Friday, September 4, 2015

A Most Thoroughly Pernicious Pamphlet

Mateo Diaz Torres has released his hopefully first compilation of material related to his old school D&D campaign, Pernicious Albion: A Thoroughly Pernicious Pamphlet. Don't let the title fool you. The setting may be pernicious, but the pamphlet is like a rejuvenating tonic.

The setting itself is one of the most interesting ones to come out of the blogosphere in the past few years. In brief, it's author describes it as: "Austenian body horror fairy tale role-playing." To much of a tease? Well, perhaps this more expansive quote will elucidate: "It’s all insane angel conspiracies, occult aristocracy, revenant Romans, tennis with vampires, evil couture, Ars Goetia, royal spawning pits, realpolitik, light homoeroticism, and lakes of human teeth." Having had the pleasure of playing in Mat's game, I can personally attest to the vampires and tennis--and a lot of sort of "comedy of manners" interactions with frightening entities of great power, punctuated with discrete episodes of killing things and/or taking their stuff.

So the pamphlet: It's an introduction--just a taste to leave you wanting more, but in 17 pages it manages to convey a lot of the flavor of the setting. It's got two new old schoolish classes: the vampire and the warlock (a nice streamlining and refining of the 5e warlock), and has setting-based modifications of the cleric and magic-user. Three supernatural entities are detailed (patrons for warlocks or whoever) with there own goals and granted abilities. Then, there's armor, coinage, and languages: the mundanities or worldbuilding rendered interesting and evocative here.

As that description suggests, it's really a nice player's manual for the setting, which I suspect means the more expansive "GM's book" is to follow.

A Thoroughly Pernicious Pamphlet is available in pdf and hardcopy. Check out the ordering details here.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Different Takes on Clerics

While on my vacation I did have a could of ideas of different ways to approach clerics. Nothing that would change there mechanics really, but changes to their "fiction" within D&D-like implied settings.

A God for Every Cleric
D&D talks a lot about clerics acquiring followers and whatnot, but only level titles hint at them being in a hierarchy from the outset. Maybe that's because every one of them adds a new god/Avatar/Saint/interpretation? They're struggles are the beginning of something at least partially new. Each cleric is the founder of a new cult, if not a whole new religion, and their deeds are its founding legends.

Saints & Madmen
Maybe clerics aren't priests with orders and heirarchies at all? Maybe they're crazy hermits and empowered saints? I've thought along these lines before, but there clerics were evangelists of a new apocalyptic cult. This way, they have always existed, but they're holy and special. Not all priests have spells.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Wednesday Comics:The Coming of the Slayer

"The Coming of the Slayer"
Weirdworld #3 (October 2015), Written by Jason Aaron; Art by Michael Del Mondo

Synopsis: Arkon and Warbow manage to fight their way free of the magma men that had them surrounded last issue. They drop into a conveniently waiting boat in the lava below. They make good their escape, but not before Warbow yells their names defiantly to the magma men.

Once they are in a place of safety, Arkon is eager to take his leave of the obviously somewhat mad Warbow. He asks for the map he was promised before he goes:

While just has crazy, the map doesn't at all resemble what Arkon had on his map. Warbow explains the land is called Weirdworld for a reason--it's everchanging.

Meanwhile, the magma men report to Morgan Le Fay the two heroes escape--and their names. She decides to send an assassin after Arkon, a man named Skull the Slayer. Skull is busy slaying elves when he gets the message.

He and Arkon meet up at a tavern. After an exchange of vague grimness, the fight commences. The Slayer seems to have the better of him, until Arkon causes them both to plummet from the mountain into a jungle below.

Another obscure Marvel character makes his appearance: James "Skull" Scully.

Monday, August 31, 2015

What I Did (and Didn't Do) on My Vacation

Very little rpg-related, is the short answer, but I'm back and ready to resume my usual blogging schedule. I figure the best place to start is with a product update.

On the Strange Stars front: the good news first. Work on the old school gamebook is going to accelerate, thanks to the Fate book being (mostly) put to bed, vacation behind me, and Robert "Savage World of Krul" Parker's help.

Now the bad news. I had hoped to be announcing this week that the Fate book would be released in a another few days to a week, but alas, that is not to be. A file crash (which I'm told is a known issue with large InDesign files) caused us to lose the most of the last edits. B. Portly is having to put those back in a second time. My hope is that that won't take too long, but I can't give a specific timeframe.

Beyond Strange Stars, I've been planning to devote my energies next to doing a couple of adventures. In Doom's Wake is a piratical thing that I've already talked about the first playtest of here. The other is set in the Land of Azurth, my current 5e game world, and will be called The Cloud Castle of Azurth. You'll be heairng more about these on the blog, but Strange Stars will be done before either of these sees the light of day.

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Catalog of Baroque Space

Too John Dee and Paracelsus to be Spelljammer, too antiquated and weird to be Space: 1899. Here's all the posts I've written on Baroque Space in one place:

Baroque Space: The Argument.
The Planetary Spheres: A cosmos in one place.
The Fae Moon: Is an eldritch mistress
The Inner Planets: Mercurians and Venerians.
Among the Asteroids: Random asteroids.
Death & Time: Saturn is a gloom place.
Famous Pirates of Baroque Space: Dashing villains all, I'm sure.
Social Classes: Life on Earth.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wednesday Comics: A Marvel-ous Treasury of Oz

You may be familiar with the Eric Shanower scripted, Skottie Young illustrated Oz adaptations published under the Marvel Illustrated line. If not, you can still get them in the trade--even in an omnibus. These are not Marvel's first forays into Oz. For that, we have to look back to 1975, and Marvel's first collaboration with DC.

By the 70s, the MGM film had become a yearly television event. Mego launched a toyline based on it in 1975. Marvel and DC are (coincidentally) both planning comics adaptations. When this is discovered, Infantino and Lee agree they should jointly publish the venture. The book as eventually published winds up with the title MGM's Marvelous Wizard of Oz and a Marvel creative team: Roy Thomas for script, John Buscema on pencils, and inks by Tony DeZuniga's Filipino crew, "the Tribe." It was published in the larger "treasury" format.

Apparently, a story pre-branded with "Marvelous" in the title was just too much for the House of Ideas to pass up--particularly when said book was in the public domain so no licenses need be paid--so 1975 saw a treasury-sized adaptation of the second Oz book, the Marvelous Land of Oz. The full title (according the indicia) is Marvel Treasury of Oz featuring The Marvelous Land of Oz. Thomas again scripts, but this time art is by Alfredo Alcala.

Marvel apparently planned at least third go in 1976. A house ad proclaims that Ozma of Oz is coming with the same creative team. Apparently, quite a bit of art was done, and Thomas was even working on the script of the fourth book, when Marvel discovers that Ozma isn't in public domain (and it wouldn't be until 1983). The John Buscema cover is still around, too:

Marvel based their character designs on the MGM film throughout the series, giving a sort of glimpse into what it might have looked like if the movie had become the sort of franchise that's common today. Of course, new characters had to be introduced, which tend to look like a Marvelized version of John R Neill's art work in the original books.

Monday, August 17, 2015

In Doom's Wake Again

This weekend the expedition into the weird weed sea around the Doom's Wake continued. After the unexpected assault last time (for the pirates, but also the PC's actions for surprisingly effective to me as the GM). The pirate's get on a little better footing. Good rolls and strategy (involving a druid transformed into a bear and a cloud of daggers in front of a door) let the PCs the prevailed against lieutenants shark-faced Squalo and starfish-headed sorcerer Astero, as well as a dozen nameless pirates. It did not, however, prevent the pirates from informing their compatriots the PCs were coming.

By luck as much as design, the player's avoided a confrontation with the grim matriarch of the pirates, which very likely would have resulted in their deaths--and probably unhappiness with the adventure. This was not an old school crowd inured to the total party kill. The warnings by NPCs made them more curious than afraid, but in the end the learning the prisoners they sought were actually held elsewhere made them move on.

On the next assault, the pirates had the high ground and a warning the PCs were coming. There was even an ambush by the lamprey-faced lieutenant Handsome Blut with a wight's drain attack! In the end though fate left Blut with really bad rolls and the superior numbers of the PCs forced him to flee, badly injured.

The victory at the prison ship was more attributable to good player tactics. They had an approach over the weeds that left them easy targets for pirate crossbows, but they used an obscuring mist and minor illusions to improve their odds. The pirates were also beginning to feel the loss in their numbers.

In the end, the prisoners were rescued, but by negotiation, not force. Some pirates were left alive to continue their raids, and the source of the pirate queen's particular interest in Ligeia Marsh, adopted daughter of Clegg Hobtree, major of the Raedel, remained a background mystery.

One of the player's (an experienced GM of other games) suggested weakening the mook pirates, and increasing the power of the more colorful lieutenants. Uping the lieutenants power is probably a good idea, though the pirates were probably about as weak as they can get. The difficult with them is just a nature of their number and the D&D system. It may be I need to think about the staging of the encounters though, so perhaps fewer mook pirates might be necessary.