Sunday, November 30, 2014

One Page Player's Handbook

Like a lot of referees who've played around with multiple editions, I use so many house rules that it's almost a different game (mechanically speaking at least). I designed a player reference that fits everything my new players need to get started on the back of the character sheet I give them. Download here.

character sheet front
Well, almost everything. I didn't address the way magic works. I've been using the spells from The 52 Pages RPG, including the higher level spells in this post. I don't make mage characters pick their spells ahead of time, but they can only cast each spell once per day. There also are no clerics; mages have access to the 52 Pages prophet spells. I've been using the equipment tables from Lamentations of the Flame Princess. If some random internet person wanted to use my system, I guess that person could just go with whatever spells and equipment they felt like.

character sheet back
This is meant to be all you would need to jump into your first game as quickly as possible, but doesn't include things like level progression. Those are all scribbled on random pieces of paper on and around my desk at the moment. Eventually I'm going to pull together some sort of reference for things that won't come up for most players until a couple sessions in. Probably.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Aztec Death Whistle

Skeleton found with death whistle at Tlatelolco, part of the Aztec Triple Alliance.
These things are amazing. I want one. I want everyone I know to have one. Watch the video and use it to scare your family at dinner today. The screaming starts 50 seconds in.

It would be pretty simple in game terms. Every non ally in the vicinity is under the effects of a fear spell (save or flee in terror). Most would have been made from fired clay, but they could conceivably be carved from obsidian or jade if you want to use them as treasure.  

Jose Luís Franco, a Mexican engineer, published the first academic drawings of the whistles in 1971, pictured above. The one on the right is shaped like an owl because it symbolized death and destruction to the Aztecs. Apparently they weren't an original invention of the Aztec culture, and were used by the Olmecs as far back as the 8th century BCE.

Both of those images came from this article which is pretty informative.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Philosopher's Castle

This post is mostly for Grant, Kelly, and Scott. Layth showed up last night and we soloed for a little while before Ashley got home and joined in. This is what happened.

So Bad Ray the katana wielding mage was wandering through a village on his way to Mistfall. He walks strait past the wailing woman in the town square and the creepy looking castle on the hill, but stops to help when he sees a little red headed kid being carried up the hill by a tentacle faced crocodile man. Ray climbed a tree and dive-bomb stabbed the thing in the head. Then he freed the kid and reverted to his initial strategy of ignoring the dungeon, continuing on his way to the big city.

Night was falling as he arrived in Mistfall, so Bad Ray naturally decided to wander around looking for a bank to rob. He glued (spell on page 8 of the 52 Pages RPG) the guard’s feet to the spot and murdered him from behind, but the victim was screaming for help as he died. People were coming, so Ray grabbed the dead man’s armor and ran to a tavern on the shady side of town, where he engaged in mutually consensual intercourse with an overweight young woman, whose name he forgot to ask. I guess that’s just what you do after you fail to rob a bank? After that he suddenly remembered the creepy castle and decided to go back.

That’s when Ashley got home so from here on in it makes a little more sense. Molly and Bad Ray found the secret back entrance and got in through the basement, where they found body parts everywhere in one room and a creature with one leg and four arms in the next, imprisoned in a giant glass ball with a magic circle around the base exactly like the Sandman.

Ray immediately befriended it, and it telepathically communicated to him and Molly that:
-it had followed a giant tentacled brain creature called a grell across the multiverse because it had taken its “other”
-that its other and therefore the grell were in this castle
-that the grell and its followers had known the friendly creature was on its way and tricked it
-that its supernaturally hard glass prison has a “molecular structure that should be vulnerable to the correct vibrational frequency” (whatever that means).

Molly tried to pick the lockpick her way into the treasury but that was a bust. They did, however, find a shrine to a tentacled brain creature (which matched the idol in the pocket of the thing Ray killed). Then they found the secret door that led to a pool of water with brain stems swimming around like sperm, and a re-statted mind flayer on a throne. After a short argument they killed the shit out of it, took its robe (which puts out all nearby light sources whenever its wearer sings the chorus to this) and staff, and headed upstairs. After a couple lobotomy-style-zombies almost killed Bad Ray, they headed back to town to stock up on healing potions and rest at the inn.

The next morning, they wake up to an armored man, accompanied by two robed figures like the thing Bad Ray ninja assassinated a few days ago, ringing the bell in the town square and demanding to know who had killed his father. Ray, being quite Bad, poked his head out the window and responded “I killed your daddy, beeyotch!” even though he legitimately hadn’t figured out who the guy’s dad was yet.

Molly dropped some burning oil onto one of the reptilian things as they approached the inn and sort of freestyle rappelled down to stab it in the neck when it stop-drop-rolled, while Ray set up a magic mouth + fear trap and hid in the closet (hurr hurr). The other monster failed its save and ran as the armored dude was climbing the steps, Molly close behind. Ray glued his feet to the spot and Molly tied him up from behind, then they tied him to a chair and tortured the hell out of him.

They learned that:
-the mind flayer was the dude’s dad…
-…who was in a transitional stage on his way to becoming a “higher power”
before they fucked up and told each other out loud that they weren’t gonna let him live anyway and he clammed up and got himself executed.

Then the a tavern worker, who (because I felt like it) was the mother of the little red headed kid Ray had heroically saved, came upstairs to assess the situation. From her, they learned that:
-the man they’d just tortured and killed was one Lord Highrock.
-everyone knows his father died years ago.
-she doesn’t know exactly how or when he died, and she doesn’t know anyone who was at the funeral.
-there aren’t as many people in Highrock Village as there used to be, but as far as the woman knows no one has died in years. She thinks they must have all moved or something.
-it sounds to her like those dead people Molly and Ray found were probably all from out of town, and therefore not her problem.
-no one goes up to the castle ever.
-she has no recollection of the bell ringing or the robed crocodilians. In fact, she doesn’t see the charred corpse of the one Molly killed even when she’s looking right at it.
-(I swear I rolled this one randomly on my rumors table) old man Highrock was once gifted a sword that, when struck against a hard surface, emits a single perfect and terrible note, unlike any sound heard in music or nature.

And that’s where we ended the session. They haven’t gone shopping for supplies yet, so think about what you want to stock up on if you’re showing up next time. It’s not a big town but there’s an apothecary that sells a few simple potions, ingredients, and alchemy equipment, a general store that sells basic equipment (we’ll say that includes matchlock muskets, powder and shot), and a few of the basic village services like a blacksmith and tanner.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Words and pictures

First page of a thing I've had on the backburner for way too long. The words are by Joe Briggs who mostly writes stuff about punk rock. It's worth checking out if you're into that sort of thing.

Friday, November 7, 2014

History is just really old rumors

There is a wide, hexagonal altar of some kind in the center of this room, with six outer panels, and one upwards-facing middle panel. One panel has a slot on the left side that looks like it's the right size to insert one of those shiny discs you found elsewhere in the ruins.

Once you insert a disc, the middle panel of the altar lights up as the rest of the room seems to go dark. Moving images that look as solid as the altar itself appear in the air above the panel, and you hear a voice with an unfamiliar accent in your head. With accompanying imagery, the voice tells you three things before the altar breaks apart in a flash of sparks and a cloud of smoke.

1) The beings that designed this place referred to themselves as the ascended. They grew servitors in thick glass vats, in the image of their own primitive ancestry.

2) The Ascended Age followed the Heroic Age, which began with the Time War that ended a thousand years of darkness and enslavement to beings from another world.

3) The ascended created a worldwide awareness dampening system, which hides the entrances to their underground structures from the notice of most non-ascended humanoids. Consequentially, no record of them exists on the surface, and only a few secretive explorers have even heard of the species.

4) Hybrid animals of every description were created both to perform specialized tasks and for the ascended's amusement. Many have special abilities, and most are at least as intelligent as a human child.

5) The worm is another creation of the ascended, who once used it for instant worldwide communication. It's still capable of this, even though it hasn't been activated in centuries.

6) The worm has been here since the beginning. It guided the initial evolution of early humans and has been monitoring divergent and convergent cultural patterns since then. As a result, the worm knows about pretty much everything that's ever occurred on the planet. 

7) The history of the modern world parallels that of the Innocent Era, before the Dark Millennium. This is the result of interference by the ascended and/or the worm, and humanity can only be made free through the destruction of its secret puppeteers.

8) The Future Gods, heroes of the Time War, were the greatest champions that humanity has ever seen. Unfortunately, they were feared tyrants in the peace that followed. They were slain and entombed at the center of the Earth, reflecting both the honor and the terror that they inspired.

9) The beginning of the Ascended Age was marked by the development of the Lazarus Serum, which granted immortality to those deemed worthy by the creators of the serum. The ascended migrated underground, while those deemed useless were left to struggle on the surface. These eventually evolved into the various humanoid species known today.

10) The "Lazarus Serum" was a genome that was introduced to the entire human race. Unlimited lifespans allowed great thinkers to discover entirely new fields of science, while pushing development in existing fields to the point of convergence. The personal libraries of ascended researchers contain esoteric knowledge centuries beyond that of modern humans.

11) The worldwide Servitor Rebellion was the end of ascended civilization. The surviving ascended formed secretive island enclaves and are now known as high elves.

12) All of the ascended are long dead and all humanoid races are the descendants of the servitors.

13) Humanoids evolved from servitors while the ascended fled underground to escape the rebellion. They are waiting until their population recovers to reclaim the surface world.

14) Many devices of impressive power first appeared during the Heroic Age. Rings that grant their bearers unimaginable speed or control over light made solid, suits of armor that made humans into flying juggernauts, and weapons with powers as varied as their physical forms.

15) Although there is evidence that some forms of primitive shamanic magic was practiced during the Innocent Era, magic's essential nature was not seriously studied or understood until the Ascended Age. That primitive magic often resulted in demonic entities that probably still exist deep underground.

16) The Space Gods that enslaved humanity during the Dark Millennium were unaware of the existence of worlds other than their own until it was discovered by human explorers. The vessel used by these explorers was launched from a secret underground base that the Space Gods never learned of.

17) The Space Gods were aware of human development throughout the Innocent Era, while they watched and waited for their ancient prison to deteriorate. No one knows who or what built their prison, but their magic and/or technology must have been impressive indeed.

18) The supply of the elements used to create the Lazarus Serum was extremely limited. Another war broke out when those deemed less than worthy attempted to take it by force. This conflict made the planet's surface uninhabitable by humans and ascended alike for centuries, though severely mutated versions of many species were able to adapt and survive.

19) During the Dark Millennium, the Space Gods maintained strict control over human reproduction, and harvested energy from human bodies for sustenance. Some of the factories where this occurred are believed to still exist deep underground.

20) The Dark Millennium saw the construction of hundreds of temples and artifacts by human slaves, for the purpose of eventually summoning the beings that were worshipped by humanity's Space God masters.