it and never once paused my work on it to kind of recoup. 

On top of that, Eric guessed pretty much immediately that the group was a collection of clones or had been cloned or something along those lines and everyone spent a lot of time telling him how stupid that was or that I was a better GM than one that would use a plot like that. In the most recent scenario, the group found out they were in fact clones of The Robust Five, which is awkward. It is awkward because I have been listening to them inadvertently tell me how stupid my plot was for a while, heh. I'm not the type of GM to try pretending I made something different than I did halfway through though, so I ignored the unknowing mockery and continued with the clone plot, because I like it. Also, I may or may not have based some aspects of this campaign on the six Star Wars films. Hehe. What can I say? I'm a hack.

I just feel run down and exhausted about this campaign. I'm tired, and my heart is only half in it and I don't know what to do. We've come so far that I feel like ending things would be a slap in the face to the guys that have persevered and I feel like just suddenly ending a campaign would leave a sour taste in the mouths of Lance and Laura, and Laura is really still kind of a first time gamer and it would be the second campaign she has participated in with this group that has fallen apart. It would also be the second time I've gamed with Lance and the campaign fell apart. 

Logically, I know I will have to give up GMing in the nearish future. The next paramedic program starts in March and I am seriously considering signing up, not that I have five grand laying around to pay for it. Being a paramedic is something I definitely want to do. Normally I tack on an eventually to that sentence, but I'm almost thirty and it might be time to admit that eventually should have come around a few years ago. Running and creating games is way too mentally labor intensive for me to go to school and work fifty hours a week and still be a responsible student. I did it while I was training for being an EMT, but that is a four month class and most of the learning is common sense applied in an emergency situation. With the paramedic program I'd have to turn the blade of my intellect to learning shit like drugs and dosages and metric conversions and analyzing cardiac rhythms and that sort of thing. A little more involved than CPR, blood pressures, and putting in a King airway. 

So what do I do? I feel like if I abstain from GMing, our DnD dies. Fred has already refused to invite me to his campaign, and Eric can only really run his intermittently, if at all due to school and work. On top of that, with the talk of the Conteog and Vacusu in the last scenario, we are starting to get into some really cool ass stuff in the Psychogenic Fugue arc. There is a three scenario arc planned for The Bottom of the World and while the second chunk is going to be more or less a dungeon crawl, the third chunk is going to be fucking nuts and resolve a big point of pain from the last campaign in a big way. 

And if I do put a pin in DnD, or outright quit, what then? Will everyone be left wondering what happened and what was going to happen? Will the blog die? No. I have promised a few individuals that if the campaign dies, full disclosure will occur. I'll lay out the whole plot for them and what led to the campaign and all that stuff. The blog would probably drop to a once a week post and become more focused on the "fiction" or whatever you want to call it of Hekinoe. I do love this world, it has been a labor of love in one form or another for many many years and I never want it to die. Plus, when I don't play DnD, I write like crazy and when I don't write, I DnD like crazy. I need that creative outlet for the stories and thoughts in my head. So I would likely continue some more focused work on The Robust Five story I am half-heartedly working on and continue posting that here, along with other random DnD thoughts and nonsense.

I am kind of the alpha male of DnD for the group, and I kind of drag everyone along into DnD with varying degrees of willingness and interest. If I stop GMing, will the group follow suit? I've said before that I would love Eric or Fred or Jeremy or someone to run something in Hekinoe that I could possibly participate in as a player and advisor to the GM, but Eric says he would never do that and Fred has his own thing going on and I think Jeremy has only vague interest in the idea of running games. I think it would just make me sad if DnD ended with a yawn, rather than a bang, for the group. 

I don't know, anyone have any thoughts on the whole topic?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Children of Volung, A Pesudo 101

The Children of Volung are one of my favorite races to be found in The Known World. My most favorite are the Soulless and Rankethlek because I have a lot of affection for them. As one of my favorite things, I pour a lot of love and affection into the amount of background I have on them. A lot of it languors in my brain, rather than on paper somewhere, but still.

I like the Children of Volung because they are so straightforward. They are by no means the cliched noble savage or unthinking brute. They just know their strengths. They know they are strong and deadly and if bloodletting is a more cost efficient solution to a problem, they go apeshit and get it done. Something about that mentality really appeals to me, it conveys intelligence but a willingness to get one's hands dirty I guess. I dunno. I fucking like these guys.

Back when I was writing the Norse Story, I created this berserk with two axes by the name of Volung. It was a fun little story set after Ragnarok had occurred with all the main characters based on DnD characters from previous campaigns. I had a lot of fun with it. Eric's old shapeshifter druid was reimagined as a son of Fenris and a skinwalker. Jeremy's old philosopher archer character Laramil was reimagined as a Svartalf blind bowman and Dan's old dwarf was reimagined as Maggot, a Dvergar born from the corpse of Ymir. Anyway, I created my own character, Volung and called Shawn's Gherret. Volung was a mad thing of only rage and hate that could barely be controlled by Gherret and they had sort of a death pact thing going. That whole thing was kind of about how Shawn and I are brothers and when I get a little goofy I rely heavily on Shawn to point it out and put a boot to my ass, with varying degrees of effectiveness. Heh. So basically the Norse Story was about me and my buddies, when the Norse Story turned into the North of Hekinoe I only kept a few things, mainly Volung, and Volung is kind of my PC, so his people are one of my favorite races in Hekinoe. So much is tied up into that story that I have a really strong affection for the end product of it.

Part of why I like them so much is because of the hardships they've faced journeying south from their homeland. They sailed from the north pole of the world basically to the southern hemisphere. Long trip. They fled a land that was literally on fire and sailed through a sea of ice till starvation and the elements weakened them unto death. Which was where they decided that they would never be wasteful in life if they survived their trials. It was a rough boat ride till they hit the northern shore of The Known World.

The Children of Volung are unwilling to let anything they possess go to waste. On the journey south across Hekinoe they learned extreme hardships and responded in kind. They learned to eat the dead, they learned nothing could ever be wasted. By the time they reached the northern edge of The Known World, they had ships with whole sails cut from the hides of their dead companions. They had larders full of salted and cured chunks of their brothers and sisters and rigging made of bone and sinew. Some of these practices relaxed when they reached a land that could actually support life, but they are still an unwasteful society to this day. They don't bury their dead, because they need room to expand. They don't waste metals and forge time on ornamentation because they are constantly building weapons and stockpiling resources. Etc, etc, etc.

I dunno, they are a really weird race, but I've always had a soft spot in my heart for them I guess. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Still In Love

...with the so called "Old School" style.

I have a lot of DnD pdfs on my computer. I am not a pirate by nature, I would love to have physical copies of stuff like the Little Brown Books and The Tomb of Horrors, but they are just too hard to find at this point for the most part. Anyway, I like to peruse some of the older stuff from time to time, just to kind of understand where DnD came from. I have said before that I never played Basic or 1st Edition, and didn't even know about the Little Brown Books until a year or two ago, so I like to go back into the mists of time and see what was. Now that I understand previous editions and am not a 12 year old trying to muddle his way through a fairly complex system of rules derived from hand copied notes, I have a lot of respect for the older editions of the game.

This old school style of adventuring, this sort of dungeoneering focused style of adventure appeals to me. I like the idea of the players starting out weak and vulnerable and pitting themselves against the environment of the dungeon a lot more than I like the inherent durability and power level of 3.0 Edition+ first level characters. 4th Edition characters are basically tanks when compared with older editions of the game where your ability scores didn't even have an effect on anything until they hit like seventeen or eighteen. A big enemy of older edition characters is the environment itself. How do you traverse miles and miles of wilderness with only a map, compass, and whatever supplies you can manage to carry on your backs? You certainly can't afford a horse or wagon to carry what you'll need. The forest is rife with gnolls as well, and random encounters alone will tax you unto death, unless you fight smart as Hell or straight up flee. 

Now, I've not gone full bore into rose colored glasses land here. There are some definite wonky ass idiosyncrasies to some of the older editions of the game. But so what? THAC0 is a game mechanic, learn it. We survived it for years and didn't once think to come up with something better or more intuitive, it couldn't have been that bad, right?

A very large part of me really really wants to get a hold of physical copies of the AD&D books, the PHB, DMG, and Monster Manual. I have Unearthed Arcana already, and would love to grab the original Fiend Folio. I would like to actually run rules as written 1st Edition AD&D and go into the actual 1st Edition AD&D Tomb of Horrors, White Plume Mountain, Against the Giants, etc etc etc. I just think it would be fun. I don't think it is a journey we would all take part in. Eric and John like to have a certain amount of power in their DnD that I feel would be incompatible with the lower levels of AD&D.

I just really love some if the inherent themes of the old editions, the prevalence of the iconic dungeon, the likelihood of death, the need for player interaction, rather than skill interaction with the world. I think these are some very cool themes and concepts that I would like to explore. I'm sure if we ever did such a thing I would immediately institute a dozen or two of my own house rules and that sort of thing, but I would just really love to just run AD&D rules as written just once to see it. I don't think I need to go all the way back to Chainmail or the Little Brown Books, but something in me definitely wants to take a little side trip back in time to try some stuff out. Oh well, we'll see what happens. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Scotch Soaked Extra For You

This is something of a more personal blog post than I think this place is accustomed to, but I feel like writing it, so I'm going to write it. That's what this site is for, any and all DnD/hobby related stuff I feel like talking about. If it is oversharing, I apologize for making any readers uncomfortable. It is also kind of about my divorce.

In the latter stages of my marriage, I began talking to Heather a lot more about DnD than nerds usually do to their significant others. She is in a large part responsible for the current campaign set in Hekinoe and helped me flesh out a good chunk of the details and plot. I was excited by this ability to share this aspect of my life with her, I felt like we were really connecting and it meant our marriage was solid and she truly accepted me for who I am. I felt like she got me and didn't just tolerate my nerdiness, but accepted it and reveled in the joy it brought to me.

Boy was I fucking wrong.

I later found out that she despised talking to me about DnD. Hated it with a passion and thought it signaled the end of our union. I learned that she barely tolerated DnD to begin with. I learned that she didn't give two shits about how much joy DnD brought me, didn't revel in my nerdiness, merely tolerated it all with silent contempt and vague irritation. I thought I was exposing the very core of me to her, she thought I was just a nerd and was shutting her out and only talking to her about the most boring and uninteresting aspects of my life.

I think the problem was that Heather, and a lot of people, just assume that I am some nutty obsessive nerd, or that I am addicted to dice rolls and world building. Don't get me wrong, this is true, but DnD is a lot more than that to me. I mean, my relationship to this game is very odd and weird and different and obsessive, but it kind of defines me as a person. Weird to say that this childish hobby of imagination and dice and monsters defines who and what I am.

When I build a world for DnD, or write a story of any kind, I build it out of me. When the players walk across The Known World they are literally and figuratively traversing the landscape of my personality. I am a part of my campaign world and it is a part of me. I built it out of the meat of my psyche. It is how I play DnD, it has always been the way I've played DnD. I don't play what I think is cool, I play a piece of me. 

When you look at Kethranmeer and D'alton, we're exploring how pleased I am by the fact that Jeremy and I are friends nowadays, rather than mere acquaintances, and how I guess I wish we were better friends. When you read about how Xein built Tesla's Boil and all of its beer stock, we're exploring my dreams and hopes of Eric achieving his dreams and hopes. When we wander through Kusseth and see the bureaucracy of it, we're experiencing my contempt for America's overblown government. When I talk about how Hekinoe has a lot of its genesis in a campaign Tony and I once planned to co-DM, you're really learning that Tony's friendship matters so much to me that the story I want to tell with this world takes a back seat to his thoughts and ideas. 

When we start talking about the Elder Races and how every nation admits there is no such thing as a creator god, we're adventuring in my beliefs about the universe and reality and aliens. When we talk of the Children of Volung and how they are so pragmatic and unwasteful that they eat their dead, you are experiencing my belief that human society is gluttonous and wasteful. When I play Aluenarelel, we are seeing the part of me that wishes he could just talk and talk and do things and not give a shit about any of the consequences. When I play someone like Laram, we're seeing the part of me that truly doesn't care about anything and just wants to watch the world burn. 

I dunno, blah blah blah. DnD is a very personal thing to me. It is a game yes, but it is a game played in my head and I probably pour a lot more into it than is healthy. Oh well, shit happens. I enjoy it. I guess that is what is most important, that I enjoy doing what I do. Still kind of bums me out that Heather didn't get it though. DnD is how I process the world around me, it is the lens through which I view reality. Christians get to tell stories of baby sacrifice, ghosts, and cannibalism and call it legit, why can't I use DnD as my means of establishing my philosophy and belief?

If you look on my Facebook info, you see my religion is Sinker and Bleaker. These are nicknames for the Doomguard and The Bleak Cabal factions of Planescape. The guiding ideals of these philosopher clubs are literally my philosophy on life. Everything that exists is in a constant state of breaking down and nothing matters. This is my philosophy on life and has been so intrinsic to my personality to the point that for many years I have wanted to get tattoos of the faction symbols somewhere on my body. DnD is how I established my personal beliefs and philosophy on life in general. DnD is the lens through which I see the universe. DnD is my religion. When I share my deeper thoughts on my campaign world with you, I am allowing you a glimpse into my personality, my philosophy, and my belief system, and fuck anyone that dares belittle that.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Psychogenic Fugue Arc 05: Coming To The Land of Ice And Snow (Where The Harsh Wind Blows)

29th of Fourthmonth, 10006 DK
The group left Steeltown in their Organization loaned zeppelin.

9th of Sixthmonth, 10006 DK
During their flight, The Robust Five discovered a southern continent with zeppelins anchored in a northern cove and saw them flying Nakmander's flag of Meroteth. The group noted the coordinates of the continent in the hopes of investigating it at some later time. 

30th of Seventhmonth, 10006 DK
The group arrived in The Bottom of the World and discovered Traith Harris waiting for them. Traith explained that several years ago, lots of Fell Humans began disappearing from Kusseth, one among them was his grandmother. He investigated his missing grandmother and discovered that Kusseth was selling its Fell Human population off to Nakmander. Traith wouldn't let matters lie and ended up getting sold to Nakmander as well. He discovered that Nakmander was cutting apart Soulless and attempting to graft their mechanical parts onto the Fell Humans sold to him in hoped of making an incredibly durable and destructive military force to use to defend Meroteth. Traith explained that A'lst discovered this and fought Nakmander and claimed the Fell Soulless and did what he could to ease their suffering and sort of adopted them into his workforce. Traith explained that little could be done for himself, as he was more metal than flesh, and what little flesh he had left was sick and mostly dead. He did not elaborate on the fate of his grandmother. Traith lead the group to A'lst's compound and watched with disinterest as they fought a snow giant that attacked from beneath the ice. After the battle the group confronted Traith on the fact that he had stood by and watched and he stated that D'alton and Xein were unreliable and it was his job to protect A'lst and his interests and he needed to know what the group was capable of if they decided to screw things up down here they way they had up north with Nakmander. 

When the group arrived at A'lst's compound, they discovered a large bunker similar to his warehouse back in Kusseth and filled with a large contigent of Rankethlek, Soulless, and Fell Soulless. They found A'lst in the center of this level of the compound on a raised platform, next to the platform talking to A'lst was a huge Soulless that stood roughly fifteen feet or more tall and had very beast-like qualities to its construction and was etched in sorcerous runes. They later learned that this was the legendary Omne-4. The group approached and A'lst greeted them and bent to the task of confirming whether or not Kethralzahn had been tampered with, while Omne-4 blatantly threatened D'alton. When A'lst finished he had determined Kethralzahn was in fact Kethralzahn and that Omne-4 was angry for the sake of anger and said that he knew D'alton and Xein were not responsible for the death of Kethranmeer. 

Omne-4 spoke with the group for a short time about some of their strange memories. He agreed that taking flesh and blood from the group would enable a powerful sorcery to exert an unimaginably powerful sorcerous hold on their actions and very thoughts. Based on some of their vague memories, he agreed that it was entirely possible that Nakmander had at one point had them under some sort of enchantment. At Xein's prodding, he also agreed that those same pieces of flesh could be used to create clones of the group, though that would not explain their memory loss, as when one clone in a series dies, the memories and actions of the previous enter into the next, though the unreliable nature of sorcery could explain the memory lapse. Xein asked Omne-4 if he could determine if they had been tampered with sorcerously and Omne-4 cast a potent divination on the group. He determined that they were who they thought they were and that they were currently not under any sort of hidden sorcerous control. He urged D'alton and Xein to inspect the interior of eachother's lower lips. The two did saw and say a marking of "1x2" on their lips as a sort of tattoo of some kind. No one had any knowledge of the significance of the mark. 

The group was invited to work with A'lst while they were in The Bottom of the World, or they could rest and relax in his compound until he could arrange their transportation back to The Known World. The group agreed that they would like to work with A'lst and asked what research he was engaged in here. A'lst explained that he desired to find a power source of some kind for Steeltown that would give their new nation an advantage against the older and more established nations of The Known World. He described huge black pyramids that lurked beneath the ice of The Bottom of the World and were guarded by black skinned cyclops. His eventual goal was to open up and investigate a pyramid because he believed that a power source of some kind was entombed within them. His first task for the group was to accompany a train that was carrying supplies to A'lst's camp at the base of a pyramid and defeat a cyclops that would waylay it. A'lst explained that the cyclops were intelligent and always blocked such trains, but no one could convince them to step out of the way. 

The group rode the train as directed and met a Vyanth warrior with no mouth. Further interaction with him showed that he had a fanged mouth on the side of his neck and they later learned his name was Aluenarelel, a warrior of Vyanthnem that served A'lst here in The Bottom of the World. As expected, the group encountered a cyclops on the way to the encampment. The cyclops stated he would not move until the White One ordered him to do so. The cyclops spoke an unknown language, but was able to convey its words in the minds of the group. The group engaged it in further conversation and discovered that the White One was the Conteog on Hekinoe and that the pyramids were traps for the Vacusu. They also learned that the Conteog were one of the creators and that the Conteog was somewhere on this world. Aluenarelel was very bored by the conversation and made several gestures to the effect of "can we hurry this up?" and eventually the group just attacked the cyclops. When the cyclops fell, Aluenarelel used a grenade given to him by the train's conductor to destroy the corpse. Aluenarelel stated that the flesh of the cyclops was poisonous. The group searched the remains and found a strange bronze amulet with bizarre depictions of a scorpion, a bat, a bird, and a lizard. Aluenarelel stated that it was a token of the cyclops' gods or some such. With nothing much left to do, they continued their train ride and arrived at a fortified encampment at the base of a black pyramid. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

We gamed. Huzzah.

We played the next Hekinoe scenario the other day, the 5th scenario in this campaign. I think it went very well and they got some interesting little tidbits about the plot and the campaign world. The scenario moved quickly and there were few hang ups. Combat and dialogue moved quickly and again, with few hangups. All in all, it was actually an incredibly smooth running scenario. Didn't extend too long either, just about three and a half hours or so.

One of the main issues seems to be that I have lost track of the little black journal they have been writing down notes in. This is a problem, and I have no clue whatsoever where it might have gotten to. Since we couldn't find the little journal we didn't draw memories for Xein or D'alton or give a memory reward at the end of the scenario. Turns out that Fred had the journal and was going to digitalize it, but didn't. Heh. Also, he didn't show up at the session due to being sick and entering a comatose state. Unfortunate, but these things happen.

I think Laura did very well for her first venture into Hekinoe, and her character is kind of badass. A Child of Volung fighter with a scythe that had her name written on the scythe, but has killed so many people with the scythe that she has lost her name. I think that is just swell. 

Not much really to say about the session, other than the fact that it went very well and very smoothly, despite Fred and John being absent. There was a big delay in getting started, everyone was running behind and no one had any idea where or what Fred was up to, but we just kind of hung out till we got started, so no real big deal there. Everyone also agreed that they would like to play Hekinoe next, rather than Fourthcore.