The May Project: Introduction and Canon

So, my project for May is designing the initial adventure and setting for campaign whose canon is selected accord to Jeff Rients’ Alchemical Proposal. I’m only aiming to create enough material to run initial characters and adventures. I want to leave enough open that the setting will evolve through play. As a result I suspect much of the source material will remain untouched.

I would like to use only things I have in physical form so I can use a banker’s box to hold it. This is an idea picked up from Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit which I’ll discuss tomorrow.

1) Start with any ol’ D&D-esque ruleset, though a simpler system without alot of fiddly bits probably works better here.

Here I’ll be using Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Grindhouse Edition. This is a semi-exception to the physical form rule. I have the Deluxe edition and my Grindhouse is either in shipping or will be shipped this week. For now we’ll toss the Deluxe in the box until Grindhouse gets here.

2) Add some supplementary rules material. You’re primarily looking for new Gygaxian building blocks (classes, races, spells, monsters, magic items, etc) to drop into the game. In this recipe you want exactly two different sources for this stuff, one of which is easy to put into your game, like adding Mutant Future as a source of monsters and treasures to your Labyrinth Lord game. For the other one choose something that might be a little harder to fit into your system of choice without some work.

I like to call these the near and far supplements. For LotFP I will define a “near” supplement as anything written to be directly compatible with TSR D&D. The only conversion that will really be needed is armor class and perhaps a few other things like magic resistance.

The physical rule has the biggest effect here as my first choice, Monster Manual 2, isn’t on the bookshelf. I do want a monster book as this is one area where LotFP is pretty empty. I understand Raggi has done this for philosophical reasons but a collection of monsters is useful for me. One reason I’d like the MM2 is the players are much less likely to be familiar. The other is has the section on mapping rarity to custom encounter tables. In fact, that section is why I first bout the MM2 back in the day.

Lacking the MM2 and not wanting to use the Fiend Folio the next choice on my shelf is Monsters of Myth and Legend from the old Mayfair Games Role Aids line. It contains simple background and monsters from six different real world traditions: American Indian, Australian Aborigine, Chinese, Greek, Irish, and Norse mythologies. That looks like a good fit. It’s material can provide a basic outline for six different regions.

Now that we’ve picked a near supplement let’s look for a far supplement. Scanning the shelf I want something far not only in a rules sense but in a genre/setting sense. Instead of another fantasy book I’d like something a little different. I’m not interested into doing something more science fantasy like but maybe something from a horror or modern-mystical setting. Looking at the shelves two choices jump out at me, Mystic China and Through the Glass Darkly. Both books are from Palladium and are for their Ninjas & Superspies and Nightbane games respectively.

Looking through both books they both add several classes and quite a few magic spells. However, I’m going to go with Mystic China for a few reasons. First, while I’m not sure I want to use new character classes early out of the gate if I do at some point Mystic China’s are more than just magic user types. Second, while the idea of living magic is very interesting I’m not sure that’s a direction I’d like to take. Finally, there is some synergy in my two gaming supplements in that both try to provide some Chinese material. I doubt either is going to provide a real Chinese experience (Mystic China does provide a few pages on quick and dirty feel) but I’ve never run a campaign with an East Asia filtered through typical American rpg sensibilities campaign. Doing something new is always a good exercise.

Tomorrow we’ll move onto step three which is selecting a limited amount of fluff to use as inspiration. Then we’ll put it all in a banker’s box and post a photo plus discuss the banker’s box idea.

Monday Pointers: Out Like a Lamb Edition

D4:Favored and Unfavored Abilities
Here’s a cool little house rule for generating ability scores. It’s from an abandoned attempted at the Fantasy Heartbreaker exercise by Mike Holmes and related by Ron Edwards in the second fantasy heartbreaker article. The irony is I found Madcat’s blog looking up one of my favorite heartbreakers, Fifth Cycle. Regardless, I think this idea will work it’s way into The World After, at least for generating non-humans.

D6:Produce a Setting Almanac, not Encyclopedia
This one is a bit old, but given I’ve got two posts in the hopper today that reference it I figured I should link to it. Zak, about to produce his first published setting, argues prose is the wrong way to present a setting. Instead we should have game rules materials: random charts, classes, lists, etc.

D8:Yet This is An Encyclopedia
The hot thing last week in the OSR seemed to be our very own wiki with many exhortations to link your favorite things.

D10:A Truly Random Contest
So, Fight On is having a random tables contest. The winners get to roll on a series of treasure tables for their prize.

D12:Not An April’s Fools
This Friday is the pre-order day for LotFPWFRPG: Grindhouse Edition and Vornheim (which is the above mentioned setting by Zak). I will be as close to #1 as possible to the point of considering writing a bot to do it.

Two posts in the hopper today (as in almost done) plus Thursday I’ll be putting up a “to be filled in as I go” index for the post a letter a day in April.

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.

Monday Pointers: October 18, 2010 Edition

D4:It Was Only Due to My Years of Drinking I Defeated My Foe
A while back I got thinking on the one problem with 1GP = 1XP in my mind: it means by level 3 or 4 money is meaningless to adventurers. This track neither medieval history or Conan in most of his stories so needs work. The traditional answer is training but I’m not big on that alone. There is also the ever popular carousing rules. Hill Cantons introduces something I might play with: variable ratios depending on usage. While his chart isn’t all I’d do it gives me some ideas.

D6:Plus, It’s Technically Regency
Meanwhile, the Greyhawk Grognard has been watching a lot of Hammer Horror and concludes the 1830s are an untapped period for RPGs, specifically in Eastern Europe. Combined with my recent decision to move The World After to Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplaying this really struck me. LotFPWFR has a more 18th-early 19th century feel than D&D. I think moving the culture of my setting from bog standard pseudo-medieval with lots of renaissance ideas added to a Regency era feel has a lot of potential.

D8:Tales from the Dusty Vault
I just found this blog of OSR reviews. Very worth reading.

D10:Stupid DM Tricks
Zak gives us an aftermath report on an adventure based on every random idea we could post.

CSotA: New rules set…

Much like Scott at Huge Ruined Pile I may be moving away from S&W to Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplaying Game as my default system.

Why? Two main reasons:

1. His system for thieves is the perfect solution to the “what, fighters can’t search?” question. I might modify it a bit but in general it’s the thing.

2. Only fighters get better at fighting. This is so simple and so obvious that it takes a genius (and Raggi is clearly a mad genius…we really need to buy him a castle).

Or I might just port them over to S&W.

Either way I’ve been loving the boxed set. Expect some more commentary (I’m too lazy to do a real review) soon.

Random Campaign Idea: The Last God

At the dawn of time the gods who inhabited the Astral Sea warred with the Old Ones from beyond the known universe. Aberrant monsters of the Far Realm they sought to unmake creation. The gods were hard pressed and imbued the mortals with their powers to join in the battle. In the end the Old Ones were driven from the moral world and it’s parallels as well as the Astral Sea. However, many gods fell and a handful of openings to the Far Realms permitted the servants of the Old Ones to corrupt creation.

For a time the gods worked to heal the world and mortals hunted down the fell servants but the Old Ones were not permanently deterred. Again the Old Ones struck and were defeated yet more gods fell. Like the tides breaking upon the shore each war ended with reality preserved but more of the gods, and often their planes within the Astral Sea, destroyed. Each time more of the Old One’s servants remained behind.

Now, a thousand years after the last war, the world awaits its fate. The Last God imbues his servants with the power to destroy the aberrant monsters while runepriests join mystery cults dedicated to fallen gods to learn their powers. Other mortals, knowing that the gods are spent and the defense of the world falls to them, have taken to walking arcane paths and making fell pacts to garner power to defeat the Old Ones and their servants. The Fey wilds have sent forth their own champions and even beings of Elemental Chaos have stepped into the world to prepare for its next defense.

Yet even before that can begin the world must be cleansed of the corruption left by the Old Ones, including the promises of power to persevere against them or even among them. It seems no place is pure and no power lies uncorrupted.

This idea comes from two primary sources and one secondary source. The primary sources are James Raggi’s how to make D&D metal and Palladium Book’s Old Ones. The secondary source is Charnel Gods, a supplement to Sorcerer which has no web presence that I can find.

The principle idea behind the setting is an ongoing war for the universe between the gods and Cthuvian Old Ones. As the gods beat off each attack their numbers diminished faster than their ability to regenerate. Now, the Last God prepares for his final battle by empowering servants, while men try to claim both the powers of the fallen gods as well learn the powers of creation directly.

Meanwhile, these wars have corrupted the world itself. Most power is now seduced by servants of the Old Ones and the world wars among itself as much as it tries to heal and prepare. The characters are new heroes rising to fight the corruption of the world only to risk seduction by it. Those who persevere beyond that seduction can rise to defend creation itself.

I originally conceived this for my restricted classes and races 4e campaign.