Blueholme work nearly done

I have just one more picture to do, something about missile combat. I have been looking at come of the other work by my cohorts, and I must say I am excited for this project to be done.

Erik Tenkar recently sent me an advance copy of Swords &Wizardry Continual Light, and I joined the Swords & Wizardry Light Legion, so as to better work on Beneath the Fallen Tower. (I had also acquiered Monstrosities, Tome of Horrors Complete  and Tome of Horrors 4 for conversions). Oddly enough, the adventure hook I put in that would lead to an encounter with a fire Slorn scaled better with James Spahn’s abreviated stats for a SWCL dragon than with the Fire Lizard I had planned on porting from Tome of Horrors  Complete. Naturally this encounter was one of those our starter characters would have been gravely outmatched by, but no one ever said the world had to be balanced.

Likewise, the necromantically inclined apprentice wizard in the adventure scales perfectly as one of Spahn’s alternate classes.

My work has been published in two otber gaming suplements. Nod 32 ,by John Stater, has a bunch of my Mesopotamian art, along with some Circus folk for Grit & Vigor.

One of my Dungeon Scenes showed up in Christopher Clark’s systemless adventure, Bastion, the Border Village of Namar. It has good use of clip art throughout, and a decent cross section of plots, some of which revolve around a demon cult that uses succubi to lure in members, much like the Saturnal cult withintbe sewers of Northport. The one thing that felt off to me was the way every female character had some kind of attractiveness rating,and none of the male characters had more than the most cursory of physical descriptions.

You can pick that up here.

IMG_20170524_201721_276

Some progress and a sneak peak

here is a quick sneak peak of my conversion project. So far, it is an essay about game systems, some basic characters, a few tentative monster entries and a bunch of legal disclaimers… about 27 pages, and you can get it here  for FREE. Hopefully, in the weeks to come I will get the adventure itself written out.  In the meantime, I have some more commissions for Blood & Treasure v2 to work on.

Getting a little farther along …

Moving along with this project… statted out two more classes… only three to go before I   get down to the nitty-gritty  of the adventure itself.  My little writing project has take quite a bit of inspiration  from the tower of Zenopus  from the Holmes book,and a little from one of the  illustrations  in my stock art.

 

Update: finished off the two race as class distillations from Sean Punch’s  Pyramid article, facing the harsh reality that 75 points  gets you less and less once you start with mandatory pricey advantages. The adventurer class is underway, and seems to fare better in build than either elf or dwarf, despite having Jack of All Trades and Luck as mandatory  items. Perhaps my recent Appendix N reading has helped with that.

A Low level adventure in the works

I haven’t  been able to post properly of late, as my house, game books, and computer has been packed up while my landlord takes care of something , and will remain so for a few weeks. This has not kept me from maddly scribbling away in a few small notebooks.

I have been asked by a number  of my S&W friends how GURPS  DF plays when compared  to an OSR product, and I think I  may have found a way to let them try. I am currently  statting up an introductory  game using both 1st level S&W characters and rules together with 75 point GURPS  characters and GURPS  Lite.

Why 75 points? I think that point level runs closest to 1st level, and besides, the 62pt 0 level characters fromPeter Dell’Orto’s  DF15: Henchmen  are lacking things like power investiture and magery, but they do form the basis for the characters, along with Sean Punch’s  article Races as Professions in Pyramid 3/50.

Hopefully, I   can get this written up as a downloadable pdf in a week or two.

Borderland Provinces: a Review

About a month ago, I entered a contest for Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day by writing a blog entry, and recently I received a free PDF copy of Frog God Games Borderland Provinces. Currently, I am about seventy pages into its two hundred and fifty two pages, but there is enough good stuff already that I have to share.

This was a great win, and one that became more poignant to me when I found out that the Art Director and Layout Artist for the project was Chuck Wright.  He has recently been going through a lot, and the link connects to his gofundme pages, set up by his work family at FRog God Games. They are selling a product to help support him. I was minimally involved, as were a great many, through Erik Tenkar, whjo heavily promoted the charity, encouraging many publishers to contribute incentives to donate to Chuck’s cause.As soon as I get contact info from Erik, I will be sending out someveral of my Stock Art PDF’s.

borderland Provinces is one of the most detailed Gazetteers I have ever run into, and I had both of the boxed sets of Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms.  The layout and use of font sizes flows smoothly and the charts are well placed and readable. While being highly detailed, it is not overly restricting, and has tons of customizable territory.

The two features that are most appealing to me are the use of Tech Levels and the format of the Stat blocks for the territories and Cities.  Those of you who follow my blog know that I primarily play GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, and while I love S&W, my interest is largely larcenous.  Rarely do I find a feature that translates so neatly into GURPS.  Tech Levels have been with GURPS for a very long time. They both indicate the availability of specific types of gear, and also describe a little of the world of the setting.  The tech levels in Borderland provinces are a little bit finer that the general TL3 to early TL4 that is the default for Gurps Dungeon Fantasy, and I think it helps.

The Stat blocks for Cities seem to be a good fit for GURPS City Stats, which I do not own, but have seen previews of.  These stat blocks, which while expanded into specifics in the body of text, give quick insight into the degree of lawlessness, civic corruption, population demographics and monthly purchasing power of the area. The last is significant, as it indicates how much of the dungeon spoils can be sold in the area without having to travel.

The flavor text is useful, and had me thinking a little of Sprague De Camp, who I am reading concurrently.  There are cities where you cannot engage in commerce without a hat of the right sort, and hamlets where they only trade in chickens because any other barter is sinful. The heraldry has literal significance also; don’t attack the town with the dragon on its flag if you know what’s good for you.

For conversions, I make a lot of use of Peter Dell’Orto‘s DF 15:Henchmen in populating my gameworld, using the five tiers of fighter type: Men at arms grade 62 point guard,  3rd to 5th level equivalent 125 point Squire or brute, 5th to 7th level equivalent 187point Veteran Guard,  7th to 8th level equivalent PC grade 250 point knight,  and Name level equivalent 375 point veteran knight.

There are one or two other areas that need addressing in this way, such as 1st-3 level fighter types, who I build by adding the following 30point template to Guards:

Battle Hardened [30pts]

combat reflexes [15] 8 points to primary weapon skill, 4 points to secondary weapon skill or shield, 2 points to background skills( probably tactics) and 1 point toward guard perks like teamwork, shieldwall training and sacrificial block.

The listed leaders (Overlords, high Sheriffs, Barons) would also tend to have 50-125 points worth of IQ+1 [20], Born War leader [5/+1], Status [5/+1], Rank [5/+1] Wealth [10-30], Allies [in groups of 10+ at 62 point or greater level] and skills in Diplomacy, heraldry, Politics, Leadership and Strategy.

One thing that Borderland Provinces does is slip in non combatant classes indicative of personal power, like HD in Aristocrat or commoner. These are a fairly easy conversion.

Most of the 4-6 HD aristocrats would be built on the Agent Template, with Politics, Heraldry and Diplomacy as the primary skills, and Merchant, law and leadership as  secondary, adding in Riding and falconry into background skills.

Overall this a worthwhile sandbox to own, whether you are looking for a broader world to embed Rappan Athuk into (it’s on the map) or even B2.

 

 

The material presented here is my original creation, intended for use with the GURPS system from Steve Jackson Games. This material is not official and is not endorsed by Steve Jackson Games.

 

Divination Driven Plotting and a lesser Divinity

In the warped Wuxia based mini campaign set within my GURPS Dungeon Fantasy game Northport, I had introduced a Wu-Jen Character named Yoshimura Furawa, who had just arrived by boat to replace a recently murdered sage and oracle in the court of Sakemoko. Sakemoko is a past master of the Adventurer’s Guild, known primarily for instituting a system of moveable shoji-like walls to allow the basements of the guild to be reconfigured as different mazes and mock dungeons for proficiency runs. These events were heavily bet upon, as there were usually three areas set up simultaneously, with random teams being assembled out of the characters of whatever players I had at the time, and made the guild quite flush during his tenure.  The current guild also garners a significant amount of its income from gambling, which is why the current unrest amongst the Jugga teams and the raid on Vilgar’s pit fighting den have hurt them. This led to mini adventures where adventurers scouted out and secured a new venue for Vilgar, and just managed to steal a jugga trophy from the orcish Televodnica (Gym or dojo) to barter with Pallido, a hobgoblin  Qwik who is on the spectrum (Single minded, Stubborn, Shy, Eidetic memory, hard to kill, hard to subdue), but is the only person who knows where the missing Goblin Qwik and Orcish Cheerer are hiding out.

Part of an earlier story arc dealt with Chaos cultists of Saturnos killing all of the oracles in town,and stealing their divination tools in order to conceal their larger plans (still a mystery to players, although they know that there is a lot of demon summoning going on).  Theis led to the death of Sakemoko’s sage, and the theft of his copy of the Classic of Changes.

I have used Tarot to plot the motivations of some npc’s in a few previous games, although by no means as well as Pantheon Press does it with Fortune’s Fool, so it was tone appropriate to use the I Ching to richen the flavor of my cultural appropriation. After fighting off Ninja and one petty demon, the characters, consisting of Jin, a ridiculously strong Yakuza (built as a Veteran  Brute);  Ales Konstantin, a spellsword (Squire Adept); Airis Moonshadow (a Catfolk Ninja); Chou-Zen Mou (an elder thing infused, wildly talented  wizard), Iskander the mundane martial artist (Skirmisher plus knight lens and bits of magery zero and extra skills but no Chi Abilities) managed to escort Furawa from his ship to Sakemoko, but not before the ninjas had stolen a magical Sake set from his cabin.

The Sahudese employ weather wizards like Fuwara (Who is built like a wizard Priest (druid)) to navigate and assist in regulating the weather in their trans oceanic voyages.  He holds a divine office as a lesser functionary in the Celestial Bureaucracy (Power investiture/ social regard, rank, duty) and part of his job is to oversee the imprisonment of a particular Oni. (Known to the players as a Terrible, Fire Breathing Ogre From Hell), who currently resides inside of a silver and jade sake service, serving as the heating element.

One thing I have learned from looking over wikipedia and game systems other than AD&D that attempt treatments of Eastern mythologies, is that all of the monsters have jobs and responsibilities within the hierarchy of spirits; Oni have responsibilities and duties, and are not mere random encounters.  So this Oni had a job, and was punished for being overzealous in its execution, which I think might have been to light Joss sticks and instead he burned all of the furniture.  Sakemoko’s enemies include the Horde ninjas of the Kusarimashita clan, who are aligned with Akira No Aku, a magically endowed gangster whose organization was loosely based on that of Lo Pan, with servitors of all manner of multi-lens abilites, including someone who is a demonologist. I rule that conjuring a demon or other entity from an area of entrapment can bypass the safeguards that hold them in place. In this case, it is with a magical jade amulet that Furawa may lend them, if the Oni is in fact released, a violation of his sentence.

I have had a lot of fun using Google translate to put words in the mouths of my NPC’s and otherwise make those who spend points on languages feel like they got their money’s worth. (For example, my trolls speak in Estonian, partly because it has the right frequency of j’s and i’s together) In this case, it lead to a ruling that demons can always speak the language of their summoner, along with that of any previous summoners, and they can speak it backward as well.  This resulted to some recent activity for the cult busting 125 point characters being applauded for spilling so much blood in inverted Armenian (If Google Translate would do it with Aramaic I would have used that), and the petty demon that the Wuxia crew ran into saying “You’re not the boss of me” in arabic before turning to spirit form.

So they asked Furawa to divine how their mission to retrieve the Sake service would go, and I electronically tossed some coins using the link above, and got Hexagram 11, Tai, or peace, which in the abbreviated version I read, implied a peaceful and prosperous marriage of heaven and hell.  Well then. I had Hell, in the form of the Oni, but what to do for heaven?

I immediately had Furawa cast Detect Life(Celestial) and he got two results; One was the Celestial Cleric of Helios, Melchizidek, currently on an expedition deep underground to fight the elder thingy People of the Pit on behalf of the trolls, and the other about a mile off in the temple district.  Northport was originally a downward built goblin settlement (and then some) and was recolonized by the Romans, and most of the temples date back to them, so there are a few miles of overgrown, marbleized concrete domed and pillared shrines. Some are very active, like the Hadereum, where the bureaucratic plutocrats, priests and acolytes of Dis Pater collect taxes, and others are abandoned and some, while still popular, are minimally populated.

One of these was the temple of Priapus, managed by a faun Initiate, Harro, who was in distress, partly at being laughed at by the plutocrats for allowing his temple to be defiled, as he said, by a four armed invisible blue woman.As the plutocrats left, the party, or most of it arrived.  Chou-Zen Mou was delayed, having chosen to spend some CP on new spells. [My method for learning involves paying the guild magic shop owner, Speilgud, to cast the spell, and he has to make a teaching roll, and the student has to learn  by making a Thaumatology roll. Spielgud critically failed a teaching roll, causing Chou-zen to learn a version of counterspell that was +2 vs the spell he was trying to learn and -1 vs other spells.]

Harro the Faun was lying, saying that his temple had been desecrated, and then suddenly, as he was touched by the invisible being, he was forced to tell only truth; the sanctity in his shrine had actually increased, and he was jealous of her interaction with the marble statue.

Now, no one in my group is under thirty, most closer to fifty, (Really, we use a text only BBS system on RPOL.net), but make one dick joke and it was like they were all in middle school again.

In any case, the divine being Furawa had detected manifested herself.

Kho Khilana
Descendent of Divine Servitor of Fertility [460]
ST 13 [20] DX 13 [40] IQ 13 [40] HT 15 [40]
HP 13 Will 14 Per 13 FP 16
Basic Speed 7.5, Move 7, Dodge 7 
Advantages:
Celestial [75] (ST+1, dx+1,iq+1, ht+1, will+1, fp+1, bs +.5, 
           attractive , fit, spirit empathy, celestal nimbus,divine gifts,
            Divine curse (preferred enemy of demons) weakness to evil areas)
 2 extra arms [20]
 extra eye, blue skin 
invisible (switchable) [50], Immune to met hazards [30] 
beautiful [5], power Investiture 2 [20] Temp tol 10 [10]
DR vs fire 10 [30] unaging [15]
Languages: Hindi [native/native] [0]
           Sahudese [Accented/Accented] [4]
           Aralaise [accented/Accented] [4]
 Charms:[7]
 Aura
 See secrets
 Magesight
 Essential Food (creates small octogonal cakes with random flavors)
 Fertility (Reverse of strike barren)
 Truthsayer
 Relieve sickness

Disadvantages:
impulsive[-10], truthfulness[-5], Lecherousness[-15] gigantism [0]
oph:nudist [-5],cannot harm innocents [-10], Oblivious[-5]
unnatural features:Blue skin, third eye, extra arms, 7 feet tall [-5]

Aura, Magesight and see secrets are functions of the third eye,
 Each hand can perform one of the other effects. 
4 in languages St 13 DX 13 IQ 13 HT 15 
Spell skills are all 15 [4pts each], Dancing[2] 13, sex appeal [1] 17
 Sexual Art [4] 13 stealth [2] 12, Wrestling [2] 13(+4), karate [8] 14, 
judo[8] 14, singing [1]15, Breath control [8]15, Theology! [8] 13 

Kho Kilana is the descendant of a servitor of a fertility god, 
and has some of her father's aspects. She has a good working knowledge of divine
genealogies, so as to avoid having relations with the high percentage of the 
nine million gods who are blood relatives. She visits the shrines of other
fertility gods with regularity but has no interest in revisiting the temple
of Priapus on the southern Isle of Telemankas, as the statue of the god there
 is made of Sandstone.

Speaking only the truth, she answered some basic questions about herself, and upon hearing that they were referring to the being trapped in the Sake Service as an Efreet, she demanded to be brought to Furawa to have it explained to her how the Celestial Bureaucracy would have dominion over such a foreign entity. It will be up to the diplomacy of Sakemoko to determine if she agrees to assist, and up to a bunch of die rolls as to how.

 

The material presented here is my original creation, intended for use with the GURPS system from Steve Jackson Games. This material is not official and is not endorsed by Steve Jackson Games.

As an unrelated note, I won a copy of the Borderland Provinces as part of Swords and Wizardry Appreciation Day. and it is amazingly dense. I intend to post a full review of that once I finish reading it. It was also laid out by Chuck Wright, who is currently in need of help. I donated to that, and also put up a set of my stock art pdf’s as incentive for others to give over in Tenkar’s Tavern. My patreon support of Erik Tenkar has brought me a lot of traffic so I am thankful of that.I originally made an offer of just the three pdf’s I had at the time, Characters, Wizards and Dungeon Scenes, but since I have added a new one, I am adding that too. This work may seem familiar, I originally agreed to do some free art for exposure, and I am wise enough now to cash in. It’s only $1.49.cover.png

 

Meditations on Recent Mail, S&W Appreciation Day goodies and critical failure expectations

Yesterday I got a bundle of booklets I had privately  printed from Lulu.com. All of these, as with all of my print projects there, are PDF’s I have rightfully purchased, and have kept private, and have only printed for personal use. Lately, Lulu has gotten kind of sketchy about what it will print, based on page size and image quality and what not.  I tried to have Zak Sabbath’s free PDF of DIY Palace of the Silver Princess in this bundle, because the coupon was good, and I really liked the tone of it, but it was rejected due to sizing issues.

I know, it is kinda crappy for an artist to use generic covers for these things, but the majority of my GURPS Dungeon Fantasy printed books were originally ordered to be printed from my kindle, and I had trouble uploading images, and just wanted to hold the damn books. If I ever do a hardcover compilation, I will surely do something about that. As you can see I was amateurish about printing out Labyrinth Lords , the logo of a camera on the back covers because I didn’t bother to add a picture is regrettable, But I actually printed out the game so that I can play Kabuki Kaiser‘s Ruins of the Undercity with its preferred ruleset.IMG_20160316_072104[1]

(A couple of other recent Lulu purchases)

Meanwhile, I have been looking over some of the goodies I acquired over this weekend’s Swords and Wizardry Appreciation Day. As a patron of OSQ, I got a sneak peek at an article for a WhiteStar character class, the Untrained Initiate, a variant Star Knight that emulates A masterless Jedi finding their way to the Force.

I also paid a little for some PWYW items. As someone who feels it when folks download the sample and don’t buy the product from drivethru, I make a point of paying more than the average buyer.  One item was the nice collection of adventures for  level 4-6 adventurers, the Dungeons of Fel’Valashar, which has a really nice feel to it, containing four separate one page dungeon lairs containing some non standard denizens and have generally a fresh and well thought out feel to them.  The other Item I picked up was the LotR themed offering from Barrel Rider Games, The Hero’s Journey Fantasy Roleplaying. One thing that impressed me about this little book, that I have only just skimmed, is the relative low power of the characters.  Anyone, at any level, could die under a volley of arrows or after two or three bad rounds of combat. This makes the character durability roughly like  GURPS characters in their general lack of ridiculous hit points. I like the feel of this very much. I recommend picking up both of these, they are really quite good at the price.

 

Now, back to Northport.  I really, really wish some of that game could be played face to face; some  confusion could be settled, and the time it takes to get simple things accomplished could be greatly speeded up. Seriously, the game has gone on for almost three years, and effectively three weeks game time have elapsed.

It took the better part of a week for one of the thieves to perform a break in ( They were stealing a Jugga trophy from the Orcish Televodnica (Dojo) to use as a bribe to get access to the missing young lovers who were being watched over by a retired Hobgoblin Qwik who who is high on the spectrum.  Pallido has Single Minded, Eidetic memory and Shyness, along with Obsession:Jugga), and almost three weeks to plan the break in. Actual tabletop time would have been about twenty minutes to roll through.

My treasure hunters, meanwhile, defeated a supercolossal Earth Elemental (DR 7, ST 78 or so, from the Forum’s Bestiary)by softening its feet and slaying (easily with trick archery , a -10 to hit just doesn’t hold up against even the 125pt Archer build from DF 15) it’s master (an apprentice elementalist with a magica item)and then using the Artifact level earth elemental control rod (Forces contests of will to be resolved with will and not ST of elemental ) to force it into submission. This became a serious point of contention, as use of such a device was blasphemy to the party’s modified cleric, who worships Grom.  In the end, they decided to release the elemental after healing it, and sending it off holding a set of magical tracking coins.

The coins were important plot items, as one of their hirelings, a Seasoned Guard named Snorri Roslovich (named for James Rosloff) was revealed as a traitor when he (along with the party’s mule were crushed by the stumbling elemental.  He turned a new leaf after being healed, and revealed that he had been leaving coins marked with Mystic Mark on them for their rivals to use Seeker on.  So far they have determined that their rivals consist of at least Kalvo Tvasi, the Veteran Agent that they had stolen the treasure map from,], and Monorith, a katana wielding Were lion who was one of the original characters playing in Northport back in 2002, and whoever has been casting seeker…

Along their journey they have met bandits and scared them off with tales of a lich and his army, that turned out to be at least partly true. They also fought Gnolls, but lately have seen signs of the gnolls being fought and possibly killed by Monorith, but also having fought the lion, and not left bodies behind.  Without their Mule, getting back with the treasure they hope to find may be a bit difficult, likewise fleeing from all of these enemies.

They finally arrived at the X on their map, and found a well amidst the ruins of some earthworks and a centuries gone wizards tower.  The priest of Grom decided to use his ridiculously high skill at Shape Earth to dig a tunnel to the base of the well, but the low sanctity in the area, along with the penalty for shaping worked stone, led to a failure that got his foot stuck in a hole. He tried to fix it, and blew a critical failure.

Previous catastrophes he has been involved in, such as trying to create food out of shrubbery, have lead to the spontaneous creation of hostile plant creatures, so when he critted the Earth to Stone roll, he assumed that he had some kind of enemy to fight.  I had the entire area around the well collapsed into a sinkhole, revealing the terrain to be full of gravel, loose shale, and bone fragments.  The last time I played an earthshaping character, in a supers game on rpol.net, I had to make architecture or engineering rolls to carve tunnels that would not fall. Engineering for non Artificers in DF is kinda scant, but precisely the skill that is needed for modifying ancient earthworks without falling into pits, so IQ-6 until he next spends some points after visiting a sage.

Myh other (wuxia) group has finally gotten through a crowd of Horde Ninjas while escorting a Wu-jen through the undercity to deliver him to their Omo. The progressive lethality of the ninja’s tactics only was matched by their sheer fragility in the face of the party’s 17 ST yakuza’s Tetsubo and the ferocity of their catfolk Ninja, along with the assorted spellcasters and the mixed martial arts enthusiast (he is built up from the skirmisher template but has no real chi abilities, and a little magic.) They are a pretty effective group, but I would like to see how they fare against a few worthies.