Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Presenting The Solid Gold Easy Action T.Rex Gaming Oracle

Because the world cried out for it, here is a random generator that will spit out four lines of exquisite gibberish from the oeuvre of Mr. Marc Bolan (1947-1977).  I made it during an unusually productive fit of insomnia and put it up on Abulafia.  It can easily generate ideas for NPCs, locations, magic items, story hooks, setting details, you name it.

A couple examples:

I can feel earthquakes inside of me
The Elf lord
A likeness in flesh of the magic
Rameses born with platinum future

He left us in the room of faded scrolls
Statues that say, worship the day
Are the textures of Earth's distant future
Spun in lore from Dagamoor


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Hellenistic FrankenQuest: Arranging the Limbs on the Slab

So I mentioned a a while ago that I'm working on a set of BRP rules for sword-and-sorcery adventure in the Hellenistic world. After comfortably ignoring it for months, I find myself drawn to the project again.

Originally, I had planned to simply use a pre-existing version of BRP and just combine it with Paul Elliott's Warlords of Alexander -- maybe with a few minor tweaks and house rules here and there. But the more I thought about it, and the sort of game I really wanted to run, I realized that the number of exceptions would be in danger of exceeding the rules-as-written.  Why not simply cobble together a purpose built version of BRP that did exactly what I wanted it to?  And why stop there?  Why not graft on bits I liked from other Percentile systems?

Now BRP's great -- gritty, fliexible-- and I especially like how characters improve organically based on what they've actually been doing as opposed to simply "leveling up."  But the Combat system still bugged me.  RQ 2nd ed. was too complex and fiddly for my tastes, and yet Stormbringer 1st was a little more abstract than I wanted.  I kept picking at it though, trying to decide which parts to keep and which to jettison -- fine-tuning it so it had just enough detail to be really satisfying without having to deal with things like Strike Ranks.  I needed something fast, lethal, intuitive, and with enough detail to really reward fighting smart and gaining a tactical advantage on your opponent.  As an added bonus, there should be a hilariously gory critical hit chart.

But  Richard Halliwell, Rick Priestley, Graeme Davis, Jim Bambra, and Phil Gallagher already did that in 1986.  And the gang at the late, lamented Black Industries, together with Davis and Priestly, polished it to a mirror sheen in 2005.*

So here's my first stab at reconciling the two, and I think it's going to work.  D&D, of all things, proved to be the glue.  Note that I haven't made any provisions for Magic yet, and have yet to add options for Homelands and Class Backgrounds.  The former I'm still figuring out how to implement at all, and the latter will be comprised of modified versions of some of the options in  Stormbringer 1st ed. and Warlords of Alexander.

1. Roll Attributes:

3d6 (in order) : 

Strength (STR)
Constitution (CON) 
Power (POW) 
Dexterity (DEX) 
Charisma (CHA)

2d6+6 (in order)

Size (SIZ) 
Intelligence (INT)

2. Derived Attributes:

Hit Points (HP) How much physical damage a character can take before dying.  HP= the average of CON + SIZ (rounded up).  Once a character is brought below 0 HP, The Critical Hit Chart is consulted.**

Damage Modifier.  You add this to damage rolled on a successful hit.  To find your Damage Bonus, take the Average of your STR+ SIZ (rounded down) and apply the number to the following chart.  This number is added to (or subtracted from) your d10 roll when rolling damage (along with any other modifiers).

1           -5
2-3        -4
4-5        -3
6-7        -2
8-9        -1
10-11     0
12-13    +1
14-15    +2
16-17    +3
18-19    +4
20-21    +5

I think this will make a pretty good substitute for WFRP's SB + d10 = damage, while still allowing SIZ to play a part, as in BRP.

* Before any purists take me to task on this, I think the 1st ed. rulebook is more flavorful and complete, and it's my preferred take on the setting, but I can't help but prefer how 2nd ed. cleaned up the mechanics.

**That would be the expanded Critical Hit Chart Booklet included with the WFRP 1st ed. GM Screen. Have you SEEN this thing? Pages and pages of horrible injuries, divided by body part and again by they type of damage -- Blunt, Slashing, Piercing, Firearms...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Oriax Image-Dump #2: Pics from the Forsaken Planet, Mother of Blasphemies.

I haven't been able to devote much time and energy to either of my settings lately, but I thought it would be a shame to let these languish on my hard drive.  Anyway, in the mean time, here's some of what you might encounter were you to be stranded on the cursed planet of Oriax.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Items of Psychotronic Might #1: The Mask of Tor

 Part 1 of ?  Collect the set!

Believed to be the ancient death-mask of Tor, legendary hero-saint and patron of Strength and Unreasoning Belligerence.  The mask was once kept in a place of honor at Tor's Heroon, a small, well-tended shrine on the outskirts of the hero's reputed birthplace.  At some point (record-keeping not being a well-developed art by Tor cultists) the mask was stolen, and, despite a series of enthusiastically joined but logistically incoherent quests, has yet to be recovered.
The Mask in its dormant state
The character donning the Mask of Tor rolls 2d10, and adds this number to both STR and CON, even if (especially if) this takes their score well beyond the maximum.  The wearer's INT and WIS are dropped by the same amount, and the effect lasts a number of rounds equal to the higher of the two rolls, at the end of which, the wearer's eyes glaze over and they collapse to the ground with a thud, where they remain insensate for 1d4 rounds.  The Mask is usable once per day. 

Cheap replica mask worn by Cultists.

The Mask in action!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Player's Campaign Questions [Galbaruc] Part 2.

Picking up from the last post:  This batch of questions is from Antion:

Where do I live? How private is it? Enough to muffle a scream?

All native PCs begin play as boarders at a Low Lodging House run by a 'Mother Clinkscales.'  It's a shabbily respectable looking structure in a disreputable corner of the Contrada of the Shark.  It is overcrowded, indifferently maintained, and offers little to no privacy.  On the plus side, fewer stabbings are reported to take place on the premises, guests may store bulky or cumbersome items in a locked storeroom, and Mother Clinkscales herself has a reputation for honesty, discretion,  and even a touching proprietary concern on behalf of her boarders.

Where did I go to school? How prestigious is that?  

Galbaruc has its own university, though it has a reputation as a breeding ground for heresy, hedonism, and weird fringe philosophy.  There is also a medical school, whose curriculum occilates between the archaic and the dangerously experimental.  Most people have no education beyond a simple grammar school (and even that's a rarity in the countryside and the poorer parts of the city), so a University education of any sort is extremely prestigious, a fact often exploited by charlatans.

How many people care what religion I am? What if I'm an atheist?

Though nominally Urizenite, Galbaruc is more religiously pluralistic than many of its neighbors, and the local form of Urizen's faith are considered by more Orthodox believers to be hopelessly corrupt, compromised, and riddled with heresy, superstition, and foreign influences.  Many foreign and indigenous gods have been syncretized as Saints, and in the countryside, especially, older religions are practiced alongside the new.  Even in the city itself, indigenous gods such as Yash-Kunag and Seppophis are worshipped openly by more heterodox Urizenites, and the rites of Yash-Kunag are tied with the panoply and rituals of state.

That said, there is a sizable minority of hardline Urizenites, and brawls and even pitched battles between opposing sects and faiths have been known to take place.  Religious prejudices may inform legal decisions and hiring practices.

Atheists are mostly found around the University, and in artistic circles.  They are considered by the majority to be odd, overeducated, and delusional, but are generally tolerated outside of orthodox Urizenite circles.  Many atheists find gainful employment during the Festival of the Great Culling, as their skepticism makes them less succeptable to the awe-inducing aura of the godlings.

Finally, atheist "clerics" exist.  They do not attribute their wonder-working powers to a deity, and offer their own explanations (if any) for their strange abilities.

What languages do I speak? Common, Ancient, Foreign?

Most people in the city speak "Common."

Other languages encountered so far include:

Zhaibari -- The dominant language of the nearby Sultanate
Kozak -- Language of the rampaging hordes.  Hyperborean's hillbilly nephew, twice removed.
Hyperborean - Dominant tongue of the 'civilized' regions of the Far North.  Lots of dialects.

Some Scholarly/Dead/Exotic languages include:

Classical Hyberborean
Ancient Hyperzephyrian
Northern Tlönic
Southern Tlönic

How easy is it to acquire new magic-user spells?

Access to M-U spells is pretty much limited to what you can find while adventuring and what you can get from other M-Us in the city.  Usually this would involve joining an Occult Order, but theft is also an option.

Is "adventurer" its own social class? How shitty can I treat commoners (or vice versa)?

Adventurers occupy a similar status to actors in Renaissance Europe and Genroku Era Japan -- dangerous, disreputable, and lower-class, but often possessed of a certain glamour and swaggering style that captures the imagination of their betters.

Most common people treat them as they would a chapter of Hell's Angels -- with an amount of distaste mixed with fear of physical violence.

Where can I buy or sell something illegal? (Drugs? Poison? A dead body?)

The subterranean Night Market, which changes locations frequently, is the place to go.  In addition, many unassuming shops do a brisk trade in contraband goods in back rooms and under the counter, if the customer knows who to ask. 

Can I auto-buy new equipment while in town or shouId I ask you to bust out your Ye Olde ShoppeKeep voice?

Standard equipment you can auto-buy unless you're in the middle of fighting a small army of waterlogged living corpses dragging themselves out of the canals or something.  Something exotic or custom-built I'll either do as a scene in-game or settle with you outside of the game so as not to slow things down.

Is a rapier v longsword duel considered ridiculous or merely unsporting? for which side?

In a formal duel, the choice of weapons is left to the offended party.  Generally, it's seen as sporting to allow each duelist to fight with the weapon he's most familiar with.  Sword and pistol duels are common, and more exotic arrangements involving poisonous plants, cursed bells, and lethal gastonomy have been heard of.  The most serious affairs of honor are settled with knives, and anyone interfering in a knife duel is held in the lowest contempt and disgust.

Any random charts or formalized lists of frivolous shit I can waste my money on?

I'm working on it.  I'm using Chris Kutalik's Conspicuous Consumption rules from Hill Cantons in which you can earn XP by spending your hard-earned cash on fripperies and gewgaws.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Players' Campaign Questions [Galbaruc] Part 1

So I put out a request to my players over G+ for questions about setting, playstyle, etc. for my campaign.  As with Jeff's 20 Questions, I think this is a useful and more interesting method of defining a setting, and it forces me to supply details I'd normally be inclined to gloss over, and also to determine what should be left vague.

I'll be doing this in two parts (unless I get another post's-worth of questions).  First up is Michael Moscrip:

How is the local ruler chosen, and what sort of government is it?

Galbaruc is an independent city-state and a republic (though this hasn't always been the case).  The closest historical/cultural analogue is probably the Republic of Venice.  The Princeps (First Citizen) is elected by the Council of Ten, who are in turn drawn from the ranks of the Senate.  There is still a traditional aristocracy, but its power and influence has weakened considerably with the resurgence of the merchant class.

When and where are religious services held? What's it like to attend?

Most religious services are held in churches and temples.  Urizenite churches are typically massive and architecturally dazzling, or strive to be.  Shrines and temples to more obscure deities can be as tiny as a niche in an alleyway, or a back room in a private home or business.  Street preachers of varying persuasions will rant and cajole from impromptu booths and platforms set up around the city, though these are appreciated by most spectators as entertainment.  Mystery cults, etc. usually meet in some underground or secluded outdoor areas.  The structure of these services will differ greatly according to religion or sect, but it has been noted that religious practices in the city tend to take on a more baroque and sensational character than elsewhere, with a greater emphasis on decoration, showy vestments, eccentricity, and theatrical flourish.

Note -- at some point, I might rename they days of the week, but until then, let's assume our own 7-day week with Sunday as a holy day/day of rest for Urizenites, just to keep it simple and familiar.

Are there frequent holidays or festivals? What is it like to be there?

Holidays and festivals are frequent - -both the native celebrations of the city and those brought by immigrants from all corners of the earth (and beyond).  Sometimes, two or more of these may be in full swing at the same time, the streets and canals thronged with celebrants.  Galbaruc's festivals are noted for their insistent observance of rituals and forms forgotten, banned, or unobserved elsewhere, as well as a tendency for ostentation and novelty.  Typically, you can count on a relaxation or reversal of social conventions, lots of booze, sex, drugs, music, and dancing, and swarms of pickpockets and other petty thieves. Two notable festivals are the Courtship of Seppophis and the Festival of the Great Culling.

What sort of thing could people find out about someone that would make them a pariah? That would make them celebrated?

Often, the same behavior will make one celebrated in some quarters and despised in others.  A sense of style and dash can do much to turn a common thief or murderer into a bold, picturesque rogue, subject to the embellishments of popular imagination and the guest of honor at the homes of those wishing to arouse envy and controversy in others of their set.

Acts and attitudes generally applauded:
- defeating enemies of the Republic as well as local dangers and nuisances.
- hosting a public event, funding parks, monuments, fountains, pleasure-gardens, etc.
- donating to charities and philanthropic pursuits
- performing some other act of civic pride
- Acting in a bold, striking, and decisive manner.
- Displays of Courage, Wit, and Cunning.
- Achieving Revenge on one's enemies, or perishing spectacularly in the attempt.
- Rising to the height of one's chosen pursuit or profession  -- the Beggar-King of Galbaruc is still a beggar,   but commands a grudging respect for his position within his milieu.
- Acting according to one's own philosophical, ethical, or aesthetic convictions, with a lofty contempt for death and other consequences of same.

Acts and attitudes generally disdained:
- Treason or collaboration with enemies of the Republic
- Pettiness and miserliness.
- Displays of cowardice and indecisiveness.
- A lack of style and grace -- Coarseness of sensibility.
- Failure to take action due to despair or complacency
- Engaging in slave-trading
- abuse of the elderly, the pious, the innocent, and the beautiful. (according to public opinion)
- Failure to keep one's promises.
- Acting contrary to one's established character and reputation.

All of the above are subject to exceptions, excuses, unforeseen variables, and the fickle whims of the public.

What's the most common job for a common person?

Most working people in the city are unskilled laborers, followed by skilled laborers, small tradesmen & their assistants.  Outside of the city, most people are farmers.  

Who shows up if there's a fire? A murder? A riot?

Fire:  In poorer neighborhoods, it's usually up to an impromptu bucket brigade, perhaps led by a member of that contrada's watch, or some other upstanding citizen.  There is no single permanent paid firefighting force in the city, but several ruthlessly competitive rival organizations have sprung up.  They will often brawl with one another over territory and haggle with property owners, refusing to take any action until arriving at a disproportionately favorable settlement.  In truly dire circumstances, the city militia will be called into action.

Murder:  Each contrada is responsible for arming and organizing a local watch to patrol itself, which can take the form of anything from an ad hoc brute squad with cudgels and torches to a well-trained, uniformly equipped force in distinctive uniform.  In theory, serious malefactors captured by these forces are to be transferred to the custody of the city's nascent police force, but all too often, such things are dealt with internally, with rough justice administered on the spot, in the privacy of a local barracks or a shopkeeper's basement.  Suspects apprehended for murder, rape, etc., often find themselves dragged in front of their supposed victims' families/kinsmen/business partners, who may then determine their fate.

Riot: If it isn't stopped at the Watch level (or if the watchmen join the mob themselves) the City Militia is called out.  The cavalry is particularly brutal in their methods.  Their efforts may be enhanced by those of sorcerers and alchemists in the employ of the City.

If I'm an upstanding citizen, who do I tell if I find a body? Who does that person answer to?

In a good neighborhood (where a body has a chance of lying intact and unmolested for any length of time, and Watch/Police patrols more frequent and robust) an upstanding citizen should inform a man or officer of the local watch, or an officer of the police, if one happens to be in the vicinity.  The police are widely considered to be ineffectual, unsympathetic, and dangerously new, and most established citizens of good character prefer to work directly with the local watch, who more often than not know the citizen, at least by reputation, and can vouch for his character.  Foreigners and those of lesser social standing may prefer to deal with the police, who are held to be more impartial in such matters (for good or ill).

Friday, March 30, 2012

d100 Peculiarity Table for Galbaruc

I made this table for my Galbaruc campaign, though with some tweaking it might work for yours.  I jotted down 106 entries, but ended up scrapping a lot of them, narrowing it down to the 50 I liked best.  My campaign only has 2 PC races in it (Humans and Vat-Spawn) so this table's for Human characters, to give them a little distinction.

These are probably not even remotely balanced.

You are Androgynous:  +4 to attempts to pass as a (nonspecific) member of the opposite sex. 
You are a Libertine: You must make a successful WIS roll to avoid Carousing if you finish an expedition with more loot than you started out with.
You are a Struldbrug.  You have immortality (barring death by violence, drowning, etc.) without eternal youth.
For some reason, (1-2) dogs (3-4) cats (5-6) birds hate you.  They’ll growl/hiss/squawk at your approach, and the GM rolls 2d6 each round you remain within 10 ft. of the animals in question, which attack on a roll of 2 even numbers.
You have a Doppelganger.  This individual is identical to you in appearance and stats, and wholeheartedly devoted to your ruin and destruction.  It will refrain from outright killing you until it feels that the you’ve undergone sufficient discomfort, loss, and humiliation.
You are a shape-shifting reptile from another plane of existence.   Your true from is undetectable by mundane means, but if it is ever compromised, you will need to devour another human to take their shape, a process requiring 48 hours in undisturbed darkness.  Your ancient enemies the (1-2) red (3-4) black scaled reptiles have their agents as well, and you will periodically receive orders from your superiors as you carry on the millennia-long struggle against your rivals,.
You may perceive oracular significance in the buzzing of insects.
Some years ago, you were a member of a secret cult.  Despite certain dire oaths to the contrary, you abandoned it.  Your former brothers and sisters are always on the lookout for the runaway.  Gain Distinctive Tattoo.
You are extraordinarily forgettable.  This can be frustrating, as you must constantly remind casual acquaintances of your identity, but it comes in handy when eyewitnesses to the robbery are describing suspects to the authorities.
You are a Gourmand.  You must make a Save vs. Spell roll at +4 difficulty to turn down the chance of experiencing a new taste.
Once per session, you may summon the spirit of an illustrious dead ancestor of yours for five minutes of consultation.
A powerful Magic-User , for some unknown reason, has taken an interest in your progress, and will act behind the scenes as a patron.  This assistance will not come without a price.
You were born with a tail.  Casual investigation has led you to believe that everyone is, and that there is a secret conspiracy of physicians and midwives to lop them off at birth, to some unguessable purpose.
You were born with a birth caul: While it remains on your person, you cannot drown.
You were baptized in the blood of the Salamander.  You take no damage from fire.
You are a musical prodigy.  You may give an unforgettable performance on any instrument, but the instrument will disintegrate or fall apart in dramatic fashion as soon as you finish playing.
True or not, you have a reputation as a colossal pervert – a sexual adventurer of the most depraved kind.  This will be met with interest and enthusiasm in some quarters, and suspicion and hostility in others.
You bear an executioner’s brand on your thumb, indicating a reprieve from the death penalty.  If found guilty for any crime in the future, you will swing for it.
You are an ordained cleric in the religion of your choice.  You possess no mystic powers, but can perform all observances, rituals, and ceremonies expected of you.  You have not been officially defrocked, but any relationship with the church hierarchy is strained, at best.   Reroll if you’re already playing a “capital C” Cleric.
Ghosts, specters, etc. are especially drawn to you.  These visitations are not always malevolent, and often take the form of pleas for aid and redress of past wrongs.
An otherworldly Insect parasite has lodged itself in the base of your spine.  You will occasionally experience strange fascinations and cravings, which you may attempt to resist with a Save vs. Spell.
You are an albino.
You are unable to grow any hair.  No eyebrows, no pubes, nothin’.   You are blessed to live in a time and place when wigs are fashionable.
You have a coin with the sigil of a Minor Demon carved into it.  You may summon this demon once to fulfill a favor, after which, the demon returns to its own plane and the coin is reduced to a worthless blackened lump of slag.
You’ve woken up from suspended animation  after d10 x100 years.  Take 1 dot in Lore, but your knowledge may be somewhat out of date.  Your speech will probably sound a bit archaic, as well.
Every time you fail your Save while Carousing,  make another Save (vs. Magic).  If you fail, you dream a monster into existence.  You (or the GM) roll up a monster using a random generator, which then blinks into existence, terrorizing the town or countryside and working its way toward you.
You have a horrible, rasping speaking voice but can sing like an angel.
You can hold your liquor like a champ.  +4 to save vs. poison when boozing it up.
You have an inch-tall horn spiraling out of your forehead.
Your physical body is the chain that keeps a monster imprisoned.   The GM will secretly roll a number on a d100.  When you’ve taken that much HP damage, (or die) the creature breaks its bonds and escapes.  Magical Healing can reverse the process, but only at a rate of 1 HP/instance.
Someone believes you to be the reincarnation of their former lover from a past life.
There is a 15% chance of switching bodies with one’s companion during sex. (particularly abandoned libertines may need to roll again to narrow it down).  You cannot re-enter (as it were) the same body after leaving it.
You have a lofty hereditary title to a place that doesn’t technically exist anymore
Attention whore: +1 to all rolls when in front of at least one non-participant  that’s paying attention.
You are a Compulsive gambler : Save vs. Spell to avoid participating in games of chance.
You were born during a thunderstorm beneath a blasted tree--  take no damage from lighting/electricity.
Through the use of drugs, ecstatic ritual, etc., you can enter a Berserk state.  +4 to hit, damage explodes on the highest 3 digits (melee) for d10 + CON modifier rounds, at the end of which, you fall unconscious for d6 rounds.  While Berserk you must make a Save vs. Spell to avoid attacking allies within 15 ft. of you.
You are the deposed Heir to an Island Prince.  Some day, you will raise an army and take back what is rightfully yours!
Your teeth have been filed to points.
You are a Eunuch, with all that implies.  Roll again if female.
You have some training as an Actor – +2 bonus to pretend to be of higher/lower social status.
You have a cheap tin talisman of Seppophis the Huntress.  +2 to attempts to find an individual.  Your pursuers have a -2 to find you.
You have in your possession a  small shard from one of the mysterious standing stones that litter the surrounding countryside.
You have no fingernails on your left hand.
Your weapon is an ancient, storied implement of great renown and prestige.  Generations of proud warriors have wielded it with glory and distinction.  It even has a name.  So your mother always insisted, and so you will tell the pawnbroker when you run out of money for gin.
You are Double jointed.  This has all kinds of fun mechanics implications that can surely be dealt with on an ad hoc basis.
Keith Richards: take a +4 bonus and R2K1 on all Saves vs. Poison when taking drugs.
You have a Holy guardian angel and it loathes you
Pugilist!  Your fists do d4 damage, R2K1.
You have a pickled punk – a tiny, two-headed fetus in a jar.  It can tell you one fact about an individual for each drop of their blood you put in its brine.  After 12 drops, the brine will be completely clouded with blood and the unfortunate creature will finally die.