Monday, September 23, 2013


Jeremy Duncan made this new color logo! (oh yeah- Santa + Manticore = Santicore!)

Secret Santicore 2013 is here!
From now til midnight Friday October 4th, we shall collect your unfulfilled desires so that Santicore may feed on your longing!

Everybody who wants in click on the link below and fill out your request for some specific brand new campaign material--a new race, a location, a one-shot adventure outline, a random table, whatever. The idea is to be as specific as you need to be, but not too greedy (1/2 a page to two pages of material).
One request per person.

Then, with the help of various elves, I'll mix all the requests up and send them back out to the people who entered. You'll get your assigned request some time that weekend of the 5th-6th, then have until Friday, October 25th to fulfill that request. That deadline is firm. So firm. Do not test the Santicore.

Starting October 26th, the elves and I will collect the entries all into a central location before December 23rd, hopefully.

-Panicked everything-went-wrong result: An easily-navigable indexed website, Santicore feasts upon our souls.
-There-were-a-lot-of-parties-but-we-did-it-anyway result: the above plus a PDF version, Santicore's yearly slumber is disturbed by dreams of the mortal world.
-Everyone-gets-laid result: website, PDF with some color, index, and full features, plus "lite" PDF for phones and ereaders. Santicore slumbers under great depths of ice, his fetid blessing upon us all.

We'll hit as many of those above goals as possible.


Requests for Secret Santicore 2013 are now closed. 

• Be as specific as you need to be, but don't get greedy. Asking for a d20 table is cool, and a d100 table if you're lucky. but a d1000?--better let your Secret Santicore know that going that extra 900 miles is optional. Asking for a structure is cool, a whole mega-dungeon isn't.

• If you just want art or a map, that's cool too.

• The original requester's name and e-mail address will be on the request unless s/he specifically asks otherwise.

• One request per person. Santicore likes the taste of people who break this rule.

• All human undertakings involving interactions between strangers involve a capacity for misunderstanding and idiocy. Secret Santicore is a gift horse. Do not look it in the mouth. No bad-mouthing people for what they ask for or provide. Serious and simulatory requests may get gonzo answers, gonzo requests may get serious answers, c'est la vie. If you're worried, try to be specific in your request so you get something you can really use.

• If you commit to something - a request, or helping out behind the scenes - then find you can't come through with the goods that's perfectly okay, life happens, as long as you let me know as soon as you know.

• None of this stuff should get used commercially unless the person who wrote it gets paid.

• While Secret Santicore sprang from the loins of the OSR DIY movement, there's zero reason you can't request something for your sci-fi/supers/horror/whatever-game. You don't have to request D&D-specific stuff. I bet anybody could handle a sci-fi or super request--but just be aware that the pool of people responding to your request will be the pool of people who read Playing D&D with Pornstars and act accordingly.

• This is Open Content.

• I reserve the right to completely fuck this up, but will try very hard not to. If I get swamped with requests, it might be a little late. I'll do my best.

• After the first 69* requests are in, I'm going to distribute those, assign Handlers, then take stock of our time and resources. We will try to get every request that comes in before October 4th fulfilled, but may have to cap it or distribute unfulfilled requests after the holidays to be put on blogs if there's a huge number. If we actually get a ton of requests good and done, the PDF may be split thematically or otherwise into several parts. Don't let this statement dissuade you from making a request - the goal is to get every single damn one finished and up before December 23rd.

Don't post your request in the comments below or email it to me. Use the form. Or you will feel the spiny poisonous caress of Santicore's ball stinger.

• Still got questions? Those you can ask on G+/comment here/email metalvsskin at geemale dotcalm and put something SANTICORE-ISH in the subject line.

*I told Santicore that was a silly and immature number to pick, then...I awoke some time later, in a field, with these strange scars...

Last year's logo for nostalgia's sake!

HUGE THANKS to Jez of GIBLET BLIZZARD, most of this is copy+pasted from his call for entries from last year.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hastiludes Prizes & Rules for Melee and Joust

In game stuff for Melee:

- Only spells which require touching the target are allowed, and they must be cast in the most showy and dramatic way possible. (The player should describe what casting the spell looks like, etc)

- Special abilities inherent to the combatant are allowed, but not if they have an effect similar to a ranged weapon. (You can do whatever, but the Marshall in game may get weird or disqualify you).

- Ranged weapons are banned from the Melee event. One may throw things upon the field, but weapons designed to be thrown or project missiles are not allowed.

- All Knights forced to surrender while conscious during an event shall turn over their mount and armor, or the value thereof, to the one who bests them. 

- All Knights knocked out during an event will give 95% of the above amount to the one who bests them, and 5% to the medic who tends them, or be indebted under law.

D&D combat as adjudicated by me or made up to suit whatever weird shit you come up with.
This is essentially Warlords of Vornheim without teams or Hardcore Mode. I thought about including Hardcore Mode, but I don't think it makes as much sense in a winner-take-all game without teams. 
You either Yield, get knocked out (IE lose all HP), or win. If you get knocked out, there are medics standing by. HOWEVER - the Melee is more dangerous than the Joust, and accidental death is possible.
Anyone taking half their HP in damage from one hit is Wounded which might result in a permanent effect - a scar, broken tooth, bad eye, limp, palsy, etc. 
Anyone reduced to negative half their HP or Con score + level - whichever is lowest, is dead. This is unlikely but there you go.
Participants will gain Glory or XP commensurate with their victories.

PCs may purchase the following before an event at these prices. These are also the values that must be paid to opponents who defeat you.

The Joust rules are in PDF form here. Special thanks to Mike D for his fun Jousts of the past and putting these rules together. 
The character creation page may be ignored if you're using your FLAILSNAILS PC, however, you may attempt to attract/hire a squire and/or retinue as per that page. Let me know via G+ if you'd like to do this and we'll work it out.

The following prizes are on offer from the Court. The entrant who wins the most events may choose first. Otherwise Glory and the wisdom of King Artan shall determine distribution.

- Waters of Avalon: Drinking these waters while focusing on an aspect of your physical self will change you. An ability may be increased or decreased. Your appearance my alter significantly. A special ability may grow, recede, or change completely.

- A Faerie sword that is very beautiful and light. The local Knights find it somewhat dishonorable to use, although adventurers not under the strictures of courtly life could well use it. A short sword that has a blade of strange reddish metal with a hilt wrapped in purple hide with gold wire. The blade is decorated with knotwork. A small rounded pommel provides balance. The quillions are shaped like dragon wings, and the blade emerges from a stylized dragon head. The decorative elements of the sword are composed of Mithril. There is a scabbard of oiled mint sheepskin leather with Black bear fur trim.

- CAUTION: HOT, a Hog Druid Knight from the Northern Kingdom of NO SMO, has offered to train an adept who proves their worth in the basics of Druidic ways. If one is sharp at it, one may learn some mystical ability.

- A dance with The beautiful Raven Aislynn, recently widowed and so young still, has been offered as a prize by her mother. Aislynn quickly fled to her chambers when this was announced, feathers ruffled. She has been noted for her intelligence and a slight mischievous humor in the past. She is set to inherit a small keep if her parents do not produce a son.

- A brief and private audience with King Artan and his counsel.

-A strange gem prized from the Irish in battle long ago. It seems to smolder in light and keep one warm.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thee Fall Hastiludes Approacheth! Character Creation Notes.

ENTER YOUR KNIGHT (FLAILSNAILS PC) in the Joust, Melee, Pas D'Armes, Behourd, Trial by Combat, or Magical Duel by emailing metalvsskin at geemale dotcalm!

More details on those events and everything else here.
+Reece Carter and everyone else: if you want in, get me an email in the next 72 hours or so!)

A RULES CHANGE: I believe I said somewhere on G+ that it was 1 PC per player. After some thought, I'll make it 1 PC per player per EVENT. So, you could enter 1 PC in the Joust, 1 in the Melee, a different one in the Pas D'Armes, etc. ( +Reginald Mc Reynolds +Ed Hackett )

I've been having fun making a few NPCs to test out the character creation for Thee Hastiludes and the Pendragon/After the Bomb campaign to follow. I love how swingy AtB attributes are - here are the stats of the first NPC I rolled up. This is directly from character creation!
STR   9
DEX   7
CON  6
INT    10
WIS   28
CHA  6
SPD  27

This weekend I'll be nailing down a few last details - I'm still figuring out what elements (if any) of Palladium combat I want to mash into Pendragon's system. I also did some funky things with the Kingdoms I think people might dig. Those of you who want to create native characters for the events next week, we should be able to do that right around Sunday or Monday (PST but I'm flexible for time).
(Don't worry +Noah Marshall +Courtney Campbell You've got a place reserved for a native knight if you want it)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

SECRET SANTICORE 2013: FAQ and Call for Handlers


A quick Q&A up front to get people going, then more detail and history at the bottom.

THIS IS NOT A CALL FOR REQUESTS. That's coming in a bit. This is an informational post to get your juices quivering.

If you're just looking for info on being a Handler, look for * HANDLERS *
If you're looking for the history of Santicore, look for * History *

What is Secret Santicore?
Speed Round:
1. request something for your tabletop RPG game,
2. get someone else's request and write (or draw) it up,
3. someone else is randomly assigned your request and makes it,
4. then all requests are collected on a website and a nice PDF, hopefully by Christmas.

Longer description of Santicore:
People in the DIY RPG community send in requests for campaign content they'd like - a table, monster, entire encounter, or even a whole (short) adventure. Maybe an item, puzzle, or trap. Maybe an illustration of something. Whatever you want!

THEN: the requests get mixed up and randomly assigned to everyone who made a request.
So - you request a puzzle that changes the rooms of a dungeon around depending on how the PCs solve it. Maybe you're more specific, or leave it at that!
THEN, you get someone else's request - they want a short encounter with a good-aligned Frog King and retinue who has motivations that will likely bring him into conflict with PCs, maybe with variations to conflict with different types of PCs.

You don't find out who got your request, and you don't tell what you are working on, to keep with the spirit of the thing. You write up the short encounter however you like. Just text? With pictures? You'd like someone else to draw a picture?
You have a Handler to offer advice, keep you on schedule, possibly edit, and help with coordinating illustrations. We all understand this is for fun, and no one's getting paid in dollars.

So you write the thing as two lines of setup text, four tables, and three blocks of stats. OR you write a few paragraphs of flavor text, draw a terrain map with weather details, and some loose stats. Or a million other ways.
However you think the request is best fulfilled by you!

Being efficient with page space is a virtue, but part of the fun of the project is capturing everyone's unique voice and skills.

And we all get every request on a webpage and/or cool PDF for Christmas! (or Kwanza, or Winter Solstice, or whatever)

Them's the basics. Tons of surprise free RPG content for all to use!


What does a Handler do? Why would I want to be one?

A Handler keeps in contact with me and a number of Secret Santicore participants, distributing requests, answering questions, checking in and keeping them on schedule, and getting their final product to the person making the PDF/Website.
If a Santicore participant is very very naughty and it doesn't look like they'll have their thing done in time, the Handlers can step in and make the thing themselves if they so desire, or take another request that hasn't been distributed yet, or help the person along to post it on their blog if it gets completed after the PDF deadline has passed. Or handle it in a way they think is best.

My goal will be that every decision in the Santicore process is made by consensus of the Handlers (of which I'll be one.) However, to make sure the thing gets done, sometimes I'll have to just make a decision and go with it. The Handlers and I will have a few threads over email and G+ to get Santicore the sweet sweet nectar of unfulfilled desires that sustain His Eldritch Horrible Jollyness.

You want to be a Handler to bring joy and wonder to RPGers everywhere. To make sure this happens. To appease the Great Santicore so that he may slumber for another year and not destroy us.

Who the fuck are you, Joey? What will you be doing?
I'll be overseeing the project and handling the Handlers, as well as pitching in art and text. If someone more qualified isn't able to, I'll be compiling the PDF at the end.

How many participants can there be? How many will each Handler...uh, handle?
I'm asking each Handler to estimate how many participants they can handle, and assigning them that many. Then, if a Handler gets overwhelmed, I'll take on their load or distribute it or find a new Handler.
The number of requests that get fulfilled will just be how many we can get to. 69 is the goal, anything past that is gravy.
Unfulfilled requests will go in the back of the PDF, unless the requester does not want it to. Then maybe some kind soul(s) will fulfill it on their blogs after!

email metalvsskin at geemale dot calm :
-title of the email should say SANTICORE HANDLER somewhere
-your name
-how many people you're willing to handle
-if you want to be a text wrangler or art czar

A short history of Santicore, cause I'm running outa time to Blog today...
 +Zak Smith had a great idea to celebrate the lives of Gygax and Arneson back in 2010 with the Secret Arneson Gift Exchange.
Then the next year +Jez Gordon renamed it and did it again for the holidays -and released it as an awesome PDF.
In 2012, Jez nobly tried to do it again, first putting out a call for helpers, then submissions. Then, sadly, life did what it does and Jez had to bow out. Some rad folks stepped up, and most of the content made it on to one blog or another.
HUGE THANKS to Zak S, Jez Gordon, Jeremy Duncan, and all the guys who helped out in 2012 (Erik, Trey, Rolang, Mike, and Dallas.)
also THANKS to all the participants from past years for making and finishing requests!

Friday, September 13, 2013


Or, as the common joke goes, Hassle-i-tudes!

What is the One Kingdom of Thee Great Land of Lak Arkun?
Lak Arkun is the setting of a new game I will be soft-starting with these events, and running regular sessions starting in October. It is a combination of Pendragon and After the Bomb. I thought this was an original idea, then I searched a couple terms and saw Zak S proposing it months ago on G+. OH WELL. It'll be some version of FLAILSNAILS light.
The One Kingdom is the political name of the Kingdom of Logres in this setting, that ruled over by Artan, Beaver King, the anthropomorphic beaver equivalent of King Arthur. It's where Camelot is.
The Out Isles culture in the Pendragon book has been replaced with that of Feudal Japan.

Wikipedia says: "Hastilude is a generic term used in the Middle Ages to refer to many kinds of martial games. The word comes from the Latin hastiludium, literally "lance game"'."

This event, as noted in the title of this post, is to celebrate the coming of Fall and a break from the heat, and to commune and joy in each other as we enter the dark days of Winter. NOW! TO SPECTACLES!

All events are open to all FLAILSNAILS PCs as "visiting knights".

No magic items. Using the rules from the FLAILSNAILS Tourneys last year. Play By Post. Horses/"lances" provided to those who are not able to provide/buy them for themselves, but uh, you probably want a better one than the pro-bono version. (horses tire and stumble, lances break...)

Open to the first six FLAILSNAILS PCs or native knights that sign up. Run using Warlords of Vornheim rules over G+ hangout. If there's time, there will be a second one. Free-for-all combat.

A team of 5 PCs prepares the terrain and themselves to prevent single warriors from crossing the bridge and gate into the Tower of Mardun (a little-used tower King Artan has declared for the purpose). Challengers attempt to cross, winning glory if they succeed, and mockery if they fail. The team of 5 will get terrain info beforehand to prepare for a few days over G+ posts, then the event will be a hangout. Knights should sign up either as Tenans, that is, a team of 5 holding terrain, or Venans, challengers. First team of 5 to organize themselves and sign up as a team gets the spot. Hopefully we'll have time for many Venans to make the attempt.

A single brave warrior prepares terrain and arms himself to defend a mock castle against team(s) of 5 attackers. Much like the above, with the numbers reversed. The single warrior will get days to prepare, then the event will be over hangout.

All those violating the One Kingdom's laws and Those Laws ov Chivalry during these events will be fought to their doom by such Knights as volunteer themselves for that task. Sign up your Knight beforehand to volunteer to dispatch such cowardly villains. (logistics to come.)

Magic is rare in the realms of Lak Arkun, but not unknown. However we hear it is utterly rampant in other lands. During these brief weeks when the walls between worlds are so thin, we wish to see wild displays of your magical talent! (Still working this one out - I'd like to do it over play-by-post, but still hammering out details. Might be a series of short hangouts. Magical equivalent of the Joust- winner of each duel goes to the next bracket.)

SIGN UP YOUR KNIGHT/MAGIC-USER FOR YOUR CHOSEN EVENTS ASAP!! The deadline is Sunday, September 22nd, but the sooner you sign up, the better. The Joust begins Monday, September 23rd. Other events may happen before that, we'll see how quickly things fill up. The Magical Duel will close the proceedings.


-a preexisting FLAILSNAILS character's stats and items, non-item related weirdness, spells, and two magical items you will have on you during events that allow them. Sneaking magical items into the Joust is possible, but those so discovered to do so will be duly punished in Trial By Combat.


-your thoughts or unformed enthusiasm for a native Knight. We'll hangout to walk through making it at some point, or do it over private messages if you have both Pendragon and any of the Palladium TMNT/After The Bomb books with stats for making mutant animal characters.

(For native Knights during and regular sessions after THEE HASTILUDES are over I'll be incorporating Character Gen elements from Beyond the Wall, ideas from Bushido, and setting elements from Tenra Bansho Zero. Obviously I'll be using Mutants in Avalon too.
From the Player end, you'll be making a basic AtB/TMNT mutant animal, then layering a Pendragon character on top. Characters can be from different Kingdoms/cultures, they'll just be Ransom Knights - IE Knights on foreign exchange sent to make sure Kingdoms maintain diplomacy with each other.
I'll be posting about this more, either here or on G+. I'll have a character gen session some time in the next few weeks.
Do not be fooled, you may be playing a talking potentially psychic animal, but I am going to be running this shit seriously and death will be all around.)

Comment or ask questions on G+ here.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Feeling Like a Ship Run Aground

The worst photo of some Samurai I drew in 1998 or so.

Feeling lately like Empire of the Flaming Moon has been a series of dead ends - maybe the experiments with rules I've been doing would be a game interesting for me to GM but seems more and more there are not that many interested in playing it. And which is fine, it just means I need to stop spending time on it. I wasn't exactly sure how to get the thing I wanted to end up with when I started, and maybe this wasn't it.

Are there people who haven't commented that have been reading the blog posts and are just kinda waiting to speak up til I run a game?

I guess more importantly, are there people who feel invested in playing the rules as written on my blog thus far?

Would the whole thing be better retooled as a setting/skin of DCCRPG or Warhammer FRP?
(I'd take a few months working on behind the scenes GM stuff for it then run it in the Winter).

While I'm working a lot less day job (yay being a contractor) I have a lot more going on socially than I did on the East Coast (IE before last month) and of course I need to schedule and prioritize a bit more than I thought.
I'm not at a dearth of inspiration or feeling for RPGs in general. I've been excited about playing more lately, although real life stuff keeps coming up when the games I most want to play on G+ happen (like last night).

I also have an idea for a CoC/BRPmodern game set in the present day that I'd love to run as a long term G+ campaign on a consistent night. Lovecraft stuff would only be 1/4 or less of the inspiration for what's really going on there - more Silent Hill/Tsutomu Nihei manga/Angel Heart (the movie)/Clive Barker/Cronenberg/David Lynch type of stuff.

I guess beyond a  thing I want to run for the month of October, I'm feeling way more enthusiastic about running non-D&D stuff lately.

COMMENT over on G+.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Attack Forms Redux

It is difficult for me to determine if the Attack Forms system is hopelessly fiddly or if I communicated it wrong in the earlier post. Since you do not have the glorious pleasure of being in my brain, I'll rewrite it from a different perspective and see if it makes more sense.

OK, so I rolled really cool on the creation charts, my character has saved a Ronin from bandits, joined a Daimyo's house, done a favor for a Sword School and sworn never to tell their secrets, or otherwise got herself in a situation to learn an Attack Form during some downtime. What now?
The GM will tell me that either the teacher has offered to teach me one of their preexisting forms, and a few hints as to what that is, or that the teacher will help me work on something of my own creation.

Things I decide or the GM tells me (or we determine randomly for max chaos):
1. Position of my sword at start of Form, and what body part is thus blocked.
2. Part of body my attack hits
3. Position of my sword at end of Form (could be the same as #1) and part of me blocked.
4. Are there any special blocking moves or acrobatics inherent to the form that affect Speed?

If 4 is a "No", then Speed = 1 (until improved by Advancement or affected by decisions below.)

If 4 is "Yes", the GM determines any applicable effects and Speed = 0.

Here are the body parts again. This list is both for decisions about your body, and your opponent's. Torso (Right) or Torso (Left) can be chosen as Torso (whatever side is toward me).

1. Head
2. torso (front)
3. torso (left)
4. torso (right)
5. left arm
6. right arm
7. left leg
8. right leg
9. torso (back)
10. Sword Hand

OK. I have tracked down the rogue Ronin Hiretsukan who has been harrying the countryside with all sorts of depredations. Hey, that's my job! We've been circling each other for days and have exchanged harsh words in a rice field while wind blows dramatically.
What happens now?
The GM decides what Form Hiretsukan is gonna do, and describes what position his sword is in.
I either researched his moves and now have a clue what Form he's preparing or didn't and don't. Either way, I choose my move and describe my sword position at the start of my Form. Hiretsukan changes his or doesn't and I react to that or don't. Once we stop changing positions and are ready to exchange blows, I tell the GM what Form I've decided on. In game, my PC and Hiretsukan launch toward each other in a rustle of kimonos and swords.

What I chose in the moment:
1. What my PC does in the build-up round, whatever makes sense at the time or sets up any acrobatic parts of the Form.
2. What Form to use, if I have several. I could also choose to use a Defense Form instead, dodge, or whatever else, but I have to decide the round before.
If two PCs were going at it, the players would describe their sword positions then each secretly tell the GM what form they're using. Or Chris H's excellent suggestion of having a note card for each Form with the starting sword position on one side and the Form details on the other.
3. Whether my PC is still or moving slowly away after the strike.

In D&D terms, the strike of an Attack Form auto hits without a To Hit roll, so is blocked/deflects/etc only if the opponent's form blocks it.

My PC Tsubame has chosen has chosen to use her Tears Of A Dove Form, which involves a leap and strike at the head. It starts with arms akimbo, the strike bringing the sword from right to left.
1. Position of Sword at Start: Right Arm
2. Part of Body Hit: Head
3. Position of Sword at End: Left Torso
4. An acrobatic leap is inherent to the form. Speed = 0 unless I improve it with an Advancement. This also means hits to my legs miss since I'm jumping if they don't beat me on Speed.

The GM decided Hiretsukan is using his Knee Chopper Form, where he goes to one knee and swipes at the opponent's. Hiretsukan doesn't know about my Tears Of A Dove Form.
1. Position of Sword at Start: Right Torso
2. Part of Opponent's Body Struck: Left Leg
3. Position of Sword at End: Right Arm
4. Acrobatics: Yes. Hits to Hiretsukan's head miss since he drops to one knee, again unless the opponent's strike has superior Speed.

We both missed! I'm sure my party would feel privileged to witness the rare duel between swordspeople that lasts to a second blow, if they weren't busy with Hiretsukan's bandit henchmen. (Hiretsukan ducks under Tsubame's blade, and Tsubame jumps over Hiretsukan's - all happens much faster than a usual swing-and-dodge would because these are well-practiced techniques.)

My PC Tsubame and the foul NPC Hiretsukan both spend a round - me landing and moving away a bit, him getting back on his feet. There's another round as we face each other again, preparing the next strike! I don't know much about Hiretsukan and he's blown one mystery move.

I've only got one form left with Tsubame - a fast strike at the opponent's sword hand,
White Dove's Offering.
1. Position of Sword at Start: Sword Hand (basically, my sword and arm are extended such that the sword doesn't block any other part.)
2. Body Part Hit: Sword Hand
3. Position of Sword at End: Right Arm (The sword is drawn back)
4. Acrobatics: no. Speed = 1.

The GM decides that Hiretsukan is counting on his brute strength, and is going to use the Beggar Maker, which is a vicious strike at the Right Arm, attempting to sever it.
1. Sword at Start: Left Arm (he's holding his sword so far diagonally across himself it's not even really blocking his torso)
2. Hit Location: Right Arm
3. End Position: Torso (front)
4. Acrobatics: Nope. Speed = 1.

We exchange blows at the same time! Our Speed is equal. He goes for my Right Arm...but his blow is deflected for half damage by my sword! This also prevents him from attempting to sever it (the body part must be undefended for a sever attempt). My blow lands on his Sword Hand! It is useless! (Hiretsukan suffered 6 points of damage, Tsubame 3; Tsubame's sword was blocking her right arm because the White Dove's Offering Form ends there. Tsubame has more than 3 HP and Hiretsukan is a 2HD NPC so has more than 6.)

I hop away, wary of dirty tricks from the old bandit. After recovering for a round, he throws down a smoke pellet! One of my allies is free and throws a shuriken, but Hiretsukan is gone. He must have trained with Ninja as well as Samurai! Of course, the crazy one in our party decides he can't get away if we set everything on fire, and starts to do that, but that's a different story...

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Attack and Defense Forms for Empire of the Flaming Moon

This is an Alpha document that will probably need a lot of editing and tweaks once I get feedback from other people. If I update it significantly, that'll be a separate post. It's an attempt to quantify special sword techniques as seen in Samurai films and, primarily, The Legend of Kamui manga. This mostly covers using special attacks with a weapon in a duel format with others who know their own Forms, but can be used (at risk) in other types of combat or applied to unarmed attacks - or Advancements used to make a Form useful against many foes. 
My goal here is to make a system that front loads all the complexity (IE most decisions are made when the thing is learned by a character and not during a fight), makes special and tense duel situations, involves a choice between gambling and investigation of an opponent, and has a lot of room for clever strategy without any heavily exploitable flaws.
1. most medium weapons (including swords) in Empire of the Flaming Moon do 1d6 damage. Most people have 1d6 HP per HD (and most common NPCs are 1HD).
2. EotFM has some of the cool aesthetic differences between the genders of feudal Japanese cultures preserved, but I am doing away with the limitations (what there even were; see Kunoichi and Onna-bugeisha). Women can be Samurai, Ninja, and wandering Swordswomen. Sometimes in the text I say Swordsmen or swordsman because it sounds less clunky than the alternatives and I'm trying to get this stuff written. It refers to both sexes.

Special Attack and Defense strikes and positions are part of the training of Samurai, students of sword schools, and most Ninja. In Attack Forms, a strike is positioned to inflict maximum damage to a specific part of the opponent's body. If that part of the opponent's body is protected by their weapon or body's position, damage will be lessened or negated. Often the outcome of a battle - and the survival - of combatants is determined by clever choice of Attack Form based on their knowledge of the opponent's Forms. Sometimes a confident swordsman will inform his target that they will duel, then lounge in the same town, waiting for his opponent to let him know they are ready. Sometimes they have even shared meals or drinks, often one sweating and asking desperate questions, the other jovial or full of dread duty.
These special Attack Forms are not often used in mass combat. Setting oneself up to use them effectively and returning to more general fighting stances afterwards takes time. Armor also tends to interfere with the swift movements involved, so they are usually used when wearing day-to-day clothes.
However, when two highly trained fighters meet, it is most likely a fight to the death. Those trained in Attack and Defence Forms most often use them on others so trained. 
A Samurai or lone swordperson's reputation is often such that one can find out where they trained and thus gain some idea of the range of Attack Forms they might use. With Ninja it is more difficult, but still possible, to get some knowledge of their personal Form or those taught by their clan. Samurai often know only the forms taught by their training; the same is true of Swordsmen, but they may develop personal styles as they advance. While Ninja Clans train in standard forms, they see these as building blocks to develop personal forms. Thus, a single Ninja who is properly advanced may be the only living person to use their form - and will make sure anyone else that sees it dies.
Sword Schools will seek the death of anyone stealing their Sword Forms through spying or teaching their Forms outside the school.

One round before and after an Attack Form is used, the character may take no action but to move forward at 1/4 speed, jump, or come to a standstill. Attack Forms are used because they are deadly, and often end a battle on the first blow.

Choose at character creation or when the Form is learned:
-where the strike will fall on the opponent's body
-the position of your sword (or other weapon) in relation to your body at the start of the move, and the end (if different) - IE what parts of your body are protected by your sword

then choose one of the following:
-your blow gains 1 speed
-a part of your body is protected by position or object (block of wood, bending foot under you, etc); if by position, this may change from the beginning of the move to the end

The body is broken down thus when choosing where the blow will fall and parts of your own body involved:
1. Head
2. torso (front)
3. torso (left)
4. torso (right)
5. left arm
6. right arm
7. left leg
8. right leg
9. torso (back)
10. swordhand

Torso (left) and torso (right) can be stated as "whichever is toward me" or be defined specifically in regards to an enemy's body. Blows that land with full effect on the head or torso do double maximum damage. Otherwise, blows that land with full effect do maximum damage and render the part of the body they hit useless until healed.

Attack Forms are static, that is, everything about them is determined when they are learned. To have one that works differently, one must train an entirely new move. The character may have a number of Attack Forms ready at any time equal to their current Practice +1. (Practice is a record of whether you have spent at least 1 hour of the last 48 practicing your moves.) Thus, a character who has not been in a stable enough place to work out in the last 2 days must choose only 1 of their Attack Forms to call upon.

The blow with the highest speed lands when the opponent's sword is in Beginning position. If the blows have equal Speed, they resolve normally. A point of Speed one would have on a blow may be sacrificed for the following other effects:
1. acrobatic bullshit - jumping, tumbling, etc as part of the move. If intrinsic to the move, this should be defined when the Attack Form is first learned.
2. recovery - to take the round after normally, instead of the usual recovery round of inactivity
3. blocking - areas of your body blocked by your own sword take no damage instead of half.

Your sword will be in the way of the opponent's to at least one of your body parts. If the opponent's blow would strike this part, the blow inflicts half damage instead of full. If you sacrifice a point of speed (must be stated before blows are struck), areas thus blocked take no damage. ("Clang!" neither blow lands as swords collide).
If one's sword changes position during a blow, define one part of the body that is defended by it at the beginning of the Attack Form and one at the end. If Speed is equal among combatants for this blow, BOTH parts of the body are considered defended.
If a part of the body is armored, that part takes half max damage from a successful Attack Form blow. (usually this means an Attack Form is being used on common soldiers - or the dishonorable. Swordsmen going into battle with each other rely on their skill and not armor).

If a limb is struck and totally undefended, a character may attempt a contested STR vs opponent's CON roll to sever it. Of course, whether the Form attempts to strike a limb is determined when the Form is first learned.

1. add 1 Speed
2. add 1 additional part of the body affected; this may only be chosen once; damage is only max and not double for totally undefended parts; severing limbs is possible
3. add one standard attack to another opponent at (level - 5) to hit (throwing something, swinging sword around, kicking, etc. Thus, a level 1 character would have -4 to hit for this standard attack)
4. If an Attack Form already has #3 added, that blow may be turned into the Attack Form (but is now executed the round immediately after the first blow)- IE the Attack Form can be made against two opponents in quick succession. Speed for the second is at -1.
5. reduce a specific penalty associated with the attack by 1
6. If the character knows Kawarimi (see Ninja Tricks under Power/Magic section forthcoming), add one part of the body that Kawarimi is true for during this Attack Form. Torso sections are considered separate parts for this.

#3 above in action.

I hope this gives the ability to advance to a place where it makes more sense to use Attack Forms against foes who are not using them, in mass combat, emulating the mythic swordmen who dispatch regular foes with their technique right and left, but only after years of normal fighting, training, and duels with other swordmen. See the attached PDF at the end of the Attack Forms section for a longer example from Legend of Kamui, from which most of the images here are taken.
What seems to happen in The Legend of Kamui is, most samurai and swordsmen have an attack form that goes like this:
-the blow will strike the opponent's torso (front - or right to left, diagonally)
-the samurai's sword is raised in front of or above his head at the beginning of the blow, and lowered in front of his torso at the end
-the samurai's head is completely protected at the beginning of the move, his torso at the end

Kamui's personal and secret sword technique, Kasumigiri, seems to go something like this:
-the blow will strike the torso (left or right, whichever is toward him)
-his sword is sheathed or held to the side at the beginning of the move, then held upside-down but horizontally in front of his torso at the end
-none of Kamui's body is especially protected by the move itself, but it happens really fast. Mechanically, it gains Speed: 1. (or he's just fast - IE he added 1 Speed through advancement)

Thus, Kamui's blow lands while the other swordman is still in beginning stance (protecting his head), doing double max damage to the opponent's torso. If Kamui's blow didn't have 1 Speed, it would be deflected by the opponent's sword in this scenario, since the opponent's ending sword position is in front of their torso. 

This five-page sequence from Legend of Kamui #19 (as selected and published in the US by Viz in the 90's, and currently out of print) shows a swordsman using Attack Forms against first regular opponents, then another trained swordsman. I've tried to make it possible to get to something like this with sufficient Advancements. Legend of Kamui isn't the only influence on Empire of the Flaming Moon, but it's a big one for sure.
It's also awesome, and with the knowledge that Kamui also covers a lot of class issues and human questions, should light a fire in you to find it and write endless letters to publishers to get the massive amount of Kamui that's never been translated into English to get a high-end translation and printing.

Defense Forms are far simpler mechanically. Choose 3 of the body positions on the below chart. If one round is spent doing nothing else, these three parts of the body are immune to harm from Attack Forms (blows are deflected by weapon or dodged). In standard combat, this grants a bonus of 4 to AC. If a character began running or jumping the round before, they may continue at 1/2 speed while using a defense form.

1. Head
2. Torso
3. left arm
4. right arm
5. left leg
6. right leg
7. back
8. sword hand (or specific strap, item, etc)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Empire of the Flaming Moon: Character Creation (Revised)

(I realized I had got down a path I wasn't actually that interested in - pretty standard D&D play plus kimonos and katana. My initial intention with EotFM was far more "alt history with mythological touches" and not high fantasy, so before going farther, I'm making sure it's on the right track.)

All starting PCs are human.

FLAILSNAILS: magic items from other settings become mundane items of appropriate weight upon entry, or are left in interdimensional space while the PC is here - Player choice. Non-human PCs may choose at entry to appear human for the duration, but lose all racial abilities while here if so.

The average person will never see magic performed by a human except healing, and might glimpse mystical creatures only a few times in their lives. There are a few exceptions based on Buddhist and Shinto practices and spirits. The major exception is that Priests DO treat those badly injured helping their community or the exceptionally sick if their families petition the priest. Shinto and Buddhist healing magic is part of the culture and not considered an imposition of alien force into reality.

Hengeyokai are considered to be old folklore by the common people, but believed in and feared by Daimyo and Shogun of the old school. Native PCs may attempt to become Hengeyokai at death. To achieve this, they choose a native animal to attempt to possess, then roll percentile dice. If the roll is equal to or less than [CHA x (POW score or INT bonus, use higher)], they are successful and their spirit merges with the animal's mind. Other rules regarding Hengeyokai are here; if there are any discrepancies, this post you are reading now takes precedence.

Character Creation
1. Abilities and money.
Roll 3d6 in order seven times.

STR (melee attack and damage bonus)
DEX (ranged attack bonus. AC bonus)
CON (HP bonus)
INT (Languages known; interactions with written or remembered information)
WIS (Perception checks and the like)
CHA (interactions with others, the force of your personality)

You may switch one if you want. The last one x10 after any switching is starting currency, which is usually paper scripts representing an amount of rice. Currency may be copper coins minted by the Empire, depending. Foreign currency is subject to exchange rates.

Skill checks and saving throws are made by rolling under the appropriate ability score (usually with penalties). Contested rolls are won by rolling under your ability score but higher than the opponent.

Note bonuses to attacks and AC due to Ability Scores from here.

POWER: this ability score is determined by [(CON or CHA) + (INT or WIS) - 28]. It is the ability to manifest your will into a change in reality - IE magic. It has a few other uses that the Magic and Combat Styles entries will go in to.

2. HP
Roll 1d6. Yup. Add your CON bonus according to this chart.

3. Magic (beta test version)- if you have a positive POW score starting out, choose a first level spell from any book or a starting magical ability from an RPG class. I may tweak these. There are many more nuances to POW and magic in EotFM, but for now, this works. A player may decide to leave the effect open to last-minute improvisation, but agrees to acquiesce to GM interpretation of the desired effect. I'll be fair, it's not a _Wish_ spell. Note that Vancian Magic is not native to EotFM, and native characters cannot learn it on this soil.
What players with a positive POW score are doing is: Buddhism - tapping into the Universal Spirit along the Path to Knowledge and manifesting their will. Shinto - Communicating and bartering with Kami or Demons to achieve the desired effect. Shinto magic can be more powerful, but at a cost. There are more typical Magic-Users in the western style in the Dragon Kingdoms to the immediate west (think China).
As far as deities go, players are welcome to do as much or little research on Shinto and Buddhism as they want. There are many local beliefs and superstitions that permeate the setting, so having different PCs with different understandings of spirituality is fine. The basics that anyone from Nippon (the Japan of this setting) would know are: Shinto is the older native religion, and its followers believe every creature and object has a spirit, called a Kami, that the especially sensitive can communicate with and the powerful can manipulate.
Buddhists believe that all living things are part of a Universal Spirit, and that energy flows through all that can be manipulated by those in touch with oneness along the Path to Knowledge.

4. Classes? There are no classes per se. Their equivalent is the sum of your path through the origin tables and what you choose for Advancement.

5. Equipment. You may carry 1 item for every point of STR or CON (whichever is higher), plus a basic kimono. Small items (throwing stars, daggers, etc) count as 1/3 of an item, tiny objects (caltrops, nuts) give you 1 average use of the item per slot (1 throw of caltrops covering 5' well or 15' loosely is 1 item slot)

Social Class of Parents
roll 1d10
1 - Samurai Class - Nobles, elite warriors, the aristocracy
2-7 - Peasant Class - Farmers, fisherman, common laborers
8 - Artisans - craftspeople; boatwrights, swordmakers, clothing makers, makers of cooking utensils, etc
9 - Merchants - traveling traders and shop keepers are considered "parasites" and segregated.
10 - below class system

Family Fate During Childhood
1 - Master's house dissolved; your father became a Ronin; roll on Artisans' chart for Fate During Adolescence
2 - Parents Killed; Roll on Peasant chart for Adolescence
3 - Favored of the Daimyo; you may choose your result on the Fate During Adolescence chart
4 - Political Position; your father was elevated to Daimyo status and you will inherit his position
5 - Corrupt; your parents were involved with Yakuza
6 - Warrior; your parents made sure you were tough. Add 1 to HP OR attack rolls
7-8 - Heavy Training; Gain an Attack Form

1 - famine and heavy taxes; subtract 1 from CON
2 - famine and heavy taxes; subtract 1 from CON but also have Community below under "7-8"
3 - Corrupt; your family is involved with the Yakuza
4 - Agile: your talents were noticed by a Ninja clan, and you were taken from your parents and trained
5 - Parents Killed; roll on Below Class System chart for Adolescence
6 - Family uplifted; roll on Samurai chart for Adolescence
7-8 - Community: you always have safe haven and access to equipment on your family's farm and in your hometown; they will even hide you from Samurai, Daimyo, Yakuza, etc

1 - boatwright; you have access to boats your family couldn't sell or a new boat at material cost
2 - swordsmith; you have access to weapons at material cost if you travel to your family's shop
3 - textiles/clothier; you have access to clothing of any profession of station if you travel to your family's shop, but they may not approve
4 - potter; the rhythms, rituals, and aesthetics of wabi-sabi have given you an understanding - gain +1 POW and have access to pottery (either rejects for free or new at cost)
5 - architect; your parents helped plan and construct houses and other structures, and you have an understanding of them
6 - performer; your parent(s) were either travelling performers or Noh actors and you have a bonus of 1 to any checks involving acting, subterfuge, or performance
7 - painter/printer; you have an understanding of art, color, how to harvest ink and brushes from nature, small-scale woodworking, and can talk aesthetics as if raised in the Samurai class
8 - abandoned; roll on the Below Class System chart for Adolescence
9 - Sword School assistant; gain an attack form and have access to a noted swordsman
10 - Raised by Strange Foreigners; gain +1 to POW but magic performed will be considered an illegal act; know a few sleight-of-hand tricks

1 - failed business; roll on the Below Class System chart for Adolescence
2 - Successful business; double normal starting cash
3 - corrupt; family involved with Yakuza
4 - uplifted; your parents did something that impressed a Samurai and were taken on to run an estate; roll on Samurai table for Adolescence
5 - sold; raised as Ninja
6 - became farmers; roll on Peasant's chart for Adolescence
7 - trader; roll 1d4 on Artisans Childhood chart above
8 - Wildly Successful or Terrible Fate; choose another table to roll on

Below Class System - on all results, halve starting cash
1 - half starting cash again
2 - wanted by authorities
3 - butcher, undertaker, or tanner; access to meat, undertaker's business, or hides as appropriate
4 - descendant of slaves; bears a distinctive tattoo or mark
5 - hustler; +1 to CHA
6 - shop's assistant; roll on Merchant table for adolescence
7 - artists' assistant; roll on Artisan table for adolescence
8 - raised by Yakuza
9 - stole Attack Form; gain an attack form, but a (1-3) Samurai or (4) Ninja Clan wants you dead
10 - Geisha; you know the ways of the upper classes but are not of them

Family Fate During Adolescence
Samurai - NOTE: all results except "Ronin" mean you are sworn to serve your Daimyo and tied to his or her house and fate. Your movements are restricted, and your actions must be weighed, lest you decrease your Daimyo's honor and besmirch his name.
1 - Master's house dissolved; you have become a Ronin and surrounding Daimyos chose not to take you in. Everyone who knows you expects you to petition Daimyo to allow you to Seppeku in their palaces so you might die with some honor. You have no Honor points to start.
2 - Executioner in training; you crit on a 19 or 20. This may be chosen as an Advancement by Samurai characters who spend time training for it. Gain 1 Infamy.
3 - Favored of the Daimyo; you may choose any starting equipment you can carry and may petition your Daimyo for conveyances and other favors; you may go on missions you choose if you convince the Daimyo they are somehow in her/his favor. Gain 1 Honor.
4 - Political Position; you have risen in the Daimyo's house and are in charge of a certain city or trade route. Gain 2 Honor to start.
5 - Corrupt; you are involved with Yakuza and it's only a matter of time before someone figures out who's letting all that gambling occur in District 3. Gain 1 Infamy.
6 - Warrior; You have proved yourself a mighty warrior. add 1 to STR or WIS and gain 1 Honor or Infamy
7-8 - Noted: Gain 2 Honor or Infamy, or one of each.

All social classes below Samurai are forbidden from openly carrying weapons in civilized areas.

1 - Tax Revolt! The Samurai that put down your area's tax revolt were especially cruel. You have no family farm or safe haven.
2 - Tax Revolutionary! You have no family farm, but are a member of a secret mountain camp that works to undermine the Daimyo and Shogun and free the people. Some view you as bandits, some as saviors. Gain 1 Defense Form (NOT an attack form).
3 - Yakuza thug; you owe money or are otherwise under the thumb of a low-level Yakuza boss. You're known as a thug and people fear you or come to you for contacts. Gain 1 Infamy.
4 - Genin; you are a low-level Ninja, beholden to your Clan. Genin is the rank that carries out actual missions in the field. Gain access to Ninja Weapons as starting equipment and roll on the Ninja chart below.
5 - Herbal training; gain a bonus of 2 to revive unconscious people and roll under WIS at appropriate penalties to identify poisons or make antidotes.
6 - Animal Friend; you have an animal friend who is loyal to you.
7-8 - Community: you always have safe haven and access to equipment on your family's farm and in your hometown; they will even hide you from Samurai, Daimyo, Yakuza, etc; if you already have this and want to, you may reroll. Otherwise, gain 1 Honor.

Artisans and Merchants
1 - Genin; you are a low-level Ninja, beholden to your Clan. Genin is the rank that carries out actual missions in the field. Gain access to Ninja Weapons as starting equipment and roll on the Ninja chart below. The fact that you are a Ninja is a sectret from even your closest family.
2 - Expert Smith; with facilities and enough money, you can make Master weapons in downtime. Master weapons observed in use will cause Samurai and Ninja to seek them.
3 - Armorer; you may craft armor or improvise it from what you find with a roll under INT and a plausible or entertaining description
4 - Haunted; a ghost inhabits an item you carry from your parent's shop. It sees into the physical and spirit worlds, and may have other powers. It is not necessarily a fan of you, though.
5 - Noted Craftsman; your family is known for their works, and people curry favor with you. Gain 1 CHA or Honor.
6 - performer; you are a travelling performer or Noh actor and you have a bonus of 1 to any checks involving acting, subterfuge, or performance. If you got this for Childhood you may reroll; otherwise gain 1 CHA or INT.
7 - Yakuza Thug: see #3 under Peasants
8 - Sword School student; gain 1 Attack or Defense form. A noted swordsman's pupil. Gain 1 Honor.

Below Class System - on all results, halve starting cash
1 - half starting cash again
2 - wanted by authorities
3 - Weird mentor; a strange old man sometimes appears and impart his wisdom to you, usually with a whack on the skull. Gain 1 WIS or 1 POW.
4 - Yakuza Thug; double starting cash but you've got responsibilities.
5 - Genin; see 1 under Artisans and Merchants.
6 - Good Deed; you have 1 Honor in your town of origin (only).

Samurai on horseback, wearing armor and horned helmet, carrying bow and arrows

Spend a point to automatically succeed on a CHA roll or decide an NPC's reaction roll result.
Spend a point to add 1 to any roll you make or subtract 1 from the roll of an enemy that can currently see your face.

After surviving a game (at least 2.5 hours of actual play time), a PC gains one of the below:
*+1d6 HP
*Accuracy: +1 to hit (choose Melee or Ranged, only counts for that)
*Savagery: +1 to damage (choose Melee or Ranged, only counts for that)
*Master of Secrets: +1 to POWer.
*Training: pick two skills from this list. Get +1 to checks involving those skills and any relevant extra effects. You can double up on the same skill if you want to get +2, but the extra effects (if any) are not doubled if you are choosing it twice at the same time. (by "plus" I mean "roll improved; in many situations this will actually mean the roll is lowered)
*An Attack or Defense Form, if the PC has spent time training and practicing. (Attack and Defense Forms will be detailed soon)
*+1 to an ability score the PC rolled this session, to a max of 18.

Yamato Takeru dressed as a maidservant, preparing to kill the Kumaso leaders. Woodblock print on paper. Yoshitoshi, 1886.

To Do:
1. Ninja chart (for people who have results making them Ninja on the charts above to roll on at character creation. Gotta have some Ninja runaway PCs with whole Clans after them!)
2. Equipment Details
3. POW details (especially Ninja tricks)
4. Attack and Defense Forms.

I've been working at this so long that it's hard to see it right; I need other eyes on it, so here ya go!
Goal: to get everything done and play a test session by September 15th.