Friday, November 30, 2012

Soup to Nuts Random Villain Generator

Base creature

1. an unusually intelligent, independent eye of dread 
2. pirate 
3. mad king/queen
4. witch
5, drider 
6. statue
7. medusa
8.(intelligent) flail snail 

9. pudding, ooze, slime, etc
10. insect demon
11. seahag
12. fishwife 
13. goblin
14.maggot naga
15. naga
16. vampire
17. nephilidian vampire
18. unicorn-head guy
19. mind flayer 
20. demon 
21. giant centipede 
22. worm-headed person
23. rakshasa
24. white tiger rakshasa 
25. manticore 
26. succubus
27. slaad 
28. marilith 
29. eye of fear and flame
30. beholder 
31. eye of the deep
32. lich 
33. demilich
34. Demon lord

35. beastman
36. thog 
37. hobgoblin
38. werewolf
39. were-something else
40. librarian (Yuan Ti)
41. minotaur
42. skaven/were-rat
43. lizardman/reptile woman
44. hyperintelligent random animal
45. hyperintelligent random weird fantasy monster
46. leopardman/leopardfemme
47. jackalmazon/jackalman/
48. aaracokra
49. algoid
50. abstract/alien extradimensional weirdo
51. royal fist monkey
52. cifalganger/doppelganger
53. kenku/crowman
54. dragon
55. druid
56. golem
57. foxwoman
58. giant
59. gibbering mouther
60. moonhead man
61. sphinx
62. dwarf (civilian)
63. dwarf  wizard
64. dwarf  cleric/druid
65. dwarf  thief/spy
66. dwarf  anti paladin
67. dwarf  barbarian/fighter
68. elf (civilian) or fey
69. elf wizard
70. elf cleric/druid
71. elf thief/spy
72 . elf anti paladin
73. elf barbarian/fighter
74. half orc (civilian)
75. half orc wizard
76. half orc cleric/druid
77. half orc thief/spy
78. half orc anti paladin
79. half orc barbarian/fighter
80 halfling (civilian)
81 halfling wizard
82 halfling cleric/druid
83 halfling thief/spy
84 halfling anti paladin
85 halfling barbarian/fighter
86-87 human (civilian)
88-92 human wizard
93-94 human cleric/druid
95-96 human thief/spy
97-98 human anti paladin
99-00 human barbarian/fighter

Optional job, stats and, if  you don't like the race you rolled, get a new, more basic race here

Hails from...

1-25 Mitteleuropean city or countryside
26-29 The Sea
30-58 Vikingy Lands
59-63 Desert
64-66 Green, Camelot-esque land
67-70 Exotic East
71-84 Goblin Empire
85-86 Chaos wastes
87-89 A pulp fantasy country
90-91 Pseudo Eastern Europe (w/ vampires)
92-93 Radioactive sci-fantasy zone
94-95 Fairy Land
96-97 The Center of the Earth
98-99 Extradimensional
99 Extraterrestrial
00 The Future

Quirk one

Quirk two

Base of Operations and Starting Minions here

Use the base of operations indicated then roll below...

1-12 Use creatures indicated in link, # of henchcreatures = # just rolled
13 2 of creatures indicated
14-15 3 of creatures indicated
16-18 4 of creatures indicated
19-22 5 of creatures indicated
23-27 6 of creatures indicated
28-31 7 of creatures indicated
32-34 8 of creatures indicated
35-36 9 of creatures indicated
37-38 10 of creatures indicated
39  11 of creatures indicated
40-50 A single elite follower, roll race on first table above
51 Goblin
52 2 Goblins
53 3 Goblins
54 4 Goblins
55 5 Goblins
56 6 Goblins
57 Harpy
58 2 Harpies
59 3 Harpies
60 4 Harpies
61 war troll
63 Wizard/cleric with 1 follower
64 Wizard/cleric with 2 followers
65 Wizard/cleric with 3 followers
66 Wizard/cleric with 4 followers
67 Thog
68 2 Thogs
69 3 Thogs
70 4 Thogs 
71 1 Minotaur
72 2 Minotaurs
73 3 Minotaurs
74 4 Minotaurs
75 1 Ogre
76 2 Ogres
77 3 Ogres
78 4 Ogres
79 2 skaven/ratmen/wererats
80 3 skaven/ratmen/wererats
81 4 skaven/ratmen/wererats
82-83 5 skaven/ratmen/wererats
84-85 6 skaven/ratmen/wererats
86 skaven/ratmen/wererats
87 skaven/ratmen/wererats
88 2 Human soldiers/mercenaries
89 3 Human soldiers/mercenaries
90-91 4 Human soldiers/mercenaries
92-94 5 Human soldiers/mercenaries
95-96 6 Human soldiers/mercenaries
97-98 7 Human soldiers/mercenaries
99-00 8 Human soldiers/mercenaries


1 Religious--roll god 
2 Murder hobo: seeks loot, plunder, power
3 Pure evil or insane
4 Has something PCs want, PCs are informed
5 PCs have some specific thing villain wants 
6 Hungry for flesh
7 Just trying to quietly rule this land with an iron fist before y'all showed up. Area controlled is proportional to number of "new recruit" rolls. 1 = a single building 20 = a whole country
8 Sees PCs as a threat
9 Roll twice on this table on a d8
10 Roll three times on this table on a d8

(These are based on the Realms of Chaos warband rules, the math is similar but there's way less flipping around and less acquiring books that cost 100 bucks on ebay.)
Are you a mutant? (i.e. are you excited about this villain yet? If not, be a mutant) Roll a mutation or roll one here or here or here

Are you religious? Add one ability characteristic of your god. If it isn't that impressive by itself, add a mutation, too.

Now for the rest of your upgrades:
You get d12 of them.
If you're a mutant, d4 (exploding dice) of those will be more mutations
The rest can be rolled below...

1-10 demonic weapon (You read Elric? Like that.)
11-20 demonic armor
21-22 Steed 1 mutation
23-24 Steed 2 mutations
25-26 Steed 3 mutations
27-28 Steed 4 mutations
29-30 Steed 5 mutations
31-32 1 spawn or random monster (spawn are totally fucked up creatures that are like a random creature plus 6+d6 mutations)
33-34 2 spawn or random monsters 

35-36 3 spawn or random monsters 

37-38 4  spawn or random monsters 

39-40 5  spawn or random monsters 

41-71 Gift of your god--add a power characteristic of your god or schtick if you have one, otherwise just roll a magic item
72-73 Hound or beast characteristic of your god/style (like if you worship Fenris, add a wolf)
74-75 2 hounds/beasts
76-77 3 hounds/beasts

78-79 4 hounds/beasts

80-81 5 hounds/beasts

82-83 6 hounds/beasts

84-100 magic/chaos weapon+ add a wizard level

New Recruits

-You get d12 (exploding dice) new minion rolls on "Base of operations and Starting Minions" above*.
-Your minions get d4 (exploding) upgrades (as above). You can apply them to individuals or to a whole unit.

-If they are mutants, your minions get the same number of upgrades as you do, of which d10 (up to max total upgrades) are more mutations, for the rest, roll below:

1 Add 7 mutations to a unit or individual
2 Add 8 mutations to a unit or individual
3 Add 9
4 Add 10
5 Add 11
6 Add 12
7-9 Roll 2 more rewards, 80% each is a mutation
10-12 Roll 3 more rewards, 80% each is a mutation
13-15 Roll 4 more rewards, 80% each is a mutation
16-20 Roll on individual upgrade table

Roll Your Relationship to the next villain roll here or just click

Pick Sex and Name

Terrorize The Populace

*Plus one more for every week the heroes fail to catch you?

Generating Random Warbands Is Fun

1. Annihilus Neroxx
Exalted mutant champion
Goat head
Obsidian skin
Str: 20
Despises elves
Chaos armor
Wields 2 demon swords--a successful hit from either doing at least 6 points of damage slays a foe outright, draining their strength

Chaos steed
(his terrible destrier)
Cloud of flies
Acidic blood

2. Dynakk
Sorcerer (level 5)
Lion's mane

Chaos steed
(Dynakk's mount)
Hypnotic gaze
Poison bite

3. Theegra 
Chaos spawn
One-eyed, bloated, tentacled, metallic goat creature
(The single eye is an evil eye)

4. En'Ra
Thog  (hand centaur)
Berserker rages
Makes a constant keening noise

5. Viruss

Annihilus is also served by:

6. 7 Beastmen
7. 4 more beastmen
8. 9 Dwarves
9. 6 Hobgoblins
10. 3 Skaven

Currently, Annihilus' warband has seized and decimated the town of Oldenorke, above.

Click to enlarge and roll 2 separate d20s any time the party hunting Annihilus reaches any labelled section of the map. Results 1-10 indicate members of the warband (see above), results above 10 or repeated results indicate that number of terrified or enslaved inhabitants.

For each day Annihilus remains uncaptured, randomly generate another group of followers:

-If you have Realms of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness, use the retinue table

-If you do not, randomly roll any creature, then randomly generate the number of them that join the warband using that creatures' "# appearing" number.

-Roll d4, on a 4, the newly recruited creatures has been mutated

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ideas Vs Tools

Ok, in looking at RPG stuffs: there's ideas and there's tools.

Ideas are like "Ok, it's like a sphere with a big eye and an evil little mouth and a bunch of eyestalks and all the eyes have different magic powers and I call it a Beholder".

Tools are like "Here's a way to generate 18 dungeon rooms complete with contents at once".

You judge ideas on whether you could have thought of them yourself and like them.

Tools don't have to have things you wouldn't have thought of yourself, they just have to organize and present lots of ideas (original or old) quickly and/or conveniently so you can build other things with them.

Both are great, naturally. But when people talk about RPG stuff they often talk past each other because one person's judging a thing's ideas and another person is judging the tools.

Some examples:

The AD&D DMG is fantastic for ideas. But while it has a lot of tools in it, they're hard to find and have been superceded by other stuff.

Retroclones, as tools, are frequently better than the original D&Ds they clone.

Products detailing tons of hexes, like the Wilderlands and Carcosa, are pretty sparse in the ratio of ideas-to-pages, but they're meant to be, they're tools for endlessly recombining a relatively short list of moving parts to create an environment.

Published modules have always kinda disappointed me on the idea front but people often defend them as tools. I find they often take longer to prep than it'd take me to write my own thing, so they fall down as tools as well.

The Monster Manual was fantastic as both. Deities and Demigods was all ideas and no tools (at least until now).

Rifts is better than most games for ideas, it's a disaster for tools.

My favorite RPG books, Realms of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness and Lost and the Damned, are mediocre tools (I rarely consult them) but bursting with ideas.

Ideas are more glamorous, but once you get them you don't need the book they came in any more. Tools are no fun to read but you can use them forever.

Random tables can be either....
You can have a Random Weather Table which is all weird stuff (rain of frogs, etc) or just interesting mechanical ways to express the effects of rain, wind, etc.--that is, a table of ideas, or you can have a Random Weather Table that's just totally realistic for a given place--that's a tool. Or, of course, you can have one with both.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Oozes, Monoliths and Clones

Connie said "I never know what to do in the day time"

I said "I never know what to do when I have a headache that won't go away"

So we got a game together.

They were in the Blue Dragon fortress of Cobalt Reach--radioactive jungle on the southern frontier of the goblin empire.

It was the number of sessions into the dungeon where players start going "Wait, why are we in this dungeon?"

They chased a guy in a floppy hat until they found themselves in the room with the Living Monolith in it.

This wasn't The Living Monolith who used to be The Living Pharoah, who should not be confused with It, The Living Colossus who is not the X-Men's Colossus or the machine Colossus which was (to quote the great Leonard Pierce) "...a giant supercomputer designed to solve the world's problems.  But not the Colossus the giant supercomputer designed to solve the world's problems that we see in the underrated film Colossus:  the Forbin Project.  It should also not be confused with It, the Living Colossus, even though it was a living colossus, unlike Colossus, who is no longer living.  You know what?  I forget what I'm even trying to say here."...this was the Living Monolith from page 38 of Carcosa, basically. It is a striking image. And Neon Genesis Evangeliony. At least as far as I'm concerned.

Anyway it's a magnificent image. But it also Caused Fear so the PCs took off.

After a while Floppy Hat explained about how he and the fellow minions of the Clone Lord were actually pretty happy about how the PCs had spent the last few sessions killing off the jackalmen because that's totally what they were gonna do.

Then Mandy asked if she could get a clone of herself. So the Clone Lord was like: well, here is what I ask in return...

He wanted them to do something extradimensional to the blue dragon's egg. They were like sure, whatever...arbitrary plausible objectives being the bread and butter of sandboxery and all

So they found a suicidal jelly on a throne (also from Carcosa), a Roschach encounter, a dinosaur pool, a shaft they had to climb up while short people with carrion crawler heads fell on them from above aaaand...the dragon.

Now, much to my chagrin, there's an invisibility ring in Death Frost Doom. Which Mandy picked up ages ago. Which means we have a situation where Connie borrows it to go loot the dragon's hoard, then sees the dragon, then Mandy's all get the fuck out of there and Connie didn't want to and before I knew it I had two characters arguing over possession of an invisibility ring used to loot the hoard of a mighty dragon.

And I thought, christ, what have I become?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Why Is This Picture So Good?

Realms of Chaos: Lost and the Damned, page 8.

Now Adrian Smith was very very good. But, by definition, nobody does their best work every day. This is amazing even by his very high standards.

I'll see how much of it I can pick apart...

1. Detail and action and they don't interfere with each other

There's 1000 Hellboy panels with as much sense of movement as this picture and 1000 Durer prints with as much detail, but putting them together is no mean feat. Depicting action isn't just about, y'know, having a scene with some action in it, it's about making the viewer's eye bounce around and sense action. Details and gewgaws tend to freeze action and slow the eye down and so go against the sense of action despite actually having moving things in the pictures (see: the average contemporary over-rendered Warhammer illustration).

Adrian Smith gets a rare effect here by compressing his mania for detail into the same parts of the picture where the sources of tension in the image are. The central figures' joints (where the center of the muscular action is)--the shoulder lifting the axe, the face, where the legs meet at the crotch--are also where the detail on the figure coalesces. Then there's a brief rest from detail in the form of the winged champion's mostly featureless shield, then the picture goes all dense again just where the tension is and should be greatest--the winged figure's anguished face and the desperately raised arm.

Note that even though there is actually a lot of detail and inter-lacing in the winged champion's lower leg and the way it interacts with the other guy's leg, it is soft-pedaled with lighter pencil work. You can look at that set of arabesque shapes whenever you want but you don't lose the magnetic pull toward the center.

2. What is there is maximized

AS said he originally planned to have Escher stairs back there, but gave up. I'm assuming that was a good idea mostly because the picture came out as one of the finest pieces of art in history ever and I assume any change might've thrown off the mysterious balance underlying that perfection.

My guess about what's creating that balance is that too much complexity in the stairs would've worked against the central fistclench of the visual vortex I describe above.

However, everywhere there is detail, there is as much as humanly possible, not just in the decadent Chaos Christmas worth of ornament on each figure and the lovingly so-much-more-information-than-we-thought-we-could-get crawl across the surfaces but the way he uses the figures' poses to create even more details out of the interaction of the muscles. Look at this shit:
Do yourself a favor and click on it
 Look at the (totally incorrect but somehow totally visually convincing) way the dude is holding the axe. Look at the way the neck stretches. Look at the expressions on the faces and the ribcage stretching and the goatleg muscle pulling and the way the wings perfectly anchor the picture to the paper, seeming to neither float nor look extraneous despite obviously being definitely not wings that should support anything real much less anything real weighing as much as a person. (Compare that to the wings in Breughel which, despite being more realistic, rarely look like they're doing anything at all.)

3. It plays to the artist's strengths

Take a look at this space marine drawing--same artist, same book, same year...
In it, you see AS grappling with the design problem which has plagued Games Workshop artists for decades now: space marine legs.

The upper body of the classic marine armor design is an impressive (and, it should probably be pointed out, unique) arrangement of bulkily and imposingly juxtaposed geometry--plausibly exaggerating imagery pulled from both medieval armor and storm trooper gear (some of which was ultimately derived from Japanese armor), the lower half is...some cylinders.  The Japanese would never have let anyone get away with such a lazy leg design.

In this picture, Adrian Smith does what he does with the material he's given--the upper half is an Uccelloish virtuoso stack of gorgeously rendered cubist shapes. Those legs, though--they look like fucking gummi bear legs.

Erol Otus could get away with those kind of continuous, smooth all-over organic shapes because the whole picture was infused with expressionist energy, when Smith does it it looks like he just couldn't be fucked to make the metal on the legs look like metal. AS just does not know how to deal with that kind of shape, or rather his style doesn't. Smith's style works by shoving you from detail to detail across smooth surfaces--when there's no obvious point where a surface is pushing you, that style has no fodder to work with. The limitations of drawing a piece of organically curved, painted industrial metal (a postmodern surface) using a pencil (a premodern tool) suddenly become apparent.

Now look up at the picture at the top of this blog entry--there are no surfaces like that anywhere in the picture. The goatleg guy is a storm of torn skin and muscle and the wingy guy's armor is encrusted with designs--and while the armor on the upper arm is relatively featureless, the cones show you where your eye is supposed to go. The fleshy fat guy in the bottom corner is likewise coiled around himself, so the problem is avoided again.

A big part of being a good artist is figuring out what you are lazy about and either dealing with it or leaving it out of the fucking picture. And leaving it out of the fucking picture is not as easy as it might sound. There is a reason I'm calling this Adrian Smith's best picture, a million gremlins of construction and necessity creep into any image (But what's holding the branch up? Wait, what color is the sky?) and learning which "necessary" parts you can do without is as much a challenge in art as in math or engineering or computer programming. No artist can or should be able to draw everything. Turning life (5 senses, 3d, in motion) into a picture (one sense, 2d, unmoving) requires letting go of this effect and choosing that effect, over and over. Asking Jan Van Eyck but where is the movement? What color is the light? Would be missing the point of the choices he made to leave those things out so could use the space he had to show you other stuff. Like the richness and crispness of that green.

4. You couldn't find it anywhere else

A few pre-modern minds could have come up with figures that grotesque, but the combination of the grotesque with the heroic (St George and the dragon have merged) is pure modern. Much more importantly and impressively, though: Durer, Michaelangelo or Schongauer couldn't have drawn it--even if Smith didn't use photo references for the picture, the images show a distinctly postphotographic familiarity with how anatomy responds to action and a level of allegiance to the underlying visual rhythms of a post-machine aesthetic (compared to the flowy lines of nearly everything depicted in mid-air before about 1900). And he applies every inch of that knowledge to the picture, while still doing all the due dilligence of invention on top.

No comic book artist would've done this: the deadlines wouldn't put up with it and the style comic artists develop to make beauty happen while still regularly meeting those deadlines doesn't point people in this direction.

Hollywood hasn't gotten there yet: it requires a dedication to a certain visual niche that, as yet, has not produced its own Greenaway or Kubrick or Ridley Scott.

The contemporary fine art world would, of course, have nothing to do with it: it refers too much to earlier eras of art that are out of fashion there precisely because they have remained in fashion in other parts of the culture--especially ones associated with the lower classes (medieval europe=heavy metal=poor people whereas, say, medieval Chinese art=China=(at least in America) new market!). Plus it has no obvious message--it depicts a war of the terrible against the also-terrible in an eccentric style with cultural antecedents but no cultural references--and so it's hard for the typical critic to analyze: an unsurmoutable bar to entry in the art world.

While someone commissioning an album cover or a picture for a novel might have scraped together enough money to feed an artist for whatever length of time it would've taken to make this picture, it's pretty unlikely. If you saw an image this maniacally constructed on the cover of something meant to advertise itself to a general audience it would probably be because it had been drawn for some other reason and then licensed after the fact. Adrian Smith on a mainstream commercial deadline would come out more like Stephen Gammell.

Point is: if there weren't RPGs, and there weren't therefore the specific mythology of heroic grotesqueries fighting heroic grotesqueries produced by the Warhammer people, there might not have been anywhere else to find the money to pay the artist to produce an image like this. There are not a lot of other patrons, good or bad, that pay for expeditions this deep into territory this remote.

I like RPG art a lot. It gives people an opportunity to show us new stuff we otherwise would not have gotten to see. And that's always good.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Notes on Notes + Some Pictures

As soon as I got my physical copy of Carcosa, I did this. Another advantage to that book being small and thick rather than big-and-thin like most RPG books.

Publishers--is it possible to get things from the factory like this? Or at least do thumb indexes?

The illegible notes along the bottom edges are the local races keyed to the Carcosa races ("purple men= were rats", "red men = jackalmen" etc.) so I can convert the hexes as I read.

So far the hexes require remarkably little conversion to do a passable impression of Drownesia or Cobalt Reach.  And there's lots of empty space for notes on each hex, so the dungeons and cities that make up the meat of the campaign can get stuck in anywhere...

And now some random D&Dable pictures...

Monday, November 5, 2012

Things To Know About En Gorath Of The 10,000 Eyes

It Rules the Desert and All Insects.

It lives inside the flesh of younger gods.

It eats the hearts of men and the skins of women.

It is worshipped by the Cursed Ones, the Jackal Men, and those who seek long life or survival in harsh lands.
It servitors are the Githyanki, it's children mimic us, poorly.

Its demons are the Chasme, bloated gibbering flies.

Its church has lasted 40 millennia and will last 40 more.

It is and will always be at war with the Slaadi and their toad gods.
It is called Apshai and Ba'al and Baalzebul and En Sabbat Nur, it is called Harrower and Scourge.

Each of its priests is bound to masquerade as the priest of another god for at least nine years and nine days.

Its priests carry scythes and khopesh swords and survive on nothing but insects, they pronounce the sacred totem insect of any human they encounter. The significance of these labels is uncertain.

Its temples and tomb complexes are awrithe with traps and house tiny necropoli of embalmed insects, each sacred and elaborately studied. Living pillbugs coat the floors.

It is most likely to grant the following spells to its clerics:

1: Putrefy Food & Drink, Destroy Water
2: Dust Devil, Snake Charm
3: Animate Dead, Curse
4: Giant Insect, Plague, Sticks To Snakes, Lower Water
5: Insect Plague
6: Forbiddance
7: Creeping Doom (as druid spell)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Things To Know About Ferox The Incinerator

She is an ancient blue dragon of the largest size.

She is a localized magnetic anomaly.

She sky fortress looms above the sci fantastic jungles of the Cobalt Reach.

She is indifferent to the warring factions of clones and jackal-headed En Gorath worshippers that infest her lair like weevils.

She has an egg.

Where did she get an egg?

I guess there's another dragon.

Unless I want to invent Weird Dragon Reproduction Rules...

I don't.

1. Bite
2. Claw grapple
3. Rip everything metal off you, through you, toward her
4-5 Lightning breath
6. Weird blue magic from eating the brains of wizards

The skylike expanse of her terrible wings crackles outward and the air burns like dead ozone.

She may or may not possess the Antikythera Device.

She fought Vorn, lord of Rust and Rain, before the world was made.

It was she who pulled his eyes out and threw them in the sea.

Her clerics wear slitted helmets with spiralling horns.

She is partial to granting her clerics the following spells, by level:

1: Command, Shocking Grasp (as MU)
2: Wyvern Watch
3: Cloudburst
4: Abjure
5: Ebony Tendrils, Insect plague
6: Blade Barrier
7: Control Weather

She is worshipped by dwellers in the Reach, and by users of strange devices.