Tuesday, August 14, 2018

14 Hours. And the combat system

If you're wondering how the Demon City combat system works specifically in play, here's a podcast where we demonstrate exactly that.

If you haven't yet secured your copy of Demon City, you've got 14 hours. Kenneth Hite's sections on sacred architecture and Lovecraft are up next s stretch goals.

If you have already given to the Kickstarter, and are sick of seeing these blog entries about Demon City: be happy, it's almost over.
Last chance

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Saturday, August 11, 2018

If You Want To See How It Works In Play

A lot of people are curious about how the tarot card mechanic for Demon City works in play and how the game feels at the table in general. Luckily the guys at the Red Moon Roleplaying podcast have invited me on to their show to run a game for them, so it's a good example.

After a brief, spoooky intro by the Red Moons, we get right into it...

So if you're interested, have a listen. We had so much fun we went on for like 4 hours, so I think the podcast is going to be cut up into a few different episodes.

Anyway--there's only a few more days left in the Kickstarter, so if you're interested and want a copy--jump on.

Friday, August 10, 2018

101 Nymphs 100 Octopuses 98 Adventures

Why Is There A Nympharium?


To understand what will come next, you should first accept the following premises:

-In Chapter Three of T.H. White’s The Sword In the Stone, Merlin says “But I unfortunately was born at the wrong end of time, and I have to live backwards from in front, while surrounded by a lot of people living forwards from behind.” This is wholly accurate.

An entity that might be the thing called Merlin, Emrys, Vauthes, Merlyn, Merlin Silvestris, Merlinus Caledonensis, Vermauthes, Merlin Emrys, Myrddin, Myrddin Wylit, Myrddin Ambrosius, Myr, Myrd, Magus, Merynum, Lailokem, Laleocen, Taliesin et al will, in at least one potential future, sometime after you read this, be born—to a woman and to a demon. He will age slowly through ever-more-primitive centuries until coming to be known as a wizard.

-An omniscient though otherwise ordinary observer, moving through time in the natural way, would, at some point before the 12th century, see: an increasingly-younger being—after decades as advisor to a king of the Britains—seduced by a naiad (often called Nimue, Nymue, Niviane, Niniane, Nyneue, Nyneve, Viviane, Evienne, or even Elaine) who locks him up in an awful palace made of thick green glass beneath the ocean .

There he watches Nimue’s belly swell as his hybrid children—part-water-creature, part-sorcerer, quarter-demon—gestate. They will be born less than thirty years from when you read this—centuplets, 101 nymphs like their mother in form and like their father in time. It is with these daughters and their machinations that this work is concerned.

-From, again, the point of view of an ordinary observer: sometime in the 17th century it will become clear that a great and subtle conflict is in progress between a large number of long-lived women, in a variety of nations, each strange, each a sorceress. The masked adept Ligea Narthex plots from her Fens Ultraviolet, the long-limbed Cianotica Bast directs armies from the island fortress of Glaucous Murdonon —and 100 other frightening women of demonic lineage and naiad blood vie with them for spoils geographical and metaphysical.

-Through the mesh of intrigue, necromancy and misdirection, Cianotica Bast eventually saw things as they were: her rivals were her sisters. Like Nimue before her, she contrived then a scheme combining hostile architecture and erotic entrapment. It was called the Nympharium and she left it rusting in Negadimensional Space until her sisters had grown too young to resist or remember her magic.

This worked—some years before you read this—in 2005—the ninety-nine nymphs were ensnared in the cruel Nympharium—which exists at once in two times and 99 places at once. Each chamber exists once in the real world, and the whole exists in Negadimensional space.

-Time and possible futures are usually imagined upright like an elm: what is past is the unsplit trunk below, what we have yet to experience expands above as potential events and consequences divide into limbs, branchs, twigs. In considering the situations presented here, we have to imagine instead a willow, or an umbrella, with the tips hanging near the ground. The tree is revealed as a curtain rises, we encounter the leaves and branch-tip spurs early, before the trunk begins to divide, we see the result before its origin, the effect before the cause, the adult before their conception, the endgames of possible futures before the crucial present which chooses between them.

-As of the moment your players encounter the Nympharium, Bast has caught the ninety-nine young nymphs who will become her enemies. She has tampered with them—but not decisively. She feared some miscalculation by which she might edit herself out of existence.

She was a cautious woman, and busy: she had a war to run. 



























Violence In The Nympharium, featuring:
demons
romance in portugal
Violet leopard orchid zombies
The PanoptiKhan
Gianlorenzo Bernini and his rival Giuliano Finelli
goblins
a race to kazakhstan
ninjas
hell
royal fist monkeys
a battle on the yangtze river
Giacomo Antonio Marta, Jesuit and spy
a scheming vizier
frost giants
a mapping challenge
Narvik Cross, a victim of the demon-cats
qelong cameo
yoon suin cameo
Harst Insidious—A green-skinned, one-eyed wretch, shambling and narrow
centipede god
zebra priest
negadungeons
posidungeons
Moriyama Utagawa, dashing, long-haired eldest son of Lord Nobuyushi and Lady Kaori, who acquitted himself admirably at the Battle of Broken Lake.
100 girls and 100 octopuses
metalized polypropylene
brassieres
the special part of a jewish temple where they keep things they can’t throw away because the name of god is on them
nymphs
the droll god
the spinneskelle
protolarvae
hyperlarvae
megalarvae
the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse
pirate queens
pterosaurs
a temple of true neutrality
venetian carnival masks
the scots and brits feuding over a bonny lass
the fearsome warlord, annihilus neroxx
SO MANY TRAPS
brain eaters
clouded leopards
the isle of nephilidia
ancient vampire tubeworms
witches
a tar cyclops
meeting your baby self
bloodfriends
the pentamorph
a time-stop heist
Thuggee cultists
homicidal scholars of several nations
the aspidochelone
the chameleon prince
a manor house murder mystery
puzzles
the octophant
the black sphinx
wizard apes
your rich uncle
the war pig
the forest of 500 shadows
The Isle of Massive Crustaceans
the undead army of onibaba
....and much more

Coming Soon from Lamentations of the Flame Princess
Terrorize Them With Quality
ps The Demon City Kickstarter is allllllmost over...

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Corruption, Repo Men and more

Some contributor work for Demon City. One from journalist and Hand to Mouth author (and, ssssh, gamerLinda Tirado (NY Times review here) and one from OSR godfather Jeff Rients of the Gameblog....


Political Campaigns (by Linda Tirado)

First thing to know is that all of political corruption comes down to influence. If I can get someone to think that I can help their career, they’ll help me. Do that with someone who’s not experienced enough to know what’s going on, well, you can get a lot done with useful idiots. 

There’s three kinds of bribes: money, connections, or work. Money might be your briefcases full of cash, or it might be free trips to the Poconos on someone’s charter jet. You can convince someone that you’ll invite them to an exclusive listserv or dinner party - or even do it; bait that hook and they’ll call you for years. Work might be legitimate contracts or the more cushy “consultant” kind.

Politicians are most vulnerable (and perhaps most interesting as game-fodder) during the campaign. When you walk into any campaign office, the person manning the front desk is usually an intern or trusted volunteer. Charm them by loving their candidate. Get them to leave the room by asking for a detailed policy position; they’ll have to go ask someone to print it off.

If you want to know what‘s going on in a political campaign, make friends with the person who could find the policy stuff; they’ll be lower-level management, essentially. Field directors or volunteer coordinators. Political people love to talk shop over drinks, and very few people understand what they do for a living, so if you know anything about the field, you can draw them out at a bar. 

The campaign manager is the guy who holds the purse strings and controls the flow of information and campaign money. They’ll think they’re slick and manipulative, they might well be. The point is that they’re ambitious and prone to intellectual flattery.

All campaign work is by nature temporary; jobs after the campaign ends are at a premium. Top to bottom, you’ll find people who want to be your friend if you know where to get the rent paid after the election.

Posing as press can help or hurt you in finding out political intrigues, and it depends on how credulous your mark is, or how sophisticated. Smart politicos keep some friendly journos around by feeding them information; stupid ones can be coaxed into blabbing about nearly anything. 

As far as security, there probably isn’t any. In this internet age you might find someone leaves a camera on the front door but that’ll be it. Most of the information that’s really valuable is going to be kept at best in a locked file cabinet. 

Money will be in a portable safe in the finance office or the campaign manager’s office. There will likely be small sums stashed around the office in various drawers that serves as petty cash for various departments. Campaign offices can keep a lot of cash on hand; into the thousands on the nights before an election so they can pay the canvass staff. 

If you’re looking for financial data, all campaigns keep donor books around. That’s a printed binder with notes on all major donors, including names, addresses, phone numbers, and preferred times to call. You'll also find information about family members, anniversaries, children, party registration history, net worth and who’s in their network. 

If you want polling and field data, there’ll be a field office. It will be littered with sensitive data, including voter files. If you take all the papers with barcodes you can find (this will likely be hundreds of pages) you’ll be able to figure out what kind of voters the campaign is targeting and in which neighborhoods they’re operating.

You can tell how healthy a campaign is by how busy its offices are, so it’s not uncommon for campaigns to surveil each other. If you follow and target their lowest-level workers, the canvassers, you can buy yourself an army by offering fifty cents more an hour. 

It is the simplest thing in the world to put a mole in a campaign; send them to volunteer. The more time they spend being helpful, the more responsibilities they’ll be given. Campaigns are chronically understaffed and underpaid; a competent adult who can be trusted might be given the keys to the website or proprietary software, and will certainly have access to vast amounts of information and opportunities to eavesdrop. They’ll also have a lot of opportunity to sabotage. 

See also: Host Section—Building A Horror Investigation: Some Adventure Formats—My First Conspiracy, Library—Horrors—The Machine, Library—Horrors—Cultist, Library—Horrors—Demons of the Second Order,  Sketches and Pitches: The Mayor of Demon City, Tables—Interpersonal Conflict, Organized Criminals, Relationship to Next NPC, Crime Lord Schemes, Murder Motives


Oh and here's a layout from Shawn Cheng

Repo Men: These Fucking Guys (by Jeff Rients)

If you take out a car loan and find yourself more than a couple monthly payments behind, odds are pretty good the bank is going to hire a repo man to get their collateral back.

You can find otherwise normal towing companies that do repo work, but real repo men rarely advertise that they have a business at all.  Their place of operation is just a little out-of-the-way garage with a few bays for servicing cars and a fenced-in yard with a bunch of junk and probably a dog that can switch from sweet pooch to vicious beast without notice.  No sign giving the name of the place or its owner can be seen anywhere.  These guys don’t advertise their services and they don’t need your walk-in business.

Repo men work for banks because they like the solid cash from the Man, but the service they provide is a combination of old west bounty hunting and legal car theft.  The banks like them as independent contractors, because that allows the repo men to circumvent local laws and ordinances while remaining at arms-length.  The suits want plausible deniability when shenanigans occur.  For their part, the repo men love being authorized to do things that would normally get you sent to prison.

No one goes to school to become a repo man.  And the licensing requirements vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  The path to this life varies, but repo men all have a few things in common.  Every good repo man knows his way around a wide variety vehicles, as mechanics and as drivers.  They understand motor vehicles with the same combination of deep experience and instinct that tells the artist what to do with a brush and canvas.

To them, the lock and alarm system in your car is the least interesting problem in acquiring your vehicle.  Often times, they arrive on the scene with a key in their pocket that was custom made to open and start your particular car.  The bank is happy to provide the key code, which they get at the time the loan is made.  And if that doesn’t work, they have all sorts of ways of jimmying open the door and hotwiring the car.  Or they can just tow the car away.

Finding the car is usually the fun of the job to them, so, by all means, hide your car.  The longer it takes them, the bigger the bill to the bank.  Like a stone age human following a wounded mammoth until it succumbs to exhaustion, the repo man is willing to play a long, slow game with its target.  They will visit all your old addresses.  They will talk to your old neighbors and your current ones.  They will visit your place of employment.  They will have tea with your grandma.  Never will they mention why they need to talk to you, other than “business.”  They’ll even talk to you, if they think it will help.  They’ll look inside every old shed and ramshackle barn within fifty miles, if need be, in order to find your car.  

If they can’t find you, each repo man has a sweet little old lady or middle age Walter Mitty on speed dial.  This contact has friends in the Department of Motor Vehicles who will pull registrations for them, an old pal in the city Department of Records who can get all sorts of stuff, and a college roommate who now works  in the FBI.  Given enough time, they can find the address of unlisted garage in another country where some fool stashed their car.

They’ll also talk to the cops.  Some cops don’t like repo men (they get behind on car payments, too) but just remember that the repo men work for the banks.  The bankers are members of the same country clubs as the judges and the mayor; the bankers fund the reelection campaigns of nearly every elected position in the city.   So the cops often cooperate, or at least stay out of the way.

Repo men don’t look to get into shoot-outs or fist fights.  They’ll run if they can and will generally avoid confrontations where they would be outnumbered.  But they can be dangerous when cornered.  Many carry handguns, whether technically legal locally or not.  Nearly all of them have a taser or pepper spray handy.  Some carry collapsible batons, big knives, or heavy duty flashlights that double as brutal bludgeons.  Most of the repo men that haven’t been formally trained in boxing or martial arts are experienced barroom brawlers.  They’ll probably have kevlar on underneath a cheap black sweatshirt if they’re sneaking onto someone’s private property at night.

Repo men tend to look like any other working man.  Ratty old blue jeans and a t-shirt stained with motor oil is the standard uniform.  Footwear is either boots heavy enough for kicking in teeth or running shoes.  When on the prowl, they’ll often be wearing an old ballcap with the insignia of the local team; they’ve got more like them back home, at least one for each city they visit.  Their tow trucks and vans are usually plain white, late model but not new.  These vehicles lack any logo and are missing the department of transportation numbers commercial vehicles are required by law to display.  If called on this omission they will produce a magnetic sign that they say they removed to wash the truck and then forgot to put back on.

Most repo men are scruffy fellows, but some are the clean shaven, crew cut type.  None are physically imposing specimens, tending towards average or small builds.  Many of them have experience in the armed forces, ranging from working in the motor pool repairings hummers to driving tanks to shooting people with machine guns.  They rarely talk about this part of their lives and don’t wear anything that would tip anyone off that they have a bronze star and a purple heart in a box back home.

Most repo men are friendly fellows with single syllable names like Al or Tom.  Behind the smiles and the love of danger so typical of this type is a deep vein of melancholy.  Most repo men are divorced; being on the job at all hours--staking out leads sometimes for days at a time--is not conducive to a stable relationship.  This turns some repo men into hard drinking, love ‘em and leave ‘em womanizers.  A few turn to religion instead.  Never settling for middle-of-the-road respectable Protestantism, the repo men who find God all get there via fire-and-brimstone or snake handling Evangelicalism or a self-indulgent confession-heavy Catholicism.

Every repo man has at least one hobby that is as wild as his line of work.  Storm chasing, driving demolition derby,  hot air ballooning, collecting and repairing old Soviet vehicles and weapons, and sculpting logs with chainsaws are just a few examples.

(See also: Library—Horrors—The Machine, Library—Horrors—Serial Killer, Sketches and Pitches: Down and Out In Demon City, Tables—Organized Criminals, Relationship to Next NPC, Crime Lord Schemes, Murder Motives)
Jeff Grubb said that!

The Demon City Kickstarter is almost over!!!
Stretch goals coming up include contributions from Kenneth Hite
and online generators from Last Gasp /Logan Knight and 


Monday, August 6, 2018

Goliath's Head (Annotated)

Note: This post has gotten Redditted so that, of course, means stupidity.  A lot of harassers are trying to use it rhetorically (and repeating easily refuted bullshit) to suggest that pointing out actual, real abuses in the indie scene by harassers like John Harper, etc are just some minor interpersonal beef.  The links to what people did to deserve being called out are in the text. Address it if you like a working RPG internet, there's a lotta eyeballs on Reddit. Also, definitely hit the report button. You can't have a healthy, working RPG scene if bullshit isn't immediately and constantly shut down.

So if you haven't heard the news, this is a fairly accurate summary of Friday's annual Ennie awards for achievement in RPGs at Gen Con:

OSR annihilated.

This isn't just a post about how awesome that is--I also want to talk about what that means, because, contrary to popular belief, it doesn't mean fuck-all.

The Judges and the System

The Judges' spotlight awards--awarded by Ennie Judges to things they personally thought were worthy--give us a good idea where the committee's heads were at:

Eloy Lasanta, Carol Darnell and crew won one for the Pip System--definitely deserved, especially considering Eloy's hard push to expand diversity in games (he also won won last year)--and Eloy gave a nice speech. (Also another on behalf of a friend for Best Free Game.) A few other judges nominated games I knew nothing about--which was cool. That is: they didn't nominate any licensed mainstream backwash or indie-game hipster Usual Suspects. The chatter online often obscures people who are working hard and not talking about it in places that echo enough.

....and two awards in a row went to OSR/DIY RPG folks, starting off with Judge Reece swearing aggressively and entertainingly into the livestream and going on for quite a bit:  Fever Swamp by a team including Luke Gearing, Andrew Walter, Daniel Sell, Christian Kessler and Jarret Crader and Operation Unfathomable by Jason Sholtis of the Hydra Collective. With extensive shoutouts by winners to a lot of OSR peeps and blogs.

Now these judges, I've heard, caused some sort of fracas behind the scenes where the Old School/DIY RPG-philic judges were accused of being mouthpieces directing undue attention to the barbaric and unruly OSR which somehow gamed the results.

I'll be the first to point out that the system of judge-choosing seems less than perfect and kind of electoral collegey (the judges talk about their fave games and give their real names, we vote for judges based on that) but this is important:

All of this year's indie darlings were also on the ballot in one place or another this year as well as every single major publisher in games (except WOTC and Fantasy Flight, who I think didn't submit). Once nominated, The People are just straight-up allowed to vote. And it was a slaughter.

The awards may not represent total democracy, but they do represent what people were moved to support more from the multiple choice options given them.

Let's see, in detail, how that went...

-Scenario from Ontario wins Best Electronic Book, making for the funniest thing all-night:James Edward Raggi reading a short speech written by Zzarchov Kowolski and Kiel Chenier. They've both GMed me and I liked it and they deserved it.

-Hot Springs Island by Jacob Hurst and co (which my group is currently running) won gold for Best Adventure beating oversized and conscience-free indie giant Green Ronin.

-The genuinely useful Hex Kit by Cecil Howe beat Shadowrun and Paizo for Best Aid/Accessory.

-Frostbitten & Mutilated got more than any one product (EDIT: oh wait, the Delta Green RPG got 4 as well) and I was Mr T-ing around with ones for Best Interior Art, Best Monster/Adversary, Best Setting, and Best Writing beating Monte Cook Games, Green Ronin, and Starfinder (in their case: three times). (I thanked a lot of people but, to my eternal shame considering how design-reliant the book was, graphic designer Luka Rejec. Sorry Luka. Those speeches here, here, here, and here. I was actually not drinking yet: this is just how New Yorkers talk. I got very drunk later though so don't worry.)
Sometimes you're the duck.
-In the case of Writing and Setting, I am happy to say Chris Spivey's excellent Harlem Unbound got two golds over my two silvers along with several immediate offers of employment, (his heartfelt acceptance speeches right after mine in those links up there) and Harlem artist Brennen Reece also picked one up for best cover.

-For Product of the year, Daniel Fox's Warhammer do-over Zweihander beat not only Starfinder and Star Trek, but the extensively-talked-up-and-advertised sure-thing-shoe-in Blades In the Dark from axis-of-indie-shitheadedness John Harper and Evil Hat. Zwei also took Best Game from Blades and fellow indie-darling Red Markets. Speeches here and here.

-Paizo's Starfinder was nominated for 8 things and got only one: a Silver to the OSR's Glynn Seal/Monkeyblood's Gold for his cartography in Midderlands.

-Monte Cook Games was nominated for three and got none.

-The only thing Green Ronin got was a silver for a Critical Role tie-in.

-Evil Hat got only one thing, Best RPG-Related-Product for a licensed card game.

-All the other indie darlings involving harassment-clique members that were nominated got totally stiffed, except a podcast--Fear of A Black Dragon (they had puritan hatemonger Anna Kreider/Wundergeek on their parent podcast, the Gauntlet, they still haven't removed the episode or apologized).

-Cthulhu franchises picked up whatever the OSR hadn't nailed down--Chaosium won Silver Fan Favorite Publisher which meant we got to see arguably-greatest-living-game-designer Greg Stafford go up and make a speech then WOTC got Gold and...nobody went up.

Moral of the Story

1. Nearly all of these losers from big companies were produced by multiple authors.

2. Nearly all of these losers from big companies sold more copies than the DIY products that beat them.

3. The people who bought them generally heard about them online--the same place they would've heard that they were nominated for awards...

4. ...and yet, once they purchased or Kickstarted these Goliaths, they didn't really care about them enough to throw support behind them when they went up against the Davids they vastly outsold.

Like Dylan Moran's mom once said: It doesn't matter how big the other fucker is, they all have a neck. 

The "neck" in this case is talent. No matter how big your game or your license, there is still--somewhere in the gears of the machine that produces RPGs--a need for people who actually can do things better than other people. That's why people like Kenneth Hite keep getting hired up and down the street year after year.

Is Fever Swamp going to outsell Starfinder? Of course not. But are the people who made Fever Swamp quite possibly on their way to positions where they get paid more than anyone on Starfinder--either as an indie making a fair cut of a smaller profit or as a respected hired-gun wooed by a big company? Fuck yeah. People who won this year have gotten business offers almost immediately. And business offers mean you can keep avoiding your day job.

So, good luck to y'all making your thing. I hope you beat me next year--it'll be hard 'cause Demon City'll be out by then, but, again, I would be happy to lose--I have enough of these already and a pair of day jobs I happen to like.

And, for this year... thanks!

Friday, August 3, 2018

Original Art For Sale At Gen Con

About to find out how long the line to get my Gen Con tickets is, then head over to the LotFP booth (#2911), this is just to say I'll have original art for sale over there is you want it.
And don't forget it's the Ennies tonight and there's a lot of new creators where like it's their first time not just being nominated for anything but even making anything so they'll want you to come out.

It'll be an insane night on that stage, come out!
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