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Friday 30 June 2017

Golden Opportunity For RPG Reviews

Well, as of right now, I'm writing one review (which should be done shortly), and then I have one other book waiting to be reviewed.

That has not happened in something like 8 years now.  I've never had a review pile that short, not in ages.

So, if you have an RPG product, and want me to review it, this is the moment to get in touch and send it!  Normally, I have a dozen books in the waiting list and it means a book won't get reviewed for like six months after it reaches my door.  But right now? Well, if you can get me a book before the other guy does, I could probably have a review within a month of when it's received.

And I know this won't last.  This is just a byproduct of the fact that I've become more reliable at pumping out reviews lately, plus the fact that it's those pre-gencon months where for whatever reason less books tend to come out. There's probably books on their way to me right now.  But still, if you want me reviewing your RPG book, this is the time.

Remember, I review every RPG book I get sent. That's a track record that any experienced RPG publisher knows is worth it's weight in gold just by itself (because so, so many assholes get review copies and then never produce a review!).  But besides that, of course, my reviews are detailed and thorough and (while definitely not unbiased) they are fair and honest.  And they get coverage on my blog, on all kinds of social media, and on theRPGsite's reviews forum.

Anyways, there you have it.  Get in touch on G+ or send me your email if you want to send me a product for review. Remember I only review print versions of RPG books that are currently commercially available (so no "beta versions", no PDFs, no "free editions").

 Send your book NOW, before the other guy beats you to the waiting list!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti volcano + C&D's Bailey's Front Porch

Thursday 29 June 2017

European Blog Loves Dark Albion and Cults of Chaos!

The Europeans sure do love Dark Albion and Cults of Chaos! Which is like an extra-praise, because of course I love it if North (or South) Americans love it, but for Europeans, it's a setting of their own continent's past.

Anyways, today I stumbled across a short but glowing review of both products over at the bilingual Italian/English OSR blogs, Castles & Chimeras.

Among the praise, the reviewer talks about how the material on heresy in Cults of Chaos reminds him of Eco's The Name of the Rose. That's high praise indeed!

He also tells us that Dark Albion is "worth every cent".

So, check out the review, and be sure to check out Dark Albion and Cults of Chaos as well!


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

Wednesday 28 June 2017

DCC Campaign Update: I Haven't had an Erection This Strong in Years

So, as of last adventure, the PCs had managed to defeat (though not kill) the Duke of Abstinence, disrupting his control over the huge zombie army he was going to use to invade Coolland and overthrow his niece Queen Zoey. It almost killed them!
Unfortunately, they didn't actually get rid of the thousands of zombies, now uncontrolled, that are roaming across Coolland's territory.


-One of our PCs (Tonut the Cleric) just leveled up.  Another (Heidi) is one single XP away from leveling up.
"That's dangerous. It's like being a cop who's two weeks away from retirement!"

-"Wait... did my pet chicken die?"
"Nope. He landed right on the city wall and was unharmed."

-Morris had been left behind in the Azure Tower, because his cyborg-ASS was interfering with the teleportation magic. Now, the order thinks they managed to adapt the ritual.  It turns out they're mostly right; they actually manage to teleport him to a field about 7 miles from Gaga.  Unfortunately for Morris, it's a field full of zombies!

-After running like hell, he finds his way to a ruined old church (of G.O.D.). With the zombie hordes approaching he engages in a desperate prayer.
"hello? Is anyone listening?"
"We Are Listening..."

-No, it's not G.O.D., it's 4 mysterious cowled inhuman figures that were already in the church.
"Who are you? What are you doing here?"
"We are agents of vengeance. We seek the destruction of Bill the Elf."
"Those zombies are going to kill us all!"
"They will not kill us."
"Are you undead?"
"No. We are... Sand Cows."

-It turns out the four mysterious creatures are more of the ridiculous elemental constructs created by the Archemaster.  He made them to hunt Bill the Elf; this was before the Archemaster went to the city of Lol (where he is presently trapped, in the Forever Pit). The Cows have been looking for Bill ever since.
"Ok, I.. I know where Bill is! Save me from the Zombies and I can help you!"

-"We believe you speak truth... one of us will make the Sacrifice."
One of the Sand cows steps outside the church, and Morris watches at it seems to explode into a vicious cyclone of sand particles that literally cuts hundreds of zombies to shreds!
"Can all of you do that?"
"Yes... but only once."

-"Now you will help us."
"Sure. Do you know Mu?"
"Is... is that some kind of joke?!"
"Huh? No, not 'moo'... Mu!"

-Morris realizes his life depends on giving the cows information, so he convinces them that they need to find Mu and the rest of the party to get to Bill. They agree to protect him on the way to Gaga, but demand he give them all the information on Bill he has. So he tells them 'information', like that Bill has only one testicle, he slept with Queen Priscilla, the wizards of Lol want to kill him, Bill once survived a nuclear explosion, and that he's a Neocon.

-Meanwhile, the rest of the PCs have been brought before Queen Zoey and her court.
"Has the danger passed?"
"Technically speaking? More or less."
"We've uh.. renovated the biodiversity of the area... with zombies."
"If we look at the project specifications we see most tasks has been completed!"

-"So, there's still thousands and thousands of zombies about to overrun us?!"
"Yes. Sorry. Can we get our reward now? We have to go."

-"You get no reward until you get rid of the zombies!"
"How the hell are we supposed to do that??"

-"What we need is a more experienced adventurer..."
"Your majesty, Morris the Creep has just arrived in the city!"
"Oh shit, quick Tonut get us out of here!"
"He brings monsters with him, your Majesty, some kind of Cow-ninjas! Also, he's now some kind of ass-cyborg!"

-"Morris is a creep. But sometimes a creep is what's needed!"
"You're a terrible queen?"
"What did you say to her?!"
"Oh, no Mr. Harembe, I meant Priscilla! Priscilla is a terrible queen."
"Hey! Fuck you fatty! I was going to sleep with you but now you just blew it."

-Morris arrives with his Cows.
"We were told you know where we can find Bill the Elf."
"Yeah, um.."
"--Bill the elf is the commander of the zombie armies! If you want to get to him you have to kill all the zombies."
"...That seems to make sense."
"I can't believe that worked!"

-The stupid Cow elementals head off to kill every zombie they can find.
"Since Morris brought the cows to us, he will be allowed to stay, and not be sent back to Fashion Jail."
"We'll see how long that lasts."

-The PCs regroup the next morning for a massive brunch and healing session. Unfortunately, Tonut gets Disapproval early on and as his divine punishment is required to 'heal the lame'.
"OK, I'll heal Mu, then."
"Mu's lame, and I heal him. So did that work."
"Is Mu still lame?"
"Well, yes."
"Then no."
"Damn it."

-"Morris are you still taking a dump?"
"*PING* Defecation complete*"
"Just finished!"
"Ok, come here, I have to heal the lame!"

-"*ASS calculates 1.8% chance of this healing succeeding in any way*"
"Damn. There's probably lame people in the Fashion Dungeon..."

-"You lost your +4 Mace. That's pretty lame!"
"Go away, Morris."

-Mu goes to see Harembe.
"No, my name is Harembe. I had an ancestor named Harambe..."

-"As you may know, Harembe, I'm a wizard."
"...Are you sure?"

-"I need to ward something, so I can become a dude again."
"...You're not a dude?"

-Mu is heading back to the palace when he runs into a strange pink mutant in a tacky-looking suit and tie.
"Hey there, chum! My name's Chris, and I have a business offer for you that you won't want to ignore."
"Why do you talk like that?"
"Like what?"
"Like you're in an old-timey documentary or something?"
"I don't follow you, friend!"
"Whatever. Let's go to my room."
"Let's do it! And by 'do it' I mean business, not homosexual activity!"
"I'm a woman!"
"...Are you sure?"

-Tonut, Kumar and Publio had made their way down to the Fashion Dungeon, but the guards don't want to let them in. However, they do find out that Emily the elf is in Fashion Prison!
"What, why?"
"Apparently, she was saying that her majesty Queen Zoey has Chlamydia!"
"...that doesn't sound like Emily."
"No. It sounds like Priscilla is getting rid of the competition."
"The report also says that she's super jealous of Priscilla because Priscilla is so much prettier than she is, and Priscilla and Harembe will probably get married soon."
"Does it, now?"

-Back in Mu's room, he learns that Chris wants to become the adventuring group's Manager. Chris assures Mu that they'll all make money, and Mu assures Chris that he's the leader of the group and can represent all of them.
"Excellent! Just sign right here."
"Ok, sure, this doesn't sound shady at all."
"Oh no. It's not shady, not even a little bit, my friend!"

-"You know in spite of being a lesser member of the royal family, this is actually the first time I've ever been in this palace."
"Queen Zoey sounds kind of cold."
"That's right! Although, my mother was also a pathological liar, so it might be that I'm not from the royal family at all! You know, I've said too much."

-"Mu, you're a wizard, you're supposed to be smart."

-Having been unable to find "the lame" at the dungeons, Tonut and company  head into the city, and get to a "holistic clinic". There they meet a hipster girl pretending to be a hippie girl. You can tell she isn't, because she's too clean.
"What do you people do here?"
"Mostly yoga!"
"Miss you are culturally appropriating my culture!"
"Oh no, it's ok, because we're really attractive!"

-"Mr. Kumar would you like to give a talk about spirituality here?"
"We both could!"
"Oh no, your friend is just a cleric. We only want talks from spiritual people, like you!"
"I did not say I was spiritual..."
"Yes, but, it's obvious you're spiritual..I mean, you know..."

-They finally get the pseudo-hippie chick to let them into a yoga class. It's full of relatively attractive women, one obese man, and the handsome instructor wearing a man-bun.
"That one. The Man-bun. Break his leg."
"Does it look breakable?"
"He's probably a vegan, so he has the bone strength of a bird."

-While Publio shatters the man-bun's knee, Kumar is complaining about the state of things.
"What in the heck is this shit?! This is not yoga, it is just stretching!"

-Tonut heals Man-bun's shattered knee. When he does so, the instructor's man-bun also falls off.
"I have healed the Lame!!"

-"Hey, you guys are the heroes who stopped the zombie army, right?  We just got your merchandising!"
"Yeah, these yoga mats with your faces on them. Your manager just brought them."
"Uh, ok."

-When the group gets back together they find out about what Mu has done with Chris.
"He's our new business manager."
"Like hell he is."
"Well, friends, Mu is your leader, and he signed these contracts on your behalf!"
"He's not our leader and had no authority."
"Oh. Well, in that case, maybe we can re-negotiate?"
"Sure... I Geas him."
"I Charm him."

-Chris, now Geased and Charmed, makes new contracts with everyone, except Mu who is stuck with the older, shittier contract. Then he goes and negotiates a reward for the party with Queen Zoey, much to their surprise.
"This guy might just pay off."
"Oh fuck's sake, he'll be like Zeke Bodean all over again."

-The next morning, the PCs are awakened by alarm bells. A large armed sky-ship is flying down into Gaga, causing everyone to panic.
"Is it sky-nazis?"
"Well, there's no sky-nazi insignias."
"They could be undercover. I've heard they're very skilled at that."

-It turns out to be Roman and Jal'udin!
"Get in, bitches, we're going to save the universe!"

-the PCs pile into the ship, with Chris making it in too just before they take off.
"Who's this?!"
"He's our meat-shield."
"Oh. Well, why not? I guess it's useful for your meat shields to have meat shields!"

-Jal'udin found the entrance to a deep cave complex that might have Ancient survivors inside it.

-Jal'udin will not be coming with the team, but tries to get them to tell him where the Sunstaff is found. They don't tell him, but claim that the Azure Order knows, in what is probably a bad move.

-"This Ancient complex is found in the Mountains of Terror. Don't worry, though, it's only a name! They're really more of a tall range of hills!"

-"Any information about the Dark Ones I should know?"
"There's two things you need to know about the Dark Ones..."

-The entrance to the cave is surrounded by orcish totems depicting their god of death, and dire warnings.
"It says 'Welcome, Adventurers'!"

-At the entrance of the cave, the PCs find a heavy blast-door with a high tech keypad. Roman has Morris check for traps, but only to see if the pad is electrified. Then he uses his Sonic Tool to open it.

-Inside the cave complex the PCs encounter a group of Shadow Elves! Like all shadow-elves they have night-black skin, long luxurious hair, extra-pointy ears, badass scimitars, a general tough-guy look, and ridiculous squeaky voices.
"Why do they all have squeaky voices?"
"Because Fuck Drrzt, that's why."

-The Shadow Elves do not give the PCs the right to pass. Heidi challenges their leader, Ashiliath the Tormentor, to single combat.
The battle is really close for several rounds, but finally Heidi gets in a staggering blow.
"Oh! I'm Lame!"

-With Ashiliath crippled, the other Shadow Elves prepare to kill him. Heidi complains but they insist it is the way of their people.
"We must sing him our falsetto death-cry to send him to the hall of warriors"
"You're a stupid race and should feel ashamed of yourselves."

-"Go forth, adventurers. And if you run into any others of our race, tell them that you are he who slew Ashiliath the Tormentor, and they will let you pass."
"Just to be sure, is there any other 'the Tormentor' in these caves?"
"No, he was the only one."
"Ok, cool."

-The PCs enter a huge cavern covered in glowing mushrooms.
"This reminds me of a joke I have once heard, sirs! Knock knock!"
"Do we have to Kumar?"
"Knock knock, sirs!"
"Who's there."
"Fungi! Do you get it? Like fun-guy!"
"I knew a fun guy once..."

-"Quick, Chris, pretend you're Bill the Elf!"
"Sure! I might even have elven blood in me, you know. Though knowing that bitch mother of mine, it might all be lies!"

-"I'm going to try to hide."
"Heidi is right here!"
"No, hide, not heidi!"

-"*ASS Sensors detect 12 orcs in the next chamber. Alert! Orcs are missing 97% of their brain mass!*"

-The orcs are hiding behind the mineral rocky outgrowths, but they don't move at all. Heidi isn't having any luck shooting at them either.

-"I'm going to charge them! Who's with me??"
"We're all with you, Publio. Morally, I mean. Not literally."

-"I'm going to cast magic missile at them. That's thinking like a wizard... which means it's probably a bad idea."
"We're with you morally too, Mu!"

-Heidi has Tonut lift him into the air and then cannonballs a bunch of the brain-dead orcs.

-Chris manages to bash in the head of an orc!
"I've had my first blood! I haven't had an erection this strong in years, fellows!"
"TMI, dude!"

-An orc stabs Chris through the spine.
"Augh, my spine!"
"Even his cries of agony sound funny."
"I deserve this, I tried to fly too close to the sun. Learn from me, my friends!"

-Mu uses his psionic power to make himself invisible to the orcs; when he does so, he senses a deep evil power. He notices Roman is sensing the same thing.

-Tonut gets disapproval, and now has to Heal the Sick.

-Chris has miraculously survived; but his spine is shattered.
"Is that being sick?"
"No, that's lame."
"Damn it!"

-With the party in dire straights, Publio charges an orc, fumbles, and heroically stabs Morris into unconsciousness.
"You didn't kill him!"
"That will be up to us now."

-"I'll attack the orc on Morris."
"You sure, Heidi? You haven't killed the one on you yet."
"Oh, well then I definitely don't help Morris."
"After all, the other orc will probably hit Publio first."
"Or Morris. But either way, nothing of value will be lost."

-"*ASS Calibrating*!"

-Publio fumbles again!
"We did too good a job of training him wrong..."

-"Well, friends, today was definitely a roller-coaster ride of emotions. I went from having massive wood to shitting myself."
"Aw man, you should have told me that before I laid hands on you to cure you!"

-"We should stop here and rest."
"We can't stop here! This is Dark One country!"

However, the session could indeed stop here.  Will the PCs survive the complex infested by the Dark Ones? Will Morris ever stop being Lame?  Will Mu ever change gender again? Would anyone notice if he did? Will Publio end up killing himself, or a fellow party member? All this and more will probably not be answered in our next exciting session. Stay tuned!


Currently Smoking: Masonic Meerschaum + Image Virginia

Tuesday 27 June 2017

Kotaku Almost Managed to Convince Me of What Little Influence Women Had on D&D

It's really quite pathetic. Because the fact is, I know that there were women who had very important parts to play, and significant influence, on the early D&D hobby.

But if you read Kotaku's supposed 'feminist' article about how important women were to early D&D, you'd come out feeling like women were inconsequential. The article is ironically entitled "D&D wouldn't be what it is today without these women", and yet when you look for the list of who these 'journalists' managed to get together, ironically you could very easily remove all of them from the history of D&D and the hobby would have been practically unchanged.

Instead of being able to provide an article that talks about the important early contributors to the hobby, what this article does is show us a group of second-tier writers, mostly admitted non-gamers, who did very peripheral products for D&D like maps, choose-your-own-adventure stories, and some art. Stuff which was in no way central to early design. Stuff that anyone else could have done.

I mean, I know, it's Kotaku: everyone who works for them actually hates gaming of all varieties, gamers, and thinks all geek hobbies are The Enemy that needs to be destroyed. But do they really have to be so incompetent they can't make their own title argument!?

It's probably because the person writing the article has no idea what they're doing. If they did, they could have mentioned Lee Gold, who published Alarums & Excursions and had enormous early influence on the hobby. Or Jennell Jaquays, which seems an odd omission, unless Kotaku now thinks that transgender women don't count?

On the other hand, it's more understandable that they would miss out on most of the other important and influential women in early D&D. Because these were not writers or game designers or publishers: they were gamers. Some of them were related to the early creators of the hobby (like Elise Gygax), and naturally that would discount them in the minds of the third-wave feminist author of the Kotaku piece; even though the Gygax women (not in spite of but by virtue of being related to Gary) probably had much more influence on the early hobby than anyone the 'reporter' mentioned in her piece. Others were women like Mary Dale, who had joined with her brother and had an influential early character in Gygax's original campaign.

But to Kotaku these don't count, because they're not the 'strong independent female designers' that they want for their narrative.  Never mind their real influence on the hobby, they just don't fit the story, even if no one actually does because the type of female influence Kotaku wants to 'discover' on early D&D (where there was some hugely influential female game designer as important as Gygax or Arneson) just never happened. So instead, they pick the nearest facsimiles they can get a hold of and try their best to make an untenable argument.  They start out with Jean Wells, who was certainly an important early figure, as their best possible argument, which just shows how weak their argument is. And from there they proceed downward to Margaret Weis, who helped make the shittiest D&D setting in history, long after the influential early period, and was basically a novelist rather than a game designer. Her contribution to the hobby was a series of modules that enshrined railroading and metaplot, causing enormous harm to the game and arguably being one of two markers of the end of the original Old-School period (the other later marker would be the printing of 2e itself, under the supervision of another destructive woman, Lorraine Williams; I'm kind of shocked that Kotaku didn't try to rebrand that hobby-destroying she-harpy into a feminist D&D heroine!).

Anyways, way to shoot yourself in the foot, Kotaku. It's a lucky thing you got it at least partially wrong, because if you were right, it would have meant that women were of absolutely no meaningful significance in the creation of D&D.


Currently Smoking:

Monday 26 June 2017

Classic Rant: On the Third Generation of OSR Products

There's been some talk on the OSR blogosphere lately about the question of just what is really valuable in the OSR, setting or rules, and about what the OSR is producing or may produce (or should be producing) in the future. That is to say, where shall the innovation be?

Tenkar (of Tenkar's Tavern) came out saying that he thinks the future of the game should be more products like Spears of the Dawn or Arrows of Indra, complete games where the innovation is the setting and "less reworks of greyhawk or the forgotten realms". While Rob Conley (who I'll note provided the excellent maps for Arrows of Indra) admitted that these are not really his cup of tea, and that his " preference is for bog standard fantasy world but with depth" (giving Harnworld or Ars Magica as examples).

The Greyhawk Grognard has pointed out that he thinks there were two phases in the OSR, the first being retro-clones and the second going off in "new directions". 

All of them made mention of this question of "where is the OSR's Tekumel?", and the impetus for this seems to have been the new White Star game.

I'd argue that in fact there are now three phases in the OSR.

The first was the retro-clones. This was to me by far the least interesting part of the OSR, though some argued a necessary part, and they are pretty much finished now (since we've cloned just about everything that could be cloned and a few things that maybe shouldn't have been, to the point that we're left picking through Dave Arneson's discarded grocery bills in search of mythical clues to some kind of lost UR-D&D).

The second phase is still going on, which is the largely rules-fronted OSR games: those games that are not retroclones but whose innovation and creativity is largely focused on rule-modifications of the standard D&D concept. These are games like ACKS, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, or Fantastic Heroes & Witchery.
These could still go strong for a good long while, because there's way more room for creative maneuvering than with the retro-clones or even the almost-clones like Adventures Dark and Deep, as good as that is.

But now what we're just starting to see is Phase III: which is the products that are all about focusing on an old-school setting that obliges a new way of playing D&D; these will have rules that are different from the standard but what makes them shine is not the rules-difference but the setting-difference. I'm proud to say that Arrows of Indra is one of them (as is the aforementioned Spears of the Dawn), but I also think these are in some ways just the baby-steps (or easy pickings) of what will eventually become a huge new source of creative wealth for the OSR.

These types of OSR-games are exactly the kind I'm interested in making. Aside from AoI, within a month or two we'll see the release of Dark Albion: The Rose War. What will make it interesting and different from the two examples above is that AoI and Spears both got their inspiration from looking at D&D from the point of view of a cultural difference in setting; whereas Dark Albion is going to be, to slightly alter Conley's demands, "European Fantasy with depth". It will be D&D done for deep-historical gritty European fantasy, which will be closer in some ways to stuff like Ars Magica, Harn, or Pendragon than anything we've seen for the OSR thus far. Indeed, while it will be instantly familiar (and particularly appealing, I think, to any Game of Thrones fan) its 280-or-so pages of historical-fantasy detail will unlike any D&D setting I've ever seen.

The days where people could get away with the "10' x 10' room with 2 giant rats and exactly 2000cp" rut that the JMal-branch of the OSR nearly got stuck in is over. What's coming up now will defy anyone to think that there's a lack of creativity in the OSR, as if the second-phase products hadn't made that claim provably absurd already.


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

(originally posted May 22, 2015)

Sunday 25 June 2017

The End of Dark Albion

It finally ended, yesterday.  The original Dark Albion campaign, the one that inspired the Dark Albion setting book, and was ultimately responsible for Cults of Chaos too, and the upcoming Lion & Dragon RPG, and a bunch of material that will be coming out in my "RPGPundit Presents" series, it's all over.

The PCs, all but two, died in the tower of Morgan Le Fay.

It had been a spectacular campaign, six years in the making.
Obviously, it'll live on, through all the other games of Dark Albion people have played, are playing and will play.  Myself included; because I'm pretty sure I'll be running Albion again real soon.

As for now, a little break, then maybe some short games, and after that another long campaign. Who knows what it'll produce?


Currently Smoking: Moretti Rhodesian + Gawith's Commonwealth

Saturday 24 June 2017

Still Working on My Latest Project: "The Child Eaters"

The design part of my new project is coming along. It's going to be a series of short products of all different varieties, and right now I'm working with my (as yet still Mystery) publisher in terms of how it's going to look.  I love the idea we currently have for the cover.

Meanwhile, I keep working on product.  My latest?  "The Child Eaters".  It is a kind of adventure scenario, detailing a pretty classic but very spooky type of cult coming out of witchcraft stories of the medieval world.

Keep in touch for more information about these as the project continues!


Currently smoking: Ben Wade Rhodesian + Image Latakia

Friday 23 June 2017

Thursday 22 June 2017

Why the Traditional GM/Player Roles Matter

In a recent RPGsite thread, the age-old debate was once again reignited about the question of why it would be a bad thing to take away certain powers from the GM (in this case, the GM's authority to roll dice).  Some of the typical arguments were presented; and here's my response to them.

a. You maintain the traditional role of the GM as "it's all about meeee!"

No, I maintain his traditional role as "The GM is the final authority of the RPG game; NOT the loudest most annoying player, NOT the "rules-as-written-and-interpreted-by-the-best-rules-lawyer, NOT the Asshole Game Designer who thinks his own personal genius makes him a better judge of what should happen at a gaming table 3000 miles away from him than the guy actually running the table; NOT a movement that thinks GMs are a Product of Rape-Culture Imperialist White Patriarchy".

b. You want 'your' monsters to be as important as the player characters!

The monsters ARE as important as the characters. If you understood how RPGs worked, you'd know that. Shit, the weather is as important as the player characters. Whether or not there's gunpowder available in the market is as important as the player characters.
The player characters are just the Players' vehicles to interact in a VIRTUAL WORLD. Since the entire fun of the game depends on the realistic emulation of that Virtual World in order to achieve IMMERSION, all of those things are equally important for Fun to be achieved.

If a player feels like world is flat because he only ever interacts with the world through rolling his own stats, as if nothing in the world but his own PCs' stats were real or mattered, then the World does not become True, he can't achieve Immersion, and THE GAME FAILS.

c. We are ultimately in service to the players!

No. The GM and the Players are ALL there to have fun. The GM isn't a fucking slave there, to be punished for some imagined ancestral sin by having to be a toadie to whatever a group of fetishists want as fantasy wish-fulfillment. There's a reason why Forge games are all for one-shots.

The GM has a DUTY to make sure his players will have the most fun possible for the longest time possible. Why does he have that Duty? Because HE IS THE ULTIMATE POWER, and with great power comes great duty. If he didn't have that power, he would not have any such duty and could be whatever kind of piece of shit he wanted. And for that matter, if he did not have that power he wouldn't even have the capacity to make sure players have the most fun for the longest time possible, because to make sure that happens he must be able to have the power to say NO to their capricious little spoiled whims of the moment. If he can't say No to them getting whatever the fuck they feel like just now, the game ends quickly as one or two people at the table (again, the loudest, most annoying players) get a session that went exactly how THEY wanted it to, and everyone else feels cheated.

d. Yeah, well maybe there's better ways out there than your one-true-way!

There aren't. That's why none of the bullshit garbage ideas the bullshit garbage Swine have come up with over the years to try to hijack games has produced anything other than misery, and why Old School, my "one true way", and myself personally are all more popular now than ever.
Must suck to be you some mornings...


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Deluxe + Image Latakia

Wednesday 21 June 2017

Classic Rant: RPGPundit's Advice for RPG-Designers Being Targeted by the Ctrl-Left

I'm not going to say who it was, for obvious reasons, but someone recently wrote to me privately, about how there were some of the Usual Suspects (in this case on RPGnet, but it could really have been anywhere) attacking his rpg-writing. This particular designer had never had this happen to him before now, and he was quite concerned and didn't know how to deal with it. They were attacking his present work, looking at old posts to find things he might have said years ago to use against him, whipping up the mob into a frenzy, etc.; all the usual tactics. So, I thought I'd share here what I wrote to him, since other people might also benefit from it someday. 
Names have been withheld, but the rest of this posted for general benefit. You never know when YOU might be the next one targeted, because increasingly, there's no real criteria as to who get's chosen as the Pseudo-activists' next victim.

Without further ado:

Ok, first: don't apologize for anything, don't try to hide anything. Don't delete things you said in the past. If you honestly don't believe in it any more, say so, but don't hide it. If you do believe in it, be shameless about it. They're going to go for the throat anyways, NOTHING will make them stop, so don't think you can try to make some kind of compromise with them. If you show any weakness, they just get more rabid.

Second, why are you engaging them on their own territory where they have all the advantage? They get to say things you don't, they can paint you as the unreasonable one, and if you get mad they'll paint you as 'erratic', and then when they think its the right moment, they'll ban you.
You're already banned there, it just hasn't finished happening yet.

Find better places to promote your product. The rpgnet ruling clique has decided your game is evil, that's it. You're dead there. You should go promote it where you are likely to actually find an audience, in other forums (like theRPGsite), and on G+ or Facebook.

The best way to beat them is to be blatant about how they mean nothing to you, and to succeed in spite of them. Whenever you do that, it weakens them. When you take them seriously, or try to reason with them, it only makes them stronger.

One more thing: in my experience, in the long run, there's no such thing as 'bad press'. Some of it can limit your options in the future, but usually only if you're very clearly a controversy-hound (along the lines of James Desborough). If you are professional about it, getting slammed by a gang of assholes just makes people pay attention to you. You'll be crying all the way to the bank, if you work this right.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Poker + Gawith's Virginia Flake

(Originally posted May 28, 2016)

Tuesday 20 June 2017

Update On My Project: Future Pundit Products

So, my little OSR products projects is continuing along. Today I saw what will probably be the final look of the cover of our series.  My publisher is eager and is doing a great job so far.

Over the past couple of weeks I've had to deal with a prolonged period of internet blackout and then personal illness. But I've still managed to get quite a few new products written. Here's the quick list of stuff you will soon be able to buy:

RPGPundit Presents: Three Medieval-Authentic Magical Grimoires

RPGPundit Presents: The Goetia

RPGPundit Presents: The Book of the Art of Hours

RPGPundit Presents: The Kitchen Sink!

RPGPundit Presents: Medieval-Authentic Firearms and Cannon

Anyways, that's it for today, I'll share more titles as I write them.


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Deluxe + Image Latakia

Monday 19 June 2017

Wild West Non-Update

Because I was a little under the weather this weekend, I found myself obliged to cancel my Wild West session. So there's not going to be any update this time around.

In place, I post this for my players (and readers) by way of saying sorry:


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

Sunday 18 June 2017

A Spectacular Comparative Review of Amber, LoO, and LoGaS

I'm playing DCC in a bit here, so today I'm going to refer you to a very interesting review. No, not one of mine, but one of my games is being reviewed.

The review is by RPGsite contributor "Headless", and it compares the three classic Diceless RPGs: Amber, Lords of Olympus, and Lords of Gossamer And Shadow.

And yes, Lords of Olympus comes out of it looking really good. But that's not really what I found so good about the review. It was the detail and analysis comparing what each game has, what each game's strengths and weaknesses are.

So if you had any doubts about the differences and similarities between the three games, check out his review!


Currently Smoking: Mastro de Paja Rhodesian + Image Virginia

Saturday 17 June 2017

RPGPundit Reviews: Kaigaku

This is a review of the OSR RPG "Kaigaku", written by Jacob Ross, published by Thunderegg games. As usual, this is a review of the print edition, which comes in the form of a slim but fairly dense 60 page softcover. It has a full-color cover, featuring a scene of a trio of Japenese-ish characters in the midst of a positive rain of petals, in front of a Japanese-ish building. The art style is OK, though not spectacular. The interior is full-color, and high-quality, with a dozen or so illustrations (mostly of characters) some of which are better than the cover, frankly. Plus, a shitty map (more on that later).

Kaigaku is described by the author as a game of "fantastic samurai adventures". It's based on the Black Hack, which in case you haven't heard is a modification of the standard OSR rules that has, for some reason, become ridiculously popular these days. At least, in the sense that after the original Black Hack book came out, a ton of people released a ton of other books called the "x hack", which was the original game modified to fit any variety of genres.

The Black Hack system  has several features I strongly dislike. More than that, distrust. Because they are the kind of things Forge assholes came up with. First: the GM isn't allowed to roll dice. Everything is rolled by the players, mainly in the form of roll-under ability-score checks. So to attack, a PC has to roll equal or lower than his strength (for a melee attack, Dex for a ranged attack). But if he's being attacked, the GM doesn't roll for the attacker, instead the PC just makes a Dexterity roll-under check to evade.

You see the problem with this kind of thing? It says, in game, that the player characters are the center of the universe; and out-of-game, that the players are the centers of the universe. It essentially prevents the GM from being able to alter the rules, because he has no authority to control the dice at all. He's reduced to being a kind of monopoly-banker. But the NPCs don't matter either. Yes, there's a slight penalty given for evasion if the NPC attacking you is higher level than you are, but regardless it is still based on your dexterity, not anything of his. There's no way, on account of that, to model an NPC who is a highly-skilled samurai (except to just pile on the levels).

Everything about the Black-Hack system is anti-emulative. It makes the very clear statement that the PCs are playing in some kind of abstract world, and not a real world.  For example, the NPCs are all vague and blobby, statistically speaking, as if they exist only in reaction to the PCs.

To give another example: armor in the Black Hack reduces damage, which of course makes sense (maybe even more sense than Armor upping your defense!), but then in turn, every time you take a hit with armor, the armor value goes down one point. Ok, so maybe that can represent the wear-and-tear effect of combat, the armor is being actually damaged as hits are suffered, right?  Only then, if the PC has a "good night's sleep", his armor magically fixes itself! Suddenly it's back to full quality.

Ammunition in the Black Hack is based on a die roll to see if you run out. You start out with d20 "usage die", and every time you use an arrow or a bullet or whatever, you roll the die in question. If you get a 1 or 2, the die gets downgraded (a d20 becomes a d12, then a d10, d8, d6, and finally d4).  So resource management, one of the key tenets of the D&D old-school game, is just utterly abandoned. Worse still, it means your PC exists in a universe where for some reason he can never actually know how many arrows he has left in his quiver.

So yes, there's a lot I find very shitty about the Black Hack system: it is anti-emulative, it's anti-GM, and it engages in needless abstractions.
Is there anything good about it? Well, basing all rolls off ability scores is not in and of itself a bad move. There's also good stuff it borrowed from elsewhere: for example, 5e's Advantage and Disadvantage mechanics.
There's also an interesting mechanic in the form of "intensifying", where you can do a check at a penalty (in increments of -2 to the ability score), in exchange for how if you make the check the amount you intensified by gets added to some kind of effect. The most common example is that you can try to intensify your attack roll to get a bonus to damage.

Now, aside from those couple of details, most of what's "good" about the system ends up being stuff that I'm fairly sure is specific modifications done by the designer for this game in particular.  For example, he has rules on honor and dishonor (with special things each does): characters who are Honorable can invoke their honor (under specific conditions) to make a roll with Advantage. On the other hand, any dishonorable act is rolled by them with Disadvantage.  A character can choose to start out already Dishonorable, in which case he can't call on his honor but he'll never suffer disadvantage for dishonorable actions.
The mass combat rules are pretty good. The Samurai-dueling rules are quite good. The rules for crafting items are good, particularly in that they aren't stupidly complicated! Even the 'social combat' rules for courtiers are not awful, and I usually detest social combat rules. I'm not quite sure I'd end up using them or anything, but they're not terrible.

In terms of character creation, you roll as standard for the ability scores, and there's an option to have three skills (that aren't really listed or anything, you just have to invent them). You choose one of four classes: Ascetic (kung fu monk, basically), Bushi (warrior), Ninja, and Courtier. Each class has its own special features, starting gear, weapon and armor proficiencies, hit points, damage (in this system, damage is by class, not by weapon type, though certain weapons can modify your basic damage), and also the way you roll to level up (in this system, every time you go up in level, there's a chance that your ability scores will go up).

After this, you pick a clan (of course, if I was running this, I'd probably not let PCs pick their clan, I'd want to choose it for them), and your "Ryu" or school of training. There are a number of different schools, for different classes, and that are sponsored by different clans. It's possible to attend a school different from the one your clan sponsors, however. Each school has its own special abilities, that are gained at every even-numbered level.

It's funny, as much as I dislike the base system, all the stuff that the designer did that was specific to the setting is really good.  But what about the setting?

Kaigaku is not set in history, instead it's set in a fantasy world "inspired mainly by feudal Japan, but with elements of Korea and China mixed in". In general, the setting has that kind of strictness, ritual-based-culture, and honor system that's stereotypically Japanese. In the setting, there is an Emperor, whose seat is divided between two branches of the imperial family (northern and southern), with each taking turns in the Imperial throne. However, the implication of the setting is that the emperor holds relatively little power; instead, the various clans have a great deal of power and control over their respective territories.  In addition to the clans, you also have a number of outsider groups: there's the northern barbarians who must be kept at bay, the aborigines of the setting (equivalent to Japan's Ainu people), and two different groups of Gaijin (equivalent to the Spaniards and the English), who have introduced firearms (and foreign religion) into the setting.

There's also magic, of a sort, in the form of the "kiseki", magical stones of power that can be added to objects to grant special abilities. Ascetics can also channel the power of kiseki directly, implanting them into their bodies. Non-ascetics can do this as well, but if they do so they're pretty much doomed to go insane.

The book details the 8 major clans of the setting. There's also a number of minor clans, two of which were detailed in the book. Each clan gets a description of what its general deal is, who its notable members are (and what they want), how they relate to the other major clans and the gaijin, where they're based, and of course the Ryu schools that clan sponsors. There's also suggestions for the type of adventures that can feature this clan.

The material on the clans is some of the best work of the book. It's easy to read, interesting, and exciting (in the sense that in spite of the issues I have with the system, it made me think I'd want to play this setting sometime).

There's also a chapter (supposedly for GM's eyes only) that details the secrets of the major players in the setting. This is also very good.

Then we get to the most unforgivable part of the book: the map.
Holy shit is this map godawful. I mean, seriously, you're writing for a branch of the hobby that loves their maps, there's even people who would likely make a map for you for free if you asked nicely, and instead we get a dull near-featureless piece of crap.  I wish I could show you this map so you'd know what I mean, but I wasn't able to find one on a google search (if I was the author, I wouldn't want this map shown anywhere either).  It's basically just a peninsula with a mountain range, no other features; no forests, hills, cities, rivers, roads, or anything. You just get the clan names superimposed in areas of the map that we presume are their core regions, but nothing else.

This game setting, and the otherwise very high production values of this book deserved so, so much more than the map it got.

There's also a character sheet in the back of the book, which is fine, except that it's facing the map so you have to look at that godawful thing to see the character sheet.

What can we conclude about Kaigaku?  Well, I find the system flawed, but the setting really is awesome.  If you like the Black Hack, I guess you have it made with this product.  Otherwise, you could probably run it, with a little modification, using a more traditional OSR system. The setting is really cool, and would be well worth playing.

Such a shame about the shitty map, though.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Egg + Image Virginia

Friday 16 June 2017

Classic Rant: What the D&D "Satanic Panic" did to a Whole Generation of Geeks

So, there's a new academic book on RPGs: "Dangerous Games: What the Moral Panic over Role-Playing Games Says about Play, Religion, and Imagined Worlds". 

There's an article reviewing the book, sort of, here. Note, I have not read this book myself; what follows is my own speculations on the subject, not something related to the book.

As to the book, I think the concept is interesting, but as always I am HIGHLY dubious of anything that comes out of academia regarding RPGs, even if it's from my own Religious Studies background. Strike that - ESPECIALLY then, since I know just how indoctrinated that field is by anti-perennial Marxist ideologues who want to see all religion is a meaningless product of local cultural factors.

It does sound like it could be good, though. And there's also this quote:

"When grown-ups told me that playing Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) was going to drive me insane or cause me to worship the devil, it suddenly dawned on me that adults were fallible: They ran the schools, the churches, and the police, but they didn’t always think rationally or know what they were talking about."

As far as the comment above: my own observation as a religious scholar would be that the RPG hobby, and indeed the whole generation of geeks from the time of the Satanic Panic appears (to my observation) to be disproportionately populated by two groups: atheists, and people involved in what is sometimes termed 'alternative religion' (that is, people not in a standard mainstream Christian or Jewish denomination or in an orthodox mainstream version of the traditional religion of their own cultural background, but have become converts to some fringe movement or the westernized version of a non-western religion). We're talking here about just how many gamers are Wiccans, Pagans of other sorts, call themselves Buddhists, Taoists, some form of fringe or ultra-personal Christianity, or New-age "Spiritual" (not really following any religion, but practicing Reiki or Yoga or Crystal Healing or all of the above). 

I think that the phenomenon quoted above, the early realization that the very accusation of D&D as "satanic" by trusted authority figures when any young kid playing D&D knew it wasn't, had two effects:

a) A lot of those kids felt like they could never just trust anyone's word unquestioned again. It was a potential moment (like many others can be) where you realize that most people don't actually know fuck all about religion/philosophy/reality and are just quoting dogma, rather than a product of their own thought processes brought about by personal experiential experimentation.

b) Half (not literally half, but whatever) of the kids for whom (a) happened decided (not necessarily that very instant, but this event was something that contributed to that direction) that clearly nothing could be real then except for that which is immediately materially quantifiable, and (again, EVENTUALLY) rejected spirituality altogether; while the other half decided (eventually, as a gradual product of, among other things, etc.) that if most people didn't actually know FUCK ALL about religion, they would want to seek it out themselves and find out that experiential Truth.

Ironically, I think that the first 'half' above were the kids who were internally horrified at the idea of being accused of being satanists for liking D&D. They became atheists because deep down they were scared of some sort of "divine punishment" for an inherent spiritual wrongness they didn't even know they had until that moment, and (most horrifyingly) didn't seem to be able to even identify, and so would prefer a world where no such danger could possibly exist. The other kids, who became Wiccans or Pagans or Neo-Buddhists or Tantric Sex Polygamists or hippie Etheogen Experiencers or Ceremonial High Magicians (or, for that matter, literal Satanists), are the ones who deep down weren't afraid of god but outraged by the betrayal of a society that seemed like reality to them and suddenly very clearly wasn't. That moment (among others, blah blah etc.) was a realization of the fundamental illusion of Paradigm, and thus a Paradigm Shift into the weird, in search of the Real. 

Of course, that's all just a poetic way of saying that when their parents said "D&D is evil because it teaches you Real Magic!!", some kids said "my parents are retarded; that must mean there's no Jesus and no Real magic!", and other kids said "my parents are retarded; so fuck yeah I'm going to go find me some 'Real Magic'!"


( Originally posted March 28, 2015)

Thursday 15 June 2017

DCC Campaign Report: Most of the Guards are Playing With Fidget-Spinners

At the end of our last session, our stalwart non-heroes had managed to get to the Azure Tower, only to have the Azure Order magicians send them off on a whole other side-quest; this time to save Coolland from a zombie invasion.


-Before leaving the Azure Tower, Mu finishes studying his new spell, making use of the Spinal Fluid of Drewmij to successfully learn Magic Missile.
"I bet he was just telling you that was 'spinal fluid'!"
"Hey, if it gives me +2 to learning a spell I'll drink any of his fluids!"

-Publio the page is broke and sorely lacking in equipment, so he tries to sell his services as a page.
"Where would we even send a message? The town is tiny and there isn't another settlement for days that isn't full of cannibals!"

-"Why don't you just make like a leaf and go away?"
"That's not how that phrase goes. It's 'why don't you make like a tree and go away'!"

-Publio leveled up as a Warrior, but doesn't have that many hit points.
"Well, Mu is pretty robust for a wizard!"
"You mean chubby; Mu is pretty chubby for a wizard!"
"You mean fatass; Mu is a fatass!"

-Since there's a gigantic horde of thousands of zombies between the tower and Coolland, the Azure Wizards decide to teleport the PCs to Coolland. Unfortunately, on their first try they fumble the spell, and all the PCs weapons disappear, teleported to an unknown location.
"Son of a bitch!"
"We had plasma rifles!"
"My grenades!"
"You fuckers owe me a +4 mace!"

-On their second try, the Azure Wizards manage to teleport the PCs, but not to Coolland's capital. Instead, they end up in the coastal city of Minaj.
"Can we contact the Azure Wizards?"
"I don't think so."

-"So this is not the capital?"
"No, adventurers. For all we know, the city of Gaga may have been overrun."

-The commander of Minaj's militia, currently making preparations in case the zombie army comes that way, is the old peasant woman/minotaur-slayer Elsa.

-The PCs decide to risk the overland journey to Gaga.
"Will you come with us, Elsa?"
"Niet. Elsa will stay, protect village. Make up for time when all Elsa's old village in Old Country was all killed. This time if Elsa here, maybe only half this village die!"
"That's progress..."
"In Old Country, that is Miracle!"

-"Mr. Old Woman, what was the source of these zombies?"
"It is from time ago, when Queen Zoey uncle try to take over kingdom. Other group of adventurers, led by Bill Elf, they go in forest and Bill Elf make great toxic cloud that kill whole army.  Zombies are whole army."
"So this is Bill the Elf's fault?"
"In Old Country, we have saying: Fuck Bill Elf!"
"I think a lot of countries have that saying."

-"Uncle Evil of Queen Zoey return and send zombie army that Bill Elf killed."
"Is the uncle a zombie too?"
"Not sure. If he was vampire then Elsa could help. Elsa was vampire slayer in Old Country."
"How many vampires have you actually killed?"
"One. How many you kill?"
"Ok, never mind."

-Tonut the Cleric shows off his flying armor, as Tonut tends to do.
"Oh, he is Rocket Red, like from Old Country!"

-The PCs say goodbye to Elsa and start on their way to Gaga.  Soon they encounter what they at first think is a zombie.  They send Publio to bash its head in, but it turns out to be Heidi, who they had last seen at Highbay. They discover it's Heidi when he pulls a gun on the ex-pageboy just as Publio was about to bash his skull.

-"He can talk!"
"Yes, Heidi usually does that."
"You knew it was me?!"
"Yeah, we wanted to see what happened, though."

-It turns out that when Heidi was in Highbay, he went sightseeing and ended up in The Factory, where a group of artistic weirdos drugged him, and he ended up posing in a series of pictures with a Yak, some naked women and a land-octopus.

-"What happened to all your weapons??"
"We have shovels now. If you don't have a shovel it means you're just square."
"Ok, fine, I was going to share some of my five weapons but since you're all happy with shovels..."

-"Who's the kid that tried to kill me?"
"That's Publio the page. He wants to be a warrior. We're training him wrong as a joke."

-Continuing on, the PCs end up running into a sort-of "adventurer" named Gilbert. They immediately identify him as a kind of con-artist more than an adventurer.
"In the Shithole we used to eat people like you."

-"Tonight I will cook us a nice curry!"
"Oh! I love curry! Back in Gaga there was this shop called Spicy Bharatan Tender Pork Tacos, and they were fantastic. So authentic! But then they mysteriously closed.."
"They were making their tacos from mutant children."
"Yeah. You ate mutant children."
"Oh my god!!"
"They were poor children.."
"That's even worse, I don't know where they'd been!"

-"I'm from the Shithole. I'm not going to make a big fuss about having eaten children."
"Well, if you're from the Shithole it's probably not the first time you did that. Or the worst thing you ever ate."

-"Do you guys even have any idea how you plan to deal with the zombie army??"
"We need a bomb."
"There's a LOT of plans in this campaign that just come down to making a big explosion happen..."

-The party encounters a small zombie raiding party.
"Huh, what? A duck?"
"No, attack!"
"Oh, that's much worse!"

-The zombies appear to be strays, unfortunately-undead local coollanders  dressed in adult male rompers.
"Nothing of value was lost."

-Kumar accidentally fumbles his chill touch attack, and ends up chill touching himself.
"Does he go blind?"
"He will if he keeps doing that."

-"Well, that was a really successful first round of combat: not one zombie was even slightly injured, and Kumar chill-touched himself."

-Gilbert runs away after that first round, only to come back and act all heroic when there's only 1 zombie left alive.

-Publio fumbles his attack, breaking Heidi's borrowed spear.
"Oh that's OK, that's only the spear my father gave to me!"

-With the zombie still alive, Gilbert tries to run away again, only to have the zombie strike him down. The zombie dies right after.
"Hey great, I've got a new spear!"
"You mean I have a new spear, right?"
"Can I have my shovel back?"

-"Do you want your father's broken spear back, Heidi?"
"You really are ingratiating yourself into this party, Publio."

-The next day the party proceeds along a large-ish river; they see tons of zombies (mostly orc zombies, but also some Coollanders) milling about on the other side.
"They can't cross the river, its no problem."
"Those ones over there seem to be doing something..."
"It.. it looks like they're chopping wood?"
"They're building a bridge."
"Oh shit."

-Realizing that the zombies are definitely being guided by some kind of superior intelligence, Tonut and Heidi fly up above them and try to talk to their master. The zombies all respond in unison:
"You may speak!"
"Are you Uncle Evil?"

-"I am the rightful ruler of Coolland, Duke of Abstinence, Chosen One of the Lord of Blood and Fire!"
"Hey Tonut, he's like you, an asshat!"
"You realize we're 200' up and I'm carrying you, right?"

-"My zombie army will cross into Coolland, take the city of Gaga, and bathe its streets with blood!"
"And fire?"
"And fire!"

-"Cool, but could you teleport us to Lol?"
"Dude, he's the bad guy!"
"We've never been totally clear as a party on that whole good/evil divide.."
"Yeah, and remember, this is just a stupid side-quest!"

-"Who is it you're seeking revenge against, Duke?"
"My niece 'queen' Zoey, and Bill the Elf!"
"We know where Bill is!"
"Yeah, we'll totally give him to you."

-"Bring me Bill the Elf and I will teleport you!"
"We need to teleport in order to get to Bill the Elf!"
"We have quite the catch-22 going, don't we?"

-"Ok, here's the plan: we tell the Duke we'll capture his niece for him, then we'll put Publio in a bag."
"What? No!"
"GM question: do any of you actually HAVE a bag?"
"We'll get a bag in Gaga."
"We should probably get a dress for Publio too. You know, to make it believable."
"I don't want to do this!"
"Look at it this way, Publio, have you ever gotten to spend time inside a bag before? It's a new opportunity."

-"Duke, we'll bring you your niece!"
" a bag.."
"In a bag! But we have to present her to you personally!"
"because... we want to meet you! You're pretty famous."
"Also, we want to be sure you follow through and teleport us."
"Oh yeah, also, this kid we have with us that looks a bit like a princess won't be coming back with us, so don't suspect anything if he's not with us when we return."

-"Wait sirs, is it not the case in fact that Mu can change into a girl?"
"Kumar is right!"
"Yes it is true sir!"
"OK, new plan!"

-"Actually, Duke, the kid will be coming back with us after all, but not the wizard, he's got other things to do!"
"I hate you guys so much.."

-"So when we give him Mu, he will teleport us?"
"No, we're going to kill him."
"Wait, Kumar, you thought you were going to just give me to him??"

-"I'm just happy I won't have to crossdress anymore!"
"Actually you sound a little disappointed."

-The PCs finally get to Gaga.
"Who goes there?"
"Did Gilbert send you?"
"Uh, yeah, sure."
"Sergeant, the adventurers are here!"

-The glitterati of Gaga all come out to see the PCs. Queen Zoey is there, as is the hip young handsome prime minister, Zoe's attendants Emily the elf and Queen Priscilla of the Grey Realms, the court wizard (the only old person in all of Coolland), and of course, Queen Zoey's head of security, Harembe the gorilla-man.

-The defenses of Gaga and their army do not look very promising.
"Do you think we could whip them into shape?"
"Most of the guards are playing with fidget-spinners right now."
"So that would be a no."

-Queen Priscilla hasn't become any less annoying.
"You guys all look lame, if only Bill the Elf was here. He was hot for me, we totally did it once."
"Bill did it with.. that thing?"
"Oh man, if only Bill were here!"

-"We have a plan your majesty; our wizard Mu is going to make himself look like you."
"Um.. he doesn't look much like me?"
"Well, he can magically turn himself into a girl."
"Goddamnit, I am a girl right now!"
"Seriously? This is you as a girl?"
"Holy shit you guys that girl is really fucking ugly!"
"Even Priscilla thinks you're ugly, dude."
"That's the pot calling the kettle ugly."

-"Our best plan is still to make Mu look like the queen."
"I have a question: has the Duke gone blind??"

-"I still say we can integrate the zombies."
"You definitely can't."
"In a generation they'll adopt our values!"
"Mr. Prime Minister, they're undead. In a generation, you'll all be zombies!"
"Don't be racist."
"It's not racist, because they're really ugly!"

-"If you want Mu to be able to pass for me, I and my ladies of the court will have to give him a makeover! Guards, seize him!"
"To the makeover room!"
"Will it hurt??"
"Well, the bikini wax will."
"You'll pay for this Tonut!!"

-While Mu is subject to a makeover and a sleepover party with the Queen and her girls, the rest of the PCs get some shopping done.
"We'll want to leave town first thing in the morning; we just spent 12000gp worth of counterfeit smithplium pieces here."
"Yeah, we should definitely leave, and then come back with more fake smithplium pieces!"

-"If you succeed, you'll all be heroes of Coolland!"
"Yeah, and I'll probably do it with one of you!"
"I'd probably do Priscilla."
"Shit, Mu, you have serious serious self-esteem problems."

-Mu's makeover was largely unsuccessful.
"If you put a princess-dress and facepaint on a cow, it'll still look like a cow."

-Along the way back to the zombie horde, Tonut the cleric uses Divine Aid to temporarily change Mu's appearance into a copy of Queen Zoey.

-They find the Zombie horde; with them are a group of Uruk-hai zombie guards, a zombie wizard, the Duke, and a Fire Vampire.

-The Duke is not a zombie, apparently he survived Bill's cloudkill, but suffered horribly disfiguring burns.
"Give me my niece!"
"We will, but only once you lead us to the Blood Gate so we can teleport back to Lol."
"Or the Fire Gate."
"They're the same gate!"

-"My men will take you to the gate, but I will have my niece now!"

-"psst, what's our plan?"
"We kill the Duke."
"He's surrounded by thousands of zombies, his guards, the wizard and the Vampire!"
"I've seen Bill make some bad plans, but this one is just ridiculous."

-While the PCs are busy debating their options, Mu is starting to change back into his usual ugly visage.

-The PCs decide to not give a fuck, and attack.
"Oh man this is not good."
"If Bill was here we wouldn't be in this mess."
"If Bill was here we'd probably be in a bigger mess!"

-"Which one is the Fire Vampire?"
"The Fire Vampire is the one that's on fire."
"I miss Captain Obvious!"

-The Fire Vampire disappears in a puff of fire.
"Not blood?"
"No, this is a fire vampire. There may be a blood vampire somewhere that disappears in a puff of blood."
"So, by 'blood vampire', you mean a vampire, right?"

-"Betrayers! Destroy them all!!"
"Morris sent us!"
"So we're trying to badmouth Morris now?"
"Yeah, Morris is the new Bill."

-The fire vampire reappears next to Tonut, who had obviously taken to the air to save his own life.
"Oh shit, it can fly! G.O.D., Sezrekhan, Nikos, Ack'basha... whoever is up there, save me!"

-Tonut fails his divine aid, but Kumar manages to slay the zombie wizard, which causes the zombies to go out of control. This helps, but there are still thousands of zombies trying to kill and eat them.

-The Duke is getting away, and the PCs are in terrible danger of being slaughtered by zombies, except Tonut who is about to be destroyed by the Fire Vampire. Tonut tries one last Divine Aid, to teleport them all back to Gaga.
"Oh, almighty G.O.D.... Screw This!"

-The Divine aid works, and the PCs are all teleported away, but there's a slight error in the teleportation and they end up crashing into the city wall. Several of them are terribly injured, but they all manage to survive!
"I can't believe we're alive."

That's it for this session. The planned invasion of Gaga has been thwarted by the PCs, and incredibly they're all still alive. But the Duke of Abstinence got away, and there's still thousands of zombies in Coollandish territory. Plus, the PCs still have no way to get back to Lol, and they're no closer to getting past the side-quests and onto the job of stopping Sezrekhan from assimilating the entire universe.
We'll see what they come up with, next time!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario + Gawith's 1792 Flake