Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Most important thing to post today is birthday greetings to Rob, one of my oldest friends. I think I started playing games with him back in the mid 1980's. People loved his Warp Hill game which managed to combine several genres together successfully. Lots of people tried to pull that off-- doing mish-mash campaigns-- but few did it well. Rob's played in many, many of my games-- but since he's been playing with me so long, he's played in a lot of the earlier really bad ones. I think I've gotten better, but I flinch when I think about the old AD&D and Gurps games I ran. Rob's also run some of the best superhero campaigns for the group and his unfinished HCI campaign had enormous vision and a depth I can only hope to replicate. I borrowed liberally from him in running my Frontline supers campaign and my take on HCI. Thankfully he generously gave me his blessing on both those projects.

Lil Devilbird took me to see the Kronos Quartet on Friday. They're a linchpin for modern chamber music. Combining an avant garde approach to music with striking popularity they helped cement Nonesuch records as the go to label for interesting modern compositions. I have a number of their disks, and of course they play on my all-time favorite recording, Philip Glass' soundtrack to the film Mishima. Black Angels (in parts), their recording of the Glass String Quartets, the Lutoslawski String Quartet and Pieces of Africa rank among my favorites.

I liked Chamber Music generally-- and my preference of 20th Century Compositions extends there. But I do have to be more in the mood to listen to these works on their own. The Shostakovich, Hindemith, Nyman and Bartok Quartets stand out for me. I like what the Balanascu Quartet, Manhattan String Quartet and Piano Circus have done in the way of interesting chamber pieces. Actually, the Balanascu Quartet did an arrangement of various Kraftwerk songs-- which sounds better than you'd imagine.

That having been said I had a mixed reaction to the thing. Their performance was incredible from a technical standpoint-- amazing varied lighting, brilliant use of tape loops and pieces for some of the works, dynamite timing, and just an unbelievable level of skill. As for the pieces themselves, some I liked-- and I hadn't heard any of them before. (I sound note that when I used to review classical music I actually took notes, but I didn't for this so my report will be sketchy). They opened with "Nomatophobis" by J.G. Thirwell which had all kinds of interesting sounds and dynamics to it. Thirwell actually does musical scoring for the Venture Brothers. The second composition came from John Zorn and was a...very 20th Century f*ck around with the audience piece. Funny, but not really anything great. I enjoyed the next two pieces of the first half-- one for its use of Indian instruments and the raga form and the other for the use of combined tape and playing. Though that last piece did wear out its welcome a little bit-- where my sense was that it took too long to get to its point. Plus it had a brilliant opening that the second half didn't match up to.

After intermission they have the world premiere of a new piece by Terry Riley called "Transylvanian Horn Courtship". Riley's kind of legendary in avant garde music circles, for "In C" among other things (I think Steve Reich's his closest parallel composer and one who they played the following evening). Anyway, the piece is based around what are called Stroh instruments-- strong instruments pared down with an attached metal horn for sound amplification. The effect is to create a dimming of the sound-- a kind of distance. At the loudest parts you get a kind of crackle and it vaguely resembles the sound from an old Edison phonograph.

For most of the performance the players play either all standard or all Stroh instruments. However, the sections don't really echo against one another-- at least to my untrained ear, so there's a break there where it feels like we're hearing to different pieces interspersed with one another. In one section, the second violin does keep the standard instrument (for a time) against the Stroh. I found that the most compelling part and I kept wanting to hear the others switch in and out so I could hear a live comparison and appreciate the interaction of the sound qualities. But that didn't happen. So they piece as a whole felt more like an affectation for new instruments rather than a real look at the dynamics. To a certain degree music should be absolute, but I certainly lost the thread of what this piece was supposed to accomplish.

Getting close to 100 posts in a row-- minus a few short filler responses. When I hit that number I'm probably going to drop one of the days of posting and go down to six days a week. I have a number of things I'm trying to work on some of which I can't recycle to the blog. I'm also still job hunting which is delightful in this economy. On the table right now, I've got the ongoing campaigns, I'm getting ready for the next Sunday campaign, I'm trying to put together some game rules and setting material as a proposal for someone, I have to do some more script pages, I'm trying to figure out about scheduling for a Saturday campaign-- with the intent of being able to get Dusty down here for some more games, I have to do my taxes which will be a delightful governmental nutshot, I'm trying to put together a set of non-fic pieces, and I started watching that effing anime Bleach on Hulu. I have no self control-- and it has some interesting structural elements I might come back to tomorrow. And I haven't made any real progress on my stack of unread books.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Fantasy Campaign Summaries (Continued)

SYSTEM TO DO LIST for Sunday Campaign
Weapon Tables
Character Sheets
Some Additional Definition of Costs
Strength Chart
Armor Chart
More Discussion under Spells and Magic
Stunting and Drama Points
God Powers
Combat Statuses
Critical Hits and Fumbles
Hit Locations

More Campaign Summaries

The First Sirayn Campaign (1991)
Rob, Amy, Paul, Eric, Dusty, Carl, Barry, Jason*, Kenny*, Gene*, Art*
Several months

Crenadar, a half-elemental Elf of uncertain origin agreed to take on a mission to the far west at the order one of the feuding factions among the Miremallians. Too late they discovered their mission involved killing off one of the exiled leaders of a faction there. Miremal itself had become a difficult place with various elements in rebellion. The matter was made a little worse by the group having among their number a Drow Assassin and a Centaur from the Druids of Kislev, easy targets to pin blame on. Reaching Sirayn, the group was joined by Samiir Ajbach, a paladin of Ladnoca. They became involved with the politics of the land and met the Hawk of Ormal, a supposed raider who had in fact been moving back and forth from Ardor through special gates.

Some of the group began explorations in Sirayn, uncovering one of the secret citadels of the Tarakson. They explored the place, beginning to discover some of the secrets of Ardor, including the fact that the Tarakson was a renegade lord of Ardor, master of Time. The Ardorans had apparently been looking towards the world with an eye towards conquest. The group managed to escape relatively undetected, but not before they pitched a container of liquid time through a gate; the end result of that would be to create the Void Drake of Tul Isra who reappeared randomly through the ages to level the city. The group returned to Tul Harar and found themselves called upon to battle against a necromancer in the southern woods. They were joined by the mystical detective Achmed Tracy.

This in turn led them to an old city which held the secret of the location of the lost Anzeti capital of Tanjiim. Evading the Tarakson's men, they entered the great brass stairs which took days to climb. This proved nearly fatal to a few of them, not least the Centaur who found the going rough. The eventually discovered and freed the sorcerer Uthron Rendor, a necromancer for good, or so he said. They also found additional evidence to show the coming of Murkavan, although they weren't sure exactly what that meant. Stealing a flying ship they escaped Tanjiim but found their flight cut short. They battled against agents of the Tarakson, the Lich of Sul Cul (slaying one of his forms), and Murkavan. In the process they came across a powerful artifact, the Eye of Veccna. They decided to travel to Water Hill, capital of the Dwarves, where this item could be destroyed. Uthron Rendor betrayed them, fleeing with a sorceress guest of the Dwarves. The campaign was cut short there, but several things would happen out of game. Rendor and his companion fled to Crantyle; Samiir returned back home to continue the fight against the Tarakson; Achmed Traci would bee captured by Murkavan; and Crenadar and Paul's smith would be caught and imprisoned in Sensalia Itatain's extra-dimensional dungeon.

Memorable Moments: Bob the Midshipmen being eaten by a sea monster, Achmed Tracy's love for stinky cheese, having to lower the centaur down into the dungeon by ropes and pulleys, Gene activating the trap at the top of one of the levels of Tanjiim thereby flattening the stairs and sending everyone sliding down, Paul spending two days climbing down and up the stairs to get his equipment, Barry's centaur being the ugliest centaur ever, Crenadar's Void Wisp evolving into the Drake, Carl making a convincing case for his necromantic skills being for good, Rendor getting the group to kill a mage who had been sent to kill him, Samiir and Crenadar being sent to infiltrate only to realize both characters had the Honesty disadvantage, Paul carrying a forge door with him everywhere.

Gameplay: I'll admit I'm a sucker for chrome in a set of game rules. I'd enjoyed Gurps but when I came back, Rolemaster had added a number of features that we got to try out in Paul's campaigns. By this time they'd produced Companions I-IV, War Law, Sea Law, some other junk and especially the Elemental Companion. The many classes and spells lists seduced me and I decided for the next campaign on the Second Continent, I'd use RM. While it played as well as RM ever did it became obvious after a while that the relative realism/level of power differed hugely between a game run in the two systems. In Gurps you faced the constant fact that a sword blow not only could kill you, but most times if it connected you were likely to be fairly injured. In Rolemaster, yes that same sword could kill you with a spectacular critical, but most times you were simply managing hp, bleeding, and avoiding stun. That combined with the sheer power a character could deal out if they put their mind to it made the tone of the game very different. The new material added to the system also ramped up the game power with each new class. RM had its place, and I would use it several times again, but for the lower power and fragility I would stick to Gurps or Gurps-like systems for the second continent from that point forward. The campaign itself has a weird number of players with many coming in late and others falling out. Achmed Tracy passed from Jason to Dusty halfway through. While there were some great moments, it never quite came together and ended early because of my leaving for Baltimore.

Introduced: Murkavan as a real and present threat on the second continent, the Court of Ardor, Elementalism, the Dwarven Civil War, the Miremallian Civil War, Drowish political assassinations, Sirayn politics, the concept of the Lythic pantheon having other forms, Water Hill, the existence of a first (and hinted at) third continent, travelers from the first continent, the differing kinds of Unlife-- Aether vs. Conventional, Tanjiim and the Anzeti civilization.

The Pillar of Fire Campaign (1993-1994)
Rob, Eric, Paul, Carl, David, Carol, Henry, Mike D*, Kenny*, Charles*, Dusty*

The group began as a select group of Agrikan Worshipers, part of one of the great mercenary-religious orders. Gathered together in Virocana with the other orders, they found themselves betrayed and purged by a number of their fellow orders. The group escaped, making their way south eventually into Prax and the great fallen city of Pavis. There they began to plan how to rebuild and exact revenge upon their enemies. They explored some of the lost ruins of the Big Rubble as well as locating a lost fortress of the Agrik they were able to liberate. They'd gathered resources and allies when news came that the Laranians had taken advantage of the disruption of the Agrikan Chapters to launch an invasion, aiming to liberate the supposed Laranian allies among the Orlanthi from the sway of the Lunar Empire and her mercenaries.

The group sailed to The Land of the Shankara, establishing themselves in the only port city there, a place designed to keep outsiders from making their way to the interior. Here the group plotted and planned further, making mercantile arrangements and undermining the local government. They managed to make their way into Shankara where they uncovered a rich trove of treasures and ancient items. They met and made an alliance with a lost powerful Sorcerer called Nation. In exchange for certain services, he agreed to provide them with support and magical resources. The group eventually overstayed their welcome when the kidnapped, tortured and murdered a number of visiting dignitary Laranians.

Escaping under darkness the group arrived in Laksmi where the King was prosecuting a two front war against a rebellion of nobles and a terrifying supernatural enemy known as the Suldu, a lost evil race created by one of the Sorcerer Kings. The Pillar of Fire restyled itself as a mercenary company, stealing from rivals and eventually finding service with the King. They fought against the rebellion with honor, eventually putting nobles holdings to sword and flame. The profits from this they then turned to increasing their numbers and securing a major position with the kingdom. They found themselves caught up in a mystic game as Yearturn arrived in the capital, where the group were magically slaughtered by a sentient Earthnode. This ritual transported them to another version of the city where they put down a Laranian version of their own company. The group then turned their attention to fighting the Sulda on their own terms, with magic and darkness. They managed to find and destroy the Mad God of the Suldu, now putting these beings in their own control. Even as they began to consolidate their power, vicious in-fighting resulted in the death or vanishing of some of the key leadership of the group.

Memorable Moments: Bringing down the traps on their rival Agrikan brothers, exploring the dungeon of traps, Paul getting many NPCs killed, putting an arrow in Charles' head, Paul running through the streets after he cut his own throat so the spider bite poison wouldn't get him, the expert manipulation of the First Traitor, the awful kidnapping of the Laranian priestess, the Consort, Rob's release of the Broo into Pavis, organizing the army in Laksmi, Rob's killing Paul's mentor in front of the whole camp, Rob's discovery of the Leviathan, the Battle with Ven-Shallay Turican, the mysterious appearance of new characters who had “always been there” during Yearturn, Paul accidentally killing a horse and alerting a few hundred enemy warriors, Carl's s'wa moment when I killed his character by pitching him down a pit trap, the follow-up moment when I killed the entire group, Rob killing Paul after he killed a valuable NPC, Rob realizing his situation and grabbing him and throwing them both into a Death Cloud, Rob out-talking a Halean priestess.

Gameplay: Rolemaster with all the trimmings. We pretty much used everything available for old RM. Again, it went as well as could be expected for that system-- high power and over the top abilities. The game went really well for about the first three-quarters of it. It combined resource management, NPC gathering, organization building, military adventures, mystery and dungeon exploration. The game had come out of three things-- my determination that the third continent would have a religious focus, my desire for a very different campaign structure, and my attempt to copy the success that Rob had had in running a Villains game. I won't run an evil game again-- or at least, as I did with the Vampire game, I'll put in place pretty significant breakers. I handled some things very badly in the last part of the game. That ended up essentially breaking the game because of inter-party fighting. I learned that the claim of “just playing your character” is often an excuse to do pretty shitty things. I should have taken steps to fix the problem before it occurred but I didn't. I ended up cutting the game off and promised to run again after a break, which I never did. I used pretty extensively the Pavis and Big Rubble Module as well as Grimtooth's Dungeon of Doom, both to good effect.

Introduced: The Third Continent, the Wave Theory of History, the association of certain of the Lythic Gods with religious ideas from Glorantha, Pavis and the Big Rubble, the Pale King, the Sidhe, the Sorcerer Kings, the Created races, the Lunar Empire as Agrikan sympathetic, the Orlanthi as a Laranian offshoot, the mercenary companies, the Aperkitas, Yearturn, an Ardoran conquest alternate future, many characters who would reappear as villains in later campaigns, Third Continent hatred of Magic

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Wave Theory of History: A Fantasy Cosmology

In prep for the upcoming Third Continent Sunday game, I've been going through the material from the last campaign (something like six or seven years ago). I ran three multi-year campaigns in that setting, and Sherri ran one. In my head I've always had a division of the three continents into Will (the first continent), Material World (second continent) and Faith (third continent). The continents themselves, as some players know, have been divided from one another by barriers. However over history those barriers have been stronger or weaker, with persons and peoples crossing from one to another. For the example, the rise of the Lythic pantheon on the Second Continent came directly from prophets from the Third Continent.

In any case, the Third Continent has an arcane, byzantine, deliberately contradictory and difficult history. Part of that comes from my heavy adaptation of material from the Glorantha setting into this one. By now things are several generations of copying away from the original material-- but ideas and concepts heavily inform it.

The next campaign takes places about a century after the end of the last one. Significant events have changed the world. So now I have the problem of most of my material, written before the last campaign, being outmoded significantly. So I'm pulling the stuff together and then hope to write a piece which bridges that gap.

One of the other problems I have is that a good deal of the most interesting material I have I wrote from a singular cultural perspective-- below I present a view of historical theory, but one from a very specific religious context. The general events and ideas here are useful, but watch out for the value judgments.

The following is a document by the noted S’ave Knoran Praeceptor Herandiak. It represnts an outline used as the model for students writing general histories within his order. Many of Herandiak’s biases and near-heresies can be seen within the document. Written after his powers of reason had somewhat declined, it shows some of the tensions among the church. Notable are the subtle and not so subtle jabs at the hagiographic school of history. However, in general, it presents a coherent outline of the accepted historical model.

Wave Theory of History

History exists in steps or “Waves.” These waves are times of great changes; changes which have affected everyone, everywhere. The prediction of these waves is of constant importance. Powerful figures are always alert for what will be the next great shift. However, usually the movement of Waves is better seen in retrospect. Such hindsight is a must for soothsayers. There are several common features to the changes of the waves: they involve vast changes to the social and political order, they usually involve great strife, artifacts of great power usually arise and fall into the hands of heroes during these times, and they may take a long time to resolve.

The definition of what the waves were and are is no small matter. It can be used to support or negate ideologies and positions. The most commonly accepted version is the one I shall concentrate upon. Of course the greatest amount of debate is that related to the most recent wave and there are many who believe that the continent is still in the grip of changes.

Jaela-Kur: Mythic Time
The story begins with “Mythic Time.” In this time before time, the Gods, Powers, and a variety of other beings existed and walked the land. There was no such concept as time and so there could be no sense of a linear reading of time. Either all things happened concurrently or else they just were. Debate on this point is futile. What is know is that there came Darkness, as Morgoth left the fold and Chaos was seen for the first time. There was a war in heaven, and many tales are told of this involved: the death of Yelm, the Striking or the Forge, the Shattering of the Spike, the Breaking of the World Machine, or a hundred other versions of the tale. The mythic element of a sundering and loss is universal. Nearly as universal is the sense of recovery through a compact, an agreement as to how the world would be from then on: Wheel Worshippers read this as the finalization of the Concordat, Lightbringers as the Web of Arachae Solara, but there are other versions. What is clear is that time began then.

Chadra-Kur: Age of Rebirth
In the time of the First Wave or Chadra-Kur (Rebirth Wave), some of the Gods and their children lived upon the world. Great figures strode then. It was not the perfection which had gone before because now entropy and death had entered the world and Morgoth was still broken. All history which has followed has been a descent. Some say that the Gods ascended from this plane to move to the next and the next and so on. The shifting of the Waves occurs at these passings. What is known is that the passing of this wave had a definite point, but as to why that point happened is questionable.

The World Council of Friends
The World Council of Friends represented an attempt to gather together the scattered peoples of the World into a sense of harmony. The trolls (represented by the Only Old One), the Dragonewts, the Mostali, the Aldraymi, the various human peoples and dozens of other peoples whose names are gone now from memory came together. They throught to repair the damage to the world. Some say that this damage was death, some chaos, some Morgoth’s vision. As with any such tale, the reasons given are unsure and in the long run, unimportant. What is known is that they decided to make a God to repair these problems. The result was Nysalor, also called Gbaji.

The Council split eventually and some saw Nysalor as savior, others saw him as Gbaji or the false one. The modern heresy of Illumination draws its philosophy from the teachings of Nysalor. It is said that when the Red Goddess traveled through the Underworld to reach her godhead, she met and was tutored by Nysalor. The tales fly back and forth, a cries of Chaos erupt. I am too old to wade into the turbulence of that debate. Suffice as to say, there was Nysalor/Gbaji and there came his nemesis, Arkat the Liberator/Destroyer. They fought, they died, they were reborn, they fought anon, and all that had been built was trampled underfoot. Eventually they destroyed each other (although that is an open question as well). And when the days were darkest, the Sidhe came.

Sidhe-Kur: Age of Dread
The Sidhe came, bringing dread with them. Those Gods who remained struggled with them, fighting and falling and traveling into myth or the Underworld. The Sidhe brought with them a power previous unknown, that of Sorcery. They were immortal, unfeeling and powerful. Their servants were Elves, like them but not, in some ways a mockery of the forms of the Aldrymi. The Sidhe came and ruled the land, settling in such places as they wished, bending all within their demense to their will and doing whatever their unnatural passions demanded.

Yet the Sidhe were jaded even before they had come here. They were a bane to the world and had perhaps taken a pleasure in the pain they cause with each foot tread upon the soil. However, they soon fell into the same lethargy which had always followed them. They killed their young to keep them from being rivals and used servants as pawns in great games. But, in order to do this they had to equip their pawns well as this was their downfall. From among those who they trained in High Magic and gifted with items of power there arose a force which could undo the Sidhe. This force knew it, bided their time, built slowly and eventually made their moves. Thus was one tyrant, the Sidhe, undone by another, the Sorcerer Kings.

Arba-Kur: Age of Tyranny
Those who had mastered magic undid the Sidhe, but raised themselves up in their place. In the beginning there were many powerful wizards, drawn from Humans and Elves alike. However, warfare and self-destruction took their toll. This Wave is in many ways as much an enigma as the Jaela-Kur. Many records were destroyed, testimony is unreliable and the widespread use of magic itself undid the natural order of things. However, we can identify a number of events which shaped the future.

We know that there was originally a sense of cooperation among the Sorcerer Kings. However, tensions between the Elves and humans, especially a deep suspicion of the Sky Elves, resulted in some factionalism. Warfare between the Elves of the Sea and Sky meant that they never established the kind of tyrannical civilizations which the human Sorcerors did. Instead, the Sea Elves built their ocean cities and headed south and the Sky Elves built their air cities and moved from place to place.

Rule of the Kings
Human Sorcerers began building their empires in a variety of scattered places. Originally these were small kingdoms we believe, but as these magi grew in power, they began to consolidate. There was some cooperation, as evidenced by the building of the Great Bridges. However, there was as much tyranny as the Sidhe. Priests were outlawed or killed in many places because of the potential threat to magic they represented. Forced underground in many places, some worship died out entirely. Those who would become the great Sorcerer Kings built great cities which became the basis for expanding empires of conquest. Out of two hundred or so powerful Magi, a dozen arose to dominate. These included Sheng Seleris, Sniadosc, Mhari Ridaen, and Zzabur.

The Red Goddess
It was during this wave that the goddess known as Rufelza, the Red Goddess arose. Little is known about this figure who some say heralds the end of time. What is known is that she was a goddess born within time, who claims to be here to heal the world. Her ascension was guided by a set of figures known as the Seven Mothers, who some claim are bastardizations of the Lightbringers. Her rise was contested by many, and the Gods themselves set tests for her. After her victory at Castle Blue, both Agrik and Latnamele gave her their blessing, and thus was the Lunar faith born. However, it would not have an easy time. Sheng Seleris, who had already trampled the Empire of the Wyrm’s Friends underfoot, began a series of campaigns which never destroyed this people.

Empire of the Wyrm’s Friends
The Empire of the Wyrm’s Friends, or EWF, was a civilization which sought to bring together the peoples of various regions. Many prophesied it fall, claiming that it enacted the Broken Council once more. However, the goals of this civilization were different. It had been founded by one who had learned to understand the speech and ways of the Dragonewts and their harmony. The began to develop a culture based around these principles. Some claim that they wished to create a great “dragonmind,” but that is uncertain. The Only Old One and others helped to lead this unifying force of culture. However, this was a collective effort. Pavis, the great hero, founded his city in Prax as a center of the EWF. However, Pavis had many allies who allowed him to do so. Yet, the Empire was undone by two forces, the first being a schism within its council which led to the Dragonkill War and the Second being continued assaults by Sheng Seleris. Most of the records of the EWF were destroyed, but evidence of their architecture and works remains.

The Godlearners
An even more uncertain situation arose with the people who are now called the Godlearners. They were apparently Magi who had studied the ways of Heroquesting. They sought power through this, without an understanding of what they did. Instead, the bastardized myths and twisted the force of faith. For a time, their sterile god, the Clanking City, roamed the seas, stealing peoples. The Godlearners fashioned a great Empire, devoted to spreading their beliefs. They fought with and destroyed the Waertagi, a great seafaring people who combined the blood of the mer with that of humanity. Eventually, the Godlearners broke the compact of what was allowed and they were struck down by the gods. However, many Magi today still follow the paths of these Godlearners with their false prophet, Malkion.

The Closing
Another event which had some impact on the period was the Closing. It is said that the Sorceror King, Zzabur grew jealous of the other magi who threatened his realm. To prevent them from taking anything of his he cast a great spell which closed the oceans with a dense fog. Where it lay, none could go. Coastal cities dried up, ships vanished and many cultures were isolated from one another. We are uncertain today when the Closing happened or how long it lasted, but it is generally placed towards the middle of the wave and lasting about eighty years. It is said that Dormal the Seafarer uncovered the rituals necessary to allow ships to venture forth again. But, this work is likely the result of more than one person. Even this was just a way around the spell, and it is said that the Spell remains, hidden but present.

The Createds
The various Created peoples also came into being in this time: Aperkitas, Aslani, Chemtra, Vagyr and so on. They were fashioned by the Sorceror Kings to serve their bidding efficiently. In some places these Createds rebelled and were destroyed, in others they escaped, and some simply outlasted their creators. The Createds became a troublesome issue for many people. Their mixed history shows the uncertainty which they have generated. Are they tools of Sorcery? Do they have souls? It is uncertain. The Sorceror Kings were not able to break the laws of creation, that which Ilvir strives for, but instead circumvented them by taking existing creatures and giving them new forms. In many cases, the results were not what was hoped for by their Overlords. The sunny and peaceful dispositions of the Aparkitas and Riversent, the docility of the Chemtra and the playfulness of the Vagyr all attest to this.

Fall of the Sorceror Kings
Tensions had grown within this wave, and the seeds for their own destruction had been sown. Many great artifacts and items of power had been spread throughout the land. Sheng Seleris had destroyed several of his rivals and had in turn been destroyed by the Lunars. Several of the Sorceror Kings had undone themselves, so that only a handful remained to defend their power. In many places independent empires had grown, outside of their dominion. Soon began the collective campaigns which would finish the last of them off.

Thulth-Kur: Age of Revolt
There is little to commend this era to the historian. The various peoples of this time had managed, a great cost, to throw off the shackles of their overlords. Yet, what resulted was a gap and a series of dark ages. The Thulth-Kur was a time of barbarism and war, punctuated by brief pauses due to the Storm Plague.

Fallen Empires
Several Empires tried to bring together peoples within this time. Notable were the efforts of the Vedang in the north, the Kraltoraens in the South and Pamaltera in the West. The only traces of theVedang today come in the form of the heirarchy of Arachae, where their Malkion-based caste system still holds sway. The glorious Kraltoraen system collapsed under its own weight as various rival sea power emerged. The alliance of Caranus and the Sky Elves finished it off, leaving the hollow shell that is the Chadra Empire today. Pamaltera left the most lasting results. Their governing systems and use of fief organized most of the lands now occupied by the Laranian Theocracy. The end of this empire left a number of stable nations, rivals to each other which eventually led to the Merchant Kingdoms.

Magic Undone
Magic was prosecuted throughout the land. Those found practicing such dark arts were killed. Little tolerance was shown. Only in Virocana, where the Lunars held sway was any tolerance shown, and even that eventually led to their downfall. However, ignorance, as always, was king and the same reaction to Mages often caught up Clerics and true followers of faith. Rituals were closely monitored, high channellers were looked upon with suspicion, even those who brought bounty and enlightenment. Those of faith and will kept their own council and tried to preserve the knowledge of the past. This farsight allowed the rapid advancement of society in the next era.

Shifting Times
Several factors changed the nature of society in the later part of the wave. The first was the variety of changes in government which allowed more far-ranging control. The codes of fiefs and loyalty created a relationship which began to establish concrete identities among these nations. Older empires had been brought down, including the killing of the Only Old One by the Pharaoh which allowed for progress. New lines of rulership emerged and the proper kings began to command their people. The second was the development of better, faster ships which followed the designs of those from the first age. This increased contact, knowledge and trade. It also resulted in the third change, the expansion of regular and constant warfare. It was during this era that mercenary companies first developed, including that of the eventual merchant house, Leontos.

Gild-Kur: Age of Commerce
The rise of the Merchant Lords came about from the general dispersal of strength among the Lords of Humanity. Many of these families began as mercantile class peoples. As they developed, many became more powerful through money lending and land acquisition. For many Human Lords the lure of a well financed war was just too appealing. Others had a particular trade, such as the skilled mercenaries of Leontos. Some, notably Houses Armado and Lycosa, came from noble lines who had the foresight to keep strong control over the merchant activities within their realm. Family Sphyrna is also unusual in that this family appears to have arisen out of a collective decision to have a representative family to lead the people. Rumor has it that this family was chosen by drawn lots. The Merchant Kings rose through times of conflict, and at times the Human Kings bit the hand which fed them.

Reasons for Success
There are several reasons why the Merchant Kings were so successful in their rise. First, there already existed dissension within most of the Human Kingdoms. Years of expansion and development had made their borders close, in spite of the seas. When wars failed or succeeded the Merchant Lords were there to support or rebuild (with their changes) shattered economies.

Second, there was little ideologically to hold together the societies of the Human Kingdoms. Tradition and Obligation were the driving force behind them, yet these did not have an extensive history. The authority of the various Churches had been reduced. Paganistic Wheel worship was emphasized and those churches permitted were those which served local interest such as Peoni, Agrik, Sarajin, and Larani. The Merchant Lords provided funding to the Churches emphasizing Naveh, Halea and S’ave Knor. They also had a policy of tolerance which allow the flourishing of a number of cults. Originally they used this to establish some legitimacy within the kingdoms. In most established areas they encouraged Wheel worship publicly and Halea privately.
Third, the Merchant Lords had the ability to literally capitalize on the changes in the economies which they had generated. A mercantile economy began to replace the previous Feudal economy. The Merchants accumulated capital and used it efficiently. The Feudal system of the Human Lords used labor ineffectively where the mercantile system was workable.

The Gild-Kur, of the Age of Merchants, was an important period. Contacts were more strongly developed between the various kingdoms. Trade routes were established. Coastal cities became thriving trade points and centers for art and learning. Formal knowledge carried by trained merchants began to make the world a little smaller. Art and literature were sponsored by the Merchants creating an aesthetic standard. In many places non-humans and Createds were given acknowledgment and were brought into the economy.

On the other hand, the Merchant Families began to take the place of the old Feudal Human Lords. Battles between the nine families began with small trade disputes and escalated into assassinations and warfare. In many places the shift in legitimacy was from a group which provided services and skills to one which believed that it possessed authority in and of itself. This time was, however, measured in generations.

Comta-Kur: Era of Faith
The present wave is typically represented by the rise of the Laranian Theocracy, and many of their philosophers would have you read the present as evidence of a wave devoted solely to her. However, the long view gives us a clearer path. Religious faith, permitted by the Merchant Kingdoms began to spread as people renewed their ties to those who gave them life.

Fall of the Merchants
The Laranian rise can, however, be taken as a clear example of the kinds of changes which destroyed the merchants. In part, the downfall of the Merchant Lords was due to the same circumstances which had hurt their predecessors. Their own divisions and lack of central ideology gave the Laranians an opportunity. The Theocracy’s strength was a strong ideological cohesion. They presented the populace with a positive ideal, a return to mythical “better days” and a response to the exploitation of the Merchants. It was this strength which allowed them to impose a more primitive economy.

The Laranian Theocracy capitalized on some of the changes which the merchants had created. First, they institutionalized and took over the system of money-lending and usury. Church controlled systems of money lending became lucrative concessions for favored members of the Church and pious outsiders. The concept of money as a sterile thing was vital in this. Many had seen the disparity which had been brought by increased wealth. In many places where the Merchant families capitulated to Laranian authorities they were given these positions to maintain their expertise.

A second factor which the Laranians assumed control of was the spread of literacy. The rise of the Merchants had been accompanied by a movement of literacy out of the hands of the few and into the hands of a larger portion of the populace. Laranians began to use written propaganda to reach the people. Once they had assumed authority they began to control the kinds of materials accessible to the “common man.” The merchants had encouraged writing in the local languages as opposed to noble, pure Parchment. Stories and tales of the Blessed Lady and Morality plays spread widely in the vernacular. However, for the most part, these were bastardized, used for the moment. The failures here illustrate precisely the need for strong, central control over education and literacy.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Building Hollows for Changeling

Following up from my earlier post about liking base-building rules from rpg games, here's an adaptation/expansion of the Changeling rules for Hollows.

Hollows serve as places of refuge for Changelings in the world. In some spots, the Hedge has stabilized enough to become a location held between there and the real world. Changelings who find these places can, over time, shape them to their will-- creating a safe place to retreat to away from the perils of the world. In mechanical terms, Hollows serve as bases which player characters can purchase advantages for. Usually PCs as a group can contribute to the general pool of points for a base-- then these can be spent by consensus of the Motley. Alternately, PCs may spend their points individually to buy up some things they like.

The basic rules provide some guidelines for these purchases-- I'm going to walk through those advantages, add in some new things and provide rough guidelines for play. The Wayward group began the game with a basic Hollow of modest size, with one hidden entrance. Recently Evan invested in the first dot of one of what I'll call the Hollow Tracks-- ranked advantages. He spent points on the first dot of the Security track. Points and dots accumulate, so if someone wants to increase the security further, they'd buy the second dot (5 points) and then the third dot (10 points). Ranked dots increase the effect significantly as you go up-- rank two of security is significantly better than two rank one dots would be (though you can't buy them apart). Also note that some tracks have extra advantages which can be purchased-- these stand apart from the cost for the ranked dots and affect all dots. Lastly, individual players may decide to make their own separate Hollow apart from the group, but that's a significant investment of points.

Size (1-5)
The number of dots you have in Size obviously determines how large the Hollow is. In game terms, increasing the size represents the PCs using their glamour and will to excavate and increase the Hollow. It can mean finding new areas or digging whole sections out. At Rank 0, as the group currently has-- you have a small room. Rank One gives you a second room; Rank Two makes the Hollow the size of an apartment-- three to four rooms; and Rank Three gives you an area the size of a warehouse or church, with five to seven rooms. Further ranks obviously make it larger.

Advantages for the Size Track (5 points each)
Thematics: The Hollow right now shows itself simply as a generic room. It is possible for the group to define a more specific version of the area. It could look like subway tunnels, a giant treehouse, an arboreal garden, a dark woods, a mansion, an amusement park, a museum, etc. Once chosen, that thematic remains in place. That represents the PC group finding the space that the surrounding area has solidified itself into.

Cloister: One room remains set aside from the rest. The Motley who owns the Hollow can move freely from this room to the rest of the Hollow, but generally others cannot unless invited. They can leave out to the Hedge or Real World from here, so it can't serve as a prison. You must buy an extra Door (see below) for the Cloister.

Amenities (1-5)
This represents how well-stocked the Hollow is with material comforts and luxuries. Obviously conventional real world connections cannot exist here-- so no cable, TV, internet connection, electricity, and whatnot. Instead these rating represents glamour-built objects and devices that make living here more interesting. It can also include decorations and mundane supplies, like food and so on. The book suggests living game boards, magical video machines, a pot which produces gruel when dirt is placed inside it. Various wonders can be developed.

The book has the following descriptions:
Rank One: A couple of homey touches, but otherwise quite plain
Rank Two: A comfortable Hollow with a few notable features and decent fare
Rank Three: An elaborate Hollow with quite a few clever details and an excellent supply of refreshments and diversions
Rank Four: An impressive Hollow containing abundant mundane delights and even one or two noteworthy minor magical services as well
Rank Five: A lavish dwelling with nearly every comfort of modern living as well as quite a few magical conveniences

Hollow Doors (1-5)
A Hollow begins with one door to the real world and a small accessway to the Hedge. These doors can be operated from either side. Each rank of the Hollow Track gives the Hollow an additional door-- either in the real world or through the Hedge. These doors operate both as entrances and exits. However, when created, a door can be defined as operating only in one direction-- a detail which cannot be later changed. Doors can be placed anywhere in the real world where there's a door or passageway analogue. I'm assuming that those without magical or glamour power or those unaware of the strangeness cannot simply walk through these doors without aid. That prevents the casual person from stumbling into a Changeling's Hollow. Doors must be tied to a static point in either realm which cannot be changed (with exception, see below).

Advantages for the Door Track (5 points each)
Bunk Lock
This provides a small magical lock for Door created such that another Changeling (or aware person) cannot simply barge through them. Members of the Motley (and trusted allies) can learn a small ritual-- a song, series of gestures, ritual dance or the like-- which will allow passage through the door. Note that Changelings with high Wyrd or potent magical creatures can still force their way through. As well, other methods of ingress still exist, but this advantage helps reduce the risks.

Slipstone Ritual
This may be taken one time. One door to the real world may be made mobile-- the particular door must be chosen when purchasing this advantage. Changeling still must go through rituals to move the door, over the course of the several days-- on both the Hollow and real world side (so they do have to visit it several times). During the moving ritual, the door in question ceases to function, until placed in the new location. This allows some flexibility for the Motley in securing a particular door, but requires time and energy to make the move.

Wards (1-5)
Changelings can make preparations for security, both mundane and magical. Each rank of the Wards Track gives a number of bonuses. First, each rank provides an increasing penalty to anyone attempting to find or break into the Hollow. Second, when defending the Hollow members of the Motley have initiative on intruders for a number of turns equal to the rank. Third, increased ranks reduce the likelihood that creatures from the Hedge or even True Fae can stumble across access to the Hollow from the Hedge.

Advantages for the Wards Track (varies)
Traps (varies)
Changeling in the Motley may come up with a specific hidden trap or dangerous circumstance should intrusion occur. This cannot be activated accidentally by members of the Motley or anyone they have brought deliberately to the Hollow. Generally this will be a five-point advantage, but more potent effects might cost more.

Arsenal (5 points)
This advantage means that a weapon, improvised or actual will always be at hand freely for any member of the Motley. It can be that something always manages to fall their way-- or that every room has a box of loose knives. Such things do not come to hand for any intruders-- they don't see them immediately or the box lid comes shut in combat.

Archive/Library (1+)
Your Motley maintains, within their Hollow, a collection of useful information that can help with natural and supernatural research. Whether it’s in the form of a musty collection of occult tomes, a talking skull with several lifetimes of information at hand or a Glamour-powered computer network, the archive includes reference materials that can help changelings learn about the world . The archive also offers insight into supernatural and occult topics that mortals cannot comprehend. In both fields of knowledge — mundane research and occult lore — this collection relates to one or more fields of specialization.

Each rank in this advantage represents a field of study or area of knowledge in which your Motley has a wealth of tomes or computer files (or perhaps a supernatural resource) and from which they may draw information. If an Archive is Rank Three, Ranks might be assigned to computer operating systems, medieval history and goblin fruits, respectively. Topics can include arcane lore that most people don’t know about or that has been forgotten since antiquity, as well as fae lore that humanity has never known.

Archive costs a little different than other parts of the Hollow. The first ten areas of research cost 5 points each. After that they cost ten points each.

Workshop (1-5)
Your character maintains, within her Hollow, a variety of equipment and tools that can help with the creation of natural and supernatural items. Whether in the form of a forge with metallurgy tools, an artist’s loft, a laboratory filled with beakers and crucibles or an orchard outfitted with the best gardening tools, your character’s Hollow has been outfitted with precisely the right things she needs to have on hand to create.

Your Motley may not have more ranks in Workshop than in Size. Each rank gives the characters equipment and supplies for one particular craft area, plus an additional area for the first rank. Two ranks might give the group bonuses for Blacksmithing, Weaving and Goblin Fruit Farming. This gives a +1 bump for working in that area. Note that Token Making cannot be taken by itself as an area. Because of the diverse nature of tokens, each falls under a particular craft area, so a Biting Grotesque would be under Sculpting, while a Blood Pennon would be under Sewing.

Scrapyard (1-5)
This represents all of the assorted crip-crap and junk the Motley has accumulated. It assumes that Changelings regularly gather things from places they visit which eventually make their way back to the Hollow. Say, for example, if they went through a dead changeling's house, and hunted around for valuable and interesting things. Essentially the Scrapyard track can be used to support arguments about things the character's have or can lay their hands on easily. If for example, you needed a gift for someone quickly, you could hunt through to find something rather than having to travel out. Or if you needed a particular sticker or fuse circuit, you could use this to justify why you have it readily available. The higher the Rank in Scrapyard, the rarer and more interesting the things you've accumulated. The Gm reserves the right to veto “quest” items or the like from being hidden among the piles.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Fantasy Campaign Summaries

A little bit of a recycling day again today-- stealing from the Libri Vidicos wiki. A while back I started to write summaries of all the major campaigns set in my fantasy game world. I got a little ways through them. I thought I'd post what I have, in hopes of pushing myself forward on the next couple of batches-- so here's part one of two that I have. Some of you have probably already seen these.

Anonymous First Continent Campaign (1986?)
Rob, Paul, Eric and others
Maybe a dozen sessions

Most of this campaign took place in Gallerain and Cainsar, two opposing halves of an island nation on the first continent. The group handled standard questing in the southern part of the land, until Paul managed to get himself arrested by the northern army. His escape ended up being a huge riot that sparked an invasion of the south by the north. The group continued on and decided to head to the mainland, crossing the great bridge. In the course of this, Rob's character managed to summon the Mana Blade (an item they'd been sent to find) and accidentally caused serious damage to the bridge. The group were eventually recruited by the power of Death to fight against Murkavan, whose penchant for stealing souls had become a problem. I can't remember exactly why that campaign ended.

Gameplay/Memorable Moments: Most mentioned above. The scene on the bridge stays with me pretty well and had strong echoes later on. Rolemaster hadn't yet exploded beyond the first Companion book, IIRC.

Introduced: The First Continent, used the Lythic Gods, first appearance of one of the twelve swords of power, first use of the Powers, the Greyholders and their magical civilization and constructs, introduction of Murkavan and Damizier (who in turn had been taken from an earlier campaign), first and last use of hobbits as a serious race, introduction of the Vagyr and Aslani.

Great Forgetting Mini-Campaign (1987?)
Amy, Eric, Paul, Paul H., Karen, and Rob
Gurps modified
Maybe four sessions?

The group awoke in a glade with no memory of where or who they were. After fighting off armored monkeys armed with mana staves they made their way to civilization. They slowly began to discover their abilities from half-remembered talents and the equipment they possessed. Eventually they discovered that they were a group serving the Prince Llewellyn d'Aragon. They had been imprisoned by a sorceress named Sensailia Itatain in her extra-dimensional prison. Their capture had been at the command of the Thonak a dark figure who apparently the Prince had been gathering forces to fight.

Memorable Moments: For a short game and an experiment, I enjoyed this quite a bit. Rob had a brilliant moment in a duel that will live with me forever. Some of the background threads here would get played out later on. There's a tragic backstory with the shapechanger character who has been the Prince's boon companion and loves him, but never tells him. D'Aragon's own story-- his love of the Aoniaen mage-- would get played out tragically in a later campaign. That's probably one of my all-time favorite behind the scenes sub-plots.

Gameplay: Players weren't provided any background or character sheets. They had to figure things out as they went. I wanted to try a game that kept the players in the dark. To that end, I had only the most basic notes for myself. I spent an afternoon drawing a two-part map of the continent and writing in names. I didn't expect to do anything much with this-- that it would be a throw-away, but I needed to be able to have a basis to improvise from. The game went well but conflicting schedules ended up shooting it down.

Introduced: Introduced the geography and nations of the Second Continent (although I had put this together with the first game yet), introduced the basic idea of the Thonak as a Sauron-like figure though different in that he seemed more accessible, first appearance of the Shapechangers, the cultures of several nations came to be basically defined-- Atlantae and the archers, Miremal's old school nobility, the violent northmen of Altland, and the strange magical people of Aoniae.

The Thonak Campaign (1987-1989)
Eric, Rob, Paul, Amy, Art, Doug, Carl, Kenny, Barry, Cat*, James*, Charles* Dusty*, Scott H*, Jason* (*--brief appearances).
Two years, with bonus sessions, and weekly games

Simlain Glantri joins an archeological expedition that unearths a site related to Robert of Erewan's project, The World Machine, and The Three. They're ambushed by Thonakian agents and Simlain manages to collapse the tunnel to close the site. He heads to Aoniae to learn more, and is hired to go with a larger group, including Kari Lionspaw to explore a site on the lost islands. They find the original location of the Council of Lux and much of the history of magic. The group decides to remain together and heads back to the continent. There they become entangled in battling various Chaos Cultists and their conspiracies in Gilden Hur and Miremal. They travel to Ylaruam to follow leads, only to end up battling in a Nithian Fortress. Unfortunately they forget afterwards all they learned there, including who summoned the Thonak.

Back in Miremal they follow the threads of the Chaos leading them to Rykel. Tragedy strikes when dopplegangers the group summoned accidentally some weeks before catch up and slaughter their allies and friends. In Rykel the shapechanger of the group goes looking for trouble and finds it, resulting in her demise at the hands of the Thonak, and forcing the group to flee through a questionable route. That route puts them in the deeps of Gundabad where they meet Alvacan and Kamien, two half-drow, and some of d'Aragon's allies who have been scouting the area and trying to learn the Thonak's weaknesses. They escape via magical means to Aoniae where they barely manage to flee the local authorities who take d'Aragon's lover from them in exchange for their safe passage.

The group continues their work in earnest, trying to gather the means and resources to battle against the Thonak. Even the Assassin's Guild becomes their ally in this rising battle. After several adventures and misadventures, including blowing up an archmage by accident, the group finds themselves split over direction. They start to battle one another until a companion they'd picked up some time ago reveals himself-- he'd come back from a future where the Thonak had won. Pushed by the the group eventually joins fully with d'Aragon. The high Priests of the ten Lythic Gods will channel all of their power to strike the Cabatura, splitting the Thonak and sundering him into three aspects. A group will need to be at each of the Thonak's other fortresses to strike down those aspects. D'Aragon leads his company to the Red Citadel, the ten Paladin's go into Skavenblight, and Glantri's company fight in the Black Tower. All are successful, but at a price. Glantri and another die, and can only be brought back at dear cost. The Thonak is destroyed and the forces of Miremal and Atlantae march to finish off his scattered allies.

Memorable Moments: Like the other later long campaigns, too many. Simlain developing layered spells to make a gun with a bullet that expanded, Paul's cooking, Paul's mucking with everything, Paul's less than heroic death, fighting the Vampire Sheriff, Barry laughing as Rob died, Carl's freak out after seeing Art's character heroically die fighting a beholder, “There's a demon in your sewers, man”, Rob's Lionspaw shoes, the creation of the giant wheelbarrow, Barry throwing randomly throwing the seeking missile and having it fly across the continent, going through the Nithian fortress and then forgetting they did it and wondering where they got all the stuff, the tragic death of Renate, “So...what do you do?”--“Do, I don't do anything”, Barry unable to stop laughing as Rob's character almost died in a trap, Kenny summoning the Dancing Goddess to nearly destroy a town, Carl's mute character smarting off to people, killing the doppleganger, and the big climax all-night session that brought the Thonak's destruction at a price.

Gameplay: First really sustained use of the Gurps rules. We were working from pretty much just the basic rules and Gurps Magic. We did get passive defense as a concept horribly wrong. I'd done a lot of pre-work for the game, sketching out the various cultures. At this point I still envisioned several different competing pantheons, but those got written out or downplayed over time. I borrowed source materials from the Known World series for both Ylaruam and Aoniae which worked pretty well. I also built Gilden-Hur and Miremal heavily around the high gothic medieval material from Warhammer Fantasy. That material helped me shape the threat of the Thonak and the idea of Chaos as contagion. In particular I used the Shadows over Bogenhafen, Death on the Reik, and Power Behind the Throne modules pretty much as they were. The first two went really well, but the got cut short by player intervention. The low-power level of Gurps really lent itself to the sustained threat of death or injury. The original game was just a little thing I did with Eric and Charles, and then I decided to expand it. We had several players come in for very short times, but we still ended up with a really full table.

Introduced: The history of the Thonak, Chaos, Aoniae's strange society, the Council of Lux and origin of mages, the Eternal Three, the World Machine and Robert of Erewan, Amalacht and Miremal's long history, the Save Knoran College, richer sense of the Lythic Church, the Chossum Elves, the Nithians, the Makistani, the Twelve Swords of Power, Half-Elf Paths, various new races, Crantyle's structured wars, the Drow and their weird history, the Gnollish pranksters, certain xenophobias, the Skaven.

The Cairo Campaign (1989-1990)
Ellen Green, Chuck Jones, Patrick Nashawaty, and three others whose names I have to look up.
About five months

Magitori, a centaur druidess; Ike Visigoth, an Atlantaen Archer; Rex, a lizard man; Roach, a thief; Nudor, an Elven mage and a couple of others are hired to explore ancient ruins. Their first tasks are handled easily, but then the come up against an site in Kislev that nearly kills them. At the same time, forces are clearly working behind the scenes-- resulting in the group unwittingly supporting a Chaos Cult's efforts to destabilize Kislev. The group returns to Miremal with some of the treasures from their last expedition, only to discover that they've managed to released an ancient bound artifact blade known as the Unmaker. For the moment it remains sealed. The some of the group wants to hand the blade over for safe-keeping, while others wish to secretly bargain with rebel mages of the House of Edige in exchange for power. All of that is for naught, as the blade ends up being stolen by another faction of the mages. Lord d'Aragon, recognizing the danger the blade poses, sends the group to follow the thieves.

Fighting through Atlantaen armed forces, the first evidence of the Undead forces of Murkavan, and more Chaos duplicity, the group arrives in Bozisha-Dar. They locate the Edige household and make ready to invade and retrieve the item. However the clumsy execution of their plan results in one of the young sorceresses breaking the seals and becoming possessed by the Unmaker. The city is drained of magic and the Unmaker escapes. The group returns to Miremal with some prisoners who reveal that Baron Hurok may be behind the plot; the Baron is loyal to the throne but believes Miremal would have a dramatic advantage if all magic were done away with. Hurok's popularity prevents the King from acting directly against him. The group works to hunt down more evidence and eventually brings a formal accusation in the court. Surprisingly one of Hurok's greatest rivals ends up supporting him and clearing him of the charges. The King's reputation is significantly hurt and the group tries to figure out how to bring him to justice.

They travel to the keep of Hurok's rival and uncover that he has been replaced. Hurok has enlisted the aid of anti-magical demons whom he has used to control key agents. The group continues to pursue Hurok through the land, battling against his allies. Following up a lead in Crantyle, they uncover Hurok's plan-- to activate a set of Old Makistani devices designed to destroy all mana and magical based beings in the world. The devices had apparently been built as a defense against the Unmaker. They confront Hurok at the final device and manage to defeat him and his guard. This success must be kept a secret to prevent others from attemtping to use the Makistani Devices. As a result a faction of the Miremallian nobility assume that the King has simply assassinated Hurok who led the call for greater rights for the nobles. In later times this would lead to revolution in that nation.

Memorable Moments: The group either hadn't played before or had only played classic DnD so early on there was a lot of backstabbing and double cross going on, but there were some great moments. The lizard man's pet wolf he obtained later to ride around on, the group realizing for the first time that no everything is put in front of them to be fought, the tragic choice King d'Aragon had to make, the group managing to uncover a Hurokian doppleganger on the basis of Hurok's lack of taste, Roach constructing elaborate plans and rumors regarding himself, Roach making fake magic items to scare people off, the group trouncing an Atlantaen general, the series of errors that led to the Unmaker's release, the werewolf biting Hurok's head off, Magitori's weird mix of sleepiness and utter determination, Nudor's absolute alien-ness and lack of empathy as an Elf.

Gameplay: I took some rpg material with me to Cairo, most in a backpack. Of course that's the one piece of luggage that was stolen. I still had my copy of Gurps and Gurps Magic. Eric was nice enough to send me on some other stuff as well. The first game was more of a lark since some people hadn't done any gaming. In the second semester some of the new arrivals heard I ran and asked me if I would. Clearly this was a very different campaign than they'd been in before. Despite how short the campaign was, it had a nice beginning, middle and end. I should note that in between this and the previous campaign, Barry bugged me about the barriers. I'd established there was another continent and he wanted to go there. Eventually we ran a bit of that, resulting in his landing in Murkavan's territory and then leading the Dark One back to the Second Continent.

Introduced: Noble/Crown tensions in Miremal, Atlantae exploitation of the fall of the Thonak, the destruction of the Cebu, Kislev, chaos conspiracies after the Thonak, former PCs returning as important NPCs, civilization's wariness of the Druids, Bozisha-Dar, Miremallian exile communities in Sirayn, the Makistani devices, Mind-Flayers as a dead civilization, Lizard Men, Neutral City as Tanelorn, non-classic magic techniques, Murkavan's new presence, the War States as a fragment of the Makistani Empire

Thursday, March 26, 2009

NPC Sit-In Sheets for Libri Vidicos

We had two guests for the Libri Vidicos game on Friday-- here's the background I gave them for their characters (established NPCs)

Leather Blunt

Leather's an Orc from the Kingdom of Golotha-- the only Orcish land on the continent. Historically tense relations with neighbors have diminished over the years, but some still regard them warily. While Golotha has moved into the “Steam Industrial” age, it does remain somewhat crude and backwards. Leather himself grew up as an orphan in the gladiator pits until his victories earned him a place in a household and eventually education and a scholarship to Libri Vidicos. He almost never talks about these times.

He's tried to make himself as 'civilized' as possible. He has very good manners and works to restrain his baser impulses. It helps that he himself is a fairly calm person. He worries that everyone around him is a little fragile and fears being the proverbial bull in a china shop. Therefore he acts with some caution and restraint (though his uptightedness and fear of being put in awkward situations has loosened up somewhat).

Being in Darsksoul has certainly changed him. His comrades have often gotten themselves into jams, shenanigans, and capers-- usually with him in tow. He now reluctantly accepts that there's little he can do to avoid their plots, and so simply sighs and goes to get his sneaking around cloak.

He has a religious background, and plans to become a teacher-priest when he finishes his training. He's a member of the order of S'ave-Knor, the knowledge god of the Pentauch. Again, he doesn't like to bring it up or make a big deal about it. He's enrolled in the various culinary and manners courses at the school and well-liked by most of the staff.

Sergei, a noble son of heroes who has family from several countries. He's cut in the heroic mold. Leather has a good deal of respect for him, especially since he's always been generous towards him. Sergei clearly has a lot to live up to and sometimes that weigh shows upon him. Sergei also seems to have girl-trouble, though often of his own making.

Lucy, a slightly over-enthusiastic inventor and part-time mage. Leather likes Lucy at the same time he is wary of her. Her people see the gods as uncontrolled spirits who manipulate humans. They kill priests and missionaries who dare enter into Aoniae. Lucy herself simply tut-tuts about religion, but Leather tries to avoid bringing it up.

Beletan, a somewhat fey elf who people often mistake for a girl. Beletan, as all elves, makes Leather slightly nervous though he's always shown himself to be true. The Elf/Orc conflict has a long history, and Orcish mothers still tell stories of point-eared boogey-elves who steal into caves and eat babies. Leather knows this isn't true (anymore) but he still doesn't like to be alone with Beletan. Leather does have a certain amount of sympathy for the elf as he always seems to be the butt-end of the humor of the group.

Cerise, one of the Shaddai, a race of nigh-immortals (who look a little like elves) who arrived here only a few centuries ago. Leather likes Cerise because she's actually much taller than him. She moves with a grace Leather can only admire. She doesn't seem to worry about things breaking around her, a more present fear in his own mind.

Sokka, he's the darting heart of the Wickets and Imps team. Apparently raised in some kind of horrific circus that he fond of, but Lucy regards with terror.

Valmont, a gentleman from Atlantae. However, for a gentleman, he has a real knowledge of crime, sneaking and the kinds of low-brow activities that one might regard as beneath him.

Notable NPC's
Kimberly Wince, a good friend from House Thorns who is in most of Leather's classes. She's quite nice and they get along well. She does have a problem in that she has a very, very, very, soft voice. Also her brother, Sebrador Wince (a fourth-year from House Zaramar), has taken an intense dislike for Leather.

Beleflorous, a fellow second-year from Darsksoul. She's pretty brave and clearly plans on being an adventurer some day, if she can get the courage to tell her parents.

Dentinas, 2nd-year Darsksoul, mostly seems occupied writing complaint letters.

Saberhagen, the much put-upon master for the second-years of House Darsksoul. He's a hero of the Autocthonian War, but despite that seems a little cowardly about knowing exactly how much trouble his students might actually be getting into.

Samiir Achmed Ajbach Tracy IX

Samiir's descended from the lines of two great heroes of his homeland: Samiir Ajbach and Achmed Tracy. Ajbach helped to until the various desert realms of Harad, Far Harad and Sirayn into the modern nation of Samara. Tracy fought in the wars against the Court of Ardor and the necromantic threat of Murkavan. Though both men had greatness in them and served the same ends, they often dealt with each other as rivals. It would be left to their descendants, several generations later, to unite the two lines.

Samiir grew up in a mixed atmosphere-- a blend of privilege and intense expectation for his future. His brothers and sisters each took up roles in the religious and political life of his nation. Samiir, despite his great name, found himself without purpose. Then he discovered old journals of his ancestor, Tracy. He spoke of the hunt for wrong-doers, the pursuit of justice and the need to strike against the criminals who fed at the soft and vulnerable underbelly of society. Samiir decided he would likewise become and investigator and detective, trying to right wrongs and uncover secrets.

The invitation to the hidden academy of Libri Vidicos came first as a surprise, and then as a confirmation of the correctness of his path. He joined mid-semester last year after the fatal accident of another classmate. He is a member of House Gallaen, the lorekeepers and one of five houses at the school. Samiir has a high opinion of himself and usually puts his nose in whenever anything odd seems to happen. He has been keeping careful record of happenings at the school-- trying to discren a pattern.

One of those patterns has been the involvement of the second-year students of House Darsksoul in a number of strange events. You've tried to figure out exactly what they're up to. You don't think they're doing anything nefarious, but you suspect they know a great deal more about the school than you do. Recently, you were approached by one of the staff, None-so-None about some contacts you made in the past-- and anything you might know about a place called the Codici Malefactus. Apparently the information you gave panned out, as you have been asked to join a field trip looking in to some of these matters.

Sergei, a noble son of heroes who has family from several countries. You have a hard time getting a read on him-- on the one hand, he seems a likely hero, but on the other hand he does seem to be mixed up in a number of questionable events around school. He notably escorted a young woman of questionable reputation to the last dance. Her aunt is on the school's staff but is known to be evil. He's a good fencer and popular around school. Sergei also seems to have girl-trouble, though often of his own making.

Lucy, a young woman from Aoniae, a country with a legendary reputation for producing evil sorcerers. Yet she seems to be less of a mage than some kind of gadgeteer. You suspect her apparent air-headedness masks some more sinister or cunning plan. She, like the rest of the Darskoul students seems to be in the middle of every strange happening on the school grounds. Whatever the case may be, she does have incredibly fine taste in cheese of the fragrant variety.

Beletan, a somewhat fey elf who people often mistake for a girl. Beletan comes from the Elves of Terrat. In the past, his people and yours had strong relations, but those have become increasingly tense in recent years. Some suspect that Samara and Terratis may come into open conflict in the near future. Beletan himself seems to want to assimilate himself into human society. Perhaps if you tried harder to show him the benefits of human society versus his, he might grow as a person.

Cerise, one of the Shaddai, a race of nigh-immortals (who look a little like elves) who arrived here only a few centuries ago. The Shaddai are strange-- and as you've learned in the past, you can't judge the behavior of non-humans by the same yardstick you use to gauge others. Still she's amazingly tall and quite stunning. Generally that kind of attractiveness rules out her being evil, maybe just a little misguided.

Sokka, he seems young for his age. He apparently was raised among carnival folks-- which means he's probably quite sophisticated by their standards. Rumor has it that he's quite the powerful mage, but you haven't really seen that. Still he recently put on a fairly amazing circus show that wowed the student body. You're a little bothered that you had to be a clown in that, but it was a chance to shine on stage. Sokka's also a whiz at Wickets and Imps...and you have to grudgingly admit that he might be better at it than you.

Leather, Leather's an Orc from the Kingdom of Golotha-- the only Orcish land on the continent. Historically tense relations with neighbors have diminished over the years, but some still regard them warily. While Golotha has moved into the “Steam Industrial” age, it does remain somewhat crude and backwards. He seems a decent and religious fellow...but he's still an Orc which makes him at least a little suspect.

Valmont, your good friend at school-- and probably your best friend outside of persons in your own house. Like you, he shares a thirst for justice and a desire to uncover villainy. You and he work closely together in the Hall Monitor Student Club. You know that with him on the job, Darsksoul can't really be doing anything bad.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Why I/We Don't Need to Buy Anymore Videogame RPGs

Ar Tonelico (re-pick up)
Baiten Kaitos GC
Chaos Wars (finish)
Chrono Trigger PS1
Contact DS
Dark Cloud 2 (re-pick up)*
Digital Devil Saga 2 (finish)
Disgaea 2
Disgaea PSP (re-pick up)
Eternal Poison
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates
Final Fantasy IV DS*
Final Fantasy Tactics A2
Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced
Final Fantasy Tactics PSP (re-pick up)
Final Fantasy XII (finish)
Final Fantasy XII Revenant Wings
Harvest Moon: Another Life PSP
Kingdom Hearts (re-pick up)
Kingdom Hearts 2
La Pucelle Tactics (re-pick up)
Makai Kingdom*
Mana Khemenia (re-pick up)
My Life as King (re-pick up)
Nocturne (replay)
Odin Sphere
Paper Mario GC
Persona 2 PS1 (re-pick up)
Persona 3 FES The Answer
Persona 4 (finish)
Rune Factory 2 DS
Rune Factory DS (re-pick up)
Rune Factory Wii
Shadow Hearts 2 (re-pick up)
Shadow Hearts 3
SMT: Devil Summoner
Soul Nomad (re-pick up)
Stella Deus
Suikoden Tactics*
Suikoden V (re-pick up)
Tales of Destiny 2 PS1*
Tales of the Abyss
Valkyrie Profile 2 (finish)
Wild Arms 5
Zelda (various)

*Bottom of the list for going back to.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Just a quick post today as I'm trying to work through a backlog of game emails...

I like the idea of podcasts more than the actual listening to of podcasts. I know Gene and Art both follow a number of them. I have a hard time because I can't listen to them and do anything else-- even clean. There's something about voices talking without the pictures that makes me have to pay more attention. Sometimes I even turn off NPR when I'm driving if the conversation gets too dense. OOH I can play a TV show or movie and work at the same time. So I only a have a couple of podcasts that I've followed with any regularity (probably good for my productivity).

One of those I've mentioned to a couple of people before, the Penny Arcade podcast. They do it infrequently and usually mention it later on the news pages of a particular comic. I think they also have them listed somewhere in their forums. They provide an amazing behind-the-scene look at the creative process-- especially the trickiness of a collaborative approach. They also spin off and BS about various things. Really worth listening to.

There are a couple of interesting online sites for geekdom worthing checking out if you want to loose a few hours (or more). Fantasy Magazine has a significant and interesting online presence. They cover fiction and non-fiction. The other, which I bet most of you know, is The Escapist Magazine which in addition to having articles, has some really funny video segments-- my favorites of those:

Zero Punctuation: you've probably seen him mentioned around the “Interwebs” since he has a significant following. Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw takes his acerbic Australian wit and applies it to various video games. He's bitter and makes me laugh. Off-color humor combined with a stark and consistent design.

Unskippable: Two guys take the sometimes interminable cut-scenes from various video games and give them the MST3K treatment. It's a brilliant concept and they handle it pretty well-- one of the two has a weaker voice, but generally I laugh at them. Especially good if you've actually played the game in question.

Unforgotten Realms: Worth watching from the beginning. The narrative of a DnD-like game being played by two people in which both play characters and one actually runs the game. It has some great meta-commentary on shared narratives when both players end up narrating the events. Really funny at times. The level of humor can best be summed up by the fact that one of the character's is named Sir Schmoopy of Awesometon (he's a dual nunchuck wielding sorceror).

There Will Be Brawl: Probably only for Nintendo-lovers-- a strangely dark and twisted noir take on Super Smash Brothers. Live action done with minimal sets and some really creative design. Very, very dark however-- Kirby's a Hannibal Lecter character in it.

You can find all these on their video page.

Finally sat down and watched most of Dollhouse. Episode Six, as promised does finally move the narrative forward and present real implications about what is going on. I'm still on the fence about this, but if the next couple of episodes can follow through on what they set up here I'd be interested.

Watched the first episode of Castle (ABC) online. Pretty much the only reason I'd watch this would be the presence of Nathan Fillion. It grates on me- they've got him too smarmy early on. I'll be interested to see if they dial that down a notch in the second episode or on. I'll certainly seen them do that before-- fairly radical shifts between the pilot and the rest of the series. It's a conventional crime series, but needs to bring more funny.

ABC also has Better Off Ted which is a comedy about a person working in a giant research company with all the ethics of Umbrella Corporation. They had me in the opening when the lead character's asked to weaponize a pumpkin. I like the characters and the actors-- we'll see if it actually survives.

Finally I've been catching up a little with The Venture Brothers Season Three online. I've seen probably half the episodes and I'm a little disappointed-- they decided to push the drama button and seem to have gotten too absorbed in their own backstory. I always thought they handled that better when it was tangential to the funny stuff. I'll be curious to see how it holds up when seen in sequence.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Campaign Updates 3/24/09

Quick Overview of the last couple weeks of role-play gaming:

We had a good session from my perspective. We dealt with some of the aftermath of the previous session, did a few quick interactions with NPCs and situations, and then introduced the second of the two major Changeling Courts. We also tied in some of the threads begun by the PCs in the weeks between the two games. Several players had begun email conversations and interactions with one another. That material is dynamite-- even the tense exchanges managed to illuminate some of the most interesting aspects of the characters. One of the sequences went in an unexpected direction and began to delve more deeply into the backstory of Black Annie. I had the happy opportunity to bring out some of the details I'd been sitting on-- some that I'd hinted at in an earlier dream sequence.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again-- this group is dynamite for the genre and game we're playing. I have to play catch up with their creativity on and off the table. Like the Libri Vidicos game, the players enjoy exploring the genre and their characters-- interacting with one another and with the NPCs. I'm a little stunned at how good a group of players I have between the two campaigns. They had an interesting meeting with the head of the Court of Gardens, who came at them in a very different way than the first Court had. The players also had a good sense of where they wanted to go next-- what they wanted to look into for the future.

I also had one of those moments in the game where I had to fight my GM instincts. I'd put a slightly obscure and bizarre clue on the table for one of the players. My intent had been for it to be simple foreshadowing. However, the player pulled the right card for the right time and approached it creatively. My instinct, since this wasn't a thread I'd intended to have forefront for some time, was to shut it down. I managed to stop myself from doing that and instead reordered in my mind the priorities of some things. I'm trying to get better about that-- beyond just saying yes to things at the table, but also more broadly allowing the players to really set their own course in the campaign, even when it isn't something I expected to develop early.

Rob's Game
We had an interesting session to Rob's short run Steampunk-Fantasy campaign. He delved into each player's background and origin at this session. He used the device of a dark woods that evokes and preys upon the spirits of travelers. Each of us had a vision of something out of our past, or at least something with a connection to it. Some more explicitly came from our own lives and others felt more fantastic. It presented a good opportunity to show who we are to the other players. It also set us up for the ultimate showdown I expect we'll have next session. We have to bump that one because of a concert, but I'm hoping we'll be able to reschedule it pretty close to the original date so we don't have to wait two extra weeks for the big finish.

Will's Hunter Campaign
Last session we tied together many of the existing threads and pieces of information-- at least what we had-- in conversation between the various PCs. We ended up discarding our original plans of tackling a probable threat inside the city, and instead decided to move to deal with the big bad. So this session saw us heading of for The End of the World-- which I believe was in Mentone, IN. We had a nice set of challenges leading up-- including having our abilities negated by certain magics in the area. We also ran across a couple of our favorite NPCs on the way up there. We ended up splitting up for a bit with the two pairs dealing with various crises and trying to get into a coordinated position to stop the madness. We had a big rig fight and pulling one of the questionably not evil NPCs off of a torture device after fighting off demonic torturers who looked like Shari's character. Then more craziness, more NPCs, big fight, greater and increasing complications.

There was a brief shining moment when I thought my character might get out of this alive-- that I could rescue one of the NPCs and manage to escape. But then things got more complicated and crazy and I had to go out like the Martyr Archetype I was playing to make sure the job got finished. I was happy with my character's arc-- I would have preferred living, but if I had to die, I want to have that death scene mean that I went out doing the right thing and doing the right thing. I think that's so important-- character death should be a moment when you give player's a chance to triumph (or at least show off) in the face of failure.

Libri Vidicos
I came into this week's session with a couple of interesting narrative constraints. We had two guest players, Dusty and Gene. I'd already made up characters for them some time back-- complete with tailored decks for the Action Cards system. I'd actually introduced Dusty's character, Samiir Tracy, some time back so that we'd have a character he'd have to play if he came by. That character's a descendant of one of his earlier characters from another campaign. On the one hand we have a long-running campaign with many NPCs and plot details running. The campaign itself breaks into several chapters-- ala Harry Potter-- with “Books” serving as years of the game (well, school terms in any case). We're far into Year Two and a number of the plots have deepened and developed. So I had to balance that out-- giving a session which could stand alone and allow players to sit in and get what was going on. On the other hand, I didn't want it to be entirely separate from the rest of the campaign. I wanted there so be some opportunities for social interaction, discovery and planning. Those would have to not necessarily predicated on previous knowledge, but instead would work in and of themselves but be illuminated further by previous events. I also had a set of outstanding plot points that I wanted to draw together so I spent a great deal of time writing and figuring out how I could make those fit.

Obviously the adventure would have to take place off-campus. I found an old sheet of train drawings from the Call of Cthuhu module Terror on the Orient Express. I scanned those and spent about an hour fixing and blowing them up to work at a figure scale. I'd begin in classic fashion-- throwing them into conflict early, then giving a breather where they could assess the situation and plan, then some time exploring and infiltrating, and finally a larger fight. I had some other props I prepared as well that we didn't get to. I enjoyed the session immensely. Dusty and Gene got into the spirit of their characters right away. Some important meta-information given by the Headmaster laid the groundwork for later ideas. The combats went well and required the players to split to handle things. Everyone got a chance to use their particular skills (I especially liked the coincidence of Sokka, who is taking a Marksmanship class, getting one of the two Volters they found). We had good planning, good spy-work and nice piecing of things together. We also ended at a good place-- with several reveals that changed up the nature of the situation. We got about 2/3rds of the way through what I'd laid out and thankfully Dave saved me from having to run until 3am. I owe Dave an enormous debt of gratitude. Gene also sketched everyone's characters-- an incredibly nice gesture that I don't think I can say enough about-- suffice to say they're great.

Valmont: “No, I don't know anyone better suited for doing stealth and infiltration than you Samiir...by all means...”
Cerise: For her “Fear Doorway” and managing to launch the Ice Mage off the train even while heavily wounded.
Sokka: For his panicked gunfire and his elementalist approach to the the unstable Arcane Engine bombs.
Samiir: For his winning smile and lucky draw “Crawling from the Wreckage” pitching of the Duelist off the train car.
Sergei: For the brilliant John Woo/Pulp Fiction moment taking out the hired gun coming out of the lavatory-- especially as the group had just begun to realize the atrocities these guys had commited.
Leather: For his own reaction to the atrocities and his losing it while fighting one of the minions-- coupled with his own shame at having reverted to his primal instincts.
Beletan: For having a terrible night of pulls-- he still managed to provide the needed support in the form of Figment spells and a mastery of the magics through his Illusion Art.
Lucy: For her interactions and calming of Leather and her practicality in the face of impending doom.

We had the first session of the all female players supers game in some time. The group is technically called Vigil, but they have an acronym name that they've played up and themedia has run with. I think I managed to establish the context of the game pretty well-- despite the gap between sessions. We had some accounting to do at the beginning of the session, since only recently I'd moved the characters over to MnM 2e. I had a stand-alone adventure planned, but one which tied in to some of the established NPCs. We also had the introduction of Heather's character to the team-- whose name I kept messing up (and not deliberately like I do with Scott's character's names...). We had a good session-- with some fun social interaction, a first fight with some hilarious collateral damage to the SuperTarget they fought in, and a good end-battle with a mixed bag of super-villains. The running joke of denting their car created a nice parallel between the scenes. They also made me laugh until I started crying-- I can usually bull through those moments and playing things straight, but every once in a while they get me and I absolutely break character. Good fun.

Cinder: Flaming carts aside, the quick switch for the captured bride was priceless.
Sighing Sting: Asking for Hot Tea at the Dairy Queen and playing Bad Cop/Worse Cop with the Occultist shopowner.
Vinca: For her plan to create an allergen cloud on top of Cinder's new Smoke power so as to absolutely disable everyone...likely including the group.
Sylph: For essentially one-shot K.O.ing the Juggernaut character with her critical Suffocate attack. Also for the “Woo-Woo” sound her powers make (they don't actually, she just makes that sound when she activates them).
Mujimahime: For her Inspire feat and for just telling everyone that Sighing Sting's “The New Girl” even though no one actually asked her.

All-Flesh Space
For the evening I'd originally thought about just getting people together for a board game. But I decided I wanted to do an rpg one-shot since Gene and Dusty didn't get as much of a chance to play those. At first I thought I wanted to do something more experimental and “LARPy”. Then I started to think more conventionally-- I read a review of a game called InTERRORgation, an indie pdf rpg. I picked it up-- the basic premise of the game is that the players are all in a group debriefing, tale-telling session or interrogation (like The Usual Suspects or Rashomon). The GM sets the plot and a player can kind of describe what happened by responding to the Questioner/GM. They describe a little and then the players flashback and play out the scene. However, other players had work to do a scene over-- saying “that's not how it happened.” It is an interesting concept, but the more I read, the more gamey the actual system ended up. I began thinking about another version which would simply use the interrogation as a framing device. I spent about half a day working with that in mind before finally deciding that wouldn't cut it.

I knew by then I wanted to do an indirect sequel to the All-Flesh Must Be Eaten one-shot I'd done at a number of cons (I think I've run it about eight times). I had characters with background memos done up and I added another one to accommodate the seven people we'd have. I'd recently read a review for a DVD called Alien Raiders and I liked some of those ideas. I worked up a complicated story of Mi-Go aliens versus Cultists of the Yellow Sign. I had some Venture Brothers in-jokes, a ton of red herrings, and a lot of material done up. However, once I got to the table I ended up discarding the complexity of two battling factions with the players caught in the middle and went with a single threat and a second group outside that who would precipitate the action. Essentially the structure of the game would be: Set Up-- Scene Building-- Some PC Interaction-- Inciting Incident That Creates Chaos-- Run for Your Lives.

The group was great-- everyone made their characters their own. I wanted to have that feeling of being caught in the middle of something weird and complicated without having any real understanding of it-- which I think came across. I'll admit I threw a lot of Lovecraftian stuff in there for Will. Everyone played well with one another and we had three spectacular and genre appropriate death scenes at the table. I'm torn as to which one I loved the most. Great game, and dynamite fun for me to run-- always a pleasure, as with all of these games, to run for good players.

A special note has to be made here of Brian's drinking all of the cream...the moment that sent everything into total and utter chaos. Brilliant.

Gene-- for his cheers, his facial tics and his “I can't believe you wasted the last bullet...”
Heather-- for her substance indulgence and for her “Stop Talking New Guy!!!”
Dusty-- for breaking his golf club at the end and for his death line “I'll Read the Book!!!”
Will-- for not pointing fingers at anyone (*kof* Heather *kof*) and for his bludgeoning of Dusty to death
Brian-- for his “I'm way ahead of you” line and for his having the final line of the film. (The End...?)
Shari-- for one of the greatest and most appropriate death scenes I've ever seen in a game-- escaping back away from the cultists only to realize the monster's right behind her.
Sherri-- for planning appropriate to her character and for screaming “OH HOLY F***” at the top of her lungs.

That was a good week+.