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Friday 31 August 2018

Big Study Proves Most Viewers of Youtube D&D Shows Treat it as a SHOW

So over on this blog, a dude did something very interesting. He did a survey of nearly 2700 people who watch D&D livestreams, in the style of Critical Role and such.  And the results were very interesting, and confirm what I've been saying for some time.

The study covers a number of different points, but the essence of what has to do with vindicating my arguments is this: over 83% of the people who answered the survey said that the main reason they watch the show is because they like the cast members (that is to say, the ACTORS who perform on the show).

They're watching these shows as a Soap Opera or TV Drama, not as a game in action. And the reaction I talked about in the video I linked above, to when the RULES caused a character to die created a backlash, is evidence of that.  There are certainly people who play D&D who also watch these livestreams, and people who didn't play D&D that started playing it because of these livestreams, but a very significant number of viewers do NOT watch these livestreams to see D&D being played. They watch them the way other people would watch a drama on the CW or a Reality Show on Fox.

Other important points:

Note how the vast majority of viewers don't give a crap about die rolls.

See that virtually NONE of the viewers (0.4%) want to see actual published adventures being played. And 40% are fine with the stuff being done on the show being stuff that will never be published.

So yeah, the data is backing what I'd already surmised months back.

And again, it's fine that there's a whole new hobby of watching people do D&D-based Improv Theater. But those people have nothing to do with the D&D Hobby I'm a part of.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Quiete + Gawith's Commonwealth

Thursday 30 August 2018

Classic Rant: Cults of Chaos (the Best Supplement I Ever Wrote)

This is a review, sort of. More aptly, you could say it's "Designer Notes", for my latest rpg product: "Cults of Chaos". Obviously, I have a complete and total bias as the author (or more correctly, co-author, as you will see) of this book; so take this review totally and blatantly for what it is. I hope it won't come out as me shilling for my product and nothing else; though obviously I want you to buy it. More importantly, in this 'review' I want to give you a better idea of what's in it, and help you to know IF this is a product you would find useful. So, that said, let's go!

Cults of Chaos is an OSR supplement. In theory, it is a supplement for my setting book, Dark Albion. In practice, I think that you could very easily make use of the material here not only in Dark Albion, or in any OSR product, but indeed in any fantasy or historical-occult RPG where you are looking to make use of the sort of thing this book offers. And what it offers, in brief, is everything you need to create detailed and realistic malevolent cults for a medieval-type setting (where the 'medieval' in this case is more authentically medieval than you usually get in Fantasy RPG products).

Cults of Chaos is a softcover book, written by myself (the RPGPundit) and Dominique Crouzet. Published by DOM publications. It is about 90 pages long, with a very nice full-color cover and back cover. The interior is black and white, and absolutely riddled with impressive illustrations, mostly of authentic medieval and renaissance artwork. I should mention that all the layout and illustration selection was done by Dominique Crouzet.

Cults of Chaos is designed for a very specific purpose: to create complex and detailed cults, of varying sizes, for a historical/fantasy campaign. In the introduction, there's some advice on how you could make this a central feature of a campaign: by making the PCs a group of "inquisitors", working for a religious order or a secular authority, sent to investigate (and if necessary to destroy) groups of cultists, heretics, dark sorcery, demons, evil magical humanoids, witches, or other such menaces. Of course, the material in the book could also be used in a more general campaign, making use of cults whenever you wanted to have them show up in your setting.

The Chaos Cults generated in the book are highly unique. I think you could use the methods in Cult of Chaos a hundred times and never come up with exactly the same type of group. As you might expect if you already know my predilections in gaming (and game design), this is done largely by the use of random tables, which are arranged in a process of of multiple steps to create an entire cult from scratch.

By page 4, we get right into the meat of the book with the Chaos Cult Generation System. The first step, and one that marks the difference between this product and what others might be like, is to determine (by choice or random roll) the Social Class of the cult. This is an important element of design: if the goal is to create credible sects, in an authentic medieval environment, there needs to be a big difference between the structure and form of a peasant cult, vs. that of a city cult, vs. that of a priestly cult, vs. that of an aristocratic cult.

Next you determine the size of the cult. Again, it's by random table but of course any DM who wishes could simply choose an option at any stage rather than rolling it; so assume that's the case in all future tables (consider it the designer's 'permission' granted to anyone who has the book!). Sizes can vary from 1-2 cultists all the way to a sect with over 100 followers (though in the case of the latter, there will be a much smaller 'inner circle' who will be those who know the truth).

Then, you determine if the cult is exposed; that is, if people in the area of the cult's operations realize that there is a cult present, or if they simply think there's "strange goings on" but don't suspect the truth.

After this, you roll to determine the basic structure of the cult; there's a different table for the structure depending on each social class. Spread over the different classes, there's over thirty basic options. Examples include: a 'fake cult' that isn't supernatural at all (just a con job or criminal activity in disguise), a witches' coven, a cult based on some 'old god' of heathen origins, a religious heresy pretending to be a devotional movement, a cult that venerates the elves (which in Dark Albion are like a cross between the Unseelie Faeries and Melinboneans; in a non-Albion game where Elves are a PC race you'd probably want to rebrand this as some kind of Outsider cult), a cult based on some kind of powerful chaos artifact, a cult of the Frog-men (which could be adapted to some other kind of demonic race), a death-cult, a cult of rogue magisters dabbling with Chaos demons, a lycanthrope cult (of the Rat-god or Wolf-god), a demonic cult of hedonists, a cult based on the secret rituals of a trade guild or merchant company, a chaos cult infiltrating the priesthood, a sex cult, a Star Cult serving a race of extraterrestrial (or 'far realm' type extraplanar) beings, a cult used as a front for the collection of powerful relics, a cult of alchemists seeking immortality, a cult seeking to influence kingdom politics, a poisoners' cult, a cult of aristocratic ladies, or a cult of monster-collectors.

Each type is described in basic detail, enough to explain the basic premise and any special details. This includes who is likely to run the cult (and their expected level; note that this book presumes a setting where the average level of NPCs is fairly low, if you're playing in a very high-powered world, you'll want to amp this up a bit), their most basic motives, and core activities. Cults based on old religions, heresies, or other broad categories have sub-tables that will specify more particular deities or philosophies (these are all amply described in the appendix at the back of the book). Some entries (like a hedonist cult) will have sub-tables listing the possible main interests of specific versions of this type of cult. The alchemist's cult has a full set of mechanics describing the process of attempting to discover and create the Elixir of Immortality, including the risky and gruesome side-effects.

After you've got the basic make-up of your cult, you can roll up some peripherals. You have tables to determine the Cult's secret lair. You also have tables to determine the cult's special resources. These are both organized by social class. A city cult might be based in a local gang hideout, or the storehouse of a city merchant; and might have a group of street urchins in their employ as spies, or maybe the protection of a magistrate or guild leader. A priestly cult might be based in a nunnery's offices or the bishop's manor, and have resources like a large church treasury (mainly in religious valuables) or a stable of undead they've collected from the graveyards.

There's also a large table of "Chaos Cult Complications". These are twists to the situation that are going on when the PCs arrive on the scene. For example, the cult might have been discovered by a cleric who they then murdered; or there may be a group of criminals (a city gang or country bandits) who have unknowingly targeted cult resources without realizing the cult's true nature. Or maybe a cult member recently died of natural causes, and his estate may contain evidence of cult-activities that the sect is desperate to get or destroy before these come to light. Or maybe the cult is being manipulated by a demon into opening a gateway into the infernal realms. Or it could be that a former (now deceased) cult member has gambled away most of the cult's immediate funds, and they're now desperate to get money quickly to further their plans. Those are only a few examples; the table is two and a half pages long.

After this, there are a number of optional selections to help flesh out the life of a chaos cult. There's random tables for recognition methods among members, for cultist taboos and obligations, for cult rituals (with sub-tables regarding the timing, dress, and ceremonies), and a table of random reasons a cultist may have joined the cult.

Next, we get to another major section of the book: Mutations. Now, if you've played Warhammer, or Gamma World, or even some adventures in Lamentations of the Flame Princess, or Call of Cthulhu, you might think you know what you're getting here. But the Cults of Chaos mutation tables are very different. They aren't "Lovecraftian". They aren't about giving you superpowers either (though a few have certain advantages). They aren't (mostly) about slime or goo or the type of body-horror that you see some LotFP books get all excited about. Instead, they are a collection of changes to not just body, but also mind or spirit, that are inspired by medieval ideas. Medieval stories, legends, fears, superstitions or even art (you know, that strange or macabre art that you see, especially in the period between the black death and the dawn of the renaissance).

There's clear guidelines for mutations, where you can get them or how, what you can do about them. Generally speaking, it has to do with exposure to pure Chaos. So demons, chaotic substances, very powerful chaos artifacts, elves or extraplanar emanations. Some of these guidelines are specific to the type of setting that Dark Albion is about; so they would make sense in a medieval authentic society but might not be as significant if you're running a game in Greyhawk.

Mutations are divided into three categories: minor, moderate or severe. A GM can determine that a given exposure will create one of these types of mutations or he can roll randomly to determine severity. Each list also has a random table for rolling up the mutation (though of course the GM can always pick if he prefers).

Some mutations (particularly in the 'minor' category) can be relatively easily hidden: things like 'obesity' could probably be explained away, "small wings" can be hidden, and 'stench' is very easy to hide in a society where everyone stinks. One of these types of mutations is the classic "witch mark". Other things might have no obvious immediate visible traces but require change of lifestyle: a poison kiss, for example, or blood-thirst.

On the other hand, more severe mutations will often be very obvious: gigantism, large horns, changing color, claws, or cat-eyes, or serpent hair. To say nothing of getting a second head, possibly in the form of an animal's. Some of the mutations may initially seem a blessing, like "hideous regeneration", which allows you to miraculously heal, but gradually turns you into a monster. Some of the Severe mutations simply transform you into an inhuman monster of different varieties.

There are a couple of very special mutations: "Haunting Intelligence" and "Familiars". "Haunting intelligences" are possessing-spirits of a sort, based on medieval ideas of planetary-spirits (from medieval astrology) and their relation to what we today would call insanities. The Haunting Intelligence that only you can hear will give you certain gifts, but also struggle with you to try to fulfill certain obsessions, and in your moments of weakness (or if you are just mentally weak to begin with) you will lose control and go mad with what the spirit wants.

"Familiars" are a much more medieval twist on the D&D version of these. In D&D it's assumed that the familiar is under the magic-user's control, and is a kind of friendly animal companion. In Cults of Chaos, familiars go back to being what they were meant to be: 'demons' (chaos-spirits) that are in the body of an animal. They give power and aid to a magician or cultist, but are fundamentally there to try to corrupt the mortal toward chaos, to manipulate and control them.

The section on "Running Chaos-Cult Adventures" has a suggested step-by-step process for how you can make a cult-centered adventure with little to no pain. After creating your cult with the previous rules, and picking or inventing the important stats, you move on to the material in this section. It includes a table to determine the cults objectives/activities, a table of 'plot hooks' that could be used to get the PCs involved in the situation: stuff like an abduction, strange goings-on like animal mutilations (or mutations!), a request for help from the local church, supernatural fires, the desecration of a holy site, etc.

The chapter goes on to give guidelines for how to make up clues. Or more accurately, to set up scenarios where various potential clues could be obtained. There's a decently-sized table with random clues you could integrate into an adventure. Then there's some optional but interesting rules for reactions to PCs interacting with NPCs to try to obtain clues or information. I'll mention that Dominique Crouzet wrote this part, so I'm not totally sure about how he came about it, but to me it's reminiscent and seems built on a combination the standard (old-school) D&D reaction-table mechanic and the classic "rumors" tables of many old adventures. But with added possible results; PC investigations may result in the cult trying to seek out retaliation, or the development of a new cult activity. There are further tables detailing NPC reactions, based on whether or not they're cultist. Cultists may react in various ways to interrogation; as well as NPCs. There's also a decent D20 table for "petty or useless rumors" to act as your standard red-herring in the investigation process.

There's also a list of some fleshed-out NPC cultists. Not with stats, but with backstory. There's 20 of these, ranging across the various social classes: you have a one-armed shepherd, a cobbler seeking revenge on the church, a housewife frustrated at her life who seeks out hedonism and perversion (but who has now been jilted as a lover by the cult leader), a pretentious defrocked monk who is now the second-in-command of a heretical movement, a duplicitous and arrogant knight who cares only for himself, and many more.

Then there are also some statblocks for standard NPCs: tables for random encounters in the different social classes, with appropriate stats (the stats being as generically OSR as possible, with options for ascending/descending AC and to-hit bonuses or ThAC0). There are stats for zero-level commoners, cultists of lv.1-3, Fighting men lv.1-3, Magic-Users lv.1-3, Professionals lv.1-3, or Thugs lv.1-3.

The next section features the dungeons, and aside from being pretty awesome, it's got one other fairly unique feature from the design perspective. Most of the sections in the book were almost entirely exclusively written by either myself or Dominique Crouzet, with only a few slight suggestions from the other person (you can find out who wrote which part in the "credits" section at the last page of the book). But this section featured the most collaboration between the two of us. The main bulk of it was done by Dominique Crouzet; he created the visually amazing dungeon maps (just as he did in the equally-cool dungeons in the Dark Albion book), and the general outline of the theme and contents of these dungeons. I provided advice to fill in some of the parts. 

There are three dungeons in Cults of Chaos, one each dedicated to low-level, mid-level and high-level play. They're all fairly large, but able to be run in as little as one long session, or two or three short/medium sessions. Of course, this depends on how slow-going your PCs are in dungeons. The Low-level dungeon features a cult of hedonists, under a building in a town. The hedonists are up to some pretty weird and hideous things. Note that while there's some suggestions of salaciousness, nothing here is really explicit content; this isn't one of those types of books.

The mid-level dungeon is the buried ruin of an ancient Arcadian (think 'Romans' for those who haven't got Dark Albion) temple. It's been rediscovered and put into operation by a cult of the undead. There's some interesting mechanics and twists in this one, but I won't comment on them here to avoid spoilers.

The high-level dungeon is an ancient Elven religious site with a number of powerful magical traps. As with the others, an evil cult has taken charge of the temple and is up to no good. Elves may or may not be present.

This brings us to the appendices. Appendix I is all about the Elves of Dark Albion. They were described in broad terms in the main Dark Albion book as very scary ancient eldritch beings, but here you get a much more detailed look at them. You get the whole story of the ancient Elven civilization that ruled Dark Albion thousands of years ago, how they became decadent and were overthrown by their human (Cymri) slaves. That much was covered so far. But in Cults of Chaos you also get their (very broadly stated) stats, their magical armor and weapons (including the soul-stealing swords that the elven aristocrats wield), magic items, the typical makeup of an Elven raiding party and their mounts, and their special powers. The point here was to make elves much more inhuman than what a regular D&D player would expect, and for even an encounter with a single elf to be enormously dangerous to a low-level party.
There's also information on what happens to those humans who are taken by the elves through the gates in their ancient stone circles to the Fae realms.

Appendix 2 is a large (22 page) guide to the major sects of chaos cults. 20 different sects are covered here, detailing what makes them tick, their history, their typical symbols, their rituals and practices. Among those detailed are literal demon-worship cults, the bacchae, the blood god, various heretics (cathars, lollards, general gnostics, and others), the cult of Eros and Venus, the Frog-cult, witchcraft, the cults of local old-deities (the green man, Mannanan, the hawk), Woden, and more. Two of the cults have some additional game material: the wizard-cult of Mercury details procedures that chaotic magisters can undertake to obtain additional magical knowledge or artifacts from demon-patrons, and various new chaos magic items are detailed.

Then there's the Star Cult. Typically managed by priests or magisters observing the heavens, followers of star cults get in to connect with 'star-gods' from distant planetary bodies through magical rituals. These incomprehensible beings engage them in collecting specimens for them from Earth, particularly humans (and often just human brains, removed and specially preserved). In exchange, they offer star cultists wondrous devices and physical and mental powers. The nature of these objects and powers are detailed in their entry in this appendix.

Appendix 3 is called "Sorcery, Visions and Chaos". It contains a mix of additional material. First, a description of places of power, either holy (Lawful) or places of greater Chaos power, and how they enhance or dampen certain types of spellcasting. Some places of great chaotic power can cause other unusual effects, creating a great risk of spells potentially going haywire in unusual ways when cast there. There's also material on cross-planar locations, those places where the veils between the worlds are frayed, and the risk of 'chaos backlash' with wild effects as a spellcaster loses control.

Also, there's a section on visions, which can come to player characters if they sleep in places of chaos, drink certain drugs used by cultists, inhale fumes, etc. This includes a d20 table of random visions.

The book closes out by giving a handy "cult design sheet" for a GM to record all the details of a cult in an organized fashion, short NPC stat-sheets for keeping track of cultists, and finally a Dark Albion character sheet for the Appendix P system.

So by now the goal of Cults of Chaos should be clear: it's a sourcebook with everything a GM needs to introduce a chaotic cult (or chaotic cults) into a fantasy campaign, particularly cults that have a strong element of medieval authenticity. There's tons of stuff in here that can be cribbed, in part or in full, for just about any fantasy campaign. Most of it is strongly system-neutral, and you could say setting-malleable. You definitely do not need the Dark Albion book, much less to run a Dark Albion campaign, in order to use Cults of Chaos. Though of course, I'd love it if you did get Dark Albion and did run a Dark Albion campaign.

If you're interested in putting a more medieval bent into your fantasy setting, or to run an investigative dark-fantasy kind of campaign or adventure, or are looking for some cool tables and rules for generating a group of fantasy villains, or just some very different mutation tables, rules for alchemy, some chaos magic, weird effects, visions, a different takes on spirits or familiars, or even some creepy alien artifacts or low-grade psionics for your OSR (or other fantasy RPG) campaign, then Cults of Chaos will definitely be worth your while.


Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Rhodesian + Image Latakia

(Originally Posted November 4, 2016)

Wednesday 29 August 2018

Video: Venger, You Ignorant Slut

My Classy Rebuttal to Venger's Response to my last video, on the topic of just how the OSR handles random chance and player character agency.

Check it out!


Currently Smoking: Neerup Egg + Image Virginia

Tuesday 28 August 2018

Next Issue Delayed

I'm sorry to say, but due to a major hard-drive crash at Precis Intermedia, the newest issue of RPGPundit Presents has been delayed, probably for a week. 


But hey, while you're at it, why not click that link above and take a look at our past issues, in case you missed anything you'd find interesting? With 44 issues already published, there's a huge wealth of material there for your OSR game, whether it's medieval-authentic, gonzo, or something in between!


Currently Smoking: Neerup Poker + Country Doctor

Monday 27 August 2018

Pictures From Uruguay: Street Market

Today, I give you a bunch of pictures from the Tristan Narvaja street market, which is every Sunday morning/afternoon in Montevideo, and is only a short walk from  my house.  This market originally went along Tristan Narvaja street, from 18 de Julio (the main downtown street) to where Tristan Narvaja ended, some 7 blocks down. But later it expanded in lateral directions and today it sprawls over around a 20 block area, making it one of the largest open-air street markets in the world.  It has a large number of food products (a farmer's market), antiques, books, clothing, and these days just about everything else.

Here's one of various stalls with pets and pet products. This one has some pretty standard birds, but there are some stalls that have far more exotic birds (including ducks, turkeys, chicken, but also parrots and other semi-tropical birds).  There's also stalls with snakes, spiders, axolotls, turtles, cats and puppies obviously, and once I even saw a monkey.

Here's some antiques.

Here's a bunch of quartz, amethyst, and other crystals. These are all native to Uruguay, which has some of the biggest supplies of these semi-precious crystals in the world. They're ridiculously cheap here. Having known what these sold for in new-age shops in Canada, I often thought that if you could somehow come back to north america with a suitcase full of these you'd be able to pay off your ticket here.

Here's a view that gives you an idea how big this is. Note: this is one of the Side-Streets, it's not even the main market street.

Here's a mixed stall of various junk for sale. Including some old bialetti-style coffee makers (which are really good, new). The main street tends to have the best antiques and is the most orderly. Then the farther away you go from the main street, the more disorganized the market becomes, until eventually its just local people doing what amounts to a garage sale of any old stuff they have to sell:

And it keeps getting more post-apocalyptic as you go:

You can even buy furniture here:

Anyways, that's it for today. If you ever visit Montevideo, be sure to be there on a Sunday to check out the street market, because it's a really fantastic time to spend quite a few hours.


Currently Smoking: Moretti Rhodesian + Country Doctor 

Sunday 26 August 2018

Wild West Campaign: The Kidnapping

Our game this week began with a brief shootout in the Oriental Saloon, where deputy town marshal One-Armed Kelly got his brains blown out by an old rival from Leadtown.

This really couldn't have come at a worse time because his boss, Kid Taylor, was campaigning for John Clum and the Republican party to try to win him the post of Town Mayor on a "law and order" ticket. Their opponent was Crazy Miller, who was running for the Democrats and had Johnny Behan (who had just made himself county sheriff) as his campaign manager.  Behan was distracted on account of having been thrown out by the famed singer Sadie Marcus after she caught him in bed with her best friend, but Miller was still leading in the polls.

This was causing some distress to the Republicans, in part because Crazy Miller had previously agreed to a secret pact with them where he'd throw the race. Only, he wasn't giving any indication of wishing to do so. He was making campaign promises with the best of them, and had pegged crack lawman Jeff Young as his pick for town marhsal when he wins.

No one was more upset by this than Wyatt Earp. He'd been double crossed in the last elections for the county seat by Behan, who had promised him the Sheriff's badge.  When Jeff Young confided in him that he thought Miller was running to win, Earp actually kicked down the door to Miller's room in Fry's Boarding House, and threatened him that if John Clum didn't win the election, Earp would consider Miller his enemy. And he didn't want Earp for an enemy.

The truth is Crazy Miller was toying with the idea of winning, because he's crazy. But Other Miller quickly realized that Crazy was being crazy; if he ran and won, he'd need to be a toady for Old Man Clanton and the Cowboys or they'd kill him. But if he just resigned from the race, they might kill him too. Fortunately, he came up with a plan. He arranged for a couple of men from Tuscon to fake Crazy Miller's kidnapping. Other Miller was getting married two days before the election, and he reckoned that just after the wedding party would be a great moment for Crazy Miller to get himself kidnapped; he convinced Crazy that this was the best way out of this mess.

The wedding went off without a hitch, and so did the "kidnapping". While Other Miller headed off to the Las Vegas springs for his honeymoon, Crazy Miller was rushing off through the desert with his escorts.  No one else knew this was planned. So naturally, when the town figured out (a day before the election) that the Democratic candidate was missing, accusatory eyes turned to the Republicans. The cowboys came this close on two occasions to starting a shootout with Kid Taylor, and Wyatt Earp was threatened too. John Clum was only kept from retribution because even the cowboys knew he was too straight-laced to have possibly had anything at all to do with this.

John Clum won the election. In spite of everyone thinking Crazy Miller was missing, possibly (probably?) dead, Clum only won by 72 votes.

While every single cowboy was searching for Crazy Miller (or his corpse), Clum got straight to work. He reaffirmed Kid Taylor as town marshal and hired on Jeff Young as his new deputy. He also made sure Virgil and Morgan Earp would help keep the peace in town as well, and keep an eye on Kid Taylor in case any cowboys were out for blood.

Curiously, Young's first action as  deputy didn't involve cowboys. Instead, in involved Doc Holliday. He'd gotten into a big fight with Big Nose Kate, who wanted them to leave Tombstone (she was worried for Doc's health, and expecting the town to descend to violence soon). Now he was wandering drunk (much more drunk than usual) through the streets of Tombstone, threatening random people. It was only a matter of time until he killed someone, or got himself shot to death by cowboys.

Now Jeff Young is amazingly fast. And Doc Holliday was amazingly drunk. It would be a very close fight. Jeff was trying his utmost to talk Doc down, but of course Doc has a death wish on the very best of days, and Young was someone who maybe, just maybe, could actually grant it to him. Fortunately, Kid Taylor saw what was going down and rushed to get Wyatt Earp who was just down the street. Just as Holliday was about to draw on Young, Earp jumped Doc from behind and wrestled the gun out of his hand.  They put Doc in the drunk tank for two days, by which time he'd calmed down. He decided to leave town for a while, heading to Charlton for a poker game.

Other Miller was in Las Vegas, relaxing, but he got news that the town was going nuts over Crazy Miller's disappearance.  Not wanting some kind of massacre to happen, and wanting to avoid arousing suspicion at the same time, he told his people to stay calm and take no action until he returned from his honeymoon, and to give himself extra cover, he hired a Pinkerton agent to try to "find" Crazy Miller.

The Pinkerton man arrived from Tuscon, and quickly started making inquiries. True to his company's reputation, he was leaving no stone unturned, and was annoying a hell of a lot of people in the process.

Crazy Miller arrived safe & sound in Bisbee, where he sent word to Tombstone that he was alive. He concocted a story about having been kidnapped and having killed his captors in the desert several days away from civilization (far enough away that they wouldn't try to go find the bodies). Then, in a fit of Crazy, he decided to add that he knew they'd received $500 each by someone, he claimed not to know who.

Naturally, this created quite the stir in town, as everyone suspected everyone else of having paid for Miller's kidnapping. The Cowboys suspected Kid Taylor, or Wyatt Earp, or both of them together. Earp and Taylor suspected each other, or possibly even the Cowboys (on the assumption that maybe Miller had told them he was resigning from the race). No one suspected Miller himself. Well, almost no one.

Crazy Miller was heading back on the stagecoach from Tuscon, where he ran into Bat Masterson, who'd been doing some business for the Oriental. The two were traveling in the coach with a couple of ladies, and at a slow turn they heard someone calling from outside the coach "halt". The driver, a surly sort said "this coach halts for nothing!" and sped up. Soon shots were being fired. Bat and Crazy started firing back when they noticed that the driver had been hit.  Crazy Miller tried to climb up to the driver's seat but fell off the cart. Bat had better luck and took the reins but with four desperados firing at him he couldn't stop to save Crazy.

Crazy was injured with a bad sprain on his ankle, and one of the robbers was right above him on horseback. He wasn't wearing a red sash, but Crazy thought he recognized him as a Cowboy. He recognized Miller too, and so spared him and rode off.

News of the robbery reached the town, and Virgil Earp formed a posse with his two brothers, Kid Taylor and Jeff Young. Sheriff Behan insisted on coming to make sure nothing happened to Crazy Miller. They got to the way-station where they learned the driver was dead and Crazy Miller was missing. Bat joined them and they headed up to find Miller. Bat figured he might be dead, but they found him mostly unharmed, though pretty cross at Bat.

Kid Taylor and Jeff Young got Miller back to town while the others tracked the criminals, but unfortunately wouldn't be able to find the robbers, only arresting a guy who sold them fresh horses. For his own (crazy) reasons, Crazy Miller didn't reveal that he'd recognized one of the thieves, or that they were Cowboys who were in disguise. That last note was curious because the Cowboys almost never committed their crimes in disguise, and certainly never hiding their trademark red sashes.

The Pinkerton interviewed Crazy Miller, catching him in a couple of inconsistencies. He gave his final report to Other Miller, making it clear that while he didn't have enough evidence at the moment to prove anything, he strongly suspected that either Crazy Miller or Other Miller himself had arranged the kidnapping. However, he proved his company's confidentiality by assuring Miller that the Pinkertons didn't share information from their cases with anyone.  The Millers were very impressed with the Pinkerton's expert detective skills, and agreed that they'd be likely to hire them on in the future.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Egg + Gawith's Navy Flake 

Saturday 25 August 2018

Video Review: Player's Handbook Like a Fucking Boss

Today, in an extra bonus video for the week, I present to you my review of Venger Satanis' "Player's Handbook Like a Fucking Boss".

Check it out:

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

Friday 24 August 2018

Classic Rant: New School Gamers Playing Their First Old School Game

I have for some time now been a regular guest-GM at a local fortnightly gaming event. Since Uruguay did not have a gaming scene in the old-school era (the earliest edition to really arrive when there was a meaningful community of gamers for it was 2e, and only very late in its history) and since most of the attendees at the gaming event are young (too young to have even been around for late 2e), for a large number of those attending who are not novice players, the D&D they know is 3rd edition (and now 5e, of course). 

Now, I've been running an ongoing floating campaign of Dark Albion. Every time I attend, my table is open and I don't reserve seats, so it's the first six or seven people to sit down that get to play (my table is always swamped pretty quickly); this means there are returning players and there's also always new players that got to the table fast enough to join in, and the makeup of the party is different each night.

Almost everyone who is playing for the first time in a given session are either total newbies to RPGs or they've only played 3e/5e. These new players are usually totally freaked out at the notion of playing a D&D character with an average of 2-4hp (or maybe as little a 1, or in theory a max of 9 if they have a +3 Con bonus). Realizing that a single hit might kill them, and learning that healing magic is super-scarce (compared to 3e) and there's no resurrection totally shocks them, and I can see the gears turning in their head when they start as to whether they're really going to have a good time with such a 'weak' character.

But by the end of the session, everyone is hooked. 

On the previous Friday session, I had a couple of women newbies (both former 3e players) who were totally surprised by how 'exciting' it was. They joined my table because they're part of Uruguay's fairly huge "Lords of Olympus" fan club, and wanted the chance to play a game (even if it wasn't LoO) with the guy who wrote it, but neither were really D&D fans. They loved that Dark Albion is a 'more interesting' world to play in than the generic-fantasy worlds they'd seen before, they liked the medieval authenticity, they liked the "inquisitor campaign" focus on rooting out chaos and the roleplay opportunities that an investigative-style game provided. But in terms of action one of the things they were most nervous about, but ended up most liking was the 'thrill' of knowing how dangerous everything was for their characters. They both came away agreeing that 'regular D&D' (as they knew it) was "too easy" and that this (old-school) style was way more fun.

This week, one of the two was there again and she was quick to come play. In one session, she'd already dramatically upper her strategic thinking, resource management, and leadership qualities in the party. She was an absolute boss (it helped that her character was a cleric, with all the social influence and benefits that class gets in the Albion setting). And as it happened, the whole rest of the party this time were newbies, and she was instrumental in assuring them that having 1-4 hit points was going to be freaking awesome.


Currently Smoking: Missouri Meerschaum + Gawith's Virginia Flake

(Originally Posted October 29, 2016)

Thursday 23 August 2018

Video: Your Favorite D&D Race Sucks (Unless it's Human)

Yes, time for another video; and today I present a fairly radical argument about non-human PCs in D&D:


Currently Smoking: Mastro De Paja Rhodesian + Image Virginia

Wednesday 22 August 2018

DCC Campaign Update: Sami's Heart Still Belongs to Space Bear

In our last session the PCs had entered the Death Fortress of the Cyber-Grandma, and had gotten away with their lives and the contents of her vast treasury. But they failed to get the Holy Wafer, which they supposedly need to even the odds with whatever awaits them in the Crown of Creation.


-"Animal summoning is like the really shitty animal-cruelty version of Holy Sanctuary!"

-Blitzkrieg pilots the team through the Cyborg-Grandma's explosive drones, which look like painted birds.

-"We have too many people on this goddamn ship."
"No, I think it's fine. Please?"
"They don't mean you, Lenny."

-"Does the Death Fortress have a self-destruct?"
"Why the hell would it have that? Do you also think it has a tiny exhaust port that would blow up the whole base if you fired a missile into?"

-"Marty, what kind of defenses can we expect when we go for your grandma?"
"Well, there's supposed to be a one-headed dragon.."
"What the hell does that mean? Why would it be called a one-headed dragon?!"
"Maybe the name is meant to give you a false sense of security, and it has several heads?"
"I don't see how that makes a difference."
"If you had to fight a 9-headed dragon, you'd know the difference."

-"You're probably just going waste all your share when you get to Fuck Station Aleph, Marty."
"No! I'm going to invest my money!"
"On what, gambling?"
"Hey, I'll have you know I'm a boss at online Sabacc."

-"Lenny what's taking you so long?"
"Nothing.. it's fine."
"I'm going down there..."
"NO! Just.. wait a second..."

-Lenny slaughtered the orange mutant trader and tried to cover the dismembered corpse with a tarp when the PCs went down to check it out.
"Oh Lenny."

-Meanwhile, on the sun, Sami has been drinking heavily the last couple of days. Roman wanders into the bar and wakes her. He's wearing the Comfy Slippers.

-Lenny contacts Sami.
"Where are you guys?!"
"We're on a ship with a guy named Blitzkrieg."
"Wait.. is space bear there?"
"Did he say anything about me?"

-Sami says goodbye to Mongo, who she leaves in Korean Jesus' office.
"What? No. You can not leave him here! Korean Jesus has too much work!"
"Sorry, I don't speak Korean."
"I am speaking common!"

-"Hey Republican Jesus, do you know where Captain Harry is?"
"No ma'am. I don't really hang out much with him. But not because he's gay or nothing. I ain't got anything against that, more women for the rest of us!"
"Yeah, you're really progressive."
"Hey, Vizi's a queer and he's my friend!"

-"I'm trying to teleport to Larry."
"Sorry, Lenny!"
"The catboy is influencing you."

-Lenny manages to use his saint-power to summon up a large cooking pot, which he plans to use to cook a stew out of the orange mutant's remains.

-Sami teleports onto the Superfly II, and meets Laquanda.
"So how do you feel about matchmakers?"
"Oh I'm a great matchmaker! You need a man, girl?"
"I don't think we'll get along."

-Sami uses some of the cash from the Cyborg-Grandmother's vault to free Catboy from the effects of the Ribond.
"I have to tell you guys, Roman is totally working with the Ribond! That means he must be King Halconlord!"
"I don't think that's right."
"No, it is, because there's a Duke Halcon but a King is better than a Duke!"

-"I'm glad to have you back, catboy!"
"Yeah, I don't dislike you."

-"So I think Roman, Lady Halcon, and Harry are the traitors that BOLT-0 warned us about."
"I propose that we play dumb for now, and then when we've beaten Sezrekhan, I will break my Pacifist vow for just one time and kill them all."
"Just one time? That's so sweet."

-"We'll use the Wafer to bring back the Hippomagus!"
"But what if he's also a traitor?"
"Come on, he's not."
"No, he's not. But we should accuse him of being one when we bring him back, just to fuck with him."

-Sami identifies a shitload of potions, plus the jams and other items. One of the jams is a jam of mutation, another is a jam of diarrhea.
"The catboy gets that last one."

-"This is a potion of levitation."
"That's like a potion of flying's retarded brother."

-Sami tastes Lenny's cannibal soup.
"Just the broth.. it smells delightful."
"You sure you don't want to try a testicle?"

-"Its the tastiest part; honestly, I don't know if I could keep my promise not to eat Vizi's junk when he dies."
"At that point, I don't think he'll really care."

-After a rest, the Barbarian levels up into a Barbarian Wizard.
"I'm trying to pick up Sami."
"The Barbarian Wizard isn't hair enough to interest me."
"Sami's heart still belongs to Space Bear."

-"What does the wafer do, exactly?"
"You weren't here, but the other PCs were given very clear instructions from BOLT-0. They've either forgotten them, or are choosing not to share them. The point is, it's not my problem as GM."
"Fuck, you guys need constant supervision!"

-"Wait, is he Boylord still?"
"No, now that he's not a halconlord, he's just Catboy again."
"Well that was a mistake, wasn't it?"

-"So do we think that Captain Harry is also a Halconlord?"
"Captain Harry has the same kind of aura as the Halconlords."
"I told you  he's a Halconlord! He's a captain, and the Halconlords have Captains!"
"Yeah, and his name starts with an H!"
"You guys are idiots."

-Instead of taking them to Fuck Station Aleph like they'd promised, the team stuffs Marty and the sky-sailor into an escape pod and dumps them on an isolated flying island.

-The team sneaks back onto the Death Fortress, with its hallways full of grandma-style knicknacks.

-"I tried to cast Force Manipulation, but I failed."
"Congratulations, you blew your first spell!"

-The Barbarian Wizard loses Enlarge too.
"You're down to just Ekim's Mystical Mask."
"And comprehend languages!"
"You've already made yourself useless as the wizard."

-They run into a group of Robot Power-Walkers.
"Catboy shoots one."
"It would be funny if Catboy sucks again, now that he's not a Halcon Lord."
"Natural 1."
"Told you so!"
"Sami made a huge mistake."

-Laquanda gets shot with a critical and breaks a rib.
"Oh Black Jesus help me!"
"He's dead."
"Yeah, and Lenny ate him."

-Heidi destroys the robots, and Sami heals Laquanda and Blitzkrieg, who were both injured.
"Aright! Now we've got some miracles happening!"
"You're useless, Lenny."
-Two robots guard two doors.
"Hmm, OK, let's think abou this..."
"Laquanda shoots one dead with her ion gun."
"What?! No!"
"Hey robot, did I just kill this motherfucker?"
"This one's the liar!"

-"You know I have Detect Evil, right?"
"Now how was I supposed to know that?"

-"One more question, robot: is the cyborg-grandma an asshole?"
"A second after the robot answers, it spontaneously self-destructs."
"Was that really necessary, cyborg-grandma?"

-The party gets to a room with a game of Death-Bingo. The robot bingo-master explains.
"Barbarian wizard not like these odds!"
"Fuck it, I shoot the robot."
"Now what? There's no exit!"
"G.O.D., please teleport us further along to the Cyborg-Grandma!"
"You are teleported into a large bathroom with a gigantic medicine cabinet full of old-person pills."

-They get to a door.
"The dragon is probably past this door."
"Let's just empty a magazine into it."

-They encounter the One-headed Dragon! It has two necks; at the end of one of them is a head, at the end of the other is a giant foot.
"Ohh, so that's why they call it that!"

-"It's a cyborg dragon."
"Aren't they extinct?"
"No, they never existed in the first place."
"No, those are Cyber-Dragons. This is a Cyborg Dragon. Totally different."

-The dragon fries the catboy with its electric breath weapon.

-"Heidi throws a grenade at the dragon!"
"You fumble and the grenade lands 1 foot away from you. Make a reflex save."
"Natural one."
"You throw yourself onto the grenade."

-The one-headed dragon breathes lightning again, this time dropping Sami and Laquanda.
"The Barbarian Wizard runs away!!"

-Lenny resorts to prayer.
"Smite this fucking dragon!!"
"Natural 20. Lenny immolates the dragon."
"You are powerful. Let me tell you of barbarian ways."
"Shut up Barbarian, you're useless."

-"Laquanda's alive. So are all the PCs."

-"Your barbarian did nothing."
"You're a worse wizard than I am a saint, plus you ran away so you're a shitty barbarian!"

-"When I REALLY need it, prayer works! First the cooking pot and now this!"

-They reach the command center and quilting room of the Death Fortress. It's occupied by a number of old cyborg ladies, and the Cyborg-Grandma, who is a badass cyborg.
"Hey, are those Guardian Robots on that screen there?"
"Yeah. Oh shit, they're attacking the Death Fortress too!"
"It must be BOLT-1, wanting the wafer!"

-"I will self destruct if you all attack me, dearies."
"So she does have a self-destruct!"
"Ha! Everyone thought Chad was dumb but now everyone else is dumb, and Chad am also dumb!"

-"However, I am a warrior Granny, so if one of you faces me in single combat, you can have the wafer if you defeat me."
"Ok, go ahead Chad."

-After some joking, Heidi is chosen as the obvious candidate to fight the Cyborg-Grandma, but first Chad the Barbarian Wizard casts Enlarge on him to grow him to triple his normal size!

-"Any last words before we fight, warrior?"
"Oh, yeah one more thing: your grandson Marty helped us!"

-The Star Trek fight music starts up as Cyborg-Granny lunges at heidi with a battle gauntlet and a vibro-blade.

-"Isn't Heidi a pacifist?"
"This is a robot."
"No she isn't!"
"Let's not remind him."

-After a moderately tough fight, Heidi manages to defeat the Cyborg-Granny, and gets the Magic Wafer. But the Guardian Robots are coming, so Sami teleports them all back to the Superfly II.
"Heidi is still giant sized! He's currently crushing all of you under him."
"Shit. I pray to reduce his size."

-"We did it! Now let's go to Fuck Station Aleph!"

-"Granny's mistake was giving Heidi time to buff."
"Yeah, she spoiled him... like a granny."

That's everything for this session. Will the PCs continue to fuck around while the fate of the world is at stake? Or will they actually go back to the main quest? Stay tuned to find out!


Currently Smoking: Castello 4k collection canadian + Peterson's Wild Atlantic