The poor pilgrim’s almanack

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To no fanfare, my first game book — Burgs & Bailiffs Trinity : The poor pilgrim’s almanack, or The handbook of pilgrimage and relic theft —  has become available via The Lost Pages! So you can get it now in PDF, or pre-order the printed version and get the PDF along with it.

Paolo Greco, proprietor of the Lost Pages, did a bang-up job laying out the text, which was sort of complicated because the original manuscript had dozens of footnotes and sidebars, as well as some really big tables. Not everything could make it into the final product, so once I see the final product myself I’ll post some of that material here. I’m thinking of some of it as “research mathoms” — stuff I found or created that’s too good to throw away entirely but which didn’t fit in well enough to keep, either in terms of flow or formatting, like the giant table of carrying and pulling capacities for animals ranging from rats to elephants (if you need to know how much a goat can carry, how heavy different types of camels are, or how much traction a moose can pull with, it was in there!). So watch this space for research mathoms…

I eventually envisioned this as a sort of source book like the ones Steve Jackson has been producing for GURPS — chapters of informative text that is as well-researched as I could manage with gameable material (rules). I tried to keep it as system-neutral as possible, but really it’s meant for the, ahem, World’s Most Popular Fantasy Roleplaying Game, in the B/X or first Advanced edition. Thus the sidebars, dozens of brief “adventure seeds” like the GURPS sourcebooks, and so on. I’m not an historian by training but I do read a lot, and did my research at one of the largest public research libraries in the US, where I was also working.

I’m not sure what else to say about this, and as I’m on my lunch break now I don’t have time to get long-winded anyway, but for what it’s worth here’s an excerpt from my foreword, which really explains the project:

Although I’ve always been a big fan of Dungeons & Dragons, another game has long haunted me: Fantasy Wargaming, by Bruce Galloway (and others). That infamous rule book has haunted me because of its unfulfilled promise — the idea of an historical, logical setting for adventures like those in D&D. In part FW failed to fulfill its promise because it was a haphazardly presented system of rules, and frankly the rules seemed unnecessarily complicated. But the real failure was that the game focused strictly on recreating medieval legends and sagas, which while interesting, were too esoteric for someone used to simple generic fantasy to get a handle on. My forays into running FW were pretty disastrous — I subjected my players to retreads of Viking sagas and Beowulf, which were OK for what they were but did not deliver the exploration and adventure we expected from a fantasy game. What I didn’t know then was that all the elements of dungeoneering could be realized in an historical setting. There really were adventurers who entered subterranean mazes, seeking treasure and braving dangers (real and imagined). They could be rogues, warriors, holy men, or magicians, just like in D&D. They might be seeking gold and gems, but they might just as well be seeking items with supernatural powers: the relics of saints. To find these underground complexes — catacombs — the adventurers would undertake long, perilous journeys: pilgrimages.

While this supplement could be used simply to rationalize dungeoneering in historical or pseudo-historical campaigns, the medieval superstitions and practices detailed here should also inspire new and interesting adventures, over land, at sea, and in town and city. Pilgrimages to shrines and other holy sites, whether for secular or sacred purposes, invite all manner of encounters and obstacles that will create exciting adventures. Lastly, the veneration of shrines and relics suggests a new conception of divine magic and clerics: the pilgrim miracle-worker. Paolo and I are excited by the idea of clerical magic which is grounded in historical beliefs, completely different from the usual wizardry and spell-casting that games use for secular magic-users, and which provides a justification for adventuring holy men and women. We hope that you will find ideas you can adopt in your own games, whether you follow the historical precedents herein or reskin them for your fantasy world.

Published in: on November 30, 2016 at 12:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Random plots

I saw this web site, “The story starter,” recently — it was highlighted in a blog about writers. It just generates randomized sentences, and they are kind of goofy. Some examples:

The absent-minded dentist dialed the cell phone in Fort Knox on Wednesday for the Russians.

The religious trivia whiz jumped near the hidden room during the heatwave to clear the record.

The smart diamond cutter spoiled the joke near the huge truck four days ago to cover things up.

There is something to be said for specificity, but with so many random clauses, there’s almost too much to incorporate.

But the “junior” version is pretty cool. The prompts it generates are much simpler, and more evocative because of that.  Here are some examples:

The flower grower was following a treasure map near the volcano.

The fisherman was looking for clues on the moon.

The writer was crying near the lake.

See? There’s a lot less to go on, but for me anyway that gives the imagination more of a spur. Why is the writer crying, and why at the lake? is an interesting question that allows the story be sad, scary, funny, or whatever; the adult version sentences, being more detailed, seem to have fewer possibilities.

Naturally my thoughts also turned to using these sorts of things for quick adventure prompts for D&D. I started looking around for other story prompts or plot generators and was surprised at how many there are.

I particularly like a fairytale plot generator here and a fantasy plot generator at the same site. Actually I pretty much stopped looking once I got to that site. There is a full list of its plot-generators here. If you happen to roll up an interesting one, why not leave it in a comment here?

Published in: on May 25, 2015 at 9:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Fiend Folio as implied setting

Some time ago, Jeff Rients posted something about running D&D with only the Fiend Folio as the monster manual.  I don’t remember exactly how detailed he got with that, and haven’t been able to find the exact post (this?  or this?) , but since I was looking over the Fiend Folio the other day, I started thinking about what the implied setting of the Fiend Folio might look like.

One thing that might stand out is that there are some knock-offs of standard monsters. Hoar foxes fill the niche of Winter wolves (though they are smaller, fewer HD, and not as evil), for example.

Another thing is that there are many references to standard races and monsters, so really you need to decide whether, say, Flinds require the reintroduction of Gnolls, Nilbogs require the presence of Goblins, the Norker entry allows in Hobgoblins, and so on. You could just ignore those references, or you could grandfather in the things that the FF listings assume. Either choice seems legitimate to me.

The first thought I had was how the options for PC races would look. There are no dwarves, no halflings, no elves other than the Drow, and no gnomes other than Svirfneblin. Drow elves do not seem appropriate for PCs due to their evil nature. Both dark elves and deep gnomes have so many inherent powers that you’d need to (ok: I’d want to…) introduce some kind of extra rules to ration them out as they gain levels, and that isn’t appealing to me either.  Lastly, those races are supposed to be enigmatic, barely-known races of the underdark, and having them as PCs would undermine (hah!) any attempt to keep the underworld mysterious, IMO. Githzerai and Githyanki may have become available as player races in 2e/Spelljammer, but they too seem so alien and mysterious they’d be better left as monsters.

If you wanted to allow some of the FF monsters to be player races, there are not a lot of good-aligned humanoids. I think alignment might matter because in AD&D as it stands, the allowed player races were all good-aligned in the Monster Manual — with the exception of half-orcs, who are not given a separate entry in the MM. Come to think of it, though, most of the human listings are neutral, so probably neutrals are ok too.

That leaves us with a few oddball humanoids, like the Aarakocra, which were ported in as player races in the 2e book of humanoids, and are also good-aligned, though their power of flight seems like a potential headache. The Quaggoth could be a neat mock-Mok, for a Thundar inspired campaign. The Qullan, which seem to be a source for the Talislantian Thralls (or at least share a common ancestor), would be ok as a colorful (hah hah!) option, perhaps replacing Half-orcs, and maybe Sulks could replace Halflings.

I’d be tempted to consider Grimlocks as a possible player race too, because although they are evil, there were several attempts to stat them up for players — both a semi-official Dragon article (#265) and a much older zine I no longer have (it was a small fanzine, I gave it away and don’t even recall the title). The idea of blind berserker is just too fun to leave out of your campaign.

One last thing on the player side of world-building is deities and religion. If you stick to the deities presented in the Fiend Folio, you get a very dark fantasy indeed! Lolth, the Elemental Princes of Evil, and two Slaad demigods. Oh, you also get the Aleax, which the gods send to punish you for varying from your stated alignment.  The Death dog, being descended from Cerberus, sort of implies that there could be Greco-Roman gods in the setting (and the Aleax, which also looks fairly Classical era, would be typical of the Greek gods’ screwing over mortals). Because Retrievers were designed by Demogorgon, I guess we have him too. The Sons of Kyuss mention an unnamed evil deity. The Eyes of Fear and Flame were created either by chaotic evil gods to destroy the lawful, or by neutral/lawful gods to test the lawful. The upshot, then, is that you better not look to the gods for hope or help in the Fiend Folio world.  If they notice you at all, it will probably mean they send an Aleax after you, who will fight you and either take half your XP and all your stuff, or if you are lucky, take you out of the campaign for a year and a day. Fortunately, most of the things that look like undead in the book are either not turnable or not really undead, so you won’t miss having a cleric (unless you encounter 4-40 Nilbogs, which can only be hurt by healing spells!).

So I’m getting the sense that this Fiend Folio world is really dark.

Anyway let’s look at the monsters that look like they might be undead.

Crypt thing

Obviously NOT undead

Turnable undead: Apparition, Coffer corpse, Huecuva, Penanggalan (flying head form), Poltergeist, Sheet ghoul, Sheet phantom, Son of Kyuss

Non-turnable undead: Death knight, Penanggalan (human form), Revenant, Skeleton warrior

Not actually undead & non-turnable: Adherer, Crypt thing, Eye of fear and flame, Gambado, Githyanki*, Necropidius, Vision, Yellow musk zombie

*Like the Meazel, the Githyanki are obviously based on the Iron Maiden mascot “Eddy”.

githyanki

Iron Maiden alum art from “Somewhere in a dungeon”

githyanki

Githyanki

Only a minority are turnable, and most are turned as wights, wraiths, or specters, so your cleric has little chance.

All those non-turnable undead and psuedo-undead also remind me that the FF is sometimes criticized as consisting of a lot of screw-the-player gimmick monsters.  While there are a good number of gimmicks, you have to admit the Monster Manual has plenty of those too (Ear seekers, Shriekers, Gas spores, Rot grubs, Rust monsters, Yellow mold, Brown mold, and so on and on!).

I guess we should also look at the giants and dragons, as those are staples of fantasy, and I admit they are a little underwhelming. The giants are not bad — at 12 and 14 HD, they are as tough as anything in the Monster Manual, and the Mountain giant certainly looks like a classic storybook giant.  The Fog giant, with his surprise ability, looks deadly, though they should probably have the ability to generate fog too. The dragons, on the other hand, are maybe the weakest thing about the Fiend Folio world.  Instead of being the benevolent spiritual beings of Chinese folklore, or the destructive forces of nature of Western folklore, they seem to be inscrutable spirits of nature — not necessarily hostile, but capricious and dangerous.  Some demand tribute, some accept bribes, but none have much in the way of clear or useful motivation.  They are all shades of neutral, and that makes them seem more like animals than dragons, despite their generally high intelligence. The trolls of the Fiend Folio are all pretty good though — in fact I like them more than standard D&D trolls.  They are certainly more like Norse trolls, and the Ice trolls and Spirit trolls suggest they are more supernatural than standard D&D trolls.

So if I were to describe the world of the Fiend Folio, I think it suggests that monsters tend to be otherworldly — ethereal, elemental, or undead, or else they are beings from the underworld of dungeons and caverns. The animal-type monsters are mostly botched magical experiments like Gorrila-bears, or gigantic vermin like Giant Bats and Giant Hornets, or else super-predators like Babblers.

Babbler

Babbler

The humanoids are often alien (Kuo-toa, Firenewts) though some resemble the primitive or militaristic subhumans we find in the Monster Manual. So, it is certainly recognizable as D&D. It is just a little darker, a little wackier, and maybe a little more dangerous, since there are almost no “standard” low-level monsters that you can just fight (exceptions being things like Xvarts and Norkers, though the Norker’s high armor class makes them a real danger to first level PCs). For example, Quaggoths (HD 1+2) go berserk and fight to negative hp; Qullans (HD 2) have super-sharp swords that score bonuses to hit and damage (but of course the blades quickly lose this property when looted!)

Looking at the dungeon monster tables in the back of the book, all the “weak” monsters are thieves or ambushers like the Jermalaine, Mite, and Snyad. Humanoids like Bullywugs can make three attacks, or have boosted AC like the Norkers.  And that is just the level I monsters.  As you go to higher level charts, it seems that the FF monsters tend to have boosted AC, HD, or other powers, compared to their Monster Manual peers.  However, I have to say that dungeons stocked according to the FF charts would be a lot less predictable than the standard DMG tables.

So — and this looks like my second or third attempt to wrap up, I always sucked at conclusions — so anyway, the Fiend Folio world looks like something it could be pretty fun to run. It would slightly crank up the weird and the deadly, and downplay clerics and demi-humans. The only thing I’d really miss are the original dragons and some of the staple, dare I say iconic monsters like orcs, beholders, and rust monsters.  Instead, we’d have norkers, slaad, and disenchanters. Which is to say, the kid gloves would be off and the difficulty cranked up to Ultraviolence. Sounds like a plan!

C’mon in! The ichor is fine!

Published in: on October 1, 2014 at 8:00 am  Comments (12)  
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“Media error, please check cable”

It was bound to happen sooner or later.  The hard drive on my laptop has joined the choir invisible. 

I had some inkling ahead of time and saved the irreplaceable stuff (family photos and original documents)  on some flash drives, as well as small subset of the music and pdfs I had on there.

Honestly it’s a bit liberating to be rid of the *hundreds* of documents and books (and zines and who knows what else) I’d downloaded and never got around to reading.  There are probably a few things I will miss but there is more where that came from.

I think it will be a while before I replace the drive (maybe with a SSD, when I can afford it).  In the meantime I hope I will devote the time I used to spend online at home on better things — painting, exercising, and reading!  Maybe even decluttering the real space now that the virtual space is cleaned out…

Published in: on December 4, 2013 at 12:15 pm  Comments (3)  

Top ten trolly troll questions answered

All the cool RPG bloggers have already answered these so now I join the dogpile.

(1). Race (Elf, Dwarf, Halfling) as a class? Yes or no?

Yes. But I am reconsidering now and sort of wish I’d made multiple racial classes (dwarf fighter type, dwarf thief type, etc.).  It’s one of those areas where I discovered that my players have very different preferences from me.  I’d be happy with four classes and race as a non-mechanical trait; they’d like to have rules for ensuring no two fighters need be “the same.”

 (2). Do demi-humans have souls?

Maybe halflings do.  It hasn’t really come up in play.  I like the idea, as an alternative to level limits, that nonhumans can’t be raised or need extra steps to be raised, or just use different means like reincarnation, but in the heat of the game I just let Raise Dead work for everyone.

(3). Ascending or descending armor class?

Ascending.  The one innovation of 3e I think makes total sense.  Don’t get me started on bonus inflation though.

(4). Demi-human level limits?

I caved to my whiny players, so no limits.  But my Platonic ideal of the game limits hobbits (and most humanoids) to 4th, elves and dwarves (and half-orcs, half-elves, and most monsters) to 8th, and humans ONLY to 12th.  OK I guess a dragon or giant PC could hit 12th maybe.

(5). Should thief be a class?

Of course.  And thief skills should be either things you almost never roll for, or things that are super-normal like 1980s ninjas. 

(6). Do characters get non-weapon skills?

Sort of.  Class abilities and a few bogeys you roll might give you a talent of some kind.  Next time around I think I’ll try something like traits or backgrounds instead.

(7). Are magic-users more powerful than fighters (and, if yes, what level do they take the lead)?

Eventually.  Depends on how smart the players are and what magic items they have mostly, but high level MUs can do some seriously outrageous stuff.  Actually at third level things begin to shift because of Invisibility, but in my campaign the wizard really began to shine at 5th with Fireball.  Would be a different story if the fighters weren’t protecting him though, and the fighter types tend to make it out alive more than anyone else, so based on actual survival rates, I’d say dwarves are the toughest.

(8). Do you use alignment languages?

No, but I don’t find them all that wonky, just depends on the setting.  I think of them as dialects of Common that immediately identify one as Other or Us, and there would just be Chaotic and Lawful, no Evil, Good, or Neutral.

(9). XP for gold, or XP for objectives (thieves disarming traps, etc…)?

Yes! Actually I started with the former and slowly shifted to the latter.  Low-level play should use gold = XP, mid to higher level needs to stop that or it gets crazy.  Mostly now I give XP for player-defined objectives and monsters defeated. My players may not realize they are setting the goals though and think there is a ‘plot’ they are accomplishing.

(10). Which is the best edition; ODD, Holmes, Moldvay, Mentzer, Rules Cyclopedia, 1E ADD, 2E ADD, 3E DD, 4E DD, Next ?

For a free-wheeling DM: ODD or Moldvay

For the OCD DM: 1e or 3e.

For a role player: Moldvay, 1e, or maybe 2e

For a min/maxer:  3e

And so on… best for who?

Bonus Question: Unified XP level tables or individual XP level tables for each class?

Individual.  Thieves should shoot up levels, paladins and wizards need to  go more slowly.

Published in: on August 14, 2013 at 12:14 pm  Comments (1)  
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Clifford D. Simak’s fantasies

Clifford D. Simak is best known for his science fiction, but he has written several fantasy and science fantasy novels, and in the past year or so I’ve read four of them. Going chronologically they are: The goblin reservation (1968), The enchanted pilgrimage (1975), The fellowship of the talisman (1978), and Where the evil dwells (1982).

The goblin reservation is a bit of an outlier as it is more of a science fiction story than a fantasy, and transcends genre by combining elements. It is a murder mystery, a love story, and time travel tale, and involves both extraterrestrials and fairy folk like goblins and leprechauns, as well as a ghost, and comes closest to being a comedy.  There are echoes of this book though in his later fantasies, particularly in: the depiction of goblins as mischievous but basically benevolent; the use of a ghost as a character; the mixing of science fiction and fantasy; the inversion of established tropes in genre literature; and a preoccupation –either explicit or implicit– with morality.

The other three all read more like traditional “high fantasy” novels, with a party of adventurers of assorted races undertaking an epic quest into unknown and menacing lands. Some readers have dismissed them as being retreads of each other and a million similar LOTR ripoffs, but each has some interesting ideas and all can be read as meditations on morality and theology.  Tightly connected to this is the theme of otherness as expressed in the different demihuman races and their perception by, and relationship to, the human characters.  There’s probably a great term paper in that, if any students are reading this.  I’m just writing a quick review though!

The enchanted pilgrimage is the shortest and the least interested in questions of morality (which become much more central to the last two novels).  What was most interesting to me when I read this was the role of demihumans and humanoids.  For example the gnomes in this world are smiths and live underground, but they are also illiterate and have practically no sense of history.  Flipping the trope, mankind is the ‘elder’ race as far as the demihumans are concerned, for they keep books and record history, while the demihumans live in the present.  The enchanted pilgrimage has been criticized for lacking coherence and having an anti-climatic ending, which (spoiler alert) veers way off the fantasy track into science fiction with time travelers, UFOs, and aliens. However it is an interesting setting (at least in the first half of the book) and a clear precursor to the two others, which remain solidly fantasy-based.  The quest begins with a scribe who stumbles upon something of great importance and he sets out, slowly acquiring a motley band companions, for the menacing and forbidden Wasteland, home of chaos and magic.  What he finds there is not what he, or the reader, expected, but also fails to live up to the promise of the first half of the book.

The fellowship of the talisman is probably the most traditional of the novels.  The story is again centered on a quest, again revolving around a manuscript, and again we have a slowly growing party, although this time the world is much like our own, only a recurring invasion by the “Harriers” — amorphous and demonic, and barely described in any detail — has prevented mankind from developing past medieval technology and culture.  The crusades, the discovery of the new world, the renaissance, the reformation, and the enlightenment: all are stopped or interrupted irrevocably by the Harriers. But in a backwater manor in England, someone discovers a manuscript, written by a contemporary of Jesus, which may hold the key to saving mankind.  The characters are not particularly believable and there are several heavy-handed and tedious conversations where they seem very aware that mankind’s progress has been aborted.  How they could possibly recognize this, given their benighted state, strains credulity, but as exposition it is bearable. Apart from mankind and the Harriers, there is again a wide array of demihumans and supernatural creatures that are allied with neither man nor the Harriers, but which are mostly willing to aid the party, since they oppose the Harriers.  Despite the frequent aid and succor they get from them, though, the two principal characters spend the first half of the book insulting and distrusting the demihumans and other creatures.  I found the heroes very unsympathetic until it became more clear that they were slowly losing some of their prejudices.  The journey itself has some interesting encounters and environments but for so long a book (over 300 pages) not a lot actually happens.  The party here is the most diverse, with humans, a goblin, an assortment of animals, a ghost, a banshee, and a demon all working together in an unlikely fellowship.  There is some suggestion of a sci-fi element in the origin of the Harriers, but at the same time other elements go further into the folkloric and mythic than any of Simak’s other fantasy novels.  For example there is (minor spoiler) an “Isle of wailing for the world” where three Norn-like women literally wail for all the world’s sorrows.  I am totally going to throw that into my campaign world somewhere.  There are also some great minor characters, like a senile, dying wizard in a hidden, timeless castle, and a minor lord of a manor in the middle of the Forlorn Lands (the region decimated by Harrier attacks) whose band is hopelessly holding out against the Harriers.

Where the evil dwells, the last of the four fantasies, was actually the one I read first, many years ago when it first came out in paperback in the 1980s.  As a boy I read it as straightforward adventure yarn, and it certainly works as one. I reread it recently and was surprised to find a good deal more depth than I remembered.  It is set, like The fellowship, in our world, but on a different timeline, where the Roman Empire holds out a good deal longer than in ours, but the enemies that threaten it are not barbarians, they are “the Evil.”  The Evil are basically all the nonhumans and demihumans of myth and legend.  A few of the “Little People” are perhaps merely mischievous rather than Evil.  However the occasional acts of Gygaxian brutality we see in The fellowship (where fallen enemies are never spared and can at best hope for a merciful skull-smashing) are amplified and almost glorified here.  The protagonists see the bodies of crucified ogres, for example, and only one so much as feels a slight discomfort at the sight; when an outcast troll joins the party and proves himself loyal and reliable, they continue to abuse, threaten, and distrust him.  Again, a trope of fantasy –here, the white knight do-gooder party– is subverted.  Overall it is a much darker adventure than the usual fare.  There is also a section that very strongly evokes H. P. Lovecraft (or at least the “mythos” developed by his admirers) and, uniquely, no real science fiction connection.

D&D fans should find plenty to enjoy here, and while none of Simak’s works made it into the DMG’s “Appendix N” (the last two were published after the DMG anyway), they certainly provide some inspiration.

Published in: on July 17, 2013 at 4:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The OTHER Fantasy Wargaming — not an Obscure FRPG Appreciation Day post

This was going to be saved for the May 30th “Obscure FRPG Appreciation Day” suggested at the blog Mesmerized by sirens.  But the cutoff for that blog circus is games from 1989 or earlier, and this is bit too new.

A good while back I wrote a series of posts on Bruce Galloway’s Fantasy Wargaming.  (A compilation is in my “Pages” area but lacking the comments that you have to search the blog posts for!)  That was published in 1981 by Patrick Stephens Limited (PSL), a publisher that also published a number of wargaming books by Bruce Quarrie (one of the contributors to the first FW and an editor at PSL before the firm was bought by Rupert Murdoch and dissolved).

In 1990 they published a new book with the title Fantasy Wargaming; this time by Martin Hackett.  The credits indicate he mainly thanks his parents for helping with photography and typing, and his gaming buddies for playtesting etc.  I’m not familiar with anything else he’s written apart from the revision/sequel, Fantasy Gaming, which came out in 2007.

But Fantasy Wargaming is an awesome mess.  There are copious illustrations, both line drawings (sketches of figures — a real joy to identify) and photographs of figures and set-ups.  There is also a set of maps.  There is a plain “outline” map, a copy of it overlaid with hexes (“players map”) and a second hex map with a simple key indicated the dominant terrain of a hex (for setting up battles, etc.).  Very cool.

The photos of figures show a nice overview of the state of the art of fantasy miniatures.  I think the golden age of fantasy miniatures ended in the early 1990’s, when the lead scare, changes in the RPG and gaming industry, etc. changed the field immensely.  A lot of companies went under or floundered about.   Styles and fashions changed.  New sculptors entered the field.  Execution and mold-making evolved enough to attain a new look, and the use of more tin and even zinc alloys increased the strength of the castings, making more delicate poses and features possible.  The stuff that followed was not necessarily bad, but it was different and more standardized and more conscious of belonging to ‘product line’ with a uniform look.

But Fantasy Wargaming shows a great survey of everything from the golden age:  early Minifigs (who have character but must be admitted to be very crude in same cases) to Citadel slotta-based minis, as well as scratch-builds and a few conversions, and even plastic toys suitable for use in wargames.  There is a lot of terrain pictured.  And even period RPG books.  It’s quite a visual feast.  The only thing I complain about is the poor quality of the black and white photos, and small size of all images.  I wish this were a folio rather than an octavo.  The later book has better photography and better reproductions in the book, but far fewer and not many are old figures.  It really documents the changes in the state of fantasy minis — not something the author necessarily intended, but fascinating.  You can see some more details about the book (and images) here.  The reviewer there is not as enthusiastic as I am!

As to the game, the rules are spread across a number of chapters that also provide some background information on the hobby.  It suffers the same problems of presentation that the first FW had, although the two books are hard to compare really.  In all honesty I have not tried the rules out.  Hackett says that the later book presents an improved version of the game and I’d be inclined to try that first. But FW has some interesting ideas for inspiration.

There is d100 table of ‘campaign events’ for a fantasy wargame campaign.  Things like:

  • 5 trolls from the nearest hill attack each hex until killed.
  • Horses struck by mystery illness. No movement for this move.
  • New mine discovered, produces 50 credits for three years.

Sure they are kind of generic but there are 100 of them.  Likewise there are brief guidelines and tables for creating regions, filling a hex map with terrain types, settlements, and monsters, and generating the rulers of areas.  There are simple army lists for various cultures and monstrous races.  There is also a gazetteer for a fantasy land, with random encounter tables and so forth for hex-crawling with an army.  That sounds like a hoot. He has a bestiary of traditional and original monsters, but their descriptions, game stats, and other factors like move rates are dispersed through the book.  Some of the new creatures are interesting, for example the “Lubin” (a wolf-goblin were-creature); but all are very loosely defined.  There are 100 magic items (some apparently cursed) that are mostly original (e.g. the Staff of the earth that lets you talk to plants, a magical talking wolf, and similar) and many are clearly designed to be of use in a wargame rather than RPG campaign (for example a magic mirror that reveals enemies in neighboring hexes).  There are some simple economics guidelines with costs for supplies, construction, and recruitment in “credits”.     

The RPG part of FW looks very simple and appealing.  There are five primary abilities (Power, Fitness, Agility, Luck, and Learning) and three secondary abilities (F.A., M.A., and Stealth).  There are three “Fighting Ability” categories: Piercing, Staff, and Missile.  Then there are six skills: Craft, Fauna, Flora, Languages, Literacy, and Perception.  The sample character is an elf and has a list of ten spells (there are many later in the rules) and two languages (elven not included; presumably you don’t need to list your PC’s native tongue).  The primary abilities and skills look like they are 1-100; the others are mostly single digits, and all under 20.  But the actual rules are not given; we are left to infer the game from the character sheet.  (The “sequel” does indeed provide the missing rules, and we learn that “F.A.” is fighting ability and M.A. is “magic ability,” as well as being treated to details on the races, classes, and even level, er, rank titles.  I love that the various different races have different titles for the same rank in a class.)

There is a concise review of Fantasy Gaming over here for the interested.  It made me rather interested in trying the RPG rules out.

As an RPG, you really need the second book to flesh out the game, and the wargaming rules are much more coherently presented in the second book as well.  I suppose the first volume is obsolete as a game manual, but it is certainly the more interesting of the two to skim for ideas and pictures of old miniatures.

The first book reminds me of a number of old RPG books — Arneson’s First fantasy campaign (because it is disorganized but filled with wonderful little ideas here and there); Bruce Galloway’s Fantasy Wargaming (because it attempts to survey the hobby and then offers disorganized rules); Dicing with dragons and Holme’s Fantasy Roleplaying Games (because of the glimpses of one man’s journey in the hobby, and the discussion of moral and educational aspects of gaming).  Like all of these, it is clearly a labor of love. And like the first two, despite it’s obscurity it has some detractors.  Still, as an artifact of a bygone era in gaming, and a reminder of what might have been had the industry not consolidated so much in the 1990’s, it is a joy to read.  For a miniatures lover like me, it is worth owning just for the pictures; for a role-player, it is possibly less useful now unless you plan to run a ‘domain management and war’ endgame.  It also makes me think of the original Warhammer rules — the first edition battle rules that were also a simple RPG.  But what I know of WFB 1st edition is mostly just gleaned from the Citadel Compedium and a few White Dwarf ads; I’ve never seen the original.  I discovered Warhammer when the second edition came out, and although it provided a bit for skirmishes the RPG side was gone.

Copies of both of Hackett’s books turn up fairly regularly in the used book market, and both are for sale on Amazon through ‘Amazon partners,’ so you can find them pretty cheaply if your curiosity is piqued!

Published in: on May 6, 2013 at 10:00 pm  Comments (3)  
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That campaign blowed up real good!

Farm Report

There’s nothing like Death Frost Doom to stir things up when your campaign is beginning to peter out a bit.  Minor spoilers follow, so if you’ve never read or played DFD, you might want to stop reading now.

I’ve had DFD sitting around in the mountains since my first Telengard campaign (although I only actually got a copy of the module later; I’d heard of the basic idea and thought it would be a great fit, and would have improvised something like it if anyone had checked it out then).

I think level is not too important for this adventure, since it mostly exploration. The party was really near the upper limit — it’s supposed to be for PCs level 1-6, and most of them are level 6 now.  Still, the finale could be a TPK for almost any level of PCs, considering the confined space and overwhelming numbers of foes.  Being of highish levels made it possible for the party to fight one foe that a lower level party would have almost certainly had to bargain with, and defeat some other foes a low-level party might have been killed by, but since combat is not the focus of the module, it really didn’t matter too much.

Our party took on the module in two sessions — the first extremely carefully, as only the bard, assassin, and magic-user were present for the session, and the second a bit more recklessly, as the assassin and magic-user were joined by the paladin and dwarf, as well as four low-level meat shields.  Two meat shields died (one suicide, one energy drained) but otherwise the party was mostly unscathed.  The assassin gained a point of strength but lost a point of intelligence, and Funko the gremlin also lost one point of intelligence.

They had only opened one big crypt door by the time “hell vomits its filth” was triggered, so most of the undead were not immediately able to swarm the party. The one turn “lead time” meant they were able to find Cyrus’ tomb just before the undead actually began awakening.   Opening his tomb, they quickly found the coffin and surmised that there was a vampire about, so the dwarf immediately began destroying the coffin and scattering the earth.  This caused Cyrus to appear and attempt to parlay, but the party immediately attacked and being some serious ass-kickers, defeated him in matter of two rounds.

It took a bit of discussion before the party realized that there was no way to simply fight their way out, and they came up with a reasonably good escape plan, barricading a door and going out a ‘chimney’ to the surface.  My lax ritual casting rules let them escape with all their gear intact, but under stricter rules they would have been forced to leave a lot of stuff behind.  As it was the magic user could cast ‘fly’ enough times to give the party a safe exit from the dungeon.  I suppose if I’d been a jerkier DM I would have had ghouls come for them via the chimney while the casting was being done, but that would pretty much be a TPK by fiat, so I overrode the module’s suggestion there.  Instead, the party flew down to Zeke’s camp and rode their horses off the mountain.

t-o-d-trap

With a village (Clovis), a town (Puddington), and a small city (Skara Brae) all within a day’s forced march, the party was scrambling to give warning and figure out how to deal with the army of the dead now on the move.  Hilarity ensued, and the party even split up, but I’d already determined that they had a fair amount of time before the main body of zombies and skeletons were really on the move, and the ghoul horde was too disorganized to give immediate chase, so probably the undead will not make a ‘bee line’ for anything and instead need to fan out until they find victims.  Or a leader.  I understand the party let a mummy-priest get away a few sessions back. 🙂

DSC03537

Time to start figuring out potential troop strengths for the local settlements and how to handle large-scale battles.  One thing that might be fun could be a “cut scene” where a hopelessly outnumbered force fights the vanguard of the undead army, both to create some foreboding and to introduce mass combat rules.

I’ve heard of DFD  ‘ending’ campaigns but I think it Telengard it might be a bridge to the ‘end-game’ of fortress-building, army-raising, etc.  DFD would also be a fun campaign-starter at low levels or even first level, come to think of it.

Published in: on February 28, 2013 at 6:00 pm  Comments (4)  
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Dreams of magic (Adventures in dreamland part III)

[FWIW WordPress is not good at inserting footnotes, so I’m putting some in brackets.  Apologies in advance for the interruptions they may make.  Like this one.]

So here’s three things that have been rattling around in the attic of my mind — I mean I have never found the time to think too seriously about it, nor to gather much evidence/research, apart from a few links interspersed in this post.  The three things are yoga, magic (should I spell it “magick”? ack!), and lucid dreaming.  Starting with lucid dreaming:

I became interested in lucid dreams about twenty years ago in college (and apparently there has been a resurgence of popular interest in this topic lately).  I’d been having a number of strange dreams, and began keeping a journal of them, and my casual interest in interpreting dreams led me to references to lucid dreaming and the idea that lucid dreaming could be a learned skill, rather than just a random event.  I’d had a lucid dream or two, and began looking into how others cultivate them.  It turns out it is a lot of work and at the time I had too many other interests to pursue it seriously, but I did take some notes that are probably lying around with my other college papers somewhere.  Two interesting things I learned about lucid dreaming were (1) an exercise that is supposed to help make them occur (there are others, but I found this one very simple), and (2) a reason some people seriously work on lucid dreaming.

One exercise used to cultivate lucid dreams is to continually interrupt your waking day, perhaps every fifteen minutes or half hour with an alarm on your digital watch [yes, that dates my source!], and ask yourself: Am I dreaming or awake?  The idea is to make a habit of questioning your state, so that your mind will continue to do so at night in your dreams.

But what would be the purpose of lucid dreaming anyway? If you believe dreams have hidden meanings that your brain (or some higher power like God), is trying to communicate to you, it doesn’t make much sense to interfere with the dream; you should probably just try to be receptive to the message, right? Maybe you could ask follow-up questions of the things or people in your dreams, or intentionally recreate partly-forgotten but significant details, and so on.  So in that case lucid dreaming might be helpful, but it’s not something you’d want or need to do very often.

Another reason to try lucid dreaming would be entertainment — using your dreams to realize fantasies, or just try flying, walking through walls, and other things that might happen in dreams.  I’m not sure if it is true, but I read that your dream experiences could only recreate actual sensations you’ve had in real life, so for example if you try to dream about flying, your sensations in the dream will have to be based on similar feelings you’ve actually had (amusement park rides perhaps or jumping on a trampoline?).  So in principle you couldn’t really use lucid dreaming to have completely new experiences, but perhaps you could recombine past experiences into chimerical new experiences.  It’s pretty hard to imagine that anyone would put in the effort required to learn to dream lucidly when they could use that time to actually have new experiences instead though.

So what else do you have to gain from having a lucid dream?  Some sources mentioned using lucidity to interrupt nightmares or other unpleasant dreams, and that might be important to someone plagued with bad dreams.

But the most interesting take on lucid dreaming was attributed to Tibetan Buddhism.  I’m not sure if this is an unusual esoteric teaching or mainstream to Tibetan Buddhism, but the thinking is: there is a parallel between the phenomenology of recognizing wakefulness vs. dreaming and the phenomenology of recognizing the illusion of individuality vs. the reality of oneness.  In a lucid dream, one might have an experience of  “Aha! This is just a dream!”; in meditation, one might have an experience of “Aha! This is just a life!”  So, becoming aware that one is dreaming (and perhaps seizing control of the dream) would be an experience analogous to enlightenment. The idea is that both Buddhism and dream work place importance on recognizing different states of consciousness; perhaps lucid dreaming would be useful as a sort of spiritual exercise.  In fact there is a tradition called Mi-lam (or Milam yoga, or simply dream yoga) in Tibetan Buddhism that utilizes lucid dreaming as step toward enlightenment.

If we stretch this analogy (perhaps to the breaking point), it gives an interesting take on the ‘siddhis‘ of Tantric Yoga (the alleged supernatural powers attained by enlightened yogis). A lucid dreamer gains control over dream reality; if Tantrism is correct, an enlightened mind gains some control over waking reality.

So this is where the magic comes in.  In the occult revival of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there was a great deal of interest in ‘rehabilitating’ occultism as a legitimate pursuit in the age of reason. Indeed one of Aleister Crowley’s magazines, The equinox, used the motto “The method of science, the aim of religion.”  Crowley is fairly infamous as magician/scam artist/seducer (and supposedly much worse), but he retains a certain amount of respectability among occultists as a pioneer in occult scholarship.  I found some of his writing interesting enough to read a fair amount of his stuff in graduate school; it’s fascinating and crazy stuff.  I’m neither spiritual nor gullible enough to take his writings at face value.  But some of his readers see his writings on magic as metaphoric explanations of his mysticism rather than literal claims about supernatural powers. The lines are pretty blurry really even if you take him literally.  I think that he was mostly pulling his readers’ legs, but may have been legitimately interested in mystical experience and enlightenment.

Going back to that little exercise for noticing dreams: there is an oddly parallel exercise recommended in the writings of Crowley.  It is not a perfect parallel, except that it involves interrupting one’s day periodically.  Crowley recommends that occult students use a sort of aversion therapy to overcome bad habits — but cutting one’s forearm every time you catch yourself doing it.  (I think the bad habit he was trying to break the student of was using personal pronouns like “I”, in an attempt to help annihilate personal identity… a very Buddhist goal!)  Anyway it was interesting to me that both exercises, while wildly different in degree (annoyance vs. self-harm) and different in immediate goal (recognizing the dream state, not thinking about oneself as a separate thing), were similar in that both might be aimed at attaining a sort of enlightenment, and both involve periodic rather than really focused attention.

But the most common prescriptions for attaining enlightenment involve deeply focused attention — meditation, yoga, and so on.  Could the ceremonial magic of the Western tradition, as described in various grimoires and masonic rituals, likewise be forms of focusing attention?

In an article in The equinox (v.1, no. 2)  titled “Postcards to probationers,” Aleister Crowley suggests that Western ceremonial magic, and Eastern yoga, are practices which correspond to one another.  He actually uses simple tables to suggest the identity of various elements of each system (listing first the four most widely-recognized methods for each and adding two more esoteric methods for each). I’ve combined the two tables here to focus on the fact that he’s correlating Eastern & Western methods.  I’m not sure to what extent yoga had been ‘seriously’ studied by scientists at the time The equinox was published (I think v.1, no. 2 would be the winter of 1909/1910), but there is certainly a long tradition of casting meditation and yoga as sciences rather than purely spiritual, religious, or occult practices.  I suspect Crowley hoped that some of the legitimacy of Eastern practices could rub off on Western occultism.

(Eastern practice)

(Western practice)

(Aim)

Gnana-Yoga.

The Holy Qabalah.

Union by Knowledge.

Raja-Yoga.

The Sacred Magic.

Union by Will.

Bhakta-Yoga.

The Acts of Worship.

Union by Love.

Hatha-Yoga.

The Ordeals.

Union by Courage.

add Mantra-Yoga.

add The Invocations.

Union through Speech.

Karma-Yoga.

The Acts of Service.

Union through Work.

I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to add a seventh line for dream work — assuming we take the leap that identifies the ‘goetia’ (the black magic described in Western grimoires) with lucid dreaming.

add Mi-lam yoga

add Goetia (Lucid Dreams)

Union through Dreamwork.

Many goetic texts are cataloged by A.E. Waite in his famous Book of Ceremonial Magic (originally published as The Book of Black Magic and of Pacts, and later republished as The Book of Spells, in many editions).  These grimoires often give detailed instructions regarding the proper smells, illumination, and other sensations that will help increase the effectiveness of the rituals, according to occult correspondences; in addition to preparing the mind with specific incantations and visualizations, instructions are provided to pinpoint the best times of day for specific invocations. These are almost always ‘dark hours’ of early morning or late at night, and this has led some (I no longer recall where I first saw this proposed) to speculate that the grimoires are actually providing instructions on lucid dreaming.

Some of the ceremonies even instruct the user to retire to bed before beginning the incantations, but this is unusual.  In any event, it is at least somewhat plausible to interpret the practice of magic as a form of dreamwork.  The fantastic appearances of demons and spirits, the preoccupation with asking where treasures are hidden and when it would be felicitous to remove them, and the preoccupation with having specific (or in some cases generic) people appear to the magician for “venereal experiments”  all make a sort of sense if we understand the ceremonies as preparations conducive to the sort of dream one desires rather than as effective methods of altering reality.  Granted this is a rather impoverished sort of rehabilitation of ‘magic,’ but at least it does not rely on supernatural explanations.

Tibetan Buddhism describes a number of “intermediate worlds” or “bardos”; the Bardo Thodol or Tibetan book of the dead can be read as sort of grimoire that prepares the dying for the dream-like intermediate world experienced during transmigration from one life to the next.  If you read some of the goetic texts, and then the Bardo Thodol, there are certainly some parallels in terms of each providing a sort of field guide for the fantastic — the grimoires describing fantastic demons and angels; the book of the dead describing Buddhist deities.  The imagery of each, though alien to modern sensibilities, would probably be quite meaningful to their audiences, who would understand the language of colors, animals, and other symbolism in them.

A couple of possibly supporting pieces of information I stumbled upon in Rickert’s book At day’s close rekindled this whole line of thought.

Item: witches in the early modern era often confessed to attending Sabbats and working their spells late at night, arising from their beds after their husbands were asleep.  On the one hand this is actually kind of disconfirming my theory about magic being dreamwork, since Rickert considered this an example of the sorts of nocturnal activities people got up to between the two “sleeps” each night. [Typically, people slept from about 9 PM to just after midnight, woke for an hour, and slept again until sunrise or just before it; this wakeful hour might be a time for prayer, sex, reading by candlelight, talking, smoking, or just laying awake.]  Even so, I can easily imagine the whole Sabbat being a realistic dream that begins with a dream that one awakens, especially since pre-industrial people were so afraid to go abroad at night.

The other bit is his mention of the Benandanti — a fertility cult that existed in Friuli, Italy, whose members claimed to battle witches in their dreams.  The battles were apparently to save their crops, and the witches fought armed with bundles of fennel as a weapon; the cultists used bundles of sorghum.  Wikipedia expands on this cult, which I’d never heard of before, and mentions similar traditions of demon-battling werewolves, vampire-hunters, and such; I should mention that I have completely neglected to consider shamanism, which of course is another very occult and very dream-interested tradition; even if you want keep things Euro-centric there are plenty of Western shamans, like Hungarian taltos and the Alpine shamans who can join the nocturnal feasts of the Nachtschar (phantoms of the dead who appear in dreams). [“Nachtschar” appears to be translatable as ‘night phantoms,’ however at least on source identifies the Nachtschar as the shamans Rickert mentions; others identify the Nachtschar as a sort of early modern survival of the legend of the Wild Hunt.  One relatively famous case was of a herdsman who testified against witches at their trial, saying he’d been shown their Sabbat by a guide-angel on a nocturnal ride; of course he found himself tortured and forced to confess that the angel, originally described as wearing white with a red cross, was really a cloven-hoofed devil.]

So my point, insofar as I have one, is just to suggest the possibility that grimoires and scriptures were intended to populate the dream world, rather than the actual world, with demons, deities, and — magicians!  And there is plenty of tradition populating the dream world with adversaries such as werewolves, demons, witches, and the undead.

So, dragging this back to D&D and such, suppose your game world worked this way: wizards have to first become powerful in the dream world, and then can begin to have these powers leak over into the real world.   Perhaps an apprenticeship is spent in drug- or magic- induced coma, dreaming away for months or years, and this accounts for the typically weak and frail bodies of wizards.  And of course the master occasionally shows up in the former apprentice’s dreams, for good or ill.  The time required to re-memorize spells needs to be spent in solid REM sleep (which helps explain the daily allowances of spells in the otherwise Vancian system).

Dare you sleep in a dungeon, perchance to dream … when who knows who or what else is dreaming, or haunting dreams, in that underworld?

Published in: on November 12, 2012 at 11:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Telengard 2.0

Last night we played a FATE-based game (A Fistful of FATE, I believe it was called; I missed part of the beginning as I had some parenting to do).  It was pretty good, once we got accustomed to it.  The pre-generated characters were interesting, but I chose very poorly: an assassin whose attack was really only usable on living foes (all the foes were undead) and who had next to nothing for equipment (a short sword, bracers, & a backpack with pen, paper, and chalk).  So, there were several situations where I really didn’t have a lot to contribute to the adventure.  I think we all had fun though. 

Right before that, I had the group ‘roll up’ their PCs for Telengard 2.0, which will run on a simplified C&C, basically eliminating “primes” and changing the saving throws to the three ones in 3e, which will be based not on attributes but level.   Also demihumans are classes.  So really a B/X-C&C hybrid.  They chose a Bard, Ranger, Cleric, Rogue, Fighter, and I think a Dwarf (Tom was going back and forth on that or a Wizard).   I had them use the “Iron Heroes” stat arrays rather than rolling, and max HP at level one, since there are some crybabies players who like to start out more heroic.  Then they got to roll on the Bogey chart, lifted from Fantasy Wargaming but minus a lot of the sexual fetishes and with a number of GURPS advantages and disadvantages added. I’ll post that later. Some “Bogeys” had mechanical effects, and some are just for role-playing.  I think I put in too many “DM’s choice” and “Player’s choice” results…either should have had them pick, or made no choices. Oh well.   I gave a three sentence or so explanation of the setting (I was kind of scattered) but said I’d send out some more background by email.

Since I wrote up this long-ass email anyway, I might as well put it on the blog too for reference.  I sent this to the players to give them some frame reference of what the ‘known adventure areas’ are in the setting.  There are some in-jokes, mainly garbling the old PC’s names, because it’s funny, and to maybe add an unwritten goal of achieving lasting fame…the last group just kept having their just glory denied them.

email follows … I edited out some types etc.

Most of you played in the first  Telengard campaign, but Chad and Aaron did not, so for their benefit here’s a very brief outline, before moving on to the situation as the new campaign begins (everyone else can skip the next paragraph if you want):

 There was a small, bustling city called Skara Brae at the foot of a mountain range, the nearest and tallest mountain being called Mt. Telengard. Mt. Telengard was the site of numerous ancient mining operations. The culture is similar to the Vikings, but with later medieval technology and a medieval-style church — The Norse Catholic Church (Imagine Odin = the Father, Thor = the Son, & Yggdrasil the World Tree = the Holy Spirit, with the other Norse gods as saints, and giants, trolls, etc. as devils). Several hundred years ago, humans arrived and established Skara Brae, and about that time the dwarves disappeared, possibly due to some sort of conflict between the humans and dwarves. Some time later the mining operations were reopened, and at the time the last campaign began, a mine intersected with a some ancient underground passages — in fact an underworld filled with monsters and magic, a dungeon which was also called Telengard. A band of adventurers (the party) explored part of Telengard, and some of the other old mines and tombs dug into Mt. Telengard. They explored two and a half levels of Telengard, two other mine complexes on the mountain (the Ancient Copper Mine and the Haunted Mine), part of the Ancient Crypts, and also a cavern lair that erupted from the face of Mt. Telengard overnight. There was also a vast open pit mine on the side of the mountain, and the party explored part of that. They had a few adventures in the city and surrounding countryside as well, slaying ogres that preyed on a halfling village, clearing a tavern’s basement of a rat-cult, exploring a sunken pond, looting the Alabaster Tower that appears only during certain phases of the moon, entering and destroying a vast demon (no, really), excavating some dwarven ruins beneath the city, and finally getting involved in defending the city from an invasion of pirates and humanoids. The last adventure involved saving a gnomish community from a family of fire giants. Along the way a number of PCs and hirelings died, some being raised, and one being reincarnated as a hobgoblin, who became an NPC. I ran out of steam and put the game campaign “on hiatus” with a lot of loose threads.

So, picking up the campaign, I decided to move forward about 500 years. Skara Brae has fallen to invaders (the Vulking Empire* to the west), but these invaders eventually left when the Vulking Empire collapsed. All that remains of the Vulkings is their religion: the region has adopted the Lords of Light as their gods. The Lords of Light are a pantheon of a dozen or score of deities, each of whom assumes various names, so that Thor and Baldur from the Norse Church are accepted as Lords of Light, smoothing over the transition. Skara Brae has fallen into ruin and was mostly abandoned, as a Vulking city was built on the site of the old Porttown to the south. Puddington, the halfling village, survived the years of chaos by fortifying their village and establishing a disciplined militia under the reforms of “Quincy”. Gnomestead, the gnomish village, has dwindled to a few huts in the woods. The old heroes of Skara Brae are all but forgotten. They are said to have disappeared on a flying ship, pursuing a vampire called Swindle or Swingo. All that remains of their legacy are some statues in Skara Brae’s ruined plaza. The locals still hope that “The battle leader Stonefoot, and his companions Maxim, Little Cam, Orroz, Quincy, Charmin, and their captain, Mr. Growley” will return some day in Skara Barae’s hour of need.

A number of towers have appeared on the landscape — some overnight — dark and ominous but silent and impenetrable. The legendary Alabaster Tower, absent for hundred of years, has reappeared on the shore, stained green and draped with seaweed. Skara Brae has a few diehard holdouts living in it, but much of the old city has been overrun with goblins, morlocks, serpentfolk, and other undesirables, and is walled off. The once proud Adventurer’s Guild was bought out long ago by the Hireling’s Guild, which in turn was dissolved when the dungeon-looting industry fell into recession. The old dungeons of Telengard have not been entered for many years, and most people believe they are empty, trap-laden tombs.

As if the appearance of the towers were not portentous enough, lately a series of comets or shooting stars were observed over Mt. Telengard, and the sages say this can mean nothing good. But lo! A band of promising young scalawags has gathered at the Goodly Mead Inn, and perhaps they will turn the tides of chaos and ruin?

[then I closed with an oft-cited passage from Perdido Street Station:]

“There were three of them. They were immediately and absolutely recognizable as adventurers; rogues who wandered the Ragamoll and the Cymek and Fellid and probably the whole of Bas-Lag. They were hardy and dangerous, lawless, stripped of allegiance or morality, living off their wits, stealing and killing, hiring themselves out to whoever and whatever came. They were inspired by dubious virtues. A few performed useful services: research, cartography, and the like. Most were nothing but tomb raiders. They were scum who died violent deaths, hanging on to a certain cachet among the impressionable through their undeniable bravery and their occasionally impressive exploits.”–China Mieville, Perdido Street Station

.

.

.

*The Vulkings were on the map in the last campaign, but never came into play.  Completely ripped off from The well of the unicorn.

Published in: on January 12, 2012 at 2:20 pm  Comments (1)  
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Role-Playing Games, Medieval History, Assorted Legends and Myths, and My Stupid Life.

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