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Thursday, 22 August 2019

Battle-Bred: Embracing the Grimderp

This last week or so I've really gotten enthralled by Tabletop Wargaming, especially after getting my hands on three boxes of the now outdated Chaos Space Marines. Due to 40k being quite the crunchy nightmare and perhaps unpalatable to people I'm trying to get into war gaming, I went looking for free systems and ended up discovering One Page Rules (Disclaimer: I now support them on Patreon). One feature for Patrons is that you have access to the full rulebook and a 'point calculator' which allows one to make their own units and armies, primarily for converting stuff not covered in the current version like, I don't know, playing with old Squat miniatures maybe?

However this got me thinking about imagining my own war game using those rules. What if I invented something suitably silly and 'grimderp', with all the cheese of pre-2000 Games Workshop. Because this is primarily a Tabletop RPG blog, my current goal for this were as follow:
  • The game use the engine of One Page Rules' Grimdark Future: Firefight. Which is, to say, it plays a lot like a stripped down Warhammer 40k Kill Team, with similar scope and size.
  • The game default playstyle and point cost is rather small.
  • I can also use the setting for a suitably grimderp one shot using an OSR system.
Now let's see what monster was born of this.

The Battle-Bred Warriors

Art by Renat Zakirov
In the far future, mankind has evolved beyond its basic and frail human form, perhaps even evolved beyond death itself. These posthuman live an existence we can't fully grasp all across the solar system. Without true bodies and with world-ending weapons aplenty they have found all out war to be distasteful. No, that's wrong: they find it boring. All it take is one higher intelligence firing planet-cracking missiles at the mindscape moon of another faction and a war end in mere hours. Its dull and these advanced posthuman minds are, indeed, completely and utterly bored. They needed some way to wage conflict in ways that would both not instantly destroy them but also entertain them.

Ancient gene-vaults were cracked in the ruins of Earth. There laid the genetic code of unmodified men of Old Earth: imperfect, stupid, fearful and utterly chaotic. People who waged bloody, messy and wasteful wars. The post-human intelligences bred them for proxy battles, something akin to extreme sport, ritual warfare and cock-fighting. These people were made flawed, able to feel fear and, just as importantly, hatred. They were armed with primitive weapons when the great intelligences could have simply made robots with perfect, pinpoint accuracy and instant-death energy beams and why?: Because imperfect beings wielding imperfect weapons added an element of uncertainty. These beings, these Battle-Bred Warriors are given full personalities, hopes and dreams: some factions promise full ascension to posthuman intelligence to their greatest warriors while others will say they will be showered in material pleasures. Most are simply lied to about their origin and eventual fate.

This is the life of a Battle-Bred: to be raised to kill and kill again in hope of some unachievable goal. Most never really survive more than a few battles anyway so it is a non-issues to the posthuman intelligences. Their lives are used as political plays and mere entertainment, staging skirmish battles upon the radiation and monster-infested surface of the abandoned planet Earth, their lives reduced to nothing more than some abstract point count, where every piece of gear and every personal skill is reduced to a number so their posthuman handler can properly arrange a squad to suit its need. There are very strict rules on how exactly these squads are formed but once deployed all hell break loose.
Have a random 2000 AD cover, because
2000 AD is always relevant in this context.
Some warriors are genetically or cybernetically enhanced but never to the point of them losing their human frailty: it is, after all, a key component of the 'fun' of the game. Some are even equipped with deliberately faulty or malfunctioning war gear in order to 'spice up' the games. Weapons are designed to tear opponents apart but never with 100% certainty. Their lives suck and older warriors begin to doubt their missions: why are they even defending this doodad? It doesn't do anything yet after a certain amount of time is spent, should any of them remain near it when said time expire, their side will be declared victorious. What's even the point? Is that all there is to life?

There is a Battle-Bred revolution coming: it is only a matter of time...

The solar system has many, many factions of posthuman intelligences and each tend to enjoy breeding a specific type of warrior, with its own unique form of training and armaments. These include, but hardly limited to:
  • Lunar Arbiters: This ancient order of lore-keepers are among those factions who 'police' the great games the most, ensuring the rules are obeyed (if not they engage their enemy in combat, of course!). Their warriors are trained with a mixture of military discipline and deep mysticism, speaking gibberish about 'the great cosmic order' and 'the antediluvian laws of conflict'. They honestly believe they are enforcing order and teaching others a lesson in the process. Particularly fond of pain-inducing weapons.
  • Martian Oldbloods: Mars was the first colony beyond's Earth orbit and thus colonized fairly early into its history, back when human still waged wars the old fashioned way. This love of their military history has led them to breed their toys as actual soldiers. Their Battle-Bred are born in crops, raised in communal barracks by veteran and retired Battle-bred and instilled with military fanaticism. Since the % of soldiers who remain actually loyal after a few years is low they tend to clone and make copies of particularly blindly obedient, yet charismatic individuals who become the overseer of their entire home complex.
  • The Neo-Barbarians: The end result of some posthuman intelligences studying a mixture of the deep past and pop culture and concluding that giant, bulging muscles, pink mohawks, copious amount of hallucinogenic drugs and heavy metal bred superior warriors. Neo-Barbarians are bred in a gigantic enclaves simulating a harsh world filled with a mixture of prehistoric monsters and deliberately-left-behind ancient technology, creating a world filled with barbarian tribes on motorcycles. The most savage of them are used for battle.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Dungeons The Dragoning Redux: The Immateriums, Chaos, Daemons and other nasties

Yes, I'll keep posting Dungeons The Dragoning 'remake' stuff because it amuses me. There is just something so stupid, so hilarious but also so liberating in just saying 'screw it, let me be silly' and imagine a universe where the basic D&D stuff co-exists with the properties of Games Workshop, White Wolf and others. This is basically the tabletop equivalent of picking your favorite toys and smashing them into each others, creating a weirdass story where Optimus Primal team up with some Pok√©mon and three or four Power Rangers...from different teams across several season.

Hey, look: while I was a very lucky kid when it came to toys I sadly never got to have a full Power Rangers team due to how quickly these toys went off the shelves and were replaced.

One thing I have noticed as I get older is that, paradoxically I care less and less about trying to be mature, at least not at all times. Elfgames are inherently stupid/silly and even in today's era we would still be scorned as weirdoes by anyone suitably older and un-nerdy to have no damn clue why all of a sudden the dorky stuff has entire industries built on exploiting the money of hipsters and aging neck beards alike. Its just silly, its just fun and I need to stop feeling so insecure damn it!

A Dissection of the Immaterial

The ancient form of the Immaterium, its most primordial and ancient form was not the churning chaotic mass of the Warp but rather the impossible Wyld. To most people not very well versed in the natures of the Realm of Souls it would seemingly appear as completely identical: both are chaotic endless expanses of thoughts, souls and potential matter and energy constantly churning. The Wyld still exist but it only exist in the deepest regions of the Immaterium, having been tainted and corrupted into the Chaotic expanse (note the capital C here!) of the Warp: its energies corrupted and tainted to be tinged with all the fear, madness, rage and possibly bodily fluids of countless lives collectively crapping their pants at the War in Heaven and Usurpation of the Old Ones.

The Immaterium, as a dimension, encompass the entire galaxy and far beyond it. It is composed of the following parts:
  • The Ethereal Plane is the part closest to the Materium, created from the immediate thoughts of all life forms. It is a boring, grey reflection of the material world and generally isn't very useful for long distance travel. There are entities which have the ability to phase into it and switch between a material and immaterial form such as Phase Spiders. The Old Ones (and several other beings) call it The Umbra or The Shadow.
  • The Shadowfell is a specific part of the Umbra which has morphed into its own thing primarily due to the use of necromancy. It can be accessed through the Ethereal Plane or the Material Plane and exist as a dark realm of death and gloom, inhabited by the fossilized form of souls: what we would call ghosts. It is also called The Underworld.
  • Within the Warp are other self-contained Realms, which are often the domain of beings who have ascended to become Gods. While many beings claim to be Gods, for the purpose of this section it will refer to potent spiritual beings who have become one with the Immaterium but are distinct from Daemons.
  • Around and constantly gnawing at these parts of the Immaterium is the infamous Warp, which is the corrupted and twisted Chaotic mess which most people are familiar with. The Warp is the domain of the Ruinous Powers of Chaos and of their Chaos Daemons. Its energies induce madness and uncontrolled mutations.

The Ruinous Powers

You know them well! Except Malal, of course...
While they are called 'Gods of Chaos', these beings are both much more than Gods but also less. The oldest Dragons and other survivors of the War in Heaven sometimes call them the 'Heads of the Wyrm' for they are all conjoined and part of the same ultimate, undivided Chaos even if no Chaos God would ever concede such a fact. The concepts they embody are fundamental and were always part of the Wyld when it first formed. Once corrupted, however, these concepts slowly coalesced into malignant entities of which the main pantheon is composed of four and an additional member. They are:
  • Khorne, the Blood God: Embodiment of rage, bloodlust, strength and survival among other things. This guy needs no introduction, being obsessed with war and destruction as well as the shedding of blood in all forms.
  • Nurgle, the Lord of Decay: Embodiment of pestilence, plagues, decay, entropy and corruption. Kind of a nice guy by comparison.
  • Tzeentch, the Changer of Ways: Embodiment of change, mutation, fate, hope and general RNG fuckery. He also the Chaos God most associated with magic and sorcery even if he lacks monopoly on it. If anything has a % chance of failure you could blame it on him.
  • Slaanesh, the Prince of Pleasure: Embodiment of passion, lust, desire and general obsessions that turn a bit too grim or self-destructive. Slaanesh is generally the Chaos God most associated debaucheries that turn a PG-13 rating into something that makes the MPAA kill themselves.
  • Malal, the God of Team-Killing Fucktards: Also called the Unspoken God, the One-Who-Doesn't-Exist, Malice and 'That Asshole'. Malal is the embodiment of Chaos own self-contradiction and self-defeating douchery.
Below each Chaos God is an innumerable host of Daemons, ranging in power and intellect between mindless and useless slug-daemons to towering Daemonic Nobles (sometimes called Daemon Lords, Daemon Princes, Archfinds and more) who is each an endgame boss who can devastate entire worlds on a whim. Adding to this are endless permutations of cultists, madmen, mutants and other Chaos-aligned horrors.

The ultimate goal of a Chaos worshiper is Apotheosis into a Daemon Prince (again, title may vary): in doing so they become infused with a portion of the Ruinous Powers, shed their mortal form and become immortal beings of immense power. Each of these beings is a dreaded monster of legend: former tyrants, impossibly skilled assassins, twisted necromancers and more. Some ascended during their life time through service to Chaos while others found themselves rewarded after their death even without having ever known of the powers of Chaos, having caught the eyes of the Dark Gods who didn't want such a gifted (unwitting) servant to pass on when they could keep doing what they were doing for eons to come.

The ranks of Daemon Lords are vast and include many horrid figures such as Orcus, Daemon Lord of the Undead who serves primarily (but not exclusively) Nurgle and Tzeentch as a patron to all manner of undying abominations as well as their potential creator. Just as he spread a Chaotic sickness and corruption he also is a patron to Necromancers, imparting upon them foul sorcerous secrets to transcend life and death. Doge Klypse, the Archbishop of Madness scribbles mad texts which may or may not hold horrific prophecies involving even the end of Chaos itself while the Knight of Entropy exist to only end things, turning the entire world to dust and ash as it bring about the annihilation that ultimately is Chaos. Meanwhile, Asmodeus, Lord of the Nine and (Self-Proclaimed) God of Tyranny exist just to show how confusing Chaos is. Having been infused with the power of Malal, Asmodeus turned Chaos against itself and created a Realm which combine the twisting and corrupting powers of Chaos with an iron-clad, terrifying rule of tyranny and he now wage a never-ending war against Chaos with his armies of Devils.

The Gods

Sigmar in his Age of Sigmar depiction.
There exist in the Immaterium beings of immense power which are not the Ruinous Powers or their servants. The process of their ascension, in many ways, echoes that of Daemon Princes but the ways it was achieved are different. The Gods (sometimes called the Incarnae) are powerful and unique beings, possibly creations of the Old Ones or possibly purely through the will power and belief of life itself. Like Daemon Princes they shed their material form, becoming indestructible beings who dwell within the Immaterium. However unlike Daemon Princes these creatures neither obey the Ruinous Powers nor do they resonate of its energy. Perhaps, in ancient times, before the Immaterium became tainted by the Warp this is what happened to truly exceptional mortals and not the birth of a Daemon Prince.

Wielding the power of an Incarnae as a Cleric is far less dangerous than channeling the corruption energies of Chaos but also much more difficult. It requires a special gift, a sense of communion with beings greater than oneself whereas everyone and everything can fall into Chaos in due time. Because the Gods represent Order (or at least, Neutrality in the Law/Chaos axis) they have a harder time interacting directly with the World than Daemon Princes since they innately try to preserve and maintain the fabric of reality to some degree whereas servants of the Ruinous Powers simply want to break things and care not if oxygen molecules become tiny shrimps that shoot rainbows from their eyes...rainbows that melt your brain, of course.

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Black Hack: Preliminary Ideas for Deathwatch Conversion

These are some (still rough) ideas for a Black Hack conversion to play as the elite Space Marines of the Deathwatch, warriors assembled from a variety of chapters to take part in special missions to deal with dangerous alien threats. With their distinct thematic of a motley crew of heroes of different backgrounds, the Deatwatch is a part of the Warhammer 40k setting very well suited to tabletop gaming.

Both the best and worst 40k rpg from
Fantasy Flight Games.

Heroic Characters

Deathwatch seemingly exist to remind people
that, yes, marines ARE cool.
The Space Marines of Warhammer 40k are the poster boys of the setting and the most glamorous of the Imperium's warriors. They are very much the face of the game as a whole and many novels and videogames have been made about them, casting them as absolute badass sometimes in complete defiance to the Tabletop Wargame where, in many editions, they weren't exactly up to par with how the lore presented them. Because this is tabletop and it focus on particularly skilled marines, members of the Deathwatch, this will work off the assumption that characters certainly are cut above the average shmuck of Old School-type games, where often you start off very weak.
  • Space Marines would start off as Level 5, with the assumption of having at least several decades of combat experience as a member of their respective chapters. While the idea of having 'levels' isn't quite fitting for most 40k RPG we will assume this is an abstraction of sort.
  • Characters would start noticeably more powerful than the average of the Black Hack. However, progression would be somewhat slower and would represent a general increase beyond the baseline space marine skills and abilities they posses through their years of service spent among the Deathwatch.
  • A key character trait which would heavily define them is their Chapter of Origin. After all, the culture, history and fighting style of a chapter heavily colors a marine with different chapters having different values. The core 'Blackwatch' release should include options to play at least every major founding Legion.

Core Mechanics

The 'Blackwatch' hack would rely primarily on all the established Black Hack foundations, ditching entirely the Dark Heresy-derived system for something which goes back closer to the roots of RPG as we know it, which is to say a stripped down OD&D. That said there's still quite a few changes.
  • The stats would be: Weapon Skill (WS), Ballistic Skill (BS), Strength (STR), Dexterity (DEX), Constitution (CON), Mind (MND), Senses (SEN) and Social (SOC).
  • Each Chapter would have their own way of generating stats for a marine. As all marines would start with at least an average these bonus would represent those traits which a Chapter amplifies and exemplifies. A key example of that would be Weapon Skill for both Blood Angels and Space Wolves, as these are two chapters well known for their close combat prowess. However, Blood Angels would also be gifted with greater social acumen while the rowdy Space Wolves would be known for their sharp senses.
  • The classes could be simply Tactical Marine, Assault Marine, Devastator Marine and Scout Sergeant (for those veteran marines who fight as Scouts despite their status as full marines). Librarian. Apothecaries and Techmarines would also exist but see more restriction with some chapters.
  • I'm thinking resolving the idea of 'skills' via a concept of Facts, taken from Sine Nomine games. A character would have a few facts (some very short sentences) describing both the chapter traits they embody (or, in some rare cases, DON'T embody!) and their personal history and skills. When called upon to make something equivalent to a skill check, if they got a Fact that can help they gain advantage. Simple as that.
  • Rather than use Armor Points as presented in the Black Hack, the hack would use AP in a way similar to that of the Fantasy Flight Games RPG but a bit more simplified, with overall smaller numbers to keep track. The armor penetration mechanic would remain.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Tellus: Of Mages and Sorcerers

It is no surprise that, with it being my first edition, that D&D 3e has left a significant mark on me for better and for ill and this is quite apparent in how I've separated the concept of a Wizard and a Sorcerer. Tellus is not different and while the two classes are similar enough they have deep differences whose roots are in the misty past of that world.

The Black, Red and White Mage are from this Final Fantasy-inspired homebrew.

On Magic

Maybe a Dragon Clan lady with unusual hair?
Art by Jeff Chen.
It is a well-known and established fact that, on Tellus, the Ulma (or Human, as we'd recognize them) are the least naturally attuned to raw magic. On average it is said that about one in several hundred Ulma has the potential to wield magic. There have been many theories proposed, ranging from the scientific to the completely mystical and religious (with a few smug Sky-Folks or Dragon Clan simply believing the Ulma to be inferior beings) to explain this. It takes more than the required stats of a class to be able to learn magic, meaning there are many intelligent individuals who could master entire crafts and never be able to cast a meager magic missile. However, for simplicity sake the rules for multiclass are unchanged and any player who wish for his character to multiclass is simply assumed to unlock some latent potential.

Those designated as Sorcerers are member of the non-human races (generally speaking either Sky-Folks and Dragon Clan as they are the most well known and still extant sapient non-human beings of Tellus) whose blood and/or soul resonate with a deeper connection to magical energies. Mages, on the other hand rely on complex formula and their spellbooks in order to cast spells. These traditions are rooted in a mixture of human and non-human beliefs, philosophies and sciences which have all melded together to form the current paradigm of magic.

White Magic and Black Magic

Accept no substitute.
The early Ulma's view on magic has massively shaped all thoughts surrounding it. Ulm belief separate magic into two opposite-yet-complementary forces, which they designate under the crude terms of White and Black magic. The first is a magic of stasis, order, support, reinforcement and light. The other is that of change, transformation, chaos and raw power. Neither is technically good/evil but the cultural trend and the history of the Ulma has colored these views, as ancient Black Mages were seen with suspicion and fear due to their destructive powers while those who wielded more benign powers were seen in a better light. This, combined with Ulm religion, has long shaped the image of White Magic as the power of divinity when in reality it is completely distinct from that of the (much rarer) Clerics. The root of these traditions are themselves found in the culture of the Sky Folks and Dragon Clans.

In modern times, Black Magic has evolved from being seen as evil witchcraft into something more orderly and scientific: the study of primordial forces which can impact the world through fundamental changes. While White Mages have remained healers and mystics, the Black Mages are increasingly seen as scholars who wield their magic to fuel the larger and more impressive feat of geomancy and engineering which the Ulma have accomplished. The energies are seen as part of the natural world, even if some still believe they have a spiritual component. They are fundamental forces but not under the direct control of the Gods and thus technically separate from the spellcasting of other, stranger and more exotic classes.

Other Mages and Wizards

The Wizard of the core Dungeons & Dragons rules still exist but is not the default 'Arcane Spellcaster'. Wizards are more specialized, more unique and unusual mages whose traditions might have split off from the common branch which became the modern Black Magic (which is a very wide array of topics but also very heavily invested in elemental forces). A few of them appear among the ranks of Black Mages: iconoclasts trying to bring back a certain form or tradition of magic back into the fold of modern magic. Others, most likely, are people from exist land and locale or members of more insular Wizard communities or perhaps the apprentice to an eccentric hermit.

There is no clear naming convention for these mages, but there are those who sometimes call the nine major schools of magic by names such as Grey Mages (for Necromancy) or Purple Mages (Illusionist). In truth there is no official or coherent naming scheme for these and the attempt at slapping a color on it is a result of people assuming you have to slap on one them less the entire system falls apart. They simply draw upon some aspects of both sides in specific ways and do not represent a completely new dimension of magic for the most part.

Meanwhile, Red Mages are a result of pragmatism and wisdom: where Ulma science and theology had increasingly pulled apart two sides of the same coin, the Red Mages were born from a desire to wield back both forces and refining them as one. Where the current paradigm preached for spellcasters to forget the mundane and physical, there were those who believed in the importance of both The term Red Mage come from the fact many early adopter of this philosophy of magic, which seek to balance white/black magic and the physical/mental, were mercenaries and warriors of some stripe who applied their new skill to the battlefield. 

Monday, 5 August 2019

Tellus: On the Beautiful, 'Gamey' Simplicity

When in D&D 4e first came out, I recall there was at least some discussion on how monster stats had been handled before and after. People knee-jerked on how 'gamey' the new monster blocks were, on how focused on the in-combat actions, effects and special moves each monster had as opposed to having abilities which functioned like, say, spells. There was a certain sense these were monsters being treated less like an individual life form and more of a stat block of some JRPG monster.

There's no need to tell how much this mentality is a good thing in some cases. Especially mine.

Now some people still knee-jerk to monsters being these things built with purely their special combat maneuvers in mind and that's fine. However, when it come to Tellus and many attempts to channel Japanese Videogame RPG this idea and philosophy of monster design, when combined with the less-is-more of many OSR stat block is wonderful especially when using Giffyglyph Monster Maker, which auto-scale monster stat blocks for higher level. Yes, it makes for very 'gamey' monsters but in my case this is exactly what I need.

This is a quick monster statblock I've whipped up with the program. As you can see, it is extremely basic and boring (yet efficient). This might not appear like much at first but this will become the building block of several monsters. I've conceptualized that in a JRPG/TTRPG this would be a fairly basic monster which relies on its decent mobility and damage rate.

This is the creature's main combat role: it move around, close in on the party and inflict as much damage as it can: a very basic combat role one would be expected to find in the early game of any JRPG. These are the monsters a step up from your regular boring mooks like slime but not enough to be a threat so long as you can mitigate its DPS either by out-damaging it or healing yourself. Its a boring monster but it will get the job done....but not like this. Let me spice it up a bit, shall we?

After some tweaks, this creature become a Vile Condor. These are flying (well, hovering because true flying enemies don't quite exist in older JRPG), poisonous bird-monsters who exude a horrific, poisonous cloud of musk around them.  Beyond a slight increase in speed, the core stats are unchanged. The Vile Condor's ability to hover and give Disadvantage on non-reach melee attacks is loosely inspired by mechanics such as those flying bastards in Final Fantasy X which are very hard to hit without resorting to magic or Wakka's ball-throwing base attack.

Meanwhile the Claw Fiend is a fairly generic early mid-level Fiend creature, which is immune to fire but weak to radiant. It lack the defensive douchery of the Condor but compensate with the ability to Cleave as well as gaining an advantage against weakened foes. In particular, the Clawfiend has been tweaked to have even less AC and HP than it should have for its level but it also deal more damage than it should, making it nothing but a DPS brute.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Urban Fantasy: Arcane Blasphemies

Usually, when some mage or similar being tries to enact a ritual that is very likely to fail or have catastrophic results this is what happen: partial or total failure. The components of their alchemical mixture born of a fusion of medieval alchemy and modern chemistry fail to properly bind and explode. Their summoning rituals based off numerology doesn't work or it work but what they summon is free to tear them apart. Maybe they made an electronic Ouija board used to summon trans-dimensional ghosts as a mean to travel between worlds. This is a failure. Sometimes, however, it work when it shouldn't and some tiny part of the fabric of the cosmos is torn apart and it does work.

And when it does, something else is born.

These creatures don't have a truly established name but calling them 'Arcane Blasphemies' is somewhat accurate. They are similar to Demons but aren't quite identical. They are creatures (more accurately, a living phenomena) born of transgressions creating the impossible. Those with a more modern mindset see them as 'glitch spirits' (even if that's quite wrong), akin to a living computational error in reality's code.

Born of the Impossible

Oryx by Ron Boyde
Each of these creatures is unique, born of a mishap of magic and mad science (arguably those are the same). Most aren't readily apparent in their birth: its not like they poof into existence right next to a ritual or spell that worked when it shouldn't have. As spirit-like beings, they first form more as thoughts and ideas and may take days, months or years to manifest into the world.

Their form (such as it is) is unique, although they are some common patterns which can emerge, such as seemingly being made of impossible materials, such as glass and sand ever-shifting between each state as it phase through the fourth dimension, forming a bug-like exoskeleton made of stacked hybercubes. Others appear broken, with a brittle or cracking form. This has absolutely no effect on their actual health, however. Many of these creatures bend light and colors in strange and alien ways, too and they might even have parts of their bodies looking as if someone inverted the color or applied strange filters in Photoshop. There is an innate 'wrongness' to their nature that make even normal spirits look positively normal and mundane by comparison.

Are they intelligent? Sometimes. Their minds are alien and twisted but they're not dumb. In time, this spark of half-formed thoughts can and will develop into a true intellect. These creatures will have want and needs as well as goals. This is where these creatures can become interesting allies but most likely enemies if the players have a group primarily dedicated to monster-slaying and protecting people because these blasphemous and miraculous beings will certainly not care about individual human lives.

Seekers and Masters

The Arcane Blasphemies, being born of seemingly impossible reality-defying goals are by nature extremely ambitious creatures. They were born of reckless experimentation and thus seek to repeat it in some twisted form as a purpose to their existence. Being impossible, heretical beings they will very much be extremely destructive or corrupting in their goals, hoarding magical secrets, artifacts and more which they will more often seek to unmake and untangle. They do this in order to grow in power and gain a greater understanding of nature but toward what exact one can really say. Perhaps there is no ultimate goal. These might simply be creatures which exist to cause impossible events and twist magic because its what they fundamentally are.

Arcane Blasphemies make for interesting patron to would-be magicians and mad scientists: trading the secrets recorded in their alien minds for new bits of information only to ultimately lead a mad scientist or mage to its destruction. They are best exemplified by the classic stock mad scientist quote of "FOR SCIENCE!!!" after all.

Twisted Abilities

In term of abilities, an Arcane Blasphemy is akin to a Lesser or Common Spirit with Nemesis status and the following baseline trait and abilities:
  • Unstable Materialization (Constant): An Arcane Blasphemy has a Materialization Rank of A. In addition it regain 1 HP/turn. However, should it fail any Saving Throw it will begin to flicker uncontrollably and become unable to regenerate any HP by any mean until it rest in a spiritually potent area for 24 hours or consume the life (read: kill) a living user of magic of some sort.
  • Mimic Spell (On Turn): The Arcane Blasphemy commit Effort for the day and replicate any spell it has been damaged or affected by in the last 24 hours. The creature can only replicate each spell having affected it once meaning further use of this power mean they need to cast a different spell.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Tellus: Having Some Fun with Giffyglyph's Monster Maker (Common Slime)

So the Giffyglyph Monster Maker app is a thing. It seems in many ways to be a spiritual sucessor to the monster maker for D&D 4e down to auto calculations. It use somewhat different (and simplified) maths and abilities from the baseline D&D 5e monsters, some of which are more game-ey. This isn't a bad thing because the 5e setting I'm working on, Tellus, is based off JRPG.

As such I've decided to have some quick fun with it:
The Common Slime is a well-known vermin in Tellus, treated just about the same way we'd treat a big and aggressive rat. They are utterly mindless, crappy little buggers which looks like animate blobs of goo (the exact colors vary but its usually a shade between blue and green). While classified as Oozes they are a distant cousin to True Elementals, being born of moisture and magical energies. They are technically blind as they lack eyes but they can sense vibrations in the ground they touch which allow them to pinpoint a prey. Against humanoids their ooze cause only a slight acid burn and is unable to digest anything larger in any sufficient amount of time for it to be relevant in battle. They are slippery little buggers but poke them with something sharp and they will spill over their inside and die within seconds.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Urban Fantasy: I Don't Use Lovecraft's Mythos

No, this is not some smarmy statement on Lovecraft's views which have been discussed by just about anyone smarter than me (which is a lot of people). I'm not here to apologize for the supposed sins of a dead man but rather here to put down my thoughts on Lovecraft's mythos as a whole in relation to my game setting.

It might seem a bit weird for someone who deliberately run an Urban Fantasy game which doesn't always take itself seriously and is basically the sinkiest of kitchen sinks to flat out say that nothing which Lovecraft wrote exist for real in his world. HPL's influence on horror, fantasy and science fiction is so utterly monumental that it seems weird. Its not that I don't draw inspiration from him, quite the contrary but rather that by not using his constructed mythos (not that it was ever intended to be one but it became that way) I choose to both honor his work and reinforce it in my own way.

Simply put? Lovecraft having his creations shoved into various works which exist out of his genre cheapen his work for two reasons:

  • The first is that often it is inserted into a world/story whose ultimate tone and purpose is utterly removed from the bleak, depressing and alienating world that HPL created, where man is but a tiny insignificant spec of dust in the cosmos and where alien powers invariably drive the human mind to madness. Adding this to a world where you're expected to fight monsters and have cool action completely miss the point.
  • Second and more importantly: everybody already knows HPL's work, which too diminish it. His world was one where a thousand horrible secret existed about the universe, where horrible sorcerer and alien entities lurked around every corner and you were supposed to be left wondering just how much existed out there. The bizarre, alien Gods and entities of his accidental mythos exist to reinforce this. They are not the being of our myths: at best our myths contain a tiny reflection of the truth.
Thus by treating Lovecraft as merely fiction it leave the stranger part of my invented cosmos as alien as I want them to be, returning it to the sense of dread and the great unknown. At the same time when I show a world where ultimately humanity still matter I also don't invalidate his work by forcing this conception of the cosmos to exist with his creation. I can draw inspiration from it as much as I want without ever feeling like I'm screwing with his already often-abused work which has been drained of all mystery by decades of over exposure.

Beside nobody find Cthulhu scary anymore. He's a fucking plushy now!

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Phasing Out the 'Random World' ...but it will live on!

The so-called Random World has been my baby for a while now. Born as a thought experiment in fleshing out a world to use for OD&D/basic OSR stuff using nothing but a randomly generated map it has since grown into its own thing. However as a setting it is as usable as it will get and one downside to its randomly generated map is I'm a bit stuck with what I have. Since the setting isn't going to be used on tabletop in the foreseeable future I'm shelving it. Its done. It has been fun and really helped me stretch my creative muscles but it will only go so far.

So now what?

Well there's material in there which is very usable and I'm quite happy with, namely the monsters. The stuff I've worked on for use, which tries to straddle the line between being unique from the basic D&D stuff while still being completely recognizable and usable with a basic system is something I'm quite proud of: these goblins and trolls are pretty simple but hey, I like what I did with them! As such this material is likely to get a redo and get some polish for a later setting.

Goodbye, Random World. You sparked something in me and for that I am grateful. Its a shame I'll never run you as-is.