Saturday, December 31, 2011

Brief End-of-the-Year Omphaloskepsis

So I started this thing back in July with this :

I'm starting this blog as a spur for creativity and production, and as an attempt to get past my habits of procrastination, chronic laziness, crippling self-doubt and perfectionism to actually produce something and put it out there for people to see. Time will tell.

It's ostensibly a gaming blog focusing on material for tabletop RPGs, but I'm expecting to veer off into other subjects with some frequency-- movies, comic books, fantasy, horror, science fiction, reviews and essays, and any random things I get interested in or obsessed with. Possibly some fiction as well, though that'll probably be quarantined in its own section.

Let's look at that in some more detail:

"I'm starting this because blah blah crippling self doubt I never get anything done blah blah."

- If that's my stated purpose for doing the blog, I think it's helping me achieve it. I've gone from producing practically nothing to coming out with a good handful of gameable tools, occasional articles, actual play reports, and miscellaneous bullshit -- and it's all been generally well-received. 51 people are publicly following the blog, which is far more than I had imagined going in. So far, the few extended conversations in the comments have been interesting and civil. This positive response has fueled my desire to produce more stuff, which people seem to be using, which makes me happy, and want to produce more, etc. etc.

The other part hasn't quite played out as I'd planned. No real reviews, not a whole lot in the way of essays, and very little on movies, books, and other media. On the other hand, I don't mention artwork at all, and I've done a lot more of that in the past few months than I have in years. I've got a bunch of pieces in Secret Santicore, and another that I hope to see in a published supplement sometime in the new year. In the mean time, I'm gearing up for some collaborative work with my pal Nathan Ballingrud, and I'm working on scraping the rust off my skills and developing them further.

I'm always terrible about keeping New Year's resolutions, so I'm not going to list any here. I'll leave it at this: Personally and creatively, I'm in a better place now than I was at the end of 2010, and I think 2012's going to be even better.

Have a happy New Year, everyone!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Secret Santicore is loose! Head for the Hills!

Thundering out of the post-Christmas haze like a turkey dinner washed down with too much eggnog,* the Secret Santicore pdf comes winging its way to gamers worldwide, for the low, low price of absolutely nothing.  This notice is a bit self-serving, as I've got some art and writing in it, but all glory to Jez Gordon, who lingered in a vale of ashes, tears, and layout issues that the rest of us might bask in the gaming Nirvana that is the finished work.  One Hundred and Four pages of decadent, deliriously delicious DIY D&D** delights for your table.

*I'm sure there's a more appropriate metaphor, but I'm in a hurry, here.
** There's at least some Shadowrun and Mutant Future stuff as well, but alliteration, man.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Secret Santicore: New Fantasy Race: VAT- SPAWN

I never got the requester's name, but here's my entry for Secret Santicore this year:

Request: Dear Secret Santicore...

I request a new fantasy race, not system specific so pick whatever one you are most comfortable with or go system-less.

Thank you very much!

Well, here goes:

by Jeremy Duncan

The sorcerer-kings of old, already worshiped as living gods by their subjects, and having grown bored with merely warping and molding nature to their whim, sought to fully assume the mantle of godhood and create life itself. With arcane secrets dredged up from the earth and sea and called down from the stars, they set to work, their forbidden knowledge wed to the toil of a thousand slaves, alchemists, and sages. At the expense of vast wealth, countless lives, and unquantifiable human suffering, they at last achieved their goal, as the first tottering form rose by its own strength from the vats, to stand complete before its maker.

Pleased with their new plaything, the sorcerer-kings whiled away their idle hours by creating variations and refinements enough to satisfy their immortality-strained appetites. Whole armies of vat-spawn were called up to re-enact legendary battles or duel to the death in elaborately planned and scripted combats. Harems of pleasure-slaves, their every feature sculpted in exacting detail, were bred in the vats to serve at their makers' grand debauches, only to be dissolved again when their masters had tired of their ministrations. So it went, century after extravagant, heedless century, until at last the power of the sorcerer-kings waned, and their empires were toppled amid fire and slaughter. The sorcerer-kings were put to the sword, their pale, anemic blood seeping into the blackened earth to mingle with the spilled ichor of their artificial slaves.

While most of their kind were ruthlessly exterminated, a tiny minority escaped destruction, having been posted to remote corners of the world, or waiting in stasis in their vats in some hidden laboratory. Their makers long since dead, and their original purpose unknown, these creatures, upon awakening and learning something of the world, often turn to adventuring to satisfy their endless curiosity and challenge their strange abilities.

Each vat-spawn is a hairless humanoid, with height and weight in the standard human range, though their features are often somewhat alien to modern observers, recalling ethnicities no longer found among the contemporary population, but glimpsed on the pitted faces of ancient coins, and in worn bas-reliefs on the columns and pediments of sunken temples.

If undisturbed, Vat-spawn are functionally immortal, though they are as susceptible to violent death as any other adventurer. As they are inherently unnatural, they cannot be Raised after death, nor can they reincarnate. Whether they possess souls at all is a matter of considerable theological debate.

They possesses functional genitalia, but are completely sterile.

After every 100 years, the vat-spawn's memory and personality will reset, returning it to 1st level.

Vat-spawn have a vibrantly-colored ichor (roll on color chart) in their veins instead of blood. This ichor has many alleged magical properties, and unscrupulous Magic-Users are always on the lookout for experimental subjects.

All Vat-spawn can graft on and incorporate body parts from humanoids and other creatures, as long as there is sufficient space. Any special abilities or attacks inherent to those parts (a medusa's eyes, etc.) transfer to their new owner. Removing one limb, eye, hand, etc. to make room for a new part inflicts 1d4 damage, after which it it is rendered useless, withering away to nothing. Characters attempting to graft on a new part must Save vs. Poison + the creatures hit dice – PC's level. The grafting process requires one hour * ½ the creature's hit dice of uninterrupted concentration. There are undoubtedly opportunities for abuse, here, but just use common sense or whatever the GM thinks would be funniest.

Roll your character's Ability Scores as normal.

Roll twice (unless otherwise indicated) on Skin/Eye Color chart, twice on Variations A and twice on Variations B, re-rolling in the case of a conflicting result. These indicate the PCs original function, as well as any modifications during his/her unremembered past

d20 Skin/Eye Color Variations A Variations B
1 bottle green Series Number and /or Function title dyed or embossed on skin. You have infravision, but your eyes glow in the dark.
2 heliotrope Someone did a half-assed job sculpting your face. - 3 to reaction rolls when/where applicable, but on the plus side, you can easily frighten small children. Skin prominently stamped or dyed with personal rune of creator.
3 ocher Skin embossed with a pattern (1-2) spirals (3-4) deep hatching) (5-6) A “Persian rug” pattern that changes with your mood. One hand can semi-detach & extend + retract 50 ft., connected to arm by ropy tendons. Can support PC + 2d100 lbs and do any normal hand tasks.
4 vermillion Your skin can temporarily take on the properties of any surface you touch for 2 rounds or more. You retain full flexibility and mobility, and skin reverts to normal in 1d6 turns, which you can extend by spending 1d4 HP per extra round. Lungs can inflate to extraordinary capacity, meaning that you can go 1 hour of game time without having to breathe. DEX is halved, because you're walking around with your chest puffed out like a bullfrog.
5 turquoise One forearm is a (1-2) mace (3-4) shortsword (5-6) axe. It does damage as usual and you get a +2 to hit, but you can't really do much else with it. Your facial features are an exact replica of (1-2) Your creator's own (3-4) their most hated rival (5-6) a legendary hero/ine.
6 pearl Silly-putty skin: you pick up shallow impressions of anything pressed against your bare skin. This also works with anything drawn or written in ink. Impression lasts 4 days. You were a Pleasure-Slave! You have enhanced pheromones: +4 to reaction rolls when dealing with (1-4) humanoids of the appropriate persuasion (5-6) GM secretly rolls on wandering monster chart. Other complications may ensue. Also, take a +1 to DEX and CON-- what the hell. Also, your sweat is a mild aphrodisiac. If it's distilled and enters the bloodstream, it's a powerful aphrodisiac, unless they fail a save vs. poison roll, in which case, they take 3d6 damage.
7 indigo Your body has been indelibly imprinted with (1) an epic poem (2 ) obscene doggerel in an unknown tongue (3) instructions for your intended master/overseer (4) a hymn in praise to a forgotten god (5) the formula for your creation, in an elaborate code (6) a spell (roll randomly ) You have a functional mouth with teeth, tongue, etc. on your (1-3) pick the palm of one hand (4-6) pick sole of one foot. Mouth does 1d4 damage in combat w/ a +2 to hit, can absorb and transfer 1 hp/damage inflicted up to max. Other applications at GM discretion.
8 carmine Though you are completely hairless, your maker has given you stylized hair and/or a beard as with a clay sculpture. You have d4 eyes in the back of your head. Cannot be surprised from behind unless wearing helmet.
9 black You have a small, translucent, circular “panel” of skin over your (1-3) heart (4-6) intestines, allowing these organs to be observed. The ichor you bleed is phosphorescent (as candle flame)
10 Mottled skin /different colored eyes (roll twice) You have a ½” x 4” secret hollow compartment in your left forearm. Any item stored there is undetectable by mundane means. You have gills. These are almost imperceptible slits in the side of your neck when outside water.. Underwater they open up and you can breathe normally.
11 mauve Short, irregular spirals of a coral-like substance sprout from the top of your head (roll for color). You do an extra d4 damage with a headbutt, and the growths count as a helmet. Designed for infiltration: +2 to DEX, chameleon skin: acts as Invisibility spell, but it hurts and you must be naked. Every round you have it activated, roll a d4. On an odd result, you take that much damage each time until you pass out.
12 charcoal Eyes can extend/retract on flexible stalks up to 50 ft (while retaining function). While this is going on, you must remain absolutely still, and you are disoriented and completely helpless (worst possible AC) for one round after they pop back in. Your bones are weirdly flexible and easy to dislocate. With one round's worth of preparation, you may squeeze into a space normally accessible to Small creatures, but your ST and DEX are halved until you are able to pop yourself back into place (1 round).
13 violet Created for the Arena! : +2 to STR and CON, can spend 1d4 HP to immediately upon being hit to seal up wounds and take ½ damage. If the damage you would've taken was more than ½ current HP, you lose a limb (GM discretion) and gain a fresh, sealed-over stump. Every 6 months of game time, your character molts, his/her skin flaking off to reveal new skin underneath. Roll again on color table for your brand new skin! Everything else remains as it was.
14 sky blue Your ichor corrodes metals like a rust monster. When damaged, this applies to any metal armor you happen to be wearing. If you are struck and damaged by a metal or metal-tipped weapon, the attacker must roll a d6. On a 1-5, the weapon (or the metal part, anyway) dissolves into useless flakes of rust. Lots of other fun uses! Your saliva acts as a hallucinogen. In addition to everything else that might imply, if a Magic-User drinks a few drops of it, mixed into any beverage, it will impart startling revelations of the cosmos and the innate mystic potential of every star, drop of rain, and blade of grass. When they recover in d20 hours, they will have gained a one-time permanent +1 bonus to WIS.
15 lime When under considerable stress (like combat, taking a difficult exam, or being chased by monsters), your skin darkens slightly and hardens into tiny, raised spikes, like on a horned lizard, making you look even freakier and giving you a +1 bonus to AC. This effect lasts until the immediate danger is past. Depending on the material, your characters' clothing may then be covered with tiny holes. If PC is sneak- attacked, etc., the AC bonus isn't applied until after damage (if any) is taken. An hour after grafting on a new part, and until that part is detached or destroyed, you gain the ability to verbally communicate with and understand members of that species. For responding to non-verbal forms of communication, you have some ability, but are still somewhat limited by your own anatomy. For example, you would be able to perceive and understand scent-messages left by creatures that communicated by smell, but you would not be able to leave messages of your own without incorporating the necessary scent-glands, etc.
16 crimson You may perfectly mimic any sound you hear at least once, but the mimicry must be exact – no improvising. Body covered in tiny, iridescent scales.
17 Two-toned (roll twice, decide areas of division) You can absorb liquid through your pores at the rate of 1 pint/round, storing it in elastic subcutaneous pouches, to a maximum of 2 gallons, at which point, your Dex is halved until the moisture is expelled (the rate of which can be as fast or slow as the player desires). Your hands and toes have tiny suction cups on them allowing you to climb up and down (and cling to: max weight= PC+2d100 lbs.) sheer surfaces if gloveless and barefoot.
18 puce When struck and damaged by a (non magical) weapon, you may sacrifice an additional d4 hit points to make it stick – your flesh temporarily fuses with the striking surface, making it impossible for the wielder to dislodge it. The effect lasts 1d4 rounds + 1 for each point of damage the weapon originally inflicted. Such is your physical control that you can stop your own heartbeat and cease breathing, entering into a state completely indistinguishable from death. Since Vat-spawn are immortal, this can theoretically last indefinitely. To come out of stasis, the PC must either set a time beforehand, or arrange some signal (a tap on the forehead, a whispered word in the ear). If the signal isn't given, the PC will remain in stasis forever, and the player should probably roll up a new character.
19 rust You may transmit psychic messages via drops of your ichor, which may then be imbibed, injected, etc; by someone else. One word per drop. Message is not diluted if mixed with other liquids. Costs 1 HP, unless you're transmitting a novella or something. Your body can secrete sharp, hardened darts, which can be fired (once/round) through the palm of your hand. You have a +1 to hit with this “weapon” and each dart does 1d6 damage. Range is 20 feet. Generating darts costs 1 HP each, which are restored after a full night's rest.
20 amber Your skin is soft to the touch, but shiny and reflective like polished chrome. Opponents attacking you in bright sunlight (assuming at least some skin is visible) do so at a -2 penalty. Also, you have no body odor of any kind, making you impossible to track or detect by scent alone. The GM can impose penalties to attempts to hide as the situation warrants. Your palate is super-sensitive, and you can clearly distinguish and identify the ingredients of any compound. You know the joke about the wine snob, where he's given a glass of someone's urine to drink, and then asked, “But whose is it?” Well, you can narrow it down to species (if that's an issue) sex, age, diet, and habits (smokes, uses expensive hair pomade, etc.).

Level XP Hit Points Paralyze Poison Breath Weapon Magical Device Magic
1 0 1d8 10 8 12 14 15
2 2,500 +1d8 8 8 11 12 14
3 5,000 +1d8 8 8 10 12 14
4 10,000 +1d8 6 6 10 12 12
5 20,000 +1d8 4 6 8 12 12
6 40,000 +1d8 4 4 8 10 10
7 80,000 +1d8 4 4 8 10 10
8 160,000 +1d8 4 4 6 10 10
9 320,000 +1d8 4 2 6 8 10
10 480,000 +3* 2 2 4 8 8
11 720,000 +3* 2 2 4 6 8
12+ 150,000/level +3*/level 2 2 2 6 6

*constitution modifiers no longer apply

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Galbaruc: Origins and 'Appendix N'

Since I've mentioned Galbaruc a few times now without giving out too much in the way of detail, I thought I'd take the opportunity to shed some more light on the setting itself, where it came from, where it's going, and what books, movies, etc, I've ripped off wholesale drawn inspiration from.

It started out as an ad hoc setting for a game I ran for some friends over IRC chat, sometime around 2003-4. The city was originally called "Venichmar," since I had pictured it in my head as a vague mashup of 17th-18th century Venice and Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar. It was only intended as a jokey placeholder, but the name stuck, though I always said I'd eventually come up with something else, but that wasn't until earlier this year, when I shoved it together with the seaside town I came up with for Chris Kutalik's Nautical Contest. The PCs originally consisted of:

- Marcos Gemulphen, played by my friend Clement. Marcos was a disgraced merchant-prince who was constantly shadowed by three demons he had summoned, but which only he could see and hear. Picture one of Jack Vance's stylish, amoral vagabonds.

- Durgu Nietzelschnitzel - an earth-sorcerer, philosopher, and skeptic. Based, at least in appearance, on Friedrich Nietzsche. Was constantly trying to argue against the literal existence of Marcos' demon companions. Played by my friend Jude.

- Arthurien La Fleur d'Avelin, esq., Gentleman Errant of the Elder branch of House Averoen, ruling family of Verrantz, Lieutenant in the Thaugarin Militia. Played by Doug, who I haven't heard from in years. Another privileged son of the elite, he was a roguish, hedonistic young military officer doing his utmost to shirk his duty. Could be incredibly reckless with his personal safety at times, on account of being a Struldbrug.

- Gurgie, Durdu's wayward son, appeared in one episode as the PCs found themselves stranded on the island where he had been exiled for unspecified crimes. If I remember correctly, this adventure resulted in the establishment of a Lord of the Flies- like cult based around the worship of Marcos' demons being established among the islanders (all exiled convicts).

Their adventures included:

- various comedy-of-manners intrigues involving inheritances, servant girls, distant relatives, debauchery, and attempted murder

- swordfights in alleyways with a gang of thugs and their pet monster

- taking refuge in a crumbling mansion inhabited by creepy undead monstrosities.

- Starting the adventure on trial for some unspecified offense which grew in the telling, and escaping the courtroom by means of a grain of sugar Durgu cast a spell on, which grew into an enormous sugarcane stalk. They climbed up and out of the courtroom on the stalk, at one point encountering some junior angels in one of the Lower Heavens, who they then blackmailed.


The game was originally run using Over the Edge, and the feel I was going for was Baroque, Weird, and Picaresque. Eventually, the game just kind of fizzled out, but I kept it in the back of my mind as an interesting setting that I wanted to develop further.

Eventually, I want to open up the setting for some G+ games, using LotFP for the rules, with some houserules and parts of Small But Vicious Dog. Transferring the setting from its hippy-Narrativist roots to something more D&D oriented will be an interesting challenge, and whenever I start getting too precious about it, I remind myself of Tekumel. The setting is essentially the same across the board, but it supports a broad range of assumptions and play styles, from EPT's dungeon-crawling barbarians to Tsóludhàliyal's focus on the high-stakes adventures an maneuvering of wealthy elites.

Also, the setting is nicely amorphous -- I don't have a static, canonical list of factions, gods, and locations, and I can build it as I go. So far, this is what's established:

- The primary religion on Galbaruc is the Church of Urizen, though there's a multitude of former and indigenous minor gods, cults of former gods syncretized into saints, etc.

- Magic is largely practiced by secret schools, orders, and societies, which often have philosophical, social, and political interests. Magic-users operating outside these groups are viewed with a mixture of envy, disdain, suspicion, and murderous rage.

- While there is a traditional aristocracy, Galbaruc is a Republic, heavily based on pre-unification Venice.

- Galbaruc is a colorful, bizarre, decadent city -- a flurry of frenzied activity, sober tradition, and ecstatic ritual, set against a backdrop of slow, magnificent decay.

- There are islands some miles from the coast, ruled by semi-autonomous "Island Princes"-- descendants of slaves, pirates, and renegade nobles who were instrumental in fighting for the Republic's independence when it split from the Empire that had ruled it for centuries. In times of war, they supply ships, troops, and armaments to Galbaruc's navy. During times of peace, they busy themselves with internecine wars and deadly intrigues.

- The city-state is littered with ruins, catacombs, and strange, isolated communities.

If we apply Jeff Rient's threefold model, Galbaruc as a setting is largely made up of Pretentious, with Retro taking up a close second, and with a great big dollop of Stupid.



- This list isn't nearly complete, but hopefully, it should give some idea of the setting, and the general feel I'm going for.


Bey, Hakim - TAZ: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism
Blake, William - The Prophetic Books
Borges, Jorge Luis - misc. works
Boswell, James - Journals
Bunyan, John - The Pilgrim's Progress
Cabell, James Branch - Jurgen, etc.
Casanova, Giacomo - Memoirs
Fielding, Henry - The Adventures of Tom Jones, a Foundling and Joseph Andrews
Mandeville, John - The Travels of Sir John Mandeville
Potocki, Jan - The Manuscript Found in Saragossa
Rabelais, Francois - Gargantua and Pantagruel
Raspe, Rudolf Erich - The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Stephenson, Neal - The Baroque Trilogy
Stevenson, Robert Louis - The Suicide Club and Other Stories
Swift, Jonathan - Gulliver's Travels
Vance, Jack - The Dying Earth, etc.
Vandermeer, Jeff - City of Saints & Madmen
Voltaire - Candide
Wilson, Robert Anton - The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles

Misc 'NonFiction':

The Elizabethan Underworld - Gamini Salgado
The Hell-Fire Clubs - Geoffrey Ashe
The Black Arts - Richard Cavendish
Ancient Wisdom and Secret Sects - Time-Life Books
London: The Synfulle Citie - E.J. Burford
Life in Dr. Johnson's London - Richard B. Schwartz
Special Cases: Natural Anomalies and Historical Monsters - Rosalind Purcell
The Morning of the Magicians - Louis Pauels and Jacques Bergier


Agone (Multisim)
Lace & Steel (AGC, Pharos Press)
GURPS: Goblins (Steve Jackson Games)
GURPS: Swashbucklers (Steve Jackson Games)
Flashing Blades
Planescape campaign setting (TSR)
The Dying Earth RPG (Pelgrane Press)
Over the Edge (Atlas Games)
Call of Cthulhu (Chaosium)
Stormbringer (Chaosium)
Vornheim: The Complete City Kit (LotFP)
In A Wicked Age (lumpley games)
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, 1st and 2nd ed. (Games Workshop, Hogshead Publishing, Black Industries)


The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
The Brothers Grimm
Barry Lyndon
Joseph Andrews
Tom Jones (miniseries)
A lot of Hammer horror films
Naked Lunch
The Devils
The Saragossa Manuscript


Ian Miller
Mervyn Peake
Henry Fuseli
Egon Scheile
Gustav Klimt
William Hogarth
Gustav Dore
Harry Clarke
Aubrey Beardsley
Sidney Sime
Edmond Dulac
E.J. Sullivan
Rene Bull
Jean Delville
William Blake
Francisco de Goya
Gustave Moreau

Monday, December 5, 2011

Gygaxian Naturalists: Your Campaign's Monster Manual According to the Players

This may have been proposed before, but just in case it hasn't...

So I was thinking about Galbaruc, and monsters, and how I wanted to handle monsters in my campaign setting, and what I wanted to emphasize, and avoid, and I got to thinking about a session of Jeff Rient's Caves of Myrddin campaign I was in a few weeks ago. We were somewhere beneath the East Tower, having just descended to a new level, and we encountered a grayish, winged creature we took to be a gargoyle. This prompted a brief discussion on whether or not our characters would know what it was, let alone its strengths and weaknesses, etc. And then Jeff said we were free to use any out-of-character knowledge we wanted. In fact, we were welcome to open the book right there on the spot, and look up the relevant entry.*

This came as something of a shock to me. For most of my (admittedly short, by community standards) gaming career, this simply WAS NOT DONE. "Metagaming" was high on the hierarchy of sins. This was madness. This was the Pope handing out condoms at a Pride rally.

So we looked up the entry, decided we had very little chance of taking on such an opponent, and ran like hell. But I didn't trust the entry anyway. The whole thing made me paranoid. No, there was a reason Jeff was so blase about the whole thing. This wasn't a gargoyle at all. Or maybe it was, but it had some kind of crazy anti-gargoyle powers and shot napalm out of its nipples or something.

I loved that feeling of uncertainty-- of having information right in front of you, but not quite being able to trust it. For all I know, Jeff might simply be running with absolute transparency, and I was getting all worked up for nothing.

But this made me think about Herodotus' History, medieval bestiaries and the accounts of early travelers and explorers. We've got information, sometimes very specific information, but it's not exactly reliable. Often, this information is second-hand at best, and you have writers and illustrators, often with the best will in the world, working from garbled accounts. And all this is further confused by a thick fog of lies, exaggerations, wishful thinking, and pious tempts to imbue these creatures with religious symbolism. I have a T.H. White translation of a medieval bestiary that describes the panther as a symbol for Christ, attests to the miraculous ability of the beaver to detach its own genitals (and thus become a symbol of chastity) and depicts the crocodile as some kind of wolf-creature with eagle talons.

This would be perfect for gaming, and even better for ConstantCon games, where you have a nice big pool of players and their characters hopping from game-world to game world. There's already a sizable amount of rumor and speculation flying around about the Caves of Myrddin, for example.
The PCs are explorers -- they venture into bizarre, uncharted territories and CHART THEM. Dungeons are explored, passages marked, traps, secret doors, and mysterious items cataloged and referenced for later use. Secrets are bought, sold and traded. Bounties are offered by other players for the heads of particular miscreants.

There's really no reason monsters can't work the same way. The party encounters some strange critter or swarm of critters they've never seen before. Half the party is wiped out, but the survivors take notes. "Large, single red eye and a black beak, wings, covered in dense, foul-smelling white fur. Can breathe paralyzing fog at least once a round. We needed at least a 16 to hit, so AC is 3 or lower. The one we killed was still alive after we did 18 damage to it, but then the cleric (God rest his poor soul) got it for 8 points in a single hit and killed it, so we know it had somewhere between 19 and 26 Hit Points. They seem to travel in packs of 3-5."

Later, these creatures acquire a name, maybe a sketch from someone whose character encountered one, or, even better, someone reading that person's account of the encounter. Rumors about possible weaknesses are raised. What if it's some kind of demon. Would Holy Water affect it? Only one way to find out... G+ chat sessions become Explorer's Clubs. "Didn't you try smearing your faces with gnoll bone marrow, old boy? No?"

*Now that I think about it, this may have just been so we'd stand around dawdling and he'd have an excuse to roll for Wandering Monsters

Saturday, December 3, 2011

EPT: Thursday Night on the Island

The Foreign Quarter of Jakalla has been abuzz lately with talk of the latest expedition to the Manse of Kotaru hiChakresa.

- Two stout warriors, Dagazar (Evan Elkins) and Orin "the Witless" (Jason Kielbasa) and a priest, Orin "The Wise" made their way to the mysterious island.

- They encountered two small boats already on shore, and, after some deliberation, decided not to ascend the steep, rock-hewn staircase, but to circumnavigate the island,looking for another point of entry. At the southern tip of the island, they found the mouth of a sea-cave.

- Upon entering, they found themselves in a small chamber that proved to be part of a larger complex. They also seem to have found some treasure, to judge from their satisfied expressions upon returning.

- Shortly after they began exploring the complex, they found themselves assaulted by a number (which seems to vary with each telling) of human foes. Dagazar has been proudly wearing the mummified, shrunken heads of two of these adversaries (a male and a female) from his belt.

Dagazar's own account of the expedition can be found here.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

My Empire of the Petal Throne Game: the setup.

I probably should've mentioned this before, but I've been running Empire of the Petal Throne on Google Plus. I've been running it in conjunction with Chris Kutalik over at Hill Cantons, and we've hashed out a set of FLAILSNAILS-style conventions: The Jakalla Protocols as well as some houserules. Both games are set, as the name suggests, in and around the Tsolyani port-city of Jakalla, the "City Half as Old as the World" -- a teeming, decadent southern metropolis, where the PCs, bas fresh-off the-boat barbarians, attempt to earn gold, glory, and citizenship. To this end, we've staked out different locations -- Chris' games have focused on a section of the Jakalla Underworld - the labyrinth of tunnels, ruins, and passageways that lies beneath the city, while I've set up shop on a little island off the coast, where a member of a prominent clan has an ancestral manor house. We're both kick-starting our games again, after a brief hiatus, and I thought I'd share something about mine.

Here's what you know:

- The house currently belongs to Kotaru hiChakresa of the Golden Sunburst Clan.

- He hasn't been seen in over a decade, during which a meshqu plaque outside the gate has declared that he is indisposed and must not be disturbed.

- His clan suspects he may be dead, but, due to the strictures of Tsolyani etiquette, they cannot directly violate his publicly-stated wishes. Meanwhile, the house and the surrounding grounds have fallen into disrepair.

- His grand-niece, Mara hiChakresa, offers 300 kaitar per person to the party that can either provide irrefutable proof of his death, or convince him to sign a contract relinquishing the property back into the ownership of the clan as a whole. In addition, the Deputy Sub-Minister for the Housing of Foreign and Indigent Persons owes her a favor, and would be able to furnish the necessary paperwork to secure better housing for the party (most of whom are languishing in the Tower of the Red Dome, a notorious, vermin-infested flophouse.

- Kotaru hiChakresa is/was quite wealthy and had/has a reputation as something of a sorcerer.

- One adventurer has died trying to scale the wall. When he reached to top, he was incinerated by numerous beams of light.

- Undead caretakers have been found roaming the grounds outside the wall, and in the lighthouse. All encountered so far have been destroyed.

- There are hostile creatures of some sort inhabiting the nearby caves. It had been proposed that the caves might contain a secret passage to the manor house, though this theory has yet to be tested, as the party was attacked by arrow-firing assailants shortly upon venturing inside.