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Wednesday 31 January 2018

Classic Rant: Real Magick in RPGs: Aliens!

So yesterday I left of talking about Kenneth Grant. You might remember him from an earlier blog entry as the one-time leader of a movement in occultism that argued that Cthulhu and all of Lovecraft's other creations are real.

Again, the fact that he died peacefully of old age in his bed a couple of years ago and didn't end up splattered all over the walls of his temple, or simply disappear without a trace, is pretty much proof that Grant was wrong about Cthulhu being real, in my eyes. But in any case, long before he was a Cthulhu-loon, he was an alien-loon.

Now, before we continue, something to consider: you can take all of what I'm about to tell you and, for your own RPGs, postulate "what if it's real??". That would be the easy path. 

What I'm saying is, I dare you instead, to ask "what if it's all total bollocks and the dudes who believe this are just nuts?"; potentially with the addition of "but what is real, and interesting, are the kind of spiritual forces that lead one to this madness". If you're running an occult game, to me it's way more interesting to talk about the Qlippoth, about these broken shards of never-reality that do not exist and yet can have an effect on reality; and that drive insane those fools who call out to them for power.

If you're running a horror game, then the real horror is if it's absolutely all in your head. Note that one of the things magick teaches is that "it's all in your head" doesn't mean what we think; it doesn't mean that the thing doesn't actually exist, or that it can't do stuff in the world.

All of that is way more interesting than little green men, but let's get back to them.

First, some context: the mid-1940s. Aleister Crowley was a very ill old man by that point, and practically penniless, having given all of himself to magick. He had, to quote his own words, "little left but pipe and wit" (something I suspect I'll end up saying when I'm that age too).

Kenneth Grant was, in 1944, a 20 year old weirdo; he'd been interested in the occult from puberty; and had been reading Crowley from the age of 14. Finally, he had gone to meet the great old wizard, and Crowley immediately hired him to be his secretary (and de-facto general butler and caretaker).
What's all this to do with aliens? I'm getting there.

What happens next really depends on who you believe. If you read Grant, Crowley and he had an idealized guru-chela relationship, they were both crazy about each other, and Crowley clearly meant for Grant to be his successor. 
If you read Crowley's letters and writings from that period, Grant was one of several students, clearly one he had some hope for, but there was always a sense from Crowley that he was making use of Grant as one of the few hopefuls of a bad crop; by that time, almost all of the O.T.O. and the A.'.A.'. (the two magical orders Crowley had run) had collapsed. Crowley's original students who could have been his great successors, particularly Frater Achad (but also people like Victor Neuberg, J.F.C. Fuller, and a little later Israel Regardie) had all betrayed or abandoned him. Now, many of Crowley's steadfast remaining students (like Karl Germer, Jane Wolfe, or Gerald Gardner, the founder of Wicca) were of near-equally advanced age to his own. Crowley was looking for a long-term successor, a spiritual heir, and there were three good candidates: 

1. Jack Parsons, the brilliant rocket scientist (but he was unpredictable and Crowley felt he was often immature)

2. Grady McMurtry the soldier (but there was a risk he might die in the war, and he was the least tested of all the students).

3. And finally, Kenneth Grant. 

I think that Crowley felt Grant was weird; he knew Grant was always a social misfit, he probably saw the glimpses of obsession and the risk of delusions in the boy even then. 

In any case, Kenneth Grant, on visiting Crowley's home, noticed and fell entranced with an old picture piled up among the things in his cramped quarters. Specifically, this picture:

See where this is going?

Now, this is a very interesting picture. Crowley drew it in 1919 (note, decades before the whole "grey alien" thing became a big deal; and it sure looks a bit like a grey alien). The picture was titled "LAM". As far as anything else we know about it? Once again, the story differs whether you listen to Kenneth Grant, or to anyone else.

According to anyone else (including Crowley, via his diaries): The picture was something Crowley drew for a hipster art exhibit while he was living in the U.S., then he used the image once for one of his books (to illustrate "A Lama"), and then never paid any attention to it ever again. He never again mentions it in his diaries, for example, except to mention the day he gives it to Grant (where he once again calls the painting "the Lama"). He had originally refused to give the painting to Grant until he passed a basic magical test, which Grant failed; but eventually relented and gave it to him anyways (clearly, Grant had been quite obsessed with it) when Grant helped Crowley overcome a severe asthma attack (probably by getting Crowley medically prescribed heroin).

According to Grant: Crowley and Grant engaged in a powerful working on the astral plane. Crowley's giving Grant the portrait was of extreme significance, because in essence it singled Grant out as Crowley's true heir. The figure of "LAM" is an extraterrestrial entity from the star Sirius, who was also Crowley's "holy guardian angel" Aiwass, the two were one and the same. LAM is meant to guide mankind to some unspecified transformation. Later on, it was revealed that he was in contact with Yuggoth and the Great Old Ones. It is also connected to the "Tunnels of Set" which can be voyaged by "Tantric Time-Travellers" through "intra-cosmic Cthonian capsules".

After Crowley's death, Kenneth Grant ended up becoming the de-facto representative of the O.T.O. in England (the official successor in England was supposed to be Gerald Gardner, but a serious illness and a trip to the U.S. for health reasons disqualified him at the time). He started a new magical lodge, which he ended up quickly turning into a kind of cult (possibly the closest thing to a real life mythos cult that ever actually existed), and got himself expelled from the international O.T.O., only to claim that he was in fact the one true worldwide head of the order (in what was only the first of several major schisms in that group following Crowley's death). Then he spent the next sixty years of his life writing book after book about Sirius, tantric time travelers, the dark side of the tree of life, Cthulhu, and LAM.

Most occultists think he was absolutely crazy; but there were quite a number of occultists, and still are, who actually believed every word. Of course, most of these don't actually do any work. Nor did Grant go into great detail about practices to actually do (with LAM, for example, all he outlined was a very basic ritual that involved doing a banishing, devoting your aspiration to the "great old ones" and then staring at the picture for a very long time while chanting "Lam lam lam, etc.").

Anyways, there you have it. Some occultists actually think that when they do magic, it's to speak to aliens. Most occultists make fun of them. Do with that information what you will. 


(Originally posted March 21, 2014)

Tuesday 30 January 2018

NEW Lion & Dragon Adventure Scenario: The Hunters!

Check it out! This week in RPGPundit Presents, we give you The Hunters, a new and exciting adventure scenario for Lion & Dragon, though of course usable in any OSR or fantasy setting, particularly if you want one that tends toward grittiness and somewhat dark low-fantasy.

WARNING: this adventure scenario has some fairly edgy themes.

There's children going missing in the area around the town of Twobridges. But who is responsible? Could it be the dashing young local lord and his band of misfit monster-hunters? Or is it something much more dangerous and supernatural? What's the dark secret of the Devil's Tor?

You can get RPGPundit Presents #17: The Hunters at DriveThru, or in the Precis Intermedia store, either way, for just $2.99!

And while you're at it, be sure to check out all the other awesome titles in the RPGPundit Presents series:

RPGPundit Presents #1: DungeonChef!

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

RPGPundit Presents #3: High-Tech Weapons

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

Stay tuned for more next week!


Currently smoking: Brigham Anniversary + Image Latakia 

Monday 29 January 2018

Arkhome now in Spanish and English

The Great City of Arkhome is really the crown jewel of my Last Sun setting. It was the city where the PC party spent the longest time of any single place in the massive world. It was the most detailed. And even though it's now been a few years in real-time since the campaign has been there, it is still a place fondly remembered by those players who were there.

It's also a part of the Last Sun setting that needed two RPGPundit Presents supplements to be worthy of describing it in full. The first one has now been out for a week in English.

Now, if you're a Spanish-speaking gamer, the first Arkhome book has also come out in Spanish!

"La Gran Ciudad de Santuario" is now available in Spanish on DriveThruRPG, or at the Precis Intermedia store!

In English or Spanish, if you want to check out some awesome random gonzo gritty city-generation tables, some interesting groups and factions, and a truly weird and wonderful city setting to put whole-hog or piece-meal into your game world, be sure to check it out!

And if you prefer English, get it here!


Currently Smoking: Neerup Hawkbill + Image Virginia

Sunday 28 January 2018

An Excellent Quasi-Review of Dark Albion!

Today I'm busy getting ready to play some DCC, having just finished my Wild West game. I'm also busy putting together a Lion & Dragon campaign that I hope to start running regularly.

So, instead of writing a big blog entry today, I'm going to just pass on to you guys the link to a kind-of review/commentary on Lion & Dragon!

Over in the Swords & Stitchery blog, we get an an excellent kind of 'unboxing' review of L&D from the perspective of what it's context is in the D&D universe and the general framework of the OSR. 

Here's a quote: 

The system is described by the rpg blurbs as thus; "Lion & Dragon is a Medieval Authentic OSR game. With L&D, the rules of the original tabletop RPG have been adapted to create a more historically authentic medieval experience, to reflect the grittier and yet more mythic world of a magical medieval Europe." Which is both its boon & its bane. So is the hardback worth the price of admission, in a word yes. 

To read the rest of the review, check out the S&S blog entry!

And if you haven't done so yet, go check out Lion & Dragon!


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

Saturday 27 January 2018

DCC Campaign Update: Chocolate Jesus is Their Hippomagus

In our last session, the PCs had won the Death Race 3000! They were about to enter into the Citadel of the Wardens, which held the gate into the heart of the Sun, their most likely route to get to the Crown of Creation and to rescue G.O.D. from Sezrekhan.
That was four weeks ago, because we didn't play over new year.


-"Look, I'm over 40, it's been over four weeks, and I did a shitload of drugs in my early 20s. I could have murdered a prostitute 4 weeks ago and not remember it."
"I know how you could get blood stains off your clothes"
"Jesus Christ, Bill's player!"

-"I need to get some thief tools."
"You know a place called Chazob's Thief Tool Emporium. It's run by a mutant guy who looks like a baseball mascot. Or maybe it's just a regular guy in a baseball mascot outfit."

-"The high-tech thief tool kit includs a sonic screwdriver, sonic hammer, sonic grappling hook, well, sonic everything, basically."

-The Catboy decides to go with the modern-tech kit, that includes a multi-tool, a grappling-hook gun, and a makeup kit for disguise purposes.
"What the hell is he going to disguise himself as, other types of cats?!"

-"You notice how every shopkeeper who deals in illegal goods has a vaguely Eastern European accent?"
"So like a gypsy?"
"I guess."
"It could be worse, he could have gone full George Lucas."

-"A thief needs good tools."
"Hey, look at me, I began as simple Eastern-European stereotype, and now see what I've become!"

-"If I have one complaint about this campaign, it's that there hasn't been enough King of Elfland lately."
"he's like this campaign's More Cowbell!"

-When the PCs get together, they find out about Heidi's new girlfriend, Dorma the warrior-woman pseudo-klingon, who plans to slaughter the Wardens and take over the Citadel.
"Did you just proposition me?"
"I would shatter your pelvis, little man!"

-"I am your partner of blood, in every respect. I have thrown the ritual Heavy Objects at you! We are sworn to take the Citadel and bathe in the blood of the Wardens."

-"Vizi stop trying to show my partner your light-saber!"

-"Dorma, we're not actually trying to take over the Citadel, we're trying to get to the Sun."
"You wish to destroy the Sun? I am pleased! Since ancient times, my people have had but one great wish: to destroy the sun!"
"We don't want to destroy the Sun!"
"Yeah, we want to kill G.O.D.!"
"You do? I have chosen my mate wisely!"

-"Hey guys, where's the dolphin at?"
"We left him behind in the ATV."
"The one we sold?"
"He'll be fine."

-The PCs walk down the great thoroughfare surrounded by cheering crowds, in a scene vaguely reminiscent of the end of Star Wars.

-Along the way, Heidi steals a trombone from a musician, and gives it to Max the Bard.
"Now I'm truly ready!"

-The Wardens appear. They're big-headed 1960s-sci-fi style psychic aliens.

-"Hey Wardens, see that pseudo-klingon woman? She wasn't with us!"
"Then she is expelled!"
"I will kill you, little man!!"
"Hey! You made the Wardens telekinetically eject my mate!"
"It was a bad match, Heidi."

-"The catboy was totally with us though. He's Mu."
"I am not!"
"He's Mu's buddy, Meow."

-The PCs enter the Citadel and find themselves in a completely barren white room, the Wardens standing above them ominously.
"We do congratulate you, champions, on winning the Death Race, but our immortal lifespans are long and boring, fulfilling our sacred duty..."
"He said doody!"
"Can you let him finish?!"
"That's what Sami said!"

-"You have ascertained by now that the promise of a long life filled with pleasure was a trick. We intend to use you for our amusment."
"Oh crap, you're not going to have sex with us, are you?"

-"Are you going to use us to fight with past champions?"
"No, they are all dead. We go through champions too quickly, unfortunately."

-"Look, we are here to kill G.O.D. in the Crown of Creation."
"That is forbidden!"
"Hug G.O.D.; I meant to say we are going to HUG G.O.D."

-"We are the Wardens. We guard the gateway to the Heart of the Sun!  We will investigate these claims you have made about Sezrekhan taking over the Crown of Creation, and the menace he represents, and consider whether we could permit you to travel into the Heart of the Sun to deal with the crisis. But WHILE we consider, we want you to amuse us with a great challenge we have created for champions."
"Why should we?"
"We have placed a magical artifact that can raise the recently dead in our special track."
"Ok, we're in."

-"So I guess we're really doing this? We're doing another fucking side quest?"

-"I didn't want to go into the core of the sun anyways; I bet its hot."
"You'd be OK, you have fur!"
"How does that make any sense?! That's even worse!"

-"You are all being sent to the Death Zone, where our new contest is ready for you!"
"Can't we go somewhere nicer?"
"Don't worry, it's just a name.. it's not really Zone."

-The PCs arrive at the start of the Death Zone, in some woods.
"I hide"
"Because I'm a thief!"
"He's also a cat."
"And a coward"
"I'm all three!"

-"Even the Hippomagus is making fun of you, that's a new low!"

-"I'm going to climb this tree!"
"The catboy should get a bonus to climbing trees, but then be unable to get back down!"

-Heidi checks out the view from the air: he sees the woods branch off into two areas: a glowing wasteland of radioactive ruins, and a barren badland full of geysers steaming with noxious gases. Beyond both is a large lake of fire.

-"For a 'death zone' there's surprisingly few dangers in these woods."
"Maybe we're going to die of boredom?"
"I think the Wardens are truly shitty at making adventures."

-The tree at the intersection in the woods is moving. It's a Trent!
"I fly away."
"Hey, where are you going, asshole? I'm here to give you a warning! It's all I exist for!"

-"The two paths in the woods lead to terrible dangers."
"Yeah, a radioactive ruin and poison wasteland. I saw."
"So you know you're doomed either way!"
"No, we can just all fly over them."
"...You know, you're all a bunch of real assholes! Anyways, the one with a jetpack could fly away, but your companions will all die!"
"No, I can just fly them over one by one."
"Well fuck, why do I even exist then?!"

-"I'm already a mutant, what could happen if I went through the radiation zone?"
"Famous last words."

-"I'm a vegan mutant, so I'm already mostly vegetable."
"Truer words have never been spoken."

-"So a talking moving tree is a Trent?"
"Yes. To avoid copyright."

-"Wait, is 'the Hippomagus' your name, or title?"
"I took on that name when I became a wizard."
"What was your real name?"
"I'd rather not say please."
"Alright, now you have to tell us!"
"I bet your real name was Hungry-Hungry!"

-"We'll camp out here tonight."
"I'll sleep by the Trent."
"Don't try to fuck the trent, dude!"
"I just want to sleep with nature!"
"Sami knows all about that!"

-"You know, the Wardens are probably watching and listening to us..we should stop talking about how much this scenario sucks."
"Oh, yeah. Man am I feeling adequately challenged by this dumb adventure!"

-"OK, let's get to this."
"he said doodies!"

-That next morning, the Hippomagus remembers he can cast Fly, so he does so and the whole party gets across the badlands in one go.
"We are soo challenged right now!"

-Searching for the object, the Vegan rolls a '1' on Detect Magic and ends up growing goat hooves.

-"The Vegan should try again."
"Why me? The cleric also has detect magic!"
"Yes, but the cleric is a valuable member of our party."

-The Pcs land in a small strange alien wood before the lake of fire. There, they encounter a Shrub-Ent with a scottish accent.
"If ye seek the object that will win the death zone, ye must cross the lake of fire. But beware! Its infested with Fire Sharks!"
"Do you have any treasures, shrub?"
"I'm a fucking shrub, what do ye think!? Boy, ye might be retarded."
"He is. It's the lack of protein."

-Avoiding both the lake and the fire-sharks by flying again, they arrive at a metal island in the middle of the lake. They find that in the middle of the Island there's a kind of hollow mountain, where supposedly the life-giving object is guarded by an Ettin, who is also made out of metal.
"Fuck's sake, it's like the Wardens are a 15-year old GM who's played too much RIFTS!"

-They encounter the Ettin, a two-headed metal giant, who is zealously guarding a metal mini-fridge. The Ettin apparently has a keen sense of smell.
"Fee Fi Fo Fum.. I smell the blood of a catperson!"

-In the ensuing fight, Sami dives on the mini-fridge to try to scoop it up, but finds it's bolted to the ground and she takes a nasty tumble.

-Max the bard plays the trombone during the fight.
"He's helping!"
"No, he's revealing our location! We were invisible, you idiot!"

-Vizi empties an entire clip of his automatic rifle, without hitting a damn thing.
"Suppressing fire!!"

-The Hippo-Magus, who is clearly improving as an adventurer session-by-session, kills the Ettin.

-It turns out the island has other defenders: a bunch of satyrs with explosive apples!

-Heidi shoots the bag of apples one of the satyrs is carrying and blows him to smithereens.

-Vizi empties yet another clip, once again not hitting a damn thing.

-They finally beat the satyr-bombers.  Heidi is now 1xp from leveling up.
"He's in the danger zone!"

-The magical object turns out to be a "yogurt of revival". Apparently, when given to the recently dead, it may bring them back to life.

-Their mission completed, the PCs are transported back into the white room.
"Wow, Wardens, that was a really hard quest! I got a nasty paper cut here."
"I think I got the flu."
"the catboy lost the ability to hide!"

-"We have been considering your situation. We were created by the ancients to make sure no one unauthorized could pass into the Heart of the Sun."
"Wait, though, Mongo is an ancient! Tell them to let us through, Mongo!"
"There appears to be... something wrong, with your Ancient."
"No there isn't! He's just fine the way he is!"

-"Very well... we have no option but to let you pass, for we have been ordered to do so from an Ancient. Though we're pretty sure this was NOT what the Ancients really had in mind!"
"Tough shit. This is what you get for being Lawful Freaks!"

-"I only need 1 xp to level!"
"Kill the catboy."
"He's worth 0 xp."

-The PCs oblige the Wardens to give Max the bard the lifetime of pleasure that they had promised in the Death Race, since he has no interest in going with them into the Sun.

-"Hey Wardens, do you have anything that could make me smarter?"
"There are some things even beyond our great power!"
"well then, just give us a bunch of good shit!"

-"Could you guys remove this gem from inside my chest without killing me?"
"We can attempt it, though there is a risk you will die."
"Go for it"
"What? No! I don't consent!"

-"You guys can just make things out of thin air, right?"
"Basic elements, yes."
"We want cash!"
"We cannot create credits."
"What about platinum?"
The Wardens create a small mountain of platinum tokens.

-"How are we going to carry all this?!"
"I could empty my waterskin."
"We're going into the Sun. We might need water!"

-The Vegan asks the powerfully-psychic Wardens to erase Ekim's Mystical Mask from his mind. They read the Vegan's mind and are horrified. One of them vomits.

-The wardens also remove the C4 Vizi had implanted inside him.
"It was put in my chest or something."
"No. We have detected the C4. It is in your colon."
"Sure, but it was put in there through my chest."
"No, it was clearly inserted via your anus."
"That's OK. It's still better than when Mu was raped by ghosts."

-The Vegan just wants something, anything! Thus, he ends up blowing thousands and thousands of platinum pieces in sacrifices used by Sami to attempt (and fail) to use Divine Aid to restore his stamina.
"You should have known, when you bet on G.O.D. the house always wins!"
"G.O.D. was hungry!"
"G.O.D. doesn't love you, vegan."

-"We warn you heroes, the Core of the Sun contains special guardians."
"Special... like Mongo is special?"

-Heidi gets the Wardens to remove the Geas placed on him by the demon of the monolith removed; incredibly with no consequences to him as he succeeds at three consecutive saves!

-The Vegan still desperately wants to get something good out of his time with the Wardens.
"Hey, could you guys do psychic surgery to put those cyber-eyes we got in the slums in the Vegan?"
"Yes, but he may go blind!"
"DO IT!"

-"Wait, instead of replacing his real eyes, can you put them on the sides of his head?"
"No, how would that even work?"

-The Cyber-eye surgery fails!
"Apparently, just plucking out your real eyes with telekinesis and then trying to shove the cyber-eyes into your sockets didn't do the trick."

-The now-blind Vegan spends all his remaining share of the platinum on the cleric to use Divine Aid to try to get his eyes working. It fails.
"Man, now he's blind and broke!"
"And vegan!"

-Strangely, Sami feels pity for the Vegan, and makes use of some of her own money, and finally succeeds at activating the cyber-eyes. Unfortunately, the operation had also had the effect of leaving him alcoholic. So now he's an Alcoholic Vegan Psychic Cyborg Wizard.

-The whole drama with the Vegan done, the PCs are transported into the Heart of the Sun.
"It's very bright in here!"

-The light and heat, in spite of there being an obvious magical barrier protecting the PCs, is intense.
"Because of his infrared systems in his cyber-eyes, the Vegan is effectively blind right now."

-The PCs encounter the guardians of the heart of the sun: the Jesus Patrol!
There's Historical Jesus, Republican Jesus, Sweet Baby Jesus, Black Jesus, Chocolate Jesus (he's not black, he's made of chocolate), and a Mexican guy named Jesus.
"We are the guardians of the Sun!"
"Yo no se porque estoy aqui. Creo que hubo algun tipo de error?"

-"Hey Black Jesus, do you know a guy named Blitzkrieg Sakomano?"
"What the fuck, dude, you think we all know each other?!"

-"What we really need right now is Tech Support Jesus."

-"You guys, I think Chocolate Jesus is their Hippomagus."

-"Historical Jesus will go and consult your presence with the Heart of the Sun. But I warn you, the Heart of the Sun has not really been herself since that thing..."
"Wait, the Heart of the Sun is a woman?"

-"the Spirit of Sun is a stunningly impressive female figure made of pure fire!"
"Well, hello there!"

-Apparently, the Spirit of the Sun has lost the 'transit orb' which is needed to use the gateway to the Crown of Creation. It was stolen by an ex-boyfriend named Fabritzio.
"I.. I just make terrible choices in relationships."

-"Where is Fabritzio?"
"Well, the last time I met him was on the surface of the world. But that was a few hundred years ago so who knows?"
"A few hundred years ago? Oh shit, he's probably dead!"
"Oh, that's right. I forgot that humans live for such a short time..."
"So he was a human?"
"Yes. At least I think so. You mortals all kind of look alike to me."
"So what was special about this guy that made you fall for him?"
"He was cool and rode a bike."

-The PCs agree to help, and after the Spirit of the Sun changes shape into a non-fiery form, she teleports them all down to the surface, to the last spot she'd seen Fabritzio.
It turns out to be the Zombie Empire.

And on that bombshell, we ended the session! Stay tuned next time to see if the PCs manage to recover the 'transit orb' and get back to the mission at hand!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti "A" + Peterson's Old Dublin

POSTSCRIPT: If you love this campaign, and want to see the world it's based on, be sure to check out the Last Sun supplements for RPGPundit Presents!:

Hipster Elves! 

Gazetteer of the Middle-Northern Wildlands

The Great City of Arkhome

Stay tuned for more!

Friday 26 January 2018

Working on Pundit Presents

No time to do a blog entry today, not with 50 minutes left on the clock.

I was busy, working on a couple of future products: a Guide to the Faerie Realms for Lion & Dragon, and an introduction to the Demon Lands and Goldhalcon, for Last Sun.

Thursday 25 January 2018

Lion & Dragon Q&A: How Hard is it to Get Knighted?

Welcome! As Lion & Dragon still keeps selling strong in the top-10 of RPGnow's bestseller list, we take the opportunity to look at a few more questions!

Q:Read it over the weekend. I really liked it. Especially the advancement part you are talking about above.
I guess if I had any questions it would be about social status and moving up or down the ladder. Is it even possible? Can/should status be a reward? How do adventurer types fit into the grand scheme?

A: Great question. In terms of Medieval-Authenticity, the reality is that if you want to be authentic, it should be relatively easy to move up the lower social classes, but very difficult into the upper social classes. Very, very difficult, though not completely impossible.

Being a serf or slave is a legal status, but in the time of the late medieval period, in Western Europe at least, this is becoming increasingly rare. Peasants can by this period become villains just by moving; of course, in this time, very few people did move from the country into the city, but any PC who did so would have been born a peasant (and likely still have "peasant ways" about him) but would in terms of social quality now be a city-dweller. It wouldn't really be any different than someone from the depths of Arkansas moving to New York City; their 'status' as a country-bumpkin would largely depend on how quickly they could drop the things that identified them as the former, and learn the cosmopolitan trappings that would let them identify as the latter.

But as for becoming a knight, or a noble, these things are incredibly difficult if you do not already come from a certain stock. Someone who is born into a high-end villain family or some very wealthy peasant family (because remember, wealth and status are two totally different things, you might find some common peasant that has more money than some Earls) MIGHT, by great personal effort to distinguish themselves in service to a lord or the crown, end up being able to achieve knighthood. But this is not very common at all.
If you look at history, what is much more frequent is for some commoner to become either rich or famous or both, to gain influence with the power-elite, build up a great reputation, and then for HIS SON to become a knight, and then maybe his grandson (or great-grandson) might end up getting some minor title of landed nobility.

What you can more commonly see as 'rewards' for lower-status characters would be things like offices.
So, for example, if you have a PC who's from a knightly family, or a cleric, and they do some great deeds that get the attention of the Crown, they might be rewarded with a knighthood.

A fighter or a magister that is from villain background, they might get rewarded with some kind of a rank or an office. The interesting thing is these ranks or offices (say, Sergeant of Fotheringhay Castle, or Personal Tutor to the Son of the Duke of Somerset) would come with room, board, and an annual wage. Whereas things like knigthoods or the types of offices granted to nobles ("Warden of the Cinque Ports", etc) did not actually come with any money, because it would be beneath the dignity of an aristocrat to accept monetary reward.

One thing to remember in Lion & Dragon vs. D&D is that a big bag of gold coins is literally the least honorable reward you could be given.

(you know you're playing a real Medieval-Authentic campaign when your ambitious PC does a scene like in this image)

So if you had a Scots Man, or a peasant fighter or thief, etc., they might get a bag full of shillings as their reward, and that would be saying "here, this is what will make you happy and it's all you care about, and it's a sign from us that we think you did a good job, so you might as well go spend it on the stupid things savages and peasants are likely to blow their money on".

If you give a big bag of shillings (instead of an office with a salary, or a special personal gift, etc) to the aforementioned Fighter or Magister of villain background, you're putting them in that same category, you're saying: "we're thankful for what you did, but we also don't think you'll ever amount to anything better than this, so we're treating you like we treat our inferiors".

If you give a big bag of shillings to someone of Knightly or Noble background you're saying to them "We think you're a mercenary and a cad, so we're insulting you by treating you like a fucking peasant who needs and wants money".

In short, you need to put a bit of thought in how parties get potentially rewarded by patrons, and not everyone in the party should get the same reward. And getting a reward that directly changes their status (like a knighthood), should be VERY VERY RARE. It might be something done for someone who say, already received increasingly important offices.
In my very long Dark Albion campaign, there was one character who ended up working his way up the scales this way: it took him 35 years of game-time (6 years of real-life gaming). He was, by the end, one of the most famous people in the kingdom, who was an invaluable personal servant of the royal family. At first, he was given little rewards of money or token gifts, then he was given minor paid offices and later more significant personal gifts that made everyone know he had the great favor of his lords (over the course of the campaign he had served the Earl of Warwick, King Edward of York, and then Prince (later King) Richard Crookback), then major offices (that did not come with a salary), and then finally knighthood. At the very end of the campaign he received a minor lordship. And this was a truly, stunningly exceptional character.

There was another character who BOUGHT a knighthood! This could happen sometimes, if you had enough money and there was a sufficiently powerful noble that desperately needed money. But after that he was treated as absolute dirt by almost everyone, because everyone felt like his title was illegitimate.

So you really shouldn't be thinking of knighthoods as a basic reward for even great deeds. You should work through that scale of rewards and a knighthood should be something very difficult to get, and any kind of greater title almost impossible if you don't already come from the nobility. In the real life period of the war of the roses, from what I researched, there were hardly any commoners who were knighted, and no commoners who received titles of nobility at all.

Q: Can Nobles who go around neglecting their duty to constantly kill griffons lose their social status?

A: A knight or noble who acts poorly, who do not fulfill their duties, who neglect their land, or don't come to court, or hang out with peasants or criminals or gypsies, or get drunk in free-houses or whatever other status-inappropriate misbehavior you can imagine do NOT automatically lose their social status.

With the lower classes, a villain who loses everything and goes to live in a hut to work someone else's land has de-facto become a Peasant. Their status is based on their lifestyle and surroundings. But with higher social classes, it's a bit different.

Knightly families are somewhat in between. If you have a knight who fails to ever act like a knight, becomes a poor farmer, etc, he will still personally be a knight. But his sons, in spite of being from a 'knightly family' will be unlikely to ever become knights themselves, and will likely get treated very poorly. And his grandsons will just be assumed to be peasants.

Nobles are more different. Their nobility is a matter of BLOOD. It is hereditary. So you could be an utter disaster in terms of behavior as a noble, and you're still a noble. You'd be an awful noble, who would be seen very badly by your peers, you would likely be suffering some serious social consequences for your activities. But you wouldn't 'lose' your social status itself.
There's only one thing that could make you lose your social status if you are a noble: a Bill of Attainder.

A Bill of Attainder is an act of the Crown that strips from your whole family their noble title and all lands. Typically, this was done for very high crimes like treason, though sometimes it was used as a tool against political enemies. It became a frequent event during the War of the Roses, for example, as when one faction or another got control of the crown they would end up passing many Bills of Attainder against their worst opponents in the other faction. The Attainder is judged as a "corruption of blood", which is why it applies to the family as a whole, not just an individual. So it is the ultimate punishment: a noble who has committed sufficient felony or treason to be attaindered not only loses their own title, and lands, but the title itself is stripped away from their children and heirs!

The person who is the direct source of the Attainder will usually be hunted down and put to death.

Obviously, this is something relatively rare. For example, even in the War of the Roses there was a great effort, when one rose or the other took the throne, to only attainder the most rabid allies of the other side, every other noble that sided with their opposition would be given the option to swear loyalty to the new (or restored) King in exchange for amnesty. Otherwise, you'd eventually run out of nobles altogether. Also, it was not uncommon for a noble to get attaindered and then later, many years later, for one of their sons to get their title restored, IF they prove themselves utterly loyal and dedicated to the crown. Thus, attaindering was used as a tool to 'reform' a family, by giving the now-disinherited sons of a traitor or felon the chance to restore their family fortune by not repeating the grave errors of their fathers.

But anyhow, no, it's not very easy to lose your social class, any more than it is to gain it.

So, please let me know if YOU have any questions for Lion & Dragon, about rules or lore! And if you haven't done so yet, please check out the game that's changing the way people look at medievalism in D&D!
Also, please help us stay in the top-10, by sharing this link everywhere you can!


Currently Smoking: Neerup Egg + Image Virginia 

Wednesday 24 January 2018

Classic Rant: Real Magick In RPGS: Space Gods!

Yesterday's "classic rant" gave you some very tiny glimpse of the weirdness that can be one's life when one plunges deep down the high magick rabbit-hole. Of course, that's 'material' weirdness, which takes the form mostly of what Jung called "synchronicity", combined with what Peter Carroll calls "apophenia" (the power of finding connections in things that do not appear to be connected). Both of these, to someone who is outside the experience, seem like they could amount to nothing at all really happening; sometimes to those inside the experience the same doubt is left planted.

But its when you get to the non-material level that cosmic-scale weirdness comes into play: conversations with what Crowley called "praeterhuman intelligences", and astral trips to insane psychedelic visions. That's the stuff no one but the magicians can experience, though sometimes the effects it produces on Earth do. So I thought I'd share a bit about the level of craziness that these kinds of things can get up to in the real recent history of occultism, so you know just what kind of thing you could put into a "realistic" magical campaign:

Take today, for example. Today (March 20th) is the Equinox (spring, for those of you in the northern hemisphere, autumn for those down in the south). The Equinox is a cosmic event, the moment where there is a perfect balance of light and dark; it was important to the ancient pagans since we first started figuring out the stars. Most modern neo-pagans celebrate it as a fertility or harvest festival (in spite of most never having planted or harvested anything more serious than a pot plant in their life), for Thelemites and magicians, this is remembered as the celebration of the "Equinox of the Gods".

Back in March 20, 1904, the apocalypse happened. 
Aleister Crowley was on his honeymoon with his wife Rose in Egypt. This being 1904 where if you were rich and British you could do any fucking thing you wanted, Crowley actually arranged for the two of them to spend the night in the King's Chamber of the motherfucking Great Pyramid.
At this time, Crowley had kind of given up on his old magical training, and was mainly a Buddhist, but he couldn't resist the temptation of doing some little magical ritual inside the ancient pyramid; so he tried to summon up some sylphs.

This would be such a significant moment that future Thelemites would produce art about it:

That was when Rose, who had no experience in magick or knowledge on the subject, started to experience some odd states where she claimed to Crowley that the god Horus was looking for him. Crowley, more annoyed the credulous, proceeded to perform a dozen tests on her to try her claim, all of which she passed, guessing at details about Horus that a woman of her education had no hope of knowing. This led to Crowley performing a grand invocation of Horus on March 20, 1904, a ritual that broke all the regular "rules" of magick, following the precise instructions given to him by his non-magician wife; and from this Crowley made contact with a being called Aiwass, who was both Crowley's Augoeides (his "Holy Guardian Angel", his higher self) and a messenger of the god Horus. And by "made contact" I mean that according to Crowley's own description he was literally hearing Aiwass speak to him in a strange voice from the left corner of the room.

Crowley was told that this act has marked the "Equinox of the Gods", the end of the previous Aeon or age. But this is more than just a calendar question (though indeed this is the Thelemic New Year), the end of an Aeon means the end of all collective reality as it is understood, the end of the way human beings relate to the world. It's a fundamental "Paradigm Shift"; in this case, away from the Aeon of Osiris (which was typified by the relationship between humanity and the divine being a parent-child relationship) into the Aeon of Horus (being humanity's "adolescence", where the childlike attitude toward creation is gradually abandoned, and humanity begins to "play god" for themselves; learning how to control its own physical and spiritual evolution). 
Crowley had essentially experienced the "end of the world", and the start of a new one. That would only be the start of his strange experiences in Cairo; the Thelemic Holy Season runs from March 20 (the Great Invocation of Horus and the Equinox of the Gods) until April 8th, 9th, and 10th, when Crowley received the Book of the Law, in a magical dictation from Aiwass; which, even if you don't believe a word of it, would still have to classify as a truly astounding feat of automatic writing. The Book of the Law is a SAN-burning holy book full of strange visions, numerical tricks and mysteries, Egyptian imagery, and the declaration and details of a profound moral philosophy of self-transformation, the law of Thelema, which governs the new Aeon.

So anyways, back to that ritual in the pyramid: here we have an ancient structure (Great Pyramid) meant to align with astronomical details, and Crowley unleashed something inside it. That something was apparently Horus. To a magician, a god like "horus" wouldn't be thought of as some literal dude with a hawk-head living in a physical heaven; rather, this would be a "discarnate entity", an "intelligence" that represents a set of ideas, a kind of archetype. 

Except of course, there are a few magicians who think that the Gods are literally:

That is, more accurately, hyper-advanced extra-dimensional beings who are trying to communicate with us as part of a plan for human evolution, or possibly for some other far more crazy shit.

Did I say "Crazy Shit"? That means Kenneth Grant, the Cthulhu-worshiping insane last-disciple-of-Crowley's can't be far behind! I mean, the guy already literally venerated the Great Old Ones and believed that the Cthulhu mythos was real, and they're a kind of alien, so no surprise that he would be into aliens too.

He was actually into aliens first, they're what led to most of his nuttiness. Why? Because Crowley was once nice to him and gave him a painting. But I'll save that for tomorrow's entry.


(Originally posted March 20, 2014)

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Last Sun: Arkhome!

Hot on the heels of last week's issue, RPGPundit Presents #16: The Great City of Arkhome is the SECOND sourcebook, and one of my personal favorite areas of the world World of the Last Sun.

This is really a city sourcebook, for one of the weirdest cities on a pretty weird setting. The City of Arkhome is built in the shells of ancient rockets, inside an enormous canyon, in the middle of a brutal desert.  It has a strange, post-apocalyptic-fantasy type of vibe to it, and the book details all the various factions and people who run the city: the Assassin King, the Snake Witch, the Old Families, and the Gangs!

Also, and super cool, is a set of tables to let you create random Arkhome towers and some adventure-seed/random-encounter levels. It's great fun, and only $2.99 for an 18 page supplement! That's cheaper than a marvel comic, and they're total garbage!

So please check it out, over on DrivethruRPG or on the Precis Intermedia Website.

And while you're at it, be sure to check out all the other awesome titles in the RPGPundit Presents series:

RPGPundit Presents #1: DungeonChef!

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

RPGPundit Presents #3: High-Tech Weapons

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

Stay tuned for more next week!


Currently smoking: Brigham Anniversary + Image Latakia 

Monday 22 January 2018

Last Sun: The Northern Wildlands... now in English and Spanish!

So I'm a bit busy just now, but let me direct y'all to the fact that my RPGPundit Presents issue from last week is now available in Spanish. Yes, if Castellano es tu idioma preferido, you can now get:
RPGPundit Presenta: Ultimo Sol: Atlas de la Central De Las Tierras Salvajes Del Norte!

Man that's a long title in translation!

It's the introductory book (aside from RPGPundit Presents: Hipster Elves) for the Last Sun game world, the setting of my infamous DCC campaign!

So, if you prefer English, and you missed it last week, pick up Gazetteer of the Middle-Northern Wildlands today!

And be sure to check out the rest of the RPGPundit Presents series, in English and Spanish alike!


Currently Smoking: Castello 4k Collection Canadian + Image Latakia