Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Imperial Elves

The Elven Empire built great cities and towers all along the coasts of the known world and beyond.  They were and are a people with greater technological and magical capabilities than the realms of mankind.  They rule the deep ocean with great bladeships and catamarans far superior to the wooden oar powered ships of human kings who must stick close to the shore.     Where they have a colony,  only the most foolish or powerful human king would dare launch an assault against them and their elegant mailed armies supported by swarms of knights riding massive swans of unusual intelligence.

So why aren't these Mary Sue assholes running everything?  Why Do humans outnumber them so heavily?  Is it that they are dying race and humans are too prodigious?   Is the magic of the world fading?  Well,  maybe a little bit,  but no, the great limiting factor is biology.

As with Dwarves I am a fan of using biological limitations or quirks to explain why a species would fit to fantasy tropes.   For the city dwelling high elves,   the solution seemed simple.   They are pescetarians who cannot drink fresh water, they require brine as humans require fresh water.   With such a little change it makes perfect sense that they would seek to dominate the waves but wouldn't bother with inland holdings which would be difficult to supply.   They no doubt have some in strategic locations,  but by and large they can't afford to set up a city in the desolate brine-free forests of central Europe, Asia, or Africa.   Their territorial control of the oceans also explains why the presence of magical spells doesn't enable more trans-oceanic contact and trade.   The ocean is full of elves with better ships than you can cobble together.

Other bloodlines of elves,  seelie and unseelie or any other magical creatures exist too (like Barbarians).  But these fill the role of snobby "High Elves" for me,  things that exist to leave ruins of once important strategic locations without really interfering in the day to day of dung age mortal affairs.   High Elves are something "out there" in the oceans 

Monday, May 23, 2016

On Goblins

As I enjoy a sunny may two four, I thought I would try blogging on a phone.  So with an infuriatingly small screen I thought I'd write about an infuriatingly small topic. Goblins.

From this point and beyond was about 6 paragraphs of insightful commentary. Then when I scrolled up to hit publish the "mobile version" of chrome decided I must want to reload the page.  This is appropriate as it was supremely aggravating.  So here I sit redoing it in a smaller fashion, away from the sunlight at a desktop.

Goblins are an ur-creature.  One of those raw components of fantasy, where even if they are absent that absence is a goblin.  Pretension aside,  I mean that all GM's end up with a very personalized and unique goblin.  This goblin is the culmination of blending many different styles of goblins that the GM has encountered in games, film, and books over the years into one creature.  This mixture fills a primordial goblin sized hole in the GM's brain so that whenever there is a blank space on a map they have created,  a goblin could fit there.  If the GM is creating some sprawling ruin,  untouched wilderness, or buried catacombs then you can be assured that even before these half formed ideas ever hit paper or game table that the GM could plunk down some of their own personal styled goblins and they would fit.  The biases and habits that lead to the form of a personalized goblin affect everything created whole cloth.   This is what I mean by the absence of a goblin is also a goblin.  It means no goblins would work in any of those locations.  As a slightly different topic,  sometimes men (or a type of men) fill the role of goblins (such as looters, or thieves).

Goblins are usually some form on annoyance.  They may be dangerous,  but its really that fighting or dealing with them bothers you.  They are aggravating and infuriating and become more so (and truly dangerous) when there are swarms of them.  Like annoyances, there are always swarms of them.  You could probably take any individual one head on no problem, but there are just so many of them and they always seem to strike or be present at inopportune moments when you don't really want to deal with them.

The goblins I use are small wiry creatures with pointy yellow teeth and forest green skin, sometimes mottled yellow or brown to better blend in with the bushes.  They tend to be naturally more intelligent than humans,  clever and brilliant but still never a real problem because they are also all sociopaths.  They have no empathy, no morals, they think only what is in their best interest.  They can play the long game, make deals and form alliances and the like,  but they would never risk their own life for someone else.  They have no afterlife and so avoiding death is paramount.  They don't have families and goblin hens  (other than the plumbing they look identical) simply lay eggs and bury them  (as much to discourage predators as anything else).  These hatch as tiny but fully functional goblins who mature within 6 months to a year and live for as many as 10 years before the ravages of time catch up to them.  Their meat is tough and full of foul smelling chemicals similar to a stink bug.  Nothing really prefers to eat goblins and many creatures won't even if starving.  They are thus a plague that once established in a region is a constant aggravating threat that is difficult to remove.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Neoclassical Geek Revival: Corporeal Undead - Skeletons and Zombies

This is a rather light post,  mainly intended as a walk through of how to build a monster in NGR, in this case the lower forms of undead, a walking corpse out to (potentially) cause murder and mayhem.

So the first thing to do is treat it like a completely average human.  All attributes are 10.  You might ask yourself (you know what, no.  You are a strawman in this case so you DO ask yourself)  but why does a skeleton or zombie have a health score? its a corpse.   True,  but in this case it would be the health of its magic or other means holding it together.   While it may be immune to human poisons and diseases that doesn't mean it doesn't have its own forms of maladies that follow the same molds.

  Snake venom is unlikely to poison a shambling corpse,  but throwing salt upon it would impact it in the same way.  Its health score lets you know how much salt it can handle.  Magical or fungal rots may impact it similar to a disease, destroying its form and binding magics.

  But what about its intelligence you ask in a forced manner, as you are a strawman I have constructed to highlight my points.   Zombies are mindless.  I answer to that,  they can be.  If you want them to be dull, give them an intelligence of 1.  They could also have any level of malignant (or even non malignant) intelligence.   I was always a fan of the skeleton in the last unicorn who held conversations and had wants and goals (to remember the taste of wine).  The will score of the undead (their courage in some respects) can likewise be supernatural (if they are fearless killers) or even fairly low and cowardly (like the undead in Army of Darkness who break and run at times).

How do you differentiate skeletons and zombies?  I wouldn't, they are all skeletons.  A zombie is just a skeleton wearing meat armour.  If the skeleton is covered in desiccated withered flesh (like a mummy or bog mummy) I would count it as leather armour and a leather cap.  A fresh corpse would also have its "armour" use the bulky tag, giving it extra padding against blunt weapons.

In terms of special resistances and weaknesses:
-Fire is a big one.  Fire dealing double damage against undead is pretty standard, even skeletons can have their binding magic consumed in flames.  As with all rules,  this can be broken for effect (I am a fan of hellfire creating zombies that scream in pain and only animate while the fire burns).
-Salt poisoning undead if thrown upon them (along with any other substance that fits in your setting) is a good one.
-Sunlight is something that is a good idea to burn undead as a general rule. The base necromancy spell has it deal 1 damage per round,  though divine undead do not have this limit.
- If shooting the brain/heart isn't a special way to destroy the undead, consider making all piercing weapons gain the minor tag (ie, they only deal 1 damage on non-critical hits).

Finally,  for any undead summoned by a wizard rather than a priest remember than the undead can be captured and reverse engineered with the SAGE wizard ability, allowing the PC's to learn the spell that raised the dead (And craft dispell potions against it).

In terms of what do you need to think of when an unexpected encounter with a zombie turns up?

It has standard 10 for stats, takes double damage from fire and counts as wearing padded armour and a cap due to its meat. If a wizard wants to capture one it has the basic necromancy spell template.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Neoclassical Geek Revival: The Evil Dead

So I had planned to write some posts about the changes in Neoclassical Geek Revival.

Instead I started watching Ash VS Evil Dead.  The evil dead movies were a huge influence on my early gaming (and thus NGR),  so it shouldn't be surprising that I have rules for them in my big book of ideas and that I use them frequently.

If you are unfamiliar with the evil dead movies...watch them. Then read further.

So the titular evil dead are broken into two parts,  the invisible possessing force and the corporeal deadite (3 potentially depending on where you draw lines)

Kandarian Demon:
These diabolical spirits lay slumbering in long forgotten woods until awoken by anyone foolish enough to call to them in their own forbidden tongue.  They are completely invisible,  but every living being can intuitively sense them and know their malignancy though they cannot describe it beyond a "dark force".  The demons are fast (2 areas per move action) and supernaturally strong, but are bound by ancient limitations.  They cannot easily break the walls, roofs, windows, nor doors of intelligent beings design and do so with a strength of 5, suffering a point of damage for each failed attempt.  The sun is their greatest weakness, its rays force them out of anything they possess and drive them into the earth to slumber until the next nightfall. They possess a large reserve or magical power (6d6 mana).

Possession:  A Kandarian demon may attempt to possess any living (or dead) being with a violent force, making an attack to score a base !d6 points of stress.  Each attempt costs 1 point of mana.

Manipulate objects:  The demon may manipulate nearby objects (in its or an adjacent area, even if blocked),  it does so as if a being with a strength of 10 were using them.  This costs 1 point of mana per dot size of the object.  It may not manipulate locks, latches, doors, or windows directly.  It may also attempt to haunt a location by activating any man made object that exists for purposes of vanity, luxury, or entertainment of some form  (such as art, instruments, mirrors, toys, etc).  This allows it to make an appeal against a target, causing stress instead of influence.  This will not directly cause possession, but will make possession easier as the  target goes mad.  This costs 1d4 mana to use.

Regeneration:  The demon regenerates damage at the same rate it regenerates mana,  as if it were a 4th level wizard.

When a Kandarian Demon possesses a living or dead body,  it transform it into a deadite.  This grants it the ability to easily manipulate the works of man such as opening doors.  Often it gets pre-occupied with strangling the living and wearing their innards as a scarf while it dances.  While possessed a  boy will develop grotesque mutations and milky white eyes. Regardless of the victim/corpses strength normally they gain peak strength (20 strength) and are immune to being knocked out (immunity to stun damage).  Physical damage can kill the host, but not harm the Kandarian demon inside.  If the host is killed while possessed the Kandarian demon will be disoriented and unable to act for either ?d12 rounds or until it is attacked in some way.  Destroying a possessed body requires dealing thrice its strength score in damage with slashing or devastating weapons (slashing, devastating weapons deal double damage for this purpose).  Mutilating a body will greatly stunt the effectiveness of a deadite, but it can still possess the corpse for utility purposes.

If a deadite is attacked with a magical weapon,  it will be harmed.  The body will take damage as normal, the Kandarian demon inside will take damage as an incorporeal creature (ie: a +1 two-handed club would deal d8+1 damage to the host and d4 damage to the Kandarian demon).

Glamour:  For the cost of 1 mana per round, the Deadite may appear as its host or corpse did in life before being possessed or killed.  If this is the form of a loved one or friend of an opponent, it may launch appeals in a similar manner to haunting above providing it is neither attacking nor defending itself.

Levitate:  Whenever it is not defending itself a deadite may levitate, floating effortlessly and able to use move actions in any direction (including up).

Possessed Tree 

Note that Kandarian demons also frequently possess trees:  This makes them slow and lumbering (1 agility) and vulnerable to fire (burning a possessed tree also deals the fire damage to the demon inside) but it does allow it to use the trees size modifier (often 4 or 5) and its strength to attack structures and damage them. It can also do other things that probably shouldn't happen in game.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Physical Copies of NGR are now available

As I live deep in the wilds of Canuckistan, it takes a while for proof copies of works to reach me (almost a month),  but the long wait is over.  I received my copy of NGR,  laid out masterfully by the talented Alex Mayo,  and it is fabulous.

I will note however that other optional variants are coming down the pipe that have art by other individuals I have collaborated with,  but they may be a fair bit more.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A new edition of Neoclassical Geek Revival

So with the help of the very talented Alex Mayo,  there is a professionally laid out version of Neoclassical Geek Revival now available, with PoD to soon follow.

This version has a number of game tweaks,  some larger than others that I will turn into a series of blog posts rather than discus in this post.

You can get it here..

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Neoclassical Geek Revival: Rumble in S%*#$burg.

More information on the unnamed campaign which I suggested to the GM should be named at some point.  Notes about mechanics added to the writeup in italics

The party had regrouped at the Maze and Tower inn, where they were resting and relaxing. The animal trainer had remembered he actually had money, and was willing to spend it, so he was allowed in. The monk, with his vow of poverty, has no money. However, the Madame has taken a liking to  him, and is allowing him to do manual labour in exchange for meals. She has found no shortage of hay and stones that need to be moved, and other tasks to get him all hot and sweaty, and have to take his shirt off.

The dwarven smith had spent some time communing with his god on how to craft the monk's symbol. He receives visions of hammers slamming on anvils, hot coals and forges, and other images worthy of the Conan intro scene. He doesn't however, get anything especially useful from this; the gods work in mysterious, and sometimes dickish ways.  

Use of miracle: Augury

The warrior woman is spending the time doing her very best to convert all of her money into drunkenness. She is doing an excellent job.

The elf has heard a rumour about a small town a weeks travel thataway that is having a problem with demon worshipers. He's pretty sure this is the best way to get XP, and thinks that is what the party should deal with next. The animal trainer believes that he has heard barking coming from the maze. Convinced that it must be poodles, he is trying to gather up people to go in with him to capture one. The two had a ... discussion on how to proceed. Voices were raised, things got heated, the elf drew a knife. The bouncer convinced the elf to put the knife away, and the trainer left in a huff. It has become apparent that the elf is doing entirely too much drugs. Or not enough drugs. None of the other characters are familiar with elves, so they aren't sure what normal is. I guess nothing has become clear, other than the elf is more than willing to cut you so bad you wished he hadn't cut you so bad.

Social Conflict ending in stubborn refusal,  XP source for the trainer.

The trainer decides that he must go into the maze RIGHT NOW, by himself, and find the poodles. The elf apparently is still feeling a bit vindictive, and immediately casts a wall of thorns on the maze opening after the trainer goes through.The elf then grabs the dwarf, and the two head off thataway to the supposed demon-infested town.  The monk and the warrior woman are well aware that the maze is far from safe and go to get a ladder and other tools to try to get the trainer out. He is completely focused on finding a poodle, and heads forth rather boldly. Unlike the rest of the party who had spied out the maze from the tower and had a map, the trainer has no idea where he is going in the maze. He is, however, a rather skilled tracker, and has a pretty good idea where the poodle sounds are coming from. At one point he is ambushed by a small group of maze goblins. There is bad luck on their attacks, and good luck on behalf of the trainers, and two of them are left dead while the rest run away. Seeing as the first ambush went so poorly, the goblins conclude that he must be a mighty warrior and they have no chance of defeating him. The possibility that they are just incompetent doesn't cross their minds. After a time wandering through the maze, he comes across a dog eating a goblin. With some amazing charisma, helped with a handful of snacks, he is able get the dog to come to him. With many more handfuls of snacks the dog and him their way back to the entrance of the maze. In the mean time the warrior and monk had hacked a suitable new entrance, and make their way out. It is now fairly late in the day, and the three leave for thataway in the morning. None of them had actually seen a poodle before, so none of them can say what the animal from the maze actually is. The warrior woman is familiar with hunting dogs, and this does have the build of one.So it could be a poodle.

A spell to seal in the trainer by the elf, followed by a series of stealth conflicts and combat until the trainer finds the 'poodle', followed by a successful social conflict.

The elf and dwarf arrive at the town. It is a fairly small farming community. I can't remember what it was called, so it is now Shitsburg. There is a blacksmith, an inn, and a very impressive looking church. Most of the buildings are modest, and built of wood. The church, however, is made of sturdy stone, and even has stained glass windows. Stained glass! That place is fancy! They make their way to the inn, and make arrangements for a place to sleep, and care for the car. The elf pays the barman a rather considerable amount of money to tell anybody who asks what is happening in town, that they just missed a travelling poodle show. He was to say that there was nobody in town interested in such a show, so they just moved on. The barman has no idea what a poodle or poodle show is, but for that amount of money he'll play along. He also pumps the barman for information about the town and people in it, and gets what he needs. The barman has heard the rumours about demon worshipers in the woods, but doesn't know if it's true or not. The panic is being spread by the priest at the church. He is young man, and seems taken to flights of fancy, but probably believes what he is saying. Having gotten the information he wanted, the elf goes looking for the criminal element in town. And there he is; Flick. Flick is a small, weaselly looking man. The normal pleasantries happen, one simply can't be operating in another man's town without at least saying hello. It is determined that the priest probably isn't a bad man, but he is not being protected. There is also discussion about Flick distributing narcotics for the elf, and a small sample is left.

General roleplaying, a few attribute checks.

Meanwhile the dwarf is checking out the blacksmith's shop. This is the closest he will be able to find in these parts to a shrine for his god. The smith here is young, probably something like 8, or 75. The dwarf isn't really sure how humans age. In any case, he isn't a very good smith. Not to say that he's bad, just inexperienced. He is feeling a bit threatened by the dwarf in a professional sense, and makes sure that his stay is just temporary. He doesn't know if there is anything to story about demon worshipers or not, but he really hopes there is. If they get caught, that will mean manacles and things need to be made, and he could use the business.

General roleplaying, failed attribute checks.

The two meet up, and go talk to the priest. The church is a large stone building, with wooden pews, stained glass windows, and a pulpit at the front. A fairly standard church of the carpenter. The elf and dwarf stride in boldly, letting the priest know that all of his demon troubles are behind him. He is visibly relieved, and enthusiastically greets the pair. He tells them a fantastical story of what he believes is happening, which ranges from feasible to possibly breaking the laws of reality as we know them. What he doesn't have, is any concrete proof, specific details about who is involved, or even where this might be happening. The pair confidently assures the priest that they will take care of everything. They are able to get some holy water from the priest, as ammunition against dark beasts.

Attribute checks and some haggling social conflict.

Later that night, the elf sneaks into the church. He cast's a shadow portal spell, which connects to their room at the inn. They ransack a small closet near the pulpit that contains various items needed for the ceremony, and take a holy item; a golden-headed framing hammer. There isn't anything else of apparent value inside. They find the door to the priest's room, and hear nothing inside. No snoring, nothing. Carefully opening the door, they find the room empty. Where is the priest? They take a few minutes to trash the place, and draw a demonic looking symbol on the wall. The dwarf had cast thrum of magic, and has determined that something below the church is magic. With the assistance of his bat familiar, they find a trap door under a rug behind the pulpit. They descend into the darkness. The elf seems to be going through withdrawal, and is starting to freak out a bit. He's pretty sure they should leave, as there is probably a monster down there. What they do find at the bottom of the stairs is a small rough room. There is a sturdy locked box chained to a large stone (so it can't easily be moved) and a locked writing desk. The elf tries feebly to open the desk until he realizes it is locked, and let's the dwarf smash it open. Inside is a leather scroll, and a leather bound book. There is a passage leading out of this room, and the dwarf is detecting fairly powerful magics down there. The elf, however, is tweaking out pretty bad, and convinces the dwarf to leave with what they have. They close up behind themselves, and return to their room.

Joint spell casting and full on stealth conflict, followed by some attribute checks and roleplaying to check for traps.

They meet with the priest for late breakfast (as previously planned), where he tells them about how his room was ransacked and desecrated, while he slept. So not only are the demon worshipers obviously threatened by their actions, but they must have powerful spells at their disposal in order to do what they did without waking him up. The pair press the priest some about him actually being there while it must have happened, and he sticks to his story. It is shortly after this that the rest of the party arrives in town. After asking for local news, the trainer is told the story of the travelling poodle show by the barkeeper. The trainer can't believe that a poodle show wouldn't stop due to people not being interested. How can you not be interested in a poodle show? They can fly, you know. The elf buys the trainer a goose, as a consolation prize.

General roleplaying.

Now that the goody two-shoes have arrived, the party decides to do more real investigation into what is happening. They head south of town, to the lumber camp. There are fewer people working than one would expect of a camp this size, but it does have the expected buildings and facilities. The foreman/cook, called Cooky, answers their questions. He doesn't know anything demon worshipers in the woods, but some men have reported hearing what sounds like babies crying in the woods. Some of the more superstitions men have been refusing to work, but Cooky is pretty sure that it is nothing more than somebody hearing things after drinking on the job, or at the very most maybe pixies playing tricks on people. He hasn't seen a pixie, but that sounds like something they would do. They carry on further south to the suburb of New South Shitsburg. It is a very small  hamlet, consisting a kinda crappy hovels, and one nice looking building. They go to the one nice building, and are greeted by a massive mountain of a man. The elf, apparently feeling overconfident, demands answers from the man. He too has been searching for the devil worshipers in the woods, but hasn't found anything yet. He does tell them about two areas of the woods where he thinks it might be, and mentions a few that he knows where they aren't.

General roleplaying, a few more attribute checks.

There is some discussion about if the man was trustworthy or not, with the elf being fairly certain he isn't, but the rest of the party thinks that he is. In the end, they decide to check out one of the places suggested by the man. They find a large clearing in the woods, in the center is a massive dead tree. It is simply evil looking, like from a cartoon where kids are lost in the woods, and the trees have hands and faces that are trying to grab the kids. So, like something from my childhood nightmares. Anyway, around the trees are several obvious fire pits, ready to go, and a large flat stone. On closer inspection the stone appears to be stained with blood, and is fairly fresh. Reasonably certain that this is the place, the group sets up to wait. The elf plants little pieces of brambles around clearing, in case he wants to cast wall of thorns. A cloth is put over the goose's cage (night time, sleep now), and the trainer is ready with a bag of treats to keep the dog quiet when necessary. And now they wait.

The brambles were to be used as spell component to spring a trap,  they were never used.

After waiting several hours, into late night, it happens. A procession of people approach, bearing torches. At the front is a figure dressed in jet black armour, with a large shield and helmet. Behind him are four people carrying a litter containing what looks like a man wearing a goat's head. They enter the clearing, with 11 people taking up positions around the tree and lighting the fires, and the goat headed man and knight going to the stone. It has become apparent that this isn't a man wearing a costume, but rather a goat man. The body of a man, with the hair, head, and feet of a goat. Their ceremony continues, with the formerly robed figures now naked and dancing around the flames, and knight calling out prayer in some terrible language. As the ceremony comes to a crescendo, a baby is pulled from a sack, and placed on stone altar. As he raises his knife, the monk and warrior woman rush into the clearing and attack the goatman. While the warrior woman distracted the goatman, the monk grabbed the baby and left. The trainer let loose his poodle of war, while shooting into the crowd with his bow. The dwarf runs in, while the elf tosses the goose into the fight. He had learned the spell Dire Goose from the scroll they stole from the church, so there is now a simply massive goose in the middle, attacking indiscriminately. The naked cultists have gone completely fanatical attacking the interlopers, but are largely ineffective. Through some clever tactics and good luck our heroes are able to defeat all of the cultists, incapacitate the black knight and goatman, and cripple the giant goose. They are now left with the various bodies, the evil tree, a baby, and a massive goose.

A large sprawling combat dominated by the danger of large creatures and the power of trained warriors to make combat "swingy".  Part of the difficulty was trying to capture rather than kill the black knight as he would be 2.5x as much experience captured.