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Home is Where The Hell is - Paul Elliot's Zaibatu rpg & Postcards from Avalidad by Miguel Ribeiro, & Manuel Souza Combined

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 09/28/2021 - 22:56
 “Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape. ”― William S. BurroughsNow let's pick it up where we left off yesterday within Postcards from Avalidad by Miguel Ribeiro, &  Manuel Souza combining it with Zozer Games Zaibatsu rpg  How can the cutting edge technologies, psionics, etc. be incorporated fromNeedles
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On the Ecology of the Lammasu and Lamia

Hack & Slash - Tue, 09/28/2021 - 20:00

"The offer she makes you seems like a good idea, but so does the worm on the hook to a fish" - Aldervile, Neo-Imperian Speaker

Nomenclature: Lammasu, Lamia, Manticores, Nagas, Sphinx, Shedu, Lilith, Empusa

Description: Creatures that have the head of a human and the body of a lion, goat, deer or snake, said to eat children

Things that are known:

  • Human are their prey
  • They are intelligent and have powers of illusion
  • They like to live in arid desolate places
  • They have the heads and/or torso's of humans, with animal lower bodies
  • They can see in darkness
  • They bait and trap men, using them for sex, sport, and supper

Rumors and other whispers in the dark:

  • They aren't evil monsters, just superior beings who view our children as a delicious source of tender veal
  • Their morality is complex, beyond human understanding. Amashotep's seminal works, Beyond Good and Evil, Also Sprach Lammathustra, Ecce Lammia, and Antilamia address the vast subject
  • It is a well kept secret that there is no separate species as lamia, it is the curse of all human females one night a month to become one
  • They are fond of associating with various other half-breeds, such as harpies and centaur. Whether this is due to distant relations or some other reason is unknown
  • They aren't any special - lions are just super horny and have no problem mating with human females. Lucky to survive, this rape is rarely mentioned. Lots of half-lion monsters though
  • The gods dream secrets, and these secrets slip into the world. They find a feline form, because those receive and transmit secrets. The forcefulness and power of the secret can sometimes mutate and warp the feline. 
  • Were a mortal to unravel the secrets of the leonine dreams, then immortality, even godhood, may be within reach. Two gods in the pantheon ascended in this way, and a secret order of questers pursues this murderous quest.
  • They are actually Zensunni post-buddhists, explaining their preference for arid, dune-filled environments
Art Adams
  • They keep dustworms as pets, from which they harvest mysture, a substance used to make lions and snakes grow human-like faces and intellects.
  • All lions are inherently evil. They lust after human flesh, and when they consume enough, they become a monster. Manticores come from the flesh of old men, young women produce lamias. Kings produce Sphinxes. 
  • They are a species that breeds true, and they suffer no defects from incest. The meaning of this is uncertain 
  • Demons don't just tempt men, sometimes noble lions fall prey, and the demonic corruption causes this horrific change
  • The Lamia-kind are neither good, nor evil, being beyond such matters. Some follow chaos and others law. Mortals try to ascribe morality to their actions, but they are simply angelic messengers of the balance, disinterested in the fate of men
  • A lamassotto is an underdark version of a lammassu
  • That Which Prowls stalks the trade routes, and celebrates melding the creatures of the wasteland and the humans who trespass into it. Some of the survivors swear loyalty to That Which Prowls and assist in playing out the long, incomprehensible, sadistic game of cat and mouse with humanity that may end in the elevation or destruction of the world.
  • They are truly vegetarians and child-like playful beasts. Guarding wastelands and other desolate places, however, poses them as a threat to the Lords of Law. The end result is that they are portrayed as a vicious, bloodthirsty, childnibbling beast.
  • A male Lamia is called a Lamio. Rare creatures with silvery hides and prodigious. . . manes. The lammassu is a protector of Lamia
  • The Goddess of Trees was struck ill, and barely managed to escape the battle of the gods, stumbling into civilization. There, she was cared for by the awed and ignorant human savages. She saw their lives up close; the way they turned to meat and away from the energy of the sun and the plants. She saw how they kept cats to eat meat that threatened what they wanted to protect. And, as we all know, the war of the gods caught up to the village and the terrified villagers betrayed the Goddess of Trees to the Master of Forges. Her dying curse was that humanity would become the mice, and their hunters would bear the cruelty of their faces.
  • They are not half-lion, all of these creatures are simply torsos on swarms of countless insects, each representing the soul of a living creature
  • Simply another form of an aberration of chaos, like satyrs, centaurs, minotaurs and platypi
  • The spectacular orgies of the Arch Magus Wyvaria tended to focus on reptiles. Lilariasha tended to use shape changing (mercifully) or just gear (best not to think about it) for coupling with spiders. But Vashtoor... he had a thing for lions. There's a reason we've killed all the wizards we could catch.
  • The Kingdom of Farragut does a spectacular trade in lamia sized slippers. They are fascinated by wearing soft, woolen booties while at home
  • Their internal organs are suffused with magic - their guts can be used to make magical bowstrings +2 of distance and deceit
  • They are not actually lion-headed creatures. They are Penanggalan, which many people believe are vampires but are actually a type of sky demon. If they feast on the flesh of men, a body eventually grows to support them. This body if feline. If they feast on other creatures, they become other creatures. Horses and steeds become centaur, felines and cats become Manticores, etc.
  • Lamias have no digestive systems, in fact their bodies are purely mechanical support systems for their heads. Their heads are the last remnants of an ancient empire that depended on machinery for survival. They were cursed by the gods for the misuse of their physical bodies and now suffer, eternally 
  • Lamias and Lammasu can remove their own eyes. When they do so, they loudly utter prophecies. No one knows the accuracy of these prophecies, it's hard to listen after you've just seen something rip out its own eyes
  • They are difficult to perceive and viewing such creatures is difficult on the mind, draining sanity or wisdom
  • No matter their form, they detest combat. Much better through spell, word, or deed to have lower forms do their fighting for them
  • Each is violent and aggressive because when they tear themselves into existence a dark shadow is created at the same time. This shadow form hunts them to destruction
  • Each is a different manifestation of a pure emotionally ideal, Lammasu's are intelligence, Lamia's jealousy, Manticores are anger, etc.
  • All of these are in fact guardians of thresholds, doorways, and portals. It is impossible to cross one without being within their vision. This is the root of their knowledge and power.
  • They are all just different lineages of Rakasta bloodlines
  • It is the name for a female vampire. Their powers of mentalism are so strong, that the only memories are those of a beautiful woman crossed with a deadly predator
  • They are actually enlightened ascetic beings who have chosen to remain behind in earthly form
  • House cats were ordered to play nice with humans so that they could serve as a spy network, funneling truth about humans and witness of their deeds to the dark judges that await them. When enough intelligence about humans reaches them, these strange leonines transform in a more human direction, shaped by the nature of the insights the cats send them about what humans really are.
  • The leonines are assigned by the cosmic to shepherd the human race, but they chose servants of the wrong temperament. They were unable to agree on how best to handle humanity. Those that insisted on control, pushing, and goading humanity to achieve its destiny became male. Those who preferred seduction, trickery, and thinning the herd became female. Their task is a failure and the dissapointment of the cosmic is palpable.
  • Leonines once ruled the world. Humans could only ascend by wielding chaos magic, and crushing human frailties into the animal perfection of the world's rulers. By forcing human flaw and personality in to permanently shatter the balance of these once-regal beasts, they destroyed their ability to work together.
  • At the end, the heroes faced Gozer, who insisted they choose the form of their destruction. All Rae could think about was Mr. Mittens, his innocent and wise house cat. Since then, the leonine form of the destroyer has gained in power and aggression in the corners of the world, as a millennial-long agenda of destruction unfolds.
  • The foundation of the world is not stone, but secrets. The leonine guardians of the world are tasked with protecting it. However, their society is matriarchal. The men dislike their servitude and the discrimination against them. Some slipped out of their enclaves (a man's place is at the hearth) and try to support and encourage the seekers of secrets, the faster to erode the world's underpinnings so they can transcend to the next world. Meanwhile, the ladies seek out the races that are addicted to riddles and puzzles, and finish them off as cruelly as they can--still, they cannot quench the thirst for mystery that humans stole from the cats long, long ago.
  • The priests of the Rakasta are gifted by their feline goddess with more and more leonine features as they are infused with more and more cosmic and divine energy, eventually becoming immortal. Therefore, when slain, they must contextualize and motivate their existence as they re-exist. They go insane a little, but the better they manage their obsessions, the more lucid they remain.
The ecology series is a crowdsourced series of articles, and contributors can be found on google+ under the hashtag #crowdecology. They are limited posts, but following me on G+ will allow you to see them. All artwork is credited where the artist could be found. Classic ecology articles from Dragon magazine are used both for reference and inspiration; the whole impetus of the idea was to create 'classic' ecology articles that are actually useful. Let's Read the Monster Manual by Noisms is also a source of inspiration.  

If you like posts like this, support me on Patreon!

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Game Wizards: The Epic Battle for Dungeons & Dragons

DM David - Tue, 09/28/2021 - 11:09

Jon Peterson’s earlier books aimed for readers with an unusual appetite for role-playing game history. Playing at the World sprawls past 425,000 words, rooting the design of Dungeons & Dragons in chess variants and Prussian wargames. The Elusive Shift tells how fans mainly writing in amateur zines shaped the often esoteric theory behind roleplaying games. Thanks to my taste for such arcana, I jumped to get a copy of Peterson’s most recent book, Game Wizards: The Epic Battle for Dungeons & Dragons, but I didn’t expect this book to keep me up at night reading and telling myself I would only stay up for a few more pages. This book can captivate anyone interested in the business of roleplaying games or in the people who created D&D.

Game Wizards focuses on battles that go from the game table to the boardroom and courtroom. The book reveals the pride and ambitions of the men who created D&D, and of their feuds over credits, awards, and money. This tale even includes backstabbing, though thankfully not the sort with knives.

Jon Peterson pulls the story from letters and other documents written by Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson, and other players as the events occurred. “Many of the direct quotations in this piece are thus taken from their correspondence.” Much of this book’s magic stems from the breadth of sources Peterson uncovers, from the contract establishing the original game’s royalty agreement to an audio tape Arneson recorded of a Gygax television appearance. “When Gary enumerates the character classes available in the game, at the point when he mentions that there is a thief class, you can hear Arneson mutter, ‘That’s you.’” Arneson and Gygax were then battling over credit and royalties for their creation.

The story starts in 1969, when Arneson attended the second GenCon, which Gygax hosted in his hometown of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The two gamers first partnered to create a set of rules for naval miniatures titled Don’t Give Up the Ship.

By the early 70s, Arneson and his group of Minneapolis gamers invented a style of campaign that broadly resembled D&D. When Gygax played Arneson’s Blackmoor game, its innovations inspired Gygax to turn the seed into a publication. “I’ll whip out a booklet for your approval, so groups can play their own games,” he wrote Arneson. Later Arneson described the role of Gary and his circle of gamers in creating D&D.  “At the time, they had a lot more spare time than I did and they had a lot of ideas, so they came up with their own version of the rules. They sent theirs to us and we fooled around with them for a while.” When Gygax had reasons to exaggerate his role, he claimed, “D&D, I wrote every word of that. Even my co-author admits that.” Arneson admitted no such thing. Still, Gygax’s tireless work as a writer, publisher, and well of ideas proved essential too.

Gary Gygax started Tactical Studies Rules to publish D&D and other games. In September 1973 Gygax wrote to Arneson, “We’re getting ready to roll.” When the costs of printing the first D&D sets ballooned, Brian Blume invested $2,000 dollars to become a partner in the company. In 1975 the company was incorporated as TSR Hobbies with Gygax and the Blume family holding nearly equal shares.

The revolutionary D&D game spread from Lake Geneva by word of mouth, from tabletop to tabletop, and especially from the gamers attending conventions like GenCon. In 1974, one GenCon visitor reported, “This year’s convention was centered mainly around the new set of Gygax and Arneson rules Dungeons & Dragons.” It was “the hit of the convention with gamemasters having games going in all parts of the Hall.”

By 1976, sales had grown enough for TSR to hire Arneson as Director of Research—and to work shipping. “Everyone who worked in the building had a nominal job, but had to pitch in wherever the need arose. In a personal letter dated February 2, Arneson explained his situation at the beginning of his employment at TSR: ‘My work here in Lake Geneva is going quite well and keeps me very busy from 8:30 to 6:00 every day of the week. In addition to my job as Director of Research I am also in charge of the Shipping Department.’”

But by summer Arneson felt growing dissatisfaction. None of his work related to D&D. Instead he had spent four months doing shipping and editing other designers’ rules.” He felt “no prospect of any of my work being published by TSR.”  Arneson would accuse Gygax of taking the company’s choicest design assignments. When work started on a D&D set for beginners, drafts of the future basic rules listed the authors as Gary Gygax and Eric Holmes with no mention of Arneson. Also, Gygax excluded Arneson from work on the design that would become Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.

Still, naval miniatures ranked as Arneson’s first love. Before hiring on, he had promised two sets of naval rules to TSR in exchange for company stock, but his drafts languished unfinished. “Gygax repeatedly asked for urgent revisions to them both, and Arneson repeatedly avowed his faith in their imminent publication to his friends, even as late as October 1976, but they simply never materialized. As of the summer of 1975, TSR had announced both as forthcoming titles in the third Strategic Review.” Clearly TSR planned to publish the games, but Arneson’s projects stagnated, frustrating Gygax. By September, Arneson routinely left TSR offices at lunch to work afternoons at his apartment. Despite the time away from shipping, he produced virtually nothing for TSR. Before long, he and the company started squabbling over unexcused time away.

In November, Arneson resigned from TSR. He and Gygax drew battle lines over their creation. Arneson argued that D&D stemmed from his essential ideas. He planned a company and roleplaying game to rival TSR and D&D.

Copyright law sided with Gygax, the author who penned the game’s rules. He planned a new Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, which he presented as a completely different game, free of any royalty obligations to Arneson. Their war for hearts and minds extended to convention appearances and magazine interviews. The creators fought in shareholder meetings and in courtrooms. Reaching a settlement would take years.

While Arneson battled for credit and royalties on one front, Gygax fought with TSR on multiple fronts.

In 1979, a 16-year-old college student named Dallas Egbert disappeared from his dorm at Michigan State University. His parents hired a publicity-seeking private detective named William Dear to find the boy. The investigator blamed D&D for Ebert’s disappearance and his lurid speculation stormed to the national news. By the time Egbert turned up safe, few were paying attention. (See The Media Furor that Introduced the “Bizarre Intellectual Game” of Dungeons & Dragons to America.)

Even as Gygax and TSR staff fought to clear up negative myths about the game, the publicity drove a sales boom. “At the beginning of 1981, no ceiling for sales of Dungeons & Dragons was in sight: the game was like a magic item that relentlessly generated gold.”

The gold rush inspired a spending spree: The Blume’s added much of their extended family to the payroll. In 1982, TSR funded an effort to raise a shipwreck from Lake Geneva and announced sponsorship of the U.S. Bobsled Team. “It would be a year of lavish gestures like this, of a company spinning virtually out of control. Events piled on events so rapidly that its management structures simply had no way to manage them. It ensured the foundering of the company Gygax and Blume had created in 1975.”

By 1983 the bubble burst, leaving D&D sales stagnant. Weary of battling the Blumes over business decisions, Gygax left Wisconsin to live in a Los Angeles mansion that cost TSR $10,000 a month, $25,000 adjusted for inflation. To be fair, the D&D movie Gygax hoped to produce could renew TSR’s growth, but to the gaming industry, the move looked like a retreat to an opulent lifestyle in Hollywood.

Game Wizards wraps in 1985, with TSR on the brink of bankruptcy, but Gygax back from Hollywood and poised to take sole control of the company from the Blume family. By then a new player, Lorraine Williams, had entered the game. As granddaughter of the original publisher of Buck Rogers, Williams brought wealth plus experience licensing intellectual property. Gygax interested her in making the investment TSR needed to avoid bankruptcy.

Before Gygax could take full control over TSR, Williams made other plans. “‘Gygax and I were not talking very much during the time because we had very fundamental differences,’ she would remark. Furthermore, informing Gygax that she intended to purchase the Blume family shares would be, as she put it, ‘an invitation for him to get in and just try to screw it up, and to once again try to thwart the ability of the Blumes to sell their stock and to get out and to go about their lives.’” Williams purchased a controlling interest in TSR and forced its founder out.

In Game Wizards Peterson reveals the conflict with a turn-by-turn account played over years. It makes a story as riveting as any yarn played out at the D&D game table.

Related: The time Dungeons & Dragons split into two games

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Review & Commentary On Michael Brown's New World: 2D6 Adventure in a Cyberpunk America For Cepheus Engine rpg or Your Old School 2d6 Science Fiction rpgs

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 09/28/2021 - 05:29
 Oh, beautiful for spacious skiesSkies that are colored gray, not like that of a dead channel, but from rain trying in vain to wash away the grime and evil of the streets below.For amber waves of grainGrain used to make “food” to feed America’s 430+ million people; and of course, the fatcats still get the first — and sometimes the only — mouthfuls."For purple mountains’ majestiesThat the average Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On Megadungeon #6

Hack & Slash - Mon, 09/27/2021 - 19:50

Hello friends!

Megadungeon #6 is out!

It's 3.99 and contains the Dagon, party fish people. A collection of diseases one can pick up in filthy places like a megadungeon. Articles on megadungeon as sport and in campaign play. It talks about hera, the cow-eyed queen of heights, and more!

If you're curious about all the hype, issue 3 is still currently PWYW! The preview for issue 6 covers all the pages!

Come take a look at the hottest place to take your players, the STONE HEAD OF BALDUR.

A giant stone face in a megadungeon, half flooded with ancient water. Explore this eerie and supernatural environment in megadungeon, or transplant it to your own games and megadungeons. 

Don't miss out!

If you like posts like this, support me on Patreon!

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Battlezoo Kickstarter almost done! And here’s one of my monsters

Blog of Holding - Mon, 09/27/2021 - 17:29

As I mentioned, I’m the guy writing the D&D 5E conversion of Roll for Combat’s Battlezoo Bestiary, a monster book in your choice of Pathfinder 2 or D&D 5E. It has four days left of its Kickstarter as of today and it’s already collected more than $200k.

I want to talk about what I’m doing on the book, and share a sample monster, the butcher booth.

The butcher booth is basically a large mimic – but it’s the Sweeney Todd of mimics. It infiltrates market squares and poses as a booth or building. It mimics the sounds and smells of an inviting business, such as the sharpening of barber razors or maybe the smell of delicious meat pies. When people come in to engage in commerce, the demon barbershop seizes them in its jaws and flies away. Truly you’re never safe in the world of D&D, even during a shopping session!

Here’s the original Pathfinder 2 monster. Click to expand

I took the Pathfinder monster and converted it to 5E. Despite PF2 and 5e’s shared lineage, there are quite a few conversion considerations.

The #1 issue is space. Pathfinder 2 is terse and keyword-based, while 5E uses natural language. For instance, it’s easy to give the Pathfinder butcher booth the ability to swallow creatures whole:

Swallow Whole (1 action) (attack) Huge, 3d6+8 bludgeoning, Rupture 23

The Pathfinder GM knows that Swallow Whole is a keyword they can look up to find the half-page of Swallow Whole rules. The rest of the entry fills in details. For instance “Huge” means that the creature can swallow creatures of up to Huge size. “Rupture 23” means that if the monster takes 23 or more piercing or slashing damage, the engulfed creature cuts itself free. And so on. Many of the rules are offloaded onto core book, so the actual swallow attack is about 10 words long in the monster entry.

Compare that to the rules for swallowing a creature in 5E. Here’s the 5E behir’s Swallow:

Swallow. The behir makes one bite attack against a Medium or smaller target it is grappling. If the attack hits, the target is also swallowed, and the grapple ends. While swallowed, the target is blinded and restrained, it has total cover against attacks and other effects outside the behir, and it takes 21 (6d6) acid damage at the start of each of the behir’s turns. A behir can have only one creature swallowed at a time.

If the behir takes 30 damage or more on a single turn from the swallowed creature, the behir must succeed on a DC 14 Constitution saving throw at the end of that turn or regurgitate the creature, which falls prone in a space within 10 feet of the behir. If the behir dies, a swallowed creature is no longer restrained by it and can escape from the corpse by using 15 feet of movement, exiting prone.

This approach means less page flipping but more stat-block real estate used. The behir Swallow attack is more than 150 words compared to PF2 Swallow Whole’s 10 words! A problem since the PF2 Butcher Booth stat block is already quite large. We don’t want the 5E version to be unmanageable in size.

For the 5e butcher booth, I actually removed the swallow action. I thought that I could accomplish a lot of the same thing with a bite attack that grapples and restrains and pulls the target inside the booth. At that point, the butcher booth can keep on chomping every turn, and can even fly away with hapless victims inside. I wrote a special bite action that can affect every creature inside its space, so it gets more dangerous as it imprisons more creatures.

This and similar considerations mean that, as I convert PF2 monsters, I’m making what you could consider a loose translation of the PF2 creature. I’m not in the business of re-implementing Pathfinder inside D&D. Whenever I can, I replace Pathfinderesque rules with something that works well in D&D, which is usually something simpler.

Another example: Pathfinder’s action economy is based on a character or monster having three actions. Every monster ability is listed with an action cost, and the GM can mix and match in different ways each turn. On the other hand, 5E monster action economy (excluding legendary monsters and low-level mooks) is based around the Multiattack action. A D&D monster may have many possible actions, but Multiattack usually specifies the way in which the monster can do the most things. Multiattack is sort of like a monster’s AI: it’s what a monster should probably be doing in combat if the DM doesn’t have a big spell or a rechargeable breath weapon on deck.

When I’m converting from the flexible PF2 action economy to the streamlined 5E one, I get to write the Multiattack, which means I codify the most fun collection of actions. That often means that I mix and match straight-damage attacks with fun, thematic powers that shake up the battle in an interesting way. The Butcher Booth’s multiattack is among the most complex multiattack I’ve written.

Multiattack. The butcher booth can use its Frightful Presence. It then attacks each creature in its space with its jaws, or attacks once with its jaws and uses Create Husk.

This strikes me as a fun attack routine. After a dragon-like Frightful Presence, it can bite everyone in its space (which could be everyone in the adventuring party if they all came in to browse for potions or whatever) or it can make a single bite – maybe pulling an external target inside for later digestion – and raise a previous victim as a zombie. Zombies pouring out of the general store should create some nice havoc in the marketplace, as well as being a rather heavy-handed criticism of capitalism.

The last thing I want to talk about is math. How do you convert a Pathfinder 2 AC of 30, or HP of 270, or a damage expression of 3d10+14, to D&D 5E?

Pathfinder is more mathematically rigorous than 5e and easier to math out. It provides monster creation guidelines that are more accurate than the 5e ones – in fact, without something like 5e’s bounded accuracy, you may break your Pathfinder monster if you venture too far afield from the guidelines. So all I need to do is take a look at the story being told by a Pathfinder monster’s numeric stats and tell the same story in 5e.

For instance: The Pathfinder butcher booth has a somewhat low AC and high HP for a level 12 PF monster. So to come up with 5e stats, I want to fire up my 5e Monster Manual on a Business Card and come up with somewhat low AC and high HP for a CR 12 5E monster. (I landed on AC 15 and HP 217 respectively.)

Here’s the final 5e Butcher Booth. Click to expand

If you want, say 100+ more 5e monsters like this, plus lots more stuff, go back the Kickstarter.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Review & Commentary On "The Goblins of Mount Shadow" By Brian Young For Castles & Crusades For Castles & Crusades Rpg or Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 09/27/2021 - 15:30
" Many long years ago the denizens of Mount Yr Wyddfa crawled beneath the earth; foul minded fey, goblins and others of that ilk; they fled for reasons unknown to any but themselves. The terraced slopes, the valleys, ravines and forested highlands settled in peace, farms spread along the greens, people settled and prospered. But the world unfolds, for ever turning, mirroring the past. It began Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Plague of Frogs (Modern Horror)

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 09/27/2021 - 11:11
By Goblin Archives Self Published Liminal Horror

The Plague of Frogs is an adventure/mystery for Liminal Horror that has the players investigate a rash of attacks that have end up being more than random bouts of violence. Can they stop the Plague of Frogs without fracturing their minds & bodies?

This eight page digest “horror” “adventure” contains as much information as a single page of loosely written notes for your game tonight.  It’s my fault. I was intrigued by the promise of a new horror framework, and using it for other systems, etc. Fuckwit Bryce thinks that you should be open to new things and innovations.

This “adventure” is for the Liminal Horror system/rpg. Which is a hack of the Cairn RPG. Which is a mashup of Into the Odd and Knave. Which are reimaginings of … Well, you get the picture. We are about to reach critical recursion depth. (I wonder how many cdr’s Scheme can manage, anyway?) Anyway, I’m not sure why the world needs another system for horror. Isn’t Call of Cthulhu the end all and be all of systems? I mean, yeah, big character sheet and lots of rules, but, I don’t think I’ve EVER seen it played that way. Basically the DM just tells you to roll the dice and something will happen to you. I’m not sure the rules or character sheet have ever come in to anything, except maybe how to roleplay my character. It’s one step away from Baron Munchausen to begin with, so I’m not sure why someone looked at it and was like “too much! Too much!” 

I have played a metric FUCK TON of Call of Cthulhu, as well as Danger International, the human spy version of Champions. Every adventure always goes the same way. A: Something weird is going on. B: Let’s search for clues and go places and talk to people. C: Oh no! It’s a bad guy! D: Look! A secret lair; let’s use shotguns and gasoline! This adventure is no different, following the standard trope format.

Except, it’s not an actual adventure. It’s a framework. Which is a fancy way of saying “I jotted down some notes.” The heart of the adventure is on page four. It takes up a third of a digest page and has eight sentences, listed in a table. These are the “potential clues.” 

Sewer grime on victims and frog-monsters, Video cameras catch glimpses of frog monsters, Dr Shelly is being consulted about a deformed corpse, B&H delivery van spotted at various scenes of attacks. There’s four more, but you get the idea. This isn’t a summary. There isn’t some vignette about the B&H offices, or some little scene or some summary of the various attacks. This is ALL there is for the investigation portion of the adventure. From this you, the DM, should put this together and make some stuff up for the players to do. It’s either on the spot improve or jotting down some notes and creating your own adventure from these components. It’s inspiration, not an adventure. I’m all for shotguns and gas cans, but, if this adventure takes 4 hours, then these eight sentences are supposed to be 2.5-3 hours worth of content. 

There’s always going to be this contention about how much content to provide the DM. Minimal keying, or frameworks & inspiration on one side and the explicit text verbosity vomited out by the pay per word gang on the other. But, there MUST be a happy medium in which 90% of consumers are satisfied. And it’s not this. It’s not eight sentences. I don’t care what the system is for, the designer needs to support the adventure more than this in order for it to be called an actual adventure. “I was sitting in a bar and jotted down some notes on the back of a napkin. I’ll send you a photocopy for $3. You should put in some filler so it lasts four hours.” Look, I’m open to new formats. I’m open to experimentation, especially in the realm of plot adventures and investigations. But, fuck, it has to SOMEHOW support the DM during play. Otherwise, it’s just a Fiasco playset. If you want to do that, fine, but that’s not an RPG. 

This is $3 at DriveThru.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 09/27/2021 - 11:00

Thanks to everyone who came to my aid after Friday's post and offered suggestions of settings to riff on. I actually might wind up dabbling in more than one as so many good suggestions were offered. First though, I think I'll start with Minaria, the setting for the Divine Right board game.
It turns out there is actually quite a bit of background for Minaria if you take into account the articles written by the game's author in Dragon. I've only read a little bit of that, but there's good stuff there. Still, I think I would like to go with the map itself--evocative of so much "pre-D&D as genre" fantasy--and the slim setting information in the rules and game components.

The art on the personality cards supports the older fantasy feel of the map. None of the characters look "cool," rather the art makes me think of classic illustration in older fantasy works like the works of Cabell, Dunsany, or Eddison. Also, the humor in some of the naming in the map puts me in mind of some of those works as well.

So in broadstrokes, Minaria (from this material) strikes me as a place of Medieval(ish) lords and nations jockeying for power through warfare and intrigues, not unlike Game of Thrones, but with the slight humor Dunsany or Byfield's The Book of the Weird.
More to come!

Two Rpg Flavors Combined - Paul Elliot's Zaibatu rpg & Postcards from Avalidad by Miguel Ribeiro, & Manuel Souza

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 09/27/2021 - 06:13
 "Postcards from Avalidad is a darkly surreal Tech-Noir game setting and adventure context for *Punk, and Actual F*cking Monsters.""Avalidad combines cyber, bio and psi punk to create a Burroughsian nightmare world of decadence,"Postcards from Avalidad by Miguel Ribeiro, &  Manuel Souza is a darkly surreal rpg of beast. And it its a great post cyberpunk rpg resource as well as a decedent beast ofNeedles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Guest Post: Trollopulous Reloaded 2 – Interdimensional Mind Control Bugs

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Sun, 09/26/2021 - 23:47

Time Marches on. Last session we left off with the party still camped at the Adventurers Aid Society Octagon. Pius the First was recently cured of a mysterious (possibly vampiric) wasting sickness by a lovely Acadia, handmaiden of the ambassador Emlyn of Wisdom Glen. Last report I said this was the Paladin Tacred but I’d misremembered which character had been struck with the sickness. Suspiciously, Emlyn had seemed put out by Pius’s miracle cure. Meanwhile, Druggo had been spying on the Palanquin of Hastoth the ambassador of Yauhiklendusz and discovering sinister goings on. The session starts with the current party:

  • Druggo Hairycock – 2nd level Thief
  • Franz – 1st level Fighter (a former henchman)
  • Tancred – 1st level Paladin
  • Pius the First — 1st level Cleric
  • Slomo Goldberg – 1st level Cleric

There are some obvious things going on in the Octagon:

  1. The servitors of Hastoth are constructing some sort of device outside the opening of the rental dungeon. This is the one the party last session discovered giant glowing beetles, a sinkhole, a mystical gate to another place (and perhaps time), even more gargantuan beetles with the ability to cause earthquakes, odd tentacled cone beings, and the land scattered with gems.
  2. The retinue of Emlyn is all ahoo due to the mysterious death (perhaps murder) of Acadia the handmaiden who had cured Pius of his illness. 

After some discussion the party decides to try to investigate the death of Acadia. Pius goes to Emlyn’s tent to speak with her while Druggo sneaks around the back. Emlyn is warm and welcoming and expresses distress about Acadia’s fate. What could have happened? Pius asks to go examine the body and sure enough the body has the hallmarks of vampiric draining. Druggo uses the opportunity to slip under the edge of the tent and ends up in a fancy chamber with a large camp cot, silks, furs, urns, and a large chest. He opens the chest to find clothes, toiletries, and the like, plus two vials. Palming the vials, Druggo makes a quick exit and avoids notice. Only afterward he realizes the chamber smelt strongly of vinegar. The vinegar smell triggers one party member’s distant memory — Pius the First turns pale at the recollection. Could it be? What?

The party is somewhat taken aback that a vampire may be about, what with them being mostly first level characters and so backs off on the investigation. Next they go to observe the servants of Hastoth at the dungeon entrance. There are a good dozen servants all building a large chrome tripod with a parabolic dish on top. At the focus of the dish is a large crystal illuminated by pulsing light from within. At their approach the servants at first warn them away and block their entrance into the tunnel. Upon questioning the servants say they are performing a task for their master Hastoth and that the PCs wouldn’t understand what even if they told them. The party then decides to press the issue of entering the complex. Intimidated the servants relent and let them in with a warning that they best be quick and they can’t be held responsible if anything unfortunate happens. 

In they go. Down the empty hall to discover the previously found sinkhole is now teeming with glow beetles plus several more of the large earthquake beetles are there. As is the glowing portal. Once again Druggo is lowered by a rope into the pit. The glowing beetles make way for him as he approaches the gate. Then he is through and back in the square surrounded by cyclopean buildings. Except this time the square is occupied by marshalled ranks of earthquake beetles all standing dead still as if lifeless. At the far reaches of the square Druggo sees many more of the weird cone shaped creatures he’d seen on his previous visit. Keeping one eye on the cones, he scoops up the random rocks scattered about the square. He stuffs his pockets and then gives a casual friendly wave at the cone beings while preparing to exit via the gate. A voice enters Druggo’s head, “Be not afraid.”

This stops Druggo in his tracks. Through telepathic communication Druggo learns that the cone beings and their city is under attack by the servants of the Primordial Ones. They are losing and preparing to flee. He learns that the cone beings cannot survive in his world and thus they have prepared vessels for their minds in the form of the giant beetles. He’s reassured that his own mind is not sufficient for the task. 

At right about this time a strange beam of light illuminates the tunnel, the sinkhole, and the gate rendering everything transparent. The rune-edged border of the gate states to ripple with disharmonic forces. The cones warn Druggo “We must go!” The cones sag in place and one by one the beetles spring to life and charge the gate. Soon the beetles are flowing through the gate in large numbers. The party members in the hallway are taken aback when everything becomes transparent. Plus the beetles in the sinkhole begin their thumbing rumbles shaking the room. After losing their savings throws several PCs lose their balance and start crawling gingerly by feel back up the hallway. Only then to be swarmed over by the horde of beetles with Druggo riding the lead beetle with an antenna in each hand. 

The servants of Hastoth as surprised by the ferocity of the beetles charging out of the portal. Several of the robed servants are bowled over outright but then the rest pull out rayguns and start blasting chunks out of the beetles. The party joins in with thrown weapons and flaming oil. A key victory occurs when the parabolic machine is doused in oil and with spits and sparks ceases functioning. Soon the immediate servants are defeated and the beetles keep pouring out of the hole. But, then Hastoth arrives in his palanquin carried by wooly mammoths along with the rest of his servants. And, with the Golden Armored warriors of the Three Regiments. The Golden Warriors march forward pikes lowered. The beetles crash into and are skewered on the long spears. But then number come into play and the stout warriors start to be pushed back. 

Meanwhile the party members have picked up fallen rayguns and begin blasting away at Hastoths palanquin. Eventually they score a decent hit (and the steel palanquin fails a non-magical item saving throw) which blows a decent hole into the palanquin. This doesn’t have the effect they’d hoped for because out of the hole flows a liquid black yet transparent ever-changing mass of horror. Which rolls right over the lead beetles. With this assistance the golden armored warriors regain ground and begin pushing back the insectoid ranks. 

Back at the Octagon camp the Handmaidens of Wisdom Glen and the Knights of Saint Therese are beating a hasty retreat in the face of this unexpected battle. The party thinks better of things too and heads out away from the conflict. After gaining some distance, they decide to head to the Valley of Trolbellor. They arrive in the valley on a rainy overcast day to find it empty. Trolbellor is gone. The giant skeletal warrior’s throne of stones sits empty with a mass of muddy disturbed earth in front of it. The party decides the rest a bit and waits to see if the master warrior returns. After several days, there is still no sign of Trolbellor. The only signs of life are the mysterious lights in the sky in the direction of the Octagon, the valley’s native herds of sheep and cattle, and a herd of elephants passes through heading east. All is quiet. 

But, what else is happening in the world? I can’t say. Or, rather I won’t because the PCs don’t know. There are things afoot. 

  • The Hobgoblins continue their depredations to the south. 
  •  What has happened to the AAS and the Octogon?
  • In the foothills and woods some travelers have said they have spotted some small forts topped with a tower in the shape of Macho Mandalf’s hat. But, then the brief glimpse is lost in the shadows and mist. 
  • Bandits seems to be springing up all over the far reaches of Trollopulous. 
  • The dwarfs in the mountains report spotting a giant skeletal figure moving among the rocks. 
  • Word is that Trollopulous is sending emissaries out of the city looking for assistance. 

The Lands of Trollopulous

The party each gain 66 XP for combat and 1,000 XP for the captured rayguns. 

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Review & Commentary On 'Night of the Spirits' By Brian Young For Castles & Crusades Rpg or Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 09/26/2021 - 23:12
 "At the end of each year comes the month and holiday of Samonios, Samhain or Nos Galan Gaeaf, or Halloween. This is the time when the worlds are drawn together and monsters, gods and the spirits of ancestors wander between them. It is a dangerous and dark time in which the most holy and sacred of ideas mean more than they ever have before in the previous year. It is a time for the Dead and to Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Expedition To The Deep Session Report #3 - The Free Gamma World Adventure GW5 'Rapture From the Deep' & X6 Quagmire by Merle M. Rasmussen With The Castles & Crusades Rpg Aligned With The Star Ship Warden Rpg book

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 09/26/2021 - 16:58
 Billie Smith our Elven ranger has been scouting ahead with his partner & scout running across the remains of several strange spiral buildings partially submerged underwater. And they ran across one of the mecha killers of this game. Several gigantic toads of double & triple hit points able to take out monsters many times their size. They also noticed that their skin had mirror like quality to Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

September Blowout Sale!

Two Hour Wargames - Sat, 09/25/2021 - 17:37

Check out the six games on sale - $9.99 or less.

 September Blowout Sale

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Stalwart Age Character Database Update - Just Keep Swimming!

The Splintered Realm - Sat, 09/25/2021 - 12:42

While I'm all about Shakespeare Deathmatch right now, and I'm still in transition back to school mode (first time teaching English 8 and brand new to middle school, so whew), I did find a little time to update the Stalwart Age Character Database, adding two undersea characters, Prince Aquari and his arch nemesis Lord Lamprey. There are a lot of titles being passed around in the deep, obviously.

The Megavolt Monsters Adapted from The 1978 The Godzilla Power Hour For Cepheus Atom & Your 2d6 Science Fantasy Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 09/25/2021 - 06:18
 Up from the inner Earth the megavolt monsters are a little understood species of Kaiju discovered by the Nazi in the Mid Atlantic rift back in Nineteen thirty nine under the Hidel expediation. The megavolt species are energy absorbers specifically electricity. They are capable of absorbing & creating thousands of mega volts of electricity. The megavolt species are highly terroritial & will Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Review & Commentary On 'The Gods Left It Behind' By Joseph Mohr From Old School Role Playing For Cepheus Engine Rpg & Old School 2d6 Science Fiction Rpg's

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 09/24/2021 - 20:01
 "Archeologists have been studying the primitive natives on the jungle world of Eniran. These natives have carved cities out of the thick jungle there. According to the native legends a god like race lives in a castle in the clouds above them. At first the archeologists thought that this was just native superstition but recently they discovered that there is, indeed, a castle floating in the Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Ravenloft’s House of Lament Aims for Tough Goals and Hits Them

DM David - Fri, 09/24/2021 - 12:19

To start a weekend of D&D, my friend Tom Christy touted House of Lament, the level 1-3 adventure from Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft. He had already run it twice and rated it as outstanding. DMs shape the experience of an adventure, so just playing House of Lament tells me nothing about running it, but I loved playing it. It succeeded at two things that D&D makes difficult.

In D&D games, players sit at well-lit tables among friends. Most often, players become fearless heroes capable of winning against almost any threat they face. Long-time players see all the monsters revealed in the game books, eliminating any fear of the unknown. All this makes creating a fearsome or even unsettling adventure nearly impossible. But House of Lament succeeds on both counts.

As much as adventure designers enjoy inventing a backstory for their adventures, often making the party’s arrival the last chapter of a long tale, 80% of the time, none of that story reaches the players. And for most of the rest of the 20%, the players don’t care. Just tell me what to kill. House of Lament succeeded at developing a fascinating history and motivating players to uncover it. Plus, the adventure mixes in variety by offering a choice of potential villains and allies.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

New Flesh On Old Bones

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 09/24/2021 - 11:00

Staying busy with other stuff (including gaming sessions), the blog has suffered from me having a lack of time to cogitate sufficiently for many posts on new ideas. I thought it might help to go back to the old standby of riffing off an existing setting. I find constraint sometimes stimulants creativity and placing boundaries on things limits the number of tangents that can distract you.
So, I thought it might be interesting to take some older setting that was perhaps open-ended in its approach or sparse in its presentation and see how I would develop that. At least, it's an idea to consider; whether I get around to it or not is another matter.
But what setting? The perennial favorite to "make one's own" is the Wilderlands. But there are two publishedindividual visions of that, and blogs with other good versions (and some good versions on blogs that are now lost as Atlantis). I don't know that I have anything to add there without getting really variant, and I've never really got the Wilderlands in the way these folks seem to, so I would really be riffing off them to some degree.

Another setting similarly sparse in its original presentation is the Greyhawk folio. The later box set, for that matter, is only a little more detailed. While not as popular as the Wilderlands for this sort of thing, certainly folks have offered there own take on it to--here's Evan again.

Beyond those, what else? The Known World (pre-Gazetteers) is terse in its original presentation in The Isle of Dread, though the helpful (for the neophyte GM) cultural references might hem it in more than the ones mentioned previously, despite it's shorter length. Is there anything else? Powers & Perils' Perilous Lands, or does in that way lie madness? (It's not really terse at all, but curious unspecified in some ways.)

Reviews & Commentary 100 Undead (Dark Fantasy) From Chaos Factory by Eric Diaz For Your Old School Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 09/24/2021 - 02:14
"100 Dark Fantasy Undead is a collection of undead creatures for your dark fantasy games. There are undead of all types here... the creepy, the funny, the scary, etc. "There are no statistics or mechanics here; this is moslty a collection of ideas. " So I've been looking into variant undead for my upcoming Halloween campaign & 100 Undead (Dark Fantasy) From Chaos Factory by Eric Diaz..   100 Needles
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