Monday, July 30, 2012

Classes of Theliad

Classes of Theliad

   Among much of the land magic is a relatively uncommon practice, and divine magic only slightly more so. In Theliad and Ekarthask arcane magic is reviled and feared, and such profane practitioners are usually hunted down and destroyed, although primal magic is regarded somewhat more as a sacred touch of the divine by the Ekarthaskans. Elsewhere, magic of any kind is uncommon at best, and so when it is witnessed, people often tend to make much of it, and so places like Suliria have their self-proclaimed living gods, people of special magical talent that gain special prominence for their powers among the common folk.

   For this reason, it is work considering some special features of certain classes:

Martial Classes

   All of the martial classes are common and unaffected in Theliad, and indeed dominate as options in places like Theliad and Ekarthask.

Barbarians, Druids and Rangers

   Among Ekarthask and in the wilds primal classes are more common. Unfortunately, shamans, rangers and even barbarians are sometimes mistaken for practicing sorcery in those lands that fear and oppose such powers (though not Akarthask, notably). Druids are unique, in that they are spirit worshippers, and revere the primal gods, who are very similar to the spirit lords of Legoras in the southeastern lands.

Divine Classes

   The divine classes are regarded with a certain measure of awe in places like Suliria, and with dread in places like godless Theliad. Clerics and paladins always adhere to the worship of a certain deity or cult, even a living god, and tend to be fiercely devout. Avengers are extremely uncommon and usually are dedicates to the demon king Syridal or similar foul entities. Oracles are the most interesting of the lot, for they are individuals who feel that they are intended to ascend to the status of living god, and usually seek the secret to the success of the few known ascended immortals.

 Arcane Classes

   There is a strong residual backlash to the arcane magic of old that lingers in the culture of the region. Theliad and Ekarthask prosecute and slay known practitioners of arcane magic (and sometimes divine magic). Elsewhere, exposing your talents for such can lead to fear and suspicion, although of all the lands arcane magic is most tolerated in Ghurthal. Outlying regions such as Eristantopolis embrace sorcery, although expeditions from the White City to regions of Theliad are tempered by careful warnings about not exposing ones’ self to scrutiny for practicing such forbidden talents. Unfortunately, the people of Eristantopolis have long been viewed suspiciously by locals for their known embrace of arcane magic. Finally, Masar in the southwest is a society driven by arcane desires made flesh, and a general abuse of arcane talent. It is a common superstition that arcane skill comes from being born of or given power by demons.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Races of Theliad and A Snapshot of the Divine Powers

Summary of Divine Powers in Theliad
Name                                      Details
Ascended Immortals:
Hakarthos                                Ancestral God-King
Sultirian                                   Imprisoned, amorphous God-King
Nimrasa                                  Spiritualist living God-Queen
Ierata                                      Enigmatic daughter of Ga’Thon
Agarthis                                   Chaos-Changed second generation God-King
Krytias                                     Scholarly living Immortal
Tyrios                                      Sorcerer and god king of Masar
Avatars of the Zodiac:
Pallath Eridanos                      revered avatar of Pallath, but missing for many generations
Obohon                                   Southern avatar of Pornyphiros, appears in Theliad on occasion
Known Demon Kings of the Elven (with seven more known only to the cultists):
Naramaeos                             Vile infernal lord of the eleven, dweller in the Wastes
Neth                                        Dark demon goddess of the Under Lands of Yaitanish
Syridal                                     Mysterious demon lord of murderers and assassins
Koth’sharak                             The murderous demon lord of the burning sands
Living Gods:
Katharios                                 living god of wisdom and enlightenment                  
Chelisana                                Self-proclaimed Divine Mistress of Light
Traidoros                                 The Living Spirit of Strength
Macharadan                           The Healer, who walks the lands with the curing touch
Setrinara                                 Goddess of truth, the sacred Oracle
Tython and Ulistrana              Twins, divine sparks of Pornyphiros who speak with his voice

Languages of Theliad

Inadasir-Atarthic Group        Inadasir-Shellasian Group     Inadasir-Adanari Group
Old Atarthic                            Old Shallasic                           Lost Adanaric
Ekarthic                                   Sytarese                                  Nulirian
Thelaeic                                                                                  Masaric

Racial Groups of Theliad

   Theliad is dominated by humans, but there are a handful of minor races that also predominate in the region. Notably absent from the land are dwarves, of whom the closest culture of such is southward in the Kossarit Mountains (of Galadur and Dalevar), and elves, of whom the closest such kin are in the region of Zamedia, south of the Crystite lands. The common nonhuman groups are as follows:

Ekarthaskans: The people of Ekarthask weathered a time when beast and man were on equal footing, and the desire to obtain the blood and power of the beast was a great desire among the early Ekarthask barbarians. Such was this desire that those who were born of mixed blood, called were-blooded became great warriors, and eventually a species in their own right. Lycanthropy, in which a man takes the shape of a beast, is still a common phenomenon in this land, and such shapeshifters are highly prized, often establishing themselves as great warriors and kings. Were-bloods, who can not change fully to beast form, are  adilluted by-product of this heritage. I'll feature more on were-bloods soon.

Lizardfolk: The lizardfolk of Theliad go by many titles, though as a species they call themselves the Hinursk. The hinursk have no common ground in unity or leadership, preferring small tribal relations spread throughout the land. They are friendly to trade and interaction with humans, but two thousand years of close experience have left the hinursk wary of what men are capable of. The hinursk themselves are not always trusted, for it is suspected that many of their kind are dedicates to the Cult of the Eleven.

Quick Details (PF): +2 Dex, +2 Str -2 Wis; low-light vision; have K/Nature as a class skill; gain a +4 bonus to stealth checks in their preferred environment; have natural proficiency with claw attacks that do 1D6+Str damage each.

Half Giants: The lesser giants of the land are a strong force, albeit too few in number to unite as a strong threat to any human land. The half giants make their trade in mountain towns and coastal villages, living amongst humans in small communities and relying on their fearsome appearance and reputation to keep trouble away. Half giants who become mercenaries are much prized.

Quick Details (PF): +6 Str, -2 Wis; large sized creatures; half-giants have stony skin granting 2/blunt DR; fist attacks do 1D6 damage.

Serpentfolk: The serpentfolk of Theliad are actually quite rare, but their appearance and reputation make them stand out when they do walk among men. Most of the serpentfolk come from the island of Ataraskis, where it is said that they have a city deep inland.

Tieflings: Although persecuted and often killed as demonspawn in Theliad and Akarthask, tieflings are nonetheless quite common, often coming from otherwise completely normal births of human parents. They are considered a sign of good luck in Nuliria, but are treated very strangely in Sytaris, where tieflings are believed to be evidence of some great wrong-doing in a person’s soul that must be undone through good living. This leads to harsh expectations of redemption for past lives for tieflings of Sytaris. In Ghurthal, where demonic worship is increasingly common, tieflings are viewed by some as infernal gifts, and some cultists will pay a couple handsomely to purchase their half-infernal children.

Halflings and Gnomes: as with everywhere else, these half-folk are found in proximity to human lands, dwelling in and enjoying the fruits of such. Haflings are most common in Nuliria and in the Islands of Nelindaros, while there are a few known colonies of gnomes along the northern coast in Ghurthal. Plenty of both can be found in the White City, Eristantopolis.

Half-Orcs and Orcs: The orcs are a true underworld denizen in this region, as the constant and vociferous warfare over the ages between their kind and men have driven them deep beneath the surface. Half orcs are very, very rare, and in the last century few of this species have been seen, save for occasional surface raids. Some wary adventurers have warned of the increasingly large forces of orcs and other underworld denizens that grow underground, worshipping Sultirios and the Eleven, but most men take such warnings with a grain of salt.

Doppelgangers: These mysterious shapeshifters are believed to have thrived at one time in Ekarthask, but long ago lost power and have been dwelling in secret among men ever since.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Author's Seminar - A Summary

Yog-Sothoth has provided a podcast on the seminar featuring Paul Fricker & Mike Mason, authors of the 7th edition of Call of Cthulhu. I've listened to it and the following bits stood out, which I shall transcribe with commentary for those of you in a work environment where podcasts are not permitted:

The game has been "stripped back and then built back up again."

Changes to the fundamental rules have been made - four or five big key changes.

It will be backwards compatible.

Same game, making the same roles, but a matter of "how you interpret those rolls."

Core skill roll is unchanged. However, they are codifying in the game some sort of mechanic that defines how to interpet the skill roll, then they're turning Luck into a resource you can use to affect rolls (i.e. missed a skill by 3, so spend 3 Luck to fix that).

A "push the roll" mechanic for trying again on failed skill checks. This sounds to me like a codification of something most CoC keepers tended to allow anyway (in my experience).

Ditching the resistance table. They're moving to a model of success ratios that sounds to me a bit like what is presently in BRP. I'll have to see it in action; the description sounded to me a bit more cumbersome than the resistance roll table itself was.

Rule #1 was "no maths in the game." Okay.

On combat, they are implementing opposed rolls (sounds a tiny bit like Runequest 6). Attack/defense are being implemented into a single roll. A single "fighting skill," with more detail in training. Also, a firearms skill.

Degree of success in combat rolls increases damage.

Hit points are changing a bit, in that your negative HP is now the death threshold.

Insanity mechanic remains largely the same, but they feel that the "I am now insane" threshold lacks guidance and leads to more silliness rather than dramatic/dark tension moments. Adding details on how this should work, providing more guidance on sanity and what happens when its gone. Inspired by fictitious versions of such (references 12 Monkeys) and suggest real insanity not so fun. Emphasis on hallucinations and bouts of madness. (This sounds to me like a way that I and other Keepers have run the game in the past; hallucinating PCs are a fantastic way to spruce up the insanity. It's also a good way to distinguish between modern notions of clinical insanity caused by debilitating mental problems vs. the kind of "I'm losing my grasp on reality as I thought I knew it" insanity the mythos should inspire.)

Introducing detailed "connections" rules. Good idea....the description feels reminiscent of aspects from FATE to me. A connection could be "dear old grandma," on down to "my trusty .38 revolver."

Connections and Luck "build up" together somehow it sounds like. A reward to encourage players to play up on their weakness connections, essentially.

You can gain connections through insanities.

"No rolls." So they are defaulting to either skills or back to the attribute scores to resolve issues. No middle ground anymore, apparently. Hmmm.

"Getting off track" and losing your way by missing clues will no longer be a "hotfix" for the Idea Roll (which is gone now) but instead details on better ways to structure the scenario will be provided to insure this sort of thing doesn't happen.

They are writing a Core Rulebook and Player's Book simultaneously.

Player's Book introduces ideas of Investigator Organizations (as a lead-in hook) with examples. (Probably a good idea, although not very Lovecraftian in the traditional way).

Emphasis to player's on making characters appropriate to the game (i.e. one-shot vs. campaign, active characters who want to get involved as opposed to passive characters who don't).

Mythos is losing some of (all of?) it's codification....sounds a bit like a sort of retcon on both the "RPGisms" that have put monsters in certain places and also a redaction of a bit of Derlethian influence. Hard to say, but probably a good thing, as it removes some of the implied organization to the mythos that isn't really there in the original stories.

Magic has been revamped. The spells have been reduced, many stripped out. Spells that were key to specific scenarios have been removed. Spells get a baseline effect with the potential for greater effects. Mythos creatures have an inherently better grasp of magic.

Streamlined, slimmed down core rulebook. Completely restructured and rewritten (except for key good bits). This sounds to me, honestly, like there's a drive to "compete" with the other alternative Mythos-based RPGs out there right now. Hmmm. I like my Fat 6th edition book, but I guess I'll wait and see what it all looks like. A cleaner organization couldn't hurt, but CoC has never struck me as overly convoluted in terms of the core mechanics in the past. Well, we shall see. RQ6 and how it worked out leaves me optimistic.

Playtesting? Yes, one playtester commented that it "works pretty well." (This is recorded in England, so that's a pretty decent compliment in the reserved British fashion.)

No traits. (What game has traits? Trails of Cthulhu?)

Other 3PP going to license for 7th edition? They have no clue.

No grappling (too complex we just didn't want to do it...a bit of a joke). Seriously though this is left more abstract/situational it sounds like.

"Still effectively a rules-lite system." Didn't set out to rewrite, but to refresh.

The podcast has about 25 minutes of discussion between the the authors followed by another 30 odd minutes of discussion with the audience. Worth listening to if you have time.

I am long overdue for running Call of Cthulhu again...I haven't run a regular campaign since around 2008 or thereabouts. Egads! Time to start a new one. Soon. One of my old diehard CoC/GURPs players is moving to town next month....that may be just the catalyst I need to revamp some CoC and GURPS gaming again, soon.

Year Zero and Black Mountain

So I stumbled across this trailer and I am not sure whether the I am more intrigued by the video or the music. The music is by Black Mountain and is absolutely amazing stuff, the kind of music I can listen to for years to come. The video is,'s the blurb from Vimeo on the trailer:

YEAR ZERO is a modern take on high performance surfing set in a post-apocalyptic world, reminiscent of Mad Max or an HG Wells novel. It tells a story of a band of renegade surfers, including Dion Agius, Yadin Nicol, Nate Tyler, Taj Burrow, CJ Hobgood and Damien Hobgood, on a road trip through the apocalypse in search of waves, women, and good times. The film’s original soundtrack by BLACK MOUNTAIN, whom VICE MAGAZINE has called, “One of the best rock n’ roll bands of our time,” creates a sonic landscape that fully delivers the immersive experience that director Joe G envisioned for the film.--Vimeo

Globe's Year Zero (0000) Final Trailer from Globe Surf on Vimeo.

So that looks interesting. Now for Black Mountain, There's a couple free songs for download here, and you can request a sampler of their albums here. Naturally Amazon has us covered with all their albums up for grabs as well (no idea about iTunes, I don't do iTunes).

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

War Z, Arma II, Blacklight: Retribution and More

Another episode of video game stuff!

The article here on Massively talks a bit about it, but a not-quite-MMO zombie survival game is on its way called War Z. It sounds like it will be more my cup of tea; I've been eyeballing videos of Day Z (the Arma 2 mod) while also playing Arma 2 to get familiar with it, but I am not sure I want to play a game where the player population is so aggresively into ganking. I once argued that a "permadeath" approach to some games would lead to a player population in which people were more circumspect about who they shot and it turns out, not the case from the sound of it, people seem to become more psychotic instead, predating on their fellow players with wild abandon. At least, every Day Z tale I've read seems to indicate such. Apparently the nominal "I might die and lose all my work on this particular character" component is not as thrilling as the "I can kill another character and take all his stuff" element. Maybe the only way permadeath would work, then, is if the game proceeded to uninstall itself after death. Who knows....the idea does appeal, but being a person who's time is valuable, I rather prefer to keep the progress I've made in a given game, and not be subject to some 13 (or worse, 30) year old version of Gyges online.

So the Steam sale is about to conclude, and I get to look at my total casualty report. I added the Arma 2 series to my roster, along with a few other oddballs (namely the Prince of Persia series, which was too cheap to ignore) and got several games for my wife (including Skyrim and Kingdoms of Amalur which she wanted, and Gotham City Imposters which she took as a big hint that I would be delighted to play with her on that one).

So now for some more Capsule "First Impression" Reviews!

Actual game may not be as fun as screen shots suggest

Deep Black: Reloaded

Here's the deal. I liked the premise of this game, and I found a review online which made it look okay. Must have been a friend of the devs doing the review, or someone who doesn't play a lot of these games. There may be something worth investigating in Deep Black: Reloaded, bit its going to have to wait for a weekend when I am especially bored and desperate, because I barely got halfway through the tutorial before I realized I had potentially made a Huge Mistake.

Based on a tiny bit of playing, the game feels "off" and not in a good way, but in a stiff, unrefined way. It's visuals are okay, but the best way I can describe it is like this: did you ever, like me, play Half Life 2 and Doom 3 back in the day and then go try to play Chrome: Specs Ops? The Chrome games were based on the older version of the Chrome engine, which itself was not nearly as refined as the two genre-defining games of an older generation (Doom 3 and HL2, that is). As a result, Chrome just felt "off" and not in a good way. Plus, it had lots of annoying issues, such as uncanny AI that can shoot you from a mile away.

So Deep Black: Reloaded feels like that to me right now. Uninstalled, will investigate at a future date when I am bored and want to explore something of its kind with a lot of patience, because this game was testing my patience almost the tutorial level no less.

Arma II

Okay, I admit I picked this one up with the idea that I might download the Day Z mod. However, I haven't found the time or interest to mess with what I understand is a buggy mod filled with gankers, to go by the internet talk. That's good though, because it turns out Arma II is a really amazing game all on its own.

Arma II is a tactical shooter, which means I guess that its keyboard arrangement does not precisely mimic Call of Duty and it has a great many more options available. Getting shot once or twice is usually fatal and engagements are almost always won by the astute person using their brains and taking advantage of the environment. I just completed Call of Duty: World at War (a few years late I admit, but it was fun) and it's a shockingly welcome contrast to jump into Arma II where the main goal is thoughtful strategic movement, contrasting with CoD's run and gun "bullet sponge must swarm the enemy lines to stop them from infinite respawns" approach to single player play.

Arma II looks pretty good for a game a few years old. I got the three expansions with it, and the graphics get better with later expansion, but the only "hmmm" moment I had was in the opening scene on the first campaign, which starts on a decidedly low-rez aircraft carrier. The on-island graphics are very nice, though.

It took me a replay on the first major mission before I got things "right," at least partially because the controls are complex. I remapped a few items to suit to taste, which insured I was not accidentally prematurely planting explosive charges deep in the woods that were needed for a later task.

Anyway, I'm getting that same "vibe" with Arma II that I got with Fallout 3 (my most played game, fyi, although Raptr doesn't know since I only started using that metric-tracking service about nine months ago). Looking forward to playing this one a lot more.

Blacklight: Retribution

I haven't had as much time to play this yet as I'd have liked but I thought I'd mention that it's been pretty good so far (barring a server maintenance shutdown in the middle of a match) and for a game that is F2P with microtransactions I have had some great success, implying that this is not another "pay to win" game. If you played its predecessor (Blacklight: Tango Down) do not try to compare the two; this is a much more polished and fun game. It also has mechs, and getting into one of those in the middle of a match was a real pleasure. I'll report more on this later as I find more time to play it; probably would have played more if Arma II hadn't distracted me!

If you wonder why I seem to talk so much about the shooter genre and don't touch as much on the CRPG genre, the answer is simple: as much as I enjoy Kingdoms of Amalur, Dragon Age, and Skyrim (among others), I tend to binge on those games at distinct moments, and otherwise find my "role playing game" quotient for entertainment is actually met by my weekly tabletop events (which are dominated entirely by Pathfinder right now, although Runequest 6 may rear its head soon for at least one bi-weekly game).

So yeah, shooters, survival horror, and competitive firefight-style games online are something that appeals to me precisely because its where the medium excells, I feel. By contrast, tabletop RPGs continue to have a corner on that market for me, so the CRPG descendants just don't get as much playtime as they otherwise should.

That said, I do feel a desire for a "binge" coming on soon, my preferred method for enjoying large scale CRPGs, although the reality of my situation is I don't have the kind of time blocks necessary to do that anymore. Its hard to binge the way I used to with my son now. He goes to bed fairly consistently at 8 PM these days--well, with an occasional recent exception; he's just about 8 months old now, and he's developing the "separation anxiety" phenomenon kids get, so he doesn't like going to sleep unless he knows mom and dad are present. Problem is, Dad is "the fun guy" who winds him up, and he doesn't want to sleep if I'm trying to put him to bed because he might miss dad doing something funny...I'm basically "Mr. playtime" now. So it's up to my wife to be the calming "time for bed" parent.

It's very nice to do this as a insures we get things done, manage time for ourselves, and still manage to raise our child with as "interactive" an approach as possible. I sometimes worry we're overdoing it, but then I look at the giant family across the street from us with the ginormous, bellowing dad who appears to have only two settings ("pissed" and "domestic dispute") and his wife who ignores their children while slugging down tequila shots and yelling at the husband, and realize that we're doing fine.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Left 4 Dead 2: Cold Stream DLC

The new Cold Stream DLC for Left4Dead 2 has just been released: all four original campaigns from L4D1, the new Cold Stream campaign, and apparently 20 fan-made campaigns (I'll have to check that out asap). I mean....if there's anyone who doesn't have this, now's a good time. 75% off on a midweek Steam sale right now.

That is a lot of quality zombie survival horror FPS action for $5.

If anyone gets this and wants to play send me a message on Steam. I think you can find me by my handle, which is: Camazotz, Lord of Xibalba

Leopard Shaman

Anyone have any idea of what this image is from? Very striking....I love the details, but I haven't got a clue if this is from a movie, series, art site, cosplay or photo site.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The D&D 3.5 Reprint Covers

So ENworld's Morrus has the scoop here. They are basically variations on the same style as the 3.0 and 3.5 covers....nothing unusual I guess, although I was really hoping for a return to "cover with good art" form but ...whatcha gonna do.

I have no idea if I will ever play 3.5 D&D again, given how Pathfinder has magnanimoulsy swept through my gaming spheres like some sort of fandom-powered ramjet sail sucking up gamers like stellar gas....but I will definitely grab these books, and definitely use them if one day the opportunity arises.

I'm so used to Pathfinder with its enhanced level of character scaling now that honestly 3rd edition would feel almost quaint and traditional by comparison, I suspect.

You know what? I likese these covers, they're less busy than the 3.5 covers, and have a better thematic style to tie them together with that stylized dragon motif in the faux leather.

Map of Theliad

Here's the map I use of Theliad. It will prove useful for visualizing the locations discussed on Friday and the forthcoming articles. I've kept the download at actual size so there's no loss of quality if you want to download it:

About Theliad vs. Thelaed: Theliad is both the region and a specific kingdom (the Isle of Theliad) which has given this area its common name, chiefly because western explorers from Abraheil first encountered the people of Theliad and so took to calling the whole region by the same name.

Thelaed (The Laid) is the old capitol of Theliad (The Lee-ad) and while the names have similar qualities this is purely an artifact of the rigid language of the Theliadians.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

His story checks out...

Anyone who's played through (or tried to play through, as in my case) Borderlands will appreciate this...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Tales of Theliad: The History and Lore

Okay, enough of Steam and video games and all that nonsense! Starting today I'm going to offer up some material originally in Realms of Chirak, featuring the region of Theliad. This will include Pathfinder conversions for said material, and a new scenario for the region.

The History of Theliad

   Northwestern Chirak is a remote location, isolated from much of the central civilizations of the Sea of Chirak region, and only tenuously connected by trade and warfare with certain regions of the West and the North. Syrgian traders have been journeying to the eastern regions of Theliad for two centuries now, and on certain occasions the Madigar and Abraheilites have engaged in trade by way of the difficult sea and land routes to Theliad. Still, it is not as isolated as Far Therias, and its people know something of the wider world, though their insular cultural groups are not receptive to outside influence.

   Theliad is described by some as a land that has moved on. While the rest of the world still mourns the loss of old gods or eagerly awaits the rise of new avatars and demiurges, Theliad has dispensed with the old pantheon in disgust and created its own new ways. Chiefly, the earliest arbiters of civilization were several clans who claimed trueborn blood of the old Inadasir, and that this was divine blood, which asserted their ultimate destiny as ascended beings. The first true civilizations to rise in Theliad after the Apocalypse were driven by these early god-kings, and the concept prevailed. The notion of a leader being directly equivalent to a god is commonly accepted among the people of this land, and their belief that mortals can ascend to divinity is very strong.

   Theliad’s history has not been without conflict. The earliest god kings arose in three primary cultural groups, including the Atarthic kingdoms, the Shellas, and the Adenar. These three groups rose from the ashes of the Apocalypse within three or four centuries, and it was around seven centuries that the first self-proclaimed god kings manifested. The first such was the enigmatic being called Hakarthos. This man ruled Atarthis as a benevolent ruler, who claimed to have visited a cavern in the Agardash Mountains, where he was spoken to by a divine spirit some claim to be Pallath and others claim was Pornyphiros. This divine spirit passed on the essence of the divine to Hakarthos, who then went on to rule, as an immortal, for nine centuries before his fall during the Keterash Uprising.

   Two other divine beings manifested during this early period, including Nimrasa, the divine queen of Shellas, and Sulturian of Adenar, an amorphic being who, though starting as a man, eventually transformed in to a terrible entity. Like Hakarthos, Sulturian was eventually deposed, though his followers found they could not slay him, and instead entombed the terrifying being in the deepest levels of the catacombs of his great city, and then abandoned it. This city is known today as Afar, and it is said that the poison of the entombed god poisoned the land all around, turning Adenar in to a dead land.

   Nimrasa is the only one of these ancient ascended beings to remain alive to this day. Though her kingdom collapsed long ago, her loyal priesthood spirited her away to a place of safety during the time of the Keterash Uprisings and kept her safely hidden. A century after the collapse of the old empires she was revealed anew, though Nimrasa swore she would never again demand servitude of mortals. The goddess dwells to this day in her venerable mountain temple just south of the lake city of Typhonis.

   It was approximately eleven hundred years ago that the second pantheon arose. This time, the first scended mortal was a man known only as Agarthis, a warlord of the Ekarthask clans, he was a powerful figure, and in this era he conquered a great deal of territory. On one occasion, near the edge of the White Desert, he was visited by a seductive spirit, a woman who claimed to carry the blood of the god Ga’Thon in her veins named Ierati. As the tale goes, she seduced Agarthis, and gave him a taste of divine godflesh from her father’s own body. Agarthis was transformed, and rode forth to declare his status as risen god. He conquered much of the known world in that time, and his own troops were now prepared to venture across the burning sands of the White Desert to sack the fabled city of Eristantopolis, when he was confronted by a man named Pallath Eridanos, a chosen avatar of the sun god, who allegedly united the surviving foes of the risen god with the troops of Eristantopolis to at last stop the mad immortal. Agarthis was imprisoned, again found to be unkillable, beneath a massive stone monument, usually called a tomb, but known also as a temple by his followers to this day. Even imprisoned, his voice can be heard in the dreams of men of great desire and power, and it a common term to speak of one who has fallen to madness as having “received the dreams of Agarthis” as an explanation for his insane behavior.

   The mysterious Pallath Eridanos is still revered by the people of Theliad today, though little is known of this man. He is said to have studied for a time in Eristantopolis after saving his people, and then to have traveled to the western islands, where he founded the modern city and kingdom of Theliad before passing on in to time. His whereabouts to this day are unknown.

   The Demon Kings of old were feared and reviled by all, and Theliad, much like the rest of the world, was not spared their rampaging shortly after the Apocalypse ended with the death of the gods. In this region it is known that many such ancient demon kings settled, as they tired from their ceaseless rampaging or were at last captured, imprisoned, or sometimes even destroyed. Scholarly records suggest that eleven demon kings were left alive or imprisoned in the land, and to this day there are Cults of the Eleven in the region, which revere and seek dark power from these entities.

   The last thousand years of history in Theliad have revealed two more “ascended immortals.” One is a man named Krytias, a scholar and student of lore who discovered, some say, the very cavern in which Hakarthos gained his divinity. Krytias manifested his divinity two centuries ago, and has been a peaceful ascetic ever since, teaching others how to achieve spiritual unity based on his visions prompted by the visits he makes to the sacred caves. His temple is located in the isles of Nelindiros.

   The other immortal is a man of mixed infernal heritage, whose mother may have been taken by one of the Eleven, specifically the infernal king Naramaeos. This son, named Tyrios, rose to power by virtue of his wiles and charms in the city of Masar, where he has ruled with an iron fist now for four centuries. Masar is a decadent kingdom of dark delights and opiates, reveling in the slave trade and the exploitation of others. It serves as an unpleasant bridge between the westerlands of Abraheil and the rest of Theliad.

   Of the many lands in the region, Theliad and Ekarthask are unique in that they eschew all faith in magical teachings, and disdains sorcery in all forms. These people only nominally tolerate divine practitioners, and seek instead the guidance of men who are enlightened through conventional wisdom.

    In contrast to these two lands, Nuliria and Nelindiros venerate their divine practitioners, and keep a watchful eye out for others who might claim potential immortality. These lands believe that the old age of gods is gone, and the essence of the gods has been imbued in mortal flesh, to be revealed at a time of their choosing. As a result, there are perhaps two dozen cults to various “living gods” in these lands, as well as certifiable ones such as Krytias and Nimrasa. A short list of these more popular living gods include:

Katharios the Wise

Chelisana the Divine Mistress of Light

Traidoros the Living Spirit of Strength

Macharadan the Healer

Setrinara the Oracle

The twins Tython and Ulistrana, divine sparks of Pornyphiros.

   Further east, in Sytaris, the people are less prone to worshipping living gods, though it does happen, and they instead venerate the ancestral dead, where they believe that the immortal spirits of their kings are all descended from the first true god, Hakarthos. They believe that Hakarthos was a unifying god-spirit, and that all of his descendants carry his spark. This ancestral cult is not unlike those of Nubirion, although with the added belief that each reincarnation brings an ancestral spirit closer to divinity.

   In the distant east, the city states of Ghurthal tend toward the worship of their resident goddess, the ancient Nimrasa, but there are cults and factions to many other gods as well. In an alarming trend, there are those who worship the entombed gods, Sulturian and Agarthis, and feel that they must follow the “children of Ga’Thon.” Where such teachings begin is a mystery, though rumors of Ierata’s hand in the matter are troubling. This mysterious entity, branded a Thousandspawn by the Preservationists of Eristantopolis, is believed to have secret designs on Theliad at large, and that she is partly to blame for the enigma of the so called ascended immortals and living gods in the land.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Shooter Experience - Camazotz on Violence in Videogames

So this is the week Valve decided to grab me by the pantcuffs and shake me up and down (willingly, I admit!) and in exchange my Steam Library expands like a swollen beached whale baking in the sun. I thought I'd share this interesting article originally linked through Penny Arcade Report (source article is from Grantland here). I've been reading Tom Bissell's articles on Grantland since I discovered him a while fact, he's the reason I decided to pick up Max Payne 3, a game I otherwise assumed was not "my thing," based on the fact that his review/discussion of it made the game sound far more compelling and interesting than I would have otherwise expected.

So Tom talks about the phenomenon of Spec Ops: The Line in relationship to shooters, and the gamers who play them, as a whole. It makes for some interesting reading, although I begin to suspect that Tom himself is a rather empathic and perhaps unusually sensitive guy, because a number of "discomfort" buttons for him appear to be set much higher than they are for me. I always grow concerned with any article in which the author suggests, implies or otherwise muses about whether or not Call of Duty, to take his example, is making the world a worse place. From the view of a pacifist and a social reformist who seeks to squelch all images and depictions of violence (be they fictitious or real) I might imagine a case could be made, but I wonder if a psychologist might consider the same argument? Could one demonstrate that playing (or making) a game which depicts gun violence without consequence to the player be a bad thing?

I love these games myself, and I regard myself as something of a pacifist in the sense that I seek to do no harm to others, refuse to own guns (not a popular stance with the in-laws, who belong to a long line of hunters), and prefer that personal protection be limited when possible to tasers. In recent years my position changed, a bit, and I purchased a compound bow thinking I could relearn archery (a skill I had as a teen) but its languished in storage ever since. In case you wonder if this is a family thing, it really isn't. While my parents weren't hunters (and generally disliked hunters who tried to hunt illegally on our land) they weren't unwilling to own guns and we had a rifle or two. My uncle had an arsenal. It wasn't a "learned trait" as dislike of weapons came later, from knowing too many people in too many situations where a firearm added to the mix of volatile personalities spelled trouble.

My wife, by contrast, generally doesn't care for the same shooters I do, but she grew up her whole life owning and shooting weapons of a myriad varieties (she likes to go elk hunting annually with a muzzle-loader, for example). Her sense of gun responsibility is engrained. The mystique of weapons is lessened for her, too; they are a pragmatic thing which must be kept, maintained and treated a certain way.

So when I read Tom Bissell's interesting musings about the nature of virtual gun violence and whether it is dangerous or therapeutic, as well as the treatise on Spec Ops: The Line as to how the message of this game (which I haven't played yet but hope to soon now that I own it) is to prompt the player to question both why he is seeking his entertainment in the form of a violent video game tale and what he gets out of it, as well as the actual morally disturbed protagonist of the game itself, I have to also wonder whether Tom's views on this game (as well as of those who designed it) aren't sometimes missing the point of the whole "military shooter" genre. Like Tom said, when he plays it he does so to "let steam in" where others like to "blow off steam." I guess that depends on what the "steam" is here.

I think Tom missed the point of the metaphor....blowing off steam in this case probably does mean the same thing for many other gamers that Tom's personal sense of the experience means for him. The steam is a metaphor for reality, where we lack power, we suffer for boundaries and limits, we are all mortal and we all have physical and mental boundaries beyond which we hope never to get pushed. The game is a symbol for everything that is unattainable in life, wrapped in a clever simulation that models some aspect of the world around us in just convincingly enough of a fashion that we can put ourselves there, in an environment where for a short time the real world is remade in the image of the id. Even with games trying to "model" reality through hits and kills we still respawn or resume from the last checkpoint and try, try again. It's a feature I'd like in real life, to be honest.....the act of shooting 800 bad guys pales in comparison to the chance to redo things until done right.

There's also a natural tendency to disconnect between fake violence and real violence. Actual studies have been done in which an audience of test subjects viewed specific scenes from movies vs. actual footage of real injuries or death (and damned if I can't find a decent link, sorry). The net result was that people had a palpable reaction to the known quantity of real violence....but considerably less of a reaction to the fake violence. I sometimes wonder if horror movies that are especially disturbing or effective in their FX aren't latching on to some element of the uncanny valley, albeit from a grotesque angle.

Admittedly, there are plenty of studies suggesting that videogame violence desensitizes people to real violence. I am not entirely clear on how accurate these studies are; one could argue that if, indeed, we had a nation of gamers growing up desensitized to violence (and it's entirely possible, I suppose) then wouldn't one expect to see more crime and violence in real life, as people became more prone to commit violent acts to which they felt fewer personal and social pressures to refrain from? It doesn't appear that way, and a study of national crime statistics over several decades (see Wiki here for some interesting info on this phenomenon) suggests that there has in fact been a sharp decline since the mid 90's. That at the very least suggests that there's no obvious connection between violent video games and violence (unless one were to try and postulate that crime statistics would be even lower than they already are if video games weren't around, but I digress). Hell, you could probably make a postulation that desensitization to violence has a correlation with dropping crime rates if you wanted to (not that it would likely be correct, but that's how the internet media likes to work).

Anyway, I think the phenomenon as a whole is more complicated than any single party wants to admit. I suspect desensitization caused by games has a stronger correlation with a shift in reduced empathy and asocial behavior that the internet serves as a tool for. The violence of shooter games has little to do with the inherent beast of man and more to do with the fact that we once were a more violent breed of beast, that centuries of acculturation has at last stripped us down to the point where violence is absent, and allowing us an easy, harmless and effortless means of exploring that dark side of human nature is perhaps a good thing. Until we as a society can start breeding or genetically altering for passivity, we're not going to see it go away. As is so often pointed out, most violence happens in places where video games are never seen, where poverty and desperation is rampant. It's always visible and shocking when it happens down the street from us, and highly visible (because that's how our newsmedia rolls) but the truth is that there are many regions of the world where violence is a normal, everyday occurence. And those places are not getting it from Call of Duty. Fear of the fictional is a trivialization of the problems extant in reality. I don't think that's what Tom Bissell was aiming for, but I do think it's worth framing a proper perspective on the issues he (and Spec Ops: The Line) try to pose.

I'll follow up soon once I get a chance to sink my teeth (har har) into Spec Ops: The Line. Maybe next week? We'll see!

Black Ops still rules. This was the CoD that finally won me over to the genre

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Petition for D&D

Right here:

Go sign it to keep 1E-4E supported and tell WotC to forget 5E, the Don Quixote of editions!

Neuroglyph goes into detail on the why of it:

Does it have a chance of succeeding? Probably not, but stranger things have happened...

Summer of Steam Mini Reviews: Saints Row The Third, Gotham City Imposters, Serious Sam 3 BFE

Continuing my week of the "Summer that Steam Took All My Money," I thought I'd offer some mini-reviews based on the first few hours of gameplay for three of my purchases. These are just "first impression opinion pieces," as I haven't sunk more than 2-4 hours into each game, but I figure that if a game doesn't captivate you in that period if time maybe its got issues of a bigger nature later read on!

Serious Same 3 BFE
I actually bought Serious Same 3 BFE a couple weeks back using a 75% off coupon through Raptr, but its on sale through Steam now and i just got around ot trying it out (also to see if it merited further investigation or should be deleted and placed in the "someday" realm of games I will get around to when I feel like it).
I wasn't a huge fan of the old Serious Sam games but I did play them (back on the PS1/2 iirc) and I do own some dirt cheap copies of the HD versions from a prior Steam sale. They're mindless shooter fun, nothing to write home about, and definitely require you to be in the mood for some brainless run and gun gameplay that is decidedly old school.
A public shame of mine (because I don't hide my love for it) is that I love Duke Nukem Forever. It's just new enough and just old school enough to be entertaining, and for whatever reason I find that the game has smooth controls and decent gameplay. The humor is crass at times, but a quick reload of the original was enough to remind me that this is what Duke Nukem was all about--the newest game was true to its roots, and that above all else was part of its downfall. So with that in mind, I decided to use that coupon and see if Serious Sam's latest offering worked in the same way. 
As it turns out, yes and no. Yes Serious Sam 3 seems to be following faithfully in the footsteps of its two prior games (of which this one is a prequel) albeit with better graphics and a slight nod toward the need for more narrative framework typical of modern shooters (but only slightly). Otherwise, its still about moving through various maze-like environments, periodic open arena areas, and being swarmed by hordes of monsters that you shoot and beat up. I didn't get too far. I reached a midpoint around the third level and hit a nigh-unstoppable wall of cyclops monsters that was enough to convince me I should play this game in the far future when I was really, really in the mood for frustration. Which may be never....we'll see.
Verdict from a couple hours of play? If you liked the first two games this one should appeal. If you like old school shooters this is definitely in their ranks, with only a few caveats to modern shooter design. If you prefer to avoid frustrating combat situations that demand more twitch and less strategy, then avoid at all costs.

Gotham City Imposters
Once I got it connecting this game blew me away with how fun it was. It's a lot like playing Call of Duty Modern Warfare, in that the controls and "feel" are very close to that franchise. However, unlike CoD, this game has a sense of humor and a ludicrous but somehow workable premise. Basically, it's somewhere in Gotham City, and Batman is too busy to handle what is effectively a gang war on the streets between two groups: the Jokerz and the Batz, self-styled groups of maniacs who are pretending to do the work of or actually be their respective costumed idols. They do this with lots of weaponry, and some ludicrous gadgets such as gliders, spring-heeled boots, grappling lines, trampolines, roller skates and other bizarre contraptions. There's lots of conventional weaponry and (as is typical with the FPS multiplayer genre these days) level-ups and unlocks through XP gain. The game also offers loads of customization features for calling cards (what shows up when you off an opponent), mascots (floaty chibi-style "things" that look like popular Batman franchise characters) and other bizareness. One could imagine that the Jokerz and the Batz have been injesting a few too many mushrooms before going to war against each other.
Anyway, the result of all this is a game with all the gamification bells & whistles of progression-based game play, smooth and effective run and gun combat mechanics, weird and interesting movement options, a pervasive sense of humor that provides levity to a style of game known more for its serious military trappings, and a generally welcoming feel that I don't always get from multiplayer games. In fact, I was doing pretty well in my multiplayer matches so far, and the matchmaking was pretty quick. I never found myself feeling like a punching bag for the level 50 dog rapist, basically. Which is very good.

So who should play this, aside from me? Anyone who likes a clean, inviting and almost effortless multiplayer run-and-gun game experience with a sense of humor.
Saints Row The Third
I thought Gotham City Imposters was the surprise game from my Steam purchases. Nope! It was one, yes, but Saints Row The Third crept in and occupied the same space, rather unexpectedly. I almost didn't get this game. I couldn't quite bring myself to buy a game with shark attack guns, sex-toy clubs and other bizarre items trumpeted so markedly as core features of the seemingly psychedelic gameplay. But, after some deliberation, I decided that maybe, just maybe, if I enjoyed the quirky nature of Gotham City Imposters so much maybe I ought to give SR3 a try.
As it turns out, this game is almost a deconstructionist approach to the action game/GTA sandbox genre, with a bit of dadaism* thrown in for good measure. Saints Row 3 starts you with a giant over-the-top bank heist performed by the Saints Row core gang (presumably from SR2, which I tried long ago but couldn't get into) on their own bank (or something like that)...but it all a mock heist, apparently, until real enemies show up and turn it into a blood bath (mostly for the real enemies). Before long you're on a bank safe being carried by a helicopter duking it out with dozens of armed SWAT guys while shooting at enemy helicopters. Then before you know it you're on an airplane....then off the airplane on a parachute in free-fall duking it out with dozens of foes while dodging falling cars. Then you're in the city, a city which has the highest crime statistics, accident rates and mortality rates in the freakin' world.
Every tiny bit of this game is over the top so far, in a way that basically says, "This is a video game, not a life simulation. Do what you will, it's okay. See? Shoot this gun. It fires chum, which then attracts sharks which come boiling up from the ground to eat the chum-covered foes. We can do that, because this is a video game world. The rules of logic are ours to determine, and you shall live by them."
So Saints Row 3 is the first game I've played in ages that has left me surprised and keen to see what happens next. It's all built in a GTA-style sandbox framework, so it's a world of "do as you will, and here are some plots in case you're interested." I got the franchise pack so I have all the sundry DLC that came out. For the price I paid ($25) it was well worth it....not entirely sure I'd have been willing to buy all this DLC if it wasn't on sale, although I am sure the three mission packs are worth it. I tried one of them, chasing after a clone of "Gat," the Saints Row leader or something....a lot of rocket-shooting passenger mayhem, but a bit tough for me at this early stage so I went back to the main plotline.
The shooting element of Saints Row 3 is third-person based and is mostly about killing them before absorbing too many bullets. It's not as refined as more dedicated shooters, and there's not a lot of cover use going on. It does, however, feel very solid and the game looks very good. And its hard to dispute the value-added element of having a gun which attracts sharks on land and another gun that fires sprakly mind-controlling cephalopods that take control of your foes. Seriously.

*The irrational element of dadaism....this game is definitely an irrational trip through chaos. However, the wellspring of anti-war feelings from which dadaism sprang are decidedly not a component of SR3, which embraces violent chaos with more gusto than Leatherneck at a lawnmower convention.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Yet Another Summer of Steam Sale Sickness

I like to think of it as "stocking up on entertainment" in case I get laid off, I suppose...but sure enough, the Steam Sale is underway this week and I have indulged mightily. I don't really think of it as "buying games I am going to then play" so much as "buying games I will one day think I might get to play." Either way, I own waaaay too many games on Steam thanks to these stupidly fun sales.

Case in point: a Batman package with Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, and Gotham City Imposters. My first thought was, "I can buy Arkham City at last, and all the DLC." When you total up the sales cost it works out to $21 for the game plus all the DLC. But wait! There's a Batman bundle pack for only $25 available, which for $4 more includes the original Arkham Asylum along with Gotham City Imposters and all of the DLC released to date (and there's a lot of it). Sort of hard to resist...I mean, Gotham City Imposters was one of those "Hmmm, sounds fruity" sort of games, but for $4? Sure!*

And so it goes with Steam. So far I've snagged Max Payne 3, all the above mentioned Batman games, Hunted: The Demon's Forge, Star Wars: the Force Unleashed 1 and 2 (I played 1 long ago, but that was before this "Sith Edition" so...yeah), Trine 1 and 2, BastionAlan Wake's American Nightmare, some small and poorly received (yet still tempting to me) game called Deep Black: Reloaded, and (last but not least) Ridge Racer: Unbounded, the only Steam sale game I was anticipating, as I love racing games** but hate paying full price for them. So I don't.

I also snagged Spec Ops: The Line at Amazon for $25 so I guess that ought to be included in this list. Oh, and of course Secret World at a discount on Green Man Gaming. Now to find some time play it...

When you count the last two, that totals about $170 in game purchases in the last week. Ugh! I've done worse, though. Remember, I had over 400 games on Steam before this ever started....

When will I find time to play all this stuff? Who knows. I predict the first time many get played will be far in the future, when my son will be playing all these "retro games" on dad's accounts in a decade or so. We shall see...

I grew up with tabletop RPGs side by side with computer gaming. I had an Atari 2600 ordered straight from the Sears catalog. I acquired a TRS 80 (Trash 80) and was programming games in Basic and feed-loading text games from tape casettes. Over the years, tabletop gaming has remained consistent, and while its hard to deny that art and production values have gotten better over time, the overall quality of game system design more or less peaked somewhere in the early 90's and has remained a consistent but subjectively engaging experience....all RPGs are worth playing on their own merits, even if specific tastes may run a certain way. There's really no objectively "better" way to play than another (though one can of course still design a bad RPG).

With computer and console games, the experience is decidedly different. Graphic and interface design is through the roof in terms of performance, value, immersiveness and general satisfaction. The good ol' bad ol' days of PC gaming in the 80's is a thing of the past for all but some GOG releases, and I am happy it remains that way. The industry has created its own problems, of course, with AAA titles costing so much that major studios and publishers can't afford to fail, thus limiting what we see each year in terms of top notch designs, but even so indie and smaller publishers/studios still manage to slide in and fill the void with games that still prove worth playing.

Anyway, I have always found it interesting the extent to which players on both sides of the gaming fence have some crossover (or lack thereof). Likewise, I've also found it interesting just how many people look back on the "good ol' days" of PC gaming or tabletop gaming with a rosy glint in their eye while looking disdainfully upon today's big budget, deluxe graphic-intensive space-marine laden productions. I can say this much: if tabletop gaming had stopped evolving sometime in the mid-80's I do feel I'd likely still be playing those games today (probably still playing Runequest, Dragonquest, DC Heroes and of course AD&D), but if buying old fond-memory games on GOG has taught me one lesson, it is that I can't say the same for PC gaming. If PC games had stagnated in the mid 80's, I'd be done with the medium, completely. On the other hand, that nostalgia vision does seem to be making some much-needed comebacks happen (such as Wasteland II), so I guess some good is coming out of all that "way back when it was better" sense of perspective.

*After first downloading I couldn't figure out how to find any games on Gotham City: Imposters. It seemed to have an active community but there was something wrong with its default pnp protocols, near as I can tell. Very annoying. That said, it finally started working (no idea how or what I did that worked) and this game which was a mere "rider" on another deal turns out to quite possibly be one of my top favorite surprises....seriously fun run'n'gun gameplay with a lot of humor and weirdness.

** I found out I was good at racing games two summers back when I was severely sunburned (couldn't even walk!) and was out of commission for two weeks, right during the Summer Steam Sale. I bought the Flatout Series, then quickly added Fuel, Dirt, Grid and others. It has since become a sickness. My personal all-time favorite game that does not involve space marines, zombies or elves is Burnout: Paradise, a game best described as "A tale of a haunted city terrorized by insanely suicidal cars that have no drivers, because they are all driven by crazed phantoms desperate to crash into just about anything and everything. So hide the children and lock up the cats, Paradise City is on the fast track to hell!"

Friday, July 13, 2012

Plotting the Post Apocalypse

This article originally appeared (I think) in an issue of TSS, but I present it now for posterity on the blog...

Needless to say these plots should work with any post-apoc game, be it Mutant Epoch, Mutant Future, Atomic Highway or Gamma World!

10 Weird Plot Ideas for your Post-Apocalypse Adventures

1                    While traveling through wasted ruins, characters stumble across a colony of sentient rats which have descended from genetic experiments before the holocaust.

2                    The players see a distant shooting star that grows ominously large, and crashes somewhere nearby. On investigating, they find a starship, out of which emerges a cosmonaut who claims to have been part of an experiment to test a ship that could travel close to the speed of light. The cosmonaut’s ship left Earth orbit in 1970.

3                    The entrance to a hidden vault is found, in which a fabulously wealthy billionaire from Old Earth, surrounded by very human-like android servants has whiled away the years, kept unnaturally young by telomerase resequencing treatments. Recently, he discovered that his autodocs are failing, and he needs to find the tools and materials necessary to repair his anti-aging system.

4                    One of the players discovers what appears to be an impressive ebony sword trapped in a lava flow. After pulling it out, the local survivor villagers proclaim him a new warlord. Unfortunately, the sword was lodged in the chest plate of a powerful pre-cataclysmic warbot, which, weapon now removed, begins to heal up with nano-repair bots before shattering its rocky tomb. Oh, and it wants its sword back.

5                    A nearby volcano (which may be a smouldering crater from the end times) is radiating a lethal cloud of spores, which infect local humans and animals with a silicone-based lifeform that drives them in to madness and frenzy. The spores are wafting from a lava tube inside the crater, where the deadly plants are blooming, having grown up and out after being exposed from the depths of the earth.

6                    A war satellite is still functioning, zapping targets at random on the planet below with a powerful particle beam weapon. It is possible to be stopped, but this involves finding an ancient comm. Station, breaking in past the still-functioning robot security units, and shutting it off.

7                    A squad of immortal super-soldiers wander the wastelands, carrying out a need for war which was genetically encoded as a biological imperative. They wander in to the peaceful lands of a survivor community, and attempt to forge an army out of the weary folk, or destroy them if they wont cooperate.

8                    An alien vessel arrives in orbit and sends a contingent of scientists down to the surface of the apocalyptic world to investigate. It turns out they are from Earth, and that the wasteworld is really a colony that succumbed to civil war decades ago!

9                    While traveling the across the wasteland, the players stumble across a humongous relic from the old war, a tripod-like tank left over from the Martian invasion of Earth.

10                Locals are terrorized by what appear to be immense ravaging dinosaurs straight out of the cretaceous and beyond. They ask the adventurers to stop this menace. The trail leads to a ruined laboratory where particle physicists once worked on creating wormholes. It turns out that the AI which runs the facility is still quite active, and finished their work, creating a wormhole in time which lead back in to the distant past. It’s trying to perfect a way to send people through, to test the laws of causality.