Friday, October 30, 2015

Somebody Check Laney Chantal's Dice


Session before last was a long time coming:

9 millenia ago it was prophesied that unto Demogorgon would be betrothed a Champion of Tiamat, and this union would bring the Age of Eradications.

To determine the distaff part of the sacred union the Five Churches of Tiamat--The Pale Eye, The Jade Fang, The Red Hand, The Cobalt Claw, The Black Wing--brought forth champions to battle to the death in a mad tourney. Winner marries Demogorgon.

Through a barely explicable series of events involving the Plane of Shadow, a hot dog, and not wanting to be fat, the champion of the Jade Fang was named: a halfling with a pet flying squirrel-Estuche, avatar of Laney. That's the halfling--the squirrel's name I can't remember.
The other champions were more typical: level 20 paladins in plate mail with crazy powers.

Long story short is we have a lone 10th level halfling ranger with like 40-50 hit points going up against 4 bad guys with like 160 hit points each and, among other things, the ability to heal 100 hp in a single round action.

In the gambling parlors of the cube-shaped earth, the experts have weighed in:

So you're probably wondering how Laney died. Well here we go:

The Black Knight

The party managed to take out the Black Knight before the tournament even started. Which, yeah, is cheating. But then Ela:

...sorry--Baweyn the elf ranger--had the bright idea to go around wearing the black knight's armor. So nobody knew the Black Knight was missing and the Black Wing never thought to replace him. Go Ela!


The Cobalt Knight

So Estuche faced the Cobalt Knight in the first round of the tournament, the joust. Herein Alondra (as Excene the druid)...
(seen here with Red & Pleasant Land cake)

...thought to aid her ally with low cunning: although magic is not permitted in the tournament, there was nothing to prevent the Knight Viridian from secretly replacing the standard mount of tiny Knights of her Church (the velociraptor) with a druid wearing that shape.
Also Alondra
So it was a blue armored electromagnetic titan with a bastard sword on a carnivorous destrier vs a halfling with a spiked chain on a friendly dinosaur.

First round Laney wins initiative and immediately rolls a natural 20 with the spiked chain, meaning the Cobalt Knight's not only taking double damage but has a chain around his neck while on a horse and needs to extricate himself before doing anything else like, say, healing. Plus also velociraptor.

On his turn the Cobalt Knight can't get himself loose, then gets yanked by the neck off his horse (rolls a 1) and Laney then proceeds to roll natural 20s over and over and over and over for the rest of the fight. Everyone's sitting on the couch just staring as she and Alondra beats the fucking tar out of this guy who doesn't even get one spare round to lay on hands. Also I think she uses her rangerness to tell his horse to just go away.

First round to the Knight Viridian: the crowd goes wild. The Church of the Cobalt Claw begins scheming to assassinate the celebrating PCs in their seats.


The Red Knight

After the joust begins the melee--all the remaining knights (minus the Cobalt one, slain in the first round)--thrown together.

The Red and Pale champions engage each other, leaving Laney to fight the (fake) Black Knight, who she, of course, (fake) beats handily.  While the PCs in the stands manage to stop an assassination attempt from mutant elves of the Cobalt Claw, The Red Knight falls to...


The Pale Knight

...the last Knight left opposing the bold halfling. The Pale Knight is (Roll d100...) 90% fucked up from fighting the Red Knight, and Laney, who hasn't got a scratch on her, leaps on her as soon as Red goes down. All the Pale Knight's bonus Tiamat powers like level drain and reversing the last round depend on Pale winning initiative, which Pale never does, Laney then proceeds to natural 20 the fuck out of him too while the gods of probability weep as rain rolls down their bell-curved roofs and everyone playing is just like holy mother of fuck.

...thus winning the tournament--as was clearly ordained by Demogorgon, Inciter of All Incidents, Laney's new fiance.

As I wrote almost 2 years before I had any idea this would happen:

The Jade Fang is one of the five Tributary Temples of Glistening Tiamat....its energies are green: the energies of jealousy, lushness, vigor, triumph, old wisdom, glibness, and theft.
Praise be to Him


As word reaches the gambling halls of Gaxen Kane:

Fiddlin' Joe Cooper makes 5000gp.
Anxious P's Babs loses 1200gp betting on the Black Knight.
Malice Aforethought wins 10,000gp.
Sir Ward wins 2500gp.
Pete Loudly the Sorcerer wins 10,000gp.

...and the girls make their way back to Vornheim, undisputed leader of the Church of Tiamat in tow where Alondra gets drunk and wakes up next to a succubus, Twiggy gets such a reputation as a party animal that carousing in Vornheim costs twice as much from now on, and then party sets off to find an easy side quest before a PC has to marry an elder god and are promptly set upon by carnivorous apes.

More later.
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Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Goblin Cubes


Stairs down through mist-filled abyss for like 100feet. No ceiling, no floor, no walls, nothing but mist and stairs.

Then the stairs terminate at a door in the base of a 50' x 50'x 50' cube.

The surfaces of the cube are dense and all awrithe with carvings in black soapstone, kind of like...
Now while you can just go through the door (on Face 1), there's also doors on every other face, only these are set in the middle of these faces rather than the base.

Also, there are no stairs to these other doors, so you'll have to climb or fly around.

Once inside, the gimmick is threefold:

1) Each door leads to a slightly different version of the room inside the cube.

2) Only one of these versions has access to another set of stairs leading down further the rest of the dungeon. The rest are dead ends.

3) Once you open a door, you'll see that around the perimeter of the floor of the room there's a line of carved runes which, if crossed, triggers a magic trap--a different one from each direction.

Doors close when unobserved. Opening multiple doors simultaneously causes multiple effects.

The party has encountered two examples so far, some influenced by the Perplexity tables in* Red & Pleasant Land:

Statue Room

The carvings on the outside of the cube include the famous epic of the First Goblin King Insulting The Sun Thus Beginning Their Enmity. The room contains, in the center of the room, a life-sized statue of a goblin lord pointing to Face 1.

Stepping across the line of runes behind the door from Face 1 turns anything leather you've got into syrup.

Stepping across the line of runes behind the door from Face 3 turns anything metal you've got into syrup.

Stepping across the line of runes behind the door from Face 5 turns anything wood you've got into syrup.

Stepping across the line of runes behind the door from Face 6 turns anything stone you've got into syrup.

A) The door in Face 1 leads to a version of the room which has an exit on Face 6 which has stairs to the rest of the dungeon.

B) The door in Face 2 leads to a version with no other exit but back out to Face 1.

C) The door in Face 3 leads to a version like B but completely filled with a blackish liquid that gushes out in a torrent when you open the door.

D) The door in Face 4 leads to a version like B but:
-the door (which opens out/down) is directly under the statue
-the statue is now made of linked (easily dissassemblable and carryable) pieces of gold
-the statue stands in the middle of a ring of indestructible candles and anything crossing them (or their airspace) disintegrates.
...likely anyone who opens this door unaware of what's about to happen will feel an immense weight of the statue falling through the door and need to roll some dice.

E) The door in Face 5 leads to a version like D only you're seeing it from the side so it'd be real hard to get to the gold statue without being disintegrated.

F) The door in Face 6 leads to a version like B but there are versions of the adventuring party, all dead inside, apparently after some horrific battle.


Turtle Furniture Room

The carvings on the outside of the cube include the famous tale of The Goblin Brothers Who Turned The Moon Sideways To Use As A Boat Across The Night. The room contains a hearth, a rug in the center of the room, and several pieces of comfortable goblin-sized furniture carried on the backs of galapagos tortoises.

Stepping across the line of runes behind the door from Face 1 turns anything paper you've got into syrup.

Stepping across the line of runes behind the door from Face 3 turns anything magic you've got into syrup.

Stepping across the line of runes behind the door from Face 5 turns anything gold you've got into syrup.

Stepping across the line of runes behind the door from Face 6 turns anything liquid you've got into syrup.

A) The door in Face 1 leads to a version of the room which has an exit on Face 6 which has stairs to the rest of the dungeon and an ancient goblin king with a midas-touch who has been imprisoned here. There are gold footprints on the floor and the patch of ground around him has been turned to gold.

B) The door in Face 2 leads to a version with no other exit but back out to Face 1. 

C) The door in Face 3 leads to a version like B but containing 6 goblin guards armed with pikes.

D) The door in Face 4 leads to a version like B but containing an iguana-sized basilisk. (You come up under the rug).

E) The door in Face 5 leads to a version like B but containing happily married or otherwise settled future versions of the PCs, who have freed the turtles and who urge the PCs to stay and relax forever.

F) The door in Face 6 leads to a version like B but containing 6 small mammals (they look like hamsters but are really overweight shrews) who have gone made, having been trapped here since the dawn of their species by goblins resentful of "the new animals". They have red eyes and ancient diseases you have no immunity to.

So far the party assassin has managed to have the gold statue fall past him (he rescued the arm), had his leg disintegrated by the candlesmoke, got turned to gold leaping on the midas king, then turned to stone by the basilisk.

He got better.

And now a word from our sponsor:

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

D100 One-Use Items And The Culture That Created Them

Not all by me--crowdsourced by the Google+ braintrust in the thread here. If you can't follow that link and want to, write and ask to be added to my Google+ game circles along with a link to your Google+ address.

1. Humanskin glove gives advantage to choke attacks. Created by lizardmen/reptilewomen.
2. Nomadic burnt oak cake. Allows mount to move 25% faster but carry 10% less weight.
3. Origami stone. Perfect fidelity to a marble chunk save for its softness. Burn it: crazed stone golem appears. Creator: vapor-poisoned razor-fetishist wood monks.
4. Weeping Pillow. Will kill any child or elderly person sleeping on it and used in times of famish and calamity to spare them a slow death.
5. Huge black lacquered fingernail. Witch giant's family heirloom; reflects sunlight as moonlight. Creator: some dead witch giant.
6. A limbless dog corpse that inexorably wriggles toward a well, poisoning it. Craft of the unrelenting hillmen.
7. Powdered Hopes - a mix of dirt from home and herbs ensures a sleeper that they dream of the family they where forced to leave behind.
8. Hunt Stink. 2d4 pills in a bag.  Consuming one makes you smell like local prey animals for 1 hour (cumulative effect). Created by Orcs.
9. slimy tincture in tiny glass vial holding an enormous squid-like creature. expands rapidly when broken or unstoppered. An atlantian transport device or prison.
10. Lonely Crown. A metal headband, when worn the slave cannot see others who wear the same item ensuring that they can't conspire against their masters.
11. Bag of Platonic solids. Out of bag, they cut through everything, steadily and rectilinearly, until holder recites a reductio. Creator: a fallen godling's geometry cult.
12. Crystalline seeds you plant into blood soaked ground. Grow into D20 arrows, +2 versus the type of creature from which the blood was spilled. 
13. crystalline lens that converts sunlight to a d4 hp magic missile blast. aarakocra sacramental.
14. troll graft held in a mildly acidic solution. inserted into wounds to create bonzai creatures. illithid art implement. applied and quickly burned, serves as a healing patch.
15. Anesthesiode. Poem congealed as portable foam; dissolves once recited. Reciter saves vs. being numb to new info, d4 hours. Creators: Roving band of occult restauranteurs.
16. pomeranian figurine. If dashed to the ground, 3d10 small dogs rush a target in sight, knocking it to the ground and dealing 1 hp/dog. made by martial artist wizard.
17. A small amount of sand from the depths of the ocean. If thrown any creature within a 15 feet cone must make a save by death/DC 17 CON save or take 6D6 damage, half on a successful save, also suffer from blindness for 1D3 rounds. Made by deep mermen
18. Sundering-stones - Red orb split with jagged line. Brought together, shatters any continuous object. Siege-breakers from ancient, rigid empire; blessed by a King’s final breath.
19. a series of crystals whose chime may open a door to any place, lasting d8 hours. created by elves with bald heads and in neon robes.
20. a gel distilled from star mite fluid by githyanki dissidents. creates a tiny star for a single second (pulls everything in sight to the center, burns for 4d6 damage, double to undead.
21. a white staff which, when struck to the floor three times causes all the curtains and portals in the room to fly open. holy implement of bard priests of an annoying god.
22. Ground bone powder, snorting it gives dream visions from the past of your immediate location. Created in a village where everyone wears strange wooden masks.
23. a grass cloak allowing you to crouch and hide, appearing to be a small barrow or mound. made by reindeer-riding animists.
24. finger bone key , made by xaosichects to spread their theories surreptitiously. dropped in water, backdoor access to the dreams of an alternate self most close to you, dimension-wise.
25. a small door, made by xaosichect operatives. Placed in the stomach, may be opened to hide or imprison someone in another person.
26. Blood-wood curio box, fashioned from a bough of the first tree, into which all regret can be placed. Bardic item. Gives advantage to all performance and reaction rolls until someone in the village discovers the Bard's true name; then confers disadvantage to all performance and reaction rolls until the owner moves on. Destruction of the item releases all its contained regrets and causes suicide for all thinking creatures within a hundred leagues, save vs magic devices (Will) to avoid. Created by a mountain-folk rune maker of the northern lands, slyly gifted to a rival canton's Konung, made for his mead hall's skald (also his lover), immediately disfavoured, mocked, and expelled into the wintry wild.
27. Political pamphlet made by sturmlord fascist devotees. only legible to Dagon-men. Non-Dagonians reading vomit a jet of water as strong as a fire hose.
28. Nautilus cap with a kelp "feather". If flourished, charm all Dagon-men in sight. Made by deep sea explorers.
29. Jack in the box made by infernal tiefling jester class. Every third "pop" releases whoever is trapped inside in exchange for whoever is most close to and looking at the box. 
30. A cave dwelling culture, they pierce pterodactyl eggs, drain them, and then fill them with successive layers of magic powder. When the egg shell is smashed, it erupts into a prismatic sphere.
31. Reed basket, keeps one armload of fruit placed in it eternally fresh, made by a wise woman of the western marshes.
32. Alligator skin cap made by hermits along the Nile. Bite something for 2d6 damage and hold tight for d6 damage each following turn.
33. Venus of Willendorf via alien sculptor. Summons an alien beauty so terrible to behold all are struck mad for a turn. She'll write any spell in your spellbook if you can avoid showing your madness and offending her.
34. Maniples of martial artists priests, cracked like a whip, can bind a target for one turn.
35. Song stones of a lost avian empire. Beautifully painted. If broken, emits an ancient melody that triggers feelings of 1. Euphoria 2.terror 3. Alertness 4. Starvation in all who hear it.
36. Golden colored dandelion. If blown, the seeds multiply until they obscure vision in a 20 foot radius for 5 rounds. - Created by sylvan elf gardener who grows magic plants. 
37. Pomade in a small ceramic jar. Safely closes any bleeding wound, but it always leaves an ugly and painful keloid scar. Made by orc medics. (1d4 doses left)
38. Cage carried by hunters of the horrors that breach the Shimmer in Tarnis. Removes ability to fear; if opened, user faces all accumulated fears simultaneously. 
39. Swamp Spike: poison plant used by lizard men/bullywugs. Increase melee damage by 4 for 1d4 rounds, at end of each round user/victim suffers 1d6 damage (no save).
40. The Hollow Children- hollowed out obsidian shards that each contain a memory of fleeting youth- a coven of hags from the Slidgil Depths.
41. Loud Pearl--put it in your ear to hear everything in a 200' cone through walls or other obstacles. Made by sea elves.
42. A pair of metal spikes that vibrate like a tuning fork when crossed in the presence of men from beyond the stars. Made by elves with throbbing brains.
43. water tablet - grape-sized dry tablet turns into a barrel's-worth of water when exposed to the slightest amount of dampness. Made by nomadic wizards for long journeys across sea or desert. 
44. Restoration Dagger – Insert large, hollow, stiletto-like blade into flesh, press button. Nanites effectively heal spell, resurrect recently dead. Basic med-tech of space-faring giant ape-philosophers.
45. Crow eyeball. Consuming it instantly converts you into a sentient murder of crows for 1 hour. Created by orcish assassins.
46. Moonbottle. When unstoppered, the moon vanishes from the sky and appears in the bottle for a single night. Created by a cult of witchunters.
47. Flail of Flying: Large ungainly flail that if whirled around above your head causes you to rise rapidly into the air until your arms tire. Made by suicidal priests of a forgotten godling.
48. Small gold tuning fork. When struck against rock, it resonates at different frequencies and volumes depending on type and proximity of the nearest precious metal deposit. Created by deep gnomes.
49. Dero sweet airs. Smell of sulfur, salt or jasmine stone. cause temporary visions of a conspiratorial, mad truth.
50. Graveworm. Placed in: right ear, improves intelligence; left ear, improves wisdom; chewed & spit, curses an opponent. Effects are minor & last d10 minutes. Grave diggers' secret.
51. Tincture of Melancholy: Vial, one dose, dark blue liquid. Scent causes weeping for 24 hours (-4 Charisma).  Creator: theatrical troupe led by an emo warlock.
52. Silver Tongue: Fits over tongue like sleeve, for 24 hours wearer has advantage on all romantic/diplomacy interactions. Creator: Loveless warforged from Island of Bones.
53. Arrow that causes plague of Otto's Irresistible Dance, transmitted by touch. Creator: siege wizards.
54. Egg shell. All who hear it crushed are blinded and deafened. (save at penalty). Made in luxurious and opulent underground nation of thieves.
55. Millescan Mirror: enchanted to capture planar creatures and banish them from our plane when shattered. Created by the Demon-quellers of Millesce. 
56. Bark sheet. Worn as girdle. Wearer looks like a tree until non-move action is taken, then shatters. From anarchist forest tribe.
57. A piece of string that gets tighter the louder the wearer is. Breaks when wearer is detected. From monastery of silent monks.
58. Powder that increases in temperature as wearer risks being seen. Burns away if wearer seen. From ashes of baby-stealing demon elves.
59. A wind up statue that absorbs all spells encountering it's song. All release simultaneously when the song ends, destroying it. From sleep-worshiping Tiamat cult.
60. Blade of Grass: small vial of liquid that if poured on a blade of grass it temporarily hardens into a steel-like blade (1d6 hours). Made by Plains Elves.
61. Bubble of Trouble: a small glass vial with a soapy mixture inside and a wire hoop attached to the stopper. When the bubble blown from this mixture pops, the reflections of all living creatures on the bubble's surface come to life and attack their doubles. Made by cruel changeling fairies.
62. Paper Frog: a large origami frog, has one Jump spell written into the folds. Used as a disposable pogo by the assassins of the Silver Lotus Clan. 
63. Worm Bullet - hard chrysalis awakened by body heat. Melds with nearest organ to impact site and aggressively animates it in 1d6 turns. If cut open, contains as many worm bullets. Gunslingers of the Great Grub.
64. Cracker of Quality - hard tug ejects one gold crown,  joke that read aloud paralyses one random listener, and another item from this list. Venerable traditionists.
65. Doom Spinner. Spinning top makes low droning when spun, inducing sense of dread and mild optical hallucinations. Decreases morale in earshot, creatures dying nearby choke out grim prophecies in Latin with their last breath. Prophets of a dead race.
66. Faerie Curse Removing Nut: Let a cursed person sleep with the nut in their armpit on a new moon's night and the nut will turn black as it sucks out the curse. If the nut is then eaten by someone before the next dawn, the curse will transfer over to them, if it's not eaten by anyone by that time the curse will return.
67. Merrow Spittle: water-breathing potion, causes imbiber to grow webbed feet and hands, making underwater movement easier. Tastes REALLY bad. Occasionally causes vomiting, negating effect and impairing the drinker. Used by urchin divers.
68. A nourishing broth that acts as a cure disease spell but also causes you to gain d8x10 pounds. Created by a cult of grandmothers who think you're too thin and don't eat enough out there on your adventures.
69. Bottled Ship: is a model ship in a glass bottle. When the bottle is broken the ship rapidly grows to 1:1 scale permanently. The ship is still one solid piece of carved wood, with no hold or cabin. The wheel and ropes are just decoration, but it will float (upside down). Failed experiment of a smugglers guild.
70. Door in a Bag: a small pouch with sawdust inside. When the sawdust is throne against a wall, roof, or floor it creates a doorway for 1d6 minutes. The doorway is two meters high, one meter wide, and up to two meters deep. Made by the gravediggers guild.
71. Silver bullet that never miss it's mark. Cast under a new moon by poachers in the southern mountains.
72. A bag of leaves & debris that when poured out in a 10' circle makes a pit trap beneath it. Created by woodland trappers.
73: Courtesan's Veil: cloth imbued with a spurned Tiefling's tears, it gives the wearer max Cha/App for one evening. However, anyone who interacts with the wearer falls possessively in love.
74. Herringbomb. Immensely stinky, fermented fish from beyond the northern sea, in metal container. Releases Stinking Cloud when opened. Northerners are immune, and will claim it tastes like expensive cheese. Mmmmm, lutefisk!
75. Half-life candle: they burn as bright as the sun for 5 minutes, cannot be extinguished, hazardous to hold while lit, permanently radioactive afterwards (Dwarven Vampire Hunters) 
76. Make-up that constantly changes the features of your face for a night (Decadent Psychedelic Nobility)
77. Hair gel projects your surface thoughts into a bubble above your head for 30 minutes. Practical joke made by 3rd year divination students. 
78.  Shoe phone - With this shoe/boot phone you can phone in one limited wish from a Genie.  The shoe phone was created by the Maxwellians, a ancient race of humans that wore extravagant tunics.  
79. Glass throwing dagger, shatters on impact. Any damaged by it have total amnesia for 2d12 rounds. From Persian-esque city on edge of Desert of Nepethe.
80. Braided sisal nuptual collar of the dogmen. An orgasm experienced in daylight will grant the wearer a fortune and cause blindness for d6hrs. From the forests of Argeld. 
81. Drawstring pouch contains whispered secret, now unknown to original speaker. Made by paranoid secretive sub-race hidden within society, zealous guardians of their annonymity.
82. One of Huginn's feathers. Burning it removes everyone else's memories of last round's events. Used by Odin's agents.
83. Bar Ragga Death-cap History and Flavor Text: The cult of War-barra have long been feared by the tribes of the west, not for their battle prowess, but for their Deathsong. Worn about the neck of the War-barra child-soldier is a skull-like seed-pod known as the Bar Ragga Death-cap, or just Death-cap. This seed pod is a psychotropic plant cultivated deep in the catacombs of the tribe's mountain fortress near a millennia. In the face of certain death, War-barra child-soldiers consume the Death-cap, releasing a flood of endorphin stimulating chemicals into their blood-stream. Consumption of the Death-cap, means certain death, but allows for one last action in which the consumptive, is restored to full vitality, strikes with unerring precision, and vengeful strength.  Bar-Ragga Death-cap Game Mechanics: Character must save vs. Poison (+4 bonus). On save she is restored to full health, Attacks with a +4 to hit, a 2 in 6 chance the hit is a Critical Hit, and damage multiplied by the character's level. These effects last one round only, or until the target of the character's Deathsong is killed, after which the character dies frothing at the mouth as her veins and nervous system are overloaded, chemically burned up, and her heart explodes. Resurrection, heal spells, etc are completely ineffective. Any character consuming the Death-cap irrevocably dies. All War-barra soldiers seek a glorious blood soaked death.
84. Black sands of Yonde, collected by ragged alligator men. Presents visions of anything that occurred while stars still lit Yonde.
85. Mirror reflects parallel reality where things play out slightly differently. Shatter to choose the best outcome of either world (advantage). Made by alternate you.
86. White Snake Ring. A ring in the shape of a small white snake, biting its own tail. When you put the ring on it animates and bites you, dealing damage that you never fully heal from unless you do a quest or cleansing. You're also troubled by disturbing dreams and have a fondness for mice. If you take lethal damage at any point while wearing the ring, it burrows into your hand, and a large white snake immediately bursts from your body, shedding your skin and moving a good 30 feet away. Within a minute or so, you gain consciousness and can crawl out of the dessicated snake body, healed of your last lethal wound. Crafted by Albino Ovates of the secretive White Snake Shamans. 
87. Starfish of Zzoz. A strange creature from another plane with an interesting defense mechanism. If you rip off arm from the starfish, if phases back to its home plane. The starfish will vanish and  1. You go ethereal for a short time, existing between worlds 2. 1 and the starfish dumps a psychic bomb on every one within 100 feet. You'll recover quicker since you're prepped for it, but bring a spare change of underwear.  3. 1, 2, and a portion of its watery realm floods the area within 100 feet, causing a small tidal wave ( strong enough to knock people of their feet and wash out a dungeon room)  4. 1, 2, 3, and the area is filled with Jellyfish that give poison damage. These starfish are carefully cultivated in shallow sea nurseries in their home realm by intelligent plane traveling manatees who value them as art pieces. 
88.  Crunchy enchanted, dried beetles, produced by the Scaly Death tribe.  They act as a standard healing potion and taste of mozzerella.
89. Ask-a-Doll: Garishly colored yarn dolls that represent local celebrities (the mayor, the archbishop, the Dragon terrorizing the parish, your own party members if you're famous enough). If you ask it a question about where to find services, entertainment, or goods, it will attempt to read your mind and give you the best suggestion on how to spend your time. Has 1d4 uses, and you get to keep the doll. Immensely popular with children, slow people, and the king's court. Commissioned by the city council to encourage tourism, crafted by gnomes. Occasionally you'll get a hacked one that slips by quality control. The ones by prankster gnomes are obvious and ribald, the gentry love them. Other ones are much less obvious and suggest ideas that seem fine, but usually wind up causing trouble.
90. Beetles of Borgheranz: If crushed into a paste and worn as pomade, +5 CHA to wearer. Causes horrible dreams. From Frenchy Faerie court.
91. Knife that turns one living king into a voodoo doll for another. Both most be struck at least once. Creator: Drow.
92. Infected caltrops. Creator: Urban murder halflings.
93. Crossbow bolt that can anchor in stone or any other substance and cannot be removed. Creator: Dwarves.
94. An habitual liars dried tongue is crushed into a powder, the person who eats it forgets the names of those he/she is about to lie to.
95. 5 inch tall golden man figure obeys any order given by owner, will interpret orders in a way that is most beneficial to most people. Ironic gift for evil cultist.
96. Githyanki intentional bomb. A biorganic and barbed metal pupating creature into whose mind is imprinted a single intent. As it sheds its chrysalis and dies in alien air, all within range are powerfully compelled by this one intent.
97. Piece of gum that when you blow a bubble actually allows you to fly a bit. Created by children with a sense of wonder and bit of magical ability 
98. a magical scroll (spell really doesn't matter) that has been written in charcoal and everything is misspelled and has backwards letters and upper and lower case just randomly littered though out it. When used to cast the spell you roll four times on your wild mage surge table of choice. Created by goblin sorcerers
99: Snow Globe: a glass orb filled with water and white powder. When smashed causes a localised blizzard for 1 d6 hours. Made by homesick northern gnome mage.

100. Rage Snuff: a packed powder ball that can be crushed between the fingers and snorted, the snuffer instantly enters a barbarian rage. Used by the Chaos Monks of Bakoo.
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Monday, October 26, 2015

If I Have To Say "Mome Rath" One More Time My Face Will Fall Off

THURSDAY

We were somewhere around West Adams on the edge of the freeway, when the Wayz began to suck balls.

I remember saying something like "We can't stop here, this isn't, like, where the place is."

But the Lyft girl had my back, and soon I was 8 blocks away, in an inflatable orange chair in a building with a plaque outside saying "The main issue in life is not the victory but the fight, the essential thing is to have fought well" which didn't make much sense to me but I took four selfies next to it anyway.

I didn't have much choice: there were a lot of people talking in official capacities at Indiecade The International Festival Of Independent Games but mostly about videogames, which I don't make. There were games to play though, so I did. I'd like to think I fought well, but when you're strapped into VR goggles watching ping-pong balls the size of cantaloupes bouncing off a waffle grid, it can be hard to tell.

I met a Pole and at least three Tylers. I know at least that much. I was informed my books either were or were not at the warehouse.

Eventually I had my only meeting of the day--with a company that made games, TV shows and comic books. I knew had read and enjoyed at least one of the comic books. I looked into the rep's blue eyes, eating Twixes "That was a good comic," I said. It was true.

After meatballs, there were prizes. There were game celebrities I didn't recognize making jokes about each other and saying "devs" and "triple A" and using acronyms. "All these other nominated games look amazing," I thought "I don't deserve to beat any of them". I didn't. Zoe Quinn had great shoes though. Back in Culver City there was a woman at the bar on a first date--Mandy and Stokes gave her a lapdance and kept taking their clothes off. We played a game with- but not of- cards.


FRIDAY

They still make things at 9 in the morning. It's not just that my books are missing, it's that ALL the merch is missing for all of Indiecade. This makes me feel better. 

There are game designers here from France, Poland, Germany, the UK--they ask me why Americans are so neurotic about language, I introduce them to root beer and tater tots. Maybe I am going to hell. The books show up though.

There are a lot of beautiful and very loud machines--a lot of people see a table full of books and just keep walking and I am cool with that, confident that my people will find me. Ok not confident but whatever. I am better off than the guy next to me with the text adventure who has to somehow explain that yes this is a computer but there won't be explosions. It's a good game though. I have his card somewhere. I have a million peoples' cards. I have all cards ever made and there are no cards left on earth. Maybe I should have cards? One day I will have cards. According to this one I met Luke Crane.

Somehow we end up at the same bar where the girls were taking their clothes off the night before. Probably because walking-distance Culver City on a Friday night is like a strip mall in a midwest town with a really important football team. The foreigners ask my advice--I told them art couldn't participate in the societal imperative to suppress the awareness of violence even if it wanted to and also get out of Culver City.


SATURDAY

I am fucking Abe Lincoln tired, but I can still pitch Red & Pleasant Land. But can I run it? People seem to think so, except one perceptive girl who notices that due to the Alice's randomized level-ups her thief can't do anything the person running the Alice can't. Well almost--I try to explain that she's got Languages, which is actually a useful skill, and that the Alice's saves are fucked but I'm so fried from talking about croquet balls and rapiers for hours on end with no sleep I barely believe myself. I won't realize I was right all along until I run the numbers the next day--but by then it's been so long since I slept I've forgotten whether you roll over or under saving throws. Seriously I forgot Red Box I am losing my mind. One kid makes a wizard named 'Bread" one makes a fighter named 'Neighborhood Asshole'.

The Red & Pleasant Lands are sold out by the end of the day, though. So I'm doing something right or everyone's stupid.

I come home to a thick and sugary smell which confuses me until I remember I'd told Anne to make a coat out of marshmallows. There it was, dangling from a floor fan to keep it away from the dogs.

There are two things they never mention about marshmallow coats: they're fucking heavy and women look great in them. We were having a birthday party--people dressed as Wolverine and Jarvis Cocker came, and a girl with sequins instead of eyebrows. It all ended with the birthday girl on my lap serenely mumbling about a game where pugs smell each others' butts which is a net win for Independent Gaming I think.


SUNDAY

Get away from the marshmallow goo all over the floor. Get in the car.  Where am I? Wait: It's preview time and we can preview each others' games. Except I can't because someone has to run this game.

For three days I've sat 20 feet from this video game that looks like exactly like weird spatial nightmares I've been having since I was four and the only game that won two awards and I never get to try it. It looks amazing. I don't vote in the Developer's Choice Award because I haven't touched most of them. People sure do ask a lot of questions. Yes, I drew it. I wrote it. Yes, D&D. It's not technically a game it's a supplement. Where can you get it? Who knows? Stores? I guess? This is Vornheim, get it instead, it's cheaper.

There are at least three other games here with Alice In Wonderland stuff. Meanwhile somebody has a game where you throw trucks that is literally powered by your thoughts.

Event staff tells us abruptly to pack up our gear, there'll be some end-of-Indiecade awards. The People's Choice award goes to Bad Blood, the Developer's Choice award goes to a Macbeth-themed game, the Press Choice Award goes to a game with big colored buttons called Codex Bash, the jury's Special Recognition Award which encompasses not only the normal nominees but everything at Indiecade goes to a fucking book called Red & Pleasant Land by Jez and fucking me.

I'm like what even is that? They give me a trophy with a Nintendo controller and Beavis and Butthead on it. Then I get some fried chicken and explain to some guys who made a game where you power up by screaming into a headset that the best videogame is Space Marine. Then Stokely rolls up EXACTLY WHEN THE SINGALONG PART OF BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY STARTS and we go to a party where we got to smash a virtual reality asteroid and it was scary and then we went to Venice and the only bar on the beach had a Doors cover band and Stokely tells the international game designers about being locked in a vault then there was a bartender in a Green Bay Packers shirt who was like "Oh you did Red and Whatsit Land I liked your game man" and me and the Pole and the guy from Bristol who made the big colored button game finished our drinks in the closing-time light of total exhaustion and weird victory.
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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Vrokk, Isle of the War Wizards

I was talking to Anders about the Goblin Market and how after a while it doesn't take too long to make up content for a place once you get its "voice"--how most GMs invent little pocket-worlds they can, over time, learn to easily occupy, mentally.

These blog entries keep track of accumulated lore and developments, but they also work almost like a spell before GMing. I read through and by the end I'm there, and I can act and react like that place when I have to run a session because I go to the right headspace.

So anyway here's Vrokk...
Nominally ruled by Queen Jayeleene, whom the player characters rescued from Royal Fist Monkeys long ago, Vrokk is, practically speaking, a clutch of feudal magocracies.
Queen Jayeleene
The extremely vain and jealous queen has become increasingly eccentric, demanding all powerful women on the isle wear masks. They humor her.

The most powerful War Wizards of Vrokk are all equally subtle or inept, for, despite near-constant intrigues, the political constellations have barely shifted in the last century, save for the disappearance of Cyanotica Bast, whose arcology was then occupied by a demon of sloth named Anaxorchas.
Cyanotica Bast
There are rumors that Anaxorchas planned to overrun the nearby arcology of Nithrinn Poxx but so far this hasn't happened. Nithrinn Poxx has been behaving strangely--no less abritrarily than usual but somehow a different flavor of arbitrary.
Nithrinn Poxx

Clarissa of Oog and Hargen the Insidious have both long resided in the city of Vrokk itself.

Clarissa of Oog, she has a second mouth where her left eye should be

Hargen has recently developed a passion for Yoonish cloud pheasant, and has been eating nothing else and done nothing else but eat for the last 17 days.
Hargen The Insidious

No-one is sure quite why Vrokk attracts so many powerful magicians. Some say there are things buried beneath it, deep in the Cube, where the earth communes with itself in cthonic meditation relaying endlessly a tale of itself to itself and skin between the real and the dreamt is stretched like skin over the wide mouth of a deep drum.

What you do in Vrokk is hexcrawl between the wizards and their wars and their scheming. They're great for inscrutable assignments.

For instance:

-The adventurers need to locate a rottweiler. The dog is a witness to a territorial violation by a swallow acting as familiar to Nithrinn Poxx. The dog's wandered into a zone wracked with a spasm, which contracts and births hybrid moths which seek high office in Vrokk and, mistaking the rottweiler for an important official, have captured it and are at attempting to interrogate it.  Nobody has "Speak With Animals here so it's all a pill.

or

-The upper reaches of a flooded cathedral on the coast has been repurposed as a dock for Queen Jayeleene's fleet in its campaign against the Rogue Traitors who seek to plunder and harry the isles. The problem is the vicious sea elves infesting the cathedral's lower reaches. Something about repatriating a relic? And totally of course one of the other wizards is helping them just to be an asshole.


Vrokk is not natively exotic, but exotic things are done to it. The landscape is sporadically metamorphosed and beaten, its disrupted geography bears old scars--things unimagined grow in the spaces between watchtowers and armies.




The culture is languid, advanced, coded, suspicious, brittle, and tolerant in the lazy way of places where no one really likes anyone else. Everyone's mind idles on some distant plane or awful future dream of violet conquest. Sensitive visitors find themselves trying not to offend the sorcerers with their vulgarity until they realize everything does. Talking, eating, breathing--all necessities form a kind of painful background static to the War Wizards, not least because it reminds them of all the realities they have themselves yet to transcend.

The mighty War Wizards eye your party from godhood's lobby, wondering how best to use them to shorten their wait.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

"The Fetid Shit Stink Of Right Wing Power Fantasy"

Why A Man With 8 Unfinished Kickstarters Never Saw Star Wars But Hates It Anyway--And Why That Makes Perfect Sense



David Vs Goliath

I haven't seen The Trailer--there's not much point in rushing to watch a trailer for something your girlfriend will die if she doesn't see. A bedazzled pink Millenium Falcon on a wire hits me whenever I stand up in bed because it is always overhead, chasing a pink tie fighter on another wire and always pursued by a pink Slave 1. I have no choice.

With regards to Star Wars I am lazily optimistic but not terribly invested.

But One Man (read this in a very heavy In A World Voice), Is Not Pleased...






David got really upset that Star Wars was going to be at Disneyland:

"Right Wing Power Fantasy" is Reactionary Art Critic move #5 by the way, dating back at least to Max Nordau's "Degeneracy". 

I wondered if Hill was alone here, but no--here's vigilantchristian.org echoing his fears of Star Wars leading to a Fourth Reich...

Hill has been forced to interrupt his screeds to acknowledge some cognitive dissonance...
 ...but even then, he takes a licking and keeps right on ticking...

...and this is not even everything that comes up when you search "David Hill" and "Star Wars". Point is, the man's got big ideas and it takes only a few seconds to find them.

Well we all do.

But Here's The Kicker

For the love of God, Montresor.
"I'm mostly in it for the Right Wing Power Fantasy"

The Larger Point

Now of course what any conscientious reader will be wondering right now is either:

-Yeah dude, everyone already knows David Hill, game designer, RPG gadfly, avid advocate of online harassment, and Concerned Father par excellence with the 8 unfinished Kickstarters is not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer, why should I care?
or
-Who is David Hill...and why should I care?

Maybe you shouldn't care--if you don't think that cool game stuff you want to play can come out of discussions about games we have online, you can probably stop now.

Anyway: this is about a much larger thing, it's about a way of talking about films and books and games that Hill advocates and represents but that goes wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy beyond him. 

Here's a weird fact: the fact that David Hill would repeatedly attack some movies without having ever seen them is 100% in line with the deepest underpinnings of the theory of art criticism that Hill and fellow RPG Drama Club critics subscribe to.

The method is:

1. Listen to a summary of whatever it is.

2. Assume the only message of the thing is that what happens in it is what should happen in real life.

3. Decide whether that would be good or not.

Since, in this PMRC-style worldview, a piece of media's message always baldly mirrors its elevator pitch, you don't have to look at it, and a story is only worth telling if it's worth imitating.

In this view, we are all those teenagers that got run over in the street after watching The Program. Machines doomed to live out only the awful destinies hack writers imagine.

So you can assess, say, Star Wars, and assess it over and over and over and over on multiple websites without ever experiencing it because "the" message is what matters--this has corollaries:

Message does not emerge from style. Messages do not differ from audience member to audience member. The way an actor acts cannot convey a message. The way a director directs cannot convey a message. The sets, designs, costumes and use of mise en scene cannot convey a message.  

100 plus years of film criticism, Pauline Kael, Cahiers Du Cinema, Susan Sontag--these things grown-ups notice about how craft and performance alter meaning and how audiences receive things--do not matter. That thing where someone might notice that Alan Pakula's use of geometry in camerawork slowly turns The Parallax View from an almost Fall Guy like dueling-banjos romp into a horror movie about the terror of physical space itself does not matter.

That moment where you--being sentient and self-aware--go through a thing with your brain and your snacks and drinks and then notice what happens to your own self and the selves around you after that experience? That thing doesn't matter. That thing social scientists do where they find out what people in bulk do before and after a possibly attitude-changing event? That thing doesn't matter.

Real experience doesn't matter in a mode of criticism built on finding out if you can spell out what you hate using the alphabet soup of somebody else's art.

What matters is you found a trope and you wouldn't want that thing to happen in real life, that makes the thing bad. This is the mode of criticism-via-plot-summary used when you see people decry D&D as being "about" racial genocide or go "BUY MY GAME WHERE YOU CAN FINALLY TELL STORIES ABOUT..." some big concept that is more interesting than the game itself will ever be.  

A prime example is the Mother Jones story Hill references above --it contains no science linking Star Wars to militaristic attitudes, it just points out Star Wars kicked off a spike in awesome toys and dares the reader to make the leap to so...Reagan, Nicaragua, right? Right? Conveniently ignoring that the post-Vietnam era saw such a massive drop-off in military recruitment and US enthusiasm for overseas engagement that we now have mercenaries do most of the work for us. Pentagon officials frequently discuss the difficulties of waging war in a post-Vietnam environment yet, oddly, never talk about the delights of doing so in the post-Star Wars era--with which it almost entirely coincides.

The '80s wartoys that the article laments (StarWars, GI Joe, Voltron...) were lavished on a generation of teens less willing to go to war for their country than any previous one...
Bizarrely, military recruitment keeps going down even though
they keep making more Star Wars stuff.
Probably out of sheer coincidence, that drop-off between 90 and 98 coincides almost exactly with the Star Wars generation reaching recruitable age. An eight year old who had a Hoth playset in 1981 would be an 18 year old telling the Gulf War, George Bush Senior, and the hippie parents who sent his approval rating through the roof to go fuck themselves in 1991. Star Wars kids didn't turn into whitebread patriots, they turned into riot grrrls and invented Lollapalooza and bought hip hop by the ton until it was the most popular music in the world.

Is that a bad metric? Is it unfair? What would be a good one?

These questions don't matter in the world of "message" criticism. Things aren't things--they're "Stories About..." topics. And how you feel about the topic tells you all you need to know about the thing, relieving you of the burden of having to know about the thing.

This mode is freakishly common in RPG discourse neither despite- nor because of- the fact it's totally intellectually bankrupt but because it's a fun way to make the critic seem wittier and cleverer than what they're criticizing. Check me out I'm noticing HP Lovecraft is "Some dude fearing otherness in Connecticut", I am the cutest nerd. 

In reality, art is not reducible to its themes. If it were, there'd be no need for it: once you believed the right things you could give up on art.

The levels of complexity present even in the dullest work of art are impenetrable to these folks (or they pretend they are. Ask them about some murdercentric media they like and they're suddenly Roland fucking Barthes). To take only the example near to hand--Star Wars was envisioned by Lucas (and seen by many of his generation) as a pro-Viet Cong allegory of the Vietnam War and by later film critics as a film whose stylistic choices alone (big budget epic heroic fantasy) undermined this subversive message and then by still later critics and Occupy activists as a film whose stylistic choices (bricolage and diversity=good guys, cleanliness and corporate uniformity=bad guys) reinforced a leftist message but then so wait gun control and on and on...

They're all wrong (the only consistent message Star Wars has been proven to have sent en masse to the public is "more Star Wars and more things like Star Wars") but at least they saw it before spouting off. 
"Awmm soopuw ekthighted about the Wight Wing Powuw Fantasy"
It goes without saying the messages people take from Star Wars are manifold not because Star Wars is such a many-splendored thing but just because it's a thing at all. Experience isn't simple and the way the world's 6 billion humans process any two hours worth of made-up stuff is even less simple. My point is an interpretation by someone who hasn't experienced a thing--or, more generally and extending to people besides David Hill--topical broadbrush criticisms that could have been made by someone who hadn't even experienced the thing are a fucking pox.

If the thing someone says about the thing could've been said about the Netflix blurb of the thing, the thing they said isn't smart, and they aren't smart, and they make the conversation worse and slower and everybody should start ignoring them.
Mandy with her tie fighters. As a disabled bi feminist immigrant sex worker,
she's obviously in it for the right wing power fantasy.

You can pretty much cherrypick anything until it sounds like shit if you want. I could say David Hill's beloved Vampire is basically about pretending you're better than everyone else because you're a sexual predator (or folkloric and metaphoric interpretation thereof). But I wouldn't because I realize that would be stupid and shitty and reductive and, if you think of games as important or the people who create them and enjoy them (for a wide variety of legit reasons I can't even begin to catalogue) as real humans--profoundly unempathic. People like what you don't like and you don't know why and you're too scared to go outside of your tinkertoy vision of what's wrong with the world and to enter someone else's head long enough to find out.
Chicken Little Criticism needs to stop and the people who promote it need to stop being supported by the RPG community in any way. You don't get better games or better gamers by accusing your fellow humans of making or loving fascism based on a TL;DR.

Those people who worked on that thing? They're people. They deserve an "innocent until proven guilty" just like everyone else--if you want to claim they're so stupid that you know more about what their art says to people than they do, you need to do better than "Well that's what I heard!".

The only right wing fantasy here is David's and it's a very old one--the fantasy of using art to parent the world.

EDIT:
May 15, 2017--David Hill has now denied having written any of these things. It can't possibly be a joke since David has said he doesn't believe in "it's a joke" as an excuse. So I guess he has some computer security issues or is lying again. If you interact with him, ask him which is true: