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Thursday, 18 June 2020

Tellus: Starting Again

I've been seriously thinking about Tellus, especially the crunch. Truth be told I've been far too nice to Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition. Its still the best edition of 'modern D&D' (3e, Pathfinder' 4e and 5e) but in all honesty it just doesn't suit me all too well and to be honest a lot of recent events have made me dislike the modern face and presentation of D&D to a so-called 'modern' audience. Time to start again, redoing Tellus with some Oldschool-associated core system. More importantly, this will make the game completely self-contained, further tying the setting and game mechanics together in a way which mesh with my tastes rather than relying on the work of some faceless company in the mainstream of tabletop.

Tellus is (mechanically) dead. Long live Tellus!

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

The Glorious Insanity of Xianxia (And how it accidentally relate to D&D)

Artist unknown.
The concept of Wuxia and Xianxia (two overlapping genre of 'Chinese Fantasy') is one which I've mentioned here and there in some shape or for on this blog. Generally speaking, all this stuff has always existed at the periphery of Western pop culture: always present enough to leave an influence but never enough to ever hit big in the mainstream. For example, its no surprise if I mention how the entire Monk class is pure Wuxia and martial art concepts. It's been a genre which is slowly creeping to my headspace as I turn into more and more of a hipster every day.

Oh did I mention how fucking insane this Chinese stuff is?

What, you thought 'wire fu' and revenge tales of kung fu and swordplay was all there was to it? I thought that to too, but going into Xianxia more than Wuxia. This stuff is completely and utterly absurd and even more so its completely shameless in how insane it is. Interestingly, a lot of the core ideas found in D&D, especially more modern editions, seem more out of Xianxia than any Western fantasy:

  • Xianxia Protagonists aren't 'heroes' in the traditional sense and, in many ways, are the archetypal 'murder hobo' given a in universe justification. The world of Cultivation is an absolute banana dog-eat-dog world where every power source exist in a limited amount and every fights over whatever scrap of magic bullshit which can be used to boost their kung fu and magical powers. It is a world with a lot of stratification of power, rule of might and limited resources making it the logical, if slightly demented, conclusion to the adventurer paradigm. This is the ultimate power-driven sandboxing experience where every other antagonist could arguably the main character in their own right, carving up their own kingdoms or grinding away all the XP and hoarding magical treasures for themselves.
  • In many ways, the higher end of the 'power level' of Dungeons & Dragons especially the more one goes into later editions the more it resemble something out of Xianxia. In modern D&D editions, a high level Fighter has so many HP, such a high attack and such good saves that he is basically superhuman to some truly bullshit level which fly under the radar due to everyone focusing on spellcasters. Yet compare a high level Fighter to the average human and you can see he has long utterly surpassed any kind of realistic human limitation. In Xianxia, this is not an accident of mechanics or an afterthought, it is the entire basis of the world.
  • In many ways, the D&D concept of a Wizard is a lot closer to a Cultivator than any historical and folkloric perception of magic. The D&D Wizard, at least when presented out of the box, is a being who can learn to bend reality to his will through sheer perseverance, training, learning and acquisition of magical artifacts and secret techniques. They are basically Cultivators without the Daoist and Buddhist bent and without the martial and physical prowess.
  • It was generally expected that D&D characters would one day 'tire' of the Material Plane and that higher level play was truly intended to take place in other dimensions. Xianxia is full of different 'tiers' of reality, different Heavens and Hells...which are basically more of the same when you boil it down but with bigger numbers. Doesn't that sound familiar?
Of course there are even more stupid and/or crazy things in Xianxia, especially in the Chinese web novel scene which is basically the equivalent to 'Chinese Pulp fantasy' with the same intended demographics. I've barely scratched the surface and only just gotten into this insanity.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Urban Fantasy: To Not Shy Away From Vice

This is a more unusual post, as it pertain to society and politics but also how it relates to my ongoing work on my Urban Fantasy setting. This isn't exactly a pleasant post and I'm sure that, of all ten people who actually read this blog most will find offense in my rambles. So be it, then. Much of this is going to come as a bit of ramble and incoherent but generally I'm poor at structuring my own words and ideas anyway.

To Not Shy Away From Vice

Let's not beat around the bush here: we are currently living through a mass hysteria, where everything can and must be 'cancelled', erased, destroyed and/or repurposed. In the name of supposedly good ideals we are destroying ourselves and our past. This is what is deemed to be 'Virtue' and to oppose such mindless self-destruction is considered to be 'Vice'. Therefore, this post is me Vice Signalling where others would signal their Virtue. It is what it is, but nonetheless I will explain my position.

There are many times, when writing about or GMing my Urban Fantasy game that I have to address the darker parts of human nature because it is what it is. So why do I call this to 'To Not Shy Away', then? Simple: because self censorship in the name of a certain good is not good, but evil. The cosmos of my Urban Fantasy setting is very human-centric, with the very nature, existence and expression of what makes us human at its very core unlike other worlds where humanity is insignificant. As such a  fundamental value expressed within that world is that the potential for Good and Evil exist in us all. It is a view where pessimism and optimism exist in equal amount. 'Evil' within that world is limited to a type of person or to a certain group, civilization, culture or religion. 'Evil' is what is born from the absence of good and, most importantly, the void created when our very humanity is something we reject and let me tell you: this is no greater embrace of inhumanity than self-destruction. This can take many form, including deliberately shying away from the darker side of humanity to coddle oneself and wrap oneself into an echo chamber.

There are no guidelines at my table (be it a real tabletop or online). There are no rules and no oath anyone will ever force me to take. Do note I wrote force, as obviously trying to be a responsible adult (haha as if!) and adapting to avoid what would truly, seriously disgust my players and friends is fine however that would be something done willingly out of respect for an individual, not to some faceless collective. Unless something is of an issue which someone I trust and respect goes "Well, I don't really like that topic" then I will never shy away from the darker sides of humanity. We are not children. Lastly, to deny the existence of human vices and warts is fundamentally wrong, as is coddling ourselves in believing that only certain individuals are capable of good or evil.

Or, to be crass: Fuck your puritan mindset, I do what I want when I want and you won't stop me from going into horror and disturbing topics. If I am a demon, so are you.

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Grimdark Future: 'Fluffy' Machine Cult Defilers Lists, Part 2

The last post barely scratched the surface of the potential horrors which the Dark Mechanicum could unleash should it be fielded as an army in Grimdark Future. Fire up the dark synthwave mixes because, once more, we will delve into technological terrors as the Machine Cult Defilers list is combined with a second list to forge monstrosities of mad science and warp-fueled abominations. Without the limitations of religious dogma, the Mechanicum is free to explore the darkest areas of knowledge and can push their engineering of machinery, flesh and mind to untold heights further corrupted by the powers of Chaos.

Dark Mechanicum: Heirs to Mars

Art by the legendary John Blanche.
Armies: Machine Cult Defilers+Machine Cult
This was a fairly obvious choice, to combine the two Machine Cults list into one, enabling the Dark Mechanicum to be restored to its former glory as it wield artifice to rival, nay, surpass these dogmatic fools on Mars who believe themselves to be the 'True Mechanicum'. The Dark Mechanicum, after all, call itself the 'New Mechanicum' as well and see themselves as both the true heirs to the Martian quest for knowledge and its superior replacement, unshackled by restrictive dogma and fully enlightened to the dark powers of the Warp and what gifts it can offer.

Defiler Lord [1] x2 (410pts)
Combustion Blaster
Hover Throne with Combustion Blaster

Sect Chief [1] x2 (230pts)
2x Sonic Blades
Metal Spikes

Sect Infiltrators [10] x2 (1000pts)

Tripod Walker [1] x6 (1320pts)
Twin Autocannon
Taser Lance

Tactics: Unlike the more 'shooty' Mechanicus list, this one has a lot of potential for some serious melee damage despite packing some serious guns. This is in reference to how Chaos Space Marines tend to be a bit more melee-focused than their Loyalist counterparts. Assign each Sect Chief to a matching squad and use the Canticle buffs, primarily +3" movement and +1AP in melee to further buff these already deadly units. Tripod Walkers, meanwhile, will harass the enemy at both range and in melee thanks to Impact and Fear.

Khorne Adepts: Cyberdaemons, Rip & Tear!

More John Blanche, damn it!
Armies: Machine Cult Defilers+Wormhole Daemons (War)
Obvious Doom reference aside, this list represent a Khornate sect of Dark Adepts who have summoned and bound ranks upon ranks of Khornate Daemons, binding them to servitors or using rituals to summon them into the material world. Even the base troops of these Dark Mechanicum are equipped primarily for melee combat. Forget the 'art' of war. This is bloodshed. This is mayhem. This is what war truly is, with industry and knowledge turn to the art of mass butchery. Go forth. Go forth and build the ultimate weapon. And kill. And kill. Khorne cares not from where or how the blood flows, only that it does.

Defiler Priest Blood Priest [1] x2 (160pts)
2x Heavy Halberd

Defiler Stalkers [10] x2 (660pts)
10x Twin Sonic Blades

Brutalizer Secutors [6] x2 (880pts)
6x Single Combustion Blaster

Blood Warriors [10] x2 (580pts)
Heavy CCW

Cannon Chariot [1] (250pts)

Carcinax Walker Daemon Engine of Khorne [1] (330pts)
4x Heavy Claws

Tactics: Get into melee and kill, kill and kill some more! This list is very melee-focused, as one would expect a Khornate list to be. In particular most melee weapons in this list are high AP meaning they are quite well equipped at ripping apart even the toughest of Space Marines. The Daemon units all have Ambush so all they have to do is pop right where they are needed. The Dark Priests are each assigned to a squad of Stalkers to grant them Fear and help inflict further mayhem in melee. Finally the Brutalizer Secutors help provide a tiny bit more firepower but, obviously, they too are monsters in melee.

Tzeentch Adepts: Techno-Sorcery

Artist unknown.
Armies: Machine Cult Defilers+Wormhole Daemons (Change)
Opposite to Dark Adepts dedicated to Khorne's craft of war and destruction would be adepts dedicated to Tzeentch. Presumably these mad adepts would see the world very differently than most, even possibly other Dark Mechanicum, as the domains of Tzeentch are those of madness, change and sorcery. In their hands the knowledge of the Mechanicum become ever more twisted, confusing, baroque and tinged with a level of mysticism which would make even the basic cargo cult antics of the regular Mechanicus blush.

Champion of Change Techno-Sorcerer [1] (415pts)
Great Magic Bolt

Defiler Lord [1] x3 (720pts)
Hover Throne with Laser Cannon
Psychic (1)

Defiler Priest [1] x3 (810pts)
2x Combustion Blaster Fiery Blasts and Heavy Staff

Defiler Vigils [10] x3 (570pts)
8x R-Carbines
2x Flamethrower

Flame Chariot [1] x3 (435pts)

Tactics: This list is, unsurprisingly, very heavy on Psychics, boasting a staggering seven psychic heroes. However, it is assumed the Dark Priest Lords, on their Hove Thrones, are not joined to any squad given the size of their model. They are quite powerful but also priority target from the enemies and should be kept away from masses of enemy infantry. Unsurprisingly for a Tzeentch list, its also quite heavy on the flame weapons so expect to roll a lot of dice as the enemy gets torched. Just pop those big chariots near enemy lines and set the whole world on fire.

Monday, 8 June 2020

Grimdark Future: 'Fluffy' Machine Cult Defilers Lists, Part 1

Artist unknown.
The Dark Mechanicum. Born of the fires of Horus treachery just as much of simple, human desire for knowledge, the dark adepts are the twisted reflection of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Their name and nature is rather self-explanatory. They are a heretical strand of the Cult Mechanicus, one which has devoted itself to forbidden knowledge, more often than not highly heretical matters which seek to harness the powers of the Immaterium.

Currently the Dark Mechanicum doesn't exist as an actual, complete army in Warhamer 40 000. At best a few scant units exist, such as the Negavolt Cultists from Blackstone Fortress and some options in the Horus Heresy wargame. However, Grimdark Future received an update, one which add to the game the Machine Cult Defilers, based off the models for Dark Mechanicum units by 3d modeler The Maker's Cult. As such within Grimdark Future the Dark Mechanicum is fully playable, even if its current list remain a tad small, as it is a new army. Given we currently know very little of the army composition of the Dark Mechanicum in the 41st Millenium, I've taken all the creative liberties I could in trying to imagine what forms they might take. Combining the Defiler list with another has given me great flexibility in imagining what warp-fueled mad science the Dark Mechanicum could conjure up to assail the Imperium, should they ever decide to be more than a background force seemingly content in supplying the Traitor Legions. Should the Dark Mechanicum arise and amass its armies, what horrors could we expect to see? Legions of daemonically corrupted servitors and dark adepts, no doubt. That answer is obvious. But...what if there were more options? Chaos is known for its sheer variety and the Mechanicum are masters of a myriad sciences. Who knows how far they could go, without any restriction and the reality-twisting powers of the Warp?

Daemon Engines: Mechanical Terrors

Armies: Machine Cult Defilers+Havoc Brothers
A face only its creator could love.
Daemon Engines aren't creations of the Traitor Legions, despite being fielded by Chaos Space Marine armies. In truth, these horrible fusion of machinery and daemon are creations of the Dark Mechanicum. Most of these are either directly invented, or built on orders by Chaos Lords, by the dark adepts. As such it make perfect sense to field these in a a Dark Mechanicum army as no doubt these traitorous adepts would be keeping a menagerie of daemonic machines for their own purpose.

Defiler Priest [1] x3 (195pts)
Twin Heavy Pistol and Heavy Staff

Defiler Vigil [10] x3 (540pts)

Carcinax Walker [1] x3 (1110pts)
4x Minigun

Infernal Stalker [1] x3 (1155pts)
Virus Injector

Tactics: This is a 'stompy' army, most of its points dedicated to daemon engines. Assign a Dark Priest to a squad of Vigils (purely to protect the Priest). While few in numbers, these daemon engines are bristling with weapons, including the three Carcinax Walkers, each equipped with four minigun for a total of sixteen attacks per walker, which should be used to lay down suppression fire at any mass of infantry as quickly as possible in order to thin out the no doubt superior enemy ranks.

Dark Genetor: The Flesh Crafters

Art by Michael Hartmann.
Armies: Machine Cult Defilers+Infected Colonies
The machine cult is no stranger to flesh, despite their preference for the cold unchanging purity of the machine. The Genetor of the Divisio Biologis study the machine that is flesh and the human body, hoping to ensure it remain stable and pure. But, what if such a knowledge was perverted? What if mutation was encouraged, enhanced and molded to suit foul designs? Every horrible abomination cultured, every psychic monstrosity fostered? What if disgusting retro-virus and other process were used to actively encourage and culture monsters to be used as weapons? What if the human form was deemed nothing but a misguided limitation?

Defiler Priest Biomechanical Monster [1] x2 (150pts)
Twin Heavy Claws and Heavy Wrench Mutated Razor-Limbs

Defiler Priest Genetor [1] (130pts)
Rail Rifle, Death Ray and Heavy Wrench Acid Injectors
Dark Legion

Defiler Priest Psychic Abomination [1] (85pts)
2x Sonic Boomer Psychic Lightning and Heavy Staff

Defiler Vigil [10] x4 (840pts)
8x P-Carbines
2x Heavy EMP Rifle

Hunter Champion Gene-Crafted Beast [1] x3 (285pts)
Toxic Claws

Infected Hunters Gene-Crafted Killers [10] x3 (675pts)
Toxic Claws

Infected Boomers [6] x3 (810pts)

Tactics: Assign a Hunter Champion to each Hunter squad and then hurl them into squishy infantry, watching in glee as these gene-crafted monstrosities rip and tear hapless guardsmen and the likes. Beyond that, this is a varied, hero-heavy lists which relies on its heavily customized Dark Priests, each representing a horrible and demented deviation from Mechanicus dogma and the human form, from the unkillable mad doctor Genetor to the Psychic Abomination. Most of the Defiler units are equipped with self-destruct mechanism, be it organic or mechanical and every loss taken in melee should be turned into a potential wound upon the enemy. That is also the purpose of the Boomers, bloated mutations or servitors rigged with explosive and acidic fluids.

Heretek: A Different Breed Of Heresy

From the game 'Mechanicus'.
Armies: Machine Cult Defilers+Robot Legions
Not every corrupted/fallen member of the Mechanicus is part of the Dark Mechanicum, just like how not every Renegade Space Marine is a Chaos Space Marine. For some members of the Admech, the lure of alien technology is far too great to ignore. The Necrons, with their impossibly ancient civilization, incredibly advanced technology separated from the Warp and their immortal and completely mechanical bodies, seem very much like the ultimate end state which the Mechanicus is too 'chicken' to fully embrace. After all, the Mechanicus hold that the machine is pure while flesh is flawed. This army list represent renegade Adepts who have turned to the usage of Necron technology. Even worse, they have delved into the lore of the dreaded C'Tan...

Defiler Lord [1] (215pts)
Combustion Blaster and Macro Pistol
Hover Throne with Combustion Blaster
Dark Legion

Defiler Priest [1] x3 (405pts)
Twin Combustion Blaster and Heavy Staff
Dark Legion

Defiler Vigils [10] x3 (600pts)
8x R-Carbines
2x Plasma Burst Carbine

Nanobot Wraith-Shard Shard of the Void Dragon [1] (660pts)
Psychic(3) Reality Warping

Bot Swarms Enslaved Scarabs [6] x4 (960pts)

Tactics: Assign a Defiler Priest to each squad of base infantry to infuse them with the forbidden science of the Necrontyr, granting them Regeneration. The centerpiece of this army is obviously its C'Tan shard and its Psychic powers. Yeah I know, 'Psychic' and 'Necrons' doesn't really fit together but Grimdark Future simplify the mechanics by turning everything which is spell-like into a singular, easy to understand Psychic mechanic. While this powerful hero pummel the enemy, the never ending scarab swarms at its command will carpet the entire battlefield.

(Bonus!) Chaos Squats: Wrath of the Twice Retconned

Armies: Dwarf Guilds+Machine Cult Defilers
Imagine this but IN SPAAACE!!!
Squats have been a long maligned part of Warhammer 40 000 lore. Introduced in the original version of the game, they were basically just 'Space Dwarves', an abhuman race of short bearded human. The Squats slowly got phased out of the setting, before Games Workshop started to just ignore them and write the fluff to specifically not mention them and later flip-flopping on whether or not they even still existed and, if they did if they had been completely wiped out or not. Squats thus remained a long standing joke within the Warhammer 40k fanbase, with the term 'squatted' becoming a verb for any army or unit that GW erased out of the lore and miniature range. Squats have since returned to 40k via Necromunda but their mandatory evil counterpart, the Chaos Squats, have not. But...what if they did?

This list is technically not so much Dark Mechanicum as a Chaos Squat list, which is basically Dwarf Guilds with added Machine Defilers rather than the other way around.

Rune Master Sorcerer Prophet [1] (105pts)
Storm Rifle and Drill Hammer
Psychic (2)

Veterans [10] x2 (400pts)
8x Assault Rifles
1x Plasma Cannon
1x Heavy Machine

Elites Immortals [10] x2 (540pts)
10x Shock Hammers

Isopod Vehicle Cyber-Chariot [1] x4 (1160pts)
Machinegun and Iron Cannon
Cargo Space

Carcinax Robot Cyber-Bull [1] (375pts)
Heavy Chainsaw
Contortion Cannon

Tactics: Load the four infantry squads in the Strider-equipped Isopods to deliver in melee, since the Dwarves are notorious for the downsides of having the Slow mechanic. The Immortals are monsters against light, massed infantry, each squad able to deliver (at full strength) 40 attacks. The Veterans are more well rounded and range-equipped.