Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Meet the Weefellows

Weefellow

# Enc: 1d4 (2d12)
AL: Neutral
Move: 120'(40')
AC: 5
HD: 1+1
Attacks: 1 (small weapon)
Damage: d4
Save as: Elf 1
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: 18/E in lair, individuals 4/S & 5/T

Standing no taller than a halfling or goblin, these nocturnal fay would be mistaken for human children if it were not for their green mustaches. Their well-concealed lairs are always found within a few miles of a small settlement of humans or halflings, whom they envy for their great art of baking. The technology behind the application of yeast and the use of ovens is beyond the capabilities of their fairy minds. Once they have adopted a village they will expect fresh baked goods to be left out for them every full moon (their feast-time). Villages that are generous in the monthly supply of breads, muffins, cookies, etc., will be protected by the Weefellows from predators and such. Those who skimp on tasty treats will be subject to all sorts of nocturnal harassment, beginning with harmless pranks but escalating in a few months time to an outright campaign of terror. A poor harvest will not be considered a legitimate excuse, so famines are doubly bad times for villages haunted by these creatures.

Each Weefellow knows one tiny bit of magic they can use once per day. Roll d12 below if specifics are needed. Or make something up.

1. Shine shoes
2. Compel fish to leap into net
3. Start small fire in any conditions
4. Turn one gem to glass
5. Shapeshift to green-striped housecat
6. Refill empty wineskin
7. Turn Cleric
8. Brick to mud
9. Panic farm animals
10. Whither tree
11. Blunt blade
12. Roll random first level MU spell.

For every four Weefellows encountered their will be one leader-type with 2 hit dice, a weapon capable of doing d6 damage, and a random first level MU spell in addition to the magic determined above. The leader's mustache will be noticeably more elaborate than run-of-the-mill Weefellows. A Weefellow lair will also contain a chieftain with three hit dice and a second level MU spell or unique magic of equivalent power. The chieftain's mustache will be absolutely ridiculous in size, shape and ornamentation.

Common folklore holds that these creatures are all male, but certain bards and druids know that to be untrue. Both the males and females of the species possess the same green facial hair, leading some to speculate a distant kinship to the dwarf-folk.

All Weefellows are subjects of a single suzerain, the legendary Lord of the Verdant Beard. He in turn is a minor vassal of the Faery Queen (or the goddess of magic, the witch queen, or whatever suits your campaign).

[These guys were inspired by an operatic production of A Midsummer Night's Dream that had a fairy chorus of children in green fake mustaches.]

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What do spell levels measure?

Today I'm once again venturing into the often ridiculous field of extrapolating gameworld reality from arbitrary mechanical conventions. For a long time I have operated under the assumption that spells level are roughly indicative of the power output the spell. Cure serious wounds comes after cure light wounds for a reason, after all. But it takes only a casual perusal of a few spell lists to call that definition into question.

Let's look at the first edition PHB to see what I'm talking about. How many players of fifth level magic-users would pick flame arrow over fireball? Certainly we can construct scenarios where flame arrow would be the more useful of the two, but that doesn't change the fact that fireball is the one to pick in general adventure situations. Similarly, newly minted fist level magic-users generally want sleep or magic missile or charm person.

Mending
is also a first level spell and though useful, it doesn't exactly resonate with power the way setting people on fire with burning hands does. I suppose you could argue that magically reassembling a shattered coffee cup actually requires more power than setting someone on fire, given that an act destruction is generally easier to accomplish than an act of creation. But that doesn't stop mending from being a lame choice for a 1st level M-U.

I suppose spell level could measure the energy input required to activate the spell. First level spells are first level spells because of the minimal mana needed to achieve those specific effects. Flame arrow is a third level spell simply because it is an inefficient transformer of mana into fire. But neither of these ideas gets me anywhere towards understanding why Phantasmal Force is a 1st level Illusionist spell but a 3rd level M-U spell.

Looking for a Vancian analysis, I think we could posit that spell levels as a measure of formulaic complexity. The properly trained M-U brain can only hold so many sonnets, whether they were written by sophomores or Shakespeare. Different classes learn different mnemonic exercises, allowing for different storage capacities of various types of spells.

If spell levels measure energy input or formulaic complexity then the ramifications for your campaign are enormous. Under these schemes there's nothing particularly fixed about the fact that fireball is a third level spell. The PCs might discover an ancient scroll with a previous version of the spell that's fourth or fifth level. They might then figure out that the fireball in the book merely represents the current state of the art in pyro-sphere technology. I don't know about your campaign's magic-users, but I'd personally blow a lot of time and gold pieces trying to crack the code for a second level version of fireball.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Lucasday?

Friday, September 25, 2009

missing: random chart

Recently (within the last week or so) someone in the gaming blogosphere published a chart to determine why the wandering monster was wandering the dungeon. I thought I bookmarked it but now I can't find the darn thing. Can anybody help? EDIT: Thanks, mtarbit! http://www.hackslash.net/?p=648

While we're on the subject of cool random charts, I'm really digging JDJarvis's Clerical Spell Acquisition and Hungry Dead Reaction charts. Seen any other neat-o ones lately?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

bye, bye Witch

Last night I rewatched the Thundarr the Barbarian episode "Den of the Sleeping Demon" and this clip from the episode "Island of the Body Snatchers". No one in "Sleeping Demon" disputes the villain Judag's theory that a demon can turn you into a wizard and as I recall Circe the Witch doesn't behave much differently than the many wizards in the show.

My concept of the Witch class was probably based solely on a hazy memory of the Sorcerer/Wizard/Witch analysis at Under the Broken Moon, a fan-made Thundarr rpg powered by the Over the Edge system. Upon further consideration the Witch class is redundant with the Wizard in the Labyrinths & Mutants class scheme I outlined yesterday. Summoning, commanding and pacting with demons can be handled as just another weapon in the Wizard's twisted arsenal, alongside Sorcerer-like spells, technological abominations, mutant minions and pet monsters.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Labyrinths & Mutants

I've been kicking around ways to mash up Mutant Future and Labyrinth Lord to better fit a more Thundarr the Barbarian-inspired game. Basically, a science fantasy game with both the familiarity and social commentary available to post-apocalyptic Earth and the magic of straight-up D&D. And more lasers. There's a section in the back of the MF rulebook for such shenanigans but I'm just not digging that particular implementation. I've mentioned before the mutant rules in particular don't really light my jets. But in the past weeks as I have considered the subject of Class holistically (i.e. What classes do I want in my game?) I have come around to the idea of Mutant as a class option. In the end, I think I want a Basic/Expert style approach, with Race as Class and relatively few options. Four humans and three non-humans seems like plenty of classes most days, but I don't have my list quite cut down that short just yet. Here are the classes I've been kicking around so far:

Savage - The baseline fighting class, suitable for Thundarrs, Conans and any uncivilized human who gets by on force of arms. Perhaps not much different from a standard Labyrinth Lord fighter.

Scavenger - The uncivilized human who gets by on stealth and guile. I.e. an alternate thief of some sort.

Techno - A human knowledgeable in ancient tech and science. This class would be reserved for unfrozen people from the Science Age, refugees from Logan's Run style arcologies, time travellers, visitors from advanced extraterrestrial colonies that survived the Fall, etc. Inspired by the Arduin class of the same name, though I'd be more inclined to use the St. Andre version.

Sorcerer - The basic human arcane caster class. I'd like to stick as close to the standard MU as possible, but I also kinda want to ditch spell books for a know it/throw it approach. I think I'd like the default magic-using PCs to be just as illiterate as everyone else in the party.

Wizard - I can't run a Thundarr game without giving the players the option of running one of those awesome mutant techno-wizard guys that Thundarr is always fighting. This class would combine the skills of the techno and sorcerer with the possibility of mutating into something horrible. Mechanics-wise, it would be akin to the Elf class: lots of powers but a painful XP chart to climb.

Witch - An arcane caster who gains additional power by making pacts with extradimensional demons.

Prophet - The cleric class of the setting. Instead of serving a temple and a distant god, these people directly hear their god's voice. Think Joan of Arc in the year 4094 AD. I may drop the ability to affect undead or make Turn Undead into a spell.

Cyborg and/or Robot - Because cyborgs and robots are cool.

Deviant - My version of a mutant class, with name inspired by the Deviants of Marvel Comics. Instead of mutant powers that level up as the character does (the Mutant class in the back of MF) I would go with full-blown MF uberpowers. The catch is that the character starts with very few mutations and continues to mutate in play.

Brute - Because if someone wants to play Ookla the Mok I sure as hell ain't gonna say no. I might borrow the Half-Ogre class from Ruins & Ronin for this one.

That's ten classes, which feels like too long a list to me. I guess the Wizard and Witch could be folded into the Sorcerer as subclasses, bringing the total down to eight.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Saturday, September 19, 2009

whimsical reminisces

A lot of people probably remember Lion Rampart as the company that first brought out the classic rpg Ars Magica, I'll always think of it as the outfit that published Whimsy Cards.


These cards were written by industry nobodies Jonathan Tweet and Mark Rein(dot)Hagen. I wonder what happened to those guys? Anyway, the basic deal was that you handed them out to the players and they used 'em to monkey with the plot of the game. Here are a few examples you can click to enlarge:


I remember using Whimsy Cards exactly once. Back in '92 or so I was a participant in a large multi-GM Champions game and I somehow convinced everyone to try using them for a session. As I recall it was a complete disaster. All the other GMs in the group took their plotlines way more seriously than I do. Being a site-oriented kind of DM, 'plot' in my games often boils down to the flimsy premise for this evening's dungeon crawl. A sudden alteration in the storyline is no big whup because I barely have a storyline to begin with.

Happy Shatnerday!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

compatibility is a two way street

Last month I wrote a little piece called "On System" that quite some good responses out of people, but also drew some criticism for my refusal to discuss any official WotC version of D&D. Some folks thought that was an attempt to slur those versions by way of omission, but I just wasn't sure whether or not I had anything useful to say about them. After all, I have more experiences with TSR D&Ds than I can remember, stretching back to the early eighties. In comparison a dozen 3.0 sessions, 20 months of 3.5 and two or three 4e games just doesn't seem like enough data to draw sound conclusions beyond "hey, I'm not digging this as much as that older crap".

However, after some thought I would like to respond directly to one criticism. Settembrini brought up the issue that he can easily use TSR D&D stuff in his 3.x game:
Really, everything you can do in A/D&D you can do in 3rd. It´s all there, and the real differences are one of module design culture and player expectations. Culture, and that´s what you DIDN´t want to get into the differentiation debate, no Also: I use stuff from all editions in my 3e games every week. So are you telling me that this actually doesn´t work? Or that I´m doing it wrong?

Please, your Electro-Skeleton was transfered DIRECTLY from the FO! incarnation, as were several modules/situations and artifacts.
I'm not sure everything I can do in AD&D is supported in 3e. Stronghold establishment and henchmen recruitment immediately spring to mind. I know there's a section devoted to weather in 3.x, but I don't recall rules for your ship getting lost in a storm or being shipwrecked. I could be wrong though, seeing as how I sold off all my WotC materials. But for most folks these are fiddly details in the vast sweep of D&D and not worth getting stuck on.

But the big thing in Set's comments that stuck with me is that he imports stuff from earlier editions into his 3e game. That's awesome. My question now is whether or not that works both ways. Any Gameblog readers ever try directly (i.e. no conversion) importing 3.x stuff into their game run on an older edition or a retroclone? I have not. Maybe it's time I finally tried running an adventure made specifically for 3.x under Labyrinth Lord just to see what happens.

My other concern is cross compatibility of characters. At this point someone could show up to my open-to-all Wednesday night game with a character sheet in hand and I would feel like I could accomodate a PC from many different versions of D&D. Unearthed Arcana cavalier or barbarian? No sweat. Some god-forsaken kit-based beast from 2nd edition AD&D? I'd do my best. A rune weaver from Arduin? Bring it on.

I don't feel the same level of confidence dealing with visitors from 3.x universes. I got nothing against those versions of D&D, but I went back to the old school scene for a reason, you know? Adjudicating a PC with three custom-selected classes and maybe a template or two, with a handful of feats that are designed around the flanking and attack of opportunity rules sounds like a one-way ticket to Pain In The Ass City. Am I talking crazy talk here?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Answer to yesterday's pop quiz

A: Treating retroclone gaming as different from gaming using the original systems is a triumph of style over substance, an ongoing victory for TSR's long-defunct marketing department.

Are you interested in joining a tribe based upon consumer identity/brand loyalty or do you enjoy a specific play experience? Wrong! That's a trick question coming from an OSR guy. The non-hypocritical answer is "yes". But to put it another way: which would you buy, your favorite edition of D&D rebranded as Poop: The Poopening but otherwise identical, or an actual turd with an ampersand and two D's on it? Yes, I know that's a false dichotomy. And it can be read as another anti-4e attack. But I'm not slagging on 4e here. After all, it's only a matter of years before it's dustbinned, like all its predecessors. Why be mean? Let the 4e fans enjoy their Official Support while they've got it, I say.

If you got the answer right, give yourself one of these:


If you spent all your time making fun of the loop-de-loop in the red line then you have to stay after class and pound erasers.

PS to Jim Raggi: Even the coolest band has fans who genuinely believe that the first album was their only good one. Don't knock yourself out selling neoturds to guys with all the crap they need. Great, that metaphor is completely getting away from me.

PPS to Jim Raggi or anyone else that cares: Helloween any good? I was reminded of their existence while researching artists with schizophrenia.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Pop Quiz!

Tell me why this chart is wrong.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Shatnerday


From the 1961 film The Explosive Generation

Friday, September 11, 2009

without further ado

Optional Random Mutant Plant Stock Chart (d100)

01-03) Algae
06-08) Apple Tree
09-11) Avocado
12-14) Banana
15-17) Bamboo
18-20) Bean
21-23) Blueberry Bush
24-26) Cactus
27-29) Cedar
30-32) Coconut Tree
33-35) Corn
36-38) Daisy
39-41) Dandelion
42-44) Fern
45-47) Hemp
48-50) Ivy
51-53) Kelp
54-56) Kudzu
57-59) Moss
60-62) Mushroom
63-65) Oak Tree
66-68) Orchid
69-71) Palm Tree
72-74) Pineapple
75-77) Pine Tree
78-80) Pumpkin
81-83) Rose
84-86) Thistle
87-89) Tomato, Killer
90-92) Tumbleweed
93-95) Venus Flytrap
96-98) Wheeping Willow
99-00) My god! What is that thing?! (Roll again here and once on animal chart, combine results.)

[Can you tell it's getting close to lunchtime for me?]

and now, a random chart

If Mutant Future gets a new edition, I hope it contains something like this:

Optional Random Mutant Animal Stock (d100)

01) Alligator
02) Alpaca
03) Amoeba
04) Ant
05) Anteater
06) Ape
07) Armadillo
08) Bear
09) Beaver
10) Bee
11) Beetle
12) Butterfly
13) Camel
14) Catfish
15) Centipede
16) Chameleon
17) Chicken
18) Chinchilla
19) Cockroach
20) Cow
21) Crab
22) Deer
23) Dinosaur
24) Dodo
25) Dog
26) Dolphin
27) Duck
28) Eagle
29) Earthworm
30) Eel
31) Elephant
32) Ferret
33) Fox
34) Frog
35) Gecko
36) Giraffe
37) Goat
38) Goldfish
39) Goose
40) Hawk
41) Hedgehog
42) Hippopotamus
43) Horse
44) Housecat
45) Hyaena
46) Jaguar
47) Kangaroo
48) Koala
49) Leech
50) Lemur
51) Leopard
52) Lion
53) Llama
54) Lobster
55) Monkey
56) Moose
57) Mosquito
58) Mule
59) Muskrat
60) Octopus
61) Ostrich
62) Otter
63) Panda
64) Parakeet
65) Parrot
66) Penguin
67) Pig
68) Piranha
69) Possum
70) Praying Mantis
71) Pufferfish
72) Rabbit
73) Raccoon
74) Rat
75) Rhino
76) Salamander
77) Seahorse
78) Scorpion
79) Shark
80) Sheep
81) Skunk
82) Sloth
83) Slug
84) Snake
85) Snail
86) Spider
87) Squid
88) Squirrel
89) Tiger
90) Turtle
91) Turkey
92) Unicorn
93) Walrus
94) Weasel
95) Whale
96) Wolf
97) Wolverine
98) Zebra
99-00) An Abomination Unto The Lord (roll twice, combine results)

Kindly Mutant Lords (i.e. GMs) may allow players who roll on this chart to substitute an animal based power for one or more random mutations. For example, a skunk PC might trade in one roll on the mutation charts for the ability to spray funk (the bad kind) on opponents.

Next task: a plant chart.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mutant Future session #5

Wow! Last night's Mutant Future run turned out to be a real humdinger! You ever had a night where one PC idea or one crazy die roll spins the whole session wildly out of control? It was one of those nights and it was beautiful. A couple days ago I shared with all y'all the map of Slimy Lake. The adventure I proposed last night was an exploration the ruins of Crusty Island, just south of the Fishing Village where the current PCs are based.

A key concept here is that Crusty Island is not a natural island. Most of the ruined pre-apocalyptic city is 30' or more under the surface of Slimy Lake. The tallest buildings poke out of the water and over the centuries fallen vegetation has gotten logjammed between these taller edifices and coated over with the mysterious oozy crud that periodically flows down the Sludge River. Crusty Island is literally a booger-like crust a few feet thick floating on top of the lake but anchored to the taller buildings.

After explaining these facts I threw in the requisite "oh, yeah. rumors of ancient artifacts, yadda, yadda". Dane really latched on to the prospect that vast parts of the city were underwater and asked if the party had access to scuba gear. At first I wanted to outright reject this request. After all, it's a post-apoc setting where flushing toilets are beyond the ken of normal men, I have no maps of the underside prepped, and he was only kidding anyway. But then I thought to myself, what the hell? I gave him a one in a twenty chance.

Whaddyaknow? The little so-and-so made it. Rolled right out in the open and everything. For extra fun I decided that what he actually had access to was a single old fashion diving suit, the kind with the big brass helmet and long hose to the surface. The pump is a manual jobbie, requiring two people to keep the oxygen supply good. Actual scuba gear wouldn't be nearly as amusing.

The PCs get a lift to the island from local fisherman Swampy Joe. After avoiding a huge giant bee lair and dispatching a few wandering giant centipedes, they establish a base camp in a small building. The rest of the night turns into Aquanaut Adventures in the Mutant Future, as the entire session ends up revolving around a series of dives into the flooded levels of the ruined city.
The ruined building next door is venting some sort of poisonous gas, which our heroes discover is bubbling up from the water below. Dane wants to discover the source of these strange orange vapors, so he suits up and heads towards the stairwell leading down. This is when I tell him all about the Mutant Future equipment condition and malfunction rules. I sling some dice, he rolls a save versus poison, and runs back to the group as fast as he can without ever reaching the water. His PC is coughing and hacking, his lungs feel like they're burning, but he'll live.

Dane: Aargh! Why don't people in the future test their equipment before using it?
Me: You're the player. You tell me.

After testing the suit in some non-poisonous water, the group does their best to plug some leaks. Dane suits up and heads back for the poisonous stairs o' death. Once he hits the water a successful Dex check insures that he doesn't slip on the slime-covered surfaces. He makes it down two flights of stairs to the level that seems to be the source of the deadly vapors. He ducks under the bubbles of gas and enters a strange bluelit world. It seems the underside of the Crust is home to a phosphorescent fungus and it's lighting the level through some large holes in the walls as well as the windows. This allows Dane to see some sort of huge wormlike leviathan swim past the outside of the building.

But he doesn't have a lot of time to take this all in or ascertain the source of the lethal orange bubbles, as a four foot long mutant leech attacks him! Piercing right through the suit and into his flesh, the leech starts to drain Dane's vital fluids at an alarming rate as Dane attempts to shoot him with mutant-powered gamma ray blasts. Two rounds into the combat Dane remembers that his plant mutant has Poisonous Sap and asks if the leech should be taking poison damage. I agree that makes sense and start rolling saving throws each round. Eventually the leech succumbs to a combination of gamma radiation and sap. Dane immediately announces that he is firmly holding the dead leech to his wound so as to not break the watertight seal the leech-mouth had on the suit. He slowly walks back up to the surface without further incident. The party dine on roast leech after draining the poison and thoroughly cooking it out.

Man, that encounter was rad to the max.

With Dane badly wounded other players step up to plate and take their chances with the diving suit. After getting the suit repaired in the Fishing Village and testing it, the party returns to the island and Wheelz suits up. He takes a shot at exploring the flooded level immediately below the ruined cubicle farm that's serving as their base camp. He ends up exploring an old dentist's office. Being a backwards future guy, he misidentifies a dental X-ray device for a laser cannon, which then becomes the object of the party's avarice. Somewhere along the way he also snags his suit and starts taking on water. What can I say? If these guys are going to bet their lives on a poorly-maintained centuries-old piece of equipment, I am going to run that plot point into the ground.

On his way out of the office and back up the stairs Wheelz makes a critical discovery. He spots some sort of underwater creature on the level before the bogey spots him. Wheelz does the smart thing and gets the hell out of Dodge, but he does notice that the finny creep down the hall is wearing some sort of belt full of gadgetry. There are intelligent mutants under Crusty Island!

But in their greedy little hearts they still lusted after that laser cannon. So they sold their most prized possessions (a wind-up Barky Dog™ toy and a baseball autographed by the World Series winning Chicago Cubs) to finance the purches of some mining equipment, more rope, a block and tackle, a bigass iron hook, etc. Pure hardcore dungeoneering gear.

They return to the island and try to guess approximately where on the dry level of the building they should dig to directly access the room with the laser cannon. A quick die roll suggests Wheelz does a good job of picking the spot. As they dig they open up a dry crawlspace between the levels, which they promptly strip of cabling and such to sell to the junk merchant. Once they have access to the floor below Carl suits up and is lowered into the dentist's office. He crowbars the X-ray machine and its armature from the wall, ripping out the cables with his sheer manly strength. The device is hoisted up via pulleys and ropes. Back at the junk merchant's they sell the cable from the access level for 25 poker chips and the laser cannon for 150, which I'm pretty sure is more money than they've seen the whole campaign. I started the PCs out dirt poor.

All in all, it was one of the best damn sessions I've played in a long time, owing a lot to player ingenuity and a little bit to my ability to roll with the punches. I had brief notes prepped for over twenty floors of adventure, but all of them were above the water line. So I spent all night ad libbing for dear life. When I got home I slept like the dead.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Gimme five links, gimme five links mister.

Lollyphile - not a lolita fetish site, but rather weird gourmet lollipops.

New Spells for Megadungeoneering

Chaos 6010 A.D. - it warms my heart that people are still making RPGs like this.

Fill-in-the-Blank Manifesto - Anyone want to tackle this for the Old School Renaissance?

Draw Your Way Across A Cliff

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

a place for some adventures

In case you haven't heard, the newest issue of Fight On! is out. Issue #6 has a lot of great stuff in it, but (egomaniac that I am) I'm particularly jazzed about my own Mutant Future contribution, "Welcome to Slimy Lake". It's a teeny sandbox setting for gonzo post-apoc adventuring. Even if you don't play MF, I think the stats are handled lightly enough you could get some play out of it with another system.

Christian de la Rosa did the map for me. The one inside the issue is black-&-white, but check out this color version.


The illos for the article really kick a lot of ass, too.

Get your own copy here.

Monday, September 07, 2009

an anecdote

So I visited my friendly local game store over the weekend. At one of the gaming tables there was a group of six or seven playing a raucous game of Call of Cthulhu. What I found interesting was that no one in the group look as old as my CoC boxed set. I haven't seen the inside of the latest edition of CoC, but I feel reasonably confident that no designer has jazzed it up a bunch to match their idea of what the kids these days want. It looked just a like a regular game of Investigate the Weirdness Until Things Go Horribly Awry like I used to play with my high school crew back in the eighties.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

my stapler

Since there were questions about it:


Long Reach (20 sheet capacity, standard staples) stapler by Sparco

I don't have a bunch of experience with these things, but I'm pretty sure this particular model is only 12 bucks for a reason. It feels cheaply made in my hand and the rubber feet slide off pretty easily. Still, I've had a lot of fun with it.

I can't believe it's not Shatnerday



Just mixing it up a little bit, folks.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

my booklets, let me show you them

Big kudos to S. John Ross and Jim Raggi for inspiring me to get my own long-reach stapler. Making my own digest-sized booklets is a hoot! Starting from the top right corner you see a print-out of Chainmail (from the PDF I bought from SVGames back in the day), an OD&D Conan hack found on the web, guidelines for actually using Chainmail as OD&D's combat system, the first two sections of Empire of the Petal Throne (bought from RPGnow) and a book of poetry (more on that below). I still need to print out part 3 of EPT.

I should explain why I printed out Empire of the Petal Throne. Last week I had a physical examination at the doctor's office. It did not go well. While the doctor did not indicate that my blood pressure was so high that nearby civilians would die of shrapnel wounds when my heart explodes, it was definitely a wake-up-and-smell-the-mortality moment. So now I have to stop being a lazy fatass and exercise and eat right. It's going well so far.

Some people, when forcefully confronted with their own possible death, consider all kinds of crazy escapades like climbing Mount Everest or writing the great American novel or crap like that. One of my first thoughts was "Crap! I've got to run EPT before I'm pushing up daisies!" Mind you, I'm not in any immediate danger of buying the farm. The real issue at the present is that I need to fix my blood pressure naturally or go on medication. But being told your heart is wearing out faster than it should be can get a guy thinking. About Tekumel. Apparently.

So despite promising Michael Shorten some OD&D at the next Winter War, I think I'm going to run an EPT event instead. Sorry, Michael. If it's any consolation, I will run EPT in my idiosyncratic retro stupid style. I don't think I can run it any other way.

Special Bonus Literature Nerd Section

So I've been reading this book of literary criticism when I come upon the chapter on Christopher Smart, England's original so-crazy-they-locked-him-up poet. As I was reading the essay I got to thinking that I'd never read the entirety of his insane masterpiece, Jubilate Agno. Pretty much every anthology of poetry that includes him excerpts the same passage, the "I will consider my cat Jeoffry" section. Reading the Smart chapter of Judith Weissman's Of Two Minds: Poets Who Hear Voices convinced me that letting the Jeoffry section stand in for the whole of the poem does the work a grave injustice. So I found an online copy (and his other asylum poem, the less obviously crazy A Song to David) and made my own little book of Smart.

It took about six drafts to get the layout just right. I fiddled a bit with the size of the section headers. Many lines run long and I didn't want a single crazed thought to spill across multiple pages. So I finally get my Smart book all printed out, stapled and folded. I decided to open it up right in the middle, where the staples are, just to see how it feels in my hand. Guess what I find? The middle of the booklet, that part most likely to be seen if it just falls open, is the entirety of that fucking cat Jeoffry section! Argh!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

just perfect


Found here.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Alphabet of the Damned

On backwards planets it is thought that the true name of a demon can be used to summon and bind them. The warlocks of Cinder know the real truth: The name is the Demon! Just as people are made of elements, so demons are constructed of the Alphabet of the Damned. Both existences are equally real, though the psycholinguistic composition of demons is often less persistent in form on this plane, with demons fading into and out of existence more readily than ordinary matter.

The 27 letters of the Alphabet of the Damned are normally translated as A, Æ, B, Ch, D, E, G, H, I, J, K, L, N, O, OO, P, Q, R, S, T, Þ (sometimes written Th), U, V, W, X, Y, and Z. Nothing can be constructed with the runes of the original Alphabet except for the names of demons. Legend has it the original language of the Unknown Hells uses it; all words other than names would be at least 14 letters in length. Smaller words are all devoted to the names of demons, broken down in a rough hierarchy:

13 letters - Manes, Demonic Pollywog
12 letters - Type I, Quasit, Dretch, Rutterkin, Croaking Demon
11 letters - Type II, Bar-Lgura, Shadow Salamander
10 letters - Type III, Babau, Chasme, Tentacle Toad
9 letters - Type IV, Nabassu, Slime Frog
8 letters - Succubus, Hopping Machinist
7 letters - Type V, Mezzodaemon, Amphibitaur
6 letters - Type VI, Nycadaemon
5 letters - Lord, Mistress
4 letters - Queen
3 Letters - Prince
2 letters - ?

Thus if you know the true name of a demonic being you can roughly gauge its potency by the numbers of letters. Certain sages of Cinder attempt to assign meaning to the various letters. For example, the Damned letter normally written as P seems to only be used in the names of ice demons of various sorts.

Some letters seem to follow certain rules of name construction, such as the letter OO (Double O) only appearing in names of seven letters or greater. Two O's may appear side-by-side in the name of more powerful demons (such as the Lord VEQOO or the Mistress VEChOO, considered by some authorities to be siblings) but the distinction between Double O and two O's is important. In summonings and other demonological work the Alphabet actually becomes a syllabary, each letter being separately vocalized. During the summoning of TLAP, the Queen that Curses the Stars, her name is fully vocalized as Tay-Loo-Ai-Poy, to give one example. To fail to distinguish between two O's and Double O under such conditions would be disastrous. Similarly, the K and Q of the Alphabet are pronounced much the same in ordinary speech, but their ritual vocalizations are distinct.