Saturday, May 24, 2014

Uz: Looking For Players

In the distant time of the Future/Past, men lived and loved... and died!  In the deserts of the dawn of time and the doom of the world, man built the greatest city of all.  Uz! The First City of Men. Uz! Whose horrid fire god called for the sacrifice of babes.  Uz! Whose armies stretched across the Desert of Demons.  Uz! Whose towering ziggurats blotted out the sun.

You've read about it, now experience it for yourself.  See Mu-Tants, the slave race from an alien planet long destroyed!  Visit the forgotten ruins of the Wastes of Rust!  Tremble in terror at the excesses of the Dero, savage beings from the Earth's core!  Gasp at the unspeakable rites of Moloch! Witness the last days of Man!

Do you have what it takes to survive in... UZ?!*

Uz is coming to a G+ Hangout near you every Monday at 8:30 CDT.  For more information contact me at

*Based on theories developed by the finest minds of the History Channel.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Bring Me the Head of William fitzWilliam: a Feudal Anarchy Playtest Campaign

Three men must die.

In the name of the pretender Maude and with hatred for God in their hearts they broke the King's peace.  They razed manors belonging to his lords, looted God's churches when the priests said they supported the rightful king or refused to take sides, and even, it is rumored, kidnapped women to ransom back to their husbands to fill their meager warchest.  In this way the terrorized the Severn Valley and all of its good-hearted people.

And you helped them.  Luckily for you, King Stephen is a just and caring monarch, and in his beneficence he has decided to offer you a second chance.  He has confiscated your lands and taken your spouses and children hostage, but if, and only if, those three men die they will be returned to you and you will be restored to the community of the realm.

The first of these men - your first target - has fled to Devonshire and has begun fortifying an old ruin there.  His name is William fitzWilliam, and he thinks he is safe behind his timber and plaster walls.  Show him he is wrong.

News from Devonshire
The King has sent you to the small manor of Sir Bartholomew, a doddering old man who performed some forgotten service for the late King Henry.  He and his daughter have accepted you only begrudgingly into their household.  However, their manor has recently been plagued by a number of "accidents" and missing cattle, and they would perhaps be grateful if someone were to find the cause of these incidents.

The peasants of the manor claim that at least some of the ruckus has been caused by a strange beast who lives in a nearby cave.  They would avoid the place, but near the cave is a clear stream which is one of the few places they can get water and wash.

A holy man known as Neel the Black Monk has gone missing.  He is known throughout the shire for his miracle working relics, which he claims to have gotten in far off Jerusalem.  Since he has stopped making his rounds, peasants across the whole of Devonshire have petitioned the sheriff to find him, fearing he may have been beset upon by ruffians.  He has not, as yet, answered their requests.

The sheriff of Devonshire is looking for men willing to help him rid the area of bandits.  It would be good to have someone like the sheriff and his men on your side.

More to come (presumably).

Monday, April 28, 2014

Uz Divine Intervention Rules

I proposed these rules a bit more than a week ago and as of the last session they've been used in the campaign so they're official.  Here they are for the benefit of the general public.

While many past/future scholars view the "gods" of Uz as little more than powerful aliens, it is difficult to argue that those beings of the future/past do not possess powers well beyond the physical limits of human beings.

In addition to the "gifts" granted to their priests in the form of magic and mutations, gods may also show their favor on mortals as Moloch did on Uz and His Sons.  To gain the favor of a god, a sacrifice is required in a place that has an established psychic link with the deity, such as a temple or sacred grotto.  For every 100gp in value, the supplicant gains 1% to a future divine intervention roll.  Every HD in creatures or humans sacrificed provides 10%.

Divine intervention can be sought in order to gain a reroll on a saving throw, attack, or an extra die of damage.  However, in order to gain this benefit, the player must first throw percentile dice.  If the percentile dice show a number that is less than or equal to the percent gained from various sacrifices, the amount of orgone pumped into the god's pleasure sack has been sufficient and you gain the benefit.  If not, then you don't.  After such a roll, the percentage resets.

Priests of at least 4th level may also uses sacrifices to consecrate an area, creating a psychic connection with the god in question.  This requires HD sacrifices - gold will not due.  Once the priest views his sacrifices as acceptable, they are slain and percentile dice are thrown in the normal manner.  If the roll is successful, the area may now act as a temple for purposes of memorizing spells and for using divine intervention.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Uzite Law

Uzite law is primarily interested in the settlement of disputes.  While today the law extends to all social strata, it was originally meant to curtail violence between the cities noble houses, which still exert a great amount of power today.  In the days of Uz of Uz, First King of Uz, the other nobles who joined him in the founding of the city - guided by the Fuel-Less Fire of Moloch - did not always see eye to eye.  They and their families would often quarrel and commit horribly violent acts in response to perceived slights.  Those affiliated with the victim would then retaliate with even worse acts, and thus a blood-feud would threaten to tear the First City of Men apart.

At some point - Phutians claim that it was during the Phutian occupation, but Uzites vehemently dispute this - one of the kings decided to create a strict code of law for the purpose of adjudicating these disputes without the nead for a blood-feud.  This system worked so well - or at least it did in the eyes of the noble houses - that it has been extended to even cover disputes between slaves and foreigners.  In this system, the accuser must bring the accused before a judge.  The judge then hears both sides and finally rules in accordance with the byzantine case law that develops in a city that has existed for several thousand years.  Punishment is then executed by the accuser or the accuser's family - unless of course the accused is found innocent in which case the punishment is then turned on the accuser himself!

The instances of case law and the punishments that accompany them are based on a strict heirarchy.  Nobles are treated as superior to freemen and slaves, and thus punishments for crimes against them are more severe.  Typical crimes against nobles are punished on an "eye for an eye" basis, but disputes between nobles might change this if the nobles are practically of different ranks.  A lesser son of the house of Adompha would, for example, be punished quite severly for harming Mari-Adab, but the inverse would likely lead to only a public censure for the Prince of Pleasures.

Commoners and slaves are typically charged money for their offenses, unless they are against a noble of course.  This even includes crimes such as murder, as the nobles believe that allowing commoners - or worse, slaves - an outlet for sanctioned violence would put silly ideas in there heads. 

Foreigners are even lower in this heirarchy than slaves.  They are almost always convicted of crimes and regardless of the severity of their offense the punishment always involves mutilation if not downright execution.  Interestingly, this is not based onlong lines of lineage as it is often true that Phutians have lived in the city longer than some who would call themselves Uzites.  Instead, the accused or accuser must provide witnesses to their provinence, which is often difficult if one is dragged in bonds before a court.

This system results in some interesting peculiarities.  First, petty theft - while technically illegal - is allowed to occur since it would be a hassle to involve the king's court.  As such, one would do well to guard one's purse carefully while enjoying one of the vintages of Ilion in one of the city's many wine-houses or shopping for goods along the Street of Sins.  Second, mob violence is surprisingly common since the law does little to address Uz's underlying problems.  This is less true during the reign of a strong king, but Dagazar I has had a short reign by Uzite standards and sits rather precariously on his throne.  Finally, blasphemy and witchcraft are the only crimes not treated with this system because they are tried in special temple courts.  The nature of these courts is mysterious to most Uzites, and few that have ever stood before them have lived to discuss the proceedings.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Thoughts on D&D and Wargaming

When I was in high school, I was in a club called the Military History Society, which was really a euphemism for a wargaming club.  We met in the library about once a month to fight battles from various conflicts - though the only scenario I can remember that didn't involve American soldiers was set during Operation Barbarosa - using the teacher/organizer's miniatures.  Most of these were, due to the nature of his collection, horse and musket era affairs and I usually try to convince everyone to let me be a cavalry commander.  I only succeeded in doing this one time, and then only because there were so few participants that even the teacher had to double as referee and general.  In my crowning moment of glory, I ordered a charge into a number of disorganized blue-belly reinforcements that had just gotten off of a train, pinned them against it, and destroyed them.  It was a good day.

But I didn't decide to write this post in order to wax nostalgic about playing wargames.*  What I remember about those games is that the organizer almost always brought a photocopied set of rules with a number of marginal notes and house rules that anyone used to the tournament environments of post-Games Workshop wargames would balk at.  It occurred to me several months ago, during one of the infamous Hill Cantons after-session-bull-sessions, that these documents must have been very much like the wargaming climate that created OD&D.  The rules were more of a set of suggestions for the individual clubs, like primitive roleplaying groups, used to create their own scenarios.

Recently I've been reading a number of "old school" wargaming books - Charge! Or How to Play Wargames by Peter Young, The War Game Rules and The Wolfenbuttel War by Charles S Grant, and Napoleonic Wargaming by the original Charles Grant - as part of my ongoing imagi-nations project. One thing I have observed in them is the fact that they fully expect the rules to be modified and often say so, much like one sees in the text of OD&D.  Napoleonic Wargaming is almost a set of guidelines for making a wargame than a complete game, though a "summary of the rules" section does present something that is somewhat coherent as a game.

Another thing that I noticed was the similarities between these various rules, but also their tiny differences.  It is not unlike, at least to my mind, the differences between Holmes, Moldvay/Cook, and Mentzer, even if those products came at a time when D&D was designed to be much more uniform from table to table.

I say all this because I believe that if the OSR has really "won," a phrase I have seen in a strangely high number of places, it is because so many groups have returned to this model of gaming.  One only has to look at the blog list over to your right to see several examples of this sort of thing in action - DMs and their groups customizing a very similar set of rules to achieve different experiences.

*Actually, I totally did, but I have another point too.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Mocking Ones

Mocking One
No. Appearing: 1d6 (3d6)
Armor Class: As Leather and Shield
Hit Dice: 2
Movement: 90'
Attacks: Slam (no damage but Paralysis) or Claw
Special: Paralyzing Slime, Mimicry
Morale: 7
Alignment: Neutral

The mocking ones are strange creatures born eons ago in the great underworlds of ancient Mars.  In the distant time before the Deluge, they may have come to Earth through any trades humans may have once had with the martians, or simply on martian warships.  On Earth they live much as the did on Mars, squatting in underground ruins and caverns of suitable size to support their eating habits.

They appear as enormous balls of pallid white flesh with rudimentary eyes and mouths.  Their arms are little more than flippers or rude tendrils covered with a milky yellow substance.  Their legs are thin and strangely black and squamous, ending in sharp talons.  They are known for their strange gait, which is obviously caused by their unusual body shape.

Mocking ones are master mimics of sound, and can produce a wide variety of noises through the strange undulations of their mouth and vibrations from deep within their fleshy mass.  Sight unseen, it is nearly impossible for humans to differentiate the sounds made by a mocking one from those made by the thing they are imitating.  Since they tend to live in underground/dungeon environments, the sounds they produce range from such things as doors slamming, humans screaming in agony, the bellowing of ancient monsters, or the din of battle.  A group of these creatures would make a strange set of sounds indeed!

These calls are typically used for matting, with particularly hard to replicate dungeon sounds presumably being more impressive to the females of the species.  It also sometimes has the effect of luring in prey, which mocking ones typically first subdue with their paralyzing flippers (paralyzation lasts 3d6 rounds, though a subsquent save made while still paralyzed may lengthen this time to 3d6 turns).  After all creatures are paralyzed, and not before, the mocking ones will begin to slowly dismantle their meal with their claws and mouth, dealing 1d3 damage each round.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Fable of a Failed Race

When Uz of Uz First King of Uz found the Fuel-Less Fire on the banks of the River of Life, It told him of the marvels and wonders of the Desert of Demons and the Worlds Beyond Counting.  With the Fire's words he lived many lives in strange lands on strange worlds.  When the Fire's words ceased he built the First City of Men.

But there was one place in all his lives that he did not tread, for the Fire had warned him.  North of the Sea of Salt was, and is, a land that is the dwelling place of Mot, and no man should venture there.  But men did.  There they built a city.  Jerah, City of the Worm squatted hideously on the banks of the Sea of Salt.  The men of That Place dealt in death and their ghoul-priests reveled and sang litanies to He Who Must Be Obeyed, a strange and almost forgotten aspect of the Dweller in Darkness.  They said He taught laws older than time, older than Fire.  The Laws of the Fretting Worm were harsh and demanding and the soldier-fanatics of Jerah spread them as far as the Almodad, the Jewel of the Desert.

The women of That Place bore an intolerable yoke the likes of which is unseen in this day even among the savage Phutians.  Daily were members of their sex cast into His maw and great and terrible was their suffering.  In their sorrow and horror they called out and they were heard by Li-Lit of the Night.  For the first time She Who is Over Her Slaughtering Block came down from the high mountains with daggers of light.  She struck at Mot and thus did Death strike Death.  In the City of the Warrior Women, known to the men of Uz as New Jerah, they say that She Who Devours Infants made Mot blind and cast him back into the Dark.

Now Jerah is no more.  The ruins of that smashed city still remain like bleached bones on the shore, but only fools venture to the place where He Who Pulls into His Gullet dwells.