Monday, August 22, 2016

Mythras is in the Wild!

Mythras, the full-featured deluxe rulebook of the Design Mechanism Engine is now available in print and PDF. I just placed my order, and now you can too right here for the modest price of $39.95.

Given the fact that Chaosium's future appears to be aimed at highly world-specific pet projects, I think Mythras may just be the best default system for the kind of fantasy gaming I want at this point. I'll post a review of the core book ASAP!!!

Icons of Lingusia in the Age of Strife (13th Age)

Have I published this on the blog before? No idea....but since we're kicking off a new campaign in 13th Age this week, seems like a good idea for a review....

The Age of Strife in One Paragraph

The world of Lingusia is defined by the events of a central domain known as the Middle-Kingdoms, a swathe of territory which grew up in ancient times around a fabled City of the Gods. The gods had a terrible war and slew their mortal forms two thousand years ago, and out of the ashes of this time grew Hyrkania, a great empire. Around Hyrkania lie many lesser polities vying for survival. In the modern era, the year 2,090 Hyrkania has just survived a civil war which nearly tore it apart. The adventurers of this era are largely survivors of that war, soldiers or refugees who witnessed terrifying atrocities as an age-old conflict between Order and Chaos flared up. Into this world stride men and women willing to sieze the chance for power, glory and riches.

The Icons of the Middle Kingdoms in the Age of Strife

The Archmage – Lord Warenis (Heroic – LG)
The immortal champion of order, Lord Warenis works behind the scenes in this era to thwart the machinations of Xauraun, the Crusader. Warenis recruits from the likely heroes of the land to send them out against the diabolical forces of his nemesis. Warenis’s aims are singular: stop the Crusdaer, save the empire.
If you serve the Archmage: You are likely a scholar, mage or dedicate to lore who understands the true nature of the eternal conflict and why it is so important that the gods of chaos do not win. You may belong to the Esoteric Order of Hodon Systalien, one of the most dedicated servants to the archmage, or you may be an independent operator.

The Emperor – Anton Patraeus (Heroic – LN)
Anton Patraeus is a great leader of men who has struggled against the civil war that the War of Strife became, as well as the army of demons his enemies conjured up. He holds the empire together against great adversity and needs agents abroad to do his bidding.
If you serve the Emperor: You are either a vigilant solarian knight, a member of the Shadow Watch, an envoy or agent of the emperor who seeks out trouble in the land to quell it, or to hunt down the enemies of the empire.

The  Crusader – Xauraun Vestillios (Villanous – CE)
Xauraun Vestillios is the immortal champion of chaos, who seeks to bring down the era of man and disembowel the worship of the pantheon of order. He commands ferocious armies of monsters and demons to this end, as well as the loyalty of the human subjects who seek to gain power in his era of rule. The Crusader is always interested in new agents and minions to sew strife.
If you serve the Crusader: You are one who is comfortable in the company of fiends, possible one of the Order of the Ten Circles (the Divinate, in its public guise) or even one of the league of assassins that seek out those who would oppose the Crusader to lay them low. You could be of orcish or demonic descent, feeling the compulsion to serve the immortal chaos lord, or you are a man or elf who desires power at any cost.

The Lich King – Laikhanamen (Ambiguous– TN)
The Lich King was once the greatest wizard of the realm but fell to the passions of the Unseelie Queen centuries ago, such that he was driven to seek out immortality that he would be “alive” for the time of her mortal return to the world. That time is now, and the Lich King is as much a pawn to the Unseelie Queen as he is an agent of his own necromantic self interest in the current era. The lich king has little interest in the current field of politics, but craves power and the expansion of his personal empire of undeath.
If you serve the Lich King: you are either obsessed with death or the darker passions of the soul and admire the Lich King for what he offers….or you are a poduct of necromancy, doomed to obey him forever more.

The High Druid – Zama (Ambiguous TN)
Zama was an elder druid who became hierophant during the last great war against the Crusader a century earlier. The war devastated his homeland in the Niras Forest, and motivated the druids of Niras to grow wary of outsiders and the threats they pose. Today, Zama’s influence as grand hierophant of his order is to create a sense of seclusion and remoteness in the forestlands of his dominion, and he relies on his agents to insure that any threat to the wellspring of the forest, which is the very embodiment of the god Niras’s spirit, be protected from outsiders.
If you serve the High Druid: you are a druid yourself, or a simple elf, gnome or other denizen of the Niras Forest, who has felt the calling of the High Druid or the spirit of the woods and felt a need to protect the land from those who would ravage it. You might be a ranger or other agent of the Knights of Kom’Huandyr, a dedicated order of rangers in the woods who seek to defend the realm of the empire and specifically the province of Niras which encompasses all of the woods from outside invaders.

The Diabolist – Tyriandras Gonn Holivarnen (Villanous – LE)
The dark sorceress of Hyrkania is a shadowy entity, known by name only to her inner cabal. She has an obsessive and seemingly one-sided alliance with the Crusader Xauraun, and works her own schemes to bring Hyrkania to its knees. She believes that conquering the empire will be sufficient to catch Xauraun’s attention.
If you serve the Diabolist: you are a cutting edge agent of evil and you can see the opportunity to both gain power in the Diabolist’s imagined future empire as well as ready yourself for the embrace of chaos.

The Unseelie Queen – Corrigan (Ambiguous – CN)
Corrigan was believed to be destined for resurrection by her elite cabal of unseelie elven knights, but it was in fact the schemes of her paramour, the Lich King, that allowed her to be reborn. Corrigan walks the land again, a dangerous threat as she weaves her enchantments to lure dark elves and vile feykin into her web of control. She is barred from entry into the heart of the Weirding by the Court of Titania, and her unseelie agents are left deep in the mirelands and the briars of the outer Arboreal darkness, where the feywild touches the shadowfell.
If you serve the Unseelie Queen: you felt the call and your fey blood could not resist. If you are no fey, then you are attracted to what she stands for, the liberation of the spirit from the rules of the world. The unseelie queen is a mysterious force in the age of strife but she stands against both order and chaos.

The Elf Queen – Mithrielle (Ambiguous – NG)
Mithrielle rules Sylvias in the south and seeks to make her empire strong against the many forces of evil and chaos in the world. She is half-sister to the empress Phyxillus, but feels an unreasonable level of rivalry for her successful half-sister in the north. Under Mithrielle the elves have attained great power, but their enmity toward other lesser races is at an all time high. Actions in the name of the Elf Queen are to secure of the elven empire and its many outlying tribes and cities in the world, even at the expense of the lesser races.
If you serve the Elf Queen: you stand not only against the enemies of the elvish kingdom, but against those who would seek to destroy the venerable lineage of the world itself in the name of power. You are likely either a selenic knight in the elven courts, a preservationist working in secret in foreign lands against the enemies of elvenkind, or a huntsman knight on the frontiers of Sylvias defending the outlying cities and tribes of all elves, both silver and wood.

The Betrayer King (Orc King) – King Makhorven (Villainous – NE)
Rumors that Makhorven has orcish blood in his lineage are true, and it explains his grim, bestial visage and complexion. Makhorven is a power even while imprisoned in the vast dungeon complex between the city of Hyrendan, for the Order of the Red Robes insures he remains carefully protected and fed, and his network of spies and agents functions throughout the land. The Emperor’s unwillingness to execute Makhorven is still a mystery to many (though there is an ugly rumor of some sort of familial relation) though just as many suspect that Makhorven’s followers would never allow his death to pass. Makhorven is allied with the cults of the chaos gods, but he plays by his own rules and for his own gain.
If you serve the Betrayer King: you work from the shadows, relying on physical force or magic as necessary to undo the empire from within. Though your liege suffered a great defeat, support is as strong as ever, just fluid like water so that the anvil of the empire cannot find you. You serve either the Black Circle, the Order of the Red Robes or the Divinate as an agent of chaos and change.

The Serpent – Saurpikan (Villanous – LE)
The Grant Imperator of the serpent men empire of Hazer-Phennis serves exclusively the will of the dark god Set and his devilish minions, who spread like a cancer throughout the underworld. The rumors that the serpent men walk among humans and elves in magical disguise to sew discord are likely entirely true.
If you serve The Serpent: few who do not have serpent blood serve The Serpent, but they exist. The Serpent is the emobodiment of his people and his vile god, who seeks to subjugate the world to his rule. Following the Serpent means betraying your people for a piece of that pie, or it means being one of the pureblooded, the humanoids who have a trace of ancient serpent ancestry within their veins.

The Great Gold Wyrm – Drakon Shaikor (Ambiguous – CG)
The great gold wyrm of this era is Drakon Shaikor, the most powerful of the gold dragons of the eastern clans. His influence is deep among dragonkind, and many say he has the ear of the Council of Wyrms itself, a secret society of the eldest dragons in the world who still remain free of the controlling machinations of the Wyrmlords. As may be expected, Shaikor and his allies revere Bahamut first and foremost.
If you serve the Great Gold Wyrm: dragons alone do not serve the Great Gold Wyrm. Wizened sages, sorcerers who envy the gold’s power, dragonborn who wish to ally themselves with the agents of Bahamut and others will readily offer fealty to the Great Gold Wyrm.

The Wyrmlords (The Three) – the elder dragons lords of the Dragon Mother’s Brood (Villanous – CE)
The Wyrmlords of the brood follow the Green Mother as they refer to her, a great chromatic beast to the north who dwells in the heart of the Northern Wilderness, giving birth to a new generation of the great dragonflight. The Green Mother’s Brood consists of her hand-picked finest brothers, sisters and those males who court the Green Mother. She sends them out to do her bidding. Rumors are that the Green Mother has determined to awaken the sleeping Tiamat to restore dragonkind to greatness once more.
If you serve the Wyrmlords: there are many dragonborn who ally themselves with the Wyrmlords, and as many other races who envy the power of the dragons who know how to use it. The Wyrlmords are crafty manipulators and they seed their dark interests throughout the Middle Kingdoms and beyond, but they need even craftier agents to carry out their agenda of dragon superiority.

The Prince of Shadows – Wormie Vellsoth (Ambiguous – CG)
The enigmatic guild master of the Black Lotus gang and avatar of the the god Hermes is the undisputed shadow prince of the Age of Strife era. Wormie as his friends call him (because his enemies are all dead, as he says) is a wood elf of roughly two centuries in age who has become the master of secret lore and information in the land, and his agents are tasked with gathering such esoteric knowledge to greater purpose. Despite his nature as a thief and grafter, Wormie uses his agents to further the interests of the pantheons of order and death over chaos; there is no profit in chaos.
If you serve the Prince of Shadows: you are one of the thieves, burglars, scoundrels and grifters of the world with a heart of gold, looking to your local thieve’s guild or possibly even THE thieve’s guild of the Prince of Shadows himself, the legendary Black Lotus Guild. From there you have earned enough trust and cred to find your services as a gatherer of information and protector of the civilized world to be useful to your liege.

The Assassin - Celiobantes Astiriate (Ambiguous – NE)
In many ways Celiobantes Astiriate is like Wormie, though the two are unrelated. Clawing his way up through the ranks of the Fire Knives, Celiobantes is a master of assassins and chief high priest of the assassin god Haro. Like the Black Lotus, the Fire Knives still commit to a dedication to order, albeit through murder as a tool of conflict resolution. The Fire Knives are usually regarded as agents of chaos by most…and they have been known to side with cultists of chaos, which their dark god is ostensibly one of, but true scholars of Haro know that the god considers himself above the petty cliques of the pantheons.
If you serve the Assassin: a few independent operators exist who worship Haro, but universally if you serve the Assassin then you belong to the Fire Knives. The Fire Knives are expansive, with tendrils stretching across two continents and even into the Planar Realms, conducting murder in the name of their vile god. So if you hold this icon as your liege, then you must of necessity be proficient at murder most foul.

The Priestess – The Sacrimori Setianne (Heroic – LG)
Setianne is the young, new high priestess of the Temple of Naril and the voice of all faith in the empire of Hyrkania. Setianne carries a great influence on the land, and is noted for her caring nature but her willingness to use the force of her two dedicated paladin orders (the Solarians and the Ebon Ankh) to enforce the will of Naril. She is singularly dedicated to stamping out all worship of the chaos gods.
If you serve the Priestess: you are a true champion of Naril and the empire, seeking to better humankind and his allies against the tide of chaos. You likely are a priest, scholar or advocate for the church, or a paladin or fighter who has taken up arms and joined the solarian knights. Inquisitors wield magic to root out evil and destroy the demons of chaos at the behest of the Priestess as well.

The Dwarf King – King Madragor, Iron King of the South (Heroic – LN)
Madragor is also a young king a dwarves go, for his father was slain during the War of Strife when the forces of the Black Tower invaded the Iron Mountain strongholds. Madragor has sworn an oath of allegiance to the Emperor, and there are stories of how Madragor adventured with the emperor many years ago. He also seems to be especially fond of the Elf Queen, though the favor is not returned. Madragor’s interests are in eliminating all threats to his people, though the Iron Dwarves of his land are friendlier to the human empire.
If you serve the Dwarf King: you look out for your sovereign allies, but the dwarves come first. From the Deep Company, dwarves who stand against the terrors of the lower depths, to the army of the Iron Fist, the greatest general in the mountains to serve the king you are all about dwarven superiority and the destruction of those races and faiths which stand against your people. If you are not a dwarf, you are a sympathizer or one who has become enamored with the dedicated passion of dwarvenkind and seek to aid them in any way you can.

More about the Icons
The world of Lingusia is too large to have just a baker ’s dozen icons…and as such, while some icons may cast a wide net of influence, many of them are localized to their region of the world. The icons of the east are another set entirely, and the icons of the north are an enigmatic lot who greatly dislike the icons of the Middle Kingdoms. Only a few tend to be universal….the Archmage and the Crusader are known across the world for their endless conflict, for example, as is the Great Gold Wyrm who seeks the unification of dragonkind against the machinations of the Wyrmlords, who manipulate the elder brood queen to produce more chromatic spawn.

Some icons of cosmic note are not present in this era. There is no orc king, for example, and the orcs are but beastly tribes serving whatever lord of chaos happens their way in this era; but the Betrayer King fits the role nicely, and happens to be a half-orc, too. The Prince of Shadows is the avatar Wormie Vellsoth, who has taken on the mantle unwittingly from the former icon Tanis of an older era. Wormie has much to contend with in the form of The Assassin, the Fire Knife Celiobantes Astiriate, who has risen to great power as the lord of the most formidable guild of assassins in the Middle Kingdoms, one which will one day come to be feared even by the gods themselves.

Friday, August 19, 2016

R.I.P. Magic World

In Ab Chaos #25 (the Chaosium newsletter) it was announced that Magic World has been officially put out to pasture. Chaosium will continue to sell the books it has, and PDFs, but that's it. This is nothing (so far as I recall) that we didn't already basically know, it's just mostly closure. The official reasons: they are a small crew focused on other things, Magic World was very niche (I am sure it was) and they don't want to do "generic" fantasy (which is a shame that MW is considered generic fantasy; ain't nothing else like it in the fantasy RPG genre). There is also the more general feeling I get that Chaosium content from 1984 to 2014 has been wiped off the map for all practical purposes, and all projects associated with former Chaosium folk no longer in the mix. Okay, fair must expect that the current crew will focus on what they are most interested in (and what is presumably most profitable).*

But there is good news for the all the MW fans out there: Chaosium is indicating that they are open to licensing for Magic World, for any fans interested. There are definitely a few hardcore fans out there who've produced some impressive online supplements (check out for examples such as the Big Damn Book of Monsters). Dustin Wright, unfortunately, is out of BRP entirely as of the last post I read from him over there so it seems unlikely we'll get any new content from the original author/compiler. It's also unclear to me if Chaosium would be open to a license in which someone produces an entirely new or revised rulebook (given they plan to continue selling the two books they did release in PDF, at least).

The other news in the email is that Mythic Iceland is nearing completion. I imagine this will sell well, both because many found it a great book, and also because this will be our first look at the new edition of the Runequest/BRP Essentials game system. I was never sufficiently excited by this setting to think of using it for gaming, but I am sure it somehow has it's place. It was, admittedly, one of the best sourcebooks for BRP to be released, so it's good to see it will continue to exist.

*And lets face it, Chaosium is practically the poster child for the cottage industry of gaming, where everything is already niche, so supporting a niche within a niche is just not a good idea. That Mythic Iceland really that much better of a seller than Magic World was?

Really Bad Movies: Oasis of the Zombies (1981)

It's back! After a long absence, I have new horror movie reviews on the way....focused like a lightning rod once more on The Really Awful Horror Movie!!!

Sit back and feast upon the corpse of many a film from yesteryear, oh doomed reader....starting with this maddeningly weird and pointless gem...

Oasis of the Zombies (1981...or maybe 1982)

I found this French zombie movie on a 12-pack of films titled "12 Film Flesh Fest: Zombies Unbrained," and picked Oasis of the Zombies to start with completely at random. The film quality was deplorable, with that "copied from a cam focused on an old TV" sort of resolution and jigginess to it. Despite--or perhaps because of--this poor quality the film actually seemed to benefit from it a bit. The box set says it's a 1981 film but wikipedia says it's from 1982.

The story tells three loose tales: after a scene in which two gals in short-shorts visit some desert oasis and get eaten by zombies, the film leads in to a fellow discovering the story of his dad in WWII. This is the first "coherent" narrative of a British soldier and his men who face off during WWII with a vile company of German soldiers in the desert known for their mercilessness. After some brief but fun shots of surplus WWII vehicles there's a classic 80's style gunfight at a remote desert oasis in which everyone dies. The sole surviving commander of the British forces is rescued by a local sheikh in the desert and hauled off for a speedy recovery, followed by a swift relationship with the lovely Ayesha who's exact relationship to the sheikh is  a bit suspect. He leaves her and comes back two years later to find out she is dead, the sheikh and his palace mysteriously ruined, and he has a lone infant son.

There's also the story of this gruff murderous treasure hunter who, along with a random menagerie of cohorts steals off decades later to find this oasis due to a rumor that the dead nazis at the location were hiding gold there before the British got the drop on them. He and his crew spend the night at the oasis and are promptly murdered by zombies. Only the treasure hunter escapes, long enough to arrive in a nearby city where he goes mad from a zombie bite.

The principle story tying the other two together is the son of the British officer, who now seeks to claim that lost gold for his own, something he gleaned from his father's own writings. So in classic 1981 style he, some chummy friends and a hot girl in shorts with a penchant for taking off her shirt all head off to Saudi Arabia to find the oasis. Naturally they arrive, have some weird encounters in the nearby city, then skip on off to the oasis where sure enough at sundown the zombies come out and try to devour most of them. THE END.

So I can't say it's completely pointless. They had a plot, just not a lot of "surprise" to it. For the limited special effects the zombie heads were kind of neat...

...but admittedly, watching a bad, grainy copy made that zombie look much cooler than he probably would have in HD. Still, someone took the time to liberally sprinkle worms on every zombie face, and they blend the use of the masks with the actual guys staggering around well enough to evoke that unique, creepy atmosphere typical of horror films from the period.

The acting in the film is (shockingly) a slight improvement over other typical films in the genre from that period, but this is sort of like comparing two rotten fruits and pointing out how one has mold and the other doesn't.

The music was a four note synthesizer. It "worked" in the sense that it fit the era of this sort of film, but it was tedious by any stretch of the imagination otherwise.

So, as the kick-off to the Return of 31 Days of Horror I will give Oasis of the Zombies a solid D+ (the plus being for the cool zombie heads, and the modicum of effort at depicting the oasis shootout during WWII). It does feel to me like one of those oddball films which sprang out of some unlikely combination of circumstances; one guy had access to surplus WWII vehicles, another guy had been making paper mache zombie heads, and a third guy really wanted an excuse to get some actress naked in a eurosleaze film. but then, so many of the films from this period actually are kind of slapdash and sleazy like that, so there you go...


Monday, August 15, 2016

Lingusia: The Age of Strife - The Fire Knives of Octzel for 13th Age

Fire Knives
Group Alignment: Neutral Evil
Leader: Shadulos Elas Boron
Headquarters: An anonymous guild hall in the Guild District
   The Fire Knives are an international organization of illuminated conspirators who have supporters within Hyrkania, Octzel, and Jhakn. Rumors indicate that there are even members operating within the empires of Persedonia and Galvonar to the south, and maybe even as far east as Cretea and Namintha. The Fire Knives are a vicious predatory political organization, motivated less by religious or moral principles than they are by political gain, despite their origins as a cult to Haro, the god of murder. The mysterious Council of Thirteen are a secret council of dissident political radicals from across the Middle Kingdoms who work together to maintain long distance ties and support. Their agendas are many and varied. Some employ magical prowess which is often learned from the Cabal of Southern Hyrkania, while others practice bastard magic, culled from the books of Blue Robes and Geomancers who dared to cross their path. Most members of the guild are common men and kindred folk who rely on stealth and swift assassination to accomplish their nefarious deeds.
   At its roots, the guild looks like some sort of thug-enforcer type of thieves’ guild that seems to have little obvious direct connection to their actions. In some cities, such as Octzel, their movements are silent and unobserved by most people. In Krythia, they wear their shield of stars surrounded by a weapons symbol proudly, and are believed to be a mercenary's guild by most people. In Jhakn the existence of the Fire Knives is unknown, as their movements are so carefully concealed and hidden that not even close allies know who they are dealing with.
   In Octzel, the Fire Knives have few allies and many enemies, often coming to blows with rival organizations and guilds. Of the many thieves and mercenaries guilds in Octzel only the Order of the Blade maintains neutral relations, and is willing to hire out sellswords to the Fire Knives for any unsavory deeds.
   The Fire Knives have the primary support of three Barons, and possibly other nobles, in Octzel. House Boron, House Killaman, and House Agrapor are the primary backers. House Boron, of the Merchant Lord Shadulos Elas Boron, and his wicked daughter Teylayurana Sorinos are the most dangerous members. Hallergan Blacknails is an infamous orc assassin of the order.
   Beside the illegal and secretive activities which likely take place in the shadowed chambers of the manors of each noble house, the Fire Knives own property through indirect channels throughout the city. They own a trade and import shop in the Marketplace which leads to a secret meeting place. They own a Guild Hall that is rented out regularly, except on dark, moonless nights when they convene for a recap of their actions. They own warehouses by the docks, where imports of special relation are often kept, or where bodies can safely be dumped. Members of the Fire Knives learn as much as they can about the back alleys, secret passages, sewers, and catacombs beneath the streets of Octzel.
   Some would say that the Fire Knives go beyond being a society of political assassination and into the realm of a secret society for the sake of secretiveness. Much of this is due to the fact that the three barons behind the house lack the backing or funds of a major political interest, and it is believed that none of them belong to the Thirteen. Yet, since some claim that Fire Knives in Hyrkania, such as Dame Magna Mordent, say that there is a member of the Thirteen in Octzel, then who is he or she, and what are they planning?

Icon Option: The Thirteen
   The Thirteen are an entity and an icon unto itself, operating in utter secrecy throughout the Middle Kingdoms and the East to further its diabolical ends, using assassination, slavery, and the sale of opiates (especially of the blue and black lotus) to manipulate the political currents of the realms.
   An agent, follower or servant of the Thirteen is likely to be a lower order member of the Fire Knives, but someone could also have a conflicted relationship if they revere the god Haro, or are independent assassins, and an adversarial relationship could stem from any number of cases where one would see cause to oppose the actions of a murderous guild-cult.

Shadulos Elas Boron
   The guild master of Fire Knife operations in Octzel, Boron is a local merchantman with family ties back to Hyrkania. His rise to power on the surface appears to be one of a shrewd businessman, but behind the scenes he is suspected of being ranked as one of the Thirteen, relying on the bloody death that his guild can heap upon those who stand in his way to further his ambitions.
   Boron has locked down the city for the Fire Knives, eliminating most other rival guilds, and now schemes to find ways to dislodge the Black Lotus and the Guild of the Spheres.
Level 6 Human fighter-Skirmisher, NE
Initiative +13                     
AC 22 MD 17 PD 19 HP 92
Melee Rapier Strike +12 vs. AC; 21 damage and on an attack roll of 16+ the target is disarmed.
Ranged Poisoned Daggers +12 vs. AC short range; 11 damage and on an even roll make a second attack (up to 6); for each attack roll secondary strike: +11 vs. PD or target is paralyzed (16+ save ends). If the poison attack gets a natural 20 the target takes 20 additional damage due to debilitating paralytic effects.
Disarming Personality +11 vs. MD; on a failure the target is confused by Shadulos’s charm and wiles and is treated as charmed (16+ save ends). Shadulos has subjected his very body to complex rituals to allow for unnatural magical guile.
Entourage Shadulos rarely travels alone. For each round roll 1D6 and compare to the escalation die; if equal to or lower 1D6 fire knife thugs arrive to aid him; on Escalation Die 6 a fire knife master assassin arrives.

Teylayurana Sorinos
   The bastard daughter of Shadulos Elas Boron, Teylayurana has worked her way up the ranks in the Fire Knives to become the premiere assassin in Octzel. She is ruthless and efficient, though regarded as unstable by those who have seen her succumb on occasion to a bloodlust driven by her madness. Some believe that when she experiences these “episodes” she is actually channeling the spirit of Haro himself; no one knows for sure, but her skill has nonetheless attracted the attention of Celiobantes Astiriate in the east, and within the guild it is rumored the two have had relations.
   About two years earlier Teylayurana also traveled with the adventurer Cassius Augustus and was lured into a war between the Fire Knives and the Guild of the Spheres. This conflict led to ongoing enmity between the two guilds.
Level 7 Human rogue-offensive, CN
Initiative +14                     
AC 23 MD 16 PD 22 HP 112
Melee Twin-Dagger Strike +12 vs AC; 22 damage and on an even roll add blue lotus poison; may pop free after the attack and use stealth.
Ranged Hand Crossbows +12 vs. AC; 20 damage and on an even roll add blue lotus poison.
Blue Lotus Poison +11 vs. PD; target suffers hallucinations from Blue Lotus poison (target is confused, save ends)
Sneak Attack If attacking a foe engaged with more or more allies Teylayurana deals an additional 20 damage on a successful hit.
Stealthy Teylayurana starts any given round stealthed in which she has popped free or was not seen (i.e. surprise round). She is DC 22 perception (wisdom) check to detect.

Hallergan Blacknails
   Hallergan Blacknails is Shadulos Boron’s right-hand man. He is an accomplished mage, a tough fighter, and a tricky devil. Hallergan is approaching middle years, but has worked hard to keep a lean figure, and avoid the bloatedness so characteristic older male orcs. His snout is stubbier than usual, perhaps due to some forgotten human blood in his ancestry, and he will often pass without question in the city streets if he wears heavy robes like a priest. He is a master tactician when it comes to weaving his magic, and he can bring down some rather impressive foes with little difficulty.
Level 8 Orc fighter-warlock (brute), CE
Initiative +11                     
AC 24 MD 19 PD 21 HP 150
Melee Great Axe +13 vs. AC; 38 damage.
Ranged Spectral Syphon +12 vs. MD short range 1 target; 22 psychic damage but the target is subject to a new attack every round thereafter as a free action until the MD is missed or target drops to 0 HP. For each round the target takes damage Hallergan gains +1 (cumulative) to his MD. This terrifying warlock power drains spirit energy from the target and does not stop until forcibly interrupted or the target succumbs.
Invisibility Hallergan may start any round invisible as a free action if the Escalation Die is even. This simple spell trick provides him an extra advantage, as he can quickly disguise himself for a quick surprise attack, or make a quick escape.
Shimmering Nightmares (recharge 6) +12 vs. MD vs. one nearby target; 40 psychic damage and the target is confused. This vile warlock spell targets one person, dragging their mind into a nightmarish realm of the dreamlands of Ethenur where the dream devils reign supreme, striking and ripping at the target. Target continues to take 40 damage and is confused until save ends.

Fire Knife Thugs (mook)
Level 3 Human (Skirmisher)
Initiative +6                       
AC 19 MD 13 PD 17 HP 12
Melee Daggers +8 vs. AC; 4 damage; on a 16+ apply blue lotus poison.
Ranged Crossbow +8 vs. AC; 4 damage; on a 16+ apply blue lotus poison.
Blue Lotus Poison +8 vs. PD; target suffers hallucinations from Blue Lotus poison (target is confused, save ends)
Sneak Attack fire knife thugs deal 4 additional damage if the foe is engaged with one or more allies.

Fire Knife Agent
Level 3 Human (Lurker)
Initiative +6                       
AC 19 MD 13 PD 17 HP 45
Melee Daggers +8 vs. AC; 8 damage; on a 16+ apply blue lotus poison.
Ranged Crossbow +8 vs. AC; 8 damage; on a 16+ apply blue lotus poison.
Blue Lotus Poison +8 vs. PD; target suffers hallucinations from Blue Lotus poison (target is confused, save ends)
Sneak Attack fire knife thugs deal 8 additional damage if the foe is engaged with one or more allies.

Fire Knife Master Assassin
Level 6 Human (Lurker)
Initiative +9                       
AC 22 MD 16 PD 20 HP 90
Melee Daggers +11 vs. AC; 18 damage; on a 16+ apply black lotus poison.
Ranged Crossbow +11 vs. AC; 18 damage; on a 16+ apply black lotus poison.
Black Lotus Poison +11 vs. PD; target suffers total system shutdown from black lotus poison (target drops to 0 HP)
Sneak Attack fire knife thugs deal 18 additional damage if the foe is engaged with one or more allies.
Smoke Bombs on an even escalation die the master assassin can drop a smoke bomb for a fast escape. DC 20 perception (wisdom) check to spot him before he gets away!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Lingusia-The Age of Strife: The Lord of the North Sea Pirates for 13th Age

Lord of the North Sea Pirates
Group Alignment: neutral evil
Leader: Captain Draskos
Headquarters: Draskos sails on the “Merry Dog,” a great galleon armed with dwarven cannonshot.

   The so-called North Sea Pirates are actually an informal coalition of senior captains and scurvy dogs of vile repute, who earned their fame and fortune by plundering the sea lanes of the Middle Kingdoms, either for the realms, or against. There are believed to be two dozen such captains, all in league with one another in their solemn “code of the north.” They recognize one among them, Abelman Draskos, as their nominal leader.

   In the region of Octzel the North Sea Pirates have a special relationship, for over two-thirds of their lineage descend from the kingdom and still recognize it as their nominal homeland. Furthermore, many of them, such as Captain Draskos, have sworn fealty to the kingdom and pursue treacherous piracy in Hyrkanian of Jhaknian seas on behalf of Octzel as privateers. As a result, it is very likely that roving adventurers who get involved with famous, independent-minded captains might in fact be dealing with members of the North Sea Pirates.
   When meeting a pirate, especially in the North Sea (along the northwest coast of Autrengard and the Northern Wilderness) or the Baldaric Sea (from Hyrkania’s shores to Zarn and Hettanar) there is a reasonable (20%) chance he or she swears fealty to this order of salty northern sea dogs.

Captain Abelman Draskos (Human Level 7 rogue, NE). Draskos is a scurvy dog, a worshipper of Set and Haro, and consorts with the Black Society (through he, in fact, is not in any known way supernatural). He is a principal supplier of the Pirate Coves in the Northern wilderness coastlands, and knows more about the coasts of the northern Baldaric and Endless Ocean on up to Autrengard than anyone. He is a daring, chivalrous sort of fellow, until you get to know him real well or find yourself on the opposite side of a conflict. Spend too much time with him and you will see a drunken madman armed with dwarven pistols and explosives.
   Draskos maintains a manor house and small amount of land in which his wife, Lady Estrela
Huvirian-Draskos resides (Human Level 7 sorceress, CE), just north of capitol Octzel. She was a famous pirate who wooed him into marriage and retired after a conflict with Hyrkanian bounty hunters left her crippled. Her reputation preceded her, and the Curatorium of Hella refused aid. She is a minor practitioner of divination and necromancy through the worship of Set.

Captain Abelman Draskos
Level 7 human (offensive skirmisher)
Initiative +14
AC 23 MD 17 PD 21 HP 230
Melee Cutlass +12 vs. AC; 30 damage and on a 16+ on the attack die Draskos can force the target to make a DC 20 Dexterity check or fall prone.
Ranged Brace of Pistols +13 vs. AC; 25 damage; on even attack Draskos makes a second pistol attack.
Explosives +11 vs. PD of targets nearby (close range); each target sustains 30 damage and is knocked prone on a 16+ attack roll.
Entourage Abelman is rarely alone, and usually accompanied by at least half a dozen sea dogs of level 5, or more.

Lady Estrela Huvirian-Draskos
Level 7 human sorceress (defensive damager)
Initiative +13
AC 22 MD 22 PD 16 HP 200
Melee Burning Claw +13 vs. PD; 50 necrotic damage and on a 16+ the target is weakened, taking -4 on further MD attacks (11+ save ends); while weakened Estrela gains +2 to her MD.
Shield of Wolves On escalation die 2+ Estrela can summon a horde of spirit wolves to surround her in an ectoplasmic field of force. It has MD and PD 17 and can absorb up to 300 points of magical damage before collapsing. Once collapsed she must rest before summoning it again.
Aura Horde of Hummingbirds anyone entering or starting their turn in the aura of a horde of fiendish ghost hummingbirds is subject to a +13 vs. MD attack or they take 30 psychic damage and are teleported 30 feet up in to the air as the hummingbirds lift them away. Falling damage would be 17 from that height.
Divination Estrela can perform complex rituals to divine an aspect of fortune or love in the near future. In combat, any time she rolls a 2 on a D20, Estrela can grant an ally a +2 luck bonus to the next D20 roll if they are within hearing range of her.

Plot Hooks:
1.      Draskos and several allies have found a passage through the western expanse of the Endless Ocean to the distant isles of Mataclan. They have heard the stories of these western lands across the sea, and now that the endless storms of the god Ravanos have revealed a safe passage he wants to find hardy souls to engage in distant plunder.
2.      Draskos and his wife Estrela are in trouble. A Hyrkanian pirate hunter piloted by Captain Aldros Daremak is seeking them out, and he has conspired with assassins of the Order of the White Spear, a cult from Jhakn, to hunt the pirate and his wife down at their estates. The Fire Knives, who are the cult of the Order of the gof of Murder (Haro) have gotten wind of this…they feel they cannot oppose their southern kin, but loyalists to Draskos hire the PCs to intervene on their behalf and stop the White Spears.

3.      Draskos has many hidden treasures on the northern coast. Recently a thief broke in to his cabin on the Salty Dog and stole his chest containing the maps and clues to several of his hidden treasure spots. He may approach the PCs, if they have a reputation for such (and honor to match) to seek out the thief and return his box of maps. Alternatively, the thief will seek them out and offer to sell it, realizing that the potential gain of such treasure is outweighed by the Lord of the North Sea Pirates desiring his immediate death…

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Localizing the Icons in 13th Age

While digging in to 13th Age for a new campaign I ran into the weird wall I call "figuring out how to make the Icons fit." The cool thing about 13th Age is both a blessing and a curse: the game can survive without icons, but it loses something important in its feel and style. But if you embrace the icons, then you must either work within the norms and setting 13th Age provides, or do a bit of work figuring out how they fit in your own world. The game certainly encourages this "make it your own" approach but doesn't offer too many guidelines on how to do it.

If you're not big on world building, the icons are a convenient way of saying "here's 12 important figures that are epically...almost mythically...relevant to the "today" of my setting." But if you already have a world? Then you need to figure out where they fit....or even make new icons to reflect the personalities of your world that don't mesh well with the default icons.

The second problem with the icons is just how to moderate the relationships with the PCs. A lot has been discussed about how to do this, with different styles and themes. What I've gotten out of all of it is the following salient points:

1. No matter how you dice it, the PCs need a chance to roll 3 dice that are tied to something in the setting, letting them get perks (6s) or perks with complications (5s). These are directly equivalent to plot cards/points or other gimmicks that give the PCs a shot at gaining an edge in the coming story.

2. Those three rolls need to have some character. The 13th Age game defines that character as the icon relationships.

With those two elements in mind, it sounds reasonable enough.....but in truth, having no less than 12 major icons players can have positive, negative or conflicted relationships with means the GM might accidentally spend a lot of time juggling unexpected improvisational plot situations with the PCs, and it is often easy to get caught up in some fairly "big" assumptions about those plots (such as the lich king himself taking a personal interest in something when maybe a lowly minion might suffice).

So how to arbitrate this stuff? The various 13th Age tomes offer suggestions and advice, much of which includes ways to think of the hierarchy of the icon's followers and resources and how they might trickle down to the PCs. Don't think of it as a "6" with the Prince of Shadows...think of it as a "6" which gets you a foot in the door of the local thieve's guild that belongs to the parent guild that is a part of the Prince's global network. Or something.

But if you want to parse it out like that, it occurred to me that the icon relationships could, themselves, be subverted. PCs could, in fact, apply those iconic relationships more....locally.

For example, rather than me defining 12 all-powerful icons throughout the known world, what if I figured out who the local movers and shakers were? What if the icons were, instead, the major local powers that have a vested interest in the goings-on of local events, and the PCs were potentially more direct agents, or held closer relations?

In a case like this, say, in my Ages of Lingusia campaign I could make the Icon choices for the City of Octzel Campaign the King and Queen of Octzel, their Vizier, the scheming leader of the Black Society, The lord of the Geomancers and other local figures of prominence. The PCs pick their relations in these icons...these patrons, if you will....and can cash in "realistic" favors on their 5's and 6's. This allows for a more "local" tale which uses the icon relationship dice and even the icons, but by scaling them down to a more "local" level.

Such a method even allows the icons to be introduced at a later date. If the King of Octzel is revealed to secretly served the Archmage, and the agent of the Black Society is really a minion of the Diabolist, then this lets you "escalate" the campaign at later levels, peeling back layers of connectivity and expanding the PCs relationships to the real icons.

This might sound like more work....but to me it feels like a way to make heroic campaigns more "local" and letting the more awe-inspiring, continent-encompassing machinations of the icons become more prominent at later epic tiers.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Converting AS&SH's Rats in the Walls to 13th Age

Rats in the Walls for 13th Age

In thinking about ways to use the modules for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea I realized I could—assuming that my group won’t experiment with a cool OSR ruleset—just convert the modules to some other system that holds everyone’s interest. 13th Age has been bandied about, so hey, why not?

Rats in the Walls is a short introductory module published by North Wind Adventures. You can get it here, The details below provide specific necessary mechanical conversions of monsters to 13th Age to run the module for a party of 4-5 level 1 PCs.

Alternatively, this provides a range of entertaining giant and possessed rat stats for any old low-level 13th Age game you'd like to drop them in!

Kiloplo Vheez
Level  2 Caster [humanoid-hyperborean]
Initiative +4
AC 18; PD 13; MD 15; HP 36
Battle Axe +7  vs. AC ; 9 damage
Burning Hands +6 vs. PD (all adjacent and engaged foes); 7 fire damage
Sleep  +7 vs. MD (up to 75 HP of nearby enemies targeted); target falls unconscious (Save 16+ ends)
Web +7 vs. PD (up to 3 nearby targets); each target is immobilized (save 16+ ends)

Giant Rat Mooks
Level  0 Vermin [animal]
Initiative +5
AC 16; PD 14; MD 10; HP 5
Filthy Gnawing Attack +5  vs. AC ; 3 damage; on 16+ target must make a save vs. disease (save 11+) or succumb to wasting disease; each day make a new save; two saves and the PC recovers. Four failures and the PC dies of the disease; take a cumulative -1 modifier to attacks and skill checks for each failure).

Big Boss Rat
Level  1 Vermin [animal]
Initiative +5
AC 17; PD 15; MD 11; HP 27

Filthy Gnawing Attack +6  vs. AC ; 5 damage; on 16+ target must make a save vs. disease (save 11+) or succumb to wasting disease; each day make a new save; two saves and the PC recovers. Four failures and the PC dies of the disease; take a cumulative -1 modifier to attacks and skill checks for each failure).

Daemon Rat
Level 3 Vermin [fiend]
Initiative +6
AC 19; PD 17; MD 16; HP 95
Disease-Ridden Bite +8 vs. AC; 21 damage; on 16+ target must make a save vs. disease (save 15+) or succumb to wasting disease; each day make a new save; two saves and the PC recovers. Four failures and the PC dies of the disease; take a cumulative -1 modifier to attacks and skill checks for each failure).
Rat Summoning Each round roll a D6. If you roll equal to or under the Escalation Die number then 1D6 giant rat mooks arrive to assist the daemon rat.

Other Notes on converting the module:

Skeleton Halberdiers
Use the Skeleton Warriors from 13th Age, but one of them has a +1 Halberd (large weapon that deals 7 damage).

Magic items Notes
Most magic items in the module can be used as-is (such as the potion of healing and potion of cure disease). A potion of invisibility grants the imbiber invisibility for 1 hour, but he is revealed the moment he attacks or casts a spell.

Difficulty Class Notes:
Anytime an extraordinary feat of strength or other action is called for, the GM can assume a DC 15 for the challenge to succeed. It is suggested that to stick to old school tradition that the GM grant a win in cases where keen investigation/observation on the part of the PCs would reveal secrets and clues without needing a roll.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Pathfinder Minimalism

The new pocket editions of Pathfinder have me thinking about how I might approach a return to Pathfinder for a future campaign. The simplest and most productive means of returning to Pathfinder (as I see it) is to apply minimalist philosophy to the process. For me, that means figuring out precisely what books are necessary to the list would look like this:

Core rulebook
Bestiary I
Bestiary II (it has the cool planar stuff)
Bestiary III (it has the cool non-western monsters that I used heavily)
...and maybe the Gamemastery Guide (for general GM utility)

And that would be it. Although....I'd be tempted to check out the new Horror Adventures book, too. But that's the Pathfinder trap! There's always one more book worth looking at.

My players might fret over an absence of the Advanced Player's Guide or Complete Magic and Complete Combat books, but honestly, if there's something in there that really needs to be at the table for some reason I can look it up on the OGL site.

Books I would absolutely exclude because they change the fundamental focus of the game or move away from the clean path of a "one core book to rule it all" approach: all of the Ultimate books, the Pathfinder Complete books, every single splatbook ever, the Mythic Adventures book, anything 3rd party Psionics related.....none of that is essential or (at this point) even desirable for a more focused core book style campaign.

Pathfinder Pocket Editions??!?!?

So, a weird thing happened this morning: I was thinking fondly of my Pathfinder days, and how it would be fun to run a campaign again in the near future. Wow! Yeah....not exactly typical of my feelings in the last couple years, but I suspect I have my reasons for why Pathfinder suddenly feels more appealing again to me (not a lack of enjoyment in D&D, but lets just say that sometimes external factors can have an impact on one's enjoyment, and maybe one day you wake up and realize that all of those external factors no longer apply).

So I am reading up on Starfinder and thinking about how this could be cool when I stumble across this and this. Pocket Editions of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook and Bestiary. Cheap, portable versions of the core I hope they come with a free magnifying glass so older gamers can read them!!!

Anyway, I've got copies on the way and will let you know what they look like once they arrive...