Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas, Nerds

Hope y'all have a blessed holiday and find 1d4+1 presents under the tree.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Scraps of Inspiration

I read a lot of roleplaying game materials. Often a title or concept catches my eye but the material itself is lacking. But every so often there's a paragraph or a footnote, or a campaign hook, or something similar that catches my attention. These attention-grabbing scraps are rarely something I have a clear use for. I just see them and think "that's a neat idea" before filing them away. I've decide to share a few of the scraps I've collected.

I think that if you've been reading this blog you may have guessed that I don't like Dungeons & Dragons 3.x or Pathfinder much. In fact, you may have realized that I really fucking despise those games. I'm not a big fan of Mongoose Publishing either but this chart from Slayer's Guide to Sahuagin is actually a pretty nifty tool.

This little excerpt comes from an issue of Dragon magazine, around 212 or so if memory serves. The Masque of the Red Death setting has never really clicked with me. The "Victorian times but with D&D monsters" gimmick is a little lackluster in my opinion. But I do like this bit about drugs, brains, and monsters. Better yet, you can replace opium with a fantasy drug and literal brain-eaters with mind-eating extradimensional entities that possess drug users. I think this has potential.

The details on the process for becoming a D&Desque Lich have always been quite sparse. I like the above article (from Dragon Magazine?) because it lays out the steps for lichdom, makes it risky, and shows why it can be considered evil (the need for fresh corpses).

Last is a cursed portrait from a Paizo-era Dragon module Maure Castle.Like most Paizo modules this one failed to impress me but I do like this haunted/cursed painting .

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Golden Man and The Mighty Destroyer

One of the principal deities of the Tarfel setting is the Sun-God. He is known as Ialtes in the Elvish languages and is the patron of the Day Elves. Humans know him instead as Yalt in Aumsland (an area analogous to Western Europe) and Yalil or Yalel in the Sunlands and the Citadel Kingdoms (analogous to Northern Africa and the Near East, respectively). Ialtes/Yalt has two distinct aspects or modes of being, one being a creative aspect and the other a destructive aspect.

The Golden Man

The creative aspect of Yalt is The Golden Man. He embodies the positive aspects of the sun: Warmth, light, and good temperature for harvests. His connection with harvests has also created an association of him with wealth. Many merchants therefore spread his cult on their journeys. He is depicted as a gold-skinned hairless male Elf or Human (depending on his worshipers). His physique his always that of a well-fed individual which in practice ranges from healthy-looking to rather fat. His expression consists of closed eyes and a serene smile. The Golden Man isn't widely worshiped among the Day Elves or the Humans of the Citadel Kingdoms because of the constant warfare these groups find themselves in. He is most commonly worshiped by the Humans of Aumsland and he has a small but growing cult in many of the Sunland nations thanks to merchant-missionaries.

The Mighty Destroyer

The destructive aspect of Yalt is The Mighty Destroyer. He embodies the negative aspects of the sun: Drought, dryness, skin diseases, and fires caused by drought. He is also revered as a war-god because of this destructive bent. He is depicted as an exceptionally powerful male Human or Elf with a male lion's head. His mouth is almost universally open in manner suggesting a snarl or growl. The Day Elves worship Ialtes almost exclusively in this aspect, as do the Humans of the Citadel Kingdoms. Unlike the cult of The Golden Man, the cult of The Mighty Destroyer is wholly unconcerned with proselytizing. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Cats of Chaos

I've got some ideas I had for a setting (not Tarfel but yet another unfinished setting that's even less developed). The setting is based on Egyptian and Mesopotamian mythology
The idea is that there is a Law (relatively good) versus Chaos (relatively evil) conflict here with the sun god and his wife on the side of law and the cat-god of chaos on the side of chaos (SHOCKING TRUTH!). There are other animalistic/totemic gods that exist in a precarious middle ground between the two camps but I'll detail those later. This god has few worshipers because of its destructive nature but its able to create and command many servitors in the mortal world. What follows is brief overview of its most prominent servants.

 Picture sort of related


The Ahharu are mortals, usually cannibals, who have been given the ability to change into a monstrous version of themselves: When they transform, their muscles bulge, their hair becomes mane-like, their eyes become like a cat's, and their teeth become wicked fangs. Their only weakness is that they cannot assume their monstrous form except between sunset and sunrise.


The Djinn are sowers of chaos, using their power to grant wishes to destabilize society. Djinn closely resemble Humans but they are much larger (generally 8 feet tall), they have cat-eyes, and their finger and toe nails are instead shiny black claws. Djinn meddle with mortals not because of some cosmic mission but because of sadistic voyeurism. Occasionally a Djinn will bestow a measure of his or her own power upon a mortal, turning that person into a Sahira.


The Lamia are simply murderers. Unlike the Djinn (who enjoy the comedy of errors mortals put on) or the Sphinxes (who enjoy mortal flattery), Lamia hate all mortals and desire only their destruction.
Sometimes they attack blatantly and other times they act more subtly but their motivation is always the same. Lamia have the upper body of an exceptionally attractive mortal woman and the lower body a great cat.

Sahira (Witch) 

Sometimes a Djinn finds a mortal with deep emotional troubles or an overriding obsession. To these they gift the power of magic, turning them into Sahira. The motivations behind a Sahira's actions vary from revenge, greed, or even atonement but they are unstable enough to make them dangerous regardless of their reasoning.


Sphinxes are the only servitors of the chaos god that aren't considered wholly evil. Local populations treat these scholar-demons with a mix of fear and pious respect. Sphinxes are incredibly intelligent and have divination abilities that make them much-sought as oracles. Sphinxes don't perform these services for free: They demand treasure in exchange for their services, not because such treasure has value to them but because they recognize the importance of treasure in mortal society and the respect it brings. Sphinxes have the bodies of great cats with the chests and heads of Humans and a pair of hawk-like wings on their backs.

Gimme a break, gimme a break~

Hello, there loyal readers (I'm sure there are at least two of you out there so I'm not embarrassing myself). It's been a while since I've posted since this semester has been pretty jam-packed. Fortunately I'm now in Winter Break™, which means I have some spare time and spare brainmeat energy to use for nerd shit like roleplaying games.

I was too lazy to change the filename. Source is an artist named bkub.

Here are some things I'll try to post here before the Spring semester starts:
-XCOM: Enemy Unknown/Within's version of Chrysallids for Unisytem Classic
-XCOM: Enemy Unknown/Within's version of Sectoids (and maybe their variants too, I dunno) for Unisystem Classic and Heroes & Other Worlds
-Complaints about double standards for Player/PC knowledge split
-A comic book review or two
-Ravenloft stuff 
-Some of the stuff I started on but didn't finish
-A bunch of other crap most people won't care about

See you guys again in a few days.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Machine Wars are here

I'm a bit of a Transformers collector. My love the franchise started with Generation 2, a gloriously colorful and innovative line that sadly bombed. From there I followed Beast Wars and its sequel Beast Machines.  After Robots in Disguise, the Armada cartoon didn't appeal to me at all and I didn't get anything from that era. From Armada's debut (2002) until sometime after Revenge of The Fallen (2009), I only got a single Transformer: Energon Rodimus (who I'll probably sell off). Since 2009 I've been collecting again, starting with a 2-pack that featured Bludgeon vs Whirl. My latest addition is a Machine Wars Skywarp which came in the mail today.

Free to fly after nineteen years.
Why this particular version of Skywarp? Well, this one has a really striking color scheme: White with red as plane, white and black with a yellow head as a robot. It's more interesting than the Generation 1 and also stands out from the many black and purple Decepticons in collection.
I already own a version of this mold  in the form of Beast Wars II Dirge so I was eager to see how Skywarp, a limited KB toys release, compared to Dirge, a mass-market retail release. While I really do like Skywarp, there's a notable downgrade in quality from Dirge. Skywarp's limps aren't floppy but they aren't nearly as tight as Dirge's. The mold's two-part gun can actually be mounted into slots in the forearms to replicate the "null ray" layout of earlier jet robots: While it works perfectly for Dirge, one of Skywarp's gun pieces doesn't fit tightly enough and falls off while the other one seems to fit too tightly. The last thing that strikes me is what I can only describe as striation in Skywarps black plastic. If I look closely I can see little thread-like lines on the pieces; this is something I had previously only experienced with Constructicon bootlegs.

Despite all my complaints, I'm happy with my purchase and I'm preparing a nice spot for him on my Generation 2 Decepticon shelf.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Circuits & Sorcery?

Recently, a rather strange idea has been kicking around in my head. A savage world where a once-mighty and amazingly advanced race ruled the land until a mighty cataclysm sent their empire tumbling down. Now, the descendants of those ancient overlords emerge from their crumbling ruins to recover the wisdom (and treasure) of the ancients. The twist? The ancients and their descendants are robots.

I was thinking more along the lines of Generation 1 but this image also works.

Essentially, the concept is Transformers meets Dungeons & Dragons. The robots from notCybertron landed on some colony world but then a "plasma storm" or some such destroyed their infrastructure. Nonsentient drones evolved into robotic prey; some of the sentient robots were mutated into horrible biomechanical mutants. Instead of Halflings, Humans, and Dwarves there are Minibots (change into small cars, scouts/stealthy), Chargers (change into sportscars, balanced), and Convoys (change into trucks, leadership/support). Instead of alignments I could have factions.

I originally thought about hacking Basic D&D for this; but reading Dungeon World has piqued my interest in Powered by The Apocalypse as an engine, although the specific "Transformers + D&D" idea I have probably wouldn't work as well under it. I still need to refine this concept.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Flumphs for Unisystem Classic and Heroes & Other Worlds

This is a very special and crunchy post dedicated to Flumphs. Flumphs always struck me as interesting since they were one of the few monstrous or bizarre creatures that were also Good-aligned. Although I'm not a fan of Pathfinder I do like like the spin that Misfit Monster Revisted put on Flumphs, turning them into friendly eldritch abominations that basically help mortals resist the evil plans of Great Old Ones. Maybe they worship Kthanid?

Unisystem Classic

These are rules for Flumphs using the Unisystem Classic system from games like Terra Primate and All Flesh Must Be Eaten. I think I did a good job on the supporting cast entry and the two new powers but I'm not happy with the Flumph racial quality or the Unusual Diet vulnerability.

Flumph (Supporting Cast)

Str 2 Dex 5 Con 2 Int 2 Per 3 Will 2
Life Points 26 
Endurance Points 23
Speed 2 mph (Walking)/14 mph (Flying) 
Essence Pool 16

Skills: None

Attack: Sting D4 x 2 (4) + Poison (Strength 1): Armor Value D4 (2) [Natural]

Qualities/Drawbacks: Attractiveness -4, Minority 3, Physical Disability (No legs); Honorable 3 or Zealot

Powers/Vulnerabilities: Extended Activity Cycle 1, Fly 1 [Atlas of the Walking Dead], Shortened Sleep Cycle 1 [see below], Unusual Diet (substance only; once a week; uncommon [70% pure minerals]) [see below], Venom 1 (Terra Primate)

Metaphysics: None.

Gear: Usually none.

3-point Racial Quality
  • Dex +3, Per +1
  • Flumphs have a natural sting attack that deals D4 x Strength damage. The sting also extrudes a Strength 1 (1 damage) corrosive poison (see below)
  • Flumphs have D4 natural armor.
  • Flumphs have four levels in the Attractiveness and three levels in the Minority drawbacks, and a 4-point Physical Disability (no legs). Flumphs must also select either a 3-point Honorable or Zealot drawback
  • Flumphs possess one level of the Extended Activity Cycle and Shortened Sleep Cycle powers (see New Powers and Vulnerabilities below), one level of the Fly power (Atlas of the Walking Dead 101), and one level of the Venom power (Terra Primate 168).
  • Flumphs have a 5-point Unusual Diet (substance only; once a week; uncommon [70% pure minerals]) vulnerability (see New Powers and Vulnerabilities below).

New Powers and Vulnerabilities

Extended Activity Cycle
Variable Physical Power
For every level of this quality, a character can stay up longer without having to sleep. Each level of this power increases the character's activity cycle by x1.5. For example, a character without this power must sleep 7 hours out of every 24-hour period (AFMBE Core Rulebook 114); a character with one level of this power must sleep 7 hours out of every 36-hour period and a character with two levels needs to sleep 7 hours out of every 54-hour period. This power costs 4 points per level.

Shortened Sleep Cycle
Variable Physical Power
For every level of this power, the character's required sleep time per 24-hour period is cut in half. So one level in this quality would mean the character only needs 3.5 hours (210 minutes) of sleep per 24 hours instead of the usual 7 (AFMBE Core Rulebook 114), and two levels would mean that the character only requires 1.75 hours (105 minutes) of sleep per 24 hours. This power costs 3 points per level.

Unusual Diet
Variable Physical Vulnerability
A character with this vulnerability must consume an unusual substance to avoid starvation (One of The Living 71). To determine this vulnerability's point value, add the values listed below for the appropriate Exclusivity, Frequency, and Availability. If the value of this vulnerability ends up as a number below 0, round up to 0.
  • Exclusivity: Whether or not normal food can satisfy the character. For 0 point the character can consume twice the usual amount of normal food to sate his hunger instead of eating his substance of choice. For 1 points the character must not only eat normal food but must also eat his substance; an inability to eat either will cause starvation. For 2 points, the character can only receive nutrients from the substance.
  • Frequency: How often the character must consume the substance. For 0 points, it must be consumed once every two weeks, every month, etc. For 1 point it must be consumed once every week (seven days). For 2 points it must be consumed at least twice a week. For 3 points it must be consumed once every 48 hours. For 4 points it must be consumed at least once daily.
  • Availability: How difficult it is to obtain the substance. An ubiquitous substance like tree bark, dirt, or grass is worth -5 points. A common substance can be found with relative ease but there's still some effort involved, for example the bark of specific kinds of trees, chicken bones, fresh mud; this is worth 1 point. An Uncommon substance can generally only be found in specific areas or specific times like certain minerals or fresh cow's blood; this is worth 2 points. A rare substance can only be obtained from specialized merchants or dubiously legal means, like fresh Human blood or Orc meat; such a substance is worth 3 points. A very rare substance is highly illegal and unlikely to be sold even in black markets, for example fresh Human or Elf brains; this is worth 5 points.
For example, an Unusual Diet that is exclusive to the substance (2), must be eaten once a week (1), and uses a very rare substance (5) is a 8-point vulnerability while an Unusual Diet that is in addition to normal food (1), must only be consumed once a month (0), and requires an ubiquitous substance (-5) is 0-point vulnerability.

Heroes & Other Worlds

These rules are for C. R. Brandon's Heroes & Other Worlds.

Flumph (NPC stats)
#: 1d3
ST: 8-10
DX: 10 (8)
IQ: 8
EN: 0
MV: 5
Behavior: Unpredictable (10)
Habitat: Any Urban or Wilderness
AR: -2 (Natural armor)
DM: 1D4 (Sting)
SP: multiple (see below)

Flumphs as Characters
- +4 DX, +2 IQ, No EN
- Natural Weapons: Flumphs have a Stinger that deals 1D4 damage.
- Natural Armor: A Flumph's tough hide gives it -2 AR
- When crawling, a Flumph has MV 1; when hovering/flying a Flumph has MV 6. A Flumph produces no noise while hovering and can hover or fly indefinitely as long as it's conscious.
- Unusual Physiology: A Flumph can't wear boots or gloves. They also cannot wear armor since it impedes their air flow. However, Flumphs may also wield up to six-magical rings at once.
-Stench Spray: A Flumph may shoot a stream of foul-smelling liquid every 1d4 turns. The Flumph makes a ranged attack: if it succeeds, the target must make a 3/ST test or be sickened for 1d4 turns.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Powers that be

One thing that always puzzled me about D&D 3.5 was the separation between evil gods (like Hextor) and evil entities that weren't gods but could still grant spells (like Yeenoghu). It always seemed to me that at the level of power there was no real difference between the two.

In this post, I'm going to describe my schema for how those concepts fit together. This schema is my default for generic/traditional fantasy and the mindset I use when thinking about stuff for my Tarfel setting (which is in desperate need of development). I don't have a relevant picture so here's a Pie Fiend.

Powers are supernatural, non-mortal entities that can channel their energy into magical gifts given to mortal creatures. Some Powers are also Gods (see below); Powers who aren't Gods are usually Elemental Princes, Demon Lords, Archcelestials, or other powerful beings.

Gods are Powers who have a cosmological function or concept that they work to maintain.  How they keep these functions/concepts working is something unfathomable to non-gods. Even Gods that are in charge of things like slacking off or partying naked spend most of their time making sure that their concepts don't break down.

If a God dies then a cosmic imbalance occurs: either his function/concept stops working entirely or it goes out of control. For example, if a God of death is destroyed then the world perhaps death doesn't occur and all creatures continue to live on in horrifically wounded bodies (a lack of death); alternatively, everyone is dying from papercuts, splinters and scratches (an excess of death).

No matter happens, the death of a God is a very bad thing for everyone. It can take centuries for the quasi-sentient divine spark to find a new host and restore cosmological balance. For this reason, the Gods seek to conquer their enemies and bind them in divine pacts of servitude rather than kill them. Religious wars in the mortal world are often part of an indirect strategy to weaken specific gods.

Non-divine Powers have affinity for and limited power over some functions and concepts but aren't responsible for maintaining them; their deaths and their existences have little impact on cosmological balance.

Gods also have religions dedicated to them and a hierarchical priesthood of some sort as well. Depending on the God's personal attitudes the hierarchy might be a rigid structure resembling military commands or government bureaucracies or it could a very loose structure more akin to a social club. Magical ability often indicates the favor of Gods but doesn't necessarily give priests a higher authority. Gods tend to have a large number of worshipers and the support of local governments.

Gods also have Precepts, general edicts issued by the Gods themselves to do certain things ("Give to the poor from the bounty of your harvest") and avoid others ("Never extend or accept a truce with an Undead"). All Gods require their worshipers to follow their Precepts, although they generally don't notice transgressions unless these occurring on a large scale (such as whole region) or committed by those the Gods have empowered. Gods don't usually change their Precepts or declare new ones.

Supplementing Precepts are Doctrines, mortal teachings derived from Precepts but focusing on practical interpretations. So for example a doctrine derived from "Give to the poor from the bounty of your harvest" would be that only plants that can be used as food or clothing truly need to be shared while intoxicants like tobacco do not.

Gods rarely bestow magical gifts on those who worship them and devoutly follow their precepts; even more rarely a God may offer a non-worshiper such gifts if he agrees to convert to the worship of his new patron.

Non-divine Powers in contrast do not have Precepts or Doctrines; They offer their gifts to those who seem to fit with their interests or even at random. The contract is often simple: In exchange for the gift of magic to be used unconditionally as the mortal sees fit, the mortal must fulfill one task chosen by the Power at some point in the future.

The task given varies on the Power bestowing the gift. Fiendish Powers tend to choose particularly gruesome acts like cannibalism or torturing a sapient being to death. Celestial Powers instead select grueling but benevolent tasks such as giving every orphan in the city a loaf of bread or a long pilgrimage to many sacred sites.

The general train of thought is that once a mortal tastes the power and realizes that the tasks is easy to fulfill, the mortal will be tempted to make more pacts for more gifts. The Powers hope that this process will corrupt (or purify, in the case of Celestial Powers) the mortal and increase their own influence. Unlike the priests of Gods, the priests of non-divine Powers base their hierarchies on the magical gifts they've received from their patrons.

A third group along with Powers and Gods are Idols. An Idol is a non-Power that is worshiped. Idols may have Precepts and Doctrines but can't bestow gifts the way real Powers can, although some manage to simulate this with skilled applications of sorcery.

A final note is that Gods are nearly omniscient in regard to their function/concept but have difficulty focusing on and observing the mortal realm. Most of the time, Gods just can't tell anything is going on unless it's a big happening like a major war or a massive revolt. Gods mainly collect information from their Servitors (Outsiders created from the souls of the faithful) and from those they have bestowed their gifts upon. Sometimes Gods will also send Avatars, physical manifestations made of their own essences, to survey the mortal world. Many Gods prefer Avatars because they get to experience the realities of the mortal realm directly, without the lens of another mind altering their perceptions.

Non-divine Powers find it relatively easy to perceive the mortal realm, although their scope is usually limited to a single region at a time. These Powers also lack the ability to create Servitors. so they are limited to obtaining information from their few gifted followers or their Avatars.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Get Back

Yesterday, the anime adaptation of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders finally ended. It was a fun ride but it was also really uneven. One of the things that disappointed me the most besides lots of QUALITY animation was the utter lack of Ronnie James Dio music in season 2. I mean, Araki (the mangaka/author, for those not familiar with JJBA) explicitly said that there are a crapton of Dio (the singer) references in Dio (the vampire). The World has scuba tanks as reference to Holy Diver; Dio is in Egypt as a reference to Egypt/The Chains are On. Yet neither song shows up in the series, not even in the Dio's World episodes. I think season 2 had more good/memorable fights than season 1. Overall, I think the Stardust Crusaders was pretty great.

Here's hoping that Unbreakable Like Diamond gets an adaptation.

Super Action Statues: The World vs Star Platinum

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


This week, I ordered Dungeon World and a "Very Good" copy of Thri-kreen of Athas from Amazon. The books got here a day early. I was pumped. The Thri-kreen book wasn't "Very Good" by any means but I was willing to let it slide. That is, until I noticed that it was missing the big poster it was supposed to come with.  Now I have a different copy on the way and I'll be dropping off the poster-less copy for a return.

Dungeon World certainly looks interesting but I'm not feeling the limited race selection for class (something that can easily be fixed with homebrews) or the 5-point alignment axis.

I find myself wanting the D&D Rules Cyclopedia and the Dragonlance: Fifth Age books: Unfortunately, they're way too expensive ($65 for a ratty copy of the RC on Amazon). This is a shame since the RC seems to be one of the best D&D rulesets and the SAGA system sounds quite interesting. Strangely, a lot of books that I want but seem to recall being unpopular fetch high prices, like the Maztica Campaign Setting or Kara-Tur. Maybe I was mislead by a vocal minority. I might breakdown and grab the AD&D 2e core rulebooks since they're all dirt cheap except for the Monstrous Manual.

I'm working on some Heroes & Other Worlds rules that I'll submit to C. R. Brandon for inclusion in a future Cauldron issue. I'm also going to take a crack at converting Warforged and Shifters to HOW. I expect Shifters to be a headache.

I keep debating on whether I should force myself to expand the scope of posts beyond just gaming; I like plenty of other non-gaming nerd stuff but I seem to have settled into just posting gaming things. What a bother.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Tome of Terrors and Treasures Review Part 2: Monsters

I previously discussed the races in The Tome of Terrors and Treasures, so now it's time to move on to the more general topic of the monsters.

In addition to the monster rules in the main Heroes & Other World rulebook, this supplement introduces two systems to determine how monsters act: Fight-or-Flight, which is a simple 3D6 test to see if a creature flees or stays in the fight; and the more detailed Reaction chart with responses ranging from continued fighting to a blubbering total surrender. There are also new rules for Spell-like abilities, which consume ST just like casting a spell does.

Although most creatures found in The Tome of Terrors and Treasures are from the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 System Reference Document, there are a few new creatures scattered about. For example, in addition to the SRD's dinosaurs (deinonychus, elasmosasaurus, megaraptor, triceratops, tyrannosaurus) the Tome includes the allosaurus, ankylosaurus, brachiosaurus, compsognathus, pterodactyl, stegosaurus, and tylosaurus.

Flipping through the pages, one notices a distinct lack of Celestials: There are no stats for Angels, Devas, Eladrin, or Guardinals. I think the reasoning behind this is that "Good" or "Lawful" outsiders shouldn't come up as "monsters", a mindset that apparently comes from the OSR movement. But Brandon also excises more mundane Good/Lawful creatures like Blink Dogs, Coautls, Lammasu, and Metallic Dragons. While I understand the reasoning behind these decisions, I feel that it skews the implied setting in the book; it's almost like some fantasy version of a Warhammer 40,000 Death World where Dwarves, Elves, Halflings, and Humans stand against a never-ending tide of savage humanoids, demons, devils, and undead. Granted, some people may like such a bleak picture but I doubt Brandon intended to paint HOW's setting in such a way.

There are also a few excisions of the more bland entities of the SRD like the Athach, the Krenshar, and the Tojanida. A few creatures seem to be have eliminated to reduce redundancy: Tritons were cut while Merfolk made it; there are Succubi but no Erinyes. I wish Brandon had also tossed one of the "small evil fiends used by wizards" but both Quasits and Imps make it in.

The organization is a bit muddled. There's a clear distinction between the first three sections of monster rules (Animals, Dire Animals, Dinosaurs) and what comes after it ("unnatural" dangers) but I'm not following the train of thought behind this organization. For example, the ten sections following Dinosaurs are: Fauna and Fungi, Oozes & Slimes, Vermin, Swarms, Aquatic Terrors, Beasts, Demons, Devils, Dragons & Wyrms, and then Elementals. If you'd think that a section Fairies & Fey would be between Elementals and Giants, you'd be mistaken. Fairies & Fey are placed after Humans & Demi-Humans and before Golems. In addition, some monster are in unexpected sections, like Azers in Humanoids (with Goblins and Orcs) or Gnomes in Fairies & Fey. Fortunately there is an appendix that lists all creatures in alphabetical order with page numbers, although a few typoes make looking for Imps and Human Mercenaries take a little longer.

There are 365 pages of monsters fit for all sorts of environments and ranging from decent challenge (most animals) to guaranteed TPKs (Balors). While the fact that ToTaT is based on the D&D 3.5 SRD should make other conversion from D&D easy, I've find it's a bit hard to do direct conversions in any case besides playable races.

Speaking of Balors, weighing in with a mighty 265-300 ST and the ability to automatically summon 4d6 Dretches (9-15 ST each) or 1d6 Hezrous (120-140 ST each) for a cost of 5 ST. Even assuming that summoned creatures can't summon others (a rule in D&D 3.5 but that doesn't seem to be in ToTaT), a Balor can very quickly create a small army that can steamroll most parties. 

As you can see, the Tome certainly delivers on the Terrors. Soon, I'll look at the Treasures in part 3 of my review (coming SOON). I hope I'm not coming across as too harsh in these reviews.

Spicing up "The Lost Temple of Demogorgon"

"The Lost Temple of Demogorgon" is an adventure module that appeared in Dungeon magazine #120. In it, the PCs discover an ancient jungle temple filled with awakened animals and a ~s~p~o~o~k~y~ demonic anvil.

This module has a number of things I like:
  • Apes as enemies
  • Demogorgon, the best archfiend
  • Jungle-choked temples
  • More apes
Yet despite all that, there's a certain something missing. I can't exactly put it into words: I should really like this adventure but it seems so bland. I've got a few ideas on how to spice it up though. As a caveat, although I'm writing about a D&D 3.5 adventure, I absolutely hate the system and would be extremely unlikely to run it in 3.5.

  •  Instead of having the Dwarven miners report the sightings of "Ogres", the three local Dwarven chaplains secretly reported to their superiors, who then contacted allied nobles/merchants who hired the PCs
  • The actual bosses of the mining operation are trying to cover up the incident using their "peacekeepers" - hired mercenaries who make sure the miners obey the bosses
  • Finding out the exact details of the sightings therefore requires convincing a miner or two to risk their jobs by telling and possible confrontations with the bosses' mercs
  • The awakened apes are cool but I want something even cooler. In addition to battle-armed awakened apes there are also battle-armed awakened deinonychus (type of velociraptor). Everything is better with dinosaurs.
  • Awakened monkeys to back up the other troops with blowdarts and slings
  • Replace the Troglodytes with something more exotic. I'm not sure with what but I definitely don't want "stinky Lizardfolk" as the a central focus.
  • The temple guardians don't wield and the Dread Forge don't create steel weapons and armor. These items should instead be made from bronze or, for a more flavorful touch, stone, bone, and hides.
  • Speaking of the Dread Forge, it looks incredible dopey. Instead, the Dread Forge is massive combination altar/statue with a 10-foot tall idol of Demogorgon behind the 10 ft x 10 ft square "altar". Both heads of the idol have rubies as eyes. Naturally, removing these cursed rubies is a bad idea. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Eberron's Changelings for Heroes & Other Worlds

It's been a while since I posted anything HOW-related, so I figured I'd do a little work on that. As an aside, despite having abandoned my previous plan for posts, I am going to type up part 2 of The Tome of Terrors and Treasures review before next Friday. Anyway, onto business.
Changelings are Humanoids with Doppelganger ancestors somewhere in their family tree. For further info I suggest checking out Races of Eberron. It provides more info on Eberron's unique races (Changelings, Shifters, Warforged) and new cultures for classic races like Elves, Orcs, and Halflings.

Game rules:

Changeling NPC Statistics
#: 1d3
ST: 8-10
DX: 10 (8)
IQ: 8
EN: 0
MV: 5
Behavior: Unpredictable (10)
Habitat: Any Urban or Wilderness
AR: -2 (Leather)
DM: 1D6 (Dagger)
SP: multiple

Changelings as characters
- +2 IQ on tests to resist sleep and charm effects
- +2 IQ on Detect/Tell Lies tests.
- Minor Change Shape: Changelings can subtly alter their physical appearance. This ability functions as the Disguise Self spell (Magi Carta 29) but it only affects the Changeling's body and voice, not clothing or equipment. This change is also not an illusion but real physical change. It costs 2 EN and takes a full 5-second turn for a Changeling to change form. Once complete, the Changeling remain in her new form until she changes again or is killed. True Seeing (Magi Carta 135) reveals a Changeling's natural form. When using her ability to create a disguise, a Changeling gets +6 IQ on Act/Disguise tests.

Hopefully my conversion skills haven't atrophied too badly :v

Monday, May 25, 2015

Making RPGs as a hobby: Is it just a waste of time?

I've always seen a question given to those who want to write a new commercial role-playing game: "What does your game offer that [system name with similar concept] doesn't?" It's a pertinent question that anyone hoping to sell RPGs should try to answer. But what if you don't plan to sell anything? What if you just want to make something?

The idea of targeting a "niche" is also complicated by modern filesharing: Why would a person look at your homebrew Lovecraftian horror system when he can just get the latest Call of Cthulhu PDF with a little googling?

Are things like darkshire's list of free RPGs or 1000 monkeys, 1000 typewriters relevant anymore? Before sites like those offered free alternatives to the costlier products from big publishers but now filesharing (or piracy, take your pick) is so easy and reliable.

I guess I'm motivated by egotism: I want to write new games but I also want people to at least read them. Putting effort into something no one or almost no one will read seems like a waste. But then again, I've started work on so many systems over the years only to end up abandoning them, so does it really matter if anyone reads my rules?

Friday, May 22, 2015

City of Lies

I'm trying to get back into the swing of blogging now that the semester's over, so sorry if my last few and next few posts are a bit rambling. I was thinking yesterday about redundancy of races/monsters in fantasy, a trend I have strong opinions about and will discuss at length in a future blog post. But I also thought about how redundancy could be used positively in terms of adventure design. In a nutshell, the idea is Rakshasas, Werewolves, and Doppelgangers involved in a shadow war in a modest colonial port. Although the ideas presented are based on D&D, the concept should be easily adaptable to any fantasy game.

There a few assumptions that I used to make this scenario:

  • The world is very near to an industrial revolution but not quite there yet
  • There is an expansionist Britain-like empire that controls parts of both a USA-like and China-like countries
  • This empire has been around for centuries in some form or another
  • Factories exist
  • Firearms are uncommon but everyone knows someone who has a gun
  • Rakshasas, Doppelgangers, Werewolves, and Succubi exist in the campaign world

As for the city itself:

  • It's a colonial port founded about 150-200 years ago in not-America. 
  • All the political power is concentrated in the hands of nobility and their subordinates.
  • It refines raw goods from the local territories into ready-to-use materials for factories back in not-Britain
  • There is a small community of Dwarves here who maintain the machinery of the factories.
  • There is also a community of not-Chinese smaller than the Dwarven community. They leave in a fantasy equivalent of Chinatown
  • The not-Chinese get the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs in the factories, port, sewers and outside the city.

Hopefully that seems coherent so far.

Twist #1: The nobles of this area are predominantly Werewolves and have been ever since the city's founding. They control the government and the police. They are careful to control their predatory urges via staged "hunts" outside the city at their country estates. Typical prey includes thieves, criminals of all stripes, those with insurmountable debts, and the occasional stray not-Chinese worker. These victims are rounded up by extremely loyal and secretive police squad who often have at least one Werewolf in the group. The community strongly discourages killing anyone inside the city proper. Offenders quickly find themselves getting shafted in terms of agreements and overruled by superiors. Those who persist in these offenses may find themselves tortured or becoming the prey of a very special hunt.  There are approximately 80-120 Werewolves in the city. The werewolves are blissfully unaware of the other shapeshifters in the city.

Twist #2: Fifteen years ago, an elderly martial arts master arrived in not-Chinatown and opened a small school. Preaching edification through mental and physical strength, he quickly became an influential member within the immigrant community. The next year, a wealthy merchant and his wife arrived. They graciously used their funds to improve the local housing and pay for medical treatment that many working families needed. The year after that, a teacher and a lawyer arrived and have been educating the populace. At the same time, more and more violent gangs have sprung up since the master arrived fifteen years ago. The local police don't interfere with not-Chinatown unless violence spills out into the general city but they've been watching anxiously as the gangs become larger and more heavily armed. The five persons mentioned earlier, the master, merchant, wife, teacher, and lawyer, are all Rakshasas and are organizing the gangs. They plan on overthrowing the local government and establishing a pirate enclave here. The Rakshasas know that some of the police and government are Werewolves but vastly underestimate their number. They have a much more accurate estimation of the Doppelgangers' numbers and are currently in a truce with them.

Twist #3: More recently, about five years ago, a number of very vocal dissidents advocating for better working conditions, better wages, shorter hours, and more autonomy have been causing disruptions. There are two types of dissident rhetoric: One is political and says that current working conditions are a violation of legal rights and a thinly-disguised tyranny; the other is religious and preaches in the name of gods of freedom that current working conditions are akin to slavery. Despite frequent police crackdowns, the ringleaders always seem to escape and reappear weeks later to incite more unrest. The truth is that ringleaders are Doppelgangers. The political and religious parties are two allied but independent groups working to sow chaos and an armed revolt in the city. They hope to either draw troops away from the much richer and more strategic ports in the north or to draw garrisons from non-Britain itself and launch a bloody uprising. A stumbling block in the political movement's plan is that they are don't know that Werewolves are in town and they mistakenly believe that the Rakshasas are fellow Doppelgangers. But the religious movement knows better . . .

Twist #4: Three years ago, members of the Doppelgangers' religious movement discovered a secret complex deep in the sewers beneath the site that formerly hosted a stately manor. Within these chambers they found a sizable collection of magical texts and trinkets. But the most important find was that of a summoned Succubus. Summoned fifty years ago by a local wizard to act as lover/mentor, she was bound to a small phylactery warded against the touch of demons. One day, the wizard never returned and so she was unable to leave due to the magics that bound her to the phylactery. Over the many decades she studied, practiced, and improved on all the magic within the complex. Those Doppelgangers freed her and have established a secret cult around her. She has taught them many dark and ancient magics and given them very detailed information on the city. The religious movement/cult knows of numerous secret hideaways in sewers and mausoleums; the identities of most werewolves that were alive fifty years ago and by extension many of those still alive; and thanks the Succubus' divination they know that the mysterious master in not-Chinatown is definitely not a Doppelganger. Unlike the other groups, their motivation has taken on a mystical character. They want to incite the bloody war between the Rakshasa gangs, the Werewolf-controlled government and police, and the Doppelganger-led labor unions then harvest the spiritual energy that the dead and dying will radiate from the comfort of their underground catacombs.

Setting off the tinderbox: The Doppelganger cultists' plan to ignite the powderkeg is fairly straightforward. One of them will impersonate a known Werewolf's Human form then hire a prostitute or invite one of the impersonated Werewolf's friends to a very public place were the police and the public will witness the pair. The Doppelganger will then shapeshift into a hybrid Werewolf form, maul whomever was unfortunate to be its companion for the night, and escape into the sewers. The Werewolves and police will be busy trying to suppress the events and capture the presumed murderer. The Rakshasas will stir up the gangs to fight against monstrous oppressors who are truly monsters; the Doppelganger political movement will do the same. The religious movement will call for a divinely-sanctioned purge of the evil in the city's midst then retreat to the winding warrens below.

After that, even I don't know what happens.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Sword of the Stars lore snippets

I'm not a big fan of current story, setting, or models of Warhammer 40,000 but there's something about the older editions of it and especially Rogue Trader that really appeals to me. In fact, the idea of retro-cloning RT has been something that has been nibbling at the back of my mind for a while, although I don't feel qualified to really make any efforts in that regard. One thing that did seem more manageable to me was a retroclone of Space Crusade, the licensed Warhammer boardgame by Milton Bradley.

It's much more contained system that nevertheless has a lot of potential for expansion. The first thing that I actually did was try to create the fluff for this hypothetical Space Crusade simulacra. Here's what I wrote for Sword of the Stars (the clone's tentative title):

It has been over thirty thousand years since Humans left the embrace of Gaia. All across the galaxy, Humanity spreads, bringing order and civilization to savage worlds. But the the forces of Chaos and Entropy are ever lurking at the edges of the realms. So the Knightly Orders arose, to defend Order and Evolution, to fight for the honor of Sol and the children of Gaia. This is an age of sorcery and science, noble deaths and pyrrhic victories, forgotten heroes and immortal villains.
It's rather close to the standard 40k blurb but it emphasizes the fantastical elements a little more. The Knightly Orders and their Space Knights are equivalent to Space Marines. Here are some brief enemy descriptions:

It is said that the seed of Chaos lurks in the heart of all Humans. Knights struggle with their base desires, overcoming their temptations with the help of the sacred codes. But just as all Humans, some Knights succumb to temptation. At their best, Chaos Knights are thieves, liars, and murderers; at their worst they are apostates against Sol and Gaia, fiends who have entered into compacts with vile spirits of Chaos and Entropy.
It should go without saying that Chaos Knights are just SOTS' version of Chaos Space Marines.
Said to have been born from the blood of the first Chaos Dragons, the K'bolts are one of the numerous Entropic races to be encountered. They are small and weak but attack in endless numbers. The worlds they claim quickly overflow with corpses and offal as they outstrip their environment's resources.
Space Kobolds although I seem to have included some Ork/Tyranid in there as well.
Among the most mysterious and powerful mortals to serve Chaos, these single-eyed giants possess not only physical might but mental sorcery. A single Psyclops is a terrible danger even to a Fellowship of Knights
Doesn't really say much about the Psyclopses themselves other than "they're scary". Hurm.

Here's a statline for a Paladin (Space Knight):
MELEE: Lectro Weapon - 3 dice
RANGED: Laser pistol - 2 dice, range 6
Note the use of "Defence". Range and Speed are in 1-inch squares. I'm a little unsure how exactly I changed Space Crusade's combat system but I believe that the dice in question are d6s and that the combined roll of those d6s must exceed the target's Defence to deal damage. So, supposing two Paladins are facing off and one swings his Lectro Weapon he must score a 9 or higher from his roll of 3d6 to damage his opponent.

I think this one speaks for itself:
Hypothetical Model list
KNIGHTS: 3 Paladins; 7 Knights with rifles; 4 Knights with swords and pistols; 4 Knights with heavy weapons
CHAOS KNIGHTS: 1 Butcher; 6 Knaves with rifles; 6 Knaves  with swords and pistols; 3 Knaves with heavy weapons
K'BOLTS: 3 Champions; 30 Fodder
PSYCLOPS: 1 Visionary; 2 Seers; 4 Brutes
Of course, my talent for sculpting is even worse than my talent for drafting game rules, so don't expect Sword of the Stars to be showing for sale. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Big random list of ideas and things that I think are cool

Sometimes while browsing the internet or flipping through a fantasy book I see something and I think "that's neat, can I work that into a setting?" The following is a list I made of random stuff that struck a cord with me. I want to be perfectly clear that the vast majority of this stuff was all someone else's ideas. A few items have comments in blue.

-Metallic dragons are fully bipedal, Chromatics are partial bipeds/quadrapeds

-Cave creatures: can climb, have claws, blinded by light

-Bound outsiders, produce different effects based on type

-Crystalline creatures created by a plague; Elemental evils involved

-Flesh plants: plant creatures made of meat

-Miniature (>6 inch) fiends and giants?

-Weredisplacer beasts, Wereorcs, Weretreants

-Nocturnal template: light sensitivity, low-light vision

-Primitive template

-Prismatic/rainbow creatures; prismatic castes

-Quadrepedal mutants: general form of horse/lion, elongated torso/neck, paws instead of hands

-Quadrapedal Succubus turns into beautiful horse or livestock to lure mortals near

-Elder beasts: Animals almost as old as the world itself; sapient and capable of speech


-Enchanted creatures exposed to too much magic/fey

-Efreeti...forbears of Tieflings?

-Evolved magical hiveminds

-Endless twilight swamp plane home to hags and other muck-fiends

-Madness Giant: crawling, many-faced, chaos servant

-White Beast: infused with sacred energy, guardians of nature vs undead

-The dragon concept always sat right with me, because I always pictured Malal as this daemonic ouroboros-like monstrosity mixed with a hydra: Constantly eating his own tail to swallow himself whole in an endless, suicidal loop, but every now and then spawning new heads to consume himself in even more twisted ways while also ensnaring everything around him in a chaotic maelstrom of pure, chilling hate. One anonymous poster's version of Malal, a now-retconned Chaos god from Warhammer.

- (OC) Intelligent, giant golden crocodile demands tobacco or meat for passage through his swamp Inspired by part of the Bangles' Walk like an Egyptian (gold crocodiles oheoh/they snap their teeth on your cigarette)

- a "young" world, one that was created in living memory. In the beginning there were no steel weapons, no written language, and only a few generations’ worth of history.

-"Good people are like extremely rare gems. They are something to be highly valued."

-Chimeric Chimera: an eight-headed creature with five dragon heads, two goat heads, and a lion head (kind of like a mutated aspect of Tiamat). The lion head is in charge, though the other heads offer opinions and try to assert authority from time to time. The dragon heads span the evil chromatic types for interest; if you're a purist you can give it four green heads and a red head.

-The golems and other animated guardians created by the ancients simply remained at their posts, patient and silent, awaiting new orders that would never come. Eventually, the elements wore down even these ancient constructs, and their bodies fell apart from disuse.Yet so strong was the binding magic that anchored the animating elemental spirits to these ancient golems that when the bodies died, their elemental "souls" died as well -- yet they did not return to the elemental planes once their bodies wasted away. Still bound to a body that no longer existed, these disembodied elemental spirits transformed into strange undead known today as golem remnants.

-Poachers and hunters are naturally drawn to certain creatures whose body parts are valued as trophies. Unfortunately, beasts that are slain by hunters sometimes rise as undead monsters cursed to forever stalk those who inflicted such a distasteful end upon them.

-What at first appeared to be a fast-moving cloud of volcanic ash resolves into something far more terrible. Thousands of burning bodies and blackened skeletons tumble and roil in the cloud. The unliving bodies emit a constant thunderous scream, as if a volcano had learned to wail in agony from the fire in its core.The necroclasm is one of the largest forms of undead; fortunately, they are limited in range to the volcano that spawned them. One of WOTC's old Far Corners of The World monsters.

-A large, brass chest, large enough to be a coffin. It contains the corpse of whoever opens it. This effect is similar to the clone spell except that the clone comes out dead. The corpse has all the same scars and body markings as its living counterpart, but it does not have any clothes or possessions. The chest can be used to produce an infinite number of corpses.

-Reptilian variants of races: were they created by interbreeding, gods, or dragons?

-Insectoid variants of races: see above

-Winged variants of race: ditto

-arctic apes worship evil ice deity

-vampires based on the egyptian god Shezmu; Lion-related rather than bat-related

-Fetid Heath of the Death Giant Overlord A pastiche of the classic D&D Giant modules I was wanting to make for All Flesh Must Be Eaten

-"I wish that I was the sultan...that I was always the sultan!" Supposedly the original version of Jafar's wish from Disney's Aladdin. I like the paradoxical situations it creates, such as a sultan existing before the nation or even the city did.

-Each has a unique name and when this name is spoken, the creature is released from the ___ and immediately makes its way to to the speaker of the name.  It's sole purpose is to kill the speaker and return to the ___.  Part of a monster description from an old AD&D netbook. The monster didn't impress me but this part did.

-Blinded Medusae/Gorgons are immortal, hunt by scent.

-Giant that bleeds snakes Pretty sure this one came to me in a dream. I don't know how it works.

-1945-1960. The sudden rush of magic into the world means that a whole new arms race is just beginning, and the fear of Red Witches is everywhere.

-Ant-Mimicking Spiders are weird. They look like ants. But they're spiders. And they go into ant colonies all incognito, and eat ants when no one is looking. So do that, but have them be Human-Mimicking Spiders. Don't ask me how that works. It just does.

-You could do GIANT ANTS that Anteater-men hunt for their meat and carapaces

-Demigods who embody ideals: not immortal

-BatMonkey Vampires devolved from bigger vamps

-Gang war between two gangs of intelligent weapons.

-Planetoid on fire: inhabited by salamanders, mephits, etc

-Cult/sect seeking to combine specific gods into a single entity

-Essential words for fantasy languages: to, from, above, below, beside, son (of), daughter (of), man, woman, hill, mountain, tree, bear, river, forest, plain, desert, meadow, canyon, great, big, small, dry, wet, [colors], N/E/S/W, horse, city, village, dangerous, fire, wind, water, rain, cloud, holy, cursed, peace(ful), famous From a very good article in Dragon magazine.

-Am-heh, "eater of eternity" "devourer of millions", dog-headed demon-god of the Egyptian underworld

-Hezur, deified baboon/reincarnated ancestor. Egyptian.

-Erlik, bear/pig/man god of evil, death, and the underworld. Turkic/Mongolian.

-Whiro, eats the souls of uncremated dead, grows stronger, threatens to break out of the underworld. Maori.

-Ancient frog deity served by frog-men and frog-things

-Witches can't affect clerics or genies (djinn/efreet) Just an interesting tidbit from Dragon magazine

-"Gnolls"-Troll/Gnome hybrids Chainmail-era Gnolls seem more interesting than the hyena-men we got later.

-Green and red monkeys: reds are lust monsters European bestiaries are pretty whacky.

-"Troglodytes": maned apes

-Multiple Camelots (or other archetypical/mythic realms...Atlantis?) reflecting a different facet of alignment/mortal emotions. Specifically cribbed from an old AD&D website but this idea has shown up in other places too. The Atlantis spin is an original idea donut steal

-Elementalist cults that worship evil elementals

-Black gods (Olmec) vs White gods (Aryan): Obsidian Giants vs Pearl Giants? From a pseudoscience website run by a Russian geologist. I almost immediately discarded his original racial schema in favor of shiny space gods inspired by Jack Kirby's comics and DC's Millennium Giants.

-Petrification as fantasy equivalent of cryogenic sleep

-Shamen wear skins of monsters to prove their mastery over them

-Aaatxe: the evil storm-bull

-Abhiyoga: Spirits of rain and darkness

-fire+earth+water=clay; metal+water=rust Just fleshing out elementals a little more here. I made a much longer list as well.

-Bardha: white-skinned, underground-dwelling elves who demand cakes and sugar

-Bes: Dwarves + lion ears/tails. Evil

-land of the dead is literally in the west; land of the gods is literally in the east

-Army of severed undead hands

-. . .an expanse of earth that has been scoured of all fertile soil . . . No ground can be seen, however, because obelisks and pyramids occupy every inche of the surface. Beneath and inside these structures lies a series of catacombs and passageways that are likewise crowded with statues and sarcophagi.
Pretty sure this is from Deities & Demigods or another 3.5 splat. It's Set's realm.

-Greek gods were limited. They couldn't go back on their word. They couldn't change another god's work.

-Naga with an Illithid head

-Lightless seas and the evils that dwell therein

-Drug-using witch cult with super shrooms

-Snakes/slugs with prehensile forked tongues but no arms

-One of the gods is actually a goddess

-Mystic pyramids that keep sand at bay

-Conical pyramids that are the tombs of a legendary alchemist

-Egyptian hobgoblins

-Lawful god vs chaos god This and the next five things are original content. Yay me!

-Chaos god is associated with cats, night, darkness

-Lawful god is associated with frogs/salamanders/amphibious reptiles, day, sun

-Dragons are creations of the Lawful god and are amphibious

-Most cultures worship the Lawful god

-Most cultures hate cats but there are superstitions that prohibit them from directly killing/harming cats

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Elves of Tarfel

Yay a new post after a million years! This semester is really hard .___.

Spinning off of my post about a new campaign setting I'm cobbling together, here's an extended look at the Elves of Taurion Effel/Tarfel.

The Ancients of The Elderwood

The Elderwood is a vast, ancient forest dominating the north-central area of the Civilized Countries. Within it are strange beings that combine Elvish and Plant-like features. The "Elder Elves" lack any ability to speak. The most Elvish among them have growths resembling moss or vine-like plants and have brown blood; they are standoffish but will not attack unless threatened. As one journeys farther into the Elderwood, the elves become more plantlike. The deepest specimens retrieved have bark-like skin and green blood with the consistency of slime or syrup. Elder Elves are curious in that they only seem to eat raw meat; a few specimens were taught to eat cooked meat but they only did so reluctantly. The civilized Elves of the Day, Night, and Gloom cultures are completely disinterested them, viewing the Elders as results of parallel evolution or degenerate breeding (or both according to some works by Elvish scholars). Aside from Human researchers, the only other group interested in them are the Serpentine, who capture them for experimentation or execute them outright.

Day Elves and Night Elves

Although the Serpentine describe the Elvish conquest in the same manner as an outbreak of rodents, with disorganized butchery and senseless violence, the Elves insist that their conquest was organized and commanded by a cosmic deity. After the overthrow of the Serpentine, the Elves prosper for thousands of years until the Great Schism. Wicked Elves lusting for power and wealth forsook their patron deity and turned to an opposing power, shattering their empire with civil war and apostasy.
Those are the facts that both sides agree on. Additional details are highly contentious. One group, the Day Elves, insist that their original deity was Ialtes (worshiped by Humans as "Yalt"), the lion-headed sun god. The apostates who caused the Great Schism turned from him to the worship of Sethon (known as "Thoom" to Humans), the snake-like deity of night, shadows, and lies. The other contingent calls themselves the Night Elves and claim that it was Sethon who was their patron in prehistoric times and that cult of Ialtes is the real apostasy. Despite their differences in history and religion, their dress, societies, rituals, and social mores remain strikingly similar. Nevertheless, they consider being called by the names of their hated brethren to be the greatest insult which combined with their lack of differentiation in regards to speech and clothing insofar as non-Elves can perceive them, have resulted in the deaths of many Humans and Dwarves who have misidentified them.


 The Deep Elves

 After the Great Schism, the largest Day Elf bloc was that ruled by Abal, son of a regional governor named Hased. Abal was the first king of what is now identified as the Hasedite Kingdom. Abal had eight successors over the next five centuries. The last of these was Tabel. During his reign a vast conspiracy among political and mercantile elites that had been brewing since the reign of his father, King Awen, began an open revolt. The elites manage to rally peasants to themselves with promises of more freedom, limited land redistribution, and the gift of a single non-Elf slave to every household.
In desperation, Tabel turned to the Deep Dwarves for aid. The Deep Dwarves had crushed an expansionist campaign by King Lutel two centuries earlier in the hinterlands of the Fang Mountains and following their victory entered into a non-aggresion pact with the Hasedite Kingdom. Tabel used Deep Dwarf mercenaries to supplement his troops and crushed the rebellious elites. Following this, the vanquished were paraded through the capital and both the regular Elvish army and the Dwarven mercenaries participated in the King's three-day victory feast. According to the legend, on the last day of the feast the high priest of Ialtes, an aged Elf named Baru, chided Tabel saying that he had enough rabble-rousing and that tomorrow at noonday the captives should be ritually executed for defying the sovereign chosen by the sun deity. Tabel is said to have laughed and casually informed the priest that the captives were leaving that night with the Dwarves; Tabel had nowhere near enough treasure to hire such a huge contingent of mercenaries so he agreed to turn over all captives as slaves to the Dwarves. The high priest Baru stood up and invoked the gravest curse possibly against the King, that his heirs should all die and he and all those related to him by blood be rendered infertile, for his offense of denying blood sacrifice to Ialtes and for selling his kin into the hands of lesser beings.. That very night, the Dwarves marched back to their lands in the Fang Mountains with their new slaves in tow. This episode is referred to as the "Sin of King Tabel" in Elvish histories. The Elvishy slaves eventually won emancipation and developed a new culture based on a synthesis of Dwarven
and Elvish attitudes. These former slaves are now called Gloom Elves. They no longer worship Ialtes but have instead adopted traditional Dwaven deities and ancestor worship. They also maintain a great deal of enmity toward both the Night Elves (their traditional enemies as Day Elf descendants) and the Day Elves (who are viewed as traitors and tyrants).

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Plan of Attack

Sorry for the lack of activity on the blog, this semester has been jam-packed.

I figured it'd be best for me to post what my next entries will be both as a preview for my few readers and as to-do list for myself. So, in the near future I will write about (in order):
-the Elves of my Taurion Effel setting (currently 80% written up)
-part 2 of the Tome of Terrors and Treasures  review
-some thoughts on the Unisystem game rules
-Cauldron #1 review
-my issues with the "oldschool" approach to finding traps in RPGs
-part 3 of the Tome of Terrors and Treasures  review
-GURPS 3e JoJo or Madoka Magica conversions? Both? I dunno.
-Finish up the conversions of Fantasy Folk to Heroes & Other Worlds

And I guess I should do a review or two of some comics that have made an impression on me.

See y'all later this week.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Whole New World

Picture this: You're a teenager who has been voraciously devouring D&D 3.5 books. You've recently found out about the OGL. You decide to yourself "I'll write something and sell it!" Then you realize that writing RPG stuff takes a lot of work (especially in D&D 3.5).

The person described above was me about 10 years ago. And now I'm feeling kinda nostalgic for those days when I didn't realize how crappy 3rd edition and my early homebrew attempts were. So I'm going to grab all that horrible stuff, polish it, combine it with some more recent ideas into a new setting, and post it as recurring feature on this blog. So let's dive right in.

The world in question is formally known as "Taurion Effel", Elvish for the "True World". Ancient Elven scholars of the Fourth Age so named the world in contrast to "Kadarion Effel", the "False World", which is commonly known as the Dreamworld. Over time, the name has changed drastically. At the current time, commonly designate the Fifth Age, the most common form of the name survives as Tarfel. Other variants include Tarfil, Taronel, Tarfland, and Tarfiland.

The historians and chroniclers generally recognize that there are four or five vast stretches of time commonly referred to as Ages that are differentiated by environmental characteristics and by which race(s) seemed to be most influential. The commonly recognized Ages are:
  • The First Age, or The Age of The Seafolk: Back when Tarfel was almost entirely covered by water, numerous aquatic races forged mighty empires. These races are referred to as the Seafolk. Although such a term is the same as modern parlance for Merfolk and even Sahuagin, the ancient Seafolk were more alien and farther removed from their descendants. As the waters retreated and icecaps formed, these empires crumbled. 
  •  The Second Age, or The Age of The Insectoids: As trees spread to the newly-dried land, the air of Tarfel become much richer (in oxygen). Insects and arthropods grew and some among them grew sapient. The greatest of these Insectoid races were the ant-like Formi, the spider-like Aran, and the beetle-like Otubak. Warring between these three and others destroyed much of the tree-choked land. The air became poorer and these races began to literally shrink or die outright.
  •  The Third Age, or The Age of The Serpents: A slight warming of Tarfel enabled the reptilian races that were formerly enslaved by the Insectoids to expand into new territories. The most illustrious of these are the Serpentine, who still persist in a greatly weakened state and work tirelessly toward the extinction of Elvenknind. A minor ice age doomed the vast realms of the reptilian races. Now only pitiful remnants clinging to ancient history remain.
  •  The Fourth Age, or The Age of Elves: This age was marked by the rule of the Elves. They discovered new magical secrets and devised several ingenious technologies, particularly in the field of astronomy. The Elven empires crumbled after the Great Schism, the Sin of King Tabel, and numerous civil wars. The Elves still remain a strong presence in the modern world.
  • The Fifth Age, or The Age of Men: Humans, the bastard race born of the union between Dwarves and Elves, has spread and conquered all over Tarfel. Unlike their predecessors they are far more fractious and disorganized. Some (Human) scholars fear that these division may be their downfall.  
  •  The Sixth Age: The Sixth Age is currently mere conjecture. Several kingdoms look upon the notion that Humans will be replaced as an offense against religion, culture, and the crown. Nevertheless, in hidden cabals and cozy studies, those with knowledge of the past puzzle over the portents of the times. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Back 2 Skool

My college semester starts in two days. This will make my updates less frequent. I've still got plenty of stuff to write about though.

See you soon, you crazy diamonds :3c

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Tome of Terrors and Treasures Review Part 1: Races

I recently got C.R. Brandon's Tome of Terrors and Treasures, a supplement for Heroes & Other Worlds. Having lightly read through the first half (or 70-80% to be accurate) of the book, it's time for a small(?) review. As the title says, for right now I'm only covering the playable races section of the book. The other Terrors and Treasures will be covered in future posts. Sorry ~('-'~)

An illustration of a Kobold captured by my crappy cell camera

The bulk of the PC races are organized in two sections, Humans and Demi-humans and Humanoids. You may note that this is older D&D terminology. There are three hiccups though. First, not all of the creatures in the Humanoids section can be played. Second, there are other playable races such as Satyrs, Centaurs, and Gargoyles that appear in other sections. Third, there is no index of playable races (although I did make an index on the HOW forums). This isn't a huge problem but if you don't know where everything is it can be a hassle.

I was actually surprised by how many OGL monster races appear in the book but aren't playable and that some "iconic" OGL races are omitted. There are no rules for playing Merfolk, Locathah, or Tritons, which understandable since they can't walk but feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity. Sahuagin aren't playable either, and Malenti aren't even in the book. The Planetouched (Aasimar and Tieflings) are completely absent, although they've always held an unstable position in OGL's pantheon of options. On the plus side, ToTaT doesn't have seven flavors of Elf.

The format for each race's statistics is now in an OGL-style format as opposed to the Minimum Scores chart in the HOW core rulebook. The stats are converted from the OGL/D&D 3.5 but Brandon takes some liberties with the stats, such as Duergar who have lost their Enlarge Person ability. Each set of stats ends with a Favored Class line which is never explained in the rules and always seems to be Adventurer. Given the large differences in the Experience systems between D&D 3.5 and HOW I don't have a clue what Brandon was trying to do there.

For most of the monster races, the trade-off for increased power is the loss of the EN. The problem is that it seems applied to ALL monster races, even weak ones. I'm going to quote some rules text. 

- +2 DX, no EN, no other modifiers
- AR-1 (DR 1/- in OGL terms)
-Low light vision
Compare that to this:
- +4 ST, -2 DX and IQ, no EN
- Darkvision out to 90 feet
- AR-2
- 3 natural weapons that each deal 1d3 damage
- Stench, a passive offensive ability that can debuff any and all non-Trogs with 30 ft./6 spaces
Now compare those two to this:
Hill Dwarf
- +2 bonus to notice unusual stone featues
- +4 bonus to resist tripping and knockdown
- +2 bonus to resist poison
- +2 bonus to resist spells
- +1 bonus to attack/cast spells against goblinoids
- +4 bonus to dodge Giants
- +2 bonus to appraise tests on metal/stone
- +2 bonus to crafting tests (metal/stone)

While the Trog edges the Dwarf in terms of combat, the Dwarf is a much all-rounder and utility character. Meanwhile, the Tengu has nothing to offer besides the novelty of playing as a bird-person. Fortunately, Tengu and Dwarves (and maybe Halflings) are all outliers and the relative power level for all races is pretty balanced across the board.

In closing, ToTaT delivers well on the playable races front, offering some neat new ones and some OGL-derived alternatives for the core HOW races. GMs hoping for Undead and Aquatic races unfortunately won't find them here (although conversion should be easyish). The main flaws are that some races are kinda lost in other sections that can be overlooked and that a handful of races (Dwarves, Tengu, Halflings) might be either underpowered or overpowered. If your burning desire is for more playable races or iconic races based on the OGL for Heroes & Other Worlds then I highly recommend Tome of Terrors and Treasures to you.

Coming soon-ish: Part 2 (Monsters) and Part 3 (Magic Items/Treasure) of this review.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Developing an RPG 2: Da Roolz

In a previous post, I detailed the fluff for a new RPG I've been fiddling with. It's nowhere near playable but I might as well jot down my ramblings, eh?

First, thanks mainly to buying some GURPS books, I've become fond of hex maps so the rules are written with hexes in mind. From the outset I wanted to keep the types of dice used fairly simple so the only types used are D6s and D10s, with D6s as the most frequently used.

Now we get to attributes. I could summarize but instead I'll post one of the few semi-complete sections of my RPG:

To create your very own Giant you first have to determine your Giant's Primary Attributes. There are three attributes:
*Strength (Str): Represents your Giant's physical power.
*Dexterity (Dex): Represents your Giant's agility and reflexes.
*Constitution (Con): Represents your Giant's endurance and immune system.
Each of these Attributes start at 1. You have a pool of 12 points that you can spend to increase your Giant's attributes on a 1-to-1 basis (i.e. increasing your Giant's Str to 5 cost 4 points).

Once you've got the Primary Attributes squared away, you can determine your Giant's Secondary Attributes:
*Health Points (HP): Represents your Giant's health and physical wholeness. To determine your Giant's HP, add 10 to your Giant's Con. This is your Maximum HP. Your Giant dies if his HP goes to 0.
*Speed (Spd): Represents your Giant's movement speed. To determine your Giant's Spd add 4 to your Giant's Dexterity; this is the number of spaces on a hex map she may move per round.
*Defense (Def): Represents your Giant's skill at avoiding hits. To determine your Giant's Def start with 5 and add your Giant's Dex and any Defense Modifiers from Armor. That is the number that an opponent's attack roll must equal or exceed in order to hit your Giant.
You'll note that there are no mental stats. This is a conscious choice, an experiment in the matter of player knowledge vs character knowledge. In Wrath of the Giants! such a separation doesn't exist which may wind being a problem.

But enough about that, time for fighting!
Melee Combat

To make a Melee attack against an opponent, the target must be in either a hex adjacent to the Giant or in the Giant's own hex. At the GM's discretion, some weapons, especially improvised ones, might have a farther reach. The Attacker rolls 3D6 and compares the result to the Target's Defense.
So attack and defense are basically D&D 3.5's attack and AC with 3D6 instead of 1D20 (thanks again, GURPS!) As an embarrassing aside, this wasn't the original design I had in mind. See, I had a great idea about the combat system and I forgot to write it down. Such is the life of an amateur RPG designer ._.

Improvisation in Battle

Sometimes a Giant my drop a weapon or send it flying away. While using your fists is a noble tradition in Giant pugilism, most prefer a good, strong weapon instead!
The image of a Giant grabbing a horse, tree, trebuchet, or small building and using it to kick some tinyfolk ass is really great. But if improvised weapons are strictly worse than manufactured weapons, why wouldn't a Giant just buy a bunch of high-quality weapons instead of relying on scavenging?
So I inserted a(n as-yet unwritten) fumble rule just to make a crappy alternative viable. Although I didn't intend as a bad example of contrived rules, looking at I it now this was a terrible idea. Fumbles will be turned into something optional in future drafts.

That's all for now!