Friday, July 31, 2015

More on Chaosium's Reaquisition of Runequest

Loz post's about what this all means on the Design Mechanism Boards here. I really appreciate the full disclosure; Pete and Loz have always been great at explaining what is going on and why/where/how. A quick summary, with my diatribe shotgun commentary:

1. Runequest 6 will go away in 2016, to be replaced by Chaosium's Runequest which will no longer be generic, and will fully incorporate Glorantha as it's core setting. Fans of Glorantha will rejoice at last (it's been long in coming) while fans of the more generic mytho-historical default Runequest going back to Avalon Hill's edition in 1983 will be disappointed. My concern is that over the last 32 years a significant fanbase for Runequest developed that identify the game with its mechanical and historical rigor as a generic system and not as a vessel for Glorantha. If the Chaosium Runequest is still fully able to support a non-Glorantha environment, I will be happy; if it requires a little work or is too distinct a product of its setting then I will have to sit this one out.....I get that Glorantha is appreciated, and I appreciate that; but I am an old gamer dude and my world/setting investment lies elsewhere.

2. Loz and Pete can continue to support RQ with supplemental material through the Design Mechanism. This is good...have you seen the RQ6 supplements? They are stellar books, meaty and ambitious. Monster Island and Mythic Britain are two of the best books I own.

3. Loz does not know the status on Chaosium's existing games, i.e. Magic World, the only one occupying the same creative/genre space as Runequest. Good news I suppose is if the new RQ is specifically a Glorantha-focused rule set (welcome back to 1978 I guess) then maybe Magic World will continue to exist for those who prefer a non-Gloranthafied edition of the BRP system.

4. The new RQ will be mechanically identical to RQ6 (or close enough I guess). This is good; it's probably the best iteration of BRP on the market, and frankly a future revision of BRP should --in my opinion-- borrow more from RQ6 than from CoC 7th. Or do what it always does and provide all the options for both.

Four Interesting Announcements Spewing out of GenCon ...So Far

#1. Moon Design now is part of the ownership group of Chaosium. This means "The band is back together," according to Petersen when referring to Glorantha and Runequest. Indeed. Which leads to...

#2. There will be a new edition of Runequest coming, according to witnesses -- but don't panic yet! Design Mechanism will still be doing it. Alas, this is probably a stake in the heart for the lighter fantasy RPG Magic World that I love so much. Maybe they will ditch that crappy font in RQ6 that makes the book a serious annoyance for me to read. Yes, I probably have some form of SPD, but I'd love to be able to do something with Runequest and that font....oh gods those little curlique ts that loop back....the humanity...

#3. Vampire: The Masquerade will get a 4th edition. This will be the edition to fully and truly start edition wars for WoD fans, apparently. I'll probably get it.

#4. Pelgrane is doing the Delta Green RPG?. I bet they are!!!! Will it be Gumshoe-powered. Fuuu....

Pulp Adventure: Simulation vs. Spiritual Intent

Spiritual pulp -- the descendant which has fallen far from the tree but I think still counts

One thing I've learned in the last couple weeks of designing and running some pulp adventures is that there's an interesting schism in the market, that I am identifying as the "simulationist" vs. the "spiritual" style of pulp gaming. The distinction, I've realized now, is very important for a few reasons:

Simulationist pulp tends to reflect the genre as it was; a sort of mirror on the 30's era of fiction, comics and film that spawned practically everything that has come since. It's about emulating the feel, style and tropes of the pulps as they were.

Simulationist pulp is what most dedicated Pulp adventure game systems focus on: Amazing Adventures, Astounding Adventures, Pulp Hero, Thrilling Tales and Hollow Earth Expedition are all examples of this genre. The intent here is to emulate the pulp heroes of that era and their adventures, often even the tropes which include lots of bad science, a general disregard for the politics of the era in favor of comic-book level fantasy images of the era, and possibly even some variant on even the really archaic staples of that period such as helpless women and rampant racism that is only obvious in the lens of the modern viewer looking back.

Spiritual pulp is actually what most of us are thinking of when we use Indiana Jones as an analogy for the pulps. It's also Star Wars and a host of other modern takes; this is what pulp transmigrated into, in a sense: modern takes on the pulp genre, but also rife with the advances and tropes of modern gaming.

Spiritual pulp is really about extracting the most compelling elements of the genre in order to create a game that follows in the tradition of pulp adventuring, but with a modern attitude and the benefit of historical and scientific hindsight. It can and often does let you explore the 1930's but from the lens of the modern viewer, which often means you can't just drop wild native tribesemen with witch doctors into a setting without also figuring out who those tribesmen are and what their local mythology actually is. You can have strong female figures, something almost (but not entirely) nonexistent in the original fiction. You can build stories around modern concepts of science and fantasy that are distinctly pulp in the sense that they involve crazy, wild adventures and action, often with the two-fisted action at the fore. However, spiritual pulp doesn't have to be in the 30's, and rarely is in most cases. It maintains modern sensibilities in almost every case, eschewing the cultural moors and limits of 30's era pulp fiction such as sexism and racism in favor of modern reinterpretations....not merely "modern attitudes in the past" but often exploring the reality of what was going on back then instead....that the women in pulp fiction, to take an example, were often idealogical depictions of the young male fascination with women in the 30's and not actual depictions of how many women might have thought or behaved in the context the pulps placed them.

Anyway.....just some observations on the pulp genre I've run in to while messing with it. One thing I did learn is that I much prefer spiritual pulp gaming over simulationist....and I did start this exercise off looking at a simulationist approach. As it turns out, I think I may just be too "modern" to pull it off and feel comfortable with the result.

Simulationist Pulp

Spiritual Pulp that adheres as closely as it can to the traditional period
while inverting as many old school tropes as it embraces

Savage Worlds vs. BRP for Pulp Action

I ran part one of a two-part BRP Astounding Adventures game Wednesday. The session was fun, but I realized as I was playing that there are, in fact, other systems that will do pulp better than BRP, and with more bells and whistles. Specifically: Savage Worlds.

Don't get me wrong...Astounding Adventures is a great resource. But if you believe that system can support play, then it's a no brainer: the Fast! Furious! Fun! methodology of Savage Worlds works best for pulp action, no question about it.

After we wrap the second session on this, I'm going to suggest we jump over to Savage Worlds. It's's built to handle the kind of high octane madness pulp can dish out. BRP can do it, sure....but it's just not quite as bang-em-up as I know Savage Worlds can be.

Hmmmm....maybe I'll have my players convert mid-session. Must ponder.....

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Backing the Castles & Crusades Mythos Kickstarter

Dammit, this is getting to be a bad habit for me...I'm backing another Kickstarter. But: the Troll Lords are very consistent and reliable in their Kickstarters, and their books for the last couple of years now have been stellar productions. Also, I bought Codex Nordica which Brian Young (the author of the three books in this KS) wrote, and it's really, really good stuff; I'll be snagging Codex Celtarum soon.

C&C Mythos is actually a KS for 3 books: Codex Germanica, Codex Slavorum and Codex Classicum. Together it sounds like you could have the full workings of an ancient mythic Europe campaign. Now, if they are contextually like Codex Nordica then you can expect a series of books laden with the flavor and mythology of each setting, and an emphasis on the academic historical could in fact use Codex Nordica for a straight up traditional historical game if you like, but its really aimed at something larger than life and more mythic; the world as traditional Vikings thought it was, rather than just what historians knew it to be.

So...Mythos. Check it out:

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Pulp adventuring: Astounding Adventures kicks off tonight

My Wednesday group has reached an intermission in the ongoing D&D 5E campaign so they are about to embark on a BRP Astounding Adventures game....once it's done and over I'll have some pulp-era adventures to post on the blog. It's been interesting prepping for the game, and I wanted to comment that the adventure generator tool in Astounding Adventures is really handy. It's also sparked my interest in seeing what the second printing and additional books for the Amazing Adventures (SIEGE-powered pulp game) look like now that they are out. I had wanted to back that one when it was a Kickstarter but couldn't justify the expense at that time, unfortunately.

Aside from the AA book for BRP I am also cribbing material from GURPS Cliffhangers which is an excellent resource for any pulp gamer, as well as GURPS Place of Mystery, which I borrowed ideas from for a couple of the scenarios I worked out. Tonight's game, however, will take everyone off to the Solomon Islands in the South Seas.....a rough and tumble locale for pulp 30's gaming if ever there was one!

Anyway, going to be fun....I think, outside of some period campaigns I've run using GURPS and CoC in the past I've never actually run a 30's style hardcore pulp adventure game before, except for a one-shot I did in True20 ages ago, and of course the mid-80's era when I ran a lot of Indiana Jones (the TSR game).

Monday, July 27, 2015

Primeval Thule for 5E Kickstarter

Here's one I think I really do need to back. From Sasquatch Studios, the recent producers of the Princes of the Apocalypse campaign module for D&D 5E, Primeval Thule is a pulp fantasy lost-world sort of setting, lavishly illustrated and well worth checking out. I have seen the Pathfinder edition which a friend of mine received as a backer, and I heard they had a 13th Age version that was released to mixed reviews, but the 5E edition looks gorgeous and has some great content.

Check out ENWorld's sample monster pages here. I'm ready to start using beast men right now, and love the style and format shown here:

Anyway, I think my risk-aversion to Kickstarters is overcome by Sasquatch's prior work for WotC, which is actually a pretty decent module I may well run soon. Their record of success is demonstrable and at the $75 level I get a print hard cover in addition to the PDFs so count me in. Most important of all, though, is that when the KS clears I will actually have discretionary income for frivolity that is not earmarked for something important! That, right there more than anything, is why I can back this.

Anyway....22 days to go as of this posting.

Demon Bone Armor for Dungeons & Dragons 5E

Demon Bone Armor
Uncommon (+1), Rare (+2), very rare (+3), requires attunement
Armor Type: any heavy

The demon bone armor looks like black lacquered plate mail, composed of ebon demon bones gathered on the fields of battle where dark fiends were summoned and defeated. The wearer of the suit may use a reaction to gain resistance against fire and necrotic damage for 1 minute (this ability may be used once per day). In addition, the demon bone armor can greatly enhance the damage the target deals. The bearer of the armor may expend one or more hit dice when dealing damage. The hit dice are rolled like normal but added to the damage total as bonus necrotic damage. Hit dice expended in this fashion are harder to recover; at the end of an extended rest the armor wearer must make a DC 13 Constitution save or the hit dice cannot be recovered at that time and he must wait until another extended rest to try again.

Demon bone armor seeks to subvert the soul of its wearer as well. If the attuned warrior wearing the armor ever is reduced to zero hit points and has no hit dice left for the day, then when making death saves each failure counts twice; if the warrior dies, the armor consumes him and shift to the Abyss, where the warrior's soul is converted into a lower order demon (or better if the DM sees fit).

Friday, July 24, 2015

Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide Announced

It looks like we will have another hardcover book for D&D 5E in November: The Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide. From the description, this book serves several purposes:

A Forgotten Realms tome of the Sword Coast region

A player's companion with new options for all classes (FR flavored, I am guessing)

A tie-in to the Sword Coast CRPG that will likely be in full swing by that time

Either way it's good to see a book from WotC that isn't a super-adventure, if only because I don't know how many more super adventures I could buy that I have no intention of running.

Check out the announcement here. It's going to retail for $39.95 and will be out 11/3/15.

Hastur the Unspeakable for Dungeons & Dragons 5E

With all apologies to my players, this was what showed up on Wednesday's game. I tried to simplify the Pathfinder version a bit while skewing more toward the CoC 6th edition entry. I figure Hastur in a sword & sorcery manifestation will lean more toward a terrifying manifestation of inimical evil...his mask/cloak is a later manifestation in his overall mythos, but has become sort of iconic so I kept a reference to it below.

Dropping an iconic Old One into a D&D session is a quick reminder that D&D and Cthulhu Mythos really don't mix. Not fantasy and mythos, mind you....those can work quite well; but D&D specifically is a flavor of fantasy that does not come naturally to the mythos. The prospect of a campaign in which daredevil heroes have fought rakshasa, death knights and small armies of devils hits a hard wall when the players realize they are fighting something that is effectively a puzzle piece....a creature than can and will destroy or turn them into its minions, while they desperately try to figure out how to unsummon it. 

Anyway, I'm thinking that to get back to the more visceral elements of my Pergerron setting I'll be returning to a Magic World powered campaign, and let D&D return to Chirak, Enzada and Lingusia, which are all comfortably home to adventurers who stand a chance against the vile chaos.

Hastur the Unspeakable (Great Old One)
CR 30 (155,00 XP)
CE medium humanoid Aberration (Great Old One)
Initiative +10
Aura: Unspeakable Presence (DC 24 Save vs. Sanity score; failure imbues target with one random form of temporary insanity; fail by ten or more and it is long term)
AC 25 (dexterity plus natural)
HP 493 (34D8+340)
Resistance: resistant to all non-magical forms of bludgeoning, piercing and slashing damage
Immunity: poison, disease, cold, necrotic, mind-affecting spells, paralysis
Magic Resistance – Hastur rolls advantage on all spell saves.
Speed 80 feet flying/hovering
Multiattack – Hastur can strike with any combination of up to four tattered lashes, Dreams of the Yellow Sign, or terrifying visage.
Melee Attack- tattered lashes +16 to hit (reach 10 feet, one target) 8D8+7 slashing damage and target must make a DC 24 Con save or take an additional 1D8 bleeding damage each round (save ends).
STR 24 (+7), DEX 30 (+10), CON 30 (+10), INT 30 (+10), WIS 30 (+10), CHA 30 (+10)
Saves: Str +13, Dex +16, Con +16, Int +16, Wis +16, Cha +16
Languages: aklo, telepathy 100 feet, tongues at will
Senses: superior darkvision, true seeing (constant), Perception +16 (passive 26)
Skills: all at attribute value plus proficiency (see saves)
Archmagus: Hastur is a spell-caster of 20th level ability with access to all wizard spells.
Dreams of the Yellow Sign: once per day Hastur may touch a solid surface to inscribe the Yellow Sign upon it. The sign will last at least one year, but is only visible when certain stars shine right upon it at night, specifically the star Aldebaran, which may be visible in any number of night skies. Any who view the sign must make a DC 24 Wisdom Save or become Dominated (as per the spell) by Hastur. Once a save is made, the target does not have to make another save for 24 hours regardless of success or failure. Once dominated, the target behave as Hastur wishes. Each day the target remains dominated it will see out the sign, and each time it fails a further save it loses 1D6 Charisma (this Charisma will be restored with a long rest if the spell is broken with a successful save). Should it reach 0 Charisma, will immediately become a vessel for Hastur to manifest within. The sign can be removed with a wish spell.
Terrifying Visage: if Hastur reveals his true form to a target that victim must make a DC 24 save vs. Charisma or be paralyzed for 1 minute and take 8D12 psychic damage. When the paralysis lifts the target may make a DC 21 Wisdom save or become frightened and flee for 1 minute.
Immortality: as an elder god of the outer darkness of space Hastur is shockingly resilient; most manifestations of the god are said to be mere projections of a portion of its power, but it is also spoken of a robe and mask which, when donned, prompt a DC 24 save vs. Charisma, or the bearer of the robe and mask transform into a new vessel for Hastur. Likewise, those who succumb to the Yellow Sign can also become vessels of the dark god’s power. It is unknown if Hastur can be killed in any conventional sense of the word; his existence crosses boundaries of time and space that defy death.

Legendary Actions (3 points per round); used at the end of any character’s turn
Additional Lash – for 1 point Hastur may use tattered lash.
Conversion to the Yellow Sign –for 2 points Hastur may manifest the Yellow Sign before a target and if it fails a DC 24 save vs. Wisdom it is subject to the effects of Dreams of the Yellow Sign as above.
Possession – for 1 point Hastur may evaporate and appear fullow formed in the body of a target which has fallen to zero hit points; target is killed. This body may be within sight range.

Dread Manifestation – for 3 points Hastur may summon 1D8 byakhee or other minions to his bidding. Th minions roll for initiative and act immediately.

Hastur the Unspeakable is one of the more mysterious and terrifying of the Greater Old Ones, a dark god which moves through the cosmic void of space, sometimes aided by the dreaded byakhee who regard him as a fearsome divinity. Other humanoid and monstrous beings on many worlds worship him, but his following among men is smaller than his legacy. The Yellow Sign is a known artifact or symbol of the god, but its exact connection to Hastur is regarded as a mystery; its appearance often herald’s the god’s presence, however.

In the world of Pergerron, Hastur has a vile interest in manifesting on the planet in the flesh, for he intends to seek out an infernal device located beneath the Amber Sea, which his followers understand to be some sort of terraformer powered by the cosmic energy of the Yellow Sign. Once Hastur succeeds, all beings of the world will be puppets to the dark god, and the world will be colonized by the byakhee.

Adapted from the Pathfinder Bestiary 4 and Call of Cthulhu 6th edition.