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Monday, 19 November 2018

Classic Rant: “Real” Magick in RPGs: Aleister Crowley

December 1st is the anniversary of Aleister Crowley’s “Greater Feast for Death”.  That is to say, almost 71 years ago (ed.), he croaked.

Certainly, one could have all kinds of material related to Crowley that would spice up any historical/occult campaign set anytime from the 1890s to the 1940s. But what about in a modern campaign? What makes the guy important?




I can’t possibly dedicate a single blog entry to telling you everything about the man and his magick: there are tons of biographies of the guy out there, and feel free to read one if you’re really interested.  What matters now is only the “cheat sheet”, of how you can use him in your campaign without knowing every detail.

For starters, Crowley was very important not only to modern magick, but to modern society.  As one of his biographer’s put it: “new ageism, witchcraft, hippies, paganism, sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll: it’s all his fault”.  

It really was. Crowley was doing all that shit 40 years before it was cool, in many cases 40 years before it technically existed.  And magically, his influence was paramount.  He took a bunch of medieval systems and Victorian pseudo-masonry and gave it a purpose for our new Aeon, the new astrological age.

And while we’re at it, he ended the world.
Magically speaking, the apocalypse happened in April 1904. The procession of the astrological ages took place at that moment, when Crowley received the Book of the Law from the god Horus, after a vision received inside the great pyramid in Cairo.  Essentially, this was the change from the “age of Pisces” to that “age of Aquarius” the new-agers talk so much and know so little about.  Its already happened, and it marked a moment when humanity grew up in its capacity for understanding of its relationship to the universe.  As a result of this vision, Crowley predicted a number of things that few in 1904 would have expected to come to pass: devastating wars, atrocities, and incredible human destruction; but these were just the birth pangs for an age of societal evolution where equality of all human beings, sexual and gender liberation, a new interest in the discovery of the self, experimentation with drugs as a means for transcendence, new pseudo-scientific/psychological ways of understanding magical symbolism, a breaking free from old restrictions and limits of both morality and human potential, all would come to pass.  He predicted, in other words, a world that looks very much like our own.

The essence of his teaching is a word I’ve used in this series before: Thelema.  It means “will”, and is represented by the law of this Aeon: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will”. 



This is a new magical paradigm that gives a greater purpose to magical work; not that it is completely new, but that it was something that had been long lost or hidden in the background of mumbo-jumbo, of people summoning angels or demons or working with elemental forces or ritual without really grasping a bigger philosophical purpose behind it all.  That purpose is to discover your True Will. 

“Will” in this case means not whatever the fuck you want (to the chagrin of the many satanists and heavy metal geeks that love Crowley on that mistaken basis) but rather it means that you have a higher self, a higher purpose, that magick is supposed to help you get in contact with. Discover your true will, and then unite to it (in Love, meaning union), and then to the universe itself. This is the purpose of magick, not unlike many other mystical systems, not unlike Tantra or Buddhism, Sufism or Taoism; its to “know thyself” and then become “one with everything”, or nothing.

The Book of the Law itself is a short but fairly complex spiritual text, that most magicians will have read at some point, and certainly every thelemic magician; it might make very little sense to a non-magician who reads it, but you may want to give it a try. Its not hard to find online, and its in the public domain as far as I know (at least, its on a ton of websites).

There is one other mystical operation of Crowley’s that’s very worthy of mention, though probably even more incomprehensible to the non-magician; its the kind of thing that if you were running CoC, would cause you to lose 1d10 SAN just by reading it (the Book of the Law would probably cause you to lose 1d4, while we’re at it): This is “The Vision and the Voice”.  I mention it here because it is the record of Crowley’s personal enlightenment, 5 years after writing the book of the law; where in the  middle of the North African desert he entered into a series of “pathworkings”, or astral journeys, to the 30 Enochian Aethyrs, gnostic dimensions beyond our own.  There he encountered a series of powerfully transformative initiatory visions, that changed his understanding of magick and himself.  The system for using the “Enochian Aethyrs” was not invented by Crowley, it was given by angelic beings to Dr. John Dee, the famous Elizabethan magician, in the 1580s; and while the Golden Dawn used some elements of enochian magick, as far as anyone knows no one had actually used the “enochian calls” to travel to the Aethyrs until Crowley did it (not even Dee, although he received the system of magick, there’s no evidence he ever used it).  Of course, since then, quite a few other magicians have done so.  It's almost as though the Enochian Aethyrs weren't meant to be accessed until the new aeon.



“The Vision and the Voice” is the kind of book that many would-be occultists will own, very few will have read, fewer still tried to seriously understand; and some (though not necessarily the same as those who understood) may try to imitate.  Without proper preparation, trying to pathwork to the higher Enochian Aethyrs is a recipe for going batshit nuts. It would do to the psyche what going to the outer planes would do to the health of 3rd level AD&D characters… almost certainly nothing good.
It's a good example of the kind of spiritual visions and trips that a very experienced magician is capable of doing, however.

Aside from these, Crowley wrote a ton of books on the themes of magick, yoga, and taoism (and designed a rocking tarot deck).  Remember, in your game, none of these should be very difficult to find!
Resist the temptation to make “books of true occult power” difficult to obtain, they’re NOT. They’re all over Amazon, Ebay, and the internet in general.  What’s difficult is having any sense of context to study them properly, and the lack of laziness to actually do the work they suggest and do these right.   Crowley’s “Magick in Theory and Practice” alone is, in one very large book, more than enough to get someone all they need to know to start successfully performing magick, yet most people won’t bother to thoroughly read it, even those who own it or claim to be magicians.

In a modern setting, Crowley should be portrayed as misunderstood by the general occult scene, with the know-nothings being generally scared shitless of him, aside from a minority of fawning admirers who like the idea of him because he’s “wicked” without actually knowing anything about him at all (he’s the Occult equivalent of Che Guevara in that sense: far more people will go around wearing his image on a T-shirt than actually know what he did or why).  Among serious practitioners, there’s a group of hardcore “old aeon” magicians who despise him, a larger group of modern magicians (self-described as Thelemites or not) who base their magick on what he did, and a third group that express admiration for him but don’t necessarily follow his precepts.  But in each sense, every modern magician is affected by him, even those who have never read him; including some who may not have a clue who he is.  His teachings have affected all books of magick that came after him whether he gets credit for it or not, as well as movements like Wicca that try very hard sometimes to pretend that he had nothing to do with them, even though the whole basis for what they do started with him.

Crowley also spawned 2 magical orders: the A.’.A.’. and the O.T.O. (the latter, though not founded by him, was completely redefined by him).  I’ve talked about these before, and remember: they’re mostly useless in terms of serious magick, though they may have serious magicians in them. They’re usually used by their membership as ego-trips or social clubs.

Other fun things you can do with Crowley:
-From time to time, some magician (usually a total newb) will go around claiming they’re Crowley’s reincarnation. This is usually coupled with the person trying to talk or act like Crowley (though usually not matched with some of Crowley’s non-magical achievement, like being a world-record mountain climber or chess champion), and is met with derision.

-Crowley taught a secret form of sex magic as part of his OTO framework, this is not really secret anymore, its available online, but more than a few unscrupulous people have started sex cults based on it.

-Boleskine, the Loch Ness mansion where Crowley attempted (and failed) his first effort at doing the complex magical operation known as the Abra-melin rite, has long been said to be haunted, and the locals have many stories of people who have gone mad, or killed themselves or others, as a result of the house’s nefarious influence (the Abra-melin operation culminates in summoning up demons, after having obtained a full connection to your Holy Guardian Angel (your higher self or true will), and some have speculated that having failed to complete the operation, the demons got loose with nothing to control them).  The mansion was for many years owned by Thelemite and Led Zeppelin frontman Jimmy Page, and has since been turned into a bed & breakfast. Some have even tried to connect Boleskine/Crowley to the Loch Ness Monster, pointing out that modern sightings of the monster only started after Crowley's time there.

-Crowley had a commune in the 1920s in Cefalu, Italy, named “The Abbey of Thelema”.  The house where the commune was based has been abandoned for decades, is half-ruined, and has been put up for sale.  It is frequently squatted in by Crowley-fans and occultists, and still has the fading images of the wall-paintings that Crowley and his students drew there, some of them quite unusual.

-The Book of the Law was received in connection to an ancient Egyptian funeral Stele called “The Stele of Revealing”.  The Book of the Law contained the instructions that the Stele should be stolen or otherwise obtained (it was at that time on display at the Boulak museum in Cairo) and taken to Boleskine, and that if this was done it would have stunning and transformative effects on the world.  Crowley himself never got around to doing this; the Stele is now in the Cairo museum, where it was reported unharmed by the recent civil unrest in that country.

-The Book of the Law instructed Crowley to “find the value of the English alphabet”, that is, to figure out a numerical system of gematria (as in, the Kabbalah), by which one could directly determine the number-value of English words without having to translate into Hebrew first.  Crowley never ended up accomplishing this (he didn’t seem to bother to try very much, being quite happy with Hebrew Gematria) and after him many would-be “English kabbalists” have broken their minds trying to make a system that makes sense and works magically as well as the Hebrew gematria system.  Some have claimed success, but none has been universally adopted and recognized as a success.

-The Book of the Law also contains a code, a series of letters and numbers that Crowley was instructed were not for him to understand, but that someone would come after him to decipher it, and its meaning would be clear to all and near-universally accepted as correct.  Up till now, that hasn’t happened, though many many would-be-Crowleys have tried.

-it recently came to light that Crowley was an agent of British Intelligence. He is credited, among other things, with having given Winston Churchill the recommendation of using the “V for victory” sign as often as possible, as a magical countermeasure to the Nazis’ own use of magical symbols (the swastika, the nazi salute, etc).

-every once in a while, items show up on sale on E-bay which claim to have once belonged to Crowley.  Most of these are unquestionably fake.

-Crowley was the first white man to have provably used the I Ching for divination on a regular basis. To do so he had designed his own special set of divining sticks.  After his death these came into the possession of one of his magical heirs, Grady McMurtry (who re-founded the biggest claimant to the modern OTO).  McMurtry in turn lost the pouch with these sticks one night at a party on a California beach when he was either drunk or stoned out of his mind.  They have never been found.

-Crowley has no tomb; he was cremated, and his ashes eventually brought to America by one of his students, Karl Germer.  Germer’s wife eventually dumped the ashes under a tree in the garden of their New Jersey suburban home.

Anyways, all of these and many many other details about the guy’s life should give ample fodder for modern-occult adventure.

RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Masonic Meerschaum + Image Perique

(originally reposted July 26, 2013; on the old blog)

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Wild West Campaign: The Prospectors

This session started with the opening of a number of new business enterprises for the PCs, in the rebuilding following the great Tombstone fire of 1881. Among the businesses that some of the PCs involved themselves with were a brewery, a french restaurant, and even a bowling alley. Tombstone also saw the opening of an ice cream parlor.  This is all historically accurate, by the way.



The PCs were also happy to welcome Cooter, the former town jailer of Dodge City, into Tombstone. They'd lured him here with the promise of a deputy's star, but the real reason the goofy hick was brought down was because he made the best coffee in the west. And coffee was a very big deal in the west. 

Meanwhile, the PCs learned that Cowboy and Cochise County Deputy Sheriff Frank Stilwell had apparently been harassing many of Tombstone's merchants for protection money. 



They were pretty sure that Jonny Behan, the Sheriff, was in on it too. Unfortunately, the shopkeepers were all too terrified of reprisals from the Cowboys to testify against them. County U.S. Marshal Virgil Earp sent out his deputy Other Miller to very discretely gather more information about who was being targeted and when Stilwell was picking up the protection money.

Meanwhile, Crazy Miller was enjoying playing at his lifelong dream; he'd finally opened a butcher shop, and was spending much of his time hanging out there acting like the humble butcher.  But there was trouble in one of his other businesses.  Hilda, one of the girls working at his brothel ("The Den of Sin"), came to the butcher store quite worried, as the den's madam, Miss Scarlet, had not come in to work and wasn't answering her door. Crazy Miller went to her house behind the brothel to investigate and found an open window; there were bootprints by the windowsill. Miller, a trained tracker, noted that the boots were poor and in bad shape. He entered the house and found some signs of a struggle; it appeared Miss Scarlet had been kidnapped.

He went to the authorities, and they started to ask some questions. Questioning Hilda, they learned that the only person Scarlet had seen lately who might have boots like that was an elderly prospector by the name of Picky (she didn't recall his last name). It was very little go to on, but Miller and Jeff Young decided to go to the Tombstone Mines to see if they could find the prospector. Along the way they ran into Kid Taylor, who decided to go with them.

Meanwhile, Other Miller had been asking around, confirming that most of the shopkeepers were being shaken down for protection money, and that it was always Stilwell who collected. He eventually found one general store, owned by a meek man name Olson, who was going to be Stilwell's target for collection the next morning. 

Other Miller went back to talk to Virgil and Morgan Earp. They all agreed that Olson would be too nervous to testify, but if they could catch Stilwell in the act, they wouldn't need a witness. The problem was that while they could browbeat Olson into letting them do a sting, he would probably be so terrified that he'd give away the game. They decided instead they'd have to stake out the place; but they'd need to be close enough to not only see Stilwell picking up the money, but also admitting it was for protection.

They decided on a plan: Virgil would be waiting at the front of the building. Other Miller would find a way to sneak into the storage room. And Morgan would come in the back, ostensibly to visit Olson's unattractive and domineering wife, who he'd noticed seemed to have a thing for him.  They also suggested that Morgan try to trick her into thinking he'd come because he'd heard that Stilwell was going to intimidate Mr.Olson into giving up more money, which would motivate her to interrupt the transaction and browbeat her husband, hopefully while getting Stilwell to talk about protection money. 


Their other problem was that the door to the storage room would be locked, and Other Miller couldn't exactly kick it down, or ask Olson to let him hang out there for no specified reason. Virgil asked if any of them knew how to pick locks, and none of them did. But Cooter piped up and said "I know a guy in town who can do that.. he's named Buckskin Frank?"
Apparently, after a week in town Cooter knew everyone's secrets.  Buckskin, he explained, learned the art not for thieving but for sneaking in to visit his adulterous paramours.  Other Miller asked Buckskin for help and he was glad to do it.


Meanwhile, the other group had gotten to the mines.  They asked around for a Picky, but it turned out that the Mining corporation administrator didn't know him. They mentioned something Hilda had vaguely recalled, about him living in a shack in 'the back of something'. That led the mining clerk to think it might mean the back ridge of the hills, beyond the main mine owned by the corporation.  The miners there had to defend their claims so they often built shacks instead of living in tents. 

The PCs found their old friend, Frenchie the miner, and he offered to guide them over there. He said he knew of an old guy named Picky who lived there with his two sons, who were "kind of slow". They headed over to the back ridge, and eventually realized they found the right shack when someone shot at them with a rifle.

They tried to talk them down, but Picky had apparently been 'given' Miss Scarlet as a present by his two sons, and had decided to 'save' Miss Scarlet from a life of 'slavery' at the hands of that evil pimp Crazy Miller. He would make a proper woman of her as a miner's wife, and a new ma to his two 'boys' (both of whom were taller than Jeff  Young).  Before they could keep trying to get the prospectors to surrender, the two boys started firing their rifles from the shack window again.

Miller and Young had ducked behind rocks, and were at a severe disadvantage firing pistols from a great distance against the prospectors who were firing rifles. Kid Taylor had meanwhile circled around and was approaching the shack from behind. 

What followed was a very surprising firefight: the prospector's boys managed to shoot both Jeff Young and Crazy Miller in the head but in both cases the wounds were not serious (Young's was a 1hp graze, while Miller's shot knocked him on his back but didn't do any meaningful damage). Then Young and Miller managed to shoot both the boys in the face, but didn't drop either of them either. This in a game where a headshot can very, very easily be a one-hit kill. 

Kid Taylor got around to the edge of the window, and after the boy nearest him fired another shot, Taylor circled around and made a quick and skillful shot at the prospector, blowing him straight to hell. Then he ducked back to the back entrance. 

Crazy Miller finally managed to take out the other boy. Kid Taylor kicked the back door down and found Miss Scarlet, never the helpless victim, struggling with Picky for his gun. It went off in the struggle but luckily no one was hit. Kid Taylor took the time to cautiously aim while they struggled and then shot Picky's brains out.  Miss Scarlet was grateful for the rescue, as she really didn't want to spend her life as a miner's wife, though she wondered what took them so long.

The next morning, Other Miller and the Earps prepared their ambush.  Everything went as planned. Morgan manipulated Olson's wife, she went in and complained about Stilwell trying to get more protection money off them, Stilwell responded in a way that admitted the crime, and then Morgan came through the back door, Other Miller through the side, and Virgil blocked the entrance to the store. Stilwell gave up. 


They locked him up, but realized that the Cowboys would be likely to just pervert justice as they'd always managed to before. Virgil decided to go to Johnny Behan and see if he could get anything out of this. Behan couldn't afford a scandal, and if it came out that Behan was profiting off of protection money, it could harm his political career. So in the end, he managed to get Behan to denounce Stilwell, fire him as a deputy, and agree not to hire any other Cowboys, for as long as Virgil was marshal.  In exchange, Stilwell would be set free. It was the best deal they could make.

On the way back into town, Crazy Miller ran into some of the Cowboys, who were in a somber mood. It turned out that while returning from some cattle rustling, a group of Mexicans had ambushed some cowboys in Guadalupe Canyon. They murdered 5 Cowboys, including Pa Clanton, their de facto leader. 


Old Man Clanton was dead. He was a monster, but he had kept the Cowboys strictly disciplined. And now the less-stable Curly Bill Brocius was leader of the Cowboys. The PCs started to see a bloodbath inching ever closer. 

RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Blatter Diplomat + C&D's Delta Days 

Saturday, 17 November 2018

RPGPundit Reviews: House of Paper Shadows





This is a review of "House of Paper Shadows", an adventure for Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate. It was written by Brendan Davis, published by Bedrock Games.

This is, as always, a review of the print edition. It is a softcover edition, coming in at 85 pages long. The cover is full color, featuring a sinister image of a pale-skinned female figure with a long spear, walking through a pink forest to a building. The interior art is black & white, and features a large number of quite decent art pieces and floorplan maps. It's about 88 pages long.



Before proceeding, I should note that I have a business relationship with Brendan Davis in that Bedrock Games is the publisher of the Arrows of Indra RPG, my Epic-India OSR game. I was not involved in this product (or the Ogre Gate game at all), nor do I make any money from this product; I also don't think my business relationship will affect my ability to provide an honest review.

So, in the introduction, Brendan states that House of Paper shadows takes its inspiration from various Chinese movies (A Chinese Ghost Story, Bride From Hell, Human Lanterns, etc), but also from Clive Barker. It's an adventure "filled with fear, horror and disgust".

Here's a youtube preview:



The adventure is intended as an exploration adventure for characters of Qi Rank 4-6.  As I said, this is an adventure for Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate, which I previously reviewed, and that's a wuxia kung-fu action RPG.  The adventure centers on The House of Paper Shadows, which is both an organisation in the Ogre Gate setting, and the Shadow House which is their headquarters, which is briefly detailed in the Ogre Gate book.  Brendan warns that this is a very dangerous adventure and it's highly likely that one or more PCs will die if you run it.

The House of Paper Shadows is additionally described as a "basic site-based adventure". It's about exploration, in the same way that a D&D dungeon would be.  There's a big bad, named Feng Yin, who is difficult to kill, but various ways of defeating her are presented.
Various reasons are also presented as to why the PCs might want to go to the House of Paper Shadows in the first place; maybe they are motivated for the destruction of the House for reasons ranging from the mercenary to the personal, or maybe they're seeking a missing member of a different sect now presumably held prisoner in the House. They might be lured there by the Society to obtain something the PCs have. They could be searching for the Rejuventing Honey found there. Or they could be tricked there by the Society itself as a test to consider them for eventual membership.

The first chapter of the book (after the introduction) begins with a description of the House of Paper Shadows. This includes an extremely impressive keyed map of the House, which occupies two pages, one being impressively illustrative and the other more practical. It's really a great map. There's random encounter tables, and a description of all the keyed rooms.

The whole dungeon is an exotic and impressive menagerie of dangerous traps, highly unusual monstrosities, and weird objects. It all has a great Horror-Wuxia style to it. There's 56 keyed areas in all. This chapter covers about 40 pages.

Chapter 2 is a separate "small mystery adventure" called "The Paper Mountain Mystery". It is derived from one particular location in chapter 1, which allows them the opportunity to travel back in time. They travel back to a place and time where they can get important clues about the past of Feng Yin, and thus potentially defeat her. This sub-adventure has many interesting locations and characters, and is about 12 pages long.

Chapter 3 is "residents of the house of paper shadows" and it details new monsters for the Ogre Gate setting, including many unique to the House. Also, NPCs.
You get about a dozen new monsters, including Dragon Ghosts, Shadow Agents, a variety of magical wasps (a feature of the House), Shadow Heroes, and Shadow Puppets.
There's also a half dozen NPCs.  All of these, monsters and NPCs, are statted out, and any special abilities are included and explained.

Chapter 4 is only a couple of pages long, and presents some new Kung Fu techniques and rituals for the Ogre Gate game. Again, these are generally connected to the adventure scenario.

Chapter 5, the final chapter, contains new items and substances. It's only a couple of pages long, and contains brief descriptions of items like "alleviating honey", "the blood dagger of bao", "blood honey", "ceramic orb of Ruang Anzhi", "Mi-Feng's aroma", "rejuvenating honey" and "shadow hide glue".

After this, we get to the appendix section. "Appendix A" contains "Branch-head Records". It is a single page listing the heads of the different branches of the House of Paper Shadows, and their relevant locations.

Appendix B contains a set of 4 pre-gen characters for player use.  Finally, the back has a recreation of the maps found in earlier sections.
So what can we conclude about House of the Paper Shadows?  Well, it's very definitely a book for Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate; it's very particular to that game's styling. You could only really adapt it with quite a lot of work, as there's considerable rules material here, and in terms of setting if you wanted it to make sense it would need to be for play in a Wuxia-fantasy world with strong Chinese elements.


Within that context, and certainly if you're a fan of Ogre Gate, this is a fantastic product to pick up.


RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Masonic Meerschaum + Dunhill Elizabethan Mixture

Friday, 16 November 2018

D&D SJWs Politicize the OSR Logo; Here's it's Inclusive Replacement

So Stuart Robertson, the inventor of one of the more-common known OSR logos, has decided that he's going to threaten legal action on anyone using the Logo with politics he doesn't like.
Fortunately, I will be presenting an alternative that will be available for FREE, for everyone, in perpetuity to use on their OSR designs, complete with the subtitle of "We only care that you game".

Check out my livestream, at 8:30 EST, where I talk about this and about our new OSR logo. 


  

Also, because Robertson is already trying to make false claims of ownership over that logo: that logo is not mine, and it's certainly NOT Stuart Robertson's. It was designed by a Mexican artist, and it is inspired by the original TSR Logo. It has no relation or derivation from Stuart's work.

Here is the original TSR Logo for comparison:




And so here is the new logo, inspired by the above:



And with a motto:






RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Neerup Poker + Country Doctor 

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Adventuring in a Medieval University!

In the modern era, college movies are usually comedies about crazy frat parties, horror/fantasy about weird secret societies, or occasionally dramas-of-the-week about abuse or corruption.

Well, in all of these areas, the modern University  hasn't got anything on the Medieval ones.

In RPGPundit Presents #54: Medieval College Adventures, you get a complete guidebook to how to make Medieval-Authentic universities, schools of theology, law, the arts, natural sciences, and yes, magic.


In Medieval College Adventures you'll learn everything you need to know about how to make your own fantasy university look like they really were in the medieval period, and believe me they were not quiet places!

Medieval universities were certainly great centers for knowledge and learning. But they were also INFAMOUS for wild night life, for political intrigues, sexual licentiousness, heresies, sorcery, crazy pranks, drunkenness, and terrible violence.

In Medieval College Adventures you'll get an overall guide to medieval college life, including who went there, how classes worked, how people learned, where they live, the libraries, the typical college day, money issues, the crazy traditions, the often very rigorous rules (and how students constantly tried to break them), the relations (usually horribly bad ones) with the town, medieval college crime (which was endemic), and more.

You'll also get an outline of the two great Universities of England/Albion: Oxford and Cambridge. This will include details about the towns they're in, the history of the schools, the way the schools would look in the 15th century, and a list of their college/halls and organizations with each of their strange peculiarities.

Finally, you'll also get a list of 20 encounters/adventure-seeds for typical action that could take place while in a Medieval University or university town. Get into epic fights between gangs of students over favored prostitutes, save a teacher from being murdered by students angry over a poor grade, investigate a ghost sighting in one of the college halls, uncover an espionage ring among the foreign students, solve (or participate in) a heist of priceless books from one of the libraries, and much much more!



So whether you want to run a whole campaign centered in a medieval-authentic fantasy university, or just want to run an adventure or two, you'll want to pick up RPGPundit Presents #54: Medieval College Adventures on DTRPG, or on the Precis Intermedia Webstore.

Either way, this 21 page book can be yours for just $2.99!

And while you're at it, be sure to pick up the rest of the great supplements in the RPGPundit Presents series:


RPGPundit Presents #1: DungeonChef!

RPGPundit Presents #2: The Goetia  (usable for Lion & Dragon!)

RPGPundit Presents #3: High-Tech Weapons


RPGPundit Presents #5: The Child-Eaters (an adventure scenario for Lion & Dragon!)









RPGPundit Presents #17: The Hunters (an adventure for Lion & Dragon!)




RPGPundit Presents #21: Hecate's Tomb (an adventure for Lion & Dragon!)































Stay tuned for more next week!



RPGPundit

Currently smoking: Brigham Anniversary + Image Latakia

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

SJWs Attack Lefty D&D Publisher For Thought-Crime

Here's my livestream on the James Raggi "scandal", enjoy!




And if you did enjoy, please support me on Patreon or on the Paypal button right here on this blog.

Also, subscribe, and share the video!

RPGpundit

Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Canadian + McLintock Syrian Latakia

Monday, 12 November 2018

Classic Rant: Letter Day – Magick


I get some letters from time to time; and I thought there was one here I should respond to on this blog, its from “Sage Nagai”:

Dear Pundit,
 
After all these years, I’m still reading your blog!
 
After your recent article on further reading on Crowley, you piqued my curiosity, and I ordered one of the Duquette books you recommended which provides an overview of Crowley’s rituals.  I enjoyed reading the historical and biographical intro chapter of the book very much, but when I got to the parts actually talking about specific ritual procedures and reproducing various texts, I felt confused.
 
The book did not make it clear to me exactly what a person is supposed to be able to accomplish, or what the exact purpose is, of doing the various ceremonies.
 
Let me try and put it this way.  If someone asked me, “Why would someone want to practice karate, by doing the various training regimens and procedures listed in a karate book,” I would be able to give a pretty concise answer.  “By practicing karate, a person may enjoy the benefits of athleticism, flexibility, discipline, spatial awareness, confidence, and may enjoy the social aspect of development of combat or combat sports skills with a group of like-minded hobbyists.  In the event that you’re someday assaulted, expertise in karate may improve your probability of survival, depending on the circumstances, and the intensity of your training level and mindset.”
 
But, when it comes to the question, “Why would someone want to practice Crowley’s magick, by doing the various training regimens and procedures listed in Duquette’s book,” I have absolutely no idea what the answer would be.
 
I know that in your blog, you stated that if someone performs the rituals enough, they affect major changes in their ego because they realize that the day to day is less all-encompassing than it seems.  But it is not immediately apparent to me what the rituals directly have to do with that, or the difference between doing the magical rituals towards that end, and simply having powerful ego-rattling life experiences, such as, for example, having worked in health care long enough to have worked with a number of patients who end up dying in spite of your best efforts, or having had combat experience in a war.  I thought that maybe you would be able to help me understand what exactly a person aims to achieve or affect when they perform Crowley’s rituals.  
 
Thanks very much for your kind help and consideration!
 
-S



First, the series I’ve been writing on magick is not meant as a practical guide, its meant as a guide for RPG play.  That said, it might be important for people in an RPG to have an answer to this question of “why bother with magick”?

You do magical rituals as a way to perform the Great Work.  That is, the work of self-transformation.
The “ego-rattling” mind-blowing side of things is one part of that; and to answer one of your questions the point of doing magick to get that rather than just going through life and waiting for those experiences to happen, is that the magician does INTENTIONALLY and in controlled ways what happens to most people just by ACCIDENT.  The point is that if rather than waiting for live events to cause shake ups, you invite them, and create them with specific circumstances, then you can create moments of opportunity for transcendence.

But the Great Work only starts with the whole “mind-blowing” experience. After that is the question of where to go from there. The second purpose of magick ritual is to prepare yourself, once sufficiently shifted in perspective, to be able to direct that perspective shift into a permanent communication with your “higher self”, the intentionally-silly named “Holy Guardian Angel”.

This is not just “you at your best” or something like that, but it is you at a level so beyond the ordinary definitions of yourself that it will seem like an entirely different human being, and hence one can literally end up engaging in conversation with it. Magick allows us regular glimpses of that higher self, but a magician who goes through the somewhat grueling process of breaking down the self and then opening up the self that is require to obtain full and regular knowledge and conversation of one’s higher self is called an Adept.

This is a person who, in an RPG occult game, would have access to some serious power and wisdom.
They would be able to control demons (I’ll explain more about that in some future blog entry), they would be able to see connections in things that a normal human being is unaware of, they’d have powerful intuitive senses, and would also by then have a significant knowledge of most forms of magick.

There’s a further step beyond that in the Great Work, however. Once you have become complete and harmonized within yourself, comes the job of annihilating the self: jumping into the abyss, becoming a Master of the Temple.  This is the ultimate challenge of magick, to be able to sacrifice all of yourself, to leap out of the ego completely, and become one with the great dark mother, with emptiness and infinity. It is precisely the same as Buddhist Enlightenment: you cease to exist as an ego.

In game terms, this can be quite a trip, as the process of crossing the Abyss involves passing through this vast expanse of emptiness and dispersion (basically, everything that could possibly be defined as “Wrong” is there), facing the great demon Choronzon (among many other dangers), and then willingly draining every drop of your blood into the Cup of Babalon that you may burn in her embrace, and enter as a pile of ashes into the City of the Pyramids.

This is basically a symbolic journey, often done by pathworking or astral travel (more on that in some future blog post too). After that, a magician continues to exist in the physical world, but has become a Master, far beyond in awareness and comprehension; which unfortunately, means that to many people he may seem batshit nuts, if he’s not very good at dissimulation.

Also, many fail to give all their blood into that cup, they hold onto some tiny piece of themselves; they become a Black Brother. Their soul becomes shut up inside the abyss, and while the body continues in the ordinary world that Black Brother is now hopelessly corrupted, desperate to Live, above all else, the ultimate trap of Egotism. A Black Brother believes himself to be the most important thing in the universe, and convinces himself and others of all kinds of lies.  He is doomed to slowly be consumed by the anti-energy of the abyss, and desperate to do anything he can to keep saving himself.  He makes, in other words, a perfect mastermind villain or cult leader for a modern occult game; a kind of “false immortal”.

So yeah, the short answer to your question is: you do magick because you want to create intentional effects to generate change in yourself that would otherwise just be dependent on circumstances; and with the higher purpose of spiritual transcendence, with the same ultimate goal of enlightenment as you’d find in Buddhism; except that in magick you get to face demons and cast spells and shit, while in Buddhism you mostly just sit around (except for Tibetan Buddhism, where you get to face demons and cast spells and shit).

RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Mastro de Paja Rhodesian + Image Perique

(originally reposted July 10, 2013; on the old blog)

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Happy Independence Day, Poland

Today marks 100 years since the end of World War I.

But it also marks the 100th year from the restoration of an independent Polish state. This was after Poland was betrayed and consumed by the Prussian, Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires, and vanished off the maps of the world for 123 years.


Since that time, Poland also hasn't had an easy road. It was invaded by the Germans and the Russians, and then suffered nearly five decades of brutal Soviet Communist Rule, the specter of which still haunts the nation.

No surprise, then, that Poland is a country that is proud of its nation, and proud of its independence, and knows all too well what happens when you're being governed by an internationalist and socialist elite who despise the citizenry they rule over.




The Leftist world media, who despise Poland's natural antipathy to socialism, will try to paint the festivities today as some kind of 'far right march', when in fact it is a collection of 200 000 Polish citizens celebrating their hard-won liberty.  Don't let yourself be fooled by the propaganda of people who still think back with melancholy over the demise of the Soviet Bloc, one of the most evil regimes in human history. 




This pretty much sums up the sentiments of the vast majority of Poles, in Poland and throughout the world.


And finally, never let it be said that Poles don't have a sense of humor about their achievements:






RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti A + McLintock Syrian Latakia

Saturday, 10 November 2018

DCC Campaign: I Grab my Potato and Run!




Last time, the PCs had defeated the rulers of the Libertarian-Misogynist Free City of Mra, and thus became their new rulers. In the process they'd allowed the hostages of the Duke of Abstinence (and the killer Bot who was guarding them) to slip out of the city and their grasp.

Now:

-One of the players tries to explain the Last Sun campaign to our new player:
"It's like a cross between Adventure Time and Rick & Morty."
"So it's like, really intellectual and sophisticated."
"He says that because people who watch Rick & Morty think they're really smart."
"You don't need to explain that to us, we have high IQs."
"The history of this entire campaign proves otherwise."




-The party has Lenny teleport Sami over to Mra, just as she was finally getting to the point of having a heart to heart talk with Queen Zoey, who she was desperate to have as her first true female friend:
"You know, Sami, at first I wasn't sure about you but now, I really consider you a--"
*ZAP*
"What? Where am I? Consider me a what?! Noo!"

-"What the hell?!"
"We missed you!"

-"Why did you bring me here?!"
"Well, we lost the hostages."
"And we accidentally took over the city."

-"One of you is going to explain what happened here!"
"I say it's Lenny's time to share.."

-"You know I could find the Duke in a second, but I won't."
"Why not?"
"Because fuck you guys."
"But don't you want to help Queen Zoey, Sami?"
"Ohh, wait, it's because if we stop the Duke we have no reason to stay here and Sami wants to stay with her new friend!"
"Don't ruin this for me!!"

-"Bill the Elf is famous as having caused destruction and misery as an agent of chaos throughout the world."
"Hey!"
"What? It's true!"
"Yeah.. but you forgot genocide! I did at least two of those!"

-"Zeke, we appoint you the Deacon of the City of Mra. Go forth and convert these heathens!"
"Amen, my friends. I shall surely try to save their souls!"
"I hope he gets killed."
"He won't. He's got ridiculously stupid Luck."

-"Lenny, you could stay here in Mra too!"
"Why? I don't want to! Did I do something wrong?"
"No."
"Then why are you punishing me?"
"OK, OK, you can come with us!"



-"I'm done with leading you guys!"
"I thought Heidi was our leader?"
"Since when?!"
"Since that time you demoted me, Sami."
"I thought it was the Vegomagus."

-"Everyone leave, except you, yes-man."
"Oh, thank you so much your magnificences! It is Wormtoung's greatest pleasure to serve you!"



-"Wait, did we just spontaneously invent a named NPC?"
"I think so."
"Wouldn't be the first time; that's how Lenny happened."

-"Ted the Posh Elf is either in the normal tower or the masturbation room."
"Good. Then when we leave he will stay here in charge."
"You know they're going to murder him almost as soon as we leave, right?"
"I don't care."

-"We need some bodies to hide behind."
"Ah, you need cannon fodder, my magnificent lord!"
"Exactly, Wormtoung!"
"Then they shall be brought to you, your powerfulness! Guards, seek out and bring us three nobodies!"

-The guards return with an Elven Yoga Instructor, a Dwarven Hoarder (with tons of starting junk), and a Pink Mutant Water Salesman (because water is not free in Mra).

-"Congratulations, scum! You are now Indentured Servants in our Free Market System!"
"you know, I think Mra isn't actually all that libertarian..."

-"Lenny is sizing up the newbies."
"Hey Wormtoung, please give these newbies ALL the food they want, especially rich fatty foods!"

-"Please stop hitting us!"
"The beatings will continue until morale improves!"

-Wormtoung gives Bill an enemies list.
"My wily Lord, this is a list of all the people in Mra who wish my.. I mean YOUR destruction! Shall I have them executed?"
"Of course."
"My Lord is wise and prudent!"

-That night, in spite of a now-paranoid bill locking all his doors and windows, he's awoken by one of Jal'udin's assassins.
"Jal'udin wishes for you to go to the Plane of Fire. You must save the Queen of Fire from being assassinated by agents that have been sent there by the Lord of Blood and Fire."
"Sure. Did you bring my backpack?"

-The next day, Bill tells his crew.
"Wait, Bill, are we going to the Realm of Blood and Fire, or the Realm of Fire?"
"It's called the Realm of Blood and Fire."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah."
"Narrator: He wasn't sure."



-"We're going to need something to make us immune to fire."
"Any ideas? Anyone?"
"Zeke, what about you, do you know any artifacts that would do it?"
"Well, there is the Oil of Shadrach. Coating yourself in it makes you immune to even the strongest of flames!"
"Great! Where is it!"
"I don't know exactly, somewhere on the Southern Continent, I believe."
"You're useless, Zeke."

-"We should go get some fire-proof stuff on Fuck Station Aleph."
"Yeah, and while we're there, we can see the Posh Elf's skyship, and not bring it back to him!"
"That would be fucking hilarious."

-"What are the newb's names?"
"The Elf is named Xavier."
"OK, we'll call them Xavier the Elf, Hoardy the Dwarf, and Wimpy."


-"I trust that in your absence, my great lords, the Posh Elf will be able to hold on to your grip on power?"
"...and let's say he can't. What then?"
"Well, you'd always be able to challenge whoever murders him."
"Oh, OK, fine then."

-"So most of the people on that enemies list you showed me were killed resisting arrest?"
"Unfortunately yes, o merciful one."
"But you brought a couple alive?"
"Yes, a couple of minor dignitaries of the city. Of course, they will deny everything, but you must  not believe them."
"I think I'll have them executed in the stadium."
"Magnificent idea, o clever and not-at-all-gullible Majesty!"



-"Why does Mra have a stadium?"
"For the death-duels to determine who gets to be king."
"Yeah, the executions are just extra, like a children's matinee!"

-Finally, the party decides they're going to go see Anthraz the elderly warrior, who they hope will have rings of fire resistance for them.
"Bill fails his planar step, gets corruption, and becomes morbidly obese."



-Fat Bill now tries to recast Planar Step, but the range isn't far enough.
"Hold on, I'll try again."
"Holy crap, he's turning into the Hippomagus!"
"The fatness is the first step!"

-This time it works! They end up teleporting right into the throne room of the ruined castle where Anthraz lives; the old man is sitting on his throne on top of a dragon-sized pile of treasure. As soon as they appear he's up and is ready to attack!
"Wait, Anthraz, it's us!"
"I don't know you!"
"It's Bill the elf!"
"What happened to you boy? You really let yourself go!"



-"Is he going to attack us still?"
"Doesn't look like it."
"The Pink Mutant Water-salesman peed himself."

-"Did you know the Archemaster?"
"Yeah, I knew him. But back then he was a geeky wizard named Timoteus."
"And the Cyborg-Grandmother?"
"Eh? No... wait, did you mean the Cyborg Milf? Man, she was a real looker back in the day!"

-"Now why should I just give you stuff? You kids these days are just trying to get all your stuff for free. It's why the whole world is going to pot these days, you damn millennials don't know the value of hard work!"
"But we're trying to stop the Lord of Blood and Fire!"
"Wait, is the Lord of Blood and Fire trying to come here?"
"..yes."
"Goddamn it! We can't have that. Those demons of Blood and Fire will try to steal our jobs!"



-"So you'll stop the immigrants from the realm of Blood and Fire?"
"Sure."
"And you'll bring back my rings when you're done with them?"
"Yes."
"And you'll sort out all my pills?"
"Yes. The Catboy will do that."

-Catboy goes into Anthraz's medicine closet.
"Holy crap! It's the size of a freaking pharmacy!"

-"Wait, so killing a Daemon is a side quest for us now?"
"Yes."
"This is how you know you're high level in DCC."

-"What the heck are you, anyways?"
"A catperson."
"Oh sure, we have to call them 'persons' now!"
"Huh?"
"Anthraz has been watching a lot of Fox News."

-"Could I get a magic dagger off you, Anthraz?"
"Well, you did sort out my pills really well. I'll tell you what, Catboy, clean out my gutters and I'll give you one of my daggers."

-"I have to say, I was wrong about you kids. You're a really accomplished party for your age. You've hunted the Vegans to extinction!"

-"I see you have the Daemon Killer Sword. I remember we once put it in a dungeon somewhere."
"Yeah, we got it from there."
"You know, I don't think this youngster has the willpower to resist it's influence."
"No."

-"Here's a little test: Heidi, if you could kill a Daemon or save your own mother, which would you do?"
"...is my mother a Daemon?"

-"Heidi used to be a pacifist, but he changed."
"Yeah, I've become a moderate."

-"Catboy, you did a good job cleaning those gutters. Here's a dagger."
"Is it a good dagger?"
"It's a +1 dagger but it also does something else that I don't remember."
"Oh. Well, it'll be interesting to find out!"

-"here's 9 rings. Take care of them!"
"Don't worry, we'll soon bring back the 3 rings you just gave us."
"OK, be careful!"
"Jeez.. taking advantage of an old man like that..."

-The party plans to teleport to the temple complex of the Lord of Blood and Fire in the tangled woods, where Bill had previously been.
"Was this the place where Morris once killed most of the party?"
"Yes."

-G.O.D. only teleports half the party!
"Hang on, I'll try again!"

-There are shadow-undead victims of the Lord of Blood and Fire in the upper areas of the temple. The fight isn't hard but Heidi fumbles and drops his daemon-killing sword into the 200' pit leading to the caverns below.

-"Whoever finds the sword, remember it can control you, be careful!"
"That's not true!"
"It made you kill those guys at Mra."
"No, the sword made me knock them out and then banish them."
"Heidi is justifying his pacifism."
"No, he's creating his own delusion!"



-When the party gets down into the pit, they find themselves surrounded by these blood-blob humanoids.

-"G.O.D. please smite these gelatinous things!"
"Nothing happens."
"You're useless, Lenny."

-Heidi attacks one, fumbles, and falls down.
"Man, Heidi is not making a good impression on the newbies."

-"I'm going to cast Scare on them."
"OK, Bill."
"I got a natural 20."
"Most of them literally explode from fear."



-Heidi and Sami both spot the Daemon-killing sword.
"Heidi no!"
"Roll initiative."
"Heidi wins."
"Haha!!"
"Damn, so close."

-"Heidi is a psychopath again, now that he has the sword."
"I'm a psychopath without the sword."
"You're really more of a sociopath, Catboy."
"True."



-"We still have to stop the Duke."
"Yeah, I like Coolland."
"I like one person in Coolland."
"Let me guess, Sami... Palombo?"
"I like Blingbae."
"You are Blingbae, Heidi."
"I know."

-As the party proceeds through the cavern, they get surprise-attacked by Giant Beetles.
"Lenny gets badly caught in their pincers."
"Halp!"



-"Newbies, save Lenny!"
"Yeah, we don't care what happens to you!"
"If you die saving Lenny, it's a sacrifice we're willing to make!"



-They defeat the beetles.
"I'm really hurt, Sami!"
"I give up my resist fire spell to heal Lenny."
"gee thanks, Sami! Hey, now that I think about it I could have healed myself."
"Damn it, Lenny."

-There's another entrance beside the one Bill knows leads to the gate to the Plane of Blood & Fire.
"Catboy goes in there."
"There's nothing there."
"I'm still going to check it out."
"You open the door carefully, go inside searching, find a chest. The chest is empty, it was looted last time Bill's party was here."
"There was nothing there guys."
"Once again, Catboy wasted ten minutes of our lives."

-They step into the room containing an archway to the Plane of Blood & Fire.
"Heidi flies right through the gate."
"OK."
"Hey, it worked."
"Either that, or Heidi was just instantly disintegrated."

-As the Elf and Dwarf head into the room the Dwarf disturbs as magical sigil on the floor, summoning a major Demon of Blood And Fire that looks like a kind of Skeletal Blood-Drenched Tricera-Wasp.
"Oh shit."
"The elf is slowly backing away from the room."



-While the party is fighting the Tricerawasp, an assassin-agent of Jal'udin shows up out of nowhere.
"Bill the Elf! What are you doing?!"
"Oh hey, do you have my backpack?"

-Heidi, meanwhile has ended up in a cave on another plane.
"It's a large cave with multiple exits aside from the Gate."
"Oh, Ok."
"There's also 4 obvious demons of Blood and Fire here, rushing toward you."
"Oh shit!"

-"You idiot, Jal'udin wanted you to go to the Realm of Fire to save the Queen of Fire, not to go to the Realm of Blood and Fire!"
"No, but we were supposed to go kill the Lord of Blood and Fire..."
"NO! You absolutely were not supposed to do that!"
"Well, I think we're probably going to do this anyways."

-"The 4 Archdemons are attacking Heidi."
"Wait, did you say Archdemons??"
"They bite you three times and you don't feel well at all."



-"Cleric, though the demon can't hurt you, he can hurt me because I fired on him to try to save the newbies."
"That sounds like a Zeke problem to me."

-Meanwhile, in the plane of Blood & Fire, Heidi collapses from blood poisoning, possibly dead.

-"No, listen to me you idiot, you have to save the Queen of Fire. That is your mission!"
"I think you should explain this to me."
"Yeah, tell Sami this stuff. From now on she's my intermediary."

-"I cast magic missile."
"No! Don't leave me alone with these people!"
"I cast it."

-The Tricerawasp is defeated, and the party goes after Heidi.
"OK, Zeke you go through the portal first, then the newbies. The catboy, Lenny and me last."
"You're doing this in the order of people you dislike."
"Obviously."



-There's a big fight with the Archdemons; the elf drops. 
"Everyone fall back! I'll save Heidi."
"I'll save the elf!"
"Why would you do that Zeke?"
"I just thought we were saving people?"

-"The Archdemon tries to hit Sami, but the power of Ackbasha's sanctuary stops him."
"Good old Ack'basha."

-"Is Sami higher level than Ack'basha?"
"No."
"Soon Sami will be, and then Bill will probably be responsible for her death."

-Zeke collapses from blood poisoning. But then he recovers.
"It's alright my friends. By the miracle of G.O.D.'s grace, the poison did not kill me."
"Son of a bitch."

-When Catboy stabs a demon with the dagger Anthraz gave him, a baked potato (wrapped in foil and everything) pops into existence out of nowhere.
"What the hell?"
"I guess that's its special power."



-"So you realize whenever Anthraz wanted a potato, he'd just stab someone, right?"
"Well, if it works with any living thing, he could have just stabbed a racoon."
"Yes! Roadkill and potato, that's good eating!"

-"You hear more demons approaching."
"Flee!!"



-"Catboy, what are you doing?"
"I grab my potato and run! I never thought I'd say that in a game."
"Mission accomplished."

-"So is this potato I got when I stabbed the demon of Blood & Fire all bloody? Or Firey?"
"Neither. It looks like a normal potato. It's even buttered."
"Awesome. That is the greatest discovery of the day!"

-Lenny is holding the line having invoked his Saint Power to keep the demons at bay. When everyone is through, he jumps backward through the gate, falling flat on his back.
"Why did you do that?"
"I thought it would look cooler than it did."



-Heidi managed to survive. The Dwarf and Pink Mutant are dead.
"Well, the Elf is leveling up!"
"We're now an elf-heavy party."

-"Aw man, after all this the Lord of Blood and Fire is sure going to send another fire vampire after me."

-"Hey, wasn't Pertinax bonded to the Lord of Blood and Fire?"
"Yeah. He went off with Sandy."
"We should check on them."
"A mentally broken archwizard and a pregnant psychotic murderer. What could be going wrong with those two?"

With that, the PCs initially decided to camp out right in the caves, but then thought better of it, and took off through an underground river, until they came out in the forest, and camped out there. Now they'll have to figure out how to get to the Plane of Fire, assuming Bill ever wants his backpack back.

Stay tuned next time to find out if he does!


RPGPundit

Currently smoking: Masonic Meerschaum + Dunhill Elizabethan Mixture