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Uncovering Krevborna

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 12:00

Krevborna: A Gothic Blood Opera is a system agnostic setting book released this week by Jack Shear of the Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque blog. The world detailed is the sort of place Jack deals with in much of his rpg writing: an early modern setting with more than a hint of the Gothic.

Full disclosure before I delve into the review proper: I am listed in the credits of the book as I have been a player in Jack's online game (Tobias Rune, Scientific Occultist!), and Jack has done some editing for me on my stuff in the past. We have been blogosphere friends since long before that. My view, then, is perhaps biased.

Krevborna is 109 pages plus an index. In that space it vibrantly evokes a certain type of setting, and gives you locales, NPCs, organizations, and conflicts with which to populate it. It is fashionable in many circles to say setting books should always be short or deliver things very lightly. This is an understandable reaction given the bloat that has afflicted many a "major" rpg company setting book. My opinion is this: A setting book should have exactly as much verbiage as it needs to achieve its goal (and that goal should in part include usability). This will inevitably mean that no setting book is for everybody. some people will want the exotic cultural detail of the Empire of the Petal throne or Glorantha, and some want a setting heavy on new mechanical tidbits, but otherwise interchangeable with any number of faux-Medieval worlds. Having written a couple of setting books myself, I can say that there are always people that think you gave just the right amount of detail and then those who want more. (There are probably also those who think I wrote too much, but they don't send me emails.)

I don't think I'm off base when I say that Jack isn't concerned with you being able to replicate his Krevborna in  minute detail; he wants you to be able to create your own Gothic-tinged, dark fantasy setting that may happen to also be named Krevborna. He is light on many details, focusing his time on directly addressing theme, tone, and atmosphere, and how you leverage these things in a fantasy game as a DM. Jack is very good at delivering these elements flavorfully but briefly.  Maybe it's his college educator background, but he's able to bullet-point and not be at all dry!

I don't mean to suggest there is no setting detail, because there are plenty of Krevborna-specific information and tools, and plenty of stuff to help players get into the mood, too: sample names by region, appropriate backgrounds, tables of dark secrets, and NPCs to be patrons, acquaintances, or antagonists. The great supernatural powers are briefly described, allowing DM's and players to flesh out the details as they will.

The last section of the book is a brief summary of Jack's approach or "house rules" for running Krevborna in 5e. This is light enough that no OGL is required, but meaty enough that those versed in the 5e rules will know what he is doing. The strength of the system agnostic approach is this can be easily ported to old school simulacra or DungeonWorld or whatever.

In summary, I think this is a great setting, but also a great demonstration of a way to present a setting, and is well worth the price of purchase.

The Azurth Digest is back--for A Limited Time

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 02/15/2018 - 12:00

The first issue of the Azurth Adventures Digest  print edition is back on sale! Twenty-eight full color pages at 5.5 in. x 7.75 in. with art by Jeff Call and Jason Sholtis. There are random tables for the generation of quirky Motley pirates, a survey of interesting and enigmatic islands, and a mini-adventure on the Candy Isle. Plus, there are NPCs and a couple of monsters, all straight from my Land of Azurth 5e campaign.

 Go here for the print(+pdf) edition, while supplies last. If you only want the pdf, well, that's always available here.




Wednesday Comics: Valentine's Day

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 02/14/2018 - 12:00
Romance comics were a pretty big thing back in the day, and all the major publishers (including Marvel and DC) did them, but none of those have been collected, so far as I know--and they probably wouldn't appeal to the readers of my blog in any case. Here are a few comics with romance as an element that might.

Deadman: The Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love puts DC's disembodied former aerialist in a gothic mystery with a hit of romance.

Scott Pilgrim In Toronto, slacker Scott Pilgrim tries to date a cool girl, but first he has to defeat league of her evil exs. You've seen the movie, now read the comic that inspired it.

Sex Criminals Suzanne and Jon bond over an unusual trait they both share--their orgasms stop time! They decide to use this unusual ability to rob banks...

Wonder Woman: The Golden Age Vol. 1 Wonder Woman lives Paradise Island to bring love and peace to Man's World with her beau Steve Trevor. She seems to get into a lot of predicaments involving bondage.

Weird Revisited: The Wonderbuss

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 02/12/2018 - 12:00
This post originally appeared in February of 2011. It will show up in a couple more Weird Adventures posts after that...


Magical blunderbuss-type firearms were used by some wealthy Dwergen in their early conquest of the Strange New World. The weapons gave these sorcerously inept folk help against the shamans of the Natives and the thaumaturgists of rival Grand Lludd. Today, these antiques sometimes find their way into the hands of adventurers--in this world, and perhaps others.

Though they were manufactured in a variety of styles, they’re all muzzle-loading weapons with short, large caliber barrels and flared muzzles. They all can fire relatively normal projectiles of appropriate size (provided there is gun powder) , but their real power lies in specially designed spherical ammunition called “shells.” Interestingly, it appears likely that it was the prior existence of these magical shells which spurred the development of the gun, and not the other way around. No one knows who originally designed the shells, nor for what weapon.

Thaumaturgists (with alchemical aid) can manufacture new shells, but the process is tedious and expensive, so they tend to be rare. Sometimes, a supply is found in Ancient ruins or even other planes. The shells are classified by number, which denotes their effect. All shells of the same number historically tend to be of similar appearance, and modern manufacturers have kept with this tradition. Shells don’t not require gunpowder.

Magic Blunderbuss (Wonderbuss)
Dmg: 1d10 or special; Rof: 1/2 ; Range: 50’/100’/300’

Shells: (all spell references per the SRD)
#1: appears to be a lead ball, but too light for its apparently size. +1 weapon; Dmg. 1d12.  These are 80% of all shells found.
#2: brass-appearing. Casts two shadows, one distinct the other shimmering like heat-haze. Leaves a fiery streak when fired. 4d6 fire damage.
#3: appears to be a steel sphere etched with three 7-pointed stars. +2 to hit, 2d8 points of damage.  These are 5% of shells found.
#4: glass, containing a roiling green liquid. On a successful strike creates an Acid Fog as per spell.
#5: glass, faintly glowing and warm like the mantle of a lantern. Acts as the spell Sunburst, though it misfires on a roll of 1-2 on 1d6, and only does 1d10 damage.
#6: smoked glass. Faint moans can be heard within. Target’s soul is imprisoned on sucessful hit as per Magic Jar.
#7: silver and etched with glyphs which seem to shift when its not being watched. 1d10, deals double damage to lycanthropes, and extraplanar beings of evil. These are 5% of shells found.
#8: white, with the look of fine china, cool to the touch. Explodes for 5d6 damage in a 20 ft. radius.  Sleeping near (2 ft.) of one of these shells has a 75% chance of causing a ringing in the ears (leading to a penalty for rolls to detect things by hearing) lasting 1-4 days after removal of the shell from that distance.  Wrapping the shell in cloth will prevent this effect.
#9: appears as a flawless sphere of obsidian. Acts as a Sphere of Annihilation, though it can’t be moved, and exists only for 1 round before winking out.

Some scholars believe that more shell types are yet to be discovered.

Random Paths from the Crossroad of Worlds

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 02/11/2018 - 15:00

In Incredible Hulk #300, Dr. Strange tried to get read of the menace of the Hulk (who was in one of his brutish menace periods) but banishing him to another dimension. The Hulk ended up at the Crossroad of Worlds in a trippy, Ditko-esque space. Throughout the next 313 issues, he went to a number of weird worlds. The details of these worlds would make interesting places to visit in a fantasy rpg, but the brief, descriptive names given to the them by the folks at the Marvel Universe Appendix are in many ways even better for just getting the creative juices flowing.

Here's the list made into d30 random table (I had to add one to the end to get 30):
  1. Crossroad of Worlds (choose a path, roll again!)
  2. Acid Rain World 
  3. Barren World 
  4. Burning World 
  5. Daniel Decyst's World 
  6. Demon World of the N'Garai 
  7. Desert World
  8. Devil World 
  9. Frozen World 
  10. Furry Blue People World 
  11. Glob World of Floating Things 
  12. Idol World 
  13. Mist World 
  14. Octopod World
  15. Paradise and the City of Death 
  16. Poisoned World of Spine Creatures
  17. Purple Giant World
  18. Quicksand World 
  19. Radiation Monster World 
  20. Robot World 
  21. Sky Shark World 
  22. Swamp World
  23. Toad World 
  24. Vacuum World 
  25. War World 
  26. Underwater World 
  27. Wind World 
  28. Yellow Dwarf World 
  29. Purple World of Exile
  30. Chiming Crystal World

Operation Unfathomable is Out

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 02/08/2018 - 12:00

In case you missed it, Operation Unfathomable was released in pdf this week and is (as of this writing) number 1 on rpgnow. I can say that everybody in Hydra was excited to be involved in bringing this adventure out. I personally have played in the con game version, and it was a blast. I'm also honored that my somewhat Scooby-Doo homage logo made the cut and wound up gracing the final product.

The adventure has a great tone, like Shaver Mystery, 50s monster movies, and Jack Kirby Atlas monster comics. Get it now, before the rave reviews start rolling in, so you can have the satisfaction of knowing you got there before the crowd!

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Hounds of Marduk

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 02/07/2018 - 12:00
My exploration of the long-running euro-comic Storm, continues with his adventures in the world of Pandarve. Earlier installments can be found here.


Storm: The Hounds of Marduk (1985) 
(Dutch: De Honden van Marduk)
Art by Don Lawrence; script by Martin Lodewijk

Marduk, the Theocrat of Pandarve, is in a rage because he has been unable to relocate the Anomaly (i.e. Storm). Storm and his companions escaped Marduk's clutches and he hasn't seen them since. His palace staff has suffered his foul mood.

Suddenly, the Pearl of Pandarve begins to turn, meaning one of Marduk's hounds (or sleuth-hounds, as he sometimes says) has located the Anomaly. Sure enough, one of the round screens which are the hounds' vision has Storm in it.

Storm, Ember, and Nomad are in a tavern thousands of miles away. They have just negotiated the sale of Renter's ship, making enough money to buy some new clothes and weapons.

Nomad is bothered by the strange, dog-like creature that keeps staring at them. He pays the blind old beggar who appears to be its master to take the beast away. Meanwhile, another man in the bar has secretly recognized Storm as the Anomaly and plans to warn his men, but keep the anomaly in sight.

Our heroes move out into the street, but the dog (straining at his leash) is still intent on them. he drags his master into a collision with a passing palanquin. It's occupants are dumped on the ground. The rich man responds harshly:


Storm and his friends notice the commotion at the waterside. The hound is paddling for dear life. The beggar is underwater. Storm jumps in to try to save them. He manages to get the dog to safety, but he can't find the beggar's body.

Marduk, watches through the dog's eyes, pleased that his hound was saved. Storm tries to befriend the animal but at that moment Marduk summons the dog back and it runs off.

The three companions continue on their shopping excursion. They buy new clothing and new weapons. Ember worries their clothes look too good; they might attract robbers who think they are rich. Her words seem prophetic when they head down a narrow street to find a group of men blocking their path--and another blocking their retreat!



TO BE CONTINUED

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