Sunday, January 30, 2011

Status Report - January

How did I do in January 2011?

It's a new year and things keep plugging along. Mystery Men! is floating around in open playtest land, with a few blog posts on the subject these last few weeks and - hopefully - some live playtesting by yours truly if I ever get around to inviting people. I knocked out three city-states for NOD 7 - putting the final touches on them today - and have a few more articles to finish up for its publication in a couple weeks. I've also been working on some more Hex Crawl Classics for the Frog God (cover preview for the first to your right), and another project that I'm just pleased as punch about. All in all, February should be a busy one in terms of writing.

So, how did the Land of Nod do in January ...

NOD #1 (e-book) - FREE - 982 downloads (+90)
NOD #1 (print) - $9.00 - 38 sales (+2)

NOD #2 (e-book) - $3.50 - 34 sales (+3)
NOD #2 (print) - $9.00 - 34 sales (+1)

NOD #3 (e-book) - $3.50 - 32 sales (+3)
NOD #3 (print) - $10.00 - 26 sales (+0)

NOD #4 (e-book) - $3.50 - 32 sales (+3)
NOD #4 (print) - $10.00 - 21 sales (+1)

NOD #5 (e-book) - $3.50 - 23 sales (+2)
NOD #5 (print) - $9.00 - 17 sales (+1)

NOD #6 (e-book) - FREE - 253 sales (+78)
NOD #6 (print) - $11.00 - 9 sales (+4)

PARS FORTUNA Basic (e-book) - FREE - 447 (+56 Dec)

PARS FORTUNA Complete (e-book) - $7.00 - 15 sales (+0)
PARS FORTUNA Complete (print) - $15.00 - 7 sales (+1)

NOD Calendar (e-book) - FREE - 65 downloads (+6)

Notecard Character Sheet Template (doc) - FREE - 33 downloads (+13)

Total Sales - 288 (+21)

How about the blog?

Pageviews in January: 10,584 (first time breaking 10,000!)

Top Five Posts in January
1. Megacrawl 3000 - Episode 7
2. Mystery Men! Anyone?
3. Deviant Friday - Mahmud A. Asrar Edition
4. And Now - Our Special Guest Villain
5. Random Musings on RPG Clones vs. Frankensteins

Top Six Traffic Sources in January (six, because there's no way I'm not linking to the Underdark Gazette)

Top Five Audiences
1. United States
2. United Kingdom
3. Canada
4. Germany
5. France

Friday, January 28, 2011

Mini-Review - Four Day Planet

I just finished listening to an audio book of H. Beam Piper's Four Day Planet on LibriVox. I'd never heard of Piper before, and really just picked the book at random from a list of sci-fi titles that had recently showed up on the site. Of course, that's the wonderful thing about the internet - churning up all sorts of wonderful (or even mediocre) stuff that you've never heard of and serving it up free of charge. Between LibriVox, the Internet Archive and GoogleBooks, I defy you not to stay entertained with a computer and hi speed connection. Anyhow ...

Four Day Planet is not fine literature - it's not even among the better scientifiction that I've read (or listened to, in this case). The dialogue is stilted, the plot is okay as it goes - nothing ground breaking, but told competently - and the characters are pretty wooden. So why would I recommend it? Because it strikes me as a wonderful "gazetteer" for games like Traveler - a really well realized and interesting setting for science fiction games.

The "four day planet" of the title is Fenris - inhabitable by humans, but only just. It has a four day year, spending half of it as a boiling hell hole and the other half as a frozen iceball. There is native life, mostly in the oceans, and humanity living in a large bunker-city. The main industry of the planet is the collection and sale of "tallow" - a waxy substance taken from massive sea creatures called "sea monsters". The tallow is collected by monster hunters, guys who work on "boats" that act as both submarine and aircraft - in essence, futuristic whalers. What Piper lacks in storytelling or characterization, he makes up for in a fantastical-but-believable science fiction world and universe.

If you're a Traveler player or enjoy semi-realistic sci-fi, I suggest giving this one a listen or read. You can also find it on Project Gutenberg or buy a copy at Amazon.

Deviant Friday - Eduardo Francisco Edition

Eduardo Francisco - edufrancisco - does some really nice line work. Some of it reminds me of '90s comic books, some of '20s magazine illustration. Here's a few of my favorite pieces.

Oh - and last image on the post is mildly NSFW.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Deathbot Battle Redux

When last I pitted the Deathbot in battle against Captain Triumph, I had to admit that the good Captain, a 30,000 XP character, was a bit outmatched. I wondered then how the Deathbot would fare against someone more powerful - enter Superman.

Superman is built using 150,000 XP and I assigned his ability scores to make him just about as tough as I could. Truth be told, you just can't roll this guy up in Mystery Men! using the rules  you bump the number of starting ability dice - an option I plan to include in the finished rules.

Here, then, are the stats for the Man of Tomorrow ... and of course, these stats are not intended to infringe on or threaten DC Comics' intellectual property or copyrights.

Str 30 (+9)
Int 8 (+2)
Wil 10 (+3)
Dex 30 (+9)
Con 30 (+9)
Cha 4 (+0)

XP: 70,000
LVL: 20
HP: 288
DC: 23
FB: +9
SPD: 7 (8 flying)

Powers (All Permanent)
Energy Ray (Heat) – 30’ range, 4d6 damage, ranged attack vs. DC 10+Dex
Armor - +4 DC
Endure Elements – comfortable in hot and cold environments
Stoneskin – damage reduction 3
Super Strength* - +4 Str
Super Dexterity* - +4 Dex
Super Constitution* - +4 Con
Super Speed – increase speed by 5

*I assigned the ability scores, but still figured he should have to pay for super strength, dexterity and constitution

And yes, Superman probably has about 100 other powers - I'm hitting the old tried and true with this list.

The last Deathbot was toned down a bit - Superman is going to face off with a fully powered giant robot with the following stats:

HD 18 (100 hp); DC 30; Attacks with 2 slams for 4d6 damage; Speed 1; XP 6450; Powers: Darkvision, energy bolt (from eyes, ), iron body.

This battle will take place on a street in a major city, and Superman will begin the battle in flight. Let's fight ...


Initiative Order (1d10 + Spd + Dex): Superman [22], Deathbot [6]

Superman is always going to win initiative against the Deathbot, so we'll forgo future initiative rolls to speed this up. Because of his speed (7) is seven times higher than the giant robot, Superman gets 3 actions per round.

In round one, Superman is first going to charge into the Deathbot and attempt to knock it down. This will give him +1d6 damage for the attack, but reduce his DC by 3, to 20. Superman rolls 1d20 + FB + Str and gets [32], scoring 1d6+9 + 1d6 damage and rolling [17] and scoring only 12 damage due the robot's iron body. He follows up with a blast of his heat rays and then another wallop from his fists (or fisks, if you happen to be Popeye). He rolls a [41] for the heat rays and a [26] for the punch, scoring a hit from the heat rays. He rolls 13 damage. The Deathbot rolls a feat of constitution and gets [25], enough to cut the damage in half to 6. The Iron Body power of the Deathbot cuts that in half again, to 3.

The Deathbot strikes back with his own energy bolts (electricity). He rolls a [25], enough to hit Superman, and causes 72 points of damage. Superman rolls a feat of constitution to halve the damage and gets [17], not enough to save.

We end the round with the Deathbot having 85 hit points and Superman reduced to 216 hit points.


Superman has three actions again. The heat rays were pretty ineffective, so he's going to focus on grappling the robot and lifting it. He can lift 100 tons without difficulty, so I would rule that he could do it. To grapple it (i.e. grab it) he's going to have to beat the robot's DC of 30 by 5, i.e. he needs to roll a 35. Even if he just beats the DC of 30, he'll manage to cause some damage. This round, he rolls [33] and then [42] for his first two actions. The first attack scores [13] damage, reduced to 8 due to iron body. The second attack scores [14] damage, reduced to 9. The second attack beats 35, so he manages to grab the robot. He'll use his last action to fly the robot about 1 mile up (he could go up to 50 at his speed, but 1 mile should be sufficient).

The Deathbot is in pretty serious trouble, but being a robot he focuses on the task at hand. He'll attempt to make two slam attacks against Superman, rolling [37] and [24]. He scores two hits, rolling [8] and [13] damage. Superman's stoneskin power reduces these to 5 and 10.

At the end of Round Two, Superman has 201 hit points left, the Deathbot has 68.

Last round of combat, most likely. Superman is going to let the beast fall. Falling damage, like in the original game, is 1d6 per 10', with a maximum of 20d6. On the way down, I'll let the Deathbot make a final energy bolt attack. He rolls a [21] and then rolls [59] points of damage. Superman makes a constitution feat, rolling [15] - not enough to cut the damage in half. When the Deathbot hits the ground, he takes 58 points of damage, reduced to 53 because of iron body. The Deathbot gets a dexterity feat to take half damage from the fall and rolls a [7], failing. Technically, Superman still has two actions left, so he's going to use one to fly back down and the other to punch the Deathbot. This will count as a charge. He rolls a [44] to hit. Since he wasn't using any other special attack, beating the 'bot's DC by more than 5 means double damage. He rolls 2d6+18 plus another 1d6 for the charge, getting [19], which is reduced to 14 because of iron body.

At the end of Round Three, Superman has 142 hit points. The Deathbot has 1 hit point. Tough little guy, isn't he.

Nothing fancy this time. Superman is going punch, punch and punch. He rolls [28] [25] and [35]. All three punches do damage, and the last punch does double damage. He rolls a total of 55 points of damage, reduced to 40 because of iron body. More than enough to finish off the Deathbot.

Superman outclassed the Deathbot, but only at 150,000 XP. Reduce his starting XP to 100,000 and his level drops to 11 - that means far fewer hit points and a reduced attack bonus, and Superman is in for a far tougher fight. Given that the giant robot is supposed to be a useful monster in the game, I'm definitely going to knock him down a few pegs - specifically the DC, probably to 25. I also think I'll cap the energy bolt, in fact all damage from powers, at 10 dice.


Image by Erik Doescher from comicartfans website.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

On Antigoon - City of the Sun

Yay - I'm about 90% finished writing my three cities - Antigoon, Lyonesse and Blackpoort. I think I'm going to crank out an article on "Well Dressed Delvers", make some adjustments to my Noble and Everyman classes (should post them soon enough) and then I'll be done with NOD 7. I've commissioned an illustration of the Cyclopean as well and maybe a short adventure for PARS FORTUNA. I'll have a full table of contents soon. In the meantime, enjoy some locales in Antigoon ...

The Merchant Adventurers: The Merchant Venturers are the most famous merchant company in the Motherlands, and among the wealthiest organizations on Nod. Their headquarters is a four story building of glazed brick, as black as a tinker's pot and adorned with white marble accents and sculptures of famed venturers and sea nymphs. The interior hall is floored with ebony and decorated with white velvet couches and burnished bronze furniture. A large troll, dressed in ruffled silks and satins and holding an ornate halberd guards the entry hall, terribly aware of the blazing furnace that rests just beneath the floor. A secretary in long, silk robes the color of desert sand and holding a wax tablet directs those with an invitation either to the lounge or upstairs to a meeting room. Those without an invitation are either tossed out by the troll or asked to wait while inquiries are made as to whether they will be seen.

The ground floor of the building houses a lounge wherein members may relax, play cards or backgammon, sip an aperitif and work on a cold piece of roast. There is also a shrine dedicated to St Meingold, patron saint of the company. The upper floors contain secret rooms and vaults, meeting rooms and guest quarters. Each floor is guarded by four swordsmen and a crossbowman wearing the livery of the Company, a blue field emblazoned with a black ship and two gold dolphins.

The current master of the Venturers is Glynnick Melf, a woman of forty summers who looks much younger. Glynnick has tanned skin that shows the effect of many years of sun and spray. She has brunneous hair worn in long curls and keen, beryl eyes accentuated with kohl. Towering and lanky, with a barbaric sense of humor, Glynnick has seen much of the world, from the dragon courts of Mu-Pan to the many-armed fanged idols of Kirkersa to the swaggering pirates of Janus and the reeking swamps of Rogue's Harbor in Antilia. She has bested vampires and mummies, beaten an ogre mage in a contest of riddles and stolen two hordes from under the noses of wyrms. Glynnick is married to Brabo, twenty years her junior and son of Prince Fortunatus. It is marriage of convenience to both of them, and neither take their vows seriously.

Kirikersan Factory: This 3-story baroque building was once the chief residence of the Stewards of Brabo, and is now home to the merchants of Kirikersa who work and trade in Antigoon. The factor is Shanthet, an effeminate man of great intelligence and a surprisingly deep voice. Capricious and always on the verge of an ill humor, Shanthet has rich, caramel skin, hair the color of moonlight striking a deep mountain lake and eyes of teal and Persian blue. Despite his slight figure and gauzy manner, Shanthet is a deadly warrior. He usually wears +2 armor of leather scales beneath his silk robes and his schooling in Kirkersan wrestling gives him a +2 bonus to grapple opponents or knock them prone. Shanthet is married to Divixa, a haughty woman of royal blood (distantly) from Kirikersa who is ever ready with a sneer and a petulent remark. His children, Seafren and Valdur are both cadets at the Academy.

Cut-Rate Alchemy: This 3-story brick building features a rank cellar laboratory and two frightened families of boaders. Rented from the government by old Caudryk (2 hp), a musty alchemist with greasy bangs and a gimpy leg, it is frequently wracked by explosions and engulfed by plumes of acrid, polychromatic smoke. Cauldryk runs a cut-rate business in minor alchemicals, though he is a master alchemist who is capable of producing astounding things. He knows the recipe for the universal solvent, but lacks the patience to see such an operation through. Cauldryk is a fanatical worshiper of Law, especially in the person of Prometheus.

The House of Brun: This two-story structure is constructed of brick faced with chocolate-brown marble. It features two large windows that face the street and a gilded door. The tables before the windows are reserved for the highest ranking nobles or wealthiest merchants in the chocolate house. Chocolate is served in the establishment mixed with creamy milk for 1 gp per cup, and small tins of powdered chocolate are sold as a medicine for 5 gp per tin. The house has become a meeting place of the elite, and a guard is usually posted at the door to ensure the riffraff stay out. The interior of the place is decorated with exceptionally fine furniture and paintings by some of the most celebrated artists in Antigoon, few of whom are wealthy enough to visit. The place is run by a young man called Garric Brun, a former pirate and “citizen” of Port January. Studious and intellectual, he now dresses in finery and talks politics and philosophy with the upper crust of Antigoon. Garric has swarthy skin that he lightens with powder. He has pumpkin red hair and glandaceous eyes that sparkly whenever a gold coin clinks in his purse.

Theater Sol and Theater Lune: These two theaters are run by twin sisters Herna and Gwelda, daughters of Juand, a famed raconteur and bard who died about a decade ago, leaving the old Theater Lune to his favorite daughter, Gwelda. Herna was incensed, and so used what money she could borrow to open the Theater Sol across the street.

The Theater Lune is a four story building of dressed, amber colored stone with white marble accents around the door and window. A crescent shaped window above the door gives the building its name. The Theater Sol across the street was also four stories tall, but a tall platform supporting a wooden sun painted bright yellow has been constructed to make it taller than its competitor. Both buildings have an antechamber equipped with benches where entrance can be purchased for a silver coin. Beyond the antechamber there is a large room, two-stories tall, with a stage and balconies for wealthy guests (1 gp) – other folks must stand through the performances.

Herna VeoJuand is a young woman, plain of face and standing only 5' 6” tall. A careless dabbler in Chaos, she has twice lost husbands at sea. Usually calm and forgiving, mention of her sister or father bring out her dark side. Herna has tan skin, flaxen hair and sepia eyes.

Gwelda VeoJuand is a compassionate woman who is married to a the playwrite Horngyrth (another annoyance to Herna, who failed at her own attempts to woo him). Bitter towards her sister, she could easily be her double.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mystery Man Test II - Captain Triumph vs. Thugs

Last time we witnessed Captain Triumph outclassed by a giant Deathbot (yeah, I still need to stage a combat between the Deathbot and Superman or Thor - not enough time in the day ...). Today, we'll pit him against five humans to see how one vs. many works out in Mystery Men!

The Setup
Captain Triumph sneaks into the island headquarters of Doctor Death. While moving through a large audience chamber, he sets off an alarm and is attached by four thugs armed with machine guns and their leader, a ninja.

The Bad Guys
The thugs are human warriors: HD 2 (9 hp each); DC 12; Attacks with fists for 1d4 damage or with handgun for 2d6 damage; Speed 2; XP 200.

The ninja is a human elite: HD 3 (18 hp); DC 13; Attacks with fists for 1d6 damage or with sword for 1d6+2 damage; Speed 2; XP 300.

Round One
Initiative Order (1d10+Speed+Dex Mod): Triumph [9], Thugs [8], Ninja [6]

The thugs stand at the end of the room, blocking its only exit, the ninja behind them. We're going to pretend that Triumph has already used his Invisibility I power this turn, and thus cannot use it during this fight. He decides to charge (+1d6 damage, -3 DC) at one of the central thugs and belt him. He has the same speed as these combatants, so only gets one attack per round. Triumph's attack roll is 1d20 + Attack Bonus of +8 plus Strength Bonus of +5. With a total bonus of +13, Triumph cannot miss against the thug's DC of 13. though the Referee might want to use the roll of a natural "1" as an opportunity to introduce a complication to the situation. So, Triumph rolls a [31] to hit (why couldn't he do this against the Deathbot more often?), slugging the thug for 12 points of damage and knocking him unconscious at -3 hp.

The remaining thugs open up on the charging hero with their gats - dangerous, but they know they're facing an ubermensch. I'll rule that on a natural roll of "1", the thugs hit one another with their bullets. The thugs roll 1d20 + Hit Dice (2), getting rolls of [8], [8] and [10]. Even at Triumph's lower DC (because he charged), they don't hit him, but they don't hit one another either.

Question: Bonus for attacking at Point Blank Range? Have to think about that.

The ninja takes a swipe at Triumph with his sword. He rolls 1d20 + Hit Dice (3), getting a roll of [23]. Since he's striking to kill, he scores double damage for beating Triumph's current DC of 14 by 5 or more points, and rolls 11 points of damage.

At the end of the first round of combat, there are three thugs and a ninja left unhurt, and Triumph has been reduced to 84 hit points.

Round Two
Initiative Order: Thugs [11], Triumph [10], Ninja [10]

The thugs roll high initiative this round, and do the same thing as last round, rolling [20], [4] and [10]. No friendly fire this time, and Triumph takes 8 points of damage.

Tied initiative goes to Triumph, since he has the higher Dexterity score (since average normal human Dex is 3 and max normal human Dex is 6). He leaps at two of the thugs and attempts to clunk their heads together. This counts as making a multiple attack (i.e. one additional attack), so he suffers a -3 penalty to hit. He rolls [18] and [26], scoring two hits. No double damage, because Triumph isn't attacking to kill, just stun. He rolls [6] and [7] for damage. Because he beat their DC's by more than 5, and was attacking to stun, the thugs have to make feats of Constitution to avoid being stunned. They roll 1d10+2 and need to beat a 9 (5 + Triumph's Feat Bonus of 4). They each roll a [5], failing the feat roll and becoming stunned - i.e. cannot move or attack next round, drop their guns, etc.

Final attack goes to the ninja, who rolls a measly [7] and misses.

At the end of this round, we have an unharmed ninja and thug, two stunned thugs with 3 and 2 hit points and Captain Triumph with 72 hit points.

Round Three
Initiative Order: Triumph [14], Ninja [12], Thugs [7]

Captain Triumph now goes for the third thug, again attacking to stun. He rolls a [30] and scores 8 points of damage. The thug rolls a Constitution feat and gets a [5], failing. He's now stunned.

Our ninja sees the writing on the wall. He throws a smoke pellet (Fog Cloud) and backs out the door.

No thugs can attack this round - the other two were stunned last time, and the third thug is stunned now.

Combat round ends with two thugs clearing their heads (they have 3 and 2 hit points, respectively) and the third thug, with 1 hit point, just starting to shake things off. The ninja is gone, and Captain Triumph still has 72 hit points.

Round Four
Initiative: Triumph [12], Thugs [7]

Round four begins with everyone caught in a Fog Cloud. It lasts three rounds. Nobody in the cloud can see anyone more than 5 feet away, and suffer a -4 penalty to attack the enemies they can see.

Triumph decides to smack the thug he can see - the one he stunned last round. He's going to attack to stun, and decides to forgo his Strength bonus to damage to avoid accidentally killing the guy. He rolls a [10] due to the fog, and misses the thug.

The thug dropped his gun when he was stunned, but he decides to take a swing at Triumph. He rolls a [10] and also misses. The other two thugs decide they've had enough and use the fog as cover to run away.

For all intents and purposes, this fight is over. If Triumph can't defeat a simple thug with 1 hit point, he doesn't deserve the name "Triumph".

What Did I Learn?
I think this combat went pretty well. It made sense and the rules seem to support the kind of combat I would associate with comic book heroes. Triumph outmatched the thugs just as much as the Deathbot outmatched him, but the fight still took four rounds (well, five technically, if we assume Triumph knocks out the last thug in one more round), and the thugs had a chance to resist the stunning attacks. I could have made the ninja more impressive, but that would really involve building him like a comic book villain rather than as a minion, and I'm going to save the hero vs. villain fight for next time.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

On Lyonesse, The Gleaming City - Part Two

Salter Court
Salter Court is Lyonesse's equivalent of a central business district – mostly tall buildings, some brick, most timber-frame, used by merchants, factors and guilds. Merchants are common in this area, as are clarks hustling from one place to another. Nobles are notoriously absent from this area, unwelcome by the busy merchants. Most of the buildings on Salter Court are four or five stories tall and have multiple people living in the flats therein.

Feather Merchant: Fionath is a flighty, fancy woman who loves money and showing it off. She is an importer of feathers and down, selling the more common materials to stuff cushions and mattresses for the wealthy and retaining the rarer and more exotic feather that come into her possession – couatl, pegasus, cockatrice – are usually sold to magic-users and alchemists. Fionath has peach-colored eyes and silky, buff brown hair. She is quite compact, with intelligent, quick features and a ready wit. Success has made her lazy, and her connections to the counts of Iver has made her rather cold-blooded.

Gallery of Trades: This narrow building of four stories provides booths for all sorts of tradesmen, who must pay a small fee and turn over 10% of their profits to the mercantile guild. One can find cobblers, ropemakers, etc in this building, which is quite cramped and rife with pick pockets, beggars and trollops, not to mention bakers' boys with trays of hot buns and small meat pies for sale. The top floor contains the office of Breth, a spice merchant from Antigoon with a closet full of family skeletons.

Flagon and Swan: The Flagon and Swan occupies the ground floor (and its loft) of this building. The tavern is run by Valexine, a fragile looking woman with furtive, willow green eyes, silky, shoulder-length sooty black hair and a bland face. Allied with Guson, Valexine is an agitator for more control in the city-state by the merchant class. The Flagon and Swan serves wines and ales as well as coffee and a selection of snuff and pipe tobacco in addition to revolution. She allows the Princess Juliada and Geris the stable boy to use her backroom as an abditory.

Counting House: This building houses many mercantile offices, functioning much as a counting house. The most prominent tenant is Combanna, a plump woman, fit as a lass, brown as a nut, with long, wavy brown hair. A diffident art patron, she imports spices from Mu-Pan and Kirikersa, and is unhappily married to a sniveling aristocrat named Ysmay, a Kaspar. Combanne dreams of leaving Lyonesse for Antigoon, but is not yet wealthy enough to make the move. The building also houses the offices of Duhir, an obnoxious silk merchant who is suspiciously free with money for a man who has lost several barges to river pirates on the Danu.

Playhouse: Maggi (2 hp), an old woman from Ultima Thule, runs a very popular puppet theater. The theater holds about 30 people, with a small stage. Two women walk through down the aisles selling grapes and claret even after the house lights are down. The players, including Maggi, usually stage historical pageants and stories about the wild gods and goddesses from Maggi's native Ultima Thule. Maggi is a secretive woman who puts her heart and soul into her work. She does not deal well with criticism, flying into a bit of a rage when challenged. Maggi has skin the color of driven snow, sandy brown hair and eyes the color of winter wheat. A widower, she is devoted to the worship of Law. She wears a platinum ring worth 2,500 gp, a gift from her father who led a band of raiders.

Locksmith: Nevias is the finest locksmith in Lyonesse. He is an old man with tanned skin, chocolate brown hair and eyes like burning embers. Nevias is built close to the ground and he's shadow thin, the result of a large, psionic tape worm who dwells in his innards and whispers secrets to him in the night. Secretive and aesthetic, he has a weird obsession with vermin, especially snakes. Nevias is a stargazer, and can often be found on the roof of his building. He believes the key to understanding all things lies beyond the stars, and when he has a chance to speak with adventurers will immediately ask if they have ventured into the night.

The Blue Fairy: The Blue Fairy is a social club for the aristocracy. Admittance is by invitation (or membership) only. The Blue Fairy occupies the entirety of this four story building, having smoking rooms, an upscale tavern, guest rooms, a private gambling den and a trophy room. The club is overseen by Sanguria, a hauntingly attractive woman with a luminous pallor, goldenrod hair and misty gray eyes that betray an inner fire. Opinionated and demanding, she works the staff of the Blue Fairy quite hard, but they never seem to complain, probably because they, like she, are vampires. The social club provides a good base of operations as they slowly conquer the catacombs of Lyonesse. The next stage of their conquest involves conquering the city's nobility.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Deviant Friday - Liu Dongzi Edition

Do you like monkeys? How about monkey kings? Well, Liu Dongzi AKA Eastmonkey likes monkeys and their associated suzerains. Enjoy ...

No Sonja or Dejah this time around, but if you're looking for some pics of the titian warmaiden, you might check out the Red Sonja, She-Devil With a Sword blog.

Random Musings on RPG Clones vs. Frankensteins

In the world of modern old school gaming, you have your originals (D&D, AD&D, etc), your clones (OSRIC, LL) and your simulacra (LotFP, S&W, BFRPG, C&C, etc). Personally, I love 'em all - for the nostalgia, for the rules lite approach and for the fact that I find something that I like in every one that I read. Which brings to mind something that Jeff Rients once blogged about - wouldn't it be cool if you could go to a website, go through a list of D&D rules, mark check boxes of your preferred version of that rule and then click a button and have your customized D&D rules spit out as a PDF. Of course, the answer is - yes, that would be quite cool. But it also got me thinking about what my customized game might look like. Here goes ...

COVER - Tough choice, but it would either be Erol Otus or Wayne Reynolds. I know, I know ...


RACES - 3rd Edition - I like the way they handle the stats - probably the most rules lite portion of those rules

CLASSES - Either Swords & Wizardry - simple, to the point, very little need to check out the rules during play - or Castles & Crusades - more choices, but still pretty streamlined - love that single saving throw though

EQUIPMENT - Moldvay D&D, including those encumbrance rules (or maybe my own from Pars Fortuna)

COMBAT - BFRPG - really, my answer is Moldvay but with ascending AC and attack bonuses instead of charts, but I think BFRPG gets the closest to that

SPELLS - Moldvay rules with 3rd edition's breadth


So, what would your customized D&D look like?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cyclopeans - Playable Race for PARS FORTUNA

Having watched Krull over the weekend - a dandy fantasy movie, in my opinion - I was inspired to do something inspired by the cyclops in that movie. The cyclopean is designed for PARS FORTUNA, but should be readily usable in other old school-style games ...

The Cyclopeans are tall, rugged humanoids with a single, large eye located in the center of their face. Cyclopeans have skin tones that range from the color of aged parchment to a rich, glossy umber. Their hair is usually worn long and shaggy, and is always blue-black in youth and adulthood, turning white as a Cyclopean enters his or her later years. The Cyclopeans eye might be any color in the spectrum, with amber and blue being the most common colors, and mauve and mottled green/brown being the rarest.

A warlike people, the Cyclopeans nonetheless have a philosophical side - probably an artifact of their unique ability to see into the future. Born fatalists, they know well the curse that accompanies their power, and take care to only pierce the veil of time when their lives, or the lives of their loved ones, depend on it. Most Cyclopeans dwell in the wilds or on the fringes of civilization, making a living as trappers, hunters and bandits. They have a passion for fighting, but lack the organization of the Oraenca or their flair of the Ilel. Cyclopeans like to rush into battle, casting their military forks and then drawing their hand weapons to close with the enemy. Cyclopean warriors usually wear light or medium armor and carry shields, military forks and broadswords. They might also carry slings and knives.

Cyclopeans see in the Skathra kindred spirits, both for their wild ways and their divinatory powers. They respect the Bo'al, Oraenca and Olvugai as worthy warriors, and though they fear the deadliness of the Ilel, they can't quite bring themselves to respect them.

Cyclopean names are short and to the point, and are usually followed with a wad of spittle if the name is despised or a clang of the fork on the ground if revered. Common names include Bach, Brel, Cert, Oban, Tohr and Venn for males and Azra, Jula, Kento, Mala and Trena for females.

Cyclopeans adventure for money, fame and a love of action. Cyclopeans like to stay on the move and stay in the action, for it helps to keep their fatalistic moods at bay.

Racial Abilities
All cyclopeans have the following special rules:

1. Cyclopeans have poor depth perception and peripheral vision. All opponents are treated as though they have a knack for surprising them. Cyclopeans suffer a -1 penalty to hit with ranged attacks, except when using their military forks, with which they train from childhood.

2. Cyclopeans have a knack for wilderness survival and reading people's faces. This helps them discover falsehoods and guess at intentions.

3. No more than once per day, a Cyclopean can peer into the future. They will either glimpse a moment of Weal or a moment of Woe (50:50 chance). The moment glimpsed will be connected to their current endeavors or goals, and can be described with as much or as little detail as the Referee thinks appropriate. A Cyclopean might, for example, glimpse himself or a friend opening a door and being struck dead by a trap, or looking behind a curtain and discovering a secret door. Perhaps the door or curtain is unique and the Cyclopean will easily recognize it when they come to it - perhaps not. Perhaps the Cyclopean will never come across the possible future they have glimpsed. In general, this power acts as a free "clue" to something in the Cyclopean's current adventure.

4. Whenever a Cyclopean glimpses the future, they hasten their own demise. For the next 24 hours, the Cyclopean suffers a -2 penalty to saving throws made to avoid death, damage or danger.

Class Abilities
Cyclopeans have the following class abilities:

Prime Requisite: Constitution (+5% bonus to earned XP if 13+)
Hit Dice: 1d6+2 (or 1d10), +2 hp per level after 9th
Saving Throws: As warrior
Attack Bonuses: As warrior
Restrictions: Cyclopeans can use any weapon, light and medium armor and shields.
XP Advancement: As the Oraenca

Cyclopean characters turn their racial knack for reading faces into a skill.

Cyclopeans can go berserker once per day. This berserkergang can only be entered once they have suffered damage in battle or once they have inflicted damage in battle. Once the berserker state is entered, the Cyclopean remains in it for a number of rounds equal to their Constitution divided by 3. They cannot exit the berserker state prematurely without passing a saving throw, and will attack anything in reach while under its spell. While berserk, a Cyclopean gets two melee attacks per round and inflicts +1 damage with melee attacks, but suffers a -2 penalty to Armor Class. A Cyclopean suffers from exhaustion for a number of hours equal to the rounds of combat they spent while berserk unless they spend a full turn after the battle resting.


Picture nabbed from HERE

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Captain Triumph vs. Giant Deathbot

The following is a test of the Mystery Men! combat rules. If this were an actual game session, all of the rules would work perfectly ...

When you're attempting to place a giant laser on the Moon, curious heroes can really get in the way. To keep Captain Triumph occupied, Doctor Death decides a rampaging giant robot is in order ...

Hit Dice: 15 (90 hp)
Defense Class: 20
Speed: 1

Attacks: 2 slams (4d6 damage)
Powers: Darkvision (P), Energy Bolt (P), Iron Body (P)

Energy Bolt: Deals 1d6 damage per hit dice (i.e. 15d6)*
Iron Body: Ignores 15 damage per hit, half damage from acid and fire, vulnerable to rust.

* Just noticed the damage was missing in the rules - another piece of errata and proof that play testing is necessary!

I've modified this giant robot to put it closer to Captain Triumph's weight class, so to speak. I've reduced the Hit Dice by 3 and the DC by 10.

This fight will take place on a city street flanked by tall buildings. Police, fire and rescue have cleared most of the civilians out of the way, and the giant deathbot is mostly just causing property damage - it's trying to draw the hero in and waste his time while Doctor Death launches a rocket into space. Captain Triumph will enter the combat flying and invisible ...

Initiative: Each combatant rolls 1d10+speed+Dex bonus. That means 1d10+1 for the giant robot, 1d10+5 for Capt. Triumph. Since Triumph begins the round invisible, I'm going to give him a free attack in the first round. Since his speed is double that of the giant robot, he gets two actions per round against it.

Capt. Triumph: Triumph knows that tackling this metal monstrosity is going to be tough. It's hard to damage (too hard maybe - I might need to revise Iron Body) and the Energy Bolts are quite deadly (they cap damage in d20 - I might need to do the same). For his first round of combat, he's going to use both actions to roll special attacks, trying to trip the thing. He'll be invisible for the first attack, gaining a +2 bonus to hit.

So, special attack rules state that you make a normal attack, but if you beat the opponents DC by 5 or more you pull off the special attack. Unfortunately, this means Triumph needs to roll a 25 or better to trip the deathbot. So, Triumph is going to roll 1d20+Attack Bonus+Strength Bonus, or 1d20+13 for melee attacks (plus an additional 2 for the first attack, because he's invisible). He rolls a [17] and [24]. Both attacks fail to trip the deathbot, but the second attack does beat the deathbot's DC and inflicts damage. Capt. Triumph rolls 1d6+5, getting an [11] - not enough to score damage on the deathbot, because of the Iron Body power. Now - Capt. Triumph should be able to inflict some damage on this thing - the damage reduction for the Iron Body power has to be reduced. I'm going to make a command decision here and drop it to a 6. That keeps somebody with Iron Body impossible to damage by a normal human using their fists. So, with our revised Iron Body power, Capt. Triumph scores 5 points of damage on the Death Bot, reducing its hit points to 85.

Initiative: Deathbot rolls [11], Triumph [15] - Triumphs attacks first.

Triumph: Triumph is standing behind the deathbot, and wants to avoid those eye beams. So, he's going to fly up to the deathbot's head (one action) and then try to pound away at it (second action).Triumph rolls a [23] to hit, and causes 9 points of damage. With the deathbot's damage resistance, it comes out to 3 points of damage, reducing the deathbot to 82 hit points.

Deathbot: The deathbot needs to get Triumph off his back, so he's going to attempt a grapple special attack to grab him. For attacks, he rolls 1d20+18 and needs to beat Triumph's DC of 17 [yeah, just noticed I put AC on the character sheet - old habits die hard!] by 5 or more to grab him. With a roll of 29, he grabs him easily, scoring 10 points of damage in the process, bringing Triumph's hit points down to 85.

ROUND THREEInitiative: Deathbot rolls [3], Triumph [8]

Triumph: So, with his two actions, Triumph is first going to try to break out of the deathbot's grip - this is treated as a special grapple attack. Triumph rolls a [20] - enough to score damage (4 points), but not enough to break the grip. With his second action, he tries again, rolling a [24] and missing his goal yet again. He rolls a [6] for damage, which isn't enough to harm the deathbot. At the end of his turn, Capt. Triumph has now reduced the deathbot to 78 hit points.

Deathbot: The deathbot now unleashes some lightning bolts from its eyes. Triumph needs to make a feat of Dexterity (1d10+7) vs. a 20 - meaning he has no shot at cutting the damage in half [do I need to reduce monster feat bonuses to half their hit dice?]. The robot rolls 15d6 and scores [57] damage, reducing his hit points to 28. One more shot like that, and Triumph joins his ghostly brother in the afterlife.

Initiative: Deathbot [5], Captain Triumph [6]

Triumph: Triumph still needs to break the robot's grip, so he tries another special grapple attack, rolling a [30] this time, scoring damage (2 points) and breaking the grip. Deciding he needs something heavier with which to do damage, he flies 200-ft down the street (out of the energy bolt range and behind the deathbot) to find a handy wrecked car he can use next round. The deathbot now has 76 hit points.

Deathbot: Well, sucks to be slow. The deathbot turns around and lumbers toward Capt. Triumph, closing the distance from 200 to 150.

Initiative: Deathbot [5], Captain Triumph [8]

Triumph: Fortunately for Capt. Triumph, he continues to beat the deathbot on initiative. He picks up a car (his strength allows him to lift 4 tons, so a car is within his capabilities) and flies directly above the deathbot's head with his first action. With his second action, he launches the car straight down at the lumbering robot. We'll call this a ranged attack, which brings up a couple items that need to be addressed in the rules. I now notice that I include ranges for some weapons, but no discussion about how range influences attack rolls. Range for hurled items should probably be based on Strength - for now I'm going to punt on this rule and impose no penalty - I want to think about it a bit more. The second issue is one of damage - how much damage does a car inflict? Knives do 1d6, arrows 2d6 and bazookas 6d6 - I think given the weight of the car, 6d6 sounds about right - but I'll also make a note that thrown objects need to be covered in the rules ('cause heroes like to throw things in comic books!). So, Triumph rolls a ranged attack with the car (1d20+11) and gets a [25]. Since he wasn't using a special attack, beating his opponent's DC by 5 nets him double damage, or 12d6. He rolls a [36], dropping the deathbot's hit points to 40.

Deathbot: Deathbot figures that what's good for the goose is good for the gander. He picks up a car of his own and hurls it at the flying Triumph, rolling 1d20+18 to attack and getting a [28] - that means double damage as well. The deathbot rolls a [54], sending Triumph into Valhalla.

1. I need to work up some range rules, especially for hurled objects.
2. I need to work up some damage guidelines for hurled objects.
3. Iron Body needs to be revised and Energy Bolt needs to have damage added to its description.
4. Giant robots, as written, are deadly as all get out. I should probably revise those stats, or maybe include a lesser and greater version of them. I definitely learned that even a weak giant robot is too much for a single 35,000 XP hero to survive. I might work up some stats for Superman, Thor or Hulk and do this battle again to see how it would play out.
5. In playing this out, a smarter player might have started hurling cars earlier in the battle, and thus might have survived and won. Tactics should be at least as important as statistics in affecting the outcome of a fight.


Image by Joel Carroll. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mystery Men! Character Sheet

How's this look?

Just click, save and print!

AB = Attack Bonus, FB = Feat Bonus. The square marked FEAT next to each ability score is for one's total of ability modifier + feat bonus. The little squares for each power is for whether the power is permanent, limited or single-use.

Here's a version filled out for Captain Triumph!

 And if you haven't downloaded the game and rolled up a hero yet - what are you waiting for? Get to it, man!

I'm also looking into setting up a message board for MM!. I figure it can't be too hard, but I've never looked into it before. We'll see. In the meantime, I'm going to set up a specific Mystery Men! page on this blog, where I'll throw in errata, a link to the downloads, etc.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

That Wonderful "Oh Crap" Moment for a Writer

So, I'm writing up Lyonesse and I take a quick look at NOD 6 because I can't remember a name of one of the powerful noble families - I tend to write in a stream of consciousness style - and then have this wonderful "oh crap" moment when I notice that a paragraph in which I note that the Diamontes overthrew the Mallor dynasty with the help of the Krumms is immediately followed by a paragraph in which I note that the Diamontes overthrew the Brute dynasty with the help of the Krumms. Damnit. For the record, it was the Brute dynasty, and also for the record - I have no idea if Bob the high priest was a joke I forgot to excise from the final text or if I was serious - either way, Bob it is!

And to keep this post from being nothing more than me admitting to screwing up, I present another locale from Lyonesse and the story behind it:

Flying Duck: The Flying Duck tavern is a sociable, musical place with a spacious common room filled with numerous tables both large and small, a few private booths and a side room open only to folks who know the password (see below). The place is run by Teine, a plump, ivory-skinned man with chins hung like curtains and blue-black hair worn down to his shoulders (a wig made from the hair of a captured Saracen, an article made in the Venatian League) and dazzling, peacock green eyes. Teine is assisted by a bouncer called Labrach.

Teine is analytical and quirky, and fancies himself a scientist and mathematician. In fact, he does have some skill in these areas, and keeps a workshop in the cellar hidden behind some old barrels and casks. Teine is a music lover of the first order, and offers cheap food and drink to minstrels and musicians who agree to play in the tavern. For this reason, the Flying Duck has music from dawn to dusk.

The side room can only be entered by speaking a password in front of the door, which is only a door in the academic sense of the world, for to be completely accurate it does not exist and therefore cannot be opened by any outside agency. Speaking the world causes the door to fully exist and open, revealing a dusty, dingy room with a floor marked by dozens of footprints leading from the door to an old cupboard. The cupboard is a singularity, existing in several Flying Duck taverns spread across the Cosmos. One enters the otherwise empty cupboard, which can hold up to 10 people, and then closes the door. One then waits for a few moments, opens the door and exits into another side room in another Flying Duck. One determines their destination by intuition and feel, initially having a 5% chance to end up in the correct Flying Duck, increased by 5% for magic-users and those with a Wisdom of 13 or higher. Experienced travelers increase their chances by 5% for every five trips they take through the cupboard, but the chance of success never increases to more than 75%. The cupboard cannot be used more than once per week by a given person, so cupboard travelers get used to spending time in far away, strange places. The password to enter the side room changes daily, and can only be discovered via the contact other plane or wish spells.


About two or three years ago, I was running my players through NOD for the first time, specifically the region known as Thule (it was called Og back then). The group had just picked up a new member, Luke, and thus the party had just picked up a new character, Dakk the ranger. Dakk, we decided, hailed from Azsor, a barbarian city ruled by King Mogg and constructed around a massive waterfall. Once the group entered the city-state, I asked Luke where they should stay, since it was his hometown. Of course, Luke knew nothing about Azsor, but he's that kind of player a DM loves - rolls with everything. He immediately announced that they should go stay with his parents. The party decides this is a good (and cheap) idea, and off they go. At this point, they (and Luke) discover that Dakk's parents are dwarves (mom puts her finger to her lips and then whispers "He doesn't know he's adopted) and this launches a running gag that Dakk thinks he's a dwarf - including Luke inventing his famous footy pajamas that his mom made for him that include a fake beard sewn into them. The group also discovers that Dakk's parents are the Nodian, dwarven equivalent of Frank and Estelle Costanza from Seinfeld, and they soon decide that an inn might be more comfortable. So - where now? Luke pipes up with the Flying Duck - a name that struck us all as so odd that every inn the group visited in every city (including the Asian-style cities of Mu-Pan) became the Flying Duck. As a DM, I then made the decision that the Flying Ducks were all interdimensionally linked.

I bring this up for two reasons - first, to thank Luke DeGraw for being a great player who truly left his mark on my little campaign world, and also to show that the best campaigns are not written on reams and reams of paper, but grown organically at the table. To do this, you have to be willing to cede some control over your world to the players, and they need to be willing to cede some control over their characters to you and to one another, but it makes for things you all remember and laugh about.


Image by NC Wyeth, via Golden Age Comic Book Stories.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

On Lyonesse, The Gleaming City

[No numbers on this map yet - just place buildings where you'd like for now]

The Citadel
The citadel is a massive fortress, the center of government in Lyonesse and home to its king and many members of his court. The citadel is constructed from brilliant, white lime-stone. Its towers have conical roofs of sapphire blue slates. The walls of the citadel stand 40-feet tall, its towers 60-ft tall, and they are routinely patrolled by crossbowmen.

Within the citadel dwells King Tristram, his wife Queen Lenore and their children, Burgon, Damoun, Juliada and Pontinae. Princess Juliada is in line to take the throne when her father passes, while her brother Burgon has been promised the Duchy of Lutece as his own. Pontinae is slated for education by the church and a prominent place in the priesthood of Ceres, while Damoun will be apprenticed to Master Odumnovice when he comes of age. Other inhabitants of the citadel include the aforementioned court magician Odumnovice, Tristram's personal chaplain Father Roquelaure, lord high constable Ramee, the commander of the royal guard, the royal surgeon Dr. Menet and Fraien, giant, blue-black beaded master of the hunt. Various ladies-in-waiting and squires drawn from the nobility dwell in the citadel, and visitors from the countryside are common.

The citadel rests upon a fortified mount 20-ft tall. In front of this mount is the large, round bailey. The bailey is actually an open courtyard that is used for military demonstrations. A troupe of seven heavy infantry occupy the bailey at all times and the walls above are manned by fifteen crossbowmen, all elite men-at-arms (HD 2).

The City Wall
The city wall of Lyonesse is constructed from the same limestone as the citadel, and like the citadel is kept immaculate and gleaming. The wall is set upon a massive embankment (colored light gray on the map) that rises 30-ft above the surrounding land and is buttressed by 10-ft thick walls of limestone. The actual city walls are 40-ft tall. The guard towers are 50-ft tall, while the gatehouse stands 60-ft tall. The walls and towers are always staffed by soldiers – assume any 100-ft span of wall is manned by five cross-bowmen, while each tower holds five crossbowman and five heavy infantry with a sergeant-at-arms in command.

Gatehouse: The gatehouse, also called the Bridge Gate sports two steel portcullises and foot-thick doors of oak studded with hundreds of bronze nails in the outline of a lion rampant. The doors and portcullises are left open during the daylight hours, but closed (and never opened, save by direct order of the king) at night.

During daylight hours, two heavy infantry and four crossbowmen guard the entrance to Lyonesse, collecting tolls for an exciseman (1 cp per foot, 1 sp per wheel). The exciseman sits at a wooden desk with an iron strongbox that typically holds 1d10x10 cp and 1d6x10 sp per hour after daylight. The towers are used as barracks for twenty heavy infantry and twenty crossbowmen, who take their turns patrolling the walls and standing guard. The guardsmen are under the direct command of Captain Calie, an aging elven woman in platemail with skin the color of ancient ivory, hair of burnt umber and gentian eyes. Her natural grace and optimistic attitude have made her popular with the men-at-arms. Calie is one of the three famous “Harpies of the Bridge”, along with the female sergeants that command the guard towers that flank the gatehouse.

Mithras' Grotto: This 20-ft tall building has a peaked roof of stepped stone and bears no decoration other than a bas-relief of a bull's head over the iron door that serves as its entrance. The building is a temple to Mithras, the patron deity of soldiers. The upper portion of the building is an empty chamber decorated with frescoes depicting Mithras slaying a bull on the east wall and Mithras slaying a dragon on the west wall. In the middle of the room there is a secret trapdoor that can only be activated by simultaneously depressing hidden buttons in the frescoes, one on the bull's neck, the other on the dragon's breast, with a spear or sword point. Once opened, the trapdoor reveals a vertical shaft one can traverse using stubby iron bars that jut from the walls. At the bottom of the shaft one must let themselves drop about 8 feet to the floor of a man-made cavern. The cavern holds a shallow pool and behind it a sacrificial altar and idol of Mithras slaying a bull. The idol is made from marble and painted to look real. Here, soldiers gather under the guidance of Guson, the resident priest of Mithras, to sacrifice bulls and pay homage to their patron. The bulls are brought in through a secret tunnel that connects the cavern to the Corn Market.

Guson dwells in his own chambers in the gatehouse. He is a suave, well spoken man with black hair tinged white at the temples and an elegant pointed chin and aquiline nose. Guson always dresses in robes of blue linen over his plate-mail. He carries a shield bearing an image of Mithras and wears a red Phrygian cap in imitation of his deity.

West Tower: The west tower is commanded by Cwenen, young sergeant-at-arms with skin bronzed by many campaigns against Tristram's enemies, chestnut hair and large, hazel eyes that flit constantly about a room looking for threats. An overbearing disciplinarian, her soldiers also know her to have a heart of gold – many soldiers down on their luck have found a few extra silver coins dropped in their laps as Cwenen walks by. Cwenen nearly became a priestess, but her lack of patience for book learning and love of swordplay sent her into the military life. Cwenen's blade was taken as a prize when she faced down an orc chieftain many years ago on the field of battle. It is a bastard sword +1 of azure metal that grants its owner a +1 bonus to save against magic and, if it beats an opponent's AC by more than 6 points transmutes metal armor to leather and leather armor to cloth. The bastard sword was forged for the bard Longorius, aid-de-camp of King Rollo of Lyonesse during his wars to conquer Western Venatia. The sword is aligned to Law and does not permit its user to lie.

East Tower: The east tower is commanded by Sergeant Ursuin, third of the three Harpies of the Bridge. Ursuin is a young woman from Blackpoort who entered Tristram's service after saving Yarvis Krumm from bandits on one of his travels between Lyonesse and Blackpoort. Ursuin is tall and muscular, with tanned skin, bushy black hair and a heavy frame. Ursuin has a forceful personality, and few care to get in her way, though she is also very forgiving and great fun in a tavern brawl. During combat, she can choose to accept a -1 penalty to hit in exchange for a +1 bonus to inflict damage. Unlike her sister Harpies, she wields a battle-axe, a gift from Yarvis Krumm that is so finely forged it gives her a +1 bonus to hit.

All-Saints StreetAll-Saints Street is a fashionable promenade of sepia tiles and tall, imposing buildings of dark oak and yellow-white plaster. It is usually crowded with strutting students, aristocrats on parade, chattering bourgeois on the hunt for fun, strolling minstrels mingling their voices and lute-songs with the murmuring of the crowds, street performers in gaudy costume, coy prostitutes in their mandated yellow cloaks and partridge feathers tucked into their hair, beggars who look as though they've never missed a meal and craft pick pockets. The most impressive displays on the street, however, are made by the nuns of Nunnery of Proserpina. Each Sunday they emerge from their cloisters in vibrant blue robes and black shawls marked with the three golden pomegranate seeds that are the emblem of their order. Four nuns hold aloft a small golden altar of their patron goddess while the others hold sheaves of golden wheat and chant hymns in honor of Proserpina and Ceres. Young members of the order scatter pomegranate seeds while the senior members distribute silver coins bearing the goddess' likeness to the poor who line the street.

Nunnery of Proserpina: The abbey is a fine building of limestone, two stories tall, with a tall, peaked roof clad in copper. The abbey has an almshouse on Bulwarks Lane, where copper coins and porridge are distributed to the poor, a hospice for those who cannot pay for their care, especially farmers, a chapel, rectory and dormitories. The abbess is Damma (2 hp), a plump woman with short hair the color of dark chocolate (a well known vice of the abbess, who spends rather more of the abbey's budget on cocoa than she should) and olive skin. Damma is a devious woman, well versed in church politics and opposed to Bishop Bob, a member of the Kaspars, rivals to her own Papelard family. All nuns are technically married to Pluto, but Damma has been known to see men on the side when it was advantageous to her politically.

All-Saints College: All-Saints College was endowed by Queen Yvette-Mimi about 350 years ago. It occupies an ancient building of limestone, four stories tall and housing dormitories for the four sages and their fifteen to twenty students, lecture halls, a dining hall and kitchen and a small library with five tomes, these tomes composing the curriculum of the college. The dean of the college is one Malbot, a willowy man with thin arms and fingers and a face like a tack. Despite his imposing appearance, Malbot is a gregarious, good-natured old gentleman and much beloved by the students. Malbot is a devout worshiper of Ceres, but shares rooms with his good friend Guson, the cleric of Mithras who would like to overturn the old faith in Lyonesse and institute the worship a more robust and virtuous worship geared towards Law. Malbot often lectures his students on matters of divinity while walking through the streets of Lyonesse, sampling the wares of local pedlars and restauranteurs while he talks.

The Hôtel Kaspar: The hôtel of the Kaspars, the dukes of Brioche, is an imposing structure with a large armorial emblazoned on the third story wall. The house has four floors and a peaked roof with a copper roof. Two guards (heavy infantry) stand guard outside the thick oak front door at all times. Entrance can only be gained by getting past the butler. The hôtel is often visited by spies and various cousins and children of the Duke, who rarely enters Lyonesse for fear of assassination by his enemies. The main inhabitant is Tadoc, the Duke's son and an infamous rake who spends his time drinking, whoring and keeping ill company (including dwarves!).

The Yellow Queen: The Yellow Queen is a restaurant and tavern run by Ywell (3 hp), a halfling chef with a puffy face and nut-brown skin, grey eyes and shoulder-length black hair always kept perfumed and curled. The restaurant derives its name from a marionette of a queen in yellow that hangs from an upper window. Most folk in Lyonesse know the story of how a very drunk Ywell got the marionette hurled at him by an angry Maggi when he got rowdy in her puppet theater some years back. He never gave the marionette back, and the two would be enemies yet had not a basket of warm muffins not appeared on Maggi's doorstep the next night, and once a week thereafter. Ywell serves plates of trout in generous portions, steaming platters of escamoles in coriander sauce, bread dipped in cream and then fried in dill oil and ginger beer. His staff are all relations, and they are known to help themselves to patrons purses, replacing them after extracting a few gold coins or tiny gems. The restaurant has eight tables and five booths shrouded by curtains of light blue linen. The waiters and waitresses are famous for their copper helmets, essentially little kettles of hard cider worn on the head and in which patrons can dip their copper mugs. The upper floor is reserved for the “nobs”, and no pilfering is allowed there. Ywell can't personally stand the nobles, so he spends his time on the ground floor with the bourgeois and peasants, smoking his ivory pipe and swapping stories.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Mystery Men! Anyone?

Well, I've finished my draft of the Mystery Men! Beta Document and put it on the free downloads page. Here's what you in the studio audience can do to help me produce a free/cheap superhero game that everyone can enjoy:

* If you read it, please let me know what you like and what you dislike and any errors that you notice.

* If you play it, please let me know what works and what doesn't, and when you email me include your name and the names of other play-testers so I can credit you in the finished product.

I'm going to initiate some play-testing myself, but I really value the opinions of people outside my little circle of friends. In the coming weeks, I'm going to put some stats for the heroes and villains that will appear in the final product up for people to use as they see fit. In the meantime, make some heroes and villains and have a fight or two. Enjoy!

Deviant Friday: Dustin Nguyen Edition

I hope you like comic books, and more specifically, Batman comic books, because this week we checking out the work of Dustin Nguyen, duss005 on DeviantArt. Dustin has done lots of work for DC, and I really love his style, especially the water color feel of the pieces. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

On Blackpoort, City of Thieves - Part Three

By gum, I'm busier than a one-armed paper hanger lately. Here's the Blackpoort post I promised yesterday - I got busy writing Lyonesse and forgot to post. Enjoy.


Crooked Street
Crooked Street (often just called “The Crook”) is a lively street of bustling crowds, where rich and poor mingle. The center of activity on The Crook is the Music Hall [18], of course, and the old street has become a center of the “Bohemian” art set in Blackpoort, drawing jongleurs, prostitutes, street artists, minstrels and clowns at twilight and lasting into the night.

17. Brigtan the Assassin: Brigtan is a young woman of modest means who makes a living as a duelist. Aloof and scheming, she appears to have been educated somewhere, but never speaks of her past. Her home is a single-story brick building with a slate roof and a conservatory in which she raises a number of “medicinal” herbs. Hidden beneath the conservatory, under a removable floor tile, is a small coffer holding 450 pp and a large, leather-bound bestiary. Brigtan is very short, with tanned skin, blond hair that always seems to be falling in her face, and hazel eyes. She is always dressed neatly, in a black doublet (actually a jack of plates) and black breeches, with an ornate longsword on her hip and daggers hidden in her tall boots.

18. Music Hall: Always surrounded by hustle and bustle, the music hall is the center of the Crook's cultural life. Owned by Leona Tattlewit, a young woman with alabaster skin, dark brown hair cut in a bob and aloof chestnut eyes with a touch of crimson. Tattlewit is tall and thin, graceful and with an airy, sylph-like beauty that belies her very precise and business-like mind. Her former husband, Sceath Tattlewit (RIP) was a well regarded actor, and she inherited the theater when he died. The music hall plays two-penny (well, 2 sp) operas to boisterous, noisy crowds. Halflings work the audience selling greasy viands and fruit and picking pockets (Leona gets 20%). The hall is a building of red bricks painted in bright, garish colors (blue, yellow, purple) and an old copper roof that leaks. Next week, they are putting on a musical production of a new play called The King in Yellow.

19. Foundryman's Club: This dimly lit social club is frequented by laborers of all stripes in Blackpoort, including poor adventurers. The club consists of a single story brick building with a tall, peaked, slate roof and a long, brick chimney. Inside, there is a common room with three round tables (old oak, varnished by several generations of use), four long tables painted red and a few semi-private booths hidden by lank, greasy curtains. The inn is run by Wolvine, a youthful woman with olive skin, thick, blond hair pulled back in a bun and hazel eyes always cast down in a serious look. Wolvine is a bit heavy-set, and usually wears a peasant dress. She inherited the club from her father, Olvus. The club serves black beer and pungent mead in wooden goblets. Steaming trenchers of eel and white fish are set on the tables every hour, and patrons are expected to drop a few coppers on the trencher after eating their fill. Wolvine, despite her surly exterior, is brave and virtuous. A widower who lost her husband, a man-at-arms, to some damn fool dungeon exploration, treats her patrons like her own children, doing her best to keep them on the straight and narrow and true to their lives and children.

20. The Old Miser: This imposing five story tower is the home of Nevenbak, a wealthy miser. Nevenbak's home, though once quite grand, has fallen into disrepair. The stone is black with soot and the roof is missing slate tiles. The corners of the roof were once protected by sculptures of eagles, but all but two of them have long since fallen into the overgrown garden. The garden is surrounded by a tall wall with a tarnished bronze gate. Nevenbak lives alone, having long ago driven away friends and family with his over zealous thrift and inhuman lust for money. He maintains a vault beneath his house that has yet to be cracked by the thieves of Blackpoort, though many have tried. Their remains now decorate the vault's antechamber, where dwells a captive owlbear, possibly Nevenbak's only remaining friend. Nevenbak spends his days in his counting house in the southern portion of Blackpoort, and his nights in the vault with his owlbear, counting his money (the horde now amounts to XXX and a potion of green dragon control in a dusty wine bottle. One of Nevenbak's arms is twisted, the hand atrophied into a hook-like claw.

21. Madhouse: Blackpoorters usually hurry past this somber, three-story building. Once a manor belonging to the extinct Usher family, the building is now a madhouse under the supervision of the priests of Mercurius, specifically Brother Candle, a well curtal friar with sun-kissed, happy wrinkles framing his eyes and light brown, tonsured hair. Candle's own mother went mad, so he has dedicated himself to caring for the insane and using what few powers he has to keeping them healthy. The other priests who work in the madhouse consider it a punishment, which is usually is, and often react accordingly to the needs of the inmates. It is also known to be a place where enemies of high placed men and women end up, often without the knowledge of Brother Candle. The windows of the madhouse have thick curtains of black velvet, used to keep the moonlight and its mind-bending power from worsening the condition of the mooncalves, lunatics and melancholics interred within.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Scaling Speed in Mystery Men!

I've mentioned before that the trick of writing a super heroic RPG is dealing with scale. Whatever system you use has to be able to handle 98 lb weaklings and guys who can bench press locomotives, and it needs to do so in such a way that the two can adventure together - i.e. you have to part ways with reality a bit to make it all work.

If scaling Strength in a comic book hero game is hard to do, scaling speed is just as hard. Again, you need to have a system that accommodates normal (even slow) human beings and folks who can zip around at the speed of light, and you need to integrate speed with the other rules systems to make super speed meaningful, but not overpowering.

My initial idea was to use the traditional movement rate concepts from old school games, but expressed in yards or meters per minute. Thus, a movement rate of 100 became standard. The problem, of course, was that cars, for example, would have a normal movement of about 900, and other vehicles higher than that. That means super speedsters would have the same speed advantages. With most of the action in a comic book hero game taking place in fairly confined quarters, speeds of 900+ don't have much relevance, and when you get into the 1000's they become fairly unwieldy. So, I decided to change my scale.

Playing around on Wikipedia, I discovered the concept of "orders of magnitudes of speed", and decided alter it to fit my purposes. Mystery Men! will have ten speed bands, ranging from 1 (slow humans) to 2 (normal humans) to 10 (speed of light). People can move from one speed band to a higher speed band by running, maintaining the higher speed with feats of Constitution, and reaching even higher speeds (just momentarily) by a feat of Strength.

The speed scale is as follows:

1 - 50 yards/round - old folks, children
2 - 100 yards/round - healthy adult human
3 - 200 yards/round - bicycles, many animals
4 - 500 yards/round - cars, motorcycles
5 - 1500 yards/round - high-speed rail, airplanes
6 - 5000 yards/round - jet airliners
7 - 20,000 yards/round - sound
8 - 100,000 yards/round - supersonic speed
9 - 10,000,000 yards/round - sub-light speed
10 - 20,000,000 yards/round - light speed

Obviously quite a leap from "old lady" to "light speed", but I think in the context of the game it should work. You'll have your normal speed, rated 1 to 10 - characters begin with a normal speed of 2. You can run at the next highest speed for 1 round, and thereafter can continue at that speed with a feat of Constitution each round. You can generate a burst of speed at 2 speed levels higher than your normal speed by making a feat of Strength, but the burst only lasts 1 round, max. You always have the option to move at a slower speed, of course. The table included in the rules will show speed per round, speed per turn and mph/kph for each speed rating.

Initiative. which was to be determined by speed, will now be determined by a d10 roll modified by your Dexterity bonus and speed (so, with a 30 Dex and 10 Speed, you'd end up with a +19 to initiative - pretty hard to beat). Speed will also govern how many actions a character can take during a round. When engaged in combat with a foe, compare your speed to his speed. If your speed is twice his speed, you can make two actions (move, attack, activate power, etc) per round. If your speed is triple his speed, you can make three actions. In order to keep super speedsters from being unbeatable, we'll cap it at three actions per round for now.

Hopefully, this will make speed a relevant ability in the game, while keeping it easy to track and not something that will break the game.

And yes, I think I've decided to drop the panel/page/issue time concept for the more traditional rounds/turns, etc. MM! is supposed to be a reworking of old school games to make learning it simpler, so it makes sense to stick with language most gamers already know.

Art by Mike Wieringo



Currently, I'm working on NOD 7, which will feature 3 cities. Blackpoort is written and I'm working on Lyonesse now and then have to write Antigoon. Right now, I'm on schedule to publish in the middle of February.

After I adjust the speed rules, I'll be ready to put the Mystery Men! beta rules out for play testing. If this project interests you, please consider downloading the rules and running a quick game, or even just going through character generation and running a fight. If you do play with the rules (or even just read them), I hope you'll give me some feedback. The beta rules won't include the sample setting or all the explanatory text on "what is role playing", "how you roll dice" - that will be included in the final product. Right now, looks like the final game will come in at a slim 60 pages, so it should be pretty affordable in print, and the e-book will be free.

I'm also working on writing my third Hexcrawl Classic for Frog God Games. The first should see print in February - very excited, as it's my first freelance sort of gig. I've just been tapped to be a part of a much larger project for the Frog God, which I'll be cranking on for the next couple months. Despite the work load (being busy is a blessing!), I'll continue to post to the blog just about every day.

Speaking of posting - I'm getting lots of page views on the Megacrawl 3000 posts, but nobody is playing along in the comments - not for the last 2 posts. Since I inteded Megacrawl 3000 as a game for the community at large and not a creative writing exercise for me, I'll probably drop it after this last episode for lack of participation. If you want to see it continue, by all means get involved!

That's all for now. Should make another Blackpoort post tonight, and then start posting on Lyonesse later this week. I also want to do some more retro-engineering on Darkness & Dread, have Noble and Everyman classes that need to see the light of day, and want to begin statting out some demon lords for NOD. Lots to do.
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