The new and improved defender of RPGs!

Saturday, 30 April 2016

More Fun at the Gaming Club, Where I'm a Dinosaur

Well, It's 7:25am and I'm just coming home, exhausted.

But man was it fun.  Every time I've been to the fortnightly 'gaming club' event called the "Tavernorca" here, it's been enormous fun.  Last week there was a room full of gamers playing Lords of Olympus, and my appearance there provoked a cheer and a debate about whether Lords of Olympus in actual play is more similar to a Venezuelan or an Argentinian Soap Opera.

This time, several players abandoned their previous game to join Dark Albion, which I've had to put on a strict first-come first-serve policy in terms of players.  Last session had been too hard to handle with 8 players, this time went way more smoothly when I capped it at 6.

The players love my game, and I'm loving these players.  The best part is how young they all are.  Two of my players are 16.  None is over 25.  Of the 30-70 people who show up in any given event, all of them are at those ages, with the average being maybe around 22-24. As a middle-aged guy, I'm a freaking dinosaur there.  I'm by several years the oldest guy there.  And while that does make me feel old in a way I rarely experience in a gaming context, it's super promising for the gaming scene here in South America.
Particularly compared to the stories I've heard of the state of things in the U.S. or Canada.

That's it. I'm going to bed.  I have to game again in less than 12 hours.


Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Rhodesian + Image Latakia

Friday, 29 April 2016

RPGPundit Reviews: Hardnova

This is a review of the RPG "Hardnova: Space Action Roleplaying", an RPG written by Brett Bernstein, published by Precis Intermedia.  This is a review of "revised and expanded" 10th Anniversary edition. It comes in a softcover book, about 140 pages long. The cover features a full-color drawing of a space battle (between two fighter vessels).  The interior art is black and white, and is semi-sparse, in a kind of 80s gritty SF-comic style, as well as a starmap.

I should note that I have a professional relationship of sorts with Precis Intermedia, as they are the publishers of my Lords of Olympus RPG, as well as Gnomemurdered.  I don't think this will affect the grade I give this game, but for transparency's sake I'm mentioning it here.

Many years ago, I reviewed Hardnova previously, in an earlier edition.  You can find this review here.

The system for Hardnova is the 2d6-based Genre Diversion I system, which is Precis' house system, and I won't go into more detail about it here since it's well covered in that previous review (you can read more about it there). Instead I would like to focus on the differences between that edition and this one.

This edition of Hardnova has considerably more material, obviously, than the much smaller edition I had previously reviewed. It's also structurally different, as that one was in a kind of box-set format, while this one is a standard RPG book.  The rule system is the same, but there is a considerable amount of elaboration.

You have the same races as the previous edition (human, digronian, kt'sorii, migado, x-ans, and tarkosians) but then several other races are added to the mix.  You have "kinosians", which are of the same race type as tarkosians but had been the serf-caste to them, and thus do not have their genetic engineering (or genetic flaws).  There's also the Sligg, which are a kind of blob-people; lil-marians which are slothlike humanoids; and the sikatai which are humanoids but made of a kind of gelatinous structure.

The section on "the cosmos" is well-detailed, with starmaps of the 'sovereign space', and with mechanics for creating your own worlds. These are similar in some ways to Traveller's (and other sci-fi worlds these days), though much less technical or detailed. You also get a variety of new gimmicks for creating alien life forms. There's detailed information on a number of additional alien species that are not PC species, although some of them include options for creating as player characters. Like the PC races, the races in this section are both orthodox to the sci-fi style Hardnova manages (which could be called 'soft' hard sci-fi, if that's not an oxymoron), while simultaneously being fairly creative. So you get some wormlike aliens, short furry telepathic aliens, cold-weather humanoid aliens with shells, and others.
Certain alien races can also inter-breed, and guidelines are written up for what the various viable mixes would be like.

You also get ten pages of short stat-blocs and descriptions of non-intelligent alien creatures.  These are organized by terrain type (desert, forest, frostland, etc.), and there's about 9 creatures per page. So brief descriptions indeed, but plentiful. At the end of this section, you get some more tables for generating other alien creatures.

After this, there's a couple of pages of stat-blocs for robots, along similar lines. After this there's several pages of equipment, regular and special, including drugs (of the pharmaceutical and street-drug variety, plus illegal psychic drugs).  This chapter ends with some quick random encounter tables, set up by terrain type (each terrain gets two tables: "beast" and "other" encounters; the 'other' being things like NPCs or natural occurrences along the lines of sandstorms or rockslides).

The next chapter contains various things for the ongoing game; so there's experience rules for improving characters, stuff for improving robots, and stuff for improving starships.  There's also optional rules for mooks (here called 'extras'), rules for making the gameplay more dramatic or more heroic, alternate ways to use skills, and rules on long-term injuries.  There's also ways to incorporate materials from other Precis games into Hardnova, or to convert Hardnova to run on the Masterbook system (making it compatible with Precis' Shatterzone game).

All of this gets us to about page 80 of the book. The remaining less-than-half of the book is taken up mainly by a set of sixteen different scenarios, grouped into three different sets of 'stories': the 'original stories', 'vanguard stories', and 'beta stories'.
The original stories are not actually some kind of overlapping mega-plot, just a varied set of adventures. There's searching an uncharted area of space, finding out what happened with a colony that lost contact, a conspiracy around a potential space war, a high tech murder mystery, and hunting down drug smugglers.
The 'vanguard stories' scenarios are meant to be played together, in order. All the scenarios assume the PCs are involved with the United Sovereign Navy. The PCs are assigned to a small scout vessel. This series is filled with military-type scenarios, warfare, ship-to-ship combat, diplomacy, etc.
The 'beta stories' are varied again and not obligatorily run as a linear campaign, but they are set in a later period than the earlier stories, building on events in the setting.

The back contains a set of reference tables, character sheets, and a grouping of 27 'templates' of pre-made characters that one could pick for immediate play.

So on the whole, what to say about Hardnova?

Obviously any game that has been through multiple editions and is now celebrating its 10th anniversary edition is a game that has had some appeal to a certain audience.  Within the realm of that kind of softer hard sci-fi (that is to say, not science-fantasy, but also not the uber-hardcore strictly 'hard' definition of Sci-fi that some traditionalists prefer), Hardnova is well built and has creative elements.  It doesn't do anything radically innovative, though, either in setting or system.  The setting is readable and easy to use, the scenarios provided give you ample material to run (just about) right out of the book without having to work very hard, and the system is quite easy to understand and will feel comfortable to people used to games like Traveller.  The production value is good.

If you want something radical and really daring in terms of content or system, you likely wouldn't feel like you've found it in Hardnova.  If you want a decent sci-fi game that's easy to play and has a well-written setting, on the other hand, you will want to check Hardnova out.


Currently Smoking:  Lorenzetti Poker + Rattray's Old Gowrie

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Classic Rant: How to Get (or Not To Get) Girls Into the Hobby

People keep fucking this up. And again, the reason is simple: you can't CHANGE THE HOBBY to get more women, or Asians, or blacks, or senior citizens, or left-handed redheads, or any other particular group into RPGs. This is a backward and pointless way to do something; if a person from a certain group would not be inclined to your hobby in the first place, no effort is going to lead to that, all you're going to end up doing is fucking up your own hobby.

On the other hand, if there are people, regardless of what identity-descriptors you can put on them, who might be interested in RPGs, getting them into the hobby is as easy as them finding out it exists. That's it.

So something like the recent Forge Swine game "Awesome Women Kicking Ass" (ironically, bound to be played mostly by self-described "male feminists", no doubt, if it ends up being played at all) is a perfect example of how NOT to do things. No, women will NOT be more interested in RPGs just because you make a game about "awesome women kicking ass", or because you make everyone play a girl in the game, or because the theme is (and I quote) "defending the land of Herstoria against an attack by the pernicious forces of the Patriarchy" (I swear to fucking god, that's their actual description, in their words). I have to think, to pray at least, that there's at least some minor element of tongue-in-cheek there, even for them this is just too far over the top not to be. Isn't it?

I mean shit, I don't even know anymore, these motherfuckers are so deranged that they think gaming about throat-raping a dead cabin-boy is good wholesome fun which they take in all seriousness, so in comparison actually believing this to be an entirely straight and serious game about defending the land of Herstoria from the Patriarchy is not a big stretch. Maybe they really do think this is fucking genius or something; but even if they are being slightly facetious, the real mentality that underlies this game is "if we bend over backward to show how "sensitive" we are, and make games where women get to put a big emphasis on the fact that they're women, then we'll get more women gamers".

And that's absolutely wrong. Women don't want to play feminist heroines fighting the patriarchy. They either don't want to play at all, or they want to play exactly what everyone else wants to play: dwarves, elves, rangers, space cops, superheroes, occult investigators, etc etc. and making a big show of pseudo-feminist sensitivity is going to get you fucking nowhere.

So let's look, on the other hand, at an example of how to do things right. That would be this video right here. WoTC could post this video as-is and it would be the best advertising for the female market you could imagine: its a group of teenage girls who all play D&D, and make no big deal about being girls, or play differently. In other words, they're just gamers.


(Originally posted October 7, 2010)

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

theRPGsite Still Down

So we were up briefly yesterday, and those of you who checked in might have gotten a glimpse of it, but a variety of little bugs got in the way, and we're back down again to try to fix things up.

We should hopefully be back up within the next 24 hours.


Currently Smoking:  Ben Wade Canadian + Image Latakia

UPDATE: theRPGsite is back up again, but it may still have some bugs.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

theRPGsite is Down, for a bit

Hey all!

This is just to let you know that theRPGsite is down right now, but it's for a scheduled upgrade.  There's no need to panic!

Service should resume within a day or so at the most.

Once it's back, be sure to check out the new and improved site, though of course there might be a few growing pains as we adjust to the new style.


Currently Smoking: Ashton Old Church Rhodesian + C&D's Crowley's Best

Monday, 25 April 2016

Pictures From Uruguay

Today, we look at some more street art.

First, there's this:

This is from a little semi-pubic courtyard a few blocks from my house.  It's very pretty.

This here is obviously of some kind of significance, but I don't know what it is:

In Montevideo, the street art is sometimes literally on the street:

That's it for today!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti half-volcano + Gawith's Commonwealth

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Wild West Campaign Update: Deadwood!

In tonight's adventure, the PCs made their way from Dodge to a little town called Deadwood. They ended up there because Wyatt Earp had been tasked with catching a gun runner named Griff Larsen, who was selling rifles to renegade Sioux.

Seeing Deadwood was a bit like seeing an alternate-reality Dodge City.  The PCs THOUGHT that Dodge was a wild and dangerous place, until getting to Deadwood, a city that was (at this time) completely outside the law.  It was founded after a gold strike deep in Indian Territory.  Due to the Treaty of Laramie, it was built in an area where the federal government had no jurisdiction, making it a place of pure anarchy in those early years.

They had barely arrived in town, and had already seen the tent city, the prostitutes on the open street, the opium dens, the smallpox epidemic, and they got into a shootout with an apparent lunatic, for reasons they couldn't understand (though they expected it was someone who had some kind of beef with Wyatt).  Speaking of which, right after this Wyatt Earp had a somewhat tense first encounter with the de-facto town Sheriff, Seth Bullock.

Bullock seemed mostly concerned with Earp and the PCs getting the fuck out of his town before their presence caused a major war of some kind. As it turns out, the gun-runner the posse was looking for was in some way connected to local big man (and crime lord) Al Swearengen.

Swearengen, of course, didn't want Bullock and a gang of lawmen with federal authority (however technically invalid it might have been in town) coming after him. This meant he wanted them achieving their objective quickly, but he also didn't want the gun-runner to implicate him, so he offered to 'find' Larsen for them, with the unspoken addendum that he'd be found dead.  This did not sit well with Wyatt, who would have no problem killing the fugitive himself, but frowned on the idea having someone else kill his target as a way to avoid justice.  So he recruited Bullock to help the PCs make an ambush for the men Swearengen was planning to send after Larsen.

Meanwhile, the rest of the PCs were with Charlie Bassett, deep in Indian territory, trying to make use of Bassett's skills from his buffalo hunter days to get the Sioux to cooperate with him in apprehending the gun runners.  It started out poorly when a group of renegade braves ambushed them in the night.  The PCs learned quickly just how dangerous a group of braves could be, with two of the PCs taking injuries, one of the two taking a tomahawk slash right to the neck (luckily, he was tough enough not only to survive the hit, but be good to ride the next day). They found a delegation of the Sioux the next day, gifted them the surviving brave they brought with them, and after a difficult negotiation in which one of the PCs (the only one who spoke any Sioux) proved crucial, managed to get the chief to tell them where the gun runners were at in a way that didn't cause the chief to lose face.

The group with Earp and Bullock ambushed Swearengen's men, but being as fucking stupid as thugs usually are, the men tried to shoot it out first and then tried to run, rather than face them.  Even so they were caught, and made to confess where Larsen was hiding out.  They left the men with Bullock, even though it sounded like he was planning to kill them, and rode off into the hills to find their prey.

I think in this session the PCs got to see some of the dirtiest side of the west. The truly ruthless crime lords, the truly vile traitors, and they saw both Bullock and Earp acting in ways that were utterly not what the romantic ideal of the western Lawman was all about.  They saw Earp unchained in the anarchic environment of Deadwood, and realized that for some people the badge is just another gang to belong to. Maybe a gang that tries to bring a bit more order, or that use their power to try to do right (as arguably both Bullock and Earp try to do), but still a gang.


Currently smoking: Blatter Diplomat + C&D's Crowley's Best

Saturday, 23 April 2016

A Brief Note on the Progress of Cults of Chaos

Yesterday I just finished the additional extended material I wrote for Dark Albion's Cults of Chaos.  This roughly doubles the size of my own part of the book, and that isn't counting the material Dominique Crouzet will have for it too!

My additional section is mainly detailed descriptions of the various major chaos sects and heresies of the setting.  So you'll get to learn about some of the main gods of the Scots Men, and the ancient Northmen, Cymri, and Arcadians. Plus you get to find out the difference between Gnostics, Cathars, Donatists, and Manicheans, and just how each of these damnable heresies twist the faith into the service of foul Chaos!

In addition, you also get:

Elf-cult Artifacts

Alien/Extraplanar beings and their artifacts

Mental Magic/Psionics

Some of the material strays a little more than the main book from the main's "Medieval Authentic" message, but it still keeps a decidedly medieval-authentic style to it. So if you want to see what 'medieval aliens' looks like, you'll have to get Cults of Chaos!

It'll be coming soon... well, as soon as Dominique Crouzet can finish editing it all.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Oversize + H&H's Beverwyck

Friday, 22 April 2016

Classic Rant: A bit late for Earth Day

About that Cave...

You know, I would tremble for someone whose only source of news was's Tangency. They would think they live in a world where there are rampant armies of tea partiers outside their door out to kill all black people, Christians are horrific monsters who want to force you to be raped over and over again if you're a woman and want you burned at the stake if you're a non-believer, 87% of the population are either gay or transgendered (and the Christians and the Tea Partiers want to Kill Them), and Atheists are all heroes and the Only Intelligent People On Earth (because anyone who believes in religion is clearly a bigoted mindless idiot out to Kill You), and all real scientists are atheists.

And, of course, that all those Real Atheist Scientists are predicting THE END OF THE WORLD. They have been in new and different ways every week in Tangency-land. Last week, it was that the oil spill in the Caribbean would lead to the extinction of all life as we know it because of methane bubble. This week, its that because worldwide Plankton population has been in a slow decline over the last 50 years, we are going to RUN OUT OF OXYGEN TOMORROW!

Of course, this last bit is not just Tangency. It ties in to a great deal of what politicized science is doing these days (on the Left, I won't even begin to describe the stupidity of politicized science on the Right). It seems that politicized science is all about screaming at us about how our way of life will destroy us in ever-more horrific ways. Last week it was a fireball of world-crushing proportions. This week the earth will literally die gasping for air. And this all goes part and parcel with the whole "Back to the Cave" movement I was talking about in my Reed Richards entry. We have (alleged) scientists going around saying that our way of life is going to inevitably fail, and the solution is to withdraw our whole civilization.

First, let me say this: if they were right, then fuck it. At this point, if you believe all the stories of imminent doom, there's no fucking way we're going to survive, so I might as well go out gas-guzzling electricity-using and emissions-causing because there's no fucking point to anything.
Of course, they're not right. They're not even honest.
We know that the politicized wing of modern science has been lying through their teeth about the situation with global warming, we know that the more extreme elements there have been grossly exaggerating the effects of what might happen. What could be argued is whether they're doing this because they foolishly think this is a good way to get people to listen and do things about it, or because they think this might be a good way for them to get more research grants. But in either case, they've lied.

What they don't realize is that every time they lie, they make things worse. More and more people will say "Oh fuck, methane bubble!? Well, screw it then!", and will simply STOP GIVING A FUCK because the scaremongering has worked too well. Many people I know are convinced that the "environmental damage" is so great now that there's absolutely no hope, and thus no motivation to take any measures.
Which is a serious fuckup, because of course there are REAL problems. There's real pollution, there's real environmental damage, the extinction of countless species is real, and yes climate change is pretty obviously real. Even the decline in plankton population is real! Its just not going to kill us next Tuesday; but that doesn't mean that there's not problems that need to be solved.

The problem is that Politicized Scientists (or should that be "Scientific" Politicians? In many cases, the scaremongers are NOT the real scientists, the ones actually doing the research) don't actually want to solve any problems anymore. This is a very big problem in and of itself. Back in other civilizations, one of the clear signs of the end was when the armies stopped wanting to conquer territory and fight barbarians and were more interested in playing politics and taking over the empire; you could argue that in our civilization, the equivalent problem is when the Scientists are less interested in progress and more interested in politics.
"Sustainability" is not a solution.

Let me repeat that to get it absolutely clear: "Sustainability" is not a solution. If someone asks you "what are the scientists doing about global warming" and you say "sustainability", that is not actually a meaningful answer. Because what does sustainability actually look like? It looks like us all collectively taking a huge step back toward that cave.

It would have to look like water rationing and food rationing, everyone riding bicycles, no plastics, no electricity except for government and the elites, and no meat except for the super-elites. Oh, and controlled and/or violent population reduction that would involve 5+billion people "disappearing". That would be what "sustainability" would look like.

Am I sounding like a tea bagger now? Not really; I'm not saying its a big evil socialist conspiracy or something like that, I'm saying that this is just the bare reality of the situation, that if the method we used to stop global warming and all these other man-made disasters required simply abstaining more and more from our existing technology, that's how things would look like. Even including the supposed "renewable" energy technology we have right now. You couldn't make enough fucking wind turbines to support us right now, so inevitably you'd have an energy grid restricted to the rich and/or powerful, and without a massive population die-off there is no way that we could reach anything you could call "sustainability" with a straight face based on our current way of doing things. Sustainability demands that 90+% of the population either die or be reduced to pre-industrial levels of technology (and thus, standard of living). No more running water, no more meat either because the large-scale agro industry is a major cause of environmental devastation.

That's the scenario if what you want to do is just "sustain": just stop where we are and eke out as best as one can. And even then, we aren't truly sustainable; over time precious metals and other non-renewable substances would run out, things would break down and slowly, slowly, we'd keep getting closer and closer to that fucking cave. That's the only future that this kind of thinking holds for us.

That's why I have zero faith in most environmentalists today. Not because I think their data is wrong, but because I can't agree at all with their conclusions or the agenda they propose. The reason people aren't listening to you isn't because you aren't scaring them enough (like I said, you're scaring them TOO much), its because the "answers" you offer aren't ever anything positive. They always involve the average person LOSING a great deal of their comfort and quality of life (and ultimately, if you were to really "solve" the problem that way, they'd lose a huge level of their actual standard of living). Ironically, the viewpoint is an utterly conservative mentality; it is reactionary and the very opposite of progressive. Its fucking Luddite.

You know, environmentalists like to point out the Maya culture as an example of a civilization that was "wiped out" because of their abuse of their environment. Let's ignore for the moment that we don't really know that's what happened, and that the fate of the Mayan civilization is still hotly debated among scholars. The fact is, the Mayans weren't "wiped out": They're still there. You can go today to the Yucatan and you will find that its chalk-full of Mayans, speaking Mayan, participating in Mayan culture. The Mayans didn't go extinct; what did happen is that their civilization, at the time the greatest civilization in all of the Americas, was just abandoned when they couldn't find a way to adapt to keep it going and overcome whatever problems they were facing at the time; and the Mayans went from having that greatest civilization of the Americas to having a stone-age culture once again in a remarkably short time. In other words, they chose "sustainability". The Mayan civilization's disappearance is actually a great example of what "sustainability" would look like; they didn't go extinct, but they may as well have, and people today tend to think they did. Sustainability means going back toward the cave; and it looks a lot like extinction.

So what's the other way? The other way is to say "yeah, this is the reality, now lets move FORWARD". Solvitur Ambulando. Find NEW technologies, new processes, new ways of generating energy, learning from the mistakes of how we did things in the past so that we create solutions using science that fix those problems we face today. Let's create artificial meat, bacteria that eat oil spills, elements that encourage plankton growth, and develop better ways of creating clean energy. And yes, the ultimate answer is to go out there, into space. As always, its to get bigger.

Because human beings have NEVER been "sustainers". We've always been explorers and we've always expanded. We are descended from men who found ways to live through an Ice Age, we've seen huts they've made out of mammoth bones. If our stone-age ancestors could do that, we can do this. All it requires is that the scaremongering stop, and the will to find real progressive solutions be found.


(July 31, 2010)

Thursday, 21 April 2016

RPGPundit Answers YOUR Questions, pt.3!

Some time ago over on this blog entry, I invited readers to ask me questions, and I would gradually get around to answering them in future blog entries!

So, today, I'm going to answer a few of the more straightforward of them at once.

1. "I want to know your take on the mini controversy about Tim Kask, and his game at Totalcon"

Ok, I think it's a stupid non-issue. People mad that Kask did a game just for women are dumb. People mad that Kask, a man, is running a game for women are dumb.  People mad at the people mad at Kask are dumb.

2. "Is any of your Internet persona real, or are they all created for the purpose of maintaining anonymity?"

They are all real and not-real at the same time. I'm a wizard.

3. "The Star Wars RPGs from Fantasy Flight Games..."

That is not a question. However, I'll spare you from having to ask by just saying "absolute garbage"!

That's it for today. Please go to that blog entry and add your questions if you want me to answer. Some will get lengthy blog-entry responses. Others? Well, they take less work. But either kind of question is welcome!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Egg + Brebbia no.8

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Using Dark Albion as a Resource Book

Lately it seems there's been another burst of fandom for Dark Albion!  I posted a bit about that lately, and now there's another great blog entry about it that just came out.  This one is all about how you can use Dark Albion as a unique kind of campaign resource for extended campaign play.

So, go check that out!  Meanwhile, I am still hard at work on Cults of Chaos, which is going to turn out to be quite a bit bigger than we had originally planned.  It'll feature a mix of material from myself AND the inimitable Dominique Crouzet.  So, Albion fans, keep the home fires burning because soon there'll be some really great new material coming down the tube for adding even more to your Albion game (and of course, it'll be a great general OSR resource book as well).


Currently Smoking: Ashton Old Church Rhodesian + C&D's Crowley's Best

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Everyjoe Finale: College is Fucked Up Edition

Today, I posted my last article on Everyjoe. Cutbacks at Defy media led to the downsizing of the website (now it'll basically just be news reposts and boob-oriented clickbait), and all the actual columnists were let go, including yours truly.

So this is the end for now.  And I decided to go out like I started: Alexander Macris hired me on because of an article I wrote on this blog about the flaws of the College system in the 21st century, and I decided to finish off on a very similar subject.

When you have 84000 graduates a year in a field that no longer needs you to have a degree, and when you have so many out of work graduates that effectively one needs a Bachelors' Degree to work minimum wage at a shoe store, something has got to give.  What needs to happen is for the College Bubble to burst, but instead, the "Free  Tuition" movement is pushing the equivalent of "Too Big To Fail" as a way to keep the whole scam going a bit longer.

So, please go check it out, and retweet it and share it and all the rest.

Also, if you happen to read this and are interested in hiring me to write (about politics, culture, religion, gaming, history, or almost anything else), please get in touch!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Half-Volcano + Gawith's Commonwealth

Monday, 18 April 2016

DCC Campaign Update: Nothing of Value Will be Lost

So at the end of the previous adventure, the PCs had kind of sort of had something vaguely to do with stopping G.O.D. from destroying all life in the world.  Now most of them were still in the sewers of Arkhome, a bit at a loss as to what to do.  All except Bill the Elf who found himself in a new body in the middle of nowhere, confronted by an adorable tiny fluff-person.


-The PCs got to see the Assassin King standing there looking all epic.

-Bill the Elf leveled up, which means he got himself a random spell, which turned out to be the most useless 4th level spell.

-"Assassin king, I would like to hire you to kidnap someone"
"I'm not the Kidnapping King!"
"But it's pretty much just like assassinating someone except without actually killing them!"

-The PCs decide to go with the Assassin King, to fulfill their promise of helping him to take Arkhome back from the Old Families and the Halconlords.  Unfortunately, the moment they get out of the sewers and up to the ground level of Arkhome, they find themselves facing about 90 Halconlords, including Duke Halcon himself!

-Deciding that 8 vs. 90 is not good odds, Chu convinces Sandy the Warlord to defy Duke Halcon to single combat, figuring it'll be an easy way to solve the problem.

-It certainly does solve things pretty fast, when in the first round Sandy loses half her hit points and it's obvious that Duke Halcon is a vastly superior combatant.
"...I've made a huge mistake"

-In the second round of combat, Duke Halcon slices half of Sandy's left leg clean off!

-"Ok.. Sandy's doomed. It's time to get the fuck out of Dodge!"

-"Holy shit! He took her leg off!! I've just failed my morality check"
"do you mean you've failed your morale check?"
"No, I meant morality check, as in I'm going try to sneak back down into the sewers and leave everyone else to be slaughtered"
"I think you all lost your morality check long ago..."

-While the rest of the PCs are throwing out Darkness spells and running like hell, Bill the Elf is somewhere completely different, finding himself the 'prisoner' of a little fluffy warrior, who is going to take Bill to his king.  Along the way, the tiny fluffy person spontaneously reproduces, several times, so that there's 8 little fluffy people by the time Bill gets to Little Fluffy Person HQ, where he notes there's maybe a thousand little fluffy persons, all of them asexually reproducing at an alarming rate.

-"Ok, so at this rate there'll be like a quadrillion fluffy people in a couple of days.. this might be a bigger problem than it first appears"

-"With our bravery, our numbers, and our cuteness we will conquer the world!"

-Bill discovers that the Tiny Fluffy People had been brought to the material plane by the King of Elfland, as some crazy senile-old-man move to try to repopulate the world if G.O.D. annihilates it, and then forgot to send them back.  Now the Tiny Fluffy People have decided they're going to conquer the entire world, and they might just do it through sheer force of numbers.

-Bill also finds he's not the only prisoner.  He meets fellow prisoner Zeke Bodean, who is a world-renowned Scriptural Archaeologist.
"Through my careful investigations and the guiding hand of the Lord, I have been able to miraculously discover a number of the ancient relics that are mentioned in the Holy Book.  For example, I rediscovered the ass-bone that Molosh used to slay 10000 Jebishites, the golden cup of Abanathia the Harlot, and the ruins of the hill fortress of the Zamalekites which was razed to the ground by King Shobazephat!"

(I imagine Bodean looking like this guy)

-While held prisoners in a rapidly-built Fluffy Person wicker cage, Zeke Bodean decides to exorcise Bill of the demon Sezrekhan's hold on him, by praying for him, laying hands, and speaking in tongues.  Bill decides to play a trick on this religious nutso by using his Cantrip spell to simulate the voice of G.O.D.

-"Now look, my friend, G.0.D. is not your enemy. He has a message of peace and love... and terrible wrath on anyone who doesn't listen to it."

-"You fluffy heathens must do what you will, but you will not stand against the power of the Lord. Both my friend Bill and I are ready to die as martyrs!"
"No I'm not! Anyways, I died a few times already... it didn't take!"

-Meanwhile, the rest of the party got split up as they fled from the Halconlords.  Chu and Dr.Theobald the ape scientist got lost deep in the sewers; while Ack'Basha managed to find his way to an Assassin hideout, and they agreed to smuggle him to the city while waiting to find out if the Assassin King himself had survived the battle.

-"Holy fuck, Sandy is dead.. probably!"
"It just goes to show, no matter how amazing you are, there's always someone higher level than you. Well, unless you're 10th level."

-Ack'Basha gets up to the Arkhome city levels, killing a couple of muggers and raising them as his first zombie servants, which will look totally inconspicuous.

-Ack'Basha realizes he's in the Arkhome spire known as "the Slaver's Tower", which once had a large slave market. Today it has a small slave market and a large handicraft market.

-Bill the Elf decides he's sick of the Fluffy People and Bodean, and planar-steps his way a few hundred kilometers away. It's then that he realizes that the general area he's in is none other than the Great Furry Plain. He realizes this when he sees a village up ahead with the surrounding farmland being worked by a number of peasants dressed up in fursuits.

-"Why hello there, stranger! My name is Barksdale! I'm one-half kangaroo and one-half dog. I'm also polysexual! You look like you need a hug.. or maybe some dry humping?"

-"Take these turnips with you on your journey.. they may be useful for multiple purposes!"

-After 10 minutes with the fursuiters, Bill is ready to planar-step the fuck out of there, even at the cost of slicing off 3d4 damage worth of his own flesh to do it.
"Oh my lord!" says Barksdale, "that's horrible! ...And a little kinky!"

-Bill does finally teleport away, getting to the door of the Azure Tower through massive spellburn, but now finds himself unable to say anything other than his true name.  He must now proceed to try to explain the threat of the Tiny Fluffy People through an awkward game of charades with the gender nonconforming wizards of the Azure Order.

-Having been lost for hours in the sewers, Chu and Dr.Theobald end up in the lair of a Fun-Guy, a species of humanoid mushroom-man made from psychedelic substances.  They avoid getting themselves killed by agreeing to buy his wares.

-They then move on to the caves of the Hand Tribe, a species of cursed humanoids with enormous hands where their heads should be.

-"you distract the Hand Tribe guards and I'll try to disarm them"
"there's multiple ways of interpreting that"

-Chu and Dr.Theobald finally make it to the surface, where they find BOLT-0!
"we need to find a more civilized place!"
"Really? This shithole?"

-At the Azure Tower, Bill finally manages to explain what's going on with the Tiny Fluffy People and their plans for world domination.
"We're going to have to immolate the entire Great Furry Plain"
"...nothing of value will be lost."

-The Azure Wizards decide to bring in the rest of the PC team to deal with the crisis.

-BOLT-0 detects radiation from Bill's new body (a radiation mutant)

-The PCs will split up into various groups: Bill will stay behind with the Azure Wizards to help in the group ritual to create the biggest Control Fire spell ever (ironically, with the shitty spell he was bemoaning getting on leveling up). Chu will go into the Fluffy People's camp to rescue the prisoners they've currently captured.  Ack'Basha will also go among them, to provide a distraction and later to act as the epicenter of the massive fireball they're going to create (with the help of a magic pendant to let them channel the spell to him).

-When Chu and Ack'basha arrive, Chu willingly lets himself be captured while Ack'basha pretends to be an ally of the Fluffy People, warning them that their enemies plan to attack.
The Fluffy people have a defensive strategy: "Form the war machine!"
With that, a billion fluffy people combine to form a giant mecha-fluffy person.

-Chu ends up trapped in a wicker cage with a group of furries who greet him in their traditional manner, with a dry-humping "cuddle pile".

-"you know Bill, you're really shitty at this whole 'reformed' act"
"Well, you can't expect me to completely reform overnight!"
"We don't actually expect you to reform at all!"

-BOLT-O is also helping with the Azure Wizard's ritual, using his vast occult knowledge to inscribe a +4 ritual circle of power.

-Dr.Theobald had been sent to try to warn the major Furry settlement of the impending fireball, only a few bothered to listen to him.
"these furries are idiots!"
"Didn't the costumes give that away?"

-Incredibly, the ritual goes off without a hitch, and the Great Furry Plain turns into the Great Furry Plain of Glass.

-"I managed to save about 4 people! I think that's a new record for us!"
"Wait, are we going to start marking our success by how many people we save?"

-In reward for their success, the Azure Order helps the PCs out, relieving them from the geas-bracelets the Archemaster had imposed upon them, erasing that spell Bill didn't like, and in the case of Dr. Theobald, sending him back home to the Gorilla Kingdoms.  He is at most a part-time adventurer, and at this point considers himself lucky to have survived TWO full stints with our PCs.

-"you know, I can't believe we survived that dungeon.. we made a good team, Chu and I".
"Chu better believe it!"
"as far as I'm concerned, Chu and I have a lot in common"
"On the other hand, Chu and I travel to the beat of a different drum"

-Ack'basha decides to give BOLT-O the 'One Ring', in what will no doubt eventually lead to Ack'Basha saying "..I've made a huge mistake" at some point in the future.
(heard from the hallway) "WOO-HOO!"

-the group also gains a new NPC hanger on, as Scriptural Archaeologist Zeke Bodean was one of those who was saved by Chu, and decides that he is being called on by the Lord to accompany the mostly-heathen PCs on their journey, hoping his (probably worthless) scriptural-archeology skills will prove to be of some use to them.


The adventure comes to a close with the majority of the PCs heading off to Highbay, where they plan to figure out just how to take advantage of the power-vacuum that will be happening in the lands of the Warlord Sandy when news of her death at the hands of the Halconlords reaches there.
All except for Bill, who is going to stop off at Anthraz's palace/retirement-home first, hoping the incredibly old super-adventurer might have a way to help him find his lost Primo Staff.

That's it for this week. Stay tuned in a couple of weeks for more exciting DCC adventures!


Currently Smoking:  Lorenzetti solitario oversize + H&H's Beverwyck

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Classic Rant: "Subway" Vs. "Sandbox"

I love the Sandbox game. In theory, I adore the idea of creating a world, filling it with people, filling it with things going on, and then telling my players "go nuts".

In practice, though, Sandboxes are a different story. I think that every time I've gone "full sandbox", the campaign has failed.

It could be a question of players. My players have gotten used to rich campaigns filled with recurring NPCs, which I guess is kind of my forte. In a sandbox, usually the players will end up moving from place to place; meaning that they end up missing out on some of that depth.

But it could also be due to the need for protagonism. With a "full sandbox", the PCs don't really matter more than any other denizen of the world. What they do is entirely up to them. If you are playing a true full sandbox, the GM should really do nothing to create a particular situation where the PCs get to shine; the PCs can get themselves to those places, but it requires that they do so, and if they get in over their head, they probably get into trouble.
I've had this expectation of protagonism happen in games where there clearly should be no such expectation on the part of the players; be it in a sandbox-type of game, or in another context. In my Legion game, for example, I've had players at time expect that things would go their way sheerly on account of their being "the hero", even though the particular Legion genre does not fall into that trap (and it wasn't players who were just misinterpreting the context! It was players who were very familiar with the Legion comics, where individual Legionnaires fail very often, or even die); likewise, they've complained if the solution to a situation is provided by an NPC, even though it is clearly an ensemble game (note that I don't mean complaining when there is no possible PC action that can solve things; that's another issue, and an error that I have on occasion made, that's real "deus ex machina"; I'm talking about calling it deus ex machina when the 5 PC superheroes are not always the sole architects of success out of a team of 23 superheroes).
It could just be my group, but I think its not. I think that it takes a very particular kind of player to be a real fan, in practice and not just in theory, of the "Pure Sandbox".

Even in the best of scenarios, the GM had better stack that pure sandbox full to the fucking brim of stuff. My most disastrous sandbox campaign ever was probably the Wilderlands campaign I ran for 3 or 4 sessions before my players revolted on me. We had just come off of playing an intense campaign set in Port Blacksand, a city of scum and villainy full of colourful characters. In the wilderlands campaign, to avoid seeming repetitive, I decided that instead of placing the PCs at a starting point in the city-states region, I'd start them out in the middle of nowhere, in the far north. There, they spent session after session slogging through forest territories, trying not to get lost, to find food, and occasionally fighting some monster that was in a given hex. It was a disaster. I don't know what I was thinking.

In any case, I think that a safer way to get the good out of the Sandbox style of play without the bad is to make use of a slightly different kind of campaign, one which I recently heard of described as a "Subway". Imagine a network of lines connecting to a series of stations. The PCs are free to travel along that network like they want, to hang out at the given stations, but there's some structure. You can't get straight from Broadway to Commercial, you need to get through a few other steps (though maybe, if the PCs are hell bent, they can go up the stairs onto the street and take a cab). You create places where the PCs start and explore, and give them things to do, but you let them decide in what order they do it or how long they want to take.

I had usually described my RC D&D campaign, one of the most successful campaigns I ever ran (where the pcs played from levels 1-36 and ended the campaign achieving immortality) as a "sandbox". But in fact, it wasn't quite that; it was really a Subway. It had most of the elements of the Sandbox: a huge world (Mystara), with the PCs free to explore it, a real-time element (the campaign didn't skip over time, we played from day to day, excepting times when the PCs CHOSE to skip over time by engaging in an ongoing project for several days, weeks or months), and set-piece locations (nations, monsters, dungeons, etc) that changed as time went by.

But I realize now that right from the start, I had a subway system installed. The PCs could have chosen to ignore it, but they didn't. Naturally, they followed the directions the subway pointed to. They chose the order in which they did things, they ended up hanging out in Darokin and the Five Shires for a very long time, for example; but in giving them places to go and specific things to do in the world, they had a semblance of structure that didn't just leave them flailing in the vast world.

My current Starblazer campaign is even more of a "subway". The PCs are on the edge of local space, trying to find Earth. The technology of their 2nd Empire starship is such that it can travel at hyperspeed through conventional space, where traveling from one star to another can take weeks. But they can also travel through 2-space, which can shorten their trips to mere days; only 2-space is like a network of tunnels: a given star might link to 1, 2, 4, or more other stars through 2-space, but to get to specific star B from specific star A you might need to pass by a number of systems along the way. Of course, my players go on 2-space, meaning that there's a framework to where they travel in the stellar region and what they encounter. They decide which direction they head, but they have pointers on where to go that's easier than other places, and that's where the action leads.

So yes, as much as I love the Sandbox in theory; I think in practice a good sandbox often needs some roads. If that's built into the setting (like it is in my Starblazer game) that might be more elegant, but I think that even in a situation like my Mystara campaign, where the "roads" were really through a slight bit of GM-intervention, that's not something to look down upon if it avoids your player characters slogging through four sessions worth of do-nothing forest-hexes.


(Originally Posted July 14, 2010)

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Real Magick In RPGs: What Can Magicians Actually do in a "Low-Mana" Game?

So over on theRPGsite megathread that collects the archives to this series, someone asked me just what I think would be the benefits of being a magician in a contemporary RPG setting that isn't otherwise overtly 'fantasy'.  Because obviously, you can extrapolate a lot of what I wrote about this series to provide very fantastical 'power' for a serious magician in a game where fantasy is really intensely obvious and powerful in that horror/modern-fantasy style.  But what about in a game where Occultism is supposed to be as close to real life as possible in terms of what benefits it actually offers?

One might be tempted to say something like "it's all subjective" or "it would be really hard to quantify", but to me, those are really typical fake/incompetent occultist cop-out answers.

Magick is a system. Its main purpose is the Great Work, Enlightenment, whatever you want to call it. But along the way it works with particular components, and in fact those components are remarkably similar whether you're talking about a Western wizard, a Chinese wizard, an Arab wizard, or something else. Outer imagery is different, the 'recipe' of magick as a system of self-transformation is largely the same throughout all cultures and time periods; with the only notable detail being that not unlike technology, what cultures do with magick evolves as cultures become more advanced and complex. 

Saying "oh you can't really answer a question like this" is probably only true if you personally can't answer it due to a lack of investigation or experience. And/or if you're involvement in magick is really a type of LARPing or fantasy-based wishful-thinking. 

Neo-pagans, for example, tend to treat magick (along with their entire religion) as one big Ren-Faire LARP. They want to pretend they're powerful wizards in some fantasy world and try to convince themselves that any day now they'll be casting 'fly' or 'fireball'; while at the same time thinking that spells can just be whatever they like at the time, because 'you can't know stuff, man'.

New Agers treat magick like it was a mix of "the power of positive thinking" and a Victorian reverse-Lovecraft story, full of 'ascended masters' and 'atlanteans' and the 'galactic high council' all watching over them and that you can just make 'anything' happen if you can only think of enough white-light brightly enough. 

These people then balk at defining magick or what magick is and is not capable of because a realistic definition of what it can do would ruin the fantasy novel that's going on in their heads. 

Which is crazy to me, because what it can do if you actually apply yourself to it is pretty freaking awesome.

So I would say that the benefits, for someone who could navigate the various hazards and practiced with enough time and discipline to become skilled, would include some of the following:

-enhanced general perception of reality, including the enhancement of one's mental and physical faculties (within the limits of how one applies discipline to this).

-perception of reality at other dimensional levels (weird trips on other planes)

-a quality, as one becomes more connected to one's own true Will, to see through the 'masks' or false personas people wear, including those they may not be aware of themselves.

-enhanced perception of Time, including the ability to intuit the probable course of events as they unfold. This usually requires the assistance of divination techniques until one is quite advanced.

-The ability to 'invoke' archetypal forces that temporarily enhance one's abilities related to the particular area that archetype governs for the purpose of making specific achievements.

-the ability to 'evoke' forces of what Jung calls the "shadow side" to transform obstacles into solutions, to resolve specific problems.

-The ability to use ritual and symbol to affect probability (as Moore once said, "Magick is the science of coincidence").

-Also, a variety of 'cheap tricks' relating to things like health/endurance, influencing people, intimidation, not being seen, being highly noticed in very specific ways, and other such very-short-term reality changes.


Currently Smoking:  Lorenzetti Quiete + Gawith's Commonwealth

Friday, 15 April 2016

NEW Dark Albion Review!

So I hadn't really expected to do two Dark Albion plugs in a row, but when you're on a roll...

Anyhow, as it happens, the Swords & Stitchery blog has written up a brand new review of sorts of Dark Albion.  More than a review, it highlights some of the things that make Albion such a great product.

So please, go check it out!  It's well worth a read!


Currently Smoking: Mastro de Paja Bent Billiard + Rattray's Old Gowrie

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Loads of people say nice about Dark Albion! & How you can Help me if you Liked Dark Albion

So a couple of days ago, someone named Joey Mullins (the "Gaming Ronin") decided to repost a review of Dark Albion on his G+ feed.  Not just any review, but the one by James Spahn, award-winning OSR game designer who made White Star and many other fine products.

This unlocked a series of unusual events whereby a the same review got reposted a few times over and a fuckton of people who have had time to read and play and enjoy Dark Albion shared their praise for it!

So I'm going to just repost some of these comments here:

Eric Fabiaschi "This book is still on my 'must' get list folks."

Bastien Pilon: "It is quite good, no question"

Nathan Panke: "It's one of my favorite setting books."

David Okum: "I have the hardcover and love it!"

Brandon Goeringer: "It's a masterpiece"

David McGuire: "It is one of the best setting books I've ever owned"

Samwise7: "It is very good"

There's more out there, but this is just from one thread to give you an idea of the great response Dark Albion generates.

Now, I will say this to any of you tempted to say equally nice things: if you really want to do me a BIG favor, please go to the site where you bought Dark Albion (that is, Lulu for the hardcover or alternate hardcover, Amazon for the softcover, or RPGnow for the PDF). Once there, please write your favorable comment as a review.  A 'review' in a product section doesn't need to be like one of my reviews, it doesn't need to be pages full of details.  A 5-star review that says "It's one of my favorite setting books" is going to have just as much of a potential impact on a would-be buyer.  Apparently it can really help with sales. It won't take you a lot of time and is a great way to express your love for Dark Albion.

Thanks in advance!

Oh, and as for all of you who haven't yet bought Dark Albion, please check out the book in any of those links above.  Then buy it, and then put your own short little review on it when you have a chance to see how awesome Dark Albion really is!


Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Rhodesian + Image Latakia

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Pictures from Uruguay: Street Art

What a nice day it's been today.  I haven't gotten much work done, but I got up early by my standards (noon) and went out for a walk around my neighbourhood. I had some little pastries at two of the bakeries and then made my way to El Carioca where I was treated to some coffee, and took home about a pound of a great looking Parana/Santos blend (high end coffee, cost about $10).  Then off to buy some groceries at the local supermarket and home to cook up an Asian noodle soup.

Anyways, I took some pictures but these ones here are from an earlier jaunt (similar in description to the above), of some of the colorful street art. You see this kind of art all over Montevideo, it's wonderful. But I think here in the Cordon it's especially good (the Cordon being Montevideo's Brooklyn, the artsy-hipster neighborhood of the city.

Here we go:

Some of these, as you can see, have been here for years.  Some are new.  Some come and go as the same artist (or a different, maybe rival artist) ends up painting over it.  There's one on the corner of my block that has slowly had the same artist gradually change parts of it, so that it now looks nothing at all like the original.

I think people here have a more relaxed attitude about graffiti, and see it as potential art. This in turn means that in the urban environment more graffiti artists take the time to make more sophisticated work, because they know that there's a good chance they won't have their magnum opus whitewashed the next day.

It's a good thing.


Currently Smoking: Neerup bent Billiard + Image Latakia