Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Serve the Master!


A fool once said that magicians are "either diabolists or cowards" for even though he was a fool he knew the Power offered by the beings of the Pit outstrips that which can be learned from study alone.  But what is the cost of the Power?

Dark Masters
The only true Way to Power is to submit oneself to the will of a Dark Master.  While this means the loss of one's Will, many see it as superior to scrounging in the dirt for arcane secrets and being limited by the Laws of Reality.

Summoning 
To make a pact with with a Dark Master, one must first summon it into the World.  The rituals for this are usually and unfortunately very simple, but they only have a percentage chance of succeeding equal to the supplicant's Charisma + Level.  After it has first been summoned, the caster may call the Dark Master again at double this percentage chance.

Summoning is a dangerous process.  The supplicant must roll a d20 under their Wisdom score in order to have accurately prepared the protective wards necessary to survive contact with a Lord of the Pit.  If they fail to do so they are either dragged to the Pit or hideously transformed, depending on the nature of the Master.  For example, Armadeus takes men in a puff of greasy, sulfurous smoke while the Horned One turns them into mindless deer-men.

When making a pact, the supplicant must submit to the Service required by the Master.  This is not to be done lightly, but once a Lord of The Pit is summoned they rarely leave without their pound of flesh.

In addition to making pacts, summoned demons may also teach spells.  This requires a sacrifice the total HD of which must be equal to three times the level of the spell or a sinister task created by the referee with the campaign in mind.

Entering into a pact changes the character's alignment to Chaotic automatically, if it was not so already.  Being taught a spell changes the character's alignment to the next alignment towards Chaotic, so Lawful characters become Good, Good characters become Neutral, etc.

Anti-clerics may not enter pacts as the Dark Masters are already the source of their Power.

Pacts
Here are the mechanics for the three most common pacts witches and sorcerers are likely to enter into in the Dark Country.

Armadeus
Armadeus is the master of secrets, shadow, and in some texts the Undead.

Service
The supplicant must write his Secret Name in Armadeus's Black Book in order to receive the Power. Once he has done so, he will automatically fail his saving throw against any effects caused by the demons in Armadeus's twenty and seven legions.

Level 1 (Prestidigitator)
The supplicant receives a familiar in the form of a black cat with piercing green eyes.  Once per day, the familiar will reveal the location of a hidden thing to the supplicant.

The familiar spirit may also be dismissed to search for the Secret Name of any creature.  This process takes one full day for Chaotic creatures, one week for Evil ones, one month for Neutral creatures, and one year for Good creatures.  There is only a 50% chance of success with Neutral creatures and a 25% chance for Good creatures. The familiar will never learn the name of a Lawful creatures.

If the supplicant learns the Secret Name of a creature in this fashion, any saving throws made by the creature against effects caused by the supplicant are at a -4 penalty.

Level 6 (Magician)
The supplicant may retreat into his shadow once per day, becoming two dimensional and immune to non-magical weapons during this time.  While in this form he cannot attack or manipulate three dimensional objects, but he only has a 2 in 6 chance of being noticed by those who did not see him transform.  To exit this state, the supplicant must make a saving throw. On a success, they emerge from their shadow.  If they fail, they must remain in their shadow for a full day.  After three failures, the supplicant is stuck forever as a shadow and becomes an NPC with the statistics of the shadow described in the S&W Monsters booklet.

Level 11 (Wizard)
The supplicant may use their knowledge of a person's - but not a creature's - Secret Name to enthrall them.  To do this, they must make eye contact with the person and the person must make a saving throw at the -4 penalty conferred by knowing their Secret Name.  If they fail they are in the thrall of the supplicant until Dispel Chaos is cast on them.  If the supplicant should die and the person is still enthralled, the victim will seek to resurrect the supplicant in any way possible.

The supplicant may have up to two thralls +/- their Charisma modifier.

Crapoad
Crapoad is the Father of Toads and Font of Blasphemies.

Service
The supplicant must accept a toad into his throat.  This toad will exist parasitically off the supplicant, and thus the supplicant will require twice the amount of food and water normally needed by humans.  If this diet is not met, the supplicant shall not gain any benefit from natural healing.

In addition to this increased need for food, any time a spell is cast by a Cleric in the sight of the supplicant, the toad will belch a hideous blasphemy that has a percentage chance of negating the spell equal to the supplicants Charisma score.

Level 1 (Prestidigitator)
The supplicant gains a toad as a familiar.  This is not the same toad that lives in his throat.  Once per day this toad will reveal the location of any text the supplicant can describe, including a spell scroll.

Level 6 (Magician)
Once per day the supplicant may see through the eyes of any toads within the five mile hex they currently are in.  In doing so they automatically find any locations, persons, or creatures that are outside, assuming the weather is amenable to toads.  While searching in this way, the supplicant's body is in a catatonic state.  A saving throw is required to exit this state.  After three failed saving throws the supplicant's mind is switched with that of a toad and he is sent to wander among the bog as his body hunts for worms and flies to eat.

Level 11 (Wizard)
The supplicant may "silence" a cleric by causing any utterance - including attempts to cast spells - to come out as some hideous blasphemy or heresy.  This requires eye contact and the sign of the evil eye to be made at the cleric, at which point the victim gets a saving throw.  The effect lasts until a successful save dispels it, with a new save allowed every sunrise or until Remove Curse or a similar spell can be cast.

The Horned One
The Horned One is the Master of Beasts and of the Lusts of Men and Women.

Service
The supplicant must submit to the Horned One's hideous advances, After the initial pact is made, all of the supplicants hit die are rerolled until a lower number is achieved.  This becomes the new HP total for the supplicant until they gain a level.  There is also a 30% chance the supplicant, regardless of gender, becomes impregnated with 1d3 devil-men as describe in the post on the Horned One.

The supplicant must renew the pact every year at a Black Sabbath held on Candlemass Eve.  When this occurs the HD are again rerolled, though only once and the lower of the two HP totals is taken, meaning their may be no change.  There is also, again, a 30% chance of becoming host to 1d3 devil-men.

Level 1 (Prestidigitator)
The supplicant gains a black goat as a familiar. This goat, at any time, may lead the supplicant to the nearest community of beast-men, devil-men, witches, or werewolves.  This is easy as these often cohabitate.  These beings will also know the supplicant as a friend.

The familiar also speaks the secret language of beasts, and once per day will translate for the supplicant.  He will under no circumstances teach this language.

Level 6 (Magician)
Once per day, the supplicant may summon 2d6 hit die worth of beasts or beast-men - the type of which is determined by the refree and the number of which is determined by the hit die.  These creatures attack anyone in the immediate area of the caster.  The supplicant, and anyone aligned with him, must make a saving throw or be assaulted themselves.  Good and Lawful characters always fail these saving throws.  Once their quarry has been slain, they will return from whence they came.

Level 11 (Wizard)
The supplicant may, once per day, turn 2d6 hit die worth of persons into beasts or beast-men, caster's discretion.  There is no limit to the HD affected, but a saving throw is allowed.

Marks
In addition to the other traits gained through pacts, each Dark Master makes its Mark on the supplicant.  This becomes more pronounced as the supplicant levels.  The individual marks are omitted from this post in order to prevent the Nightwick playgroup from metagaming.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Lerouxville

A long while ago I ran a modern Call of Cthulhu game on G+ set in a fictional town in Louisiana modeled after my hometown of Hattiesburg Mississippi.  There is a fairly likely chance that I'll be running a mini-campaign for my home group in the Classic/1920s era of Cthulhu.  As a thought experiment this morning, I decided to sketch out what I think Lerouxville and its surroundings would be like in the '20s.



Lerouxville - An Arkham-sized town that, while extant as long ago as 1810, grew in prominence due to a mass migration of carpet baggers after the Civil War.  It was for many decades a combination logging town and rail hub, but as logging has moved to the Pacific Northwest the magnates of the town have come to focus more on other forms of commerce.  The town is surprisingly Klan free, in part due to the Klan's opposition to bootlegging, which has recently lined the pockets of many residents.

Borden College - This college was founded about 30 years ago as a teaching college, but in the intervening years it has added a number of eclectic departments.  It is known throughout the region as a haven for radicals and wackos, many of whom were rejected from the more conservative institutions nearby.

Perilloup - This small community is a mix of Cajuns, African Americans, and mixed raced individuals and the subject of many rumors.  It is older than Lerouxville and by historical accident is home to the Skipwith Parish* courthouse.  It is home to an illicit gambling house and brothel, originally intended to service the loggers in Lerouxville.  These establishments have seen better days.  Many of the residents here make alcohol, which is smuggled to other parts of the country via Lerouxville.

Pinewood - A small farming community of old Southerners with only a handful of last names.  Locals are poor, insular, and bitter.  About halfway between Lerouxville and Pinewood is the Pinewood Asylum, which was built with a grant from the Collins family of Lerouxville.

Bayeux St Foy - About 30 miles south of Lerouxville, many of the Lerouxville magnates have second homes here to enjoy the lush scenery.  Many of these homes include surrounding communities of share croppers.  The town is rounded out with old cajun families who are resentful of the "New People."

*About 1/3 of Lerouxville lies in Skipwith Parish

Home Group Players Do not Read Beyond this Point
The supernatural elements can be roughly broken down as follows:


- The weird shit at the college - strange science experiments, weird ancient books, etc.


- The various turpitudes of the town magnates - usually pacts with Shub-Niggurath or Nyrlathotep for their own prosperity.  Some will have oddly old world or New England character.


- Hoodoo - usually presented as weird practices but some of which will have obvious mythos roots.  Practiced by African Americans, Cajuns, and old Southern families.


- D'Iberville Forest - strange standing stones in a region with mostly clay and sandy soils, "swam monsters," half-monster squatters


- Yig - might use Yig to tie it all together because of its association with African, New World, and really really old Old World stuff.  Also there's just a lot of snakes


.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Only 8 Hours Left to Get Your Hands on the Slumbering Ursine Dunes


The Slumbering Ursine Dunes is only going to be available for a few more hours.

Honestly I could go on and on about how great the material Chris has made for his long-running campaign is and how it has been one of the greatest D&D experiences of my life to play in it, but since time is short and I need you to read this quickly, I'd rather focus on something more of immediate interest to me: two more dungeons.

If the kickstarter can just make a few more dollars, Chris will be producing two dungeons which have bedeviled and bamboozled us in the party for some time.  They are the sinister Frog Demon Temple, whose deadliness has become a running joke in the campaign, and Bad Rajetz, whose mutable nature we have yet to solve after years of playtime.  Plus Jason Sholtis of Dungeon Dozen and They Stalk The Underworld fame will be doing the art for them!

I want to see them.  I bet you want to see them, and if you pledge you can also get another of other great locales in addition to the Dunes.  Go ahead, you know you want to.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Guide to Viridistan

The City State of the World Emperor is surrounded by a great, green-stone wall and dominated by the equally green palace of His Piscine Majesty and temple of Mer Shunna.  These, and other temples to the chief gods of the city, form a large square in the south of the city.  From this square run great avenues that divide the city into its various districts and quarters.  Between these avenues run various side streets and allies that give Viridistan the appearance of a tremendous spiderweb.

Below are description of the city's main quarters.  Note that individual streets within these quarters will often contradict the general description provided here, and it is not uncommon to find extreme poverty in some of the older areas of the Noble Quarter or opulence in the Seafront.


The Temple Squares
As mentioned above, the southern portion of the city is dominated by a series of connected squares and plazas, themselves dominated by temples to various deities.  Hypothetically, these squares should be the most open areas of the city, but they are so often thronging with the ecstatic members of various faiths, as well as those visiting the farmers markets, that is usually quite difficult to move from one side of the plazas to the other.  The other major feature of these plazas is that they lie ever in the shadow of the fortress-palace of the World Emperor, a green-stone building of a size that rivals the Mer Shunna temple.

Example Place to Rob: Temple Tempter - this temple to Nephtys, goddess of wealth, acts as both temple and bank, though rumor has it that its vaults are currently filled with giant spiders, the result of a strange heresy best discussed elsewhere.



The Noble Quarter
To the East of the Mer Shunna temple lies the Noble Quarter, which is comprised of a series of small palaces, townhouses, gardens, and the various service industries the decadent nobility of such a city require.  The design of these structures, with their courtyards, adjoining servants quarters, and in some cases private menageries, mean that this quarter takes up a disproportionate amount of the city's acreage.  However, even with these lavish structures, there are still many pockets of poverty - old palaces converted into tenements, neighborhoods designed only for slaves, etc.

Example Place to Rob: The Apothecary - the nameless apothecary shop where the Noble Quarter meets the main Temple Square is known to but a few in the city.  It's proprietor is a mysterious hooded man, though it is well known - well, well known to those who know of him in the first place - that he rarely spends any time within the shop.  The classification of it as an "apothecary" is, perhaps, inaccurate and certainly belies the many magical wonders to be found within.



The Military District
North of the Noble Quarter is the Military District, a mix of barracks, military-service industries, and tenements for out of luck ex-soldiers.  The tenements are sometimes purchased by up and coming mercenary companies and turned into makeshift fortresses.  Brawls are almost as common here as fires, due to the animosity between the Viridian, Ghinorian, and Tharabian troops.

Example Place to Rob: The Green Warlords Armory - The Green Warlords rival the Imperial Guard in terms of prestige within the city.  They are, in essence, a Viridian-only mercenary company in the permanent employ of the God-Priest of Armadod-Bog, who just so happens to be the World Emperor.  Their armory is filled with alchemical weapons of various designs, as well as weapon-relics said to be from the Uttermost War and the days of the First Men.  It is also well known to be heavily guarded, and not just by men. 


The Guildsmen Quarter
The Guildsmen Quarter is a thin strip that of what passes for a middle-class  neighborhood in the Wilderlands.  As one would suspect, it houses the members of various guilds, both mundane and arcane, as well as their supporting businesses.  Each street and alley that pierces the quarter is named for a particular guild, though oddly the vagaries of time mean that the guild present and the street name often become disassociated.  

Example Place to Rob: The Ravishing Bazaar - While some may think of this place as a glorified toy store, this house of curiosities and amusements contains wonders which, while not particularly practical, are often valuable to the right kinds of perverts.


The Merchants and Thieves Quarters
These quarters, while technically separate, are so intertwined that it is impossible for those not native to the city to distinguish them.  The Merchants Quarter is closer to the Temple Squares, but the characteristics of both - poor houses, raucous bazaars, hawkers of fine crap, and, of course, thieves - are common throughout.  Like the Guildsmen quarter, most houses and businesses are multistory mudbrick affairs, though the slightly higher percentage of wooden structures makes fire a constant problem, as it is in the Military District.

Example Place to Rob: The Slop and Hop - it is a well known secret that this local tavern serves as the headquarters of the "thieves' guild," though whether or not such a thing exists as a unified front is debatable.  Regardless, the thieves who operate out of the Slop and Hop supposedly store their goods beneath the tavern while looking for a good fence, so it may be a good place to rob the robbers.


The Elephan Quarter and Seafront District
These quarters are easier to differentiate than the Merchants and Thieves Quarters, but are similar enough that they may be discussed together.  The Elephan quarter lies south of the Merchants Quarter, just below a fairly steep escarpment.  It is a ghetto for the city's Elephan population, and thus is perhaps the worst maintained area in the city - more for the neglect of the city officials than any villainy on the part of the Elephans.  It merges with the Seafront District where an artificial channel has  been created to serve as a docking place for ships.  The Seafront District is almost equally impoverished, but more often houses foreigners of various sorts.

Example Place to Rob: Spice Warehouse - Viridistan is known as the City of Spices, and the Mer Shunna temple holds a virtual monopoly on the procurement and sale of these valuable items.  An enormous warehouse, constructed where once several Elephan families lived in terrible conditions, dominates the northern end of the docks and houses much of Mer Shunna's wealth. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Wilderpeople

This page describes the various races that may serve as PCs - and some only as NPCs - in the Viridistan campaign.  This page will be updated when new races become available.

Human Ethnicities
All of these ethnicities use the rules for humans found in the Basic D&D pdf.


Altanians
Altanians are red skinned (ranging from rusty clay to coke can) barbarians from the jungles of Altanis.  Some sages believe they may be related to the Orichalcans who ruled an empire that stretched the entirety of the Pazidun Peninsula before the kingdom of Kelnore.  Now they live in tribal groups and hunt the ruins of their(?) glorious  past.  Antilians and Viridians often use them as slaves, and they may also be found throughout the Wilderlands of Swords and Devilry serving as mercenaries and body guards.  Women and men are, unusually for the Wilderlands, more or less equal among these people, but women more often fill spiritual roles while men fill martial ones.


Antilians
Antilians are the inhabitants of the city of Antil, though their merchant ships may be found slaving or selling slaves in nearly every part of the Wilderlands.  Men typically shave their heads and wear outrageous sword & sorcery badguy armor rather than anything practical.  They are known for their highly sexist society and their hatred of Amazons.


Ghinorians
Ghinorians were the dominate ethnicity of the Kelnore Empire and they are still the dominate ethnicity in the area surrounding Viridistan.  They most closely resemble the Greeks of our world during the period after the death of Alexander.  They still rule several kingdoms in the southern part of the Wilderlands, but these are small and so constantly at war with eachother that they rarely effect politics in the north.  The Overlord of the White Throne, the ruler of the newly independent Damkina, is a Ghinorian and is attempting to rally the northern Ghinorians around him against the Viridian Emperor.


Tharabians
These barbarian people originally hailed from somewhere north of the Valley of the Ancients.  They were invited several generations ago by the Viridian Emperor to serve as mercenaries against the Invincible Overlord.  Since then they have settled land now known as the Tharabian Coast, and are now also found in the service of Bjorn the Mighty, the Invincible Overlord.  Their material culture is a mixture of Celtic and Scythian.


Common Viridians
These are the descendants of the inhuman True Viridians and their Ghinorian subjects.  Since only a few True Viridians exist in the world, the "common" Viridians have taken over most of the administration of the empire and the temples of Armadod-bog and Natch Ur.  They resemble the Persians of our world, particularly the Sassanians, but their greenish skin and fantastical weaponry would immediately show them as being not from Earth.

Non-human PC Races
These races function as their D&D counterparts except where noted below.


Dwarves
Most Dwarves in the North hail from either Thunderhold or the recently reconquered Majestic Mountains.  As the picture implies, they are more or less like the dwarves from the Hobbit cartoon.  The stats for Hill Dwarves represent those from Thunderhold while the stats for Mountain Dwarves represent those Dwarves from the Majestic Fastness.


Elves
All Northern Elves possess blue skin, though the "high" variety tends to be more of a deep blue while the "wood" variety is kind of a blue green.  High Elves are likely from Valon or from some other bastion of the old elven kingdom in the Elephand lands.  Wood Elves found in Viridistan usually come from the Elsenwood, but they only rarely visit the city since the Viridians have great antipathy for them. "Dark Elves" of the Wilderlands are different from Drow and are not available as player characters.


Halflings
Halflings are Hobbits, though both stout and lightfoot varieties are found in the Wilderlands.  They are very rare in Viridistan, and are more commonly found around Eastern cities such as Tarsh and on the Ebony Coast.


Tieflings
The ancient Markrabs, a long extinct race, bred many of their servitor demons with human stock.  The descendents of these mating experiments still exist throughout the urban areas of the Wilderlands, and new parings are still made in the distant Demon Empires of the South.  Tieflings tend to show more subtle signs of their heritage than their normal (5e) D&D counterparts.

Non-human(?) NPC Races
These races are not available as PCs yet.  This is mostly because I haven't worked up stats for them, but in the case of True Viridians it is because their population is not large enough to support a flow of PCs.


Amazons
Amazons are a strange race which sages believe was created many years ago by a strange wizard named Lurr.  He supposedly saw a vision from a distant world depicting a savage warrior woman, and decided to construct his own for reasons I'd rather not get into.  Amazons produce with gynogenesis and thus are all identical in appearance, resembling the woman of Lurr's strange dream. They are all female and almost all powerful warriors. 


Elephan Cavemen
The Elephan Cavemen are the neanderthal-like inhabitants of the Elephand Lands and posses a strange affinity both for Wilderlands "mammoths" and for elves.  They have been subjugated by the Viridian Emperor, though this has allowed them to best their fellow cavemen with the superior military technology of that strange race.  There is a significant population of them in the city of Viridistan itself, where they have their own quarter.


True Viridians
These are the green-skinned, chosen people of Armadod-bog - though even they must whip themselves with silver fish tails for the crime of being born land things.  It is believed that the Viridian Emperor and his handful of sister-wives are the last of their race.  These wives are, unfortunately for the Viridians but perhaps fortunately for mankind, so inbred as to be infertile.  The man pictured above may have resembled the emperor in the distant past, but now he is twisted and bloated, and it is believed he has scarred his face to more closely resemble the visage of his master.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Wilderlands of Swords & Devilry: Viridistan

So despite my last post calling for players, I decided to put my Uz campaign on hiatus because I had that age old problem of burnout.  Now I'm feeling less burned out in time for the release of 5e, and I've mentioned a couple of times that that system fills my nostalgia-sack to bursting with precious orgone, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.  As I was going to do with the playtest version, I'll be using the Wilderlands for this, since it is at least somewhat close to 5e's default assumptions while still being palatable to me. 

Mer Shunna Temple, Most Holy Shrine (on Land) of Armadod-bog

In the dying years of Kelnore, when that glittering but death-sick empire collapsed under the weight of its own decadence and hordes of invaders, a strange people came to the shores of the Trident Gulf.  They were a green skinned people, and legend says their blood carried an ancient lineage from the Demon Kingdoms in the distant south.  In the gulf they found the god Armadod-Bog and the race of fish-men that were at that time his servitors.  Armadod-bog promised these green men that they should have a great empire if they venerated him and mortified themselves for the sin of being born land-things.

And so the Viridians met their god and their fanatical hordes of flagellants conquered many of the cities of old Kelnore, enslaved the caveman of the Elephan Lands, and butchered many northern elves.  Eventually they traded fanatics for keen archers, but this did little to stem the tide of their empire building.  Twice they forced the "Invincible" Overlord to submit, first at the infamous Bloodless Battle and again when the great and terrible relic from the Uttermost War nearly destroyed the City State.  They ruled territory as far north as Damkina, as far south as the hills north of Lenap, and as far east as the Majestic Mountains.

But those days are gone.  Like Kelnore before them, and like the First men and the Markrabs before them, their empire is dying.  His Piscine Majesty, the seemingly immortal Viridian Emperor, has retreated with his sister-wives, the infertile remnants of his once powerful race, into the Mer Shunna Temple, and rumors abound that he is losing his power.  Certainly that seems to be the case abroad - Damkina has asserted its independence, the new Invincible Overlord - Bjorn the Mighty - and his Skandik allies are reclaiming the land beyond the Majestic Mountains, and even the Elves of Elsenwood have grown bold enough to once again challenge Viridian soldiers.  There are even rumors that the Satrap of Tell Qa seeks to join Damkina in its revolt against the Lord of Land and Sea.

Even Armadod-bog seems to have turned his many, ever-open eyes away from the city.  The sect of Mycr, a peaceful god worshiped in the Desert Lands, has been growing within the city and throughout the empire.  It is said that they work magics to undo the rituals to the city's traditional gods, and that they preach such rank heresy that the gods are literally sickened by them.  During better times, his Piscine Majesty would have drowned these freakish blasphemers by the thousands.  Once his hosts even stormed their strange cave cities and sacked the temple to their "true god."  Now only a few score are killed every year, and without the Emperor's emerald hand to guide them these few executions are at best half-hearted.

Despite all this, it is doubtful that any city in the Wilderlands can rival the splendor of Viridistan even in this debased state, much less any "empire."  For this reason it has attracted a large population of Tharabian mercenaries and many adventurers.  The PCs are presumably of this second category.  One can carve a lot of wealth out of the corpse of a dead empire.

In future posts I hope to cover some subtle differences in the races and backgrounds of the PCs as well as give an overview of the different quarters of the city, its common religions, and the nearby dungeons.


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 evan.van.elkins@gmail.com

*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.   


Friday, February 7, 2014

Everybody's Gotta Start Somewhere

Inspired by blogs such as the Grand Duchy of Stollen and the Kingdom of Wittenberg, as well as a number of others, I decided around the end of last year to engage in an "imagi-nation" wargaming project.  I originally considered chronicling the fictitious struggles between the Republic of West Florida and Fredonia, but found that War of 1812-style miniatures were rather rare in the 1/72 scale plastics I wanted to use.  

After doing a bit more research on rules, the availability of miniatures, and the history of wargaming I settled on a project: the early nineteenth century wars between the Grand Duchy of Rotland and the Kingdom (formerly Electorate) of Blauland.  The names of the countries - Redland and Blueland - are taken from the opposing sides in the original Prussian wargames, and I plan on having a number of German color pun related countries orbiting the two main players.

Kristina Grand Duchess of Rotland in her typically outdated fashions

Johann I King of Blauland, a well meaning crazy person

The two states are pitifully small and are often forgotten by even the most minor powers of the Napoleonic wars.  They have, however, taken the opportunity presented by the current hostilities in Europe to settle old scores.  Neither the Grand Duchess nor the King are really sure who this Boney guy is, but surely their rival must be in league with him and stricken with this "French madness."

The armies of Rotland have begun marshaling an invasion force which they hope will cross the Grosseblau in mid September, a mere six months after the declaration of war.  Below you can see the first company of the First Fusilier Regiment of Rotland drilling before the upcoming invasion.




I am unreasonably proud of those little guys, which I just completed last night.  I've written a scenario, which I will put in a little sidebar, that I'm using to dictate what troops I'll need before I get a game going.

I thought about starting a blog solely to chronicle my wargaming experiences, but figured there was probably enough overlap that I could put my stuff up here.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Alternate Ship Combat Rules for Starships and Spacemen (1st Draft)


Someone recommended I use Starships and Spacemen for War on the Final Frontier. I initially scoffed at this, since I didn't think I wanted a level based system, but after some thought I'm warming up to it. However, I don't really like ship combat. "Balance of Terror" is my favorite TOS episode, and it basically defines how I want space combat to work in anything. The computer game FTL is also a good model. With those things in mind, I designed this. I hope to playtest it tomorrow with my home group.

I'll be adding a link to the google doc in the documents section. When I update this system, I'll be updating the doc, not this page.

This system is designed to give more players something to do during space combat, as well as to replicate the sorts of space battles one sees in the Star Trek films and in games like Star Fleet Battles and Federation commander.

Procedure
Engagements still begin at 300,000 miles away from each other and have the option of moving 30,000 miles per turn.

At the beginning of each round, the Captain - the Command officer on board with the highest rank - of each ship rolls 1d6 and adds their intelligence bonus.  The highest ship moves first.  All action on a ship is considered to happen simultaneously.

Consoles
Each player takes control of one console on the starship.  These consoles are Weapons (Combat), Science (Science), Engineering (Technical), Comms (Contact), and Helm (not associated with any skill, but best suited for Navigators).  Each turn, the player may perform one action at his or her station.  To perform the action, simply roll the skill check associated with it.  

Characters that possess a primary skill in one of the functions of the station but not the skill required for the station level itself are considered 3 levels lower than their actual level.  If this means their level is less than 1, they cannot perform any actions at the console.

Consoles manned by NPCs cannot employ functions beyond the original combat rules; NPCs can fire the ships weapons or move the ship, but do little else.  An exception is made for this below.

Weapons
The player at Weapons console selects which weapons will be fired this round and at what targets.  The player must select either the phaser banks or the photon torpedos, and the ship may only fire a number of photon torpedos at a time based on its class.  Otherwise firing functions as in the original rules.  Ship skill is only used if the console is manned by an NPC, otherwise the player uses their combat skill.  Fire Control characters still have a +2 bonus to using these weapons.

The weapons console may also be used to fire a tractor beam.  This does no damage but holds a ship in place, which is particularly useful against ships that are trying to flee.  To do this spend 5 energy and make a Science test.  If the test is successful, the target is caught in a tractor beam.  Every round thereafter the tractored ship may attempt to break out by bidding a number of EUs.  For each EU they bid, the tractoring ship must match their

Science
The player at the Science console may either attempt to use their phaser frequency to bypass the enemies shields, dealing damage directly to the ship, or target specific systems if the shields are down.

To bypass the enemies shields, make a Technical skill test.  If the roll is successful, all phaser damage this round is dealt directly to the ship.

To target specific systems, make a Science skill test.  This may only be attempted when the enemies shields are offline.  A successful test, when coupled with a successful hit, will neutralize an enemy console until it is repaired by damage control.

Engineering
Characters at the Engineering console may willingly sacrifice EUs in order to power other systems, boost the shields, or perform damage control.

To boost power to other systems, make a Technical skill test.  If successful the player may spend 5 EUs to add another die of damage to the phaser banks (including all phaser shots that connect), or to double the distance moved by the helm.  

To boost power to the shields make a Science skill test.  If successful the player may spend 5 EUs to completely restore them; however, if they are offline the cost is 10 EUs.

To perform damage control make a Technical skill test.  If successful, restore 1d6 EUs to the ship or restore a disabled system.

Comms
The player at the Comms console may jam enemy communications, attempt to contact the enemy, or to attempt to contact starfleet or other allies.

To jam the enemy communications make a Science test.  If successful, the enemy ship cannot use any Comms station functions and cannot perform damage control.

To attempt to contact the enemy make a Contact test.  If successful the player may talk to the enemy captain.  This can be used to taunt enemies and draw them away from ships which you may be protecting.

To attempt to contact an allie make a Contact test.  If successful the player is able to get a subspace message to the nearest allied ship, though their is no guarantee they will be within range to do anything about it.

Helm
The player at the Helm console chooses whether will move this round, perform evasive maneuvers, or attempt a ram.

Moving does not require any kind of skill check.  Simply state whether your moving towards or away from the enemy.

Evasive maneuvers require a Combat skill test.  If successful the next attack made against the ship has a -2 penalty.

Ramming may only be done when within Torpedo range of an enemy ship.  To attempt a ram roll a Combat skill test.  If successful both ships are typically destroyed, though this may not be true for certain “space monsters.”

Captain
The captain is not technically a console but functions much like one.  This position is always held by the highest ranking Command officer on the ship.  The captain may attempt to aid a player at a console or to command an NPC at one.

To aid a player, make a skill test for the same skill that they are using this round.  If successful the player gains a +2 bonus to their skill.

To command an NPC, simply choose the console you wish to use this round and run it as though you were the player at that console.

Remember that player at each console and the captain may only take one of these actions in a round.

Enemy ships are typically treated as though they had a player captain (the Star Master) and the rest of the consoles controlled by NPCs.  Exceptions will be made for certain ships, particularly those the Star Master wishes to serve as a “rival crew.”

Shields
This alternate system uses shields instead of screens.  Unlike beam vs phaser weapons or photon vs ionic torpedos, this is more than a semantic difference.  Shields are essentially a set of temporary armor that exists on top of a ships EUs.  Thus a ship must have its shields go down due to damage before it can take direct EU damage.

For the purpose of conversion, and just as a general rule, most ships have a shield rating equal to 1/4 their EUs (rounded up).

Disrupters
Disrupters are special weapons found on Klingon ships.  They may be fired at Fireball range and deal 1d10 x 5 damage.

Marines
If an enemy’s shields are down, the captain may choose to send over a boarding party, but must lower his or her ship’s shields in order to do so.  These can only be brought back up with a successful Technical skill check made at the engineering console.  This check does not count as the Engineer’s action.  The rest of these rules are abstract and presume a team of NPC enlisted men rather than a PC boarding party.  PC boarding parties may make for an interesting adventure, but running them simultaneously with space combat is a headache I would wish on no Star Master.

Marnies typically are sent to disable certain systems.  For every 3 people a ship is capable of transporting, you may target one system.  To see if their mission is successful, roll on the table below for each team.

Marine Raid Table
d6
Target
Marines
1
Disabled
Return
2
Disabled
Lost
3
Failure
Return
4
Failure
Return
5
Failure
Lost
6
Failure
Lost

If the marines disable the system, that console can no longer be used until it is repaired with damage control.

Marines could hypothetically attempt to gain control of a ship.  The simplest way of doing this is to target the Bridge instead of a system.  Roll on the table above, but add 1 to the die roll for each difference in size between the defending ship and the attacking ship.

New Ships
These ships are designed to more closely resemble the ships of the Star Fleet Universe. PC crews will be assigned to one type at the beginning of the campaign, and unless special circumstances arise they are unlikely to switch.  Command ranks are given for determining the level of an NPC Captain.

Frigate
Smaller ships used for small missions or as escorts.

Crew Complement: 150
Command Rank: Ensign
Nacelle Power Base: 100 EUs (two half nacelles)
Shield Capacity: 25
Teleporter Capacity: 3 at a time
Phaser Banks: 1
Photon Torpedos: 6 Total; 1 at a time
Shuttlecraft: 1
Sick Bay Capacity: 20

War Destroyer
Crew Complement: 200
Command Rank: Lieutenant
Nacelle Power Base: 150 EUs (three half nacelles)
Shield Capacity: 40
Teleporter Capacity: 4 at a time
Phaser Banks: 2
Photon Torpedos: 9; 1 at a time
Shuttlecraft: 2
Sick Bay Capacity: 40

New Light Cruiser
Crew Complement: 250
Command Rank: Commander
Nacelle Power Base: 200 EUs (two nacelles)
Shield Capacity: 50
Teleporter Capacity: 6 at a time
Phaser Banks: 3
Photon Torpedos: 10; 2 at a time
Shuttlecraft: 3
Sick Bay Capacity: 50

New Heavy Cruiser
Crew Complement: 300
Command Rank: Captain
Nacelle Power Base: 300 EUs (three nacelles)
Shield Capacity: 75
Teleporter Capacity: 7 at a time
Phaser Banks: 4
Photon Torpedos: 12; 2 at a time
Shuttlecraft: 4
Sick Bay Capacity: 75

Battle Cruiser
Crew Complement: 400
Command Rank: Commodore
Nacelle Power Base: 400 EUs (two double nacelles)
Shield Capacity: 100
Teleporter Capacity: 9 at a time
Phaser Banks: 5
Photon Torpedos: 18; 3 at a time (For Kirov Battle Cruisers); 12; 2 at a time Fireballs (for Bismark Battle Cruisers)
Shuttlecraft: 5
Sick Bay Capacity: 100.

Dreadnaught
Crew Complement: 450
Command Rank: Admiral
Nacelle Power Base: 600 (Three Double Nacelles)
Shield Capacity: 150
Teleporter Capacity: 12 at a time
Phaser Banks: 6
Photon Torpedos: 24; 3 at a time or 18; 3 at a time Fireballs
Shuttlecraft: 6
Sick Bay Capacity: 150

The stats above are for Federation ships.  For Klingon ships, substitute Disruptors for Photon Torpedos and ignore the total number.  For Romulan ships, add a cloaking device and change photon torpedos to fireballs.