Thursday, May 12, 2016

New Website, New Blog

Well folks, it's time I pulled up stakes and relocated...

As should be obvious from the paucity of posts here, I've rather fallen off the blogging wagon and I want to rectify that.

At the same time, I've recently been in the process of setting up a website to host my nascent professional web presence.

Thus: two birds, one stone. Please direct your blog readers over to my new blog and read more there about my plans for resuming regular posting; I've been steathily blogging for the last three weeks, so there's already some content for you to read!

As for this venerable web space, I have no plans to take it down or otherwise nuke it. I'll leave it up for as long as there's such a thing as Blogger, and--if I ever manage to get back to it--I will be posting "Solo GPC" updates at this site in order to maintain continuity of the series.

Be seeing you...

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Campaign Gnats; Or, How I Ended Up Ordering a Copy of Mystic China

Anyone else get these? You're going about your life, perhaps running or playing in a game (or both, as it so happens at the moment), perfectly content. And then something sparks a small flame in the back rooms of your brain, the fire spreads to engulf everything, and before you know it you're buying a copy of Mystic China...

This is how it went for me in the aforementioned-case:

Monday, 8:32 PM: Hears a snippet of Zamfir's "The Lonely Shepherd" and thinks of Kill Bill.

Tuesday, 10:45 AM: Listens to Kill Bill, Volume I soundtrack.

Tuesday, 12:50 PM: Walks to co-op to get lunch, thinks about how Kill Bill is the best Ninjas & Superspies movie ever made.

Tuesday, 4:40 PM: Thinks about how Mystic China was a pretty cool book, and I never really gave it a fair crack because it came out right around the time I was moving away from playing Palladium games.

Wednesday, 2:30 PM: Listens to Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).

Wednesday, 4:14 PM: Starts thinking about the possibilities of a Mystic China game set in 1970s-era Hong Kong.

Wednesday, 11:32 PM: Orders a copy of Mystic China.

Of course, all this ignores the fact that (a) I have no desire to run the Palladium system as-is; (b) I'm not terribly interested in trying to do any system conversions at the moment; most importantly, (c) I'm currently happily preparing to launch an Achtung! Cthulhu campaign this weekend and really have no time, interest, or energy to put towards something else.

Ah well. Mystic China will provide a few evenings of enjoyable reading, if nothing else. And perhaps one day...

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

[NPC] Timothy Cratchit, Steam Lord of Britain (Castle Falkenstein)

Image via Ghost Train Games

The Man in an Iron Suit

Athletics [PR/GRT]*, Connections [EXC], Courage [GD], Exchequer [EXT], Fisticuffs [PR], Marksmanship [GD], Physique [PR/EXC]*, Tinkering [GRT]

*The first rating is when out of his steam-powered suit, the second rating for when he's strapped in.

As President of Scrooge & Cratchit Amalgamated, Timothy Cratchit is one of the most powerful men in Britain, ranked among the informal capitalist cabal called "the Steam Lords" - men who exert their wealth and influence from behind the scenes in order to all but govern their homeland and its vast imperial domains.

Cratchit is a direct beneficiary of the industrial might of his many holdings, for, with legs stunted and atrophied, a back twisted and weak, he usually goes about in a great iron suit he ironically calls "Tiny". The suit gives him the ability to walk, run, and even leap great distances, and helps him breathe comfortably. Without his suit, he is weak and feeble; with it, he is the physical match for any man on Earth.

What most folks don't know is that when he was but a little crippled boy, Cratchit (known affectionately in those days as "Tiny Tim") was taken in by his father's employer, a Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge. A notorious miser most of his life, Scrooge seems to have experienced a change of heart in his twilight years, and elevated his clerk, Bob Cratchit, to full partner in his money-lending firm. Cratchit's savvy acumen expanded the business into a variety of fields, most notably the burgeoning industry of steam-tech.

When Bob Cratchit died a mere two years after Scrooge, his son Timothy, whom Scrooge had taken under his wing as a sort of protege, became the majority shareholder in the company and undertook a ruthless program of expansion and consolidation, one that elevated him to the rank of Steam Lord.

Now entering his middle years, Cratchit is as generous and kind to his immediate family, including his "Uncle Fred" (Scrooge's nephew), as he is ruthless and cutthroat to everyone else. He is not one to cross.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Kandarian Demons for RuneQuest 6

Thanks to my old friend Alex, I was introduced to the Evil Dead "thrillogy" back in high school, and have been a big fan ever since. The recent premiere of Ash vs. Evil Dead, along with my current love affair with RuneQuest 6, got me thinking about how to best model "deadites" in game mechanical form. Here's my first stab, then...

(Note that I'm basing this interpretation off the first three movies, having not seen the Evil Dead remake. Also, I don't have any familiarity with how the Army of Darkness RPG handled Deadites. This is just my best stab at sussing out a system for a foe who largely exists as a plot driver in the movies.)

Kandarian Demons are Bane Spirits of Chaos, a supernatural hive-mind capable of possessing and animating organic matter in order to meet their own inscrutable ends. They seem to exist solely to spread death and woe in the mortal realm.

In their “native” form, Kandarian Demons are an invisible kinetic force bound by the sorceries contained in the Necronomicon ex Mortis. Certain words of power must be spoken to both release and bind the Demons from and into their native dimension.

Unbound Kandarian Demon

INT: 1D6
POW: 1D6+60
CHA: 2D6+6
Intensity: 10
Skills: Spiritual Combat (50%+POW+CHA); Willpower (50%+[POWx2])

Clouds, fog, and electrical blackouts usually accompany the appearance of Kandarian Demons - always a tipoff to those familiar with their evil ways. They have a preference for the dark, but can operate in broad daylight just as well.

Once unbound, the demonic force seeks out a living host. This can be a plant, animal, or sentient being. Upon finding a host, the Demon can then project itself into multiple vessels. These various shards form a gestalt hive mind, in constant communication with each other regardless of separations of time or distance. Each shard retains the full INT and CHA characteristics of the unbound Demon; however, POW must be divided equally among all shards. Thus, there is a practical limit on how many vessels can be possessed at once.

Once a Kandarian Demon has been loosed upon the world, time and space mean nothing to it - it can possess vessels across vast distances. Being an embodiment of the Chaos rune, the Demon will usually possess vessels that have some sort of personal relationship with those who would oppose it, the better to sow misery and discord.

There are two ways to become possessed by a Kandarian Demon: spiritual assault and physical contact.

Spiritual Assault: Used mostly when the Demon does not have a vessel. The invisible force races along searching for a host, breaking windows and smashing doors as it does so. Even though the force is invisible, it is detectable (even without all the wanton destruction); a standard Perception check will alert the target to the force’s approach with sufficient time to try and effect a getaway. The force has a STR equal to its POW for purposes of determining whether it can break through obstacles.

The force has a Move of 8. If attempting to flee from the force, an Evade roll against the Demon’s Willpower will allow the target to hide or otherwise give the Demon the slip. Otherwise, upon detecting the Demon’s approach, if the target is able to, say, mount a horse or jump in a car, they will be able to outrace it. The Game Master might still call for an unopposed Evade roll to determine how successfully the target outran the force - Kandarian Demons do not call off the hunt lightly.

Physical Contact: Coming into contact with a possessed entity is extremely hazardous. Even simply touching a possessed being opens one up to mutual possession. If actual bodily harm has been inflicted, possession is nearly assured (see below). What’s more, if damage is done to a location sufficient to cause a Serious Wound, that location is automatically possessed without need for Spirit Combat. If the location is a limb, the vessel has 1D3 rounds to amputate the limb before the possession spreads. If the location is the Head, Torso, or Abdomen, the the vessel is immediately and fully possessed.

Demons can also possess corpses and carcasses. (Indeed, all those possessed by a Kandarian Demon eventually die.) Lastly, they can temporarily possess small inanimate, non-organic objects with a SIZ equal to half the Demon’s INT, for a number of rounds also equal to half its INT. These objects can make noise or move about in a manner similar to poltergeist activity: scary but not life-threatening.

Regardless of the type of potential possession, the process for determining if the target is actually taken over remains the same: Spirit Combat.

Go through the usual routine for Spirit Combat. (Note that in a typical modern setting, targets will be rolling at one-half of their Willpower skill, as they will most likely lack the Binding skill.) Remember to calibrate the Demon’s Spiritual Combat skill based on its current POW (as derived from the number of vessels occupied as well as whether the vessel in question has been dismembered, as defined below).

Spirit Combat with a Kandarian Demon causes physical damage, as per p. 214 in the RQ6 rulebook. As soon as any location is reduced to 0 Hit Points, the target is defeated and possessed. Thus, targets that have already suffered damage from any source are much more susceptible to possession.

Possessed Vessels

The following changes are applied to a possessed vessel:
  • Reduce CHA by half. 
  • STR and CON are both doubled. Recalculate derived stats. 
  • If the vessel is non-sessile (i.e. not anchored to the ground), it gains the ability to fly as per the Sorcery spell of the same name (with the spell’s Intensity equal to the possessing Demon’s current POW).
  • Immunity to the Impale special effect.

Once possessed by a Kandarian Demon, the vessel - be it a tree, a small animal, or a human being - becomes completely subordinate to the Demon’s animate will. The life-force of the vessel is slowly consumed during the time of possession. This is reflected in a loss of POW: every hour, the Demon inflicts its current Spirit Damage stat on the vessel’s POW attribute. Once POW reaches 0, the vessel is effectively dead; even if the spirit is later exorcised, only a corpse will remain behind.

(Vessels without a POW score, such as vegetation, are considered to be instantly and fully possessed by the demonic force.)

As POW is drained, the vessel takes on increasingly alarming characteristics of decay and monstrosity. In effect, the Demon inside is transforming the vessel to resemble its true form. For every 3 points of POW lost, further reduce the vessel’s CHA (if any) by 1 point. Even vessels without a CHA score will take on an alarming and unsettling aspect.

The demonic force possesses every cell of the vessel. Thus, dismemberment doesn’t stop the vessel from continuing to act. (However, it does reduce the Demon’s power, as below.) This cellular possession also fundamentally alters the vessel’s biochemistry: blood and other fluids take on garish colors of white, dark or light red, black, or green, and overall features become much more corpselike. The typical possessed vessel has milky-white eyes, sharp teeth and nails, and exaggerated facial features; its voice is usually a demonic growl, although it can also take on other, disturbing forms, such as childlike singing.

Once a vessel is completely taken over, the Demon may create the illusion of the vessel being restored to its full CHA, speaking and appearing as it did before possession. The Demon has full access to the vessel's memories, and can use those to lure loved ones into a false sense of security. These changes are entirely illusory, and can be maintained for a number of rounds per day equal to the Demon's own CHA.

Furthermore, once a vessel's POW has reached 0, its body is putty in the hands of the possessing Demon. Bones can be broken, features completely reshaped, whatever the Demon wishes to do in order to cause the maximum amount of terror. The Demon can even reshape the vessel's physical structure, causing extremities to extend or mutate, growing a pair of wings or extra limbs, and so forth. These changes are largely cosmetic, but might have some minor game-mechanical effects subject to the Game Master's discretion.

Stopping a Kandarian Demon

Driving a Demon from its host is extremely difficult. A possessed vessel may make a single Passion roll if confronted with a trigger for that Passion. (For example, finding a necklace given to a person for whom the character holds a Love passion.) A Critical success is required on this roll. If the roll is made, the Demon is expelled.

Otherwise, the only way to stop a possessed vessel is to utterly immobilize it. Dismemberment is the first step, particularly destruction of the head. Effectively, this means damage sufficient to cause a Major Wound must be inflicted on every hit location. Alternatively, complete destruction at the hands of fire, explosion, or other sources of that nature will do the trick.

Without a head, the vessel is unable to see or hear; Demons usually react to loss of their head by going into torpor (see below). Also, a possessing Demon’s POW is divided up in the same manner as Hit Points for the purposes of dismemberment.
Example: A Kandarian Demon with a total POW of 66 has possessed three vessels, meaning each vessel now has a POW of 22. If one of these vessels has a leg lopped off, the leg becomes an independent vessel with a POW of 5 and the remaining vessel now has a reduced POW of 17.

The downside to destroying a possessed vessel is that the Demon fragment then becomes free to try and possess other vessels via Spiritual Assault, as above.

Lastly, there are words of power written in the Necronomicon. These words, when spoken, will bind the Demon once again to the Chaos rune, making it flesh, and (it is hoped) removing their foul influence from our world. However, these words must be spoken in a particular place and under particular astronomical conditions, secrets that are not contained in the book itself and that died long ago with the passing of ancient knowledge from the realms of man. Invoking the ritual to make the Demons flesh under less than propitious circumstances can have terribly unintended consequences…


A Demon can cause a possessed vessel to go into an extended torpor, either from the loss of a head, as a way to bide time, or for lack of targets to possess. The Demon effectively gives the vessel’s body back to itself. This means, if the vessel still has points of POW, it can resume its normal life. A dead vessel will take on the appearance of its former self, and, if practicable, seem to be alive, but will not be “alive” in any actual sense--a person will appear to be comatose, a tree will not grow any new limbs or buds, etc.

The possessing Demon can reassert itself at any time and without the need for any rolls.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

There and Back Again: Gen Con 2015

Well, 'tis the season I guess - the season for people posting various "here's what I did at Gen Con" reports on their sundry blogs, podcasts, vlogs, scraps of napkin, etc. Never being one to resist a bandwagon, I'll hop on this one as well.

I've actually already shared some thoughts over at Unabashed Gaming in that podcast's post-con wrap-up episode. As I'm pretty sure I mentioned during that episode, this was my first Gen Con. Hell, this was my first gaming convention, full-stop. As a result, I knew I was going into it hopelessly naive, and that horrible mistakes would be inevitable.

I came in prepared to take things in stride.

That's a bit of a pun, you see, because the biggest mistake I made was not pacing myself in terms of walking. I have terrifically flat feet. We're talking Donald Duck levels here. So I had my orthotics and my expensive ankle braces and all the rest, and thought I'd be kind of okay. Brother, I wasn't okay.

There's an app on my iPhone that tracks how many steps I take in a day. I walked about 10 miles on the first day. The second day, when I thought I was "taking it easy," I still walked five miles. By 6:00 Friday evening, my feet were in open revolt. I barely made it back to my hotel room. As a result, my Saturday was extremely curtailed, and I didn't bother with Sunday. Took about a week for the blisters to heal and for me to be able to walk normally.

"But apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?"

I was prepared as I could've been for the sheer scope and scale of the con, and it certainly didn't disappoint in that regard. My primary purpose for attending, it must be said, was networking. The tabletop gaming industry is still very much a "face-to-face" business, where meeting someone and chatting with them really counts for something. And I got to meet a lot of folks whose work I've long admired, and picked up some excellent leads for work in the process. So, mission accomplished there.

I also really wanted to experience the wonder of the dealer's hall, and I certainly did that. The place was larger than mere words can adequately describe. It was like a really big mall, but with every store selling something gaming related. Heaven.

I flew in, so I was mindful of picking up too much stuff. I think maybe next year I'll venture the two-day drive, just so that I'll have the trunk space for the return trip.

It just kept going...
Somewhat surprisingly, I focused my purchases almost exclusively on miniatures-related stuff. I snagged a copy of Warhammer Fantasy Battle 3rd Edition, got some stuff for Malifaux, a couple Ganesha Games titles... The only RPG I acquired was the Lone Wolf RPG from Cubicle Seven, and even that was simply picking up my Kickstarter due. (And getting the box signed by Joe Dever, even though he refused to sign the Random Number Table on the box interior. Boo.) This non-RPG focus is probably due to the fact that I'm quite happy with my current collection and system focus, and also partly due to the fact that I would've hit up the RPG booths on Saturday if only my wretched feet hadn't betrayed me.

Perhaps the biggest surprise came from the fact that, once I was at the con, I realized I have about zero interest in con gaming. I'd signed up for a couple RPG sessions and a miniatures game, but ditched them all. This was partly because of circumstances (the "Future of Chaosium" panel ended up conflicting with one of my scheduled games, and no way in hell was I going to miss that panel!), and partly due to my feet blowing up (the other RPG was Saturday night, and the minis game was Sunday morning), but I realized that I really wasn't broken up at all about missing those sessions. Once I got to the con and saw the reality of convention gaming, it...just left me cold. Sitting in a room filled with a bunch of active gaming tables, or even just sitting down to game with total strangers (I've traditionally only gamed with people I'd consider friends first), none of it appealed to me. And, like I said, I'm pretty happy with my current game collection and I'm not really looking to demo other systems at this time, so that motivation wasn't there either.

Eh. No thanks.
(I swiped that photo from this post, which presents a wholly opposite perspective to my stodgy stick-in-the-mud take on convention gaming. Honestly, I know there are folks out there who love con gaming, indeed some for whom it's their exclusive outlet for gaming, and I say more power to you if you enjoy that sort of thing.)

Having said that, I think next time I'll definitely make an effort to join a miniatures game or two; gaming with strangers in a noisy hall is not as onerous when it comes to wargaming. Also, I haven't ruled out running an RPG session. I might try and attend a smaller, more local con between now and next year and run something there, see how it shakes out.

At any rate, despite the physical limitations, I had a real blast and picked up a lot of valuable tips in regards to housing, food, parking, scope and scale, etc. I'll definitely be back again next year, when it's likely the total attendance will surpass that of the entire population of the town I'm living in. Yikes. I'll probably attend fewer panels (one of the reasons I did so much walking, all that trekking back and forth between panel venues) and definitely attend the ENnies ceremony (although I doubt next year will top this year for "surprise upset wins"), and, most importantly, pace myself.

Stray Observations

  • A friend, in a sarcastic text, asked if the ratio of men to women was around 10:1. I was happy to disabuse him of this notion. It perhaps wasn't at total parity, but I'd say the ratio was much closer to, say, 3:2. The stereotype that tabletop gaming is a largely male hobby really needs to die.
  • The Fantasy Flight Games line! I haven't seen a line like that since the last time I was at Disneyland. That's a game company that's doing very well, indeed.
  • On a related note, to file also under "more power to you, I guess," is the idea of going to a con and then spending hours standing on line for...what? A convention exclusive? Color me mystified.
  • I don't think anything will top the excitement of rounding a corner and seeing Ken Hite, then turning around and seeing Sandy Petersen and Greg Stafford a few feet in the other direction. That's the great thing about Gen Con - there's no barrier between you and pretty much anyone in the industry you'd like to talk to, even if it's just to shake their hand and thank them for their work.
  • Probably my biggest disappointment was being back at my hotel room, immobilized with foot pain, and seeing the notice come through on my phone that +Sean Patrick Fannon was running a Savage Rifts pick-up demo game. Now that's a con game I would've gladly participated in! Cursed flat feet!

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