Monday, July 30, 2012
Wow! What an excellent 'zine. This first issue is mostly taken-up by an adventure featuring a bunch of new monsters, new spells and new items, all statted-up for OSRIC and thus easily adapted to just about any of the various and sundry retro-clones, etc.
John wrote everything, illustrated everything and did this all entirely by himself. It is 100% Bingham-Style Weird Fantasy Goodness and we highly recommend it.
You can get a hand-assembled print copy of DELVE! for just $5 by ordering it off of John's blog (upper right-hand corner), or you can get a PDF copy for just $3.99 via RPGnow. Either way, you won't regret it. This is high-quality stuff!
If you want to read a full review of DELVE! just click over to Brendan's blog and see what he has to say.
Friday, July 27, 2012
An Interview with Chad Davidson
by Guest Blogger
John Everett Till
John: Alfred Metraux’s Voodoo in Haiti is pretty good. Pirates are pretty popular these days. What do you actually recommend people read (either fiction or non-fiction) to know more about pirates than just saying “ARR!”
John: Can you share something about your current projects?
by Guest Blogger
John Everett Till
John: To get us started, let me ask you to share something about how you came to the hobby. When did you first start roleplaying? How did you get introduced? What was your first RPG?
Chad: Like many of us, I started with AD&D at the age of about 12, playing with my older brother. I slowly moved on to Top Secret, Gamma World, Star Frontier and Gangbusters, and a little Man, Myth, and Magic, and Pirates and Plunder. That got me through high school. I did not really game in college, but in grad school I got back into AD&D 2nd edition. When I moved to the Twin Cities, I took more time off, and then got back into the scene with a couple groups willing to try different games.
John: Where did your design work in gaming begin?
Chad: I remember making my first board game as a school project in fifth grade (based on the Mines of Moria). My first home-made RPG was a James Bond game that I played with several friends before we discovered the James Bond 007 RPG from Victory Games, which I loved. Another early project that followed from this was a hack of the James Bond 007 engine to a pirates setting.
John: So let’s turn to Heirs to the Lost World. How did you go about designing and writing it?
Chad: Making Heirs was truly a labor of love. Like many RPG writers, I set out to write the game I would most want to play. For the mechanics, my main play group at the time and I made a big list of what we liked most in our preferred RPGs. I got the very basics of my mechanics from that. For the setting, I tried to come up with something that could combine all of my childhood interests: pirates, Aztecs, and Maya. Historically, they did not really overlap, so I had to change history. Designing always is easy for me, but the actual writing is more difficult. For me, the key step of design is to playtest. The key step in writing was to set a deadline. My deadline was the birth of my daughter, because I knew my free time was about to dry up.
John: Can you talk about how your dad was an influence on the game?
Chad: My dad was a huge influence on the game. He is a retired cultural geographer specializing in Honduras and Central America. As a child, my family traveled around Mexico and Central America in our VW camper as my dad did research. Scampering over the ruins made me instantly fascinated by all things Aztec and Maya. He also modeled good research for me, checking your sources, etc. Finally and most importantly, he instilled a sense of respect for and the value of differences among cultures. "Culture is not right or wrong, it just is," he says. That is probably why I wanted to make a game in which Aztecs, Maya, and Voodoo were not evil.
John: Just like in real life! I know from your work with Heirs to the Lost World and some of your other unpublished projects that you like alternate history. What about alternate history appeals to you?
Chad: These days (and at my age) players just don't have the time nor inclination to read a big sourcebook of a new setting. Using alternate history, it is easy for players to jump right in. Players already have a familiarity with the setting. Using actual history seems to limit the Game Master. You can avoid those limits using alternate history.
John: What books did you dig into to research the game?
Chad: I get a little obsessive with these types of things so I read everything I could find. I love to read historical fiction when researching a game because it shows the kind of stories that can be told in the setting. I also read a lot of nonfiction as well. There are tons of great resources for both pirates and Mesoamerica out there, and I tried to list all the ones I used in the Heirs bibliography. I'll have to post a copy of the bibliography on my web site.
I will specifically mention Handbook to Life in the Aztec World. It is part of a great series and is probably the single best Aztec reference. I wish there were a single good resource on Voodoo. If someone out there knows one, please let me know.
|Image from Lost World Character Maker|
Chad: First, I recommend you get the proper mindset. The romantic vision in many people's minds about pirates is far from the truth. But for gaming purposes, that romantic swashbuckling pirate might be more fun to play. Therefore, I would set out to be inspired by what is cool, not what is historically accurate.
For fiction, try out Sabatini's Captain Blood, Dudley Pope's Buccaneer, and Michael Crichton's Pirate Latitudes. James L. Nelson has several good pirate books. Also, Philip Shea's The Devil's Captain and Kenneth McKenney's These Kingdoms (with Mayans too!).
For non-fiction, Frank Sherry's Raiders and Rebels is good, and Jan Rogozinski has a good dictionary of real and fictional pirates. Apestegui's Pirates of the Caribbean is also interesting because it has a little more of the Spanish perspective than other sources. Peter Galvin, one of my father's students, wrote Patterns of Pillage explaining the fascinating geography of piracy.
John: With respect to Heirs, what were your design goals?
Chad: I have a lot on this on my website (www.ObsidianSerpent.com) so if anyone is interested in the details, they can go check it out. My main goals were:
- Cinematic rather than gritty, like an action movie. (with stunt rules)
- Tactical, but transparent combat system (not a collection of little bonuses, no need to look at the tables or a book during play, little bookkeeping, natural ways to provide choice in combat)
- Limited player narration
- Combine the setting ideas that I thought were really cool when I was growing up (i.e., Mesoamerica and pirates)
- Have a reason for characters of all types to work together with a metaplot (that could be ignored if desired).
- Have Aztecs and Voodoo NOT be the evil bad guys
John: If you had to describe Heirs to the Lost World to someone who had never played it, what would you say?
Chad: Okay, the elevator pitch: Heirs is a role-playing game set 150 years after the Spanish conquistadors lost to the Aztecs, mainly because of the magic of Aztec blood mages. Players can portray characters such as Aztec Jaguar knights, Mayan sun priests, escaped slaves who are capoeira masters, European pirates, African voodoo mambos, and the like. You can play sandbox style or use the metaplot involving the Order of a New Dawn fighting the New World native separatists who are trying to re-open the connection to Xibalba, the realm of fear, sealed since the Mayan civil wars.
While the metaplot can be ignored, you really cannot ignore the style and feel of the game. While I think the word "cinematic" is overused, I tried to make Heirs a heroic cinematic game, as opposed to realistic or gritty. Heroes are larger than life and wade through Extras like in action movies.
The game uses a dice pool system in which players decide how they spend their Effort dice each round. Players earn Destiny points (a key resource) by attempting stunts or portraying their motivations and complications. It is tactically interesting, but requires little bookkeeping and no tables and no rules need to be consulted during play.
John: Can you say anything about any memorable Heirs to the Lost World moments you have GM’d or played in?
Chad: Two of my favorite aspects of Heirs are the stunt rules and players narration. The stunt rules encourage and reward players for attempting crazy stunts instead of just saying, "I attack again." This makes players interact with their environment in clever ways. I remember a wonderful beachside battle against zombies in which coconuts, fish, ropes, and a starfish were used more than weapons. (I just posted about this on my blog at wcdavidson.livejournal.com.)
The player narration rules allow players to narrate their own critical successes AND their own fumbles. Probably some of the most memorable moments have been players coming up with wonderful fumbles. One of these that stands out in my head was when a PC attempted to determine if a certain Englishman was lying. The PC made a disastrous fumble on his Insight roll, so the player narrated that his character (a Puritan ship captain) was convinced that the Englishman was possessed by a demon. The player pulled it off wonderfully and kept it going for several sessions.
John: What games were inspirations for Heirs?
Chad: James Bond 007 for its Hero Points. Savage Worlds for its tactical play without much bookkeeping. Feng Shui, Exalted, and Wushu for ideas around stunts. The whole Indie RPG movement for ideas regarding player narrative rights (in critical successes and fumbles). Shadowrun and Star Wars d6 from West End Games for dice pool ideas. 7th Sea for the idea that setting and genre should influence mechanics.
John: What movies and/or books were inspirations for Heirs?
Chad: For movies: Pirates of the Caribbean, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Quilombo, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (if it was Aztec jaguar knights and African capoeira masters instead).
For books: Captain Blood by Sabatini and On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers (not the movie, which was disappointing since I am a fan of both the book and the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy)
There were not many book or movie inspirations on the Aztec, Maya, Voodoo side. There are many good resources on Aztecs and Maya, but I used them while writing, not really as inspiration.
For alternate history books, I loved J. Gregory Keyes' Age of Unreason series and Steven Barnes' Lion's Blood.
Chad: I just recently released my RPG Inspiration Cards. It is a sixty card deck that is a tool for use in any role-playing game. Check out my blog for more info.
I have two RPG products in the works. The first is a pirate-focused supplement for Heirs called Bad Mojo in Port Royal. It includes, among other things, new paths, ship rules, and an adventure set in Port Royal, Jamaica.
I also am working on a FATE-based RPG game that is still in its early stages of playtesting but is working out very well.
Finally, I have a card game that is almost finished called Aztec Flower Wars.
John: What are some of your favorite games/systems or ones that you would like to try out?
Chad: Probably my current two favorites are Fate and Savage Worlds.
I'd like to try out Danger Patrol, Hollow Earth Expeditions, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (3rd Edition), Don't Rest Your Head, Dragon Age, Artesia, REIGN, How We Came to Live Here, The One Ring, Mouse Guard, to name a few.
John: In any creative project, you can run into dry periods. Has that happened to you? If so, what do you do to break out of that?
Chad: I have had many creative dry spells, but fortunately for me, they were not negative experiences. Working on my gaming projects is my primary creative outlet, but there are times when my family life and work life dominate. I love both my family and my day job, so this is not a big deal, but like many people, I wish there were a few more hours in a day. It is discouraging to see projects drag out so long, but I just try to keep good notes so I can get back to them later.
John: In my experience, you are constantly coming up with new mechanics and alternative ways of making game play fun or interesting. Whenever we talk or meet, you have at least one new mechanics idea – usually several tweaks as well as one or more innovative mechanics ideas. How do these come to you? How, practically, do you keep track of them and reality-test them?
Chad: First, I am a hyper-critical person. This is like a good Aspect in Fate because it can be both good and bad. Whenever I play a game, I instantly start to think of hacks (instead of just enjoying the game).
Next, I try to take good notes. I currently use Evernote to write down everything, and I make sure I tag it well. Finally, I look through my notes every once in a while and try to find matches between system mechanics ideas and setting ideas. For example, I currently have a setting idea that I have tried out with several system ideas, but none of them have seemed to work.
John: I am wondering if you have some advice for people who are considering developing a game of their own. Key lessons? Things to avoid? Ways to get support?
Chad: Before starting, play lots of different games with lots of different people.
- See if your game is different
- Read game theory, then choose what to ignore
- Playtest with different people and groups
- Find a good, creative, and critical play group with knowledge and experience in many games.
John: So, I know you have had a couple of kids in the last three years! Congratulations! I know the early years of parenting can keep people from the gaming table and slow down game-related projects. Family comes first, after all. So what do you do to keep making headway with gaming projects, as busy as you are? How do you organize your life?
Chad: Well, my gaming time has greatly diminished. I still try to get my projects done, but one-shot games are more my style these days. I really only get to play at conventions and special occasions. I hope that changes as the kids get older.
John: Finally, has being a gamer influenced how you parent? And are you seeing any signs that your kids will become gamers?
Chad: I'm not sure how gaming has influenced my parenting. Regarding my kids becoming gamers, my 2.5 year old daugher loves dice and has some of her own toy soldiers. She knows the difference between "daddie toys" and her toys. It's a little too early to tell with the four month old.
Chad, thanks so much for all of your time, resources, and creativity and game design tips!
Thanks to you both for a great interview!
Here are some handy links for those of you interested in finding out more about Heirs to the Lost World or RPG Inspiration Cards:
You may also want to check out the Lost World Character Maker: http://www.obsidianserpent.com/LostWorldCharacterMaker/index.html
Chad Davidson's Design blog: wcdavidson.livejournal.com/
Heirs to the Lost World main site: www.ObsidianSerpent.com/
Heirs to the Lost World print book: www.createspace.
Heirs to the Lost World PDF at RPGnow:
RPG Inspiration Cards are available via GameCrafter: www.thegamecrafter.com/games/
You may also want to check out the Lost World Character Maker: http://www.obsidianserpent.com/LostWorldCharacterMaker/index.html
Thursday, July 26, 2012
The gonnes were coming closer. No doubt about it now. There were at least two of them. Bujilli wasn't sure if they were shooting at one another, Unfred or both. The travois fell away from Unfred's hands. They were gooey and strips of melting flesh stuck to the poles like warm string cheese.
Bujilli looked at Unfred. Really looked. The big man was sweating profusely, even more than his labors should have caused, outrageously more. The sweat was becoming milky. His skin glistened and was growing translucent. Greasy. Liquifying.
It reminded him of how Lemuel had transformed* due to his abuse of the Hard Candy.
Unfred lurched forwards from the impact of the shot. A large section of his back began to slowly peel away from his ribs and spine. He wheezed wetly and bent down to retrieve one of the travois poles. With a vicious jerk he tore the pole loose and snapped off the end to make a crude weapon. His eyes burned with baleful malice as he came at Bujilli.
Hand on tulwar, Bujilli quickly looked around the alley. It was narrow. Strewn with garbage. The walls on either side were rough and irregular, easy to climb, if he had half a chance. He flexed his arm. The wound was healing fast. There was only a slight stiffness and that would pass. He'd had worse. Recently. He considered his spells. Just trying to inventory his options gave him a splitting headache. He could force it, cast something low, mean and messy...but it would cost him dearly and he did not like the idea of passing out or seriously injuring himself this close to a Butcher Shop, especially with a running gonne fight going on around him.
He looked at Unfred. The big man was beyond the point of no return. He was transforming into a Loathsome Mass. It was just a matter of time. And not much of it either.
Bujilli smirked. Rose from his crouch. Flexed his muscles to test things out quickly, then he broke into a run. Straight at Unfred. At the last moment he ducked, tumbled and brought himself up behind the lumbering hulk of rapidly dissolving brutishness. Unfred turned to face Bujilli. His left leg stayed stuck in-place. Unfred didn't seem to notice.
Not much point in jabbing, stabbing or hacking someone who doesn't notice when they've lost a leg. He took his hand off the tulwar. It wasn't going to be much use. Blocking or parrying the pole would be a big mistake--Unfred had too much muscle mass. Contact of any sort would be a mistake. Bujilli had no intention of getting entangled with Unfred...his memory of what had happened with Lemuel was still vividly fresh in his mind. Like a still-bleeding wound. For a moment he thought he could almost hear Lemuel crying.
The good thing was that Unfred was now between Bujilli and the shooters.
The bad thing was Bujilli was now between Unfred and the door of the Butcher Shop.
He avoided Unfred's increasingly clumsy swipes, swings and stabs with the snapped-off pole.
/Machine/ He called upon his Counsel; /What is my best way out of this alley? Which way should I go?/
In response to his direct query, the Counsel overlaid a panoramic display of the immediate area over his normal vision. There were at least three moving objects coming around the corner, blocking off the other end of the alley. He couldn't tell where the other shooter, the one up along the rooftops, had gotten to--
Unfred nearly gutted Bujilli with a wild lunge.
He back-stepped and just barely managed to avoid the splintery end of the pole.
For a moment he considered running up to one of the few doorways along either side of the alley and trying to force the lock. But this was Wermspittle. Anyone who kept a door onto an alley this close to a Butcher Shop either had incredibly strong locks, wards or other defenses...or they didn't need them. Not the best option.
Bujilli spat in disgust. Then he leaped to grab ahold of the first projection he thought might hold his weight. And he climbed. He climbed fast. The way that only a starved and desperate half-almas can climb when sufficiently motivated.
The pole split down the middle. It missed Bujilli's leg by only a fraction of an inch. He could feel the splinters flying off of the thing as it broke.
Six stories up.
He found the eaves clotted with rotting filth and muck, but they held as he clambered up and over. The slates were rough, pitted and scored but stable.
Bujilli sprawled for just a moment. To catch his breath. The climb had not been particularly demanding, but his system was still fighting off some sort of infection or poison.
In mute confirmation the Counsel etched into his bones showed him the image of his bloodstream and tiny white particles that were being enveloped and expelled from his body one after another. His body was learning to resist and reject the effects of White Powder...and all the myriad distillation and derivatives of the nasty stuff. He knew now that he had been poisoned. Most of the effect was in his lungs. something he had breathed-in. Some sort of vapor or gas or dust.
Yes. He remembered talking to Leeja, then a cloud. A billowing white cloud. It had filled the room. Unfred had ambushed them with the stuff. But somehow he had either miscalculated or botched the job and dosed himself even more than anything he had managed to inflict upon them. A serious, costly mistake.
He was tired. Bujilli closed his eyes. Just for a moment.
It would be so easy to just lie there and sleep. And die.
Bujilli rolled into a prone position. Quickly he spotted some likely looking cover, a crumbling chimney, and slithered over to it quickly, quietly, carefully.
Someone screamed. It sounded like they were falling. It ended abruptly.
Something slid messily down a steep section of the roof-top only a few yards away from Bujilli. It left a streak of blood behind as it slipped over the edge and fell to the alley below.
/Machine,/ Bujilli began to ask Counsel for some idea of what was going on around him. Then he spotted another climber. They were coming up after him.
He wished now that he had brought along his bow after all. Again.
Instead he would have to improvise. He drew out his phurba. Usually, he tried to carry a pair of disposable daggers that could be used-up at any moment, either as impromptu traps or to jam a door or whatever. But he did not have any extra daggers. He had hoped to pick a couple up from a local merchant, but never had the chance. Another mistake.
He looked at the phurba in the soft moonlight. It was a beautiful bit of workmanship. Hand-forged. Inlaid with topaz and turquoise. It was a shame to throw it away. but it would be a bigger shame to carry it into death without using it. He had learned a harsh lesson from having been overly attached to his very first knife. It had been a crude piece of silver tableware that he had stolen from his uncle and hand-sharpened on a rock in secret. That knife had very nearly gotten him killed. But it had taught him the value of non-attachment to objects.
The would-be attacker heaved themself over the eaves. It was a gangly boy with matted hair and too-long nails. He locked eyes with Bujilli. Red depths of hunger and desperation and something else...something even more disturbing than simple madness swirled and crashed like waves in that boy's eyes.
Bujilli threw his phurba.
The boy lurched. Slid. His face a mask of puzzlement, he lost his grip and fell off of the roof.
He landed badly. But there would be no vengeful spirit. Only the lingering memory of those too-red eyes.
Bujilli sank back against the chimney. He disliked killing. But he had an even deeper aversion to being killed.
Showing compassion in this place had opened him up to attacks, but had he not done what he had done, he would not have made the friends he had made, nor been granted entrance to the Academy. Anyone could kill or be killed, but in Wermspittle very few people ever tried to do the right thing any more. It was such a radical concept that it had earned him no few enemies. but he was learning how to deal with that sort of thing as well.
He quickly surveyed the area around him. Someone was approaching. they were trying to be stealthy, but broken slates, sagging timbers and other things like that made it difficult to remain completely silent.
Bujilli considered his options. He was still not ready to cast a spell, unless absolutely necessary. He loosened the tulwar. He might not get a chance to get close enough to use the blade, but then that was probably the very thought going through the mind of his remaining would-be attacker. Bujilli smiled grimly. He knew a few tricks. He might yet get out of this situation. He'd faced gonnes and those who fought behind them before. They could be beaten. He'd done it.
Leeja. It was Leeja.
His heart skipped a beat.
Was she friend or foe?
What was she doing here?
The wriggly strands of white hair wrapped around his fingers tugged lightly. Insistently.
He took a gamble.
"I'm here." He waited. Poised to move, to attempt to run to the next outcropping, that other chimney or to leap across the alley. He thought he could make it. Maybe.
"You got the last one. We can go now."
"Don't you remember?" Leeja was walking confidently across the roof-tiles directly towards him now.
"Only vaguely. Unfred...he poisoned me, us."
"Yes. He did. but neither of us are cut-out for White Powder addicts, are we Bujilli?" He recalled her golden irises, her billowing white hair, her talons. Leeja was not just some girl who had come to this place to get away from whatever she had left behind her. She was something...different.
"I guess not. Are you immune to the stuff?" Bujilli gripped the tulwar. He considered which spells he might be able to cast without too severe a strain. He remembered that Voorish Sign hurt Leeja before. He might be able to cast that with enough force to break free. Maybe. But he was out on the rooftops, gods only knew where in Wermspittle and he had no idea how to get back to the Academy.
"No. It just doesn't bother me overly much is all. I blame my mother." Her voice hissed. Anger? Disgust? Something else?
"So you are unharmed?" He examined the tiles around him. The ones to the right looked fractured, weakened. He'd prefer to avoid placing his weight on them. If possible.
"For the most part. I'm famished, tired and one of the bastards shot me in the leg, but I'll be fine. After I eat."
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
No. Enc.: 2d4 (4d6)
Movement: 60' (20')
Free Climb: 120'
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 2
Damage: 2d4, 2d4 (Hacker)
Save: F4 (F6 vs Poisons)
Morale: 9 (11 vs. All Spiders/Arachnids)
Nirlocks are dour, taciturn and tight-lipped humanoids who live entirely underground where they hunt down and kill all manner of spiders and other such arachnids as their primary food-source. Their doughy-gray flesh is uniformly bland and colorless, tasteless and highly resistant to poison, venom or acid. (Nirlock hide is used by some to store some of the more volatile toxins...)
They see extremely well in the dim recesses and dark spaces below (darkvision/Infravision, 120'), but their beady little eyes have also adapted to allow them to see the thinnest gossamer webs and the traces left by the delicate pads of arachnid claws. The traces of a spider's passage are clearly picked out in a sort of fluorescence only visible to the Nirlocks, allowing them to Detect Spiders/Webs with a high degree of accuracy.
Nirlocks are consummate masters of working with the many and varied grades and types of chitin recovered from their chosen prey. They fabricate tough chitin-and-silk cables, chitin armors equivalent or better than standard leathers (often more supple and better fitting), and a variety of small containers, carrying cases, scroll-tubes, and the like, all of which they will gladly sell to those who show them the flash of coins before the glint of blades. Nirlock flasks and water-sacks are exceptionally durable and resistant to tampering, thus they are much sought-after by the Sewer Militia and other underground adventurers and explorers.
The goggle-and-mask helmets that the Nirlocks wear constantly allow them to breathe even in the most polluted, poisonous chambers or passages. Each mask is carved and molded into some sort of vaguely demonic-looking caricature based upon traditional Nirlock folklore. They never sell their helmets. Each one is hand-crafted and custom-fitted to the wearer. A few explorers who have befriended small bands of Nirlocks claim to have been gifted with their own helmets, but most of those are locked away in warded cabinets or museums and kept out of the damaging, degrading light of the sun.
Some few Nirlocks have begun to appear in the streets and alleys of Wermspittle, but only at night and only in the company of certain officials who can vouch for their having acquired special clearance from the Sewer Militia.
Monday, July 23, 2012
|The Emblem of Orthodox Necro-Mesmerism|
All Necro-Mesmerists travel fully armed at all times. Since their rather abrupt mass-expulsion and subsequent condemnation following a (trumped-up, they claim) board of inquiry into Gaillardion's alleged '...atrocious lack of regard for the well-being of his test-subjects; unprincipled predation upon the poor, indigent and uneducated; unorthodox and unfounded claims, unproven techniques and total disregard for the scientific process...' there has been a state of discord, disharmony and destructive internecine rivalry and outright violence between the Necro-Mesmerists and their former colleagues. Neither side formally acknowledges the other, except to vituperatively castigate one another in increasingly esoteric and convoluted dissertations delivered with great malice aforethought, often followed by staged demonstrations, small riots, or the burning of each other's effigies, etc.
A Process Both Violent and Violating
They have learned to strip out of the cadavers and corpses of their experimental subjects and store within their personal 'Necro-Capacitors,' special Leyden Jars of (supposedly) unbreakable glass slung in a series upon elegant bandoliers, each one linked to the others by a skillfully woven array of wires and cables. Each Initiate-Member of the Contrafraternity of Necro-Mesmerists is expected to assemble their own professional regalia, tools of practice and prescribed appurtenances both by dint of their personal ingenuity and the liberal application of their ill-gotten wealth. Not only do they strip the bodies of the dead of their dignity and their residual energies, they take everything else they can get their hands upon as well, resorting to Notaries and the Courts if they must, relying upon the brute violence of their legions of abdead thralls and servitors when necessary. These arrogant adepts of questionable science have no shame when it comes to seizing whatever they want, when they want it. They do not explore the boundaries of life and death to merely become spectators or passive observers. They delve into these deep mysteries to gain power and to use it.
If nothing else, Necro-Mesmerists are notoriously stylish. Each one competes with their peers and fellow Initiate-Members to out-do one another in the elaborateness and effectiveness of their personal array of accouterments, arsenal of mechanisms, and repertoire of unique new techniques derived and inspired by their research, experiments and accumulation of knowledge. The pressure to discover new applications of the Necro-Electrical Fluid, or to develop fresh new spells, discover new secrets of the abdead states, establish new behavioral routines for their various thralls, or other such sanctioned and permissible results is intense. Each Autumn the Necro-Mesmerists gather together to convene an Autonomous Congress that deliberately inverts and makes a mockery of the old traditions of the Hypnogogues. Each and every Initiate-Member in good standing is expected to attend; only a very select few proxies are ever allowed, and then only by previous dispensation from Gaillardion Himself. It is at this Annual Congress that reports are filed, papers are presented, findings are debated, inquisitions are held, duels are fought, and the general pecking order is adjusted based upon the elevation or decline of each attendees' status, reputation and overall contribution to the field of Necro-Mesmeric theory and/or practice.
Their continued promotion and crass pursuit of any number of questionable, even dangerously experimental 'remedial necro-electrical fluid mechanics' that they claim are intended to cure various and sundry illnesses, ailments and diseases is either a cruel farce or a horrible swindle costing their gullible and vulnerable clients what remains of their health, occasionally their minds and sometimes their very souls. But the Contrafraternity is powerful, wealthy and their higher echelons know a great many volatile secrets. They also have a lot to answer for, but few are in any position to force them into any sort of accounting for their actions, malpractice or misdeeds. Indeed Necro-Mesmerists only willingly submit to scrutiny and review of their work by a duly constituted panel of their peers. No one else is deemed qualified nor knowledgeable enough to judge their efforts. Thus they have become something of a law unto themselves, answerable only to their own thoroughly corrupt hierarchy.
The overwhelming majority of the Necro-Masmerists' patients do not get cured so much as they find themselves converted into mindless drones, abdead brutes, or even the Shrouded. The Necro-Mesmerists do not hide their track record. Far from it. They seem ruthlessly honest about their seemingly continual failure to actually address the maladies they say they claim to be treating. Everyone knows that these techniques are incredibly risky. But still they come. Because for some, this is their last hope to beat a wracking, insidious infection that simply should not exist and that conventional methods can do little or nothing to treat. So, in the last hours of life left to them, while they still possess some shred of dignity or resolve, some pit themselves against the pseudoscience of the Necro-Mesmerists in the hopes that maybe...just maybe...they might be that one test-subject who beats the odds and comes through it all stronger, better, even cured.
Thursday, July 19, 2012
Blackness. The overpoweringly sweet stench of decomposition assaulted his nostrils like a whirlwind of tiny toxic knives coated in gritty sugar.
Bujilli shifted position. It was hard to move. Why was his left arm stiff? Ow! It was sore, too. He was bound, tied-down...no...wounded...bandaged. Everything shifted again. His heels were dragging through garbage and across cobblestones. Backwards.
He was being carried. Dragged. Really.
He tried to open his eyes. It didn't do any good. Darkness surrounded him. He could feel sorcery in the dark--this was a deliberate thing. Whomever was dragging him around was trying to obscure the trail, or at least get where they were going unobtrusively.
His lips were parched. Dry. Bujilli lay back on the make-shift travois and took stock of his personal situation. He did not remember getting wounded. the last thing he could recall was slumping down next to the big table in Unfred's kitchen and Leeja coming over to stand close to him. Too close. Then nothing.
His tulwar had been left hooked to his belt. The well-worn old handle felt comforting in his hand. What kind of a fool leaves a prisoner armed, even if they are bandaged and unconscious? Idiots.
Something struck the travois just above Bujilli's head.
They were being shot at by whomever was following them. either their attackers could see through the Darkness or they were firing blindly, hoping to hit something, anything that might prove vital or at least damaging. Sloppy. It was the kind of thing that people raised to fire-arms were wont to do. They grew lazy. It was almost as if they thought that the loud noise and smoke were all it took to kill things, not accuracy, not skill. True enough, even a peasant scared out of their wits could fire a gonne and have a chance to hit, kill or maim an opponent, no matter how little skill or what minimal training they might have had...but still...it bothered him. He had been raised to use a bow. To practice for hours every day until he could reliably put food on the table. Or defend himself. But that was an after-thought, a consequence that his uncle just ignored, like he tended to ignore a lot of other things.
Bujilli stirred himself into action. His muscles ached. He was still exhausted from his intense spell-working upon Sharisse. He wouldn't be able to make even a faint glimmer of a spark for a wile. His reserves were tapped. But he had his tulwar. He wished he had brought along his bow, but it was back in his rooms. He didn't think that he'd need his bow. Apparently he had been wrong.
He lay back down on the travois. Even if he had the bow, he wasn't strong enough to string it, let alone draw it back and hope to hit anything. His hands were shaky. He was still really, really tired.
He almost fell back to sleep.
The travois jostled, jumped, turned and lurched as whomever was dragging it along entered a narrow alley-way. Filthy water splashed. Small things scampered and scurried away from them, possibly rats, maybe mice, hopefully nothing worse. Somewhere overhead rough shutters slammed into place. If anything it got darker. Colder. They say that Winter tended to linger in the Low Streets.
They turned another corner. Again, only this time they nearly over-turned. Bujilli almost slid off the thing as the travois-puller over compensated.
Bujilli tumbled across reeking masses of unidentifiable garbage until a rough wall unkindly stopped him abruptly.
He forced himself to get to his feet. It was difficult. He had to use the wall and almost climbed up it in order to get vertical again. This was going to be a very short fight.
The wrecked travois clattered to the other side of the alley. It was still too close. Much too close. This was a tight spot.
"This way." Unfred grabbed Bujilli by the arm and fairly dragged him further down the alley...
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Long Suffering Wives of Interest (d10)
- Madge has long been a secret admirer of one of the local would-be poets, a drunken scoundrel who has only recently noticed her as someone who'd attended several of his public readings. The poet has recently gone deeply into debt and has decided, in desperation, to try to woo Madge away from her husband of more than twenty winters. Her husband, so far, is oblivious to this new development, being a very busy and prosperous innkeeper with three buxom, free-spirited daughters who keep threatening to run away if they don't get their way in everything. Madge has just received a note from the poet. A syrupy love letter only a moonstruck fool could possibly take seriously. Unfortunately she just dropped it without realizing it had slipped from her bodice. There it lies, on the player character's table...
- Ingrid has been keeping the old place going for the better part of a decade now. All on her own. She's a real force of nature in her own right. A big, bossy, brassy woman who doesn't put up with anyone's attitude but her own. Her husband has just returned to her after having disappeared for more than a dozen years. Not only did he run off with some floozy, he's undead now. Boy oh boy is she ever Not Amused. But then, she realizes that him being legally dead, she inherited everything--the Inn is hers now. She could use a little help, perhaps some of those big strong adventurers who like her beer might consider taking out the uh trash, so to speak?
- Gertie used to be a dancer, before the plague got into her leg and her father-in-law had to whittle her a new one. She is a fabulous cook. All the local assassins pay her a retainer to help them eliminate the bodies of those they need to make 'disappear.' She and her husband are going to retire soon. Once she finds and trains-in a suitable replacement to take over her sordid culinary practice. Her husband, as most such over-worked and under-appreciated sorts, is completely oblivious to Gertie's little side-line. After all she runs the kitchen. It is her domain. He just manages the rest of the Inn. As best as he can with one eye and a surly goat-eyed stable-boy they've been raising as their own after finding the child left on their doorstep six years ago.
- Rutheenya loves her pickled beets. She admires most pickled vegetables and is an accomplished pickler of some renown in her town and the local countryside. But it is her beets that she is most proud of over all else, even her family. Especially her problem child Seymour who wastes all his time day-dreaming and not really applying himself to learning the family trade or his mother's ultra-precious recipes and pickling-secrets. Recently Seymour has found himself a girlfriend. A pretty little thing from a family of foreigners who have just settled in town. Rutheenya is convinced that this despicable, sneaky little trollop is not only trying to steal her son, but that the girl is only using Seymour in order to get access to Rutheenya's secret recipes. Her paranoia is getting worse and worse. She's contemplating asking some of the less scrupulous sorts who congregate around the rickety bar in her inn to maybe try to dissuade the girl, drive her off, but not hurt her. At least that was the plan before her cookbook went missing...
- Trudi was once a very pretty young girl. Now she's neither young nor pretty. Some former patron of her husband's seedy bar took exception to how he had been cheated a few years back, now she really is a bitch. The kind that walks around on four legs and packs a mean bite.
- Heloise came from a rich family of warrior-accountants who held huge tracts of land for generations in her native land, far across the great sea. One freak storm wrecked her ship and stranded her here, penniless and unable to speak the local language. She has struggled against the odds and not only did she learn three new languages, she quickly was able to gather up a sizable cache of gold that allowed her to establish her own tavern. Her methods sometimes get whispered about, but never within her hearing. Sailors, both legitimate merchantmen and piratical scoundrels alike, cross her palm with silver in order to secure favorable winds. Heloise not only made the most of her situation in a new land, she came to terms with the storm elementals who dwell just off of the near-by reef. More than a few sorcerers and other spell-casters have wondered just how she managed that...but few have the courage to ask directly. There's something about her that just does not encourage such prying.
- Elta was raised among nomadic tribesfolk. She was traded to her current husband as a pledge of good faith and to forge a strong, blood-backed bond between the nomad tribe and the grumpy old mountain man who ran the mostly forgotten trading post. Elta is usually very quiet, reserved, even taciturn, as her folk tend to be, but something is very wrong. Her husband is dead. Under suspicious circumstances. And what's worse is that Elta never bore a child from the union...which means that the bond is no more...unless she can find a new husband to take the dead one's place and conceive a child in the next two months. Should the tribe's outriders arrive at the post and there are no children, and thus no bond, there will be war all along the frontier again. Bloody war.
- Aliss sits in her hand-made rocking chair, the one her grandfather carved for her as a wedding present, knitting socks and sweaters and scarves. She doesn't bother with much of the day-to-day details of running the inn any more. Her children and grandchildren run everything now. She just sits there, rocking gently back and forth, knitting and humming away to herself. A harmless old woman who patiently assembles small, soft constructs from wool and fiber and thread. Each plush little construct then scuttles off on one little chore or special task or mission all its own. The little constructs have managed to avoid being caught or seen by all but a few bar patrons who've so far chalked it all up to drunken hallucinations. It's amazing how effective the little things are at sneaking into locked bedrooms and administering poison to their intended victims. No one ever mistreats Aliss' wait staff. At least not a second time.
- Velga bitterly regrets ever having married Gurm, or getting tied-down to a ramshackle joke of an inn along a road that sees less traffic and fewer travelers every year. She is a very unhappy woman who wishes she had done something, anything else other than settle for the first man to ask for her hand in marriage. But all that could change now. One of the ne'er do well adventurers who had booked rooms with Gurm and Velga only a few weeks ago was discovered torn limb from limb out in the old forest past the tumbled-down old Priory. That news was a welcome relief from the boring drudgery of her normal routine--it meant that she and her husband could seize the belongings that had left behind in lieu of the outstanding debt that would not now get paid. There, among the knives, mallets, wooden stakes and small mirrors Velga discovered a soiled and blood-stained grimoire wrapped in filthy velvet. At first she was frightened of the old book. Then it began to whisper to her. Over the course of the last few days she has begun to read it. There seems to be a ritual outlined in this grimoire that might just solve all her problems and give her back her freedom...all it will take are three severed human hands to make the pact...
- Linnea ran away from her family. It was years ago. But the memory remained fresh. She had not wanted to to marry the toothless, scraggly-looking relative who'd offered her parents three gold coins for her. Instead she stabbed her would-be suitor in the heart with a paring knife, took the three coins and bought passage on a ship. She made her way down the coast, often working filthy, tedious jobs no one else would want, scrabbling and fighting her way up from the bottom. She changed her name with each new town or port until now she had to think about who she was supposed to be. In time she married an inn-keeper. He was kind. A good man. He treated her well. But now some relatives from out-of-town have just arrived on a visit. One of them is the spitting image of the loathsome suitor whom she thought she had killed.
Labels: Random Table
Born invisible, the Perdu are a forlorn and sullen people. Distrustful of strangers and those who would seek them out, the Perdu have long memories and rarely forgive a slight. The Perdu have seventy-two names for betrayal in their unique tactile patois.
Descended from the victims of human experiments the children of the Perdu are raised to distrust anyone they can see. They quickly learn to not trust each other. Not even themselves. For any but the Perdu this would be a prescription for disaster.
But for them it is a means of survival. the price for their continued existence is constant vigilance. Even as they escape most forms of visual detection (Actinic Lamps render them somewhat visible as vague, grayish forms, but the Perdu are known to skin alive anyone who torments them with such a device...)
Invisible to the naked eyes of humans and their kin, the Perdu inhabit a range of constantly shifting frequencies and vibrational rates. There are things...inhuman, monstrous and hungry things...that prowl these myriad strata of existence and the Perdu possess acutely developed sensory perception abilities that allow them to shift their sight across wavelengths and spectra, into other planes and beyond. But even as the Perdu have learned how to see things no one else can see, they have learned that those things can also very often see them as well.
Perdu have learned to track and kill Unseen Beasts, to discern the presence of the Horla, and to withdraw into higher or lower spectra in order to avoid the worst of the things that hungrily seek them out. They make transparent armor from the hides of the Unseen Beasts and use the vicious teeth of the Horla as arrow-heads or to craft invisible skrimshaw-amulets, some of which they sell to the Jaladari.
Those players who opt to play a character descended or related to the Perdu are considered Abseen, which will be detailed in another post, as well as in the forthcoming Wermspittle Player's Guide.