Thursday, November 26, 2020

Stellar Omelas

A conversation that I had on the OSR discord server the day before thanksgiving contained a concept that I find really interesting. I can't really sift the parts relevant to this from the discussion of other topics, cause a lot happened that day, but it went approximately something like this:

Anarcho-Communist: All people deserve the freedom to define and organize themselves on their own terms. Decision-making structures should be horizontal rather than vertical, so no one dominates anyone else.

Hobbesian: The natural condition of man is a condition of war of every one against every one, solitary life is poor, nasty, brutish, and short. For that reason, it is created that great leviathan called a commonwealth, or state.

Transhumanist: There is no need to pay homage to the product of selfish genes - as though self-replicating DNA from the old Darwinian era were some sort of secular equivalent to Providence.” 

Liberal/Centrist: We must mistrust utopias: they usually end in holocausts.   

Moral Pluralist:  I think a pretty strong response to this is making sure everyone is able to say “Hey, you better not oppress us, because if you do, we can pack up and go somewhere else.

Basically the core idea I took away is that an anarchist society would work if transhumanism eliminated the violent and selfish parts of human nature but some people would not want to be altered in that way. Since not violating people's autonomy would probably be important to an anarchist utopian society, those people would be given spaceships and the supplies to go somewhere else. I'm not sure whether it is even feasible, but fictionally it is a really interesting concept: a high-tech utopian society with strong exit rights for the people who don’t want to have the ‘evil’ parts of human nature removed.

My first thought, though, was that the people who rejected this chemically-mandated dys/u/?topia to go out and do their own thing sound like they would be great PCs, or main characters, or whatever. It would be interesting to write about or play as the kind of person who consciously chooses to reject a utopia. And the places where the utopia-rejectors go would be an interesting setting, because a lot of interesting communities and factions would form.  

If I turn this idea into an RPG campaign, the system I use would probably be Stars Without Number. It is a sci-fi RPG that contains a lot of tools for randomly  generating different factions and planets. This story would probably be about exploring and surviving in the border regions where all the utopia-rejecters go. 

This is more a vague idea that I got from a conversation, but if I decide to actually run this thing I’ll probably write more about the actual setting details and stuff. Honestly, I probably won’t though. I just felt this idea was cool enough to put on the ‘unfinished projects’ shelf instead of just letting it briefly occupy my brain and then fade into the ether.

Monday, June 8, 2020

The Volcano-Threatened Archipelago part 2: Tourist's Guide

So I compiled and expanded the details to the volcanic islands that I posted about previously, and made a pdf. It is sort of like a handout to get the essential information about the setting to the players, but it is also an in-world tourist's guide with some inaccuracies and rumors. The info in it represents what the average outsider to the islands would know, so there are some secrets and details not included.

The link to download it:

So far, the big threads that could potentially become the focus of a campaign are

  • The volcano, and finding a way to warn people about the eruption and help the islands evacuate. The volcano cultists would probably be the main enemies here, and maybe corrupt and incompetent officials who think the volcano talk is just fearmongering.
  • The Elven ruins, and surviving elven civilizations. Maybe a sort of race, both the Dragon King and the Elves want to find artifacts from the old Elven empire. The Elves want to prove that this was the first homeland of the Elves to get support from the worldwide Elven community, and the Dragon side wants to prevent that from happening and annex more islands.
  • The hunt for the lost pirate treasure, and the race to find it. Made more important by the bounty on the old pirate king and the fact that whoever finds the treasures becomes the new pirate king. Maybe I could even run it so that the bounty is just on "whoever is pirate king" so any bounty hunters would have to wait for the treasure to be found to know who to bring in.
Now that I have made this, I'm probably gonna put this idea on the shelf for now, unless some sudden bout of inspiration about this strikes again. If I decide to pursue this idea further I might make a more posts detailing the DM side of the islands, with keyed locations and encounter tables and all that. That probably won't be for a while though, unless I end up running a game in this world.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

An Inventory of my Games

I should write down all the campaigns that I am running currently, for posterity. Some of them are OSR and some are modern D&D. There are a lot of them, now that I think of it. Someone should probably stop me from starting more, because at the current rate of expansion by the end of the year it will be a l l t h e g a m e s a l l t h e d a y s

5th Edition Wednesdays:
This game used to be the Adventurers League game at the friendly local game store, but during the quarantine we moved away from organized play and started running homebrew games. My brother and I switch off GMing, we each run one adventure and then switch off. I mostly run dungeoncrawls, with the premise that Acereak has kidnapped the party with planar magic and is using them to gather treasure from other dungeons to bring into the treasure room of the Tomb of Horrors. The players are playing characters from various D&D worlds and I am running them through various classic dungeons like Forge of Fury.

Dungeons & Dragons Intro Game:
This campaign is me running a group of new players through a short campaign in 5e. The premise is a mashup of the classic Against the Cult of the Reptile God and the 4e adventure Keep on the Shadowfell. The party is investigating a missing merchant, but has gotten involved with a cult to an evil snake goddess, the legacy of an ancient knight order, and a maniacal necromancer named Kalron the Unrepentant. It is a mix of investigation, fighting, and wilderness exploration. So that the newbies can learn about all the parts of modern D&D.

Ruins of Vor Rukoth: This is a game for my high school friends, it is a classic OSR sandbox based around a ruined city. The city used to be part of a great empire but it was destroyed by the tyranny of its leaders. Now it is a gold-filled ruin for adventurers to plunder. In addition to dealing with the undead remnants of the city, the party must interact with a variety of factions including the heirs to the ancient empire and the radical religious ground dedicated to avenging the evils done 100s of years ago by the empire. The main source of this campaign is a book from 4e but I have, as always, added and changed a lot to make a full campaign of it.

Dungeon World Sundays: This is another group of my high school friends and we play the Apocalypse World spinoff Dungeon World. We created the world collaboratively, and the game is mostly about exploring that and dealing with the activities of a sinister cult. The party has explored a forest grown from the corpse of a massive demon and thwarted a cult trying to awaken it, and that was just the first two sessions. One of my players is writing a detailed campaign journal which I might share in a future post if he is OK with it.

Peril on the Purple Planet: This is a game run on Wizzargh’s discord server, it’s an open table game played whenever both DM and players are free. The premise is a sword & planet game in the vein of John Carter of Mars with a bit more modern and post-apocalyptic flavour. The characters are mysteriously teleported to a strange purple planet littered with ruins and mysterious ancient technology. The premise of this game was stolen/borrowed from a Dungeon Crawl Classics module of the same name, but I have significantly expanded it already.

So that is all the games I am currently running. Almost all of them play as frequently as once a week, and there are so many of them. Knowing the adults in my life who barely manage to fit one day of games a week into their schedule, this is a veritable cornucopia of gaming. The only issue is that I am constantly struck with ideas for MORE campaigns and games to run. I try to cope by writing some down but there are just too many of them. If I am running into the issue of wanting to run all the games in finite time now as a teenager, how bad will it be when I am actually an adult and have to spend most of my days on a career and responsibilities and stuff?

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Two Magic Swords and their Effect on the Monarchy

Here are two magic swords, inspired by King Arthur, Julius Caesar, a tumblr post I found, and this song by Heather Dale. These are suited for a campaign where 'who sits on the throne' is an important consideration.

The Kingsword

There are a thousand different legends about where this sword came from. Some say it is forged from a falling star that flew through the sky and led the first settlers to the land that would become the kingdom. Others say that it was created by the spirits of the holy lake. One view is that it was bequeathed directly by the gods. The one thing that all agree upon is that this is the sword that the first king used to throw off the conquering empire, and to unify the kingdom.

It was lost after the first king was betrayed and killed, but every so often it resurfaces to be wielded by a true king. A wielder of the Kingsword cuts through the bloody feuds and succession wars and takes the throne, ruling for brief golden ages before they die and the succession wars and politics begin anew.

This is a +1 sword, becoming a +3 sword when held by a fighter of lawful alignment who hails from the Kingdom. If the sword judges the wielder worthy of being the true king, the sword grants it's full litany of powers and begins urging the wielder to take the throne. The sword judges worthiness based on many factors. A king must be honorable in both public and private dealings, strong enough to defend the kingdom, wise enough to rule well, and dedicated to the well-being of the kingdom more than selfish desires.

It's powers include:
-cure wounds 3/day on citizens of the kingdom
-wielder is protected from charm spells or effects
-two minor benign powers, randomly generated or chosen based on what a king needs this era
-shines as a light spell when drawn
-another major benign power, randomly generated or chosen based on what a king needs this era
-if the wielder of the sword falls to 0 hp or otherwise dies, their body is magically preserved. If the body and sword are brought to either the castle of the first king or the holy lake, they return to life healed of all injury and debilitating effects. Instead of immediately resurrecting them, they can be interred in the tomb or cast into the lake to return in the kingdom's greatest hour of need. Whether the revival is immediate or postponed, the sword is somehow lost when this property is used and will resurface in around a generation when found by a potential true king.

The Kingslayer

This dagger is short and jagged, made of the same mystic metal as the Kingsword. It has origins shrouded in mystery, the one constant is that when the first king died it was this blade that did the deed. It has a reputation as a weapon that brings down tyrants, and some say that that extends to the first king. Because it's metal and decorations are so similar to those of the Kingsword, many believe that both blades came from the same source.

It was lost after killing the first king, but every so often it resurfaces kill an unworthy ruler. It is usually found by someone close to the king to be slain, and tragedy follows in its wake. The Kingslayer and the Kingsword are rarely both found at the same time, but an era in which both blades have wielders is sure to be an interesting one.

This is a +1 dagger, which is pulled by the forces of destiny towards slaying kings. To use any powers greater than it being a +1 dagger, specific conditions must be met. It must be wielded by someone who cares for both the king and kingdom, and who never intends to take the throne. The wielder must stand under the night sky and say aloud why the king must be killed. If the wielder truly believes these reasons are legitimate and mostly unselfish, then the full powers of the Kingslayer are granted.

It's powers include:
-the Kingslayer acts as a +3 dagger against the current king and those who defend him
-any poisons applied to the blade have -4 to saves against them
-one minor benign power useful for assassinations
-the wielder ages quickly and gains or sinister appearance
-another minor malevolent effect, randomly generated or an exaggeration of the wielders flaws
-every time the king is hit with this dagger, a save vs death must be made to avoid instant death. If this dagger kills the king, it returns to being a +1 dagger until a new wielder activates it.

Here are some bits of legends about where these two magic items came from. You can choose which parts of which legends are true and which parts are mythology.

Kingsword Origins Kingslayer Origins
The kingdom was founded when a wizard and many followers sailed here from a distant land chasing a falling star.  When they arrived, they forged it into a sword and the wizard placed it into a granite stone until a wielder could be found.  The first king found out how to remove it from the granite and thus became king. The Kingslayer was forged by the first king's knights, made from pieces of the sword that chipped off during battles. When the king grew obsessed with a quest for the grail of immortality and started neglecting his kingdom, his second in command used the dagger to slay him so his son could take the throne.
When the first king went on a pilgrimage to the holy lake, the spirit of the lake looked into the king's heart and fell in love.  They courted for months, the first king paused his wars to unify the kingdom every spring to visit the lake spirit. As a token of her love, she created a sword made of the heart of the kingdom and gave it to him. The first king married the daughter of a rival lord to fully unify the kingdom. When the son from that marriage was named heir, the first king's oldest son from a tryst with the lake spirit wanted revenge. He asked her to make him a weapon with which to destroy the first king and the kingdom, so she created Kingslayer from the dark vengeful parts of the kingdom's heart
The gods of the land knew that the conquering empire would supplant them with the imperial pantheon if they didn't fight back,  so they decided to proclaim someone king to fight off the empire. They used the same metal that made up their mighty weapons to forge the Kingsword, and gave it to a pious soldier who they saw had the potential to drive off the conquering empire and forge a new kingdom. After driving off the empire, the first king was arrogant enough to try to reshape the pantheon to better suit the kingdom. Some gods were elevated and shrines were built in every town, and others were called demons and their worship was outlawed. The rejected gods grew angry at this transgression, so they gave the first king's priest the Kingslayer along with visions of what he had to do.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Gnomes & Grottoes, 1st edition

There are very few gnomes left these days. The wilds are dangerous and full of ferocious gnome-eating monsters, and in the towns and cities wizards hunt gnomes to extract their magic. Every year more gnomes are lost to these threats, and the number of gnomes who turn to goblinism increases.

However, there is still hope for the gnomes.There are grottoes deep in the earth, which neither man nor beast dares to enter. These grottoes could be hidden places for the gnomes to live safely and their treasures can help gnomekind survive. But these grottoes are full of sinister tras and ravenous monsters, so brave and clever gnomes are needed to breach these underground labyrinths.

Disclaimer: If you do not like gnomes or think they are annoying, this might not be your jam.

This is a game, focusing on gnomes trying to survive and thrive in a gnome-unfriendly world. The character types are different subtypes of gnomes. The game is based on dungeon crawling and wilderness exploration like B/X dungeons & dragons except instead of humans as the default adventurer type, it’s gnomes. Rules-wise this game is assumed to work on the same chassis and basic assumptions as an early edition of D&D or a retroclone.

Gnomes occupy a strange middle ground between civilization and the wilds. Humanity wants to extract all the resources present in the wilderness and turn them into more cities and forts and tools for resource extraction. Nature wants to tear down all that humanity has built and return it to the brutal and primal state it was in beforehand. Gnomes… aren’t fully aligned with either side, although some types fare better in the cities and others are suited for the wilds, they are not usually aligned with nature or civilization and struggle to survive in either.

The Gnome Types

Tinker Gnomes: These are the gnomes who sneak into your house at night to fix your shoes. They can sometimes also sneak into your house and steal everything you have, so superstition says to leave some food and drink out in case any gnomes visit.
  • D6 hp
  • You can modify, disable, or repair most mechanical devices like locks or mechanical traps. The base chance of accomplishing this is 45% + 5% per level 
  • You are skilled in mundane crafts, and in a single night of work you can do as much work as a number of normal humans equal to your level. You still need lots of tools and materials and you cannot be observed working by anyone other than another tinker gnome, or the entire night of work is ruined 

Garden Gnomes: These are the gnomes who live in people’s gardens and wear red hats. They have a great affinity with plants and herbs, a more gentle sort of alchemy.
  • D6 hp
  • You can heal your level in hp every day, through herbal medicines. Not all this hp of healing has to be used at once. 
  • With an hour of gathering herbs in a garden, you can prepare curative and beneficial herbal potions. At level 5 you can cure blindness, disease, and poisons. At level 9 you can cure curses, petrification, and other magical effects. Level 9 garden gnomes can even heal deadly wounds as long as the patient is only mostly dead. A recoverable body that has only been dead a few days usually be healed, although the limits of ‘mostly dead’ are left to the discretion of the referee. Other potion recipes exist and can be found through the campaign.

Forest Gnomes: These are the gnomes who you see in the forest, riding the beasts of the forest or creating illusions to lure travellers off the path.
  • D6 hp
  • You can create illusions with light or sound, a number of times equal to your level. In a town or a grotto, the maximum size is around the size of a gnome. In a forest or other wilderness terrain the illusion can be very large, like the size of a forest clearing. This requires your full concentration and if you move or take other actions the illusion dissipates. 
  • You can speak the language of animals. You can also tame animals, and can have animals with hit dice equal to or lower than your level as retainers. This usually only applies to mundane beasts, but the line between beast and monster is not always a clear one. 

Mountain Gnomes: These are the gnomes up in the mountains with rock hard skin and large beards. They are not as large as the monsters that they share the mountains with, but they can match them in hardiness and ferocity. When forced to hide in the grottoes beneath the mountains, they are able to traverse them without losing their way.
  • D8 hp
  • Add your level to damage against creatures larger than you, which is most creatures since you are a gnome. 
  • When underground, you can spend 10 minutes standing still you can determine which direction leads to the closest exit from the grotto. If you are not on the same level as an exit this sense leads you to the nearest stairwell or other exit towards a higher level.

Those are the first draft of the various gnome types. If I make another post on this it will probably be about the world, full of walled cities and dangerous wilds and malevolent underworlds.

Friday, April 17, 2020

The Volcano-Threatened Archipelago, Part 1

There is a chain of islands, formed by a volcanic hotspot deep below the earth. The surface of the earth moved and the mote of fire deep beneath the earth stayed in place, so rock was heated and eventually rose high enough to form islands. The further west you go, the older and more eroded the islands get, and the eastmost island is the one that currently sits above the buried mote of fire. Most of the time the impact of the volcano is limited to rumbling, smoke, and trickles of lava.

Recently the volcano has been more active and more ominous. The past few earthquakes have been closer together and more devastating. Plumes of ashes and smoke are billowing forth from the top of the mountain. Geologists and wizards are starting to get worried. Volcano worshippers say that the titan of magma is waking up and needs to be appeased. For most people, life continues as normal, but everyone is starting to get a bit worried.

How long? Omens People are...
Months Earthquakes on Volcano Island.  Plumes of smoke billow from the Volcano. Trying not to talk about it.
Weeks An earthquake that collapses buildings. The hot springs are boiling. Hoping it won't be that bad.
Days Cracks in the ground open and sulfur gas spews out. Avalanches and rockfalls from the constant tremors. Trying to get away.
Hours Clouds of ash billow across the landscape. The ground bursts and fire spews out. In the distance, the mountain seems swollen. Panicking or giving up.

There are a few islands on this island chain. I should probably come up with names for them later. 
  • The main one, with the volcano on it. This is the capital of the archipelago. A large trade city of humans, a few small villages that subsist on farming and mining and fishing. This is where you will do most of the buying and selling things. Ships from outside the Archipelago usually stop on the docks here. Working name, Volcano Island
  • The skull-shaped one, full of pirates. Ships that don't want to pay the trade taxes or that are smuggling illicit goods stop here. A council of seven pirate captains rule here, but they are not unified and infighting breaks out regularly, over perceived insults or to seize choice bits of treasure. The only reason people stop here is to avoid going to Volcano Island. Working name, Pirate Island.
  • The one with a dragon on it. There are steamy jungles here, full of giant scorpions and dinosaurs. The dinosaurs are being hunted to extinction by the Dragon Emperor who lives in a blasted citadel carved into a rocky cliff, surrounded by soldiers and worshippers. Tribes of wood elves try to resist his rule, seeking way to break into his city and kill him. The Dragon Emperor pays a cabal of snakepeople to assassinate citizens who oppose him, and people cower in fear when they leave their temple and walk the streets of the citadel. Working name is dragon island.
  • The tropical paradise one. Time moves slower here, the hours fly by but every hour spent there is an hour worth spending. The water is crystal and refreshing, the sand is smooth and wavy, the forests are sunlit and quiet. A group of elves inhabit this island, living peaceful and happy lives. Elven ruins dot the landscape, from back when this was part of some great elf empire.  Strange flowers grow in the fields, strange flowers which possess the same temporal properties of the island. A gang of smugglers have set up shop in caves under the island, brewing the flowers into haste potions to sell on other islands. 
  • The one full of ruins. This one is barren and smooth, with twisting spires along it. The only wildlife here are the flies and scorpions, both regular and giant sized. Some spires are pearly elven ruins that sing songs when the wind blows through the fluted holes carved into them. Other are sinister and serpentine, relics of the snakeperson empire that was here long before the elves. Both types of spires are full of of strange creatures, dangerous enchantments, and ancient magic.
So I will probably figure out more stuff to put on these islands, I will need to figure out how boats work since you need those to get between islands, and I might add a few islands if inspiration strikes. I also need a list of potential ways to get off the island before a cataclysmic volcano devastates the whole place.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

I have a blog now!

So my brain keeps generating ideas and I figure that the gibbering and scrolling mass of human minds that is the Internet might be somewhat interested. So I have decided to add the random thoughts I have on RPGs and sometimes the world in general to the Blogosphere's glorious tapestry of thought.

Let's throw some words out there and see what is made of them.