Some updates

Finally, after over a year and a half, The second group to pick up the thread of the star crossed goblinoid couple got the job done.

As I have detailed here before, Hramina the orc cheerer had run off with Glosso the goblin kwik, and had gone into hiding. The orc supporters of her snubbed Jugger, Murfash, had started tearing up the city, and causing havoc amongst the goblins. This was bad for guild business, as the Adventurer’s guild was heavily involved in gambling rackets, and in particular, the betting on the goblinoid jugga league.

Our resident munchkin, he who created Gorgath the Ogre and the lets put every weapon modifier on one item Doomrazor, had created a fully weaponized Nymph Bard. This greatly facilitated negotiations for the rest of the group, an unattractive thief with a speech impediment, a martial artist, a Xia naginata specialist and minstrel,  and a telekinetic mentalist.

After their mishaps with Khrosh and the members of his televodnica, from which they stole a trophy in order to bribe a retired Hobgoblin Kwik who was keeping the young pair sequestered, they went to the guild to see what they could do to make a deal with the orcs. As the guild was working on expanding operations into the undercity for trade (principally with the trolls), Rigo the guildmaster conceded that letting the orcs take a piece of the action was feasible. This naturally created a jumping off point for guild based characters opposed to this offering.

They then went to see the girl’s mother, who got them to see the orcish matriarch Huralda, a very traditional woman who had cheered for her jugger, then married him (and later buried him) and it looked like they were going no where, but made arrangements to meet with Ganosh, the elder. He was more sympathetic, and was willing to hear their request, if they delivered Glosso and Hramina to him.

This they did, albeit with a significantly armed force consisting of guild halberdiers and a pack of goblins armed with poison arrows.

Glosso stepped up, and accepted the elder’s terms, that as the husband to anorc, and father to (eventually) half orcs, he should be considered an orc. Speaking formal phrases in Orcish he had learned, he was accepted. Hramina was asked by what right she ought abandon her jugger pl;aye, and answered smartly, that only the quick might lay hands on the prize. This answer was accepted, and the guild invited all into a tavern so that they might close the mercantile expansion deal.

Around this time there was some fallout from the semi-completion of another adventure thread.  The wuxia characters, who had bearded the horde of Rotten Clan of ninja in their lair, and fought off a small army of naginata wielding guards, upgraded from the 62pt template with combat reflexes, 8points extra in naginata, and the perks of teamwork and sacrificial parry. The idea of them was so that they could collectively x-parry the ridiculous attacks of Jin, the 17 ST tetsubo wielding Yakuza with the party, who had been making mincemeat out of the opposition.  The gang ignored a wooden fitted door they had deduced was a powder room for stocking flash and smoke grenades, and missed out on the rest of useful supplies, like paut and healing potions.  They moved on to destroy a skirmisher/adept with deathtouch and an apprentice/ninja and one player pocked their magic weapons.  after that battle, they ran into a bunch of cultists summoning the Master of Burning Incense from the jade and silver tea service they were pursuing, under the watchful eyes of their Omo’s enemy, Akira No Aku.  Several petty demons involved in the ceremony spotted the celestial being in their party, Kho Kilana, and charged (celestials being a favored enemy of  demons) and cut their way through the guardsmen to get at her.  The cultists were successful at  raising the Oni, who promptly disemboweled some of them. He took a solid hit from one of Jin’s  throwing irons (hunga mungas), as did Akira No Aku, off in the corner of the room. The Oni, fully realizing that his thousand year sentence might be extended if he failed to return to his prison, agreed to do so on the condition that the Celestial accompany him.  Tired of mortal company, she agreed, thus fulfilling the I Ching reading I had taken for the theme of this adventure when it started.

The demonologist tossed a vial containing a Toxifier (basically a spellstone of Summon Demon), and the group beat a retreat, except for Jin who had critically injured himself with a fumble, and wanted to collect his throwing irons. The others convinced him to go with them, and after trying destroy air and blocking pursuit with create fire, they escaped up the wellshaft and into the warehouse. The martial artist carrying the magic items that could have destroyed the toxifier gave himself the bad back disadvantage after critically failing a lifting roll, trying to cover the trap door with a barrel of salt. The warehouse above had about two dozen barrels like this, preserving corpses for shipment home for burial on family plots.

Our heroes escaped, but the toxifier animated all of the salted dead, and proceeded to attack the area the wedding was taking place.

 

 

 

 

Recent Acquisitions and Comissions

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I just got a few new used GURPS books, and freshly printed copies of The Wizard’s Scroll and Crypts and Things Remastered from Drivethrurpg. I always get hardcopy of things with my art in them, it lets me build a portfolio of published work, although you can always get a copy of my book if you are interested. (And use code SURVIVE20 to get20% off)

Some of my recent work, to be seen in John M. Stater’s Nod 31  (A ghost dog, space amazons, Ajax and a giant scorpion fight), and an elven necromantrix and a goblin sage for a yet to be named project by Charlie Mason (originally slated for his Whitebox Quickstart until my art was deemed too Old School for an introductory RPG. He has got some vibrantly colored pieces by Spiral Magus instead, which is far from a bad thing.

I post several things to my Patreon a month, and bundle them for sale once I hit a large enough amount, but my patrons get them for free. If you like buying my art bundles, consider a monthly donation of $1 to get a piece of this. If you want to tell me what to draw, donate $5 or more. It comes out to be cheaper than my usual commission rates.

Out of the suggestion that my art was too Old School in feel, because of this commissionbeginners-boook

You can get a print of this here.

I started working on a project to depict an adventuring party more aesthetically pleasing to a younger set of folks without a history of tabletop rpg experience. Thus was born the Young Adventurers, currently being featured on my Patreon.

I am hoping to do more with them. Let’s see how that unfolds.

Similar themes, different outcomes: or why I should read kickstarters through and not simply buy because of cool Art

The reason I bought into Beneath the Inverted Church was entirely based on preview art that showed up in my G+ feeds. The art in question is some good linework by Scott Buoncristiano, like this piece of his:

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I didn’t bother to read through the Kickstarter, and by the time Erik Tenkar reviewed it, I had forgotten that I had backed it.  I find there to be thematic alignments between BtIC and Zak Sabbath’s wonderful Alice inspired A Red and Pleasant Land.

Both involve characters entering a hostile and evil demiplane subject to the caprices and obsessions of the truly villainous inhabitants, and having to pass into an even more warped reality through mirrors.  If the main enemy in BtiC was any other type of demon than an “Inverted Cupid” the types of horrors encountered would have been more palatable.  As they follow that specific type of evil, it enters into a questionable territory. Not, mind you, and unfamiliar one. Plenty of the flavor text in  ARaPL is just as graphic, with one major point of difference.  The evils of ARaPL are just that, Evil, and at no point are the characters forced to really participate in the Red Queen’s games in order to complete the adventure. They can capitulate, it is true, but it is not required that they do so. They can run, they can kill, and most certainly, they can die, but they needn’t do anything graphically uncomfortable.

That aside, there are a lot of interesting mechanics to the circumstance of travelling through, or opening mirrored portals.  While the Stress mechanic is reminiscent of San points loss in CoC or Fright Checks in GURPS, they unfortunately generate the problem of dictating how a character feels.  You can tell a PC that the image they see through the glass is revolting, but strips a little agency when you tell them that they are disgusted, but cannot turn away, at least without incorporating some type of Saving throw or resistance check.

The looking glass world in BtIC is called the Invert, and like that of ARaPL, is a very hostile place, and also quite alive. Not only are you faced, when gazing at a reflective surface, with loathy images that induce stress, but it can see you. In the case of several locations called mirror doors, there are two types of interactions; the first is to be magically (and forcibly) drawn through the glass, which only allows passage of flesh and a substance called Stained Salt (a super hardened mineral that looks like stained glass), a process that will maim or kill dressed and armored characters, or  to “seduce” the sentient mirror door by showing it something both novel and  indecent.  This goes beyond a “tell me your darkest secret” kind of thing, and quickly drifts into an uncomfortable place that might demand an alignment check from characters dealing with the toll keeping aspect of the mirror world (if not their players walking out on the game). Now, there is an “out” built into the setting; the first encounter the characters have is with an amoral bandit who likes to defile the corpses of his victims in a way that would make Dahmer blush, but is accompanied on his crimes by a merry band of artists who record the atrocities in their sketchbooks.  There are some examples of the content of these images, and a money making opportunity for characters to sell them off so that they can be destroyed by grief stricken relatives of the deceased depicted therin, but primarily in that you can bypass the damned doors by showing them pages from the book, which is still pretty nasty.

The monstrous opponents in BtIC do look amazing, again thanks to Scott Buoncristiano’s artwork, and could easily have crawled out of the Teratic Tome, or the Random Guest Table from a Red and Pleasant Land. (One of my favorite parts of that book!)

By converting the primary opponent from a lust demon into one of violence, one could remove all of the sexual content from this and play through, but the characters without the picture book of mutilated corpses might have to shed their own or each other’s blood to open the doors… There are enough mechanical ideas in this to be interesting, but culling them from the rest of the material is not for the faint of heart.

 

Edit: Instead   of showing the Magical Mirror Doors some novel perversion,  you could instead require characters   to recite new or original poetry to the door, as the Blatant Beast  did to Harold Shea in the Incompleat Enchanter.

On other notes: Two products with my art just hit drivethrough. As usual I don’t get anything from sales unless it is one of my own products, but check these out:

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The Blood & Treasure Keeper’s Screen, by John Stater and The first issue of Charlie Mason’s Whitebox zine, wcThe Wizard’s Scroll

Snatch em now, the art is good!

 

 

Three Important Things

First off, go out now and get your hands on Diogo Noguiera’s Old Skull publishing’s Sharp Swords and Sinister Spells. It is a nifty rules light version of a swords and sorcery game, currently  pay what you want, with many of the sensibilities of Dungeon Crawl Classics and a very pulpy tone, such as one might find in Cirsova.

Secondly I just got my grubby little hands on a bunch of dragon magazines, including issue#138. One of the articles was called The End of The World, which I know a lot of my friendsand family feel last week launched us toward. The particular flavor of apocalypse presented in the magazine was a reboot of the campaign after the black plague hit.  It was about renewing the world after changes out of your control had occurred. This was the basis of my Northport campaign, set forty years after the plague had struck. Much of the territory of the campaign has been left in the form of explorable ruins, and property is fairly easy to acquire, as at least a third of Northport is still vacant. It is an ideal circumstance for adventurers, as so much remains to be explored, and there are plenty of folk in need of champions.

I look toward the new political landscape much the same way. It isn’t what I wanted, it threatens some of those I love, and I am not going to sit down and complain about it, I am going to act on behalf of those who need defending.

Third item has to do with some art I originally released to my patrons, and should be releasing soon: Dungeon Scenes 2.

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Meanwhile back in my game, The juniors crew has invested in real estate, acquiring the property directly above the Bone Gate so that they can maintain access to it, at least as long as it is there.  I had casually mentioned that they could acquire it, and I am handling that as individual purchases of the Base perk, which amounts to a room each within a couple of row houses. This could lead to them becoming landlords, which I would handle as Independent Income.

Meanwhile, I have had a sudden influx in players wanting to start with guild rank, and they have already become rivals. The guild has its hands in a lot of pies (as evidenced by the number of ranking members who have points in independent income) including a push toward gaining access to set up shops in the undercity. This was kind of a feature in video games, where right before a boss fight you would run into a kind of dungeon merchant, and I have seen it in Stonehell  as well.  My PC’s are not quite heading toward the Papers & Paychecks route, but how manyadventurers have started as caravan guards, or in this case, taking care of the inkeeper’s rat problem, only with worse…

The Mari Lwyd

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Mari Lwyd

One of my personal Appendix N reads (mine, not Gary’s) is Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising Sequence.  The final book, Silver on the Tree, has the last of the Old Ones, Will Stanton, and Bran Pendragon off hunting a magic sword in the sunken lands on the coast of Wales. There, they are confronted by one of the sword’s guardians, an undead unicorn, Bran called the Mari Lwyd.  According to wikipedia, the name means Grey Mare, which could be taken to be Grimoire.  The custom of pantomiming a dead horse seems to have originated as part of a Yuletide Wassailing tradition, but what amounts to an undead faerie creature surely belongs around Samhain as well.  So naturally, I am using it as my costume for the Village Halloween Parade this year.

In the story, it was destroyed by “a flying may tree” moths that had been flocked on a hawthorne bush.  The moths may well have been the souls of its prior victims, much like those that fought the boggarts in Charles deLint’s Tapping the Dream Tree.

I would love to build some stats, but right now I don’t have the time…  although I would start by taking the wight template from Fantasy, the horse from Basic, and add in the descriptors Faerie and Undead, give it Terror and a vulnerability to spriitual attack, not sure how to parse that.

And I don’t have time to really flesh out this dead horse because I am working on delivering moire art to my patrons. You can be one too!

 

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.