Friday, August 2, 2013

Valley of the Masters - The Keytower

Standing atop a large hill near the entrance to the valley the Keytower stands tall. A massive, twisted tower of metal it seems a miracle that it is in such good condition after all these ages.

The tower's primary purpose was to act as a guard tower and barracks to defend the valley from any non-Slith intruders with a secondary purpose as something akin to an immigration office. However now it acts as the home to a colony of mechanites - electric sentiences that construct bodies out of available machinery. They were once an annoying parasite for the Slith and now they are all that is left.

The Tower
The Keytower is constructed from a silver steel-like metal that hasn't rusted or tarnished in any way through the ages. There are numerous window openings on each floor that were once covered with glass. The tower itself is over 400 feet tall and has twenty floors, each floor being about 200 by 100 feet.

The Interior
The insides of the tower are in far worse shape than the exterior would lead one to believe. Furniture has been reduced to little more than the pieces of metal that held it together, features such as counters or doors are gone except for the occasional metal frame. Everywhere there are panels ripped open and wires hanging out. Anything that might be identified as a device of any sort has been stripped and gutted for spare parts by the mechanites. The elevators no longer work so a long trek up the stairs is required to ascend. Aside from batteries and bullets, there is no in-tact technology here that would be of use to anyone without a fully working knowledge of Slith technology.

The Mechanites
The basic mechanite looks like a hand-sized insect made of various electronic and mechanical parts. They are essentially parasites and act with insect-like intelligence. There are larger, more advanced mechanites, usually acting as a sort of leader. The process isn't known but one mechanite usually receives all the best stuff and grows to a larger size than the others. These special mechanites are all unique based off of their location and technology available. They have a higher intelligence based off their size - a human sized mechanite is about as smart as a clever dog, for example.

Throughout the tower there is evidence that these mechanites seem to be preparing to move out. Packs of electronics are piled into improvised carts, for example.

Notable Encounters

First Floor - Reception
The lowest level of mechanites, gatherers, can be found down here looking for any remaining scraps to take upstairs. One special mechanite resides on the first floor, the Monitor. Vaguely humanoid in shape, child-sized and composed of the various communication technologies that were prevalent down here. It has a shattered CRT-like monitor for a head and rattles off unintelligible gibberish through an intercom in its chest. It can direct basic mechanites so that they can take their turns as interrupt actions at any point in the round.

Fifth Floor - Guest/Holding Rooms
One of several floors filled with what seems like a combination of hotel room and prison cell. One room has "djimyoosh" ("danger") in Slith scrawled on the outer door and it seems to be barricaded. Movement can be heard inside. In the room is a special mechanite that is humanoid (Slith)-shaped. Long ago, when the Keytower fell, this room/cell housed a visiting Slith who had the Slith equivalent of cybernetics. The mechanites burrowed into him and instead of taking the pieces stayed there, absorbing some of him as a collective. He is now nothing more than a mad, raging skeleton coated in living metallic insects.

Tenth Floor - Armory
Most of the weapons have been disassembled and the parts taken elsewhere. However a good deal of ammunition was left behind. The special mechanite here is human-sized and is made up of various bullet and energy clips. When damaged it breaks off pieces of itself that explode for medium damage. The basic mechanites in here also carry around explosives and energy packs and act as suicide bombers.

Most of the ammunition is being loaded into carts and being prepared for transport. It looks like another special mechanite made of guns is also being constructed but is currently not moving.

Fifteenth Floor - Offices
The lesser "lords" of the mechanites reside here, the recipients of much of the scavenged tech. Each is about eight feet tall or long, depending on how they choose to present themselves. They consists of masses of random equipment though each one has a set of special features:

Lord Blade - The least mobile, Lord Blade doesn't have any discernible form but rather is an amorphous mass that largely consists of various blades and sharp objects. Lord Blade is less of an attacker and more of a slowly moving dangerous piece of terrain.
Lord Data - Humanoid and consisting of mostly information technology and office supplies. Lord Data has control of all the machines here. He can create zones of falling debris, attacks from loose electrical wiring that suddenly appears and can direct basic mechanites like the the Monitor.
Lord Blaze - Mobile and nimble, Lord Blaze has numerous appendages that end in different ranged weapons that is is continually firing during combat. Basic mechanites are continually feeding him random ammo so each round he may be firing either bullets, lasers, explosive rounds or energy blasts.

There is a map of the valley here. Each of the locations are  labeled in Slith:
Power Station - "Pee thih"
Military Base - "feh"
Energy Research Facility - "suh"
Skyfall - "taw"
Biological Research Facility - "shoo..." followed by Slith question marks.
Launch Pad - "huoh / meengh"

Twentieth Floor - The Keeper
The top office gives a magnificent view of the valley. The only resident here is the Keeper, a slim, six foot humanoid that seems to be comprised entirely of wires and plastic cards. The Keeper is non-violent and is capable of computerized speech, simplified since it hasn't fully interpreted whatever language the PCs speak. It is continually switching between personalities - sometimes an analytic scientist, sometimes a military soldier, sometimes a worker drone, sometimes a simple janitor. However the whole time it will talk about having some goal as if these personalities were all working together for something. This goal somehow involves leaving the tower, opening the gate, exploring heaven and finding the gods. The conversation should be disjointed and cryptic. The Keeper will give a final warning that the gods left behind a mess and wishes the PCs luck in cleaning it up themselves. He then collapses into his component parts with a single basic mechanite at the center. The cards are all magnetic ID cards than can be used throughout the valley.



Monday, July 8, 2013

Valley of the Masters - Introduction

The Slith were an old civilization who were capable of creating wonders without the aid of magic. Tall, thin and emaciated, they didn't look much like conquerors but all of the races were under their control. Some were possibly even of their creation. The stories of the Slith vary widely from people to people. To some they were benevolent masters who tired to elevate their subjects and take good care of them. To others they were emotionless monsters who tried to crush any sense of dignity that their slaves might have. Either way they ceased to be a blessing or blight when they abruptly disappeared one day.

Early on the works of the Slith were almost completely lost during a a great purge by a religiously fanatical warlord. Ages passed and the stories of the ancient Masters drifted into that of fairy tale.

Recently on a large, barely populated island there was an amazing discovery. Hanging in the air above a secluded valley was what seemed to be a floating city. In the valley below were numerous Slith ruins, many of them still intact. The locals have avoided the place out of fear and superstition but some brave few are now choosing to try and unearth the lost secrets of the old Masters.


Notes
Due to a lack of access to my notebooks I thought that I'd flesh out the post apocalypse thing from earlier. While I'll be focusing on systems generic descriptions for this I have a few "larger picture" ideas in mind.

The original inspiration for this comes from a setting I was working on to use with the Radiance RPG. The PCs would be coming from the main civilized continent that somewhat resembled Europe in the 1500's (or perhaps later of I wanted to add some steam capability so that Slith tech wouldn't be quite as alien). The main external conflict in this version of the campaign would come from the warring factions back home and their interference in the PCs exploration. Does their home countries demand new weaponry? Are their rival explorers looking for secrets? Is there an external danger that could unite everyone? Or perhaps secrets that need to be destroyed for the good of the world.

Another option would be to dial the tech knob back and run it as straight up fantasy D&D. The edition would likely determine the overall feel. First edition would just be good old fashioned "Expedition to the Barrier Peaks" type of pulp. Third edition would probably be best doing something similar only less pulpy. Fourth edition could use a good antagonist who is also trying to get their hands on the secrets of the Slith, perhaps with an overall goal of trying to prevent the Slith from returning.

Finally this is where I'd use the Slith Script that I had developed for various alien instructions on ancient machinery. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Abanar Snippet 2

True Greetings, traveler, though you may not yet understand the meaning of such things.  However if you wish to learn of Abanar then these things will become clear.

Let me begin by introducing myself.  Just as a budding mage learns the basics of the Word by learning his name you may begin your learning of Abanar by understanding me as I am a part of that whole.  My name is Tunara Rechēn, and I am a Bashaat of the Church of the True Form.  That is, I am a priest.  My full name, as given by the Monks at the Monastery of the Word, is over twenty syllables long and I will not trouble you with it now.  However, abbreviated it is Abcænobāēf.  Sounds strange to one’s ears, doesn’t it?

I see that I’ve already confused you with two unfamiliar concepts.  I’ll begin with the Word as that is where all things begin.

The Word was spoken at the beginning and within its meaning were all True things.  These things came to be and are the pure forms of things we know today.  Trees, rocks, animals and of course Man.  Exactly how many of them and what they all look like is unknown however everything else we see is just endless variation, change and imperfection upon those True Forms.

Of course when I speak of the True Form I speak of the True Form of Man for that is the perfect reflection of what we are.  Or rather, what we could be.  Hence, the other things which confused you is just as it sounds; the Church of the True Form.  A religion dedicated to the perfect form of Man.

You see, the True Form was once a race of people.  They were wise and strong, perfect in mind and body.  They took humanity, which was ever changing and imperfect, and tried to elevate us to their level.  They gathered us, taught us, and helped us grow and prosper peacefully.

Unfortunately there were men who would want the True Form's dominion.  They did not appreciate what was being done for them and desired power for themselves.  They misled many and began a revolt that swept over the human lands like a tidal wave during Vasālōna.  The True Forms, while perfect and possessing great secrets, were badly outnumbered and eventually destroyed.  In this war we also lost most of the works that had elevated us for the True Forms had powerful servants who smashed the cities and set many afire.  Much knowledge was lost.

We entered an age of darkness where these tyrants ruled in the place of the True Form.  They warred with each other, taking the goods produced by the workers of the land and provided for their own soldiers and households alone.  The cities which had by custom been supplied with food and other materials by the True Form tēlo were left to fend for themselves and often forced to supply the warlords with whatever goods they demanded.

The workers of the land were the first to rebel and they were eventually led by Abashær, one of the first mages and founder of the Church.  He reminded the oppressed people of the goodness of the True Form and taught many of them in the ways of magic.  (They were eventually to become the first Bashaat.)  Slowly they began to overthrow overlord by overlord, gaining momentum all the way as the tide turned.  Eventually they reached as far east and north as the Carinton River and as far south and west as the Lesting Wood.

When the overlords were thrown down, we looked around us and wondered how we were to organize.  Who would see to the distribution of resources?  Who would see to our defense?  Many suggested the newly forming Church should lead but Abashær came forth with a vision that made our choice clear.  He had a vision of the True Form.

Abashær had determined that if humanity was always changing that it could change into the True Form.  However no one could determine what the True Form looked like… until Abashær had a vision while meditating on the Word.  Not being an artist, he meticulously described the True Form with words.  With this revelation it was decided that the leaders would be those closest to the True Form.  The first Reckoning was held and the tēyol were distributed.  Ever since then Reckonings have been held every other Vasālōna {ed. Every eight years).  There, learned priests analyze petitioners and determine who is closer to the True Form and who is farther.  The various tēyol, great and small, are then distributed.

This method  of determining leadership has taught us much about breeding and the passing of traits from parents to child – and the effects of the parents before.  We have learned some traits dominate over others and that some can lie hidden for generations.  Through this knowledge it has become every person’s duty to try and breed true.  Those lines most successful are the Bloodlines, five families that have learned to breed truer than all others.  While we do not practice the foolish hereditary nobility of other lands, these families come close for the sheer number tēyol they control.  Even if you are not born close to the True Form, relation to these Bloodlines can bring great advantages.

Of course we are no mere collective of farmers under the Church!  We have cities, too, for during the Dark Years they were often neglected and grew at their own pace.  There are several large towns attached to the wealthiest tēyol, and the grand city of Abanar where our purest Bloodline come from is a tēol unto itself.  While the tēlo must still maintain the transfer of resources between village and farmer the large towns and cities have developed economies influenced by Urasti merchants.  The tēlo who rule here also provide coinage and tend to be wealthier as they buy and sell from point to point instead of simply giving and taking.  Additionally, Urasti influence has given rise to merchants who buy and sell, bypassing the Tēlo and making great wealth for themselves.

As for our defenses we are among the mightiest of lands.  In village tēyol, the tēlo gather extra food and goods for both their own welfare and the basic defense of the land.  In large tēyol the lords collect a tax and pay their way.  However the true might of Abanar comes from the Church itself.  Tithes pay for a knighthood who keep order and maintain justice throughout the tēyol.  In times of need they provide for a national defense.  And while under the support of the Church they are under the command of the Tēloshoatom who is a good and loyal follower of the Church and maintains order throughout the realm.

Of course, you must have many, many more questions.  We have magic, but I’ll not tell of those secrets now.  And what are the details of the Church’s beliefs?  All in good time.

What?  You have your own gods and refuse the divinity of the True Form?  Then you are a fool and an infidel, and you don’t look to be good for breeding anyways.  However, you do look to be fairly intelligent.  These are actually desirable traits, in a way.  Have you ever considered a life in medicine?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

4e Adventure Structure

My notebooks are in my office and my office is in the attic and the attic is a blazing inferno in this heat. I guess I could bring the notebooks down but I just don't feel like it. Instead I'm gonna play with adventure structure some more.

I never got into 4th edition D&D very much early on and it may have been all for the better. As I've begin turning my attention back to it I've discovered that WoTC didn't really get their crap together until the very end. This went for both balance and adventure writing. The few old 4e adventures that I had seen were pretty rail-roady. I'm not really surprised either - after reading the three core books my ideal of a proper 4e adventure was a total railroad with a few forks that resulted from skill challenges. It's something of a surprise and a shame since the 4e DMG was possibly the best written in terms of "this is how you run a game" that I've ever seen.

Anyways, adventure structure. The "new" adventures like The Slaying Stone and Madness and Gardmore Abbey were more like mini-sandboxes. You've got some objectives, you've got a location with a number of encounter sites and various factions to tie it all together and make it move. The "adventure" was a separate entity from the "encounters". Looking back on some of the things I've posted I can see a number of applications for this structure.

One of the most obvious is In the Name of the Empire. During the heroic tier each region would essentially be an adventure site full of encounters with each of the various factions providing quests and objectives.
Illen Shore, along with any number of "small town surrounded by adventure sites" settings that may be to come are also obvious choices. In many ways they are simply my own older versions of the Nentir Vale. The old monastery for the Followers of the Wind is probably the most blatant of the adventure locations.

Finally the Post-Apocalyptic Thing is almost explicitly designed with this in mind. The whole region is an adventure site where the PCs can wander around from place to place while unlocking new places to explore as the adventure advances. If I were to try and write something out that wasn't as ambitious as In the Name of the Empire I'd probably go with this.

So if I can't get to my notebooks next time I try to update look for an attempt to use this adventure structure on a previous setting.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Post Apocalyptic Thing

I had put this together for a sort of post-technology hex/dungeon crawl outline. It could work for post apocalypse or "there used to be advanced tech" fantasy settings. I believe this was intended for the "1600's explorers among electrotech ruins" Radiance game. Also seems fairly relevant after playing A Dark Room.

Each bolded location is essentially a small dungeon that often has sub levels. Lots of levels can't be accessed until other areas are accessed. Eventually four new campaigning areas are opened up - The Sky City, The Underdark, Beyond the Gate and Spaaaaacccccceeeeee!


The Keytower - Above ground. Open.
This tower is an old security station that holds the entrance keys for all the local facilities.

The Power Station - Above Ground. Keylocked.
A power station where batteries were charged. There is a small hand crank generator that can slowly charge up batteries. A larger generator that supplies power to the region is below ground.
Level P1 - Generator. Underground. Needs Generator codes. 
The Switch is here. It turns on the generator.

Skyfall - Above ground. Open.
A city that once flew in the clouds crashed to earth.
The Palace - Above ground. Need the Switch to be thrown.
Government codes here.

Military Base - Above Ground. Open.
There are some buildings still standing but there isn't much use there.
Level M1 - Armory. Needs keycard and a battery to access.
Ancient weapons are kept here.
Level M2 - Research lab.
Science codes are here. Has Generator access.

Biological Research Facility - Above ground. Open.
The above ground facility is plagued by mutants.
Some above ground buildings need a keycard and power.
Level B1 - Storage.
Level B2 - Labs. Needs Science codes. Has Generator access.
Level B3 - Menagerie. Has Warrens access.

Energy Research Facility - Above ground. Needs Science codes.
Level E1 - Control station. Generator codes are here.
Level E2 - Experimental power station. Needs Generator codes.

Launch Pad - Above ground. Open.
Above ground is mostly empty and bare.
Level 1 - Underground hangar. Needs Launch codes.

Engine Testing Labs - Underground. Accessed from Generator.
Level T1 - Control station. Launch codes here.
Level T2 - Testing area.

Trans-Dimensional Labs - Underground. Accessed from Generator.
Level D1 - Offices and math cubes.
Level D2 - Labs. Needs Government codes.
Level D3 - Local portals.
Level D4 - The Gate. Needs personal code. Has warrens access.

The Sky City - Several thousand feet above ground. Needs flight or portal to access.
Personal codes are here. This can be an all new adventure site destination.

The Warrens - Underground.
Leads to Underdark or other subterranean adventure destination.

Beyond the Gate
Leads to... somewhere.

The Voidship  - Underground. From the launchpad.
Leads to SPAAAAACCCCCEEEEEE!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Choice of Mage

Looks like I was preparing a Mage: The Ascension game for new players. I'll update it to match more modern people, I think. I've always been fond of these "answer questions to determine your class" things when running through an RPG the first time. It allows the player to have their mechanical choices made for them in a meaningful way until they learn the system/world and can make those choices for themselves. In this case these questions are barely subtle. I've got one for determining which House PCs end up in for a more Harry Potterish Great School of Magic game somewhere...

Which subject would you rather take a class in?

  • Geology (Matter)
  • Electronics (Energy)
  • Biology (Life)
  • Psychology (Mind)
  • Statistics (Entropy)
  • History (Time)
  • Communications (Correspondence)
  • Folklore (Spirit)
  • Theology (Prime)
Where do you feel more at home?
  • In a workshop
  • In a thunderstorm
  • In a hospital
  • With your own thoughts
  • Exploring abandoned buildings
  • In a museum
  • On the phone
  • In the woods
  • In a church
With whom do you identify more?
  • Rock Biter
  • Albert Einstein
  • James Watson
  • Ivan Pavlov
  • Lee Harvey Oswald
  • HG Wells
  • Bill Gates
  • William Stukeley
  • The Dali Llama
What is your greatest weakness?
  • Obsession with the material
  • Strict adherence to formula
  • A quick temper
  • Over-analyzing a situation
  • Morbidity
  • Living in the past
  • Elitism
  • Not living in the "real" world enough
  • Close mindedness
You come across a man who has been shot to death. What do you do?
  • Examine the crime scene for evidence
  • Run away screaming
  • Study the effect of the bullets on the flesh
  • Try to understand the mind of the murderer
  • Be thankful the dead man can move on to his next life
  • Retrace the events of the murder
  • Trace the bullet back to the gun
  • Pray for the murderer to meet justice
  • Pray for the victim's soul

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Guys and Dolls

So I stole an idea from Hellblazer a long time ago and ran with it. One of my friends was so enamored of the concept that when we designed the Stanfolde setting we did it partially so that this adventure could be run. Ironically that campaign played out to the end and never went in a direction where this story would have fit.

I could definitely see this as an epic level 4e adventure. The only issue is that it works best in a world where there is a Heaven/Hell dichotomy. While it could work in a more generic world it may lose some of the impact.

Part 1 - The Stone Circle
The adventure begins with the PCs being asked to look into the local druid's grove, the Stone Circle. It is apparently the Grand Druid's personal grove and had been dealing with a lycanthopy outbreak in the area. Witnesses saw a large force of werebeasts heading towards the grove. Normally they would have expected the Grand Druid to send them running but things have gone worryingly quiet.

When the PCs arrive there are werebeasts of various types everywhere and lots of dead druids. The lycanthropes are wielding powerful divine magic items for some reason - it was apparently what gave them the edge for victory. Inside the Grand Druid's own abode is a force of werewolves trying to break down a warded door. Behind the door is a very frightened girl named Lilly, probably about six years old. She can open the door from the inside if the PCs can convince her. She's the only survivor of the attack.

Interlude 1 - Lilly
Lilly has a fanciful imagination. She says the nice men have been taking care of her for most of her life, but she has some memories of her mother and father. Her mother is a beautiful princess and is the one that left her with the nice men before being taken away by horrible monsters. Her father is also beautiful, has long blonde hair, blue eyes and fluffy white wings. Some bad men hurt him and made him go away. She has a note from her mother that says where to find her if she ever needs to - at Stonecrag Keep deep in the mountains.

High level characters will have all sorts of ways of getting information. However some of their more powerful effects will give odd results. The following are generalized responses if some sort of Commune ritual is cast:
L/G & L/N - The child must be destroyed.
N/G - Follow the good in your heart. We will say no more.
C/G - Reunite this poor child's family. Damn the hard asses.
N - Do as you wish. We are not interfering.
C/N - You've got who? Ha ha ha ha! This'll be good.
L/E & N/E - Interesting, want to make a trade?
C/E - ... we could care less.

Using various lore skills can fill in details about the Stone Circle - most importantly that it is considered neutral ground between the powers of Good and Evil. Lore about Stonecrag Keep reveals that it was once the seat of a powerful mountain kingdom but about four years ago its leaders made an ill-advised deal with some demons and the whole place was overrun. Now a marilith named Mairael rules in the king's place with her retinue of demons.

Before the PCs make a decisions they are approached by a man who calls himself Galriel. Lilly will immediately hide behind one of the PCs and whimper, "That's the man who hurt my daddy..." Galriel will demand that the PCs hand the girl over to him. He will quickly reveal that he is an angel and that the child is an abomination unto Heaven and must be destroyed. He'll refuse to go into any more detail. Hopefully the PCs will refuse. He'll give them one day to reconsider since they have been such forces for good in the world. This should also make it clear that if they want her kept safe then Lilly can't be left alone with anyone since she would be snatched up and killed by angels.

Part 2 - Stonecrag Keep
Stonecrag Keep is set into the side of a mountain with an aerial landing platform out front along with a long, winding trail up the mountain. The keep itself is fairly straightforward and inhabited with all sorts of demonic baddies. The trick is Lilly and how the PCs deal with having a six year old following them around inside a demon infested fortress. Lilly has innate energy resistance so that she'll survive almost all energy-based area attacks but if the PCs don't protect her from direct physical contact with something nasty... it's up to you if you can let her die.

The final chamber is the throne room full of demons and Mairael sitting on the throne with a succubus on either side of her. As soon as they enter the room Lilly will scream "Mommy!" and dash across the floor towards one of the succubi. Combat will begin with this - her mother will fight the demons to defend Lilly.

Interlude 2 - Mother and Daughter
Lilly's mother is a succubus named Luneelle, her father an angel named Elniel. Luneelle decided she would attempt the ultimate coup to gain some power and seduce an angel. She targeted Elniel, he responded... but she wasn't ready for the only type of love a being of pure goodness could give - true love. She found herself falling in love with him in return and against all odds became pregnant with his child. They tried to hide their affair and managed to keep it secret for three years, until Lilly was two. That was when the angels came. Elniel sacrificed himself so that Luneelle could flee to neutral ground where she could hide Lilly.

Elniel was slain and his immortal soul condemned to the city of Dis in Hell so that he couldn't return in angelic form. Luneelle took up with Mairael so that she could be relatively close to Lilly. Lilly was raised by the Grand Druid for the next four years. Now that the Grand Druid is dead she isn't sure where to go. She can shield them for a little while but only Elniel would know where they could be hidden from Heaven.

Part 3 - To Free an Angel
The third part is fairly straightforward - a raid on the prisons in the city of Dis in Hell to free an imprisoned angel. Okay, not that straightforward. Luneelle can get them there and get them out once they've got Elniel. Once he is free from Dis he will re-assume his angelic form. This will surprise him since it means the Powers the Be aren't necessarily the ones after him.

Finale - Knocking on Heaven's Door
Elniel will inform the PCs that he suspects Galriel is part of a separate faction of angels that are more hard-line lawful than good. He had heard rumors that such a group existed but since that could be considered against the will of the Powers That Be no one believed it. The best course of action to end this once and for all, he believes, is to go to Heaven itself and force a confrontation. He may lose his life for good but at least he may be able to buy Lilly peace. The PCs can come if they wish.

The Shatner
At the Gates of Heaven Elniel is taken into custody and put on trial much to Galriel's dismay. If the PCs are there they'll also be detained. If not they will be summoned to Heaven anyways in order to speak as witnesses.

What follows is a trial where Elniel has to defend himself. He'll profess his love and under pain of truth describe the love that Luneelle feels for him and Lilly. Galriel goes on about touching evil and crossing lines that should not be crossed. The PCs will also be called upon to testify. This is an opportunity for a player to channel Shatner and testify about the power of love to Heaven itself.

If the PCs don't Shatner it up (or fail a skill challenge depending on how you handle it) then it is decided that Elniel will be rendered mortal but allowed to live with his family in peace. If the PCs make a difference he will even be allowed to remain an angel. Either way Galriel is incensed.

War in Heaven
Galriel has had enough and gathers up a rebellion while the PCs are still around. This is massive angel on angel conflict and the PCs are caught up in the middle of it. It is their chance to go full epic, preferably with their actions deciding who wins the war in Heaven.

Conclusion
When the dust settles Galriel's faction will either be in charge (and the PCs will either be dead or hunted by angels for the rest of their lives) or banished to Hell to become a new set of demons. Elniel will return to the prime material plane to live out his life with his family, either as a human or an angel. The PCs will each be granted a boon by Heaven.

Thoughts
This is pretty much one big railroad but somewhere else I had notes on how to make things more open ended. Epic level characters are likely to have connections in powerful places so they be able to find places for Lilly to hide safely. They may decide to take other actions or not help at all at some points and that is also fine. This is meant to be an outline for something much bigger.

While typing this out I had also considered swapping the three family members genders just so that the problematic theme of "females seduce and destroy" inherent to succubi could be avoided. It doesn't really change all that much.

And yes, there is a good deal of juvenile, "fuck yeah fight the power!" underlying this. This is an OLD idea.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Mystara 1400

This one is Mystara lore heavy so I'll annotate in italics. This was mostly inspirational brainstorming - you can tell by the ordering from "setting" to "why is it like this?" to "what is interesting about this?". I think I was going for a Shannara vibe with this one.

New Selenica

A small woodcutting town on the border of the Freelands and the Empire. (I believe the Freelands refer to areas that used to be Darokin north of the Empire of Thyatis.) Mostly consists of Darokinians, some Thyatians. Ruled by old Darokinian nobility - the Caldwells. A community of loggers, woodcutters and carpenters who specialize in working with the twisted wood of the Elfwood. (The Elfwood refers to what was once Alfheim. During the Wrath of the Immortals it was twisted by the Shadow Elves who took over and renamed it Aengemor. We'll get to why there are no elves now later.) The houses and woodwork are twisted and intertwined making for bizarre looking structures. "The secret is to work with the wood, to follow it's natural shape. Let the wood inspire you, don't force the wood."

There is a small community that has formed to support the woodworkers and New Selenica has become a growing little town. The nearby Elfwood is also home and secret travelling route to the Dur, who have been declared outlaws by the Empire. (I think the Dur are supposed to be a combination of Traldaran Darine - the Mystaran Rom - and settled Urduks.)

On the border of the Freelands and the Empire is Fort Canobolas. It is one day's travel from New Selenica and the whole area is carefully watched for Dur and Freeman outlaws. The soldiers there are called the "Bordermen", but that name is reserved by the people for true warriors farther into Darokin's wilds.

Background

During the Wrath of the Immortals Darokin was invaded by the Master of Hule. The forces were mostly Sindhi Urduks with the Master's own humanoids and elite Thrashers backing them up. As the war raged on much of Darokin was conquered by the Master's forces. However, with the destruction of the Nucleus of the Spheres, the Master's powers began to fade. His patron, Bozdogan, abandoned him. Eventually his own humanoid forces fragmented and the Urduks settled down. The master just disappeared.

(I'm using some custom Mystaran lore and war outcomes here. Additionally I changed then end of the Wrath of the Immortals. Instead of the Nucleus of the Spheres simply being redirected it was destroyed along with all magic. The Immortals themselves disappeared. So Mystara after Wrath of the Immortals of bereft of magic and gods.)

Magic seems to be creeping back into the lands in bits and pieces. A unicorn here, an elf conjuring a ball of light there. However the Master is also returning. Humanoids are stirring in the far west again and rumors of darker things are surfacing.

The truth is that the immortals are being reborn as mortals and magic is slowly returning. Whatever punishment the Old Ones had for the younger gods is mostly over and they are getting another chance to regain their power. There are some forces that don't want the old ways to begin anew, though...

Loki
The trickster god is making his bid to regain immortality by creating the false impression of the Master's return. Even if he can't muster up the power that the Master of old had and ravage the remains of civilization the mere threat of his return could throw the whole land into internal strife and warfare.

Odin
Just as Loki as been reborn so has Odin. He has been travelling the land trying to pin down exactly where Loki was resurfacing. Young and two eyed again, he still strikes an imposing figure. He wants the new world to find its own way and leave the past that brought so much destruction behind.

The d'Amberville Family
One of the next immortals to be reborn is Rad, the immortal who began all this trouble. He has similar beliefs to Odin but still believes that magic is the path for mortals to enlighten themselves. His bloodline is especially strong and the slow return of magic is favoring his decedents. The Empire claims all of d'Amberville's kin were slain in the Pogrom. (Apparently after the War there was a imperial Pogrom against any surviving magic users... who couldn't defend themselves because magic has ceased to exist.)

Thoughts

Not a lot to work with here but I really dig the idea of the immortals being reborn and struggling anew as mortals in their bid to reshape the world. What strikes me a being a cool idea now would be to have the players take on the roles of returning immortals - this would really fit the feel of a 4th edition game where the PCs are so far above anyone else in power levels. Some things that I know I was thinking at the time but didn't write down was that gunpowder, or at least redpowder from the Savage Coast, had taken a stronger hold and technology was increasing. Gnomes would be especially important. Conflicts could be between immortals vs. no immortals, magic vs. technology and freedom vs. security. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Landfall - Part 2

There are probably things I would rearrange in this setting if I were to try it out. However the possibility for exceedingly high levels of sci-fi Lovecraftian Tolkienesque fantasy gonzo would have to be kept in.

Valaran Republic
Dubbed "the great experiment", a group of Oans are trying to establish a nation where the locals are technologically advancing in a natural way instead of just handing them blasters. Currently it is a steam-powered republic. Consists mostly of hobbits, dwarves, Oans and Dogon.

Landfall
The largest and most technologically advances city. Located in the center of the grounded fleets. It has become a clearinghouse metropolis of all races and techs amid massive grounded spaceships. A clan of elven hunters venture out from a small frigate and meetup with some Dogon on their hover-bikes. Each grounded ship is a community. Ruled by a city council that has representatives from each community.

Arbalorn
The largest elven kingdom. Old school, uncompromising.

Glittering Mountains
The dwarfliest of the dwarves live here much like the elves live in Arbalorn.

Loriath
A more progressive elven community. Accepts newcomers who want to stay and exchanges information.

The Towers
A wrecked Confederation battle group marks this land swarming with goblins and worse. Acts as a defensive barrier into Confederation lands.

Towerwatch
A fully functional Federation outpost that watches the towers for signs of major activity.

Pride Plains
Many Kzinti have reverted to their tribal ways and now live as nomads beyond the Towers.

The Hive
Mountains near the Towers. Home to the Mi-Go and their goblin slaves (and other manufactured horrors). Seems Confederation allied but no one can be sure.

Fallentown
Independent city-state in and around a crashed Confederation battlecruiser. A hive of scum and villainy but also a fantastic place to trade and make shady deals. Many civilized goblins live here along with less scrupulous newcomers. The town is run by an unknown strongman who lets business go as it may but has his own motives.

Noldenwood
Once home to the proudest and greatest clan of elves. Now they have taken to technology and gone underground leaving their old home as a zoo for their biological and mechanical creations.

Serrated Hills
Homeland of goblin-kind and many giants. Now being organized by Confederation loyalists.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Landfall - Part 1

Time to break into the notebook with the richest vein - the one I wrote in while doing customer support for AT&T. Lots of neat stuff in here. Also lots of horrible and semi-suicidal poetry as my depression deepened on the path to my eventual nervous breakdown. Anyway, TMI aside here is one of the cooler ideas I had forgotten about! Looks like I was assuming a d20 hack. And stealing ideas like a bandit on meth.

Fantasy World - originally
Very Tolkienesque. Elves are the guardians of the world. Immortal and god-like. (Use rules for racial classes.) Hobbits are more adaptable and human-like. Dwarves are even more reclusive and taciturn. Has Tolkien-style religion. Elves were first-born, come from the Isle of the Angels where God's servants live. There are also the goblinoid races though they were recently defeated in a great war where the Dark One fell. Super generic stuff.

Then Came...
The world is within the borders of a Star Trek Federation style inter-stellar government. Was left alone due to Prime Directive type rules (and a secret, unmentioned reason - this world has a "Q"-like being protecting it). The Federation recently lost a war and this territory to a hostile Confederation. These newcomers found a unique source of energy on the planet and meant to exploit it.

The war between the Federation and Confederation awoke the Protector (the elves' god) and it shielded the planet, cutting it off from the outside. Now both sides have people trapped with the natives. Time passes... (I'm guessing at least a generation or three.)

Federation consists of the Dogon, Oans, Cestorians (elder things)
Confederation consists of the Kzinti and the Mi-Go.

The Elves - The elders are now shamed by their inability to stop the intruders. They have retreated farther into their forests and caves since the Shielding. All those seen now are youngsters with wanderlust or older elves sent out on a mission.

The Dwarves - Fascinated by technology the dwarves have come farther out of their caves and vaults. Still a suspicious lot, but they are learning to change. The race has almost split in two over the neophiles and the traditionalists.

The Hobbits - Still the most plentiful, still the most adaptable. They have rolled with the changes better than anyone. Equally likely to be farming as a scientist in a city.

The Goblins - Confederation hard-liners have been using them for cannon fodder and guinea pigs. Some have rebelled and are attempting "civilization", even if they aren't very good at it. The rest are being changed in other ways...

Oans - Delicate and highly intelligent. The Oans are the glue that holds the Federation together. While not as naturally technical as others, they are master diplomats and lovers of peace.

Cestorians - Hybrid flora/fauna, the Cestorians are master scientists and have driven the Federation forward. Their lack of understandable emotions is worrisome at times but they rarely cause problems as long as they are allowed to do research.

Kzinti - Furry Klingons. Niven's boys, or Wing Commander. Space cat warriors.

Mi-Go - Intelligent fungi every bit as alien and technical as the Cestorians. However, their alien thoughts seem to come across as almost sadistic.

Dogon - An ancient lizard-race that is past its prime. Colonies still exist throughout the galaxy so they are everywhere. They are strong and good pilots but seem a little slow.

Magic and Tech



Magic Technology
Basic Can read a simple spell, use a simple magic item. Can work tech on a basic level (if shown how to pull a trigger, for example).
Average Can learn basic spells, understands how magical energy works. Functional spell casting is possible. Was raised in tech environment. Knows basics of why it works if not how (like most 21st century people with their tech).
Expert Knows magical secrets and how best to use them. Wizards and sorcerers. Understands scientific theories and works with them. Scientists and engineers.

Magic comes from the Protector - it was taught by him so his children could manipulate the world more effectively. Because of this, in a magic vs. tech standpoint, magic wins since it alters the rules that tech plays by. However it comes with a personal cost and is rarely useful to the common man.

Magic uses personal-cost rules similar to how d20 Call of Cthulhu works. Casting a spell does ability score damage and possibly Sanity if implemented.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Rules Snippet - Tactical Swordplay in the oWoD

Back in the day my buddies and I were big into Highlander. Aside from the movies and TV series there was a collectible card game that, well, had its flaws. However the base of the game was called the Swordmaster system and was used for a few other CCGs that disappeared even faster than Highlander. It was actually a neat system and when we decided to run a Highlander RPG using the Storyteller system I grafted the two together. The result was a good tactical sword fight simulator that had a nice flow to it.

The Swordmaster System in Brief

There were several different types of cards in the game. Most importantly there were Basic Attacks and Basic Blocks. A Basic Attack had a 3x3 grid in the upper corner with one square filled in. That indicated where the attack was going. There were nine Basic Attacks, one to each square. Similarly a Basic Block had a 3x3 grid that had some squares filled in, usually a set of 4 or a row of 3, that indicated the area that was being blocked. There were six basic blocks (1 for each corner group of 4 and 2 rows of 3 along the top and bottom).

The basic mechanic was that the attacker played an attack and if the defender had a block that covered that area they could play it and block the attack. Each player would take turns being the attacker. You could not attack to an area you had just blocked.

There were additional card types. For example Dodges were like blocks except you could attack through the area covered by the Dodge and avoid damage from special attacks that had an effect when blocked. There were many, many other cards, too, but they could all be grouped under "special effects". You generally could only play one of those per turn. Only the ones that also could be considered combat maneuvers of some sort were used (such as "Combination" which allowed you to make two attacks).

The other important aspect of the game was that your life score, called Endurance, was your hand size. So if you had ten endurance left then you could only have ten cards in your hand. This meant that as you took damage you had fewer options available to you for attack and defense.

The Rules

Each player had a "deck" that represented what they were capable of. At minimum it consisted of the fifteen basic attacks and blocks and a Head Shot event card - this was a "set". For each point of Dodge the character had (as in the Storyteller Talent) they could include one Dodge card per set. For each point of Melee they could include one special attack or Event card that acted as a combat maneuver per set. Other skills could be used to add other cards if everyone approved (possessing enough ranks in Subterfuge allowed one of the sneaky Event cards to be added, for example.) Enough sets needed to be combined to create a minimum 40 card deck.

A character had a hand size equal to twice their combined Physical attributes (Strength + Agility + Stamina). A sword fight then followed regular Swordmaster rules. A basic hit did 2 damage (and hence reduced their hand size by 2). A basic attack could be declared a Power Attack that did 4 damage and 2 if blocked but the defender could respond with a hidden attack (hidden attacks were made with the card face down so you had to guess where to block). A successful attack to the upper row that was combined with the Head Shot event card ended the fight immediately.

Thoughts

We only got to use this system a few times but the fights it generated had a nice flow to them, certainly better than the crappy combat mechanics from the old Storyteller system. Since a lot of the defensive maneuvers resulted in limiting attack opportunities there would be a lot of back and forth as one player was forced to sit on the defensive until they got the right opportunity and then they could unleash all the attacks that had been building up in their hands. Wounds mattered - as hand sizes shrank it was easy to envision the opponent limping and stumbling as they tried to defend themselves.

This system had some pretty severe limitations - to begin with it wasn't really suited for more than one on one battles. The nature of the Rules of the Game for Highlander helped with this though ("no interfering with someone else's fight"). 

A deck had to be built for each bad guy which could be a chore, but since the actual duel didn't happen until the end of a story it wasn't like hordes of complicated monsters had to be statted out.

Otherwise I was proud of this little creation. It isn't much use outside of melee weapon duels but in a game where those were dramatic points of interest it was worth the investment.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Great School of Magic - Part 2

This is all about 2nd edition rules, here. I think I was using the standard 2nd edition skill rules. Maybe. I'm not sure. The new philosophies and methodologies were developed on behalf of players who wanted them.

Arcana

Arcana covers supplemental knowledge that every wizard should have. By 1st level every wizard knows Spellcraft, Thaumaturgy, Literacy and Arcanology. After that a course may be taken in a single quarter. Classes may be taken multiple times to increase proficiency. A level need not be gained to take a new course. Courses marked with a * are required to graduate.

Agility Training, Ancient History*, Alchemy, Anatomy, Astrology, Astronomy, Blacksmithing, Book Binding, Brewing, Concentration*, Conjure Companion*, Dowsing, Engineering, Gen Cutting, Glass Blowing, Healing, Herbalism, Hypnotism, Language (any), Meditation*, Mental Resistance, Necrology, Omen Reading, Paper Making, Prestidigitation, Quick Casting, Research*, Sage Knowledge (any), Scribe, Spellcraft*, Tactics of Magic, Thaumaturgy, Planar Geography.

New Philosophy - Dracology

Dracology is the study and emulation of the magic of dragons. This philosophy is extremely difficult since almost all the spells are unique or learned from a dragon. Often spells will resemble other common spells but with a draconic touch. There is no set list of spells and there are no banned schools.

While it is not required for a Dracologist to choose a specific type of dragon often circumstances will cause this to happen. If the Dracologist does declare a dragon type specialty then specialist bonuses and penalties are increased by 1/5% for an alignment type and +3/15% for a specific color. The bonuses/penalties apply to Dracologist matters only.

A 1st level the Dracologist gains a +1 to reaction rolls with dragons. At 5th level the Dracologist is capable of learning actual Dragon spells, even if they may not apply to the Dracologist themselves (like natural attack enhancement spells). At 8th level a Dracologist can recognize any dragon in any form.

New Philosophy - Life

In many ways Life is similar to Transmutation with one important difference; it only affects living things. Life forms are warped and changed into something new. Banned schools are Necromancy and Illusion.

The spells in the school of Life are essentially Alteration spells which affect living things. There are also some enchantment spells that qualify. A Life specialist could get on easily without any newly created spells.

At 5th level the Life specialist can cast clerical healing spells as if they were known wizard spells. At 8th level the specialist gains 50% HP back with healing magics. At 11th level they never will lose their mind when polymorphed.

New Methodology - Alchemy

Alchemists specialize in the channeling of magical energies through combinations of components. In game terms this means that an Alchemist must have a prepared mixture ready in order to cast a spell. So not only is the wizard limited by spells per day as normal they are also limited to casting a spell as many times as they have mixtures prepared.

The basic elements for a spell can be found at an apocrathy and cost 10gp per level of the spell. If a spell is researched a second time the cost drops to 5gp per level and the components can be found in the smallest village (mostly through cooking needs). Researching a spell a third time allows the caster to scrounge up necessary components in the wilderness at no charge. Preparation of a mixture takes 1 turn. A mixture weighs 0.1 lbs.

At 1st level the Alchemist gains the Alchemy skill for free. In addition to standard brews an Alchemist with the Healing proficiency can prepare treatments for 20gp. Additionally, minor substances (glue, Greek fire, etc) can be researched as if they were 0 level spells. Finally an Alchemist has a base 20% chance of recognizing any potion. This increases 5% per level.
At 3rd level the Alchemist may create clerical healing spells if they have the Healing Proficiency.
At 6th level the Alchemist may create magical potions. 

New Methodology - Artifice

Artificers are wizards who create magical effects by enchanting items with the desired magics. The actual spell is a combination of the caster's will and energy and the construction of the device. In game terms this means that an Artificer must have a talisman for each spell and it must be "charged" beforehand in order to work. Charging a talisman takes about as much time as it takes to memorize a spell. Casting the spell from a talisman is instantaneous.

A basic talisman costs a minimum of 100gp per level of the spell to be stored in it. By using more valuable materials a spell may be cast as if the wizard were X levels higher (X is a max of 4). The cost is the base cost times 2^X. (So a magic missile to be cast as if it were 3 levels higher would cost 100*2^3 = 800gp.)

A talisman may be constructed to hold several spells (they must all be of the same school). To determine the cost, find the individual cost of each talisman as if it were separate and then total them. Then add 100gp per spell embedded beyond the first. The talisman must have a separate part of it for each spell (often these are gems of different types).

An Artificer may attempt to create a talisman ad hoc in emergencies. Every attempt to use it has a 50% chance of success with the following modifiers: +1%/level of the caster, +1% per 10gp worth of the talisman, -10% if made from common items, -25% if made from bits of stick tied together, etc.

At 1st level the Artificer has a base 20% to ID a magic item. This increases 5% per level.
At 3rd level the Artificer may create one shot magic items ala Spells and Magic.
At 5th level the Artificer may create temporary magic items.
At 7th level the Artificer may make any magic item.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Great School of Magic - Part 1

Here's the 2nd edition D&D version of the Great School game. This is probably how I should have handled the most recent campaign.

Overview

The Great School of Magic in Glantri City is a place of learning and the heart of Glantrian society. While many wizards have been privately tutored the best and brightest come from the Great School. The range and variety of wizards that the school produces is breath taking.

The course of study at the School is divided into three parts: Philosophy, Methodology and Arcana. Philosophy covers the wizard's approach to the nature of magic and includes the eight major "schools" of magic such as transmutation along some more esoteric approaches such as Shadow and Life. Methodology is the manner in which a wizard actually casts a spell. While traditional book magic is the most common alternatives such as Artifice and Alchemy are also taught. Finally, Arcana refers to learning that is tangentially related to spell casting, such as History or Necrology.

There are four two month quarters at the School separated by month long breaks. One on one mentoring continues until the wizard is 5th level at which point he is released to independent study. Routine testing is still administered until 9th level at which time the wizard graduates and is formally declared a Wizard. After that time he may stay at the school in order to use the facilities and take Arcana courses but this is usually frowned upon.

Costs and Expenses

The tuition for the Great School is 5gp a day. This covers access to the facilities, mentor, classes and common needs such as ink and paper. Thrown in for free is a small room and three (poor) meals a day for those who want it. Most wizards move out as soon as they can afford it and almost all are out by 5th level since that is usually when they begin building their library.

What the tuition doesn't cover is reagents. So all components necessary for the creation of spells or magic items are for the student to find and pay for. This also goes for alchemical needs. A student should expect to pay a minimum of 1,000 to 3,000 gp a quarter along with the 5gp/day tuition.

Leveling and Advancement

In order for a wizard to gain the benefits of his new level, he must spend at least 3 weeks plus one per level attained at the school with his mentor. After 5th level the personal training is no longer required but his new level won't be recognized by the School unless he continues testing.

Testing consists of the wizard creating a spell from scratch, either a known spell or one from his imagination, and demonstrating it to a panel of instructors. The wizard must be able to show his work and answer questions.

In order to graduate a special test must be taken. The nature of this test is shrouded in mystery.

Philosophy

A wizard's philosophy reflects how he believes magic to work. While he is capable of creating other effects it will always be less desirable. In game terms, a wizard's philosophy reflects his Specialty, if any. A non-specialist wizard is considered to have the philosophy of Thaumaturgy. The eight main philosophies are Abjuration, Conjuration/Summoning, Divination, Enchantment/Charm, Illusion, Invocation/Evocation, Necromancy and Transmutation. There are also other minor philosophies that are recorded and are there for a student to follow. Those are Shadow, Elemental, Geomancy, Dimensionalism, Wild Magic and Force. (Apparently all these are in Player's Option: Spells and Magic).

It is possible for a wizard to develop a new philosophy. While silly ideas are frowned upon (the Food philosophy), ones that can make a lasting contribution are encouraged (such as Life and Dracology). If a wizard achieves Wizard status with a new philosophy he is asked to contribute his learning to the school in exchange for a generous payment or a teaching position.

Methodology

Methodology reflects the manner in which a wizard casts his spells. In some cases a wizard's methodology eclipses their philosophy. The most popular methodology is standard book-bound spell casting. However the methods of Alchemy, Artifice, Channeling, Song and War are supported. (Note standard book magic and Channeling are covered in the rule books. The others are new.)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Beyond the Gates - Part 1

This actually got a few sessions but life got in the way before it really went anywhere. It was a d20 Modern game with Lovecraftian influences. It also shamelessly stole the concept of Delta Green and probably misused it in a way that was nowhere close to the original. Very Twilight 2000 in some ways, including improbable political events.

December 21, 2012 – The Gates Open
All over the world large objects called “gates”, for a lack of a better word, appear just before dawn. While the materials and specific architecture all vary wildly, from bone arches to girders of alien metal, they all share some characteristics. They all form large portals of some form or another, the smallest being 12' high and the largest towering over 100'. Within these portals are shimmering walls of opaque light that vary from gate to gate – not all gates are one color, some are striped, speckled or swirling. The gates are placed at irregular intervals – some are within a few miles of another while other places can go hundreds of miles without a gate. A full inventory of all the gates has not yet been established, and a few have disappeared in the ensuing time while others have opened. No special qualities can be detected around the gates, at least by scientific means. No one comes out when they go in, and no communication is possible when devices are sent through a gate.

December 21-23, 2012 – The Initial Mystery
For the first few days, the initial investigation into the gates occurs. The media is in full 24 hour coverage of the event and doesn't pay attention to anything else at first. People are afraid, very afraid – the building sense of apocalyptic paranoia and delayed millennialism is fully unleashed. There are suicides, people rioting to get into the gates while the authorities guard them and calls for this to be the end of the world. In the U.S., it is a combination of millennial terror and religious eschatology.

December 24 - March, the Nightmare is Realized and Days of Chaos and Death
It is finally noticed by the media that people are changing into... things. There seems to be no rhyme nor reason as to who changes, what they change into or where they are located. Its during this time that civilization nearly collapses completely as monsters freely roam the streets and everyone becomes afraid of their neighbor, unsure if they have changed or not. In the U.S., people are frozen between the terror of leaving their homes and facing the monsters and going out to get the things they need. The chaos in unimaginable as some places break into rioting and looting, some into massive massacres of or by monsters and others completely lock themselves down in terror. The economy completely shuts down and everything grids to a halt. In many places services shut down completely and the long, cold winter takes tens of thousands of lives in the north. International trade has completely shut off and starvation is everywhere. It very well looks like this could be the end of everything. However, also during this time people in power have not been complacent.

Perseverance of Heroes
In the U.S., the government did its best to continue on but there was just too much damage. To begin with, about half of congress turned into some form of monster (not that anyone could tell, lol) as did all the other members of government. The constitutionally structured government collapsed. There were some military attempts to take control, but there was so much effort being focused on damage control that power grabs weren't really possible. However, it became clear that someone was still pulling the strings of what was left, someone with a fully functioning chain of command within various government agencies.

This was Delta Green. After having been officially eliminated in the late 60's, the organization had gone covert and operated as a shadow agency within almost every branch of government, military and law enforcement in the U.S. When the Gates opened, their people were unaffected. Using this continuity, Delta Green used their positions and chain of command to take action. They have managed to keep the military and law enforcement focused on protecting civilians and keeping order whenever possible. They have used the intelligence agencies and scientific agencies to find out as much information about what is going on as possible. They have used the political offices to issue orders and maintain a semblance of authority even when they had none.

As people began seeing the man behind the curtain and asking questions, there was some infighting and revolt, but in the end Delta Green became the de facto leaders of North America, such as it was. In truth, North America has broken down into smaller communities with political control becoming completely localized. Delta Green really only serves as a government in the most basic sense – it offers protection of private property, defense from invaders and a framework for maintaining order. In return, for those who choose to recognize it, it receives manpower and what supplies people are willing to share. Not that there isn't abuse by local Delta Green operatives, but the organization's overall position is that it doesn't care how things are done, only that people are kept safe.

The Current Situation
All across North America (and the world, for that matter) the situation is completely random from place to place. In some areas, the monsters have taken over. Other places have become ghost towns. Still others chug along and do their best to pretend nothing is wrong. Generally, the strongest locations tend to be in the Midwest where food is much more readily available. The coasts and large cities have become veritable charnel houses.

Delta Green does its best to keep order. Cells are continually being recruited to find survivors, free up production resources, fight the monsters and generally investigate the situation in various ways. Bases have been established all over the country in whatever building most suits them, usually police stations or armories. There is often tension between Delta Green and the local government (whatever form it takes), but in the end Delta Green can muster more guns if it needs to.

Character Creation Notes
We are assuming you are members of a Delta Green cell. If you come up with any other ideas, feel free to run with it as long as it isn't likely to cause conflict with the players or GM.

Ability Scores
Everyone has to use the same method. Consult pg.14 & 15 in the Player's Handbook.

Level
You start at 5th level.

Classes
All the basic & advanced classes from the PHB are allowed.
In the Urban Arcana book, the following Advanced classes are allowed: Speed Demon, Street Warrior and the Thrasher.
In the Even More Modern supplement, the following prestige classes are allowed: Mastermind, Sniper and Specop.

Occupations and Wealth
Wealth still exists, albeit not necessarily in cash any more, but there is a good deal of scrip and precious metal coinage floating around. We will be using the abstract wealth system as described in the book, only instead of loans/savings/etc, it will include favors/contacts/etc.

Your starting occupation should represent what you did before the gates opened.

Be sure to read the beginning of the Equipment chapter on how Wealth works.

Equipment
The starting equipment that you purchase represents what you bring with you to Delta Green. Due to society's breakdown, there are no restrictions on what you may have gotten your hands on. However, consider that you can requisition equipment through Delta Green for temporary use (See Requisitioning Equipment on p.93).



Monday, May 13, 2013

Illen Shore

Found an old notebook from the late 90's. It has a few early notes on what would be Abanar, a treatment of the Great School of Magic game that actually got played for two sessions and not much else. There is a couple of pages about the town of Illen Shore, though. It looks like I was trying to create a small, Thunder Rift style setting. I can see ideas that eventually made their way to Stanfolde and others that, well, I was playing too much Magic at the time. Pretty straightforward stuff but it actually has a lot of hooks to hang some real meat on. Please forgive the prose.

The Fall of Nazerull
Ages ago there was a great battle in heaven. Lightning and thunder filled the sky even though the clouds were not dark. When the battle was over the rebellious angel Nazerull was cast to earth. His massive body smashed into the side of Darkstone Mountain and sent a hail of stone and debris for miles around. The people prayed to the heavens that Nazerull would not come for them and he never has. It is said that he waits inside Darkstone Mountain plotting his revenge on those that wronged him.

The Faithful of Al-Nazul
There were some who saw Nazerull as a true living god on earth and dedicated themselves to him in hopes of gaining power on his re-ascent. Led by the high priest Al-Nazul they built a temple at the base of Darkstone Mountain, hidden in the Shroudwood. Nazerull did indeed make them powerful and for many years their Avengers were a constant raiding threat. Eventually a band of heroes went and crushed the cult. The Shroudwood remains tainted with evil, though. It is said the souls of the faithful live on in the spiders that dwell there.

Lim-dul the Necromancer (I know, I know...)
As if drawn by these evil events a necromancer by the name of Lim-dul moved into Varness Marsh. His tower was well Hidden and from this secret base he began sending raiding parties of undead servants to collect more corpses. Worshiping Nazerull as a god of death a priesthood of unliving horrors arose around him. Fearing his growing power the Brotherhood of Cloud raided the Marsh, scattering his minions and ending Lim-dul's life. It is said his last words were, "Death is but a door. Time is but a window. I'll be back." "Fools! Nazerull has seen to it I will live forever!".

The Fallen Cloister
The Brotherhood of Cloud was not the only order committed to good in the region. Once there were the Followers of Wind, a meditative order that specialized in harnessing the body's power. One night there was a fire at the cloister and the surviving Followers arrived in town, minus the abbot, saying that the cloister was now off limits. From that point on they took on a mentor-pupil organization while always watching the hill where the cloister had been.

The Fall of Valen Thundercall
One of the heroes who defeated Al-Nazul, Tarren Thundercall, had  sword named for him. It was created by the While Mage Belegast specifically for that purpose. Tarren never returned from that raid. He was survived by a son named Valen. When he was old enough, Valen sought his father's resting place. It's not known what happened there but Valen returned with his father's sword. Slowly, though, he sank into a depression and then madness. After a horrible killing spree he fled into the countryside. There are still reports of him here and there committing atrocities. The Knights of the Cloud are actively chasing him.

Illen Shore

Situated in the northeast corner of the Empire of Ranke, many consider Illen Shore to be a cursed, backward place that no one wants anything to do with. This is far from true. Illen Shore is located in the middle of a wealth of natural resources that Ranke needs badly. Additionally, what many consider to innumerable curses are actually seen as prime training ground by others. While the War Priests of Ranke don't approve of Illen Shore's odd religious traditions the Emperor has deemed the stability of the area to be more important than his priest's pride. None the less the War Priests keep a temple garrison in town to keep an eye on things.

Illen Shore is located in a fertile river valley that is perfect for farming. The Cruth river flows southwest from the Cloudview Mountains, through the Shroudwood, into the open plains where it eventually empties into Lake Gostel. The nearest city, Ul, is located along the lake. North and northeast of Illen Shore are rocky hills that build into the Seamist Cliffs, an outcropping of the Cloudviews. The Cloudviews and adjacent Shroudwood block passage northwest and west.

Illen Shore has a population of about X, not counting the farmers in the outlying areas. There is some industry centered around mining and smelting, though not much since most people go to the dwarves for that. There is quite a bit of logging from the Shroudwood and Illen Shore is famous for its carpenters. Additionally Illen Shore is a religious and cultural center as it is home to several "enlightened" religions that are found nowhere else in the Empire. A good number of mages have settled here far from the Guild's eyes as have many other people not wanting to be found.

Services in the town cater to almost every need. Aside from the common general stores and other tradesmen, businesses have arisen to take advantage of some of Illen Shore's unique attributes. For example a good sized weapon and armor trade has opened up on account of all the Knights and armed guards. Esoteric herbalists, alchemists and charlatans have formed in the wizards' shadows (and away from the Guild). All sorts of religious knick knaks are sold everywhere, too. This is a prime spot for adventurers who want to avoid getting involved in the Empire's wars.

The town is governed by a council and a mayor. The council is composed of representatives from the following factions: Brotherhood of the Cloud, the War Priests, the White Mage, the farmers, the miners, the loggers, the merchants and the "voice of the voiceless" represents the poor (usually a Follower of Wind).

Notes

A lot of names are stolen from other places, here. It looks like I was trying to fix that as the next page has the following listed: Empire of Zîr, City of Arant, town of Rânas, Haba River, Khadûl Mountains, Carraine Woods, Lake Tûca, Kerador Cliffs, Pharûs the Fallen, Mergãnan Mountain, High Priest Molalan. Looking back, I understand the first set of names I used were a bit more generic fantasy but they certainly were more evocative.

The next page lists - Taco sub, turkey bacon club, 2 orders of round bread, 2 steak sub w/A-1, 13" pizza - bacon and sausage. Apparently it was game night.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Avinar Snippet

Have some plate tectonics and some initial ideas I found jotted down about the Avinar (eventually Abinar) setting while I proof read the next entry.

Alphas are "pure forms" from which humanity was patterned off of.
Humans worship the True Form of man.
Kallistocracy?

Church of the True Form
Teaches that your descendants progress towards or away from Alpha according to their "karma".
Near Alpha language in services.
Various heresies.
Landowner religion.
Two factions - True Form must not be views (iconoclasts) and True Form must be sought out.

Alphas do not grow in number - limited to only so much "spirit stuff". Births only occur after a death.
Alphas divest energy to create servant races.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Slith Script

One of the games that is more of a gestating idea than anything is an exploration/hexcrawl using the Radiance RPG. It would have involved Enlightenment era explorers landing on an undiscovered land of ruined steam and electro-tech civilizations. I didn't get too far but I figured the dwarves would be the steam-powered civilization and the Slith would be the alien electro-tech. Very Elder Scroll/Dwemer inspired.

For some reason I got completely distracted by creating an alphabet for the Slith. Probably because I had discovered the Elian Script and turned the Language Construction Kit on it. I didn't go full Abinar... I'll tell you about Abinar later. What I came up with is below. It uses the Elian script with a custom set of sounds and a probably not well thought out script for numbers.


They had four fingers on each hand and their numbering system was octal. The 0 in the alphabet above was used only when referring to the empty set.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Mysteries of the Left Handed King - Part 2

And in another notebook I have most of the first scenario. I'll throw in a bit just to show what it was like. Damn I used to write a lot to prep for these types of games. This would make a great Gumshoe game...

Scene 1 - Celestial Books, downtown Boston, 6:30 AM, Tuesday

Celestial Books is a small collector's shop in the downtown of Boston. The sign out front features an open book full of astrological writing (Sirius features prominently with the label, "Stella Canis"). Nearby, possibly in an upstairs apartment, an eerie melody can be heard being played on a flute in repitition, perhaps part of a warm-up. (I had envisioned using a theme from Andrew Lloyd Weber's Requiem.) Breifly, through the early morning commuter traffic, the one investigator's lost pet can be glimpsed as they are being let into the crime scene. (How much will they risk to try and grab their pet?) The officer on duty is Reg Maloney, a no nonsense PD vet. He'll fill the investigators in on the details of the case with some annoyance - he doesn't know why they've been called in.

Known Details

  • Store owner - Celeste Levett, owner of Celestial Books.
  • Standard break and entry. The front door was jimmied as was the inside gate; someone knew what they were doing. The glass case inside is smashed with what looks like a blanket used to muffle the sound.
  • Celeste left the shop around 7pm yesterday. Locals within earshot heard nothing all night but no one was awake from 2:30am to 4:30am which is when the crime is suspected of occurring.
  • Only one book was stolen, the Regum Sinester Mysterium.
Inside, the scene is as described. A very tidy and neat bookstore - few shelves but very old books. There are quite a few glass cases, also. One of the shelves holds the lost cherished book for one of the investigators. CSI is here taking prints and Celeste is waiting for questioning.

Celeste Levett is a taller woman in her mid 30's with long, curly dyed blonde hair and glasses. Thin and dressed in a grey skirt suit. She seems very much to be a business woman.
  • She arrived at the shop around 6am to prepare for opening when she saw the damage and called the police.
  • The stolen book is worth about $5,000 or so to the right buyer. She isn't aware of any other significance nor has she read it. Has to do with an old cut or something.
  • She will admit that the book itself was being returned to the Miskatonic Library today as she had just discovered that it was their stolen property. She is receiving a reward for returning it. She knows little about the original theft and refers them to the original case file.
  • About the investigator's cherished book; she will simply say that she purchased it from one of her usual contacts and unless a charge was being filed she'd prefer to leave it at that.

Interlude 1

Initial searches for information will yield the following results:
  • Fingerprints - belong to Darron Crawford. Has a rap sheet a mile long for petty theft and drug possession. Has been clean for the past two years. Current residence is 1650 Shrewsbury Rd in Arkham - the Power of Self Society hall. DOB 8/12/1973, Arkham. 
  • Celeste Lovett - Also has a rap sheet for fraud and receiving stolen property. Apparently she has a history of knowingly buying stolen books.
  • The Book - was stolen from MU six months ago. Celeste was in the process of selling it when notified of this. She has provided the name of the seller, Bryant Walker, and agreed to return the book for a $1,000 reward. She paid $2,500. Office Dan Feely oversaw the case.
  • Bryant Walker - A graduate student at MU in anthropology. Was reported missing a year ago by his family. Missing persons case filled with strange stories of him popping up here and there, namely in graveyards, a mugging in Boston where he stole a woman's tampon and an incident at a Wal-Mart where he was screaming incoherently. Not sure how he got his hands on the book - it was checked out under the name "Charles Ward" but no one remembers doing that.
  • No info on the Power of Self Society besides the leaflets.
Charges can be filed at this point or hereafter about the cherished book but it will take time. It will also affect Celeste's disposition.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Mysteries of the Left Handed King - Part 1

This is basically a straight up Call of Cthulhu scenario. It is probably more likely to be played at some point than many other choices but I've discovered some notebooks are missing. Most notably the ones with the Kung Fu Star Wars and Dwarven legends. I'll call them up from memory if I have to.

I believe this was created around the time I got my hands on d20 Call of Cthulhu. I know the original campaign structure this sprang from, the Gilchrist Trust, came from that book. I had also picked up some Hogshead Games FBI books, too, so I'm guessing this was supposed to be a sort of X-Files setup with the players being federal agents. Specifically they were replacing a team that had previously been wiped out...

Robert Bissel's Case

The initial investigative team:
  • Robert Bissel, the team leader
  • Jared Lane, the forensic MD
  • Wendi Harrow, investigator
  • Johnathan Willcox, cult specialist
They began with an investigation into the kidnapping of flutist Cheryl Billimek. No ransom or other typical motivations seemed to be involved. They traced her kidnapping back to a cult called the Invisible Mask. Cheryl was killed during the attempted rescue but whatever the cult was trying to do was halted. They also gained possession of the cult's holy book, the Regum Sinester Mysterium, which Johnathan began to study since there was evidence that more of these cultists were on the loose.

Shortly afterwards Robert's daughter, Angela, was kidnapped and his wife Felicia was murdered. A note was left indicating that it was retribution for his actions against the Invisible Mask and his daughter would act as Cheryl's replacement in their ritual. Robert was officially taken off the case but was covertly included by his teammates.

Agent Willcox, who's reading of the Regum Sinester Mysterium was slowing warping his mind, managed to decipher when the cult's ritual would be and where. The agents, including Robert, assaulted the cultists. Accounts are confused, but only Robert and Johnathan survived and Johnathan was gibbering mad. Angela was missing, taken away by "a tall, dark man" according to Robert. The team was retired and a new one hired.

What Happened
According to the Regum Sinester Mysterium, the Left Handed King has three aspects: an Invisible Mask, a Bloody Hand and a Wounded Foot. Each is a path to the King's secrets. The Mask follows a path of appeasement, the Hand of sacrifice and the Foot of travel.

The Mask members Robert faced intended to offer a flute player for Azathoth's entertainment. Angela was been taken by Nyarlathotep to join Azathoth's entourage. Robert, driven mad with grief, thinks he can get her back.

What Robert is Doing
In order to get his daughter back via the Bloody Hand, Robert needs to acquire a copy of the Regum Sinester Mysterium, collect the liver and pineal glands of five victims and hold a ritual at the appointed time. His fellow cultists do the work for him and one has established himself in the leadership of the Power of Self Society.

Things to learn about Robert On the Way
  • Initial reading of the book
  • Official account of Robert's case
  • Info on Azathoth and his attendants
  • Info on Nyarlathotep and the Left Handed King
  • Info about Angela (she's a flute player)
  • Info on summoning Nyarlathotep in King form, his duties
Who Lost Something?
The theme of this campaign is the lengths one would go to get back something they lost. Each character must have lost one of the following:
  • a family heirloom
  • a loved one (dead)
  • a pet has gone missing
  • a cherished book
  • a body part (hair, finger, hearing, leg - minor or major doesn't matter)