Monday, July 29, 2013

God's Eye View of Hekinoe Part 6

Ten Giant shamans stalk the dim tomb, once lit garishly by the bubbling lava, now only dimly illuminated as the lava flows cool and still. They avoid traps and trials that their forefathers have written of in the Books of the Ancients, the secret histories of their people. They pass the black statues that bind the most malevolent demons of the Underhel, and do so without fear or worry. They come to what was once the chamber of power, only to find that the pond of blue energy has faded and dried up. Frowns etch their crude features and they finger talismans and amulets as they move to the central chamber. They find the Guardian broken and shattered, its demon barely bound and full of screeching rage and cold hunger. They find the prison of the most ancient foe of their ancestors empty and thrown open, chains and keys scattered across the floor. The shamans begin incantations and gestures, turning their magics to the task of discovering what has happened here.

The lawman skulks into New Beltan like a thief in the night, no one notes his presence or entry save for a few overly dutiful Greycoats. His badge is old and has no weight in Kusseth anymore, but the rank and file don't know that and his grey eyes full of death and weariness are enough of a bluff to get the Greycoats off his back. He finds the Elduman pirate captain with the bite mark on his face drinking and picking at fading scabs on his pale skin in a dive so cliche that for a moment the lawman thinks he's back busting heads in the 37th ten years ago. The pirate nods and the lawman pulls up a seat across the table from him. The pirate raises a bald eyebrow at the lawman and the lawman shrugs. No words pass between them, they drink and smoke. One a pipe and the other cigarettes by the dozen. A brawl breaks out, and the two old men are an eye in the storm, the mob has the survival instinct to leave them out of it.

The Goebleen King and his brother exchange words with the king's middle son. Looks are exchanged between the king and his brother and then the son. The son's ears wilt and he shuffles his feet as his father and uncle speak to him, but he turns to go and only gnashes his tusk-like teeth a little. He returns to his and his brother's cronies, mud from the road still crusted on them, he gestures and raises his voice and they all move out to return from where they came. They are tired and haggard and sick of travel, but the king has ordered it, so they go. The king and his brother talk for some time longer, shadows dancing in the palm of the king's hand. Their eyes bounce between one another, the Black Mountain to the north though it is concealed by the earth of their warren, and to the east towards a small tower also concealed from sight by the walls of the warren.

Ranks of Rankethlek march in unison out of the gates of Steeltown, shining in the sun. They halt precisely one mile from the gates and set up camp. Behind them, a second group of Rankethlek march, these ones armed not with firearms or melee weapons, but instead with timber and concrete mix, huge coils of copper wire and tools of every shape and size. Packs of argut circle the strange and precise encampment, but haven't the bloodlust to shatter their teeth on the unmoving wall of metal bodies arrayed around the construction site.

Two kings walk the silver forests of Vyanthnem, one with a black stave in his hand and the other king's hand in the other. The enormous silver trees shiver and shake, sensing sorcery and hungering for the blood of the two kings. As the kings draw near, the trees shake and shiver in a different way. Their thick trunks shift as roots squirm and twist in the dirt, attempting to drag the mighty trees away from the two kings. The trees have realized the kings are not sorcerers and that they are not predators to these tiny kings, but instead are gnats. Unable to move far or with any great speed, the silver trees grow dim and quiet to avoid attention and silence settles across the forests of Vyanthnem, unsettling the Vyanth huntsmen that guard the border with the eerie quiet.

The Sorcerer Magistrate, a white streak in his raven black hair, gazes down from the black walls as a splinter group of reavers attacks his city. A feral grin splits his lips as a white bolt of sorcerous lightning streaks from atop the city to the invaders and incinerates two dozen reavers. Those that aren't burned to dead immediately, soon drown and burn in puddles of molten glass where the strike has superheated the earth. 

A hand rises up over the edge of the cliff and soon drags a Fell Human pirate up after it. The pirate looks worn out and exhausted, like's he's on his last legs and they may break very shortly. But he grins widely as he stands, revealing long fangs where his canine teeth should be. He looks around, and whistles, though the whistle is lost in the howling of the wind. Somehow, a black hound, more wolf than dog, barrels into the pirate and knocks him to the ground and savagely licks the pirates face. The dog's eyes are red and glowing, and his teeth are more fang than tooth. The pirate struggles out from under his dog and rises to inspect the peak once more. His eyes note a throne, made for a creature taller than he and carved of black stone, and also vacant. He taps a finger against his chin, his brow furrowed. Shrugging, he pats his pup's head and approaches the throne.

Friday, July 26, 2013


I can't recall if I've written something like this post before about sorcery and stuff, but here goes. 

Sometimes it's easy to forget that Hekinoe is a high fantasy campaign. There's a lot of focus on the industrialization of The Known World and sometimes sorcery takes a back seat to that and it's easy to forget that it's incredibly common and prevalent. Especially when the first campaign resulted in precisely zero magical gear being used or looted by the players. If you squint, you can just pretend the weird races are aliens or something and that sort of thing. Besides, no one ever really makes a big deal out of Karl's webbed fingers or the fucking glowing runes etched into every inch of Karrak's flesh or the fact that Eran never fucking blinks because he has nictitating membranes over his vertically slitted cat eyes or that Donovan has skin that is white like a piece of college ruled paper and gemstones for eyes and his hair is actually thick tendrils of crystalline fibers. 

Crimany, this group is like a fucking collection of rejects from the extras on the set of the cantina scene where Luke and Obi-wan meet Han and Chewie.

Anyway. Sorcery.

Sorcery is common and cheap in The Known World. I've got a pricing table for magic stuff somewhere in my files, but we'll just say it's all cheaper than normal. Because sorcery is unreliable. But Hekinoe is a high magic campaign, despite the heavy industrialization. So sorcery is all over the place. A little note about terminology, sorcery is the catch all term for magic of any kind. Most regular folks of The Known World don't use the word magic because it's not really called magic in The Known World, it's called sorcery. Additionally, any practitioner of sorcery is referred to as a sorcerer. Non-PC characters don't use words like Wizard, Rogue, Fighter, etc to describe people and their profession unless it's appropriate to the conversation. Like "That guy's a helluva fighter, put down ten marks on him KOing the other guy." When someone says something like "That bloody handed bastard is the most powerful sorcerer I've ever seen!" It doesn't mean that the bastard in question is a Sorcerer and has bloodline abilities, a high Charisma, and is an intuitive caster. It means that at some point the bastard in question has used sorcery in a powerful way. Which could mean he is anything from an Alchemist to a Wizard. Though Alchemist seems unlikely, as their bombs could easily be mistaken by a regular Joe as grenades or something, and their abilities tend to be somewhat subdued when compared with the abilities of a Sorcerer or Wizard. 

So in a normal high fantasy campaign, magic is common and reliable. In The Known World/Hekinoe magic is common, but unreliable, and warps the flesh of those that wield it. So how does that affect sorcerers and such? The warping of flesh isn't such a big deal really (with certain caveats) when you consider the fact that Sereth and Vyanth look horrifyingly weird and alien by our real world standards and they don't elicit much of a response in melting pot places like Kusseth (thinking about it, Kusseth is really the only true melting pot in The Known World). It does serve as a pretty strong indicator that you are a practitioner of sorcery, or are a Fell Human of some degree, though. So any sorcerer (or Fell Human, or Fell Soulless, or Sereth, or Vyanth, or Child of Volung, or Dwenoren, or Soulless, or Rankethlek, or Fallen, or Glenwighta) wandering into The Plains of Dust or The New Empire needs to take precautions if he doesn't want to end up burned at the sake (or find himself chained to an anvil in a special type of forge witch hunters make specifically to melt down and unmake Soulless and Rankethlek). 

The unreliability is a whole other story. Because sorcery is so prevalent, because there are multiple sentient and powerful races who are imbued with sorcery (Soulless, Fell Soulless, and Fell Humans) there are almost no places outside of The New Empire and The Plains of Dust where merely being a sorcerer is a crime. In most places, using sorcery in public around other people is akin to how we look at drunk driving. It's dangerous and has risks, and is sometimes horribly deadly and will get you in trouble with the law if they catch you in the act. But it happens, and happens a lot, and most of the time it goes unpunished. Whurent, Steeltown, and the Fremwightan enclaves outlaw the practice of sorcery within cities (or city, in the case of Steeltown), but they don't violently hunt down known sorcerers. They do punish practitioners that cause misfire catastrophes pretty harshly though. 

In The Beast and Wild Lands, where the shamans are part of a clan's leadership, they use sorcery only when necessary or only in specific areas, at least the good guys do. As I've said recently, there are plenty of nasty sorcerers hiding out in the woods, and they have no fucks to give about what their misfiring spells may do to others. Things operate in a similar fashion in Serethnem. The desert, now becoming a former desert, has plenty of wide open spaces to practice sorcery without risking harm to the clan. In Vyanthnem and The Fell Peaks, those countries are basically magocracies with most of the population practicing at least some small degree of sorcery on a daily basis. To these races, when magical disasters that occur because of misfires happen, there's no admonition of "you are bad, sorcery is dangerous" laid against the sorcerer responsible. They look at the side effects of misfiring magic the same way we do floods and bad weather. It happens. Sometimes it is horrific and destructive, sometimes a mere inconvenience, but there's nothing anyone can do about it and no one you can hold responsible and punish. Sorcery is sorcery. But, that doesn't mean they don't prepare for disaster. These countries have outfits similar to fire departments and EMS and whatnot that prepare for and mobilize for sorcerous misfiring disasters. Just because they're magocracies where sorcery is widespread doesn't mean they're Lawful Stupid and don't take precautions against it.

Kusseth is a bit different. Kusseth is big on fines and taxation. Any spellcaster wishing to practice sorcery within city limits needs to pay a monthly fee to do so to the city he inhabits or is passing through. If he is found to be casting sorcery without a license, he receives a fine. If he is found to be responsible for a magical misfire and does not have a license to practice sorcery, the punishment is a fine and immediate incarceration in the penal labor force. This incarceration carries an option of amnesty if the felon is willing or capable enough to enter the ranks of the wardens sorcerous. In a situation with a licensed practitioner of sorcery causing a misfire related disaster, it results in a heavy fine. However, there is a second tier of license that is significantly more expensive that a sorcerer may purchase that makes him exempt from this misfire fine. Typically, in situations where a misfire occurs and causes property damage or loss of life and that sort of thing, the city pays out a chunk of change to the victims. It should be noted that actually receiving compensation is a long and drawn out process that typically involves lots of red tape and significant meetings with officials and rescheduling of meetings with officials and so on and so forth.  

The Fallen Empire of Man is similar to Vyanthnem and The Fell Peaks, but a little more restrained. The Fallen are ancient and have been using sorcery for a long time, so they are well aware of the risks of unrestrained use. Misfire related disasters are not punished, but foolishness is. The Necropolis is a big city, and the Fallen are a very small population. The city is like a ghost town in most parts, with the only citizens being patrols of zombie herders and Soulless in some areas. So there are lots of empty places, and a lot of these are designated free fire zones. If a Fallen is found to be practicing potent sorcery (higher level spells are more unreliable and most of the effects of misfires are level dependent, so more powerful sorcery equals more powerful misfire) in a foolish fashion outside of these designated areas, he is imprisoned for a period of time determined by his peers. The Fallen are undead, so they don't have a lot of needs, but the one thing they have an excess of is time and being deprived of that can really be a big pain to them. They may take the long view of things because of their undeath, but while they sit in a cage, they may rot away to nothing and it may be interrupting important research or plans they are working on. The sentences for imprisonment tend to be lengthy because of the fact that Fallen are undead/immortal and because it can be such an inconvenience to them. Can you imagine being sentenced to a hundred years in a cage, never sleeping, never eating, never shitting, having nothing whatsoever to occupy yourself with or kill time with except staring off into space? Yeesh. 

In Volungshemle, sorcery is viewed as a weapon and misfires are viewed as a failure of the wielder. Warriors choose to pick up their weapons and if they don't know how to use them, they may injure themselves or others. If a sorcerer causes a disaster or a misfire harms or kills others, the sorcerer is punished as if he had killed or destroyed whatever is affected by the misfire. There aren't laws stating sorcery may not be used inside of cities or around people, but the Children are pretty good at policing themselves. Most Children don't take too kindly to sorcerers risking the lives of those around them just by casting spells nearby and most Children are all too happy to walk up to a sorcerer and break his jaw for casting spells around people. It's a really informal system that is enforced pretty well by the violent and angry nature of the Children of Volung.

That's all kind of a rough outline of how sorcerers are treated in The Known World. Sorcerers run the full range we see in film in literature. Wise and noble hearted Gandalf types, manipulators and power amassers like Maleficent or Emperor Palpatine, heroes/lawman/good guys like Dresden, tricksters like Rumpelstiltskin, planners and plotters like Mordenkainen, etc etc. Some are hunted and have been running all their lives. Some don't care what their practices do to others, others live with that always at the forefront of their minds. Some are physically broken, others hold all their warped flesh on the inside, others wear it as a badge of pride or hide under heavy robes. 

One thing we see in some fantasy worlds is the idea of an arcane school. Places where spells and the casting of them is taught via curriculum and that sort of thing. This occurs in The Known World as well. Most often in The Fell Peaks, Kusseth (where Kusseth taxes the fuck out of it), and Vyanthnem. They're unnecessary in The Fallen Empire, everyone that knows and can use sorcery has already learned enough to not burn themselves to cinders. In Serethnem, The Beast Lands, and The Wild Lands it is typically more of a master and apprentice or apprentices situation and more informal than a school. There aren't any formal schools in Volungshemle, but there are masters and apprentice situations, though they're a little more stealthily performed than they would be in The Beast or Wild Lands. In The Plains of Dust and The New Empire there are no schools, but people learn what they want to learn so teaching exists. It becomes more like a cult or secret society than a school though. Lots of coded phrases and concern over spies and narcs and that sort of thing. A similar kind of thing happens in Kusseth, as the taxes are high and not everyone wants to pay them. No schools exists in Steeltown, but practitioners of sorcery exist there, so it is likely that there are masters and apprentices, the same goes for the Fremwightan enclaves. Whurent does have formal schools for the teaching of sorcery, but they adhere to the rule of no sorcery within cities, so the schools tend to be deep in the caves and fairly distant from civilization. 

So there's a pile of information about sorcery. For your health. 

Monday, July 22, 2013


My recent talk about the World of Darkness games had me thinking some other thoughts unrelated to classes and such. I've always been a fan of werewolves. I like vampires too, but I've always come down on the hulking ragebeast of primal fury side of things, rather than the dead and have no blood and am probably impotent because of having no blood and digested blood doesn't work well when injected into a circulatory system side of things. Anyway. That got me thinking about classic monsters and types of monsters from film and literature and where they are/if they have a place in my game. So that's what this post is going to be about. It's primarily going to center on The Known World, because. 

So sometimes you find creatures come from other worlds or dimensions, they're strange and unknowable and usually much more advanced than us. For some reason, they typically want to do stuff to your butt. It's weird. But hey, dogs sniff each other's asses, so maybe it's not that weird. Most people like dogs. But I suppose dogs don't have lasers and stealth spaceships and don't extend their butt sniffery to other species. This is one type of creature that exists in my world, but I haven't really spent much time thinking about it. I mean, the universe that Hekinoe exists in is certainly as big as our own, so I'm sure there are just as many extraterrestrial lifeforms out there as there are in our universe (whatever that amount may be). I also wrote a post a while back about the planets of the solar system that Hekinoe sits in and said that a few of them were inhabited. Frankly, I'm busy enough writing/thinking stuff that directly impacts Hekinoe and the continents there. I don't have the energy/ambition to start worrying about Xenomorphs or Yautja sending hunting parties to Hekinoe. Though that would be kind of awesome. Imagine it. D'alton, Xein, and John are stalking Norvenmik in the swamps of Fresgulen. Maybe their gyrocopter went down. Maybe they're on a rescue mission. Maybe they have a native guide. They suddenly see a hazy indistinct shape in front of the them up in a tree and a red triangle of light appears on John's chest and they hear a weird electronic distorted voice speaking a weird language. Chaos and hunting ensue. It finally comes down to the hunter and D'alton, but D'alton has his shadow and his powers. D'alton becomes the hunter. How can you track a man who's very shadow guards his back, hides his steps, and obscures him from the sight of all? How can your thermal vision find a creature with room temperature blood? Stephen King plays D'alton in the movie version. Twenty-three years later, Adrian Brody finds D'alton as the creepy, bat shit crazy whispering survivor on the Yautja hunting world and a good film is made exponentially better by his presence. 

Ah yes, the creepy backwoods fuckers that eat people. Or the crazy backwoods post-apocalyptic fuckers that eat everyone. I'm not going to lie, there are some creepy and malicious tribes in The Beast Lands. I mean, this land has been stuck in the fucking Bronze Age for ten thousand years. There's a lot of superstition and weird ritualism down there. Some of it has to do with believing that eating your enemies grants you their strength or that non-tribe members aren't people, aren't anything more than cattle. So yeah. Watch out for some of the tribes in The Beast Lands. There's also the Children of Volung. They're cannibals, not out of any sort of weird creepiness or mysticism though. Meat is meat to them. If you've already gutted two hundred pounds of long pork, why let it rot in the sun? Why feed maggots when there are hungry soldiers back at camp? It's a waste. 

Fell Soulless. A fusion of machine and humanoid. Granted, it's a sorcerous machine fused to a sorcerous humanoid. But hey, it's still a cyborg. Technically, any pirate with a peg leg is a cyborg. Even the d20 Cyberpunk supplement for d20 Modern says so. I'm not saying Traith Harris is Hekinoe's version of Robocop, but Robocop is awesome and so is Traith, so draw from that what you will. I wonder who will be Hekinoe's version of Luc Deveraux. Hmm. 

The supernatural bargain maker, the fiery creature of nightmare and evil. The maker of pacts and corrupter of souls. I've got nothing. You could make a case for the Nel I suppose. They are supernatural creatures capable of great sorcerous feats, but they don't fit the motif of evil. Self absorbed and arrogant, certainly. But they're not wish granters and pact makers the way a demon/devil or an evil djinn is. 

Sigh. They're giant ass Komodo dragons in my campaign world. They're greenish brown, the have acidy spit and poisonous venom. They do not fly (usually) and they aren't super intelligent and immortal magical creatures. The conventional dragon does not exist in Hekinoe. Granted, my dragons never stop growing, and the live long lives and grow progressively more cunning and intelligent as they age. But they've no hoards, aside from incidental stuff from dragging prey back to their lair. They are not shapeshifters, they do not parlay with adventurers and they will eat the fuck out of any hairy toed fuckheads that wander into their cave. They will smell the fuck out of you with their tongue like any self respecting varanid would, and they will ambush you. Or they'll wait till something else takes you out and clean up the mess. 

The incorporeal undead. The Fallen Empire of Man is where it's at. See, as the campaign book states, Fallen cannot die. Ever. Their animating energies never cease. Ever. Even if their body is completely destroyed and burned and their heads hacked off and so on and so forth, their spirit/soul/whatever exists and is still sentient. The same magic that allows them to see with dead optic nerves and hear with rotting ear canals lets them see and hear in this form, but they are not conventional ghosts. There aren't too many spells that can be cast with only will in Pathfinder (no hands for somatic components or holding material components, and they can only really speak to fellow incorporeal Fallen or with the intervention of a spell cast by someone else), so they are incredibly limited in what they can do to affect the world around them. No rattling chains and ghostly visitations. The Fallen have developed certain devices that allow them a means of communication, which led to the creation of the Soulless, but most incorporeal Fallen consider this a cage and the first step to becoming chained to a Soulless as its animating energy. 

Giant Animals
Night of the Lepus, Jaws, Godzilla, etc. The giant and savage beasts. Creatures of terrifying size and violence and appetite. The Great Beasts of The Beast Lands. We've got your giant bears and oversized boars and wolves. Huge freshwater eels the size of anacondas. Freshwater crocodiles that can grow as big as thirty feet. They're all big and nasty and have been terrorizing humanoid tribes of The Beast and Wild Lands for millenia. 

Gods (of the Angry and/Or Vengeful Type)
It happens. Someone makes off with Thor's favorite beard trimmer. Someone lets humans have fire. Someone sees a goddess naked. Someone eats shellfish or pork. Boom. Divine might and wrath get slung around rapid fire and there is much gnashing of teeth and wailing of women. There's not a good spot for this "monster" in Hekinoe. There's aren't gods in Hekinoe. The Immortals aren't gods. Neither are the Nel. They're powerful and supernatural, but even calling the Nel demigods is something of a stretch. You could make a case for the rulers of the Nel being gods. They truly are all powerful when it comes to their kingdoms. They can deprive their people of their powers, and even just unmake them from existence if they desire it. Which makes mortals harder to kill than Nel for the rulers of the kingdoms. Evandor and Andorian could easily kill Karrak with a spell or two and little sword or staffplay. One dead pirate, slightly crispy and slightly bludgeoned. But Merobel could just look at Andorian and Evandor and poof. Nothing left. 

Sometimes there are immortal creatures in books and film. Sometimes it is a curse, sometimes it is a blessing, other times it is a curse and a blessing. It's usually supernatural in nature and involves a complete inability to be slain, with occasional loopholes. Really Witch-king of Angmar, you didn't figure out the loophole in not being slain by the hand of man in over 4000 years of undead witchery and kingery? Dumbass. True immortals don't exist in Hekinoe. Even the Nel can be slain, and it doesn't take a tricksie little prophecy to do it. You just have to hack them up enough to where they can't regenerate enough to fight back anymore. Granted, they have one trick left up their sleeve even if that happens, but it isn't just waking up later. Keroen Skathos might be truly immortal. I say might be because I honestly haven't ever decided that about him. I don't know what could kill him in the first place. He's said a few times in my stories that he felt his death coming for him when he was hard pressed and bleeding all over the place. I'm not sure. If we're talking immortal as long as no one tries to hack us apart, well, any Wizard of 20th level can do that, so can Alchemists, and the Children of Volung, Elduman, and Nel are all living and immortal. 

Most times, it's radiation that ends up warping and twisting people and animals and turning them into kaiju or hulks. You can find mutated animals and people in my campaign, they're just warped by sorcery rather than good ole rads. The Fell Humans in particular are empowered/afflicted in this fashion, but sorcery does have a tendency to just up and mess with anyone in the course of prolonged us. 

Robots (Or Possibly Golems)
The created (I think that is also a type of creature in World of Darkness), usually created in lab of a scientific or alchemical (or both) nature. Sometimes homocidal, sometimes enslaved by its creator. Sometimes just ugly and misunderstood. This one is pretty easy, Rankethlek and Soulless. They're both a created race of metal and non-living parts imbued with sentience. Obviously it's magic and not technology, but golem and robot are synonyms in my brain. 

Vampires do not sparkle and they do not wander around freely in daylight. You know who is immortal and sparkles in the sunlight and typically has magic powers and hunts/torments/kills/occasionally aids mortals? Faeries. Anyway, I don't have conventional burn up in sunlight and spread the curse like a disease vampirism in Hekinoe. However, Fell Humans and Fallen do have the ability to take a feat that centers on consuming blood and using it to heal, plus a bunch of feats in my head that duplicate various vampiric powers. 

The savage animal man, the cursed bloodline that lets loose the killer under the full gaze of the moon. I love werewolves. I hate most representations of them in modern film, there's always too much rubber suit or stupidly weird looking CGI. I've seen some of the werewolves in the World of Darkness books, and the pictures I've seen almost always look badass. To find them in Hekinoe, we return once again to The Beast Lands. There's a lot of shamanism and ritual in that land. Looking at the world around these tribesmen, how can you doubt the strength and ferocity of the animal world? What warrior would not want to emulate that power while in combat? There are various lodges of totem warriors in The Beast Lands. Warriors who have a blood bond with the great beasts and (because magic) have taken on aspects of the great beasts in battle. There are also lots of shamans and witches, and some of them are nasty little fucks all too happy to curse others to think and act as beasts or transform wholly into them. So yeah, there are werewolves in Hekinoe. 

This one is easy, The Fallen Empire of man is an empire full of crazy old undead sorcerers. A big chunk of their armies are groaning undead that they raise from the earth and send at their enemies.

So there are some "classic" monsters and their places in Hekinoe. Wee.  

Friday, July 19, 2013

Alternate Rules: Race Class

So the other day Jason and I were discussing the World of Darkness games (Changeling, Hunter, Mummy, Vampire, Werewolf, Wraith, etc). We were doing so because the other day Lance and I were discussing the World of Darkness system and he was wondering if the Storyteller system would be a good fit for Hekinoe. I don't know too much about WoD, but the little I do know makes it seem like it's a system that is designed with specific bit of background material in mind (the World of Darkness creatures and such). DnD/Pathfinder would be a system designed with a specific type of background in mind (Middle Earth inspired, faux-medieval fantasy settings). GURPS would be a system designed with no background in mind, but it includes options for many styles and types of background material.

In short, no, I do not think the World of Darkness Storyteller system would work for Hekinoe, but it did get me thinking some thoughts.

The little I know of the system seems to be that there are no classes. You increase in power and gain various, usually supernatural, abilities. The abilities you have access to depend on whether you're a wraith, vampire, changeling, or whatever. Most of these races belong to separate subsystems of the game. Changeling is a completely separate sourcebook from Vampire or Wraith. I'm unclear on how compatible the different books are, but they seem to occupy the same universe. Anyway. Each of these types of creature has specific abilities central to their race or whatever you want to call it. If I am understanding it correctly, each subtype of creature (Vampire clans, Mage sects, Changeling kith, etc) has certain specialties that they are better at than others of their kind.

I don't know much about it, I don't know how you advance, and I only know a little bit about the background material. But, like I said, it got me thinking.

Back in the day DnD had these race classes. Cleric, Magic-Users, and Fighting Men were all human, then there were Dwarves, Elves, and Halflings. Dwarves were essentially Fighting Men, Elves were Fighting Man/Magic-User hybrids, and Halflings were Fighting Men. I think. Plus, I think they had the little special abilities of the races, I think. What I'm getting at is that race was part and parcel of your class back in that era, kind of like how I look at the World of Darkness races and their abilities. 

In later editions of DnD they've tried to continue a theme of races as classes, I recall a series of three level racial paragon classes in the 3.0 Unearthed Arcana and blooline abilities, along with various extra powerful races that have level adjustments and various racial feats you can take to improve your race's abilities. It's a concept that I'm finding interesting right now. 

If your class abilities improve over time, shouldn't your racial abilities as well? Part of that is having access to racial feats and stuff. I dunno, its a complex process because your feats and skills and class abilities are you improving over time. So when an Elf Ranger points points into Perception it accounts for his hearing improving and his tracker woodsman Rangeryness improving. 

What I'm thinking about right now is an alternate system of racial improvement where you don't have to take levels or that sort of thing. Something where at specific levels you gain a bonus of some kind. King of like ability score improvements. Maybe at like 5th, 10th, 15th, and 20th level. I'd probably take a look at the 3.0 Unearthed Arcana book and look at their bloodline abilities to use as a jumping off point and go from there. It'll likely be a small stat bonus, skill improvement, or feat bonus. Something small and fiddly or something. I'm not sure. I suppose it would kind of depend upon the race in question.

I can see the Children of Volung improving the bonus from the bone plates on their torso as they increase their level. I can see it being appropriate for Elduman to gain the feat for the enhanced version of their repletion ability as they level. I can see similar things for Fell Humans and such. 

While I do like the concept behind this vague and only partially formed idea. However, I feel like it would probably add an irritating level of further tweaking and customization and stat recording to the game. Plus, it wouldn't ultimately add anything to the game. The feats I'm thinking of already exist and people already take them or don't if they want. I dunno, it's an interesting thought but I don't think it is ultimately meaty enough or adds enough to the game for it to be worth figuring out which races gets which bonuses and when and whatnot. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Why I'm Apathetic About 5e/DnDNext

You could also call it the "Monte, Why Have You Abandoned Us Edition!?"

So WotC is playtesting this thing they're calling DnD Next. It might be hard to tell lately, but I really like DnD/Pathfinder. Normally, I am resistant to edition changes and rail against them with great violence and vehemence. I said many words when 3rd Edition was announced, and I spoke similar words when 4th Edition was announced. Just imagine me standing on a porch in long johns with a hose spraying books and screaming for them to get off my lawn. That's a pretty solid representation of what went on. Ignore the fact that I was scouring Dragon magazine for information on 3rd Edition and injecting it into my 2nd Edition AD&D game. 

So yeah, I rail crazily against edition changes. It's one of my things. 

When they initially announced DnD Next, I was apathetic. I still am. I just don't care. It doesn't have much to do with Pathfinder. I'm still invested in the name DnD. When I describe my hobbies to people I meet, I say DnD. It's my game, I enjoy it, I love it. I get pissed when it is maligned or mocked or harmed or used poorly. I care that Monte Cook left WotC, I care that Ed Greenwood is forced to hammer his world into a different shape to fit the rules of 4th Edition if he wants to continue writing in his world. I am invested in this shit, even though I've gone to a "different" system. 

When DnD Next was announced, I got a hold of the playtest material and skimmed it. Once. I didn't peruse and discuss and Google to see what people thought or how they were interpreting the material. I opened the files, skimmed, closed them, and never looked at them again. Because I am apathetic. I don't care. I still don't care. I want to have access to the information, but I have no desire to actually review or interpret it. It's a boring fucking TPS report to me (aside from the Penny Arcade podcast of them playing DnD Next whith Chris Perkins as their DM, that was pretty entertaining). It has nothing to do with that lack of a Monte Cook and nothing to do with the vomit inducing changes in the Forgotten Realms fiction. I just don't care. 

I think it has to do with the concept of modularity. 

One of the few things I've heard about 5e is that it is modular. They're building it in pieces that a DM can pick and choose from and decide which parts best fit his game. 

This is an utterly hilarious game design focus to me. Really WotC? In the year of someone else's lord 2012 you're going to make a game modular so a DM can pick and choose which pieces are right for him? How shall the gaming industry recover from this innovation? You have not only broken the mold with this design concept, you have in fact slain the potter himself! Everything will never be the same again ever!

Ok. That was silly, and I know this modular design isn't the entire focus of the way they're making the game, and I've done zero research. So feel free to keep these words in the same head space that you keep those guys who scream "False flag! False flag!" in conspiracy theory YouTube videos. But seriously, DMs have been picking and choosing what they use and don't use from the rulebooks since the 70s. This isn't a unique concept. GURPS has been doing it since GURPS became a thing. 

Look, when DnD Next comes out in actual published physical material (most likely in books of 160 pages that WotC will charge 35 bucks for, grumble grumble), I'll get a hold of it and peruse it. I won't rage against WotC, or threaten the lives of designers. Because I just don't care. The reason I don't care isn't something silly like modular design or trying to inject old school qualities into the game. It's because I don't really play DnD. 

I once posted about this guy who has a blog that still plays 1st Edition AD&D and has been since the early eighties and how I was in awe of and jealous of the fact that it's not really AD&D anymore, because he's altered it to fit his needs over three decades of DMing. It's not Gygax's or Arneson's or TSR's, it's his. I may be invested in the genre and the name and stuff, but I don't play DnD. Hekinoe is mine. The Known World is mine. The Immortals and the Nel are mine. It may all be based on concepts I learned in dusty tomes whilst eating Cheetos and drinking Mountain Dew in a basement somewhere (I didn't, I learned them in church with my friend Aaron and I hate Mountain Dew), but it's mine. Maybe there will be something in DnD Next I come to like or loathe or think fits with Hekinoe, but that doesn't make it 5e or Pathfinder. Hekinoe is mine, it's ours, because it may have been built out of the nonsense in my skull, but it's as much my player's as it is mine. What Hekinoe looks like looks like it does because my players took a chance and wandered into my head space to play around and roll dice. 

I'm not really in awe of and jealous of that guy on that blog anymore (his posts make him seem like a huge ass, by the way). Hekinoe isn't Pathfinder or DnD or any of that, it's Clint's Thing.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Breaking News of a Pathfindery Nature!

I have it on good authority (namely, my own, as who can you trust but yourself?) that Clint has no intention of returning to musings about his former lady love, the RPG Pathfinder. In fact, I have concrete evidence that he intends to turn this blog into an "All Minecraft, All The Time" blog:

It's like bedrock, it's so concrete.

Still Moar Minecraft

So I've been playing a lot of Minecraft lately, perhaps you've noticed. I really really like the vanilla version of the game. I've spent countless hours just digging holes in the ground looking for ores I don't precisely need because I never really do anything other than dig holes and build towers and glass structures and stuff. Nonetheless, I love the game. It's so much fun. 

This guy from work bought a server, as I've said before, and we started using all these mods and stuff, and those have added and ridiculous amount of new content. Trains and engines and magic and all sorts of fun things to expand the crafting and building you can do in the game. You can breed trees and bees with Forestry and make golems with Thaumcraft and make quarries with Buildcraft. 

That's a picture of my quarry. You can see on the lower left where I've built solar panels to power it and also a series of chests and tubes for extracting the mined resources. I built it over water so the water would cascade down into it to nullify any lava nodes, which stop the quarry from mining. I built it next to a volcano (a biome addition that can sometimes explode with lava) because I wanted some basalt and obsidian. 

So there's all this new cool shit that I think is neat, so now I think the game is neater and have been playing it a lot. Obsessively, one might say. Oh well, we all have our hobbies. Looking at things and how the server runs, I've thought about getting a server for myself. Not with any real intent to make it public per se, but just as a large space to dick around in that occasionally a friend could join me in or wander around to see what I'm up to. Plus, I'm kind of thinking I'll need a back up. The guy running our server right now is unreliable.  

One of the neat thoughts I had was just wandering around in creative mode just building dungeons. With all the tricks you can pull with redstone, making a deathtrap dungeons would be pretty easy. There are tripwires and levers and pressure plates and machines that can shoot arrows or exploding potions and pistons that can retract blacks and so on and so forth. It's kind of a neat concept. I mean, in theory, anyone wandering in could just deconstruct your dungeon layer by layer, but there are various operator and admin plugins you can use to keep people from altering anything in a certain area. 

Basically, this amounts to setting up something like an RPG server. Essentially create a safe spawn zone and then build a world around it using some of the neat stuff some of the mods can do accompanied by admin powers. I just watched a guy who goes by Direwolf20 on YouTube set up a program that has his little ComputerCraft robots build towns (apparently if you build specific types of buildings, villagers will start spawning and colonize them). Towns. He used computers to program robots in Minecraft to build a town. I dunno, I thought it'd be really fun to wander through the world doing things like building the Desert of Desolation and The Keep on the Borderlands or The Black Mountain. 

I mean, that'd be pretty neat. If someone I knew was doing something like that, creating dungeons to dig through for treasure, in Minecraft, I'd totally be into it. With the mind I have for dungeons and trapping, it could be like FourthcoreCraft. I dunno, I've got some interesting thoughts in my head about interesting things. We'll see, I guess. 

Eventually I'll do a post about Pathfinder, I promise. 

Monday, July 8, 2013


Sorry. I spent most of last week playing Minecraft instead of prepping a post and last night I felt like shit after having a straight up murderous headache for most of the day, so I wasn't really feeling up to writing. This is why a buffer is important. Again, sorry.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Minecraft Stuff

So a few posts ago I said some stuff about Minecraft and how I was playing on a multiplayer server with a few guys from work and their friends and whatnot. Shortly after that there were some problems and the server was down for most of a week. After it went back up, it was wiped of our world and buildings, but the guy who owns the server decided on the urging of his friend to use something called Feed The Beast. FTB is this program that uses a bunch of mods and collects them into packs and loads them into Minecraft for you and runs the game for you. It's all legal and above board and you still need to own Minecraft to play because it uses your normal Minecraft account and everything. Plus, Notch and Mojang made the game to be heavily used and abused by the modding community.

FTB has these modpacks that include various mods from various people that have done various things to the game. Some of these are useful utilities like a minimap mod that allows you to set up waypoints and stuff on the overworld so you always have a good idea where you are or at least know which direction you should start walking to get back to your base of operations. Others have useful utilities like using increasingly expensive ores to create increasingly spacious inventory items. Others add neat things like new biomes with new plant life and different textures and colors for stone and dirt. Redwood forests are pretty fucking crazy looking and volcanoes are as well. Others add new resources and subsystems to the game like copper ore, a better system for managing rails and carts, electricity, magic, nuclear power, power armor, flying armor forcefields, or teleportation.

Normal Minecraft is pretty basic, you have a furnace, anvil, crafting table, enchantment table, and cauldron. You refine ores by burning fuel (wood, coal, etc) in the furnace, you craft things in the crafting table (by arranging various amounts of materials in a pattern on a 3x3 grid), you brew potions in the cauldron. You can also use levels to enchant with the enchanting table or use the anvil to repair tools or combine enchantments. I think that's about it. You can do a lot with redstone circuits and running power to things, but its pretty complex once you get beyond pulling levers and powering carts as they move along rail tracks. I mostly settle for lever operated lava pits and redstone operated secret doors. Other people are crazier and create huge clocks and calculators with it.

So now we're playing Minecraft with all these mods (the Direwolf20 modpack, specifically) and I am completely lost because I knew nothing of these mods or FTB. I'm a vanilla Minecraft guy, I've figured out pretty much everything in the base game and nowadays I just like playing around on creative mode placing blocks and building neat things or things from my Pathfinder campaign. Which reminds me that I need to update the Orcunraytrel save to reflect the new additions that Karl put on the tower while the guys were in Cantellen.

There's all this new stuff and it's all insane. You need to harvest resin from rubber trees to combine with smelted copper to make wiring to connect your coal fueled generator to your battery box to store electricity then connect it to your extractor to get a better resin to rubber ratio. You'll also need to use an electric furnace so you're not burning through all that coal because coal can be ground up and hydrated and compressed and put into a container then extracted to get a coalfuel cell, which can power your generator for longer than a normal piece of coal. Or you can run a windmill and solar panels and a water mill to power everything. Or you can break down plant matter to run your generator.

So there are some interesting aspects to these mods and there are a few beefy ones that change a lot, while others are just minor tweaks or additions. My favorite one is the Thaumcraft mod. It adds magic into the game. Basically, what you do is destroy materials to release various essences of magic into the air and then you use a wand to create something out of them. Sometimes it is a useful building material like arcane wood, which you can craft a door out of that can only be opened by you. You can also build warded building blocks and glass, which are immune to destruction at the hands of other players. Handy on a multiplayer server. Other times, you can create more mundane resources. Like you can throw tin into a cauldron and wave your wand and create gold and such.

There are also useful utility magic items like the portable hole, which creates a magic tunnel that lets you pass through blocks. There's also a wand of excavation that blasts the earth with a beam of magic so you can collect the blocks. You can also create little golem dudes to guard and attack other players or hostile mobs (or peaceful mobs) or pick up stuff for you or refill your cauldron. You can also build swords and tools out of a magic metal that is more easily enchanted than other materials and has almost as much durability as diamond and deals almost as much damage as diamond. 

It's a pretty neat mod that takes some work to get into. You can't just find a recipe online and make stuff. You have a little spellbook and you have to create a research table and kind of research the various essences. So gold has the metal and valuable essences, so I had to research (destroy) valuable objects, metal objects, and objects related to change (like seeds and eggs) to shift my progress bar on research before I could actually transmute metal into gold. It's kind of a neat process that is a little more involved than the normal construction of objects in Minecraft. It's also kind of pretty. Most of the new objects and resources are very shiny and colorful and feature little auras of particle effects. 

Another of the main mods, and one I am currently focusing on quite a bit is the Industrial Craft mod. This one mostly centers on the inclusion of advanced machines and technology and runs on electricity. The basic device is a generator that you burn fuel in to generate electricity, which you then transmit to machines via gold, tin, and glass (I think) wiring. You can also transmit electricity by powering up batteries and then placing them into the machine you need to run. It's just easier to run wire all over the place frankly. My base is kind of a rat's nest of the stuff. Wiring is a little complicated, each wire can only take a certain amount of electrical output or it melts. If your wire isn't insulated enough, it damages you when you're next to it. If it is too high of a voltage for the machine to handle, it explodes the machine. Luckily, there are transformers to downgrade voltage, so you can use a high capacity/high voltage storage device and downgrade the voltage it outputs to power your basic machines. 

The mod also gives you access to some tools that have unlimited durability, but they run on electricity. My diamond tipped drill only stores enough power to use it about 150 times, which isn't a lot during a mining run. However, you can create batteries and other storage devices. I actually crafted a battery pack to wear that stores 30 times as much energy in it as the base amount the drill can hold. It's handy, because I also run around with a chainsaw. The chainsaw and drill are also super fast at mining and cutting wood, so it speeds things up considerably. Until I need to charge up that battery pack. 

The generator isn't your only means of electricity production though. You can pump lava for a geothermal generator, run water through a water mill (or sink it into a lake), you can put solar panels of varying degrees of power on the landscape, you can even put up windmills. I mostly use plant life to generate biofuel and some solar panels. The mod also allows you to build a nuclear reactor, if you can find some uranium, and the power output on those is pretty significant, but you have to manage them real well or they explode and spew lava all over the place and destroy a lot of blocks around you. You can also use the uranium to build nukes, which destroy a space about 80 - 100 blocks horizontally and 100 - 130 blocks vertically, and is accompanied by a poison and hunger effect. 

There is also some pretty advanced technology in the mod. You can create a jet pack and some composite armor and a mining device that will automate mining for you in a 5x5 or 9x9 square till it hits water or bedrock. But it takes power to run it. There's also the force field, which kills any players other than you that are inside of it unless they have a special access pass you craft for them. There's also a portal gun and weighted companion cube, and a teleporter. The advanced technology is fairly expensive in terms of resources, so I haven't really played with it yet. I'm still trying to figure out all of the basics of the mods, so I'm still figuring out my power grid needs and what I'll need for long term play on the server, so I haven't built any of the higher end stuff. Plus, one of the smaller mods adds a bunch of new biome types, so I've been doing quite a bit of exploring instead of mining and resource collection. 

One of the other bigger mods is Buildcraft, and it does a lot of the same stuff that Industrial Craft does, but in a different way. You still have machine types that improve upon the furnace and operate with better speed and efficiency, but they run on Minecraft Joules and are generated by various types of engines you can build.  Minecraft Joules and Industrial Craft electricity are not compatible, but can be converted by some devices from one to the other. It also tries to automate mining with the quarry, which looks kind of cool, but does about the same thing as the Industrial Craft miner. The engines are as tricky as the electrical system, they can overheat and explode and cause conductive tubes (wires, basically) to exlode. One neat thing from Buildcraft is transportation tubes. You can build tubes of various types to move resources around. So you can set it up so that your combustion engine is pumped water to keep it cool and then use it to power your pulverizer to break down ores (so you can refine them for more the a single ingot per ore) then connect a tube from the pulverizer to a chest or furnace to keep moving the ores out once they're pulverized. Industrial Craft and Buildcraft are real big on automation.

Another mod is Forestry. It is about trees and farming. Using this mod you can automate the harvesting and planting of trees and crops. Right now I'm trying to set up a automatic farming process to farm peat for me (so I can power some peat fired engines to play with more Buildcraft stuff), along with some trees, wheat, and reeds (so I can convert them into biofuel for my electrical generators). If I can automate basic resource collection with a quarry and some farms, I should be able to just wander off and dick around doing whatever and not have to worry about needing wood or food or fuel for a project. Forestry also includes a crazy system of bees, breeding bees, and breeding plants. I have no idea how it works or what the benefits are, but I guess there are like 132 different types of bees (Thaumcraft actually adds 72 new species, so the base number of bee breeds is like 60). One neat thing that Forestry adds is the electrical engine, which can be powered by Industrial Craft electricity to pump out as Minecraft Joules. However, it doesn't output much. To modify and improve its output you can use a Foestry crafting device to build a soldering iron and circuit board and put different electron tubes into it. Farms can also be modified this way. The types of crops your farms can grow is determined by a circuit board and electron tube set up. 

There are other mods in the game (including one based on Myst, which allows you to generate and travel to what are essentially other Minecraft worlds that you can rape for resourcs), but these are the only ones I really have any experience with so far, other than building neat items to see what they can do because I have a shit ton of resources for them lying around because I don't use them. One interesting thing of note is that all this new and shiny shit has completely killed my desire to create anything in terms of neat structures and buildings. This kind of bums me out, because I was all excited to create that floating castle and stuff, but I figure that once I get a handle on all of this new stuff I'll probably want to craft something neat looking. Like a flying castle with smokestack factories as the corner towers of the walls and a nuclear reactor cooling tower as the main fort, with a force field around it all. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Immortalhood: Redux

With the guys reuniting Evandor and Andorian, the abilities of the Immortals of Ocrunraytrel have changed a bit. The original version appears here. The reason for the change is because Evandor's Gifts (enhanced by the Wytchstave) are what granted the Immortals their powers and such. With Evandor being forced to return the staff to Keroen Skathos, he isn't particularly interested in leaving a bunch of his Gifts lying around for the Immortals to use. Plus, he doesn't really need the Immortals to be as powerful as they were, as he no longer needs them for whatever unnamed task he created them for in the first place.

Why leave them any power at all, though? Well, think of it like wands. Think of each Immortal as the use of a single charge of the wand. There are less than fifty Immortals in existence and Andorian and Evandor each have vastly more "charge" than a wand does (I think it's fifty for a freshly made wand). Plus, all the other "charges" are constantly regenerating after each use. Point is, fifty Immortals and Karrak aren't too big of a drain on the resources of Andorian and Evandor. You can make the argument that immortality is a significant power, but you'd be wrong. Because this isn't immortality without caveats. This is immortality in that you cannot age unto death. Wizards have the same ability, and they can take it in place of a feat at 20th level. Any full blooded Fell Human can do the same by taking the longevity trait and the feat that has it as a prerequisite as well. So basically, Karrak gained a bonus feat from Andorian. Heh.

To continue with the whole Immortal thing, the link above takes you to the original abilities, here are what they look like post Evandor leaving Orcunraytrel:

  • Immortality, i.e. Immortals don't age to death and become immune to aging effects. However, they also cannot be raised or resurrected or otherwise restored to life should they meet an untimely death via dismemberment.
  • Immortals still require food, water, and oxygen, but they cannot be killed due to lack of those. They still suffer all the normal effects of starvation and suffocation, but they cannot actually die and if reduced to the point of death, they remain one hit point away from death (and likely unconscious). Other effects that deal damage can end them while they are starving or suffocating, obviously.
  • Immortals gain a total of +6 they can apply to their ability scores. This may be applied as a +2 to three different ability scores or a +4 to one score and a +2 to another ability score.
  • Immortals gain spell resistance of 6 + their character level. If the character is a psionic character, they instead gain power resistance.
  • Immortals may take levels in divine classes (Cleric, Druid, Inquisitor, Oracle, Paladin) or exchange current character levels for levels in a divine class. Immortals with levels in divine classes may grant spells to their followers if those followers are members of divine classes as well. In the case of followers, you cannot control them or speak to them over vast distances or anything like that, but you can turn their powers that come from you on and off at will and are completely immune to their class based supernatural and spell-like abilities and spells. Additionally, they cannot cast any spells you cannot, and they may never gain access to spells of level 5 or higher, regardless of class.
  • Immortals become tier 1 mythic characters.

So that's not a terribly big change looking at it. The impact on followers is fairly significant, especially if you have dreams of surrounding yourself with herds of Clerics capable of stuffing you with food and drink to ensure you don't enter into a starvation coma. You still become immortal and resistant to magic or psionics and you gain a stat boost and become a mythic character and the ability to become a divine character yourself. These are all pretty beneficial options and abilities for characters. The additional point of interest is that now Evandor isn't waiting on top of the mountain bored and all too happy to play games with mortals and make irritating and infuriating pacts with them. Can you imagine Karrak making a pact to never set foot on a wooden vessel or never letting rum pass his lips? I think Jason would have rebelled and staged a coup against me.