Sunday, May 13, 2012

2295 Stellar Survey - Appendix F (Anomolies & Restricted Worlds)

Captain's Log, U.S.S. _________, H_____ S___, commanding...

We have completed our remote survey of stellar system ZA-9748PJF, usually known as the Zelazny System. Of the ten planets circling this G class star, four of them are not only class M, but inhabited. Though this, in and of itself, is not unusual; there is considerable evidence that this is an engineered situation.

Zelazny-3 is a hot, humid, jungle world with small oceans. Most native intelligent life bears great resemblance to insectoid and reptilian forms. However, there are pockets of other sapients - humanoid and more unusual forms, that my Science Officer insists are not of native origin. Also, dispersed across the planet are ruins of a mysterious nature. I believe them to be remnants of a star-faring society due to their similarities to the architectural stylings of the F______.

Zelazny-4 is a warm, ocean world. Land masses only cover ten percent of its surface and consist of three micro-continents and a plethora of islands. The native intelligent life is, quite reasonably, mainly aquatic in nature. However, the aquatic sapients are of three derivations; pseudo-piscine, pseudo-cephalopod, and aquatic humanoids. All of these appear to be in a state of war with the others. Some humanoid forms exist on Zelazny-4's scattered land masses, the majority of which appear to be related to the aquatic humanoids. Once again, my Science Officer speculates that these apparently unrelated sapients are not native to the planet. I find myself in some agreement with her, as there are traces of ruins similar to those on Zelazny-3.

Zelanzy-5 is very similar to Earth in terms of physical properties. However, unlike Earth, it is inhabited by a wide array of sapient species; the majority of whom are humanoids. Zelanzy-5 is also the most heavily populated planet in the system and as such supports a great variety of polities and ethnocultural groups. Many of these appear to be remnants of more technologically sophisticated societies. Though our scans were unable to discover any traces of ruins similar to those on the other inhabited planets, we did uncover a large amount of ruins of a bewildering assortment of styles; primitive, technological, and post-technological.

Zelanzy-6 is not a dead world, yet. But the inhabitants certainly tried to make it one once. Some form of thermonuclear apocalypse occurred roughly seven or eight hundred years ago and this has left the planet rife with deadly zones and common sense defying mutants. Due to these rampant and peculiar mutations, and the abbreviated nature of this survey, we were unable to determine the exact number of sapient species on Zelazny-6. Obviously, there are considerable ruins of the pre-apocalypse civilization, but there are also earlier ruins that appear to be of the same style as those on Zelazny-3.

None of the various governments are ready to be contacted by our federation due to their lack of star-faring technology. However, that alone would not make me recommend that this system be quarantined. There are at least two reasons I can provide that will support my recommendation of quarantine.
  1. There is considerable evidence that there is surviving, working technology from earlier periods of the system's history. The natives refer to these by multiple, usually supernatural, terms, but they do grasp the basics of how to use many of them. Mostly weapons systems, according to our scans.
  2. Across all sapient species on all planets there is a high occurrence of elevated psychic abilities. The natives possess a supernaturally themed view of such abilities and refer to them as magic. Nevertheless, they are powerful and likely to cause difficulties should we attempt to interact with the native cultures.
Accordingly, I recommend that the Zelazny System be placed on the list of restricted planetary systems, on par with the T____ System. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Unsavory Tendencies of the Vagabond

A friend recently spoke to me about a term he had either created (or heard of, I misremember) as an alternate title for player character.

It was, and is, simple, elegant, and possesses a shockingly large amount of truth to it.

The term is: murder-hobo.

A murder-hobo is a person of dubious background and no fixed abode who travels the land, murdering and robbing those that society deems antagonistic (orcs), threatening (dragons), or terrifying (mind flayers). On the frequent side of occasionally, the murder-hobo also murders and robs those that society has no particular grudge against, but this is oft-times o'er-looked because the murder-hobo is of great use in keeping down dangerous species. Also, the murder-hobo typically spends what wealth they rob, thus being a wondrous boon to the economy.

 And have you seen these people? They are damned scary... Crawling out of the ruins of a mad wizard's keep gleefully waving about barely understood and less controlled magical things that a sane person would want destroyed...

Let's just say it's often easier just to tell a murder-hobo about a new, unexplored, and conveniently far away, ruin and let them traipse off rather than lose good lives putting them down.

Frighteningly, and all kidding aside, the term makes sense.

There were many published adventures where the NPCs who are asking for the PCs' aid nevertheless treat said PCs like garbage. And suddenly that was perfectly reasonable: the NPCs thought they were murder-hobos!

And let's be fair, many PCs are murder-hobos.

They smash in a door/wall/gate, lay about with a dazzling array of deadly effects, strip the place of anything and everything remotely valuable, and proceed on to do it again until they get tired.

This is not what playing a role-playing game is all about, this is what my lovely companion refers to as "playing Duck Hunt".

There is a place for "Duck Hunt", but I am well convinced that computer games do it faster, better, and without the sinking feeling that a DM gets when their campaign goes to pieces because someone wanted to mouth off to the Duke...

Murder-hobo syndrome can be avoided, just pause before you start the slaughter and think of something else to do.

Like talking.

It won't always work, but those seven foot tarantulas might be reasonable.

The other tip to avoiding being a murder-hobo, give your PC a home. Even if it's a dive bar, something that connects that PC to the world, even a story about why the PC lost their home will work. Just make it so that your PC cares about something more than descending into a terrifying, trap-filled netherworld to loot and pillage.

And stop telling the Duke that you can eat him for breakfast, you're seventh level and he's second, of course you would wipe the walls with him, that's why he's asking for your help...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"By the Iron Boots of Gorslaug!"

Whilst the possession of a class, or classes, by the traditional "monster" races is no longer any great shock, I feel that the use of this device should be a distinct rarity. A classed monster is, should be, at least, a shock. Something that not only surprises the players (and player characters), but also something that forces a rethinking of the encounter.

Whether this rethinking causes long-term issues, philosophical quandaries, or a mere tactical reevaluation depends solely on the choice of the DM. Encountering an ogre fighter is a far different dilemma than encountering an ogre paladin...

Given my own idiosyncrasies, I lean towards the more startling and unusual. I prefer the classed monster to be a character unique in its own right, and since it is a special case, I desire it to be a special challenge. An ogre fighter is merely more powerful, an ogre fighter who is questing for a lost artifact in order to save his clan/smash the fortress of a heroic/villainous crusading order/bring about ruin to the orcish hordes/dwarven realms is a very different beast. As a result, I tend towards crafting quasi-opponents. These being characters that might combat the player characters, but are not necessarily destined to do so.

In accordance with this idea, I present a quick sketch of Morvidus ap Rivallo, a quickling necromancer.

More amoral than evil, Morvidus is brilliant, devious, and sly. He lacks the basic understanding, common to humans and demi-humans, of moral behaviour and, as such, can fit in well as a scheming villain who's ultimate goal will bring ruin to civilisation. Doubly so, since his class provides him the ability to manufacture unquestioning minions. However, he can also fill the role of the dubiously accepted ally. He'll find any paladin or cleric to be more baffling than obnoxious and can provide information or assistance in dealing with a truly evil foe.

He stands a mighty 2 feet, 3 inches tall and possesses the characteristic lean build of his kind. His skin is pale from hiding in haunted woodlands and libraries of dubious ethics which, combined with his black hair and lambent green eyes, gives him the appearance of a short and sinister apparition. His attire is as close to "villainous musketeer" as one is comfortable with, and, yes, that does include the waxed mustache and beard.

As his statistics will vary depending on his chosen role, I choose not to include them save to make note of two items he normally carries. These being a ring of water-walking and the dagger of ill-fortune (a long sword in his small, yet capable, hands). This latter item is of but a +1 enchantment, but also forces those struck to make a saving throw versus spells or be afflicted by a curse that causes them to suffer a -1 penalty on all saving throws for a full week.

The title of the post is his most common oath (which he may use profanely or not, as the mood strikes him) and possibly one of his goals (they being the footwear of the first and mightiest redcap).       

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Bleakholme and Other Things...

I'll be trying to scan and post some of my written notes for Bleakholme in the next few weeks, as well as posting a few things about a Space/Psuedo-horror game.

And, well, various other things as long as I can transfer them from scattered notes to blog posts...

It's a great pity I think well in a completely disorganised fashion.

Monday, January 30, 2012

No One Killed Your Dog

I would love to comment on this, but the level of maturity shown on the part of JB makes it pointless.

That said, sometimes good, decent people who have lots in common fail to mesh well.

Let it be.

If I Weren't Busy Writing College Papers...

I'd probably be able to update this more than once a year...

On the positive side, college is going well and I should be transitioning from community college to an actual four-year college this fall (or autumn, for those of you with an addiction to multiple syllables...).

On the gaming front, I've mainly been playing Shadowrun fourth edition (the fourth edition I like...), a bit of Pathfinder, and a once a month-ish 3.5 Dragonlance game.

I have found that I can only play 3.5 if I create something ludicrous, which is why I'm playing a kender swashbuckler/dread necromancer.

I'm sorry, you did read that right.

I've also finally obtained GURPS Vorkosigan, which has proven to be thoroughly delightful, and I've been bouncing around several ideas for games (I know, I need to post them here rather than letting them rot in my notes... O' time, thou art a fickle friend...) which include a Shadowrun game set during World War One, a Space:1889 and Unhallowed Metropolis blend, and an AD&D game set in a mediaeval-esque Europe with strong borrowings from Clark Aston Smith's works.

So, despite appearances, I have not yet passed from the mortal coil, nor given up mine ancient hobby.

And so to bed.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Kort, the World's Weakest Kobold

Ah, Kort, my old friend... it has been several years since Kort's first appearance, cowering bravely in the ruined kitchen that the other members of his gens had told him to clean up and use to get dinner ready...

This was first edition AD&D and Kort had a hit point, a cleaver, and a grubby chef's hat.

Kort was also the only monster that the party talked to in that entire game.

He was, quite simply, described as "too pathetic to kill".

And he was. Weak, feeble, kind of stupid, barely any common sense... Kort was the only character in that game who was guaranteed to kill himself in one hit (which gave rise to a description of Synnibarr as "The game where everyone is Kort", years later).

The weird thing is, he was really fun to play.

He sniveled, he closed his eyes and waved his cleaver at the PCs in a desperate attempt to defend his "turf", and then the PCs were nice to him and gave him a measure of respect.

Kort now owns and operates a grand restaurant in the kingdom's capital city.

I once thought about re-making Kort in Third Edition D&D, but realised that he would be far more powerful than he should be and abandoned the idea.