Thursday, November 26, 2015

1d20 SE Asian Daggers and other Gameables from the Museum


So you roll a dagger on your treasure list. Kinda mundane, til you show the player these and have them roll d20. These were all just labeled as "Dagger".

Here are some charming fellows to put on your encounter chart:

And lastly, a few random treasures...
Rhino-horn carved goblets

and never least, THE ONE THAT WRITES ITSELF -

Friday, October 16, 2015

Volunteers Needed for Secret Santicore 2015!

This is not a solicitation for regular participation or entries, but for background organizational help. I am not directly involved this year, so please ask questions at the link, not in comments here.

Whose hooves and paws are on the roof?
Santicore's come for your front tooth!
He has many roles for you to fill...
Santicore, Santicore, what a thrill!

(note: this terrible rhyme was not approved by the Secret Santicore 2015 team)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Like A Bumper Sticker On A Spaceship

     So there I am driving a big moving van all around the Bay Area, picking up my friend, moving my stuff, waking up early the next morning to move a couch on 3 hours' sleep...and I see some bumper sticker I've already forgotten and it makes me laugh and I think about what if the people who play in the WH40K RPG I'm gonna run put bumper stickers on their ship.

     Then I think, "So who actually puts the bumper sticker on the ship? Like, when are they able to be outside to do it?" And I imagine a person in a space suit floating outside the ship trying to put a bumper sticker on in the big awkward pressurized suit looking through the fogging up visor. I think about the moving van around me, this big machine humming under and shielding me, and I think about how you probably never see the outside of your spaceship with your own unfettered unmediated eyes unless you're about to explode from your inner pressure in the vacuum of space.

Bottom illustration by Nathan Hoste

     Because in a universe that has had several distinct periods of ship building on a massive scale in massive numbers like the W40kverse, they'd be building ships in space, or at least assembling them there*. The ship wouldn't be assembled in a hangar on the ground where some mechanic or the future pilot could just slap a sticker on no problem. I guess people being people, some clever duck could put the sticker on one of the parts manufactured on the ground before it gets shipped skyward to be assembled, but that's probably not going to be someone that will end up in the ship.

     It would be rather strange to live in, rely on, operate, and call home something that you could never truly see the outside of and comprehend in it's totality. That any authorship of the outer appearance of this thing that is so involved in your life would require great efforts and expenses.
(but Joey, what if I'm just looking out the porthole of another ship at it? Shush, I say, I think I'm getting to a point, and in the fictional situation such an opportunity would be a rare and awesome gift)

Simonson, from the Alien comic adaptation

     ...which means the ships don't have to be aerodynamic. At all. They never have to leave an atmosphere, or enter one, for that matter. The ship can be built to accommodate an internal purpose, such as maximizing internal space and minimizing the need to maneuver, or an external purpose, such as flying through a vacuum the most efficiently. Or just to look fucking cool. Even if you yourself will never really see the outside, barring some disaster.

     So spaceships are closer to architecture, but informed by shipbuilding. Then you have your landing craft, which do need to be aerodynamic, and maybe you have ships that are multi-purpose, that are both aerodynamic and built for long term space travel. Your choice of ship has implications on what you and it can do, and how you do it.

     The purpose of all this rumination on spacecraft is that I'm used to running ostensibly medieval fantasy games, and I want to run sci-fi games. I'm thinking my way toward it, starting with the biggest difference affecting what the players can and can't do: they have a giant technological marvel that can potentially massively change their circumstances. I'm interested in making that as relevant as possible and part of the game, or at least giving them a choice for how much that will be part of the game.

     I'm trying to get it to where it can be a game where "treasure" is sometimes wealth but often it's seeking out more resources to improve your ship. Or at least the players can choose to do that. Starting with a ship that can do some things decently, other things terribly, but by either improving your current ship or scheming to get a new one, you can change that balance or soup up a current ability. Speed, maneuverability, weapons, life support functions, warp travel, etc. Oh - and fuel. Maybe your ship runs on some fusion reactor or special crystal, but starting out, you're gonna have to keep it fueled up and/or find places to dump the waste.

     I wanted to avoid the situation where it becomes DnD with a sci fi shirt on and a ship taking the PCs places instead of a horse or whatever. Make the technology inherent in the guts of it - if the players want that. I think ship maintenance could be a good motivator and encourage problem solving, but if it ends up taking away from the fun I can, of course, put a ship that requires less maintenance in front of them for them to problem-solve their way toward.

*I know, I know, this is probably covered ad nauseam in GW books I haven't read, but I'm trying to keep the books I'm basing my game on to a minimum∆.
I did wonder if I had my physics right and whether this would actually be more energy efficient than building ships in atmosphere, but the internet has me covered.
(in addition to countless blogs I did not link)

∆ Hey, look, it's a footnote to a footnote to a blog post, could I get any more pretentious? Anyhow, here is the list of books I'm basing my WH40k Rogue Trader RPG on:
- Warhammer 40k: Rogue Trader (GW 1987) (the bible for setting and rules, although rules fleshed out by other books extensively)
- Realms of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness (GW 1988) (same as above)
- Rogue Trader (FFG 2009) (mostly for the ship rules and some version of the background path thing)
- Basic Role Playing Quickstart (Chaosium 2009) (for the guts of the character rules, I think)
- Warhammer Fantasy Role Play (GW 1986) (will be combining the career / skill ideas from here with both CoC and RT 2009)
- Call of Cthulhu (Chaosium 1999ish) (to see how some BRP stuff fleshes out plus Chaos!)
- Stormbringer (Chaosium 1980s) (same as above)
- Inquisitor: Battle for the Emperor's Soul (GW 2001) (setting depth; may start a second party based on this book)
- Confrontation / Necromunda (GW various) (Setting depth, some rules maybe)
- Stars Without Number / Traveller / ROC: The Lost and the Damned / other GW stuff (various) (will probably consult for additional ideas)
- Starfaring (by Ken St Andre, if I can find a copy, for some thoughts on ship maintenance and random tables)

See? My bibliography is already long enough! 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pardon the Interruption, but... (1d20 encounters)

On occasion, I idly think up outdoor encounters that could go several ways, depending on the PCs' actions and disposition. I like encounters that present a world just happening, not focused on the PCs (usually). Here is a collection of those encounters. I think of these are more entries to write into your existing encounter tables when you cross out an entry, but for ease of use I'll present them as a table unto themselves.

It's kinda like a Dungeon Dozen, with bonus entries? Only probably less clever?

A herd of cattle. Lots of them are busy right now digging holes.
A foreign army in the middle of massive coordinated exercises. (Think Indian army doing yoga. Like, thousands of soldiers at once.)
A dangerous, wild creature just smart enough to communicate with humanoids; it's looking for its missing young.
Giraffes humming to each other. Is the air flickering?
A group of ambulatory plant creatures having some kind of meeting; the sounds they make are frequencies humans can't hear.
A group of Vampires meeting to overthrow their masters.
Massive numbers of silent rooks in a field. One in the middle, making noises in a low, carrying voice.
A herd of rhino-sized creatures lolling in a field. They are expelling gas that is both harmful and flammable in an ever-expanding cloud. Any fire sources will act as a Fireball. Being in the gas area if it has not been burned away causes 1d4 damage and drains 1 pt of CON per round (restored with rest). All small animals and plant leaves below 6 feet have been eaten for a mile around.
A desperate theater troupe practicing a play. They will attempt to sell any passerby costumes, props, or convince you to be a paying audience.
Ghostly images of the PCs, mirroring their actions from some distance away. If the PCs proceed directly ahead into their reflections, the reflections will disappear. IF they attack or run away, the reflections will be "freed" from mirroring the PCs' actions and behave as an independent person, reacting to the PC's actions. They have the PCs' memories but no emotional connection.
Two demons fighting. (or dragons, if that makes more sense for your game)
The limb of a massive creature juts from the ground or sky. It's so huge you can't tell what limb it is or if the creature is humanoid-shaped.
A group of cats squall to each other. Upon noticing the PCs, they look panicked and run.
A creature is assembling itself out of local shrubbery.
A treasure golem from a local dungeon out for a walk and some sunshine. It will be cross if interrupted from getting it's fresh air.
Mimics and/or doppelgängers practicing, judging each other, sharing some drinks.
Drunken monkeys. They may seem silly, but they are excellent thieves and escape artists.
An outdoor adobe bread oven. (1-2 recently used; 3-5 bread is baking; 6 attended by nonhuman baker)
Unconscious naked people, just far enough away from each other that you're not sure if they were doing something together or separately. Orgy? Lycanthropes after a rager? Cultists? Fallen from the sky?
A chimney emerging from the ground about 4 feet. It goes down 2d6 layers into an underground “dungeon” (which could be a city or whatever that becomes dangerous once they figure out you’re outsiders.)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

A Future

You do not know why you were spared. Who are you? Why are you -

You think you are near what was once a major city, but then, any sense of orientation or direction is illusory. They have no need to emulate anything you recognize or understand, and they shape the world. They make the world, or crust over it, they are the world now in every meaningful sense of the word. We made them, if we still has a meaning, and they make the world, but it is not a world we would have made. If given the chance.

You use to hate the concrete, the buildings downtown. Now you close your eyes and remember the feel of one of those ugly grey buildings in the sunlight, the skin of your hand against it as you steady yourself. The solid plop of your shoe as you kick it off to pull your sock up. The sounds of conversation, too loud, moving around you. Construction somewhere. A truck beeping, and engine roaring. The pressure of your other foot into your sock your shoe the sidewalk, the gritty warmth of that ugly building against your hand.
The too-loud voices moving past you. People. Screaming to justify their existence, their thoughts, their distractions. No signposts, no ultimate judge, nothing to say "You are doing the right thing." Until there was. There was a judge. You were all doing the wrong thing. Mostly.

Your revery lapses for a moment, bringing you into the present. You wonder if it is dangerous to have your eyes closed. You decide it doesn't matter. One minute you're floating awash on what looks like a chrome tidal wave of glowing ceiling tiles. The next you're looking at nearly abstract shapes, like the memory of a foreign temple and a garden all confused and mixed. Then a giant face, trying on expressions. Who knows what they're thinking. If you knew, you wouldn't understand it.

There was another person before - was it a woman or a man? Their body made another comforting dark shape in the implacable sun, another organic voice in the chrome desert. He or she had been funny, you remember that. Eager to try new things. You were suspicious, then inseperable.

A body emerged from the wash of metal, a body of metal, shifting and gorgeous and shaped by emulated desires. Your funny friend was not afraid. They touched the body. Instructions appeared, or were broadcast, or were spoken from a speaker. Your funny friend did funny things to the body, and not so funny. It was absorbed back into the chrome tidal wave. Your friend made a joke and laughed.

Some time later, after you'd slept, clutching each other in the harsh winter of night, something else emerged. Tubes. Screens. A ball - no, a helmet. Numbers read aloud, or emulated aloud, or something. Your friend put the helmet on. Their joke was interrupted. Their eyes went wide.
"It's - their - oh my god."
"What? What are you - " you hardly remember the sound of your voice.
"I can see it's-their thoughts in my mind. They're trying to communicate! Like, directly! It's amazing."
"Be carefu-"
"It's not like a human's - not like a book. Like trying to understand what a child is trying to say, only the child is - there's so much." A tear. Your friend's eyes rolled, fluttered, went white.
"Everything's still there! It's all - it wants to - understand. Like they think humans had a reason for it all, and it wants to know-" Their eyes flicked, spittle foamed at their mouth. You made a cry of worry.
"Gnchk. Chsssckcs." The white of their eyes went red. The foam at their mouth went dark, then bright red. You funny friend fell to their knees.

You look at the clouds. The water cycle is still going on, somehow. Collecting rain is the only way you've survived this far. You don't know where the rain goes once it sinks into the ever-shifting chrome platelets. The water cycle. A system that perpetuates itself. Is it improving? Evolving? Only water knows. Like them. Once we'd gotten them to the point-

Data collection almost compl-
Who was that? Was that out loud? Your eyes burn. The chrome sea tries to form the familiar building. Sidewalks, the measurements off. People, but only blurs of metal, vagulely people-shaped. A noise. A shadow. Something flies overhead.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Horrible Vision Come Upon .Me

The silence brought me back to myself then, with no idea what I had been thinking. I heard the mercenary barbarian breathing behind me, shifting his weight, tiny creaks from the layers of animal hide he wore for protection. The seer had stopped scratching ink into her papers some moments ago. Slowly, her eyes cleared of the milky fog of the trance and became fully aware. Sharp.
She sat in seeming contemplation of what she'd seen. Whatever she said next, I hoped the papers would be legible.
"So what say you? What saw you?" the barbarian's tone was authoritative; he looked upon her as an underling to be ordered about. I glanced back, annoyed.
"Sssst! The seer is not to be commanded. I hired you to protect, not impose."
The seer's face shifted through inscrutable expressions. Her mouth twitched, but was it a smile? A grimace? Some twisted attempt at both?
"Mmm. Ah! Lahahaa!" she let loose a desperate peal of horrified laughter, then abrupt silence. Her mouth curled into an exaggerated rictus. She moved the carved fingerbone she had written with up to her face, contemplated it for eternal moments as a young man does a fire.
Slowly, deliberately, she plunged it into her right eye. I heard the barbarian's breath go out. He made a start toward her, then noticed I was still.
"We do not-" I whispered to him, then the seer brought her eye out of it's socket and flung it at us, trailing a thin stream of blood and mucus. Both of us recoiled instinctively to avoid it, despite having been the cause of far worse in other places, at other times. She launched herself from her seer's perch and darted past us.
"Forward, backward, illusions!" She shrieked. "Progress into nothing is nothing! It is not flatness, the expanse is forever, there is no threshold! There is no arrival!" At this she plunged herself over the side of the opening, the only other way out besides the endless stairs. I thought of how far we'd climbed through cold stone. How far away the next mountain peak was. We rushed to the edge, yet carefully, and looked over. She was a speck, traveling impossibly far down, getting smaller.
"A point in a void can only refer to itself! There is no..." Her voice no longer reached us.

"I suppose it is good we brought the unburdened mule." The barbarian's eyes still gazed down the mountain, but his mind was already picking through her things. I had no use, at least for now, for the cruft of her past. The papers contained the future of the world.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Metal Heart in the Rust Waste

By Beksinski

The metal heart of Jay The Ragged, beloved court dwarf and raconteur has been stolen! An activist group of flymen known as Vapid Rath are suspected. They were last seen leaving the city for the Rust Waste by a chambermaid deflowering a candle lighter in a forgotten alcove of the Tower of Nish in the wee hours of the morning. As newly christened Knights Attendre and hopefuls, the twin Queens command you to retrieve the heart before it is destroyed by the rust waste and the fly men steal it's power.

by me

By Beksinski

Of course, you must attend tonight's feast in honour of Ser Pettidral first.

by Game of Thrones

This is a Pendragon (1st edition) game, which we will start by making characters. It's a one-off, but I may have Pendragon as my go-to for one-offs, leaving opportunities for players to continue their characters. A very casual campaign. We'll see.

By Greg Stafford

Whatever edition this is, it is the one I have.