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Wednesday 31 August 2016

Another Great Cults of Chaos Review!

Today, I share with y'all a review of Cults of Chaos; yes, another!  This one is from Nemo's Lounge, where the reviewer decides that the only problem he had with Cults is that he wished it could be even longer!

So check it out, and if you seriously still haven't got Cults of Chaos yet, what the hell are you waiting for?  Everyone loves it. Just like everyone loved Dark Albion!  Now you don't really need Dark Albion to use Cults of Chaos in your own fantasy setting, but it's so awesome too that you may as well get both!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Volcano + H&H's Chestnut

Tuesday 30 August 2016 Article: Crazy Failed Prophecies Edition

This week, we present to you some of the craziest failed prophecies of all time!  Take a look at some of the weird and wacky predictions from the world of religion, science, and even politics; every last one of them wrong.

Find out just what was up with Nostradamus (wrong), The Jehovah Witnesses (wrong), the Theosophists (wrong), Malthus (wrong), and predictions of famines, Armageddon, ice ages, polar shifts, and Mayan doomsdays (all wrong).  Even Bill Kristol gets a mention, as the political prophet who never ever gets it right!

So, please check it out, share it if you liked it and tell all your friends!


Currently Smoking: Italian Redbark + Argento Latakia

Monday 29 August 2016

Classic Rant: The Problem with “Collectors”

Over on theRPGsite, someone asked me why it was that I could have a problem with “collectors” when in fact I very obviously have a “collection” of literally hundreds of gaming books?

There’s a difference, however, between someone who has a lot of things and uses them, and a “Collector”; which any collector himself will tell you, accusing you of not being a “true” collector because you actually PLAY with your star wars figurines/read your comics/write in the margins of your RPG books/etc. rather than just keeping them wrapped in their original packaging.

Those sorts of collectors are morons. And they’re insidious because pretty soon companies cater to them; making stuff that’s never meant to be played with and only meant to be owned. And jacking up prices in the process, so that these aforesaid morons can live in the delusion that their “collection” is very “valuable” and a “good investment”. A "good investment", as if they were stock market geniuses or something; I love that.

Water Processing Technologies is a “good investment”. Your double-foil wrapped special edition collection of Incredible Man #1 (Volume 17, 12th printing)? Its the Fucking Nerd-equivalent of having bought a figurine of a pig in a princess outfit from the “national mint”, or like those people who buy Dale Earnhardt “collectible” commemorative coins that you then have the gall to make fun of because you imagine that you’re so much smarter than those rubes on account of your reading Star Trek novels.


(originally posted January 4, 2012; on the old blog)

Sunday 28 August 2016

Wild West Update: Cattle Drive Season

So the PCs find that May of 1877 marks the start of the cattle drive that proves to be the largest cattle drive season to date in Dodge history. After a relatively quiet drive last year (due to fears related to the rampaging Sioux warriors under Crazy Horse) the good conditions this year (and the fact that Crazy Horse and his men have surrendered to the US Army) means that there is a shocking rise of activity in town.

According to the accounts, during the peak Cattle Drive years in Dodge City, you could look out into the plain and see nothing but a solid wall of cattle as far as the eye could see.

Of course, all those cattle means tons of cowhands, freshly paid and wanting to drink, whore, gamble and raise hell. Violence becomes endemic on the city streets.  This is also the year that Wyatt Earp solidifies his fame and reputation as a remarkably brave and effective (some would say brutal) lawman.

Sheriff Bassett is granted extraordinary powers to deal with the absolute chaos in Dodge, and so he declares one block north of Front Street to be the "Deadline". Any cowhand caught north of the deadline will be arrested, and no one is allowed to wear guns north of the line.  They also take up volunteers among the townsfolk to work in "citizens' committees" who will help to patrol the streets.

Violence is not the only problem in Dodge this spring, however.  Doc Baker discovers that there appears to be an outbreak of Typhoid Fever among the German townsfolk. Back then, this was seriously fatal business; one of many totally awful ways to die in the west.

When Kid Taylor, who has been apprenticing medicine under Doc, blurts out the discovery of Typhoid to the general public he causes a panic. Doc Baker manages to defuse it, but then the kid goes and starts it all up again by revealing that its being 'caused by Germans'. This leads Dog Kelly (the owner of the Alhambra saloon) to rile up a mob with the idea of driving the Germans out of town. Luckily, Sheriff Bassett and the PCs, along with Kelly's girlfriend (the famed actress Dora Hand) manage to convince Kelly's mob to stand down. The source of the Typhoid is eventually uncovered, and the crisis averted.

That's not all that happened, though!  While the cowhands were raising hell and every lawman was strained to the limit trying to keep the peace, the corrupt and obese town marshall Larry Deger ended up shooting an unarmed cowhand who he claimed was trying to rob a house.

The Oklahomans that had ridden the trail with the dead man are hungry for revenge, but Deger is protected by his badge and his political influence.  Deputy Young manages to at least broker a peace that he hopes will cost Deger something, by making Deger pay a compensation to the dead man's family. But Deger ends up cheating even that, by getting the local cattlemen's society to pay for him instead.

Finally, Miller (who at this time last year was working as a butcher for a cattle rustling gang) is trying to build up a career for himself as a respectable town magnate. He's bought a good amount of real estate, he's dating the highly respectable widow Mcknee, he's partnered with Jim Smith to open the Fort Bar, and he's planning to partner with the Mormon Gambler to open an hotel. But Buck, the head of the rustlers, wants Miller to come back and butcher for him.  Miller has to go find a substitute, and he finally settles on recommending them a Texan he found. It looks like he's out of the frying pan, but then he throws himself into the first by suggesting that sometime soon he might open his own butcher shop, and of course Buck decides he'll want to partner up with Miller to use the Butcher shop to 'launder' his rustled meat. It looks like Miller might never get out his life of crime.


Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Rhodesian + Image Latakia

Saturday 27 August 2016

DCC Campaign: More From Backstage

So, today, I give you another transcript of backstage talk amongst my DCC group's ongoing discussion thread.  The comments are funny enough and the last post popular enough I decided to do this again. But this might be the last time, since I don't want my players to start hamming it up for the camera, as it were.


Chu: Eh, that is disputable.

Bill: I guess this sums up Akbasha and Bill's relation

Fishman: I wish they'd just get on with it and fuck.
No, wait, I'm not playing that character anymore.

Newbie: Hey guys, I have caught the flu so I won't likely show up next Sunday unless I get any better. So good luck with the minoswats

Chu: That is going to become a thing, They are minoswats now.
Eitherway. Get better soon.

Newbie: Thank you!

Bill: Noooooo!

Pundit: Well, better you don't get us sick. Just hope this is a real flu and not that you got scared off!

Newbie: Not at all. I did had a lot of fun with you guys, so I hope to be back next time!

Fishman: We'll try harder next time then.

Pundit: Ok, good!

Morris: Hey guys I'll be there a bit late today. Stay alive, please.

Chu: An old boatswine saying "If we kill them, they lose" so they are totally going to lose if we die.

Bill: ETA?

Morris: I thought that it would take me less time, now I need to stay. Sorry, I won't be able to go today. I wish I had been able to tell you before.


Pundit: Well, I hope you're happy. You murdered Ack'basha. Of course, Bill's pretty happy.

Ack'Basha/Ref: everytime you skip a session, an Ack'basha dies.

Fishman: A great evil has been defeated.
Unfortunately, it has given birth to a little evil.
Now, with Ack'basha's demise, we as a party, are we going to become more evil, or LESS?
I'd wish there'd be more of a change so we could find out.
I think there's an extra 'd in my last comment.

Ack'basha/Ref: the only way for the party to be less evil at this point, is a total party kill, and that's not something sure either.
specially with bill coming back.

Fishman: There's no TPK like a Bill TPK, because a Bill TPK is not complete unless Sezerkhan wishes so.

Pundit: "Little evil" is literal in this case, what with the halfling.


Bill: Looks like Akbasha.

Chu: Pictured: Akbasha about to commit holy genocide , Circa last Tuesday.

Ack'Basha/Ref: Surrounded by his hippies.

Bill: That looks about right.
Too bad you are missing the staff.

Fishman: Love the detail of the programs running on the tablet.

Morris: What the fuck I just missed?

Bill: About 30 xp and also Akbasha died.
A drunken Master.
A bland food taster.

Fishman: And the Tasmanian devil.

Bill: And a freak halfling.
Sure you don't want to call it Taz?
Primal Taz.
Anyways, now we are inside the tower.

Chu: That is what happens when you don't get your priorities straight.

Bill: Which are?

Chu: Getting 30 xp ; ^ )

Bill: Ha!
It's all the rogue's fault.

Fishman: ....what happened with those guys?

Chu: Something.

Bill: They probably fell through the darkness and are now arriving at the tower doorsteps.

Chu: They probably became underwear testing puppets (fate worse than death).

Bill: True.
That's a good way to teleport at our location.

Fishman: We should keep the slain minotaurs' underwear. They might prove useful as a way to locate either Chu, Bill or Sandy.

Bill: interesting. If Sandy is still alive, maybe she is also dispatching Minotaurs.

Ack'Basha/Ref: We need an enlarge spell to wear them.

Bill: Some of the new guys seem to have big balls.

Fishman: If you are talking about Ref, it's true. He cut them off a minotaur.

Chu: Or Bolto whenever he is.

Fishman: He's in a better place.
Which is, by definition, anywhere without us.

Chu: Pundit, your blog post needed more of my tactical crying.

Fishman: Get a hold of yourself, man!

So that's all for this session. Hope you enjoyed the ridiculous inter-session banter!


Currently Smoking: Dunhill Classic Series Rhodesian + C&D's Crowley's Best

Friday 26 August 2016

Pictures From Uruguay

Time for some more pictures from Uruguay!

So, all of these pics today are from the corner about a block from The Abbey (for any newcomers, that's the name of my current stately manor).

First off, the corner flower stall:

You see these type of flower stalls all over town, and of course, all the flowers are local from the region.

Next up, the building behind it on the first picture.  That's the Esmeralda:

The Esmeralda is a "Confiteria", a place that specializes in sandwiches, drinks, and especially pastries. The Esmeralda is one of the most famous in town. Its sandwiches are good, it's little pastries are amazing, and they have a lunch known as a 'picada' (a selection of little dishes with a variety of different cold and hot foods) that is just amazing.  For many years, they were also known as "the place with the black waiter". That sounds pretty awful, but I suppose several decades ago it was unheard of to have a black man working as a waiter in a fancy confiteria, and the Esmeralda was the first one to do so.  The waiter is still there. Nice guy.

Next up, the corner of the Esmeralda, and a street performer:

This guy has been juggling in this exact same corner, sometimes dressed up in a clown costume and sometimes not, for at least 13 years.  How do I know? See the blue building in the background to the right? That's the Midas Building, which was the first place I lived when I got to Uruguay. And this dude has been busking in that corner from way back then.

A note about this neighborhood, the Cordon (which I may have already said in this series, but I'll repeat it again): when I got here, this was the first neighborhood I lived in.  Back then, it was a very quiet place, with a population of mostly old people.  Everyone I ever mentioned my address to would tell me "oh, my grandma lives around there"! I was surrounded by grandmas.

After a few years, I moved away, to my second place, a penthouse in the Andes Building, downtown. I lived there for several years, but then finally decided to buy a place, and settled on The Abbey, back in the Cordon, less than two blocks from my old apartment. But I found that the neighborhood had changed dramatically!  Now it was full of 20- and 30-somethings, young mostly middle-class artsy types who wanted to be closer to the downtown core than their parents' places, and came over in droves to the the refurbished quirky old houses (like The Abbey).  They started opening up restaurants, clubs, second-hand stores, art and craft stores, bookstores, yoga studios, cafes, artisanal ice-creameries and more. Now it seems like there's a new business opening here every week, and while the Cordon still has its share of grannies, it's seeing more bearded hipsters on bicycles riding around its streets every day. It has become Montevideo's answer to Brooklyn.

Some of the old ladies complain about the noise around the bars at night, but I'm pretty damn pleased. It's become much closer to the type of neighborhoods I always liked to live in, and the trendiness has undoubtedly helped out the property value of The Abbey too.

So next up, notice those weird poles in the background of the last picture?

That's what the Commie city hall considers "art".  When I lived in the Midas building, that spot had a large signpost that featured an alternating digital-clock/thermometer, which was very convenient as I could look out my window and know the time, and especially, how hot or cold it was outside. But a few years ago City Hall decided that this wasn't "cultural" enough, so they tore that down and put up that bunch of metal rods that passes for "art". Fuck's sake.

Thank Christ for street art, which shows actual fucking creativity. If we had to depend on the marxists we'd be screwed.


Currently Smoking: Italian Redbark + Argento Latakia

Thursday 25 August 2016

RPGPundit Reviews: Into the Demon Idol

This is a review of the system-neutral OSR adventure, "Into the Demon Idol"; written by Jobe Bittman, published by Bloody Hammer Games. The review is (as always for my review) of a print edition; in this case an 18-page staple-bound booklet. the cover is colour (albeit mostly shades of purple); the interior is black and white, with a few simple illustrations, and a two-page central map of the "Demon Idol", which as it happens is a dungeon within (and below) a giant statue.

The module also comes with a large bookmark, containing statblocks for the various creatures.  Being a system neutral game, the stats are provided for DCC, Labyrinth Lord, and Swords & Wizardry.  There's also a table for certain creatures to provide some slight variations of the monster encountered.  I like how it was provided as a separate aid, meaning that you can look at a given encounter location without having to flip back and forth along the pages to get to the 'monsters' section.

As usual with adventures, I'm going to avoid getting into too much detail here, since I don't want to be responsible for spoilers.  In brief, there's a premise, albeit one that the author makes clear that a GM could completely ignore if he wanted to.  Even so, I would say that if you do completely ignore this premise, it will turn the adventure into a very bog-standard dungeon crawl.

As to said premise, it's as follows: a borderland region is being threatened by a large army of lizardmen.  The PCs get wind of a ruined temple with the form of a grotesque demon statue which they think might have some magic items capable of helping to turn the tide of the lizardman invasion.

There's a small overland map, hex-style, for the PCs to travel across to get to the Demon Idol. I'll note I spotted an error in the map key: two of the names of the human forts were switched around. Luckily, this becomes evident when you read the descriptions of the various locales. Once they get there, the PCs will find that the temple has a number of dangers, and a secret which could (if the PCs are smart enough to figure it out) allow them to save the endangered human villages.

The adventure also features a potential side-trip to a labyrinthine outer-plane, and the end of the book features some very basic mass-combat rules in case the adventure veers into large-scale battles with the lizardman army.

So, overall, this adventure is short and you can't exactly expect something too epic from it. It's in many ways a standard type of D&D adventure (with a touch of nostalgia as the 'demon idol' is evocative of the D&D demon-statue that was found in the cover art of the AD&D books), and features a couple of neat little twists added in for good measure. I could certainly envision myself running it at some point. I don't imagine it will blow anyone's mind, but it's certainly not a bad choice if you're looking for something to run in any of the OSR games.


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

(note: at the time of writing I was unaware of this, otherwise I would probably have determined it doesn't fall under my rules for what I review, but apparently the only way to purchase Into the Demon Idol is by ordering it directly from the author, sending him an email with your address and $6. But well, what's done is done)

Wednesday 24 August 2016

Limits on Aggression in Dark Albion

Someone had suggested to me, quite some time ago (but I never got around to writing on it until now), that this youtube video on the subject of aggression in the context of RPGs was of relevance to some of what I'd talked about how the culture in Dark Albion ought to be different than in regular D&D games and you can't just have people breaking out into open violence at every turn.

Now, I do appreciate getting the recommendation. But besides being too long, I really don't find this video very relevant to Albion.  Or indeed, to most medieval settings. There ARE consequences to violence in Albion, but its got nothing to do with "escalation".
It's got to do with propriety.

In Albion it's not about how violent you are, usually, it's about whether or not you're ALLOWED to be violent at someone.

In fact, if you have two knights and they have a dispute, it will NEVER be resolved in pushing and shoving. Fisticuffs and wrestling was completely beneath a knight or noble; it's what filthy peasants did. A dispute between two knights would go from "Arguing" right to either "Duel" or "Appeal to a Lord".

Peasants can punch the shit out of each other, but if one kills another it's bad, because it is not proper for them to kill another peasant.
A lord can kill a peasant, but not _someone else's peasant_ only his own. And even then, by the time of the Rose War, he already needs to be able to justify it a bit if questioned on it.

Peasants can NEVER appropriately punch a lord, and drawing a weapon on a lord is petit-treason.

So the issue isn't degree of violence, it's whether it's Socially Permitted or not.

The video link seems to be much more about modern sensibilities than medieval ones. I hope this blog entry points out just how different the medieval ones are, and that this is what you need be able to present IF you want to run Dark Albion in a way that is "medieval authentic".


Currently Smoking: Castello 4K Canadian + Image Latakia

Tuesday 23 August 2016

Classic Rant: Who Really Supports RPGs Being Fun?

One of the frequent claims some critics of old-school RPGs try to make about old-school is that it doesn’t believe in fun; that old-schoolers want gamers to spend most of the time not having fun, because the OSR doesn’t want people to just make 20th level Warlords with Vorpal Swords.

Now, the notion of having to earn your fun is indeed retarded. Its certainly something I would never do; if there was a game where you had to put in 20 or more sessions of utterly boring drudgery in order to get one session of kick-ass awesomeness, I wouldn’t want to play it or run it.

Fortunately, that’s not what old school is about. Its about recognizing that fun is the process of Making Yourself, not the actual destination.
If someone were to make a computer game where you were already in god-mode, had all the power-weapons, completed all the quests already, and could easily slay anything in the game, it would be derided as the worst shit ever produced. Much moreso a game where you created a character who had already defeated all the great evils, got to strut around for 40mins with a sign that says “look at what a badass I am” and then skip to the end-credits.
So why is it that a certain group of tabletop RPG gamers seem to think that this would be the best way to run your RPG campaign?

Of the two (the old-schoolers and the power-gamers) the old-schoolers are by far the ones who are more in support of games being fun; unfortunately some people (including some old-schoolers!) have framed the debate wrong to make it look otherwise. But its old-school play that recognizes that being a level 20 world-killer is not actually very fun for very long; that the part that’s worth playing is the long, sometimes hard, but hopefully always fun (for the player) effort of GETTING to that point.


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Deluxe + Image Latakia

(Originally posted December 16, 2012) Best Sex Cult Edition

True story, my original title for this piece was not "History's Craziest Sex Cults". It was originally supposed to be "History's MOST AWESOME Sex Cults".

Because if you are going to be in a cult, you might as well get laid, right? And this list gives you the pros and cons of some of the biggest sex cults there ever were.

So as usual, if you like this, please share it, +1 it, retweet it, etc. Thanks!


Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Rhodesian + Image Latakia

Sunday 21 August 2016

Cults of Chaos: Print + PDF is Here!

For some time some of you have been asking if there could be an option to get a Print+PDF bundle for Cults of Chaos.  And now, YOU CAN, right here!

For just $16.45, you get a deal on the Print and PDF from rpgnow. So now you can have the gorgeous Cults of Chaos book, and also the easy reference of having it on your electronic devices.

You can also still get the high-quality print editions of Cults of Chaos on Amazon, and also at Lulu.

And do me a little favor: wherever you get it, in print or PDF, if you liked it please write a tiny little review on the site you purchased it from. Of course we love three-page reviews of our books, but even one or two sentences in a little blurb on the website itself can make an enormous difference, as that customer opinion can help others make up their minds. It's one of the cheapest gratuities  you can give a writer you like, but sadly 99.9% of customers don't get around to it!

So if you already have Cults of Chaos or Dark Albion, please go drop a micro-review for it! And if you don't have them yet, now is the time to get them!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Egg + H&H's Chestnut

Saturday 20 August 2016

DCC Campaign Update: He'll Be Remembered, But Not Missed

When last we left our totally anti-heroes, they well up shit creek.  Bill the Elf had revealed the rest of the party's hideout to the Minotaur SWAT team, and he had then turned himself in to a human collaborator, revealing his real identity and demanding that he be taken to the wizard Pertinax (the crazy wizard who was responsible for the teleporting of random minotaurs to attack the party; which he'd achieved through the production of cursed minotaur-underwear, in order to attain immortality).


-Bill gets handed over to the Minotaur Police, who quickly shackle him up, gag him and put a bag over his head. Soon he's doing the "Guantanamo shuffle" into a van, hoping it will take him to Pertinax.

-The PCs in the attic of the hideout are about to be raided by the SWAT; they come up with a plan to send their new Clown-Minotaur Zombie down, holding a grenade. Unfortunately, Minotaur Zombies aren't very good at holding live grenades, and he drops it right over the trap door, blowing himself to bits and alerting the SWAT to the PCs' presence.

-"Captain, there's a secret door!"
"It's more like a secret hole now, asswipes!"

-"Fuck all you guys, I'm casting Ekim's Mystical Mask!"
"Maybe one of the results is that it protects you from gas grenades?"
"It doesn't, because that would actually be useful"

-The PCs decide to try to break down a wall and climb their way out of the attic; unfortunately, when Chu tries to kick the wall, he does no damage and falls flat on his back.
"Great, we're going to be defeated by a wall."

-The Fishman had cast enlarge and spider-climb, and when the Minotaur SWAT team burst in he skitters up to the roof.
"What the fuck is that?"
"Some kind of wall-crawling fish-man!"

-"the captain is the largest minotaur you've ever seen. He's like the Dolph Lundgren of Minotaurs"

-"Chu can break the wall!"
"No Chu can't"

-"I'm 25% taller now, can I reach the window?"
"No, even 25% taller, Chu is still under 8' tall"

-"What did you roll on the deed die?"
"I rolled a Chu."
"NO! We're not taking it that far."

-The Minotaur SWAT are rushing in!
"Chu goes into a fetal position on the floor"

-One of the Minotaurs pumps of a burst of gunfire into Ack'basha, and he's down!
"I did it! I killed Ack'basha the terrorist! Tholia, Fuck Yeah!!"

-Zeke rushes at the Minotaur by the cracked wall, and both fall through it. Miraculously, the Minotaur breaks Zeke's fall!

-The Fishman, who was still on the roof, scuttles out the same hole to escape!
"I'll follow Zeke; I can either kill him or we can.."
"What?? Save us all with you and Zeke both at 1hp and your Ekim's Mystical Mask?"
"fuck you!"

-Chu decides that he might as well give it a shot too, so he jumps out the hole in the wall under heavy gunfire. He too breaks his fall on a minotaur corpse, and gets away, catching up to the other two when the weaklings are frantically trying to lift a manhole cover to get into the sewers.

-Dolph Lundgren Minotaur is a Minotaur of duty; he was told to assassinate Ack'basha but he has his doubts about the reasoning for his orders.
"He's a good guy, but a terrible actor!"

-The matter is irrelevant, however. Ack'basha fails his luck roll. The cleric is dead!

-"Bill the elf feels a great disturbance in the force... he gets hard!"

-"Ack'basha died like he lived.. trying to kill a minotaur."

-Ack'basha's player gives him a 'viking funeral':

-The other PCs (and Zeke) are not yet aware that Ack'basha has died. All except the fishman, mind you, who has broken the 4th wall.
"We're saved by G.O.D.'s grace! I'm sure Ack'basha is fine too, as he's G.O.D.'s chosen servant!"
"Dude, I can hear Ack'basha's player rolling dice for his new zero-levels. I'm telling you he's dead!"

-Eulogies for Ack'basha:
Chu: "He was a real fucker."
Fishman: "he'll be remembered, but not missed."
Bill: "He's now in the Holiest Sanctuary of all!"

Ack'basha, a self-portrait made by his player:

-"It's sad that Ack'basha died, by I really thought for a bit that everyone was going to die, except Bill."
"So it would have been a Total Party Bill?"

-The surviving non-Bill PCs are making their way through the sewers, when they run into a trio of newbies: a human food taster for the Minotaur Royal Family, a Halfling Marine who fled the palace with the food taster, and a human alcoholic they ran into in the sewers.
Ack'basha's player is looking over his three new 0-levels trying to decide what class they could eventually play: "In theory, they could all be clerics, but I really don't want to play another cleric right away."
"Remember, the Halfling can't be a Cleric"
"Yeah, halflings have no god, and no god wants them!"

-"It's three new guys: that means either Bill or Ack'basha are dead!"

-"Can you heroes help us get out of here?"
"My friend, we can't help anyone!"

-Meanwhile, Bill the Elf is inside the palace and finally meets face-to-face with Pertinax the wizard.

-"So, some of your friends have escaped, but Ack'basha the cleric is dead!"
"Really? Thank you!"

-"I'm supposed to believe you have no intention of avenging Ack'Basha's death?!"
"He killed me twice! Trust me, I'm OK with it!"

-"Alright then, what do you want??"
"Huh. That's a good question... I usually just wanted the opposite of whatever Ack'Basha wanted. But now... my life has no purpose!"

-When Bill enthusiastically offers to commit genocide on the Minotaur race if that's what Pertinax wants, Pertinax starts to get the uncomfortable sensation that of the two of them, he might actually be the 'good guy', at least compared to Bill.

-"So do you Minotaurs have any weaknesses?"
"No, we have no weaknesses!"

-"So what's the Alcoholic's INT?"
"So he's not even a smart drunk!"
"he's still smarter than Bill!"

-The food taster snuck back into the palace, and found out that Pertinax, having apparently cut some kind of deal, has let Bill go.
"So the plan is, you newbies will go out on the city streets looking for Bill"
"Oh, and remember, he doesn't actually look like an Elf; he looks like a glowing mutant-human"
"So, he's called Bill the Elf but he doesn't look anything like an Elf?"
"Bill's a Trans-Elf! You have to respect his pronouns!"

-When they finally find Bill, they learn that his deal with Pertinax was basically that Bill agreed to keep slaying the cursed minotaurs as they appeared, to help him reach immortality. And that he and the PCs would leave Tholia, never to return. So, with Ack'basha confirmed dead, the rest of the party promptly teleports away to return to the tower that holds the Libram of Ten Spheres, to get rid of Bill's geas.

-"So wait, there's still going to be minotaur attacks?"
"So we've accomplished nothing?"
"As usual, yes."

-The PCs arrive back in the Badlands, but decide to rest up so that they can recover much needed hp and spellburnt attributes.
"Man, NOW I'm starting to miss Ack'basha... well, his healing magic, anyways."

-No sooner do the PCs start to rest, that a Minotaur attacks! Chu gets KOed, the Fishman chickens out, Bill fires a magic-missile and phases out to the ethereal plane, and Zeke can't hit the broad-side of a barn. But the Newbies incredibly turn out to be the heroes: the alcoholic and the halfling in particular kick the shit out of the minotaur for everyone.
"Holy fuck, that alcoholic is a Drunken Master!"

-Realizing that they need to hunker down and have some protection against random Minotaur attacks, they move over to the tower, and camp out by its wall, with a Sequester spell for protection.

-"The alcoholic is out of booze!"
"That's OK, being an alcoholic is not a state, it's a way of life."

-Some kobolds show up, and the PCs make short work of them.  The halfling is starting to scare everyone; freed from the discipline of being part of the Minotaur Emperor's guard, he's quickly going back to  his feral state. He eats a kobold corpse, starts wearing hide-armor, and putting a kobold skull on his head as a cap.

-A minotaur teleports in, but promptly falls into a pit trap!
"It turns out minotaurs aren't very good at climbing!"
"So they DO have a weakness! That other minotaur lied to me!"

-The halfling gleefully throws kobold corpses into the pit to annoy the minotaur, until the other PCs mercy-kill it.

-While the PCs are recovering, the Fishman finishes his studies and has now learned Patron Bond!
"Great! Now you can randomly end up stuck with the King of Elfland as a patron!"

-Some more kobolds attack, and when they fail, they send a band of ogres.  The party kicks the shit out of them too. The halfling takes to making himself a necklace of ogre-teeth.
"This halfling is seriously starting to freak the shit out of me!"

-"Raf was my halfling slave-name! From now on, I want to be known Ref!!"

-Fully recovered, the PCs decide to head into the tower. As the newbies level-up, the halfling decides to join the party in the tower, while the other two stay outside to stand guard (and no doubt bugger off, unless the halfling dies).

-"Ack'basha was bound to die, I just didn't know it wouldn't get to be Bill who did it"
"You did rat them out, so in a way you did it by proxy."
"Hey, I saved your life once too! Remember that time when you were unconscious and I just shook you awake instead of offing you?"
"So not having killed me counts as 'saving' me?"
"Bill saved you from himself!"
"If only someone could save Bill from himself!"

Well, that's it for this session!  Stay tuned next time when the party, sans Ack'basha but plus one really deranged Halfling, ventures back into the blue tower to seek out the Libram of the Ten Spheres!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Poker + Solani Aged Burley Flake

Friday 19 August 2016

I'm Off To GM!

No time for a blog entry today, I'm going to be busy running Dark Albion at a local gaming event (and of course, I'll be using material from the awesome Cults of Chaos as well)!

See y'all tomorrow, if I'm conscious!

Thursday 18 August 2016

Classic Rant: Lords of Olympus Review

RPGPundit Reviews: Lords of Olympus, by the RPGPundit

Yes, as with my previous products, this is a review of a book I wrote myself. Here’s the thing: we got tons of requests for review from people to Precis, wanting to review Lords of Olympus (or LoO), and Brett Bernstein sent out some copies. Thus far, hardly any has actually resulted in a review.
And later people wonder why publishers would spend a small fortune to send me free books all the way to South America; its worth their weight in gold to know that they will ALWAYS actually GET a review for it!

And my own book is no exception. I’m reviewing the full-colour softcover version, my own author’s copy. Lords of Olympus is also available as a black & white softcover; the only difference is that in the former all the interior pages and art are luscious full colour. Oh, and you can get it on PDF too.

So, to begin with: Lords of Olympus is a diceless RPG where the players portray children of the Greek gods. Yes, diceless. You see, over 20 years ago, a guy named Erick Wujcik wrote the first-ever totally diceless RPG; Amber Diceless Roleplaying. Mr. Wujcik’s game was revolutionary unlike anything that had appeared in the hobby since D&D itself. And the Amber Diceless RPG was a huge success, selling hundreds of thousands of copies over its lifetime, and spawning not one but a whole series of Conventions dedicated to its play, as well as hundreds of websites (most gone now, but back in the early days of the World Wide Web, the net was chalk-full of Amber campaign sites), a huge MUSH, and other things.

I was a big fan of Mr. Wujcik’s work, and developed a friendship with him over email that lasted for over a decade, until the time of his very untimely death from cancer in 2008. By this time, the Amber RPG had gone through two different attempts at a revival (first with Guardians of Order, then when the rights to the game were passed on to a couple of fans) but nothing ever came of it. Meanwhile, the largest Amber RPG presence on the net became theRPGsite, where Erick Wujcik had graciously agreed to allow the RPGPundit to host the OFFICIAL Erick Wujcik and Amber RPG Forum (and indeed, Erick acted as a moderator on that subforum until about one week before his death, moderating from his hospice bed).

A couple of years back, several Amber fans came to the same conclusion: that if the Amber setting could not be, at the very least the Diceless RPG had to be revived and redesigned for a new generation. Two years ago, three separate attempts were announced to create a new Diceless RPG inspired by Amber. Lords of Olympus is the first (and only, thus far) to be published (but we hope it will soon be joined by Lords of Gossamer and Shadow, which is still being worked on; no news that I know of at this time about John Wick’s project, Houses of the Blooded: Blood and Shadow).

So Lords of Olympus is, in fact, system-wise a kind of retro-clone; not a direct copy but utilizing the same skeletal framework of game rules that you see (and may already enjoy) in the previous Diceless RPG, but with a new execution, and changes to how some of these rules play out. LoO has a totally new setting, original powers, original mechanics for item or creature creation, original rules for task resolution, and a whole set of new and original monsters and divine NPCs founded on Greek Mythology. So those who have played and enjoyed Erick Wujcik’s original Diceless rules will be very likely to enjoy LoO as well; but there is absolutely no requirement to know anything about that game or have any experience with it to be able to enjoy Lords of Olympus, anymore than there would be a requirement to have read or played Basic/Expert D&D to enjoy playing “Lamentations of the Flame Princess”. Indeed, Lords of Olympus is considerably more different from the Amber RPG than LotFP is from Basic/Expert Dungeons and Dragons. Outside of the basic mechanical framework, its entirely new and original stuff.

There are some other categories of reader who will be highly likely to enjoy Lords of Olympus: gamers who like high-power play, gamers who like to run a game that has an emphasis on character development, and gamers who like descriptive task resolution (LoO is not a game where you can just say “I roll to attack”!). And of course, most obviously, any gamers who are interested in anything to do with Greek Mythology! For anything ranging from classical mythology, to Clash of the Titans, to Percy Jackson, to the more mythical runs of “Wonder Woman”, not to mention sci-fi, modern occult, and just about anything else you can fit into a multiversal setting.

So in any case, its clear that this review is going to be biased; but I will make every effort that all bias aside, it will be detailed and informative. Let’s take a look at what the book is actually all about:

The book itself, which I had very little to do with apart from the writing, is a work of beauty. Huge kudos to Brett Bernstein and his people at Precis Intermedia for the stunning work. The full-colour edition is majestic, and don’t take just my word for it; everyone who’s seen the book here in Uruguay was blown away by it. The interior has beautiful borders, and a stunning mix of original art and truly fantastic works of classical art. The incredible portraiture of Jupiter, Athena and other classic works comes out in gorgeous full colour. The book is a freaking feast for the eyes.
The layout is also fantastically well-organized and readable; you get two columns per page, very adequate margins and very legible print, with well-defined boxes for examples or optional rules.

The fundamental premise of the setting is a Multiverse, an infinite number of universes that can encompass just about anywhere and everywhere. This multiverse is ruled by the Olympian gods, and can be traversed through a series of connections known as “roads”, of which there are three, one governed by each of the three rulers of creation: Zeus, Hades and Poseidon. Every universe connects to at least one road, and theoretically as many as three.
Implicit in this multiverse is the fact that there are an infinite number of possible Earths as well (though there are many many other universes, worlds, or realms that are not earthlike at all); and there are a few Earths that are particularly important in the sense of having drawn the attention of one or more deity: there’s Classical Earth, which appears very much like the Mediterranean region as depicted in Greek Myth; and Modern Earth, essentially our own world, but you can have any number of other Earths (for example, its implied that Heracles likes to spend time adventuring on one earth where superheroes really exist).

The Player Characters in the default game are all children of Greek Gods (that is, at least one of their parents is a deity); but depending on the type of campaign one runs, they could have been raised on Olympus itself and/or with full knowledge of their heritage, or they might never have known their parent and have been raised on some other world. Depending on the campaign, they may or may not be immortal! The PCs might not be the children of the Olympians either; they could be descended from the Titans, the previous generation of gods who were deposed by Zeus; or they may even be children of the Primordials, the oldest generation of gods who are much less “human”.
The game can also be run as a “heroic mortals” campaign, where less powerful characters are not descended from the gods at all, though this is not the standard level of play.

Characters in LoO have four ability scores: Ego (which governs mental potential, regulating the effectiveness of most powers), Might (physical strength, governing damage also), Fortitude (endurance and damage resistance, an important “tiebreaker” attribute), and Prowess (governing dexterity and martial abilities). Ability scores are measured by “Classes”; where a 0-point investment gives a character “Olympian Class”, a level vastly above that of ordinary mortals. You can “buy down” to lower classes (“Heroic” or “Mortal” class) for extra points to spend elsewhere, or you can participate in the Bidding War, to buy “Numbered Classes” beyond Olympian Class.

The Bidding War is one of the most interesting parts of character creation. It makes the PC party interconnected right from the start, and can create unexpected results, as well as fostering competition if the GM wants the campaign to be one of Machiavellian scheming (a fairly typical kind of campaign setup).
In the Bidding War, the GM auctions off the “First Class” level of each ability score. Players bid to try to obtain 1st Class, and in the process the bids from those who came in second, third, etc. become the “2nd Class”, “3rd Class” and so on.
In task resolution, putting things extremely simple, whenever two ability scores are compared to one another, the higher score will win out: someone with 2nd Class will beat out the guy with 4th Class; the 4th Class guy will beat up the guy with Heroic Class, and the 1st Class guy will beat all of the above. NPCs (and eventually, PCs as they advance in the game) can theoretically hold classes “above 1st class” (for example, the goddess Nike has “First Class +1″ in Prowess; while Athena, the greatest warrior of the Olympians, has “First Class +10″; Poseidon’s Might is “First Class +2″, while Heracles has a whopping “First Class +11″). This is an important innovation from the original Diceless RPG, which allows all characters, PCs or NPCs, to be judged on the same scale for comparison.

There are all kinds of factors that can affect task resolution. In a combat situation, for example, you would need to first consider which ability score a character is trying to use, and which his opponent is trying to use. Beyond the straightforward comparison of Class, you need to also consider how each character is using his ability, how is he attacking? Is he being aggressive or cautious?
You also need to consider environmental factors: does the terrain affect one or both characters’ effectiveness? Is either character injured or tired? Is one using some kind of particularly effective weapon, or wearing some kind of particularly resistant armor or other defense? Is one character outnumbered?
When all of this is done, it is the degree of the difference in Class that will establish whether a situation puts one side of any conflict at a clear advantage, or if the situation is potentially successful but could be modified by these factors, or if the opposing actions are too close to call. In the latter case, the conflict continues; and players can choose to try to change their strategies (possibly switching to the use of a different ability), or to keep pushing on, looking to tire out their opponent (counting on having a higher Fortitude Class than their opponent), or until some other event intervenes.

In what is again an important innovation to the Diceless rules, Lords of Olympus features fairly detailed and specific rules for how GMs should determine everything from the use of abilities, how and when a PC can shift from using one ability to another, to environmental factors, to how to calculate the effect of multiple opponents, and how to judge and quantify all these factors in resolving action. The task resolution rules likewise present very detailed information on injury and its effects, and healing rates based on Fortitude Class. These innovations and guidelines are tested by over two decades of playing and running Diceless campaigns.

But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. Back to character creation! There are optional rules provided for five alternate methods of determining classes apart from the traditional Bidding War. If you really want to miss out on the fun of the Bidding war, you can go with Bidless point-buy, Classless Point-buy, one of two random methods of class generation using a deck of playing cards (I know, heresy in a diceless game! but there you are, I put the option there), or a point-free option where players state the priority of importance of each ability score to them, and the GM assigns the Classes on that basis.

In a standard game, players have 100 points with which to build their character; and while in theory they can blow all of these on ability scores, there’s plenty of other things they can buy. Foremost among these are powers. For starters, unless the GM decides to make it a freebie, you have to spend 10 points to start the game as an Immortal. Aside from that, you can spend points to gain the World-Walking power, which lets you travel between universes on one, two or all three of the divine roads. If you want to be cheap, you can buy the power of the “Promethean Road”, where you use magic to cheat and force your way onto a road, rather than accessing it through divine authority. 

Any child of the Olympian generation can buy Olympian magic, which grants the power to bless or curse, to manipulate probability and to resist the power of entropy. Olympians, Titans, or Primordials alike can buy Primordial magic, which manipulates chaos and entropy to manipulate reality or use destructive forces to create change.

Scrying is a power that allows a character to use devices to obtain visions of other places, people, or times. Metamorphosis is the power to change forms.
Then there are the more minor forms of magic: ineffable names, which are words of power that create magical effects (the names being taken from real Greek “magic words”); Elementalism, which manipulates the four classical elements; Enchantment, which allows one to manipulate the minds of others; and Glamour which creates illusions.
There is also the optional power of Olympian Artificing, which allows the user to create objects of divine power.

Most of the major powers have “advanced” versions which grant additional abilities and cost more points (and are only available to starting characters at the GM’s option). The details of each power give very explicit and detailed instructions about how long each aspect of the power takes to use, how it works, how to judge the effectiveness of the power (usually but not always based on one’s Ego Class), and how long or often the power can be used before it is lost or the PC is exhausted (usually based on Fortitude Class).

There are other things you can buy aside from powers: you can spend points to obtain a Patron (a deity who will act as a sort of ally to the character), or can gain additional points if they start with an Enemy (a deity who is opposed to the character). The game has detailed rules for the creation of Daemons, creatures of all varieties that are infused with a degree of divine power and serve the PC.
Optionally, players can also purchase Daemons bound into weapons, armor, or other items.

Players can also spend points to buy their own Realm, a universe they control (to what degree they control it, and what characteristics it might have, depends on how they spend the points for it).
At the end of the process, players might be left with some points to spare; or they might have ended up overspending. Their surplus, or deficit, becomes their Luck Score; an important “fifth ability” that regulates the PC’s general good or bad fortune, and can affect things like “random encounters”, how NPCs react to him, or even the results of very close conflicts. Importantly, the LoO rulebook gives detailed guidelines about when and how to apply the Luck score (and when you shouldn’t).

If a player is too far gone down the path of bad luck, he may be able to convince the GM to grant him a “Player addition”, gaining a few extra points if he does something for the campaign, like drawing illustrations of his character or NPCs, providing a written log of the game, written details of his character background story, or providing any other kind of contribution to the group (maybe even providing snacks for the group!).

The last step in character generation is the providing of background details, most of which the Player is free to decide. An extensive “Character Questionnaire” is included in the book to provide help in determining the PC’s personality in depth right from the start of the game; and its recommended that all the players go through it together in order to get to know the PCs as a group.
One thing the player doesn’t get to decide is who his divine parent is. That’s for the GM to determine; and in the extensive NPC section of the book, each entry lists which deity may potentially serve as a parent to a PC, and notes on just what kind of a parent they’re likely to be.

There’s one important optional rule that should be mentioned: divine aspect. In the default game, just what the young PC is a god “of” is mostly a flavour element. But optionally, the GM may wish to run a game where the PC’s theme has a mechanical effect on the game, and the book provides two different options for doing so (one where theme has a moderate mechanical influence, and the other where theme has a very significant influence).

The rules on character creation, powers, and task resolution only cover about one-third of the book. The next two-thirds detail guidelines for game-mastering, details on the setting, and a large section on the “divine family” of NPC deities.
The Game Master section helps to guide the Lords of Olympus GM in how to set up and run his campaign, with a great deal of useful advice including how to incorporate the backgrounds of the PCs into the central elements of the setting, how to decide (and effectively run) the level of player competition in the game (unlike most RPGs, LoO doesn’t assume that the PCs all operate together in a “party”, and in many LoO campaign the players might frequently find themselves at odds with one another), how to figure out what’s happening “behind the scenes” of the campaign, how to manage PC death, guidelines on how to run a “Heroic Mortal” campaign, how to handle themes of Fate and destiny in the campaign, how to adjudicate the use of PC Powers, guidelines and rules for how to create new powers in the game, rules for creating Olympian Artefacts, and how to handle PC advancement. There are several options presented for how to handle the latter; what to award points for, including the option of allowing players to set up their own goals for which they can win points for accomplishing, as well as the option of using a more freestyle kind of advancement not based on points or wish lists. There’s also an extensive list of tips and (dirty?) GM tricks for GMing a LoO game, as well as setups for specific Campaign ideas like the “immortality quest” game, the Return of the Titans, the rise of Dionysus, a war between Olympians, the death of Zeus, divine involvement in local wars, Primordial apocalypses, forces from beyond the universe, or the presence of another pantheon of gods.

The setting material gives detailed descriptions of the Multiverse, including Olympus, Atlantis, Tartarus and the Underworld, the Shadow-Realm of Erebus, Modern Earth, Classical Earth, and Other Earths; the Pillars of Heaven, Hera’s personal Realm, the Islands of Chaos, the Pillars of the Sky (and the monsters Scylla and Charybdis), the True Oracle of Delphi, Arcadia (Pan’s realm), as well as other divine realms and worlds.
The monster section gives descriptions and suggested attributes for Automatons, Basilisks, Cacodemons, Centaurs, Cerberus, Charybdis, Chimeras, Cyclops, Dragons, the First Race of Humans, Giants and Giant Creatures, the Gorgons, Gryphons, Harpies, Hydras, Lamia, Manticores, Minotaurs, Nymphs, Phoenix, Pegasus, Satyrs, Scylla, Shadow-beings, Sirens, Sphinx, Strix, Tritones, Unicorns and Werewolves.

The section on the Divine Family provides overall guidelines on how to handle the NPCs as archetypes or as personalities, the culture and customs of Olympus, and GM tips on how to run the gods as one big and very dysfunctional family. After that, every single major Greek god, and a great deal of minors ones, are fully detailed with statistics, personal history, abilities and powers, titles, personality guidelines, frequent locations, relationships and allies, and guidelines for running the deity as a parent. Primordials, Titans and Olympians are all detailed in full, covering 112 pages of the book (with a handy index at the back of the book for quick reference, as well as reference sheets for the gods’ ability Classes, personal symbols, and typical locations). In all, 92 Greek Deities are fully fleshed out for use in the campaign (if I counted right), not just as a set of stats but as plot hooks, parents, background details, and major players in the intrigues of the game; everyone from Aethyr to Zeus, from Epimethus to Phanes, Hyperion to Pan, Ceto to Poseidon, and so on. So even if someone never planned to actually run the Diceless RPG itself, but wanted to have a gaming-friendly sourcebook on the Greek gods for any other kind of campaign, this would be quite the resource.

The back pages of the book also provides a character sheet as well as handy worksheets for daemons and realms.

I’m not sure that it would really be worthwhile for me to present some kind of conclusion to this review; obviously I would rate Lords of Olympus very highly, but then that’s to be expected. More importantly, I hope this review gives you some idea of what the game is about, and what you can find in it. I think that if you already have experience with Amber Diceless, you will find this game both familiar and at the same time quite different (hopefully, in both cases in all the right ways), providing more than enough to make it stand on its own right as a worthwhile purchase. I think that if you’re interested in a game of high-powered epic adventure and intrigue, you’ll enjoy Lords of Olympus very much. Likewise, if you enjoy RPGs with a strong emphasis on characters, on roleplaying, and on a rich setting to encourage the same. And if you are interested in the angle of Greek Mythology, I would daresay that you’ll find this the most detailed game available on the subject. 

I hope this review is helpful to you, in spite of my authorial bias, in figuring out if Lords of Olympus will be a game you’ll like, and of course I hope very much you’ll give it a try.


(Originally posted December 13, 2012)