Saturday, June 6, 2015

Superheroes: Year One


Despite my posts about the end of the world, I've actually been running FASERIP/Marvel Superheroes for a few weeks now.  I've been missing making hexmaps and figuring out what ruins go where and whatever, which is why I was thinking about those other ideas, but I'm having a lot of fun running a supers game.  This is the first time I've ever been able to get one to go for more than one session, mostly because my players seem into it.  I'm still trying to find my sea legs with it, but I think it's going well.

I originally wanted it to be kind of a sandbox-y affair but that ended up being untenable in part because of the nature of the genre and in part because my players wanted to start sooner than I could get one prepped.  What we've been doing instead is a thing that I think is a fairly common practice on G+ where I throw out somewhere around three different hooks and they pick one to pursue.  Most of the first few sessions were them trailing after Mysterio (report on that shortly), but the other threads were open if they wanted them.

This pitch is not based on what I am running.  Instead it's based on something that came up in a conversation I had with Cole.  The premise is that it is the first year that anyone in the world has been a superhero, your PCs are those first superheroes, and you are in the most crime ridden city in the US.  For this idea to work, you probably need something within the power-scale of Robert's Marvel '78 houserules.  My gut says that you should try to stick to "basically a tough human but with fancy gadgets," but seeing the players try to figure out how to turn any situation into one where their powers are useful is part of the fun of the game.*

However it's not really who the characters are that makes this idea interesting but the structure.  It is, to borrow Zak's parlance, an anti-sandbox.  The city needs to be so crime ridden that the upright heroes are fighting an uphill battle.  The cops either "don't go" into certain districts or are so corrupt that they implicitly or actively support the criminal activities of the various crime lords.  Crime lords that, at the start, are of the more mundane variety.

I hope to be able to go into this more at length in a future post, but here are the basics of how you set up your anti-sandbox:  First you divide the city into districts and give each one (or groups of them) to various crime lords.  You don't want too many that the prep becomes overwhelming but you also don't want to have all the power in the hands of a single figure.  Even Kingpin had to tangle with the Maggia.  Next you create some rackets the crime lords are running.  In the end you're going to want the rackets to be in a kind of onion-skin pattern, with hints in each leading to some deeper secret, but all you really need to design at the beginning are the outer layers for each crook.

PCs get hints about these rackets from their contacts, friends, or just from beating up some thug they know to be associated with the appropriate gang.  As they bust up the various rackets eventually one or more of the crime lords will collapse.  That's when the game enters Year Two.  The costumed antics of the PCs inspire villainous NPCs who become supervillains, replacing the structured organized crime of the crime lords with madness and pumpkin bombs.  Eventually the threats might become even greater - requiring the PCs to enter Subterranea or travel to the Savage Land or to outer space or whatever.

This structure has some quirks to it.  The main one is that it turns from an anti-sandbox where the players are making their decisions to a more typical supers game where the heroes are reacting to crimes.  This might be a bad thing or it might not be depending on what you think of typical supers games.  Layered within that is a more positive element, I think, which is that the game has a more obvious sense of advancement.  You have kinda three tiers - crime lords, supervillains, cosmic threats - and advancing through them is not something one normally sees in a supers game.

The biggest negative I can see is that it's hard to integrate pre-existing heroes into this scheme.  For one thing, I can't really think of a Year One type thing that involves a team.  I guess you can do the Bat Family, but even then Robin and Bat Girl are pretty clearly aspects of a post-Year One Batman. Some of you may not see a problem here, but I've found running a game for people playing pre-existing heroes extremely fun, in no small part because they roleplay more than I've ever seen in any other game.**  Also, superheroes are kind of silly.  I think they're silly in a wonderful way, but making something intentionally silly is a good way to tell your players "this setting doesn't matter."  Picking Moon Knight or whoever alleviates this somewhat because the character is taken seriously in the comics even if the things he's doing are inherently silly in a real world context.  

A smaller negative would be the lack of enemy variety within a tier.  You'd spend a good chunk of your early career not fighting a guy in a costume.  That's kinda lame.  However, I think the progression from tier to tier will help alleviate that somewhat.  Plus, Marvel Characters don't swing as wildly in power over time as D&D ones due, so you can always try to punch above or below your weight class.



* That is a post all on its own I plan to do semi-soon.
**Post on this coming later too.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Unfocused Thoughts on the End of the World

So I saw Fury Road and we're about twelve hours away from a Fallout related announcement and I have two post-apocalyptic campaign ideas kind floating around my head and I want to flesh them out a little.  I always find these kinds of posts are good for doing that.

Instead of doing two separate posts, I decided to juxtapose the two because it's unlikely I would run both.  The first idea is one I've had in my head since college, and one I've mentioned vaguely on this blog before.  I recently found a download for wilderness mapper, which is what I used to make the map back in college, and it got me all nostalgic.  Both of these maps were made with that program.

  • Game takes place in the Tennessee River Valley and possibly the neighboring areas because I obviously mapped them out, but they're worse off because...
  • The apocalypse (Pox Eclipse) was caused by a number of factors (probably) that have lead to an extreme level of pollution.  The valley was somewhat protected from it, whereas the flatter areas of the united states are toxic wastelands.
  • In addition to the normal radiation/glow-cloud hazards normally found in such games players will have to deal with acid rain and acid snow.  The weather charts are gonna be rough.
  • The general biome is kind of like Gobi-style cold desert with the chemically reserved remains of dead trees.  Visually kinda like the Road I guess, but slightly more in the future.
  • Basic settlement types - normal people trying to get by in like a trade town,  descendents of survivalists who group together in roving bands of raiders, bunkers filled with now like albino-troglodyte descendents of rich people and government officials, and mormons.
  • Players are 3rd or 4th generation apocalypse survivors.  Some really really old guy in the village was a kid when people had iphones and roads and stuff.
  • No cars.  Everyone rides 'orses, which are like our horses but skinnier and with a weirdly squamous hide.  They also raise Big Pigs which are similarly squamous... big pigs.  Like Hogzilla big.
  • Mutated animals, humans, raiders, and the occasional robot will be the kinds of things you fight.  The mutants will have certain types or species with very similar characteristics, which might make them less mutant-y but it allows me to use the X-com Method.
  • The ruins of Knoxville might be a ruin crawl.  They also house the largest settlement int he area.  It's called Utuka (Oo-tuh-kuh).
  • There's a group of raiders with a big fort in the mountains called Warburg.
  • Dungeon types are old science installations, military compounds, survivalist caches, fall out shelters or vaults, and old monuments in the cities.
  • Tech and ammo is unrealistically preserved and mutants unrealistically evolved because those are the genre conventions and I like them.
  • One of the ruins on the above map (in the extreme south) is Talladega, which will either be a big Thunderdome for the few people left int he wastes or the only place where there are still cars.
  • To do a thing I first did on G+ it's these guys in this place fighting these things.
Ok now for my second idea.  This one is easier for me to do because it is closer to Mutant Future and thus I don't have to do any work modifying a system or something.  It is called Mutassippi.



  • Gamma World or Mutant Future levels of far in the future, coastline has changed,  technology was more advanced pre-fall, etc.
  • Party is based out of Hadesburg, the Mutant Future version of my home town of Hattiesburg.
  • Most humans are mutants but more of the Futurama variety, with like a third arm coming out of their back or no ears or something simple like that.  If you're playing a mutant it is because that mutants mutations are extreme.
  • The islands that make up what was once Mississippi and Louisiana are hotter than their modern counterparts, which accounts for all the "jungle."  A lot of said jungle is still like cypress trees and hanging moss though for aesthetic reasons.
  • Dzhakson is the ruin crawl in this one.
  • Northern Mutassippi is dominated (as much as anything in Mutassippi can be dominated) by the Brotherhood of Man.  They're mutated humans that think they are the actual pure strain of humanity and they hunt pure strain humans and subjugate other mutants.
  • Dungeons include some of the things mentioned in the Tennessee writeup but also can include more fanciful facilities like spaceports and cloning facilities.
  • There is an assumption in this setting that before the fall more people moved to Mississippi because of its abundance of water.
  • I may or may not mandate that all mutant animals be reptiles or amphibians of some nature.  I guess I also like the idea of mutant opossums.
  • This setting also gets buzzed by flying saucers and may have a saucer-men colony on it.
  • I'm going to make some single shot firearms available to starting PCs and they will clearly be of the Planet of the Apes variety
  • This guy in this place fighting this thing.

Demon Princes of Nightwick: Armadeus


Before I begin my discussion of the Great King of Hell known to mortals as Armadeus, it is important that I establish the nature of such creatures.  As creatures of the Law, Men feel the innate urge to categorize things.  As beings of chaos the demons of the Pit defy categorization.  However, it is part of Armadeus's trickery that he mimics the Law.  He is a divider, but his divisions are false.  He is a shepherd but he places wolves among the sheep.  He is a ruler but he walks unseen among his subjects.  His madness is subtle, but be wary of thinking one can understand him, for false understanding is his purview.  To know him is to be ruled by him.

It is said that Armadeus commands sixty-six legions of Demons commanded by the Twenty-two Dukes.  He sends these on great campaigns of lies and deceit in the World.  Their weapons are promises unfulfilled  and sorrow and ruin.  It is said that he was the first to silence of the Holy Thrum of God within men and spread the languages among them so they could no longer understand the true meaning of the law.  In the Realm of Man it is said he first divided the nations, but the clergy of Karse and the Iron Kingdoms resent this idea for obvious reasons.

It seems that the Emperor of Lies has difficulty manifesting in the World, which might explain his reliance on his lieutenants.  When he is summoned he appears as a shadowy figure in a great cloak wearing a great helm or crown of bronze.  His eyes appear as spots of light in a color that does not normally exist in the spectrum of colors created by light in the World.  Its closest Worldly equivalent is mauve.

His pacts are sealed with the taking of the supplicants eye.  Is crown and helmet are "studded" with these eyes and it is said that he can use them to see anything his supplicants can see.  Texts are divided on whether or not he replaces the eye, covers it with a patch of skin, or leaves only a festering hole that refuses to heal.

Unlike the Horned One who makes his cults among women and the downtrodden, the Master of Hate seeks out individuals of noble bearing and ambition.  He is particularly fond of seducing members of the Church, for he knows they all too often wish to wield the temporal sword more than the spiritual.  Princes too know his whispered promises and he offers them cups full of bile which turn them with spite against their own race.  This is not to say that he ignores paupers, for he knows that they can be turned to his purposes with the same lies and promises of power.  Armadeus knows that in Men's hearts are filled with envy for their fellow man.  He knows because he put it there.

When his supplicants organize themselves into cults they are known to wear hooded robes bearing the symbol of an shining eye.  Often this means that the eye is wreathed in flame, but more commonly it is depicted as being inside a pyramid of light, a hollow mockery of the tetraphim.

Armadeus's promises of power sometimes find their way into the ears of those who study the magical arts.  He is the Lord of Bone and Commander of the Damned, and those who follow him gain power over the corpses of the dead.  Or so they believe.  In truth no man can control the Restless Dead for long and those who are tricked into believing they can usually find themselves among their number.  Though necromancers may have a tenuous hold over the undead, Armadeus and his Dukes control them utterly.  Even among vampires, liches, and other seemingly intelligent forms of undead agency is an illusion.  They are the unliving avatars of his will. It may appear to Men that these creatures often scheme against each other, and this is true.  Armadeus may be a manipulator, but remember he is mad.  He is not the Law and his attempts at empire are undone by his own machinations in the same manner as those of his supplicants.


Monday, April 6, 2015

Threats

This list should not be taken as comprehensive but represents the must numerous or prominent non-human foes of the Daggermen.


Bird-Things
The bird-things are a recent threat to the Daggermen and the rest of the People.  They sometimes hover about the body of Wodanaz, carting his flesh off in great ribbons.  It is said that they were once normal crows but by eating the god they have been twisted into things.  They walker in the manner of the People and commonly wield weapons plundered from old tombs.  Some of the larger and more bloated examples have been known to cast magic.  Their long, black beaks often twist and warp such that each "kaw" is preceded by a great shuddering and snapping.


Draugos
The ancestors of the People do not always rest quietly in their mounds.  When their descendents have dishonored them or their graves are desecrated they may come to haunt the living as draugos, devouring food stores, killing men and making them slaves.  These are not the mindless undead commanded by the priests of the White God.  These creatures are clever and can change their shape to wolves or bats or trees or weeds but never men.  Their true forms are always hungry but cannot truly eat and thus the meat they ingest merely causes their body to bloat hideously while their faces remain emaciated and locked in a rictus grin.

When a village has truly sinned against its ancestors they send the Blood Rain which soaks the earth of their barrows and causes all who die to raise as draugos.  Such villages rarely survive for they may only be slain by weapons or warriors of great Power.


Dweargos
The stunted beings who hide in caves are said to have once been the smiths of the gods.  Now they raid.  They come when the men are bent in hall-rest and burn steads and still cattle.  They trade too.  Their speech is slow and ponderous, but their metal goods are magnificent in quality.

Some of the People raid them too, particularly the Redmen.  It is said that the Redmen eat the dweargos.  There are no gods to punish them and even the oldest and wisest crones do not know if they would be punished if there were.


Thurisos
Once even the gods feared the thurisos, but those they feared died in Ragnarok.  The ones that are left are stunted and lame, at least by their standards.  They were too cowardly to die with their brethren but unfortunately they are not too cowardly to raid the People.  Down from the hills and out from the forests they come, breaking into halls and grabbing up men and cattle to swallow.

The most fearsome thurisaz known to the Daggermen is called Belcher.  His great body is emaciated and his skull shows through his black face.  Perhaps he was one of the Muspell, for his head is ringed in smoke which he belches forth from his great, nearly toothless mouth.  He alone among the thurisos encountered by the Daggermen still knows the use of weapons.


Truzlo
Truzlo are mockeries of the people.  Born in the last days when the Sun and Moon still shone, their mothers were witches and crones from the people and their fathers were evil spirits of the forest and the swamps.  The Daggermen claim it was the Spear People whose witches were their mothers, but the Spear People claim it was the Red Men.  Who knows what the Red Men think.

Truzlo vary in size.  Some can be large as three men but most are small.  They skulk in what is left of the forests or in the hills and come down in great swarms to drive out the People.  Some of their chiefs, if such creatures can be said to have chiefs, know the magics of the People.


Wurmiz
Like the thurisos, the Wurmiz that are left in Middle Earth's acres are but a shadow of their former selves.  They are cowards too but they are covetous, and men and dweargos still work in gold.  Moved with spite against the People or with the lust for gold they fly down, breaking river-ice, smashing stones, and burning men.  Their hoards still hold great treasures from when the Sun and Moon still shone.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Friends and Foes


Bildsa
The settlement of Bildsa lies to the east of Skalafell and is the nearest settlement of Daggermen.  It's leader is a woman named Hedris.  Hedris has a difficult time maintaining order in her village and has sometimes come to Skalafell for help.  This amuses Grettir.

Bildsa has no priestesses of Saewelo but some of its members are descended from Nerthuz, and thus they live off of game and what can be gathered from the forest.  They occasionally send bands to trade or, less commonly, raid Skalafell.


The Spear People
The Spear People claim to be descended from Wodanaz, but the name of their human ancestor was not worth carving on Skalafell's Great Stone.  Perhaps they know it.

They live closer to the Walchos and often trade with them, raid them, and sometimes even serve in their legions.  This has made them love luxury and also fattened them like a pig for slaughter.  They make for good raiding.

Their nearest settlement is called Hjall and is dominated by an old Walchos villa which the Big Man there uses as his hall.  His name is Athelgar.  Their are rumors he may try to host a thing sometime in the future, and it is unknown if any of the Daggermen will attend if he does.



The Red Men
The Red Men come from the north.  They paint themselves in clay and mud, which one must assume they find after their priestesses melt the snow with Saewelo's light.  Their warriors often raid the lands of both the Daggermen and the Spear People.  The magic they cast on these raids is Lightning and Thunder and their warriors favor hammers and clubs.

The loot from these raids is sometimes taken to Skalafell and other villages to be traded.  The Red Men are sometimes difficult to understand, as their speech is slurred but their voices are quick.  They are known cheats.



The Walchos
When the Sun and the Moon still shone, the old people of Skalafell told stories of the Walchos and their great armies and their strange ways.  They had not been seen in the lands of the Daggermen for many years when the Wolves ate the Sun and the Moon and it was a strange day when they returned.  The Spear People say their kings came on white steeds but their soldiers were dead men caked in grave dirt and reeking of Helheim.  One of the living, a strange man in a pointed cap, hurled a great spear across the Rinaz and then the dead men set about rebuilding their old forts.

The Daggermen have not seen these dead men.  Raids across the Rinaz show most Walchos are just men, though they are exceptionally rich and do not descend from the gods.  Their strange priests, who occasionally travel to the villages and halls of the Spear People and the Daggermen, claim their god died but rose again.  Some among Bildsa and Hjall have said they've seen these priests raise corpses out of the ground like draugos.  None in Skalafell have seen this.

Their speech is strange, but since they hire the Spear People as mercenaries many know the speech of men.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Your Village


Most starting characters in Fimbulwinter are assumed to come from the settlement called Skalafell, which lies in the southern part of Scandza near the border with the Walchos.  The inhabitants of Skalafell come almost entirely from the tribe of the Daggermen, descendants from Wodanaz's mortal son Gautaz.

Skalafell happens to lie near the crater-lake that marks where Wodanaz fell from the Bifrost when it collapsed.  As such, the people of Skalafell believe it is their duty to safeguard his body until the day when the gods reawaken and the Sun and the Moon again show in the sky.  However, Wodanaz is not the only god revered in Skalafell.  Most notably, the village would not be able to survive without the priestesses of Saewelo whose magics can fool the crops into thinking there is still a Sun and who can also tell time.  These priestesses have made Skalafell a pilgrimage site for other Daggermen.  there is also a small enclave of warriors dedicated to Tiwaz,

A number of the settlement's most important inhabitants are described below.


Grettir Fairhair
Grettir is the Big Man of the village.  When the Sun and Moon still shone, he might have been an earl or even a king, but in this age of winter his authority is greatly diminished.  Still, he commands the loyalty of a number of fierce warriors, and his words are respected throughout Skalafell.

One should not take this to mean that Grettir is a clever man.  He is a fierce warrior and charismatic in his own way, but his methods are blunt.  He is well known to rely on his killers to solve most of the settlement's problems.

Grettir is known for swinging his strange, black sword in battle.  Called Deathsinger, the warriors of the village claim he took it from a dead Walchaz during a raid in the south.



Groa
Groa is Grettir's wife and the chief priestess of Saewelo in the settlement.  While her husband's descent from Wodanaz and fierce killers might keep order in the community, it is the magic of her and her sisters that keeps everyone alive.  Without her the crops do not grow.

There is a sadness about Groa.  Whether this is because of her domineering husband or the weight of her responsibilities in the community is difficult to say.  She is seldom seen outside her chambers in the main hall except during the rites needed to keep the village going.


Geirfrithur  Grettirsdaughter
Grettir and Groa's daughter Geirfrithur would be the most marriageable woman in the settlement if she wasn't so stubborn.  Many have tried to take her hand in an attempt to set themselves up as the next Big Man, but she has yet to accept any suitor.  Recently she has been most fervently pursued by Haukur, whose nose she broke with the butt of a stave.

Her magical affinities are closer to those of her mother, but Alfifa thinks she may be even more powerful.  Her dark hair gives her a mysterious beauty, but has led some to question whether Grettir is truly her father.



Alfifa
Alfifa is Grettir's rune caster and bone witch.  A descendant of Wodanaz, she knows the strange form of sorcery that is now lost among the people of Scandza since the Sun and Moon were devoured.  She is the only woman allowed in the hall during certain councils.  During these, she often cuts flesh from Grettir's back and "reads" the blood as it flows in rivulets to the floor.  Grettir's warriors find this very disturbing.  At other times she spends hours, even days, in a cave outside the village the fumes from which are said to give her dreams.

It is rumored that she is seeking someone to learn her art lest it die from the world.  Many believe she has her eye on Geirfrithur, but why she has not acted yet is unknown.


Kolskeggar the Black
Grettir is able to maintain his tenuous control of the village because he has the loyalty of men like Kolskeggar.  A great bear of a man, Kolskeggar is a fierce warrior and descendant of Tiwaz.  Grettir has called on him many times to act as his champion in single combat or to lead raids against the Spear People to the west.  Though still formidable, it is difficult not to see that Kolskeggar is growing old as his head loses the last of its hair and his black beard turns to grey.

Kolskeggar's ax has a head so large that other men would have to wield it two handed.  Its name, Calfsplitter, makes the men of the village wince and clutch their legs when uttered.


Birna
Birna was once a great shield maiden, but those days are behind her.  She is no fan of Grettir and some of the men think she fancies his position.  She spends most of her days teaching the youths of the village to hunt.


Haukur
Haukur is a young man of the line of Gautaz and the most likely candidate to replace Grettir when he dies.  It is for this end that he pursues Geirfithur; however, his passion for her seems to have dulled since she broke his nose.

It is an ill kept secret that Grettir hates Haukur and Haukur isn't fond of him either.  The warriors at Haukur's side, though smaller in number, often mete out their own justice, much to the chagrin of Grettir.


Svartur
Svartur is a Dweargaz from the north who was captured by Grettir's grandfather when the Sun and Moon still shone.  He serves the village as a smith, and though few know where he finds his metal - he never seems to leave the village to trade or mine for it - he has crafted many wondrously beautiful items for Grettir and his warriors.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Unfocused Thoughts on Fimbulwinter

Climate Change

I've been going through kind of a rough patch recently, and this was the first gaming idea I had in a while that got my creative juices flowing, so with the encouragement of Jeremy Duncan I decided to write some stuff about it.

  • The gods died at Ragnarok.  The Sun and the Moon were both eaten by wolves and now everything is eternal winter and twilight.
  • The gods are dead, but their blood still flows.  There are those among men who are descended from the gods and they have magic that is otherwise unavailable to men.  
  • I want to use OpenQuest or some other RuneQuest/BRP variety to handle the above, and because vaguely-Germanic migration periods settings are tied to RQ in my brain.
  • The way many human communities survive in the snow and the grey is through the use of certain magics.  Those halls who have someone descended from various agricultural, hunting, or sea gods are able to ensure their communities have enough surplus to continue to live and sometimes even trade.
  • Communities that aren't able to ensure this surplus degenerate into barbarism.  They raid their neighbors and engage in cannibalism and other things best not mentioned in a blog post.
  • The old enemies - giants, dragons, trolls, draugr, etc. - still live too; however, these are only the most degenerate and cowardly examples of their races.  The rest died at Ragnarok.  Still, even these are more powerful than men.
  • The various groups of pseudo-Germanic type people will have names like the Sword People or the Dagger Men or be named after a particular god they descend from.
  • The map will probably be based off of Doggerland.
  • To the south there are the remnants of a Roman-like empire that once had its own gods.  They too died at Ragnarok.  Many of these areas are ruled now by pseudo-germans, but the empire is coming back in a new form thanks to the White God.
  • The White God is the only god that still "lives" after Ragnarok.  It is kinda-sorta based on Christianity, but the eternal life it offers is the life of undeath.  The White God is a god of snow and death and despair.  Even so, many in the Empire and even in the pseudo-German areas have begun to worship him.
  • I'm thinking the Empire will have an army called the Pale Legion which is made up entirely of dead soldiers whom the White God has resurrected.
  • PCs will generally be warriors and important-ish members of a community.  Since in OQ all PCs have magic they will be descended (distantly) from the gods.
  • I've said pseudo-Germanic through this whole post because, despite the idea obviously coming from Viking stuff, I've always been more of a fan of earlier Migration Period material culture, like Anglo-Saxon, Gothic, and Frankish stuff.
  • Quickie appendix N: Beowulf, Northlanders, Valhalla Rising, Before France and Germany, The Getica, Njal's Saga, Gesta Danorum, Ecclesiastical History of the English People