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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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.