Monday, March 31, 2014

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Day 31: What out-of-print RPG would you most like to see back in publication?

The original RuneQuest, because I totally missed it the first time around.   Back in high school I subscribed (and occasionally contributed) to a gaming fanzine called Alarums & Excursions.  It was sort of a collection of blogs--but on paper, because this was the late 70's and the internet was still 20 years away.  Little did I know at the time that the people contributing were some of the biggest names in RPG gaming: Wilf K. Backhaus, David A. Hargrave, Rob Heinsoo, Robin Laws, Dave Nalle, Mark Rein-Hagen, Jonathan Tweet, etc.  The vast majority of the content was about D&D, which I didn't play, and this other game which I totally hadn't heard about called RuneQuest.  At the time my limited gaming funds all went to Chivalry & Sorcery or Traveler so I never got to even read the books, much less play.  But it all sounded pretty cool and I was particularly intrigued by the non-medieval setting.   Nowadays the rules mechanics and the world setting "intellectual properties" are apparently owned by separate entities.  But I'd love to see reprints of the original.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Day 30: Which non-D&D supplemental product should everyone know about?

Hmm, well I guess it depends on how "non-D&D" you mean.  The first thing which springs to mind is the Book of Ebon Bindings for Empire of the Petal Throne.  It is a chillingly realistic-sounding tome on Tsoly├íni demonology, right down to all the gruesome details.  Demon after demon is detailed, complete with weird and grotesque summoning rituals.

Or, there are the excellent paper miniatures at iheartprintandplay.  I love the Order of the Stick style art for the figures.  They are a refreshing diversion from the usually serious and realistic art you get for RPGs.  I think of these as the perfect miniatures for playing Old School Hack.

Or, lastly, the Abyssals supplement for Exalted.  The Abyssal Exalted are souls of persons who took a dark bargain at the moment of death and now are Deathknights serving the underworld.  Although they are bound to their masters they still have free will and drives and desires left over from their tragic previous life.  If I ran an Exalted campaign it would be an Abyssal campaign.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Hooray! The first book of the new Pathfinder "Egyptian" Adventure Path arrived!

Yes, after a long wait I finally got my copy of The Half-Dead City, volume one of the Mummy's Mask adventure path for Pathfinder.  Ever since I found out that the Golarion campaign world for Pathfinder had a "not-Egypt" country in it called Osirion I've been wanting them to do an Adventure Path set there. 

They had some cool stuff on Ancient Osirion in their Lost Empires book and a huge dungeon called the Pyramid of Kamaria in their Dungeons of Golarion book, but I wanted more!  Well they finally did it and so I totally take back all that stuff I said earlier.  After I finish reading it I'll do a review.

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Day 29: What OSR product have you enjoyed most?

This would the Desert of Desolation modules for AD&D.  They were rather railroady but of the few dungeon modules I've bought I like them the best.  Yes, it's partly because I'm really into ancient Egypt.  I ran these for my group in college and they were a lot of fun.  Because I mostly play Pathfinder nowadays I'm thinking of working up a campaign in the not-Egypt land of Osirion in Pathfinder's Golarion game world.  These modules would work perfectly there.

Friday, March 28, 2014

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Day 28: What free RPG or what non-English RPG did you enjoy most?

What free RPG or what non-English RPG did you enjoy most?  That's easy: Old School Hack (OSH) by Kirin Robinson.  Old School Hack is absolutely brilliant.  It is a superb mix of Old D&D elements with modern game design.  You get all the flavor of the early editions of D&D but with a very streamlined and flexible set of rules.  Not only that but the rules, character sheets, and playing aids are all included in a free pdf of under 30 pages.  Along with OSH I would include the expanded version of it, Fictive Hack, by Andrew Shields.  I heartily recommend you check out both games.

I ran two sessions of this which were mini dungeon adventures.  The rules were a pleasure to play, both for the DM and the players.  Later, we adopted the Awesome Point rules for our Castles & Crusades game.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Day 27: What IP that doesn’t have an RPG deserves it?

I had to think about this one a bit.  I'm not usually attracted to games based on "intellectual properties" (that phrase really puts me off--it's very capitalist-lawyer speak) for some reason.  Maybe I assume if I really liked the original source I won't like what they do to it in the game.  Sort of like avoiding watching the movie of a book you really liked.

My first thought was the books of my favorite author, Jack Vance.  Most of them have interesting cultures and settings which would be fun to game in.  My first thought was his Planet of Adventure series, which is probably my favorite, but I just found out there's an old GURPS book on it which I'd never heard of before.  And there's already a game for his Dying Earth novels.  So for me that leaves The Dragon Masters.

The details of the setting are in the linked Wikipedia entry above, so I won't retype them all here.  But you've got human clans with roughly 17th century technology and several breeds of "dragon" which are actually heavily inbred reptilian aliens.  These are trained to fight, including using weapons.  In the book the original aliens return to the planet to capture humans as slaves and inbreeding material and to bombard to rubble any sign of advance civilization.  But a game based on The Dragon Masters would probably be better if the aliens lived on the same planet with the humans rather than descending from the sky only once in a long while.  If there were several clans of humans with their inbred alien "dragons" and several factions of aliens with their heavily inbred human "servants", you could do a Game of Thrones type military/political campaign.

But it would also have the added fun of rolling up your "dragon" as well as your human character.  You could have the original dragons from the book to choose from and/or a build-your-own system for the players to each create their own types.  Plus, different human clans could each have their own unique set of dragon breeds to add more variety.

I'll go with The Dragon Masters for this one.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Day 26: What RPG based on an IP did you enjoy most?

I haven't played too many RPGs based on an intellectual property (IP).  There are quite a lot out there now.  In the early days I remember we were constantly wishing that someone would do a game based on X.  But for this challenge question I'll have to say Call of Cthulhu.  Star Wars was a close second, but I haven't played it a lot.

I first came across the Call of Cthulhu novels around the end of my college days.  I was immediately thrilled with them and quickly bought up every one I could find.  Naturally when an RPG appeared for it I pounced on it.  I'm in a CoC game now, after all these years, and it's still fantastic.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Day 25: Which game has the sleekest, most modern engine?

Which game has the sleekest, most modern engine?  Hmm, that's hard to say.  I often find that games which tout an "engine" don't really have anything as intricate as an actual engine.  The word engine brings to mind lots of gears and other moving parts all beautifully synchronized in an adaptable way.

For this challenge question I'll go with Albedo: Platinum Catalyst.

One of the things I liked right off is that to create a character you start with picking species (yes, it's a "furry" game).  Then you choose a homeworld, and then you choose a personality.  Yes, you choose a personality.  The stats are Body, Clout, and Drive, which area nice break from the typical D&D style (or D&D derived) stats.  All characters (or really "all personnel", since it's a military game) also have a Social Political Intelligence index rating.  This is not only something on your character sheet but an actual in-game rating for your character.  Your starting military rank and later promotions (and demotions) are based on this SPI.

There is not only physical combat (Body), but social combat (Clout), and psychological combat (Drive).  I rather liked that there were three different types of "combat" built in.  And since your SPI is calculated as 10 + Clout + Drive, social and psychological "damage" has additional consequences.

Anyway, of the games I've really looked at I would rate Albedo: Platinum Catalyst as having the sleekest, most modern engine.

Monday, March 24, 2014

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Days 23 and 24

I thought that these two challenge questions might be best answered together.  And I totally deny all those rumors about being lazy or something.

What is the most broken game that you tried and were unable to play?
Hmm, I'm not sure I've really played anything I thought was broken.  I can usually spot games which are likely to be "broken", either by reading them or reading several reviews.  So I usually just avoid them in the first place.  For this question I think I'll have to go with Teenage Mutant Turtles and Other Strangeness by Palladium.  I wanted to run a sort of X-Files game with it but I found myself swapping in more and more house rules until I finally chucked it and made up my own very simple rules based more on Paranoia than anything else.

What is the most broken game that you tried and loved to play, warts and all?
Sadly I must admit that this would be my beloved Chivalry & Sorcery.  A lot of the rules were a mess.  For instance, there was only one type of cleric and it was a boring class to play.  There was a lot of unnecessarily complex math involved in generating a character.  If D&D 3E had come along then I would have dropped it like a hot potato.  But we ran with it anyway because it was what we had (well, all that I had) and it worked enough to play with.  In the end we all had a lot of fun with it and that was what counted.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Chronicles of the Amazing Trevor: Chapter Thirteen (The Lady Awaits)

We further scrutinized the members of the Council and their chamber from our vantage point in the balcony but at length we became peckish and decided to repair to the inn for supper.  The inn, which rejoiced in the lyrical appellation "The Taproom", was ready to receive us.  We were just tucking into the cook's finest when we chanced to overhear a man and woman nearby.  The woman was very upset because her brother and numerous other people, apparently mostly lower-class types, had gone missing of late.  Her male companion cautioned her not to get involved.  When he stepped away for a moment I went over and introduced myself.  Upon inquiring about the missing persons she mentioned that there was a notice board at the park with notes about some of them.  I assured her that we would do what we could.

Now, normally I'm not one for the gallant knight routine but in this case I suspected that these other disappearances might be related to the those of the Natal family.  As we discussed this new bit of news we were interrupted by a pair of gnomes, with the typically improbable gnomish names of Bulb and Gimp.  I glanced about and noted that our own gnome Boomtock had not returned from his perambulations.  Careless coincidence or careful calculation?  One could only speculate.  The two fellows were most anxious to meet with Boomtock, much in the way that a professional loanshark's kneecappers are anxious to meet their clients.  With little prompting they explained that the fellow had seduced a good many of the young lasses in their little gnomish enclave and his immediate return there was of the utmost importance in order that he begin his paternal responsibilities.  This did at least help explain why he was currently pursuing the life of a gentleman of the road with such gusto.  The two rushed off, allegedly to prepare a fun "surprise" for Boomtock.

Eager as I was to watch Boomtock enjoy his lovely "surprise" I went with the rest of our party to visit the notice board at the park mentioned by the distraught woman.  On the way we came upon a delightfully well-appointed carriage.  Glancing inside discreetly K espied a very fashionably dressed woman with light brown hair--and the young heir Broderick!  Just at that moment the coachman whipped up the horses and the coach moved off smartly.  I alerted my fellows and Uhmri, stout lad, volunteered to give chase.

The rest of us soon fell behind the Wolfskin Wonder and we decided to continue on to the park and rendezvous with Uhmri there.  Arriving, we found that there was indeed a message board with numerous notes pleading for help finding missing friends and relatives.  Several mentioned a place called Inspiration Point.  We then surveyed the scene as we waited for Uhmri to return.  A man in the tasteful attire of a wealthy gentleman-cavalier passed nearby with a small boy.  We overheard some persons nearby refer to him as Lord Cayden, however they also remarked that he seemed to have a different young boy with him each time he took the air.

Now, normally I would take an immediate interest in any potential patron with a noble title, but this business about small boys gave me great pause.  In my previous life with the carnival one of the clowns was found to be procuring young boys from panderers in the worst parts of town.  After finding him with one of them in a state of undress we left him at the bottom of a canal.  It's one thing to match wits with an adult, but quite another to exploit pathetic little urchins like I once was.

Boomtock then put in a surprise appearance.  We informed him of the two fellows from his village who earnestly desired to meet with him.  We also pressed him as to whether he did indeed have numerous offspring awaiting his fatherly attentions.  The gnome quite freely admitted to his multiple indiscretions.  However he then alternated between amusement and insouciance, interspersed with attempts to convince us that his pursuit of the adventuring life was a means to garner the funds necessary to support all the little tykes.  The company was quite united in our disapproval.  Boomtock then became distracted and dashed off.

Not long afterwards Uhmri arrived at the park, but immediately rushed off to join Boomtock who was chasing a squirrel around the park.  We were puzzled by this behavior, his former calling of a man of the woods notwithstanding.  Eventually K was able to persuade him to come away.  He said he'd followed the carriage to a fine house by the river and we immediately set off.  As we went along the tone of the neighborhood improved street by street until we found ourselves in a rather well-to-do area.

A reasonably well dressed bourgeois man passing by recognized me.  How nice it is to be noticed by a fan!  The countless hours of practice and rehearsal, the choreographed discipline of the performance--and all for the delight and edification of those rare few in the audience sophisticated enough to really appreciate it all.  The fellow was positively gushing with praise.  He'd apparently seen me perform a number of times and was quite impressed.  I basked in the well-deserved glory for a few moments but we needed to move along.  We took our leave and just as we were parting he said "I hope you'll be performing again soon so I can bring my son along to see you, Rovert!"

Rovert!  By the gods!  The imbecile had mistaken for that cheap charlatan Rovert.  I was of a mind to chastise the fellow but decided it was better to have a fan of the stage remain enthusiastic for future opportunities.

After a bit more walking we came to the house where the carriage had led Uhmri.  It was a fine house, three stories but smaller overall than the Natal mansion.  It had some lovely landscaped gardens around it and a high wrought iron fence.  Then, to our surprise, Uhmri approached the gatekeeper and said he'd brought his friends back as the Lady had requested.  Uhmri then calmly mentioned to us that the Lady was quite nice and they are friends.  We were rather taken aback.  The former druid had not said anything about speaking to anyone at the house, let alone agreeing to lure us back here.  I began to surmise that our rustic rambler might be under an enchantment--which was quite possible if we were indeed dealing with a witch.

Despite some misgivings we entered and followed a footman around to the rear of the house, which was along the river.   In back was a small, tastefully built plaza with a table and chairs set for guests.  A small pleasure barge was tied up by the bank nearby.  The lady we had glimpsed in the carriage awaited us there.  She was of very fair countenance but wearing a surprisingly casual dayrobe for meeting strangers.  I notice that there were a couple of servants but no armed guards in sight.  She was either a bit naive or more powerful than she appeared.  I decide that it is better to assume the latter.

We introduce ourselves and she confirms that she is indeed Lady Caldwell.  We are seated and served a rather decent wine.  The conversation is polite but a bit stiff on our part.  Lady Caldwell confirms that she has taken Broderick under her wing and earlier had her people move some of the furniture from the old mansion to her house here.  We inquire about the servant Kevin and she claims no knowledge of his whereabouts.  We then mention the two servants imprisoned in the house, one dead the other surviving.  At this she takes a sudden keen interest in the fate of the survivor.  To protect the poor woman we assure Lady Caldwell that the woman remembers nothing and is not likely to recover.  The Lady seemed very relieved to here this, which heightened our suspicions.

Later Broderick was brought out and Brute went off with him, under the pretext of seeing how the young chap's fencing practice was coming along.  As we continued to converse with the very charming Lady, some of us espied a rather shifty looking fellow with a strange leather mask or hood on slipping into the house.  From his demeanor it appeared that he was no stranger to the place and quite used to letting himself in.  After a bit more polite conversation we took our leave and she personally saw us out to the main gate.

Outside we traded theories and ideas.  It occurs to us that she does not look like the woman in the portrait with Broderick, which is reassuring, but it is still all a bit unsettling.  Uhmri is still far too pleased, and in a strange manner, to be her very good friend.  Then we spot the fellow with the mask just down the street, apparently having just departed the house.  The game is afoot!  He heads down a street and we follow as discreetly as a group consisting of a well-armed priestess of the Light, two hulking odd-fellows, a chap wearing a pile of dead wolves, and fashionable man-about-town is able. 

To our relief he is too intent on his business to notice.  We follow him into a decidedly low-rent area of town.  On the way Uhmri suddenly buys a roasted rat-on-a-stick from some questionable cobble-griller.  For a man who enjoys his food fresh, particularly after catching it himself, this was most odd.  And rather disgusting.  Even the odd-fellows disapproved, which is saying something.  And not long afterwards he suddenly acquiesced to the blandishments of a common street tart.  To our astonishment he immediately went behind a nearby tree with her and copulated with the utmost gusto.  What had gotten into the man?  Had the sights, sounds, and smells of the urban scene been too much for his sylvan sensibilities?  His behavior in the out-of-doors was rather rough hewn, as one would expect of his former profession, but he at least had some standards.  K suggested that perhaps he's been replaced by a changeling, like the one we met that evening in the woods.  I agree and suggest we should monitor his behavior more closely going forward.

By this time the masked ruffian had arrived at a small, run-down house.  At his knock four equally low-class types joined him, and all carrying sacks.  With the paid help of a street urchin we followed them to a Inspiration Point, a small beach backed by woods frequented by young lovers and other youthful types.  The ruffians were apparently there looking for someone to snatch.  And evetually they did, a young girl named Jill.  But we were too late to stop them.  Brute noticed the wheel marks of a cart on the far side of the woods and Uhmri rushed off ahead.  A chase after a pair of carts in the dark proved fruitless so we headed right back to the Caldwell house, assuming that was the destination.

At the house we met Uhmri waiting outside.  He told us he'd seen a carriage with Lord Cayden arrive.  Lady Caldwell came out to greet him in person and told him something like "I have something to show you I think you'll enjoy."  It was all rather circumstantial but we were sure we were on to something.  After a bit of hard consideration I put on the magic ring which made me invisible and had Kull lift me over the fence.  I hoped that my lovely Katherine would be able to remove it as before, but that would have to wait.

I began walking to the house.  With the influence of the ring everything went a bit gray and blurry in addition to the dark of night.  I made it to the house without being noticed and slipped inside.  There were a few servants bustling about, most likely preparing for the Lady's entertainment of her guest, the loathesome Lord Cayden.  Slipping upstairs I found the room where the two were conversing.  The Lord stood before a mirror, stretching in an odd fashion and remarking "This is wonderful".  He didn't appear any different than when he'd come in so it wasn't clear what he was getting at.  The Lady seemed quite pleased that he was enjoying whatever it was.

I tiptoed quietly around more of the house but it was unoccupied save for the occasional servant.  In one room I found a small boy, obviously Lord Cayden's latest victim.  Then I heard dogs barking outside.  My heart froze.  The ring might protect me from being seen but I doubted it would cover my scent.  I heard the Lady call out, apparently to the dog handlers, to find out what was the matter.  They shouted back that it was nothing.  I wondered if the dogs had caught wind of my companions outside.

Things were getting rather tight but I hadn't looked for a cellar yet.  One last quick look around and then back out to the fence I decided.  Slipping down to the kitchen I almost ran into the masked chap and one of his henchmen carrying in large sacks which appeared to have people in them.  This was it!  I followed them into the cellar and down a long corridor.  At the far end was a large, massive door fit for a fortress.  They went in and locked it behind them.  Clearly I had a bit of a wait ahead of me.  I had a quick look around the other rooms but they were quite ordinary.  I did, however, happen across a bottle of a decent red from the wine cellar; sneaking about in stately homes of the aristocracy can be thirsty work, as I am sure you are aware.

Finally the huge door opened a bit and the masked chap came out.  I figured that with me invisible I could probably finish him here in the cellar without anyone hearing.  "Come Dark Chaos!" I intoned, and two long, tentactular whips of pure dark chaos stuff shot from my palms and struck the villain smarty.  He panicked a bit then swung wildly about him with a sword.  I tried to dodge but as a civilized man I was unused to such exertions and he wounded me in the side.  To my surprise my blood was visible even while the rest of me remained unseen!  This calmed his nerves and he said that whoever or whatever I was, if I could bleed then he could kill me.  I told him that I was a ghost and that this was his blood and soon he would die.  I lashed at him twice more with my dark, shadowy tendrils and he fled back into the fortified room.  I followed.

The sight inside was not quite what I was expecting.  There were cages with wretched prisoners, a large pile of strangely dessiccated corpses, and a dark room off to one side with an open archway.  My quarry dashed for the archway and I unleashed a pair of my best illusionary hounds on him.  They engaged him nicely and I started to take a second look around at the room.  But then my attention was drawn to movement in the darkness through the archway.  An even darker figure emerged--it was the black stone statue from the secret chamber of sorcery by the crypt in the mansion!  My illusions would be useless against a thing with no mind, including my state of invisibility.  Then I heard a noise behind me.  The huge door was closing, turning the room into a deathtrap.  I lunged for the narrowing opening and slipped through with nothing to spare.

The others needed to know so I dashed back up the stairs to the kitchen, clutching my side.  Emerging suddenly into the kitchen I found my companions there, just finishing a bit of a dust-up with some of the Lady's retainers.

The Journal of Katherine, Entry 47

Entry 47

Continuing from my entry 46...

After the secular visit, we return to the inn to plan our next steps.  Three issues most important are one, rumors about people disappearing and the details are posted on the town sign, two, the tortured servants in Broderick's house, and three,  this council member Lady Caldwell.  We think they are all related.  Soon, two gnome men enter the inn and are looking for Boomtuck, since he has been seen with us.  They state that Boomtuck has fathered many children with many women and want to "personally" give him a message.  Later that day, we meet Boomtuck and I inquire whether these stories are true, which he confirms.  This does not surprise me, for his behavior does not show any responsibility.  He becomes a new issue, as I disapprove of this, and others do too, but we will deal with him later.

When we leave to find this post sign, we happen chance see an ornate carriage pass right in front of us.  A vision from my youth gives me memories of my uncle's visits because he has a carriage like this.  Every year during the summer, he would travel in style with his carriage to our home, always bringing me presents of exotic candies from far away places.  I enjoyed the rides through the country air.  My brothers teased me about my romantic ideas of being carried away.  Those dreamy days are long ago.

As the carriage passes, my vision shows me in the carriage, long hair and in fancy clothes, but it is not me as a child, but as an adult.  No, the vision is not me at all.  It is Lady Caldwell, and the boy next to her is young Broderick.  I tell the others that Broderick is in he carriage and we should follow.  We easily see that it will outpace us, but Ohm Uri runs after it.  We loose site of the carriage and Ohm Uri at the festival grounds - the same grounds where we attended the summer festival and where Trevor ran into Rovert.  It seems that this town has a festival every few months.  We also discover the sign with the posting of the missing people.  I peruse the postings and many state the last place where they were: "Inspiration Point".

Ohm Uri finds us and he leads us through the city to areas I have not yet been.  Houses are better kept and some have gardens.  A few houses have second floors, too.  One person recognizes Trevor from one of his performances.  Eventually, Ohm Uri leads us to a house with a locked iron gate and a thick stone wall about a few feet taller than me, or about as tall as Kull.  The house is located on the river, and the wall goes to the waters edge.  There are metal points at this spot to discourage people going round it.  Under the water is unknown, but I'm sure there is something to discourage people from wading in and swimming around, too. 

A servant greets us, and states a thank you to Ohm Uri for returning with his friends.  Unknown to us, but we find out then, that Ohm Uri walked right in and talked to the Lady Caldwell, and now he thinks she is the nicest person in the town.  I suspect mind control at work, for on the road back from the north, Bob reacted exactly like this when I used the same trick.  I get a very bad feeling about this lady, but no proof yet.  The servant tells us to follow him to the back yard garden, complete with table and chairs for the meeting.  Other servants bring drinks, but I refuse. 

During the meeting she asked about Kevin, apparently to appear ignorant of his fate.  I can tell she is lying.  I try to convince Brute and Kull later when we walk away from the house.  Since she is the owner of the mansion now, she permits us to enter it at our leisure.  She continues to explain that some items were moved from the mansion to this house.  My mind wanders back to Kevin - if she is guilty of his torture and death, why did she just grant us free access?  I inquire about whether she visited the mansion, but she does not admit to it.  I follow up stating that an unknown servant was found dead, and of a maid, found alive.  Lady Caldwell persists to know the location of the maid, but we kept it to ourselves.  Late in the meeting, we see a very suspicious man emerge from a doorway briefly, only to vanish back the same way.  We leave her house, and I am convinced she is hiding something and lying.

From the house, we head towards inspiration point.  We notice the same suspicious man we saw earlier at her house.  He has a scarf covering a burn on his face.  And he enters into an ordinary house, only to come back out with more men of brutish appearance.  We follow the men and they go to the same point.  The sun is beginning to set and the moon is starting to rise.  This could be an excellent night that Trevor would want to be alone with me.  I glance at him, but his expressions I cannot make out.  If anything, I can image his disappointing thoughts that a nice night is spent not alone with me, but also with Ohm Uri, Kull and especially Brute.  We settle in for we must wait for the men to make their move.

Others are out here enjoying the twilight, too.  They, however, are acting on their desires.  They drink, talk of their work days, and some couples get close on blankets, I'll stop there.  I have never witnessed a place like this, before.  The people wear shirts with bright piccadilly colors and the young women have flowers in their hair.  A pungent odor fills the air and I try not to breath the smoke, as it awful.  Ohm Uri leaves.  An hour passes and the sun light is just a glow, and the moon assumes its dominant role in the night sky.  Trevor and I notice Ohm Uri's return, and with a rather "weird" look towards Trevor, one that I saw too many times when my father brought home the less respectable women. 

Trevor and I look at each other, roll our eyes and we both say at the same time, "There is something wrong with Ohm Uri."  Could this be a sign?  In this rare moment, we thought alike, at the same time, and acted.

I ponder our findings.  We do not have enough proof to hold the Lady Caldwell directly responsible, we can state that she has some involvement, for the men coming here links her to the disappearances.  Brute and Kull are waiting for those men to do something.  And to catch them in the act - this will get more proof.

Kull's intense focus on the brutes makes a local man a bit more vocal and he thinks that we are too close to his space.  Again, Brute says its my turn to "reason" with him.  I start an explanation, and I shorten it in my journal, on why the Light provides me with more enjoyment and fulfillment than any thing else, including their passing bodily encounters, and that they should give any extra money to the poor, and volunteer their time to help those that cannot tend to themselves, and finally, attend regular services at the temple of the Light to start their path to self enrichment.  Near the end of my mini sermon, the man simply fell to sleep, collapsing to the ground in a surprisingly quick move.  Sighting the half full bottle that he took with him to the ground, I make to grab it, with my intentions to empty the filth on the ground.  Equally surprising, Ohm Uri grabs the bottle from my hands, before I could tighten my grip on it. 

He downs a mouthful of the rot gut, then looks at me and mutters a not so nice word that I will not write here.  Trevor immediately intervenes.  Before I get an apology, a local man interrupts, stating his friend Jill is lost and has not returned.  Kull asks for where she was last seen.  The man points, and Kull and Brute run towards the spot.  They find signs of the girl's tracks, and we proceed to follow, hoping to rescue her.  We follow the signs to a road, where the tracks show a cart, but is gone now.  Again, Ohm Uri runs after to try to catch up to the cart. 

My suspicion is on the Lady Caldwell, and we join Ohm Uri at the front gates of Caldwell's house.  Before long, a carriage arrives and we look on from a hidden spot and see Lord Kayden step out and the lady of the house greets him and they go inside.  Is Lord Kayden involved in this too?  We must get more proof.  In a bold move, I ask Trevor if he still has the ring.  "I allow you to use it," I state, "to see what is happening inside."  Kull picks Trevor up, awkwardly, since grabbing an invisible man is tough, and Trevor is over the wall. 

A feeling of dread fills me as all I can do is wait outside the wall - Trevor is alone and might be in more danger than he knows.  The ring is Miranda's and if Caldwell is related to this Miranda in any way, she might be aware of its magic and consequently aware of us.  Oh, this ring might truly be cursed.  Why did I suggest him to go?  I look to the others and mention we should get inside somehow.  Then Ohm Uri disappears over the wall.  I remember cursing, and I will not write it here.  With him being so charmed, he will probably tell them we are out here, that Trevor is using the witch's ring, and the location of the maid.  I cannot wait much longer.  I state to Kull that we can get in the house, for we can tell her about the death of Kevin.  Kull is confused and says, "first you don't want to tell about Kevin, and now you do."  I turn to Brute who thinks it is a good idea. 

Brute suddenly pulls me to the dark so I am not seen by a cart moving closer.  A few men are on the cart, and one looks like it is the same masked man as before, but I am not totally sure in the darkness.  It stops at the gate and men from the house unload large sacks.  The masked man goes into the house with the others carrying the sacks, and the cart goes back the same road it came from.  This is the proof!  We can act and get the town guards.  Kull runs after the cart for some reason.  I follow after Kull.  I am not sure why.  When Kull catches the driver,  he stops listening to me and becomes berserk.  It still pains me to write about it here.

Kull simply runs right up beside the cart, grabs the driver and throws him onto the ground.  Kull is upon him and his foot is pressing hard against his chest, pinning him to the ground.  We ask what were in the sacks.  The man replies he is just a driver, delivering goods and life commodities.  I look for rope so we can tie him, leave him in the cart, and get him later.  I return and the man is babbling incoherent words and cannot breath.  I try to tell Kull to stop, but he does not hear me.  My eyes swell with tears.  I plead, but I cannot get to Kull.  Something else controls him now.  This happened before, and then, I got him to stop.  This time, I failed for Kull, for me, and especially for this man.  It takes great courage for me to move, as this issue weighs heavy on me.  There must be more I can do.  Rubbing the tears from my eyes, I find myself alone standing over the driver's bloody corpse, his chest and throat crushed.  Blurred vision reveals a hulking form bounding back to the gate. 

I run back and see another man, his bloodied fractured skull embedded in the space between the iron bars of the gate.  His limp body dangles as the gate rotates back closed, towards me.  I squeeze past this grizzly scene.  Is this the body of the servant who hours before ushered us to the back yard for the meeting?  This is spiraling out of control.  We are waging battle to a member of the council!  A sickening feeling overwhelms me.  I force myself to follow the others to the house.  I call upon the Light to aid us, but to also refrain from farther unnecessary killing, just as Kull bashes the door in, sending splinters to fly as the hinges are ripped out. 

When I enter the kitchen, I narrowly miss a blow from a massive club.  My hours of melee practice at the priory prepare me for this.  I do not remember my mace in my hand, but there it is, and I think of the people in the park, of the maid we found, of the unknown body also found, and of the mute servant Kevin that we knew.  I return the swing to block his follow up and my mace, willing itself and with the aid of the Light's Blessing, finds a weak spot and connects hard with his side.  I hear the sounds of bones breaking.  The man brushes off the pain and presses the attack.

Kull, Brute and Ohm Uri are also in here, each fighting their own battle.  However, I see only this one man turned monster.  We are locked in a dance, his face determined to make me die under his club, and me, I defend the abducted helpless ones and Trevor - my mind wonders - where is he and is he alright?  My opponent seizes upon my mistake and his club smashes into my side, followed by sly laughter, and a remark that I do not write here.  The massive force knocks the air from me and must surely leave a wound, but as I discover later, my new armor absorbed the bone crushing injury.  With no air in my lungs to feed my arms, I turn and swing to block his next move, but the mace has different plans.  Like it has a mind of its own, the magic combined with the Light's Blessing find their mark and crushes more bones in that monstrous body.  I catch my breath with a gasp and see not a monster now, but a man.  Surprise and terror take over him, he drops his club, then slumps to the floor, blood flows from a deep stab wound in the back.  Yet I see no one there.  I must stop the bleeding, but I must know who stabbed from behind.

I look to the emptiness and with apprehension ask, "Trevor, it is you." 

Again, I am being called and must finish later.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Days 19 to 22 Catchup

 Yeah, yeah, I know.  You're supposed to do one each day, but it didn't quite work out that way for me this week.  Anyway, here are my responses for 19 thru 22:

19 What is the fluffiest RPG you have played?
I haven't played many games that I'd consider fluffy.  At first I thought that perhaps this is because my wargaming and historical roots led me to crunchier games.  But on reflection I couldn't even think of very many games, played or not, which I would even call fluffy.  So I'll go with a Paranoia and Empire of the Petal Throne in a tie for first place.  Paranoia had simple rules because it's really all about the silly fluff of the setting.  The rules are simple because they aren't very important to play.  EPT had more rules (OD&D based) but it, too, was all about the unique setting, with totally new monsters and creatures, totally new PC races, and all sorts of new and different stuff which no other game had.

20 Which setting have you enjoyed most?
Well, again I'm going to make this one a multiple  tie for first place.  This time it's Paranoia and EPT, plus Eberron and Exalted.  I'm a collector of settings and even just maps of settings.  When it comes to buying gaming products I'm looking for settings first.

Paranoia is perhaps an odd choice here, because the setting, Alpha Complex, has only just enough detail to grease the wheels for play but is otherwise totally unmapped.  The complex is not detailed in any way, and the wider world setting for the complex is not detailed either.  But I found that made it a lot of fun to develop those areas--more fun than for other games.

Next is EPT, which is a fascinating mix of non-European cultural elements plus bits of science fiction sprinkled in.  The setting has a lot of supplements to dive into and even it's own languages and writing systems.  I love the depth, the detail, and the non-European vibe.

And then there's Eberron.  I resisted buying any Eberron stuff for the longest time.  I'm not even sure why.  Perhaps it just sounded too weird to be "proper" D&D fantasy.  But once I started reading up on the setting I was hooked.  I'm still collecting the books now.  It really is an excellent twist on D&D, with comfortably familiar D&D elements but new takes on every aspect.  I also liked that the world was not a dumpster full of every historical and literary trope like D&D's Forgotten Realms or Pathfinder's Golarion.  Each area of Eberron felt like it's own entity, not just a light re-skin of Aztec meso-America or something.

Last is Exalted.  This is another game which I totally ignored for a very long time.  White Wolf's game line never really interested me.  They all seem to be based on the idea that the PCs are sort of superhero-ish, more powerful than mortals but flawed and living outside of the normal world.  That's not really my thing.  I prefer games which are more down on the gritty/realistic end of the scale. And I'm not sure I'd ever actually run a game of Exalted, except for a dark game with the PCs as Abyssal lords of undeath.  But the campaign world is brilliant.  I love all the cosmological concepts for how the world is structured,  how the Exalted fit in, and even way the world frays at the edges into Chaos.  This is another setting which I'm slowly collecting just for the setting itself.

What is the narrowest genre RPG you have ever played?
Wow, there are a lot of contenders for this one.  Call of Cthulhu and Paranoia top the list.  But Call of Cthulhu can easily be set in many time periods, so I'll go with Paranoia.  In Paranoia the PCs live in a massive closed city called Alpha Complex.  An entire game can take place inside of Alpha Complex, so it's literally narrow in physical setting, but it is also narrow culturally.  There's really just the one culture, albeit with many hidden, odd subcultures.

What is the most gonzo kitchen sink RPG you ever played?
Hmm, I don't think I've every played a gonzo game.   The genre just doesn't interest me.  The closest I can think of is Gamma World, at least the way we played it.  So I'll go with Gamma World.  You roll up a mutant with random abilities, then wander around running into all sorts of random mutants and oddball groups of survivors.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Day 18: What is the crunchiest RPG you have played?

Well, I'd divide this into two different textures of crunchy.  There's the point-buy crunchy rules and the heavy-mechanics crunchy rules.  For point-buy crunchy it's GURPS and Mutants & Masterminds.  Both these RPGs are very well done, but I really get lost in them.  So many things you might spend points on, varying effects for levels of each power, and millions of possible combinations.  OMG.  I'm only okay with point-buy (Wait, why do I keep typing "pint-buy"?  Am I thirsty?) but only if it's not too deep.  I like BESM, for instance.

For heavy-mechanics crunchy rules I'd say Chivalry & Sorcery and D&D 3E/Pathfinder.  C&S was very crunchy--more crunchy that it needed to be.  D&D 3E/Pathfinder is also crunchy but because of the mass of material rather than the base mechanic: just roll 1d20, but then review the 487,264 possible modifiers.  Dang.

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Day 17: Which RPG has the best high tech rules?

Hmm, well I have only played a few science fiction games to I don't have a lot to work with here.  Mostly I've played Traveler and Paranoia.  Traveler probably pioneered tech levels in RPGs, but at the higher levels there wasn't much actual detail.  Paranoia has two tech levels: normal and silly.  The normal equipment had some interesting items, and then there were the "Silly Level" items handed out by the GM as "experimental" items from R&D which the PCs had to field test.  So, I guess I'll go with Paranoia because it has Silly Tech.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Gaming with Skype

Okay, so in our last session of Castles and Crusades ("The Adventures of the Amazing Trevor & Friends") we decided to up our tech level and try using Skype with video to connect in our friend Dan.  The time before that we connected him to the game with voice only.

But this time we went for the more interactive video approach.  At first it was going great...

...although I kept thinking "Max Headroom".  But after a while we lost the video connection due to bandwidth issues and dropped back to voice only.  Overall, though, it was a successful experiment and we'll continue to try it out.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Day 16: Which RPG besides D&D has the best magic system?

Besides D&D?!  What do you mean besides D&D!  D&D has a crappy magic system which I've always hated, because it's crappy.  Also, I hate it.  And did I mention it's crappy?  I think that D&D (except for 4E) has probably the WORST magic system of any RPG.  The exception is 4E.  4E pretty much fixed D&D's crappy magic system--so of course they didn't continue with it in 5E.  So I would say D&D 4E, except that this challenge question is for non-D&D systems.

Overall I've always liked the magic system in Chivalry and Sorcery.  It's based on logical concepts, has a built-in skill system (you should have to roll to successfully cast!), allows you to really specialize in a type of magic, has a wonderfully detailed magic item enchanting system, and loads of magic user types to choose from--all in the main book.  Actually the magic rules in C&S were the best part of the rules.  Playing a magic user in C&S was way more fun that playing one in other games.  It had a really detailed, hands-on feel.  Magic user players really worked on improving their spells, sought out unusual magical materials for making items out of, and constantly wanted some time to work on their magic stuff.  And all of that flowed organically from the way the rules were written.

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Day 15: What pseudo or alternate history RPG have you enjoyed most?

Hmm, this is pretty much the same question (for me) as Day 14's question.  Chivalry & Sorcery was as historical and as pseudo-historical a game as I've ever run.  And the Call of Cthulhu game I'm playing in now (hi, Steve) is done in a very historical style with great attention to detail--but with Cthulhu mythos and other occult elements.

But I did recently re-subscribe to Paizo's adventure path.  The new one starting this month is set in Osirion, the "not-Egypt" of Pathfinder's game world of Golarion.  I've always been an ancient Egypt fanboy and so this AP is right up my alley.  They're even introducing Pathfinder-ized (Golarionized?) versions of the ancient Egyptian pantheon as the ancient gods of Osirion.  I'm not sure how they'll explain suddenly introducing another entire ~20 god pantheon into their game world after all this time--but I'm not sure I really care.  I'd love to run a campaign set in Osirion.  I'd even work in Pathfinderized versions of the AD&D Desert of Desolation modules which we enjoyed playing in college.

Friday, March 14, 2014

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Day 14: What historical or cultural RPG have you enjoyed most?

The closest thing to a historical game I've played was probably Chivalry & Sorcery.  The authors drew heavily (and deliberately) on historical material to model the economic, social, and even magical elements.  But it was still a fantasy game in the end.  The main book (I don't think they'd invented the term "core rule book" yet) covered the classic medieval European milieu.  FGU soon published a book for the viking and mongol worlds.  Later, Lee Gold (of Alarums & Excursions fame) did a brilliant "core book" based on feudal Japan.

In high school I was also briefly introduced to the semi-RPG En Garde, a Three Musketeers style game.  I liked some of the concepts, but it would need some extra house rules to work as a full RPG.  Actually it would probably work well as a "down time" supplement to something else.

Overall I'm not really keen on properly historical games because I've studied history for so long that it has a "been there, read that" feel to it now.  That's why I tend towards fantasy, or occult, or sci-fi these days.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Day 13: What horror RPG have you enjoyed most?

Call of Cthulhu, duh.

Oh, maybe I should say a bit more than that =)  Okay, so I came across the works of H.P. Lovecraft in the mid-80s.  I can't remember what got me started but I quickly bought and read every paperback of his works I could get at the bookstore.  They're sitting right over there on my bookshelf now.  When I bought the first book I was a bit skeptical.  I really didn't see how a book could be scary or creepy.  But the stories were fantastic and the tidbits of mythos which kept emerging up were delicious.  I bought the game soon after and have enjoyed many creepy sessions.  One of the things I particularly like about it is the emphasis on investigation and gathering knowledge, all while working yourself closer and closer to your likely demise.  It's not a Hollywood-style gun-fest and you won't have a "tank" in the party.  It's just not that sort of game.  There's also the aspect that you're never quite sure what you're dealing with this time--until it's too late!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Day 12: What humorous RPG have you enjoyed most?

I've played three games which I would consider humorous: Toon, Gamma World, and Paranoia.  Toon was a very long time age and I don't remember it much.  Cartoons aren't my thing anyway.  Gamma World was also a long time ago and it had limited appeal for me.  But as I've mentioned in earlier March Madness posts I love Paranoia so that is definitely my number one pick for humorous.

I love the puns, the sarcasm, the mocking of just about every political ideology, the way everything is deliberately designed to be some sort of trap.  And yet it is extremely flexible in putting together all sorts of ridiculous plots and situation.  I also love how most of the action is driven by player interaction.  It's almost a vehicle for comedy improv acting.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Day 11: What post-apocalyptic RPG have you enjoyed most?

Okay, I'm not really into post-apocalyptic games in general.  For me it is a very depressing genre.  The term "post-apocalyptic" conjures up visions of ignorant, violent tribal a-holes fighting it out to see who gets to be King of the Trashpile.  And you get to play one of those a-holes with a crappy present leading to an even crappier future.  Might as well just jump off a bridge and get it over with.

On the other hand, the term "post-apocalyptic" actually covers a lot of sub-genres which are quite different.  So for today's question I would say Gamma World, or Paranoia if that counts.  I played Gamma World a long, long time ago, back around when it first came out.  It was weird and wacky (not my usual style) but as long as I approached it as a silly game with silly random mutant characters it was fun.  One game which I haven't tried but which sounds very, very cool is Tribe 8 by Dream Pod 9.  I'm not sure my group would go for it, so I may never get to play it.  But it's one of those games where I'll probably collect most of the books just to read all the cool stuff.

Crappy Crossbowman Syndrome

Okay, so I've always hated the "Vancian" magic rules in D&D with the miserable spell-slot system.  I consider it the worst part of the game and yet except for 4E it was one of the few sections of the rules which remained almost unchanged from edition to edition.  I found early on that as a wizard/magic-user you ran out of spells quickly and then had to resort to your crossbow (or darts!).  Naturally, your ranged weapon attack bonuses sucked and so you were a pretty crappy crossbowman at that.  At lower levels you ran out of spells so frequently that, in effect, you were actually a crappy crossbowman who also knew how to cast a couple spells.

I call this Crappy Crossbowman Syndrome.

When I started reading about the 4th Edition rules I was thrilled.  Finally, you could be a spell caster who, um, casts spells all day.  Finally, they had driven a stake through the slimy, pustulant heart of the "Vancian" magic system and cured Crappy Crossbowman Syndrome!  My greatest hope for D&D 5th Edition was that they would retain the 4th edition magic system, albeit likely with some modifications.  But no, they went right back to the traditional Crappy Crossbowman Syndrome approach.

How uncreative.

That sux.

Monday, March 10, 2014

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Day 10: What science fiction RPG have you enjoyed most?

Paranoia, for sure, with an honorable mention to Gamma World.  I've also played Traveller, d20 Future, a bit of Warhammer 40K Roleplay, Star Wars Roleplaying Game (WotC), Space 1889, and CORE Command.  Traveller was a long time ago and I think I'd like it a lot more if the setting was totally different.  The rules are simple (almost simplistic) but quite adequate.   I ran a scenario of Warhammer 40K and it was fun; I could definitely run more.  The Star Wars game was run by a friend and it was fun (I played a gungan spy, which was riduculous).  CORE Command was interesting (hi, Dan!) but I found the SilCORE rules hard to grokk; skills had two aspects and I just didn't quite get what that was supposed to be about.  I've run d20 Future and I rather like the d20 Modern/Future rules; actually I ran a Warhammer 40K game with them and it was fun.  But the most outright fun sci-fi game is Paranoia, hands down.  It's designed from the ground up to simply be fun.  Yes, you could run a gritty, hard-core game with the Paranoia world (and I'd like to) but the real Paranoia is totally a blast just as-is.

Need to brush up my French: there's a graphic novel version of Jack Vance's Tschai novels!

Okay, so my favorite author is Jack Vance.  And my two favorite series of novels by him are the Dying Earth (inspiration for D&D's "Vancian magic") and Tschai: Planet of Adventure.  The four Tschai novels are about a terran pilot who's spaceship is shot down up unknown attackers, crashes on the planet Tschai, and then travels far and wide trying to get a ship to get back home.  However, the only spaceships are owned by alien races colonizing the planet.  The planet does have a "native" population of humans who are at a much lower level of technology and who have several interesting regional cultures of their own.  And there are some mysterious truly native aliens lurking about as well.

Each of the alien races holding parts of the planet has humans working for them.  The most trusted humans of each race have closely assimilated the culture of their alien patrons.  Some are even surgically altered to appear more like their alien masters.  The three main alien factions are not friendly but there are not openly at war.  For them the planet is currently a quiet backwater.

Anyway, little did I know that Delcourt of France started publishing a series of graphic novels (bande dessinee) called Le Cycle de Tscha├» in 1998.  It's awesome that there is a graphic version of my favorite novels but also excellent that it's by French artists.  Ever since I discovered Heavy Metal magazine back in high school I've enjoyed a lot of great graphic art from France.   So now I know what to hint about for my birthday!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Superheroes? Well, maybe in an anime manner...

Okay, so today's RPG March Madness question was about what superhero games I've enjoyed.  Well, I'm really not into the genre, so that's tough to answer.  A couple of my gaming buddies (hello, Bill and Dan!) have run a couple interesting games which I enjoyed more for the story lines than the genre per se.  But when it comes to superheroes, there are sort of two types: one with actual super powers and ones without, such as Batman, Ironman, or Black Widow.  I'm a lot more comfortable with the non-super heroes--but then the action can't be as over-the-top as with supers.

So if I was to play something with over-the-top action, like people getting punched a hundred meters through the air and smashing into a building, where could I go and not feel it's really cheesy?  Well my friend (and fellow DM) Steve kindly responded to my supers post.  Steve is an anime fan and so that got me thinking that I would probably enjoy an anime-type game where people essentially have super powers but not with the classic comic book type setting.

RPG rules-wise you could probably use any of the current supers games.  In fact all you really need to do is swap in some anime-style artwork, tweak the flavor text, and rework any chunks of fiction and you're there.  Suddenly I'm playing a "supers" game and loving it--because nobody's wearing a leotard.

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Day 9: What superhero RPG have you enjoyed most?

Well, I'm not really into the superhero genre.  The early comics I read were very poor quality and I just can't get into the idea of people jumping around in leotards shooting laser beams out of their noses.

 But I have played GURPS Supers, Mutants & Masterminds, and Basic Action Super Heroes and I've run Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness.  The concept of TNMT was the most fun, but the rules for BASH are very fast playing and enjoyable.  The others had too much fiddly point-buy accounting exercises and unexciting rules at the table.  Overall I'd go with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness as the most fun, despite the clunky Palladium rules.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Chronicles of the Amazing Trevor: Chapter Twelve (Return of the Witch)

I awoke delightfully refreshed.  I lay there for a while, enjoying the feel of real sheets and a real pillow in a real bed.  The city was awake outside my window.  Ah, how nice to be able to use that phrase, "my window".  A phrase which even by itself explained that one was not lying on the ground in the woods like some flea-bitten ruminant.  The scent of a proper breakfast wafted up from below, whetting my appetite.  I would not be breaking my fast for the day with some savage assemblage of trail victuals this morning!

I took care with my wardrobing and coiffure before descending to table.  We were back in civilization now and one might meet a prospective patron at any time.  Unlike the mud-spattered denizens typical of the rural wastelands, the fine citizens of Adan counted among their number persons of quality and refinement--and wealth.  And my ploy of presenting myself at the court in the guise of a distant member of the Natal family was a card I still hoped to play.  With a mansion in town and an as-yet-unvisited summer house potentially open for inheritance for just such a "relative" like myself the game was still quite definitely afoot!

The taproom was sparsely inhabited but the gnome Boomtock, our massive odd-fellow Kull. and the retired druid Uhmri had arrived from the mansion and were quite happy to join me in a civilized repast.  However my companions soured the morning's fare with some unwelcome news.  Last night upon their arrival they had found the mansion quite dark and uninhabited, with no trace of the young heir Broderick and family servant Kevin to be found.  In addition, someone had removed all the foodstuffs and the furnishings of the lady's bedroom.  Upstairs in the witch's chamber that someone had also replaced the cloth coverings on all the enchanted portal mirrors.  This was disturbing news indeed.  Most likely whomever had taken the enchanted mirror from the bedroom and covered the ones upstairs knew exactly what they were doing

Later Brute arrived from spending the night with his new paramour Veronica.  He seemed quite pleased with himself, and in that case I was quite pleased with him as well.  The Big V would have someone else to inflict herself on--at least for a while. But we then noted that Katherine had not arrived and I became anxious, which is not a common characteristic for me.  Brute quite literally dragged me away from my last bit of sausage and egg and we rushed to the Temple of Light.  There we were directed to the Temple of Law across the street where she was waiting.  She had suffered an unpleasant run-in with her mother superior at the Temple of Light the previous evening.  But then she went over to the Temple of Law, chatted up one of the typically humorless fellows there, and got them to let her have some lovely goldeny scale armor with a matching helmet like an eagle's head from their dusty old cellar.  While in the cellar I happened upon a box of lovely but somewhat odd darts which they allowed me to take.

On our way back to the inn K related various bits of news she'd overheard that morning.  There was some sort of Autumn Festival coming up which had the town all a-twitter.  But that news paled in comparison with much bigger news: the Grand Council of the city had stepped in to replace the Inner Council, which was defunct now that all of its members were deceased.  In addition, a new member recently joined the Grand Council, one Lady Caldwell.  Little was known about her but she claimed to be a relative of Remi Natal, and she had therefore taken Remi's son Broderick into her care.  The fate of the rest of the Natal family still remained obscure.  This, then, was the explanation for the absence of young Broderick and the man-servant Kevin from the mansion.  However, it was also most likely the reason the covers were put back over the mirrors in the secret room of witchery upstairs--which led inexorably to the conclusion that Lady Caldwell was well aware of the secret room and understood its contents quite well.  The stakes in our little game had just been raised.

We discussed the news over more delicious breakfast, Katherine joining us only after much persuasion and Kull joining for a second round without needing any persuasion whatsoever.  Eventually we finished and made plans for the day.  Uhmri, apparently still pining for his former calling as a druid, set out to do a bit of fishing.  I was rather beginning to look forward to these little piscatorial excursions of his, given that he was most often successful in enriching our table with the results.

As we were about to leave the innkeeper presented us with an outrageous bill of two gold marks for the repast.  Normally I would have no truck with this sort of nonsense.  Tradesmen like this fellow needed to know their place, after all.  However I was in a rather expansive mood this particular morning, having slept and broken my fast in refreshingly civilized style, and paid it with aplomb.  Alas, Kull picked that particular moment to awaken from a postprandial nap in rather dynamic fashion and demolish his chair.  We paid up for a new chair and I was amused to find that the inn had stock of replacement chairs in a side room for just such occasions.

Kull then related that his nap had included a disturbing dream wherein he was a king on a throne, with a ruby ring on his hand.  Katherine then admitted suffering a nightmare recently.  She told us that she had seen the black stone statue from the secret room of sorcery in the crypt of the mansion.  It came up behind me, and grabbed me with one pair of arms, then another pair, and finally a third.  I hoped it was a dream only and not a premonition.

Uhmri returned with several fine fish and sold them to the delighted innkeeper.  Thus reunited we decided to return to the mansion and look it over properly in daylight.  We found the place devoid of inhabitants and with various supplies and furniture removed.  There was also a receipt from a Lady Caldwell for the remains of the wine cellar.  Then Brute noticed a foul odor from the cellar and found the corpse of the mute servant Kevin.  Someone had tortured the poor chap to death in brutal fashion.  In a sombre mood we carried him up to the garden and gave him as decent a burial as we could manage, laying him next to the other nameless servant we'd found in the small secret dungeon just a few days earlier.  On the way up from the cellar Kull noticed a painting with a rather peculiar subject.  In it a woman was standing with young Broderick.  She was unsmiling, but her face appeared in a mirror in the back ground with a rather disturbing smile upon it.  Then we realized that the woman looked exactly like the black statue in the crypts which had tried to kill all of us.

We went back up to the secret mirror room in the hidden attic to examine it further.  Impulsive as ever, Brute pulled off one of the coverings.  It was the one showing a distant desert somewhere.  Katherine was sure she saw someone duck into hiding behind some rocks but the rest of us saw it not.  We discussed things further and Uhmri wandered off to look around a bit more.  He discovered a door to stairs up to the attic and went up to investigate.  The attic was mostly bare but had toys in it as though it had once been the playroom of a child.  I later surmised that this was the scene of Broderick's unhappy upbringing which he had told us about.

There was also a mirror.  And there was a light coming from it.  Uhmri walked over and noted his reflection in it.  The reflection appeared as expected, no distant deserts or forests, but his own image seemed about three feet farther away than one would expect.  As Uhmri made to leave he heard a faint sound issue from it.  He quickly descended the staircase and informed us of his find.

We quickly ascended and acquainted ourselves with the new room.  As we looked about in various parts of the attic, Uhmri approached the mirror once more and felt the urge to touch it.  Coming back to him, Katherine had the odd feeling that a mole on his face was on the wrong side now.  And Brute was pleased to notice that our former druid had somehow found time to clean up from fishing and no longer smelled like a fishwife.  Think no more of it we departed, locking the door behind us.

With the afternoon still before us we decided to make another visit to the law courts to see if our earlier plan to have me pose as a distant relative of the Natal family was viable.  The place was mobbed with hoi polloi of every description.  A decidedly unhelpful minor functionary explained that we had little chance of seeing anyone that day.  So instead we availed ourselves of the public gallery overlooking the main legislative chamber.  Little did we know the chamber was in fact the public place of business for the Grand Council.  Below us, seated around a table, were the six members of the chamber.  All were well-dressed and there were both men and women.  But all wore tastefully ornate ceramic masks which prevented us from attempting to identify the mysterious Lady Caldwell or any of the others!  This was rather unexpected.  As we observed from the crowd in the gallery we noticed that two of the members were watching us.  With the two odd-fellows, my lovely K in her striking new armor, and my own sartorial splendor it was no wonder they were drawn to notice us.  But did they recognize us in any way?  Brute was most tempted to jump down and sort them out on the spot, armed guards or no, but we decided to depart and consider our options.

The Journal of Katherine, Entry 46

Author's note:  I must give credit to a part of the Finnish epoch Kalevala, where the old steady singer of songs travels north on his sleigh, meets a fair maiden, and bids her to be his wife.  But the maiden has other thoughts and a conversation with a bird happens.  I borrowed lightly from this and wove it into this journal entry.

Entry 46

In a brief moment, I have what seems like hours or days to think and ponder the decisions to my choices, but, as soon as I leave Trevor behind and thank him for his kindness and step in my temple, I am welcomed by a young acolyte, requesting my name.  This is a formality, for she already knows my name, yet I have not seen her.  I follow her to see the One in charge.

My heart sinks for the news of my past reaches Aden and this temple.  I divert my eyes from her, as she asks about what I know and practice of the dark arts.  Careful in my words, for this will be bad if I fail this test, I look at her and see a glow beyond words - one of which I can only hope to be graced with some day before I pass from this world.  I lock eye contact and she sees within me my true commitment to the Light.  I handle my self wisely, explaining that all of what I do is for the Light, and I only use the sorcery that I know also for the Light.

There are still two issues I should discuss.  I am ready to lay bare all of my thoughts on this courtship offer from Trevor - I just have to state it.  Uncontrolled thoughts race through my mind, giving me panicked visions of the chastity belt, multiple day lectures of such courtships, isolation, deprivation, starvation or the daily guidance in council session after session.  Instead, I reveal that I broke one of my vows when we fought the changeling, but she didn't think so, stating that I was fine in my actions.

I am shown a room where I can stay.  My room is small, about the size of my body is tall, in each dimension.  A small box is under the wooden bed for my writing things, and a candle is on a desk.  I did not use that last night when writing my journal, for I prefer to use a less archaic light.  No door exists to close out anyone, but a lovely arch, delicately graceful, hangs over the doorway.  I relax to sleep thinking of my past few days.  Earlier I had nightmares for many nights.  Then they stopped, to be replaced by a different dream or a possible vision.  It happened when the one friend whom I denied my own feelings for laid open his plans.  Trevor stated rather bluntly and surprisingly to court me.  Before, I thought he was not sincere.  In my curiosity I had to know if all was true.  And I blame myself for forcing him to tell.  Is it what I want?  I drift to my sleep, finally a nice peaceful slumber.

A short sleep it seems now.  I wake to the sounds of morning work, for we must get an early start to the day.  I leave my belongings in my room as I wear only my blue dress that Brute bought for me, and file out with the others to do our cleaning chores.  I do not mind, even though I just came back from the north, dodging goblin patrols, getting tossed off a boat, enduring an avalanche, fighting a changeling, counter charming the mass of refugees and the news of a friend's plans.  But, I can find this place likeable, a place of peace, a refuge.  I sing while I work.  It makes the work enjoyable.  My mind wanders to Trevor's offer - should I ... 

This older man, one that studies illusionology, comes to me and asks me to be his wife.  I imagine a sparrow or song bird to sit on my shoulder, just chirping away.  I sigh and ask of the illusion, to sing so that I may hear, which is better, more divine - to be a priestess in the temple, or a wife in a husband's house?
The bird twitters and chats these words: "nice is a bright sunny day to bathe, but brighter still is the priestess in the nave; cold as steel in ice, yet colder still: in a husband's house - a wife.  A Lady of the Light shines like a priest; while a wife, in a husband's house, is a dog on a leash."

Surprised at the gravity of the chirps from an imaginary featherweight, I focus back to my work.  But, if I made such impossible demands, such as bending rocks like rope, peel paint from a wall, or grow a plant with no dirt.  No, He would find a way to do those, without breaking a sweat.  Better and more improbable as well as nearly impossible: have him continually give to the poor.  But, if he did even that for me, I would be bound by my own accord.  It this what I want?

Soon we file into the hall to eat.  Oatmeal, my favorite!  And apples.  But I quickly look at the others and all only have one, so, I follow and only take one.  After chores and the meal, others must work their assigned duties, and for me, none were assigned, so I have free time.  Since I wanted to get more form fitting armor, I gather mine, suit up, braid my hair, mount my helm and walk to the other temple, the one of law, where I remember we got the magic weapons, one of which is the mace I carry now. 

I inquire of Priest Lore, whom I met before.  He is busy but will be available in an hour, his assistant says.  I wait.  I wander about the nave and the chapel, comparing the building styles, the arch ways, the frames of the windows and the walls of this temple.  It is too utilitarian compared to my temple.  The temple of the Light has its beauty of sweeping elegant curves and the open, warm feeling. 

"Katherine!"  A familiar voice jerks me out of my critique - Brute and - Trevor greet me.  Trevor begins to say something, "I'm saved!" by Lore's assistant for he cut Trevor short, stating that Lore is able to see me now.  I follow in to Lore's office.  Sparking clean is an understatement.  Lore is having his feet washed, too.  I am glad I do not belong to the law temple, for I would not want to be stuck washing his feet.  Anyway, I make a petition to review the items in their armory again, for I am looking for a better fitting set of armor.  My request was not in vain, for I found a copper colored suit of scale armor with a matching helm that resembles a bird.  I exchange my old armor for this.  A bird, the second one today, is it a sign?

Best if I not say anything to Trevor, and hopefully he forgets.  I focus on the issues so I will not fall to his spell again.  The three of us walked as Brute led the way to the inn.  At the rather verbal expressions of my hungry body, Brute taunts me by asking if I want any food.  Wanting to be content my reply is: I am fine.  Brute is not satisfied with my answer, and instead listens to the more vocal part of my body, how embarrassing.  He suggests that I am not forth coming with all of the truth.  I obligingly accept to partake in a little indulgence of a second breakfast. 

I enter the inn, and see the huge Kull sleeping and almost hiding behind an equally sizable mound of empty dishes.  And Boomtuck is picking over a plate of food.  Then more food is served.  It is plentiful and smells delicious.  I eat just a little for I want to deny myself of gluttony.  Then sleeping Kull, in a fit grabs his neck like he is choking and wakes up.  He mentions of a dream that he had twice now, where he is choked by some one that he cannot see.  This reminds me of my dreams, but more of the recent one with Trevor and the witch taking him.  I tell the group about it.  Brute mumbles something about a spider.  I want to state more of the significance of Trevor, but Ohm Uri enters with a few nice sized fish and the smell.  We talk about a festival being held soon, and of the council, how they were replaced after the previous council were killed.  I mention a Lady Caldwell, a relative of Remy Natale that is a new addition to the council.  That reminds us about the mansion.  Ohm Uri stated that many items were removed. 

We go back to the mansion and check.  We head to the room where I stayed before, and the oval mirror was removed.  Then we went through the secret door down to the cell.  The smell of rotten flesh greets us, as we discover a new body in the cell, tortured. It is the body of Kevin the mute servant.  I feel for Kevin, and can only image the suffering he endured.  Then I see Brute's strain on his face and the determination in his eyes.  Three victims, two that died, we have discovered in this place.

Ohm Uri returns from the attic, where he says there is a different mirror.  A little less fishy smell in the air - finally, Ohm Uri washed, but in the attic?  We take the body of Kevin and bury it next to the other unnamed body we found in the cell.  I say a few words for Kevin, and we depart in silence.

We want to find more about this house and the council, so we head next to the secular area.  It is a blur of people and strange customs.  An issue I hear is about a slavers, and that guards are doubled at the docks.  Another has a dispute over land.  Trevor wants to get a good look at the Lady of Caldwell - odd.  But all members are wearing porcelain masks that allow their mouths to speak, yet keep their identity secret.  There were two women on the council, and so, which one is her.  The Lady is rumored to be caring for a young boy - most likely Broderick.

I am being called, and so will continue later...

Religions for an ACKS game

Okay, so if you've been following my humble blog you've probably grokked that I'm interested in the Adventurer, Conqueror, King System by Autarch.  One of the projects they're working on for it is the Auran Empire campaign setting.  This setting is not the typical fantasy version of the European high middle ages but assumes an earlier era:

The Auran Imperial culture is based on Late Rome/Byzantine Empire. The Sunset Kingdoms of the west are akin to Indo-Persian civilization. The North is akin to German (Anglo Saxon) civilization. The Skysos riders of the far west are based on the Asiatic mounted hordes (Huns) that threatened the Late Roman Empire. Northern Elven culture is Celtic British, assuming it had not been Romanized.  The deceased classical elven civilization is “Atlantean” (hypothetical Bronze Age with both Greek and Egyptian motifs combined with early Christian burial practices). The deceased Thrassian (Lizard-man) civilization is inspired by Aztec civilization with an Assyrian aesthetic, while the deceased Zaharan civilization is inspired by Babylonian, Egyptian, and pre-Hellenistic Persian civilization.

But after reading these teaser bits on their web site I was feeling somewhat ambivalent about it.  On the one hand I like that I can go ahead and use all the cool stuff from Lore of the Gods d20 (Egyptian, Norse, Greek, and Mesopotamian deities and religion) by Bastion Press which I bought a while back.  Ever since I read the early D&D deity books I've wanted to toss these into my games.  But on the other hand when you use these deities in a European high middle ages type game it just doesn't always feel right.  (As an aside, the AD&D game run in college by my my friend George used the Greek pantheon and it worked okay.)  Plus, as a DM I feel like I'm being a bit of a slacker using existing stuff instead of coming up with my own creations.  But in the general time period of the ACKS setting these ancient pantheons are all good.  So if I run an ACKS game I will likely swap in the ancient pantheons which I've been studying for a long time. 

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Day 8: What spy RPG have you enjoyed most?

I've only ever played one spy RPG, Top Secret by TSR, and that was a long time ago.  As I recall it ran much as a paper exercise in security levels of countries and places, and a lot of skill rolls to see what happened.  It was interesting and more simulation than game and it didn't run for very long.  It's not a genre that really interests me, unless it's got other elements like aliens or the supernatural added in.

Friday, March 7, 2014

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Day 7: What fantasy RPG other than D&D have you enjoyed most?

What fantasy RPG other than D&D have you enjoyed most? Why?

Well, there are two ways to approach this question.  Which set of rules have I enjoyed most, as rules, and which games did I have the most fun with even if the fun had nothing to do with the rules per se.  I mostly GM, so knowing and using the rules becomes a bit part of play.

I think I really have to go with Chivalry & Sorcery, both as player and GM.  This was the game which introduced me to the hobby.  Looking at the books now I see how clunky it really is and how some classes get all the love.  But I still remember the sense of wonder as my character stared up at two giant skeletons with flaming skulls guarding the gate to the city.  Pure magic.  Then I began my own game and the combination of intellectual challenge and creative freedom was electric.  Yes, I would have to say Chivalry & Sorcery.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Day 6: What non-D&D monster do you think is as iconic as D&D ones...

What non-D&D monster do you think is as iconic as D&D ones like hook horrors or flumphs, and why do you think so?


Mutant Chronicles, 3E Public Beta Playtest

Okay, so a long time back I came across some wargaming magazine about something called Warzone or Mutant Chronicles.  I wasn't sure what exactly the whole game was about but it had some cool minis--unfortunately I quickly found out that the game was already out of production. Dang.  Now the Mutant Chronicles game is back as an RPG on Kickstarter (2 days to go!) and they have a pdf public beta playtest.  I quickly downloaded it and read through it.

Well, the rules seem very straightforward and logical, although the damage dice rolls are slightly unusual.  The playtest comes with four pre-gen characters and a pretty cool adventure.  It's a sort of techno-Cthulhu type horror deal with a crazy cat lady on the side.  The artwork was very good and the general page layout and design was great as well.  I recommend checking it out.  I'll very likely join the Kickstarter for this one.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Many Dungeons of Lost Coppers

Okay, so Dyson over at Dyson's Dodecahedron has compiled all of the entries to his Dungeon of Lost Coppers map completion challenge in one magnificent post.  It's really quite impressive.  My map was okay (and I'm making it into a playable dungeon using ACKS), but many of the others were really excellent.  You should definitely go over and see the great things a group of people can do with an idea.

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Day 5: What other old school game should have become as big as D&D but didn’t?

What other old school game should have become as big as D&D but didn’t? Why do you think so? 

I've never actually played it but probably Runequest.  It had solid rules for play and a great non-traditional (non-medieval) world.  Back when I read Alarums &  Excursions I found the discussions about RQ engaging and fascinating.  Sadly I was low on spending cash as a kid and all my purchases were for my beloved Chivalry & Sorcery.   Speaking of C&S, I can't really propose it as the game which should have made it big, despite my fond memories of it.  It was too fiddly and lacked "fun".

Games I've Always Wanted to Play

There are now great piles of games out there waiting to be played.  I've played quite a few in my time but there are still a number which I just haven't had the opportunity to try at the table. 
  • Amber Diceless Roleplaying: the books were fascinating and I've never played a diceless RPG before.
  • Arduin: I've been hearing about this game for years; I'm not even sure why I'm interested in it beyond the fact that I've been hearing about it for years, but I want to try it out.
  • Ars Magica: My basic stance on RPGs is that fighters are boring.  This game makes it official by putting magic-users center stage.  It has some cool-sounding magic rules as well, so it's on the list.
  • Mouse Guard: I'm amused by the idea of little mice having big adventures.  It also has some character rules which are intriguing.
  • RuneQuest: Another major classic which I've been hearing about for ages but never found anyone playing it.  I'm more interested in the game world than the rules mechanics, which I've sampled in Call of Cthulhu.
  • Seventh Sea: Okay, actually I think pirates are very campy but Seventh Sea adds in some other elements which are enough to draw me in to want to play it.
  • Tribe 8: This is a really weird setting.  Probably the weirdest I've seen in any game.
  • CthulhuTech: I've done some posts on this game before but the mix of Cthulhu and mecha is just brilliant.  Sign me up.
  • DragonStar: This sounds like a really cool setting for sci-fi stories, but I could never quite see how it would work for an RPG campaign.  I'd like to see someone run it.
  • Mutant Chronicles: I'm on the edge of joining the current Kickstarter for this game.  This looks like a great mix of sci-fi and occult in an interesting future setting.
  • Robotech: The classic of classics of the mecha anime genre.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Day 4

What other roleplaying author besides Gygax impressed you with their writing?

Well, I wasn't impressed by Gygax as a writer.  I enjoyed the Empire of the Petal Throne by M.A.R. Barker a lot more.  That book was full of fascinating and inventive ideas unlike anything else out there.  Everything in it was fresh and unusual, totally breaking from the classic fantasy tropes.  I'd rather play EPT than any of the pre-AD&D version of D&D.  Other games I enjoyed just reading included Paranoia, which is still a fun read, and CthulhuTech.

Monday, March 3, 2014

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Day 3

Which game had the least or most enjoyable character generation?

Least: Chivalry & Sorcery or GURPS, because of all the fiddly math

Most: Traveler because your character emerges as you make it; honorable mention to Gamma World

Sunday, March 2, 2014

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Day 2

What was the first character you played in an RPG other than D&D? How was playing it different from playing a D&D character?

Well, I actually started in fantasy RPGs with Chivalry & Sorcery (C&S) by Fantasy Games Unlimited.  My friend Gib introduced me to the game and I made an elf fighter type called Annaculwen.  I thought the whole thing was brilliant.  I also tried a session or two of OD&D with some other friends but thought the rules were crap; years years later I did short stints with AD&D 1E and 2E.  When Gib transferred to another college I became the default DM and went out and bought the C&S books.  (True Confession: I've never actually run a game of any official edition of D&D.)

In play it was probably pretty much like a D&D game.  Magic Users came in a huge range of types, there was no limit on how many spells you could know (but you had to roll to cast and burn Fatigue Points), there were no magic items pre-made, the monsters were drawn only from mythology and literature (no oozes, etc.), and character background stuff was built in.

Review: Dagger

Okay, so I just got a free copy of Dagger, Supplemental Rules for Classic Role-playing with Kids by Brave Halfling Press for entering Erik Tenkar's OSR Superstar contest over at Tenkar's Tavers.  The rules are a 14-page pdf of which 7 pages are the actual rules--and in this case the low ratio of pages with stuff vs. pages without stuff is very good news.

Dagger takes the already fairly simple OD&D rules and simplifies them down even further.  It's really all you need to get started--but note that it is a supplement and not a complete stand-along rules set.  It is designed to make character creation and play easy and assumes the DM is already generally familiar with OD&D.  For instance, there are no ability scores!  The major things missing from Dagger which you'll need to bring in from elsewhere are equipment lists, treasure tables, and magic items.

I think this set of rules accomplishes what it sets out to do and it would work not only as rules for young kids but older "kids" as well.

Thanks Erik! Just got my copy of the Dagger RPG

Okay, so Erik Tenkar over at Tenkar's Tavern held and OSR Superstar contest.  Contestants, including this plucky blogger, sent in one to three OSR magic items to be judged.  That sounded fun--and then more and more prizes were offered.  One of those was a free copy of the Dagger rules from Brave Halfling Publishing for all entrants.  Many thanks to Erik for organizing the contest and Brave Halfling Publishing for this generous entry prize.  I'll be doing a review of the rules in a bit.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Day 1

Okay, so I've decided to jump in on the blog challenge over at the Tomb of Tedankhamen.

What was the first roleplaying game other than D&D you played? Was it before or after you had played D&D?

That would be Traveler.  There was another game, which I seem to remember being called Tunnels & Trolls but which, from later reading reviews of T&T, was probably not.  Being introduced to Traveler was exciting because I had been a sci-fi fan for years.  The quirky character generation where you could actually die was cool and stupid at the same time (like, why does every tour in a job have to be exactly four years?).  I really enjoyed the planet generation rules--I immediately began making up sectors to game in.

However, it was quickly obvious that the default mode of play was a bunch of former something-or-others has this mortgaged ship, see, and they fly around buying and selling cargos and running into situations.  Either that or a bunch of former something-or-others who are thug-mercenaries for hire.  I wasn't excited about either mode and neither were my friends.

I still have a certain fondness for it and might run a session or two for nostalgia's sake,  But I really can't see running a campaign with it, at least not with out gutting and completely customizing.