Thursday, August 30, 2012

Using the Stealth System for "Wandering Monsters"

As I try my hand at something that is largely a pure dungeoncrawl with NGR  (the Northcote/Hogswamp sci-fi game)   I've been working with an alternate solution to wandering monsters.

Currently I've been using the Stealth System  (mess up on stealthy actions or make noise,  build suspicion, get caught) to work as a "build up to wandering encounter" check.   This has been working pretty well so far,  players are free to crank radios, use dynamite, rev chainsaws and fire guns all they want, and slowly it builds into someone or something coming to investigate.

This also works well as a balance for rogues in a game where everyone can disarm and detect traps.  It has the advantage of letting PC's freak themselves out about the amount of noise they are making in a concrete way, adding to a rising sense of tension.   What is about to crawl out of a pipe or through the air vents towards them?  Convicts? Trained Killers? A stray cat? Nothing?  They know something is about to risk appearing if they take 1 more suspicion..

What do you do?  Take the risky action?  Burn through your luck to avoid being caught (but be weaker when something does appear when you push into another room in ten minutes?) , or do you fall back to a safe haven and recoup?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rumours from the RFCS Northcote

So another expedition in which a local construction worker died in that ominous drifting hulk.

1.)  The internal sewage lines are almost empty, and navigable
2.) There are radioactive mutants with super-powers
3.) There is a doomsday cult on board
4.) There is a lot of escaped livestock milling about
5.) Someone left a lot of valuable jewellery in steerage.

The local construction worker's union notes that while effective at "maimin stuff up 'n stuff" that both chainsaws and dynamite "be durn LOUD" and may draw unwanted attention resulting in workplace injury and death.

R.I.P  Nack

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Rumours from Planet Hogswamp

So another band of brave souls have explored the RFCS Northcote and begun mucking about,  including interstellar D-List celebrity:  "El Burro" a luchadore in blue with a shiny white suit.  News and rumours have begun to swirl about what exactly is going on up there...

1.) There is a serial killer on the loose
2.) Someone escaped in an extra pod,  but somehow overwrote landing programming.  What was on this pod and where did it land?
3.) There is an escaped walrus on the loose
4.) A weird high tech artifact was brought down planetside

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Weird Adventures, The Forgotten Realms and Historical Earth

So when I went to GenCon I had the opportunity to meet Trey over at the Sorcerer's Skull and pick up a copy of Weird of Adventures which I am still devouring and enjoying immensely.  Its a setting book (not a system),  it features the pulp and noir era, and is an incredibly charming style that makes it a great physical artifact so I am 3/3 on the book itself.  But I did notice something that has gotten me on a tangent.

In Weird Adventures things are named similar to their earth equivalents,  but oh so slightly off.  Enough that it is 100% clear what is being referenced such as "The Union", "Borea" and "Yianese".  This is similar to things like Maztica or similar such names in the Forgotten Realms, Fricana in the Quest for Glory games, Bretonnia, Norsca, Tilea and damn near everything in Warhammer, and quite honestly how I have almost always named things in my own games.

Lately I have been thinking on this topic.  In my own games I did this to get across that it was visually and thematically similar to the person, place or thing in question but still different from history.  How different could vary by how much I wanted it to be.  Warhammer was one of my earliest and strongest influences for setting,  Quest for Glory up there strongly too I'd wager, and in the 90's you couldn't escape Forgotten Realms products if you walked into a comic book store,  so this is to be expected.

Since being on G+ however I have noticed it seems easier almost to just use real earth history,  until you want to be VERY clear that something is different.  When I just say something is "Norway" or "Ireland" instead of "Nordland" or "The Keltic Coast" or some other thing people seem to clamp down on the region easier.  Then when I put in something that while visually or superficially similar is very different (Say the Church of Spartacus as opposed to Catholicism, because  I like the imagery but I want some bloodthirsty, pro-dungeoncrawling faith tenants) it stands out more.

So I waffle back and forth on this one.  The idea is clarity and a link to a historical analogue, but also clearly saying "don't assume its the same below the surface".   I am really not sure which approach is better.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Monolith Beyond Space and Time

First off,  this post will contain some spoilers about the nature of the adventure,  but I'll try to avoid spoiling the adventure itself.  But I wanted to talk with what problems I view the module as having, and what uses I view it as having.

So the adventure itself is a total screw job to whomever plays in it.  This is to be expected from a LotFP adventure and being surprised by this is like being surprised that your banana split contains ice cream as well as bananas.

This can be an issue in this case though.   Many of the encounters within have really inescapable outcomes.  There can be a handful of outcomes, but far less "lateral thinking" solutions seem available.  This isn't to say it is inconsistent.   It is a fairly logical (if you can say that about something beyond human understanding) way the area would behave.  It isn't meant for adventurers to romp around through,  it is just a powerful artifact they can stumble upon.

That is the problem as well though,  it isn't meant for adventurers.  It is an interesting and fantastical location, but I wouldn't consider it a good adventure location, it is a horror location.  This can pose a problem is a group is only going to investigate the monolith for metagame reasons.  I don't mean that as a bad thing,  sometimes you are cognisant of the fact that there is only four hours every other week to play and you just go towards the nearest adventure location.  Such a group will feel sorely cheated that the other end of the implied bargain wasn't kept to.  "We bit the adventure hook because we didn't want to waste time dithering, but you just laid out a poison pill? Not cool".

That said I see it as having fantastic use, but it needs one or two minor tweaks.  In a sandbox game it can be used as a perfect example of why not to investigate every damn oddball thing your PC hears about.  "Oh there is a radioactive city over there?  Maybe I shouldn't investigate it since nothing about radioactive city sounds pleasant and I shouldn't assume that everything is set up to be a fun adventure, and in fact some things are just deadly".   What the monolith beyond space and time really needs I think, is a Zeke equivalent (from Death Frost Doom, another LotFP module that is held in near universal high regard) to warn the PC's that there is nothing but doom ahead.  I am reminded of Liam the Wayfarer (ref. Jack Vance "The Dying Earth") who when approaching Chun the unavoidable is warned by an old man showing many a previous victim.  In neither "Liam the wayfarer" nor "Death Frost Doom" nor "The colour out of space" nor any other horror cliché using this trope, is any heed ever paid to these old men warning of your unavoidable doom.  That isn't the point,  the point is the warning is retroactively acknowledged.  Cryptic and unintelligible babble has meaning thrust upon it after the fact, and people are probably a little more happy with the screw job.

So if you just have an "adventure of the week" where the GM gives the players an adventure to play,  The Monolith seems like a dick move and generally wasting a large and valuable chunk of your friends free time.  If it is a more player driven or sandbox game where players choose to explore the monolith, for no reason other than curiosity?  Well, the old saying "curiosity killed the cat" exists for a reason.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Now at GenCon!

I have arrived in lovely Indianapolis.  If you want to meet up for a chat or a game,  post here and let me know!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Upcoming LotFP adventure: Scenic Dunnsmouth

I have mentioned a few times that one of the projects I have been working on is an adventure for Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Weird Fantasy Role-Playing called "Scenic Dunnsmouth", but I wanted to wait until the grand adventure campaign was done before promoting it.

This is an adventure about isolation, paranoia, body horror, moral peril and fabulous treasure.. or at least some of those things, or maybe none of those things.  One of the key aspects of "Scenic Dunnsmouth" is that reading the module spoils little of the game play, if any.  It is always a mystery, and always playing on paranoia.

Michael Curtis, author of Stonehell Dungeon and of  the Society of Torch, Pole and Rope blog had this to say after a play test:

I had a tremendous amount of fun during my ill-fated sojourn to Scenic Dunnsmouth. It's a cunning bait-and-switch of an adventure and fellow travelers should heed my warning: Whatever you think is going on, you're wrong."

Evan from the blog "In Places Deep" (or as he prefers it to be called as often as you can In Deep Places) had the following to say:
"It has [Spoilers!]"

..thanks Evan.

Greg Backus of TrollZine and Quiet day in Heimdall says:

The first time I was genuinely frightened in a RPG session. It was the first time that I actually thought that the best thing I could do for my character was to just high-tail it out of there and not look back (I mean this as a compliment, BTW)

Still not satisfied?  How about some quotes from people you don't know and probably never will?

Totally didn't give one player nightmares  - Ryan
I wanted to rinse my uterus with bleach pretty much immediately - Mel
A good time that will haunt your nightmares - Josh
Surreal, creepy, disturbing - Gerry

Wow?  Look at those comments from people who are barely above anonymous!

Still not convinced?

Did I mention its artwork is being completed by Jez Gordon of Secret Santicore fame?

If you want to see something truly innovative with a solid horror backing,  you want this module as soon as it is released, so start ineffectively throwing wads of crumbled up bills at your monitor now to train.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Rumours on Hogswamp

1.) The systems deep space militia patrol ship is looping back to Hogswamp as part of its three month rotation. Rumour has it they intend to seize salvage rights when they arrive in a few weeks.

2.) Francois, an apprentice of Willy the Appleseed is looking to hire someone for a special retrieval mission.

3.) Eustace, a record keeper in the administration has been seen frequenting some of the shadier prospector hangouts looking to find some business partners.

4.) The constabulary raided some of the main stills, alcohol has doubled in price in the short term.

5.)  A rebel instigator has shot one of Col. Brimley's men.  He's announced he'll pay for any rebels brought to him alive, or for any information on their camps.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Property Guide to Planet Hogswamp

So maybe you've managed to get some script from the salvage of the RFCS Northcote,  maybe you are looking to buy some planet side accommodations?

Property on Hogswamp tends to either be clay bricks, spruce planks or if you are really wealthy a proper mansion with paint, insulation, the whole 9 yards.  Rural property is cheaper and has less meddling from the administration,  but also no real protection and no power.   The power grid is flaky in the city, and wooden buildings have a 1% monthly chance of catching fire.

Small plank shanty
(urban): $200/month or $5K,  $10/month for power
(rural): $50/month or $1K, no power.

Wooden Cabin
(urban): $600/month or $15k,  $10/month for power
(rural): $200/month or $7k,  no power

Brick House
(urban): $1000/month or $50K, $15/month for utility
(rural): $400/month or $50k, no power

Large Brick Building
(urban): $2500/month or $200K, $50/month for utility

Wooden Office Space
(urban): $200/month, utility included

Brick Office Space
(urban): $250/month, utility included

Wooden warehouse
(urban):  $2000/month or $100K, $20/month for utility

(urban): $15000/month or $1M, $500/month for utility
(rural): $2M, $100/month for on site utility maintenance