Monday, 30 January 2012

Castle Bastard Bits

Been playing with my "Three Random Words" method of generating dungeon rooms. Here are the results from the last session, feel free to nick any stuff you like. The "words" are a list of 100 words I wrote down very quickly, trying to tie each new word into the list. More about this process here.

Words - HAMMER, POINT, PULLEY

A statue of a Dwarf engineer/miner. He has a hammer over his shoulder and a pulley hanging from his belt. He is pointed with outstretched finger at something important down a corridor or through an archway or might even be pointing to the exit.

Words - OLIVE, OCTAGON, ROUND

A round room 25' across. An octagon is painted on the floor in a dirty green-ish brown-ish paint. The octagon touches the circumference of the room at it's eight points. Significance unknown.

Words - BLOCK, RED, CRASH

A room with floor, ceiling and walls consisting of 2' square stone blocks covering with peeling, flaking gloss red paint. Ceiling looks uneven and not safe. If more than 2 people enter this room, the ceiling collapses. Damage is equal to dungeon level number x d6. Save vs Petrification to halve damage.

Words - BONE, LION, FACE

A treasure - a 4' x 3' carving of a lions face, facing the viewer. It is carved from a single, monstrous piece of bone from an unknown beast. Value 400gp to collector but may be cumbersome to extract from the dungeon.

Words - RIVET, SHARD, LIFT

A liftcage (elevator). Rusty Victorian steam-punk with huge rivets. The floor is littered with shards of a glowing blue crystal, significance unknown.

Words - WATER, HANG, PROP

A rough mine tunnel with the ceiling supported by pit props both upright and bolted to ceiling. Puddles cover the floor. From the props hang 4 sinister looking nooses. If the water of the puddles is disturbed (as it will be unless the PCs specifically avoid it) the nooses spring into evil animated life.

Each noose is AC5, HD1 and can only be struck by edged weapons. If a noose hits a PC it slips over the PCs neck and chokes(*) for d6 damage per round until either it or PC expires. PCs trapped in a noose attack at -4, PCs trying to kill a noose with another PC trapped in it attack at -2.

(*) Yeah, I know. Hanging kills by snapping the neck, not choking. Have the floor collapse once a PC is trapped if you really care.

Words - COLLAPSE, CARVING, SHARK

Four door room, impassible due to totally collapsed ceiling. It appears from the rubble that room was decorated in carvings with a shark motif.

Words - SUN, ROUND, SOIL

Soil covers the floor to a depth of a couple of inches except for a section in the middle of the room where a 4' rough circle has been cleared to reveal a floor carving of a sun with a scowling face. It's mouth is slightly open if anything is inserted into the mouth it will spit flame hitting anybody over the carving. Damage is dungeon level x d6, Save vs Dragon Breath to halve.

These done, I then tried the other approach which is to pick a monster and then roll up three words to place the monster into an interesting encounter area.

I was reading The Best of White Dwarf Articles III and came across this monster, the Sraim.



This is actually an AD&D conversion of a demon in a Runequest article.



The original is by Dave Morris in Dealing with Demons run across WD44-46 and the AD&D conversion was by Liz Fletcher in WD48. Illo by John Blanche.

Anyway these looked ace for a Dungeon Level 3 monster so I rolled up two encounters with the Sraim.

Words - DISC, CHAIN, OFFAL

Room is a 40' wide circular shaft. The floor is a disc suspended from 4 great chains that are mounted in the ceiling far above. There is a gap of approximately 2'-3' around the disc depending upon how it is swinging. How deep the shaft is under the disc cannot be told.

On the disc lurk 2 Sraim (Hp 17 & 16). The disc is littered with offal which is dropped from a trapdoor in the ceiling in order to keep the beasts fed.

Words - TIP, ILLUSION, GOLD

Illusionary pile of gold coins in the NW corner of a room or cavern. An illusionary pile of rubbish in the NE corner. 3 Sraim (Hp 19,14,9) lurk behind the illusionary pile of rubbish. If the PCs investigate the gold coins first, the Sraim charge them through the illusion (dispelling it in the process) and achieve surprise on a 1-4 on d6.

(I used TIP here in the UK informal sense of a rubbish dump)

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Multiple HD PC Species

Totally unplaytested.

Starting a non-human PC with more than 1HD - If you start at Level 1 with more than 1d8 hit points (OK, d10 for some classes in 1E) you have effectively got the extra HD on a "mortgage". To pay this "mortgage" off you cannot gain any more hit points until you have completed levels past your starting HD equal to the number of levels for which you were over-rated.

Badly explained. Time for an example.

OK, Bugbear PC. Level 1 but 3HD (ignore pluses unless they are 4+ in which case treat the species as being 1HD more than printed). "Cheating" for Levels 1 and 2, catches up at level 3. To cancel out the bonus gained at Levels 1 and 2 cannot gain hit dice for levels 4 and 5. Starts gaining HD at Level 6 again.

So assuming a Bugbear is just a B/X or BECMI Fighter with surprise ability and 3d8 for hp.

Level 1 - 3d8 hp + CON bonus (CON bonus gained once)
Level 2 - 3d8 hp + CON bonus (CON bonus gained once)
Level 3 - 3d8 hp + CON bonus (CON bonus gained once)
Level 4 - 3d8 hp + CON bonus (CON bonus gained once)
Level 5 - 3d8 hp + CON bonus (CON bonus gained once)
Level 6 - 4d8 hp + CON bonus (CON bonus gained twice)
Level 7 - 5d8 hp + CON bonus (CON bonus gained three times)

and so on.

Neanderthal or Lizardman PC - Both of these species are 2HD creatures, so will be 2HD + Con bonus until reaching Level 4. (Lack of advance at Level 3 "pays off" "cheating" at Level 1).
Link
There is probably a point past which such species unbalance a low level game. You'd have to decide that for yourself. It's also easily abusable by that sort of player so regard it as a litmus test of whether or not a player is the sort of player you'd like to play with.

(Citadel Miniatures ADD56 Bugbear - one of my all-time favourite Citadel castings - halfinched from here - http://www.verdensmand.com/add)

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

More Castle Bastard II

Link
I had to knock dungeon design for Castle Bastard on the head for a week or so. Mainly because I was in such a creative groove that spending an evening pencilling down ideas and generally being lost and happy in the process of sub-creation meant that my mind was running amok when I retired for the night and I wasn't sleeping. For somebody prone to insomnia this is obviously Not A Good Thing.

In an ideal world I could have just have stayed up until the small hours to get everything down on paper but unfortunately I have to spend my days doing databasey stuff in order to pay rent, put petrol in Porker, fill freezer etc. etc.

This seems to be a recurrent irritant in my life - my natural hours are generally two hours behind the rest of the world. If left to my own devices I'd get up at 10 and go to bed at 2 and probably feel a damn sight better. I blame this being out of phase with the real world for my periodic insomnia and lost Saturday mornings.

Anyway, back to light grade megadungeon sub-creation.

I'm ripping off Steve Jackson (UK) for the "in" of my megadungeon. Castle Bastard isn't really very accessible (it squats on top of and spilling over the edge of dangerous cliffs above a violent sea and the surrounding land is claimed by hostile Bugbear tribes) so the PCs will be teleported in and out.

In "Orange Book" Fighting Fantasy the second scenario is called Shaggradd's Hives of Peril. This a fun-house dungeon under a hollow tree. FF runs a real-time clock (if it takes n minutes of real time to sort out an encounter then it took n minutes in the game world). This is used in this scenario to impose a time limit. The "hook" is that elderly Black Elf old woman Shaggradd owns the land above the dungeon and claims ownership of the dungeon through extension of this but is too elderly and frail to even think of descending down and claiming the loot. So she will offer a time limited teleport spell to adventurers in exchange for a split in the takings.

There is something a bit, well, rubbish about the plausibility of this but the utility of the idea has always struck me as excellent. That's why I've expanded the idea of Shaggradd out to becoming an entire religion of the Black Elf culture and now she is a Grandmother-like deitic figure. Her priesthood can offer a timed teleport to adventurers in exchange for a 25% cut. I'd like this to be a bit more mysterious than simply "we do this because we get easy money" so that somehow adventurers running amok through the dungeon is somehow helping the machinations of the cult. Not sure how yet but it probably doesn't matter.

On first visit of course you'd be teleported to the traditional Room #1 of the dungeon after deciding the upper limit of your "dive time". I quickly decided that it would be better for a megadungeon campaign if the party could later teleport to deeper locations. So the Black Elves will now give you a pot of magical purple paint and if you can paint a sigil of Shaggrad somewhere and if you can envisage it at a later date, you can be teleported from the upper world to that point. This then leads on to the party discovering the sigil's left by other parties and using them as teleport entry points. Which then leads onto the idea that in between sessions, 1d6 sigils could appear in random locations as other party's daub them on the dungeon walls.

So this would be the deal offered by the priesthood of Shaggradd, Grandmother of Black Elves.

1 - We take 25% of cut in gp value(*). If you stiff us we will know and you will be in serious trouble laddie and our tribe is spread across the entire world in a great Black Elf diaspora.
2 - We agree in advance the duration of the teleport enchantment.
3 - When the enchantment expires living party members are returned to the upper world. Dead party members are left behind unless they are being carried by a living member at the precise moment the enchantment expires
4 - We will teleport you to the opening chamber unless told otherwise
5 - To be teleported elsewhere in Castle Bastard you must be able to envisage a purple-painted sigil of Shaggrad that you have seen or created in the dungeon in a previous expedition. Purple paint and a Bristlebeast-bristle paintbrush provided free of charge.
6 - We cannot and will not cut short the teleport enchantment.
7 - If you end up leaving the dungeon through other (non-DM anticipated) means you still owe us the money. See Note 1.

In real world terms this has the ability to, what an old boss of mine called in fluent businessbullshitlingobingo, "timebox" a session to a definite deadline ("We'll play until 11") and makes each session a discreet expedition therefore allowing for a changing roster of players and PCs.

(*) XP still scored for this 25%

Monday, 23 January 2012

d20 Religious Quirks

With religions and cults in fantasy worlds it's often all too easy to fall into a creative rut whereby you dream up things like this;

"Ariel is Goddess of the Sky. Her holy places are high places and her holy colour is blue. Her priesthood is opposed to erm... earth things and things underground. Things that are sacred to her followers are errr... the sky. And clouds and birds and precipitation. They hate soil and caves."

Real religions are all more quirky with that with some very odd strictures on behaviour. Roll a d20 and add this nonsense to your made-up religion.

1 - Religion practises genital mutilation shortly after birth
2 - Religion has grown out of an earlier, still extant religion worshipping the same deity and has an ambivalent relationship with that earlier religion.
3 - Religion is a schism from another religion and whilst their practises and beliefs are 80-85% identical, enough difference is found to permit a large degree of antipathy
4 - Some observers believe that this religions earliest writings are corrupted oral traditions attributing divine powers and presence to ancient astronauts who have manipulated the development and evolution of creatures upon this world.
5 - Religion follows it's writings literally, but only when translated into one specific language and one printing of it's writings. All others are untrustworthy.
6 - Religion's priesthood are forced into celibacy in order to avoid dynastic ambitions.
7 - Religion holds that's it's spiritual leader is reincarnated after death and accordingly puts much effort into locating the infant into which he has been reborn and elevating him to a position of power.
8 - Religion is monotheistic yet worships a range of minor, intermediary figures.
9 - Religion's objective to idolatry is so extreme that no visual depiction of it's most holy figures are allowed.
10 - Religion practises ritualised cannibalism with a non-meat substitute in an echo of earlier sacrificial practise.
11 - Religion holds that if a mortal is a good member of it's religion it may inherit the mantle of it's deity off an another planet somewhere.
12 - Religion has dietary requirements that seem to be a hangover of earlier civic law.
13 - Religion is entwined with mechanisms of an otherwise non-theocratic state - Monarch is also symbolic head of this religion.
14 - Religion requires that it's male clerics genitals are not misshapen.
15 - Religion is of eschatological nature (End of World is nigh)
16 - Religion allows polygamy in a male dominated culture (or polyandry in the obverse) and may be in conflict with civil authorities over this.
17 - Religion believes in reincarnation and karma with the disabled having been at fault in a previous life.
18 - Religion attempts to keep the contents of it's holy books away from lay worshippers.
19 - Religion has a priesthood divided into levels with cash donations required to advance a level.
20 - Religion's holy writings are held to be parables and fables, not absolute truth.

P.S. I See I What I Did There

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

More Castle Bastard


I'm in a bit of a period of creativity at the moment so have managed to get down 2 complete sub-levels of Castle Bastard and many sides of A4 scribbled with further notes, not to mention the ideas that haven't made it as far as pencil and paper yet.

I'm going for a modular approach to dungeon design whereby each level consists of a multitude of sub-levels, each of which has a map which fits on a single side of A4. Tunnels and passages run off the edges of the paper and eventually emerge onto other maps to link sections to other sections. Vertical means of ingress and egress leads to other levels on other pieces of paper. Some of these routes before sub-levels are effectively "long and twisty" so there's no adherence to the idea that each map butts up to the next in graph paper style.

There are two reasons for this approach - firstly the interior of the world is a great megastructure of sections of underworlds stolen from a myriad of other dimensions and the sub-level concept fits in nicely with this. I can then have a pseudo-Egyptian sub-level with tunnels that lead onto things like the forgotten catacombs of a Bugbear civilization in a cave system and then some poison-gas filled vaulted chambers on the same dungeon level.

The other reason is that creating a single dungeon of around 10-30 rooms with a single theme is much more of a easily undertaken task than creating a map of 200 rooms and quailing before the task of filling it and gives better results than that 200 room monster becoming plain and vanilla because you didn't want to make the whole thing a series of monster warrens bored from solid black marble or similar.

I've adopted a three part approach to creating the individual sub-levels that seems to be serving me quite well.

1 - The Map

The Advanced Fighting Fantasy (2011 version) technique. D6s dropped on map, where they land is the rough centre of a room, read as a D3 for number of exits. Dice clustered together indicate adjacent rooms, clusters separated out are joined to the rest of the map by corridors/tunnels. A few D8s read as d4s are chucked in to avoid the trap of no room having more than 3 exits.

2 - Stocking

I don't stock room by room. Instead I come up with encounters and then place them on the map once I've got a complete list of encounters. To aid with this I effectively reverse-engineered the random generation table from B/X. If you were using this table and your dice rolls were all nice and regular, for each 12 rooms in your dungeon you'd end up with these results.

4 Rooms with monsters/NPCs of which 2 have treasure
4 Empty rooms with either 1/6th of these containing a treasure or with each having a 1-in-6 chance of treasure
2 Traps with 1/3 of trap rooms containing a treasure (or each having 2-in-6 chance).
2 Specials

I find it much easier to then fill in these "slots" before placing. You can look for an area that looks right for your encounter rather than simply obeying all the dice or wasting time keep rerolling.

3 - Word Association

I wrote about this back in 2010 and you should read that if you don't know what I am talking about. What I do these days with this technique is to try and ensure that the 100 words come from a sort of "word association" process with each word being the first thing that springs to mind once the previous one is written down. I believe there's a fair bit of coaxing great ideas out of the creative sub-conscious going on here. I then roll 3 d100 results and write down the results doing my best to combine and justify the three or at worst two of them. The "slots" mentioned above then tend to fill themselves.

The other beauty of doing it this way around (encounters, then place them) is that sometimes the word association process comes up with an idea that deserves expanding out to a whole area or sub-level rather than be under-used on just one room. This can then provide a theme for the current level or be written down as a candidate for later expansion. One of Castle Bastard's sub-levels which the non-existant NPC adventurers that populate the Rumour Table dub "The Forest of Rust" came entirely from a three word combination rolled at random ("FOREST", "IRON" and "SNOW" in case you are curious).

Even when you have a vanilla encounter such as 5 Orcs in a room, you can roll on the W.A. chart and try and see how that simple encounter can become something original and memorable if you have to incorporate words like "SMOKE", "SLOPING", "SKIN" or even just "RED" into it. All of those are words from recent W.A. chart's I've created.

To take one example, SMOKE, it could be simple as a cave filled with so much smoke that the PCs are staggering around almost blind when delving with the Orcs. But it has to come from somewhere which would generally be a campfire but it could be a natural effect of some fungus found locally which emits the smoke in order to spread it's spores. Tying this idea in with the prescene of the Orcs then perhaps the spores have a strong hallucinogenic effect upon the Orcish nervous system and, inspired here by thoughts of those medieval Catholic fanatics who practised self-mortification and ended up with fungal infections in their wounds, they believe they can speak to their gods when in this mental state. So we have drug-addicted Orcs who worship smoke-emitting fungi and while the obvious idea here would be for them to regard outsiders as violating taboo and worthy of a bloody death perhaps our Orcs are really evangelical about the whole thing and want to make converts to their religion.

Would this idea be wasted on a one-off encounter? Probably so suddenly we can have a whole cave network of stoned and tripping Orcs desperate for the PCs to see the smoky light of the true Orc gods.

This is working for me and the creativity is flowing. Each sub-level appears to be an easily manageable task and the word association has created dozens of ideas that I would never have consciously dreamed up if I was staring at a blank map and trying to give every room an unique and interesting encounter.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Chaos Lavatory


Followers of Khorne! Why not show your devotion to the Blood God by dropping a pink toilet block in your cistern when there is already the fag-end of a green one in there and watch with utter delight as the the bowl now appears to be flushed with steaming blood and ichor.

Rejoice as you realise that all visitors to Coop Towers II in the next six weeks will have to be pre-warned of your Blood God Toilet and assured that, honestly, there is nothing wrong it.

(BTW "Khorne's Throne" - I've already beaten you to that one thanks)

Quick Question - Cave Terminology

Does anybody know the collective name for a group of caves? I'm aware of "Cave System" but want something a bit more exciting for a dungeon level name. Cheers.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Naming err... Names on the Fly


Need names in a rush? Especially Dwarf/Gnome-like names?

Easy fix - IKEA website.

Go there, pick random section, keep drilling down to the thumbnails of the various products. Pick a name. Job's a good 'un.

LATER EDIT - Matthew Schmeer has already has this idea and compiled a handy list of product names from 2010 at http://dl.dropbox.com/u/16996130/2010_IKEA_Product_Names.txt

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Naming Towns and Cities on the Fly


Here's a neat trick for instantly coming up with a plausible settlement name either when improvising mid-game or running out of inspiration when labelling up maps.

Take a real world settlement name from a culture similar to that your in-game culture e.g. Cirencester.

Next change one letter. So from Cirencester we can get Lirencester. Sounds plausible in a pseudo-English setting as would Direncester and Birencester.

Lichfield for example gives us Richfield, Michfield, Lachfield and Lishfield. You can go all Germanic on the name by turning -field to -feld and coming up with things like Lizhfeld, Michfeld and Gichfeld. (Trivia - Lichfield's name is an English translation of Campus Corpus, Latin for "Place of the Dead" named by the Romans after a massacre of Britons there.)

Dudley gives us Rudley, Dutley, Durley, Dudlay, Dodley, Dudlen, Dadley etc.

Bordeaux gives us Tordeaux, Lordeaux, Bordeaus, Bordeaul, Borreaux, Borteaux etc.

Brandenburg gives us Trandenberg, Drandenburg, Brandenrurg, Brondenburg, Brantenburg etc.

This isn't entirely my own work - I noticed in the 1980s when I was a fervent player of the Lone Wolf gamebooks that Joe Dever seemed to be doing this a lot for his place names. The only one I can remember these days is that he had a city in Kingdoms of Terror called Varetta which is only character different to Valetta, the capital of Malta.

Another quick and dirty trick is to take two real world place names from an appropriate real world culture, split them the middle and reassemble the front half of A to the back half of B.

So I take two local town names - Dudley and Tipton - and mong them to produce Dudton and Tipley, both of which sound plausible pseudo-English village names. The next two towns along my commute home from work are Tividale and Oldbury which mongs to Tivibury and Old-Dale which also work. If I carry on along the road I get to Smethwick and Bearwood which give me Smethwood and Bearwick. Again these would work and sound OK to the ear.

Both techniques are the work of a second or two to come up with a convincing settlement name.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Open Table 2012 - Rumours II

Castle B'stard

The Imperial Architects Guild claim that the shattered and collapsed heap of masonry on the coast that is Castle B'stard (pronunciation varies according to social class - in polite company it is referred to as Castle Illegitimatius) could never have originally taken the form of an intact castle as there is simply just too much rubble there. They hold that it was constructed in it's picturesque ruined state as a folly during the time of the Moninav Republic when such things were à la mode.

Conversely the local fishermen tell tall tales about huge stone blocks that fell from somewhere above the clouds over a period of seven days and seven nights which mostly landed atop each other in a chaotic and tottering heap. Students of the Turnbuckle school claim that Castle B'stard aimed for a position somewhere below the clifftop and simply missed.

Whatever the truth of it what is now known as Castle B'stard squats atop the vertiginous Birdshit Cliffs overlooking the sea. Shattered stone outposts lie collapsed upon the many rock spires that stud the coastline in the vicinity. Access is near impossible from the sea and extremely hazardous from inland as it would involve crossing the ancestral hunting grounds of many a tribe of purple-haired Bugbears who regard the area as taboo to outsiders.

Birdshit Cliffs

Very tall, very messy. As if a divine hand had created them there with little care for the vagaries of natural coastal erosion or geographic plausibility.

A famous feature of Birdshit Cliffs (besides the guano) are the fossilised skeletons of many a dinosaur and example of sabre-toothed Megafauna. Reputedly these were created and placed here by the angry and immature god Jove-Jove in order to test the faith of his followers on the grounds that he had already told them that such did not exist.

Local (living) fauna include the notorious Canker Birds, a genus of filthy, ragged-plumed birds who seem to have been created by Grandfather Nurgle for other no reason than to act as a vector for assorted unpleasant diseases.

Count Metalmane
Little is known of Count Metalmane(*) other than that he is an agent of purest Chaotic alignment - that is he is Chaotic and commits Chaotic acts just for the sheer bloody hell of it as opposed to any fallacious notions of good or evil. It is believed that his impressive wig is formed from the skinned pelts of pedigree Poodle dogs but that might just be a mistranslation from the original Chaotic alignment tongue into the Common tongue.

Adventurer's gossip is starting to hint that Count Metalmane has declared himself the ruler of Castle B'stard.

The Cult of Divine Atrocities

A loose-knit underground movement dedicated to the appeasement of assorted evil and destructive alien entities, the Cult of Divine Atrocities is an umbrella brotherhood (and sisterhood) of pure evil that none the less enjoys a respected niche in society.

Put simply the Cult is prepared to do all the dirty work (virgin sacrifice, mass murder etc.) that keeps the aforementioned assorted evil and destructive alien entities appeased in order that they not run bloody amok amongst the mortals, tear open the sky or turn the entire planet in something resembling mould.

Individual temples of the cult are dedicated seekers of forbidden knowledge attempting to divine the truth about any forgotten gods that might have fallen down between the cracks of mankind's knowledge and so prepare the necessary rituals in order to stave them off. Suffice to say, malign entities of this kind tend to have somewhat foul rituals.

While the actions of the cultists are undeniably of an evil ilk, many of the cult simply regard their vocation as unpleasant but necessary. They recruit heavily from amongst those employed in similar unpleasant but necessary jobs such as slaughterhousemen, sewer workers and purefinders(**).

This is not to say that all cultists are pragmatic individuals concerned with the greater good as the cult provides a useful outlet for the less self-sacrificing members of society, not to mention those who thirst for the knowledge contained within the cult's formidable research libraries as well as numerous sexual deviants.

It is rumoured that on occasion, the cult is not above simply inventing a hitherto unheard of god, setting up a cosy temple and demanding legal protection from the local authorities. It is also rumoured that on occasion, the cult may deliberately ignore the appeasement and sealing rituals having carefully weighed up the personal pros and cons of summonation versus banishment.


(*) I wonder which HM-loving Citadel Miniatures in the 1980s sported an impressive metal-mane?
(**) Oh WFRP dearest, this should have been on your career list for the Rogue character class from day one.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Open Table 2012 - Rumours


Assidla the Mentor once opined that the landscape below the surface of the world was formed by natural processes, that of the flow of water combined with shifting of rock caused by the great pressure of lava underneath. He furthermore argued that colossal plates of bedrock were slowly moving the continents apart at a speed imperceptible to the human eye. This was obvious nonsense and indeed he was later crucified for this heresy.

His student Cram of Yellow Crags continued his work after his master's death attempting to reconcile this heretical view with the obviously contradictory fact that the world beneath the surface of the planet consisted almost entirely of an inside-out ecumenopolis of dungeon complexes. He concluded that Assidla the Mentor's great work had been interrupted mid-flow by his grisly end and that he had really meant to describe the underpinnings of the planet in some earlier epoch. This was obvious nonsense and indeed he was defenestrated for this heresy.

Later the Dwarf sage Enoch Turnbuckle drew the conclusion that the dungeons beneath the world were of extra-planar origin and that some entity or machine was drawing them to itself from across the reach of all fathomable realities for unfathomable reasons. This was obvious nonsense and indeed he was later impaled for this heresy.

Uncaring of the consequences of obvious heresy, two hundred years later Citchpar the Hermit wrote a long and rambling treatise declaring his belief that the frogs or toads or possibly the frogs and the toads were responsible for this state of affairs. This was obvious nonsense and indeed so nonsensical that he escaped heresy on the grounds that nobody took this remotely seriously.

Following long term experimentation with speedballing Black Lotus and dried, rainbow-coloured Unicorn excrement, Citchpar later refined his theory to state that the frogs or toads or possibly the frogs and the toads were of extra-Galactic origin and had arrived here concealed within the wombs of metal Rocs which flew through space. This was obvious nonsense and indeed he was later bastinadoed and made to wade through the septic tank below The Palace of Nurgle for this heresy.

Re-opening the words of the impaled sage Turnbuckle, the monkey masked-clerics of the Cult of the Monkey Wight spent much time debating whether the volume lost in the extra-planar places when an underworld section was removed from it's place of origin was filled with the equivalent underworld section from this world. This was obviously an intelligent question and debate raged for some decades until the world outside of the Cult grew tired of the schismatic wars that this produced and they were threatened with liquidising for this tedious heresy.

The Cult of the Monkey Wight

It appears that, for unfathomable reasons, the ancient (and justified and possibly extra-planar too if Sage Turnbuckle was correct) Yu-Yu civilization worshipped undead monkeys and performed many a blasphemous rite of vivisection upon the dead of the monkey world in order to transform them into hideous, monkey barrow-inhabiting Wights. Modern scholars have little idea of the motives behind this practise but suspect that the Yu-Yuians felt that this was amusing in some way and may have employed Monkey Wights as comic relief.

The modern-day Cult of the Monkey Wight is dedicated to the unearthing of the resting places of Monkey Wights again possibly again for the reason that they find the ideas of monkeys from beyond the grave performing their funny monkey tricks as being quite funny. Cultists dress in brown robes and wear brass or leather masks formed in the likeness of monkey faces. They are always of Chaotic alignment.

Adventurers are often advised to be careful around the remnants of Yu-Yu archeology in case they accidentally disturb one of these level-draining little furry bastards.

Monkey Wights Stat-Line

Exactly the same as Wights in whichever variety of game you play. Except that Monkey Wights look like undead monkeys and may show evidence of their Monkey Wight-isation rituals such as sawn-off upper sections of cranium or entanglement in barbed wire. Some are believed to have developed nicotine addictions due to bizarre and inhumane treatment in an earlier life.

Black Elves

The race of Black Elves is a nomadic Gypsy race famed for their brightly coloured caravans and are in no way similar to the Dalish Elves of Dragon Age. At all. Little is known to humanity of these wizened and withered and nut-brown complexioned secretive fey other than that their principal deity is Shaggradd, Grandmother of Black Elves who lives in a Gypsy caravan somewhere beyond the Moon.

Black Elves are rumoured to die through shrivelling up to the size of a clothes peg should they ever come into contact with the base metal lead and must gnaw on silver to grind their teeth down otherwise their gnashers would grow to insane lengths with their upper set impaling their jaws and their lower sets ultimately piercing their brains. Black Elf juveniles are believed to gnaw on softer gold to grind their gums down.

Possible Links Between the Yu-Yuians, Monkeys, Cult of the Monkey Wights and Black Elves

Some scholars have noted the attractiveness of the shiny trim and fittings of Black Elf caravans to thieving monkeys (i.e. all of them). Furthermore since no monkey ever seems to be in possession of the shiny things they steal from Black Elves it is theorised that there must exist somewhere a Great Monkey King to whom all monkeys play homage and tribute in the form of sparkly bits of caravans. Specially commissioned artists impressions suggest that this Great Monkey King reclines upon a throne made from wheel hubs and chrome trim and mirrors stolen from a thousand Black Elf caravans, wherein which he receives his tribute in the form of more shiny stolen booty donated by his adoring subjects.

It is further theorised that the creation of the Monkey Wights by the Yu-Yuians might in fact be an attempt to sabotage the dealings of the Black Elves by creating immortal servants of the Great Monkey King. Possibly in exchange for money.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

A Lust for Lustria

You know what I'd like to see?

Richard Halliwell's Lustria written up as a campaign background.

Originally springing forth from a jokey play upon the title of Erich von Daniken's Chariots of the Gods - which became Chariots of the Frogs in GW injoke speak - Lustria was a weird mix of ancient astronauts, once-advanced-but-now-degenerate amphibian beings, punk Amazons and, for no apparent good reason, Norse settlers and adventurers.

(I say was, Lustria still is, but it goes without saying that I'm talking about the days of Warhammer 2 and 3 and WFRP and not modern Warhammer)

It goes like this.

Once upon a time, the ancient Slann arrive on an obscure blue/green planet and shift it's orbit closer to it's parent star in order to alter it's climate, and then genetically engineer a bunch of helper/servant races. Once part of a great cosmic Empire, the World has two great warpy-teleport gates at it's poles through which interstellar traffic passes.

Then as a result of an unstated galactic catastrophe it all goes tits up and raw Chaos-stuff splatters through the warpgates, spiritually, morally and physically polluting the globe. Reality breaks up and goes all Moorcock at the poles, the Slann civilization collapses and everything goes a bit post-apocalypse.

Wind the clock onto the current year of the Warhammer World and it's South America analogue is a sprawling mass of Meso-American ruined cities once inhabited by the amphibian scientist race of the Slann that is now a primitive tribal race dying out at the hands of human settlers.

The human settlers are at war with the Slann and also with the remnants of their servant race, the Amazons, all of whom look like Toyah Wilcox in her prime, reproduce asexually via chemical means and have access to a bunch of Old Slann technological weapons such as, errmmm, bolt guns and bolt pistols. Also lobotomised and castrated human slaves with shaved heads.

So, lots of dungeon bashing in Chichen Itza, except that all the decor depicts humanoid batrichan super-scientists not Meso-Americans with bad haircuts. Unfathomable ancient technology, fallen civilization, ancient astronauts, jungles, disease, Norse homesteads, Toyah Wilcox and Christ knows what hiding in places where no White Man has ever been and underneath it all, the radioactive fallout of the dreaded Warpstone.

If only GW had chosen to write this up in campaign background setting back in the WFRP days.

As it happens, I'm not sure that WFRP would really be the best ruleset for Lustria. WFRP is so wedded to a low-fantasy, Germanic, urban game (the old "you start in an alley full of shit between two half-timbered buildings with double-headed eagles on their shutters" thing) that I don't think it would suit this pulpy, post-apoc goodness. It would really call for a White Box D&D treatment.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Open Table 2012


I'm thinking of going "open table" for this year - that is run D&D games on an occasional basis rather than with any regularity and for whoever turns up. The sort of game that gets announced via social media or a simple cc list of interested email addresses and we play with whoever can make it.

WHERE?

I'm in the Black Country region of England, in the Dudley/Tividale/Tipton area. I have wheels and can travel, but they are two-seater sportscar wheels which limits the number of people I can give lifts to. I am a member of Stourbridge Wargames club, this meets on Fridays in Amblecote, Stourbridge (a mile or so walk from the bus and rail station) and that might be an option as it gives us as many tables and chairs as required for a £2 per head room hire charge (under 16s £1). It can be a little noisy at times though. But probably better than Coop Towers II which is a one-bedroom apartment and lacking in sufficient furniture for a six player D&D session.

WHAT?

It would be D&D of some flavour, probably an unholy mish-mash of Red Box, B/X, Labyrinth Lord and Swords & Wizardry. And it would be unashamedly "megadungeon" in style. I envisage each session being an expedition into a megadungeon with some form of mechanism to ensure that everyone is out by close of play. (For the record, possibly the solution given in Shaggrad's Hives of Peril - one of the scenarios from the original Fighting Fantasy RPG - in which the party are working under a timed teleport spell and will be magically transported to the surface after a pre-agreed interval of time has elapsed).

WHEN?

Periodically. Definately not when West Brom are playing at home. But if there is interest we could see when people are free and whether people prefer weekends or weeknights.

WHY?

I can't commit regular time to RPG campaigning. Probably, neither can you.

HOW?

You can register interest by commenting in the comments field or emailing me at o_cooperATyahooDAWTcom.

And Maybe Next Time We Go Shopping Games Workshop Will Be Cheaper


The plaintive cry of an 8-year old, yesterday.

I took the not-really-a-nephew-nephew geek shopping after Christmas to spend some of his Christmas money. Birmingham is pretty handily laid out for geek shopping with CEX, ModelZone, Forbidden Planet and Games Workshop almost next door to one another in the same street.

(Obligatory footnote and plug for Niamh and Adey - with independent gaming store Wayland's Forge only two streets away from them).

NRANN's Dad is a mate from the Epic 40K trenches back in the 90s and he was appalled in GW - not just at the prices but at the -

(The Internet interjects - look, GW is fucking stupid expensive and probably losing customers hand over fist. We know this, get to the point).

- lack of any white metal. He picked up one blister of FailFinecast figures and was shocked at the huge amount of flash and pock-marking. As he pointed out afterwards over ersatz-chickenburgers in KFC, GW are now limiting themselves to rich kids and furthermore rich kids who are all competent modellers (and I added, those too fucking stupid to complain about the quality of the shit they are being sold).

(The Internet interjects - we know this as well. Get to the point).

So NRANN wasn't allowed anything from GW and spent his Christmas money on Star Wars toys from Forbidden Planet instead.

(The Internet interjects - better, but it was all prequel stuff wasn't it?)

Traditionally the view about GW from outside of THE GAMES WORKSHOP HOBBY is that it exploits the ignorant (in the "doesn't know anything about the wider hobby" sense, not the more perjorative sense of "pig shit thick") and probably provides an entry route into the wider hobby. I've generally gone along with this but mainly due to a bit of confused thinking.

It goes like this - you can't write off GW as an entry point to wider gaming because you are surrounded by people who started with GW in the 1980s. Therefore GW = entry point to wider gaming hobby. This however ignores the fact that 1980s GW != 2010s GW. Therefore what we can define as "entering hobby through GW" then is widely different to now. Much of the goodwill granted to GW by the wider hobby is because of this reason and has almost certainly been obselete for 20 years.

Furthermore seeing NRANN 's Dad as a father who suddenly envisaged having to bankroll all this shit out of his student teacher salary was an eye-opener and raised a question in my mind.

If we can justify (and excuse) GW as an entry point because n people every year enter the wider hobby how can we continue to do so if x people every year enter a GW store and get frightened off and stick to computer games? How many people are x? It is of course impossible to say.

Is Workshop now a parasite and detrimental to the gaming hobby as a whole? I think it is.

Curiously while geek shopping in those four shops I spotted something a bit similar. ModelZone sell Scalextric sets and cars. Everyone in the UK knows Scalextric but not everyone knows that it's only one brandname for slotcars. All 1:32 scale slotcars run on all brands of 1:32 slotcar track. ModelZone sell a few other brands of cars alongside Scalextric but have to display large signs stating that "AUTOART CARS ARE FULLY COMPATIBLE WITH SCALEXTRIC TRACK" in order to shift them. Otherwise people would assume that Scalextric was the only slotcar brand and these other boxed cars were for some other racetrack-type game.

Unfortunately GW occupy a position rather like that. Having told everyone who would listen that they are the Alpha and Omega of gaming those people who are frightened away are almost certainly lost to the hobby.

We've indulged them for years believing that if they vanished the wider hobby would stumble and fail but I no longer believe that - I now think the wider hobby would benefit if GW stores started closing.