Monday, March 23, 2020

Conquest of the Gorgon Coast: Session 1 - Isla Santa

What follows is a play report for my "Conquest of the Gorgon Coast" game, playing with dear friends: Peter, Finn, Cid, and Will. It makes use of the random tables for Spoils of the Gorgon Coast, as well as randomizers cut and expanded on for the zine supplement: The Ashen City. 

The Titular Region for my Campaign, Randomly Generated.

The Set-Up

In service to the Inheritor; Eschtopheles Gorgoni-Rex, the Heir of Chalices; several mercenary factions have entered in a pact with one another to ensure victory against the other war hosts now present on the Gorgon Coast.

The Knights Glantisant, those who pursue the Questing Beast, swore their swords and restless pursuit to the cause.  The White Tower Aspirants, those who seek the mantle of the divine through vile arcane rites, sought to place the Inheritor upon the Blackened Throne for their own wicked reasons.  The Lonely Few sent some of their own cursed lot to supplement others, survive them, and collect their payment; and the Knights Panther who wished to earn favor by slaying monsters of renown.

The Party

  • Galban Ferragamo, a veteran from the Knights Glantisant with a snaggletooth grin. Played by Will. 
  • Eridian the Heron, the cabalist of the White Tower Aspirants who is bound to apocalyptic ruin. Played by Peter. 
  • Zaira Dominitus, a displaced dastardess of the Lonely Few, cursed to live while others die. Played by Cid.
  • Pike of the Ashen City, an outcast who lost their fellows in the Ruins of the Old Empire. Played by Finn.

How did the session go?

Well, the party did some...unexpected things.

Former Penal Colony

They landed on Isla Santa at night, snuck through the grapefruit orchards and then split into two groups: Pike, Galban, and Ziara went one and Eridian the Heron, pain in the ass he is; went the other way. Galban & Co snuck into the city proper, whilst Eridian set up a bear trap and killed a hog. Galban & Co were able to win the affections of some townsfolk who  awoke in the middle of the night to hear a hog having death screams. Eridian was cold-cocked and taken off to a rock on the edge of the island to be whipped and tortured.

Galban & Co found out stuff about the island; namely it was run by a Sebastorii who works for the Hand of Virtue and who employs the Nacre Shield out of Hagios Golgo. They gained good reason to think the Degenerate Heir they were looking for was prisoner in the Sebastorii's villa.

In the morning, Eridian awoke, was subjected to a Chalice blooding, and not enjoying that at all; cast forth terrible flames from his open wounds which incinerated the Centurion tormenting him and sending the lesser Nacre Shield to flee, forming a mob and getting the Sebastorii in person. Galban and Pike investigated the "screams on the rock" which led them back to Eridian, whilst Ziara went to the villa with the guard as Galban's "herald."

As the mob formed in town, Galban & Pike rigged the rocks to look as though a terrible battle had taken place; freed Eridian, and then threw all his equipment into the ocean. Eridian dressed in the dead Centurion's armor and was then told he'd be thrown in the ocean too. Eridian jumped in the ocean, hurt himself, and started swimming towards the Villa. Meanwhile, Ziara noticed strange interbreeding of tea and poisons in the villa gardens and made a poor representative of herself to Sauvon Rochenne, the Sebator of Isla Santa. She managed to forestall him long enough that when he arrived to see Galban & Pike's plan, he believed it for the most part. Ziara doubled back to scope out the villa as Eridian climbed up the rocks, wounded and mangled but alive. They infiltrated the villa, posing as a wounded Centurion and a hired hand.

Galban and Sauvon barbed words for a bit, with Galban claiming as a member of the Knights Glantisant, he pursues all manner of terrible beasts and the one who "had cast fire out its backside" was known as The Heron (Eridian's nickname). Sauvon wasn't buying it fully, but Galban claimed that it might have made nests and laid eggs everywhere. It is very dangerous. Sauvon demanded proof and one day to clear out the infestation, to which Pike and Galban agreed.

Eridian and Ziara broke into the villa's basement, with Eridian mangling his hand with eldritch flame while trying to open a door--which ZIara just bashed the lock off of. When they reached another door, Ziara ran Eridian through with her sword; as he was near death, intolerable, and The Lucky Few have a reputation to uphold. She convinced secondary guard (including one who was torturing Eridian earlier) that the Heron was an infectious strain of monsters, and then she asked if he had cleansed himself today. The guards got into an uproar on cleanliness and began to abandon their post. Ziara snuck in further and stole wine.

Things got hectic, the mob dispersed, and Sauvon returned to the villa. After a time, Galban and Pike went as well to find their companions, only to witness most of the Nacre Shield believed the Heron to be a parasite strain. Playing off lowered morale, Galban and Pike offered their battlefield surgery skills; butchering every officer with well-rolled criticals and terrible violence. Once they had killed off the rival freeblades save for a single one, they ascended the villa's lone tower to take Sauvon as hostage and loot his place.

Eventually, the three remaining party-members went into the dungeon, liberated Augustinius Gorgoni-Rex; a long-imprisoned Degenerate Heir and scholar of teas and poisons. They sacked the villa, stole many portraits and a few notable treasures of noble fancy; before heading off to their boat to sail to Fallen Taurochtalia; to deliver the heir to a contact, receive new orders, and enjoy their profits.

Augustinius is thankful to the party and owes them a kindness, though he's been marked of the Basilisk Strain and cast down from station. The Inheritor of the Sallow Sea hates the Nacre Shield and might do kindly with the party in the future for humiliating them. The Inheritor of the Hand of Virtue will act against the party and their master for having sacked Isla Santa.


Everyone save for Eridian, who died, was able to gain about 12XP; and we're doing level-ups on the 10s for sake of longevity. It was an overwhelming success for the party, though the actions will have long consequences. Eridian's superiors serve the White Wizard after all. Eridian's player is making a new character, archetype not yet known; but she is an Engineer specialist for the Cabal of the Shattered Eye mercenary group.

Next Session

The party makes their way to Fallen Taurochtalia, to sell their plundered wares, seek out their employers, engage with contacts, and potentially plunder the periphery of the Ashen City or one of the fallen empire's notable sites of horror. Knowing the party, they'll likely just get involved in petty thuggery, shanghai shenanigans, and gambling. 

As we game in arduous times, it is a reprieve and a comfort to have fun as I have had this night. 

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Spoils of the Gorgon Coast: The Degenerate Heir

As the kickstarter for the Zinequest Quartet winds down, I find myself in awe of the amount of folks who seem interested in my project; especially given the fierce talent of the other writers working on the project. Spoils of the Gorgon Coast, is a setting toolbox for generating a horrible Mediterranean region ruled by terrible inbred eugenicist monsterblooded noble houses led by the Inheritors, who seek to steal back the throne of their now fallen empire. They deal a lot with the squick horror of abuse, privilege, high-society, and are meant to clearly operate as the sort of people who will condemn thousands to pain and misery from behind a desk. They absolutely suck and make for good villains, as you're ostensibly only in the region to work for one or to profit off the war they're putting on.

The Cover for Spoils of the Gorgon Coast.

Notably, in several sections of their faction generator write-ups (which includes their palatial estates, henchmen, and hostages), note is made to Degenerate Heirs and Denied Heirs. The latter being an Inheritor who, for lack of a nicer way to phrase it--will not be having children to carry on the bloodline and thus is not allowed to have the throne. They're not the most tragic. But a Degenerate Heir has this sort of sadness to them; they were perfectly monstrous enough to take the throne but then someone else was born "better" and now they're seen as a genetic dead end; worthless save for keeping up appearances.

Such beings come from extreme wealth but now with an existential loss of purpose, either glut themselves on every drug and concubine they can have in life until ennui takes the wheel and sends them to their deaths; or they can get angry and pursue their own destinies.

This is an attempt at a Racial Archetype for Best Left Buried, which is in truth a bit less powerful than an Elf or Dwarf in the setting. Its abilities are flavorful, but essentially more harm than good. I'd have gone with a different grouping that appears in the setting, but I intend to run the Gorgon Coast and I know what sort of things my players like to play as---generally speaking, they want to play as sharp-toothed monster people because such is the way of the world. Its a hard line to play with, making monsterblooded and mutated nobles who aren't blatantly beastmen, so what follows is a taste of what you'll receive in the book proper.

If you haven't already checked out the Zinequest Quartet, do so: you'll be supporting me, and a lot of other great writers. It is already guaranteed funded, so you've got nothing to lose. And while this item here is not in the book itself---I am hopeful that, should the book do well, I might be able to create supplementary material for it.

So please let me know what you think.

Art by Spaghetti Bastard; whose horrific displays were a big influence.
The Degenerate Heir:
The Inheritors of the Gorgon Coast have spent countless generations meddling with the blood of monsters, seeking to reach a horrific apotheosis so as to bring to fruition the desires of the First Imperator: that mankind shall never again know fear. Such reckless pursuits lead to abominable rites; inbreeding, cannibalism, and cullings more often than not. But each generation is a march towards progress, and in truth, even the most broken of offspring is still closer to that goal than their progenitors. 

You are one of these Degenerate Heirs. Not an Inheritor, for your parentage or your siblings have spawned something more malformed and more fitting to seek the blood-stained throne of Ancient Taurochtalia. Your authority has been supplanted, your destined thwarted, your inheritance denied; you are nothing now but a warped branch end of the family tree. 

Degenerated and denied, you still have access (for the moment) to your family resources and knowledge of the war to come. The throne may never be yours, but you may again know the love of your family---provided you are able to butcher their rivals and plunder their palatial halls of antiquity.

Note: The traits of playing a Degenerate Heir are double-edged and situational, enough that the flavor does not outweigh the penalties. As such, much like a regular character archetype a Degenerate Heir may take an additional advancement at character creation. As such they are noted in the Suggested Advancements listed below.

Imperial Arrogance: Even a Degenerate Heir knows they are better than any lesser being that foul fortune has forced them to suffer among. Degenerate Heirs are Against the Odds when engaged in positive social interaction with NPCs not of royal or monstrous blood.

Wealth of the City-States: Though scorned by their Inheritor siblings and parents for a few misplaced mutations and blemishes, a Degenerate Heir is still expected to keep up appearances. Degenerate Heirs only gain Experience from Treasure when it is worth at least 2 points of Experience. Anything less if nothing to celebrate. For fancy starting goods, roll on the tables below.

Blooded of the Chalice: Though of ill-fortune in their breeding, the Degenerate Heir is still of malign and baleful blood. They do not fear monsters, they consume them. Degenerate Heirs have the Upper Hand on all Grip Checks made against monstrous entities. Degenerate Heirs recover Vigour at half the rate of other characters, though if they are consuming the blood of monsters from a chalice, they recover at twice the rate.

An Inheritance Denied: Degenerate Heirs are a genetic backwash of what was intended to be perfection. No amount of worship to the Cult of Chalices or victories against their rivals will win them the favor that they seek. This injustice weighs heavily upon the minds and hearts of the Degenerate Heir, causing them to begin with an Affliction determined below.

Suggested Advancements:  Take Tough as Nails if your Degenerate Heir is a lumbering brute. Take Spirits of the Beyond if they are studied of the Collegiums of the Coast and interested in its history a bit too much. Take Concoctionist if they are deeply invested in their family goals or a vaunted member of the Cult of Chalices. 

Typical Afflictions of the Degenerate Heir:
  1. Debilitating Dread
  2. Bitter Grudge
  3. Despair of Worthlessness
  4. Man-Eater
  5. Solace in the Battle
  6. Hedonistic Longing

New Affliction
Hedonistic Longing (Character Flaw) The comforts of the upper echelons of society cease to provide comfort to a Degenerate Heir after years of consumption. The brothels, drug dens, torture houses, and artist plazas lose their lustre. Time away waging war, looting tombs, and plundering crypts may for a time suffice, but a wistfulness and a longing to overindulge will always find its way back to the heir. Denied their inheritance, they must attempt to satiate themselves on any other indulgence; often leading to a life of spiraling shame and further addiction.

Degenerate Heir’s Horrible Form, Frame:
  1. A squat and broad body, akin to a toad; warted and leathery.
  2. A tall and muscled frame, lithe and limber, capable of such cruelty.
  3. A long and bony frame, lumbering and slick with sweat.
  4. A body riddled with semi-hardened plates of bone and a fused, thick neck.
  5. A flowing form, like water from a spigot, like a moving serpent. Always slinking about.
  6. A crumpled frame, hunchbacked, with hands scraping just above the ground.
Degenerate Heir’s Horrible Form, Face:
  1. The sharp, edged features of a belly-crawling beast. A long jaw of ripping fangs.
  2. The black eyes of an apex predator, soulless and hateful. Skin smooth as a stone.
  3. A face of folding flesh, bent upward and arranged for strange acoustics. A mouth for drinking blood.
  4. A great proboscis and the bold panicked eyes of prey. A small mouth of narrow needles.
  5. The bone-chewing jaws of a scavenger, seemingly lipless. Wild, yellow eyes ripe with jaundice.
  6. A broad flat face with the eyes of a goat, teeth for ripping, and a malicious cackle that pulls back the lips too far.
Wealth of the City-State, Inherited Weapons:
  1. Asp-embellished rapier or bastard sword with arboreal patterns upon the blade.
  2. Headman’s axe with a Gilded Edge or a flagellant’s whip of Monster Flesh.
  3. Azure-inlaid Bec-de-Corbin or a hooked sword with Harpy-embellishments on the guard.
  4. A velvet-hilted cavalry sabre or a long misericorde that emulates a manticore’s spine.
  5. An ivory wood-stocked huntsman’s rifle or a pair of gold and bone pistols.
  6. A rosewood heavy crossbow embellished with house patterns on the stock or an ancient ox-horn longbow painted in blackware style with hydra-slaying deeds.
Wealth of the City-State, Inherited Armor:
  1. Padded black gambeson with gold thread embellishments 
  2. Ancient eel-patterned Gladiator’s helmet with bone raptor’s feather plume.
  3. Fur-trimmed parade armor with gilded-scale cloak 
  4. Pavise shield painted to depict the Degenerate Heir mocking their foes.
  5. Sliced hedge knight’s leather armor with serpent patterns threaded throughout 
  6. Silvered sallet helmet embellished with a spiked crown.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Regarding Firewood for Gaming Purposes

From Here

As something of a backwoodsy person, I’ve gathered firewood on many occasions. Driftwood from Lake Ontario which had dried out on a rocky beach would often make up the bulk of any bonfire, and save for the spiders and occasional rusty nail, it was decent firewood but it was notably scavenged. 

I’ve also had the misfortune of preparing firewood from scavenged wood found in the forests of the same region, which is to say that I’ve been attacked by bees, wasps, fire ants, additional spiders, and no small amount of spores and dust which hid within the desiccated husk of what appeared to be nice dry wood. Which is all before we get into the issue of wet wood.

The good firewood that I’ve prepared was generally harvested from logs from a tree that was felled for this purpose. The timber was split into usable sized bits of wood, and the bark was either scraped off beforehand or left on because it wasn’t getting in the way. There wasn’t a lot of time for the spiders get into the wood. It made for pleasant burning.

This is all to say that firewood is interesting and important, maybe not worthy of great ruling considerations in your game; but worthy of the following considerations:

Is the firewood harvested/from civilization/from a woodcutter? 
If so, it burns well without any additional problems. You have a nice fire for the whole of your night. If you’ve somehow made an extremely good fire, roll on the following firewood comfort table.

Is the firewood scavenged/from the wilds/possibly wet or infested?
If so, then you roll on the following firewood calamity table and unless you can attend to the issue properly, you gain a level of exhaustion. 

For sake of definition: harvested wood has undergone some degree of quality assurance by a professional, it isn't wood stolen from a pauper's wooden grave marker or utterly/potentially infested with spiders. Scavenged wood makes no such promises.

Firewood Comforts [d6]
1. Pleasantly aromatic smoke. Foods cooked on the fire grant an additional dice in healing value.

2. Heavy, billowing smoke. Insects, mosquitos and other such vermin keep away from the fire for the duration of the night. 

3. Warm and comforting fires. Party members who rest by the fire gain a full night’s rest, even if they otherwise suffered exhaustion or were made to take watch.

4. Large and crackling fire. Forces a morale check on beasts, both benign and malicious, who wish to approach the campsite.

5. Low-burning and subtle fire. Casts little light out into the wilderness, 4-in-6 chance that intelligent beings outside camp will confuse it for a trick of the moonlight, fireflies, et cetera.

6. Humble, comforting fire. Perplexes small game animals who stumble towards the camp, allowing a 3-in-6 chance of catching/striking them before they flee off into the night.

Firewood Calamities [d12]
1. Burns brightly, quickly. Wood was filled with itching ants, ticks, fleas, and other blistering vermin. Fire-starter must strip or douse themselves to receive recovering benefits tonight. If the fire-starter does no such thing, they cannot rest and suffer Exhaustion. 

2. Explodes in a crackling burst of splintered wood. Those near the fire must Save or have their clothing and gear scratched up by the wood. Flammable goods will catch fire. The one who threw the wood on the fire must Save or begin loudly choking on the fumes.

3. Spiders, numerous and vile, crawl out of the wood and on to the hand of the fire-starter before they can burn the wood. Save or be bitten, suffering a point of damage and a reaction which makes that hand swollen and unusable for 24 hours. If already Exhausted, damage and duration is doubled. Wood burns otherwise just fine. 

4. Low flame with heady, miasmic smoke. A pocket of dried rot and spores in the wood carries with it the risk of poisoning and sickness. Those who breathe the smoke deeply or eat food cooked from this fire suffer a mild indigestion poisoning, granting them Exhaustion and forcing them some degree of dehydration.

5. Crackling flame which doesn’t seem to warm the bones. The tree this wood was taken from is furious and plotting its revenge. It will send creeper vines and hateful roots to drag away the harvester and fire-starter, causing them to Save or wake up far from camp in the middle of the night, crudely bound and suffering Exhaustion.

6. Burns white hot and in tall, anguished tongues of flame. The wood creaks and groans as the fire burns. This wood was not meant for burning. The forest will act with hostility to any who venture outside the light of the camp. Reaction rolls are rolled twice for the next 1d3 days, taking the more hostile result against the party.

7. Acrid, heavy, collapsing clouds of smoke. Becomes an issue once the party is asleep. Save or wake up choking, the fire out, and suffer exhaustion. 

8. Burns darkly, phantom figures in the smoke. Specters, demons, and other phantasmal beings find passage into the mortal world through the campfire. 3-in-6 chance they will try to possess the party and make them their thralls/hosts.

9. Loud, crackling fire that burns too high. 3-in-6 chance of attracting unwelcome company, roll a d8 to determine what. 1-2: Wayward judgmental pilgrims. 3: Bandits (who thought this was their camp. 4: Bandits (looking to rob campers). 5: Wolves in search of sleeping prey. 6: Bears in search of easy food. 7: Some terrible woodland cryptid who wishes to cause havoc and fear. 8: A wayward wyrm of the wood who is very cruel as they took this fire to be a mating flame.

10: Explosive and powerful fire. 5-in-6 chance it will catch the surrounding area on fire once everyone is asleep. If the surrounding area is wet, it will create a great wall of smoke which will not dissipate for 2d6 days and causes disadvantage on all rolls to get out of the wilderness; as well as bleary-eyed exhaustion to all players present.

Why should you use such rulings?
That’s entirely on you. This is meant for use with a Into the Wyrd & Wild type of woodland where it is notably your antagonist. Much like drinking from a well in a dungeon rather than from your canteen, risks should be plentiful. I’d likely use these sorts of rulings in my inevitable Dolmenwood campaign for use when starting fire in places like the Domain of the Nag-Lord or the Fever Marshes. 

Friday, October 4, 2019

A Thousand Thousand Island Uplands Character Origins for Whitehack & Other Adjacent Roleplaying

Ambassadors of the Uplands, Mun Kao.

Zedeck Siew & Mun Kao’s A Thousand Thousand Islands are works of superb storytelling, weaving interesting locations that present information with a voice that speaks to a life lived in the world. Exposition never feels forced, the uncanny is spoken of with a weight to facts; locust-headed witches, crocodile archaeologists, and cat-masked shape-shifting assassins exist and you’d do well not to cross them, but they are natural parts of this world. 

In the past I’ve used broader OSR assumptions and bits of Yoon-Suin to make use of content from A Thousand Thousand Islands, which can do a disservice to the work by not allowing it to exist independently of other settings. Given that the creators just put all their zines up on, including two I had never seen before; I felt I ought to give some thought on what and how a game set in the Thousand Thousand Islands should look like; with considerations to origins and ability.

I’ve opted, much like I have for the Monsoon Ghats (which will be done eventually, I swear) to make use of some of Whitehack’s considerations. The separation of origin and class, the mechanical boon of affiliations, et cetera; all feel like they’d benefit a game set in this world. 

But, one should consider that while playing a crocodile or a cat agent might be fun, they are also what make the setting exciting to encounter coming from a societal default wherein such things are far and away from where the players are from. 

In the first issue, Mr-Kr-GR the Death-Rolled Kingdom, we get a glimpse at the Uplands; a land whose people must enter through these crocodile infested lands to reach the wider world. There is a point of contention, Margessa the Third Queen of Mr-Kr-Gr wants to close down the borders; which would surely lead to disharmony with the Uplanders. And the Uplanders as we are shown come from three groups (in this issue anyhow); Lost Merating, the Tohey tribes, and realm of the bear-people called Kandis. 

Lost Merating seems a cursed and strange place, the Tohey are emigrating towards Mr-Kr-Gr and have their own internal issues, and Kandis doesn’t care for Mr-Kr-Gr nor broader humanity. I feel these are interesting places to begin from, venturing down from the uplands, shuffling into Mr-Kr-Gr in the hopes of getting to the wider world, dealing with agents of the Wan Kisi who anticipated your arrival and wish to use you, getting displaced in a time-shriven forest, and seeking out wealth and weapons in Andjang. 

So I’ve cooked up some randomizers and origins a la Whitehack for use in play. Extrapolations are all my own.

Of Lost Merating
To be of Merating, Lost Merating, is to live in a place of thick darkness and great uncertainty. To put your faith in another is to risk trifling with a witch. Bargains for power will not keep you safe in this land, but dealings with such beings might see you marked and tasked with a service elsewhere in the Thousand Thousand Islands. 

Beings of Lost Merating are vulnerable to the predations of witches, and must honor all their dealings with others--so baked into their existence is the knowledge of crossing a witch and its consequences. Beings of Lost Merating may be of any class, though only Wise characters may have a vocation related to serving as a Guide. Affiliations for beings of Lost Merating come as easily as they do to any other human culture, though perhaps a bit more easily when made with witches or beings of dark power. Beings of Lost Merating have a normal XP rate and should roll on the following tables for additional fun, as applicable to whether your character is a Witch or merely has suffered their proximity.

Mark of the Bewitched [d8]
1. Was born with antennae on their head, long and impossible to ignore. 
2. Milky-white eyes which obscure dangers and draw the attention of the hantu.
3. A voice that grows smaller and more distant, the more important the things it says.
4. Fungal spore rashes on the flesh which spell out cursed desires.
5. A smile which disgusts those who would hold them kindly.
6. Missing a bit of tongue and two fingers, payment for services rendered.
7. Teeth like a shark which can never pierce fruit or chew rice.
8. Hive pock marks around the neck, where insects once dwelled.

Mark of the Witch [d8]
1. The head of a katydid, with maddening eyes.
2. Clawed hands, like two dancing spiders.
3. Breath like death, repulsive to all but spirits.
4. Glowing light like fireflies beneath their digits.
5. A toyol which nurses at their breast.
6. Vicious tusks of a boar, leftover from a possession.
7. Slithering tattoos of naga.
8. Mushrooms which grow from the earlobe and whisper deadly truths. 

Of the Tohey
History is a sword of many edges, it can be held aloft to unite a people but just as easily can those people see every little cut they’ve ever suffered. Such is the lot of the Tohey, many of whom have begun to emigrate to Mr-Kr-Gr and beyond. Together they are strong, they sing the old songs and give the world to their children; but each know the feuds and rivalries of their ancestors. 

To be of the Tohey is to know yourself, to be resilient against forces which would seek to manipulate the faith you have in yourself and in your boon companions. The Tohey may belong to any character class, but when choosing their vocation they must also determine a vocation that belonged to an ancestral enemy; to whom this character will have to resign their bitterness with if they wish to cooperate. Those of the Tohey have a normal XP rate and should roll on the following tables to determine why their ancestor hated another group of Tohey, and a boon of their ancestor to which they will suffer no insult.

Ancestral Animosities[d8]
1. They betrayed your ancestor on the night of a crucial battle. 
2. They did not assist your ancestor when a loved one was sickly.
3. They claimed credit for a deed your ancestor performed.
4. They performed mockeries when your ancestor was suffering.
5. They were perverse and insane towards your ancestor.
6. They sought to usurp the authority of your ancestor.
7. They did not act in the best interest of the Tohey people, to their pain.
8. They performed wicked rites to dark spirits, which none of the Tohey should abide.

Ancestor’s Boon [d8]
1. They used stealth and cunning to survive an important battle and tell the story.
2. They made tough choices which kept the tribe healthy in a time of plagues.
3. They told the tales of their friends so as to keep their memories alive.
4. They roused the morale of the tribe during a time of terrible strife.
5. They were famed for their passion and mirth by all their neighbors.
6. They cast down a cruel chieftain for the benefit of the Tohey.
7. They enriched your family by making dealings with cats and crocodiles.
8. They battled dark spirits alone, so as to spare the rest of the tribe. 

Bear-person of Kandis
Surrounded by perfidious humanity, the bear-people of Kandis bide their time. They know patience as well as they know heroism, both things are tiresome but necessary when the moment calls for it. They are beginning to venture from the Uplands again, plotting, scheming, hungering for new flesh on which to sate their appetites.

A bear-person of Kandis is large and powerful, but often a bit clumsy; as such they cannot belong to the Deft character class. They hold prejudices against other species of the Uplands and beyond, having a hard time suffering the affiliations of crocodiles and humanity. They must consume double the amount of food per day as a human, though they are skilled at foraging and utterly unafraid of bees in any capacity. They have natural weapons in their claws which damage like short swords, and they can carry a bit more equipment than humans but find it uncomfortable to do so. Bear-people of Kandis must gain an additional 10% XP per level when seeking to advance. Roll on the following tables to determine a notable physical feature and a belief you hold about others which is clearly 100% factual.

Notable Bear Feature [d8]
1. Chest whorl like the hood of a cobra.
2. Chest whorl like a full, blazing sun.
3. Chest whorl like a crescent moon over the ocean.
4. A tongue as long and flexible as a python.
5. Long, exceptionally floppy ears.
6. Cream albinic fur or pitch black melanistic fur.
7. Broad, sharp teeth that could crack a tortoise open with ease.
8. Long, manipulative claws the envy of other bears. 

Notable Belief about Others [d8]
1. Humanity suffers the sting of bees upon their raw flesh because the gods do not wish them to enjoy prosperity.
2. Humanity lacks natural claws because their purpose is to hold, not to strife.
3. Humanity walks on two feet at all times but cub for the natural world is denied to them as they age.
4. Humanity makes petty wars within itself because it awaits to serve Kandis with its best and strongest.
5. Humanity and Crocodile are similar in that both grow bloated and lazy, yet are incapable of the long sleep.
6. The meat of a crocodile tastes like the saltiest of chicken. The meat of a man like the anus of a pig.
7. A witch cannot curse a bear, as a bear is of greater nature than a witch.
8. The boats of men are often aligned with the goals of crocodiles, as they can seldom handle the importance of a bear. 

Monday, August 5, 2019

Randomizers: Local Troubles for Wandering Magistrates

Been working on some items for publication lately, but here's something real quick for anyone playing a game with wandering do-gooders in need of some potential troubles and complications. 

Local Troubles for the Wandering Magistrate [d20]
1. A drought has turned neighbor against neighbor. People are hoarding resources, and a famine may break out if rain does not come soon.
2. A child was born upon the night of a baleful moon with a set of horns. The mother has foreseen her death at the infant’s hands and wishes it banished. The father is distraught at choosing who he should love more.
3. A family has been banished to the woods beyond the edge of town for their godless behavior, but the children within that family believe they should not suffer for the sins of their parentage.
4. The stone masons have been denied their wages after repairing their lord’s fortress. The lord has claimed them, one and all, to be traitors to his banner. The masons have kidnapped his son and are holding him hostage.
5. The locals say a witch lives in the nearby wilderness and that she has made sick their infants. The witch claims to have never even visited the settlement and wishes only to be left to her dark rites. 
6. A local clergyman, pockets laden with filthy lucre, attempted to flee the settlement but ended up dying in the wilds. No one knows where his gold went, but it was stolen. A crisis of faith is occurring, and none will bury the body for fear of a ghost. 
7. A plague has broken out and the class divide within the settlement has grown fiercer as a result. The rich blame the poor for their filth, the poor gaze with hate upon the rich who have sealed themselves off in their estates.
8. A mountain cult, known well for keeping the pass clear of bandits and rubble, has been targeted by the state religion of a local lord. Both sides have a fair cause for stewardship, and bandits appear to be using the current chaos to incite greater violence.
9. Frogs have rained down from the sky, pelting the village in bloody little corpses. The elders of the village proclaim this to be due to the youth of the village not paying proper heed to the importance of the river trade. As a result of forced river trading, two teenagers have drowned. Everyone is upset.
10. Nobody can sleep anymore, there is a scuttling horror in the nearby wilds who is said to drink away the good dreams and leave only nightmares. The locals are losing their minds, and anyone who can get a good night’s rest is deemed to be in league with the Evil.
11. A wandering alchemist pleads for aid as her ointments and unguents are not merely snake-oil and she believes some local has framed her for the poisoning of a much hated, but highly wealthy, local warrior.
12. Two noble houses, long in good standing with one another due to an arranged marriage, are attempting to avert the divorce that would separate them. The couple divorcing harbor no ill will for one another, but the more their families meddle, the more they will begin to seek retribution.
13. A nun, ousted from her order, claims to know the existence of demons who hide within the flesh of the allegedly devout. Her proclamations have lead to the death of three prominent clergymen, and the church is unsure if they should do anything for fear of her followers.
14. A bestial creature from the neighboring wilderness wishes to stop encroachment upon the lands of its people. It attempts empathy but is crude in that. It warns of violence if man delves into the riches of its lands; riches they are not using. The local settlement desires to encroach.
15. Two armies are present on the road, each with a bickering officer who demand the right to pass first. The most jingoistic of the troops make veiled insults at the other side. Violence could break out at any moment.
16. The village banished its great hunter for killing the sacred boar three years ago, but they have seen the boar again since. They fear they have made a mistake and a man now may have been wrongly punished. They want to know what must be done for clemency.
17. A noblemen calls for a feast, inviting the magistrates to take part. While at the feast, the lead adviser to the nobleman does everything in her power to implicate the cruelties of the noblemen without speaking them aloud. She cares for the realm, he cares only for his feast. 
18. A haunted fortress a few days away from the settlement is to be retaken by the son of a local lord. The spirits of the fortress wish to be remembered and then left in peace. Conflict and foul omens are imminent. 
19. A once pure spring has been tainted and the locals blame a foreign merchant who passed through town. The merchant is many days away and has nothing but good things to speak about when it comes to the town. She spent time at the spring, but she did so in the company of locals.
20. A great beast lurks in the nearby wilds and the local nobility has invited you to hunt it with them. While hunting, an assassination attempt takes place but no one can recognize any clues from the assailants and the motive are not well known. Paranoia ensues. 

Complications [d10]
1. The nature of the conflict is further complicated due to an issue of true love.
2. A kinslayer, long thought vanished into the wild, is the true perpetrator of the crimes.
3. Wicked spirits have clouded the hearts of those involved with hatred and violence.
4. A foreign infiltrator has seen this problem exacerbated for the benefit of their patrons.
5. This is all the punishment of a Divine entity, wishing to test the mettle of man.
6. A group of youths, unaffiliated with any faction, played with dark powers and are the true ones to hold responsible for any such travail. 
7. The avaricious and hedonistic among the nobility caused this problem, and they’ll never admit it.
8. Mid-way through seeking to solve this issue, one faction will engage in an act of murder out of either rage or self-defense; further muddling a solution.
9. Local authorities have attempted to solve this problem to no avail and view any interlopers as overreaching their authority and treading upon their honor.
10. Both sides know they will be viewed as weak and lose face with their community if they relented.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

A Knave's Guide to Eberron: The Mournlands

Cyre, the Purple Jewel in the crown of Galifar, sits in ruin. The dead too numerous to be counted, seared away in supernatural cataclysm which still taints the land like an emanating radiation, like noxious fumes wafting out of a bloated corpse. This is the Mournland, for it is a place of sorrow and for remembrance of a dark event that destroyed a culture without explanation.

The Mournlands bifurcate Khorvaire, its borders defined by a powerful miasma which churns like a dust storm, like a warning not to enter. The mists are said to drive men to madness by way of unceasing malaise, they carry the cries and psychic fears of those who died during the Day of Mourning upon them. In the thickest of the fog, their shadows wage in endless war as silhouettes.

Bodies litter the Mournlands in various states of decay, the rampant arcane energy toys with the natural decomposition process. Fields of charnel atrocities twitch and seizure, choked cries by consciousnesses trapped in dead frames echo out on the winds. Some sites are locked in time, bodies fallen but unblemished by the ravages of time or vermin. 

The fields of the Mournland, of Cyre’s former rolling hills and beautiful horizons, are overgrown. The grains which once created the most artisanal goods, crumble at the most errant touch into a gritty silt. Vineyards grow their crops, unattended, the fruits resemble fetal forms; it is likely pareidolia but only the most desperate would risk this unkindness of imagery. 

The waters of Cyre have receded, turned crimson or reverted into pestilent bogs. Death strandings of all manner of creatures can be found upon the forsaken shores, twitching in half-life, translucent in the skin, bones shown. Flies drone endlessly, though they never seem to be present. Mechanical cables, larger than any sane thing, shudder upon the beach and trail back down beneath the waters in the distance. Steel Krakens, some say, but even a kraken should must obey the rules of nature. It should not be this large.

The sky is always cloudy, overcast, ready to rain down ash, greasy waters, or other pestilences upon the fog-choked land. Travelling the Mournlands without proper shelter is just as risky as travelling it without weapons at the ready. The tattered husks of civilization within are just as treacherous as the open wilderness. 

Cabin Boy is an underrated film and speaks to my upbringing.

Cyre did not deserve this fate, it was a land of beauty and plenty. King Jarot’s daughter was meant to inherit the crown, not this legacy of horror. Cyre has no true ruler anymore, though Prince Oargev ir’Wynarn can claim a right to rule, he has no land to call his own. He hardly has a people. Cyran refugees litter the surrounding nations, untrusted for their former military’s actions in the last war, for the glory they once had, and for the doom that some believe follows them. They are as a people, from a culture of high art and fashion, primarily now destitute and hopeless. Cyran artifacts are worth a lovely sum, ensuring a flooded market that forces them into further indignity, and the prevalence of scavengers who will plunder their former homeland; risking life and limb for their own petty gains.

The Warforged may find their purpose here, as the Lord of Blades seeks to make this ravaged wreck heap into a homeland for the betterment and propagation of his race. His supremacist politics, vicious rhetoric, and ruthless efficiency reveal him to be the very worst of Cyre and the Mournlands, married into the frame of a hulking mechanical monstrosity. For every cultural milestone he seeks to claim, he looks upon the rest of the world with the same ambition which denied Cyre it’s crown. The mantle of a becoming god calls to him more than any petty throne, and his followers must straddle the line between violent zealots and peaceable wanderers to those who encounter them in this blasted place. 

Considerations for the Mournlands
The Mournlands are if you took a WWI no-man’s-land, turned it into Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the bombs dropped, and then allowed it to be the Chernobyl zone of exclusion. It is a place of tragedy, and therein lies the horror. It is fitting in a pulp perspective, but the tone should feel very "deep behind enemy lines" wherein the enemy is existence.

The Mournlands is not scary because it is filled with monsters, it is scary because it is wasted potential, it is a place where everything a civilization should strive for--maybe even deserve, has been inverted in a terrible way. The most beautiful and cherished realm of Galifar is now a heap of filth to suffer only the molestations of bonepickers, vultures, wayward cultists, and the misguided. Might makes right here, but this is not a place where goblin warlords wage for dominance in that philosophy; this is a place where might makes right because nobody is coming here to save you, nobody cares you’re here, you have no motives here but the ulterior; you cannot save this land, you will lose yourself here.

Characters who travel the Mournlands must contend with the mist, which will slowly infect their dreams and drive them into a depressive state where self-harm, suicide, or homocide seem to make sense as a means of coping with their utterly insiginificant place in a world where such atrocities can occur. Warforged are immune to this, in theory; those found in the Mournlands are considered to be some of the worst of their own kind---but it’d be too easy to blame that upon the mists.

Monsters in the Mournland
The creatures who dwell here represent the folly of man, of overgrasped ambition and nature’s inability to allow the wicked toil inflicted upon the earth to prevent animal life from attempting to retake the civilized world. 

HD 3, AD 13, ATT 2d6 (Ghastly Claws), Morale: - , Speed: 50 ft (Flight). No. Appearing: Solitary or a Haunt (2-5).

A swirling torrent from the mists, humanoid at a glance, like a man stretched and bent, broken and tattered into merely wind. It howls and echoes in profound sorrow, clutching ghastly claws of razor wind as if holding its hand might allow you to pull it out of this endless torment.
  • Hopeless - Mourners, upon dealing maximum damage with their Ghastly Claws, inflict a hopelessness in their victim. If the victim falls prone or would otherwise die from this attack, they must make a Constitution Saving Throw. On a failed throw they inhale deeply the mists and begin suffering psychic trauma, haunted by visions of a life not their own and a diseased attraction to the items in this vision. If a hopeless character were to say, encounter the living spouse of a Mourner, they would feel compelled to make them their own--acting in anger and desperation. Psychic surgery, therapy, or alcohol can numb this hopelessness into a more...internalized problem.
What’s it doing? [d6]
1. Shrieking and searching for something, scanning the environment with frenzied intensity.
2. Manifested in almost physical form, weeping and holding itself. The mists claim it when approached.
3. Banging recklessly upon the ruins of a structure, attempting entry, looking back towards the mists that spawned it as though it wishes to outrun the calamity.
4. Crying upon the winds, in baleful calls it asks where everyone is, why it’s so alone, why it cannot find them all.
5. It has its claws upon a looter, who as you watch, slits their own throat as they cry out how they “just want this to stop feeling so painful.” 
6. Screaming up at the sky, cursing the Sovereign Host and beckoning any dark power which will let it see its family again.

Shroud of Death & Despair (Living Finger of Death)
HD 9, AD 19, ATT 3d8 (Slam) or Finger of Death, Morale: - , Speed: 20 ft (Throb). No. Appearing: Solitary or a Hateful Hand (5).

A gelatinous pulsating pillar of blackest night, throbbing and sluggishly pulling itself through the land. The world around turns to ash, flesh grows tight across the bone, necrosis overtakes living tissue. When it aims its nucleus upon a being, they age away into ash.
  • Finger of Death - A Shroud of Death & Despair must focus upon a creature for two turns as its nucleus is pushed from the bottom of its ooze-form to the very top. The nucleus, white, almost skull-shaped yet liquid, affixes itself on a victim once it is pushed to the top. If a victim has not taken cover, the Shroud releases a horrible beam of white energy which deals 7d8 damage, aging the victim until they are nothing but bone dust and ash. 
What’s it doing? [d6]
1. Pulsating in a rhythmic pattern, as if communicating to something in code.
2. Leaning against a structure, slumped, as if resting; the structure is slowly aging itself to dust against it.
3. Submerging part of its base in a deep puddle of filthy water.
4. Seeking out organic matter to obliterate.
5. Remaining perfectly still, almost dried, as if inert. Rouses to life if approached by organic matter.
6. Spreading flagellum out, as if seeking to divide itself into two shrouds.

Steel Kraken
HD 8, AD 18, ATT 2d10+8 (Crush), Morale: - , Speed: 50 ft (Swim) or 10 ft (Crawl). No. Appearing: Solitary.

Steel cables, articulated by cumbersome, drag this leviathan of Cannith constructed folly at a slow pace. It is too large to engage with conventional weaponry. Its eyes shimmer a gemstone red, and its mouth is a spiralling razor pit of blades. 
  • Colossal - A steel kraken is too large to be harmed by normal weaponry, taking damage only inflicted by war magic, large impediments (such as tumbling boulders or vicious shrapnel filled pits), or by siege weapons. Its reach extends hundreds of feet, but its crushing attacks are slow. A steel kraken would make an amazing dungeon.

What’s it doing? [d6]
1. Attempting to drag the whole of its immense sky-scraper sized frame on to dry land.
2. Spraying a vicious red miasma into the air above itself. Thunder crackles as a result.
3. Staggering and grinding, as if an internal mechanism is broken.
4. In-taking loose sand and silt from the shoreline where a death standing has taken place.
5. Emerging from the depths of the water in the distance, its eyes locked firmly upon any interlopers with hateful intent.
6. Wrapping its brutal cable-strong tendrils around a foreign ship, crushing the hull as though it were as flimsy as tin.

Having run my first session of A Knave's Guide to Eberron on 6/15/19, I had a damn good time. The session took place on its way into the Mournlands and the party who were utterly unfit for the job, did a great job botching it, getting maimed in the process, and are now likely going to find themselves hunted by both House Cannith and the Karrnathi military for the knowledge they shouldn't have about a planar experiment to create a more perfect (i.e. less sapient) warforged; which the party believes may have been a catalyst for the Day of Mourning. That's their theory anyway.

I look forward to doing more of these, I'm enjoying writing about this from an attempted pulp perspective, and the Mournlands should thematically really hammer home man's folly and ambitions in everything it is about. At least in my opinion.

Hope y'all like and can make use of any of this. I'd write more, but alas, grad school and factory work in the morrow.

- Brian

Conquest of the Gorgon Coast: Session 1 - Isla Santa

What follows is a play report for my "Conquest of the Gorgon Coast" game, playing with dear friends: Peter, Finn, Cid, and Will. I...