Monday, May 22, 2017

Secrets of Enzada: Patron and Antagonist Gods

One concept I worked up both to emphasize how cosmopolitan Enzada's beliefs were, and how influential they could be was the concept of astrological signs which have a measurable impact on the daily lives of mortals. This manifests in the form of a patron deity who wants you to succeed, and an antagonist deity who wants you to fail....more on the pantheons soon!

The Divine Aspects: The Patron and Antagonist Deities of Enzadan Astrology

Enzadans believe strongly in the fates and the whims of the gods and spirits as having a direct impact on the destiny of a person. Each person in Enzada has a patron deity and an antagonist deity. Characters can roll at time of creation on the above chart. If the character rolls the same number twice then the character is “special” to that god in an unusual way.
   Characters who wish to roll from the alternate deity table for a patron and antagonist may do so, but must make a DC 15 Charisma check to demonstrate that they are sufficiently interesting to have attracted attention from more than the “Big Gods.”

Story Benefit: in situations where the deity might have an influence either favorably or negatively, then events will tend to go for or against the character in some subtle (and occasionally not so subtle) fashion.

Mechanical Benefit: A number of times per day equal to the character’s Charisma modifier (minimum 1), when the player feels that he is doing something that will benefit him he may call upon a favor from his patron; this typically calls for a DC 12 Will save, to demonstrate sufficient strength of character to gain the favor. The favor will typically grant advantage or a +2 bonus. If the attempt fails by 5 or more, then the antagonist god intervenes (usually with disadvantage or a -2 penalty).

Inspiration: When a character engages in an action that is especially compelling (i.e. it either provokes the antagonist deity or pleases the patron deity) he may gain inspiration immediately.

Secondary Deities of Elinzada

This list is ever expanding, but what follows are a sample from which to choose patron and antagonist deities that are not the principle gods of the Hub (see the earlier chart). Note that while each of the principle deities has a constellation of stars dedicated to them, each of the following gods has only a single star in their name (although some deities on this list once had one or more constellations to claim in eras past, when they were more important).

Hub Deities by Domain and Alignment:
# God Name      Symbol               Dominion           Domains
1 Sol Invictus          Sun                           Heavens                  Death, Destruction, Fire, Repose, Sun, Weather
2 Amadanthus         Shield                      Outer Darkness     Darkness, Death, Glory, Madness, Strength, War  
3 Sippurta               Venus Figure         In-Between            Charm, Community, Earth, Healing, Liberation
4 Drod                     Starscape                In-Between            Air, Darkness, Nobility, Weather
5 Utalos                   Skull                         Outer Darkness     Chaos, Darkness, Destruction, Evil, War
6 Mimbrata            Coin                         Heavens                  Artifice, Law, Luck, Nobility, Rune
7 Yganon                 Fire                           In-Between            Artifice, Fire, Knowledge, Liberation
8 Pytharos              Serpent                   In-Between            Animal, Earth, Good, Healing, Knowledge, Magic
9 Emachus              Storm cloud           In-Between            Air, Rune, Strength, Travel, Water, Weather
10 Navasar             spear                       In-Between            Death, Glory, Protection, Repose, Strength, War
11 Etyri                   Northern Star        In-Between            Charm, Community, Good, Law, Nobility, Travel
12 Natyne              Scroll of Wisdom  In-Between            Community, Healing, Knowledge, Magic, Rune
13 Chashar             Open palm             In-Between            Charm, Liberation, Luck, Protection, Travel, Trickery 
14 Gormash           Great Toad             Outer Darkness     Animal, Chaos, Earth, Evil, Strength, War  
15 Yazda                 Sword                      Heavens                  Air, Artifice, Protection, Rune, War
16 The Chimera    Octopus                  Outer Darkness     Animal, Chaos, Evil, Madness
17 Grasping Claw Claw                         Outer Darkness     Death, Destruction, Madness, War
18 Miradaka          Burning Eyes          In-Between            Goddess of Death and Gloom, Mistress of the In-Between
19 Umbras             Shadows                 In-Between            God of Shadows and Corruption; an undead god
20 Elinzada             Healing Hand        In-Between            Goddess of life, peace, community and love

Master Deity List (Primary Deities and Secondary Deities):
D100     Deity

1 Khashtaagrat
2              Enue
3 Shoes
Four Vdrdsha
5              Sitra
6 Yakaska
7 Wachan'Hular
8              Hanar the Bloody
9              Golgotha
10 Tenadrus
11 Priogar
12 Sumesthenes
13 Terenosh
Nominated three times Yspa Rukr
15 Thaven
16 Yappas Makurin
Seventeen Triktvr
18 Shadan Hatail
19 Sukavese
20 Wadan Should
21 Vakarial
22 Terengor
23 Hythera
Twenty-four Jupalis
Ota playing twenty-five
26            Yen’yuma
27 O'kigama
28 Malagontir
29 Ositro
30            Wen’dathan
Thirty-one Islks
32            Merestor
33 Murga
34 Yhodan
35            Merciless
36 Bayern
37 Warast
38 Ulgados
39 Palitonius
Forty Jms
41 Mereska
42 Drumia
43 Faragian
44 Ikathras
45 Saradan Tenor
46 Oolgam
47            Gravenor
48 Saw Will
On 49 Nenok
50 Enan Tyra
51 Priagas
52 Sheledentan
53            Selestar
54            Envirol
55            Hamath
56 Pallec
57            Sortor
58 inum
59 Priullian
60 Shegrath
61            The Ascended Kings
62 Azan Scatter
63-64 Sol Invictus
65-66 Amdanthus
67-68 Sippurta
69 trod
70-71 Utalos
72-73 Mimbrata
74-75 Yganon
76-77 Pytharos
78-79 Emachus
80-81      Navasar
82-83 Etyri
84-85 Natyne
86-87 Chashar
88-89 Gormash
90-91 spring
92-93      The Chimera
94-95 Yemash'Hatal
96-97 Miradaka
98 shadows
99-00 Elinzada

Friday, May 19, 2017

How to do your own Alien: Covenant-Inspired Traveller Campaign (Stats for Neomorphs, Xenomorphs and Androids)

First, make sure everyone has multiple PCs ready. Keep the extras in cold sleep as "reserves" just in case! As PCs are depleted, they can go to the back cold berth chamber and thaw out reinforcements.

CORE SETTING: set the game in the early 22nd century and ditch the whole Imperium setting, Traveller aliens, all that. You can roll the timeline forward and mirror the film universe. Although it is popular to use Welyand Corp. (later Weyland-Yutani) as the big bad corporation, there are other corporations out there sending colonists and miners into space (Sevastopol, for example).

TECH LEVEL: In the early 22nd century the upper limit of technology is at TL 10 with some experimental and rare TL 11. By the late 22nd century TL 11 is becoming more common with rare TL 12 tech available (the time of Aliens). By the 25th century (the era of Alien: Resurrection and beyond) TL 13 has become normal, but TL 14 remains mostly theoretical. Alien technology, such as from the engineers, suggest they achieved TL 16 in bioengineering, but may have been lower tech (as low as TL 10 or less) with relic high tech remnants in use by the time of the colony (or homeworld?) destroyed in A:C. This is up for interpretation, obviously. The actual xenoforms, of course, has no TL.

ANDROIDS: Androids ought to be a single option for one random PC. His stats should be engineered at a cool UPP of CAAAA5 with either a selection of 6 pre-programmed rank zero skills followed by a career, or a selection of 6 pre-programmed rank 0 skills, 4 rank 1 skills, 2 rank 2 skills and 2 rank 3 skills (but with no career; this is his first mission). Androids are not able to heal without some mechanical assistance, but have internal routines (nanites?) which will sustain healing at the rate a human does, or maybe slightly faster under certain conditions. Unlike a human, dismemberment doesn't kill an android, but when an android reaches 0 in two physical stats it is physically impaired but a INT (10+) check means it is still able to speak and reason. It is destroyed (but maybe not beyond repair) if all hits are reduced to zero. Androids have to adhere to a code of conduct, but they can learn new skills. Once an android is designed, it is possibly forced in to a career of choice during which it can acquire new skills.

Androids are notorious in the Alien Universe for serving the Company first, and of course there's David, the original. At the referee's discretion a player could be secretely chosen to be the "android" planted by the company to insure corporate interests are held up in the event of an unexpected discovery....

FTL TRAVEL: Jump drive in the Alien Universe takes 1D6 months per Jump, and can only get up to Jump 2 with extremely expensive drives such as on the Prometheus. By the era of Aliens Jump 3 may be feasible and down to 1 month of travel per jump. By the era of Alien: Resurrection Jump 6 and 1 weeks' travel times per jump may be feasible. These are not the carefully calibrated rules of a obsessive Alien nut, just the rough guidelines of a regularly obsessed Alien junkie.

XENOMORPHS: The alien xenomorphs are tough but can die. Assume they have about 8 points of armor with an average UPP of DCD500; Melee (natural) 3, Recon 3, Stealth 3. They deal 1D+STR Mod with claws but have AP 4 with a strike and their tail does 1/2D+STR mod but no piercing (unless you think the AvP movies are canon). Their double-jaw strike is tough: it deals 2D+STR Mod and is AP 8! It can smash through glass designed to hold tight in the vacuum of space. Xenomorphs sustain half damage from all heat sources that deal damage and are Armor 8 across their body. They sustain half damage against ordinary projectiles (slug throwers) but can take normal damage from energy weapons. They take full damage from explosive projectiles (minus normal Armor). These damage rules will help reflect that they can take a lot of damage from slug throwers (see Alien: Covenant and Alien: Isolation for examples) while the colonial marines were pretty effective with their plasma rifles, flamers and grenades.

Dealing damage to an alien is risky: if you're at point blank range a DEX (10+) roll is needed to avoid getting splash damage from their molecular acid blood. If this hits, it ignores/destroys all armor dealing 1D6 damage per round for 1D6 rounds before burning out (add negative effect per round to damage!) If you are at close range the check is DEX (8+).

Aliens likely also have regenerative properties: they seem to sustain a lot of damage before actually dying, and while we've never seen one limp off to heal, it's likely this happens on rare occasion. I'd suggest 1D healing/hour, or 1/combat round for "alien on steroids."

ALIEN QUEEN: If you drop an alien queen in her UPP is F9F600; Melee (natural) 4, Recon 4, Tactics (small unit, alien) 2; Stealth 2. She deals 3D+Str Mod with claws (with AP 4) and her tail does 1D+STR (and AP 2). Her massive set of double-jaws can deal 3D+STR with AP 8 (they are powerful, but in Aliens they didn't appear to be as effective as, say, the xenomorph in A:C). She can attack nearby foes with these melee attacks. She's smart enough to grasp the basics of human technology, though not perhaps anything beyond the ability to predict immediate behavior, how to open and work doors  and elevators, and maybe the general idea that someone has planted a bomb near the hive. Optional: if the queen ever gets a claw effect od 6+ on a humanoid target she automatically rips it in two pieces.

NEOMORPHS: I'd stat these buggers out as UPP AD9400; Melee (natural) 2, Recon 2, Stealth 2. They have claw at 1D+STR Mod with AP 2 and a vicious bite at 2D+Str Mod with AP 2. Unlike xenomorphs the neomorphs seem to have some sort of eerie ability to communicate, though demonstrated for exactly five seconds on screen before one is shot, and entirely unclear what the result of that communication could be.

Neomorphs are made when a host steps on or irritates the tiny bulbous eggs which reside in obscured underbrush, releasing spores which cluster and bore into an available pathway into the host. The change seems to take up to 1D6 hours. A victim pretty much can make a DEX (8+) roll to avoid contamination if they are aware they have become exposed, but it's DEX (10+) if they are not. If the roll is failed then the victim is doomed to be killed as host to a neomorph. Newborn neomorphs are still tough (UPP 6D6300; half damage from attacks).

FACEHUGGERS: The facehuggers are the requisite protoform that implants an alien "embryo" (a cancerous mass that steals from the target to form a new xenomorph) into a gripped host. They emerge from the alien eggs. Facehugger UPPs are AE5400; Melee (grip) 4; Stealth 4. They can spring attack a host from a laucnh point or an egg, gaining a 1D surprise advantage on initiative for the first round of combat. A Facehugger once gripping a target's face requires an extreme STR (14+) to pull free, but damaging it will reduce this to STR (10+) although it then bleeds acid exactly like it's larger brethren, though only targets at point blank range are at risk (DEX (10+) to avoid or take 1D6 acid damage for 1D6 rounds, adding effect for each round of damage). Facehuggers can voluntarily secrete acid to burn through masks and faceplates as well.

CHESTBURSTERS: These are the frail forms of the alien xenomorph before it grows rapidly over about eight hours through an undocumented process. It can appear vestigial or like a fully-formed, tiny, gossamer-like version of the adult. In this form it is mostly harmless and seeks to escape to grow. It's UPP would be 7C5300; Stealth 4. It can still bite for 1D+STR Mod and bleeds acid like the facehugger rules.

ENGINEERS: If you think there's a chance another living engineer might show up, they seem to be genetically enhanced humanoids with either an eerie compatibility with Terrans or a clear biological ancestry, possibly caused by their ancient genetic tampering (and social tampering evident in the similarities of their language to ancient proto-Sumerian dialects). Treat an engineer as a human of abnormally large size with a +2 STR, +2 CON and +2 INT, but they can pack a punch, dealing 2D+STR Mod damage with a wicked backhand. They regard all other humanoids (especially those they may have created) as inferior and react to them with potentially dangerous hostility. With what we know so far in the Aliens Universe, engineers had some sort of conflict two thousand years ago in which they almost destroyed Earth but instead destroyed their weapons' depots with the alien black goo pathogen. Engineers still exist (or did) right up to about ten years ago on at least one remote earthlike world, but these engineers seemed wofeully unequipped to deal with David; which may explain why the one from Prometheus tried to take him out quickly.

THE PATHOGEN MUTATIONS: Only a few vials of this substance seem to be left. A viral and highly destructive pathogen, it appears to at minimum dis-incorporate it's host, turning the host into the raw material for new, hostile life. If it doesn't do that it creates parasites which invade the host and spawn new, even more hostile organisms, each stage mutating and relying on further hosts to create still more, newer breeds. It is as if someone weaponized evolution. Exposure to this substance is always lethal. Indirect exposure can lead to impregnation by mutated alien byproducts (such as the squid thing and the Deacon alien). It appears possible, with time, to manipulate and program the pathogen to generate specific results through bioengineering.  If a PC is exposed, give them 2D6 hours before "detonation." Each hour the host takes 1 INT damage. When the host reaches 0 INT it goes feral and dangerous. Direct exposure leads to zombie-like mutants which gain +4 to STR, DEX and CON and deal 2D6+STR Mod damage with fists; they take double damage from fire. Many other mutation variants are possible.

Movie Review - Alien: Covenant

This film released in Europe already, so it's US release has been preceded by a round of reviews suggesting everything from "meh" to thorough excitement. The common factor seems to be whether or not you wanted to see an Alien movie in the first place....if the answer is yes, then Alien: Covenant does not disappoint.

Scott's return to the Alien Universe post-Prometheus provides a direct sequel to the latter and a "still somewhat removed" prequel to the original Alien. This time around we're presented with a colony ship, the "Covenant," which hosts 2216 crew, one android, and 2,000 colonists in deep sleep. After an unexpected encounter with a stellar phenomenon the ship finds itself deep in unknown territory but still years from its destination world....and an unexpected message draws them to what appears to be (at first, naturally) a superior habitat to the world they had laid claim to.

There are some odd scenarios at work initially. If one of your main gripes with Prometheus was "Why do people in space, on starships, with degreed professions seem to act so dumb at the wrong times?" then Covenant's crew isn't 100% going to hold your faith. In their defense they play the "We totally didn't expect this to go as it all did" card just fine.....and on rare occasion even demonstrate a propensity for foresight (such as sending down an investigative team with actual weapons). But then somebody panics at the wrong moment or decides that funny stomach ache is nothing to complain about initially and BAM next thing you know stuff is exploding and neomorphs are everywhere.

Note that Call of Cthulhu fans will understand much of what goes on in this movie as basically being what happens when you fail a Sanity Check.

But was a fun ride. I can't even get in to the latter part the film to avoid spoilers, but when the proper xenomorph arises at last it is a surprisingly fun reveal for a monster which has been known in cinema for nearly forty years now.

Of great note in this film is Fassbender's recurring role as David as well as the younger, newer model of android known as Walter. Any fan of Fassbender will be happy, but seeing him play these two roles makes the movie that much more interesting....and David, well....I'll talk more about David after the spoiler warning.

Now, is this movie worth it to the non Alien fanatic? If you liked the original Alien films but disliked Prometheus is it worth it? I'm going to suggest it is probably something both the former and latter can enjoy if you are a general fan of horror and SF....and the latter especially might enjoy seeing tighter closure on the Prometheus plot offered here (albeit at the expense of a range of new mysteries).

This film was a solid A, and only it's intermediary status as a sequel/prequel prevents it from attaining true glory. We all know how this movie had to end (more or less) and we all know where it was going to start (more or less). The two hours were just the ride from A to B.

UPDATE: After the second view I am bumping this to an A+. I just loved this movie even more the second time. So many interesting details. From a Traveller gamer perspective, this is what happens when a bunch of PCs with poor career life decisions end up cold berth traveling to a new colony world when Very Bad Stuff happens along the way. Brilliant movie in capturing the "doomed colony ship" genre that is a part of SF fiction and gaming but not seen so gruesomely well done in film (see Pandorum and possibly Event Horizon for the next best examples).


First, Alien: Covenant deserves kudos for giving the franchise it's first true recurring villain that isn't an alien and isn't a variant on the Peter Weyland theme. Fassbender's David is truly evil...or inimical, maybe....and his role in this and future movies is utterly fascinating to watch unfold.

Second, way for Ridley Scott to not only provide a stand-alone movie, but one which really wrap up key elements of the Prometheus film even as it clearly sets us up for something much worse to come. The way this movie leaves things.....Hooooo boy, I really hope it does well for him to carve out the next sequel or two he was suggesting could be done.

Eight things I thought were glitches, particularly disturbing, or which set up interesting ramifications for future Alien films:

1. So this was either an active Engineer planet or colony only a decade before Covenent stopped by. At the end of Prometheus Shaw and David are possibly heading off to find the engineer homeworld.....if this was it, it leads to more interesting questions about what happened to the engineers over the last two thousand years (though the possibility that their own bioengineered pathogen has something to do with it seems likely).

2. There's going to be a film novelisation and a prequel novelisation. Having seen the film now, I can't help but wonder how the prequel novel will be anything more than a protracted snuff film on paper'll see.

3. Some sort of "neutrino emission" was described as the cause of the random anomaly. A sunspot or flare, essentially. While it was presented as a completely random phenomenon, this is freakin' space, man, and unless you buy in to the perfectly valid notion that SF writers have no sense of scale, the only other likely alternative is that there's some mechanism that triggered this effect. That was never suggested in the movie, however....which inevitably leaves one to wonder if the Covenant crew truly are less lucky than all the other crews in the Alien Universe so far. (Even the Hadley's Hope colonists were sent to LV426 and didn't stumble on to anything until corporate slimeball sent them looking!)

(EDIT: I had the thought last night that we do know this: Peter Weyland's Prometheus expedition went in to this region of space, and Weyland Corp. apparently doesn't know exactly where, but it does know it was somewhere out maybe in the last decade by "coincidence" Weyland Corp. made sure a lot of colony efforts were directed into that region of space....ergo, less unfortunate bad luck than one might think. Hmmm.)

4. About my only disappointment in the movie was Walter's confrontation with David, when it became clear David has replaced himself with Walter. I kept trying to spot the hole that should have been in his lower jaw but did not see it.....convenient I suppose or perhaps suggestive that a piercing wound like that on an android was easily sealed? Hard to say.

5. Incubation times for aliens embryos have never made much sense. If you go by the first film, then the incubation period can be at least a day or two, and the victim will succumb within hours of the facehugger crawling off to die. In other movies the time has varied wildly. In this movie it appears that the facehugger doesn't even need to be attached for very long, based on the fact that the second implant colonist was "hugged" for maybe a matter of seconds on camera? (EDIT: on second view I realize that each time an incubation period was needed the film provides a queue...think "eight bells"....and sets us up for the requisite time needed for an alien to grow up.)

Here are two fridge logic moments I am still mulling over: #1 is where did the first eggs come from, and #2 is exactly how did David engineer those facehugger embryos. It strongly implies that the "queen alien" is not the only way the xenomorphs can create eggs and breed. Alternatively, it could mean that the xenomorphs in this film, while similar, are not exactly the same as the ones found on the Space Jockey's ship in Alien.

6. So the neomorphs were a "new stage" of life from the engineer pathogen. David used the pathogen to wipe out the engineers and all life on this planet. He then....bioengineered from the pathogen's result? Tinkered with it? There was no life on the was not entirely clear to me if the pathogen dissolved/killed everyone or if it was also mutating (EDIT: on second viewing the film says both happened). If the latter, where were the creatures? I'll be seeing this again this weekend, will maybe get a better idea then of what his vile master plan was (or how it worked out, aside from the whole "David is engaging in alien 4-H to make the xenomorph" deal which I suspect is still leaving us for more reveals.)(EDIT: on second view, there's still a question of what happened to the neomorphs or other monsters possibly created by the pathogen release, of which we know little other than that A: they are reminiscent of Gibson's Alien 3 ideas, B: they were considered inferior to the final xenomorph form by David, and C: they exhibit a creepy behavioral pattern that suggests they are not quite the be-all-end-all killers the xenomorphs are, even while being very good at it.)

7. Speaking of which, the idea that David was breeding for a xenomorph mutation seems fraught with weird implications that leave me really interested to see where the story goes next....because, of course, the xenomorphs he created could not likely be the first ones, since the ship from Alien was clearly ancient, likely a vessel from before the engineers had their destructive collapse. (EDIT: in re-watching Prometheus with my son I was also reminded of the eerie green crystal resting at the altar of what looks like a xenomorph, which of course corroborates the idea that David only rediscovered the xenomorph form, rather than created it). (EDIT #2: On seeing Alien: Covenant a second time with the extended clan I feel rather confident that the film provided a pretty cogent explanation for what is going on while leaving specifics to future exploration/exploitation.)

8. And on the xenomorph: when you see it first appear as a chest-burster, while it may be tempting to wonder why on earth it appears as a tiny, gossamer-like but fully formed humanoid, I refer only to the fact that I seem to recall Scott wanting to do exactly that in the original Alien film but not being able to make it work in a convincing manner. (It is also a creepy throwback to the Alien statuary in exactly the same position, arms stretched wide, as it imitates David.)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Star Trek: Discovery

In contrast to The Orville, which is a comedy spoof on Star Trek (and extremely recognizable as such), we also have Star Trek: Discovery, which I know is intended to serve as a series taking place ten years before the original series, but....dang it feels like a real reboot more than anything.

Here it is:

The only really recognizable creatures are the Vulcans. Almost everything else appears designed to give Star Trek a facelift that makes the JJ Abrams movies look positively frugal by comparison.

I mean.....those Klingons.....very interesting. I guess the question becomes: are these Klingons some other subspecies, some offshoot, or the new official look? Trek does like to do this to Klingons every few series, but the newest look is about as out there as you can get and still call them Klingons.

It makes me want to drag out Starships and Spacemen, and every time someone rolls for weird alien headbumps (regardless of roll) tell them they are Klingons!

Gods of Enzada XIII: Inhuman Gods

The Inhuman Gods

   Many are the ancient races of Enzada, and among them are some very long-lived beastkin, such as the ratkin, the egleppi and other humanoids that bear as much in common with beasts as man. These different races and their cultures have a variety of unusual gods.

Hanar the Bloody           The Lord of Slaughter
Chaotic Evil; Runes, War, Madness; Duwende Cthonic God
   The duwende dwarves sought refuge under the earth five thousand years ago to escape the terrible reign of the ancient Inhuridan Empire. In their long journey into the winding byways of the deep underworld beneath the Hub of Etyri, the dwarves encountered many ancient chthonic beings that were at once threatening and benign. One such being was Hanar the Bloody, who is said to have been a great wyrm that took on dwarven form and rules the dwarves for a time as a bloody emperor. To this day, though no one knows what happened to Hanar those thousands of years ago, his memory is carried on by dedicated warrior cults who revere the Lord of Slaughter, practicing the dwarven art of berserkergang in his name.

Gold'gatha                          Lord of the Great Shiny Heap    
True Neutral; Artifice, Earth, Trickery, Luc; Ratkin God
   The stories around Gold'gotha’s manifestation as as many and varied as there are ratkin to tell them. The best that has been pieced together is that Gold'gotha is a great device or machine, or perhaps a massive heap of sentient rubble located deep in the caverns beneath the city of Uralhat (though some say it is far away, or in the In-Between, so who knows) that speaks prophetic declarations to its followers. The most popular story is that Gold'gotha fell from the sky and imbedded itself deep in the earth, where it has cared for the ratkin who protected it in those early days ever since. Some even claim it granted sentience to the ratkin, making them what they are today (and all of civilization thanks Gold'gotha for that).

Yaspa Rukar                    God of Frogs                   
Chaotic Neutral; Egleppi Deity
   This mysterious non-human deity is regarded as the batrachians creator god for egleppi and other amphibious beings. His cults are a mystery to most everyone, and their purposes obscure.

Shadan Hatail                 God of Lizard Men
True Neutral; Reptillian God (primordial)
   The lizard men of Selindar worship this deity, claiming it is their creator god, a being from beyond the stars that seeded the land with their kind when the earth was young. They do not attempt to reconcile this belief with the parallel myth of Pytharos, of the Dasamite pantheon, though some lizard men in that region claim Pytharos was the first immortal demiurge of their kind, created as a son by Shadan Hatail.

Azan Serak        
True Neutral; Sholtiric Ophidian Deity

   The chief deity of the ophidians is the god Azan Serak, an ancient deity that they claim was the father of Drod the star God. The ophidian cults feel that Azan Serak forged the very substance of time and space as an experiment, and from this weave of the cosmos he sent forth his spawn, of which Drod was but one, to tunnel through it to see what his creations had wrought. They feel that all life on Enzada evolved naturally as a course of the cosmic weaving, and that Pytharos was simply the greatest of an ancient legacy of their kind, who created humanity and their ilk in a clever alchemical experiment.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The New Star Trek Series Looks Amazing!

Seriously, I can't wait:

Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes is now available in PDF

If you're an old fan of Tunnels & Trolls and Flying Buffalo (or even the later Sleuth Productions) then odds are you've either seen or played Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes. I own two copies of this game, as well as a third very worn original edition....getting a PDF version is a no-brainer.

For those not familiar with it, MSPE was a modern ruleset adapted from Tunnels & Trolls 5th Edition (the legendary edition everyone talks about when praising T&T, fyi). In many ways it was the definitive follow-up to T&T, and had T&T 6th edition not been mythical it could have introduced the extra mechanical features of MSPE and the game would have been perfect at that point.

MSPE is excellent for historical and modern gaming up through the nineties. It's missing the stuff you need to take it in to the internet age but I think such equipment and rules as needed could be added without too much effort. The game itself supports any range of mystery, suspense, action and adventure style drama with an emphasis on realism and verisimilitude....I have never played another game which so effectively left you with a feeling of mortal fear for your character's imminent risk of death in a gun battle, even as you blazed away to glory thanks to some amazing saves. It's a grimly efficient system for hardboiled adventure, and true to the T&T rules it is based on life is cheap and to the careful go the spoils. Like certain other historical/modern systems (Call of Cthulhu) MSPE encourages creative and smart play with realistic consequences.

You could do Indiana Jones in MSPE....just remember he's probably earned a lot of XP over the years. You could also do The Shadow, the Phantom or the 1938 Batman. Hell, you could do the Nolan Batman with this system without too much effort. It is not a system for superheroes, though....but I could see someone modding it for such.

Some of my fondest 80's gaming experiences were with MSPE. One of my most memorable convention games was around 1986 or 1987 and while I forget the name of the GM (he was known for a prolific Stormbringer fanzine back in the day) he ran this awesome game involving a squard in Vietnam looking for a group of missing POWs. It was an intense, fun experience and the game's rules were amazingly evocative of the sense of danger and urgency of being in hostile territory with death around every corner. It was Real-Effing-Vietnam instead of Fantasy-Effing_Vietnam (we got plenty of the latter out of some awesome T&T games).

This plus the recently re-released Tunnels & Trolls 5th Edition has me very nostalgic for the 80's right now. If I could find a PDF of 1st edition Gamma World, DragonQuest and a copy of the Red-on-Black Cover Palladium Fantasy 1st edition original, then the trip down nostalgia lane would be nearly complete for me!

I must think a bit about working up a blog supplement for MSPE soon that provides equipment and rules to carry it in to the 2010's. Hmmmm.

By the way, if you want to jump right in to MSPE it's one solo adventure, Adventure of the Jade Jaguar, has been available in PDF for ages.

Monday, May 15, 2017

A Breather!

I've actually gotten through the gruelling month of "all work and no play." It was sufficiently busy that I have gotten no gaming in for weeks....worked an average of 70 hours per week, and essentially having no sense of work-life-play balance at all.

It will all be worth it, though. Log term employment security, profits, etc etc.

Anyway! I still have about seven pre-loaded posts but you'll start seeing more new and topically relevant content from me again.

Gods of Enzada XII: Pre-Inhuridan Gods

Pre-Inhuridan Gods

Before the rise and fall of the Inhuridan Emprie was an ancient time, before man developed metal tools and writing. The pre-Inhuridan gods are ancient and powerful, but often completely forgotten. Once they may have been a thriving pantheon, but now only a few are still remembered and worshipped.

Enue                   Lady of Flowers and Spring
True Neutral; Charm, Earth, Plant; Pre-Inhuridan Goddess
   Enue is the benevolent goddess of Springtime and the budding flowers it brings. She is a nature goddess, said to have been more prominent in ancient pre-Inhuridan times who survived the time of the empire as a household spirit that oversaw the safety of small gardens and groves. Today, she is regarded as little more than a protective spirit who blesses households that grow flowers, but some scholars mention that some of the oldest and most ominous ancient ruins, especially those overgrown with deadly flowering plants have been attributed to her ancient pagan temples.

Enana                 Goddess of the Primal Moon
Neutral Evil; Charm, Trickery, Animal, Magic; Pre-Inhuridan Goddess
   The mysterious goddess of Enzada’s primary moon (Theia) is a mysterious and dangerous goddess, said to be the patron of witches and lycanthropes, a primal woman whose merest kiss can induce lycanthropy in those she bequeaths favors to. Enana was one of the ancient pre-Inhuridan pagan goddesses, much like her sisters Enue and Sitra, who have survived into modern times thanks to mystery cults that prosper in the back alleys and byways of the Hub of Etyri. Enana is rarely worshipped in the open save on moonlight nights in sacred groves by witches. The worship of the moon as a signifier of the harvest is reserved for her companion deity, the Vadradasha, a southern moon god adopted from the Dasamites.

Sitra                    Goddess of the Depths
True Neutral; Darkness, Earth, Plant; Pre-Inhuridan Cthonic Goddess
   This may well be one of the oldest chthonic earth deities worshipped in the region. Sitra’s name and appearance have changed over the ages, but she is regarded as a goddess of the old harvest, though from ancient temples it is clear she once demanded blood sacrifice to insure the crops grew. Sitra today is regarded as a dark pagan spirit of the earth, lurking in the depths of the underworld where she lies coiled amongst her subterranean kin. Though humans worship her mostly in rural communities and mountain towns, the duwende dwarves for reasons unknown only refer to her in curses and spite; legend has it that the goddess personally cursed the duwende long ago in exchange for letting them seek refuge beneath the earth during the reign of the Inhuridan Empire. The only blood sacrifices offered to her today are of farm and game animals.

Priogar                             The Architect
Lawful Neutral  Inhuridan Deity (surviving)
   Priogar was one of the last ancient Inhuridan gods, said to have belonged to a great pantheon worshipped only by the Daharesh elite and regarded as “gods among gods” by all. There are hints that these gods were ascended daharesh immortals who achieved divinity through unification with spirits, but how much of that is true is unknown. Priogar, the architect god, is one of the few such deities to have survived five thousand years and remains worshipped by the Eternal Order of Architect.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Gods of Enzada XI: Other Gods

Other Gods

   There are many other gods from lesser sub-pantheons or specialized faiths throughout Enzada. All told there are perhaps 1,000 known cults and deities worshipped in the Hub of Etyri, a staggering number, but it is a popular pastime of the people of this land to find an interesting faith and explore it, often choosing several different and even contradictory religions throughout their lifetime. A few of the more popular gods include:

Chashar, the Lord of Beggars
Loved by thieves and beggars, they believe that appeasing this god grants them luck in their endeavours.

Yumidarin, the Hunter
This is an aboriginal god popular in the deserts of Mazadran and Waladar, believed to grant great boons to hunters who call upon him for aid. A society of Selindari rangers have taken to the worship of Yumidarin.

Gormash the Devourer
This mysterious god is revered by underworld denizens, including sarnatha and goblinkin. Gormash is a massive, toad-like figure when depicted in idols, offering a cessation to the unceasing greed and gluttony that grasps the heart of the goblinkin.

Yazda The Sword Dancer
Another deity popular among fighters who favor the sword, for it is said that Yazda was once a mortal who crafted a blade so perfect that it could cut through the fabric of the cosmos. The gods supposedly stole Yazda away to insure he crafted no more blades for mortals, and he has been a source of reverence among smiths and swordsmen ever since. Many believe that there truly is a legendary blade, the Sword of Yazda, that can cut through reality itself.

The Chimera
This mysterious and deadly god is so terrifying that most civilized realms will do everything that they can to wipe out a manifestation of the Chimera’s cult. The god is a many-formed entity that comes from the Spaces Between, and promises eternal life and a transformation to dark power in exchange for the worship of mortals; it speaks through its oracles, called the Voidspeakers, to charm and subdue humans in to serving it. Those who succumb tend to change, in horrible ways. Aberrations of all sorts are spawned from and devoutly worship this terrifying entity.

Yemash’Hatal, The Grasping Claw
This mysterious god of death and chaos is an overwhelming, terrifying entity that is said to greedily seek out errant souls for its own mysterious purposes. The followers of this god learn to feed it and to create wards against the beast , protecting their own souls at death. Many undead manifest as a result of the taint of the Grasping Claw.

Miradaka, Maiden of Darkness
This mysterious goddess often speaks to those of unusual talent from her dreadful domain in the In-Between. She is served by a decadent race that revels in pain, and offers dark pacts to mortals who seek her out.

Zaag Sal                            Keeper of the Gates of the Outer Darkness
Chaotic Evil; Demon God
   Zaag Sal is worshipped in the darkest corners of the earth by aberrations, madmen and demons who have managed to gain a permanent foothold somehow on mortal soil through permanent corruption of possession. Zaag Sal is seen less as a deity and more as a cosmic entity, the being which holds fast the gates of the Outer Darkness and insures that the tidal flood of horrors in that realm cannot escape into the Mortal Plane. The cults of Zaag Sal seek to awaken him, to free him of his burden, which they believe he is forced to do by the other gods to prevent the flight of their imprisoned kind, and they want to free him so the gates may be opened wide.

Nenok Sur                        King of Kings
Unknown; Lost God of the Dead Kingdom
   There are a handful of scholars in the Hub of Etyri seeking to study this lost god of the Dead Kingdom and return his faith to reality, believing he may have been a powerful god of old. Little is yet understood of this deity, however, and its priesthood still more closely resembles a temple of scholars and antiquarians instead of priests.

Enan Tyra                         Queen of Queens          
Unknown; Lost Goddess of the Dead Kingdom

    This lost goddess of the Dead Kingdom was paired with Nenok Sur, and those students seeking to understand one god necessarily study Enan Tyra as well. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

To the Creators of D&D 5E content on and please do more high level content

5E is currently very well supported by level 1-5 modules. It is entirely possible currently to run content at this level into the indefinite future. The game itself is exceeding well stocked with the tools to make content at this level: it is low hanging fruit.

5E is just a bit low on content for levels 6-10, but it is is really weak on content for levels 11 and up right now. There are a few decent modules out there that take you up to level 15, and only one or two books out of all the content that address high level gaming beyond that. We have an occasional product on that address the idea of epic level content (levels 17-20, or looking at what to do after level 20 is reached).

The problem is: designing content for level 1-5 is trivial, and easy. Game writers are doing this at a rate of churn that is simply extraordinary. One of the reasons for this is due to the legacy of D&D (and Pathfinder) being a game which supports 20 levels (or more) of play while in fact being most "playable" at levels 1-5 with a "feasibility cap" at level 8-10. As a result, in most prior editions of the game it was generally accepted that the average game group rarely went beyond level 10 in play, and many groups tended to hit the level 5-6 range and then stopped and moved on from there. The reason for this was primarily a matter of complexity: as you leveled up in prior editions the game got more complex, and that complexity translated into more work for the DM, more work for the players, and more time spent resolving actions in the game.

Here's the problem: I've run D&D 5E up to level 17 now and I am here to tell you that this may be the first edition of the game to keep the complexity level even and measured (if not entirely flat). My level 16-17 games have been playing out with only a modest level of complexity comparable to level 5-10 play previously. Levels 1-5 in D&D 5E remain by far the easiest levels at which to run, and are reasonably considered even easier to run than in prior editions. But from level 5 to at least level 17? The complexity is surprisingly measured and much flatter than it ever was before.

For example: Combats at level 17 are running with the same speed and complexity as the prior ten levels. They are no more or less complex than before. Part of this is the flatter math, but much of it relates to the core mechanics and the ever-important distinction of the concentration element of spells. Simple changes like concentration requirements and more intuitive rules to adjudicate advantage and disadvantage have made high level combat play out exactly like low level combat (just with, you know....more choice).

People don't necessarily realize this, though. The game's default assumptions for most prior editions have been that high level play is complex, more time-consuming and fraught with unanticipated perils for the DM. But this simply isn't true anymore; it's much better now than it ever was before, and is significantly improved over the nightmare that was D&D 3.5/Pathfinder in which DM prep was tantamount to wasted time and spilt tears. Players can, once again, think about carrying out the lives of their characters all the way to level 20 if they want. But to do so, we need more content! More high level modules, high level monsters, high level stuff to help the time-deficient DM.

So to game writers working on D&D OGL content: think about it! There's a market for higher level content, I promise you. It's worth some effort to produce some high level modules. I know I'll buy them. And, being a writer of said material as well, I need to use what time I have (on rare occasion) to try and release some useful high level content as well.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Gods of Enzada X: The Old Gods and the Enemione of Symvaere in the North

The Old Gods and Enemione of Symvaere

The Old Gods: There is a class of god that is remote, vast and distant which is worshipped by the men of Symvaere. These gods seem to be aloof and disinterested in the goings-on of mankind, instead presiding over the elements and nature of the world. The Old Gods are believed by some to include a goddess who presides over the Weave itself, called Hexaka, the creator of all things magic. Though the gods are old and quiet, they are regarded as the symbols of the designs of creation and revered by all. They appearto be a class apart from the scheming Enemione. All of these deities belong to the old barbarian patheon of deities which began in Threngaul and migrated south during the great invasion which led to the downfall of Gatalas.

There is an ancient tome which tells the secret truth of the Old Gods. This book, called the Grimoire of the Unspeakable, was penned by an anonymous madman during the height of the old empire, and within its pages is a troubling tale: behind the scenes, buried within a weave of lies and deception so thick that almost no one can even comprehend the truth let alone parse it out from what few facts exist, the Old Gods are servants of their dark father of chaos, the Hyadomachias, the great Wormlord of chaos which rests imprisoned beneath the northern mountains of Threngaul, a terrible dreaming blight upon the land. The remoteness of these gods is there for a purpose: they require the unyielding devotion of their flock, and to reveal any grand design toward the awakening of their dark father on the Hour of the Apocalypse would be to give their hideous game away. Secretly some of the Old Gods scheme for power of their own, to awaken Hyadomachias purely so he can in that brief moment of awakening release a concept known as the Dream, the Oineros, which will escape the prisoner, Hypnos, lord of sleep. In that brief moment the schemers, which include Hexaka, Sol Dranus and Sinatar will grab the power of the dream and make it their own….banishing their father in the process. The reason for this? In dream and dream alone the Hyadomachias is vulnerable, for the realm of dreams was created in the dawn of time to serve as the eternal slumbering prison for the Wormlords. 

Old Gods in Brief:
Sol Dranus – The god of the sun, also light and the seasons.
Sin Datha – Goddess of the moon and women.
Sittarthos – the god of the river of time.
Andrashtos – god of forgers and craftsmen.
Hexaka – Goddess of the Weave and magic; the mysteries.
Synodon – God of darkness, evil and strife.
Hal Avag – god of the underworld and the dead.
Dro Magnos – god of the eternal cosmic darkness of the heavens.
Esetra Mione – the goddess of the winds and mistress of music and language.
Hurg Vaar – The lord of beasts and cruelty.
Sinatar – goddess of knowledge and war.
Hagarden – god of the oceans and water.

Worship of the old gods is common, but the old gods rarely seem to grace their followers with any sign of divinity. On rare occasions a prophet, oracle or divine champion will arise who claims he hears the voice of his god, to which he must answer the call to right a great wrong. Most regard such men as mad, caught up in the insanity brought about by exposure to the Weave, for they often exibit powers or abilities clearly of such a source. Strangely, some scholars and sorcerers who have studied these gifted holy folk contend that there is no evidence their abilities stem from the Weave…

Of significance is that no gods in Symvaere are “creator gods” in the sense that none of them save perhaps Hurg Vaar are believed to have created living creatures. In the mythology of Symvaere, the beasts of the land are almost like a manifestation of the land itself, elemental spirits given physical form, percolating fully formed out of the nameless chaos. Even mankind is said to have sprung from the soil itself, in the wake of the footsteps of the gods (particularly Sol Dranus)….but unnoticed by these beings who are of such might that their concerns lie in cosmic events beyond the ken of human understanding.

Ultimately, the key facet of Symvaeric belief is that the gods are beyond human understanding, but not beyond caring. Those of sufficient piety and dedication are destined to ascend to the promised realms of the celestial kingdoms beyond, a realm beyond even the Weave. Those who are unable to achieve this peace are doomed to enter the netherworld of Hel, the dominion of the death god Hurg Vaar. Those who follow a path of wickedness, who stray far from the righteous path or the wayward path are destined to be grabbed the demons which lurk in the Weave…

This religious belief in the afterlife is most common in Carceras, Alavanese, Dachmar and Drethune. Some other religious faiths share the same (or similar) gods but perceive them in different ways. The people of Bellastor, for example, do not see a division between Hel, the Weave and the Celestial Kingdom, instead believing all three are different aspects of the same dominion. Moreover, they believe in reincarnation, and that those who strive for perfection in their choice of divine ethos are given opportunity for redemption in future (and past) lives. Meanwhile, the enigmatic folk of Tai’Ridion have rejected the worship of the Old Gods entirely in favor of a hunt for the Mysteries, which they claim are the true gods behind creation, who seek to deliberately mask their existence from their creations. The Tai’Ridion people do not even believe in a conventional Hel and Heaven as the bulk of the Young Kingdoms do, seeing only a concept of exchange and barter among souls in the Weave, one which is vast and ancient and for which moral concepts are merely humanity’s way of trying to grasp the real machinations of the Mysteries.

The Cthonic Gods of Gatalas

There is also a dominion of worship of a different kind: the Cthonic Gods, who were once worshipped by Gatalas. When Old Gatalas fell these gods were demonized and driven into the dark corners of the earth, where the worshippers were forced to gather to continue their cults. Stripped of status and declared heretical by the barbarian invaders who brought down the empire these gods remain in the dark to this day, and are best defined now as the Cthonic Gods.

Kraedas – originally the god of kings and emperors, the old figurehead of Gatalas. He is still revered in hidden cults by those who see him as a god of might and warriors, but his status as the “king of kings” has all but disappeared.

Kyberene – Goddess of old magic and mysteries, her cult is pervasive because the secrets she taught were coveted by those who could practice magic. Her power is strong even today, though her cults are banned in most lands of the Young Kingdoms as heretics who consort with demons of the Weave.

Sitiara – Sister goddess to Cyberene, Sitiara’s old temples of fertility and fornication were shocking and memorable to the dour barbarian invaders, but they were still torn down. Today a quiet but dedicated cult continues to function with subterranean shrines revered by the down trodden, the outcast, prostitutes and those who perform the sacred magic that incorporates the power of sexual chakras.

Uthoros – the dark god of the old underworld remains a potent force in some regions, worshipped more by monsters and the undead. It is said that the undead did not truly exist as a force to be reckoned with until Uthoros’s priests were cast down and buried alive by the barbarian warlord Sametor in 374 FG (Founding of Gatalas). Sametor himself wrote of how the priests, interred in their catacomb-temple, perished, only to rise as undead a week later and massacre his army. Since then, Uthoros has been identified as the lord of the undead and vengeance.

Uthoros is believed to be a brother to the Merillian god Gravenor and the Selindari demon god The Grasping Claw. There is an old myth cycle that suggests that each brother chose a different continent on which to dwell, and that each in turn divided the souls of the world accordingly.

Saigul – the old god of storms is a vengeful, angry beast said to despise all humanity. A quiet dedication of markers and shrines on ships throughout the Forlorn Sea, Resonant Sea and Starry Ocean continues to this day despite conventional rejection of this god because sailors still believe in Saigul’s terrifying might. Rumors of old cults in hidden grottos that make human sacrifices to appease Saigul, and followers who have mated with the denizens of the deep to produce terrifying offspring are unsubstantiated, but likely true.

The Lesser Gods: The Enemione

The Enemione: there are seven lesser “demigods” in the world who are regarded by some as divine figures, and others as powerful ancient spirits who were once mortals. These gods exist as immortal beings, but they are driven creatures, acting for all purposes like scheming mortals though they are clearly something more. The seven are called the Enemione (the Gatalic word for “mysteries”), and are deeply enmeshed in the Weave itself, seeming to be preoccupied with the strange worlds it contains within; some say the Weave tempts people to learn its secrets, then ensnares them with those secrets, drawing them deep into its web of mystery.

The seven Enemione  are:

Phyralgea – the goddess of the woods and fey. She manifests as a centauroid woman with the torso of a human and the body and legs of a gazelle. She is the queen of the Arboreal realm, of which the fey kingdoms are a part, and is revered by the elves as a creator god. She is most ancient of the Seven, and is believed to come from a time when man was primitive. Some stories imply she is the daughter of the goddess Hexaka.

Uraligas – the old god of knowledge and lore, Uraligas is believed to have been the first true sorcerer of the old empire, and was there when it was founded. He dwells in a realm of his own creation within the Weave, said by some to be a great oasis protected on all sides by an unfathomably vast desert. He has mostly removed his presence from the mortal world, dwelling almost entirely in the Weave.

Dragmachul – The black knight of old tales, Dragmachul is said to have been a general of Gatalas who was spirited away by the elven witch Perisiphen into the wilds or the Weave, and there he survived and even thrived, eventually, carving out a reputation for himself as he mastered both sorcery and sword. Dagmachul has a keen interest in the mortal plane, but he has never been able to break the ensorcellment of Perisiphen; his agents in the mortal plane have a long-standing task to find a way to break her spells of entrapment that he may return to the mortal world for conquest and revenge. He is believed to have forged the orcs out of the Weave and set them loose in the world to do his evil work.

Perisiphen – the witch of Dachmar is an elven woman of great power. She dwells mostly in the mortal plan, but in a region heavily warped and altered by the magic of the Weave. She is regarded as a protector of the Everinyi elves of Dachmar, and is a fearsome specter of darkness to the humans of the land. Witches and warlocks worship and study her ways to gain hidden power.

Altasar – the mad mage Altasar is an ancient immortal known to be the first to consort with the demons of the Weave, calling them forth and unleashing the first of their kind upon the world. He is ancient, almost as ancient as Phyringea, and is believed to predate the old empire of Gatalas.

Emasia – one of the younger of the Enemione, Emasia was believed to have unlocked the secrets of the Weave during the end of the old empire, and she is regarded as the mistress of magic by many. Some have accused her of also consorting with devils, and having drawn them in to the “Weave” as the term for the spaces where the Weave and the Mortal Realm touch are called. Others regard her as the greatest sorceress in the Young Kingdoms and revere her for her knowledge and wisdom.

Denachus – the great sorcerer of old Gatalas, Denachus was known for his deep understanding of sorcery through the Weave. He disappeared during the reign of Emperor Hannidos, at a time when the empire was vast and strong. Some claimed he was pursuing the deepest secrets of the Weave, and others that he was driven mad by it….but he disappeared, and did not reappear until the time of collapse, during which he found himself at great odds with his new pupil, Emasia, who some claim stole his secrets of the Weave from him.