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 an orc, 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 player, 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.

 

 

 

 

A new theme, The Revenant,and thoughts on hexcrawling

As I indicated in my last post, I made a few recent additions to my vast and sprawling PDF library, and a number of them had a certain theme. Two were from Lord Gwydion’s blog, The Flying Swordsmen and Chanbara. Along with those generously free downloads, I purchased Ruins & Ronin, and I already had Kabuki Kaiser’s Mad Monks of Kwantoom.  While I don’t own GURPS Japan or China, I did own the 3e version of GURPS Fantasy, that had its own hodgepodge piece of misconstrued cultural appropriation in the land of Sahud. Languages in Northport’s greater world are borrowed from that of Yrth; Northport is in a pseudo-medieval France called Aral, and the inhabitants speak Aralaise.  To uncomplicate the broad number of real world cultures and languages being roleplayed by a bunch of people on line who I suspect are only as familiar with them as I am, and to maximize the usage of points spent linguistically, I am  going the lazy route and following suit.

Much like my mid-eighties forays into Oriental Adventures, this shift toward the world of  Wuxia in my DF game began with a player (of a shadow elf Sorceress) asking to play a ninja.  Pictured above are her character, Airis Moonshadow, a catfolk ninja; Chou-Zen Mou, an Elder Spawn Wizard; Jin, a Yakuza enforcer. Together with some other fantastical characters, built on templates from DF 15, including Iskander, a skirmisher with added lenses and slightly boosted stats and second sight, entering from Valdassya, and Ales Konstantin, a Shevnian Squire-Adept.

I am going to gather them together under the aegis of a former Adventurer’s Guild Master, Lord Sakemoko, a character I first introduced to players back in 2002 when my game was on Playbyweb. Sakemoko is the highest ranking member of Sahudese society in Northport, and oversees a lot of their importing. Here is the hook: a Ship’s sorcerer (Sahudese ships all have weather workers to travel as far as they do) has had a silver and jade sake service stolen from the ship by a rival clan of ninja, and they must retrieve it. The item is magical… and once I had one ninja, I had to add others. We will see how this develops.

 

Meanwhile , my juniors group, who collectively said NOPE when faced with entering the dreamlands via the gate activated by the Ymid, have moved on into the undercity, making their own doorway with a crowbar, and wandering into one of the Doomchildren that escaped the previous street collapse caused by oversealous use of the Whimsy spell and getting blown up by it.  After healing and recovery, they managed to walk into more cultist leavings, some fatigue draining evil runes written on the floor in sacred squid ink, by virtue of sending  the two characters with infravision ahead to scout…

My Saturnine cultists aren’t pointy hatted ones like Peter’s, part of their initiation is to dye a homespun robe in a barrel of cuttlefish which they get to ink by drowning a cat in the barrel. Therefore, my cutlists have dark sepia robes, black hands and scratched up faces. Many of them go on to cut off their toes in order to spend time with succubi conjured by group ritual, for the purpose of generating Doomchildren.  It is a growing organization.

My group investigating the Jugger team abuses have once again demonstrated that while characters with equal points aren’t necessarily equal, characters within the same niche dominate like characters with lower points. To wit, a 62 point guardsman can trash a 250 ppint wizard if he gets the drop on him, but guards, brutes and skirmishers don’t stand a chance against full blown martial artists. We had two of them, a human who studied under the “Unified School” and the orc run by the player who invented Smasha.  The human was nearly undone by the third character he fought with, wiping the floor easily with the other two but the orc, built with high Strength, was able to wade through a few brutes without risking injury. I had the martial artists entering the orcish dojo be ritually greeted with the lowest students and work their way up until the leader of the dojo was satisfied with their performance enough to talk with them, much like Peirs Anthony did with War.

My other group has returned to the depths to negotiate trade with the trolls they had proved themselves to earlier, and had discovered that the trolls were very glad to  have bacon in their lives. So much so that we had three days of posting pig related puns before it was announced that the People of the Pit had struck again…

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People of the Pit

Which brings us to the Group on the Hexcrawl. The other night I watched the Revenant, which was terribly beautiful, brutal and sad all at once. Please go see it, if only to watch Leo get mauled by mama bear. Seriously, all I could think of was how many HT rolls he was making during this picture.It was a gorgeous example of what goes wrong in the wilderness, and what the hell was wrong with frontiersmen: everything.  The abuses and betrayals that went on in this picture were astounding. Made me feel like I have been pulling punches on these guys.

So the expedition into war torn Shevnia is run by Oren, an Agent/treasure hunter originally played by the same guy who has Grend, the smasha enthusiast in the other thread, and Jin the yak in the new group.  Along with him are Stringfellow Hill, (a bard), Danos (a mountain elf thief), Syvanus (a second hand woods elf Archer with Scout/Wizard and Scout/Thief lenses) , Kiprich Rockson (a modified Earth priest with elementals in tow), Snorri Rosslovich (a Seasoned Guard) and Marlena Dubouis (a Seasoned Apprentice). They were being stalked by a pack of assorted bandits types who joined them when the party demolished a squad of Gnolls and impressed them with their skills.  The expedition had been mounted after they stole a map leading to a possible resting place of a fabulous treasure;the missing pay train of two months back pay in silver of an entire contingent of the Shevnian army that turned coat when the money never showed. The PC’s figure on about twenty to thirty pounds of silver coins, the loss of which caused the loss of the war and the partial takeover of Shevnia by the orcs, about forty years ago during the height of the black plague.

Having a handful of questionable people with them was more of a concern to them given this destination in mind, than the wizard type riding around the countryside on top of a supercolossal Earth Elemental.   The bard came up with a beautifully rolled and expounded performance of a song about their “true” aim, recovering the topaz encrusted crown of the king of a lich army, and it was convincing enough to make the bandit types clear off and risk tangling with the giant elemental.

Of course,  believing strongly in player agency, especially when someone in the party has a fate bending trait like weirdness magnet, I had them stumble across a menhir dedicated to the turncoat soldiers who died when a long gone king was summoned to protect the land… reminding them that every lie has some truth in it, and that they might be closer than they think to another adventure. A three foot crown flaming with topazes the size of plums? Maybe not. An eighteen inch crown set with topazes the size of plum stones? Maybe. An army of liches? Maybe a lich with an army. Maybe.

 

The plight of Orcish womanhood in Northport

One of the first npc’s met in Northport  was Marcella, a part time barmaid and aspiring  pit fighter in Vilgar’s stable,  who eventually  settled in with a Shevnian  bureaucrat while continuing to spy on Vilgar’s behalf.  Marcella, an Urhaqui   (as orcs know themselves)  was available (but never hired on) as a brawler, and is currently  available  as a contact. Given her skillset, she was probably  a jugger player in her earlier years, but not a great one.

Recently, the thankfully progressive batch of players in my game have begun to investigate the social  conditions and prospects of female orcs who are part of the turbulent world of the bloodsport that dominates the culture of Northport’s  goblinoid population.  They have been investigating  a way to stem the interracial violence  that has recently  erupted amongst the jugga hooligans.  Ordinarily, the rivalry  between teams occasionally  results in brawls and low grade vandalism, but in recent weeks, there have been attacks on common citizens by both groups, and the intolerant and callous  Captain  of the city guard who oversees their district is content with letting them murder each other.

Northport  is an old city, founded over three thousand years ago by goblins, and overtaken by humans a thousand years later. There is still a significant goblin population, and the current human population has a bit of a gender imbalance, being composed largely of mercenary  companies that settled after the war. The laws stringently  support the rights of women, in an attempt to attract women to the armpit of the empire that Northport  occupies.  Not surprisingly, given the heavily  orcish population  in neighboring  Shevnia, about a third of humans in Northport  can count an orc as a relative. The high numbers of orcs and orcish kin  makes wholesale  slaughter of the jugga hooligans unsafe for the city as a whole.

So far my players have discovered that one of the orcish cheerers for the orcish jugga team has betrayed her allegiances with the qwick player of the goblin team. For this reason, the jugger players have been assaulting random goblins, and have been hunting  for Hramina, chosen of Murfash, the captain of the Orc jugga team, along with her new paramour, Glosso.

Along the way, guided by Strong Clair, a laboring Urhaqui  woman who never played jugga or cheered, unlike her sister, they have come to understand  something of the proprietary  attachment  which the athletes feel for their devoted support crew.  The athletes and their cheerers both enjoy  reputation and some degree of status that persists even after their seasons of play end.  The champion teams go on to  high ranking social positions amongst the Urhaqi, but the teams that perform poorly often find their reputations  as losers color the rest of their lives in less flattering  hues.

A lot of this was learned as the party’s  martial artist fought his way through the lower echelons of smasha enthusiasts in a dojo operated by Khrosh, a skirmisher  built like a brute, and champion quick back in his heyday.  Smasha is an eclectic and free form martial art style practiced by orcs, including  any that have any skills in brawling and wrestling. The art  focuses on any way of putting your opponent on the ground, and finds a kind of beauty in the crunch of bone, the sudden strike, and the sweep of the leg. Quite a few practitioners eschew weapons, although others embrace odd things like a Qian Kun Ri Yue Dao, (which is essentially  a Bat’leh with the weapon modifier”orcish” as seen in the Forums) all respect high pain tolerance and frown upon healing.

Naturally, Khrosh  also coaches the current teams of juggers, all of whom are encouraged  to”walk it off.” This had the effect of allowing  the martial artist to be heard after beating his way through the junior class, but also to him being laughed at when he called for the party healer.

Back to the issue of lady orcs. From back in the days of B2, when orcish females had no combat capability  except for the leader’s harem, orc womenfolk have gotten sketchy representation, (although Turnkey miniatures offers options of dancer, cook and seamstress here).  Following the  example  of jugger/civilian action and interaction  laid out in Blood of Heroes, juggers pick mates from those “without scars.”

In this case, that also includes  pretty boy Rochenko, who cheers for Margosh  the chain player. Margosh was incidentally  the end buyer of the chain several players acquired  from a  Demon of Old they defeated  a while back. The fact that juggers employ  chains in the same manner as said demons has a lot to do with why Father Robelard the goblin priest preaches against jugger playing. (Goblins  like their jugga, so Father Robelard  is not too popular.)

Now while the winning juggers will often marry their favorite   cheerer, as they move into their next career as a guard, killer, brute or skirmisher, not all of the rarified groupies that make up the cheerers have that particular  stable and desired future. Some do better; the current Matriarch of the orcs in Northport was once a cheerer herself, but is currently a wealthy business owner with significant political power.

A lot of what befalls juggers and cheers alike them is dependent  upon how well the team performed. Strong Clair’s cousin, a former jugger, failed in his year, and has struggling wealth and bad reputation, in addition to the reduced movement brought on by the leg injury that cost his team the game. Cheerers of failing teams meet similar fates.  The party members have made some of the cheerers  question  their future, at the same time angering the players,  and had to beat a hasty retreat from the dojo.

The basic lens I employ for the cheerers is 40 pts consisting of +1 dex, +1 ht, attractive (or at least a move from ugly to unattractive), penetrating voice and teamwork perks, +1 reputation, and a 5pt code of honor along with a point each in performance, singing, dancing, sex appeal, carousing and brawling.  This lens could be parleyed into anything from servant to agent, to killer or skirmisher.

 

More on this later…

 

The Blood of Henchmen

I have been watching inspirational material on AMC the past few Sundays; Last week it was the Thief of Baghdad, and this week the Errol Flynn Adventures of Robin Hood, but my wife switched to the better swordfights in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

The nostalgia of Harryhausen era fantasy films have long fueled my games, but there is another movie that has informed my writing, and part of the cultural scene of Northport. I wrote a GURPS based fantasy story for my children that made about ninety pages before going on an extended hiatus that involved a cluster of under age humanoid sports enthusiasts.  The sport was Jugger, as presented in the 1989 movie Blood of Heroes, featuring Rutger Hauer and Joan Chen playing a bloodsport in a post apocalyptic world.  The violence and the coolness of the game, where an assortment of gladiators armed with polearms, sword and shield, and a twirling chain endeavor to defend their one unarmed player, the Quick as they mount the game trophy – a dog’s skull- on a post. appealed to me as being something that goblinoids would do for fun.  It doesn’t hurt that the primary implements (with the exception of the chain, which I rule can be substituted with a battle net, a gusari or a set of bolas) are those I remember seeing adult orcs traditionally depicted as using, for example in this image by  David C. Sutherland III from the AD&D Monster Manual.

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Right now, in my game, I have started a secondary campaign  with level of power suited for 125 point Henchmen from Peter V. DellOrto‘s excellent DF15.  Once presented with the background, one of the players  immediately took up a Goblin Killer who had experience on the junior league as a “Qwik,” the only member of a team that can score, and also the only member playing unarmed.  Naturally, Grimbo has weapon skills, as all of this particular crop of players, including a soldier, an archer and a priest,  While DF doesn’t push much toward social engineering skills, I am going to lean on them to use the ones they have, and let the characters grow organically from these templates.  They will have dungeon delving, and rivalries that may  have their roots in the game, or in more complicated issues.