Reviews and Mail

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This great batch of  25 mm plastic figures come to me from Mike Monaco, of the Swords & Dorkery blog. Last summer I correctly guessed how deep into a mammoth cave system Mike was able to descend, and he sent me these. He had them packed up to go on a shelf in his garage, and just stumbled upon them. They are really great and appropriate to my current game. The dude with the blue shield looks like Haskell the Crafty, and the uge ensemble of naginata wielders resemble both one of my player’s Wuxia character, Chye Isuel (Translates to mean “Mountain Dew”) as well as a crew of guards with sacrificial parry and teamwork I had put in place to specifically block the attacks of the 17 ST, Tetsubo wielding Yakuza enforcer Jin.

Naturally, their planned deployment in x-parrying his tetsubo failed miserably; The players had just defeated a crowd of ninjas attacking from murderholes in the ceiling of their lair; a mixture of gas grenades and explosive fireballs striking ninjas festooned with bandoliers of nagtatapos smoked out the ninjas… and injured party members who had climbed up into the rafters with the ninjas as the attacks were made by the rest of the party.  We are pbp, and hours had gone by between posts, but they still dove into the areas as they were being firebombed.  Nearby they found a door without any metal fittings, and labeled in Sahudese with an advisement that fire was not welcome.  The players quickly figured out that this might be the armory where the black powder for preparing nagtapos were stored, and wisely decided to fire an explosive fireball at the room…

Had the spellcaster not been talked out of this plan, the adventure would have ended abruptly as the tunnels collapsed.  Entry into the ninja’s lair had been difficult enough. I had one character, who had some area knowledge and urban survival swearing that good rolls to those skills would let him find a handy manhole cover that would lead directly to the target location.  He was displeased to learn that good rolls would advise him that A) Tunnels existed in this part of the city, and B) where the locked buildings with official access for the Department of Sewers and Aqueducts were, but would not create a door by searching, as it might in Dungeonworld.

The actual entrance was inside a guarded warehouse with a basement, but not accessible through the basement, only through a trap door under a crated marriage bed surrounded by barrels full of salted corpses being shipped back to Sahud for burial. Definitely not a casual find…

So, with the squire/adept still holding a fireball he had burned HP to raise, the crack troop of coordinated Naginata wielders rounded the corner, ready to nerf the Yak, and got roasted instead, although not before Shima made an appearance…

Shima is a minor villain, who had organized a diversion of brawling laborers, that the party slaughtered, who is basically an honorbound sumotori brute with power blow, and one of the few npcs I had handy who could have ended the yak early. he had his hand smashed by Jin’s tetsubo, although it was since restored by another character currently in another thread.

The other groups are converging; Hitomi (now npc’d after the player bailed), travelling with a telekenetic mentalist, a Chye Isuel the errant knight/minstrel and the overbuilt nymph bard (run by the same player who has Gorgath, and is equally weaponized) are now linking up with the Juniors group, along with the last remnants of the team trying to rescue the goblin kwik and orc cheerer, mostly so I can render the groups npc free, as I am forever losing players but trying to keep the story going.

Deep underground, the group negotiating with the trolls had launched an assault on the city of the People of the Pit, defeating a giant berserker pit person, and discovering the mental abilities of an Unknowable thing which was whisked away by a giant tentacle from beyond when I rolled an 18 on a mental blast attack. Everyone gets colorful crits.

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Meanwhile in other mail  related news, I now have the two core books of John M. Stater’s Blood & Treasure 2e, and cannot wait to get a physical copy of Nod 30!

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All three of these items are thick with my illustrations, and this issue is so full of clever gonzo old school references, from Robot monsters to excellent rules for character race generation. Plus, it is worth the 3.99 just to get the backstory on how these three races from the Undiscovered Country relate:

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John Stater isn’t just prolific, he is very imaginative and funny. I was paid for this work already, I make nothing from his future sales, save that they make him flush enough to continue to buy work from me, but there is a lot of good art of mine in his publications.

Another set of publications I advocate for are the wonderfully pulpy issues of Cirsova Zine. I grew upo reading my way through my Dad’s collection of Sword and Sorcery books; when I got my DM’s Guide, I didn’t have to search for too many items from Appendix N, he had most of them.  The collected authors of Cirsova 1 and 2 do an awesome job of bringing back the feel of adventure fiction penned around the future ruins of earth. Great stuff, all of it, and check out the blog – I am tempted to drop an ad for my work into issue 4.

 

 

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GURPS Magic and Me

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One of the things that sold me on GURPS as a system back in ’88-’89 in addition  to the cool advantage  and disadvantage  write-ups  and the way skills were treated, was the magic system.  I had issues with Vancian  magic at the time, although I   keep Tales of the Dying Earth in a special place on my shelves, near The Magicians, The Name of the Wind, and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.

Also occupying a sizeable portion of my shelves is my collection of occult books. I am a practicing pagan, and my assorted collections of folk magic have a personal meaning to me. One of the authors in the world of neopagan publishing happens to be Isaac Bonewits , the only known person to have graduated  UC Berkeley  with a BA in Magic. He also wrote a gaming supplement  publushed by Steve Jackson  Games called Authentic Thaumaturgy .  I had seen it at a game shop  years ago, but only picked it up in the last few years.

Some of his concepts about the Laws of Magick made it into very popular  book The Master of the Five Magics, by Lyndon  Hardy.  Traces of them show up in Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden  books, and in David Edding’s Belgariad.  Some of them are dealt with neatly in Fritz Lieber’s ConjureWife, and Robert A Heinlein also approached them in Waldo and Magic, Inc.

The GURPS “vanilla” magic has little to do with these narratives. There was a hint of something in the improvised rules, a little in the Rune magic system in Magic, and some bits I don’t  recall well from a White Wolf Adaptation of Mage (there weren’t  enough pre scripted spell effects for my taste). When GURPS  Voodoo came out, we saw the birth of what would later become Ritual Path Magic . It was interesting, but my game operated at a much lower  point range.

Technomancer  was an awesome addition to the field; I used a lot from this.

A few years later, there was Unlimited  mana magery, or umana, which in some ways echoed aspects of the spell  failure system  from Mage the Ascension. A major campaign  event in my game was the result of a catastrophic  umana event.

Aftet this came 4e, and Thaumatology. Then came DF, the subsystem I play, (which has this awesome kickstarter as a game that makes a better intro to GURPS  than anything else, please go back this!)

There are a lot of in depth discussions about Thaumatology; some of the better ones are on Psedobobo’s blog Let’s GURPS.

There have been a number  of alternate systems for magic since then; Sorcery, which does a magic as powers thing, precedented with the introduction of Magic Bolt in DF 11: Power Ups, and in keeping with GURPS  Powers, but not holding a flavor I really like. There is also Ritual Path Magic, which has heavy fan support, but is a little mathy and sparse on the Grimoire end for my preferences. I am much more of a plug and play kinda guy; I am not trying to design advantages and rituals; I  have too many munchkins in my  game to not be checking the math, and it isn’t  my strong suit. Ymmv.

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Ghostdancer, my good friend Christopher Rice,  together with Antoni Ten Monros, has just released DF 19 Incantation Magic, which primarily  is RPM for DF, but has something rather brilliant in it.

One of Bonewits’ criticisms  of Vancian (and most roleplaying  game depictions of magic) is the ideas that spells, once cast, are forgotten,  and, that they can be cast quickly. He proposedthat one might, through a careful, lengthy, and preplanned ritual, build an “astral machine” designed to generate a magical effect, and store energy for the effect, that the practitioner  could then release later with a ritual shortened by autohypnotic trance; effectively building a spell in reserve before the adventure, and rapidly releasing it with an abreviated casting during it.

Not too  far fromt he characters in   the Dying Earth who would arm themselves  with a few spells, and feel them buzzing about in their heads until released.

Not far at all from Incanters attaching prepared and extensive rituals to their auras and quick casting later. I checked with Ghostdancer, and Authentic Thaumaturgy  was not on his list of researched books for DF 19;  great minds think alike, it would seem. Incantation  magic has it’s  casters preload spells to cast later, and are limited to otherwise weak improvised  magic. It sounds like classic dungeon wizardry, and should appeal to those who find the standard system  too vanilla. Go pick it p!

You All Meet in a Tavern…

This most recent  commission, for Erik  Tenkar’s  blog, is the most complicated  piece of inkwork I  have created to date. It is also the last piece I will sell at the rates I was working with. This went through 5 drafts and took over six hours.

The characters are not new, as almost all of them come from my stock art

(Available here) The characters come from Wizards, Characters, Dungeon Scenes, and Rise of the Lich.

Whle I have had characters meet up in a tavern (The Rusty Marlinspike, The Leather Mask, and The Wastrel’s  Hope) and produced a 125pt barkeep (watered down Inkeeper) that I should post at some point, the primary meetup for my game is at the Adventurer’s Guild. Guilds have some rules already in DF, although I add a perk of membership, that functions  as a benevolent society, allowing  free lodging at status -1 conditions, and counts as proof of “employment” to keep you out of indentured  servitude (the local penalty for vagrancy). Most of my players tick it off as a License.

 

 

Painting and visits from another blog

For the first time in a few months, I have picked up a brush to work with color. Within a few days of posting on instagram, I get an inquiry about an art show in a venue I like. Maybe, 26 years out of art school, things are finally starting to happen? We will see.

Yesterday I met up with the mind behind the Brasileño gaming blog, Pontos de Experiencia .
Diogo Nogueira, fresh from GenCon, and the Goodman Games booth, passed some time with me at the Compleat Strategist and the hall of arms and armor in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We talked about Dungeon Crawl Classics, my DF game and Appendix N.

I had thought about a funnel adventure, and liked the idea of adventure  being thrust upon one, rather than it being a carreer path.

A quick Review and a progress update

&I snatched up this issue of Pyramid not because my game is looking to be undead heavy, but because I am a big fan of one of the concepts, the partially resurrected, or half undead.

Ever since I had first cracked open my copy of GURPS UNDEAD back in the early nineties, I have toyed with using the templates within as means of representing sentient undead.

bub Like this guy .

Back in ’02 when I was first running Northport, I was also playing in an RPOL.net GURPS game called Necropolis. I always wondered if it was the testing ground for Abydos. I played a character who was the result of a critical success in casting Create Zombie, fully aware and “living” in secret as a servant in a Vampire lord’s house, handling little things like going to market and tipping his food/paid companionship. The game folded around when the action was getting interesting, but I set up a character in Northport who was in the same situation, Cavil the Wayfallen, an Adventurer who was killed and sold to the guild necromancer to pay the rest of his party’s healing bills. He led a revolt of the local dead (The guild keeps zeds around for target practice and to do work the kobolds refuse to touch), and one of the first players in Northport had to deal with him and arrange for him to become an indentured servant instead of property.

Now there is a template for people like him, the products of a cheap-ass resurrection spell. Not a bad way to create a character, and different from the complexities of becoming one of the Half Living from Dead Reign.

Now, what has been killing me is the dual game character sheets I have been working on for Beneath the Fallen Tower. Here is the first one:

CHAR SHEET  Jelaine

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It is still a work in progress.

 

Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos, a quick review

As a heavy user of the Cultist  template from  DF15, I find this gaming supplement  wery useful. It is chock-full  of thematic woodcuts, and even has art by my friend Jack Badashski   (see his other products  here). The setting is  specific to a darkly fantastic  15th century England, but the cults, varied in membership by social strata, aim and practice are sufficiently  generic as to apply to most  stettings. Get it in print for fifteen bucks, or in pdf for half that.

Adapting this for GURPS is fairly easy, as many of the chaos born mutations that active cultists suffer from translate easily to assorted advantages and disadvantages, from unnatural  features  to winged flight to monstrous appearance, and in many cases, Social Stigma: Monster. Excommunicated  is probably a given for most of them, along with Secret (Death or imprisonment).