Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A ghost story

Happy Halloween!

So I've been thinking about starting a Patreon for writing short stories  (which then have an adventure about the site or monster they involve appended to the end).   Its a new concept I've been toying with.  One thing it requires though is not just a skill in game writing but also short story writing (and those are two very different skill sets).  To that end,  here is the first half of a short story that will be my inaugural test of this concept.



Part 1

Gerrard was an easy going man so he ignored the offensive connotations to the remark. He leaned back in his host’s finely crafted chair, putting undue strain on the joints and threatening to scuff the floor. He may be easy going, but Gerrard knows how to push his host’s buttons.

"There is no need to be ashamed if you have no wine fine enough to match the bottle of '68 I brought from the Duc's personal estate".  Gerrard put extra-emphasis on the word "personal" to imply a great value of having the Duc's favour, as if he were important at the royal court. He wasn't, but he also knew that the minor provincial nobility surrounding this table were both ignorant of courtly affairs and too prideful to admit it.

Alexandre, his host, momentarily scowled before quickly regaining his composure. "While I would not hope to imply a vicomte such as myself could match the private reserve of a duc, I do have wines more than equal to those he would send out as gifts to those ..lesser..to himself.  I merely did not wish to cause any embarrassment.  For you see, my finest wine has a rumoured curse about it and I would not want a guest in my home to accrue shame should they lack the courage to partake"

Gerrard's face was unmoved, but his easy going nature was switching to cold and calculating logic. His fame and status came from his reputation as a dashing explorer engaged in feats of high adventure. While he held no personal truck with concepts like honour, his financial well being and access to creature comforts required he maintain that facade.  But his reputation is not based on false deeds.  He had indeed been to both exotic foreign lands and the dark forgotten corners of this one. He knew first hand not all curses were superstitions.  All of this took but the barest flash of time to work out in his mind.  He had fallen into a trap by his own errors, but he would prefer to risk a possible curse than a definite loss of lifestyle.  The sight of the young baronet at the end of the table caused a flickering of spite to burn into his thoughts.

"Alexandre! I could not abandon you to face a curse alone! Why if my host insists on taking such a foolhardy risk upon himself, do the rules of hospitality not require I join him?" asked Gerrard, deliberately misinterpreting Alexandre to imply the host wished to taste the cursed wine himself, "but at least tell me of this curse that we shall face together?"

Alexandre blanched.  He too saw the young and ambitious Pierre at the end of the table. Pierre was newly arrived with an inherited title to a tiny, destitute estate and the obvious gleam of avarice in his eyes for Alexandre's wealth. Vicomte is not a hereditary title and Comte Papineau was a fickle romantic who abhorred cowardice, despite the county's dire need of those with managerial acumen Alexandre knew this would endanger his own position should the upstart Baronet spread news of this conversation. "I may as well spread the misery to that social vulture" thought Alexandre with a fatalistic resignation "And what of you Pierre? Will you join us on this test of courage? or will you retreat while I describe the foul tale to our county's fine visitor?"

"Boorish and blunt, lacking subtlety" thought Gerrard of Alexandre's clumsy maneuvers. "You do me a great honour Vicomte!" declared Pierre "Alas in my current station I have but poor table wines to contribute.  For me to partake in this event without a suitable offering of my own would be shameful."

Gerrard shifted uncomfortably at Pierre's response. It is not that the Baronet was either particularly artful or clumsy in his response, more that he felt the need to avoid drinking a fine wine at all.  Pierre seemed to be young and ambitious.  Young people were prone to disregard supernatural warnings, and ambitious sorts would not lightly risk status for fear of them unless there was some stronger evidence than tales to scare disobedient children. Had Gerrard erred? No. It was these provincial yokels who were wrong.

"The curse?" prodded Gerrard

Alexandre cleared his throat and began:

It began over a half century ago,  on a dusty impoverished estate of a local baronet, in fact it was the same estate Pierre has since inherited. Then it was owned by the Baronet Gilles Dampierre, an old man without heir.  One day he returned from a sojourn to the east with a young and beautiful bride named Rebecca. Most suspected she was probably misled by Gilles with tales of a wealthy estate, and that she was probably anticipating becoming a widow of high wealth in short order given his advanced years. The local folk thought it was hilarious, that Gilles was a sly dog and her a fortune-seeker who got what she deserved.

But she seemed not unhappy with her surroundings, even though she herself had to plant when Gilles had to let his servants go over the winter, he was quite destitute. Gilles was in great spirits and she seemed the ever affectionate bride. When Gilles died 5 years later their estate was in quite a different financial situation. She had a green thumb beyond compare, that dusty hillside had become overgrown with grapevines. Its harvest was bountiful and money began to fill the widow's coffers. The estate produced not only large quantities of wine, but of a flavour far surpassing any other local wines.


Gerrard interrupted "So she was accused of witchcraft."

"Naturally" said Alexandre

"And then they burned her alive" concluded Gerrard

Alexandre chuckled "Of course not! We use drownings here. She burned herself alive as part of setting her estate ablaze that none of our envious hands should ever enjoy the fruits of her labour. Such was the curse she screamed from her balcony before the roof collapsed in flame. But when the estate lands and remaining belongings were auctioned off later,  it turned out several dozen bottles of her final vintage survived. They have since gathered a rather ominous reputation. It is said she will return from the grave to kill any who partake of her wine. So far there have been rumours of six opened bottles and six unexplained deaths.  Do you dare risk a seventh bottle?"

Gerrard did quick mental math. Several dozen bottles, only six deaths. The deaths were all from people who took a bottle for themselves alone and thus could have been drunk. It is possible only those six bottles have been opened, but Gerrard was willing to take the risk giving what was at stake for him. "Fear not Alexandre, I shall not desert you in your quest to prove your courage"

Alexandre stood up and fumbled in his breast pocket for a key. He walked towards the bookshelf and unlocked a small cupboard at its base. He could be heard moving several small items before relocking the cupboard.  When he stood up and turned around he was holding a dark green bottle with a singed label and a great mass of malformed wax dripping down the neck as far as the heel in some spots.

"It seems to have been near the fire, that may have damaged the seal." said Gerrard "it could have turned to poison"

Alexandre "Oh? I must admit I know little about the storage of wine. For the rest of my stock, that is the domain of my servants"

"If the seal is broken then the wine has been exposed to the air for some decades.  Ignoring the loss of flavour, it can be quite deadly.  This may well be the source of the rumoured curse. Any already intoxicated individual imbibing an unsafe bottle alone would likely be found dead by morning. That bottle may be better used as a conversation piece, there is no bravery in knowingly drinking poison after all" concluded Gerrard.

"There does seem to be enough extra wax that the seal is still intact" interrupted Pierre " while your explanation seems likely for the cause of the curse you are in luck with this particular bottle. You both have the opportunity to both enjoy such a vintage and prove your courage against the curse".

"I fear no curse" said Alexandre with renewed conviction, his spirits obviously buoyed by the recent insights.  Gerrard however glared silently at Pierre's destruction of his social escape route which would have allowed him to save face. Had it been intentional?

When Alexandre inserted the screw,  no blood spewed from the cork.  When the bottle was opened, it emitted no unearthly moan.  Only wine poured forth into a glass and no distant wails were heard as it was let to breathe. The three men sat in silence for half an hour. Pierre picked at the crusts of bread still on his plate, using them to swab up bits of duck fat.  Alexandre had poured water for himself and Gerrard to rinse their mouths with, and Gerrard simply stared out the window in to the darkness. The crackling fire in the hearth the only background noise.

Finally Alexandre spoke,  "I suppose it has had enough time to breathe, shall we Gerrard?".  Gerrard nodded and the two took mouths full of water and swished about before spitting into their mugs.

"I do hope it lives up to the positive half of its reputation" mused Gerrard.

 Alexandre silently poured two glasses of white wine.  Gerrard was visibly taken aback.

"You expected red no doubt? with its associations with blood and vampires and other ghoulish terrors?" asked Alexandre, a satisfied smirk upon his face.

"I suppose I did" said Gerrard in an unusually honest response.

The two raised their glasses in a silent toast before each taking a sip.

Alexandre smiled "Delightful!" he exclaimed "it is a perfectly sweet dessert wine which.." then paused as he noted Gerrard's face.  Gerrard was frowning.  "What has you behaving as such in the face of such a generous treat?" asked Alexandre with a growing hint of annoyance "Surely you do not pretend I exaggerate the traits of my gift to Pierre?".

"The wine is exquisite, by far the best I have ever had the privilege of tasting" said Gerrard dryly.

"Then you are merely feeling distraught about how much more generous a wine offering I have provided? Instead be joyous at the generous..uh..generosity you have received" said Alexandre with a rising level of smugness in his voice.

Gerrard nodded silently, but that was not his concern.  The wine had been cooked in fire and stored in a cupboard for decades.  Wine did not last forever, especially not in such conditions.  There was no earthly way it could maintain such a brilliant flavour.  Gerrard felt doom approaching deep in his bones.

Part 2

The remainder of the evening involved some small talk about local issues and a few mildly amusing anecdotes. The steam seemed to have been let out of the conversation as the bottle was shared between Gerrard and Alexandre.  Gerrard was quite happy to wrap the evening up, his sense of unease growing.  He tapped into some of his less reputable tricks to slide some silverware up his sleeve and pocketed a container of salt. Every noise and gust out wind outside tensed his muscles.

As the fire burned low, Gerrard picked up a candlestick and retired to his guest suite. It was a well furnished and cozy little room with a single east facing animal horn window. It had a small single bed covered in thick wool blankets, a small vanity with a built in washbasin, and a cross hung above the door.

“I suppose I had better get started” said Gerrard as he took stock of his options. He looked under the bed and smiled as he pulled out a brass chamberpot. Tucking it under his arm he checked the drawers of the vanity and removed a neti pot, a candle, and a mostly empty inkpot.  Gerrard scanned the room again looking for anything else he may have missed. “This will have to do” he said as emptied his pockets onto the floor.  A container of pilfered salt, a silver place setting, 5 silver coins, a gold cross necklace, and a single vial of holy water that he has ensured is always on his person since the vampire incident of seven years prior.

Gerrard started by carefully pouring a line of salt along the bottom of the door and then moved over to repeat the process by the window.  It was there he noticed his breath was visible, and the faint hint of moving moonlit shadows against his window.  Gerrard steadied his breathing and carefully lined salt under the window in what he assumed was the nick of time, for small dots of frost appeared on the window alongside what Gerrard swears looked like the shadows of small human hands.

The window’s latch began to slide up on its own, so Gerrard began hammering the silverware between the window and the ledge with the bedpan, preventing the window from swinging inward. The window rattled slightly, and then the bent and mangled cutlery seemed to flash with a small spark. There was an audible hiss and the warmth returned to the air.  As he hurried over to the door he heard Alexandre rising from his own room and shouting about the commotion.

Alexandre was only a few paces outside Gerrard’s door muttering obscenities when he let out a blood curdling scream.  Gerrard took the wooden cross from above the door and wedged it into the latch.  Alexandre reached Gerrard’s door and tried in vain to pull it open  “Help! It is her phantom! Help me!” he pleaded.  Gerrard held the door shut, despite all rules of honour and hospitality.  Alexandre screamed loudly once more before there was a thud as a body hit the floor.  Gerrard moved away from the door as once more a chill descended over him.  The door rattled briefly and the cross began to smoulder.  The chill quickly departed.  Gerrard once more scanned his room for he knew this was not over.

Gerrard withdrew a drawer from the vanity and smashed it upon the ground.  He quickly scooped the pieces into the chamberpot along with a dry hand towel from the wash basin. He crumbled the extra candle into the chamberpot and carefully lit the detritus with the failing light of his candlestick.  He heard the slow squeak of iron nails being pulled from wooden planks on the floor above his room as small plumes of plaster dust began dropping from the ceiling.  Gerrard placed the neti pot into the fire and lay upon the ground, watching the smoke pool upon the ceiling and listening to the noise.  Gerrard watched for nearing half an hour, the chamberpot fire was but glowing coals when Gerrard heard the plank snap and saw the smoke funnel into the growing hole above him. Gerrard then carefully poured the single vial of holy water he carried into the neti pot, causing it to hiss and let out puffs of steam as it began to boil.

There was an inhuman scream on the floor above and the sound of breaking planks ceased. For a brief moment there was silence, but it was sound followed by a great wailing and the sound of breaking furniture.

“It appears our phantom has the temper of a poltergeist” said Gerrard in a muttering tone “but I don’t suppose there is enough holy water to boil until morning”. He was talking to no one in particular, but he found it calmed his nerves to do so. The next speaking Gerrard did was not to calm his nerves.. To the contrary, the low monotone noises he uttered caused him to feel both a growing anxiety and terrible pain behind his eyes.

The water boiled for nearly forty five minutes, and the spirit took five more to notice the absence.  But the work resumed, with a much faster pace.  Gerrard saw the skeletal hands rend and tear a larger and larger hold in the ceiling.  Gerrard held out his small golden cross in his ink stained hand as he lay in bed half under the covers. Down from the ceiling floated a partial human skeleton, surrounded by the spectral image of an angry young woman.  The phantom slowly floated towards Gerrard with a look of annoyance on its face, always keeping its gaze from looking directly at Gerrard’s small cross.

With a sudden burst of speed Gerrard threw a handful of silver coins from his left hand directly at the ghost.  It instinctively flinched away and then turned back with a snarl as Gerrard flung back the covers from the bed.  The mirror from the vanity had been removed and painted with occult runes from the monument of Nagal-Khish,  and as soon as the spirit gazed upon its reflection it disappeared, and only its reflection remained.  Gerrard quickly covered the mirror once more and broke it with a blow from his elbow.  Under the covers he heard the screaming of the phantasm as it found itself unable to escape its prison of mirror shards.

Gerrard noticed he was bleeding from his elbow,  a superficial cut but it was ruining his shirt.  He used his pillow to apply pressure to the cut and waited for morning’s light to banish the spirit back to the realm of the dead.  With the crow of the rooster he knew he had survived another day,  but that the spirit would return at dusk.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Punchline: Out just in time for Halloween!





Back in March I put out a post of what I hoped to get out this year.  This is the last one on the list and its just in time for Halloween. 

Its a horror adventure featuring clowns, I don't want to give away too much but I hope that if you are reading this you know my work well enough to realise it won't be half arsed. It will make for a great Halloween game.

Available now!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

NGR Play Example: Sorcerous Rites

In this scenario the party is under siege in a cabin in the woods. Swarms of cackling flesh-hungry corpses swarm the area at night only to disappear into their burrows at dawn. They are on a bullshit escort mission for an old sage trying to retrieve a forbidden tome because the GM has been busy lately so he bought a module for another system that he has belatedly realized is a shitty evil dead knock off.  The players are also aware of this, not the least of which because they see the module in the GM's stack of books at the table.



GM:  So Sir Vancierge has hacked the corpse into a helpless mess but it still writhes and begins to reform.

Chuck (Abraham): Ya ya, I'll walk up to it and begin to exorcise its remains..

Kim (Thaugo): Wait! don't!

GM: The sage urges you to hurry and destroy it, "It is bad enough this will only drive it back! we must make it to the ..." The GM pauses to fully comprehend the bad writing before moving on "..cave of evil.. to recover the Necromanxicon Diabolicus..so I may utter the proper incantations to end this horror".

Kim (Thaugo): Ya ya, sure.. but I mean you are a sage right?

GM: ..Yes?

Kim (Thaugo): We'll this isn't the Wednesday night game..so we have a few more options.

GM: A hand starts crawling

Guy (Sir Vancierge): I chop it and listen to Thaugo, assuming this is in-character or translated in-character, whatever.  Continue.

Kim (Thaugo): Well a sage can reverse engineer spells, including from the body of a magical monster, though a fresh body gives a pretty hefty penalty of -5 and an ancient one is almost useless at -20.

Julia (Brother Cadmus): Ok ...

Kim (Thaugo): But a still living, or in this case unliving, doesn't actually say it gives any penalty

Julia (Brother Cadmus): Wait, so vivisections are what fucked wizards do to gain spells?

GM: Well that might be a bit dark and its only one option..

Julia (Brother Cadmus): Fuck, I should have been a sage, that is bad-ass. Do you think there is a toolshed we can 'scientifically' dismember this thing in? With like a vice and ye-olde-chainsaw?

GM: No, I mean yes there is an outbuilding actually but it doesn't have a chainsaw

Chuck (Abraham): Bet $5 it has a vice and/or a blood stained shovel.

The GM Frowns. It totally has both.

Kim (Thaugo): Lets hack this bad boy to bits and study it, then we'll be able to try and dispel these fuckers.

GM: I thought your anti-magic specialty was counter-spells?

Kim (Thaugo): It is, but I can still try to dispel spells I know, it just means it won't be an automatic success.

The GM has not specifically written up an NGR spell to raise these undead. They start thinking what NGR spell template to use and go with Necromancy because its the only real option.  Well, the thought of saying its raised by a religious miracle of a dark god as an easy out crosses their mind but that wouldn't fit with the escort/fetch quest bullshit and ask questions about what god and ..blah. Its a Necromancy spell.

GM: The sage objects to this risky...

Chuck (Abraham): I nudge him in the lower back with a dagger "Come come sir, this is too important".  Do I need to roll an appeal?

GM: Hrm, I guess that depends on how set he is on this ...

Julia (Brother Cadmus): Railroad?

GM: Plan of action.  Lets see, whats his personality type.

Guy (Sir Vancierge): Just look in the module, we don't care and we know this is one.

GM: FINE.

Looking in the module it seems the Sage is focused on self-preservation. The GM already knew the sage was planning to double cross them to steal the book for himself for his own benefit.

GM: He decides not to raise a fuss once the blade touches his back.

Julia (Brother Cadmus): Ok, I'll drag the bits of this thing out, Chuck you watch it. Guy you guard us in case more are still nearby in the woods and Kim keep your arm on the sage.

Kim (Thaugo): I can defend myself as a move action for free with Parkour, so I'll be keeping watch.

GM: Ok, Thaugo make a detection roll

Kim (Thaugo): Ok, I rolled a 13 so 15 total.

GM: Don't forget the darkness penalty..

Kim (Thaugo): I have Owl Eyes up

GM: Are we going to do the Dead Ale Wives skit? Is that where this is heading?

Kim (Thaugo): I have already chipped in the tokens we use to track mana, see, that was back in the cabin.

The group uses glass beads to visually represent mana at the table, they also use poker chips to track luck points.

GM: Ok, so 15 it is.  You don't see anything in the nearby clearing.

Chuck (Abraham): I open the door to the outbuilding and remember I have detect traps.

GM: Ya that is fine, but the door is barred from the outside with a ..sigh.. bloodstained shovel.

Chuck (Abraham): HA! I remove it and open the door.

GM: Inside is a workshop, featuring a head in a vice, do you want to step inside.

Chuck (Abraham): No, that is obviously going to cackle at us and try to bite us I immediately stab the handle of the shovel in its mouth so it can't bite down or talk.

GM: Sure enough it begins biting down on the wooden handle and shouting muffled curses.

Tom looks up from his phone where he had been discretely googling the module

Tom (Jack): Why not just kill it?

Chuck (Abraham): In case they fail with the vivisection of the first one, they have a backup.

Tom (Jack): Vivisection?

Julia (Brother Cadmus): That is why we went to the workshop

Tom (Jack): Oh so we already left the house

Guy (Sir Vancierge): Yes, you are with us in a shed outside looking at a corpse head in a vice, or you are alone in the house.

Tom (Jack): Fine fine, I am here

GM: So it could take several days to reverse engineer a spell, its a ?d6 days if he even succeeds.

Kim (Thaugo): Yes, but with all these tools this would be a lab right? So the sage can re-roll the  check and give bonuses to ?d6 with skills.

GM: I'll count it as a lab, but his skills wouldn't be involving these types of tools so that won't benefit him.

Guy (Sir Vancierge): We set up guard while the sage gets to work and Thaugo supervises him.

GM: Supervises?

Chuck (Abraham): In case they try to possess him and drive him crazy

GM: Ok, let me roll for nighttime encounters

The GM rolls and only gets the result indicating horrific chanting and cackling. That didn't have any rules in the original module system, but it makes sense to the GM for this to be a supernatural appeal.

GM: In the wee hours of the morning the air is filled with singsong taunts of your doom and insane shrieks of laughter. Everyone can make a resist roll against an appeal of ..

The GM rolls d20 and gets a 7

GM: 7.

Everyone makes their resist except Thaugo who takes 4 points of stress. Thaugo does not put any poker chips in the center.

GM: Not spending luck? That will make it harder to not go crazy in the future.

Kim (Thaugo): True, but with my being eccentric going a little crazy makes me a better wizard.

GM: Fair enough. Daylight comes ...

Julia (Brother Cadmus): And we wanna go home

GM: Yes yes, but you can't at this point.  What do you spend the day doing?

Chuck (Abraham): I am going to repair the broken boards in the windows and take a nap in the late morning to early afternoon.

Julia (Brother Cadmus): I am going to bury the two dismembered corpses we aren't using. Proper rites and all that. That should be 2 piety right?

GM: Yep

Julia (Brother Cadmus): Then I am sleeping until woken.

Tom (Jack): I'll gather a bunch of firewood, I want to keep the hearth going all night, big fire the whole time.

Guy (Sir Vancierge): I am skilled at siegecraft, I want to focus on reinforcing anything structurally weak or an obvious way in.

GM: The cellar is the obvious way in.

Guy (Sir Vancierge): Ok, I'll fill all those wicker baskets we found full of dirt and store them on top of the trap door.

GM: The only door you know of is the storm cellar door

Guy (Sir Vancierge): Ok, I'll move all the carpets and bookshelves and whatnot to find the cellar door which obvious exists and then put heavy dirt baskets on it.

GM: Ok, you do find one under a rug, and you put heavy things on it.

Chuck (Abraham): I also nail it shut.

GM: Fine,  Kim, what is Thaugo doing?

Kim (Thaugo): Going to help the sage, I am using the Augury miracle to give him a fate point to use in trying to finish the autopsy today.

GM: Ok so today I roll the d6, its a 2. I use the fate you provided him from asking the spirits for help and ..oh a 6. Looks like he's finished examining the body, destroying it in the process.

The GM now has to think harder about the spell. The template is necromancy, so that is the base. It has a difficulty of 5 per power level normally.  This creates a more powerful undead, so it should probably be a little tougher. The GM ups the difficulty by 1 per power level and the cost by 2 per power level, and increasing the range sixfold because that just felt right.  The changes to the template make the spell go from:

NECROMANCY
Difficulty 5 per power level
Cost 4 per power level
Range 1 meter (cumulative) per power level
This spell causes the caster to animate 1(cumulative) corpse or spirit (depending on version of the spell) within range per power level. Any heroes or villains in this radius who are raised may become free willed undead. Roll a d20 per hero or villain. If the roll is less than the character’s level times the number
of milestones they’ve passed, they become free willed. A caster can control 1(cumulative) undead creature per level per version of this spell memorized. If the caster dies all of her undead are destroyed, though free willed undead may be allowed a saving throw. Undead created in this manner suffer 1 (cumulative) damage per round from direct sunlight.

TO

Raise the Evil Dead
Difficulty 6 per power level
Cost 6 per power level
Range 6 meters (cumulative) per power level
This spell causes the caster to animate 1(cumulative) corpse within range by means of a summoned evil spirit per power level. The caster does not control these undead after 24 hours.  Undead created in this manner suffer 1 (cumulative) damage per round from direct sunlight.

GM: Ok, so the wizard rolls a dX + Occult check to see his score.  He has an occult of +5 and rolls a 3 on the d20 so that is 8.

Kim (Thaugo): But this is a lab so he gets a re-roll

GM: I know, I know. So the other score is 14+5 for a total of 19.  That is compared against a d20+ the difficulty of the spells on the body. 

The GM is thinking to go d20+6, but there are three of these "legally distinct from deadites" in the module so if the book was only read from once, it must have been cast at power level 2.  Using this reasoning that would be a difficulty of 12, which makes sense to the GM.  This should be a powerful curse to break.

GM: Ok so I roll a d20 and add 12 for a total of , 16.  Huh.  Ok the sage exclaims "Yes! Yes! I have uncovered the secrets!"

Kim (Thaugo): He doesn't have a familiar to take notes right? So he'd actually have to be making notes?

GM: Yes....

Kim (Thaugo): Ok, good. Because I think we are all aware he's going to try to betray us and I just wanted to make sure I could take the spell off of his body when that happens.

GM: Well that is about to happen as he exclaims "I no longer have need for you and your greedy little eyes trying to steal MY secret knowledge!"

Kim (Thaugo): Initiative?

GM: Yes, he got a 3 on agility.

Kim (Thaugo): I actually have a 4 on agility.

GM: Ok, he goes to cast some version of "Weakness" upon you. Do you want to interrupt?

Kim (Thaugo): Yes, I will attempt to counter it. Because I have the Anti-Magic: Counterspell specialty I can attempt to counter the spell even though I don't know it.

GM: Ok, he casts it at power level 2, it has a difficulty of 2 cumulative per power level, for a base of 6. He is brandishing the skull of a kitten carved with arcane runes. This is an easy to make component and its lowering the difficulty by 1 per power level, so back down to 4.  He has an occult of 5, and he is using his talisman to cast the spell through since his talisman is a ring and this is a touch spell. That has a benefit of +2 so he gets another +2 to the casting roll.

His casting roll is a dX +5 occult -4 spell difficulty +2 talisman.  He is reckless and so rolls a d20 for the dX, scoring an 11 for a total of 14. A spell needs to beat a 10 to succeed (meaning roll an 11+ total).

Kim (Thaugo): Except I am using a counterspell so he also has to beat my roll as well. I roll a dX and add my occult, which is normally +2, but I took that stress earlier. Since I have the eccentric ability I add my stress to my occult here.  So I roll dX +2 Occult +4 stress. I roll a d20 and roll a 12 for a total of 16.  As he brandishes the kitten skull to weaken me I quickly throw the horns to channel the strength of a bull and counter his magic.

GM: Ok, his remaining action is defending himself.

Kim (Thaugo): I haven't had to defend myself so I use the same trick Thaugo used to defeat his master in a sorcerer's duel last time.

GM: Whats that?

Kim (Thaugo): He's an old man and I am pretty much a Sasquatch who is standing in the same shed as him. I cast fist.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Peterson and her effect on my role playing sensibilities

So as I see the leaves begin to change with autumn's approach I shouldn't be surprised that my brain shifted to Elvira, especially Monday when this post entered my brain. So I figured I should ramble a little more about comedy, terror, and memory.


A lot of my writing has a very strong horror theme to it,  partly that is due to the nature of the genre. The difference between horror and high adventure is often just your estimation of your chances of success. It is lack of adequate competence (in the broadest sense) that leads to horror and shifts it away from something almost lighthearted.

I also tend to write things that casually include the incredible suffering of mere existence that common peasants suffered in a historical setting. The aesthetics of ruin is a good read but I don't tend to have my writing wallow in misery, as there is an element of both comedy and suffering in the situation.  Without sounding too nihilistic, the level of ruin often has a form of bleak comedy about it. Comedy , to me, makes the horror elements that much more vivid and memorable. I believe there are fairly straightforward reasons for that which I'll come back to.

That concept of embedding comedy among horror is almost certainly something I picked up from Peterson in her role as Elvira.  I will make the controversial statement that although I have watched the Elvira movie many times, it is purely as a tradition. I think its generally garbage. It's bad because it puts Elvira front and center, while her talent is providing running commentary on horror movies themselves.  Movies made in earnest, if poorly, were a lot more enjoyable to watch.  I remember watching her Schlock-o-thon about a quarter century ago.  The jokes acted like a sieve to filter out everything but the few good kernels within the movies.  I don't recall all the dumb crap that is 95% of a movie like "Gargoyles" but I do remember the ominous scene where you realize it is in fact a demon succeeding in corrupting the mind of  a person (whose name and role I have long since forgotten) through fake claims of just being a different alien species trying to live in peace.   That may have actually been true for the crappy plot, but that one scene implied very different. The jokes filtered out all the dumb junk which was unable to rise past them in terms of quality, leaving behind that one moment as a little gem that remains in memory a quarter century later.  This is probably the same reason I enjoyed MST3K so much, but (second controversial statement) their comedy was much better. Elvira is linked to Halloween so that bumps her up a lot in my books, otherwise I would say there isn't even a contest between which one I like more.

The ability to create those "long term gems of memory" is one of my main goals when running games.  I want it to be fun and interesting in the moment  at the table yes, but part of the "stickiness" I do when writing adventures also serves the secondary function of creating good/interesting memories.  I want people to vividly remember moments of games I ran years or decades down the line.

Novelty can be part of this sure,  but if everything is novel then nothing sticks out from all the rest. Using familiar archetypes actually seems to work better, perhaps because similar stimuli are frequently encountered.  Each encounter then reminds you of the game and further cements the memory in your brain. They also help to contrast those components of the adventure that ARE novelty, making the novelty bits easier to remember in their own right. If most statues don't come to life and kill you, the one that does is memorable (and might succeed). If most statues you encounter come to life to kill you then everyone gets wise to that shit after the second statue.

This is one of the things LotFP as a publishing house does right with their submission guidelines (in my opinion),  they want things to be historically normal except for one weird thing which is the focal point of the adventure. One point I think LotFP doesn't do as well in this regard (though it probably isn't a goal of theirs) is shying away from folklore.

Lovecraft's weird fiction did a pretty good job on this to my mind. On the one hand they had aliens as gods and super-science as magic,  but they also had robed cultists performing sacrifices next to an idol and witches with familiars signing their name in a black book held by a humanoid with goat legs. Contrast his stories of pure novelty like "Shadows of out time".  You probably recall that Yithians look weird, have a massive library, and quantum leap everywhere right?  What about the other details?  On the top of your head, what more do you recall?  Do you remember they have no sense of touch?  Probably with a little goading. What about their government structure?  Their hovercars? Their highway infrastructure?  That all gets lost in the jumble.  Compare that to "The Shadow over Innsmouth".  You've got the coach (bus) driver with ominous foreshadowing.  You've got the creepy secret society. The old man who warns you of DOOM DOOM! All common archetypes that make the novel components (the underwater fishperson city) stand out that much more. The contrast of novel elements (at the time) alongside traditional folklore archetypes made those stories extremely memorable on the whole, even if details were lost.

Combining the jokes and comedy at the table as a sieve with an adventure featuring traditional archetypes contrasting a novel element has so far seemed like the most effective method for ensuring that moments are captured as long term memories. "A thousand dead babies" is a good example of this.  It has the novel component of [spoiler] but also a lot of archetypes that are classic like the black sabbath, or the farmer's daughter. While I play it straight, it is also specifically ripe for a lot of humour at the table. I generally try to avoid honestly complimenting myself, but that particular adventure does seem to generate those types of long term memories for people. 




Friday, August 31, 2018

Final Day for Murder at Devil Pines

The second and last Kickstarter post I will make about this topic.

Its in the final hours for "Murder at Devil Pines" , a board game I designed which I've written about a few times on this blog. The cliff notes:

1.) Its a paranormal investigation game set in 1992. You may have to fight Mothman.
2.) You can set up and play a game in about 30 minutes the first time, about 20 after that.
3.) It still has advancement and equipment. Everyone likes getting loot.
4.) Its co-operative, but it has a potential traitor mechanic. About 50% of games feature a traitor, which is only uncovered through game play (including to the potential traitor). This prevents one player from potentially running the group as puppets, but since the game is so quick it doesn't ruin the night if someone IS a traitor (in games that take an hour to set up and 12 to play this can be a problem).
5.) We offer an option to give files needed for virtual tabletops.

We are at 85% funding and would love to hit that target.


If this sounds like your cup of tea, consider backing it HERE

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Murder at Devil Pines - an early 90's paranormal investigation boardgame

So we recently launched "Murder at Devil Pines",  the theoretically co-operative boardgame I've posted about a few times on here.  It features the artwork of the talented Alex Mayo.

You can back it HERE

We ran this pretty heavily at GenCon for a few dozen people,  plus I ran it a few times at bars and hotel lobbies.  It is a great pickup game for those situations.  Explaining the rules, setting it up, and playing the first game takes about half an hour to forty minutes. Future games are about twenty minutes.

Its unique quirk is that has a potential traitor mechanic where only about half the games have a traitor (and about a quarter have two, an eighth three etc),  so in theory you should all work together.  But you don't know who is a traitor (including you!) until you start unraveling the mystery.  So there is a real benefit in keeping things secret so that other people won't be tipped off that they are a traitor themselves.  In short, you can run into a "but do they know that I know that they know that I know..." loop.  Its a great social game and its quick enough to set up and play that losing because of a traitor doesn't spoil the evening since you can just play another round.  It also means that one person with a stronger personality can't dominate the table like in other co-operative games.

If you like co-op board games or casual games I think you'll like this one.



Saturday, July 28, 2018

The magic of Three. 3 days left and 3000 percent funded.

Just a heads up that we are on the final stretch of the kickstarter.  We are on its last three days and three thousand percent funded.   We are also closing in on a stretch goal of having the talented Luka Rejec do a version of the rules using his own art.  I'd like to thank everyone for their support.


Back it HERE