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Pulp Fantasy and Next Campaign

July 23, 2014

During the last couple of months, I’ve been seeking out and reading a lot of the old ‘pulp’ authors. While the works of Lovecraft and Howard have always been easy to find (at least since the 1970s), the works of authors like Clark Ashton Smith and Lord Dunsany have always been difficult or expensive to acquire. However, with the advent of EPUBS, the collected works of both these authors are now available for a couple of dollars. I’ve been enjoying a lot of these works. I’ve always been a fan of Clark Ashton Smith and believe him to be as talented as either Howard or Lovecraft. Dunsany is a bit more of an acquired taste; I read a couple of Dunsany’s story collections back in the 1980s but I found them to be dull at the time. This time around I got a better appreciation for his style.

These works have gotten me in the mood for something different as far as rpgs are concerned. I still want to run a fantasy campaign with a good bit of dungeon crawling, but I’m looking for less Tolkien, more Lovecraft and Smith. (Not that I have anything against Tolkien!) Unlike my prior campaigns which I ran in a world I created, I think my next campaign will take place in a version of Lovecraft’s Dreamlands. While that might sound like a fantasy campaign of eldritch alien horror, that’s not the direction I’m interested in going. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands stories are much lighter in tone than his other works as he based their style and mood on the ‘dream like’ tales of Lord Dunsany.

So what am I looking for? I think I’d like to run a fantasy campaign with a Victorian or Edwardian vibe. Characters will still be searching ruins and tombs for treasure and artifacts but they might be sponsored by the Dreamlands’ equivalent of the National Geographic Society or the Royal Geographical Society.  Characters will have access to firearms but nothing more sophisticated than flintlocks. Instead of characters interacting and fighting with the more traditional monsters like Orcs, Goblins, Trolls, and Dragons, they may find themselves up against Lunabestia (Moon Beasts) and their Lengite servants. Or they might encounter Serpent Folk in ancient ruins or stumble upon Deep Ones kidnapping fisher-folk as sacrifices to their dark god, Dagon. I’ll be talking more about this over the next couple of days.

Here’s what I thought some of the character backgrounds might be like.

Dreamlands_Characters

(All illustrations are from character art I found on the Internet and including concepts from the game, Assassin’s Creed, as well as art from Paizo.)

 

 

Map of my Campaign World

June 28, 2014

Shown below is a map of  the continent of Enzopea. I’ve been using variations of this map for the last 30+ years for my various fantasy rpg campaigns (including my most recent  Aspects of Fantasy campaign). I thoroughly enjoy ‘world-building’ and consider it one of the benefits of being a DM/GM.

Map of Enzopea

Map of Enzopea

Unfortunately, I lost the Photoshop version of this file four years ago when I had multiple hard-drives crash within a month of each other. First the back-up went, then the main drive a couple of weeks later. I had luckily backed up almost everything – but not the map. It’s unfortunate because the world is ready for an expansion, plus there are some design items I would like to change. Oh well, maybe when I get the time…

Aspects of Fantasy Finally Released

June 21, 2014

Finally released Aspects of Fantasy out one DriveThruRPG and RPGNow. Definitely glad to have it done. Here’s a description of the game from the back of the book:

Welcome to Aspects of Fantasy, a fantasy roleplaying game that takes the familiar D20 rules system and updates it with rules and concepts from the popular Fate rules engine

In Aspects of Fantasy you will find:

  • A streamlined version of the D20 system
  • Rules for using aspects and fate points with characters, equipment, adventuring parties, and creatures
  • Quick character creation rules with 8 races (clurichauns, dwarves, elves, gnomes, halflings, humans, orgars, witchbloods) and 8 classes (adventurer, barbarian, cleric, fighter, knight, mage, ranger, rogue) along with a number of backgrounds and traits
  • Rules for using fate points as a commodity to power traits and maneuvers
  • Critical and fumble rules along with an easy to use skill system
  • A D20 magic system that better integrates with aspects and fate points along with over 150+ spells
  • Conversion information for using Aspects of Fantasy with your Pathfinder and D20 products, along with a dozen sample creatures to get you started

Aspects of Fantasy can be used to integrate elements of Fate into any version of your favorite fantasy roleplaying game, or it can be used as a way introduce your D20/Pathfinder players to concepts in the Fate rules system.

Here’s the cover for the game from the artist, Trevor Smith:

AspectsofFantasyCover

More on Trevor and the game in another post…

The Series ‘Heroes’ Is Back

February 23, 2014

This from USA Today:

NBC’s sci-fi series Heroes is being revived as a 13-episode limited series, with creator Tim Kring back at the helm but a new cast of characters and a self-contained storyline that’s “shrouded in secrecy.”

The series, which aired from 2006-2010, will return in 2015 as Heroes Reborn, NBC Entertainmentpresident Jennifer Salke announced Saturday, adding that some former cast members might “pop” back in for cameos. The characters and plots will be introduced in a digital series that will precede the TV premiere.

Interesting. The first season of Heroes was awesome, but the second season was shortened and somewhat incoherent partially because of a writer’s strike. The third season was an absolute mess and I only managed to watch a couple of episodes before I gave up on it.

I’ll certainly give the new series a try. I like the  idea of a ‘limited series’ though if the series is popular I’m sure the word ‘limited’ will disappear.

The Forbidden Wood, Part I

February 21, 2014

Thought I better do a recap from our last adventure since we haven’t met in 3 months(!?). This winter has definitely sucked. Let me know if you have any questions, or if you think my memory is ‘faulty’ – always a possibility.

———————————————

Characters were in the town of Westcrown, the date was Harvestide the 22nd (late summer). It had been two months since they had killed the Horned King, burned his fortress, and scattered his band.

Their dwarven companion, Degno, had left the company. The reason the dwarf gave was that he did not like living the life of a town dweller, though Grimstad and Fearghus also knew that Degno was not fond of the priest, Konal, especially after the ‘poison incident’.

The Raven Company

The companions have become rather well known in both Westcrown and the Thissel Valley and people have started calling their party the ‘Raven Company’. Some say it’s because they are a dark brooding group, others that they bring death and dark tidings to those the companions declare their enemies. Konal heard the story that the uncle of Kester Taskerton (whose remains they discovered and delivered for a reward) claimed they were like a band of ravens, unsmiling and bringers of ill-news.

Frankly, the Raven Company is at something of a crossroads. The clerics association with the group is tentative, the wizard spends most of his time either studying his books or looking for weird ingredients for his spells, while Grimstad and Fearghus are ready to roam.

At the Red Gryphon

Once a week the companions normally get together for a weekly feast to talk about the news and their past adventures. So it was that the company was sitting in the Red Gryphon enjoying their weekly dinner when an elf walked into the inn. Three of the companions immediately recognized the elf as Nardulain, the elf ranger who joined the Company when they investigated the Haunted Citadel. When last seen, the elf had been gravely injured, but he now seemed hale and in good health.

He greeted you and after some catching up and idle talk he got to the matter of why he was at the Red Gryphon. He had been asked to employ their services. The reward would be 1,800 gold stars (elven coins) each – a handsome sum

The Companions expressed immediate interest; in reply, Nardulain requested a private meeting room from the proprietor. Once everyone moved to the room, he stated his business:

“I have been tasked by representatives of the High King in Tol Aereth to employ your services.” – as he talked he rolled out a map – “you have heard of the forest known as the Mournsong Woods. (You are familiar with tales of the wood and its somewhat sinister reputation.) In its interior is a ruined town which few mortals know of. That town was once known as Nenya Talivar. The Mage King Alkelereth, King of Valdu Dorien, held court there for over 1200 years. His rule was wise and just and the elves that chose him as their king prospered. But 500 years ago the King married an immortal Shee named Guivane, a creature with a façade of light over a heart of darkness. Over time, Guivane lured three of the King’s daughters to her side and with their help, slew the King. She declared herself queen but the fourth daughter, named Ninuviel, knew the truth and exposed Guivane and her sisters to the entire court. Guivane slew Ninuviel with black magic and thereby revealed her true nature, Guivane was a Dark Shee and her allegiance was with the powers of Darkness and Shadow. The High King of Tol Aereth came to the aid of the elves of Valdu Dorien but Guivane had her own allies. Calling herself the Queen of Thorns, Guivane gathered about her dark fey from the Twilight Realm, svart alfar from under the hills, members of the Unseelie Court, and even creatures from the Abyss. War raged for 3 years until Guivane was defeated by three war wizards from the Tower of the Sundrake. Dozens saw her obliterated and destroyed, or so it was assumed. After the death of Guivane, Valdu Dorien was abandoned by those elves who survived. The lands were ceded to the mortal king of Brennland and Valdu Dorien was no more.”

Here Nardulain paused:

“That was 200 hundred years ago. Somehow Guivane has returned. Her dark spirit survived or so it is believed. Portents have been seen, and her ghostly presence has been felt even in Tol Aereth. In the Twilight Realm there are rumors of an army gathering to follow her, and army of shadows and nightmares. The High King again gathers his forces for war, though in two centuries the elves have barely recovered from the last war.

We need your help. Early in the war the Queen of Thorns abandoned Nenya Talivar, as it was not made for war. Soon after elves and fey on both sides of the conflict who approached Nenya Talivar stopped returning. Something dwells there that is inimical to our kind. Elven mages who scry the ruined court see only shadows, though some report a presence and the feeling that they are being watched from the other side. Mortals can approach the cursed place and have done so – though some have not returned. Those that do talk of strange music and overwhelming feelings of dread and sadness, they state they can approach the palace’s ruined portal where the bones of elves lay upon the steps. The portal itself remains closed and none that we know have had the courage to open the doors.

Beyond that portal lies the tomb of Alkelereth the last king of Valdu Dorien. In his tomb – on his breast – lies the heartstone of his treacherous wife Guivane the Thorn Queen, given to him on their wedding day. While the stone meant little to the Queen when she was alive – now that she’s a dark spirit the stone makes her vulnerable. We believe she does not know this or, if she does, believes no one can get to the stone.

We need the Raven Company to retrieve that stone.

This quest is not without risks. Not only do we not know what you will face at the palace, but the Queen of Thorns holds sway over much of the Mournsong Forest and has made her presence known there. Still the Lios Alfar (DM Note: Elves of Light) still have allies in the forest. They may be able to provide aid.”

After some pointed questions and negotiation, the Company agreed. Early the next morning, the group headed north escorted by 6 elven warriors and Nardulain. On the second day of their journey they reached the forest.

The characters were then introduced to a bearded man named Dalrin Ostfeld. Dalrin was a former Kings Forester who had spent time in the Mournsong Woods and had been hired by the elves to guide the party through the forest.

The next morning, Nardulain gave characters elven cloaks and that bore the sigil of High King of Tol Aereth on the left breast – a stylized hawk woven in gold and silver thread. The elves bid them goodbye and the Raven Company entered the Mournsong.

The Mournsong Woods

The Mournsong Woods were an eerie, misty forest, badly illuminated due to the dark, dense trees. The party saw no creatures, but could hear birds calling in the distance.

Dalrin took you along a deer path deeper into the forest.

You were in the forest for about an hour when you were attacked. Your first hint of trouble was when Dalrin pointed out that the trees seemed to be moving. You looked behind you and saw that the path you had just traversed had disappeared.

Suddenly, arrows starting flying at the party. Fearghus glimpsed a figure, vaguely female but made seemingly of wood and leaf standing next to a tree before the creature disappears into the tree itself. Dalric identified the creatures as Dryads. The wizard caused one to burn, the others dispatched two that got to close. The party then found itself attacked from the direction it was going. Charging forward, the characters found themselves in a glade with a large, ancient dolmen in the middle. On the other side of the glen Grimstad noticed shapes in the forest. The party then found itself in combat with minions of the Thorn Queen. Charging forward was a Red Cap named Iron Shod Nick (Konal had encountered him in the past), beside him was large wolf-like canine, at least double the size of the redcap. Its face was almost humanoid, with snake like eyes and black teeth, its fur was a dark shade of green – Arkath identified the creature as a Barghest.

In addition, there was a svart elf with alabaster skin and black hair, his arms and face covered in sigils and runes of purple, red, and black. On its face was a wicked smile; its eyes were completely white. He wore a black breast plate upon which has been painted a skull with butterfly wings.

The elf and Arkath had essentially a mage duel (DM Note: I liked how this went, btw) while the rest of the party battled Iron Shod Nick, the remaining dryads and the barghest. It was a brutal contest, with the Raven Company emerging bloodied but victorious.

After the battle, the characters heard the howl of wolves…

Woman in Armor

February 2, 2014

I normally don’t just post pictures to my blog, but I had to post the picture below. The band Blondie is embarking on their 40th anniversary tour this year. In response, Vanity Fair produced an homage to their lead singer, Deborah Harry. As part of that homage well known photographer Annie Leibovitz created the picture below.

I just think this picture is awesome. I’ve been listening to Blondie since I was 13. Ms. Harry is now 68 years young (God that make me feel old) and still very attractive – especially in plate armor holding a sword!

Debbie Harry in Plate

Design Review: Random Aspects for D20 Players

January 28, 2014

(Cross posted from the Kickstarter)

While playtesting Aspects of Fantasy, one issue we ran into was getting D20 players to come up with aspects for their characters. In Aspects of Fantasy, your player starts out with 3 aspects. Players unfamiliar with Fate usually came up with one aspect, but often struggled with the last two. For this reason, we came up with the ‘Random Aspect Table’. This table has 100 aspects listed, players simply roll a D100 to see what aspect they come up with. Oftentimes players would roll multiple times to get an aspect they liked – which was okay. We even had veteran players roll on the table and take an aspect for the fun of it.

This table is included in the game. Some of the aspects are even written up to show how they can be invoked and compelled. The table is shown below:

Random_Aspects

 

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