The World After: Cults of the Thousand Saints

While The Hierarchy is the most numerous sponsor of clerics many local or regional faiths have their own divine miracle workers. Collectively known as the Cults of the Thousand Saints each is sponsored by a semi-historical figure, all but a handful dating from after The Harrowing.

The Saints spread across the moral and social dimensions of their concern they do have one similarity with The Hierarchy, a dedication to order.

Many Members of the Cults (Roll a d20 three times)
1 Are trained in the scientific healing arts
2 Engage in ecstatic dance as part of worship
3 Are fascinated with the Children of Order
4 Are members of a mystery cult
5 Are fascinated with Elves
6 Follow multiple saints
7 Have no home temple
8 Are not members of formal organization of their saint
9 Are formally trained in a performing art
10 Serve all others before eating at meals
11 Have a vow to visit the Seven Sites of the Holy
12 Are completely shaved head to toe
13 Sew their holy sign onto the jacket’s breast
14 Wear a hood instead of a hat
15 Are authorized to lead Hierarchy services
16 Are owned a favor some towns beggars or thieves
17 Are trained as fishermen
18 Are trained as sailors
19 Will take a lashing for a criminal as an act of faith
20 Are left handed for religious reasons

Some Members of the Cults (Roll a d16)
1 Publish their letters
2 Have taken vows of poverty
3 Use ritual nudity
4 Have taken vows of chastity
5 Reject the use of range weapons in war or hunting
6 Are vegetarian
7 Eat no grain
8 Never cut their hair
9 Do not bathe except on holy days
10 Wear only one color
11 Use only wooden implements
12 Only dwell or live among the poor
13 Have brands of their order
14 Only eat kosher foods
15 May not bear their arms or legs
16 May not touch the skin of strangers

Common Traveling Gear(Roll a d16 1d3 times prior to spending starting gold)
1 A copy of the Blessed Blue Book of Holmes the Physician
2 A copy of the Fifth Tretise of Danforth the Colorful
3 A musical instrument
4 A wooden holy symbol
5 Kosher salt
6 Pen, ink, parchment, wax, and a personal seal
7 Basic surgical tools
8 The Travels of St. Miller
9 Fishing rod and tackle or casting net
10 One each of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet candles
11 A spy glass
12 A ritual scurge
13 Prayer beads
14 The Annals of Hunt the Ancient Redeemer
15 The Dark Visions of Hite the Mad
16 Three kinds of incense and small censor

Inspirational Art: The Mechanical Turk

One of the most interesting but least used (in my experience at least) types of monsters is the automaton. Mechanical constructs have a long real world history and, if not quite as magical as their creators would have liked the certainly captured the public’s imagination.

Among the most famous automatons is the Mechanical Turk. Build by Wolfgang von Kempelen to entertain the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa in the second half of the 18th century. It would defeat a variety of opponents including Napoleon and Benjamin Franklin. It was only after 50 years that it was show to be a fraud in 1820. The elaborate desk that held its table had a concealed human operator within. It was captivating enough that it would continue to be shown up until its accidental destruction by fire in 1854. It’s owner at that time was Dr. John Kearsley Mitchell. Among Dr. Mitchell’s other claims to fame he was Edgar Allen Poe’s personal physician.

It was succeeded at least two more machines, Ajeeb and Mephisto. The later was remote controlled instead of having an operator. A true automaton capable of playing chess on its own would not appear until 1912 with El Ajedrecista. Even then, it was limited to three piece end game of its own king and rook against a human king.

The Turk, or, better yet, a truly self-actuated version powered by magic, would be a great addition to a campaign. A court magician could have created one for his king’s entertainment. From there plots from the Turk as evil adviser, rival of its creator, or test of potential advisers or employees only scratch the surface. I can see two uses of the Turk in a dungeon. He could be an encounter of his own, perhaps a trap of some kind or a way to gain information. He could also constitute an item of treasure. I find this later idea deliciously old school in the ingenuity players would need to see it as treasure, retrieve it, and find a way to make us of it in the outside world as well the interested parties the later would create. These traits are increased if your campaign eschews the traditional medieval setting for something slightly more modern as LotFP is moving towards (perhaps it could be the key focus of high level players’ inn) or my own World After.

Random Campaign Idea: To Serve the Emperor

This is the third Star Wars derived random campaign idea (first and second) to appear on this blog. Yet I maintain I’m more a Star Trek guy.

“The Imperial Senate will no longer be of any concern to us. I have just received word that the Emperor has dissolved the council permanently. The last remnants of the Old Republic have been swept away.”

“But that’s impossible. How will the Emperor maintain control without the bureaucracy?”

“The regional governors now have direct control over their territories. Fear will keep the local systems in line.” Exchange between Governor Tarkin and General Tagge

Once secure in office he declared himself Emperor, shutting himself away from the populace. Soon he was controlled by the very assistants and boot-lickers he had appointed to high office, and the cries of the people for justice did not reach his ears.

“Having exterminated through treachery and deception the Jedi Knights, guardians of justice in the galaxy, the Imperial governors and bureaucrats prepared to institute a reign of terror among the disheartened worlds of the galaxy. Many used the imperal forces and the name of the increasingly isolated Emperor to further their own personal ambitions. – Journal of the Whills

The first Emperor came to power by exploiting a tradition in the history of the Republic. In multiple times of crisis the Senate had elected a dictator with absolute authority for a limited period of time. However, Senator ne Magister Populi Palpatine, using those very boot-lickers he would later appoint his Lictors and eventually Regional Governors, convinced the Senate to not place the traditional fixed limit but one “for the duration”. One cannot help but wonder if Palpatine was actually the power behind both sides of the Clone Wars in an effort to create an open ended crisis to justify his powers.

Regardless, by the time the Clone Wars had ended the Magister Populi had become the Emperor and, in theory, ran the galaxy as his personal fiefdom. The truth of the matter is by this point the aged Palpatine (he was a venerable 121 when first elected to the Senate and nearly 200 when he first became Magister Populi) no longer cared about the details of power but only engaged in their fruits. He considered the handful of rebellious fringe systems beyond his notice. With their victory at Corrin and rising support in the Senate he became tired of the buzzing of malcontents and, dissolving the Senate, sequestered himself in his splendor and turned over the galaxy to his former associates, the Regional Governors.

Still, some retain hope. The Jedi Knight Obi-wan Kenobi, who had both served on Palapine’s staff, believed the Emperor, who’s initial move to become dictator was driven by a desire to restore the Republic, could be reached. They believed his mind had been poisoned by certain of the Governors (Tarkin chief among them) and by Obi-wan’s student, Darth Vader, who had betrayed the Jedi to the Sith. He noted Palapine began to change when Vader replaced Anikan Skywalker as his staff Jedi upon Skywalker’s death. This was cemented when Obi-wan learned that Vader had been behind Skywalker’s death.

Now, the handful of Jedi, mostly semi-trained students, have rallied to Skywalker’s son Luke in the hopes of defeating the illegitimate governors in the name of the Emperor. They believe that should they secure enough of the galaxy they can regain the Emperor’s ear and draw out his original intent to restore the Republic.

This is another “limit the canon” idea. Specifically, this one only requires Star Wars itself and its novelization. It does, however, leave space for the early Marvel comics, Brian Daley novels, and similar material.

I believe this one is well adapted to Traveller or Stars without Number. Each governor could rule over one subsector map and the empire might be as small as a Traveller sector. The psionic assumptions of SWN in particular, lost disciplines with what is known trained by a handful psychics themselves feeling out the powers of the past, match these semi-trained Jedi trying to restore a lost order.

Monday Pointers: January 24, 2011

D4:Racial Subtypes
Why limit yourself to high elves, dark elves, and wood elves when you can have brutal elves and deep elves? This d12 table (which you have to give love just for using the d12) givens you 11 subtypes for any non-human race with ability modifiers and descriptions as well as a hybrid options.

D6:It’s the End of the World as We Know It and I Feel Fine
Underdark Gazette gives us 30 ways to shake up your fantasy world…including your entire pantheon having to save or die.

D8:Strange Trails
Over at The Sorcerer’s Skull, a preview of his upcoming Weird Adventures booklet is up. I’m really grooving on his pulp adventures version of D&D which is more explicit than LotFP change to the default setting.

D10:Every Character a Mindflayer
The Chicago Wizard (no, not Harry, the cool biker one) proposes OD&D psionics based on Gygax’s original mindflayer rules from the Strategic Review. While I might add another power or two I think he’s on to something.

The World After: Sirens and Salamanders; Dwarves and Djinn

While elves in The World After are the partially amnesiac and somewhat primative children of Creative Chaos dwarves are one of the expressions of Creative Order. They emerged in the same time period that the elves started to appear. The first human sighting of a dwarf was recorded about 350 years ago while the first elves were sighted between a half century and a century earlier.

Dwarves, however, are only one of four expressions of Creative Order in the Harrowed World. The others are Djinn, Sirens, and Salamanders. Each is tied to one of the fundamental elements of Creation. Dwarves and Djinn, the male incarnations, are tied to earth and air respectively. The female incarnations, Sirens and Salamanders, embodiy water and fire.

In game terms, I’d like to offer all four as discrete classes but only have details about dwarves at this time. I’m trying to figure out what the corresponding abilities for the other three elements would be to classic D&D dwarven abilities. For that reason I doubt I’ll allow dwarves as initial player characters.

That said, I am creating pre-gens for a one shot at the February D&D Meetup where I’ll be running Tower of the Stargazer using LotFP. I suspect people will want to see dwarves and will probably include at least one.

Why I Love TTRPGs

I’ve started running a 4E game using my Crusade Beyond the Door. The original campaign idea was to turn Stargate: Atlantis in a campaign framework: using magical gates the party would jump to a new world each week fighting the Nephilum menace some weeks while others solving local issues. Using the 4E build in power levels over time they would rise to challenge the Nephilum and save Creation Beyond the Door just as SG-1 defeated the Goa’uld and the Atlantis gang defeated the Wraith.

But my players got to the first world, defeated a party of nocturnal elf slavers (negative image drow: pasty white skin, black hair), secured the people in a new village, and defeated the revenge party of slavers. They also recovered the alternative Genesis that splits when the Nephilum lead the people beyond the Door and a second set of control rods (my DHD analog). They were all set for my expected end and returning to the city of giants.

But they didn’t.

Instead they decided they were protect the worlds beyond the door and they will protect this world. Instead of returning they have decided to build a castle at the local door (on the hill with the chalk horse carved into it) and train the locals to fight the slavers.

Oh, and in the grand tradition of the crusades a bunch of second sons are now going to have their own fiefs.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I play TTRPGs and not MMORPGs, CRPGs, or write my own fiction (well, I do the later but you get the idea). I had 30 levels of 4E mapped out roughly and now they won’t happen. While my events will happen in the background and change the world they may later go on to interact with for now we are playing a very different game. All because four people not the DM decided this was the way to play in my creation.

Right now I love my players…because even if their idea wasn’t mine I suspect the game will be more interesting because it is ours and not just mine. It is my world but their story.

I wouldn’t want it any other way.

If Gary and Dave had made D&D ads circa 1980

Hello there. My name is Gary Gygax and this is Dave Arneson. You know, it occurred to Dave the other day that between his Braunstein fantasy campaigns and my premium grade medieval miniatures rules, we could make a truly superior premium-grade tabletop game. It sounded good to me. So Dave took out a second on his house, and wrote to Harvard for an MBA, and now we’re preparing to enter the game business. We will try to keep you posted on how it’s going. And thank you for your support.

Thanks to Christopher at A Rust Monster Ate My Sword for the inspiration as well as Ed and Frank.

Monday Pointers: January 10, 2010

D4:Clark Ashton Smith, now half off
Nightshade Books, publisher of among other things The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith is having a half off sale through January 26th. They also publish collections by Manly Wade Wellman, Glenn Cook, William Hope Hodgson, and others lauded in the OSR. They also have more modern pieces (well, Cook is modern) including Phil and Kaja Foglio’s gaslamp novels.

Sadly, it looks like volume 1 of the Collected Fantasies is out of print at the publisher and thus not available at this sale. Still, volumes 2-5 for $80 plus shipping isn’t to be sneezed at.

D6:Most heroes are by accident
Zak, of Playing D&D with Porn Stars (who I’m still jealous of not because his players are porn stars but because they’re good players) has a system to randomly generate superheroes designed to be system agnostic (the only one I can see being hard to use with it is older V&V although the new edition with point buy will work I’m sure).

D8:Zak gets double linkage…
…with this excellent post on design specs. He’s hoping to get a meme and I’m hoping people oblige him. I’ll work on my own for this week for sure.

D10:Chick fight
While we’re in a super’s vein, check out this sample combat for the upcoming Mystery Men, an OD&D derived set of supers rules. I especially like the interplay between powers and starting level. This is very D&Dish (with high level wizards needing more experience to be the same level as a fighter) and works as a great “balance” mechanic in the classic sense (as opposed to 3.x/4th/GURPS sense).

Inspirational Art: A Random Snippet from Wikipedia

Okay, so I’m getting far afield from art, but the name has been around for the Wednesday inspirations post and we’ll keep it.

It has been said that had Byron lived and gone on to defeat the Ottomans, he might have been declared King of Greece. However, this is unlikely. Unlikely, perhaps, but a great jumping off point for a campaign in the 1830s in Eastern Europe, which was recently noted is a good, untapped time (and would match LotFP well).