Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Movers and Shakers of Altavir

Many personalities dominate Altavir for power and are the key movers and shakers. Although I'm currently using Savage Worlds for my system of choice in this setting, the list below could easily make for a fine "Icons" list for a 13th Age game, too!

Major Powers and Personalities of Altavir

   The secret powers of Altavir are neither as involved nor as impressive as the powers of other realms and Ages. They are the movers and shakers of this world…..but perhaps a bit more mortal and with fewer arcane resources than one might think. Still, their reputation precedes them.

The Black Mage Sarkindos: Sarkindos, ensconced in his tower deep within the Vapari ruins. The so-called “Black Mage” is one of the major threats to those who brave the straights of Acutum, as he sends out his monster-ridden ships culled from piracy to retain control of what he perceives as his “Black Empire of the Dead.” He is known to have allied himself with enigmatic demons known as the galadantas, a rival faction of demons who seem to have a strong desire to destroy the in’forge.

Tharagron and the Silver Blades: Tharagron, paladin of Malevig in the north, is a vile but righteous crusader who uses any means necessary to cleave foes and trumpet the cause of the fallen god of light. Tharagron believes that the Ice Gods of Death will be defeated if the lands of the Satras is unified under one single, glorious rule…his own.  He has an extensive order in his service, the legendary Silver Blades, which work to accomplish his designs as conqueror of the North.

Charados, the Lord of Nether: Charados, the last living Hapathic Sorcerer (now a Nether), may be the single greatest scholar and mage on the subject of the Nether in the world. He keeps largely to himself, realizing he is the last living direct descendant of his ancient kind, and is closely guarded –and served—by the in’forge demons which flock to him, worshipping him like a god.

Gorgonat, the King of Old Stone: Gorgonath, of the Barrier Mountains, is the dwarven king of the deep, a ruler without peer, at least according to the dwarves who trade with the human kingdoms. No one alieve, not even the dwarves, can claim to have held an audience with Gorgonath in his ancient citadel of the deep, and scholars in ancient Vapari ruins question whether the name is one passed down over the generations as it appears Gorgonath is identified often in ancient records believed to be a thousand years old (or more) as an ancient ally and sometimes cultic figure in Vapari myth and legend.

Tempestre, Queen of the Sylvanestre and Goddess of the Firmament: Tempestre, of the Elemental Woods is the “goddess of the firmament” according elven belief, and the Oracle of the Titans, the ancient elemental gods which the elves believe forged the world. She “manifests” in an elven woman who at puberty is given a unique rite of passage to contain the spirit of Tempestre, taking on her mind and personality as a result. The current incarnation of Tempestre is two centuries old, and more warlike than usual as she motivates her elvinkin to take up arms against the orcs of the north.

Emperor Saduum of Vidari: Emperor Saduun, of Vidari is the supreme regent and lord of Vidari, a firm ruler who keeps the seven provinces under firm control. With his council of seven and his Hall of the Senate the emperor comes off as a fair man who seeks prosperity for all. In reality his rule benefits the elite class the most, but he is deeply revered by the prosperous Vidari. Thanks to the relative isolation of Vidari it continues to thrive, fearing only barbarian attacks from the Ugadam and Hadarim, and piracy from the north.

The Dragon King Wrathos: Wrathos, who dwells in the Barrier Mountains is the enigmatic king of all dragons…or so he claims. An ancient wyrm, none dare oppose his will,  and both giant and dark elf bow to his rule as needed. The Dragon King commands an army of draconians to scour the deeps and enforce his will.

Eradonsos, High Priest of Sadaqua: Eradonsos, of Ugadan is one of the druid-shamans of the barbarian tribes. His cult is dominant throughout the region, his word as the Voice of the One True God is considered absolute. The wallowing “pits” which serve as temples to Ugadan, with great stone cairns at the center of a hollow depression are monuments of both deep faith and strange sin; the ways of Eradonsos and his followers are considered anathema by the civilized men of the north and east. Eradansos wants nothing more than for his cult to spread to all men, everywhere.

Satroth, Last King of Daskuun: Satroth, lord of ruined Daskuun is the depraved undead king of a dead city, who rules a populace of demons and the dead in a perpetual state of madness. He seems to have an affinity for when dark “things” awaken in the world and an insatiable desire to explore and control such awakenings.

Haladon, the King of Saredone: Halagon, lord of Saredone is the orcish warlord who has seized power and now wages war against the elves of the south. He is sworn to the Sons of the Dark, the seventeen devils which brought ancient Hapath to its doom. Unlike the men of old, the warlocks of Saredone seem to thrive in servitude to the Seventeen, and Halagon claims to be the bastard son of Simadasi, the Lamia Queen.

Lady Kerenath of Ateinas: Lady Kerenath, of Port Abnay is the ruler of this well-known southern port, the Vidari counter to Vadan in the north. She is also the enigmatic ruler of the cult of Ateinas, and claims to be a direct voice of the goddess. She is revered in the south as the chief priestess of the whole pantheon, and is consulted regularly by the emperor for advice. Her temples in the region are staffed entirely by women and actively seek to expand the cult base while dismantling or destroying the cults of other lands. The active priestesses, Templars all, are called the Daughters of the Red Lotus.

Ekarn, Lord of the Daggers in the Dark: Ekarn, the underworld lord of Port Giton, is regarded by many as the secret spymaster and dealer in the darkness. Some claim he works at the beck and call of the Emperor, others feel he clearly opposes the rule of the emperor and seeks to tear down the ruling class. His real purposes may be obscured by the fact that Ekarn seems to also run an organization known as the Daggers in the Dark, a guild of assassins that strike out and attempt to slay attempts to revive the lost culture and lore of Hapath and Vapari. They stand against the cults of the Sons of the Dark, as well as attempts to revive the worship of the older demon gods, and seek to destroy evil artifacts where they surface.

King Teneren of Vormanse: The most progressive and enlightened of the Northern Kings, Teneren has actively enourages southward expansion of his people by promising plots of land, women and treasure to any man who would lay claim to the wilderlands along the Straight so Acutum and swear fealty to him in his name. This has led to dozens of small and large colonies popping up in the otherwise non-human dominated region, and led to tension with Port Vadan, which is the staging ground for so many of these ventures. Teneren is actively opposed to the machinations of Malevig and its crusader.

King Metharoum of Port Vadan: the southern-most kingdom of the North, Port Vadan is a single great city on an island riddled with small towns from which this lone king rules. He is cousin to Teneren of Vormanse, and supports his cousin’s desire to conquer the no-man’s lands of the Terrano Abandonato. Metharoum is mid-forties, and harbors many illnesses, but his wife Serkatha is a sorcerer who uses her magic to keep him alive while she sends expeditions into the Hapathic ruins to find a cure for her husband of what she believes to be an ancient malady suffered by the Hapathic kings of old.

The Winter Death: The four death gods of the Northern Satras are enigmatic and terrifying beings. They are followed by ancient northern barbarian cults (the Agondias) which are related distantly to the men of Satras, but who have descended into cannibalism and madness. The will of each death god is always personified in one chosen champion, and that champion seeks to perpetuate the cause of the death gods, which seems to be the destruction of the kingdsoms of Satras and beyond.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The ever changing systems for Altavir - Dregatis Ascalair in Savage Worlds

With my revamp of Altavir in to Savage Worlds Fantasy, I also redid the "star NPC" who is at least the key patron in the new campaign. Meet.....or reintroduce Dregatis Ascalair:

Dregatis Ascalair

 Plying his trade as a mercenary of the straights, Dregatis Ascalair is a soldier and explorer when time and madness permits. He has journeyed twice to the ruins of Hapath, where the nether rule and worship a strange being called Kazak the Unbidden as if it were a god. Dregatis is more than willing to serve as a guide to Hapath, though the coin must be right, for on his second journey he acquired the weapon he called Blood Dancer, a blade which sings as it slays. He took it from the hand of a nether war priest, and knows that the next time he goes to Hapath they may well seek to slay him for his actions....but the lure is too tempting to resist, the coin too great. Plus....Dregatis cannot resist an effort to find out what Kazak the Unbidden really is.

Dregatis Ascalair (SW)
Veteran human warrior of Port Vaden; expatriate of Satras (XP Earned 45)
Agility D8, Smarts D8, Strength D8, Vigor D6, Spirit D6
Pace 6” Parry 2_ Toughness 5 (7 with armor)
Edges: Rich (15,000 gold annual salary; mansion), Scholar (+2 on occult, history)
Hindrances: Curious
Skills: Boating D4, Fighting D10, Gambling D4, Investigation D8, Knowledge (History) D8+2, Knowledge (occult) D8+2, Notice D6, Persuasion D4, Riding D4, Shooting D4
Languages: Altaviric common (native D8), Hapathic  Runes D6
Armor: chain hauberk (+2)
Weapons:  scimitar (STR+D8), crossbow (2D6 dmg, 2 AP, 15/30/60 range; 1 action to reload),
Blood Dancer, magic great sword (+2 damage, to hit; when rolling, make a spirit check; on a success recover 1 wound; 2 wounds on a raise; When making this check, a crit fumble applies a permanent -1 penalty to Vigor)
Current Cash: 177 GP
Special Gear: one copy of the Codex of the Hapathic Sequence (SW version coming soon) which he is still studying, plus plenty of bargain basement exploration gear.

Monday, July 10, 2017

What I'm Playing These Days: Traveller, Savage Worlds, D&D 5E and Mythras somehow in action!

First, for those interested I finally got around to updating my Video Game Review index. Now all the video games I've reviewed, in one spot! I was wondering why I don't do more paper and pencil game reviews, when I realized that really, what happens with PnP is that you can tell which games I like by what I produce....if a game is on my radar, you know I like it because I'm doing content for it.

The last two weeks have been weird for my local gaming circles. I have regular groups that meet on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and a prospective five part game on Mondays or Tuesdays in which I am getting to be (gasp!) a player are all ongoing.

Wednesdays are currently rotating between a D&D 5E game set in Enzada and a Traveller game which is two sessions in. This Traveller group is in the same sector of space as the Saturday group, but exploring a different subsector. We also have a possible new D&D 5E campaign budding once Enzada dies down, and this new campaign will explore Lingusia's Western Nakamura Isles.

Saturdays are hopping with an active Traveller campaign, and a long running D&D 5E level 15 campaign currently on hold. The Traveller campaign is an exploration of the Sirianthus Sector, which I'd started working on years ago but is now getting fully fleshed out. Last night I was unprepared for anything specific but the group agreed to an experiment, and I finally ran a game which hit two milestones: we played Savage Worlds as a fantasy RPG for the first time (it was very effective at the genre, and I love the Fantasy Companion) and I ran the game in my Altavir Campaign setting, which I had previously been considering for use with any number of systems from Fantasy AGE to 13th AGe and T&T. Well....tentatively at least maybe it turns out Savage Worlds will be he default system for Altavir going forward....I really enjoyed applying the Fast! Furious! Fun! ethos of SW to fantasy. We had some encounters with lead-lined skeletons, moss men and a gant scorpion in a quest for the ancient tome of evil, and a side quest involving a local witch and her evil temple. I'm hoping the rest of the group is up for it, but I think I could be pretty satisfied rotating between Traveller and Savage Worlds Altavir on Saturdays.

The final surprise was a pick-up session during the holiday of Mythras with a friend of mine who is running a historical campaign set late in the Crusades, involving what amounts to a game of ruthless opportunists cutting a bloody swathe through the holy land in searching for a lost relic in the form of Christ's cross. It was a fantastic game, more so because the GM runs games the way I like them (and I am a really particular player!)...I think the group plans to meet for Tuesdays with a planned story arc of 4-5 sessions. Definitely going to keep making this one.

I also learned that I really, really love playing Mythras when someone else is the GM.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Review: Conarium - A Lovecraft Adventure that Won't Drive You Mad (well, it will, but in the good way)

I actually snagged Conarium prior to the recent Steam Summer Sale so this has been sitting around for me waiting to get to it. I bought sight unseen, after reading it was a hard Lovecraft-inspired tale with direct influence from At The Mountains of Madness. Enough early Steam reviews suggested it was not horrifyingly bad....that was enough for me.

Well, my hunch paid off. This was an incredibly good game, a Lovecraft tale of horror, discovery, mystery and exploration all in the name of discovering that our frail mortal coils cannot handle the truth.

Conarium's tale is of a man...Frank....and Dr. Faust (aptly named, I must say), who have been part of an expedition to Antarctica funded to (among other things) investigate the antediluvian ruins of a lost age, one which you might imagine is the tip of the proverbial iceberg on what can be found in a Mythos Antarctica.

Besides the ruins, Frank is part of Dr. Faust's mysterious experiments with something called a Conarium. Coupled with a strange mixture of halluinogenic derived from salv divinorum, he and several others (it is implied, at least) have been inducing out-of-body experiences in a fashion which Lovecraft fans will quickly realize is resulting in events not unlike what we have seen in some other tales (such as "From Beyond.")

Frank begins his journey waking up in what appears to be a largely abandoned research base, with no memories (it just wouldn't be an adventure game with memories!) and a serious mystery to uncover as to where everyone went. As he dives deep in to the rabbit hole things get progressvely weirder and more disturbing, until ultimately his very life as well as sanity are both tested.

The game has some tried and true elements of the genre, such as: protagonist with amnesia, everyone is missing, and (most of the game) it's focus is on ambiance, horror, mystery and exploration.....but later on some very unexpected and horrifying threats emerge which will take hardcore fans of this genre by unpleasant surprise. Without giving anything away (spoilers by inference ahead) let me just reassure you that when "that time" comes run in a long, wide circle and be to escape and get out the way you came in, and be ready to do it twenty times in slightly different patterns until you do it right. It took me a while, but I got can you.

Aside from that moment of hardcore action terror, the game is otherwise very consistent with its exploratory/mystery nature and is shockingly good at building slow, horrific ambience. It is also surprisingly stingy in its actual use of Mythos lore and creatures....we get interesting hints, glimpses and momentary, terrifying moments of certain things, but nothing in such an over the top manner that you are left feeling saturated. The ambiance must be son was sleeping on the couch and woke up to tell me the game noise was making him scared (headphones went on around that point).

Overall I spent a bit under 6 hours playing the game and at the current price of $20 I'd say it was well worth it. If you love Lovecraft's Mythos, and you love adventure games, then this is a must have. A+

Five Spoiler-Filled Comments (you have been warned!):

1. If you get stuck this guy did a great speed-run which doubles as a good FAQ.

2. If you're wondering about the Mountains of Madness elements: the game focuses on the idea that long after the Old Ones departed earth and left their immense ruins, the serpent men created a necropolis to worship and revere them, and traces of the memory of this old empire of serpent men survived in surviving outlier colonies to be discovered. This game explores that idea in great depth.

3. The Conarium device of the game is stimulating it's namesake, the pineal gland, to allow its users to see into the other realms of space-time...and of course something else can see them back. There is one sequence which strongly suggests that this "thing" which can see back is what killed the Mad Arab (without actually stating such).

4. They were incredibly restrained in their use of the shoggoth, and when one does pop up...hoo boy, it was both a surprise as to where and a shocking moment (run!).

5. Frank's last name is Gilman. Siggghhhhhh. Very Lovecraft, Much Mythos. But yeah, almost as bad as putting Lovecraft into a game as himself....the game does not do the latter. In a weird inversion though Frank's last name does not appear to be relevant, and it is nowhere (in my playthrough, anyway) suggested he is from a small New England coastal town with exotic genealogy (Though I think the inference is that this is probably why his forays with the conarium machine worked where it failed for others).

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Top Secret Returns?!?!

Yep...per this article I have just learned that TSR (the new one, which published a revived "Dragon" magazine in the form of Gygax Magazine for a while) is upping a Kickstarter to a new edition of Top Secret, the Espionage RPG. From the Kickstarter:

TOP SECRET: NEW WORLD ORDER is the brand-new espionage role-playing game by Merle M. Rasmussen.
You are an agent of ICON, the International Covert Operatives Network. Working alone or with a team, you are tasked with the missions that other agencies can not, or will not, handle.
TOP SECRET: NEW WORLD ORDER is set in today's world of shadowy organizations, shifting alliances, high technology, and unpredictable threats.
Color me intrigued....the contents look pretty compelling:

I think I'm in at the Field Agent level. They say it can be fulfilled by November this year...that seems optimistic to me, but maybe the majority of the work is already done. Anyone else have experience with a TSR Kickstarter to share?

Sense of Scale: The True Size of the Hobby Games Market

There's a fascinating article here on ENWorld using ICV2 data which really hits home just how niche-of-niche the hobby games market, and within that the RPG market, really on over and take a look.

I think the only thing more impressive than the microscopic nature of RPGs in the midst of all of this is just how enormous video games have become, eclipsing

Monday, July 3, 2017

Runequest: Roleplaying in Glorantha - There's a Lot of Game in Here

First off, you don't need my impressions to give you a sense of Runequest: Roleplaying in Glorantha when you can find it right here for free. This edition is a fifty page free release to accompany the "Free RPG Day" which is, best I can tell, something other parts of the country get but no one in New Mexico participates in. Luckily (?) Chaosium is offering the print version for $9.95 on their site as well. I was a bit behind in snagging the latest Call of Cthulhu goodness so I threw a copy in for good measure.

My first impression on reading through the PDF is it happens to be a mostly complete game. Although specific bits (such as additional possible magic systems beyond spirit magic and rune use) and a bestiary are clearly reserved for a future actual release, you pretty much have about as much in this book as, say, Mythras Imperative offers, and Runequets also offers a scenario.

One of the reasons I'm grabbing a copy is that the new core system is really pretty classic and also pretty nice. It's got some "issues" depending on whether you are still sold on certain classic elements of BRP and RQ....I have no love of the strike rank mechanic, for example (but accept that it's still core to the Runequest design concept). I have fallen in love with Call of Cthulhu 7E's bold excision of the 3-18 stat ranges in favor of uniforn percentile scores, shoring up what now feels to me like a nearly forty year old artifact of game design derived from D&D. But all this aside, the new RQ looks a lot like old RQs of the past.

It's still "RQ 7th Edition" to me no matter what the Chaosium crew would like me to think. And the "Roleplaying in Glorantha" part is still annoying, but I guess in some respects this is a vanity product aimed at a niche audience so this is probably a design feature we will just have to accept if Glorantha is not your thing.

There is good news, though.....nothing overly unexpected.....but just from reading this tome I can safely say that running Runequest adventures in settings other than Glorantha should be just as easy as it was in 1982. All you have to do is embrace the runes and core conceits of the magic system as chracteristic of whatever setting you desire, and that's it. Gamers have been cutting the setting from the mechanics since the dawn of the hobby, this is nothing new here. And this sort of concern is ultimately only for people like me who do not need a pre-created world to run games in, or who find the specific design ethos of Glorantha not to their liking. For most gamers, I have a feeling the new Runequest is going to make Glorantha accessible and easy to adapt to in a way we haven't seen before.

Anyway....check it out....I am really hoping we get to see the final product later this year.

Friday, June 30, 2017

D&D 5E: Cretean Elder War Mage

Only a few elder war mages exist in Cretea, and they are powerful influences behind the scenes.

All of these stat blocks reflect the original design (for my Lingusia campaign) but I readily retooled these with a few modifications for units in other campaigns....I have derived, for example, Selindar units from these for Enzada with judicious replacement of equipment and some minor skill/power set tweaks. 

Cretean Elder War Mage
(Level 15 Evoker)
CR 11 (7,200 XP)
LN medium humanoid (human)
Initiative +1
AC 11 (robes) or 14 (mage armor)
HP 52 (15D6)
Speed 30 feet
Melee Attack dagger +7 attack (reach 5 ft, one target) 1D4+2 piercing damage.
Ranged Attack Fire Bolt +10 attack (ranged 120, one target) 3D10+5 fire damage.
STR 11 (0), DEX 13 (+1), CON 10 (0), INT 20 (+5), WIS 16 (+3), CHA 14 (+2)
Saves: INT +11, WIS +9
Languages: Cretean, Eastron, Middle Tongue, Old Tongue
Senses: Passive Perception 18
Skills: Arcana +10, Perception +8
Spell Save DC: 18
Spell Attack +10
Cantrips: blade ward, fire bolt, light, mending, true strike
1st Level Spells: Alarm, Expeditious Retreat, Mage Armor, Magic Missile
2nd Level Spells: Cloud of Daggers, Darkvision, Invisibility
3rd Level Spells: Fear, Fireball, Stinking Cloud
4th Level Spells: Arcane eye, Dimension Door, Fire Shield
5th Level Spells: Cloudkill, Wall of force
6th Level Spells: Globe of Invulnerability, True Seeing
7th Level Spells: Delayed Blast Fireball, Prismatic Spray
8th Level Spells: Meteor Swarm
Gear – Dagger +2, robes, Circlet of Blasting, Cloak of Protection +1, Ring of Fire Resistance


The elder war mages of Cretea are terrifying foes, ancient agents said to contain a direct lineage to the blood of the sun god Helios and so are excellent evokers. As the crème of the crop of battle mages, the few elder war mages rule their secretive orders and work behind the scenes with their network of spies to foment and embroil the city states in their secretive conflicts with one another.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

D&D 5E: Cretean Battle Mage

Few in number but both feared and valued, the seasoned Battle Mages are dangerous foes on the field:

Cretean Battle Mage
(Level 10 Evoker)
CR 4 (1,100 XP)
LN medium humanoid (human)
Initiative +1
AC 11 (robes) or 14 (mage armor)
HP 35 (10D6)
Speed 30 feet
Melee Attack dagger +5 attack (reach 5 ft, one target) 1D4+1 piercing damage.
Ranged Attack Fire Bolt +8 attack (ranged 120, one target) 2D10+5 fire damage.
STR 11 (0), DEX 13 (+1), CON 10 (0), INT 19 (+4), WIS 15 (+2), CHA 14 (+2)
Saves: INT +9, WIS +7
Languages: Cretean, Eastron, Middle Tongue
Senses: Passive Perception 16
Skills: Arcana +8, Perception +6
Spell Save DC: 15
Spell Attack +7
Cantrips: blade ward, fire bolt, light, mending, true strike
1st Level Spells: Alarm, Expeditious Retreat, Mage Armor, Magic Missile
2nd Level Spells: Cloud of Daggers, Darkvision, Invisibility
3rd Level Spells: Fear, Fireball, Stinking Cloud
4th Level Spells: Arcane Eye, Dimension Door, Greater Invisibility
5th Level Spells: Cloudkill, Scrying

Gear – Dagger +1, robes, Circlet of Blasting, Cloak of Protection +1


Cretean Battle Mages have short lifespans but in their time on the field are known for terrorizing the enemy with their brutal attacks. Their order is secretive and dedicated to martial conflict as much as any warrior, but their familiarity with magic makes them outcasts to be feared when their city state is not embroiled in war.

Monday, June 26, 2017

D&D 5E: Cretean Field Mage

Though suspicious of mages, Creteans still realize the value of magic on the battlefield...

Cretean Field Mage
(Level 6 Evoker)
CR 2 (450 XP)
LN medium humanoid (human)
Initiative +1
AC 11 (robes) or 14 (mage armor)
HP 21 (6D6)
Speed 30 feet
Melee Attack dagger +4 attack (reach 5 ft, one target) 1D4 piercing damage.
Ranged Attack Fire Bolt +7 attack (ranged 120, one target) 2D10 fire damage.
STR 11 (0), DEX 12 (+1), CON 10 (0), INT 18 (+4), WIS 15 (+2), CHA 14 (+2)
Saves: INT +7, WIS +5
Languages: Cretean, Eastron or Middle Tongue
Senses: Passive Perception 15
Skills: Arcana +7, Perception +5
Spell Save DC: 15
Spell Attack +7
Cantrips: blade ward, fire bolt, light, mending
1st Level Spells: Alarm, Expeditious Retreat, Mage Armor, Magic Missile
2nd Level Spells: Cloud of Daggers, Darkvision, Invisibility
3rd Level Spells: Fireball, Stinking Cloud

Gear – Dagger, robes


Aspiring field mages who wish to learn the arts of the evocation of Helios are fielded in battle, suffering status as outcasts even as they are feared and respected. Field mages are usually located just behind the phalanxes of the front line soldiers and spear casters, providing a range of explosive firepower to help devastate enemy lines.