Monday Pointers: The I hate V-day Edition

D4:Sure, they had Chariots but did they have magic items
Over at Grognardia James M. makes an interesting, but justifiable, addition to his Pulp Fantasy Library: Chariots of the Gods. For those of you who aren’t survivors of the 70s this is the iconic “space aliens built the pyramids” book. It’s not the most interesting (I reserve that for The Sirius Mystery: New Scientific Evidence of Alien Contact 5,000 Years Ago) but it is the iconic tome. If you want some science fantasy weirdness or an alternate conspiracy for your Mulder and Scully to run into it’s a great choice.

D6:Herb’s Horrendous Hiccups
Want a free copy of the next edition of Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy RPG? Well, come up with a prizing winning level one magic user spell. Even if you don’t come up with the winning entry you’ll have helped create a great resource of first level spells available under the OGL.

D8:My Memory, it is strange
Of course, the first ancient aliens appearance in the OSR to my memory was the heavy influence of Richard S. Shaver’s tales of underground mind controlling dero had on Scott’s World of Thool. Although the brilliant and very odd Thool is gone for a large part you can still find Shaver’s works online.

It’s been a short list today, but I’ve been busy. For those wondering where this weekend’s posts went, I screwed up and posted notes for upcoming entries, but starting this week Inspirational Art will start alternating with Inspired Creations which will draw on prior iterations of Inspirational Art for actual things I’m trying to use in game.

Speaking of in game, I’m looking to start an alternate Sunday evenings campaign set in The World After. Long term I’d like to start a third campaign as well for the alternate days featuring the latest ideas for A Demon Haunted World.

Finally, I hope to get a summary of the first four sessions of Crusade Beyond the Door up this week, hopefully followed by tomorrow’s fifth session.

Is the plural of megadungeon simply megadungeon…

So, in returning to my megadungeon idea from the original City States game I realized there were three reasonable places to put it. Each is unique and in my inspiration has what is required. I thought I faced a tough choice.

Or do I?

If the megadungeon is a mythic underworld does it have to be in a single location. We’re not talking multiple entrances like most have, but multiple locations such that it can be entered in places as separated in our world as America’s Stonehenge, The Seattle Underground, and Carlsbad Caverns (which while not my goal here, if I wanted a megadungeon for my Demon Haunted World this would work).

Nor I am talking about something like the Underdark in the Forgotten Realms. There would be no realistic sense of distance or magical gates that connected the sections. You could simply walk through a normal dungeon region and walk out thousands of miles away. The problem, of course, is how to justify this without making it a valid route of travel for people. If that was so the dungeon, or at least the trade routes, would be controlled by some power for that purpose. Although, as an idea, that alone isn’t too bad if used sparingly.

A Demon Haunted World: The Problem of Gunpowder

In trying to have magical adventures in the modern day one must find a way to explain why heroes don’t use guns. After all, if facing a demon would you rather have a sword or an AK-47? Some games handle this by making magical creatures have what amounts to tank armor for skin. An interesting, if not completely convincing idea outside of certain settings.

Of course, the easiest method is to claim magical creatures are invulnerable to modern weapons. To my mind, and many others, that is a cop out.

That said, if I want A Demon Haunted World to be modern sword and sorcery adventures I need a way to limit guns, flamethrowers, and artillery, among other things. To do this I’m going to look at modern weaponry a little differently. What if the wasn’t from the bullet or the flame but from the source: a strange mixture that propels the sling stone instead of a sling or a strange mixture that burns instead of lamp oil?

Well, in the S&S world, especially in the context of Old School fantasy gaming we have a word for strange mixtures that can harm you: potions. We also have a way to escape harm from potions: saving throws. Why not allow creatures of myth and magic (including my Blooded race of humans) a saving throw against potions when attacked with modern (gunpowder and later) weapons, flame, and explosives. A successful save resists the potions effects and converts the damage into the equivalent muscle powered weapon: sling stones, natural fire, and so on. Or perhaps a save allows no damage. Tougher (more magical) creatures might get a plus on this save to reflect their distance from the modern world.

A Demon Haunted World: Human Races

In my Demon Haunted World humans come in three (down from four) flavors. Below are my first passes at the three races written up for Swords & Wizardry.

The Heirs

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

The meek have inherited the earth.  Over ninety-five percent of humanity has no touch or ability with magic or the supernatural.  Most of them live entire lives unaware of the world of the mystical or of the adventurous part of reality. Such unaware lives are not always blissful as it might seem.  Millions of The Heirs thrill to books of action and adventure to fulfill the yearning of their souls for wonder and achievement although fewer do each year with more and more doing it via pictures and movies that provide a thrill while dulling the very instrument of wonder the mind.

Yet even now a handful rebel.  By chance or design (theirs or others) they see a demon or befriend a wizard.  As such they become adventurers in the Demon Haunted World

Examples: Zander from Buffy and Gunn from Angel.

Requirements: None
Ability Adjustments: None
Bonuses: To saving throws against magical wands, staves, rods, and spells based on constitution: 3-8 +1, 9-12 +2, 13 and higher +3
Penalties:

  1. May not be any spell casting class.
  2. Each time they use a magical items if will fail to operate on a 1 on a d6.  For constant items check when first used (such as putting on a ring).  Test magical weapons and armors at the beginning of each combat.

The Blooded

Yet it is not the meek alone that remain among men.  There are still men and women who can touch the magics left both by the Old Ones and by the powers that oppose them.  For them The Demon Haunted World is not an adventuresome reality they can discover or seek out but their heritage.  Every generation a handful cast off their birth right but remain in the world of magic.  Of those who do a handful go on to become the freebooters and adventurers of today.

Examples: Harry Potter at the spell casting end while Giles the Watcher from Buffy is a perfect example of a little or no spell casting Blooded.

Requirements: Intelligence 12 or Wisdom 12
Ability Adjustments: None
Bonuses:

  1. Inherent magics: At creation pick one common 1st level spell.  The character may cast this spell once per day with a casting level equal to half his level, rounded up.
  2. Minor magics: Even non-wizard Blooded may use minor magics for usual daily chores using the minor magic rule.  Available effects are based on their Inherent magic.

Penalties: While attuned to magical effects they are somewhat divorced for the more mundane world and have a -2 saving throw against everything except magical effects such as poison and breath weapons.

The Touched

The blood of the magical runs in many a mundane veins, often due to an ancestor who was Blooded but turned their back on the magical world.  As a result even the most mundane of families produce those attuned to the magic in this world from birth.  Often the result is presumed insanity often followed by the real thing, but some find or are found by those who see The Demon Haunted World.  Ironically, many great wizards are found among them, perhaps gaining new perspective by seeing magic without the assumptions of a magical family.
The Touched are the default race of A Demon Haunted World, fulfilling the role of humans in Swords & Wizardry.

Examples: Heirmone Granger from Harry Potter and Willow from Buffy

Requirements: None
Ability Adjustments: None
Bonuses: None
Penalties: None

These are all first draft and suggestions and hints are welcome.

One specific idea I’d like comment on was The Blooded were originally allowed to use wands as a nod mostly the Harry Potter.  I removed it as I considered having it in addition to the spell ability was too much.  That said, giving them only expanded magic item usage would make the idea of a being a Blooded Wizard pointless.  Ideas on walking that line are welcome.

A Demon Haunted World

Yesterday I wrote about using the background of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, specifically the show’s ancient history, as the setting of a Swords & Wizardry game. I specifically discounted the idea of using S&W for a modern world game in the setting.

Well, today I’m partially turning my back on that on that idea. I think a S&W supplement in a modern day world where the characters move in a shadow world populated by the last vestiges of the Old Ones is a great idea. I want to create a modern fantasy game not of the de Lint/Bull school (as much as I love War for the Oaks and similar novels) nor of the strictly horror genre but a modern swords and sorcery game of demon hunting, forbidden magics, and a parallel magical culture. Touch stones for such a game would obviously include Buffy and Angel. I would also add Neverwhere and the Harry Potter novels. For those wondering about the latter, it wandered in from discussions my Trollsmyth and d7 as well as here about appealing to Harry Potter fandom.

If nothing else I think such a project is an excellent response to the twin questions: how far can you stretch Classic D&D and will the OSR create something new or just repeat the past.

Thus, I’m announcing my S&W project, tentatively called A Demon Haunted World: Swords & Sorcery in the here and now. I’ll present pieces as I create them here at Places to Go, People to Be with at least one new piece every Thursday. I already have a character class, The Chosen, to replace clerics (and modeled on Buffy herself obviously). I also have some ideas on the economy of the magical world based on gold but with different values and uses for different alloys and colors. Some fairly common (and some less common) rules for wizards already running around will be in, such as Light/Dark wizards, counter-spells, and wizard dueling. Finally, new races are already on the drawing boards with men divided into four kinds and half demons giving five racial options. Half demons will be a character class by themselves but the four types of men will have different class options (and advantages at certain classes).

The long term (Christmas 2010?) goal is to actually write this up as my entry into the pdf/print product market. I’ve been looking for something that spoke to me in a way that made me want to publish. Given my love of modern fantasy of all types I think this is it.

A Demon Haunted Past

This world is older than any of you know and, contrary to popular mythology, it did not begin as a paradise. For untold eons demons walked the earth and made it their home…their Hell. In time they lost their purchase on this reality and the way was made for the mortal animals, for Man. What remains of the Old Ones are vestiges, certain magics, certain creatures…and Vampires

A quote from Lovecraft perhaps? Maybe it’s from August Derleth or even Clark Ashton Smith?

No, the above is actually Joss Whedon and from The Harvest, the second episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While the show was definitely about hip young people slaying modern demons (both of the life stage and supernatural kind) bits and pieces of this history would show up over the course of the series, especially in the seventh season, and would play a major role in the spin-off series Angel.

I find it interesting that what many gamers would consider a core swords and sorcery trope is at the core of Buffy. The show is very modern in its time period, its characters, and its sensibilities yet its core mythology, from the pilot on, is one that has great deal in common with the weird tale. Certainly, Whedon admits to being a horror fan. However, in the interviews I’ve seen it’s horror of a movie sort and it is a rare film, in my experience, that has any mythos much less one with a horrific demon haunted past. That said, despite its similarity it does miss some of the elements in the Lovecraftian past. While the Buffyverse is a universe where the struggle against evil never ends and most characters will eventually fail (an idea more obvious in Angel than in Buffy) it is still more heroic than fatalism. The heroism is in the struggle and even failure can be a defeat of evil.

Watching the entirety of both series (itself an enjoyable pastime) with a notebook in your lap could be a great way to “design” a setting for a game, especially one of the very flexible retro-clone like Swords & Wizardry.

No, I’m not saying you play S&W in the show’s modern setting (although that could be interesting). There already exists an excellent role-playing game for it. However, imagine taking the open to this post and all the various references to ancient demons, cults, religions, and magics through out the two series. Then set it among the ruins of Atlantis or some other pre-Sumerian civilization or even in a Hercules/Xena ancient world.

I suspect we might start seeing bits and pieces of A Demon Haunted Past showing up here every now and then.