Saturday, November 29, 2008

GW Short Fiction - Hoop Dreams

Cleve crouched in the greyish blue grass, his duralloy-tipped spear clutched in front of him. His eyes, which sprouted on short tentacles from the sockets, constantly darted up and down scanning the field in front of him. The wind was blowing hot and dry down the knoll where he waited, and he hoped this would cover his scent. Broose, his ursine companion, had cautioned him against leaving cover before falling into a deep slumber. Asleep, the bear could use his mental eye to scout the next ridge, while Cleve stood guard. Despite having journeyed to the great ruins of Pitz Burke and back nearly three summers ago, Cleve was still very fearful of any place outside Cambol lands and didn't much care for watching a sleeping bear in the middle of unknown territory.

Although this journey was only a routine patrol of the Cambol borderlands, they had come across the horrible remains of a Cambol trader and his family who had been ambushed by something on the north road a mile back. Their wounds had been easy to see but what could have caused them was still undetermined. Some kind of intense heat had burned fist-sized holes through the flesh and cauterized the wounds at the same time. Little blood was to be seen, which was probably the reason the bodies hadn't been despoiled by predators when Cleve & Broose found them. A few tracks could be seen around the bodies, but neither of the Cambol hunters could identify them or even where the tracks originated from. It looked like the attackers had just suddenly appeared in the traders' midst. The traders pack cart was missing, and it appeared that whatever had taken it, had driven the cart off along the path to the north.

They had followed the rutted mark left by the cartwheels for almost 3 hours. The path crested a grassy ridge before descending down into a field and thence toward another ridge. Seeing another potential spot for an ambush, Broose had decided to stop here and use other means to explore ahead. Before falling asleep, the bear had left Cleve with instructions to poke him with the spear if he hadn't awoken in an hour. The hour was nearly up by Cleve's reckoning when he finally spotted his companion starting to rise. Eventually, and with an irritated snort, Broose stood up from his grassy bed, and motioned to his companion to come close.

Broose told him in a low rumbling whisper what he had seen over the ridge. The path, he said, branched in two directions. One to the northwest was clear and looked to pass through another grassy field. The path to the northeast passed into a small copse of trees before entering a settlement of some kind. Broose's nose glistened with moisture, and Cleve sensed the big bear was more than a little afraid of what he had seen. The settlement, he said, was made of mounds of strange black hoops, some big enough for a man to stand up in. Some of the mounds appeared to be smouldering and the smoke that issued from them was thick and black. Worse still, the mounds were occupied.

The creatures looked a little bit like jackalopes without horns and were as big as a man. He said many of them were wearing armor and all carried a variety of weapons. Terrifyingly, some appeared to be armed with Ancient weapons like the fire sticks they had brought back from Pitz Burke. Broose said he had been unable to see clearly through the smoky air, but he thought they also appeared to be using Ancient talker devices, too. After watching them for a while, he noticed their numbers growing as more and more of them crawled and leaped out of the piles of rubbery black hoops. Although he couldn't be sure, it looked like they were massing for a raid or an expedition of some kind.

After a short discussion, the two hunters decided to leave for home immediately. If the creatures from the hoop mound were coming toward Cambol lands, the chiefs would have to be told. They'd both seen what could happen when the Red Death had raided an unwary Cambol town last spring and these hoop-mound creatures looked far more dangerous.

Friday, November 28, 2008

OSRIC v2 Released

The OSRIC version 2 SRD has been released to the public. This much expanded version features everything a group needs to begin playing and publishing 1st edition adventures. Project Editor-in-Chief Stuart Marshall had the unenviable and unpaid task of keeping this mammoth on track and moving along and deserves most of the credit for such a superior job. Jim Kramer also deserves a lot of praise for his excellent layout and design. I'm extremely proud to have been a part of this project and believe it will stand as both a reflection of the past and a signpost to the future of tabletop gaming. From the art to the writing, this is old school the way it should be, and a professional rpg product in every sense of the word.

From the back cover:

A complete ruleset in one volume. The OSRIC rules include:
413 spells
285 monsters
331 magic items
Official OSRIC character sheet template
Character creation rules for 7 races and 9 classes
Complete rules and tables for adventuring, exploration and combat
Over 100 original, never before published, illustrations
A complete ruleset in one volume

The pdf available for download is free and unabridged. Both hard & softcover versions will be available from Lulu in the near future.

Get it here - OSRIC

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

More Gamma World Short Fiction - Sleeth Stacks

"So, it is a picture but it is also a number?"

The sleeth teacher nodded for what seemed an eternity. Then in his reedy hiss he replied, 'Yess, thiss iss the essence of it, yess.'

The boy still bore the same puzzled look. He looked around at the old mouldering books spread across the table and opened and closed his mouth, as if to say something, but made no sound. The old sleeth, sensing the boy's apprehension, made the crooked-finger gesture for a question and nodded for the boy to speak.

"Patsuru, I have many questions. If we cannot tell between pictures and numbers, how are we to understand any of the Ancient book learning? Could we be reading words when numbers are the language or numbers where words really belong? How can we be certain we know Master Joosts was correct about the Guin Ness Book? Could the DOS for Dummies possibly have nothing at all to do with Obbs?"

The reptilian professor listened to the boy, blinking his eyes after each question. Then, leaning on his staff, slowly stood up, his lanky frame towering over his student. "So many questionss today, hmm? Skolaren is most interessting to you today? Sso many questions from sso ssmall a sstudent needss time for sstudy. We sshall ssave them for later. Now you sshall help Brother Enok to burn back the zeethh."

Sensing that any protest would be futile, the boy stood up and with a quick leap took flight from the treetop classroom into the canopy, still wondering about the the day's lesson. The Brotherhood always raised interesting questions, but demanded so much work, too. Burning zeethh, gathering ed ep berries, weaving linen, and cleaning the skol. As he glided down to the forest floor he swore to himself that he would see the day when his students would wonder about HIS lessons while they burned back the same patch of zeethh.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

100 Gamma World Events

Just did a clean up of the download links for all of the DeEvolution 1st/2nd edition Gamma World books and references on the sidebar. I've also added links to two older articles not linked here before, a web-enhancement for the Scavenger's Guide full of underwater gear and a comprehensive MS Excel spreadsheet of Equipment & Artifacts. Finally, one completely new article - 100 Local Events for Gamma World. With a little bit of work, all are equally usable with Goblinoid Games' Mutant Future. Enjoy!

Underwater Gear.pdf 250.5 Kb

GmmaGear.xls 834 Kb

GW_Events.pdf 24.5 Kb

Saturday, November 22, 2008

More Gamma World Short Fiction

The Frank Steen Report
An Archivist Parable

The Journeyman must exercise great caution and wisdom when applying the divine technology of our Ancient forebearers to latter-day Thesis. Guard against impure Research and remain steadfast in the face of Development. Let us consider the life of one Frank Steen, a Scientist documented by Marys Eleen in her text, "The New Prototypers" as an example of Reckless Experimentation and Unsound Hypothesis*. Eleen describes Steen thusly:

Having taken refuge in his laboratory, the once amiable Steen took to experiments which even I, his biographer, am reticent to describe. He had indeed rejected the true Intellectual Orthodoxy of Archiving and turned to the Unsupervised Research of Science. Not content with this he sought ought similar minded individuals and indulged in the forbidden acts of Cross Discipline Studies. It is said he was searching for the Scientific Method or the 7 Logical Fallacies, but even I cannot say for certain what Steen was ultimately searching for.

Blinded to the Faulty Conclusion to which he was surely headed, Steen built a Prototype of the most heinous sort, constructed by Jury-Rigging the sacred spare parts entrusted to other Archivists, and illicitly stolen from their laboratories. Yea, this much is clear. That same society of Archivists, the true keepers of the Wisdom of Science, which Steen had so mightily offended was roused by a sense of deep injustice. Not content to suffer one of their own Colleagues, they shook with anger and gathering themselves together as one body they sacked the laboratory of Steen and slew the insane Scientist within. Afterwards, they burned his despicable Lab Book, erased his White Board of Equations, and threw the Prototype into a nearby gorge. Verily, they said that day that "Frank Steen is dead. His Grant is Rescinded Forever. Let none Review His Findings for ever and ever. Amen.

* Much of the first two-thirds of the original text are missing, and much of Eleen's commentary and reporting has been clarified by the Infallible Censorship of later generations of Archivists.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

GW Short Fiction - Born Again Revivalist

I’d heard plenty of things about the Preacher, long before he ever came around these parts. Just stories mostly, bits of talk that flies around the cookpot. I’m from Leerya, and we’re not backwards like them Grufton nutters, so I’ll tell you the truth of it. Leastwise what I can remember.

Summer before last, I went hunting with my da and Unk Kobel up to Berlenwood, where we got that big chessex 10-pointer. Yeah, I reckon everybody has heard that bit of talk by now. Anyways, da took us east into Amest to find the man Jool the Tanner. By the time we got there, all the Amest folk was up town at the city office. We talked to the one Amestman on the watch pole and he said they were all meeting with the Preacher, including Jool the Tanner. He said there’d be no time for tanning, with meetings all week. Unk Kobel and I started pondering maybe we should go see about the Preacher too. Da was in a fire to get that chessex hide tanned, so we turned around to go home and never did see Jool or the Preacher.

I’ve never forgotten what happened later that year at the Winter Fest either. About midtime on Eve Day, the Leeryan horn started blowing. Most of the families were decorating and costuming up for the Feastday, so some came faster than others. Da and I got to the gate with the first bunch while Klin was still climbing down from the watch pole. He’d seen a ghoul outside, but called it dead with his seeing mind. After we got the gate open, 10 Leerya men went out to burn the thing. I didn’t see it up close like, but my Unk Kobel did, and he swore up and down it was Jool the Tanner. Except for the bat-wings and the extra hands.

Later that night, and after a long spot of jawing in private, the mayor and the councilmen told us all that no Leeryans could go up to Amest or the Berlenwood. It was now Bad Berlen to us. We killed a bunch more ghouls that summer and the next, and folks say all of them were Amest-folk. Or used to be Amest-folk. Me? I’m sure as a third eyeball that that Preacher was behind it and I sure am glad we never got up to that meeting in Amest after all.

Campaign Stylee: Regional Data

I'm planning to pose a number of questions on this topic over the next few weeks in order to find out people's preferences in old-school campaign settings. I'm not really looking to discuss the relative merits of different settings, but rather to get a handle on the best features & presentation style from a practical standpoint.

What kinds of National/Regional data and detailed descriptive text is necessary?

Using the minimalist Greyhawk Folio as a starting point, what would you add or present differently? Do you prefer a more exacting Wilderlands-style hex-by-hex approach or a mixture of the two (similar to the AH RQ Heroes of Genertela supplement)

Here's a sample template to show you what I'm thinking of.

Name of Leader & their Title (Class, Lvl, Alignment)
Capital: Name (Population)
Population: Racial Type (XX%, 000,000)
Resources: Type (Amount I~IV)
Features: Name (terrain type)

Description: 50-100 words covering important facts and geographical information and likely encounters.
Settlements: List of named settlements
Adventure Sites: List of named sites or module tie-ins (is that legal?)

Sidebar Graphic: Heraldic crest, flag or symbol
Sidebar Detail: List of 8-10 events (rare/uncommon/common)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mother Tongue: A Cajun Boy's Curse

In this second installment of Mother Tongue, I want to take you down south to Louisiana where folk take football, food, and other words that begin with 'F' a lot more seriously than the rest of us. It's safe to say, Cajun folk are both big fans of their college football team and harbor very untoward feelings with their bitter blood rivals in Alabama. To make a long story short, Coach Nick Saban left LSU and has since ended up coaching for Alabama. How much do LSU fans hate Nick Saban now? Here's how a recent ESPN article, Gimme an F, described it:

"Now, lots of people dislike coaches. Michigan fans loathe Jim Tressel. Buckeyes can't stand Joe Paterno. Nittany Lions detest Bobby Bowden. Those are normal, acceptable levels of hate. But LSU fans hate Saban more than store-bought jambalaya, more than FEMA, more than Yankees who confuse Creole with Cajun. The man loved 'em and left 'em. This is personal. This is cultural. This hatred is…intergalactic. "You could draw the analogy to Star Wars," says Indiana professor Ed Hirt, an expert in fan behavior and why sports turn ordinary grown-ups into psychopaths. "It is going to the dark side."

Get that geeky analogy? Brace yourself, and let's read what Cajun Boy, an LSU fan living in NYC, has to say in this epic masterpiece in the art of the curse.

Oh Nick Saban...Have I told you lately that I hate you? I'm not sure who I hate more, you or that foreskin-butchering Jesus freak Tim Tebow. If someone handed me a gun loaded with one bullet and then presented me with you and Tim Tebow and forced me to decide who to use my one bullet on, I would just turn the gun on myself, for the torment of knowing that I could only choose one and that one of you fucks were still living in the world would be too much for me to live with for the remainer of my days.

Read the whole thing here: An Open Letter to Nick Saban. You'll never think of The Terminator the same again.

And sadly, LSU lost the game.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

More FASA Trek

Captain, the archaeology section has completed their survey of the alien starship and has managed to recover partial data from two of the mysterious craft's memory banks. Mr Spock has finished analyzing the data using the Enterprise's computer and believes it logically points to a link with the alternate universe previously encountered on Stardate 2008.07

In other words...I've got two more short netbooks for FASA's Star Trek: the Roleplaying Game. The first is a comprehensive list of the various planets and worlds from across the published setting materials with the appropriate stats for the FASA system. The second is another comprehensive listing of the various people and entities of the FASA Trek universe. Enjoy!

FASA StarTrek Worlds.pdf

FASA Star Trek Whoswho.pdf

Friday, November 14, 2008

From Across the Table - 20 Unsavoury Urban Encounters

Party got a hankering for the low dives and dens on the dark side of town? Don't bother to call for the town watch, they've got bigger fish to fry (with much heavier purses). You're on your own here tonight.

- A berserker is being mocked by street urchins, with possibly tragic consequences
- The PCs see an amazon accost a woman in the street
- A cheap trollop approaches a PC, she wants help because she is being harassed by a rich panderer from a brothel
- The town watch rounds up some prostitutes
- A drunken caravan master accidentally bumps a PC, he accuses the PC of thievery
- PCs see two neanderthals accost a couple in the street
- A aged madame approaches a PC, trying to drum up business for a massage parlor catering to exotic tastes
- The PCs observe a 6th-lvl Magic-User taunting and hounding a scruffy-looking Illusionist in the street.
- A holy man is preaching a new religion and is hauled off by the town watch or regular soldiers for inciting to riot
- A pack of 6 feral cats chasing rats
- A deformed madman falls frothing at the feet of the PCs, he was the subject of a sorceror's experiments
- A Fighter working as muscle for the Monarchists seems to recognize a PC and vaguely warns him of some impending doom
- The PCs see a fight between two finely-attired concubines, from different entourages that have insulted each other
- A drugged and drunken dwarf bumps into a PC and demands an apology
- 3 beggars sham drunkenness to bump into PCs and try to rob them
- A drunken gentleman thinks they recognize a PC as a famous person
- A pregnant woman who was just mugged approaches the PCs and begs for help
- A donkey recognizes a PC as its former master
- A PC sees a drunken foreign mercenary being robbed but not physically mistreated
- A pack of 3 mangy hounds begin barking at the PCs

From Across the Table - Men, part II

This week is the last installment of old-school Human groups. For the desert, I've got a band of desert holymen last seen escaping slavery and a predatory clan of camel riding nomads. On the road, a party of pilgrims who are not what they seem to be. Underground, there's a large band of brave but superstitious cavemen. And at sea, a ship full of booty and a crew of bloodthirsty pirates! Per usual, feel free to use and abuse as you will. It's your game after all.

A band of 60 DERVISHES of the Rephaim tribe
Chief: Toviya ben-Rephaim, a 9th-lvl Fighter (hp 54)
Subcommander: Zefania, a 8th-lvl Fighter (hp 55)
Bodyguards: 12 2nd-lvl Fighters (hp 7,11,12,8,13,5,10,11,11,20,11,15)
Patriarch: Tzaddik Rephaia ben-Rahim, a 10th-lvl Cleric of Marduk (hp 45)
Clerics: 2 5th-lvl Cleric Assistants Zavdi (hp 22), and Keskel (hp 21)
Dervishes: 60
3rd-lvl Fighters: 2 (hp 16,19)
4th-lvl Fighters: 2 (hp 21,17)
5th-lvl Fighters: 1 (hp 21)
6th-lvl Fighters: 1 (hp 34)

Coinage: 1,000sp, 400pp

A band of 115 NOMADS of the Koketei clan
Chief: Jamshid Behrouz-Koketei, a 9th-lvl Fighter (hp 57) Potion of ESP, Longsword +1
Subcommander: Burilgichi, a 7th-lvl Fighter (hp 50)
Bodyguards: 12 2nd-lvl Fighters (hp 11,9,12,17,18,10,12,8,7,12,7,13,)
Clerics: 2 3rd-lvl Clerics, Behrouz (hp 12) & Shahablun (hp 17)
Nomads: 90
3rd-lvl Fighters: 3 (hp 11,17,22)
4th-lvl Fighters: 2 (hp 18,26)
5th-lvl Fighters: 2 (hp 45,32)
6th-lvl Fighters: 2 (hp 30,29)

Coinage: 3,000gp, 100pp
A band of 90 Lawful Evil PILGRIMS on a pilgrimage to a shrine of Ilneval
Patriarch: Artheuniac the Abbot, 8th-lvl Cleric (hp 31)
Assistants: Bomnost, 5th-lvl Cleric (hp 31) & Rhuduin, a 3rd-lvl Cleric (hp 19)
2nd-lvl Clerics: 6 (hp 5,14,11,9,12,12)
4th-lvl Clerics: 3 (hp 17,11,22)
6th-lvl Clerics: 1 (hp 23)
Magic-User: Er, an 8th-lvl Magic-User (hp 14)
Level 1: Read Magic, Dancing Lights, Erase, Detect Magic, Friends, Serpent Missile, Bookworm Bane, Dancing Werelight, Detect Undead, Flash
Level 2: Tones of Forgetfulness, Soothing Vibrations, False Trap, Fools Gold, Acid Arrow, Boiling Bath, Know Alignment, Ray of Enfeeblement, Invisibility to Undead
Level 3: Clairvoyance, Water Breathing, Wind Wall, Ward Against Undead, Clairaudience, Pugnacious Pugilist, Sure Footed Shuffle, Slow, Defense Against Lycanthropes
Level 4: Protection from Gas, Polymorph Self, Ultravision, Shout, Spell Enhancer, Dimension Door, Remove Curse, Fire Trap, Fire Charm

Thieves: Gorglas a 4th-lvl Thief (hp 16) & 4 3rd-lvl Thief comrades (hp 8,13,13,14,)
A band of 55 CAVEMEN from an ELK clan
Chief: Shell-Smashed Lur-Ooo, a 5th-lvl Fighter (hp 28)
Shamans: 3 3rd-lvl Clerics (hp 14,20,17)
Brutes: 5 3rd-lvl Fighters (hp 24,23,20,24,16)
Cavemen Males: 46
Cavemen Females/Young: 46 / 23
A band of 130 PIRATES and their ship The Strumpet
PIRATE CAPTAIN: Phanro the Deadly, an 8th-lvl Fighter (hp 45, sword (1-8))
Lieutenant: Shark Tooth Artus, a 7th-lvl Fighter (hp 38, sword (1-8))
Boarding Party: 6 4th-lvl Fighters (hp 18,25,24,33,14,22, swords & handaxes (1-8/1-4))
Ship's Mates: 3 3rd-lvl Fighters (hp 11,12,15, sword & handaxe (1-8/1-4))
Ship's Officers: 1 5th-lvl Fighter (hp 21, handaxe & dagger (1-4/1-4))
Pirates: 118
Pirate Treasure:
17,000gp, 400pp
A book - The Fraternity of the Woodwives, by Gwenda Sauser the Nabob (Fiction)
A gold & silver helmet, a gold plaque, a platinum & gold scepter, gold & silver pipe, an adamantium token, a platinum collar, a silver rod, 2x platinum & gold charms, a cyclops-skin
A book - The Life of Haemlaf (Biography)
A map drawn on parchment leading to a combined hoard of money & magic secreted in a town 100 miles distant

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mandarin Monday

And now for something completely different. A weekly-series called the Mother Tongue. We'll be examining the distinguished and fine art of the curse. And not a cursed potion of delusion, either. First up: Chinese Cursing Means Never Having To Say Anything But Fuck Your Mother. Let's begin.

If you've ever studied a foreign language, you understand just how hard it is to pick up the real language of the street. You listen to a Berlitz record, maybe take a few classes, but you still end up sounding like Joe the Plumber when you go overseas. You need that little extra oomph! to get you past the stoic textbook talk and into the realm of subtle come-ons and witty one-liners.

If you're going somewhere like China, you need to know how to curse. I learned from my father-in-law, a hardened veteran of the Nanjing Massacre, and a man who could easily massacre all of Nanjing with a few choice words. Now, you might think Asian languages are so melodic, and Asians too caught up in face to even hold a candle to an experienced American or English pottymouth. Let's go to school, shall we?

Shortly after the devastating earthquake in Szechaun, China on May 12th this year, a certain young netizen by the name of Zhang Ya took to Youtube to vent her juvie frustrations. Certainly a suicidally bad move in a country of that size. Take a look.

Now...go grab a Chinese-speaking friend because you're in for a treat. For anyone who's ever hated and despised someone on the internet...this one's for you!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Group Therapy

Fed up with all the divisiveness in the recent US election? Hate all the petty factions and bickering groups? Ready to take a footman's flail to both Democrats & Republicans alike? Well grab your DM's notebook, and let's game it out. Here's a contentious bunch of special interest groups. Pick what you need or mix and match elements, there's plenty to start a holy war.

The Artificers of the Primal Run
e: everything started with the one true 'rune of Creation' and they're determined to teach that rune to every man, woman and child. It's almost unpronounceable, with either 69 or 77 syllables and sounds not unlike the troglodyte language.

The Templars of the 34th Spike: Konstantina of Athena suffered horrible tortures at the hands of the minions of Memnhisir, a patriarchal cult of devil-worshipping sadists. Only after being impaled by their 33 bronze spikes did the goddess receive her faithful paladin and on the hammering of the 34th she ascended to the heavens...and coincidentally disintegrated all living creatures nearby in a burst of radiant energy. Her followers are all female paladins of Athena renowned for taking suicidal risks in the fight against evil. They don't much care for men either.

The Weeping Five: These 5 red-robed figures always travel together, keeping their faces hidden under heavy hoods. They are frequently heard making a low sobbing thrum, but otherwise they don't speak or even turn to face a speaker. They rarely stop walking, and it isn't known if or when they rest. It is common knowledge however that snakes, spiders, rats and other pests are drawn to them and follow them for a distance. Oddly they don't have a big horde of pests following them, and it's unknown what happens to them later. Many towns and villages will open their gates to allow the Weeping Five to pass through and hopefully take their pests too. Other settlements are deeply suspicious and see them as demonic or diabolic. These places have often suffered a plague after the Five pass, leading to even more suspicion and doubt.

The Orange Convention: This cabal of spellcasters is a very vocal fellowship dedicated to influencing local politics for the betterment of their cause - the complete eradication of superstitious clerical magics. They are frequently heard ranting about the gods, whom they blame for hijacking the outer planes. In more religious areas, they are frequently heard crying for mercy.

The Symposium of the Realm: This traveling troupe of pundits and court fools makes a seasonal round of the cities' upscale inns. Nobles and foreigners are the usual target of their mimicry skits. The former, at least, are usually grateful for the fame.

The Friends of Compassionate Entropy: This cult of influential and very discreet demon-worshippers acquire most of their victims from their charity soup kitchen and hospital. Sizable donations to higher-ups keep questions to a minimum.