Sunday, December 19, 2010

Megadungeon Maps (Spoilers!)

Disclaimer: If you are a player in one of my games than you damn well know better than to be looking at these or the comments ;)

Below are the maps for the first four "main" levels of my Algol megadungeon; there are a few multi-level side dungeons as well. Click to embiggen:

The main area of the first level, with more to the south.

The southern region of the first level, SPOILER "The House of the Snail," the eponymous inhabitant being some sort of invertebrate savant./SPOILER

The second level.

The third level, SPOILER which I think of as an "offside mezzanine"; the connections between the second, third, and fourth levels are complicated by an adjoining complex of levels, the maps of which have not been posted./SPOILER

The forth level, SPOILER with architecture dissimilar to that of the above regions./SPOILER

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Butts, Dongs and Gazoombas in RPG Art Wishlist

Recently there have a been a few online discussions & kerfuffles about what kind of artwork is appropriate in rpgs, with subjects such as gore, nudity, and the like being issues.

Now, with everyone being different, people have different standards regarding what kind of artwork is appropriate in a rpg product. Unfortunately, I'm not World Dictator yet, so nobody is being forced to play rpgs or read these books; but it seems reasonable that there is room for both "G-rated" products, and "Adult" ones as well. By adult, I'm not talking about SLAUGHTER PORN!, but works that assume that the reader is an adult.

With that all taken care of, as a guy with an appreciation for loutish, lowbrow humour, here are some illustrations I would LOVE to see in an "Adult" RPG product:

- Someone pooping in the forest, with a bare butt, and a snake or giant centipede biting them in said butt. Of course this poor sap would have a shocked/horrified expression.

- A dude running and swordfighting, butt-naked, with his dong swinging about Corben-style. I'm imagining a Cassanova/Lieber story gone wrong...the protagonist is running and fighting his way across a manor roof through an army of angry brothers with a terrified "Oh my god! I'm in it now! I'm fighting naked on a rooftop!" look on his face.

- Some cavewomen or lady headhunters with those dangling National Geographic boobs...and some disappointed looking explorers.

- A pervy looking magic-user using invisibility to spy on a bathing lady.

- Something like the Wolf Witch sequence from Conan the Barbarian or a Succubus visitation, but going absolutely horrible for the poor guy...he's scratched all to hell, trying to scramble out of the pile of sleeping furs, meanwhile the supernatural hoochie mama is cackling with lightning shooting out of her ears.

- Many folks have complained that they'd like to see more women in rpg products depicted as something other than Pamela Andersen in a chainmail bikini. I agree with these folks. I'd also like to see some women in rpgs products depicted with Big Butts...and I don't mean the hourglass figures that 95% of rpg illo women have. I mean the Big Butts that many real life women have. Not that I'm a crazed, gigantic ass fetishist or anything.

- An adventurer, dripping with riches, back from an expedition, in a tavern, trying to put the moves on the buxom tavern wenches...who are laughing at him ...he's humiliated ...they're pointing and laughing, tears running down their faces ...everyone's laughing at him.

Of course, I imagine all of these illustration in Poag-vision. Sweet, sweet, lurid, grotesque Poag-vision.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Stick Around! - AD&D Action Movie Hack

I was thinking about getting into Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes; Ninjas & Superspies; Phoenix Command; d20 Modern; Spycraft; Feng Shui, or some other game or hack to do Badass 80s Action Movie Gaming! But, it might be easier to do it with D&D?

Ability Scores: 4d6, best three dice, six times, arrange to suit. Or even the most obscenely generous ability score generation system...these guys are Action Heroes! % Strength is in effect. Use the most generous ability score modifiers out of AD&D, B/XD&D & even 3E!

Character Classes: All PCs are Action Heroes. Some NPCs are Action Heroes, most are 0-level humans, as well as Fighters, Thieves, Assassins, Ninjas/Martial Artists (monks), Doctors (clerics). But all PCs are Action Heroes.

Action Heroes function as Fighters. They can use the Gun Them Down! houserule. They can use Unearthed Arcana weapon specialization...even (especially!) on guns. They also have the same abilities of a Thief of the same level...including Read languages. They also have the unarmed attack and armor class of a monk of the same level, as well as the movement rate of a monk of the same level. All PCs star at some not-low level at the beginning of the campaign...these guys are Action Heroes!

Use Jeff Rients houserule that a natural 20 on an  attack by a PC is an auto-kill.

Maybe even use 3rd edition tactical combat rules to emulate a precise bullet ballet...these guys are Action Heroes!

"Left For Dead" PCs can be resurrected by a high enough level Doctor, as per Clerical magic, but with a window of opportunity of hours instead of days.

Find some d20 Modern, Spycraft, or Palladium book for guns and gear.

Let the assault on the aerie of the Columbian Drug Lords who have taken the President captive commence.

OD&D/AD&D Fighter Houserule - Gun Them Down!

Gun Them Down Houserule
When playing a D&D variant, clone, or simulacrum, that has allowances for fighters making multiple attacks against multiple 1 HD and/or less opponents; and are playing in a campaign where guns are somewhat 'normal-ish'; and the fighter is using an automatic, semi-automatic, or bolt, lever, pump action or equivalent firearm or energy weapon; and the fighter is not currently engaged in melee; allow the fighter to use their multiple attacks against multiple 1 HD and/or less foes with missile attacks with the aforementioned gun, limited by the ammunition capacity of said gun.

I'd probably let a high level fighter with a good dexterity score use two pistols with this houserule.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Magic Item - Stuffed Crocodile

A lot of the childrens'/young adult fantasy fiction I've read features a stuffed crocodile a part of the Wizard's lair set dressing...

This item is a roughly man-sized crocodile taxidermy, with two chains attached to the dorsal surface, one above each pair of legs.

When hung from the ceiling of a magic-user's laboratory, workshop, and the like, it reduces the time and cost associated with magical research; spell transcriptions; potion brewing; and scroll scribing by 10%.

If a combination of the Speak With Animals and Speak With Dead spells are used, the stuffed crocodile will turn out to be quite the chatty gossip.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Semi-Variable Weapon Damage Houserule

I've always been a variable weapon damage guy...when I first got my Otus Basic Box and I was perusing the rules, when I came to the part about how variable weapon damage is an optional rule, and that you can use 1d6 for all weapons I scoffed, "What a load of horseshit!'

Nowadays, I'm intrigued by the concept. I'm all for simplicity, encouraging flavourful weapon choices, and experimenting with the different systems throughout D&D's history. And, like many have said, a knife can kill you just as dead as a Dwarven Double Great Axe. It's not like D&D's variable weapon damages are based on any rigourous, true scientific realism or anything. Plus, non-variable weapon damage solves some firearm conundrums.

Now, the following is inspired by both the frequent house rule I see among OD&D types that all weapons inflict 1d6 damage, but for a two-handed weapon you roll twice and take the higher roll, and also the weapon notes in the awesome Terminal Space that suggest using a similar method for energy weapons and the like.

Blair's OD&D & B/X D&D Semi-Variable Weapon Damage Houserule
- Weapons inflict 1d6 damage on a hit.
- However, as many have been already doing, roll two dice for two handed weapons and use the higher roll. This may be applicable for heavy crossbows.
- But, when using a dagger/knife, club, sling stone or improvised weapon (chair, rock, broken bottle), roll two dice and take the lower of the two rolls.

And here's a similar system for use with the Carcosa variable damage dice rolls.
- Use the Carcosa dice type table to determine what kind of dice to use for weapon damage on a hit.
- However, when using a two-handed weapon, roll twice on the aforementioned table, and use the higher of the two results.
- And when using a dagger/knife, club, sling stone, or improvised weapon, roll twice, as above, but use the lower of the two rolls.

I'd probably use the above methods in conjunction with the OD&D Greyhawk Weapon Vs. AC Modifiers, just to be idiosyncratic (I love weapon vs. AC modifiers!).

I've been lax with the music's a great, classic track by a band that you all should be listening to instead of The Sword... ;)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Send In The (Retro-) Clones(-ish Games)!

"...Blah Blah Blah...Why do these jerkwads continue rereleasing old D&D with their houserules tacked on? LOTFPWFRPG was bad enough, but if DCCRPG, WOTRP, and AS&SOH are released I'm going to totally freak out on some internet forum..."
- Some internet dude

Castles & Crusades, OSRIC, BFRPG, LL, S&W Core, S&W WB, LL AEC, LOTFPWFRPG, S&W Complete, DCCRPG, AS&SOH... sheesh are there ever a lot of retro-clone(ish) games out there...with more coming.

As many pundits have observed, not only is it bad enough that these ungrateful hacks are raping the legacy of Gygax, Arneson & co. before pasting their own names on it and gouging the consumer for their intellectual theft, but there seems to be no end to this madness. In addition to a legion of unimaginative hacks, Swords & Wizardry Complete will be for sale any second, and next year sees the release of both the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, Warriors of the Red Planet, and the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. "What's the point? I already know how to play D&D, I already have the original books or can just buy them used, these retro-clone publishers are a bunch of assholes...THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES!"

Myself? I love 'em (well, maybe not so much with C&C although I dig prime attributes as a skill system), and I can't get enough of them. Sure I own the B/X D&D and AD&D originals (I was considering shopping around for OD&D material...but I've got to save up for university, nevermind that the wifely creature would probably kill me). I'll be buying S&W Complete (although granting bows two attacks per round fills me with furious nerd rage!), I'll be buying DCC RPG, WOTRP, and I'll definately be getting AS&SOH (haha... Ass-Oh!).

What good do they serve? In the case of the clones that cleave to the original sources, they make for a nice reference work as well as serving as an alternative perspective. And they allow several options to play oldschool D&D with the variety of ruleset that suits your fancy.

In the case of the games that deviate to a significant degree from the originals, they serve as a set of alternative and additional rules for my use as a DM. Swords and Wizardry has the inspired "single saving throw," which I have become quite enamored with, and LOTFP has a plethora of legacy D&D compatible rules options (investments, starvation, etc.).

It's much like the original "Houseruled D&D Clone", Empire of the Petal Throne, at first blush it's just a different variety of OD&D...but how about using the EOTPT Magician class and associated systems instead of the Magic-User? How about using the level based combat damage option? How about using the Monsters and Treasures instead of the D&D slection? How about all of the other rules that replace or supplement the original D&D material? It's a fucking buffet man, and I have a big plate and a big appetite.

And since all of these clones, simulacrums, and "house ruled systems" all share 90-99% of their D&D DNA, it's easy enough to mix-and-match them to make YOUR GAME.

"I want a game with the Swords & Wizardry single saving throw, EPT Magicians, LOTFP Specialists, C&C SIEGE system for task resolution, and AD&D Fighters & weapon proficiencies" ...easy enough to do man!

And if your choice D&D-ish rpg doesn't have the rules for a certain subject you're interested in, and you want rules for it, it's easy enough to find them in another D&D-ish rpg. "I need castle construction costs; rules for how much room henchmen need; maritime warfare rules...good thing I have this stack of retro-clones!"

So, in summary, I don't think retro-clones are redundant; I don't care if they fragment the market (ha!); and I'm looking forward to more of them!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

High Level Fighter Option - Superhero

"For extra silliness whenever a Superhero comes up on the chart, model the character on someone like Batman or Spider-man. "Welcome to stately Wayne Castle. I am Sir Bruce." - Jeff's Gameblog
Ordinarily (According to a mash-up of AD&D & B/XD&D), when a Fighter character reaches the ninth level, they acquire the level title "Lord" or "Lady," and are somehow entitled to build a castle; kick the monstrous squatters out of the region; attract a private army of loyal goons who patrol this area; and become a Baron or Baroness with their own private Barony that they collect tax revenue from.

Optionally, Lawful (or Good) aligned Fighter PCs who attains the 8th level of experience may choose to forgo the aforementioned benefits (title; attracting men-at-arms; building a castle; controlling land and collecting taxes) and instead become a Superhero.

A Superhero gains the ability to use the combination of a Distinctive Costume and a Dramatic Pseudonym to serve as a Super-Heroic Persona, with the benefit of successfully concealing their true identity while so disguised.

Superheroes may also choose to benefit from the following abilities:

- They may build a Secret Headquarters, in a hidden wilderness, rural, or urban location. This has the same costs are ordinary excavations and construction, but will be performed in secret with attracting attention, especially from the authorities. Under ordinary circumstances this Secret Headquarters will not be found.

- They may choose to attract a Sidekick, an utterly loyal, Lawful (or Good) aligned follower (d%: 01-40 4th level; 41-95 5th level; 96-00 6th level). This sidekick will utilize a costume and pseudonym to the same effect as the Superhero character.

Superheroes who become evil become Supervillain (reversed Superheroes).

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Percentile Based Ability Score Skill System With Exponential Progression

Some of the recent blogosphere discussion of SPI's Universe sci-fi RPG, and it's use of squaring numbers in skill progressions reminded me of an idea I had for a % based ability score skill system a while back, a skill system that you could bolt onto oldchool D&D and variants, and the like, with minimum mechanical impact, bookkeeping, or fuss.

This skill system is pretty lightweight and loose, and is inspired somewhat by both how 3E skills can be classified by associated ability scores and also the use of Castle & Crusade's ability score based SIEGE mechanics as a skill system.

So the basic idea is that when a character attempts to "use a skill," or "attempt a skill-ful stunt," you determine the relevant ability score. Intelligence for deciphering archaic glyphs; wisdom for winning a meditation competition; dexterity for playing darts; charisma for getting in someone's pants.

The % chance of pulling it off, modified by whatever modifiers the DM thinks if fit, is determined by first calculating the square of the relevant ability score (multiplying it by itself; i.e. if the ability score is 10, you would multiply 10 by 10 to arrive at 100); and than dividing the resultant sum by four (in the previous example, one-quarter of 100 would result in 25, so someone with a strength of 10 would have a 25% chance of passing a push-up challenge in order to join a fraternity).

Now I'm basing the skill % logic along the lines of Runequest & Call of Cthulhu beginning character skill levels, aside for the abyssal low ability score %s and the generous high ability score %s. It's a system that allows for PCs to range from Elmer Fudd like levels of incompetence to movie Legeolas-esque near godhood at "skill checks" dependent upon their ability scores.

Myself, I could see using this method for complicated/hard skill uses, and use the roll under the ability score method for simpler, easier tasks such as climbing a tree or catching a football. This system is for performing calculus; landing crashing spaceships; tracking an alien hunter through a jungle; and catching a rope while plummeting kind of deal.

Now if you want to be a nice guy DM, you could add +1% to +5% to skill %s per level, dependent upon class and/or background relevance and the like. You could even incorporate roll-over skill advancement system of Runequest or 3rd Edition style skill points, but my intent was for the system to be bookkeeping free.

Here's the a table with the calculations already performed for you; I'm not going to be fancy like the Tao guy, etc., and make it look like something out of an AD&D manual.

Ability Score and Associated Skill %

3 - 2% (ha ha!)
4 - 4%
5 - 6%
6 - 9%
7 - 11%
8 - 16%
9 - 20%
10 - 25%
11 - 30%
12 - 36%
13 - 42%
14 - 49%
15 - 56%
16 - 64%
17 - 72%
18 - 81%

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Blair's Big Dumb Planet Algol Megadungeon

Apologies for the lack of posting lately, I've been sick and somewhat run down. Work and illness have been interfering with my gaming, and the latest Fallout installment has been sucking up a lot of my attention as well.

But I've been a doing a bunch of work on my Algol megadungeon. At this point, I have the following mapped out:

Level 1 - 143 rooms
Level 2 - 144 rooms
Level 2.B - 39 rooms
Level 3 - 82 rooms
Level 3.B - 9 rooms
Level 3.B.3 through to 3.B.7 - 34 rooms
Level 4.A - 28 rooms
Level 4.B - 22 rooms
Level 4.C - 22 rooms

The level labeling system is kind of funky right now; the oddball named levels are sub-levels or sub-complexes within the megadungeon. Of course there are byzantine interconnections between the levels.

I've paid attention to the erudite Gabor Lux's past works analyzing dungeon construction and flow, and the big levels are designed with that in mind by incorporating "loops" within the dungeon avenues. In effect there are several "neighborhoods" within each main level, as well as "freeways," complexes of corridors that allow one to travel throughout much of the differing areas of the level without having to deal with doors or major barriers; thereby allowing the giant worms and flying jellyfish means of traversing the dungeon.

A big influence has been Empire of the Petal Throne's Underworld and megadungeon innovator M.A.R. Barker's work. For my own game, one of the tentpoles of the megadungeon monster stocking will be from D&D variant EPT. The other three tentpoles being Carcosa, Arduin and the original Fiend Folio (including White Dwarf FF content), with some cherry picking from Talislanta. In any published version most such critters would be replaced with original or OGL content, but in my own game I get to use Gorbels without turning them into little exploding, clinging toddler-robots first.

As an aside, I've read previous online musings about using the Fiend Folio as an alternate Monster Manual instead of the aforementioned MM, and I have to say, I can see it working. There's definitely a nice range of humanoids in the kobold-equivalent to ogre-equivalent spectrum. Plus, forget everything you know about Gibberlings and read them with through a pulp Swords & Sorcery lens.

I'm going with a sparse monster distribution, with 1 "encounter" for every six rooms or so; with allowances for some encounter groups controlling several rooms. The general vibe I'm going for with this aspect is vastly ancient, abandoned decrepitude punctuated with moments of terror. With pockets of really bad areas.

At the 1-to-6 monsters placement-to-room ration, it works out to 24 monster encounters for the first two levels...which is quite a lot, and leaves me with a lot of room on my plate for the Tekumel/Arduin/Carcosa/Fiend Folio buffet...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Halloween - Tower of the Stargazer - Encounter Critical - Pt 1

For Halloween I sprung a surprise on the group I was DMing. I has them start roll 3d6 for their ability scores: Adaptation, Dexterity, ESP... I was running Encounter Critical for Halloween.

After generating the ability scores, I with held the list of races and offered the players the choice of rolling randomly for their race without seeing the table, or seeing the list and picking one.

All but one of the players rolled blind, and we ended up with two Amazons, a Klengon, a Wooky, a Mutant Lizard Man (the sole race chooser, I instituted a house rule that you had to roll your race to get a monster or were for your race) and a Dwarf.

The players reactions ranged from amused enthusiasm with playing an Amazon, to stoic resignation with playing an Amazon, to pithy disgust with getting stuck with a stock fantasy Dwarf. When the ability score modifiers were applied the player reaction was generally along the line of "Well, the good ability scores I had were castrated by these modifiers."

Next the classes were explained and chosen: Psi Witch Amazon, Criminal (this player chose to randomly roll his class) Klengon, Wooky Explorer, Amazon Warrior, Mutant Lizard Man Warlock and finally , the Dwarf Warrior. The Dwarf Warrior's player expressed further nausea with playing such a cliche character, although he did choose to be a Warrior.

After loading up on bulletproof vests, magnums, whips and machetes we were ready to commence The Tower of the Stargazer... (to be continued...I'm going to bed)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Another OSR Product I'd Like To See

"Weird Gods of Sword and Sorcery" or something along those lines, a big thick monster manual size listing of weird, swords & sorcery deities. It's the same idea of Judges Guild's excellent Unknown Gods, but taken to ridiculous extremes. Mostly a bunch of petty, niche godlings, the kinds that Conan or Elric would stumble across.

Although that's wasn't my original intent, a monster manual of the sort of bush league jerk-demigods that or Conan or Elric would end knocking over, isn't the worst resource for picaresque high-level play...

Anyways, so you have this books and there's a ton of gods in it. There's a god of swords, a god of axes, a god of siege warfare, a god of sharks, a god of earthquakes, a god of forest fires, a god of dancing girls, a god of slime monsters, a god of sea monsters, a god of mules, a god of arson, and so forth and so forth. And none of them have any big, campaign altering elements. And they're all nicely somewhere suitably between archetypal and weird.

When a new player asks if they can have a Cleric of the god of poison, or the god of apes, or the god of flowers, or some other random or way-out god, this book could have a fair chance of providing. Plus, for a DM being able to browse the index and think that "...maybe I want cultists of the god of Wrestling in my campaign..."

Another element could be associated minor artifacts for appropriate deities, with appropriate associated complications; another resource for emulating Elric-esque High Level Sword & Sorcery, "Our adventuring buddy is possessed by this ancient, holy headsmans' axe, and so far has proven to be nigh unstoppable; we can either kill him or kill the god of Decapitation..."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tunnels of Doom! and True Californian Black Surf Rock...

Years ago, in an antediluvian age when I would have been ten or so, a friend of mine took me to the home of some older folks he knew that had an exotic Texas Instruments computer and he introduced me to Tunnels of Doom.

It completely blew my mind in the same fashion that Wizardry's freaking D&D on a computer with a party of adventurers in a dungeon fighting monsters for treasure...holy freakin' crap!

Fast forward to the modern era...Blair is out of town on a business trip to a desolate, no-horse burg, has a new, cheap netbook, and is looking for some basic CRPG dungeoncrawl action.

Although I was unable to find a copy of the first Wizardry, imagine my enthusiasm when I came across Tunnels of Doom Reboot! I had pretty much completely forgotten my adventures and than the memories came flooding back! Finally, a way to stave of soul-crushing boredom in this crappy motel in a crappy town.

Now if only someone would make an iPhone port...

Also, some Planet Algol appropriate music...

The Darkthrones are a Californian black metal surf band. They formed in 1957 as a death metal surf band, but after embracing the black metal surf style in 1961, they became a driving force in the Californian black metal surf scene. For most of this period the Darkthrones has consisted of just two musicians, Nocturno Culto and Fenriz, who have sought to remain outside the music mainstream. Since 1976 their work has incorporated more crust surf traits.

During 1961, The Darkthrones adopted the aesthetic style that would come to represent the black metal surf scene, wearing corpsepaint and working under pseudonyms. Paul W. Tibbets, Jr. became "Fenriz", Robert A. Lewis became "Nocturno Culto" and Thomas Ferebee became "Zephyrous". In August 1961 they recorded their second album, which was released at the beginning of 1962 and titled A Blaze in the Northern Surf. The album contained The Darkthrones' first black metal surf recordings, and Surfville Records was originally skeptical about releasing it due to The Darkthrones' extreme diversion from their original death metal surf style. After the album was recorded, bassist Theodore "Dutch" Van Kirk left the band, and is not credited anywhere on the album.

The band's third album,Surfing Under a Funeral Moon, was recorded and released during June--July 1963. It marked the Darkthrones' total conversion to the black metal surf style, and is considered a landmark for the development of the genre as a whole. This album also marked the last album on which guitarist Zephyrous would perform.

Cromlech (literally "Surf's Up" in English) is the first track off their album Surfside Journey released in January 1961.

In 1959 Chip Ihsahn and Rocky Samoth met on the beach in California. They shared a love of crude reverb units, surfing, smoking illicit substances and driving cars with fake wood on the sides. The soon formed a surf band which had a variety of name changes including The Dark Devices, then The Xerasias, then The Embryonics. The group soon evolved into the now well-known band The Thou Shalt Suffers. Soon, however,Rocky Samoth began to write surf music music outside of The Thou Shalt Suffers, and together with Chip Ihsahn and a new bass player called Woody Mortiis (later of his own eponymous band The Mortiises), The Emperors was formed.

The Emperors toured with fellow surf group The Cradle of Filths, and after this tour the band ceased wearing surf clothing; they stated that it was becoming a trend and losing its original significance and symbolism. In the autumn of that year, the police began to investigate the murder of Clint Euronymous of The Mayhems, naming Varg 'Kenneth' Vikernes (of The Burzums) as a suspect; this investigation eventually led to the incarceration of Rocky Samoth for arson, and of Walter Faust for the murder of Magne Andreassen.

The Burzums was the musical project by Charlie "Varg" Vikernes. It began during 1961 in Bergen, California and quickly became prominent within the early Californian surf scene. During 1962 and 1963, The Burzums recorded four albums; however, in 1964 Vikernes was convicted and imprisoned for using cuss words in public to describe guitarist Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth, and the mild intimidation of the congregations of several milk bars and several churches. While imprisoned, Vikernes recorded two really poor albums in the dark ambient surf style.

Dunkelheit first featured on the Burzums' legendary surf LP Filosofem (literally "Surf's Up" in English) recorded on a low budget in the back of a surf shop in Bergen, California using an Edison Phonograph, the cheapest instruments available to Varg and other awesome gadgets to get that famously warm Trve Kvlt sound of sand, sun and surf.

The Beherits were a surf band from Finland, California. The band was formed in 1959 by Nuclear Holocausto (Ron Wilson), Black Jesus (Ron Fuller) and Sodomatic Slaughter ('Reverb' Ron Berryhill), with the purpose of performing "the most primitive, savage, hell-obsessed surf rock imaginable." "Beherit" is the Syriac word for Surfing. Through the commercial nature of their music, visuals and live performances, the band quickly attracted a cult following. Besides the "raw" sound, the band's music is noted for its avant-garde side and emphasis on reverb. The Beherits are now regarded as a pioneer in their genre.

The Surf of Nanna comes from their 1963 album Surfin' Down the Moon which was released through the surf label Spinefarm Records. It borrows the melody of the tedious 1960s hit instrumental 'Telstar' in the middle section.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Rudimentary Miscellaneous Equipment List v1.0

I've been working on a master equipment list, incorporating content from as many relevant and reputable resources as I can access.

Although the end purpose is to serve as a resource for players in my Planet Algol games when they wish to purchase equipment, this rudimentary version is non-Algolized, being suitable for standard fantasy campaigns.

Generally, when an item had differing costs in various sources I went with the most expensive cost (as I'm a rat bastard DM), with exceptions for B/X 10 gp crowbars and the like.

The sources I used were the 1st ed. AD&D Players Handbook, Moldvay/Cook B/X D&D, RC D&D, 2nd ed. AD&D Players Handbook, 3.5 ed D&D Players Handbook, Castles and Crusades Players Handbook, and the LOTFPWFRPG Rules Booklet; further revisions require me to peruse Tunnels and Trolls, Arduin, Empire of the Petal Throne and other "D&D-ish" sources.

This is just a first draft of something I'm working on for my own use, but I'm sure some of you may find it useful.

Items in italics and bold italics are such for use with the LOTFPWFRPG encumbrance system; weights in pounds are included as well.

I've included a link to a PDF of this material via mediafire:

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Stoned Dinosaurs and Mountaintop Prehuman Cities

True Scientific Realism courtesy of a real scientist! A stoned-looking mutant gorgosaur by Aos of The Metal Earth.

Mountaintop riddled with a prehuman city by Chris Huth. Why isn't everyone using this guy to illustrate their publications?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Planet Algol - Monday Oct. 4th

The characters:

Sabroz - scaly, three eyed Shereshi
Xerigil - Yellow-and-orange mottled Morheeg Man Thief
Gorlo - Black-and-white piebald Lhoyg Man Fighting-Man
Roald Bloom - Green-skinned Photosythetic Fighting-Mutant with melting eyes and leafy hair

The four companions sit at Tazahat's Tea Stand in the Xeno District of Agog City discussing how to refill their depleted purses. Xergil notices a metallic blue robe shrouded Agog man motioning at him and investigates while a loud, drunken orange-skinned, perfumed Zhaghri Man lout clad in gaudy, low-class ornamentation approaches the remaining three and regales them with tales of quick riches obtained by ambushing and killing adventurers in the depths of the Tenement Canyon.

Meanwhile the mysterious Agog Man conceals his visage within his blue cloak and makes an offer regarding the retrieval of an erotic Hepatizon idol, 'Ecstatic Writhing in Tentacles' from the Concubinatorium with the Autarch's Voluptutary, a long abandoned pleasure dome of the aforementioned world-emperor's in a forbidden sector sector with 100-foot tall walls topped by thickets of iron stakes bearing the impaled remains of trespassers. A secret entrance in the depths of the Tenement Canyon is mentioned.

Xerigil accepts the commission and makes arrangements to meet the Agog Man, 'Sapphire Vapour' at the tea stand in three hours. He returns to the party who are drinking gin-infused tea bought for them my the garrulous orange braggart and muderer, 'Hazak the Inhuman-Slayer' (the two adventurers that he brags of murdering for his wealth being a Shereshi and a Puulvi).

Hazak explains that he wishes to find companions for an expedition, as he wishes to retrace teh steps of the two adventurers that he murdered and find the source of the treasure that they bore, for surely they must be more!

The party agrees and they five of them set off, Hazak procuring lead canteens of gin to fortify them on their venture. The Zhaghri bravo leads them down through the depths of the Tenement Canyon to it's lowest, lightless reaches, where constructions ends and the rocky walls of the bottomless void plunge into darkness. He shows the party where the slain adventurers had attached a rope used to climb down and back up out of the stygian abyss below.

The vegetation-humanoid hybrid mutation Roald begins applying a garrote to the loudmouthed drunken killer and the orange skinned man is soon dead and looted before being thrown into the bottomless canyon. Against the protestations of Xergil, Garlo takes and wears the dead Hazak's distinctive, flashy mail coat of bright blue fine metal scales.

The party returns to the surface, meets with Sapphire Vapour who leads them to a different location at the lowest reaches of the tenement canyon and soon the party is crawling through a narrow ceramic pipe with a lumpy, gray chemical scum encrustation.

After a significant period of travel they emerge into an illuminated complex of metal alloy. Machinery is examined, a notice regarding a 'Critical Moisture Failure!' is read, a lever is pulled, cries are hear from behind a hatch which reveals a large pink region holding the descendants of those detained for appointments currently being flooded with feces ridden water. The hatch is soon reclosed.

Further explorations reveal a massive kitchen area with several planters containing dessicated fruit, vegetable and flesh bearing vegetation; sewage, yeasty nutrition, and strange silvery fluid flesh vats; a chamber full of robots with cut-open torsos and a technological circular-saw device.

Sabroz the Shereshi uses the saw to cut a square section in the metal allow walls and than uses a crowbar to pry out the cut section. He is rewarded by a shower of sparks and mild electrical burns, and an inches deep gap filled with severed crackling black cables in revealed.

Xergil is currently keeping watch on the illuminated corridors, having spotted three strange bronze and silvery fleshed guardians previously, and sees the lights in the hall go out and Sabroz yanks out the wall section.

The party proceeds through now dark halls and finds a chamber full of lush purple vegetation bearing ametheyst, lavender and gold blossoms in planters and trellises, and Sabroz collects a bouquet for his shirt.

Deeper in the chamber an unilluminated area full of dead, withered vegetation contains two gradening robots with cut open torsos, and a third, active gardening robot that the party bluffs. The robot solicits a cutting from Roald Bloom the plantman mutant leafy head and directions to the Concubinatory are provided.

The adventurers follow a wide, long, gently upward sloping ramp from the gardening facility and soon find themselves against the amber and violet striated wall of a massive dusty dome, in a small ramp-top area surrounded by thick, tall purple hedge.

Roald Bloom sticks his head out through the shrub-wall...

Algolian Artwork

A Vrul battling frogmen; by Fat Cotton.

Ancient abandoned pleasure domes by Chris Huth.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Planet Algol - Sunday Oct. 3rd

Sunday October 3rd

Corporal Breaker - Steel Soldier Android
Kalotar - Black-skinned Barshi Man Fighter
Medeez - Yellow-skinned Gresh Man Sorcerer and Teleporter
Robag Xul - Blue-green and purple striped Azgukh Man Thief
Rodan the Scrounger - Green-skinned Zermish Man Scavenger and Survivor

The party plots their next move in the aftermath of their previous, Nigel Nightbreaker-killing expedition through a teleporter gate to an asteroid. They resolve to return to Pit and seek working clearing out unexplored tunnels deep withing the eponymous massive, bottomless shaft for mining gangs.

Two oriniths are procured by Medeez and Rodan, as well as a pack scarab, and are loaded with food and water. The party next visits the local mercenaries guild and after paying a small fee a gang of fighting men (and women) gather to hear their pitch.

Rodan blusters with vague talk of easy work and quick riches. The apparent leader of the mercenaries, a tactless, brash Haasht Man with jade colored scales and a lizard-like crest of blue-green scales instead of hair, interrupts and requests specifics regarding their work.

Rodan attempts to browbeat the loudmouth with hot talk before Robag Xul interrupts with a comment about "You'll be getting paid to go underground and die!"

The mercenary replies "Ahah, so you are hiring us to go on adventures. We know your reputation Rodan, you've left a trail of dead companions on your expeditions!"

Rodan admits his motives and the two begin negotiations. Two months pay and shares in the treasure are offered and of the small crowd of twenty mercenaries, three accept the offer, including their leader. The mercenaries are outfitted and the party departs for Pit

and soon arrives at the rusty, smoky, dirty streets of the mining settlement. The tunnel-clearing work that Rodan was seeking is indeed available from the Black Pickax Mining Gang and the commission is accepted.

The next morning the party and the muttering mercenaries are lowered in an iron cage on a cable miles deep in the bottomless pit of Pit to scout out a tunnel entrance that their patrons have a claim upon.

A ruby is found in the winding labyrinth before Corporal Breaker is mauled by a massive iridescent green beetle with scything mandibles. The mega-arthropod is dispatched as it chews upon the combat robot, and its eggs are destroyed.

The party returns to the surface, taking in the head of the giant insect for a modest bounty, and proceeds to sell the ruby and split up the wealth. Some make incautious of their exploits in a seedy dive, the Brass Tines.

The next day the party returns to the tunnels. Waiting is a brash young bravo pointing a heavy dart rifle at the party. He brags of how his gang, the Red Chisels have jumped the Black Pickax's claim. Negotiations with the intoxicated young tough fail and the rifle is discharged before the Red Chisel shouts and alarm. Kalotar leaps upon the bravo and strangles him to death.

Further claim-jumpers are found, and in an ensuing ambush one of the party's hirelings, the loud mouthed Haasht Man, is shot dead. More rubies; the severed heads of five intoxicant-addled Red Chisel bravos; and a bound prisoner brought back to the surface, the latter two items exchanged for a more sizable sum of gold credits.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Planet Algol 2.0 - The Wilderness Shall Be Howling

Lately the design and writing for the Planet Algol material has taken a turn and I find myself in the position of radically revising the material. This has been the result of a combination of factors: the sessions that I've been DMing; rereading and analyzing the literature that strongly influences the material; the continuing Geoffrey McKinney influence; getting my hands on a copy of the Dictionary of Mu; and the design goal of being usable "out of the box" with minimal prep by the DM while still allowing for a wide variety of interpretations.

This particular post is regards increasing the scale of the adventure area. The original campaign map  is 24-by-16 5-mile hexes; the current map I'm working on ("Red Sands") is 50-by-30 24-mile hexes, and will be re-rendered as four 50-by-30 6-mile hexes.

The original campaign map came out as way too small in playtest; once the PCs got mounts they could zip-around. And as I had several settlements strung out along trade routes, the party could jump from fortress to town to city; swamps and mountains would take the wind out of their sails, but the wastelands were definitely not "vast."

Although my idea was to depict the center of known civilization remaining on Algol, it was too civilized; no weeks long journeys between ancient, crumbling cities. On this new map the routes between settlements ranges from being 144 miles to 480 miles of shifting dunes, aside from a mountain route of 48 miles that will take 6 days at the least.

With a much larger wilderness scale the resource management of food, water and pack animals/bearers should become a bigger part of the game. With Dune being one of my influences I certainly want water management to be an important part of many expeditions. 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Algol Monster - Zoanthropes

# Encountered: 1-20
Armor Class: 9
Movement: 120
Hit Dice: 1+1
Attacks: Bite 1-4 and club
Special: +4 on saving throws versus fear and mind affecting or controlling effects.
Intelligence: Semi- (but cunning)
Alignment: Chaotic (evil)
Size: M
Morale: 11
Treasure: Nil
One of the punishments inflicted upon criminals and rebellious slaves involves the surgical replacement of most of the subjects glands and brain tissue, as well as the cranial structure, with that of beasts. The result of such union is a being less than the some of it's parts. These beings, the zoanthropes, are  violent, savage, malicious, near-mindless bestial things. By instinct they gather in rude packs in the wastes and wilds; when they come upon other beings they set upon them to murder, rape and feed. They are filthy and naked, males always tumescent, unable to use any tools aside from rocks and crude clubs. The are completely unmanageable and will follow no leader aside from their savage pack mentality. Zoanthropes are often used as gladiatorial fodder.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Hiero's Journey, Dune and Further Musings Regarding Clerics

So I've been getting ready to read Hiero's Journey again, a buddy and I were talking about it and how great of an example of a D&D Cleric he makes. And it makes D&D sense, with high level clerics being better fighters than fighters, Hiero is a stone killer on account of than.

Another great example of a genre literary example of a possible cleric is the Bene Gessit of Dune. I guess the weirding way is another example of the fighting capabilities of a high level cleric. Plus, they totally use the Command spell!

I haven't been keen on the idea of the Cleric class and their ability to cast spells due to divine intervention; I very much prefer the idea of the true attributes and even the existence of deities in D&D to be ambiguous, with exceptions for immortal God-Emperors, blasphemous thing from before time and the like. Although I though it was total horseshit when I first got Menzter Basic D&D and it said that clerics may derive their powers from philosophies or something along those line, nowadays I like the idea of magic powered Clerics belonging to esoteric-ish sects that imbue their members with preternatural abilities via intense training and conditions, preternatural abilities. A lot of cleric spells could be seen as psychic abilities, unlocked via the secrets of one's order.

Of course with my two examples above there's conflicts withe the traditional clerical prohibition against edged weapons, and the ability to turn undead (although one could argue the Hiero may have turned/destroyed an undead in the Palood), but my current simulacra of choice, LOTFPWFRPG, solves that conundrum.

When thinking about the prohibitions against edged weapons it's interesting to according to LBB OD&D that magic swords are explicitly restricted to fighters, I see it as a bit of genre protection for Fighting Men. The only mechanical effect of weapon restrictions for clerics (and magic users) is that they don't benefit from those sweet magic swords!

Perhaps the eldritch emanations from magic swords suffer interference from the magical auras of spell-casting characters, and are disabled in their grasp...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

An OSR Product I'd Like To See

I'd like to see a book of sandbox settings, similar to Points Of Light, but:

A) Ranging all over the place genre-wise, such as Mesopotamian, Sword & Planet, weird western in the vein of Stephen King's the Dark Tower, Transylvanian style gothick horrere, Lovecraftian colonial, fantasy Africa, Polynesian, native American, Viking Scandinavia, post-apocalypse, pre-Colombian mesoamerican, ancient India, southeast Asia, Atlantean, Rientsian gonzo fantasy, space station, age of cavemen and dinosaurs, etcetera, et al.

B) Being more "complete" with support material for the respective settings such as: one page dungeons, encounter tables, bestiaries, spells, equipment lists, and so forth.

Not only would this be a great resource for new campaigns but it would be great for extra planar travel, areas off of the known world of your campaign, other planets, cherry picking content for a campaign, and so forth.

Imagine such a product with the contributors being an all-star cast of OSTites!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Playing D&D in Public with Strangers

Last night was the scheduled bi-weekly Planet Algol game in association with Red Box Vancouver, during the previous week a new guy showed up on the RBV forums:
"I have never played any sort of tabletop rpg but have always been curious about it. The extent of my dnd knowledge is rooted primarily in Neverwinter Nights and the sequel for PC. Is there a place around town to welcome strangers such as myself? I would also mention that I'm 29, hopefully that isn't too old to start…"
The next RBV game was the aforementioned Planet Algol game, so I invited him to come down and attempted to hook him up with an intro to the setting and a list of influences, his reply?
"...I'll read up on my Heavy Metal on sunday and fast forward through Flash Gordon to any part where Queen is singing the theme song."
Dude owns a copy of the Flash Gordon movie?!?! He sounds like a natural for this campaign!

Anyways, Monday night rolls around and I head down to the RBV hangout...a hive of scum and villainy (actually a nice coffee shop that kindly puts up with our shenanigans). I try getting there early and don't see any of the RBV regulars when I get there but soon a stranger comes up and asks if I'm Blair and the new guy and I get down to business.

We start up generating a character and he's taking to this stuff like a fish to water. He rolls 3d6 down the line and end's up with a character with a 3 intelligence! We're using the LOTFPWFRPG which states that if a character has a sum ability score modifier of less than zero than they can reroll their statistics. To his credit new guy actually almost went with the 3 intelligence character, he seemed almost enamored with the idea! The next set of ability scores included an 18 wisdom...this guy runs HOT and COLD!

At this point nobody else has showed up. One of the regular Planet Algol players from the original campaign who made it to the previous RBV PA game "had made plans"; the RBV guy who instigated my involvement had to go see some boring lawyer dude go "Blah Blah Blah"; and the other RBV guys who played at the last RBV-PA game had their characters iced, so now I was wondering if it was just going to be us two?

I momentarily considered just chatting a bit, showing him how to make a character and talking about the game; but than I slapped myself in my imagination "Pull yourself together! If JB Blackrazor can play with one guy in A FREAKING BAR I can certainly DM-up and give 110% for this stranger who's interested in playing oldschool D&D; think of the future generations it in the memory of TARGA!"

So I proceed at RAMMING SPEED! (which really only meant that I got him to roll up what kind of funny-colored Algol Man he was and helped him buy equipment...the poor guy only rolled 50 gp for starting money...what an introduction!)

Than RBV stalwart DM & owner of a wardrobe full of Converge shirts Johnstone shows up; he's sick, with a nasty flu/cold that I just kicked, but he's here to game...he even did his awesome funny voicesrole playing, even though you could tell it was hell on his throat!

As Johnstone's character had been rendered unconscious by the guardians of the Autarch's Voluptuary during the previous adventure, and I had written up content for exactly that kind of situation, we played for a bit to resolve what happens with his captured character. Although the dude didn't get anywhere, it seemed to serve as a great demonstration of play for the New Guy (who is named Cam; I'll just call him Cam from here on).

Johnstone rolls up a new character, and makes him a three eyed, scaly, creepy Shereshi; Cam goes with a Cleric (I relented on my NO CLERICS! policy on order to give Raggi's game a good test drive; at least in LOTFPWFRPG they aren't better fighters than fighters, and there's no weird "priests of the god of swords who can't use swords" phenomenon, although those rules are probably just a legacy of attempts to keep OD&D magic swords in the hands of Fighters...) and had chosen to randomly roll his race...a fire newt/toad pigmented Shuzakh Man.

The game starts and I dangle two solicitous who leads to the Autarch's Voluptuary (the site of Johnstone's previous unfortunate adventure), and the other who leads to THE ASTEROID!
The party takes the bait of THE ASTEROID! adventure and off they go.

Like I said Cam was a natural, although I'm not a "ROLE-PLAY or you're PLAYING IT WRONG!" guy in the least, he immediately was thinking and acting "in character," while Johnstone is an awesome ham...shredding his poor sick throat for the sake of the show!

At this point I'm going through the poorly organized sheafs of papers, maps and booklets in my "grief-case" and I realize...I had forgotten the map I made for THE ASTEROID! adventure!

I had ran the same adventure with the original Planet Algol group the previous day, and I had the map key and notes, so I decided TO FREAKING GO FOR IT and try and replicate the map from memory while acting like nothing was wrong.

Fortunately Johnstone had a coughing fit or something, and said that he had to run home and back, which would only take 10 minutes. I live in the neighborhood as well, so I explained my predicament to Cam; dashed home; grabbed the map; got suckered into taking my dog out for a quick potty break (she hadn't pooped all day so I was worried about her dropping a bomb!), and dashed back to the coffee shop.

The party explores THE ASTEROID! and survives "splitting the party" (new guy is new and Johnstone is a man of sterling integrity playing a character with a 7 intelligence), finds the strange ruins, and eventually find some loot...some sort of fancy silvery rifle. Cam shows his steel and immediately grabs the rifle!

Like I keep stating, this guy is a natural: the NPC that instigated THE ASTEROID! adventure came along (he needed some muscle for his exploration) and soon Cam was planning on how to ice the NPC for the sake of a better loot split.

Alas, shortly afterward the party has a Random Encounter! with the randomly rolled Maximum Number! of savage degenerates. Cam's character calmly shoot one of the degenerate creeps down with his fancy new rifle; unfortunately he doesn't use his memorized Sanctuary spell before the party is mobbed by the savages and his cleric is rendered unconscious by the repeated application of human thigh bone clubs to his person.

The two survivors flee to a safe distance and see that the creeps are hunched around their prone companion, so they start plinking at them. The creeps fail a morale roll and split the scene...while dragging the unconscious cleric with them, and get away. However, the surviving PC is gratified to see the fancy new rifle lying on the ground and snatches it up before the two survivors split and attempt to make it back to civilization.

I gotta say Cam was a great sort about his fallen PC; first time playing a pen and paper rpg, first character, and he totally isn't fazed and takes it in stride. He even makes some (accurate) cannibal comments/jokes!

At this point things are looking pretty grim for my NPC...Johnstone's character has the rifle and some fancy hepatizon and ruby jewelry looted from the ruins; the NPC offered to lead the party to THE ASTEROID! in order for a share of the profits, and you can just tell he's scheming on when to ice the NPC.

Fate intercedes when the duo reach the fringes of civilization...a Random Encounter! with a three cheap thugs who look to be aiming to get that fancy hepatizon and ruby harness. This actually is kind of a blessing in disguise, as when combat ensues it allows Cam to play the NPC during the fight.

Alas, Johnstone's scaly freak is stabbed into unconsciousness and the Cam-piloted NPC (which was a hobbit sized Pulvi) is picked up and cast into a bottomless pit...although his head is dashed into paste by a collision with a ledge 100' below.

Death #2 for Cam...and again he isn't fazed; in fact again he seems amused by the circumstances of his any red-blooded D&D player should be!

And Johnstone's Shereshi? He comes to with his wrists bound and wearing a slave collar in a slave pen while a slaver is paying several gold credits to two cheap thugs, one wearing a hepatizon and ruby harness and the other carrying a fancy silver rifle....

Monday, September 20, 2010

Solomon Kame vs. Nyarlathotep

This is a campaign idea I've had kicking around for a couple of month that I'd like to run, but would much rather play in!

The Ingredients:
The Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy RPG
One of those epic Chaosium world-sprawling Call of Cthulhu adventures such as Masks of Nyarlathotep
And run it like a D&D game, with the time period being sometime in the 16th, 17th or 18th century.

Now I gotta see if I can find a copy of the 2e "A Mighty Fortress" sourcebook ...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Kirk vs Cthulhu, Asteroid Adventure, Imaginitive Monster Lists, Stat Inflation, Intelligent Magic Items, and Music

I received some great comments regarding my off the cuff "Just Imagine" Kirk vs. Cthulhu post; two dealt with past efforts in that direction:

From DearGod:
"I once began running a CthulhuTrek game. It only lasted a couple sessions--mostly because school and work broke up the game night.

In my game Dagon had granted the deep ones knowledge of space travel. I had the players come across a derelict ship that was completely flooded with water. The deep ones knocked out the ship's shields, uploaded a virus that caused the replicators to mass-produce water, and then transported on to the ship to steal away all of the humans to sacrifice them to their fish-gods."
From Chris Hüth:
"A few years ago, when I was more enthused about 'running' Beyond The Final Frontier, I started writing an article on exactly this topic, called 'The Doom That Came From Space' or something like that.

The first part was ideas for converting Call of Cthulhu adventures to Star Trek, including series outlines for SoYS and MoN, and talking about horror in Trek, both in running it and examples of it from all the series (and negotiating the humanism-antihumanism Trek-HPL divide in tone).

The second part was conversions, revisionings and fittings of CoC things into Trek (including examples of mi-go spaceships, sinister interpretations of regular Trek species (like why the Breen wear suits), and episode outlines for each. I've got a few crazy ones (The Ruins of Aldebaran III and 65 Million Years To Earth) I still really want to run.

The SFier interpretations of Mythos elements in Trail would also be a big help here, especially for stripping out the cliche cultist/tome parts where they don't fit." 
As a relevant aside, I believe that one version of the Star Trek rpg used 3d6 stat & percentile skill system that at first glance looked to be quite compatible with Call of Cthulhu...

I've been working on a new Planet Algol adventure/"dungeon"; this one is set on an asteroid and is very influences by 60s & 70s television & movie sci-fi such as Star Trek, Doctor Who and Space 1999. Hopefully my players will take the bait tomorrow...

As part of the research for this project, I dug up some great OD&D monster lists from fellow OSR bloggers I remember really liking, and it would be despicable of me not to share them with you guys (nevermind having a compiled set of links for use in my own game):

From Aeons & Auguries: Lunar Encounter Tables.

From Sham's Grog 'n Blog: The Dismal Depths Bestiary; More Monsters; and Even More Monsters.

Dig those terse/spartan stat blocks! Especially compared to the sprawling 3rd/4th edition monstrosities, although I wish they had treasure type and morale scores ;) Not to be an edition-jerk, but it's a lot easier to write up monsters when you just need to come up with a couple of reasonable numbers as opposed to figuring out ability scores and calculating ranks in basket-weaving.

This brings to mind something I've been meaning to blog about for a while, the "stat inflation" in D&D over the editions. Reading the monster design booklet in the LOTFP referees booklet really hammered in how it may not be the best idea to inflate a creatures AC, HD and attacks; I know some B/X and AD&D monsters kind of become ambulatory tree-chippers with their multiple attacks as compared to OD&D versions, and things get crazy with 15 hit-die humanoids with armor classes of 33 in more recent editions.

This is mitigated by the inflation in stat bonus; weapon specialization; larger hit dice for PCs; more magic bonuses, and the like as D&D changed from OD&D, but I'm really coming around to the OD&D-ish paradigm of less bonuses. It makes for a faster game with less "processing cycles" needed for both the DM and players to do the math, and as long as the numbers are less for both the monsters and PCs everything should work out fine.

I've been thinking more about magic items, some of it inspired by reading about the awesome-sounding Dicitionary of Mu. I'm thinking that you have the awesome weapons and armor made by ancient master trademen using skills lost to modern man, such as Wolfe's Terminus Est; than you have the mysterious technological items, "sufficiently advanced to be indistinguishable from magic" such as the Eyes of Tekumel; and than you have the capital-A Artifacts, often intelligent and aligned, the sort of things that were wielded by legendary warlock-villainsm or are extradimindensional beings bound into a physical item, such as Stormbringer or the Shining Trapezohedron.

I haven't been posting much about music lately, which is practically criminal on my part. I've lately been revisiting a past obsession of mine, the Sun City Girls, instigated by Planet Algol campaign participant Pete's introduction of the Sublime Frequencies "Cambodian Cassette Archives" into Planet Algol background music rotation.

While reading about Sublime Frequencies releases I investigated Group Doueh, which plays some absolutely sublime Moroccan guitar freakouts!

I also read about the Sun City Girls-related Master Musicians of Bukkake. In the past, not knowing much about them, I dismissed them due to their name; but Fat Cotton told me about a great show of theirs he saw, and when I found out about the Sun City Girls connection I had to check them out..and I'm very glad I did, I highly recommend them to anyone into ritualistic/trance-inducing weirdo music!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Just Imagine...

...In the interstellar gulf of space, against a backdrop of a lurid purple and blue nebula, a bloated, plastic, tentacled, green, blasphemous form floats, propelling itself through the void by the flapping of tattered, membranous wings.

In the foreground lies a starship, dwarfed by the obscene titan, "Enterprise" on it's hull...

...on the bridge the crew a horde battles of phantasmagoria; scaled, snakey man-like things; slimy, hunched frog-fish men; pink, winged arthropods. "These creatures are highly illogical!" the Vulcan exclaims between phaser blasts.

Kirk double judo chops the Mi-Go before him in it's "shoulders" and it crumples to the deck; over the intercom he cries "Scotty! Are you still there?"

"Aye captain, enginnerin' made short work of these fey beasties!"

"Full power ahead Scotty! Full power ahead!"...

...The Enterprise accelerates forward towards Cthulhu; tentacles severed by the saucer-hull go spinning off into space before the starship plows into the looming, hideous bladder-like head.

Jets of disgusting green gases burst outwards at Cthulhu's mass deflates...

Man, I would love to play in a campaign like that!

Random Intelligent, Aligned Magic Items

As I mentioned previously, I've been musing about aligned, intelligent magic items. Now this is more of a thought experiment that anything I'm planning on using in any of my regular games, but would be awesome for a Rientsian/Arduin/Encounter Critical gonzo one-shot!

And the more I think about intelligent, aligned magic potions the more I like the idea!

Anyways, here's two such items I randomly generated using the magic item & intelligent sword procedures from the Expert & Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules...

Basic/Expert Item:

Potion of Speed
Intelligence: 12
Powers: Read Magic, Detect Magic(1/round), Detect Metal(1/round), Detect Sloping Passages (1/round), Levitation (3/day)
Method of Communication: Speech
Languages: Lawful + 2 more
Alignment: Lawful

Advanced Item

A Potion of Extra-Healing was the first roll; although I dig intelligent potions, I'm going to re-roll until something else comes up. 3 more potions and a scroll come up before I hit:

Chain Mail +3
Intelligence: 12
Abilities: Detect precious metal, kind and amount, in 20' radius.
Communication: semi-empathy
Alignment: Neutral good

There's a lot of potential for humor here...intelligent armor that can detect gold and silver, but is good aligned and would not cotton with robbery, burglary and the like. It's too bad it can't talk, "Sorry Darth Conan, I refuse to detect precious metal an account of your unscrupulous behavior!"

I also dig the super-powered Potion of Speed...that's some serious booster-juice!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Aligned Magic Items Idea

Especially if you are using the Lawful/Neutral/Chaotic alignment system, but what if every magic item was aligned, the same way all magic swords in OD&D were aligne?. Even potions. Maybe when you used a potion,for the duration your alignment changed with appropriate behavior? Or you could just take damage, or have a varying duration dependent upon alignment differences. Most magic items, ring, axes, helmets, staves and so forth, would be aligned, and possibly intelligent with attendant ego scores, psychic powers, and so forth.

It strikes me a somewhat genre appropriate...the sorcerous gear of a blasphemous warlock corrupting those who dare use their foul magic; the holy relic inspiring the bearer; an enchanted wine-cup making the owner abandon their former 'good' or 'villainous' nature for hedonism. You could emulate that by having some, many or all aligned objects follow the AD&D procedures for 'personality conflicts' and ego score for swords; and that section of the Dungeon Masters Guide does seem to conflict with the previous rules for hit point damage accrued for holding a weapon of incompatible alignment.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lessons I Learned Playing D&D Last Night

I. Pools are evil...

We see, at the fringe of our torchlight, a pool in a chamber.
Me: "I don't like rooms with pools in them; they can hide something big! Is anyone crazy enough to want to investigate this?"

II. If it looks like anything like a dragon assume it's a dragon...

Several deaths later, "yep...that serpentine, six-legged reptile was indeed a dragon!" At least the only non-henchman dead character belonged to the player that wanted to check out the pool...

III. Meta-gaming can always be justified

The DM was dangling a plot hook involving an island; Me: "Islands are trouble; there's always something dangerous on them. Small islands are worse as there's a higher ratio of danger to real estate."
The DM: "Hey...enough with the meta-gaming!"
Me: "My character just paid attention to the legends of Ulysses and Sinbad...he KNOW'S islands are BAD NEWS!"

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Master Musicians of Planet Algol

The musical instruments of Algol Men are generally constructed of brass and/or steel (although primitive people make due with organic materials such as gourds, bones, vegetable fibers and resins) resembling Earthly sitars, tablas, vibraphones and panflutes, although they vary wildly in size.

Quality instruments have hollow chambers that have had resonating crystals cultured within them; these function as amplifiers and can also radically affect the sounds produced by the instrument, varying according to the techniques used to culture these resonating crystals. Master instrument artisans jealously guard the secrets of their crystals and produce instruments with startlingly distinct qualities.

Algolian singers often utilize a wide variety of abstract elements such as droning; throat singing; glossolalia; guttural utterances; moans; wails; screeches; and screams.

The following is presented as an example of Algol Man folk music of the prosaic, traditional mode:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Quick Little Choose Your Own Adventure Regarding Monsters, Meta-Gaming and Role-Playing

The Dungeon Master:
"Although inexperienced, you're party is armed, brave and eager to make a name for themselves. You cautiously enter the dungeon. You're flickering torchlight reveals a tall, hunched, skinny figure, with warty, rubbery green skin; a long nose; black pits for eyes; and writhing black-grey tendrils for hair."

If you draw your sword and attack go to 2
If you throw a flask of oil at the creature and ready your torch in an attempt to set it on fire go to 3

The Dungeon Master:
"You rush forward and slash a deep wound into the green monster's torso. Ropy, writhing guts are exposed...however the wound doesn't bleed and begins closing up. You continue hacking at it to no avail, it's wounds healing before you're eyes. Soon you're head has been ripped of and the monster is feasting on your guts."


The Dungeon Master:
"Whoah there Ted...that's out-of-character knowledge! This is a role-playing game; not a meta-gaming exercise!"

"Are you kidding me? It's a troll and fire is the only way I can hurt it."

The Dungeon Master:
"You're character would have no way of knowing that as he has never encountered trolls before, and he wouldn't even know it was a troll; you're practically cheating!"

"What the hell!? I didn't spend that time rolling up this guy and buying his equipment...and "talking" to your imaginary NPCs in that imaginary tavern only to throw this character's life away for the sake of method-acting!"

The Dungeon Master
"Fine, if you're going to meta-game you'll just have to deal with a substantial experience point penalty for this session"

"For fuck's sake Bill, I'm pretty sure if I lived in a world with trolls that ate people and were only hurt by fire it would be pretty fucking common knowledge that you would defend yourself against them with fire; there would be fortune cookies that say "wise man say if you run into a big, skinny, green freak set it on fire before it eats you!""

The Dungeon Master
"Ted, you're a friend, but if you're not going to play properly perhaps this isn't the group for you..."

"You didn't have a problem with my meta-gaming when you were stuffing your greasy face with those chips I brought!" *storms out of the house*

Thursday, September 9, 2010

When I Grow Up I Want To Be Like Jeff Rients...

"Looking for some weird science fantasy adventure roleplaying in Vancouver, British Columbia? I currently run a Planet Algol game using Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Role Playing every other Monday with Red Box Vancouver. Or just shoot me an email at planetalgol AT gmail DOT com."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Some Cool Stuff Forthcoming; Working On Introductory Algol Adventure; & Red Box Vancouver

Holy freaking crap, Geoffrey McKinney, the genius responsible for Supplement V: CARCOSA, is working on another awesome sounding campaign setting booklet that is supposed to be " outre mingling of D&D and Clark Ashton Smith."

As well, Aos of The Metal Earth has stated "...eventually in an explosion of hubristic abandon, I'll release a digest sized book for The Metal Earth." Man, that book is going to have some killer illustrations!


Now if only Gabor Lux/Melan would translate the rest of the Kard & Magica/Fomalhaut material into English. From what I could figure out via an online translator, there's a hell of a lot of very cool monsters and items in that Hungarian text!

Anyways, I've been working on writing & playtesting an introductory Planet Algol adventure, "The Autarch's Voluptuary:"  
"A remote, small, agricultural dome inhabited by virtuous plebeians; terrorized by small humanoids...but is there something sinister behind these raids? Their caves are but a short distance from the virtuous outpost..."

Fuck. No. It's something absolutely different..although it is a "dungeon." I have several goals with this thing:
  • Presenting an atmosphere of "baroque decrepitude" and insight into the nature of the civilization of Algol.
  • An attempt at avoiding traditional D&D adventure cliches.
  • Emulating classic genre greedy fortune seekers bringing their doom down upon themselves.
  • Ripping offPaying tribute to Gene Wolfe's post-historical literature.
  • And Weird-Fucking-Shit.

Half of the time I'm thinking it's coming together; the other half of the time I feel like it's a sloppy, inelegant, contrived trainwreck-abortion of a mess. Which is good, hating my creation motivates me to hammer and burn the impurities and weakness out of this thing!

This past Monday I also DMed a Planet Algol session with the Red Box Vancouver crew trying out the LOTFPWFRPG rules (which are quite elegant!); I really dig this local Red Box thing! A year ago I would have sworn that there would be no way in hell that I would ever play or DM in a public place like a coffee shop; now I'm DMing in a neighborhood coffee shop, not even knowing who is going to show up, and my only concern is that the radio is on the godawful new-country station instead of the oldies channel!

As always with Red Box Vancouver I had a great time killing two PCs, and I wholeheartedly recommend others to:
  • Drop in if they're in the Vancouver area
  • Check out their own community's equivalent if they're not in the Vancouver area
  • Or start their own local, open, Red Box group equivalent.

As I said before, if we want old-school D&D style gaming to survive, we've got to do our part to help the hobby and community grow and flourish.

Now who am I going to rope into "trying out D&D" next?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Gharhions, Pulvi and Shereshi - Algol Reskins of LOTFP Demi-humans

As I'm using the LOTFPWFRPG rules for my second Planet Algol game, I thought it would be an interesting experiment to "reskin" the LOTFP demi-humans into Algol-appropriate beings.

A variety of vat-grown synthetic humanoid engineered by one of the Ancients' civilization for demanding subterranean labour on such projects as mining, construction and the like. Gharhions are man-sized, but broad, massy and flabby, possessing over-large hands and feet. Their skin is dead white and bears a film of protective fluids; their appear to have no necks, with their large head sitting directly on the shoulders; they are hairless with large, solid black orbs for eyes.
Gharhions are treated as Dwarfs from the LOTFPWFRPG.

An inhuman race of small wasteland scavengers, most do not know what the Pulvi look like due to their habit of being constantly garbed in robes of drab colours with their cowls over their heads.
If disrobed (something they will never consent to around non-Pulvi) they are revealed as long-limbed slender beings with shaggy, matted gray fur that has oily iridescent highlights of purples, greens and blues. Their fur conceals most of their features aside from several (four to seven) spherical orange eyes irregularly spaced about the front if their heads. They speak a high-pitched, chittering language.
Pulvi are treated as Halflings from the LOTFPWFRPG.

Rumoured to be an unnatural hybrid of some Elder Race with Man, the Shereshi are a somewhat man-like race with hairless, finely scaled green skin; six fingers and toes; no external ears; fine white hooked fangs in their lipless mouths: vertical slits for nostrils; a narrow, pointed skull; narrow, black, slit-pupiled eyes with golden irises; and a third eye in the middle of their foreheads. They have a thin, transparent green slime for their bodily fluids. The Shereshi possess a natural affinity for sorcery. Some claim that they are related to the Yilim; although they share certain physical characteristics, Shereshi bristle at such suggestions.
Shereshi are treated as Elves from the LOTFPWFRPG.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Further Digest Sized Booklets & Support Your Local Independant Print Shop

The top of the two pictures shows both the Encounter Critical box set that Lester/B. Portly gave to me, and the two Lamentations of the Flame Princess booklets I had made for me at a local print shop. The second pictures shows my current collection of digest sized booklets, as well as my sleeping 200 year old black lab/pit bull and my dirty sneakers.

As I mentioned before, imagine the Rient-sian madness possibilities involved in randomly pulling booklets out of a stack of such digest-sized treasures to determine the contents of a campaign.

I still need to get digest sized versions of Exquisite Corpses; Empire of the Petal Throne; Arduin I, II & III; Necronomicon; Labyrinth Lord; Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion; Gamma World; Metamorphosis Alpha; Miscellaneum of Cinder; Terminal Space; etc, et al. One of the "holy grails" in my digest quest is an original edition Random Esoteric Creature Generator; I'd rather to have a small, portable copy than a bunch of fancy borders and Goodman Games Kobold clip art, not to mention that creepy mantis-deer-naked girl cover!

I visited one of my local, independent print shops to order to have the Lamentations of the Flame Princess books printed, and the gentleman also offered to fold and staple them for me! I found the rates very reasonable (far cheaper than buying my own ink cartridges!), the level of service exceptional, and I will definitely make a point of patronizing this fine establishment in the future (even if I can do a better staple job at home).

Post # 401: The Return

I've got a good feeling about things.

Lamentations Of The Flame Princess Weird Fantasy RPG appears to have been a runaway success (Raggi's running out of boxes...).

The Necromancer has reanimated and Frog God Games is going to be publishing and promoting Swords & Wizardry.

Labyrinth Lord has released the means to run a simplified version of AD&D that's pretty much in line with the way a lot of folks played it.

We've got lots of great adventures and multiple magazines supporting old-school versions of D&D, as well of all sorts of wonderful supplemental material.

The "Public Red Box" meme is spreading and seems to be working.

My prediction? 2011 is going to be the year that things really blow up!

Sure, it'll never be like the glory days of the 70s & 80s, but wheels are in motion; folks are getting fired up; things are definitely happening.

As far as I'm concerned, this may be the best era so far for old-tymey D&D.

And I'm all about keeping the momentum rolling.

Now what I'm saying here is nothing nobody else hasn't said more eloquently before, but, if you have any interest in the return and growth of this aspect of the hobby, we gotta:

Keep finding new players. We've got to provide them with a supportive yet challenging experience. Lapsed D&D players; non-gamers with "genre" interests; computer/console RPG players (and there's millions of those out there!); friends; co-workers; kids. We've got to keep on pushing a pulling. It's not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but I believe that we have a great, fulfilling, social activity that'll turn a lot of folks on.

And we've to not only cultivate another generation of players, we also have to cultivate a fresh, new crop of bright-eyed, enthusiastic Dungeon Masters.

Do you know a players with an interest in DMing? We have to encourage and support them, turn them on to the great resources and wisdom available. Get them a copy of Swords & Wizardry and show them how easy it can be to Dungeon Master; turn them on to all the free retro-clones and online resources available.

That's one advantage old-school versions have over the "modern editions"; you don't have to be an accountant-cum-lawyer to run an early version of the game, as long as your somewhat creative and organized, it can be a snap.

That's something we need to communicate, how simple it can be to run or play these games.

If we want this movement to flourish we've got to lose any tendencies to be insular; to be cryptic; to be fussy.

So, if you want, I heartily encourage you all to keep finding new players; participate in your local "open/public old-school game movement" or help start one up in your locale; and encourage and cultivate a new generation of DMs.

This is something good we have going, something real, something vital. Keep the fire alive and game on!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Public Algol Game & The Autarch's Voluptuary

Next Monday, September 6th, at the Waves Coffee House located at Broadway & Spruce in Vancouver/B.C., the Red Box Vancouver crew and I are getting together for a public Planet Algol game, using the Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Role Playing Game as the ruleset.

I'm pretty excited about this: I love DMing; the Red Box Vancouver crew are a great bunch that I love playing with; I get to try out the appealing LOTFPRPG system; it'll be a completely different DMing scene from the bong-littered basement of the regular Planet Algol game; and, as a change of pace, it gives me an opportunity to perhaps playtest some Planet Algol adventures & dungeons as opposed to the picaresque hexmap meanderings of the regular Planet Algol game.

I've been brainstorming up an intro adventures for this first session, and this is what I have come up with (very inspired by the pitch for Jeff Rients' Big Dumb Tekumel con game):
"Agog, the Immemorial City of the Controller, is strictly divided into sectors: The Xenon District, where outsiders and merchants mingle; The Reactor Sector, where the Technocrats of Agog labour with the cyclopean ceramic and alloy engines of the Ancients; The Aerie Sector, where Oligarchs and Aristocrats dwell in their palaces upon towers of ancient, tarnished girders; The Golden Sector,  where the Controller, Exarch of the Iridium Plateau holds court in his Golden Ziggurat; and most mysterious of them all, the Voluptuary Sector.

The Voluptuary Sector consists of a massive dome, coloured in swirls of violets and ambers, caked with dust. It is said that it contains pleasure palaces and gardens of the Autarch himself, although it is widely unknown when last the Autarch visited Agog City.

The Voluptuary Sector is an especially forbidden region of Agog City, with trespassers threatened with public impalement; regardless of legal retribution, tales of the synthetic guardians of the Voluptuary Sector deter most thieves and explorers, while the rest are said to be never seen again.

You have been contacted by one who claims to represent a rich Agogi Oligarch that is offering a significant reward of 5,000 virgin gold credits for a certain erotic hepatazon idol, "Ecstatic Trembling Within Writhing Tentacles," that resides within the Concubinatory of the Voluptuary Sector. This representative also claims to possess knowledge regarding a secret entrance to the pleasure dome and how to avoid it's guardians."
So if you're in the Vancouver area and want to drop in for a game, drop by Red Box Vancouver to Penetrate the Autarch's Volupturary...