Friday, August 29, 2014

Goth of the Week

Claudia, picture by Mick Mercer (from his Gothic Rock). Found here.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Working On Stuff And A Personal Pep Talk

With some delays due to worldly affairs, I am still working hard on the retroclone of Fantasy Wargaming. Every once in a while, when I think about this project, I realize how much it is a labor of love. Hardly anyone else remembers that game with fondness as I do, and even restructuring it and developing it to make it more comprehensible and playable without a lot of interpretations and house-rulings (you know, like the original D&D boxed set required) are not likely to make it anything like a best-seller, even as roleplaying games go. Several reviews online are mostly hatchet jobs by people who have self-admittedly never played it, or who claim to have played it but seem to have missed a lot of details that might indicate that they are misremembering things (Mass and Confession do not cost mana in the game, they generate it for transfer to God, so that was a weird thing to say - some of the comments fix several of his misconceptions). It occasionally shows up in forum threads about "the worst RPG of all time", again from people who have manifestly never played it. Some just claim without evidence that the game has been "universally slammed" (as I recall, that capsule review is abbreviated from a more extensive and harsh original). I should point out at this point that I am talking about (and always have been on this blog) the Bruce Galloway, et al. game of that name, not the Martin Hackett miniatures rules (Hackett's system was later given a roleplaying supplement as Fantasy Gaming). I may discuss the latter at some point, but I will use the RPG title of those rules, rather than the title of the earlier, more purely miniatures rules.

It does help my morale at those times to recall that there are some pages on the internet which treat the game with the respect it deserves, not even counting my own review, and that the hatchet thread on RPGGeek (originally on BoardGameGeek, since that is where the game was originally, mistakenly, placed) I linked above is filled with some people who defend the game against the original posted review. And even in the most vile pits of gaming toxicity, there have been attempts to treat it on its own terms (the threadstarter gives his final analysis here,and I should mention in that context that, as far as I can tell, the authors got the thing about slaves singing from Petronius, as singing slaves is a repeated trope in the Satyricon, especially around Trimalchio). Actually, as I research this post, I see that as time has gone on the hatchet reviews by uninformed reviewers has been dwindling as a fraction of the total number, and that they have been replaced by reviews that are either, like mine, focused on the potential of the game, or at worst lay it out as a mediocre attempt, but full of inspirational material, or as a bizarre reminder of how beautifully crazy gamers can get.

As I keep on with this project, I see places where I'd like to expand it for use in other settings than just "Europe" (by which the game seems to mean, largely, England, France, Germany, and Italy, plus Scandinavia and Iceland in the early period, with a passing nod to the Celtic Fringe). I'd like to work in the Celtic world more completely (and given the evidence of polytheist practices up into the 14th century or so, I'd like to cover that material), the Muslim world from Persia to Moorish Spain, which was so vital to the Medieval period in Europe, the Balkans and Greece, Eastern Europe generally, the Caucasus, maybe even India, China, the Mongols, and Japan. Actually, I should probably cover the Mongols regardless, considering the effect that they had on Medieval Europe. Africa would be fascinating (imagine the Songhay or Mali Empires, or Zanzibar), as would the Pacific Islands, the source of the term "mana", though I'd have to learn a lot more than I currently know to be able to present those areas. The things that I'd have to do to incorporate those are pretty extensive, actually, as I'd have to work out how to phase out the astrology of Europe for those other locales. China and Japan would use Taoist ideas, of course, with Japan focusing on the concepts of Onmyōdō for example. India might use variations of astrology, though, and so would the Muslim world, so that wouldn't require as much alteration. I might have to come up with an entirely new way to handle some aspects of Buddhism, in order to keep up the approach of treating the world as the people of the time thought it to be (though, to be sure, some aspects could be handled in the same manner as Saints or polytheist gods). Even though it doesn't have substantial contact with these other places during the period, it might be worth the time to work on the Americas at some point, if for no other reason than to present the Skraelings for Viking explorers and colonists (and to be honest, the Inca and Aztec peoples are just plain fascinating).

Obviously, those things are ideas that I should put off to the future. I need to finish the basic game first.

What Medieval-era settings interest you most, meaning from the late 5th century through 1485CE?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Goth of the Week

The incredible Laurel R. Dodge, artist, burlesque performer, all-around wonderful woman, and another of my friends. This photo is from the 2013 Vampire Masquerade Ball in Portland, OR.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sixguns & Sorcery

Ever since Gary Gygax included a section on converting Boot Hill to use with AD&D in the DMG under that title, I have been attracted to the idea of a fantasy setting with revolvers instead of broadswords, boomtowns, stagecoaches, stetsons, and such. Heck, I remember reading an issue of The Avengers where they, along with Moondragon, pursued Kang the Conqueror back to the Old West (and they teamed up with the Two-Gun Kid), so all sorts of Marvel-style magic and whatnot got going in the setting, to say nothing of Jonah Hex. I've come closer and closer to what I want to do over the years. The inclusion of a variation of the Spirit Magic system from GURPS Voodoo: The Shadow War in the last edition of GURPS Old West under the 3E rules (to cover Native American shamanism in game terms) was enlightening. Until recently, though, I had thought of it as the American West. Suddenly, a couple years back while re-reading The Lord of the Rings for the umpteenth time, I realized that I could create a separate fantasy world, with only the vaguest references to the real world, for the concept. I'd been told that I should read Stephen King's "Dark Tower" series in relation to the idea, too, so I picked those up recently and enjoyed them greatly (I liked the stories of Roland's younger days with his first ka-tet the better of the two periods that King chronicles, but both were quite excellent), but King's parallel universes aren't really what I want to explore with this. Which is not to say that I wouldn't play in a game someone was running set in Mid-World, because I sure would!

In researching for this blog entry, I've learned about a few other such settings, such as Teara Adan, and of course Castle Falkenstein had a supplement titled Sixguns & Sorcery, but they aren't quite what I'm looking to do. Specifically, I am not interested in making it a steampunk setting. It is decidedly fantasy, not science fiction, even of the Victorian style. Deadlands is pretty close, but a little further over-the-top than I want, plus it is tied to the historical Old West. As with Mid-World, if someone else were running any of these, I'd be up for it.

So here's what I've got going. I am going to run a solo game (using Mythic Game Master Emulator and GURPS 4E). Right now, I don't know much detail about the world other than the name of one county (Tioga County) located on the Great Plain. I've been calling it, alternately, the Sixguns & Sorcery game and the Tioga County game. Neither of those are ideal, but I haven't figured out what I want to call it for sure yet. I know that, someday, I will have characters in Tioga County who will work through a scenario based on the initial conditions, in a general sense, of the real-world Lincoln County War (famous for being the main exploits of Billy the Kid, and subject of movies from Chisum to Young Guns, and many others besides). I think that scenario will include the characters I call the Shootist and the Witch, David McArthur and Lizzie Hanchard, who I introduced on Friday with representative pictures, but I can't know that for certain, as they might die in a scenario before then. A lot of the details of the world will be generated as part of the Mythic GME process. In any case, it won't start in Tioga County or be centered around that area until the Tioga County War scenario gets going, and there's that issue of the Castle Falkenstein supplement. Maybe I should just stick with Fantasy West.

I do know a couple of things, I guess. I know that there are spirits and gods, known collectively as the fatas, but I only have the vaguest ideas about who exactly they are. There are something like traveling revivalist preachers. I know that technology is not much advanced beyond what existed in North America in 1860-70 or so, but there are no steam engines and so no trains. It's a world made almost entirely by hand. I'm pretty sure that there is a network of telegraph wires, though, run by animal- or water-powered generators. I know that metallic cartridge ammunition exists, but costs ten times as much as would be expected due to the difficulties of hand manufacture - most people rely on cap and ball with paper cartridges for ease of loading, and might even carry a bullet mold sized for their specific weapon. I know that there are semi-nomadic tribes living in the wilderness surrounding the towns, who don't have a lot of metallurgy (it's hard to carry a forge around with you), but trade for such items. I am not playing with the racism of the real-world Old West, so these tribes somewhat resemble the "barbarians" of the Hârn setting. I do have a vague idea that there are different cultures: in addition to the towns and the "barbarian" tribes, there are something like Mexicans in the south, some pseudo-Mormons in the mountain west, more civilized kingdoms (I think? They might be republics) in the east and the southern part of the west coast, pirate kingdoms along the southern coast, maybe some others. So, I guess I have a vague outline of a continent somewhat like North America in mind, but it's subject to change.

For rules, I plan to use the "Path/Book Magic" system found in GURPS Thaumatology, because I like it a lot. I want to use some of the more involved systems like Technical Grappling and "The Last Gasp", so that I can learn to use them more proficiently. Running solo means that I can spend as much time as I like figuring out what to use and when - I don't have to worry about pacing at the table. I'll definitely be using Social Engineering for personal interactions, which should make the solo game more manageable, or something. I'm trying to decide on whether I want to use Divine Intervention. I'm leaning to "no", though. There is definitely alchemy, which is mostly known by traveling snake oil salesmen (not all of whom are legitimate alchemists) and the occasional drugstore chemist in the larger towns. Some of the more adventurer-ready potions are pretty rare, though, as they tend to focus on healing potions of various kinds (and the occasional love potion), which is what they can sell to the average person. GURPS Martial Arts will be in use, though I am unsure as yet how prevalent various fighting styles will be. I plan to use the detailed gunfighting material from Tactical Shooting, and perhaps some of the more benign systems from Gun Fu. Some "cinematic" material is available, such as Gunslinger and Trained by a Master, but otherwise the setting is intended to be fairly gritty, with blood loss rules and other detailed injury material in effect. If it ever comes to it, I plan to use the "Tactical Mass Combat" variant. I dislike narrative rules like Signature Gear and the like, so those are not in effect. For timed advantages like Luck, I'll treat each "scene" under Mythic GME as an hour of play, regardless of how long it actually takes, and allow the characters an appropriate number of uses per scene. By default, NPCs will have Pacifism (Reluctant Killer) unless they have a reason not to have it, such as an alternative mental disadvantage representing some type of sociopathy or the like, or a (cheap, maybe 5 points) unusual background. Chances are I'll build these ideas into many of my PCs, too. Certainly, Lizzie Hanchard is a Reluctant Killer, though David McArthur has disadvantages representing his difficulties sleeping well (Insomnia and Light Sleeper) instead.

Speaking of "The Last Gasp", I've made a small change to it, as the fatigue recovery rates are just too punishing as far as I can see. They don't interact well with a number of the original systems, such as hiking. That's easily remedied, though, and can still keep the intent of the original by moving each category down a level, as it were, and making the quickest category based on 120 minutes. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry too much about it. It's a way to make fatigue a serious expenditure, which complements the Action Point system of short-term fatigue that the article introduces, rather than the original system which allows full recovery of all fatigue in a couple of hours, and the fatigue of most fights in 10 or 20 minutes.)

Let me see… I know that there are werewolves running through the woods (probably not like the ones in Ginger Snaps Back, but that is definitely inspirational material). Snolligosters, Whirling Whimpuses, and of course Jackalopes are around and about, among other creatures of North American legend. There may be dragons, I am not sure, or maybe dinosaurs. Or both.

Some of the specific movies that inspire the setting include (but obviously this isn't all):

Dead Man
Django Kill! If You Live, Shoot!
Eyes of Fire
Ginger Snaps Back
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
High Plains Drifter
I am Sartana, Trade Your Guns for a Coffin
If You Meet Sartana, Pray for Your Death
The Magnificent Seven
Pale Rider
The Resurrectionist (an obscure one, to be sure)
Romasanta (aka Werewolf Hunter)
The Strangers Gundown
They Call Me Trinity
El Topo
The Valley of Gwangi

I want to add The Phantom Empire, but I've never yet had a chance to see it.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Flanaess Sector

One of the campaigns that runs around in my head, that I'd like to run or better still play in, is what I tentatively call "Flanaess Sector". This is AD&D as a science fiction/science fantasy setting, though running it as a nearly hard-SF game (as "hard" as Traveller, say) could be very interesting indeed. Psionics and the Psionicist replace magic, technology is used instead of magic items, and the alien races are drawn from the more outré AD&D monsters. What it would need is a collection of new character classes, new technological items, starship rules, and perhaps trade and commerce rules (to handle Traveller style merchant campaigns, which are wonderfully flexible).

The aliens are mainly what I've given my thought to, little though it has been so far. I imagine an empire of Illithids, Ropers (which I imagine as being the first race that the Illithids were parasitic upon, drawing on the Urophion from The Illithiad) in a small sphere of resistance to the Illithids, Grell (in the Colonial Grell variety from Spelljammer), Neo-Otyugh, Neogi from Spelljammer with their Umber Hulk servants, maybe Xorn treated as a silicon-based life form, Flumphs, Ixitxachitl (suitably modified to not be based around Clerics, though they would make a great evil theocracy), Aboleths, and maybe a few others. I also greatly enjoy the Tyranids from Warhammer 40,000, so maybe those too. I don't have much love for humanoid aliens, but who knows? Maybe there are orcs or tabaxi among the stars.

The character classes might be based on the ones in Stars Without Number or maybe even Starships & Spacemen 2nd Edition, but rewritten to fit better with AD&D rather than B/X. Or, more likely, a set of interesting classes could be written from nearly whole cloth. I envision, in addition to the Psionicist I mentioned, Soldier, Pilot, Engineer (or Technician), maybe Merchant, Conman, and a few others. It being AD&D, there would be room for quite a few character class options. The classes in the old WotC Star Wars game might not be a bad set of choices.

Starships could be handled with any of a variety of systems. The aforementioned Starships & Spacemen and Stars Without Number are the obvious choices, but Terminal Space or some other OD&D-based SF supplement would be workable, as well. For that matter, Traveller's starships would work well, too. As an alternative, perhaps a system of Gates, similar to the ones in the Judges' Guild "Portals" trilogy, could connect the worlds. Perhaps not, though, as starships are half the reason to play SF instead of fantasy.

Here's a list of all the intelligent monsters from AD&D that I think would make good aliens: Aboleths, Beholders (but I don't want to use them, although there is a whole society built around them, especially in Spelljammer), Dopplegangers, Dragons (maybe, but if so, then especially the Blue or Black varieties), Flumphs, Formians (centaur-ants), Galeb Duhr (maybe, they're perhaps a little "magicky"), Grell (Colonial), Intellect Devourers, Ixitxachitl, Lizard Men, Mind Flayers, Myconids (there's also an ecology of mobile fungi for their homeworld, not to mention the special molds and slimes could be from their native environment, too), Neo-Otyughs, Ropers, Thri-kreen (mantis warriors), Treants (should they keep their ability to animate trees? I don't know; probably not, which is also a way to "fix" Galeb Duhr), Umber Hulks, and Xorn. Mi-go (if the DM has the first print Deities and Demigods) would fit perfectly into the setting.

As I said, I would prefer not using any humanoids (other than Lizard Men, Dopplegangers, and Myconids, perhaps), but if I did I would stick to the less common ones like Crabmen, Aarakocra (bird-men), Tabaxi (cat-men), Banderlogs, Grippli, and the like. Xill could be interesting, though they should probably have their ethereal powers and nature removed.

It might be interesting to include a "transcended" species that manifests as the faery creatures like Sprites, Pixies, and the like (there's a useful "ruling caste" for them to be found in Adventures Dark and Deep called Faeries). There's a race like that in the Star Fleet Universe, in the Omega Octant, called the Loriyill. Their starships have semi-magical effects like space fireballs and such.

Anyway, it seems like it could be a lot of fun, and leveraging the more science fiction/science fantasy elements of D&D seems like a good idea to me.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Feeling Bleh

No Goth of the Week this week due to meh. I'm thinking about what I want to post, but don't have anything ready and figured that I'd take some time off. Next week, though, is one of my favorite people. I'm also hoping to maybe get some actual playing time in for once this weekend, which will mean play reports. If I do, it's going to be the Tioga County game (sixguns & sorcery in a fantasy world similar to the Old West). I just have to finish making up the Witch, who is the second partner in my couple I call the Shootist and the Witch. The Shootist is David McArthur, a gunslinging adventurer. The Witch is Elizabeth "Lizzie" Hanchard, who talks to spirits.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Goth of the Week Two Year Anniversary Special

I began the Goth of the Week series on this blog two years ago today, with this entry. The idea for the series came from a blog called Underworld Cleaning Service, which has since gone quiet. He had his own Goth of the Week running for a while, though he didn't tag every post in that series. When he first went quiet, before he came back very briefly, I decided that I liked the series enough to want to keep it running. I picked a photo of a woman who was particularly lovely in my eyes, and I still think that she is among the most beautiful women I've seen. I had originally intended to use her picture to illustrate a V&V character I named Titania (and I'll probably give her stats at some point). I've since learned that her photo was taken at Wave Gotik Treffen in 2011, and have found more pictures of her, but still do not know her name. Anyway, I thought that maybe I should include some more photos of her today to celebrate two years of lovely goth people.

More behind the cut:

Friday, August 8, 2014

Goth of the Week

Sinflower, who is too weird to live, too rare to die. Photo found here.

The 10th will be two years since I started this series, so I have a special post planned for Sunday. See you then!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Another GURPS 4E Resource - Old West NPCs

I worked on this for a while, and I will probably get back to it. The plan was a sixguns & sorcery setting, with the Old West standing in for the more typical Barbarian or Medieval background. I love the idea, and I want to play in it, but my ideas for it are a little further-reaching than I'd wanted. Still, I have this for it. "This" refers to a set of NPC templates, built out of the NPCs in The Knuckleduster Cowtown Creator, one of the most useful resources for an Old West setting (whether game or fiction writing) that I've ever seen. The templates in that product were given stats for either Deadlands or D20, which wasn't very useful to me. However, GURPS Deadlands included conversion rules for Deadlands to GURPS Deadlands in the Dime Novel adventure titled Aces & Eights. Using the conversions straight resulted in heavily overpowered NPCs (the "Loafer" template, for example, originally weighed in at over 100 points!), so I toned them down considerably using a number of techniques. I still think that the point values might be a touch high, but they should work well enough for a high adventure setting. I also didn't convert the train-based templates (Conductor, Train Robber, etc.), as there aren't any trains in my sixguns & sorcery setting.

As usual, because of the lengthy nature, the actual stats are behind a cut.

Friday, August 1, 2014