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Monday 30 April 2018

The Midnight Duke; Now in Spanish!

RPGPundit Presents: El Duque de Medianoche  es una aventura  diseñada para Dark Albion usando las reglas de León & Dragón, pero puede ser modificada fácilmente para usar con tu sistema de reglas OSR favorito (especialmente si es un escenario medieval realista).  Es una aventura de alto peligro y con muchos elementos supernaturales, recomendado para PJs de niveles medianos. 

El Duque de Medianoche y sus seguidores extienden la oscuridad y el Caos, tomando el control de los Territorios Disputados. Tanto si han sido enviados por la Orden Clerical para investigar sucesos relacionados con los poderes del caos o por un lord rival con órdenes para detener la amenaza a toda costa, los PJs van a hallar problemas en este escenario con final abierto.

Thursday 26 April 2018

Video: WoTC Isn't in the LGBT Business, They're in the Virtue Signal Business

So, here's my latest video:

Stay tuned for more!


Currently Smoking: Mastro De Paja bent apple + Country Doctor

Wednesday 25 April 2018

RPGPundit Reviews: Raiders of R'lyeh Gamemaster's Guide & Complete Rules

This is a review of the Raiders of R'lyeh GM's guide and Complete rules; written by Quentin Bauer, published by the Cipher Bureau. Note that this is different from the "Gothic B&W edition" that I reviewed earlier. For starters, it's about twice as big. It contains the rules from the smaller book but adds a LOT more.  It is basically the "definitive" edition.

As always, this is a review of the print edition, which is a massive tome of about 500 pages; with a color cover (though mostly red and black) featuring some kind of undead-looking creature (or maybe just a corpse) in what appears to be the interior of a pyramid or some other kind of ancient complex. The interior is fairly lavishly peppered with black & white art (note that although the other book is called the "gothic B&W edition", this edition is ALSO entirely B&W art on the inside, only the cover is color, which I found rather odd), ranging from drawings to photography, all appropriate to the setting and the period.

I'll repeat what I said in the previous review: I was a major consultant on this game, and so it has some of my own work in it. I was (well) paid to consult, but I do not make any money from sales of the product now.  I obviously have a favorable bias about Raiders due to my involvement with it, and I wanted to make that transparent; but I do think I'll still be able to be fair and accurate about the content.

Since all the basic rules from the edition I previously reviewed are present in this version of the book as well, I'm not going to go over it again here; instead, I'd suggest you read the previous review first, and then in this one I'll be covering what is different about this more complete edition.

The first thing you get that's different in this edition is a "Tour of the Imperial Age", which covers the state of different parts of the world circa 1910. We get several paragraphs each covering the situation in Africa (at the height of European Imperialism in the region), Arabia (at this time still -barely- controlled by the Ottomans, excepting Egypt under British control; with the Germans engaging in a great deal of intrigues in the area to try to gain control), the highly unstable Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Balkans (a boiling point of Europe, with a mix of Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Russian intervention and various different nationalist movements), the British Empire and the Raj (at the highest point of British Imperial glory, though signs of decadence were already setting in), China (already at a low point of decadence and abuse by virtually all of the great Imperial powers), (British-Controlled) Egypt gets its own special section, France, the Kaiser's Germany, the Japanese Empire, Mexico (embroiled in revolutionary civil war led by the very controversial Pancho Villa), the crumbling Ottoman Empire, the Tsar's Russia (at the time of Rasputin), South America, Spain, Tibet (during the brief first invasion from Manchu China), and the United States.

The character creation rules are for the most part identical to that of the more basic rulebook, with a few additions (like random tables for Religion or Languages based on nation of origin; or detailed lists of common names of the era).There's also a couple of sample detailed culture groups (like the Bedouin), and tables for randomly determining family ties, connections, and reputation.

The chapter on Game Mechanics also includes a couple of new bits, most particularly a set of pretty decent Chase rules, and some expanded rules for hazards (including weather).

The section on magic is somewhat expanded, via a chapter on "Extraplanar Entities". These include entities like Daimons, Demons, Elementals, Elementary Spirits, and Tulpas; along with their various powers and abilities.  There's also a set of tables for creating extraplanar entities, with some examples. Also included are rules for "extraplanar combat", which can be thought of as astral psychic combat.

The setting creation chapter has significant changes.  This chapter starts out with a set of rules for creating locations, with their specific "location traits" (consisting of "adventure traits" and "horror traits"). This is set up for sandbox-style play, in a way reminiscent of the method done by Kevin Crawford in his OSR products.

After this there's a collection of premade NPCs meant to be used to add to the setting. These are detailed with biographies and background, resources, and campaign leads/opportunities. There's also a set of much simpler statblocks for generic NPCs, stuff like bodyguards, cultists, police, thugs, etc. Also, stats for regular animals.

The following chapter provides guidelines and a large set of random tables to generate organizations. These are quite impressive, thorough and detailed. Intelligence organizations are also presented, including the Secret Service Bureau, the French Deuxieme Bureau, the Abteilung, the Okhrana, the Kokuryukai, the Austro-Hungarian Evenzbureau, the Serbian Black Hand, the Bureau of Investigation, the Office of Naval Intelligence, and the Pinkertons.

There's similar write-ups of secret societies, including the Freemasons (with a sidebar on Freemasonry in Arkham), the Golden Dawn, and the A.'.A.'., which were all real; and Mythos organizations like the Cult of the Yellow Sign, the Cthulhu Cult, the Starry Wisdom Sect, and the Servants of the Great Race. An entire 30-page chapter is dedicated to a shadowy organization known as The Glove; set up to be a major (likely antagonistic) organization for a campaign, with details of their activities in the Arkham area.

The chapter on creating a sandbox adds more material on developing a campaign, including making "frameworks", uniting themes, locations and common bonds that allow a campaign to function. Several examples are provided, though I will say that in my opinion not only is this pretty self evident (though I could admit that it might not be to raw beginners to Cthulhu RPG play), but also the examples are not particularly great ones. A lot of them fail to really be "campaign-worthy" unless a campaign means just two or three sessions.

The Appendices also add more new material  which I frankly think is more useful than the previous chapter. There's tables for useful reference to the 1910 setting: percentage chances of a backwater, industrial or progressive town or city having a list of amenities (paved roads, street lighting, telegraph, trains, streetcars), There's a list of world leaders, by country, 1900-1914. Populations in 1910 by country, and more usefully a list of which colonies belonged to each of the great Imperial powers in 1910.  There's also a list of military ranks for the British, German, and French military. Also, a list of ranks, titles and forms of address of the British aristocracy (although it would have been REALLY useful if the book had a similar list for Continental European aristocracy, which is often trickier, as well as for titles of non-European aristocrats).

There's several other tables too, including a whole-page table of Academies, Societies and Institutions, listed by name, type, location, year founded and unique features. Many of these are real, some are from the Mythos literature. There's another whole page dedicated to the departments, department heads, and notable courses of Miskatonic University circa 1910. Then a chronology of recent wars and conflicts worldwide prior to 1910; a chronology of recent famous exploratory missions, a list of 1910's professional baseball teams (the New York Highlanders, for example, as the Yankees didn't exist yet), distances to seaports, travel times, etc.

Finally, a big 3-page list of recommended material for further study, including fiction, archaeology, military history, exploration, heraldry and high society, lifestyle, crime, the occult, and vehicles. Plus, the character sheets etc at the very back.

So ultimately, how much more worth it is this book than the shorter B&W rulebook? 
Frankly, it's a tough call. Let's start by saying that there's no question that the "Gothic B&W Edition" contains everything you need to actually play. What the Gamemaster's Guide and Complete Rules provides is expanded material, mainly of interest if you are going to make a longer campaign with a lot of emphasis on the setting.

For that, it's worthwhile. I think that the essential difference in terms of value is just how much work you want to put into the setting; if you don't care much about the setting at all, if you are only playing one shots or campaigns that won't really require delving into and immersing in the world of Imperial Twilight in 1910, you probably wouldn't need any of the exclusive material in this book at all (except maybe you might miss the expanded material in the magic section).  Likewise, if you were, say, a highly qualified historian and were either already super-familiar with the era or could easily research it yourself. 

But otherwise, you will likely want this edition. It's a fantastic-looking book, and it will certainly provide you with a very great wealth of setting material to maneuver your way through a short, medium or long campaigns.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Volcano + Blue Boar 

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Classic Rant: Man Vs. Nature in RPGs

In most of my rpg campaigns, I have to admit that "man vs. nature" has not been a strong or recurring theme. The PCs are far more likely to be worried about goblins than landslides.

My recent Dark Albion campaign has been something of an exception to that. 

I've already mentioned the danger of rain conditions, which at first glance you'd think wouldn't be a danger at all (but that's precisely what makes it interesting). Now, in last night's game, I had my players experiencing genuine fear of demise as two of the (heavily-armored) PCs suddenly fell into a sinkhole with a strong current, of the kind that I mentioned can be found in some of the waterways of the North in Albion. It was only by a magic rope, some quick thinking, and the help of their team-mates that they survived the waters (which were also near-freezing).

I have to say it was quite fun seeing the PCs freak out over something with no supernatural element or human hostility.

In any case, the Dark Albion core book has some rules on potential natural hazards that you can run into along the way as you travel Albion's roads and trails. And I think that's one way to look at natural conditions: as random encounter. Another is to see natural hazards as traps.

Do you do a lot of this in your D&D games?


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Volcano + H&H's Beverwyck

(February 7 2016)

Monday 23 April 2018

Check Out This Awesome Lion & Dragon Poster!

So today I'd usually be promoting the newest Spanish-Translation of my RPGPundit Presents series, but Precis Intermedia is doing some overhaul-work on their website, so the next issues won't be coming out until next week.

But that's a great moment for me to share this amazing Lion & Dragon poster, which I was blown away with when I saw it:

I didn't make this; I have to admit I've forgotten now who did. It was posted on theRPGsite on a thread, but I can't recall which one. Please, if you are the guy who made this, please credit yourself in the comments below!


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

Edit to add: the original post of the poster was from Nerzenjäger on theRPGsite; so, thank you! 

Sunday 22 April 2018

Wild West Update: The Blacksmith

In this week's session, the PCs faced a trio of challenges in the town of Tombstone.

Also, Doc Holliday finally got to town, just in time to stop a scumbag called Johnny Tyler from taking a shot at Wyatt Earp (and Jackson, who was chatting with him outside the oriental) with a shotgun!

Doc was drawn into town at long last when Other Miller advertised an upcoming high-stakes poker game at the Argent Saloon.

Meanwhile, Virgil Earp was out on patrol when he ran into a man lying in the desert, half-dead with a gunshot wound to the back. As he was bringing him into town, someone tried to take a shot at him. Doc Taylor was called in to examine him, and he appeared to be paralyzed from the waist down, as a result of the bullet wound. The man was also in a confused state.

A while later a stranger came into town wearing a badge, claiming to be a deputy from Pueblo, Colorado.  He said the injured man was named McKormick and he had been chasing him for train and stagecoach robbery all the way from there to Arizona Territory.  The deputy wanted to take the man back with him, but Virgil decided to use the excuse of his injury to bide time while he confirmed the deputy's credentials.

That night, the alarm rung out! The store and home of the German blacksmith, Muller, had caught ablaze. The townsfolk (including Crazy Miller, who like many of us  crazy types is a night-owl) managed to stop the fire from spreading to adjacent lots, but the property was destroyed. The next morning they found one body there, which seemed to Muller's newly-married mail-order-bride. It turned out Muller himself had gone off to the Tombstone Mine to do some work for them.

Both Other Miller and Doc Taylor suspected that this fire was arson, and thus foul play. Miller because he was friends with Muller and knew about how some men had threatened him on his wedding day, demanding he sell his property to a rich developer; and Taylor because he had been networking with Hyram Adams, the developer in question, and knew Adams had been threatening Muller.

Other Miller set out with Crazy Miller and Smiley to try to find Muller. Meanwhile Doc Taylor recruited Morgan Earp to help him find and interrogate the men working for Adams to try to see if they would confess to the arson.

The men wouldn't talk, but Morgan arrested them anyways. When they got them to the Marshal's office, Virgil Earp came up with an idea: he would go with Taylor and confront Adams, suggesting that his men had turned on him and cut a deal, in the hopes that Adams would react in a way that would expose him.

Unfortunately, Adams proved to be a cool customer. He didn't crack. Worse still, when Virgil got back to the prison he found McKormick wasn't actually paralyzed after all, and he'd knocked Morgan out and run for it. Virgil went to find Jackson, and accompanied by the deputy from Pueblo they went after the fugitive.

When Doc Taylor was heading back to his office, he walked past the Cosmopolitan Hotel. He was half-owner of the hotel, and in its first month of operations it had made a whopping $4 in profit. Worse, he saw that his partner, Buckskin Frank Leslie, was spending all of his time with a waitress from the Grand Hotel across the street, who was a married woman to boot.

Suddenly, he saw the waitress' husband was crossing the street headed straight for Frank, gun in hand. Doc Taylor called out a warning just before the shooting started, probably saving Buckskin Frank's life.  Frank took a grazing shot to the temple, and a second bullet knocked off his hat, but then Frank managed to empty three bullets into the cuckolded husband, killing him.
Right then and there, he proposed to his lover, the newly-made widow, and asked Doc Taylor to be his best man (he accepted). Eight days later Buckskin Frank would be married to the woman whose husband he killed in a gunfight.

The Millers intercepted Muller the blacksmith as he was riding back to Tombstone, full of wrath after having heard the news of what had happened to his home and bride. They thought they'd talked him into giving the law a chance to do its job, or at least wait for a more opportune moment for revenge; as it turned out they'd be tragically wrong.  As soon as Muller was in town and away from the Millers, he tried to kill Adams, but ended up being shot dead by his bodyguards.

Other Miller decided to take the only revenge he could for now, he immediately headed to the town registry and bribed the registrar to reserve him the right to buy Muller's lot. At least, he figured, his friend would rest a bit easier knowing that Adams would never get to own the strip of land Muller and his wife had been killed over.

Meanwhile Virgil, Jackson, and the deputy from Pueblo caught up to McKormick, who was hiding in a shack. They were about to try to get him to surrender, when the 'deputy' turned on the other two, trying to shoot them in the back like he'd done to McKormick earlier. It turned out that he was part of McKormick's old gang; he'd killed the real deputy, and since McKormick had fled with all their loot, the deputy was going to kill everyone and keep the money for himself. There was an intense gunfight; with Virgil Earp taking several grazing and minor wounds before he and Jackson managed to kill the 'deputy'. Then Jackson rode after McKormick, caught up with him, shot him and recovered the stolen cash. For the first time in the entire campaign, Jackson managed to prove vital in a gunfight and came out a hero.

Later that night, Doc Holliday and cowboy Johnny Ringo met, for the very first time. They exchanged sinister glances and phrases in Latin, and decided they hate each other.

Nothing came of it, because of the intervention of Wyatt Earp and Curly Bill, but it was clear these two realized they'd met their potential equals. It was clear that it was only a matter of time until the two would try to kill each other. Tombstone had just become much more interesting.


Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Canadian + Peterson Wild Atlantic

Saturday 21 April 2018

DCC Campaign Update: Woman Wraiths Can Have Penises

In our last adventure, the PCs were almost ready to go to the Crown of Creation, to rescue G.O.D. from Sezrekhan, when they hit yet another stumbling-block: they can't open the gateway to the Crown until the opposite gateway (to the Qlippothic Nether-Regions) found in the lands of the Demon Zozzsz on the surface is shut down.


-"Has Sezrekhan cleaned his room?"
"Are we seriously arguing who in the DCC campaign is the Petersonian Superman?"
"In that case, I propose BOLT-0."
"Huh. That makes sense."

-"Does power corrupt, or does power attract the corrupt?"
"It reveals what we are in the Darkness."
"Immunity to Magic Missiles?"

-"We have to shut down Zozzsz's gate to get to the Crown of Creation."
"So we just have to do what no one has been able to do in 1000+ years of trying, huh?"

-"Hey Republican Jesus, can I get a weapons' upgrade?"
"Last time you surrendered all your weapons without a fight to a guy with a pointed stick."
"Maybe we should just give the catboy a pointed stick, then?"
"That's what he deserves!"

-RJ gives the catboy a pink .28 pistol and a rape whistle.
"The vegomagus is blind so he can't see the catboy right now, but even he can sense his humiliation."

-"Can I get a scope for my AK-47?"
"Who the fuck are you, CNN?!"

-"Did you guys put my weapons for Republican Jesus to bless while I was unconscious?"
"Dude, we put YOU on the pile."
"oh, good!"

-"RJ, did you have a nuke in your weapons locker?"
"...who's asking?"

-"Harry, any help about how we end up dealing with the gate thing?"
"Well, I vaguely remember something in history class about you guys meeting a woman.."
"A woman?"
"Was it Laquanda?"
"Man, I'm glad Mu didn't live to see this!"

-"So between Goldhalcon and the lands of Zozzsz there's a big plain of glass?"
"Yeah, pretty much. I heard that's thanks to Bill the Elf. He nuked all the Furry lands."
"So he actually did something right."

-"So does Goldhalcon have something to do with the Halconlords?"
"I'm pretty sure they're unrelated."
"That's Goldhalcon's city motto... Goldhalcon: Unrelated to the Halconlords."

-"We could construct some kind of war-robot?"
"Hey, I know of a perfect Kobold Utopia that could help us.. oh wait, you all set it on fire!"

-The daemon-slaying sword is Detect-Magicked by the Vegomagus. It turns out to be a ridiculously powerful sword. It does quadruple damage to Daemons with a big bonus to hit. It can also create an explosive blast in a radius around the wielder 3 times a day.
"I don't tell Heidi about that last part."
"So is it a good sword?"
"Oh yeah! On an unrelated note, Heidi, don't think about exploding."

-The party decides they're going to go to Lol to try to find the answer to dealing with Zozzsz there.
"Who's going to take us to Lol?"
"Not Republican Jesus."
"Maybe Mexican Jesus?"
"He can't really teleport, but he's very good at sneaking into places where he's not legally allowed to be."

-In the end they decide to have Black Jesus take them down. They find Lol in a state of ruin, and they're inside an area enclosed by a big wall.
"What the fuck happened here?"
"...all is Sezrekhan..."
"Oh shit. I guess that happened."
"It's a Sezrekhan-zombie horde!"

-Some of the PCs take to the air in an attempt to escape the Sezrekhan-Zombies. The Catboy climbs up a building.
"What about Black Jesus? Can he fly?"
"No, but I can run my ass off!"

-While on a roof, Catboy gets ambushed by a Sezrekhan zombie!
"Do the rest of us see that happening?"
"Do any of you care?"
"..never mind."

-Catboy manages to kill his zombie and then Heidi flies by, grabbing him by the scruff of the neck and flying him to safety.

-Black Jesus teleports the group in front of the Citadel of the wizard's council. It's got barricades heavily-manned by guards.
"HALT! Who goes there?"
"It's me, Heidi, and Chancellor Roman!"
"I'm Vegomagus!"

-"What the hell happened here?"
"Everything is officially fine, by order of the Archemaster!"
"So I guess that's what happened."

-The Viking Wizard shows up to deal with the PCs.
"You are all being detained."
"We have granted ourselves emergency powers. We don't need a reason."

-When the PCs claim they're trying to save the world, and don't want to be detained, the Archemaster himself shows up in a puff of black smoke.
"Archemaster, we need your help!"
"You have the gall to come looking to me for help after what you did to me?!"
"What the fuck did we do to him...?"
"I don't know... oh shit, the video!! I forgot."
"Holy shit, the humiliation video! He's going to kill us. Black Jesus, save us! Get us out of here!"

-The PCs are back on the sun.
"Well, that didn't go well."

-"I see now why the Archemaster wouldn't help us, based on, you know, absolutely everything we knew of him."

-"I could try to convince him, you know... my old way."
"You could try that, Sami, but it might be risky."
"We'd use protection!"
"It wouldn't work, he likes innocent-looking women."

-"Is Republican Jesus here?"
"Nope, he's not in this room."
"Is he in the hydroponics lab?"
"Maybe, or he's doing other Republican stuff. You know, cleaning his gun, hating the poor..."

-The PCs come up with a new plan. Thinking that, based on Harry's hazy recollection of future history, the 'woman' who helps them might be Lady Halcon (who conquered the lands south of the formerly-furry-plain), Sami does a Divine Aid to locate her. Black Jesus teleports them there.

-They teleport to a cold grassland, where Lady Halcon is marching with a band of over 90 Halconlord soldiers. She's a powerful-looking warrior woman, with bright red hair, a chain mail and halcon-mask that's standard to higher-ranking Halconlords, and a cybernetic leg.
"Oh shit, it IS Sandy the Chain Mail Barbarian!"
"Too bad none of our current PCs knew her."
"Or, you know, lucky that."

-The Halconlords are suprised by the PCs' sudden arrival and draw weapons. Initiative is rolled.
"Vizi you go first."
"Do you try to seduce her?"
"Are you crazy?! The amount of weed I'd have to smoke to think that's a good idea would probably kill me!"

-Sami was right next to Lady Halcon, and Lady Halcon stabs her right through the armor, hitting her jetpack and making it activate to send her flying through the air!

-"Oh shit! Get us out of here!"

-The party, except for Sami, end up back in the sun.
"Well, that didn't go well either."
"I think we have to go back. She's our healer."

-Sami teleported herself using divine aid, but there's some sort of error and she ends up in some mountains.

-The rest of the party teleports back, but at a safer distance.
"Stop! We're not here to fight!"
"You're destined to help us defeat Zozzsz!"
"I have been chosen by the Ribond to defeat Zozzsz"
"yes, that's exactly what we meant."

-Harry gets dangerously close to Lady Halcon, and whispers something to her, and suddenly she agrees to team up with the gang.

-Sami is totally lost in the mountains, repairing her jetpack, and then she gets ambushed by Mountain Goblins.
"What the hell are mountain goblins?"
"They're like regular goblins but wear lederhosen and alpine hats."

-Sami interrogates the Mountain Goblins.
"Where am I?"
"Near Goblin-home."
"What continent?"
"What is continent?"
"I just hover away from them."

-That night, the party and the Halconlords are distrustful, but something happens that evening and by the next morning Lady Halcon has had some kind of a 'vision' where she says that they are meant to find a scroll that will take down the field of darkness.

-Black Jesus manages to find Sami and bring her back with the party.

-Sami thinks that there must be some way to break the mental control the "Ribond" has over Lady Halcon.
"There must be some kind of kill-switch..."
"I have a kill-switch!"
"What's your kill-switch, Vegomagus? Killing yourself?"

-The PCs find out that they even once the Field of Darkness is taken down, they'd need to find the Derpy Horse of Destiny in order to destroy the gate.
"Well, we should have gotten the horse first then!"
"We know where the scroll is. And anyways the scroll can't run away from us, or die."
"We don't know that, it's been a weird year."

-"What's the hardest thing you've ever slain, Lady Halcon?"
"I've slain many things, none of them were very hard."
"Sami has slain some very hard things.. hehe."

-"I'm starving for female friends. Anema is a ditz and Lady Halcon is a humorless dick."
"You have me!"
"Great, my closest female friend is the catboy."
"What about the Vego-magus? He's a soy-boy!"

-As they wander through the barren plains the border the frontier of Zozzsz's realm, they find a solitary cage with a guy inside.
"Who are you and why are you in here?"
"Oh hey! Boy am I glad to see you guys! My name's Lenny. I'm a thief."
"Oh good! We don't have a thief!"

-"Just in case, I'm going to Detect Evil on Lenny."
"Lenny is a little bit evil."
"What does that mean? Like, what about the Vegomagus?"
"The vegomagus is also a little bit evil."

-"The cage Lenny is in is made of bone?"
"I take some of those bones for summoning!"

-"So the Vegomagus doesn't actually have any food with him in his equipment?"
"So he's going to starve to death?"
"Can't he eat grass?"
"He's a vegan, not a cow."
"I have some nutri-bars, vegomagus.."
"Oh thank god."
"..yeah, but they're mine, so... sorry!"

-The party reaches the border of Zozzsz's realm. Black Jesus can go no further, as the power of chaos acts as a barrier against celestials.
"Good luck, guys."
"Yeah, you too... man, I was about to call you 'BJ' like we call Republican Jesus 'RJ', but that's not really a good nickname..."
"Yeah.. I'm gonna go now..."

-The PCs reach a cracked Elven Dome.
"You know, I don't think any current PC has ever seen a normal elf."
"This is the world of the Last Sun. NO ONE has ever seen a normal elf."

-As soon as the PCs arrived they are a mobbed by a group of impoverished-looking hipster elves in rags, who try to hit them up for charity 'causes', patronage for their feminist comics, and selling them 'Hipster Elf BBQ'.

-"None of the Dome's machines are working. Could we fix them?"
"We could, but why bother?"
"To do good?"
"I don't think allowing these elves to give would really do any good."

-Hipster-Elf-style BBQ is really pathetic.
"What's this meat?"
"It's hill chinchilla"
"...It's rat, isn't it?"
"OK, yes, but it's Organic rat!"

-"I look around to see if there's any great wizards here"
"You're pretty sure everyone who was even a little bit competent has long since abandoned this dome to its destruction."

-"I feel bad for these people."
"You could help me make feminist comics!"
"I'm over it now."

-"Zozzsz may send Wraith Princes after you."
"Are you saying, like, one female wraith princess? or.."
"No, multiple male wraith princes, not that it matters."
"That's so sexist."
"Woman wraiths can have penises, you know!"
"OK, yeah, these Hipster Elves aren't worth saving."

-That night, the PCs rest in the ruins of an old internet cafe inside the dome. On the third watch, Lenny goes off to the 'bathroom', and a few seconds later the hipster elves are screaming and fleeing to the dome's Safe Space.
"OK, guys, Lenny did something."

-The PCs see Lenny running toward them, screaming in a panic.

-"OK, you guys, roll initiative... Heidi? Vegomagus? Catboy? Vizi? Roman?.... Roman?... oh wait, shit, he's an NPC! I'm Roman!"
"Holy fuck, Grandpa GM is losing it!"

-Lady Halcon decapitates one orc, runs through number 2, stabs a third in the gut and kicks number 4 to death.
"Holy shit!"
"She killed half the orcs in one round!"
"I feel inadequate."

-"Alright then miss-show-off, it's my turn!"
"You hit and injure one orc."
"I'm helping!"

-The party kills off the orcish scout party. While they're looking for others, Sami notices Lenny cutting off a piece of Orc flesh and putting it in his bag.

-"Psst, Vizi, keep an eye on Lenny. I think he's suspicious."
"He may be a cannibal."
"That's OK, I guess."
"Well, yeah, I mean it's not ideal but we still need a thief."

-"Um, Vizi? I'm going to the bathroom."
"I'm going with you."
"But... I have a shy bladder."
"I don't care, I'm going with you, and I'm going to watch you pee. Not in a gay way, though!"
"Oh, um, no that's OK. I'll just hold it in."
"No. Now you're going to fucking pee!"

-Vizi tries to get Lenny to confess.
"We don't care what your secret is. Our cleric is an ex-hooker! We have a vegan who is still a vegan, a catboy who's a pussy, and we used to have a hippo."

-"OK, fine! I.. I'm a cannibal."
"Oh, that's OK."
"Yeah, it's OK."
"We have a fucking vegan in our group. How could this be worse?"

-"Wow, thank you! I SWEAR I'll try my very best not to eat any of you!"
"Sure. I mean, if I die you can eat me."
"You mean that? I.. I'm so touched by that!"
"Sure. Just don't eat my dick."

-Lenny confesses to everyone.
"I'm sorry I kept it from all of you. I was just really worried that if you knew I was a cannibal you wouldn't like me anymore."
"We don't really like you either way, so nothing has changed."

-"When I left earlier, I was going to go eat an elf. But then the orcs showed up. So I guess it all worked out."
"You're right, it did all work out! See? That's what happens when you share!"

-The next day the party leaves the dome and continues their march. They run into a group of 8 half-starved rebels in the hills, hiding poorly.
"Hey you!"
"Who are you?"
"We're the Rebellion!"
"Against Zozzsz?"
"Yes! Have you come from the south?"
"Sure. That's also where things usually go when we're around."

-"I'm Bort, leader of this rebel cell."
"What kind of name is Bort?"
"It's a perfectly normal name!"
"No it isn't!"
"Dude, what the fuck? Your name is 'catboy'."
"Catabra, actually."

-"I'm a blue mutant too! These are my people. Except for that green guy there. No offense."
"None taken."

-The rebels are disappointed to learn that the PCs are not the vanguard of some great army.
"How do so few of you hope to defeat Zozzsz?!"
"Ask us once we've done it."

-Sami is still complaining about her lack of female friends.
"Hey, I'm very egalitarian. My female NPCs are just as fucked up as my male NPCs."

-"I just did my first backstab ever, at level 2!"
"That's not something to brag about, catboy."

-The PCs reach the ruins, and manage to find a trap door hidden under some rubble. Neither Catboy nor Lenny manage to get it open, so Heidi flies into it at high-speed, breaking it and revealing a winding staircase descending into an apparently-intact dungeon level.

And that's where we decided to stop, so we could start with the dungeon next session. Will the PCs find the mysterious scroll that can destroy Zozzsz's Field of Darkness? Stay tuned to find out!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Poker + Solani Aged Burley Flake

Friday 20 April 2018

New Video: The Only Privileged Racist Group in D&D Are The SJWs

This is a response to yet another article (recently reported on) by a leftist professor of some kind of nonsense, who is claiming that D&D "perpetuates White Privilege" and is a horribly racist game because it was made by White Men and because it is supposedly about white heroes "othering" people of color as orcs or whatever, and then killing them.

In other words, utter horseshit.

There is one collective of insipid racists currently involving themselves in the RPG hobby; it's not the regular gamers, it's not the free-speech shitlords, it's the SJWs themselves.

So here's my rebuttal, with all my typical style (and a bit of rambling on other topics, like Starbucks, but it's all tied in at the end):

If you liked the video, please share it, and subscribe to check out my previous and future videos!


Currently Smoking: Raleigh Hawkbill + Image Virginia

Thursday 19 April 2018

Classic Rant: Chaos vs. Law in Dark Albion (as Opposed to WFRP)

Some people have criticized Dark Albion for not being 'chaos-threatening' enough.  Sure, there's an entire kingdom of chaos monsters in control of a major area just across the pond from Albion, but (according to these people) chaos seems too distant and/or too manageable.

Their argument is that Chaos should be more like it is in Warhammer: this vile insidious force that inexorably pushes against the realms of Law, that is almost destined to consume the world, against which nations of Law (and the PCs) can only at most fight a holding action.  The Call of Cthulhu school of cosmological disaster, I guess.

(look at this cover: this is supposed to be the cover of the holy warriors and good guys. Seriously)

But it's true. Albion isn't like that. Chaos is different in Albion, the balance of power between Chaos and Law is different. And I'll explain why:

Dark Albion tries to be a medieval-authentic RPG.  WFRP does not. 

Dark Albion is simply better at representing the world as it was back then, and not just because Albion's "the Continent" is closer physically to historical Europe than WFRP's "the Old World".

No, I'm talking about differences in the Moral Universe here.

WFRP, like most RPGs, is ultimately presenting a world that may have more or less elements of historical reference to our own world (WFRP's setting has a few more than, say, Greyhawk), but that is viewed from a moral/philosophical lens totally rooted in our own 20th century viewpoints.

D&D's is one of a highly modernist, relativist, baby-boomer hippie type of view of some kind of cosmic balance around which the 9 alignments are all completely evenly matched.

WFRP's is a more post-modernist, post-hippie and utterly cynical viewpoint that dominates our current paradigm. You could call it 'apocalyptic' but in fact for reasons I will bring up later that'd be totally wrong. It's just nihilistic. It is the view that is left to us when we are taught that nothing is actually true, nothing is actually worthy of being maintained, nothing can be held up and only naive idiots think anything is worth fighting for, except maybe for tearing down and destroying everything.  In WFRP you play the 'good guys' but you actually root for the bad guys. The lords of Chaos are the cool ones, as everyone knows, but more importantly they're the ones who are RIGHT. Law is a sucker's bet. It's doomed. And so all the paladins and heroes who fight for law are basically morons, and this is part of the (civilization-hating) joke.

It's not in any way a medieval view. Or early-modern, or enlightenment, or Victorian. It is a moral paradigm that can only possibly exist in this utterly spoiled generation of self-hating westerners.

But I'm not here today to rant about post-modernism. I'm here to explain what's different in Dark Albion.  In Albion, the moral universe itself is MEDIEVAL.  It is based on a world-view, and I'll note that this is the ONLY way that you can effectively roleplay a culture that would be medieval-authentic, that holds that Law is actually much more powerful than Chaos.

Chaos wins when it manages to subvert or undermine Law, or when people who serve Law turn away from it. Or when they fight amongst themselves, as is happening in Albion during the setting period (where Chaos creatures, sects, and dark magic that had not been seen in Albion proper in centuries are coming back to infringe upon civilized lands because of the Chaos being generated by the Rose War).

But as a cosmic force, Law is supreme. Chaos is legion and divided; so in my game you never see the various agents of Chaos really co-operating as it's just not in their nature (and likewise, what this means is that no two demons are quite the same, nor are any two chaos cults the same).  But Law is only ONE. There is only one true God of Law; on the Continent he's the Unconquered Sun, in the lands of the Turk he's the Crescent Moon (though the common folk don't realize it's the same deity), and in other places he may have other names but he's really just a single force.
It was very important to me, even if I didn't want to use Christianity as such for other reasons, that the setting be MONOTHEISTIC.  You can totally have a medieval paradigm with or without many things, but you can't take out the monotheism and still really be anywhere near the mark.

Part of the medieval paradigm is triumphalism: God will win over chaos. Even the apocalyptic movements, preaching disaster and lamenting the growth of evil in the world, are all ultimately prophesying  a time when The Man Comes Around and there'll be trumpets and pipers and a hundred million angels singing and the Righteous will be Righteous still and the filthy will be filthy still. That's why I say WFRP is NOT 'apocalyptic' in the medieval sense, because it is a nihilist apocalypse of Chaos consuming everything, not a true Apocalypse in the religious sense where Law triumphs and establishes a Kingdom that will Reign Forever.

So what does this mean in actual play? Doesn't it make actual play more lame? After all if you are playing in a universe where Law is way more powerful you know that ultimately the Unconquered Sun will triumph and set things right so why fucking bother?

I think you have to look at it the opposite way: in WFRP, nothing you do matters. In the end you know Slaneesh and Nurgle and company are going to end up devouring everything and any effort you make is for nothing. You will die sooner or you will die later but eventually everyone loses.  It is naive and stupid to serve Law in that setting.

In Dark Albion, the tragedy is that man falls to Chaos. It's not a tragedy in WFRP, it's just a foregone conclusion and probably the smart bet. In Dark Albion, the fact that it doesn't actually have to happen makes it MUCH MUCH WORSE that the Frankland Kings were so weak and decadent that they let their lands be taken away from them by the Frogmen. It makes it so much worse that Vlad Tepes, who was hailed as the greatest living hero of the Unconquered Sun by the Pontifex, would (as he lay dying following betrayal at his own brother's hands) not look up and be ready for Union with the Sun but instead whisper a prayer of revenge to dark forces that they might make him their champion all so that he could, in his pride and wrath, slaughter and feast on the blood of those who betrayed him and his land.  It makes it so much more awful that in Albion, cousins are engaging in brutal war with each other and bringing the land into anarchy so that Goblins and elves and the living dead begin to come back from the lonely places and infringe on the work that ages and great kings had wrought to push Chaos back.

In WFRP, any of the above would just be par for the course. It would just be what should happen, cosmologically speaking; what makes sense in that world.  In Dark Albion, it's horrific because it is an anomaly and an abomination against Law.

(In WFRP, the Chaos menace is from an army of 20000 beastmen or something; in Dark Albion this moment right here is the 'chaos menace')

The menace of Chaos in Albion isn't that it is way more powerful than Law, it doesn't immediately threaten to overwhelm us all. The menace of Chaos in Albion is found in the weakness of men, and the tragedy of failing to live up to duty. The worst kind of tragedy is the preventable tragedy. This is Sin, in the especially medieval pre-Luthor view; the world is not inextricably evil (like the Gnostic heretics would have you believe), but rather the kingdom of god we could make here on Earth is thwarted by that weakness within one's heart that rejects virtues and falls to vices.
Defeating Chaos means doing that which is hard but which is right.

And in actual play, your characters can of course end up being killed by Chaos. At the skirmish level Chaos is incredibly dangerous. If you play an Inquisitor group and go looking for Chaos the assumption is you won't get to be an old man who dies in his bed. But (unlike in WFRP) what you are doing ACTUALLY MAKES SENSE. It actually MEANS something. There's actually a point to it. You are agents of Law out to set things right.
Of course you can still be mercenaries in it for yourselves in the game, but even there it is also made more significant by virtue of the fact that what you do totally matters more. Even if you choose to play a servant of Chaos it matters more (because there should be a bigger reason for siding with Chaos, or a more significantly personal one, in a setting where Chaos is not actually the stronger power).
What you do has MEANING, in the medieval paradigm. You are tremendously important because the world itself is infused with meaning. Whereas in WFRP (and most RPG settings) what you do has no real meaning to the larger cosmos. In games like Greyhawk or the FR, it all just balances out; whereas in WFRP (like in CoC) the universe is utterly meaningless.

The medieval worldview is a world where things matter. It is a world where everything has meaning. It makes individuals living under that paradigm much more significant and conversely much less self-centered than in our post-modern paradigm that says nothing at all is meaningful except your most immediate feelings and impulses.

So this is the difference. WFRP is a 20th century setting in renaissance drag. Dark Albion is a medieval/early-renaissance setting for reals.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Bent Billiard + Image Latakia

(Originally Posted January 25, 2016)

Monday 16 April 2018

RPGPundit Presents #27: Gestión de Territorios y Combate de Masas

Ahora en Castellano!

Para cualquier juego OSR o basado en D&D! Y solo $2.99!

Añade reglas básicas para gestionar una casa noble, midiendo su poder militar, financiero y político. Y cuando el conflicto entre territorios estalle, determina los vencedores y vencidos de las maniobras políticas y militares, y sus efectos sobre los personajes jugadores.

 Gestión de Territorios y Combate de Masas se puede comprar en DTRPG, o en el sitio web de Precis Intermedia


Currently Smoking: Neerup Acorn + Image Virginia 

Sunday 15 April 2018

L&D Campaign Update: Hecate's Tomb

So in this weekend's session of Lion & Dragon, I ran a special variant of the adventure "Hecate's Tomb" from RPGPundit Presents #21. Mostly, the 'variant' part was setting it in a different location, in Salisbury instead of Blackheath.

It worked quite well! The group consisted of a pair of Magisters (with very different skills), a roguish Cymri, a Cleric and his (0-level) Neophyte apprentice, and a foreign barbarian (a friend of mine, visiting from Canada, with limited Spanish skills).

By the end of it all, the cleric was dead, the party split, and for no good reason, the barbarian had set half the town of Devises on fire!

The main issue featured the disappearance of some merchants on a small road; which most people suspected was due to banditry but who the PCs' patron suspected was something supernatural. He turned out to be right. A freeholding family had discovered some ancient Roman ruins, and these ruins contained a temple to the "goddess Hecate" (really a demon), began to worship, and used the demonic gifts they were granted to waylay, rob and murder travelers past their farmstead.

The PCs found the ruins, the family got away, and when they explored the ruins they found a section that the family had never discovered (and thus hadn't already looted).  It was full of treasure, but also a tomb of the old Roman priestess of Hecate. The two magisters freaked out, sure it was going to be something supernatural, and ran for it. The Clerics and the Cymri stayed behind, and of course, disturbing the tomb, awoke a Wraith they were horribly under-equipped to fight.

The player of the Cleric, who turned out to be the unfortunate victim of the wraith (while the other fled), is my newest player, and this is actually the first campaign he's ever played. This was literally the first time he's ever had a PC die.

Luckily, he took it well!

Anyways, everyone felt the adventure was fantastic, and had a great time. Even the barbarian, who mostly ignored the entire plot to go on a murder-and-arsonism spree.

That's it for today, I'm off to the street fair!


Currently Smoking: Castello Fiammata + Image Virginia

Saturday 14 April 2018

RPGPundit Reviews: Raiders of R'lyeh

This is a review of the RPG "RPGPundit Reviews: Raiders of R'lyeh: Gothic Black & White Edition". Published by the Cipher Bureau, it was written by Quentin Bauer. This is, as always, a review of a print edition, which is a hardcover with an Indiana Jones type of character on the cover, a decent amount of illustrations, and it comes in at just over 250 pages.

Before continuing, I need to mention that I'm credited as a Special Consultant on this book. It was the next major project I worked on right after D&D 5th Edition, and I had a significant part in its design.  I'll be making every effort to be totally honest in the review, but I have some obvious bias in the matter as some of the influence is my own.

This book is part of a Kickstarter project, which took several years past schedule to be fulfilled.  But I'm certainly glad, given my own involvement, that it finally has been fulfilled and it's finally available.

In brief, Raiders is a variant of Call of Cthulhu. It uses the D100 system, but has some significant variations from the standard CoC rules. Those differences extend to the setting and themes.  In terms of the former, Raiders is set earlier, in the 1910s rather than the 20s, in the twilight of the Edwardian age leading into the horrors of the First World War. It is in some ways a more exciting time, and the theme of the decadence and the underlying impending upheaval of everything the world knows adds a different kind of tone than that of a game set in the roaring 20s.

Raiders is also more pulp-oriented than standard CoC. The PCs are certainly not supermen, but there's a generally more action-oriented aspect to Raiders than the standard CoC-RPG conceit of dusty academics pussyfooting their way through an investigation. This by itself already makes the game very different.

As you'll see, it also takes a different approach to some of the supernatural elements. Including coverage of magic that is partially historical, with much more of an influence from ideas actual occultists of the age (the Theosophists, the Golden Dawn, Aleister Crowley and all of that crowd) had about the supernatural.

Even before we get into the book itself, just by the table of contents, we get a fantastic period map of "Massachusetts and Rhode Island". It's just the start of a recurring dedication to setting detail that's quite fantastic; certainly on par with the best of Call of Cthulhu, if not superior.

The introduction of the book beings with "it is the year 1910. It is an imperial age of crumbling empires, dangerous adventures, and rotting decadence".  Those two lines capture completely the spirit of what Bauer wants his setting to be, and be about.

The basic introduction is followed up by a short essay on "The Mythos and the Imperial Age". It talks about all the context of the Lovecraft circle and its notions of the mythos, but expands this literary context to include the great Victorian and Edwardian writers like H. Rider Haggard, Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Conan Doyle, Sax Rohmer, Talbot Mundy, and Harold Lamb. The mythos of the Imperial Age needs to have all the horror of the standard CoC play, but also "colonial adventuring", in exotic and far flung locations. Bauer insists that "more than dealing with just academic concerns", heroes of Raiders should interact with "warlords, mercenaries, spies of enemy empires, hostile natives, smugglers, occultists and other supernatural threats, and various other undesirables".  I couldn't agree more.

He tries to back up his reasoning for this very different approach from the standard "academics doing a lot of investigating and then getting themselves killed" model of CoC by invoking the work of Robert E. Howard (who you may already know was not just the creator of Conan but also a significant contributor to the Mythos).

What follows is a very detailed breakdown of what the Edwardian age was like, covering everything from the cultural and political situation to arts, sports, and religion. There's also a timeline dating from 1869 to 1914.

The game system is going to be largely recognizable to anyone who's ever played CoC. You get the standard attributes for the most part (replacing Charisma for Appearance, and without the Education attribute).
Instead of Sanity, you get Rationality, which "reflects the character's carefully constructed worldview". Rationality is the ability of the character withstand challenges to his perceptions of reality.
There's several derived stats, including 'Trauma', which represent the amount of mental damage a character can take before having psychological strain; and 'mettle points', which can be spent to alter a specific check to the PCs' favor.

Social standing is another very important characteristic, and is rolled on a table (with two different categories: 'privileged' and 'disadvantaged' for minority groups; and further divided into 'industrialized cultures', 'agrarian cultures' and 'tribal cultures').
Social standing determines your standard of living, but also your 'class and credit', which reflects your access to money, to trust, and to networking. It will also have an effect on what kind of professional background a character can have (and thus what skills he'll have access to).

Skills are based on percentiles; everyone has a set of common skills. On top of this, you get a set of professional skills which you can put points into. Characters must also select places of origin, languages, religion, personal history and cultural background. It can also be important to determine a character's family ties (there's even an optional table of dark family secrets), and a character or their family will belong to a given 'circle of influence' (an "abstraction representing social networks and organizations" with which a PC routinely interacts). Sample circles include academic, bohemian, colonial, criminal, high society, Intelligence, martial, and occult. Later on in the book there's mechanics for working with circles of influence; for the time it takes when reaching out to people in your circles, for exchanges of favors, and more.

The book provides a number of templates for different professions, including artist, cleric, criminal, detective, dilettante, drifter, emissary, engineer, entertainer, explorer, fighter, herder, hunter, landlord, magus, mariner, merchant, miner, physician, reporter, scholar, scientist, scout, servant, solicitor, spy, thief, or tradesman.  Each profession will list some variations on type, common skills, professional skills, and special abilities.

Besides this, characters also select an essential Nature. These are archetypes like the every-man, outsider, scoundrel, sleuth, socialite, specialist, thrill-seeker or tough. They come with their own common and professional skills, and with a table for selecting or rolling a "drive" (what motivates the character to adventure).

Character age is also an important choice. Age determines a number of free extra skill points (the older you are, the more skill points you get) and determines the maximum number of skill points you can put into a single skill. Characters who are very young (children) or older than 40 get penalties for age.

Skills are all described in significant detail. Most skills start out based on a combination of two ability scores (for example, Sleight of Hand is a combination of DEX + CHA). There are rules for getting assistance from other characters, for augmenting skills, levels of success, dramatic skill sequences and more. There's also extensive rules for investigation. Note that these are not rules that hand-wave investigation or allow for some kind of storygaming 'manipulation of reality'.

The section on wealth and equipment is very detailed. It starts out with a list of international monetary exchange rates as of 1909! And it's quite thorough; I was surprised to learn that back then 1 Uruguayan Peso was worth $1.034 USD (nowadays its worth about $0.036 USD)!

In many campaigns, characters can work out their standard of living based entirely on social class, and there's rules for the costs of living beyond your means. There's also lists of sample earnings, costs of housing, clothing, tools, miscellaneous items, armor, travel costs, mounts and livestock, vehicles (with rules for vehicle traits and descriptions), weapons and ammo (again with traits and rules, including extensive lists of firearms by country of origin dating back about 40  years from the starting date of the campaign), and there's also rules for repairing and inventing equipment.

The chapter on game mechanics covers all types of incidentals, including keeping track of time, and the effects of aging. The section on attributes is fascinating because it includes a list of some of the most powerful people in each area at the time of the setting (so for example, William Howard Taft has the largest size score, Mary Pickford the most Charisma, Aleister Crowley the most Power).
There's also material on health and healing, and how to govern Drives and Bonds; note that with these latter two the mechanics are presented as entirely optional (in case the GM doesn't want to mechanize these fundamental aspects of roleplaying). There's material on acid, fire, poison, disease, radiation and many more sorts of conditions; and then of course the material on insanity.

With the latter, rationality works in that characters get temporary traumatic effects if they take damage to Rationality greater than their "Trauma" rating (a derived attribute). There are separate results of the type of trauma affecting the PC if the source of the trauma was Dread/Despair, or shock/awe, or Cosmic Terror. If in the process of making a horror check a character fumbles his roll, they gain a permanent new mental disorder. If their rationality ever hits zero, they become incurably mad.
So not terribly different from Sanity points in CoC, but with a couple of important differences: first, the detail and attention to the effects of failure, but second, that what you check is not always Rationality itself.  If you are faced with shock and awe, you roll on your Willpower; if you are faced with dread/despair, on your Fortitude, and if faced with Cosmic Terror you check your Rationality directly. In all cases, though, 'damage' is dealt to rationality.
Guidelines are provided for what type of horrible events require checks, plus the kind of check it would be and the rationality lost if failed. There's also guidelines for receiving treatment to recover from trauma.

The combat rules are quite detailed, and includes a large number of optional rules depending on how detailed you want your combat system to be.
The game has an interesting take on combat skills; instead of having specific skills (eg. 'shotgun', 'pistol', 'sword', etc), characters can be trained in a Fighting Method. So for example, a character who was a Texas Ranger could have a "Fighting Method (Ranger)" skill, which would encompass fighting with pistols, rifles, and shotguns. A Philippine "Moro" insurgent could have "Fighting Method (Moro)" which encompasses knives, sticks and grappling.  Characters using weapons that are not typical to their fighting style based on background or profession would have to roll those weapons at their basic level and could gain experience with those weapons as specific separate skills to the overall Fighting Method skill they have access to. There are optional rules for characters with a Fighting Method to get access to special bonus abilities (special moves, etc).

The magic section (which I will remind readers I had quite a lot to do with creating) divides the supernatural into two classifications: "Occult" and "Mythos". Occult magic is pretty much like how real-world magic functions in the sense that it is mostly internalized stuff that operates by changing the person who uses it or learns how to apply senses to making sophisticated changes in the environment or predicting developments to the degree that it seems to be control over coincidence. The sort of stuff that a skeptic could easily dismiss.
Mythos magic is the big full blown spells that typically open gates to Tentacle-town.

The book provides details for how you learn occult spells, with prerequisites to the occult skill level for the number of spells you can gain. There's guidelines for learning under a group or lodge, or learning from a text or a mentor.

Mythos magic, on the other hand, depends much less on study or occult skill level (though sometimes the occult skill can obviously still be relevant to obtaining the spell) and much more on one's willingness to give up some of one's own humanity in dark pacts with horrible entities. There's rules provided for making pacts with mythos entities, the strength of those pacts, the gifts they provide, and examples of the same.

Using spells that are connected to especially powerful entities, or using spells beyond one's ability level, can cause corruption. This requires a check, where failure will cause visible (negative) changes in the person's appearance.

Casting most spells require a cost of Essence points (a derived attribute), and also rationality points. So certainly, just as it should be in a game where the Mythos exists, magic of any kind is challenging and dangerous. Spells also require a willpower roll to succeed, with chances of criticals (that reduce the costs) or fumbles (which can result in unpredictable mishaps).

There's details on dozens of spells, of varying levels of power. In additional to these, there's also some Rituals to create objects and the like.

It should be noted that these aren't nearly as based on real 1900s magic as Lion & Dragon's magic system is based on real medieval magic; it's just not possible for it to be. The emphasis of the system is based more on it's playability for pulp/mythos gaming rather than for precise historical recreation of the sort of stuff Aleister Crowley or the Golden Dawn got up to.
And that's probably OK. A choice needed to be made and it was more important that Raiders be, first and foremost, what it was supposed to be: a mythos game first. But all that said, it still has a much more authentic feel to it than standard CoC has.

There's a big section on occult-texts, which exemplifies this approach.  You get descriptions and details of some famous occult texts, including classic (invented) mythos books like the Necronomicon or the Vermis Mysteris, but also real-life occult books like the Book of the Law or the Goetia. Then you also get a big set of rules and tables to make new occult texts for your campaign, with lots of practical guidance to make the process easy.

There's also guidelines for creating Occult Paths, that create a framework for Occultist PCs and NPCs. These include generic paths, like "Demonology", "Exorcism", and "Hermeticism"; and archetypes like "Occult Fraud", "Reformed Occultist", and "Occult Detective".

The section on Mythos creatures is a pretty straightforward bestiary; listing creatures minor and major, with details as to their traits, motivations, and some quote from a mythos story where they're featured. The minor entities have stats. The major ones do not (since destroying them would really be beyond the scope of human ability), but instead have a great deal more information, mostly along the lines of "unreliable testimony", different bullet-points of lore that aren't all going to be right (and it's up to the GM to decide which are and which aren't).

The next chapter naming itself "Story Creation" doesn't fill one with confidence, except that the very first lines in that chapter firmly state that the default mode of Raiders is to play in the Sandbox style. This is something very different than what you normally do with Call of Cthulhu.  CoC has some truly awesome adventures, but most of them are more or less linear; even the most open of the great CoC adventures try to lead the PCs along. There's lots of guidance for how to make a sandbox campaign, by focusing on timelines and creating a central threat, and dropping plot hooks along for PCs to investigate as they want. There's also guidelines for structuring adventures.

The books appendix contains a bunch of 'sourcebook' material. This includes stuff like the hierarchy of 1910 police departments; distances, times and fares for trolleys in New England, seaport distances in miles, average durations of sea voyages, and travel times by train.  The last page before the index talks about some of the major influences on the design of the game, noting some of the people (including yours truly) who helped shape Raiders into what it is.

On the whole, I think it's fair to say this is a fine product. However, this is not the culmination of what Raiders of R'lyeh has to offer. Instead, that would be the Raiders of R'lyeh Gamemaster's Guide and Core Rules, the more complete product of almost double the size, which I'll be reviewing in the near future to explain what else it contains.


Neerup Acorn + Image Virginia

Friday 13 April 2018

Thursday 12 April 2018

Classic Rant: How Random Tables IMPROVE the Immersive Quality of Setting

GOOD random tables end up enhancing, rather than taking away from, the quality of a Living World. Combined with GM interpretation (in the same way a GM would interpret any other setting material that didn't originate from his own thoughts, adapting it to fit his particular campaign), the quality of random tables can create a level of connection to the non-active consciousness that makes the world seem more alive.

The thing is, a setting can't be a living world if it's operating ONLY at the level of the GM's conscious mind and direct thoughts. Not only would the surface level of consciousness be unable to catalog every detail of the world or every characteristic of the npcs/creatures/things in it, but the experience of it from the GM's point of view would be more like an automaton than an organism.

So random tables help the process of that switch, of the GM's own Immersion INTO his living world. They're not exactly necessary, but they can be tremendously useful, for the same reason that randomness in character creation is useful.

Have you ever seen a player, playing in point-buy or other mostly non-random systems (even D&D from 3e onward), make a character, and then you realize that this character aside from some mechanical differences is basically the same guy they were playing last time, and the time before that? 
Sometimes they may even choose a different class, and yet you'll still get that feeling!

This is because it can often be hard for people to slip fully out of the level of their conscious mind; even if they're trying at all. The Imagination is a tricky thing, and it's easy to choose the path of least resistance, and what that leaves you with is a sense of a character OR a world that's quite flat.

A random table, a well-crafted random table (or other random methods) can help with this sort of thing specifically by introducing an X-factor; something that won't come out of one's immediate intellect. Add that factor, and then figure out how you can accommodate it into your world, and suddenly it forces a level of creativity you wouldn't have had before.

Random tables are a motiveless, neutral tool for bringing out the inner life of a setting.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Poker + Stanislaw Winter Flake

(Originally posted January 4, 2016)